Feb 19, 2017
“We are going to fully rebuild our military. By the way, do you care if we use the F-18 Super Hornets? Or do you only care about—what do you think?” Trump said Friday, addressing veterans and servicemembers in the crowd at a Boeing plant in North Charleston, S.C. “We are looking seriously at a big order. We’ll see how that [goes].”
Trump’s trip marks a growing relationship between the new president and Boeing, which has been a target of both his praise and scorn. In December, Trump tweeted that the Air Force One replacement, which is to be helmed by Boeing, should be cancelled because of what he viewed as inordinate expense.
The decision delays initial retirement of the aircraft by three years, as the Air Force had planned to begin mothballing the A-10 as early as 2018. However, the service is still deliberating the future of the platform, including whether it still needs to start a new program to replace it, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein said Tuesday.
“We’re going to keep them until 2021, and then as a discussion that we’ll have with [Defense] Secretary [Jim] Mattis and the department and the review over all of our budgets, that is what will determine the way ahead,” he told reporters.
Feb 18, 2017
The service expects to receive the upgraded turboprop aircraft “very soon,” the spokesman said. The delivery schedule “overall is on the right track,” he said.
That unit will complete the three-strong batch of Airbus A400Ms which underwent a retrofit in Spain to equip the aircraft with a self-protection package, to use short and rough runways, air-drop paratroopers and cargo from a side door and the rear ramp, and some in-flight refueling.
The Direction Générale de l’Armement received the first two retrofit aircraft Jan. 9 and 18, a spokesman for the procurement office said. After DGA inspection, the air service took possession of the planes.
Airbus had pledged to deliver six “tactical” A400Ms last year, with the first three units built to that standard and delivered to France.
Delivering that close to the schedule on such a large program can be seen as satisfactory, the Air Force spokesman said. The service now has a fleet of 11 A400Ms at the Orléans airbase, central France. Of that total fleet, seven are flying missions to Jordan and the African sub-Saharan Sahel region, which is a reasonable rate of use, he said.
There remain a further five units to undergo a retrofit, and these are expected to upgraded when they undergo a detailed maintenance “C check” for airworthiness after two years of service.
France is due to operate a fleet of 15 A400Ms under the 2014-2019 defense budget.
Feb 17, 2017
The air force is now facing a fleet of 108 F-35As that must be retrofitted from the Block 2B or 3i configuration, Lt Gen Jerry Harris, USAF deputy chief of staff for strategic plans and requirements, states in a 16 February testimony to Congress. The USAF and the F-35 Joint Programme Office are working together on a Block 3F upgrade plan.
When the USAF declared its F-35A variant ready for limited combat last August, the service’s chief of Air Combat Command noted the aircraft still needed significant and would gain greater capabilities with impending software and hardware upgrades. Block 3F and 4, which the USAF expects will be available in 2018 and 2021, will increase the F-35’s weapons capacity and improve targeting.
Twenty-six of those 108 aircraft will require a software-only upgrade, according to Harris. In addition to software modifications, 19 aircraft will also require new signal processor cards which the service says will take an average of three days to install and test. The service must install 18 aircraft with a newer helmet mounted display system, in addition to the processor cards and software, which will take 15 days to install.
“The remaining forty-five aircraft will require significant hardware modifications in the form of a Tech Refresh 2 modification,” Harris states. “This modification consists of twenty-six major components and takes approximately 30 days per aircraft to install and checkout.”
The USAF’s operational test aircraft also require Block 3F hardware modifications. But with availability of the full fleet of 23 aircraft projected in 2018, those modifications have fallen behind.
Feb 12, 2017
An air force spokesman told Jane's on 7 February that they had "no further information at this time" on the acquisition of a replacement for the aircraft, which was first mooted eight years ago.
The bidding process approved by the cabinet is for up to EUR20 million (USD22 million) to be spent on parts for the aircraft and their engines, half of which will cover the period up to the end of 2018 and the remainder for a potential extension of the contract for a further two years.
The single engine Aviojet first entered service in 1980. They were built by the then state-owned plane maker Construcciones Aeronáuticas SA (CASA), which later became part of the pan-European Airbus group.
Spain received 88 C101EBB Aviojets, which are also used by the air force's Patrulla Aguila (Eagle Patrol) acrobatic display team.
The export standard C101BB aircraft was also sold to Honduras (4) and Chile (12), which also received 23 of the longer ranger C101CC version, as did Jordan (16).
A spokesman for the Luftwaffe said three aircraft, including the one stranded in Lithuania, were out for unscheduled repairs, with two more in planned inspections and one receiving scheduled retrofits. The seventh aircraft was still going through the acceptance process after arriving on Jan. 31, he said.
"Of course, we'd like to have more of the aircraft ready for use, but it's also normal that aircraft need to be inspected and maintained," the spokesman said.
German officials said on Thursday they were still investigating what caused an oil leak in one of the four engines on the aircraft that carried Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen to Lithuania, and whether it marked a new technical problem for Europe's largest defense project.
Airbus declined comment on the air force data. The company, which has written off over 5 billion euros on the program after gearbox problems and fuselage cracks, said it is doing all it can to support the current investigation.
Tobias Lindner, a Green party lawmaker and member of parliament, said the latest incident reflected continuing problems with the A400M, and particularly its engines, and he was concerned it could further stall aircraft deliveries.
Airbus has told the German defense ministry that it plans to deliver 10 aircraft this year, down from 12 aircraft initially planned, and 13 in 2018, down from 14 planned.
The defense ministry told Lindner last month that it had asked for compensation of 39.4 million euros from Airbus for delayed deliveries of the first 5 aircraft, of which 27.2 million euros had been received. Payments for the first and fifth aircraft were still being discussed.
Technical problems have put the A400M program years behind schedule, with Germany's share of the costs having risen to 9.6 billion euros ($10.2 billion) from an initial estimate of 8.1 billion.
Germany is the largest customer for A400M, which was initially developed for seven European NATO nations at a cost of 20 billion euros.
The rotation of the aircraft is designed to modernize and strengthen our already firm mil-to-mil relationship, facilitate interoperability, exercise combined capabilities and increase regional engagement.
While at RAAF Base Tindal, the F-22 detachment, alongside their RAAF counterparts, will provide credible forces able to support a wide range of exercises or training activities. Through this initiative and the continued enhancement of the RAAF facilities, Pacific Air Forces and the RAAF will build upon their individual and combined capabilities, advancing interoperability between the nations. This interoperability will extend to regional partners as the initiative progresses. The enhanced, combined operational capability and interoperability are integral to regional security, stability and combined readiness.
“This F-22 Raptor deployment represents a key milestone for U.S. and Australian Airmen as together we build a robust fifth generation fighter presence in the Indo-Asia-Pacific,” said Gen. Terrence O’Shaughnessy, Pacific Air Forces commander. “Our steadfast relationship with Australia, deeply rooted in our common principles and shared values, stems from working together day in and day out across the full spectrum of operations and will continue to prosper as we further integrate our efforts through this initiative.”
This rotation of F-22 Raptors to RAAF Base Tindal marks the initial fifth generation asset deployment of this duration and scope within Australia, and will be the first time the F-22 has conducted combined training to this extent in the country. While there, they will conduct integrated training opportunities with Royal Australian Air Force’s 75 Squadron F/A-18A/B Hornets along with ground assets and personnel. This activity will vastly enhance RAAF and USAF fourth to fifth generation integration, while introducing fifth generation operations and requirements to RAAF Base Tindal.
“Australia is a critical partner in the F-35 program and playing a key role in helping PACAF lead fifth generation aircraft integration into the region,” said O’Shaughnessy.
We greatly value the enduring relationship with our Australian allies across the globe from the Indo-Asia-Pacific to the Middle East. Through deployments like these, we can better leverage the increased survivability, lethality and situational awareness that the F-22 and F-35, along with our fourth generation fighters, bring to this theater to ensure allied air superiority for years to come."
usaThe additional capability of conducting joint and combined exercises from northern Australia is an integral part of the Force Posture Agreement between the United States and Australia.
Feb 11, 2017
The two planes reportedly flew within 1,000 feet of each other in the general vicinity of the contested Scarborough Shoal in the South China Sea.
Maj. Rob Shulford, a spokesman for PACOM, told Defense News that “on Feb. 8 (local), an interaction characterized by U.S. Pacific Command as 'unsafe' occurred in international airspace above the South China Sea between a Chinese KJ-200 aircraft and a U.S. Navy P-3C aircraft.”
He also said that "the U.S. Navy P-3C was on a routine mission operating in accordance with international law," adding that the “Department of Defense and U.S. Pacific Command are always concerned about unsafe interactions with Chinese military forces."
There have been no other details about the relative flight paths of both aircraft at the time of the encounter, which has been described as “inadvertent,” although other reports said that the American P-3 had to alter course to avoid an aerial collision.
The Chinese aircraft involved has been identified as a Shaanxi KJ-200 Airborne Early Warning aircraft, which suggests this was unlikely to be an intercept of the P-3 by the Chinese.
The KJ-200 carries a phased array radar inside a long, rectangular housing mounted on struts on top of its fuselage. The aircraft is used by both the People’s Liberation Army Air Force and the air arm of the People’s Liberation Army Navy, or PLAN, to provide air surveillance.
It is unclear to which branch of China’s armed forces the aircraft involved in this latest encounter belongs, although PLAN KJ-200s have been known to operate from air bases on China’s southern Hainan Island, 530 miles from Scarborough Shoal.
The aircraft are usually on temporary rotations to Hainan, being normally assigned to the PLAN’s 2nd Air Division, 4th Regiment based at Laiyang in Shandong Province, northern China.
The publication Ekathimerini, quoting unidentified aides of Defense Minister Panos Kammenos, said the decision was taken in line with recommendations made by military chiefs.
Ekathimerini reports that in addition to upgrading existing F-16s and notifying the United States of its interest in procuring the F-35, Greece will also seek maintenance for the military's S300 long-range surface-to-air missile systems.
A letter of request for modernizing the F-16s was signed by Kammenos on Tuesay.
Upgrading Greece's entire fleet of F-16s will cost between $1.7 billion and $2 billion, according to the report, and would be paid over a period of time.
A deal for the maintenance of the S300 missile systems is not yet clear.
Greece has a total of 155 F-16C and F-16D aircraft.
The Marines are struggling to keep aging aircraft flying amid budget cuts, delayed spending bills and more than 15 years of wartime wear-and-tear.
Out of 1,065 Marine Corps aircraft, 439 were flyable as of Dec. 31, said Lt. Gen. Jon Davis, deputy commandant for aviation. That represents roughly 41 percent of the service’s fixed- and rotary-wing aircraft.
“My target should be 589 [flyable aircraft]; so I am 150 airplanes shy of what I need to make my flight-hour goal,” Davis told reporters on Wednesday. “In order to meet my operational commitments, I need a little bit more than that.”
Since taking the job in June 2014, Davis has been working furiously to get enough Marine Corps planes and helicopters flyable until the service can receive new aircraft, such as the F-35.
While the number of aircraft ready to fly on any given day fluctuates, overall the number of flyable aircraft has been improving, Davis said.
But only 72 of the Marine Corps’ 280 F/A-18 Hornets were flyable as of Dec. 31, officials said. This is just a quarter of the Corps' Hornets, and down from September, when 90 Hornets could fly.
Davis explained that readiness declined at the end of 2016 due to holidays, including Thanksgiving, Christmas and the Marine Corps Birthday Ball.
“November and December every year are low productivity months,” said Davis, who noted that 473 Marine aircraft were flyable at the beginning of October.
Of the Marine Corps’ 280 F/A-18 Hornets, 109 were either at or headed to depot in December, Marine Corps spokeswoman Capt. Sarah Burns explained. Because the Navy runs the depots, those aircraft do not fall under the Marine Corps, she said. The service tracks the 171 Hornets that are under its direct control, of which about 42 percent are flyable.
It should be noted that depot-level maintenance is deliberately planned and scheduled with few exceptions,” Burns said in an email. “We expect and plan for a certain percentage of our aircraft to be in the depot at any given time. It is through depot-level maintenance that we ensure the Marine Corps maintains a ready and balanced fleet while we transition F-35.”
In addition to the 72 Hornets that were flyable in December, another 26 needed repairs that were expected to be completed in less than 120 days, Burns said.
The Marine Corps can only repair so many aircraft at any given time, Davis said.
“I can’t collapse that gap any faster than I am right now with the funding restrictions we’ve been under in the past,” he said. “We are funded to the max. I can only reset a CH-53E so fast. I’ve got seven on the East Coast; eight on the West Coast and one in Hawaii — 16 airplanes in reset right now. I can only get so many of those into reset at any given time.”
Jan 29, 2017
The airframes will be acquired in the transport and utility configuration, and will be operated across the Indonesian Air Force's (Tentara Nasional Indonesia - Angkatan Udara: TNI-AU's) Aviation Squadrons 31 and 32.
The acquisition, which received an official greenlight from the Indonesian House of Representatives' commission on defence, intelligence, and foreign affairs (Komisi I) in mid-January 2017, was approved with the condition that the final three airframes undergo final fit-out at state-owned PT Dirgantara's facilities in Bandung.
Jan 15, 2017
The helicopters will replace those of the Dutch army, and the additional troops will service and maintain the fleet.
After the deployment, Germany will have some 1,000 soldiers in Mali taking part in the 15,000-strong U.N. mission that oversees a peace deal agreed in 2015 between the government and rebels.
The additional deployments will have to be approved by the Bundestag, the lower house of parliament.
The four attack helicopters and a similar number of transport machines will stay in Mali until mid-2018.
Jan 14, 2017
When Gilmore’s office approved a test and evaluation master plan in November 2016 that would support KC-46’s entrance into low-rate production that August, it did so with lingering concerns about leaving enough time to correct discrepancies between the end of developmental testing and the beginning of initial operational test and evaluation, he writes.
“Execution of the current schedule assumes historically unrealistic test aircraft fly and re-fly rates,” Gilmore writes.
Though the programme is on track to become an effective aerial refueling platform, several capabilities still require correcting or additional testing. During testing last January, Boeing discovered higher than expected axial loads on the tanker’s refueling boom. That pushed Boeing’s scheduled low-rate initial production decision from June to August while Boeing redesigned the boom control system.
Boeing implemented a hardware-based solution for the refueling issue, which involved inserting two bypass valves in the fly-by-wire-controlled boom to relieve the aerodynamic pressure. However, the current boom represent a prototype rather than a production-ready design.
Last year, the KC-46 successfully refueled a USAF A-10, allowing the programme to move ahead toward initial production. Boeing also demonstrated aerial refueling with the the US Navy’s F/A-18 and AV-8B using the centreline and wing drogue systems and the KC-46 as a receiver aircraft. The company also completed refueling demonstrations on the C-17 airlifter and F-16 using the aerial refueling boom. But Gilmore notes Boeing has only performed daylight refueling operations and none of the aircraft have been certified as receiving platforms.
Jan 13, 2017
News of the jets' arrival in China was revealed in a report by state news organ China Daily.
The report, citing the People’s Liberation Army Air Force, claimed that Moscow was apparently “eager to complete the Su-35 deal” owing to the “commissioning” of the Chengdu J-20 fighter, which made its public debut with a flying display at Airshow China in Zhuhai in November 2016. Negotiations between Beijing and Moscow for the Su-35 deal dragged on for several years prior to this point.
Jan 11, 2017
Marine Corps spokesman Capt Kurt Stahl told Defense News that 10 F-35Bs from Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 121 (VMFA-121) departed Marine Corps Air Station Yuma in Arizona on Monday, with the first jets slated to arrive in Japan on Wednesday. All 10 F-35s will arrive at Iwakuni by Thursday. Eventually, an additional six jets will be relocated from Yuma to Iwakuni, bringing the squadron up to a full 16 aircraft.
VMFA-121 is a part of the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing.
“The transition of VMFA-121 from MCAS Yuma to MCAS Iwakuni marks a significant milestone in the F-35B program as the Marine Corps continues to lead the way in the advancement of stealth fighter attack aircraft,” the service said in a statement.
Jan 10, 2017
Under an agreement between the two navies, the Aegis-equipped frigate will spend 120 days in Australia where it will help train future Australian Hobart-class destroyer sailors of the Australian Navy.
By integrating into the Australian Navy fleet, Cristóbal Colón will provide dedicated training and familiarisation opportunities for the crews of Australian destroyers Hobart, Brisbane and Sydney.
NUSHIP Hobart, the first of three destroyers, will start category 5 sea trials in mid-January 2017 and will be assisted in the process by ESPS Cristóbal Colón.
If everything goes according to plan, the Spanish frigate is expected to return to Ferrol, Spain in early August 2017.
This is not the first time a Spanish Navy ship is integrating into the Royal Australian Navy. Back in 2013, Spain sent its replenishment ships ESPS Cantabria to Australia where it remained for eight months.
Jan 6, 2017
Four F-16s and more than 120 personnel from the Leeuwarden and Vokel bases in the Netherlands arrived in Lithuania to relieve a contingent of French Air Force Dassault Mirage 2000s from 5 January. The Dutch F-16s will be supported in their mission by four German Air Force Eurofighter Typhoons that are based at Amari Airbase in Estonia, and which are being extended for a second four-month rotation.
Some 43 rotations have now been conducted since the NATO mission was launched in 2004. This will be the third time that the RNLAF has participated in the NATO BAP mission to protect the airspaces of the former Soviet republics of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania, having previously undertaken the role in 2005 and 2014.
The declassified documents from the British National Archives show that former US President Ronald Reagan had offered British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher a chance for both countries to work on the F-117 stealth fighter programme back in 1986.
The programme was given the code-name Project Moonflower. It is understood that the British Ministry of Defence declined the offer as it was still a ‘black programme’.
The later version offered to the Royal Air Force in 1995 was the F-117C. The aircraft was to be a baseline F-117A fitted with British avionics and EJ200 engines, plus a number of BAE structural components or sub-assemblies.
The F-117 was based on the Have Blue technology demonstrator and was the first operational aircraft to be designed around stealth technology. The maiden flight of the Nighthawk took place in 1981 and the aircraft achieved initial operating capability status in 1983.
The Nighthawk was shrouded in secrecy until it was revealed to the public in 1988.
Japan is in negotiations with New Zealand to export the Self-Defense Forces' patrol and transport aircraft, in hopes of beating out U.S. and European competition to score its first large-scale arms contract.
The deal will also involve the maintenance of the planes, and is potentially worth billions of dollars. Tokyo in September provided unclassified information on the P-1 maritime patrol plane and C-2 transporter, both developed by Kawasaki Heavy Industries, in response to Wellington's requests.
Representatives from Japan's defense ministry and Kawasaki Heavy are in New Zealand for negotiations. Japan could come up with a proposal in the first half of 2017 concerning the price, production process and maintenance of the planes. It will also consider jointly producing certain parts with New Zealand.
New Zealand will choose the winning bid as early as this summer out of a pool including American and European proposals. The Japanese government will also negotiate a treaty with New Zealand to allow the transfer of defense equipment and technology, a prerequisite to the potential deal.
The P-1, deployed by the Maritime SDF, was designed as a successor to the mainstay P-3C patrol aircraft. It can pick up even faint submarine signals through underwater sensors, and is also known to be fuel efficient and extremely quiet.
The bidding "will be a one-on-one fight with Boeing's P-8 patrol plane," a Japanese official said.
The C-2, meanwhile, can carry heavy loads over long distances. It was first delivered to the Air SDF in June 2016, with plans for deployment this March. The aircraft shares the same parts in the wing and other areas with the P-1, which will allow New Zealand to save money if it adopts both models. Airbus and several other companies are considered Japan's main rivals for the transporters.
The Japanese government adopted three principles on the transfer of defense equipment and technology in April 2014, greatly relaxing the requirements for arms exports. But it has done little under the new rules. Japan was outbid by France on Australia's new fleet of submarines in April, and lost a bid on anti-submarine patrol aircraft for the U.K. to the U.S. in November 2015.
The order is an adjustment to an existing basic ordering agreement between the United States and Spain. General Atomics will be tasked with providing the Reaper and its associated equipment.
According to the U.S. Department of Defense, the work will be performed at Poway, Calif., and is expected to be complete by Jan. 31, 2019. The Air Force Life Cycle Management Center at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio is listed as the contracting activity.
The MQ-9 Reaper is a turboprop-powered unmanned aircraft system designed for intelligence gathering and targeted strike missions, and features a flight endurance of over 27 hours. The aircraft can operate at altitudes of 50,000 feet, and can carry a 3,000-pound payload.
As a follow-up to the company's MQ-1 Predator, the Reaper is twice as fast as its predecessor, and can carry a 500 percent larger payload.
Sources say negotiations about the proposed sale to Argentina are about to resume, following two previous rounds of talks that did not result in a contract.
Sources in Latin America say the price of the proposed deal is the main stumbling block, but “not the only one”.
The Kfir Block 60 is the latest version of the fighter, which includes J-79 engines. It also takes the aircraft back to zero flight hours after a total overhaul, and will cover the next 1,600 flight hours before another overhaul is required.
The upgraded fighter carries an Elta 2032 active electronically scanned array radar, and will have an open architecture that will allow the customer to install other systems.
According to Elta, the radar provides an all-aspect, look-down, shoot-down performance, operating simultaneous multi-mode air-to-air and advanced strike missions.
Kfir jets are in service with the air forces of Colombia, Ecuador and Sri Lanka.
The Colombian air force has upgraded its Kfirs to the existing level, dubbed C-10/12, which includes an Elta EL/M-2032 radar, a Rafael Litening targeting pod, a head-up display colour cockpit, and an aerial refuelling system.
In recent years older aircraft were operated mainly by the IAF's “red squadron” in an adversary training role, and the Israeli ministry of defence is now trying to sell 40 F-16As.
In 2014, the IAF completed an extensive upgrade of its F-16C/D variants, under the Barak 2020 programme. This included structural treatment and the installation of a new digital debriefing system, plus a new head-up display.
Other systems have also been installed, but no details on their capabilities have been revealed.
The upgrade has been performed in the squadrons with supervision of the IAF’s main technical unit number 22, the force’s central maintenance depot.
Dec 24, 2016
“Based on the tremendous cost and cost overruns of the Lockheed Martin F-35, I have asked Boeing to price-out a comparable F-18 Super Hornet!” he tweeted at 5:26 p.m. EST.
Lockheed Martin stock, which had closed at $252.80 a share, tumbled down to $247.75 at about 7 p.m. EST, a 2 percent decline. At the same time, Boeing stock shot up by about 1.49 percent, increasing from $157.46 to $158.95 a share.
What this means for Lockheed Martin and its top competitor Boeing in the long term is not exactly clear. Although the F-35 has been plagued with its share of cost overruns and technical issues, the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet is a fourth-generation plane that lacks many of the capabilities that define a fifth-generation plane, such as stealth and sensor fusion. Redesigning a Super Hornet to meet the same requirements as the F-35 would require years of development and engineering time and probably billions of dollars.
“Now that the F-35 has been declared combat capable, we will deploy our newest fighter to Europe in the not too distant future,” said Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James during a speech at the Atlantic Council. “Matter of fact, if I were a betting woman, I wouldn’t at all be surprised if the F-35 didn’t make an appearance, perhaps, next summer. The unique combination of stealth, situational and sensor fusion will play an important role in reassuring allies and providing deterrence.”
The trip to Europe would be the first operational overseas deployment of the Air Force's A-model, which officially reached initial combat capability in August.
The service will also send a theater security package of F-15s from Louisiana and Florida Air National Guard units to Europe this spring to conduct training exercises with partners, similar to the deployment of F-22s to Romania last April.
James likely is nearing the end of her tenure as Air Force secretary this January, and plans to deploy the F-35 could change under the new presidential administration. However, she advised her successor to move forward with deployments to Europe that showcase US air dominance, adding that such activities are key for deterring hostile Russian military action that has become more prevalent since its invasion of Crimea.
"Russia is a country that does understand force,” she said. “At a time like this, at a time when I believe they are pushing and poking and testing, I think the alliance needs to demonstrate that resolve and show force.”
Also of vital importance is US involvement in the Baltic air policing mission – a NATO effort to guard the airspace of Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia, she said.
Dec 17, 2016
China’s first and only aircraft carrier led large-scale exercises in the Bohai Sea, the navy of the People’s Liberation Army announced late on Thursday.
The drills involved dozens of ships and aircraft in the carrier group and more than 10 air-to-air, anti-ship and air defence missiles were tested, it said.
The group also performed reconnaissance exercises, tests of early warning systems, aerial interception and missile defence.
The goal of the exercises was to “test the performance of weapons and the training level of the team”, the statement said.
China’s national broadcaster CCTV showed footage of J-15 fighter jets taking off from the carrier and firing missiles.
The drills come as a heated war of words intensifies between Beijing and the US president-elect, Donald Trump, who broke convention by speaking directly to the Taiwanese president, Tsai Ing-wen, and even suggested Washington could jettison the decades-old “One China policy” – a diplomatic compromise allowing the US to do business with both China and Taiwan while only recognising Beijing.
Since Trump’s and Tsai’s phone call, China has sent military aircraft close to Japanese territory near the Miyako Strait and reportedly sent a bomber to circumnavigate disputed territory in the resource-rich South China Sea – flights its air force has described as “routine”.
The US Pacific commander said on Wednesday that the US would keep challenging China’s “assertive, aggressive behaviour in the South China Sea” despite Beijing’s rapid development of artificial islands capable of hosting military planes.
Satellite images published this week by a US thinktank showed structures on Chinese-built artificial islands that appeared to be large anti-aircraft guns and close-in weapons systems (CIWS) designed to take out incoming missiles and enemy aircraft, the thinktank said.
China’s defence ministry said the construction was mostly for civilian use and necessary military installations were for self-defence.
Beijing is seeking to build a “blue water” navy capable of operating in distant seas and has embarked on an extensive project to modernise its two million-strong military, the world’s largest.
The Liaoning is a secondhand Soviet ship built more than 25 years ago. It was commissioned in 2012 after extensive refits.
In December 2015 China’s defence ministry announced the country was building a second aircraft carrier based entirely on domestic designs.
Dec 8, 2016
The contract signing followed a type selection made by the Chilean Air Force (Fuerza Aérea de Chile: FACh) in September, in which the Black Hawk beat off competition from Leonardo Helicopters, Airbus Helicopters, Korean Aerospace Industries (KAI), and Rosoboronexport, which had offered the AW149, H215, Surion, and Mi-17 'Hip' respectively.
The S-70i (international) helicopters are to be built by Sikorsky's subsidiary, PZL Mielec, in Poland. Improvements made on the S-70i over the baseline Black Hawk include a fully integrated digital glass cockpit featuring colour 6x8-inch (15x20 cm) multifunction display (MFD) units and a dual digital automatic flight-control system (AFCS). It also features a digital map and more powerful General Electric T700-GE-701D engines (but with T700-GE-701C control systems).
Once delivered, they will augment the one S-70 that the FACh received in 1998 as well as its remaining rotary fleet of mainly Bell 412 and UH-1H platforms. While the current plan is to procure just six aircraft, Sikorsky has previously told that there is the potential for more to be bought at a later date.
The contract follows an initial two-year service deal Britain and France signed in December 2014.
The contract offered major cost cuts, greater efficiency and flexibility to meet operational needs, the company said.
Airbus DS called on other client nations of the A400M Atlas to join the common maintenance deal, which came into effect Dec. 1 with an initial two-year phase. Spain received its first A400M on that day.
Britain’s Defence Equipment and Support agency, France's Direction Générale de l’Armement, and Spain’s Direccion General de Armamento y Material signed up for the deal through OCCAR, the international program management organization.
Germany signed in 2014 a separate, four-year deal for its A400M fleet, with two contracts — one for system support and the other for material management.
They were commissioned into service four days after delivery to Kaduna on Dec. 1. According to the supply contract signed in June this year, the PAC would also provide technical training to the NAF teams charged with operating and maintaining the aircraft.
Four more on-loan aircraft would be delivered to Nigeria in early 2017. By mid-2017, the loaned aircraft would be replaced with new assets, which are already under assembly.
The four have since been commissioned into service at the 301 Flight Training School in Abuja, replacing an aging fleet of Dana Air Beetle trainer variants which has been in service since 1995.
Apart from Nigeria, four Super Mushshak trainers are in service with the Pakistani Air Force. Global interest in the Super Mushshak soared in 2016 with Qatar signing a deal for the supply of eight in May.
Late in November, the Turkish Air Force signed a memorandum of understanding that set the groundwork for acquisition of up to 52 trainers. Iran, Oman, Saudi Arabia and South Africa are also reported to be interested in acquiring the aircraft.
A derivative of the Mushshak aircraft, the Super Mushshak is a version of the Saab MF-17 Supporter, which is produced in Pakistan under license from Sweden.
The latest version is powered by a 260 horsepower Textron Lycoming IO-540 V4A5 engine. It features a US-designed glass cockpit as well as environmental controls.
According to Abubakar, Nigeria will soon take delivery of four new, Russian-made Mi-35N attack helicopters from Russia and three JF-17 Thunder aircraft from Pakistan.
The West African country has also ordered at least three ex-Brazilian Air Force Super Tucano light-attack aircraft. A parallel aircraft-refurbishment program has led to the restoration and recommissioning of helicopters, which include three Mi-24V and Mi-35P attack variants, two EC-135s, two AugustaWestland A109s, and one Super Puma.
A single Beechcraft light aircraft, one Falcon jet, one Diamond DA-42 and two Dornier DO-228 maritime surveillance planes have also been restored and returned to service.
Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan and Procurement Minister Judy Foote will release the details that morning at the Royal Canadian Air Force base in Trenton Ontario.
The deal will be worth around CAN$3 billion (US $2.3 billion) and would include long-term, in-service support.
The Airbus Defense and Space C-295 was selected over the C-27J aircraft from Leonardo (formerly Finmeccanica ).
Embraer of Brazil also bid the KC-390 for the Canadian program.
Airbus officials declined to comment, referring questions to the Canadian government.
Sajjan’s press secretary, Jordan Owens, declined to confirm any details on the contract award set for Thursday.
Airbus Defence and Space has teamed with key Canadian firms for the project and other ventures on the C-295.
The new planes will replace the Royal Canadian Air Force’s 40-year-old Buffalo aircraft and older-model C-130s currently assigned to search-and-rescue duties.
Airbus previously said it will build a new training facility in Comox, British Columbia, if it wins the contract.
The Fixed Wing Search and Rescue (FWSAR) aircraft project is divided into a contract for the acquisition of the aircraft and another contract for 20 years of in-service support.
The Air Force expects all aircraft for the FWSAR program to be delivered by 2023.
The FWSAR project originally envisioned acquiring 17 aircraft. But that has now changed and will be capability based, according to government officials. The aerospace firms submitted in their bids the numbers of aircraft they believe are needed for Canada to handle the needed SAR capability.
In the bids, the firms were required to submit prices and aircraft numbers for a fleet to operate out of four main existing bases across Canada. Information was also requested for having planes operating from three bases.
The Canadian government originally announced its intent in the spring of 2004 to buy a fleet of new fixed-wing SAR aircraft, but the purchase has been on and off ever since.
The FWSAR project was sidelined over the years by more urgent purchases of equipment for Canada’s Afghanistan mission as well as complaints made in the House of Commons by domestic aerospace firms and Airbus that the Air Force favored the C-27J aircraft for the fixed-wing SAR plane.
The Air Force strenuously denied any preference for an aircraft.
Nov 22, 2016
"Canada will immediately explore the acquisition of 18 new Super Hornet aircraft to supplement the CF-18s until the permanent replacement arrives," the Canadian government announced in a release. "Canada's current fleet is now more than 30 years old and is down from 138 aircraft to 77. As a result, the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) faces a capability gap."
Canadian Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan said Canada will launch a larger fighter competition next year, after it wraps up its defense policy review. But the competition will likely take about five years, which kicks the decision into the next administration. Liberal Party Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had vowed not to buy the F-35 joint strike fighter.
"We have a capability gap. We have selected the minimum number of aircraft to meet this capability gap here. At the same time, we are launching a full competition and making sure that we take the appropriate time, without cutting corners to get the right airplane," said Sajjan.
"Boeing is honored to provide the Royal Canadian Air Force with the only multi-role fighter aircraft that can fulfill its immediate needs for sovereign and North American defense," the company stated in a news release. "The Super Hornet's advanced operational capabilities, low acquisition and sustainment costs, and Boeing's continued investment in the Canadian aerospace industry — US$6 billion over the past five years alone — make the Super Hornet the perfect complement to Canada's current and future fighter fleet."
Meanwhile, Lockheed Martin was less pleased with the decision, restating its hope that the Canadian government would ultimately purchase the fighter.
“Lockheed Martin recognizes the recent announcement by the Government of Canada of its intent to procure the 4th generation F/A-18 Super Hornet as an interim fighter capability,” the company said in a statement. “Although disappointed with this decision, we remain confident the F-35 is the best solution to meet Canada's operational requirements at the most affordable price, and the F-35 has proven in all competitions to be lower in cost than 4th generation competitors. The F-35 is combat ready and available today to meet Canada's needs for the next 40 years.”
Further down the road, Lockheed could strip Canadian industrial participation — which totals 110 Canadian firms with $750 million in contracts, according to Lockheed —should the country ultimately opt not to by the F-35. The company has not signaled whether it would be willing to do so.