Jul 17, 2018
Under the leadership of Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, the Pentagon has clamped down on talking about cutting-edge capabilities in development, citing concerns about giving potential foes too much information.
Nevertheless, some details have emerged about the ongoing programs, one each from the U.S. Air Force and the U.S. Navy. And in light of European plans for new fighter designs, it is worth revisiting what is, and isn’t, known about the American efforts.
In 2016, the U.S. Air Force unveiled its “Air Superiority 2030” study, which posited that although the service would need a new air superiority fighter jet — called Penetrating Counter Air — as soon as the 2030s, it would be just as important that the new plane fit into a "family of systems” of space, cyber, electronic warfare and other enabling technologies.
The service then initiated an analysis of alternatives in 2017 to further drill down on Penetrating Counter Air concepts and to refine its requirements, but the service’s top uniformed officer sounds interested in a disaggregated mission aproach.
Jul 16, 2018
A Letter of Agreement for the surveillance drones could have been signed at the Farnborough International Airshow.
The deal for the MQ-9 Reaper drones, made by California-based General Atomics, was first approved by the U.S. State Department back in 2015.
The Dutch government said the intent to purchase was announced in 2016 as part of the Medium Altitude Long Endurance Unmanned Aerial Vehicle program. The deal was opposed by some Dutch lawmakers on July 5.
“We are working with partners and others to try to find a solution,” Saab CEO Håkan Buskhe said during an interview at the Royal International Air Tattoo. “We are confident that we have a good system. … We are good in integration and could deliver according to time [constraints], probably much more affordably with better technology.”
Defense News was the first to report that Saab and Airbus specifically had discussed a partnership that would bring together Saab’s Erieye radar and an Airbus aircraft.
Buskhe declined to confirm whether the company was in talks with Airbus, instead saying more broadly that it was speaking to a number of platform providers.
“First of all our sensors and our system integration is fantastic. We can see stealth aircraft from hundreds and hundreds of kilometers and follow them and target them and the same mode for land, air, at the same time,” he said.
Its GlobalEye aircraft — a modified Bombardier Global 6000 business jet with a suite of integrated sensors including an extended-range version of the Erieye radar, and that’s one one option, but “we are also open if there would be other platforms," he added.
“We don’t compromise quality and efficiency,” he said. “From that, we are open to discussions to bring that technology for example into the U.K. and build them that.”
The United Kingdom is considering an order of new airborne early warning planes to replace its aging Boeing E-3D Sentry aircraft. In June, the Times newspaper reported that the U.K. government preferred to sole source the Wedgetail from Boeing.
One member of Parliament — Julian Lewis, who heads its Defence Committee — wrote an open letter to British Defence Procurement Minister Guto Bebb, urging the Ministry of Defence to open a wider competition, citing Boeing’s 2017 pursuit of tariffs against Bombardier that would have hurt a plant in Northern Ireland.
However, on July 12, Reuters reported that the MoD still leaned toward the sole-source plan and intended to award Boeing a contract for four to six Wedgetail aircraft in the coming weeks, valued at an estimated $1 billion.
If the United Kingdom does end up sole sourcing the Wedgetail, Buskhe said, Saab would “respect the government’s decision” and look for other potential business opportunities.
Jul 8, 2018
“We would like to take delivery of the aircraft by 2020 or shortly thereafter,” Brigadier General Petr Hromek, the recently appointed commander of the ACR air forces, told media on 18 June.
Brig Gen Hromek said the two C-295s would replace two obsolete Russian-made Yakovlev Yak-40 jet airliners currently in service with the ACR and used in the VIP transport role, and are scheduled for retirement by 2020 when their airframes reach the end of their service lives.
Jiri Kominek janes
Speaking at the company’s Warton facility in northern England, a senior programme official said that the first Typhoons that have been modified to carry the MBDA Meteor beyond-visual range air-to-air missile (BVRAAM) and MBDA Storm Shadow cruise missile have been returned to their operational units, ahead of the capability being officially cleared for use by 2019.
“There are 26 aircraft now at the first phase of the Project Centurion standard, and the pilots will start training in a few weeks’ time,” Eurofighter Delivery Director Andy Flynn said, adding, “We now have to go through the approval process, which should be complete by the end of the year.”
The Project Centurion configuration is intended to combine the already-delivered Raytheon Paveway IV precision-guided bomb, and the Storm Shadow, Meteor, and Brimstone on the Typhoon FGR4 in time for the retirement from RAF service of the Panavia Tornado GR4 in early 2019. The first phase aircraft that are being delivered have been fitted with the Typhoon Phase 2 Enhancement (P2E) upgrade that comprises the Meteor and the Storm Shadow. Phase 2 of Project Centurion covers the Typhoon Phase 3 Enhancement (P3E) upgrade of the Brimstone, and with trials now continuing this final Project Centurion configuration should also be ready for fielding by the end of 2018 .
The RAF fields 51 Tranche 1, 67 Tranche 2 and about 10 of its planned 40 Tranche 3 Typhoons. The 24 Tranche 1 Typhoons that are to be retained will be used in an air defence role only and will not receive the Project Centurion upgrade.
Trenta comes from the anti-establishment 5-Star Movement which has always been critical of NATO member Italy’s order for 90 of the planes, saying the money could be better spent to boost welfare and help the sluggish economy.
Some 5-Star officials said last year that Italy should cancel the order for the fighters.
Jul 7, 2018
The company had been in negotiations with a potential buyer for the A400M with an undisclosed country.
Airbus expects to demonstrate by the end of the year the plane’s ability to refuel helicopters in mid-air, one of several features whose delivery has been delayed.
The Royal Moroccan Navy does not have launching platforms for this kind of missiles on its ships and has no land to sea vectors at all. All indications are that these six missiles will be used with the RMAF F16C for anti-ship missions.
The only ship theoretically capable of shooting Harpoons is the Descubierta corvette but which has not been delivered to Morocco with this capability. In addition Corvette Colonel Errahmani serves today as school boat for the Royal Fleet. The ship has recently been disarmed and only keeps her guns.
The F16 is currently the only vector that can carry this type of missile, each aircraft has the ability to take two missiles under its wings on the hard points 3 and 7.
In February, Ottawa requested seven examples for use in non-flying activities such as software testing, static training, and spares, says Australia’s Department of Defence.
The deal is subject to US export controls. If approved, it will bring to 25 the number of former RAAF Hornets sold to Ottawa. Should export approvals be received, negotiations would determine delivery timings.
In December 2017, Canberra confirmed that it will sell Ottawa 18 F/A-18 A/B Hornets for an undisclosed sum.
The first two “classic” Hornets will be delivered to Canada in 2019, at which point the Royal Australian Air Force’s transition to the Lockheed Martin F-35 will be well underway.
The Royal Canadian Air Force requires airframes to fill a capability gap during a pending process to obtain 88 new combat aircraft to replace its 85 Boeing CF-18 A/B fighters.
In February 2018, Ottawa announced that five bidders – Boeing, Dassault, Eurofighter, Lockheed Martin, and Saab – are eligible to replace the CF-18s.
Canada’s previous Harper government had selected the F-35 to replace the CF-18 fleet in 2009, but in 2015 the incoming Trudeau government cancelled this. Initially, the RCAF announced plans to buy 24 F/A-18E/Fs as an interim solution, then select a permanent CF-18 replacement in the early 2020s.
The Boeing deal fell through, however, amid Boeing’s (ultimately unsuccessful) trade complaint with the US Commerce Department against Canadian aircraft manufacturer Bombardier over allegedly unfair pricing on a sale of CSeries aircraft to Delta Air Lines. The Canadian government reacted strongly against Boeing, cancelling the interim fighter deal.
The RAAF operates 55 single seat F/A-18As and 16 two-seat F/A-18Bs that were acquired in the 1980s. This fleet will be retired by 2022 in favour of the F-35A, of which Canberra has committed to 72 examples.
Jul 1, 2018
“The Luftwaffe is at a low point,” Lieutenant General Ingo Gerhartz, who took over as chief of staff of the air force about a month ago, told 200 industry executives, military officers and lawmakers at an event in Berlin on Wednesday evening.
Gerhartz said his assessment followed visits to various air force sites and discussions with troops that revealed serious deficits in the readiness of aircraft and other equipment.
“Aircraft are grounded due to a lack of spare parts, or they aren’t even on site since they’re off for maintenance by the industry,” he said. He said a 400-hour inspection of the Eurofighter combat jets now took a total of 14 months, twice as long as planned, and this was unacceptable.
His comments followed recent reports by the defence ministry and the German parliament’s military ombudsman that revealed significant gaps in military equipment and personnel.
A February ministry report showed only 39 of 128 Eurofighter jets were available for training and combat use last year on average, and just 26 of 93 older-model Tornado fighter jets.
Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservatives and the centre-left Social Democrats (SPD) are finalising budget plans for 2019, but Finance Minister Olaf Scholz, from the SPD, has been resisting moves to accelerate increases in military spending.
Merkel this month forecast steady increases in German military spending in coming years, in line with Berlin’s pledge to meet a NATO target of moving towards spending 2 percent of economic output by 2024, but she gave no details.
Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen has been pressing for increased spending after Scholz’s previous longer-term plan called for military outlays to edge lower after reaching 1.3 percent of economic output in 2019, up from 1.2 percent now.
Von der Leyen has pledged that German military spending will reach 1.5 percent of gross domestic product by 2025.
Gerhartz urged lawmakers at the Wednesday event to back a more sustainable spending plan that would allow the air force to rebuild its equipment and improve planning for new weapons and upgrades to existing systems.
af.reuters Sabine Siebold Writing by Andrea Shalal
The Luftwaffe reported on 25 June that an A400M of its Lufttransportgeschwader (Air Transport Squadron) 62 has conducted aerial refuelling of Spanish Air Force EF-18s to demonstrate the German aircraft’s capabilities to do so.
The German A400M recently flew from its base at Wunstorf to Zaragoza, from where it took off the next day to dispense 14 tonnes of fuel to a total of 10 EF-18s through air-to-air refuelling pods mounted on its wings tips. After a second day of testing, the German A400M’s aerial refuelling capability was proven, according to the Luftwaffe.
Earlier in June, the Direction Générale de l’Armement (DGA), the French defence procurement agency, reported that its flight trials unit had conducted a campaign demonstrating a French Air Force A400M’s capability to refuel Rafale combat aircraft. This included tests simulating a failure of the A400M’s engine and flight controls, in the dark with night-vision goggles, and with the Rafale in various configurations.
A contract for the construction of five frigates is expected to be awarded this year and Navantia is already working on some elements of the ships’ systems and design.
The potential sale of US military equipment to Spain is worth an estimated $860.4 million and includes five MK7 Aegis weapon systems with computing infrastructure, fire control systems, baseline VII MK 41 vertical launching systems.
Jun 30, 2018
“We are discussing with the government the final contract,” the Brazilian airframer’s chief executive Paulo Cesar Silva said at a pre-Farnborough air show media briefing in Lisbon on 26 June.
It comes just over a year after Portugal opened negotiations to buy five KC-390s, with an option for a sixth, with deliveries starting in 2021.
Four nations – other than Brazil – originally committed to the military aircraft, which flew for the first time in 2015. However, progress with Argentina, the Czech Republic and Chile appears to have stalled.
Embraer is exhibiting the KC-390 at this year's Farnborough air show, as well as the Royal International Air Tattoo in Fairford that immediately precedes it.
Jun 24, 2018
Although not a nuclear power, Germany hosts some U.S. nuclear warheads under NATO’s nuclear-sharing policy and operates a number of Tornado warplanes that can deliver them. New jets will need to be certified by Washington to carry out nuclear missions, a process which can take years.
Germany’s defence ministry sent a letter to the U.S. Defense Department in April asking whether certification of the European jets was possible, how much it would cost, and how long it would take, the sources told Reuters on condition of anonymity.
Top U.S. Air Force and Pentagon officials are working to respond to the German query.
China Shipbuilding Industry Corporation (CSIC) uploaded the picture on Wednesday, the state-backed tabloid Global Times reported, although it was taken down later the same day.
The image – which appeared to be an artist’s impression rather than an actual photograph – showed China’s Type 002 carrier – the country’s third carrier and second to be domestically developed – with a flat flight deck installed with three catapult-like devices.
The image was apparently a snapshot of a large poster that hangs on a wall inside CSIC’s boardroom.
In it, the new vessel is seen at sea, flanked by China’s two other aircraft carriers – both of which have ski-jump decks – and a number of destroyers and other ships.
Jun 23, 2018
The due date for a “quality gate” review, as the wide-ranging analysis is called in Bundeswehr jargon, has been on the calendar for this month. But officials now say the exercise could last through the summer.
The discussions are principally about realizing an extended service life for the 1970s-era Tornados, though exactly by how long remains to be seen. Closely linked to that question is an examination of what potential follow-on aircraft are best suited to pick up the legacy planes’ roles in a variety of life-span scenarios.
Officials emphasize that no decision has been made on who will build the new planes to replace roughly 90 Tornados.
A formal competition is expected to begin later this year or early 2019 among those aircraft types still deemed suitable by the government at that time. In the running is the Eurofigher Typhoon, Lockheed Martin’s F-35, and Boeing’s F-15 and F-18.
Lockheed Martin will conduct a rollout ceremony in Fort Worth and the jets will move on to Luke Air Force Base in Arizona where Turkish F-35 pilots and technicians will receive training.
Turkey has been a partner of the active development program of the U.S.-led multinational Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) program since the early 2000s and plans to upgrade its air defense with around 100 F-35s in the next decade.
June 21’s ceremony will mark an historic milestone in this regard for the delivery of the first batch of F-35s to Turkey.
The Chicago-based aerospace manufacturer was contracted to deliver the first batch of 18 KC-46s by August 2017 but missed that deadline after having production issues. The USAF said it now expects that the first 18 aircraft will be delivered by April 2019.
This agreement paves the way for delivery of the first new tanker to the USAF 16.5 years after the US Senate first proposed a replacement plan for the Boeing KC-135 Stratotanker, a 1950s-era tanker.
The first KC-46 will be delivered to McConnell Air Force Base in Kansas. Then, aircraft will be delivered to Altus AFB in Oklahoma and Pease AFB in New Hampshire. Boeing said it now has 43 aircraft in some stage of production, including 34 aircraft which are now in the final stages of build.
Jun 16, 2018
The Netherlands is planning to assemble most of its F-35s at the line at Cameri in northern Italy, where Italian Air Force and Navy F-35s are already being assembled.
Dutch secretary of state for defense, Barbara Visser, attended a ceremony at Cameri on Thursday to mark the start of the work on Dutch aircraft.
The aircraft is the ninth of the Netherlands’ order of 37 F-35As. The first eight are being assembled at Lockheed Martin’s Fort Worth facility in the U.S.
The first Dutch F-35 assembled in the U.S. will roll off the Fort Worth line in January 2019 and will head to Luke Air Base for pilot training, said Plankman. “Six or seven of those assembled in the U.S. will go to Luke,” he added.
Under a deal struck with the Italian government, the remaining 29 Dutch aircraft will all be assembled at Cameri, which is owned by the Italian government and operated by Italian state-controled defense firm Leonardo in partnership with Lockheed Martin.
AN9 will be completed in February 2019 before undertaking test flights in Italy and heading to the Netherlands around October 2019. “It will be the first F-35 to arrive in the Netherlands,” said Plankman.
Cameri has already delivered F-35As to the Italian Air Force, which are flying from Italy’s Amendola Air Base.
In January, the first F-35B to be assembled outside the U.S., which is destined to fly with the Italian Navy, was handed over to Italy at Cameri.
Italy is currently due to purchase 60 F-35 As and 30 F-35Bs.
Jun 6, 2018
The first of Britain’s next-generation fighter jets, the F-35B Lightning have arrived home two months ahead of schedule in a major milestone for the Royal Air Force and Royal Navy.
The first of Britain’s new cutting-edge aircraft arrived into RAF Marham, their new home in Norfolk. They touched down this evening after a trans-Atlantic flight from the United States, where Britain has more of the jets and 150 personnel in training.
The F-35s took off from Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort earlier today, and were flown by British pilots of the newly-reformed 617 Squadron, which was immortalised by the famous Dambusters’ raid of World War II.
Jun 5, 2018
Turkey's first F-35A will enter service in November 2019 after the completion of a pilot training program. The other jets will start coming at regular intervals.
The exercises conducted by the carrier group have become more demanding and “the carrier formation’s comprehensive system of offence and defence has been effectively tested”, MND spokesperson told reporters during a press conference.
Although training and developing a cadre of pilots capable of operating the carrier-borne J-15s at sea has been a dominant activity since the commissioning of Liaoning , the carrier has also completed several exercises with its escort group.
According to the state-owned China Daily newspaper, Liaoning and its escorts headed into the South China Sea after taking part in the Fleet Review on 12 April, and “conducted a series of combat training operations, practising air defence, anti-ship and anti-submarine tactics, and strikes against land targets”.
Following these exercises, the carrier and its escort group sailed east of Taiwan and into the Western Pacific where they conducted further training, which “involved sophisticated situations in the air and on the water” and tested the commanders’ ability “to make decisions when faced with complicated circumstances”.
The group was monitored at the time by the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF).
Jun 3, 2018
The Kazakhstan air force has eight Su-30SMs in active use, with these aged at up to three years. A further 17 examples were already on order prior to the new deal being announced. Astana had previously expressed interest in acquiring up to another 11 of the two-seat type. The Kazakhstan air force also operates 12 single-seat Su-27s.
Moscow’s brief war with Georgia in 2008 and its annexation of the Crimea Peninsula six years later has pushed Sweden, not a NATO member but with close ties to the alliance, to rebuild its armed forces after decades of neglect.
Sweden’s current air defense system, which is over a decade old, cannot shoot down enemy ballistic robots.
The Patriot deal would includes fo r firing units, parts, training and an undisclosed number of missiles.
The contract also includes an option to expand the purchase to up to 300 missiles. Delivery is expected to start in 2021.
In response to a query, U.S. Air Forces in Europe would only say that the Reapers will be unarmed and only used for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance for its “strategic location in Eastern Europe.”
In a release, Pacific Air Forces said that the fifth-generation fighters, aircrew and support personnel were from the 525th Fighter Squadron at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson in Alaska.
They are taking part in the theater security package program under the recently-renamed U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, which is intended to “signify a continued commitment to regional stability and security.”
In a follow-up email, the 18th Wing at Kadena said that fourteen Raptors are deploying there. They will also train with local assigned units, the 18th said.
May 31, 2018