Apr 30, 2015

House panel votes to keep the A-10 Warthog flying another year

The House Armed Services Committee voted early Thursday morning to keep the A-10 attack jet flying another year, as the panel marked up its 2016 defense policy bill.
An amendment, proposed by Rep. Martha McSally (R-Ariz.), would prohibit the Air Force from taking any moves to retire the plane, something it has been trying to do for several years under budget constraints.
The amendment passed by voice vote after emotional debate by members of the committee, particularly military veterans on the panel, who argued for and against keeping the plane, which is designed to support ground troops in battle.
McSally, a retired Air Force colonel, A-10 pilot and squadron commander, led the case for keeping the attack jet, arguing it had superior loitering capabilities and a powerful weapons load, even bringing in a real, but non-live, ammunition round.

Russia to Renew Production of Tu-160 Strategic Bomber

Russia will renew the production of its Tu-160 supersonic strategic bomber and missile carrier, Russian Defense Minister said Wednesday during a visit at the Kazan Aviation Plant.
In 2013, the Russian Defense Ministry signed a contract with the Tupolev design bureau to upgrade three Tu-160 bombers.

Qatar Buy 24 Rafale To Qatar on a $7 billion deal

Qatar has agreed to buy 24 Rafale fighter jets in a deal worth 6.3 billion euros.
The contract - the third this year for Dassault after deals to sell Rafale jets to Egypt and India - also includes MBDA missiles, and the training of 36 Qatari pilots and 100 technicians by the French army.
Dassault is also in talks aimed at supplying 16 of the multi-role combat jets to Malaysia and has resumed discussions over potential fighter sales to another Gulf Arab state.

USAF to begin fourth X-37B space plane mission in May

The US Air Force (USAF) plans to launch its Boeing X-37B unmanned space plane to begin a fourth mission next month.
The launch from Cape Canaveral is scheduled for 20 May.

Netherlands, Norway, Poland to jointly issue A330 MRTT RfP

The Netherlands, Norway, and Poland will send a request for proposal (RfP) to Airbus to buy A330 Multi Role Tanker Transport (MRTT).
The Netherlands, Norway, and Poland will form the launch nations for jointly purchasing three to four MRTTs for delivery starting in May 2019, with an option for up to eight. Forward-operating bases will be set up in Norway and Poland.

USAF: Keeping A-10 means F-35 delays, F-16 cuts

If not allowed to retire the A-10, the Air Force says it will have to send F-16s to the boneyard and delay plans for the F-35 because there aren't enough airmen to maintain both fighters.
If lawmakers succeed in passing a bill requiring the Air Force to keep the A-10 in its fleet for another year, too few maintenance personnel would available to stand up the first operating unit of the F-35 at Hill Air Force Base, Utah, and even fewer to continue maintenance of the F-16, the service told congressional staff in a recent briefing. The base is expected to begin receiving F-35s later this year.
The Air Force plan, if authorized, would be to move F-16s from Hill to replace retiring A-10s at Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri, and Fort Wayne Air National Guard Base, Indiana.
But if that plan is blocked, the Air Force cannot move the F-16s from Hill. Meanwhile, the Falcon units would lose maintenance personnel to the new F-35 units, causing the F-16s to "lose deployable capability," according to an Air Force talking paper obtained by Air Force Times.
Thus, moving forward with the F-35 "requires the retirement or transfer of assigned Hill AFB F-16s in late FY15/early FY16, " the paper says.
The Air Force wanted to move the F-16s to the bases as soon as possible. But the requirement to keep the A-10s at the bases would prompt the service to move the F-16s to the boneyard at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Arizona.
The Utah base will be the first operational location for the F-35s, with it expected to have 72 of the jets. The base currently has 48 Block 40 F-16s.
The Air Force has said it needs 1,100 trained maintainers to reach initial operating capability for the F-35.

Apr 29, 2015

Images of Spanish Eurofighter Typhoons intercepting Russian SU-34 over the Baltic

Saab not selling Gripens to Argentina

A proposed sale of 24 Saab Gripen E/F combat aircraft to Argentina is highly unlikely to happen, a senior company representative told reporters on 27 April.
"[A Gripen sale to Argentina] is not something that we are involved in, and isn't something that we would consider at present. Maybe in the future, if relations with the UK were to improve it could happen, or [if relations don't improve] then perhaps we could source some [UK-made] components from elsewhere, but right now no," representative said.
Nilsson referenced the United Kingdom as the British government has indicated that it would veto any Gripen E sale to Argentina, which disputes its sovereignty of the Falkland Islands (Malvinas). The United Kingdom will manufacturer many of the aircraft's flight and mission systems.
Prior to Saab's most recent statement on the issue, Brazilian government officials had said that they did not think that the United Kingdom would veto any such sale to Argentina (Brazil's interest in the sale lies in the fact that the Argentine aircraft would likely be sourced from its licenced production facility that is being set up to partially satisfy the Brazilian Air Force's order for 36 aircraft).
It is likely that Argentina will not be able to wait this long for a replacement fighter anyhow, and while this might make the country an attractive prospect for the Gripen C/D, which Saab is to continue marketing and developing in parallel to the E/F, the Swedish manufacturer is unlikely to want to upset such an important industrial partner as the United Kingdom in offering even this aircraft.
The Gripen E is one of a number of types that have been linked with a possible Argentine sale over recent months. Others include surplus Lockheed Martin F-16 Fighting Falcons from the United States, the Israel Aerospace Industries Kfir, CAC FC-1 (JF-17 Thunder), and J-10 fighters from China as well as Sukhoi Su-24 'Fencer' aircraft leased from Russia. While some commentators have dismissed the Su-24 proposal as a Latin American hoax, it surfaced again only a few days ago during a meeting between Russian president Vladimir Putin and Argentine president Cristina Fernández de Kirchner. Of all these options though, the Chinese FC-1 proposal appears to be the frontrunner at this stage.

US House Armed Services Authorization Would Keep A-10s Flying

The House Armed Services Committee (HASC), for the second consecutive year, is proposing blocking the retirement of A-10 attack planes. The panel also wants to clear the Navy and Marine Corps to buy additional fighter jets.
The Air Force argues the decades-old A-10s are too expensive to keep flying. Lawmakers reject those arguments, saying the A-10s — which bring jobs to their states and districts — save US lives on the battlefield and must be kept operational.

Apr 28, 2015

Iran Intercepts Cargo Ship, US Moves to Respond

Iranian vessels fired upon a cargo ship flagged to the Marshall Islands Tuesday morning, forcing the ship to travel deeper into Iranian waters — and setting off another round of tensions between Iran and the US.
Iranian patrol vessels intercepted the shipping vessel Maersk Tigris around 5 a.m. Washington time. At that time, the vessels ordered the ship to travel deeper into Iranian waters. It is not clear if the Maersk had inadvertently traveled into Iranian territory.
When the Maersk did not respond immediately, the Iranian vessels fired shots across the bow of the cargo ship, which then complied with the order. The Iranian forces then boarded the vessel.
The ship is now located in the "vicinity" of Larak Island, in the Strait of Hormuz. The ship was traveling from Jeddah in Saudi Arabia to Jebel Ali in the UAE.
Although the Marshall Islands are a sovereign nation, the US has "full authority and responsibility for security and defense" of the islands, according to a State Department fact sheet. That puts a US response in play in what represents an escalation of the standoff between Iran and the US.
After receiving a distress signal from the cargo ship, Naval Forces Central Command dispatched the destroyer Farragut to proceed at best speed to the location of the Maersk and has sent a single maritime patrol and reconnaissance aircraft to observe the situation.
The past week has seen a spike in tensions between the two countries after US Navy ships began shadowing a convoy of Iranian cargo ships that the Pentagon believed may be carrying weapons to aid militant forces in Yemen.
That situation dispersed last week when the Iranian convoy turned away from Yemen.

Apr 27, 2015

Operational J-15s loaded onto China Navy's Liaoning aircraft carrier

The People's Liberation Army has begun loading operational J-15 carrier-based fighter jets onto the Liaoning, China's first and only aircraft carrier.
Recently leaked photos reveal that four J-15s have been moved onto the Liaoning, which will eventually be able to carry up to 24 fighter jets of similar size.
Unconfirmed reports state that the Liaoning conducted its first naval drills for 2015 between April 10 and April 18 in northeast China's Bohai Bay.
Though there is currently no confirmed publicly information about the specifications of the J-15, reports suggest that the fighter is based on the Su-33.

Pakistan to get 110 JF-17 fighter jets from China

China will provide 110 latest JF-17 Thunder fighter jets to Pakistan as the two countries forge closer defence cooperation following President Xi Jinping's visit to Islamabad earlier this week.
China will deliver the first batch of 50 jets over a period of three years.
The JF-17 Thunder is also built in Pakistan as China has already transferred its technology.
During Xi's visit, a fleet of eight JF-17 jets escorted the special aircraft of the Chinese president when it entered Pakistan's airspace.
The two countries signed 51 agreements to boost economic cooperation during Xi's trip.

Air Force Upgrades B-2 Stealth Bomber as Modern Air Defenses Advance

The Air Force is developing an upgrade to its long-range, high-altitude B-2 Spirit stealth bomber allowing it to better detect increasingly sophisticated enemy air defenses at longer ranges.
Modern air defense systems are improving at a rapid pace as computer processing power grows exponentially. U.S. aviation leaders have grown concerned that these advancing air defenses will make stealth aircraft like the B-2 more vulnerable.
The B-2’s stealth technology, as it was configured and envisioned in the 1980s, did not fully anticipate or account for these advances that allow air defenses to detect aircraft through a wider range of frequencies and detect them at further ranges. Engineers have developed high-end air defense systems that are increasingly mobile and able to utilize digital, networked processing technology.
Russian-built S-400 air defense systems, are one of many more modern systems which use three different missiles to target planes at ranges up to 250 miles.

Chile takes delivery of first of two stop-gap C-130s

The Chilean Air Force (FACh) took delivery of a Lockheed Martin KC-130R Hercules in mid-April.
The KC-130R is a former USMC aircraft offered by the US Defense Security Cooperation Agency as an Excess Defense Article (EDA) in September 2012 at the symbolic price of USD700,000.
A second KC-130R was offered in August 2013 and is also expected to be delivered in 2015. When both KC-130Rs are delivered they will increase Group No 10's active fleet to five, since there are currently two C-130Hs and one C-130B in service.
The FACh has sought to augment its currently depleted C-130 Hercules fleet as a stop-gap measure since procurement of a new medium transport aircraft has been shelved for some years.

Apr 25, 2015

Hizbullah airstrip for UAVsrevealed in Lebanon

Lebanon's militant Shia group, Hizbullah, has constructed an airstrip in the northern Bekaa Valley for its unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs).
Located in a remote and sparsely populated area 10 km south of the town of Hermel and 18 km west of the Syrian border, the airstrip was built sometime between 27 February 2013 and 19 June 2014.
It consists of a single unpaved strip with a length of 670 m and width of 20 m. Material has been excavated from a nearby quarry to build up the northern end of the strip so that it is level. It is built over a shorter strip that had been in existence since at least 2010.
The short length of the runway suggests the facility is not intended to smuggle in weapons shipments from Syria or Iran as it is too short for nearly all the transport aircraft used by the air forces of those countries. One exception could be the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps' (IRGC's) An-74T-200 short take-off transports, but landing one with a useful load on a 670 m strip in the mountains would be considered dangerous by most operators.
An alternative explanation is that the runway was built for Iranian-made UAVs, including the Ababil-3, which has been employed over Syria by forces allied to the Syrian regime, and possibly the newer and larger Shahed-129.
Hizbullah has confirmed that the organisation is using UAVs to support operations against rebel forces in Syria.
An antenna is located on a hill 430 m south of the strip and linked by a track. While this looks like a standard Lebanese mobile telephone tower, it could potentially be used to extend the range of a UAV ground control station.
Hizbullah has operated UAVs from Lebanese airspace since at least November 2004, when it dispatched one that it identified as a Mirsad-1 for a brief reconnaissance mission over northern Israel. It then flew attempted to fly at least three UAVs into Israel during the July-August 2006 war.
Hizbullah said it was responsible for the UAV that was shot down over southern Israel on 6 October 2012. It said it used an Iranian-made aircraft that it had designated as the Ayoub for the incursion.
Iranian UAVs have been spotted on numerous occasions in Syrian airspace, mainly the Ababil-3 variant, but also the smaller Yasir-type.

Apr 24, 2015

Argentina And Russia Could Be in Potential Deal With SU-24

The Argentinian President is in Moscow to sign a series of strategic partnership deals with Russia's President Vladimir Putin.
While focussing on trade, energy projects and communication - agreements on military cooperation will also be signed.
Among them could potentially be a deal for Moscow to supply the Argentinians with 12 Sukhoi SU-24 attack aircraft.

First RAAF pilots qualifies on F-35

Australia's first fully qualified F-35 Lightning pilot admits this controversial new aircraft takes his breath away.
Australia plans to acquire up to 100 F-35 aircraft but so far there's just two, both still in the US in the training pool at Luke US Air Force base in Arizona.

Five C-17As Still for Sale

Boeing still has five C-17A for sale following confirmation that the Royal Australian Air Force would take another two.
In addition to the Australia pair, Canada has purchased one aircraft and two have been sold to an undisclosed customer in the Middle East.
New Zealand is another country linked to a potential C-17 purchase, having recently launched its Future Air Mobility Capability program to replace its 50-year-old Lockheed Hercules fleet.

Iraq expects To Receive F-16s in July This Year

Iraq will at long last be getting the first batch of F-16 fighter jets it ordered four years ago.
The fighters would arrive on July 12 along with the U.S.-trained Iraqi pilots and spare parts and would immediately begin carrying out operations.
U.S. did not confirm the date, and only said the planes were expected by the summer.
Iraq first ordered the 18 in 2011 to supplement its almost nonexistent air force.
The pilots have been training with three of the planes in Arizona and plans to send them last year to Balad air force base in Iraq were scrapped after ISIS militants threatened the area.
Iraq's air force has been at its lowest point and currently relies on U.S. planes to carry out airstrikes in the battle to dislodge IS militants from the north and west of the country.
By July, Iraq had also received a total of 13 second hand Russian Su-25 jets.

Apr 23, 2015

Japan completes repairs on first tsunami-damaged F-2B fighter

The Japanese Air Self Defense Force rolled out the first of 13 F-2B fighter aircraft to undergo repairs to damage caused by the March 2011 tsunami.
This aircraft will be used for pilot training at Misawa Air Base, before being transferred to Matsushima Air Base.
The JASDF suffered serious damage to 18 of its 31 F-2B aircraft in the tsunami that inundated Matsushima Air Base on the northwest coast of Japan, about 300 km north of Tokyo. Work to fix 13 of these began in December 2013, with the remaining five deemed to be beyond economic repair.
Once repairs are complete, the JASDF will have 28 twin-seat F-2B and 63 single-seat F-2A aircraft in its inventory.
The F-2, which is based on the Lockheed Martin F-16 Fighting Falcon, entered JASDF service in 2000. As well as the repairs being carried out on the tsunami-damaged aircraft, the fleet is being upgraded to improve its air-to-air and air-to-ground combat capabilities.

Bangladesh preparing to receive first of three L 410 transports

Czech manufacturer Aircraft Industries has completed the first of three L 410UVP-E20 twin-turboprop transport aircraft for the Bangladeshi Air Force.
The current BAF transport fleet includes three Antonov An-32s, two of which were delivered in 1990 and the third in 1995, and four 1960s-era ex-US Air Force Lockheed C-130B Hercules, delivered from 2002.
In 2012, the US Congress was notified of a possible sale of four ex-USAF C-130Es to Bangladesh, but nothing further has been heard of that potential deal.

Almost Nobody Believes USAF Can Build an Affordable Bomber

The last time the U.S. Air Force developed a stealth bomber, the planes cost $2.2 billion each and couldn’t sit out in the rain.
The B-2 bomber, whose sensitive coating helps make it hard to detect on enemy radar, must be sheltered from the elements in climate-controlled hangars at Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri. None of the 20 planes is based overseas, where it could respond faster in a crisis.
Now, with little public scrutiny or debate, the Air Force is developing a next-generation bomber that it promises to build with advanced technology at a fraction of the B-2’s cost. Few outside the Pentagon take the advertised sticker price of $550 million per plane, or $55 billion for a planned fleet of 100, at face value.

France moots cancellation of Mistral warships deal

French president Francois Hollande suggested Wednesday (22 April) that France might not deliver its mistral warships to Russia but refund Moscow instead.
"On the Mistrals, all options will be addressed. At the moment, as I have said, the Mistral delivery is not possible in the current context," Hollande said at a press conference in Paris with Ukrainian president.
Hollande suspended the delivery of the first ship in September last year after the EU took sanctions against Russia for its involvement in the war in Ukraine.
The suspension was upheld "indefinitely" in November.
France and Russia have been discussing a settlement for some time and Putin opened the door last week to a compromise.

US Navy X-47B first to complete autonomous aerial refueling

The X-47B successfully conducted the first ever Autonomous Aerial Refeuling of an unmanned aircraft April 22, completing the final test objective under the Navy's Unmanned Combat Air System demonstration program.
The X-47B connected to an Omega K-707 tanker aircraft and received over 4,000 pounds of fuel using the Navy's probe-and-drogue method.
During the test, the X-47B exchanged refueling messages with a government-designed Refueling Interface System (RIS) aboard the tanker. The aircraft autonomously maneuvered its fixed refueling probe into the tanker’s drogue, also known as the basket, the same way a Navy pilot would refuel a manned aircraft.

Norway to send F16s to the Baltic

Norwegian F16 fighter jets will start flying over the Baltic next month and through the summer, to help NATO with routine patrols of the airspace over Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. The move comes at a time when neighbouring Russia has been flexing its military muscle in the area.
Norway’s participation in the NATO operation will run through August.

Sagem looks to arm French C-130s with AASM

Sagem is preparing to offer an armed upgrade package for the French Air Force'sC-130 Hercules transport aircraft.
The upgrade would include arming the Hercules with the SSA-1101 Gerfaut system, allowing the C-130 to carry and deploy as many as eight Sagem AASM (Armement Air-Sol Modulaire) precision guided munitions (PGMs).

Apr 22, 2015

Royal Denmark Air force planning Challenger 604 mid-life upgrade

The Royal Danish Air Force is preparing to embark on a mid-life upgrade of its Bombardier Challenger 604 maritime patrol aircraft, which is expected to be implemented by 2018.
The four-strong fleet of Danish 604s will receive a series of modifications including a new downlink and a multirole radar capable of carrying out surface surveillance, weather monitoring and oil slick detection, as well as a new cockpit to the Challenger 605 standard.
A new aircraft is not on the cards due to the requirement for a new fighter to replace Denmark’sF-16s.
Of the four 604s in the air force’s inventory, three are currently utilised in the MPA role and one in a VIP and transport configuration.

Taiwan to deploy P-3Cs to Spratlys

Taiwan announced on 20 April that it will deploy newly-delivered P-3C Orion maritime patrol aircraft on surveillance missions over its claimed territory in the South China Sea.
The aircraft are currently deployed in anti-submarine reconnaissance and surveillance operations in and around Taiwan's air defence identification zone.
However, the scope of the P-3C operations will be expanded to include waters in southeastern Taiwan and areas around the Spratly and Pratas islands.
Taiwan has to date taken delivery of eight of a total of 12 refurbished P-3C Orion aircraft from the US. The remaining four are due to be delivered by the end of 2015.
The P-3Cs are set to replace the Republic of China Air Force's fleet of 11 S-2T anti-submarine aircraft, which have been in service for more than 40 years.
China has built islands at Cuarteron, Gaven, Hughes, Johnson South, Subi and Mischief reefs, while it is also putting pressure on the Philippines.
For its part, Taiwan is seeking to expand its runway on Taiping Island (Itu Aba) in the Spratlys from the existing 1,150 m-long and 30 m-wide strip, which was completed in early 2008.

USAF A-10s train with allies in Romania; F-15s in Netherlands

U.S. Air Force aircraft are training with Romania, The Netherlands and other allied nations.
More U.S. airmen and aircraft are in Europe for the next few months as part of a theater security package in support of Operation Atlantic Resolve, a show of force in the region amid Russia's aggression against Ukraine.
Currently at Campia Turzii, Romania, about 300 airmen and support equipment are deployed with 12 A-10s.
Twelve F-15s, which arrived at The Netherland's Leeuwarden Air Base this month, will head to Bulgaria next.

French Carrier Charles de Gaulle Bound for India After Two Months of Strikes Against ISIS

French carrier Charles de Gaulle has left the Persian Gulf after about two months of strike operations against Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS or ISIL).
The nuclear carrier is now bound for India for exercises with the Indian military.
In its time in the region, the carrier launched an average of 10 to 15 sorties a day with its compliment of about 20 strike aircraft — a mix of Dassault Rafale M aircraft and Dassault Super Etendard Modernisé (SEM).
The strike missions were in support of the U.S. led Operation Inherent Resolve (OIR) missions against ISIS.
The departure of the carrier “brings France’s contribution to the anti-Isis air effort down to six Rafales based in the UAE and six Dassault Mirage 2000 in Jordan.

Indian Rafale deal to be finalised by end of May

India and France aim to finalise the deal for 36 Dassault Rafale fighters for the Indian Air Force (IAF) by the end of May.
Indian prime minister Narendra Modi is believed to have insisted on this deadline with his French counterpart Francois Hollande in Paris, soon after announcing the fighters' procurement on 10 April.
Once inked, the IAF will be the first customer, after the French Air Force, to acquire Rafales. Egypt has also agreed to buy 24 Rafales.
A delegation comprising senior French government officials and top Dassault executives is expected in New Delhi over the next few days to begin negotiating the fighter contract.
Dassault is reported to have agreed to more than double its annual Rafale building capacity from 11 to 24 aircraft. The company had slowed down Rafale production rate to around 11 platforms per year as no new orders were forthcoming.
The French government is also believed to have persuaded its air force to reduce its Rafale induction until the IAF contract is fulfilled.
Negotiations between the MoD and Dassault over the acquisition of 126 Rafales under the Medium MultiRole Combat Fighter requirement have been deadlocked since January 2012 due to disagreements about the responsibility for the 108 platforms to be licence built in India.

Saudi Arabia ends air campaign in Yemen

Saudi Arabia announced on Tuesday it was ending a month-long campaign of air strikes against the Houthi rebels who seized large areas of Yemen and said it would back a political solution to bring peace to its war-ravaged neighbor.
Iran, which has supported the fellow Shi'ite Houthis, welcomed the ceasefire.
"Operation Decisive Storm has achieved its goals ...(including) removing the threat to Saudi Arabia and neighboring countries, especially in terms of heavy weapons," said a statement carried by Saudi state news agency SPA.

Apr 21, 2015

Switzerland to relaunch F-5 replacement effort in 2017

Switzerland is to relaunch its efforts to procure a new fighter type following the recent announcement by the Federal Department of Defence, that it is prematurely retiring a third of the ageing Northrop F-5E Tiger II fleet due to cracking.
The cracking in 16 of the country's 32 serviceable F-5Es (10 of which will be retired and 6 repaired and returned to service) coupled with the relatively small number of Boeing F/A-18 Hornets in service had left the air force in a 'critical' position. Once the retirements and repairs were complete, the country would be left with just 22 F-5E and 32 F/A-18C/D frontline fighters.
This state of affairs has been compounded by the Swiss population's decision in May 2014 to reject a deal to procure 22 Saab Gripen E jets to replace the F-5s and augment the F/A-18s. Under that proposal, the Swiss Air Force was to receive a number of Gripen C/D fighters in 2016 ahead of the start of Gripen E deliveries in 2018. The F-5s were to be phased out from 2016, with deliveries of the Gripen E running through to 2021.
According to the government, the new process should include two of the three shortlisted candidates from the previous effort; namely, the Gripen E and the Dassault Rafale (the Eurofighter Typhoon is no longer considered a 'favourite', the RTS report said). It added that 'a US aircraft', most likely the Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet, should also be included.
When the F-5 replacement programme was launched in 2007, Saab submitted its Gripen C/D, Boeing its F/A-18E/F Super Hornet, Dassault its Rafale, and Eurofighter its Typhoon. Less than a year later in 2008, Boeing dropped out of the competition citing differences between the requirements and the Super Hornet's capabilities.
The competition stalled in 2010, but was resurrected in mid-2011 after intense lobbying by Swiss industry, with Saab then offering its Gripen NG instead. Later that year, the Gripen NG (later to become the Gripen E) was selected, only to have the deal scuppered in the referendum. This decision effectively sent the air force back to square one in its efforts to replace its ageing F-5s.

USS Theodore Roosvelt strike group ready to block Iranian ships off Yemen

The aircraft carrier Theodore Roosevelt and members of its strike group are heading toward the waters off Yemen to conduct maritime security operations.
The TR, along with cruiser Normandy, passed through the the Strait of Hormuz Sunday to join up with U.S. maritime security forces in the Arabian Sea, the Gulf of Aden and the Strait of Bab-el-Mandeb, said Cmdr. Kevin Stephens.
The TR is tracking a convoy of Iranian vessels headed to the Gulf of Aden and will be prepared to block them from delivering arms to the Houthi rebels. However, Stevens said none of the U.S. vessels have been tasked to intercept the Iranian vessels as of Monday.
The carrier, with nine embarked squadrons, and cruiser met up with about half a dozen U.S. ships already operating in the area, including the amphibious assault ship Iwo Jima , the amphibious transport dock New York, the dock landing Fort McHenry, the mine countermeasures ships Dextrous and Sentry, and the destroyers Forrest Sherman and Winston Churchill, members of TR's carrier strike group.
The Navy has recently increased its presence in the region as Houthi rebels continue to fight against the government in that country, according to a Navy release Monday.
The TR and its strike group recently entered 5th Fleet as part of an eight-month deployment.
The TR CSG brings deadly new capabilitieswith the first deployment for the E-2D Advanced Hawkeye, and extensive upgrades to the Normandy that enable the strike group to fire at targets with longer range missiles.

Poland Selects Patriot, Caracal Helos

Poland has selected the US Patriot system and the Airbus Caracal helicopter as the European nation faces an increasingly aggressive Russia.
A spokesman at the Polish Embassy in Washington confirmed that the nation has chosen the Patriot over the Aster 30, a system offered by a European consortium of MBDA and the Thales Group.
Developed by Raytheon, the Patriot is used by the US Army along with fifteen partner nations. That includes Poland's NATO partners Spain, the Netherlands, Greece and Germany.
That NATO relationship appears to have given Patriot as boost in the competition.
Poland also has chosen the Caracal from Airbus Helicopters, beating competition from the Sikorsky S-70 Black Hawk and AgustaWestland AW149, the Airbus unit said on Tuesday.
The pre-selection of the Caracal is for 60 military multirole helicopters under.
Poland also has a requirement for some 30 combat helicopters, for which Airbus will pitch its Tiger.

RAF In Talks With Raytheon To Buy More Paveway IV

Continuing Royal Air Force precision strikes against Islamic State (IS) targets in Iraq has prompted Britain's Ministry of Defence to open negotiations with Raytheon UK to replenish stocks of the company's Paveway IV weapon.
With RAF missile and bomb strikes against IS reaching the 300 mark since the first attacks in late September 2014, the MoD said a new order to top up Paveway IV stocks is in the works.
Raytheon UK has also exported Paveway IV to the Royal Saudi Air Force where it is deployed on Tornado and Typhoon aircraft and being used against the Islamic State.
Eight RAF Tornado jets operating out of the British base at Akrotiri, Cyprus, carry the weapon along with the dual-mode Brimstone missile to provide strike capabilities against IS targets in Iraq. British Reaper remotely piloted vehicles operating from a base in the Middle East use Lockheed Martin Hellfire missiles against IS.

Two Yak-130s delivered to Belarus

Irkut has delivered the first two of four Yak-130s to Belarus. The first jet arrived on Apr. 16 on board an Il76.

South Korea, Peru vow to cooperate in KAI T-50

President Park Geun-hye said Monday she agreed with her Peruvian counterpart Ollanta Humala on cooperation in Peru's trainer jet project, a move that could raise the prospect of a South Korean defense firm winning a lucrative deal.
The comments came as Korea Aerospace Industries Ltd., South Korea's sole aircraft manufacturer, is competing with foreign rivals to win a deal worth about US$1 billion for Peru's next-generation light attack aircraft.
KAI has offered its FA-50 supersonic jets.

Apr 20, 2015

US Marines test missiles on V-22 Osprey

In late March, the Marine Corps teamed with the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency to test-fire a precision-guided missile from an airborne Osprey. In a unique twist, the air crew coordinated the shoot with ground troops operating handheld tablet technology. During the demonstration, a joint terminal attack controller used the mapping software on his tablet to identify a target near an unmanned truck and then communicate its position to a PCAS module inside the Osprey.
Troops in the air and on the ground then confirmed the shot before the Osprey fired.
The munition was a nonexplosive version of the tube-launched AGM-176 Griffin missile. It traveled about 4.5 miles.

All USAF T-6As returned to flight

The Air Force's T-6 Texan II fleet was expected to resume flying following a five-day standdown.
Air Education and Training Command ordered all of its T-6s to stand down April 10 after indications of an engine oil line malfunction. The T-6A special program office conducted a fleetwide inspection, which was finalized April 14. All T-6As passed inspection and were cleared for flight.
As a result of the inspection, T-6A maintainers were given clearer specifications for the installation of lines and on allowable wear before replacement.
AETC flies 446 of the turboprop aircraft as entry-level pilot training. The aircraft are largely flown at Columbus Air Force Base, Mississippi; Vance Air Force Base, Oklahoma; and Laughlin Air Force Base and Sheppard Air Force Base in Texas.
Student pilots, during the standdown, focused on academic work and simulator training. No more training delays are expected.
The Navy and Marine Corps also use the T-6 for entry-level pilot training. The Navy monitored the Air Force's inspection, but did not ground the plane.

France, Russia Negotiating Resolution To Mistral Deal

French President says talks with Moscow are being held to find a solution to the suspended delivery to Russia of two French-built Mistral warships.
France postponed the deal with Russia last year because of Moscow's illegal annexation of Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula and involvement in the crisis in eastern Ukraine.
Russia has said it will seek a refund for the helicopter-carrying warships if they are not delivered.
Russian President said last week he was disappointed by France's refusal to deliver the warships but that their absence does not hurt his country's defense capabilities.
Hollande said the issue could be discussed with Putin when the two meet in Armenia on April 24.

Pakistan Eyes T-50 as Trainer Option

Pakistan is considering purchase of the South Korean KAI T-50 Trainer to revamp its Air Force training program.
Interest in the T-50 comes amid moves to improve Pakistani-South Korean defense industry collaboration.
Currently, trainees transition from the subsonic intermediate K-8P jet to the supersonic FT-7P.
Financial restrictions may dictate selection of a more affordable Chinese option. The Hongdu JL-10/L-15 has previously been examined by the Pakistan Air Force and could therefore be a more realistic option.

UAE Restarts Rafale Talks With France

The United Arab Emirates has restarted talks on ordering the Dassault Rafale.
France has been in talks for more than five years on a sale of 60 Rafales, with the UAE requiring a more capable fighter with an extensive weapons suite. The Rafale would replace the fleet of Mirage 2000-9s.
The fresh talks are looking at requirements rather than reviving discussions for 60 Rafales and it is too early to say how many aircraft would be purchased for how much.
The UAE is seen a potential buyer after Egypt sealed a deal for 24 Rafales and India announced a plan to order 36 off the assembly line in France.
The UAE is in talks with the US to order 30 Block 61 Lockheed Martin F-16s, which would add to the 80-strong fleet of Block 60 fighters.
Abu Dhabi had agreed with then-French President Nicolas Sarkozy to consider the Rafale as a replacement to the fleet of Mirage 2000-9s bought in 1998.
Fabius said there are also discussions on the Rafale with Qatar.

US Army Plans Removing 24 Apaches from Europe To Alaska

The US Army plans to transfer 24 attack helicopters from Germany to Alaska over the next two years as part of a larger cost-saving aviation plan, by 2017.
Only one US Army combat aviation brigade is permanently stationed in Europe.
The Apaches are part of the Army's overarching aviation restructure, billed by the service as means to save $12 billion. The active component would divest itself of the OH-58D Kiowa Warrior fleet and pull Apaches from the National Guard to fill the gap, providing UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters in turn. The Army would also close three of its 13 combat aviation brigades.
The 24 Apaches planned for Alaska will come from "reset facilities," and go to Fort Wainwright, in Fairbanks, to convert the 6th Squadron, 17 Cavalry Regiment, into an armed reconnaissance squadron.
The 12 Gray Eagles would be stationed in Alaska, though the exact location is under negotiations with the Air Force. The Army is seeking to station them at Eielson Air Force Base in Fairbanks, though the Air Force also operates at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson in Anchorage, where the Federal Aviation Administration has approved the use of unmanned aviation.

Indonesia grounds F-16 fleet after fire

Indonesia has temporarily grounded its fleet of F-16C and F-16D combat aircraft pending investigations into a fire that claimed one airframe on 16 April.
The aircraft grounded are all used stock received from the US under a Foreign Military Sale (FMS) arrangement for 24 airframes.
Under the deal, Indonesia is to receive 19 F-16Cs and five F-16Ds. The service has taken delivery of five airframes, with the first three delivered in July 2014.

Israel to get first F-35s in 2016

Two F-35A will arrive in Israel in December 2016, making the Israeli Air Force (IAF) the first outside of the United States to receive the fifth-generation combat aircraft.
The two jets are among 33 F-35s that Israel currently has on order.
In the future, Israel might be interested in acquiring the more expensive F-35B short take-off and vertical-landing (STOVL) variant.

X-47B engages tanker to prepare for refuelling test

The X-47B UCAS-D on 15 April connected with the fuel probe of a refuelling aircraft in flight, the US Navy (USN) announced on 16 April.
The X-47B connected with an Omega Aerial Refueling Services K-707 tanker, but did not receive fuel during the test. The effort marked a final preparation for an actual in-flight refuelling of the UCAS-D.
In that final test the X-47B is expected to use a new optical sensor to guide its fuel probe into the tanker aircraft's drogue.

USAF grounds T-6 II fleet of training aircraft

The Air Force grounded its entire T-6 Texan II training aircraft fleet and has no immediate schedule to get the planes back in the air.
However, most of the planes are expected to be back in the air after a fleet-wide inspection.
The aircraft are largely flown at Columbus Air Force Base, Mississippi; Vance Air Force Base, Oklahoma; and Laughlin Air Force Base and Sheppard Air Force Base in Texas.
AETC first stood down the aircraft on April 10 following indications of an engine oil line malfunction.
The Navy and Marine Corps use the same aircraft to train entry-level pilots. The Navy is aware of the Air Force's decision to ground the T-6s, and is monitoring the situation, but has made no decision to ground the plane.
The aircraft is among the newest in the Air Force's fleet, first deployed in May 2000.