May 31, 2015

Russia warplanes head off US destroyer in Black Sea

Russian military aircraft were dispatched to head off a US warship that was acting "aggressively" in the Black Sea, Russia's state news agency RIA reported, but the Pentagon denied any unusual behaviour.
RIA quoted an anonymous source in Russia's armed forces in Crimea as saying on Sunday that the guided missile destroyer USS Ross was moving along the edge of Russia's territorial waters and heading in their direction.
"The crew of the ship acted provocatively and aggressively, which concerned the operators of monitoring stations and ships of the Black Sea Fleet," RIA quoted the source as saying.
"Su-24 attack aircraft demonstrated to the American crew readiness to harshly prevent a violation of the frontier and to defend the interests of the country."
Pentagon spokeswoman said the USS Ross was "well within international waters at all times, performing routine operations".
"The US navy operates routinely in the Black Sea, in accordance with international law," noting the Ross' deployment to the Black Sea had been publicly announced.
Russia's defence ministry was not immediately available to comment on the report.
The incident is the latest example of encounters between Russian and Western militaries, as tensions continue over the crisis in Ukraine and Russia's annexation of the Crimea peninsula, home to Russia's Black Sea Fleet, last year.
Earlier this month, both Britain and Sweden said that they had scrambled fighters to intercept Russian bombers near their territory.
The US said last month that it was filing a complaint to Russia over a Russian fighter's "sloppy" and unsafe interception of a US reconnaissance plane in international airspace over the Baltic Sea.

May 29, 2015

First Live Firing of a Harpoon missile from an Indian Air Force Fighter

The Indian Air Force launched an anti-ship Harpoon missile from a fighter plane for the first time at a pre-designated target in the Arabian Sea last week. The missile, was launched on May 22 from a Jaguar maritime strike fighter that flew 200 nautical miles off the west coast to carry out the mission.
The fighter belonged to the IAF’s maritime strike squadron.
An official confirmed it was the “first live firing” of the Harpoon from a warplane in India after integration by state-owned Hindustan Aeronautics Limited.
The navy tested the Harpoon last year when a Boeing P-8I long range maritime reconnaissance aircraft launched the subsonic missile to take out a ‘target’ in the Bay of Bengal.
India has bought a package of 24 Harpoon Block II missiles for its navy and another 22 for the IAF.
India is also looking at arming its Shishumar class submarines with the all-weather Harpoon missiles.

Russian Air Force to Get at Least 50 New Strategic Tu-160 Blackjack Bombers

The Russian Defense Ministry will purchase no less than 50 new Tu-160 (Blackjack) heavy strategic bombers when production is renewed, without specifying when production would begin.
The renewed Tu-160 manufacturing will not lead to suspension of PAK DA, a next-generation Russian strategic bomber developed by the Tupolev, equipped with the newest high-precision weaponry.
PAK DA bombers were previously planned for delivery in 2020, however, the Russian Air Force will start receiving its aircraft in 2023.
The Air Force Tu-160 is now being upgraded, and radar and navigation equipment is being replaced.

US surveillance on China's artificial islands reportedly shows military artillery

U.S. surveillance images reportedly show that China has positioned weaponry on at least one of the artificial islands it is developing in the South China Sea, apparently confirming suspicions that Beijing has been building up the area for military use.
The Wall Street Journal, citing U.S. officials, reported that images taken about a month ago showed two Chinese motorized artillery pieces on one of the artificial reefs. Although the weaponry would not pose a threat to U.S. planes or ships, it could potentially reach neighboring islands.
The Journal reported that in recent weeks the artillery has disappeared from view, though it was not clear how of why. U.S. officials said they believed the equipment had either been removed or purposely obscured by the Chinese.
The American officials said that the artillery, is within striking range of an island claimed by Vietnam, which that country's government has armed with various weaponry for some time.
A Chinese Embassy spokesman maintained the development of the artificial lands was primarily civilian.
“It needs to be emphasized that the Nansha Islands is China’s territory, and China has every right to deploy on relevant islands and reefs necessary facilities for military defense,” spokesman for the Chinese embassy, told the Journal.
On Wednesday, US Defense Secretary Ash Carter strongly defended American military flights over the artificial lands in the South China Sea and called for a “lasting halt” to China’s land reclamation projects.
The Pentagon said in a recent report that the construction could be used for military airstrips, naval ports or to host surveillance systems.

Russian MiG-31 Successfully Downs Cruise Missile in Military Drills

A Russian MiG-31 (Foxhound) interceptor successfully downed a cruise missile that was fired by a Tu-95MS (Bear) strategic bomber over the Pemboi Range in Russia’s northwestern region, the Russian Defense Ministry’s Central Military District’s press service said Thursday.

May 28, 2015

Private company procures Bell 407GT light attack helo for use in Africa, the Middle East

Bell Helicopter has sold its first 407GT light attack and armed reconnaissance platform to BBM Inc to perform a variety of security missions in the Middle East and Africa.
Bell Helicopter did not disclose how many of the armed 407GTs are to be acquired, but the private company procured 16 unarmed 407GX helicopters, on which the 407GT is based, earlier this year. According to Bell Helicopter, the helicopters will be used in undisclosed countries for missions including law enforcement and homeland security.
BBM Inc describes itself as "spearheading [a] variety of capabilities to support a wide array of mission profiles in the Middle East, Africa, and around the world"
On its website, it lists a number of capabilities that it provides, including Air Solutions; Helicopters. Besides the 407GX and 407GT platforms, BBM Inc's helicopter solutions comprise the Bell 428, Huey II, and Bell 212 platforms. The company also provides fixed-wing aircraft (including the Lockheed Martin C-130 Hercules), unmanned aerial vehicles, a range of armoured and soft-skinned vehicles, naval vessels (including mine sweepers and patrol boats), as well as body armour and night vision goggles.
First revealed in March 2013, the 407GT is derived from the OH-58D Kiowa Warrior in service with the US Army. It is fitted with the Garmin G1000HTM 'glass' cockpit and can be equipped with electro-optic/infrared sensors, as well as light weapons and precision-guided munitions.

HAL and BAE sign Hawk upgrade MoU

HAL and BAE Systems have signed an agreement to support Hawk Mk 132 advanced jet trainers (AJTs) and SEPECAT Jaguar fighters.
A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed by the two companies features the upgrade of the Hawk Mk 132s, the development of a "combat" Hawk aircraft for Indian and export markets, as well as "maintenance solutions" to support Indian Armed Forces' Hawk and Jaguar fleets.

H225M Caracal passes Polish helicopter trials, Contract To Be Signed Soon

The H225M Caracal has passed Polish state trials.
The announcement paves the way for the signing of a contract for 50 helicopters, following the preselection of the Caracal (formerly known as the EC725) for the Polish medium-lift utility helicopter programme on 21 April.
Poland will now begin final negotiations with Airbus for the helicopters.
Deliveries of the Caracal are scheduled to begin in 2017, with the type set to replace Poland's Mil Mi-8/17 utility helicopters and Mi-14 ASW helicopters.

Mexico Could Order Up To 50 EC-725 Helicopters From France To Be Locally Asembled

Mexico could order 50 H225M (EC-725) that would be assembled locally. A signature is expected at the July 14 national holiday where Mexico is guest of honor.
If this command is confirmed, it would be a third good news for export to Airbus, after major contracts in South Korea and Poland, and perhaps before Qatar.
Initially, Airbus Helicopters were negotiating for several months with Mexico a new order of six to twelve additional H225M complement the already ordered 15 units But discussions have accelerated there two months and took a new turn. It is no longer a dozen devices that Mexico wants but fifty H225M, which would locally assembled. Just like in Brazil, Airbus Helicopters made a proposal to that effect.
The Airbus Helicopters in Mexico was inaugurated in February 2013 in Queretaro. The plant manufactures metal components for high-tech aircraft structures, and is the only production site of tail booms Ecureuil AS350 helicopters. It hosts a service center of Ecureuil family aircraft for the operators in the region.
Besides helicopters, France and Mexico are discussing a naval cooperation, which could include the sale of buildings manufactured by DCNS.

Taiwan Launches Ambitious Plans For New Weapons In All Fronts, Cleared to Buy C-27J

China's steady acquisition of advanced weaponry has driven ambitious Taiwanese requirements, including plans to procure stealth fighters, advanced jet trainers, long-range unmanned reconnaissance aircraft and main battle tanks.
Some requirements are awaiting sale notification to the US Congress or are still working through the Ministry of National Defense's internal programming process. Those include:
• MH-60R naval helicopters.
• Aircraft-deployed mines, such as the Quickstrike series.
• Shipboard electronic warfare system upgrades, such as the SLQ-32.
• Phalanx close-in weapon systems.
• Tactical datalink systems as part of a follow-on to the Po Sheng C4ISR upgrade program, now more commonly referred to as "Shyun An" or "Xun An."

Among the Chinese programs spurring Taiwan's response are Su-35 fighter aircraft and long-range S-400 surface-to-air missile systems. Chinese efforts in the South China Sea have also driven requirements for more ships and submarines, though these will be largely indigenous build programs.
Defense sources indicate Taiwan is interested in acquiring an additional AH-64E Apache attack helicopter, presumably as replacement for the unit lost in a training accident in 2014.
Taiwan needs to start replacing its fighter trainers in the next few years, but the Air Force has not announced a selection process for new trainers to replace aging F-5 fighters and AT-3 attack trainers, though plans for a tentative budget have been announced by Air Force officials for 2017.
The Air Force uses its F-5E/F fighters and AT-3 jet trainers for training before moving forward to one of three fighters: F-16A/Bs, Mirage 2000-5s or indigenous defense fighters.
The Air Force has said it wants to procure 68 advanced jet trainers for advanced training, lead-in and operations transitioning training, Shih said.
At present, there are three candidates: the US Air Force's T-X program, which is still under development; the Alenia Aermacchi M-346 Master; and the T-50 Golden Eagle built by Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) and Lockheed Martin.
Taiwan's Air Force also has a requirement to replace aging single-engine propeller-driven Beechcraft T-34C Turbo Mentor trainers procured from the US in the 1980s. The T-34 squadron has suffered numerous fatal accidents over the past several years. The Beechcraft AT-6 is the most likely candidate.
Taiwan also has been pursuing a procurement for six C­27J Spartan medium-transport aircraft, along with an indigenous training and maintenance package, to replace the Air Force's Fokker 50 VIP aircraft. The US government has released the C-27J for Taiwan, but the Air Force is awaiting financing, which has been hampered by the cost of recent upgrades to its indigenous defense fighters and upcoming upgrades to its F-16A/B fighter fleet.

May 27, 2015

Boeing Will Begin Production of AH-6i 'Little Bird' This Year

Boeing will begin production of the AH-6i Little Bird light attack and reconnaissance helicopter, by the end of the year. The manufacturer declined to name the first buyer, which the U.S. Army has previously identified as the Saudi Arabia National Guard. The latter agency will acquire 24 international Little Birds through a foreign military sale (FMS).
The Army awarded Boeing a FMS contract last year to supply AH-6is to Saudi Arabia. The Little Bird international variant was contained in a huge arms deal the U.S. and Saudi governments negotiated in 2010.
The AH-6i borrows from Boeing’s development of the AH-64E Apache Guardian attack helicopter and the A/MH-6M Little Bird used by U.S. special forces.
There are two weapons stores on each side of aircraft, allowing for a weapons mix that includes an M-134 minigun, .50 caliber GAU-19B machine gun, M260 seven-shot rocket pods and up to four semi-active laser Hellfire missiles.
The wing stores also support 30-gallon conformal fuel tanks on each side, providing an additional 60 gallons of fuel, or about two and a half hours of endurance. Another option the AH-6i accommodates is a 63-gallon internal auxiliary fuel tank.

Russia Says Is Too Early to Deliver S-300 Missile Defense Systems to Iran

The decision to supply Iran with S-300 missile defense systems has already been made, but it is still too early to deliver the systems, Russian Security Council Deputy Secretary said Tuesday.
Russia’s deal with Iran to deliver five S-300 systems dates to 2007. It was halted after the UN Security Council slapped Tehran with an arms embargo over its controversial nuclear energy program.
In April 2015, Iran was able to take the edge off the nuclear row after it agreed on a framework accord to dismantle parts of its nuclear infrastructure in exchange for the easing of sanctions.
The final agreement between Tehran and six world powers, due by the end of June, is expected to open the way for Russian arms deliveries. Last month, Russian President Vladimir Putin lifted the ban on the sale of S-300s to the Islamic republic.
Russia’s decision has been heavily criticized by Israel amid concerns that the shipments could increase tensions in the region, although its key ally US President Barack Obama said he was surprised the deal was suspended for so long, given that the defensive S-300s were not covered by the UN embargo.

Embraer delivers the first modernized AF-1B jet fighter to the Brazilian Navy

Embraer held the delivery ceremony, of the first modernized AF-1 (AF-1B) fighter jet to the Brazilian Navy. The AF-1 program (the name given by the Navy to the McDonnell Douglas A-4 Skyhawk) provides for the revitalization and modernization of 12 subsonic jets – nine AF-1 single-seaters and three AF-1A two-seaters.
The AF-1 is an intercept and attack airplane operating from an aircraft carrier to provide air defense for the fleet. These modernized Navy jets received new navigation, weapons, power, tactical communications and sensor systems, plus computers and multimode state-of-the art radar. This equipment, along with the structural work that was performed, will make it possible for these jet fighters to continue operating until 2025.

India to review safety of Su-30MKI fighter fleet

India is to conduct a safety assessment of its fleet of S030MKI fighters following the loss of an aircraft on 19 May.
A high-level review of the more than 200 Su-30MKI aircraft fielded by the Indian Air Force is due to be held in the coming days.
The review follows the crash of an Su-30MKI during a training exercise in the far east of the country. Both crew members were reported to have ejected safely.
Since receiving the first of its Su-30MKIs in 2002, the IAF has lost six to accidents. Most recently, the fleet was grounded following a double uncommanded ejection that occurred in October 2014. The findings of an investigation into that incident have not been disclosed.
With the Su-30MKI making up nearly a third of the IAF's fast jet fleet, Indian Defence Minister was quoted by India's Zee News as saying, "We are not grounding the fleet (...) We can't ground the fleet after every accident."
India has received 205 of an expected 270 Su-30MKI aircraft, with deliveries set to run through to 2019. Of these 270, 222 are being assembled by HAL in India.
With many of the IAF's older types slated for retirement, the Su-30MKI will soon become the service's most numerous combat aircraft. In future, it will comprise the backbone of IAF's combat capability along with the Dassault Rafale and the indigenous Tejas Light Combat Aircraft.

Russia no longer wants French-made Mistral helicopter carriers

Russia is no longer interested in receiving the two helicopter carrier ships ordered from France but which Paris held back due to the Ukraine crisis, and has decided to build its own vessels instead.
Under a €1.12bn contract signed between Moscow and Paris in 2011, France was due to deliver one Mistral helicopter carrier last autumn and another in the second half of this year. But France, suspended the deal last year amid anger over Russia’s annexation of Crimea and its role in the war in eastern Ukraine.
After initial threats from Russia’s defence ministry that it might take legal action over the non-fulfilment of the deal, Moscow switched to handling the issue in a more low-key manner — the Kremlin has just said that Russia expects to receive either the ships or its money back.
Russian media reported this month that France had proposed that Paris compensate Moscow with a €785m payment on condition that it would be allowed to sell the vessels on to another party. But Moscow demands a payment of at least €1.1bn.

Egypt reportedly to buy 46 MiG-29s

Egypt has agreed a deal to buy 46 MiG-29 fighters, Russian business papers reported on 25 May.
The deal is expected to be signed in "the nearest future", according to two sources in the Russian aviation industry.
Neither the Russian state arms export agency Rosoboronexport nor RSK MiG, the aircraft's manufacturer, would comment on the deal.
There have been reports that Egypt was looking to buy the MiG-29 or the more advanced MiG-35 version since November 2013.
A MiG-29 contract would come after it was announced in February that Egypt would buy 24 Dassault Rafale multirole fighters.

Second batch of UH-60s arrive in Taiwan

The second batch of four Republic of China Army (RoCA) Sikorsky UH-60M Black Hawk helicopters arrived in at Kaohsiung Harbour in Taiwan on 24 May.
Taiwan is set to receive 60 UH-60Ms. The first four platforms arrived in country in December 2014. The aircraft would arrive in seven batches with a completion date of 2018.

Pentagon firming F-35 Block 4 configuration

As the Pentagon decides what new combat capabilities to “bake” into the Block 4 configuration of the F-35, there is concern about planned upgrades sliding beyond Block 3F, and about the overall price tag as those modifications are rolled out in the early 2020s.
The air force expects its first squadron of 12 to 14 A-model F-35s in the baseline Block 3i configuration to be ready for combat in a limited capacity by August 2016. But each aircraft will need to be modified to achieve “full warfighting capability” with the full suite of armaments and improvements provided in the subsequent Block 3F and Block 4 upgrades.
The F-35 joint programme office is currently defining exactly what will be included in Block 4 ahead of a Pentagon requirements review later this year. Once approved, the configuration will be the baseline for future Block 4 increments as they are rolled out every two years or so.
The general’s two main concerns are “sliding things from 3F into Block 4” and affordability.
The Marine Corps is in the final stages of F-35B operational testing aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Wasp as it works to achieve initial operational capability in the Block 2B configuration in July. Those aircraft along with the early air force Block 3i jets will be capable of conducting limited air-interdiction and close-air-support operations with basic guided bombs and air-to-air missiles.
Block 3F adds all of the weapons qualified during the system development and demonstration phase including the Boeing Small Diameter Bomb I, Raytheon AIM-120D Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missile, AIM-9X Sidewinder and General Dynamics 25mm gun. Other weapons being considered for Block 4 include Raytheon’s Small Diameter Bomb II and Kongsberg’s Joint Strike Missile, among others. Block 4 might also include integration with the B61-12 guided nuclear bomb being developed by the US Air Force, National Nuclear Security Administration and Boeing.

The first air force squadron will stand up at Hill Air Force Base in Utah starting with the first aircraft delivery this September. That base is followed by Eielson AFB, Alaska, in July 2019 and then Burlington Air National Guard Base, Vermont, in July 2020.
If all goes according to plan, Royal Air Force Lakenheath in the United Kingdom will receive its first US F-35s in 2021.
Production of the F-35 is expected to scale up significantly over the next five years, growing from 123 aircraft now to more than 650 operated by the US and six other international programme partners by 2020.

RAAF E-7A Wedgetail Achieves Final Operational Capability

The Royal Australian Air Force’s E-7A Wedgetail aircraft has achieved Final Operational Capability.
The RAAF fleet of six Wedgetail aircraft reached the milestone this month with the entire capability, from physical aircraft to logistics, management, sustainment, facilities and training, now fully operational and able to support ongoing operations.
The aircraft deployed on Operation Okra in the Middle East region, completing over 100 surveillance sorties with our coalition partners, flying more than 1,200 hours.
The home operating base for the Wedgetail aircraft is RAAF Base Williamtown in New South Wales.

Fighter jet exercise kicks off in Norway

One of Europe’s largest fighter jet exercises kicked off Monday north of the Arctic Circle, a region where growing Russian activity has sparked concerns among neighboring countries.
Arctic Challenge 2015 brings together close to 100 fighter jets and more than 4,000 individual participants from nine nations, according to Norway’s military, which is hosting the exercise. Twelve USAF F-16 fighters will take part in the 12-day event, as will several of NATO’s early warning aircraft, known as AWACS.
The drills aim to smooth coordination among allies operating in a region stretching from northern Norway across Sweden to Finland. It comes at a time of growing Russian air activity in the region, which is adjacent to Russian territory.
Arctic Challenge was last held in 2013. This year’s event is one of a series of bulked-up military exercises being held across northern Europe in response to increased Russian military activity.
Non-NATO members Sweden and Finland are participating more frequently in those exercises and training, as a consequence of increased tensions in the area.
Other participants in the exercise include Britain, Germany, France, the Netherlands and Switzerland, another non-NATO nation.

Turkey, U.S. to provide air protection to Syrian rebels

Turkey and the U.S. have agreed in "principle" to provide air protection to Syrian rebels being trained and equipped to fight Islamic State militants, once they enter Syrian territory for battle.
The two countries agreed in February to train and equip up to 15,000 Syrians to add a credible ground force to an air bombing campaign against the militant group.
U.S. officials have said the aim is to train 5,000 Syrians a year for three years at a base in the central Turkish city of Kirsehir and at sites in Saudi Arabia and Qatar.
While resisting Turkish pressure for the rebels to also target Syrian regime forces, U.S. officials have conceded that the recruits will have to defend themselves against all sides.

May 26, 2015

Sikorsky S-97 Raider makes debut test flight

Sikorsky has completed a first flight of the self-funded S-97 Raider, to open a year-long test and demonstration phase for the high-speed, compound helicopter proposed for light attack, scout and special utility missions.
The S-97’s coaxial-compound, rigid-rotor configuration will eventually be tested at speeds up to 220kt – or about 50kt faster than the speed limit of most conventional helicopters – but the maiden flight on 22 May focused on exploring the low-speed envelope in a degraded mode of the fly-by-wire system.
Sikorsky chief pilot completed three take-offs and landings during the hour-long sortie and evaluated the aircraft’s handling in all four cardinal directions at speeds up to 10kt.
Sikorsky launched the S-97 project in 2010 after completing a series of record-breaking demonstration flights of the X2.
The S-97 flies faster than most helicopters because it replaces a tail-rotor with a pusher propeller, which was left deactivated for the first flight test.

Embraer close to resuming KC-390 flight tests

Embraer will in the next two months resume test flights of its developmental KC-390 transport and tanker, following a lengthy pause since its first – and only – sortie on 3 February.
This "lay-up period", was to allow the installation of all the instrumentation required for certification trials.
Military approval is scheduled to be attained late in 2016, with first delivery to the Brazilian air force following that same year or in early 2017.
Embraer will require around 2,000h of flight tests using two prototypes of the International Aero Engines V2500-powered aircraft to achieve certification.
The second flight-test article is due to roll out in September or October this year.
The only firm order for the twinjet has come from Brazil, which has committed to 28 examples. However, Embraer also holds letters of intent from five other nations, covering 32 aircraft.
Embraer is positive that additional deals will be signed off in the coming months.

Indian Defence ministry clears deal to buy 15 Chinook and 22 Apache Helicopters

The defence ministry has cleared two crucial deals to equip the Indian Air Force with US-built attack and heavy-lift helicopters.
Defence minister has sent the proposals to buy 22 AH-64D Apache and 15 CH-47F Chinook to the finance ministry for clearance.
The Apache proposal went to the finance ministry on April 23, while the one to buy Chinooks was sent last week. The proposals will later go to the cabinet committee on security, for final clearance. The latest price extension granted by Boeing for the choppers is valid till June 30.
The proposals have clauses to place follow-on orders for 11 more Apaches and four extra Chinooks. Boeing had beaten off competition from Russia, which had offered its Mi-28N and Mi-26.

May 25, 2015

Belgian NH90s reach initial operational capability

Belgium's NH90 multirole helicopters have declared their initial operating capability.
The 18th Squadron in Beauvechain is now ready for operations in a non-hostile environment. This includes the capability to transport ground units and heavy equipment weighing up to four tonnes and to perform evacuations.
Full operational capability, including flying in a hostile environment should be achieved at the end of 2016. Belgium has received four NH90 troop transport helicopters and four NH90 NATO Frigate Helicopters.

India Ends MMRCA Deal and Will Only Buy 36 Rafales To France

India's defence minister has said Delhi will not buy more than the 36 Dassault Rafales to which it committed in April.
The announcement confirms the end of the MMRCA tender and the government's commitment to the Tejas LCA programme
India will neither licence-build additional Dassault Rafale fighters nor acquire more than the 36 it recently agreed to buy in flyaway condition.
The money India had saved by acquiring 90 fewer Rafales would be diverted to buying 200-odd indigenous Tejas Light Combat Aircraft (LCA).
The LCA will replace 10 to 12 MiG-21 and MiG-27 squadrons to be retired from 2022.
India had been in negotiations with Dassault since 2012 to acquire 126 Rafales.
Of these, 18 were to have been bought off the shelf and 108 licence-built by Hindustan Aeronautics.

China will have to purchase Su-35 fighters To Fill The Gaps In Its Air Force

China needs Russian Su-35 fighters, despite the fact that Beijing has carried out flight testing of it own latest fighter J-11D.
J-11D was derived from J-11B, which is analogue of Su-27 manufactured in China. Probably the most outstanding feature of J-11D is the fact that it is fitted with avionics installed on the more advanced J-16 fighter. The jet is fitted with radar with an active electronically scanned array (AESA).
China needs Su-35 in order to fill the gap in the fleet of its air forces. Even if China increases output to two J-11 jets per month it won’t be enough to reduce the gap between Chinese air forces and air forces of other countries. In addition, it is unclear, when J-11 will be able to compete with other fifth-generation fighters.
Su-35 is the “4++”-generation fighter derived from Su-27.

Taiwan a potential buyer of retired US A-10 Warthogs

Taiwan has been tagged as a potential buyer of refurbished A-10 Thunderbolt II jets should the ground attack aircraft be retired from the US Air Force.
Boeing's chief engineer of off-Boeing programs, said at a media event on May 20 that the A-10 that the company has begun early discussions with the USAF to sell off refurbished A-10s to international customers.
If the USAF is allowed to retire its A-10 fleet, the most likely course of action given where the re-winging contract has progressed to is for Boeing to complete the service contract so the aircraft can be sold to interested international parties.
The refurbished A-10 could include a new engine, a cockpit upgrade including a helmet-mounted cueing system, and targeting pods. These proposed enhancements are only in a concept stage and are not being touted in response to any specific customer requests, he added.
Taiwan is a possible candidate given its enthusiasm in acquiring America's retired Oliver Hazard Perry-class frigates last year. Coincidentally, Taiwan currently lacks a superior performance attack aircraft.
Other countries listed as potential interested parties include South Korea and Iraq.

Sukhoi delivers new batch of Su-34 bombers to Russian MoD

Russian aircraft maker Sukhoi has handed over the first batch of Su-34 frontline fighter bombers to the country's Defence Ministry under the 2015 State Defence Order.
Last year Sukhoi successfully completed the 2014 State Defence Order and delivered two combat aircraft above the initial yearly plan.
The Su-34s are replacing the Su-24 frontline bombers which are presently in service with the Russian Air Force.
The Russian Defence Ministry has placed an order for over 100 Su-34s to be delivered to the Air Force by 2020.
The multi-role Su-34 fighter bomber is designed to attack land-based, sea- and airborne targets by day and night in all weather conditions.

May 22, 2015

USAF shifting maintainers from A-10 to F-35

The Air Force is moving a small group of airmen off the A-10 to help get the next-generation F-35 operational.
The service is moving 18 A-10s to backup status, under a compromise approved in the fiscal 2015 Defense Authorization Act. That frees up a small number of airmen to get the F-35 ready. However, the service needs at least 1,100 maintainers to reach the August 2016 milestone.
The Air Force is standing up the first operational base of F-35s at Hill Air Force Base, Utah, with training now beginning at Luke Air Force Base, Arizona. The service needs its maintainers ready to start training by late summer to have them ready to get the F-35 to initial operating capability by August 2016.
The 2015 law lets the Air Force move up to 36 A-10s to "backup" non-flying status. The service said earlier this year it was moving 18 to that status, all of these are from active-duty squadrons, and the service could sideline the rest of the authorized 36 this year if it needs to. The service has 283 total A-10s.
Despite the maintenance manning issues, the service is still confident it will reach initial operating capability on time.

Russian TU-22M3 Intercepted by Swedish Gripens

The Russian planes were spotted approaching Sweden at lunchtime, but did not quite enter Swedish airspace, according to the country's Supreme Commander.
"[They] went out over the Gulf of Finland and then went southwards above the southern tip of Öland," he told.
The aircraft "flew provocatively close" both to Sweden's national borders as well as airspace used by other countries sending aircraft across the Baltic Sea.
The Russian planes were both Tupolev Tu-22M aircraft, which can carry atomic weapons as well as conventional bombs, but are also used for surveillance.
The move follows a similar incident in March this year when two Russian planes were spotted in international airspace but heading towards Sweden's east coast.
In September 2014 two SU-24 fighter-bombers allegedly entered Swedish airspace in what the former Foreign Minister called "the most serious aerial incursion by the Russians" in almost a decade.
The following month a foreign submarine was spotted in Swedish waters, although the Swedish military was unable to determine where it came from.

Boeing discussing international A-10 Warthog sales

Boeing has floated the idea of selling refurbished A-10 Warthogs to other nations as the US Air Force seeks to retire the airplane.
The company is currently extending the service life of the air force’s A-10 fleet through a re-winging programme, and it recently delivered its 100th modification with more than 70 modifications left on contract.
The US government might pursue international sales of upgraded A-10s. Dozens of A-10s are currently in near-flyaway storage at the air force’s boneyard facility in Arizona, and could be brought back into the operational fleet at any time.
Although there aren't exact customers, Boeing has begun early discusssions.
Congress has long protected the A-10 from retirement, and fiscal 2016 looks to be no different.
No other nation currently operates the A-10.

China warns U.S. NAVY P-8A surveillance plane

The Chinese navy issued warnings eight times as a U.S. surveillance plane on Wednesday swooped over islands that Beijing is using to extend its zone of influence.
The series of man-made islands and the massive Chinese military build-up on them have alarmed the Pentagon, which is carrying out the surveillance flights in order to make clear the U.S. does not recognize China's territorial claims. The militarized islands have also alarmed America's regional allies.
"This is the Chinese navy ... This is the Chinese navy ... Please go away ... to avoid misunderstanding," a voice in English crackled through the radio of the aircraft.
This is the first time the Pentagon has declassified video of China's building activity and audio of Chinese challenges of a U.S. aircraft.
The aircraft flew at 15,000 feet in the air at its lowest point, but the U.S. is considering flying such surveillance missions even closer over the islands, as well as sailing U.S. warships within miles of them, as part of the new, more robust U.S. military posture in the area.
Soon after the Chinese communication was heard, its source appeared on the horizon seemingly out of nowhere: an island made by China some 600 miles from its coastline.
The South China Sea is the subject of numerous rival -- often messy -- territorial claims over an area that includes fertile fishing grounds and potentially rich reserves of undersea natural resources. China is increasingly showing that even far from its mainland, it sees itself as having jurisdiction over the body of water.
Wednesday's mission was specifically aimed at monitoring Chinese activities on three islands that months ago were reefs barely peaking above the waves. Now they are massive construction projects that the U.S. fears will soon be fully functioning military installations.
China's alarming creation of entirely new territory in the South China Sea is one part of a broader military push that some fear is intended to challenge U.S. dominance in the region. Beijing is sailing its first aircraft carrier; equipping its nuclear missiles with multiple warheads; developing missiles to destroy US warships; and, now, building military bases far from its shores.
In just two years, China has expanded these islands by 2,000 acres -- the equivalent of 1,500 football fields -- and counting, an engineering marvel in waters as deep as 300 feet.
In video filmed by the P8's surveillance cameras, it can be see that in addition to early warning radar, Fiery Cross Reef is now home to military barracks, a lofty lookout tower and a runway long enough to handle every aircraft in the Chinese military.
The Chinese navy ordered the P8 out of the airspace eight times on this mission alone.
Each time, the American pilots told them calmly and uniformly that the P8 was flying through international airspace.
That answer sometimes frustrated the Chinese radio operator on the other end.
Once he responds with exasperation: "This is the Chinese navy ... You go!"

May 21, 2015

USAF X-37B returns to orbit

The US Air Force has announced the successful launch of its Boeing X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle aboard an Atlas V rocket from Cape Canaveral in Florida.
This was the fourth time that the X-37B has flown on an Atlas V launch vehicle.
The X-37B first flew in 2010, and the air force has not said when it will return from this fourth mission.

Boeing-upgraded French AWACS Take Flight

Initial operating capability of the modernized French AWACS fleet has been achieved with Boeing’s delivery of the second of four upgraded aircraft and completion of the operational tests and evaluations.
France has four AWACS to monitor national airspace. The aircraft are receiving modifications through a Mid-life Upgrade to increase the fleet’s surveillance, communications and battle management capabilities.

Saudi Arabia Requires 10 MH-60R Helicopters From US

Saudi Arabia has requested from US a sale of ten MH-60R multi-mission helicopters, radars, twenty-four T-700 GE 401 C engines, twelve APX-123 IFF transponders, fourteen FLIR, 38 AGM-114R Hellfire II missiles; five (5) AGM-114 M36-E9 Captive Air Training missiles; four (4) AGM-114Q Hellfire Training Missiles; three-hundred eighty (380) Advanced Precision Kill Weapons System rockets; twelve (12) M-240D crew served weapons; and twelve (12) GAU-21 crew served weapons. Also included are spare engine containers; facilities study and design; spare and repair parts.
The principal contractors will be Sikorsky and Lockheed Martin.

France Boosts Defence Spending to Buy C-130J, NH90, Tiger Helicopters and A330 MRTT

France has set aside an extra €1.5 billion to acquire additional equipment, including the C-130 Hercules, and maintain weapon systems over the next four years, reflecting the intense operations of the armed forces in sub-Saharan Africa.
Of that €1.5 billion, an estimated €330 million has been set aside for a planned acquisition of four Hercules C-130 transport planes, of which two would be armed with the Griffin missile and two would be equipped for inflight refueling of helicopters.
The French Air Force and special forces are keen to acquire the US aircraft, needed to plug a gap left by the late delivery of the Airbus A400M transport. The cargo planes are particularly needed to support troops in the sub-Saharan, or Sahel, campaign against Islamic insurgents.
Procurement officials will order a further seven Tiger attack helicopters, lifting the order to Airbus Helicopters to 67. The delivery of six NH90 transport helicopters also will be accelerated. These orders are tied to Sahel campaign needs.
Delivery for the last three of a total fleet of 12 Airbus A330 multirole tanker transport aircraft will be accelerated, with deliveries due between 2018 and 2025.

Indian Air Force Mirage 2000 Lands at Highway during an Exercise

The Indian Air Force has been considering the use of national highways for emergency landing by fighter aircraft.
This capability was demonstrated by IAF on May 21, 2015 by a Mirage-2000 aircraft which got airborne from one of the IAF bases in Central India. All facilities like make shift Air Traffic Control, safety services, rescue vehicles, bird clearance parties and other requirements were set up by IAF personnel from Air Force Station Agra. The aircraft made a practice approach on the highway, coming down to a height of 100 mtrs before landing off the next approach.
The IAF has plans to activate more such stretches on highways in the future.

May 20, 2015

The F-35 Won’t Be Going To War Against ISIS Just Yet

The U.S. Marine Corps will declare its vertical-flight Joint Strike Fighter ready for war in July, but a top general says it’s unlikely the jets will head to Iraq any time soon.
The Marines plan to declare 10 of their F-35B jets battle-ready in July. But the Corps is still racing to train instructor pilots on the short-takeoff-vertical-landing aircraft, and sending any of them off to war would disrupt the carefully planned training pipeline.
Meanwhile, there are a few hurdles left to clear before the F-35s can receive their certification. All 10 aircraft need to have the same mission software configuration.
Over the next two weeks, six Marine F-35Bs will conduct operational testing from the USS Wasp amphibious assault ship.
Even after the F-35Bs are declared battle-ready, they will not immediately be able to conduct all of their planned mission types. Early on, the jets will only be able to fly escort, armed reconnaissance, close air support and interdiction missions. The planes will also only be able to carry bombs internally in a weapons bay and not on wing pylons.
The aircraft will not have a gun pod and will not be able to use the full complement of air-launched weapons; among the initially missing armaments will be the Small Diameter Bomb II.

Israel Requires From US 29,350 JDAM and Paveway kits, 3,000 Hellfire missiles and 250 AIM-120Cs

The Government of Israel has requested a possible sale of 14,500 KMU-556C/B Joint Direct Attack Munitions (JDAM) tail kits consisting of 10,000 for Mk-84; 500 for Mk-83; and,4,000 for Mk-82; 3,500 Mk-82 bombs; 4,500 Mk-83 bombs; 50 BLU-113 bombs; 4,100 GBU-39 Small Diameter bombs; 1,500 Mk-83 Paveway kits; 700 BLU-109 Paveway kits; 3,000 AGM-114K/R Hellfire Missiles, 250 AIM-120C Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missiles; and 500 DSU-38A/B Detector Laser Illuminated Target kits for JDAMs.
The principal contractors will be Boeing, Lockheed-Martin,General Dynamics and Raytheon.
Implementation of this proposed sale will require travel of U.S. Government or contractor representatives to Israel.
This notice of a potential sale is required by law and does not mean the sale has been concluded.

A400M black box sent to U.S. to seek crash clues after problems in reading the data

May 18 Spanish officials investigating the fatal crash of an A400M military plane have sent at least one of its 'black box' flight recorders to the United States after problems in reading the data.
The Airbus Group troop and cargo plane crashed shortly after takeoff outside Seville on May 9.
Voice and data recorders were quickly retrieved and sent to France to be analysed, but compatibility problems hindered the process off downloading data.
At least one of the boxes has been sent to Florida to be analysed using specialist equipment at the manufacturer, L3 Communications.
The Spanish defence ministry, which is leading the investigation, has declined all comment on the probe.
The crash prompted four nations to ground the plane and France to limit its use to essential operations.
Spain also withdrew permission for flight tests, effectively halting deliveries.
Airbus has delivered two A400Ms this year and had planned on building and delivering a further 12.
For now, production at the Seville assembly plant is unaffected by the halt in deliveries, the spokesman said.

May 19, 2015

Airbus talking to SAAF on A400M, A330MRTT and C295

Airbus is briefing the South African Air Force (SAAF) on several of its aircraft, namely the A330MRTT, A400M and C295, to meet various potential requirements for surveillance, cargo and tanking/VIP transport.
The A330MRTT is actively being marketed as a tanker with a dual VIP capability while the C295 is aimed at meeting the SAAF’s maritime surveillance/patrol requirements and the A400M is being offered as a C-130 Hercules replacement.
Airbus Military said that while there is currently no South African C-130 replacement programme at the moment, Airbus is keeping the SAAF and Department of Defence abreast of A400M developments.
The SAAF C-130BZ Hercules fleet is nearing the end of its service life. Out of nine aircraft in service, only around three are usually operational at any given time. The SAAF is believed to be exploring various options for a Hercules replacement, including new generation C-130J Super Hercules and the A400M - it was reported late last year that Germany was offering South Africa some of its production slots – of the 53 aircraft it has on order, Germany plans to sell 13 due to financial constraints.
The South African Department of Defence originally ordered eight A400Ms but cancelled the order in 2009. Denel Aerostructures and Aerosud continue to make components for Airbus in spite of the cancellation and recently received further work packages. Airbus remains confident that an order for the A400M may be forthcoming.
The A400M is being offered as a tactical transport able to carry up to 37 tons of cargo almost directly to where it is needed. In order to meet the SAAF’s tanking and other transport requirements, Airbus is proposing the A330 Multi-Role Tanker Transport (MRTT). Airbus believes that in light of South Africa’s external commitments on the continent, the A330MRTT makes a lot of sense as it is the only way the SAAF could deploy its Gripen fighters over long distances.
When the SAAF attempted to provide air support during the Battle of Bangui in the Central African Republic (CAR) in March 2013, the four Gripens had to make refuelling stops along the way, slowing their progress.

A400M operators advised to check engine control system

Airbus has issued fresh operating guidance to users of its A400M tactical transport, as investigation work continues into a fatal crash involving the type on 9 May.
In an alert operator transmission (AOT) made on 19 May, Airbus advises its customers to take actions “to avoid potential risks in any future flights” .
While Airbus says its communication is being made as the result of “internal analysis”, independently from an official investigation led by the Spanish defence ministry, it focuses attention on the A400M’s Europrop International TP400-D6 propulsion system.

Turkish tactical UAV 'Karayel' makes longest endurance flight

Turkey's Karayel tactical unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), produced by Ankara-based Vestel Defence Industry, achieved its longest endurance flight of 10 hours and 50 minutes during a navy exercise.
The Karayel is fitted with a 1080 p high-resolution camera with a x50 optical zoom and also carries a laser designator to illuminate targets on the ground.

Six F-35B jets land on USS Wasp for Marine Corps testing

Six U.S. F-35B on the USS Wasp amphibious warship on Monday for two weeks of operational testing required before the Marine Corps can declare a first squadron of 10 F-35s ready for combat use in July.
The testing, taking place off the coast of Virginia, will involve the six F-35 B-model jets, the highest number of F-35s ever used on a Navy warship to date, as well as Marine Corps pilots, maintenance personnel, and logistics experts, said the source, who was not authorized to speak publicly.
The tests will check the ability of the stealthy jets to integrate into flight and deck operations on board the ship. They will include operations and weapons loading at day and night, the jets' ability to coordinate digitally with an on-board logistics system, and how well the crew can deal with scheduled and unexpected repairs at sea.
The Marine Corps must also complete certain modifications of the 10 jets that will make up the initial squadron.
The Pentagon's F-35 office said work on one of the jets had been completed, and two more would be finished this week. The seven remaining jets would be modified by the end of June.

May 18, 2015

Canada Restarts Attempt to Buy Drones

Canada does not have a medium-altitude, long-endurance (MALE) UAV. It uses its CP-140 Aurora maritime patrol aircraft to fulfill the ISR mission against Islamic State extremists in Iraq.
Since 2006, Canada's military has been trying to purchase a fleet of UAVs, but it has faced an uphill battle due to lack of funding.
Air Force officers announced in 2006 that JUSTAS would see the purchase of MALE UAVs, but little has happened on that project.
The Air Force made a pitch to the Canadian government in 2007 for the sole-source purchase of Predator UAVs, built by General Atomics, but that was rejected.
Instead, in 2009 the Canadian military signed a lease arrangement which provided the Heron, made by Israel Aerospace Industries, for operations in Afghanistan. That lease ran from 2009 to 2011.
When the JUSTAS project was active, both MDA and General Atomics indicated they intended to bid.
Northrop Grumman also made an unsolicited offer in 2012 to provide Canada with a fleet of Global Hawks, specifically for Arctic operations, but the Canadian government did not act on that proposal. The Air Force determined that the cost of the Global Hawks was too expensive for the Arctic capability.

U.S. Air Force expects to award bomber contract in one to two months

The U.S. Air Force's acquisition chief said on Friday he expects the Air Force to announce the winner of a hard-fought competition to build a new long-range strike bomber in one to two months.
Northrop Grumman Corp, maker of the B-2 bomber, is competing against a team of Boeing Co and Lockheed Martin Corp to build 80 to 100 new LRS-B aircraft for the Air Force at a fixed price of no more than $550 million each.

USAF Wants Fire a 100 kW Laser Weapons By 2022 From a Fighter

The US Air Force wants to fire a 100-plus-kilowatt laser from a small plane.. The last laser on an airplane — the megawatt Airborne Laser, which filled a converted 747 and cancelled in 2011 — the 2022 demonstration will be fired from a fighter.
It probably won’t even be an F-35A because that’s a stealth aircraft that carries its weapons inside to give it a smaller radar cross section. Instead, the 2022 weapon will be built into an external weapons pod.
By way of comparison, the only forward-deployed laser weapon in the US military today is a 30-kW prototype installed on the broad decks of the USS Ponce, a converted amphibious assault ship now in the Persian Gulf. Lasers fired from a ship face some unique problems that an airplane doesn’t. Sea air is full of moisture, which can weaken and distort the laser beam. Higher altitude air is clearer, but airborne lasers still require sophisticated corrective optics to stay focused on their target. While the atmospherics are arguably easier for an airborne laser than a shipborne one, ships are a lot bigger than a fighter.
What can 100-plus kilowatts kill? A study from the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments suggests that it could destroy enemy cruise missiles, drones, and even manned aircraft at significant ranges.
A typical modern fighter like the F-16 can carry at most six air-to-air missiles. Shoot six times, hit or miss, and it’s back to base to re-arm. By contrast, a laser-armed aircraft could just head back to the tanker.

France Flying A400M in 'Essential Operations'

France has restricted flights following the deadly crash of the Airbus A400M in Spain, but operational needs in Africa and Iraq make the French Air Force the sole service flying the military transport plane.
On May 10, Defense Minister said the A400M would fly for "essential operations" only, pending the outcome of the Spanish inquiry into the loss the of the MSN 023 unit.
France has six A400Ms, which have accumulated 1,700 flying hours.
Much of the flying will have been for evaluation and test by the Air Force, needed to reach an initial operating capability (IOC).
French special forces are keen to receive the fully tested and equipped aircraft. One of the key training aspects is for pilots to fly the transport and tanker as a fighter aircraft, including fast and low. The Air Force is also moving to train fighter pilots to fly transport aircraft.
An important French requirement is installing a radar warning receiver among the defensive aids suite offered.
The six A400Ms are in the Touraine squadron at the Orleans air base. The first aircraft was delivered in 2013.
The French Air Force often flies the A400M, dubbed Atlas, to support the Barkhane and Chammal operations. The service flew an A400M around the world from Feb. 19 to March 6.
The Spanish military air crash authorities have sent the two black box flight recorders to the French Bureau Enquêtes Accidents Défense Air (BEAD), the defense accident inquiry office. There are hopes the French technicians can deliver readings of the cockpit voice and instrument recorders in 48 hours.
Fernando Alonso, head of the A400M program, was one of the eight company staff onboard the MSN 4 on May 12, the first test flight since the crash. The company-owned prototype plane took off at 2:45 p.m. from Toulouse, southern France, and landed at 4:35 p.m. at Seville.
The flight restrictions, which exclude the company-owned aircraft, now depends on the eagerly awaited results of a Spanish accident inquiry, which may lead to guidance notes on flying the aircraft. Airbus will continue with the flight test program, needed to test more capable versions.
A restricted use of the A400M led to cancellation of a flight to carry international journalists on a planned press trip ahead of the Paris Air Show.
The military cockpit draws heavily on civil technology developed for the Airbus A380 superjumbo. The four high-powered turboprop TP400 engines are built by Europrop International, a consortium comprising Rolls Royce of Britain, Safran's Snecma of France, MTU of Germany and ITP of Spain.

First militarized KC-46 tanker set to fly this summer

The Boeing Co. is behind its internal schedule on the KC-46 tanker program, but the project is still on track to meet the U.S. Air Force's demands.
The first militarized version of the new tanker is set to have its first flight this summer.
Boeing is expected to deliver the first 18 tankers by 2017 and could eventually deliver 179 of the aircraft. Their main operating base will be McConnell Air Force Base in Wichita.