Oct 29, 2017

First French C-130J rolls out

The first of four Lockheed Martin C-130J Hercules transport aircraft for the French Air Force was rolled out from the Marietta production facility in Georgia on 20 October.
The aircraft was rolled out in front of the cameras for the first time after being painted in national colours and markings.
France has ordered two C-130J-30- and two KC-130J-variant aircraft for a combined USD170 million, that includes configuration changes to the former. The contracts are expected to be complete by 30 August 2020.
The French Air Force is purchasing four C/KC-130J aircraft to supplement its ageing Transall C-160s, and to compensate for delays to the Airbus Defence and Space A400M transport aircraft and the low availability of its current fleet of C-130Hs.
The rollout of the first aircraft came just two days after the deputy chiefs of defence staff of France and Germany agreed details of the countries joint C-130J squadron. Under the agreement, a joint air transport squadron consisting of four French and six German C-130Js based at the French airbase in Évreux, Normandy, will be set up, with initial operational capability scheduled for 2021 and full operational capability due in 2024.

Yemeni Houthi Claim To Have Shoot Down Saudi Eurofighter

Yemeni armed forces said they shot down the a Saudi Air Force Eurofighter Typhoon with a surface-to-air missile as it was flying in the skies over Nihm district east of the Yemeni capital city of Sana’a on Friday evening, Saba news agency reported.
"We have the capacity to develop the Yemeni Air Defense and we are willing to (give) more surprises as long as the aggression continues," the Yemeni military chief, General Ibrahim al-Shami, said on Friday.
The general also confirmed that Yemeni forces are changing their air strategy to counter Riyadh, calling on the Saudi regime to "take these advances" seriously.
The downing of the jet came after Saudi Crown Prince, Mohammed bin Salman, said Riyadh’s aggression against Yemen, which began in March 2015, will continue.
Since March 25, 2015, Saudi Arabia and some of its Arab allies have been carrying out airstrikes against the Houthi Ansarullah movement in an attempt to restore power to fugitive former President Abd Rabbuh Mansour Hadi, a close ally of Riyadh.

Oct 22, 2017

USAF Ready To Put B-52 Bombers 24 Hour Ready Alert

La. —  The U.S. Air Force is preparing to put nuclear-armed bombers back on 24-hour ready alert, a status not seen since the Cold War ended in 1991.
That means the long-dormant concrete pads at the ends of this base’s 11,000-foot runway — dubbed the “Christmas tree” for their angular markings — could once again find several B-52s parked on them, laden with nuclear weapons and set to take off at a moment’s notice.
“This is yet one more step in ensuring that we’re prepared,” Gen. David Goldfein, Air Force chief of staff, said in an interview during his six-day tour of Barksdale and other U.S. Air Force bases that support the nuclear mission. “I look at it more as not planning for any specific event, but more for the reality of the global situation we find ourselves in and how we ensure we’re prepared going forward.”

First Batch of Mi-28 UB Helicopters Ready for delivery to Russia

Via Rostec

Spanish Navy receives SH-60Fs

THE FIRST two ex-US Navy Sikorsky SH-60Fs purchased by the Spanish government at a cost of €40m in December arrived at Base Naval de Rota on August 10. The Seahawks were brought to Spain on board the frigate Cristóbal Colón (F-105). The two helicopters – HS.23-14/‘01-1014’ and HS.23-15/‘01- 1015’ – are part of the Helicóptero de Transporte
Táctico Naval (HTTN, Naval Tactical Transport Helicopter) programme that plans to replace the ageing fleet of SH-3 Sea Kings flown by 5a Escuadrilla.
A total of six refurbished SH-60Fs will be acquired. Initially, the new helicopters will be assigned to 10a Escuadrilla of the Flotilla de Aeronaves de la Armada (Spanish Naval Aviation), which already operates a fleet of 12 SH-60B Seahawk Block I Core B LAMPS III aircraft. The ‘Foxtrots’ will be reassigned to 5a Escuadrilla once the final Sea Kings are retired.
Roberto Yáñez

Indian Air Force wants out of FGFA fighter program with Russia

The ambitious $10 billion Indo-Russian program for joint development and production of fifth generation fighter aircraft, or FGFA, faces a new serious hurdle, as the Indian Air Force demands a discontinuation of the project.
Senior IAF leadership recently expressed apprehension to the Ministry of Defence, claiming the proposed FGFA program with Russia does not meet desired requirements like U.S. F-35 fighter type capabilities, disclosed a senior IAF official. That official added, that “IAF is not keen to continue with the program.”
The proposed FGFA program does not meet desired stealth and cross section features compared to a F-35 fighter, the official explained, thus major structural changes are needed that cannot be met in the existing Russian prototypes.
FGFA also does not have modular engine concept, making maintenance and serviceability of the fleet expensive and troublesome. A second service official said the modular engine concept is required for the fleet serviceability and availability of FGFA aircrafts at short notice, since it can be done by the user itself.
Russians have offered non-modular engines for FGFA and its maintenance and other relations can only be handled by the manufacturer.
Russian Embassy diplomats here were unavailable for comments.
Vaijinder K Thakur, retired IAF squadron leader and defense analyst disagreement with the Air Force assessment of capability, saying that the current Russian FGFA prototype, known as Su-57, features the AL-41F1 engine. But the production variant of FGFA would be fitted with the Product 30 engine which is 30 percent lighter, features improved thrust, and has better fuel efficiency and fewer moving parts. That results in improved reliability and 30 percent lower life-cycle cost, Thakur said.
Without having operated U.S. fighters, the IAF is hardly in a position to pronounce judgment on the comparative long-term operating costs of Russian and U.S. fighters, Thakur added.

USAF may bring back Skyrider Vietnam-style combat plane

The Air Force’s ongoing interest in adding a fleet of light-attack aircraft to its arsenal is a reminder that, sometimes, slower and cheaper can be better.
Half a century ago, the Air Force’s legendary A-1E Skyraiders — affectionately known as Spads, after a wood-and-wire World War I fighter — proved their mettle in the skies over Vietnam, providing close-air support for American and Vietnamese troops on the ground.
Air Force leaders now see a similar need for a low-cost, slower-moving aircraft for counter-insurgency, close-air support, and aerial reconnaissance missions in low-threat environments. The idea would be to use them against the Islamic State and other terrorist groups in the Middle East and Africa.
The purchase of low-end attack aircraft, which could take off and land on shorter runways, would also reduce the wear and tear on state-of-the-art fighters deployed to the Middle East, extending the lives of those airframes.
In August, Air Force pilots at Holloman Air Force Base, New Mexico, flew four different light attack aircraft in series of flight demonstrations to test how well the aircraft could perform in a desert environment. The planes tested include the A-29 Super Tucano by Sierra Nevada Corp. and Embraer; the AT-802L Longsword from L3 Technologies and Air Tractor; and the the AT-6 Wolverine turboprop and Scorpion, both made by Textron. The Scorpion is the only jet in the mix.

UK clears F-35B for take-off from Royal Navy's HMS Queen Elizabeth

The UK Ministry of Defence has cleared the F-35 Lightning II fighter jet for take-off from the deck of the Royal Navy's Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carrier, HMS Queen Elizabeth.
The clearance follows successful completion of ski-ramp trials on-board the British flagship vessel.UK Defence Minister Harriett Baldwin said: “Successful ski-ramp trials mean the F-35 is cleared to fly from the carrier as the momentum continues for this game-changing jet.“This milestone comes as our pilots and planes prepare to return from the US, ready for next year’s unforgettable flight trials from the deck of the nation’s new flagship.”
Baldwin confirmed that the F-35 Integrated Test Force, which includes five pilots from the UK, has successfully completed the ski-ramp trials milestone.
The British Royal Navy currently possesses 12 F-35 aircraft in the US, which are being tested ahead of a series flight trials slated for next year. An additional two aircraft are also scheduled to be delivered by the end of the year.
The trials will be carried out from the navy’s 65,000t HMS Queen Elizabeth aircraft carrier.
Prime contractor Lockheed Martin has designed the F-35 fighter jet to allow it to combat and defeat the most advanced threat systems both in the air and on the ground, in addition to those expected to emerge in the future.
As a fifth-generation fighter, F-35 is equipped with advanced stealth capabilities, enhanced agility and manoeuvrability, sensor and information fusion, network-enabled operations and advanced sustainment.
The aircraft also features the latest technology that provides greater survivability, situational awareness and effectiveness for pilots, along with improved readiness and reduced support costs.

RoKAF to setup RQ-4 unit in December

The Republic of Korea Air Force (RoKAF) will set up an airborne intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) unit in December for its RQ-4 assets.
Officials told lawmakers during an annual audit session that the new unit will stand up on Dec. 1.
The first two of four RQ-4s will arrive next year with delivery completed by 2019.

Oct 17, 2017

Israel steps back from V-22 purchase

The Israeli air force has frozen its evaluation of the Bell Boeing V-22 Osprey, with a senior defence source indicating that the tiltrotor is unable to perform some missions currently conducted using its Sikorsky CH-53 transport helicopters.
In January 2014, the US Department of Defense notified Congress about its intention to sell six V-22s to Israel. This followed an evaluation conducted by air force personnel, which led to the service seeking a rapid acquisition to support special operations. The proposed purchase met with opposition from elsewhere within Israel's defence ministry, however.
Other potential candidates to replace the Israeli air force's aged CH-53s by around 2025 include Sikorsky's new CH-53K and the Boeing CH-47 Chinook.
Some of the service's current CH-53s have amassed more than 10,000 flying hours, and it expects to continue operating updated examples until 2028.

Serbia to buy S-300 missile systems, MiG-29 jets from Belarus

The Serbian Ministry of Defenee is planning to purchase S-300 long-range surface-to-air missile systems and seven Mikoyan MiG-29 fighter jets from Belarus.
The deals are to be signed this November during an official visit by Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic to Minsk where he will meet with his Belarusian counterpart, Alexander Lukashenko, a Serbian government source told local daily Tanjug.
The unnamed official said that “the offer that is on the table and which will be announced in November is much more favorable than the one that we obtained from Moscow.”
The value of the planned deal was not disclosed.

US clears Greek F-16 upgrade sale

The U.S. State Department has cleared an F-16 upgrade package for sale to Greece, with an estimated worth of over $2.4 billion.
The proposed sale, posted Tuesday by the Defense Security Cooperation Agency, would help Greece “as a deterrent to regional threats, strengthen its homeland defense, and execute counter-terrorism operations,” according to the sale notification.
The upgrade package will bring Greece’s fleet of Block 30, Block 50, Block 52+, and Block 52+ Advanced F-16 configurations to the F-16 V standard.
The core of the F-16V upgrade is the APG 83 Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radars, of which 125 are included in the proposed package. In addition, the stated package includes 123 Modular Mission Computers, 123 LINK-16 Multifunctional Information Distribution System Joint Tactical Radio Systems, 123 LN260 Embedded Global Navigation Systems (EGI)/Inertial Navigation Systems, and 123 Improved Programmable Display Generators, plus assorted supplies and training.

Oct 15, 2017

Japan to receive additional AMRAAM missiles

Japan is to receive a further batch of Raytheon AIM-120 Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missiles (AMRAAMs) following approval of a potential sale by the US State Department.
The approval, announced by the US Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) on 4 October, covers 56 AIM-120C-7-variant missiles, plus support..
The deal must be approved by Congress before it can proceed.
The Japanese Air Self-Defense Force (JASDF) already fields the AIM-120C-7, having been cleared to receive its first batch of 17 missiles in 2014. These augment the earlier AIM-120C-5 variant currently in the force’s inventory.
The AIM-120C-7 is a new design with distinct capability upgrades from previous AMRAAM versions. The missile has upgraded antenna, receiver, and signal-processing hardware to meet operational requirements in countering new threats, and smaller electronic components to provide internal space for future system growth.
The missile is fitted with an active radar seeker – similar to that of the AIM-120A, but with a number of software upgrades – and is powered by a propulsion system similar to the AIM-120C-5 equivalent, but with an enlarged rocket motor.

Oct 14, 2017

Belarus Preps Angolan SU-30 Aircraft to Depart

A review of satellite imagery shows some new developments at the 558th Aircraft Repair Plant in Baranovichi. Co-located at the 61st Fighter Airbase, the Belarusian-based Plant overhauled two former Indian Su-30K Flanker attack aircraft, imagery from August and September 2017 suggests.
According to domestic sources, the two aircraft will be upgraded to the “KN” standard before making their way to Angola and into the service of National Air Force of Angola (FANA). The camo pattern of the observed aircraft matches previous handhelds of FANA’s Su-27.
In total, the southern Africa country is expected to receive up to 12 Su-30KN fighters by early 2018, Aleksandr Vorobei, the CEO of the 558th Aviation Repair Plant, told Sputnik on 19 September 2017.
However, reports from July suggest Angola may acquire all 18 of the former Indian fighters. Luanda reportedly remains in negotiation with Russia’s Irkut Corporation, which still owns the aircraft parked at Baranovichi.
At present, imagery of the repair plant shows at least 7 remaining SU-30K parked near the drive-through maintenance hangar, suggesting that Angola’s work order is well underway and that the additional aircraft are in fact available.
While some sources (here and here) reported that Angola has taken delivery, imagery suggests that the first batch had yet to depart the repair plant by late September.

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras fly in an F-16D

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras was given a ride in a HAF F-16D during his visit to the 110th Combat Wing at Larisa air base on Oct. 12.
The hour-long flight took him across Halkidiki, Mt. Athos, Limnos, Agios Efstratios and Skyros.

Oct 12, 2017

Italy Eurofighters to stay in Bulgaria for two extra weeks

Italian Air Force Eurofighter Typhoon jet fighters will continue to guard Bulgarian air space for a further two weeks, after the Bulgarian government decided on October 11 to extend the mission initially planned to end on October 15.
In June 2017, Bulgaria’s government authorised the participation of the four Italian Air Force aircraft in air policing, from July 15 for three months.
The Eurofighters are based at the Graf Ignatievo Air Force Base. A team of 110 people from the Italian Air Force is participating in the mission.
The Italian Air Force is involved in the air policing mission in co-operation with Bulgarian Air Force MiG-29s. Each party to the mission is bearing the costs of it own force’s participation.
Italy was one of three bidders to submit proposals to Bulgaria in 2016 to supply fighter jets to the Air Force, offering second-hand Eurofighters. The bid was ranked second, behind the offer by Saab to supply newly made-to-order Gripens. However, Bulgaria’s jet fighter acquisition process, meant to ensure Nato-standard replacements for the Air Force’s ageing Soviet-made MiGs, is currently stalled amid domestic political machinations.

Oct 8, 2017

Portugal deploys F-16s to Romania

A Portuguese Air Force F-16 detachment deployed to Borcea Air Force Base, Romania in mid-September for training and exercise missions within the Assurance Measures framework.
On September 18, 2017, Portugal landed a military force in support of four F-16 fighter jets, starting a two-month deployment to the Romanian Air Base of Borcea for the exercise "Falcon Defense 2017".
The Portuguese fighter aircraft will fly training missions in the area in support of NATO policy, to include combined joint missions with the Romanian Air Force, Army and Navy and the Canadian Air Force CF-18s, also deployed in the region, conducting enhanced Air Policing and training missions in Romania. Some of this flying activity will be controlled by a NATO E3-A AWACS operating over the two Allies on the Black Sea shores. The aim of this training is to hone skills and further consolidate cross-Ally interoperability.
Portugal transferred to the Romanian Air Force, 12 F-16 aircraft, while providing training to more than 80 Romanian military personnel in Portugal. With all the fighters delivered, the Portuguese Air Force is now conducting joint training of tactics, techniques and procedures for operations of the jets until late 2018.
"This training deployment is highly beneficial” said Detachment Commander, Lieutenant Colonel João "Jedi” Rosa, who is in charge of 70 military to include pilots, operators, maintainers as well as communications, logistics and other specialists. "While my team has the opportunity to practice deployment and operation, they can, simultaneously, test skills and capabilities away from their home base. Additionally, we are able to fly joint training sorties alongside with our Allies further strengthening the bonds and the interoperability of this Alliance”, he added.
This deployment is one example of Allies organizing joint training activities underlining cohesion and interoperability and showcasing the level of cooperation and consistency required to maintain high NATO standards.

Oct 7, 2017

Paramount Group bolsters Dassault Mirage F1 fleet

South Africa's Paramount Group has acquired four twin-seat Dassault Mirage F1s from the French government to support aggressor training.
The surplus French air force fighters will be operated by its Paramount Aerospace Systems subsidiary.
Paramount declines to disclose the purchase price.
No decision on delivery dates or operating locations has been taken, with these governed by potential customer requirements.
The acquisitions will join the company's existing fleet of single-seat Mirage F1s, which it bought from the South African air force in 2006.
As well as aggressor and pilot training, the Mirages will be used to aid maintenance and support instruction.

Serbia Takes Delivery Of First Of Six MiG-29 Fighters From Russia

A transport plane has delivered two Russian MiG-29 fighter jets to Serbia, the initial shipment of a six-jet deal that could add to East-West tensions in the Balkans.
The warplanes arrived disassembled aboard a massive Antonov An-124 transport plane that landed at a military airport in the Belgrade suburb of Batajnica on October 2.
The MiGs are being provided by Moscow at no charge, but their assembly, repair, and refurbishing costs are expected to near $235 million in total.
The four other jets are set to arrive sometime before October 20, when they are likely to be displayed in Belgrade during a Liberation Day parade. Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu is scheduled to attend.
In March, Serbia’s Aleksandar Vucic, then prime minister and now president, confirmed earlier reports that Russia would provide the six MiG-29 fighters "as a gift."
He added that the planes would enter military service by the end of 2017 after refurbishing and pilot training.
Russia also committed to provide 30 T-72 tanks and 30 BRDM-2 patrol combat vehicles to Serbia for free.
Vucic said on October 2 that Serbia also planned to improve its defenses and has been negotiating with Moscow for the purchase of Russian-made S-300 antiaircraft systems.

Oct 1, 2017

Germany lifts Tiger helicopter grounding

Germany has lifted a flight ban on the fleet of Airbus Helicopters Tiger attack rotorcraft operated by its army, but has yet to restart operations with the type.
Berlin grounded the Tiger, except for operational emergencies, following a late-July fatal crash near Gao in Mali in which two servicemen were killed.
Although the investigation into the accident has yet to reach any conclusions, the German defence ministry believes the helicopter is safe to fly again, with certain restrictions in place.
These relate mainly to speed and weight limits, as well as use of the autopilot. It says the constraints on the helicopter's use are "low and acceptable".
"[The inquiry] has cleared a lot of factors," it says. "It is clear to fly again under certain circumstances but we do not know yet the exact reason for the accident."
It says a series of tests will be performed on its 51-strong Tiger fleet, prior to the restart of operational flights.
Little detail has emerged from the crash investigation, but the Tiger appears to have lost its main rotor blades after entering into a sudden steep descent.
It hit the ground around 10s later, and the wreckage was consumed by a post-impact fire.
The defence ministry says the inquiry is looking at the ill-fated Tiger's flight control system as a potential cause of the accident, as its operation appears to have differed from that recorded on similar aircraft.

Reaper operations ramp up in France

A French MQ-9 has taken part in 'Serpentex 2017': a JTAC exercise hosted by France in Corsica
The MQ-9's participation marks the French Reaper fleet's first real domestically based operation
The sole French General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc (GA-ASI) MQ-9 Reaper based in France has taken part in its first international close air support exercise, ‘Serpentex 2017’, above Corsica in the last month.
France’s MQ-9s have operated out of Niamey, Niger, for Operation ‘Barkhane’ since 2014, but the first domestically based French MQ-9 only began flying out of Air Force Base 709, its home base in Cognac, southwestern France, on 6 July.
The Reaper flying out of Cognac is controlled by a French landing and recovery element (LRE), although, as in Niamey, GA-ASI provides the ground maintenance element.
Exercise ‘Serpentex’, which took place from 11-29 September this year, trains joint terminal attack controllers (JTACs) from several NATO countries to conduct close air support missions, with the French Reaper used for intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) duties and to lase targets on the exercise’s range. The Reapers flown during Operation ‘Barkhane’ have been used to ‘buddy-lase’ precision-guided bombs and Hellfire missiles launched from Mirage strike aircraft and Tiger HAD helicopters respectively.
An average of one Reaper mission per day is launched from Cognac for Exercise ‘Serpentex’. The unmanned aerial vehicle’s (UAV’s) transit from Cognac to Corsica involves a three-hour flight at an average speed of 180–210 kt along a specific military air corridor, which is activated specifically for the duration of the flight.

Argentine Navy eyes US surplus P-3Cs

A technical delegation from the Argentine Navy visited the United States at the end of September to inspect and select two Lockheed Martin P-3C Orion maritime patrol aircraft (MPAs) soon to be become surplus to the US Navy (USN) for potential procurement, military sources in Buenos Aires have told Jane’s .
The delegation visited Air Station Whidbey Island at Oak Harbor in Washington state: the USN’s main West Coast MPA base. The aircraft being inspected are P-3Cs that are still operational but soon to be replaced by new Boeing P-8 Poseidon multimission maritime aircraft. According to the sources, Argentina is seeking a “warm transfer” of the MPAs that might be selected (i.e., a relatively direct transfer from the US to Argentine service).

South Korea to order additional TA-50 trainer/light attack aircraft

South Korea’s Ministry of National Defense (MND) has announced programmes to procure additional TA-50 trainer/light attack aircraft from Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) and expand the production of a locally developed military communications system.
In a press release published on 26 September the MND said the procurement of the TA-50 – a derivative of KAI’s T-50 Golden Eagle advanced jet trainer – was necessary to meet expanding air-combat training requirements. The MND said it plans to acquire the aircraft from 2019 but did not disclose the number of platforms it intends to procure.
It added that the Republic of Korea Air Force (RoKAF) trainer aircraft requirements were expected to increase significantly in the future due to the requirement to replace ageing Northrop F-5F trainers and the induction of frontline combat platforms including the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) aircraft and the proposed Korean Fighter Experimental (KFX) aircraft.
The RoKAF is scheduled to take delivery of the first of 40 on-order F-35 fighters from 2018, while the KFX, which is under development, is expected to enter service from around 2026.

USAF may soon start combat-testing new aircraft that could fight alongside the A-10

The Air Force is preparing to launch Combat Dragon III, a combat demonstration meant to test light-attack aircraft in the field, according to Aviation Week.
Air Force leaders have not yet reached a final determination about the exercise, but officials have forged ahead.
"We are preparing as if we're going," Air Force Reserve Col. Mike Pietrucha, who is light-attack adviser to Air Combat Command, told Aviation Week.
The service has selected a squadron commander and settled on a detachment of 70 people, Pietrucha said.
Those personnel will be drawn from operational squadrons, and staff and will be required to have at least 1,000 flight hours and combat experience, among other qualifications.
At the beginning of this year, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein said the service was looking for an inexpensive fighter that could perform close-air-support missions over the battlefield.
The aircraft in question was reportedly envisioned as a cheap plane available commercially and which could handle combat missions — including close air support, basic surface attacks, and rescue escorts — against insurgents and even near-peer adversaries.
In August, the Air Force conducted the Light Attack Experiment, or OA-X, at Holloman Air Force Base in New Mexico. The service said OA-X was part its efforts to "explore cost-effective attack platform options" and featured Textron's Scorpion and AT-6 Wolverine, the Super Tucano A-29 made by Embraer and Sierra Nevada, and Air Tractor's AT-802L Longsword.