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The production of F-35 Lightning II has encountered another setback. The fuel tank of the JSF was found to be problematic, casting another gloom to the most controversial and expensive defense program of Pentagon.
To make up for the late arrival of the F-35s, the US Air Force is spending nearly $6 billion to upgrade and refurbish its F-15 jet planes. Almost half of the money allocated for the F-15s will be spent on new electronics. The remaining budget will be spent on older F-15s. Introduced 30 years ago, the F-15 was originally designed to fly for just 8,000 hours. The Air Force is looking forward to adding another 10 thousand hours with internal and external improvements to the F-15.
The US Air Force is also looking forward to upgrade its fleet of F-16 Fighting Falcon Aggressors. The improvement involves equipping the jet planes with an electronic system that will improve the accuracy of replicating enemy fighters.
“To date, generally, it is considered that the aggressors under-replicate the current threat,” says Major Gary Barker, the ACC training operations division’s F-16 functional area and realistic training manager. “It’s very difficult for the aggressors to provide the threat picture that we think we would see in near-peer combat.”
The Air Force sees the System Capabilities Upgrade-8 (SCU-8) configuration as the solution. With the SCU-8, older Blocks 30 and 32 F-16s will have a helmet-mounted cueing system and a new center display unit, which Barker describes as having functionality similar to an Apple iPad
“With that, you can simulate missile WEZs [weapons employment zones] and provide more accurate cueing real-time that can aid in kill removal and weapons assessment airborne,” Barker says.
As of now, the current F-15s and F-16s are well-suited to deal with fourth-generation enemy fighters. But with the emergence of new warplanes such as the Chinese Chengdu J-20 and Shenyang J-31 or Russian Sukhoi PAK-FA, the Air Force has to take measures to keep up while waiting for the fifth-generation F-35 jet fighters.
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News Source: www.flightglobal.com, www.strategypage.com
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Lockheed Martin, the maker of F-16 fighter jets are losing some parts of the $3 Billion servicing work to BAE.
Last year, BAE won over Lockheed to refurbish the 130 units of F-16 owned by South Korea. It was the first the Pentagon’s biggest contractor lost such bid. BAE is looking at possibilities of taking on more F-16 repair and upgrade work to boost its international sales. “We’re looking at potentially where to take this next,” David Herr, president of BAE’s support solutions business said. “It’s a big opportunity for us.” Aside from South Korea, BAE had also talked with other nation the possibility of other F-16 work.
According to defense analyst Kevin Brancato; due to the military budget cuts, defense companies are now shifting their focus on servicing and improvement contracts. This means that Lockheed have to defend its turf from its rivals that may soon include Boeing. Lockheed Martin are busy with the development of the controversial F-35, the most expensive Pentagon’s development program in history.
Ellen Buhr, a company spokesperson said that Boeing is interested in international F-16 upgrades. Boeing had experienced working with the F-16 through its work on converting the jet planes into drones used for military target practice.
In total, there 2,271 units of F-16 owned by other nations.
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News Source: www.bloomberg.com
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Lockheed Martin unveiled the latest version of the F-16 Fighting Falcon at the Singapore Airshow. The F-16V features several enchancements that will make the fourth-generation jet fighter to operate better with fifth generation jet fighters like the F-35 and F-22. This newest version of the F-16 has an upgraded mission computer and architecture, an improved cockpit and an active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar.
The AESA radar will allow the F-16V to broadcast radio signals that are spread out among different frequencies that will make it difficult to detect over background noise. It allows the fighter jet to send powerful signals while remaining stealthy. Lockheed Martin has also developed a process to install AESA radars on existing F-16s on lesser costs.
F-16V is latest evolution of the F-16 Fighting Falcon. The “V” stands for viper, the nickname that pilots from the US Air Force gave the Fighting Falcon for its resemblance to TV show Battlestar Galactica’s Colonial Viper Starfighter. It had come a long way from the earlier incarnations of F-16. The first versions were F-16A (one seat) and F-16-B (two seat). Enhancements like improved cockpit avionics and all-weather capability were made in F-16C/D. Other versions like F-16IN and F-16IQ is also in operation.
The US Airforce had been using the F-16 since 1978 and over 4,450 units have been built. The F-16 will remain in service until 2025. The US Air Force no longer order units of F-16, but Lockheed Martin continues to produce the aircraft for other countries that operate the Fighting Falcon like Italy, Denmark, South Korea, Israel and Pakistan.
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In order to meet the half-trillion dollar spending cuts, Pentegon cuts members of its fleet. This move left the tactical air force with limited and aging fleet. The tactical air force are the jets that support and protect ground troops as well as strike difficult subjects.
Retired fighter pilots are worried about the situation of “TacAir.” Reduced budget means that no new jets will replace the airplanes that had been in service since 1970s. It also makes the US Airforce vulnerable and inferior against rising military power like China, who just acquired its own J-20 stealth fighter.
Retired Lt. Gen. David A. Deptula said “With the exception of our airlift fleet, we have a geriatric Air Force. We’re flying fighters that are 30 years old. What people seem to miss is, a fighter is not like an airliner, where you take off from Point A and go to Point B. Our pilots put six to nine [gravitational forces] on these things every day.”
Gen. Deptula was an F-15 Eagle pilot and Operation Desert Storm war planner. He now heads an aerospace company. He illustrated the danger of elderly jet fighters by sighting the 2007 event when an Air National Guard F-15C, the premier air superiority jet, broke apart in the sky during combat training. Fortunately, the pilot ejected safely.
Recently, the Airforce grounds the entire F-15 fleet due to a manufacturing flaw.
Compared to its 2001 fleet, the total number of Air Force fighters has reduced by nearly 25%. This includes the F-16 Falcons, F-15 Eagles, A-10 Thunderbolts and F-22 Raptors. Budget cuts will drive down the number even further. The Military is retiring over a hundred of A-10s and 21 F-16s. The tactical squadron will probably lose six to ten percent of its fighter planes when more fighter jets are retired due to old age.
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President Ma Ying-jeou and American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) Chairman Raymond Burghardt.
Taiwan’s Deputy Legislative Speaker Tseng Yung-chuan , a close ally of President Ma Ying-jeou, said on Monday he expects the US will agree only to upgrade the nation’s existing fleet of F-16 jets and not sell Taipei new ones. He said Taiwan has been grateful for US support for decades, but a decision against providing F-16C/D aircraft would “not be satisfactory.”
Two US senators who share that view introduced legislation on Monday demanding US President Barack Obama authorize sales of at least 66 of the F-16C/Ds to Taiwan.
By supplying the planes, the US would anger Beijing and would set back Washington’s efforts to improve its own relations with China.
While Tseng said he was not aware a formal decision on the planes had been conveyed to Taiwan, he said through an interpreter: “Based upon the current situation, it seems that the US is only going to upgrade the F-16A/B air fighters. Speaking for the legislature, this is not satisfactory.”
“These weapons are not going to be used for war. It’s purely based on the purpose of national defense,” he said.
Under the 1979 Taiwan Relations Act, the US is legally required to provide Taiwan with arms for its self defense.
Source: Taipei Times
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Washington and Baghdad have made significant progress on an F-16 deal but do not have a signed contract just yet, a U.S. military official said.
The Iraqi government in February delayed its planned purchase of F-16s and diverted $900 million set aside for an initial payment on the aircraft into its national food ration programme to help ease shortages and cool nationwide protests. But Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki said on July 30 that Iraq would buy 36 F-16s, double the number it had originally planned, to shore up its weak air defences.
“Our two governments are working out the details. They do not have a signed contract yet, but significant progress (has been made) towards it,” Major General Jeffrey Buchanan said.
Lockheed Martin, a leading Pentagon supplier and maker of the popular multi-role F-16 fighter used by about two dozen countries worldwide, has been involved in the talks, Buchanan added. The two sides are negotiating on the F-16 Block 52 export model with sophisticated avionics and weapons.
Lockheed Martin said in May it hoped to finalise F-16 sales to Iraq by early next year.
Iraq relies on the U.S. military for air support as it rebuilds its military more than eight years after the invasion that ousted Saddam Hussein. But U.S. forces are scheduled to leave Iraq by year-end under terms of a bilateral security pact. The two sides are discussing whether to keep some U.S. troops or military trainers in the country next year.
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The USAF West Coast F-16 demo team will join a Belgian OV-10 and a L-39 to perform aerobatics display at Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany this weekend.
The aerial demonstration — with maneuvers more complex than a flyby — is the first to be performed before the public on a U.S. military base in Germany since a 1988 air show crash at Ramstein Air Base, where 67 spectators were killed and more than 500 others injured, U.S. Air Forces in Europe officials said.
Since that disaster, military air shows of the type held at Ramstein have been banned in Germany. Highly restricted air demonstrations are approved for open houses only after review of detailed plans, and German rules and restrictions must be adhered to.
Therefore, the flying portion of the Spangdahlem open house will be on a much, much smaller scale than the Ramstein shows, once a huge draw on the European flying circuit with aerobatic teams from all over Europe.
“We carefully selected things that we knew were safe maneuvers and have been practiced over and over again,” said Lt. Col. Steve Horton, 52nd Operations Support Squadron commander at Spangdahlem.
At Spangdahlem’s last open house in 2008, an F-16 and A-10 assigned to Spangdahlem’s 52nd Fighter Wing did “fly-bys” but no aerial maneuvers like those planned for this weekend, according to Spangdahlem officials. Approved maneuvers include a Cuban 8, Double Immelman, Aileron Roll, and High-G turns.
This time, the base invited an F-16 from Air Combat Command’s West Coast “Viper West” team at Hill Air Force Base, Utah; an OV-10B Bronco from Belgium; and an L-39, a former German military aircraft, to perform.
Coordination was worked through many channels, including USAFE headquarters, U.S. Air Combat Command and the U.S. Embassy in Berlin, according to USAFE officials. Approval was granted by the German Air Staff, said USAFE spokesman Mike Kucharek.
“We recognize the sensitivities of the survivors,” Kucharek said. “This is a far different type of event than an air show, because we’re essentially going to be flying basic aircraft maneuvers.”
Source: Stars and Stripes
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Last August 19, An F-16 Fighting Falcon fighter plane was intentionally blown apart as part of an aerial-target flight termination system test.
Conducted by the 780th Test Squadron, and overseen by the QF-16 special programs office, the purpose of the test was to demonstrate that the FTS design will be sufficient to immediately terminate the flight of a QF-16, a supersonic reusable full-scale aerial target drone modified from an F-16. Each drone contains an FTS, which is needed to satisfy range safety requirements for use in unmanned missions.
The QF-16 will provide a fourth generation full-scale aerial target for air-to-air and surface-to-air weapons systems evaluation, which will be conducted by the 53rd Weapons Evaluation Group at Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida.
Kevin Diggs, the QF-16 test and evaluation lead, said “We’re taking these non-operational aircraft and reusing them, recycling if you will,” followed by “We find a better purpose for them in making them flight worthy, which gives our weapons designers the opportunity to test our advanced weapons against a modern aircraft. Additionally, our warfighters get an opportunity to train against a quality fourth generation fighter.”
According to Diggs, another purpose of the test was to determine a range safety debris footprint. “This test was one step toward satisfying range safety requirements,” he said.
At approximately 11:15 a.m., with an audience looking on, the range officials exploded the aircraft. A small ball of flames burst from the middle of the aircraft, followed by thick black smoke, but no sound. The sound followed soon after with a deep reverberating boom. The extent of the damage went undetected at first, due to the amount of smoke billowing from the wreck. Once it cleared, it revealed the F-16 had been split in half between the cockpit and the wings.
“It’s sad to see an F-16 destroyed like this,” said Maj. Wayne Chitmon, of the 82nd Aerial Targets Squadron, the squadron that will eventually own and operate the QF-16s. “At the same time, however, it’s exciting to know the fourth generation ability of the F-16 will enhance the warfighters’ capabilities.”
In the coming weeks, test reports will explain the outcome of the test. The next step for the program office is to evaluate those reports from the 780th TS and Boeing, the QF-16′s prime contractor. The project will then move forward to certifying the QF-16 with Air Armament Center range safety for unmanned flights in the future.
The first QF-16 is scheduled to be delivered in 2014. The QF-16 will replace the QF-4, the third generation full-scale aerial target drone.
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A Defense Ministry spokesman said Indonesia told the US it wants to buy billions of dollars of American-made military aircraft, in hopes that a US-embargo on military sales to the country may soon be lifted.
“During a bilateral meeting, the Indonesian government expressed its interest to purchase F-16 and C-130H Hercules aircraft to complete its squadrons,” Defense Ministry spokesman I Wayan Midhio said yesterday.
Indonesian Defense Minister Purnomo Yusgiantoro and US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates discussed the potential sale during the Shangri-La defense dialogue in Singapore last month. And the US welcomed Indonesia’s proposal to buy more US-made military equipment, Wayan added.
According to Wayan, the US pledged US$15.7 million to Indonesia in 2010 and $20 million in 2011 under the aegis of capacity-building programs to help “modernize” the Indonesian Military (TNI).
Indonesia currently has only four operational jet fighters — less than a single squadron — University of Indonesia’s military expert Andi Widjajanto said. Each squadron should have eight to 12 planes depending on operational, maintenance and training plans.
He said fifth-generation F-16 jet fighter costs between $120 million and $140 million, without munitions. A fourth-generation F-16 Falcon fighter costs between $88 million and $90 million, without munitions.
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There is a surplus of F-16s on the global arms market due to production overruns by US defense contractor manufacturer Lockheed Martin. The company’s capacity still reflects Cold War production levels, Andi added.
The US is also replacing its squadrons of F-16 with newer F-22 Raptors and F-35 Lightnings, he said. Both oversupply and change in preference have lowered prices for F-16s in the global market. It is unlikely that the country can purchase F-16s from the US because an embargo on arms sales to Indonesia is still in effect.
“Almost 90 percent of the embargo has been lifted since 2006, but lethal weapons sales have not been lifted and I think there is no sign that the US will do so,” Andi concluded.
- The Jakarta Post
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Crews were searching the Atlantic Ocean early Friday for an F-16 fighter pilot off the coast of South Carolina after two jets collided during night training exercises.
The two planes collided Thursday around 8:30 p.m. about 40 miles off Folly Beach, near Charleston, Senior Master Sgt. Brad Fallin at Shaw Air Force Base said. Each plane was carrying one person.
One jet, piloted by Capt. Lee Bryant, landed safely at Charleston Air Force Base, Fallin said. But the location of the other plane and its pilot, Capt. Nicholas Giglio, was unknown, Fallin said.
The pilots’ hometowns were not immediately available. It was also not immediately known how much damage the plane that landed had sustained.
The Coast Guard was searching with a helicopter, a C-130 airplane and a cutter early Friday.
Earlier this week, Shaw Air Force Base announced that pilots would be conducting nighttime exercises to allow pilots to fly with night vision equipment and practice tactics critical to surviving in combat.