With F-35 Delays, Air Force Turns to Older Jet Planes

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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

US Air Force Conducts Military Drills with S. Korea Forces

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US Air Forces and their South Korean counter-part conducted a large-scale joint exercise over the week-end. South Korea and US frequently participated in joint exercises in the past, but this is the first time where the jet fighters were fully decked with weapons and equipment similar to a real wartime operation.

The jet fighters were fully armed and they were deployed in an airstrip to fly their sorties. Ten South Korean KF-10 fighters and 50 F-16 fighters participated in the exercise and it includes 400 pilots and maintenance staff. The drill was conducted in a Gunsan air base located at the North Jeolla Provinc, South Korea.

The exercise drill was conducted in order to practice both factions in arming themselves and prepare their units in the shortest time possible in case of an invasion from North Korea or other provocations to war. The jet fighters were loaded with AIM-120 air-to-air missiles and MK-82 air-to-ground bombs. They are ordered to attack major enemy targets when the real operation comes.

According to Maj. Oh Chung-won, officer in-charge of the South Korean forces, “The drill was very helpful in establishing speedy and effective S. Korea and US air capabilities in wartime, we will further boost our combined combat power by resolving shirt-coming identified by the drill.”

North Korea had earlier expressed their irritation on the continued US presence in the Korean peninsula.

source: english.donga.com

Newest F-16 Fighting Falcon Revealed by Lockheed Martin

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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.

Source: www.gizmag.com

First day of Aviation Nation a success

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Spectators watched a safe and flawless performance at the Aviation Nation air show at Nellis Air Force Base on Saturday with little concern of a repeat of the tragedy at the Reno air races.

On Sept. 16, a souped-up World War II-vintage P-51 Mustang nose-dived into the crowd at the Reno-Stead Airport, killing 74-year-old pilot Jimmy Leeward and 10 spectators.

“When it’s your time, it’s your time,” said Joe Languemi, of North Las Vegas, who was sitting in the Nellis stands near the announcer’s platform watching the air show with his wife, Pat.

Like a half dozen other spectators who were interviewed while military aircraft performed daring stunts in a crisp azure sky, Languemi said he had no safety concerns whatsoever.

“This is a controlled environ­ment,” he said, noting the difference between what Air Force officials have described as an “unscripted, dynamic competition” of the Reno air races versus the “choreographed, highly rehearsed aerial demonstrations” performed during Aviation Nation.

The difference in the two events, according to officials at the Nellis base, is that the annual air show and open house at Nellis is akin to a figure-skating performance instead of a short-track speed skating contest as would be the case of the National Championship Air Races in Reno.

At the two-day Aviation Nation event, which drew a total of 142,000 spectators for both days last year, aircraft fly within an “aerial box” cleared as a boundary between performers and spectators. Regulations dictate that aircraft can’t fly directly at the audience during the demonstration.

Air Force regulations also outlaw air races by fixed wing, rotary wing aircraft or hot air balloons.

Languemi’s friend, John Hinsvark, of Anchorage, Alaska, said the deadly crash in Reno didn’t stop him from watching Saturday’s Aviation Nation show at Nellis.

“Accidents happen. That’s why they call them accidents,” said Hinsvark, who was visiting Reno on Sept. 16 and thought about going to the air races that day but didn’t because his sister and her husband had other plans.

“It’s a shame,” said Hinsvark, a retired Army National Guard soldier. “It looks like the Reno air races won’t go on again.”

Not all of the tens of thousands of Aviation Nation spectators at the Nellis show on Saturday were as unconcerned as Hinsvark and Languemi.

“I was worried a little bit when the Patriots flew at each other,” said Becky Gelderloos, of Las Vegas, an Air Force wife who watched the show with her son, Tanner Ballard, and his girlfriend Candice Leigh.

She was referring to the Patriots Jet Team, a group of talented pilots flying L-39 jets. The team was founded by former United Airlines and Reno air race pilot Randy “Howler” Howell.

Nevertheless, Gelderloos said, “I feel safe here because I know these men and women know what they’re doing.”

Similarly, Trina Youngblood, of Ely, said she felt safe standing on the Nellis ramp with her family.

“The one in Reno was more air races. This is all military,” she said. “I think they are more regulated by our government.”

She said going to the Aviation Nation event gives her a sense of safety and pride for the armed forces.

Aviation Nation, which has free admission, continues today.

Parking lots at Las Vegas Motor Speedway will open at 8 a.m. with bus transportation to the base and gates open at 9 a.m. The show, with this year’s theme marking 70 years of air power in Las Vegas, begins at 11 a.m. and runs until after 2 p.m. when the Thunderbirds, led by Lt. Col. Case Cunningham, take off in their red, white and blue F-16 Fighting Falcon jets for the grand finale.


Viper pilot at home for Randolph 2011 Air Show

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San Antonio, TX — For some pilots, it runs in the family. Maj. Ryan “Rider” Corrigan can draw influence from his uncle and dad, both F-16 pilots.

Corrigan will showcase his skills during the F-16 “Viper East Demo” at the Randolph 2011 Air Show this coming Saturday and Sunday.

“I knew I wanted to be a pilot after I saw my first air show,” Corrigan said. “My uncle was a Thunderbird F-16 pilot.” His older brother and cousin are also in the family business.

After 11 years in the Air Force (seven of which have been spent as an F-16 pilot), Corrigan acknowledged the difference between training for combat and an air show.

“It’s a different type of mentality,” he said. “Training for air shows takes you out of combat mentality and training. We get to showcase to Americans the maneuvering power and the airplane’s ability to change directions rapidly.”

Corrigan first applied for the position of demonstration pilot after completing his assignment as a combat aviator.

“I didn’t want a desk job somewhere, I wanted to hold onto the airplane as long as I could,” he said.

He will be flying the F-16 Fighting Falcon, commonly known as the Viper, a multirole fighter aircraft used for air-to-air combat and air-to-surface attack. Corrigan compares the experience to driving.

“I still feel 18 when I fly. Imagine driving the most impressive sports car you can imagine and multiply it by 10,” Corrigan said.

Even though he enjoys the plane’s 360-degree views and its ability to fly upside down at supersonic speeds, Corrigan is quick to point out the amount of training and “book knowledge” required to fly a Viper.

“There’s a lot of preparation that goes into a flight before we hit the runway. It’s scripted and well thought out,” Corrigan said. “Each maneuver has a specific entry, and we have to be able to hit those numbers or else we won’t do the maneuver.”

Corrigan has spent the last four years as an F-16 instructor pilot and demonstration pilot stationed at Shaw AFB in South Carolina, but the 34-year-old grew up in San Antonio, and attended Windcrest Elementary and White Junior High school. Although Corrigan already knows who will replace him in Viper East, he’s waiting for his next assignment: “Hopefully, it involves a plane that goes real fast.”


Update: Iraq makes first payment for F-16 orders

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Pentagon Press Secretary George Little said on Sept 27th that the Iraqi government has transferred its first payment for 18 F-16C Fighting Falcons. This brings Iraq closer to independently securing its airspace.

“These aircraft will help provide air sovereignty for Iraq to protect its own territory and deter or counter regional threats,” Little said.

The F-16 fighter aircraft, he said, “are also a symbol of the commitment to a long-term strategic partnership between the United States and Iraq.”

According to Little, the F-16s are the block 50/52 variant of the aircraft – the current production version of the F-16 Fighting Falcon. The sale is valued at about $3 billion. Such foreign military sales will be a cornerstone of future cooperation and support the development of a long-term cooperative security relationship with Iraq.

“Foreign military sales around the world, such as this purchase of F-16 aircraft,” the press secretary said, “strengthen our diplomatic and military relationships with our allies and supports American industry and jobs at home.”

The United States conducts foreign military sales with Iraq and fully supports Iraq’s efforts to purchase military equipment in line with its domestic spending priorities and in accordance with its budget laws and procedures, Little added.

Source: U.S. Air Force


Iraqi official: Baghdad buys 18 F-16s

Iraqi official: Baghdad buys 18 F-16s

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Iraq has signed a contract to buy 18 Lockheed Martin F-16 warplanes to bolster its air force, an adviser to Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki said on Monday.

The value of the F-16 deal was not immediately known, but a senior U.S. military official said recently the offer on the table for the Iraqi government was valued at “roughly $3 billion.”Lockheed said in a statement it looked forward to a partnership with Baghdad and was “pleased with the confidence Iraq places in our products.” It declined to comment on the specifics of the deal, referring questions to the Iraqi and U.S. governments.

“The F-16 contract was signed … and a part of the contract cost was sent to the bank account of the company,” said Maliki’s media adviser, Ali al-Moussawi.

Iraq has long sought F-16 combat jet for its rebuilt air force. The government delayed a planned purchase of F-16s in February to divert a $900 million down payment to its national food ration program to help quell street protests.

Maliki said on July 30 Iraq would buy 36 F-16s, double the number it had originally planned, to shore up its weak air defenses. The OPEC producer has found itself flush with cash this year, reaping windfall profits as world oil prices have remained above budget projections.

Iraq is relying on the U.S. military for air support as it rebuilds its forces and battles a stubborn Islamist insurgency. Washington and Baghdad are discussing whether to keep some U.S. troops or military trainers in Iraq beyond the year-end deadline for U.S. departure.

Source: Reuters

What it Takes to be a Thunderbirds/Blue Angels Pilot

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One of the many ways to promote the U.S. military is by flight demonstration squadrons, namely the U.S. Navy Blue Angels and the Air Force Thunderbirds. They help the military recruit more people and give the public more understanding and education about what the military does for them.

Some of you might be interested on joining these elite teams. Well, here’s how you can be an eligible candidate .


Thunderbirds are also known as America’s Ambassadors in Blue. The Thunderbirds Squadron use 12 F-16, while nine are from the C-modification (6 participated in the air and rest are reserve) and three two-seated from the D-modification.

  • must have at least 1000 flying hours on a jet fighter
  • must be pilots of F-16 at the present
  • must have at least 3 years (but no more than 12 years) of military service

Blue Angels

The Blue Angels represent the finest from the Navy and Marine Corps. Every year, this select group begins a two or three-year rotation traveling across the country and around the world to perform for millions of spectators.

  • Navy and Marine Corps jet pilots with an aircraft carrier qualification and a minimum of 1,250 tactical jet flight-hours are eligible for positions flying jets Number 2 through 7.
  • Commanding Officer must have at least 3,000 tactical jet flight-hours and have commanded a tactical jet squadron.

In a nutshell the Thunderbirds and Blue Angels’ mission is primarily to support recruiting, retention programs and public relations. They are a PR machine-and not a bad machine at that! So, do you have what it takes?

Iraq, U.S. talking about F-16 deal

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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.

Source: Reuters

Marine Squadron’s F-16 Flights ‘A Milestone’ Toward JSF

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Marine aviators of Marine Fighter Attack Training Squadron 501 completed four sorties this week in F-16 Fighting Falcons, beginning a familiarization process to ensure readiness and efficiency in the transition to the Department of Defense’s fifth-generation fighter, the F-35B Lightning II.

Lt. Col. James Wellons, the VMFAT-501 commander said, ”It’s a tremendous opportunity to fly (these sorties).” He also said, “This is the first time a VMFAT-501 pilot has flown here at our new home.”

Officials elected to bring the F-16 Fighting Falcon from Luke Air Force Base, Arizona, to the 33rd Fighter Wing to Eglin AFB, Florida because of its similarity to its descendant, the F-35. Its flying characteristics are similar to the F-35, so the training and mindset pilots will have in a single-engine fighter transitions from the F-16 into the F-35.

The Marines, who’d only flown in Marine and Naval fighters, they discovered vast similarities to the Air Force F-16 and their AV-8B Harriers, F/A-18 Hornets and EA-6B Prowlers.

“In many ways there was no difference,” Colonel Wellons said. “It was very similar to how it feels to fly any tactical aircraft.”

The differences they did notice were the Air Force language and methods used to communicate about and inside the aircraft. For example, Marine aviators use hand gestures to communicate aircraft movement, while Air Force aircrews may tip or tilt the wings of the aircraft to indicate a procedure.

This familiarization is doubly beneficial to the Marines, not just to understand an aircraft style similar to the F-35, but to also experience Eglin’s runway and flightline operations, maintenance procedures and airspace.

“This training allows us to eliminate the added variables of learning all new flight operations with a completely unfamiliar aircraft all at the same time,” said Capt. Mark Noble, the aviator safety officer for VMFAT-501. “If we already understand flightline procedures and guidelines and know what to expect from a similar aircraft, we can focus primarily on F-35B training.”

Looking back on their first flight in months, both Marines admitted to a bit of aviator “rust,” but were glad to be back in the seat and flying.

“This is a major milestone for VMFAT-501,” Colonel Wellons said. “Every time a Marine flies an aircraft here, it’s one step closer to putting F-35s in the air.”

The Marine variant of joint strike fighter, the F-35B, contains a short take-off and vertical landing engine. The STOVL variant will replace the Marine Corps inventory of F/A-18s and AV-8s. The Italian air force is the only international partner scheduled to fly the STOVL variant. The F-35B will be the world’s first operational supersonic STOVL aircraft.


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