Possible F-16 Sale to Iraq Highlights Progress

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Iraq’s potential purchase of 18 U.S. F-16 Fighting Falcon aircraft is an encouraging development that benefits both nations, the senior U.S. Air Force component commander in Iraq told Pentagon reporters today.

“I do not have any word yet that a letter of offer and acceptance is signed, but as you probably know, we did have a senior member of the Iraqi government visit Washington,” said Air Force Maj. Gen. Russell J. Handy, commander, 9th Air and Space Expeditionary Task Force-Iraq, and director, Air Component Coordination Element-Iraq.

Handy said the Iraqis could potentially buy more F-16 aircraft if, and when, they sign a letter of offer and acceptance.

“They are seeking to buy a larger number of F-16s than they had originally — up to 36,” he said.

Handy lauded U.S. military efforts in Iraq as troops conduct stability and transitioning operations.

“The airmen I have the privilege of leading in Iraq through this challenge have a very important role in the transition,” he said. “We continue to perform all the roles and missions we’ve done for a number of years.”

Handy said these missions include over watch of American forces with intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance assets; close air support; air mobility; aerial port operations; personnel recovery; and air base management — all while re-posturing U.S. forces.

The senior U.S. Air Force commander in Iraq also praised airmen for their performance as advisors to Iraqi air force personnel.

“Our Air Force personnel have helped the Iraqi air force and the Iraqi Army Aviation Command progress to where they are now and have much to be proud of,” Handy said. “These advisors have been very successful — extraordinarily so if you think about it in the last five years.”

Iraqi air force and Iraqi Army Aviation Command ranks “have grown tenfold,” Handy said, noting American airmen have had an advisory role in those Iraqi units.

“As the Iraqis are moving forward and we’re transitioning, we are handing more and more of those functions completely over to the Iraqis,” Handy said. “Those proud, young Iraqi airmen I spoke of give us great hope.”

Source: ASDNews

Deputy legislative speaker says no F-16s sale

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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

Sen. John Cornyn to approve Ashton Carter for Pentagon post

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Sen. John Cornyn says he will vote to approve the nomination of a top Pentagon official whom he criticized just three weeks ago for not supporting the F-35 joint strike fighter strongly enough.

At a Senate hearing Tuesday, Cornyn briefly praised Ashton Carter and said he would vote for his confirmation as deputy secretary of defense.

Cornyn’s remarks came after several of his colleagues, notably Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin, D-Mich., and Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., were extremely critical of the F-35 program and pressed Carter on the importance of controlling “intolerable cost overruns.”

On Aug. 24, Cornyn wrote a letter to Carter “to express disappointment with your apparent lack of commitment to the success” of the F-35 and to urge “you to step up your defense of this key program.”

Cornyn was also critical of the Pentagon buying more Boeing F/A-18 Super Hornets rather than spending the money on the F-35.

As the Pentagon’s head of weapons acquisition, Carter has had to restructure and rebudget the program twice in two years to compensate for delays and cost increases as Lockheed Martin struggled to get airplanes built and flying.

So what changed in the last three weeks?

“Dr. Carter assured me that the F-35 will form the backbone of U.S. air combat for generations to come, and I applaud him for improving the execution of this critical program,” Cornyn said in a statement issued after the hearing.

Carter wrote a letter to Cornyn in which he largely reiterated his past comments and official Pentagon policy on the F-35. Carter said that there are “no alternatives” to the F-35 as the nation’s principal future warplane and that his “focus is on managing the cost and making decisions now that will affect affordability in the future.”

The twin specters of soaring weapons costs, with the F-35 as the leading culprit, and likely defense budget cuts hang over Carter’s confirmation hearing.

He assured the senators that his primary focus, after getting needed weapons and supplies to troops in the field, will be curtailing costs.

Those threats were manifested when a separate Senate panel, the defense appropriations subcommittee, voted to cut $26 billion from the Pentagon’s $656.8 billion budget request for 2012, including trimming $695 million from the F-35 program.

The subcommittee action is one step in the budget process that will unfold in coming weeks as Congress cuts spending to meet deficit reduction targets mandated last month.

Separately on Monday, Cornyn and Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., introduced legislation that would require the Obama administration to allow Lockheed Martin to sell F-16s to Taiwan. The jets would be built in Fort Worth.

“This sale is a win-win, in strengthening the national security of our friend Taiwan as well as our own, and supporting tens of thousands of jobs in the U.S.,” Cornyn said in a statement. “Saying no here would mean granting Communist China substantial sway over American foreign policy, putting us on a very slippery slope.”

Relocation of F-16 squadrons concerns McCain


Plans about relocating two F-16 squadrons from Luke Air Force Base concerns U.S. Sen. John McCain because it would waste taxpayer money, hamper Air Force pilot training and reduce operations at the Glendale base.

In a letter Tuesday, McCain asked Air Force Secretary Michael Donley to rethink plans to move the squadrons and about 1,000 service members to New Mexico’s Holloman Air Force Base by 2014.

Among McCain’s concerns:

- The Air Force would have to spend about $47 million to prepare Holloman for the jet fighters.

F-16 pilots at Holloman would compete for training time with missile, helicopter and unmanned drone training missions.

- Luke could experience a gap in operations if F-16 squadrons are relocated and the F-35 Lightning II training mission, likely slated for Luke, is delayed or reduced by budget cuts.

McCain suggested the Air Force could save money and maintain quality training by cancelling the plan. He said Luke has enough space for both the F-16 squadrons and the F-35 mission and that Air Force pilots get first priority when training at the Barry M. Goldwater Range in southern Arizona.

“We have an obligation to be stewards of the taxpayers’ money and seek savings wherever they can be realized. This planned transfer appears to run counter to this obligation,” McCain wrote.

Air Force spokeswoman Ann Stefanek said Air Force officials would respond to McCain as soon as they reviewed the letter and assessed the senator’s concerns.

McCain has criticized the F-16 transfer before but wrote the letter after Arizona residents expressed worries about the plan at each of his town hall meetings this summer, according to spokesman Brian Rogers.

Glendale Mayor Elaine Scruggs said McCain’s letter raised “valid questions” about costs, training and timing.

“Luke has been the Air Force’s preeminent fighter training facility for decades,” she said. “I share the mutual interests of the Air Force and Senator McCain in seeing it remain that way far into the future.”



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

Aerial demonstration return to USAF base in Germany

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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

U.S. F-16s and C-130 to train in Poland

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President Barack Obama announced Saturday that the United States has agreed to send F-16 fighter jets and C-130 cargo aircraft to train in Poland, a move Polish leadership welcomed as a sign of the U.S. commitment to defend Central and Eastern Europe.

In a quick first step, F-16s from the California Air National Guard will work alongside Polish F-16s this July in a training exercise as part of the preparations for the EURO 2012 soccer tournament. Other F-16s and C-130s will be rotated to Poland starting in 2013. Despite Polish media reports before Obama’s visit, the agreement does not deploy any F-16s for long periods and does not transfer any from a key NATO base at Aviano, Italy.

In addition to the sending of F-16s and C-130s to Poland, Obama and Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk discussed the new missile defense plan and said U.S. and Polish military will conduct talks on deploying land-based interceptors in Poland in 2018.

Obama came to Poland from that summit, noting that as a member of NATO, Poland is entitled to the same pledge of support as any NATO nation. “We defend each other,” Obama said.

“No US F-16s are being deployed permanently in Poland,” said a White House aide on condition of anonymity. “What we are talking about is regular rotations of U.S. military aircraft to Poland for training and exercises – four per year. U.S. aircraft will come for a few weeks to Poland and then return to their home station.”

Temporary or not, the dispatch of U.S. pilots to Poland sent a message of assurance to Polish leaders who are skittish about Obama’s work to improve relations with Poland’s old nemesis, Russia.

Seeking to improve commercial and personal ties, Obama also announced that he’ll ask Congress to change a law so that Poles can visit the United States without visas. Obama also met Saturday with some of the veterans of the Solidarity movement who first challenged Soviet rule and helped usher in the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Source: The Modesto Bee

388th Fighter Wing returns home from Afghanistan

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A dozen F-16s, their pilots and 36 of the airmen who flew the jest returned home to Hill Air Force Base, Friday from Afghanistan, where they have been deployed since late September.

The members of the 4th Fighter Squadron and 4th Aircraft Maintenance Unit worked out of Bagram Airfield, providing close air support to ground forces. That meant dropping thousands of bombs, but often the F-16 jets accomplished their objectives just by being in the air making lots of noise.

“Their presence alone was often enough to satisfy the ground commanders’ intents,” said Col. Scott Long, who returned from Afghanistan in February to become the wing’s commander.

Pilots flew every day. Ground crews “got the aircraft airborne, got them back on the ground, got them loaded back up with munitions,” he said. “They supported with thousands of bombs.”

The sound of four F-16s flying in formation overhead interrupted all conversation. The first jet to peel off from the formation was Monica Bailey’s husband, Lt. Col. Chris Bailey, the squadron leader.

The F15  jets taxied to a stop and the families moved in close. Then engines stopped, the canopies popped up and crew chiefs hung ladders off the side of the cockpits. The pilots came down and were surrounded by their families.

“Seeing the family — it’s incredible,” Chris Bailey said. He said the pilots were also surprised by the number of people waiting on the ground, including the media. “We didn’t expect to see something like that. It’s very humbling.”

Squadron commander Bailey was wearing a patch noting 100 flying missions. He said it has taken him years of flying and three deployments, including one to Iraq, to reach that mark. The intensity of recent missions means pilots much younger than he have also reached the 100-mission mark.

“Until you have seen them you don’t realize the incredible sacrifices people are making,” Bailey said, “how dedicated they are to the mission and getting the job done.”

Source: Deseret News

Egyptian Air Force F-16s Going to be Powered by Pratt and Whitney

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A contract for $46 million to provide F100-PW-229 Enhanced Engine Package (EEP) engines to power the Egyptian Air Force’s new fleet of 20 F-16 aircraft was awarded to Pratt & Whitney. This contract covers engines to support the initial aircraft production for the Egyptian Air Force’s F-16 Block 52 aircraft purchase. The F100-PW-229 EEP is the latest evolution of Pratt & Whitney’s F100 family and plans to begin deliveries of the said engines will be in 2011.

Bill Begert, vice president of Business Development for Pratt & Whitney, said “We are honored The Egyptian Air Force has chosen to return to Pratt & Whitney to provide power for their new F-16 fighters.” Begert also said “We believe the capability, safety and reliability of the F100-PW-229 EEP engine, coupled with Pratt & Whitney’s commitment to the readiness of the Egyptian Air Force, offer unmatched operating performance. We look forward to continuing our long and successful relationship.”

The F100-PW-229 engine provides the Egyptian Air Force a lower total cost of ownership and an outstanding record of safety. Incorporating the latest technologies, this propulsion system provides advanced, dependable power for F-16 fighter aircraft around the world.

To date, the F100-PW-229 powered aircraft fleet has logged more than 1.7 million flight hours in more than 18 years of operational service. Incorporation of the F100-PW-229 EEP increases the engine depot inspection interval from seven to 10 years, providing up to a 30 percent life cycle cost reduction over the life of the engine. The EEP offers significant safety benefits; reducing the predicted in-flight shutdown rate by up to 25 percent. The F100-PW-229 is the only fighter engine funded and qualified by the U.S. Air Force to the 6,000 cycle capability.



Thai F-16A crashed, body of pilot recovered

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The body of an RTAF F-16 jet fighter pilot was found in wreckage Monday after a Royal Thai Air Force jet crashed in Ban Tak district of Tak province in Thailand earlier in the day.

The body of Flight Lieutenant Thanikorn Luangrungwaree, 31, was found in the wreckage of the fallen jet after the RTAF F16 fighter disappeared from the radar and crashed into a mountain and then exploded in Den Mai Sung village of Ban Tak district.

According to the report, Flt Lt Thanikorn died instantly in the crash amid bad weather.

Meanwhile, Royal Thai Air Force Commander Itthiporn Supawong ordered the Air Safety Committee to inspect the crash site and investigate the cause of the accident. Officials from Air Force bases in Phitsanulok, Chiang Mai and Nakhon Sawan have been instructed to retrieve the pilot’s remains and the wreckage of the jet before sending the body for religious rites.

- mcot.net -

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