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.


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.


Budget Cuts Leads to Depleted, Aging Airforce

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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.


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

F-22 and F-35 load crews compete in a Load Crew Competition

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Flashback:At the King Fahd International Airport, Saudi Arabia, 1991, an A-10 “Warthog” performs a high speed taxi as it returns to its parking spot, fuel and munitions expended in combat. As the aircraft receives fuel, the weapons load crew rushes to load munitions for the threat that still exists. Within minutes the aircraft taxis out for the next mission in the Gulf War.

It is as true today as it was almost 20 years ago that the ability to rapidly load weapons on an aircraft is critical in combat. The specific function of the weapons crew is to load the aircraft in the fastest method possible while ensuring the reliability of the munitions.

The best load crews at Edwards held their first Weapons Load Crew of the Quarter competition; proving which load crew was the best on base. Not only was this the first loading competition in over a year, but it was the first competition in which two 5th generation fighters, the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter and the F-22 Raptor, competed head-to-head.

“The competition sharpens their loading skills, improves their combat readiness, and serves as a morale booster as the crews represent their unit against other aircraft maintenance units for top honors,” said Senior Master Sgt. Christine Beaudion, 412th Maintenance Group Weapons Standardization superintendent.

Competing for the 411th Aircraft Maintenance Unit on the F-22 was crew R-3, led by Staff Sgt. Alexe Perez. His team members were Staff Sgt. Marcel Ford and Senior Airman Douglas Covey. Competing for the 461st Aircraft Maintenance Unit on the F-35 was crew JSF-1, consisting of Staff Sgt. Lauren Cantu, Senior Airman Corey Thomas, and Senior Airman Coty Perez.

“Each unit has their own method for selecting their team members; however, certain criteria, such as monthly loading statistics and flight line evaluations weigh heavily on team selection. The crew with the best monthly loading stats is usually selected to represent their unit,” said Sergeant Beaudion.

All AMUs are eligible but bombers and F-16 could not provide an aircraft this quarter.

Both crews performed outstanding loads according to the evaluators. Each achieved load times well below the standard in a nearly flawless display of loading prowess. Loading in front of a crowd of more than 100, the crews provided excitement, drama, and an appreciation as they brought weapons loading into the next century.

However, in a competition there can only be one winner. Staff Sgt Alexe Perez led his team to victory, proving at least for the day, the superiority of the 411th Aircraft Maintenance Unit and the F-22 loaders.

In February, he will lead his team to compete in a true wild-west Loadeo as they vie for the coveted Load Crew of the Year. These load crew competitions serve to sharpen the tip of the spear and ensure the combat readiness of the nation.

- Edwards Air Force Base

USAF F-16 Destroyed in Iraq

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An F-16 fighter jet was destroyed after it caught fire during takeoff in a runway, U.S military reported. They added that the pilot pulled out of the planned takeoff early Wednesday morning and the fire was extinguished next to the runway at Joint Base Balad Air Base north of Baghdad, Iraq.

The pilot had no apparent injuries but was taken to the Air Force Theater Hospital for evaluation. The F-16 Falcon was assigned to the 332nd Air Expeditionary Wing.

The military gave no cause for the fire and a safety board will be convened to investigate about the said incident.