USAF squadrons amidst political turmoil            United States versus Germany

In a surprise move on 29 July 2020, the Pentagon stated it will begin winding down US operations at Germany’s Spangdahlem Air Base by pulling out the F-16 Fighting Falcon squadron. Furthermore, they are cancelling plans to move special operations MC-130J Commando IIs and MV-22B Ospreys from RAF Mildenhall (UK) to Spangdahlem. Also the plan of moving KC-135R Stratotankers from Mildenhall to Ramstein Air Base seems to be halted.

Having threatened to pull out troops (*) for years now, the feud between the US and Germany now seems to have peaked after years of German Defence austerity measures and controversy over the German nuclear task under NATO flag. Spangdahlem's 480th Fighter Squadron, named the "Warhawks", part of the 52nd Fighter Wing, is now slated to become one of the 31st Fighter Wing units, based at Aviano Air Base (Italy).

It was stated that the US Defence Department will move 11,900 servicemen from American military installations across Germany, including 6,400 whose jobs which would return to the Continental United States (CONUS). What will become of Spangdahlem is still unclear. Meanwhile, two wings that had planned to move to Spangdahlem and Ramstein will now stay put.

 

The Statement said Both the 100th Air Refuelling Wing and the 352nd Special Operations Wing will remain in the UK . In due time, the USAF will not have any fighter jets left in Germany. Ramstein Air Base's situation will be unaffected and will be the largest USAF hub in Germany. 

Boeing's New F-15EX Eagle Fighter Jets

                For the US Air Force

The US Congress approved funding for a total of eight F-15EX's in the Fiscal Year 2020 defense budget. The aircraft that is seen in the picture that the Air Force has now released shows that it carries the serial number 20-0001. A second example is also under construction, according to Boeing.

The Air Force has requested money to buy an additional 12 aircraft in the 2021 Fiscal Year and hopes to purchase a total of 76 F-15EXs over the five-year Future Years Defence Program.

 

The service's full F-15EX fleet could eventually comprise 144 jets.

The Pentagon's contracting notice notably makes no specific mention about the procurement of engines for any of these aircraft. On June 30, the Air Force awarded a separate contract to General Electric for an unspecified number of F110-GE-129 engines to power at least some of the initial batch of F-15EXs, citing an "unusual and compelling urgency." 

The Air Force had planned to power all of its F-15EXs with F110-GE-129s, but is now preparing to hold an open competition to select an engine type after it became apparent that Pratt & Whitney would protest any sole-source award to General Electric. Pratt & Whitney is expected to submit its F100-PW-229 engine as an alternative.

The first eight F-15EX aircraft will be based at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida, and they will initially support testing efforts. The delivery of the first two aircraft is scheduled for the second quarter of Fiscal Year 2021, which begins on Jan. 1, 2021. The remaining six aircraft are scheduled to arrive in the 2023 Fiscal Year. The Air Force is using the Strategic Basing Process to determine the fielding locations for subsequent aircraft lots.

First KC-10 Extender Tanker Heads To The Boneyard                                           For Retirement

The U.S. Air Force sent the first KC-10A Extender tanker 86-0036 from the 305th Air Mobility Wing at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst in New Jersey to  309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group on July 13 2020.The unit that manages the Pentagon's aircraft boneyard at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base Tucson, Arizona 

This comes just a day after the 40th anniversary of the type's first flight. The retirement also comes amid a brewing battle between the service and Congress over its aerial refuelling tanker plans given persistent problems with its new KC-46A Pegasus's.

 

In its most recent budget request, for the 2021 Fiscal Year, the Air Force announced  to retire 16 KC-10As, along with 13 KC-135s, in the coming year. The service has since backed away from this proposal in the face of significant backlash from Congress, as well as from within the U.S. military itself

A key issue is that the KC-46A program has been dogged by a host of major quality control and technical issues, especially with the plane's Remote Vision System (RVS), over the years.

Unlike in previous tankers, where an individual would lie at the rear of the aircraft and visually observe the situation while manipulating the refuelling boom into receiving aircraft, boom operators in the KC-46A use the RVS to do this remotely from the plane's main cabin. 

The existing RVS has proven to be difficult and potentially dangerous to operate under certain circumstances and the Air Force has said that it will not use the KC-46As for day-to-day refuelling activities, in combat or elsewhere, until Boeing implements a fix. The goal is for Boeing to have finished the development and testing of the new RVS by 2023.

The Osprey Tiltrotor Officially Joins the U.S. Navy

The first Osprey tiltrotor aircraft to serve with the U.S. Navy joined the fleet Monday, June 22 at Naval Station North Island in San Diego, California. The aircraft is the first to join VRM-30 (“Titans”).

The CMV-22B Osprey replaces the older C-2 Greyhound cargo plane in the carrier onboard delivery (COD) role.

 

The Osprey will haul mail, supplies, personnel, and even F-35 fighter engines from airfields on shore to the Navy’s supercarriers operating at sea.

The airplane is the first in the Navy’s high visibility white-and-grey paint job, a colour scheme it uses to identify unarmed, non-combatant aircraft.

USAF's Last 'Spooky' Gunship Heads to the Boneyard

The U.S. Air Force has sent the last AC-130U “Spooky” gunship to the Boneyard, capping a career spanning three decades. The gunship, named “Gunslinger,” was sent to the Arizona desert for what is likely a one-way trip on June 26 2020.

Another of the heavily armed transport planes, “Big Daddy,” earned a coveted black letter for excellence and a spot at the Hurlburt Field outdoor museum.

 

A black letter is significant because it means there are absolutely no discrepancies whatsoever on the plane,” said U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Mark Lennon, a section chief with the 4th Aircraft Maintenance Unit. “A black letter is when there’s no discrepancies on the status page. The crew chief’s last name and first initial goes in that place. It shows that aircraft has really been maintained with excellence.”

The AC-130U Spooky has been replaced by two other gunships: the AC-130J Ghostrider and AC-130W Stinger II. The AC-130J is on track to test fire an airborne laser weapon system in 2022.

RCAF C295 getting ready to go in Spain

The Canadian FWSAR program continues marking milestones with the 1st 4 operational C295 already painted and ready to fly! at Seville Spain

     The US military has suspended all travel, deployments, exercises for the entire force

Weeks after putting a hold on permanent change-of-station moves and non-essential travel both abroad and in the United States for the next two to three months, the Pentagon has issued a stop-movement order that will affect all personnel and Defence Department civilians.

The order affects travel for exercises, as well as deployments from combat operations in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria, in an attempt to stop the spread of COVID-19, the Pentagon announced Wednesday

“Approximately 90,000 service members slated to deploy or redeploy over the next 60 to 90 Days from March 25th will likely be impacted by this stop movement order,” the release said.

Exceptions include:

  • Travel for military medical patients or providers.

  • Movements of Navy ships, as long as they observe 14-day quarantine periods.

  • Those who are already in the process of travelling.

  • Those who are away on temporary duty.

RCAF Reveals CP-140 Aurora Upgrade

The Royal Canadian Air Force revealed the first flight mid-February of the upgraded CP-140 Aurora (serial 140108) as part of an initial flight test programme

The secretive Block IV-modified CP-140 made a test flight to verify the safety of the design for flight from Halifax to Greenwood (NS). The flight was carried out by a crew of the 14 Wing and was fully supported by the RCAF Aerospace Engineering Test Establishment (AETE).

The Block IV modifications - the last of the modernisation phases for the Aurora - include three major improvements; a beyond-line-of-sight (BLOS) satellite communication (SATCOM), a link 16 Datalink, and a self-defence system. The initial operational capability (IOC) for the Block IV is expected in June 2020, followed by a full operational capability (FOC) in September 2022.

The Aurora Incremental Modernisation Project (AIMP) started in June 2015 and involved 23 individual projects to acquire, integrate and install new mission systems and sensors onto the aircraft for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance. CP-140 104108 arrived for modification on 6 November 2017, while the actual work started on 10 October 2018. The integration testing of upgrades on this prototype aircraft began on 13 December 2018, and the ground test readiness review was conducted on 29 April 2019, clearing the way for the start of ground testing.

The modified aircraft are designated as CP-140M.

The RCAF operates a fleet of seventeen CP-140s in the primary airborne intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) role of which fourteen are expected to be modified. Canada has planned two upgrade programmes for its fleet, the aforementioned AIMP and the Aurora Structural Life Extension Project (ASLEP).

The latter is to increase the aircraft’s capability and operational life respectively.

Both AIMP and ASLEP will cost the Canadian taxpayer USD 1,983 billion and this will extend the operational life of the CP-140 Aurora fleet to 2030.

New B-21 image shows subtle changes from

                           B-2A design

The image is only the second depiction of the B-21 to be released by the USAF.

The rendering shows an aircraft that looks very similar to the Northrop Grumman B-2A. Both aircraft are flying wings, a shape that is inherently less observable with radar because it lacks 3-D features such as a vertical stabiliser to bounce back radar waves to an adversary.

However, the B-21 seems to have a sleeker profile compared to the B-2A. The aircraft doesn’t have the same engine shoulders that the B-2A had. Engine air inlets have been push forward near its nose and are only visible as small shallow triangular scoops on either side of the cockpit.

Engine fan blades and inlets are highly visible on radar. Reducing the exposure of those features could help the B-21 shrink its radar cross section.

The aircraft also has an extended beak nose in front of its cockpit, compared to the B-2A. Presumably, this hides the cockpit hump behind the underside of the aircraft, further reducing its cross section.

The B-21 cockpit also has only two window panes, compared to the B-2A’s four windows.

The new aircraft also appears slightly smaller, though it is difficult to size as there are no objects nearby in the image for comparison. It is also an artist rendering so it is not clear how closely the 3-D image represents the aircraft’s true scale. A smaller air-frame inherently has a smaller radar cross section than a larger one.

The stealth bomber may also have a lower radar cross section because of other design features.

For example, the first B-21 image released several years ago showed the flying wing had a simpler backside, with just six trailing edges versus 10 on the B-2A. Fewer trailing edges presumably also gives the aircraft a lower radar cross section as there are fewer surfaces to bounce back the radar in the direction of an adversary’s radar-guided surface-to-air missile battery.

What is left unseen by the latest artist rendering includes any new radar absorbent coating materials on the B-21 or any engine heat suppression technology. Hiding engine heat would help the aircraft avoid detection from infrared sensors. If those improvements in those areas are readily available, Northrop Grumman would likely incorporate the technology as well.

The first B-21 is being built at Air Force Plant 42 in Palmdale, California. The USAF plans to fly the aircraft for the first time in December 2021 about 22mi (35km) north across the Mojave Desert to its testing site at Edwards AFB.

Lockheed announces mega-contract for 50                       Super Hercules aircraft

Pentagon’s No.1 weapons supplier Lockheed Martin Corp announced on Monday that it will deliver 50 C-130J Super Hercules tactical airlifts to the U.S. government through a C-130J Multiyear III award, which was finalized by the U.S. government on Dec. 27, 2019.

The award comes as a delivery order under an existing Indefinite Delivery Indefinite Quantity contract awarded in August 2016.

The Department of Defence awarded more than $1.5 billion in funding for the first 21 C-130J aircraft on the multiyear award. The overall award, worth more than $3 billion, provides Super Hercules aircraft to the U.S. Air Force (24 HC/MC-130Js), Marine Corps (20 KC-130Js) and Coast Guard (options for six HC-130Js). Aircraft purchased through the C-130J Multiyear III award will deliver between 2021-2025, and will be built at Lockheed Martin’s Marietta, Georgia, facility

Alaskan Aggressors fly south for mobile training

354th Fighter Wing maintainers inspect a U.S. Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcon assigned to the 18th Aggressor Squadron on the flight line at Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska, Jan. 6, 2020. The Airmen operated in a windchill factor of minus 54 degrees to ensure the F-16s were ready to depart for Sentry Aloha 20-1. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Aaron Larue Guerrisky)

EIELSON AIR FORCE BASE, Alaska --

The 18th Aggressor Squadron departed Eielson this week to participate in exercise Sentry Aloha 20-1, which is scheduled to take place Jan. 8-22.

 

For more than 20 years, Sentry Aloha exercises have provided tailored, cost-effective and realistic combat training for the U.S. Air Force, Air National Guard and other military personnel. It provides U.S. warfighters with the skill sets necessary to perform homeland defence and overseas combat missions.

 

“Our very own 18th Aggressor Squadron has departed for this year’s mobile training across the Pacific,” said Col. Ben Bishop, 354th Fighter Wing commander. “These professionals will carry out our mission in the Pacific theatre and prepare our total force partners for 21st century combat.”

 

Sentry Aloha is the first stop of the year for the 18th AGRS Mobile Training Team. Their mission in the exercise is to replicate adversary tactics, techniques and procedures by creating a realistic combat scenario.

 

To support the exercise, 354th Maintenance Group professionals orchestrated a successful launch of F-16 Fighting Falcons in freezing temperatures, which reached negative 40 degrees Fahrenheit on the flight line.

 

Other participating units include KC-135 Stratotankers from the Wisconsin Air National Guard, F-15 Eagles from the 144th Fighter Squadron California Air National Guard and F-16 Fighting Falcons from the125th Fighter Squadron Oklahoma Air National Guard as well as E3 Sentry aircraft from Oklahoma. The visiting aircraft will take part in simulated combat exercises with the 199th and 19th Fighter Squadron’s F-22 Raptors.

Following Sentry Aloha, the 18th AGRS will fly to Anderson AFB, Guam, to train with other U.S. and international partners in exercise Cope North.

Hill’s 388th fighter wing conduct F-35A combat power exercise Elephant Walk 

HILL AIR FORCE BASE, Utah: The active duty 388th Fighter Wing and Reserve 419th FW conducted a combat power exercise here Jan. 6, launching 52 F-35A Lightning IIs in rapid succession. An "elephant walk" refers to the close formation of military aircraft before takeoff.

The fighter wings are home to 78 aircraft. As the Air Force’s only combat-capable F-35A units, the wings must be prepared to launch any number of aircraft to support the national defense mission at a moment’s notice. Last year, they began regularly supporting combat operations with the F-35A with consecutive deployments.

Currently, the wings fly 30-60 sorties per day from Hill’s flight line. During the exercise, Airmen launched roughly the same number of daily sorties, but they took off in quick intervals. 51 aircraft in 14 minutes

Launching aircraft from multiple squadrons simultaneously presents various challenges and allows the wings to evaluate the capabilities of maintenance professionals, as well as pilots and command and control teams.

The exercise was part of normal, scheduled training operations and not a response to any current events.

Ottawa advances FWSAR programme with C295 acceptance

Source: Airbus Defence & Space

Canada has formally taken receipt of its first C295 fixed-wing search and rescue (FWSAR) aircraft from Airbus Defence & Space, with the asset to be used in support of personnel training activities in Europe for the next several months.

Accepted at the manufacturer’s San Pablo site in Seville, Spain, the twin-turboprop is the first of an eventual 16 being acquired via Ottawa’s FWSAR programme.

Announcing the development on 20 December by Twitter, Airbus says that following additional testing and training the aircraft will be flown to its home base at Comox, British Columbia, “by mid-2020”.

The Royal Canadian Air Force will field the FWSAR-configuration aircraft – locally designated as the CC295 – as replacements for aged De Havilland Canada DHC-5s and Lockheed Martin C-130Hs flown during search and rescue operations.

Adaptations made for the Canadian programme have included installing Collins Aerospace Pro Line Fusion avionics, reinforcing the lower rear fuselage and adding an upper escape hatch for use in the event of ditching at sea, fully enclosing its main landing gear and incorporating vortex generators on the rear ramp.

Mission equipment includes a maritime search radar, turret-housed electro-optical/infrared sensor and enhanced vision system, plus two onboard operator stations, maritime automatic identification system equipment and large bubble observation windows.

The air force’s Comox base – which also will be home to a new FWSAR training centre – will eventually accommodate five CC295s. Three aircraft each will be stationed in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Trenton, Ontario, and Greenwood, Nova Scotia, with the remaining two airframes to be positioned as required to support operations.

Iran Iraq Conflict

Due to the escalation of tension in Iran and Iraq the reports of combat aircraft leaving the US into this area will not publish as this could cause a security issues 

US Defence Budget 2020

The Trump Administration’s 2020 Budget, and the Pentagon is asking for 17 more aircraft than it received in 2019. A quick tally of the aircraft shows the number of fighter jets and unmanned aerial vehicles the services are asking for is down slightly, while the number of helicopters is up. Also, the Air Force is purchasing eight new F-15s in a deal that smells fishy, given the Acting Secretary of Defence's work career.

The tally, shared on Twitter by Aviation Week & Space Technology defence editor Stephen Trimble, shows a slight increase of 17 aircraft year over year, from 362 authorized in 2019 to 379 proposed for 2020.

The aircraft are broken down into a number a categories as follows:

Fighters:

DoD wants 110 fighters in 2020, down from 117 in 2019. The Air Force is asking for 48 F-35As, down eight from 2019. The Marines want just 10 F-35Bs, less than half their 2019 purchase. Only the Navy is buying more F-35s, with the service requesting 20 of the carrier-capable F-35C model. The Navy is also buying 24 F/A-18E/F Super Hornets.

The real wild card here: the Air Force is asking for eight F-15EX fighters, part of a goal of buying 80 through 2024.

At the same time, the Air Force is asking for eight less F-35s. The service has said in the past it would not spend money on F-15s at the expense of the F-35 program, but that appears to be exactly what happened.

Other Aircraft:

The Air Force is asking for 12 KC-46A Pegasus tankers, three less than in 2019. The service will eventually order at least 179 of the aircraft, and at this rate, it’ll take about thirteen years to buy them all. It’s also asking for another squadron of 24 MQ-9A Reapers and a dozen HH-60W combat search and rescue helicopters.

The Navy and Marines

Are asking for three more KC-130J tankers, six more P-8A Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft, and two MQ-4C Triton long-range unmanned aerial vehicles. The service also wants to purchase 22 F-5 Tiger IIs, recently retired from the Swiss Air Force, to act as aggressor aircraft for the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps fighter pilots to train against.

Helicopters:

More than half of the Pentagon’s aircraft request for 2020 consists of helicopters, with the U.S. Army taking the lion’s share. The Army will request 48 AH-64 Apache helicopters remanufactured to the new AH-64E Apache Guardian standard, enough for two attack helicopter battalions. It’s also asking for 73 UH-60M Blackhawk transport helicopters, about 15 more than it got in 2019. Nine CH-47 Chinook heavy lift helicopters round out the Army’s request.

With a few exceptions, the rest of the helicopters go to the Marine Corps. The Marines are asking for six of the enormously expensive CH-53K King Stallion helicopter, ten MV-22 Ospreys, and six VH-92A helicopters, otherwise known as the new Marine One: the official vertical lift ride of the President of the United States.

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