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Volume 17 • Number 11
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VFA-101 ‘GRIM REAPERS’ CARRIER DEBUT
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November 2016 • Vol 17 • No 11
Lake provides expert analysis of the ‘clean-sheet’ Boeing 90 Jon T-X design that was unveiled in September
IN THE NEWS
TOPGUN OVER THE BALTIC
The Luftwaffe’s first Eurofighter Fighter Weapons Instructor Course was recently completed at Laage air base in northern Germany. Stefan Petersen was there to witness the action
06 Headline News
Two ‘clean-sheet’ T-X aircraft revealed, USAF names B-21 as the Raider, and new arms packages for the Middle East
10 US News
Every two years Australia’s Northern Territory plays host to the multi-national Exercise ‘Pitch Black’. Mike Yeo reports
Fuel line snag grounds F-35As, B-52H returns to the air, plus all the latest unit and deployment news
18 World News
‘HUNS’ ON THE RUN
News from Europe and around the globe including the first Japanese F-35A flight, plus all the latest military losses
Although overshadowed by the F-105 Thunderchief and F-4 Phantom II that eventually succeeded it, the F-100 Super Sabre proved to be a tough and versatile warrior over Vietnam. Warren E. Thompson recounts how it excelled in countless demanding close support and counter-insurgency missions
24 ‘GRIM REAPERS’ — BACK ON DECK
Gert Kromhout joins VFA-101 back on the carrier deck to qualify the first cadre of F-35C pilots
30 EYES IN THE SKIES
PART ONE: US Army Aerial Intelligence Evolution The US Army is consolidating several airborne intelligence capabilities that have been developed in support of combat operations over the past 15 years and is updating ‘legacy’ systems in support of its Aerial Layer 2020 Strategy, as Tom Kaminski details
42 DEFENDERS OF THE PACIFIC
The 18th Wing at Kadena Air Base, Japan, is home to two of the last three remaining active-duty US Air Force F-15C units. Jamie Hunter talks to the commanders of the 44th and 67th Fighter Squadrons, with exclusive images from Jim Haseltine
BRAZILIAN COMBAT AVIATION IN CRISIS?
FIGHTER FOR FINLAND
Rich Cooper describes the race to find Finland’s new fighter, as manufacturers vied for attention at the country’s Tour de Sky airshow in the bid to replace its F/A-18C/D Hornet fleet
With the Brazilian Air Force awaiting the Gripen, Santiago Rivas discovers how operational aircraft are seeing upgrade programs reduced in scope
52 THAT OTHERS MAY LIVE
As the US Air Force puts its new Boeing KC-46 Pegasus tanker onto a production footing, Rob Coppinger takes a timely look at the current USAF tanker force and future plans
96 CUTTING EDGE
Combat Aircraft’s monthly column reporting from the front line of aerospace technology, by David Axe
SUPER SABRES IN VIETNAM AMERICA’S BEST-SEL LING MILITARY
REVEALED! Boeing’s T-X in detail
ON THE COVER:
An exclusive image of the new Boeing T-X training aircraft, built especially for the USAF competition to replace the T-38 Talon. Boeing
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COMBAT EDGE | FIND US ON A KC-135R tops up a thirsty F-22A Raptor off the coast of Virginia in September. No other air force has a tanker fleet as big as that of the USAF. This poses a huge problem when it comes to replacing the fleet of KC-135s and KC-10s, but the process is now in train thanks to the KC-46. Jamie Hunter
CONTRIBUTOR PROFILE THOMAS J. KAMINSKI
om Kaminski is the North American news editor of Combat Aircraft and has been a member of the magazine’s publication team since the first issue was published in 1997. Growing up in the ‘Cradle of Aviation’ on Long Island, New York, he has been around airplanes for most of his 54 years. Despite his dad’s early protests, Tom stepped into the aerospace business in 1977. Initially working in the general and corporate aviation segments, Tom
went to work for Fairchild Republic as a field service engineer on the A-10 program, where his involvement in military aviation and photography began. He later spent nearly 15 years with Grumman Aerospace and Northrop Grumman, where he worked on the F-14 and flight trainer programs as a specifications engineer and technical writer, before joining Honeywell International. Today he is a technical writer in Honeywell’s Security and Communications division.
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HILE WE HEAR regularly about the age of the US Air Force fighter fleet, we often overlook the fact that the KC-135 Stratotanker just turned 60. The tankers are undoubtedly the unsung heroes of the Air Force. According to current figures, Air Mobility Command manages an inventory of 414 Stratotankers. These aircraft are old, but structurally sound. The size of the USAF poses a regular problem for its leadership: recapitalizing such weighty fleets places a huge strain on the finances of the world’s largest air arm. The Boeing KC-46A Pegasus is but a sticking plaster on the tanker fleet’s ills. The KC-X program was only ever an initial phase to replace a portion of the KC-135s, and just 179 of these new aircraft are currently planned. Even when the last of these new, 767-based tankers is delivered there will still be a huge remaining ‘legacy’ fleet. The intended KC-10 avionics upgrade has been shelved and this fleet looks vulnerable for retirement. So, the head of Air Mobility Command, Gen Carlton Everhart, is dipping into the acquisition minefield as he talks of a new technology study for a much more advanced KC-Z. Everhart wants to sidestep any talk of a competition for the follow-on KC-Y project and simply tack on additional KC-46s over and above the 179 planned under the KC-X program. This shoots down any hopes of the A330 Multi-Role Tanker Transport re-entering the fray despite its
international popularity. ‘The KC-Y is the KC-46’, Everhart said. Speaking at a press briefing in September, the AMC chief set his sights on the more radical KC-Z in the 2035 timeframe, with KC-Y simply running on from KC-X. ‘I want to jump the leap in technology to go straight to the KC-Z’, he said. He talked of penetrating capabilities for the next generation of tanker aircraft that could embrace a blended wing configuration for low-observable traits — stealth and range are on the ‘want’ list. Gen Everhart’s strategy falls neatly into line with the high-end fight the USAF is so focused upon — the stealthy F-35 Lightning II, the forthcoming B-21 Raider, and now talk of a brand-new Penetrating Counter Air (PCA) fighter to shadow the B-21. KC-Z is clearly Gen Everhart’s plan for keeping these advanced offensive platforms in the fight because, as we know, ‘nobody kicks ass without tanker gas.’ To keep track of the latest breaking news and analysis in the world of military air power you can visit our social media sites and our website: www.combataircraft.net You can also sign up for our free e-mail newsletter by going to www.combataircraft.net to register.
Jamie Hunter, Editor E-mail: email@example.com
‘CLEAN-SHEET’ T-X AIRCRAFT BREAK COVER BOEING AND NORTHROP GRUMMAN AIRCRAFT REVEALED
OEING AND ITS
partner Saab revealed their contender for the US Air Force Advanced Pilot Training (APT) competition — more commonly known as T-X — on September 13. The roll-out came less than a month after Northrop Grumman’s ‘cleansheet’ T-X aircraft broke cover in the form of a series of unofficial images that appeared on social media on August 19. As we went to press, Northrop Grumman had still not officially commented on the images or the status of its aircraft. The Northrop Grumman prototype made its first flight at the Mojave Air and Space Port in California on August 26. During the two-hour test flight, the aircraft underwent a series of basic handling and systems tests while it flew a series of racetrack
patterns over the northern Mojave Desert. T-X is aimed at replacing the US Air Force’s 431 Northrop T-38 Talons, which have been in service since the early 1960s. The competition will issue a contract for 351 aircraft — five for the developmental test program and 346 production aircraft — valued at roughly $11 billion, and there is potential for hundreds of foreign sales. The Boeing/Saab aircraft will go up against three other offerings from teams of manufacturers: Lockheed Martin/Korea Aerospace Industry’s T-50A Golden Eagle, Northrop Grumman’s Model 400, and Raytheon/Leonardo’s T-100. The T-50A is based on the South Korean FA-50 light combat aircraft, which has been in service with the Republic of Korea Air Force (RoKAF) since 2005, while the T-100 is an
advanced variant of the popular Italian M-346 Master. The Boeing/Saab team’s ‘cleansheet’ design, internally known as the BTX-1, has been designed from the outset to be cost-effective and to meet all T-X program requirements, according to the US manufacturer. Those in attendance at the roll-out event were surprised to learn that Boeing/Saab has built two aircraft — T1 and T2, registrations N381TX and N382TX respectively — which Boeing says are ‘not prototypes, but production aircraft.’ Leanne Caret, Boeing Defense, Space and Security president and CEO, said the aircraft is ‘real, ready, and the right choice for training pilots for generations to come.’ The Boeing/Saab offering features a twin-tail design, a large cockpit with what appears to have excellent visibility (dubbed ‘stadium seating’
by Boeing), plus a leading-edge root extension (LERX) similar to that found on the F/A-18 Hornet family. Boeing’s T-X has a single engine, the General Electric F404 afterburning turbofan used in the Hornet. Boeing says the aircraft’s ‘fighter-like design’ and performance with the twin-tail design will ‘provide excellent control, inherent speed break functionality, and safer air refueling’. Darryl Davis, president of Boeing’s Phantom Works, said the aircraft was designed to meet all program requirements, and noted that it will offer high angle-of-attack (AoA) and high-g performance. ‘We can hit every one of the requirements’, Davis says. Boeing further stressed that the cockpit design offers ideal instructor positioning and visibility, both for flight instruction and advanced visual air combat training. The Boeing T-X aircraft utilizes a modern, fighter-like cockpit with a reconfigurable large-area display (LAD) that mimics those found in the F-22 — although not a LAD — and F-35. Part of this, Davis said, was to allow the students to experience the level of avionics management and sensor integration required of current fifth-generation aircraft. The Boeing T-X is compatible with night
Boeing’s T-X was rolled out in St Louis, Missouri, on September 13. Boeing
HEADLINES [NEWS] Known as the Model 400, Northrop Grumman’s T-X aircraft was photographed on August 19 at Mojave Airport, California, during what was reportedly a high-speed taxi trial. The aircraft, registered N400NT, was manufactured by NGC’s Scaled Composites subsidiary at Mojave, and according to the FAA registry it is powered by a single F404-GE-102D turbofan engine. Reproduced from Twitter with permission
vision goggles, something that the T-38 lacks.
Through-life costs and maturity Boeing stressed the aircraft’s maintenance-friendly design, noting that the aircraft has high wings and easy-access panels, and is built with fewer and more common fasteners. All major access panels can be reached from a standing position. The aircraft is designed around common USAF ground equipment
and uses established suppliers to better streamline logistic chains. Davis noted that the design’s height is such that it fits within current USAF storage structures and will not, unlike other T-X offerings, require any reconfiguration. Boeing’s ‘clean-sheet’ approach has allowed it to use the latest technology, tools and manufacturing techniques, which creates ‘a more affordable and flexible option than older, existing aircraft’, Davis told reporters. He added that production
will take advantage of 3D additive production techniques and pointed to physical examples of various parts constructed for the aircraft’s environmental control system (ECS) as examples. Davis went on to say that the company hopes to eventually use 3D printing for some metalized parts as well. Boeing’s offering is characterized by an emphasis on cost savings — something it will no doubt have worked on with Saab. In fact, dipping into some of the Swedish manufacturer’s recent rhetoric, Davis said: ‘We’re going to shatter the cost curve.’ Speaking on what they feel sets the Boeing T-X program apart from the others, Davis says: ‘I think the most important thing we did here is we started with a clean sheet of paper and the USAF Advanced Pilot Training threshold requirements — that was the breakthrough. It allowed us to bring all of the innovation we’ve been working on for decades in the Boeing Company together into this design. From advanced digital design process and tools to advanced manufacturing and advanced assembly techniques, all the way to advanced groundbased training systems.’ As an example, T-X program manager Ted Torgerson noted that the cockpit canopy, which typically takes six weeks to build, now takes just eight days. Torgerson attributed this revolution to the use of adhesives and injection molding. Davis says the Boeing T-X is provisioned for an internal in-flight refueling capability and that it has a centerline hardpoint for carrying
instrumentation pods. Although not called for by the T-X requirements, Davis said that the wings are designed so that wing stations can be added if needed. The Boeing/Saab offering is not simply an aircraft, but a larger system that includes the trainer aircraft and a ground-based training and support program that provides ‘real as it gets’ simulation, interactive classroom lessons, computer-based training modules, adaptive training that adjusts to students’ needs, and a complete suite of instructor tools. Davis said the aircraft’s first flight will take place sometime before the end of this year. It will undergo an abbreviated flight test in St Louis to validate the modeling data and demonstrate that the design meets all key performance parameters (KPPs) and key system attributes (KSAs). The second airframe, T-2, was to begin structural proof tests ‘in the next few weeks’. While engineering, manufacturing and development (EMD) work will take place in St Louis, Davis said the company was still evaluating the most cost-effective location at which to base production. Of the four T-X contenders, only Northrop Grumman and Boeing/Saab are offering ‘clean-sheet’ designs. The Air Force will issue its formal request for proposals (RFP) later this year or in early 2017, followed by a year-long down-select process and a decision in fall 2017. T-X initial operating capability is currently set for Fiscal Year (FY) 2024, with final deliveries of the planned 351 aircraft ending in FY 2032 to 2034. Brad Elward
B-21 RAIDER NEW BOMBER NAMED
HE SECRETARY OF the Air Force,
Deborah Lee James, confirmed on September 19 that the service’s new B-21 bomber had been given the name Raider. The name is intended
to honor the ‘Doolittle Raiders’ that carried out a surprise attack against Japan during WW2. The name was revealed by Lt Col Richard E. Cole (USAF ret’d) at the opening of the Air Force Association’s Air, Space and Cyber Conference in Washington. One of the last surviving ‘Doolittle
The B-21 Raider has been in full development since February’s decision to overturn a Boeing protest on the contract award to Northrop Grumman. USAF
Raiders’, Lt Col Cole served as the co-pilot in the lead aircraft during the raid, which was launched from the deck of the US Navy aircraft carrier USS Hornet (CV 8) on April 18, 1942. Secretary James and Air Force Chief of Staff Gen Dave Goldfein selected the name following a review of more than 4,600 submissions. The Raider name was suggested in a contest by both Lt Col Jaime Hernandez, commander of the 337th Test and Evaluation Squadron at Dyess Air Force Base, Texas, and TSgt Derek White of the 175th Civil Engineering Squadron, Maryland Air National Guard. Secretary James, saying this was possibly her last keynote address, noted her efforts to increase USAF strength and keep its largest modernization programs — the B-21, F-35 and KC-46 tanker — on track. James said it’s a near-certainty that there will be a continuing resolution on the Fiscal Year 2017 budget, which will hurt USAF efforts on all its modernization programs. She urged
ISRAELI EAGLE DELIVERIES
MORE MIDDLE EAST DEALS EXPECTED HE UNITED STATES has begun
deliveries to Israel of former US Air Force F-15D Eagles. The development came in the wake of Washington signing off the largest military aid package in US history. The USAF has confirmed that it is to transfer 10 two-seat F-15Ds, eight of which were seen during a stop-over at RAF Lakenheath, United Kingdom, on September 14. The aircraft — serials
78-0561, 78-0563, 78-0572, 78-0573, 79-0008, 80-0055, 80-0057 and 81-0065 — are all former mounts of the 114th Fighter Squadron, 173rd Fighter Wing of the Oregon Air National Guard, based at Klamath Falls. They arrived in the UK using ‘Retro’ call signs. As well as the 10 F-15s, supplied to Israel as excess defense articles, the $38-billion arms package includes ‘several’ more C-130s, AGM-114 Hellfire air-to-ground missiles and Joint Direct Attack
Munitions (JDAMs). While $33 billion is provided in the form of Foreign Military Financing (FMF) funds, another $5 billion is allocated for missile defense. According to US National Security Advisor Susan Rice, ‘This additional funding will allow Israel to update the lion’s share of its fighter aircraft fleet, including the acquisition of additional F-35s and F-15s.’ The US and Israel signing off on the latest military aid package could pave the way for the
Congress to act before the end of December to approve the budget so as to inflict the least damage on those programs. The new bomber, which is expected to enter service around 2025, is now under full-scale development by Northrop Grumman. Randall Warren, head of the USAF’s Rapid Capabilities Office, said he is optimistic that the B-21 will be on time and below budget because ‘we started with a good baseline, with achievable requirements’. He also predicted that the USAF will beat the $550-million projected unit cost. The aircraft is, however, expected to remain in the shadows in order to ‘protect’ its technology. Air Force Global Strike Command chief Gen Robin Rand said that the official number of aircraft to be procured will not be made official for some time, but he said he expects the 80-100 number to increase, noting the operational tempo of the existing fleet of 160 strategic bombers.
finalization of long-awaited fighter sales to Kuwait and Qatar. In early September it was reported that the US was close to approving sales of Boeing fighters worth $7 billion to the two Gulf states. The deals had been held up by the US government due to Israeli concerns and in order to smooth the way for nuclear talks with Iran. The Pentagon and the State Department have been considering the sale of 36 F-15s to Qatar, valued at around $4 billion. Sources indicate that Qatar could have an ultimate requirement for 72 new fighters, and may well opt for a three-way split buy between the F-15, Dassault Rafale (24 already ordered) and Eurofighter Typhoon. Meanwhile, Kuwait has been lined up to receive 28 F/A‑18E/F Super Hornets, plus options for 12 more, worth around $3 billion. Thomas Newdick
ALSO THIS MONTH... The Israel-bound F-15Ds arrived at RAF Lakenheath on September 14, from WestfieldBarnes Regional Airport, Massachusetts. They departed for Tel Nof air base, Israel the following day. Samuel Pilcher
F-35s grounded USAF halts flying at key squadrons. See US News Japanese Lightning II flight test AX-01 gets airborne. See World News
[NEWS] UNITED STATES A VX-9 F-35C (BuNo 168735/ CF‑08) drops a GBU-31(V)2 JDAM on the China Lake Weapon Impact Range during surge testing in July. Lockheed Martin
F-35B BuNo 168313 fires an AIM-120 Advanced MediumRange Air-to-Air Missile (AMRAAM) above the US Navy’s Pacific Sea Test Range near Point Mugu, California, on July 23. Lockheed Martin/ Darin Russell
USAF GROUNDS F-35As DEFECTS FOUND IN 15 AIRCRAFT • VMX-1 TESTING RAMPS UP
HE US AIR Force was forced to ground 15 F-35As, including 10 operational jets, starting September 16 due to a problem in the aircraft’s avionics fuel cooling lines. The problem also applies to 42 aircraft on the production line at Fort Worth, Texas. Among the grounded aircraft were 10 examples from the
newly declared initial operational squadron at Hill Air Force Base, Utah, plus two Royal Norwegian Air Force jets at Luke AFB, Arizona. The problem of crumbling insulation in coolant lines that run through the fuel tanks, which can cause contamination, was uncovered by the Ogden Air Logistics Center during depot maintenance. Lockheed Martin has dispatched field teams to
determine whether the aircraft can be flown for further depot maintenance to correct the issue, which comes from incorrect installation by the sub-contractor and only affects certain airframes. Lockheed Martin delivered the 100th operational F-35A to the 56th Fighter Wing at Luke on August 26 when serial 14-5099 (AF-100) arrived. Luke received its first F-35A in March 2014 and now hosts more
than 40 Lightning IIs including those of partner nations Australia, Norway and Italy. On a more positive note, recent testing has continued at a pace. Marine Operational Test and Evaluation Squadron (VMX) 1 and the F-35 Joint Operational Test Team (JOTT) deployed three F-35Bs from Edwards AFB, California, to Eglin AFB, Florida, for AIM-120 AMRAAM testing
REAPER BED-DOWN OPTIONS ANNOUNCED
‘RED FLAG ALASKA 16-3’
The latest ‘Red Flag Alaska’ exercise was held at Eielson Air Force Base between August 4-19. Participating aircraft included 35th Fighter Squadron (FS) F-16Cs from Kunsan Air Base, South Korea, 13th FS F-16Cs from Misawa AB, Japan, and 336th FS F-15Es from Seymour Johnson AFB, North Carolina, as shown here. Dave Chng
THE US AIR Force released the list of candidate bases for two new MQ-9 Reaper operating locations on September 8. Potential host bases that could support a full wing comprising 24 aircraft, a launch and recovery element (LRE) and a mission support element, as well as a maintenance group and operations support airmen include Eglin Air Force Base, Florida; Tyndall AFB, Florida; Vandenberg AFB, California; and Shaw AFB, South Carolina. Additionally, the
service selected Davis-Monthan AFB, Arizona; Moody AFB, Georgia; Mountain Home AFB, Idaho; Offutt AFB, Nebraska and Shaw AFB as potential locations for an operations group with mission control elements but no aircraft. Each of the sites already supports an active-duty flying wing, a group that performs at least one core remotely piloted aircraft (RPA) mission, or is co-located with an active-duty distributed ground system. Before selecting a
UNITED STATES [NEWS]
Departing Fort Worth, Texas, on September 19 following a ‘gas and go’ en route home from Tyndall AFB after the squadron’s first F-35 WSEP (Weapons System Evaluation Program) is the relatively colorful flagship of VMFA-211 ‘Avengers’, F-35B BuNo 168732/CF-01. Carl Richards
from August 9 to September 1. Testing was intended to evaluate operational employment scenarios and validate and develop tactics, techniques, and procedures for all three variants of the Lightning II. During testing the detachment completed multiple engineering flights before expending five AMRAAMs and a single GBU-12 laserguided bomb (LGB). On one mission an F-35B pilot engaged a target with a GBU-12 while simultaneously engaging a QF-16 drone with an AIM‑120. The F-35 Integrated Test Force recently completed a series of weapons evaluations that comprised
preferred alternative, Air Combat Command will perform site surveys at the eight bases. The USAF continues to expand its Reaper fleet as part of a plan to retire the less capable MQ-1B Predator by 2018. The USAF is seeking $3 billion over five years to increase its RPA fleet, with plans to add 17 additional squadrons. In related news, the 432nd Attack Squadron (ATKS), which is located at Ellsworth AFB, South Dakota, was re-designated as the 89th ATKS on June 21. The squadron is assigned to the 432nd Wing’s 432nd Operations Group as a geographically separated unit.
12 weapons delivery accuracy and 13 separation tests using Block 3F software. Testing was carried out over a 31-day period. Five of the test events used multiple weapons, and testing involved 30 munitions, including Joint Direct Attack Munitions (JDAMs), 250lb (113kg) GBU-39 Small Diameter Bombs, laser/GPS-guided bombs, AIM‑9X and AMRAAMs. Other recent and upcoming test events include VMX-1 supporting Naval Integrated Fire Control — Counter Air (NIFC-CA) testing (see also our ‘Cutting Edge’ column), and developmental test III (DT-III) aboard the amphibious assault ship USS America (LHA 6) in October.
The F-35B is scheduled to make its first shipboard deployments aboard the USS Wasp (LHD 1) and the USS Essex (LHD 2) in 2018. The Essex is currently in mid-life maintenance and will receive F-35B-specific updates. It is scheduled to deploy with Marine Fighter Attack Squadron (VMFA) 121 ‘Green Knights’ from Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Japan, next year. DT-III for the F-35B follows DT-III for the F-35C, which was finished on September 1 with Air Test and Evaluation Squadron (VX) 23 ‘Salty Dogs’ completing 100 per cent of the required test points during 41 flights. Pilots logged 39.7 flight hours, 121 catapult launches, 70 touch-and-go
landings, 121 arrested landings and one bolter. The testing saw the F-35C carry out its heaviest catapult launch with a 5,000lb load that included a single 1,000lb (454kg) GBU-31 JDAM, four 500lb (227kg) GBU-12 LGBs, two AIM-120 air-to-air missiles and a 25mm gun pod. The US Navy has confirmed that VFA-147 ‘Argonauts’ will be the first operational squadron to transition to the F-35C. The process will begin in 2018 and VFA-147 will make its first Lightning II deployment from NAS Lemoore, California in 2020. Marine squadron VMFA-314 will be the second operational unit to convert, in 2019.
UNMANNED UPDATE General Atomics has received a $370.9-million contract from the US Air Force that covers the production and delivery of 30 MQ-9A remotely piloted aircraft. The USAF currently plans to acquire 75 additional Reapers and will activate two new operating bases. Deliveries are expected to be completed by May 31, 2019. General Atomics Aeronautical Systems also received a $25.3-million contract modification from US Army Contracting Command covering the acquisition of four MQ-1C Gray Eagle unmanned aircraft systems and four satellite air data terminals.
The wartime replacement aircraft (WRA) are included as part of the Gray Eagle full-rate production contract. Delivery should occur by December 30, 2017. Elsewhere, the US Navy’s Northrop Grumman MQ-4C unmanned maritime surveillance aircraft received its Milestone C approval on August 22, meaning that the Triton can now enter low-rate initial production. Receipt of the final acquisition decision memorandum will allow the Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) to move forward with plans to procure 66 production MQ-4Cs and to formally establish the first
Triton unit. Unmanned Patrol Squadron (VUP) 19 was planned to be activated at Naval Air Station Jacksonville, Florida, in October. Known as ‘Big Red’, VUP-19 will conduct its first operational deployment in 2018 on current plans. Northrop Grumman initially produced two MQ-4C prototypes and the Navy subsequently purchased two additional system development and test articles (SDTAs). Under current plans, the Navy intends to buy Tritons at a rate of two to three aircraft annually until the end of Fiscal Year 2019 before ramping up to five in 2020 and six in 2021.
[NEWS] UNITED STATES
FINAL UNMANNED PHANTOM MISSION
QF-4E serial 72-0166 arrives at Holloman AFB, New Mexico, at the conclusion of its final unmanned flight on August 17. The sortie was in support of F-35 testing. USAF/A1C Randahl J. Jenson
QF-4Es WIND UP OPERATIONS AT HOLLOMAN AFB
GROB G120s FOR US ARMY FIXED-WING FLIGHT TRAINING CAE USA RECENTLY took delivery of the initial batch of three Grob G120TPs that will be used as part of the US Army Fixed-Wing Flight Training program. The aircraft, which arrived at Dothan Regional Airport, Alabama, in late July, are initially being used to train CAE instructor pilots. Training is expected to begin at the contractor’s newly constructed Dothan Training Center by March 2017. The state-of-the-art complex will train more than 450 US Army fixed-wing aviators annually,
and will provide training for US Air Force C-12 aircrew. CAE was selected in June 2014 and received a seven-year contract that includes one base year and six one-year options that run until the end of March 2024. The program will provide all training required to instruct experienced Army rotary-wing aviators to operate the service’s fleet of more than 350 fixed-wing aircraft. The Army and CAE are also developing a new initial-entry fixed-
wing (IEFW) training program that will allow entry-level students to fly fixed-wing aircraft. Additionally, the Army Fixed-Wing Flight Training program will serve as the formal training unit for Army C-12/RC-12 recurrent training, and annual training for USAF C-12 pilots. It will provide live-flying training using six company-operated Grob G120TPs, as well as two CAE-designed G120TP integrated procedures trainers and a suite of desktop trainers and courseware that will support the training program. CAE instructors will operate 10 C-12s that are owned and maintained by the US Army to perform live-flying King Air training.
C-146A Wolfhound serial N645HM passed through RAF Mildenhall, United Kingdom, on August 22, for a brief fuel stop while returning to the US. The aircraft has previously been noted carrying the ‘Gorgon Stare’ widearea surveillance system and is used to support US Air Force special operations with the 645th Aeronautical Engineering Group. David Skeggs
The Dothan Training Center will feature two CAE 7000XR Series C-12 King Air full-flight simulators (FFSs) and two reconfigurable CAE C-12 integrated procedures trainers (IPTs). Two additional 7000XR Series FFSs will feature a roll-on/roll-off (RORO) cockpit design that will be reconfigurable to represent various configurations of the C-12 that are used by the Army and USAF. The Army had originally expected training to begin under this program in June 2016 but Flight Safety, which had supported the Army flight training program for the past 30 years, protested its contract award to CAE.
OR THE LAST time, an unmanned US Air Force McDonnell Douglas QF-4 Phantom II has flown a mission as a full-scale aerial target (FSAT). Operating as a target drone, the Phantom was taking part in the F-35 Lightning II program over New Mexico’s White Sands Missile Range on August 17. The historic mission was announced by the Air Force on August 29. During the August 17 sortie, the unmanned Phantom (serial 72-0166) was shot at by an F-35 flying from Edwards Air Force Base, California. A photo release showed the QF-4 returning to Holloman AFB, New Mexico, unharmed. ‘Our mission is to provide those airplanes as targets for our Department of Defense and foreign military sales customers to test the next generation of weapons’, said Lt Col Ronald ‘Elvis’ King, the 82nd Aerial Targets Squadron
CONSTANT PHOENIX DEPLOYED TO KOREAN PENINSULA THE US AIR Force has tasked a WC-135 atmospheric test aircraft to confirm North Korea’s claim that it detonated an atomic weapon in an underground test on September 9. North Korea’s 10-kiloton explosion produced a 5.3-magnitude earthquake at the Punggye-ri nuclear site. Known as Constant Phoenix, the modified Stratolifter collected atmospheric samples around the Korean peninsula to test for radiation particles that would confirm if a nuclear device had actually been detonated. The 55th Wing’s 45th Reconnaissance Squadron at Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska, operates two WC-135Cs and one of the aircraft had already been deployed to Kadena Air Base, Okinawa, Japan, at the time of the North Korean test. The aircraft was similarly deployed following Pyongyang’s fourth nuclear test in January 2016.
UNITED STATES [NEWS] (ATRS), Detachment 1 commander. ‘Sometimes, that is a missile, sometimes a surface-to-air missile. For the final unmanned flight, we flew in support of an F-35 mission.’ Retirement of the unmanned QF-4 is part of the USAF’s transition to the new QF-16. Boeing has been contracted to convert 126 F-16 Fighting Falcon airframes into QF‑16s for use by the 82nd ATRS over the coming years. However, the Phantoms will continue to fly manned sorties until the end of December. The move will bring the illustrious US military career of the F-4 to a close after almost six decades. While the QF-4 is now based exclusively out of Holloman, the 82nd ATRS has been flying QF-16s at Tyndall AFB, Florida, since September 2014. ‘The aging fleet of QF-4s and their limited capabilities against modern fighters have rendered the aerial target workhorse, [the] Phantom II, at its technological limit’, said Lt Col
Ryan Inman, the former 82nd ATRS commander. ‘The QF-16 initiates the next chapter in advanced aerial targets, predominately in support of more technologically superior airto-air weapons test and evaluation programs. The QF-16 will enable our leaner and more efficient Air Force to continue operations at maximum mission effectiveness while maintaining air superiority and global reach for decades to come.’ BAE Systems converted a total of 314 Phantoms into full-scale target drones at Mojave, California. The aircraft were used to fly target profiles and mimic enemy fighters — both manned and, eventually, unmanned when it was time for them to meet their fate in a live missile shot. Initially the FSAT role favored QF-4Gs, which were last in and first out of storage at the Aircraft Maintenance and Regeneration Group (AMARG) at Davis-Monthan AFB, Arizona. The program then
moved toward the QF-4E before finally transitioning to the QRF-4C from 2008. BAE Systems delivered the last QF-4 to the USAF in November 2013. ‘The QF-4 has been flying for about 15 years, and it has been instrumental in testing nextgeneration weapons and radar systems’, noted Lt Col King. On June 3, 2015, King flew solo for the first time in the QF-4, making him the last pilot in the USAF who will ever learn to fly the Phantom. ‘It’s certainly bittersweet’, King reflected. ‘The F-4 served faithfully in Vietnam and as late as the Gulf War. So, for it to be pulled out of the boneyard to continue serving its country is a testament to this airplane — to the designers, the test pilots who first flew it, to the maintainers who’ve worked on it all these years. What a testament to what they’ve been able to do, and what a great airplane it was.’ Thomas Newdick
IN BRIEF King Stallion milestone The fourth YCH-53K (EDM-4) produced as part of engineering and manufacturing development carried out its first flight at Sikorsky Aircraft’s West Palm Beach, Florida, flight test center on August 31. Production continues on two system demonstration test articles, and SDTA-5 and SDTA-6 will be delivered in 2019-20. The latter pair of King Stallions will support operational flight evaluations. The Marine Corps expects the heavylift helicopter to enter low-rate production in early 2017. ‘Huey’ replacement moves forward The US Air Force issued an updated request for information associated with its UH-1N replacement program on September 9. It also released an air vehicle system requirements document (SRD) for industry review. The service plans to purchase 84 nondevelopmental, ‘off-the-shelf’ production helicopters and will award a low-rate initial production
13 contract in early Fiscal Year 2018. The first new helicopters will be delivered no later than 12 months after the award. The project is being managed by the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center’s (AFLCMC), ISR & SOF Directorate, Combat Rescue Helicopter Division at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio. CBP accepts final upgraded Orion Lockheed Martin completed upgrades on the last of 14 P-3Bs for the US Customs and Border Protection’s (CBP) Air and Marine Operations (AMO) on August 23. The Orion was subsequently delivered to the National Air Security Operations Center (NASOC) at Naval Air Station Corpus Christi, Texas. The upgrade of CBP’s Orion fleet was carried out as part of the organization’s Strategic Air and Marine Plan. The service life extension plan (SLEP) overhaul began as a result of a detailed analysis of the P-3 fleet in 2006 which determined
that the long-range tracker (LRT) aircraft had less than eight years of remaining service life and the airborne early warning models less than three years. The SLEP provided each airframe with new wings, tail and other structural components. The final P-3B LRT was one of two that underwent extensive modifications after being removed from storage at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Arizona, and flown to Lockheed Martin’s Greenville, South Carolina, facility, in 2013. AMO’s P-3s are tasked with counter-narcotic missions operating in co-ordination with the Joint Interagency Task Force — South (JIATF-S) by patrolling a 42-million-square-mile source and transit zone that covers the Pacific Ocean, Gulf of Mexico, Caribbean Sea, and seaboard approaches to the United States. During Fiscal Year 2015, AMO P-3 aircrews contributed to 198 seizure, disruption, or interdiction events, resulting in the interdiction of 206,500lb (93,667kg) of cocaine.
[NEWS] UNITED STATES
IN THE ‘BUFF’ GHOSTRIDER RETURNS TO FLIGHT
B-52H serial 61-0007 Ghostrider made its first test flight on August 30 after undergoing a complete overhaul at the Oklahoma City Air Logistics Complex, located at Tinker Air Force Base, Oklahoma.
COMBAT OPERATIONS FOCUS 14
US AIR FORCE F-22A Raptors deployed to the US Central Command (CENTCOM) theater were scrambled for a possible intercept when two Syrian Arab Air Force Sukhoi Su-24s struck targets in the vicinity of US special forces that were conducting operations near the near the city of Hasakah on August 18. The ‘Fencers’ delivered unguided munitions against targets in a Kurdish-held area of north-eastern Syria, where US personnel were conducting training with Kurdish fighters. While the US fighters did not intercept the Syrian aircraft, they did respond to the area and were prepared to take action. Although Syria was warned not to fly or conduct air strikes in the area where American troops are operating, a second incident occurred on August 19. In this, the Syrian Su-24s were tracked in a similar area. Two Raptors on a pre-planned strike mission were re-tasked to intercept the Su-24s and investigate. Speaking on September 20, Gen ‘Hawk’ Carlisle, commander of Air Combat Command said: ‘they intercepted the two Su-24s, and then requested to close in [on them] to check if they were carrying ordnance. The Raptors get in to within 2,000ft, and they
are clean; the [Su-24s] are doing loops. They don’t even know they’re being shadowed. [The Raptors] went back to the primary mission, a strike mission on a target on the Syrian-Turkish border. They get fast and high and sling their SDBs [Small Diameter Bombs] 40-50 miles; six targets, six direct hits with a level of precision you can’t believe.’ Along with the current ‘Inherent Response’ mission in Iraq and Syria, July marked the first full month in which US aircraft were cleared to target the Taliban in Afghanistan. That authority resulted in the busiest month of the past year. US aircraft dropped 130 bombs in Afghanistan in July. In the early part of the month, most of the air strikes focused on the Kunduz region, and after that calmed down there was increased fighting in Helmand Province. B-52Hs struck targets in Afghanistan during August. The bombers conducted two strikes and delivered 27 weapons in support of counter-terrorism operations for the first time since arriving at al Udeid Air Base, Qatar, in April. Prior to this the B-52H detachment at Al Udeid had flown nearly 270 sorties and delivered in excess of 1,300 weapons during more than 325 strikes in support of Operation ‘Inherent Resolve’ in Syria and Iraq.
-52H SERIAL 61-0007
completed its first flight after undergoing programmed depot maintenance and receiving multiple modifications that were carried out by the Oklahoma City Air Logistics Complex at Tinker Air Force Base, Oklahoma, on August 30. The Stratofortress, which previously carried the nickname Ghostrider, was flown to Tinker in late 2015 after being removed from storage with the 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group at Davis-Monthan AFB, Arizona. The bomber had spent eight years in desert storage at the Tucson base and was regenerated to replace another B-52H that was severely damaged by fire in 2014. It will be delivered to an operational squadron at Minot AFB, North Dakota.
September’s Exercise ‘Ample Strike 16’, led by the Czech Republic, saw US Air Force participation flying out of RAF Fairford, United Kingdom, in the shape of two B-1Bs of the 7th Bomb Wing from Dyess Air Force Base, Texas (serials 85-0089 and 86-0127) and a single B-52H of the 307th BW, Air Force Reserve Command (serial 60-0038) from Barksdale AFB, Louisiana. Here, B-1B 85-0089 gets airborne from Fairford using the call sign ‘Crook 01’. Darren Willmin/Aviation In Action
SHOW OF FORCE
A B-1B deployed in support of the US Pacific Command’s Continuous Bomber Presence performs a flypast over Osan Air Base, Korea, on September 13, flanked by F-16Cs of the 51st Fighter Wing. USAF/SrA Dillian Bamman
UNITED STATES [NEWS]
KC-46A PRODUCTION CONTRACT
ON AUGUST 18, just days after the KC-46A received Defense Acquisition Board Milestone C approval to enter low-rate initial production, Boeing received a $2.8-billion contract from the US Air Force. The effort includes the initial two production lots of seven and 12 tankers. Boeing received an initial contract to develop its 767-2C into a multi-role tanker cargo aircraft in 2011. To date, four prototype aircraft have completed more than 1,000 flight hours. In addition to its aerial refueling mission, the KC-46A will be capable of carrying passengers, cargo and operating in the aeromedical airlift role. Boeing is assembling KC-46s at its Everett,
Washington, facility and will begin delivering the tankers to the Air Force in 2017. In related news, the 56th Air Refueling Squadron was activated under the 97th Air Mobility Wing’s Operations Group at Altus Air Force Base, Oklahoma, on August 30. The squadron, which will serve as the Formal Training Unit (FTU) for the KC-46A, had previously been the FTU for the C-5A/B Galaxy as the 56th Airlift Squadron, until being inactivated in September 2008. The 56th ARS plans to begin training KC-46A aircrew in the fall of 2016 using pilot and boom operator simulators in preparation for in-flight training missions.
KC-130J BuNo 169226 departs Dobbins Air Reserve Base, in Marietta, Georgia, at the start of its delivery flight on August 18. Lockheed Martin/Damien A. Guarnieri
LATEST HERCULES DELIVERIES
THE US MARINE Corps took delivery of its 50th KC-130J when BuNo 169226 arrived at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, California, where it joined Marine Aerial Refueler Transport Squadron (VMGR) 352 ‘Raiders’ on August 18. The Marines’ program of record includes 79 KC-130Js. Two additional KC-130Js are scheduled for delivery this year — those aircraft will go to VMGR-152 at MCAS Iwakuni, Japan and VMGR-234 at Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base Fort Worth, Texas.
THE EIGHTH HC-27J to be regenerated from storage by the 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group (AMARG), arrived at Coast Guard Base Elizabeth City, North Carolina, on August 25 when serial 2702 (ex-USAF 07-27011) touched down. The Spartan had been stored at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Arizona, since August 2013 and the restoration process began in July 2016. Regeneration of the ninth of 13 Spartans stored at the Tucson base started in late August 2016. The Coast Guard completed the system requirements review for the
HC-27J missionization package on August 10. Based on the US Navy’s Minotaur Mission System (MSS) suite, the package is being developed by the Coast Guard and Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) and will be similar to the MSS suite being installed in the HC-130J and the HC-144B. The completion of the system requirements review allows initial systems development to begin. The package is comprised of 19 sub-components that include multi-mode radar, forward-looking infra-red cameras, electro-optical/ infra-red sensors and automatic identification system transceivers.
LAST NAVY PROWLER
Supporting ongoing flight test activities related to US Marine Corps operations is EA-6B Prowler BuNo 163406/SD-537 of Air Test and Evaluation Squadron (VX) 23 ‘Salty Dogs’ at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Maryland. This is the last Prowler on the US Navy’s books and is expected to be retired early next year. Gert Kromhout
NEW CAS UNIT FOR NELLIS THE US AIR Force plans to establish a new tactical air support squadron at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada. The unit will be assigned to the 57th Wing’s 57th Operations Group and will enhance the group’s focus on close air support (CAS) integration. Its mission will include an increased emphasis on tactical-level CAS. Establishing the new unit is one of the recommendations that were made during a future close air support focus week that was held in March 2015. The CAS-dedicated organization will include a tactical air support squadron that will provide dedicated
air support to the Joint Terminal Attack Controller (JTAC) Qualification Course, USAF Weapons School, and ‘Green Flag’ and ‘Red Flag’ exercises. In support of that effort the 57th OG will gain between eight and 16 F-16Cs that will be transferred from Hill AFB, Utah. Once the new unit reaches full operational capability, the 57th Wing will be responsible for all graduate-level CAS training as well as operational training for the forward air control (FAC) mission. The wing currently conducts the JTAC weapon’s instructor course and the air liaison officer qualifying course.
UNIT NEWS ‘High Rollers’ complete firefighting activation The Nevada Air National Guard’s 152nd Airlift Wing completed its first firefighting activation operating the US Forest Service’s Modular Airborne Fire Fighting System (MAFFS), when C-130H serial 93-7311 arrived at Reno-Tahoe International Airport on September 1. The Hercules operated alongside C-130s from units of the California, North Carolina, and Wyoming Air National Guards and Air Force Reserve Command, which flew 142 sorties and 125.5 flight hours during a month-long activation period. The aircraft dispensed more than 3.5 million pounds of retardant during 165 drops over Idaho, Nevada and Oregon. Known as the ‘High Rollers’, the 152nd is currently augmenting the other units while it progressively takes over responsibility for the mission from the North Carolina ANG’s 145th Airlift Wing. The wing will complete its certification for the
firefighting mission prior to the 2018 fire season. ‘Dragonslayers’ receive MH-60S The ‘Dragonslayers’ of Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 11 received their first MH-60S on July 18. Previously based at Naval Air Station Jacksonville, Florida, the squadron moved to Naval Station Norfolk, Virginia, as part of its conversion to the new helicopter. It was the last operational squadron in the US Navy to operate the SH-60F and HH-60H variants of the Seahawk. The squadron’s last SH-60F left Norfolk on May 11, when BuNo 164615 departed for Elizabeth City, North Carolina where it was transferred to the US Coast Guard. ‘Red Dragons’ move The ‘Red Dragons’ of Marine Medium Tilt-rotor Squadron (VMM) 268 relocated from Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, California, to MCAS Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii on July 24.
[NEWS] UNITED STATES ‘COUGARS’ HEAD HOME SEVEN F-16CS RETURNED to Buckley Air Force Base, Colorado, at the conclusion of a 28-day deployment to Hungary in support of Operation ‘Atlantic Resolve’. In addition to supporting the European Reassurance Initiative, the 120th Fighter Squadron participated in the multi-national exercise ‘Panther Strike 2016’. While deployed the
squadron conducted air-to-air missions with Hungarian Air Force Gripens, deployed US Air National Guard aircraft, and other allied nation aircraft from the Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovakia and Slovenia. Additionally, they carried out close air support sorties with Hungarian and Slovenian joint tactical air controllers (JTACs).
FINAL HERCULES DEPLOYMENT COMPLETE THE 914TH AIRLIFT Wing completed its final C-130H airlift rotation to al Udeid Air Base, Qatar, when the unit returned to Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station in New York in mid-September. Operating as part of the 746th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron, the 328th Airlift Squadron flew more than 1,000
hours in support of Operation ‘Inherent Resolve’ during the threemonth deployment that began in May. The wing’s transition to the KC-135R is under way and the deployment was its last with the C-130H. The 914th has operated the Hercules since 1971.
‘PELICANS’ ON THE ROAD PATROL SQUADRON (VP) 45 deployed the P-8A to the US 6th Fleet area of operations for the first time, when the aircraft arrived at Naval Air Station Sigonella, Italy. Its arrival marked the first time the Poseidon had been operationally deployed
to support US European Command. The deployment is the second for the ‘Pelicans’ since the squadron transitioned from the P-3C. The Poseidon is scheduled to deploy in support US Southern Command as part of the US 4th Fleet in late 2017.
EAGLES SUPPORT AIR POLICING IN BULGARIA A PAIR OF USAF F-15Cs was tasked to support the air policing mission over Bulgaria from September 9-16. The deployment, at the request of the Bulgarian government, was conducted as part of NATO’s improved air policing measures for its eastern European members. According to Bulgaria’s defense minister, during July 2016 Russian aircraft violated the country’s airspace on at least 10 occasions. On each occasion the Russian aircraft had turned off their transponders. In related news, 16 F-15Cs deployed to Ämari air base, Estonia, from August 15 to September 2.
The Eagles comprised 12 fighters from the 48th Fighter Wing’s 493rd Fighter Squadron at RAF Lakenheath, United Kingdom, and four from the 194th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron, which had been deployed to Câmpia Turzii, Romania, as part of a Theater Security Package. While deployed to Estonia the F-15s carried out training sorties with air forces from Estonia, Finland, Sweden and the United Kingdom. The multilateral training was focused on dissimilar air training and intended to build interoperability capabilities. This deployment was conducted as part of Operation ‘Atlantic Resolve’.
‘LOBOS’ ON THE PROWL IN POLAND 16
C-130H serial 91-9143 of the New York Air National Guard’s 914th Airlift Wing taxies at Al Udeid AB, Qatar, while deployed as part of the 746th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron. USAF/SrA Janelle Patiño
FOUR F-16CS OPERATED by the South Dakota Air National Guard’s 114th Fighter Wing ‘Lobos’ arrived at Łask air base, Poland, on September
3. The fighters were deployed in support of Aviation Detachment 16-4, to participate in a bilateral training exercise between US and Polish forces.
KC-767 CERTIFICATION UNDER WAY
An F/A-18C of VX-23 prepares to engage a refueling drogue trailed from KC-767A serial MM62226 operated by the Italian Air Force during testing near NAS Patuxent River, Maryland, on August 25. US Navy
THE US NAVY recently began a series of tests intended to meet US Central Command’s operational requirement for joint interoperability and increased air refueling capacity within its area of responsibility. Over a period of six weeks, the Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Maryland, in conjunction with Air Test and Evaluation Squadron (VX) 23, VX-31
and Marine Aircraft Group (MAG) 14, conducted refueling trials with an Italian Air Force Boeing KC-767A tanker. The tests were performed with F/A-18, EA-6B and AV-8B aircraft using the tanker’s internal hose and drogue refueling system, with the goal of certifying the tanker to refuel the aircraft in an operational environment. Testing is scheduled for completion in early October.
Abu Dhabi.indd 1
[NEWS] WORLD INDIAN RAFALE CONTRACT
CONTRACT SIGNATURE FOR India’s long-delayed acquisition of the Dassault Rafale took place on September 23, during a visit to New Delhi by French Defense Minister JeanYves Le Drian. The contract was signed off after a final review by the Prime Minister’s office. The government-togovernment deal covers 36 Rafales (28 single-seaters and eight two-seaters) that will be provided to the Indian Air Force in a ‘flyaway’ condition and is understood to be worth around €7.89 billion, around half of which comprises offsets for Indian industry. The fighters will be delivered from 2019 and the deal also includes weapons, including the MBDA Meteor air-to-air missile.
MEXICO RETIRES TIGER II
THE MEXICAN AIR Force has withdrawn its Northrop F-5E/F Tiger II fleet. The Tiger II made a final appearance at the annual Mexican Air Force airshow on August 27. Three F-5s escorted a Boeing 727 for a farewell flypast. On September 16, a trio of Tigers took part in the Independence Day parade over Mexico City, after which they were retired. Reports suggest the F-5s may be replaced by 24 F-16s, of which 12 are planned to be operational by 2018.
Test pilot Paul Hattendorf was at the controls of Japan Air Self-Defense Force F-35A AX-01 during its 1.7-hour first flight at Fort Worth on August 24. Lockheed Martin
UK ASRAAM CONTRACT FOR F-35 THE UNITED KINGDOM Ministry of Defence (MoD) has signed a £184-million contract for ASRAAM air-to-air missiles (AAMs) to arm the F-35B Lightning II. Under the contract, MBDA will manufacture an additional stockpile of an advanced version of the infra-red-guided ASRAAM, allowing F-35s to use the missile
beyond 2022. Work to integrate the new missile onto the UK’s F-35 fleet will be carried out under a separate contract. The updated missile is expected to enter service on RAF Typhoons from 2018 and on RAF and Royal Navy F-35s from 2022, at which point the current variant will be withdrawn from service. The ASRAAM will be
the first British-designed missile to enter service on the F-35. Although the weapon will initially be carried externally on the F-35’s underwing hardpoints, MBDA says that ‘design and space provision is preserved for internal integration fit within the internal weapons bay and thus remains an option for the future.’
MORE IRAQI ALCAS DELIVERED A BATCH OF two Aero Vodochody L-159s was delivered to the Iraqi Air Force (IQAF) on August 25. Receipt of the single-seat L-159As, serials 5906 and 5908, at Balad Air Base increases to five the number of aircraft in service with the IQAF’s 115th Attack Squadron. The first batch of two ALCAs was delivered in November 2015. In
via Arnaud Delalande
April, a new aircraft was spotted during a ceremony marking the 85th anniversary of the Iraqi Air Force. This new delivery was not officially reported. The Iraqi government ordered 12 L-159s from Aero Vodochody in April 2014 and a third single-seater is expected to arrive in the coming weeks. Arnaud Delalande
DESERT FALCON AT ‘RED FLAG’ AMONG THE MORE exotic participants during Exercise ‘Red Flag 16-4’, which took place at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, from August 15-26 was United Arab Emirates Air Force F-16E Block 60 serial 3042 from 1 Squadron. The UAE ‘Viper’ contingent was joined at Nellis by F-16C/D Block 50/52 jets from the Pakistan Air Force’s (PAF) No 5
Squadron ‘Falcons’ and 10 Israeli Air Force F-16I Sufa jets from 119, 201 and 253 Squadrons. The latter were supported on their transit and during the exercise by Boeing 707 tankers. Also present at the last ‘Red Flag’ of 2016 were Spanish Air Force EF-18M Hornets from Ala 12 and 15, supported by KC-130H tankers. Edwin Schimmel
JAPAN’S FIRST LIGHTNING II ON TEST AX-01 GETS AIRBORNE AHEAD OF HAND-OVER
APAN’S FIRST LOCKHEED Martin
F-35A completed its maiden flight at the manufacturer’s Fort Worth, Texas plant on August 24. The initial aircraft for the Japan Air Self-Defense Force (JASDF), serial 69-8701 (AX-01) was first photographed at the facility in
mid-August. On September 23, the Lightning II was officially unveiled at Fort Worth. AX-01 will be delivered to the international training fleet at Luke AFB, Arizona, and training of the first JASDF pilots will begin here in November. Another three JASDF aircraft are currently being built at Fort Worth and all four are due for delivery by the end of this year.
Japan has committed to purchasing 28 F-35As over the next five years. Of these, six aircraft are currently under contract. Ultimately, Japan has a requirement for 42 Lightning IIs to replace its F-4J Phantom II fleet. Initial in-country deliveries will be made to Misawa Air Base, which is due to receive the first four of around 20 aircraft during Fiscal Year 2017.
OPS BOARD French Mirages join BAP On August 31 the French Air Force assumed responsibility for the Baltic Air Policing mission when four Mirage 2000-5Fs were put on alert at Šiauliai air base, Lithuania. Deployed from Luxeuil, the French Air Force jets replaced Portuguese Air Force F-16s, and arrived in Lithuania on August 28. The Escadron de Chasse 1/2 ‘Cigognes’ Mirage 2000s will conduct the NATO mission for four months. This is the fifth time that the French Air Force has protected the airspace of the Baltic States. Meanwhile, four Eurofighter EF2000s from Germany’s Luftwaffe assumed
responsibility for the detachment at Ämari, Estonia, taking over from Typhoons of the United Kingdom’s Royal Air Force. During the RAF’s latest four-month rotation, Typhoon FGR4s were scrambled 21 times to intercept 42 separate aircraft. The deployment was part of Operation ‘Azotize’, which involved No II (Army Co-operation) Squadron from RAF Lossiemouth working as part of No 140 Expeditionary Air Wing.
of the so-called Islamic State in Syria on August 21. According to the French Ministry of Defense, the attack exclusively employed SCALP-EG cruise missiles, around 10 of which were fired. These were launched from four French Air Force Rafales (two missiles each) and four Mirage 2000Ds (one missile each). A French Navy Atlantique 2 maritime patrol aircraft was also involved. Targets were hit in the al-Raqqah province of eastern Syria.
SCALP strike in Syria The French Air Force conducted a major air strike against insurgents
Russia prepares carrier deployment Having confirmed plans to deploy the Russian Navy aircraft carrier
Admiral Kuznetsov to support Moscow’s military campaign in Syria, the carrier’s air wing has begun working up. Mikoyan MiG-29K/KUB ‘Fulcrum’ multi-role fighters and Kamov Ka-52K attack helicopters have both undertaken recent training sorties from the carrier, both off the coast of Murmansk and in the Barents Sea. The carrier was undergoing predeployment maintenance and repair during late September prior to this planned Eastern Mediterranean cruise, which is widely expected to take place between October 2016 and January 2017.
POLISH MASTER PREPARES FOR DELIVERY
THE FIRST LEONARDOFINMECCANICA M-346 for the Polish Air Force is seen landing at the company’s Varese-Venegono facility after a test flight on August 11. Before its maiden flight on July 4, all Polish markings and its future serial 5501 were removed. The aircraft now wears the temporary Italian serial CSX55209. The second Polish M-346 is due to begin flight trials soon, and reportedly includes a modification to house a brake parachute, a specific Polish requirement.
Dr Andreas Zeitler
EUROFIGHTER IPA8 FLIES FUTURE E-SCAN TESTBED JOINS PROGRAM
50° STORMO DISBANDS
ON SEPTEMBER 14, the Italian Air Force (Aeronautica Militare) disbanded the 50° Stormo at Piacenza-San Damiano air base. The closure of the wing is in line with plans to rationalize the air arm by merging existing units. Over a dozen Tornado IT-ECR jets of the 155° Gruppo ‘Pantere Nere’, plus around 220 personnel, were transferred to nearby Ghedi, coming under the command of the 6° Stormo. Ghedi now hosts the entire Italian Tornado fleet, divided into three squadrons: the 102° Gruppo
(Operational Conversion Unit), the 154° Gruppo, and the newly arrived 155° Gruppo. 156° Gruppo ‘Le Linci’ was disbanded two days after the arrival of the 155°, on September 16. During its history, the 50° Stormo participated in various operational actions, including ‘Locusta’ in 1991, ‘Sharp Guard’ from 1993 to 1995, ‘Joint Guardian’, ‘Joint Forge’ and ‘Decisive Endeavour’ from 1996 to 1999, ‘Allied Force’ in 1999 and ‘Odyssey Dawn’ and ‘Unified Protector’ in 2011. Daniele Faccioli
ISRAELI ASSETS SUPPORT SATELLITE LAUNCH
ON SEPTEMBER 12, Luqa Airport in Malta saw the arrival of a contingent of Israeli aircraft apparently related to the launch of Israel’s new Ofek 11 surveillance satellite. The first arrival was IAI Elta’s sensor-equipped Boeing 737 4X-A00. It was followed by two Israeli Air Force Gulfstreams: Nachshon Eitam serial 537 and Nachshon Shavit serial 676, using
the call signs ‘Gulf 3’ and ‘Gulf 4’. Finally, Israeli Air Force C-130H Karnaf serial 545 landed. The 737 departed for a five-hour mission monitoring the launch of the new satellite. After it had landed, both Gulfstreams routed back to Nevatim air base. The Gulfstreams returned to Luqa on September 13, where the whole scenario was repeated. Ruben Zammit
Israeli Air Force Gulfstream V serial 676 is a Nachshon Eitam, equipped with a ground-scanning radar for the signals intelligence (SIGINT) role. Ruben Zammit
ITALIAN P-72A PROGRESS
THE FIRST LEONARDOFINMECCANICA ATR-72MP for the Italian Air Force is now flying in full colors and markings. Known as the P-72A in Italian military service, serial MM62298 is currently still classed as experimental and wears the provisional CSX prefix. Now that initial crew training is complete, official delivery to 41°
Stormo, at Sigonella air base is expected soon. The Italian Air Force is the launch customer for the type, which is based on the airframe of the ATR-72-600 commercial aircraft and on the mission avionics of the ATR-72ASW developed for the Turkish Navy. Four aircraft are on order to replace the Italian Air Force’s ageing P-1150A Atlantics.
Eurofighter Typhoon instrumented production aircraft (IPA8, serial 98+08) completed its first flight from Manching, Germany. Although not yet equipped with the new radar, IPA8 will eventually serve as a testbed for the CAPTOR E-Scan active electronically scannedarray (AESA). The maiden flight was followed by hand-over to the German military’s WTD 61 flight test unit, also at Manching, for formal acceptance. Thereafter, the jet will be returned to Airbus Defence and Space for installation of the CAPTOR-E test radar. The aircraft is then expected to return to the air in spring 2017 for this important testing effort.
via Chinese internet
N SEPTEMBER 12, the eighth
ZAMBIAN L-15 DELIVERED
FOLLOWING MAIDEN FLIGHTS in December 2015 and an official hand-over earlier this year, the first two Zambian Air Force Hongdu L-15 trainers have arrived at their new
home. According to reports, the first training flights were observed at Lusaka on September 8. The following day, the two aircraft, serials AF-1001 and AF‑1003,
arrived at Air Force Base Waterkloof, South Africa together with a Xi’an MA60 transport (AF-607), for participation in the African Aerospace and Defence show (AAD 2016) from September 20-21. Andreas Rupprecht
UK ACTION 1
1: LATEST UK F-35Bs TAKE FLIGHT
Lockheed Martin has flown the UK’s sixth and seventh F-35Bs. BK‑06, serial ZM140, made its first flight from Fort Worth on August 23, followed by BK-07, ZM141, on September 22. Carl Richards
2: TYPHOONS ON TEST
The Royal Air Force’s No 41 (Reserve) Test and Evaluation Squadron is back in California for a new round of ‘Highrider’ trials. The squadron’s flagship Typhoon FGR4, serial ZK315, is seen in September flying a low-level mission near the detachment base at NAWS China Lake. Richard Vandermeulen
3: ANNIVERSARY CHINOOKS
No 27 Squadron’s flagship Chinook HC4 leads two more Chinooks on September 14 from Nos 18(B) and No 28(AC) Squadron, each resplendent in 100th anniversary markings. Flt Lt Andy Donovan/RAF Odiham
LOSSES Compiled by Tom Kaminski
• A US Marine Corps AV-8B crashed near Kadena AB, Japan on September 22. Initial reports suggest that the pilot ejected safely. The aircraft involved was reportedly BuNo 165354 assigned to Marine Attack Squadron (VMA) 542. • A US Air Force TU-2S crashed near the Sutter Buttes mountain range in California on September 20. The aircraft came down shortly after takeoff, and although both crew ejected, only one survived. The aircraft was assigned to the 1st Reconnaissance Squadron at Beale Air Force Base, and was on a training mission. • Four soldiers were injured when a Royal Thai Army UH-1H suffered a hard landing at a special forces base in the Muang district of Narathiwat province on September 16. Six personnel were aboard the helicopter, which was destroyed. • An Indian Air Force Jaguar strike aircraft caught fire during its take-off roll at Ambala Air Force Station on September 13. The pilot aborted the take-off and ejected safely. • Both pilots aboard a MiG-21U operated by the Indian Air Force ejected safely before the trainer
crashed in Rajasthan on September 12. The mishap occurred shortly after the aircraft took off from the Utterlai Air Force Station. The MiG came down near Malio ki Dhani, about 12.5 miles (20km) from the Barmer district. • A US Army MH-47G assigned to 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment made a hard landing while conducting night operations at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, on September 7. Five soldiers aboard the Chinook were hospitalized following the crash. • The student and instructor pilots aboard US Navy T-45C BuNo 165606 ejected safely before the trainer crashed on September 7. The mishap occurred near NAS Meridian, Mississippi, and the Goshawk, which had been assigned to Training Air Wing (TAW) 1, came down in a wooded area near the air station. • A Russian Air Force Mi-8 was destroyed by fire following a hard landing that occurred at Sokol airfield in eastern Sakhalin province on September 3. Three crew and seven passengers aboard the helicopter suffered only minor injuries in the mishap, which occurred in severe weather conditions.
• F/A-18C serial J-5022 operated by the Swiss Air Force crashed into a mountainside in bad weather on August 29. The fighter, which had departed from Meiringen airfield with another Hornet, was lost shortly after take-off when it was apparently assigned to fly at the wrong altitude by air traffic controllers. The crash site was located several days later in the Alps near the Susten pass, east of Interlaken. • L-39 serial 8705, operated by the 910th Regiment of the Vietnam People’s Air Force, crashed near Tuy Hoa City, Phu Yen province shortly after take-off on August 26. The pilot was killed when the trainer came down in a rice paddy. • A US Air Force HH-60G assigned to the 563th Rescue Group’s 66th Rescue Squadron crashed during a night-time training mission at the Nevada Test and Training Range on August 18. The mishap occurred on a remote part on the 2.9-million-acre military range north of Las Vegas. Four crew aboard the helicopter suffered minor injuries. • TA-4K N140EM (BuNo 157914), which was supporting 57th Wing operations, crashed near Nellis AFB, Nevada, in North Las Vegas, after suffering an in-flight emergency on August 18. The Skyhawk, operated by Draken International, was returning to the base from a mission over the Nellis range. The civilian pilot ejected
safely before the aircraft, which is one of two former Royal New Zealand Air Force TA-4Ks flown by Draken, came down. • UH-1H serial FAU-055 operated by the Uruguayan Air Force crashed while landing at Carrasco/Gen Cesáreo L. Berisso International Airport in Montevideo on August 16. Two pilots aboard the ‘Huey’ were killed. • UH-72A serial 9656 operated by the Royal Thai Army crashed in northern Thailand on August 14, killing five crew and passengers including the commander of the Army’s 4th Infantry Division. The Lakota was returning from a mission to inspect flooding in Pang Mapha District of Mae Hong Son near the border with Myanmar when it went down near Chiang Mai. • US Navy T-45C BuNo 163621, which was assigned to Training Squadron (VT) 21, crashed around 17 miles (27km) south-west of NAS Kingsville, Texas, during a routine training mission on August 14. The US Marine Corps student and an instructor pilot ejected safely before the Goshawk went down north of Premont. • Two US Army AH-64D helicopters, assigned to the 2nd Infantry Division’s combat aviation brigade, collided while preparing to take off at Camp Humphreys, near Seoul, South Korea, on August 12. Four soldiers aboard the Apaches suffered minor injuries.
announcement by Airbus that the A400M, in its current configuration, would not be able to conduct aerial refueling of the French Air Force’s H225M Caracal helicopters that support special forces and personnel recovery missions. Tom Kaminski
amount to $4 billion over the next decade. An initial aircraft is due to be delivered to the UK in 2019 and deliveries will be complete by early 2022.
IN BRIEF Afghan MD530 deliveries complete The US Air Force has announced the final deliveries of MD Helicopters MD530 Cayuse Warriors to the Afghan Air Force (AAF). The final four Cayuse Warriors arrived at Hamid Karzai International Airport, Kabul on August 25, having been transported from Travis Air Force Base, California on board a C-17A Globemaster III transport. The aircraft were part of an October 2015 contract awarded by the US Department of the Army non-standard rotary-wing program office for 12 additional aircraft for Afghanistan. The final delivery brings the number of MD530s in AAF service to 27. First flight for Indian LUH Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL)
recorded the first flight of its Light Utility Helicopter (LUH) on September 6. The helicopter completed a 15-minute maiden flight from HAL’s Bangalore facility. Powered by a single Safran Ardiden 1U engine, the LUH is intended to serve with both the Indian Army and Air Force, with 187 examples planned to replace the Cheetah/Chetak fleet. France adds Super Hercules Lockheed Martin has received a $132.6-million contract modification from the US Air Force for two KC‑130Js that will be supplied to the French Air Force under the Foreign Military Sales program. Delivery should occur by April 2020. France first expressed interest in acquiring C-130s following the November 2015
UK Poseidons under contract Boeing has been received a contract to start manufacture of the first two P-8A Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft for the Royal Air Force. Valued at $68.4 million, the contract covers long-lead items for the Poseidons under full-rate Lot 4 production; the aircraft will be complete by the end of July 2017. The UK government signed an order for nine P-8As in July. The total cost of the procurement could
Upgrade for Kiwi Orions The New Zealand government has announced plans to upgrade the Royal New Zealand Air Force’s fleet of six P-3K2 Orions. Under a $36-million deal signed with Boeing the contractor will provide an underwater intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (UWISR) package. As part of the Future Air Surveillance Capability project, New Zealand plans to select a replacement for the Orion, which is due to be retired from service in the mid-2020s.
ADVERTORIAL | SU-32/34 FRONTLINE BOMBER
FRONTLINE BOMBER he Su-34 frontline bomber (the export version is the Su-32) will be the striking core of Russian frontline aviation. This is an adequate successor to the Su-24M all-weather frontline bomber. Its development and production is among Sukhoi’s top priorities. Sukhoi is a United Aircraft Corporation (UAC) subsidiary. Su-34 frontline bombers have been put into service with Russia’s Air Force by the Decree of the President of the Russian Federation dated March 18, 2014. The series production of the Su-34 is organized at the Sukhoi Company’s Novosibirsk aircraft plant. The Sukhoi Company has already delivered a substantial number of these aircraft to the Russian troops. At the present time a new state contract to supply a large batch of Su-34s to the Russian Defense Ministry is being implemented. The Su-34 effectively engages ground,
sea and air targets by using a complete range of airborne munitions, including high-precision types under adversary fire and information warfare in all weather conditions, day and night. In terms of operational capabilities this is a 4th+ generation aircraft. Its active protection system together with the latest computers creates extra opportunities for the pilot and navigator to carry out precision bombing and maneuvering under adversary fire. The superior aerodynamics, large internal fuel tanks, highly efficient digitally controlled bypass turbojet engines, air-refueling system, external fuel tanks and a comfortable crew cockpit, enable long distance flight of up to 10 hours. The onboard digital open architecture equipment also allows easy replacement of hardware and systems for new models. The aircraft features excellent flight performance and agility, long-range aiming
system, and a modern onboard system for communication and information exchange with on-land flight control centers, ground troops, surface ships and other flying aircraft. The Su-34 employs highly efficient long-range guided air-to-surface and airto-air weapons using a multiple channel capability. It is equipped with a smart radar countermeasures and defense system. The Su-34 has a sophisticated survivability suite, including an armored cockpit. Presently the operational capability of the aircraft is being increased with new airborne weapons. According to pilots and navigators, the aircraft offers excellent ergonomics and extensive automation from take-off to target approach, operational use and landing. The machine is easy to handle. The Su-34 bomber has also set eight world records, including that of a maximum horizontal flight altitude with a 5,000 kg load.
Photo: Vadim Savitsky
UNIT REPORT | VFA-101
In March 2005, VF-101 carrier-qualified the last F-14 Tomcat pilots. This August, the famous unit — now VFA-101 — returned to the carrier deck to qualify the first cadre of F-35C pilots aboard the USS George Washington (CVN 73) as a major milestone on the road to US Navy initial operating capability in 2018.
report: Gert Kromhout
BACK ON DECK
MONG THE US Department of Defense’s Lockheed Martin F-35 customers, the US Navy has been the most tentative in its approach to the Lightning II’s path to initial operating capability (IOC). To date, it has only formed one F-35C unit: Strike Fighter
VFA-101 | UNIT REPORT Squadron (VFA) 101 ‘Grim Reapers’, currently home-stationed at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, and the first Fleet Replacement Squadron (FRS) to train new pilots on the type. August’s carrier qualifications (‘carquals’) were a major milestone for the squadron and the new F-35C as the US Navy builds toward IOC somewhere in the second half of 2018. According to CAPT James D. Christie, commanding officer of VFA-101, the first US Navy fleet squadron — which will be the unit to declare IOC — will begin conversion to the F-35C in January 2018. ‘Based on our experience, it’s our task to write up the syllabus for carquals for pilots that have never landed a tactical jet on a boat’, he says. The initial VFA-101 ‘embark’ was dovetailed with the third and final period of developmental test (DT-III) conducted by Air Test and Evaluation Squadron (VX) 23 ‘Salty Dogs’ on the USS George Washington (CVN 73; see Combat Aircraft October 2016). While the deployment was deemed successful, there are still some significant challenges ahead, not least due to the fact that the VFA-101 pilots were unable
to qualify at night this time around because testing of the Gen III helmet for night flying was incomplete. CAPT Christie says that the squadron will need a second period at sea once his pilots are all equipped with the new helmet. ‘Only a few of us have them now but we will all have them by the fall. VX-23 will test [some] software modifications later this month [and] we expect they will be released shortly. We should go back to the ship in spring next year.’
VFA-101 worked alongside the test community during August’s DT-III phase to complete its first carrier qualifications with the F-35C. Here, Maj Eric Northham is seen launching from the USS George Washington on August 14. US Navy
Preparations to take jets to sea with any squadron are well structured and follow a carefully planned path. When it’s a new type, that process becomes all the more important. With the right qualifications lined up, the pilots begin ‘bouncing’ — flying field carrier landing practices (FCLPs), basically a simulated carrier pattern and touch-and-go, or landing, but at a land base. VFA-101’s preferred Choctaw Naval Outlying Field, situated just
UNIT REPORT | VFA-101 west of Eglin, was unavailable because of maintenance, so the squadron headed to Naval Air Station Meridian, Mississippi, in the weeks preceding the carrier embarkation to ‘bounce’. The squadron’s landing signal officers (LSOs) carefully scrutinized the FCLPs to determine readiness and any tweaks that might be required ahead of going to sea. The requirements for the daytime carquals are two touch-and-goes and 10 full-stop ‘traps’. VFA-101 reserved two full days for this once they arrived aboard the USS George Washington on Sunday, August 14, with four F-35Cs arriving directly from Eglin. They immediately went into carquals mode to make full use of the excellent weather and sea conditions.
Left: CAPT James D. Christie, commanding officer of VFA‑101. Gert Kromhout Below: A pair of VFA-101 F-35Cs is marshaled into position ready for launch. Gert Kromhout
Of the 15 pilots on squadron strength, 12 deployed to the carrier. They were all experienced crossover instructor pilots, with years of carrier ‘traps’ under their belts. But, for many, it was the first time they had come aboard the carrier in an F-35C. They were joined by five pilots from VX-23, with two Integrated Test Fleet (ITF) jets from NAS Patuxent River, Maryland. The FRS pilots and test pilots completed carquals alongside each other before the VX-23 team got into the meat of DT-III, which culminated on August 26. LT Graham Cleveland is the lead LSO at the ‘Grim Reapers’. He told Combat Aircraft: ‘It’s awesome to see that everybody performs so well. We are on the boat less than 24 hours and almost everybody is qualified without a single ‘bolter’ [when
VFA-101 | UNIT REPORT the tailhook misses all of the arresting wires]. We’ve not heard any screaming calls from the LSOs and not a single pilot has caught the one-wire, which is less safe than a two- or the preferred three-wire. We also haven’t seen any wave-offs due to unsafe approaches.’ Cleveland has gradually built up his experience of the F-35C on deck, having worked as an LSO during the previous DT-I and II test embarkations. ‘I’ve been working on this for quite some time. It is my job to qualify the pilots and ensure that everything [is] safe. You know, when the weather is this good, it cannot get any better than landing on a carrier.’ Both Christie and Cleveland agreed that the favorable weather and sea conditions contributed to the success of these first
Top: The carrier qualifications helped to underscore the accuracy and simplicity of the flight control system in the final phase of the carrier approach. Gert Kromhout Above: Marshaling out for another launch and recovery sequence. US Navy/MCS2C Kris R. Lindstrom
qualifications. However, they also pointed out that new technology had a large part to play. The Delta Flight Path (DFP) has been developed by the US Navy in close co-operation with Lockheed Martin. It partly automates the precise flying phase in the final seconds before touchdown. Without DFP, an average pilot makes 200 to 300 minor corrections with the throttle, stick and rudder in the last 18 seconds prior to landing. DFP, along with the simultaneously developed Magic Carpet software for the F/A-18 Hornet, dramatically decreases these corrections to just 20 for an average pilot. It is expected that this number could even drop below 10 inputs! Until now an experienced pilot has needed between 16 and 18 days of FCLPs.
Apart from the daylight requirements mentioned above, the pilot must complete six night traps. ‘With DFP we have reduced FCLPs to between four and six days’, says Cleveland. ‘I expect the Navy to reduce day requirements to six traps’. Undeniably, the new technology will also affect night qualification requirements. The huge advantages of both DFP and Magic Carpet have significant implications for the Navy. The reduction in the training requirement means a lower usage rate, helping extend airframe life. Less time will be required to spin up for deployment, while the overall landing phase is set to become far safer. Furthermore, because the time spent recovering aircraft to the ship is reduced, the vulnerability of the carrier decreases, as it will spend less
UNIT REPORT | VFA-101
‘It’s awesome to see that everybody performs so well. We are on the boat less than 24 hours and almost everybody is qualified without a single ‘bolter’’ LT GRAHAM CLEVELAND, LSO time sailing a predictable course in the launch and recovery phase. Last but not least, the pilot is able to spend more time focused on the mission, as opposed to the challenges of getting back on deck. Taking a complex new fighter to sea is fraught with potential pitfalls. Even some of the rudimentary elements of the operation can throw up problems. Changing the F-35’s F135 engine at sea was one such issue, mainly because the engine in its carriage container does not fit inside the C-2 Greyhound carrier on-board delivery (COD) aircraft. This was part of the assessment that went into selection of the CMV-22 Osprey as the future COD platform. A fifth F-35C arrived on the carrier on August 15 for an embarked engine change
with a spare unit that was loaded before the carrier sailed from Norfolk. ‘There was nothing wrong with the engine, but we wanted to evaluate how a fleet squadron changes an engine’, says CAPT Christie. ‘We remove one engine and put another in, and then we launch it from the ship. It would give us a better understanding of how we have to do that on board. It is not really a test but more an evaluation of how it works’. In all, the ‘Grim Reapers’ brought along 70 maintenance personnel, some of them civilians from contractors such as Lockheed Martin and Pratt & Whitney.
Moving ahead Looking ahead, VFA-101 has established a detachment at NAS Lemoore in California and VFA-125 ‘Rough Raiders’ will be formed
Above: A sharp four-ship of ‘Grim Reapers’ enters the pattern over the carrier. Todd R. McQueen Right page top to bottom: VFA-101 deployed to NAS Meridian to ‘bounce’ prior to embarking the ship. Gert Kromhout The new Delta Flight Path (DFP) in the F-35C has dramatically reduced pilot workload on the final phases of the approach to the boat. US Navy
VFA-101 | UNIT REPORT here as an FRS in January 2017. VFA-147 ‘Argonauts’, currently equipped with the F/A-18E Super Hornet, will become the first operational squadron in 2018. The VX-9 ‘Vampires’ detachment at Edwards AFB, California, has started to receive jets and in the near future the US Navy will assign F-35Cs to the Naval Aviation Warfighting Development Center (NAWDC) at NAS Fallon, Nevada, to develop tactics and bring the F-35C into the TOPGUN program. With IOC rapidly approaching, the US Navy has also established a new Joint Strike Fighter Fleet Integration Office (FIO), with RADM Roy ‘Trigger’ Kelley at the helm. Kelley is a former F-14 pilot, and he will now co-ordinate with the F-35 Joint Program Office (JPO) to help bring the F-35C into operational service. ‘Our goal is IOC’, says Kelley. ‘But in order to reach that we have important dates
ahead of us, and milestones to pass. We just have to ensure that everything goes as planned. A good example is the ALIS [Autonomic Logistics Information System], which needs to be integrated in time at air stations and aircraft carriers. Plus, of course, we must have Block 3F software operational. At operational levels, the Navy has a lot of work to do.’ Kelley is also keen to stress the importance he places on the F-35C: ‘Currently, the Carrier Strike Group doesn’t have a stealth fighter in the inventory. As commander of a CSG, it is very difficult to get access in heavily defended territories with integrated air defenses. Seventy per cent of the world is covered with water, so typically the first response is from the CSG. Stealth, sensors and the network-centric capabilities of the F-35C allow us access from the first day of a conflict.’
T EYES IN THE SKIES FACT FILE | US ARMY SPECIAL MISSIONS
US ARMY AERIAL INTELLIGENCE EVOLUTION
The US Army is consolidating several airborne intelligence capabilities that have been developed in support of combat operations over the past 15 years, and is also updating ‘legacy’ systems in support of its Aerial Layer 2020 Strategy. report: Tom Kaminski
Below: An RC-12X attached to the US Army Intelligence Center of Excellence (USAICoE) at Fort Huachuca, Arizona. Steven Valinski
Right: King Air 350 N914JA is one of 11 examples modified to MARRS-II configuration by the Sierra Nevada Corporation. John Wilson
HE 116TH MILITARY Intelligence Brigade (Aerial Intelligence) (MIBDE) was activated at Fort Gordon, Georgia, on October 16, 2015 as a component of US Army Intelligence and Security Command (INSCOM). Its establishment marked the first time that a single brigade has been responsible for the US Army’s entire fleet of Special Electronic Mission Aircraft (SEMA). The brigade’s primary mission is ‘24/7 tasking, collection, processing, exploitation, dissemination, and feedback operations of multiple organic and joint intelligence, aerial-intelligence surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) missions.’ Prior to the attacks of September 11, 2001, the US Army’s fixed-wing SEMA fleet was composed of 65 aircraft assigned
US ARMY SPECIAL MISSIONS | FACT FILE
to one military intelligence group and four MIBDEs and their associated Military Intelligence Battalions (MIB). The fleet included 57 Beechcraft RC-12s and eight de Havilland Canada EO-5 Airborne Reconnaissance Lows (ARLs). In the ensuing years, the demand for ‘eyes on targets’ drove the need for new quick reaction capabilities (QRCs). At the height of operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, the US Army’s manned ISR/SEMA fleet had more than doubled in size to over 130 aircraft. The Iraq and Afghanistan mission under the overseas contingency operation (OCO) led to the development of more than 40 new aerial intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (A-ISR) and reconnaissance, surveillance and target acquisition (RSTA) systems that were intended to provide real-time and actionable intelligence to ground commanders and troops in the field. These were responses to urgent operational needs (UONs). Applications for the new A-ISR assets included wide-area aerial surveillance (WAAS), light detection and ranging (LIDAR), dismounted moving target indicator (DMTI), hyper-spectral intelligence (HSI), optical change detection (OCD), and coherent change detection (CCD) systems.
This bewildering array of acronyms were operated under codenames including Constant Hawk, Saturn Arch, Desert Owl, VaDER, Highlighter, Night Eagle, CEASAR and Liberty. The systems included government-owned/governmentoperated (GO/GO), government-owned/ contractor-operated (GO/CO) and contractor-owned/contractor-operated (CO/CO) assets, all of which were dedicated to finding the ‘bad guys’ on the ground. Many were deployed as part of Task Force Observe, Detect, Identify and Neutralize (ODIN), with the majority being carried by Beechcraft King Air series twinturboprops. The ISR/RSTA systems were developed in response to requests from numerous organizations within the Department of Defense including the Army’s CounterImprovised Explosive Device (IED) Task Force and the Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organization (JIEDDO). JIEDDO was primarily focused on systems designed to mitigate and defeat the IED problem. In March 2015, JIEDDO was designated a combat support agency and renamed as the Joint Improvised-Threat Defeat Agency (JIDA). As a result of the draw-down of forces deployed in the US Central Command (CENTCOM) area of responsibility (AOR),
FACT FILE | US ARMY SPECIAL MISSIONS
many of these systems will be or have already been divested. Part of that process saw the US Air Force parting company with the majority of its MC-12W Liberty fleet that it acquired beginning in late 2008. However, in support of the US Army’s Aerial ISR Strategy 2020 (A-ISR 2020), the Army is retaining the most successful of the QRC sensors and systems. It is upgrading or replacing some of these ‘legacy’ aircraft and transitioning many of the QRCs into a base SEMA fleet under more formal programs of record. Under A-ISR 2020, the service’s fixedwing A-ISR fleet is being reconfigured for a wider range of missions. Once the program is completed, the updated fleet of 52 manned ISR platforms assigned to the 116th MIBDE will include 19 Guardrail Common Sensor (GRCS), nine
Airborne Reconnaissance Low (ARL) and 24 Enhanced Medium Altitude Reconnaissance Surveillance Systems (EMARSS) aircraft, as well as 18 MQ-1C Gray Eagle unmanned air systems (UAS).
Guardrail Common Sensor (GRCS) The Guardrail Common Sensor is described as being a tactical airborne signals intelligence (SIGINT) collection and precision targeting system that intercepts, collects and precisely locates and reports communications intelligence (COMINT), electronic intelligence (ELINT) and special electronic signals, providing near-real-time information to tactical commanders. The aircraft has served as the US Army’s primary airborne COMINT/ELINT platform since the first RU-21-based Guardrail I
Above: RC-12X serial 93-00701 of the 305th Military Intelligence Battalion at Fort Huachuca, Arizona. Steven Valinski
SIGINT system arrived in West Germany in 1971. Initially tasked with monitoring Soviet bloc troop movements in East Germany and Czechoslovakia, Guardrail systems have been deployed to South Korea and in support of Operations ‘Desert Shield’/‘Desert Storm’, Operation ‘Iraqi Freedom’/‘New Dawn’ and Operation ‘Enduring Freedom’. During that time the Guardrail systems — which have been carried aboard several different variants of Beechcraft King Air B200 twin-turboprop — have seen continuous evolutionary upgrades. The RC-12X is the latest version to be fielded. Following the 2006 cancellation of the Joint US Army/US Navy Aerial Common Sensor (ACS) program, the Army established the RC-12X Guardrail Modernization program, which was
TRAINING THE SEMA FORCE Fort Huachuca, Arizona is home to the US Army Intelligence Center of Excellence (USAICoE) and the 111th Military Intelligence Brigade (111th MI BDE). Under the latter, the 304th and 305th Military Intelligence Battalions (MIB) both have major training roles within the SEMA community.
report: Steven Valinski
OCATED 15 MILES (24km) north of Arizona’s border with Mexico, the recent aviation history of Fort Huachuca can be traced back to the charismatic Grumman OV-1 Mohawk. More recently, the base has focused on the RC-12 Guardrail, and MC-12W Liberty training has now moved here too. As an example of the effectiveness of these special missions King Airs, Lt Col
Patrick Boland, former commander of the 4th Expeditionary Reconnaissance Squadron, stated in a USAF interview that during a one-year period in Afghanistan the MC-12W ‘contributed to operations that removed 2,450 enemy combatants from the battlespace, including 375 highvalue individuals killed or captured.’ The future of the ex-USAF MC-12s is now partly wrapped up in the EMARSS program and the US Army has already started the training process. Since many
Army Aviation roles involve rotorcraft, a considerable proportion of the pilots arriving in the SEMA community came from helicopters. CWO3 Travis Hall, a standardization pilot for SEMA, explains: ‘You have guys coming from all over. I was in VIP before I came over to the Guardrail community. Some guys, you get them straight out of the Q Course [the Army Special Force Qualification Course]. They were flying Black Hawks and they transferred them to the fixed-wing course, and now they are out here.’ The Army is looking to change its path to help SEMA training become more efficient. Identifying candidates for fixed-wing aircraft earlier in training avoids aviators having to adapt from rotary to fixed-wing. According to Hall: ‘Guys will be identified early to go
US ARMY SPECIAL MISSIONS | FACT FILE intended to extend the aircraft’s service life until 2025. The mission system has been modernized to help it detect and exploit emerging and rapidly evolving irregular and conventional warfare threats. Additionally, it incorporated structural upgrades and improved sustainability and safety through the installation of a common electronic flight instrumentation system (EFIS) cockpit, new weather radar, updated identification friend or foe (IFF), traffic alert and collision avoidance system/terrain awareness warning system (TCAS/TAWS), and an enhanced ground warning proximity system (EGWPS). The US Army had originally intended to update 33 RC-12K/N/P/Q aircraft to RC-12X configuration, but a November 2010 Guardrail Common Sensor restructuring plan reduced the program to include just 14 aircraft that were selected from the lowest-time/best-condition airframes from the fleet. Ultimately, seven RC-12N, nine RC-12P and three
through the fixed-wing course, instead of putting them in a Black Hawk or a Chinook for 20 hours then putting them here. They will get 80 hours with the Pro Line 21 [avionics system] so when we get them here they already know the system. It just helps out a lot and we can concentrate on more specific things.’ The 304th MIB at Fort Huachuca has been performing instruction on the Guardrail for many years. In October 2014, the unit began to train on the MC-12W version. Capt Nathaniel Plunkett, SEMA chief at Fort Huachuca says: ‘We started [the] MC-12 [training] back in October and we are projected to push 56 students for the Fiscal Year . For the ASO [aerial sensor operator] portion of the course, we are looking at about 42 for the fiscal year. And for Guardrail, we are running just about 40 for the FY.’
RC-12Q variants were updated to RC-12X configuration, and as many as 23 RC-12D, RC-12H, RC-12K and RC-12N aircraft have been divested or reassigned to support roles. The modernization effort provided updated payloads with expanded frequency ranges and a new antenna array that is capable of locating emitters in dense signal environments. The program began in September 2007, when Northrop Grumman’s Mission Systems Division was awarded the $462-million Guardrail Modernization System Integration (GMSI) contract by the Army. Stevens Aviation in Greenville, South Carolina, carried out the EFISrelated cockpit modifications and Beechcraft prepared the airframes for RC-12X ‘A-Kit’ installation by removing redundant equipment, repositioning the aircraft’s antennas and making structural improvements. Universal Avionics supplied avionics for the RC-12X cockpit upgrade, which started during 2007.
The Guardrail pilot training course is 10 weeks long and the Liberty course currently lasts seven weeks. Hall adds: ‘My primary job is to ensure that the guys know how to operate the systems up front and they understand the aircraft. Then, we work our way into the mission phase, letting them integrate with the ASOs in the back and understand the mission gear with the airplanes.’ Much of the flying portion of the training begins early in the morning and finishes up just before noon. ‘We generally take off around 08.30hrs, fly two students for about one hour 30 minutes apiece and generally land around 11.30hrs. After that we debrief the students on their flight and then I go up to my regular office and start doing my regular job’, explained Hall. SSgt Trevor Nichols is a standardization instructor for the MC-12 ASOs. ‘The ASO
Below: RC-12X serial 91-00517 landing at Glasgow Prestwick Airport, Scotland, on April 21, 2015. The King Air was modified from its original RC-12N configuration under the Guardrail Modernization program. David Townsend
Integration of the mission systems was conducted by Northrop Grumman’s Electromagnetic Systems Laboratory (ESL) at the former McClellan Air Force Base near Sacramento, California. The first upgraded RC-12X was delivered in January 2011 and the final example was handed over to the US Army in December 2013. The RC-12X was fielded to Afghanistan from January 2011, and by July 2012 the aircraft had flown more than 1,000 missions in theater. In December 2012, the Army approved the installation of a high-definition MX-15HD electro-optical/infra-red (EO/ IR) capability on the RC-12X that will allow the aircraft to capture still and full-motion imagery for analysis, exploitation, and dissemination. Fielding of that equipment, which will allow a single RC-12X system to rapidly cross-cue SIGINT geo-location to EO/IR imagery for target confirmation, is planned to occur by the end of Fiscal Year (FY) 2017. Planned upgrades will further install a Broad Spectrum SIGINT capability and an associated system referred to as ‘Big Iron’. The project manager, sensors aerial intelligence (PM SAI) issued a request for information for an advanced RC-12X+ ELINT system in May 2015. Modification of one aircraft has been completed and the Army has received interim airworthiness certification that allowed it to move forward with flighttesting. The final fleet will include 14 operational C-12X+ aircraft and five
course for [the] Liberty is only five weeks long; the pilots do an introduction to Intel. After that our courses mirror up. So it culminates, and in the final two weeks we all go and do mission flights together’. A key focus for the SEMA community is integration with other players on the battlefield. As MC-12Ws are upgraded to EMARSS standard, the Army plans to reduce the number of active Guardrail aircraft, and as the SEMA community continues to adapt to deal with the threats of today it will play an increasing role in support of ground forces. SEMA training units such as the 304th MIB are leading the way by staying close to the operational units, soliciting feedback from the field and participating in military exercises. The end result will continue to be well-trained, well-prepared SEMA aviators and crew.
FACT FILE | US ARMY SPECIAL MISSIONS
RC-12X(T) aircraft that will not be equipped with sensor payloads but will feature structural modifications and updated cockpits. Each GRCS system includes seven RC-12X aircraft, a Guardrail Ground Baseline (GGB) exploitation and dissemination center, and a mission operations center.
Airborne Reconnaissance Low (ARL) Currently fielded aboard eight DHC-7s (Dash 7s), the Airborne Reconnaissance Low — Multi-intelligence (ARL-M) program was initially created in November 1990 in response to a UON request from US Southern Command. The project was intended to support counter-narcotics and low-intensity conflict operations and included ARL-I imagery intelligence (IMINT) and ARL-C COMINT versions. Respectively designated O-5A and EO-5B, the aircraft were first fielded in 1993 but were later updated for multi-intelligence (Multi-INT) missions. Although the O-5A was written off in July 1999 when it crashed in Colombia, both EO-5Bs and six additional Dash 7s were modified to the ARL-M configuration. California Microwave Inc, which is now part of Northrop Grumman, delivered the first EO-5Cs in September 1996 and they have since been deployed to the US Central,
European, Africa, and Pacific Command AORs. The ARL-M system provides the capability to accurately detect, identify, classify, and track surface targets in day/ night, near-all-weather conditions and transmit intelligence directly to ground commanders in near-real time. The aircraft can also provide full-motion video (FMV) feeds to tactical commanders and are capable of tactical overwatch of operations. The mission suite includes a Wescam MX-20 EO/IR sensor, COMINT sensors, and AN/APY-8 radar, which features synthetic aperture radar/ground moving target indicator (SAR/GMTI) modes, and four on-board operator positions. Line-of-site (LOS) and beyond line-of-site (BLOS) communications capabilities include the Tactical Common Data Link (TCDL). A full suite of aircraft survivability equipment (ASE) provides the AN/APR-39 radar warning receiver and the AN/AAR-47 infra-red missile warning receiver as well as chaff/flare countermeasures dispensers. A modernization program, initiated in 2014, will replace the Dash 7s with nine newer, pre-owned, Bombardier DHC-8-315 airliners. Development of the Airborne Reconnaissance Low — Enhanced (ARL-E) began in 2015 and fielding of the RO-6A is planned to occur from FY 2019 to 2023. Under current plans the ARL-M systems will be progressively retired by 2021.
The baseline ARL-E’s open architecture will allow various combinations of ‘plug and play’ sensors to be rapidly installed, allowing the platform to support a wider range of operations than its predecessor. Its mission equipment payload (MEP) capabilities will include dual high-definition EO/IR with FMV, laser illumination/range-finding and target designation, tactical COMINT and SIGINT sensors, and a SAR/GMTI sensor. Additionally, the RO-6A will incorporate numerous capabilities such as WAAS, LIDAR, and HSI sensors, DMTI radar and foliage-penetrating radar (FOPEN). Four work-stations will be integrated with the Distributed Common Ground Station — Army (DCGS-A). The DCGS-A incorporates data from a wide array of sensors, including space-based sensors, geospatial information and signal and human intelligence sources. ARL-E will support collection requirements of Brigade Combat Teams (BCT) and other echelons across the full range of military operations (ROMO). The US Army selected Leidos Inc, which was spun off from the Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC) in 2013, to carry out the design and integration for the ARL-E system. The contractor will also be responsible for conducting the aircraft integration and providing logistical support under the terms of the $661.8-million contract
Above: EO-5C serial N59AG was the first to be modified to the Airborne Reconnaissance Low — Multiintelligence (ARL-M) configuration. Doors that conceal and protect retractable sensors are visible below the aircraft. Andrew Cline
US ARMY SPECIAL MISSIONS | FACT FILE
that was awarded on November 5, 2015. L-3 Communications and Northrop Grumman, which produced the ARL-M, had also been competing for the contract. Leidos is working with Boeing’s Argon-ST and Dynamic Aviation, which will carry out the aircraft integration work at its facility in Bridgewater, Virginia. The initial six aircraft had previously been operated in the Saturn Arch and Desert Owl QRC configurations and were purchased from the Dynamic Aviation Group at a cost of $39.2 million. Cockpit upgrades and provisions for ASE are being carried out on four aircraft by Adams Communications & Technology under a separate contract from the Project Manager Fixed-Wing. A new flight deck avionics system for the RO-6A was developed by the Universal Avionics Systems Corporation under a contract from the US Army. Modifications to the fleet are being carried out by Aerovation Inc at its facility at Tucson International Airport, Arizona. The effort will provide the ARL-E with five Universal Avionics EFI-890R Advanced Flight Displays and advanced communications. The US Army selected Northrop Grumman to develop the ARL-E Long-
Above: RO-6A serial 15-0338 carried the civil registration N8300F when it was operated by Dynamic Aviation. It is one of four DHC-8-315s that were originally in Saturn Arch configuration and among six currently being upgraded to Airborne Reconnaissance Low — Enhanced (ARL-E) configuration. Bill Word Below: C-12R serial 95-00100, assigned to US Army Reserve Command’s 2-228th AVN, was among nine King Airs modified in support of the Aerial Reconnaissance Multi-Sensor (ARMS) program. John Wilson via Barry Fryer
Range Radar for the RO-6A in September 2015. The active electronically-scanned array (AESA) system will feature SAR and GMTI modes and will be integrated with second-generation Vehicle and Dismount Exploitation Radar (VaDER) electronics and software. Fielding of the RO-6A will begin in FY 2019.
EO-5C ARL-M SERIALS N34HG, N59AG, N158CL, N177RA, N705GG, N765MG, N53993, N89068
Aerial Reconnaissance Multi-Sensor (ARMS) Initially designed for the counterIED (C-IED) mission, the Aerial Reconnaissance Multi-Sensor (ARMS) system was installed on nine US Army Reserve Command (USARC) C-12Rs from 2006. ARMS traces its roots back to the Medium Altitude Reconnaissance Surveillance System (MARSS) — see below — which was originally developed for operations over the Balkans in the late 1990s. The system was further developed by the Sierra Nevada Corporation’s (SNC) Integrated Mission Systems, and aircraft modifications were carried out at its facility in Hagerstown, Maryland.
ARMS was first deployed to Iraq to support C-IED operations as part of Task Force ODIN at Speicher near Tikrit, Iraq, beginning in October 2006. The aircraft were operated by the Task Force’s Bravo Company. Established at Fort Hood, Texas in August 2006, Task Force ODIN provided dedicated aerial IED surveillance along mission supply routes. The system included an L-3 WESCAM MX-15D EO/IR sensor, four digital still cameras, a SIGINT sensor and a robust communications suite. During deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan, the cameras typically mapped remote and difficult terrain. ARMS King Airs were re-deployed from Iraq in December 2011 and the system was assigned to 11th Aviation Command’s 339th Military Intelligence Company (MI CO) at Naval Air Station Fort Worth Joint Reserve Base, Texas. Following its return to Fort Worth, the unit supported Homeland Security counter-drug/incident awareness and assessment operations along the US/Mexico border in Texas in support of Joint Task Force — North (JTF-N). The bulk of the nine King Airs have since been de-configured and re-assigned to other missions. Two of these are currently being modified to support the
FACT FILE | US ARMY SPECIAL MISSIONS communications electronic attack with surveillance and reconnaissance (CEASAR) mission. A single aircraft is retained in the ARMS configuration at JB McGuire-DixLakehurst, New Jersey. Over the years, several King Airs have supported the test programs that have underpinned these efforts. An example involved the modification of U-21F serial 70-15908 and C-12C 78-23135 to perform rapid trials of both Wescam EO/IR sensors and the General Atomics AN/APY-8 Lynx synthetic aperture radar/moving target indicator (SAR/MTI) radar. Both operated in Bosnia in 2000, and the C-12C was lost in a crash that killed three civilian crew members in Afghanistan on October 13, 2009. The U-21F was last noted stored in Dothan, Alabama.
Medium Altitude Reconnaissance Surveillance System (MARSS)
MARSS was developed by the SNC for real-time Multi-INT collection. Like ARMS, the MARSS system collects and transmits FMV, COMINT and SIGINT data directly to tactical commanders in near-real-time. During April 2009, 11 King Air 300s were placed on the US Army inventory and registered to US Army Contracting Command at Fort Monmouth, New Jersey. Like the US Air Force’s initial batch of MC-12Ws, these aircraft were all procured from commercial sources and built between 1985 and 1991. The un-
DYNAMIC AVIATION Headquartered at Bridgewater Air Park in Bridgewater, Virginia, Dynamic Aviation operates more than 140 aircraft that provide numerous services to worldwide government and commercial customers including charter, fire management, aerial application, airborne data acquisition, and ISR. Known as K&K Aircraft until 1997, Dynamic Aviation purchased 124 Beechcraft U-21/King Air 90-series aircraft from the US Army in 1996. It subsequently acquired more than 30 C-12Cs, C-12Ds, RC-12Ds, C-12Ls and King Air 200s from the US Army, USAF, Japanese Coast Guard and commercial sources. Since 2004, when the contractor outfitted its first King Airs for ISR missions, its footprint in that industry has grown immensely. Beginning in 2009, Dynamic acquired the first of around 20 DHC-8-100, 200 and 300-series aircraft. Many of the former airliners have also been modified for ISR missions. The company’s involvement has included CO/CO, CO/ GO and GO/CO programs for the US Department of Defense under such names as Angel Fire, Radiant Falcon, Highlighter, Night Eagle, Desert Owl, Tracer, JAUDIT and CEASAR.
designated aircraft were again fitted-out in Hagerstown with MX-15D and MX-20 EO/IR sensors, COMINT/SIGINT systems and LOS and BLOS datalinks. The aircraft are equipped with the Blue Force Tracker and AN/AAR-47 and AN/APR-39 for self-protection.
Most of these King Airs were deployed as part of Task Force ODIN — Afghanistan (ODIN-A) and initially assigned to B Company of the newly established 3rd Battalion, 214th Aviation Regiment in mid-2010. The aircraft and crews were later re-assigned to Company B, 306th Aerial Exploitation Battalion in June 2011. Whereas most of the aircraft operated from Afghanistan, three of the King Airs were assigned to the Fixed Wing Army National Guard Aviation Training Site at North Central West Virginia Airport in Bridgeport, for training. One was written off in a crash that occurred in Afghanistan in January 2014. In addition to the King Airs, MARSS was installed on two contractor-operated DHC-7-102s, serials N566CC and N176RA, the first of which was recently placed into storage at Davis-Monthan AFB, Arizona. According to the US Army Fixed-Wing Project Management Office, the majority of the MARRS King Airs remain deployed in Afghanistan.
A new era — EMARSS The Enhanced Medium-Altitude Reconnaissance Surveillance System (EMARSS) program is fielding 24 MC-12S aircraft that will be operated in specific, tailored configurations for SIGINT, geospatial intelligence (GEOINT), Multi-INT and GMTI/DMTI. Although EMARSS has evolved from QRC systems, it is a new program. Each MC-12S will feature two on-board DCGS-A-compliant
Below: DHC-7 N566CC supported the MediumAltitude Reconnaissance Surveillance System (MARSS) program. It was retired to Davis-Monthan’s 309th AMARG in August 2016. 309th AMARG
US ARMY SPECIAL MISSIONS | FACT FILE work-stations that enable direct communication between aerial sensor operators (ASOs) aboard the aircraft and tactical units and commanders via a direct downlink. The Multi-INT A-ISR versions will be capable of detecting, locating, classifying, identifying and tracking high-value targets (HVT) during daylight or at night in nearly all weather conditions. Each of the specialized variants will feature a common cockpit and will be equipped with an FMV sensor and DCGS-A architecture. Individual sensors will communicate with the DCGS-A network and its supported tactical unit via LOS/ BLOS communications. EMARSS will transmit FMV and other products directly to tactical users via the One System Remote Viewing Terminal (OSRVT). Plans originally called for a fleet of 28 new-production MC-12S EMARSS aircraft. However, as a result of a July 2014 decision the US Army has pursued a multi-variant acquisition strategy rather than its original single-model approach. Ultimately, three QRC programs comprising Constant Hawk, TACOP/LIDAR, and MARSS are being consolidated into a single program. EMARSS emerged from the 2006 cancellation of the ACS program, and the US Army awarded Boeing a $323-million two-year engineering, manufacturing and development (EMD)
CBP MULTI-ROLE ENFORCEMENT AIRCRAFT King Air B300C N716A of US Customs and Border Protection features Seaspray 7500E multi-mode AESA radar and a retractable L-3 Wescam MX-15 EO/IR sensor. Tom Kaminski
Below right: King Air 300 N898RJ is one of 11 MediumAltitude Reconnaissance Surveillance System (MARRS) aircraft. Initially operated in its original civil color scheme, the King Air later received a coat of dark gray paint. Gordon Macadie
On October 1, 2009, the Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) was selected to deliver new multi-role enforcement aircraft (MEA) to the US Customs and Border Protection (CBP). The initial $95-million effort included five King Air 350ER aircraft and four one-year options. Planned as a replacement for 16 C-12C/Ms and five King Air 200s as well as five Piper PA-42 Cheyenne IIIA customs high-endurance tracker (CHET) aircraft, the MEA was intended to consolidate the capabilities of disparate aircraft types into a single platform. Utilizing a King Air B300C (Model 350ER) airframe, the MEA features a sensor package developed by SNC specifically for the CBP, again at its Hagerstown facility. The MEA features a SELEX Galileo Seaspray 7500E AESA radar, a COMINT system and HD digital video, while audio recorders
contract on November 30, 2010. It included the production of four developmental MC-12S aircraft along with options for two additional aircraft, six low-rate initial production (LRIP) aircraft and contractor logistics support (CLS). Ultimately, the Army planned to field 36 aircraft at a cost of $908 million, with the average cost of each aircraft equating to $25.2 million. Due to protests from competing bidders, Lockheed Martin/ Sierra Nevada and Northrop Grumman, the project was stalled until June 2011 when the protests were disallowed and a stop-work order was lifted.
and Ku-band satellite communications (SATCOM) BLOS equipment are included in the mission suite. A retractable L-3 Wescam MX-15 EO/IR sensor is installed in an extended nose. Manned by a crew of four including two pilots and two sensor/ mission system operators, the MEA is capable of conducting air-to-air intercepts and medium-range maritime patrols, and can be deployed to support ground interdiction operations. Delivery of the first aircraft occurred on June 15, 2011 and operational evaluation began the following July. The MEAs were initially fielded to the San Diego Air and Marine Branch at NAS North Island, California. The fleet currently includes 12 MEAs. In January 2016, CBP released a request for proposals for the next phase of the program, including a maximum of 12 aircraft to be procured over a six-year period.
An aerodynamic risk-reduction prototype entered flight-testing at Summit Airport in Middletown, Delaware, conducting a 70-minute flight on October 6, 2012. It initially supported testing required to gain Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) approval for airframe modifications that included an extended nose and radome designed to house the aircraftâ€™s mission systems. The first flight of a modified King Air 350 was carried out at Beechcraftâ€™s facility in Wichita, Kansas, on May 22, 2013. The EMARSS system consists of a retractable MX-15HDi high-definition EO/
FACT FILE | US ARMY SPECIAL MISSIONS IR, FMV sensor, a full-spectrum remotely operated COMINT collection system, an aerial precision geo-location (APG) system, LOS tactical and BLOS communications datalinks, two DCGS-A enabled operator work-stations and an integrated selfprotection suite. Although the US Army originally planned to move forward with MC-12S production, and had requested $142 million in FY 2014 for the purchase of four LRIP aircraft and the refurbishment of the EMD aircraft to the production configuration, it later revised the scope of the project.
The initial MC-12S arrived at Phillips Army Airfield at the US Army’s Aberdeen Proving Ground (APG) in Maryland during June 2013. A month later the Army said it planned to extend the EMD contract for an additional two years. Although two additional airframes were procured using FY 2013 research, development, test and evaluation (RDT&E) funding, the revised scope of the EMARSS program resulted in those aircraft being shifted to support other programs. The final FY 2014 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) directed the Army to use King Airs from the pool
Below: MC-12S-1 serial 11-00266 is operated by the 305th Military Intelligence Battalion at Fort Huachuca and is one of four aircraft built for the EMARRS program, it is in EMARSS-G configuration. Bill Word Right: MC-12W serial 08-00376 has been transferred to the US Army and will be modified as an EMARRS-M MC-12S-2. Bill Word
used for the overseas quick reaction requirements and integrate them with four EMARSS EMD aircraft in order to achieve a procurement objective of 24 platforms. Under the revised program, which is expected to save $216 million over new purchases, the EMARSS fleet will include a mix of new-build King Air 350ERs and former QRC aircraft. The Army expects to spend $338 million to modify the 24 aircraft at an average cost of $16.2 million per airframe. The four EMD MC-12S EMARSS aircraft will be assigned to the SIGINT mission as the EMARSS-S and will be equipped with SIGINT, Big Iron and FMV. The aircraft are currently assigned to the 224th Military Intelligence Battalion (AEB) at Hunter Army Airfield in Savannah, Georgia, which is the first unit to be equipped. Training with the MC-12S began at Hunter in October 2015. Five Constant Hawk systems and three Tactical Operations Light Detection and Ranging (TACOP/LIDAR) aircraft will be known as EMARSS-G under the designation MC-12S-1 and will be equipped for GEOINT and measurement and signature intelligence (MASINT).
SPECIAL PROJECTS EXPLAINED Tactical Operations Light Detection and Ranging (TACOP LIDAR) This system was developed by L-3 Communications under a sole-source contract issued by the Naval Surface Warfare Center, Crane Division in Indiana during March 2011. This GO/CO system initially provided two King Air 350ER aircraft with the capability to monitor urban and rural environments, and its three-dimensional (3D) processing allowed areas with varied terrain to be observed. A third aircraft was later modified. Vehicle and Dismount Exploitation Radar (VaDER) Developed by Northrop Grumman Electronic Systems, the Vehicle and Dismount Exploitation Radar (VaDER) was designed to pinpoint the position of combatants believed to be carrying and/ or planting IEDs. VaDER has been described as a ‘man-mapping’ radar and is powerful enough to spot persons of interest from altitudes of 25,000ft (7,620m) or higher. The system provides GMTI/DMTI data and SAR imagery to ground commanders in real-time. Work on VaDER started as a Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) effort in 2006. In April 2014, Lockheed Martin received a $24.5-million contract to install the VaDER and an aerial precision geo-location kit on a King Air 350 series aircraft for delivery by March 2015.
Saturn Arch Saturn Arch was originally developed by the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) to identify and assist in removing IEDs from the battlefield in Afghanistan. The responsibility for the Saturn Arch program was transferred to the INSCOM at Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan, on March 1, 2013 and assigned to Task Force ODIN —Enhanced (ODIN-E). The hyper-spectral imaging system includes a suite of high-resolution EO/ IR sensors designed to provide persistent surveillance to accomplish day and night image collection and exploitation of IEDs. Development of Saturn Arch began in 2010. The system was installed on two King Air A200s and four DHC-8-315 CO/CO aircraft that were operated as part of Task Force ODIN-E. These aircraft remain active and deployed. Desert Owl This system features an SRI International PenRad 7 UHF-band synthetic aperture radar system and the L-3 Communications MX-15 EO/IR sensor, and has an on-board image-processing capability. The system provided the capability to simultaneously conduct MASINT and IMINT missions in nearly all weather conditions. It collects high-quality SAR imagery and coherent change detection (CCD) data via the long-range UHF/SAR array during
multiple passes over the same area. CCD reveals minor changes in the area such as those caused by vehicular movement or placement of a mine or IED. In addition, the system provided full-motion EO/IR video feeds to the OSRVT, the Desert Owl ground control station, or through the Task Force ODIN communications architecture. A laser illuminator and designator allowed the aircraft to support precision targeting. Developed by the JIEDDO, the system was initially fielded to Iraq for a 90-day period in 2010. The Desert Owl aircraft, which included two DHC-8s and two King Air A200s, were managed by PEO Aviation/ FW PMO. Constant Hawk Constant Hawk — Iraq was initially carried by CO/CO Shorts 360s that were deployed in 2006 for the C-IED system, assigned to Task Force ODIN, and operated and maintained by Jorge Scientific. In September 2011, L-3 Communications modified two King Air 350ER aircraft with Constant Hawk for the US Army. The system included a 96-megapixel camera capable of scanning a 10-mile (16km) diameter area from an altitude of 18,000ft (5,486m). Constant Hawk — Afghanistan (CH-A) aircraft were primarily tasked with C-IED surveillance and forensic force protection missions using a wide-field of view (WFOV) system that allowed the aircraft to provide
US ARMY SPECIAL MISSIONS | FACT FILE
Below: MC‑12S-1 11-00266 passed through Shannon Airport, Ireland, in April 2016. Paul Nelhams
Mission equipment carried by the MC-12S-1 will include the BAE Systems Airborne Wide-Area Persistent Surveillance (AWAPS), Multi-Aperture Sparse Imager Video System (MASIVS), LIDAR and FMV. Eight MC-12W Liberty Project aircraft that were transferred from the USAF to the Army will receive cockpit modifications, a SIGINT/IMINT capability, Big Iron and FMV and will be known as EMARRS-M (for Multi-Intelligence) under the designation MC-12S-2.
Crew training at the US Army Intelligence Center of Excellence (USAICE) at Fort Huachuca, Arizona, began in October 2014. The following March, the L-3 Communications Mission Integration Division in Greenville, Texas, which developed the Liberty Project aircraft for the USAF, was awarded a $31.8-million contract to modify a single QRC MC-12W into an EMARSS-M platform. Work associated with the initial variant modification (IVM) was scheduled to be
Bottom: King Air B300 serial 13‑0283, one of two purchased for the EMARRS program, was delivered in MARRS configuration and will be modified to MC‑12S-3 EMARSS-V (VaDER) configuration. David Townsend
completed by September 30, 2016. The first prototype EMARSS-M MC-12S-2 carried out its initial flight in Greenville, Texas, on June 22, 2016. Four VaDER aircraft as well as the fifth and sixth EMARSS MC-12S airframes will be equipped with the MTI radar, a SIGINT capability, Big Iron and FMV. They will be referred to as EMARSS-V and designated MC-12S-3. Final transfer dates for the respective aircraft have not yet been determined and are predicated on the conclusion of the respective QRC programs. The Constant Hawk, TACOP/LIDAR, VaDER and Liberty missions are all scheduled to conclude by the end of FY 2018. The EMARSS-M and EMARSS-V are now in the initial integration phase. Once that effort is completed, those aircraft and two EMARSS-G platforms will undergo a full operational test and evaluation and fielding in FY 2017. L-3 is on contract (for $129.7 million) to modify 13 QRC aircraft to EMARSS under a 36-month effort that includes a baseline effort for seven aircraft and options consisting of four and two aircraft respectively.
360-degree surveillance of a designated area. CH-A initially deployed three BAE Systems Airborne Wide-Area Persistent Surveillance System (AWAPSS) sensors and a fourth aircraft was equipped with a datalink, satellite communications capability, and a high-resolution MX-15 EO/IR sensor. AWAPSS provides highresolution EO/IR sensors for continuous day and night wide-area motion imagery. CEASAR The Communications Electronic Attack with Surveillance and Reconnaissance (CEASAR) program installed a system, based on the EA-18G’s Raytheon AN/ALQ‑227 communications countermeasures system, on three CO/ GO King Airs. The system was designed to provide a communications jamming and an intercept/monitoring capability. The King Airs, owned by the Dynamic Aviation Group, were deployed in support of Operations ‘Enduring Freedom’ and ‘Freedom Sentinel’ in Afghanistan. In August 2015, two further CEASAR aircraft were requested by the third quarter of FY 2016. The Communications Electronics Research, Development and Engineering Center (CERDEC) Flight Activity’s Fabrication Integration Fielding Facility (FIFF) at JB McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, New Jersey, subsequently modified a pair of C-12R King Airs for the role.
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UNIT REPORT | KADENA EAGLES
OF THE PACIFIC 42
The 18th Wing at Kadena Air Base, Japan, is home to two of the last three remaining active-duty US Air Force F-15C units. Combat Aircraft meets the 44th and 67th Fighter Squadrons.
report: Jamie Hunter photos: Jim Haseltine T SEEMS INCREDIBLE that, in an era of fifth-generation fighters, 30-year-old F-15C Eagles remain the mainstays of air superiority for the US Air Force in the Pacific — one of the most important theaters in the world. Indeed, F-15Cs are also still to be found in Europe, equally well-positioned with the 493rd Fighter Squadron at RAF Lakenheath in the United Kingdom. ‘The F-15C is here to stay’, says Lt Col Kevin ‘Jinx’ Jamieson, commander of the 44th Fighter Squadron ‘Vampires’, one of two razor-sharp Eagle squadrons that come under the command of the 18th Wing at Kadena Air Base.
Okinawa — a Japanese prefecture comprising some 150 islands in the East China Sea between Taiwan and the Japanese mainland — enjoys a tropical climate and attractive sandy beaches. It is also where you’ll find Kadena, one of the US Air Force’s most important overseas outposts. Kadena is home to the 18th Wing, the largest combat wing in the USAF and one that includes a squadron each of E-3B Sentry AWACS, HH-60G Pave Hawks, and KC-135R Stratotankers, plus the Eagles of the 44th and 67th Fighter Squadrons. All are part of the Pacific Air Forces (PACAF). Gen Terrence O’Shaughnessy assumed command of PACAF this July. During
his inauguration speech he said: ‘Our nation’s senior leaders have said the Indo-Asia-Pacific region is the ‘single most consequential region’ for America’s future, and I’m excited to continue our nation’s rebalance to the Pacific’. As PACAF commander, he now leads an area of responsibility (AOR) that covers more than 100 million square miles and extends from the west coast of the United States to the east coast of Africa and from the Arctic to the Antarctic. Spearheading the USAF’s air superiority assets in the region are the two Kadena Eagle squadrons. These are set against a backdrop of F-22A Raptors at Elmendorf Air Force Base in Alaska and Hickam AFB in Hawaii. As of next year, US Marine Corps F-35B Lightning IIs of Marine Fighter Attack Squadron (VMFA) 121 will be moving into Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni on the Japanese mainland. In addition, there are the regular Theater Security Packages (TSPs) that flow into the region.
KADENA EAGLES | UNIT REPORT
When asked if the F-35A was likely to be drafted in any time soon to re-equip Kadena’s two prestigious air superiority squadrons, Lt Col James McFarland, deputy Operations Group (OG) commander at Kadena, succinctly replied: ‘I have no updates on F-35. It’s not on our radar.’ Maintaining 30-year-old Eagles isn’t without its challenges. Indeed, on July 29 one of the 67th FS ‘Fighting Cocks’ jets became the first example on base to reach the 10,000-flight-hour mark. Eagles were originally lifed to 4,000 hours and the USAF is looking to extend the lives of these aircraft to 18,000 hours, with new wings helping achieve this. It’s testament to the design, build and ongoing maintenance performed on these incredible aircraft. ‘The fact these aircraft have been in service for over 30 years, are projected to continue for decades to come, and continue to accomplish their missions in superb fashion speaks volumes of the
original designers, manufacturers, and those who maintain the fleet day in and day out’, comments McFarland. Capt Brian Anderson, a 67th FS pilot, adds: ‘We have jets here with multiple combat kills. They’ve been through more than four wars and operations — ‘Desert Storm’, ‘Desert Shield’, ‘Northern Watch’, ‘Southern Watch’, ‘Allied Force’ — and all those jets are sitting out on the ramp.’ The Kadena Eagles are certainly seasoned fighters. Eight of those very same ‘MiG-killers’ that found international acclaim in ‘Desert Storm’, wearing the ‘EG’ tailcodes of the 33rd Fighter Wing at Eglin AFB, Florida, are still plying their trade from the concrete shelters at Kadena. Commanded by Lt Col Derek Mentzer, the 67th Fighter Squadron proudly flies four ‘MiG-killer’ F-15Cs, all of which are seen here.
Strong partners The Kadena-based F-15C units have won the hallowed Raytheon Trophy for best air superiority squadron in the USAF on many occasions in recent years. It’s no surprise that these wily prizefighters are still a dominant force in the Pacific. The
Eagle may be old, but it remains lethal in the hands of the young fighter pilots who fly day in, day out over the vast overwater ranges near Kadena. Indeed, so much of their time is spent over the sea that the punishing saltwater is rinsed off the Eagles after each flight here as they taxi back to their perches. The presence of the Eagle at Kadena also allows the USAF to dovetail with its compatriots in the Japan Air Self-Defense Force (JASDF), which is the second largest operator of the original Eagle model. Lt Col Jamieson says: ‘I don’t think the F-15C is going anywhere soon. Boeing has helped upgrade the Eagle to stay on top of everything in the AOR. Because Kadena is such a strategic location, we have a lot of assets out here that makes us almost look like a composite [wing] with the F-15Cs, the E-3s, the KC-135Rs, and other aircraft that come here and combine to bring a great deal to the AOR and great training. ‘We ensure we can gain and maintain air superiority in the Pacific. We have seen an
UNIT REPORT | KADENA EAGLES
increase in our operational tempo and there’s no doubt that there’s a lot going on in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region’. The two Kadena Eagle units are regularly on the road and they seem to be a permanent fixture of exercises in the region. ‘We go to lots of different training exercises’, explains Jamieson. ‘Part of that is to ensure we maintain strong alliances in the theater, plus it helps increase interoperability so we can tactically employ together’. McFarland adds: ‘We regularly go to ‘Red Flag Alaska’ and work down in Guam with the 18th Aggressor Squadron that deploys from Eielson’. McFarland says he’d like to see the aggressors in town a little more, but there’s no shortage of DACT (dissimilar air combat training) to be had in this part of the world. ‘We try to fly with the JASDF quite a bit and undertake aviation training relocations [ATRs], where we take our squadrons and go up to mainland Japan to work with their units’, explains Jamieson. ‘We just completed an ATR to Tsuiki, where we met up with our sister squadron 304 Hikotai. They fly the F-15J and last January they moved down here to Naha, so we train with them as much as possible. We have also trained with the JASDF’s F-2s and F-4s, but not the aggressor F-15 squadron [recently relocated to Komatsu]. We are able to make the most of a lot of DACT; US Navy squadrons come through here regularly. For example, we just hosted four F/A-18Es of VFA-27 over the past three days, and we also recently went to ‘Cope Taufan’ and worked with the Malaysian Su-30s and Hawks.’ Adding the ops group perspective, McFarland says: ‘I was here back in 2004 to 2007 and our integration has increased
KADENA EAGLES | UNIT REPORT Left: The 18th Wing at Kadena combines airborne control from the E-3Bs with a large KC-135R tanker squadron and air superiority F-15Cs. Below left: Flying over vast over-sea ranges means that the Kadena Eagles need a thorough rinse after each mission to mitigate corrosion issues. Below right: Young maintainers on the two Kadena Eagle squadrons work tirelessly to ensure aircraft availability can meet packed flying schedules.
dramatically. We fly with and meet with the JASDF far more now. If we aren’t deployed, then we are working in our local airspace and our ranges are larger than those at Nellis. When the TSPs are in town we work closely with them. They are here to show America’s partners and allies that they have our full support.’
Lethal Eagles Asked recently by a reporter to comment on the similarities between the Chengdu Aircraft Industry Group (CAC) J-20 and the F-35, USAF chief of staff Gen David Goldfein said that, in his opinion, the J-20 was more akin to the F-117 Nighthawk — referencing first-generation stealth technology. As a former ‘Bandit’ and the senior USAF officer, Goldfein’s appraisal of the J-20 is likely to be fairly accurate, and therefore it’s quite some accolade for China’s first attempt at a stealthy fighter. The F-117 was a huge success and was renowned for its tiny radar cross-section
(RCS). Indeed, Goldfein revealed that he used to lower his seat when he covertly ingressed toward a target, suggesting that a pilot’s helmet was a potential RCS spoiler. The Kadena squadrons will be keenly aware of the rising capabilities of the Chinese military, situated on the other side of the East China Sea. Importantly, the positioning of F-15Cs at Kadena sends a message of defense, not offense. The Eagle wields an impressive defensive ‘stick’. The new AN/APG-63(V)3 active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar that equips some of the wing’s jets, when combined with the praised new AIM-120D variant of the Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missile (AMRAAM), means that the Eagle’s talons can reach out to impressive distances in beyond visual range (BVR) engagements. The wing also operates jets fitted with the (V)2 standard of the radar, which was developed initially as an early AESA
Below: The two Eagle squadrons at Kadena are housed in drab concrete barns on a large flightlne.
UNIT REPORT | KADENA EAGLES
‘It’s good to know I can have full trust in the airframe, given its age, when I go out there’ CAPT BRIAN ANDERSON
fix for 18 aircraft that were attached to Elmendorf. When the Alaskan wing ‘chopped in’ its F-15s for new Raptors, the (V)2 jets moved to Kadena. Lt Col Jamieson says: ‘We received the (V)2 jets out here from Elmendorf in 2007 to 2008 and we now have an all-AESA fleet with a mix of (V)2 and (V)3 jets’. In time, the wing expects to move to an all-(V)3 fleet. Both the ‘Vampires’ and ‘Cocks’ are 24 PAA (primary assigned aircraft) squadrons. They do not hold an alert mission, which means they can afford to deploy regularly and not impact the home-station mission. New blood flows into these busy fighter squadrons on a regular basis. The work tempo here is clearly not for the fainthearted. New pilots coming from the F-15 Formal Training Unit (FTU) are joining squadrons on the leading edge of a very important operating region. Kadena isn’t a place for errors.
Lt Col Derek Mentzer, the commander of the 67th FS, says: ‘We have about 25 pilots in the squadron and about 10 attached to the wing and operations group staffs’. Bringing new pilots into the Eagle community is part of everyday life for Mentzer. ‘The key to ensuring our edge against potential adversaries is our people and training. We have a very deliberate syllabus based on decades of development and combat validation that puts our new pilots through the paces when they arrive here fresh from the FTU. The flow of the program follows the same building-block approach as the FTU, but on this side of the Pacific they are introduced to an all-AESA fleet during MQT [Mission Qualification Training], which is a game-changer. This also gives us a chance to note their strengths and weaknesses before declaring them to be combat mission-ready while giving our
Above: Over the last decade, F-15C upgrades have catered to the offensive needs of the jet, such as the Joint HelmetMounted Cueing System (JHMCS). Now the USAF is turning towards the defensive side of the Eagle.
instructor cadre an opportunity to hone their skills. Once complete with their MQT syllabus, our new pilots will be ready to deploy and fight in support of theater and worldwide contingency plans as wingmen until they start flight lead upgrades after about a year. These upgrades will again follow the same building-block approach and flow.’ Mentzer heads up a strong team with a lot of responsibility on their shoulders. Leading the instructor cadre for the squadron is the Weapons School graduate — the ‘patch-wearer’. ‘As our lead instructor and tactician, the Weapons Officer endeavors to make everyone in the squadron as good as them. While at the WIC [Weapons Instructor Course] at Nellis AFB, Nevada, they endure an extremely focused six-month training program. The 67th’s weapons officer, Capt Greg Schroeder, just recently graduated
KADENA EAGLES | UNIT REPORT
Above right: This F-15C is a double ‘MiGkiller’, clocking up a pair of Iraqi MiG-23s on January 27, 1991, during Operation ‘Desert Storm’. Below: Eagle meets ‘Flanker’. During Exercise ‘Red Flag Alaska’ earlier this year the 67th FS worked alongside Indian Su‑30MKIs.
challenges, and that I can shoulder my weight alongside them in the air and on the ground during regular work days that can last more than 12 to 15 hours.’ Mentzer and his fellow commanders are acutely aware of some of those daily challenges. Recent studies show that 20 years ago, training missions took five hours to plan, brief, fly and debrief. Although today’s fighter aircraft are far more effective, it now takes in excess of 15 hours to execute similar missions due to the increased mission complexities of each evolution. That combines with the secondary duties of squadron administration which have fallen to squadron pilots as administration posts have been whittled away.
Future fight Boeing has made much of its solutions for the USAF to keep the F-15C credible out to 2040. The so-called ‘2040C’ Eagle includes a raft of improvements including
increased missile carriage for up to 16 AMRAAMs. How much of the ‘2040C’ is taken up by the USAF remains to be seen. Lt Col Mentzer is well-versed in the latest Eagle upgrades, having been part of the operational test team for the APG‑63(V)3. ‘Never has the F-15 been more lethal, but never has it been more difficult to maintain’, he warns. ‘We are challenged with an aging fleet, and with helping maintenance grow experience.’ Unlike the Air National Guard F-15 squadron, the young Kadena maintainers have not been fixing Eagles for 30 years. Having more seasoned maintainers directly equates to more flying hours. ‘The way they learn and gain experience is by fixing aircraft, which means we have to balance this growth with pilots’ training and operational requirements’, Mentzer comments. ‘What our maintenance professionals are able to produce with young airmen, many of [whom] have never touched an airplane
from Nellis this summer at the top of his class. As a captain, he carries immense responsibility to be the tactical lead of the squadron, but he has my complete confidence. Between him and the operations officer [director of operations — DO] they will co-ordinate and standardize how the squadron will employ with my approval. ‘But the weapons officer is not alone in carrying immense responsibility as a captain. It’s the captains who run and lead the squadron with guidance from the commander to ensure the squadron is vectored towards accomplishment of our and superior command objectives. In this AOR, that’s critically important.’ Being the commanding officer of a fighter squadron means leading from the front. ‘It’s all about credibility’, says Mentzer. ‘The pilots have to know I understand and will work to remedy their
UNIT REPORT | KADENA EAGLES
‘We ensure we can gain and maintain air superiority in the Pacific… there’s no doubt that there’s a lot going on in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region’ LT COL KEVIN ‘JINX’ JAMIESON
prior to a year ago, is truly amazing. PACAF has tasked us with an aggressive deployment schedule to assure allies and build partnerships across the Indo-AsiaPacific, and our maintenance is the first pre-requisite of that engagement and our combat-readiness alike.’ ‘I like to know in my heart and mind every day, I’m walking out to a jet that’s going to be combat-capable’, says Capt Brian Anderson. ‘It’s good to know I can have full trust in the airframe, given its age, when I go out there’. Referring to the young maintainers on the squadron, he adds: ‘They might not get all the glory, but they sure do deserve it.’ Those aircraft on the line at Kadena are currently at Operational Flight Program (OFP) Suite 6 standard. Suite 7C is planned next, with the main purpose of this being the ability to host the forthcoming Advanced Display Core Processor II (ADCP II) mission computer. The Eagle Passive/Active Warning and Survivability System (EPAWSS) is also now on contract with Boeing and this will transform the Eagle’s ability to look after itself. EPAWSS will literally sample the radio frequency (RF) spectrum, identify threats, prioritize, and allocate jamming resources against them. It marks a step-change in priorities for the Eagle community, which has concentrated on the radar and missiles in recent upgrade evolutions. Under Suite 7C, the aircraft will feature a new cockpit display known simply as ‘the pad’. This is planned to enhance situational awareness for the pilots, who have until now relied solely on their small radar scopes and VSD (vertical situation display). ‘We have sensor fusion’, quips
This image: A 44th Fighter Squadron Eagle driver punches out flares as he reefs his mount into a tight turn during a mission from Kadena. Right: A ‘Fighting Cocks’ Eagle driver goes through his pre-flight checks on the 67th FS flightline. Top right: The 44th FS’ flagship F-15C, serial 85-0114, is credited with two MiG kills — an Iraqi MiG-29 and MiG-23 at the hands of Capt Cesar ‘Rico’ Rodriguez. Far right: A 909th Air Refueling Squadron KC-135R is swarmed upon by four Kadena F-15Cs.
Lt Col Mentzer. ‘It’s called the human brain. We take those data streams and we synthesize and prioritize the information. We figure out what’s important and what’s not. As a pilot of a single-role aircraft, I’m still most comfortable with my radar scope and FPCD [flat-panel color display, showing Link 16 information].’ The USAF is making progress with its desire to develop and enhance the relationship between the Eagle and the Raptor, too. One of the major limitations
of the stealthy F-22 has been its inability to communicate covertly with other off-board platforms. An intra-flight datalink (IFDL) enables a flight of Raptors to exchange data within the formation, but not to share it with others. Similarly, the F-22’s Increment 3.2A spiral upgrade integrated the widely used Link 16, but as a receive-only terminal; Link 16 was not designed for stealthy aircraft and its omni-direction emissions could reveal the Raptor’s location. In short, the Raptor
KADENA EAGLES | UNIT REPORT
can receive data, but it cannot give it. The so-called ‘fifth to fourth-generation’ communications issue needed to be solved — enter Boeing’s Talon HATE pod. Developed initially by the company’s secretive Phantom Works as a rapidprototyping concept, Talon HATE is a podded system that combines an advanced, covert, data-exchange capability with an in-built infra-red search and track (IRST) sensor. Details of Talon HATE remain sketchy. Boeing completed the final design review for the project in September 2014. In a company press release it said the new system ‘combines information from fighter networks, national sources and joint command and control assets. Transmitting over datalinks, the information can then be used by joint aircraft, ships and ground stations, improving communication and information sharing across the battlespace.’ A smooth method of covertly exchanging data between the F-22 and F-15C will have many benefits. The new system should allow the F-22 to disperse data from two of its most sophisticated
sensors: the AN/APG-77 radar and AN/ALR-94 electronic warfare system, a capability hitherto seemingly impossible. Meanwhile, the F-15C’s (V)3 AESA offers extremely long-range detection. In addition, the new IRST sensor on the Talon HATE pod will enable the Eagle pilot to transmit both long-range radar and IRST data to the F-22, increasing its detection capabilities and decreasing reliance on its own sensors, thereby helping it to remain undetected. The ability to passively relay target data forward to the F-22s will mean they need only break cover when they have to release a weapon. Conversely, the F-22s will be able to act as a passive sensor for missile-laden F-15Cs. Boeing’s Mike Gibbons comments: ‘The IRST is a real game-changer over how people were looking at threat detection decades ago. You no longer have to rely on radar alone. You can use IRST with or without radar to see threats from far out. So, even if they have a radar crosssection that makes it a little harder to detect with the radar, we will have the IRST pod to still see and target them from a long way out.’ Talon HATE has been in operational test for nearly a year now, but it isn’t clear when this impressive new capability will filter down to the front line. For now, the main emphasis is placed on readiness, keeping sufficient aircraft on the line to enable pilots to stay fully current, and being ready to go on the road for the many deployments in the hectic ops schedule. As Mentzer says, ‘Reassuring allies and engaging with emerging partners is vitally important for us.’
‘Eagle break’ — a trio of Kadena F-15Cs split in spectacular fashion and pump out decoy flares. Jim Haseltine
PROGRAM UPDATE | HH-60G
he US Air Force’s HH-60G Pave Hawk personnel recovery/combat search and rescue (CSAR) helicopters are low in numbers, but high in demand. The Pave Hawk rescue squadrons and their operators are deployed around the globe on a continuous basis. With the Combat Rescue Helicopter (CRH) replacement project having slipped backwards, the USAF needed to maintain its force of these important aerial rescuers. On June 28, 2016, Science and Engineering Services Inc (SES) unveiled the first of 21 ‘newly’ produced HH-60Gs for Air Combat Command (ACC) during a ceremony at the contractor’s Huntsville facility, near the US Army’s Redstone Arsenal in Alabama. The Black Hawk was modified to the Pave Hawk CSAR configuration as part of the USAF’s HH-60G Operational Loss Replacement (OLR) program. Begun in October 2012, this will provide the USAF with replacements for HH-60Gs that have been written off and restore the Air Force’s CSAR helicopter fleet to its authorized strength. Transferred from the US Army, the UH-60Ls included relatively new, low-time airframes that had flown an average of around 2,350 hours. The aircraft transfer began on November 30, 2012 and concluded during the fourth quarter of Fiscal Year 2014. Whereas 19 of the Black
Hawks were initially placed in storage with the 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group (AMARG) at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Arizona, two examples were delivered directly to SES. UH-60L serial 05-27046, which served as the prototype conversion, arrived at the SES facility in September 2013 and modification work began in July 2014. The helicopter first flew in Pave Hawk configuration on July 1, 2016. Developmental and operational testing will be carried out by the CSAR Combined Task Force, which includes Detachment 1 of the 413th Flight Test Squadron (FLTS) and the 88th Test and Evaluation Squadron (TES) at Nellis AFB, Nevada.
the designation HH-60G in 1991 following their transfer from Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC) to ACC. A small number of MH-60Gs were retained by AFSOC until late 1998 when they too were finally re-assigned to ACC. Since entering service, attrition has reduced the HH-60G inventory to 97 helicopters. At least seven have been written off since 2001. During that time, the fleet has conducted 15,000 rescue missions — primarily flown in Iraq and Afghanistan — and around 50 of the Pave Hawks that remain in service have sustained battle damage. According to testimony before the House Armed Services Committee, during Operations
HH-60G serial 89-6201 operated by the 563rd Rescue Group’s 55th Rescue Squadron returns to Davis-Monthan, Arizona, at the conclusion of a training mission. Wally Van Winkle
‘The HH-60G OLR is a completely re-missionized helicopter that is fully capable of successfully executing the combat rescue mission’ BRIG GEN ERIC FICK
Pave Hawk legacy Between 1981 and 1997 the USAF acquired 112 UH-60A and UH-60L helicopters that were modified to CSAR configuration by Sikorsky Aircraft at its Troy, Alabama, facility. Originally delivered under the designation MH-60G, the majority of the Pave Hawks were assigned
‘Iraqi Freedom’ (OIF) and ‘Enduring Freedom’ (OEF) HH-60G crews have ‘repeatedly landed in contested areas to recover more than 5,400 injured American and coalition soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines’. Because of their age and high operational tempo, 37 Pave Hawks, accounting for 38 per cent
THAT OTHERS MAY LIVE The US Air Force has embarked on a program to upgrade its fleet of combat rescue helicopters under the HH-60G Operational Loss Replacement (OLR) initiative. report: Tom Kaminski
The primary mission of the HH-60G is the recovery of isolated personnel from hostile or denied territory. USAF/SSgt DeAndre Curtiss
HH-60G | PROGRAM UPDATE
of the fleet, underwent unscheduled depot maintenance in 2015. The HH-60G fleet currently includes 65 aircraft that are operated by active-duty units, 17 flown by Air National Guard (ANG) squadrons and 15 assigned to Air Force Reserve Command (AFRC). A program management directive (PMD), issued on July 17, 2009, directed the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center’s SOF/Personnel Recovery Division (AFLCMC/WIU) to move forward with the
HH-60 OLR program. The Air Force has already spent $372 million on purchasing 21 UH-60Ls, completing design work and procuring 21 modification kits for the CSAR conversions. Funding for 16 ‘installs’ has been authorized or earmarked until the end of Fiscal Year (FY) 2018 — five in FY 2015, eight in FY 2017 and three in FY 2018 — and three UH-60Ls will be inducted quarterly until early FY 2018. Additional funding will be required for the remaining three installs. Deliveries will
begin in late FY 2017 and run until early FY 2019. The Air Force will use the OLR program as part of an overall fleet management strategy. Under current plans, 20 newly converted HH-60Gs will be fielded in Fiscal Year 2018 once testing has been completed. Those aircraft currently assigned to the Guard squadrons will be cascaded to the active-duty units with the highest number of flight hours. Assigning the aircraft to the ANG will cut its average
PROGRAM UPDATE | HH-60G
fleet age in half. A single OLR HH-60G will be retained to support test duties. Ultimately, those units will see a substantial improvement in sustainability over their current aircraft due to the replacement of numerous aging and obsolescent systems. These include color weather radar, a digital symbol generator unit (DSGU), improved tactical air navigation (TACAN), new AN/ APR‑39B(V)2 radar warning receivers, an automatic direction-finder, and a digital intercommunication system (ICS). The upgraded aircraft is known as Block 162. According to Brig Gen Eric Fick, the director of Global Reach Programs with the office of the Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition, ‘The HH-60G OLR is a completely re-missionized helicopter that is fully capable of successfully executing the combat rescue mission.’ Future upgrades may provide the HH-60G with a high-resolution threedimensional imaging laser detection and ranging (LADAR) system that was first demonstrated in 2014, as part of the degraded visual environment (DVE) project. Evaluations have been carried out with a new electronic control unit (ECU) that would enable the HH-60G’s current GAU-18 0.5in (12.7mm)-caliber machine gun to be replaced by the more capable GAU-21. Based on the FN Herstal M3M, the GAU-21 offers a barrel life of 10,000 rounds, a cyclic rate of fire of up to 1,100 rounds per minute, and reduced recoil compared to the similar-caliber GAU-18. The Air National Guard units receiving the OLR aircraft are the 210th Rescue Squadron (RQS) at Joint Base ElmendorfRichardson, Alaska; the 101st RQS at Francis S. Gabreski Airport, New York; and the 129th RQS at Moffett Federal Airfield, California. Delivery of the OLR helicopters will ensure that the USAF is ready to conduct personnel recovery and CSAR missions until its new combat rescue helicopter enters service after 2020. Under current plans, the entire fleet of 97 HH-60Gs will be updated to the Block 162 configuration. As part of the plan, the Avionics Communications Suite Upgrade (ACSU) will be incorporated in 65 activeduty HH-60Gs. Rockwell Collins completed the first installation of the ARC-210 Gen5 radio in January 2013 and the ACSU has already been incorporated in 32 ANG and AFRC Pave Hawks. Funding for all of the required kits was provided in FY 2016. An associated modification will install a new electronic fuel quantity indicator (EFQI) in all 97 aircraft. Additionally, obsolescence
HH-60G serial 05-27046 is the first of 21 UH-60Ls to be transferred from the US Army to the Air Force in support of the HH-60G Operational Loss Replacement (OLR) program. USAF
HH-60G OLR MODIFICATIONS SES added a comprehensive kit of more than 70 modifications to the UH-60L that included an air refueling capability, forward looking infra-red (FLIR) sensor, color weather radar (CWR) and additional equipment that completed the conversion to the Pave Hawk configuration. In addition to the basic modifications associated with the HH‑60G, SES integrated numerous upgrades made to the Pave Hawk fleet since it was first introduced in 1982. SES also completed several systems upgrades that have only begun to reach the rest of the HH-60G fleet. Work on the second,
kits will install the new CWR, Improved TACAN, DSGU and ICS on 97 HH-60Gs beginning in FY 2017.
Future CSAR The USAF previously attempted to replace the HH-60G when Boeing was selected to build a new Combat Search and Rescue Replacement vehicle, which had been known as CSAR-X, in November 2006. The HH-47 was based on the MH-47G, which was in production at the contractor’s Ridley Park, Pennsylvania, facility. Boeing expected to build 141 production and four test aircraft as part of the $10-billion program. However, the contract was cancelled in 2007 following protests by Lockheed Martin and Sikorsky, and the CSAR-X program was formally terminated in April 2009. The USAF was also directed to procure replacement helicopters based upon currently fielded CSAR capabilities. Later, in March 2010, the USAF released a capability request for information (CRFI) as part of a plan to acquire modified UH‑60Ms under the HH-60 Recapitalization Program. In late 2010, that effort was integrated with a project to replace the USAF’s Bell UH-1N fleet under the HH-60 Personnel Recovery
‘kit-proof’, HH-60G conversion is under way and serial 01-26881 should be delivered in January 2017. Production modifications will begin in September and October when the first two UH-60Ls arrive at the SES facility from Davis-Monthan. Subsequently, two helicopters will be trucked to Huntsville monthly beginning in November. The OLR modifications are expected to take around a year to complete on each airframe, with three months being required to ‘baseline’ the UH-60L and another nine to finish the conversion to HH-60G configuration.
Recapitalization Program (HH-60 Recap)/ Common Vertical Lift Support Platform (CVLSP). The USAF formally announced its plan to acquire a CVLSP on April 25, 2011. In August 2011 the plan for the new helicopter called for it to achieve initial operational capability (IOC) with eight aircraft in FY 2018. The CRH program was formally approved on March 2, 2012. The Air Force finally released the formal request for proposals (RFP) for the renamed Combat Rescue Helicopter (CRH) in October 2012, and on June 26, 2014 the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center (AFLCMC) awarded Sikorsky an engineering, manufacturing and development (EMD) contract valued at $1.28 billion. Contractors that included Boeing, EADS North America and a team that comprised Northrop Grumman and AgustaWestland (now Leonardo’s Helicopter Division) cancelled their plans to respond to the RFP, and by December 2012 the Sikorsky-Lockheed Martin team was the only bidder. Until November 29, 2014, when the Secretary of Air Force announced the assignment of the HH-60W designation, the contractors referred to the new helicopter, which
HH-60G | PROGRAM UPDATE is based on the US Army UH-60M, as the CRH-60. As part of the program, the team will produce nine aircraft that will support development testing (DT) and operational test and evaluation (OT&E) efforts. The initial effort includes four EMD aircraft, and funding for five system demonstration test articles (SDTAs) is part of the USAF’s FY 2017 budget request. The first flight of the HH-60W is expected to take place in 2019. The new CRH is due to reach IOC in September 2020 when the required assets available (RAA) have been delivered. RAA will be achieved when eight production-configuration aircraft, comprising four mission and four training helicopters along with the required training devices, spares, support equipment, and sustainment support, are in place to support IOC. Sikorsky and the USAF completed the CRH preliminary design review (PDR) in May 2016. Based on the UH-60M, the HH-60W will retain around 85 per cent commonality with the Army’s utility variant. It will be powered by a pair of General Electric T700-GE-701D engines and will feature composite wide-chord main rotor blades to sustain maneuverability at high altitudes. The HH-60W will have an increased internal fuel capacity compared with the HH-60G. The helicopter’s advanced tactical mission kit will integrate multiple sensors, datalinks, defensive systems, and other intelligence-gathering equipment. HH-60W production will run from FY 2017 to 2024 and will include two lowrate initial production (LRIP) and six fullrate production (FRP) lots. During LRIP, 18 examples will be produced. Deliveries are set to begin in 2020. If all options are exercised, the CRH contract could
be worth $7.9 billion. Sikorsky, which is now a subsidiary of Lockheed Martin, will produce the HH-60W airframe and Lockheed Martin’s Rotary and Mission Systems will carry out integration of the aircraft’s mission planning system, defensive systems, datalinks, mission computers, adverse weather sensors and other CRH-unique sub-systems.
Interim UH-60U The USAF has previously received three UH-60Ms that were modified to a configuration similar to the HH-60G, under the designation HH-60U. The US Army ordered four UH-60Ms on behalf of the USAF in February 2010 and three were converted to HH-60U configuration. The fourth helicopter was retained by the Army as part of the deal that transferred 21 UH-60Ls to the USAF. Sikorsky completed an initial pair of UH-60Ms for the USAF in February 2011 and the first was delivered to AMRDEC’s prototype integration facility (PIF) in March. Aircraft modifications for the UH-60U, which began in June, were carried out by Joint Venture Yulista and Science and Engineering Services (JVYS) at its facility at Madison County Executive Airport in Meridianville, Alabama. Included were the installation of an electric rescue hoist that utilizes the aircraft’s external stores support system (ESSS) attach points, a 200-gallon (757-liter) internal auxiliary fuel tank and a FLIR Systems Inc (FSI) Star SAFIRE II electro-optical/infra-red (EO/IR) sensor turret under the nose. The aircraft also features the Black Hawk Upturned Exhaust System (UES) but, unlike the HH-60G, the HH-60U is not equipped for aerial refueling. After testing was completed, the HH-60Us were assigned
HH-60G OPERATIONAL LOSS REPLACEMENT (OLR) AIRFRAMES Model
309th AMARG arrival
OLR ‘kit proof’
June 19, 2013
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May 31, 2013
Note: Flight hours on the stored aircraft range from a low of 1,857 to a high of 3,220 and average around 2,350 for the fleet.
to an unspecified non-deploying test unit, allowing three HH-60Gs to be returned to duty with operational CSAR squadrons. Although the Fiscal 2011 Defense Appropriation included funding for the first UH-60Ms, rather than developing a new configuration for the HH-60U the helicopters were delivered to the US Army in exchange for the 21 UH-60Ls that are now being converted as part of the HH-60 OLR program.
The USAF’s HH-60G squadrons are regularly deployed and remain in high demand. USAF
FEATURE | LUFTWAFFE FIGHTER WEAPONS SCHOOL
DISPLAY ON THE bulletin board bears six names. Behind each name is a tally list, divided into two columns: ‘kills’ and ‘morts’ — victories and defeats in aerial combat. And, true to the motto spelled out in big letters painted on the wall — ‘Fight to fly, fly to fight, fight to win’ — the number of ‘kills’ far exceeds that of ‘morts’. The accompanying mural, which features a jet in the gunsight of a Eurofighter EF2000, hangs in the building of the 1. Staffel of Taktisches Luftwaffengeschwader 73 ‘Steinhoff ’ (TaktLwG 73 ‘S’) at Laage air base in northern Germany. The inscription is the motto of the newly created Eurofighter weapons school and the six names belong to the pilots from Laage, Neuburg and Nörvenich air bases who were the first to attend a weapons instructor course on the Luftwaffe’s most modern fighter aircraft — three as instructors and three as students. ‘We make very high demands here’, reflects Oberstleutnant (Lt Col) Julius K., who is in charge of this first Fighter Weapons Instructor Course (FWIC). ‘We don’t just want to train the tactics expert, but also paragons of piloting skills who will feed their expertise into the squadrons and staffs and lead the way in the event of a real combat mission. They do not just have to know the strengths and weaknesses of the other side’s jets inside -out, but should also be able to make best use of our own weapons systems in a mixed major formation depending on the capabilities’. In other words, TOPGUN, German-style.
These guiding principles had already been outlined when the course officially began on September 14, 2015. But, before the course could get under way, a number of obstacles had to be overcome. According to Oberstleutnant K., ‘The last weapons instructor course on the F-4F Phantom was held in 2004, and since then there haven’t been any more FWICs in the air-to-air field’. It was therefore a major challenge to get the new course off the ground after a break of 11 years. There were a number of innovations, too: this was the first time that an FWIC had been run as a joint course with Luftwaffe Tornado crews, and the first occasion on which fighter controllers had taken part: one from the groundbased control and reporting system and one NATO E-3A AWACS controller. The idea was that this would enable the controllers to become better-acquainted with the possibilities and limitations of the airborne weapons systems and, like the pilots participating on the course, go on to act as ‘multipliers’ in their specific areas. ‘For these two students we had a highly experienced controller acting as instructor in our team’, says Oberstleutnant K. This controller contributed enormously to the course — especially during the dissimilar air combat training (DACT) phase, which involved practising aerial combat not only against other Eurofighters but also a variety of other types, with the two participants from the control and reporting branch being tightly integrated.
This image: The FWIC students solely used single-seat Eurofighters, with the twoseaters coming along to act as ‘Red Air’. Inset below: FWIC students made extensive use of the HelmetMounted Cueing System (HMCS) during the course.
LUFTWAFFE FIGHTER WEAPONS SCHOOL | FEATURE
TOPGUN OVER THE BALTIC The graduates of the Luftwaffeâ€™s first Eurofighter Fighter Weapons Instructor Course recently completed an extremely demanding syllabus at Laage air base in northern Germany. report and photos: Stefan Petersen November 2016
FEATURE | LUFTWAFFE FIGHTER WEAPONS SCHOOL
As Oberst (Col) Bernhard Teicke, the commanding officer of TaktLwG 73 ‘S’ explains, ‘We want to develop this further and in the future also include participants from military intelligence and from the mission planning cell, who are all key personnel when it comes to the preparation, conduct and evaluation of a joint aerial warfare operation’. For the DACT phase in February 2016, a deployable control and reporting center (DCRC) was set up on the air base at Laage, from which the air combat training was controlled. ‘We established special airspace to the east of Rügen [Germany’s largest island, in the Baltic Sea] for this purpose, and we even plan to extend this zone further in the future’, says Teicke. Although plans call for the weapons school to be relocated to TaktLwG 71 ‘R’ at Wittmund (see Combat Aircraft February 2016), it is likely that at least the second course will still be run by the ‘Steinhoff ’ wing. Due to the use of live chaff and flares, most flights were conducted over the Baltic Sea. ‘We used everything that the Eurofighter has to offer, and the training adversary made it a real challenge for us to hold our own against it on every mission’, says Oberstleutnant K. The course, which was divided into three blocks, began with a four-week academics phase held jointly with the students from the Tornado weapons instructor course. Whereas the latter then returned to Holloman Air Force Base, New Mexico, the Luftwaffe’s primary training base for its Tornado crews, the Eurofighter pilots traveled to the system support
Bottom: A pair of fighters is readied for a night ‘go’ during the course. Far right: A TaktLwG 73 ‘S’ Eurofighter climbs into the vertical on a mission from Laage. Below: Every FWIC mission was carefully rehearsed in the simulator.
center at Manching in southern Germany for two weeks. Here they received indepth weapons training. The missions in the second, tactical, phase were also accompanied by academics. ‘The phase began with 1-v-1 practice dogfights and then worked up from 2-v-1 to 2-v-x other aircraft’, says Oberstleutnant K. After that the exercise scenarios were extended to medium-range weapons deployment — according to the head of the course, ‘up to 4-v-x, including missions under IFR [instrument flight rules] conditions, in poor weather and at night, as well as with the involvement of electronic warfare resources’. Moreover, the threat from ground-based air defense systems was introduced on top of everything else at the end of this phase. ‘All sorties had been extensively briefed
in advance and were also followed up thoroughly, with a high proportion of simulator work.’ The simulator team at Laage contributed greatly to the success of the course. ‘Before the course we specified scenarios and threats which were prepared and programmed over a period of months so as to prepare the course participants for the real missions over the Baltic Sea in a complex synthetic environment.’
‘Cobra Warrior’ The third and final part of the course was the mission employment phase. It was held alongside the Royal Air Force’s Eurofighter weapons instructor course and entailed mastering the use of large formations comprising a variety of aircraft types — so-called combined air
LUFTWAFFE FIGHTER WEAPONS SCHOOL | FEATURE
‘We used everything that the Eurofighter has to offer, and the training adversary made it a real challenge for us to hold our own against it on every mission’ OBERSTLEUTNANT K. operations (COMAOs). ‘Everything was involved in this: British Eurofighters, Tornados, tanker aircraft, AWACS and other airborne platforms’, says Oberstleutnant K. This final exercise for both the German and British Eurofighter FWICs was held at RAF Coningsby in March 2016, under the name ‘Cobra Warrior’. Whereas for the British it marked the end of the eighth Typhoon FWIC, six of which had already covered air-to-ground operations as well, this first German course included only an introduction to the air-to-ground role. Participants in the Eurofighter and Tornado courses met again at the joint graduation at Holloman on April 9, 2016. Just how important these highvalue courses are can be seen from the fact that the Luftwaffe chief of staff, Generalleutnant (Lt Gen) Karl Müllner, attended. Generalmajor (Maj Gen) Günter Katz, commander of the flying units and the chief of staff ’s special deputy for combat aircraft, has no doubt that ‘the course graduates will significantly raise the quality of both the crews themselves
and also the principles of engagement for their weapons system’. Like Müllner, Katz was a weapons instructor on the F-4F himself and therefore knows what he is talking about when he says: ‘[The instructors’] great reputation was always based on the fact that they improve the capabilities of the crews by providing their knowledge.’ The head of the course confirmed that the course participants’ responsibilities would only begin in earnest after graduation. He hopes that the six pilots who now proudly bear the new Eurofighter weapons instructor patch on their flight suits will serve as instructors for the next course in the future. ‘But first of all now they have to bring the pilots of their home squadrons up to the tactical level that will allow them to survive missions — and return home safely’. The board with the kill/ mort list puts things only too clearly into perspective: ‘It means absolutely nothing if we have 20 kills and just five defeats marked here’, says one of the graduates seriously. ‘We all have only one life.’
INDUSTRY REPORT | USAF TANKERS
FOR THE LONG HAUL As the US Air Force marks 60 years of the KC-135 and puts its new Boeing KC-46 Pegasus tanker onto a production footing, Combat Aircraft takes a timely look at the current USAF tanker force and potential avenues for the future. report: Rob Coppinger www.combataircraft.net
T THE UKâ€™S Royal International Air Tattoo last July, Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning IIs and F-22 Raptors made display flights after long trans-Atlantic journeys. The tankers that kept those F-35s aloft at the end of June and beginning of July were the US Air Forceâ€™s McDonnell Douglas KC-10 Extender and Boeing KC-135 Stratotanker aerial refuelers. On June 29, two US Marine Corps F-35Bs and one Royal Air Force F-35B took off from Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort in South Carolina and landed at RAF Fairford in England. They each refueled 15 times with the help of two Extenders, in a process of aerial ballet that brings fighters and tankers into close proximity, often over remote open oceans. On June 30, three F-35As made the same journey, refueling with the help of KC-10s, which have been in service for 35 years,
USAF TANKERS | INDUSTRY REPORT
and KC‑135s, a tanker that has been operational for almost 60 years. ‘We are capable of refueling 59 different aircraft from 35 different countries around the world using either our boom or [hose and] drogue system’, KC-10 pilot Capt Mark McNaughton told Combat Aircraft. ‘We take great pride in our ability to support our sister services and international partners.’ McNaughton comes from the 6th Air Refueling Squadron (ARS) at Travis Air Force Base, about 60 miles north-west of San Francisco, California. A KC-10 crew from Travis refueled three F-35As on their trans-Atlantic return flight from the UK in July. The previous month, the USAF had announced that Travis was one of five candidate sites for the future basing of the KC-135’s replacement, the Boeing KC-46A Pegasus. The US Department of Defense (DoD) approved the start of low-rate initial production (LRIP) of the KC-46 on August
A KC-135R Stratotanker from the 927th Air Refueling Wing at MacDill AFB tops up a 94th Fighter Squadron F-22 of the off the coast of Virginia. Jamie Hunter
12. The first two LRIP lots that have been approved will see 19 aircraft produced, together with associated parts, at a cost of $2.8 billion. Initial deliveries will be to McConnell AFB, Kansas and Altus AFB, Oklahoma. The new tanker is expected to enter service next year. It could be operating from Travis as soon as October 2019. Expected to be phased out in the next 10 years, the KC-10 entered USAF service in 1981 and 59 examples are still flying. McNaughton has flown KC-10 missions worldwide, with a longest flight of 18.5 hours; in one sortie he offloaded 100,000lb of fuel. He said: ‘We deliver fuel to the combat aircraft, who deliver the firepower to the enemy. Ultimately, if we’ve done our job, the air refueling activities that a fighter has participated in should be the easiest part of his or her combat mission.’ Last April, KC-10 aircrews from the 514th Air Mobility Wing, based at Joint Base
McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, New Jersey, as part of the Air Force Reserve Command, refueled a B-52H Stratofortress while on its way to conduct air strikes against insurgents of the so-called Islamic State. The B-52 was flying from Barksdale AFB, Louisiana, to Al Udeid Air Base in Qatar. 9th ARS KC-10 boom operator TSgt Stephen Wentz explained to CA: ‘Without tankers, rapid global mobility is impossible. You feel a sense of importance when you are the guys they are relying on to get their gas. Aerial refueling allows our aircraft to operate beyond their normal ranges’. Wentz has ‘operated in multiple theaters supporting worldwide operations’. The most fuel he has offloaded in one mission is 210,000lb, and his longest flight time is 18 hours. With such long flight times, refueling at night is inevitable. ‘Both day and night pose different challenges to the air refueling mission’, said McNaughton. ‘Reflections of the sun off of water
INDUSTRY REPORT | USAF TANKERS
A KC-10A refuels an F-35B from its centerline hose. Lockheed Martin/ Michael D. Jackson
or ice can be difficult to deal with during daytime operations when the tanker is directly where the sun is in a receiver’s canopy. ‘At night, there is a reduction in the amount of visual references that a pilot can use to determine his position relative to the tanker. We make sure to practise day and night air refueling to be prepared for any circumstances during operations.’ Wentz doesn’t have a preference for night or day missions and notes that the easiest aircraft to refuel are other KC-10s, because ‘they are flown by the best tanker crews in the world!’ The KC-10 has also refueled the KC-46A. The very first KC-46A tanker, EMD-2, which made its maiden flight in September 2015, was refueled by an Extender in February this year. ‘Our community is looking forward to see what capabilities the KC-46 brings to the table’, Wentz said. The first KC-135 flew 60 years ago in August 1956 and the initial production Stratotanker arrived at Castle AFB, California in June 1957. The last KC-135 was delivered to the USAF in 1965, and today the USAF’s Air Mobility Command (AMC) manages more than 400 Stratotankers, of which the Air Force Reserve and Air National Guard fly in excess of 200. The Boeing 367-80 design on which the Stratotanker was based also led to the classic Boeing 707 airliner.
Looking back at his time with the KC-135, 351st ARS KC-135 pilot Capt Bradley Sutton told CA: ‘The times I will always be most fond of are supporting [the A-10 Thunderbolt II] and other fighters that are helping troops in combat. During these times, we often hear the radio chatter from the ground and hear how these receivers are directly impacting the mission by being able to stay in the air for hours on end. These moments are most memorable to me because I know that we are making a difference’. Sutton has flown over Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, and Africa. The 351st ARS is part of the 100th Air Refueling Wing (ARW) based at RAF Mildenhall in England. Sutton says the KC-135 has ‘a reputation as being among the most uncomfortable aircraft in the fleet. That said, the squadron does have lots of extra seat cushions for us and some pilots even go above and beyond and buy their own’. Other changes are making flying the KC-135 easier. ‘The upgrades I’ve seen over the last five years have improved safety. The brand-new autopilot, which will directly link to the flight director, is a much-needed upgrade and makes the KC-135 a lot easier to fly. In addition to a lot of other small changes, there will also be a large display replacing the engine ‘steam’ gauges’. Sutton’s longest flight took him over the North Pole, a trip that lasted more than 13 hours.
USAF TANKERS | INDUSTRY REPORT
MSgt Lawrence Nahalea also serves with the 351st ARS, but as a boom operator. The most fuel he has ever offloaded is 120,000lb in one contact to a C-5 Galaxy. His preference is for day refueling. ‘Day is preferable, due to the fact that on nights without much moon illumination, depth perception can become an issue’. For Nahalea, most receiver aircraft are comparable and do not present a problem for air refueling, assuming all the flight conditions are equal. But there is one aircraft he finds challenging — the C-17 Globemaster III. He said: ‘It is a big aircraft that has a large bow wave and moves just like a fighter.’ Tankers also carry cargo and personnel. Reflecting on this, Nahalea said: ‘Our mission is so versatile [that] the majority of the time we are also carrying cargo and people, and our fuel loads are quite small’. The longest flight he has ever accomplished was 16.2 hours from Kadena AB in Japan to the US East Coast. But, for Nahalea, one particular sortie will always stand out: ‘The very first
night over Iraq during ‘Operation Iraqi Freedom’.’
New blood — the KC-46 Pegasus The KC-135’s replacement-elect, the KC-46A, is based on the Boeing 767-2C airframe and emerged from the DoD’s KC-X acquisition program (see accompanying boxed item). Initially, 179 examples of the Pegasus will operate with Air Mobility Command to begin replacement of the KC-135. The follow-on KC-Y and KC-Z projects will be required to fully recapitalize the USAF tanker fleet. On September 25, 2015, the second Pegasus test aircraft completed the first ever KC-46 flight, flying from Paine Field in Everett, Washington, and landing a few hours later at Boeing Field in Seattle. The program reached its latest refueling milestone on July 15 this year. ‘We joined up with a KC-10, an A-10 and an [F-16 Fighting Falcon] with a KC-46, and seeing all those airplanes in flight all around you really is a magnificent sight’, Ron ‘Taco’
Below: Despite the advent of the KC-46, the KC-135R will continue to operate for many years. USAF/MSgt Shawn Monk Bottom left to right: A KC-10 ‘boomer’ refuels an F-15E Strike Eagle. USAF/SrA Brian Ferguson The KC-46A ‘boomer’ at the remote air-refueling operator (RARO) station. Boeing
‘If we’ve done our job, the air refueling activities that a fighter has participated in should be the easiest part of his or her combat mission’ CAPT MARK MCNAUGHTON
An RAF Voyager refuels a Typhoon, monitored by the mission systems operator. Jamie Hunter
INDUSTRY REPORT | USAF TANKERS
Johnson, Boeing’s KC-46A chief pilot, told CA..’We did that near Mount Rainier, which is an amazing background to be flying next to and we were doing that in pursuit of Milestone C requirements to refuel the A-10’. It was these refuelings — and more, of a C-17, AV-8B Harrier II and F/A-18 Hornet — that led to the DoD’s LRIP approval. Johnson is a 20-year USAF veteran and former B-2 Spirit flight test squadron commander. He has flown Boeing 767s, the aircraft the KC-46A is based on, for seven years with United Airlines. He was also, for 11 years, Boeing’s chief commercial 767 pilot. Johnson has more than 175 hours in the KC-46 and has flown all five test aircraft. The first and third KC-46 test ships are Boeing 767-2Cs. They are being
used for mission systems testing and for certification, according to the US government’s Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). Test aircraft are flying with a boom and wing-mounted air refueling pods (WARPs) that have hose and drogue systems, to demonstrate to the FAA that the type’s stability has not changed from the basic 767. The second and fourth test aircraft are configured as tankers and have carried out all the refueling flights. A fifth aircraft joined the test program in July, the first of the LRIP models. It is being used for avionics testing for now and will later be converted to a full tanker. The USAF’s KC-46A test pilot is Lt Col James Quashnock, who works with a detachment of 30 staff from the 418th Flight Test Squadron from Edwards
Top: The second EMD KC-46 takes on fuel from a KC-10 during testing. Boeing/ Paul Weatherman
AFB, California. They been working with Boeing for more than three years on test preparations. Quashnock has flown all five of the aircraft in the test program. He compared the KC-46A to a car. ‘The aircraft flies just really smoothly, flies like a Cadillac; it is very intuitive. I have flown quite a few different aircraft, commercialtype aircraft — 737, KC-10, DC-9 — and this aircraft flies really, really well’. Johnson has a similar view: ‘The airplane feels like a 767 does; I have a lot of time in 767s. You cannot tell when the WARPs or the booms are deployed. The airplane is very stable and that is what makes a good tanker, a very stable tanker.’ Johnson likes how quiet the flight deck is — normal speaking voices can be used. He finds the ‘glass’ cockpit display, derived from that used in the Boeing
USAF TANKERS | INDUSTRY REPORT 187-degree panoramic display. The cameras that feed the displays are set up to handle all the different light conditions from high noon to moonless night, as well as under clouds, over clouds, over cities, and over water. ‘We truly designed the crew station to support the air refueling operator doing all the roles of his job’, said Sean Martin, a retired USAF air refueling operator who had a 25-year career with the USAF before joining Boeing in 2007. He has flown the KC-10 and the KC-135, and has been the chief boom operator for the KC-46A program since the outset. ‘In the KC-135, for example, the ‘boomer’ lies down on a pallet and has a little chin rest and does his job, and in the KC-10 he has a chair that he sits on, but it is really like a stool,
literally, to sit on, and we needed a place where the boom operator could do all of the duties of an eight-hour flight. So, as a result of that we took a 787-style seat base and combined that with a 767 seat back to give them the best seat in the aircraft.’ The KC-46A has more than 150 light installations on its exterior, including the normal strobe and landing lights. Testing these lights will be part of the program for the remainder of 2016. The lights that aid refueling are known as pilot director lights. They tell the receiver aircraft pilots where they are in relation to the boom envelope; receivers on the hose and drogue system can see where they are in relation to the hose length and if it is ready for contact. These various lights have to be tested in all environmental conditions to make sure
KC-X PROGRAM HISTORY
787, easy to read. Quashnock agrees, and compares the displays with high-definition televisions and the improvement that technology delivered over cathode ray tubes. Furthermore, the flight deck has new lighting to accommodate night vision goggles (NVGs). Using airfields equipped with infra-red landing lights, the gogglewearing pilots are able to land and take off with no other visible exterior lighting from the aircraft or airfield. The air refueling operator’s station is just outside the KC-46A’s flight deck door. The single station has two chairs with both boom and WARP controls, allowing an instructor to teach in-flight. The boom and WARP controls are fly-by-wire and the operator wears 3D spectacles to allow them to see the monochromatic 3D images presented by the station’s
Far left: A KC-46 Pegasus refuels an A-10C Thunderbolt II with 1,500lb of fuel on July 15, 2016. The mission was the last of the flight tests required for the tanker’s Milestone C production decision. Boeing/ John D. Parker Left: KC-46 refueling boom issues were discovered during testing with the C-17A. Boeing tested a fix for the axial load problem that involved the installation of hydraulic pressure relief valves. The Pegasus then carried out a successful refueling with a C-17A on July 12. Boeing/ Paul Weatherman
In early 2007 the USAF released the final request for proposals (RFP) for the KC-X future tanker program. Earlier draft RFP versions had been updated to respond to concerns expressed by US Congress, the Department of Defense (DoD) and potential suppliers, to address litigation concerning large civil aircraft pending before the World Trade Organization. On February 29, 2008 the USAF selected the Northrop Grumman and Airbus (or EADS as it was then) bid for the KC-X program, to deliver the KC‑45A tanker, based on the A330 MRTT. The initial KC-45A contract provided for four system design and development (SDD) aircraft and was valued at $1.5 billion. The first prototype of the KC-45A had completed its maiden flight on September 25, 2007. As of February 2008, the KC-45A’s aerial refueling boom system (ARBS) was in flight test and had performed in-flight contacts with receiver aircraft. Boeing made a complaint against the award and the Government Accountability Office (GAO) began to review the decision. On June 18, 2008 the GAO announced that it had found in favor of Boeing. In its statement the GAO said that Boeing had challenged the USAF’s technical and cost evaluations, conduct of discussions, and source selection decision. The GAO’s managing associate general counsel for procurement law, Michael R. Golden, said: ‘Our review of the record led us to conclude that the Air Force had made a number of significant errors that could
have affected the outcome of what was a close competition between Boeing and Northrop Grumman. We therefore sustained Boeing’s protest.’ The GAO recommended that the USAF re-open discussions with the companies, obtain revised proposals, re-evaluate the revised proposals, and make a new source-selection decision, consistent with the GAO’s decision. It also specified the alleged USAF errors, which included failure to assess the relative merits of the proposals in accordance with the USAF’s own evaluation criteria identified in the solicitation, and not taking into account the fact that Boeing offered to satisfy more non-mandatory technical ‘requirements’ than Northrop Grumman, even though the solicitation expressly requested applicants to satisfy as many of these technical ‘requirements’ as possible. In September 2009, the DoD announced plans for a new RFP for another acquisition program. On February 24, 2010, the DoD released its RFP for the revised KC-X program, with a contract value estimated by the GAO at $51.7 billion for 179 tankers. Bidding closed on July 9, 2010, with submissions from Boeing and the Northrop/EADS team again, and an additional bid from Ukrainian airframe-maker Antonov. On February 24, 2011, Boeing was awarded the KC-X contract. The Boeing aircraft received the designation KC-46A, with four prototypes to be built under a $3.5-billion engineering, manufacturing and development (EMD) contract.
INDUSTRY REPORT | USAF TANKERS
BOOM VERSUS HOSE-AND-DROGUE
The boom is a rigid, telescopic tube that an operator on the tanker aircraft extends and inserts into a receptacle on the receiver aircraft being refueled. A single flying boom can transfer fuel at a rate of about 6,000lb per minute. However, fighter aircraft can only accept up to 3,000lb of fuel per minute. The US Air Force’s original decision to field boom-equipped tankers was based on the refueling needs of long-range bombers, which required large amounts of fuel. Until the late 1950s, all US combat aircraft used the hose and drogue system. Hose and drogue employs a flexible hose that trails from the tanker aircraft. A drogue is a small windsock at the end of the hose that stabilizes it in flight, and provides a funnel for the receiver aircraft being refueled, which inserts a probe into the hose. A single hose-and-drogue system can transfer between 1,500 and 2,000lb of fuel per minute. All boom-equipped tankers have a single boom and refuel one aircraft at a time. Many tanker aircraft that employ the hose-and-drogue system can refuel two receiver aircraft simultaneously.
all the receiver aircraft can see them, and that the air refueling operator can see the receiver. Some of the lights are infra-red, allowing receiver aircraft pilots with NVGs to refuel in total darkness. It is a capability the older tankers do not have. Quashnock adds: ‘The KC-46 [...] can take fuel from other KC-46s and other tankers as well. I was the pilot who conducted the first receiver refueling of the KC-46 and we did that with a KC-10.’ The flight program will continue well into 2017 for certification of the various
aircraft that are to be refueled. This will require the test KC-46As to fly at different altitudes and speeds, reflecting the different refueling envelopes for the many types that have to be certified. The KC-46A will be adopted by other air forces renewing their tanker fleets. The US DoD has recently approved the sale of four KC-46s to the Japanese government, the aircraft’s first foreign sale. They will be delivered by 2020. Until then Boeing had lost all foreign competitions to Airbus and its tanker product, the Airbus A330 Multi-
Role Tanker Transport (MRTT), which in turn lost out to Boeing during the USAF’s KC-X program.
The discounted challenger — A330 MRTT Top: An artist’s rendition of a possible KC-Z blended wing-body configuration. Lockheed Martin
While on June 29 the RAF F-35B flown by Sqn Ldr Hugh Nichols was refueled by a KC-10 for its first trans-Atlantic crossing, the United Kingdom employs Airbus Voyager tankers. Voyager is the UK name for the MRTT, a heavily modified A330-200 airliner.
USAF TANKERS | INDUSTRY REPORT On April 15 this year, the RAF deployed a Voyager to Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Maryland in support of F-35B refueling trials. Certification of the Voyager for F-35 refueling saw 20 flights being recorded by July. The UK placed its Voyager order in 2008 after its Future Strategic Tanker Aircraft (FSTA) process, and the first MRTT entered service with the RAF in April 2012. The country bought 14 MRTTs. It has two slightly different versions, the Voyager KC2 two-point tanker, with a Cobham Mk32B 900E pod under each wing, and the Voyager KC3, a threepoint tanker with an additional centerline hose for refueling larger aircraft. The UK was not the first country to order the MRTT. In 2004, the Australian government selected the MRTT, which it employs under the local designation KC-30A. The Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF)’s KC-30A completed F-35 refueling trials last year. It is now capable of refueling F/A-18A/Bs, F/A-18F Super Hornets, E-7A Wedgetails, C-17As and other KC-30As. The RAAF was the first customer to take receipt of the A330 MRTT when an initial KC-30A was delivered in June 2011. The fleet is based at RAAF Base Amberley and operated by No 33 Squadron. The squadron currently operates five aircraft equipped with both a boom and underwing WARPs. Initial operating capability was reached in February 2013. The last two of the seven aircraft on order will be delivered in 2018. According to the Australian Department of Defence, KC-30As have been deployed over Iraq since 2014 and have completed 566 sorties, delivering more than 10,000 tonnes of fuel and entering Syrian airspace five times. The Saudi Ministry of Defense was the second buyer, placing an order for three A330 MRTTs in 2007. It then added another three aircraft to its order during 2009. All have been delivered. In 2008, the UK placed its order, as did the United Arab Emirates, which opted for three aircraft, all now delivered. According to Airbus Defence and Space, 49 MRTTs have been sold. Of those 49, as well as the MRTT sales mentioned above, France has ordered 12 (named Phénix), Singapore six, and South Korea four. In March 2014 Airbus announced that Qatar intends to purchase two MRTTs. India selected the MRTT in January 2013,
Above: The A330 MultiRole Tanker Transport is designated as the KC-30A in service with the Royal Australian Air Force. Lockheed Martin/ Tom Reynolds Left: The A330 MRTT is in service with the Royal Saudi Air Force with both hose and drogue and flying boom capabilities. RSAF
but withdrew the tender in July 2016, citing the aircraft’s high operational cost. Nevertheless, Airbus told CA: ‘We are engaged with the Indian government in finding the best way to bring the A330 MRTT’s capabilities to the Indian Air Force.’ South Korea’s first MRTT delivery will take place in 2018; conversion of the first aircraft will begin next year. Korea’s MRTTs will represent a new, standard configuration. The main changes involve revised avionics, weight reductions, aerodynamic improvements, the latest identification friend or foe (IFF) standard, an upgraded mission planning system, and an electronic flight bag. The Netherlands and Luxembourg are buying two MRTTs that will be stationed at Eindhoven in the Netherlands for shared use. The aircraft will be delivered from 2020 as the Royal Netherlands Air Force gradually decommissions its KDC-10s. The European Organisation Conjointe de Coopération en matière d’Armement (OCCAR) and European Defence Agency (EDA) are involved in the purchase on behalf of NATO. Belgium,
Germany, Norway and Poland may join the tanker share deal in future. This joint buy is the first phase of a deal that could see up to eight tankers stationed at Eindhoven. Under the joint tanker plan, forward operating locations are expected in Norway and Poland, as well as the Eindhoven home base. The Netherlands and Luxembourg are considering working with France and the UK, among others, for training and maintenance. Spain is also considering buying MRTTs to replace its 707s. Airbus said: ‘Those discussions are at various stages and additionally other sales campaigns are under way.’ Despite this international success, it seems that the US market is dead for the A330. In September, Gen Carlton Everhart, chief of AMC, said that he did not envisage competing the KC-Y requirement and that it would simply be filled by additional KC-46s, albeit with some new technology inserted. Instead, Everhart says he is focused on a more radical KC-Z phase, which could take the form of a stealthy, blended wing-body design.
KC-46 VS A330 — KEY FACTS Boeing KC-46A
Airbus A330 MRTT
Length: 165ft 6 in (50.5m) Wingspan: 157ft 8 in (48.1m) Maximum take-off weight: 415,000lb (188,240kg) Maximum cargo capacity: 65,000lb (29,484kg)
193ft (58.8m) 198ft (60.3m) 514,000lb (233,000kg) 99,000lb (45,000kg)
EXERCISE REPORT | PITCH BLACK
DARK KNIGHTS Every two years, Australia’s Northern Territory plays host to the multi-national Exercise ‘Pitch Black’ for three weeks at Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) Bases Darwin and Tindal — the two main bases at the ‘Top End’, as it’s commonly known.
report: Mike Yeo ORCES FROM AROUND the region came together for this year’s Exercise ‘Pitch Black’, held from August 1-19. Seven countries participated with approximately 100 aircraft coming from the air forces of Singapore, Thailand and the United States, while Canada, France and Indonesia also sent flying contingents. Named after the dark, moonless nights in this sparsely populated region, ‘Pitch Black’ dates back to 1981 as an RAAF air defense exercise, and is considered to be Australia’s premier air combat exercise. Northern Australia has world-class air combat training facilities in the form of the Delamere Air Weapons Range and Bradshaw Field Training Area, as well as the availability of vast tracts of low-traffic overland airspace with few restrictions to carry out training in. Taking place in an area measuring approximately 480 by 400 square kilometers (300 by 250 square miles), participants are able to conduct large force employment (LFE) missions encompassing a wide spectrum of scenarios in one of the few places in the Asia-Pacific region that is suited for conducting such operations.
At its core, traditional offensive counterair (OCA) and defensive counter-air (DCA) remain the primary goals of ‘Pitch Black’, although recent exercises have seen an increased air-land integration element with the participation of C-130J tactical airlifters and the RAAF’s joint terminal attack controllers (JTACs) from No 4 Squadron. Participants are split off into Blue and Red Forces, with the Blue assets also dipping into precision strike, close air support, sweep, screening, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) and high-value asset protection missions. Meanwhile, Red Air provided a capable adversary of varying competencies throughout the exercise, flying DCA missions supported by ground-based threat systems. The Red Force was composed primarily of RAAF and US Marine Corps Hornets flying out of Tindal. This year’s exercise was only the second time Indonesia had participated and the first occasion on which it had done so with F-16s, although they only stayed for the first week to take part in force integration training (FIT) activities. Two airborne early warning and control assets, namely an RAAF E-7A Wedgetail and a Republic of
The Royal Thai Air Force brought F-16A/B MLU jets to the exercise and debuted their new IRIS-T missile capability. Mike Yeo
Singapore Air Force (RSAF) Gulfstream G550 Conformal Airborne Early Warning (CAEW) platform, provided command and control of the battlefield. As with the preceding ‘Pitch Blacks’, the exercise adopted a familiar ‘crawl, walk, run’ approach as the scenarios ramped up. This started with local familiarization flights, the FIT element and then some 2-v-2 basic fighter maneuvers (BFM). The second week saw the ‘walk’ phase, the LFE portion starting with small strike packages ahead of week three’s complex scenarios and large packages. The exercise isn’t run as a mock campaign but instead follows the path of mission commanders being allocated tasks the previous night in order to then complete objectives. In other words, ‘Pitch Black’ has eschewed higher-level mission planning in favor of a more tactical approach to drive home specific lessons and improve the capabilities of participating contingents and their pilots. A big change this year was the introduction of a vulnerability, or lowintensity, flying period in between the two main, high-intensity flying periods on each day. Exercise director Gp Capt Glen Braz said that breaking up the flying into the low-intensity period was primarily to bring together the ISR, airlift and air-land integration components, which included the RAAF’s AP-3C Orion providing overland ISR to assist in the targeting cycle. Provision of the high- and low-intensity periods ‘allowed effective training to occur across those disciplines but in a realistic scenario’, according to Braz. One of the ISR assets was the RAAF’s IAI Heron unmanned aircraft system (UAS). A single Heron from Amberley-based No 5 Flight was deployed to Tindal, marking the first time a UAS had taken part in ‘Pitch Black’. Wg Cdr Matthew Bowers, commanding officer of No 5 Flight, called the Heron’s participation at ‘Pitch Black’‘an exciting opportunity’, its primary mission here being to act as the ‘eye in the sky for the planners, the decision makers, and the troops on the ground.’ A typical Heron ‘Pitch Black’ mission saw the aircraft going up during the so-called vulnerability period (VUL) prior to the launch of the main strike package, giving what Bowers called ‘up-to-date, real-time intelligence on what’s happening in the target areas.’ During one exercise VUL, two USAF B-52Hs flying from Guam worked with the
PITCH BLACK | EXERCISE REPORT Heron as it spotted targets in the exercise airspace. The Herons worked with JTACs by transmitting imagery of identified targets directly via Remotely Operated Video Enhanced Receiver (ROVER) terminals to call in air strikes, and carried out post-strike bomb damage assessment (BDA) activities. Secure tactical datalinks have seen a marked increase in use during ‘Pitch Black’ as the Link 16 system becomes increasingly common. Among the newest platforms on the link were the F-16A/Bs from Thailand. The Royal Thai Air Force (RTAF) deployed four upgraded F-16s from the Takhli-based Wing 4 to Darwin, and during ‘Pitch Black’ the RTAF made use of the Joint HelmetMounted Cueing System (JHMCS), a new acquisition. This deployment revealed that Thailand’s F-16 mid-life upgrade (MLU) program includes IRIS-T short-range air-to-air missile integration, Thailand having originally acquired this weapon for its fleet of JAS 39C/D Gripens. Gp Capt Chanon Mungthanya, commander of the RTAF detachment, told Combat Aircraft that the IRIS-T was an improvement over older models of the AIM-9 Sidewinder currently operated by the RTAF, offering increased agility, engagement envelope and offboresight targeting capability ‘equivalent to the AIM-9X’ when used in conjunction with JHMCS. Other ‘Vipers’ of note came from the US Air Force’s 14th Fighter Squadron at Misawa, which brought a dedicated suppression of enemy air defenses (SEAD) capability. The 14 F-16CMs that deployed made history of sorts when they became the first operational F-16s to refuel from an RAAF KC-30A tanker during their ‘hop’ to Darwin from Kadena Air Base, Japan, where they are temporarily based while the runway at Misawa is undergoing repairs. Squadron commander Lt Col Mark Heusinkveld told CA that his unit relished the opportunity to operate over the wide expanses of Australia’s ‘Top End’, noting that it was rare to have such a training opportunity in the Pacific region, where
‘PITCH BLACK 2016’ PARTICIPANTS Operator
No 1 Squadron
No 75 Squadron
No 77 Squadron
No 33 Squadron
No 36 Squadron
No 37 Squadron
No 2 Squadron
No 4 Squadron
No 10 Squadron
No 5 Flight
14th Fighter Squadron, 35th Fighter Wing
5th Bomb Wing
Andersen AFB, Guam
Royal Thai Air Force
Royal Canadian Air Force
Armée de l’Air
Indonesian Air Force
Skadron Udara 16
Below: The IAI Heron from Amberley-based No 5 Flight that took part in ‘Pitch Black’. ADF
the jets can go supersonic and fly at low altitude over land with few restrictions. Participation by the Misawa ‘Vipers’ marked the first time a specialized SEAD capability had been seen at ‘Pitch Black’ in more than two decades, and is perhaps a harbinger of things to come. The RAAF will introduce the E/A-18G Growler into service in 2017, and doubtless the type will participate in future ‘Pitch Blacks’. To provide its Growlers with realistic training opportunities, Australia will be upgrading the Delamere range over the next few years, and acquiring a Mobile Threat Training Emitter System (MTTES) to support Growler training operations. In the meantime, this exercise saw realistic ground-based threats being provided by a Northrop Grumman Joint Threat Emitter (JTE) of the USAF. The system simulated Russian ‘single-digit’ surfaceto-air missile (SAM) systems such as the SA-2, SA-3 and SA-6, and was flown into Australia from Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho.
Two RSAF Raytheon Improved Hawk SAM systems and a Saab Giraffe AMB (Agile Multi-Beam) radar provided an additional Red Force threat vector. The RSAF’s air element at ‘Pitch Black 2016’ also included eight F-15SG Eagles, six F-16C/D Block 52s, the G550 CAEW and a KC-135R Stratotanker. The RSAF took the opportunity to carry out qualifications for its F-16Cs with the RAAF’s KC-30A tankers, with Singapore expecting the first of six A330 Multi-Role Tanker Transports it has on order to be delivered sometime in 2017. ‘Pitch Black’ offers a unique opportunity for regional air forces to come together in a coalition setting, and gives regional partners time and space to work together in order to enhance interoperability. While capacity constraints at Darwin and Tindal make it unlikely that future ‘Pitch Blacks’ will involve many more aircraft, the exercise will definitely see further growth in the form of increased complexity and mission sets.
GLORY DAYS | F-100 SUPER SABRE
Although overshadowed by the high-tech F-105 Thunderchief and F-4 Phantom II that eventually succeeded it, the F-100 Super Sabre proved to be a tough and versatile warrior over Vietnam, excelling in countless demanding close support and counter-insurgency missions. report: Warren E. Thompson
HE NORTH AMERICAN F-100 Super Sabre completed its first flight at the end of May 1953 and became operational with the US Air Force in late September 1954. During the next few years, the F-100 replaced most of the first-generation jet fighters within the regular Air Force fighter wings; units in Europe, the Pacific and the United States converted wholesale to the ‘Hun’, of which a total of 2,296 examples were produced. The Super Sabre replaced the hero of the Korean War, the F-86 Sabre, and although the F-100 had been designed as a higherperforming air superiority fighter, it was soon adapted as a fighter-bomber.
In this latter role, the F-100 held the line over Vietnam until the appearance of the Mach 2 F-105 Thunderchief. With the arrival in theater of the ‘Thud’, most missions flown far north of the ‘bomb line’ would be given to the F-105. However, the majority of sorties over South Vietnam would continue to be flown by the F-100. The F-100 was never the easiest aircraft to maintain and service, especially in the primitive conditions encountered in Vietnam. The ‘Hun’ was a hydraulic engineer’s nightmare. However, once settled into a regular cycle of operations, it performed well and recorded the highest sortie generation of any fighter in Vietnam. The figure was obtained by dividing the total sorties by the daily
The F-100 in Vietnam
F-100 SUPER SABRE | GLORY DAYS
average of aircraft owned by the wing, divided by the number of days of the month. In 1968 the F-100 reached a figure of 1.15, compared to 1.01 for the B-57 Canberra; at the bottom of the list was the B-26K Invader. In 1969, the F-100 flew close to 52,700 combat sorties in South Vietnam, while the F-4 Phantom II completed 19,185 and the A-37 only logged 8,305. At the height of F-100 operations, 490 examples were committed to battle in four fighter wings based in South Vietnam.
Early days The writing was on the wall in May 1962, when a small group of F-100s was deployed to Thailand from Clark Air Base in the Philippines to try and prevent the
Pathet Lao — Laotian communist forces — from gaining too much foothold in neighboring Laos. Beginning in 1964, the F-100s began a build-up in South Vietnam that would last until 1971. The initial major contact with the enemy was flown on December 14, 1964 over the Plain of Jars in Laos, the first of many missions into this area. This mission was flown by F-100Ds from the 401st Tactical Fighter Wing (TFW) out of Da Nang AB, engaged in a combat air patrol (CAP) for the F-105s that were going to drop the bombs. One of the pilots in the constituent 615th Tactical Fighter Squadron (TFS) was Capt G. O. Smith, who describes that first mission. ‘Higher headquarters sent word to us that we were to attack Viet Cong and Pathet Lao
A ‘Hun’ unleashes a multiple rocket attack against Viet Cong forces north of Bien Hoa in 1967. It retains a brace of heavy ordnance to attack other targets. David Menard via Warren E. Thompson
positions and napalm was ruled out because it was very bad to kill Buddhists with fire. We had eight F-100s ready to fly out of Da Nang AB with our aircraft loaded with ‘hard’ bombs. ‘After several bomb-load switches, we took off at 07.30hrs and found the two tankers [KC-135s] and then on to the target. Our target was AAA [anti-aircraft artillery] crews that were throwing up plenty of rounds that were close to the target, but they got the message: ‘Mess with our guys and we will mess with you!’ All eight of our strikers returned safely. ‘The next day, we got orders from high command for an additional mission: escorting the reconnaissance aircraft and shooting back if shot at. From then to the Gulf of Tonkin incident, we would
GLORY DAYS | F-100 SUPER SABRE
72 fly escort missions in the morning then spend the afternoon at China Beach on a mini-R&R.’ This would prove to be the beginning of a very long and costly war against the North Vietnamese, and the F-100 would play a major role.
Holding the line The pilots of the F-100 squadrons that served at the smaller bases, especially Bien Hoa, at times had to defend their bases with firearms. Rocket attacks found many pilots atop their revetments trying to defend their aircraft. Lt Col William E. Haynes was commander of the 90th TFS based at Bien Hoa. He was to report to HQ to attend the briefing for a ‘wing max’ effort starting at dawn the next day. Haynes takes up the story: ‘We were to go to the northern border loaded with napalm, 500-pounders and a full load of 20mm rounds. What made the mission unusual was not just going that far north, but that we would all have to refuel on the way home. We had not done much aerial refueling since our early days with the F-100. We stayed up an extra three hours on refueling. Our mission that day
Above: This 308th TFS F-100 is returning from a mission over Laos with its bombs gone. The shot was taken right before let-down at Phan Rang AB. Thad Crooks via Warren E. Thompson
was perfect; all bombs on target and no problems refueling. ‘The other squadrons had aircraft diverted all over the zone; many of the aircraft had bent refueling probes and several other problems. Those other pilots had briefed late and got very little sleep. This was in the middle of the Tet Offensive and our base was under constant pressure. ‘We continued to fly missions even with the perimeters of Bien Hoa constantly under pressure. We landed back at the
base after bombing targets less than a mile from our base. I can remember landing on short finals with tracer fire coming up all around us. This went on for a couple of days and our missions never slowed down. Flying the missions, you normally never witnessed what was happening on the ground, but flying out of Bien Hoa our pilots were stationed on top of ammo boxes and waiting to see if the enemy appeared. This made our pilots not only pilots but ground troops as well.
Right: A ‘Hun’ smokes into life in November 1967 while parked in its revetment. The VZ tail code indicates that it was from the 615th TFS. USAF via Warren E. Thompson
F-100 SUPER SABRE | GLORY DAYS Below, top to bottom: The LAU‑3 pod proved very effective against troop concentrations. Thad Crooks via Warren E. Thompson A live 500lb iron bomb loaded and ready for the next mission on the flightline of the 615th TFS in January 1968. Thad Crooks via Warren E. Thompson A finned napalm bomb loaded for use against enemy troop concentrations. This was one of the most feared weapons. Thad Crooks via Warren E. Thompson
‘On my first pass, I dropped a bomb and as I pulled out of the dive the whole world lit up. I was sure I had been shot and the airplane had blown up’ LT JERRY ‘KILLER’ KEY We fought hard whether in the air or on the ground.’
Troops in contact! ‘Our best missions were off the alert pads’, Haynes continues. ‘There were usually two F-100s and two A-37s ‘cocked’ on alert, meaning that the aircraft were armed and checked with, usually, two 500lb slick or hi-drags, two napalm, and a full load of 20mm for our four M39 cannon. The pilot’s parachute was in the seat and his helmet was on the canopy rail. We would wait in the alert shack for the klaxon to bray and an announcement as to whether it was the ‘Hun’ or the A-37s’ turn. ‘You can imagine us sitting there reading Stars and Stripes or listening to American Forces Network on the radio, or maybe just playing cards, when boredom became instant adrenaline at the sound of that klaxon. We’d be in our airplanes and rolling down the runway, while putting on our ’chute and getting the mission frequency set up on the radio in under 20 seconds. We’d get tower clearance and switch to the TACC [Tactical Air Control Center] frequency to get a quick mission briefing. What we really wanted to hear was that so-satisfying call, ‘Troops in contact!’ That always meant a good mission and something better than bombing the trees. This meant we could ‘kill Cong’ and it also meant we could help our guys under fire. ‘On one of my alert days, I was checking my ‘Hun’ and about to walk into the shack when a big explosion rocked the area about 100 yards behind our airplanes — it was a rocket attack. Usually, they attacked at night, but this was in broad daylight and I was more than slightly shook up. I beat it to the sandbagged shelter next to the shack with all of the other guys and remained there until the all-clear.’
Dragonfly down Lt Col Haynes describes the next day, when things took a turn for the worse. ‘We were introduced to actor Fess Parker, who had played Daniel Boone in a TV series of the same name. He was there with the
show. We made the rounds in my jeep and wound up at the alert pad. One of the pilots flying the A-37 asked him for an autograph, which he immediately handed over. The pilot put the pictures in this flying suit, and about that time the klaxon sounded and the pilot, Capt John Held, ran for his airplane. We watched them scramble and then drove to the TACC to follow the mission on radio. ‘Shortly after we arrived, John’s wingman reported that John had been hit and was in trouble. He ejected and was in the ’chute and waved at his wingman on the way down. They were over heavy jungle with trees a couple of hundred feet high. His wingman reported that John’s ’chute had settled in a treetop. But we had line that allowed us to rappel down from the tops of the trees. Our special forces guys got into the picture and determined that the bad guys had beat them to John and he was killed immediately. Everyone took the loss hard, but that is the type of enemy we were fighting.’ Another ‘Hun’ pilot, Lt Jerry ‘Killer’ Key, describes the action that unfolded when he and another pilot had to scramble to respond to a firefight. ‘The bad guys had some of our troops pinned down. It was getting dark and our troops were trying to withdraw. We arrived at the target and had to hold until the FAC [forward air controller] had sorted out the situation. Finally we were ready to go to work. Since a bomb dropped at the wrong time could easily go long or short of the target, we had to run in a direction that would not let us overfly the friendlies. ‘By this time it was totally dark. We had ordnance that required us to drop very low to the ground — 100ft or so in a shallow dive… not the best choices for a moonless dark night, but that is what we had to work with. Since we were restricted to a specific run-in heading, the FAC had to wait until we were on final and when he was sure we were on the correct heading we were cleared to drop. There was a lot of ground fire from the bad guys and you could actually see the tracers on each
GLORY DAYS | F-100 SUPER SABRE
‘We continued to fly missions even with the perimeters of Bien Hoa constantly under pressure. I can remember landing on short finals with tracer fire coming up all around us’ LT COL WILLIAM E. HAYNES pass. The plan was to have us make a pass and, before the next airplane came in, a helicopter would fly in and pick up as many of our troops as possible and take them to a safe area. ‘The next ‘Hun’ would make a pass and drop his ordnance, and the helicopter would then dart in and pick up more troops. Since it was dark, we had our wingtip lights on and the bad guys could track us around the flight pattern. They knew when and where we were diving in. This gave them a big advantage, so we had to turn off our lights until we were established on final approach, and then
turn them on so the FAC could verify our heading and give us the clearance to drop. Then we turned them off so we could not be tracked by enemy gunners. ‘On my first pass, I dropped a bomb and as I pulled out of the dive the whole world lit up. I was sure I had been shot and the airplane had blown up. Actually, since it was dark, my bomb exploded and just made it look like daylight for a second or two. I had never been this close to a bomb going off at night before. The ordnance we carried was designed to be delivered during the day against low-threat targets, not in the dark with no flares in a pretty
F-100 SUPER SABRE | GLORY DAYS Left: Lt Joe Vincent poses by his aircraft, which has been loaded with napalm. He flew with the 31st TFW out of Tuy Hoa. The name painted on the aircraft is Colleen. Joe Vincent via Warren E. Thompson Below: Lt Gerald Key checks out the Snakeye ordnance on his 31st TFW jet at Tuy Hoa in 1969. Gerald Key via Warren E. Thompson Below right: The VM tail code indicates that this is a F-100D from Phan Rang, flying a mission in March 1971. John O’Donnell via Warren E. Thompson Bottom right: The nose art on a Tuy Hoabased ‘Hun’. Joe Vincent via Warren E. Thompson
‘hot’ environment. We made three passes each, unloading two bombs on the first pass and one each on the other two. ‘I was awarded the DFC for that mission, and both my wingman and I expressed what a great feeling it was to participate in that type of mission.’
Defending Da Nang 1st Lt Joe Vincent flew with the 308th TFS in Vietnam. He recalls one of the missions he flew that involved the CBU-49 cluster bomb. ‘We usually delivered the CBU-49 just like an M117 bomb, using a 30- to 40-degree dive-bomb pass. The bomb had radar fusing and its case would open well above the ground, scattering the bomblets out in a wide area. Sometimes we would deliver two at a time with about one half-second between them, so the doughnut patterns would overlap for better coverage of the target area. ‘On one mission we were about 300 miles from our Phan Rang base and holding to get on a target about 60 miles off the end of the runway at Da Nang, which was then home of the 366th TFW’s ‘Gunfighters’, who were flying the F-4E. We were about third in line for the strike, carefully watching our fuel gauges, when one of their flight of ‘Gunfighters’ checked in and were demanding to be put on the same strike because they were low on fuel.
‘That same mission saw a four-ship formation of VNAF [South Vietnamese Air Force] A-37 Dragonflies fly over the target area … right through our holding pattern. Four sticks of Mk82s came right through our formation, and that definitely got our attention. Most of our targets had a FAC watching out for us, and that was the best way to go rather than have several formations go for the target without proper guidance.’ The F-100 pilots were noted for their accurate bombing techniques, directly relating to the skill and experience of the pilot. There were no computers back then — to drop a bomb required the pilot to do all the calculations in his head. Lt Key describes bombing from the ‘Hun’: ‘The FAC would give us the target elevation and altimeter setting. Rarely would he know what the wind velocity was. We would plan on a specific dive angle, altitude and airspeed for release of whatever weapon we were carrying that day. We would depress the sight for the type of delivery but everything else was from our own skill and experience. Depressing the sight meant we could move a lever in the cockpit and that would make the sight out in front of the windscreen move up or down. To successfully deliver a bomb meant you had to figure out the wind and make corrections for any variation from the
GLORY DAYS | F-100 SUPER SABRE
pre-planned delivery parameters. For instance, if you were two degrees steeper than planned — or shallower — how do you compensate for that? And what if you were both steep and slow or fast and shallow, or any combination of errors like that? What do winds do to the bomb? Of course, the run-in heading was often varied so the enemy could not count on an attack from the same direction each pass. ‘Many variables are at play on each pass and getting ordnance successfully on the target takes a lot of TLAR — ‘that looks about right’ — which only comes from experience. We had to be fast learners and adaptable to lots of different situations and at the same time fly the airplane and monitor the engine instruments, the weather, the other airplanes and the combat situation in the target area. It amazes me how a 24-year-old could master all that! When I got to Vietnam I only had a total of about 300 hours flying time, and that included all the training in flight
school and F-100 school. I flew a total of 264 missions in that war, and it was scary to live through all that.’
Special forces support ‘Troops in trouble’ had special meaning to all F-100 pilots. They answered with everything they had and, in most cases, this was enough. Lt Joe Vincent recalls one such mission while flying with the 309th TFS out of Tuy Hoa AB, bound for a target in the central highlands near Phu Cat. ‘The monsoonal weather had set in and the target was socked in. We checked in with the airborne battlefield command and control center to let them know of their situation, to see if something else came up that we could help with. Our two ‘Huns’ were loaded with eight M117 low-drag bombs — 750-pounders — and 1,600 rounds of 20mm ammo. Lt Col Ronald Berdoy was leading and it didn’t take long for them to direct us to a situation where a special
Above left: At Phan Rang AB in March 1971, F-100D Combat Bus of the 352nd TFS is readied to taxi. John O’Donnell via Warren E. Thompson Below: 307th TFS F-100Ds at Bien Hoa in 1965. The airfield there was built up with metal protective barriers to prevent against rocket attacks by the Viet Cong. Ed Siert via Warren E. Thompson
forces firebase camp called Bu Prang was taking a lot of heat. ‘We were about 20 miles away from the area, which was near the Cambodian border. When we were about five miles from the target, I noticed black smoke up ahead and wondered about its source. As we approached the area, a FAC, call sign ‘Walt 25’, handed us off to the FAC that was already over the friendlies who were in trouble. By this time, we not only saw that the smoke was coming from the base camp but that the bright flashes were military artillery rounds impacting there. It was my first experience of actually seeing what the enemy could do and knowing our guys were in serious trouble. ‘Our FAC began describing the target he wanted us to hit as we orbited at 16,000ft. Berdoy asked me if I could see those puffy little clouds below us, and I told him yes. He said they weren’t clouds but airbursts from 23mm AAA being shot at us. The part that worried me was that they were tracking us dead-on but were just a little out of range. We had originally planned to dive down at 30 degrees and release our bomb at 3,000ft but that would have been too dangerous for us. The tactic we decided on was to go in at 45 degrees and drop our bombs at 4,500ft. This would make the enemy gunners have to work harder to get us, and we had a better chance of exiting the target safely. ‘Seconds later, the FAC had marked the target with ‘Willie Petes’ [white phosphorous], and as the pair of ‘Huns’
F-100 SUPER SABRE | GLORY DAYS
Top: A 309th TFS Super Sabre loaded with napalm and awaiting its pilot at Tuy Hoa AB in September 1970. Bruce Gordon via Warren E. Thompson Above: A 352nd TFS ‘Hun’ heads north for a target in southern North Vietnam, At the time, the 35th TFW was headquartered at Phan Rang. John O’Donnell via Warren E. Thompson
tried to check in with him there was no answer. Finally another FAC came into the area and informed him that the original FAC was hit and he was going to try and make the strip close to the firebase at Bu Prang. Lt Col Berdoy made the first pass with two of his bombs. They were aimed at a U-shaped building that was the center of the enemy activity. His bombs went long, missing the intended target and impacting in a cluster of trees. Immediately after they exploded, a huge secondary explosion occurred, which indicated that the enemy had a weapons cache there. ‘I made the final alignment for my release as soon as Berdoy had pulled up. I had my sight squarely on that building, and once I released I started turning hard to stay out of the sights of those 23mm guns. Once I felt I was at a safe distance, I looked and all I saw was smoke and debris where the building had been.
‘Lead’s second pass was directed at the suspected location of all that artillery fire and when his bombs hit there were no secondary explosions. My second pass was directed at the remnants of the big building. As I pulled up, we headed back toward base, as there was no future in strafing with our 20mm. The big guns had been silenced!’ Both pilots were decorated for the mission. Although overshadowed by more modern types, the F-100’s tour in Vietnam would be hard to top. The aircraft flew 52,699 combat sorties in 1969 alone, more than all other USAF fighters combined. The type suffered over 240 losses during the conflict. The last F-100s pulled out of Vietnam in July 1971, when the 35th TFW was re-assigned to the United States. USAF active-duty units employed the Super Sabre from 1954 until 1972, and ‘Huns’ soldiered on with the Air National Guard until 1979.
FORCE REPORT | BRAZILIAN FIGHTERS
BRAZILIAN COMBAT AVIATION IN CRISIS? With the Brazilian Air Force awaiting the Gripen NG, budget reductions are leading to a significant decrease in flying hours, while operational aircraft are seeing their modernization programs stopped or reduced in scope.
report: Santiago Rivas N THE EARLY years of the new millennium, the Brazilian armed forces were included in wideranging plans to modernize the country as a whole. Such projects were assisted at the time by a buoyant Brazilian economy driven by high commodities prices. However, decreasing prices, poor administration and corruption have led to a major economic crisis in the country, and this has had a significant impact on the defense budget.
According to an interview given by the Brazilian Air Force (Força Aérea Brasileira, FAB) commander, Brig Nivaldo Rossato, in early August, of 600 aircraft in the air arm’s inventory only 250 are operational — representing 41 per cent of the total. These assets are provided with only 100,000 flying hours, the force having calculated that 150,000 flying hours are the minimum to maintain the required levels of training. Besides the low operational status, most of the current modernization programs
Above: The loss of the first upgraded AF-1 Skyhawk in July has plunged the program into doubt. The Brazilian Navy has suffered from severe under-funding, and this latest setback could have serious ramifications. Cees-Jan van der Ende
for Brazil’s combat aircraft are either progressing slower than planned or have been stopped. Since 1998 the FAB has been pursuing the F-X future fighter program — later replaced by F-X2 — to overhaul its combat fleet, beginning with the replacement of the Mirage IIIEBR. After an interim measure whereby 12 Mirage 2000B/Cs were operated between 2006 and 2013, in December 2013 the Saab Gripen NG was selected as Brazil’s new fighter, 36 examples being ordered for around $5 billion. In June 2016 the model received the local designation F-39. The first batch of Gripens are expected to be delivered to the 1º Grupo de Defesa Aérea (GDA) at Anápolis air base, near Brasilia, starting from 2021. The original plan was to receive Gripens from 2018, later postponed to 2019, but the current
BRAZILIAN FIGHTERS | FORCE REPORT
plan envisages the maiden flight of the initial prototype in 2019, and completion of the certification process in 2021. The second unit to receive the Gripen will be the 1º/16º Grupo de Aviação (GAv), now stationed at Santa Cruz air base near Rio de Janeiro. Ultimately, however, the unit will move to Anápolis. Although the Gripen is a multi-role aircraft, the FAB seeks to retain specialized units, so while the 1º GDA will focus on air defense, the 1º/16º GAv will maintain its current role of ground attack. Participation by Embraer and other local industry in the Gripen program will increase, until it amounts to 60 per cent of the work-share. Furthermore, the program includes a high level of technology transfer, so Brazil will have full ownership of the software and uninhibited access to this and the aircraft’s computers. Delivery
of the first Brazilian-assembled Gripen is expected during 2021.
Right: The cockpit of an F-5EM, which will remain the main combat aircraft of the FAB until the arrival of the F-39 Gripen. Joao Paulo Moralez
The FAB’s current main fighter is the Northrop F-5E/F Tiger II. These aircraft were extensively modernized using the F-5UP (or F-5BR for the Brazilian application) upgrade package developed by Elbit Systems of Israel. This included the FIAR Grifo-FBR radar, Honeywell H-764G inertial navigation system/GPS/ radar altimeter, autopilot, new UHF/ VHF radios, hands on throttle and stick (HOTAS) controls, new head-up display (HUD), a cockpit compatible with night vision goggles (NVGs), datalink, on-board oxygen generation system, Martin-Baker MkBR10LF zero-zero ejection seats, chaff/ flare launchers, radar warning receivers (RWRs), and the capability to employ
FORCE REPORT | BRAZILIAN FIGHTERS slowly. Mectron was also developing the MAR-1 anti-radar missile, for use primarily by the AMX (see below), but this project has practically been abandoned.
A-1M — the upgraded AMX
‘smart’ weapons. The internal structures were overhauled and aircraft that had not yet received a refueling probe were equipped with one. The single-seaters had one of their guns removed, while the twoseaters retained both cannon. The FAB and Embraer — together with Aeroeletrónica, Elbit’s local subsidiary — performed upgrade work in Brazil and the aircraft received the local designations F-5EM (single-seater) and F-5FM (two-seater). One of the fleet’s main problems is a lack of two-seaters, exacerbated by an accident suffered by serial FAB-4806 on July 5, 2016. The pilots ejected after the left landing gear failed on a night flight from Santa Cruz. The aircraft landed by itself, and the extent of its damage is now being assessed. Of the batch of Tiger IIs purchased from the Royal Jordanian Air Force, it was ultimately decided to upgrade only the three two-seaters, and use the eight single-seat aircraft only as spares sources. The FAB now has 43 F-5EMs and two F-5FMs serving within four units, the 1º Grupo de Aviação de Caça (GAvCa) at Santa Cruz, the 1º GDA at Anápolis, the 1º/4º GAv at Manaus, and the 1º/14º GAv at Canoas, near Porto Alegre. The 1º GAvCa is considered the most historically significant fighter unit within
the FAB, having been created in WW2, when it operated over Italy with P-47D Thunderbolts. It was also the first Brazilian unit to operate the F-5. The 1º/14º GAv, ‘Esquadrão Pampa’, was the second FAB unit to equip with the F-5, protecting the southern part of the country, close to the border with Uruguay. It is currently equipped with F-5EMs and one F-5FM. Meanwhile, the 1º/4º GAv, ‘Esquadrão Pacau’, was equipped with the Tiger II in 2010 when it received six F-5EMs to replace its retired AT-26 Xavantes. At the same time it was moved from Fortaleza to Manaus, to protect the Amazon area. When the Mirage 2000B/Cs were retired at the end of 2013, F-5s from the other units (then numbering three) were deployed to Anápolis on rotation to secure the defense of the capital, Brasilia. Finally, in February 2016 five F-5EMs and an F-5FM were delivered to the 1º GDA to operate from the base until the arrival of the Gripen. As part of their upgrade program the F-5EM/FMs have received Rafael Python 4 and Derby air-to-air missiles (AAMs) and Elbit Systems Lizard laser-guided bombs. However, local development of the Mectron MAA-1B Piranha AAM and the participation of the Brazilian company in the development of the new-generation A-Darter AAM are progressing only very
Above: An F-5EM on patrol over Rio de Janeiro during a training flight in preparation for the security operation around the 2016 Olympic Games. FAB Below: An F-5EM and an A-1B on guard outside the Zeppelin hangar at Santa Cruz air base near Rio de Janeiro. The hangar, built to handle interwar German airships, is still partially used by the Air Force. FAB/Sgt Johnson
An initial example of the AMX International AMX for the FAB, serial FAB-5500, was first flown on August 12, 1989. The AMX became the air arm’s primary attack aircraft, and represented the FAB’s first true strike asset since the retirement of the Douglas A-26 Invader in 1975. A total of 45 single-seaters, locally designated A-1A, and 11 AMX-T twoseaters (A-1B) were delivered, of which four have been lost in accidents. The AMX was first introduced within the newly created 1º/16º GAv, ‘Esquadrão Adelphi’, based at Santa Cruz near Rio de Janeiro. This unit was joined in 1998 by 3º/10º GAv, ‘Esquadrão Centauro’, at Santa María in the south of the country. A year later a third unit, 1º/10º GAv, ‘Esquadrão Poker’, was established at Santa María. The latter also uses the AMX for reconnaissance, under the RA-1 designation. As such it is equipped with the locally built Gespi pod, which carries Vinten 360 cameras and Vicon cameras for long-range work. The Brazilian aircraft were manufactured in three batches, with many differences between them, which has resulted in serious maintenance challenges. It was clear by the mid-2000s that the AMX was showing its age, mainly in terms of its avionics. A modernization plan began to take shape, based on the aforementioned F-5EM upgrade effort. Contracts were finally signed in 2009 for the modernization of 43 A-1A/Bs, one $148-million contract being placed with Embraer and one of $187 million with Aeroeletrónica. In total, 33 A-1As and 10
BRAZILIAN FIGHTERS | FORCE REPORT A-1Bs were to be updated, in order to keep them operational until 2030. The A-1M upgrade plan includes the installation of the SCP-1 Scipio radar, developed by Mectron and the Italian company Galileo Avionica. This is a small multi-mode radar for air-to-air and airto-ground missions, with an advanced electronic counter-countermeasures (ECCM) capability, and is integrated with the multi-function cockpit displays installed in the upgraded aircraft. The AMX’s cockpit is receiving a HUD, three multi-function displays (MFDs), HOTAS controls, a gyro-electronic unit, attitude director indicator, audible signal warning for the headset, horizontal situation indicator, generator control unit, magnetic detector unit, external power control unit, color cockpit TV sensor, control panel for the stand-by attitude heading reference system, VHF/UHF transceiver and two related control panels, two control panels for the reconnaissance systems, and an aerial reconnaissance system interface computer, all developed by Elbit Systems. The aircraft are also being given a FLIR Systems NavFLIR airborne thermal imaging system, new RWRs and chaff/ flare launchers, a cockpit compatible with NVGs, a missile warning system from Elisra, a datalink, flight data recorder, and structural reinforcement to extend the service life of the airframes for another 20 years. As part of the upgrade, the aircraft are receiving equipment for new weapons, including beyond visual range (BVR) missiles, GPS- and laser-guided bombs, and the MAR-1 anti-radar missile. Also included are the SMKB-82 and SMKB-83 precision bomb kits, which comprise a GPS/Glonass and INS guidance system that can be installed on Mk82 and Mk83 bombs respectively. These weapons have
Above: The first A-1M in detail, with the new RWR, the NavFLIR and new radar in the nose. Santiago Rivas Below: Only three A-1Ms are operational with the 1º/16º GAv of the Brazilian Air Force, while two others are at Embraer undergoing tests. Discussions are taking place about reducing the number of upgraded aircraft to just 14. Santiago Rivas
been tested on the AMX but have not been adopted due to a lack of funds. The SMKB kit is very similar to a laserguidance kit, adding new nose and tail assemblies to the existing bomb. The nose assembly carries GPS and Glonass satellite positioning systems and an inertial navigation system to guide the bomb on to the target. This system was developed by AEQ together with Mectron; the pilot uses a small computer developed by Britanite-BSD and Mectron to control the bomb. Since it is ‘wireless’, the bomb can be installed on a wide range of aircraft without modifications. The bomb can be dropped from an altitude of 30,000ft (9,144m) to provide a range of 16-40km (10-25 miles) and a maximum error of 6m (20ft). Meanwhile, the A-1s now in service are receiving Rafael Litening pods for target designation, and a number of Rafael RecceLite pods have been acquired to replace the Gespi on the RA-1. A quantity of Rafael Sky Shield electronic jamming pods has been purchased. Embraer launched upgrade work on the A-1 at its Gavião Peixoto facilities in São Paulo state. The first prototype (FAB-5526) completed its maiden flight on June 19,
2012. It was followed shortly after by the second prototype for the upgrade effort, FAB-5530. Following flight tests, a batch of 15 aircraft went to Embraer to undergo the necessary work, and on September 23, 2013 a first example (FAB-5520) was delivered to the 1º/16º GAv, to begin training of pilots and ground crew on the new version of the jet. Deliveries were expected to continue until 2017, when the initial two prototypes would be re-delivered for operational use after an extensive evaluation process, including verification of the various new weapons and pods. By then, the three units were to be fully operational with the modernized aircraft. However, after the delivery of FAB-5520 and FAB-5506 in February 2014, followed by FAB-5525, budget constraints led to a slowdown on the upgrade work. Since then, no more updated aircraft have been delivered. A plan to reduce the quantity of upgraded jets to 30 was under study in 2015, and in early 2016 it was rumored that the program would be reduced to just 14 aircraft. Finally, in May 2016, the government slashed the defense budget and cancelled all payments for the AMX modernization program for 2016, putting an end to it for the time being. When asked about the FAB’s modernization programs, Jackson Schneider, CEO of Embraer Defense and Security, stated: ‘We are talking with the Brazilian Air Force; we are at a difficult moment for the country and made a renegotiation of the modernization programs, which in some cases affects only the delivery schedule and in others also the quantities. We reached an agreement for some, like the Embraer E-99, which is now suspended. We are now talking about others that will have some consequences, like the AMX; we are discussing what the consequences will be,
FORCE REPORT | BRAZILIAN FIGHTERS
if [it will affect] the final number or only the delivery schedule.’
In December 1997 the Brazilian Navy signed a contract for 20 McDonnell Douglas A-4KU (locally named AF-1) and three TA-4KU (AF-1A) Skyhawks to be delivered from Kuwait Air Force stocks. Valued at $79 million, the deal included spare parts, 217 AIM-9H Sidewinder AAMs, 127mm (5in) unguided rockets, and 20 spare Pratt & Whitney J52-P-408 engines. The Brazilian Navy also purchased TV and photographic cameras for reconnaissance work, AN/ALE-29A chaff launchers, and six Sargent Fletcher ‘buddy’ refueling packs. After an overhaul, an initial AF-1 returned to the air for the first time on March 26, 2000 and operations by squadron VF-1 then began at the unit’s São Pedro da Aldeia base, 150km (93 miles) from Rio de Janeiro. The squadron has never reached true operational status, due to a lack of pilots and budget to keep the aircraft at full readiness. Budget cuts also led to the retirement of nine of the Skyhawks, leaving only 12 on strength, of which only two or three are normally in operational use. Embraer developed a modernization plan, bringing the Skyhawks to AF-1M standard, after a contract was signed in 2009. The upgrade introduces new systems including an Elta EL/M-2032 radar, new avionics, new instrument panel with two MFDs, new HUD, RWRs, HOTAS controls, on-board oxygen generation system (OBOGS), new energy-generation system, new mission computer, a third VHF radio, improved autopilot,
improvements to the engine and electrical systems, new weapons systems and other changes. After upgrade, the single-seat aircraft are designated as the AF-1B and the two-seaters AF-1C. The first modernized Skyhawk, serial N-1011 (later serial N-1001), flew for the first time on July 17, 2013 and was delivered to the Navy on May 26, 2015. However, budget cuts are leading to delays with this program too. The second upgraded example, which is also the first two-seater to be updated, only flew for the first time on January 20, 2016. Current plans call for the delivery of this and one other aircraft to the Navy before the end of the year. After modernization, it is expected that the Skyhawk will remain operational until 2025. The intention is for the aircraft to be replaced after that, and Saab is offering a carrier-based version of the Gripen NG, known as the Gripen M, which would provide useful commonality with the Brazilian Air Force.
Above: A fabulous view of an AF-1 pre-upgrade. The type has been grounded on several occasions in recent years. Cees-Jan van der Ende Below: The first AF-1B (updated A-4KU Skyhawk) was lost in an accident on July 26, 2016, just 14 months after being delivered. Embraer
The test campaign for the enhanced Skyhawks moved ahead, and on June 29, 2016 AF-1B serial N-1001 performed its first aerial refueling, together with AF-1 N-1004 and AF-1A N-1021. At the time, these were the only three operational aircraft within VF-1. Unfortunately, on July 26, N-1001 suffered a mid-air collision with N-1004. While the second aircraft made it back to its base, the only operational upgraded Skyhawk crashed into the sea. This loss has left the status of the upgrade program unclear, and has put an end to VF-1’s training on the new version. Although the accident does not appear to be related to the aircraft, or its update program, it will inevitably lead to a considerable delay. While the Gripen program clearly appears to be proceeding as scheduled, other modernization efforts for Brazil’s combat aircraft fleet have not been nearly as fortunate.
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The race is on to find Finland’s new fighter, and at the country’s Tour de Sky airshow manufacturers vied for attention in the bid to replace the Finnish Air Force’s F/A-18C/D Hornet fleet. report: Rich Cooper
INLAND’S TOUR DE Sky event was held back in June at Kuopio-Rissala in the south of Finland, home to part of the 62-strong Hornet fleet that was delivered in the 1990s. Today’s Ilmavoimat (Finnish Air Force) is a small but well-trained force backed up by a healthy indigenous aircraft industry. There is little doubt that the HX fighter program is set to be the most significant purchase in recent — if not the entire — Ilmavoimat history. Helsinki has already termed it ‘a very large and complex’ contract.
On April 22, the Finnish Defense Forces Logistics Command sent out requests for information (RFI) to Boeing (F/A-18E/F Super Hornet), Dassault (Rafale), Eurofighter (Typhoon), Lockheed Martin (F-35 Lightning II) and Saab (Gripen E). Interestingly, Washington stated a month later that it would not supply any information on the F-15 Eagle or the F-16 Fighting Falcon, both included in Helsinki’s original listings. The HX project covers the procurement of 60-64 aircraft, has a projected bill of between $7-10 billion depending on type selection, and is expected to deliver from 2025. ‘The fighter acquisition will become a fundamental component of a strengthened national air defense system that comprises a robust antiaircraft defense system’, said Jussi Niinistö, Finland’s defense minister. The deadline for replies to the RFI is December 31, 2016. The invitation to tender bids will be dispatched in 2018 before a tender issue in February 2019. Contracts are then being lined up for signature in 2021, with initial operational capability expected in 2025 (the
Above: Dassault’s Rafale has notched up strong recent orders in Egypt and Qatar. Dassault/ Anthony Pecchi
Left: Norway is a strong supporter of the F-35A and would offer a strong partnership for Finland. Lockheed Martin/Darin Russell
Right: The Saab JAS 39 Gripen E is seen by many as a front-runner in the competition in light of joint Nordic operations. Saab
FINNISH FIGHTER | INDUSTRY FOCUS Hornet then being phased out) and full operational capability following in 2030.
Above: The Eurofighter Typhoon is making good progress and towards the end of the decade should offer the added benefit of an E-Scan radar. BAE Systems/ Jamie Hunter
The Finnish Ministry of Defense (MoD) is insistent that HX must be a new aircraft, and that the fighter force cannot be replaced by anti-aircraft weapons or unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs, a rumbling in-country political debate). Nor is it practical to upgrade the existing Hornets. The MoD states that the primary goal of the nation’s defense capability is to secure a pre-emptive threshold to stop a possible aggressor from using or threatening to use military force and to prevent counter-attacks against Finland. It says that fighter aircraft form an integral part of both air defense and the joint-fire capability of the Defense Forces to engage land- and sea-based targets. In addition, these capabilities support intelligence, surveillance, and command and control systems. The life-cycle of the Hornet fleet is expected to end by the close of the 2020s, its service life being limited by what the MoD calls a ‘weakening of relative capabilities, the fatigue of structures and the availability of the aircraft’s systems, spares and software’. The ministry concedes that a life extension plan is not viable on a cost basis. Nor is it, from the perspective of Finland’s defense, sufficient. Indeed, the aircraft have undergone two mid-life upgrades (MLUs) since delivery and the air arm could end up as the last operator of the F/A-18C/D model’s existing mission computer. However, Finland has only just emerged from a seven-year recession and the Ilmavoimat’s bigticket spend is being scrutinized very closely. The purchase itself was not in any military budget and required a separate funding allocation.
Opponents argue that a smaller number of aircraft could be procured and that UAVs could then supplement any new fighter to keep costs down. Despite this, the manufacturers at Kuopio were confident of an all-fighter prospect, as Combat Aircraft caught up with the main players in the HX program.
Dassault Rafale Dassault’s chosen slogan for its HX campaign is ‘Rafale: Protecting Finland’s Integrity’. ‘We do not have a Rafale on display here at Kuopio’, said a Dassault official, justifying this by adding, ‘They are all on operations — we cannot spare any and that is the perfect advertisement for our product.’ ‘We received the RFI in April and we believe that the Rafale is an excellent asset for Finland due to its multi-role capability’, a Dassault spokesperson told CA. Dassault has been pushing the type’s deep strike, maritime strike and reconnaissance capabilities, as well as the type’s ‘multisensor data fusion, which provides 360-degree situational awareness’. Outside of the cockpit, Dassault promotes ties with Finnish industry and importantly (at least as far as the US is concerned), transfers of key technologies in what it calls ‘a strategic co-operation’ between the two countries. Until now, sales of the Rafale have been in hotter and higher climates, with the harsh Finnish winters being a different environment altogether. ‘We are confident that the
Top inset: The Boeing Super Hornet would build on the excellent service record attained by the current Finnish F/A-18C/D fleet. Jamie Hunter
INDUSTRY FOCUS | FINNISH FIGHTER A Swedish Air Force Gripen C as it arrived for the Finnish show in June. Rich Cooper
colder weather will not be a factor, it will do well — we have been evaluated in Switzerland before and we had a very strong outcome from those tests’, Dassault affirmed.
Lockheed Martin F-35 Lockheed Martin enlisted a ‘Desert Storm’ veteran, the MiG-killing Gen (ret’d) Gary North. ‘The Finnish government is looking for a Hornet replacement and they have come to us for the F-35’, North asserted. ‘The RFP will provide information on all three Lightning variants and they will decide which one suits their needs. We are very confident in our airplane — every nation that has had the F-35 in the mix has resulted in the F-35 being the winner of the competition and there are now 185 machines flying in the world today.’ So, why would the F-35 fit Finland? ‘They live in a very tough neighborhood and they are looking to replace a fourth-generation airplane with one that provides the capability for sovereign national events and one that is interoperable with EU partners’, explained North. ‘In the Baltic area, you need to provide a sovereign defense with a type that will be around for 30 to 40 years and not only will meet current threats but also those of superiority and interoperability in the future as well.’ In terms of the numbers involved in HX, North says that many governments are
realizing that they might not need the numbers of F-35s they envisaged ‘simply because of the capability of the jet’. Two major boosts in the region are represented by Norway and Denmark’s choice of the F-35, and Lockheed Martin can also point to Australia, which opted for it as a specific replacement for a fleet of Hornets. ‘Look at Denmark’, says North. ‘They chose the F-35 as the best platform in every category of their fighter competition and now we have Finland looking closely at this pattern. The country was not a partner in the program, but we are looking to provide not only the platform for Finland but also interoperability across the Scandinavian countries, as well as what it will bring to Finland’s industry in terms of unassisted, sovereign sustainability’. Lockheed Martin has also recruited retired Col Ossi Sivén, a former chief of the Ilmavoimat’s Karelia Air Command, into its HX team. ‘The cold weather of the F-35 will not faze the F-35’, continued North. ‘The jet was tested in the climatic testing chambers at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, all the way up to 47.8°C, running on the ground for an hour in that heat and then all the way down to -40°C. It is also about to be deployed to Eielson AFB, Alaska, about 120 miles north of the Finnish Hornet base that we are currently standing on.’ And how does the Lightning II stack up against the other HX competitors? ‘The
FINNISH FIGHTER | INDUSTRY FOCUS threat in the future is growing rapidly. When you combine stealth with the network-sensor fusion inside the airplane, and among other F-35s operating alongside it via secure datalink and onwards to other players and ground- and sea-based assets, it brings an entire force up to the level of the F-35, and no other competitors in the HX can offer that.’ In terms of timescale, previous Lightning II delays are fading into the background. ‘We are producing 53 F-35s per year right now, and this will increase next year and full-rate production will start in 2019. The winner of the HX will be decided in 2021 for delivery in 2025, so we are very comfortable with where we are now’, North confirmed.
Saab Gripen E Saab now has a dedicated Finland sales department and has added former Ilmavoimat chief of staff Gen Kari Salmi to its Finnish consultancy team. Magnus Skogberg of Saab Finland has been impressed by the Finnish approach. ‘It has been extremely professional’, he says. ‘It started with an MoD pre-study report in the middle of 2015 and then we received an extensive RFI package in April 2016. Again, it was professional and, if I may say, more extensive than an average RFI. They know exactly what they want in terms of the process. ‘In terms of Gripen numbers, it is too early to say. We are looking at the scenarios and the type of operations that the Finnish Air Force would like to carry out and we are elaborating on how [the] Gripen can meet these in the best way. Finland is quite a large country with a long border, so the number of aircraft will be of great importance to handle the required sortie rate.’ Rolled out in May, Saab is pitching the Gripen E for HX. ‘On today’s timescales, we see a perfect timing match — when Finland makes its decision, the E will be in service with Sweden and Brazil. We are well into the production and we are confident in our offer of a well-proven concept, aligned with the latest and greatest technology that the E-model offers.’ Skogberg sees a lot of parallels with the Swedish security situation. ‘We see that [the] Gripen is optimized and developed for that exact task. They are looking for a true multi-role aircraft and we started off as just that, as a front-runner. When it comes to cost-efficiency we do feel that this will be an important aspect for Finland — and not to be forgotten is the
The F-35 (top left) offers what is arguably the most advanced cockpit of the competitors with its 20 x 8in display. The Super Hornet (top right) and Gripen E (center right) both have a large-area display (LAD). The Rafale (above) boasts an impressive three-screen layout, while the Eurofighter Typhoon (right) currently retains its original layout, although LAD options have been evaluated. Photos Lockheed Martin/Saab/ Boeing/Dassault/Jamie Hunter Left: The F-35 (above left) offers the Gen-3 helmet-mounted display from Rockwell Collins. BAE Systems is progressing its Striker II day/ night digital helmet (left middle) for both the Typhoon and as the Cobra in the Gripen. The Rafale has not yet fielded a helmet-mounted display, while the Super Hornet (bottom left) offers the Joint Helmet-Mounted Cueing System, already in use with Finnish Hornets. Jamie Hunter
operational landscape, the dispersed air bases concept, the conscript mechanics, harsh climate, the high availability with reduced logistics footprint, and quick turnaround [10-minute refuel and rearm]… It all adds up to Gripen.’ The Swedish manufacturer has worked hard on ‘future-proofing’ the Gripen E. ‘No matter how good the systems are that are developed today, things will change. We need to stay on top of future operational requirements. With our approach, we always work with continual updates and can cost-effectively change the configuration to match — at each moment in time — the operational needs of a customer. They would not need to wait for a big mid-life upgrade step, which may leave you lagging behind. ‘We have a good discussion with Finnish industry. The main players are already strategic partners with the Finnish Air
Force and we are really impressed with their capability. We can see how important it is for them to be self-sufficient to operate, maintain and support it with little dependency on other countries in times of conflict. We have the toolbox to make this happen. ‘We also know that we can put together a very competitive offer. We are very strong on life-cycle cost — [the] Gripen has been designed to be cost-efficient.’
Eurofighter Typhoon BAE Systems brought two Royal Air Force Typhoon FGR4s direct from the Baltic Air Policing detachment at Ämari, Estonia, where No II(AC) Squadron had deployed to protect the airspace of Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia as part of the NATO rotation. ‘Tour de Sky is Finland’s major airshow and we were proud to take part’, a BAE
INDUSTRY FOCUS | FINNISH FIGHTER
Systems official explained to CA. ‘We were pleased to be able to show two current operational Typhoon aircraft on static display during the show, fresh from Baltic Air Policing operations. ‘Finland requires a credible military deterrent. We believe that the Typhoon best meets that requirement by providing a highly agile, quick-reaction, multi-role combat aircraft. It provides air-to-air superiority that is unmatched by any other available aircraft and has well-defined and combat-proven air-tosurface capabilities, including a precision long-range, deep strike capability.’ BAE Systems was keen to counter its competitors’ commonality and futurethreat selling points, adding: ‘Capability expansion enhancements are continually being integrated to ensure [that the] Typhoon remains a credible and capable deterrent, evolving to meet the emerging threats of the future. With eight established customers, the aircraft will remain the backbone of Europe’s combat air capability for the foreseeable future.’ While BAE Systems would not be drawn on Tranche specifics, it said: ‘the aircraft delivered would be at the very latest build standard with the latest avionics and weapons capability standards.’ Naturally, the benefits of industry collaboration and future development came to the fore. ‘[The] Typhoon would provide the opportunity for Finland to become part of Europe’s largest collaborative defense program, further strengthening political ties and creating wealth, technology and economic benefits. For [the] Eurofighter Typhoon, industrial partnership delivering longterm economic return is part of our DNA. ‘In addition, UK industry and Finland have enjoyed a 35-year partnership through [the] Finnish Hawk — a
‘There are no numbers decided yet and we have not made the decision on whether to go with a single- or multi-type solution to replace our F/A-18C/D Hornets’ COL PASI JOKINEN collaborative success that can be built upon together. Choosing the Typhoon will provide Finland with the opportunity to become a key partner in the program going forward, with influence over future development including collaboration on continued capability evolution, ensuring [that] the aircraft will continue to meet Finnish defense requirements.’
Missing ‘Rhino’ Interestingly, the only other HX offering — the Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet (nicknamed the ‘Rhino’) — had no presence at Kuopio. Had Boeing missed a trick? The Hornet-to-Super Hornet transition is certainly one that Finland is keen to evaluate. Making the final decision will be Col Pasi Jokinen, the Ilmavoimat’s director of the HX competition. ‘Everything is open!’ he confirmed. ‘There are no numbers decided yet and, indeed, we have not made the decision on whether to go with
a single- or multi-type solution to replace our F/A-18C/D Hornets. We are looking forward to reading the contenders’ responses to the problems we defined in the RFI. We gave them a number of scenarios to formulate how their aircraft would fit in and we will analyze their results. We then make the decision to invite requests for quotations/proposals. Four nations, five candidates. We are very interested to hear what each contender is offering.’ The Ilmavoimat knows exactly what it wants, but it remains open to new thinking, as Jokinen explained. ‘Our concept and system has worked very well. However, we are open to new ideas and we are up for change if we need to. Our way of doing things today might not be the best for the next 40 years. ‘As a non-allied nation we need to have certain capabilities at our hand so there will be a significant industry angle to the solution. ‘Our first priority is capability. Our area of operation is challenging, as is the potential threat environment and, of course, the weather. Our analysis has shown that we need to continue road operations, so the winner will need to be capable of distribution. The winner needs to perform.’ So, the ball is in the industry players’ court. They now have the task of analyzing the scenarios set out by the Ilmavoimat and integrating their product onto an ice-covered freezing road, miles from any air base, while conscript mechanics turn around their continually upgraded aircraft to meet an emerging and unknown regional threat for the next four decades. HX is certainly one to watch. Col Jokinen agreed. ‘This is a very interesting competition — I have a difficult job, but a great job.’
It will be interesting to see whether Finland chooses to stick with Boeing or move to partner with Norway on the F-35A, Sweden with the Gripen, or other European partners with the Eurofighter of the Rafale. Lockheed Martin/ Chad Bellay
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INDUSTRY FOCUS | BOEING/SAAB T-X
BOEING GOES ALL OUT ON T-X It was an unveiling that we had waited six years for. Boeing and Saab rolled out their ‘clean-sheet’ jet trainer design on September 13. Does it have what it takes to win T-X?
report: Jon Lake
HE FIRST BOEING/SAAB T-X training aircraft, registered N381TX and allocated production serial T1 — dubbed the BTX-1 by the manufacturers — was revealed to invited guests and selected media at Boeing’s St Louis, Missouri, plant on September 13. In the run-up to the ceremonial roll-out, the aircraft was moved from the production facility to the paint-shop under cover of darkness. It was then sprayed and painted by hand in a hangar, surrounded by wooden scaffolding, before being transferred (again by night) to another building for pre-event filming. Other than the replacement of a butterfly tail by canted twin fins and a conventional horizontal tailplane, the aircraft looked remarkably similar to an early Boeing artist’s impression, and exactly matched the more recent overhead rendering of the nose and front cockpit released in September 2015. The event revealed that not one but two aircraft have been built, with aircraft T2 (serial N382TX) being close to completion at the time of the roll-out. In addition, the five development airframes required for the T-X project have also been pre-registered as N791TX, 792TX, 793TX, 794TX and 795TX.
Ted Torgerson, Boeing’s T-X program manager, was unapologetic about all the razzmatazz, saying: ‘As an aircraft manufacturer we don’t get to do this every day. There’s a large team of people that were part of this and we have got a chance to show the world what we could do and that we’re the right choice for the Air Force.’ Steve ‘Bull’ Schmidt, Boeing’s T-X program chief test pilot, was more measured, pointing out that while the excitement was building, this was just ‘one more step along the way to get the airplane in the air.’
T-38 replacement Boeing and partner Saab have designed this aircraft as the cornerstone of their T-X system bid to replace the T-38 in the advanced flying training role. The US Air Force’s T-38Cs are costly to operate and to support, and are not felt to offer an adequate training solution for pilots destined for the latest fighters. Until a couple of years ago, this training ‘gap’ was bridged by sending probationary F-22 pilots to F-16 training units for a short course to get used to high-g flying and airto-air refueling. The bridging course has gone, but this could (and arguably should) have been experienced in a suitably equipped, modern advanced trainer,
The first Boeing T-X aircraft at the roll-out ceremony in St Louis. Boeing
which would be significantly cheaper to operate, and which would allow more training to be ‘downloaded’ from operational type conversion. The use of actual or emulated sensors on a modern trainer can permit the cheaper aircraft to fly mission types that would usually be conducted with an operational type. The T-X requirement sees an increased use of synthetics, again with a significant cost saving, but also allowing more realistic training in some circumstances, by using simulated or emulated wingmen and/or adversaries. This is why the four T-X contender aircraft are a single element — albeit the cornerstone element — of the respective T-X training systems on offer, which will further include state-of-the-art groundbased training and through-life support. All of these elements have been designed to provide ‘as real as it gets’ training in the air and on the ground, at low cost and with unmatched safety, while simultaneously affording high fidelity and operational realism. All four T-X rivals are following the same ‘systems-based’ approach. All make extensive and intelligent use of groundbased training devices, synthetics and simulation, as well as airborne emulation. While it is obviously in Boeing’s interests to stress the importance of providing handling and performance broadly representative of fifth-generation fighters, this may be of less importance than the company would have us believe. A number of F-35 customers have already selected advanced training aircraft, and neither the UK Royal Air Force nor the Italian Aeronautica Militare feel that their Hawk T2 and T-346A trainers respectively will not be as suitable for training F-35 or Eurofighter pilots. But while operators of aircraft like these can afford to be sanguine that they have suitable trainers, the USAF finds itself in a very different position, relying on an ancient trainer that it has had in service for 55 years, and that was better suited
BOEING/SAAB T-X | INDUSTRY FOCUS
THE T-X COMPETITION Designed in the 1950s, the T-38 Talon was originally developed to instruct pilots to fly third-generation fighters such as the Republic F-105 Thunderchief. It is currently used to train pilots for all USAF tactical aircraft. Despite an avionics and propulsion upgrade, the T-38C is now struggling to stay relevant in today’s training environment. As a result, the USAF was forced to move twothirds of the pilot training tasks originally intended to be completed in advanced pilot training into the formal training units (FTUs) and operational squadrons. This is an expensive business, not to mention the fact that the extra flights reduce airframe life on those operational platforms. A goal of T-X is to pull those tasks back into the advanced pilot training program. Although the T-X program started in 2008, a series of delays largely due to budget issues pushed the program away from its original schedule to produce an initial operating capability (IOC) in 2020. In October 2012 the USAF released a broad set of draft documents identifying key performance parameters (KPPs), which enabled industry to refine its initial proposals. This was followed in March 2015 with the release of the final list of T-X requirements. Although containing over
to training pilots for long-retired ‘Century Series’ fighters than those destined to man the cockpits of aircraft like the F-15 and F-16, let alone the F-22 and F-35.
The contenders The T-X competition has attracted four ‘bids’, two of them based on ‘clean sheet’ designs and two offering derivatives of existing advanced trainer aircraft. The latter ought to enjoy a significant advantage, since development costs should be significantly lower. Though the Air Force has incentivized exceeding some performance characteristics over and above its threshold requirements, including sustained g and high angleof-attack capability, it is understood that ‘breaking the cost curve’ is a much higher priority for the Department of Defense. With other high-priority acquisition programs, including the fiscally troubled F-35, as well as the Boeing KC-46 Pegasus tanker and the new Northrop Grumman B-21 Raider, the last thing the USAF needs is another resource-hungry program. It would be hard to justify spending more on a new design when more than adequate alternatives are available ‘off the shelf’ — especially when doing so would net no significant operational advantage. However, politics and industrial concerns will doubtless play their part in
100 points, three requirements stand out: a sustained turn rate of a minimum of 6.5g, simulator acuity and performance, and aircraft sustainment. As the June 2015 Combat Aircraft reported in ‘T-X Shapes Up’, other requirements include the need for in-flight refueling (at least adaptable for a kit, but a builtin capability is preferred), a 10 per cent reduction in fuel usage over the T-38, and a maximum runway take-off length of 8,000ft. While the g threshold is set at 6.5g, there is a desire for 7.5 so as to ensure students can operate in a 9g environment necessitated by front-line fighters. Speaking in 2015, Brig Gen Dawn Dunlop, the then director of requirements, plans and programs for Air Education and Training Command (AETC), said there is potential for sales beyond the stated 350 aircraft, noting that the USAF could opt for a single-track pilot training program, which means the T-X would be used for both advanced pilot training and advanced introduction to fighter fundamentals (IFF). There has also been talk of an additional need for an adversary or ‘Red Air’ version of the T-X, but this option, while loosely factored, will be properly determined at a later date. Brad Elward
the final decision. Awarding T-X to Boeing would keep the company in the fast jet game, and would bolster the company’s military side at a time when airliner orders are slowing. It is therefore important to emphasize that the aircraft rolled out in St Louis is not a pure Boeing design, but rather is the product of a teaming with Sweden’s Saab, though details of the agreement between Boeing and Saab have not been released. Neither company has disclosed details about the planned work-share on the aircraft, who will build which parts of the airframe (although it is understood the rear fuselage is Saab-manufactured), or where manufacturing and final assembly will be undertaken. It is known that the engineering and manufacturing development (EMD) phase of the program will be completed at the St Louis factory. Saab have provided the deputy program manager, Eddy de la Motte, and according to senior Phantom Works staff it ‘brought a tremendous amount of expertise, technical detail, and a lot of re-use of sub-systems out of the Gripen.’ Boeing has confirmed that a recent air shipment from Norrköping, Sweden to St Louis (via Reykjavík, Iceland) was indeed related to T-X and that this shipment did not include wings or a tail.
Northrop Grumman, teamed with BAE Systems and L-3 Communications, has also offered a new, ‘clean-sheet’ design for T-X, the Model 400. It was photographed as it underwent taxi trials at Mojave on August 19, and made its maiden flight on August 26. The aircraft (registered N400NT), was manufactured by Northrop’s Scaled Composites subsidiary, and according to FAA records is powered by a single non-afterburning General Electric F404-GE-102D turbofan engine. Northrop had originally planned to offer a derivative of the BAE Systems Hawk, but switched to a new design when the full parameters of the USAF requirement became known, when it was said that it had ‘become clear’ that the Hawk ‘no longer represented the optimum solution in terms of key performance parameters (KPPs) and affordability.’ Some were puzzled by the dropping of the Hawk, since even in its RAF T2 form it seemed to meet virtually all T-X requirements, apart from the requirement (since relaxed) to sustain 6.5g — 7.5g with 80 per cent fuel load — at 15,000ft above mean sea level. If equipped with a more powerful version of the Adour engine and fitted with a slatted wing, the Hawk could meet this requirement — and both these improvements are already in train. Perhaps, though, Northrop Grumman hopes that by using an unconventionally manufactured Scaled Composites airframe it will be able to offer a very low acquisition cost. BAE Systems has remained a key partner in the Northrop Grumman bid, however. The embedded air vehicle training capability in the current Hawk was adopted lock, stock and barrel for the new aircraft, while L-3 remained on board for the ground training systems. The other two contenders are derivatives of existing trainers. Raytheon, Leonardo and CAE have teamed to offer the T-100 (an upgraded version of the M-346 Master, which is itself a Westernized variant of the Russian Yak-130). Interestingly, Alenia’s previous T-X partnership with General Dynamics broke up after the request for information was released, but the M-346 was thrown a lifeline when Raytheon stepped in as prime contractor. Lockheed Martin and Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) have come together to put forward the T-50A, an upgraded version of the KAI FA-50 Golden Eagle — an aircraft with no performance worries in relation to the T-X requirement.
INDUSTRY FOCUS | BOEING/SAAB T-X
The Phantom Works approach
Because industry was given early insight into the performance requirements for the new trainer, Boeing judged that investing in a new design would result in an optimum solution: providing what the Air Force wanted, at an affordable price. Darryl Davis, the president of Boeing’s Phantom Works, emphasized at the roll-out that the company’s design was designed to meet the Air Force’s T-X requirements, but generally not to exceed them, though the aircraft is felt to be a flexible design that will be able to evolve as technologies, missions and training needs change. Use of an afterburning 17,750lb st General Electric F404-GE-402 engine (reheat was not specified by the USAF) will provide a degree of growth potential, though Boeing remains coy as to what its aircraft will be able to achieve above and beyond the threshold requirements. While saying remarkably little about its new aircraft, Boeing has been keen to emphasize its experience and cost-saving credibility. The company has played a pivotal role in most of the front-line aircraft now in USAF service, while Boeing Commercial Airplanes has pioneered costreducing manufacturing techniques and the use of advanced materials (including the secretive manufacturing technology initiative, code-named Black Diamond), driving down the cost of producing and operating modern airliners. Saab’s participation only serves to enhance these strengths, thanks to the innovative Swedish company’s work on reducing costs in the production of the new Gripen E. The T-X design takes advantage of the very latest
manufacturing techniques, technologies, and tools including 3D printing (additive manufacturing) of certain non-critical, non-metallic components, though Boeing is known to be looking at printing metal components too. Assembly of the T-X uses ‘orders of magnitude less touch labor’, says Davis, and the aircraft was fully assembled with ‘no hard tooling’ to produce parts. The Boeing-Saab team cut the time it takes to produce the aircraft’s canopy from six weeks to just eight days, using improved adhesive technology to create a flexible, strong sealant, also obviating the need for expensive equipment to hold it in place. Davis said the company spent a lot of time on flying qualities and that the aircraft ‘will be the safest trainer in USAF history’, adding, ‘a new pilot in training will have a very difficult time departing this aircraft because of what we have done.’ Just as much attention has reportedly been paid to ensuring that the aircraft is a maintenance-friendly design with economical long-term supportability. Even on a cursory examination of the photos available so far, the Boeing T-X certainly seems to be generously provided with maintenance access panels, many of them clearly accessible from ground level. The aircraft is designed to use standard Air Force ground equipment, and parts from established suppliers.
Boeing T-X described Boeing chief test pilot Steve ‘Bull’ Schmidt says: ‘I consider it the complete package for an advanced jet trainer. It has the maneuverability, the agility that you’re looking for when you’re trying to train somebody to fly future combat aircraft.’
The main undercarriage has a relatively narrow track, which has caused some to speculate that it may cause a few problems for new students on landing. Boeing
The Boeing aircraft has a conventional configuration with a single engine, sidemounted engine intakes, widely spaced twin tails, prominent leading-edge root extensions (LERXes), what Boeing calls ‘stadium seating’ (stepped tandem seats) and a conventional, forward-retracting tricycle undercarriage. It also features an advanced cockpit with embedded training. From some angles (notably in plan view) there is an obvious familial resemblance to the F/A-18, and there are features that are suggestive of Saab’s Gripen — particularly the intakes — though it would be easy to overstate these similarities. On the ground, from some angles, the aircraft looks surprisingly similar to the Textron AirLand Scorpion, though the Textron aircraft uses a rather plank-like wing of higher aspect ratio. The single engine chosen for Boeing’s T-X offering should have come as little surprise. All three of the single-engined T-X contenders use variants of the F404 powerplant. Lockheed Martin’s T-50A uses the afterburning 17,700lb st F404-GE-102, while the Northrop Grumman design has the 11,000lb st non-afterburning F404GE-102D. Even in dry power, Northrop says that its aircraft will meet the USAF’s sustained turn rate requirement, and that omitting the afterburner will bring about savings in operating and support costs. The Boeing aircraft has canted twin tails, whereas all of the competing designs use a single vertical tail fin. Structurally heavier than a single fin, twin tails provide superior flight control at high angles of attack (especially when combined with sharp LERXes which encourage the creation of powerful vortices), and are said to be safer during air-to-air refueling. On fifth-generation aircraft, twin tails are also
BOEING/SAAB T-X | INDUSTRY FOCUS
stealthier, though there has obviously been no effort to incorporate low-observable technology into the design of a trainer. Boeing has worked hard to produce an airframe that mimics the handling, feel and distinctive features of today’s fighters. On the fuselage spine, just in front of the tails, the aircraft has the distinctive markings for a Universal Aerial Refueling Receptacle Slipway Installation (UARRSI) to be fitted, allowing for aerial refueling from a boom-equipped tanker. The aircraft has a conventional tapered wing with pronounced anhedral and modest leading-edge sweep, and has more highly swept tailplanes with cropped outboard trailing edges — like those of the Super Hornet. Large flaps or flaperons are located inboard on the trailing edge, and there is no obvious sign of outboard ailerons. The wing is fitted with outboard leading edge slats, which leave a pronounced dogtooth at their inboard edge. This dogtooth discontinuity generates a vortex flow that helps to prevent separated airflow from progressing outboard at high angles of attack, enhancing controllability and reducing induced drag at higher speeds. Most obviously, the aircraft has prominent LERXes. A LERX is an extension to the inboard leading edge of an aircraft
Above: This exclusive shot shows that the main canopy has an embedded miniature detonating cord (MDC) and possible fitment of the new Martin-Baker US18 seats that are being pitched for T-X. Boeing Top right: A screen-grab from the promotional Boeing T-X video reveals the planform of the BTX-1. Boeing The design of the aircraft suggests impressive agility, which may allow Boeing to exceed the baseline USAF performance requirements. Boeing
wing, forward of the line of the rest of the leading edge. LERXes generate a high-speed vortex, which attaches to the top of the wing, inducing smooth, controlled airflow over the wing at high angles of attack and low airspeeds. This delays the stall, when the airflow would otherwise break up, with a consequent sudden loss of lift. On the Boeing T-X these are unslotted like those of the Super Hornet (and thus unlike those fitted to the F/A-18A to C Hornet). Two small fences are fitted on the upper surface at the wing roots. By obstructing span-wise airflow along the wing, they prevent the entire wing from stalling at the same time. They may also be similar to the small finlets fitted in much the same position on the M-346, and probably fulfill a similar purpose, ‘trapping’ and controlling the vortices generated by the LERXes at high AoA. Simple engine air intakes stand well proud from the fuselage, and are fitted with prominent fixed boundary layer ‘splitter plates’. These are similar to the Gripen’s intakes, and stop sluggish boundary layer airflow from entering the engine intakes. The tricycle landing gear has a relatively narrow track but a reasonable wheelbase. Although the nose gear is set well back
— virtually below the instructor’s ejection seat — the forward-retracting main undercarriage units are also well aft. The main gear units are strongly reminiscent of the F-16’s, with a single wheel on each unit, and a landing light mounted on the oleos. The forward-retracting nose gear has a starboard-opening nosewheel door, apparently with no facility to close the door when the undercarriage is extended. Boeing has trumpeted the ‘stadium seating’ in the cockpit, which seems to be its term for having relatively modestly stepped tandem cockpits, intended to give the back-seater improved visibility over the head of the student. Some have expressed the view that the cockpits are not as stepped as they could have been, maybe representing a compromise of forward/downward view over the nose from the rear cockpit for lower drag. What is likely to be a real strong point for Boeing’s T-X is the size of the cockpit. It has been designed to accommodate all seven Joint Primary Aviation Training System (JPATS) anthropometric cases, which together represent the extreme multivariate proportions of expected aircrew candidates (and instructors), ranging in height from 64-77in tall when standing, and 34-40in tall when sitting, and weighing between 160-231lb.
INDUSTRY FOCUS | BOEING/SAAB T-X
The T-38 was once officially described as ‘an accommodation bottleneck for entry into fighter aircraft’, because it did not accommodate small pilots well, giving them problems with vision over the nose, leg reach to the rudder pedals, and arm reach to the controls. Pilots who have flown the T-50 report that the cockpit is rather small and cramped, so this may turn out to be an important factor. The all-digital, ‘glass’ cockpit will be ‘clean, intuitive and reconfigurable’ and is designed to resemble that of the fifthgeneration F-35A, while incorporating embedded training. Though the aircraft will use single large-area displays (LADs), like the F-35, these can be configured to show separate displays like the F-22 and ‘legacy’ jets, and the suggestion is that the aircraft features a sidestick controller. The cockpits are covered by a onepiece canopy, hinged to starboard with five hinges, and are located behind a wrap-around windscreen. The canopy incorporates an embedded blast screen for the rear cockpit. Perhaps surprisingly, the aircraft is fitted with a small head-up display (HUD). While the F-35 does not have a HUD, other modern fighters tend to use large, wideangle HUDs. It may be assumed that T-X aircrew will employ some kind of helmetmounted display system, at least in the later stages of their training. The aircraft has a broad, flattened ‘shark-nose’ similar in appearance to that fitted to the Northrop F-20 Tigershark and some later F-5E Tiger IIs. This nose was developed during early wind-tunnel testing of the RF-5E Tigereye, when it was discovered that a flat oval cross-section at the nose eliminated directional stability problems, especially at high angles of attack.
‘I consider it the complete package for an advanced jet trainer. It has the maneuverability, the agility that you’re looking for when you’re trying to train somebody to fly future combat aircraft’ STEVE ‘BULL’ SCHMIDT, BOEING CHIEF TEST PILOT
Moving forward The aircraft that appeared in St Louis was cleverly presented in that it showed a remarkable amount of progress and perceived maturity. Boeing eschewed any use of the word prototype. Darryl Davis averred that the aircraft was ‘a production jet at this stage’. He explained that it was intended to go straight into production in its current form, without passing through all of the conventional development stages of a typical military aircraft. Ted Torgerson added that having two complete aircraft showed: ‘We wanted to prove to the world that we have been through the design, development, manufacturing effort, to be able to produce multiple aircraft, to have aircraft ready to reduce risk for the customer, and to show that we’re ready to go. These are not prototypes, these are our first two jets for the program and it’s critical that we show that because we’re competing against off-the-shelf airplanes and we’re just as low-risk as they are.’
Boeing has worked hard to stress the low risks attached to its aircraft, despite its lack of maturity. Brad Elward
This would seem to be an extremely bold claim, since even if the Boeing T-X aircraft have been built to production standards, it is hard to see how they could represent as low a risk as the T-50 or the M-346. Some would argue that the Northrop Model 400, with its Hawk-based training system, has a higher level of maturity than the Boeing aircraft, even without taking account of the fact that it is has now flown. While Boeing says that these first two aircraft are not prototypes, but rather ‘real aircraft’, the first example will undertake flight tests by the end of the year and be used to clear the envelope and systems before evaluating KPPs, flying an ‘accelerated test program’ over the course of several months. This is, of course, exactly the job of a traditional prototype. It will then be used to show the USAF the type’s performance, affordability, and maintainability advantages — much like a traditional demonstrator. The likelihood of ever training real pilots in anger in these first aircraft is remote, so it isn’t entirely unreasonable to call them prototypes. Referring to them as production aircraft is perhaps a claim too far. The first two BTX-1 aircraft will be followed by at least three more EMD jets for the flight test effort. The final request for proposals is due in December, with a vendor down-select or full contract award next year. There will be a potential engineering, manufacturing and development (EMD) milestone in January 2018 and initial operating capability (IOC) is planned for 2024. The various bidders hope that the successful T-X trainer will also gain significant export orders. However, this is secondary, and like its rivals the Boeing T-X is tailored and optimized for the USAF mission. Any of the airframes could meet future requirements for an aggressor aircraft or soak up downloaded training requirements from the USAF’s front line. Boeing’s aircraft features a centerline hardpoint to carry a travel pod, and the design could accommodate wing hardpoints if required to carry weapons or other stores. Boeing continues to maintain that its new T-X will be more affordable and more flexible than derivatives of older, existing aircraft. Acquisition costs and through-life costs will need to be cheaper than the existing, and mature, T-50A and T-100. If the Boeing jet is more expensive overall, the question will turn to the benefits that would justify those extra costs.
Names on a Plane.indd 1
An artist’s impression of an F-35B detecting targets for a landbased battery of SM-6 surface-to-air missiles, as during the White Sands Missile Range test of September 12, 2016. Lockheed Martin
F-35B ADDS STEALTH TO NAVY’S FIRE CONTROL NETWORK
DISPATCHES FROM THE FRONT LINE OF AEROSPACE TECHNOLOGY
BY DAVID AXE
HE US MARINE Corps has said it will soon begin testing its Lockheed Martin F-35B Lightning II stealth fighters with the US Navy’s new fire control network. If the testing leads to operational use, the Marines’ F-35s could function essentially as fast, armed, radar-evading surrogates for the US Navy’s E-2 Hawkeye airborne early warning and control (AEW&C) aircraft — extending the detection and engagement range of a variety of munitions. Marine Corps headquarters slipped their announcement of the trials into a September 1 update on F-35B testing. The Corps declared its first F-35B squadron combat-ready in July 2015, but operational testing of the stealthy warplane continues. The F-35B detachment of Marine Operational Test and Evaluation Squadron (VMX) 1 at Edwards Air Force Base in California recently completed test-firings of the AIM-120 air-to-air missile. Next up, according to Marine Corps headquarters, are tests of the F-35B’s compatibility with the Naval Integrated Fire Control — Counter Air network, or NIFC-CA. The Navy subsequently announced that the first live-fire demonstration to test integration of the F-35 with NIFC-CA architecture took place on September 12, at the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico. That test involved an unmodified F-35B detecting an over-the-horizon
‘F-35Bs flying from Navy assault ships could stealthily penetrate enemy air defenses, detect enemy ships, aircraft and even ground forces, and cue US warships to lob far-flying missiles over the horizon’ target for a land-based battery of SM-6 surface-to-air missiles. The aircraft then sent data via its Multi-function Advanced Data Link (MADL) to a ground station connected to USS Desert Ship (LLS 1), a land-based launch facility designed to simulate a ship at sea. Using the latest Aegis Weapon System Baseline 9.C1 and an SM-6, the system successfully detected and engaged the target. ‘This test represents the start of our exploration into the interoperability of the F-35B with other naval assets’, said Lt Col Richard Rusnok, VMX-1 F-35B detachment officer in charge. ‘We believe
the F-35B will drastically increase the situational awareness and lethality of the naval forces with which it will deploy in the very near future’, he added. Poorly understood outside of naval circles, NIFC-CA is arguably one of the most important developments in the US military. NIFC-CA is, in essence, a network architecture that combines several different sensors, datalinks and munitions. NIFC-CA allows, say, an aircraft to pass targeting data to a warship armed with SM-6 missiles. The SM-6 is a 22ft-long weapon that mates a two-stage rocket booster with the seeker head of an AIM‑120. The Navy hasn’t released its maximum range, but it could be as great as 250 miles. The sailing branch did claim that one 2014 at-sea test of the SM-6 resulted in the longest-range surface-toair engagement in history. In any event, the SM-6 clearly can ‘shoot’ farther than a warship’s sensors can ‘see’. But if an aircraft flying far ahead of the ship can relay its own targeting tracks, it can help the SM-6 to strike at its fartherpossible range. NIFC-CA began entering front-line service in 2013. At present, the standard application of NIFC-CA combines SM‑6-armed destroyers with US Navy E-2D AEW&C aircraft. But there are only a handful of E-2Ds in service. The Navy wants to add more aircraft and munition types, including surface-to-surface weapons, to the NIFC-CA architecture — and clearly the Marines want in, too. If the upcoming F-35B-NIFC-CA testing proves fruitful, it’s possible that, in future wars, F-35Bs flying from Navy assault ships — or even from British aircraft carriers or land bases — could stealthily penetrate enemy air defenses, detect enemy ships, aircraft and ground forces, and cue US warships to lob far-flying missiles over the horizon at the targets. The expansion of the NIFC-CA network has reassured US military leaders that American naval forces should be able to defeat so-called ‘anti-access area-denial’ (A2/AD) systems — radars, jet fighters, ballistic missiles and so on — that China, Russia and Iran are creating in order to keep US forces away from their borders. Asked in August 2016 whether the US Navy’s aircraft carriers could safely operate inside enemy anti-access umbrellas, ADM John Richardson was unequivocal. ‘Yes’, he said. Adding the Marines’ F-35Bs to the Navy’s fire-control network should only boost his confidence.
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