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  • NATO Air Power

    France signs contract for 12 replacement Rafales

    By Craig Hoyle

    1 February 2021

    French defence minister Florence Parly has signed a contract covering the production of 12 replacement Dassault Rafale fighters for the French air force, less than one week after Greece finalised an 18-aircraft acquisition including a dozen secondhand jets.

    Signed with Dassault chief executive Eric Trappier at the company’s Argonay plant on 29 January, the deal will lead to aircraft being delivered during 2025 in the type’s latest F3R production standard.

    Source: Anthony Pecchi/Dassault
    Replacement Rafales will be F3R-standard jets

    “This order will allow the French forces’ Rafale fleet to be renewed: the replacement of secondhand planes and sensors purchased by Greece will allow the [air force] to have new equipment at the latest standards, therefore at the best capacity level,” says France’s DGA defence procurement agency.

    Describing Athens’ 25 January order as “historic”, Parly notes: “In the current economic context, it is all the more essential to win export contracts. Because at Dassault, we know better than anyone, our defence industry works on two legs: the defence of our country and the defence of our economy. And for the first to work, it is vital that the second remains robust.”

    Parly notes that a production rate of one Rafale per month supports 7,000 jobs at Dassault and through its supply chain.

    “The [French air force] contract is a great satisfaction for Dassault Aviation, Thales, Safran and the 500 French companies involved in the programme, in the particularly difficult conditions facing our aeronautics sector in the context of the Covid crisis,” Trappier says.

    The DGA notes that the new order for F3R-standard fighters will ensure that the French military has a 129-strong Rafale fleet by the nation’s 2019-2025 Military Programming Law period.

    Paris is due to introduce further Rafales between 2027 and 2030, via a planned fifth production tranche. France expects to continue operations with the type until around 2070, Parly says.

    Separately, the Indian air force welcomed its latest three Rafales on 27 January, following a delivery flight conducted from Istres air base in France. The transfer included in-flight refuelling support from a United Arab Emirates air force Airbus Defence & Space A330 multi-role tanker transport.

    Source: Indian air force
    The Indian air force has now received 11 of its eventual 36 Rafales

    Cirium fleets data shows that the service has now received 11 of the multi-role type, from a 36-unit order signed in 2016.

    On 26 January, air force Rafales for the first time participated in India’s annual Republic Day celebrations. New Delhi received its first batch of five fighters last July.

  • #2

    F-35 in Polish Air Force markings. (Image credit: Wiki/Mateusz Rynski). In the box, Lask AB (Image credit: Google Earth)

    Poland designated the airbase that will host its F-35 Lightning II jets.

    According to an interview that the Polish Press Agency (PAP) conducted with the head of the MoD, Minister Mariusz Błaszczak, the Polish F-35 fleet of 32 aircraft is planned to be stationed at Łask AB in central Poland.

    This is a surprise, nonetheless, Błaszczak suggested that the plan in question has been in place for about a year now.

    When asked about the expected arrival of the F-35s (in 2024), Błaszczak also answered the question concerning the infrastructure that could be used to properly host them. He responded:
    The place for the base for these aircraft has been designated already, last year – it is Łask AB. The infrastructure there only needs to be complemented, there is no need to build it from a scratch. The work has already been launched. I can assure you, we will make it on time.
    Mariusz Błaszczak, head of the Polish MoD, as interviewed by PAP

    The above statement puts an end to the rumors surrounding the procurement of the F-35s in Poland when it comes to the place where the jets could potentially be stationed. Last year there was an agreement signed, the purpose of which was to find a contractor who would be willing to modernize the infrastructure at the Polish Świdwin AB, currently hosting the Polish Su-22 Fitter fleet. However, it turns out that the Polish F-35 jets, procured within the framework of the Harpia program, would not be stationed there. Poland may still be moving its air assets around the country though.

    Let us recall: the Polish F-16s are currently stationed at Łask (ICAO code: EPLK) and Poznań-Krzesiny (EPKS) airbases (31st Tactical Airbase and 32nd Tactical Airbase respectively). The Polish MiG-29 Fulcrums are stationed at Minsk Mazowiecki (EPMM) and at Malbork AB (EPMB) (23rd Tactical Airbase and 22nd Tactical Airbase). Finally, the Polish Su-22 Fitters are currently stationed at Świdwin AB (EPSN) (21st Tactical Airbase). We do not know for sure, how the Polish Air Force’s assets would be moved around. Some F-16s currently stationed in Łask could be deployed somewhere else. Artur Goławski (former Air Force media rep) suggests that 21st AB is the intended destination for the Łask-based F-16s, along with the simulators that are a part of the infrastructure.

    Furthermore, and interestingly, Defence24 reported yesterday that the Polish Air Force is seeking options within the scope of carrying out an MLU program for the Polish F-16 fleet. We do not know, as of yet, what the scope and timeline of the upgrade could be. However, it seems natural, after 15 years in service, to carry out a mid-life upgrade of the fleet. Fitting the Polish Vipers with an AESA radar, and addition of relevant capabilities to their comms suite (so that they can covertly communicate with the F-35s) seem to be obvious here.

    Notably, the Polish Air Force’s F-16s have received a minor upgrade already – in a form of M6.5 software update, carried out along with the procurement of the JASSM missiles. What comes next, remains to be seen.


    • #3

      The image from Eurofighter World showing the Typhoon armed with 14 Meteor and two IRIS-T air-to-air missiles. (Photo: Eurofighter)

      The quite unlikely Typhoon’s “Beast Mode” configuration might hint at a possible “missile/bomb truck” role in support of 5th and 6th gen. fighter aircraft.

      Last week the Eurofighter website published the latest edition of its magazine Eurofighter World. An interesting image can be found in the last page, showing a Typhoon rendering in an astonishing “Beast Mode” with 14 Meteor Beyond Visual Range (BVR) and two IRIS-T (InfraRed Imaging System Tail-Thrust Vector Controlled) short-range air-to-air missiles, along with an external fuel tank on the centerline station.

      This quite improbable configuration was obtained by using twin missile rails on the two inner pylons, a solution that was never showcased for the Typhoon. So far, the only multi-rail launcher seen on the real aircraft is the one used to carry three Brimstone air-to-surface missiles, while computer generated images and mockups showed also twin racks for Paveway and JDAM guided bombs and another one capable of carrying four SPEAR 3 air-to-surface missiles.

      Such configuration might be at the limit of what is currently possible, if it is possible at all.

      Weight-wise, using publicly available data, the full load including 1,000 liters fuel tank, 14 Meteor (190 kg each) and two IRIS-T (89 kg each) missiles is just below 4,000 kg, less than half of the Typhoon payload which is rated at more than 9,000 kg [even though some sources state the external payload is 6,500 kg].

      The Typhoon is no stranger to heavy configurations, even flying its display during RIAT 2011 with a full load of missiles, bombs and external fuel tanks. However, many factors other than weight could limit this 14 Meteor configuration.

      Before moving on, here’s a quick description of the Meteor BVRAAM.

      The missile was developed by a group of European partners led by MBDA to meet the needs of the UK, Germany, Italy, France, Spain and Sweden. Considered one of the most lethal BVR missiles available today, Meteor is powered by a ramjet propulsion system, a solid fuel, variable flow, ducted rocket.

      The advantage over a standard rocket motor, like the one used by the AIM-120 AMRAAM, is that the ramjet is throttleable, meaning that the missile can throttle back its engine during cruise and then throttle up at close distance from the target to obtain the highest possible energy state during the terminal attack.

      This way, Meteor can provide a larger No-Escape Zone without losing precious energy while countering the target’s defensive manoeuvres. A datalink provides mid-course updates about the target sent by the launcher aircraft to increase the Probability of Kill (Pk). The missile is equipped with both impact and proximity fuses and a fragmentation warhead to maximise the lethality. Meteor has currently been integrated on the Typhoon, Gripen and Rafale and is scheduled to be integrated on the F-35.

      Today we are used to see the F-35 Lighting II in the air-to-ground “Beast mode” when weapons are carried externally. However, a similar air-to-air configuration never materialized, even if it was announced by Lockheed Martin. In the F-35’s case, the aircraft would carry 14 AIM-120 AMRAAM (even if renderings showed only 12) and two AIM-9 Sidewinder missiles, with the AMRAAMs on the outside using twin missile racks. It is worth noting that the AIM-120 has not been certified yet to be carried externally by the F-35.

      Another air-to-air “Beast mode” is the one advertised for the new F-15EX, which would carry up to 22 missiles by using newly designed launcher-racks called Advanced Missile and Bomb Ejection Rack (AMBER), patented by Boeing in 2016, which would allow to carry two missiles under each attachment point (on both the wings and FAST packs). Photos online shows at least a static ground test on a FAST pack-equipped F-15C with two AMBER racks and an unspecified rack under the wing pylon.

      The F-15, however, is the only fighter to have flown in the air-to-air “Beast mode”. In 2018 Boeing flew an F-15SA test aircraft, with only standard missile rails, while carrying 12 AIM-120 missiles and two external fuel tanks, which also resulted in some great photos when the aircraft was taken for a ride through the Star Wars canyon.

      A Royal Air Force Typhoon FGR4 takes off for a Quick Reaction Alert mission with a full load of four Meteor and four ASRAAM missiles, in addition to two external fuel tanks. This is currently one of the two heaviest air-to-air configurations approved for the Typhoon. (Photo: Royal Air Force)

      Back to the Typhoon, even if a configuration like the one seen on Eurofighter World becomes real, it does not mean that we will see it flying operationally. For instance, two of the twin missile rails might end up being replaced by two external fuel tanks, as the Typhoon nowadays is rarely seen with a tank only or with no tanks at all. Even with this adjustment to the loadout, the Typhoon would still pack more missiles than the heaviest air-to-air configurations adopted until now, which see a total of eight missiles (either four Meteors/AMRAAMs and four ASRAAMs/IRIS-Ts or six Meteors/AMRAAMs and four ASRAAMs/IRIS-Ts) and two external fuel tanks.

      Should the Typhoon get a new role as a “missile/bomb truck” in support of the F-35 now and of the FCAS/SCAF or the Tempest FCAS-TI in future, similarly to what the F-15EX is supposed to do with the F-35 within the U.S. Air Force, the heavy configuration with up to 14 Meteors would make sense. 5th and 6th generation aircraft, due to their low observability, are forced to carry their weapons only internally and this restricts both the quantity and the dimensions of the weapons.

      The Typhoon could follow the stealth aircraft from a safe distance while carrying a lot of standoff weapons; the stealth aircraft could then even send targeting data back to the Typhoon via datalink and provide target designation to launch the weapons.

      However, we should also consider the concrete possibility that such a configuration will never materialize, as happened for other upgraded that were announced for the Typhoon. Two examples are the Conformal Fuel Tanks (CFT) and the Aerodynamic Modification Kit (AMK).

      The addition of two 1,500 liters CFTs to the Typhoon was proposed in the early 2010s and showcased on some mockups during several exhibitions and airshows around the world. Testing on a wind tunnel Typhoon model equipped with the CFTs was performed by BAE Systems in 2014, as it was planned to offer the new tanks for the Tranche 3 aircraft, which were being built with the required structural and fuel system modifications to carry the CFTs.

      The new CFTs, however, proved to be a no-go as testing showed that they are “aerodynamically unstable” for the Typhoon. It is worth noting that the Typhoon itself has been designed to be aerodynamically unstable in subsonic flight, providing enhanced manoeuvrability, and aerodynamically stable in supersonic flight. Another reason is that the Typhoon operators did not show much interest in the CFTs as they were not deemed cost effective, however an internal fuel increase and larger external fuel tanks may be in the works under the Long Term Evolution (LTE) programme.

      The AMK was part of a wider Eurofighter Enhanced Manoeuvrability (EFEM) programme and featured the addition of fuselage strakes and leading-edge root extensions, which increase the maximum lift created by the wing by 25% resulting in an increased turn rate, tighter turning radius and improved nose-pointing. However, none of the Typhoon operators seem to have yet installed the AMK on their aircraft after the successful flight tests in 2015.

      “We saw angle-of-attack values around 45% greater than on the standard aircraft, and roll rates up to 100% higher, all leading to increased agility,” said the then Italian Air Force test pilot Raffaele Beltrame, one of the pilots who flew during the 36 test flights on the IPA7 (Instrumented Production Aircraft 7) in Germany. “The handling qualities appeared to be markedly improved, providing more manoeuvrability, agility and precision while performing tasks representative of in-service operations.”


      • #4
        Such big missile loads are for fanboys, displays and photo-shoots. There aren’t enough aircraft in the sky to justify tactical flights carrying dozens or perhaps even hundreds of AAM’s in a package and possibly not even enough weapons in the respective countries inventories, with the exception of the US, to do it anyway...


        • #5
          We sure as hell couldn't outfit our entire Hornet, Super Hornet, Growler and Lightning force with a complete A2A loadout right now.
          It is by will alone I set my mind in motion.
          It is by the juice of sapho that thoughts acquire speed, the lips acquire stains, the stains become a warning.
          It is by will alone I set my mind in motion.


          • #6
            Falklands at height of the cold war needed newer AIM-9L to get it done. Not a lot either. Always thought the risk of BVR was overrated, as there are few air forces which can, or would risk a real air war with RAAF, RAF or especially USAF. Those that could, China and Russia, can't get to any of those without dangerous escalation to intercontinental BM use, or SLCM. Bit dicey. So that leaves it to naval fighters, which seems to be the intent of having so many new F-35B/C carriers. China's carriers will become SCS coral reef. Adding vast numbers of AAMs to Chinese or western fighters isn't going to change that outcome. After the first few battles, even those will steer clear of fighting in the air. More likely they'll focus on using long-range cruse weapons. This could cause us to use AAMs quickly and may be where we'd want a lot of AAMs on a fighter. The best response always turns out to be to kill their C4 - immediately. And they will have come to that same conclusion. So where to best spend the money defending C4? That would involve F-35A with a large BVR AAM load to kill or thin-out a salvo of CM fast, and seamlessly provide DAS target-quality data on BM, in real-time, for missile defence. Plus AAM duds are not so rare, so having a few extra AAM is a good thing, but a flight of 2 x F-35A Bk4, with 16 AAM between them should be enough.

            Given Russia's long-range cruise missiles though, I can see why Euro states would want a very fast high-altitude interceptor, that can carry a lot of AAMs. It's just not for BVR.


            • #7
              NATO’s new fleet of surveillance drones is deemed mission-ready

              By: Sebastian Sprenger   7 hours ago
              NATO Alliance Ground Surveillance (AGS) remotely piloted aircraft flies from Palmdale Air Base, Calif., to the AGS Main Operating Base in Sigonella, Sicily, Italy on Nov. 20-21, 2019. (NATO)

              COLOGNE, Germany – NATO’s top general in Europe has declared initial operational capability of the alliance’s five-strong fleet of surveillance drones stationed in Sicily, Italy.

              The unmanned aircraft and associated ground equipment make up the NATO Allied Ground Surveillance program. Started nine years ago, its goal is to provide all member countries with an aerial picture of worldwide threats, especially in locations close to alliance borders.

              The mission-ready proclamation comes after NATO received its fifth and final aircraft for the fleet of modified Northrop Grumman RQ-4D Gobal Hawks at Sigonella Air Base last November. There are also enough trained personnel assigned to the program for initial operations to commence, according to a NATO spokesman.

              U.S. Air Force Gen. Tod Wolters, the supreme allied commander Europe, called the fleet’s completion “a significant milestone towards improved sensing of the environment.”

              NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg on Feb. 15 mentioned the AGS program as an example of the alliance’s desire to field “disruptive” and “emerging” technology.

              “They will enable us to monitor wide areas from the sky, providing a comprehensive picture of conditions on the ground at any time,” he told reporters in Brussels, referring to the unmanned aircraft, dubbed “Phoenix” in NATO parlance. “They can even identify improvised explosive devices. So they are a very useful tool in providing information, reconnaissance, and intelligence.”

              While top alliance officials conferred an initial, mission-ready status to the program today, the aircraft started flying test missions to the Baltics and the southern and eastern Mediterranean last summer that yielded useful data, a NATO spokesman told Defense News.

              The alliance’s military headquarters in Europe, SHAPE, will help determine future missions, while planning and execution fall under Allied Air Command at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, the spokesman explained.

              Routine operations of the fleet are expected to test the promise of cross-border collaboration among allies on mixing unmanned aircraft and regular civilian traffic in their respective air space. Diplomatic clearances for overflights are still necessary at the moment, though the plan is to broker some kind of standing authorization, the spokesman said.

              With additional reporting by Vivienne Machi in Stuttgart, Germany


              • #8
                NATO’s Phoenix Fleet Achieves IOC

                by David Donald - February 16, 2021, 12:12 PM

                The NATO AGS Force’s fleet of five RQ-4D Phoenixes formed a backdrop for the IOC declaration ceremony. (Photo: Lt Col Christian Traeger/SHAPE)

                NATO’s fleet of five Northrop Grumman RQ-4D Phoenix high-altitude long-endurance remotely piloted aircraft (HALE RPAs) are ready to begin initial operations. The announcement was made on February 15 by NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR), General Tod Wolters, at the organization’s SHAPE headquarters in Mons, Belgium.

                “The declaration of Initial Operational Capability is an important milestone for NATO’s Alliance Ground Surveillance [AGS] Force and for the alliance as a whole,” said Major General Phillip Stewart, SHAPE Strategic Employment Directorate Commander. “This unique, multinational capability, paired with a team of Allied specialists who process, evaluate, and distribute intelligence, provides NATO decision-makers with timely and relevant information.”

                Although original plans called for eight RQ-4 RPAs to be acquired for the AGS program, five were ordered in May 2012 with funding from 15 of the alliance’s members. Northrop Grumman is the prime contractor but is partnered with companies from the funding nations, including Leonardo (Italy), Airbus (Germany), and Kongsberg (Norway).

                The RQ-4D Phoenix version for NATO is based on the U.S. Air Force’s RQ-4B Block 40, and its primary sensor is the Northrop Grumman Multi-Platform Radar Technology Insertion Program (MP-RTIP) radar, which was initially tested on the Scaled Composites Proteus manned testbed. The radar has an active electronically-scanned array and was developed from the APY-8 radar carried by the Boeing E-8 JSTARS. It operates in wide-area moving target indication, fixed target indication, and synthetic aperture radar modes to provide a wide-area picture of land vehicles and positions for intelligence, battlefield command and control, and targeting requirements.

                The RQ-4D Phoenix is broadly similar to the USAF’s RQ-4B Global Hawk. The MP-RTIP radar is accommodated in the ventral fairing. (Photo: Lt Col Christian Traeger/SHAPE)

                First flight for the RQ-4D occurred in December 2015 and, following testing in the U.S., Northrop Grumman delivered the first Phoenix to the main operating base at Sigonella, near Catania on the Italian island of Sicily, in November 2019. The fifth and last arrived a year later. The first mission flown by a NATO AGS Force (NAGSF) crew was conducted on June 4, 2020.

                Intelligence that is gathered by the Phoenix RPAs is available to all 30 NATO member nations. Germany and Italy, along with the U.S, have been the main drivers behind the creation of the NAGSF, and the RPAs have been certificated in Italy and are allocated Italian air force serials.

                Concerns have been voiced in some German quarters over airspace sharing as a result of the nation's own issues with the RQ-4E EuroHawk signals intelligence version, which had been selected to replace the German navy’s elderly “Peace Peek” manned Sigint platforms, which were modified Dassault Atlantic maritime patrollers. Despite the delivery of one RQ-4E to Germany from a requirement of five, that program was canceled in 2013 as a result of airspace regulation and flight control system issues.


                • #9
                  22 FEBRUARY 2021

                  Italy showcases new multirole mission for Eurofighters

                  by Gareth Jennings

                  The Italian Air Force (Aeronautica Militare Italiana: AMI) has showcased for the first time the new multirole mission of its Eurofighter combat aircraft.

                  An Italian Eurofighter displaying a multirole combat load. Until very recently it has been used by the Italian Air Force exclusively in the air-to-air role. (AMI)

                  In a message posted on its official Twitter account on 20 February, the AMI showed a Eurofighter from 36 Stormo (Wing) laden with a mix of air-to-air and air-to-surface weaponry. This loadout comprised a pair of IRIS-T short-range and four AIM-120 AMRAAM air-to-air missiles in the air-to-air role, as well as two Paveway II precision-guided bombs and a Litening targeting pod for the air-to-surface role.

                  “A multirole aircraft with loads for swing-role missions. In this configuration, the aircraft can perform various roles in the same mission,” the AMI said.

                  While the Eurofighter has been a multirole platform with other operators for many years already, it has been used until very recently by the AMI exclusively in the air-to-air role. This policy was spelled out to Janes during the debut deployment of the AMI’s Eurofighters to the ‘Red Flag’ exercise in early 2016, during which a senior service official noted the ‘political’ nature of aircraft roles in Italy, saying at that time that if all aircraft could perform all roles, politicians might question the need to maintain different fleets.


                  • #10
                    A lot of aircraft for 2 bombs...


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by ADMk2 View Post
                      A lot of aircraft for 2 bombs...
                      It used to be a lot of aircraft for no bombs at progress.


                      • #12
                        26 MARCH 2021

                        Romania receives final F-16 from Portugal

                        by Gareth Jennings

                        The final Lockheed Martin F-16 Fighting Falcon combat aircraft acquired by Romania from Portugal was delivered to the eastern European nation on 25 March.

                        With 17 F-16AM/BM Block 15 fighters now received from Portugal, Romania plans to upgrade these aircraft and buy a further 36 to 48 from the United States. (Romanian Air Force)

                        NATO’s Allied Air Command announced that the 17th aircraft was delivered to Borcea Air Base. This completed an order that commenced in 2016 when Romania acquired 12 F‐16AM/BM Block 15 fighters (nine single-seat and three twin-seat), with a further five F-16s (four single-seat and one twin-seat) following for a final tally of 17.

                        Initial operating capability (IOC) was declared in March 2019. A follow-on F-16 order from the United States of a further 36 to 48 aircraft to equip a further two squadrons is anticipated.

                        Romania acquired the F-16 to replace its Warsaw Pact-era MiG-21 ‘Fishbed’ fighters that were later upgraded by Israel to the Lancer standard. While the country builds up its new inventory it is being supported by NATO, which is flying air policing missions out of Mihail Kogalniceanu Air Base near Constanta on the Black Sea. This Southern Air Policing mission also includes Bulgarian airspace as that country too begins the process of replacing its ageing Warsaw Pact-era MiG-29 ‘Fulcrum’ fighters with the F-16.


                        • #13
                          06 APRIL 2021

                          NATO MMU receives fourth MRTT aircraft

                          by Gareth Jennings

                          The Multinational Multirole Tanker Transport Unit (MMU) located at Eindhoven Airbase in the Netherlands received its fourth Airbus A330 MultiRole Tanker Transport (MRTT) aircraft on 1 April.

                          The fourth Airbus A330 MRTT (MMF4/T-057) was delivered to the NATO MMU at its Eindhoven Main Operating Base on 1 April. (MMU)

                          Aircraft MMF4/T-057 of the Multinational MRTT Fleet (MMF) was delivered to the unit the day after ownership was transferred via the Organization for Joint Armament Cooperation (OCCAR) from Airbus Defence and Space (DS) to the NATO Support and Procurement Agency (NSPA), which manages the fleet on behalf of the MMF nations.

                          The MMF capability comprises NATO members Belgium, the Czech Republic, Germany, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, and Norway, with the MMU operating unit composed of military personnel from these six participating nations. The capability provides pooled access to aerial refuelling (hose-and-drogue and boom/receptacle), strategic passenger and cargo airlift, and aero-medical evacuation (medevac) capabilities.


                          • #14
                            21 APRIL 2021

                            UK looks to increase contribution to NATO AGS

                            by Tim Ripley

                            The United Kingdom has begun discussions with NATO on increasing the UK Royal Air Force’s (RAF’s) contribution to Alliance Ground Surveillance (AGS) and its five RQ-4D Phoenix unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) based in Sigonella, Sicily.

                            NATO declared the initial operational capability of AGS in February. (NATO)

                            The move aims to fill wide area surveillance capability gaps following the retirement in March of the RAF’s five Sentinel R1 airborne stand-off radar (ASTOR) surveillance aircraft, the UK’s contribution in kind to AGS.

                            NATO spokesperson Oana Lungescu told Janes on 19 April, “NATO’s fleet of AGS surveillance aircraft was declared mission-ready by the alliance’s top commander in February. Following the Sentinel’s last operational flight earlier this year, we are in discussions with the UK government on how to adjust the UK’s contribution to the alliance’s AGS programme. As the Secretary General [Jens Stoltenberg] told Prime Minister [Boris] Johnson in March, the UK has a leading role in NATO. We welcome that the UK continues to field high-tech capabilities including Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft and Rivet Joint surveillance aircraft which make important contributions to our shared security.”

                            Senior UK defence sources told Janes on 19 April that it was likely that RAF image analysts, mission planning staff, UAV pilots, and maintenance personnel would be assigned to Sigonella to work alongside their NATO colleagues. The UK could also make a financial contribution to the running costs of the RQ-4Ds. By contributing to the costs of AGS, the UK would gain influence over operational tasking, technology enhancements, and allow the RQ-4Ds to support UK training exercises. This would be subject to ratification by NATO partners and the UK government.


                            • #15
                              23 APRIL 2021

                              Hensoldt awarded ‘Quadriga' radar contract for Luftwaffe Eurofighters

                              by Gareth Jennings

                              Hensoldt has been awarded approximately EUR200 million (USD241 million) to build and deliver radar sets for the Luftwaffe’s fleet of Project Quadriga Eurofighter combat aircraft.

                              A Eurofighter with a Captor-E radar displayed in the open nose. Hensoldt will now upgrade the current Radar 0 into the Radar 1 for the Luftwaffe. (Hensoldt)

                              The German company announced on 23 April that it is to provide radars for 38 Eurofighters, although the number of radars that will likely include spares was not disclosed.

                              “The contract placed by Airbus Defence and Space (DS) comprises production and delivery of radar systems and core electronics components, which will be produced at Hensoldt’s site in Ulm and at consortium partner Indra’s site in Spain,” the company said.

                              As previously disclosed, the radar for the 30 single-seater and eight twin-seater Tranche 4 Project Quadriga aircraft will be the E-Scan Radar 1 AESA. Hensoldt did not say in its announcement when deliveries will take place but Airbus DS is scheduled to begin delivering Tranche 4 Eurofighters to the Luftwaffe from 2025.

                              The Hensoldt Radar 1 is one of several AESA systems being developed for the Eurofighter.

                              The Eurofighter consortium is already developing an E-Scan AESA through the Euroradar consortium. This effort, led by Leonardo UK, builds on the aircraft’s existing Captor-M mechanically scanned radar, and is known as Captor-E and/or Captor AESA radar (CAESAR).


                              • #16
                                Hensoldt gets AESA radar contract for Quadriga Eurofighters

                                By Craig Hoyle

                                23 April 2021

                                Hensoldt has been awarded a roughly €200 million ($241 million) contract to produce active electronically scanned array (AESA) radars for the German air force’s 38 Project Quadriga Eurofighters.

                                “The contract, placed by Airbus Defence & Space, comprises production and delivery of radar systems and core electronics components which will be produced at Hensoldt’s site in Ulm and at consortium partner Indra’s site in Spain,” the company said on 23 April.

                                Source: Airbus Defence & Space
                                Berlin is acquiring 38 new Eurofighters via Project Quadriga

                                Describing the AESA sensor as “technologically top class”, Hensoldt chief executive Thomas Muller says it “will improve the aircraft’s survivability in even high-intensity conflicts”.

                                Berlin last November signed for its Tranche 4 batch of Eurofighters, which will replace Tranche 1 examples used by the Luftwaffe. The new buy will include 30 single- and eight twin-seat examples of the multirole type.

                                Under a separate subcontract with Airbus, Hensoldt is also producing Captor-E Mk1 AESA radars for integration with Germany’s Tranche 2- and 3-standard Eurofighters.


                                • #17
                                  12 MAY 2021

                                  Operational F-35s arrive in France for first time

                                  by Gareth Jennings

                                  Operational Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) jets arrived in France for the first time on 10 May, the US Air Force (USAF) announced.

                                  Four UASF F-35As arriving at Mont-de-Marsan Air Base, France. During their first non-air show deployment to France, the F-35s will participate in multiple events, including Exercise ‘Atlantic Trident 21’. (US Air Force)

                                  Four F-35As from the 4th Fighter Squadron, an amalgamation of personnel from the active 388th Fighter Wing (FW) and the reserve 419th FW at Hill Air Force Base, Utah, arrived at Mont-de-Marsan Air Base in southern France for training and regional reassurance operations.

                                  “During their time in the European theatre, the 4th Fighter Squadron (FS) aircraft will participate in multiple events, including ‘Atlantic Trident 21’, underscoring the steadfast US commitment to the region and enhancing interoperability with NATO allies and partners,” the USAF said.

                                  Exercise ‘Atlantic Trident 21’ is to take place at Mont-de-Marsan Air Force Base from 17 to 28 May, with the goal of enhancing fourth- and fifth-generation interoperability between France, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

                                  As noted by the USAF, this event marks the third time that the 388th FW has deployed its F-35As to Europe. In April 2017 the 34th FS arrived at Royal Air Force (RAF) Lakenheath in the UK for training, while the 421st FS Theater Security Package arrived at Aviano Air Base in Italy in May 2019.

                                  Separate to these 388th FW deployments to Europe, a pair of F-35As appeared at the 2017 Paris Airshow at Le Bourget, France. The USAF has also shown the aircraft at other European aerospace events, including the ILA Berlin Airshow in 2018.


                                  • #18
                                    It would be interesting to hear how Rafale V Lightning works out.
                                    It is by will alone I set my mind in motion.
                                    It is by the juice of sapho that thoughts acquire speed, the lips acquire stains, the stains become a warning.
                                    It is by will alone I set my mind in motion.


                                    • Bug2
                                      Bug2 commented
                                      Editing a comment
                                      Où est ce foutu avion?..............[where is that damn plane?]

                                    • ADMk2
                                      ADMk2 commented
                                      Editing a comment
                                      Scripted scenarios, only… F-35’s don’t take their lunesberg lenses off, even for allies… It would be pointless doing so. The training outcome would be zero…

                                      Short of going to war, few will know it’s full capability…

                                  • #19
                                    EW Europe: NATO to tackle SEAD gap

                                    13th May 2016 - 13:04 by Tim Fish in Rotterdam

                                    Click image for larger version  Name:	forsazh-posadka-samolet-reb-tornado-panavia-tornado-shassi-v.jpg Views:	0 Size:	31.9 KB ID:	7590
                                    NATO is pushing ahead with a programme to fill its capability gap in the suppression of enemy air defence (SEAD).

                                    The programme intends to develop a next generation system that can meet the challenges of combating enemy air defences, such as Russia’s new S-400 system (SA-21) and anti-access area denial (A2AD) systems.

                                    Speaking at EW Europe in Rotterdam, NATO officials said that following the alliance's summit in Wales in 2015, the US stated it wanted Europe and Canada to provide 50% of NATO’s SEAD capability and reduce reliance on Washington. An initial operating capability is slated for December 2023, just seven years away with a full operational capability in 2030. In 2023 they need to show a viable European SEAD capability with the full 50% force mix ready by 2030.

                                    To do this in just seven years is a challenging timetable. Five European NATO nations are close to signing a letter of intent to establish a SEAD capability and NATO officials investigating this completed a workshop on developing a timetable in early May 2016. A ‘vision paper’ is being produced in next few weeks that will start the steps moving towards procuring a SEAD capability. [Initial capability by Dec 2023? And, "moving towards procuring"? Translation: "We done nothing for 6 years but going to step it up and consider thinking about looking into the full scope of possibilities and may even ask for preliminary needs and costs analysis models, and industry contributions to a gleaming new collaborative plan PDF in March 2022."] Roadmaps also being produced for SEAD and electronic attack that to get deliverables from now to 2023 and 2030.

                                    However, a SEAD capability is not just the aircraft and bombs - it is the entire intelligence gathering, surveillance and targeting network that can enable a more efficient and smarter strike capability. The plan is to ‘peel back the onion’ of air defence layers to allow aircraft to enter these ever-increasing engagement zones to allow missions to be carried out against a target or to destroy the radar themselves. Launching a weapon may not destroy a radar but could force it to switch off. [OR ... You could get a single F-35A to sneak-up passively and find and ID the entire complex, then hit it with 8 x SDBII from very close-range plus EW, and wreck the system beyond any chance of repair.] There are also jamming activities that can help but high power jamming to defeat a low frequency radar standing off with a Joint Strike Fighter at 1,000 km is a challenge. NATO officials said they want to make sure that existing national SEAD programmes are in-line with what NATO is doing and they want industry to help look at the kind of capabilities they will need in 30 years’ time that can be achieved if work began now. [Good luck with getting them to 50% mix or US and Euro/Can by 2030 ...]

                                    To get a SEAD capability the NATO officials said they need the right EW database that is shared across the alliance, alongside ‘the whole mission set, tools for planning and activity and information to enable it’. This includes intelligence, joint precision strike, ISR as well as cyber, which is part of the solution. The threats have to be detected and located - without this there is no mission. [But you also need the most suitable SEAD/DEAD aircraft in IOC, plus weapons and tactics in Dec 2023 ... derp.]

                                    Coordination was highlighted as an issue as future SEAD missions could involve ten nations or more, so this needs to be put together and validated before going to theatre. This includes test, training and synthetic environments to make sure that the SEAD mission works across 20 aircraft types and the mission planning is viable. Information sharing is vital.
                                    According to a timeline shown at EW Europe, following a NATO summit in July 2016, the following April NATO plans to start initial three-year R&D phase. The NATO Industrial Advisory Group will report in December that year followed by another NATO summit in June 2018. In December 2021, NATO’s SEAD policy will be revised and NIAG will report again before IOC is expected in 2023.


                                    I wonder if they fully grasp that Europe was overrun by Germany in a few months? And half was overrun by Russia a few years later and occupied for 45 years? That the USA took 2.5 years enter the war in North Africa and Europe during WWII, after Australia left, and went back to the Indo-Pacific ASAP? What makes them think the USA will come running any sooner, if US forces are heavily engaged in a strategic conflict with China, in the Indo-Pacific where the USA itself is directly threatened? They won't be able to support Europe, even if they wanted to. Don't they realize they could be caught with very little except those few countries in the West of Europe which invested in small numbers of F-35A/B, and suitable weapons to kill SAMs? Does Germany understand a Polish air force F-35A could end up operating from UK again? With east Germany as the front line? Why put yourselves in that position? What makes them think the USA won't pull out most of their heavy forces and SAMs, from Europe, if they're needed against China to protect the US? Why even give the Russians a chance, or a temptation to be aggressive? Do the Germans think diplomacy will improve via progressive application of ever greater weakness?
                                    Last edited by magnify; 21-05-21, 06:33 AM.


                                    • unicorn11
                                      unicorn11 commented
                                      Editing a comment
                                      Lets be honest, 95% plus of Germans, and 99% of German politicians, don't give a shit.

                                      Hell, some of those politicians might welcome Russian domination of Eastern Europe once again, keeping those upstart Osties under control.

                                  • #20
                                    24 MAY 2021

                                    Leonardo to upgrade NATO AWACS aircraft

                                    by Gareth Jennings

                                    Leonardo is to upgrade a first Boeing E-3A Airborne Warning And Control System (AWACS) aircraft test aircraft as part of NATO's wider Final Lifetime Extension Programme (FLEP).

                                    Leonardo is to upgrade one of NATO's 14 E-3 AWACS aircraft as a test for a wider modernisation of the fleet under the Final Lifetime Extension Programme. (NATO)

                                    The Italian company announced on 21 May that it has been contracted by Boeing, as prime contractor for the NATO Airborne Early Warning and Control (AEW&C) Programme Management, Agency to upgrade the first NATO E-3A test aircraft.

                                    “The activity, to be completed within 2023, includes the installation and checkout of newly-developed hardware under the FLEP programme [and will be] accomplished by Leonardo's […] personnel of the Venice-Tessera plant in Italy,” the company said. “Leonardo will then provide support during the final test phase at the Geilenkirchen NATO Air Base [in Germany].”

                                    Leonardo did not specify the nature of the hardware to be fitted to the test aircraft, nor when the upgrade is planned to be rolled out to the remaining 13 aircraft of the NATO E-3A Component.

                                    With an original line up of 18 Boeing E-3A AWACS aircraft (now reduced to 14), the E-3A Component is directly supported by Belgium, Canada, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Spain, Turkey, and the United States.


                                    • #21
                                      Italian, British F-35B jets train together for first time, all thanks to the pandemic

                                      By: Tom Kington   3 hours ago

                                      Italy's first F-35B arrived at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Md., on Jan. 31, 2018. (Dane Wiedmann via U.S. Defense Department)

                                      PANTELLERIA, Italy — The Italian Air Force is getting its money’s worth out of its single F-35B jet.

                                      The jet made a short landing Tuesday on the Italian island of Pantelleria to join a British Royal Air Force F-35B. The two Joint Strike Fighters practiced fast ground refueling from a parked C-130J, marking the first time F-35Bs from Italy and the U.K. have trained together.

                                      The British jet had flown in from the Royal Navy’s new aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth, which is steaming past the island on a flag-flying mission to the Asia-Pacific region.

                                      The Italian F-35B arrived on Pantelleria, a tiny speck in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea, for the second time as it tests Italy’s plan to deploy the type to advance bases with very short runways.

                                      And it is all thanks to COVID-19.

                                      After rolling off Italy’s F-35 final assembly line, the Air Force’s first and so far only “B” model was due to fly to the U.S. for pilot training in February 2020, but was stuck in Italy because of pandemic-related restrictions. According to officials, things have worked out just fine.

                                      “Because of the pandemic ... it stayed in Italy, and in a year we have acquired notable experience, including on maintenance, qualifying technicians, and achieved a series of certifications allowing activities like today,” said Gen. Gianni Candotti, the Italian Air Force’s operational commander. “Partnering is absolutely important in Europe where we and the British use the F-35B, and we exploring [additional] opportunities to exercise together.”

                                      Joint training made sense since the two air forces were likely to join forces in operations, he added. “The aircraft we have — and this is also the case for our partners — are insufficient to mount daily sorties that NATO or other organizations require. It is necessary to pool forces with partners. In 30 years in the Air Force I have never worked alone. We have always worked with other allies that share objectives and values.”

                                      Britain’s participation was enabled by the proximity of the Queen Elizabeth, which is also hosting 10 U.S. Marine Corp F-35s on its eastward trip. One of the American jets was due in Pantelleria on Tuesday, but its visit was canceled after a Marine F35B flying from the ship suffered a malfunction and was forced to land on the Spanish island of Ibiza.

                                      Meanwhile, the Royal Air Force jet arriving on Pantelleria was joined by a Royal Navy Merlin helicopter carrying a British crew to assist with refueling. That drill on the island’s small Italian air base was part of a wider exercise currently taking place in Italy. Falcon Strike, which involves F-35As from the U.S., Israel and Italy, marks the first visit to Italy by Israeli F-35s. Italy currently operates 10 “A” models, with three more undertaking training in the United States.

                                      Additionally, the Italian Navy has taken delivery of two F-35Bs, also training in the United States. And in March, the service qualified its aircraft carrier Cavour to host the fighter after sea trials with American jets.

                                      But when it comes to joint training and operations, the fate of F-35Bs is in question: Both the Navy and Air Force are due to receive 15 of the jets — a small number amount, which could justify joint management. However, no decision has been made amid jockeying between the services to keep sovereign control over their respective jets, and it has yet to be decided who gets Italy’s fourth “B” model when it is delivered.

                                      As a sign that some sort of integrated Italian F-35B force is in the works, a Defence Ministry document issued this year contained objectives for 2022, among them a “STOVL Joint Force,” using an acronym for short takeoff and vertical landing. That could involve Air Force F-35Bs flying off the Cavour, but Candotti said that “is not our immediate objective.”

                                      Instead, the Air Force would focus on preparing to land its F-35Bs on short and rough runways, with Afghanistan serving as a lesson. “In Afghanistan, only after a year and lots of money spent and risks taken, we were able to lengthen the runway at the base used by Italians to use our Tornados,” he said, referring to another military aircraft.

                                      However, he did not rule out some form of eventual joint command for Italy’s Navy and Air Force F-35Bs. “Everything is possible. Our British colleagues did it with the Harrier and continue with the F-35B. There are various ways to integrate from minimum collaboration to full integration. It is being studied.”


                                      • #22
                                        ATO rolls out 2030 agenda, will it find its place in the space race?

                                        By: Vivienne Machi   19 hours ago

                                        An Atlas V rocket successfully launches from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla., on March 26, 2020. The launch of the AEHF-6, a sophisticated communications relay satellite, was the first payload launched for the U.S. Space Force. (Senior Airman Dalton Williams/U.S. Air Force)

                                        STUTTGART, Germany — Global military leaders have upped their investments in the space domain over the past several years, warning of a growing reliance on vulnerable assets in orbit. As the NATO alliance pushes a forward-leaning agenda ahead of the Brussels summit, its level of involvement in this new domain remains to be seen.

                                        The marquee element of this year’s summit, taking place June 14, is the NATO 2030 agenda, which includes recommendations to strengthen the alliance’s roles and ability to tackle current and future threats. One such proposal is to invest more holistically and strategically in emerging and disruptive technologies, and seven in particular were identified as key areas of focus in NATO’s ”Science & Technology Trends 2020-2040″ report.

                                        Space is one of those technologies, but in the lead-up to the Brussels summit, it barely merited a mention from alliance leaders, who are prioritizing new strategies related to artificial intelligence and data computing.

                                        In a June 5 virtual pre-summit appearance at the Washington-based Brookings Institution, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg’s sole nod was a simple statement: “Since 2014, we have implemented the largest reinforcement of our collective defense in a generation, enhancing our ability to defend all allies, on land, at sea, in the air, in cyberspace and in space.”

                                        Stoltenberg tends to be careful when noting NATO’s approach to space will remain defensive and focused on early-warning, communications and navigation capabilities. “NATO has no intention to put weapons in space, but we need to ensure our missions and operations have the right support,” he said in 2019.

                                        NATO leaders are prioritizing new strategies related to artificial intelligence and data computing.

                                        This tone differs from the rhetoric of U.S. military and government leaders, who have called space a “war-fighting domain.” This juxtaposition leaves observers wondering what NATO’s role will be in the space domain moving forward.

                                        Sovereign activity

                                        There are opportunities for NATO’s headquarters to serve as a “single point of contact,” coordinating its members’ space efforts, said Nicholas Nelson, a nonresident senior fellow at the Center for European Policy Analysis in Washington. That’s because several members are individually investing more funds than ever into space.

                                        The U.S. Defense Department created the Space Force as the newest American military branch in December 2019, along with several new agencies meant to better prioritize the space domain. The department’s fiscal 2022 budget request, released in May, included more than $17 billion for the Space Force,about $2.2 billion more than Congress appropriated for the service in the previous fiscal year.

                                        If approved, Space Force funding would take up about 2.5 percent of the total FY22 Pentagon budget. Funding for both space-related procurement as well as research and development would grow in 2022: procurement dollars would rise from $2.3 billion in 2021 to $2.8 billion in 2022; and R&D funds would grow from $10.5 billion in 2021 to $11.3 billion in 2022, per budget documents.

                                        Across the pond, the United Kingdom is expected to spend about £7 billion (U.S. $10 billion) on its space portfolio over the next 10 years. In April, it stood up the new U.K. Space Command as a joint command staffed by Navy, Army and Air Force personnel as well as members of the nation’s civil service. The 2021 budget for Space Command is expected to be about £51.8 million, according to a Defence Ministry spokesperson.

                                        In 2019, the French Armed Forces Ministry created its own, separate Space Force Command — known in French as “la Commandement de L’espace.” The ministry announced plans to invest €700 million (U.S. $852 million) in the new unit through 2025. That’s on top of the €3.6 billion France committed to spend on the military space domain as part of the 2019-2025 Military Program Law.

                                        Observers are also watching how other NATO allies may step forward in the space domain. Germany, for example, is a country where “despite making all the right noises, there is still a reticence to actually describe space as a war-fighting domain,” Nelson said.

                                        What’s NATO’s role among the stars?

                                        But not all nations must set up their own satellite programs or build launch capabilities, nor are all capable of doing so. NATO could help identify areas in the value chain for various nations to participate, Nelson noted.

                                        NATO headquarters could also help set the tone for space-based nomenclature and definitions across the alliance, he added, which would ensure all members “are reading from the same sheet of music” and would streamline programs and processes.

                                        French Armed Forces Minister Florence Parly, left, delivers a speech next to Air Force Gen. Philippe Lavigne to present a new strategy for defense activity in space on July 25, 2019. (Philippe Desmazes/AFP via Getty Images)

                                        “Different countries define different parts of the space value chain, using a similar but different language that means different things. If no one is speaking the same language, so to speak, it’s really tough to get a baseline of understanding,” Nelson said.

                                        The discussion surrounding the space domain has changed drastically over the past two to three decades, according to Xavier Pasco, director of the French think tank Foundation for Strategic Research, who spoke during a recent hearing before the French Senate’s foreign affairs and defense committee. He noted that nations — particularly, but not exclusively, the United States — have started to speak of space as an “infrastructure” or a “commodity” that will serve the wider global economy. That change in rhetoric will inevitably elicit a shift in government approaches and decision-making, he added.

                                        NATO has made strides in honing its focus on space. In 2019, the alliance agreed to found the NATO Space Centre, based at the alliance’s Allied Air Command at Ramstein Air Base in Germany, with the goal of supporting space domain awareness activities through the coordination of data, products and services among members.

                                        But more can and must be done at a coalition level to ensure allies keep pace with the massive investments made by peer adversaries like Russia and China, although the alliance is not yet fully aligned on its policies toward the latter, Nelson said.

                                        “You can’t afford in this era of great power competition to have ... mass duplication” of capabilities or assets, he explained.

                                        Interoperability, a key goal of NATO in every operational domain, will also suffer in space if the alliance does not develop a common set of priorities and efforts, Nelson predicted, noting that multiple space-based capabilities are coming online within the alliance’s community, such as the U.S.-based next-generation GPS III satellite system and the European Space Agency’s Galileo platforms.

                                        “If you’re not building interoperability from both a strategy, policy and obviously technological standpoint, we’re not going to be able to fight together as an alliance in a meaningful way,” Nelson said. “It’s going to leave massive gaps in our ability to achieve one of NATO’s core aims, which is collective defense.”


                                        • #23
                                          29 JUNE 2021

                                          France signs for additional Reaper Block 5 UAV

                                          by Gareth Jennings

                                          France has signed for an additional General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc (GA-ASI) MQ-9 Reaper Block 5 unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), with the US Department of Defense announcing a Foreign Military Sales (FMS) award on 28 June.

                                          France is building up its MQ-9 Reaper Block 5 inventory to 12 air vehicles. (French Air and Space Force)

                                          Valued at USD79.42 million, the contract, in support of the French MQ-9 Block 5 aircraft procurement programme, will run through to 29 March 2024.

                                          France has six Reaper Block 1 and six Reaper Block 5 UAVs, and is in the process of acquiring a further six Block 5 vehicles. These Block 5 aircraft will be armed with GBU-12 Paveway precision-guided bombs and AGM-114 Hellfire air-to-surface missiles, and will also be equipped with an FMS pod for electronic intelligence gathering.

                                          As noted in Janes World Air Forces , France's decision to acquire MQ-9 Reapers is understood to be directly linked to capability gaps exposed by the continuing engagement in Mali, where French forces lacked an advanced intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance capacity, and had to rely on the US for the provision of intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition, and reconnaissance.

                                          Simultaneously, the limited number of Harfang UAVs operated by the French prioritised surveillance flights over the task force, rather than long-endurance flights over Northern Mali in the search for militants.


                                          • #24
                                            ‘Our adversaries exploit our seams’: Trinational effort seeks stronger air-policing coordination

                                            By: Vivienne Machi   8 hours ago

                                            A British Royal Air Force Airbus A330 tanker provides air-to-air refueling to two Eurofighter Typhoons operated by the Royal Air Force and the German Air Force as part of NATO's enhanced Air Policing South mission in the Black Sea region. (German Air Force)

                                            CONSTANTA, Romania — On a bright, blustery afternoon about 14 miles from the western coast of the Black Sea, a Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-21 fighter jet operated by the Romanian Air Force raced down the runway at Mihail Kogălniceanu International Airport and up into the clouds. It was quickly followed by two Eurofighter Typhoon jets, one operated by the German Air Force and the other by the British Royal Air Force.

                                            These aircraft were participating in a “tango scramble,” a training effort to demonstrate how the three nations would activate their forces within 15 minutes of notice in response to an unidentified military aircraft entering national airspace. The mission falls under NATO’s enhanced Air Policing South effort.

                                            From June 28 to July 9, two German Eurofighter Typhoons are policing the skies over the Black Sea region, side by side with British Typhoons and Romanian MiG-29s. The German Luftwaffe aircraft will rely on maintainers, refuelers and other servicers from Britain’s 121 Expeditionary Air Wing, and the two nations’ jets will scramble in a mixed formation during missions.

                                            “With our enhanced U.K.-German NATO air-policing mission and our advanced concept of interoperability, we have reached a new level of cooperation within the NATO air power community,” German Air Force Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Ingo Gerhartz said at a July 1 ceremony on the airfield.

                                            What’s the goal?

                                            During the ceremony — held on the 60th anniversary of NATO’s air-policing mission — Gerhartz and Royal Air Force Deputy Commander of Operations Air Marshal Gerry Mayhew signed a common declaration of Eurofighter Typhoon interoperability, witnessed by Romanian Air Force Chief Viorel Pana.

                                            “Our adversaries exploit our seams, and they exploit our legal, moral and ethical thresholds for response,” Mayhew said during the ceremony. “That is why integration — and interoperability — is so critical.”

                                            Gerhartz noted that such integrated partnerships were sometimes a challenge for NATO allies: While the Typhoon was a multinational program, led by the Eurofighter consortium that included Airbus Defence and Space, BAE Systems, and Leonardo, the aircraft underwent separate configurations and added different weapon systems and sensor packages once each nation received its platforms.

                                            This first Anglo-German Eurofighter detachment is a unique opportunity for both air forces to develop true interoperability with each other, he said. While the Luftwaffe will only spend two weeks in Romania this time around, the service wants to launch a combined air-policing detachment with the Royal Air Force once again, as well as with the Spanish and Italian air forces’ Typhoon units. That detachment would last three to four months, and is anticipated to take place in the late 2022 or early 2023 time frame, Gerhartz said.

                                            “In the future, we will cooperate even closer, operating our fighter fleets together wherever possible to exploit the effectiveness and efficiency based on a mutual intent,” he said.

                                            The Romanian and German air chiefs also signed a declaration of intent at Thursday’s ceremony to further enhance bilateral relations in the air domain.

                                            Pana noted in his remarks that the air-policing mission provides “a great occasion” for the three allies to train together and to demonstrate NATO’s commitment to the mission, from the Baltic to the Black seas.

                                            “First of July will certainly remain as a milestone in our history, as the new concept of interoperability and enhanced cooperation will definitely help us better construct our future efforts,” he said.

                                            Why is this important?

                                            NATO’s enhanced Air Policing South mission was introduced in 2014, following increased tension along the Black Sea region, mainly as a result of Russia’s annexation of the Crimean Peninsula from Ukraine. The international community is split on the legitimacy of the annexation. In December, the U.N. General Assembly adopted three resolutions that urged Russia to withdrawal its troops from Crimea. The General Assembly’s vote was 63 in favor to 17 against, with 62 abstentions.

                                            The timing of this latest German deployment is notable, as NATO forces have recently witnessed an uptick of Russian military activity in the region. On June 23, British Navy destroyer HMS Defender sailed through the Black Sea near the border of Crimea, where Russian military aircraft reportedly buzzed the ship and a naval vessel reportedly fired warning shots.

                                            The HMS Defender is shown in Portsmouth, England, on March 20, 2020. The Russian military says one of its warships recently fired warning shots and a warplane dropped bombs to force the British destroyer from Russia's waters near Crimea in the Black Sea. (Ben Mitchell/PA via AP)

                                            The United Kingdom stated it did not consider the firing to be warning shots, and asserted its right to traverse international waters. Russian President Vladimir Putin has since accused the United States and the United Kingdom of staging a “complex provocation” in the region, according to the BBC.

                                            The NATO alliance understands the strategic importance of the Black Sea to Russia, said retired U.S. Army Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges, who leads the Pershing chair of strategic studies at the Center for European Policy Analysis and previously commanded U.S. Army Europe in Wiesbaden, Germany.

                                            “The Black Sea is the launching pad for the Russians for everything they do — not just in the Balkans, the Caucasus and Ukraine, but also into Syria, the Eastern Mediterranean and Africa,” he told Defense News. “Their illegal annexation of Crimea has secured for them a base — Sevastopol — that allows them to continue not only commercial traffic but [also] the Russian desire to limit anybody else’s use of the Black Sea — to make it their own sort of lake, if you will — versus treating it and respecting it as international water.”

                                            The southern air-policing mission remains much smaller than its counterpart in the Baltic Sea, which has multinational ground troops embedded into local brigades in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland, Hodges noted. “There’s nothing like that in the Black Sea region.”

                                            Meanwhile, military personnel from over 30 nations launched the annual Sea Breeze exercise, led by the United States and Ukraine, on June 28 in the Black Sea. The exercise will continue through July 10 and includes 5,000 troops from 32 countries, 32 ships, 40 aircraft, and 18 special operations and dive teams, per the U.S. Navy.

                                            Hodges sees both the Sea Breeze exercise and the air-policing mission as critical demonstrations of NATO’s commitment in the region.

                                            “We’re going to compete here in the Black Sea, and we’re going to keep training and building readiness and carrying out our mission.”


                                            • #25
                                              15 JULY 2021

                                              NATO launches next phase of effort to find AWACS replacement

                                              by Gareth Jennings

                                              NATO Airborne Early Warning & Control (NAEW&C) has launched a new phase in its effort to find a replacement for its Boeing E-3A Airborne Warning And Control System (AWACS) aircraft that are set to be retired in 2035.

                                              NATO is looking to replace its 14 remaining E-3A AWACS aircraft in 2035, with different combinations of systems in the air, land, sea, space, and cyber capabilities being considered. (US Air Force)

                                              The NATO Support and Procurement Agency (NSPA) announced on 15 July that it had launched a new risk-reduction and feasibility study competition to analyse and develop concepts identified as potential replacements in the first round of its Alliance Future Surveillance and Control (AFSC) that was initiated in 2017.

                                              “The AFSC Concept Stage was initiated by the North Atlantic Council in 2017 to redefine how NATO will conduct surveillance and command-and-control after the AWACS reach the end of their service life in 2035,” the NSPA said. “[The] NSPA is responsible to conduct studies and develop technical concepts that will help inform future decisions by allies for their long-term plans and acquisition of new capabilities. These could include different combinations of systems in the air, land, sea, space, and cyber domains.”

                                              According to the NSPA, six unnamed companies delivered concept studies in March 2020. These were whittled down to three for the NSPA AFSC Project Office and the Strategic Commands to take forward for further analysis through separate risk-reduction and feasibility studies (RRFS).


                                              • unicorn11
                                                unicorn11 commented
                                                Editing a comment
                                                Paging the Boeing Wedgetail representative to the white courtesy phone...

                                              • JKM Mk2
                                                JKM Mk2 commented
                                                Editing a comment
                                                Nah That's the smart thing to do -so why do it!! The French will come up with some hair-brained "solution" that will never actually happen and they will spend the next 20 years "negotiating."

                                            • #26

                                              French Navy picture

                                              DGA Orders Helmet-Mounted Sight And Display Systems For French Rafales

                                              Thales has received an order from the French defence procurement agency (DGA) for 350 Scorpion® helmet-mounted sight and display systems and 400 digital multi-function displays.

                                              Martin Manaranche 22 Jul 2021

                                              Thales press release

                                              Thales has been awarded the contract to supply Scorpion® helmet-mounted sight and display systems and digital multi-function displays for all the Dassault Aviation Rafale aircraft in service with the French Air and Space Force and the French Navy.

                                              The systems deliver enhanced tactical situational awareness and slave the weapon or mission systems to the pilot’s line of sight to improve the effectiveness of air operations. This new equipment will further enhance the operational effectiveness of the Rafale F4 standard.

                                              From reconnaissance to air defence and precision strike missions, the Rafale has helped ensure the success of countless military operations. But future aircrews will have to analyse more data in less time on combat missions carried out in increasingly complex environments. Coupled with the aircraft’s weapon systems, the Scorpion® helmet-mounted sight and display enhances tactical situational awareness and enables crews to respond more quickly and with greater agility to a whole range of threats. Its progressive rollout on the Rafale F4 standard will be a decisive advantage in ensuring the success of airborne missions and protecting populations.

                                              The helmet-mounted display symbology brings together information from the aircraft’s onboard sensors to help pilots perform their missions even in the most challenging situations. It creates a continuum between the cockpit and the outside world to radically improve awareness of the tactical situation. Coupled with the weapon system, the display can be used to designate and track targets anywhere in the crew’s field of view in daylight and at night.
                                              Scorpion® helmet-mounted sight and display systems. French armament procurement agency (DGA) picture.

                                              Scorpion® delivers all of these capability enhancements in addition to the protection and survivability functions of a conventional flight helmet. It is optimised for weight and balance to maximise pilot comfort and mission effectiveness.

                                              The 400 digital multi-function displays on order will replace the lateral displays on France’s in-service Rafale aircraft, which are primarily used to inform the pilot about the status of the aircraft’s systems and provide imagery from its onboard sensors. The new equipment offers a larger display area, an improved touchscreen interface and greater processing power.
                                              When the success of a mission is decided in a fraction of a second, aircrews must be able to understand the tactical environment quickly and interact intuitively with the aircraft’s systems. We are delighted to have this opportunity to provide future Rafale F4 crews with an operational advantage that will be critical to the success of their missions, thanks to latest-generation equipment offering advanced display capabilities and enhanced interaction with the weapon systems.
                                              Jean-Paul Ebanga, Vice President, Flight Avionics, Thales.



                                              • ADMk2
                                                ADMk2 commented
                                                Editing a comment
                                                This urgent order is completely unrelated to the Swiss findings of lower capability for Rafale in air to air combat due to the lack of modern screens and helmet mounted sighting systems… 😂

                                            • #27
                                              US approves $270 million deal for Greek F-16 upkeep

                                              By: Sebastian Sprenger   1 day ago

                                              A Hellenic Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcon takes off during training at Souda Bay, Greece, on Jan. 28, 2016. (Staff Sgt. Christopher Ruano/U.S. Air Force)

                                              WASHINGTON — The U.S. State Department has greenlighted a $270 million support package for Greece to keep the country’s F-16 fleet current, according to an Aug. 4 announcement.

                                              The approved items include “engineering, technical and logistics support services” for the warplanes, in addition to training equipment, targeting upgrades and mission-planning enhancements, the Defense Security Cooperation Agency wrote on its website.

                                              The sale’s notional approval comes as the Hellenic Air Force is in the process of modernizing its fleet of Lockheed Martin F-16s to the “V” model. The contractor claims the improvements would make it the most capable configuration of the venerable plane.

                                              A DSCA announcement is not a guarantee of sale. Once approved by Congress, the foreign customer begins to negotiate on price and quantity, both of which can change during the final negotiations.

                                              Athens also is boosting its Air Force arsenal with Rafale fighter jets made by France’s Dassault. The company on July 21 delivered the first of 18 jets — 12 used, six new — that Greece is slated to get under a $3 billion deal signed in January.

                                              “The Rafale will provide the HAF with a latest-generation multirole fighter, enabling the Hellenic Republic to ensure its geostrategic stance in full sovereignty,” manufacturer Dassault wrote in a statement at the time.

                                              The Greek defense investments come amid worsening ties with neighbor Turkey. Territorial disputes over oil and gas reserves in the Eastern Mediterranean flared up last year, turning an already thorny relationship outright hostile.


                                              • #28
                                                Norway sets timeline to deploy sub-hunting aircraft in the Arctic

                                                By Gerard O'Dwyer

                                                Aug 27, 09:49 PM

                                                Norway signed a contract to purchase five P-8A aircraft in March 2017. (MC2 Sean Rinner/U.S. Navy)

                                                HELSINKI — Norway’s announcement that it plans to deploy P-8A Poseidon surveillance aircraft to the Arctic in 2022 marks significant progress in the country’s long-term effort to bolster defense capabilities and readiness in the region.

                                                The Ministry of Defence unveiled the timeline Aug. 13, having already approved Evenes Air Station as the main base for its future Boeing-made fleet.

                                                The Royal Norwegian Air Force ordered five P-8A Poseidons to replace its in-service fleet of six Lockheed Martin P-3C/N Orion maritime patrol aircraft and two Dassault Falcon 20 special mission aircraft. The service’s P-3 Orions operate from the Andoya Air Station, located 190 miles inside the Arctic Circle.

                                                Evenes Air Station offers the P-8As shorter flying times to key strategic areas within Norway’s maritime security zone in the high north. The aircraft to be are equipped with submarine-detection sonobuoy technology, and they can identify and launch torpedoes to eliminate hostile submarines.

                                                Norway signed a contract to purchase five P-8As in March 2017, with delivery dates in 2022 and 2023. The first of the P-8As on order underwent tests during the first week of August, jointly conducted by Boeing and Norway’s MoD in the United States.

                                                The acquisition forms part of the Norwegian Armed Forces’ strategic plan to beef up maritime surveillance in the high north against the backdrop of increasing submarine activity by Russia’s Northern Fleet and foreign surface vessels in areas west of the Barents Sea, including the Norwegian Sea and the northern Atlantic Ocean.

                                                “We have a challenging strategic environment that constantly reminds us that we cannot take our freedom and security for granted. Norway will continue to invest substantially in defense and security to ensure we remain a reliable, responsible and capable partner on the Northern flank of the Alliance [NATO],” Defence Minister Frank Bakke-Jensen said in an August update on the Poseidon buy.

                                                The Norwegian military has developed a plan to strengthen its ability to track newer Russian vessels, including the fourth-generation, Yasen-class multimission submarines equipped with superior stealth features, compared to other subs in Russia’s Northern Fleet. Armed with long-range cruise missiles, Yasen subs pose a new level of concern for Norway and its NATO allies.

                                                The scale of Norway’s reinforcement in the high north is reflected in its planned spending from 2021 to 2024. The government raised spending from $6.9 billion in 2020 to almost $7.3 billion in 2021. Military spending it to increase to about $7.85 billion in 2024, second only to Sweden in terms of defense spending by a Nordic country.

                                                The spending is largely driven by the government’s “Long Term Defence Plan,” released in October.

                                                Amid the procurement of pricey P-8As and F-35 fighter jets, the long-term effort includes a capital investment plan to upgrade the military’s NASAMS II air defense systems with modern sensors. “This will contribute to countering threats against bases, and protect allied reception areas and other vital infrastructure,” the plan’s summary document read.

                                                Additionally, the 2021 budget includes a provision to equip the special forces with new and improved transport helicopters able to operate in extreme climates, meant to replace Bell 412 helos.

                                                Norway is also considering a long-term option to add long-range air defense systems to its inventory.

                                                The long-term plan also embraces closer collaboration with NATO forces in the high north, and particularly in joint training that leads to allied growth in the region. Already, Britain’s separate decision to acquire and deploy P-8As is expected to complement long-term, joint operations with Norway.

                                                The ongoing restructuring of the Royal Norwegian Air Force, including in sub-Arctic Norway, is also expected to substantially buttress air defenses. This major capital project includes the development of new bases to house newly acquired capacities such as F-35s, NH90 multirole helicopters and AW101 rescue helicopters.

                                                The Orland Air Station will serve as the main base for the 52-strong fleet of F-35s, slated to become fully operational in 2025. Farther north, Evenes Air Station is the service’s primary “quick reaction alert” base, conducted on behalf of NATO.

                                                The Air Force created a maritime helicopter wing at Bardufoss Air Station in the north of the country in 2019 as part of an air-defense restructuring plan. Station Group Gardermoen, located outside Oslo, was expanded to house the service’s C-130J Hercules and DA-20 aircraft, while the Army’s Bell 412 helicopters operate out of the Rygge Air Base.


                                                • #29
                                                  31 AUGUST 2021

                                                  NATO MMU receives fifth MRTT

                                                  by Gareth Jennings

                                                  The Multinational Multirole Tanker Transport Unit (MMU) received its fifth Airbus A330 MultiRole Tanker Transport (MRTT) aircraft on 31 August.

                                                  The fifth MRTT aircraft for the multinational MMU seen at Airbus' Getafe facility near Madrid prior to its delivery flight to Eindhoven Airbase in the Netherlands on 31 August. (NATO Support and Procurement Agency)

                                                  Aircraft MMF5/T-058 of the Multinational MRTT Fleet (MMF) was delivered to the unit's main operating station at Eindhoven Airbase in the Netherlands, it was announced by the NATO Support and Procurement Agency (NSPA), which manages the fleet on behalf of the MMF nations.

                                                  “The delivery of this fifth aircraft represents another successful step in the construction of a fleet ready to provide strategic transport, air-to-air refuelling and medical evacuation capabilities to its six participating nations. With this addition, the programme is halfway to completion, as the full fleet will consist of nine aircraft,” the agency said.

                                                  The MMF capability comprises NATO members Belgium, the Czech Republic, Germany, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, and Norway, with the MMU operating unit composed of military personnel from these six participating nations. Six MRTTs will operate from Eindhoven Airbase, with a further three operating from the forward operating base at Cologne-Wahn airbase.

                                                  As noted by the NSPA, with aircraft deliveries having begun in June 2020, the MMU is currently mainly operating the aircraft for training purposes, and has started to gradually perform operational tasks.


                                                  • unicorn11
                                                    unicorn11 commented
                                                    Editing a comment
                                                    Another satisfied customer, satisfied they made the right choice not choosing Boeing.

                                                • #30
                                                  02 SEPTEMBER 2021

                                                  Franco-German transport squadron officially established

                                                  by Nicholas Fiorenza

                                                  German Defence Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer and her French counterpart, Florence Parly, on 30 August signed the second intergovernmental agreement on Franco-German tactical air transport co-operation, the German Ministry of Defence (MoD) announced in a press release on 2 September. The ministry said the agreement officially established a binational C-130J squadron in Évreux in Normandy on 1 September.

                                                  The Luftwaffe's first C-130J was rolled out of the Lockheed Martin plant in Marietta, Georgia, in mid-August. (Lockheed Martin/David L Key)

                                                  The squadron consists of four French Air Force (FAF) C-130Js – two transports and two KC-130J tankers – stationed at Air Base 123 at Orléans-Bricy pending their move to Évreux, to be joined by six Luftwaffe aircraft of the same type.

                                                  The Luftwaffe announced on its website on 28 August that its first C-130J had been rolled out at Lockheed Martin. The company told Janes on 2 September that the roll-out took place from its C-130 plant in Marietta, Georgia, in mid-August, with delivery planned no later than the beginning of 2022. Deliveries are scheduled to be completed in 2024, when the squadron is due to reach its full operational capability. Three of the German aircraft will be C-130Js and three KC-130Js.

                                                  The German MoD said that work on a binational tactical air transport fleet began in 2016 with the aim of increasing the interoperability of the Luftwaffe and FAF.

                                                  The ministry expected the squadron to reach an initial operational capability this autumn with the standing up of the squadron, which could conduct national missions but would first operate with mixed French and German crews. The squadron will be tasked with air transport and aerial-refuelling missions for the European Air Transport Command (EATC) in Eindhoven, the Netherlands.


                                                  • Bug2
                                                    Bug2 commented
                                                    Editing a comment
                                                    The reality is that A400M is of limited worth to Special Forces for rough field landings/ proven by the Brits in Afghanistan, and verified by the French in Mali.............the major reason why the British decision to get rid of the rest of theirs is insane, if not criminal in nature, especially as they have just increased their SpecFor with the addition of Rangers, etc. so more likelihood of greater needs! Plus, both the Germans and the French are, or likely to, operate long-range helicopter assault, helo's with refuelling probes. The BIG problem with A400M is that you cannot safely refuel a helicopter under all necessary climate conditions, and due to the air flow from engines and airframe - discovered during French testing 12-18 months ago, if memory serves me right?

                                                    C130J of any model, doesn't have any refueling problems with any known Western helicopter.

                                                  • ADMk2
                                                    ADMk2 commented
                                                    Editing a comment
                                                    It’s astonishing we never put a refuelling probe on ANY of our C-130J-30’s, given how far away from everywhere we are, especially given the C-130J-30 was our largest airlifter when we bought it…

                                                  • Bug2
                                                    Bug2 commented
                                                    Editing a comment
                                                    True mate, you gotta wonder? It really doesn't make sense at all.................

                                                • #31
                                                  07 SEPTEMBER 2021

                                                  Germany rolls out first A320-series liaison aircraft

                                                  by Gareth Jennings

                                                  Germany has rolled out the first of a pair of Airbus A320-series passenger aircraft to be used for medium- to long-haul liaison and aero-medical evacuation (medevac) duties.

                                                  The first of two A321-251NX liaison aircraft for Germany was rolled out ahead of being fitted with its passenger and medevac mission fits. It will be delivered to the Luftwaffe in 2022. (Bundeswehr)

                                                  The A321-251NX aircraft was presented by the Bundeswehr on 6 September ahead of it being fitted with its passenger and medevac mission configurations. The aircraft's Luftwaffe serial number was covered in the image posted on the official Twitter account of the Bundeswehr press team.

                                                  The milestone came 14 months after the Bundeswehr announced on 8 July 2020 that a contract for two A321-200NX-type aircraft had been signed between the BAAINBw procurement office and Lufthansa Technik.

                                                  As noted at the time, the aircraft will come with a variety of cabin configurations depending on the nature of the particular role being flown. These will comprise passenger transport of between 136 and 163 people, and medevac of up to six stretchered patients or up to 12 ‘mildly ill' patients. The underfloor hold can be utilised for cargo in both configurations.

                                                  The aircraft will be delivered to the Luftwaffe in the first quarter of 2022.


                                                  • #32
                                                    Italy funds arming of its Reaper drones

                                                    By Tom Kington

                                                    Sep 29, 10:16 PM

                                                    A U.S. Air Force MQ-9A Reaper taxis in preparation for a mission in support of Operation Enduring Freedom in 2020. (Tech. Sgt. Brian Ferguson/U.S. Air Force)ROME — Italy has announced plans to arm its Reaper drones, six years after it first received permission from the U.S. to do so.

                                                    Rome detailed planned spending of €59 million (U.S. $69 million) on the project over the next seven years in its 2021 budget, adding that the total outlay would rise to €168 million.

                                                    Funding will slowly kick off with €2 million freed up in 2021 and 2022, followed by €5 million in 2023, €45 million per year from 2024 to 2026, and €5 million in 2027.

                                                    “Our vision is to equip the MQ-9s with a payload. It would be a normal evolution considering current threats,” an Air Force source, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations, told Defense News.

                                                    Italy operates both unarmed, upgraded Predator A drones as well as Reapers, and has deployed them to Iraq, Afghanistan, the Balkans and Africa, notably in Libya during the 2011 NATO air operations there.

                                                    After lobbying the U.S. for permission to arm them in 2011, Italy finally got the green light in 2015 from the State Department, making it the second country after the U.K. to get approval.

                                                    Italy was offered at the time a $129.6 million deal, with General Atomics acting as prime contractor, for 156 AGM-114-R2 Hellfire II missiles, 20 GBU-12 laser-guided bombs, 30 GBU-38 Joint Direct Attack Munitions and other armaments.

                                                    Asked what munitions Italy would now be looking for, the Air Force source said: “We would likely be seeking the standard munitions.”

                                                    The decision not to jump on the U.S. offer in 2015 was likely linked to political sensitivities in Italy concerning armed drone missions, particularly following the entry into government in 2018 of the 5-Star Movement political party, which opposes certain arms purchases.

                                                    Since then the party has modified its stance while Italian defense spending has increased and as recent conflicts in Libya and Nagorno-Karabakh have seen the widespread use of armed drones by regional players like Turkey and the United Arab Emirates.

                                                    Although funding plans appeared in the Defense Ministry’s budget, the project must now win the approval of the Italian parliament. The source said he’s unaware of when lawmakers will vote on the proposal, stating: “We cannot foresee the schedule, but we hope soon.”


                                                    • #33
                                                      Likely Base For Second Polish F-35 Squadron Identified

                                                      By BARTOSZ GŁOWACKI

                                                      on September 30, 2021 at 1:55 PM

                                                      The second location for Poland’s F-35s appears to have been decided. (U.S. Air Force/Kip Sumner)

                                                      WARSAW: During a Sept. 8 speech at the 29th MSPO defense show held at Kielce, Poland, a top Lockheed Martin executive appeared to unintentionally unveil a probable location for the second Polish Air Force F-35A squadron.

                                                      Officially, a second location for the F-35A unit has yet to be chosen by the government here. But while speaking at MSPO, JR McDonald, Lockheed’s vice president of business development for the integrated fighter group, identified the likely spot for the squadron as the 21st Tactical Air Base “Maj Stefan Stec” in Świdwin, in north-western Poland.

                                                      The location is not a major surprise, as it makes sense on paper. Świdwin is now home to an Polish Air Force squadron equipped with a dozen aging Russian-made Su-22M4 Fitters and six Su-22UM3K trainers. These aircraft are used to train new pilots and provide recurrent training for both the traditional air force and for Polish Special Forces JTAC and Air defense unit training.

                                                      Świdwin, located roughly 60KM from the Baltic Sea, would provide easy access for F-35s to meet up with allied airpower if needed. The Su-22s at the base are already used to support many NATO exercises in the region, like Baltops, Astral Knight, or Spring Storm, to improve allied air operations and interoperability in a realistic training environment. However, Świdwin, like all Polish Air Force bases, are situated in the range of Russian 9K720 Iskander (SS-26 Stone) mobile short-range ballistic missile systems as well as S-400 Triumf (SA-21 Growler) air defense systems, both deployed at Kaliningrad.

                                                      Warsaw’s plans to keep the Fitters in inventory until 2025, in order to maintain the skilled pilots and technicians. It is not clear if the plan would be to move personnel from Świdwin to supporting the F-35 upon retirement, or if they would be transferred to other bases.

                                                      The first squad of of Polish F-35As has already been announced as being based at 32nd Tactical Air Base in Łask, in the central part of the country. Currently that base is home to an F-16C/D Block 52 unit.

                                                      During his comments, McDonald said manufacturing of Poland’s first F-35 will start next year and will be Block 4 with the Technical Refresh 3 upgrade, which includes a new core processor, a radar upgrade and a new cockpit display, as well as numerous software improvements, including enhanced electronic warfare capabilities.

                                                      According to McDonald, the “majority, if not all 32 Polish F-35As will be updated to Block 4, and Poland will not pay any additional cost for that. There is no reason to worry, because Polish F-35s will be manufactured in Lot 16, and TR-3 is on track to be deployed into Lot 15 aircraft in 2023.”

                                                      The first batch of eight Polish F-35s will be delivered in 2024-2025, and will be based in Luke AFB, Arizona, in order to train 24 pilots and 90 maintainers, some of whom will go on to be Poland’s home-based instructors. Another batch of aircraft would be delivered to Poland in 2026-2027, with Initial Operational Capability for the squadron at Łask in 2026, and a fully stood up squadron there by 2030.

                                                      Gen. Tod D. Wolters, Commander, U.S. European Command and NATO Supreme Allied Commander Europe, has stated that “by approximately 2030,” NATO will have 450 F-35s, based at twelve locations. The bases as planned:
                                                      • United Kingdom (RAF Marham and RAF Lakenheath starting in 2021)
                                                      • Netherlands (Volkel, in 2022 and Leeuwarden TBD)
                                                      • Denmark (Skrydstrup, in 2023)
                                                      • Italy (Amendola and Ghedi in 2022)
                                                      • Norway (Ørland and Evenes in 2022)
                                                      • Belgium (Florennes in 2025 and Kleine-Brogel in 2027)
                                                      • Poland (Łask in 2026, Świdwin TBD)


                                                      • #34
                                                        New radar kits abound for the Eurofighter fleet

                                                        By Tom Kington

                                                        Nov 3, 02:00 PM

                                                        Leonardo UK is working on an Mk 2 Eurofighter radar optimized for electronic warfare besides traditional radar functions. (Leonardo UK)

                                                        ROME — The first Kuwaiti Eurofighters with new electronically scanned radars onboard took to the skies in Italy in October for test flights, as engineers in the U.K. provided fresh details on the e-scan radar version they are developing for the RAF’s Typhoons.

                                                        With progress being made on yet another version for Germany and Spain’s fighters, the Typhoon now has not one but three e-scan radars in the works after years of delays.

                                                        The Kuwaiti jets were spotted taking off from Leonardo’s Caselle facility in northern Italy on Oct. 15 for their first test flight ahead of year-end delivery, part of an order of 28 Typhoons by the Gulf state which will boast the so-called Eurofighter Common Radar System Mk 0.

                                                        Built by the Euroradar consortium teaming Leonardo Italy, Leonardo UK, Spain’s Indra and Germany’s Hensoldt, the Mk 0 will also equip Qatar’s 24 Typhoons.

                                                        Hensoldt and Indra are meanwhile working on an upgrade – the Mk 1 version, which will use transmit/receive modules built in Germany to retrofit roughly 130 German and Spanish aircraft in the mid-2020s.

                                                        Going it alone, the UK has developed an Mk 2 which features new components and has been offered to possible Typhoon customer Finland, while Italy, which has long held faith with the Typhoon’s current mechanically scanned Captor radar, decided to sign up to Mk 2 in September.

                                                        With financing due to be freed up by Rome on a step-by-step basis, 16 engineers from Leonardo Italy will work on secondment in the UK over the next 18 months to learn about the new radar.

                                                        They will cross a firewall to work with British colleagues at Leonardo UK, which has been managing the program for the British Ministry of Defence.

                                                        What is well known is that Mk 2 will differ from its fellow Typhoon e-scan radars by offering wideband electronic-attack and electronic-warfare features in addition to more traditional radar capability.

                                                        Further innovations will include the ability to passively register emissions from targets and threats providing data that can be fused with data received by the Typhoon’s Defensive Aid Sub-System (DASS) and Pirate infra-red sensor.

                                                        The radar will also be able to transmit data, something described as “essential” by Ross Wilson, Leonardo UK’s Typhoon Chief Engineer for Fire Control Radar.

                                                        Another big change are the Mk 2′s UK-built transmit/receive modules, which Leonardo refers to as circuits, since they are soldered to the face of the radar, as opposed to modules on the Mk 0 and Mk 1, which are screwed in.

                                                        “By soldering them to the board performance can be increased, while overall weight is cut and the density and reliability of the circuits is increased. We continue to invest in key componentry to drive down size and weight, allowing us to maximize the power and aperture available in a fast jet environment,” said Wilson.

                                                        Another change is the introduction of gallium nitride (GaN) semi-conductors, considered more powerful than previously used gallium arsenide (GaAs) semi-conductors.

                                                        “GaN has been seen as the future, set to take over from GaAs, but for Leonardo UK, both have a role in radar development to achieve the best performance balance for a fast jet application and can be used together,” said Wilson.

                                                        With Leonardo UK aiming to deliver the first Mk 2 radar next year to BAE, which is integrating the radar on the Typhoon and is expected to fly it for the first time in 2023, Wilson said it would be “the most capable radar ever produced when it enters service.”


                                                        • ADMk2
                                                          ADMk2 commented
                                                          Editing a comment
                                                          Yes I’m absolutely positive a Eurofighter radar will be more capable than a SPY-6 for example… 🙄

                                                      • #35
                                                        Spain’s Defence Ministry denies interest in F-35

                                                        By Sebastian Sprenger

                                                        Nov 10, 03:52 AM

                                                        Members of Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 242 clear new F-35B aircraft on Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Japan, on May 9, 2021. (Lance Cpl. Bryant Rodriguez/U.S. Marine Corps)

                                                        WASHINGTON — Spain has no interest in the American F-35 fighter jet and is solely committed to the Future Combat Air System that it is pursuing with France and Germany, a defense spokeswoman told Reuters.

                                                        The statement comes after Spanish officials at a defense exhibition in Madrid last week said the Lockheed Martin-made plane was a least a theoretical contender for the Spanish Navy and, if the sea service were to select it, the Air Force.

                                                        “The Spanish government has no budget to enter into any other jet project in addition to the one that is already in place. We rule out entering the F-35 project. Our investment commitment is in the FCAS,” Reuters quoted a defense ministry spokeswoman as saying in a Nov. 9 report.

                                                        Rejection of the F-35 comes after speculation on social media the country was actively looking into a purchase, based on a separate report in the London-based Janes defense publication last week. That article cited information about a Lockheed Martin F-35 sales campaign in Europe, including in Spain, as coming from “an official,” with no affiliation given.

                                                        The case of the prospective F-35 sale to Madrid was particularly sensitive, as Spain is working to establish itself as an equal partner with Germany and France in the FCAS program. Giving the impression of flirting with the American product at the same time would have undercut Madrid’s aspirations toward that end.


                                                        • Bug2
                                                          Bug2 commented
                                                          Editing a comment
                                                          Smart move Spain! You are going to wait 15 or so years, and bet that FCAS is better than F-35A (or B) already is............big balls to think you can wait that long.

                                                        • unicorn11
                                                          unicorn11 commented
                                                          Editing a comment
                                                          Yes, because the FCAS will be a VSTOL aircraft that can operate off the Juan Carlos....🤡

                                                        • magnify
                                                          magnify commented
                                                          Editing a comment
                                                          The risk is large too plus they get a jet 15 years behind the F-35's block developments and network data integration levels. It'll be another EF2000-like 15 year wait to get key war-fighting capabilities.

                                                          I'd do both as having even 24 F-35B would change their whole capability wrt classic Hornets, Typhoons and Harriers in the interim. Their current mix is a bit of a mess really.

                                                      • #36

                                                        Spanish Ministry of Defence signs order for three Airbus A330 MRTT

                                                        Getafe, 12 November 2021 – The Spanish Ministry of Defence has signed the formal order for the acquisition of three Airbus A330 Multi-Role Tanker Transport aircraft (MRTT).

                                                        Under the agreement, the handover of the first aircraft in transport configuration is scheduled in the coming days, followed by its conversion to MRTT in 2024. The handover of the first fully converted aircraft is scheduled in 2023 and the third and final unit in 2025.

                                                        The contract covers associated support such as spares, ground support equipment, training and in-service support until the end of the contract.
                                                        The aircraft, acquired from Iberia, will be converted into military tanker transport at Airbus’ Spanish headquarters in Getafe, Spain. It will be equipped with a state-of-the-art hose & drogue refuelling system and a specific Medical Evacuation (MEDEVAC) kit. The A330 MRTT fleet will be operated by the Spanish Air Force 45 Wing, based in Torrejón Air Base (Madrid).

                                                        ‘With the addition of A330 MRTT to its fleet, the Spanish Air Force acquires a key and proven new capability, that will enhance and support overseas operations, as well as medevac missions, on which the aircraft played a key role during the Covid-19 pandemic crisis worldwide,’ said Jean-Brice Dumont, Executive Vice President Military Aircraft at Airbus.
                                                        The A330 MRTT is the only next generation strategic tanker and transport aircraft flying and available today. The large 111 tonnes / 245,000 lb basic fuel capacity of the successful A330-200 airliner, from which it is derived, enables the A330 MRTT to excel in Air-to-Air Refuelling missions without the need for additional fuel tanks.

                                                        Thanks to its wide-body fuselage, the A330 MRTT can also be used as a dedicated transport aircraft able to carry up to 300 troops, or a payload of up to 45 tonnes/99,000 lb. It can also easily be converted to accommodate light and intensive care stations for Medical Evacuation (MEDEVAC).
                                                        With more than 250,000 flight hours achieved, the A330 MRTT counts 51 deliveries to 13 customers.

                                                        Photo and infographic courtesy Airbus


                                                        • unicorn11
                                                          unicorn11 commented
                                                          Editing a comment
                                                          A wise choice, given the alternative.

                                                        • ARHmk3
                                                          ARHmk3 commented
                                                          Editing a comment
                                                          At this point, unless there is political interference involved, there really is no alternative.

                                                      • #37
                                                        Italy air force F-35B makes first time landing on Italian carrier

                                                        By Tom Kington

                                                        Nov 23, 04:18 AM

                                                        An Italian Air Force F-35B on Nov. 21, 2021, landed for the first time on the Cavour, the Italian Navy’s aircraft carrier, joining a Navy F-35B on board. (Italian MOD photo)

                                                        ROME – An Italian Air Force F-35B has landed for the first time on the Cavour, the Italian Navy’s aircraft carrier, joining a Navy F-35B on board and signaling the long awaited start of joint activities between the two forces using the aircraft.

                                                        During the exercise on Nov. 21 the two jets flew together from the Cavour to land on the nearby Queen Elizabeth – the Royal Navy carrier currently in the Mediterranean, while two U.S. Marine F-35Bs currently based on the British vessel flew to the Cavour, before U.S., Italian and British B’s flew maneuvers together.

                                                        The exercise was officially about F-35Bs from different countries working together, but the big breakthrough was the sight of Italian Navy and Air Force jets flying alongside each other after a slow start to cooperation between the forces.

                                                        The Navy now has three of 15 F-35Bs due to be delivered, two of which are training in the United States, while a third was delivered to the Cavour in July.

                                                        The Air Force is taking delivery of 60 F-35As, but has also received the first of 15 expected B’s it plans to deploy in missions requiring jets able to fly from short runways.

                                                        On Sunday, talk of genuine cooperation came thick and fast as Italian chief of staff Adm. Cavo Dragone suggested that in addition to Air Force pilots now flying their jets off the Cavour, Navy pilots would train to join land-based missions.

                                                        “The synergies between the Navy and Air Force in the use of the F-35B from the decks of aircraft carriers will be matched in their use from land, operating together in operational situations without runways suitable for conventional aircraft,” he said.

                                                        Describing Sunday as a “historic day”, he added, “This a new season in which we head towards complete integration of the F-35Bs of the Air Force and the Navy which will bring total interoperability in air and naval operations.”

                                                        In a statement, the Air Force said, “With this activity we are turning a new page where interoperability and the concept of Joint and Combined synergy between armed forces are concrete facts.”

                                                        That adds to talk in this year’s Italian defense budget of a ‘STOVL Joint Force,’ suggesting some sort of integrated Italian F-35B force could evolve.

                                                        What remains to be decided is where one shared base for the jets could be established, with the Navy hitherto keen to continue to use its base in Grottaglie in southern Italy it has used for its aging Harrier fleet.

                                                        The Air Force, in turn, already has a large F-35 base for its A’s and its B at nearby Amendola and believes it makes sense to group all of Italy’s F-35 jets there.


                                                        • #38
                                                          Norway swaps in its F-35s for NATO quick-reaction mission in the High North

                                                          By Sebastian Sprenger

                                                          Jan 7, 02:08 AM

                                                          One of the F-35A aircraft designated by Norway for a NATO quick-reaction alert role is pictured at Evenes Air Base. (Norwegian Air Force)

                                                          WASHINGTON – Norway has designated its F-35 aircraft for a NATO quick-reaction alert mission in the High North, ending a 42-year run of the country’s F-16s for that job, the government announced Jan. 6.

                                                          The Lockheed Martin-made jets are held at Evenes Air Base in northern Norway, with at least three ready to scramble within 15 minutes and examine potential airspace violations of Norway and, by extension, NATO. The fifth-generation aircraft have previously accompanied F-16s on such missions in anticipation of the formal takeover on Thursday.

                                                          The change in aircraft types further embeds the F-35 jet into the fabric of alliance patrol missions in Europe, just as Lockheed recently recorded initial wins in its sales campaigns for Finland and Switzerland.

                                                          Norway’s F-16 have operated the quick-reaction mission from Bodø Air Base for four decades, according to a defense ministry statement. The new location of Evenes puts the mission’s center of gravity about 100 miles further north.

                                                          The Norwegian military is expanding the base to also house P-8 Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft, putting key aerial and naval surveillance assets into an area that has seen an uptick in Russian military exercises.

                                                          Norway expects to have its fleet of 52 F-35s fully operational by 2025, according to the defense ministry. Aside from a handful of scramble-ready planes at Evenes, the fleet’s home base is Ørland, located in the south-central part of the country.

                                                          Meanwhile, the U.S. Defense Department continues to use F-16 aircraft in the Baltics, another hotspot for NATO air patrols along the border with Russia. American jets arrived in Poland earlier this month, joining Polish and Belgian F-16s to prepare for that mission, according to a Jan. 6 alliance statement.


                                                          • ADMk2
                                                            ADMk2 commented
                                                            Editing a comment
                                                            Nah just taking the piss out of those idiots.

                                                            Have you ever visited their ‘Best Fighter for Australia’ FB page? As you might imagine, the idiocy knows no bounds…

                                                          • Bug2
                                                            Bug2 commented
                                                            Editing a comment
                                                            Nah, my tolerance level of rank stupidity, is not that high...........

                                                          • unicorn11
                                                            unicorn11 commented
                                                            Editing a comment
                                                            Mine neither.

                                                        • #39
                                                          New German government revisits Tornado replacement options

                                                          By Sebastian Sprenger

                                                          Jan 11, 04:44 AM

                                                          Visitors walk past a Lockheed-Martin F-35 Lightning stealth fighter plane at the ILA Berlin Air Show on April 25, 2018, in Schoenefeld, Germany. Berlin is reconsidering its mix of Tornado aircraft replacement options, which could put the stealthy jet back on the radar in 2020, according to a press report. (Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

                                                          WASHINGTON – Germany is once again weighing its options for replacing the country’s aging Tornado aircraft fleet, which could put the F-35 back on the table.

                                                          The plan, first reported by German press agency DPA over the weekend, follows a pledge in the coalition government agreement late last year.

                                                          The review would re-open a recommendation made by then-Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen in early 2019 for phasing out Germany’s nearly 90 Tornados by the end of the decade. It ditched an F-35 option, fearing purchasing that fighter jet would upset the Franco-German defense alliance with the Future Combat Air System at its core.

                                                          Officials instead favored buying a roughly equal number of Eurofighters and new-generation Boeing F-18s. The latter would fly electronic-attack missions and serve as a bomb carrier under Germany’s NATO nuclear-sharing commitments, the thinking went.

                                                          The German defense ministry on Monday declined to say whether the F-35 is now expressly back under consideration. Conversations between Defense Minister Christine Lambrecht and Chancellor Olaf Scholz about Tornado replacement options, reported by DPA as having happened last Thursday, are considered “internal,” a spokeswoman told Defense News.

                                                          Officials pointed to a Dec. 19 Lambrecht interview in the Bild am Sonntag newspaper, where she was quoted as favoring a “European” plane for the nuclear-sharing mission while at the same time leaving open the possibility that the requisite U.S. certifications may not happen in time, or at all.

                                                          “I will consider all options,” Lambrecht said.

                                                          Germany’s Tornado replacement debate is a recurring exercise for the country’s defense intelligentsia. For the nuclear mission, it is now believed Washington would likely only allow a U.S. aircraft, although even the degrees of atomic readiness among the F-35 and the F-18 are disputed.

                                                          Against that backdrop, the nuclear mission is controversial to begin with, treated as a necessary evil by the new government in the formulation of a defense and security agenda that also includes nonproliferation goals.

                                                          For the electronic-attack mission, the German defense industry, led by Airbus Defence and Space, had lobbied against an F-18 Growler choice ever since Von der Leyen’s recommendation, arguing the Eurofighter could be developed to at least a similar level of capability.

                                                          Meanwhile, introducing the F-35 back into the mix of German considerations, even the talk of it, could lead French officials to question Berlin’s commitment to the Future Combat Air System. That, in turn, risks not only toppling the sixth-generation aircraft program but the European Union’s defense-industrial ambitions as a whole.

                                                          The question is if FCAS could co-exist with a German F-35 acquisition, especially given that the DPA report suggests those planes would primarily work doomsday stand-by duty.

                                                          German industry should not be expected to actively support any U.S. aircraft in the Tornado-replacement decision, Reinhard Brandl, a member of the opposition Christian Social Union and the parliamentary defense committee, told Defense News in an interview. At the same time, he noted it’s primarily the electronic-attack portfolio that German companies are most keen on guarding against American products.

                                                          And the French-German cooperation on FCAS is far from going swimmingly at the moment, according to Brandl, who blamed France’s Dassault for refusing to sign an industry contract for the aircraft portion of the program.

                                                          “Dassault is not ready to accept Airbus as a partner on equal terms,” he told Defense News. “They are saying, ‘We’ll do FCAS, but only by our rules.’”

                                                          With Dassault’s export order books for its Rafale fighter full, the company may see less reason to agree on an FCAS fighter and focus on upgrades for its own jet instead, Brandl argued. In that sense, German talk of of an F-35 buy may serve as a fall-back option, he added.

                                                          A Dassault spokeswoman did not immediately respond to a question about the status of the industry contract.


                                                          • Bug2
                                                            Bug2 commented
                                                            Editing a comment
                                                            It'll be interesting to see what, if anything, comes out of this review?

                                                          • ARHmk3
                                                            ARHmk3 commented
                                                            Editing a comment
                                                            Well France did sign up to Eurofighter only to withdraw and develop Rafale independently. I'd say there is a better than average chance of something similar happening again, where the 'lesser' partners are left without a pot to piss in. Working with French industry on vital new projects would have to be considered somewhat high risk at the moment.

                                                            The smart move would be to replace Typhoon with F35 outright, then use the F35 as a hedge in case something goes wrong with FCAS, which it almost certainly will. France needs to know that their 'partners' have alternate options.

                                                          • unicorn11
                                                            unicorn11 commented
                                                            Editing a comment
                                                            Yes, because we all know how well France treats its 'partners" / patsies.

                                                        • #40

                                                          Boeing Expands Partnerships with German Industry on F/A-18 Super Hornet and EA-18G Growler

                                                          Berlin, Jan. 12, 2022Boeing [NYSE: BA] today announced the expansion of its industrial partnership strategy in Germany in support of the F/A-18 Super Hornet and EA-18G Growler offering to the Bundeswehr. A Request for Information (RFI) was issued to more than 10 German companies to solicit bids.

                                                          German industry partners will play a significant role in providing support equipment, logistics and overall maintenance, parts, local sustainment programs, training, and other relevant repair and overhaul solutions for Germany’s potential Super Hornet and Growler fleet. German industry will also have the opportunity to participate in the development of the Next Generation Jammer for the EA-18G Growler.

                                                          The RFIs are the first step towards in-country sustainment worth approximately $4 billion USD/ €3.5 billion over the lifecycle of the programs, and will contribute additional economic opportunity and value to the German economy as the programs evolve.

                                                          “Germany is home to outstanding aerospace expertise and innovation and we look forward to expanding our partnerships locally for Germany’s F/A-18 Super Hornet and EA-18G Growler fleet,” said Dr. Michael Haidinger, president of Boeing Germany, Central and Eastern Europe, Benelux and the Nordics. “With this partner expansion strategy, we are laying the foundation for new business opportunities for German industry champions, high-skilled new jobs and long-term economic growth.”

                                                          The F/A-18 Super Hornet Block III provides advanced, proven capabilities, as well as low life-cycle and acquisition costs ideally suited to meet Germany’s fighter requirements, including the dual capable commitments to NATO.

                                                          With the lowest operating costs of all U.S. tactical aircraft in production ($19,500 USD / €17,000 per flight hour, source: U.S. DoD Special Acquisition Report), combined with low procurement costs, the Super Hornet saves billions of dollars/Euros over its entire service life of +10,000 flight hours. This makes the Super Hornet the most cost-effective solution for the German Luftwaffe.

                                                          The EA-18G Growler provides full spectrum protection, jamming radars and disrupting communications, and the combination of Super Hornet Block III and EA-18G Growler will give the Luftwaffe unmatched capability in both air-to-air and surface-to-air missions. This has been demonstrated the last fifteen years, as the EA-18G Growler has spanned the globe in support of all major and rapid reaction actions. Five EA-18G Growler Squadrons uniquely support the US Air Force and US Navy operations.

                                                          Photo courtesy Boeing


                                                          • unicorn11
                                                            unicorn11 commented
                                                            Editing a comment
                                                            "Five EA-18G Growler Squadrons uniquely support the US Air Force and US Navy operations"

                                                            Oh really? Unique you say?

                                                        • #41
                                                          Greece boosts Air Force with advanced French jets

                                                          By Derek Gatopoulos, AP
                                                          Jan 20, 02:21 AM
                                                          Rafale jets fly in the Athenian sky and over the ancient Acropolis hill on Jan. 19, 2022.. (Dimitris Peristeris /InTime News via AP)

                                                          TANAGRA, Greece — French-built fighter jets roared Wednesday over the Acropolis as Greece races to modernize its military and flaunts new security alliances aimed at checking neighboring Turkey.

                                                          Six advanced Rafale jets, purchased from the French Air Force, flew in low formation over Athens before their official handover to the Greek armed forces at a nearby air base.

                                                          “The arrival of these Rafale aircraft signals an upgrade for our country operationally, technologically and geopolitically,” Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said at the ceremony.

                                                          The event was broadcast live on private and state-run television. Fire trucks greeted the aircraft with a water salute at the base, where the local Greek Orthodox bishop led a blessing ceremony.

                                                          The multirole combat aircraft with a distinctive triangle-shaped wing were the first major delivery to result from multi-billion euro defense deals the Greek and French governments sealed last year. Greece has earmarked nearly €2.5 billion (U.S. $2.8 billion) to buy 18 Rafale jets, 12 from the French Air Force and six newly built by Paris-based military contractor Dassault.

                                                          Greece also plans to acquire six more Rafale jets at a later date and to spend an additional €3 billion to buy three new French-made frigates.

                                                          NATO allies Greece and Turkey have longstanding disagreements over boundaries as well as oil and gas drilling rights in the Eastern Mediterranean, a dispute that flared into a tense naval stand off in 2020.

                                                          Turkey and Greece mount competing air force patrols in the eastern Aegean Sea around Greek islands facing Turkey’s coastline. The tensions in the region prompted Athens to speed up its military upgrade program and strengthen defense ties with allies France and the United States.

                                                          Michael Tanchum, a senior fellow at the Austrian Institute for European and Security Policy, said Greece had also developed military cooperation with Egypt, Israel, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia.

                                                          “Athens’ efforts are paying off big,” Tanchum said. “These relationships provide Greece with much-needed strategic depth.”

                                                          The delivery of the French jets to Greece will be completed in January 2025, military officials said.

                                                          Greek officials say the Rafale jets have advanced electronics and weapons systems that will give its air force an advantage while confronting Turkey’s much larger military.

                                                          “This was and still is a matter of addressing the strategic context in the Mediterranean. And in this context of tension, French President [Emmanuel] Macron decided to show full support to Greece,” Dassault Aviation CEO Eric Trappier said.

                                                          Greek pilots and technical staff have completed the first round of training in France, lasting 10 months, Trappier said. One of them was Squadron Leader Panagiotis Tsoumanis who returned to Athens flying one of the new planes Wednesday.

                                                          “We are extremely lucky to have an aircraft that is so advanced in our arsenal,” Tsoumanis said. “In combination with the weapons it carries, I think the [Rafale] will certainly make a difference in the Aegean Sea and wherever else it is required in the eastern Mediterranean.”

                                                          Turkey’s air force modernization drive suffered a setback in 2019 when the United States dropped Turkey from its F-35 program over Ankara’s purchase of the Russian-made S-400 missile defense system.

                                                          Other countries that have signed up to the Rafale program include the UAE, Qatar, India, Egypt, and Croatia.

                                                          Lefteris Pitarakis in Tanagra contributed to this report.


                                                          • #42

                                                            An integrated, joint Air Force and Navy expeditionary F-35B STOVL capability for Italy


                                                            By Luca Peruzzi

                                                            Italy will have an integrated, joint Air Force and Navy expeditionary capability based on the F-35B STOVL (Short Take-Off Vertical Landing) version aircraft being delivered and belonging to the two services. “We are working to have an expeditionary capability both from the land and the sea, deploying in a synergic and integrated way the 30 F-35B STOVL aircraft assets being delivered and belonging to the Italian Navy and Air Force, under the command and control of the Italian Joint Operations Heaquarters (COVI, Comando Operativo di Vertice Interforze)”, said Admiral Giuseppe Cavo Dragone, Italy’s Chief of Defence, speaking on 27 January to a group of media, aside the joint Italian Air Force and Navy exercise on the Pantelleria island’s air base, which saw the interaction of the two services’ F-35B aircraft in an expeditionary environment. The Italian Chief of Defence was sided by the Italian Navy and Air Force chiefs, respectively Vice-Admiral Enrico Credendino and Lieutenant General Luca Goretti.

                                                            “Today’s training event is fully part of the development process of joint armed forces capabilities, strongly supported by the Minister of Defense Lorenzo Guerini, and has sanctioned a further step forward in the integration process of 5th generation multirole aircraft. This activity started with the recent international exercise that involved the Italian Navy’s Cavour aircraft carrier and the F-35Bs belonging to the Italian Navy and the Air Force, together with the British aircraft carrier Queen Elizabeth and its embarked air group with UK and US Marine Corps F-35Bs”, the Italian CHOD added.

                                                            The joint expeditionary capability would come under the operational control of each service’s commander, depending respectively on the land-based or naval operational domain in out-of-area contexts, where the expeditionary force is requested to operate. “If we will operate in out-of-area context from land bases, the plan is to have the Navy’s F-35B becoming part of the Air Force component and under the operational command of same service’s commander, the latter responding to the Italian Joint Operations Command. If the mission will be carried out in a naval context, a Navy force commander will control the joint F-35Bs force, responding to the joint operations commander,” he explained adding that Italy will not follow the UK command and operational joint solution.

                                                            Italy’s Defence Chief also declared that no plan was yet defined regarding where to base the two services’ aircraft . The Italian Air Force has stationed its F-35A and B at Amendola, as part of the 32nd Wing, while the Italian Navy’s GRUPAER (Gruppo Aereo Imbarcato) is stationed with its Harrier II Plus to be replaced by F-35B at Grottaglie Naval Air Station near Taranto, which is also the homeport of its Cavour aircraft carrier. “We are working on a solution. All possibilities are on the table”, he said.

                                                            The joint exercise simulating the operations from an austere base, saw one each F-35B in service with Italian Air Force and Navy exploiting the STOVL capabilities of the two aircraft to land on the 1,300 meters long runway on the Pantelleria island and reach the Air Force detachment area, where a KC-130J belonging to the 46th Air Brigade was ready waiting for ‘hot-refuelling’ the two aircraft. The ‘hot-pit’ as this operation is known, saw the two F-35Bs being refueled simultaneously by one of the KC-130J pods while engines were running on the other wing to provide the necessary pressure, pumping the fuel from the aircraft tanks. The exercise was ‘a first’ for this kind of operation with two F-35Bs being simultaneously refuelled, and was conducted by personnel of the 3rd Wing of Verona-Villanfranca, the unit also providing on-site protection and control in case of expeditionary operations, supported by the 32nd Wing personnel to which the F-35Bs belongs. The 32nd Wing is the first and only current Italian Air Force unit to operate the service’s current F-35 fleet. The exercise continued with Composite Air Operations (COMAO) with Eurofighter Typhoons as well with air-to-ground operations, as part of the 4th and 5th generation platforms integration.

                                                            While already working together ‘in a synergic way’, the first next opportunity for the two services’ F-35Bs to exercise together will be the Italian Navy’s “Mare Aperto” exercise that will be conducted next spring. So far, the Italian Air Force has received only one F-35B while the Italian Navy has three aircraft, of which two in the US and one in Italy. The reduced number of aircraft and the low-delivery rate of them due to the past reviews, budget and reduction of the overall fleet of F-35 JSF has pushed the Italian MoD and the two Armed Forces to work together to give an overall 30 aircraft expeditionary capability with the 5th generation STOVL aircraft.

                                                            According to the delivery plan of the F-35B fleet for the two services, the next F-35B to be handed over will be assigned to the Air Force. “We will receive the aircraft in the March-April period”, unveiled the Italian Force Chief of Staff, general Goretti, who expressed his full harmony and strong support to this plan. The same harmony and support to the plan was expressed by the Italian Navy Chief of Staff Vice-Admiral Enrico Credendino. Asked about the initial operational capability of its fleet of F-35B, he confirmed the service will reach this milestone in 2024 with eight aircraft. The two F-35Bs in the US are planned to remain over there until next November.

                                                            While the F-35s already delivered to the Italian Air Force’s 32nd Wing are directed to replace the AMX fleet, which general Goretti unveiled was phased out (it ceased operational activity in December 2021 according to Air Force sources), the service is planning to soon put into service the first aircraft to replace the Tornado fleet. Answering a question on its replacement and the working activities on the Ghedi Air Base which currently accommodates the Tornado fleet, general Goretti said the phasing out of the latter platform will be completed in 2027, according to current plans. The working activities for the new infrastructures to host F-35s are proceeding without stopping Tornado activities, as it happened on Amendola air base with the AMX. Moreover, in order to speed up the integration and the standardization between different Air Force units, the first F-35A to be delivered to the 6th Wing, currently on Tornado IDS and based at Ghedi, will be initially stationed at Amendola. “The first F-35A aircraft for the Red Devils (the 6th Wing), wherever it will come from Cameri or Fort Worth assembly lines, will be delivered later on in 2022”, he said.

                                                            In parallel to the synergic and joint training and integration activities, the Italian MoD has also funded the necessary equipment for the expeditionary missions of the Italian Air Force. The Italian MoD is currently working on the procurement process of this equipment. According to released documentation, the tender regards the complex of shelters and CIS equipment for the secure environment Temporary-Special Access Program Facility (T-SAPF) necessary for F-35 deployments. “The equipment is expected to be delivered in one-two years’ time”.

                                                            The on-going plan to create an integrated and joint 30 F-35Bs expeditionary force which is expected to operate as over anticipated is expected to take to an end the attritions between the two services which have characterized the last years and the F-35 programme. The current mood between the head of the Italian Defence and services should push towards this solution.

                                                            Photos courtesy Italian Air Force and L. Peruzzi


                                                            • #43
                                                              Italian F-35s Will Get AIM-9X Block II Air-To-Air Missiles

                                                              February 4, 2022

                                                              STEFANO D'URSO

                                                              An Italian Air Force F-35A at Amendola Air Base. (Image credit: David Cenciotti)

                                                              The missiles will fill a capability gap caused by the IRIS-T not being integrated with the F-35.

                                                              The Naval Air Systems Command’s (NAVAIR) Air-to-Air Missiles Program Office (PMA-259) just announced that Italy became the 28th Air Intercept Missile (AIM)-9X International Partner on Dec. 17, 2021. The new air-to-air missile will equip the F-35 Lightning II fighter jets of both the Italian Air Force and Italian Navy, which until now had to count on the AIM-120C AMRAAM as their only air-to-air missile.

                                                              The Italian Embassy in Washington D.C. notified the Navy International Programs Office that the Italian Air Force accepted and signed the Letter of Offer & Acceptance (LOA) which was provided by the United States Government earlier last year. As mentioned in the press release, the letter was signed on November 19 and shortly after representatives from PMA-259 and Raytheon presented the AIM-9X Block II/II+ Classified Capabilities Briefing to Italian Headquarters Air Force Staff and F-35 Lightning II pilots.

                                                              NAVAIR did not provide info about the number of weapons and the economic amount of the deal, other than mentioning that the LOA consists of “a modest quantity” of AIM-9X Block II/II+ missiles to complement the Italian Air Force F-35 fleet. The missiles acquired by Italy will be part of the U. S. Navy’s Lot 23 Production Contract which will be awarded in 2023, with the delivery of the missiles scheduled for 2026.

                                                              The Italian Navy has been provided with a separate LOA for the AIM-9X that will equip its F-35Bs and is expected to accept it soon. As the ones for the Air Force, the missiles will be in the Block II/II+ variant part of Lot 23. While not specified, it is safe to assume that the delivery of the Navy’s missiles will be in 2026 too.

                                                              The AIM-9X Sidewinder is the latest of the Sidewinder family of short-range air-to-air missiles, featuring a high off-boresight focal-plane array seeker mounted on a highly maneuverable airframe with a greatly improved infrared counter-countermeasures. The AIM-9X incorporates many AIM-9LM legacy components (rocket motor, warhead and active optical target detector), but with performance far exceeding the legacy Sidewinder.

                                                              The AIM-9X Block II, which is part of this deal, is considered the most advanced short range air-air missile in the U.S. inventory, capable of using its datalink, thrust vectoring maneuverability, and advanced imaging infrared seeker to hit targets even behind the launching fighter thanks to the Lock-On-After-Launch capability. Unlike previous AIM-9 models, the AIM-9X Block II/II+ can even be used against targets on the ground.

                                                              Royal Netherlands Air Force’s F-35A in “Beast Mode”, with AIM-9Xs under the wingtips. (Photo: Frank Crebas)

                                                              Italy already operates two types of short-range air-to-air missiles: the AIM-9L (for Tornado, AMX and AV-8B+) and the IRIS-T (for the Eurofighter Typhoon). However neither of those could be used with the 5th gen aircraft. This left the Italian F-35s with only one air-to-air weapon, the AIM-120, available for the Quick Reaction Alert (QRA) duty. As a sidenote, the Italian F-35s covered this role as part of the National Air Defense since 2018, shortly after becoming the first in Europe to declare the Initial Operational Capability (IOC).

                                                              Since 2019, the F-35s have also been involved in multiple NATO Air Policing missions, the last of which was the Enhanced Air Policing at Ämari Air Base in Estonia last summer. From Jan. 27, 2022 the ItAF is contributing to the NATO QRA with its Lightning II jets. Much like the Eurofighters, the F-35 in QRA will be under the control of the NATO Combined Air Operations Centre (CAOC) which, if needed, can launch a scramble to intercept and identify any suspect aircraft.

                                                              An Italian F-35 in Quick Reaction Alert. Notice the AIM-120 in weapon bay. (Photo: Italian Air Force)

                                                              Back to the AIM-9X, the signing of the LOA will allow Italy to equip its aircraft with both the AIM-120 in the internal weapon bays and the AIM-9X under the wingtips’ rails, like other international F-35 users. Italy is not the only user who had to resort to this solution, with a very similar situation happening also to Norway some years ago. Norway, like Italy, used the IRIS-T on its recently retired F-16s, however in 2015 a deal to acquire the AIM-9X was signed as the European missile was not available for the F-35.

                                                              The IRIS-T was initially scheduled for integration on the F-35, with Norway sponsoring an initial study preparatory for the works, but for unknown reason the integration did not go ahead. A future integration might still be on the table however, as Greece is another IRIS-T user that will receive F-35s. Moreover, Germany and Spain, two other IRIS-T users, are still reportedly interested in the acquisition of the F-35, taking the total to five nations possibly interested in the continuation of the integration of the IRIS-T on the 5th gen. aircraft.


                                                              • ADMk2
                                                                ADMk2 commented
                                                                Editing a comment
                                                                Because Norway realised IRIS-T offers no capability advantage over AIM-9X Block II/II+ and integrating weapons is a more expensive and resource intensive exercise, than simply buying a stock of already integrated weapons…

                                                            • #44

                                                              American B-52 bombers being deployed to Britain

                                                              By George Allison

                                                              February 7, 2022

                                                              U.S. Air Force B-52 bombers will be deploying to the United Kingdom shortly as part of a ‘Bomber Task Force’ training mission to “familiarise themselves” with European airspace.

                                                              It should be noted that ‘Bomber Task Force’ missions regularly visit the UK, with the most recent being a B-2 stealth bomber. You can read more about the previous deployment by clicking here. Anyway, onto the current deployment…

                                                              The support aircraft for the bomber arrived today. Aviation news website ‘Airspeed Media’ posted on Facebook:

                                                              “With support aircraft arriving today at RAF Fairford, it will hopefully soon be time to welcome back the Minot AB based BUFFs to the UK.”

                                                              The US Air Force explains the purpose of Bomber Task Force missions as follows “by training in Europe, aircrew and Airmen are familiarizing themselves with the European theater and airspace, to enhance enduring skills and relationships with allies and partners”.

                                                              On their website, the U.S. Air Force describe the bomber as follows:

                                                              “The B-52H Stratofortress is a long-range, heavy bomber that can perform a variety of missions. The bomber is capable of flying at high subsonic speeds at altitudes of up to 50,000 feet (15,166.6 meters). It can carry nuclear or precision guided conventional ordnance with worldwide precision navigation capability. In a conventional conflict, the B-52 can perform strategic attack, close-air support, air interdiction, offensive counter-air and maritime operations.

                                                              B-52s are equipped with advanced targeting pods. Targeting pods provide improved long-range target detection, identification and continuous stabilized surveillance for all missions, including close air support of ground forces. The advanced targeting and image processing technology significantly increases the combat effectiveness of the B-52 during day, night and less than ideal weather conditions when attacking ground targets with a variety of standoff weapons (e.g., laser-guided bombs, conventional bombs and GPS-guided weapons). The use of aerial refuelling gives the B-52 a range limited only by aircrew endurance. It has an unrefueled combat range in excess of 8,800 miles (14,080 kilometres).”

                                                              For more than 60 years, B-52s have been the backbone of the strategic bomber force for the United States.


                                                              • #45
                                                                B-52s complete bomber task force mission with Czech fighter jets

                                                                By Rachel Nostrant

                                                                Feb 23, 02:03 AM

                                                                U.S. B-52's landed in the Czech Republic to Feb. 21 to practice quick-turn sortie regeneration, where the aircraft shuts off its engines, repacks its parachute and refuels in preparation for another mission. (Czech Ministry of Defense)

                                                                Air Force B-52 Stratofortress jets participated in a NATO Allied Air Command bomber task force mission alongside fighter aircraft from the Czech Republic this week, conducting bilateral and theater familiarization operations.

                                                                The B-52′s landed in the Czech Republic Feb. 21, practicing quick-turn sortie generation, a maneuver in which pilots and air crew shut off aircraft engines, repack parachutes and refuel for quick-mission turn around capabilities.

                                                                Czech fighters flew alongside the U.S. bombers, escorting the aircraft and participating in other maneuvers supporting allied and partner interoperability and training objectives.

                                                                According to the NATO Allied Air Command press release announcing the mission, conducting these pre-flight maneuvers from different locations allows NATO crews and aircraft to launch from a diverse array of allied airfields, extending the Alliance’s range of operations.

                                                                “Operations like these truly enhance our interoperability with our Allies and partners,” commander of U.S. Air Forces in Europe, Gen. Jeff Harrigian, said in the press release.

                                                                “We’re baking-in the necessary skills so it increases our combined capabilities and readiness while allowing flexible and agile options for Allied bombers to respond to any changes in the operational environment.”

                                                                U.S. forces have been participating in a number of NATO air missions as the conflict between Ukraine and Russia steadily escalates, ranging from air policing missions in Estonia and Poland to American spy planes, including RQ-4 Global Hawk drones and RC-135V/W Rivet Joints, routinely patrolling the regional airspace for the last few weeks.

                                                                Additional U.S. B-52 bombers arrived at England’s RAF Fairford Feb. 10 for a previously planned European rotation, as aircraft continue to jump around the region. American fighter jets stationed elsewhere on the continent have also moved farther east, including squadrons from Spangdahlem Air Base in Germany and RAF Lakenheath in England.

                                                                In a Jan. 14 op-ed for the Washington Post, Wesley Clark — the retired four-star Army general who served as NATO’s supreme allied commander from 1997 to 2000 — suggested that U.S. and NATO air forces even needed to further increase their reactions to the conflict.

                                                                Clark recommended dispatching NATO air assets to Romania, Bulgaria and Poland as a precaution, in addition to Eurofighters and foreign F-15 and F-16 fighter jet models already policing NATO airspace. — ideally to deter Russian military planes. He added that further air power would “reassure these allies and contain any spillover of Russian military action” that may spillover into NATO territory.

                                                                “The time for this is now, before any action begins, rather than rushing forward in the face of Russian action, when the risks of accidental hostile encounters would be much higher,” he said.

                                                                Clark’s warning may now serve as a direct call to action, however, as Russian troops, referred to by Russian President Vladimir Putin as “peacekeepers,” have since entered separatist regions of eastern Ukraine following the Kremlin’s recognition of the areas as independent, despite international condemnation for the move.


                                                                • #46
                                                                  French Air Force No. 2 pushing for greater Rafale-JSF interoperability

                                                                  Lt. Gen. Frédéric Parisot, number two in the French Air and Space Force (FASF), talked with Breaking Defense about his priorities for the future.

                                                                  By MURIELLE DELAPORTE

                                                                  on March 02, 2022 at 12:55 PM

                                                                  A Dassault Rafale and a US Air Force F-35A fly in formation May 18, 2021 over France. (U.S. Air Force/Alexander Cook)

                                                                  WASHINGTON: Every eighteen months US and French Air Force senior military authorities meet to discuss operations and long term requirements in a framework known as “operator engagement talks.” These discussions are generally meant, according to the official USAF description, to “share air, space, and cyberspace lessons-learned to improve interoperability and integration,” as well as “strengthen and expand alliances and partnerships.”

                                                                  On February 19th, Breaking Defense sat down with Lt. Gen. Frédéric Parisot, number two in the French Air and Space Force (FASF), as he was ending his three-day visit in the United States in that capacity.

                                                                  A Mirage 2000C pilot with more than 3000 flight hours and about 80 combat missions, Parisot — call sign “Zo” — is used to working closely with his American counterparts, as he was the very first French officer to be embedded in the Pentagon when he became liaison officer to the Chief of Staff of the USAF Strategic Studies Group “Checkmate” from 2008 to 2010.

                                                                  That means that when he expresses concern about interoperability between the two services, it comes from experience. And that is exactly the issue he raised when talking about the F-35 and the challenge of integrating the fifth-generation fighter with French networks.

                                                                  “We would like to be able to operate in the same integrated way we did in 2018 during the raid against Syrian chemical capabilities,” he said. “I am not certain it is the case right now, as there are more and more F-35 squadrons within NATO and our interoperability between F-35s and Rafales is still a work in progress.”

                                                                  “It is inconceivable to have a two-speed alliance separating F-35 fleets from the others and this issue of interoperability has been one of our priorities during this visit,” he explained.

                                                                  Of course, the F-35 and Rafale have gone head-to-head in a number of global competitions, something Parisot acknowledged is a natural difference of agenda between operators and those focused on economic competition. “F-35s and Rafales are ending up competing for the same export markets and this can sometimes constitute a break in the way the US and French Air Forces would like to conduct joint operations,” he said.

                                                                  Thankfully the light at the end of the tunnel seems now visible as the two sides are discussing a compromise that may bring to life a mutually-viable technical solution.

                                                                  A Link16 user like most of its allies within NATO, France has been for the past three years a strong proponent of developing a European standard for a new military tactical data link network fully interoperable with the US. This network would naturally be different from the MADL (Multifunction Advanced Data Link) currently used by the F-35, as the focus in French procurement has been to enhance sovereign standards.

                                                                  Last December Thales was awarded a procurement contract for the integration and support of SatCom aeronautic stations known as Mélissa, for “Marché d’élaboration d’intégration et de soutien des stations satcom aéronautiques.” The goal is to allow the FASF air assets to communicate and exchange data via a protected and hardened (against high intensity threat) link using the military constellation Syracuse IV. By 2025, these stations will be integrated to the MRTT tanker enhancing its role as the key C2 nod for FCAS (Future Combat Air System).

                                                                  As a result, the French network Parisot refers to would be another card to plug into the F-35 Communications, Navigation and Identification systems (CNI), and not require major modifications to the F-35’s internal systems. This system allows data fusion and communication (including Blue Tracking) through software-defined radio technology, therefore enhancing the level of integration among wingmen, no matter which air asset they fly.

                                                                  “The idea is to develop an open architecture allowing to move forward and to upgrade the systems as needed without IP issues,” Parisot said. “Both our Air Forces are currently under tremendous operational pressure, and we have been able to make considerable progress, thanks to the support and open mind of our American counterparts, in particular Gen. Jeffrey Harrigian,” the commander of US Air Forces – Europe. That Parisot felt comfortable enough to bring this topic up, and specifically mention Harrigian as supporting it, seems a sign that discussions are well underway.

                                                                  Another major bilateral breakthrough happened last May during Atlantic Trident, a trilateral exercise between the USAF, the RAF and the FASF which has taken place every year since 2015 in order to train for high-end air combat. For the first time, that exercise took place in France, at the FAB 118 in Mont de Marsan, and it was the very first time USAF F35s flew in France and along the side of French Rafales.

                                                                  “British F-35Bs also flew from the HMS Queen Elisabeth and we were able to succeed in some missions, while identifying where progress was very much needed. This is what we are trying to work out through our exchanges and future exercises,” Parisot said. The next Atlantic Trident is indeed planned in the UK in 2023.

                                                                  What follows is a condensed and translated Q&A focused on the French Air and Space Force’s main objective: recovering strategic air superiority within the next ten to fifteen years.

                                                                  Speaking of exercises, how does AUKUS impact the air component of the French IndoPac strategy?

                                                                  The Heifara-Wakea exercise we conducted last summer in the Pacific put a lot of stress on our aviators (with the longest flight ever performed on a Rafale, i.e. twelve hours), but we did learn a lot, especially as we were able to fly with PACAF’s F-22s in that part of the world.

                                                                  This week’s meeting reinforced our common will to keep such exercises going every year, starting this summer where a similar air raid is already planned from the French metropole to New Caledonia, a collectivity of overseas France in the southwest Pacific Ocean. This time the exercise will include six Rafales instead of three. Our goal is to deploy the year after up to twenty Rafales and ten MRTT tankers, which basically represents an aircraft carrier.

                                                                  The strategic objective is to send a clear message to our potential adversaries, such as China, demonstrating our ability to deploy substantial means within a 20,000 kilometer range in 48 hours. A show of force which demonstrates not only the variety of missions the FASF can conduct, but also its ability to reinforce a coalition wherever it may be in a very short time.

                                                                  In addition such exercises allow the French Air and Space Force to reinforce its partnerships with Rafale end-users along the way: the “Rafale pearl necklace” which is being built with Indonesia being the very last addition to Egypt, Qatar, India, UAE, Greece and Croatia.

                                                                  Is such a show of force part of the high spectrum training necessary today?

                                                                  Indeed the ability to conduct such long-range raids does position the French Air and Space Force as a serious player in the high intensity realm in terms of credibility and deterrence.

                                                                  We all enjoyed a certain strategic comfort in terms of air dominance in the past thirty years and we know these days are over. France however never lost its first entry capability as its strategic air forces (FAS for “Forces aériennes stratégiques”) never stopped training. Such exercises are today more publicized for deterrence purpose (e.g. regular Poker exercises, as well as, earlier this month, the Shikra mission which mixed strategic nuclear air forces and high intensity conflict scenarii in La Réunion and Djibouti).

                                                                  The FAS capabilities have been actually shining throughout and uplifting our entire Air and Space Force in terms of know how. As an example, a very large percentage of the FAS crews have flown their fighters for more than ten hours, one of the criteria for high intensity warfare.

                                                                  Being a FAS “job,” high intensity has therefore been remaining in the FASF DNA as much as — if not more than — counter-terrorism. We also train a lot with our last generation Meteor missile which does transform air combat and was actually part of the Heifara-Wakea exercise.

                                                                  Besides the show of force, we are also currently focusing on reinforcing our special forces component and we are working closely with Airbus to develop a Special Force standard for the A400M as our traditional C160 Transall is retiring in a few weeks after sixty years of loyal services. The ability for the A400M to refuel helicopters should also be certified this year, which will provide an interesting operational capability for the Special forces.

                                                                  Among our weak points, we need however to fine tune our tactics in a peer-to-peer environment by investing more in our simulation capabilities, including a mix of live and virtual exercises.

                                                                  And of course, we need to take into consideration our ability to sustain the fight by enhancing our ammunition and missiles stocks to limit attrition.

                                                                  Our conversations this week once again stressed the convergence between our two Air Forces in terms of concepts and procurement priorities. Even though the FASF cannot obviously compare to the USAF in terms of its size and volume, we do envision high intensity training in a similar manner whether talking about what simulation or AI can bring to the party, or about the future missions of our respective NGAD and NGWS/NGF programs.

                                                                  France is technologically behind the United States in some areas such as Joint All Domain Command and Control capabilities (JADC2), but the vision for needed specs is the same and the determination to close the gap is genuine.

                                                                  The French armed forces are working very hard on joint connectivity between the French Air and space Force, the French Navy and the French Army through a program called “Contact.” The French Air and Space Force is planning to reach a first milestone by 2025 to connect its air assets — Rafales, MRTTs, A400Ms, but also the future Euromales — via a network called “Connect Aero.”

                                                                  Space has been officially added to the French Air Force since September 2020 and our newly created Toulouse-based Space Command (CDE for “Commandement de l’espace”) – which is also the new NATO Center of Excellence for Space – is very similar to the US Space Command. We do share data in order to enhance our common Space Situational Awareness (SSA) and we have been developing new capabilities with good quality captors such as Syracuse IV (SatCom) and CERES (ELINT) allowing us to bring more data to the party bilaterally and through NATO, as we do right now for instance as the Ukraine crisis keeps intensifying.

                                                                  As far as the Ukraine events are concerned, such SA and data-sharing capability comes in addition to the flights we do on a regular basis above Romania and the Black Sea with our AWACS, our Gabriel C160 SIGINT [Editor’s note: it is to be phased out this year and soon to be replaced by the Archange Falcon 8X], as well as our Mirage 2000D equipped with ASTAC pods.

                                                                  The French Air and Space Force also traditionally participates in the NATO Baltic Air policing mission since 2014 and its next rotation will run from April to July in Latvia and will involve four Mirage 2000-5.

                                                                  In order to reach air superiority within the next decade, what are the challenges facing the FASF as far as procurement goes?

                                                                  The good news is that the current program law has been respected and our fleet is in the process of being renewed: KC135s with MRTTs, C160s with A400Ms, Mirage 2000s with Rafales…

                                                                  The bad news is that our fleet is being renewed… all at once and with a high operational tempo. Such a critical phase creates a vulnerability as it requires a huge optimization of the technical potential, new infrastructure and new types of training. For instance as our Mirage 2000s will retire this summer from Orange AB, we need to train more pilots directly on Rafale, which fleet will only start surging in 2024.

                                                                  If we were very happy to export Rafales, we technically “lost” 24 aircrafts since some of these exports were pulled out from our own fleet, i.e. 1/4th of our own force, which means less technical potential, which means less flight hours. We are indeed struggling in keeping the NATO required levels with only in average 160 flight hours for fighters, 200 for transport and about 160 for helicopters.

                                                                  It is therefore absolutely crucial for the FASF that the program law is implemented as planned after the elections when a 3 billion euros increase should occur each year between 2023 and 2025. Otherwise we shall be faced with painful choices at a time of increased threats.


                                                                  • unicorn11
                                                                    unicorn11 commented
                                                                    Editing a comment
                                                                    “It is inconceivable to have a two-speed alliance separating F-35 fleets from the others"

                                                                    I don't think that word means what you think it means

                                                                    He'd better get used to it, that's the reality going forward.

                                                                    I also noticed he was asked about AUKUS but didn't answer.
                                                                    Last edited by unicorn11; 15-03-22, 08:21 AM.

                                                                • #47
                                                                  Around-the-clock NATO air patrols fly to keep Russia at bay

                                                                  By Rachel S. Cohen

                                                                  Saturday, Mar 5

                                                                  Two Russian Sukhoi Su-27s and two Su-24s violated Sweden's airspace on March 2, 2022, the Swedish Air Force said. The Swedes sent Gripen jets to escort them away in a brief interaction. (Swedish Air Force)NATO has nearly doubled the number of military jets on alert across Europe amid concerns that Russia’s reckless flying in international airspace could escalate alongside its war in Ukraine.

                                                                  The alliance’s move to constantly guard its eastern edge highlights how rapidly the security situation has evolved in and out of Ukraine over the past 10 days, as well as the stakes of NATO’s biggest test since its founding in 1949.

                                                                  More than 60 NATO planes are on “high alert” at all times to await possible airspace violations, the alliance said in December. That’s grown to more than 100 combat aircraft now rotating through the sky in shifts.

                                                                  A force of myriad fighter aircraft — like American F-15s, F-16s and F-35s, plus NATO Eurofighters — has shifted in the past week from dispatching jets as needed to escort uncooperative Russian pilots, to “actively defending allied airspace,” NATO’s Allied Air Command spokesperson Jonathan Bailey said Friday.

                                                                  “There have been scrambles in response to Russian air activity in international airspace where they are not complying with air safety regulations,” Bailey told Air Force Times. “We are maintaining 24/7 patrols in the skies along our eastern borders.”

                                                                  Two Russian Sukhoi Su-27s and two Su-24s violated Sweden's airspace on March 2, 2022, the Swedish Air Force said. The Swedes sent Gripen jets to escort them away in a brief interaction. (Swedish Air Force)

                                                                  Air policing planes identify and address renegade aircraft, such as when allied pilots intercept Russian military jets that veer near their airspace or if a civilian plane is unresponsive or hijacked. They’re not allowed to fire unless fired upon when flying over a foreign country; most interdictions take place without incident and do not enter allied airspace.

                                                                  “Russian military aircraft often do not transmit a transponder code indicating their position and altitude, do not file a flight plan or do not communicate with air traffic controllers, posing a potential risk to civilian airliners,” NATO noted in 2020.

                                                                  As of Feb. 26, the third day of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, NATO air policing assets had not interacted with Russian aircraft since the war began, Allied Air Command told Air Force Times. That changed as the following seven days unfolded.

                                                                  Still, Bailey noted the transatlantic alliance has notintercepted more Russians than usual in recent months. He did not say how many, how often or where those incidents are happening.

                                                                  Russian pilots aren’t limiting their bad behavior to NATO nations.Four Russian fighters entered Swedish airspace on Wednesday, prompting the Nordic country to send up its own Gripen jets to see them out.

                                                                  Two Su-27 and two Su-24 fighters violated Swedish airspace over the sea east of Gotland, an island off Sweden’s East Coast, the country’s Air Force said the same day. The event was “brief” and under control, the service said.

                                                                  “With the current situation as backdrop, we take this incident very seriously. Russia’s conduct is unprofessional and irresponsible,” Swedish Air Force boss Maj. Gen. Carl-Johan Edström said in a release.

                                                                  Like Ukraine, Sweden likely would not benefit from direct military assistance from the U.S. and much of Europe if Russia escalates matters. It has not formally joined NATO,preferring instead to maintain official neutrality.

                                                                  Fending off Russian aggression in the air has taken on a darker tone than usual for NATO and its neighbors as Ukraine burns next door.

                                                                  “NATO fighter jets scrambled around 370 times across Europe in 2021, mostly to check aircraft flying unannounced near allied air pace,” the alliance said in a Dec. 28 press release. “Around 80 percent of the missions, 290 in total, were in response to flights by Russian military aircraft.”

                                                                  Most of those instances occurred in the Baltics, over Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, where the alliance has flown air policing missions since 2004, NATO said. One intercept can involve any number of aircraft.

                                                                  That level of air policing operations was lower than in 2020 but generally on par with recent years. NATO forces scrambled more than 400 times in 2020, including about 350 in response to Russian flights — a “moderate increase” from 2019, the alliance said.

                                                                  “NATO is vigilant, and we will always do what it takes to protect and defend all allies,” spokesperson Oana Lungescu said in December.


                                                                  • #48
                                                                    Take this with a grain of salt...

                                                                    Germany to buy fighter jets

                                                                    AGENCY WRITERS
                                                                    Germany plans to buy up to 35 F-35 fighter jets made by US firm Lockheed Martin and 15 Eurofighter jets, a parliamentary source says, as part of a major push to modernise the armed forces in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

                                                                    The F-35 purchase would replace Germany’s decades-old Tornado fleet, the only jets capable of carrying US nuclear bombs, according to media reports confirmed by the source.
                                                                    It is by will alone I set my mind in motion.
                                                                    It is by the juice of sapho that thoughts acquire speed, the lips acquire stains, the stains become a warning.
                                                                    It is by will alone I set my mind in motion.


                                                                    • #49

                                                                      File photo of an Italian Air Force F-35A. (Image credit: Author)

                                                                      New confirmations that Berlin has chosen the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning to replace the Tornado.

                                                                      “Germany will purchase F-35 fighter jets built by U.S. firm Lockheed Martin to replace its ageing Tornado aircraft, according to two government sources, with one of the sources saying Berlin aims to buy up to 35 of the stealth jets,” says a Reuters report dated Mar. 14, 2022. This appears to be yet another step towards a procurement of the 5th generation aircraft, after a series of rumours started circulating at the beginning of January that the F-35 option was “back on the table” (after being discarded in 2019) and another Reuters report, dating back to early February, according to which “Germany was leaning toward purchasing the F-35 but a final decision had not been taken.”

                                                                      Once again, the reports have not found an official confirmation yet, although an announcement could come soon.

                                                                      As already explained, both the Tornado IDS (Interdiction and Strike) and ECR (Electronic Reconnaissance) fleets are approaching the end of their service life. Moreover, as a consequence of the age of the airframes, the German Air Force is facing a continuous increase in the maintenance costs as well as availability issues.

                                                                      Several options have been considered in the last years to find a replacement for both the IDS and ECR. Although the latest reviewed plan is still not clear, it seems likely that the F-35s will be used to cover the tasks currently assigned to the Tornado IDS, including the nuclear strike role, while a number of Eurofighter ECR, an Electronic Combat Reconnaissance (ECR)/Suppression of Enemy Air Defences (SEAD) version of the Eurofighter Typhoon that was first announced by Airbus back in 2019, slated to replace the Tornado ECRs and cover also the IuWES [Luftgestützte Wirkung im Elektromagnetischen Spektrum (luWES)] Electronic Attack requirement Germany has committed to provide to NATO.

                                                                      Worth of remark is the fact that, unlike Italy, the only other operator of the SEAD variant of the “Tonka” and a Eurofighter Typhoon operator too, it looks like Germany plans to replace its Tornado ECRs with a brand new Eurofighter variant rather than considering the F-35 for the same role. In fact, the Italian Air Force considers the Lightning II stealth aircraft an “omnirole” aircraft and, as such, the service plans to replace its ECRs, flying with the 155th Gruppo (Squadron) at Ghedi Air Base, with the F-35.

                                                                      Anyway, based on the information released when the concept was announced about three years ago, the new Eurofighter ECR should be based on a two-seat Typhoon equipped with two Escort Jammer Pods complemented by two Emitter Locator Systems installed into the wingtips, two/three 1000 liters fuel tanks and MBDA SPEAR-EW or AGM-88B HARM/AGM-88E AARGM missiles in addition to the standard air-to-air loadout of four Meteor and two IRIS-T. When the Eurofighter ECR will eventually be available remains to be seen, so as the eventual interest in the new specialized EA variant of other partner nations.


                                                                      • unicorn11
                                                                        unicorn11 commented
                                                                        Editing a comment
                                                                        So they are going to spend an absolutely huge amount of money to build a sub-standard Growler? Genius there guys, pure genius.

                                                                      • ARHmk3
                                                                        ARHmk3 commented
                                                                        Editing a comment
                                                                        I was expecting a larger order in light of their defence budget increase. This will cover their nuclear strike requirement, I suspect there will be follow on orders in the next few years though.

                                                                        The French are going to be pleased with this one!

                                                                    • #50
                                                                      Germany to buy F-35 warplanes for nuclear deterrence

                                                                      By Sebastian Sprenger

                                                                      Mar 15, 03:20 AM

                                                                      An F-35 is pictured on the tarmac during the 2018 Berlin Air Show. After initially ruling out the jet, leaders in Germany announced plans in March 2022 to buy up to 35 of the planes. (Lockheed Martin)

                                                                      WASHINGTON – Germany will buy up to 35 copies of the U.S.-made F-35 fighter jet, reversing years-long plans that saw the fifth-generation warplane eliminated from consideration, defense leaders announced Monday.

                                                                      The planes will take over by 2030 the niche, but crucial, nuclear-weapons mission from the aging fleet of Tornado aircraft, Defense Minister Christine Lambrecht said during a joint statement with Air Force Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Ingo Gerhartz in Berlin.

                                                                      The decision means Germany will continue to provide suitable aircraft for carrying U.S. nuclear weapons stored in the country into a hypothetical atomic battle, as prescribed under NATO doctrine. Previously, officials were planning to buy new versions of the the F-18 for that role plus the job of electronic attack and suppressing enemy air defenses.

                                                                      The Tornado-replacement decision, talk of which has amounted to a parlor game in Berlin policy circles for more than a decade, removes the Super Hornet from the table altogether, instead positioning a modernized Eurofighter aircraft as the weapon of choice for electronic combat. That line of thinking is sure to please manufacturer Airbus, which had all along proposed its plane as a kind of sandbox platform leading to the French-German-Spanish Future Combat Air System by 2040.

                                                                      The decision in favor of the F-35 comes in the context of Germany’s defense strategy adjustment following Russia’s assault on Ukraine. Berlin’s new spending and modernization plans prize off-the-shelf systems that can quickly plug readiness holes in the armed forces.

                                                                      “There is only one response to [Russian President Vladimir] Putin’s aggression: unity within NATO and a credible deterrent,” Gerhartz said. “That’s why there is no alternative to the decision in favor of the F-35.”

                                                                      Gerhartz and Lambrecht touted cooperation opportunities surrounding the Lockheed Martin-made plane, which other European nations have already bought or plan to buy. Most recently, Switzerland and Finland picked the stealthy aircraft to replace legacy warplane fleets. The U.K., the Netherlands, Belgium, Italy, Denmark and Norway also are among the customers on the continent.

                                                                      Meanwhile, Germany remains committed to the FCAS program, according to a German Defense Ministry statement. Lambrecht said she had told her French counterpart, Florence Parly, about the F-35 decision during at March 9 visit to Evreux Air Base in northern France, where the two countries are operating a joint air-transportation unit built around C-130J aircraft.

                                                                      A spokesperson at the French Ministry of Defence was not immediately available for comment.

                                                                      The FCAS program is at a critical juncture, as key contractors Dassault and Airbus Defence and Space are unable to reach an agreement covering workshare and intellectual property rights for the futuristic program’s central fighter jet.

                                                                      Earlier this month, Dassault CEO Eric Trappier spoke dismissively about the prospect of Germany buying the F-35, suggesting Berlin was being pressured by the United States into buying the jet for the nuclear mission while paying lip service to the mantra of buying European.

                                                                      With Dassault’s order books filled for its cash cow product, the Rafale plane, the company may have little incentive to compromise on its leadership claims for the next-generation fighter, German analysts have said. Unless, that is, French President Emmanuel Macron intervenes in the spirit of saving the program.