All posts by AIRheads/EH

‘Dutch F-16 pilots not ready for all tasks’

The Royal Netherlands Air Force (RNLAF) is currently not able to fulfill all of its tasks, especially when it comes to operations with its  F-16 fighter jets. According to Tom Middendorp, commander of all Dutch armed forces, RNLAF pilots especially need additional training to sharpen their air-to-air skills.

Years and years of flying air support missions over Afghanistan and most recently, Iraq and Syria, have caused RNLAF pilots to loose certain skills that may be required again in light of increased Russian interest and involvement in Europe.

Dutch pilots need to become well trained again in all areas of air combat, including intercepts of other aircraft and actual air-to-air engagements, says Middendorp. The RNLAF earlier stated it needed time to perform maintenance on its tired F-16 fleet, plus additional training for its crews.

Extra training is currenty being undertaken in the US. In February, Airheadsfly.com will report on RNLAF participation in large scale military flying exercise Red Flag at Nellis Air Force Base near Las Vegas.

Dutch F-16s are currently also deployed to Lithuania as part of NATO’s Baltic Air Policing Mission. From Šiauliai airbase, Dutch pilots now get to intercept actual Russian aircraft operating near the Baltic states.

Not other operational RNLAF F-16 deployments are foreseen for the near future, giving more time for extra training. Also, the Dutch are slowly but surely preparing for the arrival in 2019 of the first F-35 Lightnings in the Netherlands.

Leonardo re-enters T-X competition with T-100

In a surprise move, Italian aircraft manufacturer Leonardo on Wednesday announced it is re-entering the US Air Force T-X competition with its T-100 design. Earlier, Leonardo dropped out together with US partner company Raytheon after being ‘unable to reach a business agreement that is in the best interest of the US Air Force’. Now, the Italians put forward their US company, Leonardo DRS, as the prime contractor.

According to Leonardo, the T-100 will be a US-based program that  brings the US economic benefits through a newly established and skilled US work force, in addition to technological and industrial capabilities embedded in newly built US-based manufacturing facilities.

“Leonardo’s commitment to pursue the T-X builds on our deep experience in military pilots’ training and on the competitiveness of our T-100 integrated Training Systems that can meet the US Air Force’s current and future needs” said Leonardo CEO Mauro Moretti.

Engine

The Italians emphasize the T-100’s use of two US-produced Honeywell F124 turbofan engines in an attempt to show that US companies will benefit if the T-100 takes the prize. The T-X program also sees Lockheed Martin and Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) in competion with their T-50, plus Boeing and Saab with a newly designed jet. Both use General Electic;s F-404 turbofan.

Israeli Master

The T-100 is based on the M-346 Master jet trainer that is used by four countries to prepare pilots in next-generation fighter aircraft. Leonardo never forget to point out that the M-346 was selected by the Israeli Air Force as their next training option. The T-100 will feature the same embedded tactical training system used by the M-346. It puts student pilots in realistic but simulated mission scenarios.

Featured image: The Leonardo T-100 will be based on the M-346 Master jet trainer, seen here. (Image © Elmer van Hest)

 

Belgium to move jet training to the US

Belgium is looking to move its fast jet pilot training from France to the US, according to a statement by the chief of the Belgian Air Component. Current training takes place on the Alpha Jet in France, but since that country is replacing the Alpha Jet with the Pilatus PC-21, Belgium is looking at other options.

Starting 2019, Belgian future jet pilots will head to ENJJPT (Euro-NATO Joint Jet Pilot Training) at Sheppard Air Force Base in Texas for advanced training. The move is said to be a temporary measure, since requirements may change as a result of the Belgian quest to replace the current F-16 with 34 new fighter jets. In competition are the Dassault Rafale, Saab Gripen, Boeing F/A-18 Super Hornet, Eurofighter Typhoon and Lockheed Martin F-35.

With France exchanging the Alpha Jet for a new training platform, the days are numbered for the Alpha Jet in Belgian service too. A total of 33 jets have been in service since the late seventies.

© 2017 Airheadsfly.com editor Elmer van Hest
Featured image: Two Belgian Air Component Alpha Jets.  (Image © Dennis Spronk)

Stealthty repairs on the Raptor

Lockheed Martin recently completed repairs on  the first F-22 Raptor at the company’s Inlet Coating Repair (ICR) Speedline facility. The repair is crucial in maintaining the Raptor’s stealthy characteristics.

Periodic maintenance is required to maintain the special exterior coatings that contribute to the F-22’s Very Low Observable (VLO) radar cross-section. The increase in F-22 deployments, including ongoing operational combat missions, has increased the demand for ICR, Lockheed Martin states in a press release.

The US Air Force contracted the company to establish the Speedline in Marietta, Georgia, in August 2016. The first F-22 arrived there in early November.  A second aircraft followed in early December and a third in late January.

Lockheed Martin is on contract to perform this work on a total of 12 aircraft and a follow-on contract is anticipated. Additionally, Lockheed Martin is providing modification support services, analytical condition inspections, radar cross section turntable support and antenna calibration.

Featured image: An F-22 in Marietta. (Image © Lockheed Martin / Andrew McMurtrie)

T-X competition narrows as Northrop Grumman backs out

The offerings in the US Air Force’s T-X program are getting rather thin now that Northrop Grumman and BAE Systems have withdrawn their T-X model from the competition. Northrop Grumman announced the decision in a statement today. The move follows last week’s similar decision by Leonardo and Raytheon to withdraw the T-100.

According to the statement, ‘Northrop Grumman and its principal teammate BAE Systems have carefully examined the U.S. Air Force’s T-X Trainer requirements and acquisition strategy as stated in the final request for proposals. The companies have decided not to submit a proposal for the T-X Trainer program, as it would not be in the best interest of the companies and their shareholders.’

The announcement was expected for quite a few days already, as Northrop Grumman earlier hinted at not entering the competition.

This leaves on Lockheed Martin and Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) in competion with their T-50, plus Boeing and Saab with a newly designed jet. A decision on the winner is to be announced some time in the next few years.

The T-X program is aimed at replacing many dozens of ageing US Air Force T-38 Talon trainer aircraft. Northrop Grumman’s T-X model was first sighted at Mojave airport in California in August 2016. It performed its first flight on 24 August 2016.