Category Archives: Fighters

Romania receives first F-16s

Romania took delivery of its very first F-16 fighter jets on Wednesday 28 September. Six aircraft switched ownership at Monte Real airbase in Portugal, transfering from the Portuguese Air Force to the Romanian Air Force. Some of these jets are actually third hand aircraft now, having served in the US Air Force earlier.

The aircraft will fly to Romania on Thursday, where they will be based at Fetesti airbase. Romania ordered the F-16s from surplus inventory in Portugal back in 2013, buying twelve in total. The remaining six jets will be delivered in 2017 at the latest.

The F-16s replace age old MiG-21s that are well past their retirement age.

romaniaf16_3

romaniaf16_1

 

First Japanese F-35 rolled out is amongst grounded jets

The first pictures leaked out several weeks ago  and the aircraft already took to the skies since, but Friday 23 September saw the official roll out ceremony for the very first Lockheed Martin F-35A Lightning II for the Japan Air Self Defense Force (JASDF).

The unveiled aircraft is one of four to be built by Lockheed Martin in Fort Worth, Texas. The remaining 38 JASDF Lightnings will be build in a brand new Final Assembly and Check-Out  (FACO) in Nagoya, Japan. Assembly of the first aircraft at this location is very much underway.

Irronically, the jet rolled out on Friday is amongst those suffering from a recently found problem, causing insulation to disolve in the aircraft’s fuel tanks. Dozens of F-35s have been grounded over this.

The introduction of the stealthy jet will mean the beginning of the end for the F-4 Phantom in Japanese service. The remaining F-4 fighters and RF-4 recconaissance jets are now centred at Hyakuri airbase, close to Tokyo. The F-35 will operate in the JASDF alongside Boeing F-15 Eagles and Mitsubishi F-2 jets, all produced locally.

The first Japanese jet, seen during its first flight in the US. (Image © Elmer van Hest)
The first Japanese jet, seen during its first flight in the US. (Image © Elmer van Hest)

The Japanese are known to paint jets in spectacular colors every now and then, but not so with this new F-35.  Even the traditional red Japanese markings have been subdued to grey.  Earlier this year, the Israelis – while not afraid to adorn their F-15s and F-16s with nice paint jobs – also refrained so from doing this with the F-35.

It begs the question: which air force will be the first to do some nice color blocking on an F-35?

© 2016 Airheadsfly.com editor Elmer van Hest

 

India finally signs up for 36 Rafales

France and India on Friday 23 September signed a contract finalizing the acquisition by India of 36 Rafales, compromising 28 single seat and 8 two seater aircraft. The contract ends a proces that has caused headaches in both countries for years, but especially since Indian Prime Minister, Mr Narendra Modi, in April 2015 said his country would purchase the Rafale.

Actually, India chose the Rafale three years before, when in 2012 the French jet came out winning a competition with other fighter jets that already started in 2007.  According to Dassault, the new contract ‘demonstrates the strategic relationship and the exemplary partnership between the two countries, and marks the natural culmination of a relationship of trust born in 1953 when India became the first export customer of Dassault Aviation’.

But trust seemed hard to find over the last few years, when fact and fiction about the pending deal became very hard to distinguish from each other. At times, negotiations seemed to be fought out in the media, rather than over the negotiation table. Price, technology transfer and difficulties over license production in India were at the hard of tough talks.

In the midst of this, India saw delivery of newly updated Dassault Mirage 2000s. In the Indian Air Force, the new Rafales will mainly update next to Sukhoi Su-30 Flankers.

The Rafale entered service with the French Navy in 2004 and the French Air Force in 2006. It was proven in combat in Afghanistan, Libya, Mali, Iraq and Syria. In 2015 and seemingly putting pressure on India, Dassault managed to sell Rafale to Egypt and Qatar for 24 Rafale each. In mid 2016, 152 Rafale were delivered.

© 2016 Airheadsfly.com editor Elmer van Hest

Could it be? Indian cabinet clears Rafale deal

Could it really, really be true after all? Several sources have just confirmed that the Indian cabinet has agreed to the purchade of 36 Dassault Rafales in an 8.8 billion USD deal with France. A contract is said to be signed on Friday in New Delhi, which would concluded one of the most ridicilously long negotiations in defense history ever.

What really is true, is that a deal was said to have been closed several times before. What is also true, is that India has been eyeing the Rafale for much longer than Qatar and Egypt ever have, while the latter two ordered their Rafales last year. Dassault probably gave them a nice discount to lure India in further.

India was once in the market for up to 126 Rafales, but that option was deed to costly. Also, India wanted to produce the aircraft mostly in-country while France was hesitant the transfer the required technology. New Delhi meanwhile studied the Su-30 Flanker, F-18 Hornet, Saab Gripen and Lockheed Martin F-16 also.

It should be interesting to see how the final contract turns out. If there is such a contract, of course.

© 2016 Airheadsfly.com editor Elmer van Hest

 

 

Norway spills the beans: dozens of F-35s affected by bad wiring

Faulty wiring has caused 15 Lockheed Martin F-35A’s to be grounded in the US, while 42 aircraft currently in production in Fort Worth are affected by the same problem. The news was  made public solely by the Royal Norwegian Air Force, which saw two of its four F-35s stationed at Luke Air Force Base in Arizona, affected by the problem.

The state-of-the-art and highly expensive F-35 uses its fuel tanks as part of its on-board cooling system. Several cooling lines have been installed inside the tanks to allow cooling liquid for the aircraft’s avionics and other systems to pass through. The lines are covered in insulating materials that in some cases have been found to decompose, leaving residue in the fuel.

The issue first came to light during inspection of a US aircraft at Luke, following which 14 more F-35s were found to be affected by the same problem. Among those are two jets that Norway received from Lockheed Martin earlier in 2016, leading to a decision by Norwegian authorities to temporarily suspend flight operations with these aircraft pending corrective measures.

According to the Norwegians the problem is not a design flaw, but instead is caused by a supplier using improper materials and improper sealing techniques for these specific parts. “I expect Lockheed Martin to identify the appropriate measures to correct this issue, and that they implement these as quickly as possible, says Major General Morten Klever, the director of the Norwegian F-35 Program Office.”

Lockheed Martin appears to have no choice, since an additional 42 jets currently on the production line have received parts from the same provider, including three Norwegian aircraft scheduled for delivery early next year.

Norway plans to procure up to 52 F-35A, and has so far received four aircraft. Beginning in 2017, Norway plans to receive six aircraft annually, and the F-35 will begin taking over missions from the current F-16-fleet in 2019. As of September 2016 more than 200 F-35s have been delivered, including test aircraft, which have completed more than 68 000 flight hours, including roughly four hundred hours with Norwegian F-35s.

© 2016 Airheadsfly.com editor Elmer van Hest