Boeing drops out of the Belgian race

Boeing has dropped out of the race to replace the F-16 in Belgian service. The aircaft manufacturer, which offered its F/A-18 Sper Hornet, claims the competition is unfair and the playing field ‘not even’. The move comes as nu surprise, since the odds in Belgium seem very much in favour of the Lockheed Martin F-35.

The Belgian government in Brussels has put aside 3.5 billion EUR to replace 54 F-16 with a total of 34 new jets. The first new fighter jet should enter service in 2023.

Still in competition are the Lockheed Martin F-35, Dassault Rafale, Saab Gripen and Eurofighter Typhoon.  A final decision is expected in 2018.

Belgium will use the F-16 until 2028. Of the original European Participating Air Forces (EPAF) in the seventies, Belgium will use the F-16 the longest. The other participating countries – the Netherlands, Norway and Denmark – all already selected the F-35 as their F-16 replacement. Norway is expected to loose its F-16 by 2021, with the Netherlands following in 2023. Denmark should not be far behind.

F-35 dragchute tests start at Edwards

At Edwards Air Force Base in California, tests of the F-35A dragchute system have started, according to the Norwegian Ministry of Defense. Both Norway and the Netherlands have ordered the system, which helps slowing down on runways in bad weather, icy conditions or emergencies,  to be installed on their F-35s.

Norwegian F-35 pilot: ‘We are on track.’ (Image © Forsvaret)

The tests are performed with F-35 test aircraft AF-02, which is specially instrumented for this purpose. The tests at Edwards are designed to see how the jet behaves in the air with a fitted parachute fairing. The fairing is made of composite and metal materials and is mounted on the F-35’s aft fuselage. It houses the dragchute, which is deployed after landing if needed.

At Edwards, the actual chute will be tested on a  dry and wet runway. A second test phase is planned in 2018 at Eielson Air Force Base in Alaska, where tests will be conducted in winter conditions similar to Norway. Tests have already been performed in simulators.

Brake monitor

Norwegian jets will also feature a brake monitor in the cockpit, which will provide pilots with information on braking action on the runway. In November 2017, the first Norwegian F-35s will arrive in-country, and they are to be fitted with this integrated brake monitor. The testing of the brake monitor will however continue until spring 2018.

Norway eyes 52 F-35s, while the Netherlands is looking for 37 jets. According to Norwegian MoD, the dragchute system and brake monitor are also avaliable to other countries.

© 2017 Airheadsfly.com editor Elmer van Hest
Featured image: An impression of the drag chute pod on top of the F-35 fuselage. (Image © Lockheed Martin)

US Air Force F-35s head to Europe

UPDATED 15 April | The US Department of Defense on Friday announced it is sending a small number of US Air Force F-35s to Europe ‘as part of a long-planned training deployment’. The jets are to arrive this weekend and will most likely head to Lakenheath airbase in the UK, with Spangdahlem airbase in Germany as a secondary option.

Update 15 april | Six F-35s arrived at Lakenheath in the UK
at 1:45 pm local time, supported by two KC-135 tankers. Video of their arrival is below.

The F-35s – indications are eight jets are involved – will be part of the US Air Force’s 388th Fighter Wing at Hill Air Force Base, Utah. In August 2016, the wing was the first to reach Initial Operational Capability (IOC) on the new jet. A deployment to Europe was mentioned on several occasions before, but the Pentagon never said when this would actually happen.

Lakenheath in the UK seems a likely destination, since the F-35 is to be based here also in the future.

US Air Forces in Europe and US European Command have said they will release additional information once the 5th generation fighter jets arrive in Europe,

The deployment marks the second time this year the US is sending its latest generation fighter jet abroad. United States Marine Corps (USMC) F-35Bs deployed to Iwakuni in Japan earlier this year.

© 2017 Airheadsfly.com editor Elmer van Hest
Featured image: One of the F-35s is caught here while arriving at Lakenheath airbase on 15 April. (U.S. Air Force photo/Master Sgt. Eric Burks)

Service life of US F-16s extended to 12,000 hours

The US Air Force has authorized extending the service life of the Lockheed Martin F-16’s designed service life to 12,000 Equivalent Flight Hours — far beyond the aircraft’s original design service life of 8,000 hours.

Following F-16 Service Life Extension Program (SLEP) structural modifications, the US Air Force potentially could safely operate Block 40-52 aircraft to 2048 and beyond. The Air Force and Lockheed Martin also reduced projected service life costs for the Block 40-52 fleet, paving the way for safe, cost-effective F-16 flight operations for the next decades.

“This accomplishment is the result of more than seven years of test, development, design and analysis,” said Susan Ouzts, vice president of Lockheed Martin’s F-16 program. “Combined with F-16 avionics modernization programs like the F-16V, SLEP modifications demonstrate that the Fighting Falcon remains a highly capable and affordable 4th Generation option for the US Air Force and international F-16 customers.”

Validation of the extended flight hour limit directly supports the SLEP goal of extending the service life of up to 300 F-16C/D Block 40-52 aircraft. SLEP and related avionics upgrades to the US F-16C/D fleet can safely and effectively augment the current fighter force structure as US and allied combat air fleets recapitalize with F-35 Lightning IIs.

A second phase, or Part II, of the F-16 SLEP airworthiness process continues with the request for Military Type Certificate (MTC), which will be submitted to the Air Force’s Technical Airworthiness Authority in the coming months. Part II seeks to validate further extending the F-16’s operational life based on final service life analysis from extended durability testing.

500th Eurofighter Typhoon delivered

Fourteen years after the delivery of the very first Eurofighter Typhoon, the 500th aircraft was delivered on Tuesday 11 April. At Leonardo’s Turin facility, the Italian Air Force took delivery of the Typhoon in question.

The ceremony was witnessed by several authorities, with officials from Kuwait also among those present. Kuwait in 2016 ordered 28 Typhoons in a bilateral contract with Italy. The ceremony in Turin saw the presentation of very first part for the very first jet for Kuwait. The country will soon join the UK, Germany, Spain, Italy, Austria and Saudi Arabia as a Typhoon operator.

In Turin, Chief Executive Officer of Eurofighter Jagdflugzeug GmbH Volker Paltzo said: “The 500 strong Eurofighter Typhoon fleet represents one of the largest and most capable fighter fleets in the western hemisphere, and will be the backbone of European airpower for decades to come. Today’s handover is a great testament to the programme’s success, and I firmly expect to see the fleet grow further as our partner companies continue to pursue opportunities for more orders internationally.”

Filippo Bagnato, Leonardo Aircraft Division Managing Director, said: “We are very proud to deliver the 500th Eurofighter Typhoon produced to the Italian Air Force. The Eurofighter Typhoon is the largest collaborative industrial program in Europe, it is a successful and significant contributor to the nation’s economic wellbeing, employing high-skilled workers and generating thousands of high-value manufacturing and engineering jobs. We are now fully committed to completing deliveries to the Italian Air Force, to develop the capabilities of the aircraft, and to the activities envisaged by Kuwait’s contract, while continuing to pursue a number of significant market opportunities around the world.”

The first Eurofighter was delivered to the UK at the end of 2003. The 100th Eurofighter was delivered to the UK Royal Air Force in September 2006. The 200th aircraft was handed over to the German Air Force in November 2009. The 300th aircraft was delivered to the Spanish Air Force in October 2011, and the 400th to the German Air Force in December 2013.

The Typhoon has since been deployed on multiple occasions on air policing duties with the Spanish, German, Italian and UK air forces and has seen combat during operations in Libya, Iraq and Syria.