A total of 335,000 flight hours spread over 474,000 sorties. Yes, the numbers are impressive for the F-16A and B version in Israel. However, these early built F-16s finally left Israeli Air Force service on Monday 26 december 2016, more than 36 years after delivery of the first jets in 1980. Their final landing was at Ouvda airbase in the southern part of Israel.
These ‘original’ F-16s were named Netz in Hebrew and made famous by their role in taking out the Osiraq nuclear reactor in Iraq on 7 June 1981, only a year or so after delivery of the first jets to Israel. By that time, an Israeli Air Force F-16 was already responsible for the very first air-to-air kill by an F-16.
Over the years, many dozens of F-16 Netz aircraft were extensively used by the Israelis and responsible for many more air-to-air victories. Nevertheless, more capable F-16C/D Barak and F-16I Sufa jets began taking over their role. The Netz was then used as a trainer aircraft, a role that also has some to end with the delivery of thirty M-346 Lavi trainer jets.
The last of these early model F-16s were flown by 115 ‘Flying Dragon squadron at Ouvda, who also used the Netz in an agressor role. Over the years, Israel already retired a substantial number of these jets.
According to Haaretz newspaper, 40 F-16s are now offered for sale. In the past, Israel already sold off substantial numbers of surplus A-4 Skyhawks. Most found a second life by being used for air combat training by civilian companies such as Draken International and Discovery Air Defence Services.
Donald Trump’s latest tweet on the F-35 will cause Lockheed Martin executives to have a not-so-merry Christmas, while the opposite will be true in the Boeing board room. After meeting top executives from both companies and being briefed on the F-35 this week, Trump on Thursday said he has asked Boeing to ‘price-out a comparable F-18 Super Hornet’.
Lockheed Martin’s stock immediately went down again, mirroring the effect of Trump’s earlier tweet about the F-35. However, the president-elect criticism probably is not pointed at the F-35 itself, but at the program’s costs. Trump has made it very clear now that he will not accept such overruns after he moves into the White House in January. At the same time, Donald Trump seems to be preparing for an arms race, even stating this week that the US should expand its nuclear capabilities.
Based on the tremendous cost and cost overruns of the Lockheed Martin F-35, I have asked Boeing to price-out a comparable F-18 Super Hornet!
Being the businessman that he is, Trump obviously wants to keep the costs of such an arms race down. He probably realizes that his country is at a disadvantage compared to Russia and China, who are able to produce weaponry against far lower costs. China for example is developing new stealthy jets at an impressive and alarming rate. In Russia, a single new Sukhoi T-50 is many millions and millions of dollars cheaper than a single new F-35. This is indeed worrying for Trump. The signs of an arms race are already there and not to be ignored.
When it comes to the Boeing F-18 Super Hornet as an alternative for the Lockheed Martin F-35 – that shouldn’t be taken too seriously. It will definitely not be as stealthy and not as capable in the domain of gathering and spreading data. Also, the F-35 is getting closer to being fully combat ready every day.
But Trump most likely is not interested in ditching the F-35 in favour of a cheaper Super Hornet. He is interested in costs, and that may serve the US well in the end.
Boeing and partner Saab on Tuesday 20 December completed the first flight of the all-new T-X aircraft,. Bot companies earlier joined efforts in an attempt to win the US Air Force’s TX competition, which is aimed at replacing hundreds of ageing T-38 Talon trainers.
During the 55-minute flight, lead T-X Test Pilot Steven Schmidt and Chief Pilot for Air Force Programs Dan Draeger, who was in the seat behind Schmidt, validated key aspects of the single-engine jet and demonstrated the performance of the design.
“I’ve been a part of this team since the beginning, and it was really exciting to be the first to train and fly,” Schmidt said. “The aircraft met all expectations. It’s well designed and offers superior handling characteristics. The cockpit is intuitive, spacious and adjustable, so everything is within easy reach.”
“It was a smooth flight and a successful test mission,” Draeger added. “I had a great all-around view throughout the flight from the instructor’s seat, which is critical during training.”
Both pilots trained for the flight using the complete Boeing T-X system, which includes ground-based training and simulation.
Boeing and Saab revealed their first two T-X aircraft in September. The second is currently in ground testing and expected to fly in early 2017.According to Boeing, with one engine, twin tails, stadium seating and an advanced cockpit with embedded training, their T-X is more affordable and flexible than older, existing aircraft.
The Italian Air Force this week was the recipient of the very first F-35 Lightning II jets to be based in Europe. The two aircaft arrived at Amendola airbase after being assembled at the F-35 Final Assembly and Check Out facility in Cameri.
The two jets are in fact the fifth and sixth for the Italian Air Force. The first four aircraft are based at Luke Air Force Base in the US for pilot training. The Italian Air Force’s 32th Wing at Amendola airbase will be the first to operate the new jet in Europe.
The UK, the Netherlands and Norway also already fly the F-35. However, all do so in the US for testing and training. The Royal Netherlands Air Force ferried two jets to Europe last May for four weeks of testing. The Norwegians will introduce the F-35 in Norway in 2017.
The delivery in Italy took place in the same week that saw the first two F-35s delivered Italy. The Israelis started flying their jets immediately after delivery.
The Italian Air Force on 13 December took delivery of the first two of a total four ATR 72MP maritime patriol aircraft to the Italian Air Force. Designated P-72A by the Italian Air Force, the aircraft will replace the Air Force’s obsolete Breguet Atlantic. The new aircraft were configured for their maritime role by Leonardo Aircraft.
The aircraft is fitted for roles including maritime patrol for the search and identification of surface vessels, SAR (search and rescue) missions, the prevention of narcotics trafficking, piracy, smuggling, territorial water security and monitoring and intervention in the event of environmental catastrophes. The aircraft will be able to fly missions lasting six and a half hours.
The ATR 72MPs will be provided with the latest communication systems, able to transmit or receive information in real time to/from command and control centres either on the ground, in the air or at-sea, to ensure coordinated and effective operations. The aircraft will also be equipped with a self-protection system, fully integrated with the ATR 7MP’s mission system and avionics.