Tag Archives: F-15

US Air National Guard considers getting rid of F-15s

The US Air National Guard is considering to retire its fleet of F-15C/D Eagle jets currently in use for air defense, and replacing them with F-16s. If this goes ahead, the F-16s would have to be upgraded with better radars and more endurance.

The announcement came as a surprise on Wednesday. The Air National Guard used the F-15 for Quick Reaction Alert (QRA) plus other air defense duties, but finds the 45-year old design  to expensive to use. Nevertheless, the F-15 is still regarded as the best air superiority fighter jet ever made, with 104 consecutive air-to-air victories in its career against zero loses.

Suited

What is most surprising however, is the mention of using F-16s to replace the Eagles. A number of Air National Guard units already flew F-16s before they started using their current F-15s. In the past, a specialized F-16ADF (Air Defense Fighter) was used by these units, as well as F-16C/D jets. The F-16ADF was never deemed very suited and was therefore retired in the Nineties.

F-16V

Using F-16s again for air defense would mean upgrades in terms of radar and endurance. Upgrading retired US Air Force F-16s – which are now making way for the F-35 – into F-16V models is a likely option, but even new-built jets are being considered. These will then have to be built in South Carolina, since Lockheed Martin is to move F-16 production from Texas to here. This September, the last F-16 will leave current Lockheed Martin production in Fort Worth, Texas.

Active service

Of note: the US Air Force also still uses F-15C/D models in active service, operating them from airbase in the continental US and from airbases in the UK and Japan. The Air National Guard announcement therefore seems a bit odd and perhaps should mostly been seen in the light of Donald Trump’s plan to increase defense spending. The Air National Guard seems to want to make sure it gets its piece of the pie.

 

Our top 10 aviation moments of 2016

So that’s 2016 almost over and done with. This past year saw  military aviation headlines wizz by in a  record and sometimes worrying tempo. Donald Trump’s pending presidency along with Putin’s neverending desire to show Russia’s potential will decide the pace for 2017. But for now, let’s look back at a year that wothout a doubt had it’s moments here at Airheadsfly.com. And for all readers: thanks for doing so and a happy new year to you all!

10.

The Royal International Air Tattoo at RAF Fairford saw the F-35 for the first time. But this supposed star of the show was outstaged by the fabulous F-22 Raptor. Seeing is believing.

(Image © Elmer van Hest)

9.

Early in the year, we flew the Airbus Helicopters UH-72A Lakota helicopter, courtesy of the US Army in Germany.  They come in green but also in this wild combination of colours, which stands out against the German countryside…. like a bruised banana. Because that’s what these machines are nicknamed.

(Image © Dennis Spronk).

8.

A Lightning in blue skies. Early June, we boarded a Royal netherlands Air Force KDC-10 tanker aircraft for a sortie alongside the F-35A Lightning II over the North Sea. It’s in the air where the beast becomes a beauty.

(Image © Dennis Spronk)

7.

A beast, that is also what this Eurofighter Typhoon was at Fairford in July.  Fully tooled up and piloted by BAE Systems test pilot Nat Makepeace, this jet gave all other Typhoon diplays at the same airshow – and there were plenty- a run for their money.

(Image © Elmer van Hest)

6.

A top shot from Paweł Bondaryk, our guy in Poland. He was on scene when the Polish Air Force took delivery of its first Leonardo Aircraft M-346 Bielik trainer jets, capturing one of the aircraft peacefully after the delivery flight.

(Image © Paweł Bondaryk)

5.

Airheadsfly.com was also on scene on when both Royal Netherlands Air Force (RNLAF) touched Dutch soil for the first time on 23 May 2016. The weather did not cooperate in any way, but as both jets came to rest and festivities ended, all was well. “An awesome experience”, recounted one of the pilots.

(Image © Elmer van Hest)

4.

Between 21 February and 4 March, Portugal was the stage of annual exervise Real Thaw. Our contributor Jorge Ruivo was there to provide you with some much needed burner action. These burners belong to a US Air Force F-15C Eagle.

(Image © Jorge Ruivo)
(Image © Jorge Ruivo)

3.

So yeah, of course our flight in the Leonardo Aircraft M-346 Master has to be in this. With hundreds of pictures taken, it’s a pity that we can show only a small selection. Here’s one of formation leader Cobra 1 over a fine turqoise Italian coastline.

(Image © Elmer van Hest)

2.

Turkey made a lot of news headlines this year. And ok, technically it may have been 2015 when Dirk Jan de Ridder took this shot of two Turkish Air Force T-38 Talons. But we sure were glad to bring it to you in 2016 as part of a feature story on pilot training in Turkey. And given the fact that a lot of Turkish fast jet pilots were fired from duty after the failed coup, there’s a lot of training of new pilots to do.

(Image © Dirk Jan de Ridder)

1.

Looking back at 2016, it has to be said:  it was the year of the F-35 Lightning II. We learned a lot about the program during successful visits to Edwards Air Force Base in the US and Leeuwarden in the Netherlands. Furthermore, at Airheadsfly.com we were among the very first media ever to be allowed access to F-35 production in Cameri, Italy.

The F-35 program celebrated major steps in 2016, such as the Initial Operation Capability within the US Air Force, but also the delivery of more aircraft than even before, including new jets for Israel and Japan.

There were setback also: insulation problems kept many jets grounded for weeks, while Canada opted not to buy the F-35 for now. Last but not least, president-to-be Donald Trump started taking swings at the program’s costs. And yes, development of this jet is expensive and still has some way to go – but it will get there and it will be impressive. And perhaps prove necessary.

(Image © Elmer van Hest)

Prolonged production ahead for Boeing’s F-15 and F-18

The US State Department this week approved the sale of 72 F-15QA fighter jets to Qatar, plus 40 F-18E/F Super Hornet jets to Kuwait. Although contracts for both deals remain unsigned for now, it’s good news for Boeing and the company’s production of fighter jets.

The Qatar contract is worth 21.1 billion USD in total, while the Kuwaiti deal for 32 single  and 8 dual seat Super Hornets involves 10.1 billion USD. The White House approved the proposed sale earlier this year, following a long time of delays and uncertainty. Meanwhile, Qatar sought out 24 Dassault Rafales for 7.5 billion USD, while Kuwait chose to buy 28 Eurofighter Typhoons from Italy for 9.1 billion USD.

These signed deals for European fighter jets raise the question wether both countries will still actually take the bait now layed out by the US. While requested by Qatar and Kuwait years ago, the actual purchase of F-15s and F-18s is far from final. Following the approval from Washington and this week’s green light from the State Departement, both countries remained quiet.

However, it is no secret that money flows easily in both Qatar and Kuwait, and that’s reason enough for Boeing to be in a festive mood. The F-15 and F-18 have generated cash flow since 1972 and 1980 respectively, and now are likely to do that for a couple of years more.

Currently, Boeing is producing what at first seemed to be the last batch of advanced F-15 Eagles for Saudi Arabia, plus the final F-18 Super Hornets and F-18 Growlers for the US Navy and Australia. The many US jobs involved now seem safe for some time to come.

Featured image (top): No sunset yet for the F-15. (Image © Jorge Ruivo)

 

Green light voor Middle East fighter sales – but maybe too late?

After many years of hesitation, the US this week gave the green light for the sale of fighter jets to Kuwait and Qatar – although it may very well be too late. Since requesting the jets, both countries have decided to buy Eurofighter Typhoons and Dassault Rafales respectively. Their response to the green light from Washington remains unclear at this time.

Kuwait in 2015 requested to buy up at least F-18 Super Hornets to replace ageing older model F-18s, while Qatar’s request to purchase up to 72 Boeing F-15s goes even further back. Washington since has kept both countries in the dark about their request right until this week, when the White House notified US Congress that it approves the sale of the fighter jets.

Balance
The decision should be seen in light of the recent multi-billion military aid deal between the US and Israel, the biggest ever between those two countries. Probably to keep things in balance, the White House now decided to favour Kuwait’s and Qatar’s requests as well – doing the US economy a big favour on the side. Both contracts would be worth billions and billions of dollars (in fact, 20 billion in total), much of which will go into Boeing’s pocket. The aircraft manufacturer produces both the F-15 and F-18.

Inked
But no sale is final until a contract has been inked. And whether Kuwait and Qatar will actually do that, remains to be seen. Kuwait earlier this year did sign a deal for 22 Eurofighter Typhoons, worth 8 billion USD. Qatar in 2015 decided on 24 Dassault Rafales, worth 6.3 billion EUR.

That’s a lot of money to pay already. It may be the  same money that Kuwait and Qater waved in front of the US before. Time will tell if there is any money left for Washington and Boeing to grab. If not, then Washington may hope to sell brand new F-16s to Bahrain – another pending deal that was okayed this week by Washington.

© 2016 Airheadsfly.com editor Elmer van Hest.
Featured image: A USAF F-15E Strike Eagle from the 48th Fighter Wing on 12 November 2015 over the northern Mediterranean. The unit is deployed to Incirlik AB in Turkey as part of Operation Inherent Resolve (Image © Senior Airman Kate Thornton/USAF)

Japanese F-15s to “throw more” hardware at Chinese

The Japanese Air Self-Defense Force Mitsubishi (McDonnell Douglas) F-15J/DJ Eagles are facing an update program that is aimed solely at them being able to throw more into the face of advancing Chinese combat pilots.

That is in short the analysis of the Tokyo plans with the spearhead of the Japanese airborne air-defence. Of the more than 220 built F-15J/DJ air supiority fighters the first 40 will see their air-to-air missile load doubled to 16 pieces, half of it short-range, the other half medium-/long-range.

Sweeping the skies

According to sources in Tokyo once airborne these F-15s should be able to stop or slow down a large-scale Chinese air attack, sweeping the skies clean enough of Chinese fighter jets and attack aircraft to last another day. Japan military sources – quoted also by Nikkei – are said to be worried by a more and more active Chinese air force and naval air arm.

Naha Airbase

Earlier this year the JASDF moved one of its F-15CJ/DJ squadrons from Tsuiki Airbase in the Fukuoka area to Naha Airbase on Okinawa. Although closer to China by at least 215 miles (400 km) it leaves a direct flight line to mainland Japan and Tokyo more open. Apparently Japan is more worried with the Chinese reaching Okinawa for a limited military operation than it is for a large scale long-distance attack further into Japanese airspace.

Naha Air Base now has about 40 F-15CJ/DJ combat jets on strength. They may be the first to carry 16 air-to-air missiles in the near future.

© 2016 Airheadsfly.com editor Marcel Burger
Featured image: Two Japanese dual seat F-15DJ Eagles in one pic. Historic shot made at Nyutabaru Airbase, on 3 December 2002. (Image © Elmer van Hest)