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.
The Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) on Tuesday received its first two Boeing EA-18G Growlers. Both jets are part of an Australian order of twelve jets. The Growlers are electronic warfare variants of the F/A-18F Super Hornet and are capable of disrupting, deceiving or denying a broad range of military electronic systems, including radars and communications.
The 12 EA-18G Growlers will be based at Amberley airbase and will operate in conjunction with Australian air, land and sea forces. The Growlers are a vital part of plan Jericho, wich aims to transform the RAAF into one of the most advanced air forces in the world by seeking maximum network integration with Australian army and navy forces.
All remaining Australian Growlers are due for delivery this year. The country already operates a fleet of 24 F/A-18F Super Hornets, plus 71 older F/A-18A/.B Hornets.
UPDATED | Rescue workers on Tuesday found the wreckage of a Swiss Air Force Boeing F-18 Hornet that went missing on Monday 29 August. The single seat aircraft disappeared near Susten in the southern part of the Alpine country. The pilot is still missing.
Update Wednesday 31 August | Authorities confirmed the pilot was killed in the crash.
The aircraft had taken off from Meiringen airbase in the company of another Hornet shortly before it went missing. Weather was challenging at that time, with lots of clouds surrounding the mountains of central Switzerland. Bad weather also hampered search efforts on Monday.
The Swiss Air Force lost no less than three two seat F-18D jets before, against no single seaters until now. A total of 25 single seat and five double seat jets remain in the fleet, according to statements made after the jet went missing on Monday.
The US Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) is looking to contract Boeing to modify a number of F-18 Super Hornets for use with the Naval Flight Demonstration Squadron (NFDS) Blue Angels, as announced on Monday 25 July. The Blue Angels have been flying the F-18 Hornet for decades, but these ‘legacy’ Hornets are getting harder to come by for the team.
Modificitations to the Super Hornet should include the installation of a smoke system that releases oil into the jet’s engine exhaust. The ensuing smoke gives more depth to the team’s performance in the air. According to NAVAIR, Boeing and is ‘the only source with the knowledge, expertise and on-site personnel necessary’ to accomplish the needed modifications.
The Blue Angels started using F/A-18A and B jets in 1986, replacing those with C and D models in 2010. However, F/A-18E and F Super Hornets are now the dominant models in the US inventory.
Swizterland is restarting its quest for a new fighter jet for its air force after a botched attempt two years ago to purchase 22 Saab Gripens. New aircraft are still needed to replace ageing F-5 Tigers, defense minister Guy Parmelin told Swiss government on Wednesday 24 February.
This year the Swiss start setting up requirements for the new fighter plus a set of plans for the selection process and eventual purchase. The selection is set to last until 2020, with a formal decision and order no later than 2022. Deliveries should start by 2025, according to Parmelin.
‘No’ to Gripen E
Prior to 2011, the Saab Gripen E, Dassault Rafale and Eurofighter Typhoon were evaluated in Switzerland. Although not showing itself as the best option in all aspects plus allegations of bribery, the Gripen came out on top. The Swiss government decided to buy 22 Gripens, but opponents managed to get enough support for a referendum in which voters eventually said ‘no’ to Gripens.
The F-5 Tiger needs replacement, especially since cracks grounded parts of the fleet recently. As of now, 30 out of 54 Tigers are operational. The type was set for retirement this year but may very well fly on for some time.
In 2025, the 31 current F-18 Hornets reach the end of their service life. Extending their service for five years will cost tax payers half a billion Swiss francs (410 million EUR).