Israel and Lockheed Martin this week celebrated the start of final assembly of the first F-35A Adir ( “mighty one” in Hebrew) for Israel in Forth Worth, Texas. The aircraft, designated as F-35A aircraft AS-1, officially began its mate process, where four major components of the fighter aircraft are joined together in the Electronic Mate and Assembly Station to form the aircraft’s structure.
The first Israeli F-35A will continue its assembly in Fort Worth and is expected to roll out of the factory in June and be delivered to the Israeli Air Force (IAF) later this year.
In 2010, Israel became the first country to order the F-35 through the US Foreign Militrary Sales (FMS) program. The country signed contracts for 33 F-35A Conventional Take Off and Landing (CTOL) aircraft.
Israel’s contribution to the F-35 program includes Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI F-35A wing production, Elbit Systems work on the Generation III helmet-mounted display system worn by all F-35 pilots fleet-wide and Elbit Systems-Cyclone F-35 center fuselage composite components production.
UPDATED 6 January | Sri Lanka is said to have signed up for at least eight Pakistani-made JF-17 Thunder fighter jets. A memorandum of understanding was signed on Tuesday 5 January during a visit to Sri Lanka by Pakistani prime minister Nawaz Sharif , confirming earlier rumours about an imminent deal.
Update | The first export customer for the JF-17 Thunder now appears to be Nigeria and not Myanmar, as reported earlier. Nigeria expects delivery of three Thunders this year, records in the country show.
The Thunders wil almost surely replace obsolete MiG-23 and MiG-27 fighter jets. Next to those, the Sri Lanka Air Force currently also operates Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) Kfir and Chinese made Shenyang F-7 fighter jets.
Neighbouring India is said to oppose the deal between Sri Lanka and Pakistan. India had hopes to sell its indigenous Tejas jet to Sri Lanka and incidentally on Tuesday 5 January announced that aircraft’s international airshow debut at the Bahrain Air Show later this month.
The apparent deal in Sri Lanka marks the second export success for the JF-17 Thunder. Last June, another foreign customer was announced at the Paris Air Show. On 6 January 2016, Nigeria revealed itself as that foreign costumer.
The Royal Thai Air Force is retiring its three remaining Israeli Aircraft Industries Arava light patrol aircraft, according to the Air Force Commander in the Bangkok Post. The military is now opting to create two squadrons of drones in stead, boosting its surveillance capability.
The IAI 201 Arava’s have served Thailand for more than 36 years, currently flying as ELINT aircraft with 402 Squadron based at Takhli. Between 1972 and 1998 the Israelis built 103 of these light Short Take-off and Landing (STOL) aircraft. Despite its small size it can transport 24 combat-ready troops in the transport role, as a surveillance platform it is a very affordable asset with low usage costs.
The Israeli Air Force retired its Aravas already in 2004.
Argentina is catching the eye these days for some extraordinary dance moves. Not the marvelous tango, but a Russian folk dance at the pay-back party seems to be the case. Here’s the tale of the Typhoon against the Fencer.
This autumn it came to light that Argentina was denied even to negotiate to buy up to 24 SAAB JAS 39 Gripen fighters by the British government. Since the Swedish planes are made and marketed with backing and cooperation of BAe Systems (the former British Aerospace), London has the power to block the export of a “typical” Swedish product.
But because of the war over the Falkland Islands / Islas Malvinas 32 years ago and the still ongoing political statements made every once in a while from Argentina, the British government doesn’t want to help selling stuff that it fears might someday bite back. With only a quartet of Royal Air Force Typhoons at QRA, a Voyager tanker and two Sea King choppers at RAF Base Mount Pleasant on East Falkland, other modern jets like the Gripen might just cause to much trouble if the British-Argentinian discussion over the islands turns sour.
12 Sukhoi Su-24
In a rather surprising move the Argentinians might now actually go for something that looks potentially more threatening: knock on the rent-a-plane store in Russia. Not your everyday sports plane either: rumour has it 12 Sukhoi Su-24s (NATO-name “Fencer”) are about to make their way to Fuerza Aérea Argentina in return for food supplies. With Moscow already being annoyed by NATO’s projection towards Ukraine in – what the Kremlin sees as interference – the Russian leadership is very likely not to put up any political barriers if Buenos Aires says “si”.
Half armed the Fencers with external fuel tanks could make it to the Falklands and supersonic speed, for example from Rio Gallegos Airbase in the south of the country, drop their bombs and make it back without even having to refuel. A fully armed Fencer doesn’t make it further than about 400 miles (630 km), but if the Argentina Air Force is able to use its KC-130 for in-flight “gas” it will be fuel on the fire of British worries.
Moreover, the Su-24 is quite capable of not only to bring drop-and-forget bombs, but also advanced air-to-air and air-to-ship missiles. True, the Argentine Air Force’s Mirage IIIs can do it too and maybe even with more finesse, but they are getting older, less airworthy and can carry less stuff on long-range missions. Neither the Mirages or the possible Su-24s have to fear much apart from the less than a handful Typhoons at Mount Pleasant. The UK’s Rapier ground-based air-defence missile system won’t make a difference if attacking planes stay above 15,000 feet and out of 5 miles (8 km) radius.
Moscow’s in tensions about the possible lease of the Fencers might even be to have Argentina opening up to even more sophisticated hardware. A future scenario where a pack of Su-24s are escorted by Sukhoi Su-27 air superiority fighters is not entirely unthinkable, even though it still seems far-fetched at this moment.
What is a fact is that Buenos Aires is in big need of new air assets. The current very much aging fighter and attack fleet is no match for the modern battlefield. The Argentine Navy Exocet-equipped Dassault Super Etendards might have caused havoc amongst the Royal Navy in 1982 and might do that again, but weapon systems of the British air and naval forces have advanced ever since.
It is commonly known that the Argentina Air Force has issues keeping it’s even less impressive fighter and attack fleet airborne. Buenos Aires feels its time for the Dassault Mirage IIIs and IAI Fingers / AMD M5 Daggers from Tandil Airbase and the McDonnell Douglas (O)A-4AR Fightinghawk (Skyhawk in the US) from Villa Reynolds Airbase to make way to something new. Russian supplied bombers – and fighters – with not so many strings attached might just make the dancing party extra interesting.
The new tanker aircraft ordered by the Brazilian Air Force this Spring, is getting close to delivery. Manufacturer Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) just finished its first month of flight testing the Boeing 767-300ER MMTT with a fly-by-wire boom refuelling system.
The Multi-Mission Transport & Tanker aircraft can carry more than 200,000 lbs of fuel plus troops and/or cargo pallets. IAI is using second-hand airliners for the job, which so much service life left that the transformation into in-flight refueller is said to be cheaper than the purchase of new aircraft. The Israeli’s even work on incorporating electronic and signals gathering equipment and Airborne Command & Control stuff into the plane, so it’s tasks can even be broader than just cargo and transport.
While the Força Aérea Brasileira has ordered two IAI/Boeing 767-300ER MMTTs to replace its KC-137 fleet already decommissioned in October 2013, the base concept the Brazilians will get has been proven already by the Colombian Air Force. The Fuerza Aérea Colombiana have been flying an older 767-200ER MMTT since 2012, and it even served as presidential VIP plane. The Colombians are said to be happy with its performance during international military exercises.