WITH VIDEO | The Belgian Air Component (BAC) has been taking part in operation Guardian Falcon in Afghanistan for almost five years now. Six BAC F-16 fighter aircraft operate daily from Kandahar Airfield (KAF), supported by a hundred ground troops from Belgium and Luxemburg.
Guardian Falcon is supporting the operations of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF). The Belgian F-16s support ground forces, secure communication lines and fly reconnaissance missions, explains the Belgian detachment commander Sam in the BAC’s YouTube video (in Dutch and French):
What do you do when you are responsible for the transport of the president of the United States, you just like this certain new flashy chopper, but crap what a nasty tender rules you have to respect? Then you just write the paperwork in a way that only your little bladed treasure will make it to within the fences of your beautiful mansion estate.
Now you have a garden party to look forward to. Write Meet my old new friend on your invitation card and whoops there it is: the old new Sikorsky presidential helicopter on the White House lawn.
The head-of-state of the world’s most powerful democracy and the unfortunate drowning man off the Irish Coast will in a few years share the same experience. Both will be ferried through the air by the VH-92 Superhawk helicopter.
As far as we know the Irish Republic had a proper competitive shopping run first, but it’s a whole different story on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean. The always freshly washed, shiny green-and-white presidential ride will not change brand nor colour. All due to clever clerks, some admirable lobby work by Sikorsky fans and quite likely a great deal of ol’ boys network politics by the Pentagon. The S-team outsmarted not only the house keepers at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave, but scared off the competition as well.
,,After a comprehensive analysis of the final request of proposal, we determined that we were unable to compete effectively given the current requirements and the evaluation methodology defined in the document”, stated the spokesperson of AgustaWestland. The European company was earlier poised to offer its VH101 Merlin in co-operation with American Northrop Grumman.
The full-American Bell and Boeing companies dropped out too stating ,,problems with the structure of the competitive program”. No VH-47 Chinook or presidential VV-22 Osprey. The only remaining bidder: Sikorsky with the VH-92 Superhawk.
But what happened to the earlier star of the presidential helicopter show: the Lockheed Martin VH-71 Kestrel helicopter based on the AW101 that already seemed to have won the show to replace the ageing VH-3D Sea King? It was shot down by the Pentagon despite the White House commitment in 2009 to produce five operational VH-71As, making Lockheed Martin change sides to the Sikorsky team.
Litterly bits and pieces of the once future US commander-in-chief VH-71 helicopter fleet are now in use by the Royal Canadian Air Force, where they help maintaining the RCAF’s 15 CH-149 Cormorant SAR helicopters. The US presidential spare parts are now to protect and to serve the unfortunate drowning man off the Canadian coast.
1x Dassault DA-20 Jet Falcon VIP transport aircraft
18x Bell 412SP utility & transport helicopter
6x NHI NH90 helicopter for coast guard duties and as shipborne anti-submarine / anti-ship and naval support
12x Westland Sea King Mk 43 search-and-rescue helicopter
16x Saab MFI-15 Safari basic training aircraft
20x Lockheed Martin F-35A Lightning II stealty multi-role fighters. Total requirement 52. First two aircraft delivered in 2015 to Luke AFB, no. 3 and 4 in 2016 and then 6 aircraft every year in the years that follow. F-35s will replace F-16s.
8x NHI NH90 helicopter for coast guard duties and as shipborne anti-submarine / anti-ship and naval support
US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) received its eight of 14 upgraded Lockheed P-3 Orion on July 18th, 78 days ahead of delivery schedule, from Lockheed Martin.
During the so-called Mid-Life Update (MLU) the manufacturer replaces all fatigue life-limiting structures with enhanced-design components; and incorporates a new metal alloy that is five times more corrosion resistant than the original material. This way the operating costs of the P-3 are reduced. The MLU solution removes current aircraft flight restrictions and extends the structural service life of the P-3 up to 15,000 hours, adding more than 20 years of operational use.
Worldwide the Lockheed P-3 Orion is extensively used for maritime patrol and reconnaissance, homeland security, hurricane reconnaissance, anti-piracy operations, humanitarian relief, search and rescue, intelligence gathering, and antisubmarine warfare.
During fiscal year 2012, the CBP P-3 fleet seized or disrupted more than 117,765 pounds of cocaine valued at more than $8.8 billion, totaling 21.1 pounds seized for every flight hour, valued at $1.5 million for every hour flown.
The Royal Netherlands Air Force (RNLAF / KLu) received its first next-generation fighter, the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II on July 25th, 2013. Although the Joint Strike Fighter is now officially Dutch, it will almost immediately after the planned ferry flight from Forth Worth, Texas, to Eglin AFB, Florida, be stored there. Reason: the Dutch parliament has not decided yet if it likes to continue with the purchase of up to 56 F-35s.
The Netherlands ordered two aircraft, the first in 2009, but budget crises and increasing JSF development and production costs scared off the Dutch people’s representatives a bit.
The second Dutch test JSF has been produced as well. According to the Dutch Ministry of Defence it undergoes a series of test and acceptance flights before it will join the first KLu F-35 stored at Eglin. The mothballing will continue until the Netherlands government makes a final decision on which aircraft will succeed the RNLAF F-16 fighters.