The first Republic of Korea Air Force (ROKAF) C-130J Super Hercules took to the skies on August 14, 2013, for its maiden flight at the Lockheed Martin production facility in Marietta, Georgia. This C-130J (Lockheed Martin aircraft number 5730) is scheduled for a 2014 delivery to the ROKAF.
In June Lockheed Martin gave the first South Korean C-130J already a nice paint scheme, including the picture of an eagle on the side of the fuselage.
The Royal Navy warship HMS Dragon, Royal Air Force Typhoons, US Marine Corps F/A-18 Hornet and US Air Force F-15E Strike Eagles have put their skills and technology to the test during a recent joint exercise.
The goal was to detect, classify and monitor contacts on the sea’s surface in the challenging conditions of the Gulf. The Type 45 destroyer provides a complementary service to the highly manoeuvrable and effective Typhoon fast jet combat aircraft.
One of Dragon’s fighter controllers, Lieutenant Francis Heritage, said: “We received the help of a United States Air Force Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System, or JSTARS, aircraft to cue our fighters onto their targets. The JSTARS surface radar is incredibly powerful. When combined with our own organic sensors and those of the jets under our control, we can provide force protection over a massive area.”
The American surveillance jet fed information directly into Dragon’s operations room, allowing the destroyer to cue fighter jets onto their objectives. HMS Dragon is in the second half of her inaugural deployment, which is a mix of carrying out maritime security operations with the UK’s Gulf partners and contributing to the wider air defence of the region, such as when she joined forces with the USS Nimitz Carrier Strike Group a few weeks ago.
There is an ongoing shady discussion in the Netherlands about a speedy replacement of the current F-16s with spankin’ new F-35A Lightnings. Shady, because it partly revolves around the number of flying hours the F-16s clocked up so far. We crunch some numbers and find out some numbers are far more impressive than others.
Just take a quick look at this stuff, the answer of the Dutch Ministry of Defence on questions from Dutch parliament about the number of flying hours per Dutch F-16. It shows that the aircraft with registration J-637 is the champion of all, having flown 4,893 flying hours already by December 2011. That’s a lot … Until we read this, about an USAF F-16 that happily flew 7,238 hours. This is stuff we love!
Yearly, each Dutch F-16 spends 180 hours in the air – give or take a few hours – so our hero J-637 now probably has over 5,000 flying hours. The Dutch MoD claims that its Fighting Falcons are getting old and require more and more maintenance.
Sounds logical. But why then is an American F-16 of similar age – the US high-flyer was delivered in 1984, while J-637 was delivered the year before – capable of spending 7,238 hours in the air while the Dutch fighters apparently start falling apart after 4,500 hours or so. Upgrades such as Pacer SLIP and Falcon Up should have prolonged service life beyond 6,000 flying hours, and have been costing the Dutch taxpayers millions and millions of euros. A service life of 8,000 hours was even mentioned back then. Recent updates to newer US aircraft even go as far as to give 10,000 hours of life for each airframe.
The usual argument is that Dutch F-16s were used more extensively then originally planned, for example during operations over Kosovo, Afghanistan and Libya. That’s probably true, although a lot of flying time is actually spent high up in the air, waiting for the close-air-support call or just looking for a tanker. Not exactly the most stressfull situation for any airframe. And still: the US high-flyer spent most of its years in the hands of inexperienced trainee pilots at Luke Air Force Base, Arizona. That’s a lot of hard landings, bumpy rides and mishandling. And besides that, a day at the fence of Luke shows based F-16s flying around with the same heavy weaponry that supposedly stressed out the Dutch Vipers all these years. For the record, Dutch F-16 J-015 – the current demo aircraft – only has 3,500 hours or so at this moment.
The Norwegians and the Danish – not to mention the Israelis (how about their flying hours?) – are still happily flying their oldest vintage 1978 F-16s, while the Dutch put those aside more than a decade ago, stripping them for parts and throwing the remains in the bin.
The Americans know how to treat an aircraft that fulfilled its task. Their high-flyers are resting in the Arizona desert, having done their job. We will not mention that even those aircraft will return to the sky as QF-16s, clocking up even more hours, only to be finally shot to pieces as live targets. How’s that for scrapping?
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.