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.
The US Air Force 347th Rescue Group at Moody Air Force Base, Georgia, received its first new dedicated fixed-wing search and rescue aircraft. The HC-130J Combat King II made the small ferry flight from Lockheed Martins plant in Marietta on July 19th, 2013.
The CSAR variant of the C-130J variant replaces existing HC-130P/N aircraft. It specializes in tactical profiles and avoids detection to support recovery operations in austere environments. This HC-130J is one of six Super Hercules on contract designated for assignment at Moody AFB.
Belgian F-16AM/BM Fighting Falcons will take on the Baltic Air Policing duties of NATO from September to December 2013, reports the press service of the Belgian Air Component.
From Šiauliai Airbase in Lithuania four F-16 fighter aircraft supported by 50 personnel will provide air cover and air interception for NATO’s most eastern North European aerospace. It will be the third time for the Belgian Vipers, after earlier participation in 2004 and 2006.
Every Belgian fighter pilot will clock about 15 tot 20 flight hours per month, totaling 320 flight hours for the entire mission. NATO’s detachment of fighter jets in Lithuania regularly intercepts or shadows Russian military aircraft over the Baltic Sea. The former Soviet Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania are since 2004 part of NATO. Since they lack proper air defence assets themselves, other NATO members jump in on the joint task to protect the airspace of its member nations. The same defence agreement also counts for the NATO countries of Luxemburg, Iceland and Slovenia who all lack fighter aircraft.