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.
The Royal Air Force announced that 617 Squadron ‘Dambusters’ will be the first operational squadron using Lockheed Martin Lightning II aircraft, designated F-35B and also known as the Joint Strike Fighter.
Chief of the Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal Sir Stephen Dalton made the announcement at a Royal United Services Institute conference on Air Power. 617 Squadron is first to disband on April 1st, 2014, when its Tornado GR4 aircraft will be retired. The Dambusters will rise from the ashes in 2016 when the new Lightning II will be delivered.
The UK’s Lightning II is the Short Take Off and Vertical Landing (STOVL) variant of the Joint Strike Fighter, which will give the supersonic multi-role stealth aircraft the ability to operate from airbases at land or from aircraft carriers at sea. When it reforms in 2016, 617 Squadron will have both RAF and Royal Navy personnel. The second Lightning II squadron will a Royal Navy one but will be similarly manned by both RAF and RN personnel.
Luke Air Force Base, Arizona, will get 72 additional F-35A Lightning II fighter aircraft, bringing the eventual total number of the fifth-generation fighters expected there at 144.
The Air Force’s initial decision to establish an F-35 pilot training center here was announced in August 2012, following a three-year process that included an extensive environmental impact analysis.
The Lockheed Martin F-35A, also known as Joint Strike Fighter, intended to be the Air Force’s premier strike aircraft through the first half of the 21st century. It is a multirole fighter that is expected to eventually phase out the F-16 Fighting Falcon and A-10 Thuderbolt II.
Aircraft are expected to begin arriving at Luke AFB in spring 2014, although exact timing will depend on production schedules. Construction on base to prepare for the aircraft is currently underway, with about US$10 million of US$57 million in projects already completed.
The 2012 Record of Decision cited several reasons why Luke AFB was the service’s top choice for F-35A basing, including facility and ramp capacity, range access, weather and capacity for future growth. The base has been training fighter pilots for more than 70 years.
The UK’s third new Lightning II fighter jet (F-35B) arrived at Eglin AFB in Florida in June to start pilot and maintainer training, reports the press department of manufacturer Lockheed Martin.
USMC Lt. Col. Roger Hardy piloted the aircraft known as BK-3 (ZM137) on its 90-minute ferry flight from the F-35 production plant at NAS Fort Worth JRB.
The F-35 Lightning II is a 5th Generation fighter, combining stealth with fighter speed and agility, fully fused sensor information and network-enabled operations.
Once delivered in several years from now the Lightning II will be deployed aboard the Royal Navy aircraft carriers. Therefore the B-version of the F-35 has special Short Take-off and Vertical Landing abilities. The US Marine Corps aims to have their F-35Bs at Initial Operational Capability in 2015.
The UK’s Lightnings are produced by Lockheed Martin in co-operation with Northrop Grumman, BAE Systems, GE Aviation, Martin-Baker, SELEX, Cobham, Ultra Electronics, UTC Actuation Systems and Rolls-Royce.
In 2011 Cambrai hosted the 50th NATO Tigermeet. Because of this anniversary and the fact that this French airbase was due to close the Tigermeet provided a last opportunity to visit Cambrai while still at operational status.