The US Navy’s newest playground for its Hornets, Super Hornets and – in the future – Lightning II multi-role fighters is nearing its entry into service. The US Navy press office has confirmed that the USS Gerald R. Ford – an aircraft carrier of a new kind – will be delivered in September.
First CVN 78 will undergo ship sea trials between July and August.
F/A-18E Super Hornet on AAG
The almost 13 billion dollar vessel has been plagued with delays. One of them being the new catapult system, which no longer uses steam but electromagnetics to launch aircraft into the air.
Also, the new turbo-electric landing system has been cause for concern, but manufacturer General Atomics Electromagnetic Systems just reported the first aircraft arrest with the Advanced Arresting Gear on 31 March, done with a US Navy Boeing (McDonnell Douglas) F/A-18E Super Hornet on the tarmac of Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst in Lakehurst, New Jersey.
Legendary USS Nimitz
With an official 97 percent of the US Navy’s next-generation supercarrier complete, Newport News Shipbuilding is confident with that the Ford can replace the USS Enterprise (CVN 65) later this year.
At the same time the builder says it is cutting down costs for the second ship in the class, the USS John F. Kennedy, that will trade places with the legendary USS Nimitz (CVN 68) in 2021.
Boeing has bagged another Pentagon contract to remanufacture 117 Apache attack helicopters into the latest AH-64E Apache Guardian variant. The contract is worth close to 1 billion USD.
Boeing will perform the work in its facility in Mesa, Arizona, with an estimated completion date of 31 May 2018. Compared to earlier versions of the Apache, the AH-64E has full digital cockpit avionics, a more powerful engine that also makes the chopper go faster (155 knots vs 125 on the D-model), rotor blades that can sustain damage better, a larger range and a longer range.
The US Air Force has selected Eielson Air Force Base in Alaska as a future home for the Lockheed Martin F-35A Lightning II. The base will house two squadrons equipped with the 5th generation fighter aircraft. Alaska, the only US state that borders Russia, already is home to F-22 Raptor jets at Elmendorf Air Force Base near Anchorage.
“The decision to base two F-35 squadrons at Eielson AFB will double our fifth-generation fighter aircraft presence in the Pacific theater,” said Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark A. Welsh III. “It’s an exciting time for Pacific airpower.”
On-base construction to prepare Eielson airbase for the aircraft is expected to start in fiscal year 2017. The first F-35As are currently scheduled to arrive in 2020. The jets will join the F-16 aggressor squadron currently assigned to Eielson AFB.
In a press release, the move is described as leading to the “first operational overseas F-35A Lightning IIs”. That would mean the Eielson-based aircraft are to be mission ready before the F-35s that are projected to be based at Lakenheath airbase in the UK, another overseas US airbase planned to operate F-35s in the future.
Meanwhile, the first Air National Guard base to host F-35s, will do so earlier than originally planned. Burlington Air Guard Station in Vermont is now scheduled to receive aircraft in fall 2019.
The development of the US Navy CMV-22B Osprey carrier onboard delivery plane has started. The joint Bell/Boeing project received its first 151 million dollars for redesigning the aircraft.
Forty-four CMV-22B vertical landing aircraft are set to start streaming into USN service between 2020 and 2024, replacing the traditional fixed-wing Grumman C-2 Greyhound. MV-22s are already very much in use with the US Marines, where they fly everything from cargo to soldiers between navy ships to land-based locations or into the battlefield.
Special Navy Osprey
Bell/Boeing deliver the aircraft at 86.8 million a piece. The extra 151 million dollars that have been allocated now will be used for incorporating an external fuel tank, adapted SATCOMs, a modified shipboard landing system and other stuff not incorporated on the Marine Ospreys.
Arming of the CMV-22Bs is not planned, but could be done in a later stage.
The US Coast Guard (USCG) this week accepted its first HC-27J Spartan medium range surveillance aircraft in full USCG colours. The Asset Project Office in Elizabeth City, North Carolina, accepted the aircraft on 30 March.
The C-27J is one of 14 aircraft formerly in service with the US Air Force. Budget cuts forced the aircraft to be retired after only a few years of service, but the USCG was quick to snatch them up. The US Special Operations Command also took seven Spartans.
The repaint was completed by Leading Edge Aviation Services in Fort Worth, Texas. This particular Spartan will be transferred to Air Station Sacramento, California, this summer to continue the station’s transition from the HC-130H to the C-27J.
Five Spartan aircraft have been in operation in Elizabeth City since completing the regeneration process; the Coast Guard is conducting test flights on a sixth aircraft at AMARG, where the process to bring the Spartans out of long-term preservation is completed.