The last three F-15 Eagles departed the 120th Fighter Wing of the USAF Montana Air National Guard at Great Falls, making the flying unit wingless until the introduction of the Lockheed C-130 transport aircraft in 2014.
Currently Montana ANG air and ground crews are training on the C-130 at Little Rock AFB in Arkansas. The transfer from fighter unit to transport unit will have a big impact on the guard unit.
The 120th Fighter Wing originated in 1947 as the 186th Fighter Squadron, flying F-51’s and saw combat in Korea in 1951 – 1952. In 1953, the 186th was the first Air National Guard unit to receive the F-86 Sabre Jet. From 1958 to 1996 the unit was on a 5-day runway scramble alert, all the time, by flying the Sabre, the F-102 Delta Dagger (introduction 1966), the F-106 Delta Dart (intr. 1972) and the F-16A/B Fighting Falcon (intr. 1987).
The last couple of years have been a bit rough for the unit. Within a 15 year span the 120th Fighter Wing moved from the F-16A/B to the F-16C/D to the F-15C/D Eagle and will now receive the C-130, making the fighter unit loose its combat status. The less flashy transport and support task is now its future.
The former Montana F-15 Eagles are now used by the 194th Fighter Squadron of the 144th Fighter Wing, California Air National Guard. This unit, based at Fresno, CA, previously flew F-16s for a long time. As the unit is reponsible for air defence over California, it had been pushing for F-15 Eagles instead of F-16 for many years
Source: USAF with additional reporting by AIRheads’ Marcel Burger & Elmer van Hest
AFSOC flies the Dornier 328 turboprop as C-146A. Since September 30, 2013, all 17 C-146s are operational. The originally civilian Dorniers were modified by the Sierra Nevada Corp. for their military task. Officially based with the 27th Special Operations Wing at Cannon AFB in New Mexico, the C-146A transports personnel and materiel all over the world. The aircraft have been spotted on Cyprus, f. ex., when tensions rose for a possible war against Syria.
Sierra Nevada built in new avionics and communications gear and applied belly protection against stones for operations from unhardened airstrips. Some aircraft, seven according to some sources, got new spoilers to enable them to lift and land from shorter runways. At least five aircraft have received additional power units so they don’t need an external start-up engine.
The US Department of Defense and Lockheed Martin finalised the contracts for the delivery of another 71 F-35 Lightning II fighter aircraft, despite the fact that none of the previously 95 ordered machines is capable of combat yet. The new contracts include the first F-35s for the Royal Australia Air Force, the Aeronautica Militare Italiano (Italian Air Force) and the Royal Norwegian Air Force, plus the fourth F-35 for the United Kingdom.
The first contract is for 36 F-35s of the so-called Low-Rate Initial Production-6 (LRIP-6) batch, with deliveries commencing in mid-2014. Another 35 Joint Strike Fighters, as the Lightning II is also known, will begin in mid-2015 under the second LRIP-7 contract.
One of the premier concerns of the US DoD are the rising costs of the F-35 program, but according to international press agency Reuters LRIP-6 will be bought for 2.5 percent less costs compared to earlier F-35 purchases for a total amount of U$4.4 billion. LRIP-7 will cost $3.4 billion, or a deal with 6 percent cost reduction of the program that already has been over budget big time.
Of the 95 F-35s ordered as batches LRIP 1 to 5 and as test aircraft, 67 have been been rolled out of the Lockheed Martin production plat in Forth Worth, Texas, so far.
A huge military air exercise in the skies of Scandinavia ended on Friday September 27, 2013. During this first ever edition of the Arctic Challenge Exercise (ACE13) about 70 aircraft of five nations flew an impressive number of 1200 sorties, accumulating more than 2,000 flying hours.
Up to 70 aircraft were in the air at a certain time, flying from Luleå-Kallax in Sweden, Rovaniemi in Finland and the Royal Norwegian Air Force main bases of Bodø and Ørland.
Two of NATO’s native English speaking nations contributed as well, but amazingly the Royal Danish Air Force didn’t participate with any of their F-16s in this somewhat Red Flag-styled Scandinavian exercise.
These are the aircraft, units and nations that did participate:
Operating from Bodø (Norway): 34 aircraft
8 F-15C, USAFE, 493rd FS
10 F-15E, USAFE, 494th FS
8 F-16AM/BM, RNoAF, 132 AW
2 F-18M2, FinAF, OT
6 JAS 39C, SweAF, 212.sqn
Operating from Luleå-Kallax (Sweden): 17 aircraft
8 Typhoon, RAF, 6 Sqn
4 JAS 39C, SweAF, 211.sqn
4 JAS 39C, SweAF, OT/E
1 S 100 (ASC890) AEW&C, SweAF, 71.sqn
Operating from Rovaniemi (Finland): 14 aircraft
8 F-18C/D, FinAF, FS11
6 JAS 39C, SweAF, 171.sqn
Operating from Ørland (Norway): 4 aircraft
2 KC-135, USAFE, 351st ARS
2 E-3A, NATO, AWACS
Some supporting aircraft like the Saab TP 100 of the Swedish Air Force are not included in the sum-up, because they were not part of the air combat training itself.
The bomber is more than half a century old, but the US Air Force still considers it vary valuable to its strength. So valuable that a new upgrade will increase the Boeing B-52 bomb capacity by more than half of its current.
The so-called initial 1760 Internal Weapons Bay Upgrade will allow the B-52 to house up to eight advanced precision-guided Joint Direct Attack Munitions in its internal weapons bay, in addition to the 12 it can currently carry on exterior weapons pylons.
,,It will increase the B-52’s overall carrying capacity by 67 percent,” said Alan Williams, the B-52 Deputy Program element monitor at Air Force Global Strike Command. The 1760 IWBU is based on rewiring the existing B-52 launcher into a Common Rotary Launcher, which carries the munitions and is housed in the B-52’s bomb bay. The rewiring allows the B-52 to use the newest weapons in the Air Force’s arsenal.
While the B-52 has long been able to carry JDAMs on an exterior pylon under each wing, the interior weapons bay was not equipped to communicate with those types of munitions. In the near future the Stratofortresses will also be able to use the JASSM-Extended Range missile and the MALD-J missile from the internal bay.