Tag Archives: US Air Force

Upgrade of B-52 to carry even more weapons

A B-52 Stratofortress ('Buff') strategic bomber of the United States Air Force (Image © Marcel Burger)
A B-52 Stratofortress (‘Buff’) strategic bomber of the United States Air Force (Image © Marcel Burger)

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.

Source: USAF

First unmanned QF-16 airborne

The first unmanned QF-16 Full Scale Aerial Target flight on Sept. 19 at Tyndall Air Force Base (Image © Staff Sergeant Javier Cruz/USAF)
The first unmanned QF-16 Full Scale Aerial Target flight on Sept. 19 at Tyndall Air Force Base (Image © Staff Sergeant Javier Cruz/USAF)

The first Lockheed Martin QF-16 aerial target made its first unmanned flight, thanks to a joint effort of Boeing and the US Air Force.

Two USAF test pilots in a ground control station remotely flew the QF-16, which is a retired F-16 jet modified to be an aerial target. The QF-16 mission profile included automatic take-off, a series of simulated maneuvers, supersonic flight, and an auto land, all without a pilot in the cockpit. It looks weird – just see the video below.

,,It was a little different to see a F-16 take off without anyone in it, but it was a great flight all the way around,” said Lt. Col. Ryan Inman, the commander of the 82nd Aerial Targets Squadron.

The milestone flight initiates more operational evaluations, including a live fire test at Holloman Air Force Base, N.M. The Navy, Army and Air Force will ultimately use QF-16s for weapons testing and other training.

Boeing has modified six F-16s into the QF-16 configuration. Low-rate initial production is scheduled to begin in the fourth quarter, with first production deliveries in 2015. For decades the US aerial targets were dominated by the McDonnell Douglas QF-4 Phantom II, an aircraft from the Vietnam War era.

Source: Boeing

Red Flag Scandinavian style: Arctic Challenge 2013

Nice motion blur on this Swedish Saab JAS 39A, seen in June 2006 at Satenäs in Sweden. The model A Gripen have now been replaced by C models. (Image © Elmer van Hest)
Nice motion blur on this Swedish Saab JAS 39 (Image © Elmer van Hest)

Three nations, 64 combat aircraft in the air at a time, the air forces of five countries and 2000 personnel. That is Arctic Challenge. Red Flag Scandinavian Style is being held for the first time from September 16 to September 27, 2013, in Sweden, Norway and Finland.

In total 90 aircraft will be deployed during ACE13 – nice abbreviation by the way – if one includes tanker and support aircraft. Pilots will train in co-ordinated combat tactics and procedures. The scenario is a peace enforcing operation with UN mandate.

The exercise is being conducted from four airbases: F21 Luleå-Kallax in Sweden, Bodø and Ørland in Norway and Lapin Lennosto i Rovaniemi, Finland. Operations are being directed from Bodø.

Every day two missions are flown. The morning ops are done in three different areas, one in Norway, one in Sweden and one in Finland. The afternoon program is solely executed in the vast training area of Northern Sweden, from Lycksele in the south to Kiruna in the north.

Contributing countries/units and airplanes are the 211, 212, 171 Air Combat divisions and 22 JAS 39 Gripen of the Swedish Air Force (Flygvapnet), F-16AM/BM Fighting Falcons of the Royal Norwegian Air Force, F-18C/D of the Finnish Air Force, Royal Air Force Typhoons and 30 F-15s of the US Air Force in Europe (USAFE; both F-15C Eagle and F-15E Strike Eagle).

Sweden deploys a Saab S 100 (ASC890) AEW&C and a Saab Tp 100 transport aircraft. The USAFE sends two KC-135s, NATO deploys a Boeing E-3C Sentry AWACS.

Images and a text in Swedish of the operations on September 20th here >>>

Source: Flygvapnet (Sverige) / Forsvaret Norge

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Final countdown on C-17 production line

An US Air Force Boeing C-17A Globemaster III strategic airlifter at Ramstein Airbase, Germany (Deutschland). This aircraft with registration number 21100 serves with the 437th Air Wing / 315th AW, Air Mobility Command at Charleston AFB, South Carolina, USA. (Image © Marcel Burger)
An US Air Force Boeing C-17A Globemaster III strategic airlifter at Ramstein Airbase, Germany (Deutschland). This aircraft with registration number 21100 serves with the 437th Air Wing / 315th AW, Air Mobility Command at Charleston AFB, South Carolina, USA. (Image © Marcel Burger)

After more than 20 years the end is in sight for the C-17 production line at the Boeing factory in Long Beach, California. But the aircraft manufacturer hopes for more.

The Globemaster III, as the aircraft is called, has come a long way. The aircraft was initially developed during the Cold War and designed to quickly put heavy M1 Abrams main battle tanks into the battlefield, with secundary other very important gear. The deployment of one C-17 could, depending on its load, change the course of a battle. But such a strategic asset needs to be reliable and many childhood problems threatened the entire project all together.

The US Air Force first ordered only 40 C-17s, but when Boeing overcame initial problems and the USAF had to retire its aging C-141 Starlifters, the American armed forces quickly saw what was lacking. True, there was the giant C-5 Galaxy and hundreds of C-130s, but with only 40 C-17 too little in between. Like the C-130s the Globemasters are able to insert their load directly into the battlefield, needing only short air strips and having no problem with unpaved runways.

The C-17 Globemaster III typically has a crew of two pilots plus one loadmaster. It can carry 158 fully-equiped troops or 158 paratroopers. Alternatively it can airlift and insert one M1 Abrams tank or three Stryker armoured personnel carriers or six smaller armoured vehicles or several trucks and cars. The Globemaster can cruise up to 450 knots, has a range of 4,482 km (2,785 miles) to be extended by in-flight refueling, needs loaded a take-off strip of 2,316 meters (7,600 ft) and would normally land on anything from 1,060 meters (3,500 ft) or longer.

Decades after its first flight and the first 1991 production aircraft 223 Boeing C-17A Globemasters III fly with the US Air Force and its subsidiaries, with the last delivered to the USAF on September 12. Moreover, the aircraft has been sold to the Royal Air Force (8 C-17A-ER), the Royal Australian Air Force (6 C-17A-ER), the Royal Canadian Air Force (4 C-17A-ER as CC-177), the NATO/EU Heavy Lift Wing (3 C-17A at Papa in Hungary), Qatar Emiri Air Force (4 C-17A), United Arab Emirates Air Force (6 C-17A) and the Indian Air Force (10 C-17A).

The way it looks now, the final seven C-17s for the Indian Air Force will be the last of the C-17s to leave the nest at Long Beach. Unless a new client stands up.

Update 12 September: the final USAF C-17 was delivered to Charleston AFB today, as reported here.

© 2013 AIRheads’ Marcel Burger

A-10 fleet gets new wings for another 30 years

Two A-10C Thunderbolt II aircraft pilots fly in formation during a training exercise March 16, at Moody Air Force, Ga. (Image © Airman 1st Class Benjamin Wiseman / USAF)
Two A-10C Thunderbolt II aircraft pilots fly in formation during a training exercise March 16, at Moody Air Force, Ga. (Image © Airman 1st Class Benjamin Wiseman / USAF)

The US Air Force is continuing to prepare to keep the Republic A-10 Thunderbolt II attack aircraft for at least 30 years more in service. It just gave a follow-on order of 56 new wings to the Boeing company.

Boeing is now on contract to build up to 242 new wings for the strong close air support aircraft that was deemed to disappear 25 years ago. But then the A-10s performed majestically well against Iraqi armour during the 1990-1991 Persian Gulf War and the American generals decided to keep this formidable air weapon.

Refitting the fleet of up to 395 aircraft with new wings will improve the mission availability of A-10s by an estimated 4 percent and will help save the Air Force an estimated $1.3 billion in maintenance costs during the next 30 years, says Boeing.

This latest order is valued at $212 million. Including this agreement, the Air Force has ordered 173 wings. The efforts of Boeing, its suppliers, and the Air Force will allow the A-10 fleet to operate into 2035.

The A-10 is a twin-engine jet designed for close air support of ground forces. It can be used against all ground targets, including tanks and other armored vehicles.

Source: Boeing