A US Air Force B-52 bomber has crashed in Guam in the Indian Ocean on Thursday 19 May, US authorities confirmed. All seven crewmembers escaped, but the aircraft was consumed by fire.
The crash happened as the aircraft took off from Guam’s 12,000 feet runway. According to a base official, the bomber only carried inert munitions when things went wrong. The aircraft’s homebase in the US was Minot Air Force Base in North Dakota.
Guam has been a long time deployment airfield for US bombers operating over Asia.
In a repeat of last year’s deployment, twelve US F-15C Eagles arrived in Europe over the weekend for six months of training and military deterrence. The F-15s are part of the 131st Fighter Squadron at Barnes Air National Guard Base, Massachusetts, and the 194th Fighter Squadron at Fresno Air National Guard Base, California.
Of the twelve air superiority aircraft, four will head to Iceland for NATO’s air policing mission at Keflavik airbase, while the other eight fly to Leeuwarden airbase in the Netherlands for large scale exercise Frisian Flag.
Theater Security Package
According to the US Air National Guard, the arrival of these F-15s marks the latest US Theater Security Package (TSP) to come to the European theater in support of Operation Atlantic Resolve. More to the point, they act as a show of force to Russia and Vladimir Putin in particular.
The current deployment also involves 350 airmen. During their six month European stay, they will also forward deploy to other NATO nations, including Bulgaria, Estonia and Romania. In May, F-15s should also participate in an exercise in Finland.
UPDATED 24 February | US defense company Rayhteon and Finmeccanica have formally joined the T-X race to develop and deliver a new jet trainer aircraft for the US Air Force, Raytheon officialy announced on Monday 22 February. Their proposal will be based on the M-346 Master currently in service in Italy, Singapore and Israel.
Update | A fresh report by defensenews.com indicates Textron AirLand will not bid in the T-X program.
Raytheon and Finmeccanica will further develop the FNM Aeronautics (formerly Alenia Aermacchi) M-346 into the T-100 jet trainer that prepares future pilots for high performance military jets such as the F-35 Lightning II. It’s cockpit is expected to share many commonalities with the F-35, such as a large MFD. Honeywell Aerospace supplies F124 turbofan engines to power the T-100.
In the T-X program, the US looks for at least 350 of such aircraft to replace the current fleet of T-38 Talon jets, a type that has trained military pilots for decades and has seen several upgrades but now nears the end of its life.
The M-346 is used as a Lead-in Fighter Trainer (LIFT). The jet is capable of advanced training by using tactical simulation as well as datalink equipment. It can provide its pilots with a real time radar image provided by ground based or airborne radar systems, and it can replicate and attack threats on the ground and in the air. More on that is here at Airheadsfly.com. Poland should receive its first of eight M-346s soon and a ground attack version is being developed.
Also in the race jointly are Saab and Boeing, who aim to design a new aircraft altogether. Lockheed Martin has backed away from designing from scratch and now bets on a version of the KAI designed T-50. Furthermore, Textron AirLand will probably propose its Scorpion jet or a newly developed variant.
The Pentagon is expected to announce a winner in the T-X program in 2017. A contract is worth roughly 8.4 billion USD. The T-X program is regarded as the last in a recent series of big US airborne defense contract. The Long Range Strike Bomber (LRS-B) program was another. Norhrop Grumman was selected as the winner in that race in October 2015.
In May, US F-15 Eagle fighter jets will perform joint training with Finnish Air Force F-18 Hornets in the skies over Finland, the ministry of defense in Helsinki confirmed to Airheadsfly.com on Tuesday 10 February. It marks the first time the US and Finland work together in a large scale military exercise.
The F-15s likely are part of a Theater Security Package (TSP) such as the ones the US sent to Europe in 2015 also. Then, the fighter jets also took part in various military exercises, although they did not venture into Scandinavia.
The US pilots and ground crew will be based at Kuopio-Rissala airbase, home to Finnish Air Force F-18s. The exercise runs between 9 and 22 May and should largely play out in the skies over Lapland and eastern Finland, close to neighbouring Russia.
The US Air Force is testing the Lockheed Martin F-35’s performance during deployments this month by sending four jets from Hill Air Force Base over to Mountain Home Air Force Base. The deployment includes pilots, mechanics, equipment, plus the use of spare parts and the aircraft’s troubled Autonomic Logistics Information System (ALIS).
Hill Air Force Base accepted it’s first F-35 last year and is expected to reach Initial Operational Capability (IOC) later this year, making Hill the first US Air Force base to house operational F-35s. The test month should prove how the new aircraft behaves while on actual deployment.