Tag Archives: USAF

New flock of US Eagles arrives in Europe

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.

Last year saw two packages of A-10C Thunderbolts and one of F-15s head to Europe as well. An even stronger signal was the deployment of four Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptors to Germany.

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.

© 2016 Airheadsfly.com editor Elmer van Hest
Featured image (top): An F-15C Eagle readies itself at Fresno, California, for the flight to Europe (Image © Air National Guard /  Klynne Pearl Serran)

Raytheon & Finmeccanica join T-X race

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.

An FNV Aeronautics M-346 at Lecce airbase in Italy. (Image © Elmer van Hest)
An FNM Aeronautics M-346 at Lecce airbase in Italy. (Image © Elmer van Hest)


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.


The Raytheon announcement was long awaited and comes days after Lockheed Martin’s statement that it also joins the T-X race together with Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI). In Italy, FNM Aeronautics has been hinting at cooperation with a new US partner for many months, especially after General Dynamics quit an existing cooperation in March 2015. The Italians need a US partner to have any chance at winning the bid.

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.

© 2016 Airheadsfly.com editor Elmer van Hest

US F-15s to train over Finland

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.

See our report on last year’s US Air National Guard TSP to Europe.

© 2016 Airheadsfly.com editor Elmer van Hest
Featured image: Positive rate of climb… (Image © Dennis Spronk)

USAF testing F-35 deployment

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.


A critical report released on 1 February shows plenty of issues still to be resolved on the F-35. ALIS is one of the problems listed in the report. The United States Marine Corps (USMC) however, declared IOC for its first F-35B squadron last year.

Meanwhile, Royal Netherlands Air Force (RNLAF) pilots prove themselves quite happy with the F-35’s progress. See our feature story here. Also, the new fifth generation fighter jet completed its first ever transatlantic flight on Friday 5 February,

© 2016 Airheadsfly.com editor Elmer van Hest

US Theater Security Packages by the numbers

An informative infographic released on Wednesday 6 January by US Air Force in Europe (USAFE) gives more details about the three Theater Security Packages that deployed from the US to Europe in 2015. Most impressive number: 26 nations saw ‘support’ from those packages.

The Pentagon announced the first Theater Security Package (TSP) to Europe early last year as part of Operation Atlantic Resolve. The move of sending fighter aircraft to Europe was a clear reponse to Russia’s attitude over the Baltics and Ukraine in particular.


The first TSP consisted of twelve A-10C Thunderbolts from Davis Monthan Air Force Base and arrive at Spangdahlem airbase in Germany on 13 February. See Airheadsfly.com’s report on their arrival here. The attack aircraft and their crews visited numerous European countries during their six month stay.

Spangdahlem-based F-16Cs chase this Davis Monthan A-10 down to the runway. (Image © Dennis Spronk)
Spangdahlem-based F-16Cs chase this Davis Monthan A-10 down to the runway. (Image © Dennis Spronk)


April saw twelve US Air National Guard F-15 Eagles arrive in Europe for participation in various exercises. Airheadsfly.com’s interview with their commanding officer is here. In September, the third TSP crossed the Atlantic, again consisting of A-10C Thunderbolts.

The deployment of four F-22 Raptors to Germany in August formally never was a full TSP. The sending of those aircraft perhaps gave a stronger message than the three TSPs combined, however.

In 2016, more TSPs are scheduled according to US officials. A batch of F-15s is expected to participate in various military exercises.

© 2016 Airheadsfly.com editor Elmer van Hest
Featured image: One of the US Eagles in Europe in 2015 (Image © Elmer van Hest)

Two engines, more noise. (Image © Elmer van Hest)
Two engines, more noise. (Image © Elmer van Hest)
Four F-22s about to overfly Spangdahlem for a historic deployment. (Image © Elmer van Hest)
Four F-22s about to overfly Spangdahlem for a historic deployment. (Image © Elmer van Hest)