Category Archives: Air Force

F-16 Block 70

Lockheed Martin on January 24, 2023 announced the successful first flight of the F-16 Block 70 at its Greenville, South Carolina site.

F-16 Block 70
F-16 Block 70 first flight

The flight occurred January 24 at 9:17 a.m. ET, with Lockheed Martin test pilots Dwayne «Pro» Opella and Monessa «Siren» Balzhiser at the helm. Total flight time was approximately 50 minutes and included airworthiness checks, such as engine, flight control and fuel system checks, as well as basic aircraft handling.

«Today’s successful flight is a testament of the hard work, dedication and commitment to our customers and their missions», said OJ Sanchez, vice president, Integrated Fighter Group, which includes the F-16 program. «This milestone demonstrates Lockheed Martin’s commitment to advancing this program and getting this much-needed aircraft and its advanced 21st Century Security capabilities to the warfighter».

This F-16 Block 70 jet is the first of 16 jets to be delivered to Bahrain. Six countries have selected Block 70/72 aircraft. In addition to the current official backlog of 128 jets to-date to be built in Greenville, Jordan last year signed a Letter of Offer and Acceptance (LOA) for eight jets and last week signed an additional LOA for four more jets. Lockheed Martin has received a contract to begin Jordan’s long-lead activities. Bulgaria has also signed an LOA for an additional eight jets for its fleet. Once these are finalized, the backlog will increase to 148.

«Lockheed Martin is fully committed to delivering quality platforms for our customers’ critical missions, and I am so proud of our talented team in Greenville», said Danya Trent, F-16 Vice President and Site Lead in Greenville. «This is the culmination of significant development, design, digital engineering, supply chain and production line advances to an already proven platform that will continue to deliver decades of service in support of customers’ national security».

F-16 Block 70/72
F-16 Block 70 first flight against the sky

 

About the F-16

The F-16 is a strategic and valuable choice for many customers around the world seeking advanced, 4th generation fighter aircraft capabilities, regional and worldwide partnerships, and affordable lifecycle costs. More than 3,000 F-16s are operating today in 25 countries. The F-16 has flown an estimated 19.5 million flight hours and at least 13 million sorties. Today’s latest version, the Block 70/72, offers unparalleled capabilities and will be flown by at least five countries beginning in the mid-2020s.

GV22-0020 F-16 Bahrain EB1 First Flight 20230125 V2 from LM Aero Multimedia on Vimeo.

Royal Canadian Air Force

The Government of Canada announced on January 9, 2023, it is procuring Lockheed Martin’s 5th Generation F-35A Lightning II aircraft as a result of the Future Fighter Capability Project competition.

F-35A Lightning II
Canada Announces the Procurement of the F-35 Lightning II

The Royal Canadian Air Force will receive 88 F-35A Lightning II multirole stealth fighters, a sustainment solution tailored to Canada’s sovereign requirements and a comprehensive training program.

«Canada is our friend and a close ally. Their decision to procure almost 90 jets underscores the value of the incredible F-35 Lightning II», said U.S. Air Force Lieutenant General Mike Schmidt, program executive officer, F-35 Lightning II Joint Program Office. «The F-35 is the best in the world, providing unmatched interoperability to America, Canada and the additional 15 nations that have selected the fighter. It is a global game-changer. Through power-projection, the F-35 is at the tip of the spear for deterrence. Its forward presence will continue to ensure that potential adversaries choose diplomacy over armed conflict».

«We are honored the Government of Canada has selected the F-35A Lightning II, and we look forward to continuing our partnership with the Royal Canadian Air Force and the Canadian defence industry to deliver and sustain the aircraft», said Bridget Lauderdale, Lockheed Martin’s vice president and general manager of the F-35 Lightning II program. «The selection of F-35 strengthens allied airpower in Canada, North America and around the world».

The F-35 Lightning II strengthens Canada’s operational capability with its allies as a cornerstone for interoperability with NORAD and NATO. As a critical node in the 21st Century Security mission space, the F-35 Lightning II gives pilots an advantage against any adversary and enabling them to execute their mission and come home safe.

«Together with our Canadian industry partners, we are honoured by this selection and the sustainment of critical jobs that will continue to equip Canadian workforces with advanced skills», said Lorraine Ben, chief executive, Lockheed Martin Canada. «The F-35 program yields tremendous economic benefits for Canada’s aerospace and defence industry, and we look forward to continued growth».

To date, the F-35 Lightning II operates from 27 bases worldwide, with nine nations operating F-35s on their home soil. There are more than 890 F-35s in service today, with more than 1,870 pilots and 13,500 maintainers trained on the aircraft.

Next Generation Radar

Northrop Grumman Corporation is developing AN/APG-85, an advanced Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radar for the F-35 Lightning II. Northrop Grumman currently manufactures the AN/APG-81 Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) fire control radar, the cornerstone to the F-35 Lightning II’s sensor suite.

AN/APG-85
Northrop Grumman is developing the next generation radar for the F-35 Lightning II (Credit: Northrop Grumman)

The AN/APG-85 is an advanced multifunction sensor that will be compatible with all variants of the F-35 Lightning II aircraft and will be capable of defeating current and projected adversarial air and surface threats.

The development and integration of APG-85 will incorporate some of the latest technologies available and help ensure air superiority. This advanced sensor will provide unparalleled battlespace situational awareness that translates into platform lethality, effectiveness and survivability.

Northrop Grumman plays a key role in the development, modernization, sustainment and production of the F-35 Lightning II. In addition to producing the AN/APG-85 and AN/APG-81 radars, the company manufactures the center fuselage and wing skins for the aircraft, produces and maintains several sensor systems, avionics, mission systems and mission-planning software, pilot and maintainer training systems courseware, electronic warfare simulation test capability, and low-observable technologies.

Multi-Domain Operations-ready

On November 10, 2022, General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. (GA-ASI) flew the first production MQ-9A Reaper Multi-Domain Operations (M2DO)-ready variant of the U.S. Air Force MQ-9A Reaper. This upgraded version of the MQ-9A Reaper Block 5 remotely piloted aircraft, also known as a the «-25», includes key features that will enable future integration and fielding of Open Mission Systems (OMS) as well as new sensors that will further expand the MQ-9A Reaper’s strategic reconnaissance capabilities.

M2DO MQ-9A Reaper
GA-ASI Flies First M2DO MQ-9A Aircraft

Features of the new «-25» include improved power distribution and redundancy, GPS improvements, radar altimeters, nose wheel steering, and Angle of Attack (AoA) sensor system improvements.

The U.S. Air Force (USAF) and U.S. Marine Corps will both receive these improved MQ-9A Reaper Block 5 «-25» M2DO-ready aircraft under current contracts; however, the total number of aircraft receiving these improvements has not been released.

«We’re excited to position the MQ-9A Reaper enterprise for new missions through these capabilities», said GA-ASI Vice President of USAF Programs Claudia Mowery. «Future funding could potentially expand these capabilities to the entire MQ-9A Reaper fleet».

12 air-to-air missiles

Flying locally over the Gulf of Mexico, two F-15EX Eagle II aircraft launched missiles from their new weapon stations, known as Stations 1 and 9, here November 29.

F-15EX Eagle II
F-15EX Eagle II proves out full air-to-air capability

The 96th Test Wing’s pilots fired an AIM-120 Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missile (AMRAAM) from Station 1 and an AIM-9X Sidewinder from Station 9 over the Eglin Test and Training Complex’s water range.

This Operational Flight Program Combined Test Force (OFP CTF) mission was the first Air Force test flight to validate the weapons could be fired effectively and safely from those stations. The successful employment of these weapons is a major step in demonstrating the F-15EX Eagle II aircraft’s missile capacity of 12 air-to-air missiles.

«I’m really proud to be a part of this milestone for the F-15EX Eagle II program to deliver increased payload capacity to the combat air forces», said Major Jeremy Schnurbusch, 40th FLTS-attached pilot, who fired the AIM-9X missile.

This is one of many upgrades F-15EX Eagle II brings to the Air Force inventory. Prior to the F-15EX Eagle II, F-15 aircraft models could carry eight air-to-air missiles. The F-15EX Eagle II adds four additional missile stations located toward the wing tips. This mission provided the first test points for validating the expanded carriage and employment capabilities of the Eagle II.

Both aircraft successfully released the missiles on separate passes against a target drone. The releases were another milestone in the F-15EX’s developmental test program, but also incorporated many operational test objectives during the mission.

«Having been a part of the Eglin F-15EX team from day one, it’s exciting to see the progress made and new milestones achieved as we work to field the most combat-capable F-15EX», said Major Brett Hughes, OFP CTF, who successfully fired the AIM-120 from Station 1.

With this success, these missile launches pushed forward the aircraft’s integrated developmental and operational testing here, where the F-15EX Eagle II fired its first missile just nine months ago.

«The integrated test strategy has been critical to our test success, allowing us to break the mold of traditional testing, ultimately resulting in a better overall product for the warfighter in a shorter timeline than a traditional approach», said Colton Myers, OFP CTF F‑15EX Eagle II test project manager.

Once initial testing is complete, operational units receiving the new F-15EX Eagle II will be able to carry and employ a full load-out of 12 missiles on the aircraft upon fielding.

«The F-15EX Eagle II is an incredible addition to the USAF inventory. This event, executed by a top-notch team of test pilots, engineers, and experts, proves yet again the F-15EX Eagle II will be ready if, and when, our adversaries challenge our nation’s interests», said Lieutenant Colonel Christopher Wee, OFP CTF commander.

Combat Air System

On behalf of the governments of France, Germany and Spain, the French General Directorate for Armament (DGA) has awarded to Dassault Aviation, Airbus, Indra, Eumet and their industrial partners the contract for the Demonstrator Phase 1B of the Future Combat Air System (FCAS). This landmark contract, amounting to € 3.2 billion, will cover work on the FCAS demonstrator and its components for about three and a half years.

Future Combat Air System
Europe’s Future Combat Air System

Dassault Aviation, Airbus, Indra and Eumet welcome this major step forward that reflects the determination of France, Germany and Spain to develop a powerful, innovative and fully European weapon system to meet the operational needs of the countries’ armed forces.

This contract notification comes on the heels of the signature of the industrial agreements supporting the demonstrator Phase 1B by Airbus, Dassault Aviation, Indra and Eumet as prime contractors of the programme and by their industrial partners from the three nations. Discussions held over the last months have enabled the creation of a solid basis for cooperation between industry and the three governments.

This continues the successful Phase 1A demonstrators’ related Research and Technology (R&T) work and development activities, which enabled the identification of key technologies and the launch of the demonstrators’ developments. Paving the way for the development phase of the programme, this demonstration phase 1B will allow continuation of flying demonstrators and required cutting-edge technologies development and maturation as well as project architectures consolidation, with in-flight demonstrations targeted in the next phases by 2028-2029.

The programme is made up of a set of systems: New Generation Fighters teaming with Remote Carriers and connected through a Combat Cloud. In order to meet the ambitions and challenges of such a programme, an adapted and efficient industrial organisation has been set-up and built around technological pillars. Each pillar is under the leadership of an industrial champion acting as prime, working in close cooperation with its main partners and leveraging each nation’s aeronautical industrial ecosystems.

In addition to their prime role per pillar, Airbus, Dassault Aviation and Indra act as national coordinators to ensure the overall coherence of the demonstrators and the overall programme’s steering and work consolidation.

FCAS
On the way to the first flight

The industrial governance of the Phase 1B is organised per domain as follows:

  • Next Generation Weapons System (NGWS) Consistency, Demonstrations and Consolidation with Airbus, Dassault Aviation and Indra Sistemas as co-contracting partners;
  • New Generation Fighter (NGF), with Dassault Aviation for France as prime contractor, and Airbus as main partner for Germany and Spain;
  • NGF Engine with the 50/50 Joint Venture Eumet – between Safran Aircraft Engines for France and MTU Aero Engines for Germany – as prime contractor and ITP Aero for Spain as main partner;
  • Unmanned systems, Remote Carrier (RC) with Airbus for Germany as prime contractor, MBDA for France and Satnus for Spain as main partners;
  • Combat Cloud (CC) with Airbus for Germany as prime contractor, Thales for France and Indra Sistemas for Spain as main partners;
  • Simulation with Airbus, Dassault Aviation and Indra Sistemas as co-contracting partners;
  • Sensors with Indra Sistemas as prime for Spain, and Thales for France and FCMS for Germany as main partners;
  • Enhanced Low Observability (stealth) with Airbus as prime contractor for Spain, Dassault Aviation for France and Airbus for Germany as main partners;
  • Common Working Environment with Airbus, Dassault Aviation, Indra Sistemas and Eumet as co-contracting partners.

The industrial partners thank the three nations for their confidence and reiterate their firm commitment and total mobilisation to make this programme the armed wing of Europe’s strategic autonomy thanks to the reinforcement of the operational, technological and industrial sovereignty of its defence.

 

F-35 Fleet

The F-35 Joint Program Office (JPO) and Lockheed Martin have finalized the contract for the production and delivery for up to 398 F-35s for $30 billion, including U.S., international partners and Foreign Military Sales (FMS) aircraft in Lots 15 and 16, with the option for Lot 17.

F-35 Lightning II
F-35 Lightning II Fleet Now at 894 Aircraft After 141 Deliveries in 2022

«The F-35 delivers unsurpassed capability to our warfighters and operational commanders», said Air Force Lieutenant General Mike Schmidt, program executive officer, F-35 Joint Program Office. «This contract strikes the right balance between what’s best for the U.S. taxpayers, military services, allies and our foreign military sales customers. The F-35 is the world’s premier multi-mission, 5th-generation weapon system, and the modernized Block 4 capabilities these new aircraft will bring to bear strengthens not just capability, but interoperability with our allies and partners across land, sea, air and cyber domains».

The agreement includes 145 aircraft for Lot 15, 127 for Lot 16, and up to 126 for the Lot 17 contract option, including the first F-35 Lightning II aircraft for Belgium, Finland and Poland.

Lot 15-17 aircraft will be the first to include Technical Refresh-3 (TR-3), the modernized hardware needed to power Block 4 capabilities. TR-3 includes a new integrated core processor with greater computing power, a panoramic cockpit display and an enhanced memory unit.

These aircraft will add to the growing global fleet, currently at 894 aircraft after 141 deliveries this year. The F-35 Lightning II team was on track to meet the commitment of 148 aircraft as planned; however, due to a temporary pause in flight operations, which is still in effect, necessary acceptance flight tests could not be performed.

The finalized contract caps off a year of the F-35 Lightning II delivering combat-proven airpower around the world and continued international growth. This year, Finland, Germany and Switzerland signed Letters of Offer and Acceptance (LOAs) as an important step in their procurement of F-35 Lightning II aircraft.

«Continuing to add new countries to our global F-35 fleet further validates the capability and affordability of this aircraft in providing 21st Century Security to nations and allies», said Bridget Lauderdale, Lockheed Martin vice president and general manager, F-35 Lightning II Program. «There is simply no other aircraft that can do all that the F-35 does to defeat and deter even the most advanced threats».

F-35 Lightning II program participants currently include 17 countries. To date, more than 1,870 pilots and 13,500 maintainers have been trained, and the F-35 Lightning II fleet has surpassed more than 602,000 cumulative flight hours.

The unveiling of the Raider

Northrop Grumman Corporation and the U.S. Air Force unveiled the B-21 Raider to the world on December 02, 2022. The B-21 Raider joins the nuclear triad as a visible and flexible deterrent designed for the U.S. Air Force to meet its most complex missions.

B-21 Raider
Northrop Grumman and the U.S. Air Force introduce the B-21 Raider, the world’s first sixth-generation aircraft (Credit: Northrop Grumman)

«The Northrop Grumman team develops and delivers technology that advances science, looks into the future and brings it to the here and now», said Kathy Warden, chair, chief executive officer and president, Northrop Grumman. «The B-21 Raider defines a new era in technology and strengthens America’s role of delivering peace through deterrence».

The B-21 Raider forms the backbone of the future for U.S. air power, leading a powerful family of systems that deliver a new era of capability and flexibility through advanced integration of data, sensors and weapons. Its sixth-generation capabilities include stealth, information advantage and open architecture.

«The B-21 Raider is a testament to America’s enduring advantages in ingenuity and innovation. And it’s proof of the Department’s long-term commitment to building advanced capabilities that will fortify America’s ability to deter aggression, today and into the future. Now, strengthening and sustaining U.S. deterrence is at the heart of our National Defense Strategy», said Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III. «This bomber was built on a foundation of strong, bipartisan support in Congress. And because of that support, we will soon fly this aircraft, test it and then move into production».

The B-21 Raider is capable of networking across the battlespace to multiple systems, and into all domains. Supported by a digital ecosystem throughout its lifecycle, the B-21 Raider can quickly evolve through rapid technology upgrades that provide new capabilities to outpace future threats.

«With the B-21 Raider, the U.S. Air Force will be able to deter or defeat threats anywhere in the world», said Tom Jones, corporate vice president and president, Northrop Grumman Aeronautics Systems. «The B-21 Raider exemplifies how Northrop Grumman is leading the industry in digital transformation and digital engineering, ultimately delivering more value to our customers».

The B-21 Raider is named in honor of the Doolittle Raids of World War II when 80 men, led by Lieutenant Colonel James «Jimmy» Doolittle, and 16 B-25 Mitchell medium bombers set off on a mission that changed the course of World War II. The designation B-21 recognizes the Raider as the first bomber of the 21st century.

Japan Tankers

Boeing has been awarded a contract to deliver two additional KC-46A Pegasus tankers to the Japan Air Self-Defense Force (JASDF), bringing the total on contract for Japan to six. Boeing delivered the first KC-46A Pegasus tanker to Japan in October 2021, and a second in February 2022.

KC-46A Pegasus
Japan KC-46A Pegasus flies with U.S. KC-46A Pegasus (Boeing photo)

«The unmatched versatility and multi-mission capabilities of the KC-46A Pegasus tanker further support JASDF’s air mobility mission», said James Burgess, vice president and KC-46A Pegasus program manager. «The growing global KC-46A Pegasus fleet increases the interoperability advantages for our customers, ensuring mission readiness as well as value for their investment».

Designed to refuel all allied and coalition military aircraft compatible with international aerial refueling procedures, the proven KC-46A Pegasus has flown more than 10,000 sorties and is delivering millions of pounds of fuel every month to allied forces around the globe. In addition to refueling, the KC-46A Pegasus delivers multi-mission capabilities necessary for the 21st century fleet, including data connectivity and personnel, cargo and aeromedical transportation.

«This additional KC-46A Pegasus acquisition reinforces the U.S.-Japan security alliance to support security and stability throughout the Pacific region», said Will Shaffer, president of Boeing Japan. «Boeing is proud of our enduring partnership with Japan, and we look forward to supporting the nation’s KC-46A Pegasus fleet that will fly for decades to come».

Boeing has delivered 67 KC-46A Pegasus tankers, including 65 to the U.S. Air Force and two to Japan. Built on the proven 767 airframe that has more than 1,200 delivered – and with more KC-46A Pegasus aircraft operational globally than any tanker except the Boeing-built KC-135 Stratotanker – the Pegasus also provides crucial mission reliability for global customers.

The contract was awarded by the U.S. Air Force through the Foreign Military Sales process. Boeing builds KC-46A Pegasus aircraft for the U.S. Air Force, the JASDF and other allied customers on its 767 production line in Everett, Washington. In addition, Boeing’s Japanese partners produce 16 percent of the KC-46A Pegasus airframe structure. The JASDF also operates four earlier generation Boeing-built KC-767 aircraft.

 

General Characteristics

Primary Function Aerial refueling and airlift
Prime Contractor The Boeing Company
Power Plant 2 × Pratt & Whitney 4062
Thrust 62,000 lbs/275.790 kN/28,123 kgf – Thrust per High-Bypass engine (sea-level standard day)
Wingspan 157 feet, 8 inches/48.1 m
Length 165 feet, 6 inches/50.5 m
Height 52 feet, 10 inches/15.9 m
Maximum Take-Off Weight (MTOW) 415,000 lbs/188,240 kg
Maximum Landing Weight 310,000 lbs/140,614 kg
Fuel Capacity 212,299 lbs/96,297 kg
Maximum Transfer Fuel Load 207,672 lbs/94,198 kg
Maximum Cargo Capacity 65,000 lbs/29,484 kg
Maximum Airspeed 360 KCAS (Knots Calibrated AirSpeed)/0.86 M/414 mph/667 km/h
Service Ceiling 43,100 feet/13,137 m
Maximum Distance 7,299 NM/8,400 miles/13,518 km
Pallet Positions 18 pallet positions
Air Crew 15 permanent seats for aircrew, including aeromedical evacuation aircrew
Passengers 58 total (normal operations); up to 114 total (contingency operations)
Aeromedical Evacuation 58 patients (24 litters/34 ambulatory) with the AE Patient Support Pallet configuration; 6 integral litters carried as part of normal aircraft configuration equipment

 

Kızılelma

The Turkish pioneering drone maker has announced its unmanned fighter jet had successfully completed ground tests, as the landmark project inches closer to performing its maiden flight in the coming days.

Kızılelma
Türkiye’s 1st unmanned fighter jet’s maiden flight due after ground tests

Named Kızılelma, the National Unmanned Combat Aerial Vehicle System (MIUS) completed its first runway run and autonomous taxiing test at an air base in northwestern Tekirdağ province, according to a video shared by its developer Baykar on Sunday.

The test was overseen by Baykar’s Chief Technology Officer (CTO) Selçuk Bayraktar.

The fast drone fighter jet Kızılelma is said to represent a significant expansion of capabilities for slow-moving reconnaissance and missile-carrying drones.

It will be capable of taking off from and landing on short-runway aircraft carriers, including Türkiye’s flagship-to-be amphibious assault ship TCG Anadolu (L-400), which is expected to enter service next month.

This feature is said to help extend Türkiye’s drone capabilities from land-based to naval operations.

The Landing Helicopter Dock (LHD) type ship, TCG Anadolu (L-400) is said to be the first of its kind in the world as a vessel that allows the landing of Unmanned Combat Aerial Vehicles (UCAVs) on its dock.

The autonomously maneuvering Kızılelma will be capable of operating in tandem with piloted aircraft, and may carry air-to-air missiles, the company said.

The unmanned fighter jet is projected to conduct a multitude of military actions, such as strategic offensives, Close Air Support (CAS), missile offensives, Suppression of Enemy Air Defenses (SEAD) and Destruction of Enemy Air Defenses (DEAD).

Baykar last year signed a contract with Ivchenko-Progress, one of the leading Ukrainian manufacturers, for the procurement of engines for the MIUS. Ivchenko-Progress was projected to supply the AI-322F Turbofan engine for the jet under the agreement.

The aircraft is set to feature a high operational altitude and takeoff weight of 5,500 kilograms (12,125 pounds). It is envisaged to carry 1.5 tons of useful payload.

It is projected to be capable of flying for five hours and reaching speeds of up to 800 kph (500 mph or Mach 0.64).

Baykar is the company behind the drones that earned fame for their critical role in several conflicts. Its Bayraktar TB2 UCAVs have been credited with helping tip the balance of conflicts in Libya, Syria, Karabakh and lastly Ukraine.

The drones proved to be instrumental in the country’s defense against armor and anti-aircraft systems in the first few weeks of the Russian invasion.

The battle-proven TB2 is being sold to 24 countries including NATO member Poland, while the company signed deals with five countries for exports of its much larger sibling Akıncı, dubbed the most advanced and sophisticated drone built by Türkiye.

While the TB2 can lift off with up to 150 kilograms/331 lbs. of missiles or equipment, Akıncı, first delivered to Turkish armed forces last year, can fly much higher and take off with 10 times the weight.

It is also working on TB3, a short-runway-capable version of the TB2. The new drone is expected to finish its testing phase by the end of 2023, according to the company’s officials.

Last year, Baykar made up a fifth of Türkiye’s $3.2 billion in defense exports, according to data from the Turkish Exporters Assembly (TIM).

The expanding order book is expected to net around $1 billion in export revenues this year, Baykar CEO Haluk Bayraktar said last month, about 50% higher than last year’s $650 million, with a further 50% growth expected in 2023.