Category Archives: Air Force

European Aircraft

Another major milestone in the European Medium Altitude Long Endurance Remotely Piloted Aircraft System (MALE RPAS) programme was attained with the achievement of the System Preliminary Design Review on November 22nd. This highly significant accomplishment follows the European Organisation for Joint Armament Co-operation (OCCAR) inviting Airbus Defence and Space on October 31st to submit a Tender for the Development, Production and initial in-Service Support phase of the European MALE RPAS Programme. This milestone will allow the Participating States and Industry to start developing the System with aligned requirements and a clear picture of the overall system design.

The European MALE RPAS programme successfully passed the System Preliminary Design Review as final milestone of the Programme Definition Study
The European MALE RPAS programme successfully passed the System Preliminary Design Review as final milestone of the Programme Definition Study

As designated future prime contractor, Airbus Defence and Space will coordinate the industrial response to the Invitation to Tender (ITT) with the involvement of major Sub-Contractors: Airbus Defence & Space, Dassault Aviation SA and Leonardo.

The ITT gives testimony to the willingness of the Participating States (France, Germany, Italy and Spain) to continue with the programme after a highly successful requirement alignment phase and a convincing demonstration of the quality and fitness for purpose of the proposed design.

This successful achievement of the System Preliminary Design Review comes after a two-year definition study launched in September 2016 by the aforementioned Participating States. Three of these States had already signed a Declaration of Intent (DoI) to work together on a European MALE unmanned aerial system in May 2015, while Spain joined the programme in 2016.

Designed for flight in non-segregated airspace, its characteristics will include mission modularity for operational superiority in intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, both wide area and in-theatre. The Participating States’ agreed on the air vehicle configuration in mid-2017, selecting a twin-turboprop propulsion system.

By the middle of the next decade the MALE RPAS will be operated worldwide to perform Intelligence, Surveillance, Target Acquisition and Reconnaissance (ISTAR) missions.

New Era

Australia’s firsttwo locally-based F-35A Lightning II fighter aircraft arrived on home soil onDecember 9 at Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) Williamtown, signalling thedawn of a new era for the nation’s defence capabilities.

Australia's first F-35s arrive home to RAAF Williamtown heralding new era for the Australian Defence Force
Australia’s first F-35s arrive home to RAAF Williamtown heralding new era for the Australian Defence Force

Lockheed Martin designed and built Australia’s fleet of F-35s and also serves as the global industry lead for F-35 sustainment.

The most advanced fighter jet ever built, the F-35 will be a catalyst for the transformation of the Australian Defence Force (ADF), utilising its sensors and low observability to operate with impunity in contested airspace and fuse a picture of the battlespace for other air, land and sea assets. Along with its advanced weapons capacity and superior range, the 5th Generation F-35 is the most lethal, survivable and connected fighter in the world.

«The arrival of the first F-35 aircraft to be permanently based in Australia is a historic occasion and we are proud of our role as the 5th Generation design pioneer and F-35 original equipment manufacturer», said Chief Executive of Lockheed Martin Australia, Vince Di Pietro AM, CSC.

«We congratulatethe RAAF, the ADF and all of our Australian industry partners who have workedto make this achievement a reality».


Australia PlaysMajor Role in the F-35 Program

Australian suppliers play a significant role in the F-35 program with more than 50 Australian companies contributing to the global program of record of more than 3,000 aircraft. To date, the F-35 program has secured more than 2,400 highly skilled jobs created and generated more than $1.3 billion AUD in contracts for Australian industry.

«Flown by Australian pilots, maintained by Australian maintenance personnel and containing many best-of-breed advanced components made right here in Australia, all Australians have every reason to be proud of this achievement», Di Pietro said. «Australia plays a significant role in the program with a suite of local industrial technology and know-how behind the hundreds of F-35s flying today, as well as the thousands of F-35s that will be produced in the future».

Lockheed Martin is the industry lead for F-35 global sustainment and is working in partnership with the Australian Defence Force and local industry to provide sustainment support and realise the full potential of the F-35 as an integrated force multiplier for decades to come.

Australia’s hascommitted to 72 F-35As, which will be flown by Australian pilots, andmaintained by a joint team of Australian maintenance personnel and industrypartners including Lockheed Martin Australia. Australia has received 10 aircraft to date, the remainder of which are stationed at Luke Air Force Base inArizona where they are part of the international cooperative F-35 trainingoperations.


Length 51.4 feet/15.7 m
Height 14.4 feet/4.38 m
Wingspan 35 feet/10.7 m
Wing area 460 feet2/42.7 m2
Horizontal tail span 22.5 feet/6.86 m
Weight empty 29,300 lbs/13,290 kg
Internal fuel capacity 18,250 lbs/8,278 kg
Weapons payload 18,000 lbs/8,160 kg
Maximum weight 70,000 lbs class/31,751 kg
Standard internal weapons load Two AIM-120C air-to-air missiles
Two 2,000-pound/907 kg GBU-31 JDAM (Joint Direct Attack Munition) guided bombs
Propulsion (uninstalled thrust ratings) F135-PW-100
Maximum Power (with afterburner) 43,000 lbs/191,3 kN/19,507 kgf
Military Power (without afterburner) 28,000 lbs/128,1 kN/13,063 kgf
Engine Length 220 in/5.59 m
Engine Inlet Diameter 46 in/1.17 m
Engine Maximum Diameter 51 in/1.30 m
Bypass Ratio 0.57
Overall Pressure Ratio 28
Speed (full internal weapons load) Mach 1.6 (~1,043 knots/1,200 mph/1,931 km/h)
Combat radius (internal fuel) >590 NM/679 miles/1,093 km
Range (internal fuel) >1,200 NM/1,367 miles/2,200 km
Maximum g-rating 9.0

Lithuanian radars

The NATO Communications and Information Agency successfully handed off two new radars to the Lithuanian Air Force on 4 December 2018.

NATO delivers two new radars to go live in Lithuania
NATO delivers two new radars to go live in Lithuania

The milestone, marked by a formal ceremony in Aukštadvaris, Lithuania, was reached after years of collaboration with Lithuania to procure fixed air defence radars. The NCI Agency brought expertise from managing the same work for other NATO Nations including the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland.

The Lithuanian radars are now contributing to NATO’s air surveillance capability as part of the NATO Integrated Air and Missile Defence System. In return, Lithuania receives the combined NATO Air Surveillance data, allowing visibility on air traffic way beyond the nation’s borders.

«Today’s event – the initiation of this radar system – continues Lithuania’s steadfast endeavour to secure its freedom and to never allow the atrocities of the past to be repeated. NATO stands with you in this endeavour», said NCI Agency General Manager Kevin J. Scheid at the ceremony.

«The operational launch of the two long-range radars marks a huge qualitative leap in strengthening both Lithuania’s national and NATO’s air surveillance capability, a part of the NATO Integrated Air and Missile Defence System», Deputy Defence Minister Edvinas Kerza said on 4 December, during a visit to the Airspace Surveillance and Control post in Antaveršis.

«In this regard, this is not just a state-of-the-art radar system, but a technological declaration of independence. And how appropriate that this declaration comes on the 100th anniversary of Lithuanian Independence», said Mr. Scheid.

«We have a wealth of experience, not just in the procurement domain but also in the technical domain», noted Rene Thaens, Head of the Electronic Warfare and Sensors Branch for the NCI Agency. Mr. Thaens is also the project manager for the Lithuanian Air Surveillance project.

Prior Lithuanian radars dated back to the era before the nation acceded to NATO in 2004. The capabilities of these systems could not meet NATO’s needs, leading Lithuania to seek a modern air surveillance capability. The nearly 40 million EUR project began with a study, conducted by the Agency, on the country’s radar capabilities. Based on the study’s outcome, the Lithuanian Ministry of Defence requested the Agency run the procurement, which began in 2010.

Spanish company Indra provided the radar systems. The NCI Agency conducted factory acceptance tests, site acceptance tests and live flying tests, where an aircraft will fly against the radar to see if it can perform against a target.

Work to arrange secure communications was added to the scope of the project over time, Mr. Thaens said. Communications must be secured between the radar and the central node digesting the data, which requires particular cryptographic equipment.

The Lithuanian government also chose to exercise an option for a third radar. The Agency expects to complete work on the third radar by around 2020.

Utilizing NATO’s best practices and standards to complete the project has several benefits, including interoperability, Mr. Thaens added. Nations can do such work independently, but that route can be difficult because the radars must be integrated into NATO’s air surveillance system.

Nations who choose to standardize on a particular radar can also benefit from collective buying power around maintenance.

Phase II

Boeing’s KC-46A Pegasus tanker program has completed its planned Phase II receiver certification flight testing following three weeks of flights with F-15E Strike Eagle aircraft out of Edwards Air Force Base, California.

Boeing’s KC-46A Pegasus tanker refuels an F-15E Strike Eagle aircraft during Phase II receiver certification testing out of Edwards Air Force Base, California. A Boeing/U.S. Air Force team completed receiver certification with F-16 Fighting Falcon, KC-135 Stratotanker, C-17 Globemaster III, A-10 Thunderbolt II, KC-46A Pegasus, B-52 Stratofortress, F/A-18 Super Hornet and F-15E Strike Eagle aircraft (Photo: Boeing)
Boeing’s KC-46A Pegasus tanker refuels an F-15E Strike Eagle aircraft during Phase II receiver certification testing out of Edwards Air Force Base, California. A Boeing/U.S. Air Force team completed receiver certification with F-16 Fighting Falcon, KC-135 Stratotanker, C-17 Globemaster III, A-10 Thunderbolt II, KC-46A Pegasus, B-52 Stratofortress, F/A-18 Super Hornet and F-15E Strike Eagle aircraft (Photo: Boeing)

Boeing and U.S. Air Force KC-46A Pegasus crews kicked off receiver certification testing with F-16 Fighting Falcon aircraft in April 2018. Since then the joint team also completed testing with KC-135 Stratotanker, C-17 Globemaster III, A-10 Thunderbolt II, KC-46A Pegasus, B-52 Stratofortress, and F/A-18 Super Hornet aircraft.

«This accomplishment is a tribute to the Boeing/U.S. Air Force team and helps set the stage for the start of Initial Operational Test & Evaluation testing next year», said Mike Gibbons, Boeing KC-46A Pegasus tanker vice president and program manager. «We are seeing great progress in both test and production and expect the positive momentum to continue as we begin delivering aircraft».

During the certification flight tests, KC-46A Pegasus and receiver aircraft flew at different airspeeds, altitudes and configurations to ensure compatibility and performance throughout the refueling envelope of each receiver. Now, the Air Force and the Aerial Refueling Certification Agency will review all test data and paperwork before ultimately “certifying” each aircraft.

«The Air Force crews were with us every step of the way during this critical testing», said Jake Kwasnik, KC-46A Pegasus test program manager. «It was awesome to see everyone working together as we conducted flights out of Boeing Field and also at Edwards and Minot Air Force bases».

Six test aircraft have now completed more than 3,700 flight hours and supplied more than four million pounds of fuel in flight to receiver aircraft.

Phase III receiver certification testing will be conducted by the Air Force at Edwards Air Force Base in 2019. That testing will include additional receiver aircraft.

The KC-46A Pegasus, derived from Boeing’s commercial 767 airframe, is built in the company’s Everett, Wash., facility. Boeing is currently on contract for the first 52 of an expected 179 tankers for the U.S. Air Force.

The KC-46A Pegasus is a multirole tanker that can refuel all allied and coalition military aircraft compatible with international aerial refueling procedures and can carry passengers, cargo and patients.


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


Armed Helicopter

According to Yonhap News Agency, Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI), a South Korean defense firm, plans to roll out the prototype of a Light Armed Helicopter (LAH) for the country’s Army in December, its officials said Sunday, 25 November.

An image of a Light Armed Helicopter (LAH) being developed by Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) provided by the company (Yonhap)
An image of a Light Armed Helicopter (LAH) being developed by Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) provided by the company (Yonhap)

The LAH is to replace an aging fleet of the Army’s attack choppers, including MD500s and 70 AH-1S Cobras.

«Following the rollout of the LAH’s prototype next month, an engine test is scheduled in March next year and a maiden flight in May», a KAI official said.

Based on the Eurocopter EC 155 helicopter, the LAH is designed to fly at a speed of upward of 324 kilometers per hour/201 mph/175 knots and have a range of some 905 km/562 miles. Its maximum take-off load is 4.9 tons/9,800 pounds with the chopper to be equipped with a 20-mm gun and anti-armor guided missiles made locally.

The first operational LAH is set to be delivered to units toward the end of 2022.

Meanwhile, KAI has resumed talks with the Philippines on the possible sale of Surion KUH-1 multi-role choppers, according to its CEO Kim Jo-won.

KAI’s export bid came to a halt with the fatal crash in July of a Marineon operated by South Korea’s Marine Corps. An investigation team said a defective rotor master provided by a subcontractor was apparently responsible for the accident.

Marineon is a variant of Surion that’s specialized for use with the Marine Corps.

Kim said his firm restarted «technology talks» with the Philippines last week on the possibility of supplying Surions to the archipelago nation.

Competing models include the Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawk.

If KAI succeeds in exporting the Surion to the Philippines, Indonesia could be a potential buyer as well, Kim said during a recent press conference at the company’s headquarters in Sacheon, South Gyeongsang Province.

HForce weapon system

The Serbian Minister of Defence Aleksandar Vulin visited the Airbus Helicopters Donauwörth site to accept the first H145M for the Serbian Air Force. In December, two H145Ms will be delivered to the Serbian Ministry of Interior. Altogether, Serbia will receive nine H145Ms, earmarked for the Air Force and for the Ministry of Interior. Four of the Air Force’s aircraft will be equipped with the HForce weapon management system.

Serbia receives first out of nine H145Ms
Serbia receives first out of nine H145Ms

«We assess the implementation of the contract as an example of successful cooperation and positive business practice», said Aleksandar Vulin. «All the activities so far have been carried out within the agreed deadlines, and we expect the future activities to be implemented in the same manner. We are particularly pleased to point out that the activities of the industrial cooperation covered by the contract are taking place within the planned timelines».

«I would like to thank the Serbian government and personally Defence Minister Vulin for their trust in the latest member of our H145 family and for the smooth cooperation since the negotiations started in 2016», said Wolfgang Schoder, CEO of Airbus Helicopters Germany. «We see a lot more opportunities for the H145M in Europe and beyond».

The contract between Airbus Helicopters and Serbia foresees transfer of technology, spare parts, tools and documentation for the helicopters’ maintenance and repair. Airbus Helicopters will also certify Serbia’s Moma Stanojlovic aeronautical plant as a centre for the maintenance of Gazelle helicopters and will include it in its overhaul network. Airbus will also support Serbian manufacturing plants and research and development institutions to obtain relevant qualifications and certificates to become a supplier.

The H145M has several optional equipment packages that can be installed or removed depending on the assigned mission. With a Maximum Take-Off Weight (MTOW) of 8,157 lbs/3,700 kg, the H145M can be used for a wide range of tasks, including troop transport, utility, surveillance, air rescue, armed reconnaissance and medical evacuation.

The Serbian aircraft will be equipped with a fast roping system, high-performance camera, fire support equipment, ballistic protection as well as an electronic countermeasures system to support the most demanding operational requirements. The HForce system, developed by Airbus Helicopters, will allow Serbia to equip and operate their aircraft with a large set of ballistic or guided air-to-ground and air-to-air weapons.

The H145M is a tried-and-tested light twin-engine helicopter that was first delivered in 2015 to the German Armed Forces and has since been ordered by Hungary, Thailand and Luxemburg. The programme’s maturity allows Airbus Helicopters to execute orders on cost and on schedule. Mission readiness of the H145Ms already in service is above 95 percent.

Powered by two Safran Arriel 2E engines, the H145M is equipped with Full Authority Digital Engine Control (FADEC) and the Helionix digital avionics suite. It includes a high-performance 4-axis autopilot, increasing safety and reducing pilot workload. Its particularly low acoustic footprint makes the H145M the quietest helicopter in its class.



Length (rotor rotating) 44.72 feet/13.63 m
Fuselage length 38.35 feet/11.69 m
Height 13.12 feet/4 m
Main rotor diameter 36.09 feet/11 m
Width (blades folded) 8.89 feet/2.71 m
Maximum Take-Off Weight (MTOW) 8,157 lbs/3,700 kg
Useful Load 3,900 lbs/1,769 kg
Sling load 3,307 lbs/1,500 kg
Maximum seating 1/2 pilots + 10/9 troops
2 × Turbomeca ARRIEL 2E turboshaft engines
Maximum Continuous Power (MCP) 2×771 shp/2×575 kW
Take-Off Power (TOP) 2×894 shp/2×667 kW
2 min One Engine Inoperative (OEI) 1×1,038 shp/1×775 kW
30 sec OEI-power 1×1,072 shp/1×800 kW
Speed (Vne – never exceed speed) 135 knots/155 mph/250 km/h
Fast Cruise speed (Vh – maximum speed) 132 knots/152 mph/244 km/h
Maximum range 357 NM/411 miles/662 km
Hover ceiling OGE (TOP), ISA 8,858 feet/2,700 m



Airbus Helicopters continues to progress with the development of its Racer (Rapid And Cost-Efficient Rotorcraft) technology demonstrator, funded by European Union’s H2020 framework through the Clean Sky 2 program, and aiming to provide the best trade-off between speed, cost-efficiency, sustainability and mission performance.

Racer high-speed demonstrator passes preliminary design review milestone
Racer high-speed demonstrator passes preliminary design review milestone

After the validation of the demonstrator’s aerodynamic configuration last year, key subsystems have now successfully passed their Preliminary Design Review (PDR) giving way to the launching of first components manufacture. Final assembly of the prototype is planned to start in Q4 2019.

«I want to thank all of our European partners for the excellence of their work and for their commitment in this fantastic project», said Tomasz Krysinski, Head of Research & Innovation at Airbus Helicopters. «The PDR marks a major achievement for the Racer program as it allows to freeze interfaces and 3D definitions of the main subsystems, prior to detailed design and manufacture of key components».

Long-lead items are the first ones to be manufactured. Airbus Helicopters teams already launched production of the lateral drive shaft, one of the Racer’s most innovative components. Among key subsystems, Italy’s Avio Aero, a GE Aviation Business, is launching procurement and manufacturing for the aircraft’s lateral gear boxes housing, while Hamble UK based GE Aviation Integrated Systems is taking care of the wing’s titanium cradle part. Romania’s INCAS/Romaero has already started manufacturing the Racer’s composite side panel and Spain’s Aernnova the tail parts primary structure.

Together with its partners, Airbus Helicopters is currently refining the content of the future Racer flight demonstration in Clean Sky 2 which will begin in 2020 and include about 200 flight hours. The first part will focus on the progressive opening of the flight envelope and on assessing key performance objectives as well as speed, handling qualities, stability and aerodynamics. The second phase will aim at demonstrating the aircraft’s suitability to carry out potential missions where increased speed and efficiency would bring significant added value, such as Emergency Medical Services (EMS), Search & Rescue (SAR) and private transport. This second flight testing phase will also allow to mature low-noise flight procedures, unique to the Racer demonstrator formula.

French Phénix

Fifty-five years after the arrival of the first Boeing C135 tanker aircraft, the A330 Phoenix on Friday, October 12, took off from Istres air base on its first flight after having officially joined the Air Force.

The French Air Force’s first Airbus A330 tanker takes off to begin its operational trials, due to be completed in late 2019 when it is due to attain its IOC. France plans to order 12, with another three to follow after 2025 (FR AF photo)
The French Air Force’s first Airbus A330 tanker takes off to begin its operational trials, due to be completed in late 2019 when it is due to attain its IOC. France plans to order 12, with another three to follow after 2025 (FR AF photo)

Piloted by a crew of the MRTT team of the Military Aviation Expertise Center (CEAM), the new tanker aircraft made a first flight of flight refueling trial with the aircraft of the 2/2 «Côte-d’Or» Calibration Squadron.

This first flight marks the beginning of the experimental and test campaign that will allow the aircraft to be reach Initial Operational Capability (IOC) within a year. Integrated into the 31st EARTS (strategic air refueling squadron), the trial team will perform many test flights to qualify the aircraft for all the missions it will carry out. The first phase will be dedicated to the air refueling missions of the various Air Force aircraft and those of our allies, in multiple configurations, by day or night and in all weathers.

Once the refueling capabilities are validated, the aircraft’s trials will be expanded to include strategic cargo and personnel transport and medical evacuation. The Phénix, so named by the Air Force as a symbol of the aircraft capable of «reborning» any aircraft it refuels in flight, will ultimately replace the Air Force’s entire fleet of strategic aircraft (C135, A310 and A340) which are now used for long-range missions.

Operated by the strategic air forces, the fleet of 12 aircraft (15 after 2025) will be stationed at the 125 Istres air base, whose role as our «logistics hub» will be increased tenfold.

Given that the A330 Phoenix is one and a half times larger than the C135, the entire infrastructure of Air Base 125 has had to be reviewed. A first maintenance hangar, a parking lot and new air traffic routes were thus created at the air base for the reception and implementation of the aircraft.

This site, the largest currently in terms of investments for the Ministry of the Armed Forces, will continue to accommodate 12 aircraft by 2023. In addition to two other maintenance hangars, Istres will have a new terminal for personnel and logistics transport missions which are currently carried out by the 1/60 «Estérel» transport squadron from Roissy Charles-de-Gaulle airport.

AEW&C System

Speaking ahead of this week’s NATO conference, Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson has announced that the Ministry of Defence is in discussion with Boeing and the Royal Australian Air Force about the potential for the E-7 Wedgetail radar aircraft to replace the current Sentry fleet.

The E-7 Wedgetail, the UK Ministry of Defence’s preferred successor to the Royal Air Force’s E-3 AWACS, is based on the Boeing 737, and is an in-service, off-the-shelf aircraft that presents little developmental risk (RAAF photo)
The E-7 Wedgetail, the UK Ministry of Defence’s preferred successor to the Royal Air Force’s E-3 AWACS, is based on the Boeing 737, and is an in-service, off-the-shelf aircraft that presents little developmental risk (RAAF photo)

The E-7 Wedgetail Airborne Early Warning and Control (AEW&C) System is able to fly for long periods of time and manage the battlespace from the sky, providing situational awareness and tracking multiple airborne and maritime targets at the same time. It then uses the information it gathers to direct other assets like fighter jets and warships. It has already been proven on operations in the battle against Daesh in Iraq and Syria.

Further discussions are set to take place before any investment decision is made, as the MOD follows a stringent approvals process to ensure the aircraft meets the military requirement and represents value-for-money. If selected, UK industry could be involved significantly with the programme, from modification work to through life support.

Speaking ahead of the meeting of Defence Ministers in NATO, Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson said: «The Wedgetail is the stand-out performer in our pursuit of a new battlespace surveillance aircraft, and has already proved itself in Iraq and Syria. Running air operations from the sky, it could be an excellent asset for the RAF and give us a real edge in this increasingly complex world. Our future with Australia will already see us operate the same maritime patrol aircraft, world-class Type 26 warships and supersonic F-35 jets. Wedgetail may join that formidable armoury and help us work together to take on the global threats that we both face».

Following market analysis and discussions with other potential providers, the MOD has concluded that the potential procurement of the E-7 represents the best value for money option for the UK against need, whilst representing a significant opportunity for increased defence cooperation and collaboration with our key ally Australia.

The MOD will work closely with Boeing to ensure Britain’s leading defence industry could also benefit from any deal.

Named after Australia’s largest bird of prey, the wedge-tailed eagle, the high-performing aircraft has been proven on operations with the Royal Australian Air Force, having seen action against Daesh over Syria and Iraq and impressing US Forces in the ‘Red Flag’ series of large-scale exercises.

The Wedgetail uses a standard Boeing 737 airliner modified to carry a sophisticated Northrop Grumman active electronically-scanned radar and can cover four million square kilometres over a single 10-hour period. If selected, it would replace the E-3D Sentry, which entered service in 1992.

It is a proven and reliable aircraft that has been in-Service with the Royal Australian Air Force for some time, with potential to considerably reduce the risk normally associated with acquiring a complex new platform of this nature. The aircraft is based on the Boeing 737 airliner family as is the P-8A Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft due to enter service in 2019.

The news represents a further development of the UK’s increasingly close military capability and industrial relationship with Australia, who recently selected the British Type 26 design for its future frigate. That decision confirmed the UK’s world-leading ship design capabilities, whilst strengthening collaboration in anti-submarine warfare and demonstrating the value of the global five-eyes partnership.

With its proven interoperability, the Wedgetail could also link up with the RAF’s latest arrival, the F-35 Lightning, providing pilots with the latest intelligence and situational awareness demonstrating how a modernised next generation Air Force can fight and win in an increasingly complex and dangerous environment, characterised by high speed and low observability.

With Australia also a partner in the F-35 programme, the RAF and the Royal Australian Air Force will have further opportunities to work together across platforms and with other allies such as the United States to share and collect data and conduct joint training missions, all leading to faster, more effective and more integrated combat forces.

First Phénix

The first Airbus A330 Phénix Multi-Role Tanker Transport Aircraft (MRTT) arrived Thursday afternoon (on September 27) at Istres air base, in south-eastern France. Its reception operations, managed by the Directorate General of Armaments (DGA), will be completed, allowing its hand-over to the Air Force.

The French Air Force’s first Airbus MRTT tanker aircraft lands at its new home base at Istres, in south-eastern France, where it will be officially inducted on October 19 (FR AF photo)
The French Air Force’s first Airbus MRTT tanker aircraft lands at its new home base at Istres, in south-eastern France, where it will be officially inducted on October 19 (FR AF photo)

Armed Forces Minister Florence Parly will travel to Istres on October 19 for the official ceremony marking the arrival of the first Phoenix MRTT in the Air Force, together with General Lavigne, Chief of Staff of the French Air Force.

By its versatility, the A330 Phénix will replace two types of aircraft in the air force’s fleet: the C135 and KC135 tanker aircraft, some of which will be nearly 60 years old by the time they are retired, and the A310 and A340 strategic transport aircraft, used for both personnel and freight. Twelve Phénix aircraft will be delivered to the Air Force by 2023, out of a planned total of 15, as specified by the 2019-2025 Military Programming Law, and the minister’s wish to accelerate their delivery.

Its missions will include supporting the air component of the nuclear deterrent, the contribution to France’s permanent security posture, the projection of forces and power as well as the medical evacuation in case of emergencies or natural catastrophes.

The MRTT Phoenix is based on an Airbus A330 commercial aircraft, modified to meet specific military requirements, principally mid-air refueling. This type of aircraft is already in service with several of our allies.

This first MRTT Phénix aircraft is due to enter operational service with the strategic air force command in 2019, after a technical and operational evaluation campaign carried out by the Air Force and intended to develop the procedures for use its operational employment, doctrine and procedures.

In addition, on September 27th, the second MRTT Phénix aircraft, scheduled to be delivered in 2019, made its first test flight out of the Airbus plant in Getafe (Spain), following its conversion into a military plane.