Tag: Air Force

Clock ticking for Canada on Super Hornet offer

F/A-18F Super Hornet with a full compliment of fuel tanks. U.S. Navy photo by PhotographerÕs Mate 2nd Class Christopher L. Jordan.

The Canadian Press recently reported that the Trudeau government has until the end of the year to decide on an offer for Super Hornet fighter jets.

There is a formal offer on the table to sell 18 Boeing Super Hornets. But that is in limbo because of Boeing’s complaint about the Canadian government and the support it has provided to Bombardier for the development of the C-Series passenger aircraft.

The Trudeau government can ask for an extension, but there is no guarantee it will be granted, Canadian Press noted.

But industry officials tell Defence Watch there the Liberals don’t have much to worry about. Boeing is not going to turn down $6 billion in business if the Trudeau government decides to buy the aircraft.

The Trump administration is also not going to turn down an offer that would secure well-paying U.S. jobs at Boeing’s production facility.

Would there be a price increase? There could be a slight one but that could be offset by tougher bargaining on the part of the Canadian government, officials say.

Boeing, which has seen its reputation undermined in Canada because of the whole Bombardier issue, might be in a mood to provide even more favourable terms, they add.

Whether the Liberal government buys Super Hornets or simply delays the acquisition of aircraft until after the next election remains to be seen.

Inside the Royal Canadian Air Force there is the view that it makes sense to just go into a competition for a full-fleet replacement instead of buying “interim” Super Hornets.


China vows to modernize army and expand military might

(Zha Chunming/Xinhua via AP)

China’s authorities plan to actively modernize the army and boost the potential of forces, Chinese President Xi Jinping said at the opening of the 19th Communist Party’s Congress on Wednesday.

“We will do our utmost to enhance defensive capacity and modernization of China’s Armed Forces,” the Chinese leader said.

The government will honor the army traditions and improve the methods of combat and professional training of soldiers and officers. “China’s reforms in national defense allowed achieving a historic breakthrough…The Chinese People’s Liberation Army is steadily moving towards ‘socialism with Chinese specifics,’” he stressed.

“The authorities will make all efforts to ensure that by 2035 China will have a modern army with defensive power,” he said. “Finally, by the middle of this century this country will have the most advanced forces in the world.”

Some 2,280 delegates are attending the forum, which will last until October 24. The Congress will consider the result of the party’s work over the past five years and discuss economic and political situation in China and other countries, and outline a strategic line of development in the republic for the coming years. After the forum, the party is expected to unveil the new members of its top bodies – the Politburo, its Standing Committee and the Central Committee.





Air-to-Ground Missions were a key Training Focus in Ruska 17 exercise

A Finnish Air Force F/A-18 Hornet armed with JASSM standoff missile during Ruska 17 Air Operations Exercise in Rissala Air Base.

Since 2016, Finnish Air Force F/A-18 multi-role fighters have been capable of carrying air to ground weapons. During Ruska 2017 Air Operations Exercise the exercise troops familiarize themselves with all aspects of planning and execution operations including air-to-ground missions.

Protecting Finland’s population, critical infrastructure of the nation and the troops and capabilities of the Finnish Defence Forces from attacks from the air is the main mission of the air defense of Finland.

The air defense of Finland, led by the Finnish Air Force, is based on Defensive Counter Air missions performed by combat aircraft supported by Ground-Based Air Defence units with both airborne and ground-based capabilities equally important to mission success.

From late 2016, a new type of mission capability has been added to the Finnish Air Force as its the F/A-18 C/D Hornet multi-role fighters reached Full Operational Capability for the use of precision-guided air-to-ground weapons. As a part of the Mid-Life Upgrade 2 (MLU 2) programme that ran from 2012 to 2016, the short range guided bomb JDAM, medium-range glide bomb JSOW and the long-range JASSM standoff missile were integrated to the F/A-18 fleet.

During Ruska 2017 air operations exercise the exercise troops familiarized themselves with all aspects of planning and execution operations including air-to-ground missions.

Aircraft maintenance reservists were trained in handling the JDAM bomb during Ruska 17 air operations exercise in October 2017.

The weapons inventory enables the Finnish Air Force to support all three branches of the Finnish military, the Army, the Navy and the Air Force with the ability to strike various types of ground targets from a distance up to several hundred kilometers. The F/A-18 with the air-to-ground capability is a flexible and fast platform for delivering firepower even during surprising and fast-developing military crises.

The air-to-ground capability of the Finnish Air Force contributes to the Defense of Finland in several ways. One of its important effects is the fact that the potential attacker needs to take into consideration the defender’s ability to strike its units and their staging areas from a distance – something that an air defence force with only Defensive Counter Air and Ground Based Air Defense capabilities is unable to do.


Suomen Ilmavoimat

Lancaster bomber KB882 now at Trenton to be restored

The restoration of Lancaster bomber KB882 can now begin.

The aircraft’s fuselage, engines and propellers arrived at the National Air Force Museum at 8 Wing Trenton, Ont., on Wednesday. The RCAF reports that the wing structures arrived earlier. The aircraft was transported by flatbed truck from Edmundston, New Brunswick.

Ownership of Lancaster bomber KB882 was recently transferred from the City of Edmundston, where it had been a local landmark, to the National Air Force Museum of Canada.

Technicians from the RCAF’s Aerospace and Telecommunications Engineering Support Squadron (ATESS) and the National Air Force Museum of Canada dismantled the aircraft.

KB882 symbolizes the more than 50,000 Canadians who served in Bomber Command during the Second World War and the nearly 10,000 who lost their lives, according to the RCAF.

In addition, the aircraft represents the roles that were also conducted by Lancasters during the postwar period; those include contribution to the RCAF’s Arctic patrol activities and aerial photographic work as Canada charted its wilderness.

At Trenton, the aircraft will be restored to her post-war Mark 10 AR (area reconnaissance) configuration with the aid of donations and volunteer efforts. Restoration is expected to take five to seven years. The RCAF has April 1, 2024, as the target date for its unveiling. That will coincide with the 100th anniversary of the service.

When KB882 is on display for public viewing, the National Air Force Museum of Canada will be the only museum in the world to have in its collection a fully restored Handley Page Halifax and Avro Lancaster, the RCAF noted.

Built by Victory Aircraft Ltd. in Malton, Ont., KB882 flew several combat missions over Europe before returning to Canada in 1945. In 1952, the aircraft underwent a major overhaul and conversion to area reconnaissance. Assigned to the photo-reconnaissance role with 408 Squadron at RCAF Station Rockcliffe, in Ottawa, in 1953, KB882 proved instrumental in the mapping and charting of Canada’s Arctic. The aircraft was also used as an electronic and photographic intelligence gathering platform during the Cold War.

Shortly after retirement in 1964, KB882 was sold to the City of Edmundston where it has been displayed at the Edmundston Airport.


“Falcon Defence 2017” brings Portuguese F-16s to Romania

Lieutenant Colonel João “Jedi” Rosa, Portuguese Air Force detachment commander and one of his colleagues at Borcea Air Base, Romania, in front of a Portuguese F-16 fighter aircraft. Photo by Matos Pires.

BORCEA, Romania – A Portuguese Air Force F-16 detachment deployed to Borcea Air Force Base, Romania in mid-September for training and exercise missions within the Assurance Measures framework.

On September 18, 2017, Portugal landed a military force in support of four F-16 fighter jets, starting a two-month deployment to the Romanian Air Base of Borcea for the exercise “Falcon Defense 2017”.

The Portuguese fighter aircraft will fly training missions in the area in support of NATO policy, to include combined joint missions with the Romanian Air Force, Army and Navy and the Canadian Air Force CF-188s, also deployed in the region, conducting enhanced Air Policing and training missions in Romania. Some of this flying activity will be controlled by a NATO E3-A AWACS operating over the two Allies on the Black Sea shores. The aim of this training is to hone skills and further consolidate cross-Ally interoperability.

Portugal transferred to the Romanian Air Force, 12 F-16 aircraft, while providing training to more than 80 Romanian military personnel in Portugal. With all the fighters delivered, the Portuguese Air Force is now conducting joint training of tactics, techniques and procedures for operations of the jets until late 2018.

“This training deployment is highly beneficial” said Detachment Commander, Lieutenant Colonel João “Jedi” Rosa, who is in charge of 70 military to include pilots, operators, maintainers as well as communications, logistics and other specialists. “While my team has the opportunity to practice deployment and operation, they can, simultaneously, test skills and capabilities away from their home base. Additionally, we are able to fly joint training sorties alongside with our Allies further strengthening the bonds and the interoperability of this Alliance”, he added.

This deployment is one example of Allies organizing joint training activities underlining cohesion and interoperability and showcasing the level of cooperation and consistency required to maintain high NATO standards.

Story by Public Affairs Officer of the Portuguese F-16 “Falcon Defence 2017” Detachment


Why Swedish troops just finished their biggest war games in 23 years

Sweden’s primary combat jet fighter the Saab JAS-39 Gripen

With concerns growing about Russia, Sweden is placing a renewed focus on its own military capabilities.

EARLIER this month Apache attack helicopters began arriving on Gotland, a Swedish island in the Baltic sea some 350km (220 miles) from the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad.

They came to participate in Aurora-17, the biggest Swedish military exercise in more than 20 years. It involved 19 days of manoeuvres by the country’s air force, navy and army, with seven members of NATO, plus Finland, also taking part.

The drill cost $73m, which might seem lavish given that General Micael Byden, the supreme commander of Sweden’s armed forces, complained earlier this year that his troops were seriously underfunded and understaffed. What was the rationale for this show of defensive capability?

The one-word answer would be: Russia. Sweden has had a long, often uneasy relationship with its near-neighbour. In the early 18th century the Great Northern War saw Russia supplant Sweden as the primary Baltic power after an unsuccessful invasion by the Swedes.

The famous death match of Karl XII to take the dead king home from the war.

After Russia had captured Finland from Sweden in 1809, the Finnish capital was moved from Turku to Helsinki to reduce the risk of a Swedish invasion. Over the years relations recovered, but during Vladimir Putin’s presidency in Russia, they have worsened.

Four years ago Russian aeroplanes carried out a dummy nuclear attack on Swedish targets. In 2014 a Russian submarine entered the Stockholm archipelago and departed without being found. Russian fighter planes have also violated Swedish airspace. When the Soviet Union collapsed, Swedish authorities decided that the threat from Russia had diminished. They are now reconsidering.

Tupolev Tu-22M3 Bombers conducted a ‘dummy’ nuclear strike against Sweden

Peter Hultqvist, the Swedish defence minister, cites the “deterioration of the security situation in Europe” (Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and annexation of Crimea spring to mind) as the reason for the Aurora-17 exercise.

The official military explanation is that the show of force is “an important signal to those in the region that we are prepared to defend Sweden”. In all the information provided by both the army and the Swedish government about the exercise, no actual mention was made of Russia.

But Gotland’s mid-Baltic location is of particular relevance to considerations of how to defend against a putative Russian attack. The exercise also coincided with Zapad-17, a much larger exercise run by Russia and Belarus—and Russia is moving troops into Belarus.


Sweden has been studiously neutral for two centuries and is not a NATO member, though debate on that topic is growing.

Aurora-17 has been portrayed as a domestic exercise whose foreign participants were invited under bilateral agreements, not as NATO members. But as relations with Russia deteriorate, Swedish co-operation with NATO is increasing.

Stridsvagn 122 bataljon

The invitation to members of NATO to join Aurora-17 has aligned Sweden even more closely with the alliance, and in the event of war it would be expected to support NATO. The Swedish government listened to Mr Byden and increased the military budget for 2018 by the equivalent of $331m.

Conscription is being reintroduced next year. Such moves send a signal to Moscow, which would view Swedish accession to NATO as a challenge. Retaliatory threats are a possibility.


Allied Air Forces complete peacetime drills in Baltics

An E-3D Sentry of 23 Squadron RAF Waddington (image Credit: MoD)

TALLINN, Estonia – NATO’s Allied Air Command at Ramstein, Germany, and the Combined Air Operations Centre at Uedem, Germany, conducted the sixth live-fly exercise Ramstein Alloy on September 26 and 27.

Like during previous sequels, the training drills focused on exercising NATO’s rotational Baltic Air Policing alert aircraft at Šiauliai, Lithuania, and Ämari, Estonia, and regional air forces. The scenarios used to improve the tactics, techniques and procedures are grouped around realistic situations such as identifying and assisting aircraft in distress, simulating aircraft emergencies and immediate responses.

Besides the United States Air Force and Belgian Air Force fighter detachments ensuring the peacetime Baltic Air Policing mission, military aircraft from Estonia, Germany and Lithuania, and were involved. They conducted missions tactically coordinated and controlled by a Royal Air Force AWACS plane, the Baltic Control and Reporting Centre at Karmelava, Lithuania, the Control and Reporting Point at Ämari, Estonia, and elements of the NATO DARS* presently deployed at Lielvarde, Latvia for their deployment exercise Ramstein Dust –II 17.

All Allied personnel involved in Ramstein Alloy 6 both on the ground and in the air demonstrated their professional and competent skills interacting across borders and applying pertinent peacetime routines.

“The goals Allied Air Command set for this exercise were met by all our participants,” said the Ramstein Alloy 6 project officer, Spanish Air Force Major Ildefonso Martinez-Pardo. “We successfully and safely conducted missions like loss of communications, identification of unknown aircraft, aerial manoeuvres among several fighter aircraft, aerial refuelling and the simulated diversion into an alternate airport. I commend my colleagues from Combined Air Operations Centre Uedem for their excellent monitoring, coordinating and facilitating this training event.”

For more than eight years, Allied Air Command has conducted this type of routine life-fly exercises, each time with several Allies showcasing NATO’s peacetime defensive capabilities and commitment to safeguarding its members’ airspace,

* Deployable Air Control Centre, Recognized Air Picture Production Centre/Sensor Fusion Post

Story by Allied Air Command Public Affairs Office


US Soldiers in Bulgaria, Romania deter aggression, assure allies

Paratroopers from the 173rd Airborne Brigade seize an airfield with a joint force entry during Saber Guardian 17 in Bezmer, Bulgaria, July 18, 2017. (Photo Credit: U.S. Army photo by Spc. Taylor Hoganson)

NOVO SELO TRAINING AREA, Bulgaria — The American military presence in Bulgaria and Romania “is critical to a strong Europe and a deterrence to Russian aggression,” said Col. Benjamin Jones, referring to the proximity of Russian forces in Crimea, just some 200 miles away.

That U.S. presence is at Camp Mihail Kogalniceanu, or Camp MK, Romania; and Novo Selo Training Area, or NSTA, Bulgaria, said Jones, who is the commander of U.S. Army Garrison, Ansbach, Germany, which oversees both sites.

It’s important for rotational units to maintain a continual presence in Romania and Bulgaria to effect an immediate response to aggression, said Maj. Brad Stark, operations officer for the Black Sea Area Support Team at Camp MK. His team oversees training there.

By maintaining that presence, should a conflict arise, there won’t be a need to conduct a forced entry in an anti-access, area denial setting since troops will already be on the ground, he reasoned.

Stark noted that NSTA, Camp MK and other military bases in both nations can and have hosted a maneuver force of nearly a brigade, along with NATO troops. The most recent exercise of that magnitude was Saber Guardian 17, which ended about a month ago.

In addition to such exercises, Camp MK hosts a small squadron of Royal Canadian Air Force combat jets, which are fully armed and conduct air-policing missions over the Black Sea, he said. The British Royal Air Force preceded them in their NATO-led role and the Portuguese are expected to eventually replace the Canadians.

Portuguese Air Force F-16AM

Additionally, the Marine Corps has a presence of 1,300 members of the Black Sea Response Force at Camp MK, who are serving as a quick-reaction force, he added. They will depart soon for a training mission in Norway.

Just recently, 1st Battalion, 8th Infantry Regiment left after a nine-month rotation. They will be replaced by 1st Battalion, 18th Infantry Regiment next month, he said.

Currently, 2nd Battalion, 10th Combat Aviation Brigade (Assault Helicopter Battalion), is at Camp MK with 20 Black Hawk helicopters, doing combined training missions with the Romanians.

There are also Soldiers with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers constructing and renovating a number of facilities at Camp MK and NSTA, as both areas continue with their expansion plans.

The important thing to remember, Stark said, is that the training missions use a “total force approach,” which means all U.S. military, including Guard and Reserve, train with host-nation forces, as well as with NATO partners.

Stark is a member of the Alabama Army National Guard, and a number of Reserve Soldiers at Camp MK are with the 21st Theater Support Command, which handles combat service support.

Matt Cornman, physical security specialist at NSTA with U.S. Army Installation Management Command, said the biggest value of training here is the coming together of the many coalition partners, each of which has its own unique doctrine and way of operating.

By combining forces, much is learned by all and the whole becomes greater than the parts, he added.


Eastern Romania and Bulgaria are considered more remote areas of Europe, so getting troops and their supplies there takes some creativity, Jones said.

Lt. Col. Tracey Smith, commander of U.S. forces at both Camp MK and NSTA, said troops can arrive via a small commercial runway on Camp MK that is run by the Romanians. Additionally, U.S. tanks and other vehicles and equipment can be offloaded at the nearby port of Constanta on the Black Sea or at the port of Varna in Bulgaria, which is also on the Black Sea.

US soldiers walk next to M1 Abrams tanks at the Mihail Kogalniceanu Air Base, near Constanta Romania (Reuters)

From there, troops can be bused to NSTA, which is a 28,000-acre training area where live-fire and maneuver training is conducted.

Elements of a brigade might also split off to other training areas like Graf Ignatievo, Bezmer and Aytos in Bulgaria and Cincu, Babadag and Smardan in Romania, she said.

Julia Sibilla, site director of NSTA, noted that there are other ways troops arrive in Romania and Bulgaria. Some of them are bused in from Poland, Italy and Germany, she said.

Railway cars haul their equipment from Constanta, Varna or other points in Europe. The NSTA railhead at Zimnitsa is just 17 miles away, she noted.

Another way troops get in to NSTA is by helicopter, she said. Some 600 paratroopers jumped into Bezmer in Bulgaria recently, which is an hour from NSTA.

Not all arrivals are U.S. troops, she added. For instance, during Exercise Trident Jaguar, the French took the lead, she said, adding that leading the exercise was a huge confidence booster for that NATO ally.

Also, non-NATO partners, like the Georgians, have trained here as well, she said.


Bulgarian and Romanian military leaders and civilians alike have been extremely welcoming of the Americans here, said Sibilla.

Romanian Col. Eduart Dodu, the commander of Camp MK, said “our relationship with the United States is great,” and he added he hopes the U.S. presence will be permanent and even expand.

NATO, along with the U.S. and Romania, will continue to put more capabilities in this region because they understand the threat and that adding more resources means investing in the collective future, Dodu predicted.

Dodu said he recalls the days when Romania was a member of the Soviet’s Warsaw Pact treaty. He said those were dark days and it’s not a period to which he or the Romanian people ever want to return.

Scot Seitz, deputy commander, Black Sea Area Support Team at NSTA, stressed the importance of NSTA as a forward training area.

The retired Marine said training here guarantees that “U.S. troops are as ready as possible to close with and destroy the enemy by fire and maneuver.”

Having a presence here assures allies and partners that the U.S. is committed and dissuades adversaries who might be tempted to meddle in the region, he said.

It’s important too that lawmakers and the American people understand the value they’re getting in having a presence here, he added.


Media get first-hand impression of NATO air controllers at Lielvarde

F-15C Eagles based at Šiauliai Air Base, Lithuania as part of NATOs Baltic Air Policing Mission

LIELVARDE, Latvia – Media representatives from Latvian TV stations and Baltic news services visited the NATO deployment exercise Ramstein Dust-II 2017 on Wednesday, September 27, 2017, for an update.

The exercise director, German Air Force Colonel Klaus Nolte, welcomed several media representatives at Lielvarde Air Base to explain the role and mission of his international exercise team. NATO’s deployable air surveillance and control unit, located in its home garrison at Poggio Renatico, Italy, moved to the Latvian air base at the end of August and integrated into the Baltic Air Surveillance and Control Network as an additional asset.

“This second deployment of my team to Lielvarde after 2015 has been a major success so far,” said Colonel Nolte to the media. “I am proud of my specialists who demonstrated and honed their excellent skills. Deployment and readiness exercise are essential to verify we are operational and ready whenever and wherever needed.”

During a day for Latvian media at exercise Ramstein Dust-II 17, two US Air Force F-15 were controlled by exercise participants as they performed a flyby at Lielvarde Air Base. Photo by Rien Torn

According to the Colonel all elements of the deployable NATO air surveillance and control unit acted as one. “Whether they operate the control screens, ensure communications and connections are working, keep the power up and running, prepare the containers for deployment and redeployment – each and every one of them provides a key contribution to demonstrating NATO is capable and credible in its commitment especially here in the Baltic region,” Colonel Nolte added.

The highlight for the media was the flyby of two United States Air Force F-15 fighter jets from NATO’s Baltic Air Policing at Šiauliai Air Base, Lithuania. Their missions were also controlled by the deployed NATO unit during the last three weeks ensuring they operate safely in support of other Allied forces operating in the region.

More pictures from the event can be found here.

Story by Allied Air Command Public Affairs Office.


Baltic Air Policing from the USAF 493rd Expeditionary Fighter Wing in Lithuania [VIDEOS]

An F-15C of the 493d Fighter Squadron (493 FS), nicknamed “The Grim Reapers”, scrambles to intercept at RAF Lakenheath. The Squadron is presently on Baltic Air Policing duties in Siauliai, Lithuania and represents a key element in NATO’S


The 493d Fighter Squadron (493 FS), nicknamed “The Grim Reapers”, is part of the United States Air Force’s 48th Fighter Wing located at RAF Lakenheath, England. The 493d Fighter Squadron is currently the only USAF squadron flying the F-15C Eagle within the U.S. Air Forces in Europe Major Command and has been flying the F-15C since 1994. These 493d F-15C fighter aircraft are affixed with modern weaponry systems specifically designed to locate and target enemy aircraft and include the AIM-9 and AIM-120 air-to-air missiles.

The 493d provides Air-to-Air offensive and defensive support missions for United States and NATO operations. The squadron has earned multiple commendations and awards, including the Air Force Association’s Hughes Trophy in 1997 and 1999 and the 2014 Raytheon Trophy, being recognized as the top fighter squadron in the United States Air Force.

In 2015, the squadron was named the best fighter squadron in the Air Force, earning the Raytheon Trophy for 2014. During tensions in the Ukraine that threatened stability in Eastern Europe, the 493d deployed to Lithuania in less than 20 hours, to supplement the Baltic Air Policing mission. The squadron intercepted 31 Russian air force aircraft when they threatened or violated Baltic airspace. This deployment came while the squadron was simultaneously supporting a deployment to Iceland. “The squadron ‘adopted’ an orphanage in Lithuania, with airmen visiting and caring for kids for four months. The Raytheon award was the fourth for the squadron.

The U.S. Air Force deployed F-15C Eagles, Airmen and associated equipment from the 48th Fighter Wing, RAF Lakenheath, U.K., to support the NATO Baltic Air Policing rotation at Šiauliai Air Base, Lithuania. The handover ceremonytook place  at the Air Base of the Lithuanian Armed Forces in Šiauliai on 30 August 2017,where Poland handed over the lead of the mission to the United States Air Force.

NATO air policing is a peacetime collective defense mission, safeguarding the integrity of the NATO alliance members’ airspace. Baltic air policing is part of NATO’s “Smart Defense” model, which incorporates allied nations, conducting operations through shared capabilities and coordinated efforts to effectively accomplish missions.

“We know that all of NATO stands alongside us in defense of our shared values and principles,” said Vytautas Umbrasas, Lithuania’s vice defense minister.

“I speak on behalf of every U.S. airman here, when I say that it is our honor to protect and defend the sovereignty of the Baltic borders,” said Air Force Lt. Col. Cody Blake, 493rd EFS detachment commander. The 493rd EFS is slated to continue its current rotation through the end of 2017.