VILNIUS – NATO fighter jets serving in the Baltic air policing mission were scrambled eight times last week to intercept Russian military aircraft flying in international airspace over the Baltic Sea, the Lithuanian Defense Ministry said on Monday.
The ministry said that a total of 21 Russian planes were intercepted, around half of which were fighter jets, while the NATO jets also identified several transport and passenger planes over the Baltic Sea.
Most of the Russian aircraft had their automatic transponders switched off, the statement said.
The biggest number of scrambles took place last Thursday, when the alliance’s jets took off three times in total and intercepted ten aircraft.
ARLINGTON, Va. — The Navy is looking at ways to accelerate the phase-out of F/A-18C “Classic” Hornet strike fighters from its carrier air wings and replacing the last few squadrons with F/A-18E Super Hornets, a Navy spokeswoman said.
“As we balance operational requirements and our initiatives to build the most capable and ready forward-deployed force, we are identifying the most efficient and effective way to safely transition the last four Navy operational Hornet squadrons to Super Hornets,” Cmdr. Jeannie Groeneveld, public affairs officer for commander, Naval Air Forces, said in an e-mail to Seapower.
“In order to provide our most capable warfighting force forward, the Navy began the first of the final transitions of our four operational F/A-18C Hornet squadrons to F/A-18E Super Hornet squadrons in July, with an expected completion in [fiscal] ’19. Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 131, was the first of the four squadrons to begin the transition last month.”
The other three F/A-18C squadrons, all based at Naval Air Station Oceana, Va., are VFA-34, VFA-37 and VFA-83.
“Accelerating the transition to Super Hornets will allow cost savings and reduce depot maintenance workload,” Groeneveld said. “As the Navy approaches the end of the extended service life for Hornets, the cost per flight hour continues to increase. Additionally, there are shortages in the Department of the Navy’s spare parts and supply system that have contributed to flight line readiness challenges, as well as our ability to extend the service lives of these airframes.”
She also said the transitions give the Navy the opportunity to select its best-condition Hornets for use by the Marine Corps and by Navy support and reserve units, such as Naval Aviation Warfighting Development Center, Fighter Composite Squadron 12, Reserve squadron VFA-204 and the Navy’s Flight Demonstration Squadron, the Blue Angels.
The Navy is confident it will be able to continue to support all operational requirements as it completes transition of the Hornet fleet to Super Hornets,” she said.
Congress has supported the Navy’s requirements for increased Super Hornet procurement to bridge the gap to the fleet introduction of the F-35C Lightning II strike fighter. The first fleet squadron to make the transition to the F-35C will be VFA-147 in 2018.
Last year, the Liberals announced a proposal to buy 18 interim fighter jets from Boeing to deal with a capability gap facing the Royal Canadian Air Force.
Lockheed Martin has offered the Liberal government the F-35 as an “interim” fighter aircraft, a move sure to turn up the heat on rival U.S. aerospace firm Boeing still embroiled in a trade dispute with Canada.
Last year, the Liberals announced a proposal to buy 18 interim fighter jets from Boeing to deal with a capability gap facing the Royal Canadian Air Force. But that multibillion dollar plan to acquire Super Hornet jets has been thrown into limbo after Boeing filed a trade complaint in the U.S. against Bombardier of Quebec.
The Liberal government broke off discussions with Boeing on the Super Hornet deal.
But Lockheed Martin has seen opportunity in the rift between Canada and Boeing and has officially offered its F-35 as an interim aircraft to supplement the RCAF’s aging CF-18 jets. Lockheed has long contended the F-35 is more cost effective and more advanced than the Super Hornet.
Asked about the Lockheed Martin offer, Matthew Luloff, a spokesman with Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan’s office, responded that the federal government continues “to explore many options to provide an interim solution to supplement the CF-18s until the permanent replacement is fully operational.”
“We have not yet made a decision,” he added in an email. “Discussions must demonstrate that the interim fleet is appropriately capable and can be obtained at a cost, schedule, and economic value that are acceptable to Canadians.”
Lockheed Martin has noted that it continues to provide the Canadian government with updated information on the maturity of the F-35 program and the operational status of the jet.
The F-35 will be showcased Aug. 11-13 in Canada at the airshow at Abbotsford, B.C. The U.S. Air Force will be flying the plane at the show and F-35s from the Netherlands will be making their first appearance in Canada.
The Boeing Super Hornet will also appear at the air show. Boeing declined to comment about Lockheed Martin’s offer to the Canadian government on providing F-35s as interim aircraft.
Boeing was well on its way to wrap up the deal to provide Canada with the 18 Super Hornets. That was expected to be completed by the end of the year and cost between $5 billion and $7 billion.
But in April, Boeing complained to the U.S. government that Quebec-based Bombardier was receiving subsidies, which in turn allowed it to sell its C-Series civilian passenger aircraft at below-market prices. Boeing convinced the U.S. Commerce Department and International Trade Commission to launch an investigation into Bombardier.
That prompted the Liberals to start backing away from a Super Hornet deal with Boeing, although federal officials acknowledged they were still talking with the U.S. government over acquiring fighter aircraft. “It is not the behaviour of a trusted partner,” Sajjan said of Boeing in an unprecedented speech in late May to defence industry executives.
The interim jets would be used to help bridge the gap until a new replacement fleet for Canada’s CF-18 fleet can be purchased. The Liberals have said they will buy 88 new jets to replace the CF-18s.
The previous Conservative government had committed Canada to buying the F-35 but backed off that promise as the aircraft became controversial because of increased costs and technical issues.
Canada, however, still remains a partner in the F-35 program and Canadian firms have contributed a large amount of equipment and parts to the stealth fighter.
But buying F-35 jets for the interim fighter aircraft program would potentially be embarrassing for the Liberals. During the election campaign, Justin Trudeau vowed his government would never buy the F-35. As prime minister, Trudeau later claimed the F-35 “does not work.”
Boeing has declined a Canadian government request to drop its complaint against Bombardier. Boeing has said it considers the issue a commercial matter.
But Boeing’s actions run a risk for the aerospace company that wants to continue to do more defence business in Canada, analysts say.
The Queen Elizabeth is now in British waters to take part in the training exercise known as Saxon Warrior, where it is hosting 60 members of the British Royal Navy and Royal Marines. The training began on August 1.
The British carrier was on its way to Portsmouth after more than two months of sea trials in the North Sea.
The UK has 10 F-35 fighter jets, a Ministry of Defence spokesman told Business Insider UK, but none is in the country. The US contractor Lockheed Martin built them, and they are scheduled to be delivered to the UK in 2018. The earliest they could fly live combat missions is 2020.
The ministry expects to have 138 F-35s in the 2020s, the spokesman added.
MACDILL AIR FORCE BASE, Fla., Aug. 8, 2017 — While operating in international airspace in the central Persian Gulf, an F/A-18E Super Hornet with Strike Fighter Squadron 147, assigned to the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz, had an unsafe and unprofessional interaction with an Iranian QOM-1 unmanned aerial vehicle today, U.S. Central Command officials said.
Despite repeated radio calls to stay clear of active fixed-wing flight operations in vicinity of the USS Nimitz, the QOM-1 executed unsafe and unprofessional altitude changes in the close vicinity of an F/A-18E that was in a holding pattern and preparing to land on the aircraft carrier, officials said. The F/A-18E maneuvered to avoid collision with the QOM-1 resulting in a lateral separation between the two aircraft of about 200 feet and a vertical separation of about 100 feet.
The dangerous maneuver by the QOM-1 in the known vicinity of fixed-wing flight operations and at coincident altitude with operating aircraft created a collision hazard and is not in keeping with international maritime customs and laws, Centcom officials said.
This is the 13th unsafe or unprofessional interaction between U.S. and Iranian maritime forces in 2017, the officials noted.
WASHINGTON, Aug. 3, 2017 — Deputy Defense Secretary Pat Shanahan discussed a variety of issues today in a phone call with Harriett Baldwin, the United Kingdom’s undersecretary of state and defense procurement minister, Navy Cmdr. Sarah Higgins, Shanahan’s spokesperson, said in a statement.
“The leaders discussed defense issues, including NATO, bilateral exercises, changing technologies and procurement innovation,” Higgins said. “They also spoke about the restructure of the Department of Defense’s acquisition, technology, and logistics and chief management officer organizations.”
Shanahan lauded the value of the close U.S.-U.K. security partnership, Higgins said, and he noted that bilateral capability cooperation will be instrumental in enabling their forces to better confront current and emerging threats.
In addition, Higgins said, Shanahan conveyed the high value the U.S. places on British investment in strong defense capabilities, including its two aircraft carriers and F-35B aircraft.
The two leaders agreed to maintain regular dialogue on shared security interests and the bilateral defense agenda, she added.
The United Kingdom is upgrading its fleet of Boeing Chinook HC4 transport helicopters to bring them up to the new HC6A standard, Jane’s has learned.
The Royal Air Force’s (RAF’s) 38 HC4 helicopters are being re-designated HC6A with the replacement of the analogue flight control systems with the Boeing Digital Automatic Flight Control System (DAFCS) over the next 12 months. Under a separate contract, the RAF Chinook fleet is also being equipped with an Airborne Collision Avoidance System (ACAS), which has already achieved an Initial Operating Capability (IOC) on a number of aircraft.
The RAF currently fields 60 Chinook helicopters, comprising 38 HC4 (designated HC2/2A prior to the Project Julius upgrade programme that was completed in March); eight HC5 (previously HC3); and 14 HC6 platforms (delivered as new-builds). Project Julius has helped to provide increased safety and sustainment and performance improvements to the fleet. This process has brought cockpit and engine commonality across the HC4 and HC5 variants, at the same time as bringing them up to roughly the same standard as the HC6 helicopters that began arriving in April 2014.
These HC6 platforms are essentially CH-47F machines that have been equipped with UK-specific equipment, such as the Thales ‘glass cockpit’. These aircraft are already equipped with the DAFCS that forms the basis of the HC4 to HC6A upgrade, improving aircraft handling and stability in more demanding operational environments and helping to increase flight safety in low-light levels and/or degraded visual environments.
Britain is being forced to call on France and other Nato allies to defend British waters against Russian spying operations, it has emerged.
The number of foreign maritime patrol aircraft stationed in the UK has risen by 76 per cent in a year according to Ministry of Defence records.
Nato allies were stationed at RAF Lossiemouth 37 times last year to guard against foreign ships and submarines and carry out training exercises, a significant increase on the previous year when extra forces were deployed to the base 21 times.
The British armed forces do not have patrol aircraft of their own after Nimrod was scrapped in 2010 and Russian attempts to spy on the UK’s nuclear deterrent have increased, military experts and Labour’s shadow defence secretary have warned.
The RAF has invested £3billion in nine new P-8 Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft which will be ready in 2020 but in the meantime the Government has to rely on allies in Nato to patrol British waters when a threat is raised.
Sir Gerald Howarth, the defence minister at the time when Nimrod was scrapped, said: “I made no secret of the fact it was a very dangerous decision that left us exposed.”
In 2016, 20 American aircraft were deployed to the UK, along with eight from Canadian forces, five French, three German and one from Norway.
In the previous year it was just 11 American, three Canadian, five French and two German, a difference of 76 per cent year on year.
The MoD says 20 per cent of the foreign aircraft stationed in Scotland carry out operations over British waters, with the remaining 80 per cent involved in exercises and training which include readying British pilots for the arrival of the new P8 aeroplanes.
It is understood that American, Canadian and French aircraft patrolled offshore following reports of suspicious vessels in British waters.
Senior military figures have warned that the continued gap in capability is leaving the UK at risk because Russia has stepped up its efforts to map out British military secrets, including Trident’s acoustic signature.
Admiral Lord West told The Telegraph: “There has been an increase in the amount of Russian interference in our waters and that interference generally is in our ballistic missile submarine, Trident.
“I find that extremely worrying. They are trying to obtain Trident’s fingerprint, its acoustic signature.”
He said that the reliance on Nato forces was “part of a wider picture of the hollowing out of our defence”, adding: “Its all very well saying we’ve got the P8 coming and we will be building ships in the future – but that’s only three – we need far more than that.”
Nia Griffith, Labour’s shadow defence secretary, said: “These figures highlight the extent to which we are now reliant on the goodwill of others to keep Britain safe. We are thankful for our allies’ support but this level of dependence is simply unacceptable.” [must keep]
But defence minister Earl Howe claimed the fault lies with Jeremy Corbyn’s party for mishandling the Nimrod replacement, adding that 80 per cent of aircraft stationed at Lossiemouth from abroad were used in training exercises. [must keep]
He said: “Labour created this capability gap by retiring Nimrod early and utterly mismanaging its replacement to the point of negligence.
“Labour’s replacement was £800million over budget, nine years over due and a risk for our service personnel to fly.
“The hypocrisy of Labour complaining that the UK has relied on allies to help provide maritime patrol when we fix the mess they created is as breathtaking as it is irresponsible.”
Ms Griffith added: “As an island nation, the ability to patrol our own shores and protect our key military assets is absolutely essential. As Labour said at the time, the Tories’ decision in 2010 to cut up our Nimrod aircraft and sell them for scrap was a serious mistake. It now looks downright reckless.”
A successful hypersonic test flight took place in South Australia last week amid US concerns about China and Russia’s hypersonic weapons capabilities.
The US has been testing hypersonic aircraft missiles that could fly at a mile per second.
It has collaborated with Australia to research and pilot weapons able to fly at least five times faster than the speed of sound – anywhere from 3,836mph up to 7,700 mph.
The latest phase of the Hypersonic International Flight Research Experimentation (HiFIRE) programme included at least one successful hypersonic flight at Woomera testing range in South Australia.
The round of experiments concluded on 12 July, confirmed Australian defence minister Marise Payne.
BAE Systems Australia said in a statement that “the successful flight trial [was] the most complex of all HIFiRE flights conducted to date”.
The $54m joint initiative involves the US Air Force, Boeing, the Australian Department of Defence’s Defence Science and Technology Group, BAE Systems Australia, and the University of Queensland.
Both Russia and China are building hypersonic glide vehicles, US Air Force General John Hyten recently told a Senate hearing, according to The Washington Examiner.
US Navy Admiral Harry Harris, head of US Pacific Command, told a Congress hearing in May: “I’m concerned about Chinese and Russian hypersonic weapons development, and I expressed those concerns in the right places. What we can do is to develop our own hypersonic weapons and improve our defenses against theirs.”
A hypersonic missile could fly 1000 miles in less than 17 minutes. Though many ballistic missiles can fly faster, the typical arc trajectory of such missiles makes them more easily detectable by early warning satellites, according to The Drive. The Pentagon has developed ballistic missile interceptors able to knock such weapons off-course mid-flight, and so mitigate their threat.
But hypersonic weapons are much less easy to track. Prototype designs rely on a booster such as a rocket motor to get the craft up to speed, before a high-speed jet engine takes over. Its smooth and flat flight path is much harder to track than that of a ballistic missile. These prototype crafts may also have the capability to change direction mid-flight, which makes interception much harder.
Developing a hypersonic missile system would enable the US to conduct short-notice or no-notice enemy strikes, the capability for which is a powerful deterrent alone.
The HiFIRE project, which initially included NASA, launched more than eight years ago.
OTTAWA — The head of the Royal Canadian Air Force has refuted suggestions, including from more than a dozen of his predecessors, that the Trudeau government is needlessly dragging its feet on new fighter jets.
Lt.-Gen. Mike Hood instead said the Liberals are taking “a prudent amount of time,” as choosing Canada’s next fighter is a big decision — especially since it will likely be in use for decades.
“Fighter operations, there is a lot to chew on,” Hood said in an interview with The Canadian Press.
“The timelines the government and the minister have articulated will let them be absolutely sure that they’re making the right choice for a final fighter that will probably be flying when I’m going to the grave.”
The Liberals’ new defence policy includes a promise to replace Canada’s 76 aging CF-18s with 88 new warplanes, which is an increase from the 65 previously promised by the Harper Conservatives.
The policy estimates the new fighters will cost between $15 billion and $19 billion, up from the $9 billion previously budgeted by the Tories.
The Liberals say the extra fighter jets are required to meet a new policy, adopted in September, that increased the number of warplanes that must always be ready for operations.
But fighter-jet companies such as Lockheed Martin and Boeing, which make the F-35 and Super Hornet, respectively, won’t be asked to submit formal bids until next year at the earliest.
That is despite many defence experts, including 13 retired Air Force commanders in February, saying a competition to replace the CF-18 fleet can and should be launched immediately.
They say doing so would negate the need for 18 “interim” Super Hornets, which would save taxpayer dollars and keep from diverting personnel and resources away from other areas of the Air Force.
But Hood played down those concerns, saying that he’ll have no trouble operating an interim fighter fleet if “I’m given the resources and the priority that I need.”
That doesn’t mean there won’t be challenges in growing the size of Canada’s fighter fleet, he admitted, notably in terms of having enough pilots and technicians to fly and fix the new jets.
The problem has been exacerbated by the fact that while airlines are currently on a hiring binge, Hood said, the Air Force can’t ramp up the number of pilots it puts through flight school each year.
“We brought in a pilot-training system in the early 2000s that had a maximum capacity to deliver about 115 pilots a year. With attrition going up, I’d probably want to produce 140 this year, but I can’t.”
However, Hood is hoping planned changes to the training regime and new initiatives such as recruiting potential technicians directly out of community college will help grow his ranks.
At the same time, the military is looking at ways to improve working conditions across the board to keep experienced personnel in uniform and not lose them.
The plan to grow the number of fighter jets is only one area in which the Air Force is slated to grow in the coming years, with new armed drones, search-and-rescue aircraft and other equipment having also been promised.
Hood said that represents a significant and welcome turn of events after the service was dramatically weakened by years of cuts.
“When General (Rick) Hillier talked about the ‘Decade of Darkness,’” Hood said, “the lion’s share of that was done on the back of the Air Force in the ’90s.”