DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — A U.S. F/A-18 fighter jet suffering an engine problem crash landed Saturday at Bahrain International Airport and its pilot ejected from the aircraft after it ran off the runway, authorities said. The pilot escaped unharmed.
The crash disrupted flights to and from the island nation off the coast of Saudi Arabia that’s home to the U.S. Navy’s 5th Fleet. Images on social media showed the grey fighter jet’s nose tipped into the air but largely intact after what the Navy described as an “uncontrollable” landing.
The F/A-18 took off from the USS Nimitz, an aircraft carrier now in the Persian Gulf, said Cmdr. Bill Urban, a fleet spokesman. While in flight, the plane suffered an engine malfunction, forcing the pilot to divert, Urban said.
The pilot initially tried to land at Sheikh Isa Air Base in Bahrain, but instead ended up at the island’s commercial airport, Urban said.
“Due to the malfunction, the aircraft could not be stopped on the runway and the pilot ejected from the aircraft as it departed the runway,” the commander said in a statement.
Naval officials began an investigation into the crash and were trying to help the airport resume operations, Urban said. Bahrain’s Transportation and Telecommunications Ministry called the crash landing a “minor incident” in a statement and said flights resumed at the airport several hours later.
Bahrain hosts 8,000 U.S. troops, mostly sailors attached to a sprawling base called the Naval Support Activity. Officials at that facility oversee some 20 U.S. and coalition naval vessels in the Gulf providing security and others running anti-piracy patrols.
Bahrain is also home to an under-construction British naval base.
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.
U.S. Navy aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush and ships from its carrier strike group arrived in Portsmouth, UK, today ahead of a major two-week drill.
Accompanied by the USS Philippine Sea, USS Donald Cook and Norwegian ship HNoMS Helge Insgstad, the aircraft carrier is on the final leg of its deployment in support of operation Inherent Resolve, the fight against ISIS.
The Nimitz-class carrier has UK personnel on board as part of the UK-US Long Lead Specialist Skills Programme which qualifies them in US carrier operations in preparation for the arrival of HMS Queen Elizabeth and the UK’s own carrier strike capability.
Also embarked is Commander UK Carrier Strike Group Commodore Andrew Betton and his team for Exercise Saxon Warrior 17 – a joint maritime exercise that will focus how the two nations work together during a number of challenging scenarios around the UK coastline.
“Exercise Saxon Warrior is a large, multinational joint exercise which involves fifteen warships from five different nations, submarines, over 100 aircraft and about 9,000 personnel,” said Cdre Betton.
“The UK contribution will be two Type 23 frigates supporting the US aircraft carrier, a Royal Navy submarine, the Carrier Strike Group UK battle staff, fixed wing and rotary wing aircraft operating from ashore, and then the central training staff who will based in Faslane in Scotland.”
The exercise, which begins once the group leaves Portsmouth, will also be key to ensuring UK personnel are fully equipped ahead of the arrival of the Royal Navy’s new Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carrier, HMS Queen Elizabeth.
Over the next fortnight U.S. Naval personnel will train side-by-side with UK pilots, engineers and deck handlers to build combined maritime and aviation capability and capacity.
The Type 23 frigates taking part in Ex Saxon Warrior will be Portsmouth-based HMS Iron Duke and HMS Westminster who will be joined by Royal Fleet Auxiliary fast fleet tanker Wave Ruler.
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.”
CityNews, by Lee Berthiaume and Joan Bryden, The Canadian Press, 20 June 2017
OTTAWA – The Trudeau government appears to have given aerospace giant Boeing the cold shoulder in Paris — the latest sign that the Liberal government’s plan to buy Super Hornet fighter jets could be on the rocks.
Three cabinet ministers are in the French capital this week to promote Canada’s aerospace sector and meet various companies at the Paris Air Show, one of the largest such exhibitions in the world.
Those meetings included discussions with Lockheed Martin, which is hoping its F-35 stealth fighter will replace Canada’s aging fleet of CF-18s whenever a competition is launched. Meetings between Canadian officials and three other fighter-jet makers — French firm Dassault, Sweden’s Saab and European consortium Eurofighter — were also scheduled.
But in separate interviews, Transport Minister Marc Garneau and Economic Development Minister Navdeep Bains said there were no plans to sit down with Boeing officials.
Bains specifically cited Boeing’s complaints to the U.S. Commerce Department about Canadian rival Bombardier as the reason for the snub.
“We think that approach makes no sense, and we’ve been very clear about the fact that we reject those allegations that they’re making,” Bains said by telephone.
“Hence that is why we didn’t engage with Boeing at this stage.”
Boeing also had its invitation to a reception hosted by Canadian Ambassador to France Lawrence Cannon rescinded, said one source who spoke on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the matter.
Global Affairs Canada did not respond to a request for comment.
The government announced last November it would purchase 18 “interim” Super Hornets to fill a critical shortage of fighter jets until a full competition to replace Canada’s entire CF-18 fleet could be run starting in 2019.
The government said at the time that the Super Hornet was the only aircraft able to meet its immediate requirements, including being a mature design compatible with U.S. fighters.
But that was before Boeing lodged a complaint with the U.S. Commerce Department, alleging Quebec-based Bombardier was selling its CSeries jet liners at an unfair price with assistance from federal government subsidies.
American authorities are currently investigating the complaint and are expected to decide in the coming weeks or months whether to penalize Bombardier with fines or tariffs.
The Liberal government expressed its displeasure with Boeing by threatening to scrap the planned Super Hornet purchase, which Garneau said Monday is currently on hold.
“The requirement is there,” Garneau said of the need for interim fighter jets, “but our particular discussions with Boeing have been put on hold. So we’ll see what happens in the coming weeks over this.”
The ministers said all options are on the table when it comes to obtaining interim fighters, though Bains said it was premature to start having specific discussions with Lockheed or any other company.
Bains said much of his talks with Lockheed instead revolved around potential opportunities for the company to partner with Canada on space-based projects.
“We’re in the process of developing a long-term space strategy,” he said. “And we want to work with Lockheed Martin because they have some outstanding” industrial participation in Canada.
Bains and Garneau actually had a chance to walk through a Bombardier’s CSeries passenger jet, which was being displayed by Air Baltic, one of the first companies to operate the Canadian-made planes. “When I was there, it seemed to be getting some interest,” Garneau said. “I’m very proud that Canada started from scratch and put together really the best plane in its class in the world.”
The federal government announced in February plans to lend Bombardier more than $370 million to help its aircraft division, which was on top of a $1-billion investment by the Quebec government.
Both ministers touted Canada’s aerospace industry as a world leader in the interviews, a message they said is evident by the fact the Canadian delegation to Paris is comprised of 420 individuals from 110 companies.
The newest and costliest U.S. aircraft carrier, praised by President Donald Trump and delivered to the Navy on May 31 with fanfare, has been dogged by trouble with fundamentals: launching jets from its deck and catching them when they land.
Now, it turns out that the system used to capture jets landing on the USS Gerald R. Ford ballooned in cost, tripling to $961 million from $301 million, according to Navy documents obtained by Bloomberg News.
While the Navy says the landing system has been fixed, the next-generation carrier built by Huntington Ingalls Industries Inc. still hasn’t been cleared to launch F/A-18 jets carrying a full complement of fuel tanks under their wings, a handicap that could limit their effectiveness in combat.
The twin issues underscore the technical and cost challenges for the planned three-ship, $42 billion Ford class of carriers that is drawing increased congressional scrutiny. The Navy and Trump want to increase the carrier fleet from 11 authorized by law to 12.
Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain has long criticized the Navy’s management of the Ford program and joined a congressional effort that capped funding for the first carrier at $12.9 billion and for a second ship under construction, the John F. Kennedy, at $11.4 billion. He grilled Navy officials on the carrier’s costs at a hearing of the committee on Thursday.
While it’s encouraging to see the Ford “finally delivered to the Navy,” the Arizona Republican said, the service’s funding request for it exceeds the congressional budget cap by $20 million. Now, McCain said, the Navy wants to award a construction contract for the third ship that’s $1.6 billion more than the previous one.
“This is unacceptable for a ship certified to be a repeat design that will deliver just three years later,” he said.
The surge in costs for the development phase of the advanced arresting gear — built by General Atomics to catch planes landing — was borne by the Navy under terms of that contract. In addition, the program acquisition costs of the three systems built so far more than doubled to $532 million each from $226 million, an increase which must be paid by closely held General Atomics.
General Atomics spokeswoman Meghan Ehlke referred all questions to the Navy “per our contract.” Captain Thurraya Kent, a Navy spokeswoman, said the contractor forfeited all bonus fees it could have made during the 2009-2016 development phase and the service is reviewing the company’s master schedule for the John F. Kennedy weekly. The Navy also has placed personnel at the company’s facility in Rancho Bernardo, California, to monitor progress.
Most of the cost increase was driven by an underfunded technology phase that didn’t allow enough time for the discovery and correction of problems and for the technology to mature before the start of the development phase, Kent said. It’s “a lesson the Navy will ensure is applied to all future programs,” Kent said.
The Navy reported the cost increase to Congress last month because it breached thresholds established under a 1982 law for major weapons systems. It’s separate from the 22 percent increase since 2010 for construction of the carrier, which resulted in Congress imposing the $12.9 billion cost cap.
Trump, who has repeatedly complained about the high cost of major weapons systems — and then taken credit for reining them in — did that in a Coast Guard commencement address on May 17. The Ford “had a little bit of an overrun problem before I got here, you know that. Still going to have an overrun problem; we came in when it was finished, but we’re going to save some good money.”
‘It’s No Good’
Trump said “when we build the new aircraft carriers, they’re going to be built under budget and ahead of schedule, just remember that.” Still, the Government Accountability Office said in a new report Tuesday that the John F. Kennedy’s cost estimate “is not reliable and does not address lessons learned” from the Ford’s performance.
Trump scoffed at the carrier’s troubled electromagnetic launch system in a Time magazine interview last month, saying it doesn’t work and “you have to be Albert Einstein to figure it out.” Saying the Navy should stick with an old-fashioned steam-driven catapult, he added, “The digital costs hundreds of millions of dollars more money and it’s no good.”
Until the catapult problem, which was discovered in 2014, is resolved it limits how much combat fuel can be carried in planes being launched from the carrier’s deck.
That “would preclude normal employment” of the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet and the radar-jamming Growler version because “the aircraft are limited in the types of missions that they can accomplish” without added under-wing fuel tanks, Army Lieutenant Colonel Roger Cabiness, spokesman for the Pentagon’s testing office, said in an email. He said the Navy asserts that testing on the ground has solved a software flaw that caused excessive vibrations of those fuel tanks.
Acting Navy Secretary Sean Stackley told the Senate committee Thursday that fixing the vibrations was simply part of a “systems tuning effort” for each plane that will launch from the carrier.
“The Navy estimates the software problem will be resolved and software updates incorporated” on the carrier for testing at sea during the vessel’s post-shakedown phase between May and November of 2018, Michael Land, spokesman for the Naval Air Systems Command, said in an email. He said actual launches of jets with wing tanks will follow in 2019.
The Navy still has time to fix the catapult issue. Though the Ford has been delivered, the ship is not scheduled to be declared ready for operations until 2020, with first actual deployment planned for about 2022, according to spokeswoman Kent.
The U.S. Navy’s first aircraft carrier capable of accommodating fifth-generation F-35C fighter aircraft, the USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72), departed Naval Station Norfolk to conduct carrier qualifications (CQ) and flight deck certification (FDC) on June 1.
The evolutions mark major milestones for Abraham Lincoln’s transition from the shipyard to a fully capable warship.
FDC consists of an assessment of Abraham Lincoln’s sailors to not only successfully conduct day and nighttime flight deck operations, but also emergency barricade testing, flight deck firefighting and crash and salvage drills.
The first jet that lands on the Abraham Lincoln during the trials, will also be the first one to land on the carrier in five years. Lincoln spent the last four years in Newport News undergoing its refueling and complex overhaul (RCOH) which prepared it for another 25 years of service.
While the Abraham Lincoln has been modified to become capable of launching F-35C jets, the U.S. Navy said the carrier is scheduled to launch and recover pilots from Carrier Air Wing 7 in F/A-18 Hornets and Super Hornets, E-A-18G Growlers and C-2 Greyhounds. No F-35C flights are apparently scheduled for this underway.
“For the past year, air department Sailors have trained and prepared for this underway period,” said Cmdr. David Burmeister, Abraham Lincoln’s Air Boss. “Everyone has been waiting for this opportunity to get our flight deck certified and bring Lincoln back to operational status.”
In addition to practicing flight deck operations, the command sent hundreds of sailors to specialized training to obtain flight deck qualifications and executed multiple fire drill scenarios for evaluation
“Our sailors who work on the flight deck, in the catapults and arresting gear, in the hangar bay and with our fuel systems, are ready to go,” said Burmeister. “I have never seen a group of individuals work harder to achieve their goal. I look forward to seeing them in action when the first jet hits the deck.”