Tag Archives: Belgian Air Force

U.S. Approves Possible Sale of 34 Lockheed F-35s to Belgium; Japan Deploying First F-35 to Misawa; India Allegedly Enters Conversation.

Based on latest news, it may have been a good weekend for the F-35.

The U.S. State Department issued a statement late Friday confirming it has approved the possible sale of 34 Lockheed F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighters to Belgium. The authorization permitting the sale of advanced defense technology is a key step toward completing the actual purchase, quoted to be worth up to “$6.53 billion USD”. The proposed contract with Lockheed Martin, builder of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, would include 38 new Pratt & Whitney advanced F-135 jet engines that power the F-35.

Based on reports Belgium would potentially buy the F-35A variant of the Lightning II, the same variant used by the U.S. Air Force. One of the selling points of buying into the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program is cross-force interoperability. Belgium potentially operating the same variant as the USAF, Dutch and Italians may have been one factor that helped propel the potential deal for Belgium.

Still, the F-35A is still not the replacement for the Belgian Air Force F-16s: the 5th generation aircraft will face competition from the Dassault Rafale and Eurofighter Typhoon in the response to a Request for Governmental Proposal (RfGP) issued by Bruxelles last year.

The decision from Belgium is expected by mid-2018.

Belgium received U.S. authorization for the purchase of the “A” version of the F-35 shown here at Nellis AFB as operated by the USAF. (Photo: Tom Demerly/TheAviationist)

 

Japan’s Air Self-Defense Force also announced this week it will begin its first-ever deployment of a Japanese ASDF F-35A Lightning II at Misawa Air Base in Aomori Prefecture, northeastern Japan later this month. The single aircraft to be stationed and operated from Misawa is the first of 42 Lockheed F-35A Lighting IIs to be delivered to Japan as their primary multi-role combat aircraft. The JASDF will deploy an additional 9 aircraft operationally to Misawa by the end of 2018 bringing the total Japanese operational F-35A force to 10 aircraft by year’s end.

A key weapon system on the JASDF F-35As will be the advanced, long-range Norwegian-built Kongsberg Defense and Aerospace Gruppen Joint Strike Missile (JSM). The JSM is a variant of the Kongsberg Naval Strike Missile and is carried in the interior weapons bay of the F-35A, maintaining its low observable characteristics. The Kongsberg JSM can strike targets up to 500 kilometers away from its launch point, enabling Japan to strike many potential adversaries without leaving its own airspace, a key concern since Japan’s air force is labeled as a “self-defense force” and constrained from operations outside Japan’s legally defined defense air space in most instances.

Japan’s first F-35 will become operational this month according to Japanese media. (Photo: NHK Japan)

Finally, a story that appeared in India’s Economic Times said that, “American aerospace and defense major Lockheed Martin has proposed to manufacture custom-built F-35 fighter jets in India, which its officials say will give Indian industry a unique opportunity to become part of the world’s largest fighter aircraft ecosystem.”

The story, that appeared in Indian media on Jan. 20, 2018, did not specify what “custom built” F-35s meant, but may hint at a down-spec version of the F-35 airframe with different avionics and sensors than some other export manufactured versions of the F-35 to maintain security interests.  The same article discussed the use of the AN/APG-83 radar system, different from the AN/APG-81 on the U.S. and other partner nation F-35s.

There is no additional verification of any Indian F-35 manufacturing program in other media outlets. Oddly, another Indian media outlet, the Free Press Journal of India, published a similar story on the same day claiming the U.S. planned to build F-16s (not F-35s) in India. The Free Press Journal of India story read, “American aerospace and defense major Lockheed Martin has proposed to manufacture custom-built F-16 fighter jets (ed’s note: not F-35s as quoted in the India Economic Times article) in India, which its officials say will give Indian industry a unique opportunity to become part of the world’s largest fighter aircraft ecosystem.”

Confusing press coming out of India aside, Lockheed Martin and all of the F-35 subcontractors have to be pleased to start out the new year with a host of encouraging stories about the F-35 program.

Update Jan. 22, 19.30 GMT:

We were notified that the original version of a Press Trust of India article posted late last week, has since been corrected to remove the erroneous “F-35” reference in the first sentence of the article—see corrected article here: https://www.ndtv.com/india-news/lockheed-martin-proposes-custom-built-fighter-jets-to-be-made-in-india-1802538. The first sentence of PTI’s article now reads:

“American aerospace and defence firm Lockheed Martin has proposed to manufacture custom-built F-16 fighter jets in India, which its officials say will give the Indian industry a unique opportunity to become part of the world’s largest fighter aircraft ecosystem.”

 

Awesome footage shows Belgian F-16s of the 350 (F) Sqn at work during Red Flag, Cold Response, FWIT and more!

The 350th Squadron of the Air Component of the Belgian Armed Forces turned 75 today. And here’s a cool footage of its F-16 Fighting Falcon jets at work around the world.

The 350th Squadron of the Air Component of the Belgian Armed Forces was created on Nov. 12, 1941 at Valley airfield, Wales, during the Second World War, when it operated under British command as No. 350 (Belgian) Squadron RAF and flew the Spitfire painted with the letter codes MN.

The Squadron became famous in several operations like the Raid on Dieppe in August 1942, operation Overlord in Normandy in June 1944, the Battle of the Bulge and the Campaign of Holland and Germany.

After the war, the Squadron remained in occupied Germany for a short time, before heading back home to Beauvechain, Belgium, in 1946 flying the Supermarine Spitfire MK XIV.

Aircraft flown by 350 (F) Sqn include the Gloster Meteor, the Hawker Hunter, the CF-100 Canuck and the F-104 Starfighter.

In March 1980, the Squadron started its conversion on the new F-16, being operational as from January 1982. 350 moved to Florennes Air Base in 1996 where it would ensure its role of Air Defense together with 349 (F) Squadron stationed at Kleine Brogel Air Base, Belgium.

During the subsequent years, the pilots of 350 Sqn and their F-16s actively took part in several operations such as Joint Falcon, Allied Force, Deliberate Force, operations part of the Balkan Air War, flying Combat Air Patrol, Offensive Counter Air and Air Interdiction missions.

In 2005, the Squadron was deployed for the first time in Afghanistan, operating for 6 months from Kabul Air Base and later on from Kandahar, in support to ISAF troops.

The latest operations include Unified Protector in Libya out of Araxos, Greece and operation Desert Falcon in Iraq out of Jordan.

Currently, the Squadron is flying the updated F-16 MLU, equipped with the AIM-120 AMRAAM and the AIM-9 Sidewinder. In the air-to-ground role, the Belgian Vipers can be armed with the latest GPS guided or Laser guided bombs such as the GBU-54.

The following video celebrates the 75th anniversary of 350 Sqn with footage filmed during Red Flag, Cold Response (Norway), Belgium, Netherlands, FWIT (Fighter Weapons Instructor Training) course and much more.

Happy Birthday, 350!



H/T to Thieu De Reyean for sending this over to us!

 

Salva

Watch an F-16 suffer a compressor stall during the display at AirPower 2016 airshow

During the display at the Zeltweg airshow in Austria, the Belgian Air Force F-16 suffered a compressor stall that caused a loud bang and an impressive backfire.

On Sept. 3, during its display at the AIRPOWER 2016 airshow in Zeltweg, the “Viper” of the Belgian Air Force F-16 Solo Display Team suffered an apparent compressor stall that forced the pilot to perform a precautionary landing.

Take a look at the footage below. If you jump to 03:20 you will see the aircraft’s engine emanating flames (generating a loud bang you can’t hear) in what seems to be the typical behaviour of a compressor stall.

Compressor stalls (sometimes referred to as afterburner stalls in aircraft with reheat) are not too rare among military aircraft. They can be caused by several factors, including birdstrikes, FOD (Foreign Object Damage), ingestion of turbulent or hot airflow into the air intake etc.

A compressor stall is a local disruption of the airflow in the compressor whose severity may vary from a momentary power drop to a complete loss of compression.

A particular kind of compressor stall is the compression surge that occurs when the hot vapour generated by the aircraft carrier’s catapult is ingested by the aircraft air intake thus creating a breakdown in compression resulting in a the compressor’s inability to absorb the momentary disturbance and to continue pushing the air against the already-compressed air behind it. As a consequence, there’s a momentary reversal of air flow and a violent expulsion of previously compressed air out through the engine intake producing some loud bangs from the engine and “back fires”.

You can find several images of aircraft suffering compressor surges while taking off from airbases or being launched from the flight deck of an aircraft carrier.

As already explained on The Aviationist in the past, in most of the cases even after suffering a “surge” the compressor will usually recover to normal flow once the engine pressure ratio reduces to a level at which the compressor is capable of sustaining stable airflow.

Some engines have automatic recover functions even if pilots experiencing the surge can be compelled to act on the throttle or, in some cases, relight the engine.

Image Credit: Flight Video & Photo. H/T our friends at From The Skies for sending this over to us.

Here are the Russian planes (including a rare special mission aircraft) intercepted by the Belgian F-16s over the Baltics

An-12PPS special mission aircraft among those met by the Belgian Air Force “Vipers” during their BAP (Baltic Air Patrol) rotation.

The images in this post were taken by the Belgian Air Force during their latest rotation of support to NATO’s Baltic Air Policing mission.

F-16 vs Su-27

Flying out of Amari Air Base, Estonia, the Belgian F-16 jets augmented the Lead Nation Spain’s Eurofighter Typhoon jets from January to April 2016.

BAF in BAP 3

BAF in BAP 2

The aircraft were often launched to intercept and escort Russian planes flying over the Baltics. Among them, Su-27 Flanker, Tu-134AK, Il-76, An-72 and also an An-12PPS.

Il-76 + F-16

The An-12PPS “Cub-D” is a jamming variant of the Antonov medium military transport.

According to “Russia’s Warplanes, Volume 1” by Piotr Butowski published by Harpia Publishing, one of the most authoritative sources on Russian-made military aircraft and helicopters today and set to become the standard reference work on the subject, the Russian Air Force operates several standoff ECM aircraft based on the standard An-12 airframe. Their task is to provide jamming cover to formation of transport aircraft carrying airborne troops by disguising the heading and composition of the formation during assault missions behind the front line.

Actually, the RF-90787 “19 Red” depicted in the photos taken by the BAF pilots lacks the most interesting equipment carried by the few An-12PPS aircraft: the Siren-D active jammer, usually mounted in four cigar-shaped pods, two under the forward fuselage and one on each side of the tailfin base. Still, it features another Cub-D’s distinctive feature: the SPS-100 Rezeda self-protection jammer built into the aircraft’s tail in lieu of the tail gunner’s turret.

Indeed, the aircraft is actually a former An-12PPS that was converted to the transport role back in 2001. Still, it’s a pretty rare bird!

BAF in BAP

According to “Russia’s Warplanes, Volume 1” only a few such aircraft are currently in Russian Air Force service at Orenburg and Akhtubinsk.

An-12PPS with F-16

Image credit: BAF

 

Benelux starts joint Air Policing operations

This could be a European Precedent

A couple of weeks ago, Belgium, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands signed an agreement which is to regulate joint air defense operations carried out in their airspaces.

Signed by the Ministers of Defense of the Netherlands and Belgium, and Luxembourg’s Dutch Ambassador, the agreement, that ratifies that the signing countries will rotate the air policing duties, is a follow-up to a letter of intent signed by the countries back in Oct. 2013 that will have to be ratified by the respective governments, a process that could take about a year according to IHS Jane’s.

The memorandum may be treated as a precedent by other European Union member states, whose air forces, as a consequence of the ever shrinking defense budgets, lack some (basic) capabilities, including the ability to protect the sovereignty of their airspace round the clock.

However this is nothing new in Europe, where air arms are trying to embrace the “pooling and sharing” concept to save some money and NATO has carried out regional Air Policing missions, including the one in the Baltic (BAP), for quite some time now.

Anyway, the Benelux countries are willing to begin the joint air space security operation, starting from 2017.

According to the IHS Jane’s report on the issue, the fighter force of Belgium and the Netherlands will defend the countries, providing proper QRA (quick reaction alert) capabilities. Obviously, not only will the defensive operations cover the issue of military threats, but they will also be dealing with renegade aircraft. This means that a new scheme of air policing is to be implemented next year must take every situation into account.

Its legal implications are quite interesting. According to Jane’s, Belgians would be able to ask the Dutch fighters to shoot down renegades in the Belgian airspace and likewise, the Belgian F-16 could be authorized to neutralize such threat in the Dutch airspace.

This is a precedent in the European law, hence additional time is needed to discuss the legal character of the new operation. For example, according to euobserver.com, Luxembourg’s authorities have already excluded any use of lethal force over their territory.

When it comes to Luxembourg, the situation here is quite similar to that of Lithuania. The country has no relevant fighter force, hence help from the neighbors is required to provide air policing.

The situation is also interesting equipment-wise, since the Royal Netherlands Air Force is looking forward to replace its F-16s with the F-35, which will be probably delayed due to the problems related to the Lightning II program. The Belgians are going to replace their F-16s as well. Here the Rafale is a viable candidate, however the joint air policing operations may lead to different choices (including the F-35).

What is more, we can’t help but notice that the joint air-policing initiative is probably aimed at bolstering the Benelux capabilities to deter potential Russian intruders, who so far not only have been active in the Baltic area, but also within the airspace of UK and have often skirted the Dutch airspace.