To fill a fighter-jet gap, the US Navy is about to get some of the Air Force’s F-16s

Air Force F-16 fighter jet
An F-16C Fighting Falcon at RAF Lakenheath in England, August 3, 2018.

  • The US Navy’s will receive F-16s from the Air Force to fill a gap as the Navy retires older F/A-18s.
  • The Navy will shelve some 55 aircraft over the next year, and to make sure it has enough fighters available, it expects the Air Force to give it F-16s.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

The US Navy is preparing to receive F-16 Fighting Falcon fighter jets from the Air Force as it moves to rid its inventory of legacy F/A-18 Hornet models used in its Reserve fleets, according to its fiscal 2022 budget request.

The Navy will shelve roughly 55 aircraft over the next year, the documents state, in hopes of transitioning to the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet. But to make sure it has enough fighters available amid the conversion, it expects the Air Force to transfer some F-16s to it.

“This divestment reduces long-term support cost of older [Hornets] while retaining adversary capacity,” the documents state, but do not specify the number of F-16s needed. Seapower Magazine reported earlier this month the F-16s could come from Air National Guard units.

The Drive reported the F-16s will be used for aggressor training, or to act as enemy forces in air-to-air training.

The service is moving to reduce its fighter force and focus on the Super Hornet; the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter; and the F/A-18 follow-on aircraft, currently known as the F/A-XX, which defies traditional categorization as a single aircraft platform or technology – potentially using a fighter flying alongside artificial intelligence-enhanced drones.

The service is weighing whether the F/A-XX will be manned, unmanned or partially autonomous, Navy officials have said.

F/A-18E Super Hornets
F/A-18E Super Hornets.

The Navy has accepted F-16s before, with 26 special F-16N versions – 22 single-seat and four two-seater aircraft – used between 1988 and 1998 for aggressor training.

Following the retirement of the N models, the service acquired 14 F-16s originally slated for the Pakistani air force in the early 2000s, which it currently uses at its “Topgun” school at Naval Air Station Fallon, Nevada.

Air Force officials have said the F-16 still has a place in its fleet for now, even as it reduces the number of types of fighter jets and attack aircraft it keeps.

“The newer block [F-16s] that have been upgraded are going to fly for some time,” said Lt. Gen. S. Clinton Hinote, the Air Force’s deputy chief of staff for strategy, integration and requirements.

The Air Force will weigh what types of roles or mission sets make sense for the F-16 as a multirole fighter – including homeland defense – and whether the newer aircraft can be upgraded down the line, Hinote said in an interview with Military.com earlier this month.

Air Force Magazine reported that the service will introduce a program known as Multirole Fighter-X, or MR-X, later this decade. It is expected to join the service’s inventory in the mid-2030s, according to the magazine.

US Air Force F-16
A US Air Force F-16.

Hinote said it’s possible F-16s could fill the MR-X role. But if upgrades are too extensive or too costly, the next MR-X could be a “clean sheet” fighter design.

“That would be a digitally designed new type of fighter affordable mainly for missions where survivability is not the most important concern,” he said, referring to homeland defense over a near-peer conflict.

Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Charles “CQ” Brown said he’s open to something beyond the F-16 for the future multirole jet.

“Let’s not just buy off the shelf; let’s actually take a look at something else out there that we can build,” Brown said during a Defense Writers Group virtual chat with reporters in February.

Like Hinote, Brown said that the service wants something that can be economically sustainable, digitally designed, produced quickly and has an open-architecture software system that can be rapidly modified to keep up with missions.

“I want to be able to build something new and different that’s not the F-16, that has some of those capabilities, but gets there faster and features a digital approach,” he said in February.

– Oriana Pawlyk can be reached at oriana.pawlyk@military.com. Follow her on Twitter at @Oriana0214.

Read the original article on Business Insider

The US Air Force wants to get rid of over 200 aircraft – here’s what it wants to send to the boneyard

A-10 Warthog
A-10.

  • The Air Force has put more than 200 aircraft on the chopping block in its new budget proposal.
  • The list of fighters includes dozens of fighter jets and attack aircraft.
  • The Pentagon is divesting of legacy capabilities to invest in newer systems for future warfare.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

The US Air Force wants to mothball over 200 aircraft in the coming year to free up funds for new technology and weapons, according to the service’s fiscal year 2022 budget request.

The Department of the Air Force’s latest budget request asks for $173.7 billion, which includes an increase in research, development, test, and evaluation funding but a decrease in funds for procurement.

Speaking to lawmakers about the Pentagon’s $715 budget proposal this week, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said that the Department of Defense is making sure it is “focused on acquiring the right kinds of capabilities that we need to be relevant in the future fight.”

“That requires us to take a hard look with the services with capabilities that will not be relevant in a future fight and really begin to no longer invest in them,” he said.

For the Air Force, that means retiring a couple hundred planes, most of which are fighter and attack aircraft. Here is what could be headed to the boneyard.

A-10 Thunderbolt II

A 10 Warthogs
A-10s.

Distinguished by its 30mm GAU-8 Avenger rotary cannon, the A-10 is a ground-attack aircraft that has served the Air Force since the late 1970s.

The proposed cut would reduce the size of the A-10 fleet by 42 aircraft, from 281 to 239.

F-15C/D Eagle

F-15C Eagle refueling during deterrence patrol
F-15C.

The F-15C/D fighters are proven combat aircraft, having never officially been shot down in air-to-air combat, but the average age of the jets is now almost 40 years.

The Air Force plans to cut 48 of these aircraft, which are steadily being replaced by the F-15EX Eagle II. The Air Force plans to buy 144 of the new variant.

F-16C/D Fighting Falcon

US Air Force F-16C fighter jet in flight
F-16C.

The F-16C/D Fighting Falcon is a multirole and air superiority fighter. The proposed defense budget cuts 47 aircraft, bringing the overall size of the fleet down from 936 aircraft to 889.

The F-16, like the A-10, remains part of the Air Force’s vision of the future fleet, but the service is already considering replacements, which could be the F-35A. The service plans to buy about 50 of the fifth-generation stealth fighter in the coming fiscal year.

KC-135 Stratotanker

A U.S. Air Force KC-135 from the Iowa Air National Guard’s 185th Air Refueling Wing is parked on the ramp at the Sioux City, Iowa airport
KC-135.

The KC-135 is an aerial-refueling tanker that has been in service since the late 1950s.

The Air Force has proposed scrapping 18 of these aircraft, reducing the size of the tanker fleet to 376 aircraft.

KC-10 Extender

Tech. Sgt. Javier, 380th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron Extender Aircraft Maintenance Unit crew chief, marshals a KC-10 Extender
KC-10.

The KC-10 is a newer aerial-refueling tanker that has been serving the Air Force since the 1980s.

The Air Force is planning on cutting 14 of these aircraft, from 50 to 36, as it divests of older tankers and invests in the new KC-46 Pegasus.

C-130 Hercules

C-130 Hercules aircraft
C-130.

The C-130H is a military transport aircraft able to move troops and cargo. The Air Force intends to retire 13 of these aircraft, which would leave the service with 128 aircraft.

The service also plans to acquire five C-130J Super Hercules aircraft.

E-8C Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System

e-8c
E-8C.

The Air Force’s E-8 Joint STARS aircraft provide a variety of capabilities, including airborne battle management, reconnaissance, and command and control, giving it the ability to support attack operations through surveillance and targeting.

The service plans to cut four from its fleet of 16 planes.

RQ-4 Globe Hawk

RQ-4
RQ-4.

The RQ-4 is a remotely piloted high-altitude surveillance drone. The Air Force has 30 of these drones, but it plans to divest of 20.

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley told lawmakers Thursday that the budget proposal “is biasing the future over the present,” Defense News reported.

“We are trying right now to put down payments on investments that are going to pay huge dividends, five, 10, 15 years from now, for a future force that will be able to compete successfully with any adversary out there, to include China,” he said.

Read the original article on Business Insider

Top US Air Force general suggests future fighter-jet fleet won’t include the F-22 Raptor

F-22 f 22 flares
F-22 deploys flares

  • The Air Force’s top general is thinking about a future fighter fleet that does not include the F-22.
  • Brown said recently that a future fleet could include the A-10, F-16, F-35, F-15EX, and the NGAD.
  • The F-22 was the first fifth-generation stealth fighter.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

The US Air Force is thinking about what its future fighter fleet might look like, and that picture apparently doesn’t include the fifth-generation F-22 Raptor.

Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Charles “CQ” Brown said at a McAleese and Associates conference Wednesday that the service is trying to find the right mix of aircraft for the future fleet through an internal tactical air study, according to multiple reports.

“Right now we have seven fighter fleets,” Brown said, according to Defense One. “My intent is to get down to about four … really a four plus one,” with the A-10, a ground-attack aircraft rather than a pure fighter, as the plus-one.

The general said that the mix could include the A-10 and F-16 “for a while,” the F-35, which “will be the cornerstone” for the fleet, the F-15EX, and then the Next Generation Air Dominance (NGAD) fighter.

As Military.com notes, absent from Brown’s list were the F-22 and F-15E Strike Eagle.

An Air Force spokesperson told Air Force Magazine that the “F-22 is still undergoing modernization” and that “there are no plans to retire it in the near-term.”

The Air Force official explained that Brown is thinking more about the long-term. The F-22 will “eventually” retire, the spokesperson said, explaining that the platform’s likely successor will be the NGAD fighter, which Brown reportedly called “the air-superiority fighter of the future.”

The F-15EX, which is replacing the ageing fleet of F-15C/D fighters, could potentially replace the F-15E as well, the Air Force previously suggested.

Although the A-10 and the F-16 made the chief of staff’s list, the A-10 is not expected to serve beyond the 2030s, according to Air Force Magazine, and the Air Force, Brown said, is already thinking about the F-16 replacement, which could be “additional F-35, or something else into the future.”

“I don’t need to make that decision today,” Brown said. “That’s probably six, seven, eight years away into the future.”

Talking about the Air Force’s internal tactical air study, Brown stated the service will “look across the board, [at] all of our combat aircraft, our attack, our fighter portfolio,” adding that the Air Force is really looking “for a window of options, because the facts and assumptions based on a threat will change over time.”

The F-22 Raptor is a single-seat, fifth-generation stealth air-dominance and multi-role fighter that first flew in 1997 and entered service in 2005.

The fighter did not fly a combat mission though until 2014, two years after the Air Force received its last F-22 fighters. The program was capped at 187 jets, and 186 are currently in service.

Read the original article on Business Insider

The Air Force now has more F-35s than F-15s and A-10s

F-35 fighter jet elephant walk
F-35As on the runway during a combat-power exercise at Hill Air Force Base in Utah, January 6, 2020.

  • The US Air Force’s F-35 fleet has officially surpassed the F-15 and A-10 fleets in size.
  • The F-35 fleet, currently 283 jets, is second only to the F-16 fleet, which totals 934 jets.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

The US Air Force‘s F-35 Joint Strike Fighter fleet has officially surpassed the number of F-15 Eagle jets and A-10 Thunderbolt II attack aircraft, becoming the second largest fighter jet fleet in its aircraft inventory, the service’s top general said Friday.

Chief of Staff Gen. Charles “CQ” Brown revealed the new statistic during a hearing about the fiscal 2022 budget before the House Appropriations defense subcommittee. As of this week, he said, the F-35 fighter fleet is second in size only to the F-16 Fighting Falcon; the Air Force has 934 F-16 C and D models.

Air Force spokeswoman Maj. Malinda Singleton told Military.com the service has 283 F-35s, which also surpasses the A-10 Warthog fleet by two aircraft.

During the hearing, Brown discussed how the Air Force plans to move forward with its “TacAir study,” which will determine the right mix of aircraft for the future, and assess how future fighter concepts will fit into the current mix of fourth- and fifth-generation fighters.

“It won’t necessarily give us an answer, [but] a range of answers to take a look at the threat and make sure we have done the analysis to inform ourselves but also our key stakeholders, which includes this committee,” he said.

F-35 and F-22
Two F-22s, top, and two F-35s.

The F-35 fleet eclipsed the number of F-22 Raptors in 2019 – with 203 at the end of that fiscal year; the Air Force capped its Raptor fleet at 187 in 2009 (it currently has 186).

According to the Air Force Association’s 2020 aircraft almanac, the service has 241 F-15C/D Eagle models and 218 F-15E Strike Eagles.

Brown in February disputed reports calling the F-35 a high-cost Pentagon failure, saying that was “nowhere near the case.” In his prepared testimony before the subcommittee Friday, he said the jet remains “the cornerstone of our future fighter force and air superiority.”

He told reporters February 17 that the Air Force hasn’t ruled out bringing a new fighter jet into its inventory as it looks to replace older, fourth-generation F-16s. This marks a change; since the beginning of the Joint Strike Fighter program, the service had held that older Falcons should be replaced by the fifth-generation Lightning II. Some critics view Brown’s comments as foreshadowing the stealth jet’s demise.

The Air Force is the largest customer for the F-35 and hopes to procure 1,763 F-35 conventional takeoff and landing A-variants.

But according to Aviation Week, future defense budgets could limit the inventory. The magazine reported in December that the service might cap its total F-35 buy at 1,050 fighters.

The Air Force expects to keep a well-rounded mix of fourth- and fifth-generation aircraft through the 2030s, officials have said.

Last month, the service added the F-15EX Eagle II to its ranks as its new fourth-plus generation fighter.

– Oriana Pawlyk can be reached at oriana.pawlyk@military.com. Follow her on Twitter at @oriana0214.

Read the original article on Business Insider

How the world’s largest airplane boneyard stores and regenerates 3,100 retired aircraft

Following is a description of the video:

Narrator: The 309th AMARG stores the world’s largest collection of military aircraft here in the Arizona desert.

Col. Jennifer Barnard: I like to call this the ugliest plane out here, the YC-14. It was an aircraft that never went into production.

Narrator: Eight hundred mechanics work nonstop, reclaiming critical old parts and regenerating aircraft so they can go back into service.

Barnard: I can’t just pull over an airplane like you can a car. And we have to make sure that these aircraft are safe to fly. Our goal is not to be like a cemetery for the aircraft.

Narrator: That’s Col. Barnard. She’s served 25 years as a US Air Force Aircraft Maintenance Officer.

Barnard: As a commander here, I am in charge of the whole operation. The assets stored here are worth somewhere between $34 billion and $35 billion, if you were to try to replace them all. It’s a big number.

Narrator: She took us inside this massive facility to see how these military planes get a second chance at life. AMARG got its start back in 1946. After World War II, the Army needed a place to store old planes. They chose Davis-Monthan Air Force Base here in Tucson. With nearly 2,000 football fields worth of open desert, there was plenty of space.

Barnard: We’re known worldwide as the boneyard. Our guys take pride in being boneyard wranglers.

Narrator: Arizona has the perfect weather for storing these assets. It’s hot, there’s little rainfall, no humidity, and the soil?

Barnard: It’s as hard as concrete.

Narrator: So planes won’t sink.

Barnard: The dryness, as well as the lack of acidity in the soil, prevent corrosion on the assets.

Narrator: Aircraft come here from the Department of defense, military, other government agencies, and froeign allies.

Barnard: We have about 3,100 airplanes. The planes are mostly military. They come from the Air Force, the Navy, the Army, and the Marines. We have over 80 different types of airplanes here.

Narrator: Planes and helicopters arrive and are lined up in sections.

Barnard: So we’re driving down display row here, or celebrity row as some people call it. We do have a sense of humor here. That’s our stealth aircraft, which is actually just Wonder Woman’s jet. The LC-130s have skis along with their landing gear so they can land down in Antarctica and support the National Science Foundation all across that continent. We’re coming up on a NASA aircraft. It’s affectionately called the vomit comet.

Narrator: Some aircraft will be here for weeks before they’re called back into service. Other aircraft can be here for 50 years, similar to this A-4 Skyhawk. Each plane goes through a preservation process before it’s put in the desert. Those that may fly again are re-preserved every four years. They’re defueled, then oil is pumped through the engine to preserve it.

Barnard: The black material that we have on here is the base layer that seals up the aircraft. And then later, as you can see, the rest of the aircraft around here, the coats on top are white. And those white coats will reflect the heat so it better preserves the assets all on the inside of the aircraft.

Narrator: Like the inside of this C5-A Galaxy.

Barnard: The inside of the C5 is the largest cargo aircraft in the Air Force inventory. I have deployed on these.

Narrator: One of six deployments Col. Barnard’s had to Afghanistan, New Zealand, and Antarctica.

Barnard: And we can fit three HH-60 helicopters, and a lot of our equipment that we need, as well as all our maintainers. We have just over 60 of them here. And every one of them needs 72 tie-downs. Airplanes are designed to fly, and when it gets a little breezy out here we want to make sure they stay parked.

Narrator: But not every plane just sits around collecting dust. US military units around the world can request specific parts off these planes.

Barnard: An aircraft has so many thousands of parts. Just like a reservoir keeps things in case you need them. And then we release what’s out of the reservoir as needed.

Narrator: And some of the parts the military can only find here at AMARG.

Barnard: We are that assurance that there’s a part available when the supply system main sources don’t get it. We send anywhere from 4,000 to 7,000 parts out every year to the tune of a few million dollars each week worth of supply parts.

Scott and James here are removing the engines from the back of this T-38 as a reclamation effort because these have been requested to go back into service. So once the crews reclaim the parts out in the desert and bring them into the end of this building, they get washed, they get non-destructive inspection, and they’re going to pack and ship these right out the door as fast as we can.

Narrator: But sometimes, instead of being used for parts, an entire plane will be regenerated, meaning they’ll pull it out of the desert and wash it down.

Mike Serrano: We have to remove all the coatings that are used to preserve the aircraft out in the desert.

Narrator: After getting a nice shower, it’s fixed up.

Barnard: What our team is working on here is a C-130 that’s being regenerated for foreign military sales. In this hangar, the current project that we’re working on is F-16s in post-block repair. It’s a package of structural improvements on the aircraft to extend their flyable life.

Narrator: The unit also handles aircraft modifications.

Barnard: These aircraft come from US units that are active right now. And then they get some work done on them, and they go back out to that same unit. So we’re able to upgrade those and modify them to keep them up with the current standards in the active fleet.

Narrator: Complicated individual pieces are sent to separate back shops for repair and overhaul.

Barnard: Here in the wing shop … We have all the center portions of the A-10 wings being rebuilt here. And the outer portions being rebuilt there. There’s actually hundreds of pieces inside of an aircraft wing. The complexity and the level of structure, it’s really eye-opening for many folks. Each set of wings can take up to 20,000 man hours to overhaul.

Narrator: Once parts are fixed, they go through a thorough inspection. We’re here in the non-destructive inspection area. Pete’s working on a fluorescent dye penetrant.

Pete Boveington: It’s basically a liquid that absorbs into cracks, and we can apply a black light to it. And you can see there’s a crack right here that shows up. This crack right here on this part in the landing gear could cause catastrophic failure on the landing gear.

Narrator: Not a single crack on an entire plane can get past this team.

Barnard: We have to make sure that these aircraft are safe to fly so that we protect that asset, and we protect the air crew that’s inside of that asset. So the stakes are pretty high.

Narrator: Once fixed, the planes go through a rigorous final flight test. Pilot Scott Thompson is testing these regenerated F-16s.

Lt. Col. Scott Thompson: I will take them out to the airspace just south of here. Close enough to where if I do have a problem I can get back onto the ground immediately and pretty much put them through the wringer. We test flight controls, and the handling, and the engine performance, and all the systems on the plane pretty extensively, at all altitudes.

Barnard: They go out to become full-scale aerial targets.

Narrator: That’s a happy ending for a plane pulled from the desert here at AMARG. But for other aircraft, this is the end of the line. The planes marked with a big D are destroyed by a third-party contractor.

Barnard: So these are our guys that work the demil, and they prepare aircraft for disposal. Well, and I will get out of the way of the crowbar.

Worker: I’m pretty good with this crowbar.

Barnard: I’m pretty good at destruction too, but you guys are being super careful about it, which you should be.

Narrator: The planes are demolished for good reason.

Barnard: We’ll make sure everything’s accounted for and that the materials and the technology don’t fall into the wrong hands.

Narrator: While some Americans may not have heard of AMARG, it actually saves taxpayers a lot of money.

Barnard: The assets stored here are worth somewhere between $34 billion and $35 billion. And so to make a new one may not be possible, versus to rejuvenate an old one might be the best-case scenario.

Narrator: But for the workers, it’s not just about saving the military some money. It’s also about giving these planes another life.

Thompson: A lot of these airplanes haven’t flown for a very long time. I flew a lot of them operationally back in the day. It’s great to get back in them and bring them back to life.

Barnard: These airplanes have a lot of stories to tell, and it’s wonderful to spend time with them and think about that. There are very few of us military that are lucky enough to be assigned here. It’s just a joy to be able to work with these people every day and be around these airplanes.

Read the original article on Business Insider

The F-16 first flew 47 years ago, and the Air Force may keep it flying decades longer due to problems with the F-35

Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcon fighter jet
A US Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcon on a mission near Iraq during Operation Iraqi Freedom, March 22, 2003.

  • Nearly 50 years after its first flight, the F-16 remains in service with air forces around the world.
  • The US Air Force was set to get rid of its F-16s in the coming decade, but delays on its new fighters mean the Fighting Falcon will fly on.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

February 2 was the 47th anniversary of the first official test flight for the F-16 Fighting Falcon.

Designed by General Dynamics in the 1970s, the Falcon – or the Viper, as it is commonly and affectionately known by its American pilots – quickly became one of the best fighter jets in history.

Its lightweight, powerful engines, and groundbreaking electronics gave it an edge over almost all of its contemporary adversaries. Its modular airframe proved so adaptable that over a dozen different versions of the fighter have been made since its first flight.

About 4,600 F-16s have been built since 1974, and the fighter is currently in service with 26 countries.

The ‘fighter mafia’

Air Force F-16 YF-16 YF-17
A YF-16 aircraft and a YF-17 aircraft.

The F-16 came about as a result of requests from a group known as the “fighter mafia,” a group of Air Force officers and civilian defense analysts who were unsatisfied with the performance of the F-4 Phantom II in Vietnam, and believed that the Air Force’s emphasis on larger, heavier fighters armed only with missiles was a mistake.

What was needed, they argued, was a cost-effective fighter jet that was small, lightweight, fast, and highly maneuverable. The need for a cheaper and lighter fighter grew when the operating costs of the new F-15 became apparent.

In 1969, after intense lobbying, the group was able to secure funding for the Lightweight Fighter program. By 1974, two prototype models from two companies were shown to the Air Force: the YF-16 from General Dynamics and the YF-17 from Northrop Grumman.

The YF-16 was selected as the winner in 1975, though the YF-17 would eventually see service with the Navy and Marine Corps as the F/A-18. By 1980, F-16s were in service with the US Air Force as well as with NATO members Belgium, Denmark, the Netherlands, and Norway.

A modern design

Air Force F-16 fighter jet canopy pilot cockpit
A US Air Force pilot in an F-16 Fighting Falcon at McEntire Joint National Guard Base in South Carolina, April 12, 2008.

The Falcon featured a number of new technologies and systems that put it above its competitors. Its engine could push it to twice the speed of sound, and the cropped delta wings gave it incredible maneuverability, including the ability to pull 9g turns – the first US fighter to do so.

The bubble canopy gave the pilot unobstructed forward and upward vision and improved side and rear vision. The cockpit seat-back angle, set at 30 degrees instead of the usual 13, increased pilot comfort and gravity force tolerance, enabling high-g turns and maneuvers.

The F-16 was the first production aircraft to replace manual flight controls with a digital “fly-by-wire” system, increasing response time and pilot control. It also featured side-stick controls with a hands-on throttle-and-stick set up, giving better ergonomics and allowing the pilot to fly and perform multiple functions at the same time.

Brand-new radar systems and electronics, like concurrent head-mounted and heads-up display, enabled pilots to track and engage enemy aircraft quickly and efficiently with its large arsenal: up to 17,000 pounds of air-to-air missiles and bombs mounted on 11 hardpoints, as well as a 20 mm Vulcan rotary cannon.

A long service record

Israeli F-16
An Israeli Air Force F-16 moves into position for refueling during an exercise over the Nevada Test and Training Range, July 17, 2009.

The F-16’s combat debut was with the Israeli Air Force, shooting down a pair of Syrian Mi-8 helicopters in April 1981 and a MiG-21 in July that year.

On June 7, 1981, the Israelis showed the F-16 could conduct airstrikes, when, during Operation Opera, they destroyed Iraq’s unfinished Osirak nuclear reactor. In one engagement in 1982, during the Lebanese Civil War, Israeli F-16s shot down 44 Syrian aircraft, 11 more than the Israeli F-15s that took part in the battle.

The F-16 saw combat in American service for the first time during Operation Desert Storm in 1991, when 249 Air Force F-16s flew over 13,000 sorties, more than any other aircraft during the campaign. Only seven were lost, three to enemy fire.

The Desert Storm missions were mostly airstrikes, but American F-16s did score their first air-to-air kills during the ensuing Operation Southern Watch, downing a MiG-25 in December 1992 and a MiG-23 in January 1993.

US F-16s have seen action in Yugoslavia, Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya. F-16s in service with other countries have flown combat missions over Lebanon, Pakistan, Syria, Venezuela, and Yemen.

F-16s are also seen regularly over the Baltic and Black Sea as part of NATO’s air-policing operations and over the Taiwan Strait, where Taiwan regularly scrambles its F-16s to intercept Chinese military aircraft.

Future fighters

Taiwan air force F-16 fighter jet
A US-made F-16V takes off during an exercise in southern Taiwan, January 15, 2020.

About 1,300 F-16s are in service with the US Air Force, and the jet is still loved by its pilots.

The Air Force originally planned to retire its F-16s in 2025, but budget constraints and the slow delivery of its intended replacement, the F-35, forced the service to initiate a Service Life Extension Program for its F-16s, enabling the fighters to fly until at least 2048.

The Air Force is reportedly interested in buying brand new F-16s, as both F-16s and F-15EXs were in the service’s fiscal year 2023 budget request. These would be the first new F-16s to enter US service since 2005.

F-16s are still being built for international customers, and “that system has some wonderful upgraded capabilities that are worth thinking about as part of our capacity solution,” Will Roper, former assistant secretary of the Air Force for acquisition, told Aviation Week in January.

It is not known what type of F-16 the Air Force may buy. The most advanced version in active service, the F-16E/F Block 60 “Desert Falcon,” is flown by the United Arab Emirates Air Force.

Lockheed Martin, which bought General Dynamics in 1993, has developed the Block 70/72, the newest production F-16, which features large external fuel tanks and new, advanced avionics, notably the APG-83 Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radar, and the Automatic Ground Collision Avoidance System, which has already saved pilots.

Lockheed has also developed the F-16V, its latest, most advanced upgrade configuration, which several countries have purchased, including Taiwan.

Read the original article on Business Insider

The Air Force put on a display of airpower with fighter jets in Alaska on one of the shortest days of the year

Air Force F-35 elephant walk Alaska
Aircraft in formation at Eielson Air Force Base in Alaska, December 18, 2020.

  • More than 30 fighters and two refueling aircraft put on an “Elephant Walk” at Eielson Air Force Base in Alaska earlier this month.
  • Such exercises are meant to verifying a unit’s ability to rapidly generate combat airpower and demonstrate readiness.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

The 354th Fighter Wing and the 168th Wing Air National Guard completed a readiness exercise on December 18, 2020, verifying the wing’s ability to rapidly generate combat airpower at Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska.

More than 30 fighters and two refueling aircraft were generated.

The formation executed on the runway is known as an “Elephant Walk.” This formation tested the rapid readiness of every flying unit on Eielson AFB and displayed the airpower of the 354th FW and the 168th Wing together.

Air Force F-35 elephant walk Alaska
Eighteen F-35As, 12 F-16s, and two KC-135 form an elephant walk on Eielson Air Force Base in Alaska, December 18, 2020.

“The Elephant Walk isn’t only to practice our abilities to respond quickly,” said US Air Force Col. David Skalicky, 354th Operations Group commander, “This is to show our airmen who work behind the scenes what Eielson AFB is about. It’s about showing our strength in the Arctic arena.”

Skalicky continued, reminding the airmen in a pre-exercise briefing, “We are executing this despite coronavirus, despite the extreme weather conditions, and despite that it’s one of the shortest days of the year.”

With great amounts of planning, preparation and communication 18 F-35A Lightning IIs, 12 F-16 Fighting Falcons, and two KC-135 Stratotankers arrived on the flightline ready for a takeoff.

Air Force F-35 elephant walk Alaska
KC-135 Stratotankers on the flight line at Eielson Air Force Base, December 18, 2020.

“Every airman across the fighter wing contributed to today’s event, and we proved what our team is capable of …supporting, defending, or delivering 5th-generation airpower and advanced training. Stay tuned, because our combat capability will continue to grow, and I’m incredibly proud of the disciplined, professional, combat-focused approach our team displayed today,” said Col. David Berkland, the 354th FW commander.

Read the original article on Business Insider

A Wisconsin Air National Guard F-16 pilot is dead after a fighter jet crash in Michigan

A Wisconsin Air National Guard F-16 Fighting Falcon fighter aircraft
A Wisconsin Air National Guard F-16.

  • A Wisconsin National Guard F-16 fighter jet crashed in Michigan during a routine training flight Tuesday night, the Guard said in a Facebook post.
  • The Guard’s 115th Fighter Wing announced Thursday afternoon that the pilot, who was initially missing after the crash, had died.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

A Wisconsin Air National Guard F-16 Fighting Falcon crashed in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula during a routine training flight Tuesday evening. The pilot’s death was announced Thursday afternoon.

The fighter jet, which went down around 8 p.m. Tuesday in Delta County, Michigan, was assigned to the 115th Fighter Wing at Truax Field Air National Guard Base in Madison, Wisconsin.

“The cause of the crash, as well as the status of the pilot, are unknown at this time, and the incident is under investigation,” the Wisconsin National Guard said in the immediate aftermath.

On Thursday, the 115th Fighter Wing announced that the pilot, who was initially missing after the crash, had died. The pilot’s identity is being withheld for 24 hours, during which time next of kin will be notified.

“We are deeply saddened by this tragic loss; our thoughts and prayers are with the family during this difficult time,” 115th Fighter Wing commander Col. Bart Van Roo said in a statement. “Today is a day for mourning, the 115th Fighter Wing and the entire Wisconsin National Guard stands with the pilot’s family as we grieve the loss of a great Airman, and patriot.”

“We are an extremely close knit group at the fighter wing, the loss of one of our own brings immeasurable sadness to every member of our organization,” he added.

The US military has seen a handful of F-16 crashes this year, some of which have been deadly.

In mid-July, a US Air Force F-16C Viper crashed while landing at Holloman Air Force base in New Mexico. The pilot of the single-seat aircraft was able to eject successfully and sustained only minor injuries.

In June, an Air Force F-16CM Fighting Falcon crashed during a late-night flight at Shaw Air Force Base in South Carolina. The pilot, 1st Lt. David Schmitz, died after being taken to a local hospital.

In November last year, Air Force Magazine reported that the Air Force said that it had seen no data pointing to any safety issues with the fighter aircraft, despite a string of F-16 crashes over the years.

Update: This post, which was initially published on 12/9/2020, has been updated to include the announcement on the pilot’s death.

Read the original article on Business Insider