AATC Plans KC-135 Modification | BAE To Support F-16s In More Than 25 Countries | KF-21 Prototype Rolled Out
The US Air National Guard Air Force Reserve Test Center (AATC) is planning to modify two KC-135s to equip them with a new communications, sensors and defensive pod. While tentatively called the Gladiator Pod, it is expected to enter flight testing on a few KC-135s in 2023. AATC intends to pack communication, defensive, and sensor technologies inside the shell of a Multipoint Refueling System (MPRS) Pod. The MPRS consists of a single refueling pod mounted on each wing of a KC-135 to support probe and drogue refueling. The communication systems that will be packed inside the Gladiator Pod will allow the KC-135 to act as a data node and host on the Advanced Battle Management System (ABMS). Defensive systems will protect the tanker with limited fighter support. It was also disclosed that the KC-135 was able to receive off-board data from the Kratos Unmanned Tactical Aerial Platform-22 (UTAP-22) during a recent test China Lake.
The US military’s ability to meet demands has largely degraded over the past two decades, according to a Government Accountability Office report. “GAO found that reported domain readiness did not meet readiness recovery goals identified by the military services,” it said. The report spotlighted “the effects of Hurricane Michael and its associated infrastructure limitations on the Air Force’s F-22 fighter jets; the effects of trained pilot shortages on the Army’s AH-64 attack helicopter; and the effects of limited depot repair capacity on the Marine Corps’ light attack helicopters.”
Middle East & Africa
According to media reports, Morocco has carried out its first drone strike in the Western Sahara. The Polisario Front announced that its police chief Addah al-Bendir had been killed “on the field of honor” in a separatist-controlled part of the disputed desert territory. The reported use of a drone strike to kill a senior Western Sahara independence fighter would, if confirmed, mark a turning point in the conflict, experts say. A Polisario official told AFP that Bendir had been killed by a Moroccan drone after taking part in a military operation near a sand barrier separating Moroccan and Polisario-controlled zones. Moroccan military expert Abdelhamid Harifi told AFP that “officially, Morocco doesn’t have armed drones — but it has a whole range of state-of-the-art unarmed drones.”
A US Air Force contract with British company BAE will see the firm support equipment for the fleet of F-16 aircraft in “more than 25 countries” through 2031. “From Boresighting avionics testing and vehicle management system tests to aircraft power, hydraulics, and electrical systems support, BAE Systems’ comprehensive approach is a key enabler for F-16 sustainment worldwide. The company will enhance aircraft supportability, reduce the logistics footprint, and minimize life cycle cost through the contract, which includes obsolescence management, logistics and sustainment, and on-base support and depot development”, it says in a press release.
Korea Times quoted anonymous sources as saying the KAI FA-50 and Pakistan’s JF-17 are the finalists in Malaysia’s Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) competition. The report added that the JF-17 is in the lead as it “possesses a better mid-range weapons capacity.”
Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) has rolled out a prototype of the multirole fighter aircraft being developed for the Republic of Korea Air Force (RoKAF) under the Korean Fighter eXperimental (KF-X) programme. The locally developed twin-engined aircraft KF-21 Boramae was officially unveiled in a ceremony held on April 9 at KAI headquarters in the South Korean city of Sacheon, South Gyeongsang Province, that was also attended by South Korean President Moon Jae-in and Indonesian Defense Minister Prabowo Subianto.
Watch: KC-135 Stratotanker Take Off and Landing at MacDill Air Force Base, United States Air Force