Boeing won a $198 million contract modification, which provides for the integration of a ground control station that provides command and control capability in support of the MQ-25 air vehicle for the Navy. The Boeing MQ-25 Stingray is an aerial refueling drone. In early December Boeing has flown its MQ-25A test asset (T1) with an aerial refuelling store under its wing for the first time. Earlier this year the US Navy exercised an option to acquire three additional MQ-25 air vehicles, bringing the total aircraft Boeing is initially producing to seven. The Navy intends to procure more than 70 aircraft, which will assume the tanking role currently performed by F/A-18s, allowing for better use of the combat strike fighters. Work will take place in Missouri and various locations within the continental US. Expected completion will be in August 2024.
The 53rd Wing of the Air Force has combined its series of large-scale tests at Nevada’s Nellis Air Force Base into a new event called Black Flag. Gen. Mark D. Kelly inked COMACC Plan 21 on December 15, formalizing the creation of Black Flag as a training event “solely focused on test and tactics development in a realistic, massed force, fully integrated, high threat density environment.” Black Flag was established as the testing counterpart to Red Flag, the Air Force’s training event.
Middle East & Africa
The US State Department approved two possible arms sales to Kuwait totaling $4.2 billion on December 29. Per the larger of the two deals, for $4 billion, Kuwait’s government has asked to buy 24 AH-64E Apache helicopters, eight new and 16 remanufactured along with related equipment. The deal, if approved, would also include 22 T700-GE 701D engines, 36 remanufactured T700-GE 701D engines as well as support equipment, tools and test equipment, technical data and publications. The second FMS is for $200 million. The United States would sell spare parts to upgrade Kuwait’s Patriot missile systems. The principal contractor for this deal would be Raytheon.
The US State Department also cleared two potential Foreign Military Sales to Egypt. The first is a potential sale of 20 Lockheed Martin AN/AAQ-33 Sniper Advanced Targeting Pods for $65.6 million. The FMS case does not state the type of aircraft on which the pods will be deployed, but Cirium fleets data indicates that Egypt has 218 in-service F-16s, including 33 F-16A/Bs and 185 F-16C/Ds. The second is for the provision of the Northrop Grumman Large Aircraft Infrared Countermeasures (LAIRCM) suite aboard an Airbus A340-200 that is used to transport the country’s head of state. The value of the LAIRCM deal is $104 million.
The Swiss Air Force will start having fighters on standby 24 hours a day starting from December 31. Currently, the F/A-18s are on standby during office hours. “From now on, the air police service will be on call 24 hours a day to guarantee the security and the sovereignty over Swiss airspace,” a statement said. The plan to increase Swiss airspace surveillance was proposed to parliament in 2009, but it was boosted by an embarrassing incident five years later that cast a spotlight on the lack of round-the-clock protection. In February 2014, an Ethiopian Airlines co-pilot hijacked his own plane, carrying 202 passengers and crew from Addis Ababa to Rome, and forced it to land in Geneva. Although the co-pilot-turned-hijacker announced he wanted to land the plane in Switzerland, where he later said he aimed to seek asylum, Switzerland’s fleet of F-18s and F-5 Tigers remained on the ground. The Swiss Air Force explained at the time that this was because its planes were only available during office hours.
Northrop Grumman won a $37.7 million deal for the Japan Global Hawk Program. The deal provides for the procurement of initial spare parts to include modifications to the system engineering and program management tasks required to execute, manage, control, and report on all program activities. The Northrop Grumman RQ-4 Global Hawk is an unmanned high-altitude long-endurance surveillance aircraft that first flew in February 1998 and has been in active service with the US military since 2001.
Latest updates[?]: Boeing won a $198 million contract modification, which provides for the integration of a ground control station that provides command and control capability in support of the MQ-25 air vehicle for the Navy. The Boeing MQ-25 Stingray is an aerial refueling drone. In early December Boeing has flown its MQ-25A test asset (T1) with an aerial refuelling store under its wing for the first time. Earlier this year the US Navy exercised an option to acquire three additional MQ-25 air vehicles, bringing the total aircraft Boeing is initially producing to seven. The Navy intends to procure more than 70 aircraft, which will assume the tanking role currently performed by F/A-18s, allowing for better use of the combat strike fighters. Work will take place in Missouri and various locations within the continental US. Expected completion will be in August 2024.
UCAS-D/ N-UCAS concept
The idea of UAVs with full stealth and combat capabilities has come a long way, quickly. Air forces around the world are pursuing R&D programs, but in the USA, progress is being led by the US Navy.
Their interest is well-founded. A May 2007 non-partisan report discussed the lengthening reach of ship-killers. Meanwhile, the US Navy’s carrier fleet sees its strike range shrinking to 1950s distances, and prepares for a future with fewer carrier air wings than operational carriers. Could UCAV/UCAS vehicles with longer ranges, and indefinite flight time limits via aerial refueling, solve these problems? Some people in the Navy seem to think that they might. Hence UCAS-D/ N-UCAS, which received a major push in the FY 2010 defense review. Now, Northrop Grumman is improving its X-47 UCAS-D under contract, even as emerging privately-developed options expand the Navy’s future choices as it works on its new RFP.
Mnemonics Inc. won a $10 million contract to procure as-needed engineering support services in support of the Radio Frequency Blanking Unit (RFBU) and Electronic Attack Unit (EAU) components of the Advanced Electronic Attack (AEA) system of the EA-18G Growler aircraft. The services under this contract are engineering support services, logistics management information and fleet support team efforts for the RFBU and EAU variants and derivative systems. Technical instructions will be issued in accordance with the statement of work for this contract to support the Naval Surface Warfare Center Crane EA-18G EAU Organic Depot. Mnemonics, Inc. supplies electronic products and services. The Company offers electronics systems solutions such as hardware, software, and systems designs, as well as developing and testing of art weapons and communications systems. Mnemonics operates in the United States. Work will take place in Florida. Estimated completion will be by September 2025.
An 11-day Weapons System Evaluation Program event ended successfully at Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida, the Air Force announced. The WSEP, conducted regularly, evaluates air-to-ground and air-to-air weapons systems, with an emphasis on missile firing and combat skills, according to Air Force officials. Tyndall’s 43rd Fighter Squadron, and the US Navy’s Strike Fighter Squadrons 11, 34, 81, and 211 of Carrier Air Wing One, based at Naval Air Station Oceana, Va., participated in the evaluation. “Pre-deployment joint training is crucial to success for the future,” Lt. Cmdr. Thomas Kellner, 83rd Fighter Squadron FA-18 program manager said in a press release.
Middle East & Africa
The US Navy said on Monday that the Nimitz Strike Group is positioned off the Africa coast as US troops relocate from Somalia to other East African areas. The strike group consists of the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz and its air wing of 60 aircraft, two guided-missile cruisers and a guided-missile destroyer. According to a statement, the strike group arrived near the Somalia coast last week to provide “operational and close air support to Joint Task Force-Quartz and Operation Octave Quartz.” The missions are involved in combating Somalian al-Shabab extremists and the plan to move U.S. troops from Somalia to other encampments in East Africa.
Lockheed Martin won a $101.5 million contract modification, which adds scope to provide sustainment services and outcomes for the United Kingdom Ministry of Defense, supporting daily flight operations with the national specific capabilities required at various F-35 operating sites in support of the F-35 Lightning II UK Lightning Air-system National Capability Enterprise. Work will take place the UK, Texas and Florida. Estimated completion is in December 2022.
British company BAE Systems, in collaboration with UAVTEK, has developed a nano “Bug” drone, and delivered the first 30 units to the British Army, which has put it through its paces as part of a trial. The Bug is a nano-Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) weighing 196g – similar to the weight of a smartphone – with 40 minute battery life and a 2km range. It boasts a stealthy low visual profile and the ability to fly even in strong winds of more than 50mph. According to BAE, it was the only nano-UAV able to cope with the uncompromising weather during a recent Army Warfighting Experiment (AWE) event hosted by the Ministry of Defense’s Future Capability Group.
Defense Minister Prabowo reignited an old debate in June when he sent a letter to his Austrian counterpart Klaudia Tanner on the possibilities of buying 15 Eurofighter Typhoon heavy jet fighters from the central European country to modernize the Indonesian Air Force. Operation Modern was a seldom reported deal between Indonesia and United States for the exchange of four MiG-21F-13 fighters for 19 T-33 trainers. A total of 13 MiG-21s went to America in exchange for the T-33, UH-34D, and later, F-5 and OV-10 aircraft.
Watch: The Lockheed T-33 Shooting Star subsonic jet trainer – America’s first jet trainer.
The future USS Daniel Inouye completed builder’s trials after spending four days at sea off the coast of Maine last week, the Navy announced. The builder’s trials consist of a sequence of in-port and at-sea demonstrations allowing the Navy and the ship’s builder, General Dynamics Bath Iron Works, to assess whether the ship is ready for delivery. The vessel will return to sea early in 2021 to conduct acceptance trials, during which all systems will be inspected and evaluated before the Navy can accept delivery. The Inouye is a Flight IIA destroyer equipped with the Aegis Baseline combat system, intended to deliver quick reaction time, high firepower and increased electronic countermeasures.
The US Air Force has been testing the new M7.3 update for the F-16. Five members from the 84th Test and Evaluation Squadron made the trip to conduct critical training at the Nellis mission training center simulators and embedded with the 422nd TES F-16 division for an early operational look at the M7.3 program in a multi-domain environment. “The Operational Flight Program Combined Test Force is actively testing the M7.3 Operational Flight Program, which is a new software suite consisting of new core software that supports several new hardware programs that will drastically enhance warfighter capability when fielded in summer of ’21,” said Lt. Col. Benjamin Wysack, 84th TES F-16 test director. The OFP CTF is a dual major command unit that combines both developmental and operational test management experts that interact with several test execution units across the United States.
Middle East & Africa
Israel Shipyards started construction of the first of two OPV-45 offshore patrol vessels that have reportedly been ordered by Côte d’Ivoire. Israel Shipyards announced the order in July but did not identify the customer, although suggested it was a navy operating in the Gulf of Guinea when it said the vessels were designed to provide “protection against the increasing threat of piracy in the region”. Local media reported later that month that the OPVs had been ordered by Côte d’Ivoire. The OPV-45 displaces 300 tonnes, has a length of 45.7 m, a beam of 8.6 m, and a draught of 2.4 m. The two MAN 6V 175D-MM diesel engines provide a combined power of 2,960 kW at 1,900 rpm for a maximum speed of 24 kt. It has a range of 3,500 n miles at 12 kt.
France launched its CSO 2 spy satellite into space from its Guiana Space Center in South America. The satellite is carried into space using a Russian Soyuz ST-A rocket. It is the second in the Composante Spatiale Optique series. The first satellite was launched in 2018. The CSO 2 will have the highest resolution camera for a European reconnaissance satellite. While CSO 1 launched into an orbit around 500 miles (800 kilometers) in altitude, the CSO 2 spacecraft will head for a lower-altitude orbit approximately 300 miles (480 kilometers) above Earth. Its position closer to Earth will allow the satellite to produce sharper images for French military planners and intelligence analysts.
Australia has declared Initial Operational Capability (IOC) for its F-35A fleet, clearing the way for the aircraft to be deployed for operations. “The fifth-generation F-35A, along with the F/A-18F Super Hornet and EA-18G Growler, is key to our air combat capability and critical to achieving the objectives set out in the 2020 Defense Strategic Update to Shape, Deter and Respond,” Minister for Defense Linda Reynolds said.
The US State Department cleared the sale of two King Air Scorpion Intelligence, Surveillance, Reconnaissance (ISR) mission aircraft to Kazakhstan. They will be fitted with Raytheon AST TITAN Communications Intelligence (COMINT) Sensor Suites, Leonardo Osprey 30 radars, WESCAM MX-15HDi Elector Optical Infrared Turret Electro Optical Infrared Sensors and Sierra Nevada Small SWAP Auto Electronic Intelligence (ELINT) Systems. If the deal goes through the United States would also provide spare parts and technical and logistical support services, including technical documentation and training.
Northrop Grumman Aerospace won a $53.7 million deal for the RQ-4B Global Hawk. The contract provides for repair services for “common items” for both the RQ-4 GH and MQ-4C Triton. It will support reparable national stock numbers (NSNs) which encompass the air vehicle, multiple sensor packages, mission control element and launch and recovery element. In addition, this effort includes support engineering services covered under the Engineering Delegation Authority (namely Diminishing Manufacturing Sources and Material Shortages projects) for NSNs transferred to and under the management of the 407th Supply Chain Management Squadron. Northrop Grumman successfully completed the first flight for the Global Hawk Ground Station Modernization Program at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif. earlier this month. The modernized Global Hawk ground stations will revolutionize the operator experience with new cockpit displays, the ability to fly all Global Hawk variants without software or configuration changes, simpler maintenance interfaces, and improved situational awareness and environmental conditions for pilots and sensor operators. Work under the new contract will take place in California, Virginia, New Mexico, Missouri, Ohio, Canada, New Jersey, Indiana, Massachusetts, New York and Maryland. The basic ordering period and six one year ordering periods are expected to begin January 1, 2021, and end on December 31, 2028.
Lockheed Martin Aeronautics won an $8.7 million contract modification adds scope to provide program management support to execute the planning, procurement and delivery of initial aircraft spares in support of the F-35 Lightning II Joint Program Office, Air Force, Marine Corps and Navy; non-Department of Defense (DOD) participants and Foreign Military Sales (FMS) customers operational aircraft. Work will take place in Texas. Estimated completion date is in December 2021.
Middle East & Africa
AITC-Five Domains JV LLC won a $29 million contract to provide train, advise, assist and mentor services. Bids were solicited via the internet with one received. Work will take place in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, with an estimated completion date of December 30, 2025. Fiscal 2021 Foreign Military Sales (Saudi Arabia) funds in the amount of $29,028,329 were obligated at the time of the award. The company also won a $17.7 million contract with an estimated completion date of August 30, 2023.
Spartan Air Academy Iraq LLC won a $15.7 million contract modification for the Iraq T-6A contractor logistics support and training maintenance program. The modification provides for the exercise of an option to extend the term of the contract for the continued services needed in order to effectively maintain and operate a fleet of 15 T-6A training aircraft. The Beechcraft T-6 Texan II is a single-engine turboprop trainer aircraft built by the Raytheon Aircraft Company. Work will take place at Balad Air Base, Iraq. Expected completion date is June 30, 2021.
Belgium’s first A400M has been delivered and flown to the 15th Wing Air Transport in Melsbroek. The second A400M for Belgium will be delivered in early 2021. The country has ordered seven aircraft. This A400M, known as MSN106, will be operated within a binational unit composed of a total of eight aircraft, seven from the Belgian Air Force and one from the Luxembourg Armed Forces. The second A400M for Belgium will be delivered in early 2021.
Hindustan Times reports that at least three Dassault Rafale fighters will be flown to India next month. This is the third ferry flight and like the second delivery flight, all three aircraft will fly non-stop from France to India. The jets were ordered from France in September 2016 under a government-to-government deal. The delivery of the three jets in January will take the number of Rafales in the IAF’s inventory to 11.
Latest updates[?]: Belgium’s first A400M has been delivered and flown to the 15th Wing Air Transport in Melsbroek. The second A400M for Belgium will be delivered in early 2021. The country has ordered seven aircraft. This A400M, known as MSN106, will be operated within a binational unit composed of a total of eight aircraft, seven from the Belgian Air Force and one from the Luxembourg Armed Forces. The second A400M for Belgium will be delivered in early 2021.
A400M rollout, Seville
Airbus’ A400M is a EUR 20+ billion program that aims to repeat Airbus’ civilian successes in the full size military transport market. A series of smart design decisions were made around capacity (35-37 tonnes/ 38-40 US tons, large enough for survivable armored vehicles), extensive use of modern materials, multi-role capability as a refueling tanker, and a multinational industrial program; all of which leave the aircraft well positioned to take overall market share from Lockheed Martin’s C-130 Hercules. If the USA’s C-17 is allowed to go out of production, the A400M would also have a strong position in the strategic transport market, with only Russian AN-70, IL-76 and AN-124 aircraft as competition.
Airbus’ biggest program issue, by far, has been funding for a project that is more than EUR 7 billion over budget. The next biggest issue is timing, as a combination of A400M delays and Lockheed’s strong push for its C-130J Super Hercules narrow the field for future exports. This DID Spotlight article covers the latest developments, as the A400M Atlas moves into the delivery phase. Will Airbus’ 3rd big issue become its own customers?
General Electric won a $220 million contract modification, which exercises an option to procure 48 F414-GE-400 engines and engine devices in support of the F/A-18 Super Hornet production aircraft for the Navy. The General Electric F414 is an American afterburning turbofan engine in the 22,000-pound thrust class. Two F414 engines power the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet aircraft. The US Navy F/A-18 E and F Super Hornet maritime strike attack aircraft was manufactured by Boeing, and flew for the first time in 1995. The air inlets have been enlarged to provide increased airflow into the engines. The structural changes to the airframe on the F/E variant of the aircraft increase the internal fuel capacity by 3,600lb, a 33% higher fuel capacity than the F-18C/D variant. Work will take place in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont and Kentucky. Estimated completion will be in August 2023.
Northrop Grumman won a $13.1 million order, which procures 39 avionic flight mission computers, 10 control display units and one environmental stress screening station in support of E-2D aircraft. The E-2D Advanced Hawkeye (AHE) is the newest variant of the E-2 aircraft platform. It features a state-of-the-art radar with a two-generation leap in capability and upgraded aircraft systems that will improve supportability and increase readiness. The E-2D continues the Navy’s integrated war fighting legacy by providing broad area coverage resulting in broader range capabilities. With the E-2D’s enhanced ability to work in the littoral and over land, the platform provides a critical capability to protect our nation’s interests. Work will take place in California and Florida. Estimated completion is in November 2024.
Middle East & Africa
The guided-missile submarine USS Georgia passed through the Strait of Hormuz, the US Naval Forces Central Command said in a rare disclosure. The submarine, which can carry up to 154 Tomahawk cruise missiles, was escorted by the guided missile cruisers USS Port Royal and USS Philippine Sea through the strait as it entered the Persian Gulf. The US military rarely announces the movements of its submarines, and the disclosure comes as US officials are on alert for heightened tensions in the Middle East.
Two people working for Italian defense contractor Leonardo had installed malware on the company’s computers and stole at least 10 gigabytes of data between 2015 and 2017. Reuters say 94 computers were hacked, 33 were at the Pomigliano plant. Files stolen includes information on the electronic system of the nEUROn, C-27J cargo plane and ATR commercial and military turbo-prop planes.
Airbus Helicopters has begun upgrading Hungary’s eventual fleet of 20 H145M rotorcraft with the company’s HForce Generic Weapon System (GWS). The company announced that three of the 16 helicopters so far delivered under the Eastern European nation’s Zrínyi 2026 military development programme have been retrofitted with the HForce GWS. The H145M joined the fleet of the Hungarian Air Force one year ago. A couple of days ago it was reported that the Hungarian Air Force had taken delivery of 16 H145M helicopters that it ordered. A total of twenty helicopters were ordered.
Four Chinese bombers and 15 Russian military aircraft carried out a joint air patrol on Decemver 22. Japan and South Korea scrambled fighter jets to keep track of those warplanes. Four Chinese military aircraft and 15 Russian planes entered the Korean Air Defense Identification Zone. According to Korea’s joint chiefs, the Chinese planes flew into the KADIZ from the west, with two out of the four planes passing through an area east of Ulleungdo, a South Korean island.
Watch: FLOW – The E-2D Advanced Hawkeye Enhancement: Refuel in Air
Boeing won a $29.4 million order, which procures various parts and quantities for main and nose landing gear critical components retrofit kits in support of F/A-18A-D aircraft modification efforts. F/A-18 Hornet became the nation’s first all-weather fighter and attack aircraft, and was designed for traditional strike applications such as interdiction and close air support without compromising its fighter capabilities. The F/A-18 A-D is employed in Marine Corps fighter attack squadrons, US Navy and Marine Corps Reserve squadrons, the Navy Flight Demonstration Team (Blue Angles), and various other fleet support roles. Work will take place in Missouri and is expected to be finished in February 2024.
Meggitt Defense Systems won a $27.4 million contract modification, which adds scope for the procurement of additional P-8A liquid palletized systems in ordering Years Two, Three and Four, with 10 units in Year Two, 11 units in Year Three and 11 units in Year Four, in support of the Navy P-8A aircraft. The P-8A Poseidon is the US Navy’s maritime patrol aircraft. It is capable of broad-area, maritime and littoral operations, and is also successful at search and rescue. Operating with a smaller crew, yet delivering an extended global reach, greater payload capacity, higher operating altitude, open-systems architecture and significant growth potential, the P-8A provides more combat capability. Work will take place in California, Washington and New York. Estimated completion will be in November 2024.
Middle East & Africa
General Electric won a $20 million deal to provide contractor engineering and technical services engine support for Air National Guard and Foreign Military Sales partners. The Air Force Life Cycle Management Center, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, is the contracting activity. Work will take place in Bahrain, Egypt, Israel, Korea, Saudi Arabia, and Cincinnati, Ohio. Estimated completion date is December 21, 2022.
Northrop Grumman, doing business as Alliant Techsystems Inc. was tapped for a $15.2 million modification for contractor logistic support for the Iraqi Air Force’s Cessna 208 and 172 fleet. The Cessna 208 and 172 are utility aircraft. An Iraqi Air Force Cessna 172 Skyhawk training aircraft crashed during a training mission in Salah ad Din Governorate in central Iraq on October 31 killing the pilot and co-pilot. Work will take place in Balad Airbase, Iraq and estimated completion date is June 30, 2021.
The UK MoD is inviting expression of interest applications for the potential sale of surplus RAF Sentinel and Sentry aircraft for dismantling. The Sentry aircraft, part of a larger fleet that originally numbered 6, are being sold off as the fleet draws down to 3 aircraft before it is replaced by the E-7 Wedgetail aircraft over the coming decade. There is no replacement for sentinel.
According to Chinese media, a People’s Liberation Army Navy Air Force (PLANAF) Y-8Q/KQ-200 anti-submarine warfare (ASW)-capable maritime patrol aircraft recently conducted a live-fire exercise using “a new type of air-droppable, self-guided depth charge”. During the exercises, a Y-8 anti-submarine warfare aircraft deployed a new type of air-droppable, self-guided depth charge from its belly, and accurately hit its intended target, according to the report and a photo attached to it. Multiple depth charges were used in the real scenario exercises, which boosted the aircraft’s anti-submarine warfare capability, the report said.
Watch: America’s P-8 Poseidon: Now a Ship Killer, Bomber & More
Latest updates[?]: Boeing won a $29.4 million order, which procures various parts and quantities for main and nose landing gear critical components retrofit kits in support of F/A-18A-D aircraft modification efforts. F/A-18 Hornet became the nation’s first all-weather fighter and attack aircraft, and was designed for traditional strike applications such as interdiction and close air support without compromising its fighter capabilities. The F/A-18 A-D is employed in Marine Corps fighter attack squadrons, US Navy and Marine Corps Reserve squadrons, the Navy Flight Demonstration Team (Blue Angles), and various other fleet support roles. Work will take place in Missouri and is expected to be finished in February 2024.
CF-18: which way?
(click to see clearly)
The F/A-18 Hornet is the F/A-18 E/F Super Hornet‘s predecessor, with the first models introduced in the late 1970s as a spinoff of the USAF’s YF-17 lightweight fighter competitor. Hornets are currently flown by the US Marine Corps as their front-line fighter, by the US Navy as a second-tier fighter behind its larger F/A-18 E/F Super Hornets, and by 7 international customers: Australia, Canada, Finland, Kuwait, Malaysia, Spain, and Switzerland. The USA’s aircraft were expected to have a service life of 20 years, but that was based on 100 carrier landings per year. The US Navy and Marines have been rather busy during the Hornets’ service life, and so the planes are wearing out faster.
This is forcing the USA to take a number of steps in order to keep their Hornets airworthy: replacing center barrel sections, re-opening production lines, and more. Some of these efforts will also be offered to allied air forces, who have their own refurbishment and upgrade programs.
Latest updates[?]: Northrop Grumman, doing business as Alliant Techsystems Inc. was tapped for a $15.2 million modification for contractor logistic support for the Iraqi Air Force’s Cessna 208 and 172 fleet. The Cessna 208 and 172 are utility aircraft. An Iraqi Air Force Cessna 172 Skyhawk training aircraft crashed during a training mission in Salah ad Din Governorate in central Iraq on October 31 killing the pilot and co-pilot. Work will take place in Balad Airbase, Iraq and estimated completion date is June 30, 2021.
note ISR turret
Iraq’s air force has been very slow in getting to its feet. A handful of Seeker light observation aircraft with their distinctive bubble-shaped fronts, a few Comp Air light propeller aircraft, a couple of old, refurbished C-130E transports, and a slowly growing fleet of helicopters. A few Hawker Beechcraft King Air 350s have been ordered for transport and surveillance duties, and an RFP for armed counterinsurgency aircraft has only given Iraq a set of unarmed T-6B trainers. Even subsequent orders for F-16C/D fighters and L-159 advanced trainer and attack jets leave the Iraqi air force a long way from being able to secure Iraq’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. While it continues to grow<, the IqAF’s primary duties remain troop/medical transport, light supply duties, and surveillance of roads and infrastructure.
That kind of surveillance doesn’t require high tech, high-end aircraft. The USAF was using F-16 and F/A-18 aircraft at $15,000 per flight hour, plus recapitalization amortization. Iraq’s solution takes a page from the US military’s own past, and offers a significant contrast to the American approach.