USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) had its first Air Intercept Control (AIC) event on July 30 and the aircraft carrier’s crew directed F/A-18s from VFA-103 and VFA-213 to protect high value asset against enemy threats. Two separate AIC events took place during the exercise and Ford’s Air Intercept Controller, Operations Specialist 1st Class David Geary, controlled two Super Hornets from Jolly Rogers and four F/A-18Fs from Black Lions to “intercept, escort and if necessary kill the inbound threat aircraft.”
The US Air Force may replace its 218 F-15Es with F-15EXs, which could expand the new program to over 400 aircraft, according to service documents justifying the sole-source contract to Boeing. In its F-15EX Justification and Approval (J&A) document, which was dated March 2018 but only published this month, the flying branch said while the F-15EX acquisition program is “initially” intended to refresh the aging F-15C/D, a decision to similarly replace the F-15E Strike Eagle fleet with the EX “has not been made, but remains an option.” The documents also disclosed that Boeing will most likely build 144 F-15EX fighters to replace the 234 F-15C/Ds that are currently in USAF service. It also quoted the F-15 system program office as saying the EX will enjoy “90-95 percent commonality” with the F-15QA that Qatar has ordered. Deliveries of the F-15QA will commence soon. It further justified the purchase by stating that it takes approximately “six months or less to transition from the F-15C/D to the F-15EX.” And transitioning from “F-15s to the F-35 (or any other airframe) will take approximately 18 months for an Active-duty squadron and 36 months for an Air National Guard squadron.”
Middle East & Africa
METIS Solutions won a $27 million contract modification for counter threat finance. The contract modification exercises Option Year One. Fiscal 2019 operations and maintenance funds in the amount of $23,455,736 are being obligated at the time of award. Work will take place in Afghanistan, National Capital Region as well as Florida. Expected completion date is September 27, 2024.
The Hungarian army received four refurbished Leopard 2 tanks from its German manufacturer. The country awaits delivery of 44 upgraded tanks starting in 2023. While the tanks were handed over by maker Kraus-Maffei Wegmann on Thursday at an army base in Tata, Hungary, eight older versions of the Leopard 2A4HU variant will be provided for training purposes. Hungary will receive 44 of the newest Leopard 2 variant, called the 2A7+, to replace Soviet-made T-72 tanks. Germany and Denmark currently use the upgraded tanks, and the purchase suggests some interoperability between the German, Danish and Hungarian armies. All of them are NATO members. The sale is part of a $2 billion purchase by Hungary of German tanks, howitzers and other battlefield support equipment. At least momentarily, Hungary is Germany’s largest arms customer.
The Boeing-Saab T-7A Red Hawk is one of the options that Serbia is considering as a replacement for its existing jet trainer and light attack fleets. A senior government official said on TV, that aircraft could replace both the SOKO G-4 Super Galeb (Super Seagull) advance trainer and light attack platform and the SOKO J-22 Orao (Eagle) ground attack jets that, despite ongoing modernization efforts, are due for retirement. Serbia has expressed interest for the acquisition of 20 T-7A jets, the acting assistant minister for material resources in the Serbian defense ministry, Nenad Miloradovi?, said. He added that the T-7A, which is being developed as a trainer for the US Air Force (USAF) and marketed as a potential light fighter/attack solution for the international market, possesses “excellent characteristics and capabilities”.
China said that long-range bombers were among the aircraft that took part in recent aerial drills over the South China Sea amid rising tensions between Washington and Beijing over the strategic waterway. The exercises included nighttime takeoffs and landings and simulated long-range attacks, Defense Ministry spokesperson Ren Guoqiang said. Among the planes were H-6G and H-6K bombers, upgraded versions of planes long in use with the People’s Liberation Army Air Force and the People’s Liberation Army Navy Air Force, Ren said.
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