Tag Archives: F-16

Operation Allied Sky

A Minot-marked 5th BW B-52H and vintage Belgian Air Force F-16As last Friday, as part of the Buff’s 30-nations-in-one-day tour. 

Even while about half of the USAF’s meager Stratofortress pool was greatly disrupted by the temporary relocation of B-52s from Barksdale AFB in Louisiana to escape Hurricane Laura, a flight of six B-52Hs– forward-deployed 5th Bomb Wing Bomber Task Force (BTF) ships operating from RAF Fairford after flying cross-continental from Minot on 22 August — overflew every single one of the 30 NATO member states last Friday while being escorted in turn by a rotating force of 80 fighters belonging to 19 European air forces and Canada.

Most importantly, they did it all in a single day.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said:

“Today’s training event demonstrates the United States’ powerful commitment to NATO, and Allied solidarity in action. As US bombers overfly all 30 NATO Allies in a single day, they are being accompanied by fighter jets from across the Alliance, boosting our ability to respond together to any challenge. Training events like this help ensure that we fulfill our core mission: to deter aggression, prevent conflict, and preserve peace.”

Of course, the Russians also buzzed the B-52s as they operated over the Black Sea, popping by with Su-27s. The below Russian Ministry of Defense video shows that briefly, ending with a clip of a different series of intercepts buzzing a Danish Challenger, a Swedish Gulf Stream, and an RC-135 over international air space in the Baltic.

Here is the B-52 intercept from the view of the U.S. side of things, showing the Russian antics.


F-16s over the Sound

Made it back home to see the Thunderbirds fly over Biloxi Beach at the Keesler Air Show over the weekend. It’s always a treat to see the TBs as I grew up firmly inside Blue Angels territory.

Of note, the Biloxi lighthouse is to the bottom right and one of the Biloxi schooners is to the bottom left. I snapped this from the fourth level of Beau Rivage, about 60 feet off the deck. The Port of Gulfport is about 12 miles out to the horizon.

The Energizer Bunny of single-engine fighters, still going strong at 45

Happy 45th birthday to the F-16 Fighting Falcon, which made its first official flight on this day in 1974.

The first flight of YF-16 was an unintentional takeoff at Edwards AFB in January 1974. Phil Oestricher was the test pilot. Photo Via Gen Dyn.

Now, with over 4,500 Vipers delivered to more than 26 countries, the F-16 is still in production, with F16V and Block 70 F-16s on the drawing board. Odds are, there will be at least some of the birds flying somewhere on active duty in 2074 when the type turns 100.

Of course, the same can probably be said of F15s and F-18s, which came from the same period.


Lafayette, we are here

If you are a Francophile, or just plain old French or Creole (here’s to you, Ben and Aaron!), then consider this Happy Bastille Day.

In honor of the ceremony in Paris, 190 troops from the U.S. Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines will march alongside thousands of French servicemen and women in the Friday parade, and U.S. military planes will contribute to the grand flypast.

The select honor guard leading the American contingent for the parade are patch-wearing members of The Big Red One– 1st U.S. Infantry Division– who will be marching with M1903 Springfields, cartridge belts, and M1917 Brodie style helmets, while some officers will be carrying M1902 pattern swords of the same sort carried by Pershing when he walked off the deck onto French soil.

PARIS (July 12, 2017) Almost 200 U.S. Soldiers, Sailors, Marines and Airmen assigned to units in Europe and the 1st Infantry Division, Fort Riley, Kansas, march from the Arc de Triomphe to the Place de la Concorde during a rehearsal for the Military Parade on Bastille Day to be held July 14, 2017. This year, the U.S. will lead the parade as the country of honor in commemoration of the centennial of U.S. entry into World War I – as well as the long-standing partnership between France and the U.S. (U.S. Navy photo by Chief Mass Communication Specialist Michael McNabb/Released)


The Americans will lead the Military Parade on Bastille Day, July 14, 2017, along the famous Champs-Elysées in Paris in commemoration of the U.S. entry into WWI.

“France stood with us during the American Revolution and that strategic partnership endures today,” said General Curtis Scaparrotti, Commander, U.S. European Command. “On behalf of the 60,000 service members standing shoulder-to-shoulder with the French to ensure Europe is whole, free and at peace, we are honored to lead the Bastille Day Parade and help celebrate the French independence.”

On July 4, 1917, U.S. Army regular, Lt. Col. Charles Egbert Stanton–nephew of Abraham Lincoln’s Secretary of War, SpanAm War vet and chief disbursing officer and aide to Pershing– visited the tomb of French Revolution and American Revolution hero Marquis de La Fayette and was famously attributed as saying, “Lafayette, we are here!”

It should be noted that this occurred after the 2nd Battalion, 16th Infantry, (then part of the Big Red One) paraded through the streets of Paris.

The unit went on to suffer the first American casualties of the war in the Trenches just weeks later. On 4 October 1918, the 16th was the only regiment in the entire First Army to take its regimental objectives in the opening attacks in the Meuse-Argonne. Today the 16th carries the French Fourragère, awarded after Normandy in 1944, and while the 2nd Battalion inactivated in 2015, 1-16 is still part of the 1st ID, and the battalion colors are in the color guard at the head of the parade.

Meanwhile, in the air, the Thunderbirds have been practicing for the flypast.

The greyest grey

The Aviationist reports that at least one F-16C from the South Dakota ANG 175th Fighter Squadron of 114th Fighter Wing  (88-0422) is sporting a new F-35-like dark grey color scheme which looks to be an update to the Have Glass V RAM (Radar Absorbent Material) paint, made of microscopic metal grains designed to degrade the radar signature of the aircraft.

Pretty sharp.


It’s the toilet paper, stupid

An air-to-air right side view of an F-106 Delta Dart aircraft after firing an ATR-2A missile over a range. An auxiliary fuel tank is on each wing. The aircraft is assigned to the 194th Fighter Interceptor Squadron, California Air National Guard. After 1970, most Darts were flown by the Air Guard in North American Air Defense roles

An air-to-air right side view of an F-106 Delta Dart aircraft after firing an ATR-2A missile over a range. An auxiliary fuel tank is on each wing. The aircraft is assigned to the 194th Fighter Interceptor Squadron, California Air National Guard. After 1970, most Darts were flown by the Air Guard in North American Air Defense roles

FighterSweep has an interesting piece up from a career Viper driver over why the USAF is throwing cash at pilots to keep them working for Uncle rather than move on to lucrative jobs in the airline industry and private sector. Apparently, Big Blue doesn’t get that its not a dollar issue, but one of swapping time at the throttle for time at the desk on collateral duties:

A few years ago, my father (a Cold War F-106 Fighter Pilot of the 1970s) asked me how my F-16 career was going. “Getting about four sorties a week?” he asked. I almost choked on my coffee if I recall. “Dad, I’m lucky to get one or two a week.” I replied. His obvious next question was “Why?” and after that “How can you be ready to fight?”

During his era Cold War pilots flew, trained, and did it again the next day. That was it. Do your job and protect America. You might sit alert on some days, but generally you would go fly and train in the air or maybe the simulator. If you were a USAF pilot in the 60’s and 70’s, you flew.

We don’t do that anymore I told him. In the modern fighter squadron we have endless non-flying taskings. I explained to him how I was in charge of the squadron’s plan to move to a new building next month, attending daily meetings and hacking out emails to various technicians and involved parties. It was up to me to ensure everything from cabinets, to communications, to toilet paper was ordered and ready at the new building.

More here

About those Russian Bears…seems they may have had atomics

With the recent uptick in activity by wandering Russian Tu-95MS Bear long-range strategic bombers following tensions over the dust-up in the Ukraine, these big winged beasts have been seen increasingly everywhere from Sara Palin’s front yard to the skies over Copenhagen (the Danish capital, not the worm dirt)


Well it seems that a pair of these airborne hippos that came so close to the UK last week that they gave local air traffic control a case of the shakes had at least one nuke on board. They were escorted by a pair each of IL-78 tankers and MIG-31 long-range interceptors.

It seems the Norwegians, who intercepted the 6-plane task group and escorted them with some 1980s-vintage F-16A fighters, overheard radio chatter that made them believe that, “one of the two long-range bombers was carrying at least one air-dropped ‘seek and find’ nuclear warhead-carrying missile, designed to seek and destroy a Vanguard submarine.”

The Vanguard is the RN’s class of four Trident SBLM-carrying ballistic missile sub. On the weapon the Bear was toting, my bet is that it may be a variant of the old Kh-55SM (NATO’s AS-15B), a carrier-killer cruise missile with a 200kt warhead with a Red Storm Rising vintage.

As to be expected, the Russians say, nyet, to any claims that the old Bear was packing. 

Gripen operational cost lowest of all western fighters: Jane’s

Gripen operational cost lowest of all western fighters: Jane’s

The study conducted by IHS Jane’s Aerospace and Defense Consulting, compared the operational costs of the Gripen, Lockheed Martin F-16, Boeing F/A-18 Super Hornet, Dassault’s Rafale, Eurofighter Typhoon and the F-35 aircraft.

The operational cost of the Swedish Saab Gripen aircraft is the lowest among a flightline of modern fighters, confirmed a White Paper submitted by the respected international defense publishing group IHS Jane’s, in response to a study commissioned by Saab.

The paper says that in terms of ‘fuel used, pre-flight preparation and repair, and scheduled airfield-level maintenance together with associated personnel costs’, “The Saab Gripen is the least expensive of the aircraft under study in terms of cost per flight hour (CPFH).”

The study, conducted by Edward Hunt, Senior Consultant, at IHS Jane’s Aerospace and Defense Consulting, compared the operational costs of the Gripen, Lockheed Martin F-16, Boeing F/A-18 Super Hornet, Dassault’s Rafale, Eurofighter Typhoon and the F-35 aircraft.

“At an estimated $4,700 per hour (2012 USD), the Gripen compares very favorably with the Block 40 / 50 F-16s which are its closest competitor at an estimated $7,000 per hour,” says the report, adding, “The F-35 and twin-engined designs are all significantly more expensive per flight hour owing to their larger size, heavier fuel usage and increased number of airframe and systems parts to be maintained and repaired. IHS Jane’s believes that aircraft unit cost and size is therefore roughly indicative of comparative CPFH.”

In comparison, the figure for the F/A-18 Super Hornet ranged from USD 11000 to USD 24000, depending on degree of operational capability. The figure for the Rafale was USD 16500 per flying hour and number for the Eurofighter Typhoon, derived from British Parliamentary figures and seeming to cover only fuel usage, was USD 8200. But Jane’s estimate of the actual Cost Per Flying Hour for the Eurofighter, keeping in mind supplies and scheduled maintenance raised the figure up to USD 18000.

The cost of operation of the F-35 appears to be in a whole other league. Jane’s cites Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) estimates for the conventional F-35 A, assuming operational service over 30 years with 200 hours per year for each aircraft, to amount to USD 21000 per hour of flight. The paper also sources US Navy projections of the cost of operation of the F-35 B & C variants until the year 2029, which come to USD 31000 per flight hour.

The report says the figures were based on data sourced from the respective operating militaries and governments, disclosed international fighter competition cost figures (Rafale, F-18 E / F, Gripen), manufacturer-stated figures (F-35, Rafale, F-18 E / F, Gripen) and IHS Jane’s estimates for all aircraft.

There are several caveats to this assessment. “Owing to the differing methods of calculating aircraft operating cost per flight hour and the large number of interlinked factors that affect such a calculation, IHS Jane’s believes that any flight hour cost figure can only be regarded as indicative and that there is no single correct answer to such a calculation,” says the report, but adds, “However, we believe that our results are of considerable merit and provide a useful benchmark when considering the costs associated with operating contemporary high performance combat aircraft.”

The report stresses that ‘without access to comprehensive military data over a significant timeframe’ the results ‘can only be regarded as approximate’ and ‘are an average cost across an entire fleet’.

The report says it is most confident about the data and its conclusions on the Gripen, F-16 and the F/A-18 ‘with good primary and secondary source data supported by logical results from our deductive modeling.’

The numbers for the Eurofighter Typhoon and the Rafale are less certain, in comparison, but the report submits that ‘the comparative modeling output appears to confirm IHS Jane’s estimates’ for them.

The report is least sure about the operational cost of the F-35 costs ‘owing to the absence of actual in-service data’. “IHS Jane’s does not feel that the modeled fuel cost figure is representative of likely CPFH costs,” it says.

Besides using primary and secondary sources and their own databases, IHS Jane’s also considered data thrown up by a ‘modelled assessment of relative cost based on fuel usage’. In the absence of a single global standard for calculating cost per flight hour IHS Jane’s arrived upon a list of factors which would determine this cost.

The study took into account, what it called, Basic cost calculations to the exclusion of a set of factors it grouped under the term, Comprehensive cost calculations, to arrive at a figure determined only by the characteristics of individual aircraft rather than complexity of operations, weapons or support elements.

The study ‘determined that the Basic CPFH was the more common value stated and that this was therefore regarded as a more accurate and useful indication of the cost of sortie generation for a particular aircraft’.

The other factors, under the Comprehensive cost calculations, were ‘more usually considered as part of the platform’s capital cost rather than the daily service cost of which the Basic CPFH was felt to be a more useful representation’.

For the purpose of modeling to create a standard or benchmark, the study arrived at the ‘aircrafts’ fuel usage, hence cost, based on a theoretical one hour sortie at max dry thrust’, not ‘necessarily reflective of actual fuel consumption and hence fuel cost of a one hour sortie’.

As is evident, the modeled cost pattern is closest to the derived cost pattern in the case of the Gripen, F-16, Rafale, and Eurofighter. The research and the model digress in the case of the F-35 and the F/A-18.

In the case of the F-35, the study says the different ‘costs arise from the differing power and specific fuel consumptions of the A / C and B models. The B model is the top figure in both cases’. The study says, “The single P&W F-135 engine is relatively fuel efficient for its power, resulting in a lower fuel burn at maximum dry thrust than might be expected.” It adds that, although obviously, ‘accurate CPFH for in-service aircraft does not exist’, ‘the US and Australian forecast costs both suggest it will not offer lower CPFH than current aircraft’, considering ‘the aircraft itself is an extremely sophisticated design carrying a large number of new and unproven onboard systems’.

The report thinks the digression with respect to the Super Hornet is ‘due to the size of the fleet and the experience the US Navy has in operating’ it, compared to the ‘small fleet of the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) that has yet to reach Full Operational Capability’. It points out that ‘RAAF CPFH has fallen significantly as familiarity with the aircraft has grown, and is likely to fall further as this continues to improve’.

But the report also says the Super Hornet has ‘relatively high dry thrust ratings while the GE F414 engine is less efficient in specific fuel consumption than the engines of the similar-sized Rafale and EuroFighter aircraft’. And everything else being the same, the F/A-18 E/F ‘engines use more fuel and are hence relatively costly’ compared to the SNECMA or Eurojet engines, even though the US Navy aircraft have a relatively low CPFH.