2015: The year's biggest Airforce Technology stories

Russia ends ban on S-300 missile, UK to extend ISR commitment, while Iraq receives first batch of F-16 warplanes, and France begins its biggest attack on Syria. Airforce Technology.com wraps up the key headlines from 2015.


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Russia ends ban on S-300 missile systems deliveries to Iran

Russian President Vladimir Putin lifted a ban that prohibited the transfer of S-300 air defence missile systems to Iran.

The Kremlin Press Service said: "The Executive Order lifts the ban on transit of the S-300 air defence missile systems via Russian Federation territory (including by air), export from the Russian Federation to the Islamic Republic of Iran, and transfer of the S-300 to the Islamic Republic of Iran outside the Russian Federation's territory, using ships or aircraft flying the Russian Federation."

Iran had ordered five S-300PMU-1 systems from Moscow under an $800m deal in 2007, but the contract was cancelled by former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev following a fourth UN Security Council arms embargo against the country in June 2010.

Airbus restructures A400M programme over production delays

Airbus Defence and Space announced plans to restructure the A400M Atlas aircraft programme amid increasing criticism from the European governments over production delays.

The A400M programme covers the supply of 174 aircraft to seven Nato member countries, namely Belgium, Britain, France, Germany, Luxembourg, Spain, and Turkey.

Only 11 aircraft have been delivered to date, including six to France, one to Germany, while the UK and Turkey each received two airlifters, after production delays, cost overruns, and technical faults.

UK to extend ISR commitment to Coalition operations in Iraq and Syria

Sentinel

The UK set out plans to extend its intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) commitment to coalition operations against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) fighters in Iraq and Syria.

As part of its plans, the country has agreed to extend deployment of the Royal Air Force's (RAF) Sentinel R1 long-range wide area battlefield surveillance aircraft until 2016.

Designed to identify and track multiple targets over great distances, Sentinel flew three missions a week, providing critical information that enables British and coalition forces to hit ISIS targets on the ground.

nEUROn UCAV completes operational tests in Italy

nEUROn, the European full-scale technological demonstrator for an unmanned combat aerial vehicle (UCAV), successfully completed a series of important operational tests at the Italian Air Force's Decimomannu Air Base, in Sardinia, Italy.

The UCAV is developed by an industrial team led by Dassault Aviation with the collaboration of Finmeccanica-Alenia Aermacchi, Saab, Airbus Defence and Space, RUAG and HAI.

The aerial vehicle completed 12 highly sensitive sorties to verify its combat capability, its low-radar-cross section and low-infrared signature.

USAF awards new long-range strike bomber contract to Northrop

B-2 Spirit

The US Air Force (USAF) awarded a contract to Northrop Grumman for the production of new long-range strike bomber (LRS-B), in a bid to replace the air force's aging fleet of bombers.

The new long-range, highly survivable bomber will be capable of penetrating and operating in the future anti-access, area denial environment, with its capability to strike any target, any time around the globe.

Air Force secretary Deborah Lee James said: "The LRS-B is critical to national defence and is a top priority for the Air Force."

Saudi Arabian warplanes bomb Houthi rebels in Yemen

Saudi Arabia and its Arab allies launched a series of airstrikes against the Shi'ite Houthi rebels in the Yemeni capital city of Sana'a.

The air assault is code-named Operation Decisive Storm. It involved 100 Saudi Arabian fighter jets, 150,000 soldiers and navy units, and targeted an air base, military bases. and anti-aircraft positions in the city, as reported by Al-Arabiya TV.

The operation also featured aircraft from Bahrain, Qatar, Kuwait, Jordan, Morocco, Sudan, Egypt, as well as the UAE. It was aimed at weakening Houthis, who currently control large swathes of Yemen including Sana'a, and also dissolved the parliament earlier this year.

Northrop completes CDR of B-2 bomber's weapons management upgrade

Northrop Grumman has successfully completed the critical design review (CDR) of a key weapons management software upgrade for the US Air Force's (USAF) B-2 stealth bomber.

The USAF's CDR approval was carried out as part of the service's Flexible Strike Phase I programme. It authorises the company to start developing and integrating the new software and hardware required for the upgrade.

US Air Force B-2 system programme manager colonel Robert Strasser said: "The Flexible Strike software upgrade lays the foundation for future system enhancements, including the ability to carry multiple weapon types."

Iraq receives first batch of F-16 warplanes from US

f-16 iraq

Iraq took delivery of the first batch of four US F-16 warplanes at Balad Air Base in Salahuddin province.

The delivery of the aircraft was delayed over security issues at Balad, which is located 70km north of Baghdad.

Iraqi News cited a brief statement from the Iraq Defence Ministry that read as: "The number of the F-16 fighter aircrafts, which arrived to Iraq amounted to four aircraft.

France begins its biggest attack on Syria after Paris carnage

France intensified its air strikes on ISIS strongholds in Syria in retaliation to the deadly terror attacks in Paris that killed more than 130 people.

The country, which has been a part of the US-led coalition, has been attacking Syrian targets for months. But the biggest attacks, targeting ISIS hub Raqqa, began on Sunday. A munitions depot and a training camp were targeted among others.

The Defense Ministry was quoted by Reuters as saying: "The raid including 10 fighter jets, was launched simultaneously from the UAE and Jordan."

Indian DAC clears $4.5bn purchase of Russian S-400 air defence missile system

The Indian Ministry of Defence's (MoD) Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) approved the $4.5bn purchase of Russian S-400 Triumf air defence missile system.

Sources close to the matter were quoted by media sources as saying that the two countries will now begin negotiations for purchase of the systems.

A deal may or may not be finalised, while a decision is likely to be announced following Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's scheduled visit to Moscow from 24 to 25 December.

Indian Air Force receives first BrahMos integrated Su-30 MKI aircraft

HAL certificate

The Indian Air Force (IAF) received the first BrahMos missile integrated Su-30 MKI multi-role combat aircraft from Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL).

The aircraft was handed over at the ongoing Aero India 2015 exhibition at Air Force Station Yelahanka, Bengaluru.

HAL chairman T Suvarna Raju said: "The successful completion of the first Su 30 aircraft integrated with BrahMos missile shows the synergy between DRDO, HAL and IAF."