April's top stories: Iran S-300 sale, Hezbollah airstrip

Russia lifted a ban that prohibited the transfer of S-300 air defence systems to Iran and IHS Jane's Defense Weekly claimed that Lebanese Shi'a militant group Hezbollah has built an airstrip to operate its fleet of unmanned aerial vehicles in Bekaa Valley in north-east of the country. Airforce-technology.com wraps up the key headlines from April.


S-300

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.

USAF retires last MC-130P Combat Shadows from Pacific region

MC-130P

The US Air Force's (USAF) 17th Special Operations Squadron (17th SOS) retired the last two MC-130P Combat Shadow special mission aircraft from the Pacific region.

After completing the final formation flight at Kadena Air Base, Japan, in October 2014, the aircraft were sent to the boneyard at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Arizona, US.

17th SOS commander lieutenant colonel Nathan Colunga said the aircraft performed missions every time during its service life and was truly needed by the air force over the last 50 years.

Hezbollah builds airstrip for UAVs in Lebanon's Bekaa Valley

Lebanese Shi'a militant group Hezbollah built an airstrip to operate its fleet of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) in Bekaa Valley in north-east of the country, IHS Jane's Defense Weekly has claimed.

After analysing satellite imagery published on Google Earth, the magazine reported that the airstrip is located in a remote and sparsely populated area 10km south of the town of Hermel and 18km west of the Syrian border.

The runway is believed to have been constructed between 27 February 2013 and 19 June 2014 over a shorter strip that had been in existence since 2010. It comprises a single 670m x 20m unpaved strip that could be used for launching Iranian-built Ababil-3 and possibly the Shahed-129 UAVs.

Poland selects Patriot missile system for WISLA programme

Patriot

The Polish Ministry of National Defence selected Raytheon's Patriot surface-to-air missile defence system for its multibillion-dollar, medium-range air and missile defence (AMD) system programme.

A Polish Embassy in the US spokesman was quoted by DefenseNews as saying that the Patriot system was selected over the Aster 30 sol-air moyenne portée terrestre system offered by Eurosam, a consortium of Thales Group and MBDA.

The embassy said in a statement that the Council of Ministers selected US Patriot missiles following an analysis of 'technical criteria, military cooperation, transfer of technology and industrial cooperation'.

China starts construction of first airstrip in disputed Spratlys Islands

China reportedly started construction of its first runway on reclaimed parts of Fiery Cross Reef on the contested Spratly Islands in the South China Sea.

The latest claims made in IHS Jane's Defence Weekly follow analysis of Airbus Defence and Space's 23 March satellite imagery, which showed a paved section of 503m x 53m runway on the north-eastern side of Fiery Cross Reef, as well as paving and ground preparation of other sections of the airstrip further along the archipelago.

In addition, workers are believed to have paved approximately 400m x 20m of apron for taxiing and parking fighter and surveillance aircraft.

USAF announces candidate bases to host Reserve-led KC-46A tankers

KC-46A

The US Air Force (USAF) announced the name of candidate bases to host the first Reserve-led KC-46A Pegasus aerial refuelling tanker aircraft.

Located in Oklahoma and North Carolina respectively, Tinker Air Force Base (AFB) and Seymour-Johnson AFB, along with Westover Air Reserve Base (ARB), Massachusetts, and Grissom ARB, Indiana, were selected for the KC-46As, which will begin arriving at the first Air Force Reserve-led Global Mobility Wing in 2019.

US Air Force Secretary (SecAF) Deborah Lee James said: "The KC-46A Pegasus aerial tanker remains one of our top three acquisition priorities.

Canadian Armed Forces launches its first air strike against ISIL in Syria

The Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) has successfully launched its first airstrike against the Islamic State (IS) militants in Syria.

Two Canadian CF-18 Hornets launched an airstrike against an IS garrison near the group's de facto capital, Ar-Raqqah, using precision-guided munitions.

The airstrike followed a planning and coordination process with coalition partners. It is the first air assault since the Canadian Government introduced a motion in the House of Commons to extend and expand the country's contribution to the US-led coalition against the terrorist group. This involved ten coalition aircraft, including six fighters from the US.

Australia confirms plans to buy two more C-17A aircraft

C-17

The Australian Government confirmed plans to purchase two more C-17A Globemaster III tactical transport aircraft from Boeing for an estimated cost of $1bn.

In a joint statement with defence minister Kevin Andrews, prime minister Tony Abott said the additional C-17s, acquired along with associated equipment and facilities will augment the Royal Australian Air Force's (RAAF) existing fleet of six strategic lift aircraft.

Raytheon completes Small Diameter Bomb II's system verification review

Raytheon successfully completed three programme reviews of the Small Diameter Bomb II (SDB II) prior to the mid-May Milestone C decision.

The SDB II team were supported by the US Air Force (USAF). They completed a functional configuration audit, a production readiness review, and a system verification review (SVR).

Raytheon Missile Systems SDB II programme director Jim Sweetman said: "Raytheon has fully tested SDB II and verified that we meet or exceed the requirements necessary for a Lot 1 production decision laid out in the specifications provided by the US Government.

US and South Korean Air Forces conduct Exercise Max Thunder

F-15

Military personnel from the US and Republic of Korea (ROK) Air Forces are conducting a large-scale, regular aerial exercise near the border with North Korea.

The bi-annual exercise is code-named Max Thunder. It will be conducted in South Korean airspace through 24 April with an aim to boost combined defence capabilities of the two air forces.

In a statement seen by the Yonhap News Agency, the South Korea Air Force headquarters said the exercise will 'involve around 100 aircraft and 1,400 service personnel from the allies to display and hone our best combined air defence capabilities'.