February’s top stories: First rendering of B-21, Minuteman III missile launch

The USAF unveils first rendering of B-21 long-range strike bomber, the USAF conducts second test launch of unarmed Minuteman III ballistic missile, North Korea launches long-range rocket amidst international censure. Airforce-technology.com wraps up the key headlines from February 2016.


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USAF unveils first rendering of B-21 long-range strike bomber

The US Air Force (USAF) revealed the first rendering of the long-range strike bomber (LRS-B), designated the B-21, at the Air Force Association's Air Warfare Symposium in Orlando, Florida, US.

USAF Secretary Deborah Lee James said: "This aircraft represents the future for our Airmen, and (their) voice is important to this process.

"The Airman who submits the selected name will help me announce it at the (Air Force Association) conference this fall."

USAF conducts second test launch of unarmed Minuteman III ballistic missile

The US Air Force (USAF) Global Strike Command Airmen tested an unarmed Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) from Vandenberg Air Force Base (AFB), California, on 25 February.

During testing, which is the second test launch in less than a week, the unarmed Minuteman III missile travelled around 4,200 miles to the Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands.

The launch comes amid growing tensions between the US, Russia and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK).

North Korea launches long-range rocket amidst international censure

The Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) launched a long-range rocket that is claimed to be carrying an earth observation satellite, amidst international criticism.

North Korea's state news agency KCNA reported that the rocket took off on a southward trajectory from a north-western Sohae satellite launching station.

The US, South Korea, Japan, China, Russia, Britain and France, as well as the European Union and Nato, were swift to condemn the launch.

China deploys fighter jets to South China Sea

China reportedly deployed fighter jets to Woody Island in the South China Sea, US Pacific Command spokesman Darryn James has confirmed.

James suggested that the fighters include indigenously designed JH-7 fighter-bomber and J-11 aircraft, reported the Wall Street Journal.

US Department of Defence (DoD) Pentagon spokesman commander Bill Urban was quoted by media sources as saying: "The specifics of a recent deployment of fighter aircraft to Woody Island would be less an issue than the signal it sends of how far out of step China's actions are with the aspirations of the region."

US Air Force makes $120bn budget request

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The US Air Force (USAF) presented its fiscal year 2017 president's budget request for $120.4bn, which it is using to support its modernisation and mission readiness programmes, as well as the force strength of 492,000 personnel.

A major decision taken by the USAF is to cut the production of F-35 Lightning II multi-role fighter to 43, from the previously planned 48, with $10.1bn allocated in FY 2017 for 43 F-35As for the air force, 16 F-35Bs for the marine corps and 4 F-35Cs for the navy.

Another Lockheed Martin product, C-130J Super Hercules transport aircraft, is also facing a cut as the USAF has decided to lower the procurement by three, to 11 jets during FY17. C-130J will eventually replace the C-130Hs.

US approves $699m sale of F-16 Block 52 aircraft to Pakistan

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The US Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) notified Congress of a potential $699.04m foreign military sale (FMS) of F-16 Block 52 aircraft and associated equipment, training, and logistics support to Pakistan.

Under the deal, the Government of Pakistan has requested major defence equipment (MDE) comprising of six F-16D Block 52 aircraft and two F-16C Block 52 aircraft with the F100-PW-229 increased performance engine besides 14 joint helmet mounted cueing systems (JHMCS).

Additionally, the contract will cover non-MDE items including eight AN/APG-68(V) 9 radars, and eight ALQ-211(V) 9 advanced integrated defensive electronic warfare suites (AIDEWS).

Iraq requests $350m sale of King Air 350 sustainment package from US


The US Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) notified Congress of a potential foreign military sale (FMS) of King Air 350 sustainment package to the Government of Iraq.

Under the estimated $350m, Iraq has requested a five-year sustainment, logistics, and spares support for the Iraqi Air Force's (IQAF) Special Mission King Air 350 light transport aircraft fleet.

Additionally, the contract covers operational and intermediate depot level maintenance, component repair, publication updates, and maintenance training.

Canadian Armed Forces ends airstrike operations against ISIS


The Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) ended airstrike operations as part of the Middle East Stabilisation Force's operations against ISIS.

The decision will see the nation withdraw six CF-18 Hornets, associated aircrew and support personnel from Operation IMPACT in the near future.

The CAF will now on focus on air-to-air refuelling and aerial intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance missions in support of the air operations.

USAF to evaluate initial operating capability of F-35A aircraft

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The US Air Force (USAF) is set to evaluate the initial operating capability (IOC) of six F-35A joint strike fighter's (JSF) at Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho, US.

The six aircraft will undergo an operational deployment test that will assert the aircraft's capability to deploy.

The test will check the aircraft's ability to execute three missions that include suppression and destruction of enemy air defence, air interdiction missions, and basic close air support.

UAE requests $225m sale of AN/AAQ-24(V) LAIRCM systems from US

The US Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) notified Congress of a potential foreign military sale of AN/AAQ-24(V) large aircraft infrared countermeasures (LAIRCM) systems to the UAE.

Under the estimated $225m sale, the UAE has requested the supply of eight AN/AAQ-24(V) LAIRCM systems for the Boeing-built C-17 Globemaster III aircraft.

The package comprises of three guardian laser transmitter assemblies (GLTA), six ultra-violet missile warning system (UVMWS) sensors AN/AAR-54, one LAIRCM system processor replacement (LSPR).