May's top stories: RAF’s RC-135 Rivet, Russia tests ballistic missiles

The UK Royal Air Force (RAF) successfully conducted maiden test flight of the RC-135 Rivet SIGINT aircraft, a Russian Air Force Tu-95MC strategic bomber tested air-to-surface cruise missiles and the USAF test launched the sixth Boeing-built GPS IIF-6 satellite. Airforce-technology.com wraps up key headlines from May.


Russiatop

RAF conducts first test flight of RC-135 Rivet Joint aircraft

The UK Royal Air Force (RAF) has successfully carried out the first test flight of the RC-135 Rivet Joint signals intelligence (SIGINT) aircraft from RAF Waddington in Lincolnshire, UK.

Converted by L-3 Communications Integrated Systems (L-3/IS) from a Boeing KC-135 tanker, the aircraft is the first of three RC-135s that the UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) has acquired from the US Government for £650m, as part of the Airseeker programme.

The personnel from RAF's 51 Squadron have been operating the US Air Force (USAF) Rivet Joint aircraft and ground stations to familiarise themselves with the aircraft and its capability since 2011.

Russia test launches ballistic missiles during nuclear response drills

A Russian Air Force Tu-95MC strategic bomber successfully test launched air-to-surface cruise missiles during a nuclear response exercise, amid continuing tensions between the country and the West over the Ukraine crisis.

A total of six cruise missiles were fired by the bomber at ground targets, simulating critical facilities of military infrastructure of a hypothetical enemy at the aviation training area of the Western military district, reported RT.

The Russian Ministry of Defence later confirmed that all the targets were intercepted as planned.

USAF launches sixth Boeing GPS IIF satellite onboard Delta IV rocket

gps

The US Air Force (USAF) successfully test launched the sixth Boeing-built global positioning system (GPS) IIF (GPS IIF-6) satellite from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station (AFS) in Florida, US.

Launched aboard a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Delta IV medium rocket, the satellite sent initial signals from its orbit to its manufacturer approximately three-and-a-half hours later.

The satellite is now scheduled to undergo activation and systems checkout prior to handover to the air force as part of the GPS constellation.

Space and Missile Systems Centers Global Positioning Systems Directorate director colonel Bill Cooley said: "Today's successful launch demonstrates our combined government and industry team's dedication to mission success, ensuring GPS continues to be the Gold Standard for space-based positioning, navigation and timing."

Iraq seeks AT-6C Texan II aircraft sale from US

The US Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) notified Congress of a potential foreign military sale (FMS) of AT-6C Texan II aircraft and associated equipment to Iraq.

Under the estimated $790m sale, Iraq has requested the supply of a total of 24 AT-6C Texan II light attack aircraft, along with two spare PT-6A-68 turboprop engines, two spare ALE-47 counter-measure dispensing systems (CMDS) and/or two spare AAR-47 missile launch detection systems.

Approved by the US State department, the sale is expected to enhance the ability of the Iraqi forces to maintain themselves in their efforts to bring stability to Iraq and to prevent an overflow of unrest into the neighbouring countries.

Australia requests AIM 9X-2 Sidewinder missiles sale from US

The US Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) notified Congress of a potential foreign military sale (FMS) of AIM 9X-2 Sidewinder missiles and associated equipment to Australia.

Under the estimated $534m sale, Australia requested the supply of up to 350 AIM-9X-2 Sidewinder tactical missiles, along with 35 AIM-9X special air training missiles (NATMs), 95 AIM-9X-2 captive air training missiles (CATMs), 22 AIM-9X-2 tactical guidance units, 19 CATM-9X-2 guidance units, and DATM-9X dummy training missiles.

Approved by the US State Department, the sale also covers containers, test sets and support equipment, spare and repair parts, personnel training and training equipment, and other related elements of logistics and programme support.

Indian Air Force test fires Akash missiles in ripple mode

akash

The Indian Air Force (IAF) successfully conducted the first test-launch of the Akash nuclear capable supersonic missile in ripple mode from the Integrated Test Range (ITR) off Balasore district in Odisha, India.

Supported by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), the trial witnessed launch of three Akash missiles on tow body, released from Lakshya pilot-less target aircraft (PTA) moving at 'low altitude far boundary.'

DRDO Directorate of Public Interface director Ravi Kumar Gupta was quoted by Press Trust of India as saying: "The missiles intercepted the fast-moving and manoeuvring small RCS (radar cross section) targets within a small interval of five seconds in ripple mode."

Swiss voters reject Gripen E fighters purchase from Saab

gripen

Swiss voters rejected the federal government's proposal to buy Gripen E multi-role combat aircraft from Saab, in a major setback to its plans to modernise the air force.

Approximately 53.4% of the voters reportedly opposed the purchase of jets, while 44% voted in favour of the transaction in the national referendum called up by the Swiss Greens and the Liberal Greens parties.

The Swiss Government had confirmed plans to acquire 22 single-seater Gripen E fighters at an estimated cost of CHF3.1bn ($3.4bn) for the replacement of the national air force's ageing F-5 Tiger aircraft fleet in August 2012.

UK signs new space partnership with Australia, Canada and US

The UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) signed an agreement with Australia, Canada and the US to share expertise and resources dedicated to the space operations.

Signed on the sidelines of the ongoing 30th annual Space Symposium in Colorado Springs, US, the agreement allows for the sharing of knowledge and resources between the signatories in areas, such as space situational awareness, to assure access to and enhance space capabilities.

In particular, the partnership is expected to enable co-operation on activities such as identification and understanding of the objects in space, ensuring uninterrupted satellite operations, and the avoidance of satellite collisions, thereby facilitating more effective and coordinated use of space capabilities.

Russia, China to partner to develop new Mi-26 variant

mi26

Russia and China reached an agreement for joint production of the Mil Mi-26 heavy transport helicopter variant for use by the Chinese armed forces.

An unnamed source was quoted by Kommersant as saying that Russia had offered the Mi-26 helicopters to China, but the country was not satisfied with the variant offered.

The source said: "We listened to their preferences concerning the design of a helicopter with a cargo capacity of up to 15t.

"That is why we suggested modernising our Mi-26 helicopters."

Belgium requests US for F-16A/B Block 15 aircraft mid life upgrade

The US Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) notified Congress of a potential foreign military sale (FMS) of F-16A/B Block 15 aircraft mid life upgrade (MLU) aircraft and associated equipment to Belgium.

Under the estimated $113m sale, Belgium has requested the US for the supply of S1, M5 and M6 operational flight programme (OFP) in support of its F-16A/B Block 15 MLU programme.

Approved by the US State Department, the potential sale is expected to support the Belgian Air Force's (BAF) efforts to equip, upgrade and use its F-16A/B MLU aircraft.