September’s top stories: KC-46A first flight, UK expands counter ISIL support

The US Air Force (USAF) completed the first flight of a KC-46A Pegasus tanker at Paine Field in Washington, the UK set out plans to extend its ISR commitment to coalition operations against ISIL fighters in Iraq and Syria, and USAF deemed the design of the Space Fence System developed by Lockheed Martin to be technically mature. Airforce-technology.com wraps up the key headlines from September 2015.


KC-46A tanker

USAF completes first flight of Boeing-built KC-46A Pegasus tanker

The US Air Force (USAF) successfully completed the first flight of a KC-46A Pegasus tanker (EMD-2) at Paine Field in Everett, Washington.

The new development follows after the flights of the programme's first test aircraft, a 767-2C.

USAF Life Cycle Management Centre tankers programme executive officer brigadier general Duke Z. Richardson said: "Today is just the first flight of many for this aircraft as we deliver these next generation tankers."

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

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 ISIL targets on the ground.

US Air Force approves Lockheed Martin's Space Fence System design

Space Fence

The US Air Force deemed the design of the Space Fence System developed by Lockheed Martin to be technically mature.

The Critical Design Review (CDR) for the next-generation space surveillance system conducted by the government representatives lasted for three days, following which it was indicated that the system will be able to meet all the specified requirements.

The Space Fence S-band radar system has been designed to detect, track, and catalog orbital objects in space over 1.5 million times daily in order to predict and prevent space-based collisions.

Beijing and Washington agree on air-to-air intercepts rules

The US and China reportedly agreed on military rules concerning air-to-air intercepts.

Beijing and Washington agreed on the new set of rules following talks between US President Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping, Reuters reported.

Announced in November last year, the new rules of behaviour for safety of air-to-air encounters are aimed at reducing the chance of an accidental flare-up between the two counties.

Norway rolls out its first F-35A Lightning II aircraft

F-35A

Norway has officially rolled out its first F-35A Lightning II for the Norwegian Armed Forces at Lockheed Martin's F-35 production facility in Fort Worth, Texas.

The first F-35 is destined for Luke Air Force Base in US and the aircraft will now take part in the training of Norwegian and partner pilots. Norway is planning to acquire up to 52 F-35As by 2025.

Norwegian Defence Minister Ine Eriksen Søreide said: "Our new combat aircraft will provide the Armed Forces with a number of new capabilities that we have never had before."

 

DARPA tests PCAS prototype on USAF's A-10 Thunderbolt

A-10

The US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) successfully tested its persistent close air support (PCAS) prototype system on the US Air Force (USAF) A-10 Thunderbolt II attack aircraft.

Conducted near Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada, the latest test marked the system's debut on a USAF platform.

With 50 successful sorties, the test showed that a joint terminal attack controller (JTAC) on the ground can command an airstrike with three clicks on a tablet, DARPA stated.

Australia conducts first military mission in Syria

The Australian Air Task Group (ATG) successfully completed its first operational mission in Syria, as part of the international coalition's effort to combat Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).

Recently, the Government of Australia decided to extend its air strikes against ISIL (Daesh) into Syria after Iraq's request for international assistance to strike ISIL strongholds, and a formal request from the US Government.

The latest mission, which offered on-call interdiction and dynamic targeting support, involved two Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) F/A-18A Hornets, a KC-30A air-to-air refuelling aircraft and E-7A airborne early warning and control aircraft.

Kuwait to purchase 28 Eurofighter Typhoon aircraft from Italy

Typhoon

Kuwait signed an agreement with Italy to purchase 28 Eurofighter Typhoon swing-role combat aircraft, strengthening the country's military capabilities.

Under this new deal, Kuwait is expected to receive 22 single-side jets and six dual-seat aircraft.

Eurofighter CEO Alberto Gutierrez said: "This new agreement is the confirmation of the superiority of the Eurofighter over its competitors and will provide a great opportunity for further Eurofighter orders."

Raytheon cleared to resume work on NORAD integrated space support contract

Raytheon is set to begin work on a contract awarded by the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) to support operations at its Cheyenne Mountain Complex in Colorado Springs, US.

The $700m NORAD integrated space support contract (NISSC) was initially awarded to Raytheon in April this year, but the company failed to execute it on time due to protests by the losing contractors, Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman.

However, the Government Accountability Office denied the protests on 25 August.

Brazil and Saab bring Gripen NG fighter contract into effect

Gripen NG

Saab completed the Gripen NG contract procedures with the Brazilian Federal Government, allowing the contract to officially come into effect.

In October 2014, the Brazilian Air Force (FAB) awarded a $5.4bn contract to Saab for the delivery of 36 Gripen NG fighters, including 28 single-seat and eight two-seat jets, as well as related systems and equipment.

Saab president and CEO Håkan Buskhe said: "This important milestone marks the formal start to the Brazilian Gripen NG programme."