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April 2, 2015

March’s top stories: GPS IIF-9 launch, Yemen airstrikes

USAF launched the ninth global positioning system (GPS) IIF satellite from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida, US, Saudi Arabia and its Arab allies launched airstrikes against the Houthi rebels in the Yemeni capital city of Sana'a, and Korea Aerospace Industries was selected as the preferred bidder for the country’s fighter jet development project. Airforce-technology.com wraps up the key headlines from March.

By Syeda Afshan

GPS IIF-9 satellite

USAF launches GPS IIF-9 satellite from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station

The US Air Force (USAF) successfully launched the ninth global positioning system (GPS) IIF (GPS IIF-9) satellite from Space Launch Complex 37B of Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida, US.

The satellite launched aboard a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Delta IV launch vehicle. It reached orbit approximately three hours and 20 minutes after launch, and sent signals confirming its health.

Orbit testing and a checkout will be carried on the aircraft, designatated as SVN-71, before it begins full operations later in the year. It is the first of three GPS IIF space vehicles scheduled to be launched in 2015.

South Korea shortlists KAI and Lockheed team for KF-X fighter project

Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) was reportedly selected as the preferred bidder for the country’s domestic fighter jet development programme.

In a statement seen by Yonhap News Agency, the South Korean Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA) said: "After reviewing their development plan, ability and bid price by the evaluation team comprised of government officials and experts, we’ve selected KAI as the preferred bidder.

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"We will make a final selection after completing negotiations on details to launch the project in the first half of this year."

Netherlands places order for first batch of F-35 Lightning II aircraft

F-35

The Netherlands Ministry of Defence (MoD) placed an order for initial batch of F-35 Lightning II joint strike fighter (JSF) aircraft.

A total of eight F-35 fighters will be supplied by Lockheed Martin to the Royal Netherlands Air Force (RNLAF) by 2019.

The RNLAF intends to acquire at least 37 new F-35 fighters for replacement of RNLAF’s ageing fleet of F-16 Fighting Falcon aircraft.

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.

Afghan Air Force receives first six armed MD 530F helicopters

Cayuse

MD Helicopters (MDHI) handed over the first batch of six weaponised MD 530F Cayuse Warrior scout attack helicopters to the Afghan Air Force (AAF) in Kabul, Afghanistan.

In October 2014, the company received a $44.2m firm fixed price contract from the US Army contracting command to integrate mission equipment packages (MEP) on AAF’s 17 MD 530F Cayuse Warrior gunships.

MD Helicopters owner and chief executive Lynn Tilton said: "MD 500 Series helicopters have been a staple in US and foreign military fleets for decades.

US troops evacuate al-Annad air base amid escalating violence in Yemen

The US withdrew its last military contingent from the al-Annad air base near the southern Yemeni city of al-Houta, citing security concerns.

A military official was quoted by Agence-France Presse as saying that the US soldiers evacuated the airbase on 20 March, and moved to an ‘unknown destination.’

Yemen’s anti-terror unit personnel, who were trained by the US Forces and were based at Al-Anad, were also pulled out, the source added.

UK repositions Skynet 5A military satcom satellite to Asia-Pacific

Skynet 5A

Airbus Defence and Space was ordered by the UK Government to reposition one of the Skynet 5 satellites to deliver military satellite communications (satcom) over the Asia-Pacific region from mid-2015.

The company will move Skynet 5A satellite from its current 6° East position over Europe, the Middle East and Africa to its new 97° East location, making Skynet X-band secure satcom services available for the first time over the eastern Asia-Pacific region, including Australia.

As part of a multi-million pound investment, the company will also build a ground station in Australia.

Indian Air Force successfully launches Astra missile against simulated target

The Indian Air Force (IAF) successfully fired Astra beyond visual range air-to-air missile (BVRAM) from a Su-30 fighter aircraft at the Integrated Test Range (ITR), Chandipur in Odisha.

The test launch was undertaken as a part of an induction phase trial to demonstrate the aerodynamic characteristics of the missile. It confirmed the repeatability, robustness, and endurance capability of Astra as a weapon system, as reported by The New Indian Express.

ITR director M V K V Prasad was quoted by Press Trust of India as saying that the missile was successfully tested to hit a simulated target at the range.

Fatal accidents prompt Turkey to decommission RF-4E warplanes fleet

F-4

The Turkish Air Force decomissioned its ageing fleet of RF-4E Phantom II all-weather, long-range supersonic jet interceptor aircraft after a fatal crash occurred.

The move came days after three aircraft crashed in Turkey’s central Konya province and the eastern province of Malatya during training missions, in February and March respectively, killing six on-board pilots.

Primarily, the aircraft are used for reconnaissance missions. They are scheduled to be replaced by the more advanced F-16 Fighting Falcon aircraft.

USAF moves 18 A-10 Thunderbolt II aircraft to ‘backup status’

A-10

The US Air Force (USAF) placed 18 primary combat-coded A-10 Thunderbolt II close-combat support aircraft into the backup-aircraft inventory (BAI) status.

Congress authorised an increase a total of 36 A-10 aircraft into BAI status. The service, however mothballed a fewer number of aircraft to assess whether the action adequately balances ongoing requirements and the need for upgrade.

US Air Force secretary Deborah James said: "While we are authorised by Congress to put 36 aircraft into BAI status, doing that now would require taking down an entire squadron.

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