May 6, 2017
Parliament is currently weighing revisions to the foundational law of the Ministry of Defense that would allow equipment to be given to other nations at no cost. Currently, some form of compensation is legally required for any national asset. Malaysia will likely be the first beneficiary once that change is made, receiving P-3C patrol aircraft previously used by the Maritime Self-Defense Force.
The aircraft, BL-1, will fly for the first time in late August and is due to be delivered to the Italian ministry of defense in November, Lockheed Martin said in a statement. An Italian pilot will then fly the jet in early 2018 to Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Maryland, for “Electromagnetic Environmental Effects certification,” Lockheed Martin said.
It will also take a role in pilot training in the U.S., an Italian source added.
The next Italian F-35B aircraft is scheduled for delivery in November 2018.
Italy has already delivered seven F-35A aircraft from its Final Assembly and Check Out (FACO) facility at Cameri in northern Italy, three of which are now flying from the Italian Air Force’s Amendola Air Force base in southern Italy. The other four are participating in pilot training at Luke Air Force Base, Arizona.The three now in operation have flown more than 100 hours from the base, including tanking with the Italian Air Force’s B767 tankers and sorties alongside Italian Eurofighters, M-346 jet trainers and the Air Force’s new Gulfstream Airborne Early Warning aircraft.
Two more F-35As are expected to be delivered from Cameri to Amendola this year, one in July, and the other in the fourth quarter. Another milestone: an F-35A assembled at Cameri made the type’s first transatlantic crossing in February last year.
The Russian TU-95 Bear bombers and their SU-35 fighter jet escorts stayed in international airspace but did fly as close to 50 miles from Point Hope, Alaska.
In the U.S. Air Force fleet
This is the first time Russian bombers have been accompanied by fighters in these types of flights since 2015, a US official told CNN.
A Russian A-50 Mainstay surveillance plane also later flew into the area but remained in international air space and was not intercepted.
The US military sees these flights as routine and pose no concern, according to the US official.
May 1, 2017
TLP is an annual NATO Mission Commander’s School training program and is designed to provide joint training to increase NATO air defense with participating allies.
“The Tactical Leadership Program is a good opportunity for all the participating nations to work together,” said Master Sgt. Daniel LaBrake, Combined Aerospace Logistics Coordinator and the only enlisted member from the U.S. Air Force stationed at the Spanish air base.
Hill’s fighter wings will participate in training with NATO allied air forces from ten other countries.
“This is excellent training with some intense air operations and top of the line NATO jets from our coalition allies,” said Lt. Col. Surya Frickel, 466th Fighter Squadron commander.
During the large force exercise, the Hill AFB pilots will fly alongside 20-30 allied aircraft daily and against as many adversaries. Part of the learning that goes on is how to operate safely with the different aircraft and unfamiliar environments, as well as different languages and procedures.
“This exercise is a good example of the United States’ cooperation and long-lasting commitment to the security of Europe and maintaining readiness with our NATO allies,” Frickel said.
Though the wings have been on several training deployments together, this is the first time Utah’s 419th and 388th FWs are participating in TLP.
“Traditionally, squadrons stationed in Europe participate in TLP,” LaBrake said. “So it has been a new challenge to coordinate all of the moving parts so these Airmen can come overseas and get this experience.”
The deployment marks the last time the iconic multi-role fighter is scheduled to deploy from Hill AFB. F-16 aircraft from Hill's fighter wings have been flying over the skies of northern Utah for nearly 40 years.
“This is the last time the F-16 will deploy with the Hill designator ‘HL’ painted on its tail,” said Col. Michael Miles, 388th Maintenance Group commander. “We are extremely proud of the job we have done with the F-16 and we must do our best here at TLP to preserve the memory of the aircraft that is so dear to our hearts.”
Hill’s fleet of F-16s is being replaced by the Air Force’s newest fighter jet, the F-35 Lightning II. The first operational F-35As arrived at Hill AFB in October 2015. Hill currently has 20 F-35As and will eventually be home to 78 aircraft and three operational squadrons by the end of 2019. The 388th and 419th FWs fly and maintain the aircraft in a Total Force partnership, which capitalizes on the strength of both components.
Apr 29, 2017
Apr 14, 2017
The Defense Department offered sparse details about the event, which will involve deploying a “small number” of F-35As from the 388th Fighter Wing at Hill Air Force Base, Utah, to an undisclosed location in Europe.
The joint strike fighters will take off sometime this weekend. After landing, they will then spend several weeks in the region as part of the European Reassurance Initiative, the department’s effort to strengthen military ties with European allies to help deter Russian aggression on the continent.
“This training deployment signifies an important milestone and natural progression of the F-35 program, allowing the Air Force to further demonstrate the operational capabilities of the fifth generation fighter aircraft,” the Defense Department said in a news release. “It also assists in refining requirements for eventually basing the F-35A in Europe, which is scheduled to receive the aircraft in the early 2020s.”
In December, former Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James hinted that the service would go to Europe this summer.
“Now that the F-35 has been declared combat capable, we will deploy our newest fighter to Europe in the not too distant future,” she said then during a speech at the Atlantic Council. “Matter of fact, if I were a betting woman, I wouldn’t at all be surprised if the F-35 didn’t make an appearance, perhaps, next summer. The unique combination of stealth, situational and sensor fusion will play an important role in reassuring allies and providing deterrence.”
Mar 26, 2017
The Pentagon rejected the Chinese call and said it would continue its flight operations in the region.
China declared the zone, in which aircraft are supposed to identify themselves to Chinese authorities, in the East China Sea in 2013, which the United States and Japan have refused to recognize.
CNN, citing the U.S. Pacific Air Forces, said a B-1 bomber was flying near South Korea on Sunday, and that its pilots responded to Chinese air traffic controllers by saying they were carrying out routine operations in international airspace. The aircraft did not deviate from its flight path.
Mar 25, 2017
Mar 22, 2017
ussia plans to deliver additional Yak-130 combat trainer aircraft to Myanmar next year.
Mar 18, 2017
In November 2016, the Israeli government approved the purchase of another 17 F-35Is, bringing to 50 the number of “Adir” strike aircraft planned for its air force.
The service has been evaluating a purchase of more F-15Is to maintain its desired mix of strike aircraft with the F-35 to satisfy future operational needs. Its initial requirement was identified as for 75 F-35s, but the need to replace the oldest examples of its Boeing-built fighter has become a high priority issue. Israel has operated the twin-engined type since 1976.
It has been decided that an evaluation of an advanced version of the F-15 should be completed before any additional F-35s are purchased. Israeli sources say ongoing talks with the US Department of Defense are related to a potentially 20- to 25-aircraft deal.
Details have not been disclosed about the aircraft standard being sought, but sources indicate that this would be capable of carrying more missiles, in common with Boeing’s suggested 2040 upgrade configuration for the F-15.
Meanwhile, the Israeli air force in early March opened a dedicated maintenance training centre for the F-35I at Nevatim air base.
The first such facility to be established outside the USA, this will support personnel training related to 25 different technical professions, the air force says.
Israel requires line- and depot-level maintenance for the new type to be performed in-country, with only subsystems to be sent for support and repair overseas. Its air force took delivery of its first pair of Adirs last December.
Anwar Hamma did not mention the number of fighters included in the delivery, but said they were accompanied with all supplementary equipment as well as the a first batch of Iraqi pilots and maintenance technicians trained in Korea on conducting and maintaining the fighters.
Iraq and South Korea clinched the deal for the aircraft delivery in 2013, initially slating it for April 2016 before postponing to the first quarter of 2017.
Hamma said the fighter jets would go into service sooner to engage in airstrikes targeting Islamic State militants.
This is the second time after 2013 for the Italian Air Force to execute this mission in Iceland.
Mar 14, 2017
"My intention is to finalise this year the decision to have another 20 F-16 fighters. The Romanian Air Force has nine now and there will be 12 by the end of the year, but we need more to strengthen our air force capability. As a matter of principle Romania intends to buy these 20 F-16 fighters from the United States. All further details will be announced [in due course", Defence Minister Beniamin Les told the Romanian parliament on 13 February.
Romania bought 12 F-16s from Portugal in September 2013. These include nine F-16AM single-seaters and three F-16BM two-seaters and were bought via C N Romtehnica under the Peace Carpathian programme, with third-party transfer authorisation coming from the US government.
Mar 11, 2017
No contract has yet been placed, but up to six aircraft are expected to be purchased. Portugal made an information request to Embraer last October and is currently analysing the information provided, the MoND told Jane's .
The aircraft would conduct troop and cargo transport, firefighting, and air-to-air refuelling missions in the Portuguese Air Force service, the MoND said.
Several Portuguese companies, including OGMA-Indústria Aeronáutica de Portugal (partially owned by Embraer), Embraer Metálicas, Embraer Compósitos, and CEiiA, are involved with the KC-390 programme, which Jane's understands favours a potential buy of the type.
Most of the money for the procurement will come from $3.33 billion US aid money allocated for the F-35 projects and missile inventory. The exact budget for buying the planes will become clear only after the budget is divided in the framework of the Gideon multi-year plan and the beginning of implementation of the new aid agreement in 2018.
Minister of Defense Avigdor Liberman yesterday met with US Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of Defense Gen (res.) James Mattis. He is expected to meet with other administration officials, including Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, and it cannot be ruled out that the subject of air force procurement deals will be raised at these meetings.
For a long time, the air force has wanted to replace its F-15s, manufactured by Boeing, with a better version of the aircraft equipped with an advanced active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar system. This aircraft does not have stealth capabilities, but it can carry larger payloads, has advanced attack capabilities, and is operated by a two-man crew, which is an advantage in complex missions. The twin-engine warplane can continue operating even when one of the engines is disabled.
The new F-15s cost $100 million a plane. They are more advanced than the F-15s purchased from the US by Saudi Arabia and Qatar in recent years. Israel insisted that the US refrain from selling the new version to Qatar in order to maintain the Israeli air force's superiority in the Middle East, but former President Barack Obama disagreed, saying that Qatar felt threatened by Iran, and approved the sale of 72 of the aircraft just before he left office.
Georges Malbrunot, who writes for French newspaper Le Figaro, cited French intelligence sources. He posted on Twitter that examples of the Israeli F-35 took part in a raid over Syrian territory on the night of January 12-13. The mission saw them strike objectives around the capital, Damascus.
According to Malbrunot, the F-35s targeted warehouses containing Russian-made Pantsir-S1 mobile surface-to-air missile (SAM) systems that Israel feared could be delivered from Syria to Hezbollah forces operating in Lebanon.
During the same attack, the Israeli Air Force (IAF) also reportedly destroyed an S-300 SAM battery deployed near the Syrian presidential palace, on Mount Qassioun. According to the same unnamed French intelligence source quoted by Malbrunot, the F-35 aircraft finally overflew the palace of Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad, before returning to Israel.
Malbrunot provided a final quote from an unnamed soldier, explaining that: ‘With the Pantsir, Hezbollah ensures that the Israeli Air Force is almost totally unable to operate over Lebanon.’
Providing the account is true, it seems unlikely that Israel would admit the use of F-35s at this stage. However, in the past the IAF has been quick to put new assets into combat if required for specific missions – and the continued effort to prevent advanced weapons landing in Hezbollah hands may fit that remit.
Certainly, there was an air strike against Mezzeh airfield on the date specified. At the time, Syrian authorities put the blame for the attack on the Israel Defense Forces.
The first two F-35 Adirs for the IAF arrived at Nevatim air base on December 12 last year. The first two aircraft — AS-1 (serial 901) and AS-2 (serial 902) — received their Star of David national markings in an official ceremony after landing. The aircraft will equip 140 ‘Golden Eagle’ Squadron, previously an F-16A/B operator.
The first F-35, AS-1, performed a maiden flight at Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base Fort Worth, Texas, on July 25, 2016. The second jet, AS-2, followed it into the air on August 8.
The two F-35s flew to Nevatim via Lajes in the Azores and Cameri in Italy, but their arrival in Israel was delayed by around 24 hours due to heavy fog in Italy and the need to recognise American safety protocols.
To date, Israel has ordered 50 F-35A conventional take-off and landing (CTOL) aircraft via the US government’s Foreign Military Sales (FMS) channels. The first 19 F-35s were ordered in 2010, at a cost of $2.7 billion. This includes the first two F-35s that are part of the eighth batch of low-rate initial production aircraft. Delivery of the first 19 aircraft is due to be completed by the end of 2018.
In November 2014 Israel authorised the purchase of another 14 F-35s, to which were added 17 options, in a deal valued at around $2.8 billion. The 14 aircraft in the second batch include a single test example and 13 intended to populate a second front-line squadron. Deliveries of the second batch of aircraft will take place between 2019 and 2021.
With a view to acquiring the full 50 aircraft required to field its first two 24-aircraft Adir squadrons, Israel approved the purchase of its 17 options in November 2016. This deal is likely to cost over $2.5 billion.
Beyond the 50 F-35s currently contracted, the US administration has approved Israel’s purchase of as many as 75 F-35s.
Chinese President Xi Jinping is overseeing a sweeping modernization of the country's armed forces, the largest in the world, including anti-satellite missiles and advanced submarines, seeking to project power far from its shores.
In a report late on Thursday, state television's military channel confirmed that the J-20 had now entered service, though it gave no other details.
The aircraft was shown in public for the first time in November at the Zhuhai airshow and was first glimpsed by Chinese planespotters in 2010.
However questions remain whether the new Chinese fighter can match the radar-evading properties of the Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor air-to-air combat jet, or the latest strike jet in the U.S. arsenal, Lockheed's F-35. The F-22, developed for the U.S. Air Force, is the J-20's closest lookalike.
China showed off another stealth fighter it's developing, the J-31, at the last Zhuhai airshow in 2014, a show of muscle that coincided with a visit by U.S. President Barack Obama for an Asia-Pacific summit.
China hopes the J-31, still in development, will compete with the U.S.-made F-35 stealth aircraft in the international market.
Mar 4, 2017
The aircraft will be landing at the Indonesian Air Force's (TNI-AU's) Halim Perdanakusuma base near South Jakarta, where guided tours of the platform's features will be given to senior military and government officials on 6 March.
The A400M is currently a front runner in Jakarta's bid to improve its military airlift capabilities. Jane's first reported in January 2017 that the Indonesian House of Representatives' commission on defence, intelligence, and foreign affairs (Komisi I) had approved a sum of USD2 billion to procure up to five A400M platforms, although a contract for the acquisition has yet to materialise.
The funding has been allocated with the condition that the final three airframes undergo final fit-out at state-owned PT Dirgantara's facilities in Bandung, in a bid to transfer expertise to local aerospace industry players. Once a contract materialises, the A400M is expected to be ordered in the transport and utility configuration.
Bringing new customers could help significantly reduce the cost of the military aircraft after several blowouts and production delays.
"We are talking to several other countries - Switzerland, Belgium, Spain," Jeff Babione, Lockheed Martin's F-35 program leader, told reporters at the Avalon Airshow in Australia.
"There are quite a few other European nations that are looking at perhaps having the F-35 as an opportunity," Babione said. "We are starting to see other customers think about the F-35 being added to their fleet."
Another person familiar with the discussions, who was not authorized to speak on the record, said that Finland was also in talks.
Babione said that countries already signed up to the F-35 program along with the United States - Australia, Denmark, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Turkey, the United Kingdom, Japan, South Korea and Israel - need to start ordering in blocks beyond yearly commitments to help meet a reduced target cost of $80 million by 2020.
"It is actually a very reasonable target but it is going to take cooperation in changing the way we buy the aircraft," he said.
U.S. President Donald Trump has criticized the cost of the project. While the price per jet has steadily declined since the first jets were delivered to the U.S. military in 2011 as production has increased, it remains at $94.6 million.
Lockheed is pressing purchasers to agree to a three-year block buy that would help reduce costs by bulk sourcing parts.
"The longer we do it the more we are able to aggregate," Babione said. "Maybe in the future you are talking about a multi-year and you could do a five year multi-year and increase the savings."
Babione also urged Canada to speed up a decision about whether it would buy the F-35s or Boeing Co's Super Hornets instead.
The Pentagon's head of the F-35 program said earlier this week at Avalon that the overall reliability of the jets is being pulled down by initial versions of the aircraft which do not perform as well as more recently delivered jets.
"Unfortunately today the aircraft reliability and maintainability of the airplane is what I would call flat," Lieutenant General Chris Bogdan of the U.S. Department of Defense said.
Feb 19, 2017
“We are going to fully rebuild our military. By the way, do you care if we use the F-18 Super Hornets? Or do you only care about—what do you think?” Trump said Friday, addressing veterans and servicemembers in the crowd at a Boeing plant in North Charleston, S.C. “We are looking seriously at a big order. We’ll see how that [goes].”
Trump’s trip marks a growing relationship between the new president and Boeing, which has been a target of both his praise and scorn. In December, Trump tweeted that the Air Force One replacement, which is to be helmed by Boeing, should be cancelled because of what he viewed as inordinate expense.
The decision delays initial retirement of the aircraft by three years, as the Air Force had planned to begin mothballing the A-10 as early as 2018. However, the service is still deliberating the future of the platform, including whether it still needs to start a new program to replace it, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein said Tuesday.
“We’re going to keep them until 2021, and then as a discussion that we’ll have with [Defense] Secretary [Jim] Mattis and the department and the review over all of our budgets, that is what will determine the way ahead,” he told reporters.
Feb 18, 2017
The service expects to receive the upgraded turboprop aircraft “very soon,” the spokesman said. The delivery schedule “overall is on the right track,” he said.
That unit will complete the three-strong batch of Airbus A400Ms which underwent a retrofit in Spain to equip the aircraft with a self-protection package, to use short and rough runways, air-drop paratroopers and cargo from a side door and the rear ramp, and some in-flight refueling.
The Direction Générale de l’Armement received the first two retrofit aircraft Jan. 9 and 18, a spokesman for the procurement office said. After DGA inspection, the air service took possession of the planes.
Airbus had pledged to deliver six “tactical” A400Ms last year, with the first three units built to that standard and delivered to France.
Delivering that close to the schedule on such a large program can be seen as satisfactory, the Air Force spokesman said. The service now has a fleet of 11 A400Ms at the Orléans airbase, central France. Of that total fleet, seven are flying missions to Jordan and the African sub-Saharan Sahel region, which is a reasonable rate of use, he said.
There remain a further five units to undergo a retrofit, and these are expected to upgraded when they undergo a detailed maintenance “C check” for airworthiness after two years of service.
France is due to operate a fleet of 15 A400Ms under the 2014-2019 defense budget.
Feb 17, 2017
The air force is now facing a fleet of 108 F-35As that must be retrofitted from the Block 2B or 3i configuration, Lt Gen Jerry Harris, USAF deputy chief of staff for strategic plans and requirements, states in a 16 February testimony to Congress. The USAF and the F-35 Joint Programme Office are working together on a Block 3F upgrade plan.
When the USAF declared its F-35A variant ready for limited combat last August, the service’s chief of Air Combat Command noted the aircraft still needed significant and would gain greater capabilities with impending software and hardware upgrades. Block 3F and 4, which the USAF expects will be available in 2018 and 2021, will increase the F-35’s weapons capacity and improve targeting.
Twenty-six of those 108 aircraft will require a software-only upgrade, according to Harris. In addition to software modifications, 19 aircraft will also require new signal processor cards which the service says will take an average of three days to install and test. The service must install 18 aircraft with a newer helmet mounted display system, in addition to the processor cards and software, which will take 15 days to install.
“The remaining forty-five aircraft will require significant hardware modifications in the form of a Tech Refresh 2 modification,” Harris states. “This modification consists of twenty-six major components and takes approximately 30 days per aircraft to install and checkout.”
The USAF’s operational test aircraft also require Block 3F hardware modifications. But with availability of the full fleet of 23 aircraft projected in 2018, those modifications have fallen behind.
Feb 12, 2017
An air force spokesman told Jane's on 7 February that they had "no further information at this time" on the acquisition of a replacement for the aircraft, which was first mooted eight years ago.
The bidding process approved by the cabinet is for up to EUR20 million (USD22 million) to be spent on parts for the aircraft and their engines, half of which will cover the period up to the end of 2018 and the remainder for a potential extension of the contract for a further two years.
The single engine Aviojet first entered service in 1980. They were built by the then state-owned plane maker Construcciones Aeronáuticas SA (CASA), which later became part of the pan-European Airbus group.
Spain received 88 C101EBB Aviojets, which are also used by the air force's Patrulla Aguila (Eagle Patrol) acrobatic display team.
The export standard C101BB aircraft was also sold to Honduras (4) and Chile (12), which also received 23 of the longer ranger C101CC version, as did Jordan (16).
A spokesman for the Luftwaffe said three aircraft, including the one stranded in Lithuania, were out for unscheduled repairs, with two more in planned inspections and one receiving scheduled retrofits. The seventh aircraft was still going through the acceptance process after arriving on Jan. 31, he said.
"Of course, we'd like to have more of the aircraft ready for use, but it's also normal that aircraft need to be inspected and maintained," the spokesman said.
German officials said on Thursday they were still investigating what caused an oil leak in one of the four engines on the aircraft that carried Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen to Lithuania, and whether it marked a new technical problem for Europe's largest defense project.
Airbus declined comment on the air force data. The company, which has written off over 5 billion euros on the program after gearbox problems and fuselage cracks, said it is doing all it can to support the current investigation.
Tobias Lindner, a Green party lawmaker and member of parliament, said the latest incident reflected continuing problems with the A400M, and particularly its engines, and he was concerned it could further stall aircraft deliveries.
Airbus has told the German defense ministry that it plans to deliver 10 aircraft this year, down from 12 aircraft initially planned, and 13 in 2018, down from 14 planned.
The defense ministry told Lindner last month that it had asked for compensation of 39.4 million euros from Airbus for delayed deliveries of the first 5 aircraft, of which 27.2 million euros had been received. Payments for the first and fifth aircraft were still being discussed.
Technical problems have put the A400M program years behind schedule, with Germany's share of the costs having risen to 9.6 billion euros ($10.2 billion) from an initial estimate of 8.1 billion.
Germany is the largest customer for A400M, which was initially developed for seven European NATO nations at a cost of 20 billion euros.
The rotation of the aircraft is designed to modernize and strengthen our already firm mil-to-mil relationship, facilitate interoperability, exercise combined capabilities and increase regional engagement.
While at RAAF Base Tindal, the F-22 detachment, alongside their RAAF counterparts, will provide credible forces able to support a wide range of exercises or training activities. Through this initiative and the continued enhancement of the RAAF facilities, Pacific Air Forces and the RAAF will build upon their individual and combined capabilities, advancing interoperability between the nations. This interoperability will extend to regional partners as the initiative progresses. The enhanced, combined operational capability and interoperability are integral to regional security, stability and combined readiness.
“This F-22 Raptor deployment represents a key milestone for U.S. and Australian Airmen as together we build a robust fifth generation fighter presence in the Indo-Asia-Pacific,” said Gen. Terrence O’Shaughnessy, Pacific Air Forces commander. “Our steadfast relationship with Australia, deeply rooted in our common principles and shared values, stems from working together day in and day out across the full spectrum of operations and will continue to prosper as we further integrate our efforts through this initiative.”
This rotation of F-22 Raptors to RAAF Base Tindal marks the initial fifth generation asset deployment of this duration and scope within Australia, and will be the first time the F-22 has conducted combined training to this extent in the country. While there, they will conduct integrated training opportunities with Royal Australian Air Force’s 75 Squadron F/A-18A/B Hornets along with ground assets and personnel. This activity will vastly enhance RAAF and USAF fourth to fifth generation integration, while introducing fifth generation operations and requirements to RAAF Base Tindal.
“Australia is a critical partner in the F-35 program and playing a key role in helping PACAF lead fifth generation aircraft integration into the region,” said O’Shaughnessy.
We greatly value the enduring relationship with our Australian allies across the globe from the Indo-Asia-Pacific to the Middle East. Through deployments like these, we can better leverage the increased survivability, lethality and situational awareness that the F-22 and F-35, along with our fourth generation fighters, bring to this theater to ensure allied air superiority for years to come."
usaThe additional capability of conducting joint and combined exercises from northern Australia is an integral part of the Force Posture Agreement between the United States and Australia.
Feb 11, 2017
The two planes reportedly flew within 1,000 feet of each other in the general vicinity of the contested Scarborough Shoal in the South China Sea.
Maj. Rob Shulford, a spokesman for PACOM, told Defense News that “on Feb. 8 (local), an interaction characterized by U.S. Pacific Command as 'unsafe' occurred in international airspace above the South China Sea between a Chinese KJ-200 aircraft and a U.S. Navy P-3C aircraft.”
He also said that "the U.S. Navy P-3C was on a routine mission operating in accordance with international law," adding that the “Department of Defense and U.S. Pacific Command are always concerned about unsafe interactions with Chinese military forces."
There have been no other details about the relative flight paths of both aircraft at the time of the encounter, which has been described as “inadvertent,” although other reports said that the American P-3 had to alter course to avoid an aerial collision.
The Chinese aircraft involved has been identified as a Shaanxi KJ-200 Airborne Early Warning aircraft, which suggests this was unlikely to be an intercept of the P-3 by the Chinese.
The KJ-200 carries a phased array radar inside a long, rectangular housing mounted on struts on top of its fuselage. The aircraft is used by both the People’s Liberation Army Air Force and the air arm of the People’s Liberation Army Navy, or PLAN, to provide air surveillance.
It is unclear to which branch of China’s armed forces the aircraft involved in this latest encounter belongs, although PLAN KJ-200s have been known to operate from air bases on China’s southern Hainan Island, 530 miles from Scarborough Shoal.
The aircraft are usually on temporary rotations to Hainan, being normally assigned to the PLAN’s 2nd Air Division, 4th Regiment based at Laiyang in Shandong Province, northern China.
The publication Ekathimerini, quoting unidentified aides of Defense Minister Panos Kammenos, said the decision was taken in line with recommendations made by military chiefs.
Ekathimerini reports that in addition to upgrading existing F-16s and notifying the United States of its interest in procuring the F-35, Greece will also seek maintenance for the military's S300 long-range surface-to-air missile systems.
A letter of request for modernizing the F-16s was signed by Kammenos on Tuesay.
Upgrading Greece's entire fleet of F-16s will cost between $1.7 billion and $2 billion, according to the report, and would be paid over a period of time.
A deal for the maintenance of the S300 missile systems is not yet clear.
Greece has a total of 155 F-16C and F-16D aircraft.
The Marines are struggling to keep aging aircraft flying amid budget cuts, delayed spending bills and more than 15 years of wartime wear-and-tear.
Out of 1,065 Marine Corps aircraft, 439 were flyable as of Dec. 31, said Lt. Gen. Jon Davis, deputy commandant for aviation. That represents roughly 41 percent of the service’s fixed- and rotary-wing aircraft.
“My target should be 589 [flyable aircraft]; so I am 150 airplanes shy of what I need to make my flight-hour goal,” Davis told reporters on Wednesday. “In order to meet my operational commitments, I need a little bit more than that.”
Since taking the job in June 2014, Davis has been working furiously to get enough Marine Corps planes and helicopters flyable until the service can receive new aircraft, such as the F-35.
While the number of aircraft ready to fly on any given day fluctuates, overall the number of flyable aircraft has been improving, Davis said.
But only 72 of the Marine Corps’ 280 F/A-18 Hornets were flyable as of Dec. 31, officials said. This is just a quarter of the Corps' Hornets, and down from September, when 90 Hornets could fly.
Davis explained that readiness declined at the end of 2016 due to holidays, including Thanksgiving, Christmas and the Marine Corps Birthday Ball.
“November and December every year are low productivity months,” said Davis, who noted that 473 Marine aircraft were flyable at the beginning of October.
Of the Marine Corps’ 280 F/A-18 Hornets, 109 were either at or headed to depot in December, Marine Corps spokeswoman Capt. Sarah Burns explained. Because the Navy runs the depots, those aircraft do not fall under the Marine Corps, she said. The service tracks the 171 Hornets that are under its direct control, of which about 42 percent are flyable.
It should be noted that depot-level maintenance is deliberately planned and scheduled with few exceptions,” Burns said in an email. “We expect and plan for a certain percentage of our aircraft to be in the depot at any given time. It is through depot-level maintenance that we ensure the Marine Corps maintains a ready and balanced fleet while we transition F-35.”
In addition to the 72 Hornets that were flyable in December, another 26 needed repairs that were expected to be completed in less than 120 days, Burns said.
The Marine Corps can only repair so many aircraft at any given time, Davis said.
“I can’t collapse that gap any faster than I am right now with the funding restrictions we’ve been under in the past,” he said. “We are funded to the max. I can only reset a CH-53E so fast. I’ve got seven on the East Coast; eight on the West Coast and one in Hawaii — 16 airplanes in reset right now. I can only get so many of those into reset at any given time.”