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RETROFIT POTENTIAL OF C/KC-135 HINGES ON U.S RETIREMENT RATE
Thursday, July 22, 2021
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KC-135

.Source: US Air Force


KC-135

Source: US Air Force


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NEWTOWN, Conn. -- The C/KC-135 aircraft is in the final stage of its service life, both in the U.S. and abroad but the relatively slow production rate for the model's successor, the Boeing KC-46 Pegasus, is projected to modestly extend the program's service life. Under the United States' latest FY22 budget plan, the ultimate retirement date for the full C/KC-135 fleet is projected for 2060.

However, the annual rate at which C/KC-135 aircraft ought to be retired in the intervening period remains a matter of considerable debate within both USAF and U.S political circles. Cost-conscious USAF planners have generally favored an expedited divestment schedule for the aircraft, but have faced opposition in the legislature on both economic and readiness grounds. The USAF had requested a planned divestment of 13 aircraft during negotiations for the FY21 budget plan, but legislative opposition to this move saw divestments shifted to the service's KC-10 Extender inventories instead.

In May 2021, the leadership of the U.S Transportation Command (TRANSCOM) indicated that the impending resolution of various long-standing performance issues with the KC-46 program would allow for an accelerated retirement timeline for segments of the C/K-135 fleet. The USAF has requested for 18 C/KC-135 aircraft to be divested for FY22, but these plans remain provisional at the time of writing and FY22's retrofit funding requests account for the service's complete inventory.

The USAF is likely to provide only as much funding as necessary to keep the KC-135s in service until they can be retired without creating a gap in the service's critical airborne refueling capability. An exception may be a future LAIRCM upgrade, which may be necessary to keep pace with rapidly evolving air defense capabilities worldwide, but to date developmental work on this program has near exclusively favored the newer KC-46.

R&M activity focuses primarily on electronics, with a particular emphasis on sensory and communications capabilities. As the aircraft is one that, in a near-peer conflict, would be flying in what may be conflicted air space, maintaining parity with evolving adversarial capabilities is key. Such developments as the Block 45 upgrade, MUOS radio integration, and Aero-I satcom upgrades will extend the viability and survivability of the platform for the forecast period, near the end of which retirements may have started in earnest. For the most part, the funding requests submitted for these programs under the FY22 budget have aligned with prior expectations, suggesting that development and implementation work is progressing relatively smoothly and on schedule.

The United States is not the only country divesting the C/KC-135 series from frontline service, with both France and Singapore having acquired new-build Airbus A330 MRTT aircraft as successors for their aging C/KC-135 series inventories. Singapore is in the early stages of transferring its KC-135R fleet into the private ownership of the refueling and support specialist Meta Aerospace.

As aircraft are retired, some of the unneeded C/KC-135s may be sold or donated to other nations, with or without additional modifications to meet the new operators' specific needs. However, the series' potential as a secondhand export asset will be much circumscribed by the pronounced maintenance costs associated with aircraft of such an advanced age and the rising availability of capable alternatives. Still, Chile has already purchased three of these aircraft, and some existing operators may purchase older airframes for use as a pool for spare parts.

The USAF also maintains a number of C-135s as multipurpose transport and reconnaissance aircraft. The RC-135 Cobra Ball, Rivet Joint, Combat Sent, and Constant Phoenix programs feature a variety of enhancements and updates intended to improve integration between the RC-135S, RC-135V/W, and RC-135U fleets, and to match competing enemy capabilities.

Beyond the 2050s, as major operators acquire larget quantities of newer aircraft to fulfill their aerial tanker needs, the size of the global fleet of C-135s will fall dramatically, accompanied by an increasing focus on the surveillance variants. In time, even the RC-135 will be overshadowed by more modern alternatives.

Source:  Forecast International

 
SERGEY CHEMEZOV: NEW CHECKMATE FIGHTER HAS A COMPLETELY UNIQUE SET OF CHARACTERISTICS
Thursday, July 22, 2021
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"Checkmate" unveiled at MAKS-2021

.Source: Rostec


"Checkmate" unveiled at MAKS-2021

Source: Rostec


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MOSCOW -- The main premiere of the 15th International Aviation and Space Salon MAKS-2021, opening on July 20 at the Zhukovsky airport near Moscow, was the latest Russian light tactical fighter jet, referred to as "Checkmate". The single-engine export-oriented aircraft is developed by Sukhoi (part of the United Aircraft Corporation of Rostec).

The head of Rostec Sergey Chemezov was interviewed by Dmitry Reshetnikov of RIA Novosti on various technical features of the new fighter, its export potential, capabilities on interacting with drones and further plans to create an unmanned fighter based on this particular design.

Reshetnikov: Could you give an introduction of the aircraft that was unveiled today?

Chemezov: It is a fifth-generation fighter with stealth capabilities and high flight performance. The model is equipped with advanced avionics and most capacious weapon bays within its class. In its stealth configuration, Checkmate is capable of carrying up to five air-to-air missiles of various ranges, as well as other aviation weapons. We actively used supercomputer technologies during the creation process, allowing to significantly save both time and funds spent on development and testing.

The aircraft has a unique set of flight and combat characteristics while maintaining an affordable price and relatively low operating cost per flight hour. For example, it has a maximum combat payload of 7,400 kilograms and a flight range of 2,900 kilometers without additional fuel tanks. These are remarkable numbers for a light single-engine plane.

I would like to note that this is not just a fighter jet, but a high-tech smart aviation platform, with open architecture and adaptability: it can be assembled in several configurations, based on concrete requirements of the customer. It also holds great potential for modernization.

The key concept of the project is summarized by its name, Checkmate. The role of the plane is similar to the knight piece from chess: maneuverable and capable of executing unexpected moves that decide the course of the game.

Reshetnikov: The plane has a prototype that is ready for testing. How does its design differ from older Su-57 or Su-35 models?

Chemezov: Both Su-57 and Su-35 are unique planes by their right, you could call them as part of the "major league." Nevertheless, their capabilities are limited and not fit for particular missions. Checkmate is a "lightweight" platform, optimal for solving urgent tasks with minimal financial costs. It has very high level of combat effectiveness considering its relatively low cost and cheap flight hour. Its advanced modern avionics allow it to engage in air combat and attack ground attacks with active phased array radar, providing effective targeting capabilities even under strong electromagnetic interference. At the same time, its electronic warfare equipment allows the plane to avoid detection and evade enemy weapons. Checkmate can use a full range of weapons to fight against any air, land, sea targets, as well as counteract most advanced anti-air defense systems.

Reshetnikov: How would you assess the export potential of the aircraft, what markets is it focused on?

Chemezov: Without a doubt, Checkmate has high export potential. It is capable of solving wide range of objectives faced by different customers, effectively destroying land and sea targets, and fighting for air supremacy against a numerically superior enemy. The combination of high combat payload, modern equipment and low cost per flight hour makes the aircraft extremely cost-effective considering its combat capabilities. The flexible use of various configurations allows to accurately customize it to meet the needs of almost any potential customer. We are offering the platform equipped with wide selection of modern avionics and armament. Each customer can choose exactly what he needs. Currently, potential customers include the countries of the Middle East, Asia-Pacific and Latin America.

Reshetnikov: How will the after-sales service system work?

Chemezov: The Matryoshka automated logistic support system was specially created for this aircraft. It allows organizing personnel training, planning maintenance with high precision and delivering necessary components on time. The system will reduce after-sales service costs while increasing its efficiency, and ensure a high level of combat readiness of the fleet, even during high-intensity operations.

Reshetnikov: What plans do you have to further improve this platform?

Chemezov: Checkmate is the combat system of the future. It is possible to create an unmanned version of the plane based on unified aviation platform. Future versions will be able to execute coordinated group operations with both manned and unmanned vehicles, combined into one system. Unmanned wingmen will be able to exchange information, instantly react to a changing combat situation, and automatically distribute and perform even the most complex tasks.

Source:  Rostec
Associated URL: rostec.ru

 
EC-130H COMPASS CALL PROTECTS AND ENHANCES REGIONAL AIRPOWER CAPABILITIES
Tuesday, July 20, 2021
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EC-130H takes off at Al Dhafra Air Base, July 13

.Source: US Air Force


EC-130H takes off at Al Dhafra Air Base, July 13

Source: US Air Force


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AL DHAFRA, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES -- Over the past month, the EC-130H Compass Call aircraft, has flown in two multi-nation, large force employment exercises that strengthened integration capabilities with CENTCOM partners and allies.

The Compass Call, flown by the 41st Expeditionary Electronic Combat Squadron, 380th Air Expeditionary Wing, Al Dhafra Air Base, United Arab Emirates, is an airborne tactical weapon system that employs offensive counter-information and electronic attack capabilities, and has been operating persistently in the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility for almost 20 years.

In addition to flying combat sorties, the crews routinely participate in monthly LFE exercises as a means to exercise not only large force employment, but also multi-national integration, explained Lt. Col. Tyler Stark, Advanced Training Division Chief for the U.S. Air Forces Central Air Warfare Center, ADAB, UAE.

"These exercises provide both the 380th AEW and CENTCOM forces a unique opportunity to train with our international partners in advanced tactics in a broad spectrum of mission sets, including command and control, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, air interdiction, close air support, and everything in between," he said.

As for the Compass Call, the 13 crewmembers onboard are eager to participate alongside a variety of other aircraft from around the CENTCOM area of responsibility.

"These exercises are important for everyone involved because our ability to coordinate and operate with our coalition partner nations will be critical to our success in any future conflicts in the region," said Capt. Ryan Fahey, tactics officer, 41 EECS, who is also the lead planner for the EC-130H’s participation in the LFEs.

The role of the Compass Call will vary depending on the exercise, Fahey said. In one LFE they might act as "red air," providing contested and degraded operations for all exercise participants, while in another, they will act as "blue air," providing offensive tactics in cooperation with coalition assets.

As a non-kinetic platform, the Compass Call mission can be a challenge to incorporate, Fahey said. "It can be more difficult for some to understand things they can’t physically see, as opposed to dropping a bomb," he said. But much like a conventional weapon, electronic attack is a threat that can have just as much potential for damage to the mission as it can to help ensure success.

"We do our best to integrate into the exercises in the best way possible to provide valuable training and experience for everyone," Fahey said. "Incorporating electronic attack will hopefully continue to enhance all players’ abilities to conduct operations in a contested and degraded environment."

This ability is becoming more and more important when preparing warfighters for the next generation of combat, he said. "These exercises are beneficial for all of us, as they allow our crews to experience partner nation operations and continue to develop our tactics, techniques and procedures in the region."

Source:  U.S. Central Command
Associated URL: Click here to visit

 

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