Tag: Air Force

Crash Grounds All F-35 Stealth Fighters

The Pentagon grounded the global fleet of F-35 stealth fighters Thursday so that engineers could conduct urgent inspections following the first ever crash of the costliest plane in history.

Preliminary data from a Marine Corps F-35B that was completely destroyed in a South Carolina crash last month showed a potential problem with a fuel tube, officials said.

“The US services and international partners have temporarily suspended F-35 flight operations while the enterprise conducts a fleet-wide inspection of a fuel tube within the engine on all F-35 aircraft,” said Joe DellaVedova, a spokesman for the F-35 program.

He added that suspect fuel tubes would be removed and replaced. If good tubes are already installed, then those planes will be returned to operational status.

Inspections were expected to be completed within 24 to 48 hours.

According to Pentagon figures, 320 F-35s have been delivered globally, mainly to the US but also Israel and Britain, as well as other partner countries.

Britain said the Pentagon measure did not affect all of its F-35s, and that some flying missions had been “paused,” not grounded.

“F-35 flight trials from the aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth are continuing and the program remains on schedule to provide our armed forces with a game-changing capability,” a British defense ministry spokesman said.

– ‘Ready and prepared’ –

The Israeli military said it was taking additional precautions and conducting tests on its version of the F-35, known as the F-35I.

But if the planes are “required for operational action, the F-35I aircraft are ready and prepared,” a statement read.

On September 28, a Marine Corps F-35 crashed in South Carolina. The pilot survived after ejecting.

The incident occurred only one day after the US military first used the F-35 in combat, when Marine Corps jets hit Taliban targets in Afghanistan.

On Wednesday, Defense News reported that Defense Secretary Jim Mattis had ordered the Air Force and Navy to make 80 percent of the fleet of key fighters, including the F-35, mission capable within a year.

The order sent ripples through the Pentagon, where officials have for years bemoaned a general lack of readiness for key equipment.

Launched in the early 1990s, the F-35 program is considered the most expensive weapons system in US history, with an estimated cost of some $400 billion and a goal to produce 2,500 aircraft in the coming years.

Once servicing and maintenance costs for the F-35 are factored in over the aircraft’s lifespan through 2070, overall program costs are expected to rise to $1.5 trillion.

Proponents tout the F-35’s radar-dodging stealth technology, supersonic speeds, close air support capabilities, airborne agility and a massive array of sensors giving pilots unparalleled access to information.

But the program has faced numerous delays, cost overruns and setbacks, including a mysterious engine fire in 2014 that led commanders to temporarily ground the planes.

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Defending The Earth, A New U.S. Space Force?

U.S. President Donald Trump’s desire to create a Space Force might sound a little out of this world, but the idea of making military use of space is not new.

“We already, in fact, have a kind of Space Force,” says Ilya Somin, a professor of law at George Mason University. “We have military satellites that already exist. They’ve existed for a long time. It’s just that they’re controlled by the Air Force and sometimes by the Navy. So if Trump succeeds in persuading Congress to create a Space Force, all that will happen, at least initially, is that the sort of thing that was previously done by the Air Force will now be done by the Space Force.”

The U.S. military is currently composed of five armed services – the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps and Coast Guard. President Trump wants the Space Force to become a sixth military service branch focused on space warfare.

Constitutional scholars are debating how such a force would come into existence. Some question whether the U.S. Constitution, the nation’s founding governing document, allows for the establishment of a Space Force.

The Constitution grants Congress the power to “raise and support Armies” and also to “provide and maintain a Navy.”

Originalists, scholars who believe the Constitution should be interpreted as it was understood at the time it was enacted back in 1787, might argue that even the Air Force, which became a separate branch of the U.S. Armed Forces in 1947, should be considered unconstitutional.

Yet originalists could defend a Space Force if it were to be part of the Navy or Army, as the Air Force once was.

“A Space Force, like an Air Force, under modern conditions, is essential to conducting ground operations. It’s just another weapon for ground operations and sometimes naval operations,” Somin says. “The Constitution nowhere limits the kinds of weapons the Army or Navy is allowed to have. So if they’re allowed to have bullets that fly through the air, they can have planes that fly through the air and even spacecraft that fly through space.”

Originalists could also make a case for a completely separate Space Force organizationally because the Constitution gives Congress powers to do what is “necessary and proper” to enable lawmakers to execute their powers.

Agreeing that a Space Force is constitutional might come easily to “living constitutionalists,” scholars who believe that the meaning of the Constitution can change over time to account for modern conditions.

There is, however, one kind of Space Force that both originalists and living constitutionalists might have a problem with – a deep Space Force along the lines of Star Trek’s science fictional Starfleet, which conducts interstellar warfare, exploration and colonization.

“If you’re talking about the Starship Enterprise and it’s light years away from Earth and it’s fighting the Klingons or something in space, that has little or no connection to ground or naval warfare,” says Somin, adding, “I think there is a genuinely strong argument that that kind of deep Space Force would not be permissible under the original meaning of the Constitution.”

But what if aliens in a galaxy far, far away, plan to attack Earth?

“Any such thing, [our ability to use technology for deep space interstellar flight], if it ever happens at all, is many decades away probably, so we have plenty of time to discuss it and debate it, and if we decide this is something we really need, we can do a constitutional amendment,” Somin says. “It’s not like the Klingons or the Romulans are about to attack us tomorrow and we have to immediately authorize Starfleet to defeat them.”

The Great F-22 Fighter Shortage

With the U.S. Air Force considering the retirement of the Boeing F-15C Eagle, Lockheed Martin’s stealthy fifth-generation F-22 Raptor will be the only air superiority fighter in the service’s inventory.

While there is no doubt that the Raptor is far and away the best air superiority fighter ever built, the U.S. Air Force only has about 186 surviving Raptors in its inventory. Of those 186 remaining Raptors, only 123 are “combat-coded” aircraft with another twenty that are classified as backup aircraft inventory machines. The rest are test and training assets. Even then, some of those aircraft are undergoing long-term repairs after suffering from accidents—such as one Alaska-based aircraft that made a belly-landing in Florida in April —and are not flying.

In total, there are only six front line F-22 squadrons—rather than the required 10—all of which have fewer aircraft than a normal fighter unit. Five of those squadrons have 21 primary authorized aircraft and two backup inventory jets while one operational Hawaii Air National Guard unit has 18 primary authorized aircraft and two backup jets. Test and training units are also shortchanged—with the Weapons School and the elite 422nd Test and Evaluation Squadron being forced to share roughly a dozen jets at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada.

This leaves the Air Force and our nation desperately short of fighter capacity and is a matter that the Air Force, the Trump administration and Congress will very soon need to address.

Air Force One To Get New Look For 2024

When President Trump confirmed that he wants to redesign Air Force One during his term in office, in an interview with CBS that aired on Tuesday, he told reporter Jeff Glor that he planned to repaint the iconic aircraft red, white and blue. When asked if he wanted to keep the current robin’s egg blue design he said he would not. “Air Force One is going to be incredible,” Trump told Glor. “It’s going to be the top of the line, the top in the world, and it’s going to be red, white and blue. Which I think is appropriate.”

The CBS interview confirmed an earlier report by Axios, which said Trump planned to ditch the “Jackie Kennedy color” for something “more American.”

The new Air Force One planes, which will be made by Boeing, will not be ready until 2024. (Though “Air Force One” designates the aircraft on which the President flies, it’s not actually one single plane.) The new planes will be replacing a set that, according to the Department of Defense, have been in the air since 1987. At that time, President Ronald Regan chose to keep the Air Force One design that had been selected during the Kennedy administration.

That longevity sets the presidential plane apart: While the presidential cars are upgraded every few years for the newest, safest models, and the Oval office is regularly redecorated to reflect the changing times and the presidential personality, the design of Air Force One has remained the same since 1962.

But that design wasn’t part of the original plan for Air Force One.

In May of 1962, in anticipation of a new pair of planes to serve as Air Force One, Boeing’s exterior designs for the planes— which included the typical red and orange military plane markings and type-font lettering — were released to the public. According to the New England Historical Society, Raymond Loewy, a well-known French industrial designer who had created designs for Coca-Cola, Lucky Strikes Cigarettes and Studebaker cars, made it known to a White House aide that elements of the proposed sketch were “gaudy” and “amateurish.”

When Jackie Kennedy heard that such a well-respected designer had critiqued the design of the iconic planes, she asked her husband to hire Loewy for the job.

Ever-conscious of appearances and trends, the First Lady wanted to make sure the planes that served as a foreign country’s first impression of JFK would represent the U.S. leader well. During Loewy’s first meeting with JFK in the West Wing, he had the president sit on the floor with him as they sketched a new paint scheme, according to the book Air Force One. Kennedy, who wanted a design with less military nomenclature, changed the traditional “U.S. Air Force” markings on the side to a more neutral designation of “The United States of America.” He also added the presidential seal near the nose of the plane, and an American Flag on the tail. In order to select the best font, Loewy looked to historical U.S. documents for inspiration; when he saw the typeface of the original Declaration of Independence, he knew he had found the perfect model. Widely spaced letters in all capitals, using the font Caslon, were then applied for the lettering on the planes.

For the color palette of the aircrafts, Loewy went with a simple but striking design. Knowing Kennedy’s affinity for blue, the designer came up with the paint scheme that is now synonymous with the presidential planes, using slate and cyan blue for the middle and wings, and leaving the top of the plane white with a silver underside.

The new design, like most things the Kennedy family did, was received with great fanfare from the American public. In 1961, when the Kennedy couple went to France on one of the first flights of the upgraded planes, TIME’s Hugh Sidey reported that the new look was a hit:

Then, while it was still dawn in his own country, President John F. Kennedy‘s scarlet-nosed Boeing 707 jet (code name: “Air Force One”) angled down through the pattern of clouds that covered northern France, and it came time for John Kennedy to prove that the words of the song had real meaning. Five minutes ahead of schedule, the huge craft eased onto the runway at Paris‘ Orly Airport. A light haze filtered the bright sun, and there was no hint of rain to come later in the day; except for the chill (58°), it was Paris at its seductive springtime best. As the jet taxied toward the terminal, Kennedy pulled up the knot in his tie, brushed down a stray lock of hair; Jackie Kennedy carefully settled her pillbox hat—blue, to match the spring coat created by Designer Oleg Cassini—on top of her well-combed, bouffant hairdo. Press Secretary Pierre Salinger came forward with a last-minute report on details of the arrival ceremony; Kennedy listened, nodded his approval.

When the presidential plane wheeled to a stop in front of the terminal, the drums of a French air force band rolled out a rhythmic welcome. Dressed in a double-breasted grey suit, the Savior of France led his welcoming party—including Madame de Gaulle, U.S. Ambassador to Paris James Gavin, France‘s Ambassador in Washington Herve Alphand—along 75 yards of red carpet to the debarking ramp. With a grin and a choppy, campaign-style wave. Kennedy stepped from the plane, Jackie a pace behind him. When the President of the U.S. and the President of France shook hands, De Gaulle gave greeting in his stilted, seldom-used English: “Have you made a good aerial voyage?” When Kennedy, grinning, answered yes, De Gaulle said: “Ah, that’s good.”

Sidey would later recall that he was “deeply touched by the majesty of the moment” and that the plane’s paint job was a testament of the First Lady’s impeccable sense of style.

Only time and critical review will tell if Trump’s “more American” red, white and blue Air Force One will be able to match the ability of Loewy’s design to exude presidential power with simple elegance — but for the next 6 years the iconic “Jackie Kennedy Blue” will continue to represent the U.S. abroad.  The President certainly has his own unique flair, now he’ll get a chance to shown is he has style as well.

U. S. F-22 Stealth Fighters Arrive In Korea

American F-22 stealth fighter jets have arrived in South Korea ahead of a joint air force drill, Seoul said Wednesday, despite a recent diplomatic thaw with Pyongyang.

The “Raptor” fighters previously flew to the South in December when Seoul and Washington staged their largest-ever joint air exercise, days after North Korea test-fired a missile believed capable of hitting the US mainland.

The North customarily reacts with anger to the deployment of American stealth fighters, which it fears could be used for surgical strikes against its leadership and strategic facilities.

The confirmation came after local newspapers said eight F-22 jets arrived Sunday at a military airbase in the southern city of Gwangju.

The “Max Thunder” drill will kick off on May 11 for a two-week run, with the reported participation of some 100 aircraft from both countries.

“Max Thunder is a regular exercise that has been on the docket long before a planned US-North Korea summit”, the South’s Defence Ministry said in a statement.

It urged news media to refrain from producing “speculative reports” about the intention of the deployment aside from the routine exercise.

That request came after the conservative Chosun Ilbo daily claimed the aircraft deployment was apparently aimed at heaping pressure on Pyongyang ahead of a planned summit between North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and US President Donald Trump.

The Panmunjom truce village in the demilitarised zone between North and South, where a rare inter-Korean summit successfully convened last week, has emerged as a possible venue for the Kim-Trump meeting.

Chosun suggested the arrival of F-22 jets could also be aimed at bolstering security in case the North Korea-US summit takes place at Panmunjom.