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25 avril 2013 4 25 /04 /avril /2013 07:20
F-16s Step Up For Tardy F-35


April 24, 2013: Strategy Page


The U.S. Air Force has increased the number of F-16s it wants to refurbish to 1,018. Last year the plan was to refurbish a few hundred of its 22 ton F-16 fighters because their replacement, the 31 ton F-35 was not arriving in time. So far 11 F-35s have been built and another 19 are to be built this year. That’s too slow to deal with number of F-16s that are growing too old to fly. The air force is doing a similar refurb on 175 F-15C interceptors. It may take a decade or more for F-35 production to get to the point where most F-16s can be replaced. Until then the F-16s must be ready to get the jobs done.


This is one of several reasons why many nations upgrade their F-16s. Some of these nations are holding off on ordering F-35s (or cancelling existing orders), either because of the high price or doubts about how good it will be. Aircraft manufacturing and maintenance companies see a huge market for such upgrades. Half or more of the 3,000 F-16s currently in service could be refurbished and upgraded to one degree or another. That’s over $25 billion in business over the next decade or so.


The F-35 began development in the 1990s, and was supposed to enter service in 2011. That has since slipped to 2017, or the end of the decade, depending on who you believe. Whichever date proves accurate, many F-16 users have a problem. Their F-16s are old and year by year more of them become too old to operate.


No matter how late the F-35 is, the U.S. Air Force now plans to refurbish at least a thousand Block 40 and 50 F-16s. The work will concentrate on extending the life of the airframe, plus some electronics upgrades. The air force does this sort of thing frequently to all aircraft models. It's called SLEP (Service Life Extension Program), and this one is special only because it concentrates on very old aircraft and is intended to keep these birds viable for another 8-10 years.


Many air forces are finding that it’s more cost-effective to upgrade via new electronics and missiles and, as needed, refurbishing engines and airframes on elderly existing fighters, rather than buying new aircraft. This is especially the case if the new electronics enable the use of smart bombs or more capable air-to-air missiles. One of the more frequently upgraded older fighters is the American F-16. Even the U.S. Air Force, the first and still largest user of F-16s had always planned to do this with some of its F-16s.


The F-16C was originally designed for a service life of 4,000 hours in the air. But advances in engineering, materials, and maintenance techniques have extended that to over 8,000 hours. Because of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, F-16s sent to those areas have flown over a thousand hours a year more than what they would in peacetime. The current planned SLEP will extend F-16C flight hours to 10,000 or more.


The F-16 has proved to be remarkably adaptable and is one of the most modified jet fighters in service. The most numerous F-16 is the C model. The first version of this, the F-16C Block 25, entered service in 1984. The original F-16, as the F-16A Block 1, entered service in 1978. While most F-16s still in service are the F-16C, there are actually six major mods, identified by block number (32, 40, 42, 50, 52, 60) plus the Israeli F-16I, which is a major modification of the Block 52. Another special version (the Block 60) for the UAE (United Arab Emirates) is called the F-16E. The F-16D is a two seat trainer version of F-16Cs. The various block mods included a large variety of new components (five engines, four sets of avionics, five generations of electronic warfare gear, five radars, and many other mechanical, software, cockpit, and electrical mods).


The F-16 is the most numerous post-Cold War jet fighter, with over 4,200 built and still in production. During The Cold War Russia built over 10,000 MiG-21s and the U.S over 5,000 F-4s, but since 1991 warplane production has plummeted about 90 percent. Since the end of the Cold War the F-16 has been popular enough to keep the production lines going.


The F-16 can also function as a bomber and ground attack aircraft (although not as effectively as the air force experts would have you believe, especially compared to the A-10). It can carry four tons of bombs and has been very effective using smart bombs. In air-to-air combat F-16s have shot down 69 aircraft so far, without losing anything to enemy warplanes. Not bad for an aircraft that was originally designed as a cheaper alternative to the heavier and more expensive F-15.


Although the F-35 is designed to replace the F-16, many current users will probably keep their F-16s in service for a decade or more. The F-16 gets the job done, reliably and inexpensively. Why pay more for new F-35s if your potential enemies can be deterred with F-16s. This becomes even more likely as the F-35 is delayed again and again. Finally, the upgrade is a lot cheaper, costing less than $20 million per aircraft, compared to over $100 million for a new F-35. If your potential enemies aren’t upgrading to something like that, a refurbed F-16 will do.

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20 novembre 2012 2 20 /11 /novembre /2012 08:56

f-16 photo IDF


Nov. 19, 2012 - By BARBARA OPALL-ROME  Defense News


TEL AVIV — With some 70,000 Israeli troops poised for prospective ground war in Gaza, political leaders here are again grappling with the costs versus benefits of supplementing standoff strikes with boots on the ground.


The old argument of “F-16 versus M16” — coined by retired Lt. Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi, former Israeli military chief of staff— will likely be settled in the coming days, if not sooner.


But unlike Israel’s last combined air-sea and ground campaign to protect the homefront from Gaza-launched rockets, this time proponents of standoff-only attack have a new arrow in their quiver: the nearly 85 percent effective rate of Iron Dome intercepting batteries.


Commanders from Israel’s 2008-2009 Cast Lead operation surmise that had then-Prime Minister Ehud Olmert been able to protect the homefront with an active defense system like Iron Dome, he would not have opted to supplement eight days of largely precision standoff strikes with a grueling, two-week ground war.


“In Cast Lead, we didn’t have the breathing space provided by Iron Dome. We didn’t have the full benefits of precise and selective early warning and we didn’t have a disciplined homefront,” a former top Israeli military commander told Defense News.


“Then they didn’t have a choice. The political echelon determined that the only way to take care of the rockets, impose quiet and bolster deterrence was through a combination of F-16s and M16s. But now, it’s a different story,” he said.


According to the former commander, Israel has not yet realized the maximum effect of airstrikes.


“We haven’t yet squeezed out the full effectiveness. If conditions allow us another two or three days of intensified and punishing standoff attacks, we should be able to end this without getting back into Gaza.”


1,400 Targets Destroyed


At the end of day six of Israel’s so-called Operation Pillar of Defense, the Israeli military says it attacked some 1,400 targets throughout Gaza, most of them from the air, with support from Israel Navy missile boats.


Attack operations started with the aerial assassination of Hamas Military Commander Ahmed al-Jabari, followed by strategic assaults on most of the 60-kilometer range Fajr-5 missiles smuggled into the Gaza Strip from Iran. By late last week, after hundreds of attacks on weapon storage sites, including underground stockpiles of 40-kilometer-range Grad rockets, Israel stepped up targeting operations against command posts, communications centers and public buildings viewed as symbols of the Hamas government.


In the past few days, in parallel with continued attacks on weapon sites and hunter-killer operations against rocket-launching squads and other so-called targets of opportunity, Israel began making phone calls to residents of specific buildings, warning them to evacuate before striking private homes of Hamas leaders.


As of late Nov. 19, Gaza’s Ministry of Health had reported 95 killed, 26 of them children, in the standoff attacks. And while the ministry does not differentiate among militant fighters targeted by Israel and uninvolved innocents, the death toll from 1,400 attacks appears to mark a new record for precision strike operations.


In comparison to the previous air war in Gaza, in which precision munitions were used in 81 percent of aerial attacks, 140 militants along with another 37 innocents were killed in just the first day of airstrikes.


In a Nov. 19 interview, Mazin Qumsiyeh, a Palestinian professor at Bethlehem and Birzeit universities in the West Bank, acknowledged that casualties thus far appear to be much lower than Israel’s last war in Gaza.


“Yes, the casualties are lower than ever before. But even if it’s true that Israel has changed its tactics — which I don’t believe — most Palestinians will not appreciate it. They’ll judge from their prior experiences with Israeli brutality,” said Qumsiyeh.


“What we’re seeing is a historic precedent for precision-strike operations, and it proves that the strategy of maximum damage with minimum victims is working,” said retired Israel Air Force Brig. Gen. Assaf Agmon, director of the Fisher Institute for Strategic Air & Space Studies.


“Each target is checked multiple times, the weaponry is carefully selected and the intelligence is persistent and precise. If they’re able to keep this up, it appears that operational objectives can be secured with our legitimacy intact without the need for ground forces,” said Agmon.


Nevertheless, experts and analysts warn that the option for ground invasion remains very much alive, and could be triggered if just one Hamas-launched missile manages to leak through the Iron Dome and extract heavy Israeli casualties.


“We can’t get addicted to Iron Dome and we also need to remember that a 70,000-strong ground force cannot remain waiting at the border indefinitely,” another former Israeli commander warned.


According to the retired major general, Israel’s ground option will remain viable for only a few more days before economic and other pressures force either a political green light for a ground invasion or cancellation of reserve call-up orders.


“Several things can still happen that will drag this into a much bloodier story,” he said.

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16 janvier 2012 1 16 /01 /janvier /2012 08:25
F-16s Versus Su-30s Over Indonesia

source Ria Novisti

January 15, 2012: STRATEGY PAGE

Indonesia has signed a contract to buy six more Su-30 jet fighters from Russia for $78 million each. Indonesia already has ten Su-27s and Su-30s, but wants at least 16 of these modern aircraft so they will have a full squadron. Although expensive, the Russian fighters are modern, and look great. They are also relatively cheap to maintain. This was all part of a plan to switch from American fighters (ten F-16s, and 16 F-5s) to Russian Su-27s and 30s. But used F-16s are so much cheaper than Su-27s, and the public pressure forced the Indonesian politicians to hang on to the F-16s, and upgrade existing F-16s, an expensive proposition that appeals to corrupt Indonesian officials.

Although Indonesia wants to buy 180 Su-27 and Su-30 fighters from Russia, they are now also rebuilding their older force of early model F-16s. In addition, Indonesia has ordered 24 used, but modernized, F-16Cs for $31 million each. The ten older F-16s will also be modernized to the same standard.

Indonesian Air force generals opposed the acquisition of the F-16s because they fear this will lead to a reduction in the procurement of new Russian fighters. The generals believe the Russian fighters are a better match for the 80 F-18Es that neighboring Malaysia is acquiring, and the F-35s that Australia is buying. But the F-16s have a proven combat record that the Su-27s and Su-30s lack.

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