March 17, 2016
Two F-35s at the Luke Air Force Base training complex successfully dropped laser-guided bombs for the first time this past week, marking another milestone in the build-up towards operational readiness for the new fighter.
Lt. Gen. Christopher Bogdan emphasized in recent interviews that he expects the recently announced contract award to Pratt & Whitney to provide engines for the B-21 stealth bomber to also result in lower unit prices for the F135 engine which powers the F-35 - despite the fact that the two engines will not be exactly the same. Bogdan heads the Air Force's F-35 Program Office.
The independent watchdog group, Project on Government Oversight has cautioned that the F-35 stealth fighter my not be fully combat ready until 2022. The group cites program deficienies that are still being worked out in making its assessment.
Speaking at congressional hearings, the U.S. Air Force's deputy chief of staff emphasized that the Air Force would prefer to focus on developing its next 6th-generation fighter on-time and on-budget, rather than pursue a re-start of production for the F-22.
U.S. deputy secretary of defense Robert Work voiced his concern during Congressional hearings regarding the shrinking size of the U.S. Air Force, pointing out that the Air Force has shrunk from 88 squadrons just before the invasion of Afghanistan in 2001, down to just 54 squadrons today. Work suggested that many of the United States' fourth-generation fighters will need to soldier-on for longer than anticipated to keep the Air Force's fighter wings from dwindling further. Other studies have similarly suggested that the historic U.S. advantage over China and other potential adversaries is dwindling as the U.S. inventory shrinks and as other air forces modernize.
Despite months of negotiations, the final details on an anticipated deal to supply Rafale fighters to India continue to elude negotiators.
The Italian Air Force used the debut appearance of its Eurofighter Typhoons at this year's Red Flag exercise to test the airplane's multirole capabilities - a strategy that is reportedly aimed at garnering export sales as much as it is at providing training for Italian pilots.
The delivery of Japan's stealth fighter demonstrator for flight test has reportedly been delayed until at least April.
Russia has begun withdrawing at least some of its expeditionary force from Syria, broadcasting images of Russian fighters returning after a Russian-brokered ceasefire - which ensured the survival of the Assad government in Syria - went into effect. It is unclear, however, whether all of the Russian fighter aircraft will be withdrawn.
The Obama administration is pursuing a proposed sale of an additional ten F-16 fighters to Pakistan, despite a likely showdown with Congress over the sale.
Argentina and Israel have resumed talks over a possible sale of 14 Block 60 Kfir fighters to Argentina. Talks were suspended in November pending Argentine elections. The Kfir airframes would be refurbished from former Israeli air force stocks.