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Air-to-Air Combat

So Iraq finally bought those 18 F-16s that its been hoping to buy for years now.

From Reuters:

The value of the deal was not immediately known, but a senior U.S. military official said recently the offer on the table for the Iraqi government was valued at “roughly $3 billion.”

Iraqi and U.S. military officials have said strengthening its air force is one of Baghdad’s top priorities as U.S. troops prepare to leave by December 31, more than eight years after the invasion that ousted Saddam Hussein.

“The contract was signed … and a part of the contract cost was sent to the bank account of the company,” said Maliki’s media adviser, Ali al-Moussawi.

Lockheed said in a statement it looked forward to a partnership with Baghdad and was “pleased with the confidence Iraq places in our products.” It declined to comment on the specifics of the deal, referring questions to the Iraqi and U.S. governments.

The Pentagon said it was aware of news reports that Iraq had signed the agreement but did not immediately confirm and referred questions to Baghdad.

Iraq has long sought a combat jet for its rebuilt air force. The government delayed a planned purchase of F-16s in February to divert a $900 million down payment to its national food ration program to help quell street protests.

The piece goes on to say that Iraq and the U.S. have been negotiating for the F-16 Block 52 export model with sophisticated avionics and weapons in a deal that included maintenance and training.

Who, you may ask does Iraq need F-16s to “protect” itself from when its dealing with an insurgency that is better fought with turboprops, drones and helicopters? Hmm, can you say Iran?

The Internet was aflame this morning with talk of  NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly’s statement to 60 Minutes last night that his department has the ability to shoot down aircraft. Naturally, this prompted people to ask if the department has some type of surface-to-air-missiles. We’ve seen talk about the militarization of America’s police departments over the past few decades but this would take things to a new level!

Here’s what Kelly told 60 Minutes’ Scott Pelley:

Pelley: Do you mean to say that the NYPD has the means to take down an aircraft?

Kelly: Yes, I prefer not to get into the details but obviously this would be in a very extreme situation.

Pelley: You have the equipment and the training.

Kelly: Yes.

At the end of the day, it turns out that the NYPD isn’t running around with SL-AMRAAM’s (pronounced slam-ram) like the ones that defend Washington DC, Patriot missiles or even shoulder-fired Stinger missiles. Nope, the department’s anti-aircraft capacity comes from snipers trained to fire the famous Barrett .50 cal while flying in a police department helo. This is very similar to how the Coast Guard uses HH-65 Dolphin choppers to defend Washington DC against small, slow moving Cessna-style planes.

From the NY Post:

The weapon, which the department has had for four years, is stored in an NYPD safe and is deployed only for “special occasions,” such as when the president is in town, the sources added.

Let’s just hope the NYPD doesn’t start experimenting with using an AT-6 light attack plane for this mission like U.S. Northern Command did last November.

For more on helo-sniping, check out this post at sister site Kit Up!

Via Gizmodo and 60 Minutes.

Here’s an interesting little nugget of info that came out of this week’s Air Force Association conference in National Harbor, Md:

Hawker Beechcraft and Lockheed Martin’s AT-6 entry into the Air Force’s light attack competition has been tested by the Air National Guard in the Air Sovereignty Alert (ASA) mission that defends U.S. airspace.

The turboprop plane flew in one of U.S. Northern Command’s Falcon Virgo ASA exercises out of Andrews Air Force Base, Md., last November where it intercepted a slow, Cessna-style propeller plane four times in the skies above Washington DC, said Derek Hess, Hawker Beechcraft’s director of AT-6 development, yesterday during a briefing at the conference.

The AT-6 zeroed in on the Cessna-like plane using radar information that was sent to it via the ubiquitous Link-16 datalink and exchanged text messages with ground controllers and a pair of F-16 fighters. The AT-6 being offered to the USAF comes equipped with a glass cockpit based on the A-10C Warthog’s.

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Here’s a little update on this fighter design we showed you yesterday. It is indeed Boeing’s concept for a sixth-gen “air dominance” fighter for the U.S. Navy and Air Force, Daryl Davis, chief of Boeing’s Phantom Works division told me today. The plane, which is still just a concept, would have long-ranger range and fly at “higher mach numbers” (faster) than jets like the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter and be able to supercruise, according to Davis.

Boeing is funding its own research into sixh-gen fighter concepts since neither the Air Force or Navy is moving to kick off a new fighter program in the near future, said Davis. Pumping it’s own cash into advanced fighter R&D means that Boeing will have existing tech ready for a new airplane design when “the balloon goes up,” added Davis.

This is going to be pretty important in the years to come since, as Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz told reporters today that the Air Force is going to focus even more on buying proven, existing technologies that meet the service’s actual combat requirements not its “wants.”

Meanwhile, the Phantom Ray UAV is Going Into Storage:

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So, Iran’s second locally-grown fighter jet, the Saeqeh has officially become operational with the Iranian air force at the squadron level.

This may be a big deal for Iran but not so much for us. As you can see in the grainy photo above, the Saeqeh is in many ways a reverse-engineered F-5 Freedom Fighter. You know, Northrop’s 50-year old design for a cheap and easy to fly light-fighter that the U.S. could sell to its Third World allies during the height of the Cold War. One of those (then) allies was pre-revolutionary Iran, which bought about 125 of them in the 1960s and 1970s. The Saeqeh is based on the F-5 body with Russian weapons and canted tails, among other “upgrades.” Tehran insists that the Saeqeh is on par with the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps F/A-18  Hornet. One thing’s for sure, Russia and China probably don’t need to worry about the Saeqeh competing with their latest fighter designs.

Here’s Iran’s semiofficial FARS news agency’s announcement of the plane’s entry into operational service.

Via Alert5.