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F-15E Strike Eagles Execute First Operational Tactical Munitions Ferry With The New “Bomb Truck” Configuration

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F-15E Bomb Truck
The 332 Air Expeditionary Wing blazed new trails when they configured six F-15E Strike Eagles to carry extra bombs to bare base locations, taking off from an undisclosed location 25 April 2021. This new configuration is allowing the Air Force to increase combat capabilities, by carrying more munitions than the Strike Eagle can use on one mission, to a forward operating base. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Paul Duquette)

Six F-15E Strike Eagles relocated as part of an Agile Combat Employment operation, in “Bomb Truck” config, each bringing 12 JDAMs and 4 SDBs.

Just two months after it was tested at Eglin Air Force Base, the F-15Es of the U.S. Air Force used for the first time the new “Bomb Truck” configuration during an operational mission in the U.S. Central Command theater. More precisely, six Strike Eagles of the 494th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron relocated to Al Dhafra Air Base (United Arab Emirates) on April 25 as part of an Agile Combat Employment (ACE) operation, bringing with them a heavy load of munitions to sustain combat missions from the new base.

The six F-15Es in “Bomb Truck” configuration are part of a larger deployment of 18 Strike Eagles of the 494th Fighter Squadron “Panthers”, which deployed from their homebase at RAF Lakenheath to an “undisclosed location” earlier this month. This location is likely Muwaffaq Salti/Al-Azraq Air Base in Jordan, where Lakenheath’s other F-15E squadron, the 492nd Fighter Squadron “Bolars”, was deployed in 2020.

The Bolars were relieved by the 391st Fighter Squadron “Bold Tigers” from Mountain Home AFB (Idaho), which are now being in turn relieved by the Panthers.

“These F-15Es are carrying what is called a ‘tac-ferry’ load out. What that means is we can maneuver using Agile Combat Employment, and be postured to go forward from a main operating base,” said Lt. Col. Curtis Culver, 494th EFS Director of Operations. “This is the next step for the Air Force in Agile Combat Employment. So instead of having multi-capable Airmen that are exercising maneuver and logistics, now we’re doing that with sustained munitions to project power.”

Each of the six F-15Es in “Bomb Truck” configuration was carrying 12x 500 kg-class JDAMs (Joint Direct Attack Munition), both the base GBU-38 and laser-guided variant GBU-54, and four GBU-39 SDBs (Small Diameter Bomb). In this configuration, the Strike Eagle is actually carrying twice its standard bomb load, as testing at Eglin AFB allowed to clear for use all six attachment points on each “Fast Pack”, instead of just three. Back then, the USAF noted that not all the JDAMs carried can be employed in a single mission, so it is possible that the six bombs mounted on the upper hardpoints of the “Fast Packs” may not be cleared for release in combat, but only for ferry flights.

F-15E Bomb Truck
The 332 Air Expeditionary Wing blazed new trails when they configured six F-15E Strike Eagles to carry extra bombs to bare base locations, taking off from an undisclosed location 25 April 2021. This new configuration is allowing the Air Force to increase combat capabilities, by carrying more munitions than the Strike Eagle can use on one mission, to a forward operating base. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Paul Duquette)

“We were asked to come out and support combat missions with a very short turnaround, and with the bombs not being built previously here for us. By carrying more bombs than we’d actually carry to drop, we’re setting up the initial days of combat,” said Capt. Jessica Niswonger, 494th EFS Weapon System Officer (WSO) and mission planner. After witnessing the arrival of the six F-15Es in “Bomb Truck” configuration, Capt. Niswonger added: “It was a great moment. I’m just glad to have the team here and now we’re going to get ready for combat ops.”

The forward deployed 494th EFS with its F-15E “Bomb Truck” aircraft will begin flying air tasking orders immediately to support U.S. Central Command priorities, according to the USAF press release. It is not clear if the relocation of the six F-15Es to Al Dhafra Air Base is related to the flux of support fires that will protect US troops during the Afghanistan drawdown. Among those we can find four B-52H Stratofortress bombers of the 5th Bomb Wing from Minot Air Force Base (North Dakota) that were deployed last week to Al Udeid Air Base (Qatar).

Training for ACE operations has become routine for U.S. Air Forces Europe units with the goal of being strategically predictable but operationally unpredictable, as it was originally mentioned in the 2018 National Defense Strategy, and capable of operating everywhere with minimal support. This concept can also be found in the new Air Force mission statement released earlier this month: “To fly, fight, and win … airpower anytime, anywhere”. The ability to fight and win with airpower is considered, in fact, the key factor to facing emerging competitors and near-peer adversaries.

According to the U.S. Air Force, the ACE concept envisions the ability to generate airpower from austere airfields with varying levels of capacity and support in a contested environment, dispersing forces across different or remote airports and support their operations with fewer specialists. The purpose is “to become more agile in our execution, more strategic in our deterrence, and more resilient in our capability. Agility, Deterrence, and Resiliency are essential to defense and operational capability in a contested environment,” the U.S. Air Force in Europe website says when explaining the ACE Concept of Operations.

The latest ACE training operation is currently in progress in Poland, where twenty F-15s, both E and C variants, and four F-16s deployed from their homebases RAF Lakenheath and Spangdahlem Air Base (Germany), respectively, as part of Aviation Detachment Rotation (AvRot) 21-2.

Stefano D’Urso is a contributor for TheAviationist based in Lecce, Italy. He’s a full-time engineering student and aspiring pilot. In his spare time he’s also an amateur aviation photographer and flight simulation enthusiast.

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Source: https://theaviationist.com/2021/04/29/f-15e-bomb-truck/

Aviation

407 Squadron defends Canada for 80 years

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From Comox Valley Record – link to source story – thanks to CW

The Comox-based squadron celebrating special anniversary

ERIN HALUSCHAK | 7 May 2021

A 407 Squadron crew returns from an anti-submarine patrol during the Second World War. It was here their aggressive reputation earned them the moniker “The Demons.” Canadian Forces photo/submitted

A 407 Squadron crew returns from an anti-submarine patrol during the Second World War. It was here their aggressive reputation earned them the moniker “The Demons.” Canadian Forces photo/submitted

Eighty years ago, 407 Long Range Patrol Squadron was created with many responsibilities and different aircraft, but one principle has stayed the same: no matter the mission, the crews of 407 Squadron always get the job done.

Stood up on May 8, 1941 at RAF Thorney Island in England as a Coastal Strike squadron, it was tasked with attacking Axis shipping while flying the Lockheed Hudson bomber. It was in this role that the squadron earned its nickname “Demons” for its aggressive and unrelenting low-level bombing runs, destroying or damaging an estimated 500,000 tons of enemy supplies.

In 1943, it was changed to a general reconnaissance squadron and tasked to protect allied shipping from the menacing wolf packs of German U-boats, flying the behemoth Vickers Wellington bomber. Until the end of the Second World War, the “Demons” wreaked havoc on the U-boats, sinking four and damaging seven, thus helping to keep the vital supply lines from North America safe. It was here during the Battle of the Atlantic that the “Demons” lived up to their name.

The squadron was disbanded on June 4, 1945 following the end of the war but reactivated on July 1, 1952 in its current home of Comox as 407 Maritime Reconnaissance Squadron.

Flying the Avro Lancaster Mark 10 MR, its primary mission was anti-submarine warfare along with search-and-rescue and national sovereignty patrols. In 1958 the “Demons” traded in the Lancaster for the CP-122 Neptune, an aircraft specifically designed for anti-submarine warfare.

In 1968, they traded the Neptune for the CP-107 Argus, a Canadian-made aircraft with improved sensors and endurance. This allowed the squadron to begin patrolling the vast expanses of the Canadian Arctic. In 1974, a 407 crew flew a maritime patrol from Comox to the Aleutian Islands and back at a time of 31 hours and six minutes, setting a world record for the longest un-refueled flight and putting 407 Squadron in the history books once again.

On June 11, 1981 the “Demons,” now designated as maritime patrol squadron, entered the era of computerized warfare and took possession of its current workhorse, the CP-140 Aurora. A combination of Lockheed’s P-3 Orion and S-3 Viking aircrafts, the Aurora brought with it state-of-the-art reconnaissance, surveillance and anti-submarine capabilities. This made 407 Squadron one of the most versatile squadrons in the Canadian Armed Forces, able to conduct a multitude of missions like anti-submarine and anti-surface warfare, search-and-rescue, sovereignty patrols, maritime interdiction, assistance to law enforcement and overland reconnaissance.

The squadron routinely works with allied and partner nations as well as other Canadian departments like DFO, the RCMP, the Coast Guard, Transport Canada and NORAD.

Some of its current operations include counter-narcotics enforcement off Central and South America, sanctions enforcement around North Korea, searching for illegal and unregulated fishing in the Pacific Ocean, counter-smuggling patrols in the western Indian Ocean, search and rescue missions at home, enforcing sovereignty along Canada’s west and north coasts, and tracking submarines all around the world.

From the North Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean, Afghanistan and Iraq to the Indian Ocean and East China Sea, the “Demons” are the eyes and ears of Canada’s military and after 80 years, they still get the job done.

– Capt. Ian Paone/Canadian Forces

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Source: https://canadianaviationnews.wordpress.com/2021/05/07/407-squadron-defends-canada-for-80-years/

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United Airlines Uses The Crisis To Diversify Latin American Network

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Latin America has been a strong performer through the recovery. With the big three US airlines and smaller peers heavily contesting the geography, passengers have no dearth of options when it comes to choosing a flight itinerary. Sensing an opportunity, United Airlines has used the crisis to diversify its Latin America network.

United Boeing 737-800
United Airlines has used returning demand for travel to Latin America to diversify its route network, adding new nonstops from its coastal gateways. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying

United has diversified its Latin America network

Speaking on the airline’s first-quarter earnings call, Andrew Nocelle, Chief Commercial Officer at United, discussed the carrier’s international network. While long-haul demand has been largely depressed, Latin America has proven strong for the airline, as he stated:

“As we look forward to our capacity levels in most parts in near-Latin America are now above 2019 levels. Wherever we look in Latin America or Europe, where access is permitted, we see leisure demand in 2019 levels or greater.

One bright performer has been Mexico. Mr. Nocelle stated that, after the US announced it would institute a mandatory testing requirement for inbound international travelers, United feared a drop in travel demand for Mexico. So, the carrier cut capacity, expecting the reduction. However, the airline was wrong and had to go back and add capacity to the market again.

United has seen travel demand come back sharply for points in near-field Latin America. Photo: Getty Images

Latin America is also a realm of new opportunities for United. Mr. Nocella discussed how the airline was responding to travel demand for Latin America:

“This summer, we’re planning to be at our 2019 levels already and there’s very few parts of our airline where we’re at that level. We have a great Latin American franchise. However, it’s been historically very Houston-centric and we’ve taken the opportunity in the recent months and going forward to diversify that portfolio to now include more out of Los Angeles, Washington and New York and our intention is to keep that.”

United’s Latin America expansion

This month, United is operating more flights to Mexico, the Caribbean, Central America, and South America than it did in May of 2019. Much of this came from both resumptions in existing Latin American routes and new additions to the carrier’s route network.

This includes a significant expansion from hubs like Denver, Los Angeles, and San San Francisco to points in Central America, such as Belize and Costa Rica. Washington D.C. received additional service to the Caribbean, as did Newark, which United uses as its New York City gateway.

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Much of United’s expansion focused on short- and medium-haul flying. Photo: Getty Images

United has also brought back much of its long-haul international flying. This includes returning flights to Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, and Santiago, among other cities. Note that not all of those flights are operating with the same pre-crisis frequencies.

Improving Latin American revenue

In the first quarter of 2021, United took in $392 million in revenue from Latin America, as defined by the US Department of Transportation (DOT). Delta took in $381 million, while American Airlines received $482 million in revenue from Latin America.

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In the first quarter of 2019, United took in $975 million in revenue from Latin America. Delta received $964 million in revenue from the region. American Airlines, historically a powerful player in Latin America, took in a whopping $1.4 billion in revenue from Latin America.

United Boeing 787-9
United has also brought back many long-haul routes to Latin America. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying

Now that Delta Air Lines has a partnership with LATAM, that airline will be a much larger force to contend with in Latin America. With partners in Copa, Azul, and Avianca, United has also been a growing force in the region. However, it has maintained a relatively limited network there, funneling most passengers through Houston.

American has a robust Latin American network, with flights running to several countries out of Dallas and Miami. After rebuilding its network and gaining new partnerships, other hubs like New York and Charlotte are also seeing increased services to points south of the US.

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United Boeing 777-300ER
United is looking to diversify its network to better compete against other airlines. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying

All of this indicates that United believes it needs to diversify to compete more effectively. Much of the added new routes out of other hubs like Denver, Los Angeles, Washington D.C., and Newark are short- and medium-haul flights to points in Central America and the Caribbean. Many countries in these regions have been open for Americans since mid-to-late 2020, which is why United has pointed more of its planes there.

Ultimately, diversifying its hub network to Latin America means more itineraries that the airline can offer and compete against its network peers in the region whether all of these new routes are still around when Europe, Australia, and Asia open up remains to be seen.

Do you think United made the right choice in diversifying its Latin American route network? Let us know in the comments!

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Source: https://simpleflying.com/united-latin-america-diversification/

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The Shaunavon Airport to Receive Provincial Funding

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From Swift Current Online – link to source story

By Penny Schreiner | 6 May 2021

The Shaunavon Airport will receive CAP funding. Photo by Penny Schreiner

Recently the Government of Saskatchewan announced that they would be investing $1.5 million in the Community Airport Partnership Program.

This funding provides improvements to 19 community airports across the province, and Shaunavon is one of those communities that will be receiving funding for work at their airport.

The Town of Shaunavon will receive $3,500 in funding for replacement of an airport beacon light.

Shaunavon Mayor, Kyle Bennett, said, “Ya, we’ve got an existing beacon. It’s a high powered light bulb , so they need replaced every so often. And, with this grant from the government we’re able to save our ratepayers 3500 bucks by replacing this through this program.”

Bennett adds that they are hoping to replace the beacon light as soon as possible.

Since 2007, more than $10.5 million has been invested in Saskatchewan’s community airports. When coupled with 50-50 matching community contributions, the CAP Program has generated more then $21 million in airport improvements.

A total of 38 different communities have benefited since the program  began.

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Source: https://canadianaviationnews.wordpress.com/2021/05/07/the-shaunavon-airport-to-receive-provincial-funding/

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Airline industry group wants Ottawa to follow U.K.’s lead, help bring in restart plan

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From City News 1130 – link to source story

BY THE CANADIAN PRESS | May 7, 2021

OTTAWA — An industry group is calling on Ottawa to follow the United Kingdom’s lead and help bring in a restart plan for Canada’s airline sector.

Mike McNaney, president and chief executive officer of the National Airlines Council of Canada, says the U.K. has announced that starting May 17 it will allow travel to and from a select list of countries.

He says travellers from those destinations will not need to quarantine upon entering the U.K.

McNaney says the initial list of countries announced Friday will expand over time as the public health situation improves.

He says it is time for the federal government to work with the industry in Canada to develop a similar plan.

Travel restrictions introduced through the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic have been catastrophic for the airline sector, as passenger numbers and profits plummeted and tens of thousands of workers lost their jobs.

“In the midst of the pandemic in February, the British government recognized the critical need to plan for the eventual safe reopening of international travel, and began working with its aviation sector to develop a restart process,” McNaney said Friday in a release.

“On behalf of the hundreds of thousands of Canadians who have lost their jobs in the aviation and travel sector, and the scores of communities that have lost service, it is critical that the federal government now follow the U.K. example and work immediately with industry to develop a restart plan.”

McNaney said the Canadian aviation sector has called on the federal government for months to develop a safe restart strategy that outlines the rules that must be met to begin addressing border and travel restrictions.

He said the strategy should use a science-based approach that sets out how Canada will deal with vaccinated and non-vaccinated passengers, how quarantine and testing measures will be adjusted, and how it will ensure appropriate electronic capture of health data to facilitate international travel.

Last month before the new federal budget was tabled, McNaney said the council hoped the budget would include a safe aviation restart strategy that included testing and contract tracing but would avoid mandatory vaccine passports.

The council represents large national and international passenger air carriers including Air Canada, Air Transat, Jazz Aviation LP and WestJet.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 7, 2021

The Canadian Press

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Source: https://canadianaviationnews.wordpress.com/2021/05/07/airline-industry-group-wants-ottawa-to-follow-u-k-s-lead-help-bring-in-restart-plan/

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