First F-16 rolls off new production line

by Gareth Jennings

The first F-16 Fighting Falcon combat aircraft has rolled off the new production line in Greenville, South Carolina, Lockheed Martin announced on 21 November.

In a message posted from its official Twitter account titled, ‘Guess who's back‘, Lockheed Martin heralded, “a new era of Falcon is about to take flight”, with a video showing the first Block 70 aircraft for Bahrain being rolled out of the facility.

”I am thrilled to share the first F-16 Block 70 jet has completed the Final Assembly and Checkout (FACO) and paint phases at our production facility in Greenville, South Carolina. The jet is now preparing for its first flight […] More to come and eyes forward!,” Integrated Fighter Group vice-president and general manager at Lockheed Martin, OJ Sanchez, said on his LinkedIn page.

The milestone marks the completion of the first newbuild F-16 since Lockheed Martin closed down its line for the aircraft in Fort Worth, Texas, in 2017, electing at that time to undertake all future production in Greenville. Formerly an F-16 maintenance and sustainment facility, the Greenville site spans 276 acres and features 16 hangars, employing a workforce of more than 700 people.

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UK MoD issues PQQ for ISR space project

by Olivia Savage

Project Oberon will comprise a cluster of three SAR-based satellites as part of the ISTARI programme. (Airbus)

The UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) has issued a pre-qualification questionnaire (PQQ) for Project Oberon, a programme that seeks high-resolution synthetic aperture radar (SAR) satellites.

According to the PQQ released by the MoD on 24 November, the contract will involve a cluster of three satellites equipped with an active SAR payload and, at a lower priority, passive radio frequency (RF) functionality, which the supplier will be required to operate.

The main contract is expected to demand a “full end-to-end solution including inter alia; design, development, manufacture, assembly, integration, test, launch, commissioning, operations, and eventual disposal”, the PQQ stated.

Up to GBP70 million (USD84.7 million) has been earmarked for the 36-month contract.

A further contract option is expected as part of the project – this will require a supplier to deliver mission operations, training, and support (per year) for a further six years, as well as mission integration and implementation into the ground architecture of the multisatellite intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) ‘ISTARI' programme, the MoD detailed.


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Autonomous UAV winch trialled at AWE for British Army

by Olivia Savage

Sparrow (pictured), attached to a third-party UAV, which is lifting a 5 kg mock payload. (Janes/Olivia Savage)

A novel air-ground payload transfer device intended for unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) has been trialled at the British Army Warfighting Experiment (AWE) Sustain & Protect (S&P) programme at Portsmouth Naval Base.

During AWE on 22 November, BMT Global demonstrated Sparrow, a prototype robotic unit that enables the autonomous delivery and collection of payloads from a UAV.

Attached to a UAV, Sparrow can autonomously descend and ascend to deliver and collect payloads, it thereby allows the UAV to remain at a suitable height while avoiding the difficult urban terrain beneath, James Campbell, Sparrow project lead at BMT Global, told Janes at AWE.

Campbell said that the system is actually “best described as a suspended UAV”, this is because it has four fans like a quadcopter and is fully autonomous, able to manoeuvre itself, and identify objects on the ground. The key difference with Sparrow is that the fans are designed to counter wind and enable manoeuvrability, rather than for lift.


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US military backs claim that Iranian UAV hit tanker

by Jeremy Binnie

An image released by the US Navy's 5th Fleet shows some of the parts of Shahed-136 that were recovered from Pacific Zircon . (US 5th Fleet)

The US Navy's 5th Fleet released evidence to support its assertion that an Iranian unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) was used to attack a tanker in the north of the Arabian Sea on 15 November.

“The aerial drone that hit the commercial tanker was identified as a Shahed-136 UAV, fitting a historical pattern of Iran's increasing use of a lethal capability directly or through its proxies across the Middle East,” it said in a 22 November statement.

It released an image of the UAV remnants recovered after the attack and a diagram of the aircraft showing where several parts come from. Most of the components looked similar to ones used by smaller Shahed-131s recovered in Ukraine with the exception of a vertical stabiliser that is unique to the larger model.


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The first F-16 Fighting Falcon combat aircraft has rolled off the new production line in Greenville,...

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