Netherlands begins populating second F-35 squadron

by Gareth Jennings

The last of 24 F-35As arriving at Leeuwarden Air Base on 12 January. At the same time, the first aircraft began arriving at Volkel Air Base as the Royal Netherlands Air Force began the process of populating its second F-35 location and unit. (Royal Netherlands Air Force)

The Netherlands has begun populating its second unit for operating the Lockheed Martin F-35A Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter (JSF), with the news that the first aircraft had arrived at Volkel Air Base.

The Royal Netherlands Air Force (RNLAF) announced on 12 January that, with the last of 24 F-35As now delivered to 322 Squadron at Leeuwarden Air Base, the first aircraft for 313 Squadron have now begun arriving at Volkel Air Base also.

The RNLAF is to procure at least 46 F-35As (of which 37 are on order) to replace its fleet of Lockheed Martin F-16AM/BM Fighting Falcons. In October 2019 the Dutch Ministry of Defence announced it would stand up a third operating squadron for the F-35A, although it did not give its planned location.


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China's XAC reveals possible new tanker variant

by Andreas Rupprecht & Alessandra Giovanzanti

China's Xi'an Aircraft Industrial Corporation (XAC) is progressing rapidly with the development of both the Y-20B heavy transport aircraft fitted with Shenyang WS-20 high-bypass turbofan engines and its KJ-600 carrier-capable airborne early warning (AEW) aircraft, satellite imagery captured in late November 2021 shows.

The images – published on 12 January 2022 on several social media platforms – show at least four WS-20-powered Y-20B transport and three green KJ-600 AEW aircraft at the Xi'an-Yanliang airfield, which is home to both a XAC plant and the China Flight Test Establishment. Together with one more already painted KJ-600 prototype, four of these aircraft are confirmed to be in existence.

At least two of the Y-20Bs appear to be fitted with in-flight refuelling pods, suggesting that besides the Y-20U dedicated aerial refuelling aircraft, which is being built in larger numbers for the People's Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF), a new tanker variant based on the improved Y-20B is under development, possibly for the PLAAF or the People's Liberation Army Naval Air Force.

The Y-20B had its maiden flight in November 2020 and in October 2021, a second aircraft was confirmed.


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Philippines to order more Black Hawk helos

by Gareth Jennings

The Philippines is to acquire a further 32 Black Hawk helicopters to add to the 16 received. (Lockheed Martin)

The Philippines is to order 32 additional Lockheed Martin S-70i Black Hawk utility helicopters to add to the 16 already acquired (of which one was recently lost in an accident).

Secretary of National Defense Delfin Lorenzana said on 16 January that the country's recent disaster relief experiences have underscored the need to replace the armed forces' ageing Bell UH-1 ‘Huey' helicopters with more Black Hawks.

“The lack of transport planes and helicopters have never been more acute during the [Covid-19] pandemic and in the aftermath of Typhoon Odette. This was exacerbated by our ageing Hueys that have become uneconomical to maintain. The brand new Black Hawks bore the brunt of the work during these critical times,” Lorenzana said. “Upon the instruction of the president, we are procuring additional 32 brand new S-70i Black Hawk helicopters,” he added.


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Pyongyang launches ‘railway missiles' in response to US sanctions

by Jon Grevatt & Rahul Udoshi

A woman walks past a television screen in Seoul showing a news broadcast with footage of North Korea's most recent missile test, which featured what appeared to be KN-23 short-range ballistic missiles. (Jung Yeon-je/AFP via Getty Images)

Two missiles that North Korea launched on 14 January were fired from the Korean People's Army's (KPA's) newly established railway-borne regiment, Pyongyang has said.

The government's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said on 15 January that the firing drill “checked the proficiency” of the missile regiment's procedures.

Janes analysis of images issued by KCNA suggests that the weapon is the KN-23 short-range ballistic missiles (SRBMs), the same type that the railway-borne missile regiment test-launched in September 2021.

KCNA also confirmed that the projectiles, which it termed as “tactical guided missiles”, were launched from North Pyongan Province, a northwestern region bordering China.

“The drill was aimed at checking the alert posture of the combatants of the regiment and bolstering their ability of discharging firepower mission,” it added.

The KCNA report said the missile launches were organised and executed at “short notice” and “precisely struck the set target” in the Sea of Japan (also known as East Sea).


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The Netherlands has begun populating its second unit for operating the Lockheed Martin F-35A Lightni...

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