Pitch Black 2018 Flankers Down Under EXERCISE REPORT
‘Legacy’ Hornet special
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Air superiority Control of the skies scrutinised
RAF100 Typhoon flypast
October 2018 Issue 367 £4.95 www.airforcesmonthly.com
Behind the scenes
Dutch Chinooks at work French test pilot school The RNLAF’s heavy-lift rotors
Taking flight with EPNER
Jordanian air power
Modernisation in the Middle East
LEADERSHIP • OPERATORS • MILESTONES • TECHNOLOGY Many of those associated with Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II programme have referred to this revolutionary fighter aircraft as a game changer. This 100-page special from the team behind Combat Aircraft magazine details the F-35’s journey to date. Features include: UK LEADERSHIP: UNLOCKING THE POTENTIAL Air Commodore Lincoln Taylor, Assistant Chief of Staff, Capability Delivery – Combat Air, Royal Air Force, explains how important the F-35 is to the UK. UK LIGHTNING FORCE: ‘DAMBUSTERS’ RETURN HOME On June 6, the British Lightning programme took a major step forward as No 617 Squadron ‘Dambusters’ brought its first aircraft back to RAF Marham, Norfolk. TEST REVIEW: A TEST OF CHARACTER The F-35 accomplished the final developmental test flight of the System Development and Demonstration (SDD) phase of the programme on April 11, 2018. PLUS: In-depth reviews of the F-35 in service with the US Air Force, the US Marine Corps and the US Navy.
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US-Japanese co-operation in the Asia Pacific: a pair of USAF B-52H bombers, assigned to the 96th Expeditionary Bomb Squadron, from Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana, participate in bilateral training with JASDF F-15J fighters on July 26. The bombers were deployed to Andersen AFB, Guam, as part of Continuous Bomber Presence (CBP) operations. USAF/ Master Sgt E Taylor Worley
US or UK could help build Japan’s new fighter T
he Japan Air Self-Defense Force (JASDF) is seeking to introduce a new fighter around 2030 to succeed the service’s Mitsubishi F-2 fleet. Contractors in the US and UK are looking on with interest. Lockheed Martin has offered to co-develop Tokyo’s next-generation fighter. Described by Japanese media as, “an upgraded version of the F-22”, the project would provide the Japanese defence industry with more than 50% of development and production work. Previously, Washington had been unwilling to export the Raptor to Japan due to the risk of technology leaks to rival powers. At the same time, Lockheed is offering a similar fighter design to the US Air Force, defined as an F-22/F-35 “hybrid”. The company’s proposal to Japan is likely to incorporate significant local industrial involvement. Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI) would provide the wings, while Mitsubishi Electric would be responsible for
avionics. Compared with the Raptor, the new fighter would offer increased range and stealth coatings that are easier to maintain. Meanwhile, the Japan MoD is also in talks with the UK over a potential joint fighter project. Japanese Minister of Defense Itsunori Onodera confirmed an “exchange of opinions” between the two countries. Any such proposal would almost certainly be based on the Tempest future fighter, unveiled at the Farnborough International Airshow in July. Japan first flew an indigenous X-2 stealth technology demonstrator – developed by MHI – in April 2016. Work is also under way on the IHI XF9-1 engine that could provide a production fighter with a powerplant similar to the F-22’s F119. Increasingly, however, the Japan MoD is looking to collaborate with a foreign partner in its combat aircraft plans. Back in February the Japan MoD’s Acquisition, Technology & Logistics Agency (ATLA) issued its latest request for information (RFI) for
future air combat technologies to support its F-3 project. BAE Systems, Boeing, Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman are all thought to have responded. At this stage Tokyo isn’t ruling out any options. As well as joint development of a new warplane, it could still pursue an indigenous fighter programme, tailor a new aircraft based on an existing (foreign) design or buy an off-the-shelf solution. Whatever form Tokyo’s future fighter programme takes, it’s notable that Japan, the UK and US – all F-35 customers – are already planning for the next generation of combat aircraft.
Editor: Thomas Newdick Assistant Editor: Jamie Hunter World Air Forces Correspondent: Alan Warnes Editorial Contact: [email protected]
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03 Comment AFM Oct2018.indd 3
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Next Issue On sale from October 18
#367 OCTOBER 2018 // 3
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October 2018 #367
Features 3 Comment
AFM’s opinion on the hot topics in military aviation.
30 Competing with the best The French academy for test pilots, the École du Personnel Navigant d’Essais et de Réception continues to develop in a fast-paced world. Frédéric Lert profiles this fascinating unit.
46 Always the first
SUBSCRIBE & SAVE! Subscribe to AFM and make great savings on cover price! See pages 26-27 for details.
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In the year in which it celebrates a halfcentury of existence and 35 years of operating the M-18 Dromader, Dirk Jan de Ridder visits the firefighting specialists of the Hellenic Air Force’s 359 MAEDY.
50 Esprit de Corps
It may be a reserve squadron flying ‘legacy’ aircraft, but Dallas-based VMFA-112 is an exemplary US Marine Corps fighter unit and is ready to go to war at a moment’s notice. Frank Visser visits the squadron and sees how it maintains its fighting spirit.
56 Dutch helo training: the next level
The cream of rotary-wing pilots and loadmasters are taken to their limits during the prestigious weapons instructor training courses held by the Dutch Defence Helicopter Command. Ludo Mennes and Frank Visser report on this year’s exercise at Gilze-
9/10/2018 1:12:32 PM
Cover: US Air Force F-15C Eagle 86-0172 ‘LN’ approaches the camera ship en route to RAF Fairford, Gloucestershire, for the Royal International Air Tattoo this summer. The jet, from the US Air Forces in Europe’s 493rd Fighter Squadron ‘Grim Reapers’ based at RAF Lakenheath, Suffolk, represents the cutting edge of US air defence in the region. In this issue, regular columnist Air Marshal (ret’d) Greg Bagwell CB CBE looks at the air superiority mission in which the Eagle – with its 104:0 kill ratio in aerial combat – remains a dominant force. Rich Cooper Below: This month’s extensive coverage of the ‘legacy’ F/A-18 Hornet includes a report from Exercise Pitch Black 2018 in Australia, where the type – known locally as the ‘classic’ Hornet – was the most numerous RAAF fast jet participant. Here, a two-ship of ‘classics’ await their turn on the tanker while an RAAF F/A-18F Super Hornet tops up. There’s also coverage of the US Marine Corps’ VMFA-112 ‘Cowboys’ flying the F/A-18++ and the B-model trainer, and an assessment of Finland’s efforts to replace its F/A-18C/D fleet. Roy Choo
News All the world’s military aviation news, by region 6-7 .................Headlines 8-10 ...............United Kingdom 11-14 ..............Continental Europe 15-18 .............North America 19...................Middle East 20-21 .............Russia & CIS 22-23 .............Latin America 24-25 .............Asia Pacific 28...................Africa 29 ..................Australasia
Regular features 34 INTEL REPORT: Fulcrum faces the future
Alan Warnes reviews NATO’s existing MiG-29 fleets as the iconic Cold War fighter edges towards obsolescence. He also talks to Lockheed Martin and Saab about Slovakia’s decision to replace its Fulcrums with the F-16V and not the Gripen.
40 FORCE REPORT: Defending Formosa Part two
AFM completes its analysis of the Republic of China Air Force, with Marco Muntz and Wiebe Karsten turning their attention to its transport and liaison, search and rescue, and training assets along with its prospects for the future.
49 Feedback AFM’s letters page.
70 EXERCISE REPORT: Pitch Black 2018
Widely credited as the Royal Australian Air Force’s most important exercise, the biennial Pitch Black was this year its largest and most complex to date. Roy Choo visits the ‘Top End’ to find out more.
84 COMMANDER’S UPDATE BRIEFING: Air superiority
Rijen while Sven van Roij looks back on five years of RNLAF service for the CH-47F.
62 Jordan modernises
AFM was granted an exclusive opportunity to interview Royal Jordanian Air Force commander Maj Gen Yousef A Al-Hnaity to discuss recent changes and the future of the air arm. Marco Dijkshoorn reports.
74 Eye of the storm
This year, the Syrian Air Defence Force has been on the receiving end of attacks from Israeli, US, British and French strike aircraft and cruise missiles. Tim Ripley examines the deadly duels in the skies over Syria.
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80 Finland forges ahead Derek Bower evaluates the Finnish aerospace industry as the nation’s air force celebrates its centenary while preparing to replace its Hornets.
88 Wildcat shows its mettle
Thomas Newdick visited Royal Naval Air Station Yeovilton to speak to Army Air Corps Wildcat AH1 crews, recently returned from a successful debut deployment to Estonia.
94 Typhoon tribute
Jamie Hunter joined the RAF Typhoon Force as it provided a centrepiece to the incredible centenary celebration flypast.
Air Power Association President, Air Marshal (ret’d) Greg Bagwell CB CBE, describes the fundamentals of the modern air superiority mission, which can trace its roots back to the battle for control of the skies during World War One.
87 Book reviews
AFM evaluates some of the latest offerings in aviation literature, including titles on the EMB-312 Tucano and Italian F-104.
Dave Allport details the world’s most recent military accidents and examines the recent report into last November’s loss of a US Air Force T-38C at Laughlin Air Force Base, Texas.
98 Coming up
See what’s featuring in your AFM next month.
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F-35B prepares for trials on HMS Queen Elizabeth THE ROYAL Navy aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth departed her home port of Portsmouth on August 19 bound for the east coast of the United States to embark F-35B fighters for the first time. The 65,000-tonne warship will receive two F-35B test aircraft from the Integrated Test Force (ITF) based at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Maryland, during the four-month WESTLANT 18 deployment. The ‘orange wired’ test aircraft are expected to conduct 500 take-offs and landings during an 11-week period at sea. The first-of-class flight trials (FOCFTs) will be supported by around 200 personnel, including pilots, engineers, maintainers and data analysts. Weather and serviceability permitting, the first deck landing was expected in the last week in September. The developmental trials will define the operating parameters of the aircraft
and ship, in a range of conditions, and follow successful rotary-wing trials earlier this year. The ITF team includes four F-35B developmental test pilots: three British, one American. The British personnel are Cdr Nathan Gray, RN, Sqn Ldr Andy Edgell, RAF, and civilian test pilot Pete ‘Wizzer’ Wilson from BAE Systems. They will be joined by a major from the US Marine Corps. Exercises will also prove the carrier’s ability to operate with other nations’ maritime and aviation assets, as well as landing Royal Marines and their equipment ashore in the US. The commanding officer of HMS Queen Elizabeth, Capt Jerry Kyd, said: “This deployment will be another first for my ship. Crossing a major ocean with 1,500 sailors, aircrew and marines embarked, and the spectre of the first F-35B Lightning landing on the deck in September, is very exciting for us all.”
Above: HMS ‘Queen Elizabeth’ departs her home port of Portsmouth, bound for the US to take part in the WESTLANT 18 deployment. Crown Copyright
Commander UK Carrier Strike Group (COMUKCSG), Cdre Andrew Betton, will take command of the ship and other units of his task group, embarking in HMS Queen Elizabeth with his headquarters staff. On departing for the US, the carrier was joined by RFA Tiderace and the Type 23 frigate HMS Monmouth, as well as Merlin HM2 helicopters from 820
Naval Air Squadron (NAS), RNAS Culdrose, Cornwall; three newly upgraded Commando Merlin HC4s from 845 NAS, RNAS Yeovilton, Somerset; and a contingent of Royal Marines from 42 Commando, Plymouth. The Merlin HM2s from 820 NAS joined the task group after Exercise Joint Warrior, during which crews practised
anti-submarine and antisurface warfare, search and rescue and casualty evacuation. The Merlin HC4s will provide deployed search and rescue (DSAR) to support the F-35B trials and maritime intratheatre lift (MITL) in support of the task group. Operational testing, using British F-35Bs, is scheduled to take place on board the carrier next year.
Above: Cdr Nathan Gray and US Marine Corps Maj Michael Lippert, both F-35 Pax River ITF test pilots, conducted ski jump takeoffs with F-35Bs on August 28, as part of work-ups for the FOCFTs aboard the HMS ‘Queen Elizabeth’. US DoD
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Boeing wins MQ-25 contract THE US Navy has selected Boeing to build the MQ-25A Stingray carrier-based unmanned refuelling tanker. Its $805m engineering and manufacturing development contract, awarded on August 30, calls for four air vehicle prototypes. Ultimately, the navy plans to buy up to 72 Stingrays to relieve the refuelling burden on the F/A18F fleet. Boeing plans to perform the MQ-25 work in St Louis, Missouri. The company’s wingbody-tail UAV configuration fought off competition from rival designs pitched by General Atomics Aeronautical Systems (GA-ASI) and Lockheed
Martin, and Boeing was the only company to build a prototype. The USN plans for delivery of a first MQ-25A developmental aircraft in fiscal 2020, followed by a maiden flight in fiscal 2021 and declaration of combat readiness as early as 2024. The 2019 National Defense Authorization Act enacted on August 13 calls for the navy to modify the Nimitzclass aircraft carrier George Washington (CVN 73) to accommodate the MQ-25 during its four-year refuelling and complex overhaul (RCOH) maintenance period, now under way at Newport News, Virginia.
Above: Boeing’s prototype MQ-25A vehicle, T1, has completed engine runs and deck handling trials but has yet to fly. Boeing
F-35C Lightning II conducts OT-1
Taiwanese F-16V takes flight
Above: Two F-35Cs assigned to VFA-125, a VFA-103 ‘Jolly Rogers’ F/A-18F and an F/A-18E from VFA-143 ‘Pukin Dogs’ receive pre-flight checks during flight operations aboard the USS ‘Abraham Lincoln’ in the Atlantic on August 21. US Navy/Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Brian M Brooks
F-35C JETS from the US Navy’s Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 125 ‘Rough Raiders’ and VFA-147 ‘Argonauts’ from Naval Air Station Lemoore, California, have commenced their Operational Test-1 (OT1) campaign aboard the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72). The trials, which began in the Atlantic on August 22, were conducted as part of the embarked Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 7 and Carrier Strike Group 12. OT-1 evaluates the full spectrum of the F-35C’s suitability for operation within a carrier air wing and mission effectiveness. “The F-35C brings stealth, enhanced electronic capabilities and a different sustainment model,” said RADM Dale Horan, director, Joint Strike
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Fighter Fleet Integration Office. “Operating this new generation of aircraft out on the aircraft carrier brings a different set of tools, techniques and procedures, and we’re learning how to integrate them into the battle group.” Evaluators assessed the F-35C’s suitability aboard carriers by examining how it performs with other aircraft and incorporates into an air plan – monitoring maintenance and identifying its logistics footprint. They also observed the effectiveness of the aircraft in real-world scenarios, including integrating with the strike group and flying missions such as defensive counter-air. Previously, F-35C and F/A-18E/F pilots have conducted carrier qualifications together, but OT-1 was the first
time the F-35Cs joined a carrier air wing in a cyclic operations environment – six Lightning IIs flying with Super Hornets, E-2Ds and EA-18Gs. On August 22 an F-35C was damaged during an aerial refuelling exercise. Debris from an F/A-18F’s aerial refuelling basket was ingested into the F-35C’s engine intake. Both fighters were able to land safely – the Super Hornet flew to NAS Oceana, Virginia, while the F-35C returned to the carrier No injuries were reported and the incident is currently under investigation. OT-1 test results will help to determine whether the F-35C carrier variant is ready to achieve initial operational capability next year. According to current plans, USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70) will conduct the first F-35C carrier deployment in 2021.
A FIRST F-16V modified by Taiwan’s Aerospace Industrial Development Corporation (AIDC) has begun flight testing. The aircraft, serial 6626, a single-seater, began highspeed taxi tests in June. Four F-16A/Bs, which started to arrive at the AIDC factory in Taichung at the beginning of last year, will be used as technical verification aircraft. The modification programme for Taiwan’s existing F-16A/B fleet, announced in September 2011, is known locally as Phoenix Rising. The US government selected Lockheed Martin to carry out the upgrade based on the F-16V variant, at the core of which is a Northrop Grumman AN/ APG-83 Scalable Agile Beam Radar (SABR) combined with an Elbit Systems multifunctional high-resolution Center Pedestal Display (CPD).
A letter of offer and acceptance (LOA) to upgrade Taiwan’s remaining 145 F-16A/ Bs (from the original 150 aircraft acquired) was signed by both countries in July 2012. The complete upgrade package – including avionics upgrades, system integration, training and logistics support – has a total value of $5.3bn. Lockheed Martin upgraded two F-16s (an ’A and a ’B model) in the US to serve as prototypes, and the remainder are being retrofitted by AIDC in Taiwan. The company will adapt 24 F-16s annually until the conclusion of the Phoenix Rising project in 2023, when the last of 141 F-16Vs will be redelivered – a quantity reduced by attrition. See p40 for the latest part of AFM’s Force Report on the ROCAF.
Formosa Military Image Press
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Second batch of Lightnings arrives
One of the second batch of UK F-35Bs to be flown to the UK takes on fuel from a Voyager tanker on August 3. Crown Copyright
No 25 Squadron to re-form on Hawk T2 THE RAF has announced that No 25 (Fighter) Squadron will re-form at RAF Valley, Wales, as a second Hawk T2 unit. The squadron will provide advanced fast jet training (AFJT) for RAF and Royal Navy pilots alongside No IV (Army Cooperation) Squadron at the same base. The latter will split into two with the re-formed No 25(F) Squadron taking on responsibility for the first phase of AFJT. The move was prompted by increased demand for fast jet pilots on the front line to fly the Typhoon and Lightning. Meanwhile, Typhoon squadron numbers were boosted on July 24 with re-formation of No 12 Squadron at RAF Coningsby, Lincolnshire, which followed an announcement that No IX (Bomber) Squadron will stand up on Typhoons at RAF Lossiemouth next year. No 25(F) Squadron is expected to re-form by the end of this year.
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FIVE MORE F-35Bs for No 617 Squadron ‘Dambusters’ arrived at RAF Marham, Norfolk, on August 3. Flown by both RAF and Royal Navy pilots, the jets crossed the Atlantic from the United States in an eight-hour mission. The F-35Bs had taken off from Marine Corps Air
Station Beaufort, South Carolina, earlier that day. The latest Lightnings – ZM140 (BK-06), ZM141 (BK-07), ZM142 (BK-08), ZM143 (BK-09) and ZM144 (BK-10) – join the first four UK-based F-35Bs, which arrived at Marham on June 6: ZM145 (BK-11), ZM146 (BK-12), ZM147 (BK-
13) and ZM148 (BK-14). With the exception of the August 3 deliveries, there were no F-35B sorties from Marham between July 26 and August 29, a break of 34 days. Based on social media reports, just 21-22 flights were achieved up to July 26 – including nine sorties for
flypasts to mark the RAF’s centenary. However, the Ministry of Defence still expects the ‘Dambusters’ to attain initial operating capability (IOC) later this year and attributed the break in flying operations to extensive maintenance checks and personnel on leave.
Two more Texan T1s delivered
Above: Texan T1 (ZM327)/N2856B (c/n PM-125) arrives at RAF Valley on August 20. Hywel Evans
A FURTHER two T-6C Texan T1s have been delivered to RAF Valley, Anglesey, for the Military Flying Training System (MFTS) programme, bringing the total at the base to six. The latest arrivals, (ZM327)/N2856B (c/n PM-125) and (ZM328)/ N2857B (c/n PM-126), left the Beech Factory Airport in
Wichita, Kansas, on August 16, initially routing to Des Moines International Airport, Iowa. They arrived at Glasgow Airport, Scotland, on August 19. Following an overnight stop, they flew the final leg of the delivery flight to Valley the following afternoon. As previously reported, the first two Texans arrived
at Valley on February 16 (see First T-6C Texan IIs arrive at Valley, April, p9), followed by the second pair on May 15 – see MFTS orders on track, July, p8. All six have been temporarily UK civilianregistered to MFTS service provider Affinity Flying Training Services as follows: ZM325/N2843B
was allocated G-CKGP and ZM326/N2770B became G-CKGW, both on February 27; ZM324/ N2826B was registered as G-CKGO on June 1; ZM323/N2824B changed to G-TBFT on June 7; on August 29, ZM327/N2856B became G-CKVL and ZM328/N2857B became G-CKVN. Dave Allport
9/10/2018 1:07:26 PM
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Training first for RAF Typhoons and Hungarian Gripens
Above: Typhoon FGR4 ZJ923 ‘923’, of No 1 (Fighter) Squadron, prepares to depart Kecskemét as a HUNAF JAS 39C Gripen taxies past. Dr István Toperczer
TWO TYPHOONS from the RAF’s No 1 (Fighter) Squadron at RAF Lossiemouth, Scotland, participated in the Flying Sword bilateral training event with JAS 39 Gripens flown by the Magyar Légierő (Hungarian Air Force, HUNAF) at Kecskemét air base between July 31 and August 3. The Gripens are
assigned to 1. harcászati repülőszázad (1st Tactical Fighter Squadron) ‘Puma’. It was the first time RAF Typhoons and Hungarian Gripens had trained together and aimed to strengthen the defence relationship between the UK and Hungary. Sqn Ldr Ellis Williams, leading the RAF detachment, said: “We
have two Typhoon jets and there are quite a few of the Gripens so every day we are looking to do a pair in the morning and a pair in the afternoon, both visual combat and beyond-visual-range work.” The Typhoons then returned to Romania to complete their NATO enhanced Air Policing (eAP) mission from Mihail
Kogălniceanu air base under Operation Biloxi. They had deployed to Romania from July to August, as a part of NATO’s Assurance Measures introduced in 2014. The RAF’s 135 Expeditionary Air Wing handed responsibility for the mission to the Royal Canadian Air Force during a ceremony on August 28.
UK Lightning flies with ASRAAM THE UK Ministry of Defence has announced the first flight of a UK F-35B carrying ASRAAM (Advanced Short-Range Air-to-Air Missiles). It was the first time UK weapons have flown on a British Lightning and marked the start of operational testing
of indigenous weapons planned as part of the type’s Block 3F software release. The jet, flown by a British pilot from No 17 Squadron RAF, took to the skies from Edwards Air Force Base, California, in August. Minister for Defence Procurement
Stuart Andrew, revealed the development during a visit to the Defence Electronics and Components Agency (DECA) in Wales later the same month. He said: “The F-35 Lightning fleet has moved another step closer to defending the skies and
supporting our illustrious aircraft carriers with this landmark flight. Exceptional engineering from the UK is not only helping to build what is the world’s most advanced fighter jet, but is also ensuring that it is equipped with the very best firepower.”
Sea King ASaC7s head for retirement ALMOST 50 years of Fleet Air Arm operations with the Westland Sea King were due to end in September, with retirement of the last remaining ASaC7 airborne surveillance and control (ASaC) variants of the type. The out-ofservice date for the Sea King was officially set for March 2016, when the final HC4s were withdrawn from use (see Junglie Sea Kings’ Final Flight, May 2016, p6), but seven ASaC7s (known in the navy as ‘Baggers’) remained in service until the third quarter of 2018 to provide ASaC coverage pending introduction of Merlin HM2s, modified with a rollon/roll-off ASaC package under Project Crowsnest. Latterly, the remaining ASaC7s were flown by 849 Naval Air Squadron, based at Royal Naval Air Station Culdrose, Cornwall. Fifteen ASaC7s had originally been acquired, converted from AEW2 (12) and HAS6 (three) variants. Two were lost in a mid-air collision in the Persian Gulf on March 22, 2003, in which seven personnel were killed. All 30 Fleet Air Arm Merlin HM2s are being modified to use the Crowsnest package. Just ten Crowsnest rollon/roll-off packages will be acquired, but can be quickly installed in any of the role-modified Merlins. IOC with the new system, to support the new Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carriers, is anticipated by spring 2020. Dave Allport
No 17 Test and Evaluation Squadron F-35B ZM136 (BK-02) taxies at Edwards with an underwing ASRAAM. Lockheed Martin
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‘RAF100’ markings for Jupiter JUPITER HT1 ZM500 of No 202 Squadron now wears a small version of the ‘RAF100’ logo. The service’s three Jupiter HT1s (H145s), based at RAF Valley, Wales were delivered last year, facilitating retirement of the Griffin HT1 with the Defence Helicopter Flying School (DHFS) at RAF Shawbury, Shropshire.
Milestone for Zephyr THE UK’s Zephyr-S Operational Concept Demonstrator (OCD) has surpassed the world flight endurance record without refuelling. The Joint Forces Command ‘pseudosatellite’, made by Airbus, began its maiden flight in Arizona on July 11 and touched down on August 6. The ultra-lightweight UAV operates in the stratosphere at an average altitude of 70,000ft (21,336m) and is intended to support land and maritime surveillance as well as a variety of communication tasks. It runs exclusively on solar power, flying above the weather and conventional air traffic. It could complement satellites, UAVs and manned aircraft by providing persistent local satellite-like services. The UAV was airborne for 25 days, 23 hours, 57 minutes, surpassing the old record of 14 days, 22 minutes and eight seconds, set by a previous version of the Zephyr UAV. The OCD contract with Airbus was signed in 2016 and includes the purchase of three Zephyr-S platforms, with further flight trials planned for the coming months. General Sir Chris Deverell, JFC commander, said: “We are demonstrating new technology that puts our armed forces at the cutting edge of communication and surveillance.”
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No 84 Squadron tackles wildfire
RAF Chinooks operational in Mali THREE RAF Chinook helicopters – deployed to Mali earlier this summer – began operational flying on August 16, the MOD has announced. The heavy-lift rotorcraft arrived in Gao on July 18 and will support French counter-terrorism operations in the West African country. The Chinooks from RAF Odiham, Hampshire, are supported by around 90 British troops. UK forces have built three temporary aircraft hangars, enabling the Chinooks to fly multiple missions each week. The British helicopters are “providing niche logistical support to French combat forces conducting counterterrorism operations as part of Opération Barkhane,” according to an MOD statement. Previously, the UK has supported France’s Opération Barkhane with RAF strategic transport flights.
Hercules reprieve Crown Copyright
AN RAF Griffin HAR2 crew from No 84 Squadron, based at RAF Akrotiri, assisted the Cypriot government in controlling a large wildfire northwest of Yermasoyia, Limassol
district. The July blaze burned more than one square kilometre of wild vegetation and was close to residential houses for hours. The Defence Fire Risk Management
Organisation (DFRMO) Cyprus – the fire and rescue services of British bases on the island – provided additional support to firefighters on the ground.
THE RAF is to retain one of its ‘short-body’ C-130J Hercules C5s to compensate for the loss of a C-130J-30 Hercules C4 on operations in Iraq. The 2015 Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR) had originally called for the withdrawal of all ten C5s while retaining only the 14 ‘long-body’ Hercules C4s.
9/10/2018 1:07:44 PM
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Serbia’s ex-Russian MiG-29s enter service Baltic Air t
Above: Former Russian two-seat MiG-29UB serial 18351 (ex ‘101 Blue’, RF-29166) and single-seat MiG-29 serial 18151 (ex ‘14 Blue’, RF-92185) over Batajnica. Serbian MoD
THE FIRST two MiG-29s donated to Serbia by Russia have entered service with the Ratno vazduhoplovstvo i protivvazduhoplovna odbrana (RV i PVO, Serbian Air Force and Air Defence). The initial pair of Fulcrums was introduced during an official ceremony at Batajnica air base on August 21. Three Serbian pilots demonstrated singleseat 9.12 serial 18151 and two-seat 9.51 serial 18351. The aircraft arrived in Serbia last October (see Former Russian MiG-29s arrive in Serbia, December
Slovakia chooses ‘Viper’ THE SLOVAK Ministry of Defence has announced the country will buy 14 F-16V Block 70 fighters to replace its MiG-29 fleet under a government-togovernment deal. The Slovak Security Council and the cabinet adopted the decision to procure the F-16 on July 11. The package is expected to cost €1.6bn, including training, ammunition and logistics, which the MoD says is 8% cheaper than the rival Saab Gripen offer across the entire life cycle. Slovak Minister of Defence Peter Gajdoš said: “Based on detailed analyses we have chosen the best solution, because these jets are state of the art. From the perspective of price, quality and capabilities and what we can afford as a country, they have no rival.” See p34-38 for more.
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2017, p11) after which technicians from RSK MiG installed new navigation and communication devices in line with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) standards at Batajnica’s Moma Stanojlović works. At the same time, avionics have been modified, including replacement of the obsolete radar screen with an MFI-54 multifunction display. Airframe maintenance has also been switched from the resource to on-condition model.
Serial 18151 began postupgrade test flights on July 27, with RSK MiG pilot Dmitry Selivanov at the controls, and on August 1 MiG-29UB 18351 made its first test flight. The aircraft have now entered service with the 101. lovačka avijacijska eskadrila (101st Fighter Aviation Squadron). Modernisation work continues on single-seat 9.13 serials 18202 and 18203 and two-seat 9.51 serial 18152. On October 2 last year, the sixth aircraft – 9.13 serial 18201 – was transported to Batajnica by
An-124, but was returned to Russia three days later after acceptance formalities. It’s being overhauled at the 121 Aviatsionnyy Remontnyy Zavod (ARZ, Aircraft Repair Plant) in Kubinka. Work is due for completion in the first half of next year, leaving the RV i PVO with ten MiG-29s, including four aircraft from the original Yugoslavian order. Another four Fulcrums are expected to be donated by Belarus after overhaul at the Baranovichi-based 558 Aircraft Repair Plant (558 ARZ). Aleksandar Radić
Dutch PC-7 anniversary ROYAL NETHERLANDS Air Force (RNLAF) PC-7 Turbo Trainer serial L-13, of 131 Elementaire Militaire Vlieger Opleiding (EMVO, Elementary Military Pilot Training) Squadron, has received special tail markings to celebrate the
30th anniversary of the unit, stationed at Woensdrecht Air Base. The first EMVO class began in August 1988, initially teaching theory lessons only, before the unit’s first four 13 PC-7s entered service on February 8 the following year. The
squadron is responsible for elementary pilot training of both RNLAF and Royal Netherlands Navy pilots. The PC-7 recently underwent a modification programme to keep it in service until at least 2025. Kees van der Mark
THE LEAD role in the Baltic Air Policing (BAP) mission has been handed over from the Portuguese Air Force to the Belgian Air Component. Responsibility for air defence over the Baltic States was exchanged at Šiauliai air base, Lithuania on August 31. The 48th rotation in the mission is the seventh for Belgian Air Component F-16s deployed to the region. The detachment from Florennes and Kleine Brogel air bases will remain in Lithuania until the end of the year. Meanwhile, the Luftwaffe has taken over BAP mission augmentation from the French Air Force in Estonia. The Armée de l’Air Mirage 20005Fs, which had been conducting the mission at Ämari air base since May, were relieved by a contingent of Eurofighter EF2000s from Taktisches Luftwaffengeschwader 74 (TaktLwG 74, Tactical Air Force Wing 74) at Neuburg on August 30. This is the German air arm’s fourth time as augmenting nation and its ninth contribution to the mission overall. As in its previous rotation at Ämari last year, the Luftwaffe will complete two rotations in succession, staying in Estonia with its EF2000s and approximately 160 personnel until next April.
Above: PC-7 serial L-13 during its first public appearance with its special markings during the airshow at Texel Airport on August 4. Kees van der Mark
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Israeli Air Force F-16s visit Croatia
Above: An image taken by the pilot of HRZ MiG-21bisD serial 116 shows the second MiG-21bisD serial 133 and the pair of IAF F-16Ds (serials 041 and 063) in formation for the flypast over Knin on August 5. HRZ via author
THE ISRAELI Air Force (IAF) recently sent three F-16D Block 30 aircraft to Croatia. The three Baraks, which arrived in Zagreb on August 2, were serials 023, 041 and 063, all from 109 ‘The Valley’ Squadron at Ramat David. Later this year, the two countries plan to sign an official agreement to transfer 12 IAF F-16C/ Ds to Croatia. In March, Zagreb decided to acquire 12 used F-16C/
Ds from Israel (see Israeli F-16s for Croatia, May 2018, p6) to replace its 12 MiG-21s operated by the Eskadrila Borbenih Aviona (EBA, Combat Aircraft Squadron) at Zagreb International Airport (Pleso) – this is the sole fighter unit of the Hrvatsko Ratno Zrakoplovstvo (HRZ, Croatian Air Force). In April, HRZ representatives visited Ramat David, where Croatian personnel are
likely to train on the F-16. During that visit, former EBA commander Lt Col Željko Ninić flew in the rear cockpit of two-seat F-16D serial 041 on April 9. The Baraks flew nonstop around 1,865 miles (3,000km) to reach Croatia, refuelling from an IAF Boeing 707 Re’em tanker. A C-130H Karnaf from 131 ‘The Yellow Bird’ Squadron previously brought their ground crews and support equipment.
The Ramat David base commander that led the visit flew aboard MiG21UMD serial 166 on August 3 with current EBA commander Lt Col Christian Jagodić in the front cockpit. During their return trip on August 5, two F-16Ds flew in formation with two MiG-21bisD jets for a flypast over the city of Knin in part of an official celebration marking the 23rd anniversary of
Last three Mirage 2000Ns flown to Châteaudun
Above: Mirage 2000NK3 257 ‘125-CO’ from Escadron de Chasse 2/4 ‘La Fayette’ lands at BA 279 Châteaudun after its final flight. Armée de l’Air/Alexandre Beuzeboc
THE ARMÉE de l’Air (French Air Force) retired its Mirage 2000N fleet after delivery of the final three aircraft to Base Aérienne 279 (BA 279) Châteaudun. They arrived at the base on August 30 from BA 125 Istres-Le Tube, where a
formal ceremony honouring the type’s withdrawal from service had been held on June 21, ending 30 years of service – see Mirage 2000N retires, September, p11. The final three aircraft were Mirage 2000NK3s 257 ‘125-CO’, 335 ‘125-
CI’ and 348 ‘125-Al’ from Escadron de Chasse 2/4 ‘La Fayette’. The first of these was painted in a special colour scheme to mark its decommissioning. All remaining operational Mirage 2000Ns have been delivered to Châteaudun,
where they will be dismantled and stripped for spares to support the Mirage 2000C/D and -5F variants remaining in service. The last unit with the type, EC 2/4, is re-equipping with the Rafale B. Dave Allport
German Army receives final Tiger UHT THE 68TH and last Airbus Helicopters EC665 Tiger Unterstützungshubschrauber (UHT, support helicopter) has been delivered to the German
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Heeresflieger (German Army Aviation). The helicopter was flown from the factory in Donauwörth, Germany, to Fritzlar airfield to join Kampfhubschrauber
Regiment 36 (KHR 36, Attack Helicopter Regiment 36) on July 25. The German Tigers are also flown by the joint Franco-German Tiger
Flying Training Centre at Le Luc, France. The type, in German service since 2005, has seen recent operational use in Afghanistan and Mali. Dave Allport
Croatia’s victory in the Homeland War of 1991-95. The HRZ is expected to receive its first two ex-Israeli F-16s by mid2020. The aircraft will probably receive new names in HRZ service – the F-16C is expected to be named Oluja (storm) while the F-16D will be Blijesak (flash) – codenames of two successful military operations in the Homeland War. Vladimir Trendafilovski
Latvia seeks UH-60M Black Hawks THE US State Department has approved a possible Foreign Military Sale (FMS) to Latvia of four UH-60M Black Hawks and related equipment at an estimated price of $200m. The Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) notified Congress of the potential transfer on August 3. As well as the four helicopters in standard configuration, the Latvian government has requested ten T700GE-701D engines, ten embedded GPS/inertial navigation systems, five Talon forward-looking infrared (FLIR) sensors, AN/ARC-201D/E, AN/ ARC-220 and AN/ARC231 radios, AN/APX-123A identification friend or foe (IFF) transponders and AN/AVS-6 nightvision devices. Latvia plans to introduce its first UH-60Ms to service in 2021.
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First two PC-21s arrive at Cognac THE FIRST two Pilatus PC-21s for the Armée de l’Air (French Air Force) have arrived at Base Aérienne 709 CognacChâteuabernard. The aircraft, 03/HB-HVC ‘709FE’ (c/n 295) callsign ‘PCH095T’ and 15/HB-HVO ‘709-FQ’ (c/n 307) callsign ‘PCH07G’, were delivered from the factory at StansBuochs, Switzerland, to Cognac on August 30. The ‘709-xx’ codes were taped Left: French Air Force PC21 03/HB-HVC on the final part of its delivery flight from Stans to Cognac, escorted by EC 2/30 Rafale B331 ‘30-IF’. Armée de l’Air/Jean-Luc Brune
over for the ferry flight. France signed a contract on December 30, 2016, with Babcock Mission Critical Services France to provide 17 PC-21s for pilot training, prior to moving on to the Alpha Jet and then Rafale – see France buys PC-21, February 2017, p11. The aircraft will replace the TB30 Epsilon with the EPAA 315 at Cognac. Pilatus has already manufactured most French PC-21s and further deliveries are expected to follow shortly, with all aircraft due to be in service before the end of next year. Dave Allport
Rafale Cs replace Last two Danish MH-60Rs delivered Rafale Bs on Opération Chammal FRANCE HAS replaced the Armée de l’Air (French Air Force) two-seat Dassault Rafale Bs operating from Azraq Air Base, Jordan, on Opération Chammal missions with single-seat Rafale Cs. The changeover – announced by the service on August 14 – had taken place the previous month. On July 19, the first two of the replacement Rafale Cs landed at France’s Base Aérienne Projetée (BAP, Forward Air Base) at Azraq following a direct flight from France with air-toair refuelling. Two Rafale Bs then departed in the opposite direction to land back in France on July 21.
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Mixed patrols of one Rafale B and one Rafale C followed for three days after the new aircraft arrived, providing fire support and tactical reconnaissance for coalition allied forces in the Iraq-Syria combat zone. Since March of this year, Groupe de Bombardement 43 (GB 43) at Azraq has consisted exclusively of Rafale Bs. Since July 25, GB 43 has continued its operations solely with Rafale Cs. Dave Allport Above: Two Rafale Cs arrive at Azraq Air Base, Jordan, on July 19 to take up Opération Chammal duties. Armée de l’Air/J Fechter/EMACOM
Above: One of the ultimate two RDAF MH-60Rs after delivery to Karup on board a USAF C-17A on August 1. Forsvaret
DENMARK HAS received the final pair of MH-60R Seahawks on order for Flyvevåbnet (Royal Danish Air Force, RDAF) service. The final pair, serials N-978 (FMS Bu No 168978) and N-979 (FMS Bu No 168979),
arrived at Flyvestation Karup on August 1 to join Eskadrille 723. Denmark announced an order for nine MH-60Rs on November 21, 2012, to replace the RDAF’s seven surviving Super Lynx
Mk90Bs. The first three MH-60Rs left the US for Denmark, on board two US Air Force C-17As, on May 10, 2016, prior to a handover ceremony in Copenhagen Harbour on June 6, 2016. Dave Allport
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9/10/2018 1:24:02 PM
First L-159T2 for Czech Air Force takes flight
Martin Mamula/Aero Vodochody
THE INITIAL L-159T2 for the Czech Air Force has completed its maiden flight. Serial 6028 took to the air for a 30-minute sortie at the company’s airfield on August 2, with test pilots Vladimír Kvarda and David
Jahoda at the controls. The Vzdušné síly Armády České republiky (VzS AČR, Air Component of the Army of the Czech Republic) ordered three upgraded L-159T2s in 2016 for operational missions and
advanced jet training and they are expected to join the 21. základna taktického letectva (21st Tactical Air Force Base) at Čáslav before the end of this year. The two-seat jet allies a new central and forward
fuselage with the tail, rear fuselage, wings and nose cone from an existing singleseat L-159 Advanced Light Combat Aircraft. Each cockpit is equipped with two multifunction displays and upgraded VS-20 ejection
seats and is fully compatible with night-vision goggles. The aircraft is adapted to offer a pressure refuelling capability and has the same Grifo radar and selfprotection systems as used in the single-seat version.
New insignia for Montenegrin Bell 412 ON ONE of its first deployments outside Montenegro, a Vazduhoplovstvo Vojske Crne Gore (VVCG, Montenegrin Air Force) Bell 412EP wears the service’s military identification number 36307 in addition to the recently introduced national insignia on the
Left: VVCG Bell 412EP serial 36307 at Petrovec air base, where it had brought a highlevel Montenegrin military delegation to attend live artillery firing at the Krivolak training area. Igor Bozinovski
tail boom and national flag adorning the vertical stabiliser. The helicopter, delivered in March, was at Petrovec air base, Skopje, Macedonia, on August 31 after completing a VIP flight from its home base at Golubovci, near the Montenegrin capital Podgorica. An additional two Bell 412EPI helicopters – due to wear a two-tone green camouflage pattern – were scheduled to join the VVCG in September. Igor Bozinovski
L-39ZA marks Albatros anniversary
L-39ZA 5019 taxiing out at Čáslav on August 29. Alan Warnes
ONE OF the last surviving L-39ZAs operated by the Vzdušné síly Armády České republiky (VzS AČR, Air Component of the Army of the Czech Republic) has
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been painted in special markings to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the L-39 Albatros jet trainer. Serial 5019, painted by original manufacturer Aero
Vodochody, made its first flying training sortie in the new scheme on August 28, a week after it was ferried to the 213. výcviková letka (213rd Training Squadron)
at Čáslav air base. The aviator painted on one side of the tail is Aero’s factory pilot, Rudolf Duchoň, who flew the prototype L-39, X-02, during its
maiden flight on November 4, 1968. The artwork also includes the newgeneration L-39NG which is due to be rolled out on October 12. Alan Warnes
9/10/2018 1:24:08 PM
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Lockheed offers F-22/F-35 “hybrid” to US Air Force
Above: A pair of F-22As from the 95th Fighter Squadron, 325th Fighter Wing, at Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida, in formation with two Royal Norwegian Air Force F-35As during aerial refuelling over Norway on August 15. USAF/Senior Airman Preston Cherry
LOCKHEED MARTIN is reportedly pitching a “hybrid” fighter combining attributes of its F-22 Raptor and F-35 Lightning II – similar to the fighter offered to Japan – to the US Air Force (see Comment, p3). The company has timed its proposal to coincide with a USAF review of force structure that seeks to tackle future threats as laid out in the National
Defense Strategy. This document outlines a forthcoming requirement “to strike diverse targets inside adversary air and missile defence networks to destroy mobile powerprojection platforms”. The F-22/F-35 hybrid would likely face competition from a new version of the F-15 Eagle, proposed by Boeing and known as
the F-15X. This would add additional weapons carriage and new avionics to the existing design. Officials apparently view the “upgraded Raptor” as an interim step before fielding an all-new sixth-generation fighter utilising more exotic technologies. The air arm is already studying a future combat aircraft under the Next Generation Air
Dominance or Penetrating Counter Air project. Lockheed’s Skunk Works advanced programmes arm is also looking at other options, including adding directed energy and electronic attack capabilities to its F-16, F-22 and F-35, as well as unspecified “structural changes” and an enhanced powerplant for the Lightning II.
B-52 upgrade plans gather pace
Above: B-52H 60-0057 ‘BD/340 WPS’, named ‘Hi-Ho Silver’, was one of two examples that arrived at RAF Fairford, Gloucestershire, on the morning of September 5 to take part in Exercise Ample Strike 2018. This aircraft is assigned to the 340th Weapons Squadron/57th Wing at Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana. Mark Kwiatkowski
THE USAF is reportedly moving ahead with efforts to upgrade the B-52 Stratofortress bomber – potentially paving the way for a B-52J variant. The air arm is now using the J-model designation in public and studying plans for modernising the bomber’s defensive systems and avionics to sustain the aircraft to 2050. Other options for a potential upgrade include crash-survivable flight data recorder, a weapons system trainer,
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relocated targeting pod and new ejection seats. It’s currently unclear whether the programme to retrofit the B-52 with a new powerplant (see GE offers two powerplants for B-52 re-engining, September, p15) is part of the proposed B-52J upgrade or a separate initiative. The Stratofortress is also being earmarked for the USAF’s first-generation hypervelocity strike weapons. The Lockheed Martin AGM-183A AirLaunched Rapid Response
Weapon (ARRW) and Hypersonic Conventional Strike Weapon (HCSW) demonstrations are both being accelerated under the Pentagon’s new Section 804 acquisition policy. The USAF has announced that the B-52 will be the launch platform for both these weapons in the 2019-20 timeframe. As a precursor to the AGM183A, flight testing of the Lockheed Martin Tactical Boost Glide (TBG) demonstrator is scheduled to begin next year.
The ARRW is currently slated for service from 2021 while the HCSW is expected to join the inventory in 2022. Lockheed Martin’s Skunk Works and Raytheon are currently competing under a Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) contract to develop the Hypersonic Air-breathing Weapon Concept (HAWC). Flight tests of the winning HAWC design on a B-52 are expected to begin before Fiscal Year 2020.
Canada to buy three King Airs for ISR CANADA’S Department of National Defence (DND) has confirmed that it is planning to acquire three new Beechcraft King Air 350ER aircraft for the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) to provide a manned airborne intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (MAISR) capability in support of Canadian special operations forces. The proposal was confirmed in a statement by the DND on July 12. The aircraft and associated mission systems will be acquired through the US Foreign Military Sales programme. Equipment fit will include advanced military sensors and secure communications equipment. Canada has been examining options for the requirement since 2013 and published a request for information (RFI) on December 1, 2015, seeking possible types for the MAISR role. After industry consultation and examination of options, the DND announced on April 27 this year that it had selected the twinturboprop King Air 350ER for the requirement. From that date the DND said that, under Phase 1 of the programme, it was expected to take up to 12 months to complete a formal agreement with the US government for acquisition of the aircraft, mission systems and related support. No timeframe has yet been set for aircraft delivery and entry into service. Phase 2 will involve a competitive tender to provide a complete system of support services to maintain the aircraft and related equipment for up to 20 years. An RFI for this in-service support element of the programme was issued on April 12, with a formal request for proposal (RFP) expected to be issued next spring. Dave Allport
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Canadian Task Force begins operations in Mali RCAF THE CANADIAN Task Force in Mali is ready to support UN operations in the West African country under Operation Presence after declaring its readiness to the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) on August 15. An initial sortie was conducted the same morning, when personnel from the Netherlands’ LongRange Reconnaissance Patrol Task Group boarded a Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) CH-147F helicopter Left: Dutch soldiers exit the CH-147F for a reconnaissance patrol north of Gao on August 15. Corporal Ken Beliwicz/RCAF
at Camp Castor. The Chinook helicopter, plus two CH-146 Griffon escorts, transported the unit to an area north of Gao. The Task Force achieved initial operating capability on August 1 when it began providing MINUSMA with a round-the-clock standby forward aeromedical evacuation capability in the vicinity of Gao. The Canadian helicopter detachment will also provide a medium/heavy lift capability for the transport of people and materiel. The task force includes around 250 personnel, three CH-147Fs and five CH-146s. One of each aircraft is a spare airframe.
Omega Air Boeing 707 tanker trials with E-2D NORTHROP GRUMMAN’S E-2D Advanced Hawkeye has recently completed its first air-to-air refuelling trails with an Omega Air 707 tanker. A series of images released by the US Navy on August 22 showed Omega Air 707-368C N707MQ undertaking the tanking tests with the first prototype E-2D, 166501 ‘SD-501’/Delta One, which is currently being operated by Air Test and Evaluation Squadron (VX) 23 at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Maryland, from where the tests were carried out. Testing of an in-flight
Above: Omega Air Boeing 707 Tanker N707MQ refuelling E-2D 166501 ‘Delta One’ during recent trials. US Navy/Erik Hildebrandt
refuelling capability for the E-2D has been under way for some time. The first in-flight fuel transfer from a tanker aircraft took place on July 14 last year, when more than 1,700lb (771kg)
of fuel was transferred from a US Navy KC-130T tanker. Since then, tests have also been carried out refuelling from a US Navy F/A-18F, plus USAF KC-10A and KC-135R tanker
aircraft. As from this year, all new-build E-2Ds will be fitted with a refuelling probe as standard, while older aircraft already in service will be retrofitted. Dave Allport
assumes enhanced Air Policing mission
THE ROYAL Air Force has passed responsibility for the NATO enhanced Air Policing (eAP) mission in Romania to the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF). The handover was marked with a ceremony at Mihail Kogălniceanu air base in southern Romania. A detachment of five RCAF CF-188 Hornets takes over the mission from the RAF Typhoons of the 135 Expeditionary Air Wing. Around 135 Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) personnel will remain in Romania until December under Operation Reassurance, Canada’s contribution to NATO assurance and deterrence measures in Central and Eastern Europe. The Air Task Force (ATF) is composed mainly of personnel from 425 Tactical Fighter Squadron, supported by members of 2 Wing (the RCAF’s air expedition wing) and 3 Wing, all based at Bagotville, Quebec. The ATF was previously stationed in Romania for eAP from September to December last year and first deployed to the country as part of Operation Reassurance from April to August 2014, at Câmpia Turzii.
Georgia ANG UH-60s deploy to Europe FIVE US Army UH-60L Black Hawks from the Georgia Army National Guard have deployed to the Republic of Georgia, Europe, to provide support for Exercise Noble Partner 18. The helicopters, from A Company, 1st General Support Aviation Battalion/171st Aviation Regiment at Marietta, Georgia, were loaded into a US Air Force C-5M at Dobbins Air Reserve Base, Marietta, on July 24 and arrived in Tbilisi, Georgia, on July 27. Noble Partner 18, a Georgian Armed Forces
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and US Army Europe co-operatively led multinational training exercise, was conducted at the Vaziani and Camp Norio Training Areas in Georgia from August 2-15. In its fourth iteration, the exercise is intended to support and enhance the readiness of Georgia, the US and participating nations during a multinational training operation. Other participants this year were Armenia, Azerbaijan, Estonia, France, Germany, Lithuania, Norway, Poland, Turkey, the UK and Ukraine. Dave Allport
Above: A Georgia Army National Guard UH-60L from 1-171st AVN makes a rapid take-off after inserting Georgian special forces during an urban operations exercise at the Vaziani Training Area on August 5 during Exercise Noble Partner 18. US Army/Staff Sgt R J Lannom Jr
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First HC-130J for CGAS Kodiak US COAST Guard Air Station (CGAS) Kodiak, Alaska, has taken delivery of its first HC-130J long-range surveillance aircraft. The aircraft, serial number 2009, arrived at Kodiak on August
21. It had previously been assigned to CGAS Elizabeth City, North Carolina, and still carried Elizabeth City titles on arrival. This aircraft is the first with the new Minotaur mission
system suite to be stationed outside of Elizabeth City and will greatly enhance the US Coast Guard’s (USCG’s) capabilities at Kodiak. Four additional HC-130Js are due to be delivered to
Kodiak next year to bring the station up to its full complement. These will progressively replace the five current older model HC-130Hs, which will depart as the new aircraft
arrive. These older aircraft will either be used to fill capability gaps in the USCG HC-130H fleet elsewhere or be stripped for spares to support the remainder of the fleet. Dave Allport
The first HC-130J for CGAS Kodiak, 2009, is welcomed by a water cannon salute. USCG/Petty Officer 1st Class Jonathan Harper
USMC retires final RQ-7B Shadows
Above: A USMC RQ-7B Shadow assigned to VMU-3 prepares to launch on July 29 to support the amphibious landing demonstration as part of RIMPAC at Marine Corps Base Hawaii. This was the final flight of the type in USMC service. USMC/Sgt Jesus Sepulveda Torres
EXERCISE RIM of the Pacific (RIMPAC) 2018 marked the final operations of the RQ-7B Shadow unmanned aerial system in US Marine Corps (USMC) service. The final flight took place during the RIMPAC culmination event at Pyramid Rock Beach, Hawaii, on July 29. Marine Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Squadron (VMU) 3 ‘Phantoms’, based at Marine Corps Base Hawaii, Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii, was the last remaining unit operating the Shadow. All
other USMC UAV squadrons have already transitioned to the RQ-21A Blackjack. The RQ-21A is smaller and lighter than its predecessor, while having the added advantage that it can be launched from the San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock ships to support marine expeditionary units. In addition, a Blackjack detachment needs only 21 personnel to support it, whereas the Shadow required around 70 marines. Dave Allport
Last AH-1W overhaul at Camp Pendleton US NAVY officials announced on July 26 that the final AH-1W had begun the Integrated Maintenance Program (IMP) at the Fleet Readiness
Center Southwest (FRCSW) site in Camp Pendleton, California. The helicopter, 162544 ‘WR-26’ from the resident Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 775
(HMLA-775) ‘Coyotes’, was induced into the IMP at the base on July 18. It was scheduled for completion and return to the squadron by the end of September.
As the AH-1W is being progressively replaced by the new AH-1Z Viper, there will be no further IMP work on the AH-1W variant. The IMP was developed to keep
Above: Stripped USMC AH-1W Super Cobra 162544 ‘WR-26’ from HMLA-775 awaits further processing outside the FRCSW hangar at Camp Pendleton. US Navy
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the aircraft mission-ready by targeting the integrity of the airframe through two assessment processes: Planned Maintenance Interval-1 (PMI-1) and PMI-2. PMI-1 takes place every 50 days and involves disassembling the aircraft for inspection and repair, while PMI-2 occurs every 78 days, with similar inspections, but also including particle media blasting and repaint. The AH-1W ISRs have averaged around 140 per year. Meanwhile, FRCSW is getting to grips with similar IMP procedures on the new AH-1Z and UH-1Y. The unit expects to output 40-50 of these helicopters annually within the next couple of years. Dave Allport
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MV-22B Osprey tested in COD role THE US Navy has conducted a series of tests of the Osprey tiltrotor in the carrier on-board delivery (COD) role. A US Marine Corps MV-22B tested rolling landing and take-offs in excess of 57,000lb (25,854kg) on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS George H W Bush (CVN 77) in August. The tests demonstrated the Osprey’s ability to carry more weight than the C-2A, the navy’s current COD platform, which is limited to landing at 49,000lb (22,226kg). During the trials, the MV-22 was integrated into flight deck operations. LT Gavin Kurey, assigned to Air Test and Evaluation Squadron (HX) 21,
became the first US Navy pilot to land an MV-22 on an aircraft carrier. The C-2A will be replaced by the US Navy’s CMV22 Osprey variant, expected to achieve initial operational capability by 2021. Compared with the MV-22B, the navy variant has increased operational range, a beyond line-ofsight HF radio, improved fuel dump capability, a public address system for passengers and an improved lighting system for cargo loading. Right: A member of the flight deck crew directs an HX-21 MV-22B to land on the USS ‘George H W Bush’. US Navy/ Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Roland John
Raptors tour Europe
TWELVE F-22As deployed to Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, for three weeks this summer. The visit to Europe involved Raptors from the 95th Fighter Squadron (FS), 325th Fighter Wing (FW), based at Tyndall AFB, Florida. As part of this flying training deployment, the fighters paid visits to Norway, Greece, Spain, Romania and Poland. Some of these lasted just Left: An F-22A from the 95th FS, 325th FW participates in a multi-aircraft flyover of Warsaw, Poland, to mark the 100th anniversary of Polish independence and Armed Forces Day. The Raptors forward deployed from Spangdahlem AB to Powidz on August 14. USAF/Senior Airman Joshua Magbanua
for one day, taking off in the early morning and returning to Spangdahlem late in the afternoon; other visits continued for several days. The F-22s were accompanied by KC-135 tankers throughout the deployment. The Stratotankers provided aerial refuelling during the transit and carried aircraft maintainers to provide ground maintenance while pilots debriefed after their morning missions. As well as these visits, air combat training took place over Western Europe with and against Spangdahlembased US Air Forces in Europe (USAFE) F-16s, Luftwaffe Eurofighters, French Mirage 2000s and Belgian and Dutch F-16s. Alex van Noye and Joris van Boven
Embassy Huron visits Valley
US AIR Force C-12C 73-1217 (c/n BD-13) from the US Embassy Budapest was an
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unusual recent visitor to RAF Valley, Wales. The 45-yearold aircraft arrived from RAF
Northolt, West London, using the callsign ‘Duna 95’, before departing to RAF Waddington,
Lincolnshire, on August 21. The purpose of its visit is unknown. The US Embassy
Flight in Hungary operates from Budapest Ferenc Liszt International Airport.
Qatar to upgrade air bases
First Project Dolphin Global 6000 delivered
THE DEPUTY commander of the Qatar Emiri Air Force (QEAF), Major General Ahmed Ibrahim Al Malki, has revealed plans for a major expansion of its air bases at Al Udeid and Doha, according to Qatar’s official state news agency, QNA, on August 27. Al Udeid houses the largest US military facility in the Middle East while Doha is currently underused, but will now be further developed. A new facility, Tamim Air Base, will also be constructed – named after Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, under whose rule Qatar has expanded its air capabilities. The expansion is required to house new QEAF fighters currently on order, including F-15QA Strike Eagles, Rafale DQ/EQs and Eurofighter Typhoons. In related news, the QEAF has confirmed it’s on track to receive its 24 recently ordered AH-64E attack helicopters from next year. Deliveries will be completed by the end of May 2020. The Qatari deal also includes options for up to 24 additional Apache Guardians. Dave Allport
MARSHALL AEROSPACE and Defence Group has completed a second heavily modified electronic intelligence/signals intelligence (ELINT/ SIGINT) Bombardier Global 6000 for the United Arab Emirates Air Force and Air Defence (UAEF&AD) under Project Dolphin.
Following extensive ground testing, the aircraft, 1325 (c/n 9494, ex M-ABFQ, C-GNKW), took its first flight after conversion at Cambridge on August 8 and a final flight test on the 20th. It then flew to Doncaster Sheffield Airport, South Yorkshire, on the 29th
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before its delivery flight to Abu Dhabi two days later. The first aircraft to be converted, 1326 (c/n 9517, ex M-ABFR, C-GPZH), continues its flight test programme and has been seen operating from MOD Boscombe Down, Wiltshire, as part of its trials – but as of September 3
Global 6000 1325 returns to Cambridge Airport following its first post-conversion test flight. Ian Harding
Qatari NH90s under contract ITALY’S LEONARDO says a Qatari contract for NH90 helicopters has become effective following the receipt of an advance payment. The deal, signed in March, is for 28 NH90s, with Leonardo acting as overall prime contractor responsible for the management of the programme – which is worth more than €3bn to the NHI manufacturing consortium. The Ministry of Defence of Qatar announced plans to buy 28 NH90 and 16 H125 helicopters during the Doha International Maritime Defence Exhibition
and Conference (DIMDEX) in Qatar in March. The contract includes 16 NH90 Tactical Transport Helicopters (TTH) and 12 NH90 NATO Frigate Helicopters (NFH). It also includes a support and maintenance training services package and related infrastructure and there are options for a further 12 units, evenly split between TTH and NFH variants. The NFHs will not be equipped for anti-submarine warfare but will have the European Navy Radar (ENR) maritime surveillance radar, a
Safran electro-optical system and an Elettronica DETE90 electronic intelligence/ support measures system. As prime contractor, Leonardo will be responsible for final assembly and delivery of the 12 NFHs at its Venice-Tessera facility plus an eight-year support and training services package for crews and maintainers. Airbus will be responsible for final assembly of the 16 TTHs at Marignane in France. Deliveries are expected to start before June 2022 and to continue until 2025.
Upgraded Jordanian Cobra under test UPGRADED AH-1F serial 1016 of the Royal Jordanian Air Force (RJAF) undergoes weapons and avionics testing trials at King Abdullah 2 Air Base (KA2). It’s one of a pair of modernised Cobras shipped to Jordan for the SOFEX 2018 exhibition in the capital Amman in May.
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it was test flying from Cambridge again. Unlike 1325, which has been finished in UAEAF&AD markings, 1326 remains unpainted, even though it has been extensively flown since last year. Dave Allport
The RJAF operates two units with AH-1Fs: 10 and 12 Squadrons are both based at KA2, northeast of Amman. Northrop and Science and Engineering Services (SES) is meanwhile modernising 12 RJAF Cobras to extend their operational service lives by at least 20 years;
they will operate with 10 Squadron while 12 Squadron will continue with the remaining non-upgraded helicopters. The Cobras’ avionics are being converted to Northrop’s Integrated Mission Equipment package (iMEP), which includes a commercially
available FlightPro Gen III mission computer, a full suite of LCD multifunction displays, an embedded software digital map and navigation controls. See p62-68 for a full report on the RJAF’s modernisation programme. Marco Dijkshoorn
Israel mulls Eagle order THE ISRAELI Air Force (IAF) is considering buying additional F-15 strike fighters as part of modernisation aimed at countering the threats from Iran and Syria. The potential $11bn deal with Boeing would also likely include new CH-47 transport helicopters, V-22 tiltrotors and KC-46A refuelling tankers. Funds would come from US defence aid to Israel. A US Foreign Military Financing (FMF) package approved by Washington in 2016 begins next year and provides $38bn over a decade. Any deal would require recommendation from Israel’s defence establishment and cabinet. If approved, the package would be the biggest of its kind between the two countries to date. Israel last purchased 25 F-15 Ra’am fighters in 1994. They are now being upgraded with structural work and new systems – planned to include an AN/APG-82(V)1 active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar. Should the deal go through, the IAF would adopt a new version of the Eagle, provisionally known as F-15IA (Israel Advanced). A final decision is expected towards the end of the year.
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Russia & CIS
Upgraded Tu-22M3M rolled out
Above: The first upgraded Tu-22M3M being rolled out at the S P Gorbunov production facility in Kazan. The upgraded ‘Backfire-C’ will be capable of carrying Kh-32 cruise missiles and Kinzhal hypersonic weapons. UAC
PJSC TUPOLEV has unveiled the first extensively upgraded Tu-22M3M long-range bomber. The aircraft was rolled out on August 16 at the Kazan Aviation Plant prior to commencing ground and flight testing. Maiden flight was expected
in September. Following initial factory tests, expected to be concluded by the end of December, it will be handed over to the ministry of defence for state joint tests. Once these trials are completed, a decision will be taken on modernising an
initial batch of aircraft to Tu-22M3M configuration. Current plans envisage upgrading 30 examples to this standard. The modernisation significantly expands the combat capability of the type. Work will cover a new avionics suite,
similar to that on the Tu-160M, replacing 80% of the existing equipment, including new navigation, communications and sighting systems, engine controls, automatic fuel management and electronic warfare equipment. Dave Allport
Ukraine’s Mi-14 fleet at full strength
Above: Mi-14PLs ‘36 Yellow’ (c/n 78495, left) and ‘37 Yellow’ (c/n 78461) arrive at the former Ochakiv air base at the start of the Shtorm-2018 exercise on August 28. Ukraine MoD Press Service via author
THE SINGLE aviation unit of the Viys’kovoMors’ki Syly (VMS, Ukrainian Navy) – the 10 mors’ka aviatsiyna brihada (mabr, naval aviation brigade) at Kul’bakino air base near Mykolayiv – recently took part in a series of exercises. Its most prominent asset is its Mi-14 fleet, consisting of one Mi-14PS search-and-rescue (SAR) helicopter (‘34 Yellow’) and three Mi-14PL antisubmarine warfare (ASW) helicopters (‘35 Yellow’ to ‘37 Yellow’). All four are now fully operational after three of them were overhauled at the ‘Aviakon’ repair plant in Konotop (see Ukrainian Mi-14 overhaul
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problem solved, August 2017, p26). Performing standard ASW and SAR tasks, the four Mi-14s took part in See Breeze 2018 – a multinational maritime exercise held in Ukraine and the Black Sea during July 9-21. A full Exercise Report will appear in the upcoming November issue. On August 24, flying out of nearby Vasyl’kiv air base, all four Mi-14s attended the flypast over Ukraine’s capital Kiev during a military parade celebrating the 27th anniversary of the country’s independence. Finally, during August 28-30, all the Mi-14s took part in a large VMS exercise titled Shtorm-2018 (Storm-2018). Relocating to the unpaved airstrip
at the former Ochakiv air base – along with all other airworthy 10 mabr aircraft – the Mi-14s and their ground crews operated in wartime conditions from an auxiliary airfield. Soon after arriving here on August 28, the three Mi-14PLs were outfitted with ASW load-outs after which they conducted a searchand-destroy ASW mission with a simulated torpedo launch. The following day, Mi-14PL ‘37 Yellow’ carried out an ASW sortie with the Krivak-III-class frigate Het’man Sahaydachnyy. Later that day, the Mi-14PLs also demonstrated an important secondary capability – transport and (re)supply of troops with underslung cargo – including
heavy loads such as artillery pieces and vehicles. Further 10 mabr assets are expected to return to active service soon. The two Ka-27PLs (‘20 Yellow’ and ‘22 Yellow’) should receive a two-year service life extension at ‘Aviakon’ (see Ukraine to begin Ka-27 overhauls, October 2017, p24), while the two Be-12 amphibians (an ASW Be-12PL ‘02 Yellow’ and a SAR Be-12PS ‘05 Yellow’) are planned to receive a one-year service life extension after undergoing thorough inspections and all necessary repairs at the local NARP repair plant (also in Kul’bakino), which won the contract for this work on August 28. Vladimir Trendafilovski
Russian Helicopters unveils modernised helicopters RUSSIAN HELICOPTERS presented upgraded versions of its Mi-28NE Night Hunter, Mi-35M and Mi-35P attack helicopters for the first time during the International MilitaryTechnical Forum ARMY 2018, held in Kubinka, Moscow Region, from August 21-26. All three were on static display at the exhibition. The upgrades to the Mi-28NE primarily relate to the weapons capability and include the new Khrizantema-M antitank missile with a dual guidance system, enabling engagement at a range of up to 6.2 miles (10km). Modernised Ataka missiles with laser guidance are also now fitted to the helicopter, while bombs up to 1,102lb (500kg) can also be carried. Additionally, the rotor blades have been modified and engine power increased to improve performance in hot and high conditions, while also increasing cruise speed. A larger tailplane enhances controllability, while the new variant can also be used for remote operation of UAVs. The modernised Mi-35P features an OPS-24N1L observation-sight system, with a thirdgeneration matrix long wavelength thermal imager, TV camera and laser rangefinder. A new digital flight simulator based on the PKV-8 automatic flight control system increases stability and automatic piloting. A modernised sight and computing system will improve the accuracy of target engagement. The new Mi-35M has considerably more equipment options and can be further upgraded to integrate Igla-S airto-air guided missiles and the President-S onboard defence system with a laser station for suppression of infrared homing man-portable airdefence system missiles. Additional equipment can include VOR/ILS systems and a radio rangefinder. Dave Allport
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Two more MiG-29MU1s for Ukraine THE LVIVS’KYY Derzhavnyy Aviatsiynyy Remontnyy Zavod (LDARZ, Lviv State-owned Aircraft Repair Plant) delivered two additional MiG-29MU1 fighters to the Povitryani Syly (PS, Ukrainian Air Force) in late July. Based at Lviv International Airport
‘Danylo Halytskyy’, LDARZ is the only Ukrainian repair plant capable of overhauling all MiG-29 variants in PS service, occasionally delivering modernised single-seat MiG-29MU1 aircraft with improved avionics – including upgraded
radar and navigation equipment (see MiG modernisation in Lviv, January 2018, p82-85). The two new MiG-29MU1 aircraft – ‘07 White’ and ‘08 White’ – were delivered to the single PS operator of this version – 40 brihada taktichnoyi aviatsiyi (brTA,
tactical aviation brigade) at Vasyl’kiv air base (see Ukraine’s MiG-29 experts, April 2017, p8489). Together with the pair delivered last year (‘05 White’ and ‘06 White’), the number of MiG-29MU1s in 40 brTA service now stands at ten.
At least one of the aircraft is new to the unit – ‘08 White’ (c/n 2960731239) is former ‘108 Blue’, previously one of the Ukrainian Falcons display aircraft, evacuated from Kirovs’ke air base in the Crimea in 2014. Vladimir Trendafilovski
The two new MiG-29MU1s, ‘07 White’ and ‘08 White’, on the LDARZ apron of Lviv International Airport, moments before departing for Vasyl’kiv air base to join their parent unit – 40 brTA. Ukroboronprom via author
First flight of new Mi-26T2V
The new Mi-26TV2 during its maiden flight at Rostov-on-Don. Rostvertol/Egor Bugrimov
Su-57 tests targeting pod
A NEW upgraded version of the Mi-26, the Mi-26TV2, has made its maiden flight. Russian Helicopters announced on August 19 that the helicopter had taken to the air at the Rostvertol flight test centre in Rostov-on-Don, flying for around 30 minutes and reaching an altitude of over 4,921ft (1,500m). Following preliminary flight tests at the Mil Moscow Helicopter Plant, the helicopter will
be handed over to the military for official state tests. Russia’s State Armament Programme for 2018-27 envisages acquisition of the new variant for its armed forces. Russian Helicopters CEO, Andrey Boginsky, said that crew workload has been considerably reduced by an automated flight and landing system, while new defensive aids significantly improve survivability. Dave Allport
Kazakh C295Ms at Ramstein Air Base THREE C295Ms from the Kazakhstan Air Defence Force (KADF) visited Ramstein Air Base, Germany in early August. The transports departed Almaty and flew via Chkalovsky air base, Russia, touching down at Ramstein on August 6. The aircraft were bringing staff and materiel for Exercise Steppe Eagle
2018 at Shaw Air Force Base, South Carolina. These were embarked in a civilian Boeing 757 that flew non-stop from Ramstein to Shaw on August 7, after which the C295Ms returned home. The three C295Ms were ‘02 Red’ (c/n 096), ‘07 Red’ (c/n 168) and ‘08 Red’ (c/n 169) based at Almaty International Airport.
THE SUKHOI Su-57 fighter has begun tests with the new 101KS-N targeting pod. The 101KSN has been developed by the Uralskiy OptikoMekhanicheskiy Zavod (UOMZ, Ural Optical and Mechanical Plant) at Yekaterinburg and is currently the most advanced Russian pod
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of its type. The complete 101KS Atoll electro-optical suite for the Su-57 includes a range of sensors, among them the 101KS-N – the N suffix stands for Nazemnyi, or ground (targeting). The Atoll reportedly draws heavily from the Lockheed Martin Sniper XR pod. It contains a stabilised platform with
TV and thermal imaging cameras (within a common optical package, including the scanning mirror and automatic tracking unit), a laser rangefinder/ target indicator, as well as a laser spot tracker. UOMZ is also developing a lighter version of the pod for the Yak130 combat trainer.
#367 OCTOBER 2018 // 21
Argentine Army’s Maipú exercise THE EJÉRCITO Argentino (EA, Argentine Army) conducted its Maipú exercise (named for the capital of the Maipú Partido district) at the Magdalena training area, Buenos Aires province, at
the end of August. The final phase involved the Batallón de Helicópteros de Asalto 601 (601st Assault Helicopter Battalion) – which deployed four UH-1H Huey IIs – alongside armoured cavalry and mechanised infantry units. The UH-1s departed their home base at Campo de Mayo and arrived at Magdalena on August 21. Activities began the same afternoon when doorgunners trained in the use
of 7.62mm MAG machine guns on board a pair of Huey IIs. The helicopters then performed a ‘hot’ refuelling from a supply truck of the Escuadrón de Aviación de Apoyo 604 (604th Support Aviation Squadron). Night flying included a navigation to the city of Punta Indio using night-vision googles. On their return the four UH-1s conducted air assault training with the Regimiento de Caballería
de Tanques 8 (8th Cavalry Tank Regiment), whose troops embarked and disembarked in successive waves. This was the first night-time heliborne operation of this scale performed in Argentina. Activities continued on the 23rd with more door-gunner training on the range, after which the UH-1s refuelled for the return to Campo de Mayo that afternoon. Esteban G Brea and Mauricio Chiofalo
Esteban G Brea
Brazilian helicopter carrier reaches Rio NEW MARINHA do Brasil (Brazilian Navy) multipurpose helicopter carrier PHM Atlantico (A 140) arrived at its home port, Rio de Janeiro, on August 25. The vessel previously served with the Royal Navy as the amphibious assault ship HMS Ocean (L 12) before being purchased by Brazil last December and was
formally decommissioned from the RN at Devonport on March 27 this year. Commissioned as the Atlantico in the UK on June 29, the ship set sail for Brazil on August 1 via a stop in Lisbon, Portugal. The first landing of a Brazilian Navy aircraft on its deck took place at 1037hrs on August 22, when IH-6B (Bell 206B
JetRanger) N-5039 ‘Heron 39’ from HI-1 touched down to take part in an aviation safety inspection. It was followed by an SH-16 Seahawk and UH-15 Caracal, which also took part in the trials. The vessel was approved for aerial operations with the Marinha do Brasil the following day. Dave Allport
Ecuador Army receives new M28 A PZL Mielec M28 has been delivered to the Aviación del Ejército Ecuatoriano (Ecuadorian Army Aviation) for operation by Grupo Aéreo del Ejército 44 at Pastaza/Shell Mera, Rio Amazonas. The Skytruck, AEE-208 (delivery registration SP-DDA), arrived at Pastaza on August 28 having flown into Ecuador four days earlier for training flights with Polish instructors. The 1996-built former PZL demonstrator was bought as an attrition replacement for IAI-201 Arava E-206, lost in a crash on March 15, 2016, killing all 22 on board – see Attrition, May 2016. Other types had been considered before the M28 was ordered in April this year (see Ecuadorian Army purchases M28, July, p19). The contract included training four Ecuadorian pilots and six technicians in Poland, in addition to provision of spare parts for up to 400 flight hours. Dave Allport
Colombians wrap up at Red Flag SIX KFIR fighters from the Fuerza Aérea Colombiana (FAC, Colombian Air Force) undertook a deployment to the US for Exercise Red Flag 18-3. The jets – operated by Escuadrón de Combate 111 and supported by a 767 Multi-Mission Tanker Transport from Escuadrón de Transporte 811 – took part in the exercise at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, between July 16 and August 3. The FAC kicked off its participation with its 767 MMTT refuelling a US Navy EA-18 Growler of VAQ-132 ‘Scorpions’ from
Naval Air Station Whidbey Island, Washington – the first time a Colombian aircraft has ever refuelled a US aircraft. The MMTT refuelled Growlers and Colombian Kfirs throughout their eight day and night sorties during the exercise. The Colombian Kfirs flew 36 day and night sorties in Red Flag 18-3, and an FAC pilot led a group of aircraft in a simulated strike package. Below: A FAC crew chief signals a Kfir pilot before a night mission on July 31. USAF/Staff Sgt Angela Ruiz
PHM ‘Atlantico’ (A 140) arrives in Rio on August 25. Brazilian Navy
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Argentine Fellowship retired FUERZA AÉREA Argentina (FAA, Argentine Air Force) Fokker F28-1000C Fellowship serial TC-52 (c/n 1074) made its final flight
on August 31. The FAA originally received five F281000Cs (TC-51 to TC-55) between January and October 1975, losing one in
an accident in August 1989. The FAA’s II Escuadrón at El Palomar continues to operate F28 TC-53 (c/n 11020), which it aims
to retain in service until September next year when its service life expires.
Juan Carlos Cicalesi
Third Brazilian Legacy 500 for FAB A THIRD Embraer IU-50 Legacy 500 has been delivered to the Força Aérea Brasileira (FAB, Brazilian Air Force) for operation by the Grupo Especial de Inspeção em Vôo (GEIV, Special Flight Inspection Group) at Rio de Janeiro. It was handed over to the GEIV in Rio on August 23 as part of a contract for six of the type signed under Project I-X on April 30, 2014. The first was delivered on September 23, 2016. Previous reports suggested that budget constraints had cut the order to two aircraft, but it appears that funding has now been found for four, the last of which is due for delivery by the end of next year. Dave Allport
New Bell 429s for Jamaica Defence Force BELL HELICOPTER has delivered the first two of a planned three new Bell 429 GlobalRangers to the Jamaica Defence Force (JDF), the company announced on August 14. The rotorcraft had previously broken cover
when photos were published by the JDF Air Wing earlier that month. The third Bell 429 is scheduled for delivery to the JDF next year. According to the manufacturer, the helicopters will be used for search
and rescue (SAR), medical evacuation (medevac), natural disaster relief, national security and military training. The first two are the former N837KB (c/n 57337), now H-36, and former N837LT (c/n 57338), now H-37.
Ecuadorian T-34s for Uruguay THE AVIACIÓN Naval Uruguaya (ANU, Uruguayan Naval Aviation) is to take on four Beechcraft T-34C1 Turbo Mentors from the Aviación Naval Ecuatoriana (Ecuadorian Naval Aviation). The trainers, similar to the single example still operated by the ANU, are being provided under a defence co-operation agreement between the two navies. At least two of the Turbo Mentors will be in an airworthy condition with the remainder used for spare parts. Three T-34Cs were operated by the Aviación Naval Ecuatoriana, one of which was written off on February 17, 2004. The other two had been retired and placed in storage at Manta by October 2014. In related news, the three Cessna O-2A Skymasters donated to the ANU by the Aviación Naval (Chilean Navy) have been delivered. They made a technical stopover at the Argentine Navy’s Comandante Espora air base en route to Uruguay. The O-2s will operate from Laguna del Sauce/ Capitán de Corbeta Carlos A Curbelo International Airport in Maldonado. Juan Carlos Cicalesi
New look for Argentine Army Bell 212 THE SOLE Bell 212 operated by the Ejército Argentino (EA, Argentine Army) has been converted into a troop transport. Serial AE-450 (c/n 30767) had been configured as a VIP transport, a role in
which it served since it was received from Bell Textron in 1976. Befitting its new task, the helicopter has received a new colour scheme as worn by the EA’s UH-1H Huey II fleet. Juan Carlos Cicalesi
Argentine Army DA42s join National Gendarmerie THE THREE Diamond DA42TDI Diamond aircraft (serials AE-043, AE-044 and AE-045) delivered to the Ejército Argentino (EA, Argentine Army) have transferred to the Aviation Directorate of
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the Gendarmeria Nacional Argentina (GNA, Argentine National Gendarmerie). Following a decision by the country’s defence ministry, the DA42s – built in 2006, formerly on the
US civilian register and originally received by the EA in January 2016 – will be used by the GNA for border surveillance after being equipped for their new role. Juan Carlos Cicalesi
#367 OCTOBER 2018 // 23
First Singapore A330 MRTT delivered
First JASDF 777-300ER delivered JAPAN AIR Self-Defense Force (JASDF) Boeing 7773SBER N509BJ (c/n 62439) was delivered from BaselMulhouse, Switzerland, to Chitose Air Base, Japan, overnight on August 16. By August 20, when it was formally handed over, it was carrying JASDF serial 80-1111. The aircraft, the first of two for the JASDF, had been delivered from Boeing Field, Seattle, to Basel overnight on October 12, 2016, for cabin outfitting. The 777s will be operated by the Tikubetu Koku Yusodai (Special Airlift Group)/701st Hikotai (Squadron) at Chitose. The second is still at Basel being fitted out, but is scheduled for delivery in December. They will be maintained by All Nippon Airways. One will be the primary aircraft, with the other as back-up. Dave Allport
Above: RSAF 761 is one of six being acquired to replace the RSAF’s four KC-135R tankers. The first example delivered was actually the second converted for the RSAF at Getafe, Spain. Airbus
THE REPUBLIC of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) has received its first A330-243 Multi-Role Tanker Transport (MRTT). The aircraft, 761 (MRTT034, EC-332), arrived at Changi on August 14 after
a direct, 14-hour flight from Spain and made its first official public appearance at the RSAF’s 50th anniversary flypast on September 1. The RSAF Transport Group will receive six
A330 MRTTs to replace the four KC-135Rs. The Singaporean MRTT differs from the previous baseline aircraft with a new standard of flight computers, structural and
Poor serviceability plagues Malaysian Flankers JUST FOUR of 28 Russian fighters in the Royal Malaysian Air Force (RMAF) fleet are airworthy, the Malaysian Minister of Defence Mohamad Sabu disclosed in a recent parliamentary session. The 28 aircraft comprise ten MiG-29N/NUB Fulcrums – survivors from an original fleet of 18 that entered service in 1995 – and 18 Su-30MKMs delivered between 200709. The former have been grounded since 2016, pending funding for an overhaul, while only four of the twin-seat Flankers are available for operations. In a statement
on August 3, which clarified the Su-30MKM’s poor serviceability, the RMAF detailed that 12 examples had reached their full decade of service and are grounded until the mandatory tenthyear service programme is completed. Due to lack of funding, an overhaul plan suggested by the manufacturer, Irkut Corporation, which required the Flankers to be shipped to Russia, could not be pursued. Irkut also required a substantial period of time to define the scope of work to be performed on the unique Malaysian MKM variant.
After a Su-30MKM was used as a testbed it was ascertained that substantial savings could be realised, should the overhaul take place at facilities in-country. The work will be carried out by local company Aerospace Technology Systems Corp, which also runs the Sukhoi Technical Centre at RMAF Gong Kedak, responsible for servicing the aircraft. The 12 Flankers will not be available for operations until they are put through the programme, the research and development phase of which is still in progress. Roy Choo
Above: Ordered in 2003, and delivered between 2007 and 2009, the RMAF’s fleet of 18 Su-30MKMs are equipped with multinational avionics content from Russia, France and South Africa. They are assigned to No 11 Skuadron at RMAF Gong Gedak. Roy Choo
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aerodynamics upgrades as well as improved onboard military systems. Since it represents a new variant, flight testing of the first RSAF MRTT took longer than expected.
New Delhi approves naval helos THE INDIAN government has approved the purchase of 111 new maritime utility helicopters and 24 Sikorsky MH-60R Seahawk multi-mission rotorcraft for the Indian Navy. The navy requires the new helicopters to replace ageing HAL 316B Chetak utility and Westland WS-61 Sea King Mk42B aircraft, but the procurement process has been repeatedly delayed. The Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) – the Ministry of Defence’s main procurement body – cleared the acquisition proposals on August 25. The 24 MH-60Rs will be acquired from the US through a Foreign Military Sale (FMS) at a cost of more than $2bn, while the 111 naval utility helicopters will be worth around $3.39bn. The latter will be built under licence as part of the Make in India policy. Procurement of the Seahawks is expected to take three to five years, while induction of the naval utility helicopters is anticipated to take between eight and ten years.
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Philippines eyes Basler gunships THE PHILIPPINE Air Force (PAF) may acquire two BT-67 gunships to increase its counterinsurgency (COIN) fleet. The aircraft are being offered by Basler Turbo Conversions and would join four surplus OV-10 Bronco ground attack aircraft that are being supplied by the US (see Four OV-10s donated to Philippines, September, p29). The Broncos will join approximately eight upgraded OV-10M variants already in service and complement six A-29B Super Tucanos due for delivery next year. Basler is offering the BT-67 gunships as part of a larger package that also includes a pair of BT-67 maritime patrol aircraft (MPA). The company reportedly first offered the aircraft to the Philippines in 2016. The PAF’s fixed-wing COIN fleet is based at Danilo Atienza, Cavite, but is due to relocate to Lumbia, Cagayan De Oro.
Induction of Chinese Navy JL-10Hs A CEREMONY was held at Suizhong air base on August 3 to mark the formal induction into service of the first 12 JL-10H advanced jet trainers with
the People’s Liberation Army Naval Air Force (PLANAF) Naval Aviation University. Hongdu Aircraft Corporation delivered four batches of three aircraft to
the PLANAF beginning at the end of last December. With the arrival of these aircraft, the university is now ready to begin its first training course on the new
type, which is already in People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) service. The L-15 export version is operated by the Zambian Air Force. Dave Allport
Tejas conducts dummy deck trials
THE HINDUSTAN Aeronautics Limited (HAL) Tejas Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) has begun carrier compatibility trials. LCA Naval Prototype 2 (NP-2), piloted by Capt Shivnath Dahiya, successfully completed a first contact of the arrestor hook system with the arresting wire at the Shore Based Test Facility, INS Hansa, Goa, on August 2. The fighter – which first flew in 2015 –
was operating at “moderate taxiing speeds”, according to the manufacturer. LCA NP-2 is equipped with an Arrestor Hook System (AHS) for shipboard operations developed by HAL’s Aircraft Research and Design Centre (ARDC). Prior to the dummy deck trials, in-air operation of the AHS was verified in Bengaluru on July 23. The Tejas arrived at INS Hansa five days later.
Twenty years of RSAF training at Cazaux
Above: Two M-346s (324 and 327) and a maintenance crew deployed to BA 105 Évreux for the Paris flypast. Serial 324 flew over the capital with one Belgian and four French Alpha Jets. Serial 327 remained at Évreux as a spare. Peter ten Berg
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THE REPUBLIC of Singapore Air Force’s (RSAF’s) training detachment at Base Aérienne 120 Cazaux, France, has celebrated its 20th anniversary. The detachment began when the RSAF sought additional airspace for pilot training. Eighteen A-4 Skyhawks of 150 Squadron arrived by ship in France in 1998 and started to be replaced by 12 M-346 Masters in 2012. The bond between Singapore and France was celebrated with several events and an RSAF M-346 from the Cazaux unit took part in the annual French military flypast on July 14. The trainer was flown by Captain Yeap Wei Jiun, commanding officer of 150 Squadron. Singaporean officials and French Secretary of State to the Minister for the Armed Forces, Geneviève Darrieussecq, have agreed to extend the training detachment at Cazaux until 2035. Peter ten Berg
#367 OCTOBER 2018 // 25
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Nigeria completes maintenance of FT-7
FARM Mi-24D TZ-407 is retrieved in Gao by German personnel supporting MINUSMA. Bundeswehr
Malian Mi-24 removed from storage Above: Technicians involved in the first in-house 400-hour inspection of a Nigerian Air Force FT-7NI at Makurdi. NAF
THE NIGERIAN Air Force (NAF) has undertaken in-house maintenance of a Chengdu FT/F-7 for the first time. Engineers and technicians from 131 Engineering Group carried out the 400hours scheduled maintenance inspection at NAF Base Makurdi. Conclusion of the work was revealed on August 7
during a visit to Makurdi by the Chief of the Air Staff, Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar, along with other senior officers. The commander of 131 Engineering Group, Air Commodore Pius Oahimire, said that conducting such a highlevel inspection, without any foreign assistance, was an historic achievement. He said the work had cost the
NAF just N3m, compared with a bill for more than N30m Nigeria would have faced if the original equipment manufacturer or an external maintenance facility had been employed. Maintenance was completed in three weeks and involved removal, servicing, testing and reinstalling the engine and other major components. Dave Allport
GERMAN PERSONNEL have recovered of a Force Aérienne de la République du Mali (FARM, Malian Republic Air Force) Mi-24D Hind-D after a request for help from the Forces Armée Maliennes (FAMa, Malian Armed Forces). A Bundeswehr press release on July 24 provided details of the work. The helicopter, TZ-407, had been stored in Gao, Mali since 2012 and was in a poor state. FAMa commanders asked the
Ivory Coast receives two An-26s from Bulgaria
Basler BT67 heads for Mauritania THE US Air Force is seeking to purchase a single Basler BT-67 special missions aircraft and to modify another for an undisclosed customer – likely to be Mauritania. The plans were revealed on August 6, when the USAF issued an amended request for information (RFI). This stipulates procurement of one aircraft equipped for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) and medical evacuation (medical), as well as the upgrade to the same configuration of an aircraft that has already been delivered. The Force Aérienne de la République Islamique de Mauritanie (FAIM, Mauritanian Islamic Air Force) currently operates a single BT-67 delivered by January 2000. As of 2010-11 it had been fitted with a forward-looking infrared (FLIR) turret for limited ISR operations.
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liaison officer with the German MINUSMA (United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali) contingent for assistance because the forces did not have the heavy cranes and other equipment needed to lift and move the helicopter. After being loaded onto a heavy-duty transporter, the assault helicopter was taken to the military facility, near Mopti. The ultimate fate of the helicopter is unclear. Dave Allport
US Navy/Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Jonathan Clay
Egyptian Seasprite on exercise AN ARAB Republic of Egypt Air Force SH-2G touches down on the flight deck of the guidedmissile destroyer USS Jason Dunham (DDG 109) during exercise Eagle Salute 18 in the Red Sea on July 31. The Egyptian Seasprite pilot was greeted by LTCDR Andrew
Howerton, left, air boss for Maritime Strike Squadron (HSM) 48 ‘Vipers’. Egypt operates ten SH-2Gs – upgraded ex-US Navy SH-2F Seasprites – ordered in 1995 and delivered between October 1997 and 1999. The helicopters serve with 37 Squadron
at Borg El Arab Air Base southwest of Alexandria. The US Navy’s Eagle Salute 18 is a surface exercise with Egyptian naval forces conducted to enhance interoperability and warfighting readiness, improve military relationships and advance operational capabilities.
TWO SECOND-HAND An-26B transports have been delivered to the Côte d’Ivoire Armée de l’Air (Côte d’Ivoire Air Force) and are in service with the Groupe Aérien de Transport et de Liaison based at Abidjan-Port Bouet. They are the first of their type for the service. Acquired in Bulgaria, the aircraft comprise TU-VMA (c/n 9608, ex LZ-ABJ) and TU-VMB (c/n 13905, ex LZ-ABR). The first, TU-VMA, departed from Sofia, Bulgaria, on July 19, initially to Sfax-Thyna, Tunisia, before continuing via Niamey, Niger, then on to Abidjan, where it arrived the following day. The second left Sofia the same day and arrived in Abidjan on July 23 after following a similar route. Dave Allport
New NH90 flight sim for RNZAF
Full-scale P-8A training airframe inaugurated
THE ROYAL New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF) will receive a flight simulator from Canadian company CAE to train pilots for its NH90 multirole medium helicopter fleet. In an August 8 statement, Minister of Defence Ron Mark said: “A New Zealand-based simulator offers the benefits of increasing the number of trained pilots, while making more pilots and flight instructors available for deployment. This places less strain on RNZAF resources.” He added: “The availability of in-country, simulatorbased flight training will also reduce the need to use NH90s for training flights, ensuring the helicopters are available for more operational tasking.” Currently RNZAF NH90 pilots train on simulators in Australia and Germany, together with local live flying. The government has approved purchase and installation of the simulator at RNZAF Base Ohakea at a cost of NZ$2.73m (US$28.42m). The new facility is planned to begin training by July 2020. RNZAF NH90s serve with No 3 Squadron at RNZAF Base Ohakea.
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Above: The new P-8A Poseidon fuselage ordnance trainer at RAAF Base Edinburgh. Nathan Rundle
A NEW state-of-the art training centre for Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) P-8A Poseidon aircrew was formally opened at RAAF Base Edinburgh, South Australia, on August 17 by Minister for Defence Senator Marise Payne and the Minister for Defence Industry Christopher Pyne. The facility includes
a full-scale fuselage ordnance trainer, two flight simulators, two air combat officer trainers, together with other synthetic and hands-on training devices. “This [AUS] $470m facility marks the beginning of a transformation of our training that will support the air force’s ability to meet emerging threats and
future challenges,” Senator Payne said. “The facility will deliver over 39 separate training courses which will minimise training demands on the P-8A Poseidon aircraft, reducing aircraft fatigue, increasing safety and improving availability for higher priority tasking.” The ordnance trainer comprises a complete
fuselage, minus the tail section, plus slightly cropped wings complete with engines. It also carries serial ‘A47-001’ along with an RAAF roundel on the side of the fuselage, replicating the real A47-001, the first RAAF P-8A, which is operational with No 11 Squadron at Edinburgh. Dave Allport
markings to commemorate ARDU’s 75th anniversary. Formed as No 1 Air Performance Unit in December 1943, it assumed its current ARDU
title in September 1947. The unit conducts ground and flight testing of both new and existing RAAF aircraft, including modifications. Dave Allport
Above: RAAF/ARDU PC-9 A23-062 on approach to its base at RAAF Edinburgh wearing tail markings to celebrate ARDU’s 75th anniversary. Nathan Rundle
ARDU PC-9 in 75th anniversary colours ROYAL AUSTRALIAN Air Force PC-9 A23-062 operated by the Aircraft Research and Development Unit (ARDU) at RAAF Base Edinburgh, South Australia, has been painted in special
KC-30A brings Rafale to Pitch Black
Above: Armée de l’Air Rafale Bs fly in formation with a No 33 Squadron KC-30A en route to Australia to participate in Exercise Pitch Black at RAAF Base Darwin, Northern Territory. Commonwealth of Australia
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A ROYAL Australian Air Force KC-30A tanker played a key role in assisting the Armée de l’Air (French Air Force) fly Rafales to Exercise Pitch Black for the first time. The KC-30A Multi-Role Tanker Transport (MRTT) travelled from the Middle East region to RAAF Base Darwin, refuelling the three Rafale Bs along the way. Armée de l’Air detachment commander Colonel Arnaud Brunetta said: “Pitch Black gives our personnel the opportunity to participate in work exchanges with the Australian Defence Force which is important for professional and personal growth.” He added: “We are proud of our aircraft, the
Rafales have travelled more than 8,699 miles [14,000km] with over 20 hours of flying to arrive in Australia with no technical issues.” Deployed to the Middle East, the RAAF KC-30A has now delivered one million pounds of fuel during airto-air refuel missions on Operation Okra in the Middle East. The milestone was reached on August 6, during a routine air-toair refuelling mission. This year’s Pitch Black was the largest iteration of the Northern Territory exercise ever held, involving around 4,000 personnel from 16 different nations and 140 aircraft. See AFM’s Exercise Report on p70-73 for more.
#367 OCTOBER 2018 // 29
Flight test focus
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with the best The French academy for test pilots, the École du Personnel Navigant d’Essais et de Réception continues to develop in a fast-paced world. Frédéric Lert profiles this fascinating unit.
n the aftermath of World War Two, the French aviation industry rapidly began rebuilding its strength following the devastation of the previous six years. A test pilot and flight test engineer school was urgently needed as new, highperformance aircraft about to enter service required different scientific and unified testing procedures to those before. The creation of the École du Personnel Navigant d’Essais et de Réception (EPNER) in 1946 was perfectly timed and the unit was initially based in Brétigny-sur-Orge, south of Paris – in an old wooden shack. The development of the school rapidly gained momentum and featured a course in which the unit’s director, instructors and students all learned their craft together. Its progress soon gained worldwide attention, and in 1953 foreign crews began to arrive from countries including Spain and Italy. Five years later the school added rotary-wing training to the syllabus, teaching test and acceptance pilots. By this time EPNER mirrored well-known and long-established training centres, such as the UK’s Empire Test Pilots’ School at Boscombe Down, Wiltshire. It was rapidly outgrowing its operating base, so a move south to Istres was suggested in 1958 and, although the transfer took four years, the school’s fleet continued to evolve.
Continuing to innovate
“The school continues to innovate to stay in the lead worldwide,” commented its former director, Colonel David Caroff, who stood down in summer last year. “EPNER is an aeronautical engineering practice school applied to
flight testing. We deliver technical flight test training in three distinct sectors – [fixed-wing] aircraft, helicopters and air traffic controllers.” On July 4, 2016 the school was awarded Approved Training Organisation (ATO) status by the European Aviation Safety Agency. This endorsement meant EPNER was recognised at a European level for the specific activity of flight testing, and has reinforced its position in the global top five test pilot units. The ATO rating resulted in two different qualifications – Flight Test Rating Category 1 and Category 2. These correspond to the class A and B system already used in France – class A qualified pilots can practise flight envelope testing, while those of class B are limited to acceptance flights within an already open flight envelope. EPNER trains two student intakes per year – class A trainees from September to July and class B from January to July. Each pupil in the first category accumulates a hundred flight hours, roughly twice the volume of those studying in class B. Throughout their year of training, pupils can experience a variety of different aircraft or helicopters during type familiarisation and instruction. The course begins with some basic handling flights and continues with test flights where the trainee applies methods used during a typical trials programme.
Easy access to prototypes
The school primarily uses the Direction Générale de l’Armement (DGA, the French defence procurement agency) flight test fleet. This consists of the Pilatus PC-7, Alpha Jet, Mirage 2000 and Mystère XX. The bulk of the rotary-wing fleet comprises examples of the Dauphin, Fennec and Puma. EPNER also works with a few large French aerospace companies and has access to
Right: Colonel David Caroff, former director of the EPNER, ready to leave for a test flight. Frédéric Lert Left: For the centenary of Dassault Aviation, the French Air Force’s Rafale Solo Display joined the Falcon 8X for a flight over the Mediterranean. Dassault makes good use of test pilots – all former EPNER students. For this promotional shoot, Philippe Deleume and Eric Gérard were flying the Falcon, with Capitaine Benoit ‘Tao’ Planche in the Rafale. Anthony Pecchi Right: The Spanish Tiger HAD was also test flown by EPNER pilots. Serial 5001 (French test registration F-ZWBZ) is the HAD prototype, subsequently HA.28-24. In common with all the major test pilot schools, EPNER crews maintain dual qualifications on fixed- and rotarywing types. Anthony Pecchi
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Flight test focus
EPNER’s fleet: a short history EPNER was created in 1946 with just two aircraft: a Caudron 690 trainer and a Dewoitine 520 fighter. In the following months, the school was able to access such diverse types as a Republic P-47 Thunderbolt, a Junkers Ju 88, and a Stampe S.V.4, from the Centre d’Essais en Vol (Flight Test Centre), created two years before the EPNER. The college received its initial jet aircraft, a Gloster Meteor F1, in 1951, with a variety of types rapidly following. The first helicopter flights took place in 1952 with a US-built Bell 47. Four years later, the EPNER’s 14-strong fleet featured a SudOuest S.O.30P, three Meteor T7s, one Meteor NF11, two SNCAC NC.701 Martinets, three Dassault Mystère IVs, a Hawker Hurricane, a Stampe S.V.4 and a CM.170 Fouga Magister. By 1962 the school was still flying old aircraft and the staff were desperately looking for modern and afterburner-equipped combat machines. The rotary-wing section was struggling to survive with little or no equipment and few instructors. The first Dassault Mirage IIIB came in 1966 – the long-awaited Mach 2-capable aircraft, with an afterburner, had finally arrived. This Mirage would be the workhorse of the school and remained in service until 2002. By 1968, the fleet was reasonably representative of current operational equipment. It consisted of 14 fixed-wing machines – including the Dassault Mirage IIIB, Nord 260, Nord Noratlas and Lockheed T-33 Shooting Star. Its helicopter fleet was made up of an Aérospatiale Alouette II, one Aérospatiale Alouette III, one Sud-Ouest Djinn plus a Sikorsky S-55. In 1994, students could log time on new types including the Airbus A321 or Mirage 2000 and even test fly foreign combat aircraft such as the F-16, F/A-18 or Tornado.
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prototypes and production aircraft from Airbus, Airbus Helicopters, Dassault and some light aviation manufacturers. Such access is a key asset for the school to offer high-end training and face off tough competition from the US and the UK. “We remain at the same level as our counterparts, in terms of training content and the variety of aircraft offered to our students,” said Caroff. “If we fall behind the US and UK flight test schools, the drop [off in student numbers] would be immediate.” Facing this competition, EPNER carefully cultivates its international reach. The figures speak for themselves – in 70 years of existence, the school has trained around 2,100 trainees, of whom 456 (21%) were overseas students from 24 countries. International guest instructors are also employed regularly, a Spanish Air
Force captain being among the four fixedwing teachers and an Italian officer with the three rotary-wing instructor team. During the 2015-16 academic year the school hosted a US Navy pilot, a British helicopter pilot and two Italian officers: a helicopter pilot and a flight engineer. Two Spanish flight engineers also qualified during the same period and were assigned to the Airbus A400M programme.
Stiff international competition ensures EPNER never stops developing its training and remains on the lookout for new aeronautical
Above left: An EPNER diploma is a highly sought-after certificate in the career of a military pilot, offering the opportunity to clock fl ying hours in a range of exciting types. Anthony Pecchi Above: Mirage 2000N 301 and Alpha Jet E60 prepare to leave the Istres apron for a test flight, followed by a ‘photex’ with Anthony Pecchi in the backseat of the PC-7. Frédéric Lert Right: Pilot and flight engineer wear the same orange fl ying suit, typical of the experimental world. The use of a single belly tank was unusual for the frontline Mirage 2000N, but typical for the EPNER aircraft. Frédéric Lert Below right: Alpha Jet E100 received this special paint scheme to mark EPNER’s 70th anniversary in 2016. The austere landscape of the French Camargue is visible in the background. Anthony Pecchi Below: Flown by EPNER pilots, Alpha Jet E60 and Mirage 2000N 301 (the first production aircraft of the ‘N’ series) break away from the DGA’s Mystère XX. Anthony Pecchi
developments. Regular drone test operator courses, first held in 2015, reflect this commitment. Colonel Caroff said: “We set up this training because the need exists to prepare and test the man-machine interface. So far, drones have been designed by and for engineers [rather] than pilots. It is no surprise that numerous aircraft have been lost or damaged because of a lack of logic in the design of their aeronautical systems.” Five people, already familiar with unmanned vehicle operations, participated in the first course. There are also modules for novices but before starting at EPNER, they must attend a two-week overview on drone technology. “Our ambition is to teach beyond the sole theory and have our trainees understand and master the specific requirements of drone test flying,” Caroff continued. “We deal with specific questions such as overflying populated areas, flight zone segregation, risk control, performances and handling qualities evaluation.” To achieve this, the school is considering using a light aircraft that will be controlled from a ground control station as if it was aboard a drone. The aircraft will be fitted with a forward-looking infrared (FLIR) sensor to serve as a UAV surrogate. EPNER doesn’t face the same commercial burden as the British ETPS, which operates under the supervision of QinetiQ and within a private-public partnership environment. Although the French organisation still faces its own economic pressures, it continues to excel in what is a very competitive business. AFM
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#367 OCTOBER 2018 // 33
Fulcrum faces the future As the historic Fulcrum edges towards obsolescence, Alan Warnes reviews NATO’s existing MiG-29 fleets. Lockheed Martin and Saab also talk frankly about Slovakia’s controversial decision to replace its Russian fighters with the F-16V, not the Gripen.
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‘In association with ....’
ost of the former Warsaw Pact air forces operated the MiG-29 back in the 1990s, the time when Eastern Europe was dismantling its communist regimes. Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, East Germany, Hungary, Poland and Romania all flew Fulcrums in the air defence role, while, outside the alliance, Yugoslavia also operated the type. The Fulcrum, long respected by NATO because of its superb aerodynamics, is a deadly proposition when armed with the Vympel R-73 (AA-11 Archer) short-range air-to-air missile (AAM). However, the basic MiG-29 is limited by its 7,716lb (3,500kg) fuel capacity, which
limited flying time to 1hr 12mins. When being used for basic fighter manoeuvres, endurance is considerably less. A 1,984lb (900kg) centreline tank improves range but at the expense of agility. Regardless of the fighter’s limitations and increasing obsolescence, Bulgaria (15), Poland (24), Slovakia (12) and Serbia (10) still persevere with it, although only 50% or less are likely to be operational at any one time. Today the NATO Fulcrums are edging towards the end of their careers and Slovakia announced its decision to acquire the Lockheed Martin F-16 Block 70 on July 12. Meanwhile, Bulgaria and Poland are now initiating competitions to find a successor to their MiGs.
Slovakia opts for F-16s The Vzdušné sily Ozbrojených síl Slovenskej republiky (VzS OS SR, Air Force of the Armed Forces of the Slovak Republic) is set to acquire 12 F-16C Block 70s and two F-16D Block 70s after four years looking for a new fighter. The US design fought off the challenge of the Saab JAS 39C/D Gripen. According to Lockheed, a $US2.91bn letter of agreement (LOA) is expected to be signed by December. At the recent Slovak International Air Fest (SIAF) 2018 held at Sliač air base – where the MiG-29s are stationed – AFM spoke to Michael N Kelley, the company’s F-16 Campaign Lead in Slovakia. “The Slovak F-16s will come off the
production facility now being set up at Greenville in South Carolina and will be delivered 39 months after the deal is signed [around late 2022]. The USAF will put us on contract around six months after the LOA is signed, which should be by the end of the year.” Kelley continued: “The first two aircraft, F-16Ds, will be handed over in the USA and are expected to go to Tucson ANGB, Arizona, for pilot and maintenance training. The first ferry cell should arrive in Sliač during March/April 2023.” The Block 70 includes the new Northrop Grumman AN/APG83 Scalable Agile Beam Radar, as well as upgraded displays and avionics suite. The newbuild Block 70s will have their
Digital MiG: Upgraded Air Force of the Armed Forces of the Slovak Republic MiG-29AS serial 0921 gets airborne from Sliač. Igor Bozinovski
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Intel Report Slovakia’s evaluation
Above: Between 2006 and 2009, Bulgaria’s MiG-29 fleet was partially refurbished and life-extended to 40 years of calendar service by RSK MiG, under a contract valued at around €31m (equating to $48m at the time). Alexander Mladenov
Bulgaria’s MiG-29s were delivered between June 1989 and September 1990. The 18 single-seaters and four dualseaters went through a communication, navigation and identification upgrade plus a service-life extension between August 2006 and June 2009. Late last year the Bulgarian defence ministry announced that 15 aircraft were in active service, but only seven – including a two-seater – were kept serviceable. Are all operated by the 1/3 Iztrebitelna Avio Eskadrila (1/3 Fighter Aviation Squadron) at the 3. Iztrebitelna Aviobaza (IAB, 3rd Fighter Air Base) Graf Ignatievo. A replacement is now urgently being sought under the two-phased Armed Forces Development Plan. The service life extended to 12,000 hours compared with the 8,000 hours on current F-16 fleets. The Slovak order for Block 70s is the second, after Bahrain. The Gulf state ordered 16 – the first is expected to roll off the Greenville line in December 2021. The decision came as major blow to Saab. The company had hoped Slovakia would join the Czech Republic and Hungary as NATO Gripen operators. Part of Lockheed’s success might be due to the foothold it already has in
first phase, covering eight fighters, is budgeted at €768m, and led to a request for proposals (RFP) being issued by the Bulgarian government on June 29; all submissions are to be received by October 1. The jets should be delivered 24 months after the contract signature. In 202021 a second phase will procure a further batch of eight fighters, after a similar selection process. Bulgaria launched requests for information (RFI) to replace the MiG29s in 2011, 2013 and 2016. Saab offered the Gripen, Portugal was willing to sell some of its F-16s and Italy offered surplus Eurofighter Tranche 1s. Saab was the preferred option during the initial bidding process. However,
in September last year a parliamentary committee recommended that the competition should be relaunched. Although there had been two previous RFIs on which to base the shortlist, it was deemed too limited and new offers should include second-hand aircraft. According to reports in Bulgaria the defence ministry has called for bids to supply aircraft from the United States (F-16 Block 70), Portugal (F-16AM/BM), Israel (F-16C/D), Italy (Typhoon), Germany (Eurofighter), France (Rafale), Boeing (F/A-18) and Sweden (Gripen). In addition to the airframes, the budget includes the acquisition of role equipment, weapons and refurbishment/ improvement at Graf Ignatievo.
Eastern Europe. Poland acquired 48 new F-16C/D Block 52s between 2006 and 2009 that work alongside the Polish Fulcrums, while Romania opted for 12 ex-Portuguese Air Force F-16AM/ BMs. Croatia has also selected 12 ex-Israeli Air Force F-16C/Ds – although no contract has yet been signed – to replace its MiG-21s. Slovakia ruled out a secondhand purchase, which was complex and might not yield deliveries until 2026. Additionally, Slovakia
didn’t want to be left looking for another replacement after the second-hand aircraft ran out of useful life 15 years down the line. Slovakia wasn’t interested in acquiring the Dassault Rafale, Eurofighter Typhoon or Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II, either. It claimed the operational and tactical capabilities, as well as operational costs of these aircraft, far outweighed the needs of the armed forces.
For Saab, the sting in the tail of the Slovak decision was the publication of the fighter evaluation report. The defence ministry’s report claims: “The JAS 39C/D has reached its peak of technical possibilities,” adding that “because Saab plans to launch serial production of the E/F version in the future, the C/D version is not subject to modernisation”. Speaking exclusively to AFM, Saab’s Mats Thorbjörnsson, an experimental test pilot and part of Gripen Product Management, said he was “astonished” by the Slovak MoD’s reasoning. “It is not true at all. “When it comes to the C/D we have an extensive development plan. Saab plans to keep the Gripen C relevant until 2050. The Swedish Air Force has made indications they will operate the C/D for many years. In fact, the development plan and road map were presented to the Slovak MoD in May – that’s why we were so surprised by the comment.” The Slovak defence ministry report also contends that: “Compared to the F-16 Block 70/72, the JAS 39C/D has a lower weapon payload, lower fuel capacity, shorter tactical flight range, lower flight endurance, lower RoC [rate of climb] and significantly lower acceleration.” It also adds: “the aircraft avionics (older generation radar, early warning system, and aircraft protection components) are older, meaning that they no longer meet the needs of current and future airborne operations.” Thorbjörnsson responded: “We think we have a proven track record and the Gripen C/D
Right: A pair of armed Slovakian MiG-29s departs Sliač on September 1. Alan Warnes
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‘In association with ....’
Slovak MiG boss Lt Col Marián ‘Buker’ Bukovský commands Slovakia’s 1. taktická letka (1st Tactical Squadron) and has been flying the MiG-29 since 2000, notching up 2,000 hours. He’s an operational pilot, flying instructor, test pilot and display pilot and told AFM he flies around 100 hours per year. Two MiG-29s accommodate the quick reaction alert (QRA) huts, on the northeast of the airfield, armed with R-60 (AA-8 Aphid) or R-73 (AA-11 Archer) AAMs. While Slovakia has ten single-seaters and two dual-seaters, only around six are thought to be operational, including both two-seaters. The Fulcrums are expected to continue protecting Slovakia’s airspace for the next four to five years.
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is well up to comparison with the F-16 in all aspects. It has shown that many times in Czech and Hungarian operations and also at Red Flag. The Gripen’s performance matches the F-16 and exceeds it in some areas.” The report goes on to say that the Gripen’s lack of future modernisation potential played a big part in the government’s decision: “Airspace could [only] be protected to a limited extent, because one aircraft cannot address both the air and ground targets simultaneously.” Thorbjörnsson refuted this. “The Gripen was designed at the outset as a multi-role aircraft. Look at our competitors: the F-16, Eurofighter Typhoon and Rafale all started life as air defence fighters and the air-to-ground capabilities were added later.” He continued: “It is extremely easy for the pilot to work with different assignments and go from one type of mission to another. That was the whole basis of the aircraft’s design!” Slovakia also judged the Gripen’s PS-05 radar inferior to the F-16’s active electronically scanned array (AESA) AN/APG-83. Thorbjörnsson explained: “Saab are developing a new radar by step. Initially we have replaced the back end, which will enhance its performance significantly and we are working with gallium nitride [GaN] for the front end of the Gripen C/D.” He continued: “The Slovak Air Force never confirmed an AESA requirement. AESA is a buzzword and has a lot of benefits, but it has nothing to do with radar performance and detection range
Above: A Czech Gripen at Sliač. The Saab fighter lost out to the F-16V, but could still ultimately protect Slovakia. Under a recent agreement with Prague, Czech Gripens could be used for air defence if Slovakia’s MiG-29s are retired before the F-16s arrive in 2023. Igor Bozinovski Left: The 1. taktická letka commander Lt Col Marián ‘Buker’ Bukovský. He flew alongside Lt Col Martin ‘Mat’ Kuterka in the MiG-29 display at the Slovak International Air Fest on September 1-2. Alan Warnes Below: The Block 70 F-16V will feature a new AESA radar and enhanced cockpit avionics including a large central multifunctional display. Alan Warnes
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Intel Report or detecting low-RCS [radar cross-section] targets. We have introduced the Mk4 version of the PS-05 and radar performance is far beyond that of any other platform. What we want to do is introduce an AESA system and antenna without having to modify the aircraft extensively. We wanted to find the closest [thing] as possible to a plug-and-play solution.” The report also claims that Saab couldn’t offer an automatic ground collision avoidance system (AGCAS). “This is nonsense” the test pilot said. “We introduced the AGCAS on the MS20 system – it has been operational with the Swedish Air Force for more than two years and, more recently, on Hungarian and Czech jets.” The report illustrates how Saab, as a foreign vendor, is unable to include US smart weapons in its offer. Instead the customer has to go through a US acquisition process, adding extra cost. But, as Thorbjörnsson explained, “that is standard practice anyway”. Saab did come out on top when it came to the logistical package. Lockheed’s Michael N Kelley told AFM: “The USAF gave a two-year proposal, but Gripen gave ten. We explained that we offered a twoyear sustainment set-up because there are a lot of unknowns, and if we had priced out the programme with those, it might have been expensive. A two-
Above: Slovak MiG-29UBS serial 5304 wears a striking tiger scheme combined with Czechoslovak-era camouflage scheme. The 1. taktická letka has been a NATO Tiger member since 2003. Igor Bozinovski Below: Russian missiles and operational doctrine will be consigned to history once the F-16Vs enter Slovakian service. Seen here are the R-60 (AA-8 ‘Aphid’), R-73 (AA-11 ‘Archer’) and R-27R (AA-10 ‘Alamo’) AAMs as well as pods for 80mm unguided rockets. Alan Warnes
year deal allows the customer to gain operational experience on the platform and then a much better deal two years in. That way the customer doesn’t pay too much and, more importantly, they are getting enough of what they need.” AFM put Kelley’s explanation to Saab’s Krasimira Stoyanova, vice president, head of Central and Eastern Europe, who disagreed. “We consider it the other way around. Our ten-year commitment is very predictable, and this is a cost which is based on our experience with the Gripen
system. The air force would be confident of the cost of the support over ten years. Under the F-16 two-year system, it is unclear what the cost will be over the next eight years – who says it won’t go up? It’s unpredictable from a budget perspective and our solution is fixed and full.” Slovakia initially wanted the aircraft to be operational next year, when the MiG support contract ends. According to Saab, the Gripen deal could have met that requirement, but the F-16s won’t enter operational service in 2023.
at Bydgoszcz in conjunction with Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) Lahav. Poland had not lost a Fulcrum since the type was introduced to service, however, two accidents in the past eight months have led to the jets being grounded due to concerns with their ejection seats (the Su-22 Fitters have also temporarily stopped flying). The most recent accident occurred close to Malbork air base on July 6 and claimed the life of the experienced pilot, who had accumulated 500 hours on the MiG-29. His body
was found close to the wreckage. In the other crash last December 18, the pilot did not eject but survived the crash after the aircraft plunged into a forest. The Polish defence ministry has now initiated Project Harpia, which is the requirement for a new multi-role combat aircraft to replace the MiG29s and Su-22s. Several companies are said to have taken part in the request for information process, including Lockheed Martin (F-16 Block 70), Saab (Gripen) and Eurofighter.
Poland Poland operates 24 MiG-29s – the biggest Fulcrum fleet in Europe. The first nine single-seaters were delivered brand new in 1989 and 1990. They were followed by nine ex-Czech Fulcrums, transferred in December 1995 and January 1996. They were joined by 16 former Luftwaffe MiG-29 singleseaters and three two-seaters that were subjected to an extensive life-extension programme and systems upgrade by the Wojskowe Zakłady Lotnicze Nr 2 (WZL 2, Military Aviation Works No 2)
Above: Polish Air Force MiG-29 ‘67’ from the 23. Baza Lotnictwa Taktycznego (23rd Tactical Air Base) at Mińsk Mazowiecki was the jet written off in a non-fatal accident last December 18. Arnold ten Pas
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When Czechoslovakia split on January 1, 1993, the existing inventories were divided between the Czech Republic and Slovakia on a roughly 60:40 basis in favour of the former, reflecting the respective physical and population sizes of the two countries. However, there were two exceptions: the MiG-23 Flogger and MiG-29 Fulcrum inventories. All 64 Floggers remained in Czech hands, but the Fulcrums were divided on an equal basis. Slovakia received MiG-29 serials 3709, 3911, 5113, 5515, 5817, 7501, 8003, 8605 and 9308 as well as three MiG29UBs: 1303, 4401 and 5304. In December 1993 they were joined by three new single-seat MiG-29s – 0619, 0820 and 0921 – as part of a Russian debt settlement. The same agreement led to another nine aircraft being delivered in 199596: serials 2022, 2123, 6124, 6425, 6526, 6627, 6728, 6829 and 6930. In 2005 a multi-million-dollar deal modernised the communications, navigation and identification systems of 12 jets, to bring them in line with NATO standards. Ten single-seaters (0619, 0921, 2123, 3709, 3911, 6124, 6425, 6526, 6627, 6728) and two MiG-29UBs (1303 and 5304) went through the overhaul and lifetime extension upgrade. They all emerged from the upgrade at LOT Trenčín redesignated as MiG-29AS and MiG-29UBS, respectively. Work was completed in February 2008. Today, around half of these are operated by the Mixed Wing ‘Otta Smika’ Sliač. Controversy surrounding the support of the Slovakian MiG-29s surfaced in early May, when Slovak Parliament Speaker Andrej Danko disclosed that the country was negotiating further Fulcrum-related contracts with Russia. Local media reported that Russia was providing maintenance services for the MiG29 fleet, worth up to €50m per year. Defence ministry spokeswoman Danka Capáková admitted in May that Slovakia was paying RSK MiG €20m annually plus another €10m for other work. As a NATO member, this arrangement is highly unusual. The support contract with RSK MiG will finish next year, but it’s likely to be extended pending arrival of the F-16s. AFM
9/10/2018 12:08:08 PM
UNIT REPORTS • AIR POWER ANALYSIS • ORDERS OF BATTLE The 2nd edition of AirForces of the World, from the makers of AirForces Monthly and AirForces Intelligence, brings coverage of Europe’s naval air power. From carrier-based fast jets to fixed-wing maritime patrol aircraft and helicopters, the region’s maritime air components are reviewed in detail in this 100-page special publication, with extensive orders of battle for every flying unit. FEATURING:
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Republic of China Air Force
Defending AFM completes its analysis of the Republic of China Air Force, with Marco Muntz and Wiebe Karsten turning their attention to its transport and liaison, search and rescue, and training assets – and prospects for the future.
he backbone of the Republic of China Air Force (ROCAF) transport fleet consists of 19 C-130Hs assigned to the 10th Tactical Airlift Group based at Pingtung. Twenty were acquired in three consecutive batches: an initial order of 12 Hercules purchased in 1984 was delivered from September 1986; four more were ferried to Taiwan in January 1995 and the last four arrived at Pingtung in December 1997. The C-130Hs can be equipped with Knight Aerospace quick-change roll-on/roll-off modular units to carry passengers. The Special Transport Squadron based at Songshan comprises 11 Beech 1900C-1s and two Fokker F50s, delivered in 1988 and March 1992 respectively. The F50s are used to transport officials around the 13,974 sq mile (36,193km2)
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island while the Beechcraft conduct light transport, multi-engine training, liaison and calibration. Two of the Beech 1900Cs are modified with special equipment and antennas to calibrate radio navigation aids while, depending on the ROC Air Force Academy’s training requirements, the type also makes shuttle flights to Gangshan on a daily basis. Songshan is also home to one F50 and a single Boeing 737-800 of the Presidential Flight. Serial 3701 (for ‘Boeing 737 number one’) – the presidential aircraft since February 2000 – has only minor modifications including a satellite communication system.
Search and rescue
Established in 1954, the Air Rescue Group’s tasks include aerial search and rescue (SAR),
disaster relief, emergency medical services and transportation. When severe weather or typhoons strike the island, causing flooding, landslides or other damage, all available helicopters will support rescue and relief operations. Another important task of the ‘Seagull Squadron’ is transporting ill or injured people to hospitals from hard to access areas such as mountains or from vessels in the seas surrounding Taiwan. The Chiayi-based Air Rescue Group is equipped with 16 S-70C and three EC225 helicopters and has detachments at Songshan (in the city of Taipei) in the north of the island and Taitung in the south. Fifteen minutes’ readiness is provided during daytime while night-time readiness varies between 20 and 45 minutes, depending on location. A standard
C-130H can be dispatched for SAR tasks from Pingtung within 45 minutes if required. The Air Rescue Group received 14 S-70C Bluehawks in June 1986 to replace its UH-1H ‘Hueys’ – four S-70C-1s for VIP transport and ten S-70C-1As for SAR missions. In April 1998, four S-70C-6 Super Bluehawks arrived, equipped with a Hover Infrared Suppression System (HIRSS), weather radar, AN/AAQ20 forward-looking infrared (FLIR) sensor and an SX-16 Nightsun searchlight to enhance all-weather and night SAR capability. To expand its rotary SAR fleet, in January 2010 Taiwan ordered three EC225s, which entered service in July 2012. Compared with the S-70C, the EC225 SAR variant is more powerful with lower vibration levels and an increased payload. It also flies at a faster cruising
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g Formosa PART P ART TWO
speed at a longer range and has a higher level of automation thanks to advanced avionics. An option to purchase 17 additional EC225s to replace the S-70C-1/A fleet has not been taken up, probably due to budgetary restrictions. Instead, the Taiwanese Ministry of National Defense decided to allocate 15 UH-60M Black Hawks to the ROCAF from a total of 60 UH-60Ms on order. These 60 helicopters are part of an arms package signed with the United States in 2010 to replace the Republic of China Army (ROCA) UH-1H fleet. Priority was given to supplying the ROCAF with new UH-60Ms because the S-70C-1/As are rapidly approaching their maximum airframe hours, and it’s become harder to obtain certain spares through commercial channels.
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Above: F-5E serial 5272 on approach to Zhihang last year. The jet, which carries the code ‘80874’ on the tail, serves with the resident 7th TFW. The badge on the tail is that of the Tactical Training and Development Center. Marco Muntz Below: C-130H serial 1302 visits Pingtung North from its Pingtung South home base. Arrival of the Hercules facilitated the retirement of the ROCAF’s last C-119 Flying Boxcars. Wiebe Karsten
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Force Report Advanced Jet Trainer competition The ROCAF’s search for an Advanced Jet Trainer (AJT) ended in February last year, with the XT-5 announced as the future training platform. A contract worth $2.2bn, awarded to the military-run National Chung-Shan Institute of Science and Technology (NCSIST), was signed on February 7. As a subcontractor, AIDC will develop and construct the airframe which will be based on the dual-seat F-CK1 fighter, and the first flight of the XT-5 AJT ‘Blue Magpie’ is set for 2020. Sixty-six XT-5s will be built for the ROCAF, with deliveries of final production aircraft scheduled for 2026. The aim is to develop the new trainer with a minimum of technical support from abroad. Compared to the F-CK-1, the XT-5 AJT will feature an improved fuel system and revised avionics. Lighter materials should increase the thrust-toweight ratio as no changes are planned to the F124 engines, as installed on the F-CK-1, while a thicker aerofoil will offer a better lift/drag relationship, resulting in lower approach and landing speeds. Taiwan’s current government – formed after Democratic Progressive Party candidate Tsai Ing-wen won the presidential elections in January 2016 – places a heavy emphasis on development of local aerospace and defence industry. The ultimate selection of the XT-5 was, however, still controversial: the ROCAF’s required in-service date of no later than 2019 cannot be met and development of a new aircraft will inevitably lead to much higher costs. The ROCAF evaluated both the Korea Aerospace Industries T-50 and Leonardo M-346 as part of the AJT competition, which led to the signing of a memorandum of understanding (MoU) between AIDC and (the then) Finmeccanica in 2014 for 66 M-346s. At least 60 were to be produced under licence by AIDC in Taiwan, with half of all components made in Italy. Finmeccanica agreed to the transfer of relevant technology, provision of technical assistance and support of a locally designed avionics suite if desired. But the political winds of change in Taiwan in 2016 strongly favoured development of an indigenous AJT, and M-346 procurement fell by the wayside – despite a price reduction of about 25% off the original $2.1bn price tag. The pro-independence government justifies heavy investment in its own defence industry as reducing reliance on foreign purchases; and to gain expertise in building a future combat aircraft.
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Republic of China Air Force Right: Fokker 50 serial 5002 (c/n 20238, ex PH-JXH) is one of two examples primarily used for VIP transport work and is seen at Tainan. Three new-build F50s were originally delivered, arriving in March 1992. Wiebe Karsten Below: Backbone of the ROCAF’s Special Transport Squadron at Songshan is a fleet of 11 Beech 1900C-1s. Serial 1908 (c/n UC-8, ex N3179U) was photographed at Hualien. The type is also used for multi-engine training by the Air Force Academy. Wiebe Karsten
The UH-60M’s powerful propulsion system – including the latest General Electric T700701D turboshafts and wide-chord composite main rotor blades – makes it well suited for rescue missions at high altitudes. The first two UH-60Ms withdrew from the ROCA inventory and transferred to the Air Rescue Group at Chiayi last December. The next six arrived at Kaohsiung Port on July 19 before flying to their new base at Chiayi the following day after reassembly, inspections and (flight) testing. The final seven ROCAF UH-60Ms are scheduled for delivery this December.
Air Force Academy
Established on July 1, 1938, the ROC Air Force Academy has provided military pilot training from Gangshan since 1949. Its current training fleet comprises 35 T-34C Turbo Mentors and 47 Aerospace Industrial Development Corporation (AIDC) AT-3 ‘Tzu Chiang’ (self-reliance) jet trainers.
Students either complete a four-year university syllabus or a one-year military course before starting flight training. The first ten to 12 flying hours on the T-34C are part of an evaluation process before cadets undertake six months of basic flight training, during which 80 hours will be flown on the T-34C to learn basic flight techniques and procedures. Depending on grades and preferences, students will be assigned to either the Combat or Air Transportation Training Section to start advanced training, which also lasts six months. During the second phase, future combat pilots log 120 hours on the AT-3, while future fixed-wing or helicopter pilots fly either 81 hours on the Beech 1900 or an additional 91 hours on the T-34C respectively. As the Academy doesn’t own any Beech 1900s, these are borrowed from the Songshanbased Special Transport Squadron. After graduation, fixed-wing pilots will be assigned to a particular squadron where they receive typerelated training; those destined
to fly helicopters will move to the Air Rescue Group at Chiayi. Fighter pilots relocate to Zhihang to start a ten-month lead-in fighter training course before transition onto the F-16, F-CK-1 or Mirage 2000. In 80 flight hours on the F-5E/F, they will be schooled in basic fighter manoeuvres, night navigation, tactical formation flying, interception, air defence, air-toair gunnery using aerial darts as targets, basic weapon delivery and surface attack tactics. In 2010 the ROCAF drafted a requirement to supersede the T-34C with a two-seat primary trainer fitted with ejection seats, a likely candidate being the Beechcraft T-6. However, at this time the Mentor fleet was only midway through its operational lifespan, so replacement is not considered urgent. The first of 61 AT-3s ordered were assigned to the Academy in 1984, with final deliveries in 1990. Two years earlier, the Thunder Tiger demonstration team had moved to Gangshan and completed conversion onto the
Above: The second batch of six UH-60Ms for the ROCAF Air Rescue Group arrived at Kaohsiung Port on July 19 and comprise serials 933 to 938. After assembly and test flights, the six ‘Mikes’ flew to Chiayi AFB where this example was on static display during a recent open day. Formosa Military Image Press
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ROCAF inventory Delivered as
Quantity In service
Combat aircraft F-CK-1A*
* upgraded to F-CK-1C F-CK-1B*
* upgraded to F-CK-1D F-16A*
* being upgraded to F-16V F-16B*
* being upgraded to F-16V Mirage 2000-5Di 12
Mirage 2000-5Ei 48
* converted F-5E airframes AEW aircraft E-2T/K*
* all now E-2K standard C-130HE
AT-3, and the team’s pilots were then provided by the Academy. The AT-3s assigned to the team had smoke generators fitted and adopted a new white, red and blue paint scheme which became standard across the entire AT-3 fleet (the last to be repainted were the former 35th Combat Squadron aircraft transferred to the Academy in 1999). Although subject to a midlife upgrade between 2001 and 2006, the AT-3 is nearing the end of its service life and will be replaced by the XT-5 Advanced Jet Trainer, which is expected to enter ROCAF service in the first half of the 2020s. The XT-5 will also replace the ageing F-5E/F lead-in trainers at Zhihang which are now likely to continue flying beyond their planned 2019 retirement date.
ROCAF combat training
Zhihang Air Force Base is also home to the Tactical Training and Development Center (TT&DC) – established as the Tactical Training Centre in April 1976 to improve ROCAF air combat training. The 46th Tactical Fighter Squadron (TFS) of the Zhihangbased 737th Tactical Fighter Wing (TFW) became autonomous on January 1, 1984 and began reporting directly to the TT&DC. It became a dedicated aggressor squadron to support combat training, and several F-5E/Fs were repainted in either camouflage or an overall silver scheme, including red tactical numbers, to resemble People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) combat aircraft. Former USAF aggressor instructor pilots meanwhile assisted in
training Taiwanese pilots to simulate PLAAF combat tactics. An Air Combat Maneuvering Instrumentation range installed off Taiwan’s east coast by US company Cubic Defense Systems became available for realistic air warfare training in 1988 – with 27 Airborne Instrumentation Subsystem (AIS) pods included in the contract. The TT&DC was later expanded with an ACMI section equipped with the Display and Debriefing Subsystem (DDS) for post-mission debrief and analysis. Cubic upgraded the tethered ACMI system from 1999 to become a GPS Aids ACMI range, also known as Taiwan GAP (GPS ACMI Program) – which incorporates both a tethered and autonomous, ‘rangeless’ air combat training system (ACT-R) for training in any available airspace.
ASW aircraft P-3C
Transport aircraft C-130H
Training aircraft T-34C-1
* being transferred from ROCA
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Above: The ROCAF Academy started to use the T-34C in May 1985. Out of a total of 44 Turbo Mentors delivered, nine have been lost in various incidents to date – a 20% attrition rate. T-34C serial 3414 is seen at its Gangshan home. Wiebe Karsten
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Republic of China Air Force
ROCAF order of battle Unit
TAIWAN 1st TFW (443rd TFW)
2nd TFW (499th TFW)
48th Training Group
3rd TFW (427th TFW)
Ching Chuan Kang AFB
4th TFW (455th TFW)
Air Rescue Group ‘Seagull’*
S-70C-1, S-70C-1A, S-70C-6, EC225LP, UH-60M
* detachments at Zhihang and Songshan 5th TFW (401st TFW)
6th CW (439th CW)
10th TAG 101st Airlift Squadron
102nd Airlift Squadron
20th EWG 2nd Early Warning Squadron
6th Electronic Warfare Squadron
ASW Group 33 Squadron
7th TFW (737th TFW)
Tactical Training and Development Center (TT&DC) F-5E/F* * loaned from 7th TFW when required ROCAF Academy
Basic Training Group
Fighter Training Group
Airlift Training Group
Serial 0829 ‘75-6029’ is an AT-3 assigned to the Air Force Academy. Gangshan AFB was originally built by the Japanese while Formosa was under colonial rule. The academy moved here from Hangzhou in 1949, during the Chinese Civil War. Travis Chuang
A key element is the upgraded P4B AIS pod equipped with GPS. Its digital recorder stores all data normally transmitted to ground stations, which can be downloaded for post-flight assessment, obviating the need for a fixed infrastructure within the range. Position information can also be downlinked directly to ACMI ground stations for real-time mission monitoring. The contract included the supply of 24 pods as well as six sets of displays and debriefing equipment. The GPS Aids ACMI had been installed by December 2000, and Cubic completed an
upgrade in March 2004 when the ACMI range air coverage was expanded by updating software and hardware to improve realtime mission training capability. Two additional remote aerial training sites were added, weapon simulation capacity enhanced and communication equipment made resistant to cell phone interference. Improved ACMI equipment, new training requirements and the F-5’s lack of beyond-visual-range (BVR) capability led to the 46th TFS losing its adversary task by the end of 2014 but continuing as a lead-in training squadron.
* Special Transport Squadron detachment Songhsan AFB Command
Special Transport Squadron
Beech 1900C-1, Fokker 50
Presidential Flight Section
Fokker 50, Boeing 737-800
* detachment drawn from either 1st TFW or 3rd TFW, between April-October UNITED STATES 56th OG
Luke AFB, Arizona
Edwards AFB, California
Abbreviations: AFB: Air Force Base, CW: Composite Wing, EWG: Electronic Warfare Group, FLTS: Flight Test Squadron, FS: Fighter Squadron, OG: Operations Group, TAG: Tactical Airlift Group, TFW: Tactical Fighter Wing, TRS: Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron
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Above: Another of Zhihang’s two-seat Tiger IIs, F-5F serial 5416 ‘30142’ (c/n VH1039) wears a brown/green camouflage scheme. The badge below the cockpit signifies the 46th TFS, formerly the ROCAF’s dedicated aggressor squadron. Wiebe Karsten Right: Weathered two-seat F-5F serial 5378 ‘91721’ (c/n VH1001) of the 7th Tactical Fighter Wing at Zhihang. The rampant dragon motif on the tail is the 7th TFW badge. Marco Muntz
9/10/2018 9:34:02 AM
‘In association with ....’
East China Sea
Ching Chuan Kang Taiwan Strait
South China Sea
Into the future
Taiwan’s government plans to increase annual defence spending by up to 20% by 2025. The main focus will be on enhancing existing surveillance and electronic warfare systems and acquiring new anti-missile systems plus unmanned and combat aircraft. Despite its aim to develop its local defence industry and reduce dependence on foreign countries, Taiwan still heavily relies on the US to modernise its military capabilities. A major potential arms sale announced by the US government in June last year included 50 AGM88B High-speed Anti-Radiation
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Missiles (HARM) and 56 AGM-154C Joint Standoff Weapons (JSOW) to bolster the Taiwanese F-16 fleet. The Ministry of National Defense has also put in a formal request to buy an unknown number of F-35B short take-off and vertical landing (STOVL) fighters, which would enable the ROCAF to operate combat aircraft should its air bases be targeted by missiles during an attack by China. But the sale is a sensitive subject for the US government and would likely have repercussions for Washington’s relationship with China. Chinese espionage is another area of concern to the
Pentagon, which is reluctant to entrust sophisticated US military technology to Taiwan. Upgrade programmes for existing combat aircraft are still the quickest and most cost-effective way to raise ROCAF capability – with, for example, the F-16V upgrade now in full swing (see Headlines, p6-7) since the F-CK-1C/D Brave Hawk project finished last December. The ROCAF has also shown interest in enhancing its Mirage 2000-5 fleet. Various aspects of an update package have been discussed since June last year and might include a life extension of the current MICA and Magic 2 missiles.
Despite a limited defence budget compared to China’s, and a complicated diplomatic position that makes weapon acquisitions from abroad difficult, Taiwan will continue to strengthen its military potential with the aim of achieving deterrence through denial. Under this strategy, Beijing would have to be convinced that it cannot claim its island neighbour by use of force. Besides the need to improve its defence capabilities, Taiwan looks set to continue to seek a constructive dialogue with China to maintain stability in the East Asia region. AFM
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Always the f irst
In the year in which it celebrates a half-century of existence and 35 years operating the M-18 Dromader, Dirk Jan de Ridder visits the firefighting specialists of the Hellenic Air Force’s 359 MAEDY.
he 359 Moira Aeroporikis Exypiretisis Dimosion Ypiresion (MAEDY, Public Services Air Support Unit) was established in 1968 and initially flew ten Bell 47 crop-dusting helicopters from Elefsis air base, west of Athens. The unit moved to Tatoi air base, on Athens’ northern outskirts, two years later. Fifty years after its establishment, and after operating C-47 Dakotas and Grumman G-164 Ag-Cats in the same role, the unit currently includes 22 PZL M-18 Dromader aircraft, three of which are twin-seat M-18BS training aircraft. During the Cold War, these were the only aircraft manufactured in an Eastern Bloc country serving with a NATO air
arm. Thirty single-seaters were delivered in 1983, but the aircraft’s attrition rate is testament to the dangers of aerial firefighting. Five aircraft were lost in the first three years and four more by the turn of the century – in 2002 the survivors were supplemented by the three two-seaters to enhance in-house training. The 359 MAEDY is not the Hellenic Air Force’s only firefighting squadron. For a very brief period, the unit was also equipped with CL-215 Scoopers, but in 1975 these were transferred to 355 Mira Taktikon Metaforon (MTM, Tactical Transport Squadron) to form their own squadron (see Greek multi-mission legends, April 2017, p76-82). A total of 11
CL-215s are still flown by 355 MTM and the firefighting fleet was reinforced with the purchase of ten CL-415 Super Scoopers in 1999, seven of which are still active with 383 Moira Eidikon Epicheiriseon & Aeropyrosvesis (MEEA, Special Operations & Air Firefighting Squadron), based at Thessaloniki Airport.
View from the cockpit
At first glance, the CL-215 and CL-415 appear vastly more capable than a small aircraft like the M-18. Colonel Ioannis Kaloudis, deputy commander of 359 MAEDY and one of the unit’s most experienced pilots, clarified: “The PZL [M-18] is a very misunderstood aircraft. Most believe that CL-415s or helicopters are better for attacking fires. But imagine we have a fire on the mainland, relatively close to the airfield and pairs of CL-415s, helicopters and PZLs take off and go to the fire at the same time. What happens? The CL-415s and the helicopters have no water. The PZL can drop it immediately. The time factor is essential, and the first attack is our advantage. If there is a fire in your house, would you prefer to have a fire extinguisher or to have to call the fire department? The PZL is the fire extinguisher. The longer you wait, the more water you need to extinguish the fire. The CL-415 first has to find a calm surface of water to land on and come back. It takes 30 minutes, sometimes up to an hour. In the same time, the PZLs will complete three or four attacks. “Also, CL-415s and helicopters drop the water in long patterns. Our aircraft really targets the fire. We use a five-to-ten-degree dive angle
Up to 549 imp gal of water leaves the aircraft in a matter of seconds. Even after 35 years of service, 18 single-seat M-18s are typically available for firefighting missions throughout the summer season. All photos Dirk Jan de Ridder
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Getting the M-18 safely on the ground is one of the challenging aspects when experienced pilots convert to the type. Although the Dromader is considered a dangerous aircraft to fly without the right amount of experience, the aircraft is cheap and easy to maintain, and the Hellenic Air Force sees no need to replace it.
with surgical accuracy at a release altitude of just 10m [33ft]. I can drop the water in a garden without destroying the buildings around it. It’s a 1.5-ton ‘bomb’ [approaching the fire] with the velocity of the aircraft. The effect is the same as three or four water drops from 40m [131ft]. From that release altitude, the water will be widely dispersed.”
The M-18 has been extensively modified during its service life. Larger wing fuel tanks were installed to double the aircraft’s autonomy from around two to four hours. They also received new flaps in order to
increase agility. Finally, a 13 imp gal (60 lit) tank was installed to add retarding foam to the water. Pilots use a portable GPS for navigating around the country and a pair of radios to communicate with air traffic control and firefighters on the ground. A year for 359 MAEDY is roughly divided into a six-month training and recovery phase from November to May and a firefighting period in the remainder. Maintenance and other inspections are normally planned offseason, so that every aircraft is available during the firefighting season. The unit then abandons its home base, sending its aircraft in pairs to around eight airfields
across the country. The exact locations vary each year, but in recent years have included Amygdaleónas, Corfu, Epitalio, Kalamata, Kefalonia, Lamia, Lesbos, Sparta and Tripoli. Each detachment has a large water tank, so personnel can refill the aircraft without having to depend on support from the local airfield’s firefighting department. If needed, the aircraft can also be refilled directly by fire trucks. With all pre-flight checks carried out early in the morning and with water and fuel tanks filled, pilots can be airborne in about ten minutes. The unit’s main goal is to prevent fires and extinguish them early on, rather than tackling bigger blazes. For this reason, the aircraft also carry out preventive surveillance flights with a water load when requested by the fire department. A secondary role is aerial spraying against mosquitos, but this has diminished in importance since the number of fires has increased in recent years and after retirement of the Ag-Cat.
Areas of operation
Fires mainly occur in the central and southern parts of the country, the majority of them in August and September. Personnel are on duty at their airfields from sunrise to sunset and facilities are provided for them to rest and keep fit. In case of a major fire, additional personnel can be called to reinforce them. Col Kaloudis explained how this is centrally managed: “We have a department in Athens co-ordinating how we combat the fires. First, we go to hit the fire as soon as possible and to see if more aircraft are needed. If the fire is big or dangerous,
Above: Serial 029 (c/n 1Z010-29), a single-seat M-18B, approaches a practice target at very low level. Dromader pilots work at extremely low level, making them just as effective as a CL-415 dropping four times the amount of water from a slightly higher altitude. Below: Squadron commander Vasileios Theodorakis in front of his aircraft.
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Greek firefighters for example because of the wind, they decide to hit the fire with CL-415s or other aircraft. They have an overview of all the aircraft available and the fires around the country.” Last year was the worst in a decade with the Dromaders logging well over 2,000 flying hours working on fires. Col Kaloudis continued: “There was a spot fire on the island of Corfu in August, some 10 miles [16km] north of the airport. We took off to find the fire area and we dropped the water. Firefighting personnel on the ground asked us to refill and make another drop. On the approach to the airport, we overflew Dafnila [a tourist area with several hotels] and everything was fine there. When we took off again, there was suddenly a big fire. The tourists in the hotels were panicking as there was no way out because of the smoke. I told the fire department we were going to this new fire. We made 12 water drops with two aircraft. The chief of the fire department in Corfu had already requested reinforcement. A CL-415 soon took off from Andravida and landed three hours later, but the fire was already extinguished and the people at the hotels were unharmed. The PZLs did the job without any help, because we are all over the country in order to make the first attack. Some 80 to 90% of wildfires are extinguished by PZLs or ground personnel. In the media, you only hear about the ten per cent.”
Years of experience
Few of the unit’s pilots are under the age of 40. Flying the M-18 in the firefighting role requires a lot of experience. Most aircrew coming to the unit have a long career behind them flying fighters. The senior staff have flown aircraft including the CL-215, F-4, F-5, P-3, T-33 and even the C-47 (which remained in active service until some ten years ago). Newcomers begin their flying training on the two-seat M-18BS with an instructor sitting in the front, because the rear seat better resembles the pilot’s position in the single-
The unit always works with two, sometimes up to three, aircraft on the same fire.
seater. In perfect weather conditions the conversion training can be completed in around a month. One of the most difficult things to learn is landing the aircraft. Most aircraft require the pilot to pull the stick back during landing, but an M-18 pilot needs to push the stick forward in order to land using the front wheels. Push it too far forward though and the propeller will hit the ground, causing the aircraft to crash. It’s very difficult to make a perfect landing, especially because the aircraft is very sensitive to wind. After mastering take-off and landing, aviators learn to handle the aircraft’s limits and complete the course with operational training. The latter comprises carrying out water drops, all of which are solo flights. The M-18BS has a small water tank, but in practice the aircraft is so close to its maximum take-off weight with two pilots on board that it makes no sense to use it for water drops. Various ground targets are in use and new pilots gradually build up their confidence hitting their objectives with increasing quantities of water, while working their way down to an altitude of 33ft (10m). The M-18 has a water capacity of 549 imp gal (2,500 lit), but the aircraft usually lifts off with 329 imp gal (1,500 lit) due to take-off weight limitations. As the aircraft consumes fuel and its weight reduces, the amount of water carried is gradually increased. The water tank is installed in the nose and the pilot can
actually see the water through a little window, with marking points showing the quantity available. A full water drop takes around one to two seconds to leave the aircraft, but the pilot is also able to produce a fire-line which takes between seven and ten seconds. This is mainly used in case of smoke without flames. Right next to the water reservoir is the tank with flame-retardant foam. Depending on the fire, before each water drop the pilot can choose to add 0.6, 2.0 or 3.7 imp gal (3, 9 or 17 lit) of foam to the water. Foam is always used, except when there is only some smoke or if the fire is under unburnt trees. In the latter case, the foam-water combination would simply not reach the surface. The unit’s aircraft are getting older, but according to Col Kaloudis this is not an issue: “Our aircraft still have many years left. If you follow the maintenance programme, the aircraft doesn’t get ‘old’. In my personal opinion, I would like to have the Air Tractor [AT-802]. I prefer small aircraft for firefighting and it has a very good engine and larger load. Air Tractors are more effective against fires due to their load and velocity, but you have to consider the price. It’s expensive. It also has another disadvantage, which is that its turboprop engine, like the CL-415, cannot fly through smoke. As long as the pilot can see the terrain, our aircraft can fly through light smoke.” AFM
The squadron has three twinseat M-18BS aircraft, which are only used for training.
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Feedback Close call at St Athan
The ejection seat article (Bang! You’re Alive, June, p30-34) brought back vivid memories of an incident while I was a team leader on the Hawk Maintenance Flight (HMF) at RAF St Athan, Wales back in the late 1990s. One hot summer afternoon the tannoy announced: “Emergency State 2, Hawk aircraft inbound, 2 POB, birdstrike.” As the emergency crews got ready for the imminent arrival we in HMF (hangared alongside the runway) went outside to watch with morbid fascination. Very soon two Hawks appeared, flying in close formation, one sounding like a very rough electric hover mower – the ram air turbine had deployed due to low hydraulic pressure. Both jets lined up for approach on very short finals, one (the birdstrike victim) landing safely and the other, acting as wingman, powering away into the circuit. Later that afternoon the birdstrike aircraft was brought down to our hangar for inspection. What a mess! The trainer had been flying low-level and was hit by a buzzard on the forward port side of the cockpit transparency. This totally disintegrated the forward portion of the transparency and shredded the bird. Thankfully the front pilot had his clear vision visor down, but the bird remains rendered him unable to see and also made a complete mess over the Perspex windscreen separating the two cockpits. The instructor in the rear cockpit took over the flying, calling a State 2 emergency [an incident where doubt exists about the safety of the aircraft or its occupants. Crash vehicles and ambulance deployed]. Forward vision was minimal, so his wingman acted as his eyes. Debris from the impact went down the intake, damaging the engine (hence the popped RAT) and ejection wasn’t an option since the live miniature detonation cord (MDC) was dangling over the front pilot’s upper torso. Thankfully both occupants went on to fly another day, the aircraft was repaired by the Repair and Salvage Squadron and overhauled by us on HMF so it could fly again. As for the poor feathered friend, may it rest in peace. David Wretham
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Pakistan Navy ATRs explained
Above: ATR 72-212 serial 79 at Mönchengladbach on June 14. Rolf Flinzner
The June issue includes a photo of a Pakistan Navy (PN) ATR aircraft, describing it as an ATR 42 (Pakistan Navy ATRs in Germany, p25). According to several military databases, the PN received
ATR 72-212s. The photo shows ATR 72 serial 78, soon after its arrival at Mönchengladbach. I include a picture of its sister ship, serial 79, taken during an acceptance ceremony just before
ROCAF attrition clarification On p28 of the August issue, regarding the Republic of China Air Force C-130H fleet (ROCAF Hercules on exercise), the text refers to a crash on
October 10, without mentioning the year, which was 1997. MSgt Christopher Dierkes, 106th Rescue Wing, New York ANG
Ten Tors Merlin unit identified
it was redelivered to Pakistan. The aircraft was with Rheinland Air Service (RAS) at Mönchengladbach where it underwent an extensive conversion beginning in June 2016. Rolf Flinzner
Laarbruch’s Tornado leaders I have been reading AFM since the first edition and enjoyed the ‘Tornado tribute’ in the June issue. I would just like to point out one thing regarding the timeline in the Cold War Warrior section about the deployment of Tornado squadrons to RAF Germany. The article seems to suggest that No 31 Squadron at RAF Brüggen was the first in Germany. In fact, Laarbruch was already close to becoming the first operational Tornado wing even before Brüggen received its first squadron. In 1984, Nos XV and 16 Squadrons were already formed, and No 20 Squadron stood up in May. No II (Army Cooperation) Squadron remained at Laarbruch on Jaguars and re-roled in 1989. Michael Crake
The case of the ‘missing’ King Air Above: Merlins from 845 NAS provided essential safety cover and support to this annual Ten Tors youth event on Dartmoor this summer. CHF/Kevin Willis
The two Merlins at Ten Tors 2018 (Merlins support Wyvern Tor, July, p9) in May were provided by 845 Naval Air Squadron (NAS), not 846 NAS as stated. The former unit covered the event from Thursday to Sunday and kindly
flew a group of my Air Cadet Staff colleagues (and gave my tenyear-old a look round an aircraft). The two that turned up briefly on the Sunday from RAF Chivenor may have come from either unit. Chris Power
On p8 of the June edition in an item entitled RAF retires King Air it is stated that eight King Air B200s (ZK450 to ZK457) were delivered to No 45 (Reserve) Squadron. In fact, ZK457 was never part of No 45(R) Squadron but was instead operated by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. Col Nicol, ex RAF No 45 Squadron QFI
Contact the AFM team email at: [email protected]
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Esprit de VMFA-112
It may be a reserve squadron flying ‘legacy’ aircraft, but Dallasbased VMFA-112 is an exemplary US Marine Corps fighter unit and is ready to go to war at a moment’s notice. Frank Visser visits the squadron and sees how it maintains its fighting spirit.
Above: A pair of VMFA-112 F/A-18A++ Hornets, high over their home state of Texas. Callsigns used for this particular mission were ‘Cowboy 11’ and ‘Cowboy 12’. via Northern Skies Aviation
he challenges faced by the men and women of Marine Fighter Attack Squadron (VMFA) 112 are many. It currently flies the ‘legacy’ F/A-18++ Hornet and the B-model trainer, and is a reserve unit, which dictates that many of its personnel are part-time. It also means it’s often at the back of the queue for the spare parts to keep its jets flying. Does this hold it back, or prevent it from maintaining the legendary fighting spirit of the US Marine Corps? Not one bit. The squadron is under the command of Marine Aircraft Group (MAG) 41 and the 4th Marine Aircraft Wing (MAW) and it has an air-
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to-air and air-to-ground role. Lt Col Clint J Weber is commanding officer of the ‘Cowboys’, as the unit is nicknamed, and Maj Brian J Sullivan is active duty officer in charge (OIC). The active duty officer leads the squadron on a day-to-day basis because the commanding officer is always a reservist. Maj Sullivan explained to AFM: “My role is unique, with a high responsibility for a major, but I make the decisions that are best for the squadron while I am in this seat.” Sullivan started off as the unit’s maintenance officer, something he feels has been very beneficial. “I think every future active duty
officer in charge should have maintenance officer experience. You do need to have the perspective of what [the] maintenance [team] does, especially with the old aircraft we use. It helped me to double the amount of serviceable aircraft.” The squadron has around 12 F/A-18A++ and five F/A-18B jets stationed at Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base Fort Worth, Texas, although the amount of aircraft in its inventory is much larger. The other machines are stored in depots all over the country and used for spare parts. It has around 20 pilots, of which two thirds are reservists. One of the few active
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duty airmen within VMFA-112 is Maj Michael Reid. He said: “We fly quite a lot – every active pilot within this squadron flies around 150 to 200 or more hours a year and that’s more than an active fleet squadron pilot achieves.” The F/A-18’s normal flying configuration consists of two wing-mounted fuel tanks and an AIM-9M or -X Sidewinder on each wingtip. Beside the 20mm gun, the aircraft can be loaded with a fourth-generation advanced targeting pod and a variety of bombs such as the GBU-10, -12, -16, -24, -31 and -38. To practise dropping ordnance, the unit uses ranges near Sheppard Air Force Base and Dyess AFB in Texas.
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A distinguished history
Just four months after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor (December 7, 1941), Marine Fighter Squadron (VMF) 112 was activated in San Diego, California. Its first aircraft type was the Brewster F2A Buffalo, which was used for training. It then moved on to the much more capable Grumman F4F Wildcat. Originally known as the ‘Wolfpack’, VMF-112 deployed to Nouméa, New Caledonia, in October 1942. After returning to the US, VMF-112 transitioned to the newer Vought F4U Corsair in January 1943, and shortly after returned to the South Pacific to fight in the Guadalcanal
air and ground war. During one sortie against the Japanese, the unit’s Capt Archie Donahue destroyed four Japanese Zero fighters in a single mission. He already had one kill and so became the squadron’s first Corsair ace. In the late summer of 1943, VMF-112 returned to the US for a second time so it could reorganise and have a period of rest at Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) Miramar, California, where it also qualified for carrier operations. The last ‘Wolfpack’ assignment of the war came in November 1944. Its Corsairs served aboard the USS Bennington as part of a large carrier group that attacked the Japanese islands of
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Leading the ‘Cowboys’ Right: Active-duty officer-in-charge Maj Brian J Sullivan completes his preflight checks in an F/A18A++. All photos Frank Visser/Northern Skies Aviation unless stated
Maj Brian ‘SLAG’ Sullivan currently serves as the unit’s active duty officer in charge. He graduated from university in 2002 and two years later reported to officer candidate school and basic school in Quantico, Virginia. In 2005, he received primary flight tuition with Training Squadron (VT) 6 at NAS Whiting Field, Florida, and an advanced flying course with VT-21 from NAS Kingsville, Texas, where he earned his wings and designation as an F/A-18 pilot. After this he joined the US Navy’s Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 125 as a replacement pilot at NAS Lemoore, California, in 2007. Upon graduation from flight training in August 2007, Sullivan was posted to the ‘Bengals’ of VMFA(AW)-224 at MCAS Beaufort, South Carolina. During this tour, he deployed twice to Iwakuni, Japan. While at VMFA(AW)-224, he served in the operations, maintenance and safety departments. In December 2011, he was attached to 2nd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, as an air officer and forward air controller. The year after he arrived at MAG-11 in Miramar and was assigned to the ‘Black Knights’ of VMFA-314. During his time with the unit Maj Sullivan attended the US Marine Corps Division Tactics Instructor Course, was designated as a night systems instructor and low-altitude tactics instructor. He deployed twice with VMFA-314, both in support Operation Inherent Resolve (the fight against so-called Islamic State in Iraq and Syria) in 2014 and to Iwakuni in 2016. While at VMFA-314, he led logistics, maintenance, and operations. Maj Sullivan joined VMFA-112 in June 2016. His personal decorations include the Air Medal with Strike/Flight Numeral 1, Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal, Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal, Korean Defense Service Medal, and various unit awards.
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Iwo Jima and Okinawa. Later, VMF-112 also supported missions over mainland Japan. By the end of World War Two, VMF112 had downed 140 Japanese aircraft in combat, making it the third highest-scoring US Marine Corps squadron. In July 1945, VMF-112’s war came to an end and it flew to MCAS El Centro, California, where it was deactivated two months later. The unit was reactivated the following year as a reserve squadron at NAS Dallas, Texas, flying the F4U-4. During the Korean War, which began in 1950, the squadron remained in the US. The ‘Wolfpack’ operated the Corsair until 1955, when it received its first jet fighter, the Grumman F9F Panther. Five years later, it converted onto the North American FJ-3 Fury, which it flew until the arrival of the Vought F-8 Crusader in 1965. Two years later, VMF-112 changed its nickname to the ‘Cowboys’ in recognition of the local Dallas National Football League (NFL) team. By the start of the next decade VMJ-4,
a reconnaissance squadron flying the RF-8G, joined VMF-112 and in that same year VMF-112 received the F-8K followed by the F-8H in 1971. Early in 1976 the squadron started upgrading to the McDonnell Douglas F-4N Phantom II and changed its official name to VFMA112. By 1987 the N-model was replaced by the S-variant, which flew until phased out in 1992, making VMFA-112 the last USMC squadron to operate the F-4.
The ‘Cowboys’ transitioned to the F/A-18A Hornet in 1992 and four years later relocated to NAS JRB Fort Worth, Texas. The Hornets were upgraded in 2002, receiving improved radar, navigation and night-vision systems plus identification friend or foe (IFF) blades on the fuselage and a GPS module. The fighters were subsequently designated F/A-18+. Further updates followed, including dual chaff/flare ‘buckets’, upgraded cockpit displays, Joint Helmet-Mounted Cueing System (JHMCS) and the Martin-Baker SJU-17 ejection seat.
Maj Sullivan conducts a walkaround of ‘his’ F/A-18A++.
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“Although it’s an old aircraft, the F/A-18A++ is still a lethal platform, but we do have our challenges keeping these old birds flying with a small group of maintainers and obtaining the necessary spare parts”. Maj Christopher Dingman These modified aircraft were called F/A18A++ and are still in operation today. Since the turn of the century VMFA-112’s Hornets have participated in several exercises and deployments including Bright Star, held in Egypt in 2000. Two years later they were deployed to support Operation Jungle Shield and Exercise Southern Frontier, during which they operated from Japan, Australia and Guam. In 2003 the ‘Cowboys’ flew to Ørland in Norway to take part in exercise Battle Griffin and in late 2009 went to Al Asad Air Base in Iraq to conduct close air support and other missions. During this time the US ground troops withdrew from Iraq and the ‘Cowboys’ became the last squadron to leave the country. Their final deployment was to MCAS Iwakuni, Japan, in 2014.
Being a reservist unit, personnel only come together during drill weekends, which is one Saturday and Sunday per month, and for two single weeks per year, plus deployments. The part-time role allows people to have a career outside the military, while still
enabling them to serve their country. The reservists bring years of experience to the squadron and are highly valued. Around 50 marines work full time on the engineering side of the unit, supported by approximately 100 reservists. This is low compared with an operational squadron; the latter would have around 200 maintainers and newer aircraft. Maj Christopher Dingman, the unit’s maintenance officer, gave an overview of the challenges of operating these legacy Hornets: “Although it’s an old aircraft, the F/A-18A++ is still a lethal platform, but we do have our challenges keeping these old birds flying with a small group of maintainers and obtaining the necessary spare parts. Because we are reservists we have a lower priority than the operational squadrons within the USMC. The experience of our maintainers compared with an operational squadron is sensational and that helps us.” All the F/A-18s in VMFA-112’s inventory have clocked more than 6,000 hours and one aircraft has already passed 9,000 flying hours.
Every 200 hours of flying an aircraft gets a major inspection in which mechanical parts and undercarriage are checked, small modifications are made, and corrosion is looked for. The fighters are washed every two weeks and after 50 hours the engine gets a new filter and the aircraft is X-rayed. Maintainer and Gunnery Sergeant (GySgt) Jason Bryant explained: “We X-ray our aircraft to detect cracks and we focus on the wings and flaps.” The scanning work normally takes an hour and can be done in the unit’s hangar. If more detailed checks are needed, the aircraft can be towed to another building where manual X-raying can take place.
‘Cowboys’ look forward
However, newer aircraft are on their way. The first F/A-18C+ jets were scheduled to arrive this summer and replace the unit’s older single-seat examples. Boeing is modifying 30 legacy F/A-18Cs recovered from the ‘boneyard’ at Davis-Monthan AFB, Arizona to C+ standard for the USMC. VMFA-112 will be one of the first squadrons within the service to receive this type and transition will take place over the next two years.
Top: F/A-18A++ Hornets ‘Cowboy 11’ and ‘Cowboy 12’ over Texas. via Northern Skies Aviation Above: One of the few active pilots within VMFA112 is Maj Michael Reid, seen here signing the last documents before starting another mission. He flew with VMFA(AW)-242 before joining the ‘Cowboys’ in June 2016. Left: A ‘Cowboys’ threeship ready for departure from its home base. A B-model Hornet heads the line-up.
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Above: Maj Sullivan (left) and two other active pilots of VMFA-112 step towards their aircraft. Right: Return to base for an F/A-18B. This year all VMFA-112’s B-models are scheduled to be phased out and replaced by F/A-18C+ jets. Below: This F/A-18 is about to receive a new engine. Maintenance is conducted in the VMFA-112 hangar and also outside under the sun shelters.
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In a further change, the F/A-18Bs will be phased out before the end of the year as they are solely for training proficiency and are not used for deployments and don’t have a combat role. The great advantage of the C+ models is they are newer airframes and so besides not having to X-ray them, the amount of maintenance hours needed to keep them in the air is expected to reduce. Another
benefit is that these aircraft come directly from the overhaul depot and are very well maintained. Also, plenty of parts are interchangeable between the A++ and the C+ models – it’s expected that about 75% of the A++ parts can be cannibalised for use on the C+. Because the differences between these two models are minor, maintainers and pilots don’t need extensive conversion training to become operational on the C+.
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“We will still fly for some time with the F/A18A++ until they die,” GySgt Bryant added. Not only is VMFA-112 eagerly anticipating receiving a newer model of the F/A-18, it is also busy preparing for its next deployment. This will probably take place next year and will take it either to the Middle East or the Far East. Normally the squadron is deployed every five years and since its last trip was in 2014, it is ready for it. The unit is usually informed of being sent overseas a couple of months in advance, providing plenty of time to plan. These tours of duty – which typically involve around a dozen aircraft – help the crews gain experience and are an excellent opportunity for the reservists to practise procedures. Another benefit is that the unit moves up the spare parts priority list and this increases the serviceability of the aircraft, which is normally around 50%. It will be the first and last deployment in which the squadron will operate both the C+ and A++ models. Maj Sullivan: “I’m looking forward to flying the F/A-18C+ but the F/A18A++ is a great aircraft. I like to think of these aircraft as ‘classic’ rather than old.” Although VMFA-112 will fly the F/A-18 for the next decade its successor is already known. The F-35B is planned to enter service with the unit in 2028, but as the production rate is now gaining speed, this could be sooner. The infrastructure at NAS JRB Fort Worth must be changed to accommodate the new fighter and planning is already under way. Clearly the ‘Cowboys’ are an exceptional and unique squadron. Their devotion to keeping the oldest Hornets in the USMC serviceable on a restricted budget is remarkable. AFM
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Above: A VMFA-112 F/A-18A++ just before take-off. This aircraft is equipped with two AIM-9X Sidewinder missiles and a pair of drop tanks. The A++ model will be phased out during the next two years. Below: A locally based C-40A of Fleet Logistics Support Squadron (VR) 59 returns from its mission as this VMFA-112 F/A-18B prepares to take off. In the background, two F-16s of Air Force Reserve Command’s 301st Fighter Wing are checked before launching.
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HWIC at Gilze-Rijen
Dutch helo training the next level The cream of rotary-wing pilots and loadmasters are taken to their limits during the prestigious weapons instructor training courses held by the Dutch Defence Helicopter Command. Ludo Mennes and Frank Visser report on this year’s exercise at Gilze-Rijen.
he 11th Helicopter Weapons Instructor Course (HWIC) began at Gilze-Rijen Air Base in January under the Defence Helicopter Command (DHC). The DHC is responsible for all rotary-wing squadrons of both the Royal Netherlands Navy (7 and 860 Squadrons at De Kooy, flying the NH90) plus the Royal Netherlands Air Force (RNLAF) units located at Gilze-Rijen. The latter station is home to three flying units: 298 Squadron flying the CH-47D/F Chinook, 300 Squadron flying the AS532U2 Cougar and 301 Squadron flying the AH-64D Apache. Meanwhile, 302 Squadron at Fort Hood, Texas is responsible for initial missionqualification training of aircrews, utilising a fleet of Dutch-owned Apaches and Chinooks. The fourth flying squadron at Gilze-Rijen is 299 Squadron, responsible for training aircrews on all three RNLAF types, using aircraft from the different units. The squadron
also has access to a flight simulator for training Apache pilots.
One of 299 Squadron’s sections is the TACTES, responsible for Tactics, Training, Evaluation and Standardisation within DHC and for organising HWIC. The section serves as a standalone entity and comprises staff with expertise in operations, intel, logistics, loading and mission support planning. TACTES is headed by Maj Martin (full name withheld on security grounds), an extremely experienced Apache pilot who has flown missions in Bosnia, Djibouti and Afghanistan, and ran the first HWIC back in 2005. After serving as commander of 131 Squadron – responsible for basic training of all future RNLAF pilots – he has been in charge of TACTES since 2015. This year he was supervising HWIC for the fourth time.
Above: CH-47D Chinook D-102 practises brown-out infiltration/ exfiltration of special forces. All photos Frank Visser/Northern Skies Aviation unless stated Left: A CH-47D loadmaster/gunner tackles a target at the range. Each CH-47D/F was equipped with three machine guns, one on each side of the cabin and one on the ramp.
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HWIC at Gilze-Rijen Right: Troops huddle for protection as CH-47D D-102 conducts brown-out operations. Below: An Apache pilot conducts his final checks before starting up. This qualified weapons instructor wears the TACTES badge on his left shoulder.
As the DHC’s operational squadrons are continuously involved in a routine of practising, working up and deploying, it’s difficult for them to reach the ‘next level’ as regards tactics and flying. This is where specialists come in to increase quality, expand knowledge and bring in new tactics, techniques and procedures (TTP). From its outset with the Apache in 1996, 301 Squadron aspired to create
its own, in-house weapons instructor training effort. However, due to a lack of capacity, work on the first Dutchorganised course did not begin until 2004. Since HWIC was first run in 2005, the course – of almost four months’ duration – has developed an intensity rivalled only by its American and British equivalents. It has gained international recognition for its quality and the high standard of future weapons instructors that it produces.
Design of the course has changed a number of times since then. The first four HWICs were continuous, with students following the entire training syllabus non-stop. However, from 2011 the increasing number of foreign deployments reduced participant numbers, and the course adopted a modular structure. Participants learned the essentials in module one. After finishing this, the students further developed their knowledge at squadron level under the supervision of an experienced weapons instructor, enabling them to meet the standards of module two. After module two, the student became a fully fledged weapons instructor. The modular structure existed until 2015. However, commitments at squadron level resulted in the same difficulties: there weren’t enough students to begin the module two course. Therefore in 2016 it was decided to revert to the original, continuous 15-week course.
Above: An AH-64D Apache shortly after take-off from runway 24 at Gilze-Rijen Air Base. Below: A CH-47F(NL) Chinook loadmaster conducts final checks before the next mission during the ‘tactics’ phase of HWIC in early February.
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This year’s course involved two Apache, one Cougar and three Chinook pilots. All participants were selected by their squadron commanders. Aircrew had to meet a number of criteria to qualify for HWIC. These included being capable of acting as section leader, day/night currency, and weapons systems qualifications. Potential candidates also had to show motivation and the drive to succeed. Maj Martin continued: “You have to stand out from your squadron buddies and be willing to work hard as the course is not a typical walk in the park – it requires a lot of effort and determination to succeed. Therefore, only the best pilots and loadmasters are selected. HWIC starts where the basic skills of a regular helicopter pilot stop.” Together with participating pilots, five loadmasters (one Cougar and four Chinook) were chosen to take part, following their own dedicated programme. They needed to meet the same requirements for participation, but additionally had to successfully complete an aerial gunnery instructor course. When it comes to flying and gunnery techniques, pilots and loadmasters are considered complementary and are addressed equally, albeit with different training syllabuses. The weapons course is tough and on average 15% of the participants will drop out early and are not offered a second chance. Students are assessed on subjects including safety, instructional and supervisory skills, tactical leadership and situational awareness.
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Five years of the ‘Foxtrot’ The Netherlands’ first seven Chinooks were former Royal Canadian Air Force aircraft dating from 1974 and modified to CH-47D standard by Boeing. These former CH-147s became operational within the RNLAF in August 1995, carrying serials D-661 to D-667. Three years later Boeing delivered six factory-fresh CH-47Ds to the Netherlands. With the delivery of these – serials D-101 to D-106 – the total number of Dutch Chinooks rose to 13. In the years that followed, the aircraft were intensively employed in support of missions including Kosovo Force (KFOR), United Nations Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea (UNMEE), Stabilization Force (SFOR), Stabilization Force Iraq (SFIR), Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) and the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF). More recently, Dutch Chinooks contributed to the UN mission in Mali. The RNLAF lost two Chinooks in accidents during the Afghan deployment in 2005. On July 27 the crew of D-105 was assigned a mission to supply Dutch special forces in the field. During a brown-out landing, the helicopter hit the ground and was consumed by fire, with no fatalities. Soon after, a replacement, D-104, was transferred to Afghanistan. This aircraft hit a mountain peak on October 30 during a transport flight from Mazar-e-Sharif to Kandahar Airfield, injuring two crew. Due to the height of the terrain, the wreckage couldn’t be airlifted and was therefore destroyed in situ.
hardware and software. The first two F-models arrived on October 8, 2012, joining 298 ‘Grizzly’ Squadron in the Netherlands. The remaining four CH-47F(NL)s are operated by 302 Squadron for training at the Joint Dutch Training Detachment (JNTD). The unit is based at Fort Hood, Texas and employs six AH-64D Apaches and four CH-47F(NL) Chinooks to train RNLAF aviators.
In mid-February 2007, the RNLAF ordered six newbuild CH-47F(NL)s from Boeing to meet a growing demand for heavy transport and to replace the two lost helicopters. The Netherlands became the first international CH-47F customer. The CH-47F(NL), a custom version of the US Army’s CH-47F, includes Honeywell’s Avionics Control and Management System (ACMS) Block 6 cockpit, two CASE pods (Chinook Aircraft Survivability Equipment) and fast rope positions for special forces missions. The Dutch F-models can also be equipped with the Wescam MX-15HDi turret. Delivery of the CH-47F(NL)s was delayed by more than three years due to difficulties in developing both
Above: Aircrews undertook extra training for landing in sandy environments after operational losses in Afghanistan in 2005. Various low-flying areas have been designated in the Netherlands for this purpose. Sven van Roij Left: Dutch troops trained extensively in realistic scenarios prior to their deployment to Mali, including practising the extraction of special forces. Here, the gunner on the ramp of a CH-47F(NL) observes the environment – a CH-47D can be seen in the background. Sven van Roij
In May 2012, the then Minister of Defence Hans Hillen briefed the Dutch House of Representatives on the status of the ageing CH-47D fleet. The Chinooks showed crack formations in the airframe and some of their components were out-dated. As a result, it became necessary to consider modernising or replacing the Chinooks. Instead of a mid-life update, the Dutch parliament decided to replace the entire ‘Delta’ fleet. The cost would be greater, but would bring many operational benefits and ensure a longer lifespan of the new fleet. In 2014, Boeing offered the Dutch MoD 11 new CH-47F(NL)s. The costs proved to be higher than
expected and another type was chosen. The CH-47F MYII CAAS (Multiyear II upgrade, Common Avionics Architecture System) was selected the following year. This variant, already in production for the US Army, will be suitable for Dutch operational requirements with minor modifications. These include crash-resistant cockpit seats and a VHF Combat Net Radio (CNR) for secure communication with Dutch ground units. In order not to interrupt the production process, the adjustments will be made after delivery – it will take a minimum of six months to adjust each helicopter to the Dutch standards. Fourteen CH-47Fs have been ordered for the RNLAF. In addition, the six F-models currently in service will be upgraded. According to the Dutch MoD, the combined cost is around €838m, which is within the budget of over €915m. To save money, the MoD, in consultation with Boeing, aims to reuse as many parts of the existing D-models as possible. The new helicopters will be delivered from next summer onwards, after which the 11 CH-47Ds will be retired and possibly sold. With new CH-47Fs under contract to modernise the fleet, it’s expected the RNLAF will continue to operate the Chinook until at least 2045. Sven van Roij Below: Flying in darkness is one of the skills aircrews train for in the Netherlands and abroad. CH-47D D-666 – a former Canadian aircraft – has just returned to the tarmac at Gilze-Rijen AB after another flight. Sven van Roij
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HWIC at Gilze-Rijen This year, two participants dropped out after the first phase. The main stumbling block was the subject of ‘situational awareness’. Aircrew find this especially hard because of the difficult training conditions and the huge amount of information that has to be processed instantaneously. Nine participants (including a Chinook pilot and Cougar loadmaster from a previous modular course) successfully completed HWIC and received the welldeserved graduation badge from RNLAF commander Lt Gen Dennis Luyt on April 25. Crews that have graduated as a helicopter weapons instructor are held in high regard by their fellow squadron members. They return to their units and serve as tactical experts for aircrews during training and operational missions. They share their newly acquired knowledge proactively and lead by example, increasing tactical awareness and expertise within the entire DHC community. The aim of HWIC is to provide enough weapons instructors for all flights within the different squadrons: Apache and Chinook squadrons comprise five flights each while the Cougar squadron has three. In order to maintain their own proficiency, HWIC-certified weapons instructors conduct an annual Weapons Instructor Standardisation week, organised by TACTES. Here, participants learn and practise current and new TTPs. A weapons instructor will remain current as long as he/she is still assigned to the weapon system.
Despite the name of the course, crews are not only trained in knowledge of their weapons, but above all in the tactical operation of their equipment in a complex environment. The Dutch have acquired plenty of experience
and integration of different types with ground assets. It also involved different ground units and offered an opportunity to work together intensively. This kind of close co-operation between land and air forces is vital, as proven multiple times in Afghanistan, for example.
Modules one and two
Above: The NATO military training area at BergenHohne is ideal for AH-64 crews to practise firing the 30mm gun and unguided rockets. Hellfire missiles were not used during HWIC.
in hostile theatres such as Afghanistan and Mali and the course syllabus incorporates the latest knowledge from frontline squadrons. The HWIC course covered a broad spectrum: tactical flying, attack techniques, support for ground troops and support for special forces. The participants received academic and flight training in a ‘pressure cooker’ environment. All three flying phases started with two weeks of academics, in which the participants attended lectures from different defence specialists and guest speakers on subjects including the electromagnetic spectrum, ballistics and collateral damage. The course focused primarily on the development of the helicopter crews’ relevant experience and knowledge, their teamwork
The HWIC course started at Gilze-Rijen with a basic academic phase of four weeks, where candidates were introduced to the instruction techniques, student briefings and weapons instruction. This was followed immediately by academics for the first flying phase – evasive manoeuvring (EVM) including air combat manoeuvring (ACM). For the phase one flying component, course participants moved to the former air base of Deelen. Here the DHC practised out-of-area missions, living and working from tents and containers for three weeks. The participants were given a number of tasks during day and night operations, including evasion of attacks by fighter aircraft, of small and medium arms fire, of missile threats and evasion of ground and airborne radar systems. American, British and Dutch radar systems attempted to target the helicopters. The systems were located in the less populated northeast part of the Netherlands to avoid noise issues, as the helicopters had to fly extremely low to avoid acquisition. Evasive missions were also flown against F-16s and L-39s from Dutch contractor Skyline Aviation. For the second phase, focusing on weapons systems, HWIC participants again deployed after an academic programme. The NATO military training area of Bergen-Hohne in northern Germany was the exercise setting for two weeks. Missions flown during the course were integrated with ground forces from the Below: An RNLAF AH-64D Apache receives new ammunition for its 30mm Chain Gun at the forward arming and refuelling point (FARP).
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All three helicopter types that participated in HWIC 2018. During phase one, operations were flown from Gilze-Rijen AB, FOB Deelen and other locations. In some scenarios the rotorcraft were ‘attacked’ by fighters operating as Red Air.
Royal Netherlands Army’s 11th Air Assault Brigade and made use of the German air base of Celle. Different scenarios were practised by night and day including co-ordinating and carrying out of fire support in the form of close air support (CAS) and close combat attacks. Live-fire sessions for the Apaches (with rockets and guns) and the transport helicopters (door guns) were practised on the ranges of Bergen-Hohne and Munster-Süd.
Special operations forces
The Dutch Ministry of Defence is currently developing a strategic vision for further development of the special operations forces (SOF) role. The newly established Special Operations Command is responsible for this and will provide a second life for the Cougars of 300 Squadron – previously threatened with retirement for budgetary reasons. The commander of the RNLAF personally addressed squadron personnel last November and announced that the unit
will receive a dedicated SOF task and will require further specialisation in the coming years. The details of this assignment have yet to be defined by RNLAF staff. Although the goal of the course has remained the same over the years, its content has changed several times. Anticipating the new SOF role, this year’s syllabus has already put extra focus on the mission by adding a special phase. During the two flying weeks, the helicopters practised together with special forces from the Dutch military police and the Netherlands Marine Corps. Different missions included an airfield seizure and simulated rescue of hostages on board a ship and from a car. For the academic phase, participants spent a week at NATO Special Forces Headquarters in Mons, Belgium, for integrated simulation training involving both air and ground forces. The C-130 Hercules of 336 Squadron were supposed to play an important role during the third phase of the course – a combined
airfield seizure/simulated forward arming and refuelling mission. Originally planned to participate during all three phases, the squadron’s operational commitments limited its presence to the last phase. Since 2014, 336 Squadron has had a strategic partnership with the 11th Air Manoeuvre Brigade (AMB). This brigade comprises DHC helicopters and the army’s 11th Air Assault Brigade. Unfortunately, due to technical problems, overhaul, and the demands of the mission in Iraq, 336 Squadron was unable to participate at the very last moment. On the other hand, it also revealed the challenges of SOF missions. Maj Martin explained: “SOF missions are always different – there is no standard. SOF units teach us to think and act out-ofthe-box by focusing, thinking of solutions different to the obvious ones. Even though the loss of air capacity was a setback, it also offered a challenging perspective for the mission planners. The ‘fat cow refuelling’ procedures have been planned and actual verification of the TTPs with the C-130 will take place at a later date.”
This AH-64D has just returned from a ‘tactics’ mission during HWIC and the crew is about to shut down the systems at its dispersal at Forward Operating Base Deelen.
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Maj Martin was pleased with the results of this year’ s HWIC. The decision to switch the course from autumn to early spring proved wise and only one mission was cancelled due to bad weather during the 15 weeks. Only three missions were scrubbed due to technical failure, the result of excellent co-operation between HWIC and the active squadrons. The next HWIC will be held in 2020 instead of next year. The addition of a special SOF module proved useful for all involved and this new task will likely result in a further specialisation for the different assets in future courses. Maj Martin concluded with satisfaction: “The new-look course for our helicopter force further emphasises the importance of having high-quality weapons instructor training. The future for the HWIC looks very bright.” AFM
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Jordan modernises Air power update
AFM was granted an exclusive opportunity to interview Royal Jordanian Air Force commander Maj Gen Yousef A Al-Hnaity to discuss recent changes and the future of the air arm. Marco Dijkshoorn reports.
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he Al-Quwwat al-Jawwiya al-Malakiya al-Urduniya (Royal Jordanian Air Force, RJAF) has undergone an array of projects to optimise its effectiveness since AFM’s last report on the service in February 2016. These have included modernising and standardising the aircraft inventory and overhauling training programmes and organisational structure. His Royal Highness King Abdullah II bin Al-Hussein is closely involved with the armed forces and, guided by his vision, the RJAF is quickly developing into a modern air arm in a region with no shortage of political, religious and economic pressures. When Maj Gen Yousef became RJAF commander in 2016, the King expressed his desire to restructure, reorganise and further professionalise the air force. “The goal of the King is to make the RJAF more efficient and effective while adhering to the budgets,” Maj Gen Yousef explained. “Based on the vision of our Royal Highness, I created a two- to three-year plan to be able to fight the threat inside and outside Jordanian borders, both working alone and working with the coalition. My three main topics for the new organisation are the right people, the right size and the right flight.” When the commander was appointed, the RJAF operated around 29 different aircraft platforms. “You can imagine the logistical headache that
comes with supporting such a number of platforms for a small air force like ours – we are not the US Air Force.” Since the major general has been in charge, several platforms have been replaced or decommissioned and air bases closed and merged in the process. New types have been introduced and the command structure changed, all with the goal of making the RJAF more efficient. “Apart from changes in hardware and organisation, I have projects running to improve the working and living environments of NCOs and to have more female pilots in the air force. I really want the RJAF to be an example to other air forces,” Maj Gen Yousef contended. Key changes implemented by Maj Gen Yousef include: • Grob G 102TP replaced Slingsby Firefly T67M260 in the basic training role • Pilatus PC-21 replaced CASA C-101CC and BAe Hawk Mk63 in the advanced and tactical training roles • Bell UH-1H helicopters withdrawn from use
Above: Twelve of the AH-1F Cobra attack helicopters in the RJAF inventory are undergoing a service-life extension. Ultimately, only 10 Squadron will continue operating the type. Left: F-16AM serial 249 of 2 Squadron takes off from a hazy al-Azraq Air Base, locally named Shaheed Muwaffaq Al-Salti AB (abbreviated as MSAB). The jet is former Royal Netherlands Air Force J-057, delivered to Jordan in February. All photos Marco Dijkshoorn
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Air power update Right: Ten modern PC-21 advanced trainers replaced the outdated C-101CC jet trainers. The PC-21based training package prepares cadets for a smooth transition to the F-16 MLU OFP 6.5 configuration. Below: Back in 2015, 8 Squadron at Amman-Marka was equipped with the UH-60A depicted here. In the meantime, the unit has been re-established as the Prince Hashim Royal Aviation Brigade at KA2 and has been equipped with the UH-60M variant in the process.
• Eurocopter EC635T1 helicopters withdrawn from use • Eurocopter AS350B3 helicopters withdrawn from use • Leonardo-Finmeccanica Falco UAV withdrawn from use • Prince Hassan AB/H5 declared a Reserve Base • King Faisal Air Base/Al Jafr declared a Reserve Base • A Unified Helicopter Command was implemented • Ten AS332M1 Super Puma helicopters, two CASA C295, three C-130E Hercules, 20 AH-1F Cobra helicopters and six MD530FF ‘Little Bird’ helicopters put up for sale
Frontline and ISR assets
In February, the RJAF received an additional batch of 15 ex-Royal Netherlands Air Force (RNLAF) F-16AM/BMs that were assigned to 2 Squadron. Before their transfer to the RJAF, the RNLAF upgraded the F-16s to the Mid-Life Update (MLU) Operational Flight Program (OFP) 6.5 standard. The aim is to keep some 45 F-16s that will all be standardised at the same OFP level and to sell the remaining aircraft.
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Lt Col Alyamani, wing commander at Muwaffaq Al-Salti AB, observed: “This will boost the overall mission objectives and is another major step towards the intended target of modernising the equipment.” Meanwhile, the RJAF commander has a clear vision with regards to intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) assets: “We want to keep the ISR platforms that provided us the best information during the operations against Daesh [so-called Islamic State]. We have selected three platforms that we will keep in the inventory: the [Schiebel] S-100, the Cessna 208[B-ISR Caravan] and the [IOMAX AT-802] Air Tractor. With regards to the Chinese UAV, we have our FMS [Foreign Military Sales] programmes that we like very much, and the Americans would like us to adopt a US system, although this is still in the early stages.” The Prince Hussein II ISR Wing previously operated the Falco UAV, but this was recently phased out.
Special ops air assets transfer Since July last year, the air assets of the Army Special Operations Command (SOCOM) have been transferred from the army to the RJAF. The Prince Hashim Royal Aviation Brigade
(PHRB) now reports to the RJAF HQ and, with the establishment of a Quick Reaction Force (QRF), the PHRB now hosts four squadrons. Before the transfer, the SOCOM was part of the Army General Command. Air assets and maintenance personnel were provided by the air force while special forces operators and pilots were supplied by the army. After the command change, both the aircraft and pilots are an integral part of the RJAF. The special forces pilots require a totally different skill set and experience level than their regular air force counterparts. The special operations pilots have to complete a four-to-six-month ‘Green Platoon Course’ which includes nightvision goggle (NVG) flying, low-level flying, fast roping, tactical flying and brown-out sand landings. The course is developed and executed in conjunction with the US Army 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (SOAR) ‘Nightstalkers’. Some advisers from this elite unit were in-country during the 2009-2010 timeframe to establish the training syllabus together with the PHRB. The US remains the closest partner for special ops training and mission execution but the PHRB trains regularly with its French, Dutch and British counterparts.
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RJAF air order of battle, June 2018 Squadron
OJAM (‘Sweet Home’)
King Abdullah AB
Air Lift Wing 3 Squadron
M28 (2), C-130H (5), C-130E (3 for sale), C295 (2 for sale)
3 Squadron/ JIAC
AS332M1 (10 for sale)
UH-60A (8, ex 8 Squadron)
15 Squadron det.
Cessna 208B-ISR (2)
Royal Squadron AW139 (1), S-70A-11 (~5)
When AFM visited the RJAF back in 2015, the QRF had only just been established. The UH-60A Black Hawk helicopters then in use were operated by 8 Squadron (RJAF) out of Amman-Marka and training was provided by experienced special operations pilots of 30 Squadron (PHRB). Recently, 8 Squadron transferred to the PHRB and began flying the much more advanced UH-60M Black Hawk in the process. Brand-new accommodation, hangars and platforms to host the unit were built, adjacent to the existing PHRB buildings. The former 8 Squadron UH-60As were transferred to 14 Squadron. A maintenance hangar and facilities were established across the runway from PHRB to accommodate the AC235 gunships operated by 32 Squadron.
Previously, helicopters were dispersed across the Air Lift Wing at Marka, the SOCOM brigade at King Abdullah II (KA2) Air Base and the attack helicopter squadrons at KA2. By forming a Unified Helicopter Command, the RJAF commander will centralise all helicopters in the Gabawi area, which encompasses Sahel
Public Security Air Wing
Nesab (aka Zarqa AB), PHRB and KA2. Sahel Nesab until recently served as an auxiliary field for KA2 but has now been expanded and upgraded to host Mi-26T2 heavy-lift helicopters and CH-4B unmanned combat aerial vehicles (UCAVs). Besides an extended and newly paved runway, Sahel Nesab now has a new air traffic control tower, hangars and sun sheds for the Mi-26T2 and the CH-4Bs as well as offices and accommodation for troops and personnel. Construction work at the base is still very much in progress and it promises to be able to host several squadrons. Only the Royal Flight S-70A and AW139 helicopters will remain at Amman-Marka. Over the next few years, the other helicopter units will move to Gabawi to decongest the airspace over the capital.
King Abdullah II AB (KA2)
AH-1F (SES) (~12)
AH-1F (~12 for sale)
Helicopter upgrades and rationalisation
OJMF (‘Bright Star’)
King Hussein Air College (KHAC)
Grob G 120TP (15)
The UH-1H and EC635T1 helicopters were recently decommissioned. The ageing AS332M1 Super Pumas are still operational with 7 Squadron at Amman-Marka but since some critical components – such as the mission computer – are becoming obsolete, the RJAF has put them up for sale.
Prince Hussein II ISR Wing 9 Squadron
S-100 Camcopter (10), CH-4B (number?)
Cessna 208B-ISR (6)
Prince Hashim Bin Abdullah II Royal Aviation Brigade (PHRB) 8 Squadron
MD530FF (6 for sale)
UH-60L (8) Mafraq
Flight Instructor Grob G 120TP (on School loan from 4 Squadron) OJMS (‘Salt Pan’)
Shaheed Muwaffaq Al-Salti AB (MSAB)
F-16BM (~15, OCU role)
Sahel Nesab Group
Mi-26T2 (1 active, 3 ordered)
9 Squadron det. CH-4B OJHR
Reserve base, used by US SOCOM. Occasional detachments (9 Squadron with CH-4B, 10/12 Squadrons with AH-1F, 15 Squadron with Cessna 208B-ISR and 25 Squadron with AT-802). OJHF (‘Swan Lake’) Above: Part of the Prince Hashim Royal Aviation Brigade, 28 Squadron operates eight MD530FF ‘Little Birds’ in the special operations role. Serial 2804 is armed with a seven-round 2.75in rocket launcher. Left: The RJAF training fleet has undergone a complete makeover and the Grob G 120TP has replaced the Slingsby Firefly in the basic training role. Fifteen are currently operated by 4 Squadron from King Hussein Air College/Mafraq.
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Prince Hassan AB (PHAB)
Reserve base. Hawk Mk63s stored here. OJKF (‘Moon Light’)
King Feisal bin Abdul Al Jafr Aziz AB
Reserve base, used occasionally by US SOCOM.
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Air power update At KA2, 10 Squadron will receive the 12 AH-1F Cobras earmarked for a servicelife extension. Northrop Grumman and Science and Engineering Services (SES) are currently modernising the helicopters at Huntsville, Alabama. Upgrades include a digital avionics conversion using Northrop Grumman’s Integrated Mission Equipment Package (iMEP), which includes a FlightPro Generation III mission computer, a full suite of LCD multifunctional displays (MFDs), an embedded software digital map and navigation controls. A new forward-looking infrared (FLIR) sensor is fitted and the upgrades add Hellfire missile capability. The SOFEX 2018 arms exhibition pushed the delivery of the first two upgraded examples forward. At the time of writing, these were awaiting operational acceptance in a hangar at KA2. With the upgrade, it’s expected that the Cobras will soldier on for many more years. The 12 Squadron AH-1Fs will be replaced by new helicopters in due course. On the wish list are gunship versions of the UH-60, and the AH-1W. Twenty surplus AH-1F helicopters were put up for sale and two have been selected for transfer to the Philippines.
Above: Eight ISR-equipped Cessna 208B aircraft were delivered to the RJAF and are operated by 15 Squadron from KA2 and Amman-Marka. Right: Although the full mission spectrum of the Mi-26T2 is still to be determined, the aircraft will certainly be used for heavy transport and firefighting duties out of Sahel Nesab Air Base. One has been delivered, with three more to follow. Below: The two M28 Skytrucks operated by 3 Squadron are primarily used for tactical troop-insertion missions.
New kids on the block
Perhaps the biggest changes have been implemented within the training fleet and curriculum. In 2015, two new training platforms were selected for basic and advanced/tactical training: the Grob G 120TP and the PC-21, respectively. The initial order was for 12 G 102TPs but the RJAF soon added two additional aircraft to the order. Germany, in turn, donated another two to thank the RJAF for providing the use of al-Azraq AB to the Luftwaffe during Operation Inherent Resolve. Of the 16 aircraft that have been delivered, one was lost last December. For advanced and tactical training, the RJAF ordered ten PC-21s in early 2016. Eight aircraft have been delivered from Stans, Switzerland since August last year. Two are in their final stages of test flying and are expected in Jordan soon.
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On April 17, 2016, JSC Russian Helicopters was awarded a contract to supply four Mi-26T2s to the RJAF via the King Abdullah II Design and Development Bureau (KADDB). The first Halo arrived at Amman-Marka on January 17 this year and the second is currently undergoing acceptance in Rostovon-Don. Jordan became the second foreign military customer of the Mi-26T2, after Algeria.
The training of five captains, five co-pilots, five flight engineers and four loadmasters started in Russia on June 25 last year. Eight additional loadmasters will be trained in the near future. It’s mandatory to fly the giant helicopters with a four-man crew at least. The next three helicopters are expected to be delivered to 26 Squadron/Sahel Nesab Group within the next three to six months.
The first Mi-26T2 delivered was assigned to 7 Squadron which also operates the AS332M1 from Amman-Marka. This unit was selected as it’s a contractual obligation that before Mi-26 crews are trained, they should be certified pilots on a medium-lift helicopter. In April, the RJAF headquarters decided that the Mi-26T2 should be part of a dedicated squadron and established 26 Squadron – designated after the type. A full capabilities study is under way to define the future roles of the Halo, which will include heavy-lift tactical transport and firefighting. A giant 15-ton Bambi Bucket is already available to extinguish fires. This compares to the Super Puma, which instead uses a 1.5-ton Bambi Bucket. Russian instructors and support personnel are present with 26 Squadron – the warranty contract stipulates a minimum of two years’ support.
No more gladiators
Since 2015, the RJAF has been exploring new training platforms to better prepare cadets for the MLU-enhanced F-16AM/ BM. Cadets graduating from the C-101
and Hawk had to make a huge leap from fully analogue cockpits to the modern and mainly digital F-16AM/BM OFP 6.5 cockpit. Col Ayoub Zana, commander of King Hussein Air College, told AFM: “The new training platforms are very modern, and the symbology of the instrumentation is almost like that of the F-16. In some ways, the training platforms are more advanced than the F-16s. The Fireflies assigned to 4 Squadron have been replaced by the Grob 120TP and the CASA 101CC aircraft were all withdrawn from use in May 2017 and have been replaced by the far more advanced PC-21. The training methods and syllabuses have also been adapted to accommodate the new technology. The era of the old ‘gladiators’ is over and advanced technology and new, mainly computerbased training [CBT] methods are taking over.” With the introduction of the new types, the King Hussein Air College has fully entered the digital age. Both primary and advanced training are now supported by CBT facilities that were unthinkable with the Firefly and C-101CC. For example, the PC-21’s software enables the instructor to ‘inject’ new scenarios for the cadet, even during flight. This also applies to the simulator, where the instructor
pilot will sit outside the simulator dome to evaluate the student’s performance and to intervene when necessary. In this way both instructor and cadet can adapt to every specific situation enabling far more efficient training. The software also allows tactical training in the PC-21. Weapon systems including cannon, missiles and bombs can be simulated, making possible virtual air-to-air and air-to-ground training scenarios. After graduating from the advanced training course, cadets return to Mafraq to undergo tactical training on the PC-21. Whereas previously a separate type (the F-5E/F and later the Hawk) was needed for tactical training, it’s now standardised on one type, supported by the simulator. Another huge advantage is that all mission systems (engine, hydraulics, weapon system, navigation, etc) are recorded and can be played back as the need arises. The level of debriefing is incredibly detailed and provides the best insight into the execution of planned mission objectives. After the service induction of the G 102TP and PC-21, the fully analogue ex-RAF Slingsby aircraft were put into storage at Mafraq or sold to the civilian market. Seven of the
Above: Part of the King Hussein Air College, 5 Squadron uses 12 piston-engined Robinson R44-II helicopters for basic helicopter training. Left: The AT-802 Archangel light strike aircraft is the RJAF’s primary counter-insurgency (COIN) aircraft but also provides vital intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities for the Prince Hussein II ISR Wing.
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Air power update venerable C-101CC jet trainers were sold to Chile as sources of spare parts for the Fuerza Aérea de Chile’s (Chilean Air Force’s) CASA fleet. Also lost in the process of rationalising were the 13 ex-UAE Hawk Mk63s. The last course to utilise these jets was the May 2017 class that completed its advanced syllabus on the CASA. The Hawks are being stored at H5 in the hope they can be handed over to an undisclosed potential buyer in the near future. Col Ayoub continued: “One would imagine that training the cadets in only propellerdriven aircraft would result in a gap between graduation and becoming a fighter pilot. The opposite is true. The PC-21 is technologically far more advanced and capable of operating up to 8G. Therefore, the only limit is speed, but the human brain adapts to the increase in speed very quickly.” The first class of cadets trained on the new platforms has to make the transition to the F-16. Lt Col Khawaldeh, commander of 11 Squadron said: “We are optimistic. If you look back at the CASA, the F-5 and the Hawk, you were flying something that’s not even close to the F-16, and that included the performance. The biggest problem was not the flying – most cadets did very well – but the avionics was the biggest difference. We solved that with the implementation of the PC-21.” Students in the first class of 13 PC-21-trained cadets were due to receive their wings in July after which they will return to 11 Squadron for tactical training. During this course they will become familiarised with air-to-air and air-to-ground missions. Then they will be posted to fly the F-16 or other RJAF assets. Helicopter training has also seen changes. Beginning in early 2016, four additional Robinson R44 Raven II piston-engined helicopters were delivered to 5 Squadron at King Hussein Air College/Mafraq. The unit now has 12 helicopters at its disposal. The AS350B3 Squirrel helicopters used by the Flight Instructor School (FIS) were sold to the civilian market in 2016 and the unit now uses 5 Squadron R44-IIs as its training platform. Jordan is one of the coalition partners of the Saudi Arabian-led campaign in Yemen that was
Above: Part of the Air Lift Wing, 3 Squadron operates two C295 medium transport aircraft. The RJAF wants to standardise its transport fleet on the Hercules and has put its CASAs up for sale. Below: The RJAF’s 7 Squadron has been operating the AS332M1 Super Puma since the mid-1990s. It is expected that the RJAF will soon retire the type, which is becoming increasingly difficult to maintain.
launched in 2015. The initial armed intervention called Operation Decisive Storm has been succeeded by Operation Restoring Hope. The RJAF participates with AC235 gunships operating out of Khamis Mushait (King Khalid Air Base) and F-16AM/BMs flying from Taif (King Fahad Air Base), both in Saudi Arabia.
Commercialising the air force The RJAF owns two commercial aviation companies: Jordan Aeronautical-systems Company (JAC) and Jordan International Air Cargo (JIAC). The latter currently operates two Il-76MF transports out of AmmanMarka. JAC employs mainly former RJAF personnel, ensuring that expertise and experience is not lost when maintenance personnel and officers leave the force. JIAC executes transportation tasks on behalf of the RJAF, for both military and civil projects. Revenues from commercial assignments flow back into the RJAF. The company employs
202, most drawn from the air force. As with JAC, personnel that would otherwise retire from service are now retained, so knowledge of operating and maintaining aircraft is not lost. At the time of AFM’s visit, the two older Il-76TDs were being overhauled by Ilyushin in Russia. They were expected back in service in the third quarter of the year. JAC provides aircraft maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) for civilian and military customers. The company was founded in 2000 as a civilian firm and began with civilian and military C-130 maintenance. In 2003 the RJAF took ownership of the company and it currently employs more than 200 personnel. JAC is continuously extending its certifications and aims to be Airbus A320NG certified by the end of the year. With the introduction of the CH-4B UAV, JAC set up a training facility for the RJAF and regional users such as Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Egypt, Iraq and the UAE. Maj Gen Yousef said: “I am very proud of what we achieved. There has been a JD1.5m [US$2.1m] investment in JAC in the first two years. Revenue in the first year were JD700,000 [US$988,000], the second year we made JD8m [US$11.3m], the third year JD10m [US$14.1m] and this year we expect to close at JD12m [US$16.9m].” Profits from JAC and the commercial transport earnings generated by JIAC directly support the Jordanian defence budgets. Golden Eagle Aviation Academy (GEAA) also works closely with the RJAF. It flies the R44 Raven II alongside 5 Squadron at Mafraq. GEAA operates under the umbrella of the RJAF and is currently seeking foreign clients. The company uses the same syllabus as the RJAF, for both basic and advanced training. AFM
Above: Former RNLAF F-16AM 81-0876 (ex J-876) stands ready for a new mission out of MSAB.
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The author would like to thank Maj Gen Yousef and the RJAF liaison officers for their assistance in the preparation of this feature.
9/7/2018 2:34:50 PM
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Pitch Black 2018
TOP END OF THE GAME Widely credited as the Royal Australian Air Force’s most important exercise, the biennial Pitch Black was this year its largest and most complex to date. Roy Choo visits the ‘Top End’ to find out more.
or much of August, Territorians – as the residents of Australia’s Northern Territory are known – experienced the thunderous reverberations of fast jets. During the three weeks from July 27 to August 17, the skies over the region played host to the southern hemisphere’s largest air combat manoeuvres and
the Royal Australian Air Force’s (RAAF’s) premier exercise. Named after the inky nights in the Outback, this year’s Exercise Pitch Black was the biggest and most complex yet. Some 4,000 personnel from 16 nations were involved, nine of which contributed a total of around 140 aircraft. These comprised host Australia, exercise regulars Singapore, Thailand and the United States, plus Canada, France, Indonesia, Malaysia and newcomer India.
Pitch Black evolution
Above: An Australian Army soldier protects Batchelor Airfield in the Northern Territory as a C-27J aircraft takes off. Making its Pitch Black debut, the C-27J was operated in austere environments, supporting insertion of special forces to capture airfields and establish forward operating bases. Commonwealth of Australia
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Air Commander Australia, Air ViceMarshal (AVM) Steve Roberton, who was participating in his 12th Pitch Black since the 1990s, described how the event has developed over the years: “In the 1990s, Pitch Black was focused on dogfighting and basic fighter pilot core skills with our United States and Singaporean partners. The exercise today has grown in the number of partner nations and has evolved into one that is highly integrated and representative of what the RAAF is conducting in real-world operations.”
AVM Roberton added: “In 2014, it was only weeks after Pitch Black that we were involved in combat operations in the Middle East, with some of that year’s participating nations. The relationships we build at Pitch Black are fundamental to how we operate with our regional partners around the globe.”
The majority of aircraft and units staged out of RAAF Base Darwin, while Tindal – about 186 miles (300km) south – hosted the rest; both aerodromes were at peak capacity. Adopting a graduated approach, participants were introduced to the exercise with familiarisation flights and relatively simple missions in week one’s force integration training. The exercise gained in complexity in weeks two and three with larger packages and heightened threat scenarios. As can be expected in a multinational large force employment (LFE) exercise, Blue Air was tasked with offensive counter-air (OCA) missions while Red Air attempted to harass
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Left: A Su-30MKI of the Indian Air Force’s 102 Squadron flies in unrestricted airspace over the Northern Territory’s vast unoccupied bushland. Serial SB307 was one of four IAF ‘Flankers’ deployed to Exercise Pitch Black 2018. Below: The RMAF’s No 18 Skuadron made a return to Pitch Black after a ten-year hiatus with five of its eight F/A-18D Hornets. Some of them, including M45-06, have traded their familiar gunship grey paint for a lighter scheme. All photos Roy Choo unless stated
the former by flying defensive counter-air (DCA). Twice-daily vulnerability periods took place over the Bradshaw Field Training Area, which measures 772 sq miles (2,000km2), and the adjacent, much larger, Delamere Air Weapons Range, which is a staggering 3,436 sq miles (8,900km2). Altogether, Pitch Black offers an airspace that is greater than many firsttier international exercises. Air Commodore (AIRCDRE) Mike Kitcher, officer conducting the exercise, described how such large volumes of unrestricted airspace and unoccupied bushland were put to good use in a mission he flew in: “We had Red Air get airborne out of Darwin and Tindal, transiting 500km [311
miles] to the south to commence their holding. We then had Blue Air launch out of Darwin and hold 100km [62 miles] south. Both parties, after having topped up their tanks, pushed on and commenced the exercise. In all there were some 80 fast jets and other supporting aircraft in the airspace.” AIRCDRE Kitcher further illustrated the level of sophistication in a Pitch Black mission: “We had 50 Blue Air fighters – supported by tankers and AEW&C [airborne early warning and control] – fly a mission that was designed to escort transport assets that were exfiltrating from an airfield. Against about 30 Red Air fighters that regenerated three to four times each, we managed to work our way down to Delamere,
conducted close air support [CAS] with Joint Terminal Attack Controllers on the ground, thereby allowing us to notionally destroy some surface-to-air missiles [SAMs]. Once the airspace was clear, an RAAF C-27J got airborne and was escorted out. The exact same scenario was happening simultaneously in Bradshaw with an RAAF C-17A. While that was going on, headquarters issued dynamic taskings to attack various targets that were found at very short notice. The results of the mission were pretty impressive, with a kill ratio of 78 to three favouring Blue Air.”
Two new RAAF platforms made their debut at Pitch Black 2018. The first was the EA-18G Growler operated by No 6 Squadron based at RAAF Base Amberley, Queensland. In previous exercises,
an electronic attack-type asset was simulated to make up for the lack of such a capability. With three EA-18Gs involved in this year’s exercise, much realism was injected as the Growlers were able to detect and engage SAMs mimicked by groundbased threat emitter systems, ensuring the rest of the strike package was aware of the threat. Group Captain Rob Denney is the officer commanding No 82 Wing, the parent unit of No 6 Squadron. He said: “By bringing the Growlers to Pitch Black, we have a really good opportunity to validate our operating practices and procedures outside our home base. It has allowed us to integrate with a large multinational force and assist them in denying and deceiving parts of the electromagnetic spectrum to achieve their tactical objectives. We find it to be an effective exercise to develop and
F/A-18A A21-56 with No 2 OCU markings and A21-54 with No 3 Squadron markings. ‘Classic’ Hornets were the most numerous RAAF fast jets in the exercise. They now fly with Nos 75 and 77 Squadrons out of Tindal and Darwin respectively.
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Exercise Report continue building the Growler capability for the future.” The other ‘new kid on the block’ was No 35 Squadron’s C-27J Spartan battlefield airlifter, the tenth and final example of which was delivered in April this year. Apart from LFE missions, the two deployed C-27Js supported airland integration scenarios involving the seizure of austere airstrips by infiltrating forces and airdropping equipment and supplies. Alongside these newer types, the F/A-18A/B ‘classic’ Hornets of Nos 75 and 77 Squadrons soldiered on for yet another Pitch Black. The end is near for the venerable ‘classics’, which are planned for withdrawal in December 2021. A total of 25 have been earmarked for transfer to Canada as part of the gradual drawdown of the fleet.
The dark side
The nucleus of Red Air was composed of the ‘classic’ Hornets of the RAAF’s No 75 Squadron and F/A-18Ds of Marine AllWeather Fighter Attack Squadron (VMFA[AW]-242) ‘Bats’ flying out of Tindal. However, utilising frontline jets and pilots as training aids in scripted roles for the ‘good guys’ doesn’t add any training value for their own crews. Hence, both units also flew Blue Air while other participants took turns performing the adversarial mission in order to maximise opportunities for everyone. For the same reason, the use of contracted Red Air was expanded in Pitch Black 2018. In addition to Learjets flown by contractors Air Affairs and Raytheon, contracted fast jets were incorporated in the form of three Alpha Jets from
Pitch Black 2018
Flankers at Pitch Black
Above: An Indian Air Force Su-30MKI flies off the wing of an RAAF No 75 Squadron F/A-18A. Commonwealth of Australia Inset: Gp Capt Prem Anand – callsign ‘Andy’ – is the commanding officer of No 102 Squadron ‘Trisonics’ and led the Sukhoi detachment.
The participation of Indian Air Force (IAF) Su-30MKIs in Pitch Black 2018 was the second time that Russian fighters have taken part in the exercise – the first was in 2012 and involved four Su-27/30s from the Indonesian Air Force. The IAF deployed a similar number of Flankers, drawing them from No 102 Squadron ‘Trisonics’ at Air Force Station (AFS) Chabua, with a detachment augmented by personnel from No 106 Squadron ‘Lynxes’ at AFS Tezpur. Leading the Sukhoi detachment was Gp Capt Prem Anand – callsign ‘Andy’ – the commanding officer of the ‘Trisonics’. He said: “We had our observers coming in the previous exercise
two years back and thereafter decided we should be participating.” The Indian Flankers are not new to international LFE missions – they participated in two Red Flag exercises in 2008 and 2016. The commanding officer of No 106 Squadron, Gp Capt R S Sodhi – aptly assigned the callsign ‘Lynx 1’ – gave his opinion as the IAF detachment exercise co-ordinator: “Pitch Black provides great exposure for our aircrew to fly with various platforms of the friendly air forces which are not available in our part of the world. Flying out here in one of the world’s largest training airspaces with minimal flight restrictions has also been great experience
for our aircrew. This is something we have not been able to do at home, with certain restrictions in place over our large, populated areas.” The IAF wasted no time in cementing interoperability with the host, qualifying the Su-30s to take fuel from RAAF KC-30A tankers by day two of the exercise through a series of dry and wet refuels. Air-to-air engagements were the focus of the IAF Su-30s. Gp Capt Sodhi noted: “We fly primarily Blue Air missions, but we also do some Red Air work.” Pitch Black, being an unclassified exercise, sees its participants limit the full potential of their fighting equipment. However, according to both Anand and Sodhi, the full air-to-air capability of the N011M Bars radar was used in a multinational exercise for the first time.
Above: F-15SG serial 8302, assigned to the RSAF’s 149 Squadron, launches out of RAAF Base Darwin during the morning wave of departures. This year, the Republic of Singapore Air Force deployed five F-15SGs, six F-16C/Ds, a KC-135R and a G550 CAEW to Pitch Black.
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Top Aces. Simulating MiG-21s in the exercise, the Alpha Jets are part of a two-year trial contract to investigate the benefits of such a programme. Alpha Jet pilot Steven Nierlich, a former Canadian CF-18 aviator, explained: “The Alpha Jet is a very costeffective solution to have a blip on the radar and something to fight with after the merge. You try not to use a Hornet or Super Hornet to be Red Air which will cost four times as much to fly.” The contracted Red Air proved its worth in the exercise, highlighting mistakes that pilots can ill afford if push comes to shove. In one of the melees that occurred, a Learjet chalked up a kill of a generation 4.5 fighter belonging to a major participant – a lesson that will probably not be forgotten by the crew for quite some time.
Interoperability being the name of the game, the exercise provided a level playing field for participating air forces to build relationships that will be beneficial for any future coalition operations. Pitch Black offered each nation present the chance to assume the role of package commander, giving their crews valuable exposure in planning and leading an international formation. Due to a chronic shortage of local training airspace, the Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) maintains multiple permanent training detachments in Australia. Having first taken part in the exercise series in 1990, the RSAF relishes the available opportunities. Lieutenant Loh Yin Onn ‘Odin’ is Major Agus Aryanto from the Indonesian Air Force’s Skadron Udara 3 returns from a mission. Eight Indonesian F-16Cs participated in the exercise, including F-16C Block 52 TS-1634. Commonwealth of Australia
Armée de l’Air Rafale B348 ‘4-FO’ taxis back into the dispersal after a Pitch Black sortie. The jet wears the markings of ETR 3/4 ‘Acquitaine’, the Rafale operational conversion unit and deployed to the Indo-Pacific as part of Pégase 2018.
an F-15SG pilot who was making his inaugural participation at Pitch Black. He said: “Working with almost 20 times the airspace available around Singapore, we get to have a better look at our tactical execution. There are times when we have to evaluate based on longer ranges and the vast airspace here allows us to do just that.” Five F-15SGs crewed by 149 Squadron attended the exercise and employed multiple GBU-31 and GBU-38 Joint Direct Attack Munitions (JDAMs) during LFE missions. These jets flew alongside six F-16C/Ds from 143 Squadron and single examples of the G550 Conformal Airborne Early Warning (CAEW) and KC-135R tanker. While the Armée de l’Air has been a regular Pitch Black participant with the French Armed Forces in New Caledonia CN235, the deployment of three Rafales this year was its first fast jet contribution since 2004, when its Mirage 2000s made the trip Down Under. The deployment was conducted under the Pégase 2018
banner, which also saw visits and exercises in regional countries. After a ten-year hiatus, F/A-18D Hornets of the Royal Malaysian Air Force’s No 18 Skuadron made their return to Pitch Black, this time post-upgrade. Known as the 25X Software Configuration Set Upgrade, the effort, completed in 2015, brought them closer to the Super Hornet Block I standard with Joint Helmet Mounted Cueing System (JHMCS), AIM-9X and JDAM capabilities, among others. Pitch Black also proved to be a memorable meeting ground between No 18 Skuadron and VMFA(AW)-242. The relationship goes back a long way, with the initial cadre of Malaysian pilots having been trained by the ‘Bats’ 22 years ago. A mission at the exercise had both units working together – No 18 Skuadron flying OCA to clear the skies for the ‘Bats’ to conduct CAS. The puzzle pieces of Plan Jericho – the RAAF’s strategy to transform into the world’s first ‘fifth generation’ air force – are evidently coming to
fruition. The imminent entry into service of the F-35A and other force-multiplier assets will bring a step change to the warfighting capabilities of the air arm. With its well-regarded airspace, training grounds and international coalition environment, Pitch Black has secured itself as the ideal platform for the RAAF to explore and exploit these new capabilities at the Top End for a long time to come. AFM
Exercise Pitch Black 2018 participants Operator
Royal Australian Air Force
Royal Canadian Air Force French Air Force Indian Air Force
Indonesian Air Force F-16C
Royal Malaysian Air Force
Republic of F-15SG Singapore Air Force
G550 CAEW 1 KC-135R
Royal Thai Air Force
US Air Force
US Marine Corps
Various contractor support
* long-range flight from Andersen AFB, Guam
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Air war over Syria
An RAF Tornado GR4 on the pan at RAF Akrotiri, Cyprus, armed with two Storm Shadow cruise missiles. Four Tornados from No 31 Squadron – supported by a Voyager tanker – conducted strikes against suspected Syrian chemical weapons facilities on April 14. Crown Copyright
EYE OF THE
STORM This year, the Syrian Air Defence Force has been on the receiving end of attacks from Israeli, US, British and French strike aircraft and cruise missiles. Tim Ripley examines the deadly duels in the skies over Syria.
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esidents of the Syrian capital, Damascus, awoke to the sound of explosions around the city on the morning of April 14. Looking out of their windows, they could see missiles arcing into the sky. Within minutes, the international media was broadcasting footage of the action. Later that morning, events took a new turn. Russia, having come to the aid of the Syrian president, sent one of its generals to a press conference at the MoD in Moscow where he gave a detailed account of the battle. The general described how the allied attack unfolded, citing the number of cruise missiles fired at 103, revealing the aircraft types involved, where US warships had fired their cruise missiles from and their flight paths. Three hours later, a US general provided the Pentagon’s account of the operation which in most respects chimed with the Kremlin’s account. He said the allies launched 105 cruise missiles.
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Above: A VKS Su-25 taxies past a pair of Russian S-400 Triumf (SA-21 ‘Growler’) transporter-erectorlaunchers at Khmeimim air base in Latakia province. This SAM was first deployed to Syria after a VKS Su-24 strike aircraft was downed by a Turkish Air Force F-16 in November 2015. Russian MoD
The only serious bone of contention was whether or not Syrian surface-to-air missiles (SAMs) had successfully shot down any of the inbound cruise missiles. The propaganda war was now in high gear. What was new about this ‘war of missile claims’ was that it now seemed to be a ‘war of equals’. Both the Russians and Americans
clearly have a degree of situational awareness of Syria’s battlefields that wasn’t seen in previous air wars over the past 30 years. The Russians have also shown themselves to be adept at getting their story ‘out’ first. Amid all the public relations ‘fire and fury’ of the past few months, the capabilities and performance of the Syrian Air Defence Force
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Air war over Syria
A VKS Su-30SM overhead Khmeimim with a typical combat air patrol load-out of four R-27R and four R-73 air-to-air missiles. As well as bolstering its own air defences in Syria, Moscow has been providing increasingly capable equipment to its Syrian hosts. Russian MoD
(SyADF) have been central. Israeli, US, British and French air arms have been locked in deadly duels with Syria’s missile and radar crews, who are being actively assisted by their Russian allies. Air defence crews of the Vozdushno-Kosmicheskiye Sily (VKS, Russian Air and Space Force) are present in Syria in some strength and Moscow recently confirmed they had been re-equipping, reorganising and re-training the SyADF over the past 18 months. It’s possible to build up a picture of the capabilities of the SyADF in 2018 by pulling together multiple sources of information. Veryhigh-definition commercial satellite imagery available on open sources allows SyADF missile and radar sites to be pinpointed with some accuracy. Some of this imagery is dated from April and May this year, and so is relatively current. The Syrian and Russian media have visited several SyADF sites over the last two months, giving an unprecedented view of its equipment, deployments and personnel. As mentioned earlier, the Russian military have also held several briefings this year describing SyADF operations in some detail. Since the establishment of the SyADF in 1969 along Soviet lines, it has existed as an independent branch of the Syrian Armed Forces. The force is responsible for the country’s integrated air defence system (IADS), which comprises a network of early warning radar sites plus SAM and anti-aircraft artillery (AAA) batteries. It also manages a command and control network to link them all together, as well as providing
ground control intercept (GCI) services for Syrian Arab Air Force (SyAAF) fighters. In 2018 the SyADF is clearly a shadow of its pre-war organisations with many of its missile and radar sites overrun by rebel forces or destroyed in fighting since the start of the civil war in 2011. Analysis in 2011 suggested that the force boasted some 130 active SAM sites. In May this year, this had dropped to approximately 60 active SAM sites, with possibly some 500 individual missile launchers and scores of radar sites. However, around a quarter of these involved new Pantsir (SA-22 Greyhound) gun/ missile systems or Buk (SA-17 Grizzly) SAMs, supplied since 2008. A Russian news agency reported earlier this year that Moscow had delivered 40 new Pantsir systems, effectively doubling the numbers in service with the SyADF. The organisation of the SyADF was also very different from its pre-war status. By May, some 75% of Syrian SAM sites were now in the Damascus area and they included nine of the 11 equipped with new Pantsirs and four of the six Buk sites. The north and east of Syria has been denuded of SyADF missile and radars because of heavy rebel attacks over the past seven years. This coverage has effectively been replaced by the arrival of the VKS in Latakia province, on Syria’s Mediterranean coast. The Russians have positioned at least one S-400 (SA-21 Growler) SAM battery on the top of the Latakia mountain range, as well as two longrange radar sites and a GCI command post, linked into the country-wide air defence network by satellite communications. This enables
Russian air defence commanders to monitor huge tracts of airspace, and those parts of Syria shielded by other mountain ranges can be observed by VKS A-50 airborne early warning radar aircraft, two of which are forward based in Syria. Russian radar coverage is further bolstered by stationing Black Sea Fleet warships in the eastern Mediterranean. The presence of Russian ground-based radars, A-50s and warships means that Moscow’s forces are able to ‘see’ across huge tracts of the Middle East. It’s no surprise that generals in the Kremlin are willing to give a running commentary of allied and Israeli air activity. While the Russian SAM batteries and Pantsirs are concentrated in Latakia province to defend the Kremlin’s main air and naval bases, over the past 18 months Moscow has clearly been working to bolster the effectiveness of the SyADF main missile engagement zone (MEZ) around Damascus. As well as delivering new Pantsirs to the SyADF, Russia has been running a major re-training effort to rebuild the SyADF. After the April 14 missile strikes, Syrian television broadcast a report from Dumayr air base, northeast of Damascus. It showed that new variants of the Pantsir were active in Syria and also went inside a Syrian air defence command post. The 1970s-vintage radar scopes associated with Soviet-era SAMs were gone and the command team was working on 21st century computer systems. One radar screen appeared to show aircraft movements across a large swathe of the Middle East, including northern Israel, Jordan and Iraq.
Above: Debris, reportedly from various weapons found by Russian and Syrian personnel after the US/UK/ French missile strikes on Syria on April 14. These particular items are allegedly from Storm Shadow/SCALP cruise missiles. Russian MoD Right: A 34th Expeditionary Bomb Squadron B-1B deployed to the 379th Air Expeditionary Wing prepares to launch from Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar, for a strike mission against Syria on April 13. Two B-1Bs – deployed from Ellsworth AFB, South Dakota – employed 19 Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missiles (JASSMs), marking the first combat employment of the weapon. USAF/Master Sgt Phil Speck
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Left: The 9K317E Buk-M2E (SA-17 ‘Grizzly’) is arguably the most capable asset in the SyADF inventory. Seen at Dumayr air base, this 9A317 transporter-erector-launcher and radar (TELAR) is capable of independent operations thanks to its onboard radar. Syrian MoD Below: An A-50 at Khmeimim. The aircraft deployed to Syria include examples of the upgraded A-50U variant. The Russian General Staff Operations Directorate describes the A-50 as a ‘multi-level control system’ capable of detecting threats in Syrian airspace.
Watching Syria A rare view of a French Air Force C-160G Gabriel SIGINT aircraft at its base in Jordan. Among its capabilities, the Gabriel is equipped to detect and locate radio and phone communications. CJTFOIR
The revamping of the Syrian Air Defence Force and arrival of Russian SAMs in Syria has prompted many air forces to take a close interest in what’s happening in the country. Open source tracking of ADS-B/Mode-S transponder signals from the eastern Mediterranean has revealed a significant ‘circus of spyplanes’ on patrol off Syria’s coast since the start of the year. These include electronic eavesdropping aircraft to monitor Syrian and Russian communications (signals intelligence, SIGINT) and radar emissions (electronic intelligence, ELINT). Such types
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range from the USAF’s RC-135 Rivet Joint to the Swedish Air Force S 102B Korpen SIGINT jet and the Israeli Air Force’s Gulfstream G550 Nachshon Shavit. High-flying reconnaissance aircraft, such as the U-2S and RQ-4 Global Hawk drones, are also on patrol to collect electrooptical and radar imagery of SAM and radar sites, among other potential targets. ELINT coverage is boosted by the presence of E-3 Sentry airborne early warning and P-8A Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft, which also have the capability to detect and classify radar emissions.
The Russian and SyADF deployment in early 2018 has to be viewed in context of the ongoing battles. The Syrian government was in the final stages of mopping up the last areas of rebel resistance around Damascus, including the large rebel-held East Ghouta pocket – it and Moscow were determined to head off Western interference in this battle. In Western jargon, this was an ‘anti-access/area denial’ operation. As well as positioning more Pantsirs in Damascus and bringing a second Russian S-400 system into Latakia, the Russians had a P-400 Bastion anti-ship missile system based near the Syrian port of Tartus to try to force allied ships further out to sea, extending their missile firing ranges so the land-based air defences had more time to detect and intercept them. Additional Russian warships were sent to the Mediterranean and two Russian Naval Aviation Il-38 maritime patrol aircraft arrived in Syria to further make life difficult for allied warships and submarines attempting to get into position to fire cruise missiles at Syria. The revamped SyADF was put to the test in February when the Israeli Air Force (IAF) launched a major strike in reaction to an incursion over the Golan Heights by an Iranian Saegheh ‘stealth’ drone. Eight IAF F-16I Sufa jets were launched against 12 targets, including four air defence batteries and the control site for the Iranian drone at T-4 air base in Homs province. The Israeli jets reportedly flew by the most direct route over the Golan Heights before launching standoff guided weapons. The SyADF responded with a salvo
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Air war over Syria of 27 SAMs that scored a near hit on one of the Israeli jets, forcing the crew to eject. This was a major boost to SyADF morale and Syrian media lauded its missile crews for their endeavours. An Israel Defense Forces (IDF) inquiry later blamed the F-16I’s crew for being too focused on aiming their weapons and not activating their defensive aid suite when they came under SAM attack. The Israeli defence minister at the time claimed that “nearly half of Syria’s air defences” had been destroyed in these strikes. T-4 came under renewed attack on April 9 but there were no reports of a response by the SyADF, suggesting that this time the Israeli jets approached from the south or east, away from the Damascus missile engagement zone. The next big test of the SyADF came on the morning of April 14 when the US, France and UK launched a major cruise missile strike against targets they said were involved in Syria’s chemical weapons programme. This saw 76 of the 105 allied cruise missiles fired on Syria’s main chemical research facility on a hillside above Damascus. The remainder were aimed at two storage sites in the Homs countryside. All the allied missiles were launched from outside Syria’s borders. The Russian MoD subsequently claimed 71 allied missiles were shot down, including 20 in Homs province and the remainder around Damascus. The Pentagon vehemently denied that any of its weapons were hit by Syrian missiles and rejected Russian claims that several air bases and other targets had been struck by allied missiles.
SyADF surface-to-air missiles fired and kill claims, April 14, 2018 Pantsir (SA-22)
25 missiles hit 24 targets
29 missiles hit 24 targets
11 missiles hit 5 targets
13 missiles hit 5 targets
5 missiles hit 3 targets
21 missiles hit 11 targets
8 missiles hit 0 targets
112 SAMs fired
Source: Russian MoD
The Kremlin later published a set of photographs showing missile debris and claimed to have taken possession of two undamaged US Navy Tomahawk Land Attack Missiles (TLAM) that were recovered intact by the Syrian military. One of the images apparently showed the unexploded warhead of a TLAM. While the debris seemed to include components from all the allied missile types used – TLAM, JASSM and SCALP/ Storm Shadow – Western analysts dispute they represent the remains of 70 missiles. The accounts of the Americans and Russians appeared to be at odds. Both sides had the technical means to monitor the missile engagement in real time, but neither was inclined to engage in an open debate about the performance of their weapon systems and radars. One thing seems clear. Israeli claims to have knocked out half the SyADF in February were exaggerated. Further Israeli air strikes were
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Above: ‘Legacy’ air defence equipment still in Syrian service includes the 9M33 Osa (SA-8 ‘Gecko’) SAM system, first fielded by Syria in Lebanon during the 1980s. Examples of this system have also been captured by anti-regime forces and used in turn against SyAAF helicopters flying over rebel-held territory. Left: The other modern SAM system in the SyADF order of battle is the Pantsir (SA-22 ‘Greyhound’) gun/missile system. This example is seen in the crosshairs of Israeli warplanes during a raid on Mezzeh air base on May 10. IDF
recorded on April 29 and May 8, with the first of these taking place near the northern cities of Aleppo and Hama. According to local media reports, the Aleppo and Hama raids involved Israeli aircraft flying out over Jordan and Iraq to approach their targets from the east in areas where there is limited SyADF and Russian radar coverage. They then launched standoff missiles at their targets. The May 8 strike may have involved standoff missiles being fired from within Israeli or Lebanese airspace. Later in May, the IAF commander revealed that F-35A Adirs took part in these raids – the type’s first ever combat missions. This was only a prelude to a major air strike on May 10, aimed at targets linked to the Iranian presence in Syria. According to an IDF infographic, around three dozen targets were hit. The Russians claimed 28 Israeli aircraft fired 60 standoff cruise missiles and a further ten surface-to-surface missiles were fired. The IAF reported that 100 SAMs had been launched in response. Around a third of the Israeli targets have been identified from a variety of sources, including satellite imagery, Syrian news reports and Israeli bomb damage assessment video. Only two of them were linked to air defences, including one Pantsir system and a radar site for an S-200 (SA-5 Gammon) battery. The remainder appeared to be storage depots and barracks reportedly used by Iranian forces. Israeli ministers on May 11 talked about “devastating” the Syrian air defence network, but a few days later the
IAF briefed the media that only five SAM batteries had been hit in the May 10 raids. Again, reports of knockout blows against the SyADF were apparently overstated. The common thread running through all the air and missile operations against Syria this year has been the reliance of the Israeli, US, British and French air forces on standoff missiles. The US Navy TLAM has a range of more than 621 miles (1,000km), the US Air Force JASSM’s range is 230 miles (370km) the SCALP/Storm Shadow can hit targets 348 miles (560km) from the launch point. Despite the ‘mission accomplished’ rhetoric from US President Donald Trump and Israeli government officials, the SyADF appears to be very much still in business. Two more suspected Israeli air strikes on May 24 and June 18 involved standoff attacks from outside Syrian airspace. Israeli and allied air commanders have little appetite to send manned aircraft ‘downtown’ over Damascus. Their caution suggests that claims of the SyADF being ‘devastated’ are meant for public relations purposes, not prudent military planning. On May 1 the Russian landing ship Nikolay Filchenkov salied through the Bosphorus, heading to Syria. On her deck were around a dozen large vehicles under tarpaulins. Although they couldn’t be positively identified, they matched the shape of Pantsirs or Buk air defence systems. The confrontation in the skies over Syria looks like it will continue for many months to come. AFM
Syria has never retired any SAM system and continues to operate both dual and quadruple launchers for the Cold War-era S-125 (SA-3 ‘Goa’). The later, quadruple variant is more common and is found at locations throughout the country.
9/10/2018 11:04:04 AM
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Finnish Air Force at 100
stablished as an independent entity on March 6, 1918, the Finnish Air Force (Ilmavoimat) – one of several national air arms celebrating a centenary this year – marked its first 100 years with a huge airshow in June. Colonel Mikko Punnala, commandant of Tikkakoski Air Base (AB), said the event was designed to showcase the ‘home team’: “An early decision was made not to invite any foreign participants and to concentrate only on showing what the Ilmavoimat was in the past, what it is now and what the future may see.” A notable exception was linked to Finland’s current quest for a replacement for its F/A-18C/D Hornet fighters, with all five bidders for the requirement present at the show in one form or another. Finland has endured several bloody wars, followed by economic hardship. This is a nation that’s learned powerful lessons from a past that’s clearly influenced the way it looks ahead. When it comes to military procurement, it strives to negotiate pragmatic programmes that serve both domestic and international needs.
This holds true in ‘HX’, the requirement to replace its 62 Hornets with a brand new type which will see the Ilmavoimat fighter evolution move into a new era – part of a tradition going back to the de Havilland Vampire, its first jet to enter service, in 1953. The Folland Gnat and Fouga Magister followed, through to the Draken and MiG-21 and the current F/A-18. Several of these jets were present for the 100th anniversary event at Tikkakoski on June 16 and 17.
Worth between €7bn and €10bn, the competition to provide Finland with 64 new fighters has drawn considerable international attention. The French Air Force came to the show with three Dassault Rafales, supported by one of its recently delivered Lockheed Martin C-130Js, while the British-led Eurofighter Typhoon bid was strongly represented with one jet from each of its
Above: Finnish Air Force F/A-18D HN4564 conducts an aerial refuelling mission over Finland with a USAF KC-135 Stratotanker (assigned to RAF Mildenhall, Suffolk), in May last year. Finland originally acquired only seven two-seat Hornets and the HX buy could see an increased proportion of ‘twin-stickers’. USAF/Tech Sgt David Dobrydney Below: A Finnish Hornet re-joins the fray during an Arctic Challenge Exercise sortie over Norway. Under the HX requirement, Finland plans to acquire 64 new fighters to replace its 62 surviving Hornets. USAF/1st Lt Christopher Mesnard
Derek Bower evaluates the Finnish aerospace industry as the nation’s air force celebrates its centenary while preparing to replace its Hornets.
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European partner manufacturing nations placed side-by-side in the static display. A source told AFM this was a deliberate act to show unity amid ongoing Brexit negotiations. Eurofighter is, and will continue to be, a joint European venture. Saab meanwhile presented a JAS 39C which, like the Rafale and Typhoon, flew full displays. The Swedish company is offering its advanced Gripen E/F for the HX requirement. Surprisingly, considering the number of Lightning IIs now flying in Europe, Lockheed Martin’s F-35 presence was limited to a plastic full-scale mock-up – although this was underpinned by a typically enthusiastic marketing team that included company test pilot Billie Flynn, who gave an entertaining briefing to a packed media tent. The other US contender, the Boeing Super Hornet, was on both flying and static display, with three EA-18G Growlers present that had been loaned back to the manufacturer by the US Navy to provide a significant presence in Finland. While a split buy is not currently an option for HX, a Super Hornet/Growler mix is a possibility.
Joint US Navy/Boeing marketing expeditions flown by active-duty military pilots enable weapons systems such as the Super Hornet to cross international boundaries without a US export licence. Once at their destination, Boeing demonstration pilots can reassume control of the aircraft. Interestingly, the tanker support for the Growlers’ Atlantic crossing was provided by chartered Omega Air DC-10 N974VV, which landed at Helsinki International Airport and was put to good use by the Ilmavoimat for local F/A-18 tanker currency training.
Finland has strived to maintain a level of independence in military aviation expertise, with a proud history of aircraft and component sub-assembly production as well as avionics design and manufacture. Indeed, home-grown aerospace expertise will play a major role in decisions on HX. Domestic talent has also reaped rewards with upgrades and clever solutions to meet emerging air force needs, and Patria Aviation, Finland’s largest aerospace
manufacturer, boasts an extensive and proven track record in these fields. An example of the smart approach of Finnish industry was the locally handled Mid-Life Update (MLU) of the Hornet fleet, while a cost-effective €40m digital cockpit upgrade for 18 former Swiss Air Force Hawk Mk66s also won significant acclaim. The Hornet work involved two major phases, the second of which reflected a shift in domestic strategic policy when the Finnish government decided to give the 62 remaining jets an enhanced air-to-ground capability under MLU2. Patria provided and installed the requisite upgrades between 2012 and December 2017, which would see the Hornets cleared to an out-of-service date of 2030. The most recent Finnish Air Force project relates to 24 formerly Babcock Aerospaceowned Grob G 115E Tutors operated by the Royal Air Force. A requirement for a ‘new’ basic trainer emerged when the 38-year-old piston-engined Valmet L-70 Vinka needed to be replaced. Again, Finland adopted a ‘smart’ approach to recapitalisation and seized the opportunity to buy suitable
Above: The two Electronic Attack Squadron (VAQ) 129 ‘Vikings’ EA18Gs present at Tikkakoski were 169139 ‘NJ/516’ and the unmarked 169215, both of which arrived via Glasgow Prestwick Airport. VAQ129 is the US Navy’s EA-18G training squadron based at NAS Whidbey Island, Washington. Derek Bower Right: Hawk Mk51A HW-357 – one of the Midnight Hawks jets – taxies out for a display during the Ilmavoimat’s centenary airshow at Tikkakoski earlier this year. Derek Bower Inset: Colonel Mikko Punnala, commandant of Tikkakoski Air Base. Derek Bower Below: The regular Cross-Border Training exercises have provided the Ilmavoimat with a close look at the Gripen. Here, Litening-equipped Swedish Air Force JAS 39C serial 39285 of F 21 prepares to take on fuel from a USAF KC-135R during an Arctic Challenge Exercise. USAF/1st Lt Christopher Mesnard
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Finnish Air Force at 100 second-hand equipment, engaging local industry to upgrade the aircraft for service. Patria Aviation was contracted to provide a new digital cockpit upgrade. Designed, manufactured and tested by the firm, the new equipment is currently being installed on the first aircraft (UK registration G-CGKA/ Ilmavoimat serial GO-1) at the Patria plant at Halli airfield in central Finland. This particular proof-of-concept prototype was due to be delivered to the Ilmavoimat for acceptance testing in August. Some airframes are already undergoing modification at Halli while the remainder are in store at the Patria facility at Tikkakoski, waiting to go to Halli.
HX and the future
Not surprisingly, Patria Aviation is a strategic partner in the HX programme and for the past three years has been advising the government on eight key elements of the project. These include the platform itself, through-life costs, weapon systems, required training equipment, personnel training, command and control systems, maintenance and domestic industry’s potential role. The company is also able to make recommendations to each competing manufacturer as to how to submit proposals to the government to ensure all parties understand specific local requirements. Patria’s president, Martti Wallin, explained that all five bidders have been advised that a pivotal factor in the overall programme is a requirement for a 30-year sustainment package covering not only maintenance, servicing and potential upgrades but, increasingly, the required support for electronic warfare systems and mission data functionality too. Col Juha-Pekka Keranen, a former Ilmavoimat Hawk and Hornet pilot and now head of the HX procurement programme, has set tough criteria: “Currently the operation and sustainment costs of the Hornet fleet does not exceed 10% of the overall €2.4bn defence force costs, and its replacement will not be allowed to exceed this,” he said, adding that this figure excludes any potential mid-life updates which will have to be financed individually. HX began in earnest with a request for information (RFI) in 2016, and has now progressed to a request for quote (RFQ), which was issued on April 27, 2018. A capability
Above: Finland is playing an increasingly active role in international exercises. Here, soldiers from the US Army’s 10th Combat Aviation Brigade are fuelling a Finnish F/A-18C at Lielvārde air base, Latvia, in May last year. The jet and crew successfully completed tests of the base’s landing strip and braking functions, certifying it for use by other NATO forces’ jets in the future. US Army/Spc Thomas Scaggs Below: F/A-18C HN-408 demonstrates the MLU2 upgrade’s enhanced air-to-ground capability, which includes the GBU-32 Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM) and AGM-154C Joint Standoff Weapon (JSOW) seen here. The programme also incorporated the AIM-120C-7 AMRAAM, complementing the AIM-9X and Joint Helmet Mounted Cueing System (JHMCS) added under MLU1. Derek Bower
and evaluation phase of all five contenders will start in 2019 after the quotes are in and a live flying phase is expected to be subject to numerous as yet undeclared conditions. The Finnish government has already stated that there will be no ‘down selection’ (shortlist) and that an outright winner will be announced in 2021. Wallin says Patria is in negotiations with all five HX contenders individually and has prepared five different sustainment packages for the successful bidder. A fundamental clause in the programme is a
fixed requirement that 30% of the contracted monetary value will relate to direct and indirect industrial participation by Finnish industry. With this consideration, Patria is well placed to participate in one way or another – which could include anything from providing a fully qualified, technically capable workforce through to component manufacture or even final assembly and test flying of complete airframes. If this last option is called for, Wallin says Patria would consider building a complete new facility for the task. AFM
Finnish Air Force Capt Juha Jarvinen lands an F/A-18C assigned to Marine Strike Fighter Training Squadron (VMFAT) 101 ‘Sharpshooters’ on the USS ‘Abraham Lincoln’ (CVN 72) last March 17. This was the first time a Finnish pilot had performed an arrested landing aboard an aircraft carrier. US Navy/Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Brian M Wilbur
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OUT THURSDAY 20TH SEPT
Phantom Special Phantoms in RAF Service It hadn’t been the RAF’s first choice of type, but the Phantom moved from stopgap strike, ground attack and reconnaissance jet to become a successful air defence fighter in a multi-role career spanning nearly 25 years. Dr Kevin Wright explains. Spangdahlem’s Hunter Killers For a period in the late 1980s and early 1990s different generations of USAF fast jets worked together in the suppression of enemy air defences role. Doug Gordon examines this unusual arrangement at Spangdahlem which saw the F-16 working with the F-4G as Wild Weasel hunter/killer teams.
Photo Shoot at the Top of the World In the first of an occasional series, former RAF photographer Warrant Officer Rick Brewell (ret’d) gives behind the scenes insights into what was required to capture the stunning images he took. This article details one of the more unusual photo shoots from his 39-year service career. Dutch Desert ‘Vipers’ The Royal Netherlands Air Force trains F-16 pilots in Arizona, as explained by Dr Kevin Wright.
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Commander’s Update Briefing
Air superior Air Power Association President, Air Marshal (ret’d) Greg Bagwell CB CBE, describes the fundamentals of the modern air superiority mission, which can trace its roots back to the battle for control of the skies during World War One.
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Left: How it all began: a Bristol Scout of No 3 Squadron Royal Flying Corps fitted with a 0.303in Lee-Enfield rifle with the stock cut off, at Saint-Omer in 1914. The aircraft also has a rack alongside the cockpit to carry rifle grenades. Crown Copyright Main image: The USAF’s ‘silver bullet’ F-22A is the undisputed leader in terms of Western air superiority assets. However, the fighter has yet to achieve a kill in aerial combat, a reflection of changing times in air warfare. Jamie Hunter
hen aircraft first made an appearance over the battlefield they were largely immune from attack, even from other aeroplanes. Indeed, it was not unusual for opposing pilots to wave cheerily to each other as they passed. When it became clear that aircraft were beginning to have a real impact on the battlefield below it wasn’t long before attempts were made to shoot them down, at first from the ground and then increasingly from other aircraft. Slowly but surely, methods were tried and tested that made the attacking of other aircraft increasingly lethal. In an extremely short space of time, the war in the air became as much about dominating the opposing air forces as it did about effect on the ground. Thus, the concept of ‘control of the air’ or ‘air superiority’ was born. Ever since, airmen have been arguing for the concept of air control and its importance as a precursor to create the necessary
conditions to prosecute the wider role and tasks of air power. Insufficient investment or focus on the air control mission prior to, or at the outset of a conflict, will usually end in catastrophe, as any modern historical example of the last century will demonstrate. Quite simply, the concept of air control is about the ability of an air force to operate with relative impunity and impose its own will on the enemy. For the past few decades, Western alliances have been engaged in conflicts where air superiority has either been present from the outset (eg Afghanistan) or established extremely quickly (the 1991 and 2003 Iraq Wars are examples).
Air supremacy threatened
However, you need only to cast your mind back to 1982 and the Falklands War to see the cost of fighting in a situation where air control is not assured. Importantly, air control is not
just about air forces versus air forces, as the Soviets found to their cost in Afghanistan. Here, Soviet helicopters’ vulnerability to the Stinger surface-to-air missile changed the balance of power and ultimately the outcome of that campaign. There are degrees of air control that refer to the relative level of dominance: the transition through the levels of disadvantage, parity, dominance and superiority should speak for themselves. In a ‘traditional’ force-on-force battle, these levels are achieved by crushing the enemy capability over time. However, these situations in recent history are rare and are often hugely attritional in nature. Increasingly, air control or dominance can be achieved through policy decisions or even on a temporal or geographical basis. By temporal or geographical control, I refer to the ability to create the necessary conditions at a time or place of your choosing, by concentrating effort on a
Above: An Armée de l’Air Mirage 2000D strike fighter at Kandahar Airfield in 2010. In Afghanistan, the coalition has enjoyed air superiority from the outset of operations and fighters have been able to focus on the close air support mission. Crown Copyright Left: USAF Col Gary North goes through pre-flight checks in his F-16. The green star on the jet represents the Iraqi MiG-25 that he shot down after it violated the Iraqi southern no-fly zone on December 29, 1992. The shootdown was the first by a USAF Fighting Falcon and the first combat kill using the AIM-120 AMRAAM missile. USAF A Tornado F3 from No 111 Squadron RAF fires defensive flares during Operation Telic. Tornado F3s from all four active UK squadrons were deployed during the 2003 Iraq War, where coalition air supremacy ensured much of the Iraqi Air Force remained effectively grounded. Crown Copyright
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Above: Harrier GR3s of No 1 Squadron RAF parked alongside Royal Navy Sea Harrier FRS1s and a Sea King helicopter on the flight deck of HMS ‘Hermes’ in May 1982. In the Falklands campaign the UK fought against great odds to gain air control. Crown Copyright Above left: A member of a two-man Stinger surfaceto-air missile team holds an FIM-92 Stinger trainer while the other member scans the horizon for incoming aircraft. US delivery of these weapons to Afghan insurgents was a serious threat to Soviet air power in the conflict. US DoD Left: The Su-57 is typical of ‘threat’ systems that have been developed to counter Western dominance in the air-to-air arena. Among its innovative features are L-band radar antennas in the wing leading edges to deal with stealth targets that can evade targeting by higher-frequency radio waves. UAC
particular area or time, even if only for long enough to achieve a limited mission objective.
Arms race in the air
Policy might seem a strange category, but if your defence strategy is to develop and procure a highly advanced air capability with platforms such as the Eurofighter Typhoon, F-22 or F-35, you are effectively seeking to invest in air dominance at the outset. It is this approach that results in an air control ‘arms race’, and the last decade has seen numerous developments in the air-to-air domain between leading military nations. China and Russia in particular have recently developed a number of air superiority fighters and weapon systems in order to counter recent US advances. Today, the most critical technology areas in air-toair combat are linked more to detection, identification and engagement. This is in contrast to the past, when the physical attributes of the platform were more important, and an air combat would be invariably won by the faster and more manoeuvrable aircraft. Now, the aircraft that engages the earliest and at the greatest range is far more likely to prevail. That said, an aircraft’s ability to fly high and fast, and
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turn quickly, are still important attributes that discriminate in a beyond-visual-range (BVR) fight, as the physics of missile flyouts and escape manoeuvres remain an important part of the calculation of kill probability. However, it is fair to say that the advent of improved methods of detection, data links enabling multiple aircraft tactics, and longerrange and more lethal missiles have changed the nature of air-to-air combat beyond recognition. Guns and close-in missiles are now more suitable for low-intensity warfare and warning shots than the ‘cat and mouse’ tactics of modern airto-air combat. Here, fighter pilots will be thinking as much about not losing as winning, especially in an era where political risk appetites, smaller fleet purchases,
long procurement cycles and pilot training pipelines of three years or more are not conducive to multiple air losses in a short space of time.
But as the above example of the Soviets in Afghanistan demonstrates, air control goes beyond just airbreathing platforms pitched against each other. In order to counter a significant Western dominance in air-to-air platforms and systems since the 1960s, the Warsaw Pact and, more recently, Russia has pursued a sophisticated programme of surface-to-air systems that have created a concept or threat that has become known as anti-access/ area denial (see Unpicking the A2/ AD threat, January, p86-88). In the air domain this is merely an extension of the concept of
Above: Rafale B301, operating from France’s Cazaux flight test centre, undertakes a test of MBDA’s Meteor beyond-visual-range air-to-air missile (BVRAAM) in October 2012. Ultra-long-range missiles, especially when allied with improved methods of detection and data links, represent a game-changer in air-to-air combat. MBDA
air control; although defensive in nature, the ranges and capabilities of modern air defence systems have gone a long way to negate the majority of an opposing air forces’ capabilities. Defeating or negating these A2/AD threats is now the first phase of seeking to impose air control. Modern air-to-air combat is now a very different beast, and due to the advent of active, hypersonic missiles, stealth techniques and multiple-source intelligence aiding detection, it is now a game that more resembles 3D longrange chess than a ‘dogfight’. So, next time you hear someone debating the relative manoeuvrability of an aircraft based on its airshow display sequence, or marvel at the wonder of some aerial stunt that seems to defy the laws of physics, remember that modern air combat has come a long way since vapour trails were seen over Kent. Opposing fighter pilots don’t wave at each other much nowadays; indeed, they will rarely see each other, except as a symbol on a cockpit display that will probably encompass the equivalent area of several counties at once. AFM
NEXT MONTH: Combat clouds.
9/7/2018 3:31:07 PM
EMB-312 Tucano: Brazil’s turboprop success story
In the late 1980s the Embraer Tucano revolutionised pilot training by air forces around the world. Previously, many nations had relied on jets for
advanced training, but the Brazilian company took a new approach with its tandemseat turboprop boasting a singlepiece canopy and ejection seats. The powerplant was controlled by a single lever in the cockpit and could be started at the press of a button. Cockpit instrumentation resembled that of a third-generation jet and could be easily upgraded. Air forces ordered the new trainer in its hundreds. Such a revolutionary aircraft deserves a substantial reference work and Harpia Publishing has risen to the challenge. Opening with an extensive development history
of the Tucano, successive chapters are divided into countries that operate the type. The book covers everything from the first delivery flight through to operational service and, in some cases, recent retirement. However, the Tucano offered more than tuition and it was quickly pressed into the counter-insurgency role. The detailed text is supported by high-quality images, many of which have not appeared in print before. The colour profile artworks that Harpia is known for are exceptional – those depicting aircraft in Brazilian and Mauritian service are particular highlights. Another impressive Harpia work, on one of the world’s leading advanced trainers. Glenn Sands Publisher: Harpia Publishing Author: João Paulo Zeitoun Moralez Pages: 253 Price: £34.99 ISBN: 9780997309232
Aircraft of the Cold War in Focus 2: Italian Air Force (AMI) F-104G Starfighter Colour Photo Album This latest offering from AirDOC’s Aircraft of the Cold War series profiles one of the most iconic jets of the era – the F-104 Starfighter. Its sleek lines, small wings and unforgiving handling forged a legendary reputation that lasts to this day. Having previously covered Starfighter operations of the Luftwaffe in extensive detail, this softback provides an overview of the Italian Air Force F-104s that operated from 1963 to 2003. Focusing on one air arm allows the author to provide a detailed dual English/German text of the Italian variants, indigenous upgrades and how the squadrons operated the fighter – adapting it to fulfil some surprising roles.
The volume includes a staggering amount of detail on the RF-104G reconnaissance Starfighter. A wealth of new technical detail has come to light and is supported by superb images from official archives and personal collections. Given the Italian Air Force’s enthusiasm for special markings, the F-104s were a canvas for a number of flamboyant schemes. All are presented here in colour – the most striking is perhaps 28° Gruppo’s ‘Nocciola’, complete with cartoon-style witch on the tail. Aimed at the aviation enthusiast and modeller, this is one of the best books to date on Italian F-104s. Glenn Sands
Publisher: AirDOC Publishing Author: Pierpaolo Maglio Pages: 65 Price: £15 ISBN: 9783935687225
These titles are available from: The Aviation Bookshop, 31-33 Vale Road, Royal Tunbridge Wells, Kent, TN1 1BS, United Kingdom. Telephone: +44(0)1892 539284 Website: www.aviation-bookshop.com
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Decimomannu: Air Weapons Training Installation 19572016
Decimomannu is home to NATO’s Air Combat Manoeuvring Instrumentation (ACMI) range – the Air Weapons Training Installation (AWTI). Situated north of Cagliari, between the villages of Decimomannu, Decimoputzu, San Sperate and Villasor on the island of Sardinia, it makes use of a former World War Two airfield. It was established in 1960 through a NATO partnership between Italy, Germany, the UK and Canada. As one of the most important air bases in Europe, it’s surprising that so few books have been published about the facility. Those that have been, tend to be pictureled titles focused on the fighters visiting the range. This Italian-language volume is the first to cover the history of ‘Deci’ and how, over the decades, the site was developed into one of the world’s premier ACMI ranges. For such a significant book, it’s disappointing there is no English translation, and although many of the pictures have not been published before, not all are worthy of reproduction. Nevertheless, this doesn’t detract from an interesting book, and illustrations of the Royal Canadian Air Force at Deci in the early years are particularly impressive. The black and white images of polished-metal CF-104Ds racing across the range at rooftop height are worth the cover price alone. Glenn Sands Publisher: Alisea Edizioni Authors: Alessandro Ragatzu and Carlo Dedoni Pages: 215 Price: £34.99 ISBN: 9788890201486
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Wildcat shows its mettle Thomas Newdick visited Royal Naval Air Station Yeovilton to speak to British Army Wildcat AH1 crews, recently returned from a successful deployment to Estonia.
our Army Air Corps (AAC) Wildcat AH1s and their crews returned from four months in Estonia at the end of July. The mission – Operation Cabrit – was the first operational deployment for the AAC’s Wildcat, which succeeded the Lynx AH9A as the service’s Battlefield Reconnaissance Helicopter (BRH) and declared full operational capability (FOC) in April last year. The four helicopters were provided by 661 Squadron, 1 Regiment Army Air Corps, which travelled from its base at Royal Naval Air Station Yeovilton, Somerset, to support NATO allies in the Baltic region. Formerly based in Germany, 1 Regiment Army Air Corps returned to the UK in 2013 and set up its new home at Yeovilton, where it shares the Wildcat AH1 fleet with the Fleet Air Arm’s 847 Naval Air Squadron under the Joint Helicopter Command. The first AAC unit to equip with the Wildcat, 661 Squadron, on declaring FOC, assumed readiness to deploy anywhere in the world within five days.
Background to Cabrit
At the 2016 Warsaw Summit, NATO’s heads of state decided the alliance would establish a physical presence around the former Eastern bloc as a visual deterrent to potential Russian aggression. An Enhanced Forward Presence (eFP) battlegroup was established in the Baltic States and Poland, including 1,200 personnel – mainly British, with Challenger tanks and Warrior infantry fighting vehicles under Operation Cabrit, augmented by Danish and French contingents. The forces are primarily based at Tapa in northern Estonia, with footprints in Poland, Latvia and Lithuania.
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In autumn last year, 661 Squadron declared its readiness for hurricane relief efforts in the Caribbean but didn’t actually take part in the ensuing Operation Rumen. Then, that October, it was decided that Cabrit and the eFP would be reinforced with helicopters. Although it conducted a significant amount of ground training in advance of its move, 661 was aware that the Estonian theatre differed from anything its personnel had experienced before. The squadron’s Corporal Lloyd Griffiths explained: “It was different. Estonia is very flat, and it’s got a lot of trees – at times it was a little disorientating, but we were able to use maps on a screen which made it a lot easier.” Squadron commander Maj Alex Rivett added: “It doesn’t really have a precedent. It’s not like Northern Ireland, it’s a bit like the Balkans. It’s training, so it’s a bit like being
Above: A crew from 661 Squadron briefs soldiers from 1 Royal Welsh – including members of the mortar, Javelin and sniper platoons – before they board the Wildcats for a training mission in Estonia. Left: James Lawrence Below: Padre Dixon flies in the back of a Wildcat to visit AAC soldiers at a forward arming and refuelling point (FARP) in Estonia.
over in Canada. A lot of it was trying to understand the high-level political issues involved in that part of the world.” On the flying training side, 661 deployed to West Freugh and Kirkcudbright, Scotland, for air-to-ground gunnery and also drilled in high tactical threat scenarios. The squadron was ready to go by February, coinciding with it taking over readiness again – what the AAC calls R2: five days’ notice to move anywhere in the world, whether in response to a humanitarian disaster or for warfighting. “In the spring everything came together for us to deploy to Estonia,” Maj Rivett continued. After a recce to the Baltics in the winter, with temperatures of -35°C with wind chill, the squadron deployed to Estonia in April. The Wildcats flew from Yeovilton via the Netherlands and Germany and up through the Baltic States, which Maj Rivett described as “a huge test of the aircraft and the first time it had been done with the army Wildcat”. It was an easier ride for the ground elements, which were trucked to Southampton before sailing to a port in northern Estonia. The 661 Squadron Wildcats were stationed at Ämari air base, alongside the lead Baltic Air Policing detachment. From there, the mission was to work with the Estonian Defence Forces and other NATO allies providing daily visual deterrents – and conducting exercises and other training activities, including working on interoperability. The unit also supported the UK battlegroup in the region – during 661’s time in the Baltics, the eFP was commanded by The Royal Welsh infantry regiment, based in Tapa, before being taken over in the latter stages by The Yorkshire Regiment.
Baltic ‘battle taxi’
The raison d’être of the AAC Wildcat is reconnaissance to provide intelligence to commanders on the battlefield. But it has also inherited the Army Lynx’s ‘battle taxi’ role, transporting troops and weapons. In Estonia, its training missions included inserting mortar and Javelin missile teams from the Royal Welsh. Once the troops and weapons were dropped off, the Wildcat switched back to its BRH role, providing intelligence to ambush ‘hostile’ armoured columns.
A Wildcat conducts a strike coordination and reconnaissance (SCAR) exercise with US Air Force F-16Cs over Estonia.
It was a role in accordance with 661 Squadron’s World War Two-era motto: ‘With our eyes we designate for the slaughter’. In future the Wildcat BRH is likely to further expand its intelligence-gathering capabilities. The 661 Squadron commander confirmed that work is ongoing to add a surveillance radar to the AH1, bringing commonality with the Royal Navy’s Wildcat HMA2, which has already demonstrated the capability of its 360-degree Seaspray 7400E radar in a land environment. Another future addition will probably be a winch, as already trialled by 659 Squadron, 661’s sister unit at Yeovilton. Currently, the other main difference between the AH1 and the HMA2 is the crew configuration. The navy operates with a non-flying observer as commander in the left-hand seat and a pilot on the right. In the AAC Wildcat, the cockpit is set up for dual control and both aircrew in the front, as qualified pilots, can fly the helicopter.
Sending a message
Maj Rivett reflected: “It was an extremely busy time for us. Overarching all of it was our support to the strategic messaging from the Estonians: they were very much in the lead throughout, whether it be on exercises or messaging activity. “The Wildcat was a massive asset for them, both representative of NATO allies supporting them and their forces but also
as a strategic communications asset. There wasn’t a lot of air power in that part of the world and we augmented that significantly.” In a mark of how well 661 Squadron and its Wildcats were received, at the end of the deployment the unit was awarded the Estonian Defence Medal, formerly only issued to Estonian nationals. Recovery to Yeovilton was not as easy as the trip out but, in Maj Rivett’s words, “a great test for the unit and absolutely representative of what we as a squadron at readiness is supposed to do”. The helicopters flew back over Central Europe over three days and included visits to Berlin and Gütersloh in Germany – locations with historic connections to the AAC. Once in the UK, they passed through Wattisham – home of AAC Apache AH1s – and Middle Wallop before arriving home. All ground-based assets involved in the squadron’s road move – including signallers, refuelling and engineering assets, amounting to around 22 vehicles and 72 personnel – took a ferry from Latvia to Germany and from there drove through the Netherlands before boarding another vessel back to the UK. Maj Rivett concluded: “All in all it was a great run-out for the squadron. Getting out somewhere and back, completely selfsufficient. It was a great test of the Wildcat and its capabilities and clearly provided huge support for NATO overseas.” AFM
Left: The sun sets on a 661 Squadron Wildcat AH1 at Ämari air base in Estonia. Right: A crew from 661 Squadron shows a designation of Swedish and US ambassadors around one of their ‘cabs’. In the background is a French Air Force Mirage 2000-5F, deployed to Ämari for the Baltic Air Policing mission. All photos Crown Copyright unless stated
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USAF T-38C accident report released
N AIRCRAFT accident investigation report into the loss of a US Air Force T-38C Talon during a sortie from Laughlin Air Force Base, Texas, last November 20 (see Attrition, January 2018, p91) was released on August 21. The report identifies the aircraft as 64-13213 ‘XL’ from the 47th Flying Training Wing (FTW), which was using callsign ‘Bully 29’ at the time of the accident. The Talon crashed at 1546hrs, local time, approximately 12 miles (19km) northwest of Laughlin, completely destroying the aircraft and fatally injuring the mishap requalification pilot (MRP) occupying the rear seat. The mishap aircrew (MC) consisted of a mishap instructor pilot (MIP) in the front seat, who was supervising the MRP. The MIP successfully ejected and sustained minor injuries. The MRP did not eject and was fatally injured during ground impact. The MIP, MRP and mishap aircraft (MA) were assigned to the 87th Flying Training Squadron, 47th FTW, at Laughlin. During the mishap sortie, the MA crashed while returning to base following a reported aircraft malfunction. The destroyed aircraft is valued at approximately $11m. The Accident Investigation Board President determined, by preponderance of evidence, the cause of the mishap to be dual airframe mounted gearbox failure.
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Above: T-38C 64-13195 ‘XL’ from the 47th FTW/87th Flying Training Squadron flying near Laughlin AFB, Texas, on May 16. A similar aircraft from the unit, 64-13213 ‘XL’, was lost in a crash on November 20 last year. USAF/Senior Airman Moshe Paul
A substantial contributing factor to these gearbox failures was a lack of maintenance guidance addressing similar repeated failures of the aircraft. The board president also found, by a preponderance of evidence, the cause of fatal injuries suffered by the MRP was the MC’s failure to complete the before takeoff checklist item that called for the proper ejection seat system settings. Finally, the Board President found, by a preponderance of the evidence, that factors that substantially contributed to the mishap were
task mis-prioritisation, checklist interference, instrumentation and sensory feedback systems, and the delayed decision to eject. The MRP was a T-38 instructor pilot undergoing requalification training after return from a nonflying overseas deployment. During the sortie, the MA experienced an airframe-mounted gearbox failure on the left engine, resulting in the loss of the left alternating current generator and left hydraulic pump. The MC accomplished required checklists and co-ordinated for immediate landing at Laughlin
AFB. More than four minutes later, while manoeuvring to final approach, the MC detected additional failed electrical systems accompanied by failure of the right engine hydraulic pump and the right airframe-mounted gearbox. With failures of both gearboxes and their associated hydraulic pumps, the MA suffered total hydraulic failure and was uncontrollable by the MC, leaving ejection as the only suitable alternative. The MC transmitted their intent to eject, but delayed ejection because of concern for a populated area below.
Above: The 15ft-deep (4.6m) impact crater created when the T-38C crashed shows there was little recognisable debris as the aircraft impacted the ground at an estimated 60-70° nose-low and right wing 90° down attitude. USAF
Accident Reports D: Feb 12, 2017 N: Islamic Republic of Iran Navy T: Unidentified UAV This training UAV, type unknown, crashed following engine failure. It came down on the southeastern Iranian island of Jask, hitting an electrical cable before it crashed, causing a fire. D: Feb 15 N: Nigerian Air Force T: Mi-17 Several shots were fired at this helicopter by Boko Haram terrorists as it flew between Bama and Gwoza in northeast Nigeria. The Hip was transporting personnel from Maiduguri to Gwoza on a medical outreach programme. One airman sustained a bullet wound during the attack. His fate is unknown, but the aircraft continued the mission. Immediately after coming under fire, the NAF scrambled a fighter aircraft and helicopter gunship which neutralised the threat. D: Feb 28 N/U: Indian Navy/INAS 303 T: MiG-29K This fighter developed a hydraulic problem during a routine sortie from its base at INS Hansa, Goa/ Dabolim. Escorted by a second MiG-29K, the pilot made an emergency landing at Mangalaru International Airport, Kenjar, where one of the mainwheel tyres burst on landing, stranding the aircraft on the runway. The pilot, Commander Abhijit, was unhurt, but the incident prevented the runway from being used and commercial flights were delayed or diverted. An Indian Navy helicopter was immediately dispatched with spares and a repair crew to rectify the problem on site and clear the jet from the runway. D: Mar 3 N: US military T: Unidentified UAV This UAV operating with the NATO-led Operation Resolute Support (RS) coalition forces crashed overnight near Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan following a technical malfunction. There were no casualties and RS forces recovered key parts of the air vehicle, according to a statement from its officials.
D: Mar 5 N/U: Italian Vigili del Fuoco-Trento T: AW139 S: I-TNCC During a mission to rescue two hikers hit by an avalanche on Mount Nambino, Madonna di Campiglio, this helicopter crashed and rolled over in whiteout conditions at 8,694ft (2,650m) at around 1320hrs local time. Of the six occupants, a doctor, Matthew Zucco, suffered fractures to both arms while a flight engineer, Andrea Guaresi, became trapped between the wreckage of the helicopter and the ground. He was hospitalised while the pilot (Andrea Giacomoni), co-pilot (Fulgido Ferrari), nurse (Cristina Facinelli) and another unidentified occupant escaped with minor injuries. An Erickson S-64 Skycrane was brought in to lift the helicopter down to Dimaro from the remote, snow-covered mountainside. The underslung load was loaded onto a trailer for transport back to its base at Trento. D: Mar 10 N: US military? T: Unspecified UAV An unmanned aerial vehicle operating as part of the NATOled Operation Resolute Support mission in Afghanistan crashed near Jalalabad Airfield following engine failure. A statement by RS officials confirmed the loss, saying the unspecified UAV was unarmed and there were no casualties on the ground. D: March 20 N: Israel Defense Forces T: Skylark UAV Syrian Army air defence units shot down this UAV around midnight after it violated Syrian airspace in the southwestern province of Quneitra. A statement by the Syrian military said it was downed near Samadaniyah Sharqiah, close to the border town of al-Quneitra. The loss was also confirmed by
the IDF, which acknowledged it had been shot down.
two L-39s also appear to have been destroyed during the attack.
D: Mar 22 N: Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency T: Bombardier 415MP S: M71-02 In this previously unreported incident, this aircraft lost its starboard wingtip float during a training flight while taking on water in the Andaman Sea. It diverted into Langkawi International Airport, where a safe emergency landing was made without injury to the crew.
D: Apr 22 N: US military T: MQ-1 Predator? This UAV was reportedly lost while flying over the coastal Latakia province, Syria. According to local media, US Army officials acknowledged that contact had been lost but could not confirm Turkish media reports that it had been shot down by Syrian air defence units using a Russianmade Pechora-2 surface-to-air missile. Turkish media maintained it had been flying from Incirlik Air Base, Turkey, which has been used for Predator operations in the region for some time.
D: April 13 N: OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine T: Unspecified UAV At 1122hrs the SMM launched what it described as a ‘midrange’ UAV from Luhansk People’s Republic-controlled Mykolaivka, 9.3 miles (15km) east of Luhansk, Ukraine, for a sortie over the Stanytsia Luhanska disengagement area. At 1140hrs the low speed indicator on the control station began to flash. Immediately afterwards, an alarm indicator began flashing, indicating ‘falling down in spiral mode’ and at that moment the SMM lost contact with the UAV, which was over the Stanytsia Luhanska bridge area, about 1.9 miles (3km) from the SMM’s position. An SMM patrol could not search the entire area because of possible mines and was unable to locate the UAV. D: Apr 16 N: Syrian Arab Air Force T: 2 x L-39 Albatros, 1 x MiG-23 During attacks on ammunition depots at Hama Military Airport, the Free Syrian Army’s Jaysh al-Nasr unit fired artillery shells and more than 40 Grad rockets at the base, destroying a MiG-23 parked near one of the depots. Later satellite imagery shows that
D: Apr 29 N: Aerogaviota/Cuban Air Force T: An-26 This aircraft flew into the Loma de la Pimienta mountain, 4 miles (6.5km) north of San Cristóbal near the town of Candelaria in Cuba’s western Artemisa province while operating on behalf of the Cuban Air Force. All eight military personnel on board, including the crew, died in the crash. The Curl had taken off at 0638hrs from Playa Baracoa Airport, just outside Havana and came down 35 miles (55km) from the airport. Serogaviota is an airline established by the Cuban Army and owned by the Cuban government. D: Aug 3 N: Bangladesh Navy T: Dornier 228-212NG This aircraft skidded off the runway on landing at Chittagong-Shah Amanat International Airport at 1730hrs local time. There were no injuries to those on board, but airport operations were suspended while the Dornier was removed. The navy said it was a minor incident but did not specify if the aircraft had been damaged.
RNZAF Historic Flight AT-6C Harvard IIA NZ1015/(ZK-RNZ) after its belly landing near RNZAF Base Ohakea. RNZAF
Abbreviations: D: Date N/U: Nationality/Units T: Type S: Serials
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D: Aug 17 N/U: Japan Ground Self Defense Force/Dai 4 Taisensha Helicopter Tai T: AH-1S S: Possibly 73487 During a night-firing training sortie, while in the hover at the 3rd Sentou Shajou (3rd Battle Range), Higashi Fuji manoeuvre area, Shizuoka Prefecture, the helicopter suddenly dropped to the ground, making a hard landing and damaging its skids at 1940hrs. Neither crew was injured. D: Aug 17 N/U: US Navy/HSM-73 T: MH-60R S: 168124 ‘NA-711’ While operating northwest of San Clemente Island, California, at 2247hrs, the helicopter’s highvalue sonar transducer was lost at sea. The incident was categorised as a Class A mishap, indicating a loss in excess of $2m. D: Aug 29 N/U: German Luftwaffe/HSG 64 T: H145M S: 76+08 This helicopter made an emergency landing in a field after striking power lines at SchemmerhofenIngerkingen. According to a Bundeswehr spokesman it was not immediately clear whether a technical problem or pilot error caused the H145 to fly so low. The crew were uninjured, but electricity supplies were lost at several locations in the area following the incident. There did not appear to be any serious damage to the helicopter, which was removed by road on a low-loader the following evening and taken to its base at Laupheim for inspection. D: Jul 31, 2018 N: Russian Air and Space Force T: Su-34 This Fullback ran off the runway by around 1,640ft (500m) due to a reported drag chute failure during a night landing at Khurba air base near Komsomolskon-Amur following a training mission. There did not appear to be any damage to the airframe and the crew were uninjured. D: Aug 1 N: Afghan Air Force T: Mi-35 Following a technical malfunction, this helicopter made a hard landing
D: N: T:
Aug 16 Russian armed forces Unidentified UAV
Ukrainian defence forces stated they shot down this reconnaissance UAV near Svatovo, Lugansk oblast. Ukraine Joint Forces released images of the wreckage, although the precise type remains unconfirmed.
Above: Kenya National Police Service Mi-17V-5 5Y-DCI sits in dense woodland in the Boni Forest following an emergency landing. Kenya NPS
near the village of Muromand, in the Sarobi district, near an army camp 31 miles (50km) east of Kabul. The Hind had been en route from Nangarhar to Kabul. One person on board was killed and four were injured. One report claimed the Mi-35 hit an electricity pylon as it was attempting the emergency landing. D: Aug 3 N: Israel Defense Forces T: Unidentified UAV Syrian Army air defence systems shot down this UAV west of Damascus. D: Aug 4 N/U: Dominican Air Force/ Escuela de Aviación T: T-35B Pillán S: 1803 The aircraft crashed at around 1000hrs near Elías Piña while undertaking a border patrol mission along the border with Haiti. The pilot (1st Lt Kelvin Villanueva Garay) was killed and the injured co-pilot (2nd Lt Angel Amauri Felix Victoriano) was taken to the hospital in Elías Piña initially before being transferred to the Ramón de Lara military hospital at San Isidro air base. D: Aug 4 N: Royal Saudi Land Forces T: Unidentified UAV Houthi forces claimed they shot down this reconnaissance UAV while it was flying over the Al Maslub district of Al Jawf province, northern Yemen. They alleged it was monitoring Houthi positions around the Al Maslub area before it was downed. D: Aug 13 N/U: Israeli Air Force/102 Squadron T: 2 x M-346 Lavi
The wings of these two aircraft sustained damage when they collided on the ground while taxiing out for a training flight from Hatzerim Air Base. Neither pilot was injured. Training flights were temporarily suspended while an investigation was carried out and safety precautions reviewed. D: Aug 13 N/U: Royal New Zealand Air Force/RNZAF Historic Flight T: AT-6C Harvard IIA S: NZ1015/(ZK-RNZ) While approaching RNZAF Base Ohakea the aircraft had engine problems and at 1020hrs made an emergency belly landing in a paddock at Manawatu, just short of the runway, with its undercarriage retracted. The two RNZAF personnel on board were uninjured and walked from the accident site. The Harvard’s propeller was bent but the RNZAF said other damage to the aircraft was awaiting assessment. The aircraft, flown by the RNZAF for ceremonial and display purposes, had completed a three-and-ahalf-year rebuild last year. It was repainted in the original 1942 camouflage worn when it rolled off the production line. D: Aug 15 N: Kenya National Police Service T: Mi-17V-5 S: 5Y-DCI This helicopter made an emergency landing in the Boni Forest, in the Hulugho area, following an engine malfunction during a routine patrol. There were no injuries to the police pilots and five passengers on board and, despite landing in the middle of dense woodland, the helicopter did not appear to be seriously damaged.
D: Aug 17 N/U: USAF/71st Flying Training Wing T: T-38C Talon This aircraft crashed into farm pasture land at approximately 1348hrs near Mutual, Oklahoma, 70 miles (113km) west of Enid, Oklahoma, following engine problems during a training mission from Vance Air Force Base, Oklahoma. The solo instructor pilot on board ejected safely and was reported to be conscious and not seriously injured but being evaluated by USAF medical personnel. The aircraft was a total loss and started a fire in the field, which was extinguished by firefighters. Vance AFB emergency response personnel have begun an accident investigation. D: Aug 20 N/U: US Army/160th SOAR T: MH-60 Black Hawk While conducting a partnered counter-terrorism mission in Iraq in support of Operation Inherent Resolve, the helicopter crashed at around 0100hrs local time, killing one coalition service member and injuring several more of the ten on board. All personnel were recovered immediately after the accident and three were evacuated for further treatment. There were no indications of hostile fire at the time. The helicopter was returning to base after a small-scale raid at an undisclosed location when it was reported to have come down near Al-Qa’im, close to the IraqSyrian border in central west Iraq. D: Aug 21 N: Bulgarian Air Force T: AS532AL Cougar S: 710 During a medical training flight, this CSAR-configured helicopter suddenly encountered a flock of birds, causing the pilot to take immediate evasive action. This resulted in a collision with highvoltage power lines, forcing the crew to make an emergency landing
Abbreviations: D: Date N/U: Nationality/Units T: Type S: Serials
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near the village of Tsalapitsa, 75 miles (120km) southwest of Sofia. The three crew were uninjured, but the Cougar was badly damaged, particularly the main rotors and engine intakes. It was subsequently recovered and towed on the back of a truck for four hours to its home airfield at Krumovo. Substantial financial investment is expected to be necessary to return it to operational condition. Such funds are unlikely to be available this year. D: Aug 21 N/U: Japan Coast Guard/ 1st Region T: Cessna 172S Skyhawk S: JA395A ‘Amatsubame 5’ During an examination flight for pilot certification, the aircraft made a hard landing at Chitose Air Base and bounced back into the air before coming down again on runway 18 left. The three personnel on board were uninjured but the aircraft sustained substantial damage, including deformation of the forward fuselage skin and cracking of the internal structural frames. The aircraft was one of five of the type introduced into JCG service during the previous fiscal year. D: Aug 21 N/U: Polish Army Aviation/ 1st Aviation Brigade N: Mi-2 This helicopter made a hard landing just after 1900hrs and was damaged beyond repair during a training flight from the 56th Air Base at InowrocławLatkowo. The two crew members escaped without injury but were taken to hospital for examination. D: Aug 21 N/U: Swedish Air Force/F 17 T: JAS 39C Gripen The pilot was forced to eject following a bird strike while the aircraft was on approach to Ronneby-Kallinge at 0945hrs after a routine training flight. The Gripen crashed into a forest near Möljeryd, about 5.6 miles (9km) north of the base, causing a ground fire. The pilot did not suffer any serious injury and was picked up by a Swedish Air Force helicopter and taken to hospital for evaluation. D: Aug 22 N/U: Russian Air and Space Force/320th Independent Transport Squadron T: Mi-8AMTSh
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1030hrs in the Nannawa area of Lumme district, near Modjo, 47 miles (75km) southeast of Addis Ababa. It was carrying 15 defence personnel and three civilians, of which three were crew members and the other 15 passengers.
A Russian military UAV, which Ukraine defence forces claimed to have shot down on August 16, near Svatovo. Ukraine Joint Forces
While landing at Uprun-Troitsk airfield, Chelyabinsk region, at 1140hrs Moscow time, the helicopter began spinning uncontrollably, landed heavily and caught fire. The three crew exited safely, but the helicopter was damaged beyond repair. D: Aug 22 N/U: US Air Force/33rd Fighter Wing/58th Fighter Squadron T: F-35A Lightning II Following an in-flight emergency, this aircraft returned to Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, landing at 1250hrs, but during the landing roll the nose undercarriage collapsed. The pilot was uninjured and the aircraft came to rest, nose down, on the runway. It is not yet known whether there was any serious damage to the airframe. D: N:
Aug 26 Islamic Republic of Iran Air Force T: F-5F Tiger II Following a double engine failure, this aircraft ran off the runway during an emergency landing at the 4th Tactical Fighter Base DezfulArdestani at around 1330hrs local time. The pilot, Col Manouchehr Fattahi, ejected but was killed, while the co-pilot was injured and taken to hospital. The aircraft
sustained damage to the radome and nose undercarriage but is said to be repairable. It is reported that it will be rebuilt by Iran Aircraft Manufacturing Industries and modified to a Kowsar-I variant. The loss leaves Iran with just eight two-seat F-5Fs remaining operational, along with a little short of 20 single-seat F-5Es. D: Aug 28 N/U: Hellenic Air Force/120 Pteriga Ekpetheusis Aeros T: T-2E Buckeye S: 160097 During a spin recovery training exercise on a sortie from Kalamata, the crew failed to recover the aircraft before it crashed at 0850hrs local time near the village of Kollines, Arcadia. Although both pilots ejected, Sqn Ldr Nikolas Vassiliou, died and the other was taken to hospital with non-life-threatening injuries. D: Aug 30 N: Ethiopian Air Force T: DHC-6 Twin Otter 300 S: 808 All 18 on board were killed when this aircraft was destroyed in a crash while en route from Dire Dawa International Airport to Bishoftu-Harar Meda air base. The aircraft came down at
D: Aug 30 N: Royal Saudi Air Force T: CH-4B Rainbow This armed, Chinese-manufactured UAV was destroyed by a postimpact fire when it crashed near the At Tuwal border crossing between Saudi Arabia and Yemen. Yemeni Houthi rebels claimed to have shot it down. D: Aug 31 N: Pakistan Naval Aviation T: Sea King HC4 This helicopter crashed into the Arabian Sea off southern Sindh and southwestern Balochistan provinces during a routine operational flight. One of the seven on board, Lt Cdr Zeeshan, was killed but the fate of the other six is unknown. The helicopter involved was reported by local sources as one of the former Royal Navy ‘Junglies’ delivered last year. D: Sep 4 N/U: Indian Air Force/32 Wing T: MiG-27ML UPG Bahadur This aircraft had a technical malfunction and crashed at 0902hrs near Devalia village, in the Banad area of Jodhpur, Rajasthan state, just ten minutes after take-off from Jodhpur Air Force Station. The pilot ejected safely before the Flogger came down in an open field and burst into flames. He was taken to hospital in an IAF helicopter. Additional material from: Igor Bozinovski, Donny Chan, Scramble/Dutch Aviation Society and Asagiri Yohko. AFM
Above: The burnt-out remains of a Royal Saudi Air Force CASC CH-4B Rainbow UAV after Yemeni Houthi rebels claimed to have shot it down on August 30.
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Above: The 22 Typhoons included elements led by Nos 1(F), XI(F) and 29 Squadrons. Crown Copyright/Cpl Steve Buckley
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reating a ‘100’ composed entirely of Eurofighter Typhoons in the sky over central London on July 10 was among the highlights of the Royal Air Force’s centenary celebration flypast. One of the key goals of this spectacular event was to shine a very public spotlight on the service, and with a mass gathering of 100 aircraft over London, the largest ever formation of Typhoons provided a stand-out feature amid the various groups of RAF assets. Assembling a 22-ship of fighters in such a critically accurate shape was no mean feat, and the complex associated plan was choreographed over a ten-month period by No 29 Squadron at RAF Coningsby. Drawing in elements from across the RAF Typhoon Force it represented a considerable
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Jamie Hunter joined the RAF Typhoon Force as it provided a centrepiece to the impressive centenary celebration flypast.
oon Tribute challenge especially given the range of commitments already facing the relatively modest five frontline squadron strength. Preparations for the Typhoon ‘100’ began in September 2017 as a small team at Coningsby considered how they could turn the aspiration into a reality. Sqn Ldr Mike Child, a Flight Commander at No 29 Squadron, was tasked as the project officer. “As we got into October last year we were looking at the overall plan of how we’d bring the formation together – the number of aircraft we needed through to how we would physically create the desired shape. We decided it would be eight jets for each ‘0’ and six jets for the ‘1’. We drew an overhead picture of how it needed to look and then physically measured the distances out on the flight line for the aircraft to be 22 metres
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apart in width and 20 metres in length. We then generated the formation references.” Sqn Ldr Child was previously a member of the RAF Aerobatic Team, The Red Arrows. “This helped me a lot when it came to how to build the overall shape and the Standard Operating Procedures [SOPs] needed for such a large formation, this being the largest single gathering of Typhoons the RAF had ever flown.”
The first steps
Having established the shape and flying references for the pilots, the overall formation was broken down into three key elements – the ‘1’ and the two ‘0s’. In the middle was the ‘White/Triplex’ section, with the ‘1’ comprising ‘Blue/Cobra’ formation and the other ‘0’ being ‘Red/Warlord’. The lead aircraft of the middle
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Right: The plan comprised three separate parts that would then merge to create the overall shape. No 29 Squadron Below: Wg Cdr Andy Chisholm leads the mass briefing ahead of one of the final rehearsal missions, talking through the formation references. Jamie Hunter
‘0’ was the overall leader for all the jets – a task that fell to Officer Commanding No 29 Squadron, Wg Cdr Andy Chisholm. The ‘1’ was appropriately led by OC No 1 (Fighter) Squadron and the other ‘0’ by OC No XI (Fighter) Squadron. Having completed a number of events in the simulators the first live flight was conducted on December 6, 2017, when 10 aircraft flew a ‘0’ with the ‘outrigger leaders’ for the ‘1’ and the other ‘0’. Wanting to keep the plan a secret, most of this sortie was conducted over the sea, however the aircraft recovered to Coningsby in formation, triggering speculation over the plans.
The final event
There was no further live flying until the lead-up to the actual London date, when two full-scale rehearsals were flown on June 27 and 29 over the North Sea. Eight aircraft were detached south from RAF Lossiemouth to operate from Coningsby alongside 24 resident jets allocated to the flypast. “We wanted to incur minimum impact on the Lossiemouth Wing,” explains Sqn Ldr Child. “Around 150 personnel and eight jets detached here for three weeks for the main event. The manning was planned with 11 pilots from Coningsby and 11 from Lossie, including at least one pilot from each frontline squadron and two exchange officers.” The pilots chosen represented a mix of ranks and experience levels, with one having only recently graduated from the Operational Conversion Unit course. It was intended to make a second run on Friday July 13 at the Royal International Air Tattoo and so the key positions were retained for both events, although other slots were changed in order to give as many pilots as possible a taste of the action. Unfortunately, thunderstorms at RAF Fairford forced the cancellation of the RIAT flypast, but London on July 10 went without a hitch. “The weather for the practice days and the main flypast over London was really good,” says Sqn Ldr Child. “All of our planning was based on worst case scenario – we aimed to be able to take the formation elements up and back through cloud, we allowed for crosswinds here at Coningsby, we took into account
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every eventuality. On one of the June practice sorties we all flew an instrument recovery.”
How they flew it
The only pilot not transfixed on another jet was Wg Cdr Chisholm. The ‘outrigger’ leaders flew their references off of his aircraft. “One of the hardest jobs was making sure they had same heading, so Wg Cdr Chisholm was regularly calling out his heading. All the other pilots were flying manually on the aircraft ahead using line astern and echelon references to maintain a symmetrical shape. The key was having a stable and constant power setting.” What followed was an incredible feat of timing and precision flying – made possible by a finely detailed and cleverly executed plan. “The main challenge was to deconflict the 100 aircraft in the massive flypast,” says Child. “We flew numerous rehearsals linking all four simulators at Coningsby together to practise the timings for marshalling and then leaving the holds and joining the massive aircraft train heading for London.”
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Each of the Typhoon ‘100’ elements got airborne as independent sections (Triplex/Cobra/ Warlord) and they joined separately to compose their respective numeral, before progressing along the route towards the flypast datum whilst slowly converging. At a pre-determined point – Colchester – they were to be together in the ‘100’ (assuming the callsign ‘Typhoon’) and into the overall ‘Windsor Formation’ train. Child adds: “Once you’re together as a train it’s all good – it’s the speed differentials of the various elements and then the recoveries to home airfields that then becomes the hard part.” As the various groups of aircraft roared overhead Buckingham Palace, an immaculate ‘100’ of 22 Typhoons came into view. They were bang on time and shape – a proud moment for all of those involved after so much hard work. “It really was a whole force effort,” says Child. “It ranged from having the Lossiemouth guys here at Coningsby for three weeks and their requirement for regular training sorties as well as the centenary work, to the dedication of the engineers ensuring that all the jets we needed were available. Air Traffic Control had to work closely with us to get the 22 Typhoons and spares airborne and recovered safely plus the BAE Systems TyTAN [Typhoon Total Availability Enterprise] ensured we had the spares and support we needed – it really was a massive team that made up the whole effort.” AFM
“Once you’re together as a train it’s all good – it’s the speed differentials of the various elements and then the recoveries to home airfields that then becomes the hard part.” Sqn Ldr Mike Child, No 29 Squadron
Above right: The Typhoons fly down The Mall and over Buckingham Palace. Crown Copyright Right: The ‘100’ flies over Central London – a sight witnessed by thousands of people. Crown Copyright Left: The mass start on the flight line at No 29 Squadron for the rehearsal on June 27. All the jets started up on the main apron at Coningsby so that the pilots could move quickly to spare aircraft if required. Post-flight, the jets returned to their respective parking areas on the airfield. Jamie Hunter Above left: The route plan for the join-up and runin to London on July 10. No 29 Squadron
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Coming up in AFM The November issue is on sale globally from October 18.* Based at Punta Arenas, near the tip of Chile’s Patagonia region, the Grupo de Aviación No 12 and its Northrop F-5E/F Tiger IIs are the world’s southernmost fighter unit. Despite the age of these fighters, the ‘Southern Tigers’ continue to protect Chilean airspace and train new pilots for the force. Santiago Rivas reports on the unit, while Katsuhiko Tokunaga provides photography.
Other forthcoming features include:
• Hungarian Air Force Gripen live-fire • Flashpoint: Burkina Faso • Force Report: Spanish Navy Air Arm • Icelandic Coast Guard Aviation Department
Photo: Katsuhiko Tokunaga. *UK scheduled on-sale date. Please note that overseas deliveries are likely to be after this date.
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