Israel strikes back
The IAF’s war in Syria
Weapons development in Anatolia
Oﬃcially the world’s number one authority on military aviation
Chilean Tigers Flying with the world’s southernmost fighter unit
Hungarian Air Force on the range
November 2018 Issue 368 www.airforcesmonthly.com £4.99
Spanish Naval Aviation Icelandic Coast Guard Su-25 operators Wings of the Armada at 100
Small force, big challenges
Frogfoot in Russian service
UK announces official interest in E-7 Above: An RAAF E-7A Wedgetail receives air-to-air refuelling during a mission on Operation Okra in the Middle East. The MOD favours the E-7 on account of its combat-proven status. Commonwealth of Australia/CPL Brenton Kwaterski
n the end, the tweet sent by UK Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson on October 3 wasn’t a big surprise. It was long known that the Boeing 737 Airborne Early Warning and Control (AEW&C) variant was the MOD’s front-runner to replace the RAF’s ageing E-3D Sentry AEW1 fleet. Now we know that the ministry is in discussions with manufacturer Boeing and the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) – the latter operates the type as the E-7A Wedgetail. More surprising is that the MOD has opted for a single-source selection procurement, after indications earlier this year that it would look to run an open competition. Williamson described the E-7 as “the stand-out performer in our pursuit of a new battlespace surveillance aircraft”. Officials from Saab and Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI), to name just two, would likely provide very different perspectives.
However, the MOD says it’s undertaken its own market analysis and carried out discussions with rival manufacturers. The resulting decision is reportedly one that RAF leaders fully support. Equally important, buying a US product that’s already in RAAF service brings a host of intelligence-sharing possibilities under the ‘Five Eyes’ agreement. Unconfirmed reports suggest the UK is lining up a purchase of four to six aircraft worth more than $1bn. The first two of these could be obtained from the existing RAAF fleet. The MOD says it plans further talks with Boeing and that any firm decision will be preceded by a formal approval process that takes into account service requirements and costs. However, the 737-based solution now looks like a shoe-in for the Sentry successor. In a tweet of his own on the day of the announcement, AFM columnist Greg
Bagwell provided his take on the criteria he recommends for assessing singlesource bids from overseas. 1. Is there a British option? 2. Does it meet the capability requirement? 3. Does it deliver value for money? And 4. Would the delay of a competition add cost or risk to outputs? With these points in mind, he concluded, the 737AEW&C “looks a valid candidate”. It remains to be seen, however, what work will be found for UK industry in terms of airframe modifications and/or through-life support.
Editor: Thomas Newdick Assistant Editor: Jamie Hunter World Air Forces Correspondent: Alan Warnes Editorial Contact: [email protected]
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#368 NOVEMBER 2018 // 3
November 2018 #368
Cover: An F-5E Tigre III Plus of the Fuerza Aérea de Chile (FACh, Chilean Air Force) over the dramatic landscape of Patagonia. Although Santiago selected the F-16 Fighting Falcon as its new multirole warplane, the F-5s of the ‘Southern Tigers’ continue to protect Chilean airspace and train new pilots for the force. Katsuhiko Tokunaga Right: A pair of Magyar Légierő (Hungarian Air Force, HUNAF) JAS 39C Gripen fighters heads out from the wooden shelter at Vidsel, Sweden, armed with live AIM-9L Sidewinder air-to-air missiles on the port wing-tip stations. HUNAF Gripens launched a total of eight Sidewinder missiles during the Légi Fölény 2018 (Air Superiority 2018) live weapons delivery exercise in Vidsel. Lt Col István Toperczer
Features 3 Comment AFM’s opinion on the hot topics in military aviation.
14 Swiss PC-21: ten years of training The Pilatus PC-21 first entered service with the Swiss Air Force’s Pilotenschule at Emmen in 2008. Bob Fischer reflects on a decade of operations.
36 A not-so-silent war
SUBSCRIBE & SAVE! Subscribe to AFM and make great savings on cover price! See pages 34-35 for details.
4 // NOVEMBER 2018 #368
While Israel’s activity during the first six years of the Syrian conflict was shrouded in secrecy, over the past eight months many events have been brought to light either by Israeli officials
or by the overt nature of its actions. Yissachar Ruas received some insight into the campaign from a high-ranking Israeli Air Force source.
40 Hungarian Gripens hit the north Lt Col István Toperczer watched the Hungarian Air Force’s latest exercise in Vidsel, Sweden, to see its Gripens deliver live airto-ground munitions for the first time.
50 Fighters at the end of the world Based at Punta Arenas, near the tip of South America’s Patagonia region, the Grupo de
News by region All the world’s military aviation news, by region 6-7 .................Headlines 8-9 .................United Kingdom 10-13 .............Continental Europe 16-18 .............North America 20 ..................Russia & CIS 22-23 .............Latin America 24...................Middle East 26-27 .............Asia Pacific 28...................Africa 29 ..................Australasia
Regular features 30 EXERCISE REPORT: Sea Breeze 2018 The 17th Sea Breeze was the most important exercise in this series to date, featuring many firsts for its key participants, as Vladimir Trendafilovski discovered.
44 FORCE REPORT: Wings of the Armada Spanish Naval Aviation – which celebrated a century of operations last year – is one of Europe’s most potent maritime air arms, capable of projecting power to almost any point in the world. José Matos examines its current order of battle.
61 Book reviews AFM evaluates some of the latest offerings in aviation literature.
62 INTEL REPORT: Trainers with teeth Alan Warnes considers the role of the light combat aircraft and assesses those available today.
72 EXERCISE REPORT: Ample Strike NATO’s largest Joint Terminal Attack Controller exercise took place in the Czech Republic recently. Alan Warnes was there.
84 COMMANDER’S UPDATE BRIEFING: Combat cloud
Aviación No 12 and its Northrop F-5E/F Tiger IIs form the world’s southernmost fighter unit. Santiago Rivas reports on the group, with photography by Katsuhiko Tokunaga.
specialists of the Marine Forces Reserve. Joe Copalman visited New Orleans to see the operational support airlift squadron at work.
56 Always prepared
The retirement of the venerable Sea King ASaC7 has finally called time on the type’s UK military career. Richard Scott reports from Culdrose.
Martin Scharenborg and Ramon Wenink visited the Icelandic Coast Guard’s Aviation Department based at Reykjavík Airport, to report on the challenges currently facing the unit that proudly honours the motto Við erum til taks – ‘always prepared’.
68 Easy does it VMR Belle Chasse are the ‘people and parts’
76 Sea King ends its reign
80 Turkish testers The demanding flight test requirements of the Turkish Air Force are met by 401 Filo, a specialist unit flying F-4s and F-16s from Eskişehir. Cem Doğut investigates its weapons trials work.
Today’s armed forces are lagging behind their civilian counterparts when it comes to data sharing. Air Power Association president, Air Marshal (ret’d) Greg Bagwell CB CBE, examines the new demands being put on air power in the information age.
88 Attrition Dave Allport details the world’s most recent military accidents.
92 SURVEY: Su-25 operators The Su-25 is a rugged and affordable attack aircraft able to deliver heavy ordnance loads and withstand significant damage. In this issue AFM begins a round-up of current operators around the world, beginning with Russia.
98 Coming up See what’s featuring in your AFM next month.
#368 NOVEMBER 2018 // 5
F-35B begins operations on HMS Queen Elizabeth
F-35B BF-04 conducted initial night flying on board HMS ‘Queen Elizabeth’ on September 28. Crown Copyright
THE FIRST F-35Bs have begun operations from the deck of the Royal Navy’s new aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth (R08) off the US east coast. It’s the first time a fighter has operated from the deck of a Royal Navy warship since November 2010. The first jet to land on the 65,000-ton vessel was F-35B BF-05, on September 25, with Cdr Nathan Gray, Royal Navy, at the controls. It was
followed by BF-04, flown by Sqn Cdr Andy Edgell, RAF. Cdr Gray subsequently made the first fixed-wing take-off from the vessel, using the ‘ski jump’ bow ramp. The two embarked F-35Bs are from the Integrated Test Force (ITF) based at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Maryland. HMS Queen Elizabeth left her home port of Portsmouth on August 19, transiting the Atlantic to conduct the trials.
More than 1,400 sailors, flight crew and marines have been working on board the carrier during the four-month WESTLANT 18 deployment. The ‘orange wired’ F-35B test aircraft are expected to conduct more than 500 take-offs and landings over an 11-week period at sea during the first-ofclass flight trials – fixed wing (FOCFT [FW]). Two separate FOCFT (FW) phases will be held back-
to-back and will evaluate the jet’s performance on more than 200 test points. Commanding officer of the carrier, Capt Jerry Kyd, who was also the captain of HMS Ark Royal when the last Harrier took off from a carrier back in 2010, said: “The regeneration of big-deck carriers able to operate globally, as we are proving here on this deployment, is a major step forward
for the United Kingdom’s defence and our ability to match the increasing pace of our adversaries. The first touch-downs of these impressive stealth jets shows how the United Kingdom will continue to be world leaders at sea for generations to come.” The UK now has a fleet of 16 F-35Bs and plans to deploy HMS Queen Elizabeth on global operations from 2021.
Boeing wins T-X THE US Air Force awarded a joint Boeing/Saab team the T-X contract to replace Air Education and Training Command’s T-38C Talon trainer on September 27. Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson said the programme will “save at least $10bn” compared with original service estimates. While the USAF originally expected to pay $19.7bn for 351 aircraft, Boeing/ Saab’s indefinite delivery/ indefinite quantity contract is worth $9.2bn for up to 475 new advanced trainers and 46 simulators. The air arm’s baseline requirement remains at 351 aircraft, but this doesn’t include potential requirements for aggressor
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Boeing and Saab’s ‘clean sheet’ design proved victorious in the long-awaited T-X contract. Boeing has announced it will build the new trainer in St Louis, Missouri. John Parker/Boeing
aircraft or companion trainers for bombers. An initial delivery order for $813m covers the engineering and manufacturing development of the first five aircraft and seven simulators. “This new aircraft will provide the advanced training capabilities we
need to increase the lethality and effectiveness of future air force pilots,” said Secretary Wilson. Air Force Chief of Staff Gen David L Goldfein added: “This is all about joint warfighting excellence; we need the T-X to optimise training for pilots heading into our growing
fleet of fifth-generation aircraft. This aircraft will enable pilot training in a system similar to our fielded fighters, ultimately enhancing joint lethality.” The first T-X aircraft and simulators are scheduled to arrive at Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph, Texas, in 2023. All undergraduate pilot
training bases will eventually transition from the T-38 to the T-X. Those bases include: Columbus AFB, Mississippi; Laughlin AFB, Texas; Sheppard AFB, Texas and Vance AFB, Oklahoma. The USAF plans on achieving initial operational capability by 2024 and full operational capability by 2034.
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F-35B combat debut
Above: One of the VMFA-211 F-35Bs involved in the variant’s combat debut, on the flight deck of USS ‘Essex’ in the Gulf of Aden on September 22. The jet is named in honour of Lt Col Christopher Raible, the VMFA-211 commander killed in a Taliban attack on Camp Bastion in September 2012. US Navy/Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Matthew Freeman
THE US Marine Corps employed its F-35B in combat for the first time during a September 27 air strike over Afghanistan’s Kandahar Province in support of Operation Freedom’s Sentinel. Officials announced that a Lightning II from the US Navy amphibious assault ship USS Essex (LHD 2) conducted an air strike in support of ground clearance operations, and the strike was deemed successful by the ground force commander. At least two F-35Bs made a stopover in Kandahar Airfield after the air strike before returning to the ship. Col Chandler Nelms, 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) commanding officer, said: “The opportunity for us to be the first navy, Marine
Corps team to employ the F-35B in support of manoeuvre forces on the ground demonstrates one aspect of the capabilities this platform brings to the region, our allies, and our partners.” The F-35B first entered the US Central Command (CENTCOM) area of responsibility earlier the same month. The Lightning IIs deployed to the Middle East as part of the Essex Amphibious Ready Group (ARG). The 13th MEU is the first combat-deployed MEU to utilise the aircraft. Its Lightning IIs are provided by Marine Fighter Attack Squadron (VMFA) 211 ‘Wake Island Avengers’. The first F-35B ARG/ MEU deployment was in February with the Wasp ARG and the Japanbased 31st MEU.
MH-139 selected to replace USAF ‘Hueys’ THE US Air Force has announced Boeing’s MH-139 as the winner of the UH-1N ‘Huey’ replacement helicopter competition, awarding a firm-fixed-price contract ultimately worth $2.38bn. The service had expected to pay around $4.1bn for the rotorcraft, which will provide security for intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) and nuclear deterrence operations. On September 24 the service awarded an initial
$375m for four helicopters and the integration of nondevelopmental items. First launched in 2007, the programme has been repeatedly delayed and prompted a pre-award protest from rival bidder Lockheed Martin/Sikorsky. “Strong competition drove down costs for the programme, resulting in $1.7 billion in savings to the taxpayer,” Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson said in a statement. Boeing’s MH-139 – a militarised variant of the
Leonardo AW139 utility helicopter – was up against the Lockheed Martin/Sikorsky HH-60U and Sierra Nevada’s proposed Sierra Force, a UH-60L derivative based on reworked UH-60As. The total cost will include all options, covering the acquisition of up to 84 MH-139 helicopters, along with training devices and support equipment. The USAF expects the first operational helicopter to be delivered in Fiscal Year 2021.
Above: The MH-139 is derived from the Leonardo AW139 and will be assembled at the company’s northeast Philadelphia plant, with Boeing integrating military-specific components at its facility south of that city. Fred Troilo/Boeing
USAF: “We need 386 operational squadrons”
AIR FORCE Secretary Heather Wilson has announced an aspiration to increase USAF operational squadron numbers from the current 312 to 386 by 2030. The plan is the result of an in-depth analysis to meet the demands of the National Defense Strategy. This document identifies the re-emergence of longterm, strategic competition with China and Russia. Wilson said the analysis of the 386 squadrons needed to support this strategy is based on estimates of the expected threat by 2025 to 2030. In comparison, at the end of the Cold War, the USAF had 401 operational squadrons. According to the Heritage Foundation, to equip a force of 386 squadrons, the USAF will need 182 fighters, 60 bombers, 210 tankers and 15 airlifters over the next decade.
#368 NOVEMBER 2018 // 7
Typhoon FGR4s manned by No II(AC) Squadron arrived at Thumrait from October 1. Crown Copyright
Hawker Hunter Aviation receives Hunter T72 A NEW addition to the Hawker Hunter Aviation (HHA) fleet is two-seat Hunter T72 PP-XHH, acquired from Brazilian manufacturer Embraer, which had operated it as a chase plane. After being dismantled, it was shipped to the UK by Redcliffe International (Shipping) Ltd. Its precise delivery date is unconfirmed, but it had arrived by September 4, when it was noted in the HHA hangar at RAF Scampton, Lincolnshire. The veteran aircraft was originally built for the RAF as single-seat Hunter F4 XE702 and first flew on August 26, 1955, before being delivered on October 7, 1955. After retirement, on July 12, 1963, it became 7788M, a ground instructional airframe with No 1 School of Technical Training at RAF Halton, Buckinghamshire. Sold to Hawker Aircraft in January 1972 as G-9397, it was converted to a twin-seat T72 and joined the Fuerza Aérea de Chile (FACh, Chilean Air Force) on February 15, 1974, as J-736. After being retired by the FACh in 1995, following a period of storage it was sold to Embraer in 2001 and based at São José dos Campos. Dave Allport
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RAF Typhoons in Oman TYPHOON FGR4s from No II (Army Co-operation) Squadron at RAF Lossiemouth, Scotland, deployed to Thumrait air base in southern Oman to take part in Exercise Saif Sareea (Swift Sword) 3, as part of 140 Expeditionary Air Wing (EAW). The first four Typhoons arrived in Oman on October 1 after an overnight
stop in Athens and were followed by four more jets the next day. An E-3D Sentry AEW1 from No 8 Squadron at RAF Waddington, Lincolnshire, also took part in the manoeuvres. The Typhoons flew alongside the Royal Air Force of Oman’s F-16s in what the UK Ministry of Defence described as
“the largest tri-service, bilateral, interoperability exercise in the region for almost two decades”. Sqn Ldr Bruce McConnell, a No II(AC) Squadron pilot, arrived in Oman two weeks ahead of the exercise to prepare for the aircraft’s arrival: “It’s great to see the jets here safely; the engineering team has done
a great job getting eight jets ready for the transit flight. Now the aircraft are here we can start to focus on the exercise. Everyone is looking forward to working alongside the Omani pilots and seeing what their aircraft can do.” Exercise Saif Sareea was first staged in 1987 and this year marked its third iteration.
Latest Shadow R1A conversion
Shadow R1A ZZ419 conducts a test flight from Broughton on September 18 using the callsign ‘Zulu Zulu 419’. The most obvious difference compared with the R1 is the bulged fairing on top of the tailplane. Hywel Evans
WORK CONTINUES to upgrade the RAF Shadow R1 fleet to the interim Shadow R1A standard before it is taken to the final R2 standard. Shadow ZZ419 has begun test flights after R1A conversion at Raytheon’s
Broughton (Hawarden) facility in North Wales. The initial R1A to be completed was ZZ417, which left its base at RAF Waddington, Lincolnshire, on March 9 on its first overseas mission since undergoing the work. The
fleet is operated by No 14 Squadron and also includes ZZ416, ZZ418 and ZZ504. Two more King Air 350Cs, G-DAYP and G-GMAD, are used as standard commercial variants and are yet to be converted to Shadow configuration. The
other civilian-registered aircraft with the unit, G-LBSB, remains with Raytheon at Broughton under conversion to the next Shadow and it is rumoured that it will emerge as the first R2. On completion it will become ZZ507.
RAF Poseidon set for Kinloss THE RAF’s initial P-8A Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft will be delivered to RAF Kinloss, Scotland rather than the type’s main operating base at nearby RAF
Lossiemouth. The decision has been taken to avoid disruption caused by major engineering work – including runway refurbishment – at Lossiemouth. The first
Poseidon is expected to arrive in the UK in 2020. As part of the £400m construction effort, the resident RAF Typhoons will also temporarily relocate
to RAF Leuchars in Fife. The work at Lossiemouth is required to accommodate both the Poseidon and an additional Typhoon unit – No IX (Bomber) Squadron.
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RAF Chinooks begin operations with French in Mali RAF CHINOOK HC5 helicopters have begun operations with the French military in Mali. The three RAF Chinooks are being used to transport French troops and supplies around the West African country,
providing logistical support in the ongoing campaign against insurgents. As of September 21, the RAF helicopters had flown 30 sorties – flying for up to six hours on each trip – moving over 700 French
troops and more than 70 tons of equipment. Wg Cdr Matt Roberts, the commander for the deployed British military personnel in Mali, said: “With the Chinook Mk5 we can move a huge
amount of stores around the area of operations and increase the in-theatre manoeuvrability of the French.” Wg Cdr Roberts explained that during one week the Chinooks lifted
almost 25 tons in support of French ground troops during just three missions. The three Chinooks arrived in Gao, Mali, on July 18 and began operational flying on August 16.
A French Army Tigre HAD attack helicopter alongside an RAF Chinook HC5 in Mali. Crown Copyright
Hawk T2 in No 25(F) Squadron markings
Hawk T2 ZK029 ‘FE’ – seen in company with a No IV(AC) Squadron jet – is one of the first of the type in new No 25(F) Squadron markings. Crown Copyright
Wildcat lands on HMS Queen Elizabeth
AS REPORTED last month, the RAF’s No 25 (Fighter) Squadron has re-formed at RAF Valley, Wales, as a second Hawk T2 unit. The unit will provide advanced fast jet training (AFJT) for RAF and Royal Navy pilots alongside No IV (Army Co-operation) 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. 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 Typhoon at RAF Lossiemouth, Scotland next year. No 25(F) Squadron is expected to fully re-form by the end of this year.
Final flight of the Sea King THE WESTLAND Sea King completed almost 50 years of active British military service on September 25, when flying operations of the Sea King ASaC7 (SKASaC) airborne surveillance and control helicopters ceased at Royal Naval Air Station Culdrose,
Cornwall. The last three airworthy ASaC7s with 849 Naval Air Squadron (NAS) then flew from Culdrose to HMS Sultan near Portsmouth for disposal. Two aircraft had previously undertaken a farewell flypast around Southwest England on September 19. The Sea King ASaC7
flew its final operational mission supporting Operation Kipion in the Gulf at the end of June. See p76-78 for a full report on the retirement, and plans for its replacement by the Merlin HM2, equipped with the Crowsnest mission package.
Above: Wildcat HMA2 ZZ529 on the deck of HMS ‘Queen Elizabeth’ with HMS ‘Monmouth’ in the background. Crown Copyright
A ROYAL Navy Wildcat HMA2 helicopter has landed on board the aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth for the first time. The milestone was announced on September 11 and occurred shortly before the warship went to sea off the US east coast to conduct F-35B flight trials. The Wildcat – callsign
‘Blackjack’ – is embarked on HMS Monmouth, acting as the carrier’s escort. The Type 23 frigate has been operating as part of the UK’s Carrier Strike Group since the ships sailed from the UK in August. Her role is to provide security at sea for the carrier as she conducts the historic trials.
Above: The last three airworthy RN Sea Kings depart Culdrose for the final time. In the background are Merlin HM2s – the aircraft that will take on the SKASaC’s mission from the second quarter of next year. Crown Copyright
#368 NOVEMBER 2018 // 9
Continental Europe Germany approves Hercules purchase
Greek Mirages at TLP Above: A line-up of 331 Mira Mirages on the Albacete TLP ramp headed by two-seater serial 509. Roberto Yáñez
FOUR MIRAGE 2000EG/ BGs from the Hellenic Air Force’s (HAF’s) 331 Mira participated in the Tactical Leadership Programme (TLP) 2018-3 flying course at Albacete air base, Spain. The exercise took place
between September 10 and October 5 and marked the first involvement of Greek Mirages in a TLP since 2014. The four jets comprised single-seaters 547, 550 and 555 and twoseater 509. Albacete’s last
flying course of the year also attracted participants from Belgium (F-16AM), France (Mirage 2000D, Alpha Jet E, Rafale B/C, Predator and E-3F), Italy (Tornado ECR, AMX ACOL, HH-139A and E-550A), Poland (F-16C)
and Spain (Eurofighter and Super Puma). The last TLP course of the year will be held at Amendola, Italy from November 5 to 30 and is planned to include Italian Air Force F-35As for the first time. Roberto Yáñez
THE LUFTWAFFE is set to receive six C-130 Hercules transports at a cost of around €970m ($1.14bn). The budget committee of the Bundestag – Berlin’s lower house of parliament – approved the procurement of the aircraft. The full package includes spare parts, aircraft maintenance in the first three years and initial training of technical personnel and aircrew. Luftwaffe C-130s – three C-130J-30 and three KC-130J variants – will be operated by a joint French-German unit based at Évreux in France. This will operate four new French and six German Hercules – for which the Bundeswehr will contribute around 200 personnel – and run a joint training centre. It is planned for the squadron to attain initial operational capability by 2021 and full operational capability in 2024.
VVCG Cessna 421B Golden Eagle 4O-BRO was shown to the public for the first time during an open day at Golubovci on September 28. VVCG via Igor Bozinovski
Montenegrin Golden Eagle unveiled THE VOJSKA Crne Gore (VCG, Armed Forces of Montenegro) is now operating 1972-built Cessna 421B Golden Eagle 4O-BRO (ex YU-BRO, c/n 421B-0266). The eight-seat light passenger transport and surveillance aircraft is flown from Golubovci air base, located near the capital Podgorica. The sole fixed-wing type in service with the Vazduhoplovstvo Vojske
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Crne Gore (VVCG, Montenegrin Air Force), this little-known aircraft previously flew as an aerial photography platform with the Real Estate Authority of Montenegro. It was grounded and subsequently transferred to the VCG on June 29, 2010. Earlier this year the defence ministry ordered an inspection and modernisation to return the aircraft to use with the VVCG for pilot training,
liaison, medical transport, aerial surveillance, air policing exercises and VIP transport. Following maintenance in Serbia, it joined the VVCG in late September. Introduction of the lowhour Cessna to the VVCG was officially announced on September 20, when it was included in Montenegro’s first Strategic Defence Review since the Balkan nation joined NATO in June last year. Igor Bozinovski
ARMÉE DE l’Air (French Air Force) Rafale B 322 ‘4-HU’ has received markings to denote a ground kill of an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) in the Middle East. Seen recently at SaintDizier, Rafale B 322 was deployed to Jordan for Opération Chammal, the French contribution to Operation Inherent Resolve (OIR). The jet’s bombing markings represent delivery of eight 500lb (227kg) GBU-12 Paveway II laser-guided bombs (LGBs), five AASM (Armement Air-
Sol Modulaire) guided munitions and a drone. The Rafale was tasked with destruction of a crashed coalition UAV to avoid its wreckage falling into the hands of so-called Islamic State or other insurgent groups. Based on the marking, the UAV was apparently an MQ-9 Reaper. As well as these mission markings, Rafale B 322 – assigned to Escadron de Chasse (EC) 1/4 ‘Gascogne’ – wears the Tête de Loup (wolf’s head) emblem of SPA 79 on the left side of the fin.
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Belarus bids to overhaul Bulgarian Frogfoots
Serbia to buy Chinese drones
BULGARIAN MINISTER of Defence Krasimir Karakachanov revealed on September 28 that the 558 Aircraft Repair Plant (558 ARZ) in Belarus was the sole bidder to submit a proposal to overhaul and implement a smallscale avionics upgrade on Bulgaria’s 14-strong Su-25 fleet. The other company invited to take part in the tender, Russia’s 121 ARZ, failed to respond to the Bulgarian request for proposals (RfP). The tender, launched in August, covers the
entire active Bulgarski Voennovazdushni Sili (BVVS, Bulgarian Air Force) Frogfoot inventory, comprising four Su-25UBK two-seaters and ten Su-25K single-seaters. According to Karakachanov, the defence ministry has begun negotiations with the 558 ARZ. If they come to an agreement, a contract is likely to be inked before the end of the year. Work on a first batch of four Su-25s could begin early next year, with completion expected by 2022. The Bulgarian MoD has requested overhaul
and upgrade to be carried out under a framework agreement, in which it can place annual orders for aircraft according to the available budget. After overhaul, the Frogfoot airframes are required to have a service life of at least 800 flight hours and ten years of operation, while the aircraft’s R-95Sh engines will be re-delivered with 500 hours of remaining service life. The forecasted value of the work for all 14 aircraft is BGN 41m ($24.29m), but there is
an option to increase the budget up to BGN 82.51m ($48.58m) if required. The minor upgrade associated with the overhaul covers new communication and navigation systems, a flight data recorder and integration of R-73 air-to-air missiles and jamming pods. The original service life of the Bulgarian Su-25 fleet expired ten years ago and the fleet has been kept flying through a series of life extensions undertaken independently by the VVS. Alexander Mladenov and Krassimir Grozev
THE SERBIAN assistant defence minister Nenad Miloradovic confirmed on September 17 that the country plans to buy Chinese-made unmanned combat aerial vehicles (UCAVs) capable of reconnaissance, day/ night surveillance and targeting, and strike using laser-guided bombs and rockets. The previous day, Serbian media reported that the country would acquire six Chinese unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), including two Chengdu Aircraft Industry Group Wing Loong II mediumaltitude long-endurance (MALE) UCAVs. The UAVs will reportedly be assembled locally. Miloradovic did not disclose which systems will be acquired but confirmed the agreement will include industrial co-operation and technology transfer. He said the first systems will begin flying in Serbia next year. Igor Bozinovski
Three more F-35As arrive in Norway THE LATEST three F-35As for the Luftforsvaret (Royal Norwegian Air Force, RNoAF) have arrived in Norway. The Lightning IIs touched down at Ørland Air Station on September 21 and bring to nine the total number of F-35As stationed at the base. Col Hans-Ole Sandnes, commander of Ørland Air Station, said: “After receiving nine F-35 aircraft, we can continue the planned training so
that we reach the goal of delivering operational combat air power with the F-35 in co-operation with the F-16 from 2019.” The latest aircraft are the last three for 2018. The first three RNoAF F-35As to arrive in the country (5148, 5149 and 5150), were delivered to Ørland on November 3 last year. Seven others (5087, 5088, 5110, 5111, 5145, 5146 and 5147) have been retained in the US
and are operating with the US Air Force’s 62nd Fighter Squadron at Luke Air Force Base, Arizona, to train RNoAF pilots. Three more F-35As – 5205 (AM-11, USAF 15-5205), 5206 (AM-12, 15-5206) and 5207 (AM1, 15-5207) – arrived in Norway on May 22. Norway plans to acquire a total of 52 F-35As. Deliveries are intended to continue at a rate of six aircraft per year through to 2024.
Latest Spanish Army Tigre
RNoAF F-35A 5208 (AM-14, USAF/15-5208) arrives at Ørland. The other two jets were 5209 (AM-15) and 5210 (AM-16). RNoAF
THE BATALLÓN de Helicópteros de Ataque I (BHELMA-I, 1st Attack Helicopter Battalion) of the Fuerzas Aeromóviles del Ejército de Tierra (FAMET, Army Airmobile Forces) has received its 16th Tigre HADE attack helicopter, from a total order of 18. The helicopter, HA.28-22 (10071/ET-722) was ferried to the FAMET
base at Almagro, home of BHELMA-I by a FAMET crew on September 7. With ET-723 and ET-724 involved in final flight tests, FAMET expects to complete its order before the end of the year. The unit will then have an inventory of 24 Tigres, comprising six HAP and 18 HADE versions. Roberto Yáñez
#368 NOVEMBER 2018 // 11
Finland to upgrade C295M
Belgian C-130 ‘special’
THE MINISTRY of Defence of Finland has approved plans to upgrade the Ilmavoimat’s (Finnish Air Force’s) fleet of three C295M transport aircraft. Under a contract with Airbus Defence and Space, the aircraft will be modified with new navigation and identification systems. The enhancements will ensure the C295M complies with updated European airspace control and surveillance system requirements and improves flight safety. The total value of the procurement is around €4.2m and deliveries are scheduled to take place between 2018 and 2020.
Benoi ̂ t Denet
BELGIAN AIR Component C-130H CH-10 has received this special scheme to commemorate 70 years of 15 Wing. The Hercules is assigned to the wing’s 20e escadrille, the unit marking of which is a Sioux
head. Additional artwork on the tail commemorates the 70 years of the parent wing, which was established on April 1, 1948, as a successor to 169 Wing. Finally, the ‘45 years’ legend refers to
the period of operations by 20e escadrille’s C-130Hs. The squadron flew its final mission with the C-119 in 1973. Belgium received 12 newbuild C-130Hs between July 1972 and April 1973,
while a 1965-built C-130E was procured in 2007 as an attrition replacement and has been upgraded to C-130H standard by Sabena Technics. Today, 11 aircraft are in service with 20e escadrille at Melsbroek.
wing since July 1, 1958, in which time it has flown the F-84F, F-104G and now the Tornado IDS. Today, TaktLwG 33 is the largest Tornado operator in the Luftwaffe.
Originally founded at Fürstenfeldbruck in 1956 as Waffenschule 30 (Weapons School 30), this unit relocated to Büchel in 1957. On July 1 the following
year, it was renamed as Jagdbombergeschwader 33 and retained this title until the latest Luftwaffe reorganisation came into force on October 1, 2013.
TaktLwG 33 marks 60th anniversary
THE LUFTWAFFE’S Taktisches Luftwaffengeschwader 33 (TaktLwG 33, Tactical Air Force Wing 33) is celebrating its 60th anniversary this year and
has applied a special scheme on Tornado 46+02 to mark the occasion. Located at Büchel air base on the edge of the Eifel, this facility has been home to the
More Montenegrin Bell 412s arrive TWO MORE Bell 412EPI helicopters joined the Armed Forces of Montenegro (Vojska Crne Gore, VCG) when they arrived at Golubovci on September 10. The helicopters were manufactured in Canada, assembled by Bell in Tennessee and then transferred to Bell’s service centre in Prague, where they were assembled and tested prior to being shipped to Montenegro. Receipt of the two new helicopters completed the €30m contract signed on January 30 between the Montenegrin Ministry
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of Defence and the Canadian Commercial Corporation (CCC). The first of the three helicopters is secondhand Bell 412EP c/n 36307 that was manufactured in 2002 and handed over to the VCG on April 13. The two new Bell 412EPIs are c/n 37032 and 37033. To date, four Montenegrin pilots have been re-trained by Bell, including air force commander Lt Colonel Nenad Pavlović. It’s planned to qualify 18 pilots, from a total of 23, for Bell helicopters. Aleksandar Radić
Above: The two new Bell 412EPIs on arrival to Golubovci air base. Montenegro Government/S Matic
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Spain approves Chinook modernisation SPAIN HAS authorised an upgrade of its CH-47 Chinook fleet, after approval was given by the country’s Council of Ministers on September 21. Modernisation work will begin before the end of the year, and the first reworked helicopter will be handed over in 2021. The final Chinook is set to follow in 2025. Spain will spend around €819m bringing its Chinook fleet from CH-47D to CH-47F standard. Spain previously received approval from the US to purchase 17 CH-47Fs as part of a package worth around $1.3bn. The Fuerzas Aeromóviles del Ejército de Tierra (FAMET, Army Airmobile Forces) currently operates 17 D-models.
Milestone for Czech Sokół
Dr Andreas Zeitler
SEEN RECENTLY at PlzenLine Airport, W-3A Sokół serial 0718 (c/n 370718) wears special markings to celebrate it becoming the first of its type in the
world to achieve 5,000 flight hours. The Hoplite is operated by the 243. vrtulníková letka (243rd Helicopter Squadron) at Prague-Kbely. The
Vzdušné síly Armády České republiky (VzS AČR, Air Component of the Army of the Czech Republic) inventory includes ten W-3As.
Macedonian rotorcraft refurbished
THE VOZDUHOPLOVNA Brigada na Armijata na Republika Makedonija (Aviation Brigade of the Army of the Republic of Macedonia) has introduced a pair of Mi-24V attack helicopters (serials 209 and 210) and a pair of Mi-8MT assault transport helicopters (307 and 308). The aircraft returned to service having undergone general overhaul and life-cycle extension at the Aviakon aircraft repair plant in Konotop, Ukraine. The Mi-24s were returned to Macedonia by trucks in late July and reassembled by Ukrainian specialists at Petrovec air base, near Skopje. Once test and acceptance flights were completed they re-joined the Combat
Helicopter Squadron. This squadron had been without operational Mi-24s since July 2015 when its last Hind was grounded after its time between overhaul (TBO) resources expired. The Mi-8MTs were flown to Macedonia by Macedonian pilots. They landed at Petrovec on September 3 and immediately reinforced the Transport Helicopter Squadron. This unit already operated a pair of 2016-overhauled, transportconfigured Mi-17s (302 and 303) and four transport/ assault Mi-8MTs (305-308). The Mi-24Vs are expected to be the last Hinds restored to service; plans to overhaul an additional four appear to have been abandoned. Igor Bozinovski
Above: Macedonian Mi-24V ‘Hind-E’ serial 209 at Petrovec air base. Igor Bozinovski Below: Macedonian Mi-8MT serial 307 at Petrovec on September 3. Igor Bozinovski
Dutch sign AH-64 modernisation contract THE NETHERLANDS has signed a letter of offer and acceptance (LOA) to modernise its fleet of 28 AH-64D Block II attack helicopters to AH-64E standard at a cost of $1.19bn. The contract was formalised at Gilze-Rijen Air Base on September 14. During the work, the Apaches will receive new airframes, transmissions and rotor blades. New T700-GE-701D engines will also be installed, providing increased power for improved performance in hot and high conditions. The LOA also includes training for Dutch pilots at Fort Hood, Texas. The first Apache will undergo modernisation work in 2021 and will be reintroduced by mid-2022.
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Swiss PC-21: ten years of training
hen the Swiss Air Force (SAF) introduced the PC-21 into its training programme, it broke new ground in converting pilots directly from an advanced turboprop aircraft onto the F/A-18C/D Hornet. In the 1990s, the goal of tuition was conversion to the frontline Hawker Hunter or Northrop F-5 Tiger II. By the end of that decade it became evident that requirements for producing an F/A18 pilot were different. Initially, the training path progressed from the PC-7 Turbo-Trainer via the F-5 to the F/A-18. The Tiger II was falling short and, in a radical move, it was decided that the jet trainer could be replaced by a propeller-driven type. The solution was the PC-21.
The PC-21 has sophisticated avionics and systems and enables a more advanced level of tuition than was possible on the F-5. The turboprop trainer’s disadvantages are limited mass and small turning radius, which make energy manoeuvring different compared with fourth- and fifth-generation fighters. However, the biggest advantage is the advanced modular cockpit layout with multifunction displays (MFDs), head-up display (HUD) and hands on throttle and stick (HOTAS) controls. It also has synthetic radar with simulation mode, making cockpit workflows identical to those found
in a fast jet. The PC-21 also has greatly reduced costs and noise emissions compared with a jet.
Undergraduate training All trainees join the SAF via SPHAIR, a governmentfunded institution that scouts for aviation talent. After some entry testing, candidates can join a twoweek, free-of-charge course on single-engine piston aircraft. The institute looks for students who display the various skills and competencies required for a future flying career. Candidates recommended for military aviation progress to flying selective lessons in a
PC-7 simulator. Finally, they will be tested in the course of 17 missions on the PC-7 during a sixweek selection stage. Normally 350 candidates are screened each year and around 250 will attend the SPHAIR course. After several assessments an average of 12 candidates will start air force training. Following eight months of basic training on the PC-7, students join a 13-month airline transport pilot licence (ATPL) course provided by the Lufthansa Aviation Training school, albeit specially tailored for the air force. Then they requalify on the PC-7 and return to the military flying system, before joining the PC-21 course for one year. Thereafter, they begin the Hornet conversion course, which lasts another ten months. Helicopter
The Pilatus PC-21 first entered service with the Swiss Air Force’s Pilotenschule at Emmen in 2008. Bob Fischer reflects on a decade of operations. pilots progress to the EC635 after PC-7 requalification. In all, around 100 flying weeks are spent in military types before graduation. Course topics include technical conversion, instrument flight rules (IFR), formation flying, navigation, night operations, air-toground attack, air policing and air warfare, resulting in around 620 hours of study per student. This doesn’t take in the 200 hours flown on civil aircraft during the ATPL phase.
JEPAS programme Switzerland procured the Jet Pilot Training System (JEPAS) for CHF115m (£90m) under its 2006 armament programme. Six PC-21s were initially delivered and introduced to service two years later.
Inset: The crew patch issued to members of pilot class PK 12 at Emmen. Left: The two PC-21s of ‘Gizmo’ flight as photographed by the author during his visit to Emmen on May 23 and 24. The PC-21’s first decade of service was celebrated on September 26. All photos Bob Fischer
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Above: PC-21s A-106 and A-107 overhead Emmen air base. Left: The front cockpit of the PC-21 includes full-sized multifunction displays giving a similar cockpit environment to the F/A-18. Below: AFM correspondent Bob Fischer in the cockpit of a PC-7. He flew with a pair of PC-21s during an air policing flight from Emmen air base.
EC635 Alongside the PC-21, the Airbus Helicopters EC635 (local military designation TH-05) is also celebrating its ten-year anniversary with the SAF this year. The helicopter,
a military version of the commercially successful EC135, is mainly operated from Alpnach air base in central Switzerland. Rotary students undergo basic
training on the EC635 at Alpnach for one year before relocating to Dübendorf and Payerne for another 12 months of advanced/ tactical training. In total, the
EC635 T-351 on the helipad at Emmen with the Pilatus mountain massif in the background.
basic and advanced portions include 400 flight hours and 30 hours in the simulator. Finally, the young jet and helicopter pilots receive their ‘wings’ at the same time.
On July 20, 2007, the first PC-21 prototype for the SAF, HB-HYA (c/n 103), took off from Stans-Buochs for its maiden flight. It later received the military serial A-101. The second aircraft, HB-HYB (c/n 104), first flew on August 23, 2007. At the start, the configuration of these prototypes didn’t fully meet Swiss requirements and they were subsequently modified. The air force planned its first courses around the PC-21 from mid-2008. The first course involved PK 04, the 2004 pilot class. At the same time, PK 03 concluded and was the last to employ the F-5F in the syllabus. Two additional PC-21s (A-107 and A-108) were handed over to the SAF at Emmen on April 12, 2012, making a total of eight. Initially painted red and white, the aircraft were later resprayed in an overall red colour with white stripes for increased visibility. In its efforts to keep aircraft noise to a minimum, the SAF carries out most training flights during office hours: Monday to Friday from 0830 to 1200hrs and from 1330 to 1700hrs. A minimum flight altitude of 10,000ft above sea level (ASL) for propeller aircraft is respected whenever possible, which also helps to reduce noise emissions. Temporary restricted areas (TRAs) are shifted frequently in order to balance emissions evenly over the entire country. A traffic collision avoidance system (TCAS) will soon be installed as part of the next PC-21 upgrade package. This will display transponder signals from other aircraft in the cockpit. AFM
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Range support NC-37B Gulfstream update Reaper scores air-toair kill on exercise
Above: NC-37B range support aircraft N544GD, already wearing full VX-30 colours, which was handed over on July 30. US Navy
US NAVAL Air Systems Command provided an update on the US Navy’s new Gulfstream 550 special mission aircraft on September 3. The aircraft, NC-37B N544GD ‘BH-100’ (c/n 5544), US Navy serial 166379 not yet carried, was formally accepted by the Tactical Airlift Program Office (PMA-207) Commercial Modifications and Range Support (CMARS) Team on July 30.
The Gulfstream G550, with structural modifications, has been further modified to house specialised telemetry equipment, unique to the US Navy’s application. It is destined to replace one of the ageing NP-3D Orion ‘Billboard’ range support aircraft operated out of Naval Air Warfare Center Weapons Division (NAWCWD) in Point Mugu, California. The aircraft’s structural modifications
provide room for installation of a telemetry system and additional equipment to support future missions. During the handover, which marks the end of Phase I of the project, program manager Capt Steven Nassau said: “Delivering the aircraft under cost and on schedule is a major milestone for such a complicated project.” Next, the Phase II Integrator, Raytheon, will receive the G550 aircraft
as government-furnished property and will develop, procure and integrate systems that will give the aircraft a multi-role capability in telemetry data collection, range safety and surveillance and communications relay. The aircraft is projected to attain initial operating capability by August 2021 and will be flown by Air Test and Evaluation Squadron (VX) 30 ‘Bloodhounds’ at Point Mugu. Dave Allport
VMFA(AW)-225 F/A-18Ds depart for Asia-Pac
Above: F/A-18Ds from VMFA (AW)-225 prepare to depart MCAS Miramar, California, for the Asia-Pacific region. USMC/Cpl Jacob Pruitt
US MARINE Corps F/A18Ds assigned to Marine Fighter Attack Squadron (AllWeather) 225 (VMFA(AW)-225) ‘Vikings’, Marine Aircraft Group (MAG) 11, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, have deployed to the Asia-Pacific region in support of a Unit Deployment Program (UDP) six-month
rotation. The unit’s Hornets left their base at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, California, on September 13. VMFA(AW)-225 had previously been involved in a UDP in the Asia-Pacific region during late 2016/early 2017, spending six months at MCAS Iwakuni, Japan, in
order to improve operational capabilities through training in the region. It is assumed that for this latest UDP rotation the unit has once again deployed to Iwakuni, where it will be temporarily assigned to Marine Air Group 12, 1st Marine Aircraft Wing. Although VMFA(AW)-225
was scheduled to have been the final USMC fast jet squadron to transition to the F-35B, when it will become VMFA-225, conversion to the new aircraft has now been brought forward. The unit is due to begin converting to the F-35B in Fiscal Year 2020. Dave Allport
A US Air Force MQ-9 Reaper unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) achieved its first airto-air kill during a controlled simulation in trials late last year, the service disclosed on September 19. During the test last November, a Reaper downed a manoeuvring small UAV using an undisclosed type of heat-seeking missile. An unconfirmed image purporting to show the Reaper involved in the exercise shows a single AIM-9 Sidewinder under its port wing. The test was aimed to assist the USAF in developing an airto-air capability for the Reaper and the tactics, techniques and procedures (TTPs) to employ it. However, it is unclear when the capability will be fielded. On March 7, the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center (AFLCMC) Medium Altitude UAS Division confirmed it was to award General Atomics Aeronautical Systems (GA-ASI) with a contract for the development of MQ-9 Reaper Airto-Air Missile (RAAM) Aviation Simulation (AVSIM) – the first step to providing the drone with this capability.
B-52H drops standoff Quickstrike mine
Above: A Quick Strike ER mine hangs from a B-52H at Andersen AFB, during Valiant Shield 18, on September 16. USAF/Senior Airman Zachary Bumpus
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A USAF B-52H flying from Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, has deployed a 2,000lb (907kg) shallowwater mine from standoff range for the first time. The Quickstrike Extended Range (ER) mine was dropped from the 96th Bomb Squadron Stratofortress as part of a joint USAF and US Navy test during the Valiant Shield 2018 exercise. The mine was delivered from altitude and at speed from outside a presumed
enemy’s anti-aircraft range. The inert weapon entered the water near the Northern Marianas and was directed into position by a Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM) kit. A pair of US Navy P-8A maritime patrol aircraft from Patrol Squadron Five (VP5) monitored the test to collect data, before navy divers recovered the mine. Capt Craig Quinnett, the Quickstrike’s B-52 test lead, explained: “Quickstrike mines in the past were
dropped by just gravity weapons. The B-52 or other bombers had to be low to meet their accuracy.” He continued: “Now, with JDAM and the Quickstrike ER, this gives us the ability to deploy precision mines, so we can stand off, put these weapons exactly where we know they’re going to go, so we don’t have to get in, get low next to the enemy’s weapons. The QuickstrikeER is a huge step forward for naval mines.”
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Arizona ANG F-16s return home
Above: F-16C 86-0292 ‘AZ’ from the 162nd FW arrives at RAF Mildenhall for an overnight stop using the callsign ‘Warhawk 41’. Justin Ward
A PAIR of Arizona Air National Guard F-16Cs were unusual visitors to RAF Mildenhall, Suffolk, recently as they made their way home to the US following deployment to Europe. The aircraft, 86-0285 ‘AZ’ and 86-0292 ‘AZ’ from the 162nd Wing/195th Fighter Squadron ‘Warhawks’ at Tucson, Arizona, arrived at the base on September 17 from Ostrava, Czech
Republic, where they had participated in the NATO Days airshow over the previous weekend, September 15-16. Their appearance at Ostrava had come at the end of the unit’s deployment to Náměšť nad Oslavou, Czech Republic, where it had been participating in Exercise Ample Strike 2018, which allows Joint Terminal Attack Controllers
(JTACs) and close air support aircrews to train together to improve NATO ally and partner nation interoperability (see also Exercise Report on p7275). It was the first time the 162nd Wing had taken part in the exercise, the first time for 31 years that the unit had deployed overseas and the first time ever overseas with its F-16s – the previous time having been with
Falcon Leap 2018
daily. Each paratrooper jumped at least once using a parachute and/ or aircraft from another country, resulting in the jumper earning that country’s ‘wings’. Jumps were made by paratroopers from Belgium, France, Germany, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Poland, the United Kingdom and the United States. Aircraft were stationed at Eindhoven Air Base and were provided by
GERMANY IS offering to sell its unwanted RQ-4E EuroHawk unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) to Canada. The drone was built by Northrop Grumman and intended to carry an Airbus Defence & Space signals intelligence (SIGINT) payload in Luftwaffe service. The programme was cancelled in May 2013, after more than €700m (US$823m) had been spent on it. The German defence ministry has confirmed it’s to begin negotiations with Canada for the sale of the EuroHawk, together with two ground stations and certain spare parts. The ministry has not commented on a possible sales price or date. According to the government in Berlin, the UAV has already been demilitarised and its US-made radio equipment, GPS, encryption and flight control system removed.
Spirits train in Hawaii
Above: Operation Market Garden – the Allied airborne operation to capture a series of bridges in the Netherlands in September 1944 – was commemorated with some 800 para jumps over Ginkelse Heide on September 22. C-130H 92-3284 – operated by the 700th Airlift Squadron, part of the 94th Airlift Wing at Dobbins Air Reserve Base, Georgia – wore ‘invasion markings’ on the fuselage and wings. Dino van Doorn
FALCON LEAP is an annual exercise for airborne forces organised by the Royal Netherlands Army’s 11 Luchtmobiele Brigade (11th Air Mobile Brigade). The fourth iteration was held from September 19-21 at Ginkelse Heide near the city of Ede and at the Military Aviation Terrain Deelen, north of Arnhem. This year’s exercise saw the main jumps take place at Ginkelse Heide, where three were scheduled
A-7Ds. As a formal training unit, the 162nd does not normally deploy its aircraft. Support for the two aircraft transiting Mildenhall was supplied by airmen from the resident 100th Air Refueling Wing. After a stopover of several days pending an improvement in the weather over the North Atlantic, they continued on their way home. Dave Allport
Canada may buy EuroHawk from Germany
the Polish Air Force (one C295M), US Air Force Reserve Command (two C-130Hs from the 700th Airlift Squadron ‘Flying Vikings’), the Royal Air Force (one Hercules C5) the Royal Netherlands Air Force (one C-130H-30). In addition, two M28s leased from PD AIR Operation by the German armed forces flew one mission daily at Deelen, using freefall parachutes. Manolito Jaarsma
TWO USAF Air Force B-2As took off from Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii, to conduct routine training in the vicinity of Guam and Hawaii on September 6. The Spirits were deployed to Hawaii from Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri, in support of the US Strategic Command’s (USSTRATCOM’s) Bomber Task Force mission. Although B-2s have been stationed in the region before, this was the first time they had deployed specifically to JB Pearl Harbor-Hickam. B-2s were last in the Indo-Pacific theatre in January, when they were at Andersen AFB, Guam.
Lt Col Nicholas Adcock, Air Force Global Strike 393rd Bomber Squadron commander, explained: “This unique training is key to ensuring that our crews are ready. Our allies and partners depend on us to be ready, capable and lethal at all times in the joint environment. Our crews need the integration experience to maximise our platform and pilots’ capabilities.” Adcock added: “Hickam affords us the chance to work closely with the 154th Air National Guard Wing and refine and exercise multiple tactics, techniques and procedures that are crucial to the Indo-Pacific Command area of responsibility.”
Above: A crew chief assigned to the 509th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron marshals a B-2A on its return to JB Pearl Harbor-Hickam after a routine training mission on September 6. USAF/Staff Sgt Danielle Quilla
#368 NOVEMBER 2018 // 17
920th Rescue Wing supports hurricane relief
Above: HH-60Gs assigned to the 334th AEG sit alert on the JB Charleston flight line on September 16. USAF/Tech Sgt Kelly Goonan
RESERVE AIRMEN from the 920th Rescue Wing (RQW) at Patrick Air Force Base, Florida, were recalled from routine training on September 11 to preposition for Hurricane Florence search-andrescue (SAR) operations. The 920th RQW left Key
West, Florida, for Patrick the same evening and then prepared for the transfer to Moody AFB, Georgia. A total of 140 reservists and four HH-60G Pave Hawks headed north to Moody on September 12. The 920th RQW then integrated with active-duty
personnel from Moody’s 23rd Wing. Two days later, the director of the SAR operations co-ordination element for Air Force North Command officially established the 334th Air Expeditionary Group (AEG), tasked with positioning the fully integrated forces for
relief efforts to assist those most severely impacted by Florence. Within 18 hours, 270 airmen from the two wings moved their SAR effort from Georgia to Joint Base Charleston, South Carolina. A first HH-60 landed at the base on September 15.
Another Hurlburt AC-130U retired
USAF/Airman 1st Class Dennis Spain
THE LATEST USAF AC-130U gunship to be retired at Hurlburt Field, Florida, is ‘Spooky’ 92-0253. First flown as a gunship on April 19, 1995 and delivered to the 1st Special Operations Wing in
May 1995, the aircraft was withdrawn from service on September 11. During its career, the aircraft took part in combat missions over the Balkans, Afghanistan and Iraq. On October 22, 1997, 92-0253 and another
AC-130U established the record for the longest sustained C-130 flight with a 36-hour, nonstop 8,000-mile (12,875km) flight from Hurlburt Field to Taegu Air Base, South Korea. The ‘Spooky’
was retired to the 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group (AMARG), known as the ‘boneyard’, at DavisMonthan Air Force Base, Arizona, after 23 years of service.
USS Harry S Truman Carrier Strike Group begins Sixth Fleet ops THE US Navy’s Harry S Truman Carrier Strike Group has begun operations in the US Sixth Fleet area of operations, the service announced on September 19. The strike group initially deployed to the European theatre in April, but returned to its home port at Naval Station Norfolk, Virginia, for an extended working port visit in July. The strike group got underway again on August 28, completing training exercises and carrier qualifications in the Atlantic, including participating in dualcarrier operations with the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln and bilateral operations with the Royal Canadian Navy. Carrier Air Wing 1 squadrons aboard the USS Harry S Truman include Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 11 ‘Red Rippers’, VFA-21 ‘Checkmates’, VFA-81 ‘Sunliners’ and VFA-136 ‘Knighthawks’; Electronic Attack Squadron (VAQ) 137 ‘Rooks’; Carrier Airborne Early Warning Squadron (VAW) 126 ‘Seahawks’; Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron (HSM) 72 ‘Proud Warriors’; Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 11 ‘Dragon Slayers’; and a detachment from Fleet Logistics Support Squadron (VRC) 40 ‘Rawhides’.
LSRS-equipped Orion at Mildenhall P-3C 161588 of Patrol Squadron (VP) 46 ‘Grey Knights’. The aircraft using the callsign ‘VVRC318’ is seen taxiing to runway 29 at RAF Mildenhall, Suffolk on October 4. Based at Naval Air Station Whidbey Island, Washington, the aircraft was thought to be heading to the Middle East on deployment. Unusually, it was fitted with both the Littoral Surveillance Radar System (LSRS) pod under the fuselage and adorned
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will full squadron markings. The LSRS, also known as the Advanced Airborne Sensor (AAS), is an advanced radar system that originated as a ‘Black’ programme. Its function is to provide multifunction moving target detection and tracking, as well as high-resolution ground mapping, at standoff ranges. The sensor is optimised for the littoral environment – operations over the convergence of land and water.
Fifth-generation aviation complex T
he Su-57 is a multifunctional fifthgeneration fighter designed to destroy all types of aerial targets in long-range and close battles, to defeat the enemy’s surface targets while overcoming hostile air defences, to monitor airspace at considerable distances from its base, and destroy the enemy’s airspace control system. The first flight of the Su-57 occurred on January 29, 2010 in Komsomolsk-on-Amur. In 2017 the production of the Su-57 prototypes was completed as part of the work to create the fifth-generation aviation complex and its systems, which significantly increased the pace of flight tests. Currently, there are ten flying prototypes undergoing flight tests. All components of the Su-57 have been tested. The first stage of the state tests of the fifth-generation aviation complex was successfully completed. To date, the aircraft’s performance characteristics have been confirmed including stability and controllability in the entire range of altitudes and flight speeds of the aircraft including flights at supercritical angles of attack. The on-board equipment and combat application of the armament complex have been tested, including during real combat operations in the Syrian Arab Republic. Successful work has also been done on in-flight refuelling. The experimental work conducted allows us to consider the aircraft’s characteristics as among the best in its class. The Su-57-2 flying laboratory has begun testing a new-generation engine, ‘Product 30’, with reduced fuel consumption and increased thrust, which will subsequently be installed on production aircraft.
Photo credit: UAC
The Su-57 has a number of unique features, combining the functions of a strike aircraft and a fighter. The fifth-generation aircraft is equipped with a fundamentally new complex of deeply integrated avionics, which provide a high level of control automation and intellectual support for the crew. This greatly reduces the workload on the pilot and allows him to concentrate on the tactical mission. The new aircraft’s on-board equipment makes it possible to exchange information in real time with land-based control systems and an airborne team, in addition to operating independently. The Su-57 employs a wide range of airborne munitions, both air-to-air and airto-surface types, to effectively complete its fighter and strike missions. The aircraft has the ability for covert actions due to its low level of radar, IR and optical observation.
The auxiliary power unit of the Su-57 provides a high level of autonomy in terms of aircraft basing, a reduction in fuel consumption for ground work and prolongs the engines’ life. The use of an onboard oxygen-producing unit provides for highly autonomous aircraft operation. An explosion-proof fuel system is implemented, based on a generator-type neutral gas system. In combination with other measures it allows the aircraft to realize unprecedented levels of combat survivability. The complex of technical solutions incorporated in the Su-57 allows it to obtain a qualitatively new level of technical characteristics and effectiveness. In this way it secures its superiority over all modern aircraft in this class. In 2018 the first contract was signed for the supply of an initial production lot of Su-57 fighters for the Russian Defence Ministry.
Photo credit: UAC
#368 NOVEMBER 2018 // 19
Russia & CIS
Additional Su-34s delivered to Shagol A FURTHER batch of Su-34s has been delivered to the VozdushnoKosmicheskiye Sily Rossiyskoy Federatsii (VKS, Russian Aerospace Forces) at Chelyabinsk-Shagol air base. The Fullbacks arrived on September 8, those
identified being ‘08 Red’, ‘09 Red’ and ‘10 Red’. The number delivered on that date is unconfirmed, but it may have included a fourth aircraft. The type is replacing the Su-24M/M2 and Su-24MR currently based at
Shagol with the 2nd Guards Bomber Aviation Regiment (2nd GvBAP). The first six Su-34s had arrived at Shagol last December and comprised ‘01 Red’ to ‘06 Red’ inclusive. This suggests that the most
recent delivery may have also included ‘07 Red’. Prior to the jets’ arrival, pilots from the 2nd GvBAP had undergone conversion training onto the Su-34 at the Lipetsk training centre. Dave Allport
Su-34 ‘09 Red’ arrives on delivery to Chelyabinsk-Shagol to continue replacement of the 2nd SAP’s Su-24s. Russian MoD
Azeri MiG-29s and Su-25s deploy to Turkey
Above: The two Azeri MiG-29s, led by the two-seater, arrive at Konya on September 3. Azerbaijan MoD
AS PART of continuing military co-operation between Azerbaijan and Turkey, the Azerbaijan Air Force deployed two MiG29s and three Su-25s to Konya air base, Turkey, to participate in joint flight and
tactical training exercises. The main goal of Exercise TurAz Falcon 2018 was to improve interaction between the air arms of the two countries. A ceremony was held at Konya on
September 3 to mark the commencement of this annual exercise, which ran until September 14. The participating MiGs comprised one singleseater (‘09 Blue’) and one two-seat MiG-29UB (‘10
Blue’), while the Frogfoots included single-seaters ‘25 Blue’ and ‘26 Blue’ and two-seat Su-25U ‘20 Blue’, supported by an Il-76. Local participation involved Turkish F-16C/ Ds. Dave Allport
Bear-Hs take part in Vostok 2018
Above: Two US Air Force F-22As intercepted a pair of Tu-95MS bombers west of mainland Alaska on September 11. The Russian aircraft remained in international airspace throughout the exercise. NORAD
A PAIR of Tu-95MS strategic bombers from the VKS took part in the Vostok 2018 exercise in September. The Russian Ministry of Defence announced that the
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Bear-Hs flew ‘air patrol’ missions during the manoeuvres, taking them over international waters of the Barents, Chukchi and East Siberian seas and the Arctic Ocean. The
bomber crews practised air-to-air refuelling and were escorted by Su-35S fighters. The Vostok 2018 exercise took place in Russia’s Far East and Pacific Ocean
zones between September 11 and 17. It is thought that in total, some 300,000 servicemen and more than 1,000 aircraft, helicopters and unmanned aerial vehicles were involved.
First Kazakh Y-8 delivered THE KAZAKHSTAN Air Defence Force has taken delivery of its first Shaanxi Aircraft Corporation Y-8F-200W transport aircraft. The airlifter was officially handed over by China prior to its arrival in Astana in September. The aircraft was flown to the Kazakh capital from northwest China’s Xinjiang Uyghur autonomous region. In May a first Kazakh Y-8F-200WA was seen in China prior to delivery. The aircraft completed its maiden flight on June 14 and Kazakhstan is thought to have placed an initial order for three, although this is unconfirmed. China’s defence industry is making inroads in Kazakhstan, which purchased two Wing Loong I unmanned aerial vehicles in 2016; two more were reportedly later added to the inventory.
Su-30SMs replace MiG-29SMTs at Kursk FOUR ADDITIONAL Su-30SM fighters were delivered from the Irkutsk factory to Kursk-Khalino air base in Kursk oblast on September 10 to continue re-equipping the VKS’s 14th Guards Fighter Aviation Regiment (14th GvIAP). The aircraft, the first for the 14th GvIAP, are replacing its current MiG-29SMTs. Their arrival means that the base’s changeover to the new type is now almost complete, the first squadron at Kursk having received all its Su-30SMs last year. A further eight Su-30SMs are due to arrive at the base before the end of the year to fully reequip the unit. The ten MiG-29SMTs and single two-seat MiG-29UB currently flown by the 14th GvIAP will be redeployed to the 3624th Aviation Base at YerevanErebuni, Armenia. They will replace that unit’s older model MiG-29S/UB Fulcrums. Dave Allport
Uruguayan Dauphin modernisation
First flight for new Pampa III
A SINGLE Eurocopter AS365N2 Dauphin operated by the Fuerza Aérea Uruguaya (FAU, Uruguayan Air Force) is being upgraded in Argentina. Work on serial FAU 092 (c/n 6416) is being carried out by the Redimec de Tandil company, in Buenos Aires province. The firm is installing a new navigation and communication system, including GPS, and other equipment. The Dauphin is operated by Escuadrón Aéreo No 5 (Air Squadron No 5) at Carrasco International Airport/General Cesáreo L Berisso. Juan Carlos Cicalesi
FAdeA via Juan Carlos Cicalesi
THE LATEST IA-63 Pampa III completed its maiden flight on September 21. Serial E-824 (formerly EX-05, c/n 1028) was produced by the Fábrica Argentina de Aviones (FAdeA, Argentine
Aircraft Factory) in Córdoba province. Delivery to the Fuerza Aérea Argentina (FAA, Argentine Air Force) is expected soon. The Pampa III adds a new glass cockpit to the
IA-63, and this was flown for the first time in EX-03 on August 18, 2015. Serial EX-04 took to the air as the initial seriesproduction Pampa III on March 31, 2016 and
subsequently reverted to its previous serial E-823. Production of the remaining 17 new airframes is proceeding slowly and FAdeA has not released a delivery schedule.
Brazil receives fourth modernised AF-1B
Embraer via Juan Carlos Cicalesi
THE MARINHA do Brasil (Brazilian Navy) took delivery of its fourth upgraded AF-1 Skyhawk on August 23 – single-seater N-1008. While Embraer refers to the improved aircraft as the AF-1M, in service the aircraft have the designations AF-1B (singleseat) and AF-1C (two-seat). Under a contract signed in 2009, Embraer developed a modernisation plan for nine A-4KU and three two-seat TA-4KU Skyhawks, from a total of 20 single-seaters and three two-seaters
purchased from Kuwait. With the deactivation of the aircraft carrier São Paulo last year, the Marinha reduced the scope of the programme to six jets: three AF-1Bs and three AF-1Cs. The upgrade work is intended to extend service life by ten years. A first modernised AF-1B was delivered on May 26, 2015 and the second the following April, but the latter aircraft crashed on July 26, 2016. The navy received its first two-seat AF-1C, N-1022, on April 23 this year.
Third upgraded C-130 handed over to FAA
Above: KC-130H TC-70 has received a new low-visibility grey paint scheme and the name ‘BAM Malvinas’, after the former Argentine air base in the Falklands. Esteban G Brea
A THIRD modernised C-130 has been handed over to the Fuerza Aérea Argentina (FAA, Argentine Air Force). The Hercules was the first to be upgraded by Argentine personnel at the Fábrica Argentina de Aviones (FAdeA,
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Argentine Aircraft Factory) in Córdoba province. KC-130H TC-70 (c/n 4816) was officially presented during a ceremony held by the I Brigada Aérea (1st Air Brigade) in El Palomar, Buenos Aires on September 19. This is the third of five
C-130s undergoing overhaul and modernisation, which adds L3 commercial offthe-shelf avionics, AN/APN241 radar and an MX-10 forward-looking infrared sensor (in the KC-130 only). During the presentation it was announced that
the aircraft will soon be provided with night-vision goggles compatibility. The first aircraft was upgraded by L3 in the US and was returned to Argentina in March 2016. The remaining four are being upgraded in Argentina. The
second aircraft to undergo upgrades was completed by FAdeA under the supervision of L3 personnel in June last year. Two more examples are scheduled to undergo upgrades, with deliveries expected next year. Esteban G Brea
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Helibras delivers another H225M to Brazilian Air Force Mexico withdraws Bell 212s THE MEXICAN Secretaría de la Defensa Nacional (SEDENA, National Defence Secretariat) and the country’s air force (Fuerza Aérea Mexicana, FAM) have withdrawn the Bell 212 from service. The helicopter completed its 45-year career with the Mexican armed forces during a simple ceremony on August 30. The Bell 212 began to be introduced in small numbers in the early 1970s for VIP tasks, but soon became the standard tactical transport helicopter for the FAM and Mexican Army. Between 1981 and 1989, the fleet expanded to 30 examples distributed across three squadrons, and the type fulfilled roles including troop transport, supply, evacuation and close support. The FAM is considering establishing a new UH-60M squadron on Mexico’s Pacific coast to fill the rotary-lift gap. Juan Carlos Cicalesi
HELIBRAS, AIRBUS Helicopters’ Brazilian subsidiary, has delivered another H225M helicopter to the Força Aérea Brasileira (FAB, Brazilian Air Force) from its Itajubá production plant. The Caracal is the 31st of 50 examples ordered in 2008 for the three Brazilian services. It is the FAB’s 14th Caracal. The aircraft will be operated by the 3º Esquadrão do 8º Grupo de Aviação ‘Puma’ (3º/8º GAv, 3rd Squadron, 8th Aviation Group) in Rio de Janeiro. This helicopter is the FAB’s first to be fitted with a Spectrolab searchlight, which is also compatible with night vision equipment. At least two more H225M deliveries to Brazil are planned this year.
Argentine Army Bell 212 back in service End of the THE EJÉRCITO Argentino (EA, Argentine Army) has returned Bell 212 serial AE-450 (c/n 30767) to service after it was converted into a troop
transport. The sole Bell 212 operated by the EA was previously configured as a VIP transport, a role it had fulfilled since it was received from Bell Textron
in July 1976. Befitting its latest task, the helicopter has received a new colour scheme as worn by the EA’s UH-1 Huey II fleet. Juan Carlos Cicalesi
Two more Texans II arrive in Argentina THE NEXT two T-6C+s for the Fuerza Aérea Argentina (FAA, Argentine Air Force) arrived in country on September 18. The Texan IIs, serials E-306 and E-307, completed a delivery flight from Beechcraft’s facilities in Wichita,
Kansas, to the Escuela de Aviación Militar (EAM, Military Aviation School) in Córdoba province. A fuel leak was detected in E-307 during its last stop within the US – at Brownsville/South Padre Island International Airport, Texas.
The Texan IIs will be integrated with the EAM’s Grupo Aéreo Escuela. Only four more aircraft are now left to be delivered. The remaining trainers are expected to arrive early next year to complete the fleet of 12 aircraft. Juan Carlos Cicalesi
line for Argentine presidential 757 THE FORMER Fuerza Aérea Argentina (FAA, Argentine Air Force) presidential transport, Boeing 757-23A serial T-01 (c/n 25487/470) Virgen de Lujan, is to be reduced to spares and sold off. The 757 was acquired for presidential use in 1992 at a cost of $66m. It had proved difficult to sell the complete aircraft due to its VIP configuration and the requirement for structural work before returning to flying operations (see Argentine VIP 757 offered for sale, July, p19). The Boeing is currently stored with the I Brigada Aérea (1st Air Brigade) in El Palomar, Buenos Aires. It was withdrawn from service in 2016, after about 11,000 flight hours. Juan Carlos Cicalesi
#368 NOVEMBER 2018 // 23
UAEAF GlobalEye tested in Spain
Saab GlobalEye SE-RMY in fading light at Granada Airport, Spain, on September 7 during continued flight testing. Saab
First MH-60R delivered to Royal Saudi Navy SIKORSKY DELIVERED the first MH-60R Seahawk to the Royal Saudi Navy (RSN) during a ceremony in Owego, New York, on September 13. In May 2015 the Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) notified US Congress of the possible sale to Saudi Arabia of ten MH-60Rs, plus associated equipment, spares and logistical support, amounting to some $1.9bn, if successfully concluded. The proposed sale would also include 14 APS153(V) multi-mode radars, four spare T700-GE-401C engines, 12 APX-123 IFF transponders, 14 AN/ AAS-44C(V) Multi-Spectral Targeting Systems, plus 26 embedded GPS/INS kits. Other equipment to be included will be 1,000 AN/SSQ-36/53/62 sonobuoys, 38 AGM114R Hellfire II missiles, five AGM-114 captive air training missiles, four AGM-114Q Hellfire training missiles, 380 Advanced Precision Kill Weapons System (APKWS) rockets, 12 M240D crew-served weapons and 12 GAU-21 crew-served weapons. A contract for ten Seahawks was placed in December 2015 and all the aircraft have reportedly been manufactured. In RSN service, the MH-60Rs will be primarily deployed on the four Multi-Mission Surface Combatant (MMSC) vessels ordered for the Saudi fleet and based on the US Navy’s Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) Freedom-class design. These are expected to be commissioned in 2025-28.
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AS SAAB continues to test its GlobalEye airborne early warning and control (AEW&C) aircraft, the company announced on September 7 that the prototype, SE-RMY, had been flown to Granada, Spain, for continued flight trials. As previously reported, Saab rolled out the GlobalEye, which is based on the Bombardier Global 6000 business jet, on February 23 at Linköping, Sweden, from
where it made its maiden flight on March 14 – see First flight for GlobalEye, May, p6. The aircraft is the first for the United Arab Emirates Air Force and Air Defence (UAEAF&AD), which placed an initial contract for two GlobalEyes at the Dubai Airshow in November 2015, adding an order for a third last year. Saab’s head of Airborne Surveillance Systems, Lars Tossman,
stated at the Farnborough International Airshow in July that: “The flight test programme is running according to plan with the flight envelope being opened up, whilst on the ground the mission system has completed all its rig testing. We are very satisfied with all these results and believe GlobalEye is going to be unrivalled in the capabilities it offers.” Dave Allport
Latest F-15SA deliveries
F-15SA serial 12-1061 taxies after its arrival at Lakenheath. Peter R Foster
FOUR MORE F-15SAs for the Royal Saudi Air Force (RSAF) arrived at RAF Lakenheath, Suffolk, on their delivery flight on September 28. After a week of delays caused by North Atlantic storms
and tanker serviceability issues, 12-1061, 12-1067, 12-1069 and 12-1070 finally completed their Atlantic crossing following an initial diversion into Bangor International Airport, Maine. The Strike Eagles
were expected to continue eastwards in company with two aircraft from the previous delivery that had been at Lakenheath since their arrival on July 23 (see Alsalam receives F-15SA order, September, p20).
Saudi Ministry of Interior H145 deliveries SAUDI ARABIA’S Ministry of Interior (MOI) has begun taking delivery of its first Airbus Helicopters H145s for operation by its General Security Aviation Command. Although there has been no official announcement regarding their arrival, images appearing on the internet on August 22 showed that at least two were operating in the country by that time. The MOI signed a €500m ($560m) deal for 23 of the helicopters as part of a much larger governmentto-government agreement finalised on June 24, 2015, during a meeting between Saudi Defence Minister Mohammed bin Salman and French defence officials. Manufacture of the batch began in April 2016, following final clearance of the contract by the German government the previous month. In recent months, serials MOI-50 to MOI56 inclusive, along with MOI-62, MOI-66 and MOI-70, have been noted test flying from the factory in Donauwörth, Germany (see Saudi Ministry of Interior H145 under test, September, p20). This suggests that the complete serial batch is likely to be MOI-50 through to MOI72. Dave Allport
Kuwaiti Super Hercules visits Italy
KUWAIT AIR Force KC-130J KAF 327 (c/n 5749) takes off from TurinCaselle Airport, Italy, on September 5, where it had arrived two days earlier. The unusual visit was related to the contract
signed on April 5, 2016 between Leonardo (as prime contractor) and the Ministry of Defence of the State of Kuwait in order to supply 28 Eurofighter Typhoons (including six two-seaters). The KAF Typhoons are
being manufactured at the Leonardo plant in TurinCaselle; first delivery is expected in 2020 and all aircraft are planned to be handed over by 2023. The jets will be stationed at Ali Al Salem Air Base.
KC-130J KAF 327 belongs to 41 (Transport) Squadron, based at Kuwait International Airport, and was delivered in 2014. Two other KC-130Js are operated by the same squadron.
PLAAF J-10s deployed to Thailand
Above: Personnel participating in Falcon Strike 2018 pose in front of one of the PLAAF J-10s at Udon Thani AB. PLAAF
Japan requests nine more E-2Ds JAPAN HAS moved to increase its fleet of Advanced Hawkeyes from five to 14. The US Defense Security Cooperation Agency announced on September 10 that the State Department had approved a possible Foreign Military Sale of the airborne early warning and control aircraft. As well as the nine aircraft, the proposed deal – worth around $3.135bn – includes 28 T56-A-427A engines, 12 Multifunction Information Distribution System/Joint Tactical Radio System (MIDS/ JTRS) terminals, ten AN/ APY-9 radars, 11 AN/AYK27 Integrated Navigation Control and Display Systems (INCDS) and 30 LN-251 embedded GPS/inertial navigation systems. The package also provides for 12 AN/ ALQ-217 electronic support measures kits. Meanwhile, Japan has signed for the last of four E-2Ds from its initial procurement tranche. The US Department of Defense announced on September 5 that Northrop Grumman had received a $164.3m contract to deliver one Advanced Hawkeye to Japan by March 2020. The contract follows similar awards made in November 2015, July 2016 and June this year for the first three aircraft. Deliveries are expected to begin before the end of next year.
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EXERCISE FALCON Strike 2018, which took place at Udon Thani Air Base, Thailand, September 4-21, involved participation from the Chinese People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF). Five J-10As from
the 130th Air Brigade at Mengzi, along with a J-10S in 131st Air Brigade markings were deployed to Udon Thani for the exercise, while support was provided by three PLAAF Il-76 transports. Local participation came
from resident Gripens of the Royal Thai Air Force’s (RTAF’s) 23 Wing. The exercise aims to deepen co-operation and exchanges between the two air forces, test combat tactics and methods, promote
All five of the new MD530Fs for the Afghan Air Force in the cargo hold of USAF C-17A 08-8202, which delivered them to Kandahar. MDHI
Taiwan increases F-16V upgrade budget
Improved MD530Fs delivered to Afghanistan MD HELICOPTERS (MDHI) announced on September 10 that it had delivered the first five of a new enhanced version of the MD530F Cayuse Warrior to the Afghan Air Force (AAF). All five were delivered to Kandahar on August 8 on board US Air Force C-17A Globemaster III 08-8202 from the 62nd Airlift Wing at Joint Base LewisMcChord, Washington. They comprised 275 (c/n 0275FF, ex N6075U), 276 (c/n 0276FF, ex N60762), 277 (c/n 0277FF, ex
equipment development and improve the combat training level of the two sides. This was the third such exercise between the PLAAF and RTAF, the previous two having taken place in 2015 and 2017. Dave Allport
N6077V), 278 (c/n 0278FF, ex N6089N) and 279 (c/n 0279FF, ex N6092Z). Their arrival came less than ten months after MDHI was awarded a contract on September 5 last year, to provide up to 150 armed MD530F or MD530G attack helicopters to US and partner nation military aviation forces – see Contract awarded for 150 MD530Fs, November 2017, p7. A total of 30 of these will be delivered to the AAF. The first five were made ready for active
service less than ten days after arrival in Kandahar. MDHI says that remaining deliveries from the initial contract are on track for completion well in advance of the September 2019 completion date. The AAF previously took receipt of 29 of an earlier version of the Cayuse Warrior, deliveries beginning in 2016, although only 27 remain in service, two having been lost in accidents – on June 29, 2015, and on February 23 last year. Dave Allport
TAIWAN’S MINISTRY of National Defense plans to increase the budget for upgrading the Republic of China Air Force’s (ROCAF’s) F-16A/B fleet. A high-ranking defence official who spoke to the Taiwan Times on September 7 said the additional funding would finance an increase in the number and types of air-to-air missiles that can be carried. In addition, the extra finance will allow the newest version of an automated ground collision avoidance system (GCAS) to be installed on the aircraft. The decision to install the GCAS follows the death of Major Wu Yen-ting when his F-16A crashed into a hill during an exercise on June 4. These upgrades are alongside a package of enhancements being applied to all 141 of the ROCAF’s surviving F-16A/B Block 20s to bring them up to F-16V (Block 70/72) standard. Lockheed Martin was awarded a contract for the F-16V upgrade on October 1, 2012. Contract completion is anticipated by 2023. Dave Allport
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Tejas refuelling trials
Tejas Mk1 LSP-8 ‘hooks up’ to Il-78MKI RK-3542. A second Tejas was flying in formation to observe the exercise. IAF
THE INDIAN Ministry of Defence has announced the first successful air-toair refuelling of the Indian Air Force’s (IAF’s) Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) Tejas Mk1. A first ‘wet contact’ for Tejas Mk1 LSP-8 took place on September 10 and also involved an IAF Il-78MKI tanker from No 78 Squadron. A total of 4,387lb (1,990kg) of fuel was transferred at an altitude of 20,000ft (6,096m) and at a speed of 270kts. All internal tanks and drop tanks were refuelled.
The trials are part of the work towards declaring final operational clearance (FOC) for the fighter. The wet contact was preceded by a series of ‘dry contact trials’ on September 4 and 6, in which the drogue was extended from the tanker aircraft, tracked and plugged into the aircraft refuelling probe without taking fuel. The tanker was launched from Agra Air Force Station, while the Tejas operated from Gwalior AFS.
Rafale flies with Indian enhancements FLIGHT-TESTING of a Rafale fitted with Indiaspecific enhancements has started in France. The aircraft, a 17-yearold Rafale B trials aircraft, began flying with the new equipment during August. On September 20, Indian Air Force (IAF) Deputy Chief Air Marshal Raghunath Nambiar flew in the aircraft, carrying out an 80-minute sortie from Base Aérienne 125 IstresLe Tubé in France. Nambiar – who became the chief of Eastern Air Command in an IAF reshuffle in early October – is a veteran fighter pilot and was one of the first test pilots to fly India’s indigenous Tejas. A total of 14 India-specific modifications are to be incorporated into the 36 Rafales ordered by the IAF. These include Israeli helmet-mounted displays and targeting systems, radar warning receivers, towed decoy systems, low-band jammers, cold start engine capability and various other software and system enhancements. The first of the 36 newproduction aircraft for India was scheduled to fly in October. Dave Allport
Live-fire exercise for Korean AH-64Es REPUBLIC OF Korea Army (ROKA) AH-64Es demonstrated their capabilities to VIPs and overseas military delegations at Nightmare Range, located near the Demilitarised Zone, on September 11 and 14. The event included Apache Guardians firing their M230 30mm cannon and 70mm unguided rockets, alongside live-firing by K1 and K2 tanks and other
ROKA armoured vehicles. The demonstration was held in conjunction with the biennial DX Korea 2018 exhibition in Seoul, where another Apache was shown on static display. The ROKA received all 36 of its Apaches by January 2017, ahead of schedule, with the first aircraft reaching the country in May 2016. South Korea employs AGM-114R-1 Hellfire and
Stinger Block I missiles on its AH-64Es, which are organised into two army aviation battalions. The country’s $1.6bn deal for helicopters and armaments was signed in 2013. Boeing is supporting the fleet through a Foreign Military Sale performancebased logistics contract overseen by the US Army Aviation Command until April 2023. Gordon Arthur
Malaysian Global Express in the UK GLOBAL EXPRESS 7000 M48-02 of the Tentera Udara Diraja Malaysia (TUDM, Royal Malaysian Air Force) was an interesting visitor to Farnborough
Airport, Hampshire, on September 27. The RMAF operates a single BD-700 assigned to No 2 Skuadron ‘Parakeets’ at Sultan Abdul Aziz Shah Airport in
Subang. An initial Global Express was leased from Bombardier between 2000 and 2002 and then returned following the delivery of the second example.
South Korean P-8 sale approved THE US Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) has announced approval of the sale of six P-8A maritime patrol aircraft to South Korea. On September 13, the State Department notified Congress of the possible Foreign Military Sale, which has an estimated cost of $2.10bn. Alongside the six Poseidons, South Korea has requested to buy sensor equipment comprising the AN/APY10 radar, AN/AAQ-2(V)1 acoustic system, MX-20HD electro-optical/infrared sensor turret and AN/ALQ240 electronic support measures. Requested self-protection systems include AN/AAR-54 missile warning sensors and the AN/ALE-47 Counter Measures Dispensing System (CMDS). In June, South Korea’s Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA) announced the decision to procure the P-8A to replace its current P-3C fleet.
#368 NOVEMBER 2018 // 27
First H225 delivery to Tanzanian Air Force
Above: Carrying test registration F-WWOT and with its TAFC serial, 5H-TAF, partly taped over, the Super Puma touches down at Faro on September 6. The helicopter had arrived from Seville and departed Faro for Porto Santo. Alejandro Hernández León
TANZANIA AIR Force Command (TAFC) has taken delivery of a new H225 Super Puma MkII from Airbus Helicopters. The new production helicopter arrived at Valencia Airport, Spain, on the morning of
September 6 during its ferry flight from the factory in Marignane, France. The next day it routed via Faro and Porto Santo in Portugal, and then stopped overnight at Gran Canaria, Spain, departing on September
8 to continue to Tanzania. The TAFC placed an order for two H225s but requested that it was not announced publicly. It’s unknown when the second helicopter is due for delivery. The contract is also reported to
include two H215 tactical transport helicopters, but no delivery scheduled is known for these. All will be operated by the Helicopter Squadron at Dar es Salaam/ Julius Nyerere International Airport. Dave Allport
Kenya receives ex-UAE Écureuils
Hermes 450 now operating with Zambian Air Force THE ZAMBIAN Air Force (ZAF) is operating the Elbit Systems Hermes 450 unmanned air vehicle. A photograph that appeared online in mid-September shows one of the type in a hangar wearing a ZAF roundel, Zambian flag and military serial AF 471. A video released around the same time – produced for Air Force Day on March 1 this year – showed another of these UAVs, serial number AF 473. As ZAF serials follow sequentially, this would appear to confirm that at least three have entered service. First indications that the ZAF had acquired the Hermes 450 were given during a speech last December by ZAF Deputy Commander David Muma, who said the drones had recently been delivered to Mumbwa air base. The recent images are, however, the first time that any photographs have confirmed that the type is in use and also reveal they are equipped with a satcom antenna. Dave Allport
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Above: Three of the AS350Bs donated by the UAE to Kenya perform a flypast during the commissioning ceremony at Laikipia AB. Kenya MoD
KENYA’S MINISTRY of Defence has taken delivery of nine AS350B helicopters donated by the United Arab Emirates (UAE). A reception ceremony took place at Laikipia Air Base in Nanyuki on September 14. According to the MoD, the Écureuils will be used for security operations
as well as combat search and rescue, casualty and medical evacuation. They are also said to be capable of “combat air escort for heavy-lift helicopters”, but initial photos showed the helicopters in an unarmed configuration. Originally expected to comprise former UAE Air
Force and Air Defence AS350C3 Fennecs, the aircraft delivered to Kenya appear to be AS350B/H125 Écureuils, suggesting they may have been funded by the UAE rather than provided second-hand. They will be operated by the Kenya Air Force’s 655 Squadron at Laikipia.
Egyptian Air Force Commando at Bright Star
THE KENYA Defence Forces (KDF) has ordered six MD530F attack helicopters, according to an MD Helicopters’ announcement on September 27. The firm, fixed-price award is the second delivery order issued under a five-year, $1.4bn indefinite delivery/ indefinite quantity (IDIQ) contract. The deal includes initial logistics support for the aircraft, aircraft systems and ground support equipment. First deliveries will take place next April, and all aircraft are to be handed over to the KDF prior to the August 2019 contract completion date. The IDIQ contract ensures an estimated quantity of up to 150 armed MD530F Cayuse Warrior and/ or MD530G attack helicopters are available to US and partner nation military forces. US approval for the purchase of 12 armed MD530F Cayuse Warriors was granted in May last year. The proposed contract was valued at around $253m.
Paramount and Leonardo join forces
USAF/Senior Airman Dawn M Weber
SPECIAL OPERATIONS troops rappel from an Arab Republic of Egypt Air Force Westland WS-61 Commando Mk2 assault transport helicopter at Mohamed Naguib military base in Egypt during Exercise Bright Star. The helicopter and soldiers were taking
Kenya orders Cayuse Warriors
part in military operations in urban terrain (MOUT) training on September 10. Exercise Bright Star is intended to promote and enhance regional security and co-operation between the seven participating nations: Egypt, France, Greece, Jordan, Saudi
Arabia, the United Kingdom and the United States. The EAF’s 7 Squadron at Borg El Arab air base operates six Commando Mk2s – survivors of a fleet of 20 delivered in the mid-1970s. There are also two Commando Mk1s for VIP transport.
LEONARDO AND Paramount Group have signed a letter of intent (LOI) to evaluate a co-operation to develop an armed version of the former’s M-345 jet trainer for the African market. The LOI was signed during the Africa Aerospace and Defence (AAD) exhibition in Pretoria in September. Leonardo believes the M-345 programme has significant potential in the African market and that the strategic partnership could help the aircraft gain a foothold in the region. Paramount plans to introduce its Smart Weapons Integration on Fast-Jet Trainers (SWIFT) system on the M-345.
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Australian AP-3C sold to US customer
Above: RAAF AP-3C A9-656, with all identity markings removed, making a test flight at RAAF Base Edinburgh on September 10. The Orion was bought by MHD Rockland, which specialises in parts for the type. Nathan Rundle
THE ROYAL Australian Air Force (RAAF) recently sold another AP-3C Orion, as it continues the fleet drawdown. The aircraft, A9-656 (c/n 5778, BuNo 162656), had been
scheduled to depart RAAF Base Edinburgh, South Australia, on September 10 on delivery to its new owner in the US. However, due to an unspecified problem, this did not take place,
although it was noted test flying that afternoon. The Orion was rescheduled for departure to Avalon, Victoria, the following day if its technical problems could be
overcome and was seen at that airfield later the same month. It was then expected to continue with a ferry flight to the US where it will receive the civil registration N656T. Dave Allport
Ninth Australian F-35A flown LOCKHEED MARTIN has flown the ninth F-35A for the RAAF at Fort Worth, Texas. The aircraft, A35009 (AU-9), took to the air for the first time on August 15 and was later delivered
to Luke Air Force Base, Arizona. In early September the Lightning II was formally accepted by No 3 Squadron, becoming the first F-35A to be transferred directly to the RAAF for
the unit. The aircraft will be one of the initial two to be flown to Australia in December. The second will be A35-010 (AU-10), which made its maiden flight at Fort Worth on August 16.
Under the F-35 aircrew and maintenance training programme, the first eight Australian aircraft are under the command of the international pilot training centre at Luke. Dave Allport
Australia may upgrade Super Hornets THE AUSTRALIAN Department of Defence has confirmed it may upgrade the RAAF’s F/A-18F fleet to keep pace with the standard of US Navy Super Hornets. In 2016 Canberra provisionally budgeted A$5-6bn ($3.6-4.2bn) to improve RAAF EA-18G Growlers over the following two decades but has not allocated a funds to address the 24 Super Hornets. Any potential enhancements would likely bring the jets from their current Block II configuration to the US Navy’s Block III standard, which provides increased range, improved data links and extended airframe life. The RAAF’s Super Hornets are currently slated for replacement around 2030.
RAAF and RNZAF Orions enforce North Korea sanctions
The ninth RAAF F-35A, A35-009, taking off for its maiden flight at Fort Worth on August 15. Lockheed Martin
Australian Lightning II begins JDAM trials
Above: Lockheed Martin personnel load one of the first inert GBU-31 JDAMs into F-35A A35-006. Australian Department of Defence
THE AUSTRALIAN Department of Defence recently announced that an RAAF F-35A has released Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM) weapons for the first time. On July 20 a Lightning II dropped two inert GBU-31(V)3 JDAMs. F-35A A35-006, piloted by the commanding officer of No 3 Squadron, Wing Commander (WGCDR) Darren Clare, released the
weapons over the Barry M Goldwater range in Arizona. WGCDR Clare said the weapons impacted their targets precisely. The RAAF F-35A is planned to achieve initial operating capability in December 2020 with a weapons suite including the AIM-120 AMRAAM, AIM-9X Sidewinder, JDAM, Small Diameter Bombs and the internal 25mm gun.
AUSTRALIA AND New Zealand have deployed Orion maritime patrol aircraft to Japan to help enforce United Nations sanctions against North Korea. The RAAF has provided two additional AP-3C Orions to join an example deployed earlier this year, while the Royal New Zealand Air Force is contributing a single P-3K2. New Zealand Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters confirmed that the P-3K2 was deployed to patrol international waters for signs of vessels undertaking activities breaking UN sanctions against North Korea, including shipto-ship transfers. The aircraft are stationed at Kadena Air Base, Japan.
#368 NOVEMBER 2018 // 29
Sea Breeze 2018
Black Sea peacekeepers The 17th Sea Breeze was the most important exercise in this series to date, featuring many firsts for its key participants, as Vladimir Trendafilovski discovered. Below: MiG-29 (9.13) ‘43 Blue’, of 204 brTA, demonstrates CAS and CAP roles during the air component’s media day at Kul’bakino on July 12. All photos Sergey Smolentsev unless stated
30 // NOVEMBER 2018 #368
he annual Sea Breeze multinational maritime exercise, co-hosted by Ukraine and the United States, has been held in the Black Sea and on Ukrainian territory since 1997. One of its main goals is to strengthen maritime security and stability in the region by improving co-operation and interoperability between participating nations. Attended by 19 nations (Bulgaria, Canada, Denmark, Estonia, Georgia, Greece, India, Italy, Lithuania, Moldova, Norway, Poland, Romania, Sweden, Turkey,
the United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, Ukraine and the US), this year’s manoeuvres took place between July 9 and July 21 and involved almost 3,000 soldiers, more than 30 vessels (including one submarine) and 20-plus aircraft and helicopters. As is customary, the exercise had sea, land and air components and multiple phases conducted at various locations in Ukraine’s Kherson, Mykolayiv and Odessa districts, plus an at-sea phase conducted in Ukrainian territorial and international waters.
New features As with past events, the main theme of the exercise was to plan and
conduct a peacekeeping mission by an international task force and – as last year (see Black Sea synergy, October 2017, p62) – all events in the ‘active phase’ were organised in the so-called ‘free play’ format. This meant none of the participants in a particular exercise event knew their tasks in advance and had to act immediately upon the set of orders received in real time from the Maritime Operations Centre (MOC). The MOC itself was again organised according to NATO standards and acted as a multinational headquarters for the task force. It was responsible for planning and preparing all orders for each exercise event according to the basic set of
‘In association with ....’
The latest addition to the 10 mabr fleet – Ka-226.50 light utility helicopter ‘41 Yellow’ (c/n 0302) – was delivered in June following a lengthy process of restoration and conversion into a medevac platform. It was still undergoing certification during the exercise, but this is now complete.
objectives and rules received from the exercise command, to which it was directly subordinated. For the first time, however, the MOC was based aboard the flagship of the US Sixth Fleet: the USS Mount Whitney (LCC 20, a Blue Ridge-class command and control ship). The MOC directed all maritime, land and air operations during the at-sea phase while afloat on the USS Mount Whitney in the Black Sea. This increased the level of realism, making it as close as possible to a real-world situation. The MOC staff consisted predominantly of officers from the Viys’kovo-Mors’ki Syly (VMS, Ukrainian Navy) – from a total of 88 officers, 35 were Ukrainian,
including the commander of the VMS Sea Command. They proved their mettle once more, successfully commanding the exercise forces in line with NATO standards – this should come as no surprise since Ukraine aspires to achieve full NATO compatibility and join the alliance in the near future. In accordance with these plans, the pennant numbers of VMS ships were also altered according to the NATO system prior to the exercise. For example, the VMS flagship – and regular Sea Breeze participant – the Het’man Sahaydachnyy (a ‘Krivak III’-class frigate) switched from U130 to F130.
Air component This year’s air component was again provided solely by the two host nations, but unlike last year, the participating US aircraft were not temporarily stationed in Ukraine. The Turkish Navy’s TCG Yavuz (F240, a Yavuzclass frigate) reportedly also carried a shipborne helicopter (presumably an S-70B Seahawk), but this has not been confirmed as this rotorcraft didn’t leave its hangar during the exercise. Ukrainian aircraft participating directly in the exercise came from all branches of the Zbroyni Syly Ukrayiny (ZSU, Ukrainian Armed Forces). Understandably, the single aviation unit of the VMS
– the 10 mors’ka aviatsiyna brihada (mabr, naval aviation brigade) from Kul’bakino air base near Mykolayiv – provided all its airworthy aircraft and helicopters. This included the unit’s single An-2TD transport, one of its two An-26 transports, a Ka-27PS shipborne searchand-rescue (SAR) helicopter, all three Mi-14PL anti-submarine warfare (ASW) helicopters and its single Mi-14PS SAR rotorcraft. In addition, the co-located 204 and 299 brihada taktichnoyi aviatsiyi (brTA, tactical aviation brigade) of the Povitryani Syly (PS, Ukrainian Air Force) contributed some of their MiG29s and Su-25s, respectively, for combat air patrol (CAP) and close air support (CAS). Further aircraft for transport and CAS tasks were provided by 11 okrema brihada Armiys’koyi Aviatsiyi (obrAA, independent Army Aviation brigade) based at Chornobayivka near Kherson – a unit of the Sukhoputni Viys’ka (SV, Ground Forces) operating Mi-8 and Mi-24 helicopters. Finally, Derzhavna Prykordonna Sluzhba Ukrayiny (DPSU, State Border Guard Service of Ukraine), which also has a very prominent role in the Sea Breeze exercises, again provided a DA42 MPP Guardian aerial surveillance
Mi-8MSB-V ‘163 Red’, of 11 obrAA, inserts SOF troops aboard the VMS landing ship ‘Yuri Olefirenko’ (L401) after the latter had unloaded a mixed Moldovan-Ukrainian landing party on the Tendra Spit sandbar. Ukraine MoD Press-Service via author
Above: The two remaining Be-12s of 10 mabr, including Be-12PL ‘02 Yellow’ (c/n 0602004) seen here, are currently kept in reserve. However, they are expected to return to service soon, after undergoing inspections and necessary repairs at the local NARP repair plant to receive a one-year service life extension.
#368 NOVEMBER 2018 // 31
Exercise Report and maritime patrol aircraft – ‘22 Blue’ from the okrema aviatsiyna eskadrylya (oae, independent aviation squadron). The latter is based at the Shkil’nyy military apron of Odessa International Airport from where traditionally some of the aircraft and helicopters involved in the exercise operate or are temporarily detached. There were only two direct US aircraft participants, both from the US Navy: MH-60S Seahawk 168573 ‘BR-34’ and P-8A Poseidon 168439. The MH-60S came aboard USS Mount Whitney on July 9 and was from Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 28 ‘Dragon Whales’, Detachment 1 (‘Ghostriders’), at Naval Air Station Norfolk, Virginia. Together with Ka-27PS ‘29 Yellow’ of 10 mabr it was used for general ship-to-ship and ship-to-shore liaison duties throughout the exercise, mainly for
Su-27P ‘101 Blue’ (c/n 36911035717), of 831 brTA, displays its air-to-air missile loadout as it banks sharply – moments after scrambling on July 20 as part of a QRA pair temporarily detached to Odessa IAP.
VIP transport – including delivery of exercise staff and media members to and from Shkil’nyy. The P-8A was from Patrol Squadron (VP) 10 ‘Red Lancers’ at NAS Jacksonville, Florida, but currently deployed in the US Sixth Fleet area of operations at NAS Sigonella in Sicily. It arrived from there on July 13 to take part in the finale of the at-sea phase.
Notable events This year, the air component media day was again organised on the 10 mabr apron at Kul’bakino. On July 12 its aircraft displayed their paradropping, SAR and ASW capabilities, while a MiG-29 (9.13) from 204 brTA demonstrated CAS and CAP, including aerobatics and low-level flying. Also, 204
Above: Mi-14PS ‘34 Yellow’ (c/n 75099) of 10 mabr is sprayed with fresh water by its ground crew for corrosion control after exposure to saltwater during a sortie over the Black Sea. Below: Ka-27PS ‘29 Yellow’ (c/n 5235012382608), of 10 mabr, lands aboard USS ‘Porter’ (DDG 78) on July 13. Based aboard the ‘Het’man Sahaydachnyy’ (F130), it also operated from both US ships and from Shkil’nyy (the military apron of Odessa IAP) on general liaison duties during the at-sea phase. US Navy/MC2 Ford Williams
32 // NOVEMBER 2018 #368
and 299 brTA provided the latest arrivals out of overhaul for the static display – MiG-29UB ‘83 Blue’ and Su-25M1K ‘20 Blue’. Among other aircraft present on the 10 mabr flight line was its latest acquisition: the Ka-226 light utility helicopter ‘41 Yellow’ (see Ukraine to begin Ka-27 overhauls, October 2017, p24). This aircraft was finally delivered the previous month, following a lengthy restoration/ conversion and handover process. However, it was not involved in the exercise because it had been converted into a medical evacuation (medevac) platform and was still undergoing certification in this role. Meanwhile, the exercise fleet was under way in the Black Sea since the early morning of July 11 and conducted standard naval operations during the at-sea phase. On July 13, in conjunction with the P-8A, which arrived over the Black Sea that day, the subhunting task force of the fleet – the Het’man Sahaydachnyy and TCG Yavuz frigates, the Bulgarian Navy Bodri (14, ‘Pauk’-class) ASW corvette and the USS Porter (DDG 78, Arleigh Burke-class) destroyer – detected an ‘enemy
‘In association with ....’
submarine’. This was played by the Turkish Navy’s TCG Yildiray (S-350, Atilay-class) attack boat. That same day, an amphibious landing took place on the uninhabited Tendra Spit sandbar – the VMS landing ship Yuri Olefirenko (L401, ‘Polnocny-C’ class) deployed a mix of Moldovan and Ukrainian naval infantry troops in vehicles. Simultaneously, a team of Ukrainian special operations forces (SOF) troops were inserted aboard the ship using the standard winch fitted to Mi-8MSB-V ‘163 Red’ of 11 obrAA. The land-component media event was organised at the Shyrokyy Lan range on July 14. A demonstration of the indigenous Adapter-M1 fast rope insertion and extraction system (FRIES) was provided by Mi-8MTV-1s ‘130 Red’ and ‘132 Red’ of 11 obrAA. The former inserted a Ukrainian naval infantry team using FRIES, while the latter extracted it and demonstrated a medevac sortie later on. A Su-25M1 and a Su-25UBM1 of 299 brTA provided CAS with live air-to-ground rockets, showing off their lowlevel flying skills in the process. Due to the ‘free play’ nature of the exercise, events during the ‘active phase’ were again restricted for members of the media and many of the aircomponent activities went unrecorded. However, it’s known that in the opening stages of the exercise, Mi-14PS ‘34 Yellow’ was used to insert divers of a DPSU SOF team in the Odessa Bay on July 11. On July 18 An-26 ‘10 Yellow’ deployed Ukrainian naval infantry paratroopers
On the sidelines Each Sea Breeze exercise de facto starts with military transports that arrive at Odessa International Airport to deliver equipment and/or personnel for the exercise a few days before it officially begins. However, Sea Breeze 2018 was somewhat quieter, as only two aircraft arrived. One was US Navy C-130T Hercules 164993 ‘BD-4993’ of Fleet Logistics Support Squadron (VR) 64 ‘Condors’ at Joint Base McGuire-DixLakehurst, New Jersey, which arrived on July 7. The next day Royal Air Force Atlas C1 ZM414 of No 70 Squadron at RAF Brize Norton, Oxfordshire, delivered Royal Navy divers and their equipment. Shortly after the start of
the exercise, a USN C-40A Clipper 168980 of VR-58 ‘Sunseekers’ at NAS Jacksonville, Florida arrived on July 12. At the end of the exercise, the same type and number of aircraft arrived to retrieve the equipment and personnel – Atlas C1 ZM409 of No 70 Squadron arrived on July 19, followed by USN C-130T 165348 ‘AX-5348’ of VR-53 ‘Capital Express’ at Andrews Air Force Base, Maryland on July 27. The exercise was the perfect occasion for various British and US electronic intelligence (ELINT) platforms to conduct intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) missions over the Black Sea and/or Donbas
areas on numerous occasions. during this period. Among the more regular visitors were USAF RQ-4B Global Hawk 10-2043 (out of NAS Sigonella) and RAF RC-135W ZZ666 and Sentinel R1 ZJ691 (both out of RAF Akrotiri, Cyprus). In total, these types conducted at least a dozen ISR missions in the area during the exercise alone. As could be expected, the Russians were not sitting idle – the Ekvator (‘Moma’-class) medium ELINT ship and the Bora (‘Dergach’-class) guided missile hovercraft corvette from the Russian Navy were shadowing the exercise fleet from a safe distance.
RAF A400M Atlas C1 ZM414 (c/n 047) of No 70 Squadron, shortly after landing at Odessa IAP on July 8 to deliver Royal Navy divers and their equipment.
New sonobuoys Manufacturer’s tests of the definitive variant of Ukraine’s new Yatran sonobuoys were successfully completed during Sea Breeze – as confirmed by Ukraine’s state-owned defence concern Ukroboronprom. The sonobuoys were deployed for the first time during last year’s Sea Breeze and all required improvements have since been implemented. The Yatran will enter operational service pending
a final state acceptance test. The new indigenous ’buoys are designed to be used from the Ka-27PL and Mi-14PL, replacing obsolete Soviet-era sonobuoys still in use (see Ukraine’s Mi-14 fleet at full strength, October, p20). The Yatran is based on a design developed for the Indian Navy’s Tu-142 and is designed to interact with the existing A-100 Pakhra receiver system on the Ukrainian ASW helicopters.
The 10 mabr apron at Kul’bakino air base as Mi-14PS ‘34 Yellow’ returns from a SAR demonstration flight during the air component media day at Kul’bakino on July 12. Note MiG-29UB ‘83 Blue’ (c/n 50903023241), of 204 brTA, and Su-25M1K ‘20 Blue’ (c/n 25508110269), of 299 brTA, both fresh from overhaul. Also visible is Mi-14PL ‘37 Yellow’, still in its original two-tone camouflage scheme.
during a night assault operation. Mi-8MTV-1 ‘130 Red’ had a prominent role during the landing at Zmiyinyy Island on July 19. Using FRIES, it deployed a VMS SOF team to secure the island before the arrival of the main amphibious force aboard Yuri Olefirenko and a DPSU team aboard a ‘hostile ship’, played by the VMS seagoing tug Korets (A830, ‘Sorum’-class). Last but not least, in the closing stage of the exercise, on July 20 the quick reaction alert (QRA) pair of Su-27s from 831 brTA at Myrhorod, temporarily detached to Shkil’nyy, joined the manoeuvres. The pair of Su-27s arriving from Myrhorod (Su-27S ‘15 Blue’ and ‘30 Blue’) to replace the current pair (Su-27P ‘100 Blue’ and ‘101 Blue’) took on the role of enemy aircraft attacking ships in the port of Odessa, so the other pair was scrambled to intercept them. During the exercise, all aircraft involved performed 206 flights and spent almost 105 hours in the air. The An-2 and An-26 transports of the VMS, plus the various Mi-8s, paradropped a total of 410 servicemen (of these 110 were deployed at night and 60 over water), while the Mi-8s alone inserted 732 and extracted 114 servicemen using the FRIES. AFM
#368 NOVEMBER 2018 // 33
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Israeli strikes on Syria ‘boots on the ground’ – Assad’s regime was saved from collapse by Iran. As well as support for Syria, Tehran has sought to increase Hezbollah’s foothold in Lebanon. It’s alleged that the IRGC has been attempting to provide the militant group with strategic weapons in violation of UN resolutions and Israel has been extremely concerned by Iranian attempts to strengthen Hezbollah further.
The Hezbollah factor
or years, a proxy war has been fought between Iran and Israel by groups supported by Tehran, including Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza. Since Syria became a quagmire of civil war in 2011, Israel has paid close attention to the influx of Iranian forces into that country. The conflict has showcased the ongoing battle between Sunni and Shia Islam. Iran’s leaders – some of whom have reportedly called for the destruction of the Jewish state – have utilised the conflict to fight their Sunni enemies in Syria, and as a way to confront Israel. Israel has identified Iran as a sponsor of terror attacks against Israeli and Jewish organisations around the world. Meanwhile, forces such as Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) have assisted Bashar al-Assad’s Syrian regime. Desperate for support – finance, weapons and
Israel has been suspected of being behind mysterious explosions reported across Syria since 2012. For most of this period, Israel hasn’t acknowledged responsibility for air strikes. Only in very select instances has the Israel Defense Forces’ (IDF’s) Spokesperson’s Unit provided a glimpse into a war being fought under a veil of secrecy and deniability. This ‘silent war’ has made increasing noise in recent months. Syrian government forces – spearheaded by Hezbollah units and led by the IRGC’s elite Quds Force – turned the tide of the civil war. Backed by Russian air power, the Assad regime was able to retake rebel-controlled territory stretching from Damascus to Israel’s northern border. The proximity of clashes increased IDF alert levels not only along the border, but also inside Lebanon, where a fragile ceasefire exists between Israel and Lebanon. Israeli leadership has said that the Israeli Air Force (IAF) will not stand by and allow strategic weapons to enter into the hands of
Top: AH-64D Saraf 784 from 113 ‘Hornet’ Squadron, fitted with long-range fuel tanks and a Hellfire acquisition round. A Saraf from this unit was responsible for shooting down an Iranian-operated drone over Israel on February 10 this year. Above right: Israeli Air Force commander Maj Gen Amikam Norkin in the front seat of F-15D Baz 280. The IAF chief has been involved in talks with Russia to explain Israel’s side of the Il-20 shootdown. Right: Israel’s fleet of F-15I Ra’am strike fighters – operated by 69 ‘Hammers’ Squadron – have borne the brunt of recent offensive operations against Syrian targets. Here, Ra’am 271 returns to base with a heavy load of 2,000lb and 500lb Joint Direct Attack Munitions (JDAMs). All photos Yissachar Ruas
A not-so-s 36 // NOVEMBER 2018 #368
Hezbollah under the guise of defending Assad’s regime. Until recently, Israeli government officials also stated they would not allow the collapse of Syrian government authority to provide an excuse for Iranian forces to fill a vacuum on the ground in Syria. The nature of the threat to Israel appears to have changed during the years of Syria’s civil war. Interviewed by the Israeli daily newspaper Ha’aretz, the chief of IAF Intelligence Gen Uri Oron shed some light on the type of threats the IAF has been targeting. Israel suffered a barrage of indiscriminate rocket fire in 2006. Despite bombing thousands of targets during that year’s Second Lebanon War, thousands of longrange rockets were fired at Israeli population centres and military installations. Most of these weapons were concealed in urban areas of Lebanon, frustrating IAF targeting efforts. Today, Israeli Intelligence reports estimate Hezbollah has at least 100,000 unguided rockets aimed at Israel from within Lebanon alone. At the beginning of Russian involvement in Syria in 2015, the IRGC tried to use the Russian military build-up to arm Hezbollah with more accurate and advanced missiles. To a certain degree, IAF strikes foiled these attempts. It seems the IRGC then changed its tactics and, in 2016, IAF Intelligence uncovered a joint Iranian-Hezbollah effort to turn Hezbollah’s ‘dumb’ rockets into GPS-guided munitions. This would avoid the risky transport of long-range
F-16I Sufa 882 with a full load of weaponry including 2,000lb GBU-10 laserguided bombs (LGBs) and AMRAAM and Python missiles for self-defence, plus three long-range fuel tanks. As evidenced by the tail art, this jet is operated by 201 ‘The One’ Squadron at Ramon.
guided missiles from Iran. Should this project succeed, Israel would face a more serious threat to its infrastructure than it had in 2006. Israel also appears to have adapted its tactics, too. After reportedly striking convoys of missiles, it has switched to targeting the sites where Hezbollah rockets are converted to GPS-guided munitions.
Talking to Russia Israel – anxious to avoid clashing with a nuclear superpower – established a ‘deconfliction’ system with the Russian military in Syria. This system has proved valuable in avoiding mistakes similar to the shooting down of a Russian Su-24 by Turkey in 2015. The political fallout of that incident led to Russianimposed sanctions on Ankara.
Another threat facing Israel is the IRGC’s ‘boots on the ground’. IRGC forces have bolstered the depleted and exhausted Syrian Army to prevent its collapse. De facto, this places the Iranian military on Israel’s northern border. A situation in which IRGC forces are on the Syrian side of the Golan could shift the balance of power on Israel’s borders. For Jerusalem, this would leave a long ‘front of hostility’, spanning from the Mediterranean border with Lebanon as far as the (peaceful) frontier with Jordan. The current war is being fought primarily by IAF fighter squadrons. On the defensive side, Israeli Patriot, Arrow and Iron Dome batteries have played a key role in protecting Israel’s skies. These have shot down several Syrian Arab Air Force (SyAAF) aircraft as well as rockets aimed at the Israeli side of the Golan Heights. Until relatively recently, apart from IAF personnel, most Israelis – including the vast majority of the IDF – were not aware of the measures taken to prevent Iran from establishing a ‘third front’ on its border. Syrian, Iranian and Hezbollah forces that have suffered losses have also been reluctant to reveal Israeli strikes. Partly, this is because some Iranian actions have been deemed in violation of UN Resolutions 242 and 1701. The first overt exposure of Israeli citizens to the conflict came on March 17 last year, when Syrian forces fired an SA-5 Gammon surfaceto-air missile (SAM) into Israel, prompting its interception by an Arrow anti-missile battery. Fragments of both missiles were recovered from both northern Israel and Jordan. This incident was the first time the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit and government officials acknowledged any kind of military action between the two countries.
While Israel’s activity during the first six years of the Syrian conflict was shrouded in secrecy, Iranian drone kill On February 10 this year, an Iranian unmanned over the past eight months many aerial vehicle (UAV) took off from T-4 air base in events have been brought to the Syrian desert, 155 miles (250km) from Israel. light either by Israeli officials or It’s likely the IAF had been closely observing by the overt nature of its actions. the base for some time. An AH-64D Saraf Yissachar Ruas received some from 113 ‘Hornet’ Squadron was positioned to take down the UAV over Israel, where the insight into the campaign from debris could be thoroughly examined. The a high-ranking Israeli Air Force Saraf shot down the drone and IAF fighters source. began targeting Iranian forces at T-4 soon
silent war www.airforcesmonthly.com
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Israeli strikes on Syria F-15I Ra’am 234 from 69 ‘Hammers’ Squadron takes off armed with 500lb JDAMs. Earlier this year, the unit was recognised for ‘operational achievements of great importance’.
after. The jets destroyed several UAV hangars and a command and control module. Syrian air defences launched more than 30 SAMs at a pair of F-16Is flying over northern Israel. One managed to evade the incoming missiles, but the second was hit by an SA-5 and its crew was forced to eject near the city of Haifa. According to the IAF source, the debrief showed that the loss was due to pilot error. While the IAF hit multiple Syrian SAM sites in retaliation, the downing of the F-16 was a reminder that Israel could not tolerate enemy SAM coverage over its borders. On examination of the UAV by IDF experts, it was found to contain an explosive device. While Israeli sources are not willing to divulge theories as to what the UAV was targeting, they are adamant that the explosive charge was not a self-destruct device. At least 14 IRGC soldiers were confirmed killed as a result of the IAF’s raid on T-4, including the commander of the UAV unit. Since February 10, Israeli forces have been on high alert in expectation of Iranian retaliation. Sources then leaked the existence of a suspected Iranian base being constructed near Homs, Syria. Israeli Minister of Defense Avigdor Lieberman made repeated warnings that Israel would not allow Iran to gain a foothold in Syria as it had in Lebanon. On April 30, there were additional reports that Israel had struck Iranian convoys carrying long-range missiles as well as at the Iranian site being built near Homs. Israel activated its bomb shelters across the north of the country on May 8, amid suspicion that weapons movements in Syria were connected to an imminent retaliatory attack on its soil.
‘Hammers’ Squadron recognised At the beginning of May, IDF Chief of the General Staff Gen Gadi Eizenkot visited Hatzerim Air Base and presented a commendation to 69 ‘Hammers’ Squadron – the IAF’s F-15I Ra’am operator – in a closed ceremony. The commendation was awarded for ‘operational achievements of great importance’. While no specific mission was mentioned Eizenot said: “This event shows the quality of the squadron’s performance, planning and execution in operational activity in the incredibly intense activity of the current period, with an emphasis on the northern theatre,
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facing what’s defined as our biggest threat – the Iranian military establishment and the Iranian effort to establish aerial, naval and ground capabilities on the borders of Israel.” This is only the fifth time this commendation has been awarded and the first time it was given to an IAF squadron. On the night of May 9-10, Iranian-controlled forces fired more than 30 rockets towards Israel from Syria. According to the IAF source, several of these rockets were intercepted by Israel’s Iron Dome anti-rocket system, while others fell short of their intended targets. The IAF retaliated in force that night, putting into motion Operation House of Cards – the IAF’s largest attack on Syrian soil since 1973. According to the IAF source, 170 SAMs of various types were fired at IAF aircraft on this night alone. He stated further that IAF fighters only target SAM sites that actively fire on Israeli aircraft. While seemingly risky, this suggests the IAF is confident in its aircraft’s countermeasures systems. He added that IAF aircraft have had hundreds of missiles fired at them since February 10 and described the theatre as the most densely populated SAM environment in the world. IAF planners are forced to constantly improve and innovate when operating within the SAM threat envelope. The source acknowledged that due to constant activity by surveillance aircraft, the IAF has adapted its planning in an effort to avoid detection and prevent sensitive time-critical information from leaking to foreign forces operating in the region. The IAF divulged more information in early September, as part of interviews conducted with various IAF squadron commanders. Israeli website Ynet interviewed Lt Col R, commander of 105 ‘Scorpion’ Squadron, an F-16D operator. He stated: “We prepared the squadron for intense fighting for weeks, fearing that the hostilities would escalate.” He added: “It’s complicated to operate in a hostile environment with so many aircraft; it’s even more complex when we need to verify and make sure we aren’t in conflict with Russian forces operating in the theatre.” The IAF reportedly destroyed more than half of Syrian air defences in half a night of action on May 10. However, the Syrians have since restored their capabilities and have also improved them with Russian assistance (see Eye of the storm, October, p74-78).
The IAF admitted to striking Syrian territory more than 200 times since the previous September (a Jewish calendar year). According to daily newspaper Israel Hayom, the air force has delivered 760 separate items of ordnance since the beginning of 2017.
Damascus under attack At the beginning of this September, more reports surfaced of multiple attacks targeting warehouses in the vicinity of Damascus International Airport. Footage attributed to the attacks was released by Syrian government TV showing a collapsed building blamed on an Israeli attack. Analysis of satellite imagery suggests an Iranian 747 cargo aircraft was destroyed in the raid. This would match previous reports claiming that IRGC-owned Fars Air Qeshm 747s were suspected of delivering weapons during unexpected layovers in Damascus en route from Iranian airfields in the vicinity of Tehran. Perhaps the closest these confrontations have come to an international conflagration was the night of September 17, when four IAF F-16s attacked a weapons facility in Latakia on the Syrian coast. According to reports circulated by the Russian defence ministry, the F-16s were carrying Boeingmade GBU-39 Small Diameter Bombs (SDBs). IAF aircraft targeted a site used to upgrade rockets for GPS guidance. The objective was a warehouse some 525ft (160m) long and 197ft Right: Unarmed Ra’am 246 heads out for a nighttime training sortie. Israel, which purchased the F-15I in 1997, has shown interest in purchasing more Eagles once the F-15A-to-D airframes reach the end of their current lifespan.
(60m) wide. Footage of secondary explosions was posted on social media, suggesting the facility stored a considerable quantity of explosives. Unfortunately, following the attack, it seems Syrian air defences began to fire SAMs indiscriminately. At least one missile from an SA-5 battery hit a Russian Il-20M Coot electronic intelligence (ELINT) aircraft patrolling the eastern Mediterranean, downing it and killing all 15 on board. As they had when downing the Israeli F-16I on February 10, it seems Syrian air defences fired missiles in salvos in various directions, hoping the SA-5’s large warhead would score a hit. Based on Israeli accounts, the Syrians fired their salvos well after the IAF aircraft returned to Israeli airspace. The Russian aircraft was apparently returning from a routine patrol and came down in the Mediterranean around 19 miles (30km) off the Syrian coast. In an effort to clarify its actions, Israeli military officials took responsibility for the initial strike against the weapons facility. Jerusalem then stressed that the Russian aircraft was shot down well after Israeli fighters returned to Israeli airspace, when there was seemingly no threat to Syrian forces. Another aspect is the danger these missiles pose to civilian air traffic – notably, Beirut International Airport, further along the same coastline. Defence Minister of the Russian Federation Sergei Shoigu issued a statement blaming Israel’s recklessness for the incident. Shoigu stated: “The Israeli defence ministry’s actions are not in the spirit of Russian-Israeli partnership, so we reserve the right to take retaliatory steps.” After 24 hours in which the situation threatened to worsen, a conversation between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Russia’s President Vladimir Putin seemed to have cleared the air somewhat. Putin backtracked on Shoigu’s earlier statements, stating that the downing of the aircraft was the result of a “tragic chain of circumstances”. Israel committed to providing Moscow with full disclosure, sending IAF Commander Maj Gen Amikam Norkin to Russia to brief defence officials on what transpired that night from the IAF’s perspective.
Shootdown analysed Analysis by former IDF Intelligence chief Gen Amos Yadlin, a former fighter pilot, was
F-16I Sufa 886 blasts off with quadruple racks of Small Diameter Bombs carried under the central underwing stations. The IAF reportedly used SDBs to strike weapons facilities in Latakia this September.
extremely critical of Russia – pointing to a lack of professionalism with regards to flying in a combat airspace. He noted that even according to Russian accounts, 25 minutes passed from the time of Israel’s warning until the aircraft was shot down. He stressed that there was ample time to divert the aircraft away from the area of operation and not in the direction of outbound Syrian missiles. Yadlin further stressed that it would be expected that the Russians and the Syrians would be better co-ordinated and not so negligent, given that Syria launches such a large amount of SAM ordnance. He said the fact that no civilian traffic has been affected by Syrian air defences until now is nothing short of a miracle. Yadlin contradicted Russian defence ministry claims and stated that IAF aircraft were crossing the Israeli coastal city of Haifa at the moment the Russian Il-20M was hit. Israeli sources claimed the Iranian facility was situated intentionally close to the heavily defended Russian enclave around the ports of Latakia and Tartus in an effort to shield it from the IAF. As of September 21, Russian defence ministry officials declared a notice to airmen (NOTAM) alert for the area of the eastern Mediterranean. The alert came as the Russians declared they were conducting large-scale manoeuvres, seemingly related to the effort to recover the remains of the Coot’s crew and its highly classified onboard systems. Russian officials also stated that Syrian air defences would be upgraded with four
S-300 (SA-10 Grumble) batteries, claiming that the system’s more advanced firecontrol would prevent similar ‘friendly fire’ incidents. Russian officials were reported as stating that their forces would rely more heavily on electronic countermeasures in an effort to hamper IAF activity over Syria. As confirmed by the Israeli source, IAF aircraft are geared to avoiding contact with possible surveillance aircraft in a heavily saturated airspace full of different intelligence-gathering assets. Theories have been raised that the downing of the Il-20M was an attempt by Syrian and Iranian forces to drive a wedge between Israeli-Russian deconfliction measures in a move to prevent IAF strikes against IRGC targets. Given Israel’s claim – along with Gen Norkin providing evidence of Israel’s actions – this theory is not altogether impossible. It’s unclear if the IAF will maintain efforts to prevent Iran from strengthening its grip on Lebanon and Syria. Israel clearly fears a repeat of the threat its civilians faced from Lebanon in 2006, but it has worked tirelessly over the past seven years to avoid provoking Russia while staving off the emerging Iranian threat. With these recent incidents, Israel may have awoken the ‘Russian bear’ – the magnitude of its resulting actions remains to be seen. AFM Special thanks to the IDF’s Spokesperson’s Unit for facilitating the briefing with key IAF officials.
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HUNAF live-fire AS 39 Gripen fighters of the Magyar Légierő (Hungarian Air Force, HUNAF) attended this summer’s Légi Fölény 2018 (Air Superiority 2018) live weapons delivery exercise in Vidsel, Sweden, their fourth such visit. The service lacked an air-to-ground attack capability after it withdrew its Su-22M3/UM-3K Fitter bombers from service in 1997, only regaining it by introducing the Gripen in 2006 – the offensive attributes of which were practised for the first time at this year’s exercise. At previous events at Vidsel, HUNAF pilots trained for close air support (CAS), but have now procured Litening IIIG targeting pods and developed a Joint Terminal Attack Controller (JTAC) capability. Their jets’ air-to-ground weapons include AGM-65H and AGM-65G-2 Maverick missiles and 500lb (227kg) Mk82 ‘dumb’ and GBU-12 precision-guided bombs. Six Gripens from the 1. Harcászati Repülőszázad (1st Tactical Fighter Squadron) ‘Puma’ and more than 60 support staff from the Hungarian Defence Forces’ MH 59. Szentgyörgyi Dezső Repülőbázis (59th Szentgyörgyi Dezső Air Base) at Kecskemét and MH 86. Szolnok Helikopter Bázis (86th Helicopter Base) at Szolnok deployed to Vidsel for the exercise between June 7 and 21.
The site, home to the largest weapons range in the European Union, is just 62 miles (100km) from the Arctic Circle and affords 637 sq miles (1,650km2) of territory for missile launches.
Preparing for the Baltic The airmen from Kecskemét know the region well, having conducted similar exercises there in 2008, 2012 and 2015. Their last visit was in preparation for the 2015 Baltic Air Policing (BAP) mission, when they defended the common airspace of the Baltic States for four months. This time they were preparing for their second BAP mission next year, with live weapons deliveries. After thorough planning, the exercise proper began on June 11. Changing conditions required flexibility because the various sorties had different weather minimums: an AIM-9 Sidewinder launch needs clear conditions while air-to-air gunnery can be executed between cloud layers. The situation is similar for the air-toground weapons: the Litening pod’s electrooptical sensor can be obstructed by cloud, but a JTAC on the ground – below a layer of overcast – can control a bomb if it’s been dropped from above the clouds. A Mk82 bomb drop requires visual contact from the pilot but the Gripen’s targeting system
can conduct an automatic release, too; AGM-65 delivery calls for visual contact with the target for the entire phase between acquisition and launch.
Air-to-air missions Only live air-to-air gunnery and missile launch sorties were flown during the first two days at Vidsel. For gunnery, Saab Special Flight Operations (SFO) provided a Learjet 35 with a towed target drogue containing an acoustic sensor that covers a 33ft (10m) radius. It can determine whether a 27mm round from the Gripen’s Mauser cannon passed by and, if so, how close and in which direction. Once over the Gulf of Bothnia, pilots flew within a half-mile area around the target, alternating from left and right and shooting short salvos of ten rounds. They had to be aware of the target tug and their firing aspect – angle of attack had to be in excess of 10° to avoid endangering the Learjet and its crew. Eight AIM-9L Sidewinders (known as Rb 74s in Sweden) were used by four different jets in the live launches, each one hung on the No 1 rail on the Gripens’ left side. Targets were SM3c flares, carried by a drone launched from the outskirts of the airfield. The
Hungarian Gripens hit the north
Lt Col István Toperczer watched the Hungarian Air Force’s latest exercise in Vidsel, Sweden, to see its Gripens deliver live air-to-ground munitions for the first time.
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Left: View from the cockpit of a HUNAF JAS 39C Gripen as an AGM-65G-2 Maverick imaging infrared (IIR) version streaks away from under the port wing. HUNAF Below left: Hungarian technicians load a GBU-12 bomb on the outer pylon using a Swedish-designed hoist known as the ‘giraffe’. Below: JAS 39C Gripen 35 (39306) inside the wooden shelter at Vidsel, fully armed with two GBU-12 LGBs, two AGM-65G-2 Mavericks and a Litening III laser designator pod. Main image: A Maverick-armed ‘Puma’ jet, JAS 39C serial 37 (39308), takes off for an air-to-ground mission. All photos István Toperczer unless stated
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MQM-107A drone used in previous years was replaced by a new Kratos BQM-167i which flew a predetermined racetrack pattern before the Gripens arrived on station and launched their AIM-9s at 4,000ft (1,219m) after a right turn. On landing, the pilots received the digital umbilical left behind from the missile (also known as the ‘tail of the rattlesnake’) as a memento. They also flew low-level tactical navigation routes – 150ft (46m) above ground level (AGL) – during Air Superiority 2018. This part of Sweden – Lapland – offers excellent opportunities for low-level work due to its low population density. The longest straight-line leg can be more than 80nm.
Mud-moving The Hungarian pilots completed planned air-to-air sorties by the middle of their twoweek stay in Vidsel, having also had the chance to use air-to-ground munitions in the first week. On June 13, single AGM-65H and AGM-65G-2 missiles from the Gripens hit heated target containers on the range. The next day the jets dropped single inert and live GBU-12 laser-guided and Mk82 dumb bombs; the former had to find their container targets while the Mk82 drops used stretched canvases as targets. The LGBs were controlled by self-lasing and – with JTACs talking to the pilots – buddy-lasing. Practising these skills is a prerequisite to reach full operational capability in the CAS role. So-called ‘dry’ CAS sorties were practised too, involving Hungarian and Swedish personnel, but without weapons release. Members of the MH 59. Szentgyörgyi Dezső Repülőbázis and JTAC personnel from the MH 86. Szolnok Helikopter Bázis demonstrated their co-operation during the two-week stay in Sweden. According to the exercise evaluation by Brig Gen Csaba Ugrik, commander of the 59th Szentgyörgyi Dezső Air Base, all planned sorties were carried out despite unfavourable weather. The commander highlighted the airmen’s flexibility and preparedness and thanked the crews for successfully coping with all types of unforeseen malfunctions and unexpected tasks, saying: “The secret lies in good teamwork – everyone has to give their best.” AFM
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Above left: 1st Tactical Fighter Squadron ‘Puma’ JAS 39C Gripen 35 (39306) drops a live GBU-12 LGB from the starboard wing over a target area. Note the inert Mk82 dumb bomb just visible on a pylon under the port wing. HUNAF Above: AIM-9L Sidewinder (known as Rb 74 in Sweden) missiles were attached to the No 1 rails on the Gripens’ port wings. The HUNAF jets launched eight during the exercise. Right: Two HUNAF armourers load standard DM83 and DM93 tracer versions of the 27mm PELE (Penetrator with Enhanced Lateral Efficiency) ammunition for the Mauser Bordkanone 27 (BK27) cannon. Every fifth projectile was a tracer. Left: A HUNAF Joint Terminal Attack Controller designates a target from a range of two miles using a Ground Laser Target Designator (GLTD) II for terminal guidance of a 500lb GBU-12 bomb. Far left: Hungarian Gripen pilots ‘PAP’ and ‘TÖS’ pose with the remains of a Maverick missile after a mission. In the background is specially painted ‘Puma head’ JAS 39C Gripen serial 40 (39311). Below left: The Learjet 35 of Saab Flight Operations (SFO) tows target drogues, containing acoustic sensors, for HUNAF aerial gunnery over the Gulf of Bothnia. Below: Launch of the new Kratos BQM-167i from the outskirts of Vidsel air base – the target drone deployed SM3c flares for the AIM-9L Sidewinders.
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Spanish Naval Aviation
ince 1954 the Armada Española (Spanish Navy) has counted on an air arm to support seaborne aerial operations. Today, it’s almost unthinkable for Spanish Navy vessels to conduct operations without some kind of aircraft on board. The Flotilla de Aeronaves (FLOAN, Spanish Naval Aviation) marked its centenary on September 15 last year at Base Naval de Rota in southern Spain, home of the organisation since 1957. The FLOAN is a direct descendent of the original Aviación Naval, established by Royal Decree on September 13, 1917, and decommissioned in 1939 when the Ejército del Aire (Spanish Air Force)
was constituted. However, the Armada didn’t give up on having its own air assets, and in 1954 received three Bell 47G helicopters, which formed the 1ª Escuadrilla (1st Squadron) at the Escuela Naval Militar (Naval Military School) at Marín, in Pontevedra. At the same time, Spain began to forge close ties with the US military; this provided access to American training schools and military equipment. In 1963, a second squadron was created, equipped with Sikorsky S-55/ CH-19Es at Rota and, in 1967, the Spanish Navy borrowed the
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light aircraft carrier USS Cabot (CVL 28) from the US for five years. The new ship was renamed Dédalo (R-01) and was bought outright in 1973. With this new vessel, the Spanish Navy was able to operate vertical/short take-off and landing (V/STOL) fighters, which led to the acquisition of the first AV-8S/TAV-8S Harriers, obtained via the US Marine Corps (USMC) in 1973. These jets were delivered in 1976 to form the 8ª Escuadrilla. The arrival of the Harrier, locally named Matador, led to changes in the FLOAN concept of operations, adding a new offensive capability.
The Dédalo was Spain’s first warship to operate fixed-wing aircraft in a maritime environment and it established the foundations for an enduring aircraft carrier force. The Príncipe de Astúrias (R-11) replaced the Dédalo in 1989, before it was in turn superseded by the Juan Carlos I (L-61) in 2013 – this is the navy’s current flagship. The single Spanish carrier is an extremely important asset, but the FLOAN’s diverse units can be embarked on other ships of the fleet, including the Buque de Acción Marítima (BAM) offshore patrol vessels, amphibious ships and frigates. However, many FLOAN assets are old and the navy is making considerable
‘In association with ....’
Wings of the Armada
Spanish Naval Aviation – which celebrated a century of operations last year – is one of Europe’s most potent maritime air arms, capable of projecting power to almost any point in the world. José Matos examines its current order of battle.
Above: The FLOAN has long been an enthusiastic operator of the Harrier family and today the EAV-8B+ spearheads the air arm. Here, VA.1B-29 ‘01919’ is part of a formation of Harrier IIs flying over the city of León in the northwest of Spain. Armada Española Below: A FLOAN pilot boards EAV-8B VA.1B-35 ‘01-923’ on the deck of the ‘Juan Carlos I’ (L-61). This jet was one of the first pair of EAV-8Bs to be remanufactured as EAV-8B+ aircraft and was redelivered in 2003. Armada Española
efforts to extend service lives of available aircraft with the help of national industry. Almost all FLOAN squadrons are based at Rota, near Cádiz, a base used by both Spain and the US. Strategically situated in the Bay of Cádiz, near Gibraltar, Rota is home to seven Spanish Navy squadrons. Four are equipped with helicopters (the 3ª, 5ª, 6ª and the 10ª) and two with fixed-wing aircraft (the 4ª and the 9ª). The final flying unit (the 11ª Escuadrilla) operates the Boeing/Insitu ScanEagle UAV from the Torregorda military complex, also near Cádiz. It is from Rota that personnel and assets are deployed on the numerous operations carried out
by the navy. Spain frequently participates in maritime security missions in the Mediterranean, including controlling illegal immigration, as well as NATO exercises. In the absence of the French carrier Charles de Gaulle, which was undergoing an overhaul in dry dock, the Juan Carlos I was a cornerstone of NATO’s Brilliant Mariner exercise in October last year (see Strike from the sea, January, p56-58). The manoeuvres took place off the French Mediterranean coast and included 25 alliance ships and 32 aircraft. The embarked air group on Juan Carlos I comprised six EAV-8B+ Harrier II jets from the 9ª Escuadrilla and three SH-3D Sea Kings from the 5ª Escuadrilla.
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Spanish Naval Aviation Left: An SH-3H Sea King moves stores between the ‘Juan Carlos I’ and the Álvaro de Bazán-class frigate ‘Blas de Lezo’ (F-103) en route to Iraq in May. The Spanish carrier was transporting three Spanish Army Chinooks and two Cougars, which flew off the vessel to Kuwait before heading to Camp Taji, Iraq. Armada Española Below: A mortar team from the 2ª Batallón de Desembarco, part of the Armada’s marine infantry branch, takes part in a heliborne training exercise. The 3ª Escuadrilla’s AB212s – known as ‘Gato’ (cat) – have recently been upgraded and have added maritime interdiction and surveillance to their primary amphibious assault mission. Armada Española
Spanish Harriers Beyond NATO, Spain has a history of close co-operation with the US Navy and the USMC in particular, which has a task force at Móron, near Seville. Back in the 1970s, the Spanish government managed to circumvent a British arms embargo and buy five AV-8S (VA.1 Matador) jets and two TAV-8S (VAE.1 Matador) trainers from the US. These arrived in Spain in November 1976, aboard the Dédalo. This first batch was later complemented by an additional five single-seaters received between June and December 1980. The first-generation Harrier was retired from FLOAN service in 1996 and sold to the Royal Thai Navy for planned service on board the HTMS Chakri Naruebet, a Spanishbuilt carrier of a design very similar to the Príncipe de Astúrias.
Meanwhile, in October 1987, the Spanish Navy received three EAV8B Harrier IIs, from the McDonnell Douglas factory in St Louis, Missouri, to equip the 9ª Escuadrilla. The unit received another nine EAV-8Bs for a total of 12: coded 01-901 to 01-912. In 1996-97, eight EAV-8B+ Harrier IIs arrived, equipped with the Raytheon AN/APG-65 multimode radar derived from that of the F/A18 but with a smaller antenna. These new jets – coded 01-914 to 01-921 – significantly boosted the squadron’s operational capabilities and the navy attempted to modernise its older EAV-8Bs to the same standard. However, due to a lack of funds only five jets were upgraded to full EAV-8B+ standard (coded 01-923 to 01-927). The other four were enhanced to an interim configuration,
dubbed SNUG (Spanish Navy Upgrade). Software problems meant the SNUG jets (01-903, 01-907, 01-909 and 01-911) were prematurely retired from service. Currently, the 9ª Escuadrilla has 12 single-seat EAV-8B+ jets and one TAV-8B two-seater (01922) for training new pilots. The single-seaters are all equipped with APG-65 radar and can carry AIM-9 Sidewinder and AIM120 AMRAAM missiles for air defence operations. For ground attack, they carry the AN/AAQ28 Litening II targeting pod, used to deliver guided weapons or perform reconnaissance missions. Navy pilots are trained at Rota and Harrier aviators must complete 120 flight hours on the type before being declared combatready. A considerable proportion
of tuition is focused on air-toground missions. The Spanish jets are currently operating with the H6.1 software standard but upgrade to H6.2 is expected soon. The Spanish Navy’s remaining fixed-wing types are three Cessna 550 Citation IIs and a single Cessna 650 Citation VII that form the 4ª Escuadrilla. These are responsible for the transport of VIPs, personnel and cargo as well as medical evacuation (medevac) and occasional maritime surveillance missions.
FLOAN helicopters Helicopter squadrons form the bulk of Spain’s naval air arm. Missions include anti-surface unit warfare (ASuW), anti-submarine warfare (ASW), amphibious assault, logistics, medevac and search and rescue (SAR).
FLOAN active inventory, 2018 Squadron
Spanish Tailcodes designation
7 x AB212(+)
3 x Cessna 550
1 x Cessna 650
7 x SH-3H
6 x Hughes 369M HS.13
12 x EAV-8B+
1 x TAV-8B
10ª Escuadrilla 12 x SH-60B 6 x SH-60F* 11ª Escuadrilla 8 x ScanEagle * deliveries continuing
Right: The Spanish Navy’s latest multipurpose amphibious assault ship, ‘Juan Carlos I’ has eight deck landing spots for Harriers. It’s seen during its operational qualification exercise with a full complement of EAV-8Bs and a single AB212 arranged on deck. Armada Española
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‘In association with ....’
Harrier IIs break to land at Rota after the end of the day’s mission. Note the Litening II pod carried under the starboard wing of the jet in the background. The pod can be used with the ROVER IV system to transmit imagery and telemetry. Armada Española
The oldest extant squadron is the 3ª Escuadrilla created in 1965 with four Agusta-Bell AB204Bs. In 1974 it received its first AB212ASW, and this type remains in use. The seven helicopters currently operational are undergoing an extensive modernisation approved in 2011. The €21m AB212+ project prolongs their service life to 2030. Work is being carried out locally by SENER/Babcock MCS España and introduces a new cockpit with four digital screens and electronic flight instrument systems (EFIS). Mission equipment includes a new maritime surveillance radar, electro-optical/ infrared (EO/IR) system, nightvision system, GPS and a terrain awareness warning system. The helicopters also receive a missile approach warning system and protective armour for the crew. The squadron has accumulated more than 70,000 flight hours with the first five modernised AB212+ helicopters and the remaining two are expected to be handed over this year. The rotorcraft can also be armed with a 7.62mm M134 Minigun for selfdefence or fire support to special operations and amphibious forces.
Above: Today, the FLOAN is the sole Hughes 500 operator within NATO. HS.13-10 ‘01-610’ is one of 6ª Escuadrilla’s surviving H369Ms, which have the local nickname ‘Argo’. The skid-mounted floats are a throwback to the type’s previous shipborne career. Patrick Roegies Below: SH-3H Sea King HS.9-14 ‘01-514’ of the 5ª Escuadrilla. The Sea King is the oldest helicopter within the FLOAN inventory and the same squadron has flown the type since its establishment in 1966. Patrick Roegies
used for troop transportation and amphibious assault, and their outdated dipping sonar has been removed. Despite its age, the Sea King remains important for naval operations and is able to carry 15 fully equipped troops. It can operate day and night thanks to a Wescam MX-15 imaging system and night-vision googles for the crew. The helicopters are also equipped with fast-roping/ rappelling equipment to work with special forces commandos. Finding replacement parts for the Sea King has proven difficult and the Armada purchased four SH-3Hs from the 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group (AMARG) at DavisMonthan Air Force Base, Arizona, as a source of spares. The main issues concern the rotor blades and transmission subsystems. Another problem is training, which is limited due to a lack of simulators. In the past, Spain has co-operated with Canada for Sea King tuition, but forthcoming retirement of the Royal Canadian Air Force CH-124 fleet will compound these difficulties. More than 50 years have passed since the Spanish Sea King’s entry to service and the type is now urgently in need of replacement. The Armada plans to supplant the type with the NH90 MTTH (Marinised Tactical Transport Helicopter), a specialised version
Amphibious assault Even older than the AB212s are the Sikorsky SH-3H Sea Kings of the 5ª Escuadrilla. This unit was created in February 1966 and received its first SH-3D (coded 01-501) for ASW missions four months later. Spain received 17 more ASW-configured Sea Kings up to 1974, and these were fitted with Mk46 torpedoes. In 1985, three Sea Kings (01509, 01-511 and 01-521) were equipped with a Searchwater radar for airborne early warning (AEW) missions, but Spanish SH-3s ceased performing this function in 2015. Today, the last seven SH-3Hs remaining in FLOAN service are
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Spanish Naval Aviation
Above: The FLOAN received its fifth modernised AB212+ last December 5, leaving two helicopters to be redelivered. HA.18-4 ‘01-308’ flew to Rota from Albacete heliport, where work had been conducted by Babcock MCS España. Roberto Yáñez
of this helicopter for amphibious support and special forces operations. A similar version, the NH90 MITT (Maritime Italian Navy Tactical Transport), began to enter service with the Italian Navy in January last year and the Spanish Navy hopes to acquire the same type in the next decade. The navy’s plans call for purchase of 28 NH90 MTTHs, but such an acquisition is by no means guaranteed. In March the then Spanish defence minister María Dolores de Cospedal announced a major investment plan for the Spanish military forces worth €10.8bn. The maritime NH90 is included in this long-term investment until 2033, but the policy could be subject to change in future.
Stopgap Seahawks? In 2010 the Spanish government announced plans to buy six refurbished SH-60F Seahawks
to replace the old Sea Kings; the final price tag was €92m. The SH-60Fs are being adapted for tactical transport missions, with capacity to carry up to 11 fully equipped troops. The helicopters were US Navy surplus, drawn from the 309th AMARG in Arizona and were acquired along with 13 new General Electric T700-401C engines (12 installed and one spare), plus support, training and inspection services, as well as spare parts and manuals. The helicopters were modernised in the US by Science and Engineering Services and the first was delivered in August last year, when the frigate Cristóbal Colón (F-105) visited Naval Station Mayport, near Jacksonville, Florida, returning to Spain the same month with the first SH-60F embarked (see Spanish Navy receives SH-60Fs, November 2017, p11). The delivery schedule calls for handover of
two helicopters in 2017, two next year and the last two in 2021. At this point, the last Sea Kings will likely be withdrawn from service. It’s still unclear if the SH-60Fs will be a definitive or temporary solution, and this depends on the future 15-year defence investment plan, which includes NH90s for the navy. If the NH90 acquisition doesn’t materialise, the Armada may buy more SH-60Fs. The new Seahawks are initially being integrated in the 10ª Escuadrilla, which was established in 1988 to receive the first SH-60B models. Spain was one of the first export customers for the SH-60B Seahawk, receiving an initial batch of six in December 1988 and a second similar batch in October 2002. Meanwhile, the helicopters from the first batch were modernised to the same configuration as the later examples, known as SH-60B
Block I Core B LAMPS (Light Airborne Multi-Purpose System) III. The SH-60Bs were acquired to operate from F100 Álvaro de Bazánclass air-defence frigates and Oliver Hazard Perry-class frigates – the latter known locally as the F80 Santa María class. Each frigate’s assigned helicopter flight is known as an Unidade Aérea Embarcada (UNAEMB). Beside the frigates, the SH-60B can operate from the BAM Meteoro-class patrol boats, which first became operational in 2011. The arrival of the SH-60B led to the conversion of the Sea King fleet for assault missions in 2001. In terms of weaponry, the ‘Bravo’ can carry Mk46 ASW torpedoes or a 12.7mm GAU-16 machine gun in the right-side cabin door – particularly useful for anti-piracy in the Indian Ocean. The Spanish Navy intends to acquire the Kongsberg AGM-119 Penguin antiship missile for the ASuW mission. The SH-60B can also be used for special air operations alongside the Fuerza de Guerra Naval Especial (FGNE), the Armada’s naval special operations force. The 10ª Escuadrilla reached 50,000 flight hours during a fleet exercise in the Bay of Cádiz in 2015.
Training missions The Hughes 369Ms of the 6ª Escuadrilla can also be used for special forces work. This unit was created in 1972 and received 14 ASW-configured 369Ms in several batches until 1977. These helicopters were gradually withdrawn from the ASW mission and began to train naval aircrew.
Left: SH-60B Seahawk HS.23-04 ‘01-1004’ flies a training sortie from Rota. While at their home base, the SH-60B crews are trained to maintain full readiness prior to deployments on board the Álvaro de Bazán- and Santa María-class frigates. Patrick Roegies
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‘In association with ....’
Spain Balearic Sea
carries an infrared sensor and camera to transmit imagery to the control centre in real time. Four drones were acquired in 2015 and made their operational debut the same year, aboard the landing platform dock Galicia (L-51), for Operation Atalanta in the Mediterranean. They flew 225 hours in the course of 33 sorties. Four more drones were acquired last year. At the end of 2017, six examples were deployed to Iraq to support Spanish forces in theatre.
The future Ibiza
Rota Torregorda Strait of Gibraltar
Armada pilots begin their training at the air force’s Ala 78 at Armilla, Granada, where they undergo a three-month basic course, flying more than 50 hours in the EC120 Colibri. They then go through a more advanced 50-hour course flying the Sikorsky S-76, also at Armilla. After completing these steps, prospective naval pilots go to Rota, where they undergo specific training with the 6ª Escuadrilla, lasting nine months. The unit has nine Hughes 369Ms, six of which remain active after having undergone modernisation to prolong their service life. Work was undertaken in Spain and also incorporated new systems to improve operational safety.
Drones of the navy The 11ª Escuadrilla, based at Torregorda, operates the ScanEagle UAV. Created in 2014, the squadron is stationed outside Rota to prevent interference with manned flying operations. The unit currently comprises around 50 personnel and absorbed a naval gunnery group that had operated from Torregorda with aerial targets for training naval crews. The ScanEagle is a small carbonfibre vehicle, weighing just 49lb (22kg), with an endurance of 20 hours. It can perform intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) and support special operations, or designate targets for aircraft and artillery. The catapult-launched drone
Above: The 11ª Escuadrilla was established in 2014 and is the only FLOAN squadron equipped with UAVs. As well as the ScanEagle, the unit operates target drones (seen in the background) to test and train naval air defences. Fito Carreto via author Below: U.20-1 ‘01-405’ is one of a trio of Cessna 550s assigned to the 4ª Escuadrilla. This, the first of the FLOAN’s Citation IIs, touched down at Rota in December 1982 and was followed by the second in February 1983. A third example arrived in 1988. Patrick Roegies
The 2008 global financial crisis continued to affect Spain into 2014 and this had an impact on the defence budget and restricted acquisition of new equipment for the Armada. NATO estimated Spain’s defence expenditure for last year as 0.92% of GDP, the same as it was in 2014. Budget constraints mean the FLOAN has been forced to delay plans to acquire the NH90, the arrival of which would enable replacement of the Sea King, the AB212 and even the SH-60F. The Spanish Navy now pins its hopes to the new investment cycle for the Spanish armed forces, which could finally replace these ageing helicopters. However, the FLOAN’s problems extend beyond the rotary-wing fleet and a significant portion of the inventory will come to the end of its useful life in the next ten years. The only option to replace the Harrier II fleet is the Lockheed Martin F-35B, but the cost of this aircraft makes its acquisition very difficult. For now, the Harrier will remain in service until 2027 and it’s possible that it will survive even longer, with a potential life extension programme keeping it in the air until 2030 or 2035. AFM
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Grupo de Aviación No 12
hen the Fuerza Aérea de Chile (FACh, Chilean Air Force) chose the F-16 Fighting Falcon as its new multi-role warplane in the first years of the 21st century, the plan was to establish a fighter force entirely composed of the ‘Viper’. The F-16 would replace the old Mirage 50 Panteras, Mirage 5 Elkans and Northrop F-5E/F Tigre IIIs. Despite the F-5s’ age, however, the ‘Southern Tigers’ continue to protect Chilean airspace and train new pilots for the force.
‘Viper’ trials After the first F-16C/D Block 50 jets arrived in January 2006, they deployed to Chile’s southernmost fighter base – Punta Arenas in Patagonia. But it was soon clear that regular operations in the region could be a problem. Patagonia is famous for its very strong winds, often gusting around 62mph (100km/h), while the area’s soil is typically full of small, round stones that are easily moved by the gales – clearly a foreign object damage (FOD) threat
on the runway for the single-engine F-16 with its low-slung air intake. Maintaining regular F-16 operations at Punta Arenas would be a challenge, and on windy days (mainly encountered during summer) the runway would have to be swept clean before every take-off. Following the new-build F-16C/Ds, a batch of 18 F-16AM/BMs, purchased from the Royal Netherlands Air Force, arrived from September 2006. Another 18 ex-Dutch F-16AMs were ordered in April 2007.
Operations in southern Chile are difficult, mainly due to the weather, which prevents aircraft from flying for many days of the year. Strong wind is a problem, as is snowfall in winter and powerful storms generate severe turbulence. All photos Katsuhiko Tokunaga/ DACT
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Fighters Based at Punta Arenas, near the tip of South America’s Patagonia region, the Grupo de Aviación No 12 and its Northrop F-5E/F Tiger IIs form the world’s southernmost fighter unit. Santiago Rivas reports on the group, with photography by Katsuhiko Tokunaga.
at the end of the world
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Grupo de Aviación No 12 An F-5E hooked up to a KC-135E from Grupo de Aviación No 10 during a dusk aerial refuelling sortie. The FACh’s three ex-USAF Stratotankers are supplemented by four KC-130R Hercules that entered service with the same unit from 2015.
With the order for this second batch confirmed, it was decided they would replace the Mirage 50 Panteras with Grupo de Aviación No 12, at Base Aérea Chabunco in Punta Arenas, the last of them withdrawing from FACh service in December 2007. As the additional F-16s arrived, it was announced the F-5s would be retired by the end of 2009 – but earlier that year the F-16’s FOD limitations led to the decision to send the older jets to Chabunco until a long-term solution could be found. Delivered between 2010 and 2011, the final batch of F-16s was instead stationed at Grupo de Aviación No 7 at Cerro Moreno air base in Antofagasta, where they took the F-5s’ place.
A brief history The Chilean Tigers received refuelling probes under Project Romulo, work on which was completed locally in 1998 with support from Tiger Century Aircraft of California. Spectacular Patagonian scenery is the backdrop to most of the training sorties flown from Chabunco in Chile’s southernmost region of Magallanes and Antártica Chilena.
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The FACh first requested US government permission to buy 25 Northrop F-5A/B Freedom Fighters in 1967. When this was denied, Chile instead bought 21 Hawker Hunters, which equipped the Grupo de Aviación No 7 at Los Cerrillos, near Santiago. By the early 1970s, Salvador Allende’s socialist government was considering buying MiG-21s, but a successful coup against the
Chilean president on September 11, 1973 installed a military government. Once again, the FACh requested F-5s, now in the shape of the F-5E/F Tiger II. The US government this time agreed and by September 1974 a contract had been signed for 15 single-seat F-5Es and three two-seat F-5Fs for $55m in a programme named Peace Llama. Deliveries began on July 25, 1976 and the aircraft received the serials J-800 to 814 (F-5E) and J-815 to 817 (F-5F). Their operating unit was Grupo de Aviación No 7, at this time based at Los Cerrillos. The Hunters meanwhile transferred to Grupo de Aviación No 8 at Cerro Moreno, at Antofagasta in the north of the country. Before the end of the year the Tigers also moved to Antofagasta to make use of the base’s superior facilities. A US embargo declared shortly after deliveries took place seriously affected F-5 operations, as support from the factory dried up. In 1978, tensions rose with Argentina over a border dispute in the Beagle Channel and both countries almost went to war, the Tiger unit making efforts to put as many aircraft in service as it could while maintaining a constant alert. Two jets deployed to Santiago’s international airport, at Pudahuel, to protect the capital. With the crisis resolved by the end of December, by the following year the situation had returned to normal. In the late 1980s, Israel Aircraft Industries (IAI) and Chile’s ENAER (Empresa Nacional de Aeronáutica de Chile, National Aeronautics Company of Chile) began a project to modernise the F-5s. The Israeli company offered its F-5 Plus under Project Tiffany and in 1990 the FACh contract signed a $300m contract to modernise 16 aircraft. F-5E serials 805 and 817 went to Israel to serve as prototypes for the upgrade. The main changes included installation of an Elta EL/M-2032 radar, GPS, a Mil Std 1553B data bus and mission computer. The cockpit saw the addition of two multifunction displays, an inertial navigation system (INS) integrated with an Elop head-up display (HUD) and handson-throttle-and-stick (HOTAS) controls.
Upgrades also included an EWPS-100 integrated electronic warfare system, developed in Chile by DTS, a DM/A-104 radar warning receiver (RWR), DM/A-202 chaff and flare launchers and an A-401 electronic jammer. As for weaponry, the jet could now launch AIM-9P Sidewinder and Rafael Python 3 airto-air missiles (AAMs). The newly modernised aircraft were named F-5E/F Tigre IIIs. In January 1997 a contract with Tiger Century Aircraft of California installed refuelling probes on the F-5s under Project Romulo. The work, undertaken at ENAER facilities, was completed in 1998. By then the fighters had also adopted Python 4 AAMs – 280 of which were bought together with Elbit Display and Sight Helmets (DASHs). Another round of modernisation began in 2002, adding new multifunction displays, a RADA ground debriefing system, data link and the ability to launch the Rafael Derby AAM. The FACh purchased 84 of these weapons, giving the F-5s a beyond-visual-range capability. The aircraft were then renamed Tigre III Plus.
In Punta Arenas
The Tigre III upgrade added an EWPS-100 integrated electronic warfare suite, including DM/A-202 chaff and flare launchers. Below: A member of the maintenance team works on an F-5E’s twin M39A2 Colt-Browning 20mm cannon.
F-5E serials 801, 802, 803, 805, 807, 810, 813 and 814, and F-5F serials 816 and 817, deployed to their new base at Chabunco, Punta Arenas, on March 19, 2010 – followed later by 806 – while 811 and 812 went to the National Aeronautics Museum at Santiago after being stripped of useful spares. Aircraft 804 and 808 retired and F-5F 815 remains in storage at ENAER facilities. The FACh’s KC-135E Stratotankers can provide air-to-air refuelling for the F-5s – but the air force also bought four KC-130R Hercules from the US to expand its tactical air transport capacity (which previously consisted of two C-130Hs and one C-130B) as well as offering dedicated AAR for the jets. For fighter missions, the Tigre III Plus can be armed with Python 4 and Derby missiles; for air-to-ground operations it uses dumb Mk82 bombs that can be fitted with Lizard or Paveway laser guidance kits.
Lead-in fighter training The Tigre III Plus is currently used mainly for the final step in training new Chilean fighter pilots destined to fly the F-16: the FACh considers the Viper too easy to fly for a fledgling aviator, and that experience on the F-5 is essential to become a rounded fighter pilot. Aircrew arriving at the unit have already been trained as fighter pilots on the A-29B Super Tucano and the older A-36 Halcón (a CASA C-101 built under licence by ENAER), both in service with Grupo de Aviación No 1 in Iquique. But the F-5 is their first ‘real’ jet fighter and the local operating environment is genuinely challenging. Transition is difficult with only one F-5F currently operational, but the unit expects to have its other twoseater returned to service before long. Plans to replace the F-5s with F-16s have been shelved, but different options have been considered, including the Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) FA-50, Leonardo M-346 and second-hand Gripens or Typhoons. Until now, budget reductions have seen these options discarded.
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Grupo de Aviación No 12 The Uruguayan Air Force showed interest in buying Chile’s F-5s in 2013 as it sought a new fighter to provide better control of its airspace than its Cessna A-37Bs. In March that year, three F-5Es and an F-5F flew direct from Punta Arenas to Montevideo to take part in celebrations for the centenary of the Uruguayan Air Force, which wanted a supersonic jet capable of carrying AAM armament; but lack of funds put paid to a purchase. For now, at least, Chile has decided to keep the Tigre III Plus operational. Patagonia’s poor weather limits its flying hours – and, therefore, airframe fatigue – and the jets are still good for at least another ten years’ service. In 2016, US-based Kellstrom Defense began to work with ENAER and the FACh on a complete overhaul of the wings, including a completely new skin, which will extend the jets’ service life well into the next decade and possibly until 2030. Chile has no immediate threats in its ‘deep south’, and Argentina – the only country neighbouring its southern regions – doesn’t have fighter units permanently stationed nearby. So far, the FACh has been reluctant to introduce another new fighter type, with an eye on keeping logistics simpler and cheaper, and it’s possible the F-5 will eventually be retired without replacement, leaving the air arm with an all-F-16 fighter force. AFM Above: This revised paint scheme – with darker grey upper surfaces – has been tested on F-5E serials 806, 807 and (seen here) 813. Left: Ground crew refuel F-5E serial 807 in a shelter at Punta Arenas. The fighter is armed with wingtip Python 4 AAMs. This highly agile weapon is used in conjunction with the Elbit Display and Sight Helmet system (DASH). Below: Grupo de Aviación No 12 pilots fly with the southernmost combat aircraft unit in the world, based next to the Magellan Strait. Today the unit is primarily tasked with preparing fighter pilots for the frontline F-16 fleet.
A pair of Tigre III Plus jets taxies to the runway at Base Aérea Chabunco. Compared with the F-16, the F-5 is better able to cope with the FOD threat at the windswept base.
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Icelandic Coast Guard
Always pre t’s a cold, rainy and windy morning when the Joint Rescue and Coordination Centre (JRCC) at Skógarhlíð receives an emergency call. There’s been a car crash on a remote road along Iceland’s south coast. Within seconds, the JRCC scrambles all necessary emergency services, including a medical evacuation (medevac) equipped Icelandic Coast Guard Super Puma and a Dash 8 surveillance aircraft. Once rescuers are on the scene, the wounded driver is stabilised and flown quickly to the nearest hospital in Reykjavík. Helicopter emergency medical services (HEMS) are among the many tasks of the heavily burdened Aviation Department of the Icelandic Coast Guard.
Strategic position Iceland is one of Europe’s most thinly populated countries with a population of almost 333,000
spread over 40,000 sq miles (103,600km2). In April 1949, the country became one of the founding members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). With no standing army, Iceland relied heavily on military support from NATO allies and a military agreement was signed with the United States in May 1951 to establish the Iceland Defense Force (IDF). The IDF comprised units and personnel from the US Army, US Coast Guard, US Navy and US Air Force. Among the many air assets stationed in Iceland over the years was the USAF’s 82nd Fighter Interceptor Squadron (FIS) that took over air defence of Iceland in 1953, followed by the 57th FIS ‘Black Knights’ between November 1954 and its deactivation in March 1995. A rotational US Navy P-3 Orion detachment was present until the IDF was disbanded in September 2006.
Subsequently, air surveillance duties were taken over by NATO units as part of the Icelandic Air Policing mission from May 2008. With increased Russian submarine patrols in the North Atlantic, the US Navy decided to resume rotational detachments of P-8A Poseidons in 2016.
Non-standing military Without a standing military, Iceland’s defence is handled by a number of civilian and paramilitary branches, including the Icelandic Coast Guard (Landhelgisgæslan), the National Police (Lögreglan) and the Icelandic Crisis Response Unit (Íslenska Friðargæslan). The latter was set up in the early 1990s as a peacekeeping unit under the control of the Ministry for Foreign Affairs. Consisting of personnel drawn from the National Police, the
ICG AS332L1 Super Puma TF-SYN conducts training over the thermal fields close to Reykjavík. The coast guard Super Pumas completed 255 SAR missions last year – a new record. All photos Martin Scharenborg and Ramon Wenink
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Martin Scharenborg and Ramon Wenink visited the Icelandic Coast Guard’s Aviation Department based at Reykjavík Airport, to report on the challenges currently facing the unit that proudly honours the motto Við erum til taks – ‘always prepared’.
ICG history After the arrival of the country’s first arme d patrol vessel in June 1926, the Icelandic Coast Guard was officially established on July 1 of that year and gradually took over patrolling tasks from the Danish Navy. The extension of territorial waters in 1952 to 4nm and eventually to 200nm in 1975, led to a growing fishing jurisdiction and resulted in the ‘Cod Wars’ with nations that also fished in the seas around Iceland, in 1958, 1972 and 1975. These standoffs ended succe ssfully for Iceland, but required an increase in fishing protection duties and other patrol activities to maintain maritime safety and security. The ICG staff was gradually expanded and new equipment purchased to meet the growing demands. Today, the coast guard operates four patro l vessels: Thor, Týr, Ægir and Baldur. The latter is also used for hydro graphic survey and surveillance.
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Icelandic Coast Guard Right: A mountain rescue specialist uses a flare to attract an incoming ICG Super Puma at Úlfarsfell, a mountain around seven miles from Reykjavík. Below: An observer controls the seaways south of Iceland during a regular patrol flight on board the Dash 8. Two consoles are permanent observation stations while the third can be used for training.
Icelandic Coast Guard and others, the unit has participated in UN and NATO-led operations including in Palestine and Afghanistan and has played an important role during peacekeeping operations in the Balkans, Sudan and Liberia.
Icelandic Coast Guard The Landhelgisgæslan, or ICG, is a civilian agency responsible for law enforcement in the seas around Iceland, maritime safety, search and rescue (SAR) and monitoring of airspace around the country. Around 200 people work for the coast guard under the ICG’s motto ‘Always prepared’. Together with other countries in the region, the ICG gathers and analyses information to create an accurate situational awareness picture at all times. This is carried out with a limited, but efficient fleet of ships, aircraft and helicopters. Additional tasks include explosive ordnance disposal (EOD), hydrographic survey and nautical charting, lighthouse services, pollution control, the combating of international terrorism, emergency medical transportation and provision of assistance to law enforcement units on land.
Aviation Department In addition to the patrol vessels, aircraft and helicopters are indispensable for the control of
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a Search and Rescue Region (SRR) measuring 733,594 sq miles (1.9 million km2). The Aviation Department of the ICG was founded on December 10, 1955 when a PBY-6A Catalina was taken over from the IDF and registered TF-RAN. Until then, the ICG had leased civilregistered patrol aircraft. The Catalina was eventually supplemented by C-54 Skymaster TF-SIF in 1962 and, three years later, the ICG received its first helicopter: Bell 47J TF-EIR. The single Bell was complemented by Sikorsky S-62 TF-GNA in 1972 and two OH-13S helicopters in 1973, registered TF-HUG and TF-MUN. In 1963, the Catalina was retired and, in the first half of 1969, the Skymaster was joined by two Grumman HU-16C Albatrosses loaned from the US Coast Guard. A final successor for both the Catalina and Skymaster was found in 1971 with Fokker F27-200 Friendship TF-SYR; a second Friendship, TF-SYN, was added in 1977. A new Hughes 369C helicopter was acquired in 1976 with the registration TF-GRO. This latter was sold after a crash landing and replaced by a Hughes 500D with the same registration. In 1984, the ICG acquired SA365 Dauphin TF-SIF. This aircraft was sold in 1985 and replaced by another Dauphin with the same registration later that
year. In 1986, the Hughes 500D was sold and replaced by an AS350B Écureuil that initially carried the same identity, but was later re-registered as TF-SYR. The Écureuil served with the ICG until 2000 and the Dauphin survived until 2007, when it ditched due to engine failure in waters close to Reykjavík.
Current rotary fleet The first steps towards the current helicopter fleet were taken with the delivery of AS332L1 Super Puma TF-LIF in 1995. As a result of the type’s excellent performance in challenging weather conditions, a second Super Puma was leased from Norway’s Airlift company from 2006 to 2009, with the registration LN-OBX. In 2007, an additional Super Puma, TF-GNA, was leased from Norsk Helikopter, followed by TF-SYN in 2012. Today, the ICG operates three Super Pumas – TF-LIF, TF-SYN and TF-GNA – of which the latter two are painted in a smart and highly conspicuous orange colour scheme. The standard Super Puma crew consists of five people: captain, pilot, winch operator/ air mechanic, rescue man/navigation officer and doctor. The aircraft is equipped with a dual rescue hoist, direction finding
on 121.5Mhz and autopilot. The HEMS/ medevac Super Pumas are also provided with a Lucas cardiac resuscitation device, Lifepak 15 mechanical airway/respiratory device, portable ultrasound, splints and chest drains and other medical equipment. In the transport role, the Super Puma can carry up to 20 passengers and has a 625nm range. Both TF-GNA and TF-LIF are equipped with four-axis autopilot while TF-SYN is capable of limited SAR work only, due to its three-axis autopilot. TF-LIF has additional sponson fuel tanks with a 1,133lb (514kg) capacity to extend its range. Walter Ehrat is an ICG Super Puma commander. He said: “Rough weather, strong winds and winter darkness are among the biggest challenges facing us. The North Atlantic Ocean is not exactly the calmest sea on earth; its enormous waves and strong currents can make search and rescue operations incredibly difficult.” Ehrat began his flying career in the US in 1988 and was a pilot for various civilian helicopter operators in the US, Iceland and Greenland. He’s been with the ICG since 2006. He explained: “The ICG conducts several search and rescue exercises with its NATO partners every year, including in relation to the regular deployment of allied fighters in Iceland as a part of the NATO mission. The ICG is responsible for providing SAR capabilities for these missions. “Another recent example is a successful SAR exercise our helicopters crews did with the crew of the German submarine U 32.” The submarine was in Iceland in late June last year to take part in Exercise Dynamic Mongoose, a NATO-led maritime anti-submarine warfare interoperability exercise. Ehrat added: “We also conduct regular exercises with our Nordic partners, such as with the ocean patrol vessels of the Danish Joint Arctic Command, which are regularly in Icelandic waters and part of our response structure.” When asked about his most memorable mission for the ICG, Ehrat responded: “Each flight is unique in its way, so it’s difficult to pick out any one. Night sea-rescue flights over
The Super Pumas equipped for HEMS/medevac are fitted with a hoist that can lift up to 272kg. They’re also outfitted with a cardiac resuscitation device, mechanical airway/respiratory equipment, a portable ultrasound, splints and chest drains.
the deep ocean are all equally challenging. Bad visibility combined with high sea state at the outer limits of the helicopter’s range make for very difficult flights with high pressure on the crew to perform, and sound decisionmaking.” But he added: “The rescue of the crew of the burning cargo ship MV Fernanda in November 2013 always comes to mind as a challenging SAR mission where our helicopter played a decisive role. This operation is a good example of how skilled our crews are in executing complex and challenging tasks under extremely difficult conditions. Thanks to continuous training, discipline and co-operation between departments, this operation was highly successful with the lives of 11 crew members saved.” The ICG helicopters are becoming increasingly busy. For example, in 2011 the rotorcraft flew 155 emergency missions, but five years later this had increased to 251 – in addition to regular exercise flights and patrols. Of the 251 missions in 2016, 93 were SAR and 132 were medevac.
Maritime surveillance On June 26, 2009 a brand new Bombardier Dash 8 Q300 Maritime Surveillance Aircraft (MSA), registered TF-SIF, was handed over to
the ICG by Field Aviation at Toronto Pearson International Airport in Canada. The Dash 8 was ordered in 2007 to replace the ageing Friendships that first entered service in 1971. The $30m contract included a standard Dash 8 Q300 that would be outfitted by Field Aviation and L-3 Communications with additional fuel tanks for an extended range of up to 2,200nm or ten hours’ endurance, an Elta Systems EL/M 2022(V)3 Maritime Search Radar (MSR), a side-looking airborne radar (SLAR) and a Wescam MX-15 electrooptical forward-looking infrared (FLIR) pod. All these sensors are integrated in the Windows-based MSS 6000 Maritime Surveillance System provided by ST Airborne Systems. This can be operated from three consoles in the main cabin. Two consoles are permanent observation stations, while the third can be used for training purposes. Furthermore, the aircraft is equipped with a large observation window, an air-operable cargo door to drop stores including life rafts, buoys and flares, and it can accommodate a stretcher for medevac work. Jakob Ólafsson is a Dash 8 commander with the ICG. He said: “The ICG used Fokker F27s for decades with great success. After 33 years
Above: The crew members of the Dash 8 pose after a lengthy patrol flight along the Icelandic coastline. From left to right: commander Jakob Ólafsson, Frlörik Höskuldsson, Gardar Arnason and Gunnar Om Arnason. Left: Super Puma TF-SYN was the most recent addition to the ICG’s rotary fleet, but is capable of limited SAR work only, due to its three-axis autopilot.
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Icelandic Coast Guard of service, it was replaced with a new and modern Dash 8. This transition can be likened to moving from a typewriter to a computer – the difference between the two aircraft and its equipment is huge. The Dash 8 was chosen after a careful and transparent selection process conducted by a board of aviation experts as well as government officials.” Ólafsson’s flying career with the ICG started in 1987 and he flew SAR helicopters before making the transition to the Dash 8 in 2009. He explained: “The versatility of the Dash 8 makes it the perfect choice for the ICG. With its stateof-the-art surveillance equipment, it has proved itself as an excellent law enforcement and surveillance aircraft, but also for environmental protection and pollution prevention at sea. The radar is capable of detecting small targets in rough seas as well as larger targets at ranges up to the radar horizon when the aircraft flies at its maximum operating altitude of 25,000ft. The Dash 8 is equipped with FLIR to facilitate closer inspection of targets, providing stabilised day and night imagery. It also allows the operator to read ship names in very low light conditions. The aircraft can also quickly detect and map any pollution at sea. The aircraft is equipped with a rear cargo door, which can be opened in flight for dropping life rafts and other survival equipment.” Ólafsson continued: “With regard to search and rescue, the Dash 8 can also be used for preventative surveillance, as well as participation in rescue at sea. Also, as the aircraft is able to operate from short airfields, it’s very well suited for operating in Iceland with many small airfields in remote areas.” The Dash 8 regularly takes part in NATO exercises around Iceland, Greenland and the Faroe Islands. In September last year, it participated in exercise Arctic Guardian 2017, the first operational exercise for the Arctic Coast Guard Forum. The exercise, held in Iceland, was an important step towards achieving closer co-operation between the agencies representing the coast guards in the eight arctic countries. The Dash 8 also actively supports FRONTEX, the European Border and Coast Guard Agency, and has been deployed to Spain, Italy, Greece and Senegal. The Super Pumas increase their patrol duties to fill in the maritime surveillance ‘gap’ when the Dash 8 is on exercise, is being overhauled or in need of repair. If more support is needed the Joint Arctic
Above: Dash 8 Q300 MSA TF-SIF was delivered to the ICG on June 26, 2009 and entered operational service a few days later on July 1. It replaced the ageing F27 Friendship TF-SYN that had been in service since 1977. Left: An ICG controller behind his screen at the Control and Reporting Centre at Keflavík Airport. The coast guard operates the NATO Iceland Air Defence System’s Control and Reporting Centre (CRC) Keflavík, which is part of the NATO Integrated Air and Missile Defence System (NATINAMDS). Iceland is home to four radar sites and the air command and control system at Keflavík.
Command, part of the Danish Defence, is called in to supply additional means of surveillance. Ólafsson explained: “The Dash 8 has played a crucial and unexpected role in monitoring volcanic eruptions in Iceland. With its advanced radar technology, the aircraft has demonstrated its capability to monitor eruptions and other natural disasters and thus contributed to scientific knowledge as well as public safety. Although no particular mission is more memorable than the other, the human suffering and desperation among refugees in the Mediterranean leaves a mark on those who participate in their search and rescue,” Jakob Ólafsson concluded.
Small force, big challenges With only a small fleet of aircraft, the Aviation Department of the ICG faces many hurdles in fulfilling its assigned tasks. Rear Admiral Georg Kristinn Lárusson, director general of the ICG, recognises the challenges his organisation faces, but at the same time underlines the capabilities of his personnel and equipment. He said: “The strength of the ICG does not only lie in our equipment, but primarily in the qualities of personnel who are both highly skilled and exceptionally capable at working under extreme conditions. Dedicated professionals fill every position throughout the agency, be it the aviation department, surface vessels or other parts of the ICG. I am not only happy about the strength of our amazing people, but also immensely proud.”
A lawyer and attorney, R Adm Lárusson has served as director general of the ICG and the Icelandic Hydrographic Service since 2005. Before that he was the first director of the Icelandic Directorate of Immigration and deputy commissioner and acting commissioner of the Reykjavík police. Looking to the future, R Adm Lárusson said: “The Dash 8 is relatively new, so for the immediate future there are no plans to replace it. The current helicopters will, however, become obsolete in the next few years and therefore the Icelandic government has begun preparation for the purchase of three new rescue helicopters to replace the existing ones. We are hopeful that these new helicopters will be in service around 2021. No decision has been made on which types we will use, only that they have to meet the same criteria as our current fleet. “As one of the key agencies of our country, the Icelandic Coast Guard has always enjoyed understanding and goodwill from the Icelandic government. However, like most public agencies, the ICG suffered severe funding cutbacks in the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis, from which we are still recovering. This situation means we are unable to keep our helicopters, aircraft and vessels in full service, as we would like to. Nevertheless, the current government’s decision to prepare for the purchase of three new helicopters clearly indicates that the ICG enjoys its full support and that brighter times lie ahead.” AFM
Above: Super Puma TF-LIF sports the colours of the Icelandic flag: blue, white and red. It’s the oldest helicopter in the ICG inventory – built in 1987 and delivered to its current operator in 1995.
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Adventures of a Cold War Fast-Jet Navigator The Buccaneer Years
Covering two of my main interests – the Blackburn Buccaneer and the Cold War – this is a book I’ve been eagerly awaiting since it was first announced last year. And it doesn’t disappoint. The
author served in the RAF for almost 40 years, as a navigator on the Buccaneer S2 and later the Tornado GR1. This first volume recalls his early career operating the Buccaneer on three frontline tours, and later as an instructor on No 237 Operational Conversion Unit. But the author goes back even further, covering his early school years and how the desire to fly developed during his youth and time spent spotting at his local airport. It’s a well-trodden path and a substantial section is devoted to this at the expense of more flying-related stories. Indeed, it is the author’s time on the operational squadrons during the Cold War that raises this book above the rest. The accounts of ‘block parties’ at RAF Laarbruch in Germany are entertaining and
show that, despite the backdrop of the Cold War, there were occasions for aircrews to enjoy themselves. Most impressive is the author’s ability to put the reader into the rear cockpit of the Buccaneer during a demanding training sortie, or in the crew room with his fellow officers as they participate in a NATO evaluation. His account of being woken up in the early hours and expected to plan a short-notice counter-strike against a supposed Warsaw Pact attack is a particular highlight. Coupled with mock gas attacks against Laarbruch, and preparations for one-way nuclear missions, the book offers some thought-provoking reading. Hopefully the second volume covering the author’s years in the backseat of the Tornado GR1 focuses on the flying just a little more. Glenn Sands Publisher: Pen & Sword Publishing Author: Wing Commander David Herriot Pages: 306 Price: £25 ISBN: 9781526706591
Westland Wessex 1958 onwards (all models) – Owners’ Workshop Manual Charismatic and versatile, the Wessex served the Royal Navy – and later the Royal Air Force – for 44 years. Loved by all who flew and maintained them, the last RAF examples were retired in 1998 and the type soldiered on with the Uruguayan Navy into the 21st century. Having previously published Owners’ Workshop Manuals on the Sea King, Lynx and Chinook, it was only a matter of time before the Wessex got the same treatment. This latest title follows the established format of a ‘nutsand-bolts’ look at the helicopter, interspersed with aircrew accounts from the Fleet Air Arm and RAF. The author is a former RN helicopter engineer, and this shows in the level of detail within the text. Complex hydraulic and flight control systems are clearly
and simply explained. But it’s not all about the engineering. The author has assembled an impressive collection of images to illustrate the many Royal Navy squadrons that operated the type, and the missions they took part in. Perhaps the Wessex’s greatest role was during the Falklands War and pilot Cdr Ian Stanley provides a vivid account of operations in the South Atlantic. There is also information on the previously little-reported SAR operations around Northern Ireland during the height of The Troubles. Unique accounts such as these demonstrate the quality of this series. An excellent book on an often overlooked helicopter. Glenn Sands
Publisher: Haynes Publishing Author: Lee Howard Pages: 189 Price: £25 ISBN: 9781785211171
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
Drone Strike! UCAVs and Unmanned Aerial Warfare in the 21st Century
In Crécy’s second volume on unmanned combat air vehicles (UCAVs), author Bill Yenne continues where he left off in 2010’s Birds of Prey: Predators, Reapers and America’s Newest UAVs in Combat. Since then, the technology has reached levels never thought possible and the author provides a highly detailed look into this secretive and, in some cases, controversial world of armed drones in combat over Afghanistan and Iraq. There are detailed accounts of CIA-operated drones hunting for Taliban suspects and how the US chain of command gained permission to launch missile strikes against certain individuals. In some cases this required approval from the White House. But it’s not only US programmes covered in this book and the reader will find coverage of projects such as the UK’s Watchkeeper and Taranis, the French Harfang and China’s Warrior Eagle. Along with an in-depth technical explanation of each type, there’s a timeline explaining how the projects evolved over the years and what the future holds for them. The author finally clears up the story of the RQ-170 Sentinel, the ‘Beast of Kandahar’, and how Iran allegedly captured one and reverse-engineered it for its own use. Remarkably, the entire story is illustrated with previously unpublished images from both the US and Iran. This alone is worth the cover price. Glenn Sands Publisher: Crécy Publishing Author: Bill Yenne Pages: 191 Price: £23.95 ISBN: 9781580072380
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Trainers w Alan Warnes considers the role of the light combat aircraft and assesses those available today.
oeing, in partnership with Saab, has won the US Air Force’s $9.2bn T-X trainer contract – and it’s almost certain the deal will lead to more than the initial 351 jets required. Other air arms are likely to follow America’s lead, particularly since economies of scale mean the aircraft could cost less than $20m apiece. The T-X could also be a game-changer if it’s developed as a light combat aircraft (LCA). Indeed, Boeing/Saab may already be working on initial LCA concepts. Developing an LCA from an existing trainer has become an established pattern, but T-X could
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change the landscape dramatically, with a potential LCA option likely to undercut the cost of any Western competitors. If Boeing/ Saab follow this template, aircraft in their crosshairs will include the FA-50 offered by Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) and the Leonardo M-346FA, both derived from losing entrants in the T-X competition.
Early LCAs In the UK, an LCA antecedent evolved from a jet trainer when the Hunting Jet Provost T5 spawned the BAC 167 Strikemaster in the 1960s. Although limited by its side-by-side seating arrangement,
146 were built and the type served with ten air forces. The Folland (later Hawker Siddeley) Gnat was originally configured as a single-seater, operated by Finland and India – the latter using it in the 1965 and 1971 Indo-Pakistani Wars. A dual-seat version followed when the RAF opted to use the jet as a trainer. More recently, BAe and now BAE Systems have sold the Hawk as a light attack aircraft to customers in the Middle East and Far East. Other older-generation trainers sold as light combat aircraft include the Aermacchi MB-326 – while, in the former Czechoslovakia, Aero
Vodochody produced a combat version of the L-39C Albatros trainer, known as the L-39ZA. In 1997 the company partnered with Israel’s Elbit Systems to produce the L-39ZA/ART with modernised avionics; 40 were acquired by the Royal Thai Air Force. The Northrop F-5, which sold in huge numbers, was also an LCA progenitor. These days the type is popular for adversary operations. The US Marine Corps operates 11 and the US Navy 30 single-seaters, while Renobased TacAir has acquired 21 ex-Royal Jordanian Air Force F-5s for the same purpose. They’re in
‘In association with ....’
with teeth Above: A Czech Air Force L-159 ALCA in formation with the company’s L-39CW demonstrator. The former is in frontline service with the Czech Republic and Iraq, while the latter allies the Cold War-era L-39 Albatros with new avionics and an FJ44-4M engine. Aero Vodochody/Katsuhiko Tokunaga Below: Light combat aircraft increasingly offer avionics capabilities to rival those of the more ‘high-end’ types. The M-346FA was presented at Farnborough this year alongside the newly integrated Grifo 346 pulse-Doppler multimode X-band radar. Leonardo
the process of being upgraded with fourth-generation systems.
OA-X In the past, the US has preferred to use ‘high-end’ frontline types for offensive missions rather than acquiring LCAs. But times are changing and the cost of modern ‘all-up’ combat aircraft is rising dramatically, leading the Pentagon to look at different options for ‘low-end’ conflicts, including counter-insurgency (COIN). The USAF Light Attack Experiment (OA-X) has studied the effectiveness of the Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC)/Embraer A-29 Super Tucano
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and the Beechcraft/Textron AT-6B. Unfortunately, the second round of trials was suspended after one of the Super Tucanos crashed at the White Sands Test Facility in New Mexico on June 22, claiming the life of its pilot. The USAF issued another request for proposals on August 2, saying: “The [Light Attack Aircraft] will provide an affordable, nondevelopmental aircraft intended to operate globally in the types of irregular warfare environment that have characterised combat operations over the past 25 years.” The document said a formal solicitation will be released in December and a contract awarded in the fourth quarter of Fiscal Year 2019. It appears SNC and Textron Aviation are again the only options being considered. According to the USAF, “they possess the capability necessary to meet the requirement within the air force’s timeframe without causing an unacceptable delay in meeting the needs of the warfighter”. This could be bad news for Aero Vodochody president and CEO, Giuseppe Giordo who, at this year’s Farnborough International Airshow, threw his company’s hat into the OA-X ring. He told reporters a new derivative of the company’s L-159, known as the F/A-259 Striker, would be offered to the US. Under development by Aero and Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) Lahav, it’s an updated L-159 with enhanced avionics including an Elta radar and modern weapons. “Aero is ready to offer the USAF a multi-mission aircraft with
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Top: The Royal Air Force of Oman was one of only three customers for the Hawk 200 – a single-seat LCA derivative of the advanced jet trainer. The RAFO Hawk Mk203s – and twin-seat Mk103s – are expected to be replaced by the eight new Hawk Mk166s, which will also be operated by 6 Squadron. Peter R Foster Above: The M-346FT was introduced at Farnborough in 2016 as the fighter/trainer variant of the M-346 Master. The demonstrator is seen with a combat-representative load-out of 500lb Paveway laser-guided bombs, AIM-9 Sidewinders and a centreline Litening targeting pod. Leonardo Below: Belarus has already explored the full combat capabilities of the Yak-130 – the Russian entrant in the LCA segment. Belarusian aircraft have conducted launches of R-73 air-to-air missiles against parachute targets and drops of live KAB-500Kr TV-guided bombs. Irtkut
‘In association with ....’
the best available technology today and huge potential for growth,” said Giordo. “Our two non-developmental solutions offer the US Air Force a real choice of low-risk, low-cost solutions in aircraft flying with coalition partners today.”
New European options Aero’s original L-159 Advanced Light Combat Aircraft (ALCA) has served the Czech Air Force (21 aircraft) since 2001 and made its combat debut in 2016 with the Iraqi Air Force. The IQAF took delivery of 12 single-seat L-159A jets from 2015 and its pilots were trained by the Czech Air Force’s Air Advisory Team (AAT) in Balad. During the campaign to oust so-called Islamic State, the IQAF’s chief, General Anwar Hamad Amin, told AFM: “The jet attacked 419 targets and dropped 859 Mk82 500lb bombs.” Aero is also developing a light attack version of the L-39NG – Senegal ordering four for delivery in 2020-21. As Aero Vodochody’s Marco Venanzetti, vice president, L-39NG, told AFM: “Evolving a light attack version from a basic trainer configuration means there don’t have to be any structural modifications. Our light attack aircraft will not need to be switched between training and attack – it’s been designed as one system. It’s up to you whether you want to put real weapons on or not.” With a two-man cockpit, the aircrew can share the close air support (CAS) mission. The
Above: T-50s take shape on KAI’s final assembly line. The Golden Eagle has racked up an impressive number of export sales – most customers opting for the TA-50/FA-50 versions with enhanced combat capability. Nearest the camera is one of 16 Indonesian T-50I variants. KAI
L-39NG will usually have five hardpoints, including one on the centreline to take a targeting pod – a ‘must’ these days – but the current L-159 doesn’t have one. The IQAF chief told AFM: “It definitely needs it and I hope we can get a system integrated soon.” As well as identifying the target, a pod can guide smart weapons onto it using an in-built laser. Pods are also useful for the CAS mission, enabling Joint Terminal Attack Controllers (JTACs) to receive a downlinked aerial picture via their ROVER terminal. Venanzetti added: “The basic light attack L-39NG will have two 350-litre ‘wet’ wings and will be cleared for Mk81 [250lb] and
Mk82 [500lb] laser-guided/free-fall bombs, CRV7 unguided/guided rocket launchers and a single/ twin-barrel gun pod. The latter will be available on the centreline as well as on two underwing pylons, should the customer need more firepower. This benchmark will satisfy 80% of our customers.” Such a variety of firepower is typical for today’s LCAs, and with the ‘wet’ wings there’s no need for fuel tanks on the wingtips. To ensure it can defend itself, the L-39NG’s two outer hardpoints can carry AIM-9L Sidewinder or Rafael Python 5 air-to-air missiles (AAMs). Another emerging LCA is Leonardo’s M-346FA, a fighter/ attack version of its M-346
Master advanced jet trainer which serves with Italy, Israel, Poland and Singapore. The ’FA features upgraded avionics and two additional wingtip stations that can be fitted with AAMs. The Italian company showed off its M-346FA, with a Grifo 346 radar installed, at Farnborough in July, where vice president international sales, Eduardo Munhos de Campos, told AFM: “We’re targeting the aircraft to be operational with the radar by 2020. [It] can go supersonic in a dive, 570kts at low level, pull up to between -3g to 8g and sustain 5g at 10,000ft.” The M-346’s simulated weapons and sensors have been replaced by the real thing. Munhos de Campos
A Republic of Korea Air Force FA-50 delivers a full load of inert ‘dumb’ bombs over a weapons range. The FA-50 is also capable of using precision-guided weapons including the AGM-65 Maverick air-to-ground missile and GBU-38 Joint Direct Attack Munition. KAI
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Intel Report explained: “A reconnaissance pod and targeting pod have also been integrated and we’re open to including GPS- and laser-guided weapons, air-to-air missiles and a complete defensive aids subsystem. We’ve already conducted trials with the AIM-9L Sidewinder and Lizard [Elbit Systems laser-guided bomb].” The jet is a step up from the L-159 or the combat version of the L-39NG, and Leonardo anticipates the M-346FA could open up a new range of clients in Latin America and Africa.
Korean Golden Eagle The KAI FA-50 also started out as a trainer. The Republic of Korea Air Force (RoKAF) acquired 62 (in T-50 and modified T-50B Golden Eagle configurations) and later bought 22 TA-50 lead-in fighter trainer (LIFT) versions and 60 FA-50s for the COIN/light attack role. The supersonic T-50 was never the cheapest jet trainer, and introducing an offensive capability made sense, reflected in sales to four export customers: Indonesia acquired 16 T-50Is in 2013-14, losing one in an accident; Iraq continues to receive 24 T-50IQs, the first ones arriving in February 2017; the Philippines operates 12 FA-50PHs; and Thailand has 22 T-50THs on order to replace its L-39ZA/ARTs – the first two were delivered in January.
Africa’s best bet? Light attack aircraft have long attracted interest from developing nations in Latin America, Africa and the Far East. Their flexibility means they can conduct training or be used in conflict. China has made good progress in these markets. The Aviation Industry Corporation of China (AVIC) has gained a foothold in countries traditionally targeted by Leonardo and Aero Vodochody, and now offers broad capabilities and attractive financing deals. More than 500 single-engined K-8s produced by AVIC subsidiary
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Although acquired as a trainer, the Pakistan Air Force’s K-8P can be fitted with a 23mm cannon in a centreline pack to fulfil a secondary attack role. K-8P serial 08-09-828 serves with 1 Fighter Conversion Unit at PAF Base M M Alam. Alan Warnes
Hongdu Aviation Industry Corporation have been sold to 13 nations, configured for advanced jet training or light attack roles. The trainer, which made its first flight in 1990, was followed by the light attack K-8W variant, with glass cockpit and a weapons delivery system, in 2007. The K-8W doesn’t have radar but can provide a useful ‘bang for the buck’ with its five hardpoints. A 23mm gun or laser targeting pod can be mounted on the centreline, while ‘smart’ weapons, such as 50kg or 100kg (110 or 220lb) LS-6 laser-guided bombs, HF-20 rocket launchers and PL-5E or YJ-9E missiles, can be fitted to the outer underwing pylons. The inner pylons can accommodate 6kg, 11kg and 50kg (13lb, 24lb or 110lb) training bombs. Owing to military sanctions, AVIC only offers K-8s with the Ukrainian Motor Sich AI-25TLK turbofan engine, which has suffered spare parts shortages in the past. Co-developer Pakistan meanwhile operates its K-8P trainers with Honeywell TFE731 turbofans.
Hongdu also offers two versions of its L-15 – the L-15A is predominantly a trainer while the L-15B’s primary role is referred to as ‘command and attack’. The B-model has a more modern configuration than the K-8 – with strakes, a blended wing/fuselage and leadingedge flaps. Once again, China looked to Motor Sich for the type’s AI-222K-25 turbofan. The L-15B has nine hardpoints to carry two 500kg (1,102lb) bombs or up to six 250lb (551lb) bombs, as well as a targeting pod. For self-defence it can carry PL-5EII AAMs on the wingtips and up to six SD-10A AAMs. The Zambian Air Force, the first export customer, has been operating six L-15Bs since 2016.
Turkey’s Hürjet An outsider in the LCA market is the Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI) Hürjet trainer, expected to fly by 2022. There will be a light attack variant too, known as the Hürjet-C. Importantly, the type is free from
Above: A trio of MBDA Dual Mode Brimstone air-to-ground missiles under the wing of Leonardo’s M-346FA demonstrator. An LCA armed with a weapon like this can provide a rapid response for close air support and COIN missions that is not possible from helicopters alone. Leonardo Below: An L-159A flight line at Balad Air Base in Iraq. In September last year, the IQAF chief, General Anwar Hamad Amin, told AFM that: “The ALCA has played a major role in defeating Daesh [so-called Islamic State]” in Iraq. IQAF
International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) restrictions. First shown in mock-up form at Farnborough this summer, it’s similar in size to the F-16. TAI’s corporate marketing and vice president, Tamer Özmen, told AFM: “Powered by an afterburning engine, it should reach speeds of Mach 1.2. “The Hürjet will call upon Turkish avionics and weapons, and initially act as a LIFT for the F-16 and maybe the F-35, as well as the new Turkish fighter [TF-X] due to fly in 2023.” Under a Hürjet protocol agreement signed on July 2, TAI, the Undersecretariat for Defence Industries (SSM) and the Turkish Air Force agreed to work together on the new jet. There will be five Hürjet prototypes, manufactured in two different configurations – an Advanced Jet Trainer (AJT) and a Light Combat Aircraft (LCA). According to Özmen, the Hürjet-C variant will incorporate systems to satisfy light attack aircraft requirements, including radar – and an “extensive payload” capacity of 6,000lb (2,722kg) to include locally built 250lb, 500lb and 1,000lb (113, 227 and 454kg) conventional and guided munitions. It will also include a conformal gun pod, targeting pod and withinvisual-range and beyond-visualrange (WVR and BVR) missiles. There’ll always be a requirement for LCAs – but, with most conflicts concentrated in areas with limited defence budgets, it’s likely that future domination of this market will come down to finance. It’s a lesson some of the larger aerospace companies might have to learn the hard way. AFM
NOVEMBER ISSUE OUT NOW: FEATURING: SUPER SQUADRON — ‘GREEN BATS’ AT 75 Nellis AFB, Nevada, is arguably one of the most important installations when it comes to the US Air Force fighter community. Jake Melampy flies with the 422nd Test and Evaluation Squadron, which boasts a mightily impressive inventory that arguably eclipses many complete air forces. F-15X — EAGLE VISION OR FAR-SIGHTED? Jamie Hunter assesses the chances of the US Air Force buying a batch of advanced F-15s to plug its air defense gaps. GLORY DAYS: VERTICAL CHALLENGES In the first of a two-part series, Joe Copalman looks back at the AV-8A Harrier, the US Marine Corps’ first step towards a V/ STOL tactical air force.
DRAKEN’S DEN Frank Visser meets Draken International, one of the leading contractor air service providers in the US and recent winners of a competition to furnish ongoing support at Nellis AFB.
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VMR Belle Chasse
Easy does it VMR Belle Chasse are the ‘people and parts’ specialists of the Marine Forces Reserve. Joe Copalman visited New Orleans to see the operational support airlift squadron at work.
f all the diverse missions flown by the US Marine Corps’ aviation component, operational support airlift (OSA) is one that gets very little public attention. The Beech UC-12 Hurons and Cessna UC-35 Citations that comprise the bulk of the USMC’s OSA fleet don’t release ordnance on dug-in enemy troops just yards from advancing marines, nor are these aircraft used on daring assault missions or for critical surveillance of high-value targets. Rather, Marine OSA units are tasked with moving high-ranking leadership around the US and throughout areas of operation (AOs) overseas. Performing this crucial mission ensures key leadership personnel are in the
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right place at the right time. Marine OSA units are able to provide this service with a flexibility to respond to unpredictable, short-notice taskings in a way that commercial air travel cannot, and for a fraction of the operating cost of larger tactical airlift assets. Within the Marine Forces Reserve (MARFORRES), the USMC’s reserve component, the OSA mission is largely provided by Marine Transportation Squadron (VMR) Belle Chasse, which falls under the 4th Marine Air Wing (MAW). The squadron is based at Naval
Air Station Joint Reserve Base (NAS JRB) New Orleans in Belle Chasse, Louisiana, flies under the static callsign ‘Easy’ (a nod to New Orleans’ nickname, ‘The Big Easy’), and is equipped with two UC-12Ws and two UC-35Cs. Maj Miguel ‘FES’ Peña, a reservist who flies both types and serves as VMR Belle Chasse’s director of safety and standardisation, identified the squadron’s primary mission as “to provide the lift capability for VIPs for 4th MAW”. When not hauling MARFORRES brass from A to B, VMR Belle Chasse performs a number
Above: Pilots newly arrived at VMR Belle Chasse are put through the UC-12W syllabus first, before moving on to training to fly the UC-35C. The squadron is one of only a handful in the US Marine Corps in which pilots maintain current type ratings on two different aircraft. All photos Joe Copalman
The pilots and enlisted aircrew of VMR Belle Chasse hold themselves to a three-pronged set of operating standards, known as the ‘SOP’ – safety, on-time performance, and passenger comfort. Elaborating on these standards, the unit’s Maj Miguel Peña explained: “If you’re not doing something safely, then you shouldn’t be doing it at all. On-time
Above: All aircraft assigned to VMR Belle Chasse wear the insignia of the 4th Marine Aircraft Wing. Left: VMR Belle Chasse aircrews routinely fly across the United States. Here, one of the squadron’s two UC-35Cs arrives at Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport in Arizona. Inset: The VMR Belle Chasse squadron insignia is a fleur-de-lis over a field of purple, gold, and green, New Orleans’ city colours. Below: With VMR Belle Chasse making frequent deployments to high-threat parts of the globe, defensive systems are a must. The squadron’s two UC-12Ws are equipped with the AAR-57 CMWS.
performance – we’re just a cog in this bigger picture, and the important people, the marines or the joint brethren in the back, they’ve got somewhere to be, so it is upon us to get them there on time. And then pax comfort – we like to envision our family members being back there. And if we wouldn’t do it with mama on board, we’re not doing it.” of other duties. Its aircraft are available for domestic joint force OSA tasking through the Joint Operational Support Airlift Center (JOSAC) out of Scott Air Force Base in Illinois, so VMR Belle Chasse pilots may find themselves transporting non-marines across the US as well. Maj Peña told AFM: “We’ll do JOSAC missions for any other military personnel requesting lift that is not economically feasible for commercial air to support. We also support movement of materiel and tools for 4th MAW assets when we’re doing exercises.” Additionally, VMR Belle Chasse provides lift for both Marine Forces North and Marine Forces South, with the latter often involving flights to places such as Mexico, Guatemala, and Belize. With all these commitments and only four aircraft, VMR Belle Chasse stays busy all year round, not just on weekends. While this would seem to contradict the view of reserve units as ‘weekend warriors’, MARFORRES is very much an active, operational reserve that augments, reinforces, and supports the active component, seven days a week, 12 months a year, and VMR Belle Chasse is no exception.
King Air and ‘the Jet’ VMR Belle Chasse currently flies the UC-12W, or ‘Whiskey’, variant that offers significant advantages in speed, range and capacity over the UC-12F/M models still in use with a handful of base flight units in the Marine Corps. Whereas VMR’s jetengined UC-35s bring speed to the OSA mission, the UC-12W brings versatility. Maj Peña: “The UC-12 is a multi-role aircraft. We have a cargo door that enables us to put on tools and materiel. With the UC-12 ‘Fox’ and ‘Mike’ variants, they have about four hours of fuel. What we’re flying here is the ‘Whiskey’ with the extended-range tanks, which give us the ability to carry on for an additional two hours, so a total of six hours.” This ‘swing’ capability makes the UC-12W a particularly good platform for maintenance rescue missions. The 4th MAW routinely
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VMR Belle Chasse Right: The squadron’s speedy UC-35Cs have proven to be a popular asset for fulfilling JOSAC taskings, moving joint force leadership across the United States and within areas of operation overseas. Below: The UC-12W features a glass cockpit with three large multifunction displays on the dash.
“If we wouldn’t do it with mama on board, we’re not doing it.” Maj Miguel ‘FES’ Peña
supports exercises and training events at locations away from a given squadron’s home station (which itself is typically not a Marine Corps Air Station, meaning reserve units are geographically separated from the same robust logistical support enjoyed by active-component squadrons). With the usual maintenance issues that come up, sometimes an aircraft en route to or operating out of a remote training site will need something tested, repaired or replaced. In those situations, the C-12 is a fast, economical option for bringing the parts, tools and maintainers needed for the job. As Maj Peña emphasised: “Instead of waiting for something to get trucked out there or waiting for FedEx, we can go there. They can open up a door, they can literally put the parts and people on the aircraft, and then we fly to their destination. We’re really user friendly in that the marines get to talk to us. ‘When you get there, talk to this guy,’ or ‘This part is going to this marine.’ ‘Ok, got it. I’ll get this to corporal so-and-so who happens to be the subject-matter expert out there for whatever is going wrong.’ That’s the kind of stuff you really can’t get with FedEx or UPS.” For outsized cargo, such as jet engines or for jobs requiring more maintainers than the ‘Whiskey’ can carry, MARFORRES still has two KC-130 squadrons that can perform those jobs. While the UC-12W can move people and parts economically, the UC-35C is the 4th MAW’s high-speed brass-hauler. Maj Peña, who flies both the ‘Whiskey’ and the UC-35C, outlined the advantages of the Citation: “The
jet is not as efficient [as the UC-12], but it allows for a faster time to get from point A to point B. A lot of the time, our general officers will request the UC-35 because it allows them to get to their destinations quicker.” Fully loaded with a maximum of seven passengers and their baggage, the UC-35 has about the same endurance as a fully loaded UC-12W – about three hours. The UC-35’s speed makes it particularly popular for fulfilling JOSAC taskings and VMR Belle Chasse flies several such sorties on a weekly basis. Missions employing the UC-35C comprise around 40% of VMR Belle Chasse’s monthly flight hours. When asked what the typical radius of action is for the UC-12 and UC-35, Peña replied: “We go wherever the mission dictates.” That assignment has seen VMR Belle Chasse operating out of Qatar, Afghanistan, Europe, Africa and Central America over the past decade. But for stateside, day-to-day operations, VMR tends to fly on a shorter tether. As Maj Peña outlined: “With both the King Air and the jet, we like to plan for about 1,100 miles. That’s what we can do, typically, without having to get into the weeds with planning…” As deployable assets that routinely fly to, from, and within hostile AOs, the squadron’s aircraft are equipped with defensive systems, fielding the BAE Systems AN/ AAR-57 Common Missile Warning System (CMWS) paired with BAE’s ALE-47 chaff/ flare dispensers. The current Marine Aviation Plan (AvPlan) has laid out a series of minor upgrades for both the UC-12 and UC-35,
with new navigation, communications and interoperability systems in the works, as well as some survivability enhancements including a third chaff/flare dispenser for the UC-12W.
Operational support aviators Like all other flying units within the 4th MAW, VMR Belle Chasse does not have any first-tour lieutenants straight out of flight school. Instead, pilots assigned to the squadron are often senior aviators with a decade or more of flying experience in active-duty ‘gun’ squadrons, with the majority being majors or lieutenant colonels. In addition to a cadre of active-duty and select reserve pilots assigned to the squadron, many of VMR’s aviators are ‘augmentees’ who work in non-flying billets within the headquarters of either 4th MAW or MARFORRES and fly the UC-12 or UC-35 to stay on flight status. Regardless of whether a pilot is assigned to VMR or an augmentee, all go through the squadron’s NATOPS (Naval Air Training and Operating Procedures Standardization) approved UC-12 and UC-35 conversion syllabi. Maj Peña, one of the squadron’s NATOPS instructors, highlighted the process for pilots new to VMR: “Unless they have prior UC-35 time, we’re not going to put them in the jet first. We bring them in through the UC-12. What we want to do is set guys up for success as much as possible. It seems to be an easier transition, particularly for rotorwing guys, to come fly the UC-12 first.” With the squadron so busy, new pilots hit the ground running. Maj Peña: “As soon as they
A side-by-side comparison shows the relative sizes of the UC-12W and the UC-35C.
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Below: Based on the civilian King Air 350, the UC-12W gives VMR Belle Chasse the flexibility to transport either personnel or cargo, and the endurance to carry these loads over long distances.
get through the syllabus, they’re a valued asset for us to use them for JOSAC missions on pax and parts runs, particularly when we’re supporting operations or exercises such as ITX, Emerald Warrior, or Raven.” Each summer, units from across MARFORRES deploy to Marine Corps AirGround Combat Center (MCAGCC) Twentynine Palms in California for the reserve Integrated Training Exercise (ITX), which serves as the two-week annual training period for many reservists. Being the marine reserve component’s ‘people and parts’ lift specialists, VMR Belle Chasse stays busy during the exercise. Describing VMR’s role in the exercise, Maj Peña says: “During ITX what we do is a parts run from Miramar to Pendleton to Twentynine Palms, back to Pendleton, then Miramar. That way, we’re able to get men
and equipment out there the same day. If our marines have something that they need to get, particularly for the skid [rotary-wing] community, because helicopters always need parts, we’re able to do that for them quickly so that they can continue with their missions.”
Expeditionary lift Visitors to VMR Belle Chasse are welcomed by the various deployment plaques covering the walls of the squadron’s ready room. In addition to maintaining a busy stateside flying schedule fulfilling marine and JOSAC lift requirements, the squadron also supports marine, joint force and coalition operations overseas. The squadron has sent several detachments to Afghanistan and Qatar over the past decade, flying missions in support of Commander, Marine Forces Central Command (MARCENT), primarily transportation throughout the CENTCOM AO for meetings with key joint force and coalition leadership. Having made several such deployments himself, Maj Peña explained how VMR dets usually work: “Deployments are typically about a ten-man det – five officers and five enlisted. Before, we were supporting [Commander] MARCENT, and we ensured while we were in Afghanistan that he was able to get back and forth to key leadership meetings. And if it wasn’t him, it would be state dignitaries or anyone else that had a need to go anywhere. We also supported JOSAC missions, supporting joint force commanders while we’re in Afghanistan,
moving those personnel, their straphangers or staff, their staff’s day bags, that kind of thing.” Along with using the det’s UC-12s to move the MARCENT commander and other personnel around, VMR Belle Chasse also performed parts runs in theatre. “We’d still move parts,” asserted Maj Peña. “There were times, particularly for H-53s in Afghanistan, where we were able to move parts out to nearby airfields in order to get them to the people, then they would push them out to the forward operating bases. But we rarely did that. We mainly did movement for personnel doing key leadership engagements.” With the reduced marine footprint in Afghanistan and the establishment of Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force – Crisis Response – Africa (SPMAGTF-CR-AF), the USMC’s overseas VMR presence has shifted from CENTCOM to Europe. There, VMR Belle Chasse has been supporting the commander of Marine Forces Africa (MARFORAF) out of Stuttgart, Germany. Maj Peña has deployed to Germany and outlined VMR’s role as such: “Since 2015, we have relocated to Europe supporting operations involving the Special Purpose MAGTF. Because they are a company-sized element that is aviation-centric, the Special Purpose MAGTF CO views his centre of gravity as his ability to be mobile and agile, and to be able to go around the rim of the Mediterranean and provide support for our embassies and relocate personnel, and if needed, protect them. Because his centre of gravity is his mobility, he uses us as a tertiary means to ensure that those aviation assets are always ready.” In addition to helping keep the MV-22Bs and KC-130s that comprise Special Purpose MAGTF Africa’s aviation combat element running, VMR Belle Chasse performs the same key leadership engagement mission for AFRICOM that it did in CENTCOM. Speaking of his time supporting the Special Purpose MAGTF CO, Maj Peña recalled: “We moved him from Djibouti to Entebbe. He did what he needed to there, and then also for security co-operation with Burundi, we moved him to Burundi from Entebbe, Uganda. I think at the time that area was going through some civil strife. I’ve supported them as well during the Ebola crisis. The Special Purpose MAGTF CO was tasked with the humanitarian aid and co-ordinating with the Chief Defense Counsel to help with the response.”
Looking ahead Recent organisational changes within the marine OSA community have seen MARFORRES take on a greater share of the corps’ OSA mission. This is most evident in the relocation of VMR-1 ‘Roadrunners’ from MCAS Cherry Point, North Carolina, to NAS JRB Fort Worth, Texas, and that squadron’s transfer from the active component to the 4th MAW. Under this same OSA reorganisation, VMR Belle Chasse has gone from being directly subordinate to the 4th MAW to falling under the operational control of Marine Aircraft Group (MAG) 41, one of two reserve MAGs. Aside from learning some new processes and taking on new responsibilities as a MAG-level asset, it should be business as usual for the marines of VMR Belle Chasse well into the foreseeable future. AFM
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Cleared NATO’s largest Joint Terminal Attack Controller exercise took place in the Czech Republic recently. Alan Warnes was there.
Arizona ANG F-16C Block 32 86-0296 ‘AZ’ lifts off the Náměšť runway in full afterburner. A Czech Mi-17 is seen in the background, in front of the tower. Timm Ziegenthaler
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d hot in Czechia
Two RAF No 100 Squadron Hawk T1As – XX303 ‘CR’ and XX321 ‘CI’ – deployed to Čáslav in late August. They spent the first week participating in Exercise Central Hawk, working with locally based Gripens and L-159s in air combat scenarios. They joined AMSE in the second week. All photos Alan Warnes unless stated
or two weeks in September, the Vzdušné síly Armády České republiky (VzS AČR, Air Component of the Army of the Czech Republic) hosted Europe’s biggest Joint Terminal Attack Controller (JTAC) manoeuvres. The Ample Strike Exercise (AMSE) involved more than 300 international participants from 18 allied and partner nations as well as 900 service personnel from the Czech military. Between 2003 and 2009 the British Army ran the event in the Czech Republic as Exercise Flying Rhino. In those days 2,000plus troops from the UK’s 1st Armoured Division would typically take part as preparation for the Afghan theatre. From 2010 to 2013, NATO Allied Air Command – which standardises and certifies alliance forward air control (FAC) and JTAC assets at Ramstein, Germany – hosted the local Ramstein Rover. The exercise returned to the Czech Republic in 2014 as Ample Strike.
AMSE participants Much of the activity was staged out of Náměšť nad Oslavou, the exercise’s Air HQ and home of the Czech Air Force’s 22. základna vrtulníkového letectva (22nd Helicopter Air Base).
The military contingent consisted of six 162nd Fighter Wing/Arizona Air National Guard F-16C/Ds, two Slovenian Air Force PC-9Ms, two Lithuanian Air Force L-39s plus locally based Mi-35s and Mi-17s. Civil participation comprised two Learjets and a PC-9. One Learjet – from the Gesellschaft für Flugzieldarstellung (GFD) based at Hohn, Germany – had been fitted with a Litening pod. The other, from Skyline Aviation at Eelde in the Netherlands, was equipped with a pod manufactured by the company and based around the MX-10 electro-optical/infrared (EO/IR) sensor. Both ran video downlinks to JTACs on the ground. The JTACs were provided with a ROVER (Remotely Operated Video Enhanced Receiver) – effectively a robust laptop enabling them to see what the aircraft or UAV can see. The PC-9, from EIS Aircraft – a Kiel-Holtenau, Germany-based firm recently acquired by QinetiQ – was modified with an EIS-made sensor pylon featuring an MX-10 EO/IR sensor with a low-light enhancer and a laser rangefinder. This was also ROVER-compatible to send a video feed to the ground forces. Hungarian and Czech Air Force Gripens also flew in AMSE, operating from their home bases
One of the two Slovenian Air Force PC-9Ms, L9-65 (c/n 638) prepares to touch down on the Náměšť runway. Czech Air Force via Dutch Aviation Media
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Lithuanian Air Force L-39ZA ‘16 Blue’ returns from a sortie, carrying a pair of 350-gal drop tanks. Three major ranges were active, two for the live-fire element. Czech Air Force via Dutch Aviation Media
at Kecskemét and Čáslav. The RAF’s No 100 Squadron joined in for the first week, flying two Hawk T1As from Čáslav, but four Polish Air Force Su-22M4 Fitters due to participate from Náměšť were cancelled after being grounded by ejection seat problems. Some of the JTAC activity took place at the nearby Vícenice Barracks, part of the Náměšť base structure, where an urban close air support scenario had been set up. A Mi-17, covered by a Mi-35, offloaded Czech troops to flush out ‘terrorists’ holed up there. As the operation unfolded, several aircraft, including the Lithuanian and Slovenian PC-9s, Czech
L-39ZAs and L-159s, flew singleship observation sorties around the ‘village’. The pilots and JTACs co-ordinated what they could see from the cockpit and the aircrew simulated the weapons drops. At other times, F-16s, Learjets and the EIS PC-9 participated, using their sensors to download imagery to the JTACs.
USAF participation According to the US Air Force, AMSE “offers a unique, real-world training experience that’s difficult to simulate at home stations”. As well as the six Arizona ANG F-16C/Ds, a KC-135R from the Nebraska ANG’s 155th
Air Refueling Wing/173rd Air Refueling Squadron was housed at Pardubice Airport for the two-week duration. In the second week a 62nd Airlift Wing C-17A made a lowlevel airdrop while airmen from the 2nd and 307th Bomb Wings flew a B-52H from RAF Fairford, Gloucestershire, to simulate a bombing mission over one of the ranges. The Arizona Guard F-16s arrived at Náměšť on September 1, via McGuire Air Force Base, New Jersey. It was a long haul and the first-ever deployment to Europe for the 162nd Fighter Wing’s 195th Fighter Squadron, predominantly
Skyline Aviation from the Netherlands sent Learjet 36A N116MA to AMSE 2018. Equipped with an EO/IR sensor under the starboard wing, it was used to video-link the aerial picture to troops on the ground.
a training unit stationed at Tucson Air National Guard Base. All single-seat F-16Cs carried Litening pods during the exercise. Chief Master Sgt Alfred Aragon of the 195th’s Operations Group told AFM: “The F-16s are using their Litening pods to datalink the aerial picture down to the JTACs on the ground.” He added: “We brought 97 personnel and 20-plus instructor pilots, and by the time we head home we will have flown over 100 sorties.” The F-16s usually conducted two sorties a day, one in the morning and another in the afternoon, with the dual-seater often flying a passenger taking part in the exercise. The ‘Vipers’ were regularly tanked during their missions by the Nebraska ANG KC-135R, and usually stayed airborne for more than two hours. Lt Col Edward Conner, a KC-135R instructor pilot with the 155th ARW, told reporters: “What I appreciate most about Ample Strike is that there’s no home-field advantage. We’re operating in unfamiliar territory with coalition aircraft, each with their unique capabilities, speeds and weapons systems. “Participating JTACs must traverse several miles of unfamiliar territory and utilise whatever weapons system is available for the day, on a target they’ve likely never seen before. This training is very much like what happens in the real world, in theatre.” The multinational exercise is of special significance to the 155th, which also deployed to Pardubice in June for Exercise Sky Avenger
“Participating JTACs must traverse several miles of unfamiliar territory and utilise whatever weapons system is available for the day, on a target they’ve likely never seen before.” Lt Col Edward Conner, 155th ARW
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were 620 controls by JTACs; 174 of them involved live-fire and there were 100 simulations by Close Air Solutions.”
Seen during an AMSE 2018 close air support sortie, Czech Mi-35 ‘Hind-F’ 3362 is operated by the 221. vrtulníková letka (221st Helicopter Squadron) at Náměšť. Czech Air Force via Dutch Aviation Media
(see September, p88-89). Col John D Williams, 155th ARW Operations Group commander and former US bilateral officer to the Czech Republic, said: “This year marks the 25th anniversary of Nebraska’s state partnership with the Czech Republic. “We have a high exercise tempo with the [nation], with sometimes as many as 20 small exercises in a year. Our training with them is fully integrated, spanning almost every job function.”
‘Hot’ sorties Čáslav air base and the Boletce Forward Arming and Refuelling Point (FARP) hosted aircraft for the live-firings – with Náměšť Mi-35s based at the latter. The US Army planned to contribute AH-64Ds but had to pull out, although two examples and a pair of UH-60Ms made regular visits. The 21. základna taktického letectva (21st Tactical Air Base) at Čáslav played the biggest part in the live-firings with its 213. Taktická Letka (213. TL, 213th Tactical Squadron) L-39ZA
Albatros and 212. TL L-159 Advanced Light Combat Aircraft (ALCA). The 212th Squadron’s commander, Lt Col Dennis ‘Dubra’ Dubravick, told AFM: “Last year we did 50% of all the [live-fire] controls but this time it is likely to be more. We usually offer four ALCAs and eight slots a day, but we’ve been providing 12 slots in the second week.” As well as CRV7 rockets and the Plamen PL-20 cannon, the ALCAs used BDU-33 and Mk106 practice bombs that simulate the Mk82 bomb. ‘Dubra’ explained the difference between the two practice bombs: “The Mk106 is a high-drag bomb for low-level delivery. It allows you to escape the drop zone without the threat of fratricide from the weapon. The BDU-33 is low drag, with a high-angle delivery at high altitude. These are fine for good weather ops from higher altitude. “Six of these [Mk106s] can be loaded into the SAU-5003 pods
but we usually only have four. So we can have two aircraft with four BDU-33s and four Mk106s, and another pair with the Plamen cannon and two LAU5002 rocket pods with up to six CRV7s each. It’s a good solution for the JTACs, depending upon the mission and the ground commander’s intentions. “The aim isn’t to drop all the weapons: we’re just a training tool for the JTAC. As we’re being led by the JTAC, what we drop depends on their instructions, but if they’re well trained we could end up dropping and firing everything.” Maj Michel Voltor, the deputy exercise director and 225th Combat Support Squadron deputy commander, told AFM: “All of the Czech Air Force JTACs are based with my unit here at Náměšť and AMSE provides them and the other 18 nations the tools to train. “During the first week we performed 200 flights and there
Above: Bristol-based Close Air Solutions spent two weeks at AMSE 2018, working with British Army personnel. Four different JTAC teams spent time in the simulators each day. Left: A 212. TL L-159 taxies to the arming point, where the remove-before-flight flags will be taken off the CRV7 rocket pods under each wing. Below the fuselage is the Plamen PL-20 cannon. The unit provided up to 12 slots per day for AMSE 2018.
One of the problems with a JTAC exercise is the cost of setting up the scenarios. Often this means there has to be a lot of pretence – pretending there’s a target, pretending there’s a bomb being dropped and pretending there’s a downlink from the aircraft. However, Bristol-based Close Air Solutions was set up in the main Air HQ building at AMSE to get around some of the issues and provide simulated systems for the JTACs. The company was set up in 2012 by two ex-RAF Tornado pilots, Mike Squires and Tom Ball. They’d worked at the Joint Forward Air Control Training and Standards Unit (JFACTSU) at RAF Leeming, North Yorkshire, before leaving the Royal Air Force, and could see the potential for simulation to provide capabilityspecific training for JTACs. Squires, the firm’s business director, told AFM at Náměšť: “Our systems meet the standards of accreditation laid down by both NATO and the US, and if you meet those standards, the guys can count them as JTAC controls, as if they were training with real aircraft in the field. “There’s quite a compelling business case for using simulation. We can put hundreds of assets on the ground and in the air, whereas using live [elements] is very expensive. For example, if the RAF was going to use a Typhoon, that would cost around £100,000 per hour. To fly around in circles! We could put up a virtual Typhoon and the JTACs can still count it in their logbooks.” Close Air Solutions ran four teams each day for AMSE, working to replicate many different scenarios all over the world, such as Somalia. “We want to challenge them,” Squires explained. The contractor was briefed on all the equipment before the JTACs ran the mission. It could involve mortars, helicopters, surface-to-air missiles (SAMs), armed unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and fast jets. Close Air Solutions’ presence meant the JTACs were able to train in a more complex environment than they could in a live environment, and with a lot more realism. AFM
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Last Royal Navy ‘Baggers’
ENDS ITS REIGN The retirement of the Sea King ASaC7 has finally called time on the UK military career of the venerable Sea King. Richard Scott reports from RNAS Culdrose.
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Above: Each three-man SKASaC crew consisted of a pilot and two observers – the RN’s weapons systems officer branch. The observer’s workstation in the rear cabin was outfitted with Link 16 functionality and full-colour screens under the upgrade from AEW2 to ASaC7. Lloyd Horgan Left: The three Sea King ASaC7s take off from RNAS Culdrose for the last time at 09.15hrs on September 26. The aircrew from 849 NAS flew over the Leonardo plant where the helicopters were made and various naval establishments in the Portsmouth area. Crown Copyright Below: Two of the last Sea King ASaC7s off the southwest coast on September 19. During the past 49 years, RN Sea Kings have been used for anti-submarine warfare, search-and-rescue missions, carrying Royal Marines Commandos into action and have provided AEW and ISR to the fleet and ground forces. Crown Copyright Bottom: Sea King ASaC7s ZE420 and ZA126 during their farewell flypast around Southwest England on September 19. The AEW Sea King was colloquially known as the ‘bag’ on account of the large inflatable radome lowered beneath the aircraft wheel level during flight. Crown Copyright
he Royal Navy (RN) retired its last Sea King ASaC7 (SKASaC) airborne surveillance and control helicopters on September 25, bringing down the final curtain on the Sea King’s near 50-year career in UK military service. The last three airworthy ASaC7 aircraft with 849 Naval Air Squadron (NAS) – ZE420 ‘89’, XV714 ‘88’ and ZA126 ‘91’ – flew from Royal Naval Air Station Culdrose, Cornwall to HMS Sultan near Portsmouth on September 26 for disposal. A fourth airframe, ZE422 ‘92’, was transported to Sultan by road. ZE420 and ZA126 had previously undertaken a farewell flypast around Southwest England on September 19 in company with a Merlin HM2 helicopter. The Merlin HM2, equipped with the Crowsnest mission package, is to take on the airborne surveillance and control role for the RN’s new Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carriers.
Falklands origins Colloquially known as the ‘bag’ on account of the large inflatable radar radome deployed from its starboard side, the SKASaC traces its history back to 1982 and the rapid gestation of the airborne early warning (AEW) Sea King under Project LAST (the acronym standing for Low Altitude Surveillance Task). Instigated following the loss of the Type 42 destroyer HMS Sheffield to an AM39 Exocet attack, Project LAST was a ‘crash’ programme covering the modification of two Sea King HAS2 helicopters to receive Searchwater radars. With acoustic kit stripped out, each aircraft received a palletised Searchwater radar installation (the scanner being deployed using a hydraulic swivel arm extending from the starboard cabin door) together with a single operator console in the rear cabin. Engineering, aircraft alterations and trials were completed by Thorn EMI and Westland Helicopters in the space of just 90 days, and the two Sea Kings embarked on board the carrier HMS Illustrious on August 2, 1982 to deploy to the South Atlantic. These aircraft, operated by D Flight of 824 NAS, remained on board for the duration of the ship’s deployment, proving the concept of heliborne AEW and kicking off the long-term regeneration of the navy’s AEW capability. Project LAST evolved into Naval Staff Requirement 6119, which was endorsed as part of the navy’s core programme in late 1982. Out of this came the ‘productionised’
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Last Royal Navy ‘Baggers’ Sea King AEW2 embodying the Searchwater radar system, an IFF 3570 Jubilee Guardsman identification friend or foe (IFF) interrogator integrated with Searchwater, and dual operator consoles in the aircraft cabin. The rebirth of AEW in the Royal Navy was cemented in November 1984 when 849 NAS formally re-commissioned as the parent unit. A total of 13 Sea Kings were eventually converted to AEW2 standard and 849 NAS supported two frontline flights as well as a shore-based headquarters/training element. Operational flights, each consisting of three aircraft, began to deploy from 1985.
Definitive ASaC7 The substantially upgraded ASaC7 variant entered operational service with 849 NAS in 2002. The modernisation package introduced the Thales Cerberus mission system integrating the new Searchwater 2000 pulse-Doppler radar, MkXII Mode 4 IFF, Link 16, and an inertial navigation system/GPS ring laser gyro navigation system (providing both radar stabilisation and positional data) via a dual-redundant 1553B data bus. While the SKASaC outwardly looked little different from the AEW2, it delivered a step change in capability. The new Searchwater 2000 radar provided improved long-range air-to-air and air-to-surface capabilities, but also introduced a new ground moving target indication (GMTI) mode to enable detection and tracking overland. The dual-console Cerberus mission system, with Link 16 functionality embedded, endowed a brand new full-colour human machine interface (HMI). This allowed the two observers to maximise their productivity. While it had at one stage been planned to retire all RN Sea King variants at the end of March 2016, planners in Navy Command recognised that the withdrawal of the SKASaC at this juncture would leave an uncomfortable gap – from both capability and qualified personnel perspectives – before the replacement Crowsnest entered service. As a result, the decision was taken in early 2014 to resource an Out of Service Date Extension Programme (OSDEP) under which a reduced force of seven Sea King ASaC7s would continue operational flying to the end of September 2018. Since mid-2014, when the SKASaC force departed Afghanistan after five years in
Above: Until the end, the SKASaC cockpit remained a fully ‘steam gauge’ affair, with no provision for navigation aids or GPS; the pilot was wholly reliant on his rear-seat crew for situational awareness. Lloyd Horgan
theatre supporting Operation Herrick, 849 NAS has maintained an operational flight in the Gulf in support of Operation Kipion. “That redeployment reflected the navy’s desire – driven from the top – to mitigate the dearth of ISR [intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance] assets in the Middle East available to the UK Maritime Component Commander [UKMCC] and our coalition partners,” said Cdr Simon ‘Errol’ Flynn, the navy’s last Sea King Force Commander. “While shore-based, the intent was still to reintegrate us back into the maritime [role] because, having gone to Afghanistan as an air C2 [command and control] platform in support of land, we were now ‘out of sight, out of mind’ of the fleet. We had a whole generation of [warfare officers] who had never worked with an organic RN air surveillance platform or air C2. And we needed to regain our maritime [experience] and reinvigorate that core skill set after all our time in the desert.” He continued: “Each time a UK asset was available for us to embark, we would leave [our shore base] and re-grow that expertise. The embarkation times varied from a couple of weeks to two or three months while [ships] have been in the Joint Operational Area, and under the direction of the UKMCC, according to the nature of the task.” Some consideration was given to further extending the OSDEP, but by early 2017 it was evident that this would not occur. The last deployed flight from 849 NAS came off Operation Kipion at the end of June this year; the squadron subsequently maintained a contingency readiness back at Culdrose
Sea King ASaC7 XV714 ‘88’ takes part in last November’s Exercise Kernow Flag – ten days of manoeuvres designed to prepare Culdrose-based squadrons for operations on board HMS ‘Queen Elizabeth’. Bob Sharples
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with three aircraft/five crews for the Joint Expeditionary Force (Maritime), finally standing down at 23.59hrs on September 25.
Crowsnest successor With the retirement of the SKASaC, 849 NAS will ‘ghost’ until reactivated in 2019 with the Merlin HM2 and its new Crowsnest mission fit. As well as the acquisition of ten radar/mission system kits, the Crowsnest programme also covers fit-toreceive modifications for all 30 Merlin HM2 helicopters, plus training and initial support. Lockheed Martin UK is prime contractor for Crowsnest, while Thales UK provides a radar and mission system evolved from the SKASaC’s existing Searchwater/Cerberus systems. Leonardo Helicopters is taking responsibility for Merlin air vehicle modifications, integration and packaging of the role-fit kits. Evolved from the existing Searchwater 2000, the Crowsnest radar fit will introduce a number of enhancements including additional radar modes and improved detection performance against low-radar cross-section targets. The radar scanner will be deployed using a ‘hinged’ antenna fit on the Merlin HM2’s port weapon station. Enhancements to the Cerberus mission system include the introduction of an upgraded tracker and a new correlation engine, plus a decision support system to enable quick threat-reduction decisions. A more intuitive and interactive HMI, based on large touchscreen displays, is also being introduced. The planned in-service date for Crowsnest is the second quarter of next year, at which point 849 NAS will have two mission system kits and four trained crews. Initial operating capability (IOC) will follow at the end of April 2020; by this time, 849 NAS will have the ability to deploy an operational flight, while also having sufficient materiel and personnel to sustain training output. Full operating capability is scheduled to follow in June 2022. This milestone will be achieved with the delivery of all ten kits, spares and a full complement of frontline crews. The timeline for the introduction of the new Crowsnest capability is very much being driven by the RN’s objective to achieve IOC for its regenerated carrier strike capability in December 2020. This will be followed in 2021 by the CSG21 deployment: it is currently envisaged that a flight of three Crowsnestconfigured Merlins will embark as part of HMS AFM Queen Elizabeth’s air group for CSG21.
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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Flight test focus An F-4E 2020 assigned to 111 Filo and carrying (from left to right): HGK, KGK, SOM and LGK-82. The latter is an indigenous version of the 500lb GBU-12 laser-guided bomb. All photos Cem Doğut
The demanding flight test requirements of the Turkish Air Force are met by 401 Filo, a specialist unit flying F-4s and F-16s from Eski ehir. Cem Do ut Eskişehir. Doğut investigates its weapons trials work. work
Turkish test Return to base for a SOMarmed F-4E 2020. This powerful cruise missile weighs around 1,300lb of which the warhead accounts for approximately 500lb.
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s one of the final operators of the Phantom, the Türk Hava Kuvvetleri (THK, Turkish Air Force) has embarked on successive programmes to extend the jets’ service life and increase capability. As long ago as August 24, 1995 an agreement was signed with the then Israel Aircraft Industries (IAI) covering structural and avionics work on 54 F-4Es. Of these aircraft, 26 were upgraded at IAI facilities and the rest at the 1. Hava İkmal Bakım Merkezi (1. HİBM, 1st Air Supply Maintenance Centre), in Eskişehir. After modernisation, the Phantom was redesignated as the F-4E 2020 Terminator. The project also established a system integration laboratory and an avionics testing and integration centre at the 1. HİBM. Today, these facilities form the basis of 401 Test Filo – the THK’s dedicated test and evaluation squadron. In 2004, the 1. HİBM began the Işık (‘light’) programme that provided 18 RF-4Es with a structural and avionics upgrade. Modifications
Above: This 401 Test Filo Phantom is carrying an example of the HGK-LAB – a dual-guidance version of the HGK, combining laser and GPS/INS functions. Below: F-16D Block 50 94-0106 and F-4E 2020 77-0300 prepare to depart Eskişehir for a test mission. The Phantom carries examples of the HGK-3, a 500lb version of the HGK and underwing fuel tanks with calibration markings applied, while the ‘Viper’ will serve as a chase aircraft.
included the installation of an Aselsan LN-100GT integrated inertial navigation system (INS)/GPS, Rockwell Collins CDU900Z flight management system, AN/ALQ178(V)3 electronic countermeasures system and MXF-484 VHF/UHF radios. The THK’s last RF-4Es were retired in March 2015. The Phantom upgrade projects combined with the Common Configuration Implementation Program (CCIP, pronounced ‘c-sip’) for the F-16C/D, provided the 1. HİBM with valuable avionics testing and integration experience. On April 17, 2013 the 401. Geliştirme Test Kıta Komutanlığı (401st Development Test Battalion Command) was established to ensure that this experience was preserved and built upon. The THK test squadron, 401 Filo, was established within the Technology and Weapon System Development Command and has
operated under the jurisdiction of Eskişehir’s 1st Air Supply Maintenance Centre Command since 1996. On March 13, 2015 it received the title 401 Test Filo Komutanlığı (401 Test Squadron Command). The unit flies F-4E 2020 and F-16C/D aircraft equipped for test work. After the July 15, 2016 coup attempt, 401 Test Filo was reassigned to Eskişehir’s 1. Ana Jet Üssü (1st Main Jet Base).
SOM Among the major projects developed with assistance from the squadron is the Tübitak SAGE SOM (Stand-Off Missile) family of ‘fire and forget’ precision strike weapons, for use against land and sea targets. The SOM uses GPS as its primary mode of guidance complemented by an advanced INS and a radar-based terrain-referenced navigation system, allowing
F-16C Block 40 93-0001 ‘bombed up’ with inert 500lb Mk82s fitted with the Roketsan TEBER modular low-cost guidance kit.
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Flight test focus the missile to hug the terrain during flight to evade hostile air defence systems. According to the manufacturer, the SOM features more advanced aerodynamics and a better configuration than similar missile systems, as well as lightweight composite components to minimise its radar cross-section. A terminal stage infrared (IR) imager detects the individual target by matching its signature with a pre-loaded database of similar targets. The seeker can also be used to provide imagebased mid-course navigation by gathering imagery of waypoints and comparing them against the predicted position to update the navigation system. In this way, if GPS capability is denied or degraded, the missile can follow its waypoints using IR-based terrain updates. The missile includes a twoway datalink to reassign targets in flight. The SOM cruise missile made a first guided flight over the Black Sea on August 9, 2011. Covering more than 100nm using GPS/ INS guidance, the missile successfully hit its target with a high degree of accuracy. Around 30 test flights were scheduled to assess the SOM and a first batch of missiles had been delivered to the THK by the end of 2011. The SOM is available in three variants for air force use: • SOM A: Basic variant designed to engage a military target in simple strike mode using preplanned co-ordinates at the terminal stage • SOM B1: Advanced variant that engages a military target in precision strike mode using imaging IR matching at the terminal stage • SOM B2: Special variant with dualstage penetrator warhead to engage strategic and well-protected targets
Precision kits Tübitak SAGE has also developed the HGK (Hassas Güdüm Kiti, precision guidance kit), a state-of-the-art GPS/INS guidance package that converts an existing 500lb (227kg) Mk82 ‘dumb’ bomb into a ‘smart’ weapon. Integrated GPS/INS guidance allows the HGK to hit a target with a circular error probable (CEP) of less than 20ft (6m) in all weather conditions. An INS-only mode provides the HGK with a CEP of less than 33ft (10m). HGK can reach a range of more than 12nm when released from medium altitude. A maximum range of 15nm is achieved after release from high altitude.
ASELPOD The Aselsan ASELPOD is another store that has been tested by 401 Test Filo. It weighs 518lb (235kg) and is 7.7ft (2.35m) long. The electro-optical and infrared (EO/IR) sensors can track up to eight targets at a laserdesignation range of a maximum 15.5 miles (25km) and a general range of up to 34 miles (55km). The pod can track moving vehicles such as main battle tanks at 9.3 miles (15km). The pod has a third-generation
IR camera with a zoom function and uses a 640x512 pixel detector. The ASELPOD can perform day and night and can be used alongside laser-guided and INS/GPS precision-guided munitions. Development of the ASELPOD is ongoing and includes work on a twoway data link. This will enable the pod to double as an intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) asset in addition to its principal role as a targeting pod.
An ASELPOD on an F-16C’s right intake station. The pod is externally almost identical to the Rafael Litening.
The Roketsan TEBER is a modular low-cost guidance kit that can be fitted to 250lb (113kg) Mk81 and 500lb Mk82 general-purpose bombs. It converts the bombs into precision weapons using INS, GPS and an optional laser seeker. The laser seeker provides a capability against moving, relocatable and maritime targets, even if the objective is manoeuvring at high speeds. The CEP is below 10ft (3m) and the weapon has a range of 17 miles (28km).
Penetrating bomb Tübitak SAGE’s NEB (Nüfuz Edici Bomba, penetrator bomb) is the first concretepenetrator system developed in Turkey and is designed to be used against surface and underground targets. Penetrating bombs generally use one of two methods for penetration. First are those that provide penetration power using kinetic energy. The BLU-109, for example, has a 1in-thick (2.5cm) steel shell and is detonated by a delayed fuze in the tail. The kinetic energy must be high for the bomb to be effective. The second method makes use of a shaped charge warhead. In contrast, the NEB uses multiple warhead technology: an augmenting
charge preceded by a follow-through bomb. It has similar external geometry, guidance unit interfaces, mass, centre of mass and inertia properties as the 2,000lb (907kg) Mk84 generalpurpose bomb, but offers high penetration performance even with low impact velocities and angles. An augmenting charge utilises preformed fragments for high fragmentation effect against surface targets and programmable fuze delay times mean it can be used against various target types. The NEB can be used with all guidance kits compatible with the Mk84 and can be dropped from all aircraft cleared to carry this bomb. Guidance options include the HGK and the GBU-10E/B laser guidance kit.
Wing kit The Tübitak SAGE KGK (Kanatlı Güdüm Kiti, glide bomb kit) is a wing-assisted guidance kit that converts existing unguided 1,000lb (454kg) Mk83 and 500lb Mk82 generalpurpose bombs into long-range, air-to-ground smart weapons. The KGK employs the same guidance system as the HGK and can hit a target from a range of 62 miles (100km), in all weather conditions, allowing the launch aircraft to attack while avoiding enemy air defences. AFM
Phantom 77-0300 returns to base carrying an inert HGK test round. In future, Turkey plans to integrate the HGK – and the SOM cruise missile – on the F-35A.
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HEATHROW AIRCRAFT ENTHUSIASTS’ FAIR This popular event, now in its 26th year, will feature stalls buying, selling and exchanging any aircraft related items. Models, books, magazines, printed matter including postcards, slides and photographs, DVD’s and memorabilia should all be available in abundance.
SUNDAY 25th NOVEMBER 2018 10.30 - 15.00
KEMPTON PARK RACECOURSE STAINES ROAD EAST, SUNBURY-ON-THAMES, MIDDX., TW16 5AQ For local buses see www.tl.gov.uk or www.traveline.org.uk Nearest Station: Kempton Park (on site) Massive Free Car Park Bring along your surplus items to sell or exchange! This event will be a MUST for all aircraft enthusiasts
Enquiries and Stall Bookings: KEITH MANNING 01423 862256 Email: [email protected]
In our case it’s trust. Because AirForces Monthly is independently veriﬁed by ABC, our advertisers know they are getting the exposure they’ve been promised. Our circulation is 15,954 for the period January to December 2017. ABC. See it. Believe it. Trust it. To advertise, call Ian Maxwell on 01780 755131 or email [email protected]
Commander’s Update Briefing
Comba Air power’s worldwide web Today’s armed forces are lagging behind their civilian counterparts when it comes to data sharing. Air Power Association President, Air Marshal (ret’d) Greg Bagwell CB CBE, examines the new demands put on air power in the information age.
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ilitaries around the world love their acronyms and the area of information and data management is particularly rich in them. In the last decade or so, we have seen IW (information warfare), NEC (networkenabled capability) and NCW (network-centric warfare), to name but a few. Each has tried to evoke the simple concept of the passage of information on the battlefield, where ‘information dominance’ is seen as the key to victory in increasingly complex and contested scenarios. But rather than each one heralding a quantum shift in performance, the reason the acronym has had to be constantly reinvented is to reinvigorate the concept when reality fails to meet the vision. The latest buzzword to enter the lexicon is the ‘combat cloud’ – so are we finally heading for the nirvana of assured connectivity across multiple platforms?
Past performance suggests not – yet. In the first 100 years of air power, the armed forces were almost always the early adopters of new technology and largely outstripped and led commercial applications. However, in the last 15 years, commercial communications and data management have been stretching far ahead of defence. We can now track the entire planet’s commercial air traffic on our mobile phones and happily surf the internet at 40,000ft from the comfort of our airline seats. Software can be updated on the move and the memory storage of a basic smart phone exceeds that of a modern fighter aircraft. Commercial aircraft systems are monitored in real time, remotely, to check performance, while today’s combat aircraft struggle to pass relatively low volumes of data over quite short ranges. Some of this shortfall is because of the level of classification and security
“Air power is falling behind in a capability that we now consider commonplace in our daily lives – staying connected and being able to access anything at any time is now a fact of life in our mobile-empowered world”
at cloud demanded for combat platforms, but the simple truth is that air power is falling behind in a capability that we now consider commonplace in our daily lives – staying connected and being able to access anything at any time is now a fact of life in our mobile-empowered world.
The information edge So why is information so critical for modern air power and why has a new concept surfaced? Well, the speed and precise application of air power is hugely dependent on the safe and secure passage of information. In the airto-air combat environment this is relatively straightforward, as it requires the detection, identification and dissemination of other airborne systems in real time. Here the use of surface and airborne radar and voice communications or data links have transformed tactics and capability, but increasingly, stealth and the disruption of the electromagnetic spectrum have intensified the challenge and reduced the effectiveness of older generation systems. Now, more advanced
Above: A Royal Air Force Typhoon FGR4 arrives to receive fuel from a US Air Force KC-10 Extender during a mission in support of Operation Inherent Resolve. Air-to-ground missions against a fleeting enemy in an urban scenario demand the fastest and most reliable flow of communications to ensure the correct target is hit – at the right time. USAF/Staff Sgt Trevor T McBride Left: ‘Semper FiPad’. The well-known electronic tablet in the hands of a US Marine Corps AH-1W pilot from Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 267. One advantage of using the device rather than traditional maps is pilot ability to optimise its functions to whichever platform they are flying. USMC/Cpl Rashaun X James Below: A computer-generated rendering of the Naval Integrated Fire Control – Counter Air, or NIFC-CA – a programme designed to link US Navy warships and various airborne sensors, such as the F-35, into a single, integrated sensor network. In a first test, a navy SM-6 air defence missile received continuous updates from the network, including a fighter, leading to a successful interception of the target. Raytheon
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Commander’s Update Briefing
Developing ways of connecting fifth-generation and ‘legacy’ warplanes is a USAF priority. Here, Lt Gen Mark Kelly, 12th Air Force Commander, leads a formation of F-35A, from the 388th Fighter Wing, Hill Air Force Base, Utah, and F-15E Strike Eagles, assigned to the 366th FW, Mountain Home AFB, Idaho over the Utah Test and Training Range on July 3. USAF/Airman 1st Class Codie Trimble
aircraft or systems have to be able to fuse multiple data sources to detect and engage a hostile threat. Although a generalisation, this area of air combat is largely fed by information that is pushed out to the various nodes. But it is the air-to-surface environment where the passage of data has proved even more challenging, and where the consequences of a mistake go far further than simply missing an opportunity to engage. When offensive air power is brought to bear, the environment is far more cluttered and less segregated. Recent operations in Libya, Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria have readily demonstrated the huge difficulties in detecting and discriminating enemy
combatants, who are regularly hiding in urban environments among the local population. Here, the accuracy of the information – through fusing multiple, disparate sources in real time – and the timely dissemination of this data are critical to the safe and effective employment of air systems on the battlefield.
Challenges of data fusion At the other end of the scale, more demanding, full-combat operations against sophisticated land forces bring additional challenges. During such scenarios, the range of weapons and the speed of movement mean that targeting mobile forces requires information from multiple
sources to be fused instantaneously right up to the point of weapon impact. This might even include updating a weapon in flight long after it has left the release aircraft. With multiple sources of data helping to build the intelligence picture (including historical data to reveal patterns), and multiple users both inputting and accessing the data, traditional methods of push information don’t work. The ability to pull information from multiple sources is what has spawned the combat cloud concept. In order for a military to fully exploit such a concept, it has to achieve a number of things. The obvious one is the increased development and use of data links and satellite communications
Above: An RAF Sentinel R1 Airborne Stand-Off Radar (ASTOR) aircraft from No 5 (Army Cooperation) Squadron, RAF Waddington, Lincolnshire. Using its powerful multi-mode radar, the Sentinel’s mission crew identifies, tracks and images numerous targets over great ranges, passing the information in near real time to friendly forces. Crown Copyright
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to create the network that allows the fast and assured passage of information. However, the next two are a little trickier for militaries to adopt. The first is the declassification of information to a level commensurate with the mission. The military has a tendency to classify everything, yet some information is so volatile and momentary that its loss or exposure has little or no adverse impact, and declassification allows more open systems to be exploited. The last one is the use of artificial intelligence to do the data mining and fusion without the need for much slower human intervention – this will raise moral issues around the oversight of decision-making, but less scrupulous enemies may not be so constrained. The combat cloud concept may yet unlock the information domain, which will allow the full potential of air power to be unleashed. But the cloud analogy may not be the only reference to ‘weather’ phenomena – the continuous efforts to disrupt, deny and spoof networks and data links will ensure that the fog of war may continue to play its part. In a world that increasingly expects zero error, seeking 100% certainty will prove harder than ever. Indeed, in a peer-on-peer engagement to determine survival, just winning the majority of the 50:50s might not only be good enough, but will decide the ultimate outcome. Here, one thing is certain, it’s not the one who has the best information who necessarily wins, but the one who acts first on the ‘good enough’ information invariably will. AFM
NEXT MONTH: Mission planning
Above: Under a programme known as Every Receiver a Sensor, the US Army Communications-Electronics Research, Development and Engineering Center (CERDEC) plans to experiment with distributing a very large number of very small, inexpensive and disposable sensors throughout a contested or congested operational zone to acquire specific signals of interest – gathering, for instance, seismic data or radio frequency information. CERDEC Left: USAF E-8C Joint STARS aircrew monitor moving target indication data at their operator work stations during a mission supporting BALTOPS 2018 and Saber Strike 18 exercises in June. Joint STARS was developed at the end of the Cold War to provide theatre ground and air commanders with ground surveillance to support attack operations and targeting. US ANG/Senior Master Sgt Roger Parsons
Above: A KC-130J Harvest Hawk sits on the runway at Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan. In the US, the Marine Corps has led the way with plans to transform each of its land, sea and air platforms into a “sensor, shooter, electronic warfare node and sharer – able to move information throughout the spectrum and across the battlefield at light speed”. USMC/Cpl Isaac Lamberth Below: A Kuwait Air Force AH-64 returns to its battle position after completing a live-fire exercise with the California Army National Guard’s near Ali Al Salem Air Base, Kuwait. In an example of modern data-sharing, an MQ-1C Gray Eagle unmanned aerial system had laser-marked targets during the exercise while a USAF Joint Terminal Attack Controller cleared the Apache crews to fire. US Army/Staff Sgt Ian M Kummer
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USAF releases Global Hawk crash report IR COMBAT Command has released the Accident Investigation Board (AIB) report into the loss of a US Air Force RQ-4B Global Hawk in California on June 21 last year – see Attrition, August 2017, p90. The report, published on September 26, identifies the aircraft as 07-2029 ‘BB’ from the 9th Reconnaissance Wing/12th Reconnaissance Squadron. The executive summary indicates that the RQ-4B began breaking up in mid-air near Lone Pine, California, at approximately 1310hrs local (L) time, approximately 49 minutes after take-off, while conducting a ferry flight from Edwards Air Force Base, California, to Beale AFB, California. The mishap crew (MC) were contractors for the Northrop Grumman Corporation. They comprised a mishap mission commander (MMC), a mishap pilot (MP1) who controlled the mishap remotely piloted aircraft (MRPA) at the time of the incident, and an E-2 Hawkeye pilot (H2) who conducted the pre-flight inspection. MMC and MP1 remotely operated the MRPA from a Mission Control Element (MCE1) out of Palmdale, California. H2 conducted the
The wreckage of one of the wings of RQ-4B Global Hawk 07-2029 ‘BB’ following its crash in an unpopulated and rugged area between Lone Pine and Mount Whitney, California. USAF
pre-flight inspection at Edwards. A USAF aircrew operating from a Beale AFB MCE (MCE2) monitored the mishap flight. The mishap did not result in any injuries or damage to private property. However, the debris field included portions of the Inyo National Forest. The MRPA, valued at $79m, was destroyed. On June 16, 2017, the MRPA arrived at Edwards from Beale for a right-wing composite repair. Personnel from the 9th Maintenance Squadron completed the repair without complications a day later, in accordance with an engineering disposition.
Maintenance and aircrew personnel conducted a pre-flight inspection at Edwards on June 21. After completing the inspection, the MRPA took off at 1221L. Shortly after take-off, the MRPA’s Kearfott KN-4074E navigators (KNA and KNB) were disabled in accordance with standard procedure. The MRPA climbed and flew to planned waypoints uneventfully. At approximately 1309L, one of the two enabled Litton LN-100G navigators (LNA and LNB) – specifically LNA – began producing erroneous navigational data. Failing to detect LNA’s erroneous data, the MRPA
rolled to a nearly inverted position and entered a dive that resulted in an excessive airspeed. The MRPA subsequently exceeded its structural limitations and was unable to recover. The AIB president Col Jeremy L Thiel found, by a preponderance of evidence, that the cause of the mishap was erroneous navigational data produced by the LNA and not detected by the MRPA’s navigation system. The AIB president also found, by a preponderance of evidence, that disabling KNA and KNB after take-off substantially contributed to the mishap.
RQ-4B Global Hawk 05-2022 ‘BB’ at Robins AFB, Georgia, on May 24, 2017. An accident report into the loss of another of the unit’s RQ-4Bs, 07-2029 ‘BB’, which crashed on June 21, 2017, has now been released. USAF/Roland Leach
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Accident Reports D: Apr 13 N: US Navy T: F/A-18E Super Hornet This aircraft experienced an unspecified mishap in flight during a sortie from Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Japan. Although the pilot was able to recover safely to the base, the aircraft sustained Class A damage – indicating a financial loss in excess of $2m. D: Apr 27 N: US Navy T: MH-60S Seahawk This helicopter settled heavily onto an unspecified support vessel at sea due to a suspected compressor stall while flying in the Atlantic Undersea Test and Evaluation Center (AUTEC) Operating Area off Andros Island in the Bahamas. There were no injuries, but the Seahawk sustained Class A damage. D: May 16 N: US Navy T: MH-60R Seahawk While conducting sonar operations off Andros Island in the Bahamas the helicopter lost its dipping sonar. The incident has been categorised as a Class A mishap. D: Jun 7 N: US Navy T: F/A-18E Super Hornet Immediately after catapult launch from an aircraft carrier in the Western Pacific near Guam, this aircraft experienced fire indications and an engine failure. The Super Hornet recovered safely on a single engine, but damage was such that it has been categorised as a Class A mishap. Although the US Naval Safety Center report didn’t specify the carrier from which it was operating, the USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76) had departed its homeport of Yokosuka, Japan, on May 29 for operations in the Western Pacific and is assumed to have been the ship involved.
Wreckage of the 348th Reconnaissance Squadron RQ-4B is recovered from the Gulf of Cadiz following its crash. US Navy
The wreckage was recovered by US Military Sealift Command’s Supply-class fast combat support ship USNS Arctic (T-AOE 8) and taken initially to Rota, from where it was due to be shipped to the US to assist with the investigation into the loss. D: N:
Jul 3 Royal Air Force/No 45 Squadron T: 2 x Phenom T1 S: ZM335 and ZM336 Although not made public at the time, it’s now known that these two aircraft were involved in a midair collision during a practice for the RAF 100th anniversary flypast over London which took place on July 10. The aircraft – ZM335 callsign ‘CWL31’ and ZM336 callsign ‘CWL30’ – took off from RAF Waddington, Lincolnshire, but the wingtips of the two aircraft clipped each other. Both were able to return safely to Waddington, without injury to any of the crew members. The Ministry of Defence has since confirmed that both Phenoms sustained relatively minor damage to their wings, while one also had some fuselage damage, but both are repairable. The aircraft remained grounded at Waddington until September 3,
when ZM335 was flown back to its base at RAF Cranwell, Lincolnshire, using callsign ‘CWL45’. It was expected to re-enter service after undergoing minor repairs. As of late September, the other aircraft, ZM336, remained at Waddington and was undergoing further damage assessment pending recovery. D: Jul 18 N: US Navy T: MH-60R Seahawk During an anti-submarine warfare training sortie in the Southern California Operations Area, the sonar transducer assembly departed from the helicopter and fell into the ocean. Due to the high value of this equipment, the incident was categorised as a Class A mishap. D: Jul 21 N: Pakistan Air Force T: Unidentified helicopter This helicopter crashed while attempting a forced landing at Peshawar-Bacha Khan International Airport, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. Two of the four personnel on board were injured. The runway was closed temporarily while emergency services carried out recovery operations.
D: Aug 2 N: US Marine Corps T: UH-1Y Venom During a low-light rolling vertical landing at Lavic Lake, California, this helicopter sustained damage to the skid undercarriage and main rotor blades. The incident has been categorised as a Class A mishap. D: Aug 16 N: US Navy T: Unspecified This aircraft sustained Class A damage during a hard landing at a forward arming and refuelling point (FARP) near Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho, prior to refuelling operations. There were no injuries or casualties. The type involved is assumed to have been a helicopter. D: Aug 21 N/U: US Navy/VFA-125 T: F-35C Lightning II During a mid-air refuelling exercise with an F/A-18F over the Virginia Capes area of the Atlantic, the F-35C ingested debris into its engine from the air refuelling drogue being trailed by the Super Hornet tanker. Both aircraft had been operating from the USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72) as part of an integrated air wing test.
1° Grupo de Transporte de Tropa (GTT) C-130M Hercules 2474 following its emergency belly landing at Anápolis. FAB
D: Jun 26 N/U: US Air Force/348th Reconnaissance Squadron T: RQ-4B Global Hawk US European Command officials revealed to USNI News on September 6 that this UAV had crashed in the vicinity of the Gulf of Cadiz off Naval Station Rota, Spain, at around 1100hrs EDT. Abbreviations: D: Date N/U: Nationality/Units T: Type S: Serials
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The incident resulted in Class A damage to the F-35C’s engine. The Lightning, from Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 125 ‘Rough Raiders’, returned to its parent aircraft carrier and landed safely. The F/A-18F, from VFA-103 ‘Jolly Rogers’, which sustained Class C damage, landed safely at Naval Air Station Oceana, Virginia. There were no injuries to the crew members of either aircraft. D: Sep 4 N: South African Air Force T: Oryx M-1 During a mission in the Beni area of the Democratic Republic of Congo, the helicopter’s rotor blades were damaged while evading ground fire. There were no injuries to the crew and the Oryx was able to land safely. The helicopter is one of several Oryx and Rooivalks operating in support of the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO). D: Sep 6 N/U: Brazilian Air Force/1° GTT T: C-130M Hercules S: 2474 After departing from Base Aérea Manaus, the aircraft declared an emergency because it was unable to lower the undercarriage. The Hercules diverted to Base Aérea Anápolis, where a successful belly landing was made, with minimal damage to the airframe. There were no injuries among the 45 personnel on board. D: Sep 6 N: Mexican Air Force T: PC-7 Turbo-Trainer During an aerial surveillance flight, the aircraft was forced to make an emergency landing at Mar de Cortes International Airport, Puerto Peñasco, Sonora state at 1009hrs local time. This resulted in unspecified damage to the undercarriage. The crew escaped injury. D: Sep 6 N/U: Saudi Arabia National Guard/1st Aviation Brigade T: AH-6i This helicopter crashed during a training flight at Khashm al-An Airfield, east of Riyadh. The US instructor pilot, Paul Reedy, was killed and the trainee pilot, Hisham bin Abdul Aziz Al-Sheikh, injured. The cause of the crash is under investigation.
three crew members, who were taken to hospital in Magadan.
Above: Ukraine Ministry of Emergency Situations Mi-8MTV ‘25 Yellow’ crashed in the Kharkiv region on September 6. Ukraine Ministry of Emergency Situations
Sep 6 Ukraine Ministry of Emergency Situations T: Mi-8MTV S: ‘25 Yellow’ (c/n 95214) While trying to scoop water from the Berestov River during a firefighting mission near the village of Natalino, Krasnograd district, Kharkiv region, the helicopter got into difficulties and force landed on the banks of the river. All five crew members escaped but four were injured and needed some medical attention. D: Sep 10 N: Syrian Arab Air Force T: Mi-8TV This helicopter was damaged beyond repair in a crash landing at the Taybah at-Turki helipad in Hama province. There were no reports of injuries to the unspecified number of personnel on board, which included pilot Major William Mhalla. D: Sep 11 N/U: US Air Force/80th Flying Training Wing T: T-38C Talon During its take-off run at Sheppard Air Force Base, the aircraft came off the runway at 1013hrs local time and both crew members ejected before it came to rest on its belly. A small fire broke out in
and around the aircraft and was extinguished soon afterwards – the crash site was declared safe at 1245hrs. Of the two crew, Luftwaffe pilot Maj Christian C Hartmann was treated for minor injuries at the Sheppard Clinic, while USAF pilot 1st Lt Charles T Walet was taken to United Regional Medical Center in Wichita Falls where he was said to be in stable condition. Walet is assigned to Vance AFB, Oklahoma, but was on temporary duty at Sheppard at the time. D: Sep 12 N/U: Islamic Republic of Iran Air Force/11th Helicopter Transport Squadron T: CH-47C Chinook While making a forced landing near Karaj, the helicopter was seriously damaged, with most of the rear rotor pylon being torn away. The five crew members sustained only minor injuries. D: N:
Sep 13 Russian Federal Border Guards T: Mi-8MTV-1 S: RF-28506 This helicopter was substantially damaged in a hard landing at 1145hrs local time in the village of Yamsk, Olsky district, Magadan region. No serious injuries were reported to the
D: Sep 13 N/U: US Navy/VUP-19 T: MQ-4C Triton During a test flight from Naval Base Ventura County, Point Mugu, California, this UAV encountered a technical problem and the mission was aborted. The engine was shut down in mid-air as a precautionary measure and an attempt to land back at the base resulted in a belly landing at around 1445hrs local time. There were no injuries but damage to the MQ-4C was reported as substantial and it has been categorised as a Class A mishap. D: Sep 14 N: Afghan Air Force T: Mi-17 Following a technical malfunction, this helicopter crashed and caught fire at around 2100hrs near Ranj village, Khaki Safed district, Farah province. All five on board, including the two pilots, were killed and the helicopter was written off. The Hip had been en route to Farah from the 207th Zafar Military Corps base. D: N:
Sep 14 Royal Saudi Land ForcesLand Forces Air Command T: AH-64 Apache Both crew members were killed when this helicopter crashed at 0820hrs local time in the Tanhala mountains, Al Mahrah province, Yemen. The Saudiled coalition said a technical malfunction caused the accident. The helicopter was participating in a reconnaissance mission as part of the fight against terrorism and smuggling in the province. D: Sep 17 N: Russian Aerospace Forces T: Il-20M S: RF-93610 This ELINT/SIGINT aircraft departed Khmeimim air base, Syria, at
The IRIAF 11th Helicopter Transport Squadron CH-47C following its forced landing near Karaj.
Abbreviations: D: Date N/U: Nationality/Units T: Type S: Serials
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2031hrs for a reconnaissance mission but at 2207hrs, while turning back towards the base over the Mediterranean Sea, it was struck by a Syrian S-200 (SA-5 Gammon) surface-to-air missile. It then crashed into the sea around 14 miles (22 miles) off the coast, killing all 15 crew members on board. See p36-39 for more on the incident. D: Sep 17 N: Sudanese Air Force T: Mi-17 S: 557 While landing at Nyala Airport, a technical malfunction caused this helicopter to crash and roll over onto its starboard side, severing the tail boom. A fire broke out and the Mi-17 was damaged beyond repair, but no fatalities were reported to the crew and passengers. D: Sep 18 N: South African Air Force T: Oryx S: 1228 During an air capability demonstration flight at Roodewal Air Force Base, Limpopo, the helicopter descended too fast and made a hard landing, causing the tail boom to break off and the undercarriage to collapse. However, the Oryx remained upright, and the occupants were able to exit safely – one suffered minor injuries. D: Sep 18 N/U: US Air Force/12th FTW/559th FTS T: T-6A Texan II S: 05-6209 ‘RA’ During a sortie from Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph, the aircraft suffered engine failure while at low altitude on final approach and configured for landing. It crashed at around 1600hrs local time in an open field near Rolling Oaks Mall, San Antonio, Texas. Both crew members – a student and instructor pilot) ejected safely – suffering only minor injuries. All T-6As at the base were temporarily grounded after the accident but resumed flying on the morning of September 21 after it was determined the engine problem was an isolated incident. D: Sep 19 N/U: Russian Aerospace Forces/4th Centre for Combat Application and Crew Training T: MiG-31BM
Il-20M ‘21 Red’ seen in 1994 while based in the former East Germany. Later re-serialled as RF-93610, it was accidentally shot down by Syrian air defence systems on September 17. Timm Ziegenthaler
During a sortie from Savasleyka air base, the aircraft crashed and exploded in flames in an unpopulated area at around 1530hrs local time following a suspected technical malfunction, about 10.5 miles (17km) from the airfield, in Nizhny Novgorod oblast. Both crew members ejected safely and were evacuated by search and rescue personnel. Eyewitnesses said the aircraft appeared to be on fire before it came down. D: Sep 20 N/U: Hellenic Army/Army Aviation School T: Breda Nardi NH-300C S: ES-114 Due to a loss of engine power, this helicopter made a forced landing about 2,297ft (700m) from Alexandria Airport at 0950hrs local time, shortly after departing from there. The two pilots were uninjured, but the NH-300C was substantially damaged.
D: Sep 20 N: Sudanese Air Force T: K-8S Karakorum This aircraft crashed near Omdurman during a flight from Wadi Sidna air base to Port Sudan. Both crew members were killed. D: Sep 28 N/U: Nigerian Air Force/101st Air Defence Group T: FT-7NI and F-7NI S: NAF-812 (FT-7NI) plus unknown F-7NI These two aircraft collided and crashed near Katampe Hill in the Federal Capital Territory of Abuja, at around 1200hrs, during rehearsals for the flying display to mark the 58th anniversary of Independence Day on October 1. Although all three crew members ejected, one of them, Sqn Ldr Mohammed Bello Baba-Ari, died a short time later from injuries sustained upon impacting the ground. The other two were taken to hospital and said to be recovering
well. There were no injuries or damage to property on the ground. D: Sep 28 N/U: US Marine Corps/ VMFAT-501 T: F-35B Lightning II This aircraft crashed at approximately 1145hrs EST on a small island about 4 miles (6.4km) west of Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort, South Carolina. The pilot ejected safely and after being examined by medical personnel was said to be in stable condition. No one on the ground was injured but the aircraft was destroyed. This was the first crash of a USMC F-35B. D: Sep 29 N: Afghan Air Force T: Unidentified helicopter This helicopter crashed while attempting to land at around 0200hrs in the Kohi Safi district of Parwan province, central Afghanistan. There were eight casualties, although it’s unclear whether any of these were fatalities. D: Sep 29 N: Iraqi Air Force T: AC-208B Combat Caravan Due to a technical problem, the crew performed an emergency landing at around 1300hrs in the Gharra area, near Tuz Khurmatu, Saladin province. The Cessna came to rest with the nose undercarriage collapsed and sustained substantial damage. The six personnel on board from the Iraqi Air Force College sustained only minor injuries and were taken to hospital for treatment.
Above: Sudanese Air Force Mi-17 serial 557 crashed at Nyala Airport on September 17.
Additional material from: Waseem Abbas, Donny Chan, Juan Carlos Cicalesi, Scramble/Dutch Aviation Society and Asagiri Yohko. AFM
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Su-25 operators Part 1
A Su-25SM of the 368th ShAP, an attack regiment based at Budennovsk in Russia’s Southern Military District. All photos Andrey Zinchuk via author unless stated
Su-25 OPER PART ONE
The Su-25 (NATO reporting name Frogfoot) is a rugged, survivable and affordable subsonic attack aircraft able to deliver heavy ordnance loads and withstand significant damage when performing close air support (CAS) at low level. It first flew in February 1975 and entered mass production for the Soviet Air Force in the early 1980s. The first export sales followed in the middle of the decade. This simple and cost-effective jet remained in mass production until the early 1990s and is set to soldier on in frontline service until the early or even mid-2030s – an operational lifespan of nearly half a century.
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This longevity – unusual for a Soviet-era tactical aircraft designed and built in the 1970s and 1980s – has been made possible by the Su-25’s robust airframe structure and easy-tomaintain powerplant. There’s no direct replacement for the type in production or development in Russia and ongoing upgrades, including new mission avionics, are being undertaken by a number of operators worldwide to address the Su-25’s long-term effectiveness on the modern battlefield. Total production between 1978 and the early 1990s accounted for
582 Su-25s, 50 slightly improved Su-25BMs and 182 Su-25Ks for export customers, all built at the TAM plant in Tbilisi, now in the independent state of Georgia. In addition, some 140 to 150 more Su-25UB/UBK two-seaters, retaining full combat capability, rolled out of the Ulan-Ude Aviation Plant (U-UAP) in Russia. The Su-25 remained in low-rate production into the 2000s and early 2010s; TAM completed eight Su-25U two-seaters (built from incomplete Su-25T airframes with new forward sections) and 37 more Su-25K/KM single-seaters,
while six Su-25UBKs were also completed at U-UAP in the 2000s. Currently the faithful Frogfoot remains in service with 19 air arms worldwide, and the active fleet numbers between 250 and 300 jets. Meanwhile Russia, Ukraine and Belarus – and, to some degree, other operators such as Bulgaria and Georgia – still have surplus Su-25s in long-term storage. They could easily be restored to airworthy condition and possibly upgraded to meet future domestic needs for fleet increase/attrition replacements or to satisfy future export demand.
In this first installment of a new series, Alexander Mladenov examines the current status of the Sukhoi Su-25 in Russian service.
Russia urrently the VozdushnoKosmicheskiye Sily (VKS, Russian Aerospace Forces) has an active fleet of around 130 to 140 single-seat Su-25/BM/SM/ SM3s and 25 to 30 Su-25UBs. They serve with four frontline attack regiments (each consisting of two component squadrons); two more attack squadrons are incorporated into the structure of composite aviation regiments and bases. A handful of Frogfoots are also operated by an instructor-research squadron for combat training and
conversion training duties; and another four two-seaters within a composite training squadron. In late 2017 there were plans to re-establish another Su-25equipped frontline attack regiment in the VKS structure, responsible for two more squadrons and a total fleet of 28 to 30 aircraft. It’s now believed the unit will re-form late this year or in 2019. It’s also thought the VKS currently still has some 50 singleseaters in long-term storage or undergoing overhauls and life extensions at three depot-
maintenance facilities in Kubinka, Yevpatoria and Vozdvizhenka. When the Soviet Union disintegrated in late 1991, the newly formed Russian air arm inherited a fleet of 560 Frogfoots, including 80 to 90 two-seaters. Most Su-25/BM/SMs remaining in active VKS service are late-production models built between 1986 and 1991 to the so-called 9th and 10th Series configuration, with enhanced combat survivability features. Their annual utilisation rate was relatively low in the past, but since
2010, as the VKS introduced an intense training regime and participated in combat operations abroad, the annual per-airframe rate increased to between 130 and 150 hours – in 200 to 250 sorties. The service life limit is currently set at 2,500 hours while time between overhauls is 800 to 1,000 hours and 15 to 16 years. The type has, however, ample lifeextension reserves, and is planned for a service life extension to 4,000 flight hours and 40 years; a followon extension could see it reach 5,000 flight hours and 50 years.
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Fleet Survey In combat in Syria The Russian Su-25 fleet is heavily involved in the military operation in Syria, and as of early June this year the VKS detachment at Syria’s Hmeymim airfield included six Su-25SMs. An attack force consisting of ten upgraded Su-25SM singleseaters and two Su-25UB twoseaters first deployed to Hmeymim in late September 2015. The jets, taken from the 960th ShAP, flew missions in theatre between October 2015 and mid-March 2016, amassing 3,500 combat sorties. The Su-25SMs were mainly used for bombing in level flight from an altitude of 11,500 to 13,500ft (3,500 to 4,100m). They dropped free-fall bombs and cluster bombs using the navigation bombing method when striking targets of known position. Later they began flying bombing missions against targets of opportunity, with co-ordinates provided by FACs in the field. According to information revealed by Russian magazine M-Hobbi in March last year, Su-25SMs were also called on to fly ‘free-hunting’ combat sorties in predesignated kill boxes, attacking targets of opportunity such as moving armed vehicles or fuel tankers in territories held by anti-Assad or so-called Islamic State militants. The sorties involved using 20-round B8M1 rocket pods firing 80mm-calibre (3.15in) S-8 rockets. In January last year a four-ship Frogfoot flight (three Su-25SMs and an Su-25UB) again deployed to Hmeymim. Twelve months later, this small attack force flew attack operations at low-level, mainly using 80mm and 122mm rockets fired from close range in a shallow dive. The quartet forward-deployed to support a push by Assad’s forces against Palmyra and then against Deir ez-Zor. In the former, the Russian Frogfoots were forwardbased at T-4/Tiyas air base between July and September last year. One Su-25SM was shot down during a patrol mission in Idlib province last February 3. The pilot was killed on the ground during a firefight with Syrian insurgents.
Su-25 operators Part 1 In mid-2007, the 368th ShAP – an attack regiment based at Budennovsk – became the first frontline VKS unit to take the upgraded Su-25SM on strength.
In 2009, Vladimir Babak, president and designer general of Sukhoi Shturmoviks (the design authority for the type within Sukhoi structure), claimed the Su-25’s rugged airframe could be good – at least in theory – for as many as 10,000 flight hours in terms of fatigue damage. But most, if not all, VKS twoseaters – with an average age of 28 to 30 years – saw much more intense utilisation than their singleseat counterparts in the past. Babak noted that the majority of Su-25UBs in Russian service have already approached the end of their originally assigned design life of 2,500 hours. Furthermore, their wing highlift devices, consisting of slats and flaps, feature higher deflection angles in the so-called manoeuvring mode compared to the single-seater. (The Su-25UBs are commonly used to perform aerobatics and high-g manoeuvres in pilot conversion, continuation and type training sorties as well as proficiency checks).
This particular setting has imparted considerably higher in-flight loads on their wing structure, causing higher stress. As a consequence, said Babak, the Su-25UB fleet has suffered much more fatigue damage, rapidly consuming its service life. It’s now expected, however, that the VKS Su-25UB fleet will continue to be life-extended during overhauls and with reinforcement work on the airframe.
SM upgrade The Su-25SM upgrade standard brought the jet’s antiquated analogue mission suite into the digital age, and incorporates the all-new PrNK-25SM Bars nav/ attack suite using a BTsU-25 mission computer to facilitate integration of new digital systems and weapons. This relatively modest modification saw most, if not all, the analogue components
of the original KN-23-1 navigation suite and SUO-T8-54 targeting suite replaced by new, more capable, accurate and reliable digital equipment – although the Su-25’s original KlyonPS laser rangefinder/target designator has been retained. The new avionics package also featured an all-new KAI-101 head-up display (HUD) and a multifunctional colour display to improve pilots’ situational awareness – showing a digital map, flight/navigation and tactical data. The more accurate navigation system is based on a Ts-061K inertial gyro-reference system, which takes corrections from the A-737-01 GPS/GLONASS satellite navigation receiver – and is said to be accurate to within 46ft (15m) when satellite correction is used and 660ft (200m) without. This enables the Su-25SM to employ so-called navigation or non-visual unguided bomb delivery against fixed targets with known positions – useful in poor
Russian Su-25 inventory Aircraft
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weather and at night – a capability widely employed during the early months of the Syrian campaign. The upgrade has also improved combat survivability by moving important equipment such as radios and electronics boxes from the vulnerable tail section (which is likely to take hits from heat-seeking missiles) to better protected locations in the forward fuselage – and self-protection against radar threats has been boosted with the integration of the new L-150-16 Pastel radar homing and warning system (RHAWS). New unguided ground-attack ordnance for the Su-25SM consists of S-13T 130mm-calibre (5.12in) rockets (carried in fiveround B13L pods) equipped with blast-fragmentation and armour-piercing warheads. The Su-25SM can also launch existing Kh-25ML and Kh-29L laser-guided missiles while in horizontal flight; and two missiles at two different targets in a single firing pass. The defensive
Above: Upgraded in 2015, Su-25BM ‘Red 073’, operated by the Lipetsk-based combat training centre, is so far the only prototype with the Gefest i T SVP-2425 digital nav/attack system for precise navigation and delivery of unguided bombs. Below: This smart-looking Su-25 from the 266th ShAP at Step’ is armed with a B13L pod for 122mm rockets.
Russian Su-25 order of battle Unit
Russian Aerospace Forces 368th ShAP (two squadrons) Su-25SM, Su-25SM3, Su-25UB
960th ShAP (two squadrons) Su-25, Su-25SM, Su-25SM3, Su-25UB
37th ShAP (one squadron)
266th ShAP (two squadrons) Su-25, Su-25UB
999 Air Base (one squadron) Su-25, Su-25SM, Su-25UB
18th ShAP (two squadrons)
966th IISAP (one squadron)
Su-25, Su-25SM, Su-25/SVP24, Su-25UB
195th UAB (one squadron)
Russian Naval Aviation 279th OKIAP (one squadron) Su-25UTG
weapons suite was expanded with the R-73 (AA-11 Archer) air-to-air missile (AAM). The VPU-17A gun pack, containing a GSh-30-2 twinbarrel cannon with 250 rounds, was also upgraded with three new reduced-rate-of-fire modes. These are at 1/4, 1/8 and 1/16 of the nominal rate of fire, corresponding to 750rpm, 375rpm and 188rpm respectively. The Su-25SM also introduced new BD3-25SM-01 pylons on eight hardpoints, with increased loadlifting capability, enabling it to carry up to five tonnes of ordnance. All production-upgrade work has been conducted by the 121st ARZ, a maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) plant at Kubinka near Moscow, combined with a general airframe overhaul. The first batch of productionupgraded Su-25SMs was handed over to the VKS in December 2006. Initially slow, the programme accelerated in 2011. The first four upgraded aircraft, numbered Su-25SM-1 to SM-4, have been involved in development, and subsequent testing and evaluation, at the VKS’s 929th State Flight Test Centre at Akhtubinsk. In early 2007 two were handed over to the Lipetskbased 4th Combat Training and Aircrew Conversion Centre for field trials and conversion-totype training of instructors and aircrews from frontline units. Jets SM-5 to SM-43 were production upgrades as per the initial standard, known as SM1, undertaken between 2006 and 2010 – while the improved SM2 standard was applied to SM-44 to SM-79, cycled through an upgrade between 2011 and 2013. In December 2014, SM-80 to
Above: The Russian Naval Aviation operates six Su-25UTGs as part of the 279th OKIAP, an independent shipborne fighter regiment based at Severomorsk-3 on the Kola Peninsula. The ’UTG is an unarmed two-seat derivative equipped with a tailhook for deck landing practice. Left: In early 2012, VKS ‘Frogfoots’ cycled through the Su-25SM upgrade at the 121 ARZ in Kubinka began receiving ‘gunship’ grey camouflage with light blue undersides. The scheme proved short-lived and was superseded in 2013 by the old-style three-tone camouflage. This well-weathered grey Su-25SM is operated by the 960th ShAP at Primorsko-Akhtarsk in the Southern Military District.
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Fleet Survey 84, the last of the SM2s, were handed over to the VKS. Taking into consideration two combat and three non-combatrelated Su-25SM write-offs in frontline units, by December 2017 the VKS’s frontline and training fleet of upgraded Frogfoots numbered 77 aircraft; two more were involved in development and test work. The Su-25SM was fielded with seven frontline attack squadrons – six fully equipped with 12-strong fleets (without accounting for attrition) and another partially equipped with five. Two more aircraft serve at Lipetsk.
Su-25 operators Part 1 A pilot conducts pre-flight checks in a Su-25SM from the 37th SAP at Gvardeyskoe.
The enhanced SM3 The Su-25SM3, the most sophisticated upgrade standard for the Russian fleet, entered frontline service late last year. Aimed mainly at enhancing self-protection and night capabilities, it integrates new hardware and software that enables new guided weapons to be employed day and night. The SM3 ‘facelift’ also includes an encrypted data link (enabled by the new KSS-25 communication suite) to exchange targeting information with forward air controllers (FACs) and other aircraft in the air during CAS scenarios. It also enables the Su-25SM3 to be integrated into the VKS’s overall command and control (C2) system. The variant also features the enhanced PrNK-25SM-1 nav/attack suite and SUO39M fire-control system. Among the main components in the latest upgrade is the SOLT25 IR/TV/laser targeting and designation system, installed in the nose and featuring the same shape and weight as the old Klyon-PS laser rangefinder/target designator. This new apparatus has a TV targeting channel provided with
a 16x zoom for target detection and tracking at up to 5 miles (8km) which enables TV-guided missiles and bombs to be deployed and provides target lasing for use with laser-guided missiles. As well as the Kh-25ML, Kh-29L and S-25L/LD laserguided weapons, the Su-25SM3 can deploy the Kh-29T/TD/TE TV-guided missile, KAB-500Kr TV-guided bomb and satelliteguided KAB-500S bomb. The Kh-58USh anti-radar missile is also integrated on the jet, using targeting information derived from the Pastel RHAWS incorporated in the new Vitebsk-25 self-protection suite. The SM3’s cockpit is equipped with the new BI HUD and an MFTsI-0332M multifunctional colour display augmented by another, smaller display beneath the HUD. The avionics suite includes a BSKI digital map module and PPA-S/V-06 satellite navigation system with GPS/ GLONASS capability, which is
provided with differential updating for improved positioning accuracy. There’s also a wide field-of-view IR sensor under the nose – useful for low-level navigation at night. The Su-25SM3’s Vitebsk-25 integrated self-protection suite incorporates the L-150-16M Pastel RHAWS; ultraviolet (UV) missile approach warning sensors; UV-26M countermeasures dispensers, using a mixture of 26mm and 50mm chaff and flare cartridges; and L-370-3S dualpod radar jammer system. The jammer pods are accommodated on the outermost wing hardpoints, covering the 7 to 10GHz frequency band. The missile approach warners are incorporated in the Zakhvat electrooptical system and comprise a pair of UV sensors looking rearwards and sideways, and installed in a V-shaped assembly under the tail. The Vitebsk-25 also includes two newly added underbelly UV-26M countermeasures dispensers – plus eight 26mm upward-firing
dispensers installed on the engine nacelles and next to the tail. The first Su-25SM3 prototype (Su-25SM3-01) – reworked from the Su-25SM-4 prototype (c/n 10095) – began flight-testing in 2011 and was later joined by a second aircraft. But test and evaluation was protracted due to immature mission equipment, which affected the SOLT-25 system in particular. The Russian defence ministry awarded the 121 ARZ with a first order for five Su-25SM3s in December 2015, before testing was complete. Unit price was set at 350.2m Roubles (around $5.8m at the time), excluding the cost of the L-370-3S system’s radar countermeasures pods. One of these aircraft was seen on post-upgrade test flights at Kubinka in October 2016 and the entire batch had been expected to be ready for delivery that December. It’s believed the first batch used existing Su-25SM airframes from the initial
A pair of Su-25SMs on take-off. The blue-coded jet belongs to the 37th SAP at Gvardeyskoe near Simferopol, while the red-coded machine is assigned to the Lipetsk training centre.
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The VKS operates between 30 and 40 Su-25UB two-seaters. Much more intense utilisation compared with their single-seat counterparts means they are in acute need of a service life extension programme. Chris Lofting
production run, which were also required to undergo another overhaul and life-extension – making the Su-25SM3 good for ten more years’ service before the next overhaul cycle. In the event, delivery was delayed, apparently due to late completion of extensive joint state testing by the 929th Flight Test Institute at Akhtubinsk. According to an August 2017 interview with the 4th Air Defence and Air Army chief, Lt Gen Viktor Sevostyanov, 16 Su-25SM3s were set to be taken on strength by the end of that year by attack regiments stationed in the Krasnodar and Stavropol regions (in the Southern Military District) – these are the 960th ShAP at Primorsko-Akhtarsk and the 368th ShAP at Budennovsk. Six Su-25SM3s, delivered to the 960th ShAP in early 2018, were sent to Syria in April or early May and returned home on July 4. The SM3 upgrade is intended to be applied to some of the existing Su-25SM fleet, plus some non-upgraded Frogfoots. This way, on completion of the programme by 2020 or 2021, the eventual number of upgraded jets in VKS service should reach between 110 and 120. In May this year, four more Su-25SM3s were ordered, priced at 1.6bn Roubles (around $25.7m), slated for completion and delivery to the VKS by November 2019. An upgraded Su-25 two-seater, using the same avionics as the Su-25SM and designated as the Su-25UBM, made its first flight in its new guise in December 2010. Later it was revealed the aircraft had undergone an additional
upgrade to the enhanced Su-25UBM2 standard, using the same mission equipment as the single-seat Su-25SM3 – including the SOLT-25 targeting system and Vitebsk-25 self-protection suite. The ’UBM2 had been scheduled to begin flight test by October 2015, with completion by 2017. But test and evaluation at the 929th State Flight Test Centre was not begun before mid-2016. It’s now expected to be complete later this year at the earliest. Meanwhile, as of November 2017, there was no clarity regarding the VKS’s eventual upgrade plans for its Su-25UB fleet. The VKS continues to receive overhauled and life-extended, nonupgraded Su-25s and Su-25UBs that retain their original mission equipment suites. Three frontline squadrons are entirely made up of these aircraft, while nearly half of another squadron’s fleet comprises non-upgraded Frogfoots. A few non-upgraded jets are also in use with the Lipetsk combat
training centre and it’s likely the same version will equip the two squadrons of the 899th ShAP once it’s reactivated at Buturlinovka. This is the unit originally scheduled to be re-established last December.
Gefest i T upgrade Some non-upgraded VKS Su-25s are tentatively planned for upgrade to a different, and cheaper, standard for improved navigation and weapons delivery performance. It will be carried out by integrating the SVP-24-25 nav/attack subsystem, developed by the Zhukovskybased Gefest i T company. A derivative of the combatproven system installed on the upgraded Su-24M, Su-33 and Tu-22M3, this off-the-shelf digital targeting package is built around a new mission computer integrated with a combined GPS/GLONASS satellite navigation receiver, new HUD, new hardware interface units and proprietary software for smart processing of navigation data received from different sources.
The package also includes a highly accurate digital map and terrain elevation model. The SVP-24-25 provides precise positional information – reportedly within 100 to 160ft (30 to 50m), regardless of mission duration. As a result, the SVP-24-25 will drastically improve accuracy when delivering unguided ordnance. Gefest i T claims the system is able to achieve a hit with a circular error probability of 33 to 50ft (10 to 15m) when delivering unguided bombs in level flight or during three-dimensional manoeuvring. The package also allows for rapid in-flight retargeting, with targeting data received by a secure data link from a ground-based C2 centre. A prototype Su-25BM (‘Red 73’), upgraded with the SVP-24-25 nav/ attack suite, began flight-testing at Lipetsk in mid-2015. As of October 2017, no announcements had been made about completion of the trials – which would give the green light for the production phase of this affordable upgrade. AFM
The Lipetsk combat training centre has a Su-25-equipped squadron operating around a dozen aircraft in all versions. This is a non-upgraded ‘Frogfoot’, easily distinguished from its upgraded counterparts thanks to the blade antenna on the spine for the R-862 UHF radio.
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Coming up in AFM The December issue is on sale globally from November 15.* The Polish Air Force was established in November 1918 – just before Poland regained independence. In the December issue, AFM completes its review of the three Polish air arms with an analysis of the air force in its centenary year. With the traditional division between army aviation, navy aviation and air force having become blurred somewhat, this is a good opportunity to examine the most significant force wearing the famous red and white checkerboard.
Other forthcoming features include: • Three decades of the AW101 Merlin • Operation Ostium: Brazilian Air Force versus narco-smugglers • Force Report: Montenegrin Air Force • Portuguese Air Force Chipmunks still going strong
Photo: Bartek Bera *UK scheduled on-sale date. Please note that overseas deliveries are likely to be after this date.
98 // NOVEMBER 2018 #368
THE PEOPLE • THE EQUIPMENT • THE ACTION • THE PASSION
This first, landmark issue of Aviation Photographer harnesses the passion of aviation photography from around the world. Over 116 high-quality pages, the most eminent photographers take you inside their thought process and share the stories behind some of the most breath-taking aviation images ever produced. In clu d in g : How t o g et t h e b est out of a n a irsh ow How t o g et you r ima g es p u b lish ed Ja mie Hu n t er ’s d efining p h ot og ra p hy moments R ich Coop er ’s ‘ Sh ot s of t h e Year ’ Ka t su h iko Toku n aga’s most recen t g ea r test …T H E B E S T I N T H E B U S I N E S S G I V E Y O U T H E F U L L I N S I G H T I N T H E F I R S T I S S U E O F A V I A T I O N P H O T O G R A P H E R
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