AirForces Monthly 2015-07

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JULY 2015 ISSUE #328


Officially the World's NUMBER ONE Authority on Military Aviation |




• F-35Bs on USS Wasp • Czech Mi-24 in WW2 marks • C-130 Combat Shadows and Gunships retired • US Special Ops Broncos in Europe

UK £4.70

CAMOUFLAGED TYPHOON Battle of Britain scheme unveiled

Air THE LONG GAME French Force in Niger

Beechcraft F_P.indd 1

01/06/2015 09:49

CONTENTS July Issue 328 Aircraft Profile Ukraine Su-24 86

News All the world’s military aviation news, by region. 4-5 Headlines 6-10 United Kingdom 11-17 Continental Europe 18-22 North America 23-24 Latin America 25-26 Middle East 27-28 Africa 29 Russia & CIS 30-33 Asia Pacific 34 Australasia/Contracts

FREE DVD! Claim your FREE Rafale Cockpit DVD worth £12.49, when you subscribe to AirForces Monthly. See pages 48 and 49 for full details.

36 Russian Power

Babak Taghvaee reports on the 70th anniversary of the Great Patriotic War flypast over Moscow on May 9, which featured 143 aircraft of various types.

40 EXERCISE REPORT Frisian Flag Large-scale fighter missions, tanker support and mobile surface-to-air missile threats made this year’s exercise one of the most complex ever. Gert Kromhout reports that, for fighter pilots, it’s the only place in Europe to be.

46 Croatia’s Fire Bosses

Croatia’s air force is operating one of the biggest AT 802 Fire Boss fleets, as Igor Bozinovski explains.

50 BASE TOUR Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort Lon Nordeen reports from South Carolina at the changes taking place at MCAS Beaufort as war-weary F/A-18 Hornets are slowly replaced by F-35B Joint Strike Fighters.

58 Cleared Hot!

Joe Copalman catches up with the US Marine Corp’s Forward Air Controllers and Joint Terminal Attack Controllers (JTACs) to see how they direct airpower to support ground battles.

66 EXCLUSIVE Training Masters

David Cenciotti visits Lecce Galatina air base and becomes the first journalist to fly in the Italian Air Force M-346 Master advanced jet trainer.

74 FORCE REPORT Army Air Corps

Tim Ripley profiles the British Army’s combat aviation force as it approaches its 60th birthday.

80 The Long Game

French Air Force UAVs and Mirage 2000Ds fly daily sorties from Niger’s capital, Niamey, under Operation Barkhane. Frédéric Lert examines the missions and how the base is being expanded to support increasing numbers of aircraft and UAVs.

86 AIRCRAFT PROFILE Ukraine Su-24 Fencer. Fencer Fights On

Ukraine’s already depleted Su-24 force was spurred into action as violence on its eastern border escalated during 2014. As Vladimir Trendafilovski reports, the aircraft flew reconnaissance and bombing missions with varied success.

92 Attrition

AFM’s Dave Allport reports on the world’s latest military accidents.

96 Debrief

Reviews of recently published books on military aviation. Cover: An F/A-18C Hornet approaches the rear of a KC-130J Hercules on a mission during Weapons and Tactics Instructor Course 2-15 at MCAS Yuma. USMC Cpl Charles Santamaria

Glenn Sands AFM Brand Editor

Base Tour Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort 50

#328 JULY 2015





Above: Airbus A400M development aircraft EC-406 (c/n 006, ex F-WWMZ) at Morón Air Base in Spain on May 9 during that weekend’s celebration of the 75th Anniversary of the base. The aircraft made just one low flypast and then landed prior to be put on static display. This was the type’s first public appearance since the loss of the third Turkish Atlas on its maiden flight on May 9. Roberto Yáñez

AIRBUS DEFENCE and Space (ADS) has revealed more details of the circumstances that led to the crash of an A400M, which killed four of the six crew members, on May 9. As the investigation continues, ADS issued an Accident Information Transmission (AIT) on June 2 updating all A400M operators, following on from an Alert Operator Transmission (AOT) on May 19. The AIT said analysis of the digital flight data recorder and cockpit voice recorder readouts had been successfully completed and that preliminary analysis had been conducted by the Comision para la Investigación Técnica Accidentes de Aeronaves Militares (CITAAM – the Spanish military aircraft accident investigation

agency), with ADS representatives providing technical assistance. In a June 3 press release the company said CITAAM had confirmed that engine Nos 1, 2 and 3 experienced a power freeze after lift-off and did not respond to the crew’s attempts to control the power setting in the normal way. Engine No 4 did, however, respond to throttle demands. When the power levers were set to flight idle in an attempt to reduce power, the power did reduce, but then remained at flight idle on the three affected engines for the remainder of the flight, despite attempts by the crew to regain power. ADS notes that this is consistent with those three engines being affected by the issue addressed in the AOT on

May 19, which asked operators to carry out specific checks on each of the aircraft’s engine control units before any further flights. The AOT was based on internal analysis by ADS, independent from the continuing separate official investigation by CITAAM. The crash, involving the third aircraft for the Turkish Air Force on its maiden flight (see Fatal Turkish A400M Crash on Maiden Flight, June, p4), led to Germany, Malaysia, Turkey and the UK grounding their A400Ms. France, the only other country with the type in service, said it would continue to fly them, but only on essential missions. Although the manufacturer resumed flight testing on May 12 with development aircraft,

on the same day Spain’s Ministry of Defence withdrew permission for pre-delivery testing of all production aircraft, pending further investigation. On June 7, Airbus Group Chief Executive Tom Enders said the company hoped to resume production test flying “soon”, paving the way for rapid resumption of deliveries. A spokeswoman said two aircraft were ready to start the delivery process as soon as the enforced suspension of flight testing was lifted. A meeting between ADS and authorities in Madrid was scheduled for June 8 to discuss the investigation and determine whether it was safe to resume flying. 

Wild Weasel 50th Anniversary US AIR Force personnel from the 20th Fighter Wing’s 55th Fighter Squadron ‘Fightin 55th’ at Shaw Air Force Base, South Carolina, hosted an event at the base on June 5 to mark the 50th anniversary of the formation of the first USAF Wild Weasel unit. Resident F-16C 92-3920 ‘SW’, 20th FW commander Colonel Stephen Jost's aircraft, was unveiled in special anniversary tail art. The Wild Weasel concept originated in the Vietnam War and refers to any USAF aircraft undertaking a mission using


JULY 2015 #328

radar-seeking missiles to destroy enemy radars and SAMs. The first such mission took place on December 22, 1965, when Captain Al Lamb, flying an F-100F Super Sabre,successfully led an attack on a site near Hanoi to destroy SAMs that the North Vietnamese had recently acquired from the Soviet Union. Wild Weasel pilots still wear the same patch on their flight suits with the initials YGTBSM – standing for “You’ve Got To Be Shittin Me” - the pilots' reaction when they were first briefed on what their mission entailed! 

Above: US Air Force/20th Fighter Wing F-16C 92-3920 ‘SW’ in its new 50th anniversary of the Wild Weasels colour scheme, in which it was unveiled at Shaw AFB on June 5. USAF

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Pakistan AF JF-17s Head for Paris

Brand Editor: Glenn Sands World Air Forces Correspondent: Alan Warnes Editorial contact: [email protected] Military News Editor: Dave Allport Chief Designer: Steve Donovan Assistant Chief Designer: Lee Howson Production Editor: Sue Blunt Deputy Production Editor: Carol Randall Advertising Manager: Ian Maxwell Production Manager: Janet Watkins Group Marketing Manager: Martin Steele Mail Order & Subscriptions: Liz Ward Commercial Director: Ann Saundry Executive Chairman: Richard Cox Managing Director & Publisher: Adrian Cox

Above: Pakistan AF JF-17 Thunders 13-143, 13-146 from 16 Squadron ‘Black Panthers’, 10-123 from 26 Squadron ‘Black Spiders’ and another unidentified example from the Black Panthers, preparing to depart for the Paris Air Show from their operational base on June 7. Only three JF-17s are scheduled to appear at the show, but one of these four was acting as an air spare in case of any problems. PAF

PAF Chief visits China PAKISTAN’S CLOSE ties with China were further cemented during a visit to the country by Pakistan Air Force Chief of the Air Staff (CAS), Air Chief Marshal Sohail Aman, during early June. The focus of his time there centred on areas of mutual interest, including the new Block III version of the JF-17 Thunder. He held meetings with high-ranking Chinese civil and defence officials, including General Ma Xiaotian, Commander People’s Liberation Army and Air Force (PLAAF); Lin Xuoming, President AVIC (Aviation Industry of China); Li Yuhai, Vice President, AVIC; Yang Ying, President CATIC (China National Aero-Technology import and Export Corporation) and Qu Huimin, President China National Electronics Import and Export Corporation (CEIEC). During his stay, from June 1-5, he visited the 24th Air Division at Tianjin, and inspected the J-10 before going to Chengdu Aircraft Corporation to witness the ongoing modifications on JF-17 prototype PT-5 and the JF-17 simulator. At Shenyang Aircraft Corporation he was briefed about the J-31 stealth aircraft and its capabilities before visiting a static display of the new high-tech aircraft. He returned to Pakistan on June 5 in time to see the three PAF JF-17s and the accompanying contingent of personnel depart on June 7 in C-130s for Paris Air Show – see abovestory. Alan Warnes 

THREE PAKISTAN Air Force (PAF) JF-17 Thunders are to be displayed at the Paris Air Show, which runs from June 15 to 21. The aircraft departed for the show on June 7. One aircraft will perform in the flying display and one will be on show in the static park throughout the event. The third will act as a spare. The aircraft has now made airshow appearances around the world, having been seen at the Farnborough Air Show in the

UK, Zhuhai Air Show in China, Izmir Air Show in Turkey and Dubai Air Show in the UAE. Jointly developed by the PAF and China Aero-technology Import Export Corporation (CATIC), the type is co-produced at Kamra, Pakistan, by the Pakistan Aeronautical Complex and CATIC. The JF-17 has been in PAF service since 2010 and is intended to become the backbone of its fighter force, replacing A-5s, F-7Ps and Mirages. 

First Voyager for Painting at Manching

Airbus A330 Voyager KC2 (ZZ341)/MRTT027 (c/n 1555, ex EC-336) arriving at Manching, Germany, on May 13 for painting. This was the first A330 MRTT to arrive for painting by Airbus Defence and Space at Manching, although more are now planned to follow. Dietmar Fenners

UK Participates in F-35B Operational Tests UK MILITARY personnel have been an integral part of the first phase of F-35B Lightning II operational testing (OT-1) on the USS Wasp (LHD 1), working alongside their US Navy and US Marine Corps counterparts to assess the integration of the F-35B into amphibious military operations –see Operational Testing of F-35B on USS Wasp, p19. “United Kingdom participation in the F-35 programme has been absolutely critical to our success,” said Lt Gen Chris Bogdan, Program Executive Officer for the F-35 Lightning II Joint Program Office. “Since the beginning, UK test pilots and engineers have

been fully integrated and work shoulder-to shoulder with us as we deliver the F-35 to the warfighter.” Sixteen Royal Navy and RAF members embedded aboard the ship during OT-1. They served as F-35 operational assessors, ship integration team members, aircraft technicians and maintenance crews. The Royal Navy’s vision for tactical integration of the F-35B is similar to the USMC’s plan to integrate the F-35 with legacy aircraft. UK F-35B pilots will begin operating the F-35 from UK home bases from 2018 and are on track to fly from Queen Elizabeth Class aircraft carriers in 2020. 

Copies of AirForces Monthly can be obtained each month by placing a standing order with your newsagent. In case of difficulty, contact our Circulation Manager. Readers in USA may place subscriptions by telephone toll-free 800-676-4049 or by writing to AirForces Monthly, 3330 Pacific Ave, Ste 500, Virginia Beach, VA234519828. We are unable to guarantee the bonafides of any of our advertisers. Readers are strongly recommended to take their own precautions before parting with any information or item of value, including, but not limited to, money, manuscripts, photographs or personal information in response to any advertisements within this publication. Postmaster: Send address corrections to AirForces Monthly, Key Publishing Ltd, c/o Mail Right International Inc. 1637 Stelton Road B4, Piscataway NJ 08854. Printed in England by Warners (Midlands) plc, Bourne, Lincolnshire. AirForces Monthly (ISSN 0955 7091) is published monthly by Key Publishing Ltd and distributed in the USA by Mail Right Int., 1637 Stelton Road B4, Piscataway, NJ 08854. The entire contents of AirForces Monthly is a copyright of Key Publishing Ltd and cannot be reproduced in any form without permission. The Editor is happy to receive contributions to AirForces Monthly. Please note that all material sent to the Editor is forwarded at the contributor’s own risk. While every care is taken with material, the publishers cannot be held responsible for any loss or damage incurred. All material rates available on request. Submitted material (especially illustrations) should have the contributor’s name and address clearly marked and a stamped addressed envelope should be enclosed if it is required to be returned. All items submitted for publication are subject to our terms and conditions, which are regularly updated without prior notice and are freely available from Key Publishing Ltd or downloadable from www.keypublishing. com. All digital imagery should be at least 300dpi and 10 x 8 inches (25.4cm x 20.3cm) in size and submitted on a CD/ DVD with thumbnail prints to the Editor at Key Publishing Ltd, PO Box 100, Stamford, Lincs., PE9 1XQ, UK. Tel: +44 (0)1780 755131 Fax: +44 (0)1780 757261 Subscription: [email protected] Website: Distributed by Seymour Distribution Ltd, 2 Poultry Avenue, London, EC1A 9PP. Tel: +44 (0)20 7429 4000 Fax: +44 (0)20 7429 4001

#328 JULY 2015



UNITED KINGDOM Ex-RAF Tristars Sold for Tanker/ Cargo Ops US DEFENCE contractor AGD Systems has bought the six former Royal Air Force L1011 Tristar tankers stored at Bruntingthorpe Airfield, Leicestershire, since their retirement last year. The company, announcing the purchase on May 18, said they will be used for aerial refuelling, cargo and medevac missions. Four are configured as NATO standard drogue system aerial refuelling tankers, while the remaining two have a cargo, passenger and medevac layout. They will operate under Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) registration and certification. After arriving at Bruntingthorpe in March 2014, they were sold to US broker CSDS Aircraft Sales and Leasing, being registered to them on May 12, 2014 – see Ex-RAF Tristars Sold to US-Based Leasing Company, August 2014, p6. They were then sold on to AGD Systems and registered to associated companies on February 18, 2015. AGD Systems CEO, Mark Daniels, said: “The aircraft are currently undergoing inspections to return them to civilian operation for military contract services, with the first one ready in June 2015. The aircraft will be offered to US, UK and NATO forces to support the very same operations [in which they were previously operated] and utilisation for refuelling, cargo, personnel and medevac missions globally. This capability will put AGD Systems in a very unique business and much needed service, as more and more military services are being outsourced to commercial companies.” 

Ex-RAF Tristars Acquired by AGD Systems Serial


US Reg’n

Con No





Aero Airtanker 1 LLC ZD950




Aero Airtanker 2 LLC ZD951




Aero Airtanker 4 LLC ZD953




Aero Airtanker 3 LLC ZE704




Aero Airmed 1 LLC ZE705



Aero Airtrans 1 LLC


JULY 2015 #328


Final RAF Voyager Arrives for Conversion AIRBUS DEFENCE and Space is converting the 14th and final Voyager for the Royal Air Force. The aircraft, EC-331 (c/n 1610, ex F-WWCX), callsign ‘CASA331’, was ferried to Getafe, Spain, from the factory in Toulouse, France, where it had made its

maiden flight on April 27. It will be converted to a twopoint tanker (Voyager KC2) and is conversion number MRTT029. I t is allocated RAF serial ZZ343 and civilian registration G-VYGN for Air Tanker Ltd. The aircraft is the last of the initial 32 MRTT

conversions. The next tanker, which will be the first for the Republic of Singapore Air Force, will be the prototype of an enhanced MRTT version, which will be closer in configuration to the civilian A330neo variant. José Ramón Valero 

Below: The 14th and final RAF Voyager arriving at Getafe for conversion into a KC2 two-point tanker. José Ramón Valero

Chinook HC4 in 18 Sqn Centenary Colours

Above: Royal Air Force 18 Squadron Chinook HC4 ZA712 during its first training sortie, on Salisbury Plain, Wiltshire, on May 21, after being painted in its special centenary colours. Rick Ingham

A SPECIAL colour scheme has been applied to 18 (Bomber) Squadron Chinook HC4 ZA712 to commemorate the centenary of the unit’s formation at RAF Northolt on May 1, 1915. The helicopter was unveiled to the media on May 14 at the squadron’s base at RAF Odiham, Hampshire. The scheme was designed by Flt Lt Andy Donovan who is currently converting to the Chinook HC4. Planning for the scheme began six months ago when the aircraft was still serving in Afghanistan. He said: “We

wanted the scheme to tell a story from 1915 through to 2015. The last time we had applied a scheme like this was 25 years ago for the squadron`s 75 year anniversary.” No 18 squadron has a distinguished history during which it served in many major global conflicts. These include both World Wars, the Suez crisis, Falklands, Bosnia, Kosovo, Sierra Leone, Iraq and most recently Afghanistan.  The colour scheme transitions from 1915 at the front through to the modern era at the rear. The squadron motto, ‘Animo Et

Fide’ (‘with courage and faith’), is painted on the forward fuselage. The aircraft’s rear pylon features a red Pegasus (centre-piece of the squadron badge) with ‘100 YEARS 1915-2015’ titles plus the number 18, which contains the initials of the six people who designed and painted the aircraft. The front pylon poignantly contains a red poppy and the letter ‘W’ which was the aircraft code of Wing Commander Hugh Malcolm VC, 18(B) Squadron commander, who lost his life along with other squadron personnel during a raid in 1942. Ian Harding 

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RAF Aircraft Return from Nepal Relief UK MINISTRY of Defence officials announced on June 1 that the RAF C-130J Hercules deployed to support the humanitarian relief mission after the earthquake in Nepal had returned home. A team of 38 RAF personnel deployed with the aircraft, Hercules C4 ZH870, for a four-week detachment. During that period, over 62 tonnes of freight were delivered to Kathmandu from an air base in India. At its peak, the detachment was flying daily missions of up to 16 hours, delivering World Food Programme high-energy rations, plus ten tonnes of shelters and tents. Essential water purification materiel was also delivered for use by the British Gurkha engineers in Nepal. The three RAF Chinook HC3s deployed (ZH898, ZH901 and ZH904) were somewhat less successful in their mission, after Nepal decided they were not required. The were flown out of RAF Brize Norton, Oxfordshire, on Antonov Airlines An-124s to Chandigarh Air Force Station, India. The first departed on May 1 on UR-82008, while the remaining two followed they next day on UR-82007. It is reported that Nepali authorities were concerned that the rotor downwash from these helicopters might damage fragile houses when taking off and landing, so they remained in India until being transported home on May 30. 

Thales Selected for Royal Navy’s Crowsnest Requirement THALES HAS been selected to provide the new helicopter-borne surveillance system for the Royal Navy’s Queen Elizabeth class aircraft carriers under the Crowsnest project. The company's selection by the Ministry of Defence and Lockheed Martin (the prime contractor) as preferred bidder to provide the radar and mission system was announced by the MOD on May 22, althoughy the decision had been made a month earlier. Crowsnest will provide long-range air, maritime and land detection to protect the next generation Queen Elizabeth-class carriers, as well as having the capability to track potential threats. It will also be able to support wider fleet and land operations, replacing the Sea King ASAC7’s airborne surveillance and control capability, which has been deployed on regular operations since 1982. Lockheed Martin UK will now conclude the project’s £27

million assessment phase, expected to be completed in 2016, supported by Thales and AgustaWestland, manufacturer of the Merlin HM2 on to which the system will be fitted. A decision will then be taken on whether to proceed with manufacturing. The then Defence Secretary Philip Hammond had announced on February 3 last year that Crowsnest was being accelerated in order to prevent a lengthy capability gap after the Sea King ASAC7s were withdrawn – see UK Accelerates Crowsnest, March 2014, p5. Air Vice-Marshal Julian Young, Director Helicopters at the MOD’s Defence Equipment and Support organisation, said: “We have accelerated our programme delivery strategy in order to sustain the capability seamlessly through our Merlin Mk 2 helicopters as the Sea King Mk 7 fleet retires from service in 2018, and we are confident that the programme will be delivered as planned.”

A computer-generated image showing the Crowsnest surveillance system fitted to a Royal Navy Merlin HM2. The configuration is similar to that of the Sea King ASAC7, which the type will replace. Thales

Tutors of 16(R) Sqn Move to RAF Wittering FOUR ROYAL Air Force Grob Tutor T1s from 16 (Reserve) Squadron have arrived at their new home at RAF Wittering, Cambridgeshire. They flew in on May 14 from their previous base at RAF Cranwell, Lincolnshire. Along with trainee pilots, they brought eight qualified flying instructors. No 16 Squadron has celebrated its 100th anniversary, having been formed on February 10, 1915 at St Omer, France. Since then it has had many roles and flown a wide range of aircraft, but was most recently re-formed at Cranwell on October 1, 2008 as part of No 1 Elementary Flying Training School to fly the Tutor in the training role. The squadron’s arrival brings

The Thales solution uses an updated, improved and repackaged role-fit version of the Cerberus tactical sensor suite in service on the Sea King ASAC7. The design comprises a single mechanically scanned radar head which uses an innovative system to provide 360° visibility from the underside of the helicopter and which folds up to the side of the aircraft when not in operation. Crowsnest will be a ‘roll-on, roll-off’ system and as such will not be a permanent fit. All Fleet Air Arm Merlin HM2s will be configured so they can operate with the system. Current plans are for ten Crowsnest systems to be acquired, of which only eight would be fitted to Merlin helicopters at any one time. Two bidders had been contending for the requirement. The losing offer came from a subsidiary mission systems supplier of Lockheed Martin UK. 

the total complement of Tutors at Wittering to 16. Following re-activation of the airfield, the first Tutors arrived at Wittering on February 4 this year, when the aircraft of Cambridge University

Air Squadron, the University of London Air Squadron and No 5 Air Experience Flight flew in from RAF Wyton, Cambridgeshire – see Flying Squadrons Return to RAF Wittering, March, p7. 

The four Tutor T1s of 16 (Reserve) Squadron perform a formation break as they arrive overhead their new base at RAF Wittering, Cambridgeshire, on May 14. MOD Crown Copyright

RAF Typhoon Common Launcher BAE Systems is to evaluate the possibility of using a common weapon launcher on the Eurofighter Typhoon. This would be capable of carrying multiple weapons and weapon types on one aircraft attachment point. On May 29 the company announced that it had been given £1.7 million to research the concept. Each launcher could carry up to three weapons, including the Dual-Mode Brimstone 2 missile and Paveway IV precision-guided bomb. 

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Battle of Britain Typhoon un

Alan Warnes was at RAF Coningsby in May when a newly camouflaged Typhoon was shown to journalists and photographers.


he RAF officially unveiled camouflaged Typhoon FGR4 ZK349 at RAF Coningsby, Lincs, on May 21. Although the 29(R) Squadron jet had been flying in the stunning paint scheme for a few weeks, the general election had delayed its official launch. Part of the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Britain, the Typhoon acknowledges the bravery and sacrifice of ‘The Few’ who participated in the battle. It wears a 249 Squadron


JULY 2015 #328

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Flt Lt James Brindley Nicolson

Above: The Hurricane flown by Flt Lt James Nicolson VC when he crashed on August 16, 1940, had his personal emblem, a red devil on a white disc ringed in red and yellow. It has been reproduced along with his name on the Typhoon. Alan Warnes


identification code of the only Fighter Command pilot awarded a Victoria Cross during the battle – Flt Lt James Brindley Nicolson. The Typhoon along with a World War Two Spitfire will perform as a synchro pair at airshows across the UK this summer. The two pilots with the enviable task of flying them are Flt Lt Ben Westoby-Brooks of 29(R) Sqn, who has 1,000 hours on the RAF’s state-of-the-art fighter, and Flt Lt Antony ‘Parky’ Parkinson MBE from the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight (BBMF). ‘Parky’ was the first pilot to gain 1,000 hours flying the Typhoon and has flown more than 1,000 hours on three other types – the Phantom, Tornado F3 and Hawk with the Red Arrows. Flt Lt Westoby-Brooks, an instructor pilot, told AFM: “We started flying the routine at 5,000 feet (1,500m) and decreased

our height in a stepping-stone approach to 1,500 feet (450m) – and flew from here for the first time together at 500 feet (150m) in early April.” The flying display was signed off by the Air Officer Commanding,1 Group on April 24 for the routine to be flown at airshows. RAF Coningsby’s station commander, Group Captain Jez Attridge said: “This fully operational Typhoon will be a dynamic reminder to all that see it over the summer of the link between the modern RAF and ‘The Few’ that defended our nation 75 years ago during the battle. Today that mission endures with Typhoons on quick reaction alert, every minute of every day. The technology has changed since the Battle of Britain but the mission for the RAF to protect the UK remains unchanged.” 

It was on November 15, 1940 when the announcement came of Flt Lt Nicolson’s Victoria Cross. “Flight Lieutenant James Brindley NICOLSON (39329) – No. 249 Squadron. During an engagement with the enemy near Southampton on 16th August 1940, Flight Lieutenant Nicolson’s aircraft was hit by four cannon shells, two of which wounded him whilst another set fire to the gravity tank. When about to abandon his aircraft owing to flames in the cockpit he sighted an enemy fighter. This he attacked and shot down, although as a result of staying in his burning aircraft he sustained serious burns to his hands, face, neck and legs. “Flight Lieutenant Nicolson has always displayed great enthusiasm for air fighting and this incident shows he possesses courage and determination of a high order. By continuing to engage the enemy after he had been wounded and his aircraft set on fire, he displayed exceptional gallantry and disregard for the safety of his own life.” He had fully recovered from his injuries when posted to India in 1942. Between August 1943 and August 1944, he was a squadron leader and CO of 27 Squadron, flying Bristol Beaufighters over Burma. During this period he was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross. He was a wing commander when he was killed on May 2, 1945 in a 355 Squadron B-24 Liberator, in which he was flying as an observer, when it caught fire and crashed into the Bay of Bengal. His body was never recovered. 

Above: The Typhoon and a Hurricane from the BBMF pose for the camera over the Lincolnshire countryside. Crown Copyright 2014 Left: Key personnel at the unveiling of the camouflaged Typhoon. From left to right: Flt Lt Antony ‘Parky’ Parkinson, BBMF Spitfire Pilot (synchro pair display); Jim Nicolson, nephew of Flt Lt James B Nicolson VC DFC; Wing Commander James Heald DFC, Officer Commanding 29(R) Squadron, RAF Coningsby; and Flt Lt Ben WestobyBrooks, 29(R) Squadron, Battle of Britain commemorative Typhoon Pilot (synchro pair display). Alan Warnes Right: The Typhoon on the ramp at RAF Coningsby. Alan Warnes The Typhoon was painted at RAF Coningsby by a 14-man team from SERCO over two weeks during March, after they first stripped down the jet to its black primer.

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Minot B-52Hs Deploy to UK

Above: US Air Force B-52H 60-0018 ‘MT’ from the 5th Bomb Wing/23rd Expeditionary Bomb Squadron ‘Bomber Barons’ at Minot Air Force Base, North Dakota, arriving at RAF Fairford, Gloucestershire, on June 5 to participate in Exercises Baltops and Saber Strike. USAF/Senior Airman Malia Jenkins

THREE US Air Force B-52H Stratofortress bombers arrived in the UK at RAF Fairford, Gloucestershire, on June 5 to participate in the multi-national Baltops 2015 and Saber Strike exercises. They comprised 60-0018 ‘MT’, 60-0047 ‘MT’ and 61-0040 ‘MT’, callsigns ‘Zarp 43’, ‘Zarp 44’ and ‘Zarp 45’. All were from the 5th Bomb Wing/23rd Expeditionary Bomb Squadron (EBS) ‘Bomber Barons’ at Minot Air Force Base, North Dakota. The B-52Hs were there to demonstrate the ability of US Air Force Global Strike Command to project conventional air power anywhere, anytime by conducting flying missions with European

nations. This is the second year AFGSC has deployed assets to the European area of responsibility. Lt Col Bradley Dyer, 23rd EBS commander, said: “Our partnership with the countries out here in US Air Forces in Europe and Air Forces Africa is significant. We need their support and we want to assure them they have our support as well for any kind of conflicts that may arise in the future – our relationship with them is key.” Baltops was designed to improve maritime security in the Baltic Sea through increased interoperability and co-operation among regional allies. Saber Strike is a long-standing US Army Europe-led training exercise

conducted annually, which aims to improve co-operation, capabilities and interoperability of participating nations for future contingency operations. It also trains participants on command and control. “The significance of us participating with our (allies) and the importance of why we participate with them is to show them we can project bomber capability into the European theatre at any time,” Dyer said. He added that participating in these multi-national exercises also reflects the importance of RAF Fairford and keeping the capabilities necessary to support any exercise or mission of AFGSC assets here. 

Delays in Coast Guard AW189 Programme

Above: One of the three AW189s used by Bristow Helicopters at Norwich Airport for operational evaluation visited Brighton on May 13 to display at the Tangent Link Search and Rescue Conference. It had earlier carried out fuel burn tests at RNAS Yeovilton. The Maritime Coastguard Agency revealed at the conference on the previous day that deliveries of the first four AW 189s are being delayed because of de-icing issues, during the aircraft’s SAR certification. Alan Warnes

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New Helicopter Synthetic Training TWO CONTRACTS, together worth £80 million, have been awarded by the UK Ministry of Defence to provide new groundbased training equipment for Royal Air Force and Royal Navy helicopter pilots and rear crew. The deals, announced on June 2, comprise a £51 million contract with Lockheed Martin UK to support Chinook HC6 training and another (valued at £29 million) for Merlin HC4/4A aircrew synthetic training devices being provided by AgustaWestland for Merlin HC4/4A. The Chinook simulators will be at RAF Odiham, Hampshire, while those for the Merlin will be at RNAS Yeovilton, Somerset. The Odiham facility will include two flight deck simulators, a rear crew training device and a suite of computerbased training facilities, in a purpose-built building. The contract with Lockheed Martin UK includes two years for design and production of the equipment and training facility, followed by a ten-year training service support package. The new simulators at Yeovilton will be provided by CAE under sub-contract to AgustaWestland. They will include two fixed-base flight training devices, a flight navigation procedures trainer and a rear crew trainer. They will be delivered from 2017 and installed in existing buildings. The dedicated Merlin Commando Helicopter Force training facility will be ready to begin training courses in late 2017 and achieve full capability in 2018. They will enable multi-aircraft and whole crew training. 


CONTINENTAL EUROPE Swedish Sk60 Replacement SWEDEN HAS begun the process to find new Military Flying Training System (MFTS) to replace the limited capability of the Air Force’s current Sk60 (Saab 105) jet trainers. A request for information was issued by the Försvarets Materielverk (FMV – Defence Materiel Administration) on April 29 in preparation for inviting a request for quotation. Responses were due by July 1. Sweden is seeking a longterm capability that will be in place through to 2040 and beyond. The MFTS would be expected to provide both basic and advanced training, covering Phases II-IV of the Swedish pilot training system. The FMV says there is no particular preference for a oneaircraft or two-aircraft system to achieve the requirements of the MFTS, which must be able to deliver up to 8,000 flight hours per year. 

Dutch Pilots to Train on M-346 ROYAL NETHERLANDS Air Force pilots are to train in Italy on Aeronautica Militar Italiana (AMI – Italian Air Force) T-346 Master jet trainers. Alenia Aermacchi announced on May 11 that an agreement had been signed by the Chiefs of Staff of the two air forces the previous week in Milan. This envisages the detachment of an instructor and two student pilots from the RNLAF to be stationed at the AMI’s LecceGalatina Flight School. This will be the first of what is planned to be a long-standing co-operation between the two countries. Several other air forces that plan to operate new-generation aircraft have also shown interest in the AMI training programme. 

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First NATO AGS Aircraft Unveiled

Above: The first NATO Alliance Ground Surveillance aircraft, XAV SA-0014, being unveiled on June 4. Northrop Grumman

NATO’S FIRST Alliance Ground Surveillance (AGS) aircraft was unveiled in Palmdale, California, on June 4. The unmanned aircraft, based on the Northrop Grumman Block 40 Global Hawk, is part of a broader systems solution. It will advance the Alliance’s evolving ISR needs during a full range of NATO’s missions. These will include protection of ground troops and civilian populations, border control and maritime safety, the fight against terrorism, crisis management and humanitarian assistance in natural disasters. “This marks a significant step forward in achieving NATO’s goal of acquiring NATO-owned and operated AGS core capability,” said Erling Wang, Chairman of the NATO AGS Management Organization (NAGSMO). “What you see here today is the result of one of the commitments made at the 2012 NATO Summit – to

bring this advanced and critical persistent ISR capability to the Alliance to help ensure we can continue to address the range of challenges our member and other allied nations face.” A $1.7 billion contract was signed with Northrop Grumman on May 20, 2012, for the AGS system, which comprises five air vehicles and fixed, mobile and transportable ground stations. The main operating base for the type will be Sigonella Air Base, Italy. The system is expected to achieve initial operational capability by the end of 2017. Northrop Grumman’s primary industrial team includes Airbus Defence and Space (Germany), Selex ES (Italy) and Kongsberg (Norway), as well as leading defence companies from all participating countries. Aviation companies within the 15 participating nations

(Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Germany, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Norway, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia and the United States), are each contributing to the delivery of the AGS system. All 28 Alliance nations will take part in the long-term support of the programme. With the ability to fly for up to 30 hours at a time, the highaltitude long-endurance system will provide NATO leaders with persistent global situational awareness. The aircraft is equipped with the Multi-Platform Radar Technology Insertion Program (MP-RTIP) sensor. The MP-RTIP will provide critical data to commanders during operations in any weather, day or night. The NATO AGS system will also be able to fuse sensor data, continuously detect and track moving objects and provide detailed imagery. 

New Two-Seat Croatian Fire Boss

Euro MALE FRANCE, GERMANY and Italy signed a declaration of intent on May 18 to launch a two-year, €60 million definition study for a future European mediumaltitude, long-endurance (MALE) UAV. Also involving the European Defence Agency, the study could lead to a new European MALE UAV being ready for service by 2025. 

Above: Recently delivered twin-seat Croatian Air Force Air Tractor AT-802 Fire Boss 897, equipped with Wipaire Wipline 10,000 amphibious floats, was displayed at the Tangent Link Aerial Fire-Fighting Europe Conference at Zadar-Zemunik Air Base, Croatia, on April 3. After a delay of two years, due to lack of funding, the aircraft finally joined the 855th Aerial Fire-fighting Squadron at Zadar in November, providing a welcome boost to the unit’s water landing training as well as its fire-fighting capabilities. See p46-47 for more details of Croatia’s Fire Boss operations. Alan Warnes

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CONTINENTAL EUROPE NATO Retires First E-3A NATO HAS retired its first Boeing E-3A Sentry AWACS aircraft, 32 years after it first entered service. The aircraft, LX-N90449, flew its last operational mission with the NATO E-3A Component on May 13, when it carried out an 11.5 hour sortie. To mark its withdrawal from service, it was welcomed back to its base at Geilenkirchen, Germany, after the flight by a traditional water cannon salute from the base fire brigade. The aircraft is now being stripped of non-flight essential parts, prior to making its final flight to Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Arizona, where it will be placed in storage with the 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group. A Logistics Wing team from the Retirement Aircraft 449 Project will then strip all remaining useable components from the aircraft at Davis-Monthan over a period of three weeks, generating a total of $40 millionworth of re-usable spares. Once all spares have been recovered, the aircraft will be handed over to AMARG, which has been contracted to store it for three years. During that time, upon request from the Force Commander, AMARG can still remove parts and ship them to Geilenkirchen, if required. After the three-year period, the aircraft will be scrapped. The aircraft joined the NATO fleet on August 19, 1983, since when it had accumulated 22,206.29 flight hours at the time of its last mission. During that time it operated out of 21 countries: Afghanistan, Belgium, Canada, the Czech Republic, Djibouti, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Malta, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Spain, Turkey, the UK and the US. A retirement ceremony was to be held for the aircraft on June 23. The decision to withdraw the aircraft was taken by the NATO AEW&C Programme Management Agency (NAPMO) nations due to it being due for its six-yearly Depot Level Maintenance (DLM) inspection in mid-July. As NATO had already decided to reduce its E-3A fleet on cost grounds, it was decided that it was not worth the €15 million cost of the DLM. 

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H145M Achieves EASA Certification AIRBUS HELICOPTERS multi-role, twin-engine H145M military rotorcraft (previously designated the EC645T2) has been certified by the European Aviation Safety Agency airworthiness authority. Announcing the approval, the company reported on May 15 the move cleared the way for military type approval and deliveries of the first two before the year-end.

The German Bundeswehr (German Armed Forces) is the first customer for the type, having ordered 15 for operation by the Luftwaffe (German Air Force) under a contract signed on July 11, 2013. The Royal Thai Navy will be the second H145M customer, with deliveries expected to begin in 2016. The Thai contract,

signed on September 2 last year covers five helicopters – see Thai Navy Signs Contract for Five Airbus Helicopters EC645T2s, November, p29. The first H145M, D-HADI (c/n 20016), made its maiden flight on November 27, 2014, at the company’s Donauwörth factory in Bavaria, Germany – see Military EC645T2 Maiden Flight, January, p14. 

Right: One of the new H145M helicopters, destined for delivery to the Luftwaffe, (76+02)/D-HCBQ (c/n 20019), carries out a flight test from the factory in Donauwörth, Germany, on April 17. Airbus Helicopters/Charles Abarr

Tecnam Considers ‘P-JET’ Military Trainer

Tecnam’s concept for its proposed new P-JET turbofan military trainer. Tecnam

ITALIAN AIRCRAFT manufacturer Tecnam is investigating developing the 'P-JET', a side-by-side, two-seat, single turbofan-powered military trainer aircraft. The company revealed on May 12 that it is actively evaluating developing and producing the type. Tecnam says extensive interest has been shown in this type of aircraft for use by military flight training organisations. The company said it would offer a significantly faster and more efficient aircraft for both the private and business aviation sectors. The manufacturer believes it will be a game-changer as a first level entry military training jet-powered aircraft and in the world of general aviation. Tecnam’s initial research suggests manufacture is technically and economically achievable. It says the remarkable

progress in the development and reliability of thermic and mechanical efficiency now available in high bypass, two-spool turbofan engines, along with major advances in materials, ensures that production of the ‘P JET’ is feasible. The ‘P JET’ configuration would see the engine podded above the fuselage, ensuring maximum efficiency to achieve the full ram-air intake effect. It would also enable easier access for maintenance complete engine disassembling and other servicing requirements, as well as enhanced safety protection in the event of fire. Tecnam anticipates the cabin will be available both pressurised and non-pressurised, for use with an integrated oxygen system.  Development will be based on achieving civilian CS-23 and FAR 23 certification. 

Permanent US Presence Approved at Morón SPANISH GOVERNMENT approval has been granted for a permanent US military presence at Morón Air Base in southwest Spain. Under the terms of the deal, which was approved by the Spanish Cabinet on May 27, the US can now base up to 40 aircraft at Morón, increased from the previously approved maximum of 16. In addition, the number of US personnel that can be based there has been upped from 850 to 3,000 under the new agreement. US Secretary of State John Kerry had been due to formally sign the agreement on June 1 during a visit to Madrid. However, he broke his leg in a cycling accident in France on the previous day and was unable to attend the ceremony. Until now, the Morón-based US Marine Corps' Special-Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force, Crisis Response (SP-MAGTF CR) had been authorised for a total of 12 MV-22B Ospreys and four KC-130J tankers to support US Africa Command. 

Alenia Aermachhi F_P.indd 1

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CONTINENTAL EUROPE Upgraded French E-3F Achieves IOC INITIAL OPERATING capability (IOC) of the modernised Armée de l’Air (French Air Force) E-3F AWACS fleet has been achieved. The milestone, announced by Boeing on May 20, follows delivery of the second of four upgraded aircraft and completion of operational test and evaluation. The upgrade is part of a Foreign Military Sale between the French defence procurement agency, the Direction Générale de l’Armement (DGA) and the US Government. Lt Col Olivier Duplessy, French Air Force AWACS Programme Officer, said: “With the declaration of IOC, the French Air Force is able to utilise the new capabilities of the Midlife Upgrade to protect our national and international interests. This improvement will contribute to maintaining high operational performance and reinforce interoperability capability for at least the next 20 years.” French AWACS monitor national airspace, national interests and support allied missions. The work will increase the fleet’s surveillance, communications and battle management capabilities. AWACS crew members will experience reduced workload, receive more actionable information and have better situational awareness. Yves Galland, president Boeing France, said: “The exemplary teamwork between Boeing and Air France Industries was key in delivering the first two upgraded AWACS on schedule. We’re looking forward to pursuing our successful partnership with Air France Industries to deliver the last two aircraft on time and meet the French Air Force requirements on this strategic programme.” Boeing, as prime contractor, provides hardware, software, engineering and quality assurance support. Subcontractor Air France Industries KLM Engineering & Maintenance is upgrading electrical, mechanical and structural systems and mission hardware on the aircraft. The first improved AWACS was delivered in July 2014 – see First Upgraded French AWACS Delivered, September, p10. 

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Combat Dragon II OV-10G+ Broncos in Spain

US Special Operations Command OV-10G+ Bronco 155481 returning from a test flight on May 28 at NAS Rota, Spain. Antonio Muñiz Zaragüeta

UNUSUAL ARRIVALS at Naval Air Station Rota, Spain, have been two OV-10G+ Broncos operated by US Special Operations Command (SOCOM). The aircraft, 155481 and 155492, arrived by ship. After being re-assembled, they were test flying from the base using callsigns ‘Camelot 11’ and ‘Camelot 12’, respectively, on May 28.

The aircraft were part of the Combat Dragon II programme, during which the aircraft were loaned from NASA for trials in the light air support role with a view to operation in Afghanistan to assist ground troops. The experiment concluded on September 30, 2013 but the aircraft have been retained by SOCOM. What they are now

New Danish AF Home Guard Islander

being used for is unclear, although their arrival in Spain suggests they may now support operations in the US Africa Command region. They have been modified with digital cockpits, plus AN/ ALE-47 countermeasures dispenser systems and the Advanced Precision Kill Weapon System (APKWS).  Left: Britten-Norman BN-2B-21 Islander OY-FHA (c/n 523, originally B-07/Belgian Air Force) departs from Eindhoven, Netherlands, on May 4 after being re-sprayed by Aviation Cosmetics in the colours of the Danish Air Force Home Guard. The Home Guard is an entirely voluntary force and the Air Force branch is responsible for securing airports, environmental patrols of national waters (including oil spill observation) and reporting of enemy air activilty. Antoine Bosboom

Lithuanian Air Force’s First SAR Dauphin Delivery AIRBUS HELICOPTERS AS365N3+ Dauphin ’41 Blue’/F-WWOK, the first for the Lithuanian Air Force, landed on June 2 at Šiauliai Air Base following its delivery flight. Two days later, the helicopter was unveiled to the public at a media event at the base. The helicopter is one of three being acquired for search and

rescue duties under a €52 million contract signed in Vilnius on October 25, 2013 – see News Briefs, December 2013, p11. The first one has been acquired using funding from the European Union, while Lithuania has financed the other two. Through a co-operation agreement with the Ministry of Environment, the Lithuanian

Armed Forces is committed to dedicating a minimum of 75 hours flyiong with the helicopters annually for environmental observation and control. It will also carry out SAR tasks, fire-fighting missions, patient transfers, transport of organs for transplant and provide emergency support for state and municipal institutions. 

Above: Lithuanian Air Force AS365N3+ Dauphin ’41 Blue’/F-WWOK taxies in at Šiauliai Air Base on June 2 following completion of its delivery flight. Lithuanian MOD/Antanas Gedrimas

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Newly Overhauled Hind Reflown in Bulgaria

Above: Unmarked former Bulgarian Air Force Mi-24D Hind-D c/n 730202 takes off on May 12 from Sofia Airport, Bulgaria, on its first post-overhaul test flight. Alexander Mladenov

Former Bulgarian Air Force Mi-24D Hind-D c/n 730202 was re-flown on May 12 at Sofia Airport, Bulgaria, after being overhauled and undergoing a life-extension programme. The helicopter was devoid of serials and national markings and also lacked its anti-tank guided-missile suite. It had been delivered brand-new to Bulgaria in May 1982 and wore serial 121. It was withdrawn from

use by the Bulgarian Air Force in 1999 and is currently owned by Metalika-AB, a Bulgarian company, which specialises in purchases and sales of surplus arms and military equipment to Third World states. The company is known to have sold eight ex-Bulgarian AF Mi-24Ds since 2003 – two of these going to the Force Aérienne de la Côte d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast Air

Force) and the other six to the Force Aérienne de la République du Mali (Mali Republic Air Force). So far, Metalika-AB declines to disclose the end-customer for this newly-overhauled Hind-D. The company owns four more ex-Bulgarian Air Force Mi-24Ds, which are held in storage with TEREM-Letetz or in various stages of heavy maintenance. Alexander Mladenov 

German H145M Service Contract Award AIRBUS HELICOPTERS has been awarded a full-service contract by the Bundeswehr (German Armed Forces) for the new H145M, previously designated the EC645T2. The helicopter, which has just achieved EASA certification (see H145M Achieves EASA Certification on p12), is scheduled to enter service with the Luftwaffe (German Air Force) later this year. The deal announced on June 2 is a seven-year comprehensive co-operative support and services agreement. It will ensure optimal

availability, reliability and readiness for the Luftwaffe’s fleet of 15 H145Ms, which are to be used primarily in missions supporting the country’s Kommando Spezialkräfte (Special Forces). Airbus Helicopters’ responsibility includes management and implementation of maintenance and repair activities, material supply and airworthiness. The company will locate a dedicated team at Laupheim Air Base in Baden-Württemberg, southern Germany, creating close co-operation with Bundeswehr

technicians who will support these helicopters during their missions around the world. Klaus Przemeck, the Head of Airbus Helicopters’ German Military Support Centre, said: “We are committed to providing highquality, comprehensive coverage in this first full-service contract for the new H145M. It will build on our track record of successful support for the EC135s used to train its pilots at the German Army Aviation School in Bückeburg, where the fleet’s operational availability is at over 90%.” 

Slovenian Bell 412EP in Exercise Neptune Thrust 2015

Slovenian Air Defence and Aviation Brigade Bell 412EP H2-35 prepares to land on the Postojna Range in Slovenia on May 16 during aerial medical evacuation training with paratroopers of the US Army’s 173rd Airborne Brigade Support Battalion during Exercise Neptune Thrust 2015. The aim of the exercise was to enhance interoperability and develop individual technical skills. US Army/ Visual Information Specialist Paulo Bovo

News Briefs CZECH GOVERNMENT approval has been granted for the deployment of JAS39 Gripens to undertake the Icelandic Air Policing role. Five aircraft will deploy to Keflavik Air Base, Iceland, for a period of six weeks in July and August. This follows parliamentary approval for the miission, which was granted on June 3. The detachment had originally been due to be carried out by Royal Canadian Air Force CF-18 Hornets. However, due to the latter's ,commitments to operations against ISIL in Iraq and Syria, the Czech aircraft will replace them, following an urgent request from NATO. Czech Gripens had previously undertaken the Icelandic mission last year, over a nine-week period during the autumn. Around 70 personnel will be detached with the aircraft to support the new deployment. A NEW operator of the Boeing Insitu ScanEagle unmanned air vehicle is the Czech Army, which became fully operation with the type in Afghanistan on June 1 after completion of a series of field tests. The type has been supplied to the Czech Republic through US financial aid to support the fight against terrorism. The Czech ScanEagles in Afghanistan are based at Bagram Air Base, where they are operated by the 102nd Reconnaissance Battalion. The capability had been offered by the US just two years ago, since when all the administrative formalities have been completed, the UAVs delivered and personnel trained completed prior to the deployment to Afghanistan. SWEDISN DEFENCE and security company Saab is to provide the mission and graphics computer for the Pilatus PC-21 advanced turboprop trainer aircraft. The company had announced on June 3 that it had signed a contract with Pilatus to supply the computer, with a digital map function, under a deal valued at approximately SEK100 million. Series production deliveres will begin in 2016 and continue over the life of the PC-21 programme. The contract provides for additional sub-orders that could include further cockpit functions and systems.

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CZAF Mi-24 Hind in World War Two marks


o commemorate the 70th anniversary of the end of World War Two, the Czech Air Force has painted an Mi-24V in special marks. The colours, applied by employees at the LOM Praha aircraft repair factory, replicate those of an RAF 311 Sqn B-24 Liberator, that flew to Czechoslovakia on August 20, 1945. It was the first aircraft to touch down in Prague, as the unit began a shuttle service from the UK, and was piloted by the 311 Sqn CO, Wg Cdr Jan ‘Kost’a’ Kostohryz. His nickname has been applied to the nose of the Mi-24V, which was first seen in these new

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Above: Mi-24V 3370 now wears the same colours as 311 Sqn B-24 Liberator coded PP-K. Its Czech roundel will be replaced with a British one when it flies in the UK this summer. All photos, author Right: There are now two special marked Czech Air Force Mi-24s flying.

colours during a flypast over the Vitkov National Monument on May 7, 2015. It then appeared at the IDET (International Defence and Security Technologies) military exhibition in Brno between May 19 and 21. The Hind is painted in exactly the same colours as the Liberators wore when they were flying in Czechoslovakia. Jaroslav Spacek

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Above: In April 1942, 311 Sqn transferred to Coastal Command and its B-24s wore a white and grey camouflage for maritime patrol work – the Hind now wears the same camouflage. Left: ‘Kost’a’ was the nickname of the 311 Sqn commander who flew the first B-24 into Czechoslovakia.

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NORTH AMERICA Pentagon Mulls Block Buy of Up To 450 F-35s A MULTI-YEAR block purchase of up to 450 Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighters is being proposed by the US Department of Defense. The plan was revealed by Frank Kendall, defense undersecretary for acquisition, on May 29 during a teleconference after the annual F-35 CEO meeting in Oslo, Norway. Kendall said that the purchase would drive down costs and allow industry to plan with confidence for the next few years of production. The deal, which would cover procurement in Fiscal Years 2018 to 2020, requires Congressional approval before it can go ahead. It would also include aircraft for international programme partners and could include Foreign Military Sale (FMS) customers as well. Kendall said that all of the programme partners had expressed interest in participating in the proposal. He noted that the block buy approach was likely to provide '"double-digit" cost savings due to the larger economies of scale that will be possible when orders reach 150 aircraft per year. He also noted that the programme was meeting or exceeding new performance and cost milestones set in 2011. 

Last USAF AC-130H Flown to AMARG MEMBERS OF USAF’s 27th Special Operations Wing have said farewell to the last AC-130H Spectre II gunship in the inventory. The aircraft, 69-6569 ‘Excalibur’, departed Cannon Air Force Base, New Mexico, on May 27, following a retirement ceremony the previous day. It was flown to Davis-Monthan AFB, Arizona, for storage with the 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group. The type was flown at Cannon by the 27th SOW’s 16th Special Operations Squadron ‘Spectre’, which has completed disposal of all eight of its AC-130Hs, ending 46 years of service by the type. The first one left for AMARG on February 7 last year – see Retired USAF AC-130Hs Being Flown to AMARG, June 2014, p17. In total, six have been placed in storage at AMARG, one is preserved at

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Written-off January 31, 1991, Kuwait


‘Night Stalker’

Flown to AMARG December 15, 2014



Flown to AMARG May 27, 2015


‘Bad Company’

Flown to AMARG February 7, 2014



To Cannon AFB Air Park April 6, 2014


‘Heavy Metal’

Flown to AMARG April 8, 2014


‘Iron Maiden’

Flown to AMARG September 15, 2014


‘Wicked Wanda’

Flown to Hurlburt Field December 19, 2014


‘Hell Raiser’

Written-off March 14, 2014, off Somalia


‘Death Angel’

Flown to AMARG April 4, 2014

Cannon and another at Hurlburt Field, Florida – see table above. Capt Aaron Magger, 16th SOS navigator, said: “Over the last 12 years, the 16th SOS has flown over 6,500 combat sorties, 26,000 combat hours and has been responsible for over 4,600 enemies killed in action, along with over 5,200 enemy

captures. As the AC-130H chapter of gunship evolution comes to a close, the AC-130H is the single deadliest aircraft and flying squadron in the war on terrorism.” They are now being replaced by new production AC-130J Ghostrider gunships. 

The final US Air Force AC-130H Spectre II, 69-6569 ‘Excalibur’, performs a flypast over Cannon AFB during its retirement ceremony on May 26. USAF/Senior Airman Eboni Reece

Maiden Flight of S-97 Raider

SIKORSKY AIRCRAFT carried out the maiden flight of the prototype S-97 Raider, N971SK (c/n 0001), on May 22 from its Development Flight Center in West Palm Beach, Florida. Company test pilot Bill Fell, who flew the helicopter with co-pilot Kevin Bredenbeck, said the new, high-speed, multi-mission tactical helicopter was “rock solid” during the sortie, which lasted approximately one hour. The Raider will now move into more progressive flight testing to demonstrate key performance parameters that will be critical to future combat operations, including armed reconnaissance, light assault, light attack and special operations. The Raider had been unveiled on October 2 last year and ground testing had begun on February 4

US Air Force AC-130H Disposals Serial

(see Sikorsky S-97 Raider Begins Ground Runs, March, p16). The second of the two prototypes is currently being completed at West Palm Beach – See Sikorsky Begins Final Assembly of Second S-97 Raider, April, p14. This aircraft will serve as a demonstrator, offering key customers an

opportunity to experience first hand the capabilities of the X2 Technology on which it is based. Sikorsky expects to complete final assembly and test flights of the second Raider prototype later this year, followed by demonstration flights beginning in 2016. Sikorsky has self-funded

Above: Sikorsky S-97 Raider prototype N971SK during its maiden flight at West Palm Beach, Florida, on May 22. Sikorsky

development of the Raider, providing 75% of the costs itself, with the remaining 25% coming from suppliers. The company believes the Raider will be suitable for a variety of US Army and Special Operations roles. Additionally, potential applications for the US Air Force, US Navy and US Marine Corps are being explored. The Raider’s co-axial, counterrotating main rotor and pusher propeller are intended to give cruise speeds of up to 220kts (407km/h) and dash speeds up to 240kts (444km/h) or higher. Armed options include Hellfire missiles, 2¾in rockets, .50 calibre guns and 7.62mm guns. The cabin can accommodate up to six people. The Raider’s dimensions will allow up to four of the type to be carried inside a C-17A. 

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AGD Systems Buys 30+ UH-60As US COMPANY AGD Systems, together with its teaming partner BHI, have acquired more than 30 ex-US Army Sikorsky UH-60A Black Hawks for use on government contract work and operation in the continental United States. Announcing the purchase on May 26, AGD said that this is the largest ever acquisition of Black Hawks by a private civilian organisation. They will operate under Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) registration-certification and will also be marketed for Foreign Military Sales (FMS) to several countries in accordance with International Traffic in Arms (ITAR) regulations, with the approval of the US Department of State and Office of Defense Co-operation. The US Army started retiring the UH-60A from the operational inventory in 2014, even though most have been completely overhauled and have many years of service life remaining. They are being replaced by new UH-60Ms. Mark Daniels, CEO of AGD Systems said: “Just as we previously did with AeroGroup, we continue to strive to be the first to provide unique services as a civilian government contractor. As a continuing evolution from F-16 pilot training, aggressor Top Gun tactical training, to our recent endeavour in aerial refuelling with the former RAF L1011 tankers [see Ex-RAF Tristars Sold for Tanker/Cargo Ops, p6], we look forward to the opportunities that the helicopters will bring as there are plans to continue to acquire many more now and in the future. 

Eight More Reapers for USAF A CONTRACT has been awarded for eight more MQ-9A Reaper unmanned air vehicles for the US Air Force. General Atomics clinched the $72 million deal on May 20. The eight, in Block 5 production configuration, will be produced at the company’s facility in Poway, California. Financing comes from FY14 aircraft procurement funds and completion is expected by December 31, 2017. 

Operational Testing of F-35B on USS Wasp

Above: US Marine Corps F-35B Lightning II 169024 ‘VM-11’ from VMFAT-501 takes off from the flight deck of the USS Wasp (LHD-1) on May 22 during operational testing. Over a two-week period, the USMC evaluated the full spectrum of the F-35B’s measures of suitability and effectiveness, as well as the aircraft’s readiness for planned declaration of initial operating capability in July. Data and lessons learned will lay the groundwork for future F-35B deployments aboard US Navy amphibious carriers. USMC/Cpl Anne K Henry

SIX US Marine Corps Lockheed Martin F-35B Lightning II Joint Strike Fighters have been deployed aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Wasp (LHD 1) for the first shipboard phase of the F-35B Operational Test (OT-1) programme. They flew out to the vessel, which was off the coast of the US Eastern Seaboard, on the evening of May 18. The at-sea period of OT-1 continued for the following two weeks. The detachment included aircraft and personnel from Marine Operational Test and

Evaluation Squadron 22 (VMX-22) ‘Argonauts’ at Edwards Air Force Base, California; Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 121 (VMFA-121) ‘Green Knights’ at Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Arizona; and Marine Fighter Attack Training Squadron 501 (VMFAT-501) ‘Warlords’ at MCAS Beaufort, South Carolina. Support was provided by personnel from Marine Aviation Logistics Squadrons 13 (MALS-13) ‘Black Widows’ at Yuma and MALS-31 ‘Stingers’ at Beaufort. Integration of the F-35B while operating across a wide array of

flight and deck operations was carried out during OT-1, which concluded on May 29, when the aircraft returned to their home bases. Specific objectives included demonstrating and assessing day and night flight operations in varying aircraft configurations; digital interoperability of aircraft and ship systems; F-35B landing signal officer’s launch and recovery software; day and night weapons loading; plus all aspects of maintenance, logistics and sustainment support of the F-35B while deployed at sea. 

QF-4 Operations End at Tyndall AFB

Above: USAF QF-4E 71-0237 ‘TD’, in a heritage colour scheme, launches from Tyndall AFB at 1015hrs on May 27 on the final QF-4 flight from the base. It was shot down around 30 minutes later over the Gulf of Mexico. USAF/Airman Alex Echols

US AIR Force operations with the QF-4 Phantom II Full-Scale Aerial Target (FSAT) at Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida, came to an end on May 27. This leaves just Detachment 1 at Holloman AFB, New Mexico, operating the type, which will continue to serve there for another year or so. Five QF-4s were expended by the 82nd Aerial Targets Squadron (ATRS) at Tyndall during the final

month of operations, all being shot down over the Gulf of Mexico. On May 7, QRF-4C 68-0589 met its fate in this way, while on May 12, QRF-4C 68-0580 and QF-4E 72-1494 ‘TD’ were both similarly expended, followed by the final two, QF-4Es 71-0237 'TD' and 74-1631 'HD', on May 27. Of note, the latter date was the 57th anniversary of the maiden flight of the F-4 Phantom II.

With the QF-4 mission for the 82nd ATRS at Tyndall now ended, the squadron is transitioning to QF-16s for all future FSAT operations. Three operational QF-4Es remained at Tyndall at the end of May, comprising 73-1167, 74-0643 and 74-1638. These were all expected to have been transferred to Det 1 at Holloman by mid-June for continued operation. 

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NORTH AMERICA Final Retirement of SH-60B Seahawk US NAVY operations with the Sikorsky SH-60B Seahawk have now ended. Helicopter Maritime Strike Wing Pacific hosted a sundown ceremony for the variant on May 11 in the Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron 73 (HSM-73) ‘Battle Cats’ hangar at Naval Air Station North Island, Coronado, California. The event concluded after an SH-60B and an MH-60R, the type replacing it, conducted a fly-by over HSM-73’s hangar. Active duty service members, retired personnel and visitors were in attendance as leadership from the helicopter community recounted the SH-60B’s 30 years’ service in the fleet. Guest speaker Vice Admiral Paul A Grosklags, Principal Military Deputy, Assistant Secretary of the Navy (Research, Development and Acquisitions), noted the SH-60B had been the eyes and ears of the fleet throughout the 1980s and 1990s. Since then it had also been widely involved in humanitarian missions in various parts of the world, including Haiti, Indonesia, Japan and the Philippines. The SH-60B joined the US Navy’s operational fleet in 1985. Its initial deployment was with a Helicopter Anti-Submarine Squadron Light 43 (HSL-43) detachment aboard the guidedmissile frigate USS Crommelin (FFG 37). The type has since completed more than 3.6 million flight hours in support of operations and training. The last active-duty SH-60B detachment, – from HSM- 49 ‘Scorpions’ at NAS North Island – returned from a seven-month deployment to the US 4th and 3rd Fleet area of operations aboard the guided-missile frigate USS Gary (FFG 51) on April 17. By mid-April 2015, a total of 99 of the SH-60Bs had been retired to Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Arizona, where they are being stored at the 309th Aerospace Maitenance and Regeneration Group (AMARG) facility. The first had been inducted by AMARG on February 5, 2010, with the others following progressively as they were replaced by new MH-60Rs. 

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USAF Student Test Pilots Fly Scorpion

Above: Scorpion prototype N531TA flies in formation with AT-6 N620AT and USAF Beech C-12C Huron 76-0166 from the 418th Flight Test Squadron at Edwards AFB during an evaluation flight by USAF Test Pilot School students. Business Wire

STUDENT PILOTS from the US Air Force Test Pilot School (TPS) have had the opportunity to evaluate the capabilities of the Textron AirLand Scorpion ISR/strike jet. They also tested the Beechcraft AT-6 light attack aircraft, according to a company announcement on May 14. The flights were at Textron Aviation’s facilities in Wichita, Kansas, as part of the TPS’s Capstone Project. Five students and three instructors spent a week in Wichita with teams from Textron AirLand and Beechcraft for the school’s project to evaluate a new production/prototype aircraft with a set list of criteria. The students underwent classroom and cockpit ground training as well as preparatory and evaluation flights. A total of 19 flights were completed in four

days – 12 demonstrations on the Scorpion and seven on the AT-6. The Scorpion completed three flights daily during the four-day event – delivering 100% aircraft availability and 100% mission accomplishment, according to the manufacturer. After each flight, the aircraft rapidly returned to the air, with an average turnaround time of 31 minutes and a best time of 20 minutes. The AT-6 also turned in an excellent performance for its seven flights, said Textron, with 100% aircraft availability and 100% mission accomplishment. Russ Bartlett, Beechcraft Defense Company’s president, said: “The demonstrations not only allowed us to showcase the capabilities of the aircraft but also allowed us to gather feedback, which has already proven beneficial as we continue

to prepare these aircraft for entry into the market.” Textron AirLand president Bill Anderson said that soon after completing the event, Scorpion’s own test pilots were back in the aircraft, self-deploying from Wichita to South America for additional demo flights requested by an unspecified foreign air force. The Scorpion returned to Wichita on May 5 after completing its ten-day, 6,627nm (12,260km) round-trip, during which it completed 17 sorties, added 28.1 flying hours and executed six demo flights (four on the first day) for the prospective customer. The flights achieved 100% mission availability and 100% mission accomplishment, said Textron. Along the way, the Scorpion appeared in two static display events in Florida – SOUTHCOM in Miami and CENTCOM in Tampa. 

P-8A Poseidon AAR Ground Testing US Navy development P-8A Poseidon 167954 (T3) during ground testing of its air-to-air refuelling capability. The seven-day trial was completed on May 11 at Boeing’s facilities in Seattle, Washington. To minimise the impact on the development schedule, the integrated test team worked 12-hour shifts, 24 hours a day, loading more than 400,000lbs (18,144kg) of fuel onto the aircraft during the course of testing. Boeing

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Last USAF MC-130Ps Retired UNITED STATES AIR Force Special Operations Command has retired its final two Lockheed MC-130P Combat Shadows. The pair, 66-0217 and 69-5819, which were operated by Detachment 1 of the 1st Special Operations Wing, performed their farewell flights on May 15 at Hurlburt Field, Florida. The sorties included high altitude, low opening jumps by members of the 7th Special Forces Group, 24th Special Operations Wing, together with a flyby with two HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopters from the 41st Rescue Squadron at Moody Air Force Base, Georgia. In addition, 69-5819, carried out a flypast with two CV-22 Ospreys from the 8th Special Operations Squadron. More than 400 people watched the final missions at the base. After the heritage flight, an informal reception was held for the members of Det 1, their families and past Combat Shadow airmen. Although based on 1960s-built airframes, the MC-130P did not begin its special operations career

The last two MC-130P Combat Shadows in USAF service perform a flyby during their final sortie. They were due to make their last flight into retirement on June 1. US Air Force/Airman 1st Class Ryan Conroy

until the mid-1980s and went on to conduct critical air refuelling missions in the late 1980s during Operation Just Cause in Panama and in the early 1990s during Operation Desert Storm. Since Desert Storm, the MC-130P has been involved in

many other operations: Northern and Southern Watch, Deny Flight in Yugoslavia, Restore Democracy and Uphold Democracy in Haiti, Deliberate Force and Joint Endeavor in Bosnia, Assured Response in Liberia, Guardian Retrieval from Zaire, Enduring

Two More C-130Js Delivered to US Military

LOCKHEED MARTIN has delivered a further two C-130J Super Hercules to the US military. The company said in a statement on May 1 a KC-130J tanker had gone to the US Marine Corps and an HC-130J Combat King II personnel recovery tanker to the US Air Force. KC-130J, 169018 (c/n 5767) ‘QH-018’, left the factory in Marietta, Georgia, on April 1 on its delivery flight to Marine Aerial Refueler Transport Squadron 234 (VMGR-234) ‘Rangers’ at Naval Air Station Fort Worth Joint Reserve Base, Texas. The HC-130J, 12-5769 (c/n 5769) ‘FT’, left Marietta on May 1 to join the 347th Rescue Group’s 71st Rescue Squadron at Moody Air Force Base, Georgia. 

Above: US Marine Corps KC-130J 169018 (c/n 5767) ‘QH-018’ departs Marietta on its delivery flight to Naval Air Station Fort Worth Joint Reserve Base, Texas. Lockheed Martin/Thinh D Nguyen Below: US Air Force HC-130J Combat King II 12-5769 (c/n 5769) ‘FT’ climbs away from Marietta to begin its delivery flight to Moody Air Force Base, Georgia. Lockheed Martin/David Key

Freedom in Afghanistan, Iraqi Freedom, New Dawn in Iraq and Odyssey Dawn in Libya. Both 66-0217 and 69-5819 were built in 1969 and converted to MC-130Ps in 1996. They were due to fly to Davis-Monthan AFB, Arizona, on June 1 for storage. 

Boeing's First San Antonio E-4B Overhaul BOEING HAS completed servicing a US Air Force E-4B advanced airborne command post in San Antonio, Texas. This was the first time it had undertaken the work at its facility there. Announcing its completion on May 20, the company said that it had been achieved ahead of schedule. Maintenance on USAF C-17As, KC-135 tankers and commercial aircraft is also conducted at San Antonio. Boeing built the E-4 fleet and, with the US Air Force, has supported the aircraft since the programme’s launch in 1974 – maintaining the readiness of the aircraft’s systems and bringing each one in for service every two years. The USAF has just four E-4Bs, operated by the 1st Airborne Command and Control Squadron at Offutt AFB, Nebraska. They were previously maintained by Boeing in Wichita, Kansas, until that facility closed last year. The final aircraft maintained there was also an E-4B, which left on May 29, 2014. 

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NORTH AMERICA Long-lead Contract Awarded for 94 F-35s LOCKHEED MARTIN has been awarded an advanced acquisition contract valued at more than $920 million for long lead time, materials, parts, components and effort for the manufacture and delivery of 94 F-35 Lightning II low rate initial production aircraft. This deal, awarded on June 4, provides for 78 F-35As, comprising 44 for the US Air Force, two for Italy, two for Turkey, eight for Australia, six for Norway and 16 for various unspecified Foreign Military Sales customers. In addition, this contract covers procurement of 14 F-35B aircraft, comprising nine for the US Marine Corps, three for the UK and two for Italy, as well as two F-35Cs for the US Navy and US Marine Corps. Work is expected to be completed in May 2019. Financing comes from US FY15 aircraft procurement, non-US Department of Defense participant funding and FMS funds. 

First VMX-22 MV-22B Arrives at MCAS Yuma US MARINE Corps MV-22B Osprey 168215 ‘MV-01’ was the first of the type from Marine Operational Test and Evaluation Squadron 22 (VMX-22) ‘Argonauts’ to arrive at the unit’s new home at Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Arizona. The tiltrotor aircraft flew in on June 2 from VMX-22’s previous base at MCAS New River, North Carolina. The squadron’s mission centres on experimental testing of fixed,

tilt-rotor and rotary-wing aircraft, unmanned aerial systems (UAS) and Marine air command and control systems (MACCS). Coming to MCAS Yuma puts VMX-22 in close proximity to Marine Aviation Weapons and Tactics Squadron-1, which will allow the squadron to further develop tactics, techniques and procedures. The current VMX-22 fleet includes MV-22Bs 168214

Above: US Marine Corps MV-22B Osprey 168215 ‘MV-01’ from VMX-22 shortly after arriving at the unit’s new base at MCAS Yuma, Arizona. USMC/Cpl TravisGershaneck

Tanker 767-2C Flies with Refuelling Equipment BOEING HAS recommenced test flying with 767-2C N461FT (c/n 41273), the first KC-46A Pegasus tanker development aircraft, known as EMD1. It was reflown at Boeing Field, Seattle, Washington, on May 28, when it was airborne for 4.5 hours. Prior to that, it had only flown once, on December 28, from Paine Field, Everett, Washington, to Boeing Field – see USAF KC-46A Pegasus Maiden Flight, February, p14. It was then grounded for additional work on the airframe. A second flight took place on May 29. The aircraft was then

‘MV-00’, 168215 ‘MV-01’, 168545 ‘MV-02’ and 166726 ‘MV-03’, plus CH-53E Super Stallion 161394 ‘MV-04’. The squadron recently added its first fixed-wing type, when F-35B Lightning II 168717 ‘MV-05’ was delivered to the Argonauts on October 9 last year – see VMX-22 ‘Argonauts’ Receives First F-35B, December, p15. The unit’s F-35Bs are operated from Edwards AFB, California.  

fitted with an aerial refuelling boom and wing pods before making its first flight in this configuration on June 2. It took off from Boeing Field at 1510hrs, accompanied by a Boeing-owned T-33 Shooting Star chase aircraft, and landed later at Paine Field. This flight was in support of US Federal Aviation Administration certification for EMD1 and concluded the initial airworthiness trials. The boom and pods were non-functional, merely being used for providing data on how they affected aerodynamics and performance. The aircraft has

now entered another planned grounding period for further tests. The second aircraft, EMD2, will be the first to KC-46A specifications with operational refuelling equipment and is due to fly this summer, somewhat later than the April first flight previously planned. All four EMD aircraft, comprising two basic 767-2Cs and two KC-46As, are scheduled to fly this year. Boeing is under contract to deliver 18 operational aircraft to the USAF by August 2017. The USAF plans to buy an eventual total of 179 KC-46As. 

Contracts for Next Carrier

HUNTINGTON INGALLS was awarded two major contracts on June 5 for work on the new nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS John F Kennedy (CVN 79). One, valued at $3.35 billion, covered all remaining detail design and construction efforts. The second, worth over $941 million, funds component and steel fabrication, selected construction unit assemblies and all remaining direct material. The ship is the second of three new carriers, the first being the Gerald R Ford (CVN 78) and the third the Enterprise (CVN 80). 

Gray Eagles for Fort Wainwright

Above: Boeing 767-2C N461FT, the first KC-46A Pegasus tanker development airframe, making its maiden flight on June 2 after being fitted with an aerial refuelling boom and wing pods. Boeing

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AN ALASKAN Congressional delegation revealed in an announcement on June 3 that nine US Army MQ-1C Gray Eagle UAVs are to be assigned to Fort Wainwright, Alaska, from July. They will use existing hangars at the base, but it is planned to request funding in FY17 for additional facilities to house them. An additional 128 soldiers will be assigned to Fort Wainwright to support operation of the UAVs.


LATIN AMERICA First Locally Assembled Peruvian KT-1P PERUVIAN PRESIDENT Ollanta Humala and South Korean First Minister Park Geun-hye presided over a ceremony on April 21 to hand over the first locally assembled KT-1P Torito basic/advanced training aircraft for the Fuerza Aérea del Perú (FAP – Peruvian Air Force). The aircraft was built through a $209 million technology transfer agreement. Korean Aerospace Industries (KAI) is co-producing 16 of the 20 aircraft on order for the FAP in hangars of the FAP’s Servicio de Maintenimiento (SEMAN) maintenance facility that have been specially adapted for the purpose. Juan Carlos Cicalesi 

More Peruvian Army Mi-171s SEVEN Mi-171Sh-P helicopters should by now have been delivered to the Aviación del Ejército Peruano (Peruvian Army Aviation). They should have arrived in late April, but due to financial issues were deferred until late May. Peru signed a $529 million contract with Rosoboronexport in December 2013 for the supply of 24 Mi-171Sh-P combat and transport helicopters for the Army Aviation Brigade. The first eight had been delivered by the end of 2014. Delivery of the remaining 16 is programmed to take place during 2015. Juan Carlos Cicalesi 

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New Bolivian Air Force Air Ambulances

Above: Two of the new Bolivian Air Force Cessna 210 air ambulances. Bolivian Ministry of Defence

FIVE FORMER drug-running aircraft have been adapted and modified into air ambulance configuration for the Fuerza Aérea Boliviana (FAB – Bolivian Air Force). Four Cessna 210s and one Beechcraft King Air C90 were formally handed over on April 25 by President Evo Morales in a ceremony at the Brigada

Aérea V (BA V) base at Trinidad. They will be used for the ‘Mi Salud’ (My Health) programme, carried out jointly by the health ministry and the FAB. Their main use will be for medical assistance flights to remote towns. Two Cessnas will be operated by BA V’s Grupo Aérea de Transporte

Nicaraguan AF King Air E90

Above: Seen at Juan Manuel Galvez International Airport on Roatan Island, Honduras, on April 30 was Fuerza Aerea Ejercito de Nicaragua (FAEN – Nicaraguan Army Air Force) E90 King Air FA-005 (c/n LW-170, ex XB-JCT). The aircraft is an ex-drug runner now flying with the FAEN. Mario Flores

Peruvian Navy AB412 Readied for Delivery

Above: AgustaBell 412SP HAL-462 (c/n 25641, ex R-03/Royal Netherlands Air Force) arriving at Gilze-Rijen Air Base in the Netherlands from the AgustaWestland facility in Liege, Belgium, on May 26 after being prepared for delivery to Peru’s Aviación Naval. The helicopter is one of three ex-RNLAF AB412SPs sold to the Peruvian Navy and all three were officially transferred to Peru under a contract signed on April 14. The other two are HAL-460 (c/n 25630, ex R-01) and HAL-461 (c/n 25638, ex R-02). Jimmy van Drunen

72/Escuadrón 721 at Trinidad. The other two will be based at Riberalta with BA VI’s Grupo Aérea Táctico 62/Escuadrón 621 to provide services in the northern department of Beni. The King Air will be operated on flights throughout the country. Juan Carlos Cicalesi 

New Argentine Gendarmerie PC-6 Delivered A NEW Pilatus PC-6/B2-H4 Turbo Porter for the Argentine National Gendarmerie (GNA - Gendarmeria Nacional Argentina), GN-807, arrived in Argentina by sea on April 28 after being transported from the factory in Switzerland. It was re-assembled by Swiss technicians in the GNA hangar at the Campo de Mayo Military Garrison. The aircraft, which had been completed by last November (see New PC-6 for Argentine Gendarmeria, January, p20), carries the same serial as an earlier GNA PC-6. The latter was badly damaged in an accident on June 21, 2000 in Santa Cruz province. This aircraft was stored for many years at Campo de Mayo, but eventually returned to the manufacturer for potential rebuild. Instead, however, it was stripped for spares. The gutted fuselage currently remains in open storage alongside a hangar at the factory in Stans, Switzerland. The new GN-807 will join the Sección Aviación Orán (Orán Aviation Section), based at Oran in the province of Salta. It will bring the Porter fleet of the GNA up to three aircraft, comprising GN-804, GN-805 and GN-807. Juan Carlos Cicalesi 

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LATIN AMERICA First Upgraded Brazilian AF-1B Delivered EMBRAER DEFENSE & Security has delivered the first modernised AF-1B (A-4 Skyhawk) fighter to the Força Aeronavale da Marinha do Brasil (Brazilian Navy). The jet, N-1001, was handed over during a ceremony on May 26 at Embraer’s industrial plant in Gavião Peixoto, São Paulo state. The event was attended by the Navy’s chief, Fleet Admiral Eduardo Bacellar Leal Ferreira, and other senior naval officers. The AF-1 upgrade contract, signed on April 14, 2009, covers modernisation of nine single-seat AF-1s and three AF-1A two-seaters. The AF-1 operates in the intercept and attack role, from the Brazilian Navy’s sole aircraft carrier, the Clemenceau-class NAe São Paulo (A 12), providing air defence for the fleet. The aircraft are receiving new navigation, weapons, power, tactical communications and sensor systems plus computers and multi-mode radar. This equipment, along

Right: The handover ceremony for the first modernised Brazilian Navy AF-1B Skyhawk, N-1001, held on May 26 at Embraer’s Gavião Peixoto facility. Embraer

with associated structural work, will enable the AF-1Bs to remain in service until 2025. The modernisation also includes supplying briefing and debriefing stations already in operation for training pilots of 1 Esquadrão de Aviões de Interceptação e Ataque (VF-1) ‘Falcão’ at São Pedro. Embraer says their use is reducing costs and will bring

greater effectiveness to mission planning and execution. Fleet Admiral Eduardo Bacellar Leal Ferreira said the modernised AF-1B “represents a large forward leap in the Navy’s capacity”, while Jackson Schneider, President and CEO of Embraer Defense & Security, commented: “This is the first contract for systems integration we have signed with

the Brazilian Navy and, therefore, is a landmark in our relations. “The modernisation of the AF-1 was a significant technological challenge, since it is a platform that we did not develop. Nevertheless, with the support and competence of the staff of the Brazilian Navy, we were able to deliver a solution that fully meets the operational needs of our client.” 

Drug-Running Hawker 800 Crashes Off Colombia A DRUG-RUNNING Hawker 800 executive jet crashed into the Caribbean Sea in the early hours of May 20 after being pursued by Aviación Militar Bolivariana de Venezuela (AMBV - Venezuelan Military Aviation) and, later, Fuerza Aérea Colombiana (FAC, Colombian Air Force) aircraft. The FAC said the jet had departed from Venezuela heading for Central America and was detected by the FAC’s air defence system. Venezuela’s defence minister, Vladimir Padrino, said the aircraft had landed at a clandestine airstrip in Apure state shortly after midnight. Departing a few hours later, it was intercepted by Venezuelan fighters, which ordered the pilot to descend. When he refused, shots were

fired which struck the aircraft. According to the minister, a short time later Venezuelan authorities lost track of Hawker 800 close to the border and alerted Colombian officials. The FAC said it illegally entered Colombian airspace at around 0230hrs and attempted to make an emergency landing at Santa Marta Airport. A video released by the FAC shows it descending towards the sea with its No 2 engine on fire before striking the water and breaking up off the coast of Puerto Colombia, Atlántico state. Units from Barranquilla Coast Guard Station located the wreckage – along with 1.2 tonnes of cocaine packaged in 1kg blocks – and the body of the pilot, who was carrying a Mexican passport. 

Above: A Colombian Air Force video shows the Hawker 800 a split second before hitting the Caribbean Sea after being intercepted by Venezuelan and, later, Colombian Air Force aircraft. A stream of flame is coming from the starboard engine which was hit when attacked by a Venezuelan fighter. FAC

Helibras Delivers 16th Brazilian H225M

Helibras, the Brazilian subsidiary of Airbus Helicopters, announced on June 1 it had delivered the 16th H225M (formerly the EC725) from an order for 50 for the Brazilian Armed Forces during May. The helicopter, N-7104, the first delivered this year, has joined the Marinha do Brasil (Brazilian Navy) for SAR, transport and general utility missions. Helibras

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MIDDLE EAST Qatar-Based E-8Cs Complete 100,000hrs

US Air Force E-8C Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System (Joint STARS) aircraft have completed more than 100,000 combat flying hours in support of US Central Command (CENTCOM) while flying out of Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar. The milestone was reached on May 29. Previously, on May 1, 2014, the E-8C joint and total force team – comprising the 116th Air Control Wing, from the Georgia Air National Guard, the 461st Air Control Wing and the Army’s 138th Military Intelligence Company – surpassed 100,000 flying hours collectively in support of all combatant commands across the globe. Col Kevin Clotfelter, commander of the 116th Air Control Wing, said: “The tasking in the CENTCOM theatre during the last 13 years is a clear indication of the value and capabilities that the E-8C brings to the manned command and control, battle management, intelligence, reconnaissance and surveillance mission.” During the last 13 years of continuous deployments to CENTCOM, Team JSTARS have seen action in six different operations including: Southern Watch, Enduring Freedom, Iraqi Freedom, New Dawn, Inherent Resolve and Freedom’s Sentinel. The 116th Air Control Wing is the host wing for the E-8C Joint STARS. The platform provides the ability to track ground vehicles, maritime vessels and some aircraft, collect imagery, and relay tactical data to ground and air theatre commanders. 

Canada's 1,000th AntiISIL Sortie

CANADIAN OFFICIALS announced on June 8 that Royal Canadian Air Force aircraft had reached two significant milestones , surpassing 1,000 sorties and more than 100 air strikes in support of the coalition air campaign against ISIL in Iraq and Syria. As of June 6, 1.016 sorties had been completed, comprising 661 by CF-18s, 185 by CP-140 Auroras, and 170 by CC-150T Polaris tankers. 

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USAF Special Ops CV-22Bs at Erbil

Above: Four US Air Force Special Operations Command CV-22B Ospreys sit on the ramp at Erbil Air Base, northern Iraq, on May 5 as Kurdish Regional Government Police EC120B YI-DAD (c/n 1571, ex HB-ZMA) flies past. Although it was announced last September that Ospreys were being deployed to Erbil, at the time it was thought they were USMC aircraft – this photograph provides the first confirmation that they are USAF CV-22Bs. Other images taken on the same day show at least seven UH-60s and four CH-47 Chinooks also at the base. 7 Group

UAE Requests 1,600 GBU Bombs Israel Plans A REQUEST from the United Arab Emirates for 1,600 Guided Bomb Units (GBUs) has been approved by the US State Department. The possible Foreign Military Sale was notified to Congress by the Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) on May 29. Including associated equipment, parts and logistical support, the estimated cost will be $130 million. The DSCA stated that the deal will include 500 GBU-31B/B(V)1 Mk 84/BLU-117) bombs, 500 GBU-31B/B(V)3 (BLU-109) bombs and 600 GBU-12 (Mk 82/ BLU-111) bombs, plus containers,

fuzes, spare and repair parts, support equipment, publications and technical documentation, logistics support, personnel training and training equipment. The DSCA notes that the proposed sale will provide the UAE with an additional precision guided munitions capability to meet the current threat represented by the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, and Houthi aggression in Yemen. The UAE continues to provide host-nation support of vital US forces stationed at Al Dhafra Air Base and plays a vital role in supporting US regional interests. 

Lebanon Seeks 1,000 Hellfires

US STATE Department approval has been given for a possible FMS sale to Lebanon of 1,000 AGM-114 Hellfire II missiles. The proposed deal, valued at around $146 million including associated equipment, parts and logistical support, was notified to Congress by the US Defense Security Co-operation Agency on June 4.

The missiles will replenish Lebanon’s depleted Hellfire stocks, which had already been boosted last September with accelerated shipments of the weapon. The Lebanese Air Force has just ordered an additional Hellfire-equipped AC-208B Combat Caravan – see Additional Armed Caravan for Lebanon, p26. 

Massive Weapons Buy from US A POSSIBLE $1.879 billion FMS sale to Israel for JDAM tail kits, munitions and associated equipment, parts and logistical support, has been approved by the US State Department. The DSCA notified Congress of the possible sale on May 18. The Israeli Government has requested 14,500 KMU-556C/B Joint Direct Attack Munitions (JDAM) tail kits consisting of 10,000 for Mk 84s; 500 for Mk 83s; and 4,000 for Mk 82s. Also included would be 3,500 Mk 82 bombs, 4,500 Mk 83 bombs, 50 BLU-113 bombs, 4,100 GBU-39 Small Diameter Bombs (SDBs), 1,500 Mk 83 Paveway kits, 700 BLU-109 Paveway kits, 3,000 AGM-114K/R Hellfire missiles, 250 AIM-120C Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missiles (AMRAAMs) and 500 DSU-38A/B detector laser illuminated target kits for JDAMs. 

Third Omani PC-9 Overhauled at Stans

Above: Royal Air Force of Oman (RAFO) Pilatus PC-9 426 (c/n 643) undertaking engine runs at Stans-Buochs, Switzerland, on April 15 after being refurbished and overhauled by the manufacturer. This was the third RAFO PC-9 to be overhauled by Pilatus, following on from 429 and then 426 – see First Omani PC-9 Completes Major Overhaul at Stans, September 2014, p23. Stephan Widmer

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MIDDLE EAST Extra Armed Caravan for Lebanon ORBITAL ALLIANT Techsystems (formerly Alliant Techsystems Operations LLC) is to supply a single, commercial off-the-shelf Cessna 208B Grand Caravan in an armed, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) configuration to the Lebanese Air Force (LAF). A $26 million US Air Force Foreign Military Sales contract for the aircraft was awarded to the Fort Worth, Texas-based company on May 28. Powered by a Pratt & Whitney PT6A-140 turboprop the aircraft will be fitted with a Garmin 1000 baseline glass cockpit and avionics package. The aircraft will be modified with mission equipment to include a Wescam MX-15D electro-optical/ infra-red imaging system, hard points on each wing for carriage and launching of AGM-114 Hellfire air-to-surface missiles, AN/ALE-47 countermeasures dispenser system and a Terma aircraft survivability equipment suite missile warning system. A broadcast microwave system data link system and surveillance tracking and recording system mission processor unit obsolescence re-design will also be installed. Contract completion is anticipated by May 30, 2016. The LAF has previously received three of the aircraft, designated locally as the AC-208B Combat Caravan when modified to carry AGM114 Hellfires on underwing hardpoints, although only the first one so far has this modification. The most recent example was handed over at Beirut International Airport on November 6, 2013 – see Third AC-208B Combat Caravan Delivered to Lebanese AF, January 2014, p22. The first was delivered on April 15, 2009, followed by the second in August 2013. Orbital ATK supplied the previous aircraft, also undertaking integration and testing of the Hellfire weapon system.  It was also planned to integrate Hellfire on another of the eixsting aircraft, but this has not yet been carried out. They are operated by the 4th Squadron at Beirut Air Base. 

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B-52s in Exercise Eager Lion A USAF B-52H drops 500lb (227kg) GBU-38 Joint Direct Attack Munitions during a live fire demonstration at Wadi Shadiya, Jordan, on May 18. USMC/Cpl Sean Searfus

TWO US Air Force B-52H Stratofortress bombers have carried out a non-stop round trip to Jordan for Exercise Eager Lion 2015. The aircraft, from the 2nd Bomb Wing at Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana, left their home base on May 17, flying for approximately 35 hours and covering 14,000 miles (22,53km) before returning.

They joined up over Jordan with Royal Jordanian Air Force F-16s for a low flyover and a conventional weapons demonstration. Four in-flight refuellings were carried out to complete the long-range mission. While in flight, bomber crews co-ordinated with Jordanian joint terminal attack controllers on the ground to increase co-operation and understanding of

tactics, techniques and procedures for future interoperability. Exercise Eager Lion is one of US Central Command’s premiere exercises and this year marks the first time the B-52 has been integrated into it. About 10,000 US and international military personnel participated in Eager Lion, which took place from May 5-19 in Jordan. 

Saudi Arabia Seeks Ten MH-60Rs US STATE Department approval has been granted for a possible Foreign Military Sale to Saudi Arabia of ten Sikorsky MH-60R multi-mission helicopters. The US Defense Security Co-operation Agency (DSCA) notified Congress of the potential deal on May 20. Including associated equipment, parts and logistical support, the deal will be worth an estimated $1.9 billion. The DSCA said 14 APS-153(V) multi-mode radars (comprising ten installed, two spares and two for testing) and four spare T-700 GE 401 C engines are to be included in the agreement.

Also incorporated will be: 12 APX-123 Identification Friend or Foe transponders (ten installed and two spare); 14 AN/AAS-44C(V) multi-spectral targeting systems forward looking infrared radars (ten installed, two spare and two for testing); 26 embedded global positioning system/inertial navigation systems (GPS/INS) with selective availability/anti-spoofing module (20 installed, and six spare) and Link-16 capability. Further equipment comprises 1,000 AN/SSQ-36/53/62 sonobuoys, 38 AGM-114R Hellfire II air-to-surface missiles, five

AGM-114 M36-E9 captive air training missiles, four AGM-114Q Hellfire training missiles, 380 Advanced Precision Kill Weapons System rockets, 12 M-240D crew-served weapons and 12 GAU-21 crew-served weapons. The DSCA stated the MH-60R would provide Saudi Arabia with the capability to identify, engage and defeat maritime security threats along with performing secondary missions including vertical replenishment, search and rescue, and communications relay. Saudi Arabia will use them to deter regional threats and to strengthen its homeland defence. 

Israeli Panther Visiting USS Laboon

Above: Israeli Navy AS565MA Atalef, 882, was an unusual visitor to the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Laboon (DDG 58) on May 13. It was chocked and chained on the flight deck prior to personnel boarding while the vessel was operating in the Mediterranean Sea. US Navy/Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Desmond Parks


AFRICA Sweden Deploys UAVs to Support MINUSMA in Mali

SWEDEN HAS deployed a number of unmanned air vehicles to Mali to support Mission Multidimensionelle Intégrée des Nations Unies pour la Stabilisatiom au Mali (MINUSMA) operations. The arrival of the UAVs was announced by MINUSMA on May 15, at which time they had already become operational from Timbuktu. Photographs released by MINUSMA show that at least three types of UAV have been deployed by Sweden - AeroVironment Pumas and Wasps, plus AAI Shadows. They are all unarmed and being used to support MINUSMA's western sector forces, providing aerial intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance. With a limited number of peacekeepers on the ground in Mali, who are expected to cover long distances, the UAVs will be of considerable benefit, enabling much larger areas to be monitored. This will allow an appropriate response to quickly be developed, said Swedish commander Lt Col Carl-Magnus R Svensson. 

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Third Reaper Joins French Air Force in Niger FRANCE’S ARMÉE de l’Air (AdlA – French Air Force) has taken delivery of its third MQ-9A Reaper UAV. The AdlA said it had been delivered direct to Niamey, Niger, from the United States on May 7 to join the Operation Barkhane force at the base. The UAV was delivered by Kalitta

Air Boeing 747-4KZF freighter N403KZ and was operational a few days later. It joins two Reapers and two Harfang UAVs already deployed to Niamey with Escadron de Drones 1/33 ‘Belfort’ from Base Aérienne 709 Cognac-Chateaubernard. Since arrival in theatre last

One of the two French Air Force MQ-9A Reapers operating from Niamey, Niger, sits on the apron while in the background technicians begin to unpack the newly-arrived third example, prior to re-assembly. Armée de l’Air/EMA

Second Nigerian Alpha Jet Delivered

The second ‘new’ Nigerian Air Force (NAF) Alpha Jet,NAF475, arriving at Manchester Airport on May 11 during its delivery flight. The first also passed through Manchester on March 25 - see 'New' Nigerian Air Force Alpha Jets, May, p24. Both had been acquired second-hand in the United States from Air USA Inc. Rob Skinkis

Cote d’Ivoire Government AW139

New Cote d’Ivoire Government AgustaWestland AW139 I-EASJ (c/n 31608) overshoots Varese-Venegono, Italy, during a test flight on April 13 from the company’s nearby factory at Vergiate. Marco Muntz

A NEW AgustaWestland AW139 is being acquired by the Ivory Coast government. The helicopter, TU-VHY (c/n 31608), was noted test flying from the factory at Vergiate, Italy, on April 13 carrying test registration I-EASJ

December, the French Reapers had flown more than 4,000 hours by April 14. Together with the Harfangs, which had been deployed to Niamey in January 2013, the UAVs had flown a total of almost 14,400 hours by that time. See p80-84 for more on Operation Barkhane. 

and carrying ‘Republique de Cote d’Ivoire’ titles. It also wore a military roundel, together with the national coat of arms on the tail, and will be delivered as TU-VHY for VIP duties. The manufacturer announced on February 17 it

had received AW139 orders from four unspecified West African governments, which had each signed a contract for one helicopter – see Four AW139 Orders from West Africa, April, p22. This is one of those orders. 

Spain Reaches 7,000 Hours on Operation Atalanta SPAIN'S EJERCITO del Aire (EdA - Spanish Air Force) has achieved 7,000 flying hours with its Orion detachment, deployed in Djibouti supporting the EU Naval Force (EU NAVFOR) anti-piracy mission since it began in December 2008. The milestone, announced by EU NAVFOR on May 27, was celebrated on May 16 and has involved over 933 sorties. The EdA flies both the P-3 Orion and CN235 VIGMA aircraft on the mission. The primary objective is to conduct surveillance flights in the Indian Ocean and along the Somali coastline to look for suspected pirate ships and camps along the Somali coast. 

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AFRICA Egypt Close to MiG-29 Order EGYPT IS close to agreeing an order for 46 MiG-29 fighters from Russia, according to a report on May 25 in Russian newspaper Vedomosti. Industry sources estimate the contract could be worth up to $2 billion, which would make it the largest order received for the MiG-29 since the break-up of the Soviet Union. It would be the second major fighter deal signed by Egypt this year, following an order with France for 24 Dassault Rafales on February 16 – see Egypt Signs First Rafale Export Order, April, p5. Buying combat aircraft from both France and Russia has been a long-standing tradition in Egypt which dates back several decades and alleviates reliance on the US, which barred deliveries of new F-16s after the July 2013 coup in the country, although the freeze was lifted earlier this year. Media reports in February last year said the order for MiG-29s was being considered. At the time, it was also suggested Egypt would buy 24 more advanced MiG-35s – RACMiG CEO Sergei Korotkov confirming the company was ready to supply the type. It is not clear at present whether the MiG-35 acquisition is still under consideration or has been superceded. 

Replacement Dutch Apache Deployed to Mali

Above: RNLAF AH-64D Apache Q-25 is loaded onto NATO C-17A 01 at Gilze-Rijen Air Base before departure to Mali. Netherlands Ministry of Defence

A ROYAL Netherlands Air Force (RNLAF) AH-64D Apache has been flown to Mali to join the Mission Multidimensionnelle Intégrée des Nations Unies pour la Stabilisation au Mali (MINUSMA) peace and

stabilisation force. It will replace one that crashed on March 17 in Mali, killing both crew members – see Attrition, May, p93. The helicopter, serial number Q-25, left Gilze-Rijen Air Base on May 27 aboard

NATO C-17A Globemaster III 01 from the Strategic Airlift Capability Heavy Airlift Wing. The Dutch contribution to MINUSMA comprises four RNLAF Apaches, three CH-47D Chinooks and 450 personnel 

Salvador MD500Es Deploy to Mali

Nigeria Considering T129 Order

NIGERIA’S CHIEF of the Air Staff, Air Marshall Adesola Amosu, has indicated that the Nigerian Air Force (NAF) is looking at a potential purchase of TAI T129 ATAK attack helicopters from Turkey. The possible acquisition was revealed at a press conference on May 7 in Abuja during the service’s 51st anniversary celebrations, when Amosu outlined the activities of the NAF over the last year. He said of the T129s, “we are trying to acquire [them] now.” The NAF is reported to have shown serious interest in the type, as it is seeking a new attack helicopter to assist its ground forces in the fight against Boko Haram in the north of the country. The NAF currently flies around eight Mi-24/35 Hind attack helicopters.

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Above: The three Salvadorean Air Force MD500Es that are now operating from Timbuktu, Mali, in support of MINUSMA operations. MINUSMA

THREE FUÉRZA Aérea Salvadoreña (FAS, Salvadorean Air Force) MD500E helicopters have deployed to Mali to support Mission Multidimensionnelle Intégrée des Nations Unies pour la Stabilisation au Mali (MINUSMA) operations. The helicopters, serials 48/ UNO-087P, 49/UNO-088P and 50/UNO-089P, arrived in Timbuktu on May 18 and are being accompanied by 90 military personnel, including pilots, technicians and medical staff. They are operated by the

Primera Brigada Aérea’s Grupo de Operaciones/ Grupo de Helicópteres from Base Aérea Ilopango. Designated the ‘Guardiancillo’ by the FAS, the aircraft will be used in support operations for peacekeepers deployed in the country – including personnel transport, escort, surveillance, aerial reconnaissance, search and rescue, medical transport and day and night air patrols. They will also act as a quick reaction capability to protect any imminent threat to the civilian population,

especially in remote areas. Prior to their arrival, MINUSMA spent three months preparing for their deployment, including putting up a hangar to house the helicopters. This is the first time a Salvadorean unit has been deployed independently on UN peacekeeping operations, without assistance from other countries. The MD500Es will remain in Mali for a year but, if the UN mandate dictates it, they are prepared to stay for five years, according to Colonel Juan Ricardo Palacious Garay, head of the contingent. 


RUSSIA & CIS Mi-26T2 Goes Into Series Production RUSSIAN HELICOPTERS has launched series production of the Mi-26T2 heavylift helicopter at the Rostvertol plant in Rostov-on-Don, the company announced on May 22. The Mi-26T2 is a modernised version of the Mi-26T equipped with the latest avionics – enabling the crew complement to be cut from five to two or three and facilitating night-time operations. The modernization was jointly implemented by Mil Moscow Helicopter Plant and Rostvertol, the upgraded helicopter taking its maiden flight on February 17, 2011. Russian Helicopters says a major contract for the Mi-26T2, concluded with a foreign country in 2013, led to the Mil Moscow Helicopter Plant developing design documentation to meet the customer’s particular requirements. It is assumed this is the unannounced order for six helicopters for the Algerian Air Force, which is believed to have been signed on June 26, 2013. The first of these made its maiden flight on December 25, 2014 at Rostov-on-Don – see Algerian Air Force’s First Mi-26T2 Flown, February, p24. Mil Moscow Helicopter Plant carried out preliminary and special flight tests on the Mi-26T2 prototype throughout 2014. The necessary working design documentation was then prepared ahead of launching series production of the type. 

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Mi-26 Lifts Mi-26 on Long-Distance Ferry Flight

Russian Air Force Mi-26T ‘97 Yellow’ is lifted by another Mi-26T on April 29 for transporting as an underslung load from Yoshkar-Ola to Rostov-on-Don for repair work by Rostvertol. The journey via Cheboksary, Ulyanovsk, Saransk, Penza, Saratov, Kamyshin, Volgograd and Volgodonsk took nine days. Russian Helicopters

Additional Russian AF Su-34 Deliveries SUKHOI has handed over four additional Su-34 frontline bombers to the Russian Air Force. On May 21, a first batch of three– ordered under the 2015 State Defence Order – left the V P Chkalov Novosibirsk Aircraft Plant’s airfield for the 6972nd Aviation Base at Morozovsk in the Southern Military District’s Rostov region, joining five delivered earlier. Another was

handed over to the Russian Ministry of Defence on May 29. Sukhoi’s Novosibirsk plant is working at maximum efficiency and last year completed the 2014 State Defence Order with the delivery of two more than the planned quota. Orders to date from the defence ministry for the Su-34 will guarantee a steady workflow at the factory through to 2020. 

New Georgian Armed VTOL UAV

Second Batch of Il-38Ns RUSSIA'S MINISTRY of Defence has signed a contract for the modernisation of a second batch of Russian Navy Ilyushin Il-38 anti-submarine aircraft to Il-38N standard. The new deal was announced on May 26. The first of the initial batch of five Il-38Ns was delivered on July 15 last year - see First Upgraded Il-38N Delivered to Russian Navy, September, p29. Four of these have now been delivered and the fifth is at Zhukovsky undergoing final ground tests. 

Above: Georgian state research and development centre Delta unveiled this new unmanned attack and reconnaissance helicopter in Roses Square, Tbilisi, on May 26 during Independence Day celebrations. Delta was formed in 2010 and was under the control of Georgia’s Ministry of Defence until last year, when control was passed to the Ministry of Economy.

Russia May Build 50 New Tu-160s

PLANS to resume production of the upgraded Tupolev Tu-160M Blackjack long-range strategic bomber could see up to 50 of the type manufactured at the Kazan aviation plant. Russian Air Force chief Colonel General Viktor Bondarev, speaking on May 28 to Russia’s Interfax news agency, said this was the minimum requirement to cover the costs of restarting the production line. “Industry has confirmed its capacity,” he said “The plane will be restored to production.” Bondarev noted, however, that this would not have any impact on the new PAK DA strategic bomber, development of which would run in parallel. The PAK DA is expected to first fly in 2019, with deliveries to the Russian Air Force due to begin in 2023-2025 to replace the Tu-95 Bear, Tu-22M3 Backfire and Tu-160. Russia’s Ministry of Defence confirmed on April 29 consideration was being given to building more Tu-160Ms (see Russia May Resume Tu-160 Production, June, p28), with plans to begin the first two before the end of this year. The current RuAF fleet of 16 Tu-160s is being upgraded to Tu-160M standard under a two-phase programme. The director of the Kazan aviation plant said on May 26 that work on all 16 should be completed in 2019, a year earlier than previously estimated. 

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ASIA PACIFIC India Plans Combat Hawk Development HINDUSTAN AERONAUTICS Ltd (HAL) has signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with BAE Systems UK for upgrade of the Indian Air Force (IAF) Hawk Mk 132 Advanced Jet Trainers. The MoU also includes development of an armed combat Hawk for both the IAF and export markets. The HAL announcement of the proposal on May 26 also stated that the MoU includes maintenance solutions for supporting the Indian Hawk and Jaguar fleets. At the signing ceremony, HAL’s Mr T Suvarna Raju, CMD said: “It is important that both the teams finalise the scope of Hawk Mk 132 upgrades and other work packages under the MoU agreement at the earliest.” The MoU was signed by Mr M N Shrinath, HAL’s General Manager (Aircraft) and BAE Systems’ Mr Steve Timms, Managing Director (Defence Information, Training and Services). Mr Chris Boardman, Managing Director (Military Air & Information) headed the BAE Systems delegation. The IAF Hawk Mk 132s are currently being produced under licence in India by HAL. This follows manufacture of an initial batch of 24 in the UK, the first of which were delivered in November 2007. These were followed by a batch of 42 HAL-assembled Hawks – the first were handed over on August 14, 2008 and the last in 2012. A further contract was signed in July 2010 for an additional 40 Hawks for the IAF, of which HAL has produced 25 to date and expects to have completed all 40 by 2017. In July 2010, a contract was also signed for 17 Hawks for the Indian Navy, of which 11 have been produced. The remaining six are due for delivery by 2016-2017. HAL has produced a total of 78 Hawks to date at its production facility in Bangalore. 

South Dakota ANG F-16s Deploy to Kunsan MORE THAN 250 US Air Force airmen, along with F-16s from the South Dakota Air National Guard’s 114th Fighter Wing at Sioux Falls Regional Airport-Joe Foss Field, have been deployed to Kunsan Air Base, South Korea. The aircraft from the Wing’s 175th Fighter Squadron ‘Lobos’

arrived at Kunsan on May 14 as part of the rotational Theater Security Package (TSP) that strengthens US forces across the Asia-Pacific region. This marks the Lobos’ first deployment to Kunsan as part of a TSP. The squadron will remain for several months to support and

operate as part of the resident 8th FW ‘Wolf Pack’. The deployment will provide training opportunities for the unit and further develop relationships with international partners. The squadron will integrate with USAF and Republic of Korea Air Force personnel to fly daily training missions. 

Above: USAF/South Dakota ANG F-16C 88-0477 from the 175th FS ‘Lobos’ arriving at Kunsan Air Base, South Korea, on May 14 as part of a rotational Theater Security Package deployment. USAF/Senior Airman Divine Cox

Japanese E-2D Buy Approved US STATE Department approval has been granted for a possible Foreign Military Sale to the Japanese Government of four Northrop Grumman E-2D Advanced Hawkeye airborne early warning and control aircraft. The US Defense Security Co-operation Agency (DSCA) notified Congress of the potential deal on June 1. Including associated equipment, parts and logistical support, the DSCA estimates the acquisition of the aircraft will cost US$1.7 billion. The DSCA says the deal will also

include two spare T56-A-427A engines, eight Multifunction Information Distribution System Low Volume Terminals (MIDS-LVT) and four APY-9 radars. The acquisition and integration of all systems will be managed by the US Navy’s Naval Air Systems Command. The DSCA notes that the E-2Ds will improve Japan’s ability to provide homeland defence utilising their AEW&C capability. Japan will use the aircraft to provide situational awareness of

air and naval activity in the Pacific region and to augment its existing E-2C Hawkeye fleet. This will be the first export order for the E-2D variant, which is currently only in service with the US Navy. The Japan Air Self-Defense Force (JASDF) has a fleet of 13 E-2Cs, the first of which entered service in 1984. They are operated by the JASDF’s Hiko Keikai Kanshitai (Airborne Warning and Control Squadron) at Misawa Air Base under the control of the Kekai Kokutai (AEW Group). 

US Army Choppers Head Home from Afghanistan Left: A total of 57 US Army helicopters from the 82nd Combat Aviation Brigade have returned by sea to the US after a nine-month deployment to Afghanistan as part of Task Force Pegasus in support of Operations Enduring Freedom and Freedom’s Sentinel between September 2014 and May 2015. On May 13 they were unloaded and being re-assembled on the dockside in Charleston, South Carolina, after being shipped from Rota, Spain. They were then flown back to their base at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. The helicopters included AH-64D Apaches (seen here being unloaded) and UH-60 Black Hawks. US Army/ Staff Sgt Christopher Freeman

India Close to Signing Apache and Chinook Contracts CONTRACTS WORTH over $2.5 billion for the purchase of 22 AH-6E Apache Gaurdians and 15 CH-47F Chinooks for India have

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edged closer to signature. The Press Trust of India announced on June 7 that the planned Apache acquisition was sent to the

Finance Ministry on April 23 for approval and the Chinook deal the previous week. Proposed offsets have also now been approved.

Approval is now required from the Cabinet Committee on Security. Boeing has extended the validity of its offer to June 30. 

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Philippines Abandons Iroquois Purchase

A CONTRACT for the acquisition of 21 refurbished Bell UH-1H Iroquois helicopters for the Philippine Air Force (PAF) has been scrapped after only the first seven had been delivered, following considerable controversy over the deal. A joint venture between US company Rice Aircraft Services Inc (RASI) and Eagle Copters Ltd of Canada had won the contract, but according to local media reports the helicopters supplied were older model ex-German UH-1Ds, not UH-1Hs, as had been specified in the tender. Officials confirmed on April 17 that, as a result of the corruption allegations, Defence Secretary Voltaire Gazmin had issued a notice to RASI in March of this year saying it was planned to terminate the contract. An order was then issued on April 16 formally ending the deal. Following lengthy delays, the Bids and Awards Committee had approved the order after failure of three previous tenders for the requirement. The first seven helicopters have already been accepted by the PAF and paid for, while the remaining 14 are already in the country, but have not been delivered. With the collapse of the deal, it is unclear what will now happen to the helicopters which have not yet been accepted. At a hearing of the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee, which took place on May 5, various officials provided testimony on the alleged corruption allegations regarding the deal, but failed to convince Senate members that the procurement was above board. A Bureau of Internal Revenue employee, Rhodora Alvarez, claimed at the hearing that the acquisition had been specifically tailored to favour RASI. It was also revealed that the original proposal was to deliver six ‘new’ refurbished helicopters, make seven existing PAF examples operational again and upgrade a further eight. As RASI reportedly could not meet these requirements, it was agreed that all 21 would be additional refurbished helicopters to boost the existing fleet. 

Vinson Strike Group Exercises with Malaysian AF AIRCRAFT FROM the US Navy aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70) participated in a number of bilateral training missions with aircraft of the Royal Malaysian Air Force (RMAF) on May 10 while the carrier was deployed in the South China Sea. This included F/A-18 Hornet and Super Hornet aircraft from Vinson’s Carrier Strike Group, Carrier Air Wing 17

(CVW-17), carrying out dissimilar air combat training (DACT) with RMAF F/A-18D Hornets, MiG-29Ns and Su-30MKMs. The DACT involved multiple combat scenarios. These ranged from single aircraft engaging single aircraft to complex multi-aircraft combat sorties. With the RMAF Su-30MKMs manoeuvring at speeds close to Mach 1, training was said to

be aggressive and realistic. The training also included a 5in gun exercise, photo exercise and concluded with an expendable maoeuvrable acoustic training target exercise. The latter enabled dual-ship anti-submarine warfare training between the US Navy guided-missile destroyer USS Gridley (DDG 101) and the Royal Malaysian Navy’s KD Lekir (FGS 26). 

Right: Royal Malaysian Air Force Su-30MKM M52-15 from 11 Skuadron ‘Golden Cobra’ at Gong Kedak Air Base flies in formation with US Navy F/A-18E Super Hornet 166838 ‘NA-210’ from Strike Fighter Squadron 81 (VFA-81) ‘Sunliners’ above the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70) during bilateral training on May 10. US Navy/Lt Jonathan Pfaff

India Unlikely to Buy More than 36 Rafales INDIA’S DEFENCE Minister, Manohar Parrikar, has indicated it is unlikely that the Indian Air Force (IAF) will acquire more than 36 Dassault Rafales. In an interview on May 31 with the Press Trust of India news agency, he termed the previous government’s planned deal to buy 126 Rafales as “economically unviable”, saying: “We are not buying the rest. We are

only buying the direct 36.” Dassault had been selected as the preferred bidder for the contract three years ago, but since then exclusive negotiations with the company had failed to secure a deal. Finally, on April 10 this year, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced that 36 Rafales would be purchased ‘off-the-shelf’ to meet immediate requirements

– see India to Order 36 Rafales for Early Delivery, May, p30. Parikkar said the original order for 126 aircraft “was not required” and would drain financial resources for other defence projects. He said a committee had been set up to finalise the details of a contract for the smaller order and expressed confidence this would be completed within three months. 

Marine Corps UH-1Ys End Nepal Mission

Above: US Marine Corps UH-1Y Venom 168404 ‘SE-01’ from Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 469 (HMLA-469) Vengeance at Marine Corps Air Station Camp Pendleton, California, being loaded onto US Air Force C-17A 05-5153 ‘HH’ from the 15th Airlift Wing/535th Airlift Squadron by Joint Task Force 505 personnel at Kathmandu-Tribhuvan International Airport, Nepal, for return home. The helicopter was one of three UH-1Ys participating in Operation Sahayogi Haat to provide assistance after the earthquake in the country on April 23. One of the UH-1Ys was lost in a fatal crash on May 12 during these operations – see Attrition this month. USMC/Staff Sgt Jeffrey Anderson

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ASIA PACIFIC Four More Indonesian F-16C Deliveries A FURTHER four F-16C Block 52IDs have been delivered to the Tentara Nasional IndonesiaAngkatan Udara (TNI-AU – Indonesian Air Force). After being delayed for three days due to technical problems, they arrived at Iswahjudi Air Force Base in Madiun, East Java, at 1212hrs local time on May 22. They comprised TS-1631, TS-1633, TS-1636 and TS-1642, flown, respectively, by USAF pilots Major Thomas Arthur Juntunen, Major Brian Perkins, Major David Francis and Lt Col Chad William Jennings. A fifth aircraft, an F-16D with a TNI-AU pilot as a back-seater, was also due to arrive with them, but its delivery was cancelled. The aircraft were delivered via the same route as previous flights, from Hill AFB, Utah, via Eielson AFB, Alaska, to Guam and then Iswahjudi. On arrival in the Skadron Udara 3 shelter area, they were greeted by the Iswahjudi base commander, First Marshall Donny Ermawan. Their arrival brings total deliveries to date to nine aircraft from an order for 24 refurbished former USAF examples being acquired under the Peace Bima Sena II programme. One however, F-16C TS-1643, has already been written-off when it was involved in a takeoff accident due to a technical problem at Jakarta-Halim Perdanakusuma Airport on April 16 - see Attrition, June, p93. The investigation into the accident is still ongoing, but officials have said that plans for its replacement will be announced soon Alex Sidharta 

Indonesia Seeks Sidewinders US STATE Dept approval has been granted for Indonesia's acquisition of 30 AIM-9X-2 Sidewinder Block IIs. The DSCA said on May 5 that the $47 million deal will also include 20 captive air training missiles, two tactical missile guidance units, two guidance units and two dummy air training missiles. 

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Refurbished Ka-31s Delivered to India

Above: One of two refurbished Indian Navy Ka-31s, (IN-)583, is loaded onto Aviacon Zitotrans Ilyushin Il-76TD RA-78765 on April 22 for airfreighting back to India. Russian Helicopters

RUSSIAN HELICOPTERS has redelivered the first two Kamov Ka-31 Helix-B radar picket AEW helicopters to the Indian Navy after repairs by subsidiary Kumertau Aviation Production Enterprise. The company announced their return on May 6. Kumertau supplied nine Ka-31s

to India in 2004 but, prior to their first scheduled overhaul, six in need of extensive repairs were sent back to the company for the work to be done. The first two have returned to service and the other four are scheduled for redelivery in the near future. Fourteen Ka-31s were produced

Philippine AW109E Flying in Exercise Balikatan

Above: Philippine Navy AW109E Power 432 is chocked and chained on the flight deck of US Navy amphibious transport dock ship USS Green Bay (LPD 20) on April 19. US Navy/Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Edward Guttierez III

AMONG aircraft participating in Exercise Balikatan 2015 was one of the Philippine Navy’s latest acquisitions, the AW109E Power helicopter – one of which, serial number 432, landed on the US Navy amphibious transport dock ship USS Green Bay (LPD 20) on April 19 in the Philippine Sea, as part of preparations for the exercise.

Balikatan (meaning ‘shoulderto-shoulder’), which began on April 20 and concluded on April 30, took place at various locations in the Philippines. This year’s was the 32nd of these annual exercises, which are the cornerstone of US-Philippine military relations, and the 2015 event was the largest to take place in 15 years. 

for India and a special service centre was established for their maintenance at Indian Naval Station Hansa, Goa-Dabolim, where they are operated by Indian Naval Air Squadron 339 ‘Falcons’. Specialists from Kumertau travel to India every year to service the helicopters. 

US Special Ops CV-22Bs to be Based in Japan US DOD officials have confirmed previously announced plans to base a US Air Force Special Operations Command squadron of CV-22B Ospreys in Japan. Revealing details on May 11, the DOD said the tilt-rotor unit would be stationed at Yokota. The first three Ospreys will arrive in Japan in the second half of 2017 and seven more are to follow by 2021. The DOD says their deployment will provide increased capability for US Special Operations forces to respond quickly to crises and contingencies in Japan and across the Asia-Pacific region, including humanitarian emergencies and natural disasters. The deployment will increase interoperability, enhance operational co-operation and promote stronger defence relations with the Japan SelfDefense Forces, said the DOD, adding that the move reflects the United States’ steadfast commitment to defend Japan. 

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New Japanese Govt 777-300ERs Colours Unveiled JAPAN’S GOVERNMENT has unveiled the planned livery for its two new Boeing 777-300ERs, which will be operated as VIP transports for the Emperor, Prime Minister and members of the imperial family. The new scheme was revealed on April 28, following approval by the government

aircraft review committee. The 777-300ER was selected on August 12 last year to replace two Japanese Air Self-Defense Force (JASDF) Boeing 747-47Cs currently in the role – see Japanese Government to Buy Two Boeing 777-300ERs, October, p29. As with the 747s, the new 777s will be operated by the JASDF’s

Tikubetu Koku Yusodai (Special Airlift Group)/701st Hikotai (Squadron) at Chitose Air Base, one acting as the primary aircraft with the second as a back-up. All Nippon Airways (ANA) will acquire and maintain the aircraft, service entry for which is planned for the beginning of Fiscal Year 2019. 

Above: The planned livery for the Japan Air Self-Defense Force’s two new VVIP Boeing 777-300ERs. Japanese MOD

Second Batch of UH-60Ms Delivered to Taiwan TAIWAN HAS taken delivery of a second batch of four UH-60M Black Hawks. They arrived on May 24 by sea at the port of Kaohsiung. After inspection and testing, they were flown out on May 28 to the Republic of China Army Aviation Special Forces base at Guiren in neighbouring Tainan, where Army personnel are being trained on them. The first four UH-60Ms were delivered in December – see Initial Batch of UH-60Ms for Taiwanese Army Arrives, January, p29. A total of 60 UH-60Ms are being acquired for the Republic of China Army, under a November 22, 2012, contract. 

Above: Republic of China UH-60M Black Hawk 906 being unloaded onto the dockside at Kaohsuing on May 24. Taiwan Ministry of National Defence

China and Russia Plan Heavy-Lift Helicopter AVIATION INDUSTRY Corporation of China (AVIC) and Russian Helicopters are to collaborate on joint deveopment of a new advanced heavy-lift helicopter. A framework agreement for the project was signed in the Kremlin on May 8 in the presence of Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping. The agreement was signed by AVIC Chairman of the Board of Directors Lin Zuoming and the CEO of Russian Helicopters, Alexander Mikheev. The proposal has been an important element of recent Chinese-Russian collaboration in the aviation industry and the signing ceremony marks the beginning of practical work on the programme. Under the agreement, both parties will work on all areas of development and preparation to launch series productionof the helicopter, which has been designated the Advanced Heavy Lift (AHL). The AHL is planned to have a take-off weight of 38 tons, be able to carry ten tons of cargo in the cabin or 15 tons on an external sling. It will be designed for hot-and-high operations in all weather conditions and to operate in a wdie variety of roles. 

India Approves Major Defence Acquisitions INDIA’S DEFENCE Acquisitions Council (DAC) has approved proposals to buy 56 new Airbus C295W medium transport aircraft to replace the Indian Air Force’s (IAF’s) Avro HS748 fleet. The go-ahead was given at a meeting on May 13 when the DAC also approved purchase of 200 Kamov Ka-226T helicopters, 38 more Pilatus PC-7 Mk IIs and conversion of two Air India Boeing 777-300ERs into VVIP transports. The C295Ws will be produced jointly by Airbus Defence and Space (ADS) and local partner Tata Advanced Systems Ltd (TASL), which will establish a local assembly line. The first 14 will be manufactured by ADS at its factory at Seville-San Pablo Airport, Spain, and the remaining 42 in India by TASL under the ‘Make in India’ programme,

according to defence minister Manohar Parrikar, speaking on May 16. It had earlier been stated the figures would be 16 and 40 respectively. He also said 50% of the components for the locally produced aircraft would be indigenously manufactured. ADS announced a teaming agreement with TASL to bid for the requirement on October 28 last year. Although the ADS-TASL team had emerged as the only bidder, to prevent further delays the DAC approved the project as a special case, as normally tenders for which there had only been one offer would be cancelled. The proposal still needs to be approved by the Cabinet Committee on Security, headed by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

The Ka-226Ts will be jointly produced in India by Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) and Kamov, and will replace the Indian Air Force’s and Army’s Cheetah and Chetak helicopters. Parriker said 40 would be built by Kamov in Russia and the remaining 140 in India. The 38 additional PC-7 Mk IIs will join the 75 of these turboprop trainers previously ordered for the Indian Air Force, of which more than 60 have been delivered. The contract for the original aircraft, announced by the manufacturer on May 24, 2012, included an option for the additional 38. Following conversion to VVIP configuration, the two Boeing 777-300ERs, to be bought from Air India’s existing fleet, will be used to transport the Prime Minister and President

Pranab Mukherjee. They will be outfitted with an executive office and bedroom and feature advanced self-protection systems and encrypted satellite communication equipment. The jets will be operated by the Indian Air Force’s Air Headquarters Communications Squadron at Palam Air Force Station, Delhi, which is tasked with ferrying VVIPs in and around the country, and used for long-range international flights. These dedicated aircraft will replace the current system which involves requisitioning Air India Boeing 747s as required. The DAC meeting on May 13 also gave clearance for preparatory work for the construction of India’s Indigenous Aircraft Carrier II, the INS Vishal, covering the design and evaluation phase. 

#326 MAY 2015 33


AUSTRALASIA MRH90 Loading Trials with C-17A RAAF’s E-7A Wedgetail Fully Operational AUSTRALIA HAS achieved Final Operational Capability (FOC) with its E-7A Wedgetail airborne early warning and control aircraft. The country’s Minister for Defence, Kevin Andrews, announced on May 26, during a visit to Defence Establishment Fairbairn, Canberra, that the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) reached the milestone that month. This will provide the RAAF with what he described as “the most advanced air battle space management capability in the world”. The entire capability of six E-7As, from physical aircraft to logistics, management, sustainment, facilities and training, is now fully operational. The Wedgetail has already proven highly reliable and effective, said Andrews. The aircraft recently deployed on Operation Okra to support the fight against IS in Iraq, completing over 100 surveillance sorties with coalition partners and flying more than 1,200 hours. It also provided co-ordination and flight safety capability for the air search for Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 in the Southern Indian Ocean. Deputy Chief of Air Force, Air Vice-Marshal Gavin Davies, said the E-7A provides Australia with the ability to control and survey vast areas of operation and contribute to Australia’s modern and integrated combat force under Plan Jericho. The latter, a road map to transform the RAAF for the future into a networked force, was launched on February 23. AVM Davies said: “The aircraft’s advanced multi-role radar gives the Air Force the ability to survey, command, control and co-ordinate joint air, sea and land operations in real time. As we transition into a more technologically advanced force as part of Plan Jericho, the Wedgetail will be able to support future aircraft and surveillance systems.” The home base for the E-7A is RAAF Williamtown in New South Wales, where they are part of the Surveillance and Response Group and flown by 2 Squadron, under the control of 42 Wing. 

34 JULY 2015 #328

Above: An Australian Army MRH90 Taipan from the 5th Aviation Regiment is loaded into the cargo bay of a Royal Australian Air Force C-17A Globemaster III at RAAF Base Townsville during trials undertaken on May 10-11. This was the first time Australian Defence Force personnel had loaded the type on to a C-17A. Commonwealth of Australia/Cpl Matthew Persic

New SATCOM on RAAF C-17A BOEING HAS installed the first new advanced satellite communication (SATCOM) and imagery display system on a Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) Boeing C-17A Globemaster III. Announcing completion of the first aircraft on June 2, Boeing said that it will provide the flight crew and passengers with unprecedented situational awareness. The high-speed SATCOM was fitted as part of the RAAF’s Plan Jericho, an initiative to transform

the Australian military into an integrated, networked force able to deliver air power in all operating environments. Group Captain Robert Chipman, director, Plan Jericho, said that the new system allows personnel on the C-17A to receive live en route updates and video from their destination, such as enemy positions or disaster damaged areas, right up to the point of insertion. Additionally, Chipman also said that the systems could

also support many other kinds of operations, such as aeromedical evacuations, giving medical staff on board the ability to video conference with specialists on the ground. Applications enabled by the new antenna include video teleconferencing, instant messaging, e-mail, transfer of large grahpics files, voice and radio over internet protocol and common operating picture capability. 

RAAF’s First KC-30A to KC-30A Refuelling Test

Above: A Royal Australian Air Force KC-30A extends its boom to refuel another of the type on May 15 during a flight from RAAF Base Amberley, Queensland. This was the first such test undertaken by the RAAF, although no fuel was transferred on this occasion. Commonwealth of Australia

035_AFM_Jul15_ad.indd 35

08/06/2015 10:05


Russian Power T

o mark the 70th anniversary of the Red Army’s victory in the Great Patriotic War, the Russian armed forces, including the air force and the navy’s air arm, demonstrated their power in parades across the country on May 9. Altogether, some 242 aircraft and helicopters flew over Moscow, Rostov, Sevastopol, Kaliningrad, Severomorsk and Vladivostok. The air parade over Moscow involved 143 aircraft, including 29 helicopters, provided by units from Chkalovsky, Dyagilevo, Engels, Kubinka, Kursk, Lipetsk-2, Migalovo, Perm, Seshcha and Zhukovsky. The 114 Russian Air Force fixed-wing aircraft in the Moscow display comprised an An-124, three Il-76s, five Il-78s, 18 MiG-29s, ten MiG-31s, ten Su-24s, 19 Su-25s, nine Su-27s, four Su-30SMs, 14 Su-34s, four Su-35Ss and six Yak 130s. The rotary-winged contingent consisted of a Mi-26, nine Mi-17s, five Mi-28s, four Mi-35s and five Ka-52s.

36 JULY 2015 #328

Babak Taghvaee reports on Moscow’s Victory Day air display, the largest event of its kind staged to date.

While new armoured equipment was unveiled in Red Square, in the skies above, two new Russian Air Force fighter types participated in Victory Day for the first time –the Su-30SM and Su-35S. Notable absentees, however, were the An-22 and A-50, of which just five and eight examples remain operational. To co-ordinate the comprehensive air display seamlessly, aircrews began formation training flights at their air bases in March – in particular the strategic bomber crews of the 6950th Aviation Base at Engels, whose formation flights demanded the highest precision.


Main image: Tucked in behind an Il-78M Midas ‘52 Blue’ over Red Square during one of the flypast’s rehearsal days, Su-24M ‘47 Red’ (s/n RF-92249) simulates refuelling from the tanker as preparations for May 9 get under way below. Armen Gasparyan

#328 JULY 2015 37


Above: Russia’s front line cutting-edge fighters were represented by a formation of four Su-30SMs and four Su-35Ss flying together for the first time in public. Nickolay Krasnov Below: One of the highlights of the parade was this ‘70’ formation consisting of seven MiG-29s and eight Su-25s. Dmitry Pichugun

In total, 20 Russian Air Force bases were tasked to prepare personnel and aircraft for the air parade. Of these, 12 had forwarddeployed their aircraft to Moscow by April. All told, 101 aircraft and helicopters from Akhtubinsk, Astrakhan, Borisoglebsk, Budyonnovsk, Chelyabinsk, Domna, Kansk, Morozovsk, Syzran, Torzhok, Voronezh, and Vozdvizhenka were forward-deployed to Chkalovsky, Kubinka, Lipetsk-2, Perm and Zhukovsky to take part in the parade. The remaining 42 aircraft flew from their own bases located close to Moscow. Rehearsals over Moscow began on April 1 and continued until May 7, and at least ten were flown over Alabino, Moscow and Perm to ensure the pilots were well prepared.

Victory formation

The 143 aircraft involved on May 9 flew over Red Square in 28 formation flights. The lead aircraft was Tu-160 ‘12 Red’, serial number RF-94109, named Alexander Novikov after a 1940s General. The bomber flew at an altitude of 1,150ft (350m) and at 341mph (550km/h), followed by the first helicopter formation – led by Mi-26 ‘03 Yellow’ (s/n RF-95573), flanked by four Mi-8AMTShs, all flying at an altitude of 490ft (150m) and 124mph (200km/h). After five more helicopter formations, the next fixed-wing aircraft appeared. The first transport to pass over Red Square was An-124-100 RF-82032 (c/n 9773052832051), one of just ten still operational with the Russian Air Force. Seconds later three Il-76MDs followed the Ruslan. The transports preceded Russian Air Force heavy bombers, flown in three formations at a speed of 550km/h at altitudes differing by increments of 50m. The strategic bomber force’s long-range capability was demonstrated by the simulated refuelling of a Tu-95MS and a Tu-160S by two Il-78M tankers. In the 15th, 16th and 17th formations, aerial refuelling was demonstrated by Su-34s, Su-24Ms and MiG-31BMs with the aid of three more Il-78Ms: ‘50 Blue’, ‘52 Blue’ and ‘83 Blue’. The 18th group of aircraft was a particular highlight – four Su-35Ss and four Su-30SMs, in arrow formation, followed by a MiG-29UB, six MiG-29SMTs, eight MiG-31Bs, eight Su-24Ms, four Su-25SMs, an Su-25UB, two Su-27Ps, two Su-27UBs and 12 Su-34s in arrow, diamond and delta formations. Four MiG-29s of the Strizhi (Swifts) display team and four Su-27s of the Russkiye Vityazi (Russian Knights) made up the

38 JULY 2015 #328

25th group, flying in diamond formation and dispensing flares over Red Square. For the 26th formation, seven MiG-29s and eight Su-25s flying from Chkalovsky formed the number ‘70’ in the sky. The six

MiG-29UBs and single MiG-29 were drawn from the 185th Centre for Combat Training and Flight Personnel Training at Astrakhan and the Su-25s from the 6983rd Aviation Base at Vozdvizhenka. The 27th formation consisted of six Yak-130s of the 786th Training Centre flying in delta formation – and represented the debut of the newly established Crimean Wings (Krilya Tavrida) aerobatic demonstration team. The final formation comprised five Su-25BM target tugs and a single Su-25UB, all equipped with smoke generators. The Su-25s were from the 4th Flight Training Centre at Lipetsk. Flying in line, they created a Russian flag with their blue, white and red smoke, providing a afm fitting finale to the anniversary flypast.

This An-124-100 Ruslan (s/n RF-82032) is one of just ten currently in operational service with the Russian Air Force as part of Sescha’s 6955th Aviation Battalion. Dmitry Pichugin

The 143 aircraft participating in the Moscow Victory Day parade were supported by 42 assorted types, such as this Su-25BM ‘71 Red’ (s/n RF-91976), which were airborne or ready on the tarmac as reserves if any of the primary aircraft aborted due to technical issues. Kirill Naumenko

70TH ANNIVERSARY VICTORY DAY PARADE Russian Flypast Aircraft Type/Quantity

Serial No.

Bort No.

Tu-95MS x 4

Akhtubinsk / 929th flight test centre Su-35S x 4


'24 Red'



'11 Blue'


'27 Red'



'62 Red'



'10 Red'


'21 Red'


'28 Red'


'22 Red'


'16 Red'


'22 Red'


'26 Red'


'12 Red'


'24 Red'


'32 Red'


'15 Red'


'25 Red'

Astrakhan/185th Centre for Combat & Flight Training


'18 Red'


'26 Red'

MiG-29A x 1


'14 Blue'


'17 Red'


'28 Red'

MiG-29UB x 6


'10 Blue'

Kansk / 6979th AvB


'15 Blue'


'31 Red'

MiG-31B x 4



'10 Red'

'17 Blue'


'12 Red'


'21 Red'


'50 Blue'


'28 Red'


'22 Red'


'54 Blue'


'24 Red'


'31 Red'


'55 Blue'

Kubinka -

'03 Blue'


'01 Blue'

Su-27P x 4 (Russian Knights)


'06 Blue'


'15 Blue'


'12 Blue'


'21 Blue'


'20 Blue'


'22 Blue'


'22 Blue'


'08 Blue'

Bolshoe Savino (Perm) / 6977th AvB MiG-31B x 4

Su-27UB x 2 MiG-29 x 3 (Swifts)

Borisoglebsk / 786th Training Centre Yak-130 x 6

Tu-160/S x 4


'46 White'


'29 Blue'


'50 White'


'30 Blue'


'54 White'


'12 Blue'


'55 White'


'56 White'


'58 White'

MiG-29UB x 1 (Swifts) Kursk / 6963rd AvB MiG-29UB x 1


'73 Red'

MiG-29SMT x 6


'01 Red'


'03 Red'


'04 Red'

Budenovsk / 6971st AvB Su-25SM x 4


'11 Red'


'14 Red'


'05 Red'


'16 Red'


'22 Red'


'23 Red'


'27 Red'

Chelyabinsk Shagol Airport / 6980 AvB

Lipetsk/ 4th flight test centre

Su-24M x 8

Su-24M x 2


'44 Red'


'47 Red'


'97 Red'


'33 Red'


'14 Red'

'27 White'


'70 Red'


'29 White'


'74 Red'


'46 White'


'76 Red'


'88 Red'


'02 White'


'04 White'


'05 White'


'19 White'


'25 White'


Su-25UB Su-25BM

Diyagilevo Il-78M x 5


'81 Blue'



'62 Red'


'82 Blue'



'91 Blue'


'50 Blue'


'93 Blue'


'52 Blue'

Migalovo - Tiver / 6955th AvB


'83 Blue'


Domna / 6980th AvB Su-30SM x 4






'19 Red'


'24 Red'

Morozovsk / 6972nd AvB


'25 Red'



'28 Red'

Engels / 6950th AvB Tu-22M3 x 3



'24 Red'


'43 Red'

Voronezh / 7000th AvB


'48 Red'


Vozdvizhenka Airbase / 6983rd AvB Su-25SM



'03 Red'


'04 Red'


'12 Red'


'21 Red'


'21 Red'


'24 Red'


'29 Red'


'96 Red'



Sescha / 6955th AvB An-124-100

Syzran / 131th Helicopter Training Regiment ANSAT-U


'43 Yellow'


'46 Yellow'


'48 Yellow'


'49 Yellow' '50 Yellow'

Torzhok-1 AB/ 696th independent Helicopter Regiment Mi-8AMTSh


'19 White'


'23 White'


'24 White'


'25 White'


'21 White'


'82 Yellow'


'83 Yellow'


'84 Yellow'



'03 Yellow'



'05 White'


'O9 White'


'10 White'


'12 White'


'14 White'


'31 Blue'


'32 Blue'


'38 Blue'


'40 Blue'


'41 White'





'02 Red'


'03 Red'


'15 Red'


'43 White'


'08 Red'


'48 White'


'50 White'


'52 White'


'03 Blue'


Below: A Mi-26 Halo ‘03 Yellow’ leads a formation of four Mi-8AMTShs, ‘19 White; ‘23 White’, ‘24 White’ and ‘25 White’ as part of the first helicopter formation flight past Red Square. Nickolay Krasnov

#328 JULY 2015 39

EXERCISE REPORT Frisian Flag 2015

Making it Real... T

he Netherlands hosted two multinational live flying exercises simultaneously in April. From Leeuwarden Air Base (AB) in the north of the country, exercise Frisian Flag sent large-scale packages of 40 fighter aircraft into ‘combat’ over the north of the Netherlands, northern Germany and western Denmark. From Eindhoven in the south, the European Air Transport Command (EATC) supported the exercise with four tanker aircraft in an operation called European Air-to-Air Refuelling Training (or EART 15). Western air forces ‘waged war’ in large and complex packages with differing aircraft types from

squadrons across Europe. Training in complex scenarios with multinational assets is critical in forming an efficient and powerful force should real-world operations be necessary. The annual Frisian Flag exercise provides opportunities for such training and has become a respected event since it was first held in 1992. It’s one of the few large-scale fighter exercises in Europe. Responsible for the organisation for this year was 322 Tactical Training Evaluation and Standardisation (TACTES) Squadron of the Royal Netherlands Air Force (RNLAF) based at Leeuwarden.

Large-scale fighter missions, tanker support and mobile surface-to-air missile threats made this year’s Frisian Flag one of the most complex ever. Despite ‘real world’ operations elsewhere, Gert Kromhout reports that, for fighter pilots, it’s the only place to ‘fly, fight and learn’ in Europe. “We enable the air and ground crews to train in a modern air combat environment,” said Captain Remco, deputy exercise supervisor at 322 Squadron. “There are large-scale air operations with ground-based and airborne electronic threats in a relatively unrestricted environment. We promote pilot leadership, self-discipline and taking the initiative, and provide a forum for the development of tactics and their validation.”

Above: Captain Remco, deputy supervisor at Frisian Flag. Below: The objectives of Frisian Flag 2015 were similar to previous years’ events but with different scenarios and participants, new tactics and new simulated weapons. All photos author unless stated

40 JULY 2015 #328

Heated discussions

According to Leeuwarden AB commander Colonel Gerbe Verhaaf, it’s important to establish and maintain multinational relationships between different air forces and crucial to have all the pilots at the same base. “Debriefing face-to-face, exchanging ideas and socialising is invaluable. Sometimes these debriefings result in heated discussions between participants about things they did not like – a good thing because we all want to learn and improve. The same people drink a beer together at the bar after the day’s finished. All participants get better from exercises like this. When it comes to actual combat, they have the highest level of survivability possible.” The presence of a deployable Command and Reporting Centre (CRC) cell and RNLAF combat controllers at Leeuwarden added much to the value of the debriefing. There was no airborne radar asset such as the Boeing E-3 AWACS available

Gecko and EADS Roland missiles and Dutch Army Raytheon/ Kongsberg National Advanced Surface-to-Air Missile Systems (NASAMS) were placed within the fighting area, frequently changing locations to catch pilots unaware. Mission profiles during Frisian Flag were air defence, dynamic and pre-planned targeting, high-value airborne asset protection and slow mover (helicopter/transport) protection.


Above: Frisian Flag’s large area of operations, with the Netherlands bottom left, northern Germany in the middle and Denmark to the right.

for the exercise but, according to Captain Remko, it was not a problem. “The deployed German CRC was capable of producing exactly the same air picture.” Twice a day around 40 fighter

aircraft took off from Leeuwarden to fly missions in reserved air space north of the base towards northern Germany and Denmark. Luftwaffe SA-6 Gainful, SA-8

This year’s exercise was dominated by 12 F-15C/Ds of the US Air National Guard. The 159th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron, based at Jacksonville International Airport, Florida, landed at Leeuwarden ten days before the start of the exercise. The Finns and Germans were present with six F/A-18Cs and ten Eurofighters respectively and Spain sent six F-18As. A civilian Lear jet of Skyline Aviation and a Dassault 20 of Cobham Aviation Services

“Debriefing face-to-face, exchanging ideas and socialising is invaluable.”

#328 JULY 2015 41

EXERCISE REPORT Frisian Flag 2015

provided stand-off electronic warfare measures and army support came from special forces Joint Tactical Air Controllers (JTACs) operating in the area of operations to control close air support. As hosts, the RNLAF sent 14 F-16As (including four spares)

from 322 squadron and Volkelbased 312 and 313 squadrons. This was the maximum number of F-16s the RNLAF could operate, and their ageing airframes meant ground crews and maintenance personnel spent extra hours keeping the fleet serviceable. With

Participants: Frisian Flag (Leeuwarden AB) Air Force




10x F-16AM (+4 spares) C-130H*

312, 313, 322, 336 Sqns,


8x Eurofighter 2000 (+2 spares)

TLG 31 ‘Boelcke’


8x F-15C/D (+4 spares)

159th EFS

Spanish AF

4x F-18A+/B (+2 spares)

Ala 12

Polish AF

4x F-16C/D (+2 spares)

32 TAB

Finnish AF

4x F-18C (+2 spares)

31 FS


Learjet 36A

Flightline Aviation



Cobham Aviation

another eight F-16s in Jordan for operations against Islamic State over Iraq, and two more on quick reaction alert in the Netherlands, the 61 Dutch F-16As currently in service are stretched to their operational limits. Before the start of the exercise,

the operational and logistical commands plan maintenance in such a way that peak F-16 availability is guaranteed– resulting in a reduction in sorties in the week before and week after Frisian Flag. During the exercise there are virtually no F-16 flights at Volkel.

Above: A Eurofighter of Taktische Luftwaffengeschwader 31 ‘Boelcke’. The Luftwaffe likes Frisian Flag – Leeuwarden is located ‘around the corner’ and the exercise is partly conducted over Germany. It also provides opportunities for German tanker aircraft, ground-based air defences and special forces. Below: Lear jet of Skyline Aviation. This, and a Dassault Da20 of Cobham Aviation, provided electronic warfare services.

* Second week only Abbreviations: FS: Fighter Squadron, EFS: Expeditionary Fighter Squadron, TAB: Tactical Air Base, Ala: Wing, TLG: Tactical Wing

42 JULY 2015 #328

“We’ve been doing this for more than 20 years and we know the ropes now. The expertise for planning and executing the exercise is in our genes.”

Evolving tactics

The exercise scenario changes each year, as Colonel Gerbe Verhaaf explained: “When we plan and prepare this exercise we look at trouble spots around the world and what conflicts we can expect. We examine previous and current conflicts such as the one in Syria and Iraq, which we’re currently involved in. The RNLAF and other participants use the exercise to develop tactics and operate new weapon systems against current and emerging threats.” A good example is the exercise’s air-to-air combat phase, which primarily focused on beyondvisual-range engagements. Active Electronically-Scanned Array (AESA) radars are gradually being introduced, offering improved capabilities over mechanically-scanned radars. Such systems including the F-15C’s APG63(V)3, can be used at the maximum range of the AIM-120 beyond-visualrange radar-guided missile. Half of the Eagles deployed to Leeuwarden were equipped with the APG-63(V)3. The next five years will see significant changes at Leeuwarden AB with the arrival of the F-35A Lightning II and 306 Squadron re-equipping with MQ-9 Reapers. But, Colonel Verhaaf says, that does not mean the base can no longer organise Frisian Flag exercises. “Frisian Flag is tied to Leeuwarden and will remain so. Leeuwarden is the ideal base for this exercise. The training areas are only a few minutes away. If we run the exercise from the southerly Volkel AB, we’d have to fly the whole package through dense civilian air traffic routes four times a day, and that’s not ideal. “We’ve been doing this for more than 20 years and we know the ropes now. The expertise for planning and executing the exercise is in our genes.” 

Above: The Finnish Air Force, the only non-NATO participant, is no stranger to Frisian Flag. Hornets of the 31st Fighter Squadron flew air-to-air missions only. Below: A Spanish Air Force F-18B CE.15-12 '12-75' from Ala 12 lights the afterburners at the start of its take-off run. The Hornets have recently undergone a mid-life update to ensure they remain in service until at least 2025.

Below: The Air National Guard’s appearance at Frisian Flag 2015 was a first. The RNLAF had requested US assets to take part – and the Florida ANG had been looking to join in a European exercise.

#328 JULY 2015 43

EXERCISE REPORT Frisian Flag 2015

Team Tanker


he European Air Transport Command (EATC) recognises there are serious shortfalls in European air-to-air refuelling (AAR), and used Frisian Flag to create a realistic training environment to exchange information and ideas amongst the tanker and fast-jet crews. The tanker exercise is known as European Air Refuelling Training (EART). The shortfalls surfaced during Operation Unified Protector (OUP) over Libya in 2011. The vast air operation was the first European-led large-scale ‘real world’ air campaign – before which major air coalitions were often led by the United States. Colonel Niels Lokman, Head of the Functional Division of the EATC, noted: “One might think AAR is just putting a tanker in front of a fighter, but that’s not true. There’s a complete world behind it. For instance there’s airspace management, operational and emergency procedures, communications and the organisation of command and control. There are interesting operational differences between the countries.” A lack of training opportunities was identified during OUP. “In Europe, everyone operates by themselves. They fly tanker aircraft primarily to refuel their own aircraft. We’re all training by the same NATO standards, and everyone is trained well. However, during OUP it turned out that everyone interpreted the regulations a little differently,” added the colonel.

Approval clearances Captain Eric van Osch, a former

Above: Four years from now, the RNLAF’s 334 Squadron will replace its two KDC-10 tankers with four Airbus A330 MRTTs and become a multinational unit with Polish and Norwegian elements.

RNLAF Boeing KDC-10 flight engineer currently assigned to EATC staff, identified clearances to refuel other nation’s aircraft as another problem encountered during OUP. “The refuelling systems are all standard. All probe-equipped aircraft can refuel from the drogues on the tankers and all booms fit in the receptacles of the receptacle-equipped aircraft. However, each nation has to clear aircraft types to receive fuel from another nation’s tankers. This certification takes a lot of paperwork, time and trials, which can be rather costly.” During OUP, some nations did not have the necessary clearances ready. Lt-Col Franck Bottero, EATC chief of mission control and commander of the French tanker wing during OUP, said only the C-135FR/KC-135 of the French Air Force could refuel all aircraft in theatre. He explained: “The nations' mindset was that they had to be able to refuel their own fighters. Working in a multinational environment was not a priority.” Captain Osch added that an AAR planner had to look in his books to find out which tankers were allowed to give fuel to specific nations’ aircraft. “The result was

there were many more tankers in the air than necessary, if all fighters were allowed to refuel on all types of tanker. The nations are working on this issue but it takes a lot of time and money.” Another issue to have emerged during OUP is a lack of air-to-air refuelling (AAR) planners in Europe. This was a gap in the EATC’s ability to plan and execute joint force air operations. Col Lokman said those points are what EART is addressing. “Last year, we set up an AAR planner course to create a pool of people that can be called-up during a real-world operation. This [EART15] exercise is the first time the students of this course are part of the Frisian Flag AAR planning cell at Leeuwarden, which allows them hands-on training.”

Tanker teamwork

The first EART, in 2014, focused on bringing tanker crews from different nations (Netherlands, Germany and Italy) together to learn from each other. Normally, during operations and exercises, the fleet of supporting tankers operates from several air bases. This year, France was added as fourth participant,

bringing a C-135FR. The others were the RNLAF with a KDC-10, the Luftwaffe with an A310 MRTT and the Italian Air Force with a KC-767A. Col Lokman said training levels in 2015 were more complex than in 2014. “This year we have academics and we introduced mentors to participating crews. Procedures were standardised because not having the same methods can cause problems. During OUP, a lack of an organised approach to AAR caused quite a number of issues.” Lt-Col Bottero explained how a minor detail can cause big problems. “During OUP, my wing discovered the Eurofighter fuel transfer rate was lower than planners thought. They scheduled the fighters to our tankers to receive 10,000kg [22,046lb] of fuel in ten minutes. However, the Eurofighter takes 15 minutes to take that amount. This created a real mess in the schedule.”

Efficient & effective

Although OUP was four years ago, clearance problems have not been resolved – as was the case during Frisian Flag. In EART 15, the F-15s were not authorised to refuel from KDC-10 tankers nor the German Eurofighters from the Italian KC-767A. The EATC is making progress in creating a better and more efficient force. Not being tied to Frisian Flag means EART can support other flying exercises at the same time. In the future, newer tanker assets will be included. France will get A330 MRTTs to replace its C-135 fleet while the Netherlands will replace its two KDC-10s with A330s as well. Together with Poland and Norway the Dutch will operate at least four A330s from 2019/2020 in a multinational 334 Squadron at Eindhoven. Other countries have expressed their interest in this initiative and may decide to participate in the unit, generating the purchase of even more MRTTs. By then, the European aerial refuelling force should be an efficient afm and well-oiled operation.

EART (Eindhoven AB) RNLAF


334 Sqn



8° Gruppo*



GRV 2/91 ‘Bretagne’

Luftwaffe A310 MRTT FBS Above: The French Air Force participated in the EART exercise for the first time. GRV 2/91 ‘Bretagne’, based at Istres, took one of their elderly C-135FRs to Eindhoven AB.

44 JULY 2015 #328

*second week only MRTT: Multi-Role Tanker Transport, FBS: Special Air Mission Wing

045_AFM_Jul15_ad.indd 45

08/06/2015 10:52


Croatia's Fire Bosses Croatia’s air force is operating one of the biggest AT 802 Fire Boss fleets as Igor Bozinovski explains.


he Croatian Air Force’s 855. protupožarna eskadrila (855th Firefighting Squadron) fleet of aircraft is back up to strength. The unit, part of the 93rd Airbase at Zadar-Zemunik now has six Bombardier CL-415 water bombers as well as half a dozen AT-802 Fire Boss/Air Tractors. With the delivery of a twin-seat float-equipped amphibian Air Tractor AT-802 Fire Boss, serial 897 last November, pilots can train to land the small aircraft on water. It was a much-needed requirement that had been delayed for a couple of years due to funding difficulties. According to the ‘Zadarski List’ newspaper, the Croatian MOD quoted the value of the contract to cover aircraft procurement, a package of spare parts and equipment plus training one instructor pilot, mechanics and engineers at €3.2 million ($4 million). The aircraft is equipped to the very latest production standard of Texas-based Air Tractor, featuring the more powerful Pratt & Whitney PT6A-67F turboprop engine delivering 1,600shp, latest Generation II Fire Retardant Delivery System (FRDS) and AmSafe inflatable airbag system. It is the eighth Air Tractor AT-802 to join the

46 JULY 2015 #328

Croatian Air Force since 2001 and the third such aircraft to enter service with the Balkan air arm in a twin-seat configuration. The other two have been written off in non-fatal accidents. As well as firefighting, the aircraft

Above: Two pilots walk away from a dual-seat Fire Boss. CAF pilots had to fly 300 hours on the fixed undercarriage variant before stepping into a singleseat float-equipped version. The new two-seat amphibious Fire Boss has changed all that. Below: The Croatian Air Force now flies four different variants of the Fire Boss. Three of them are seen at their home base, Zadar in August 2012. The nearest (896) is a single-seat amphibious version, the second (890) a twin-stick with undercarriage and the furthest away (892), a single-seater with undercarriage. All photos, Alan Warnes

will fulfil scheduled and non-scheduled pilot proficiency checks when required.

Croatia’s Air Tractor legacy

AT-802 operations began in Croatia during 2001 when a pair of land-based twin-seat firefighting aircraft became part of the CAF – 890 and 891 (c/n 802-0091). However, the small fleet was halved on September 2, 2004 when 891 crashed at Hvar island and was destroyed during a regular firefighting mission. The Croatian Government opted to expand the CAF’s fleet of Air Tractors in November 2007. The MOD signed a €7.6 million ($7 million) contract with Air Tractor Europe to acquire three single-seat Air Tractor AT-802A firefighting turboprops fitted with floats, known as the Fire Boss. The first Croatian Fire Boss, serial 894, was delivered to Zadar-Zemunik on March 2, 2008, followed by the second and third example (serials 892 and 893) on May 3, the same year. Impressed with their overall performance and capabilities, the Croatian MOD, signed a €5 million follow-on contract in July 2008 for two AT-802A single-seaters – one amphibian Fire

CROATIA'S FIRE BOSSES Boss, 895, and one land-based example, 896. The latter was also converted into a Fire Boss amphibian during April/May 2010 by Avialsa T-35, a Valencia-based Part 145 maintenance company specialising in OEM-backed maintenance and logistical support for Air Tractors, operating in Europe, Africa and Asia. With the transformation of 896 into a Fire Boss, the CAF entered the 2010 summer season with a unified single-seat amphibian firefighting fleet of five AT-802A Fire Boss turboprops (892, 893, 894, 895 and 896). AT-802 890 was the sole HRZ-operated Air Tractor equipped with classical tricycle tailwheel landing gear. However, out of

operational needs HRZ removed the floats of 894 in Spring 2011, making it the second HRZ Air Tractor in classical tricycle configuration. The aircraft was written-off at Braˇc island on June 25, 2011 while on a firefighting mission. With capacity to carry 3,100 litres (approximately 1,000 gallons) coupled with low costs, first to procure then to maintain, it is not surprising the AT-802 has been such a hit in Europe. Aside from Croatia, there are around 80 firefighting AT-802s in regular use in the region, flying in Cyprus, France, Italy, Macedonia, Montenegro, Portugal and Spain, while outside of Europe, afm Israel is known to be a customer.

CAF Air Tractor Fleet No.



890 802-0090 Land-based two-seater 891 802-0091 w/o September 2, 2004; landbased twin-seat 892 802A-254 Amphibious single seat 893 802A-256 Land-based single seat 894 802A-258 w/o June 25, 2011, originally amphibious twinseat but converted to land-based two-seat before crash Fuselage at Zadar, will be converted to simulator 895 802A-290 Amphibious single seat 896 802A-296 Amphibious single seat 897 802-0456 Ex EC-MBG; amphibious twoseater Above: A dual-seater taxies out after filling its water tanks on August 22, 2012 during a very dry summer, and a record number of wildfires. Top: A Fire Boss can carry up to 3,100 litres of fuel in its water tank. That’s a lot of water for such a small aircraft.

#328 JULY 2015 47





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Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort

Going STOV I

f its action you want, then Beaufort MCAS in South Carolina is a must. There are six F/A-18 Hornet squadrons based: VMFA-115 Silver Eagles, VFMA-122 Werewolves, VFMA-251 Thunderbolts, VMFA-312 Checkerboards, VMFA (AW)-224 Flying Bengals, VMFA (AW)-533 Hawks as well as the first USMC F-35B training squadron, VMFAT-501 Warlords. US Marine Corps (USMC) jets have been flying from the air base’s historic coastal location, midway between Savannah, GA and Charleston, SC, for more than 50 years.

with F-35Cs, for a total of 70 F-35s.

Working USMC F-35s

MCAS Beaufort is becoming the USMC pilot training STOVL Center of Excellence. The VMFAT-501, Warlords, was formed at Eglin AFB, FL in February 2010. On August 1, 2014 this unit moved to MCAS Beaufort, which is also the site for the initial cadre of pilots and other personnel for UK F-35B squadrons training. Italian F-35B pilots will also train at MCAS Beaufort. A second USMC F-35 training squadron, VMFAT-502 is expected to stand up at MCAS Beaufort starting in FY21. VMFAT-501 is currently USMC Plans The 2015 USMC Aviation Plan calls commanded by Lt Col Joseph ‘Ty’ Bachmann, a graduate of the US for the accelerated replacement Merchant Marine Academy, Kings of all AV-8Bs by the F-35B Point, NY. After entering the Marine Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter. In Corps as a Second Lieutenant addition, USMC F/A-18A++/C/D in 1996, Lt Col Bachmann Hornet units will transition to the eventually became an AV-8B pilot. F-35B/C. Eventually the USMC He served as a forward air plans to field nine squadrons of controller in Haiti and with F-35Bs with a unit equipment VMA-542 in OIF. Later he (UE) of 16 aircraft. There will attended the Weapons and also be five squadrons with ten Tactics Instructors Course (WTI) F-35Bs each, four squadrons of and US Naval Test Pilot School. ten carrier-capable F-35Cs, two Assigned to Joint Strike Fighter reserve F-35B units fielding ten development, Lt Col Bachmann aircraft and two large training squadrons with 25 F-35Bs at each. was the first Marine Corps pilot to fly this advanced fighter. This will lead to MCAS Yuma Lt Col Bachmann told AFM: “The in Arizona housing four F-35 long-term plan is for VMFAT-501 squadrons; MCAS Cherry Point, to be assigned 25 F-35Bs for North Carolina, seven squadrons; MCAS Miramar, California, six units training. After the ground school, around half of the pilot training and MCAS Iwakuni, Japan, one programme involves simulators F-35 squadron. MCAS Beaufort and the other half actual flying. will be the home of two F-35B “The current cycle is short as fighter training squadrons as well as two fighter squadrons equipped most of the pilots are coming from

50 JULY 2015 #328

a high level of experience flying the Hornet, AV-8B and other jets. Most student pilots headed here now, to fly the F-35B, are very experienced. Some graduated from Topgun (at NAS Fallon, Nevada), others are Weapons and Tactics Instructors (WTI) from MCAS Yuma, Az, (see Cleared Hot, p58-64) and many have flown in combat. After completing training the new F-35B pilots will stay here as instructors, go to MCAS Yuma or travel to the UK to start their training programme.” Lt Col Bachmann added: “Eventually, we will have eight F-35B simulators at Beaufort, but today we have two. We currently have 13 F-35Bs, 11 of which fly regularly. The other two are in depot maintenance being upgraded as we have a mix of F-35Bs with different production configurations. “We are still developing and testing a total training programme for future pilots. We have a detailed plan for the flight transition training in place. Recently we began flying the night portion of this syllabus. I flew the first night training sorties to test and confirm this portion of the programme recently. Lockheed runs the school house of simulators. “I started as an AV-8B pilot and in test pilot school flew the F/A-18 Hornet, EA-6B and many other types of aircraft. I was lucky to be the first Marine pilot to fly the F-35. I have to tell you the F-35 is an amazing jet!

Change is the buzz word at MCAS Beaufort with the introduction of Joint Strike Fighter. At the same time, the war-weary Hornet is getting a new lease of life. Lon Nordeen reports from the South Carolina air base.


Left: With trails of condensation looping off their wings, two VMFAT-501 F-35Bs fly over countryside close to their home base, MCAS Beaufort. James De Boer

#328 JULY 2015 51


Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort

Where Are They Now? Beaufort’s ageing Hornets VMFA-115 ‘Silver Eagles’, F/A18A++ This squadron has seen combat during World War Two, the Korean and Vietnam Wars and has deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF). VMFA-115 is now training to maintain readiness for future exercises and operations. VFMA-122 ‘Werewolves’, F/A-18C This unit has seen action in World War Two, Vietnam, Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF), OIF and been at MCAS Beaufort since 1957. VMFA-122 is currently training to maintain readiness for future exercises and operations. VFMA-251 ‘Thunderbolts’, F/A-18C The Thunderbolts have seen action in World War Two, Korea, Desert Storm, OEF and OIF. VMFA-251 is deployed on the USS Roosevelt as a part of the Third Fleet. VMFA-312 ‘Checkerboards’, F/A-18C This unit has deployed in WW II, Korea, Vietnam, OIF and OEF and has been at MCAS Beaufort since 1966. VMFA-312 is conducting pre-deployment training for future operations. VMFA (AW)-224 ‘Flying Bengals’, F/A-18D This squadron flew in World War Two, Korea, Vietnam, Desert Storm, and OIF and began flying the twoseat Hornets from MCAS Beaufort in 1994. VMFA-224 (AW) is training to maintain readiness for future exercises and operations.






VMFA (AW)-533 ‘Hawks’, F/A-18D Formed as a night fighter squadron, this unit fought in WWII, Vietnam, Desert Storm and OIF. VMFA (AW)533 is currently training too like the other squadrons. VMFAT-501 ‘Warlords’, F-35B The first Marine Fighter Attack Fighter Training Squadron. The unit traces its heritage to VMFAT-451. VMFAT-501, The Warlords, was formed at Eglin AFB, FL, in February 2010. On August 1, 2014 it moved to MCAS Beaufort.

02. F/A-18A 163169/DC-10 of VMFA-122 is seen at MCAS Beaufort in October 1994, but was serving with VMFA-115 in late 2014. ‘The Crusaders’ of VMFA-122 became ‘The Werewolves’ in late 2008 as the unit was preparing for an OIF deployment. The connotations of using the name, often associated with Christians slaying followers of other religions centuries ago, meant it was felt inappropriate for deployments to Moslem countries. 03. F/A-18A 163167/’DW-09’ of VMFA-251 ‘Thunderbolts’ (which now serves with VMFA-115) sits on the ramp at MCAS Beaufort in October 1994. Back then it was the only jet that wore the ‘DW’ markings. The rest of the squadron Hornets were being prepared to deploy to the USS America/CV-66 and were coded ‘AB’. 04. F/A-18C 164275/’AJ-341’ of VMFA-312 ‘Checkertails’ was ready to embark on a tour aboard USS Theodore Roosevelt in October 1992. It was most recently seen serving VMFA-122 in early 2013. 05. Maintenance personnel check one of the two GE F404 engines used by a VMFA (AW) 224 ‘Fighting Bengals’ F/A-18D 164711/’WK-513’at Beaufort in October 1994. Like all the F/A-18D Hornets it has been transferred regularly between USMC VMFA (AW) units. 06. VMFA (AW) 533 ‘Hawks’ F/A18D 164714/’ED-405’ has served on the front line, deploying overseas regularly like most USMC Hornets. It is now believed to operate with the VMFAT-101 training unit at MCAS Miramar.



52 JULY 2015 #328

01. Now preserved at NAS Oceana, F/A-18A 162454/’VE-04’ was serving VMFA-115 ‘Silver Eagles’ in October 1994. The unit has retired all of the mounts it operated back then, and has re-equipped with slightly newer F/A-18A models. The Hornets have a lot of hours on their airframes and upgrades are needed if the fleet is to remain proficient. All photos, Alan Warnes

07. A VMFA-451 ‘Warlords’ F/A-18A 163131/’VM-14’ at MCAS Beaufort in October 1992. The unit was disbanded in January 1997, but its lineage was subsequently transferred to VMFAT-501 when it stood up at MCAS Beaufort in April 2010 and took delivery of its first two F-35Bs in January 2012. This jet is also believed to be flying with VMFAT-101.

“The legacy fighters we now fly, the Harrier II and Hornet are excellent, but they are showing their age. It is like comparing a 1980s car with new SUVs [Sport Utility Vehicle or 4x4] equipped with all of the electronic systems and advancements. “In the F-35 we have reduced signature, the impact of which I cannot really go into, but let me tell you, it is amazing. The F-35 is easy to fly and, as a result, our pilots can focus more on tactics. We have the impressive APG-81 radar, which can perform many tasks. “We also have an internal targeting system integrated within the jet, not in an external pod. We can perform multiple missions including air combat and very accurate air to ground attack. “One of the people in a discussion group recently asked me about the F-35 performing close air support. Yes, we are very good at that mission, but we also can perform the mission in a different way than older aircraft. We have very accurate 25mm cannon.

Above: Commanding Officer of VMFAT-501, Lt Col Bachmann (far left) stands alongside ground crew of his unit after landing the first F-35B Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter to be based at MCAS Beaufort, on July 17, 2014. USMC/Cpl. Aneshea S Yee

However, with our stealth and sensors we can bomb very accurately from a higher altitude and greater standoff distance. “The F-35Bs that we are training with have a superb cockpit layout with multiple large screen displays and the pilot can control things with his eyes, hands on the throttle and stick or touch buttons on the screens. Each pilot decides how he wants to use the total system.” The F-35B is a STOVL jet. “This process is pretty simple as we

have what we call an ‘easy button’ we hit and the aircraft controls for vertical landing operate just as they do for conventional flight. “This is different from how we did things in the AV-8B, where the pilot had to move multiple controls for flight and hover and landing. We have demonstrated this performance on L-class amphibious ships and that is the platform we will regularly operate from in the future.” While the local community

Above: F-35B, ZM137, is the only UK JSF based at MCAS Beaufort, but it isn’t exclusively used by the British, being part of a pool of jets flown and worked on by members of both the USMC and RAF/Royal Navy. Lockheed Martin Below: One of six F 35Bs that recently operated from the USS Wasp descends on to the vessel on May 25. Operational testing is still a major part of VMFAT-501 work and the aircraft recently spent two weeks working with the vessel to assess the jet’s integration with it. USMC/Seaman Zhiwei Tan

is proud of having a major Marine air station nearby, there has long been a mix of good and bad feelings due to the impact the base has on schools, the community and aircraft noise issues. The author attended a Lady’s Island, South Carolina, business association monthly meeting where Lt Col Bachmann spoke. The room for this early-morning meeting was packed. When the question-and-answer period started, clearly some in attendance were unhappy homeowners, who spoke out about the noise level and flight profiles of the F-35B compared with Hornets. In response to their concerns, Lt Col Bachmann: “Our F-35B sounds different to the Hornet. We have a deeper rumble. However, the EA-6B Prowler with its J52 engines is also loud. I have told my pilots, ‘It is not a requirement to fly low, do not do it!’ ”

The Brits are here

Lt Col Bachmann explained: “I run an organisation with 300 employees today and growing.

“The F-35 is easy to fly and, as a result, our pilots can focus more on tactics.”

#328 JULY 2015 53

BASE TOUR Now we have 25 maintenance types from the UK and we are growing towards more than 100 people from the UK. These people, plus the pilots, are the cadre for the first UK F-35B squadron. We have had a long and positive relationship working with the UK on the JSF programme. “I have made many flights to the UK in the process of co-ordinating efforts during JSF test and development. The partnership between the USMC and UK military in support of the JSF program is excellent. I will bet you are not aware that Lt Gen Jon M. Davis, the current Deputy Commandant for Aviation, had an exchange tour with the RAF early in his career. “As a result, he knows a lot about how the UK system works and that helps. Having a great working relationship with the UK helps a lot. We can communicate very well and solve issues rapidly. We both have different systems and ways we approach challenges and this means we have to review things and ask for approvals. Working issues and approvals back through the UK takes a few days.” The UK is the only level one partner that has fully invested into JSF development. This commitment was in 1995 when the British and American Governments signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) for the UK to become a collaborative partner in the definition of requirements and aircraft design of the JSF.

Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort Addressing the issues A Tactical Aircraft Program report on USMC F/A-18Ds published on April 2, 2014, written by Vice Admiral Paul A Grosklags (Assistant Secretary of Navy, Research Development and Acquisition) and Lt Gen Robert E Schmidle Jr (Deputy Commandant For Aviation) highlighted the issues and the solutions. The report states: “The F/A-18A-D was designed for, and has achieved, a service life of 6,000 flight hours. These aircraft have performed as expected through their design life and now service life management of this aircraft is intended to extend this platform well beyond its designed 6,000 flight hours. “Through detailed analysis, inspections, and, as required, structural repairs, the Department of Navy has been successful in achieving 8,000 flight hours per aircraft and is pursuing a strategy to go as high as 10,000 flight hours on select aircraft. Continued investment in Service Life Extension

Program (SLEP), the High Flight Hour (HFH) program, Program Related Engineering (PRE), and Program Related Logistics (PRL) is critical for our flight hour extension strategy and to sustain the combat relevancy of these aircraft. “In order to maintain warfighting relevancy in a changing threat environment, we will continue to procure and install advanced systems such as Joint Helmet-Mounted Cueing Systems (JHMCS), High Order Language (HOL) Mission Computers, ALR-67v3, ALQ- 214v5, MultiFunction Information Distribution System (MIDS), APG-73 radar enhancements, Advanced Targeting FLIR (ATFLIR) upgrades, and LITENING for the Marine Corps on selected F/A-18A-D aircraft.” Lt Col. Douglas S. DeWolfe, Marine Air Group Executive Officer commented in the report: “During the island-hopping campaigns of World War Two, when land-based and carrier-based close air support

proved its merit, US Navy ships provided the preponderance of supporting fires to the landing forces. As the fight evolved to the Korean Peninsula, jungles of Vietnam, and most recently Southwest Asia, fixedwing aircraft provided the propensity of long range shaping fires to Marine forces.” The F/A-18 has continued that tradition for the past 35 years and is poised to serve until the Joint Strike Fighter assumes sole responsibility. This has been no easy feat. The service life extension, in concert with upgrades to combat systems, will enable the Hornet to provide multimission support. The increased capability built into the aircraft through its lifecycle has allowed the F/A-18 to remain the premier Fighter Attack aircraft in the US arsenal. Forthcoming upgrades that leverage technological improvements from fifth generation fighters will keep the Hornet lethal.

Above: Carrying a JDAM and fitted with a Litening targeting pod, a VMFA (AW)-533 F/A-18D Hornet banks over the Chocolate Mountains range, just southeast of Niland, California during August 2010. Douglas Oliver Below: The sun goes down on another day at MCAS Beaufort, where F-35Bs are shared between the USMC and UK. Douglas Glover

54 JULY 2015 #328

Subsequent agreements led to the UK’s participation in the System Development and Demonstration (SDD) phases of the JSF with a total investment of about US$2 billion. The UK has a significant presence at MCAS Beaufort in order to train the initial groups of pilots and support personnel for their fleet of F-35Bs. The initial UK squadron, No. 617 Dambusters, will be established at MCAS Beaufort in 2016 and operated as an integral part of VMFAT-501 until it departs for RAF Marham in the UK. Squadron Leader Hugh Nichols, the senior UK pilot assigned to VMFAT-501, said: “It is an honour to be selected and to participate in the UK JSF program and undertake training in the US. I joined the RAF in April 2000 and previously flew the Tutor, Tucano, Hawk and Harrier GR7/9 with the RAF and was then lucky enough to be selected for an exchange tour with the USAF flying the F-16CM Block 50 at Shaw AFB before transitioning to Eglin to fly the F-35B. “I arrived at Eglin AFB for my conversion in August 2013 and then moved with the squadron to MCAS Beaufort in December 2014. I am currently the UK’s Senior National Representative at MCAS Beaufort, which means I have administrative command of all UK personnel on the base, both RAF and RN. “At this time we are only 14 and one [UK] JSF aircraft [ZM137/ BK03], however that number is set to grow to over 24 by the summer of 2018 with upwards of 11 jets. The pooling arrangement we have here with the USMC is unique in the respect that I get to fly their jets at the same time that they get to fly ours - our maintainers also ‘pool’ their effort, so one day I will walk out to a USMC jet with a British

Above: A VMFA-115 ‘Silver Eagles’ F/A-18C Hornet over Yuma, Arizona, in October 2012 while on a WTI mission supporting MAWTS-1. The jet’s modex ‘202’ indicates it has recently been deployed aboard an aircraft carrier. Douglas Oliver Below: Sqn Ldr Hugh Nichols is the UK’s Senior National Representative at MCAS Beaufort. He is an F-35B pilot, but has also flown USAF F-16CJs as an exchange officer, and British Harriers. Jamie Hunter

Plane Captain [crew chief] and vice versa the next day. “Clearly there are cultural differences between the two services and the way they operate - during this initial training we are falling into line with the USMC way, but they are, of course, drawing on the experience of our maintainers and pilots so that hopefully, when this whole operation is over in a few years’ time, we will have come up with a ‘joint’ way of doing business which is both more efficient and more lethal. “Having flown with both the USAF and the USMC, I feel that the USMC system is more like the RAF/RN system - they all have their positives and negatives, but in general, a UK service pilot will feel more at home in a USMC unit than a USAF one.” Sq Ldr Nichols concluded: “The future is exciting for the UK’s F35 force - the build-up here at Beaufort is right around the corner, and our ‘fly out’ date is just over the horizon. We will spend the next few years generating the wealth of experience that is required to stand up a frontline squadron on British soil - training everyone from pilots to maintainers and also all other support personnel such as computer engineers, intelligence staff etc. “The payback the USMC get is that they get to draw on that experience that we bring, listen to the different outlook and also they get to fly our jets and use our maintainers

Above: A VMFA-AW 224 ‘Fighting Bengals’ F/A-18D returns to Savannah Airport, Georgia after a weekend training mission during September 2013. Douglas Oliver

#328 JULY 2015 55

BASE TOUR to help boost their output.”

Hornets soldiering on

After considerable study and evaluation, the USMC decided to accelerate the retirement of its AV-8B fleet to 2024 and replace them with F-35Bs. This decision was reportedly made following the identification of more than a US$1 billion of cost savings. To fill the gap, the Department of Defense (DOD) decided to extend the life of the USMC Hornet fleet to 2029 for active units and 2030 for the reserve. Four of the six Hornet squadrons based at MCAS Beaufort are single-seat fighter squadrons which have long supported US Navy carrier operations as a part of aircraft carrier air wings (see, Where Are The Carriers? June, 2015). This trend will continue. The current plan is for four Marine Corps JSF squadrons to fly the carrier-capable F-35C, two of which will be stationed at MCAS Beaufort. VMFA-115 is scheduled to transition from the Hornet to the F-35C during the FY19-20 and stay at MCAS Beaufort. VMFA-122 will do the same during FY21-22. Starting in FY22, VMFA-533 will transition to the F-35B and move to MCAS Yuma. VMFA-224 and VMFA-251 will convert to the F-35B during the 2020s and move to MCAS Miramar, CA. The plan is for VMFA-312 to move MCAS Cherry Point, NC, starting in FY24 as an F-35B unit. Thus by 2025 MCAS Beaufort will have two large F-35B training squadrons (VMFAT-501/502) and two frontline F-35C squadrons

Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort Maintaining the edge A number of upgrades will be carried out over the coming years to maintain the Hornet’s edge. These will include: Lethality -AN/ALQ-28 Litening G4 Pod, Air to air capability (2015), upgraded cockpit displays (2017/18), AIM-120D (2015), APKWS 2.75in laser guided rocket (2017-18), AIM-9X Block II (2017), standoff net-enabled weapons (2017), AGM-65E2. Survivability/EW -ALR-67V3 (2016), ALQ-124V5 (2016), AN/ALQ-165 Airborne Self-Protection Jammer (ASPJ). Interoperability -Higher order lan-

guage mission computers, (2014+), DALAS/5th Gen radios (2017), MIDS JTRS CMNITTNT 7.0 (2017). One area not discussed in the current plan is an upgrade of the Marine Hornet fleet to include Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radar. USN F/A-18E/F/G Super Hornets are equipped with the Raytheon APG-79 AESA radar. Raytheon and Lockheed have both tested prototype AESA radar configurations to upgrade the Hornet for domestic as well as international

customers While Spain is buying the Eurofighter and Australia the F-35, Switzerland, Kuwait, Malaysia and Finland plan to fly their Hornets well into the future and are planning various upgrades. The Hornet squadrons operating at MCAS Beaufort will gradually (FY1926) transition to the F-35B/C. Thus the Hornet will remain a critical part of the USMC strike fighter force and will be seen in the skies over MCAS Beaufort along with increasing numbers of F-35B/Cs for many years to come.

A VMFA-312 ‘Checkertails’ F/A-18C in the Salton refuelling track over the Salton Sea, just south of the Chocolate Mountain Aerial Gunnery Range. Douglas Oliver

-VMFA-115 and VMFA-122. The USMC has long been a fan of the F/A-18 Hornet and its multi-mission fighterattack-reconnaissance concept. VMFA-314 The Black Knights at MCAS El Toro, CA, were the first Marine squadron to put the Hornet into operational service. It received their first F/A-18A on December 15, 1982. Also the USMC received the last production Hornet, a Lot 21 F/A-18D delivered to VMFA (AW)-225 in 2000. The F/A-18 Hornet was in

production from 1980 until 2000 and there have been 23 production lots and many configurations of this strike fighter, including two different radars (APG-65, APG-73), two versions of engines (F404-GE-400 and higher thrust F404-GE-402) with a variety of avionics and systems. The intense flying rate experienced by both USN and USMC Hornet squadrons due to the Iraq No-Fly Zone, OEF, OIF and other military actions plus training, has taken a heavy toll.

Sustained carrier operations have had the largest impact on Hornet fatigue life. Keeping the fleet going for more than a decade and upgrading the jets to remain tactically viable will be a challenge. Pre-Lot 17 Hornets are being pushed through a Service Life Extension Program, which replaces the aircraft centre barrel area and wing leading edges. Later production jets are cycled through an inspection and repair effort with the goal of extending their afm life, safety and reliability.

Above: One of VMFAT-501’s F-35Bs, 168368/‘VM-07’, turns towards its home base, MCAS Beaufort during a recent mission. Lockheed Martin

56 JULY 2015 #328

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t is fully realised that the only excuse for aviation in any service is its usefulness in assisting troops on the ground to successfully carry out their operations.” Those words, penned in 1920 by the then Major Alfred A. Cunningham, have represented the official US Marine Corps (USMC) position on aviation for nearly a century. Put simply, marine air exists to support marine infantry. Accordingly, marine aviators have earned a reputation as Close Air Support (CAS) experts, renowned both for accurately engaging enemy targets and minimising fratricide and collateral damage. Marine air success is largely due to Tactical Air Control Parties (TACPs), which are ground teams of Forward Air Controllers

“It is fully realised that the only excuse for aviation in any service is its usefulness in assisting troops on the ground to successfully carry out their operations.” (FACs), directing CAS strikes in support of the infantry. Control of airstrikes by infantry marines occurred as early as the mid-1920s in Nicaragua but the TACP concept only goes back as far as 1943. It became clear that a way to effectively guide airstrikes against enemy positions in the South Pacific was needed. The marines developed Air Liaison Parties (ALPs), comprised of marine aviators, to manage CAS, with enlisted radiomen

maintaining the equipment. The ALPs were so successful that General Douglas MacArthur, Chief of the Air Staff, US Army in the 1930s requested ALP marines to control CAS for the army during the Philippines campaign. After World War II, the ALP concept gave way to the TACP, which continues to be the primary CAS-control agency in US and allied ground forces. Aviator FACs remained the primary CAS coordinators in the USMC until 2003,

Cleared Hot! Joe Copalman catches up with the US Marine Corp’s Forward Air Controllers and Joint Terminal Attack Controllers (JTACs) to see how they direct airpower to support ground battles.

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JTACs INTEGRATORS when Joint Publication 3-09.3 “Close Air Support” led to the establishment of enlisted Joint Terminal Attack Controllers (JTACs). They serve in Marine TACPs alongside aviator FACs, with both going through the same JTAC course at one of two Expeditionary Warfare Training Groups (EWTG). Enlisted JTACs are generally sourced from the reconnaissance and artillery forward observer communities, and must be at least a sergeant to attend the JTAC course. Officers in the marine TACPs are aviators serving FAC tours with ground units. FACs are certified as JTACs and perform the same tactical function as enlisted JTACs, but with the additional leadership responsibilities expected of commissioned officers. With the Marine Corps being the only service to use the term “FAC” to differentiate officer/ aviator and enlisted/ ground JTACs, in joint or coalition operations, FACs are simply referred to as JTACs.

Above: A CH-53E, carrying MAWTS-1 Air Officer students and a mortar team, flares for landing at Observation Post Feets which has a commanding view of the surrounding target areas. Below: A team of Artillery Fire Observers from Alpha Battery, First Battalion, 10th Marines confers with TACP personnel from MAWTS-1’s Air Officer course to deliver integrated supporting arms fire. All photos, author unless stated

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JTACs INTEGRATORS As a new career field, enlisted JTAC manning levels have increased slowly. Master Sergeant Brian Norman, a marine JTAC and Marine Aviation Weapons and Tactics Squadron One (MAWTS-1)’s Air Officer Department Chief explained: “Prior to 2010, the majority of JTACs in the Corps were aviators, with a few enlisted and ground officers at special mission units like ANGLICO (Air Naval Gunfire Liaison Company) or Recon. Now it’s an almost equal split between FACs and JTACs. Those FACs and JTACs bring unique experiences and background knowledge to the supported unit. Where the aviator lacks in ground experience the JTAC excels, and where a JTAC lacks in aviation knowledge, the FAC excels. This greatly enhances our overall support capability to ground force commanders.”

Air Officers – Putting it all Together

FACs and JTACs are responsible for controlling airstrikes at the company level, but Air Officers (AirOs) serve as aviation advisers and integrators at battalion and regimental levels. Battalion AirOs are the senior aviation advisers to the commander, responsible for not just CAS, but assault support, casualty evacuation, electronic warfare, and other marine air capabilities as well. Major Alex “Meatloaf” Ramthun, a Harrier pilot who served as a Battalion AirO for 1st Battalion/6th Marines in Afghanistan in 2010, explained the two-fold nature of the job. “As an air officer, you are both the subject matter expert for the battalion on all air-related operations and act as the senior tactical air controller,” he said. “In the adviser role, you’re working directly with the Battalion Operations Officer and Commander to determine the exact requirements for the mission, how much helicopter lift is needed, what/where is the target, what are the desired effects for a given strike, what type of ordnance is available in theatre, when is the time on target, etc. Then we integrate that into a request for specific air support, either pre-planned many days prior, or maybe it’s hasty, reactive, and immediately-required.” He continued: “On the tactical side, I’m a Joint Terminal Attack Controller. I would tactically direct and control air strikes and helicopter insertions for the

'At both the battalion and regimental levels, AirOs serve as the critical link between marine air and the ground combat element, effectively being the ‘hyphen’ in the term Marine Air-Ground Task Force.’

Lance Corporal Nathan Bush launches an AeroVironment RQ20A Puma during an operation at Patrol Base Boldak in Afghanistan. Integrating small unmanned aerial systems like the Puma into Marine TACPs is one of several initiatives the Corps is considering for improving the effectiveness of Marine FACs and JTACs. Sergeant Bobby J. Yarbrough

battalion. All aircraft would initially check in with me, I would verify ordnance load-outs and capabilities, route them around the battle space, and then allocate those resources to the battalion’s JTACs in the field supporting the companies and small manoeuvre teams. Any time the battalion was doing any type of time-critical, reactive, or hasty operation, I generally would control the air directly to rapidly position it for a strike and, if required, clear the aircraft hot to release ordnance.” One of the main jobs of a battalion AirO is ensuring targets generated in the field by JTACs meet the rules of engagement (ROE) for strike approval, and then to secure strike authorisation from the Battalion Commander. At the next level of command, Regimental Air Officers serve in a similar capacity, ensuring FACs and JTACs in the subordinate battalions are trained and equipped for the mission and advising the regimental CO on how aircraft could be employed to support

ground operations. Lt Col Shawn Hermley, a Harrier pilot and former commander of VMA-231, served as Regimental Air Officer with Regimental Combat Team 6 in Al Anbar, Iraq in 2007. In addition to the training and advisory function, Hermley said Regimental AirOs also reviewed air requests made by battalions to ensure they met ROE and minimised the risk of fratricide and collateral damage. At both the battalion and regimental levels, AirOs serve as the critical link between marine air and the ground combat element, effectively being the ‘hyphen’ in the term ‘Marine Air-Ground Task Force.’

TACP WTIs – Experts and Evaluators

The Air Officer Department (AOD) of MAWTS-1 is responsible for forging marine FACs and JTACs into Weapons and Tactics Instructors (WTIs), with most FACs who graduate the course going on to serve AirO tours. Master Sergeant

Above: An AAI RQ-7B Shadow of VMU-2 launches from an auxiliary airfield in the Chocolate Mountain Bombing Range in support of WTI 2-15. The Shadow provides multi-sensor surveillance, supporting arms coordination, and communications relay. USMC-Chief Warrant Officer 2 Jorge A. Dimmer

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Three USMC MV-22s from three different units moving in on the drop-zone after AirOs determined which area would make an adequate landing zone and the aircraft required.

Assault on Blue Mountain Airfield AFM observed Assault Support Tactics-1 (AST-1), a WTI training evolution involving the insertion of an infantry battalion by air to conduct an airfield seizure. AST-1 is the first opportunity AOD students have during WTI to integrate into the planning and execution of a major evolution incorporating various types of aircraft from MAWTS-1’s Assault Support and TacAir departments, an infantry battalion, and supporting artillery and mortars. Preparation for AST-1 involved a full day of planning, during which the AirO students helped merge the air plan with the ground plan. Major Tommy Keech, the Assault Support Department Head, said: “The AOD, they’ll be integrated with the planning all day, and they’ll work all that out, whether it’s the landing piece or the fire support piece. During planning there’s going to be a ‘fires synch’ meeting, and there’s going to be a combined arms rehearsal, where they’ll co-ordinate all of those pieces, and that’s what the Air Officer Department plays a big role in, is kind of sanity-checking the pilots’ plans, what they can really work with and what they can’t, and how they can coordinate all that together.” AST-1 began with Wildcard 92, an AAI RQ-7B Shadow operated by MAWTS-1’s UAS division, establishing an orbit high above Blue Mountain airfield, a mock air base on the Chocolate Mountain Aerial Gunnery Range, and checking in with an AOD student acting as the battalion AirO at Firebase Burt. Barely heard and never seen, Wildcard would remain on-station throughout the day, providing overwatch, identifying targets, and generating target coordinates for artillery and mortars. The evolution went kinetic with a three-ship section of Bell AH-1Z Vipers conducting Strike Coordination and Reconnaissance (SCAR) attacks on air-defence targets near the airfield. As this was happening, a pair of CH-53Es airlifted an M777 155mm howitzer and a load of ammunition into FB Burt located a few miles east of the airfield. Shortly before “L-hour” – the designated time that the eight MV-22Bs carrying infantrymen from 1st Battalion, 5th Marines (1/5) were to touch down in the appointed landing zone – a CH-53E landed near Observation Post (OP) Feets and disgorged a team of AOD students. OP Feets is a steep, rocky hill that tops out at 190 feet (57m) above the sur-

rounding valley, and the students had to quickly ascend an increasingly-steep, loose rock trail to reach the summit in order to set their gear and control strikes in support of the insertion. Once the students were set up at the OP, they immediately started coordinating airstrikes. Assets controlled by the AOD students were “Deuce,” consisting of one UH-1Y and an AH-1W, and “Kaiser” a mixed section of C and D-model Hornets from MAG-31’s ‘blue air’ detachment supporting WTI. While Deuce engaged targets with 2.75in rockets and 20mm cannon fire, the AOD students (callsign Broadsword) used the Elbit Systems JTAC LTD target designator to guide GBU-12 attacks by Kaiser, followed by multiple strafing runs. In addition to controlling airstrikes, the AOD students had to coordinate with the artillery forward observers who were calling out targets for Aries, the 155mm artillery battery at FB Burt, ensuring all aircraft stayed on one side of the artillery gun-target line. After controlling airstrikes in support of 1/5’s assault for roughly

45 minutes, Broadsword received word from the battalion commander that enemy opposition was too intense to continue the attack and that an emergency extract was needed. As 1/5 fell back to the LZ for extract, the students broke down their gear and began making their way down the mountain to await pick-up as well. Meanwhile, the AOD student at OP Feets maintained control of the airspace and continued to approve strikes in support of the extract. Though failure to seize the airfield was a built-in component of AST-1, the evolution itself was not a failure. The initial flight of AH-1s and artillery strikes from FB Burt effectively suppressed the enemy’s air defences, allowing the H-53s and V-22s to successfully insert 1/5 and the JTAC and mortar teams. Once the conditions for an emergency extract were met and the order to leave was given, the process worked just as well in reverse, with enough aerial pressure being applied on the now-reinforced enemy to permit the successful extraction of 1/5 and its supporting units. 

An AH-1Z makes a fast egress from Blue Mountain airfield after hitting several targets designated by the Air Officer students during WTI 2-15.

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JTACs INTEGRATORS Norman said: “Air Officer Prospective WTIs (or WTI students) are basically trained JTACs. We introduce them to the aviation planning process during complex missions with a real manoeuvre unit. They also receive an in-depth education on all functions of USMC aviation, making them the true aviation integrators that the fleet requires. Our students also refine their own terminal attack controlling abilities. Upon graduation from our school they are JTAC evaluators. They become the TACP training and standardisation subject matter experts (SMEs) of their unit.” This training occurs twice a year during MAWTS-1’s WTI course at MCAS Yuma. WTI is a seven-week course providing advanced training for pilots and aircrew from most aircraft types in marine service, as well as personnel Right: A JTAC uses a pocket laser range finder (PLRF) to determine the distance from his observation post to a target. The PLRF is one of several optical devices used by Marine TACPs in finding and designating targets. Far right: Tablet computers and handheld devices have been something of a game-changer in the world of CAS, allowing the sharing of maps showing positions of friendly troops, enemy troops, etc. ts.

Main image: MAWTS-1 Air Officer Instructor Major Byron Sullivan calls for aerial support during Offensive Air Support 5, at Observation Point Feets during a WTI course. Night-vision goggles, thermal imaging devices, and LASER markers allow AirOs and other TACP Marines to operate 24 hours a day. USMC - Corporal Patrick P. Evenson Right: Cleared Hot! An AH-1W Super Cobra engages ground targets with 2.75in rockets. Many pilots on both the AH-1W and AH-1Z are qualified as Forward Air Controllers (Airborne) and authorised to control strikes from the air.

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JTACs INTEGRATORS from the command and control, intelligence, air defence, aviation ground support, and TACP communities, with the participation of a reinforced marine infantry battalion. The first half of WTI focuses on academics, while the latter half of the course is devoted to planning and executing numerous missions that get more complex, culminating in a week-long final exercise. Given their role in co-ordinating and integrating air support, AOD students participate in every event involving air supporting the infantry. All FACs and JTACs must control a certain number of different types of strikes every six months in order to remain certified. WTI 2-15, which ran from March 9 to April 24, saw 11 PWTIs go through the Air Officer WTI course, with the class being

comprised of six aviators, three staff NCOs, and a single exchange student each from the Canadian Forces and the US Air Force. Running the Air Officer WTI course is not the AOD’s only job. Like all other units at MAWTS-1, the AOD staff participate in fleet support detachments throughout the year. As MSgt Norman put it: “MAWTS-1 AOD is available to the fleet for many things. We assist them in planning training, evaluations, or by attending their training and providing feedback.” AOD instructors have also visited units on combat deployments, both to learn what the current threats and challenges are and to advise these units on current tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTPs). Major Eric ‘CJ’ Grunke, a Harrier pilot and WTI instructor who teaches

in both the AOD and Harrier division told AFM about his participation in a MAWTS-1 ‘lessons-learned’ tour to Afghanistan in 2013. “It’s basically just our chance to go and meet with the unit that’s there, see if they have any questions. It’s two-fold, it’s just as much for them as it is for me, so the credibility is when I come back, I’m teaching the students and I can say ‘I was just there six months ago and this is what’s going on, this is what you need to be thinking about, etc’,” Grunke said.

Tools of the Trade

Control of airstrikes requires an impressive array of equipment, all of it in addition to the standard kit issued to marines, like rifles, ammunition, body armour, etc. Though the

Glossary TACP – Tactical Air Control Party: Generic designation for units tasked with coordinating and controlling Close Air Support. In the Marine Corps, the term is spoken by sounding out each individual letter, rather than as ‘TAC-P.’ Marine TACPs typically consist of AirOs, FACs, JTACs, JFOs, and TACP Radio Operators. JTAC – Joint Terminal Attack Controller: In the US Marine Corps, JTACs are non-commissioned officers (sergeant and above) who are certified to direct the actions of combat aircraft engaged in close air support or other offensive air operations. FAC – Forward Air Controller: Marine FACs are aviators on temporary assignment to ground units. FACs complete the same JTAC training as enlisted JTACs and perform the same tactical function, though with additional leadership duties. The Marine Corps is the only service that uses the term FAC, largely to

differentiate officers from enlisted JTACs and to make it clear that they are aviators. In the joint community, Marine FACs are known simply as JTACs. Senior FACs typically serve as battalion or regimental Air Officers AirO – Air Officer: Aviator FACs who serve on battalion or regimental staff as the senior aviation advisor to the ground commander and are tasked with integrating available aviation assets into the commander’s ground scheme of manoeuvre. AirOs oversee the TACPs attached to the infantry companies and help manage the flow of combat aircraft to them during combat operations. AOD – Air Officer Department: Department of MAWTS-1 responsible for producing Weapons and Tactics Instructors (WTIs) for the Marine TACP community and Air Officers for infantry battalions and regiments.

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JTACs INTEGRATORS actual equipment assigned to TACPs may vary as newer systems replace older gear, the standard TACP kit includes a LASER target designator, a Thermal LASER Spot Imager, a video downlink like ROVER to view video from targeting pods on, tactical radios like the PRC-117 and -152, LASER range finders, and ‘ruggedised’ tablets or handheld devices with software that helps build and maintain situational awareness and aid ground commanders in approving strikes. Efforts to reduce the combined weight of this gear are under way as part of the Marine Corp’s 2015 Aviation Plan. Though the AvPlan mentions specific systems currently under evaluation, it is left open for undeveloped systems to be evaluated and integrated. MSgt Norman said: “The equipment required to perform our duties is heavy. We are constantly looking at new options to reduce the burden of that equipment by miniaturising and combining equipment while enhancing a JTAC’s capabilities.” One of the more innovative developments in the TACP community has been the introduction of Digitally-Aided Close Air Support (DACAS) tools. The current DACAS program of record in the Marine Corps is Strikelink, software developed by Stauder International and installed on military ruggedised tablets. Strikelink helps FACs and JTACs reduce the amount of time spent working up CAS requests and securing approval for strikes. While serving as Battalion AirO for 1/6 in Marjah, Afghanistan, in 2010, Major Ramthun employed Strikelink extensively, saying he used it to “speak to my other JTACs in the field solely through text messaging means. So if they wanted to get a strike approved, instead of reading a bunch of co-ordinates over the radio and me taking a grease pencil to a map and using a protractor and taking an awful long time to figure out where the friendlies are, where the enemies are at, marking all this on a map and showing my battalion commander, they would simply generate a digital mission on StrikeLink, and click ‘send’. The mission would arrive to me in seconds instead of minutes, and I could display everything on a 5 x 5ft overhead screen, overlaid on a moving map, and show where all the boundaries are, all the known locations of enemies, friendlies, no-fire targets, etc, and my CO could say, ‘Okay, I see exactly what you’re saying, that’s approved’. I found I could approve fires more quickly that way.” Though StrikeLink gives JTACs the ability to send attack clearances directly to a pilot’s Heads-Up Display, all pilots and JTACs interviewed by AFM stressed it was rarely used for this, and when it was, it augmented talk-ons and clearances given verbally over the radio.

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CIRPAS Pelican With Unmanned Aerial Systems being increasingly important for Marine TACPs, MAWTS-1’s Air Officer courses provide numerous opportunities to work with UAS. While most of this work is done over military ranges by Marine RQ-7B Shadows, restrictions on UAS operation in national airspace mean any WTI evolutions occurring over or near populated areas do not include UAS of any kind. Traditionally, WTI courses involve a small number of urban evolutions in Yuma and in Brawley, California. To maintain MAWTS-1’s ‘train as you fight’ approach in these scenarios, a UAS surrogate provides support. For several years, the Naval Postgraduate School’s Center for Interdisciplinary Remotely-Piloted Aircraft Studies (CIRPAS) has provided this support with its unique ‘Pelican’ aircraft. The Pelican is a heavily-modified Cessna O-2A Skymaster with a more powerful engine in the rear driving a three-bladed propeller. The forward propeller is replaced by a lengthened nose housing a WESCAM Skyball EO/IR sensor turret similar to the one used on RQ-1A Predator UAVs. Of particular use to the Air Officer students during WTI is the ability of full-motion video from Pelican’s sensors to be shared to any

ROVER-compatible devices. This allows them to incorporate critical UAS integration training during urban evolutions in which RQ-7s are unable to participate. Pelican program manager, Ray Jackson, told AFM: “We can provide UAV video in national airspace, where a regular UAV cannot without special permission from the FAA.” Though flown by a pilot in the cockpit, the Pelican’s sensors are operated from a truck-based mobile ground control station, which Jackson said was “very easy to move around to whatever sites the MAWTS folks want us. It’s very roomy inside, so they can fit their students and their instructors in there, and we use a console up front that we use to control the payload on the aircraft, and lots of workstations in the back that they can use to do their training”. The CIRPAS Pelican has been participating in WTI for nearly a decade, and with the increasing importance of unmanned systems in building situational awareness and the need for WTI students to have UAS coverage during urban training events under national airspace, it will continue to be a fixture in many WTI courses to come. 

The CIRPAS Pelican serves as a UAS surrogate during military exercises in national airspace where unmanned aircraft are prohibited or severely restricted.

Future TACP Initiatives

One of the major initiatives aimed at improving marine TACP capabilities is the training of TACP personnel in operating Group 1 small Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) such as the RQ-11 Raven and RQ-20 Puma. MSgt Norman said: “Group 1 UAS can enhance overall situational awareness, and are readily available. Units such as ANGLICO regularly incorporate them into their Firepower Control Teams.” Beyond that, the Corps’ 2015 Aviation Plan also calls for integrating UAS Officers into the TACP, either as permanent members, or cross-trained as JTACs and on temporary tours.

Digitally-Aided CAS initiatives continue to be developed and tested, with DARPA’s Persistent CAS system recently completing its first test integrating the ground and air components in a successful CAS engagement that was part of MAWTS-1’s Talon Reach exercise in March. Time is perhaps the most critical factor in the employment of CAS so improvements in the tools available to JTACs will help reduce the delay from an initial request for CAS to target engagement, allowing them to do more quickly what they already excel at – precise delivery of aviation ordnance and being an afm integral part of marine victories on the ground.

Below: A GBU-12 (500lb, [227kg]) laser-guided bomb dropped from a Marine F/A-18 Hornet hits a target designated by a JTAC on Blue Mountain Airfield during a battalion insert as part of WTI 2-15.

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Training David Cenciotti visits Lecce Galatina air base and becomes the first journalist to fly in the Italian Air Force’s M-346 Master advanced jet trainer.

T-346A MM55154/61-01 and MM55155/61-04 fly in formation during transit to a training area over the sea to the southwest of Lecce air base. The Master is a dual-engine jet used for Lead-In Fighter Training (LIFT). All images author

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ng Masters




ith the arrival of new M-346 trainers, and its experience training international student pilots, 61° Stormo of the Aeronautica Militare (Italian Air Force) has become a multinational training hub and a leading candidate for the role of European Air Training Centre. Known as the T-346A in Italian service, the Alenia Aermacchi M-346 Master is a twin-engine lead-in fighter trainer (LIFT) jet for the final stage of a fighter pilot’s training. It aims to develop the information management and aircraft handling skills of future pilots before they are assigned to operational conversion units (OCUs). The aircraft represents the air segment of an integrated training system (ITS) which includes ground-based facilities, academics, simulators and

mission planning and debriefing stations – developed to fill the gap between flight schools and operational units and to prepare pilots to operate fourth- and fifthgeneration multi-role aircraft in high-threat/ high-performance environments.

61° Stormo

The first four of six T-346As ordered by the Italian Air Force in 2009 are assigned to the 61° Stormo (61st Wing), based at Lecce Galatina in southeast Italy. With a workforce of some 1,300 personnel (including 100 civilians), three squadrons (212°, 213° and 214°) and three flight lines (MB-339CD, MB-339A and M-346 – locally designated FT-339C, T-339A and T-346A, respectively), the 61° Stormo is an international flight school for Italian and foreign student pilots. This is a huge undertaking: in the course of 2014, the unit awarded 100 diplomas and flew around 10,000 flight hours. The courses available at Lecce cover the

so-called Phases 2, 3 and 4 of pilot training, in accordance with IPTS (Integrated Pilot Training System) 2020, a new training model introduced last year and intended to establish the framework for standardised fast-jet training for the next 15 years. It incorporates lessons identified in recent years (including the need for advanced jet trainers, simulators and a revised screening and selection process), and affords improved cost management by reserving precious jet flying hours for those student pilots whose flight and academic performance indicates the best chances of attaining a jet fighter assignment. With IPTS 2020, the training syllabus is transformed from generalised to specialised. In contrast to the past – when all student pilots (SPs) who had passed initial flight screening (Phase 1) received the same instruction until graduation (the end of Phase 3) – under the new Specialised Undergraduate Pilot Training (SUPT) concept, they have

#328 JULY 2015 67


‘The Master couples impressive performance with a cutting-edge man-machine interface’

the same tutoring only during initial and basic jet training (Phase 2), carried out by 213° Gruppo using the T-339A. They are then assigned to one of four different tracks based on their skills: fighter, multi-engine, helicopter or remotely-piloted aircraft. Those who are selected to continue with a fighter assignment remain at Lecce with the 213° to undertake advanced and tactical jet training (Phase 3). On finishing it, SPs are awarded a ‘Military Pilot’ licence, earn their pilot wings and then move on to the LIFT course (Phase 4) conducted by the 212° Gruppo on the T-339C and the T-346A. The initial class of two to four pilots destined for the Eurofighter Typhoon is expected to begin a first LIFT course on the T-346A by this summer. The syllabus on the new aircraft is still being finalised but it will likely be based on 170 training events, with a 50:50

Above: Ground crew inspect and prepare a T-346A of 212° Gruppo for the next sortie. Along with the aircraft and ground-based services, the contract signed by the Italian Air Force and Alenia Aermacchi includes two-year integrated logistic support to be provided by the vendor. Below: Colonel Paolo Tarantino is the boss of 61° Stormo, a former commander of the Frecce Tricolori display team. Directly reporting to him are 212° and 213° Gruppo as well as the 214° GIP (Gruppo Istruzione Professionale – Professional Training Squadron) the main task of which is to train Instructor Pilots and carry out ground training courses.

Above: Designated T-339A by the Italian Air Force, the MB.339A trainers of 213° Gruppo are used for initial and basic jet training (Phase 2) of all student pilots, and for advanced and tactical jet training (Phase 3) of those pilots who are assigned to the ‘fighter track’ stream.

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split between flying and simulator work. The Master couples impressive performance with a cutting-edge man-machine interface and features a full digital cockpit, hands-onthrottle-and-stick (HOTAS) commands, carefree handling, vocal control inputs and a helmetmounted display (HMD). It can also simulate the flight characteristics of other aircraft and replicate an array of sensors and weapons as if they were actually installed on the aircraft. On the T-346A, pilots can learn to use the radar, drop laser-guided bombs on moving ground targets designated using an advanced targeting pod and launch radar-guided missiles against enemy aircraft. Although the aircraft is not necessarily equipped with any of these systems, by exchanging data with other real or synthetic aircraft or ground stations via a tactical data link, the onboard computer generates the required head-up display (HUD) and radar symbology and offers a different weapons load-out in accordance with the training goals of the mission. The T-346, which completed a first live-firing campaign at the beginning of this year, can also be configured for operational roles carrying real air-to-air and air-to-ground ordnance, including the BRD-4-2 12.7mm gun pod, and AIM-9L and IRIS-T missiles, on seven external hardpoints. Col Paolo Tarantino, the commander of 61° Stormo, explains: “With the M-346, which can replicate the radar, sensors, countermeasures and payload of a modern multi-role aircraft, we can maximise the effectiveness of our training and reduce the need to fly sorties with the far more expensive frontline types. We should receive the last two aircraft of the first batch by the end of the year; then the plan is to procure another 12 for an overall 18 aircraft. “With the Master, the training syllabus can be split 50:50 between the ground and air


Flying the T-346A The author was granted a unique opportunity to become the first journalist to fly in the back seat of one of the Italian Air Force’s four Master trainers. This is his report of the April 15 mission. I’m strapped in the back seat of an Italian Air Force T-346A. In front of me, currently talking on the radio and setting up the onboard avionics and initialising the Embedded Tactical Training System, is Maj Alessandro Olivares, commander of the 212° Gruppo. From a squadron total of 18 IPs, Maj Olivares is one of six assigned to the T-346A. He is preparing all the simulated onboard sensors, which include a latest-generation fighter-standard radar, data link, a targeting pod, a radar warning missile approach receiver and a variety of countermeasures. In accordance with the ‘step-out briefing’, delivered by the supervisor of flight, we are taxiing from one of the new ‘hangarettes’ towards the active runway. In front of us are two T-346As awaiting clearance to depart: the plan is to perform a radar-assisted trail departure, rejoin and proceed to a working airspace located off the coast, southwest of Lecce. The cockpit is quite large, with an HUD in front of me showing the relevant flight parameters, radio channels, distance from the selected bull’s-eye, attitude indicator and any other information required to fly the aircraft while looking outside. The front panel includes digital instruments and three multifunction displays (MFDs) which can be arranged at will to show the nav menu, the system and engine status, the moving map etc. The visibility from the back seat is excellent. “Dragon, line up and wait, runway 32.” Now it’s our turn. We enter the runway and prepare for departure. The two other T-346As start their take-off run in sequence and, after 20 seconds, Maj Olivares brings the throttles to maximum power to start the take-off roll. The acceleration is impressive: in 11 seconds we reach 120kt and rotate. We are airborne. “The tactical data link provides information about the preceding T-346s that the onboard computer translates into a radar picture: we are in Track While Scan (TWS) mode and the Horizontal Situation Display (HSD) clearly shows the Masters a few miles in front of us,” says Maj Olivares over the intercom. “Through this system we can be sure we are maintaining the proper formation position and we are able to monitor all flight parameters including the closure airspeed that, due to the two really generous Honeywell F124-200 turbofan engines, picks up really quickly! We can also monitor a variety of things

such as the area boundaries, fuel and configuration of other team members.” We have reached 2,500ft and, at 400kt, we rejoin the other two T-346As and head towards the operative area. Once on the pre-planned breaking point, we split to work with the radar. We select TWS to scan the airspace from ground to 42,000ft and we lock on to one of the two distant targets: the HUD symbology reacts accordingly to show the locked ‘enemy’, our distance to the target, closure speed, and missile range. Once the ‘shoot’ message appears, we fire our simulated air-to-air missile. The aircraft provides the same ‘user experience’ the pilot would have using an AN/APG-80 radar. An ‘M346 hit’ message appears on the MFD, providing a real-time kill notification. After some more air-to-air activity, we briefly engage another working area for some free flight and I have the opportunity to experience the flight controls and HOTAS to perform some basic manoeuvres and to test the voice command we use to change radio channels – to request the aircraft to tell us when the fuel is bingo, or to change the MFD arrangement. A breathtaking 280 degrees per second aileron roll (performed by the pilot in the front seat) concludes this part of our flight. Now we load one of the pre-planned tactical scenarios (using the Removable Memory Module, a sort of memory stick that can store up to five scenarios) and in just a few seconds all the corridors, holding areas, ground-to-air threats and targets appear on the MFDs. It’s a scenario designed for swing-role training and includes the three T-346s in the air as well as a few CGFs (Computer-Generated Forces): allied and enemy aircraft and other threats. In this part of the flight a remarkable role will be played by the full-mission simulator based in the GBTS: thanks to the data link transmitter and a live virtual constructive infrastructure, another IP has joined the formation and is actively taking part in the mission from the ground! We can see the virtual T-346A on our radar and HSD as if it were flying with us. Within the package, our primary role in the next training event is fighter sweep for the initial push, during which we will fly a battle formation with the FMS; as a secondary role we will be the back-up aircraft for the other two T-346s involved in an air-to-ground simulated strike event. In other words, we will play 80% air-to-air and 20% air-to-ground while the other two will play 80% air-to-ground and 20% air-to-air. Shortly after the ‘push’, five minutes in front of the rest of the package, and information with the FMS,

we have a radar contact on two bogeys identified as possible air threats at a range of 40nm. We decide to act as ‘Fox One’ shooters (meaning we will employ radar-guided missiles) with short-range radar pick-up, and we are instructed to commit for a VID (visual identification). Although a real GCI (ground-controlled intercept) controller is not involved in our mission, the role is played by qualified personnel operating in the Real Time Monitoring Station, a mission support system that’s quite similar to an autonomous ACMI (air combat manoeuvring instrumentation system): it uses a dedicated data link to monitor airborne assets in real time and is capable of interacting with them using two separate radios and of injecting air, ground and sea threats. After splitting the formation for a radar bracket, we start our long-range ID using the targeting pod. Both the TV and infrared returns of the pod clearly indicate two enemy aircraft (and you can really see the photorealistic virtual aircraft in the display, in accordance with the intel scenario) manoeuvring hot against the package. We report the ID and behaviour of the two bogeys to the GCI and are cleared to engage the enemy employing our beyond-visual-range missiles. We lock the assigned target and fire our simulated AIM-120. The real-time kill notification confirms the hostile traffic has been shot down: “Target splashed!” With a radar picture eventually clear of enemy aircraft, we instruct the bombers to press on for their attack while we ‘snap back’ in close escort position, continuing on to the planned track inbound the target. Approaching the target area, using both the radar in air-to-ground mode and the targeting pod, we acquire our target, clearly identify the desired point of impact and commit for a high-altitude precision attack on a simulated power station. Meanwhile the rest of the formation performs a low-altitude attack with dumb bombs. We assess the strike on the correct DMPI (desired mean point of impact) using the no-drop scoring functionality and head towards the safe corridor for the return to base. We co-ordinate the egress from the training area and fly a straight-in approach to runway 32 at Lecce. The final is flown at 120kt with 8 degrees angle of attack. After touchdown at 110kt, Maj Olivares demonstrates aerodynamic braking – the aircraft decelerates to 80kt and he gently lowers the nose. We have landed after a fascinating 70-minute mission that gave us a glimpse of the training capabilities of the T-346. 

The author in the backseat of the Master MM55145 leading a formation of three T-346As, one T-339C (MB.339CD) and one T-339A (MB.339A) jets: the three types flown by 61° Stormo.

#328 JULY 2015 69


segments. Half the flight hours are flown in the simulator and the remaining half in the actual aircraft, for a significant cost reduction. In fact, thanks to the ITS, student pilots can attend ground lessons and practise the training missions in extremely realistic simulators several times before their knowledge and skills are evaluated by an instructor pilot (IP), both in the sim and in flight.” The ground segment of the ITS, or GroundBased Training System (GBTS), includes a computerised academic training system for self-learning; Simulator Based Training (SBT) stations, used to train basic procedures with simplified commands; two part-task trainers (PTTs); cockpit mock-ups with a 180° by 40° field-of-view (FoV); and two full-mission simulators (FMSs), with a 360° domed FoV, realistic ejection seat and HMD integration. “The in-flight sensor and scenario simulation of the aircraft’s built-in Embedded Tactical Training System (ETTS) allows us to perform here at Lecce some of the activities usually carried out at the OCUs – and to ‘download’ the workload of frontline combat aircraft to a less expensive trainer, with a significant cost reduction,” says Col Tarantino. In the view of Lt Col Simone Orlandini, one of the first two 212° Gruppo IPs to be qualified on the T-346A, the most important element of Master training is carried out on the ground: “The number, type and complexity of the scenarios we can design allows us to fly the mission using the actual aircraft only when it is needed to validate the skills achieved by the SPs in the simulator. “Furthermore, we can interconnect one or more PTTs and FMSs to the aircraft in flight for distributed mission training sessions in which one or more IPs in the simulator perform joint missions with SPs in flight. This represents a cheap force-multiplier: you can reduce the amount of aircraft you need to launch and keep the scenario as realistic as it can be by injecting computer-generated forces. If you wanted to build a similar scenario using actual aircraft you would need to launch a significant number.”

International customers

Six countries are currently represented at the Flight School in Lecce Galatina: Italy, Kuwait,

Austria – and Greece, whose SPs are trained by the 61° Stormo. Meanwhile, Argentina and France have exchange pilots serving as IPs with both the 213° and 212° Gruppi. The Royal Netherlands Air Force (RNLAF) and Italian Air Force signed a co-operation agreement on May 8 which envisages the detachment of an IP and two SPs from the RNLAF to Lecce. According to the two air arms, this first group of pilots represents the starting point for a collaboration that will be extended in the future. Beginning this August, representatives from Singapore will also be back at Lecce to prepare foundations for the arrival of their IPs. Poland is another nation about to join 61° Stormo’s fast-jet training courses. “Poland is the latest international customer for the M-346 training system,” says Col Tarantino. “They have requested us to train 16 IPs at Lecce before the first aircraft are delivered to the Polish Air Force at the end of 2017. Although this activity is being finalised under a specific technical agreement, the plan is to start training their pilots

on the M-346 at the 212° Gruppo during the summer and have their first IPs qualified on the Master in time for delivery of the first aircraft.” Other nations have also shown interest in the training activities at Lecce: since July 2014, the air base and its facilities have been visited by delegations from Austria, Finland, Peru, Romania, Thailand, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, the US and Uzbekistan. According to the European Defence Agency, pilot training is one of the ‘pooling and sharing’ initiatives that has attracted the most interest among EU member states, and Italy has offered to take the lead on fast-jet training, leveraging an existing multinational training hub, a proven and experienced training system and a renewed fleet of trainers. Along with the M-346, the Italian Air Force has already found a replacement for the MB-339A in the Alenia Aermacchi M-345 HET (High Efficiency Trainer), while the indigenous T-344 VESPA (Very Efficient Smart Power Aircraft) is set to replace the Alenia Aermacchi SF-260EA in the jet screening role. Among nations that may be interested in the training courses offered at Lecce,

“We aim to reach ten participating nations, even though that would not be the full capacity of the Flight School; we can grow much more,”

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M-346 MASTER ADVANCED JET TRAINER. Left: Instructor Pilots consider the SimulatorBased Training station an advanced home flight simulator: it features a realistic control stick with hands-on-throttle-andstick commands and six LCD touchscreen displays. It is used to train ‘switchology’ and basic procedures. Right: Two T-346A Master advanced jet trainers of 61° Stormo fly in formation during a training mission. The first four of six T-346As ordered by the ItAF in 2009 (together with an option for nine more), are assigned to 212° Gruppo based at Lecce-Galatina in southeastern Italy.

France has recently begun seeking a replacement for its fleet of ageing Alpha Jet trainers, and has visited the Italian base to gather more details on the M-345. “We aim to reach ten participating nations, even though that would not be the full capacity of the Flight School; we can grow much more,” says Tarantino. “This base already has an international dimension and we’re working hard to make it even better. “We’ve already restructured the pilots’ accommodation and we’re building new apartments to accommodate 60 more students; we’re about to complete the construction of 12 new hangars for the FT-339Cs we moved here from Amendola – where they were used by the AMX fighter-bomber fleet – and we are about to start work to renew the old hangar used by the Gruppo Efficienza Aeromobili (Aircraft Efficiency Squadron). “We aim towards very high standards and provide a very high level of service at a reasonable cost. That’s why I believe Lecce is the best candidate to become the afm European fast-jet flying school.” Above: The all-glass cockpit of the T-346A. The Master features a head-up display, digital instruments and three multi-function displays that can be configured to show the navigation menu, engine status, a moving map, simulated offensive threats and hypothetical payloads.

Above: The first of two FMSs (Full Mission Simulators) already available inside the M-346 ground-based training system building. The FMS comprises a cockpit with an inactive ejection seat as well as helmetmounted display and a 360° domed field-of-view. Left: Although it will be initially dedicated to LIFT (Lead-In Fighter Training) for students assigned to the Eurofighter Typhoon and F-35 Lightning fleets, the Italian T-346s can also be equipped with air-to-air and airto-ground weapons on seven external hardpoints for operational roles.

#328 JULY 2015 71






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Flying Soldiers Britain’s

Back at home base

Tim Ripley profiles the British Army’s combat aviation force as it approaches its 60th birthday.


ritain’s war in Afghanistan was a watershed for the Army Air Corps (AAC), its Apache AH1 attack helicopters playing a critical part in the campaign to secure Helmand province. At the height of the war in 2006, pairs of Apaches delivered devastating firepower day after day against Taliban insurgents trying to overrun isolated detachments of British troops. Without the presence of AAC attack helicopters the Taliban tide would never have been turned back. It was fitting that, as the last British troops were extracted by air from Camp Bastion in Helmand last November, AAC Apaches were overhead providing top cover. Six months on from the ending of Operation Herrick, as Britain’s Afghan mission was codenamed, the AAC is back at its home bases, preparing for contingency operations. Should the call come, it will be in the forefront of any future British intervention mission. To equip the corps for future contingency operations, major investment is recapitalising its helicopters, infrastructure and training regime.

Higher Command

The current AAC was formed in 1957 to operate light utility helicopters and fixed-wing

74 JULY 2015 #328

artillery observation aircraft. It was transformed in the late 1970s when the first Lynx anti-tank helicopters gave it a direct combat role. The decision in 1996 to buy the Apache was the next big step for the AAC, and it is now difficult to imagine the British Army being without attack helicopters in the future. Since 1999 the AAC has been an integral part of the UK’s Joint Helicopter Command (JHC), working alongside comrades from the Royal Air Force and Royal Navy to deliver battlefield helicopter capability. The command arrangements for the army’s aviation branch are split between the JHC – based along with Army Headquarters at Marlborough Lines in Andover – and the headquarters of the AAC at its traditional home,

Middle Wallop in Hampshire. JHC has day-to-day control of frontline AAC squadrons and operational training to enable combat capability to be made available to deployed commanders. The AAC, RAF and RN take turns to provide the senior leadership of the JHC, the current commander being provided by the army – Major General Richard Felton, one the AAC’s most experienced officers, led its first Apache regiment to Afghanistan in 2006. His deputy at JHC is Brigadier Neil Sexton, who also led helicopter units in combat in Operation Herrick. HQ AAC acts as the focus of aviation issues within the army and oversees the early phases of the training pipeline for both AAC air and ground crews. The AAC currently comprises nearly 4,000 regular personnel

AAC’s five roles:

Offensive Action – the application of firepower and manoeuvre to defeat the enemy. Intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition and reconnaissance (ISTAR) – to gather information using optical and electronic devices. Control and direction of firepower – to observe enemy forces and engage with other weapon systems such as fighter ground attack, main battle tanks, artillery and mortars, land-based rocket systems and naval fire support platforms. Command support – providing the capability for commanders to move around the battlefield quickly. Movement of personnel and materiel – support to specialist operations, helicopter evacuation and delivery of vital equipment. Right: One of the fi rst British Army Wildcat AH1s prepares to touch down during an operational evaluation, while members of the Army’s 1st Mechanised Brigade get ready to load their equipment. The Wildcats will replace all the legacy Lynx helicopters and be based at RNAS Yeovilton, working alongside their Royal Navy counterparts. AgustaWestland Left: A 673 Squadron Apache AH1 prepares to depart Middle Wallop on another training sortie. Alan Warnes

#328 JULY 2015 75

FORCE REPORT Army Air Corps and around 500 reservists. Some 1,700 of them wear the distinctive light blue beret of the AAC while the remainder are specialists drawn from the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers (REME), Royal Logistic Corps (RLC) and Adjutant General’s Corps (AGC). The REME and RLC personnel play a crucial role maintaining and repairing helicopters on base and in the field as well as driving fuel tankers and other support vehicles. On the battlefield, the AAC operates alongside the army’s infantry and armoured forces, using fire and manoeuvre to engage with the enemy with direct fire systems.

Transforming the structure

For much of the past 40 years the AAC was dominated by its regimental structure, which grouped individual squadrons under the command of a small regimental headquarters that administered them in barracks and was intended to command them on the battlefield. This arrangement changed more than a decade ago when the JHC established the tri-service Joint Helicopter Force (JHF) Headquarters to control ad hoc groupings of helicopters for specific exercises or operation. AAC regimental headquarters, for example, took turns to provide the

Army Aviation History

Above: The army’s annual two-month deployment to NAF El Centro will continue although Apache crews are now training for more traditional contingency ops. The Arizona base is for weapons training in hot climates. Crown Copyright

Army Air Corps Inventory, March 2015 Platform

Forward Fleet

Sustainment (Depth Fleet)


Total Inventory

Defender 4K AL2





Defender T3





Islander AL1





Apache AH1





Dauphin N3





Gazelle AH1





Lynx AH7





Lynx AH9A





Wildcat AH





Source: UK Ministry of Defence in parliamentary question, March 2015. Note – breakdown of fixed wing aircraft not given due to security reasons.

British Army soldiers have been taking to the skies for more than a century. Soldiers of the Royal Flying Corps were Britain’s first air warriors – during the First World War – but with the establishment of the RAF in 1918 the army lost its own aircraft. In World War Two, the ‘first’ Army Air Corps formed by grouping together the Parachute Regiment, the Glider Pilot Regiment and the Special Air Service. The Royal Artillery was outside this organisation and had to share light observation aircraft with the RAF. The ‘new’ Army Air Corps formed in 1957 to bring together RAF artillery observation squadrons with newly formed army light helicopter flights. To commemorate the history of the AAC, the Army Historic Aircraft Flight (AHAF) formed at Middle Wallop in 1980 but, owing to the loss of central Ministry of Defence funding, its fleet of aircraft were grounded in 2013. Earlier this year five aircraft were transferred to a private organisation, known as the Historic Aircraft Flight Trust, and placed on the civilian register, enabling them to begin display flying again. The trust currently operates the following aircraft: XR244 - Auster AOP Mk9 XP820 - De Havilland Beaver AL Mk1 XR379 - Sud Aviation Alouette II XT131 - Agusta-Bell Sioux AH Mk1 XT626 - Westland Scout AH Mk1 Below: Lynx AH7 XZ184 had the honour of flying the last display season of the type for the AAC. It is seen leaving RNAS Yeovilton, Somerset on July 26, 2014, for its return flight to Middle Wallop. Key-Glenn Sands

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Above: Although most of the Squirrel HT2s are used for flying training at the Shawbury-based Defence Helicopter Flying School (DHFS), 670 Sqn at Middle Wallop uses them for operational flying training. Alan Warnes Below: No 665 Sqn is tasked with aerial surveillance, and its Gazelle AH1s are equipped with a FLIR. This example was being operated by 667 Sqn at Middle Wallop when it was seen on Salisbury Plain in July 2014. Chris Lofting

command of JHC (Afghanistan) throughout the campaign, controlling AAC Apache and Lynx AH7/9A as well as RAF Chinook HC2, Merlin HC3 and Royal Navy Sea King HC4 support helicopters. The AAC home organisation has meanwhile been transformed with the establishment of so-called ‘force’ headquarters to control specific types of helicopters and aircraft. This enables operational training, equipment management, maintenance and future requirements to be co-ordinated efficiently.

Afghanistan with 662 Squadron for four months in 2012-13. Since the winding down of the Afghan campaign, the AH Force has been reorganised and slimmed down as part of economy measures announced during 2014. Last year, 654 Squadron disbanded, reducing the size of the force to five squadrons, and one of the remaining sub-units was designated as the operational conversion unit to train new pilots to fly the Apache in combat. The number of operational airframes was also cut from 67

to 50, the surplus aircraft being harvested for spare parts to keep the remainder flying until replacement helicopters are introduced under the Attack Helicopter Capability Sustainment Programme (AH CSP) later this decade. Of the remaining fleet, 32 are in day-to-day use with the rest undergoing depth maintenance at any one time. During the Afghanistan campaign, 3 and 4 Regiments took turns, a year at a time, at being responsible for deployed squadrons at Camp Bastion,

and then being the home base regiment looking after training at Wattisham. The same concept has now been taken up to ensure a contingent capability is ready at short notice to deploy on future operations. One of the regimental headquarters at high readiness for a year is 16 Air Assault Brigade’s JHF Headquarters, co-ordinating helicopter support for the British Army’s rapid reaction formation. At the same time, the other regiment is responsible for bringing other parts of the AH Force up to high readiness to take their place on alert duty. The long-term future of the AH Force looks secure but there is uncertainty over when exactly the AH Capability Sustainment Programme will be formally launched. JHC is clear it wants to acquire helicopters similar in configuration to the US Army Boeing AH-64E, which features new engines, improved sensors and an enhanced cockpit – plus systems enabling the crew to receive video imagery from unmanned aerial vehicles and, in some circumstances, control the drones. UK-specific communications and self-defence systems are also expected to be incorporated in the new helicopters. Early work looked at incorporating the new features in the old UK Apache AH1 airframes, but it now seems that new-build solutions will be cheaper in the long term. The final element of the £1 billion AH CSP is a competition between Boeing and AgustaWestland over where the new helicopters will be assembled, the Britishbased company pushing for its Yeovil site to be given the work. A decision is expected early in 2016 after the UK’s

Attack Helicopter Force

From its base at Wattisham Flying Station in Suffolk, the Attack Helicopter (AH) Force comprises two frontline regiments. Apache operations were concentrated at the base in 2006-7 to streamline training and maintenance. For nearly ten years, activity at Wattisham was dominated by the need to generate helicopters and crews for Operation Herrick. A squadron’s worth of Apaches and personnel were kept at Camp Bastion on a permanent basis, which required a huge logistical and training effort by all elements of the AH Force – whose most famous member was HRH Prince Harry, who served in

Above: After the AAC pulled out of Belize in 2011, the contractor-owned 25 Flt Bell 212HPs relocated to Middle Wallop and they still fly from there today. Alan Warnes

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FORCE REPORT Army Air Corps Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR) concludes.

Follow-On Lynx

Another major element of the AAC is the Aviation Reconnaissance Force, which pulls together the helicopter and fixed-wing assets involved in ISTAR operations. From its base at Royal Naval Air Station Yeovilton in Somerset, the force is in the midst of a major re-equipment programme to introduce the new Wildcat AH1 into service. Although it looks similar to the Lynx it is replacing, it boasts a fully digital cockpit, fully integrated night-vision sensors and more powerful engines. The Wildcat is to replace the veteran Lynx AH7 as the AAC’s main manned battlefield ISTAR and utility helicopter. The first crews – from 847 Naval Air Squadron – have just completed conversion to type training at Yeovilton and are now undergoing conversion to role training before being declared operational in October. Personnel from the first AAC units are now undergoing conversion to type training and will then follow in 847 NAS’s footsteps before being declared operational in early 2016. When all the 34 land-variant Wildcats are delivered, the intention is they will all be based at Yeovilton as part of a common pool of aircraft to be operated by four operational mainstream AAC sub-units (661, 659, 669 and 672 Squadrons), 847 NAS and 657 Squadron AAC, which is part of the Joint Special Forces Aviation Wing. In a bid to drive down costs further, all the Royal Navy maritime Wildcat variants are also being based at Yeovilton and will be serviced together with the land variants in a common facility run by AgustaWestland. The AAC Wildcats will be operated by four squadrons controlled by 1 Regiment, which moved to Yeovilton last year to oversee the conversion process. Its 653 Squadron is now the Wildcat Fielding Squadron, responsible for running conversion training, with 661 Squadron expected to be the AAC’s first mainstream Wildcat unit. Once 661 Squadron is up and running, the sub-units of 9 Regiment at Dishforth in Yorkshire will begin moving south to Yeovilton in late 2016 and early 2017 to begin their conversion process. The winding up of 9 Regiment has already begun and the retirement of its last five Lynx AH7s is scheduled for the end of March. The regiment

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Above: This Lynx AH9A currently serves with 9 Regiment at Dishforth, but all them will have been retired by the end of 2016. The three AAC squadrons, 659, 669 and 672 based there will eventually move to RNAS Yeovilton and equip with Wildcat AH1s. Alan Warnes

Army Air Corps Orbat, June 2015 Location



Aircraft Type


HQ Army Air Corps & Army Aviation Centre Middle Wallop

Historic Aircraft Flight Trust

Various (see box) Air Displays

Middle Wallop

Blue Eagles Display Team

Apache AH1

Air Displays

Middle Wallop

667 Sqns


Development & trails


7 Flight

Bell 212HP


Middle Wallop

25 Flight

Bell 212HP

Conversion Trg and utility

Middle Wallop

2 (Trg) Rgt

668 Sqn

Middle Wallop

2 (Trg) Rgt

676 Sqn

Ground Crew Trg

Middle Wallop

7 (Trg) Rgt

670 Sqn

Squirrel HT2

Operational Phase Flying Trg

Middle Wallop

7 (Trg) Rgt

671 Sqn

Conversion Trg

Middle Wallop

7 (Trg) Rgt)

673 Sqn

Gazelle AH1, Bell 212HP, Defender T3 Apache AH1

Wildcat Fielding Sqn

Ground Crew Trg

Conversion Trg

Aviation Reconnaissance Force RNAS Yeovilton

1 Rgt

652 Sqn

Wildcat AH1

RNAS Yeovilton

1 Rgt

661 Sqn

Wildcat AH1

Awaiting conversion Trg

Dishforth Airfield

9 Rgt

659 Sqn

Lynx AH9A


Dishforth Airfield

9 Rgt

669 Sqn

Lynx AH9A


Dishforth Airfield

9 Rgt

672 Sqn

Lynx AH9A



5 Rgt

665 Sqn

Gazelle AH1

Manned Aerial Surveillance


651 Sqn

British Army Trg Unit Suffield (BATUS) Attack Helicopter Force

29 (BATUS) Flight

Islander AL1, Manned Aerial Surveillance Defender 4K AL2 Gazelle AH1

Wattisham Flying Stn

3 Rgt

653 Sqn

Apache AH1

Attack Helicopter OCU

Wattisham Flying Stn

3 Rgt

662 Sqn

Apache AH1

Attack Helicopter

Wattisham Flying Stn

3 Rgt

663 Sqn

Apache AH1

Attack Helicopter

Wattisham Flying Stn

4 Rgt

656 Sqn

Apache AH1

Attack Helicopter

Wattisham Flying Stn

4 Rgt

664 Sqn

Apache AH1

Attack Helicopter

657 Sqn

Lynx AH7/AH9A Special Forces Support

Joint Special Forces Aviation Wing RAF Odiham

Stirling Lines, 658 Sqn Credenhill Defence Elementary Flying Trg School

AS365N3 Dauphin

Special Forces Support

RAF Barkston Heath

674 Sqn

Grob 115

Elementary Flight Trg

660 Sqn

Squirrel HT1

Basic helicopter pilot Trg

Defence Helicopter Trg School RAF Shawbury Army Reserve Bury St Edmonds

6 Rgt

RNA Stn Yeovilton

6 Rgt

675 (The Rifles) Sqn

Forward Arming Refuelling Points

Bury St Edmonds

6 Rgt

Forward Arming Refuelling Points

Milton Keynes

6 Rgt

677 (Suffolk & Norfolk Yeomanry) Sqn 678 (The Rifles) Sqn


6 Rgt

679 (The Duke of Connaught’s) Sqn

Forward Arming Refuelling Points

Forward Arming Refuelling Points

will continue to use the Lynx AH9A until the end of 2016. The last Lynx AH7 will be retired by 657 Squadron in July, marking a significant milestone for the AAC. It will say goodbye to the variant, which was upgraded from the original AH1, after more than 36 years’ service. The other element of the Aviation Reconnaissance Force is 5 Regiment which, based at Belfast International Airport (Aldergrove) in Northern Ireland, still operates veteran Westland Gazelle AH1s in the manned aerial reconnaissance role. These still have three more years’ duty to perform, supporting operations within the UK and at the British Army training site in Canada. No 5 Regiment also controls the AAC’s fleet of Defender and Islander fixed-wing aircraft which are used for liaison and manned aerial reconnaissance tasks.

Future Defence Review All aspects of British defence policy are being put under the microscope in the upcoming SDSR. Barring a major financial meltdown or some radical left-field proposals, it would seem that core

Wildcat AH1 ZZ389 is one of the earliest deliveries, and serves with 652 Squadron, the Wildcat Fielding Squadron. AgustaWestland

frontline elements of the AAC are secure. The Apache proved its worth in Afghanistan and most of the Wildcats have been delivered, so their place also looks secure. Ministry of Defence ‘bean counters’, however, will have their sights firmly set on the AAC’s training, logistical and administrative infrastructure and will be looking for big financial savings from the training pipeline the corps shares with the RAF and Royal Navy. The Defence Helicopter Flying School at RAF Shawbury, which

conducts basic helicopter pilot training on a tri-service basis, could be a target for cost cutting. It shares a helicopter lease contract with the Army Aviation Centre at Middle Wallop, where the next phase of training of AAC pilots is conducted – and there might be potential to merge these operations. A number of Apaches are also based at Middle Wallop for initial aircrew conversion training: savings might be achieved by moving the function to Wattisham, bringing all Apache

Above: Five AS365N Dauphins serve the Joint Special Forces Aviation Wing based at Stirling Lines, near Hereford. Chris Lofting Below: Recce-capable Islanders and Defenders work in Northern Island with 651 Sqn at Aldergrove, but also augment the RAF Shadow R1s for COMINT purposes. They operate as part of the Intelligence, Surveillance, Target Acquisition and Reconnaissance (ISTAR) Wing at RAF Waddington. One of the nine Defenders serving the AAC is seen taxiing out at RAF Cranwell recently. Dylan Eklund

operations to a single site. The RAF has also eyed up the manned aerial surveillance role of the AAC’s Islander and Defenders. Now the air force has its own Shadow R1s, there might be potential to combine all three types into a single unit, enabling Aldergrove to close – or retire the Britten-Norman aircraft altogether. While other branches of Britain’s armed forces are worrying about their relevance in the 21st century, the AAC is not as concerned. The Afghan campaign proved its aviators are a battle-winning force. Forty years ago in Northern Ireland, RAF and RN helicopter crews used to joke that their AAC counterparts were “teeny-weeny airways” because they flew small Scout helicopters that could only carry three or four passengers. With AAC Apaches set to be the first offensive aircraft to fly off the deck of the Royal Navy’s new super-carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth late next year, the ‘flying soldiers’ may have the last laugh at the expense of their light blue afm and dark blue colleagues.

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The long ga m French Air Force UAVs and Mirage 2000Ds fly daily operations from Niger’s capital, Niamey, under Operation Barkhane. Meanwhile, facilities are being expanded for additional aircraft and to support the operation in the long term, as Frédéric Lert reports.

‘The ops zone and camp are under strict French control and security, but French officials insist they are “guests of the Niger Government”’

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a me

fter hammering jihadist groups in Mali in 2013 during Operation Serval, France has now entered a new phase of involvement in the Sahel region. Last August, Operation Serval became Operation Barkhane, a search-anddestroy campaign aimed at disrupting enemy logistics and denying freedom of movement. The area of operations extends from Mauritania to Chad, a tract as large as Western Europe and known in France as the Bande Sahelo Saharienne (BSS, Sahel-Saharan Strip). The French employ several outposts and forward bases, with logistics hubs and combat aircraft at N’Djamena, Chad, covering the eastern zone and Niamey, Niger, for the western zone Niamey is the only international airport in Niger. The Diori Hamani commercial area is located south of its 2,800-metre (9,186ft) runway and the Niger Air Force (NAF) has its Base Aérienne 101 to the its north. Before 2013, BA101 consisted of derelict buildings forming NAF

headquarters, shelters connected to the runway through a dirt taxiway and several hectares of dusty, unused land.

From Harfangs to Reapers

Everything changed with the launch of Operation Serval in January 2013 when Niamey was chosen as an airhead for the French operation. Today France bases around 400 troops here, the majority from the Armée de l’Air (French Air Force, FAF). All are housed in a tent camp, although domestic buildings are now being erected. A dirt road leads to the ops zone from where all air assets operate. The zone and camp are under strict French control and security but French officials insist they are “guests of the Niger Government, on Niger’s soil, within Niger's boundaries”. The FAF deploys three Mirage 2000D attack aircraft, two General Atomics MQ-9 Reaper unmanned air vehicles (UAVs) and two Harfang medium-altitude, long-endurance UAVs to the region. The UAVs belong to Cognac-based Escadron de Drones 1/33 Belfort, which has half its Harfang complement in theatre. There is also a Groupe de Transport Opérationnel (GTO) with two Transall C-160s and a CASA CN235. The CASA is usually stationed at Gao in Mali, where it remains on casevac alert round the clock. A C-135 tanker deployed directly from Al Udeid, Qatar, Left: Two Mirage 2000Ds remain on constant alert 24/7, fully-armed. This one is readied for an early morning launch. All images by author unless stated

#328 JULY 2015 81


where it had been flying under Operation Chammal, the French effort against IS in Iraq. It has been permanently based at Niamey since February 2014. The first FAF aircraft into Niamey in early January 2013 were the two Harfangs. Mali’s capital, Bamako, had also been shortlisted as a potential base, but its distance from the area of operations made it less suitable. With trouble brewing in northern Mali, France preferred to use the Nigerian capital as an observation post as it deployed special forces along the Niger-Mali border. The Harfang has clocked more than 5,000 flying hours since Operation Serval began and is supposed to soldier on until 2017 when the MQ-9 Reaper will fully take over the surveillance mission. The Harfang’s performance is modest, its 115hp Rotax piston engine driving the aircraft to a 100kt (185km/h) cruising speed. When they were used over Libya during Operation Harmattan in 2011, the UAVs spent more time transiting the Mediterranean than reconnoitring Libyan territory. Another drawback is that the Harfang’s electro-optical system (EOS) delivers poorquality images from the medium altitudes it has to fly at to avoid small arms fire.

Above: Mirage 2000D 670 ‘133-XF’ from the EC3/3 Ardennes taxies back from a mission over northern Mali. The C-135FR in the background landed earlier and is ready to be pushed back on to the apron.

The long final approach to Niamey’s runway, seen from the tanker’s cockpit. France repays the Niger authorities with infrastructure work on the military side of the airport.

The first French MQ-9 Reapers joined the Harfangs in Niger in December 2013. With its 900hp turboprop engine and ability to fly two-and-a-half times higher and faster than the latter UAV, the General Atomics drone represented a major improvement. Its larger optronics turret has more capabilities and the aircraft simultaneously carries a ground moving target indicator (GMTI) radar and Remotely Operated Video Enhanced Receiver (ROVER) data link. The Harfang’s limited performance forces a choice between these two payloads and ROVER is usually the preferred option. Neither UAV is armed – and electronic intelligence (ELINT) and signals intelligence (SIGINT) payloads are obviously lacking on both types. A third Reaper arrived in Niamey in May and France is expected to take delivery of a second system (each includes three air vehicles and two ground stations) in 2016 or 2017. Reaper’s drawback lies in its reliance on manual ground operations, while Harfang takes off and lands under full automation. A 16-strong General Atomics team works alongside the FAF at Niamey to handle this aspect of the operation. According to an FAF officer, “the team’s presence is part of a three-year FMS [Foreign Military Sales] contract signed in August 2013. They maintain the aircraft and take care of the take-off and landing phases. We ask them for a heading and an altitude, and once the drone’s under way they hand control over to us.” The operational contract with General Atomics calls for round the clock availability, and on occasion both Reapers have been airborne over different target areas simultaneously. The contract is working well and Reaper availability is said to be excellent – no major operation would take place without it. Nonetheless, the FAF would like its engineers to work on the aircraft’s maintenance and to have its operators trained for take-off and landing. According to the US Air Force, a minimum 600 Reaper flying hours are required before operators can train for ground operations. Some of the French operators (all ex-pilots) are now reaching this level of experience. Slots in the US training pipeline are said to be

‘The operational contract with General Atomics calls for round-the-clock availability and on occasion both Reapers have been airborne’

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OPERATION BARKHANE scarce, however, although delivery of more aircraft could lead to a renegotiation of the support contract with General Atomics. Three 1/33 Belfort Reaper crews are deployed to Niamey, each consisting of a pilot, payload officer, intelligence (Intel) officer and imagery intelligence (Imint) officer. The Intel and Imint officers are shared with the Harfang operation, which has two fully qualified pilots.

The Mirage 2000Ds deployed in Niamey are said to be ‘full option’, with ROVER and Link 16 datalink, VHF-FM radio and GBU-49’s control unit. Although a single engine, the Mirage 2000D is a reliable aircraft allowing for long missions over the desert.

Round-the-Clock Alert

Two-thirds of UAV missions are for surveillance. Other tasks include target designation, battle damage assessment and communications relay. Laser designation for a Mirage 2000D dropping a GBU-12 was achieved for the first time in March. The three Mirage 2000Ds and four crews deployed to Niamey are from Nancy. The aircraft are reportedly to the latest standard, including VHF-FM radio, encrypted communications, Link 16 data link, ROVER transceiver and dual mode GBU-49 capability. All three types of designation pod compatible with the Mirage 2000D are employed at Niamey – the daylight-only ATLIS, night-optimised PDL-CTS and the new-generation Damocles. The aircraft fly an average of one two-ship mission per day, with the third kept as a spare. All remain on round-the-clock alert with a full weapon load. Weapons include GBU-12, GBU-49 and

GBU-49 HOB (Height Of Burst), with fusing controlled from the cockpit. Regular GBU-12 and GBU-49 efficiency is greatly reduced when the warheads explode in the region’s sandy soil. Unguided Mk 82 bombs with adjustable HOB are also used, the 2000D carrying four under the fuselage or three when a designation pod is fitted. As in Afghanistan, the Mirages also fly show of presence and show of force passes, depending on circumstances.

“Missions over the BSS are less complex than those we flew over Afghanistan,” says a Mirage pilot. “We don’t have to worry about coalition work, the airspace is less congested and we’re basically the only operator at medium altitude.” Harfang flies at the lowest levels, the Mirage above and the Reaper over the top: “The threat is non-existent as long as we don’t fly too low. The only danger comes from the huge distances involved and

Above: A Harfang is towed outside its shelter for an engine check. Despite its modest performance, the Harfang will soldier on in Niger until the MQ-9 Reaper (left) takes over the surveillance mission. A third Reaper landed in Niamey last May 7. Below: The C-135FR looks new but it’s due for retirement soon. The first A330 MRTT will enter service in 2018.

#328 JULY 2015 83

OPERATION BARKHANE the lack of emergency airfields.” Pending its refurbishment, Gao’s runway is deemed unsuitable for jet aircraft. On June 9, 2014 a Mirage 2000D was lost to a technical problem between Gao and Niamey, although the crew ejected safely and were quickly recovered.

The Armée de l’Air arrived in Niamey with three Mirage 2000Ds and the entire range of targeting pods: the ATLIS 2 for daylight operations, the PDL-CTS for night (seen here) and the highly capable Damocles.

Airport of Disembarkation

In recompense for operating from Niamey, France provides the Niger authorities with civil engineering work at Base Aérienne 101. French troops have been busy refurbishing NAF parking areas and taxiways, and a cargo ramp has been created to accommodate the French logistics operation. In the language of the logisticians, Niamey is an airport of disembarkation (APOD). Every other week, sometimes more often, an Antonov An-124 delivers a full load of military hardware, spare parts, food and other items to Niamey. The A400M Atlas is a newcomer to Niamey, which also occasionally accommodates NATO C-17 Globemaster IIIs. Unloaded freight is forwarded on trucks or in tactical aircraft. The journey to Madama, a French outpost near the Libyan border, takes eight days by road or three hours by air. By contrast, Gao in Mali is just one day away on a good quality road. French armoured vehicles escort all convoys. With the Transall is nearing the end of its operational life, as much as possible is done to reduce the burden on the FAF’s tactical transport capability. Fewer than 30 remain in service with 1/64 Béarn and 2/64 Anjou at Evreux and the aircraft will be greatly missed in Africa.

The Niamey-based Transall shuttles cargo and troops around the BSS. More tactical missions are flown from time to time, including airdrops of fuel, food, water and ammunition to French troops patrolling in the desert. France also uses An-12 and An-26 cargo aircraft and a Beech 1900, all belonging to private companies. The C-135 tanker uses the cargo apron on the military side of Diori Hamani airport, the 140-tonne aircraft enjoying a specially reinforced parking spot. But the jet has to be towed onto the taxiway before starting its engines so as not to blow dust and gravel onto parked aircraft.

Like the Mirages, the Boeing remains on permanent alert, with around 110,231lbs (50 tonnes) of fuel in its tanks, enough to keep two fighters airborne for five hours with sufficient for the tanker to divert to N’Djamena or Bamako, should Niamey become temporarily unavailable. “Fifty tonnes is a limited payload compared to the 89 tonnes of fuel the Boeing is able to carry,” says a tanker crewmember. “It’s calculated to allow a take-off under the most stringent conditions, whatever the runway temperature.” Daytime temperatures can easily reach 42°C (107.6°F) from late March through to May. The USAF also assists with its Morón, Spain-based tankers.

Digging In

A new ammunition dump will be soon be available, together with a larger, heavyweight apron for two large aircraft, such as A400Ms or C-135FRs, to park simultaneously. The additional apron space will also allow for the return of a French Navy Atlantique and a Transall Gabriel ELINT platform. The French are digging in for the long afm term in Niamey. Above: The French Reapers are operated by General Atomics personnel on the ground. However, the Armée de l’Air wants to have its own pilots and mechanics qualified for the take-off, landing and maintenance operations in the future. Below: Although the A400M is playing an increasingly important role in the strategic airlift to Africa, the C-160 remains essential when it comes to tactical transport to short and remote airstrips.

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JULY ISSUE OUT NOW: FREE RAFALE SUPPLEMENT JUDGMENT DAY Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 121 (VMFA-121) ‘Green Knights’ at MCAS Yuma is set to become America’s first operational F-35 squadron in July. Combat Aircraft editor Jamie Hunter meets the unit that carries a considerable weight of expectation on its shoulders.

GUARD EAGLES GO DUTCH! Frank Crébas flies with the Florida Air National Guard’s 158th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron, which is detached to Leeuwarden in the Netherlands for a six-month deployment.

UNIT REPORT: OUT WITH A BANG! The 308th Fighter Squadron at Luke AFB is the latest F-16 training unit within Air Education and Training Command that is standing down as the winds of change blow in the F-35 Lightning II. Jamie Hunter talks to the squadron commander, with exclusive images from Jim Haseltine.




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AIRCRAFT PROFILE Ukraine Su-24 Fencer


n the wake of the revolution at the end of February 2014, Ukraine suddenly faced the threat of imminent invasion from the Russian Federation. Events in the Crimea also began to unfold, ultimately leading to its annexation in March and an outburst of violence in the largely pro-Russian regions of Donets’k and Luhans’k in eastern Ukraine, an area commonly known as the Donbas. Since then, numerous Zbroyni Syly Ukrayiny (ZSU, Ukrainian Armed Forces) units have remained fully combat ready, including the 7 brihada taktichnoyi aviatsiyi (brTA, tactical aviation brigade) at Starokostyantyniv air base. The only surviving Povitryani Syly (PS, Ukrainian Air Force) bomber unit, 7 brTA, operates the Sukhoi Su-24 Fencer.

With 38 OFAB-100-120 free-fall bombs on seven MBD3-U6-68 multiple ejector racks (MERs), Su-24M ‘66 White’ groans under the weight of this offensive load. The most potent Su-24M loadout is 30 FAB-250M-54 bombs on MERs. Chris Lofting

Below: Su-24M ’45 White’ is one of the aircraft returned to service in 2014. Used mainly for training, it frees up the original airworthy Fencers for combat. Training sorties frequently include low-level passes down to 33ft (10m) above ground, something that hasn’t been practised within the Ukrainian Air Force since the mid-1990s. Chris Lofting

Operational Status

On paper, the ZSU had 114 Su-24s of all types at the beginning of 2015, plus 34 withdrawn aircraft at the Bila Tserkva storage facility. Altogether this amounted to slightly more than half the Fencers it inherited from the USSR in late 1991. The bulk of the ‘missing’ jets were of the older baseline Fencer-A, Fencer-B and Fencer-C variants built in the 1970s and since withdrawn from service and scrapped, although a handful remain as monuments or museum exhibits. The last known scrapping occurred in the summer of 2013 when six withdrawn 6 Aviatsiyna Baza (navchal’na) (AB(n), Air Base [for training]) Su-24s were broken up at Kul’bakino. Although offered for sale, surplus Ukrainian Su-24s

Fencer Fig   h Ukraine’s steadily declining Su-24 Fencer force was spurred into action as the country lapsed into violence during 2014. As Vladimir Trendafilovski reports, the aircraft flew reconnaissance and bombing missions with varied success, while efforts continue to return more to service.

86 JULY 2015 #328

Above: Su-24M ‘20 White’ (c/n 1341605) of 7 brTA, in bare metal, undergoes overhaul at the NARP plant in November 2014. Together with ‘26 White’, it is one of the newest Su-24Ms in service. Kryla Ukrayiny magazine via author

have attracted no interest from foreign buyers, no doubt because the Fencer is a complex, costly aircraft to operate. Only one is known to have been exported: Fencer-A ‘39 Red’, sold in 2005 as a demilitarised exhibit to a museum at Tartu, Estonia. In reality, the only ZSU Su-24s that could be considered ‘operational’ are the 65 nominally on strength with 7 brTA. Twentyfive are Su-24MR reconnaissance jets, the remainder Su-24M bombers. Three are undergoing overhaul at the Mykolayiv Aircraft Repair Plant (MARP) while five of the older Su-24Ms had already been declared surplus in 2008 and 49 aircraft are stored at various bases or serve as ground trainers, half of them already declared as surplus. The latter are

unlikely to return to service. The active Su-24Ms are shared between 7 brTA’s 1 bombarduval’na aviatsiyna eskadryl’ya (bae, bomber aviation squadron) and 2 bae.

Under the skin

The Su-24M Fencer-D is a Soviet-era bomber variant of the baseline Su-24, a variable-geometry aircraft bearing similarities to the US General Dynamics F-111 Aardvark. It is equipped with Relyef terrainfollowing radar (TFR) for high-speed, low-level penetration of hostile airspace and Orion-A navigation and targeting radar.

g   hts On

Ukraine’s Legacy Su-24 in Action

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AIRCRAFT PROFILE Ukraine Su-24 Fencer

Above: ‘11 Yellow’ an Su-24MR retracts its landing gear seconds after taking off at Starokostyantyniv. This aircraft was damaged by a SAM on July 2, 2014 but was repaired by using a tail section from Su-24MR ‘05 Red’ (c/n 0415305), an ex- 511 orap aircraft stored at Bila Tserkva. Nick Cross

Above: One of the three L-39C trainers used by 7 brTA is ‘72 Blue’, delivered fresh from overhaul at the orap repair plant in Odessa in June 2012. Nick Cross Left: With its nose radome removed, Su-24M ‘28 White’, sits inside the large maintenance hangar at Starokostyantyniv. This hangar, known as ‘Shakhta’ (Mine), can take up to two Su-24s simultaneously. Nick Cross

It has a built-in GSh-6-23M Gatlingtype six-barrelled 23mm cannon with 500 rounds and carries up to 17,640lb (8,000kg) of weapons on four fuselage and four wing pylons. Ukraine retains virtually the full arsenal of Soviet-era air-to-surface weaponry for its Su-24s, including missiles and laser-guided bombs. The type is compatible with the

R-60 (AA-8 Aphid) short-range air-to-air missile (AAM) for self-defence, but Ukrainian stocks became time-expired and have been withdrawn. The Su-24MR Fencer-E is a dedicated reconnaissance variant of the Su-24M. It is easily identified by the noticeably larger heat exchanger on its spine, smaller dielectric

radome at the nose (since it houses only the Relyef TFR), large dielectric panels either side of the nose (for a side-looking airborne radar), the absence of a built-in gun, just two fuselage pylons and the presence of multiple camera windows. Configured for various reconnaissance missions, the Su-24MR is capable of relaying

Above: One of the unit’s original airworthy Su-24Ms, ‘66 White’ had the unit’s Dragon emblem from the start. Note the small emblem of 1 bae on the nose wheel door. Chris Lofting

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electronic data to a ground station in real time via secure radio link. Surviving Su-24MRs serve 7 brTA’s rozviduval’na aviatsiyna eskadryl’ya (rae, reconnaissance aviation squadron).

Return to strength

When the call to combat came in February 2014, in common with all PS units, 7 brTA found itself with only a handful of serviceable aircraft; a lack of ground support and auxiliary personnel due to the abolishment of conscription in 2013; and pilots with low flying-hours owing to the general financial crisis and lack of fuel. The younger pilots were particularly badly affected, having more flight time on the Aero L-39C trainer than the Su-24, as they had to accumulate at least 180 flight hours on trainers before being allowed to fly on the Fencers. As this was a general problem in all PS units operating combat aircraft, they were earlier augmented by a number of L-39Cs to put all their pilots in the air – 7

brTA was no exception and now operates three L-39Cs, transferred to the unit in mid-2012, fresh from overhaul, specifically for the task. The ZSU’s poor performance during the Crimean stand-off was a wake-up call for the new government and the military situation improved practically overnight. Fuel was rushed to PS units, enabling them not only to put aircraft in the air but also to get their young, inexperienced pilots into combat aircraft cockpits. Reservists were called in to fill vacant positions and retired officers employed to relieve flying personnel from secondary administrative tasks, which meant they could take full advantage of refresher courses led by highly-experienced former pilots returning to oversee the retraining process. During March 2014, 7 brTA

was running one or two ‘flying days’ a month at best – its experienced pilots flying once a month – but by the end of April there were at least two a week. Previously unserviceable aircraft also began returning to the air. Equipped with less than a squadron-sized (ten aircraft) complement of just three airworthy Su-24Ms and two Su-24MRs at the beginning of 2014, 7 brTA gradually began returning stored aircraft to active duty. By the end of April, seven Su-24Ms and three Su-24MRs were serviceable, although an aircraft had also been lost. Su-24M ‘83 White’ crashed while landing at its home base at 17:15 on March 21, 2014. The crew, pilot Lieutenant-Colonel Denys Kachan (2 bae commander) and navigator Lieutenant Oleh Dudnik, ejected safely and were

Operational 7 brTA Aircraft in 2014 Code

Const. No. Variant

'06 White' -


Notes Presumed with 2 bae

'11 Yellow' 0415304

Su-24MR With rae (combat damaged and repaired)

'16 Yellow' 0315306

Su-24MR With rae

'21 White' -



'22 White' 0715347


With 1 bae

'26 White' 1341606



'27 White' -



'28 White' 0815328



'35 Yellow' 0215303

Su-24MR With rae

'36 Yellow' 0415307

Su-24MR With rae*

'41 White' -


Fresh from overhaul, in digital camouflage

'45 White' -


ex-45 Blue of 44 avbr

'46 White' -


ex-46 Blue of 44 avbr presumed with 2 bae

'49 White' -


ex-49 Blue of 44 avbr

'66 White' 0715335


With 1 bae

'77 White' -


ex-77 Blue of 44 avbr

'83 White' 0615303


Crashed March 21, 2014

'93 Yellow' 0315305- Su-24MR With rae *(36 Yellow appears to have been shot down on August 20, 2014.)

Ukraine’s Su-24 Story When the ZSU was formed at the end of 1991, Ukraine inherited ten Su-24 units from the Soviet Union, equipped with 280 aircraft of all versions. Among them, the frontline bomber units were 7 bombarduval’nyy aviatsiynyy polk (bap, bomber aviation regiment) at Starokostyantyniv, 69 bap at Ovruch, 230 bap at Horodok (Cherlyany), 727 bap at Kanatove (Kirovohrad), 806 bap at Vyshkiv (Luts’k) and 947 bap at Dubno. Each had 30 jets, with newer Su-24Ms at 7 bap, 230 bap, 727 bap and 947 bap. Several aircrew refused to swear their allegiance to the ZSU and transferred to Russia, the resulting shortage of personnel leading 230 bap to disband in 1993, its aircraft transferring to the remaining Su-24M units, while 69 bap moved to Cherlyany from Ovruch (which became a dedicated storage base, since it was just 31 miles/50km from the Chernobyl exclusion zone) to take its place. In 1995, 727 bap was redesignated as 44 bap, but there were few more changes until 2000 when 69 bap

disbanded, its airworthy aircraft passing to 806 bap and the remainder into storage at Hayok (Bila Tserkva), formerly a heavy bomber base. In 2001, 947 bap disbanded, its aircraft moving to 806 bap which became a Su-24M unit, sending its remaining ‘vanilla’ Su-24s to Bila Tserkva. In 2003 the remaining units became brigades – 7 avbr, 44 avbr and 806 avbr. In late 2004, 44 avbr and 806 avbr disbanded, most of their airworthy aircraft going to 7 avbr. At this point, non-airworthy Su-24s of all types from these three units were sent for storage at Kul’bakino (with the local NARP aircraft repair plant), Bila Tserkva and Luts’k, where 25 Akom was established to maintain the base and its stored aircraft. Recce variants The reconnaissance Su-24MRs were operated by 48 okremyy rozviduval’nyy aviatsiynyy polk (orap, independent reconnaissance aviation regiment) at Kolomyya and 511 orap at Buyalyk (Blahoyeve). The former

had a single Su-24MR squadron (and another with Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG25RB Foxbats) while the latter had two full squadrons, with a total of 35 Su-24MRs between them. In 2003, 511 orap disbanded, passing its airworthy jets to 48 orap, which became 48 avbr; its remaining aircraft went to Bila Tserkva. In 2004, 48 avbr also disbanded, its Su-24MRs moving to Starokostyantyniv and forming 32 okrema rozviduval’na aviatsiyna eskadryl’ya (orae, independent reconnaissance aviation squadron), which merged with 7 avbr at the same base in 2005. The 118 okremyy aviatsiynyy polk radioelektronnoyi borot’by (oapREB, independent electronic warfare aviation regiment) was a specialised Su-24 operator stationed at Chortkiv with eight Su-24MPs. A dedicated EW variant of the Su-24M, the ’MP was easily recognisable by the four large access panels either side of its forward fuselage plus distinctive fairings under its nose and on the spine. The unit disbanded in 1994, the

Su-24MPs going to 48 orap. Since the ZSU had no requirement for the aircraft and Su-24Ms were in short supply, from 1997 the airworthy Su24MPs went to the Su-24 squadron of 6 AB(n) at Kul’bakino for training. Finally there was 29 aviatsiynyy polk (ap, aviation regiment) at Berdyans’k. An oversized unit with more than 60 early-batch Su-24s, it served as a dedicated training unit for Su-24 crews. In 1995 it was redesignated 29 bap as a ‘frontline’ unit, but disbanded at the end of 1996, its airworthy aircraft going to 69 bap, 806 bap and the newly-formed 6 AB(n). The Su-24 squadron within 6 AB(n) took over the Fencer training role, but by 2003 it too had disbanded. Its Su-24s and Su-24MPs were stored locally and the frontline units took over crew training. Both 48 orap and 727 bap were Guards units, an honorary Soviet title dating from World War Two. In independent Ukraine the Guards title was left out of the unit’s abbreviated designation, but retained in the full title. 

Above: Seen here landing in April 2015, ‘93 Yellow’ was one of the stored Su-24MRs returned to service in March 2014. It has since received the ‘shark’s mouth’ on the nose, unique to the unit’s Su-24MRs, but still retains the emblem of its original unit, 48 orap, on the air intake. Chris Lofting

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AIRCRAFT PROFILE Ukraine Su-24 Fencer The History of 7 brTA The 7 brihada taktichnoyi aviatsiyi badge includes several elements depicting the unit’s base and tasks. The bomb-carrying hawk is a general symbol of bomber aviation and was noted on some 806 bap Su-24 bombers as early as 1992. The coat of arms is that of the town of Starokostyantyniv, where 7brTA is home-based. The badge also bears the unit’s numerical designation and motto – Operatyvnist’, vluchnist’, dostovirnist’ (Efficiency, precision, faithfulness). Formally known as 7 Starokostyantynivs’ka brihada taktichnoyi aviatsiyi imeni Petra Franka (7th Starokostyantyniv tactical aviation brigade named after Petro Franko), abbreviated as 7 brTA and frequently referred to as ‘unit A2502’, the unit began as the Soviet 7 bap with Ilyushin Il-28 Beagles on June 1, 1966, a date celebrated as its anniversary. It was formed to replace 733 bap, the original local Il-28 unit which was being transferred to Domna, Siberia, leaving surplus Il-28s to 7 bap. In December 1974, 7 bap received Yakovlev Yak-28 Brewers before reequipping with Su-24s in December 1977. The first Su-24Ms arrived in 1985 and by 1988 the unit was fully equipped with the model. It is interesting to note that a few of its aircraft were actually export Su-24MKs, built against a contract for India that was subsequently cancelled. In 1992, 7 bap was subordinated to the local 32 bombarduval’na aviatsiyna dyviziya (bad, bomber aviation division), most of its servicemen swearing an oath of allegiance to the ZSU in mid-January. A serious incident occurred on February 13 when nine Su-24Ms took off for regular training, but six of them – led by the deputy commander – defected to Russia and landed at Shatalovo air base. The unit’s chief of staff simultaneously defected by car, taking the unit’s Soviet-era flag with him. Losing the unit’s flag, under any circumstances, in Soviet times was Below: A nose shot of Su-24M ‘28 White’. Compare details with the Su-24MR shot on the opposite page. Sergey Smolentsev

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considered a terrible embarrassment and the unit would immediately have been disbanded. Instead, 7 bap became the first unit to receive a new Ukrainian unit flag. Ukraine unsuccessfully requested return of the six Su-24Ms. In the late 1990s, 7 bap fell under 289 bad at Luts’k, along with all the Ukrainian Su-24 units except for 44 bap. In March 2000 it transferred to the newly formed 35 Aviatsiyna Grupa (operativnogo pryznachennya) or AvG (OP), the Aviation Group (for operational tasks), at Poltava, which comprised ‘elite units’ – 7 bap was its only Su-24 operator. However, 35 AvG (OP) disbanded in 2003, 7 bap then falling under 5 Aviatsiynyy Korpus (AvK, Aviation Corps) at Odessa and becoming 7 avbr later in the year. The PS was established on December 1, 2004, fusing the Air Force and Air Defence organisations (which previously existed as separate ZSU services), with 7 avbr its remaining Su-24 bomber unit. The Fencers were now parented by the Povitryane Komanduvannya ‘Zakhid’ (PvK ‘Zakhid’, Air Command ‘West’) at L’viv. Reconnaissance Squadron Meanwhile, the Su-24MRs and personnel transferred from the disbanded 48 avbr at Kolomyya formed the independent 32 orae at Starokostyantyniv on May 19, 2004. Between them, 32 orae and 383 opDKLA represented the primary PS reconnaissance capability, but 32 orae ceased to exist in October 2005 when it was absorbed by 7 avbr to become its third squadron, the rae. In March 2008, 7 avbr was reorganised as 7 brTA and on the 28th was awarded the honorary title ‘named after Petro Franko’. Franko had created the air force of the Ukrainian Galician Army, which existed briefly in 1918-19. On August 21, 2008, 7 brTA was awarded the title ‘[of] Starokostyantyniv’, denoting its base. In 2013 it came under the PS Command at Vinnytsya.

Above: The dragon emblem originated in 1994 and was found only on 2 bae aircraft. In 2006 the unit numerical designators were switched: 2 bae became 1 bae and vice versa. In April 2014, the emblem was applied on all active jets, but two restored aircraft; Su-24M ‘46 White’ received a variation, believed to be the new 2 bae version. via author

uninjured. The cause of the crash has not been officially revealed, but sources suggest it was the result of pilot error, a hard landing damaging the aircraft and leaving it uncontrollable. The strain placed on the more experienced pilots, who had begun flying on an almost daily basis to help familiarise their younger colleagues with the Fencer, may well have been a factor.

Overdue Overhaul

The regulations governing the service life extension of ex-Soviet military aircraft operated in Ukrainian require them to undergo a life extension, essentially an overhaul, at the end of their lives (the number of years served since the last overhaul) or flight-time limit (the amount of flying hours since the last in-depth service). However, a short operating extension can be granted without an overhaul in extraordinary (wartime) conditions under strict control. Su-24s have therefore returned to service after a thorough inspection and compulsory replacement of all elastomers (seals, gaskets, diaphragms, flexible hoses and so on) and other components found to be defective. With most of the aircraft having reached the end of their service life, but not their flight-time limit, this is a short-term working solution. These jets will soon reach the end of their service life extension and require full overhauls. So a long-term solution was implemented in June 2014 when the Kul’bakino-based NARP repair plant was contracted to overhaul five Su-24Ms and MRs. The facility also repaired components needed to restore additional stored Su-24s to service. Meanwhile, 7 brTA had achieved combat readiness in late May, when at least seven of its aircraft (four Su-24Ms, two L-39Cs and an

Su-24MR) were detached to the Luts’k reserve air base. Maintained by 25 Aviatsiyna Komendatura (AKom, Aviation Commandant’s Office, formed in 2004 when the local Su-24 unit disbanded), Luts’k regularly acts as a temporary base for aircraft conducting exercises with live weapons on the nearby Povurs’k range, around 37 miles (60km) to the north. The detachment enabled 7 brTA’s pilots to fly their final training missions with live weapons, preparing them for the unit’s upcoming involvement in combat operations in the Donbas. Retired pilot Lieutenant-General Stanislav Pavlovich, who oversaw the preparations, said such intensive training had not been undertaken since Ukraine’s independence in 1991. Pilots emerged from the exercise with as many as 60 flight hours towards their year’s tally, compared to the previous annual average of 15-20 hours.

Into Combat

Following the outburst of violence in the Donbas region, armed proRussian separatist militias appeared in April 2014 and began to take over government installations. They soon controlled the cities of Slov’yans’k and Kramators’k, and the Kramators’k reserve air base situated between them. On April 14 the government responded with a so-called ‘anti-terrorist operation’ (ATO), retaking the base next day, but soon the fighting spread, the ATO becoming a fully-fledged war engulfing much of the Donbas. However, given the low intensity of the clashes in the ATO zone in the spring of 2014, use of the Su-24M was neither required nor justified, winning 7 brTA the time it needed to complete its retraining. Nevertheless, its unarmed

Latest Developments

Wearing its new digital camouflage ‘41 White’ taxies out at Starokostyantyniv in April 2015. It was the first Fencer overhauled at NARP under the 2014 contract and delivered in November 2014. Chris Lofting

Su-24MRs had been detached to the bases at Kul’bakino and Chuguyiv, from where they recced the Crimea and Donbas. With training complete, four Su-24Ms and a Su-24MR were detached to Myrhorod (home of the 831 brTA’s Su-27 Flankers), much closer to the ATO zone than 7 brTA’s Starokostyantyniv base. The move coincided with the July 1 renewal of the ATO following a unilateral ceasefire that had begun on June 20. Prior to the fierce fighting around Slov’yans’k and Kramators’k that ultimately lead to their liberation, an Su-24MR ‘11 Yellow’ took off from Myrhorod on July 2 to recce Semenivka, a suburb of Slov’yans’k and a key militia stronghold. As soon as it arrived over the target area it was engaged by a man-portable air-defence system which disabled its port engine. The aircraft’s crew, pilot Lieutenant-Colonel Yevhen Bulatsik and navigator Major Oleksandr Troshin, managed to extinguish the ensuing fire and land their stricken aircraft safely back at Myrhorod. On July 8 they were both awarded the Order of Bohdan Khmel’nyts’kyy 3rd Class. Meanwhile, to conserve the Su-24MRs which were in short supply, aerial reconnaissance was handed over to the bulky, Sovietera Tupolev Tu-143 (VR-3) Reys reconnaissance drones of 383

opDKLA based at Khmel’nyts’kyy. These are much more difficult to shoot down owing to their small size and high speed. The Su-24M finally entered combat in August, when the transfer of military equipment and troops from the Russian Federation to the separatist militia intensified, presenting viable targets for the Fencer’s large weapon-load. These bombing sorties were rare, but include a mission on August 9 when a pair of Su-24Ms delivered free-fall bombs on railway yards in the city of Antratsyt at 07:20.

By the end of the month the intense combat around Luhans’k, which was encircled by ZSU forces, saw the Su-24MR back on stage. The aircraft monitored the road from Krasnodon to Luhans’k, a vital supply route for the surrounded separatist forces. At around 18:00 on August 20, a Su-24MR was hit over the village of Khryashchuvate, coming down in an area near a village named Novosvitlivka – both settlements had seen recent heavy fighting. No further information on the aircraft or the fate afm of its crew has emerged.

Above: ‘11 Yellow’ an Su-24MR on the tarmac at Kul’bakino air base during an air exercise before the conflict. Note the ‘Tangazh’ ELINT pod below the fuselage. Sergey Smolentsev Below: Another original 1 bae aircraft is ‘22 White’ with a dragon emblem on the intake. It is seen here armed with two OFAB-250-270 bombs and two B-8M rocket pods. Sergey Smolentsev

The signing of the Minsk Protocol on September 5 and ensuing ceasefire brought an end to PS combat operations in the Donbas. As the air force had just a few airworthy Su-24MRs, they were a thorn in the side of Russian Federation intelligence services, which attempted to persuade a 7 brTA pilot to defect in one to Khalino (Kursk). The pilot was arrested on September 22 and the attempt failed. In the meantime the damaged Su-24MR '11 Yellow' was repaired and NARP completed work on ‘41 White’, the first overhauled Su24M, handing it over to 7 brTA in mid-November. The Donbas ceasefire remains loosely in place – and 7 brTA continues to fly its Su-24s regularly. The forward-deployed contingent is still at Myrhorod while the aircraft stationed at Starokostyantyniv continue to fly on a regular basis – generally low-level training flights into hostile areas, avoiding enemy air-defence assets. Live weapons are also dropped on the Povurs’k range. Low-level flying has become commonplace since the ceasefire, suggesting that lessons have been learned from the action over Donbas. In mid-April 2015, a joint training exercise was organised with Su-27s of 39 oaeTA from Ozerne. The former Su-24 base at Kanatove, near Kirovohrad, has also been reactivated as a forward airfield should renewed fighting break out in the Donbas. Having been driven out of the Dzhakoy reserve air base in the Crimea in March 2014, 21 AKom moved to Kanatove three months later. After repairs to the runway, Kanatove officially reopened on October 3, a 7 brTA Su-24M that had flown with the local 44 aviatsiyna brihada (avbr, aviation brigade) ten years earlier, landing to mark the occasion.

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FAILURE of the third-stage rotor of the engine fan module has been identified as the cause of the June 23, 2014, engine fire in a USAF F-35A Lightning II at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida. The official Air Education and Training Command Accident Investigation Board (AIB) report into the incident was released on June 5. The F-35A, 10-5015 ‘EG’ (AF-27), which was assigned to the 33rd Fighter Wing’s 58th Fighter Squadron ‘Mighty Gorillas’ at Eglin, was damaged during the take-off portion of a training mission. The pilot safely aborted the take-off and exited the aircraft. Emergency crews responded to the burning aircraft and extinguished the fire. There was no damage to private property and minor airfield damage. The AIB found the cause of the mishap was catastrophic engine failure. The engine failed when the third stage forward integral arm of a rotor fractured and liberated during the take-off roll. Pieces of the failed rotor arm cut through the engine’s fan case, the engine bay, an internal fuel tank, and hydraulic and fuel lines before exiting through the aircraft’s upper fuselage. Damage from the engine failure caused leaking fuel and hydraulic fluid to ignite and burn the rear two

Above: Only now, almost a year after the incident, AETC has finally released photographs of damaged F-35A 10-5015 ‘EG’ (AF-27) after its catastrophic engine failure and subsequent fire on June 23, 2014. AETC Below: A close-up of the charred and blackened fuselage of the F-35A, clearly showing the hole in the upper fuselage when pieces of the engine’s failed rotor arm tore through it. AETC

USMC UH-1Y Crash in Nepal Kills 13 People A US Marine Corps UH-1Y Venom crashed in Nepal on May 12 during an earthquake relief flight, killing all 13 people on board. The helicopter, 168792 ‘SE-08’ from Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 469 (HMLA-469) ‘Vengeance’ at MCAS Camp Pendleton, California, was reported missing at around 1900hrs near Charikot during humanitarian assistance and disaster relief missions as part of Operation Sahayogi Haat (‘Helping Hand’) in support of recovery efforts after the recent earthquakes. An Indian helicopter nearby at the time reported hearing radio conversation from the UH-1Y suggesting it had a possible fuel problem. It had just dropped off supplies of rice and tarpaulins and was en route to a second site when contact was lost. Two USMC

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MV-22B Ospreys from Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 262 (VMM-262) ’Flying Tigers’ launched from Kathmandu and searched for 90 minutes for the helicopter, but had to stop because of failing light. The search resumed at first light the following morning and included the two other HMLA-469 UH-1Ys also already deployed to Nepal, together with 400 Nepalese ground troops who scoured the rugged, mountainous terrain. Finally, on May 15, Nepalese troops and two Army Air Service helicopters spotted the crash site, finding three bodies near the broken up and burnt remains of the helicopter. Six USMC personnel and two Nepali soldiers were initially thought to be on board and it was confirmed a day after locating

the wreckage that the other five personnel on board had also died in the crash. However, on June 5, Nepali authorities revealed that DNA tests on remains recovered from the crash site indicated that five other people had also been killed. It transpired that these were

thirds of the aircraft. The total mishap damage is estimated to be in excess $50 million. This AIB report only pertains to the immediate causes of this mishap and uses technical information available during the investigation by the assembled board at Eglin in August 2014. The board findings did not consider any ongoing analysis and testing of F-35 engines by aircraft engineers that may have occurred following this mishap. The accident led to a temporary grounding of the type and thwarted plans for the F-35 to make its international debut at the Farnborough International Air Show last year. 

local villagers who were being transported to a medical facility. The crash site was at 11,200ft (3,414m) near Gothali village, in the Dolakha district, 15 miles (24km) from Charikot and about 50 miles (80km) north of Kathmandu. 

Above: US Marine Corps UH-1Y Venom 168792 ‘SE-08’ from HMLA-469 flies over the Sindhuli district of Nepal while assisting Joint Task Force 505 with earthquake relief flights on May 10. Only two days later it was destroyed in a crash during a similar flight in Nepal, killing all 13 on board. USMC/Lance Cpl Hernan Vidana

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Accident Reports D: May 7 N: RAF/Battle of Britain Memorial Flight T: Lancaster Mk I S: PA474

After a small in-flight fire in the starboard outer engine during a sortie from its base at RAF Coningsby, Lincolnshire, the aircraft returned for a safe emergency landing, without injury to the crew. The aircraft has since then been grounded for a painstaking examination by RAF engineers and industry partners to establish the extent of damage and work required to get the aircraft back into the air at the earliest opportunity. On May 21, Sqn Ldr Dunc Mason, Officer Commanding BBMF, said that it will be “out of action for several weeks.” He said that once damage had been assessed, it would be determined what parts are needed, some of which may have to be especially manufactured, due to the age of the aircraft and consequent non-availability of spares. D: May 7 N: US Air Force/82nd ATRS T: QRF-4C Phantom II S: 68-0589

This unmanned aircraft was shot down over the Gulf of Mexico during a mission from Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida. D: May 12 N: US Air Force/82nd ATRS T: QRF-4C Phantom II S: 68-0580

This drone was shot down over the Gulf of Mexico by a New Jersey Air National Guard F-16 pilot from the 177th Fighter Wing’s 119th Fighter Squadron ‘Jersey Devils’ during a Combat Archer training exercise.

Above: Fire crews hose down RAF Battle of Britain Memorial Flight Lancaster I PA474 at RAF Coningsby, Lincolnshire, after its emergency landing following a fire in the starboard outer engine. MOD Crown Copyright/BBMF D: May 12 N: US Air Force/82nd ATRS T: QF-4E Phantom II S: 72-1494 ‘TD’

This Phantom was shot down over the Gulf of Mexico during a training exercise. D: May 12 N: US Navy/VFA-211 T: F/A-18F Super Hornet S: 166814 ‘AB-210’

Shortly after launching from the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71), operating in the Arabian Gulf, this Super Hornet crashed at 1330hrs GMT. The two crew aboard ejected and were quickly recovered by search and rescue personnel from the ship. The crash was not a result of hostile activity. VFA-211 is based at Naval Air Station Oceana, Virginia, and is assigned to Carrier Air Wing 1.

Above: US Air Force QRF-4C Phantom II 68-0580 prepares to launch from Tyndall AFB, Florida, on May 12 on its final flight. A short time later it was shot down over the Gulf of Mexico by an F-16 pilot from the New Jersey Air National Guard’s 177th Fighter Wing/119th Fighter Squadron ‘Jersey Devils’ while participating in a Combat Archer exercise. USAF/Sara Vidoni

D: May 13 N: Bangladesh Air Force T: Mi-171Sh S: 410

Three crew members were injured when this helicopter crashed and burnt out near the runway at Chittagong/Shah Amanat International Airport at 1115hrs while attempting an emergency landing. The injured were Squadron Leader Shafayet, Pilot Officer Fuad and flight engineer Sergeant Ferdous. Fuad and Shafayet, were moved to the Combined Military Hospital (CMH) in Dhaka after all three had first been taken to CMH Chittagong.  D: May 13 N: Chinese PLANAF/Naval Aviation Air Academy T: Unknown

Two pilots were killed in the crash of this training aircraft in China's

northeastern Liaoning province. They were instructor Jiang Tao and student Lu Pengfei, who died after the aircraft’s engine caught fire shortly after take-off and it plunged into a wooded area. The PLANAF said there were only 17 seconds between the engine catching fire and the crash, giving the two pilots no time and insufficient height to deploy their parachutes. They were, however, able to steer the aircraft away from residential areas. The location of the crash and the type involved were not announced, although the Chinese Navy said the aircraft was from the PLANAF ‘Flight School’. This would suggest it was from the Naval Aviation Air Academy, which operates from several bases, two of which are in Liaoning province: Huladao (flying the CJ6A and Y5) and Xingcheng (flying the Y7, HYJ7, JL8 and JL9G).

Above: US Air Force QF-4E 72-1494 ‘TD’, wearing a heritage colour scheme, launches from Tyndall AFB, Florida, on one of the final QF-4 flights from the base on May 12. It was shot down shortly afterwards by an F-16 pilot from the New Jersey Air National Guard’s 177th Fighter Wing/119th Fighter Squadron ‘Jersey Devils’ while participating in a Combat Archer exercise. USAF/Sara Vidoni

Abbreviations: D: Date N/U: Nationality/Units T: Type S: Serials

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ATTRITION REPORT Accident Reports Below: The burnt out wreckage of Bangaldesh Air Force Mi-171Sh 410 following its accident at Chittagong on May 13.

Above: US Marine Corps MV-22B Osprey 168020 ‘YR-01’ from VMM-161 prepares to launch from the USS Essex (LHD 2) in the Pacific Ocean on March 24. The aircraft was destroyed after catching fire following a hard landing in Hawaii on May 17. USMC/Cpl Maxwell Pennington D: May 17 N: US Marine Corps/VMM-161 T: MV-22B Osprey S: 168020 ‘YR-01’

This aircraft was involved in a hard landing in Hawaii which killed one person and injured 21 others. Injuries ranged from critical to minor, according to a USMC spokesman, who said there were 21 marines and one US Navy corpsman on board. The accident happened at 1100hrs at Bellows Air Force Station, Marine Corps Training Area Bellows, Waimanalo, on Oahu island, Hawaii. A postcrash fire destroyed the aircraft. The Osprey was one of three deployed with the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit for a week of training. The unit is based at Marine Corps Air Station Camp Pendleton, California – its aviation combat element including MV-22Bs from Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 161 (Reinforced) (VMM-161(R)) ‘Greyhawks’ at MCAS Miramar, California.

D: May 19 N: Hungarian Air Force/59th Tactical Fighter Wing T: JAS39D Gripen S: 42

This aircraft was written off after it ran off the runway on landing at Caslav Air Base in the Czech Republic. Both pilots ejected safely. The crew was unable to stop the aircraft before the end of the runway and it overshot before coming to rest in a field with the nose torn off and the top half of the tail severed. The jet was at the base to participate in the Gripen users’ Exercise Lion Effort. D: May 19 N: Indian Air Force/2 Squadron T: Su-30MKI

Both crew members ejected safely before this aircraft crashed in the Assam region of India. It had taken off from Tezpur Air Force Station for a routine mission but radar contact with it was lost at around 1230hrs. A spokesman said a technical problem

forced the crew to abandon the aircraft. It came down in a thick forest at Laokhowa in the Nagaon district of Assam. D: May 22 N: US Navy/VT-9 T: T-45C Goshawk S: 165631 ‘A-189’

After landing, this aircraft ran off the end of the runway at Naval Air Station North Island, California, at 1400hrs Pacific time, coming to rest in San Diego Bay. The pilot was able to safely eject from the aircraft and was taken to a local hospital for evaluation. The jet, from Training Squadron 9 (VT-9) at NAS Meridian, Mississippi, came to rest partly submerged in shallow water and, although remaining substantially intact, has been declared a write-off. The Goshawk was carrying out routine training in preparation for aircraft carrier landing qualifications at the time of the incident. The aircraft was recovered by crane on June 3.

D: May 24 N: Syrian Air Force T: Unidentified helicopter

This helicopter crashed in northern Syria at Kweiras Air Base, killing all the crew. An official confirmed it had been lost as a result of a technical problem during take-off. The number of personnel on board was not revealed. An activist group claimed it was shot down by Islamic State (IS) militants who have spent the last few months laying siege to the base in northern Aleppo province, close to al-Bab – a town held by the IS group. D: May 25 N: Pakistan Air Force T: Hongdu K-8 Karakoram

This jet trainer crashed in northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province during a routine training mission. Both pilots ejected safely from the aircraft, which came down in an open field near Zaida village

Above: Hungarian Air Force JAS39D Gripen 42 after its accident at Caslav Air Base in the Czech Republic on May 19. Karel Hellebrand Right: US Navy T-45C Goshawk 165631 ‘A-189’ from VT-9 being lifted from San Diego Bay on the night on June 3 after overshooting the runway at NAS North Island on May 22. Despite seemingly being almost undamaged, the aircraft has been declared a write-off, presumably due to its having been immersed in salt water for almost two weeks before recovery. US Navy Abbreviations: D: Date N/U: Nationality/Units T: Type S: Serials

94 JULY 2015 #328

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Left: Crowds gather around the smouldering wreckage of Indian Air Force Hawk Mk 132 A-3492 following its crash on June 3. Below: This still from a video of the accident site shows the burnt-out remains of Russian Air Force MiG-29UB Fulcrum  ‘15 Blue’/RF-92191 after its crash on June 4.

in the Swabi district. It was destroyed by a post-crash fire, but there were no reports of injuries or damage to property on the ground, according to PAF spokesman Air Commodore S M Ali. He said a board of inquiry will be convened to determine the cause of the accident. D: May 27 N: US Air Force/82nd ATRS T: QF-4E S: 71-0237

On the last day of operations with the type from Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida, this unmanned full-scale aerial target was shot down over the Gulf of Mexico. D: May 27 N: US Air Force/82nd ATRS T: QF-4E S: 74-1631

This unmanned full-scale aerial target was shot down over the Gulf of Mexico during a test mission from Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida.

D: Jun 3 N: Indian Air Force/Hawk Operational Flying Training Sqn T: Hawk Mk 132 S: A-3492

After departing from Kalaikunda Air Force Station in West Bengal for a routine training sortie, the aircraft crashed between 1320hrs and 1330hrs in a paddy field near Kudarsahi village in the Mayurbhanj district of Odisha. Both crew ejected but suffered some injuries and were taken to the local Sadar district hospital for treatment. The Hawk was destroyed by the impact and post-crash fire. D: Jun 4 N: Russian Air Force T: MiG-29UB S: ‘15 Blue’/RF-92191

During a routine training flight, a technical failure in one engine caused loss of control and the aircraft crashed at around 1400hrs on the Ashuluk firing range in the Astrakan region

of southern Russia. Both pilots ejected and were picked up by helicopter and taken to hospital. One had a dislocated arm and the other only minor cuts and bruises. The aircraft was destroyed by the impact and post-crash fire. The Russian Air Force’s MiG-29s were grounded as a precaution after the accident, pending further investigation. D: Jun 4 N: Russian Air Force T: Sukhoi Su-34 Fullback S: ‘28 Red’/RF-95067

After a routine training flight, on landing at around 1630hrs at the 7,000th Aviation base at Buturlinovka, in the Voronezh region, the aircraft overran the runway after its brake parachute failed to deploy. The aircraft then overturned when it ran onto rough ground, coming to rest inverted and sustaining serious damage, although there was no fire and both crew members were unhurt. This was the first Su-34 accident.

D: Jun 8 N: Indian Coast Guard T: Dornier 228 S: CG-791

Reported missing at 2123hrs when it disappeared from radar on a flight from Coast Guard Air Station Chennai with three crew on board. A search was under way for the aircraft and crew. D: Jun 8 N: Russian Air Force T: Tu-95MS Bear-H

The aircraft aborted take-off from the 6952nd Air Base at Ukrainka-Seryshevo at around 1700hrs due to an engine fire and then skidded off the runway. Several crew members suffered burns as they exited the aircraft. The Russian Air Force Tu-95 fleet was grounded pending investigation after the accident. The extent of damage to the aircraft was not immediately clear. Additional material from Scramble/Dutch Aviation Society.

Above: Russian Air Force Su-34 RF-95067 after its accident at the 7,000th Aviation base at Buturlinovka on June 4. The nose cone is detached and damage to the starboard wing, which has its outer section missing, is also apparent. Right: A side view of Russian Air Force Su-34 RF-95067 following its June 4 accident at Buturlinovka, showing that both tail fins had dug into the ground as it came to rest.

#328 JULY 2015 95

DEBRIEF Book reviews Phantom Boys Grub Street Richard Pike £20 ISBN 978-1-909808-22-5 McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantoms were the backbone of NATO air forces during the latter years of the Cold War. Whether it was as an air interceptor, groundattack or photo-reconnaissance platform, the ‘Rhino’ as the aircraft was nicknamed was in the area ensuring Warsaw Pact MiG pilots did not get ‘too ambitious’ in their actions. It’s no wonder that the type remained in British service for more than 20 years, first with the Royal Navy and later with the RAF. It was only a matter of time

Dragon Lady Today The Continuing Story of the U-2 Spyplane Chris Pocock £15.00 ISBN 9781500965464 Author Chris Pocock is regarded by military aviation enthusiasts as the leading authority on the Lockheed U-2. Back in 2005, Schiffer published what is regarded as the ultimate reference book on the spy plane, 50 Years of the U-2, where the author covered the entire covert development, operational history, including combat sorties over Vietnam and the intelligence gathering missions during Desert Storm. Ten years on he has published an update on the aircraft’s remarkable career. Although a small, soft-backed A5 publication numbering just 100 pages the new title

96 JULY 2015 #328

before Grub Street got around to the F-4, following their Jaguar Boys and Lightning Boys, and this latest book is one of its best. The chapters cover the entire operational history of F-4, including the early years of the ‘Rhino’ in Fleet Air Arm (FAA) service. Detailed accounts of UK carrier operations will no doubt prompt a sigh of nostalgia in the reader when one considers the UK’s current FAA and its lack of a jet fighter! There are far too many memorable incidents to mention across the 19 accounts provided, but Alan Winkles, an RAF Phantom pilot on exchange with the Royal Navy aboard HMS Ark Royal stands out for me. Revealing how he had to adapt to the ‘navy way’ of doing things aboard a ship at sea is covered in a personal and engaging way

focuses on the U-2’s more recent operations and upgrades and asks if the type still has a place within the USAF, given its reliance on reconnaissance UAVs and satellites. While the author set himself a tough job in obtaining new content (the USAF does not disclose too much on current U-2 operations), it certainly adds another chapter to current intelligence gathering procedures by the USAF. The sections on the ASARS-2A radar set and SYERS sensor along with the accompanying diagrams are worth the cover price alone. There is one problem I have with this title. Access granted to the author, and the obvious rapport he has with both serving and retired U-2 pilots who allowed him to capture some remarkable close-ups of the aircraft, is simply not done justice by the size of the book pages – it needs a bigger canvas. The U-2 is a mysterious looking aircraft and the wealth of new images and modifications to the airframe deserve to be seen at a greater size. I have no doubt the author had enough material to fill an A4-sized book, which would have looked far better on the bookshelf next to his earlier title. I recommend this book to those interested in intelligence-gathering aircraft but you may need to squint to study some of the diagrams and charts. Glenn Sands

I have not previously observed. He explains just how complex carrier operations were and where the slightest misjudgement could have, potentially, catastrophic results. The author has also gathered a collection of light-hearted incidents from Phantom aircrews reflecting the rivalry between RAF pilots that often lead to some comical situations during NATO squadron exchanges! A brilliant read for any Phantom fan. Glenn Sands

McDonnell Douglas/Boeing F-15 Eagle 1972 onwards (all marks) Steve Davies and Doug Dildy. £22.99 ISBN 978-0-85733-243-1 The Boeing (formerly McDonnell Douglas) F-15 all-weather tactical fighter is statiscally, (according to Boeing) the most successful fighter jet ever built, with 105 kills for no loss. Most military aviation enthusiasts can only dream of owning such a mighty machine, but for those who do, Haynes has produced the perfect companion manual. Following a similar format to their well-known car maintenance manuals if you need to change a tyre, attach a Sidewinder AAM or simply adjust the head-up display step-by-step guidance is here. Along with practical ‘fixes’, co-writers Steve Davies and Doug Dildy, a former USAF F-15 Commander, offer chapters on testing, combat operations and upgrades introduced to the fighter throughout its lifetime. For those who are just developing an interest in the F-15, there’s a breakdown on the differences between the variants. The

in-depth text is complemented with official images from the USAF and interesting accounts from the pilots themselves, some of which show how they spent their downtime after the stresses of combat sorties during Operation Desert Storm in 1991. One of the most informative chapters explains how the Eagle’s radar is used during dissimilar air combat training (DACT); the various modes are explained with the aid of official illustrations from the USAF’s pilot handbook. Although hard to grasp at first, after repeat reads, it’s clear that pilot workload in a dogfight is phenomenal and I certainly have a healthy respect for any F-15C pilot. Whether you are a future F-15 pilot or a maintainer you’ll need this book. Glenn Sands

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:



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