AirForces Monthly 2017-09

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September 2017 #354

Officially the World’s Number One Authority on Military Aviation













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Time’s up for the T-Bird One of the last four operational T-33s before the type’s retirement from Bolivian service on July 31. Anthony Pecchi


L ALTO INTERNATIONAL Airport in La Paz is well known among civil aviation observers as the highest international airport in the world, at an elevation of over 13,000ft (4,000m). It was also, until recently, home to the very last military T-33 Shooting Stars. The final four of these jets – first flown in prototype form in 1948, and developed from the Lockheed P-80 that flew four years earlier – were operated by Escuadrón de Caza 311 of the Fuerza Aérea Boliviana (FAB, Bolivian Air Force). Consigning another combat aircraft to the history books seems to be a fairly regular occurrence these days. But the ‘T-Bird’ was something different: a genuine milestone in aviation history, it was the first practical, purpose-built jet trainer and schooled generations of jet pilots across the Western world. In terms of numbers of operators, the T-33 is perhaps only challenged by its Editor: Thomas Newdick World Air Forces Correspondent: Alan Warnes Editorial Contact: [email protected] Attrition: Dave Allport Group Editor: Nigel Price 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 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 800-428-3003 or by writing to AirForces Monthly, 3330 Pacific Ave, Ste 500, Virginia Beach, VA23451-9828. 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

Eastern Bloc counterpart, the MiG-15UTI, another development of a Korean War-era fighter. At least 40 different nations flew the T-Bird, some of them also in combat roles. So good was the Shooting Star for its intended purpose that it was still in widespread service into the early 1980s. In the middle of that decade it was almost resurrected by Boeing – in much revised form – as the Skyfox, re-engined with twin Garrett turbofans. Ultimately, 6,557 T-33 series aircraft were completed, including 656 by Canadair and 210 by Kawasaki. Bolivia initially acquired 18 of the Canadian jets, which had begun life as CT-133 Silver Star Mk3s, and it was a Canadian company, Kelowna Flightcraft, that provided the survivors with a much-needed avionics upgrade between 1999 and 2002. Only nine FAB T-Birds were still operational by late 2015, but within a year, timeto, 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 3390 Rand Road, South Plainfield NJ 07080. 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 UKP Worldwide, 3390 Rand Road, South Plainfield, NJ 07080. Periodicals postage paid at South Plainfield, NJ. 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

expired equipment and a lack of spares had reduced the fleet to four. While Bolivia is officially retiring its T-33s without replacement, pilots of the type have expressed hope that a successor will be found in the A-29 Super Tucano, which has already been evaluated at La Paz. After almost 70 years in service, the end has come for the T-33 – in military hands, at least. It deserves to be remembered as a pioneer, every bit as important in post-war aviation history as the Canberra, MiG-21 or F-4 Phantom II. AFM

Thomas Newdick Email at: [email protected] from Key Publishing Ltd or downloadable from www. 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

Next Issue On sale September 21 *UK scheduled on sale date. Please note that the overseas deliveries are likely to be after this date.

#354 SEPTEMBER 2017 // 3


Above: A pair of Fortele Aeriene Române (FAR, Romanian Air Force) MiG-21 LanceRs up from Mihail Kogălniceanu air base for a training scramble. Currently, LanceRs are sharing their air policing duties with RAF Typhoons, both types coming under the tactical control of NATO’s Combined Air Operations Centre in Torrejón, Spain. Liviu Dnistran Cover: Loaded with a trio of Enhanced Paveway II laser-guided bombs, Tornado GR4 ZG750, dubbed ‘Pinky’, approaches the camera ship ahead of its farewell appearance at the Royal International Air Tattoo in July. Rich Cooper

Claim your FREE Military Flying Displays DVD when you take out a twoyear or Direct Debit subscription to AirForces Monthly. See pages 30 and 31 for details.

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Regular features 13 EXERCISE REPORT: Balkan Spartan This year’s Balkan Spartan exercise saw three C-27J operators train together. Alexander Mladenov observed the action.

32 INTEL REPORT: Red Air, Blue Air

Having outsourced flying training over the past ten years, the UK MOD is preparing for the next challenge. A new element of the Military Flying Training System is now taking shape – the Air Support to Defence Operational Training (ASDOT) contract. Alan Warnes investigates.

48 FORCE REPORT: Nigerian Air Force The Nigerian Air Force is making efforts to become an efficient, modern air arm in the face of constant terrorist threats and sectarian violence. In the first of a two-part study, M Mazumdar unravels some of the confusion and secrecy surrounding the NAF.

57 SURVEY: European maritime patrol aircraft

AFM’s team of correspondents launch a new survey profiling the fixed-wing maritime

Features 3 Comment

AFM’s opinion on the hot topics in military aviation.

38 Back in business

Britain’s newest and biggest aircraft carrier, HMS Queen Elizabeth (R08), is approaching the end of a first phase of sea trials. Tim Ripley visited her in Rosyth dockyard to bear witness to the UK’s return to the aircraft carrier business.

44 Couteau Delta

P Olivier and J Lemoigne chart the establishment of the French Air Force’s latest display team – Couteau Delta.

62 Freedom at work

In the wake of the first US kill of a manned aircraft since Operation Allied Force in 1999, AFM went aboard USS George H W Bush to hear an account of the shootdown.

68 Black Sea defenders

NATO has responded to increased Russian military air activity over the Black Sea by reinforcing Romanian Air Force LanceRs with RAF Typhoons, as Liviu Dnistran discovers.

72 Israeli Fight Test Center

The Israeli Fight Test Center begins a new series of features examining military flight test establishments. Noam Menashe obtains an insight into this secretive unit.

76 Changing of the guard at Grottaglie

With the introduction of the NH90 the Italian Navy, Dr Andreas Zeitler joined a training flight from Grottaglie to learn about the helicopter’s capabilities.

82 Loki’s guardians

Earlier this year the Royal Canadian Air Force deployed six CF-188 Hornets to Keflavík as part of Operation Reassurance/ Air Task Force-Iceland. Martin Scharenborg and Ramon Wenink were there.

92 Pinky bows out

A special Royal Air Force Tornado GR4, painted in ‘desert pink’ colours as a tribute to Operation Granby in 1991, has been retired as the type enters its final chapter in service, as Rich Cooper reports.

News by Region patrol aircraft (MPA) communities of the European NATO and Partnership for Peace (PfP) air arms. First up, AFM details the traditional MPA stalwarts of France and Germany.

96 FLASHPOINT: Air war in Yemen

AFM’s letters page.

Saudi Arabia’s controversial military operations against the Houthi rebels across its southern border in Yemen have involved a coalition of Gulf and Arab air arms. Arnaud Delalande provides an air power assessment and looks at the impact in the region.




Dave Allport details the world’s most recent military accidents.

See what’s featured in your AFM next month.

All the world’s military aviation news. 6-7 Headlines 8-9 United Kingdom 10-12 Continental Europe 14-18 North America 20-21 Latin America 22 Africa 23 Australasia 24-25 Middle East Russia & CIS 26 28-29 Asia Pacific

#354 SEPTEMBER 2017 // 5



Red Flag debut for Saudi Typhoon

Typhoon T3 1021 (CT018, ex ZK399) of the 10th Squadron on finals to Morón on August 1. Antonio Muñiz Zaragüeta

EIGHT TYPHOONS from the Royal Saudi Air Force are taking part for the first time in Exercise Red Flag at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada. The

fighters passed through Morón air base in Spain on August 1, accompanied by three A330 Multi-Role Tanker Transports (MRTTs).

A single RSAF C-130H also deployed as support aircraft. Drawn from the 3rd, 10th and 80th Squadrons at Taif/ King Fahd Air Base, the

Typhoons comprised serials 306, 1014, 1021, 8008, 8009, 8015, 8017 and 8023. These used the callsigns ‘CLEAN 01-08’. During their

first deployment to the US, the Saudi Typhoons are flying in Red Flag 17-4, which is taking place from August 14-25.

Above: In late 2016 just four FAB T-33s were operational, each with only ten hours of flying time left. T-33A/N FAB 606 (c/n 158) was formerly CT-133 133158 in Canadian Armed Forces service and was transferred to Bolivia in December 1973. Santiago Rivas

Final military T-33s retired in Bolivia THE FUERZA Aérea Boliviana (FAB, Bolivian Air Force) withdrew the last examples of the Lockheed AT/T-33 Shooting Star from service on July 31, ending the military career of one of the most important jet trainers and attack aircraft in history. Bolivia was the final military operator of the type, and

now only civilian examples remain active. The FAB Shooting Stars were retired without replacement. The T-33 was introduced to FAB service in 1973 in the form of 18 former Royal Canadian Air Force Canadair T-33A/N Silver Stars. In 1985 it received a further 18 T-33SC and T-33SF aircraft from surplus

French stocks. Surviving T-33s were upgraded by Kelowna Flightcraft in Canada during the late 1990s and early 2000s. The last military squadron to operate the T-33 was Escuadrón de Caza 311, part of the Grupo Aéreo de Caza (GAC) 31 at El Alto Airport. Juan Carlos Cicalesi

RAF to upgrade Chinook HC4s THE ROYAL Air Force is to upgrade its fleet of Chinook HC4 helicopters to a new HC6A standard, by replacing the analogue flight control systems with the Boeing Digital Automatic Flight Control System (DAFCS). Work will be carried out over the next 12 months on all 38 HC4s now in service. The DAFCS is intended to

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improve aircraft handling and stability in more demanding operational environments and increase flight safety in low-light levels and/or degraded visual environments. In addition, a contract has been placed to incorporate an Airborne Collision Avoidance System (ACAS) across the

Chinook fleet, and this has already achieved initial operating capability. The RAF inventory includes 60 Chinooks, comprising 38 HC4s (former HC2/2As upgraded under Project Julius), eight HC5s (previously HC3s), and 14 HC6s that were delivered as new-build airframes based on the CH-47F.

Above: The HC6A upgrade for the RAF’s Chinook HC4 will provide the helicopters with the same DAFCS that is used in the new-build HC6, seen here. Jamie Hunter

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Croatia issues fighter RFP

USAF lines up secondhand 747-8s for new Air Force One

Above: One option for Croatia’s future fighter is the second-hand F-16A/B Netz, an example of which is seen in Israeli Air Force service with 116 ‘Defenders of the South’ Squadron prior to the type’s retirement last December. IAF/Carmel Horowitz

FOLLOWING THE initial evaluation process of the potential contenders (see Gripen presented in Croatia, July, p7) the Ministarstvo Obrane Republike Hrvatske (MORH, Croatian Ministry of Defence) issued an official request for proposals (RFP) for the acquisition of a multirole fighter to replace its MiG-21s on July 20. The Fishbeds are operated by the only combat aircraft unit of the Hrvatsko Ratno Zrakoplovstvo i Protuzračna Obrana (HRZ i PZO, Croatian Air Force), the Eskadrila Borbenih Aviona (EBA, Combat Aircraft Squadron) based

at Zagreb International Airport (commonly referred to as Pleso). The RFP has been submitted to the embassies of five countries identified by the MORH as potential suppliers of the ‘new’ aircraft. These are Greece (second-hand F-16C/ Ds), Israel (secondhand F-16A/B Netz – with the possibility to upgrade them to F-16 ACE standard offered by Israel Aerospace Industries), South Korea (FA-50 offered by Korea Aerospace Industries), Sweden ( JAS 39C/D

Gripen offered by Saab) and the US (used and/or new F-16s). It is understood that the interested parties will have 75 days (ie by early October) to submit their proposals to MORH. The special advisory team formed late last year by the current defence minister will then review them. Retired high-ranking HRZ i PZO personnel are predominant in this team, including three of its former commanders and two highly experienced MiG-21 pilots. The team is expected to present its decision

DoD plans MD530F buy THE US Department of Defense (DoD) has unveiled plans to purchase up to 120 MD530F light attack and reconnaissance helicopters to equip allied armed forces. The helicopters, which have already been delivered to Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia, would be acquired over a five-year period by the US Army’s NonStandard Rotary-Wing Aircraft Project Office (NSRWA PO) for as-yet unannounced operators. The plan was disclosed on the Federal Business Opportunities website on July 20. The helicopters would be procured under indefinite delivery/ indefinite quantity (IDIQ) contracts and provided with the Mission Equipment Package (MEP), which includes the FN Herstal Heavy Machine Gun Pod

(HMP). The Enhanced-MEP (E-MEP) is also requested, this adding 70mm (2.75in)

M151 rockets and M274 smoke rockets to the weapons options. The

to the MORH by the end of this year, after which the MORH and government will have the final word. Flight performance, technical characteristics and final price will be scrutinised, along with potential offset arrangements. Even though the MiG-21s are officially expected to remain in use until as late as 2024, it is highly likely that the MORH would insist on acquiring their replacement by 2020, enabling the MiG-21s to retire well before their scheduled end of service life. Vladimir Trendafilovski

helicopters would also be fitted with electro-optical/ infrared (EO/IR) sensors.

Above: An Afghan Air Force MD530F fires its two FN HMP gun pods during a media demonstration at a training range outside Kabul, Afghanistan, in April 2015. USAF/Staff Sgt Perry Aston

THE US Air Force is preparing to buy two commercial Boeing 747-8 aircraft to replace the VC-25As (747-200Bs) currently flown as Air Force One by the Presidential Airlift Group assigned to Air Mobility Command’s 89th Airlift Wing at Joint Base Andrews, Maryland. Before taking office, Donald Trump criticised the projected cost of the Presidential Aircraft Recapitalization programme. The two 747-8s, N894BA and N895BA, were part of four originally ordered in 2013 by Transaero, Russia’s second-largest airline until it went bankrupt two years later. Only two aircraft were completed for the Transaero contract. USAF officials have begun negotiations with Boeing to acquire the aircraft. “We’re still working toward a deal to provide two 747-8s to the air force – this deal is focused on providing a great value for the air force and the best price for the taxpayer,” said Boeing spokeswoman Caroline Hutcheson. The 747-8s were flown to the Southern California Logistics Airport in Victorville in the Mojave Desert for storage in February. The Pentagon’s 2018 budget request, submitted to Congress in February, includes a total of $3.2bn to be spent on two new Air Force One aircraft between 2018 and 2022. The air force is unlikely to disclose the specific value of the deal, but the average price of a new 747-8 is $386.8m. They will receive a new communications system, defensive countermeasures, and measures to withstand a nuclear explosion.

#354 SEPTEMBER 2017 // 7


United Kingdom UK still considering alternative F-35 variants

RAF T-6 visits UK

THE FIRST T-6C for the Royal Air Force, T-6C ZM323 (c/n PM-110) arrived at Glasgow Airport on July 9 en route to the Royal International Air Tattoo at RAF Fairford, Gloucestershire. Still wearing US test

Release to service for Prefect

AFFINITY FLYING Training Services has received military release to service approval for the G 120TP Prefect elementary trainer. The approval, which was granted in July 11, “marks the start of the service provision by Affinity to the UK Military Flying Training System,” said Iain Chalmers, Managing Director of Affinity Flying Training Services – a joint venture involving Elbit Systems and KBR. The Prefect will be operated from the RAF Barkston Heath and RAF Cranwell in Lincolnshire. A total of 23 aircraft are being acquired, of which around half are currently in the UK. The first ab initio students will begin training on the aircraft next January. The aircraft is replacing the Tutor T1 under the Military Flying Training System programme.

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registration N2824B, the aircraft is seen on July 12, when it took part in a photo shoot during a low-level sortie over Lake Vyrnwy in Wales. The Texan II was on its way from London Oxford Airport (Kidlington)

Martin Brown

to RIAT. The aircraft returned to Beechcraft in Wichita, Kansas immediately after its Fairford appearance. The UK has ten T-6Cs on order as part of the Military Flying Training System (MFTS) contract

awarded to Ascent Flight Training. Affinity has been appointed by Ascent to provide and maintain the aircraft. The first example for the RAF made its maiden flight on May 23 (see First T-6 for RAF takes flight, July, p8).

Sea Kings return to flight TWO RETIRED former Fleet Air Arm Sea King HU5s are being returned to flight in order to train aircrew for the German Marineflieger (German Naval Aviation), which has a fleet of 21 Sea King Mk41s. The Royal Navy announced on July 27 that the helicopters, used for search and rescue (SAR) missions by 771 Naval Air Squadron at Royal Naval Air Station Culdrose, Cornwall, until their retirement in April 2016, are being refurbished by the MOD and should be active again shortly. They are being leased to HeliOperations UK so that this company can train German Navy aircrew in SAR skills. Both Sea Kings will remain as UK military aircraft, but will be operated from HeliOperations’ UK base at Portland, Dorset, until September 2018. The first of the two, XV666, had made what was then expected to

Above: Former Royal Navy Sea King HU5 XV666 carrying out ground runs at RNAS Culdrose in preparation for its return to flight. Most of its military markings are removed but it retains its SAR colour scheme. Royal Navy/RNAS Culdrose

have been its last flight on April 11, 2016, when it was flown to HMS Sultan, Gosport, Hampshire, for storage pending disposal. On January 24, this year, it was returned to RNAS Culdrose, where the Merlin Depth Maintenance Facility has since been

restoring it to operational condition. In late July it had begun ground runs at Culdrose and was expected to be re-flown soon afterwards. The identity of the second helicopter has not yet been confirmed. Dave Allport

AN ALTERNATIVE variant of the F-35 Lightning II may still be purchased by the UK, in addition to the short take-off and vertical landing (STOVL) F-35B already on order. The clearest, most recent indication of this possibility was given in Parliament on July 12 by Earl Howe, Minister of State for Defence, in response to an earlier written question from the Marquess of Lothian submitted on July 5. The Marquess had asked whether the government remains committed to the purchase of 138 F-35Bs. Earl Howe stated in his reply: “As part of the Strategic Defence and Security Review in 2015, we reaffirmed our commitment to procure 138 F-35 Lightning II aircraft. The first tranche of 48 aircraft will be of the F-35B variant, which will be jointly operated by the Royal Air Force and Royal Navy, and capable of operating from both land and the Queen Elizabethclass aircraft carriers. The decision on the variant of subsequent tranches of Lightning will be taken at the appropriate time.” In July 2012 the MOD said an initial 48 F-35Bs would be purchased. Although noting that the final total would be determined in the 2015 SDSR, it was suggested that the conventional take-off and landing F-35A variant may be bought to replace the RAF’s Typhoons. When the SDSR was published that November it was confirmed that the final total would be 138, as originally planned, but there was no further mention of alternative variants. To date the UK has taken delivery of ten F-35Bs. The UK expects to achieve initial operating capability with the type in December 2018, following which a carrier strike capability will be available from 2020. The first 24 aircraft are scheduled to be in service by 2023, with all 48 due to be delivered by January 2025. Dave Allport

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Typhoon intercepts Black Sea Backfires AN RAF Typhoon FGR4 has intercepted two Russian Aerospace Forces Tu-22M-3 bombers over the western Black Sea. The Typhoon was scrambled on July 25. The Backfires were heading south near NATO airspace over the Black Sea. The bombers were tracked as they departed south but the jets did not come within visual range of each other. Typhoons from No 3 (Fighter) Squadron are currently deployed at Mihail Kogălniceanu, Romania, as part of the NATO Enhanced Air Policing (eAP) mission (see also Black Sea defenders, p68-70).

Maritime patrol squadrons named

Above: RAF personnel currently in the Seedcorn programme were at RAF Lossiemouth on July 17 for the presentation of the No 120 Squadron patch to the new commanding officer, Wg Cdr James Hanson (centre). Crown Copyright

UK DEFENCE Secretary Sir Michael Fallon announced the identities of the RAF’s two frontline Boeing P-8A Poseidon units during an address at the Air Power Conference 2017 in London on July 13. These will be Nos 120 and 201 Squadrons, both based at RAF Lossiemouth, Scotland. The first is due

to stand up in April 2018 under the command of Wg Cdr James Hanson. The first of nine P-8s will arrive in the UK in 2020. No 201 Squadron will form in 2021. In related news, the MOD is examining the Poseidon as a candidate to replace the Sentinel R1 in the overland wide-

area surveillance role. The RAF Sentinel fleet of No V(AC) Squadron is planned for retirement in 2021. Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Defence Harriet Baldwin revealed on July 11 that the P-8 is one of the options currently being studied for the requirement.

Service life extension for Hercules THE UK Ministry of Defence (MOD) has announced a service life extension for the RAF’s C-130J Hercules fleet. The programme will include a structural upgrade and will keep the airlifters in service until 2035. The £110m contract announced on July 14 includes replacing the centre wingboxes on its 14 Hercules C4 (C-130J-30) aircraft. Marshall Aerospace and Defence Group will undertake the work at Cambridge Airport. According to Marshall: “The [replacement] units provide durability enhancements and allow sustained centrewing service life that is two to three times longer than the original centre wingboxes.”

#354 SEPTEMBER 2017 // 9


Continental Europe

‘Tête de sioux’ Rafale ARMÉE DE l’Air (French Air Force) Rafale C 351 ‘4-FR’, the first to wear the historic ‘tête de sioux’ insignia, was at Evreux on July 14 for the departure of fighters for the annual Bastille Day parade

over Paris. Serving as a spare it didn’t take part in the flypast. Beginning at 0900hrs a single quick reaction alert Rafale was airborne from Evreux throughout the day of the parade.

Rafale C 351 is assigned to Escadron de Chasse (EC) 2/4 ‘La Fayette’ at BA 125 Istres-Le Tubé, which will complete the replacement of its Mirage 2000Ns with the new jets next year. The head of

an American Sioux Indian chief first appeared as the insignia of the US-manned Lafayette Escadrille in 1916.

Joris van Boven

E.I.S. takes on exCroatian PC-9s

ACCORDING TO unofficial sources, E.I.S. Aircraft GmbH, based at Kiel-Holtenau Airport in Germany, recently acquired three PC-9 trainers from the Hrvatsko Ratno Zrakoplovstvo i Protuzračna Obrana (HRZ i PZO, Croatian Air Force) for a total of €810,000. The aircraft, serial numbered 051, 052 and 053 (c/n 107, 183 and 185 respectively), were originally operated by Eskadrila Aviona (EA, Aircraft Squadron) of 93. zrakoplovna baza (93. zb, 93rd Air Base) at Zemunik air base in Zadar. They were declared surplus together with three other PC-9Ms (serials 058, 060, 065) and offered for sale in January 2015. The German company already uses a number of PC-9s for training services for the German military and NATO partners, including target towing and forward air controller (FAC) instruction. Vladimir Trendafilovski

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Turkish ‘specials’ on tour

End for Austrian Typhoons? THE AUSTRIAN Ministry of Defence has outlined plans to retire its Tranche 1 Eurofighters from 2020. A report by the ministry’s Active Airspace Surveillance commission, revealed on July 7, says retaining the 18 EF2000s over the next 30 years would cost up to €2bn more than replacing them with a similar number of replacement supersonic fighters. Under the proposals the Eurofighter and Saab 105OE would both be replaced by 15 single-seat and three two-seat jets of a single type. However, Austrian elections in October could see the plans revised. A full report on the future of the fighter arms of Austria and Switzerland will appear in the October issue.

First Reaper flight in France Fabrizio Berni

THESE TWO specially painted Türk Hava Kuvvetleri (THK, Turkish Air Force) aircraft were recent visitors to European air bases. NF-5B-2000 71-4026 (c/n 4026) of 133 Filo

at Konya was at Ghedi air base, Italy, on July 26, wearing a revised livery on the tail to mark 25 years of the Turkish Stars display team. Meanwhile, C-130E 63-13187 (c/n 4012) of

222 Filo at Kayseri arrived at RAF Lakenheath, Suffolk, on August 2 wearing special colours associated with its work as support aircraft for the Solo Turk F-16 demonstration aircraft.

Bob Archer

AN MQ-9A unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) of the Armée de l’Air completed its first flight in French airspace on July 4. Reaper 612 of Escadron de Drones (ED) 1/33 ‘Belfort’ took off from BA 709 CognacChâteaubernard for a 5hr 10min flight over French territory north of the base, demonstrating the air force’s ability to conduct training locally and without US support. The test flight also proved calibration of emergency parameters and verified satellite links using two ground control stations. Currently, six aircraft are operational with ED 1/33, five of which are forward deployed at the expeditionary air base in Niamey, Niger, where they have completed over 15,000 flying hours since January 2014. By 2019, the squadron will have 12 aircraft, operated by 30 crews. A Cognac-based MQ-9 took part in the July 14 military parade in Paris.

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New Italian Predator squadron

A NEW Aeronautica Militare (AM, Italian Air Force) unit, 61° Gruppo Volo (61st Flying Squadron), has been formed to operate the MQ-1C Predator A+ UAV. Reactivated as a detachment of 32° Stormo (32nd Wing) during a ceremony at Sigonella air base on July 10, it joins the wing’s 28° Gruppo, which already flies the Predator and MQ-9 Reaper at Amendola. Formed on April 5, 1924 as 61° Gruppo Osservazione Aerea (61st Air Observation Squadron), the unit had disbanded on September 8, 1943. Its UAV aircrew will come from 28° Gruppo and ground support personnel from Sigonella’s 41° Gruppo. Dave Allport

Bulgarian AF revamp continues

THE LATEST reorganisation of the Bulgarski Voennovozdushni Sili (BVVS, Bulgarian Air Force) saw the Ucebna Aviaciona Grupa (Training Aviation Group) ‘Georgi Benkovski’ separated from the structure of the 3-ta aviacionna baza (3rd Air Base) at Graf Ignatievo and transformed into an Air Base-type unit. The change came into effect on July 1. Operating under the new name Voennovozdushna ucebna baza (Air Force Training Base) ‘Georgi Benkovski’, the training unit has recently been the most active within the VVS unit. It now reports directly to the Chief of the BVVS. Based at Dolna Mitropoliya, near Pleven in northern Bulgaria, it operates five PC-9Ms and six L-39ZAs. Igor Bozinovski

Luftwaffe takes on first A400M with refuelling pods AIRBUS DEFENCE and Space has delivered the first A400M in airto-air refuelling tanker configuration. The aircraft – the tenth Luftwaffe example, 54+09 (c/n 0048, ex A4M408, EC-408) – is the first with underwing refuelling pods, and the 46th A400M delivery overall. It arrived in Germany on June 30. The manufacturer delivered the first German A400M in ‘tactical’ configuration (including an aerial refuelling capability) on December 12 last year, but the tanker pods were not installed at the time (see First Luftwaffe ‘Tactical’ A400M Delivered, February, p10). Dave Allport

Above: The first Luftwaffe A400M to be fitted with underwing refuelling pods for tanker operations. Airbus Defence and Space

Rare Spanish Searcher MkIII on display A FUERZAS Aeromóviles del Ejército de Tierra (FAMET, Spanish Army Aviation) IAI Searcher MkIII, serial UR01-06, on display in the parking area of the Academia Básica del Aire (ABA) at León air base. The seldom-seen UAV is operated by Grupo de Obtención de Sistemas Aéreos IV/1 (GROSA IV/1). The Spanish Army received its first four multi-mission Searcher MkII-J (later upgraded to

MkIII) drones in December 2007 for surveillance, reconnaissance and target acquisition missions in

Afghanistan. Although not based at León, the army has permanent access to a hangar at

the Spanish Air Force facility and can use the main runway for training. Roberto Yáñez

Roberto Yáñez

Polish Air Force Gulfstream delivered A NEW Gulfstream G550 for the Siły Powietrzne (SP, Polish Air Force) has arrived in the country. The Gulfstream, serial ‘0001’ (c/n 5547), was officially handed over in Appleton, Wisconsin on June 18 and delivered to Poland on June 21. It was taken on strength by the 1. Baza Lotnictwa Transportowego (1 BLTr,

1st Air Transport Base) at Warsaw-Okecie, where it should achieve operational capability in September. Since disbanding the 36. Specjalny Pułk Lotnictwa Transportowego (36th Special Air Transport Regiment) at the end of December 2011, Polish VIPs have been flown using two Embraer 175s chartered from LOT Polish Airlines. 1

BLTr has also undertaken VIP transport using W-3 and Mi-8 helicopters. Gulfstream G550 ‘0001’ is the first of two VIP bizjets ordered by the Polish Ministry of Defence in November last year at a cost of $107.7m. The second example was to be delivered in July. This year the air force will also receive the first of three

VIP-configured Boeing 737800s, ordered in March at a cost of $523m. The first will be delivered with 132 seats (12 VIP and 120 economy class). The two others are due in 2020, and will likely be to Boeing Business Jet 2 (BBJ2) standard, with 66 seats (including 48 economy class and a crew rest compartment). Paweł Bondaryk

Paweł Bondaryk

#354 SEPTEMBER 2017 // 11


Continental Europe Upgraded Dutch PC-7 re-delivered

Gripen exits Belgian fighter contest

THE SWEDISH Defence Materiel Agency (FMV) has withdrawn the Gripen E from the competition to replace the Belgian Air Component’s F-16s. In a July 10 statement, the FMV noted it could not meet the request for Belgian government proposal’s (RFGP’s) demand for “extensive operational support from the delivering nation”, adding it “would require a Swedish foreign policy and political mandate that does not exist today”. The F-35A, Rafale and Typhoon are still in the running to provide Belgium with 54 fighters, valued at around €3.6bn. Government agencies representing the three remaining bidders must submit their offers by September 8. Boeing withdrew its F/A-18E/F from the competition in April.

Above: RNLAF Pilatus PC-7 L-01 taxies onto the flight line of 131 EMVO Squadron at Woensdrecht Air Base on July 19, after its ferry flight from Stans-Buochs in Switzerland. Kees van der Mark

THE FIRST Royal Netherlands Air Force (RNLAF) PC-7 upgraded by Pilatus Aircraft at Stans-Buochs Airfield in Switzerland was re-delivered to Woensdrecht Air Base in the Netherlands on July 19. The aircraft (serial L-01, c/n 538) arrived at the Pilatus factory on May 2 last year to act as ‘lead the fleet’ airframe for the PC-7 Obsolescence Prevention Program (OPP) and Structural Enhancement (SE). The upgrade will enable the 13-strong fleet of Dutch PC-7s to

soldier on until at least 2027 by fully using their life expectancy of 12,000 flying hours or 24,000 landings per airframe. The July 2015 contract between the Dutch Defence Materiel Organisation (DMO) and Pilatus initially covered upgrade of ten PC-7s delivered in 1989 to what is now known as 131 Elementaire Militaire Vlieger Opleiding (EMVO, Elementary Military Pilot Training) Squadron. Work was later extended to include the additional three aircraft delivered in 1997.

Irish Air Corps PC-9 attrition replacement

The OPP includes a full glass cockpit with three displays. The RNLAF is the first PC-7 operator worldwide to have both the flight and engine instruments digitalised – the Swiss PC-7s that had their cockpits upgraded in 2008-09 still have analogue engine instruments. Other modifications in the OPP include new navigation and radio equipment, new landing lights and fitment of an automatic direction finder (ADF), enabling the PC-7 to comply with current civil flight regulations. The SE programme sees

Debut flight for French Air Force PC-21 PILATUS AIRCRAFT has flown the first PC-21 for the Armée de l’Air (French Air Force). The aircraft, 01 ‘709FC’/HB-HVA (c/n 293), made its maiden flight at Stans-Buochs, Switzerland, on July 10, followed by a second

Above: New Irish Air Corps PC-9M 269/HB-HXI fitted with underwing tanks at Stans on July 3 ready for its delivery flight. It left for Baldonnel the following day. Stephan Widmer

A NEW Pilatus PC-9M has been delivered to the Irish Air Corps (IAC). The aircraft, 269/HB-HXI (c/n 779), was first noted ground-running outside the factory at StansBuochs, Switzerland, on May 10 and took its maiden flight on May

15. It left Stans on July 4 flown by two IAC flight instructors on its delivery flight to Baldonnel, where it arrived later the same day. Ordered as an attrition replacement for another IAC PC-9M, 265 – lost in a fatal crash on October 12,

2009 – it brings the Irish PC-9M fleet back up to full strength with eight. It had been thought it would take up serial 268, following on from 267, the last of the original batch, and it’s unclear why it has instead become 269. Dave Allport

the aircraft’s structure strengthened and adjusted at 16 places in the fuselage, tail and wings. While in Switzerland, the PC-7s also undergo a 200-hour inspection. With the lead aircraft now re-delivered, the remaining 12 are scheduled to go through the upgrade programme two at a time, which should take 12 weeks per aircraft. Aircraft L-07 and L-11 arrived at StansBuochs on July 6. The final two aircraft are expected back at Woensdrecht in mid-October next year. Kees van der Mark

and third flight in the presence of a French delegation on July 13. The next three French aircraft are now in final assembly, with aircraft five to nine in production. France has 17 PC-21s on order. Dave Allport

Centennial markings on Dutch NH90

Eurofighter on QRA in Bulgaria EUROFIGHTER F-2000s from the Aeronautica Militare (AM, Italian Air Force) have begun quick reaction alert (QRA) duties at Graf Ignatievo

12 // SEPTEMBER 2017 #354

air base, near Plovdiv, in Bulgaria. The threemonth deployment began in July. The Italian Typhoons will patrol the Black Sea

region as part of NATO’s Southern Air Policing mission. This is the first time Italian Air Force Typhoons have been in Bulgaria since 2013.

Above: Dutch Defence Helicopter Command/860 Squadron NH90 NATO Frigate Helicopter (NFH) N233 wears large ‘100 years’ stickers to celebrate the fact that the Marineluchtvaartdienst (MLD, Naval Aviation Service) was founded 100 years ago, on August 18, 1917. On September 16, an anniversary airshow will be held at Maritime Air Station De Kooy, home of the Dutch fleet of 20 NH90 NFHs. Kees van der Mark


Balkan Spartan 2017

C-27J school in Sofia This year’s Balkan Spartan air training exercise saw three C-27J operators train shoulder to shoulder in Bulgaria, as Alexander Mladenov reports.


he second annual Balkan Spartan multinational air training exercise took place between June 7 and 16 at Vrazhdebna/Sofia Airport North Side in Bulgaria, hosted by the 16. Transportna Aviacionna Grupa (16th Transport Aviation Group) of the Bulgarski Voennovazdushni Sili (BVVS, Bulgarian Air Force). Three NATO C-27J Spartan operators took part: host nation Bulgaria, Italy and Lithuania. Romania was unable to allocate an aircraft for the event, while Slovakia – awaiting its first delivery – took part with observers. The main aim, according to exercise director Colonel Rumen Kondev from the BVVS Command, is to improve co-operation and interoperability between participating nations. The event also sought to exchange experience in maintenance, loading/offloading of cargoes and reconfiguration of the C-27J’s cargo hold for different missions. All tactical flying took place in southern Bulgaria, mainly around Plovdiv, the host nation providing vast blocks of airspace free from civilian traffic at ultra-low and low level over mountainous and flat terrain – plus a dedicated drop zone, an aeromedical team and special forces paratroops. The three Spartans flew one mission of around 2 hours’ duration each day. Mentors from the three nations, who

Above: The international Spartan group was parked on the ramp at Vrazhdebna/Sofia Airport North Side to facilitate joint ground operations, including servicing and loading/offoading practice. All photos, Alexander Mladenov Below: A Bulgarian C-27J crew prepares the cockpit for departure on June 14. The mission involved dropping paratroops from the Bulgarian special operations forces at LZ ‘Africa’.

are an integral part of the event, flew on board during operations. As experienced pilots or loadmasters, they also evaluated crew performance and monitored adherence to flight safety standards. The missions were of medium difficulty, covering a set of tactical air transport mission profiles. Requirements included lowlevel tactical navigation down to 300ft (91m) above terrain; simulation of cargo drops at Landing Zone (LZ) ‘Africa’ on the abandoned Tcheshinigirovo airfield near Plovdiv; aeromedical evacuation; and paratroop jumps using a static line. The Spartans also practised tactical approaches and departures from LZ Africa’s semiprepared concrete airstrip, which is some 2,620ft (800m) in length. The first Balkan Spartan, held in Bulgaria in July 2016, involved Bulgarian, Italian and Romanian aircraft. The event is set to become a fixture in the European Spartan community’s calendar, affording flexible and tailored training opportunities for less experienced tactical air transport crews. AFM

Lithuanian Air Force C-27J ‘07 Blue’ (c/n 4139) ‘Algirdas’. Lithuania operates three Spartans delivered in December 2006, December 2008 and October 2009. They serve with the Transporto Eskadrile at Šiauliai-Zokniai.

#354 SEPTEMBER 2017 // 13


North America

B-1Bs respond to North Korean missile test

A-10 may retire without replacement

US AIR Force B-1Bs conducted a mission in the Pacific with South Korean and Japanese fighters in July. The tenhour flight was described as “part of the continuing demonstration of the ironclad US commitment to our allies against the growing threat from North Korea’s ballistic missile and nuclear programmes”. Two 9th Expeditionary Bomb Squadron (EBS) Lancers – deployed from Dyess AFB, Texas – launched from Andersen AFB, Guam, on July 7, four days after North Korea tested an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM). After flying to the Korean Peninsula the bombers, joined by Republic of Korea Air Force F-15Ks and USAF F-16s, released inert weapons at the Pilsung Range. On returning to Guam, the B-1Bs integrated with Japan Air SelfDefense Force (JASDF) F-2s over the East China Sea – the first time US Pacific Commanddirected B-1Bs have conducted combined training with Japanese fighters at night.

Above: An A-10C of the Nellis-based 66th Weapons Squadron down low during training. Jamie Hunter

AIR FORCE Chief of Staff Gen David Goldfein has confirmed that the service may withdraw the A-10C Thunderbolt II without a direct replacement. Interviewed by trade journal Aviation Week on July 16, he said the USAF was yet to commit to develop a so-called ‘A-X’ as a like for like replacement for the Thunderbolt II, and admitted the single-

mission CAS platform might disappear from the inventory when the A-10C is retired, currently planned for the mid-2020s. The USAF is currently seeking additional funds to fly its current nine squadrons of the close support aircraft after 2021. Air Combat Command (ACC) chief Gen Mike

Holmes recently spoke of the possibility of retiring a legacy fleet – the A-10C, F-15C or F-16C/D Block 30 – to meet budgetary demands. Addressing an Air Force Association event in Washington DC, he said: “Right now [ACC is] too big for the budget we have. “The consequences are that I have squadrons that are not ready, and I have

acquisition programmes that, instead of being executed in two or three years, are being spread out over ten years. It drives up cost, it means they arrive late.” Gen Holmes also noted that the current 55 ACC squadrons (including 32 active duty) were “not enough to meet the demand that combatant commanders ask for”.

Production order for LRASM

Eagles train in Romania Above: Florida ANG F-15C 86-0162 from the 159th EFS takes off from Câmpia Turzii on July 18. USAF/Tech Sgt Chad Warren

FLORIDA AIR National Guard F-15Cs from the 159th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron (EFS) deployed to Câmpia Turzii air base, Romania,

in late June in support of Operation Atlantic Resolve. An element of the 125th Fighter Wing at Jacksonville ANG Base, the unit conducted training

in Romania as part of a rotational European Theater Security Package (TSP) deployment, its Eagles operating with Romanian Air Force MiG-21 LanceRs.

‘Flying Fiends’ F-16 marks 100 years

LOCKHEED MARTIN has received an $86.5m contract from the US Navy and USAF for production of the Long Range Anti-Ship Missile (LRASM), the company announced on July 26. The first production award for the airlaunched variant of the LRASM includes 23 missiles and engineering support. Low-rate initial production Lot 1 is the first of several expected annual production lots of the anti-ship missile.

Longsword joins OA-X evaluation

Above: The 36th FS ‘Flying Fiends’ centennial Block 40E F-16C 89-2043 ‘OS’ alongside other F-16s at Osan AB on July 19. Col Andrew P Hansen, 51st FW, flew the freshly painted jet for the first time during his final flight at Osan. USAF/Staff Sgt Alex Fox Echols III

PART OF the USAF’s 51st Operations Group at Osan Air Base, South Korea, the 36th Fighter Squadron (FS) ‘Flying Fiends’ is celebrating its centenary. During an event on July 21, a newly refurbished

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F-16C was unveiled with a commemorative tail flash prepared by the 51st Maintenance Squadron Corrosion Control Shop. “What we see in the tail flash is the combination of two distinctive

histories,” said 36th FS pilot Capt Wayne Mowery. “The red striped tail flash represents the history of the fabulous ‘Flying Fiends’. “The tail flash specifically became famous during

the Korean War as we flew with [it] on our F-80 Shooting Stars and F-86 Sabres. The chequered tail design [represents] the history of the 51st Fighter Wing, which we officially became a part of in 1974.”

L3 PLATFORM Integration Division’s AT-802L Longsword counterinsurgency aircraft has entered the US Air Force’s Light Attack Experimentation Campaign, which began at Holloman AFB, New Mexico, in early August. As well as the Longsword, the air force will assess the Sierra Nevada/Embraer A-29 Super Tucano and Textron Aviation’s Scorpion jet and AT-6 Wolverine turboprop.


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North America

Navy commissions USS Gerald R Ford

Above: US Army MC-12S-4 11-00287 (c/n FL-834, ex N834ER) at Belfast International Airport on July 13. Reported in January as being operated by Company B of the 305th Military Intelligence Battalion, it’s not known if it’s still attached to the same unit. Colin Gordon Below: US Army RO-6A (Dash 8 Srs 315) 16-00397 (c/n 397, ex N308V) at Belfast International Airport on July 20. Colin Gordon

Above: An F/A-18F assigned to Air Test and Evaluation Squadron (VX) 23 approaches USS ‘Gerald R Ford’ prior to the carrier’s first arrested landing during test and evaluation operations in the Atlantic on July 28. US Navy/Erik Hildebrandt

THE US Navy and President Donald Trump introduced the first of the Ford-class aircraft carriers, USS Gerald R Ford (CVN 78), to active service in a ceremony in Newport News, Virginia, on July 22. Completed by Huntington Ingalls Industries (HII), the Ford features a relocated

island, which is higher and further aft than on previous Nimitzclass vessels. It also incorporates General Atomics’ Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System (EMALS) and Advanced Arresting Gear (AAG) as well as an enhanced flight deck with space for more aircraft

– which, in combination, are expected to increase sortie rates by around 30% compared to Nimitz-class carriers. An F/A-18F of VX-23 ‘Salty Dogs’ at NAS Patuxent River, Maryland made the first arrested landing with the new AAG and subsequent take-off with EMALS on July 28.

550th FS activated

Above: The Oregon ANG’s 75th anniversary F-15C 79-041 leads an F-35A representing the 56th OG at Luke AFB over Oregon. Jim Haseltine

THE US Air Force activated the 550th Fighter Squadron (FS) at Kingsley Field, in Klamath Falls, Oregon, on July 21. Prior to becoming a full squadron, it had been activated as Detachment 2, 56th Operations Group (OG) – part of the Total Force Integration (TFI) which brought activeduty airmen to Kingsley

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Field for the first time and engaged in Eagle training. “As a combined operations, maintenance and support squadron, the 550th ‘Silver Eagles’ will be one of the largest squadrons in Air Education and Training Command,” said Lt Col Brad Orgeron, the squadron commander. “Together, the 550th

Silver Eagles and the 173rd Fighter Wing will continue to produce the best air-to-air F-15C pilots for the Combat Air Force.” The 550th FS will continue to come under the command of the 56th OG at Luke AFB, Arizona, but will operate at Kingsley Field alongside the Oregon Air National Guard.

US Army ISR visitors to Belfast TWO US Army intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) aircraft recently visited Belfast International Airport in Northern Ireland en route to deployment in theatre. The first, MC-12S-4 11-00287 – callsign ‘DRAGN87’ – an EMARSSV-configured aircraft, passed through on July 13, heading east. The Enhanced Medium Altitude Reconnaissance and Surveillance System (EMARSS) provides a persistent airborne ISR capability to detect, locate, classify, identify and track surface targets with high accuracy during the day, night and nearly all weather conditions. The aircraft visiting Belfast was an EMARSS-V version: Vehicle and Dismount Exploitation Radar (VADER) Moving Target Indication (MTI) with signals intelligence and high-definition full motion video. The second visitor, on July 20, was Dash 8 Srs 315 16-00397 (c/n 397, ex N308V), operated on behalf of the US Army by Dynamic Aviation. Its next stop was in Romania before continuing on into theatre. Dynamic Aviation has been operating ISRconfigured Dash 8-315s for some years on lease to the US Army but, until recently, they all carried

civilian registrations. However, six were bought from Dynamic by the army under a contract awarded on April 7, 2015, since which they’ve all been allocated US military serials and designated as RO-6As. All are in either Desert Owl or Saturn Arch configuration, incorporating aircraftmounted counter-IED systems that have been employed on various aircraft for operations in Afghanistan. The RO-6A seen at Belfast is not one of the six, but an extra aircraft acquired by Dynamic, to which it was registered in September last year after being bought from DAC Aviation, which had previously used it on UN operations. Modified for its new airborne ISR role at the company’s base at Bridgewater Air Park, Virginia, it was reported test flying there on July 6. Its US civil registration was cancelled on June 22 when it transferred to the US Army with military markings. The US Army has selected the Dash 8-315 as the platform for its new Airborne Reconnaissance Low-Enhanced (ARLE) programme to replace the current EO-5B/C (Dash 7-based) ARL-M (Multifunction) fleet. Dave Allport

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‘Red Devils’ Hornets train at Hyakuri

Above: Two VMFA-232 F/A-18C Hornets taxi in after arriving at Hyakuri Air Base, Japan, on July 7 for exercises as part of the Aviation Training Relocation programme. USMC/Lance Cpl Mason Roy

US MARINE Corps Marine Fighter Attack Squadron (VMFA) 232 ‘Red Devils’ has carried out a 14-day Aviation Training Relocation programme deployment to the Japan Air Self-Defense Force’s ( JASDF’s) Hyakuri Air Base. The unit’s F/A-18Cs arrived at the base on July 7 and completed their training under the ATR on July 21. It gave them the opportunity to increase

operational readiness and interoperability between US and Japanese forces. The ATRs also reduce overall noise impact by dispersing bilateral jet fighter training of US forces across many different JASDF bases. During the training – the squadron’s first visit to Hyakuri – VMFA-232 conducted Red Air and Blue Air training, involving basic fighter and section-

engaged manoeuvres, active air defence and air interdiction with the resident JASDF RF-4E/ EJs of the 501st Hikotai. The ‘Red Devils’ returned to Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni on July 24, where they are currently stationed as part of the Unit Deployment Program, away from their normal home base at MCAS Miramar, California. Dave Allport

Adrian M Balch

Fitter-killer Super Hornet AIRCRAFT CARRIER USS George H W Bush’s arrival in UK waters confirmed the identity of the Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 87 ‘Golden Warriors’ F/A-18E that downed a Syrian Arab Air Force Su-22M-4 over northern-central Syria on June 18 (see Hot skies over Syria, August, p6). The F/A-18E in question

was not 168914/’AJ-304’ as previously reported, but 168912/’AJ-302’, flown by LCDR Michael Tremel. An Su-22 kill marking has now been applied below the canopy. The Super Hornet and its pilot were on deck when the carrier dropped anchor near Stokes Bay in the Solent on July 27.

#354 SEPTEMBER 2017 // 17


North America

Brazilian C295 visits Canada

KC-10s join Talisman Saber

A FORÇA Aérea Brasileira (FAB, Brazilian Air Force) SC-105 Amazonas has completed a tour of Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) bases, visiting 19 Wing Comox, British Columbia, on July 24; 17 Wing Winnipeg, Manitoba, on July 25; and 8 Wing Trenton, Ontario, on July 26. The visit was organised by Canada’s Minister of National Defence as the RCAF prepares to receive the similar C295W to replace the CC-115 Buffalo and CC-130H Hercules. The SC-105 crew included members of the FAB undergoing familiarisation training, Airbus Defence and Space pilots supporting their training and members of the RCAF’s Fixed-Wing Search and Rescue Aircraft Replacement Project Management Office. SC-105 6550 returned to Campo Grande air base on August 3, after completing a five-week demonstration tour through four continents. Construction of Canada’s first C295W began in June, and the first delivery is expected in late 2019.

KC-10A TANKERS from the 6th and the 9th Air Refueling Squadrons at Travis AFB, California, supported Talisman Saber 2017 in July with air refuelling missions over Australia. The biennial exercise focuses on military training between US Pacific Command and the Australian Defence Force. Three Extenders flew from Hawaii and Wake Island Airfield to refuel five C-17As carrying 300plus paratroopers across the Pacific on July 13. The tankers also refuelled US Navy F/A-18E/Fs and other KC-10s during TS17.

A KC-10A from Travis AFB, California, refuels a US Navy F/A-18 Super Hornet over the Pacific on July 14. USAF/2nd Lt Sarah Johnson

New medevac HH-60Ms for Hawaii A BRAND new medical evacuation (medevac) unit equipped with the latest HH-60M Black Hawk variant has been formally

activated in Hawaii. The Hawaii Army National Guard’s Detachment 1, Company G, 1st Battalion, 189th

Above: One of the new Hawaii Army National Guard/1-189th GSAB HH-60M Black Hawks at Wheeler AAF during the activation ceremony on July 9. US Army National Guard/Sgt Tinisha Mellein-Fortson

General Support Aviation Battalion (1-189th GSAB) is based at Wheeler Army Airfield, Wahiawa, Hawaii, where an activation and dedication ceremony took place on July 9. The unit will specialise in aeromedical evacuation operations throughout Hawaii. Three HH-60Ms for the 1-189th GSAB arrived on Hawaii at Kalaeloa Airfield on October 28 last year on board a US Air Force C-17A Globemaster III. They were then reassembled on site and flown out to Wheeler AAF, Army Aviation Support Facility No 1, where they have since then

North Carolina ANG’s C-130Hs bow out THE NORTH CAROLINA Air National Guard (ANG) has completed its final Hercules deployment prior to transitioning to the C-17A Globemaster III. Airmen and their C-130Hs from the 145th Airlift Wing’s 156th Airlift Squadron returned to their base at CharlotteDouglas International Airport on July 7 after serving in the Middle East to support Operation Freedom’s Sentinel. More than 100 personnel deployed with the unit on February 22 for a sixmonth rotation, providing tactical airlift capabilities to deliver troops, cargo and equipment. Eight C-17As will replace the current C-130Hs from Fiscal Year 2018, which begins on October 1 this year. The Globemasters

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will transfer from Joint Base Charleston, South Carolina, where the type is operated by the 315th Airlift Wing and 437th Airlift Wing. As part of its drawdown, the 145th AW relinquished its aerial firefighting role

last year, having been one of only four C-130H units equipped with the Modular Airborne FireFighting System (MAFFS) for this purpose. The last of these portable fire-retardant delivery systems at

Charlotte was loaded into the hold of an 152nd AW C-130H on September 7 last year and transported to a new home with the Nevada Air National Guard, which has taken over the role from the 145th AW. Dave Allport

Above: North Carolina ANG C-130H3 Hercules 93-1563 arrives back at its base at CharlotteDouglas IAP on July 7 after a six-month deployment in support of Operation Freedom’s Sentinel. USAF/Tech Sgt Nathan Clark

been training crews up to operational status. Their permanent base will, however, be at Kalaeloa, to which the helicopters will return once a new Army Aviation Support Facility has been completed there. Dave Allport

US Navy retires TC-12B

THE US Navy TC-12B Huron fleet has been retired from service. The TC-12Bs had been operated by Training Squadron (VT) 35 ‘Stingrays’ as part of Training Air Wing 4 at Naval Air Station Corpus Christi, Texas, in the multi-engine aircrew training role. To mark the end of operations, a ceremonial formation of three VT-35 TC-12Bs flew over Corpus Christi Bay and the surrounding area on May 12. The last six aircraft left the base on May 16, heading for DavisMonthan Air Force Base, Arizona, for storage with the 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group. Three arrived at AMARG the next day, followed by the others on May 18. A total of 25 TC-12Bs had been in service, having been converted from UC-12B operational support aircraft (OSA) no longer required following reduction of the OSA fleet and replacement by newer aircraft. Dave Allport

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04/08/2017 16:56


Latin America

Brazilian C-767 at G20 Summit

Rene Köhler

First AH-11B Super Lynx modernised

LEONARDO HELICOPTERS has completed midlife upgrade work on a first Marinha do Brasil (Brazilian Navy) AH-11B Super Lynx multi-role helicopter. The company is modernising eight AH-11As (Mk21As) in service with 1° Esquadrão de Helicópteros de Esclarecimento e Ataque Anti-Submarino (HA-1, 1st Reconnaissance and Attack Helicopter Squadron) ‘Lince’ at São Pedro da Aldeia naval air base as part of a $132m contract signed in June 2014. The updated helicopters are due to be returned to the navy from November with deliveries completed in February 2019. The upgrade includes CTS800-4N engines, a digital cockpit with three largearea displays and Garmin GTN-650 touchscreen, General Dynamics UK tactical processing system and secure data recorder, Leonardo SAGE electronic support measures system and defensive aids controller and Thales Vicon XF countermeasures dispensers. Also added are an Avionics RX-5 identification friend or foe system, Garmin GTS-855 traffic collision avoidance system and GTX-33DH Mode S digital transponder, Curtiss-Wright softwareconfigurable air data unit, instrument landing system, VHF omnidirectional range system and an electrically driven hoist.

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THE FORÇA Aérea Brasileira (FAB, Brazilian Air Force) sent its sole C-767 VIP transport to the Group of Twenty (G20) Summit in Hamburg, Germany from July 7-8. Serial FAB 2900 is operated by Esquadrão ‘Corsário’, 2°/2° Grupo de Transporte (GT), part of Ala 11, and is based at Base Aérea do Galeão, Rio de Janeiro. The former Martinair 767-300ER was delivered to Brazil on July 10 last year on a three-year lease with an option for a further 12-month extension.

Brazilian P-3 problems

Above: Currently three Super Lynxes are undergoing upgrade to AH-11B standard with Leonardo Helicopters. Another two are scheduled to begin modernisation in the second half of the year. via Juan Carlos Cicalesi

Bolivian RJ70 in the UK

JUST THREE or four out of nine modernised P-3AM anti-submarine warfare aircraft are reportedly in operational service with the Força Aérea Brasileira (FAB, Brazilian Air Force). Despite undergoing a significant upgrade, the aircraft’s wingboxes were not repaired, which is alleged to limit their serviceability. Brazil acquired nine P-3As from US Navy stocks in 2006, together with another three that were used for spares. Airbus upgraded the nine aircraft with new avionics and systems including the Fully Integrated Tactical System (FITS). Any repairs are expected to be completed as part of a service life extension before the Orions are transferred to the Brazilian Navy in 2020. Juan Carlos Cicalesi

Uruguayan Air Force trains in the US Above: Avro RJ70 FAB-107 lands at Southend in the late evening of July 15. It wears the basic MDLR colours with titles painted out, and the military serial FAB-107 taped on. Keith Burton

AVRO RJ70 FAB-107 arrived at London Southend Airport, Essex from Bacău Airport, Romania on July 15. The aircraft was on its delivery flight to customer TAM (Transporte Aéreo Militar), with which it is expected to be operated

on joint operations with the Fuerza Aérea Boliviana (FAB, Bolivian Air Force). Stored for eight years in the open at Bacău, the aircraft still wears the colours of previous operator MDLR Airlines, with which it was registered as VT-MDN. It

was latterly registered as T7-KMA, and still stored in Romania. Although planned to make only a night stop in the UK, the RJ70 was still in the country several days later, apparently held up by unspecified technical problems.

THE FUERZA Aérea Uruguaya (FAU, Uruguayan Air Force) has sent personnel to the US to train to operate the recently acquired BAe 125-700A presidential aircraft. The courses are being taught by CAE in Dallas, Texas. In addition, the FAU is preparing to acquire a new navigation aid system for the aircraft. Juan Carlos Cicalesi

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Colombia acquires two more Kfirs

Upgraded Argentine Twin Otter delivered

Above: This year’s F-AIR (Feria Aeronáutica Internacional) Colombia show at Rionegro Airport from July 13-16 included various FAC aircraft displayed with special colour schemes incorporating an eagle motif. These included single-seat Kfir C10 FAC 3060 operated by Escuadrón de Combate 111. Raymond van Dijkhuizen

THE FUERZA Aérea Colombiana (FAC, Colombian Air Force) has acquired a pair of twoseat Kfir TC12 combat trainers from Israel. Serials FAC 3008 and

FAC 3009 will serve with Escuadrón de Combate 111 at Olano Alemán air base, better known as Palanquero. Previously the FAC had contemplated returning to service the

Mirage 5CODM fleet, which was retired in 2010. However, it was determined the two Kfirs could be purchased for approximately the same cost. Following a

series of losses, the FAC was reduced to just one surviving two-seat Kfir TC12 in service, which was insufficient to keep pilots trained on the type. Juan Carlos Cicalesi

Uruguay receives Skymasters from Chile THE AVIACIÓN Naval Uruguaya (ANU, Uruguayan Naval Aviation) has confirmed acceptance of three Cessna O-2A Skymaster observation aircraft offered by the Chilean Navy. The Uruguayan Navy has now begun obtaining approval for the transfer from the US government and, once achieved, the Uruguayan government will be formally able to accept the donation. As a result of budget constraints the ANU is currently experiencing one of the most critical periods since its establishment, with just

Brazilian Navy to receive KC-2 in 2021 THE MARINHA do Brasil (Brazilian Navy) is due to receive four KC-2 Turbo Trader carrier on-board delivery (COD) and aerial refuelling aircraft in 2021. The first two are to be handed over between April and July 2021, followed by the remaining pair in October the same year. Brazil acquired eight former US Navy C-1A Trader aircraft in 2010. Four are to be modernised and reconfigured by Elbit in the US, and a maiden flight is now planned for 2019, having slipped from November this year.

Antonio Beghello

two Super King Air 200Ts available for patrol and search and rescue tasks, together with two T-34-C1

Turbo Mentors used as primary trainers with a limited attack capacity. Only two helicopters

remain in operation: one Bo105-PAH1 and one AS355-F2 Esquilo. Juan Carlos Cicalesi

A THIRD upgraded DHC-6 Twin Otter 200, T-89, was recently delivered by the Área Material Quilmes (AMQ, Quilmes Material Area) to the Fuerza Aérea Argentina (FAA, Argentine Air Force). Viking Air, which holds the Twin Otter’s type certificate, has recognised AMQ as an authorised service centre for military Twin Otter 100, 200 and 300 series aircraft. The upgrade includes more powerful 620shp (456kW) PT6A-27 engines, Rockwell Collins avionics, GPS, Garmin LCD screens, Bendix weather radar, new communication systems, Cleveland Wheel & Brake landing gear and braking systems (as used on the 400 series) and three-blade Hartzell ‘paddle’ propellers. Previously, T-85 was upgraded at Viking Air’s facilities in Canada, while AMQ upgraded T-82 and T-87 for the FAA and AE-106 for the Argentine Army. T-89 takes the AMQ work for the FAA to three aircraft. Juan Carlos Cicalesi

Argentina begins training on P2002JF


THE FUERZA Aérea Argentina (FAA, Argentine Air Force) has begun training cadets on the Tecnam P2002JF. A solo flight ceremony for the first 34 cadets trained on the new aircraft was staged on July 5 at the

Escuela de Aviación Militar (Military Aviation School) in Córdoba. The aircraft are supplied by Tecnam via Aerotec Argentina and provide the first step in pilot training on the Joint Basic Course of Military Aviator, which

includes candidates for the Argentine Air Force, Argentine Naval Aviation and Argentine Army Aviation. Early last year the FAA began studies to acquire a new basic training aircraft. In May last year, Aerotec

Argentina sent two P2002JFs to the Escuela de Aviación Militar for evaluation. The Tecnam type was selected in September, and the FAA confirmed a contract for lease with an option to purchase eight aircraft.

#354 SEPTEMBER 2017 // 21

NEWS Nigeria receives newbuild Super Mushshaks

THE NIGERIAN Air Force (NAF) has received five new-build Pakistan Aeronautical Complex (PAC) Super Mushshak trainers. They were delivered from PAF Base Minhas aboard an Il-76 transport, and arrived in Nigeria on July 14. The NAF signed an agreement in Abuja for the acquisition of ten Super Mushshaks on October 21 last year. The contract also included training and technical support. Formal induction took place on December 5 with an initial batch of four Super Mushshaks provided from PAF stocks as a stopgap arrangement (see Nigeria inducts Super Mushshak, February, p22). The aircraft will be based at the 401 Flying Training School at Kaduna for primary flight training. Waseem Abbas


Tanzanian Fokker 50 returns

Ruben Zammit

GOVERNMENT OF Tanzania Fokker 50 5H-TGF transited through Malta International Airport, where it arrived

on June 28 after spending a year in the Netherlands undergoing maintenance. After departing Luqa, it flew to Egypt and

es Salaam alongside the rest of the governmental/ VIP fleet: one F283000 Fellowship and one Gulfstream VSP. The Egyptian Air Force’s latest pair of Rafales taxies in to Cairo on July 26. Egyptian MoD

Angola eyes more Su-30Ks ANGOLA IS reported to be looking at purchasing a further six former Indian Air Force (IAF) Su-30K fighters, in addition to the 12 it has already contracted for, according to a report in Russian newspaper Kommersant on July 21. The Director of the 558 Aircraft Repair Plant (ARZ) at Baranovichi in Belarus, where the jets are stored, confirmed at the recent MAKS airshow that a search for

then on to Tanzania. The Government of Tanzania’s single Fokker 50 entered service in April 1992. It is based at Dar

a buyer was continuing. Military sources indicated negotiations were under way with Angola, although they are said to be at an early stage. All 18 of the original IAF Su-30Ks were placed in storage at the 558 ARZ and put up for sale after being replaced by new Su-30MKIs. They were withdrawn from service in 2006 and shipped to Baranovichi five years later. On February 12,

2014 it was confirmed 12 had been sold to the Força Aérea Nacional de Angola (FANA, National Air Force of Angola) under a contract signed in October the previous year. These are being refurbished and upgraded to Su-30KN standard, the first having been re-flown at Baranovichi around January 31 this year, although none have yet been delivered. Dave Allport

Two more Rafales delivered to Egypt TWO ADDITIONAL Rafales have been delivered to the Egyptian Air Force. The aircraft, single-seat Rafale EMs 9254 and 9255, arrived at CairoWest Air Base on July 26. The latest arrivals bring the total delivered to date to 11. A further three are due to arrive before the end of the year, and the remaining ten on order are all due for delivery during 2018.

Egypt is acquiring 16 two-seat Rafale DMs and eight single-seat Rafale EMs. The first three aircraft arrived in Cairo on July 21, 2015. A further trio were delivered on January 28, 2016, followed by three more on April 4, 2017. They are operated by 34 Squadron ‘Wild Wolves’ as part of the 203rd Tactical Fighter Wing ‘Storm’ at CairoWest. Dave Allport

Extra Gulfstream for Morocco

Above: One of the 12 ex-Indian Air Force Su-30Ks already on order for the National Air Force of Angola being rolled out after refurbishment by 558 ARZ at Baranovichi, Belarus. 558 ARZ

22 // SEPTEMBER 2017 #354

A SECOND-HAND Gulfstream G550 has been bought by the Royal Moroccan Air Force (RMAF) to supplement its VVIP fleet. The aircraft, previously Austrianregistered as OE-LOK (c/n 5462), was ferried from Vienna to Geneva on May 28 using callsign ‘MJF555’. Following sale to the RMAF, it was allocated serial CN-AMR and flown to Rabat on July 6 still in its former owner’s

colours, but with a Moroccan flag on the fin. The RMAF has previously taken delivery of a new-production G550, CN-AMS, which was handed over on November 9, 2010, before being ferried to Morocco. It serves with the VIP Squadron/ Royal Flight at No 1 Air Base Rabat-Salé, which also has a Gulfstream IIT and Gulfstream III. Dave Allport



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Super Hornet upgrade approved THE US government has approved upgrades to the Royal Australian Air Force’s (RAAF’s) fleet of F/A-18F Super Hornets, valued at $101.4m. Australia’s 24 Super Hornets will receive new communications and defensive aids systems for enhanced interoperability with the US Navy. The US Defense Security Co-operation Agency (DSCA) announced the upgrade on July 11. The deal covers the new equipment plus testing, training, and support. The Australian government has requested the sale of 32 Multifunctional Information Distribution System Joint Tactical Radio

Above: F/A-18F A44-223 of No 1 Squadron over Mosul during a recent Operation Okra mission. RAAF Super Hornets have been conducting strikes over the Iraqi city as part of Operation Eagle Strike to clear it of so-called Islamic State fighters. FLT LT Trent/Commonwealth of Australia

Systems (MIDS JTRS) with four-channel concurrent multi-network (CMN-4), and 39 AN/ALQ-214A(V)4 countermeasures systems. According to a DSCA statement: “The proposed

sale will improve Australia’s capability in current and future coalition efforts. This equipment will help the Royal Australian Air Force better communicate with and protect its

F/A-18 aircraft, and the addition of MIDS JTRS will accomplish the goal of making US and Australian aircraft more interoperable when supporting operational forces.”

Australia in February. The aircraft serve with No 6 Squadron at Amberley. To date, Australian Growlers have conducted successful weapon firings and integration flights with RAAF F/A-18Fs

and US Navy EA-18Gs as part of operational test and evaluation. The RAAF will declare initial operating capability with the EA-18G in 2018, followed by full operating capability in 2022.

Above: EA-18G A46-309 from No 6 Squadron flying to Shoalwater Bay to participate in air operations for Exercise Talisman Saber 2017, which took place between late June and late July. SGT Peter Borys/ Commonwealth of Australia

two RAAF F-35As were delivered in 2014. It is the first of the next batch of eight Australian F-35As currently in production at Fort Worth. The fighter is scheduled for

delivery to Luke Air Force Base, Arizona, in early 2018, where it will be used for F-35 pilot and maintainer training until permanently relocating to Australia in 2020.

RAAF Growler fleet complete

THE RAAF has received its full complement of 12 EA-18Gs, purchase of which was announced in May 2013 at a cost of $1.14bn. The final aircraft arrived at RAAF Base Amberley, Queensland on July 7, to be welcomed by Minister for Defence Marise Payne and Air Vice Marshal Steven Roberton, Air Commander Australia. After a first flight in July 2015, the first two Growlers arrived in

Third RAAF F-35A takes shape THE THIRD F-35A (A35003) for the RAAF is under construction at the Lockheed Martin production line at Fort Worth, Texas. Australian Ambassador to the US

Joe Hockey signed the bulkhead of the aircraft on the assembly line during a visit on July 19. The aircraft is the first F-35 to be assembled for Australia since the first

Last RAAF KC-30A begins flight-testing THE SEVENTH KC-30A Multi-Role Tanker Transport (MRTT) for the RAAF took off from Madrid-Barajas Adolfo Suárez International Airport on July 28 for a first test flight. The aircraft, carrying registration MRTT040, is the second ex-Qantas Airways Airbus A330-203 modified as an MRTT for the RAAF. In July 2015 Canberra placed an order for two more MRTTs to increase the RAAF tanker fleet from the initial five aircraft to seven. The latest aircraft arrived at the Airbus plant at Getafe

in November 2015. Soon after arriving it departed Getafe for Madrid for tanker conversion work in the Iberia workshops, including installation of

the Airbus Refuelling Boom System (ARBS), two Cobham 905E refuelling pods and the Universal Aerial Refueling Receptacle Slipway

Installation (UARRSI). The aircraft will go to Manching, Germany to be painted in RAAF colours prior to delivery in 2018. Roberto Yáñez

A330 MRTT040 (ex VH-EBI, c/n 898) lands at Getafe on July 28. It will become A39-007 after delivery to No 33 Squadron at RAAF Base Amberley. Roberto Yáñez

Australian G550 deal approved

THE US government has approved Australia’s request to acquire Gulfstream G550 aircraft with Airborne Intelligence, Surveillance, Reconnaissance, and Electronic Warfare (AISREW) mission systems at an estimated cost of $1.3bn. The Defense Security and Co-operation Agency (DSCA) issued a Foreign Military Sales notification on June 26. The Australian government requested the possible sale of up to five modified G550s. As well as AISREW mission systems, the package includes GPS capability, secure communications, aircraft defensive systems; spares, including whole life costs of airborne and ground segments; aircraft modification and integration; ground systems for data processing and crew training and ground support equipment. The prime contractor will be L3 Communication Systems at Greenville, Texas.

Upgraded RAAF Hawk in service

THE RAAF has begun pilot training using upgraded Hawk Mk127 jet trainers. No 79 Squadron at RAAF Base Pearce, Western Australia, has begun training on the modernised aircraft, which introduce new capabilities including simulated radar, electronic warfare, digital mapping, ground proximity warning system and traffic collision avoidance. The upgrade also replaces two legacy synthetic training devices with three full mission simulators provided by CAE. Initial operating capability for the Lead-In Fighter Capability Assurance Program (LIFCAP) was recognised during a ceremony at RAAF Base Williamtown on July 5. To date, a joint team of BAE Systems and RAAF technicians has upgraded 12 of the 33 aircraft. The full fleet will be upgraded by early 2019.

#354 SEPTEMBER 2017 // 23


Middle East

New IRIAF ‘ship-killer’

Above: The 91st TFS, based near the Strait of Hormuz, is responsible for supporting Iranian Navy operations. F-4E 3-6602 will enable the 9th TFB to deploy C-802 or C-803 cruise missiles for quick reaction alert (QRA) anti-ship missions. Hasan Freydoon

THE ISLAMIC Republic of Iran Air Force’s (IRIAF’s) Mehrabad Overhaul Centre has delivered a repaired and modestly upgraded F-4E to the 91st Tactical Fighter Squadron (TFS). The jet arrived at the 9th Tactical Fighter Base (TFB) Abdol-Karimi at Bandar Abbas on July 24. F-4E

3-6602 (c/n 4513) was first flown on August 7, 1974, and is now the first IRIAF Phantom II equipped with fully upgraded and modernised radar. In the late 1990s the IRIAF planned to equip some F-4Es with new Chinese radars for use in conjunction with C-802A anti-ship

missiles. Although China abandoned the project in 2006, the IRIAF continued it by upgrading the hardware of the existing AN/APQ-120, adding airto-ground and maritime targeting capabilities. Ultimately, 3-6602 was equipped with a new pulse-Doppler antenna that can search and

Iraqi Air Force to reconstitute Texan IIs THE IRAQI Air Force (IQAF) plans to return to service its fleet of 15 T-6A trainers, ahead of the first in-country F-16IQ training course in 2019. The Texan IIs are understood to have

been put in storage in around 2013, when a US Special Inspector General of Iraq Reconstruction (SIGIR) report noted that the aircraft had begun to sustain damage to their wings as a result

of inadequately cleaned runways at Al Taji Air Base, north of Baghdad. The US Department of Defense has awarded Textron Aviation Defense an $8.8m Foreign Military Sales contract

track maritime targets at 124 miles (200km), compared with the previous 37 miles (60km). If successful, the project will extend to additional F-4Es and upgrades will be implemented during the final phase of Project Dowran at Iranian Aircraft Industries (IACI). Babak Taghvaee

to return the aircraft to flight status. The IQAF T-6A fleet is required to resume training activities no later than the second quarter of 2018. Work will be performed at Imam Ali AB, Iraq.

Iranian RH-53D flies after 37 years THE ISLAMIC Republic of Iran Navy Aviation’s (IRINA’s) RH-53D 9-2703 was handed over to the 13th Minesweeping Squadron on July 10. The Sea Stallion returned to the air in March, after being grounded for 37 years – and a full 20 years after the US Navy retired its final RH-53D. Postoverhaul functional check flights lasted until June. The IRINA operates five RH-53Ds for various tasks including minesweeping. The status of the fleet has gradually improved since 2007 when only three of the 13th Minesweeping Squadron’s six RH-53Ds were airworthy at the 2nd Air Base at Bushehr. Previously, RH-53D 9-2704, which had been grounded since 1984, was restored and overhauled by the Iran Helicopter Support and Renewal Company (IHSRC) and

24 // SEPTEMBER 2017 #354

Israeli AH-64 fleet grounded THE ISRAELI Air Force (IAF) grounded its entire AH-64 fleet for a month in June after a crack was discovered in one of the helicopter’s tail rotors. A routine check at Ramon air base – home of the two AH-64 squadrons – revealed a crack of some 8in (20cm) in length. A wide investigation involved Boeing and the US Army. Although the crack was found in only one Apache, the IAF’s commander, Maj Gen Amir Eshel, issued a grounding order for both squadrons until the investigation was complete. Test results revealed that the source of the crack was microscopic imperfections formed during the manufacturing process. A senior IAF officer said “the blade was reinforced with aluminium elements in order to protect it and take the workload off it, but these elements prevented us from detecting the crack”. Two major conclusions came from the investigation: first is introduction of a rotor check using a radiographic scope, and the second is to change the blades every 1,000 flight hours, compared with the 4,600 hours specified by the manufacturer. Noam Menashe

New Hawks delivered to Oman

Above: RH-53D 9-2703 undergoes a test flight at IHSRC. Despite strict arms embargoes, the IHSRC has successfully managed to procure spare parts, enabling the IRINA to have five of its six RH-53Ds in service with three examples always operational simultaneously. Keyvan Tavakkoli

flew during Iran’s Military Day parade in April 2009. In 2014, an $8m contract was signed for similar work on 9-2703, which had been stored after a taxiing accident on November 25, 1980, during the Iran-Iraq War. Valuable parts had then been removed to service

other RH-53Ds. Spares had been found within six months of contract signature. The damaged tail section was repaired using parts from a US Navy RH-53D abandoned after the failed Operation Eagle Claw hostage rescue in April 1980. The helicopter also received

a new GPS navigation aid system coupled with a moving map and a new U/VHF radio. Another RH-53D, 9-2704, is now with IHSRC for programmed depot maintenance, which is expected to be completed next year. Babak Taghvaee

THE FIRST two Hawk Mk166 jet trainers for the Royal Air Force of Oman (RAFO) have been delivered to Masirah Air Base. BAE Systems ferried the aircraft to the Sultanate on July 29, ten days after the first RAFO Typhoons departed the UK (see Oman’s first Typhoons delivered, August 2017, p24). The aircraft are part of an eightaircraft order placed in December 2012 and were formally presented to the customer in May at BAE Systems’ Warton site.

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New Jordanian UH-60M deliveries First Super Mushshaks for Qatar

Above: One of the new UH-60Ms being unloaded from a USAF C-17A. US Embassy in Amman

TWO ADDITIONAL UH-60Ms were received by the Royal Jordanian Air Force (RJAF) on July 23. Their arrival was announced on that date by the US Embassy in Amman, but it is unclear whether this was the arrival date or the official handover. They were airfreighted into the country on board US Air Force C-17As. It is apparent, however, that some of these helicopters had already been delivered

by July 12, when images of one of them were released by the US Army, which reported that the UH-60M variant had ‘recently’ arrived at an air base outside Amman. The report said the RJAF had spent the previous week undertaking both handson and classroom training on the new variant. The helicopters are from a batch of 12 UH-60Ms, all of which will be delivered by October. As

part of a subject matter information exchange, several US Army aviators from Bravo Company, 449th Aviation Support Battalion, Texas Army National Guard, are assisting RJAF personnel in understanding the complexities of the UH-60M, with a focus on maintenance structure, production control and quality control, along with problem troubleshooting. Dave Allport

Above: Qatari personnel inspect one of the newly delivered Super Mushshak primary trainers during the ceremony at Al Udeid on July 19. QEAF

AN INITIAL batch of PAC Super Mushshak primary training aircraft has been delivered to the Qatar Emiri Air Force (QEAF) from Pakistan. A formal event took place at the Al Zaeem Mohammed Bin Abdullah Al Atiyyah Air College at Al Udeid Air Base on July 19 to welcome the type into QEAF service. In addition to local officials, a highlevel delegation from Pakistan, which included officers from the Pakistan

Saudi Arabian manned-to-unmanned conversion

and training aircraft as a basis for the conversion, KACST has completed three unmanned prototypes of the UAV,

dubbed the Al-Nawras (gull). These are equipped with new flight control systems enabling them to be operated from a ground station. Each of the three is configured for different missions, one for jamming electronic signals, another for aerial surveillance, and the third with wing pylons to carry weapons. They can also fly joint, co-ordinated missions. With an endurance of 30 hours, the UAVs can be equipped with day and night cameras for reconnaissance operations. Dave Allport

THE LATEST pair of Hawk Mk165s for the Royal Saudi Air Force (RSAF) was delivered recently. The aircraft were spotted passing through Heraklion Airport, Greece, on their delivery flight to the Kingdom. The two aircraft, 7907 (ST016, ZB116) and 2111 (ST020, ZB120), departed BAE Warton, Lancashire, on June 14. Saudi Arabia ordered 22 Hawk Mk165s as part of a £1.6bn contract, officially

announced in May 2012. The first aircraft made its maiden flight at Warton on September 16, 2015. Deliveries began on April 1, 2016, when the first two departed from the Warton factory, subsequently arriving at King Faisal Air Base on April 6. In February last year BAE Systems announced that a further order for 22 more aircraft had been signed, bringing the total of Mk165s on contract for the RSAF to 44.

Above: The three Al-Nawras UAV prototypes, converted from manned Pipistrel Virus light sport aircraft. KACST

SAUDI ARABIA’S King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology (KACST) has successfully completed modification

of a manned aircraft into an unmanned air vehicle (UAV) configuration. Prince Dr Turki bin Saud bin

Mohammed, the KACST President, announced the achievement on July 17. Using the Slovenian Pipistrel Virus light sport

Latest Saudi Hawk deliveries

RSAF Hawk Mk165 2111 (ST020, ZB120) on approach to Crete’s Heraklion Airport. Babak Taghvaee

Air Force, several members of the embassy and the Pakistani military attaché, also attended the event. The contract for these aircraft was signed on June 23, 2016 (see Qatar Super Mushshak Order, August 2016, p32). It remains unconfirmed how many aircraft are involved in the deal and the number in the first batch to be delivered was also not reported. Dave Allport

#354 SEPTEMBER 2017 // 25


Russia & CIS

Mi-171Sh-VN gunship revealed

Azerbaijan orders Super Mushshak

THE PAKISTAN Aeronautical Complex (PAC) has secured an order for ten Super Mushshaks from Azerbaijan. The contract was signed on July 27. According to the Pakistan Air Force, PAC will provide training and technical assistance to the Azerbaijan Air Force. Waseem Abbas

Russian MoD orders Mi-38s

Above: The package of features incorporated in the Mi-171Sh-VN will apparently be offered to international customers as an option for the basic Mi-171Sh assault transport model. Stanislav Bazhenov

RUSSIAN HELICOPTERS, a subsidiary of the Rostec state corporation, unveiled a new, heavily armed, variant of the Mi-171Sh military transport helicopter at the MAKS 2017 airshow at Zhukovsky, outside

Moscow, which took place from July 18 to 23. The Mi-171Sh-VN is configured as a gunship for special operations and, according to officials, has been developed in light of experience from Russia’s campaign in Syria.

As well as additional weapons, the Mi-171ShVN includes other features to improve survivability. The helicopter can accommodate up to 37 troops and three crew. The basic Mi-171Sh is an export version of

Russia orders more Ansat-Us

Above: Russian Air Force Ansat-U ‘51 Yellow’ at Kubinka in May 2015 during preparations for that year’s Victory Parade in Moscow. Although precise figures are unconfirmed, it is believed around 40 Ansat-Us are now in service. Ralf Jahnke

THE RUSSIAN Ministry of Defence has ordered a further ten Ansat-U training helicopters. The contract, placed with Kazan Helicopters on June 5, is valued at $33m

and the completion date is expected to be December 31 this year. The Ansat-U was selected as the future cadet pilot training helicopter for the Russian Armed Forces

the Russian military Mi-8AMTSh, which has been used in Syria. This latter variant is basically similar to the Mi-8MTV-5 but is produced by the UlanUde plant, rather than Kazan Helicopters.

RUSSIA’S MINISTRY of Defence has signed a contract for two Mi-38 helicopters for delivery by the end of 2019. The order with JSC Russian Helicopters was announced on July 19. They will be built by Kazan Helicopters before undergoing experimental testing to assess their suitability for operation by the Russian Aerospace Forces (VKS). Dave Allport

Helix meets Osprey at Sea Breeze Ka-27PS ‘29 Yellow’ (c/n 5235012382608) of the Ukrainian Navy’s only aviation unit – the 10 mors’ka aviatsiyna brihada (mabr, naval aviation brigade) – takes off from its home base at Kul’bakino near Mykolayiv on July 14, during the US-Ukrainian Sea Breeze 2017 naval

exercise. Visible in the background is one of two US Air Force CV-22Bs of the 7th Special Operations Squadron from RAF Mildenhall, Suffolk that also attended the exercise. A full Exercise Report on Sea Breeze 2017 will appear in the October issue.

in 2001. The first three entered service following delivery on October 11, 2010, to the Syzran Higher Military Aviation School at Syzran-Troekurovka. Dave Allport

Two more PAK FA prototypes due this year SUKHOI IS to produce another two T-50 prototypes this year, according to Russia’s TASS news agency. Russian Deputy Defence Minister Yuri Borisov said that work on the PAK FA project was “at the final stage”. The next two prototypes produced by

26 // SEPTEMBER 2017 #354

the Gagarin Aircraft Plant in Komsomolsk-on-Amur will be the tenth and eleventh to join the test programme. The most recent prototype to fly, T-50-9, made a maiden flight at Komsomolskon-Amur on April 24 (see Latest T-50 prototype takes to the air, July, p6).

Russia plans to purchase a first batch of production T-50s – which will be designated Su-57 in VKS service – as part of the future 2018-25 state armament programme. An initial T-50 fitted with the ‘second-phase engine’ (izdeliye 30) is due to make a first flight in 2018.

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Asia Pacific

Medevac Z-8JH on Liaoning

Gordon Arthur

THIS MEDICAL evacuation (medevac) version of the Z-8 helicopter was noted on board the aircraft carrier Liaoning (CV 16) during its maiden visit to Hong Kong on July 7. The carrier entered Hong Kong waters

accompanied by three other warships from the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the territory’s handover to China during a five-day port call. The remainder of the task force

Final South Korean AW159s commissioned THE REPUBLIC of Korea Navy (RoKN) has introduced its final batch of AW159 antisubmarine helicopters. The commissioning of the last four aircraft was confirmed by the Republic of Korea Armed Forces on July 5. The final batch of helicopters

was handed over by Leonardo’s Helicopter Division last November. South Korea’s Defence Acquisition Programme Administration ordered eight AW159s in 2013. The first batch of four AW159s was delivered to South Korea in June last year.

comprised Type 052D destroyer Yinchuan, Type 052C destroyer Jinan and Type 054A frigate Yantai. As well as eight J-15 fighters the Liaoning embarked a Z-9S plane guard helicopter, while a Z-18 VIP transport

helicopter (‘381’) was noted below decks. The rarely seen Z-8JH is intended for medevac and combat search and rescue. The aircraft on Liaoning was ‘9516’, the only example noted to date.

Malaysia’s MRCA programme in doubt A REPORT from Reuters dated July 13 suggests the Tentera Udara Diraja Malaysia (TUDM, Royal Malaysian Air Force) has abandoned its much-delayed Multirole Combat Aircraft (MRCA) programme. Air force officials have neither confirmed nor denied

the story, which cited an unidentified source from the Malaysian Ministry of Defence (MINDEF). The report said that funds are instead being allocated to counter-terrorist operations and that the MRCA may be re-launched after Malaysia’s general election next year.

Maiden flight for production CH-5 drone THE SERIES production version of the CH-5 – or CaiHong (Rainbow) 5 – unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) performed its maiden flight in north China’s Hebei Province on July 14. The current model has been comprehensively

via Chinese internet

28 // SEPTEMBER 2017 #354

revised compared with the UAV that was first flown in August 2015 before being unveiled at the Zhuhai Airshow in November last year. The new CH-5 features more aerodynamically refined lines that will improve its stealth characteristics.

Intended primarily for export, the CaiHong family of UAVs is being developed by the Academy of Aerospace Aerodynamics, also known as the 11th Academy or 701st Research Institute, part of the China Aerospace

Science and Technology Corporation (CASC). The series includes the CH-3 operated by Myanmar, Nigeria and Pakistan (as the locally built Burraq) and the CH-4, used by Egypt, Iraq and Saudi Arabia. Andreas Rupprecht

Final FA-50PHs delivered to Philippines

KOREA AEROSPACE INDUSTRIES (KAI) has completed delivery of all 12 FA-50PH light attack aircraft ordered by the Philippine Air Force (PAF). KAI said this had been completed on July 4, three months ahead of schedule, and that it was hopeful the PAF would place an additional order for the type in the future. An event to mark the induction into service of the final two aircraft was held at Clark Air Base on July 4, although they had actually arrived at the base some weeks earlier, on May 31. During the event, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte confirmed that his government would consider purchasing a further 12 FA-50PHs at some point during his six-year term of office, which began on June 30 last year. The FA-50PHs were ordered under a contract signed on March 28, 2014, and the first pair was delivered on November 28, 2015. Dave Allport

Indonesia plans to buy 11 Su-35s

INDONESIAN DEFENCE Minister Ryamizard Ryacudu has confirmed plans to purchase 11 Su-35 fighters for the Tentara Nasional Indonesia – Angkatan Udara (TNI-AU, Indonesian Air Force). He made the statement during a press conference at the Presidential Office on July 26 after a Cabinet meeting on military procurement. The aircraft will replace the F-5E/Fs of Skadron Udara 14 at Madiun/Lanud Iswahjudi. He also said that purchase of unmanned air vehicles was being discussed. Rear Admiral Leonardi, Chief of the Defence Facilities Board, said China had expressed its willingness to supply UAVs to Indonesia and that these would have an attack capability and be customised to Indonesia’s specifications. Initially only six will be purchased for trials. Dave Allport

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ASM-3 missiles for F-2

THE JAPANESE government plans to equip Japan Air SelfDefense Force (JASDF) F-2 fighters with ASM-3 supersonic antiship missiles. The budgetary request for fiscal year 2018 includes an allocation of “several hundred millions of yen” to massproduce the missile starting next year. Under development by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries as the XASM-3, the rocketramjet weapon flies at around Mach 3.

Korean Hercules at Mobility Guardian REPUBLIC OF Korea Air Force (RoKAF) C-130H 05-185 (c/n 5185) of the 251st Tactical Air Support Squadron was among the foreign participants at

Air Mobility Command’s first Mobility Guardian readiness exercise. It was held at Joint Base LewisMcChord, Washington from July 30 to August 12 and other participants included Australia, Belgium, Brazil,

Canada, Colombia, France, New Zealand, Pakistan and the United Kingdom, the latter sending a Royal Air Force Atlas C1. The RoKAF has eight C-130Hs and four C-130H30s in service with the


Additional Saab 340 delivered to Thailand AN ADDITIONAL secondhand Saab 340B has recently been delivered to the Royal Thai Air Force (RTAF, Kongtap Agard Thai). The aircraft, N452XJ (c/n 452), formerly operated by Mesaba Airlines, had been stored at Bangor, Maine. It was repainted in RTAF grey military colours in April and then departed on delivery on July 19 for Halifax International Airport, Canada. It left there the same day and flew to Palma de Mallorca, where it arrived on July 20 prior to resuming its delivery flight. It is allocated serial 70205, but its military markings were taped over for the delivery flight.

251st Tactical Air Support Squadron, 255th Special Operations Squadron and 257th Tactical Air Support Squadron. These have been supplemented by four C-130Js since April 2014.

A second ex-Mesaba aircraft, N439XJ (c/n 439, to be 70206) has also been acquired, but this has not yet been

delivered. Both will be operated by 702 Squadron at Surat Thani. In addition to its AEW versions of the type, the unit already

flies two standard Saab 340Bs, one to act as a crew trainer and the other as a passenger aircraft. Dave Allport

Above: New Royal Thai Air Force Saab 340B N452XJ (c/n 452, to be 70205) at Palma de Mallorca Airport, Spain, on July 20 during its delivery flight. Javier Rodriguez

US donates ISR Caravans to Philippines

THE US government has donated two Cessna 208Bs equipped for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) to the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP). AFP spokesperson Brig Gen Restituto Padilla said the Caravans would be used for maritime surveillance and coastal photo-reconnaissance. The two aircraft were formally handed over by the US government at Villamor Air Base on July 27 and were delivered as part of America’s Maritime Security Initiative.

Thailand orders eight more T-50s

THAILAND IS acquiring eight additional Korea Aerospace Industries T-50TH advanced jet trainers. A contract worth $259m was reportedly signed on July 11. Thailand previously ordered four T-50THs in September 2015 to replace the L-39 in the Royal Thai Air Force. The first two aircraft from the original order are due to be delivered in December, followed by another two next June.

Rene Köhler

‘South Korea Air Force One’ in Europe REPUBLIC OF Korea Air Force (RoKAF) Boeing 747-4B5 10001 was an interesting visitor to the Group of Twenty (G20)

Summit in Hamburg ( July 7-8). From April 2010 onwards, the Republic of Korea Air Force has leased a single 747 from Korean

Air (with which it served as HL7465), to act as a long-range presidential/ VVIP transport. The aircraft is operated by the

RoKAF’s 296th Squadron, part of the 15th Special Missions Wing/35th Combined Group Air Force based at Seoul AB.

#354 SEPTEMBER 2017 // 29




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he Royal International Air Tattoo (RIAT) in Gloucestershire is no longer just about aircraft or family entertainment over the mid-July weekend. This year 28 aerospace companies – the largest number ever at RIAT – took up chalets over a half-mile stretch overlooking the runway. This is the place where, once a year, the Royal Air Force talks business in a relaxed environment. High-ranking officers at RIAT included the RAF Chief of the Air Staff (CAS), Air Chief Marshal Sir Stephen Hillier. And there was no shortage of senior executives from the corporate world at a time when the UK Ministry of Defence (MOD) is outsourcing so much of its work.

32 // SEPTEMBER 2017 #354

All three of the MOD’s new fixedwing trainers – which form part of the Military Flying Training System (MFTS) – were on display. The Grob 120TP Prefect, Embraer Phenom 100 and Beechcraft T-6 Texan II were parked together in the static display for the first time. The MOD has worked with training design and delivery organisation Ascent to manage the MFTS programme. Meanwhile, Affinity Flying Training Services (a consortium comprising KBR and Elbit Systems) takes care of the fleets.

A new era of training support The MOD’s 15-year Air Support to Defence Operational Training (ASDOT) deal will start on January

1, 2020, and is said to be worth around £1.2bn. ASDOT comprises a complex set of aggressortype training requirements for all three of the UK’s armed services and has attracted much attention from industry. The Royal Navy (RN) will use ASDOT to support Flag Officer Sea Training (FOST) for the fleet, covering electronic warfare (EW) and the simulation of missile attacks. Much of this already happens during the RN’s weekly ‘Thursday War’ exercises on the south coast. For the British Army, ASDOT will be used to train Joint Terminal Attack Controllers (JTACs). Ultimately, it will take over the RAF’s aggressor training, currently provided by No 100 Squadron

at RAF Leeming, North Yorkshire. First, however, the MOD will define its requirements by listening to the bidders, coming up with a flexible solution that can be fine-tuned if required. Cobham Aviation, which is based at Bournemouth Airport and flies Dassault Falcon 20s with podded EW systems, fulfils much of current aggressor training requirements under a contract known as ‘020’. The company works alongside the RN’s 736 Naval Air Squadron at RNAS Culdrose, Cornwall, and the RAF’s No 100 Squadron, which both fly Hawk T1s. Cobham and the Hawks fly constantly throughout the year on various exercises. While

‘In association with…’

LUE AIR the Cobham Falcon 20s and RN Hawks will step aside for the new ASDOT system on December 31, 2019, the No 100 Squadron Hawks will soldier on until 2027. An MOD spokesperson told AFM: “ASDOT will seek to address the complex range of airborne threats posed by the UK’s potential adversaries. It is more than a Red Air provision as it will also need to provide Blue capabilities for Aerospace

Having outsourced flying training over the past ten years, the UK MOD is now preparing for the next challenge. A new element of the Military Flying Training System is taking shape – the Air Support to Defence Operational Training (ASDOT) contract – as Alan Warnes reports.

Battle Manager/Fighter Controller and JTAC training, together with a range of EW and threat simulation capabilities for training and operational assurance activities.

ASDOT is set to serve the UK Armed Forces’ evolving live-fly, tactical training needs well into the mid-2030s. In July 2016 QinetiQ, Thales and Textron AirLand announced their collaboration for the ASDOT bidding. Textron AirLand will offer its Scorpion jet, and other platforms. Jamie Hunter

#354 SEPTEMBER 2017 // 33

INTEL REPORT ‘Check six!’ In the cockpit of a No 100 Squadron Hawk T1. These aggressor jets will continue their work until 2027 when their role will be taken on by the ASDOT provider. Crown Copyright

“In addition to the Blue Air requirements, there is a need for a range of third- and fourthgeneration capabilities, including air-to-air, air-to-surface and close air support, asymmetric threat simulation, provision of airborne targets for air-to-air and surface-to-air gunnery, and the capability to electronically simulate threat systems.”


The need to reorganise aggressor-type training has come about for several reasons. As the UK edges back into confronting adversaries using more sophisticated sensors and technologies, it is clear the MOD is increasingly aware of the need to take the high-end threat seriously. It’s not just about fighter-versus-fighter in the air-to-air domain, but Right: Discovery was planning to bring an A-4N to RIAT but due to operational commitments in Germany on the Friday and Monday it did not come. This Wittmundbased example was providing gunnery services to Austrian Air Force Eurofighters this spring. Oliver Jonischkeit

34 // SEPTEMBER 2017 #354

trying to combat sensors, too. As one expert told AFM: “We have sat still for so long that the Chinese and Russians have taken their EW technologies to the next level, which means we have a lot of catching up to do.” Austerity is another reason. With the Typhoon FGR4 and the F-35B Lightning II imposing a hefty cost per flying hour, a fresh look at training is clearly required. The RAF does not want to waste the airframe hours of these valuable and expensive assets, when it could instead use more synthetics and cheaper alternatives. The US is already exploring these options, led by the US Air Force’s Adversary Air (AdAir) programme. The USAF, US Navy and US Marines are all looking to contract out around 45,000 flying hours per year. This will be nearly four times more than ASDOT and the

US is pioneering the methods in which adversary training can be carried out in the future. In the US and in the UK, the result is going to be big business for the contractors.

Inzpire and DADS

Every ASDOT bid will be led by a UK company, because the operational requirements call for secret ‘UK eyes only’ access. That includes UK aircrews that understand national tactics. It means that some of the information will be firewalled from the international companies. Several contractors have already shown their hand, with teaming agreements. Lincolnshirebased Inzpire announced it was entering into a deal with Canada’s Discovery Air Defence Services (DADS) in February. Some of Inzpire’s methods are groundbreaking. It works at the heart of the RAF’s EW capability for the Typhoon in the Typhoon Mission

Support Centre (MSC), at RAF Coningsby, Lincolnshire. The Inzpire team operates alongside RAF MSC counterparts, developing, testing and evaluating, and delivering the Typhoon’s EW threat reactions and mission data set to assure the safety and effective operation of Typhoon pilots and their platforms. Inzpire announced on July 19 that it had also been awarded the contract to support the development of training on the new Protector Remotely Piloted Air System (RPAS). Inzpire has a tradition of taking on highly skilled UK military personnel who would otherwise be lost to the civilian world. Inzpire will bring the brains, while DADS will bring the brawn. The company already operates 16 Alpha Jets, seven A-4N Skyhawks (based in Germany), two TA-4Js and two IAI 1123 Westwinds for special missions. Three years ago DADS attempted to acquire F-16s too, but the company has chosen not to divulge how far this deal has gone. In January 2015, the Canadian-based company began a five-year fast-jet airborne training services contract with the German Armed Forces utilising a fleet of seven A-4Ns out of Wittmund, northern Germany. The company is already running similar Red Air contracts with the Canadian Armed Forces. Earlier this year, it linked with Air Affairs Australia, which provides specialised air training support to the Australian Defence Force, using Learjets and King Airs.

Textron, Thales and QinetiQ

Textron AirLand brought its one-of-a kind Scorpion intelligence, surveillance

‘In association with…’

Fast and low over the Channel – the domain of 736 Naval Air Squadron’s Hawks that regularly mimic aircraft and missile threats for the Royal Navy. The RN’s aggressor Hawks will stand down on December 31, 2019, making way for ASDOT. Derek Bower

and reconnaissance (ISR)/strike aircraft to RIAT. The Kansasbased company is working alongside QinetiQ, which will lead an ASDOT bid, and Thales. As part of its strategy to gain more Red Air work, parent company Textron acquired Airborne Tactical Advantage Company (ATAC) last year. ATAC flies 16 former Swiss Air Force Hunters, six ex-Israeli Air Force Kfirs and four Aero Vodochody L-39ZAs. Reports from France also claim the company has acquired more than 50 former French Air Force Mirage F1s, with 36 likely to be made airworthy. This acquisition is likely to be aimed at the US market.

Cobham and Draken

A third teaming arrangement includes Draken International, which flies at least 14 of 21 Griforadar-equipped L-159s recently acquired from Aero Vodochody as well as L-39s, A-4s and MB339s (see Enter the dragon, May, p6067). The company was originally planning to team with CAE and Babcock, but Cobham announced on July 14 that it had signed a teaming agreement with Draken. Peter Nottage, CEO and President of Cobham Aviation Services said: “Our work to advance existing in-house, synthetic threat training technology development continues and, when combined with our unparalleled electronic warfare training expertise and Draken, we will deliver an ASDOT solution that will provide the most advanced training environment.” The solutions from each of the competitors will be different, depending upon their primary areas of expertise. Discovery,

ATAC and Draken all offer legacy platforms but with highly experienced pilots. However, others may consider older aircraft too expensive to run, while pilots would likely have to cross-train on several platforms. These companies might prefer to offer a single aircraft type to cover all forms of training. As long as the bidder can provide the service and meet the requirements, which will come down to affordability, competence and delivery, the aircraft used should not be an issue. Interestingly, none of the ‘Tier 1’ companies such as Airbus, BAE Systems, Elbit Systems, Leonardo, Lockheed Martin or Saab have

Above: RAF Regiment Forward Air Controllers (FACs) guide a Typhoon from No 6 Squadron onto their target at the Cape Wrath practice range in Scotland. As well as the RAF and RN, the British Army requires ASDOT capabilities, including training of FACs/JTACs. Crown Copyright Below: A pair of Draken International A-4Ks at work out of Nellis AFB, Nevada. Draken has teamed up with Cobham in the competition. Frank Crébas

#354 SEPTEMBER 2017 // 35


‘In association with…’

Above: The impressive Airborne Tactical Advantage Company (ATAC) adversary fleet could yet play a part in ASDOT, after the company was acquired by Textron. ATAC operates a fleet of 16 former Swiss Air Force Hunters. Rob DeStasio

entered the fray so far. It might be expected that at least some try to get involved. There is a possibility they are in discussions with existing bidders and could emerge as important players. The MOD will be looking for a level of investment from the consortiums to field the assets and will need to be confident they can deliver a 15-year service. While Leonardo executives would not reveal any bid with the M-346FA, a board in front of the prototype on display at RIAT said it all. “The M-346FA is ideally suited to the UK’s ASDOT requirement, offering high-end ‘aggressor’ performance cost-effectively.” Leonardo believes it has technology that can be continually upgraded in order to reflect developing aggressor capabilities, through the aircraft itself or via podded solutions. It is likely that Leonardo will pitch the M-346FA to span ASDOT’s second- to fourthgeneration aggressor needs. However, the cost of a brandnew jet, particularly at the outset, could preclude the aircraft from being included in a bid. The same could apply to the Scorpion, which currently being evaluated under the USAF light attack experiment. This autumn, all the industry consortiums will be involved in a Pre-Qualification Questionnaire (PQQ) stage. The teams will demonstrate to the UK MOD their capabilities, with each company being asked to cover its particular skills in any teaming arrangement. Should they get through this, the teams will

36 // SEPTEMBER 2017 #354

be invited to proceed to the bidding stage next year. All the consortiums will be expected to own the required assets.

High-end Red Air

The two new RAF air defence Typhoon squadrons announced in the 2015 Strategic Defence and Security Review are expected to stand up at RAF Lossiemouth, Moray, and at RAF Coningsby on January 1, 2019. They are expected to be tasked to fly around 1,200 hours a year supporting an aggressor function, perhaps establishing standard operating procedures before the ASDOT contract starts on January 1, the following year. At that point 736 NAS will withdraw its Hawks from use,

and the first phase of ASDOT is expected to start. This will include an element of live, virtual and constructive (LVC) training. The winning consortium will be expected to field its solution, replacing the Falcon 20s and RN Hawks, providing more than 7,000 hours per annum. Another 1,000 hours will be generated using synthetics. It should continue that way until 2027, when the No 100 Squadron Hawks are retired and Phase Two of ASDOT begins. This will see the winning contractor taking on an additional 6,000 hours. As one source told AFM: “There are an awful lot of technologies out there and some really good fielded solutions, but there are real limitations. And the

limitations come when you try to train fighter pilots with virtual and constructive entities that they won’t be able to see on radar, only on their data link. The limitation is getting the heads of the pilots around that. He or she will have to consider all those things and reapportion assets to cover them without seeing them on the radar, or out of the window. To provide really good training you need to show the big fight on the screen.” Ultimately, everything should be displayed on the aircraft’s radar. That work is ongoing in the US. The USAF’s recent Northern Edge exercise in Alaska (see North to the future, July, p54-59) was used to test some LVC elements. The USAF is hoping to field the solutions the RAF is looking for in its own Red Air contracts before the ASDOT contract starts. The same source concluded: “The ASDOT programme will have one eye firmly fixed on the development of LVC capabilities, but is not seeking to deliver this in isolation. ASDOT will seek to find a blended live/constructive capability that adds mass and complexity to the live training.” After a year of negotiations, a winner should be announced by mid-2019 leading to full operational capability by the end of 2020. We might then expect to see similar competitions rolled out by other countries. Australia, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates all operate expensive fourth/fifthgeneration fighters and could be potential candidates for similar aggressor training initiatives. AFM

Cobham currently operates 15 upgraded Dassault Falcon 20s for its live flying roles. While these will be superseded by the new ASDOT system at the end of 2019, the company remains involved in bidding for the new contract after signing an agreement with Draken at RIAT. Derek Bower


RED ALERT! Although the US leads the field when it comes to Red Air aggressor units, a host of contractors and other air forces have seen the benefit of this training in what is a constantly evolving picture. SAINTS AND SINNERS The US Navy takes the air-to-air mission extremely seriously. It calls upon a range of adversary squadrons as well as contractor support to train its fleet units, as Andy Wilson describes. ALASKAN OUTLAWS Søren Augustesen travels to Eielson AFB in Fairbanks, Alaska, to meet one of only two dedicated US Air Force aggressor squadrons — the 18th AGRS ‘Blue Foxes’.



DRAKEN EXPANDS Contractor air services provider Draken International is building on its work at Nellis AFB, Nevada, as well as branching out in Europe.

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BACK IN BUSINESS Britain’s newest and biggest aircraft carrier, HMS Queen Elizabeth (R08), is approaching the end of a first phase of sea trials. Tim Ripley visited her in Rosyth dockyard and reports on the UK’s return to the aircraft carrier business.

38 // SEPTEMBER 2017 #354

A fine aerial view of HMS ‘Queen Elizabeth’ shortly after sailing from Rosyth in June. All images Crown Copyright unless otherwise stated


ALKING UP to the top of HMS Queen Elizabeth’s ski-jump and looking back at her vast flight deck is the best way to appreciate that the UK’s new super-carrier is purpose designed and built to launch and recover aircraft in the most efficient and effective way. The carrier’s 919ft (280m) flight deck stretches into the distance. In the carrier’s aft island, the flying control (Flyco) is up and running to oversee air operations on the ship with her team of aircraft controllers at work and visible through the island’s large windows. During AFM’s visit to the ship a few days before she was to leave Rosyth to start her contractor sea trials (see AFM August, p8), Queen Elizabeth was a hive of activity as the dockyard workers were in the final stages of removing their tools, scaffolding and temporary power supplies. Amid the coming and going of hundreds of men and women in hi-visibility vests, the ship’s company was carrying out a last damage control rehearsal exercise to enable the carrier to receive her certificate of sea worthiness. Just behind Rosyth dockyard’s huge Goliath crane, Queen Elizabeth’s sister ship, HMS Prince of Wales, can be seen in an advanced stage of assembly. Almost 20 years of effort to design, build and deliver a new generation of aircraft carriers for the Royal Navy is nearing its fruition.

The carrier gap

Not surprisingly, the officers and sailors onboard HMS Queen Elizabeth were itching to put their ship through her paces. Setting sail for sea trials on June 26 was a major milestone in the project to close the Royal Navy’s ‘aircraft carrier gap’, which resulted from the 2010 Strategic Defence and Security Review. As part of a bid to cut the Ministry of Defence’s (MOD’s) budget, Britain’s last strike carrier, HMS Ark Royal and her complement of Harrier GR9s were sacrificed, leaving the UK lacking fixed-wing naval aviation for the first time since World War One. The money saved was to be ploughed back into making sure the delayed and over-budget HMS Queen Elizabeth and Prince of Wales could actually be built. The cost of re-establishing what is termed the UK’s Carrier Enabled Power Projection (CEPP) capability is truly eye watering. At the time of initial contract signature in 2007 the estimated cost of the two carriers was just over £3bn. It now stands at some £6.2bn to build the two carriers, £5.8bn to buy 48 Lockheed Martin F-35B Lightning II Joint Strike Fighters and £300m to procure Crowsnest airborne early warning radars for installation in the Fleet Air Arm’s Merlin HMA2 helicopters. According to the UK National Audit Office (NAO) spending watchdog, a further £600m has been set aside to operate the two carriers over the next five years; paying for fuel, food, maintenance and

#354 SEPTEMBER 2017 // 39


any minor repairs that might be required. The past seven years have been turbulent times for the Royal Navy as technical delays and cost overruns dogged the carrier programme. A bid to install ‘cat and trap’ takeoff and landing systems floundered in 2013 after it emerged that the projected costs of the revolutionary electro-magnetic catapults for the ships spiralled from £900m to more than £2bn to equip each of the two carriers. There were also serious doubts that the pioneering Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System (EMALS) catapults would be ready to meet the Royal Navy’s delivery schedule. So, in an abrupt U-turn, the MOD decided to drop the ‘cat and trap’ plan based around the US Navy’s F-35C carrier variant and revert to the short take-off and vertical landing (STOVL) F-35B. After the first steel on the ships was cut in 2009, work accelerated and HMS Queen Elizabeth was formally launched in 2014. In the same year it was finally confirmed that HMS Prince of Wales would be brought into service on a full-time basis to allow the Royal Navy to maintain a ‘continuous at sea’ carrier presence. The second carrier should be handed over to the navy in 2019. In the 2015 defence review, the purchase of the full complement of 48 F-35Bs was confirmed to allow both carriers to simultaneously embark at least one squadron of jets. Not surprisingly HMS Queen Elizabeth’s commanding officer, Commodore Jerry Kyd, believes the cost and hard work involved will be worth the effort. “The premier nations of the world are investing billions of dollars in aircraft carriers,” he told AFM. “The ship will provide the British government with an incredibly flexible tool. HMS Queen Elizabeth and her sister ship, HMS Prince of Wales, are to give Britain a global presence. Anywhere she goes in the world it will [provide] Britain [with] a serious punch.”

Sea trials

Eleven tugs were required to manoeuvre the 65,000-ton HMS Queen Elizabeth out

40 // SEPTEMBER 2017 #354

Above: An artist’s rendering of the HMS ‘Queen Elizabeth’ alongside HMS ‘Prince of Wales’, which is currently in final assembly. Aircraft Carrier Alliance Below: The F-35B is the cornerstone of carrier strike for the UK, with trials aboard HMS ‘Queen Elizabeth’ planned for 2018. Jamie Hunter

HMS ‘Queen Elizabeth’ is carefully moved out from the dockyard’s basin on June 26.

of the dockyard’s Aircraft Carrier Alliance’s basin on June 26, and position her in the Firth of Forth. Later that evening she passed under the three major bridges across the Firth to start her four-monthlong contractor trials programme to allow her to be handed over to the Royal Navy. Prior to her sailing, Commodore Kyd described the complex procedure to get HMS Queen Elizabeth out from her place of construction. “We need high water over the [entrance to the basin]. Then we will have to wait for the tide to go down so we can go under the bridges,” he said. Kyd told AFM that the contractor sea trials were expected to take place in two fiveto six-week blocks in the North Sea and Moray Firth areas, stretching as far north as Fair Isle. He said the first phase would concentrate on testing the strengths and weaknesses of the ship and its primary systems, such as its sewage plant, fresh water systems and auxiliary machinery. “After five to six weeks we will come back into Rosyth for planned engineering work and three weeks later we will go out for more sea trials,” he explained. The second period will place more emphasis on warfighting mission systems, such as radars and radios, as well as working with other aircraft and ships. “After that we will transition to our base port at Portsmouth which is ready to receive us,” he added. “The next couple of weeks will be vital.” During the contractor trials, the ship will continue to be owned by the Aircraft Carrier Alliance (ACA) and its sea trials manager will run the activity. To support this work, around 300 military, government and civilian contractors are embarked on board, augmenting HMS Queen Elizabeth’s 700-strong ship’s company of Royal Navy personnel. The ACA’s managing director, Ian Booth told AFM that these plans are designed to be flexible. “This is the largest Royal Navy warship to go to sea for some time,” he said. “Don’t be surprised if our plans change.” During this first test phase, the focus will be on proving whether HMS Queen Elizabeth meets the Royal Navy’s requirements. Commodore Kyd stressed that operating aircraft was her primary function and that he wanted to get aircraft on her deck very soon. Indeed, an 820 Naval Air Squadron (NAS) Merlin HM2 landed on deck on July 3, marking a significant step in the first period of trials. Throughout the contractor sea trials, the ship will be supported and protected by three shore-based Merlins from the squadron, which had carried out a major exercise in Scotland during March 2017 to prepare for the mission. Operating from forward bases at RAF Lossiemouth in Moray and HMS Gannet at Prestwick International Airport in Ayrshire, the Merlins are on hand to provide surface and sub-surface surveillance around the carrier to help prevent Russian spy ships, submarines and reconnaissance aircraft getting too close. Two Royal Navy Type 23 frigates – HMS Sutherland and HMS Iron Duke, with more Merlins embarked – also escorted the carrier as she began this phase.

The impressive 919ft flight deck of the new Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carrier.

to-service evaluation can be carried out. From January-March 2018, rotary-wing trials will take place in the UK before the ship heads to the United States for fixed-wing work-ups. According to Commodore Kyd, the first phase of the sea trials will involve taking measurements of the wind flow around and over the deck as the ship undertakes various manoeuvres around the UK coast. Then, deck landings and take-offs will begin, involving all of the main UK helicopter types, including Chinook heavy-lift helicopters, Apache AH1 attack helicopters, both variants of the Wildcat, as well as Merlin HMA2s and HC4s. The aim of this phase of the trials will be to confirm the release-to-service certificates to clear all relevant helicopters to safely operate from the carrier. This will mark the first milestone towards operational readiness and will enable the carrier, if needed, to embark on limited helicopterborne assaults by the Royal Marines. The carrier is then expected to return to her home base at Portsmouth for a maintenance and upgrade period to prepare her for what could be the most challenging part of her

entry to service – the fast jet trials. What is termed a ‘technology insertion period’ will take place to install the equipment needed to operate helicopters and F-35Bs on a sustained basis. This includes the F-35B’s computerised Autonomic Logistics Information System (ALIS), which is essential to operating the Lightning II from the ship. “In 14 months’ time, we will be on the eastern seaboard of the US to embark the first Lockheed Martin F-35B Lightning II,” Kyd said. “Then we will be carrying out hundreds of landings and take-offs under different wind and light conditions.” British and US aircraft and personnel from the F-35 Integrated Test Force based at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Maryland, will be at the heart of these trials. For reasons of national prestige, the first F-35B to land on HMS Queen Elizabeth will be a British jet, piloted by a British test pilot. The MOD is expecting this work to be carried out in autumn 2018. Senior officers onboard HMS Queen Elizabeth are confident there will not be any major problems putting the F-35Bs onto the carrier. Many of the aircraft’s landing

Aviation trials

Once the Queen Elizabeth is formally handed over to the Royal Navy a more complex entry-

The ship passes under the three major bridges across the Firth of Forth at low tide.

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HMS QUEEN ELIZABETH Squadron is expected to embark on HMS Queen Elizabeth for a series of squadron-level operational test and evaluation exercises, to prove the warfighting tactics and procedures needed to operate a significant number of F-35Bs from the ship. The following year, the operational envelope will be pushed further still via a full task-group-level operational trial that will bring together a squadron of F-35Bs, anti-submarine and airborne early warning Merlins, surface warships, supply vessels and shore-based air power. If successful, this test will allow the Royal Navy to declare carrier strike IOC.

The importance of success

HMS ‘Queen Elizabeth’ at the start her four-monthlong contractor trials programme in June.

controls are automated and they have been repeatedly practised in simulations. A lot of the early work will involve proving that the computer simulations of flight operations are valid and will look at the environmental impact of operating the F-35B over the deck. The carrier deck will have to cope with 1,500-degree centigrade heat from the F-35B’s engine. The original coating did not pass muster and a new Thermal Metal Spray System, consisting of a metallic compound of aluminium and titanium, has since been applied to important parts of Queen Elizabeth’s flight deck. One officer described this as a “science project” because until a jet actually tries to land on the ship no one will know what will happen. “We are pretty confident the deck is not going to burst

into flames as soon as a jet tries to land,” he said. “What we are interested in is working out how long the coating will last and what type of maintenance regime we need to put in place to maintain its effectiveness.” The flight trials off the east coast of the US will involve test-instrumented aircraft to collect the required data, rather than operational examples from No 617 Squadron at MCAS Beaufort, South Carolina. The first batch of pilots and ground personnel are in training there ahead of the unit’s return to RAF Marham, Norfolk, next summer. By the end of 2018, nine aircraft should be at Marham, which will enable initial operational capability (IOC) to be declared by the squadron. In the summer/autumn of 2019, No 617

In its report into the carrier strike project published in March 2017, the NAO spending watchdog said that the timescale for realising the new carrier strike plan was “ambitious” and fraught with what it termed “risk”, which could either lead to delays or cost overruns. If key test milestones are missed then knock-on delays could impact other parts of the project. The tight nature of the test programme was highlighted by the NAO when it revealed that the former Prime Minister David Cameron had asked the Royal Navy to consider using the carrier for emergency combat operations before 2020. However, the Navy responded that this was unadvisable because it would have “safety implications” and could end up delaying the project even further. The NAO also reported that many enabling capabilities had not yet been confirmed or even contracted. This included the additional equipment and training required to enable US Marine Corps F-35Bs to operate from the UK carriers and viceversa, sufficient weapons for the Lightning IIs and the helicopters to be embarked on the carriers, the maritime intra-theatre lift capability (known as carrier onboard delivery – COD) to move people and goods to and from shore, and tactical datalinks.

Naval air power future If the next three years’ worth of trials and testing go Right: The first aviation arrival on deck; an 820 NAS Merlin HMA2 lands on July 3.

Above: The carrier will return to Rosyth after the initial period of trials before a second set of evaluations takes place designed to test ‘warfighting’ elements.

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as planned, then the UK’s carrier strike capability will be declared ready for duty by December 2020. Britain’s decadelong carrier strike gap will be closed. But the new carrier strike capability will be very different from the one that was unceremoniously scrapped in 2010. The new Queen Elizabeth-class carriers are three times larger than the Invincible-class carriers they are replacing and can carry up to 40 aircraft or helicopters. All of the UK’s landbased and maritime helicopters have been replaced with newer, modern versions. The biggest difference comes in the fixedwing arena, with 86 Harriers being replaced by 48 jointly owned F-35Bs. While the F-35 is far more capable than the Harrier and for the first time will give the UK a combat aircraft designed to incorporate lowobservable capabilities, there are fewer available airframes. Despite the overall long-term commitment to purchase 138 F-35s, the immediate plan is for two F-35B operational squadrons to be available for deployment on the carriers over the next decade – a total of 24 frontline aircraft should be available to go to sea by around 2023. The aircraft will not be operated in the same manner either. Joint Force Harrier was a combined organisation containing distinct Royal Navy and Royal Air Force flying squadrons, albeit with teams of dark and light blue personnel. The current Lightning Force is a truly integrated organisation, with RAF and RN personnel intrinsically mixed together within squadrons. Some 58% of the force will be RAF and 42% will be RN, with both services contributing commanders at all levels on a merit basis. This could ultimately lead to No 617 Squadron or No 207 Squadron – the Operational Conversion Unit (OCU) – being led by a naval aviator or 809 NAS being commanded by an RAF officer. Unlike US Navy aircraft carriers or the previous British carriers, there will not be a dedicated Commander Air Group, or CAG, to control

Above: The advent of the F-35B and the Queen Elizabeth-class carriers together represent a major new power projection tool for the UK. Jamie Hunter

all the aircraft and personnel embarked on HMS Queen Elizabeth or Prince of Wales. Ad hoc command staff will either be embarked on the ship to plan air campaigns or will issue air tasking orders (ATOs) from a headquarters ashore. When serving in the amphibious operations role landing Royal Marines, Joint Helicopter Command (JHC) is expected to deploy a command team onto the carriers to direct rotary-wing missions. Once HMS Queen Elizabeth and Prince of Wales are well and truly in service, there will need to be a debate about how the ships and their air groups will be employed. As the name implies, carrier strike is focused on projecting air power in the shape of the F-35B. It may be that the aircraft deploy to a shore base, as will the US Marine Corps, to achieve higher sortie rates, or they may always operate from the ship. How the new carriers will be used in amphibious missions is also still to be fully developed. Unlike many other Royal Navy amphibious warships, the Queen Elizabeth-class carriers do not have docks or davits to launch landing craft to take

armoured vehicles, logistic trucks or large quantities of supplies ashore. All troops and materiel will have to be flown ashore from the new carriers by helicopter. At a maximum effort, 14 helicopters can be launched in one go from the deck of HMS Queen Elizabeth but they will be limited in the size of the cargo and vehicles they can carry. This has led to suggestions that the Royal Marines will have to give up on major Falklands-style amphibious operations, with their focus reduced to raiding missions conducted solely by helicopter. The biggest question mark hangs over how the new carriers will be used in fleeton-fleet naval battles. Britain’s F-35s don’t yet have anti-ship missiles and without them they will not be able to hit enemy warships from stand-off ranges. Whether or not the Royal Navy pushes for anti-ship weapons, such as a navalised version of the MBDA Selective Precision Effects At Range (SPEAR) 3 for the F-35 could determine if Britain’s new carriers will be able to take on Russian or Chinese carriers in fleet actions. AFM

“HMS ‘Queen Elizabeth’ and her sister ship, HMS ‘Prince of Wales’, are to give Britain a global presence. Anywhere she goes in the world it will [provide] Britain [with] a serious punch.” HMS Queen Elizabeth’s commanding officer, Commodore Jerry Kyd

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HE ARMÉE de l’Air (French Air Force) Ramex Delta display team became very popular among airshow audiences across Europe between 2010 and 2016. The French Air Force enjoys a strong tradition of two-ship fast jet displays. During the 1990s the Voltige Victor (Mirage F1s) and the Raffin Mike (Jaguar As) tactical display teams would perform alongside the high-performance, single-ship Mirage 2000C demonstration. After these teams disbanded, there were occasional two- or four-ship demonstrations, typically when a squadron organised an airshow at its home airfield. In 2010 Escadron de Chasse (EC, Fighter Squadron) 2/4 ‘La Fayette’ took the opportunity to renew this tradition and established Ramex Delta with a pair of Mirage 2000N strike fighters. Having a permanent team made it possible to attend airshows further afield and to spend more time refining the display. However, with EC 2/4 making the transition from the Mirage 2000N to the Rafale B, and moving from Istres to Saint-Dizier in the process, it was decided that 2016 would be Ramex Delta’s final season.

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Right: With the demise of Ramex Delta it looked as though it was the end for the Armée de l’Air’s tactical display teams. The arrival of Couteau Delta was therefore warmly welcomed by airshow aficionados. All photos P Olivier unless stated Below: The Couteau Delta team members for 2017 with one of their mounts. From left to right: ‘San’ (pilot), ‘Axel’ (WSO), ‘Pastif’ (WSO) and ‘Elvis’ (pilot). Below right: The Couteau Delta aircrew brief with ‘Gaby’ (second from right), the leader of the former Ramex Delta team.

Couteau Delta P Olivier and J Lemoigne report on the establishment of the French Air Force’s latest display team – Couteau Delta – and interview one of its pilots.

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Remembering the Ouadi Doum raid

Vortices stream from the wing roots as a Mirage 2000D deploys airbrakes while still in full afterburner. For all its drama, the Couteau Delta routine is based on tactical manoeuvres found in the Mirage 2000D concept of operations.

Above: Specially marked Mirage 2000D 652/3-XN wears the striking ‘vanilla-chocolate’ scheme developed for combat operations over Africa. Rich Cooper

For its first season, Couteau Delta unveiled a special desert paint scheme (commonly referred to as ‘vanilla-chocolate’) to commemorate an historic mission. This is applied to Mirage 2000D 652/3-XN of EC 3/3 ‘Ardennes’. In 1986 the French military was deployed on Opération Épervier (Operation Sparrowhawk) in support of the government of Chad. Chadian forces were fighting against the troops of Libyan leader Colonel Gaddafi, who were making incursions into Chadian territory. In January 1987, after Chadian troops inflicted several defeats on Libyan soldiers, its air force launched air strikes against French forces. Paris responded with a raid on Ouadi Doum air base, which had been built by Libya in northern Chad. After the first French strike against the runway on February 16, 1986, the local defences were boosted with the addition of five

SA-6 Gainful surface-to-air missile systems and eight ZSU-23-4 self-propelled guns. Consequently, a stand-off attack using the Martel anti-radar missile (ARM) became the preferred option for follow-on air action. On January 7, 1987 the French Air Force launched a composite air operation to target Libyan air defence systems protecting the base and to send a clear message to Libya. The mission involved Mirage F1Cs from EC 3/12 providing air defence, Mirage F1CRs from ER 1/33 to act as bait to trigger the Libyan air defence radar, Jaguar As from EC 3/3 equipped with Martel ARMs, C-135F tankers, and a French Navy Atlantic for electronic intelligence and airborne command and control. The tactic worked – it was not long before the Libyan Flat Face surveillance/ target acquisition radar was switched on, and Jaguar A 100 from EC 3/3 ‘Ardennes’ destroyed it with a Martel missile.

A tactical display

The Ramex Delta display was different from its predecessors because all its manoeuvres had a tactical foundation – this was not an aerobatic routine. The components of the display were derived from everyday Armée de l’Air operations and training procedures. With this in mind, the Mirage 2000s flew their displays with standard 2,000 litre (440 imp gal) wing tanks fitted. Another unusual feature was the fact that pilots and weapons system officers (WSOs) were not dedicated instructors but experienced frontline crew participating in current French Air Force operations. This meant that practising for the tactical display was easier to combine with regular training. During an airshow at Base Aérienne 133 Nancy-Ochey in July 2014 the local squadrons performed the Ramex Delta demonstration using a pair of Mirage 2000Ds. For this

Above: A standard fit for the Couteau Delta display, the 2,000 litre (440 imp gal) drop tanks do little to detract from the clean lines of the Mirage 2000. Right: Close formation flying is a trademark of the Armée de l’Air’s two-ship fast jet displays.

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Mirage 2000D 635/3-AS tucks up its gear as it climbs out of Base Aérienne 133 Nancy-Ochey. It wears the sanglier (wild boar) emblem of EC 3/3 ‘Ardennes’ on the port side of the tailfin.

event, the crew adopted the Couteau Charlie callsign, reviving the traditions of a Mirage IIIE team that performed between 1977 and 1993.

Meet the team

At the end of Ramex Delta’s final season, the French Air Force responded to public pressure and decided to organise a replacement team. Some expected that a pair of Rafale Bs would take up the mantle. Instead, a more obvious choice prevailed, and the 3e Escadre (3rd Wing) at Nancy was chosen to field a successor, the Mirage 2000D crew having already proved they were up to the task. For the first season, the lead crew for the new Couteau Delta team is provided by EC 2/3 ‘Champagne’, and comprises ‘Elvis’ as pilot and ‘Pastif’ as WSO (in French parlance, navigateur officier système d’arme, or NOSA). The second crew comes from EC 3/3 ‘Ardennes’ with ‘San’ as pilot and ‘Axel’ as NOSA. AFM

An interview with ‘Elvis’

AFM: What were the criteria for crew selection? Elvis: The 3e Escadre commanding officers chose the crew from the candidates that volunteered. The final choice was based on qualifications and personal interaction. The team will spend a lot of time together, so it’s very important to get along very well. AFM: How experienced are the crews? Elvis: The two pilots and two WSOs are all four-ship leads, with more than 2,000 flight hours and over 100 combat missions each. We have all been in the French Air Force for more than 12 years and are aged between 30 and 37. AFM: What are the similarities between Couteau Delta and Ramex Delta? Elvis: The first common point is the aircraft. The Mirage 2000D is based on the Mirage 2000N. We have the same airframe, same engine, same flight control system, same navigation system… but the primary missions are different [conventional attack and close air support, and nuclear strike, respectively]. Despite that, the Mirage 2000D and Mirage 2000N regularly fly together in combat operations. AFM: What is the speciality of the 3e Escadre? Elvis: Without doubt, it is deployment at short notice. The Mirage 2000D is reliable, versatile and efficient. It has been deployed in all recent French Air Force operations. Nancy’s crew are dedicated to achieving results. AFM: Is the Couteau Delta routine genuinely similar to your operations? Elvis: The display is built up from daily manoeuvres – strike, CAS [close air support], show of force – but compressed in time and space to improve the experience for the public. Our motto is: ‘fly close together, close to the ground and make some noise!’ AFM: How did you manage the transition between Ramex Delta and Couteau Delta? Elvis: None of us four had previous

‘Elvis’, Couteau Delta pilot and team leader.

experience in this kind of display team. For efficiency and safety reasons the display programme will be the same as that of Ramex Delta in 2016. We met with the Ramex Delta crew, in particular ‘Gaby’ [the former team leader] and ‘Pepe’ [WSO] so they could share their experience. They helped us set up the display and timing, but also [advised on] things like regulation, deployment, communications… AFM: Can you explain the way you choreograph the display on the ground? Elvis: During the pre-display briefing, the leader reviews the routine and the crew repeats the radio calls and the various actions on the controls, trying to mentally visualise the display in the briefing room. From the outside it looks a little bit odd, but it is of paramount importance to focus in this way before the display. AFM: Do you feel a lot of pressure from the public? Elvis: Looking at social media we realised that there was a lot of expectation. For the first year we have already received a lot of requests. We are eager to show the public the results of our work.

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FORCE REPORT Nigerian Air Force Part One

OUT OF THE S The Nigerian Air Force is making efforts to become an efficient, modern air arm in the face of constant terrorist threats and sectarian violence. In the first of a two-part study, M Mazumdar unravels some of the confusion and secrecy surrounding the NAF. Above: Hard-working C-130H NAF 913 is one of three Hercules that are in active service with the 301 (ex-201) Heavy Airlift Group ‘Buffaloes’ based at Ikeja IAP.

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frica’s most populous and richest country in terms of gross domestic product, Nigeria is plagued by serious socioeconomic and security problems, despite ongoing attempts by its military and security forces to counter and defeat them. The resurgent Nigerian Air Force (NAF), which celebrated its 53rd anniversary in April, is in the thick of multiple counter-insurgency (COIN) and internal security (IS) operations, supporting the army, navy, police and security forces on many fronts. Last year, for example, it was simultaneously engaged in five combat operations.

Among these, the well-publicised Operation Lafiya Dole against Boko Haram included the accidental bombing of a refugee camp at Rann, which killed a large number of civilians on January 17 this year. The NAF leadership ascribed the tragedy to a ‘communications gap’ in the operational chain. Meanwhile, Lafiya Dole continues unabated as Boko Haram regroups after each offensive and continues to attack Nigerian and Multinational Joint Task Force (MNJTF) forces. Despite repeated official

announcements about the group’s degraded capability and imminent demise, the stark reality is that Boko Haram remains a serious threat, the solution to which requires more than military engagement. As the leading nation in West Africa, Nigeria’s air force also maintains commitments to international peace support, deploying transport and combat aircraft under the African Unionled African International Support Mission to Mali (AFISMA) in 2013 – and to Senegal and Gambia in January and February this year,

‘In association with…’

E SHADOWS under the Economic Community of West African States Mission In The Gambia (ECOMIG) operation. This was mounted to restore democracy in Gambia by forcing the departure of Yahya Jammeh, who had refused to step down from the presidency after losing the popular vote.


Air Marshal Sadique B Abubakar, the current Chief of Air Staff (CAS), commands from Headquarters NAF (HQ NAF) at Abuja. The Office of the Chief of Air Staff administers a Projects Implementation and Monitoring Team (PIMT), Secretariat of Air Expo and International

F-7 pilots wearing the ’Tiger’ patch of 101 (ex64) Air Defence Group at Maiduguri airfield. The average age of NAF pilots has been steadily dropping in recent years. NAF

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FORCE REPORT Nigerian Air Force Part One Niger Katsina AF

Sokoto AF

Burkina Faso



Kano AF Kaduna AF, HQ ATC

Benin Kainji AB


Jos AF

Nigeria Abuja

Bauchi AF, HQ SOC

Kafanchan helo FOB Kerang

Minna AF


Abuja IAP Makurdi AB, HQ TAC

Ilorin AF Ibadan AF Ipetu-Ijesha

Badagry helo FOB

Ikeja IAP, HQ LC

Enugu AB, HQ GTC

Benin AF Owerri Warri AF Calabar AF

Gulf of Guinea

Liaison (AEILS) and ten staff branches, including the newly established Communications Branch which was spun off from the former Logistics and Communications Branch. Each staff branch, headed by an air vice-marshal, has a number of subordinate directorates and departments. Through its staff branches and their subordinate directorates, HQ NAF exercises control over six operational commands. They are Tactical Air Command (TAC), headquartered at Makurdi; a nascent Special Operations Command (SOC), established in 2016 with its HQ at Bauchi; Mobility Command (MC), with its HQ at Yenagoa; two new training commands derived from the now defunct Kaduna-based

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Yenagoa HQ, MC

each group is located at a fixed base. A flying group and its subordinate flying wing typically operate a single aircraft type, Mguno/Monguno although recent deployment helo FOB patterns suggest the NAF is moving towards composite Maiduguri AF groups using detachments of various aircraft types on combat operations. For example, 103 Strike Group (103 STG, formerly designated 79 STG) and 105 Composite Yola AF Group (105 CG, ex-79 CG), at Yola and Maiduguri respectively – which are frontline bases in the thick of operations against Boko Haram – operate mixed formations of fighters and fixedwing intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) platforms, including unmanned aerial Central vehicles (UAVs) and combat, Cameroon African transport and utility helicopters. Republic Since early last year, the NAF has been working through one of its periodic exercises in reorganisation. Typically – and each wing includes one occurring every five years or more squadrons. Wings or so, they reflect evolving are not always co-located with operational needs. their parent unit, and while The two most obvious the numerical designations of changes this time include some flying wings are known, the establishment of Special information on current flying Operations Command in 2016 squadrons is not openly available. and the splitting up of the For administrative purposes, Training Command into the


Port Harcourt AF

Training Command – the Air Training Command (ATC) with its HQ at Kaduna and the Ground Training Command (GTC) with its HQ at Enugu; and the Lagosbased Logistics Command. Every command has several subordinate groups, each of which has at least one wing

L39ZA trainers in flight. Normally operated as basic and advanced trainers by 403 FTS in Kano, the pressing need for more combat platforms has seen a growing number of these aircraft modified as light ground-attack aircraft with ordnance from MiG-21 stocks. NAF

‘In association with…’

F-7NI 806 is one of 12 fighters and three FT-7NI trainers acquired in 2009-10 to replace a large fleet of grounded MiG-21 and Jaguar fighters. It is operated by 101 Air Defence Group ‘Tigers’. NAF

Air Training Command and the Ground Training Command – plus the renumbering of all NAF commands and subordinate units. Under the new scheme, NAF HQ direct-reporting units fall into a new 0XX series (formerly 100 series), TAC units take 100-series numbers (formerly two-digit series), SOC units fall into a 200 series, MC takes 300-series (previously 200-series) numbers, Training Command 400 series (formerly 300 series) and Logistics Command 500 series (ex-400 series).

Direct Reporting Units

NAF HQ administers various direct reporting units (DRUs). They include 011 (ex-101) Presidential Air Fleet (011 PAF), based at Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja; 013 Quick Response Force (013 QRF) at Minna; 015 Strategic Intelligence Group (015 SIG); 041 (ex-105) Communications Depot at Shasha in Lagos; 051 Personnel Management Group (051 PMG); 053 NAF Camp Abuja; 055 NAF Camp Lagos; 061 Aeromedical

Centre (061 AMC); NAF Hospital Abuja (063 NAFH); and 081 Pay and Accounting Group (081 PAG). Others include the Air Force Institute of Technology (AFIT) at Kaduna; Aeronautical Engineering and Technical Services Ltd (AETSL), which operates aircraft maintenance centres; and the International Helicopter Flying School (IHFS) at Enugu, operating under a public-private partnership between the Nigerian Air Force Holding Company (NAFHC) and Triax Aviation. Another direct reporting unit, the National Air Defence Corps (NADC), is still inchoate several decades since its formation – with unknown (and probably very limited) air defence capabilities. Among the DRUs, 011 PAF is a flying unit, while 013 QRF at Minna is a special forces unit training in hostage rescue and counter-terrorist operations; part of its instruction is being delivered by the Royal Air Force Regiment under the auspices of British Military Advisory and

Training Team (BMATT) Nigeria. The PAF, which operated 14 to 16 aircraft in 2014-15, has been downsizing to cut costs, either through the transfer of aircraft to other units or aircraft sales. In December 2015, it comprised ten aircraft: single examples of the Boeing 737BBJ (NAF 001 ‘Eagle One’), Gulfstream GVSP and GV, two Dassault Falcon 7Xs and a Hawker 4000 plus two AgustaWestland AW139s and a pair of AW101s. The AW101s transferred to the NAF in October 2016, while Falcon 7X 5N-FGU and Hawker 4000 5N-FGX were put up for sale in December. In March this year the PAF fleet was thought to comprise the two AW139s, the BBJ, a Falcon 7X, a GVSP and a GV.

Tactical Air Command

Administering all the NAF’s fighting units and air base support formations (known as Base Services Groups or BSGs), TAC is tasked with the training and provision of all the operational elements

required to fulfil the air force’s combat mission. Under recent organisational changes, several TAC units were upgraded to group status, while other new units were established – along with several forward operating bases (FOBs) which include 119 (ex-55) FOB at Mabera (Sokoto) airport, 65 FOB at Badagry and 67 FOB at Gombe. Another is planned for Akwa Ibom Airport by 2017. Other FOBs, on army bases at Mubi, Bama and Monguno in the northeast, are dedicated helicopter facilities supporting operations against Boko Haram. In February this year, the then Chief of Training and Operations, Air Vice-Marshal Abdullahi Iya, announced the facilities at Monguno were being upgraded to accommodate combat helicopters deployed for counterinsurgency (COIN) operations. TAC meanwhile also operates the NAF air-to-ground range at Kwenev, near Makurdi.

Special Operations Command

Air Marshal Abubakar revealed Special Operations Command’s existence in January last year. It became operational on September 23, with its headquarters at 251 NAF Base, Bauchi. According to the CAS, its task is to facilitate “the development of the NAF’s response capability in both internal and external security operations”. SOC will also become responsible for base defence and force protection of NAF assets. At least 6,000 NAF Regiment troopers are required to man these units, according to NAF sources. Consequently, there’s

Above: AS332M1 Super Puma NAF 565 in Kaduna during a training exercise with NAF Regiment troopers. This aircraft, along with NAF 567, was refurbished by Eurocopter Romania in 2012 and was returned to service with 205 Rotary Group in Ikeja. NAF Left: A collection of NAF aircraft including ‘old’ Alpha Jet 461, ‘new’ Alpha Jet 474, a King Air ISR platform and an AW109 LUH staging through the military airfield at New Bussa, Kainji prior to their Gambia deployment in January. NAF

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FORCE REPORT Nigerian Air Force Part One been a major increase in annual recruit intake – typically about 500 in the past – since 2015. On February 14 this year, the CAS noted that the NAF had inducted ‘over’ 2,000 recruits in 2016, and plans call for the intake of 5,000 more in two batches for 2017. In July 2017, 1,928 recruits – the largest number to date – successfully completed their sixmonth Basic Military Training Course (BMTC) at the NAF’s Military Training Centre, Kaduna with “many” of them slated for deployment on base protection and combat duties. According to the NAF, 4,163 recruits completed basic training in the two-year period between July 2015 and July 2017 – a new record for the NAF. The next intake of recruits slated for the BMTC numbers 3,000. According to NAF officials, SOC comprises nine units located across the country at bases including Bauchi, Daura, Gusau, Ipetu-Ijesha, Jos, Owerri and Yola. A planned air element, with 201 (ex-89) Composite Group (CG) at Bauchi, will include combat and logistics aircraft; it currently fields several Quick Response Groups (QRGs) and QR Wings (QRWs) manned by NAF Regiment troopers. The SOC is also understood to include 013 Quick Reaction Force at Minna, although as a DRU it may have a dual reporting structure. Known SOC units include 201 CG (currently without aircraft)

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Above: Mi-24V NAF 260 fitted with UB-32-57 pods for S-5 rockets. This helicopter is reportedly one of two acquired from Ukraine in 2014-15 at a cost of almost $137m. This aircraft was damaged by ground fire during operations against Boko Haram in August 2015. The helicopter was repaired and returned to service with 115 (ex-97) Special Operations Group headquartered in Port Harcourt. NAF

at Bauchi; a QRW at Daura; 205 Combat Search And Rescue Group at Kerang, near Jos; 207 QRG at Gusau; 209 QRG at Ipetu-Ijesha; 211 Regt Group (RG) at Owerri; and the 213 Forward Operating Base in Katsina (with airfield facilities). Assessed in July this year, most of these SOC units appeared to exist only in skeletal form while their facilities and cadre were being gradually built up – with some units being formally commissioned, such as the QRW at Daura and 213 FOB, as of late July.

under construction at nearby Ammasoka. Other static units include 351 BSG at Minna and 371 FOB at Warri. Mobility Command flying units include 301 (ex-201) ‘Buffaloes’ Heavy Airlift Group (HAG), with 221 Flying Wing at Ikeja (Murtala Muhammed International Airport, MMIP), operating three airworthy C-130H/H-30 Hercules

(out of eight airframes); and 303 (ex-203) Medium Airlift Group (MAG), whose 227 Flying Wing nominally operates between one and three G222 transports (out of six airframes) at Ilorin, although these ‘operational’ aircraft appeared to be grounded for maintenance at Ikeja in early 2017. Other MC units are 305 (ex-

Mobility Command

Created out of Military Airlift Command in February 2011, Mobility Command is headquartered at Yenagoa, where it sits alongside 235 BSG (its new 300-series number is not yet known), which provides support. Curiously, Yenagoa has no airfield, although a facility is

Above: A NAF Regiment door gunner in Mi-24V NAF 260 on deployment at Ikeja IAP during Operation Awatse in August 2016. NAF

‘In association with…’

207) Special Mobility Group at Calabar (its planned complement of Mi-17/171s has yet to be assigned) and 209 Executive Airlift Group (EAG) at Abuja, with around four King Air 350i turboprops and a handful of executive transports, including a Falcon. The EAG may have been renumbered as 310 EAG, but this can’t be confirmed; neither can a scheduled move to Minna. Meanwhile it’s unclear if 205 Rotary Group, with one or two Super Pumas at Ikeja, is still active. If so, its new numerical designation is unconfirmed.

Training Commands

In mid-July this year, as part of its restructuring exercise the NAF announced it had split its long-standing Kadunabased Training Command into two distinct entities – an Air Training Command (ATC), headquartered in Kaduna, and the Ground Training Command (GTC), headquartered in Enugu. No more information has been released other than the planned establishment of a Central Flying School in Katsina, according to Air Marshal Abubakar. After a decade of sporadic flying training activities, the NAF has now resumed regular programmes. Primary flying training is normally conducted at 401 (ex-301) Flying Training School (FTS) at Kaduna, relocating to Makurdi when seasonal weather conditions preclude flying. The unit also delivers conversion training on the Do 228, while its UAV Wing, in conjunction

Above: King Air 350i NAF 203 is one of three aircraft acquired in 2014 without electro-optical equipment. It was originally planned to use them as maritime patrol aircraft in the restive oil-producing Delta region. Since then at least two aircraft – NAF 202 and 204 – have been fitted with what appears to be FLIR Systems EO kit. NAF

with the Air Force Research and Development Centre (AFRDC), trains drone operators. By July this year, UAV operations had resumed after a break of seven months and two grounded training UAVs – Chinese-built Mugin 300 series vehicles – had been reactivated by the AFRDC in Kaduna. The NAF says that since the commencement of in-house UAV flying training, nine officers have been trained and subsequently deployed for operational duties, although a news report from July 13 says 13 officers have been trained as UAV operators. On December 5 last year, 401 FTS began conversion to the Pakistani-built Super Mushshak (SMK) aircraft, which it operates alongside five DA40 NGs (and a simulator). These SMKs entered service in batches from March 2015 into 2016. Four Super Mushshaks on loan from the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) are in use at Kaduna pending the

assembly and commissioning of new-build aircraft whose deliveries began in July. With its aerobatic capability and electronic flight instrument system (EFIS) cockpit, the SMK was ultimately meant to replace the DA40, although there are recent indications that the NAF may “buy more”, according to the local dealer for the type. This suggests a rethink about the DA40, which may complement the Super Mushshaks. It seems the large fleet of locally assembled Van’s RV-6/6As, known as ABT-18 Air Beetles, is no longer in service. The first batch of four SMK instructor pilots (IPs), trained under PAF tutelage, graduated from 401 FTS on March 2. The NAF simultaneously announced that the graduation marked the type’s final handover, since Nigerian pilots could now deliver ab initio training on the aircraft, and early in March, 30 students, including 18 in a first batch, had been selected to

begin training with the new IPs. On completion of primary instruction, pilots destined for further training locally go on to basic flying training on the L-39ZA with 403 FTS at Kano. Between 1987 and 2006, the school ran three IP courses, producing 14 graduates. Since then, two further courses have created 21 more IPs, the most recent, in 2016, training a squadron leader and three flight lieutenants. Each new IP averaged 113 hours of course flying on the L-39ZA through front-seat conversion, rear-seat proficiency and instructional phases. The unit formally set up as 303 FTS in 1985, its initial L-29 Delfin equipment giving way to the L-39ZA from November 1986. Between 1985 and early 2016, it completed basic flying courses (BFCs) for 164 pilots, alongside the 21 NAF IPs and small numbers of others for the air forces of Ghana and Zimbabwe.

Above: ATR 42 MPAs have seen extensive use as overland ISR and airborne command platforms in the operations against Boko Haram. NAF 930, which was grounded for around two years at Yola after an unspecified accident, re-entered service in late 2016 or early 2017 painted in desert camouflage. NAF 931, seen here, retains its grey and orange scheme. Left: The Boeing BBJ presidential transport, also known as ‘Eagle One’, is operated by 011 (ex-101) Presidential Air Fleet out of Abuja. Though the PAF reports directly to NAF HQ, its operating budget is separate from that of the NAF.

#354 SEPTEMBER 2017 // 53

FORCE REPORT Nigerian Air Force Part One The school also delivers refresher training to NAF pilots and IPs. The last year for which training syllabus data is known is 2009. Then, student pilots were expected to undergo around 50 hours of ab initio training at 301 FTS before proceeding to 303 FTS for 120 or so hours of basic training on the L-39ZA. Pilots in the transport stream then underwent a flying course on the Do 228, while those destined for fighters went to the 99 Air Weapons School – now known as 407 (ex-117) Air Combat Training Group (ACTG) at Kainji – for at least 50 hours of tactical training on the Alpha Jet, followed by FT-7NI flying with the operational conversion unit (OCU) at Makurdi. Pilots destined for helicopters first complete their primary flying training at 401 FTS, but the NAF’s initial attempt to deliver helicopter pilot training through the now defunct 305 FTS at Enugu was fraught with difficulty. The school graduated a first batch of 11 pilots (from an intake of 17 students) between 1986 and 1994, using the Hughes 300C, while a second batch of six emerged between 2000 and 2003 using the Mi-34S – before the Russian helicopters were withdrawn after early gearbox failures. According to senior NAF officials, the quality of training provided was poor. Since early 2012, the NAF-run International Helicopter Flying

Above: The NAF is one of the few air forces operating UAVs in an armed reconnaissance role. Chinese-supplied CH-3As are used at distances of around 124 miles (200km) from their base stations on armed ISR/air interdiction missions. NAF

School (IHFS) at Enugu has been training rotary-wing pilots, the facility gaining Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority certification as an Approved Training Organisation by August 2013. Well staffed with IPs (unlike 305 FTS, which had only one or two), IHFS trains civilian and military pilots on a fleet of at least four Robinson R66 helicopters. Some pilots also receive instruction overseas. After passing their primary course at 401 FTS, student pilots proceed to advanced flying training at the International Aviation College in Ilorin, for their commercial pilot’s licence (CPL) or to one of various countries including Egypt, Jordan, Pakistan, South Africa, the UK, the US and others in Eastern Europe. On gaining their licence, they take conversion and captaincy training on the AW109 LUH with 405 (ex-1130 Helicopter Combat Training Group (HCTG) at Enugu, followed by type conversion onto specific helicopters, with

various operational units like 115 SOG at Port Harcourt for training on the Mi-24/35 and presumably the EC135. Kaduna is a hub for NAF training and research and development (R&D) activities. Its units include the Ground Training Group; Regimental Training Centre; Air Force Institute of Technology; and the Air Force Research and Development Centre (AFRDC), set up in 2015 after the NAF formulated its R&D policy in 2012. Earlier this year the NAF Institute of Safety (NAFIS) was in the process of moving from IpetuIjesha to Kaduna. Meanwhile, other training school units are based at 451 NAF Station, Jos. There’s been a sharper focus on training in recent years, both locally delivered (known as ‘lotrac’) and overseas. In 2016, the NAF trained 869 personnel abroad, including 101 pilots and 357 engineers, while 4,868 were trained locally – among them 131 pilots and 643 engineers.

In April a batch of pilots returned after completing tactical combat training with the Egyptian Air Force. Another 29 are training in South Africa, while around ten more are at civilian schools in the UK and in Jordan at the King Hussein Air College. On April 23, NAF Day, six pilots received their wings – among them four helicopter pilots from the IHFS at Enugu and two from the King Hussein Air College. Since then, ten pilots were ‘winged’ in June after gaining their CPLs from Westline Aviation in South Africa while two more combat pilots were winged in early July after completion of their 18-month Specialized Undergraduate Pilot Training with the US Air Force at Laughlin Air Force Base, Texas.

Logistics Command

Headquartered at Ikeja in Lagos, Logistics Command procures equipment and maintains it in a state of operational readiness. Units include 531 (ex-401)

G222 NAF 955 was acquired from Alenia in 2008 as part of a 2005 deal to reactivate five older but unserviceable aircraft acquired in 1984-85 that are serialled 950-954. In the event only around two aircraft – NAF 950 and possibly 952 – were actually returned to service. Two others – 953 and 954 – have been stored at Ikeja, without wings, since December 2005. The two or three airworthy examples were heavily utilised in 2014-15 for troop transport but are currently thought to be inoperable. Around two examples were undergoing maintenance at Ikeja as of early 2017.

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‘In association with…’

Above: Although it was expected that the DA40NG would be replaced by the recently acquired Super Mushshak, recent information suggests the two types may serve as complementary training assets. NAF

Aircraft Maintenance Depot at MMIP, Ikeja; 403 Electronics Maintenance Depot at Shasha; 405 Central Armament Depot in Makurdi; 407 Equipment Supply Depot and 551 (ex-435) Base Services Group at Ikeja; and 561 (ex-445) NAF Hospital also at Ikeja. The 500-series designations of most of these units have not yet been disclosed.

Aircraft inventory

The NAF has been slowly growing its operational fast jet fleet since around 2013, a March 2017 estimate putting its number at around 20 aircraft. They include some eight Alpha Jets, six or seven F-7NIs and a single FT-7NI, plus, since late last year, at least four L-39ZAs weaponised with UB-16 rocket and GSh-23 cannon pods. Between four and six more L-39ZAs are believed to be operational with 403 FTS as basic trainers, with the potential for conversion to the light attack role. Actual holdings of combatcapable jets are much greater, and include around 12 Alpha Jets (of 27 acquired), 11 or 12 F-7NIs, including one remaining FT-7NI trainer (of 12 single-seaters and three trainers acquired), and perhaps as many as 21 surviving L-39ZA airframes (of 25 acquired).

AW109 LUHs fitted with cabinmounted machine guns. Further capacity comes from two to three armed EC135s, including NAF 547 and 548, provided by the Nigerian National Petroleum Company (NNPC) in March last year and subsequently reactivated by the country’s Aero Contractors. In July, one of three Dauphins (NAF 527) also handed over by the NNPC in 2016 was seen in desert camouflage at Aero Contractor’s hangar in Port Harcourt undergoing repairs prior to entering service. In addition, there are small numbers of other helicopters of doubtful operational capability, including around three Ecureuils and an EC120. Both types were first seen in a mix of military and civilian finishes inside a hangar in Yola in July 2015, but their provenance is unclear. Two new Bell 412EP aircraft, ordered under the previous Jonathan administration for the Rivers State government’s

security forces, were delivered to the NAF in February after the Nigerian Customs Service commandeered them. More helicopters began arriving last December, as deliveries of between six and 12 additional new-build, nightcapable Mi-35M gunships and a similar number of armed Mi-17 or Mi-171 helicopters ordered from Russian Helicopters began. The first two Mi-35Ms – NAF 559 and 560 – were inducted in April, seeing combat in May. Four more Mi-35Ms and a similar number of transports – most likely Mi-17s – are expected to enter service this year, with additional helicopters due in 2018, according to official statements from the NAF and Nigeria’s Ministry of Defence.

ISR aircraft

The NAF views its ISR aircraft as game-changing assets. The number of active platforms in service had risen from one in July 2015 to six by March this

year as grounded aircraft were reactivated and others equipped with electro-optical (EO) kit. They comprise two ATR 42s (including NAF 931, reactivated after being grounded for almost two years at Yola), three King Air 350s (NAF 201, 202 and 204) and a DA42 MPP. King Air 350 NAF 201 has had a sensor upgrade, while two more, including NAF 202, have been equipped with EO kit. An additional King Air, NAF 203, could also potentially be converted as an ISR platform. In addition to fixed-wing assets, at least one AW109 and a Mi-17 (NAF 270) have an EO fit, while the two newly inducted Mi-35Ms are similarly equipped.


The NAF sustains its operational logistics and tactical airlift commitments with only a handful of aircraft – C-130H NAF 913, two C-130H-30s (NAF 917 and 918) and possibly up to three G222s, although these appear to be under depot maintenance at Lagos after heavy use in 2014-15 – and perhaps no more than five Do 228 light transports. In July, one of the ATR 42 maritime patrol aircraft was also being used a transport – possibly as a stopgap measure. AFM The second part of this Force Report, in a forthcoming issue, will examine the NAF’s post-2014 combat operations, strategic goals and current inventory, including a full order of battle.


Over the past two years, growing numbers of various helicopters have entered service, apparently with no attempt to restrict the number of types for ease of logistics and maintenance. The fleet includes an estimated 14 Mi-24V/35P/35M gunships, at least two Mi-17 armed transports, one or two Super Puma medium transports, an AW101 medium transport (a second is being repaired after an incident at Makurdi in November 2016) and between eight and 12

Above: Mi-17 or Mi-171Sh NAF 558 likely pictured at Maidurguri in February. First seen late last year, it is unclear if this is the first of a larger batch of similar helicopters that are reportedly on order. NAF

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European MPAs Part 1

In recent years, MPAs have adapted to the demands of overland missions. However, platforms like this French Navy Atlantique 2 still train intensively for the high-end anti-submarine warfare fight. Dassault Aviation


ARITIME PATROL aircraft (MPAs) are fixed-wing assets, often in the airliner class, equipped with sensors and weapons. They can operate for up to around ten hours and are generally tasked with three missions: anti-submarine warfare (ASW), anti-surface warfare (ASuW) and search and rescue (SAR). Russian surface and subsurface threats have traditionally been the main focus of the MPA communities of the European NATO and Partnership for Peace (PfP) air arms, which are the focus of this survey. More recently, tracking potential terrorists and smugglers have become increasingly important tasks. While MPAs are primarily intended to protect sovereign waters and territory, some European air arms also – or alternatively – operate unarmed maritime surveillance aircraft (MSAs). Keeping territorial waters free of unwelcome intruders calls for these aircraft to have modern

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sensors. The most capable radars, anti-shipping missiles and/ or ASW weapons (typically the AGM-84 Harpoon and lightweight torpedoes, respectively) are necessary to protect high-value assets, which might include nuclear submarines and aircraft carriers. Out-of-area operations are also a feature of modern MPA fleets. German P-3Cs have recently deployed to Djibouti as part of Operation Atalanta, a NATO operation aimed at preventing Somali pirates from hijacking seafaring vessels in the region.

Both MPAs and MSAs can downlink information to ground stations, providing commanders with situational awareness over the sea. Thanks to their long range, MPAs have an important SAR role, reconnoitring areas well beyond the range of local SAR assets. Once detected, they can report a vessel’s location back to base for local SAR agencies to set up a rescue operation. At the same time, the MPA or MSA can drop life rafts and rations, sometimes known as the SKAD

(Survival Kit Air Droppable), to people in distress.

MPAs over land

Some air arms have modified their MPAs to track terrorists over land. With a lack of surveillance aircraft over Afghanistan, certain MPAs have had to fulfil an intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) role. The French Navy’s Atlantique 2 is an example of an aircraft that’s been upgraded with new systems to monitor activities over land as well as at sea.

German Navy P-3C-IIs – former Royal Netherlands Navy aircraft – operate around the Horn of Africa on antipiracy missions. German Orions began their first overseas ops on July 5-6, 2008 with a flight over the Gulf of Aden. PIZ Bundeswehr



Maritime Patrol Aircraft

Overworked Atlantique 2 O

F THE 28 Atlantique 2s (ATL 2s) produced by Dassault Aviation in the 1980s, 22 remain in service. None has been lost but the fleet is ageing and the Marine Nationale (French Navy) is looking for a replacement. It had been reported that other countries, including Saudi Arabia, might be interested in buying the old airframes after upgrade, but the French defence chiefs decided to retain the ATL 2. The White Paper on Defence and National Security published

in 2012 declared that 22 ATL 2s should be retained and the remainder used as a source of spares. The withdrawal of the Transall airlifter will bring some relief as it shares the same Tyne engine. However, only 15 of the 22 aircraft will be brought to midlife upgrade (MLU) standard, the others being restricted to a maritime surveillance role. Dassault has modified two MLU prototypes, which are now flying from the test centre at Istres. They have a new Searchmaster

synthetic aperture (SAR) radar, first flown in 2016. Developed by Thales, it benefits from SAR technologies developed for the Rafale’s active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar. The MLU also includes an L-3 Wescam MX-20HD multifunction electro-optical/infrared (EO/ IR) turret system. An initial three MX-20s were purchased under an urgent operational requirement (UOR) programme and have been used in Mali, Iraq and Syria, facilitating ISR, targeting and bombing

missions. Imagery can be sent by data link to a command post or an isolated special operations team in the field. The tactical suite is being upgraded by DCNS and AIA de Cuers, a state-owned facility in southern France linked to the French Air Force. The new aircraft will continue to fly the ASW mission, using the current MU90 lightweight torpedo, and ASuW with the AM39 Exocet missile. France requires an up-todate ASW fleet to support its submarine-based nuclear

#354 SEPTEMBER 2017 // 57


deterrent (its core mission), but the modernisation programme has been delayed many times for budgetary reasons. The ATL 2 also partners the Charles de Gaulle aircraft carrier. When the vessel leaves harbour, an aircraft is already under way to check what it might encounter over the following days. The aircraft uses many bases for this mission: Crete, Djibouti, and Al Dhafra – the French base in the United Arab Emirates. The aircraft’s team of 14 aircrew and six mechanics is said to be easy to deploy to foreign countries. The type also serves as a counter-terrorist asset for missions over land. It was also used to locate French hostages in Africa in 2010, when three ATL 2s operated from Niamey, Niger. A year later they were based in Italy to help French Mirages and Rafales find targets in Libya. In 2013 up to six ATL 2s deployed again in Africa to fight terrorists. With the fleet heavily engaged, serviceability has begun to suffer and some major parts are no longer produced. The Aéronautique Navale (French Navy’s air arm) currently has between six and eight aircraft operational. Adding to the demand has been support of the UK’s Royal Navy in the absence of a Royal Air

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European MPAs Part 1

Force MPA. French assets are regularly sent to Scotland and Norway, but details of the deployments remain scarce. The Atlantique 2 can now launch the 500lb (227kg) GBU-12 Paveway II and the smaller 250lb (120kg) GBU-58 Paveway II laser-guided bombs (LGBs). Current naval air arm chief Bruno Thouvenin, a former Super Étendard pilot, has championed this capability, and the Marine Nationale also wants to integrate the dual-guidance (GPS/laser) GBU-49 on the ATL 2.

Against IS

Among the first French assets to fight so-called Islamic State (IS), the ATL 2’s initial missions flew from Al Dhafra in September 2014. The US-led coalition then ruled that bombing should be preceded by a complete overview of the areas around targets – and, with no French UAVs available in theatre, it was left to the ATL 2 to take on the mission. This involved adding a Joint Terminal Attack Controller (JTAC)

to the crew. Although most pilots and tactical co-ordinators (TACCOs) are trained for the role, over Iraq and Syria they needed to concentrate on their core tasks. Using its electronic support measures (ESM) and communications intelligence (COMINT) suites, the ATL 2 can be used as an intelligence asset that can fuse all the data on board, beginning with the ‘Mark One Eyeballs’ of the aircrew. In a bid to reduce the transit time from the UAE for counter-

Above: A single 250lb GBU-58 Paveway II laser-guided bomb in the stores bay of an ATL 2. The larger 500lb GBU-12 is another option and the navy plans to add the dual-mode GBU-49 to the aircraft’s armoury. Note also the MX-20HD turret under the rear fuselage. Jean-Marc Tanguy

Atlantique 2 17 of Flottille 23F received a special scheme in 2010, marking the centenary of French naval aviation. The ATL 2 is expected to remain in service until at least 2023. Peter ten Berg

IS missions, the ATL 2s began flying from Jordan in February 2016, with crews being rotated every month. Between its arrival and the end of January 2017, 176 missions had been flown (covering 1,350 flight hours), during which period 16 GBU-12s were launched. The ATL 2 should eventually be replaced by the Avion de Surveillance et d’Intervention Maritime (AVSIMAR) programme, which has been delayed many times. It could eventually lead to a mix of piloted and unpiloted assets.

Falcon 50M and Gardian

The Aéronautique Navale also flies 13 maritime surveillance assets, locally designated SURMAR (SURveillance MARitime). For 15 years, Flottille 24F has flown Falcon 50Ms, based on modified three-engined Falcon 50 bizjets. The first four were acquired second-hand and heavily modified with two observation windows and a cargo bay to launch SAR packs. They also carry a Thales Ocean Master 100 radar and a Chlio IR turret and are equipped with a SATCOM capability. Two pilots fly the aircraft, while the sensor operator is located in the rear fuselage with the radar

console. Two further NCOs look at the radar imagery. Four more aircraft joined the fleet from Escadron de Transport 60, the Armée de l’Air (French Air Force) VIP squadron, which replaced them with two Falcon 7X

and two Falcon 2000Dx aircraft. This second batch of Falcon 50Ms lacked the stores bay, but last year Dassault subcontracted Sabena Technic to complete the work between 2018 and the end of 2019. The Falcon 50Ms are used

for general surveillance as well as counter-narcotics duties in the French Antilles and air security during the launches of Ariane space launchers. They’ve also flown in Djibouti and from the Seychelles on counter-piracy missions. Recent missions include surveying immigration trails coming out of North Africa and over-watching criminal groups leading the traffic. Short-term improvements could integrate a ROVER imagery link for liaison with special forces involved in counter-narcotics duties. The Falcon 200 Gardian aircraft is stationed exclusively in French overseas territories. It’s derived from the twinengined Falcon 20 and based on the US Coast Guard’s nowretired HU-25 Guardian. The type has a crew of six: a pilot and aircraft commander in the cockpit and a flight engineer, radio operator and two radar navigators in the cabin. The flight engineer is responsible for releasing SAR packs, of which at least two are regularly carried. The Gardian provides SAR coverage for French Polynesia and conducts surveillance of maritime approaches, transport of authorities and public service missions. Jean-Marc Tanguy





Flottille 21F/Flottille 23F ATL 2




Flottille 24F

Falcon 50M


Falcon 50M


Flottille 25F

Falcon 200 Gardian Nouvelle Calédonie and Polynésie (Pacific Ocean)

Falcon 200 Gardian




The Falcon 50M fleet has doubled in size thanks to addition of surplus Armée de l’Air VIP airframes. Falcon 50M 5 is one of the original batch of SURMAR jets, which also includes serials 27, 34 and 78. Dassault Aviation

#354 SEPTEMBER 2017 // 59


European MPAs Part 1


Orions going through MLU T

he MPAs of the Deutsche Marine (German Navy) are operated by Marinefliegergeschwader (MFG, Naval Air Wing) 3 ‘Graf Zeppelin’, which has a mixed fleet of eight P-3Cs and two Dornier Do 228s based at Nordholz near Cuxhaven in northern Germany. Today the Marineflieger (the German Navy’s air arm) has only a single air station left – since late 2012, MFG 3 has shared Nordholz with MFG 5, a helicopter wing operating 22 Super Lynx Mk88As and 21 Sea King Mk41s. The Marineflieger acquired eight P-3C-IIs, modified to Capability Upkeep Program (CUP) standard, from the Koninklijke Marine (Royal Netherlands Navy, RNLN) after the Dutch defence ministry decided to withdraw its 13-strong Orion fleet by January 2005 because of budgetary considerations.



MarineP-3C, fliegergeDo schwader 3 228NG ‘Graf Zeppelin’

Base Nordholz

Inventory Aircraft




Do 228NG


MFG 3’s latest Do 228LM wearing the test serial 98+35. It was later re-serialled as 57+05. The type’s primary mission is to detect oil and chemical pollution in the North Sea and Baltic. Peter ten Berg

Germany badly needed a replacement for its 14 ageing Breguet Atlantic MPAs and had planned to acquire ten Orions, while Portugal was also interested in six RNLN P-3Cs. In a combined deal, Germany eventually took eight and Portugal five. The Marineflieger also took over the Dutch P-3C-II CUP flight simulator, which now resides at Nordholz. The P-3Cs entered service with the Marineflieger in 2006 and are operated within MFG 3’s two Staffeln (squadrons), which use them operationally for ASW and ASuW, surveillance and reconnaissance, including overland missions. German Orion operations initially remained at a slow pace, partly because aircrews and technicians needed time to qualify on the new

aircraft. The Marineflieger has also suffered personnel shortages for some years. All aircraft were meanwhile subject to depot-level maintenance with Cassidian (now Airbus Defence and Space) in Manching, which at first progressed slowly owing to a lack of expertise on the type. So, during its first ten years in service, the combined P-3C fleet flew just 17,000 hours – and only managed 2,000 of the projected annual 3,500 hours by 2013. With all aircraft now re-delivered to MFG 3, the

situation has, however, improved. The Marineflieger took delivery of a ninth P-3C-II in July 2011. This former US Navy Orion (ex 161007, now 60+22) has been grounded since its arrival at Nordholz and is used as an instructional airframe.


In July 2015 the German government contracted Airbus Defence and Space and Lockheed Martin to put the Orions through an extensive MLU programme, enabling the type to continue in service until at least 2035 rather than 2025. Carried out by Airbus at Manching, the work includes replacement of the outer wings, centre fuselage and horizontal stabilisers and an upgrade of both the mission and instrument

Right: Another centennial aircraft, P-3C 60+01 (c/n 5737) ‘Friedrichshafen’ was formerly NLD 301 in Koninklijke Marine service. As well as eight active Orions, a ninth example was acquired as a ground instructional airframe. Jamie Hunter

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P-3C 60+06 was a participant in Joint Warrior 17/1 at RAF Lossiemouth, Moray, earlier this year. This biannual exercise is billed as the largest in Europe and involves dozens of warships and submarines as well as MPAs. John Reid

flight rules (IFR) equipment. The first P-3 is expected to emerge from the programme in late 2018. All work should be completed within eight years, and will give each aircraft a 15,000-hour life extension. The Marineflieger first deployed the Orion on an international mission in 2008, when a P-3C replaced one of MFG 3’s Atlantics in Operation Enduring Freedom in the Horn of Africa. Flying from Djibouti, the German P-3Cs continued operations in Enduring Freedom until 2010. Since 2009, Marineflieger P-3Cs have also taken part in the EU’s Operation Atalanta in the same area. Flying with the callsign ‘Jester’, an MFG 3 Orion most recently operated from Djibouti from early March to late June this year, accumulating 386

flying hours in 46 missions. The German Orions have amassed 5,500-plus flying hours in some 650 missions in the operation.


Apart from flying P-3Cs, MFG 3’s 2. Staffel also operates two Dornier Do 228s. They are almost exclusively tasked with detecting oil and chemical pollution in the North Sea and Baltic, but can also be called on for SAR. Although flown by the Marineflieger, the Do 228s are owned by the Bundesministerium für Verkehr und digitale Infrastructur (BMVI, Federal Ministry for Traffic and Digital Infrastructure) and operated on behalf of the Havariekommando, Germany’s Central Command for Maritime

Emergencies, in Cuxhaven. The Marineflieger began operations with the Do 228LM, a special-mission version of the Do 228-212, in 1991. A single Do 228LM (57+01) operated alongside two Do 28OUs (‘oil units’) until the latter retired in 1995. A second Do 228LM (57+04) joined in 1998. The oldest Do 228LM (57+01) was put up for sale in 2012 and replaced by a Do 228NG (‘new generation’), which has a glass cockpit and new fiveblade propellers that reduce overall weight and improve performance and endurance. MFG 3 took delivery of the new aircraft in late 2011. Pending acceptance of all equipment on board, it carried test serial 98+35 until re-serialled as 57+05 in March 2014.

Converted to Do 228NG standard in 2011, Do 228LM 57+04 kept its original sensor suite, including a Swedish Space Corporation side-looking airborne radar (SLAR). Its antenna is mounted in a pod under the forward fuselage. The newly delivered Do 228NG is equipped with a different sensor suite including a Terma SLAR, which has two antennas mounted on the forward fuselage sides. A standard Do 228 crew consists of two pilots and a sensor operator, but can be increased to five for specific missions. Missions are flown daily and can last up to 5 hrs, 30 mins. The aircraft and their crews are available aroundthe-clock at 2 hours’ notice and the pair fly around 2,000 hours annually. Kees van der Mark AFM

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n Su-22 from Syria was threatening coalition ground forces, and we were in the position to intercept the aircraft.” Rear Admiral Kenneth Whitesell, Commander, Carrier Strike Group (CSG) 2 recalled the incident of June 18, when an F/A-18E from USS George H W Bush (CVN 77, motto: ‘Freedom at Work’) shot down a Syrian fighterbomber over northern-central Syria. “Our aircraft were able to rendezvous and visually identify the Syrian aircraft,” RADM Whitesell told AFM, just two days after the shoot-down. “We knew that it was continued in a straight line towards forces on the ground. We warned the aircraft on guard frequency, an internationally recognised frequency. We warned it twice, as it kept flying towards friendly forces. They never responded on the radio about their intent. “We flew very close to that aircraft and dropped flares in close proximity to get the attention of the pilot to try to steer him away from friendly forces on the ground, but he did not turn away. “Then our pilot went back to a position where he could watch what the Su-22 was doing. He observed the Su-22 rolling on the ground forces; we had the situational awareness where his nose was pointing and he dropped bombs off his aircraft. As soon as he dropped “

Above: F/A-18C 165187/’AC-100’, the VFA-37 ‘Bulls’ ‘CAG bird’, returns to CVN 77. This is the only squadron on the carrier operating ‘legacy’ Hornets.

weapons we knew that he has heading towards coalition forces on the ground and that’s why we shot the Su-22 down. “He demonstrated hostile intent by flying towards them and then dropping weapons on friendly forces. [The missile kill] was a visual shot on the aircraft. The tape on the HUD [head-up display] clearly shows the missile hitting the aircraft.” As the conflict in the Syrian theatre showed signs of becoming more complex, RADM Whitesell reflected on the importance of the carrier’s presence in the region as part of the wider coalition fighting so-called Islamic State (IS) in Syria and Iraq. “It is very important for us to be here

as a part of our coalition forces. The carrier provides a significant number of strike fighter sorties, electronic warfare, as well as command and control sorties over Syria and Iraq. “There is a lot of co-operation when we fight together. Obviously, Turkey is one of our routes. We fly through Turkey to Syria, as well as when we fly over Iraq. We depend on Turkey for a couple of things. They allow us to fly over their airspace, they offer us an air base [at Incirlik] and obviously there are airborne refuelling areas [in Turkish airspace]. We refuel after we take off from the carrier and then we move to combat areas and

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drop our ordnance over Syria and Iraq. “For the southern route, we have co-operation with Israel, Jordan and Iraq. This route allows us to ‘go in the back’ of Syria, in the Raqqa and al-Tanf areas, and it also allows us to get to the northern part of Iraq, including the Mosul area. At the same time, we have Cyprus co-operating with us in administration support and rescue operations. It is very comfortable operating here in the eastern Mediterranean. It is a crowded area, but it is a comfortable crowded area.”

Russian rendezvous

Operations in the Mediterranean – the Sixth Fleet area of operations (AOR) – present CSG-2 and the embarked Carrier

Above: In the cockpit of a C-2A flying over Crete on the way to USS ‘George H W Bush’. Frequent flights were made between the carrier and Souda Bay. Flying time between Crete and the carrier was around two hours. All photos Vangelis Antonakis unless stated Below: An F/A-18F assigned to VFA-213 ‘Blacklions’ prepares to launch from USS ‘George H W Bush’ with a full load of ten 1,000lb GBU-32 JDAMs. US Navy/Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Hank Gettys



In the wake of the first US kill of a manned aircraft since Operation Allied Force in 1999, AFM’s Vangelis Antonakis went aboard USS George H W Bush in the eastern Mediterranean to hear a first-hand report of the shootdown at a time of escalating tensions in the region.

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Above: CDR Kevin Robb, commander of VFA-213 ‘Blacklions’ in the squadron ready room.

‘Blacklions’ boss

MH-60R 166552/’AJ-706’ from Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron 70 ‘Spartans’ departs for a morning patrol around the carrier, loaded with a single AGM-114 Hellfire training round. A Russian Navy intelligence ship was always in the vicinity during AFM’s time on the carrier.

Air Wing (CVW) 8 with a different range of threats compared with those in the Arabian Sea, RADM Whitesell explained. “In the eastern Mediterranean, the Russians are always watching us, trying to see what kind of operations we have to maintain. Russian warships and Russian submarines are always operating next to us, monitoring our ships. “In the Arabian Gulf there are the Iranians, they are all around us, trying to figure out what we do and we always need to have situational awareness [of them]. It is much shorter to fly from the eastern Mediterranean to Raqqa and within Syria. It is a quicker flight for us to get to those areas and that allows us to have more station time. As far as the Mosul area, it is just about exactly the same amount of [flying] time from the Mediterranean as it is from the Arabian Gulf, but it requires more fuel for the same distance. But this is the beauty of the mobility of the aircraft carrier; we can operate effectively from both areas. Operations remain exactly the same.”

Despite the constant Russian presence in the Mediterranean, RADM Whitesell confirmed that the Russians had never demonstrated hostile intent or acted in an aggressive way towards US forces. “We are both professional air forces and are aware of discipline. We follow the rules of engagement. We know our nation’s primary strategic interest here in the area is not to start a conflict between the Russians and the United States. Obviously, the Russians are providing overwatch of the Syrians on the side of the pro-regime forces; we are on the other side of the fence supporting the Syrian Democratic Forces, but we have the same enemy – ISIS [Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or IS]. As long as everyone is focused on ISIS, everybody remains professional. The rendezvous that we had with the Russians has to do more with curiosity, because we fly in close proximity to each other. Up to now it has been a very professional environment.” RADM Whitesell was speaking on board CVN 77 before the carrier began its

Commander Kevin Robb, the officer in charge of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 213 ‘Blacklions’, spoke to AFM about the unit’s Operation Inherent Resolve missions and the ‘ten-JDAM’ Super Hornet load-out that was the subject of media attention. “My squadron flies the F/A-18F Super Hornet and we carry a wide range of ammunition that helps support the coalition. We fly missions in Iraq and in Syria. As far as ordnance is concerned, we employ the JDAM [Joint Direct Attack Munition], and we use sometimes our gun. We co-operate with multinational JTACs [Joint Terminal Attack Controllers] on the ground. We have Danish, French, German, Italian, UK and, of course, Americans. “[The ‘ten-JDAM’ Super Hornet] was a real combat configuration. This plane flew over Syria and dropped almost all of its ordnance. It was a team effort to achieve this. There were many calculations before to make sure it would fly properly. I believe it was the first time that a Super Hornet has carried that much ammunition in combat. It was actually a little lighter than the configuration with four drop tanks – around 2,500lb lighter. You take off, you watch the airspeed and you fly away. With a little more steam in the catapult, everything is OK.”

Above: CAPT Will Pennington, commanding officer of CVN 77. Below: RADM Kenneth Whitesell, Commander, Carrier Strike Group 2.

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RADM Kenneth Whitesell returns to the carrier after flying a training mission in unarmed F/A-18F 166639/’AJ-213’ from VFA-213 ‘Blacklions’.

journey home from the Mediterranean to the US, via an exercise off the coast of the United Kingdom. This was the Bush’s third deployment, and began when the carrier strike group departed US ports on January 21. The CSG-2 commander was confident that the military campaign to defeat IS was nearing its endgame. “From the structure of ISIS and their capabilities and, more importantly, the geographic areas of the caliphate, we are close to the end. When it comes to physically removing the caliphate in the cities of Raqqa and Mosul, it is difficult to say because it is difficult to change an ideology. It is not a military task and it is something that politicians have to figure out.”

Watch, Allied Force, Enduring Freedom, Iraqi Freedom, and New Dawn. But he admitted that Moscow’s recent involvement in the region has changed the parameters: “Since the early ’90s a large amount of our effort has been about the Middle East and that remains important. But, as we can see with the resurgence of Russia, it is important that we devote time here in the Mediterranean.” CAPT Pennington also noted some advantages and disadvantages of the Mediterranean as a base for carrier operations: “The weather here is a lot nicer. Oftentimes in the Arabian Sea we see a lot of dust, which means some of the aircraft sensors and other electronic equipment doesn’t work properly. We don’t have that here. And this is a larger body of water; the traffic is reduced, so we have more flexibility to manoeuvre. One of the disadvantages is that since we have been in

Complex mission

The commanding officer of CVN 77, CAPT Will Pennington has plenty of experience in the Middle East theatre of operations, with more than 3,500 flight hours in F-14s and F/A-18s supporting Operations Southern

Above: The modern carrier air wing is dominated by the Hornet and its derivatives. F/A-18E 168914/‘AJ-304’ from VFA-87 ‘Golden Warriors’ is flanked by jets from sister squadrons VFA-37 and VFA-213. Left: F/A-18E 166784/’AJ-110’ from VFA-31 ‘Tomcatters’ prepares for a catapult launch to begin another air-to-air refuelling mission. Below: VFA-31 ‘Tomcatters’ F/A-18E 166779/’AJ-103’ returns to the carrier with a load of AIM-120D AMRAAM and AIM-9X Sidewinder air-to-air missiles. A combination of AIM-9X and AMRAAMs was used to down the Syrian Su-22M-4 on June 18 and the latest D-model ‘Slammer’ is now regularly carried.

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CVN 77 IN THE MED the Middle East much longer, the logistics here are a little immature. Sometimes we receive the support we need from the US a little more easily in the Fifth Fleet [AOR].” CAPT Pennington echoed RADM Whitesell’s view of the Russian presence: “We have a Russian ship with us almost every day. In terms of military threat here in the region, I think it is fair to say if things would go in the wrong direction, the capability of Russia and other countries with which we might not see eye-to-eye would be great. I think it is nice to say that we don’t feel threatened right now. They are trying to understand what we do; we are trying to understand what they do. It is almost like the Cold War, but not on the same scale. In the current environment, I don’t consider it as a threat. “Probably the greatest threat today, frankly, is a collision at sea during heavy traffic. As you saw, unfortunately, just a few days ago in Japan, this is a real threat [on June 17 the destroyer USS Fitzgerald collided with a cargo ship, killing seven US sailors]. In the Arabian Gulf the density of traffic is much greater and oftentimes smaller ships don’t display in the proper

C-2A 162168/’45’ from Detachment 2 of Fleet Logistics Support Squadron 40 ‘Rawhides’. The VRC-40 detachment played an important role when the carrier required a minor repair early in the deployment.

way. Visibility is much more difficult because of blowing dust and that is a big threat.” CAPT Pennington also sees the fight against IS “making great progress”, and drew attention to the successful campaign to take Mosul, where an official declaration of victory was proclaimed on July 10. “In Syria there is a little bit more going on, but there have been many great gains made and the end is probably in sight there as well. That’s not to say there is no need for tough fighting, but there are so many people aligned and committed to see this thing through, and I am sure we will. But that area in Syria is tough. The area on the ground between Jordan, Syria and Iraq is very, very complicated and we have got two different sides of the Syrian problem, as well as the Russians.” AFM Left: Below decks, munitions are prepared for loading on to the Hornets and Super Hornets for strike missions over Iraq and Syria. Below: EA-18G 168775/’AJ-503’ from Electronic Attack Squadron 131 ‘Lancers’ catches the wire. The Growlers were on call for escort jamming during air strikes over Iraq and Syria.

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25/07/2017 10:49 09:38 05/07/2017


Romanian LancerR pilots continue their QRA mission as before. The only difference is that pilots and aircraft from another NATO member state now share it. MiG-21MF-75 6487 is a single-seat LanceR C from Escadrila 861 Aviație Luptă. All photos Liviu Dnistran

defenders Black Sea

NATO has responded to increased Russian military air activity over the Black Sea by reinforcing Romanian Air Force LanceRs with RAF Typhoons, as Liviu Dnistran discovers.


t the start of 2014 few would have believed that an annexation of European territory was likely, but in March that year Russia took control of the Crimean peninsula under the pretext of protecting the local Russian population. A month later NATO developed measures to reinforce collective defence in response to the developing Ukraine crisis, mainly by strengthening NATO’s eastern and southeastern borders. Air training exercises were stepped up in Poland and Romania and the Baltic Air Policing mission was reinforced. On April 24 this year four Royal Air Force Typhoons from No 3 (Fighter) Squadron at RAF Coningsby, Lincolnshire, landed at the Romanian air base of Mihail Kogălniceanu, accompanied by a 150-strong detachment of personnel from various RAF bases, together making up 135 Expeditionary Air Wing (EAW). It’s charged with an Enhanced Air Policing (eAP) mission under NATO command – the

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first-ever such operation in a country that has an air force capable of conducting the air policing mission independently. NATO members use the term ‘air policing’ to describe the collective use of fighters to preserve the integrity of alliance airspace. The eAP – named Operation Biloxi by the RAF – augments Romania’s own capabilities as part of NATO’s Assurance Measures, introduced in 2014. A NATO Allied Air Command (AIRCOM) spokesperson explained: “Assurance is flexible and scalable in response to fluctuations in the security situation facing the alliance. “Assurance Measures are designed to send a strong and unambiguous message to the public. Situated on NATO’s eastern flank, Romania is one of the countries to which NATO is demonstrating its resolute and unabated solidarity. “NATO’s air policing mission is purely defensive. It’s a routine and fundamental component of how NATO provides security to its members. It’s neither in response to any specific threat nor directed against any nation.” The mission is overseen by AIRCOM and executed via the alliance’s Combined Air Operations Centres (CAOCs) at Uedem, Germany, and Torrejón, Spain.

AIRCOM’s peacetime air policing mission involves the use of the Air Surveillance and Control System (ASACS), Air Command and Control (Air C2) and appropriate air assets: so-called Quick Reaction Air (Interceptor), or QRA(I), fast jets. Air policing scrambles respond to military and civilian aircraft approaching allied airspace and not following international flight regulations. Often these aircraft fail to properly identify themselves, communicate with air traffic control (ATC) or file flight plans. Since Russia’s annexation of Crimea, NATO has seen a significant increase in Russian military air activity. Moscow’s focus began shifting south, from the Baltics towards the Black Sea, in 2014 and even further south into Syria in 2015. “NATO fighter jets executed well over 700 A-scrambles [Alpha, or live scrambles] in response to Russian Federation Air Force jets in 2016,” the AIRCOM spokesperson confirmed. On July 25 the RAF announced that Romania-based Typhoons had scrambled to respond to Tu-22M bombers over the western Black Sea (see United Kingdom, p8-9). The Forţele Aeriene Române (FAR, Romanian Air Force) fulfils its air policing

mission with two MiG-21 LanceR squadrons at Baza 71 Aeriană (71st Air Base) near Câmpia Turzii and Baza 86 Aeriană at Borcea-Fetești. LanceRs from the Escadrila 861 Aviație Luptă (861st Fighter Squadron) are currently deployed at Mihail Kogălniceanu while improvements are made at Borcea-Fetești to accommodate Romania’s recently acquired F-16s. Back in 2007, Romanian MiGs took on the Baltic Air Policing mission for four months at Šiauliai air base in Lithuania, and the FAR has conducted the QRA mission under NATO command from CAOC Torrejón since joining the alliance in 2004. At any given time, each squadron has two LanceRs ready for QRA. “Romania’s well trained and professional air force is capable of conducting its own air policing [but] the augmentation efficiently absorbs any burden caused by an increased requirement for A-scrambles,” the AIRCOM spokesperson explained. “All decisions as to whether a QRA will be launched – from which alert base and how many assets are required – are the responsibility of the CAOC at Torrejón and depend on the tactical situation. All QRA aircraft are on 24/7 standby and ready to launch upon the CAOC’s orders.” An official from CAOC Torrejón added: “The Romanian Air Force has so far ensured execution of NATO air policing to a flawless standard. Integrated into CAOC Torrejón’s chain of command, they’ve maintained the same level and standard... that NATO Allied Air Command provides to all NATO allies.” CAOC Torrejón is responsible for NATO’s

Air Policing Area (APA) South, which covers all NATO allies south of the Alps, stretching from the Azores to eastern Turkey and from central France to the southern tip of Italy. Meanwhile CAOC Uedem is responsible for APA North. The only difference between the two CAOCs is the allies they work with and the fighters provided to them for air policing. “The additional four [RAF] Typhoons at Mihail Kogălniceanu mean additional assets can be used to maintain the NATO air policing capability, and the CAOC now has greater flexibility in assigning assets to arising incidents in Romanian airspace,” the CAOC Torrejón official added. “For both allies it offers an excellent opportunity to work and train together. Like the Romanian MiG-21 jets, the RAF Typhoons will be launched by the CAOC to respond to air incidents: for example, a non-NATO aircraft flying close to NATO airspace and not having filed a flight plan, not in contact with the civilian ATC and not squawking an IFF code.” CAOC personnel certified the RAF Typhoon detachment during a two-day period at the end of April, briefing and debriefing the pilots and checking their tactics, techniques and procedures. “The RAF is here to enhance and augment the air policing capability we already have,” said Lt Col Silviu Marincas, a Romanian Air Force pilot. “For us, nothing has changed; we’re performing our mission as before. “The decision-makers in Torrejón now have a bigger resource pool in the area and they decide what resources to deploy in response to a particular threat. The assumption is that in case national resources are saturated, additional resources are at hand to augment the response. No specific priority is given to us or the RAF Typhoons.” Commenting on the RAF’s first eAP deployment, Wg Cdr Andrew Coe, the 135 EAW’s CO, said: “The QRA mission we’re doing here doesn’t differ from what we’re doing at home. We’re just looking after the integrity of the NATO airspace but in a different part of NATO. “In the Baltic we flew out of [Ämari air base in] Estonia, where they have a smaller air force, while here you have a capable air force with the MiG-21s and with the new F-16s as well. There’s a difference straightaway as we’re operating with an air force that has more jets.” Sqn Ldr Paul Hanson echoed the CO’s comments: “What the MiGs do here is no different to what we do back at home, and indeed what we’re doing while augmenting over here. To us, QRA missions are business as usual wherever we are in the world. “Meeting other people that do it in the same way shows how well the NATO tactics and commonality work.”

Training opportunities At the time of AFM’s visit to Mihail Kogălniceanu the four No 3 (Fighter) Squadron Typhoon FGR4s were ZJ921/921, ZJ923/923, ZJ928/928 and ZJ939/939. These deployed from RAF Coningsby using ‘Ascot’ callsigns.

While the Typhoons’ primary mission in Romania is QRA under NATO command, pilots from both air arms are making the most of the RAF deployment. Regular training continues for both squadrons, but now there are opportunities to learn from each other and train for

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ENHANCED AIR POLICING: ROMANIA a more diverse set of scenarios. “Our training schedule has not changed,” observed Lt Col Marincas. “We continue our training programme as before to maintain our readiness and to prepare new pilots that are coming in. “Whenever there’s an overlap with the RAF detachment’s training schedule we try to make the most of it, but we also have specific training missions that we plan and perform with them. “We train with them in various scenarios. We send our more experienced pilots to train with their younger pilots and they do the same for us. We have a common briefing and we do DACT BFM [dissimilar air combat training, basic fighter manoeuvres], from basic 1-v-1 to more complex scenarios. “We’ve also been training with them in other missions, close air support with the US JTACs [Joint Terminal Attack Controllers], joint operations with ships in the Black Sea and operations with US helicopters in Romania. We’re working with [the RAF] to strengthen our relationship and to have a better common understanding of how we all operate. “Very small details matter and we train to be able to make these details clear. Everything from very small differences in wording up to social interaction helps create a stronger bond and if it comes to performing joint operations we’ll all be better off having had these joint training missions.” Wg Cdr Coe described the training between the Typhoon and MiG-21 as “sensational”, adding: “It’s great for the interoperability between us. We’ve done some air-to-air work with the Romanian Air Force Pumas, the first time this has ever been done. “We’ve done fighter affiliation training, which means helicopters trying to evade a fighter trying to shoot it down. The Puma pilots as well as the Typhoon pilots have had a great training exercise. “Another thing we’ve been doing is working with the Romanian Navy [in] a maritime integration exercise. We’ve had [their] Type 22 frigates out to sea with a US ship, the USS Oscar Austin, and our Typhoons and the MiG-21s, and we’ve had a big operation all together. “It was the first time we’ve done that and we’ll do it a few more times during our detachment here. It would be unwise to miss the opportunity to train with Romania,

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Câmpia Turzii

Romania Boboc

Bucharest-Henri Coanda


Mihail Kogălniceanu Borcea-Fetești

Bucharest Black Sea

Bulgaria with whom we’re really good friends.” Sqn Ldr Hanson noted the advantages of having “fantastic” airspace and ranges for training: “We’re going to be involved in major exercises in the area with some of the neighbouring countries. There’s also the US Army, US Marine Corps and US Air Force in the area and we’ve been able to train with them too. “These opportunities don’t present themselves as much in the UK so it’s a different style of training here, a different emphasis, but very, very valuable.”

Expeditionary force

The 135 EAW has brought more than jets to Romania: it’s designed to be able to deploy to just about any airfield in the world, and brings a range of personnel to do the job. Wg Cdr Coe explained: “There are people in Bucharest controlling the aircraft; we’ve brought fire trucks to work with the Romanian fire service, we have paramedics and doctors working together and all of a sudden we’re learning. Everybody is working together, from the mechanics on the ground up to the pilots.” Meanwhile the pilots from the two nations have discussed similar missions

and experiences. “When it comes to intercepts we’ve made in the past, we don’t discuss classified information at pilot level, but we do discuss the experiences we’ve had to deal with,” remarked Lt Col Marincas. Paul Hanson added: “Although there are some differences among what we’ve seen, they’re pretty minor. On the whole our experiences and reactions are the same.” NATO AIRCOM is confident that Operation Biloxi will strengthen the response against air threats on its eastern border and reaffirm NATO’s commitment to its allies. “We’re convinced that the Royal Air Force detachment will successfully contribute to the safeguarding of Romania’s airspace integrity,” the AIRCOM spokesperson declared. “Their presence is sending a visible signal of NATO’s commitment, solidarity and resolve to the Romanian public until their handover to the Royal Canadian Air Force in September.” Operation Biloxi began on May 1 and will end on August 31. With several large-scale international exercises taking place on Romania’s ranges this summer, there will be more opportunities for both air forces to strengthen their operational readiness even further. AFM

Below: The sharp end of 135 Expeditionary Air Wing. The RAF Typhoons will remain on duty in Romania until August 31, after which the Royal Canadian Air Force will assume QRA duties with CF-188s.

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efore any new airframe or airborne system can be deployed over the battlefield it first has to be rigorously proven to ensure its readiness for engineers and mission-planners on the ground and the pilots who will operate it in combat. On the way to the front line, Israeli Air Force (IAF) equipment is put through its paces by the Flight Test Center. With considerable allocations of equipment and personnel, the IAF’s flight test unit is designated as a ‘centre’ rather than a squadron. It also differs from most of its counterparts in one key respect: not only does it conduct test work in peacetime, but also during conflict, and at times even under fire.

Born of war

ISRAELI FIGHT TEST CENTER The Israeli Fight Test Center is the subject of the first in a new series of features examining military flight test establishments around the world. Noam Menashe takes a look at this secretive unit.

The Center emerged from lessons learned during the 1973 Yom Kippur War. The IAF’s commander at the time, Maj Gen Benny Peled, decided the air force required an independent unit in charge of testing and evaluating systems and platforms prior to their introduction with the IAF. Established on April 1, 1974 with Yossi Yaari as its first commander, the facility (also known as Unit 5601 – MANAT, and as 601 Flight Test Center) comes under the direct command of the IAF’s Weapons and Equipment Division. From the start, it aimed to find solutions to

Above: As tradition dictates, the Center’s F-15I Ra’am 201 (c/n 1276/I001, FMS 94-0286) was the very first example of the type built for the IAF, and is customised to its specifications. Right: A test pilot boards the Flight Test Center F-15I at Tel Nof. One of the tasks of the unit’s F-15s is launching Ankor ballistic missile simulators, which simulate the trajectory of a ‘Scud’ or other ballistic missile en route to attack Israel. All photos, Noam Menashe unless stated

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operational problems speedily, often during wartime, and ensures IAF personnel are involved in every relevant project, from the drawing board until it becomes operational. The unit’s experimental section was originally located at Palmachim, with flight operations and maintenance sections at Tel Nof. But runway length at the former limited the scope of test flying and IAF commanders wanted all elements based at the same location, so in August 1978 the team moved to Tel Nof, where it has remained ever since. The Center’s motto is ‘First ones in an uncharted land’, and its personnel see themselves as pioneers: theirs is the only unit in the IAF officially qualified for testing and evaluating airborne equipment, including fighters, transport aircraft and helicopters as well as bombs, missiles and other special ordnance or payloads. The facility has recently been evaluating UAVs prior to service entry. Other day-today work includes testing avionics updates and hardware upgrades for in-service aircraft. In fact, nothing enters IAF service without first coming under the inspection of the Center’s test pilots and flight engineers. Test flying exposes equipment to extreme

MiG-21 defection On August 16, 1966 an Iraqi MiG-21F-13, representing the cutting edge of the Arab air forces at that time, landed at Hatzor in Israel, flown by defector Munir Redfa. The fighter had been escorted by a pair of Mirage IIIs flown by the CO and deputy of the IAF’s 119 ‘Bat’ Squadron. Now famous in the history of espionage, the operation to capture a MiG-21 was carried out by Mossad, Israel’s national intelligence agency, and known as Operation Diamond – or Operation Blue Bird within the IAF.


After landing at Hatzor the MiG went to the IAF for evaluation, test pilot Danny Shapira flying various scenarios and simulated combat manoeuvres against Israeli combat aces. The results were distributed to the rest of the IAF’s aircrews who made good use of them in the 1967 Six-Day War. Israel was the first Western country to get its hands on a MiG-21. In 1968, the jet was lent to the USAF – which designated it as the YF-110 – for tests in Nevada. Some sources have since suggested its transfer led the US to lift its arms embargo on Israel.

conditions, and sorties are regularly flown at 35,000 to 40,000ft. Pilots and onboard flight engineers are highly experienced, each with thousands of operational flight hours, and all ranked at least as high as major. Aircrew undergo one of two different qualification courses in the US. Pilots attend the US Air Force Test Pilot School (USAF TPS) at Edwards Air Force Base in the Mojave Desert, California, which trains experimental test pilots, flight test engineers and flight test navigators to carry out evaluations of new aircraft and weapon systems. Engineers meanwhile train at the National Test Pilot School (NTPS), the only such civilian organisation in the US, also located in the Mojave. Each of the two courses lasts a year, during which cadets are exposed to dozens of different aircraft types. The first two examples of each IAF platform are usually first allocated to the Flight Test Center and fully instrumented to meet its specific test requirements and specifications. As well as the pilot (or pilots) in the air, each evaluation also involves two more ground personnel: the test engineer, responsible for planning and data gathering with a team of aeronautics specialists; and the experiment director, a seasoned test pilot tasked with timing and co-ordinating the programme. While test pilots elsewhere in the world tend to serve in their unit till the end of their careers, their Israeli counterparts continue to serve as combat pilots in their ‘mother’ squadrons; in times of conflict or a

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FLIGHT TEST FOCUS As well as the F-16I Sufa the Flight Test Center operates examples of the F-16C Block 30, F-16D Block 30 and F-16D Block 40. This is two-seater F-16D Barak 601 (c/n CK-01, FMS 90-0875).

special operation demanding their presence they will return to them as ordinary aircrew. The Center also incorporates a large, modern maintenance division, assigned to expose every system to the toughest conditions to assess how to handle it from a sustainment standpoint. After the results of each test are processed, evaluated and written up as new procedures and methods, it’s up to the Center to

distribute and brief them to the rest of the IAF’s squadrons. Frontline pilots regularly attend briefings – including flight instructors from the Hatzerim Flight Academy, for whom the Flight Test Center evaluates training platforms and recommends types. The Center’s remit also includes evaluating enemy aircraft captured by the Israel Defense Forces – work that’s yielded priceless intelligence for the IAF and its allies.

MiG-29s over Israel


During the 1990s, Western intelligence indicated that the Soviet-designed MiG-29 offered various advantages in aerial combat over advanced Western fighters. Beginning with the 1991 Gulf War, US and allied air forces began to encounter the jet in combat. To study the fighter’s capabilities, Israel

borrowed three MiG-29s from Poland in 1997, the Flight Test Center then evaluating their manoeuvrability and air-to-ground and airto-air capabilities. Tests included simulated aerial combat with frontline IAF squadrons. One of the MiGs even carried the Center’s emblem during its stay in Israel.

Special Sufa

Since the unit’s expected to work with every airborne platform in the IAF inventory, it borrows equipment from across the air force as required. However, the importance of the fighter fleet is such that F-15s and F-16s are permanently assigned to it. The ‘Vipers’ represent different variants of the aircraft in IAF service: F-16C Block 30, F-16D Block 30, F-16D Block 40 and F-16I Sufa. With the arrival of the F-16I, the IAF lacked a similarly advanced platform to serve as a ‘surrogate’ for systems testing. The Center’s solution was to adapt an existing F-16C, maintenance personnel taking F-16C Barak 301 and making numerous internal and external modifications to replicate the two-seat Sufa. They installed avionics, flight control systems and conformal fuel tanks, essentially producing a single-seat F-16I, the modifications enabling test work to continue without depleting the frontline Sufa squadrons. In recent years the IAF has been through a major modernisation, taking on new platforms for various missions. It began with the C-130J for the transport fleet and continued with the M-346. At the end of last year the IAF received its first two F-35Is, which are assigned to the Flight Test Center and fully instrumented. With plans to incorporate increasing levels of indigenous avionics and weapons on the type, the facility will be kept busy in the years to come. AFM

Below: F-16I Sufa 401 has telemetry markings applied to an underwing hardpoint, suggesting recent stores separation trials. This aircraft, c/n YD-1, FMS 00-1001, was the first F-16I delivered.

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Ukrainian Albatros additions

Above: L-39C ‘72 Blue’ (c/n 934658) of 7 brTA, Ukraine’s sole Su-24 unit, during a training flight over its home base of Starokostyantyniv in August 2012. Together with ‘71 Blue’, this aircraft was delivered to the unit fresh from overhaul in Odessa on June 26 that year. These were the first L-39s to sport the (now standard) grey ‘digital’ camouflage. This year, 7 brTA received two new L-39M1s (also identical ‘71 Blue’ and ‘72 Blue’) from Odessa as replacements. The older aircraft were likely transferred to another unit, probably to 203 navbr at Chuhuyiv, which also received 7 brTA’s L-39C ‘73 Blue’. Nick Cross

The feature on Ukrainian L-39s in the July issue includes some erroneous information. It mentions that Ukraine entered co-operation with IAI Lahav. However, collaboration with Israeli industry was actually a joint venture involving the overhaul plant at Odessa and was not endorsed by (nor aimed at) the Ukrainian Air Force. The Ukrainian modernisation programme is alive and well – the Odessa facility still turns out both L-39M1s and L-39Ms (note there are no M2 or M3 variants

Italian firefighters explained

In the May issue (Feedback, p94) Carlo Cervi writes that Italian CL-415s from Italy’s Corpo Forestale dello Stato operated in Israel late last year. It should be pointed out that the Corpo Forestale dello Stato only operated the CL-215, and this in the period 1982-84. The Canadairs were then passed on to the Italian Air Force, and later to the Protezione Civile (Civil Protection). The CL-415s were acquired by the Italian Protezione Civile starting in 1995. The CL-415s were in turn passed from the Protezione Civile to the Vigili del Fuoco (Firefighting Corps) in 2013. Riccardo Niccoli

as mentioned in the text). By my count, 14 upgraded jets have been delivered to date (not eight – as reported in the text – and two of these are L-39Ms). The latest L-39M1 was delivered this spring. The 14 aircraft include the three (not four) impounded by Russia in Crimea in 2014, which remain there. I have, as yet, unconfirmed information suggesting frontline units will start (or are perhaps already in the process of) transferring their operational L-39Cs to the training brigade


Ian Carroll of AirForces Intelligence provides two corrections to news items that appeared in the July issue. On p11, the Royal Netherlands Air Force CH-47F contract is not for 15 helicopters, but for an unspecified number from US

at Chuhuyiv, indicating that these will soon be replaced by new L-39M/M1 aircraft. The photo in the article actually shows one of the modernised L-39M1s (‘80 Blue’ of 299 brTA), not an L-39C. The L-39M1 and especially the more advanced L-39M have a few distinguishing features compared with the standard L-39C. Ukraine’s MiG-29 experts, in the April 2017 issue, provides all the basic information on Ukraine’s modernised L-39s. Vladimir Trendafilovski

Army Production Lot 15. On p12, the Spanish Tigre is not 10065, but 10068. The number is visible in the front cockpit window. In the August issue, the correct location for Al Udeid is, of course Qatar, and not the United Arab Emirates (BALTOPS bombers, p87).

Chilean Dauphin upgrade – not a done deal

I would like to add some detail to the news piece in the June issue (p21) about the modernisation of the Chilean Navy’s SA365 Dauphin II fleet. The report seems to be based on declarations made by Helibras (Airbus Helicopters’ Brazilian subsidiary) during the last LAAD show. Contrary to what is stated, the Chilean Navy has not yet signed a contract to modernise its SA365s. The Chilean Navy has plans to upgrade its Dauphin II fleet, but it is unlikely that such a contract will be signed this year. The upgrade will be conducted in phases and batches. This is not because of budgetary constraints, but because there are two different groups of machines in the fleet (the Argentine Coast Guard will follow the same programme). The priority for upgrade will be the four former Irish Air Corps SA365F1s acquired in 2008, which are heavier and underpowered (the reason for their retirement from Irish service). The addition of a new, more powerful engine is badly needed. This said, these machines have served the Chilean Navy well, and have been carefully operated within their limits. The other four SA365Ns in Chilean Navy service are lighter and have more powerful engines, so their upgrade is less urgent. José Higuera

Above: Two earlier examples of the Spanish Army Aviation Tigre. HA.28-01 ET-701 was delivered to the Fuerzas Aeromóviles (FAMET, Army Air Mobile Forces) as a Tigre HAP in December 2005. Another HAP model, HA.28-05 ET-705 was handed over to FAMET in September 2008. Operating unit is Batallón de Helicópteros de Ataque I (BHELA I, Attack Helicopter Battalion 1) at Ciudad Real-Almagro. Salvador Mafé Huertas

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Changing of the guard at Grottaglie With the introduction of the NH90 the Italian Navy has a modern, multi-mission platform suited to operations over land and sea. Dr Andreas Zeitler joined a training flight from Grottaglie to learn about the helicopter’s capabilities.

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Above: The SH-90A is the most modern helicopter in Italian Navy service. A first example was delivered to Luni in June 2011. Today, it is operational with 4° and 5° Gruppo Elicotteri. SH-90A MM81590 ‘3-14’ is armed with an M134D door gun. All photos Dr Andreas Zeitler


arget acquired, range 53 kilometres, course 135,” comes the announcement over the intercom. It’s a clear day and the sea is calm. The Cabin Crew Chief (CCC), Luigi Grilli, has no difficulty acquiring the target. Seated beside him, the Sensor Operator (SENSO), Francesca Carrieri, slaves the infrared sensor on to the reported position. At around 11 miles (18km) from the target, the first black and white dots start to appear on the glimmering green image generated by the IR sensor. Today, the uniform surface temperature of the Mediterranean means the target can be easily differentiated against its background on the operator’s multifunctional display (MFD). The laser rangefinder now provides a readout of 4.9 miles (8km), while the helicopter hovers steady above the sea. The target is “

identified as a trawler, most likely home-ported at Taranto, not far from the SH-90A’s home station of Marina Stazione Elicotteri (Maristaeli, Naval Helicopter Station) Grottaglie in southern Italy. With the training mission’s final task accomplished, the SH-90A breaks away to return to its base. During a real mission the target would have required a clear identification and a closer approach. In the following weeks the SH-90A will be deployed, operating from Marina Militare (Italian Navy) ships and flying patrols in support of Operation Mare Sicuro in the central Mediterranean. The helicopter will be tasked with maritime patrol and, whenever necessary, search and rescue (SAR). Mare Sicuro was launched in March 2015 as a response to the Libyan crisis and initially patrolled the Channel of Sicily to protect national

interests in the area. Recently, this work has involved rescuing refugees attempting to cross the water from North Africa.

Prized asset

Capitano di Fregata (Commander) Massimiliano ‘Max’ Buzzoni, a flight instructor, outlined some of the advantages of the SH-90A: “The excellent speed of around 300km/h and a radius of action of around 700km at maximum load enable a much larger sector to be patrolled on each flight. Also, the helicopter’s mission system makes it possible to perform autonomous and joint operations without any role change. Decision-making in flight is aided by comprehensive sensor, voice and data communications and weapons systems with data-fusion support. An advanced, integrated avionics suite ensures easy and reliable communications with

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Norman Atlantic rescue

The SH-90A is equipped with search radar, HELRAS dipping sonar and active/passive sonobuoys for anti-submarine missions. Sub-surface threats are prosecuted with MU90 torpedoes.

Above: Today, fewer than 20 AB212s are assigned to 2° and 4° Gruppo Elicotteri. The first of 68 examples was introduced in 1976. This is MM80951 ‘7-20’, completed as an ASW version, but now equipped for heliborne assault. Below: An SH-90A door-gunner wields the Dillon Aero M134D 7.62mm machine gun. This is typically used for special forces support and operations with amphibious infantry of the San Marco Marine Brigade.

In December 2015 a fire broke out on a car deck of the Italian-flagged ferry Norman Atlantic, sailing from Patras in Greece to Ancona, Italy, with almost 500 people on board. Seven Italian Navy helicopters, including examples of the SH-90A, responded together with rotary- and fixed-wing assets from the Italian Air Force and Coast Guard. The result was one of the largest maritime helicopter rescue missions ever attempted. The rescue was made particularly difficult by the high seas, darkness and the amount of smoke coming from the ship. Poor weather hampered efforts to attach cables to the ferry for towing. While fireboats sprayed water on the flames, helicopters winched passengers away from the vessel, beginning with the injured, then the youngest and most vulnerable passengers, and finally all of the crew. More than 420 passengers and crew were eventually airlifted by the helicopters and delivered to the safety of nearby ships.

the combat operations centre of the ships on the scene, but also with the operations room located on land. The helicopter can also provide aerial medical support and ambulatory patient transport services.” Up to 12 stretchers can be accommodated in the cabin for dedicated medevac missions and the SH-90A can also carry 14-16 troops or more than 5,512lb (2,500kg) of cargo. The inverse synthetic aperture radar (ISAR) produced by a Thales and Selex Galileo consortium has an operating radius of approximately 217 miles (350km) and can track multiple targets in the air and at sea. It is backed up by a Sagem Euroflir 350 forwardlooking infrared (FLIR) sensor. Meanwhile, the Selex Galileo OTS-90 acoustic system is the most valuable sensor for anti-submarine warfare (ASW). The OTS-90 includes a Helicopter Long-Range Active Sonar (HELRAS) dipping sonar produced by L3 plus active and passive sonobuoys. The acoustic system

The MBDA Marte MK2/S missile is the weapon of choice for attacking surface combatants. The fire-and-forget, sea-skimming missile flies initially under inertial guidance before switching to active-radar terminal homing.

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The advanced cockpit of the NH90 represents a generational leap forward compared to the 1970s-era AB212. The SH-90A’s fully glass cockpit includes five multifunction displays and standby instruments and is compatible with NVGs and helmetmounted display systems.

is similar to that used on the Italian SH-101A (EH101) and has a quoted underwater range of ‘tens of nautical miles’ using active and passive modes to detect and classify signals that are analysed by an onboard database. The helicopter is qualified to use Marte MK2/S missiles against surface targets or MU90 torpedoes against sub-surface threats. In the cabin, the SH-90A can be equipped with the Dillon Aero M134D 7.62mm machine gun. Italian Navy crews are extremely proud of their most recent asset. Capitano di Fregata Ciro Sannino is an SH-90A pilot and leads the 4° Gruppo Elicotteri (4th Helicopter Squadron). He summarised the benefits of the helicopter. “The SH-90 is the most modern and the best naval helicopter in its class, designed to meet NATO requirements, with safety and versatility in mind, in

order to fulfil the most demanding missions in the harshest weather conditions. This helicopter constitutes a force multiplier as well as the long arm of the fleet by providing over-the-horizon surface awareness, and is capable of a diverse range of naval missions. Its unique aerodynamics, latest generation of glass cockpit avionics and flyby-wire technology underline the value of the SH-90 as a multipurpose helicopter.”

Expanding capabilities

The SH-90A was first delivered to the Italian Navy on June 23, 2011 in an interim Meaningful Operational Capability (MOC) standard. The first delivery to the Italian Navy followed a contract signed with NHIndustries in June 2000. This included a batch of 60 Tactical Transport Helicopters (TTH) for the Italian Army plus 46 NATO Frigate Helicopters

(NFH) and ten TTHs for the Italian Navy. The local SH-90A designation for the NFH was officially adopted in 2012. When first delivered the SH-90A was capable of performing crew training, SAR missions and utility operations. Antisubmarine and anti-surface warfare capabilities were introduced when aircraft were retrofitted to Final Operational Capability (FOC) standard, which began to arrive with the fleet in November 2013. Once FOC was achieved, the SH-90A’s main missions became ASW and antisurface warfare and the aircraft was cleared for the Marte MK2/S and MU90. In addition, the SH-90A can be deployed for transport of personnel, materiel and troops, SAR operations and medevac. The Italian Navy maintains two SH-90As on 24/7 alert, one at Maristaeli Luni and the other at Grottaglie.

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4° GRUPPO ELICOTTERI These are ready to respond at minimum notice to any kind of military operation or in support of the civilian population. In recent years the SH-90A has taken part in a range of national and NATO exercises including Mare Aperto, the main Italian training event of the year held in the central Mediterranean. It involves a variety of air, naval and amphibious assets, with the aim of testing the operational effectiveness of the naval commands and assigned forces. Another important event is NATO’s annual ASW exercise Dynamic Manta, one of the most challenging of its kind and an excellent opportunity for NATO navies to practise and evaluate their anti-submarine skills. Periodically the SH-90As are also involved in exercises with Italy’s Corpo Nazionale Soccorso Alpino e Speleologico (National Corps for Mountain and Speleological Rescue). While the SH-90A is designed to operate primarily in a naval environment, it can be reconfigured to support troops ashore. The mission operator stations can be replaced with troop seats or stretcher-mounting kits to evacuate casualties. For land warfare, the M134 machine gun is normally mounted on one of the sliding side doors for self-defence. In order to better project military power from the sea and to support amphibious and special forces operations, the Italian Navy has also acquired the tactical transport version of the NH90. The TTH variant is designated MH-90A in Italian Navy service. It is lighter than the SH-90A and equipped with a new tactical and weapon control system, including a completely integrated helmet display for the pilot. The MH-90A provides commonality with the SH-90A and combines the main features of the TTH version, such as the rear ramp and mission equipment, with SH-90A naval features including the ‘harpoon’ deck lock, freely castoring nosewheel, automatic rotor

Above: The Italian Navy has ordered 56 NH90s, of which 46 will be delivered in the SH-90A configuration seen here, for anti-submarine and anti-surface warfare missions. The remaining ten will be in MH-90A configuration, with a rear ramp, optimised for heliborne assault.

blade/tail fold and deck handling system to ensure safe ship operations day and night and in adverse weather conditions. The delivery of the first MH-90A to 5° Gruppo Elicotteri at Maristaeli Luni in January marked a significant step forward in capability for the Italian Navy. Even before its arrival, crews trained for some of the MH-90A’s missions with the available SH-90As. Eventually, the MH-90A will succeed the AB212, which remains a familiar sight at Grottaglie. Crews of the venerable AB212 are still proud of their mount and especially its achievements when deployed to Afghanistan. One of the airframes took nine bullet hits and survived to complete its mission. This airframe is now on display at the air base’s museum. Used in support of the San Marco Brigade, Italian Navy AB212s are compatible with nightvision goggles (NVGs). Low-visibility ‘Panther’ Squadron patches on their uniforms identify the crews qualified to fly night missions. Achieving combat-ready status on the

SH-90A depends on the individual background of each pilot. Pilots who are qualified combatready on other types, such as the AB212 or SH-3D, require 150 hours to transition to the SH-90A. Pilots fresh out of flight school require a total of 450 flight hours on helicopters and 150 hours on the SH-90A. The SH-90A and MH-90A represent a generational leap compared to the AB212. The SH-90A is twice as heavy as an AB212, and offers greater autonomy, power and speed. Its real strength lies in its multi-role capability, achieved through a combination of technology and integrated systems. Pilots told AFM that a single SH-90A can do the work of multiple AB212s, and that despite its heavier weight, it offers superior handling characteristics due to its fly-by-wire flight controls. In the near future SH-90As and MH-90As will completely replace the Italian Navy AB212s and will become a familiar sight on board the ships of the Marina Militare. AFM

A pilot’s path to the SH-90A Before being assigned to the SH-90A, Italian pilots receive their ‘Wings of Gold’ in the United States, having followed the same training syllabus as a US Navy helicopter pilot. Naval Flight School consists of four phases: Aviation Pre-flight Indoctrination (API), Primary, Intermediate, and Advanced Flight Training. All Student Naval Aviators (SNAs) start out at the same place: Naval Air Station Pensacola, located on the Gulf Coast in the Florida panhandle. Known as the ‘Cradle of Naval Aviation’, API is the first step in flight training for student officers. It lasts for six weeks (four weeks of academics and two weeks of survival training). The four weeks of academics focus on aerodynamics, aircraft engines and systems, meteorology, air navigation and flight rules and regulations. An exam is taken at the end of each course. Once academics are over, API students begin each morning learning water survival skills. The swimming course culminates in a one-mile swim in a flight suit. Survival training includes classes on basic land survival, survival equipment, physiology and first aid.

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After graduating from API, SNAs enter Primary Flight Training. This lasts around six months and consists of the following sections: ground school, contact (take-off and landing, limited manoeuvres, spins), basic instruments, precision aerobatics, formation, radio instrument navigation, night familiarisation, and visual navigation. Italian Navy students conduct primary training at NAS Whiting Field in Pensacola, Florida, where they learn the basics of flying in the T-6 Texan II. Upon successful completion of Primary Flight Training, SNAs are selected either for helicopters or jets, according to their grades, preferences and the needs of the service. Advanced Flight Training for helicopter pilots takes place at NAS Corpus Christi, Texas, beginning with around five months in a multi-seat, twin-engine turboprop: the T-44C King Air. During the final phase of Advanced Flight Training, students receive more than 100 hours’ instruction in which they learn the unique characteristics of rotary-wing aviation in the TH-57 Sea Ranger. They progress through several phases of training

Above: An in-cockpit briefing for SH-90A crew of 4° Gruppo Elicotteri at Grottaglie.

including basic helicopter familiarisation; tactics; basic and radio instruments; visual, instrument, and low-level navigation; formation; night familiarisation (including use of NVGs) and search and rescue. Once they receive their Wings of Gold, the naval aviators return to Italy. Pilots selected for the SH-90A attend ground school at Catania, Sicily, for around eight weeks before continuing flight training at their assigned operational squadron. Andrea Avian


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Earlier this year the Royal Canadian Air Force deployed six CF-188 Hornets to Keflavík as part of Operation Reassurance/Air Task Force-Iceland, as Martin Scharenborg and Ramon Wenink report.


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t is a rainy and windy day at Keflavík Airport when suddenly the alarm sounds in the old 57th Fighter Squadron shelter area. Canadian aircrews dash to their Hornets and within minutes two aircraft roll to the active runway for a so-called ‘Tango scramble’. This is a typical scene from Operation Reassurance/Air Task Force-Iceland, which took place between May 11 and June 19. The skies above and around Iceland have always been very busy with civilian and military aircraft. Nevertheless, Iceland is the only NATO country without a standing military. Early in the Cold War, Soviet long-range bombers began regular incursions into Icelandic airspace. From 1953 the US Air Force’s 57th Fighter Interceptor Squadron ‘Black Knights’ protected Icelandic

airspace. Until 1962 the unit operated the F-89C Scorpion, followed by the F-102 Delta Dagger. These were replaced in early 1973 by the F-4C Phantom II, in turn relieved by the more sophisticated F-4E Phantom II in 1978. By 1985 the last Phantom II had left Keflavík and the 57th Fighter Squadron re-equipped with the brand-new ‘IS’-coded F-15C/D Eagle. The end of the Cold War and the inevitable budget cuts resulted in the deactivation of the 57th FS in March 1995. However, the need for a continuous air surveillance and interception capability was recognised and under the supervision of Air Combat Command (ACC) active-duty and Air National Guard F-15 units began rotations to Keflavík every three months until October 2002 when these tasks were taken over by the United States Air Forces in Europe (USAFE).

Further US budget cuts resulted in the decision to withdraw all US military troops from Iceland by the end of 2006. The last US rotational fighter deployment at Keflavík came to an end on June 28 that year. To avoid a gap in airspace surveillance and interception capability Iceland’s Prime Minister Geir Haarde requested during the 2006 NATO Summit in Riga, Latvia, that NATO assumed responsibility for the protection of Iceland’s airspace and NATO’s borders in the Northern Atlantic. NATO’s North Atlantic Council consented in 2007 and plans for upcoming deployments were laid out. Instead of a permanent detachment, Iceland requested three annual deployments, each lasting three to four weeks. The first NATO deployment to Iceland began on May 5, 2008 and was conducted by four French Air Force Mirage 2000Cs Left: Two CF-188s on patrol over central Iceland. Intercept controllers for the CF-188s were provided by the Combined Air Operations Centre in Uedem, Germany. Crew from the 21st Aerospace Control and Warning Squadron and 22 Wing worked closely with the Icelandic Coast Guard to ensure mission execution and accurate transfer of information between ATF-Iceland and the CAOC in Uedem. All photos Martin Scharenborg and Ramon Wenink

Hornet Replacement Project The remaining 77 thoroughly upgraded RCAF CF-188s are expected to remain in operational service until 2025. Nevertheless, the Canadian government is urgently looking for a successor to the ageing Hornet. The RCAF has indicated a need for a fleet of 88 fighters to fulfil pilot training, readiness training, defence of Canadian airspace, the NORAD mission, and international (NATO) commitments. Canada has already invested more than C$311m in the development of the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II. However, the government has not signed a contract

to purchase the aircraft due to numerous disagreements in parliament concerning the matter. In the meantime, an Interim Fighter Solution is being considered to fill the gap and supplement the CF-188 fleet until a permanent replacement is delivered. The primary candidate for the Interim Fighter Solution is the Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet, of which 18 aircraft could be purchased. A final decision concerning the Interim Fighter Solution or the permanent successor to the CF-188 is expected no earlier than the beginning of 2018.

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CF-188 IN ICELAND of Escadron de Chasse 1/2 based at Dijon. The deployment concluded at the end of June. In January 2013 NATO officially designated the periodic deployments to Iceland as Airborne Surveillance and Interception Capabilities to meet Iceland’s Peacetime Preparedness Needs (ASICIPPN). To date, nine different countries have conducted 28 NATO deployments.

Operation Reassurance

The most recent ASIC-PPN deployment was executed by Canada as part of Operation Reassurance, and continued the work previously performed in Iceland under Operation Ignition during 2011 and 2013. Operation Reassurance refers to a series of military activities undertaken by the Canadian Armed Forces since 2014. On April 17 that year the Canadian government offered Canadian Armed Forces assets to NATO to support alliance assurance and deterrence measures aimed at maintaining stability and security in Central and Eastern Europe. On July 8, 2016, at NATO’s Warsaw Summit, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced that Canada would continue to support NATO via Operation Reassurance until at least the end of March 2019. As part of this renewal of the Operation Reassurance mandate, the Canadian Armed Forces, under the command of Canadian Joint Operations Command (CJOC) can send land, sea and air components to wherever they are needed. Part of Operation Reassurance’s air component is Air Task Force (ATF)-Iceland. This task force, when active, consists of between 150 and 180 personnel, up to six CF-188 Hornets, aircraft support teams and fighter controllers.

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A CF-188 starts up for a mission from Keflavík. The personnel of 433 Squadron and 3 Wing operated from the shelter area on the southwest of Keflavík Airport. This was previously home to the USAF’s 57th FIS, which was inactivated in 1995.

Rebirth of a squadron

Above: A Canadian pilot in front of ‘his’ Hornet before boarding for a training mission over Iceland. Canadian CF-188s have participated in numerous operations since the early ’90s, including the 1991 Gulf War, in the Balkans during the late 1990s, the conflict with Libya, and most recently the fight against IS from 2014 until 2016.

The first Canadian ATF-Iceland deployment under Operation Reassurance began in early May when CC-177 Globemaster III and CC-150 Polaris aircraft transported support equipment and quartermasters to Keflavík Airport to prepare for the arrival of 155 personnel and six CF-188s from 433 Tactical Fighter Squadron and 3 Wing at CFB Bagotville, Quebec. The squadron has a rich Second World War history and then flew the Avro Canada CF-100 from 1954 until disbandment in July 1961. The unit was resurrected in September 1969 as 433 Tactical Fighter Squadron and was equipped with the Canadair CF-116A/B (CF-5) in the offensive air and reconnaissance roles. It flew these aircraft until the arrival of the CF-188 in 1984. Assigned a North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) role since 1988, and part of NATO’s Rapid Reaction Force, the unit participated in the 1991 Gulf War during Operation Friction, Operation Echo over Kosovo and Operation Noble Eagle over North America.

An Icelandic controller in the Control and Reporting Centre ‘Loki’ at Keflavík Airport. The Icelandic Coast Guard operates the NATO Iceland Air Defence System that includes an air surveillance system consisting of four subordinate radar sites.

A radical restructuring of the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) in 2005 aimed to free resources for new initiatives and to enhance maintenance efficiency. As part of the process the four remaining CF-188 squadrons were merged into two ‘super squadrons’. Aircraft and personnel were combined under one command at each air base; 416 Squadron and 441 Squadron formed the ‘new’ 409 Squadron at CFB Cold Lake, Alberta, while 433 Squadron integrated with 425 Squadron at CFB Bagotville in Quebec. Responsible for a much larger pool of aircraft and personnel, the ‘new’ squadrons needed to carefully balance their training and operations. Activities increased from 2010 and included airspace protection of the 2010 Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver, joint operations with the Canadian Army, Navy and Canadian Special Operations Forces Command (CANSOFCOM), the NORAD tasking, various deployments to Europe and the Middle East and the launch of Operation Impact against so-called Islamic State (IS) in 2014. Managing training, sending people and aircraft on deployments and maintaining readiness for upcoming deployments became logistically almost impossible at squadron level. This challenge was recognised and the decision made to revert to a four-squadron structure. As a Above: The Canadian Armed Forces have undertaken operations Ignition and Reassurance since 2011 to support NATO assurance and deterrence measures aimed at maintaining stability and security in Central and Eastern Europe. Left: In total, ATF-Iceland conducted 270 CF‑188 flying hours during 172 sorties. Following the mission to Iceland, aircraft and personnel from 4 Wing at CFB Cold Lake plan to deploy to Romania in September, also as part of Operation Reassurance.

result, 433 Squadron was resurrected within 3 Wing at CFB Bagotville on June 9, 2015, while 401 Squadron resumed flying operations with 4 Wing at CFB Cold Lake on July 20. With this restructuring Canada aimed to create a more flexible Hornet fighter force by spreading different tasks over more squadrons.

Large detachment

Six CF-188s were flown non-stop from CFB Bagotville to Keflavík on May 11 with the help of CC-130 Hercules aerial refuellers. The Canadian detachment relieved the six Italian Eurofighter F-2000s from 4°, 36° and 37° Stormo, which had been deployed for Task Force Air Northern Ice from March 16 until April 14. The Canadian Hornets took up residence in the shelter area in the southwest of the airport. Two fully armed aircraft were placed in the alert facility for ‘Alpha scrambles’ (real, high-priority scrambles), while two

other jets were used for ‘Tango scrambles’ (training). The remaining two aircraft were used as backup and for training. Familiarisation, orientation and training flights began the day after arrival until full operational capability was reached on May 22. Together with personnel and aircraft from 433 Squadron and 3 Wing, ATF-Iceland also involved personnel from the 21st Aerospace Control and Warning Squadron (AC&W) and 22 Wing from CFB North Bay, Ontario. These supported the Icelandic Coast Guard (ICG) that operates the NATO Iceland Air Defence System (IADS). This includes an air surveillance system consisting of four subordinate radar sites and the Control and Reporting Centre (CRC) at Keflavík Airport nicknamed ‘Loki’ after a figure from Norse mythology. The radar sites and CRC feed the so-called recognised air picture (RAP) into the NATO Integrated Air and Missile Defence System (NATINAMDS) controlled by NATO’s Allied Air Command

Iceland air policing deployments Date




May 5 to June 30, 2008


EC 1/2

Mirage 2000C

September 2008

United States

493rd FS


March 2009


Esk 727 and 730


June 2009


332 Skv


September 2009

United States



March 2-29, 2010


Esk 727 and 730


June 1-25, 2010


JG 71


September 6-24, 2010

United States

493rd FS


March 28 to April 30, 2011


409 Squadron


June 2011


332 Skv


September 2011

United States



March 5 to April 2, 2012


JG 71


May 1 to June 7, 2012

United States

493rd FS


August 7 to September 20, 2012


201 and 301 Esq


March 18 to April 28, 2013


425 Squadron


June 7 to July 10, 2013


4°, 36° and 37° Stormo


November 2013

United States

493rd FS


January 27 to February 21, 2014


332 Skv


May 16 to June 5, 2014

United States

493rd FS


October 10 to December 3, 2014

Czech Republic

211. taktická letka


April 2015

United States

493rd FS


July 27 to August 28, 2015

Czech Republic

211. taktická letka


August 31 to October 2, 2015




April 4-28, 2016

United States

131st FS


May 30 to June 30, 2016




October 5 to November 2, 2016

Czech Republic

211. taktická letka


March 16 to April 14, 2017


4°, 36° and 37° Stormo


May 11 to June 19, 2017


433 Squadron


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CF-188 IN ICELAND (AIRCOM) at Ramstein Air Base in Germany. The crew from the 21st AC&W and 22 Wing worked closely together with the ICG crew to ensure mission execution and the transfer of accurate information between ATF-Iceland and the Combined Air Operations Centre (CAOC) in Uedem, Germany. The CAOC oversees all traffic in the Iceland area, analysing and assessing information from radar feeds and data links and acting as intercept controller.

skies over Libya to enforce a ‘no-fly’ zone and conduct bombing missions against Libyan targets. A total of 946 sorties were flown. From October 2014 to February 2016 eight Canadian Hornets deployed to Kuwait in support of the global coalition fighting IS in Syria and Iraq. During this period 1,378 missions were flown. In the meantime, operations Ignition and later Reassurance were conducted on a rotational basis in Iceland, Lithuania and Romania.

Reliable platform

Upgrades required

Although the CF-188 is older than most of the pilots that currently fly it, the aircraft is well equipped for its task. The first CF-188 entered service with the Canadian Air Force in 1982 and the type has participated in many foreign operations. In 1991 Canada sent 24 CF-188s to the Gulf for Operation Friction. This was the first combat deployment for the Canadian Air Force since the Korean War and the detachment flew 2,700 combat air patrol missions, 56 bombing missions and over 5,700 flying hours. Between August and the end of November 1997 six aircraft deployed to Aviano AB in Italy for Operation Mirador in support of UN peacekeeping troops in the former Yugoslavia and from June 1998 to December 2000 Operation Echo saw six Hornets sent to Aviano in support of SFOR (Stabilisation Force) and KFOR (Kosovo Force) troops. In June 1999 18 CF-188s deployed to Europe, this time to participate in NATO air strikes against Serbian forces. They flew 10% of all NATO air strikes during 558 bombing missions. Since the 9/11 terror attacks, CF-188s have contributed enormously to Operation Noble Eagle and the NORAD mission. Between March and August 2011 CF-188s were deployed again, this time to Trapani in Italy as part of Operation Mobile. The air component of Mobile was Task Force Libeccio – seven CF-188s that patrolled the

During the Gulf War and Balkan deployments it became apparent the Hornet’s avionics and weapons systems had become outdated and a thorough upgrade was urgently needed to keep the CF-188 ‘in the fight’ well into the next century. In 2000 funding became available for the necessary upgrades under the Incremental Modernization Project (IMP). This C$1.8bn project was divided into two phases over eight years starting in 2002. It covered 80 of the 119 aircraft (62 CF-188A and 18 CF-188B) and was conducted by McDonnell Douglas (later Boeing) and L-3 Communications (later L3 Technologies). The first phase implemented, among others, the new Raytheon AN/APG-73 radar, Rockwell Collins AN/ARC-210 RT-1556/ ARC VHF and UHF radios, BAE Systems AN/ APX-111 IFF transponder, new mission computers, GPS/INS navigation system and an improved Smiths Aerospace AN/AYQ-9 weapons stores management system to carry the most modern air-to-air and airto-ground weapons. The cockpit layout drastically changed with the implementation of full-colour LCD displays. At the same time the new Lockheed Martin Sniper XR targeting pod was purchased, together with the AIM-120 AMRAAM missile and laser/ GPS-guided air-to-ground weapons. The first phase of IMP was officially concluded on August 31, 2006. The second phase, which started in 2005, Above: A Canadian pilot starts up his aircraft for another sortie to control the airspace above and around Iceland. Below: A two-seat CF-188 taxies through the rain to the Keflavík shelters after a long patrol flight. The harsh weather conditions in Iceland can be a challenge for flight operations.

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The most recent Royal Canadian Air Force deployment to Iceland was executed as part of Operation Reassurance, continuing work previously performed under Operation Ignition in 2011 and 2013.

included introducing the Link 16 datalink system, an electronic warfare suite upgrade and integrating the Joint HelmetMounted Cueing System (JHMCS). The final upgraded Hornet under the second phase was delivered in March 2010.

Successful deployment

ATF-Iceland concluded on June 19 when the six CF-188s and most support personnel headed home. “Quite honestly, the most challenging part was the short duration of the mission,” said Lieutenant-Colonel (LCol) William Mitchell, commander of both 433 Squadron and ATF-Iceland. “It is extremely challenging to plan for, deploy, sustain and redeploy over such a short period, as normal operational deployments would typically extend to six months or more. There is a significant amount of logistical pieces that need to be detailed and thought through in order to make this a success since time is not a luxury that we have.” LCol Mitchell began flying at the age of 14 in the Cessna 172, enrolled at Mount Royal University in Calgary, Alberta under its Business Aviation Program and graduated with a commercial IFR rating. From there he joined the RCAF and amassed 190 flying hours on the Cessna 172, followed by 150 hours on the CT-156 Harvard II, and 150 hours with 410 Tactical Fighter (Operational Training) Squadron on the CT-155 Hawk. He has now amassed 2,205 hours on the CF-188. LCol Mitchell praised the good co-operation with the Icelandic Coast Guard and people of Iceland: “Members of Air Task ForceIceland have interacted considerably with the Icelandic Coast Guard from an aerospace control perspective, as well as for logistical support for operations at Keflavík. Additionally, the ATF relies on the ICG for search and rescue response in the event of an aircraft emergency in remote locations in Iceland or offshore. Our co-operation with the ICG has been tremendous and their members have been of great help enabling our operations. Our aerospace

control personnel worked hand-in-hand with ICG members at the Control and Reporting Centre at Keflavík and we could not execute this aspect of our mission without their local expertise and knowledge. We are proud and thankful to have worked alongside such professionals and are happy to support safety and security measures in the skies of an important NATO ally. The people of Keflavík have also warmly welcomed us and our members have enjoyed the exceptional hospitality shown to them throughout Iceland. We were also able to play some ice hockey games against local teams, hosted visits for a local flying school and took part in the Reykjavík Air Show with a CF-188 static display on June 3.” In total ATF-Iceland conducted 270 CF-188 flying hours during 172 sorties. Although no ‘hostile’ aircraft were intercepted, LCol Mitchell looked back on a successful deployment: “After flying the Hornet for 12 years and five operational tours including combat, all missions are unique and exciting in their own way. Every mission is different,

whether it’s operational or training – that’s the best part about being a fighter pilot. It is a privilege to command and fly the CF-188 Hornet but it is always the personnel that I serve with, their commitment and sacrifice that impresses me the most.”

Upcoming deployments

The next NATO fighter deployment to Iceland is due to take place in September and will involve a yet to be announced USAF or USAFE unit. Following the mission to Iceland, aircraft and personnel from 4 Wing at CFB Cold Lake are scheduled to deploy to Romania in September, also as part of Operation Reassurance. “These Air Task Force deployments aim to conduct periodic surveillance and air policing operations in NATO areas of responsibility, and participate in joint training activities with other nations,” LCol Mitchell concluded. “The Romanian Air Force retains primacy in response to any incursion in their airspace. Royal Canadian Air Force CF-188s will support them when required.” AFM

Above: A two-ship of CF-188s breaks away over the volcanic landscape of Iceland. The CF-188 has undergone an intensive upgrade over the last decade to keep it flying until at least 2025.

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Strong tailwind caused F-35A engine fire

Above: The upper rear fuselage of F-35A 12-5052 following its engine fire on September 23, 2016, at Mountain Home AFB. USAF

A STRONG tailwind has been confirmed as the cause of the engine fire that seriously damaged a US Air Force F-35A Lightning II during start-up at Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho, on September 23, 2016, see Attrition, November 2016, p92. An Air Education and Training Command (AETC) Aircraft Accident Investigation Report into the incident was released on July 12. It identifies the aircraft as 12-5052, assigned to the 61st Fighter Squadron ‘Top Dogs’, from the 56th Fighter Wing at Luke Air Force Base, Arizona. The aircraft was temporarily deployed to Mountain Home along with six other F-35As from September 10-24 for training. At approximately 0852hrs the aircraft experienced an uncontained engine fire during start. The start-up was aborted and the pilot safely egressed the still-burning aircraft, suffering only minor burns to his head. Maintenance crew members responded and extinguished the fire. The rear portion of the aircraft sustained

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significant fire damage. The report says that while total costs resulting from this mishap have still to be determined, damage is estimated to be in excess of $17m. The Accident Investigation Board (AIB) President found, by a preponderance of the evidence, that the cause of the mishap was the direct tailwind present during engine start. Wind sensors on the airfield indicate that a wind speed of 30kts or greater was present during this process. This forced hot air into the inlet of the Integrated Power Pack (IPP), which led to a series of events resulting in insufficient torque applied to the aircraft engine during start, causing rotation speed to slow. At the same time, fuel continued to be supplied to the engine at an increasing rate, which triggered an uncontained fire in the unit. This spread out from the engine exhaust and was carried along the outer surfaces of the aircraft by the tailwind, causing significant damage. The fire was extinguished approximately

20 seconds after initial visual indications of the problem. The fire damaged the engine exhaust nozzle, landing gear surfaces and components in both the left and right main undercarriage wheel wells. As both weapon bay doors were open, flames penetrated both bays. The outer surface of the aircraft on the aft two thirds of the airframe’s centre fuselage suffered varying degrees of damage. Some minor damage was even noted on surfaces forward of the cockpit. The report notes that neither publications nor training were adequate for the circumstances surrounding this incident. IPP and engine start issues with a tailwind were known prior to this incident, however, publications were written and communicated in such a way that the F-35A pilot community only had a vague awareness of the potential issue. Evidence shows that if the pilot had expected problems with the tailwind, he may have relied less on automation and identified the abnormal start-

up earlier. The fire’s ferocity and close proximity impaired the pilot’s ability to follow the checklist. In the necessary haste to exit the burning aircraft, he failed to move the engine switch to off, in accordance with the egress checklist, before leaving the cockpit. Had he done so at the first indication of fire, fuel would have been shut off from the engine almost immediately and the fire would not have been so fierce. The report accepts, however, that prioritising egress was necessary due to the imminent danger. Procedural guidance, publications and checklist error were thus determined to be substantial contributing factors to the overall extent of damage. AETC stated that fixes and checklist revisions have already been put into place to prevent further such incidents. This includes implementing a maximum 20kt tailwind limit for engine start on the F-35 and adding more robust engine start and pilot emergency departure training.

Accident Reports D: May 24 N/U: US Navy/VFA-204 T: F/A-18A+ Hornet S: 162856 ‘AF-410’ During post-flight troubleshooting at 1330hrs the aircraft generator caught fire, resulting in Class A damage. The location was not reported, but the unit is based at Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base New Orleans, Louisiana. D: May 30 N/U: French Navy/35F SAR Detachment T: AS365N3+ Dauphin S: 6928 ‘Kea’ During a practice emergency landing at Moorea Airport, French Polynesia, at 1115hrs local time, the helicopter landed with the undercarriage retracted. Fortunately, it remained upright, but damage to the underside of the Dauphin rendered it unflyable and caused a fuel leak, although there was no fire. Both crew escaped injury. The incident caused the airport to be closed until the disabled helicopter and some debris on the runway could be removed. D: Jun 21 N/U: Russian Aerospace Forces/ 209th AB T: Yak-130 S: ‘43 White’/RF-44496 While landing at Borisoglebsk the nose wheel collapsed. Damage appeared to be limited to the nose and it is assumed that the crew was uninjured.

at approximately 2218hrs local time, a flash fire occurred in a drip pan containing fuel under the aircraft, injuring two Marines from VMFA-112 who were performing routine maintenance on the Hornet. They were treated for severe burns. The incident also resulted in damage to the aircraft.

Above: The damaged main undercarriage of RAF/AirTanker Voyager G-VYGL/ ZZ341 following its landing incident at Tenerife Airport on June 27 while on lease to Jet2. Aeropuertos Tenerife

Upon arriving at WarsawChopin Airport, Poland, from Kazakhstan, this aircraft appeared to have a problem and circled the airfield for several minutes before making an emergency landing just after 1800hrs, during which the underside was damaged. The accident blocked Runway 33 for several hours. No injuries were reported among the unspecified number of personnel on board. D: Jun 24 N/U: Brazilian Air Force/3° ETA T: VC-97 (EMB-120RT) Brasilia S: FAB-2002 As it took off from Base Aérea de Santa Cruz, Rio de Janeiro, at around 1840hrs during touchand-go training, the aircraft hit a capybara, causing damage to the port main undercarriage.

The aircraft continued with the take-off and then circled the base while the extent of the damage was assessed by an F-5 pilot who had been dispatched to fly alongside and check the undercarriage. After burning off fuel, the aircraft made an emergency landing at 2121hrs at Rio de Janeiro-Antônio Carlos Jobim International Airport. After touchdown, the port undercarriage partially collapsed, causing the aircraft to veer off the side of the runway. The two pilots and flight engineer were uninjured and damage to the aircraft appeared to be minor. D: Jun 25 N/U: US Marine Corps/VMFA 112 T: F/A-18A+ Hornet S: 162428 ‘MA-02’ At MCAS Miramar, California,

D: Jun 27 N: RAF/AirTanker/Jet2 T: A330-243 Voyager KC2 S: G-VYGL/ZZ341 While on lease to Jet2, this Voyager was damaged on landing at 1555hrs at TenerifeSur Reina Sofia Airport after operating flight LS917 from Manchester. The two rear tyres on the port main undercarriage were torn away, badly damaging the wheel rims, while the two rear tyres on the starboard main undercarriage were also destroyed. The aircraft was disabled on the runway for some time after the accident. D: Jun 28 N/U: US Navy/VAQ-142 T: EA-18G Growler S: 168382 ‘NH-504’ While unfolding its wings at around 2140hrs, the starboard wing was damaged when it failed at 40° beyond the normal down position. The incident has been categorised as a Class A mishap. The location was not reported but at the time the unit was deployed on the USS Nimitz (CVN 68) in the Pacific Ocean.

D: Jun 21 N/U: Russian Aerospace Forces/ 200th UAB T: Yak-130 S: ‘55 Red’/RF-44583 In a second accident with the type on this date, upon landing at Armavir the aircraft reportedly ran off the runway and came to rest on its belly. It is unclear whether the aircraft had an undercarriage failure or whether it landed with its undercarriage retracted. The crew is thought to have escaped safely. D: N: T:

Jun 22 Kazakhstan Air Force C295M

Above: The burning wreckage of Indian Air Force MiG-23UB MS3472 shortly after its crash in the Jodhpur district during a sortie on July 6. via Twitter

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

#354 SEPTEMBER 2017 // 89


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Accident Reports D: Jul 26 N/U: German Army/KHR 36 T: Tiger UHT While supporting MINUSMA operations in Mali, this helicopter crashed at 1420hrs south of Tabankort, 43 miles (70km) north of Gao, Mali. Both crew members were killed and the helicopter was burnt out in a post-crash fire.

Nigerian Air Force AW109 LUH NAF 573 partially submerged in a lagoon after it force landed. via Twitter

D: N: T: S:

Jul 4 Colombian Air Force TH-67 Creek FAC 4578

This helicopter was substantially damaged during a forced landing at the Flandes outlying landing field following a technical failure while on a training flight from Melgar. Neither of the two occupants were injured. Jul 4 D: N: Indian Air Force T: HAL Dhruv While on a sortie from Tezpur Air Force Station, Assam, the helicopter was reported missing at around 1550hrs near Sagalee in the Papum Pare district of Arunachal Pradesh, with four on board. Wreckage was spotted the following evening in the Sopo Yuha area, about 19 miles (30km) north of Itanagar in Arun. Three crewmembers were killed, while a single passenger was listed as missing. D: Jul 6 N: Indian Air Force T: MiG-23UB S: MS3472 During a training mission from Jodhpur Air Force Station, this aircraft crashed at around 1145hrs local time, about 37 miles (60km) from the base. Both pilots ejected safely from the Flogger before it came down near the village of Belasar in the Jodhpur district of Rajasthan state. D: N:

Jul 6 Nigerian Air Force

T: S:

AW109 LUH NAF 573

This helicopter was extensively damaged when it ditched in a lagoon in Maidiguri following an in-flight technical fault, but the crew members escaped uninjured. Jul 10 D: N/U: US Marine Corps/VMGR 452 T: KC-130T Hercules S: 165000 ‘NY-000’ All 16 personnel on board this aircraft were killed when it crashed just off US Highway 82 near Itta Bena in Leflore County, about 85 miles (136km) north of Jackson, Mississippi, around 1600hrs. According to an official at Mississippi’s Greenwood Airport, the aircraft was being tracked by air traffic control when it experienced an unknown problem at 20,000ft and an eyewitness saw it spiralling into the ground. The majority of the airframe came to rest on fire in a soybean field, but other debris was scattered over a 5-mile (8km) radius. An intense fire destroyed the aircraft, which had departed from Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, North Carolina, to take personnel and equipment to NAF El Centro, California. D: Jul 11 N/U: Bangladesh Air Force/ 21 Squadron Yak-130 T: S: 15102 ‘102’ During a training flight from Bangladesh Air Force Base

Zahurul Haque, Chittagong, this aircraft crashed at around 1500hrs local time near the base. Both pilots ejected safely. Initial reports suggest a fly-by-wire control failure caused the accident. D: Jul 16 N/U: US Navy/VFA-154 T: F/A-18F Super Hornet S: 166883 ‘NH-112’ The engine borescope plug on this aircraft extended in flight, causing hot air to burn the engine bay and aircraft skin. The aircraft landed safely but damage was such that it has been categorised as a Class A incident, indicating more than $2 million-worth of repairs are likely to be required. The location was not reported, but VFA-154 was deployed with Carrier Air Wing 11 aboard the USS Nimitz (CVN 68) in the Bay of Bengal.

Jul 29 D: N: Libyan National Army Air Force T: MiG-23UB S: 8008 While carrying out an air strike against militants in Derna, Libya, this aircraft was shot down over the Dhar Al-Hamer district of the town by Derna Mujahideen Shura Council (DMSC) militants using a MANPADS. The pilot of the Flogger-C, Col Adel Abdullah Al-Jihani, and co-pilot were both killed. D: Aug 1 N: US Army T: HH-60 Black Hawk During an Operation Resolute Support mission in Afghanistan this Black Hawk suffered a mechanical issue, resulting in a hard landing near Achin, Nangarhar. Two crew members suffered minor injuries during the landing. The helicopter was deemed to be repairable and was therefore recovered. Additional material from: Scramble/Dutch Aviation Society and Asagiri Yohko.

Above: Part of the burnt-out remains of Bangladesh Air Force/21 Squadron Yak-130 15102 ‘102’ following its crash on July 11. Both crew ejected safely. via Twitter

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

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Military Aircraft Markings 2017 2017

Howard J. Curtis

Published annually since the 1970s, Military Aircraft Markings is the most complete listing of all aircraft of the UK Armed Forces – the Royal Air Force, Royal Navy, Army and associated units. For each entry the military serial, aircraft type, unit/operator and usual base is given. Other sections of ‘MAM’ list American military aircraft based in Europe, overseas military aircraft which visit the UK, unit markings and a unit serial number/letter de-code and Ireland’s military aircraft. Basic details of the UK’s main military air bases, a maintenance unit cross-reference and detailed RAF Squadron markings help make up this essential guide to contemporary military aviation in the UK, Ireland and mainland Europe. The 2017 edition of Military Aircraft Markings has been fully revised and updated and remains the indispensible annual publication for all aviation enthusiasts and historians or students of military aviation in the UK, Ireland and mainland Europe.

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Military Aircraft Markings 2017 Howard J. Curtis ISBN: 978 1 85780 377 8 22/05/2017 15:07

03/08/2017 11:55



A special Royal Air Force Tornado GR4, painted in ‘desert pink’ colours as a tribute to Operation Granby in 1991, has been retired as the type enters its final chapter in service, as Rich Cooper reports.



n 2016 the Royal Air Force’s Tornado GR Force (TGRF) painted one aircraft – ZG750 – in a ‘desert pink’ scheme to mark 25 years of continuous combat operations. It was a nod to the 25th anniversary of the United Kingdom’s participation in Operation Desert Storm, codenamed Operation Granby by the British armed forces. Granby marked the combat debut of the then Panavia Tornado GR1s, which

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provided a vital part of the coalition that helped to liberate Kuwait from Saddam Hussein’s Iraqi forces. The RAF Tornado GR1s were painted in ‘pink’ Alkali Removable Temporary Finish (ARTF) to reduce their visual signature in the desert environment. Following this baptism of fire, the RAF Tornado ‘GR’ fleet – now in upgraded GR4 standard – has been engaged in combat operations almost constantly ever since. In April 2019 the RAF will retire its last

Tornado GR4s as they make way for Eurofighter Typhoons and F-35B Lightning IIs to spearhead UK combat air power. This summer, the time came for ZG750, dubbed ‘Pinky’ by many, to be retired. July’s Royal International Air Tattoo (RIAT) at RAF Fairford, Gloucestershire, presented the ideal opportunity to showcase this particular jet’s history and pedigree, with ZG750 being one of the stars of the show. As the Tornado

Above: Battle honours on the tail of Tornado GR4 ZG750/128 chart the Tornado GR Force’s combat operations from Granby in 1990-1991 to Shader today. Rich Cooper Left: Landing at the Royal International Air Tattoo in July, complete with blue Enhanced Paveway IIs (EPW2s). Jamie Hunter

touched down at RAF Fairford it had just 10hrs of flying time left on the service log before being flown from RAF Marham, Norfolk – the last RAF Tornado base – to RAF Leeming, North Yorkshire, to be reduced to spares under the Reduce to Produce (RTP) programme. This successful project has cannibalised Tornados to help provide a cost-effective spares source with which to maintain the remaining machines in service.

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Above: A fine head-on shot of ‘Pinky’. The aircraft retained a grey nosecone, the current standard for the RAF Tornado fleet, but the original black radome was standard during Operation Granby. ZG750 was delivered to the RAF in July 1991 and therefore did not participate in the first Gulf War. Rich Cooper Left: Low and fast – still the preferred domain for the Tornado GR4 in a high-threat scenario. ZG750 made its final flight on July 28 as it flew to RAF Leeming to be reduced to spares. Neil Dunridge

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Last guardians

Having received its commemorative ‘desert pink’ scheme at RAF Lossiemouth, ZG750 moved to the RAF Marham Wing, the last custodians of the Tornado GR4 today. No 12 (Bomber) Squadron flew the jet to RIAT, with Sqn Ldr Pete Holt at the controls and Weapons Systems Officer and Officer Commanding, Wg Cdr Nikki Thomas, in the back. “It’s absolutely brilliant to be here in the ‘Op Granby’ jet,” she told AFM at the show. “When you only have one special [marked] jet it’s bound to be the one that breaks, so we tried to bring it last year but we couldn’t make it happen – but it’s made it all the more special this year. “I did feel a bit of nervousness in bringing the jet here – I really, really wanted it to happen to show it to the guys and girls. We are managing all of the airframe hours, and this one has just a matter of hours of life left in the airframe.” “The Tornado has been on continuous operations for 25 years,” Wg Cdr Thomas added. “We painted it in the Granby colour to commemorate that moment. Our out of service date is in April 2019 but we are still very busy,” noting how, despite only having three squadrons remaining, the TGRF remains on constant deployment currently as part of Operation Shader, the UK’s commitment to the fight against so-called Islamic State (IS). Despite the impending retirement, it’s still very much

business as usual on the Tornado Force. Indeed, current operations have seen the GR4s operating again as mixed pairs with the deployed Typhoon FGR4s. This is due to an increased requirement for the Tornado’s Dual Mode Seeker (DMS) Brimstone missiles, which are now being integrated onto the RAF Typhoon as part of Project Centurion.

Final chapter

The RIAT attendance gave show visitors one last time to appreciate this combat veteran. The jet was loaded with a trio of Enhanced Paveway II laser-guided bombs, marking an interesting juxtaposition with the Gulf War. The GR1s only began flying with Paveway IIs mid-way through the campaign, after a hasty integration programme, and were cleared to fly with just a limited number of Thermal Imaging and Laser Designator (TIALD) pods. They initially relied on Buccaneers to ‘buddy-lase’ targets for them. Today, the GR4s carry their own Litening III pod and the latest Enhanced Paveway IV laser/GPSguided bombs, the lauded Brimstone plus the Storm Shadow stand-off cruise missile. Reflecting on the retirement of ZG750, Wg Cdr Thomas says: “There’s not long left for this one! It’s done plenty of combat hours, so it has definitely done its job! We will be on operational rotation with the other two [Tornado squadrons] right to the bittersweet end.” With 11 battle honours on the tail, ZG750 has served as the perfect ambassador for the latest chapter in the RAF’s illustrious history. AFM Below: Burners plugged in – ‘Pinky’ accelerates away from the cameraship en route to RAF Fairford for its last public appearance. Rich Cooper

#354 SEPTEMBER 2017 // 95


Air war in Yemen Saudi Arabia’s controversial operations against the Houthi rebels in Yemen have involved a coalition of Gulf and Arab air arms. Arnaud Delalande provides an air power assessment.


he Ansar Allah rebel group – also known as the Houthis – took control of the Yemeni capital Sana’a in September 2014. Prime Minister Mohammed Basindawa resigned and the Houthis signed a deal with an alliance of other political parties to establish a new, unity government. On March 26, 2015, in response to an appeal from President Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi, whose government the rebels had deposed, Saudi Arabia launched a military intervention in Yemen. This was undertaken by a coalition of nine Gulf and Arab states and involved air strikes and an aerial and naval blockade of Yemen. The Saudi-led coalition for Operation Decisive Storm included around 100 Royal Saudi Air Force (RSAF) aircraft including F-15S, Tornado IDS and Typhoon jets supported by A330 tankers and Cougar combat search and rescue helicopters. The Typhoon and F-15S were equipped with Damocles and DB-110 targeting and reconnaissance pods respectively, and carried various Paveway and Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM) bombs. RSAF support platforms included E-3As and Saab 2000 Erieye airborne early warning and control aircraft. As the second-largest contributor the United Arab Emirates (UAE) provided 30

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aircraft, including F-16E/Fs, Mirage 2000s, and at least one A330 tanker. The other aircraft comprised 15 F/A-18Cs from Kuwait, ten Mirage 2000s from Qatar, F-16s operated by Bahrain (15), Egypt, Jordan (six) and Morocco (six), and three Sudanese Su-24Ms. Saudi Arabia’s main objective was to restore the Hadi government-in-exile to power in Sana’a; this demand was reinforced under United Nations Security Council Resolution 2216 adopted three weeks after the beginning of Decisive Storm. Saudi Arabia had two other motivations for its intervention. First was the destruction of the threat posed to the Kingdom by Yemen’s ballistic missiles, which had fallen into the hands of the Houthi alliance. The second aim was to prevent the Houthis’ suspected state-sponsor, Iran,

from gaining a strategic foothold on the Arabian Peninsula.

Decisive Storm

The first weeks of the campaign neutralised the Yemeni Air Force, notably the shelters believed to house its MiG-29s. Before Decisive Storm, Yemen had fewer than 20 MiG-29s; most were stored at al-Dailami air base (alongside Sana’a International Airport), with a detachment at al-Anad. The Fulcrums’ current fate is uncertain. Air defence systems were also destroyed, including surface-to-air missile (SAM) batteries and associated radars around Sana’a and al-Dailami, and, most importantly, tactical and ballistic missile forces. The first coalition loss was an RSAF F-15S that suffered technical problems over the Gulf of Aden on the second day of the campaign, March

27. The crew ejected safely and was rescued by a US Air Force HH-60G operating from Djibouti. On April 21, four weeks and more than 2,300 strike sorties after the beginning of the aerial campaign, Decisive Storm ended, and Operation Restore Hope began. The bombing appears to have reduced Houthi movement and resupply by attacking highways and bridges, driving rebel forces from the roads and inhibiting the redeployment of combat elements between urban centres. The air campaign continued during Restore Hope with strikes against military bases. Al-Dailami was targeted again in early May. Six fighters (one MiG-29, two F-5s, three Su-22s, all probably non-airworthy), one Mi-8 and two Il-76TDs were destroyed. Between May and July, the Saudi led-coalition lost three more

‘In association with…’

This photo: A rare photograph of UAE AH-64Ds in Aden. Left: One of at least five Saudi Apaches lost in the Yemen campaign, this AH-64D crashed in Jizan province in September 2015. Below: Wreckage of Royal Moroccan Air Force F-16C 08-8008 that crashed in Sa’ada province on May 10, 2015, killing the pilot.

aircraft: two AH-64Ds were shot down or crashed in Jizan province close to the Saudi-Yemen border during Houthi attacks on Saudi territory and a Moroccan F-16C was also lost – probably shot down – in Sa’ada province. During this second phase of the war, the Saudi-led coalition reportedly also targeted civilian infrastructure believed to host Left: A Royal Saudi Air Force F-15S lands at King Khaled AB, Khamis Mushayt during Operation Decisive Storm. The aircraft carries a DB‑110 pod on the centreline. The base is home to the RSAF’s 5 Wing, responsible for 6 and 55 Squadrons flying the F-15S. All photos via author

ammunition stores and Houthi positions. Despite the use of precision weapons, the strikes were not always accurate. According to the Houthis, the coalition also undertook a ‘punishment strategy’ against the local population in an attempt to exacerbate shortages in food, water and power and thereby put pressure on the Houthis. Lack of adequate sanitation and medical care precipitated a humanitarian disaster, with only 45% of hospitals now operational. By August 2015 the UN claimed that around 2,000 civilians had been killed in air strikes since the beginning of Decisive Storm. The Saudi led-coalition was also accused of using US-supplied cluster munitions, notably CBU-105 bombs.

Operation Golden Arrow

In July 2015 the coalition launched Operation Golden Arrow, an Emirati-led amphibious landing in the port of Aden, with air support. During the first 36 hours, the coalition performed 136 air strikes. UAE AH-64D

and Bell 407 attack helicopters performed close air support (CAS) during the breakthroughs toward Ma’rib. On August 22 a third Saudi AH-64D was lost, shot down in Ma’rib province. In May 2016, the UAE requested new stocks of air-launched Hellfire missiles, confirming the extensive combat use of the Apaches and Bells. Following Tochka ballistic missile attacks on Ma’rib and al-Safir air base in September 2015, the coalition deployed UAE Pantsir-S1 and Patriot PAC-2 SAMs, ten AH-64s, plus UH-60s and CH-47Ds, to al-Safir. In addition to helicopters, the UAE has also deployed AT-802 light-attack aircraft to Yemen. A number of Air Tractors were also transferred to help rebuild Yemeni air power and pilots began to train on the type in October 2015.

Emirates in Eritrea

In September 2015 the UAE began to establish military infrastructure in Eritrea, notably in the port of Assab and on the runway of the local airport. Satellite imagery of the base taken last November revealed

Costly weapons, but poor accuracy

Over the past decade the RSAF purchased expensive advanced weapons including fighters integrated with advanced targeting pods, and has been supported by equally modern and capable airborne command and control and early warning assets. Despite high-precision weapons, the Yemen campaign seems to illustrate Saudi combat inexperience. However, the Saudi operation has shifted the balance of power in Yemen at an acceptable military cost. The intervention has denied the Houthis a military victory and prevented establishment of a Houthi state on Saudi Arabia’s southern border. AFM

Coalition losses

Yemeni Air Force losses




MiG-29 Su-22 F-5 Mi-8 Il-76 MiG-21 AB412 UH-1H Super King Air CN235

1+ 3 2 2 2 1 1 1 1 1

Saudi UAE Morocco Jordan Bahrain Unidentified Total Arabia Mirage 2000 1 1 F-15 2 2 F-16 1 1 1 3 AH-64 5 5 UH-60 1 1 2 Unidentified 3 1 4 helicopters Camcopter 1 1 S-100 Other UAVs 4 4

12 shelters, five Mirage 20009s, three AT-802s, or Archangels, at least one Chinese-made Wing Loong UAV and various CH-47 and UH-60 helicopters. Assab air base enables the UAE to operate on the other side of the Arabian Peninsula and facilitates the conduct of operations over Yemen.

#354 SEPTEMBER 2017 // 97



Coming up in AFM The October issue is on sale globally from September 21.*

The People’s Republic of China has developed into one of the world’s most influential economic powers, although a lack of reliable public information means its air force remains widely misunderstood. The next issue of AFM examines the People’s Liberation Army Air Force – the world’s third-largest air arm – in the wake of another far-reaching reorganisation that began to come into effect last year. Photo: via Chinese internet * UK scheduled on-sale date. Please note that overseas deliveries are likely to be after this date.

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