Air International - January 2017

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For the best in modern military and commercial aviation

JANUARY 2017 Vol.92 No.1

M ob ile

Ali tal ia


EXCLUSIVE FLIGHT TESTS: F-22 Raptor • A350-1000 • F-35B

MiG-21 Lancer Romania’s Hot Rod


In a Town Called Yuma USMC Weapons School

F/A-18 Hornet Still Got Sting

World Fleet Review

Air Baltic’s CS300 AP-3C Orion First in the World

The Great Hunter

Embraer Phenom A Slick Brazilian

RAF 2017.indd 1

08/12/2016 16:45

SSgt Artur Shvartsberg/US Marine Corps


04 38 42 52 62


Major military and commercial aviation stories, including the first flight of the A350-1000 and the initial CS300 delivery.



Andrea Avin visits Escadrila 711, one of two squadrons flying the MiG-21 LanceR in the Romanian Air Force.



Mark Ayton reports from Edwards Air Force Base, California, where the F-22 Raptor is being made even more combat capable.


Mark Ayton visits the US Marine Corps’ weapons school to cover the latest evolution of its sevenweek course known as WTI.

84 88


Martin Scharenborg and Ramon Wenink went to the Joint Multinational Readiness Centre in Germany and its UH-72A Lakotas.

Editor Mark Ayton [email protected]

Assistant Editor Mark Broadbent [email protected]

Design Dan Jarman

Managing Director & Publisher Adrian Cox

Production Manager Janet Watkins Ad Production Manager Debi McGowan

Executive Chairman Richard Cox

Ad Production Kay Townsin Group Marketing Manager Martin Steele Marketing Manager Shaun Binnington Commercial Director Ann Saundry

• ISSN 0306-5634 • is published monthly by:

Key Publishing Ltd, PO Box 100, Stamford, Lincs, PE9 1XQ, UK T +44 (0)1780 755131 F +44 (0)1780 757261


Editor’s Secretary Melissa Smith [email protected]

The entire contents of AIR International is © copyright, and no part of it may be reproduced in any form or stored on any form of retrieval system without the prior permission of the publisher. All items submitted for publication are subject to our terms and conditions, which are regularly updated without prior notice and are freely available from Key Publishing Ltd or downloadable from

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A SLICK BRAZILIAN Nigel Pittaway covers a phenomenon in the business aviation market – Embraer’s Phenom.

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Lon Nordeen profiles F/A-18 Hornet operators worldwide.

See pages 36 and 37 for details.


Riccardo Niccoli reports from 3 REOS, the Italian Army Aviation’s special forces unit.


Alexander Mladenov and Krassimir Grozev look at Romania’s procurement of an F-16 force sourced second hand from Portugal and the United States.


Nigel Pittaway visits RAAF Base Edinburgh, home of 92 Wing and the AP-3C Orion force.

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SCENE Around the Aviation World VSS Unity’s Solo Free Flight

COVER CREDITS MAIN IMAGE: Fortele Aeriene Romane BOTTOM LEFT: Air Baltic BOTTOM MIDDLE: Royal Australian Air Force BOTTOM RIGHT: Embraer S.A.

Certifiable Predator B Flies


The first Type Certifiable Predator B (TCPB) on its first flight. The Royal Air Force will receive 20 Protectors, which will be based on the TCPB. General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc

Virgin SpaceShip Unity during its first solo free flight in December 2016.

General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc (GA-ASI) has flown the first TypeCertifiable Predator B (TCPB) from its Gray Butte Flight Operations Facility near Palmdale, California. Qualification testing for type certification will continue over the next two years, using three companyowned aircraft, along with two airframes for full-scale fatigue and static testing. The UK Ministry of Defence has signed a £100 million design contract with GA-ASI

Virgin Galactic

covering the development of the Protector RPAS (remotely piloted air system) for the Royal Air Force. Protector will be a UK version of the TCPB, featuring advanced datalink and imaging technology and the MBDA Brimstone 2 and Paveway IV precision-guided munition. Twenty Protectors will be delivered, doubling the UK’s RPAS fleet from the current ten MQ-9 Reapers, which Protector will replace. Service entry is due in 2021. Mark Broadbent

Unmanned Jetstream 31 Flight Trials BAE Systems has started another phase in unmanned aircraft technology testing from its Warton facility using Jetstream 31 Flying Testbed G-BWWW (c/n 614). The aircraft will be used on 17 flights on a route from Warton to Inverness, flying at 15,000ft (4,572m), during which BAE’s engineers aim to prove the capability, maturity and safe operation of autonomous air technologies controlled by a satcom-based link. The flights will also test aircraft and weather sense and avoid technologies using only camera input rather than radar. Two engineers will be aboard the aircraft, supported by a flight test observer

Dreamliner 500

Five years after the Boeing 787 entered service, the 500th customer Dreamliner, 787-9 F-HRBA (c/n 38769), was delivered to Air France on December 2. The aircraft is the first 787 for the French flag carrier and the 50th for the lessor AerCap. The Air France-KLM Group has ordered 18 787-9s and seven 78710s, with an additional 12 787-9s to be leased through AerCap. In other 787 developments, Boeing South Carolina has started final assembly work on the first 787-10 following the delivery of the midbody and aft fuselage barrels to the plant at North Charleston. This first example of the third Dreamliner variant will fly in 2017, with the initial customer delivery in 2018. Mark Broadbent



and an unmanned air vehicle commander on the ground. BAE said the results will, “inform the direction of the company’s future unmanned aircraft programme and the suitability of testing unmanned aircraft in the UK”. The trials are self-funded by BAE at a cost of around £400,000 and build on the ASTRAEA (Autonomous Systems Technology Related Airborne Evaluation and Assessment) Research and Development  programme that ran from 2008-2013 and researched the operation of unmanned aircraft in UK civil airspace. Mark Broadbent

Virgin SpaceShip (VSS) Unity undertook its initial solo free flight on December 3 over the Mojave Desert, marking the first time that a vehicle produced by Virgin Galactic’s sister organisation, The Spaceship Company, flew fully under its own control. The aircraft was carried by its WhiteKnightTwo mothership from Virgin Galactic’s base at Spaceport America up to 50,000ft (15,240m), where it was released. Pilots Mark Stucky and Dave Mackay spent ten minutes in free flight before landing back at base. The flight followed several previous ‘captive carry’ missions. Virgin Galactic said more data about VSS Unity’s performance will be gathered in further flights and analysed before the rocket-powered phase of testing begins. VSS Unity was unveiled in April 2016 at the Final Assembly Integration Test Hangar in Mojave, California, the home of manufacturing and testing for The Spaceship Company. Mark Broadbent

Miss Piggy at Clearwater

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Office of Marine and Aviation Operations has two WP-3D Orions, including N43RF ‘Miss Piggy’ shown, based at its Aircraft Operations Center at MacDill Air Force Base, Florida. The Orions collect data for tropical cyclone research and forecasting using a unique array of scientific instrumentation, radars and recording systems. During November both Orions were in temporary residence at Clearwater Airport, Florida due to runway work in progress at MacDill. Ken Withers

[email protected]


Gulf Nations’ Arms Bonanza In November and December, the US State Department announced details of fighter aircraft (from the governments of Kuwait and Qatar on November 17) and helicopter (from the governments of the UAE and Saudi Arabia on December 8) purchase proposals by four Persian Gulf nations. The Defense Security Cooperation Agency has delivered the required certification for each of the multibillion dollar sales to the US Congress. The Government of Qatar requested to purchase 72 F-15QA Strike Eagle multi-role fighter aircraft and many items that included weapons; provision for US-based lead-infighter-training; ground support; personnel training; and simulators. This is a foreign military sales programme valued at $21.1 billion. Qatar’s request for 72 F-15QA Strike Eagles represents a major increase in the combat air power capability of the Qatar Emiri Air Force which is currently provided by Mirage 2000-5 fighters assigned to 7 Air Superiority Squadron based at Doha. A second announcement on November 17 was a request from the Government of Kuwait to purchase 32 F/A-18E and eight F/A-18F Super Hornets powered by F414-GE-400 engines. Among the many items included in the requests are; eight spare F414-GE-400 engines and 24 engine modules; 41 APG-79 active electronically scanned array radar units; 12 AAQ-33 Sniper targeting pods; 14 ASQ-228 ATFLIR

Norwegian Poseidons

On November 25, the Norwegian Government decided to procure five Boeing P-8A Poseidon maritime surveillance aircraft for delivery in 2021 and 2022. Norway’s Minister of Defence, Ine Eriksen Søreide said: “The new maritime patrol aircraft will be a formidable tool for surveillance of our vast maritime areas in the north. Norway has an important task in maintaining the situational awareness in national and adjacent waters, both on and below the surface, on behalf of the [NATO] Alliance. The maritime domain is becoming more important as we speak.” The five P-8A Poseidon aircraft will replace the Luftforsvaret’s (Royal Norwegian Air Force) six P-3 Orions operated by 333 skv at Andoya Air Base, and three Falcon 20s operated by 717 skv at Oslo-Gardermoen. The operating base for the P-8As has not been announced. The Norwegian Parliament has received the proposal and is expected to reach a resolution regarding the acquisition in mid-December.

systems; launch rails compatible with AIM-9 Sidewinder; AIM-120 AMRAAM and AGM88 HARM missiles; aircraft spares; aircrew and maintenance training. This is a foreign military sales programme valued at $10.1 billion. The Government of Kuwait requires contractors to satisfy an offset obligation equal to 35% of the main contract purchase price for any sale of defence articles in excess of KWD 3 million. The F/A-18E Super Hornet will supplement and eventually replace the Kuwait Air Force’s aging F/A-18 Hornet fleet operated by 9, 25 and 61 Fighter Attack Squadrons based at Ahmed al Jaber Air Base. Combat proven, the Super Hornet is a much more capable aircraft than the legacy Hornet, that features high order language-based operational flight program software, a digital cockpit and avionics, and a very advanced set of sensors led by the powerful APG-79 AESA radar unit. The Super Hornet can employ a wide range of weapons including the very latest versions of air-to-air missiles, and precision-guided munitions including those with a stand-off capability. As such the Super Hornet represents a major increase in the combat air power capability of the Kuwaiti Air Force. December 8 was a good day for Boeing’s rotorcraft division because two possible sales from two Persian Gulf nations were announced; each for a company product.

The Government of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) requested a possible sale of 28 remanufactured AH-64E Apache attack helicopters and nine new examples. It also requested 76 T700-GE-701D engines (56 remanufactured, 18 new, and two spares); 39 ASQ-170 modernised target acquisition and designation sights; 32 remanufactured and modernised APR-48B radar frequency interferometers; 46 AAR57 common missile warning systems (31 remanufactured, nine new, six spares); and personnel training. This is a foreign military sales programme valued at $3.5 billion. The AH-64E Apache will replace the AH-64D currently serving in the UAE Army’s 100th Aviation Group based at Al Dhafra Air Base. On the same date as the AH-64E announcement, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia requested a possible sale of Major Defense Equipment involving: 48 CH-47F Chinooks; 112 T55-GA-714A engines (96 installed and 16 spares); 58 AAR-57 common missile warning systems (48 installed and 10 spares); and 48 M240H 7.62mm machine guns. This is a foreign military sales programme valued $3.51 billion. The CH-47F Chinook will increase the Royal Saudi Land Forces Aviation Command’s interoperability with US forces and provide the Kingdom with a helicopter heavy lift capability for the first time. Current helicopter lift capability is limited to one Royal Saudi Air Force squadron of AS532M Cougars.

Canada’s Spanish Fixed-Wing Search and Rescue aircraft Canada’s new search and rescue aircraft is going to be the C295. On December 8, the Government of Canada announced selection of the Airbus C295W to meet its Fixed-Wing Search and Rescue program.The Royal Canadian Air Force will receive 16 C295s modified for search and rescue with in-service support provided by a joint venture between Airbus Defence and Space and PAL Aerospace. Canadian content is substantial in the C295. Each aircraft comes with two Pratt & Whitney Canada engines; an L3 Wescam electro-optical system; and pilot training from a new facility developed by CAE. The first Royal Canadian Air Force C295 will be delivered three years after contract award. Photo Airbus Defence and Space

Korean F-16 Modernisation In late November the US Air Force awarded electronically scanned array radar unit, a Lockheed Martin a $1.2 billion foreign military modern avionics subsystem, a 6 x 8-inch (152 x sales contract to upgrade 134 Republic of 203mm) high-resolution colour display referred Korea Air Force (RoKAF) F-16s. to as the Center Pedestal Display The upgrades are based showing radar, targeting pod, on the advanced F-16V colour moving map and flight configuration and include instrument data and a 1Gb GOT A NEWS the Northrop Grumman ethernet data bus with STORY, PHOTO OR APG-83 Scalable Agile the high-speed input and FEATURE ? Beam Radar, an active output bandwidth. AIR International is keen to hear from readers who have news stories, photos or features of modern civil and military aviation for inclusion in the magazine. Please contact AIR International at the following address [email protected]



A350-1000 A The first A350-1000, F-WMIL (msn 59) peels away from the Falcon 20 chase aircraft over southwest France during its November 24 first flight. S Ramadier/Airbus


hree-and-a-half years after the A350-900 first flew and nearly two years after that aircraft entered service with Qatar Airways, the second A350 XWB variant – the larger A350-1000 – completed its first flight on November 24 from ToulouseBlagnac. The flight was in line with Airbus’s schedule, which called for the jet to fly in the fourth quarter of 2016. The first test aircraft, the appropriately registered F-WMIL (msn 59), with ‘1000’ titles on its rear fuselage, was flown over southwest France by a flight crew comprising experimental test pilots Hugues van der Stichel and Frank Chapman and flight test engineer Gérard Maisonneuve.




Behind the cockpit, monitoring the test parameters at the Flight Test Instrumentation (FTI) station were Head of Flight and Integration Tests Patrick du Ché, Head of A350 Development Flight Tests Emanuele Costanzo and flight test engineer Stéphane Vaux.

First Flight The maiden flight saw F-WMIL flown to 10,000ft (3,048m), where the basic configurations of the aircraft were checked. Christophe Cail, Airbus’s Chief Test Pilot, told a news conference in Toulouse while the first flight was in progress that the aircraft was decelerated to a speed of 145kts (268km/h) and accelerated to 206kts (381km/h). Cail said that the crew reported the aircraft was “very comfortable, [with] no vibration” in this initial handling. The

[email protected]

landing gear was raised and lowered and the flight control system checked. Again, the flight crew reported that everything was normal. The A350-1000 was then flown to 25,000ft (7,620m) for further systems tests and exploration of the flight envelope. Cail said the aircraft was taken to its maximum Mach number (Mach 0.89). Descending again, the gear and flaps were extended. Following a flypast at Toulouse-Blagnac for assembled dignitaries and Airbus staff, the aircraft landed after a four-hour, 18-minute flight.

Maturity Airbus’s target is to have the A350-1000 certified and the first customer aircraft (msn 88, registration to be announced) delivered to launch operator Qatar Airways in the second half of 2017.



The bigger, longer range A350-1000 is now in flight testing. Mark Broadbent reports This second A350 XWB variant has several differences from the A350-900, including increased maximum take-off weight, higher-thrust engines and a new landing gear (see panel). Cail said “intensive tests” are therefore required. A350-1000 certification testing will last for 1,600 flight hours, with two other prototypes set to join F-WMIL in the test programme. The first flight followed systems tests in the lab, which assessed the flight control system, the electrical system, the landing gear and ground vibration. Aircraft Zero, the full-size A350 test bench in Toulouse, tested systems integration. The full flight simulator was used by the test flight crew to rehearse the first flight. Aircraft and flight test installation power-on and engine runs on F-WMIL took place before low-speed and high-speed rejected take-offs. The process of de-risking the A3501000’s first flight was also supported by the fact that the aircraft’s Rolls-Royce Trent XWB-97 engine – a higher-thrust version of the A350-900’s Trent XWB-84 – had already been in flight-testing for a year. Airbus’ in-house A380 Flying Test Bed (F-WWOW, msn 1) has been flying with a Trent XWB-97 on its inner left engine pylon since November 2015. A first test campaign to April 2016 lasting 148 hours has been followed by a second, 157-flyinghour, campaign that began in July and is due to conclude by the end of 2016. Airbus says A350-1000 certification will benefit from all this testing having occurred before first flight, and because the A350-1000 is a variant of an aircraft already certified and in service (49 A350900s had been delivered at the time of the first flight). Cail said: “The high level

The first A350-1000 flight test crew: from left to right, Frank Chapman, Stéphane Vaux, Patrick du Ché, Gérard Maisonneuve, Emanuele Costanzo and Hugues van der Stichel. A Doumenjou/Airbus



of maturity we have reached on the A350900 and what we have done in terms of certification for the systems [means] we have been able to reduce the flight test campaign to less than a year.”

FIT Station Cail’s presentation explained that 15 video cameras mounted on the aircraft give the flight test engineers at the FTI station behind F-WMIL’s cockpit dedicated external views of the flaps, slats, landing gear and engines. The FTI station also has eight copies of the cockpit displays, allowing the engineers to see exactly what the flight crew sees. This enables the flight test engineers to undertake real-time monitoring on dedicated configurable screens. Engineers can view information on test parameters that the pilots cannot see and access.

Rolls-Royce Trent XWB-97 engines, each delivering 97,000lb (423kn) of thrust, are one of the major differences from the A350-900. P Masclet/Airbus

There are no fewer than 150 specific display pages available to the engineers that focus on systems or specific flight phases. Flight test engineers can even modify the aircraft’s configuration using up to 60 special control push buttons. During the first flight, real-time analysis and systems monitoring was provided by 100 specialists on the ground via telemetry. Airbus has five telemetry rooms – two in Toulouse and one each in Bremen, Hamburg and Filton. The data flow from the aircraft to the ground is an average of 100Mbps per second. Cail’s presentation said the flight test installation on F-WMIL measures more than 600,000 parameters. No fewer than 3,300 measurements are taken using 220 different types of sensors. There are 120,000 electrical connections, 140 remote acquisition units and no less than 120km (75 miles) of orange wire – that is, wiring supporting the test instrumentation – aboard the aircraft.

The A350-1000 is 7m (23ft) longer than the A350-900, thanks to the addition of 11 further fuselage frames, six forward of the fuselage and five aft. P Masclet/Airbus




[email protected]

SCENE F-WMIL is the first of three A350-1000 prototypes, and being used to explore the flight envelope and for some systems and engine trials. S Ramadier/Airbus

F-WXLV will be third to fly. This aircraft rolled out of the paint shop in September with the ‘carbon’ livery that was also applied to one of the A350-900 test aircraft. It will be equipped with a light flight test installation and will be used for cabin development and certification, external noise testing, route proving (including early long-range flights) and ETOPS (extendedrange twin-engine operations) approval. Cail’s presentation showed that of the 1,600 flight test hours required for certification, 600 hours will be completed by F-WMIL and 500 hours each by the other two jets.

The Market

F-WMIL also has ballast tanks that can transfer 10 tonnes (22,000lb) of liquid (water and glycol) from the forward to the aft cargo holds in four minutes, which will enable the test teams to vary the aircraft’s centre of gravity.

Test Programme Joining F-WMIL in the certification testing will be two other A350-1000s, F-WWXL (msn 71) and F-WXLV (msn 65). F-WWXL will be the second aircraft to join the programme – Cail said its first flight was due within a few weeks of F-WMIL flying. Each of the three aircraft has its own responsibilities. F-WMIL is being used to explore the flight envelope and for some systems and engine trials. F-WWXL is tasked with performance evaluation, which encompasses high-altitude, hot-weather and cold-weather trials and braking tests. It will also conduct other engine, systems and autopilot testing to complement the work done using the first aircraft.

At the time of F-WMIL’s first flight Airbus had secured 810 orders for A350 XWB family aircraft. Most of these were for the A350-900; 195 were for the A350-1000 from 11 airlines. Qatar Airways has ordered the most A350-1000s of any customer (37), but other major operators will include United Airlines (35), Cathay Pacific Airways (26), Etihad Airways (22) and British Airways (18). The A350-1000 is significant for Airbus because it is designed to compete with the Boeing 777-300ER, which in the last decade has become the aircraft of choice in the twin-aisle, twin-jet airliner

marketand with over 800 sold, according to official Boeing figures. A presentation by Senior Vice President Marketing, François Caudron, claimed the A3501000 will be 20,000kg (44,092lb) lighter, have 450 nautical miles (833km) more range and be 25% more fuel efficient than the 777-300ER. However, the 777-300ER is not the only Triple Seven the A350-1000 is going head-to-head with. The European twin-jet will also have to take on the 777-9, one of the two new Triple Seven variants under development by Boeing under its 777X programme. The 777-9 is optimised for between 400 and 425 passengers (depending on cabin layout) on routes of 7,600nm (14,075km), according to Boeing’s specifications. Airbus believes the A350-1000 will provide good competition to the newgeneration 777-9. Caudron claimed the aircraft will be 35,000kg (77,162lb) lighter, have a 15% lower trip cost and offer 400nm (741km) more range. With the A350-1000 having entered flight testing and its service entry due within a year, and with production of the 777-9 set to begin during 2017, the battle lines between Airbus and Boeing for the future of the twin-aisle airliner market are moving into sharper focus.

DIFFERENCES WITH THE A350-900 The A350-1000 is 7m (23ft) longer than the A350-900 thanks to the addition of 11 fuselage frames (six forward of the wings, five aft), and will carry 366 passengers in a three-class layout (the A350-900 carries 325 in the same configuration). The aircraft is designed to carry 44 industry-standard LD3 cargo containers and 14 pallets in the underbelly hold compared to the A350-900’s 36 LD3s and 11 pallets. The A350-1000’s maximum take-off weight (MTOW) will be 308,000kg (679,024lb), up from the 275,000kg (606,271lb) of the A350-900, and its range will be 7,950nm (14,723km) compared to the A350-900’s 7,590nm (14,057km). The A350-1000’s higher MTOW, more capacity and greater range mean there are several differences between the aircraft and its stablemate. Most notably, the aircraft is powered by two Rolls-Royce Trent XWB-97 engines, which will each deliver 97,000lb (432kN) of take-off thrust compared to the 84,000lb (374kN) rated Trent XWB-84 on the A350-900. Other differences in the A350-1000 are a reinforced nose landing gear, a six-wheel bogie for the main landing gear and a new frame support structure to cater for the extra payload. The wing is the same 64.75m (212ft 5in) span as the A350-900, but there is an extended trailing edge flap.

The first A350-1000 test flight lasted four hours and 18 minutes. A Doumenjou/Airbus



Bombardier Canadian manufacturer predicts the C Series programme will become profitable by 2020 as the CS300 enters Air Baltic service. Andreas Spaeth reports


he year 2016 was a make or break one for the ambitious Bombardier C Series programme. Lambasted as a “flawed business model” by competitor Airbus, long-delayed and massively overbudget, the past year brought several moments of truth for the Canadian manufacturer. But in this tight situation, Bombardier was able to deliver. Both types of the C Series are now in the air with their respective first operators, and the feedback from airlines and passengers was overwhelmingly positive. Swiss got their first CS100 in the summer, and Air Baltic of Latvia received the first CS300 at the end of November, when its first aircraft, YL-CSA (c/n 55003), was delivered from Montreal to Riga. Alain Bellemare, Chief Executive Officer of Bombardier, said: “A year ago people thought that the C Series and Bombardier would go down, and now we see a flawless, perfect performance; what a turnaround. This is an amazing accomplishment, the C Series will be an anchor for many years to come for commercial aviation at Bombardier. We are getting a tremendous traction with it.” Pressed later about when the C Series would make profits, Bellemare offered, “by 2020”.

Industry First Rob Dewar, Vice-President C Series programme, who has been labelled the father of the C Series, boasted: “To successfully deliver two different versions




of a brand-new aircraft within five months of each other has never before been done in the industry.” Two years ago, Bombardier had committed itself to deliver the CS100 in the second quarter of 2016 and the CS300 by the end of the fourth quarter, which has now happened. This is a “huge milestone”, according to Dewar. Due to delays in deliveries of the Pratt & Whitney PW1500G engines, Bombardier had to slash the 2016 delivery target from the original 15 aircraft to just seven. But Dewar said: “The C Series now gathers momentum and this will translate into orders.” He remained optimistic that Bombardier would be able to announce new customers for the C Series within months. The last of just 358 firm orders (123 of which are for the CS100, with 235 for the CS300) came in June 2016 from Air Canada for 45 CS300s, for deliveries starting in 2019. Air Baltic first ordered the C Series at a time when the programme had almost no credibility in the industry, in late 2012; it was one of only two orders that year. A beaming Martin Gauss, Chief Executive Officer of Air Baltic, said: “Today we can see it’s the better aircraft than what Airbus or Boeing had to offer us. We in Latvia are one of Europe’s smallest countries, and the fact that we are the first to take the biggest Canadian jet speaks for itself.” Pauls Calitis, Senior Vice-President Flight Operations at Air Baltic and captain of the delivery flight to Riga via Stockholm, was honest enough to call it, “a long, difficult but successful process” to finally take delivery of the first of 20 CS300s the carrier has ordered. But Gauss underscored his satisfaction with his airline becoming the first CS300

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operator worldwide: “Airbus did their utmost for us to take the A319neo instead, but that wouldn’t have been so good for Air Baltic, as the CS300 has the best operating cost in its class.” Gauss is pleased that the CS300 will burn 17 to 20% less fuel than the current Boeing 737s in his fleet. “We compared it initially with the A319neo and the Boeing 737 MAX 7, but none can compete with the CS300, as they are too heavy.” Peter Koch, Chief Pilot for the C Series at Swiss, which will also get 15 CS300s starting in May 2017, said at the ceremony: “For a brand-new aircraft, the C Series performed better than expected.”

Delivery Flight The delivery flight of the first CS300 over the Atlantic was a very smooth experience, with the engines performing perfectly even on start-up, a critical phase for the geared turbofan. Gerhard Ramcke, Air Baltic’s C Series Chief Pilot, explained: “We don’t have the same problems as Airbus A320neo operators, as they use the different PW1100Gs.” The flight left Montreal at 04:13hrs EST and needed six hours and 40 minutes to reach Stockholm-Arlanda, the planned night stop before the short hop to Riga the next morning. The distance of 3,131 nautical miles (5,800km) is well within the range of the CS300, even with a full load of passengers, and there were only 18 people on board in this case. Bombardier’s

r Confident


Main Picture: The first of 20 Bombardier CS300s for Air Baltic is YL-CSA (c/n 55003), pictured here before delivery with its Canadian registration C-FOWY. Bombardier Aerospace Bottom Left: The CS300 touches down in Riga on November 30, following a night stop in Stockholm. Air Baltic

specifications list the CS300’s range as being 3,300 nautical miles (6,112km). Swiss and Air Baltic are initially putting the C Series on short European hops. The first scheduled flight of an Air Baltic CS300 took place on December 14 from Riga to Amsterdam. But Air Baltic has more ambitious plans. It has announced its intention to fly to the Persian Gulf with its new aircraft, probably to Abu Dhabi. The distance of 2,321 nautical miles (4,300km) would take about five and a half hours of flight time – no challenge for the CS300, which could operate in both directions without a weight penalty.

Cabin And the on-board product is definitely fit for a long flight. The cabin is lit up in Air Baltic’s

corporate colour, green, which makes a very impressive first sight on entering the aircraft. It underscores the fact that the C Series is a serious airliner along the lines of Airbus or Boeing types, as even the cabin appearance very much resembles those companies’ latest A350 and 787 long-haul jets. The much bigger windows and high ceiling contribute to a widebody feeling, though of course the C Series is a singleaisle aircraft with 2+3 seating. Air Baltic has equipped its cabin with 145 SlimPlus seats manufactured by Zodiac, clad in leather of a light grey, almost white. It’s a colour that might be prone to look stained after some time of heavy-duty use but they certainly look very stylish now. Despite the pitch being 30in (762mm), the seats feel very roomy thanks to their At 127ft (38.7m) long the CS300 can accommodate between 130 and 160 passengers; Air Baltic’s aircraft are configured for 145 seats. Bombardier Aerospace

Air Baltic has ordered 20 CS300s. The first route is RigaAmsterdam but the airline is planning to fly to the Persian Gulf with the new aircraft. Bombardier Aerospace

slim architecture. The middle seats on the right side of the cabin are 19in (482mm) wide. All other seats boast a generous width of 18.5 inches (470mm), while an A320 usually offers 17 inches (432mm) of seat width. Air Baltic’s seats allow a considerable recline, with the whole seat pan moving forwards and upwards, minimising the impact for the passenger sitting behind. Air Baltic has opted not to use different seating for business class, but rather has stitched “Seat not to be occupied” into the seat covers in the first three rows, on the aisle seat of the left side and the middle seats on the right side, to keep these seats free.



Kawasaki C-2s

The first Kawasaki C-2 transport aircraft 08-1201 seen at Gifu Air Base Japan in November 2016. Conceived as a replacement for both the Kawasaki C-1 and C-130H Hercules, the C-2 was developed for the indigenous C-X programme first funded in 2001. Prototype 08-1201, was rolled out on July 4, 2007, and undertook its maiden flight 30 months later on January 26, 2010. Programme delays caused by funding and structural problems has seen the programme slip five years beyond its original schedule. Peter Foster

The production standard Kawasaki C-2, 68-1203, has joined the Gifu-based Air Development and Test Wing (ADTW), the third jet to be assigned to the developmental test programme. The first two non-prototype aircraft built had to be returned to the manufacturer as part of an exchange programme to reinforce the fuselage. C-2 flight testing is currently underway with the prototype and aircraft 68-1203, which was delivered to the ADTW on June 30, 2016. The second production aircraft, 68-1204, undertook its first flight on October 20, 2016. Peter Foster


The upgraded electronic warfare system for US Air Force F-15C Eagles and F-15E Strike Eagles called the Eagle Passive-Active Warning and Survivability System (EPAWSS) is entering the engineering, manufacturing and development (EMD) phase of procurement. Once the EMD phase has concluded, currently scheduled for 2020, the EPAWSS will be ready to enter production. Boeing has a US Air Force contract valued at $478 million for EPAWSS EMD, which includes integration with the airframe and on-board systems. The system was initially selected to replace the F-15’s ALQ-135 jammer and other internal electronic warfare systems in 2015. Central to the open-architecture EPAWSS design is the BAE Systems ALQ-239 Digital Electronic Warfare System. The EPAWSS is designed to give F-15 aircrew greater situational awareness by integrating advanced passive sensors with cockpit displays, onboard jammers and chaff and flare dispensers. Similar to a precise geolocation capability already demonstrated on an F/A-18F Super Hornet, the EPAWSS will enable the F-15 to use advanced datalinks to receive precise networked targeting information without radar emissions. Eight F-15s will be fitted with the EPAWSS for the flight test programme that is scheduled to start in 2018. Once in production, the US Air Force plans to upgrade all operational F-15Cs and F-15Es with EPAWSS, which may lead to over 400 aircraft being fitted with the system at a cost of over $7.5 billion. David C Isby

Bulgarian MiG-29 Investment Long-delayed investment in the maintenance of the Bulgarski Voenno Vzdushni Sili (BVVS or Bulgarian Air Force) MiG-29 Fulcrum fleet came to end in November and December 2016 when three contracts were signed. After 18 months of chaotic searching for new suppliers and failed public procurement tenders, following the Bulgarian Ministry of Defence’s decision to break links with RSK MiG (the MiG-29’s design authority and manufacturer), the search proved next to impossible. One contract was signed with Poland, for the overhaul of six RD-33 engines valued at €6.138 million, Poland’s aviation maintenance industry lacked capacity to fulfil the entire maintenance needs of Bulgaria’s crippled Fulcrum fleet. A small number of BVVS MiG-29s were




maintained in operational condition during 2016 for the quick reaction alert role, thanks only to service life extensions of engines, accessory gearboxes and other systems undertaken by BVVS maintenance personnel and approved by the air force Commanderin-Chief. Tenders launched by the Bulgarian MoD in April for purchase of new and secondhand RD-33 engines and KSA-2 accessory gearboxes failed to attract any bidders, because of the unrealistic terms and conditions set. Bidders were required to hold a stock of new and/or overhauled engines and gearboxes ready for delivery immediately after contract signature. Failure forced the MoD to launch urgent procurement procedures, which ended with the MoD backtracking on its break with Russian

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industry. Sofia-based arms trade company Aviostart Ltd, acting as representative of RSK MiG, was awarded a contract to delivery four new and six overhauled second-hand RD-33 Series 2 engines for €21.83 million and seven new KSA-2 accessory gearboxes for €11.165 million. The first two overhauled engines are due to be delivered in April 2017. In October, the Bulgarian MoD signed another contract with Ukrainian arms company Ukrinmash for delivery of a MiG-29 spares package valued at €2.079 million. Doubt remains over the company’s ability to deliver the spares package, because all new Russian-made spares are unobtainable due to the strict embargo imposed by the Russian Government on all deliveries of Russian-made goods to Ukraine. Alexander Mladenov and Krassimir Grozev


Canadian Super Hornets

On November 23, the Canadian Government announced its intention to procure 18 Boeing F/A-18 Super Hornet fighters and continue to participate in the Lockheed Martin F-35 Joint Strike Fighter programme. Canadian investment in the F-35 to date is estimated to be CAD 825 million; a further CAD 36 million will be spent in 2017. Potential continuation of the Super Hornet production line at Boeing’s St Louis, Missouri, facility to accommodate orders from the US Navy and Kuwait could provide economies of scale for the Canadian order. It is uncertain whether Canada will order off-theshelf aircraft or require changes to incorporate Canadian-produced and mission-specific hardware such as Australia’s aircraft, some of which were delivered with wiring to enable upgrade to EA-18G Growler configuration. Details of the competition, including the reason for procuring 18 Super Hornets through a sole-source acquisition rather than a competition, or the cost have been made public. A new “open and transparent” competition – the current government’s election pledge – for a replacement fighter for Canada’s current force of 77 CF-18 Hornets (48 of which are in operational squadrons, with a 70% availability rate) is expected to include both the Super Hornet and the F-35 and be operational by the late 2020s. By deferring the decision until after the next election, even if the F-35 is selected, the current government will have carried out its pre-election pledge not to order the F-35. The Royal Canadian Air Force would then operate a mixed force of F-35s and Super Hornets – similar to (though smaller than) that planned for the Royal Australian Air Force – into the 2040s. Press reports have suggested other competitors in the 2017–2022 process will include the Saab JAS 39E Gripen. New or refurbished Eurofighter Typhoons and Dassault Rafales may also be considered. Other press reports have suggested the political cost of a major procurement may result in the fighter competition being extended past its scheduled fiveyear duration and continued indefinitely, with the 18 Super Hornets providing Canada’s fighter force when the CF-18s – some of which are to receive additional upgrades, the extent and cost of which has also not been made public – reach the end of their service lives after 2025. David C Isby


The first Mi-8AMTSh-VA was delivered to Russian Naval Aviation in November 2016 and assigned to the Pacific Fleet’s 7060th Air Base at Yelizovo on the remote Kamchatka Peninsula. Ulan-Ude

On November 22, Russian Naval Aviation took delivery of the first Mi-8AMTShVA helicopter extensively modified for Arctic operations. A ceremony was held at the Ulan-Ude Aviation Plant in eastern Siberia, which builds the Mi-8AMTSh-VA, a derivative optimised for regular operations in extremely low temperatures. Deliveries to date have comprised two examples to the Russian Air and Space Force. Located on the Kamchatka Peninsula, the 7060th Air Base at Yelizovo will operate the first Mi-8AMTSh-VA helicopter to transport passengers and cargo over long distances to remote locations, a task that is beyond the capability of its Mi-8T predecessor. Auxiliary fuel tanks enable the Mi-8AMTShVA to fly up to 755 nautical miles (1,400km), with a flight endurance of over seven hours. The fuselage, systems and powerplant are optimised for prolonged low-temperature operations, in low-visibility conditions, over featureless terrain and in areas lacking coverage from satellite navigation systems.

The Mi-8AMTSh-VA is powered by two Klimov VK-2500-03 turboshaft engines each rated at 2,700shp (2,013kW) in one engine inoperative conditions for 2.5 minutes. The type is equipped with a modified Aerosila TA-14 auxiliary power unit (APU) with an extended running time of four hours to provide an electric supply to all essential systems when on the ground in temperatures down to -50oC. Hot air supplied by the APU heats the cockpit, cabin, engine bays and transmission. An updated avionics suite includes: a fourchannel digital autopilot; an enhanced navigation system that incorporates an inertial gyro reference for autonomous operations without using ground navigation aids; and a dual satellite navigation receiver. Search and rescue systems fitted are an RPA-500 direction finder, a SLG-300 hoist and a searchlight; when used for medical evacuation, the cabin has space for 12 stretchers. Alexander Mladenov

T-X Designs Ready for Final Competition With the US Air Force poised to issue its final request for proposals for the T-X trainer in mid-December, the four competitors have been making last-minute tweaks to their aircraft. The Boeing-Saab T-X prototype is on schedule to make its first flight by the end of 2016 after completing ground afterburner tests in November. In comparison, the KAI T-50 has completed its 5,000th test flight over a 14-year period, according to a November 28 announcement. An improved version, dubbed the T-50A, produced by a Lockheed Martin-KAI team, is also competing for the T-X programme. A T-50A prototype made its first test flight in the United States on November 19 from Greenville, South Carolina. The Raytheon-Leonardo team

has announced that its T-X competitor, the T-100, a version of Leonardo’s M-346, will if selected, have its final assembly at a new plant to be built in Meridian, Mississippi and Northrop Grumman, which first flew its Model 400 T-X competitor at Mojave, California, in August 2016, has lifted the veil of secrecy enough to have videos of a prototype appear on the internet. A two-year delay in the T-X trainer programme – delaying full operational capability from 2032 to 2034 – announced earlier this year will require an additional $40 million to keep current Northrop T-38 trainers flying until replaced by the T-X under the Pacer Classic 3 upgrade programme. David C Isby



Unserviceability and Dismal Support Contracts by Jan Kraak Although not in the headlines, probably due to the media spotlight on continuing military operations over Syria and Iraq, personnel assigned to Opération Barkhane have again been busy over the last few months. Recent French Ministry of Defence press releases describe a situation of continued attacks by armed combatants against for instance a Niger Armed Forces post near Bani Bangou on November 8, and a Malian military camp in Goa on November 29. In the Bani Bangou attack, the Niger Armed Forces requested help from Barkhane command, who immediately sent a mixed patrol of Mirage 2000Cs and Mirage 2000Ds from Niamey. The jets performed several shows of force above the complex and did not have to engage any of the combatants on the ground. Because of this increase in violence the Aviation Légère de l’Armée de Terre (ALAT, French Army Aviation) deployed an additional four attack helicopters, two Gazelles and two Tigre HADs (Hélicoptère Appui Destruction) for a duration of approximately six months. This marks the first combat deployment of the Tigre HAD on Opération Barkhane in the Sahel region. Until recently Tigre HAPs (Hélicoptère Appui Protection) were deployed on Opération Barkhane while the Tigre HAD variant was deployed in the Central African Republic on Opération Sangaris until May of this year. In addition to the attack helicopters, the French Ministry of Defence has also recently bolstered the fighter contingent on Opération Barkhane. Three Mirage 2000Ds and approximately 40 personnel arrived at BA172 N’Djamena, Chad in mid-October to augment the four Mirage 2000Cs and Mirage 2000Ds already based at Niamey in Niger. The N’Djamena-based aircraft are




approximately 1,410km (760 nautical miles) from N’Djamena, so reaction times will be shortened. With fighters based at each location (Niamey and N’Djamena) the Armée de l’Air can operate more easily over the area of operations, which extends for approximately 3,200 x 1,100km (1,725 x 595 nautical miles) over Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger.

Aircraft Serviceability In November, French armed services officials, including the Defence Minister and the Chief of Staff, appeared before the National Assembly’s Committee on National Defence and Armed Forces to discuss the 2017 Defence Budget Act. They were asked about a range of topics during the hearings, including aircraft serviceability from all three armed services. Minutes from the different meetings give an insight to the serviceability of some of France’s frontline types. For instance, Laurent Collet-Billion, Delegate-General for Armaments at the French Ministry of Defence, discussed serviceability of ALAT Tigre attack helicopters. Out of the 60 airframes delivered, 49 are currently operational. Ten aircraft are undergoing maintenance and upgrade and one was destroyed. French Defence Minister, Jean-Yves Le Drian, discussed serviceability of the Aéronavale’s fixed-wing aircraft. On December 31, 2015, the Atlantique 2 (ATL 2) had a serviceability rate of 26%, followed by the E-2C Hawkeye at 30%

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and the Rafale M at 54%. The highest serviceability rate given was the Dassault Falcon Guardian fleet at nearly 70%. In one hearing, Le Drian was asked about serviceability rates for French military helicopters who replied: “Less than 40% of our helicopters are currently operational, which is insufficient. This situation applies both to helicopters at home and those deployed, and is largely due to the complexity of procedures required to keep our helicopters serviceable.” Le Drian said he had already taken initiatives in the weeks preceding the hearing and was talking with manufacturers to see if the serviceability rates of military helicopters could be increased to above 50% before the end of the current Defence Programming Act, which runs from 2014 to 2019. There is no doubt that serviceability is an ever-increasing headache for the military. French Chief of Staff General de Villiers explained how keeping older equipment operational is becoming more and more expensive while at the same time new systems are much more expensive to maintain compared to the older ones, a situation that starts from the moment new helicopters are received. Jean-Yves Le Drian added that the problems are not necessarily budget related: “It is more often an organisational problem than a problem with the budget. We are currently setting up a plan that primarily focuses on how we store parts and on changing the rules regarding the service life of parts. Imagine when


Above: The serviceability of the French Rafale fleet has increased by 10% over the last few years. Left: The Aviation Légère de l’Armée de Terre currently has 49 of its 60 Tigre attack helicopters operational. Below: Only half of the 22-aircraft Atlantique 2 fleet is currently operational.

a helicopter comes out of maintenance the potential number of flying hours immediately available has to be cut. We are walking on our heads!” According to General de Villiers, a supply chain project is currently being carried out to improve coordination between the Direction Générale pour l’Armement (DGA, Defence Procurement Agency), different manufacturers and other agencies involved. One example is the Structure Intégrée du Maintien en Condition Opérationnelle des Matériels Aéronautiques du Ministère la Défense (SIMMAD, Integrated Maintenance Organisation for Operational Aeronautical Materials of the Ministry of Defence). De Villiers stated that things were improving and pointed out how serviceability of French Rafales had increased by 10% over the last two years.

Le Drian went further, stating he believed there was a need for a cultural revolution in order to get maintenance back on track. Two aircraft are particularly affected by serviceability issues: the NH90 helicopter and the ATL 2. One member of the committee, Gwendal Rouillard, recently visited a number of Aéronavale bases and returned to the committee with an alarming account. According to Rouillard: “A number of tensions – and this is a euphemism – regarding the serviceability of these aircraft [the NH90 and ATL 2] have persisted for some time now.” NHIndustries (NHI) delivered six NH90s in 2016 and is scheduled to deliver another nine in 2017. According to Rouillard, ten out of the 17 NH90 delivered to the Aéronavale to date are currently in different stages of maintenance and upgrade: “The 17th NH90 is new and was only delivered by NHI this

year [2016], but it cannot fly due to technical issues. This is completely unacceptable for a new aircraft. For the remainder of the fleet we have to implement a new concept for the [NH90] maintenance programme, switching from a peacetime to a wartime programme.” Rouillard even proposed moving NH90 maintenance in the direction to the one used for the Rafale fleet, which is based not on fixed flying hours but on a continuous process. The ATL 2 has similarly dismal serviceability ratings to the NH90. Out of the 22 aircraft in the fleet, no fewer than ten are currently undergoing updates and maintenance at Cuers with Atelier Industriel de l’Aéronautique. According to Rouillard, there are currently fewer ATL 2s at BAN Lann-Bihoué, their home base, than Cuers. On interesting statistic discussed during the November hearings was that the average duration of ATL 2 updates in the Cuers workshop had doubled to almost 36 months per airframe. Commenting on this dismal statistic, Le Drian said he was very unhappy about the modernisation of the ATL 2: “I have asked for an acceleration of the work being carried out. The ATL 2 is indispensable for our current operations.” The entire ATL 2 fleet is now undergoing smaller updates, but 15 of the 22 airframes require extensive modernisation in the coming years. Serviceability of the NH90 and ATL 2, and other French military aircraft is therefore likely to be a topic for discussion by the French Senate and elsewhere in the years to come.



Exercise Black Blade 16

An Austrian Air Force Sikorsky S-70A-42 Black Hawk from the Mittlere Transport Hubschrauber Staffel at Tulln-Langenlebarn loaded with Belgian Special Forces landing during a typical autumn setting in a field during exercise Black Blade 16.

Exercise Black Blade 16 was held between November 14 and December 2, 2016, at Florennes Air Base in Belgium. Black Blade was a Special Operations Forces (SOF) helicopter exercise focused on improving interoperability between the participating crews in challenging exercise scenario. Organised by the European Defence Agency’s Helicopter Exercise Programme, Black Blade 16 was the 10th edition of the exercise involving over 400 personnel and

14 helicopters and aircraft from Austria, Belgium, Slovenia and the UK. Black Blade 16 included a theoretical element and a live flying element and offered the participating crews an opportunity to plan and execute SOFmissions within a joint and multinational framework during different scenarios that included medical evacuation and combat search and rescue. Martin Scharenborg and Ramon Wenink

Tu-160 Blackjack Upgrades According to an official announcement on November 28, avionics for Russia’s new Tupolev Tu-160M2 strategic bomber, designed by the Radio-Electronic Technologies Corporation, will be ready in 2017. The M2 version of the Blackjack will also have a new radar, navigation system and defensive countermeasures. New Tu-160M2s built at the Kazan facility represent a new design by Tupolev (the aircraft’s original designer) and other design bureaus (Beriev, Ilyushin, Mikoyan-Gurevich, Sukhoi and Yakolev) and will differ considerably from those currently in service. The first new aircraft is expected to be delivered in 2023. In addition, 16 Blackjacks currently in

service with the Russian Air Force will be upgraded with the new avionics, replacing original systems that are life expired and, in many cases, depend on sources in Ukraine – now blocked – for repairs and parts. The new avionics will be fitted in addition to the current Blackjack upgrade programme, which is scheduled to be completed in 2019. Elements of the improved avionics developed for the Tu-160M2 will also be used, in the future, to upgrade Tupolev Tu-22M2 Backfire and Tupolev Tu-95 Bear bombers, providing greater standardisation above that provided by the current upgrade programmes for each of the three types. David C Isby

Tejas Rejected for Carrier Ops India’s Chief of Naval Staff, Admiral Sunil Lamba, has ruled out the deployment of the India’s Tejas light combat aircraft (LCA) on Indian Navy aircraft carriers, INS Vikramaditya and Vikrant, because it falls short of requirements, particularly in terms of weight. In his inaugural press conference as Chief of Staff on December 1, Admiral Lamba said the Indian Navy will support the development of the Tejas, which is a programme being undertaken by the Aeronautical Development Agency and Hindustan Aeronautics Limited, but it will look for an alternative fighter aircraft to operate from the two carriers in at least the interim period. He said a new fighter will be sought in five or six years’ time, but conceded there were not many aircraft currently in the marketplace capable of operating from the ski-jump of the current vessels. Prior to the announcement, the Indian Navy had a requirement for 50 LCA aircraft. Admiral Lamba told reporters: “Unfortunately, the light combat aircraft is not able to meet the carrier’s required capability [and] that is why we need an alternative aircraft to operate from these two ships. There are not too many options available and we need this carriercapable aircraft sooner rather than later, so I am looking at the next five or six years.” The Indian Navy has recently inducted the Mikoyan MiG-29K to operate from INS Vikramaditya and will reportedly also operate the Russian aircraft from the Indian Navy’s first indigenous aircraft carrier INS Vikrant (IAC1) when it enters service in 2018. In May, the two LCA Naval Prototypes 3001 (c/n NP-1) and 3002 (c/n NP-2) were deployed to the Indian Navy’s Shore Based Training Facility at Goa to undergo a series of carrier compatibility tests, including the use of the facility’s ski-jump ramp. In better news for the troubled Tejas programme, the Indian Ministry of Defence announced on November 8 it had approved the purchase of 83 Tejas Mk1A aircraft for the Indian Air Force. The interim Mk1A Tejas aircraft will follow a batch of 40 Mk1 initial operational clearance aircraft and will address some of the issues found during the Mk1’s operational testing, including a reduction in weight of around 1,000kg (2,200lb).

T-50 Engine Testing An Item 30 engine, designed by the Lyulka Design Bureau, completed the first live ignition second stage ground test at the Lytkarino Machine Building Plant, a subsidiary of NPO Saturn according to an official announcement on November 25. The Item 30 engine will be produced by the United Engine Company for Russia’s Sukhoi T-50 fifth-generation fighter and is expected to fly in a pre-production aircraft starting in late 2017.




To date, all pre-productions T-50 aircraft are powered by the NPO Saturn AL-41F1 Item 117 engine, an upgrade of the Saturn AL41F Item 117S engine used on the Sukhoi Su-35 Flanker-E and the interim engine for the first production-series T-50s. An Item 30 engine is projected to generate approximately 24,050lb (107kN) of thrust in military power and 39,600lb (176kN) in full afterburner, compared to the Item 117 rated at 33,067lb (147.1kN) thereby delivering 15%–

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18% higher overall performance, reducing fuel consumption and infrared signature, and providing the T-50 with supercruise capability. The eighth T-50 prototype flew from the Sukhoi factory at the Komsomolsk-on-Amur Aircraft Production Association or KnAAPO plant for the first time on November 17. Three more are currently under construction. Deliveries of production-series T-50s to the Russian Air Force are scheduled to begin in 2018. David C Isby


Spain’s Own A400M

On December 1, the Ejército del Aire (Spanish Air Force) received its first Airbus Military A400M Atlas, registered T.23-01(10074)/31-21 at Seville-San Pablo. After the formal handover ceremony in San Pablo, the aircraft took off for a 50-minute flight to its new home at Zaragoza Air Base, to serve with Ala 31 currently equipped with ten C-130H and KC-130H Hercules. The aircraft is shown parked in front of a new hangar purpose built for the A400M. The Ejército del Aire expects to receive 14 A400Ms through to 2022 and another 13 from 2025. Roberto Yañez

Ageing JSTARS The US Air Force’s fleet of Joint Standoff Target Attack Radar System (JSTARS) aircraft – 16 E-8Cs and one E-8A – continues to show the effects of years of intense operations. Average airframe age is 47 years and average flight hours is 58,000, the highest in the US Air Force. Four JSTARS aircraft were grounded for maintenance problems in September, after which the US Air Force started inspections on the remainder. By November half the fleet was complete, revealing additional issues, although none of the issues found required a grounding. Under the current plan, E-8Cs will start to be retired in FY2019 because as Congress has blocked any earlier retirements. The E-8C’s service life is currently scheduled to end in FY2023, when, under current projections, only

two E-8Cs would be flyable. A study on the possibility of extending the service life and the cost involved is underway and is expected to be completed in 2017. The US Air Force had planned to award a contract for an E-8C replacement in FY2018, which was decided in a threeway competition as part of its JSTARS recapitalisation programme. The new aircraft was scheduled to achieve initial operational capability in FY2023 and full operational capability several years later. However, congressional action – the continuation of sequestration under the provisions of the Budget Control Act of 2011 and the reliance on continuing resolutions that prevent new-start programmes – has called the JSTARS recapitalisation programme schedule into question. David C Isby

Tupolev 154M-LK1 Between November 28 and December 2, the Russian Federation operated one of its Tupolev 154M-LK1s from Getafe, Madrid. The aircraft, registered RF-85655 and wearing a new colour scheme, flew one Open Skies Treaty flight over Spain on November 30. The aircraft is seen taking-off from Getafe on December 2 on its way back to Kubinka Airport, Russia. Roberto Yañez

Serb MiG-29s from Russia In principle, an agreement has been reached between Serbia and Russia for the delivery of second-hand MiG29 Fulcrum fighters, reportedly during a mid-November session of the Russian-Serbian commission for trade and economic cooperation affairs. Russian media reported that Russian President Vladimir Putin has agreed to the deal, which involves six refurbished and slightly upgraded MiG-29s. Serbia is reportedly only required to pay the overhaul and upgrade costs, valued at an estimated $50 million. No final agreement has been reached because of the financial burden the contract will place on the defence budget, but the Serbian Ministry of Defence is expected to give approval for the deal. The Serbian Air Force currently has just three MiG-29s (two single-seat and one two-seat) in service with 101. lae (101st Fighter Aviation Squadron) based at Batajnica Air Base, and a pair of two-seat MiG-21UMs which are maintained in airworthy condition. Alexander Mladenov and Krassimir Grozev

Final Australian HATS Airbus Helicopters announced on November 22 it had completed factory acceptance of the final six EC135T2+ training helicopters at its Donauwörth facility for the Australian Defence Force’s Helicopter Aircrew Training System (HATS), being delivered under Joint Project 9000 Phase 7. The HATS programme includes 15 EC135T2+ helicopters, flight simulators and training aids and a helicopter training vessel, equipped with a helicopter deck. The prime contractor for delivery of JP9000/7 is Boeing Defence Australia, with Thales Australia supplying the simulators and synthetic training devices. Airbus Helicopters Head of Governmental Sales for Australia-Pacific, Peter Harris said: “Following contract signature in November of 2014, and in the space of only two years, we have trained the initial cadre of Boeing and Australian Defence Force aircrew and technicians, and all 15 aircraft have now been accepted.” The helicopters are operated from HMAS Albatross at Nowra by the Joint Helicopter School, which trains pilots and aircrew members for both the Australian Army and Royal Australian Navy. Initial flying activities have already commenced at Nowra, with instructor training to begin in 2017 followed by the first trainee pilots’ course in January 2018. Nigel Pittaway



Another Yea

Above: Not an official milestone for the F-35 programme, but impressive nevertheless, was a two-ship formation seen flying through a canyon in southern California on December 3. Both aircraft, F-001 (c/n AN-01) and F-002 (c/n AN-02), are assigned to the Royal Netherlands Air Force’s 323 Test and Evaluation Squadron based at Edwards Air Force Base, California; one of five test units assigned to the JSF Operational Test Team. Dan Stijovich Below: USS America (LHA 6) underway off the coast of California on the first day of the Lightning Carrier Proof of Concept Demonstration with 12 F-35Bs on deck. Cpl Thor Larson/US Marine Corps




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ear Done


hat is it like to fly – and fight – in fifthgeneration fighters: the Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor and the F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter? At a discussion hosted by the Mitchell Institute in Washington on November 7, 2016, pilots from the US Air Force and US Marine Corps, including Major General Glen Van Herck, commander of the Air Warfare Center at Nellis Air Force Base (himself a B-2 stealth bomber pilot also qualified in the F-35) described their experience of flying fifth-generation fighters.

Gunn F-35A pilot Lieutenant Colonel Scott Gunn, US Air Force, described the difference between a fourth-generation fighter, such as the F-15 Eagle or F-16 Fighting Falcon, and a fifth-generation fighter as comparable to the difference between a flip phone and an iPhone: “Multiple technologies fused together in a single

piece of equipment. The F-35 is a sensorprocessing machine that just happens to have an aircraft wrapped round it.” Sensor fusion includes the F-35’s passive sensors that, Gunn continued, “suck in the ’trons [electrons from an emitting threat radar], then the radar captures a SAR [synthetic aperture radar] map. I get a map of what this thing [detected by the passive sensor] looks like. If I see a little bright spot, I point the EO/IR [electro-optical/infrared] sensor at that and can see [in more detail] what it looks like, from a long stand-off range.” This enables an F-35 to find things that are unlocated, “like SAMs [surfaceto-air missiles] that are long-range threats. Fourth-generation fighters can’t fly close enough to find them effectively. With enough [networked] F-35s [in the area], each one provides a piece of the puzzle. That’s the beauty of networks as they evolve.” Other participants can share the picture. However awesome the speed, manoeuvrability and weapons of fifthgeneration fighters may be, what matters most is their sensors and the ability to fuse and share the information obtained from them.

SCENE At the close of another year of test and front line ops for the F-35 Lightning II programme, David C Isby and Mark Ayton cover some recent events Berke US Marine Corps F-35B pilot Lieutenant Colonel David Berke previously flew F/A-18 Hornets and served two exchange tours with the US Air Force flying F-16s and F-22s. When he first flew the F-22, he said he was enamoured by how powerful the airplane was, but he soon realised its sensor and information fusion capabilities were more important: “Without information, the fastest airplane out there is the first to die.” He said the differences between fourth-generation and fifth-generation fighters are very stark: “The F-22 and F-35 are more like each other than they are like anything else.” He described the F-35 as a very innovative airplane that has inherent plasticity to evolve. Berke has worked on initiatives for integrating fourth-generation and fifthgeneration fighters, flying F-22s in a sixmonth test programme: “The two simplest ways to measure a fighter’s effectiveness are [by] its survivability and lethality. For a fourth-generation fighter, the presence of fifth-generation fighters improves the two things exponentially. Their ability to survive increases, because a fifth-generation platform provides information they cannot get on their own and from places where


SCENE they cannot go. Fifth-generation makes fourth-generation airplanes more lethal.” He cautioned that while fourth-generation airplanes also enhance fifth-generation aircraft, there will be a time when fourthgeneration aircraft simply cannot operate. The US Marines Corps will fly F-35Bs off the US Navy’s big deck amphibious assault ships, a major advance in capabilities over today’s AV-8B Harrier IIs, in the words of Lt Col Berke: “It is infinitely, exponentially, generationally beyond anything that airplane can do.” Berke said the F-35B is critical for the US Marine Corps: “It can operate anywhere. The F-35B opens up opportunities to operate where Marines could never operate before and in ways not available before. This includes operating way inland, in conjunction with the [Bell-Boeing] MV-22 [Osprey tilt-rotor] and the [Sikorsky] CH-53K [heavy-lift helicopter].” The F-35B’s ability to function as a sensor platform and transmit a fused picture of the battle space to other aircraft, ships and ground units is according to Berke a contribution difficult to overstate: “The F-35 combines information [from multiple sensors] in environments where we currently operate and in places the joint force currently cannot operate or will not be able to operate five years in the future [because of ever more capable threats].”

Deptula US Air Force Major David Deptula flew F-22s in combat missions over Syria. Like Gunn, he considers the F-22’s greatest strength as providing information and situational awareness: “An F-22 can detect targets in the air or on the ground and distribute target information to air and ground recipients with near simultaneous capabilities, so that pilots in other friendly aircraft can view and disseminate the

information to those that matter.” Major Deptula explained how on a combat mission F-22s can identify aircraft and unknown tracks, and immediately feed that information to other aircraft for dissemination to the right people: “Having real-time information allows everyone in a strike package to do their job better. Even in areas of a potential SAM threat, the F-22 has access to the area and can pull information quickly that can benefit, in a typical strike, US, Moroccan, Emirati and Jordanian F-16s. US mission commanders help them work through complex target sets. Today we can have an F-22 – or an F-35 in the future – pass on information about situations going on in the area of responsibility from hundreds of miles away.”

Stolee Major Andrew Stolee, a chief F-22 instructor at the Fighter Weapons School at Nellis Air Force Base, teaches air warfare doctrine. Not going to the fight alone is one doctrine, and one that includes fifth-generation fighters. Major Stolee underlined that the revolutionary capabilities of fifth-generation fighters are not just about information, but also include stealth and the seamless display of information to the human being that has to make a decision: “Information is now immediately displayed to people that are in aircraft in the AO [area of operations] who can immediately apply some sort of effect, either kinetic or non-kinetic.” Major Stolee is currently developing joint tactics for the F-22 and F-35 and already recognises the higher demand placed on the F-22 to make decisions and integrate information. Explaining the demand, Stolee said on-board systems increase the speed of decision-making and the information provided delegates decision-making to individual F-22 pilots, because they see the same picture, operate in places others

cannot and focus on the mission while the actual machine is collecting information: “Fifth-generation fighters shift roles very quickly. F-22s can go in and kick in the door against advanced IADS [integrated air defence systems] with robust SAM threats and lots of airplanes. F-22s start a mission undertake the air superiority role to ensure hostile aircraft are not in the way of F-35s finding something, with F-35 pilots focused on the air-to-ground role. They can shift roles swiftly, so F-35s are protecting F-22s while the F-22 pilots look at their SAR, then switch back to the opposite role, perhaps with F-35s attacking from a different direction.” Major Stolee’s bottom line: “The symbiotic relationship between the F-22 and F-35 will only continue to grow.”

Van Herck According to Major General Glen Van Herck, the battle space is going to change faster and faster. He provided his own insight to the F-35 in that arena: “The F-35 is incredibly lethal with multiple options for air-to-air and air-to-ground weapons and incredibly survivable due to its low observable design.” He described the improvements in stealth technology used on the F-35 compared to the B-2, his previous mount, as “just incredible”. Major General Van Herck’s bottom line: “Connected battle space from fifthgeneration fighters is just crucial.” All of the observations and points listed are applicable to all F-35 international customers, who today, together with the schoolhouse at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, are working to develop effective tactics, techniques and procedures. However, the importance of sensors and networks – more than traditional speed and manoeuvrability – for future air combat comes across loud and clear. David C Isby

F-35B BF-05 from Air Test and Evaluation Squadron 23 (VX-23) ‘Salty Dogs’ launches from the flight deck of USS America (LHA 6) loaded with four externally carried 500lb inert GBU-12 test vehicles during DT III. Petty Officer 3rd Class Kyle Goldberg/US Navy




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SCENE Dutch muscle. The test pilot of F-35A F-001 passes through the canyon with the afterburner engaged. Pratt & Whitney’s F135PW-100 axial-flow engine produces up to 43,000lb (191.2kN) of thrust with the afterburner engaged. Dan Stijovich

F-35B DT III On October 28, seven F-35Bs landed on the flight deck of USS America (LHA-6) at the start of what was called Developmental Test Phase III at sea or DT III. This was the final evolution for the F-35B in its current configuration during 21 days at sea that concluded on November 17. DT III involved seven F-35B Lightning IIs: two from Air Test and Evaluation Squadron 23 (VX-23) ‘Salty Dogs’ based at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Maryland; two from Marine Operational Test and Evaluation Squadron 1 (VMX-1); and three from Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 211 (VMFA-211) ‘Wake Island Avengers’.

DT III Objectives • Day carrier qualification (CQ) • Initial pilot CQ • Flight deck crew familiarisation • Night operations with Gen III helmet- mounted display Shipboard Launch and Recovery Expansion • Short take-off flying qualities and envelope expansion • Vertical landing flying qualities and envelope expansion • Vertical landings to spots 2, 4, 5, 6, 7 and 9 • Vertical landing and short take-offs with symmetric and asymmetric

external stores carriage

• Vertical take-off • Increased deck motion operations in

solid sea state four conditions up to +/-5.5° roll and +/-2° pitch • Joint precision approach and landing systems testing Logistical Test and Evaluation • Engine • Lift fan • Maintenance support • Footprint support • Weapons loading

Flight Deck Ops DT III was technically known as an operational test (OT) assist development test (DT) event, in which qualified OT test pilots conducted some of the DT test points. The primary objectives of the 21-day period were shipboard launch and recovery expansion test points focused on the evaluation of flying qualities at various aircraft weights, crosswinds, sink rates and high sea states, and clearing the F-35B for maximum gross weight take-offs involving a lot of missions loaded with externally carried stores, a load configuration not done on previous F-35B detachments DT I and DT II. A high sea state was key to meeting test objectives on DT III, a step-change from fairly calm sea states and the resultant

steady deck present during DT I and DT II. F-35 Chief Test Engineer Andrew Maack said the team wanted to be able to test up to +/-5° roll and +/-2° pitch movement of the flight deck: “We easily found those conditions that were new for the F-35B, but it performed very well: 60 flights; 53.5 flight hours; 128 vertical landings; 126 short take-offs; and two vertical take-offs.” Weapon loads comprised various combinations of 1,000lb GBU-32 Joint Direct Attack Munitions carried internally; 500lb GBU-12 laser-guided bombs carried externally on the wing stations; and AIM9X Sidewinders carried on the wing tip stations. Gabriella Spehn, an F-35 weapons engineer from the F-35 Integrated Test Force based at Patuxent River, said: “We’re augmenting the existing weight centre of gravity effects of the aircraft to expand the envelope with wind over deck, and different lateral symmetry and asymmetry configurations.” The DT III weapons team tested all of the take-off and landing worst-case scenarios and endpoints. Spehn said the only way to increase the endpoints is to test on board a ship for sink rates and high sea states. Explaining the test effort, Andrew Maack said: “We conducted max load-out launches, looking for the short take-off spotting position on the deck to enable



The first two F-35I Adirs for the Israel Air Force, 901 (c/n AS-01) and 902 (c/n AS-02), arrived at Nevatim Air Base on December 12. Aircraft AS-02 completed its first flight on August 8, 2016 from Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base Fort Worth. Carl Richards

us to determine the absolute minimum performance acceptable for the aircraft. We produce the performance bulletins to be used by the fleet.” The other critical stage of flight that asymmetric loading can affect is the vertical landing. In the fleet, external asymmetrically loaded stores are brought back to the ship either because the pilot did not have cause to expend the stores or because reasons dictated an inadvertent bring-back. Andrew Maack explained that the most critical variable for the build-up of asymmetric loads and the associated handling qualities are the environmental conditions in which the test is conducted: the wind direction relevant to the aircraft, either down the deck or a crosswind. Consequently, the critical build-up was in the environmental conditions, rather than a regimented set of different asymmetries. However, the primary driver for max load-out take-off conditions tend to be performance oriented, as Maack explained: “We’re looking for the minimum short takeoff performance and those tests require a steady deck. A moving deck makes it difficult to sort the data and map to models, which is ultimately what we are trying to do.”

Maintenance There were multiple maintenance test events conducted. One involved a dedicated spare engine placed on board

for the purpose of evaluating an engine module replacement; an intermediate level maintenance procedure on the engine that would be done in a maintenance back shop evolution. Other big maintenance procedures were an engine removal and installation on one of the jets, and a lift-fan removal and installation on another jet. Andrew Maack said there was also a considerable amount of publications verification conducted, much of which involved evaluating the publications used by fleet maintainers to ensure processes are being done in the most effective manner and the documentation is adequate for a fleet maintainer to be able to conduct the procedure at sea. Operational testers VMX-1 had a deployable ALIS unit on-board, which was evaluated by a team led by the ALIS testers from the Pax-based ITF. ALIS is the acronym for the F-35’s Autonomic Logistics Information System. ALIS SOU Version 2 was delivered to Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 121 (VMFA-121) ‘Green Knights’ in June 2015. The system is not fully mature, but in the configuration now fielded proved its capability during DT III aboard the USS America. The ALIS servers have been reconfigured to disassemble into manportable sections, and are now the primary system used by operational F-35B

squadrons; this type of server was used on board USS America. Maack gave some perspective: “The amount of logistics test and evaluation conducted on DT III was more than we had done on all the previous detachments combined. This was a function of the OT team being on board and dedicating an aircraft to support the effort.” Summing up DT III, Maack said the big thing was testing in high sea states with stores: “Once all of the data is analysed, it will determine operating envelopes for the F-35B that will be used by the fleet for decades. The F-35 is a tremendous capability. Just the touch-down dispersion and accuracy when the pilots put the aircraft down during all of the demanding conditions was remarkable.”

Proof of Concept Demo Once the 21-day DT effort was complete, VMX-1 started a three-day Lightning Carrier Proof of Concept Demonstration on November 18–20 with an F-35-heavy Aviation Combat Element. Twelve F-35Bs were involved from three units: the Salty Dogs of VX-23; Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 211 (VMFA-211) ‘Wake Island Avengers’, based at Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Arizona; and the F-35 detachment of Marine Operational Test and Evaluation Squadron One (VMX1), based at Edwards Air Force Base,

The UK is gradually building up its fleet of F-35Bs. In early December F-35B ZM140 (c/n BK-06) was delivered to Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort to join the ranks of Marine Fighter Attack Training Squadron 501 (VMFAT-501) ‘Warlords’. UK F-35Bs ZM141 (c/n BK-07) and ZM142 (c/n BK-08) shown here are already flying with Lockheed Martin at Fort Worth. Carl Richards




[email protected]

SCENE California. However, for the first time during a period spent at sea by the F-35B, the Carrier Proof of Concept Demonstration also involved other types from a Marine Expeditionary Unit. VMX-1 deployed two MV-22B Ospreys, one UH1Y Huey and one AH-1Z Cobra. The Lightning Carrier Proof of Concept Demonstration was designed to evaluate the F-35B’s suitability and effectiveness at sea alongside other Marine Air to Ground Task Force assets to the maximum extent possible. Specifically, assessment was made of the F-35B while operating across a wide array of flight and deck operations, including mission systems, support equipment and procedures, maintenance operations and logistical supply chain support in an at-sea environment. Operational testers also conducted risk reduction demonstrations in the shipboard environment, in preparation for upcoming operational missions.

Demo Objectives • Execute numerous day and night

take-offs from and landings on USS America • Operate in the Block 2B, Block 3i, and Block 3F software configuration aboard USS America with applicable sustainment support and infrastructure • Execute and assess standard day and night extended range operations • Assess aircraft-to-ship network communications interoperability • Assess the efficacy of the F-35B landing signals officer’s launch and recovery software • Assess the crew’s ability to conduct scheduled and unscheduled maintenance activities • Assess the suitability of F-35B maintenance support equipment for shipboard operations • Assess the integration of the F-35B alongside other MAGTF assets • Execute and assess day and night weapons loading including live ordnance releases • Assess all aspects of the logistics and sustainment support of the F-35B while deployed at sea

Flight Ops Flight operations focused on routine mission sets from sea, such as strike missions, close air support, armed reconnaissance, assault support escort and maritime strike. For the final event, VMX-1 conducted a combined mission to San Clemente Island, a multiplatform mission off the ship into an objective area. In addition to mission sets, other operationally relevant tests were performed to evaluate interoperability of the aircraft-to-ship network communications: F-35B landing signal officer’s launch and recovery software; the crew’s ability to conduct scheduled and unscheduled maintenance activities; the suitability of F-35B maintenance support equipment for shipboard operations; day and night weapons loading, including the first live ordnance drops from sea-based F-35s; and all aspects of the logistics and sustainment support of the F-35B while deployed at sea. For the weapons loading, USS America’s weapons department assembled 72 GBU-12s and 40 GBU-32 JDAMs. Armament Marines assigned to VMX-1 then used the assembled munitions to undertake daytime and night-time weapons loading. From the arsenal of assembled weapons on board, some were live and were dropped by VMX-1 test pilots for the live fire events. Over two consecutive days VMX-1 dropped six GBU-12s on a live weapons range in Yuma, Arizona. VMX-1’s Commanding Officer, Colonel Rowell, said: “We learnt a lot of valuable lessons about ALIS: the configuration of the brief and debrief facility; which landing spots are convenient for the F-35; how we move F-35s around the deck and the hangar bays; and a lot of maintenance knowledge.” Data and lessons learned from the demonstration are now being used for developing the concept of operations for F-35B deployments aboard US Navy amphibious assault ships beginning in 2018.

Demo Facts

• Dubbed the next phase of the F-35B • •

Lightning II’s advancement in naval integration November 18–20 Explored the best way to integrate a larger package of F-35Bs into the current Navy-Marine Corps structure to bring the most power projection from the sea Ratified procedures between the US Navy and US Marine Corps in preparation for upcoming deployments in 2018 Carrier-qualified 19 Marine Corps pilots in a three-week at sea period. Prior to the demo, only eight Marine Corps F-35B pilots had carrier qualified in the last four years

Accomplishments At the conclusion of the DT III, the longest at sea period undertaken by the F-35B, the combined DT and OT teams accomplished: the first integration of ALIS SOU version 2 aboard a ship; the first engine and lift fan removal and installation aboard an amphibious assault ship; the first live ordnance operations aboard a ship; the first F-35B integration with AEGIS; the first F-35B integration with MV22B Ospreys, a UH-1Y Venom and an AH1Z Viper aboard a ship; the most F-35s ever embarked aboard a ship (the previous record was six); the first time Block 3F OT at sea; and the first Royal Navy F-35B pilot became carrier qualified. At the end of 2016, F-35s had been handed over to Australia, Israel, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Norway, the United Kingdom and three of the US armed services. In 2017, the F-35 System Design and Development phase is expected to finish, the initial operational test and evaluation will begin and the US Marine Corps will deploy the first F-35 squadron to an overseas location. Much work still has to be completed on the jet, but based on comments given to AIR International by DT, OT and front-line pilots at this early stage of its service career indicate the F-35 to be a world-beater. Mark Ayton

Japan’s second F-35A, 69-8702 (c/n AX-02) made its first flight from Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base Fort Worth on November 30. The aircraft will be delivered to Luke Air Force Base to join the international training programme. Carl Richards



Exercise Torr Chen Chuanren reports from a roadside in Singapore on this year’s alternate runway exercise


he Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) held its most complex alternate runway exercise to date. Exercise Torrent 2016 was the seventh event since the first one was held in April 1986, and the first since 2008. Exercise Torrent involves conversion of the Lim Chu Kang road, a public road that runs along the length of Tengah Air Base, into an operational runway for launching and recovering RSAF fighters. Lim Chu Kang road is linked to Tengah Air Base via two gates.

Air Power Generation Command Set up in 2008 solely for generating, sustaining and projecting RSAF air power, Air Power Generation Command (APGC) is the organiser of Exercise Torrent. The eightyear old command consolidated all four Republic of Singapore Air Force air bases under a single command, responsible for aircraft maintenance, preparation and operational readiness of all four bases. Exercise Director and the Commander of APGC, Brigadier General Gan Siow Huang said: “Singapore is a small island with limited resources, so APGC aims to manage the air force as a network of air bases.”

In previous versions of Exercise Torrent, the focus of the event showcased how Tengah Air Base continued flight operations after an enemy attack by using the Lim Chu Kang road as an alternate runway. This year’s event highlighted the RSAF’s air power generation capabilities with the simultaneous launch and recovery of 12 fighters from four air strips: the main Tengah runway, the eastern and western taxiways, all within the air base, and the Lim Chu Kang road. By using four air strips, the interval between each aircraft getting airborne was between three and ten seconds: three to four times faster than a single runway operation.

Above Left: An F-15SG departs from the LCK road. Above Right: Note the removal of the conformal fuel tanks. Smoke swirls from the tyres of an F-15SG as it lands on the LCK road. Other aircraft were concurrently landing on the main runway and taxiways inside Tengah Air Base.




[email protected]

rrent Four 145 Squadron Block 52+ F-16Ds took part in this year’s Exercise Torrent. All images Chen Chuanren

SCENE and in which order. She said: “Air traffic controllers have to optimise support on the ground to turnaround the aircraft quickly, based on the aircraft type and mission and the location of a shelter for their protection.” Tengah-based 505 Squadron, the air base civil engineering squadron, is responsible for working with civilian agencies to convert the Lim Chu Kang road into an operational runway which involves the Land Transport Authority removing lamp posts, road signs, bus stops and speed cameras. A team of 110 men spent two days installing airfield fixtures including precision approach path indicator lights, solarpowered portable airfield lights, distanceto-go markers and two sets of mobile arrestor gears (MAG).

Roadside Fighter Ops Twelve RSAF fighters took part in Exercise Torrent 2016: four 140 Squadron Block 52 F-16s, four 145 Squadron Block 52+ F-16Ds, and four 149 Squadron F-15SG Eagles on the type’s inaugural participation. Preparations by RSAF fighter pilots focused on take-off and landing from shorter and narrower air strips. A F-15SG pilot and 149 Squadron’s Chief Fighter Weapons Instructor, Major Wang said: “We practise short field landing techniques on the main runway and check that everyone can perform within the perimeters.” Brigadier General Huang said if Singapore faced threats in time of contingencies and war, it’s important that RSAF fighters can take off quickly in response to the threat: “The more aircraft we can launch within a short period of time, the more air power we can bring to defend Singapore. Similarly, if we can recover aircraft quickly, we can turn and regenerate them faster to provide continuous air power projection.” About 1,000 personnel took part, almost half of which were reserve servicemen. Brigadier General Huang explained how in a real operation, the RSAF is very flexible in its choice of aircraft, when to direct each fighter to a particular airstrip

Internal training starts a few weeks prior to Torrent although Major Wang said the squadron has been training to operate from alternate runways since day one because the main runway might be affected by an emergency situation. He explained: “The margin of error is greatly reduced therefore we need to be more precise in our executions.” F-16 pilot and 140 Squadron’s Commanding Officer, Lieutenant Colonel Tan Hwee Roy said: “We are used to the perspective of a normal runway. Tengah’s runway is 150 feet [45m] wide while LCK is just 80 feet [24m] wide. So the size and width of LCK when we come in for an approach is very different.” Lt Colonel Tan’s F-16C engaged the MAG for the first time in Exercise Torrent, to simulate a brake failure and test the ability for the crew to recover the aircraft and resume landing operations. Tan added that preparations on each of the three squadrons also included consultation with pilots who flew in Exercise Torrent in 2008 to find out the challenges they faced, part of the RSAF’s culture of knowledge sharing. Lt Colonel Tan also said the RSAF does not usually launch aircraft in such quick succession which led to challenges ensuring sufficient de-confliction in Singapore’s dense airspace. AIR International understands the Tengah control tower controls circuit traffic within Tengah and uses the mobile air traffic control tower for the LCK. Controllers working the tower coordinate with 203 Squadron, the radar control unit, on the sequence of aircraft movements, and provide updates to the pilots on the assigned landing strip. Explaining the strategic importance of the training provided to RSAF pilots, Defence Minister Dr Ng Eng Hen said: “The ability to launch 12 fighter jets off the Lim Chu Kang road shows we can convert a road into an airstrip, which gives us a lot of confidence we can protect our airspace under all conditions.” Left: During two days of preparation for Exercise

Torrent, the Land Transport Authority removed 153 lamp posts, 14 traffic lights, 12 bus stops, 58 road signs and 1.2km of guard rails.

Above Left: Bearing the badge of the new 142 Squadron, an F-15SG Eagle make the type’s inaugural launch in Exercise Torrent. Above Right: A Block 52+ F-16D takes off with the Mobile Air Traffic Control Tower in the background.



Australian Grow New Zealand K EA-18G A46-301 (BuNo 169148) takes off from St Louis-Lambert Field Missouri on the first flight of an Australian Growler. David Sidman/Boeing

by Nigel Pittaway The first four Royal Australian Air Force EA-18G Growler airborne electronic attack aircraft are due to cross the Pacific on their delivery to RAAF Base Amberley in early 2017. The aircraft will be operated by No.6 Squadron, which has recently ceased flying the F/A-18F Super Hornet and stood up as a Growler squadron at Naval Air Station Whidbey Island, Washington in December. Across the Tasman Sea, Brazilian aircraft manufacturer Embraer has confirmed it has responded to the New Zealand Government’s request for information (RFI) for a Future Air Mobility Capability (see FAMC – New Zealand Seeks Increased Capabilities, AIR International, October p26–27) and has offered its KC-390 multimission airlifter.

Aussie Growlers The final Super Hornet flight by No.6 Squadron occurred on November 23,




with a six-ship formation flown over Queensland, before recovering to Amberley for the last time. The aircraft have now been consolidated within No.1 Squadron at Amberley, which will operate all 24 aircraft in the strike role. Royal Australian Air Force pilots and air combat officers have been training at Whidbey Island with the US Navy EA-18G Fleet Replacement Squadron, Electronic Attack Squadron 129 (VAQ-129) ‘Vikings’, for some time, as Australia stands up an electronic attack capability from scratch. Some Australian graduates from VAQ-129 have been posted to the US Navy’s three shore-based expeditionary squadrons to gain operational experience. Others have become instructors within VAQ-129. There is also a significant number of Australian maintenance personnel embedded within the US Navy at Whidbey Island. The first transition course for graduates of the Australian Defence Force’s pilot and air combat officer training system, who have not operated the Hornet or Super Hornet before, will begin in the United States in the first quarter of 2017. Director Growler Transition Office (DGTO) Group Captain Tim Churchill said: “The US Navy has been incredibly helpful in sharing more than 50 years of airborne electronic attack experience to the Royal Australian Air Force. Our relationship with the US Navy

[email protected]

is fantastic and I have great confidence that we will be able to use the capability in anger, if required to do so, by initial operational capability.” Acquired under Project Air 5349 Phase 3, all 12 Australian Growlers have already left Boeing’s production line in St Louis, Missouri. Two are being used by Naval Air Systems Command at Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake to test Australia-unique software, with the other ten in storage in the United States. Four are due to be flown by No.6 Squadron crews to Amberley in January or February. Two Growlers are expected to be on display at the 2017 Australian International Air Show at Avalon in late February. The delivery crews will then return to the United States to carry out operational test and evaluation, before more aircraft are delivered later in the year. All aircraft will be delivered to Amberley by the middle of 2017. Growler initial operational capability is due to be achieved in the middle of 2018, with final operational capability declared in the middle of 2022. According to Gp Capt Churchill, the Growler will support a wide range of Australian Defence Force and coalition air, ground and sea assets, including Hornets, Super Hornets and the F-35A: “For us to be able to contest that space, to be


owlers, KC-390s?

able to provide our own electromagnetic spectrum superiority, is what Growler brings to the fight.” In the meantime, the Royal Australian Air Force’s Super Hornets have undergone their first major capability upgrade, which was recently completed on budget and two weeks ahead of schedule by a defence and industry team at Amberley. Known as Increment 1, the package added updates to the Super Hornet training system and aircraft software, and hardware upgrades under the Super Hornet spiral upgrade programme, to maintain commonality with the US Navy fleet. Work included installation of a navigation warfare system to provide protection against intentional jamming of GPS systems, a distributed targeting system to enable precision targeting and an upgraded solid state recorder for the cockpit. In addition, five separate structural modifications were incorporated with the hardware upgrades to improve fatigue life and eliminate hazards. Officer Commanding the Air Combat and Electronic Attack System Programme Office Gp Capt Jason Agius said: “Completion of Increment 1 was essentially a coming of age for the Super Hornet support system. It was the first time we brought together every element of the support system, from

programme management, logistics and engineering through to training and deeper maintenance.”

KC-390 Pitch Embraer confirmed in November that it has responded to the New Zealand Government RFI for a Future Air Mobility Capability (FAMC) to replace the country’s ageing Lockheed C-130H and Boeing 757 fleets. Chief Executive Officer of Embraer Defense and Security Jackson Schneider said the company has offered its KC-390

multimission airlifter, under development in response to a Força Aerea Brasileira requirement for a replacement for its C-130 fleet. The first KC-390 is due to be delivered to the Força Aerea Brasileira in the second half of 2018. By early November 2016, the two prototypes had amassed in excess of 620 flight test hours. Embraer is proposing to build five KC-390s for the Royal New Zealand Air Force and Schneider says advanced discussions have been held with air force officials: “We are very positive we can provide the best solution for New Zealand for the mission requirements that the Royal New Zealand Air Force has presented to us. I think the Royal New Zealand Air Force is very interested in the KC-390 [but] we understand and respect this is a competition and we will fulfil all the required steps of the process.” Schneider also revealed that Embraer has been invited to respond to a Royal New Zealand Air Force requirement for a future air surveillance capability to replace its Lockheed P-3K2 Orions. Schneider said Embraer was considering the development of a maritime patrol variant of its E190-E2 airliner to meet the requirement. However, a senior Embraer official has also raised the possibility of a maritime patrol derivative of the KC-390 being offered if some of the customer’s requirements are flexible. The aircraft would have a palletised mission system, together with a nose-mounted 360° search radar that Embraer already has under development to meet the requirements of Canada’s FixedWing Search and Rescue competition. Embraer Defence and Security’s Commercial Senior Vice-President Fernando Ribeiro de Queiroz said: “A palletised mission system, a nosemounted radar and other equipment would fulfil the requirements for maritime patrol, but without compromising other missions the aircraft is already capable of performing. You can take out the mission system and fly with cargo, passengers or when configured for medevac, so the customer would have a single fleet with two aircraft capable of being configured for maritime patrol and five dedicated to air mobility.”

David Sidman/Boeing



RAAF Poseidon Arrives in Australia

Royal Australian Air Force P-8A Poseidon A47-001 in the markings of 11 Squadron, flies over the St Vincent Gulf near Adelaide in South Australia. Cpl Craig Barrett/Royal Australian Air Force

The first of 12 Boeing P-8A Poseidon maritime surveillance aircraft (serial number A47-001) for the Royal Australian Air Force touched down in Canberra on November 15. The aircraft had flown to Avalon Airport south of Melbourne on its delivery flight from the United States the day before and arrived in Canberra with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Chief of the Royal Australian Air Force Air Marshal Gavin Davies on board. Poseidon is replacing the ageing, but still effective, Lockheed AP-3C Orion in RAAF service, beginning with No.11 Squadron, which has now relinquished the Orion in favour of the new aircraft. An AP-3C

Ilyushin Il-22PP The Russian Ministry of Defence announced on November 9 that the first of three Ilyushin Il-22PP Porubschik (Lumberjack) stand-off jammer aircraft ordered by the Russian Air Force has been delivered. The Il-22PP was ordered in 2009 and completed its state trials in late 2014. Based on an Il-18 Coot four-engine turboprop airframe built in the mid-1970s, the Il-22PP carries advanced jammers reportedly powerful enough to jam an E-3 Sentry’s APY-1 radar. Russian press reports state the aircraft’s electronic warfare systems will be transferred to a more advanced jet – possibly the Tupolev Tu-214 – capable of operating at higher altitudes in the future. The Il-22PP reportedly differs from earlier stand-off jammer aircraft because its active jammers are part of an integrated system with passive radar detectors that uses a computerised control interface to generate an effective jamming program without interfering with friendly radars. The system is designed by the Myashitsev Design Bureau and built by the RadioElectronic Technologies Corporation. Russia’s continued investment in electronic warfare capabilities such as aircraft active jamming, which the West de-emphasised since the end of the Cold War, has gained a high profile since its use in Ukraine in 2014. David C Isby




wearing special 11 Squadron markings acted as a backdrop to the acceptance ceremony on the Canberra tarmac. Commanding Officer of 11 Squadron, Wing Commander David Titheridge who was also aboard the Poseidon for its historic arrival, said that two RAAF crews have now been trained on the aircraft in the United States and other Australians are serving as instructors with the US Navy’s training unit (VP-30) at Jacksonville, Florida: “A further two crews have already commenced their training with the US Navy and we will receive the second aircraft in March next year.” The RAAF is set to receive a new Poseidon approximately every three months until the

final aircraft is delivered later in the decade. The following day, the aircraft was flown to its new home at RAAF Base Edinburgh in South Australia and shortly thereafter commenced a series of operational test and evaluation activities under local conditions. The second operational unit, No.10 Squadron at Edinburgh, will convert to the P-8A in time for the retirement of the Orion towards the end of 2019. An Australian Government decision on a further three aircraft, mentioned in the recent Defence White Paper, is due to be taken in the coming years. If this option is exercised, it will bring the total number of Poseidon aircraft in RAAF service to 15. Nigel Pittaway

Russia Government SS100s and L-410s The Russian Government has approved RUB 5 billion of funding for the acquisition of Sukhoi SSJ100 airliners and Aircraft Industries L-410UVP-E20 turboprop commuter planes by the Ministry of Transport. All of the aircraft will be handed over to State Transport Leasing Company GTLK, which will lease the aircraft to Russian airlines. SSJ100 procurement is priced at RUB 4 billion for 22 aircraft to be delivered through 2017. GTLK has already fully paid for ten other

SSJ100s to be leased to domestic airlines. Manufacture of the L-410UVP-E20s will be done by UZGA in Yekaterinburg from kits supplied by Aircraft Industries based in the Czech Republic. A contract signed between UZGA and GTLK on November 30 valued at RUB 2 billion covers five aircraft. Half the funding is provided by the Ministry of Transport and the other half by the markets. The first L-410UVP-E20 will be assembled at UZGA in 2017. Alexander Mladenov

Su-35S at Besovets The 159th IAP, a fighter aviation regiment stationed at Besovets-Petrozavodsk Air Base in Russia’s Western Military District, is reportedly re-equipping with new Su-35S multi-role fighters to supplement and eventually replace the Su-27P and Su-27SM Flankers assigned to its two squadrons. On November 25, 2016, the Russian Ministry of Defence announced that 159th IAP pilots and ground crews had accepted a second batch of Su-35S fighters at the

[email protected]

KnAAZ plant in Komsomolsk-on-Amur ready for a 4,315-nautical-mile (8,000km) ferry flight to Besovets. Two days later, four of the Su-35S intended for delivery to the 159th IAP were deployed Hmeimim Air Base in Syria. New Su-35S aircraft assigned to the 159th IAP are the first from a followon contract for 50 additional Su-35S fighters ordered by the Russian Ministry of Defence in December 2015. Alexander Mladenov


747 SuperTanker’s Debut Deployment

The 747-400 SuperTanker pictured departing Tel Aviv on its first firefighting mission after deploying to Israel. Yochai/AirTeamImages

The world’s largest firefighting aircraft, Boeing 747-446-BCF SuperTanker N744ST (c/n 25308), named Spirit of John Muir, undertook its first deployment late in November 2016 in response to an urgent request from the Israel Government for the aircraft to help fight wildfires in the country. The 747-400 SuperTanker, operated by Global SuperTanker Services at Colorado Springs, arrived in Tel Aviv just 24 hours after the request was received. The jet joined a team of Israeli and international firefighters – including aircraft sent from France, Greece and Spain – in the fight against large wildfires north of Jerusalem.

The  747-400 SuperTanker  is the world’s newest very large air tanker. It can deliver nearly 20,000 US gallons (75,708 litres) of water, suppressant or fire retardant in single or multiple segmented drops which can be released at variable rates. The aircraft has double the capacity of the next-largest firefighting aircraft. The jet received its final safety and operational approvals from the US Federal Aviation Administration in September 2016, under Federal Aviation Regulation (FAR) certificate 137, permitting its use for wildland and marine firefighting as well as oil spill remediation.

The SuperTanker is a converted 747400 built in 1991 and originally operated by Japan Airlines. It was later converted to a freighter and used by Evergreen International Airlines. Global SuperTanker Services received a Supplemental Type Certificate from the FAA that authorised the conversion of the aircraft into a tanker, covering the installation and use of pressurised tanks. Global SuperTanker is currently working to achieve its final US Forest Service certifications. The aircraft is available to US states, counties and cities, and overseas entities. Mark Broadbent

An-124 Joint Venture Ends Russia’s Volga-Dnepr Airlines is to end its ten-year joint venture with Antonov Airlines to operate the world’s largest fleet of Antonov An-124-100 Ruslan heavy airlifters at the end of 2016. The joint venture had controlled some 80% of total An-124 commercial airlift capability. In an announcement on November 28, VolgaDnepr stated it would continue to work with Antonov on, “technical aspects of airworthiness and flight safety support of its An-124-100 fleet”.

The break reportedly follows Antonov’s opposition to Volga-Dnepr and the Russian military shifting overhaul and logistics support for their An-124s from Antonov to Ilyushin, reflecting Russian policy to concentrate defence and aerospace support industries within its borders. Antonov Airlines’ parent corporation is based in Ukraine while An124 production was carried out at Tashkent in Uzbekistan. The An-124’s wing structure was produced at Tashkent using a forge imported from the US in 1938 for the

licensed production of DC-3s. More than a third of Volga-Dnepr’s current revenue comes from flying cargo for the air and space industries, many of which require the An-124’s large-volume capabilities. Volga-Dnepr currently operates more than 30 aircraft, including 12 An-124s and 15 Boeing 747s operated by its AirBridgeCargo unit. The end of the joint venture follows VolgaDnepr’s August 2016 contract for 20 Boeing 747-8s in an $8 billion deal. David C Isby

Volga-Dnepr’s decade-long joint venture with Antonov Airlines to operate An-124-100s, including RA-82047 (c/n 9773053259121) pictured here in September 2016 at Warsaw, was due to end by the end of 2016. Jan Ostrowski/AirTeamImages




he highly modified Mi24K flying laboratory, dubbed LL PSV and intended to test new technologies for facilitating highspeed flight, has hit a maximum speed of 218kts (403km/h). This striking news was revealed on October 29, 2016 by a Russian Ministry of Defence (MoD) official, Colonel Evgeniy Poluyanov, the head of the 220th branch of the Russian MoD, which is tasked with overseeing defence-related research and development (R&D) work undertaken by Mil Moscow Helicopter Plant (Mil MHP), a company within the Russian Helicopters holding group. The principal cutting-edge technology featured on the LL PSV, according to Col Poluyanov, is the composite mainrotor blades. He also noted that the speed achieved by the flying laboratory is regarded as useful for a range of operational purposes.

LL PSV The LL PSV flying laboratory was developed in 2014–2015 by Mil MHP to demonstrate the feasibility of achieving speeds exceeding 216kts (400km/h) by employing a new main rotor design featuring all-new

composite rotor blades with much improved aerodynamic performance, coupled with more powerful engines. Maiden flight of the LL PSV took place on December 29, 2015 at Mil MHP’s flight test centre in Tomilino near Moscow. At the time, it was announced its main purpose was to test a raft of new technologies that were originally developed in the Russian Advanced Commercial Helicopter project, known by its Russian-language abbreviation as PSV (Perspektivnoy Skorostnoy Vertolet) and dubbed RACHEL for the western public. The LL PSV’s flight test programme is primarily aimed at evaluating the vibration and noise levels in high-speed flight. The all-new main-rotor blades, tested for the first time on the LL PSV, feature a high-lift aerofoil and a new tip shape similar to the design of the British Experimental Rotor Programme, with highly swept tip. The new blade is intended to provide considerably higher lift while dealing with the transonic effects on the advancing side, and highAlpha stall on the retreating side. The Mi-24 attack helicopter was selected for use as a high-speed flight research testbed because its low-drag sleek fuselage is considered most suitable for this kind of experimental flying. The shape of the LL PSV fuselage was further refined to reduce high-speed drag as much as possible.

The LL PSV is a highly modified Mi-24K helicopter with an all-new nose section, new main-rotor blades and more powerful engines with a full digital authority control system. Russian Helicopters

High Spe The LL PSV seen during its first flight on December 29, 2015, wearing the old-style exhaust ducts. Russian Helicopters




[email protected]

There is an all-new nose section for a single pilot. The helicopter was shown in public for the first time in August 2015. At that time, it also had clean stub wings for generating lift in high-speed flight, which contribute up to 20% of the total lift generated by the combination of the rotor system and stub wings. The first photos of LL PSV in flight from December 2015 showed the stub wings had been removed together with the PZU engine dust filters. In 2016 the flying laboratory also received new-design exhaust ducts designed to reduce drag. The PSV LL has a maximum take-off weight of 11,500kg (25,353lb) and is powered by a pair of new-generation Klimov VK-2500-01 engines, each rated at 2,700shp (2,013kW) during one engine operation (OEI) conditions. The take-off rating is 2,200shp (1,641kW) and the cruise rating is 1,750shp (1,304kW). According to information released by Russian Helicopters in late 2014, the LL PSV was expected to achieve a maximum speed of


Alexander Mladenov profiles Russian research into high-speed helicopter technologies led by a civilian-funded initiative

peed Hind 205kts (380km/h); this turned out to be a very conservative estimate.

Civilian Project Origins The LL PSV was originally developed to test design solutions for Russia’s ambitious PSV/RACHEL development initiative for a new-generation rotorcraft. Funded by the Russian Ministry of Industry and Commerce, the original programme was formally given the go-ahead in 2013, with the allocated development budget for its first two phases amounting to RUB7.5 billion, equating to about $230 million at that time. The RSV/RACHEL programme, also dubbed V-37 by Mil MHP, has been described by Russian Helicopters since mid-2012 as an ambitious and focused effort to field a successor to the Mi-8/Mi-17 transport helicopter, still the best-selling product of the Russian rotorcraft industry. As Russian Helicopters’ Chief Executive Officer Alexander Mikheev noted during a speech at Heli-Expo 2014 in Anaheim,

California, the most important factor for the potential customers that were interviewed during the concept design was the economics of operations (i.e. the cost of ownership and the direct operating costs). According to Russian Helicopters, the targets were for the PSV/RACHEL to have operating costs some 20%–25% lower than that of the Mi-8/Mi-17 family. In May 2014, Mikheev said that the PSV/RACHEL’s certification trials were slated to commence in 2020. A competition was held in 2011 and 2012 between the Mil and Kamov design bureaus, with the former’s design concept declared the winner. The PSV/RACHEL programme was co-funded at the time by Russia’s state budget and Russian Helicopters, with co-funding also provided by Russian Helicopters. There were also two risk-sharing partners in the R&D effort. Klimov was responsible for the engine, while the electronics specialist KRET got the avionics suite development.

According to the programme schedule revealed in 2013, the first flight of the new V-37 helicopter has been tentatively slated for 2018. As announced by Russia’s then-Deputy Minister of Industry and Trade, Yuri Slusar, that schedule called for the completion of the development work and launching the new-generation commercial rotorcraft into production by 2020. The PSV/RACHEL was planned to have two crew, a seating capacity of 21–24 passengers (the same as the Mi-8/Mi-17) and employ the traditional rotorcraft design scheme with a conventional pod and boom design, a five-blade main rotor and a four-blade tail rotor. Thanks to the use of new-generation composite blades, a lowdrag rotor hub design and a streamlined fuselage (needed for low drag in cruise flight), combined with more fuel-efficient engines, it was expected to have a longer range than the Mi-8/Mi-17. The maximum design speed was set for a range between 194 and 205kts (360 to 380km/h) and the


SCENE Left: A new nose section was added to the

LL PSV design to reduce drag as much as possible. At the MAKS air show in August 2015, the LL PSV was demonstrated with a non-transparent temporary canopy and fitted with stub-wings. The wings were removed during the flight-test programme.

All images Alexander Mladenov Bottom Left: A scale model of the V-37/

PSV/RACHEL was first revealed by Russian Helicopters during 2012. The design is intended to boast a maximum speed some 1.5 times higher than that of today’s medium-class rotorcraft in commercial operation. Bottom Centre: The PSV/RACHEL was set to be powered by a new-generation derivative of the VK-2500-01 turboshaft seen here, which powers the LL PSV. Designated as the VK-2500M, it is set to boast an OEI rating of some 3,000shp (2,237kW) compared to 2,700shp (2,013kW) for its predecessor. Bottom Right: The Kamov Ka-92 concept sports co-axial rigid rotors, a pusher prop and is advertised with a cruise speed of 243kts (450km/h).

cruise speed between 162 and 189kts (300 to 350km/h). Maximum gross weight was set at 10,600kg (23,368lb), maximum payload between 3,000 and 3,500kg (6,614 to 7,716lb), with a capacity to lift and carry 4,000kg (8,818lb) of cargo on an external sling. Normal payload was to be 2,000 to 2,500kg (4,409 to 5,511lb), with a 584 nautical mile (1,081km) range when carrying a normal payload. The new VK-2500M engine designed for the PSV/RACHEL was developed by Klimov, and based on the VK-2500PS-03 used by the upgraded Mi-171A2 helicopter. The VK-2500M uses a package of new technologies to increase power output, reduce fuel burn by 5% and weight by 25%. The new engine was required to be OEI-rated at 3,000shp (2,237kW) and 2,800shp (2,088kW) for take-off, while its maximum continuous rating was to be maintained at 2,200shp (1,641kW).

Commercial Prospects The over-optimistic sales forecast for PSV/ RACHEL made by Russian Helicopters in 2012 called for up to 726 examples to




be produced between 2020 and 2036, with 294 of these expected to be taken by domestic operators and the rest purchased by export customers. However, this is far from any realistic long-term market estimate and may just have been based on the highly unlikely possibility of replacing a significant proportion of commercially and government-operated Mi-8/Mi-17s worldwide. It is noteworthy that today’s economic and political realities in Russia are very different from those in the early 2010s. In addition all major domestic rotorcraft operators have underused fleets and are therefore not interested in a costly new-generation helicopter in the foreseeable future. In the event, the PSV/RACHEL programme was terminated by the Russian Ministry of Industry and Commerce in September 2014. The formal reason for this was the impossibility of achieving the desired results (as required in the technical specification) within the desired timeframe by relying on existing technologies. It was also noted in the termination report that it proved impossible to achieve high

[email protected]

cruise speed without a serious increase in the operating costs; as a consequence, it turned out to be impossible to simultaneously meet all the requirements of the technical specification with the existing technologies in Russia. However, it was said that the highspeed research should continue, centred on development of a new rotor system capable of achieving a maximum speed in excess of 189kts (350km/h), together with completion of the development work on the VK-2500M engine, which is intended to be used for re-engining the existing Mi-8 and Mi-17 fleets.

Military Interest Confirmed According to Yuriy Borisov, Russia’s deputy defence minister responsible for procurement, the technologies tested on the LL PSV flying laboratory will be used in the design and development of the new generation of high-speed military helicopters. Combining speed and agility, Borisov said these helicopters are set to be ordered by the Russian MoD within the new State Armaments Programme 2018-2025. He also mentioned the Russian MoD has

SCENE The LL PSV flying testbed sports all-new main-rotor blades with tip shapes optimised for high-speed flight. The new blade design is also intended to be retrofitted on the Mi-28NM attack helicopter to achieve higher speed. Alexander Mladenov

already discussed with Russian Helicopters plans for designing a line of high-speed helicopters with a maximum take-off weight of 10,000 to 12,000kg (22,046 to 26,445lb), capable of maintaining a cruise speed of between 189 and 195kts (350 to 360km/h) and having a maximum speed exceeding 216kts (400km/h). Borisov confirmed tests of the Mi-24 flying laboratory have already shown promising results that assured the Russian MoD the development of high-speed combat helicopters can be completed in a reasonable timeframe. He also claimed the upgrade potential of the helicopters that form the backbone of Russia’s Army Aviation has already been exhausted, consequently the Russian MoD will insist on new qualities that are achievable through use of high-speed tactics and new armaments. In November 2016, the LL PSV was spotted at the Mil MHP flight-test centre at Tomilino wearing a military-style livery with olive green, black and brown tones, together with the large-size military-style side number ‘271’. Russian Helicopters has never released information on the maximum

speed achieved by the LL PSV during the 2016 flight-test campaign and never hinted about its prospects of military use. There is no doubt the interest of the Russian military in the programme has been motivated by progress of the US Future Vertical Lift (FVL) initiative, which is aimed at producing rotorcraft able to fly at fixed-wing aircraft-like speeds, exceeding 230kts (426km/h), operate at a combat radius of 234 nautical miles (434km) and use powerful engines for operation in high-hot conditions. That is the very reason the LL PSV is to be regarded as a demonstrator of new high-speed flight technologies aimed at a symmetric response for countering the FVL initiative. At the same time, Kamov has some experience in high-speed research and undoubtedly it is keen to stay in the game. Kamov’s General Designer Sergey Mikheev has in the past promoted the Ka-92, a high-speed rotary-wing machine for civil use that retains the full low-speed advantages of a helicopter. The Ka-92 concept features a co-axial compound layout, combining Kamov’s trademark rotor system with a pusher propeller in the tail for high-speed

flight. This is exactly the same compound layout as used by the Sikorsky-Boeing SB-1 Defiant currently being developed under the Joint Multi-Role Technology Demonstrator programme undertaken as an integral part of the Pentagon’s FVL initiative. The Ka-92 was set to cruise at 243kts (450km/h) for transportation of 30 passengers over a maximum range of 809 nautical miles (1,500km). Its longer range and higher speed compared to a classic helicopter design is intended to be achieved by a dramatically increased lift:drag ratio. Some preliminary work on the new design has already been done, and based on this Mikheev has noted on many occasions in the past that he sees the development of this class of high-speed rotorcraft as an achievable engineering task within a timeframe of about ten years. The eventual aim of the ambitious and rather costly wide-ranging effort undertaken by both Mil MHP and possibly Kamov would be for the Russian military to field new-generation transport and attack rotorcraft with unique flying characteristics in terms of speed, manoeuvrability and hover performance by 2030 at the earliest.



UK Biofuels Consultation

Batik 737-800

Batik Air Boeing 737-8GP 9M-LCK (c/n 38318) at Renton Municipal Airport prior to delivery, wearing a logo to denote that it is the 178th 737-800 for the Lion Air Group, Batik’s parent company. It has recently been announced that Batik has received an air operator’s certificate for operations in Australia. Joe Walker

Last Cathay 747-400

Cathay Pacific Airways 747-467, B-HUJ (c/n 27595) pictured at Manchester following its arrival from Hong Kong. The aircraft was on its way to Bruntingthorpe for scrapping. This aircraft was the last 747-400 used by Cathay Pacific and was retired in October 2016. Nik French

Another SSJ-100 for Cityjet

Irish airline Cityjet has recently taken delivery of its third Sukhoi SSJ-100 Superjet, EI-FWC (c/n 950111), pictured at Manchester operating a charter. Cityjet has ordered 15 SSJ-100s to replace its Avro RJ85s and is placing the aircraft in wet-lease and charter markets. Nik French

The UK Government’s Department for Transport (DfT) has issued a consultation document which invites views about how to increase the supply of biofuels in the UK’s aviation industry. The DfT Renewable Fuel Transport Obligation (RFTO) report is seeking the views of various stakeholders on proposals to provide more renewable fuels for all sectors of the transport industry. For aviation specifically, the major point in the report is that the DfT is proposing that renewable aviation fuels should be eligible for rewards in line with those that are given to liquid road transport fuels. Under the current RFTO, only suppliers of these fuels are eligible to receive incentives to produce sustainable fuels. A statement from Sustainable Aviation, the coalition of UK airlines, airports, aerospace manufacturers and air traffic service providers, welcomed the news: “This consultation has the potential to create the right economic conditions for the production of truly innovative and sustainable bio jet-fuels.” Ian Jopson, chair of Sustainable Aviation, added: “We believe that producers of sustainable aviation fuel should be able to benefit from the new policy framework by allowing them to ‘opt-in’ to the system to receive credits. It is an exciting prospect and could lead to the UK taking a leading role in the production of sustainable jet fuel.” Sustainable Aviation claims this change in UK policy support could lead to the creation of up to 12 operational sustainable fuel plants to support aviation across the UK, create up to 4,400 jobs and be worth up to £300 million to the UK economy by 2030. Mark Broadbent

Zero-G A340 Goes Gloss Black

HiFly Airbus A340-313 9H-TOM (msn 117), which Swiss Space Systems will use for zero-g flights, has recently been repainted into a striking allblack gloss paint scheme. The aircraft is pictured at Frankfurt in November. Rainer Steidele




[email protected]





Loganair and Flybe to End Franchise

Loganair and Flybe will end their franchise agreement next year, meaning the Glasgow-based Loganair will once again fly under its own name. Loganair has operated under franchise agreements for 23 years, firstly with British Airways from 1993 and with Flybe since 2007. Loganair will fly under its own name from September 1, 2017 and its 28 aircraft, mainly Saab 340s but also Saab 2000s, Dornier 328s, DHC-6 Twin Otters and Islanders, will be repainted with a livery featuring a tartan pattern on the tail. Mark Broadbent

Airbus Customer






2 MoU

November 30


2 MoU

November 30



November 18



November 18

Peach Aviation (for Peach Airlines)





Announced November 8




Announced November 8



Announced November 8




Announced November 8


A320s FOR PEACH Peach Airlines has ordered 13 more A320 Family aircraft (13 A320neos, three A320ceos). The deal is significant because it marks another step forward for Airbus into the Japanese market, historically dominated by Boeing, after earlier agreements with All Nippon Airways for three A380s and 37 A320ceos and Japan Airlines for 31 A350-900s (plus 25 options). A320neo deliveries to Peach will start in summer 2019. Mark Broadbent





Alaska Airlines


5 (previously listed as Unidentified)

November 8

Enter Air



November 22

Fiji Airways

737 MAX 8


November 28

Unidentified customer(s)



November 8

Unidentified customer



November 22

United Airlines)


4 (converted from existing 737-700 orders)

November 15

737 MAX

61 (includes conversion of 40 737-700 orders placed January 21, 2016)

November 15

Bombardier Customer




Tanzania Government Flight Agency (for Air Tanzania)



December 2

Dash 8 Q400


December 2

Embraer Customer




United Airlines



November 15

Data covers period November 8-December 5. Key: LOI – Letter of Intent, MoU – Memorandum of Understanding; Compiled by Mark Broadbent


AIRCRAFT SOUGHT BY SA EXPRESS South African Express is seeking to lease 20 aircraft over the next five years. Chief Executive Officer Inati Ntshanga recently said the airline is in advanced discussions with lessors and wants a common fleet by 2022. As the current leases expire, its existing 50-70 seat aircraft will be replaced with 90-seaters. Aircraft under consideration include the COMAC C919, Mitsubishi MRJ90, Sukhoi Superjet 100, Bombardier CRJ900 and Embraer 190, with the latter favoured. A decision is expected around February. SA Express is a feeder to South African Airways using ten Bombardier Dash 8 Q400s, ten CRJ 200s and two CRJ 700s, which fly to 19 destinations in the Southern African Development Community region. It flies 1.5 million passengers annually. Guy Martin

Embraers at Eastern

UK regional carrier Eastern Airways has introduced two Embraer E170s, G-CIXV (c/n 17000111) and G-CIXW (c/n 17000230), into service. The Humberside Airport-based airline is using the aircraft to offer a new product for the charter and ACMI (aircraft, crew, maintenance, insurance) markets. One E170 will be assigned to long-term ACMI  work and the other for charter flying across the UK and Europe. The new aircraft take Eastern Airways’ fleet to 32 aircraft, also comprising 18 BAE Jetstream 41s, nine Saab 2000s and three ERJ-145s. Mark Broadbent

MS-21 First Flight Date

Russia’s MS-21 airliner will make its first flight in February or March 2017, Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin stated during a high-profile meeting with President Vladimir Putin in Moscow. Two MS-21s are currently being brought to flight status, one at the United Aircraft Corporation facility at Irkutsk and one at a flight test facility near Moscow. The third MS-21 was due to have been rolled out at Irkutsk in December. The fourth MS-21 will be fitted with Russiandesigned PD-14 engines, planned to be fitted to production MS-21s starting in 2019. David C Isby

UAV Hub in Africa

Kenyan cargo airline Astral Aviation has established Astral Aerial Solutions to deliver cargo by Flyox I UAVs. This amphibious aircraft, made by Spain’s Singular Aircraft, is the biggest civil UAV on the market, with a payload of 1,850kg (4,078lb) and an empty weight of 2,200kg (4,409lb). UAV operations will begin in February 2017 at Kapese Airstrip, which is heavily used by oil and gas companies. Astral CEO Sanjeev Gadhia said the UAVs would monitor the movement of oil trucks and transport cargo and parcels to areas that lack postal addresses. They will also be used for charters, mapping, the oil and gas sector, and transporting humanitarian aid. During the Ebola outbreak, airlines could not fly to affected areas but with UAVs that is now a possibilty. Guy Martin



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08/12/2016 10:51



LanceR 5917 taxiing to its parking spot at Câmpia Turzii after an air patrol mission.


ntering Baza 71 Aeriana, in Câmpia Turzii, a small town in Transylvania, you get the feeling you’re back in the Cold War, with one fighter aircraft assigned which once represented the backbone of the Warsaw Pact – the MiG-21. Looking around the base, it’s obvious that something is changing. A lot of LanceRs are stored, and the flight line is now occupied by the LanceR, but the service life of the latest version of the MiG-21 is to end. Baza 71 Aeriana has three squadrons assigned: Escadrila 711 operating the MiG-21 LanceR B and LanceR C which provides QRA (quick reaction alert), air policing and ground attack mission sets; and Escadrila 712 and Escadrila 713 operating the IAR330L and IAR330M, the Romanian-built version of the Aerospatiale SA330 Puma. The two helicopter squadrons provide transport, search and rescue and ground attack mission sets.


In 1989, after the fall of the Ceausescu regime, the Forţele Aeriene Române (FAR, Romanian Air Force) gradually moved from Soviet to Western doctrine becoming a member of NATO in 2004. Due to the collapse of the Soviet Union, economical and materiel support to the FAR ended, forcing the service to either upgrade or replace its MiG-21 fleet to avoid a capability gap with its new NATO partners. Funding played a fundamental role in the choice. The FAR’s first initiative was to upgrade the MiG-29 under the Sniper programme, but the Romanian Government’s financial situation led to the project being abandoned. Instead the government opted to upgrade its MiG-21MF and MiG-21UM fleet, in service with the FAR since 1962. The MiG-21 upgrade, dubbed the LanceR programme, started in 1993 in a collaborative effort between Romanian company Aerostar SA and Israel’s Elbit Systems Ltd. The LanceR programme was designed to increase the aircraft’s interoperability and

compatibility with other NATO air forces. The programme involved 110 aircraft comprising 73 single-seat MiG-21 LanceR A ground attack variants, 23 single-seat LanceR C air superiority fighters and 14 two-seat LanceR B training and ground-attack versions; the final LanceR was delivered in 2003. One of the problems former Warsaw Pact nations had to carefully manage after the dissolution of the Soviet Union was the availability and supply of spare parts for military equipment. To avoid shortages, the FAR calculated the total number of spares required to keep the LanceR fleet in service until the end of its operational service life. Commander of Escadrila 711, Colonel Cosmin Cosma, said: “During the Cold War, Romania was part of a treaty [the Warsaw Treaty Organisation known as the Warsaw Pact], consisting of eastern European countries and the Soviet Union. The treaty ended in 1990 and today most of those nations are members of NATO. Since then, Romania has undertaken several initiatives


Andrea Avin visits Escadrila 711, one of two squadrons flying the MiG-21 LanceR in the Romanian Air Force

at all levels in order to accede to NATO standards. The MiG-21 modernisation was one such initiative [at the technological level], the declared objective being an increased interoperability and compatibility with NATO air arms. At the time, complex and comprehensive assessments were made, trying to cover multiple aspects regarding optimal and sustainable exploitation of the modernised platform [MiG-21 LanceR].” The aspect of spare parts availability was essential in the aircraft modernisation selection (MiG-21 or MiG-29) and decisionmaking process. At the beginning of 1990, Romania had a few hundred MiG-21s, of which 110 were chosen for modernisation with a substantial package of spare parts, calculated to cover the entire operational service life until 2020. Colonel Cosma said: “Currently the Baza 71 engineers and specialists provide engine maintenance every 25, 50 and 100 flight hours, and airframe maintenance every 50,

100 and 200 flight hours. Major maintenance is provided after 600 flight hours or 10 years of service by Aerostar in Bacau.”

Upgrade As part of the LanceR upgrade, the original MiG-21 avionics have been modified, such that the LanceR cockpit is more comparable to a new fighter, rather than an old Soviet aircraft. The instrument panel was redesigned with two Elbit multi-functional displays (MFD) and an Elop 921 head-up display and up-front control panel. In the LanceR C, the left-hand MFD is colour and used for navigation and pylon management; the right side is monochrome and displays the radar search volume. Essential navigation and combat information are projected in the Elbit DASH helmet-mounted display, the LanceR was one of the first operational aircraft to introduce the DASH into active service and provides the pilot with an advantage in close manoeuvring engagements.

One main modification undertaken on the LanceR C aircraft was the replacement of the RP-21 Sapfir radar with the Israel Aerospace Industries Elta EL/M 2032M advanced pulse-doppler radar; while the LanceR A and LanceR B aircraft were re-equipped with the Elta EL/M 2001B, a pulse-doppler range-only I/J-band radar. Other avionics improvements include the LISA-4000EB hybrid navigation system, the Marconi air data computer, VHF/UHF radios, a data transfer system, a flight data recorder and a NATO-compatible IFF transponder. Self-protection of the aircraft in hostile electromagnetic environments is provided by an Elta EL/L 8222R electronic warfare jamming pod which autonomously detects enemy radar and missiles and emits electronic signals to counter the threat. In addition to the jamming pod, further selfprotection is provided by two MPMN-60 chaff and flare dispensers fitted on the sides of the aft fuselage.



1 1 The LanceR B is a two-seat training version with a strike capability. 2 Massachusetts Air National Guard F-15Cs on the flight line at Câmpia Turzii during Exercise Dacian Eagle 2016.

Another fundamental improvement is the multirole weapon pylon, as Col Cosmin Cosma explained: “Developed by Aerostar and Elbit, this pylon can carry Soviet [R-73] and Western [Python 3] missiles thanks to two different types of connector. One exception is the Magic 2 missile, which needs an adaptor fitted between the pylon and the launcher. This allows the Romanian MiG-21 to carry each type of missile on the same mission, increasing the capability of the aircraft.” The original central pylon, only available for a fuel tank on the MiG-21MF, has been replaced by a new pylon adapted to carry Mk83 bombs and various pods. Potentially, the same aircraft can carry weapons for ground attack and air defence, on the same mission, but in practice, an aircraft is only configured for either air defence or ground attack. For close combat, the LanceR C uses the reliable Soviet-made 23mm GSh-23L twinbarrel cannon, while the LanceR B carries a 12.7mm calibre external machine gun pod. Col Cosma explained how air defence is the primary role of the LanceR C, but after the retirement of the LanceR A version, the C-model can conduct ground 2


attack missions using either the Aerial Reconnaissance Pod or the Rafael Litening laser designator pod. Air-to-surface weapons in the LanceR arsenal include S-5 and S-24 unguided rockets; BEM-100 and CL-250 free fall cluster bombs; Mk82 and Mk83 (Western), FAB-100, FAB-250 and FAB-500 (Russian) and Romanian-built 100kg and 250kg conventional bombs.

Exercises and Training Câmpia Turzii Air Base is the venue for frequent joint exercises featuring allied aircraft. Exercise Dacian Eagle was the most recent event held at the Transylvanian base involved US Air Force F-15C Eagles deployed to Europe as a Theatre Support Package. Two Air National Guard units were involved; the 104th Fighter Wing from Barnes, Massachusetts and the 144th Fighter Wing from Fresno, California. Baza 71 Commander, Colonel Marius Mihai Oatu explained the usefulness of Dacian Eagle: “Our pilots familiarise themselves with operational procedures and the standard decisions to be taken during a mission, and learn the techniques, tactics and procedures of their NATO allies, as required for different types of operations. The

exercise was set up as a bilateral, total force training event to enhance interoperability with the Forţele Aeriene Române, to bolster readiness to conduct combined air operations, and participate in offensive and defensive counter air mission sets. “For US Air Force pilots these exercises provide an opportunity to operate with different types of aircraft which joined NATO in the last 10-15 years, that might be in the air fleet of countries which could be the next real enemy.” Colonel Cosma described the MiG-21 as being like a missile: “It loses energy flying at low speed, but is smaller and more difficult to acquire. Thanks to the LanceR upgrade, it can use Western weapons, which helped Romanian pilots achieve several victories in simulated combat against Western fighters. “The successes against F-15s are most notable because the Eagle is larger, with a bigger radar signature, one that can be radar detected from a greater range, before the LanceR can be engaged by the F-15s beyond visual range missiles. Aircraft such as the MiG-29 and F-16 are smaller, which due to their smaller radar signature are likely to be acquired later, which means the outcome of the fight is more uncertain.”

MiG-21 LANCER MILITARY The favourite tactic used by Escadrila 711 pilots is named the hit and run, which exploits the LanceR’s small size, high speed and limited autonomy. Despite the increased capability of the LanceR and its advancement in closing the capability gap with Western fighter aircraft, much of the edge demonstrated in aerial victories can be attributed to the quality of the training and abilities of the Romanian pilots. After graduating from the Academia Fortelor Aeriene (AFA or Air Force Academy) in Brasov, a pilot’s training usually continues at the Scoala de Aplicatie Pentru Fortele Aeriene (SAPFA or Air Force Application School) at Boboc. As first and second lieutenants, the young pilots complete their flight training on the IAR-99 SOIM, usually flying between 70 and 100 hours in accordance with established goals and objectives which takes 12 to 18 months. Upon completion, a new LanceR pilot is posted to a front line squadron to start combat training to attain mission ready and combat mission ready qualifications.

There are always two Escadrila 711 LanceRs held on quick reaction alert (QRA) at Câmpia Turzii; air defence is the squadron’s primary mission. All pilots assigned to QRA duty undergo 24 months of special training which is divided into two stages. Stage 1 involves all aspects of the air defence mission and comprises 100 flight hours. Stage 2 covers different tactics used to intercept a threat aircraft and takes 80 flight hours. The pilot is declared combat ready for the QRA mission after the successful completion of Stage 2. Four LanceRs from Baza 71 Aeriana, held NATO’s Baltic Air Policing mission between 5 August and November 2007 at Siauliai Air Base in Lithuania. Ground attack training, the secondary role of Escadrila 711, is conducted on the firing ranges at Bogata and Cincu.

New Fighters In 2013, the Bucharest government signed a contract with the Portuguese



Government for the supply of 12 former Força Aerea Portuguesa F-16s; nine singleseat F-16As and three two-seat F-16Bs. The contract included the modification and upgrade of the aircraft to mid-life upgrade standard, additional engines, logistic support, pilot and crew training in Portugal and spares. The contract also covers AIM9M Sidewinder and AIM-120C AMRAAM air-to-air missiles, 1,000lb GBU-12 laserguided bombs and AGM-65 Maverick air-to-surface missiles. The first FAR F-16 landed at Baza 86 Aeriana, located in Borcea-Fetesti, in September (see Carpathian Vipers, p88-91). As for the future of the LanceR, those aircraft previously assigned to Baza 86 Aeriana, will be transferred to Baza 71 Aeriana until 2020 when the type is scheduled to be retired, ending a service career that started in February 1962.

3 A LanceR assigned to Baza 71 Aeriana on patrol in Romanian airspace. 4 LanceR 9536 taxiing at Câmpia Turzii for a training mission. 5 A pilot adjusts his DASH helmet. 6 Commander of Escadrila 711, Colonel Cosma briefing with his crew chief after a mission. 4



Mark Ayton visits Edwards Air Force Base, California, where a few good people are making the F-22 Raptor even more combat capable

Testing the C


lossy magazine features about the F-22 Raptor tend to focus on the combat-coded wings and their operations in the continental United States and overseas. Not this one. Like all other combat types in the US Air Force inventory, the F-22 has a System Program Office (SPO) based at WrightPatterson Air Force Base near Dayton, Ohio. The Ohio-based F-22 SPO directs developmental test (DT) and operational test (OT) through two major commands: Air Force Materiel Command and Air Combat Command respectively. F-22 OT is undertaken by the 422nd Test and Evaluation Squadron based at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada. F-22 DT is the mission of the rarely reported on 411th Flight Test Squadron (FLTS), based at Edwards Air Force Base


home of the Air Force Test Center. The 411th FLTS has been involved with the F-22 since September 1990 when it conducted the official Department of Defense fly-off for the then Advanced Tactical Fighter program between the Lockheed YF-22 and Northrop YF-23 prototypes. No prize for identifying the winner of that competition. In February 1998, the 411th FLTS accepted F-22 Engineering, Manufacturing and Development (EMD) aircraft 91-4001 on to its books. That aeroplane, delivered to Edwards by a C-5 Galaxy, was the first of nine EMD aircraft used for the F-22 DT programme completed in December 2004. Since Christmas of that year, the 411th has undertaken all subsequent DT test events required by the SPO. At the end of 2016, the squadron’s bread and butter work, some of its most exciting yet, certainly in terms of the aircraft’s increased capabilities, is testing the latest F-22 hardware and software introduced on the Raptor under Increment 3.2B.

Raptor Upgrades When the F-22 was given its initial operational capability declaration in December 2005, the first combat-coded Raptors were assigned to Air Combat Command’s 27th Fighter Squadron ‘Fighting Eagles’ based at Langley Air Force Base, Virginia. Back in the early 2000s, weapon system programmes, including the F-22 Raptor, were upgraded under a system called spiral development. Under the Raptor’s original modernisation programme, the first upgrade was dubbed – no kidding – Spiral 2. By the mid-2000s, US Department of Defense policy changed on the F-22, after which subsequent major combat capability upgrades were called increments and all sub-set changes are called updates. Today, as was the case at the time of the policy change, an update is a fix to an existing problem. Spiral 2 introduced the capability to deliver a Joint Direct Attack Munition supersonically. Increment 3.1, the first major combat capability operational flight programme


F-22 91-4009/ED releases a GBU-31 JDAM; the first airto-surface weapon cleared for operational use on the Raptor.

Combat Edge (OFP) upgrade, introduced new sensor tasking. No one from the Edwards-based F-22 Combined Test Force (CTF) would discuss specifics of Increment 3.1. Based on information from the FY2012, FY2013, FY2014 and FY2015 Annual Reports by the US Department of Defense’s Director, Operational Test and Evaluation Increment 3.1 provides enhanced air-to-ground capability including geo-location of selected emitters, electronic attack, and air-to-ground Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) mapping, which gives the F-22 pilot the ability to selfdesignate a target using a SAR map. Another part of 3.1 was the introduction of an electronic attack capability for the Northrop Grumman APG-77 active electronically scanned array multimode, multitarget interleaved search/track, all-weather fire-control radar. Increment 3.1 also included integration of the GBU-39 small-diameter bomb, a mediumrange stand-off glide weapon. F-22 capabilities outlined in this feature were reported in the FY2012, FY2013,

FY2014 and FY2015 Annual Reports by the Department of Defense’s Director, Operational Test and Evaluation, and were in no way confirmed or denied by the 411th FLTS or 412th Test Wing. The 411th started testing Increment 3.1 in 2009; the first upgraded aircraft field by the US Air Force was Block 30 F-22 06-4115 assigned to the 525th Fighter Squadron based at Elmendorf Air Force Base, Alaska, in March 2012. Air Combat Command’s F-22 capability requirements list required further improvements to such an extent that Increment 3.2, the follow-on OFP, was so extensive the F-22 SPO opted for two phases: Increment 3.2A and Increment 3.2B. Increment 3.2A, fielded in August 2015, involved further changes to the aircraft’s EW system, communication and identification capabilities, using the Joint Tactical Information Display System (JTIDS) in receiveonly mode and fusing the JTIDS’s feed to the main cockpit display. In general, and not specific to the F-22, a JTIDS feed provides

voice, navigation, positioning and target identification data in a jam-resistant digital format. Prior to development of Increment 3.2A, the Raptor’s JTIDS feed was displayed independently from sensor-fused data. Increment 3.2A added the military grid reference system (MGRS). This was introduced in response to an operational request from Air Combat Command to meet the needs of F-22 operations over Iraq and Syria; the system is already being used in combat. Lockheed Martin’s F-22 Chief Test Pilot Steve Rainey said: “MGRS is important for interoperability of ground forces and aircraft providing air support. The US Army uses MGRS to direct fire support on to a target. Prior to 3.2A Update 5.2 we didn’t have MGRS in the F-22 because it was not designed to be a close air support aircraft, and we used lat-longs for targeting. MGRS simply allows us to use the same coordinate system used by coalition ground forces without the need to translate between MGRS and lat-longs.



F-22 91-4009/ED releases four GBU-39 test vehicles over the Pacific Sea Test Range off the coast of southern California. This was the first four-bomb ripple release of GBU-39s undertaken as part of the Increment 3.2A test programme. David Henry/F-22 Combined Test Force

Integration of MGRS is the one of the most recent requests received from Air Combat Command to date.” Major Lee Bryant, Director of Operations, 411th FLTS, added: “The success for the F-22 programme was the quick turnaround response. From the point when we received the MGRS test plan, we were able to conduct it within a short space of time and field it to the units downrange. The MGRS was successfully used by F-22s in combat for the first time in the summer of 2016.” Steve Rainey continued: “It’s a big deal because MGRS was a new, relatively small and easy capability addition that has significant impact for combat air forces and was developed, tested, and fielded in a short time, in response to requirements from the field.” Major Bryant further added: “A JTAC [Joint Terminal Attack Controller] can pull MGRS coordinates from his map and communicates them to the F-22 pilot for input into the weapon’s guidance.” The MGRS is a kilometre-based worldwide grid reference system designed to pinpoint geospatial points. When an MGRS-generated coordinate is received, the pilot is able to use the data without the need to convert the information into a lat-long position appropriate for entering into the weapon’s guidance system. Conversion can potentially delay the kill chain. In the past, battle space information received via JTIDS was rated as substandard, compared to the information generated by the F-22’s own sensors. Now the F-22’s mission system validates the quality of the JTIDS data


F-22 RAPTOR MILITARY received and only fuses validated data into the display, which is beneficial and important for targeting.

Increment 3.2B As with Increment 3.1, no one from the Edwards-based F-22 CTF would discuss specifics about Increment 3.2B. According to a 2014 Department of Defense Select Acquisition Board report, Increment 3.2B integrates AIM9X Sidewinder Block II and AIM-120D AMRAAM, further improves the electronic protection (EP) capability over Increment 3.2A, enhances the F-22’s geolocation capability from the Increment 3.1 baseline with the addition of Geolocation 2, integrates the enhanced stores management system (ESMS, see later), which is required to integrate any new weapon on the F-22 beyond Increment 3.1, improves the intra-flight datalink (IFDL) with greater bandwidth to enable cooperative functions required to realise Increment 3.2B candidates. In terms of software, Increment 3.2B includes the development, certification and integration of a new OFP to ensure system interoperability and performance of all increment-level or upgrade developments. F-22 capabilities outlined in this feature were also reported in the FY2012, FY2013, FY2014 and FY2015 Annual Reports by the Department of Defense’s Director, Operational Test and Evaluation, and were in no way confirmed or denied by the 411th FLTS or 412th Test Wing. The Edwards-based F-22 Combined

Test Force (CTF), which includes the 411th FLTS, is conducting full-up testing of Increment 3.2B to assess the upgrade using operationally significant ground and flight test scenarios to identify performance deficiencies. Discussing Increment 3.2B, Steve Rainey said the latest OFP adds a lot of new avionics radar functionality, full functionality of the AIM-9X Sidewinder (3.2A provided partial functionality) and integration of the AIM-120D AMRAAM missile. Testing software and hardware in Increment 3.2B is the biggest part of the 411th’s current test workload. Software testing involves not only evaluation of the new capabilities, but also concurrent regression testing of existing capabilities, while the hardware testing for a new missile includes the usual mix of weapons integration events: structures, loads, captive carriage, separation and live fire of the AIM-9X Sidewinder and AIM-120D AMRAAM. Under 3.2B the F-22 has a new enhanced stores management system simply called ESMS, a requirement needed for the aircraft to keep pace with increased data throughput. Details of the ESMS were not provided by the F-22 CTF, but AIR International understands the system monitors and controls launchers, weapon bay doors and weapons, prioritises dispensation of countermeasures, and controls emergency jettison of stores. Continuing the discussion about 3.2B improvements, Rainey and Bryant understandably declined to discuss

improvements being made to the avionics and APG-77 radar capabilities. In mid-August, the US Air Force made the milestone C decision for Increment 3.2B. Milestone C gives the go-ahead for low-rate initial production. The decision-makers had enough confidence in the testing completed to date to go into low-rate initial production. Major Bryant explained how the decision is based on the assessment of technical risk: “Is the test programme sufficiently mature to proceed to actually start building components?” The 411th FLTS has four F-22s assigned: three Block 10 aircraft (91-4006, 91-4007 and 91-4009) and one Block 30 jet (07-4132). Blocks indicate the hardware configuration of the aircraft at the time it was rolled out of the factory at Marietta, Georgia. Updates and increments require the original hardware configuration to be changed on the modification line, which is now located at a purpose-built facility at Hill Air Force Base, Utah. All four of the 411th’s aircraft are configured to Increment 3.2B standard and will be used for the remaining nine months of the test campaign.

Missile Tests The 411th FLTS first conducted structures testing of the AIM-9X in 2009 as part of the flight sciences portion of the Increment 3.2A DT test programme. Structures was followed by loads and separations testing. By comparison the AIM-120D, introduced with 3.2B, has no loads testing requirement because the missile has the same fit and

The 411th Flight Test Squadron is currently conducting missile launches of the Dmodel of the AIM-120 AMRAAM missile as part of the Increment 3.2B test programme. Matthew Short/F-22 Combine Test Force



1 The AIM-9 Sidewinder air-to-air missile has been carried by F-22s since the type’s initial operational capability declaration in December 2005. Today the 411th Flight Test Squadron is testing the AIM-9X version which features jet vane control. Jonathan Case/F-22 Combined Test Force 2 Seven F-22 Raptors parked on the 411th Flight Test Squadron flight line on August 10, 2016. Interestingly, the aircraft third in from the camera, F-22 07-4132/ED, is shown with an external weapon load comprising a single AIM-9X Sidewinder and a single AIM-120D AMRAAM carried on a guided missile launcher fitted to the left wing underwing pylon. Christian Turner/US Air Force


form as the earlier AIM-120C-series already fielded on the F-22. The 411th launched the first AIM-120D in 2015 and has completed six to date. Major Bryant said 411th flight test engineers devote a lot of effort to ensure a new missile like the AIM-120D is fielded to the Combat Air Forces in the cheapest way possible. This is achieved by minimising the number of missiles launched: “Firing a missile is one of the most expensive tests we perform, [so] our test

procedures seek to test everything we can before firing a missile. Actual missile shots are the validation and verification events for all of the data collected up until that point. The test process itself is structured so the high-dollar shots are the last events undertaken in each test programme.” Steve Rainey: “If some objectives that also achieve some of the OT objectives can be accomplished in a DT-orientated, instrumented manner, we try to include



them into the DT test programme. It’s a structured and well-thought-out approach amongst the DT and OT test teams.”

Directives Speaking about the organisation of the F-22 CTF and whom the respective components take their directives from, Steve Rainey explained its joint nature: “The original CTF director Lt Col Al Kohn (Retired) was here recently. He started what we call the purple suit team. We’ve had CTFs for years, but Al’s vision was to have one test team that was transparent. He referred to the personnel as purple suits [purple signifying a joint organisation]. “That said, there are certain functions, as a contractor, I’m not allowed to sign – for example, flight authorisation, which is an air force function. As the contractor, Lockheed Martin maintains the aircraft, so all of the changes made to each aircraft’s configuration have to be signed off by me. But from the big team perspective, if somebody wants to know something about flying test missions, they can, for example, ask Major Bryant or me. It doesn’t matter what colour suit you wear, who you work for, we have one objective: to make sure the combat air forces have the best F-22s possible.” Test tasking is decided by the F-22 SPO based on Air Combat Command’s requirements. The SPO forms contracts for each increment or update with Lockheed Martin and Boeing. Using Increment 3.2B as an example, the contract dictated what capabilities were to be in 3.2B. Once the contract is in place, developers and the DT test team then decide what’s required to test the capabilities, validate all of the work and write the test plan.


This has to be vetted by a technical review board from the 412th Test Wing, the test organisation based at Edwards. Once the test plan has passed its review, as part of test mission planning, the F-22 test pilots and flight test engineers review all of the safety issues involved before the test plan is vetted by a safety review board. The review board comprises members of the F-22 SPO, Lockheed Martin and the Air Force Test Center, the owner of the 412th Test Wing, which in turn owns the test processes and procedures that allow the 411th FLTS to fly. Steve Rainey continued: “Once the test plan and the safety plan are approved, CTF engineers meet regularly to decide on the style and approach of the flight testing. Flight testing proposals are then discussed in detail during scheduling meetings, where direction is given by either myself or Major Bryant.”

Performance Having witnessed a number of highperformance take-offs by F-22s at Edwards, all of which were very impressive to watch, the author asked Major Bryant and Steve Rainey why these took place. Both pilots smiled and jokingly said: “Because it’s fun.” No kidding, but there are reasons for performance take-offs, as Steve Rainey explained: “When we conduct a functional check flight [FCF] in the F-16, we perform a quick climb to get into the ejection envelope as quickly as possible: a position from where you can either eject quickly in a safe mode so you get more than one swing, or you can get the aircraft to a base key position from where you might be able to land as quickly as possible after an engine failure on take off. Typically, we don’t do that in the F-22, because there is so much thrust

on the aeroplane that if you lose an engine it’s not a dire emergency and the jet can safely be recovered with a single engine.” Steve also explained one type of departure that’s possible but not cleared at Edwards due to noise restrictions: “The F-22 has a supersonic optimum climb profile to get you to altitude in the absolute fastest way possible and with the most range, so if you were launching against an inbound threat that’s the profile you’d want to use. The profile puts you supersonic very shortly after the end of the runway.” The discussion moved to the types of manoeuvres only seen by the public during an F-22 demonstration flown by the Air Combat Command demo pilot. Each year when Air Combat Command’s new F-22 demo pilot comes on board, the pilot receives a training session in the Lockheed Martin simulator at Fort Worth specifically to experience every aspect of how the aircraft flies and to cover some emergencies. He said the F-16 has critical action procedures that the pilot has to memorise because there may not be time to refer to a checklist in the event of an in-flight emergency: “There is no bold face in the F-22, no critical action procedures, because it pretty much takes care of you; but there are a couple of emergencies that only come about if the aircraft is close to the ground and an engine fails. The demo pilot needs to see each emergency once, so I put him through the training and show him the steps required in the unlikely event of such an emergency.”

Hand-in-hand The 411th FLTS works closely with Air Combat Command’s OT squadron, the 422nd TES based at Nellis. All new software

sets undergo a safety of test certification with the 411th as early as possible, so the 422nd can load and operate at least one of its F-22s with the update. This helps the F-22 programme in a number of ways, as Major Bryant explained: “When the 411th conducts flight testing, the test process is conducted in accordance with a detailed and scripted test plan that tells us what to look for. Remember we look at the minutiae; the detail to ensure everything is fitting together well. Once we’ve cleared the new software for safety of flight, the 422nd can fly it in a more operational representative way, and sometimes find faults and issues by virtue of flying the aircraft. OT pilots highlight any issue they find and notify the programme. Then DT will test the fault or issue with one of the 411th’s instrumented aircraft to try and get more data on the specific fault. “Operational testers can conduct some test events during the DT phase. Bringing them in early to participate in test missions already paid for by the 411th allows them to gather some of their data requirements, which reduces the cost of the OT programme.” Cooperation between the two units goes further. A US Air Force Test Pilot School (TPS) graduate is assigned to Nellis to help integrate DT-OT test efforts. When an issue is identified during DT testing, especially one deemed as significant for the OT test programme, the pilot assigned to Nellis is able to perform additional and more scripted flight tests and highlight the problem to the 422nd on site. In a bestcase scenario, the process can lead to a fix before the product reaches the OT testers. A cleaner product should reduce the length of the OT test programme.





Andreas Spaeth sees Alitalia’s new training centre at work on a visit to Rome and finds out how the carrier wants to become Europe’s best airline Alitalia’s revised colour scheme on A330 I-EJGB (msn 831). Alitalia


ope Francis has a problem. The pontiff is a frequent flyer on Alitalia, mostly on long haul. And Alitalia’s premium service is of such high class that the Holy Father deems it to be too luxurious. “The Pope wants his meal to be served on a tray, but in our business class we have now abandoned tray service and serve everything à la carte at your seat,“ says Barbara Accardi, Senior Manager in Alitalia’s new training centre at Rome’s Fiumicino Airport.


Flights for papal trips are chartered by the Vatican, and routinely they were very lavish affairs. For the predecessors of the current Pope – for example the trip of Benedict to Cuba in 2012 – the whole front of a Boeing 777 cabin had to be remodelled. All seats were removed and in came a proper bed and a studio with work desks and meeting tables, with religious icons from a cross to ancient paintings installed in the cabin. None of this happens any more, according to Accardi: “Francis insists on the same cabin as usual and doesn’t want any other privileges.”

Reset Mode The change is just one of many at Alitalia. Since January 2015, the Etihad Group of Abu Dhabi has held a 49% share in the perennially loss-making Italian state airline it bought for €560 million, and which since its foundation in 1946 has only made a profit in one year, 1998. Since Etihad came on board, everything has been in reset mode. In June 2015, Alitalia unveiled a modernised brand identity, which keeps the famous stylised green-red ‘A’ on the aircraft tails, introduced in 1970 for the first Boeing 747. Brand new in summer 2016 were the elegant uniforms by Milan-


based designer Ettore Bilotta, in red for flight attendants and green for ground staff. With Alitalia now featuring exclusive home-grown products such as the uniforms and make-up with the claim ‘Made in Italy’ – the carrier wants to demonstrate it will again be a force to be reckoned with. Or, as Chief Customer Officer Aubrey Tiedt put it in an interview with AIR International in Rome: “I want Alitalia to be recognised as the best airline in Europe.” If that happens it will be to a large part thanks to Tiedt. The charismatic, fast-talking Irishwoman with more than 25 years of industry experience under her belt, was

essential in creating the current brand and product of Etihad, having worked in Abu Dhabi for years. She has also created totally new brands for the Etihad Group such as Air Serbia and Etihad Regional, and given major makeovers to others like Air Seychelles. “When we took a stake in Alitalia it was clear this couldn’t be done from Abu Dhabi,” says Tiedt. So, she moved to Rome in 2015 on a three-year secondment and started her work alongside Cramer Ball, the new Chief Executive Officer, who led other Etihad partners like Air Seychelles and Jet Airways. “Our goal is profitability, not break-even, and we are on track for profitability in 2017,” Ball states.

In 2015, losses shrunk from €580 million in the previous year to €199.1 million. Chairman Luca de Montezemolo says: “Few airlines have undergone such radical change as the new Alitalia. We are delivering on our promise to create a world class airline.”

Long Haul Makeover This year €400 million has been invested, of which €240 million went into more aircraft (an additional A330 and another 777-200ER will be added in 2017) and a refurbishment of cabin interiors on long haul. Alitalia now offers business class on its 24 long-haul aircraft (14 A330-200s and ten 777-200ERs).




For the refurbishment, and not least because of cost reasons, Alitalia opted for evolution instead of revolution. It kept the same Sogerma Solstys seats (incidentally, the same model used in Etihad’s aircraft) and had them upgraded with an elegant cover of fine leather by the Italian brand Poltrona Frau. Alitalia’s focus is on growing the long-haul business, which accounts for only 17% of its seats (domestic seats still account for 54%, making Alitalia vulnerable against low-cost carrier competition). This is reflected in the fleet composition: the 24 long-haul aircraft compare to 98 jets for short and mediumhaul routes. Alitalia has been expanding its long-haul network in 2016, with new routes to Beijing, Havana, Mexico City and Santiago de Chile, Mexico were launched.

A Different Brand Executives from the new Alitalia state time and again that it is independent, not just a branch of Etihad, as critics have argued.




Tiedt asks: “Alitalia is a different brand, a different personality and has a different kind of customer than Etihad, so do we actually need apartments and studios on long haul as Etihad?”. And she stresses that although there are things she would love to have for the airline, from a spa in the lounge to virtual reality for crew training, they are things Alitalia cannot afford. She says: “We are only half way into our turnaround with another 18 months to go, it’s not like we have loads of money so we have to be innovative.” In contrast to a newly-founded company like Etihad, she can rely on the natural resources of Alitalia. Most of all, its experienced staff. The average age of the 3,500 cabin crewmembers is 38 years, unusually high for the industry. Despite hard times and repeated nearbankruptcies, the loyalty of employees is high. Now the aim is to bring out the abilities, talents and self-confidence that had been lost or neglected.

“Our crews are knowledgeable, they have experience, but there was zero confidence before,” observes Tiedt. “And if they don’t have the confidence to use their potential, nothing happens.” Tiedt likens Alitalia to an unpolished raw diamond at the time she started.

Training Academy One of the most important investments overall was the opening of the €5 million Alitalia Excellence Training Academy in Fiumicino. There was nothing like it before. One of Europe’s biggest airlines simply didn’t do any training for crews and other service staff in dealing with customers. Accardi explains: “It ended in the early 1990s, afterwards there was just safety training and refresher courses as well as initial training for beginners. Otherwise you would just train on a computer or it was simply learning by doing. Service training was just regarded as a cost factor, and costs always had to be cut, while today it’s a totally different philosophy


3 1 Much of Alitalia’s route network is short and medium haul, served by a fleet of A320 Family aircraft, pictured here, and E-Jets. Alitalia 2 This year has seen two more A330s join the fleet as Alitalia looks to grow in long-haul; another will arrive in 2017. Andreas Spaeth 3 An air stewardess applying ‘Rosso Alitalia’ – a specially-created lipstick that’s part of a major brand revamp. Andreas Spaeth 4 Alitalia is seeking to grow its long-haul business and has introduced a new business class on its A330s and Boeing 777s. Alitalia

Alitalia currently operates 78 A320 Family aircraft on its European network, including A320 EI-DSY (msn 3666). Alitalia

and it’s seen as investment.” Interestingly, Alitalia did not hire any outside trainers. Instead employees could apply to become trainers, and 300 wanted to coach their colleagues. It’s a novelty to train ground and cabin staff in integrated classes of 16, providing interesting insights and mutual understanding. All people involved in the service chain, even the drivers of Alitalia’s own passenger buses on the ramp, have been trained at the Academy since September 2015. “Training is supposed to be fun, not boring”, says Accardi. That’s exactly what the visitor to the academy encounters. There is even a room where the ladies learn how to apply make-up – the new corporate lipstick in a colour called ‘Rosso Alitalia’, created by Diego Dalla Palma in Milan and soon to be available in retail. Or at the food presentation, where almost everything on any plate or in any glass hails from Italy. Tiedt says: “We can draw on this Italianness. Hospitality is already there, the people are very warm, family-oriented, love good food, everywhere in the world people love Italy,

ALITALIA FACTS AND FIGURES IATA code: AZ ICAO code: AZA Ownership: 51% Compagnia Aerea Italiana, 49% Etihad Operations started: May 5, 1947 (old Alitalia), January 1, 2015 (Alitalia – Societá Aerea Italiana) Staff: 11,000 Passengers carried: 2015 – 22.1m, 2014 – 23.4m, 2013 – 24m Fleet: 5 Embraer E175s, 15 E190s, 22 Airbus A319s, 44 A320s, 12 A321s, 14 A330-200s, 11 Boeing 777-200ERs On order: 1 A330-200, 1 777-300ER Hub: Rome-Fiumicino Network: 97 destinations worldwide, of which 27 are domestic within Italy Financial performance: 2015 – €199.1 million loss; 2014 – €580m loss.

that’s a big asset.” It is not all smooth sailing at Alitalia yet, as the looming threat of pilots’ strikes have shown. But the first achievements have become visible. The market share of Alitalia on flights to and from Italy rose by four to 30% in 2015. In May 2016, customer satisfaction was at 91.4%, the highest score since surveys started in 2012. “It’s a completely different airline than 12 months ago, how the staff behave, how they talk, how they walk, it’s been a tremendous change,” states Tiedt. But that’s not a reason for her to rest on her laurels: “We now have to build more consistency across what we do, and review the offerings on our narrowbody and short haul fleet. We need more investment on our digital side and finish the rest of the 777 fleet with connectivity, also there are two big lounges coming up here in Rome.” These lounges are now called ‘Casa Alitalia’ and have a similar concept to Etihad’s lounges, working with open kitchens. In Rome and Milan-Malpensa, pasta and pizza are freshly prepared on the spot. Almost a pity, then, that Pope Francis won’t experience this.




uma, Arizona is a city with a history, which in part is territorial; the city is built on land which was once part of California, then New Mexico and, since 1863, the state of Arizona. Anyone familiar with the Yuma area will know it’s a hot dusty place; the highest recorded temperature is 124°F (51°C) and the average summer temperature is a touch above 106°F (41°C).

Yuma’s dusty environmental credentials come from its location in the Sonoran Desert. It’s also located on the banks of the Colorado River, the water source for the extensive farmlands throughout the river valley. Yuma’s a tough place to live, not just because of the heat, but also because of its struggling economy. It is however a fascinating place to visit. By far the largest employer in the city is Marine Corps Air Station Yuma; the US Marine Corps’ largest aviation training base. Although AV-8B Harrier and F-35B Lightning II squadrons assigned to the resident Marine Aircraft

CH-53E Super Stallions refuel from a KC-130J during FINEX 3 on October 22, 2016. Lance Cpl

Andrew Huff/US Marine Corps

Mark Ayton visited US Marine Corps’ weapons school to cover the latest evolution of its seven-week course known as WTI

Yuma In a Town called


US MARINE CORPS WEAPONS SCHOOL MILITARY Group 13 conduct plenty of flying from the massive base, one unit conducts more training than most aviation squadrons in the entire Marine Corps. And here’s the interesting point; that one squadron doesn’t have a single aircraft assigned. Equally, it’s not a standard squadron but one that’s a school house running two annual flying exercises. Each exercise can legitimately be considered as two giant combat experiments, both conducted under stringent flight safety procedures. The squadron is Marine Aviation Weapons and Tactics Squadron 1 (MAWTS-1). The flying exercise is WTI.

That said, it’s not classed as an exercise but the US Marine Corps’ Weapons and Tactics Instructor course; seven weeks of gruelling, stressful effort undertaken by Marine Corps officers selected to attend the course. You might be thinking WTI is just for pilots but that’s not the case. WTI is attended by students from all functions required to support and conduct Marine Corps flight operations. Colonel James Wellons, an AV-8B Harrier pilot with combat experience who served with the squadron as an instructor between 2003 and 2006, took command

of MAWTS-1 in May 2016. WTI 1-17 was his first course in command. That’s a lot of responsibility. WTI 1-17 involved 84 aircraft, just about every weapons system in the Marine Corps’ inventory, and 5,000 Marines operating at different stages of the course in California, Nevada and New Mexico. Col Wellons said: “It takes time to digest because it’s important the CO and the staff have a clear understanding of what’s happening so we can manage risk with all of the marines and assets conducting highend training.”


MILITARY US MARINE CORPS WEAPONS SCHOOL 1 & 2 Marines refuel a CH-53E Super Stallion at a forward arming refuelling point at a landing zone dubbed Bull Assault in California on September 27, 2016. Cpl Aaron James Vinculado, MAWTS-1 COMCAM/US Marine Corps


MAWTS-1 is responsible for aviation weapons and tactics standardisation and employment which it delivers with each WTI course. But the squadron’s role-call also includes: • Supporting Marine Air-Ground Task Force (MAGTF) training through the Integrated Training Exercise and Large Scale Exercise programmes. • Conducting aviation training support (flight and academic) at other Marine Corps Air Stations with advanced instructor certification. • Managing aviation tactics publications. • Conducting tactical development and evaluation projects for Marine aviation.



Course One Tack Seventeen Marine aviation requires many skillsets in addition to aviators. Of the 230 students at Yuma for WTI 1-17, many were aviators but some were pilots involved in command and control, those that work in a Tactical Air Operations Centre who are responsible for procedural, and sometimes positive control of aircraft; officers involved with air defence; infantry officers; air officers who specialise in the integration of the ground and air combat elements of a MAGTF; aviation ground support; intelligence; meteorologists to name a few. “People from pretty much every role the Marine Corps needs to conduct aviation operations,” said Col Wellons.

As the keeper of the doctrine for weapons and tactics in aviation, MAWTS-1 is manned by experienced instructors, all of whom graduated at the top of their WTI class and were hand-picked for the squadron. The instructors’ objective is to train each student to a level that allows the individual to return to their unit as the WTI instructor. Each WTI instructor is responsible for imparting tactics, techniques, procedures and standardisation required to safely and effectively employ a weapons system in combat. Most students arrive at MAWTS-1 as an expert in their field and do so following preparation work undertaken by the Yumabased instructors who seek to ensure the student has all of the prerequisite

US MARINE CORPS WEAPONS SCHOOL MILITARY qualifications required. Col Wellons said in most cases, students are already seasoned flight leads with instructor and combat experience.

Student Preparation The course has a specific set of aircrew prerequisites for each type-model-series of aircraft, helicopter, tiltrotor or unmanned aerial system flown by the Marine Corps. A couple of examples. For an F/A-18 pilot to attend the WTI, he or she must have graduated from either Top Gun (the US Navy’s fighter weapons school) or the Marine Division Tactics Course (MDTC), a one-month event run by MAWTS-1 twice a year at Miramar in the spring and Beaufort in the summer. Col Wellons explained: “Our Hornet instructors go to the venue one month prior, to ensure prospective Hornet pilots are prepared before they execute the MDTC course.” For AV-8B Harrier, a pilot must be either a night systems instructor or an air combat tactics instructor. As part of the student’s preparation, instructors from MAWTS-1 visit the pilot’s squadron, whatever the type, to evaluate not just the student, but the process used by that squadron to certify pilots at all levels of the US Marine Corps’ combat training programme. The visiting MAWTS-1 instructor is then able to recommend the pilot for WTI certification, which is ultimately signed off by the pilot’s commanding officer. Col Wellons said the process is good for two reasons: “One, it gives us a chance to determine whether or not the student is ready for the gruelling demands of the course. The last thing we want is to have a student arrive who is not ready. It’s a tough course and historically we have a 3 to 5% rate of failure. Two, it gives the instructors an opportunity to fly, which is especially important because MAWTS-1 does not have aircraft assigned. “The process takes 12 months in most cases because we still have to run the WTI course twice a year. Each one requires a month of dedicated preparation and two months to conduct. So for six months of each calendar year the instructors are unavailable to visit fleet squadrons to prepare students to attend WTI.”

Departments Departments are the main organisational unit of MAWTS-1. Each department is responsible for a specific function; the rotary wing and tactical aircraft departments are further organised into divisions each of which is responsible for a specific mission set and aircraft type. The air officer course is designed to produce officers who control all of the forward air controllers in a regiment and orchestrates the integration of aviation, fires, assault support with the ground scheme of manoeuvre in a combat scenario. The air officer course is usually taken by pilots with experience of working as a forward air controller with ground units some of whom have previously been through WTI as a pilot; there are usually 12 air officer graduates per course. Air officers get posted to a variety of non-flying jobs classed as DIFDEN (duty involving flight operations denied) billets with Marine Expeditionary Units; either of the Expeditionary Warfare Training Groups; and in some cases to a rifle regimental headquarters or a division. One of the largest departments is Aviation Command, Control and Communications (C3) which has nearly 25% of the course footprint with enlisted and officer students in a variety of command and control functions. • Tactical Air Control Party (TACP) provides terminal attack control for close air support. • Tactical Air Operations Centre (TAOC) provides air surveillance and control of aircraft and surface-to-air weapons for anti-air warfare in support of the MAGTF. • Marine Air Traffic Control Mobile Team (MMT) provides air traffic control to aircraft in austere and/or improved landing environments. • Direct Air Support Center (DASC), the principal Marine air control agency, provides procedural control and routing from the operating airfield to the objective area and back. The C3 department also has a spectrum warfare division which provides a course on cyber, electronic warfare and MAGTF integration. According to Col Wellons, command and control is arguably the most important

DEPARTMENTS AND DIVISIONS IN MAWTS-1 Command Safety Administration Intelligence Ops and training Academic Rotary wing Medium assault division MV-22 Heavy assault division CH-53 Utility division UH-1 Attack division AH-1 Tactical aircraft (TACAIR) F-35B division Fighter attack/Tactical Air Control Airborne/Forward Air Control Airborne/ Reconnaissance division F/A-18 Light attack division AV-8B Electronic Warfare division EA-6B Transport division KC-130J Unmanned aerial systems division RQ-7 and RQ-21 Air officer Ground combat Aviation C3 Aviation logistics Aviation ground support Aviation tactics development and evaluation

function undertaken by the Marine Corps: “Striking targets, air refuelling aircraft and providing ISR is important but without a C3 entity that knits all of those functions together in support of the mission, then you have isolated actions taking place with no cohesive purpose.” Lastly the aviation ground support department course is taken by Marines who among many roles build airfields, lay AM-2 matting, conduct bulk fuelling of aircraft and provide air base ground defence at forward bases. Aviation ground support Marines ensure the MAGTF has all the supplies and equipment required to sustain an operation.

A UH-1Y lands at a forward arming refuelling point during an offensive air support exercise at the Chocolate Mountain Aerial Gunnery Range, California. Cpl Aaron James Vinculado, MAWTS-1 COMCAM/US Marine Corps





Course Phases The WTI courses run for about seven weeks with three specific phases: academics (generic, common and specific); flying (specific, common and generic) and the final exercise.

Academics Students start the academics phase with generic lectures covering all of the topics every student needs to know. More specifically to gain an understanding of functions that are outside of their respective field; electronic warfare and intelligence preparation of the battlefield are two examples. Academics also provides insight to all six functions of Marine aviation: assault support, anti-aircraft warfare, offensive air support,

electronic warfare, control of aircraft and missiles, and aerial reconnaissance. Day one involves an inventory examine about topics that all students are expected to know. This gives the instructors an initial snapshot of each student’s preparation for the course. Three days of academics follows, finishing with another test. Subjects include tactical risk management; teaching students to be risk managers and making them aware of the human factors that contribute to accidents. This crucial work involves the help of sports psychologists, physiologists and extreme athletes, all of whom address how to optimise performance and minimise distractions.

1, 2, 3 & 4 Marines with the 1st Transport Support Battalion prepare to externally lift a Light Armoured Vehicle during a CH-53 tactics exercise at Auxiliary Airfield II near Yuma, Arizona. SSgt Artur Shvartsberg, MAWTS-1 COMCAM/US Marine Corps 5 A UH-1Y fires flares during an offensive air support exercise. SSgt Artur Shvartsberg, MAWTS-1 COMCAM/US Marine Corps 6 An AH-1Z prepares to engage targets during an offensive air support exercise at the Chocolate Mountain Aerial Gunnery Range, California. SSgt Artur Shvartsberg, MAWTS-1 COMCAM/US Marine Corps 7 A UH-1Y engages targets during an offensive air support exercise as part of WTI 1-17. SSgt Artur Shvartsberg, MAWTS-1 COMCAM/US Marine Corps






Flying Prior to the start of the flying phase MAWTS-1 forms a maintenance department comprising around 1,000 Marines who arrive at Yuma from units based around the fleet. Flight operations last for 21 days. In contrast to the academics phase, the same three components are conducted in reverse order. Day one involves an orientation flight. The specifics component lasts for three to four days and involves type-specific flying. For example, MV-22s conduct individual MV-22 tasks such as landing in a restricted visibility scenario or conducting air delivery of equipment. In the second flying week, the course enters the common component which involves different types operating together. For example, MV-22s fly a long-range raid escorted by AH-1 attack helicopters, stop for fuel at a forward-arming and refuelling point and then go into the objective area, with air support from an unmanned aerial vehicle. In the third and fourth flying weeks, the 6 Fatigue is one of the subjects covered. In any combat environment, an individual will be fatigued and stressed. Both conditions contribute to degraded decision making. During the course, students go through a lot of stress, so MAWTS-1 staff pay a lot of attention to the relationship between stress and performance. Col Wellons said some degree of stress is important in order to perform at the highest level but underlined that lethargy does not necessarily lead to high quality performance: “An individual has to manage and departmentalise stress, so we lecture on the tools and techniques for doing that.” The common component focuses on aspects of a mission that are common to all students in each respective field. By contrast the specifics component provides detailed instruction to all students from a respective type about the aircraft, including sensors and weapons, to gain more expertise. Specifics is the smallest component of the academic phase.

course enters the generic component which involves all types and fields operating together as a MAGTF. This includes an infantry battalion of about 1,000 Marines who provide the ground manoeuvre element. The battalion’s participation adds realism to the course. One example is an air assault involving the insertion of hundreds of Marines into an objective area. Fully replicating a real combat mission is not always possible based on the amount of aircraft required which might exceed the number deployed to Yuma. To bridge any gap, MAWTS-1 can either use live virtual construct training to simulate additional assets or request additional participants from the air force, navy and army. One example in WTI 1-17 was the participation by a US Army Patriot missile battalion comprising hundreds of soldiers. The battalion deployed to WTI to complete its own training objectives, but these were enhanced by the missions staged for the course. The Patriot battalion formed part of an integrated air defence structure to defend Yuma airfield from being attacked.



MILITARY US MARINE CORPS WEAPONS SCHOOL Explaining the extent of any ground-based threat array presented, Col Wellons said the pinnacle of the training is the force-onforce aspect, the ability to execute a plan against a living, breathing, thinking enemy. He explained: “If it’s a passive or simulated enemy we learn a few lessons, but with no man in the loop, it’s hard to test tactics and how they would work in the real world. TACAIR aircraft fly to the Nellis range to utilise the robust threat array available there, while the ground forces operate in objective areas in ranges closer to Yuma. “When the infantry battalion was inserted by helicopter at Twentynine Palms [California], we used pop-up targets and ways to test their tactics, but there was no opposition manoeuvre force involved. Threats presented to the battalion included cyber, electronic warfare, air-to-air and surface-to-air. Air-to-air was provided by VMFT-401 and surface-to-air threats by Marines based at the training range. [Marine Fighter Training Squadron 401 (VMFT-401) ‘Snipers’ is a dedicated adversary unit based at Yuma, equipped with F-5N Tiger IIs]. “In some cases, the ground force uses live ammunition. An example is the air assault into Blue Mountain Airfield using MV-22s to airlift the Marines and CH-53s to lift artillery systems. AH-1 Cobras, UH-1Y Hueys, AV-8B Harriers, F-35B Lightning IIs and F/A-18 Hornets provided fire support to suppress the landing zone in advance of the troop insertion. Once in, the battalion faced a notional enemy ground force armed with artillery which moved toward the objective area to pose a direct threat to the Marine battalion. That drives a decision cycle. The battalion commanders must decide whether to defend their position or get back on the aircraft. If they opt to withdraw, the WTI students must decide how they execute that. It’s a very realistic mission and gives an idea of the complexity of the scenarios.”

Final Exercise

The final phase is known as the final exercise, dubbed FINEX, and comprises three events (FINEX 1, FINEX 2 and FINEX 3) each involving one day of flying. On day one of the final week (Monday), all 230 students are presented with a scenario and a problem statement. Their task is to determine how to conduct the FINEX 1 mission the following day (Tuesday). For WTI 1-17, this involved striking targets in the Nellis range in Nevada. If the strike is deemed successful, it triggers a battalion air assault at Twentynine Palms in California. An intelligence update is issued on day three (Wednesday) showing how the enemy has responded and what the new threat is. This requires the students to look at different objective areas for the FINEX 2 mission on day four (Thursday). All six functions of Marine aviation will be required to efficiently address the target set. FINEX 2 also includes a typical Marine special operations forces (MARSOC) mission; a simulated casualty evacuation and a scenario involving the rescue of a downed pilot shot down in the objective area. Then on the final day of flying (Saturday) everything comes together in FINEX 3 which is the culmination of all previous phases. This so-called graduation event involves an air strike on targets located deep inside enemy territory and a follow-on air assault raid. Describing FINEX 3, Col Wellons highlighted how surprises are input to the event so the students plan for a certain scenario but must be prepared to flex to an alternate. He said: “Pilots flying TACAIR jets might take off expecting to conduct close air support and in reality provide direct air support or support a downed pilot scenario. It’s one of the most challenging days of the course at a time when the students are very tired, so we have to consider the cumulative fatigue they are experiencing. That’s very similar to real combat, which impacts on their decision making ability on the last day.”

Graduation Every aspect of the WTI course is geared to time and the graduation ceremony is no different. Col Wellons and his staff have less


1 A UH-1Y engages targets during an urban close air support exercise at Yodaville near Yuma. Lance Cpl Danny Gonzalez 1st MARDIV COMCAM/US Marine Corps 2 An aviation ordnance chief supervises the first ever hot load on the F-35B Lightning II. SSgt Artur Shvartsberg, MAWTS-1 COMCAM/US Marine Corps 3 Marines conduct the first ever hot load on the F-35B Lightning II during WTI 1-17 at Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, on September 22, 2016. SSgt Artur

Shvartsberg, MAWTS-1 COMCAM/US Marine Corps


than 24 hours to tally up each student’s final course grade from the time the last aircraft lands on Saturday evening to the graduation ceremony held at 4pm on Sunday. What’s more, before the graduation ceremony can get underway, on Sunday morning all students attend a debrief for FINEX 3 to capture the lessons learnt from the last day of flying. The grading process is, however, very much in hand. When FINEX 3 starts, Col Wellons knows exactly how all of the students are doing, particularly those that are struggling. Student evaluation is updated every day of the course. In a few cases, students don’t succeed at WTI. Col Wellons said it’s hard to predict how well some

US MARINE CORPS WEAPONS SCHOOL MILITARY Marines with Echo Company, 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, 3rd Marine Division embark on an MV-22B Osprey before a marine expeditionary unit exercise at Yuma. Cpl Aaron James Vinculado, MAWTS-1/US Marine Corps

students will do, but believed there is a direct correlation between each student’s level of preparation and good performance at WTI. He added: “My staff ensures they do that to the best of their ability.” After the graduation ceremony, the clock continues to tick: the aircraft and WTIs are desperately needed at the units from which they came. Within days of graduation some students will be deployed on ships and others at locations where combat operations are ongoing.

by the squadron’s Aviation Development, Tactics and Evaluation (ADT&E) department. The ADT&E task resembles operational test but the department’s work is not part of the US Navy and US Marine Corps’ operational test community. Technology and innovation form a big part of the ADT&E department’s work; each WTI course enables MAWTS-1 to conduct tactical demonstrations of new equipment. Two examples from WTI 1-17 included the use of APKWS laser-guided rockets and hot loading of an F-35B – two events that were both undertaken for the first time in a WTI course. ADT&E subject matter experts from each Marine aviation specialised field use

Tactics, Technology and Innovation MAWTS-1 is also tasked with developing tactics for Marine aviation, a role conducted


new technologies. There are generally two classifications of technologies that MAWTS-1 can evaluate during a course – those being considered by the Department of Defense and those that are already a Program of Record and will enter service with the fleet in the future. Digital interoperability is one example of the latter. During WTI 1-17, US company IOMAX deployed two Archangel aircraft to Yuma to participate in missions under a self-funded company project. The IOMAX Archangel is not a Program of Record weapon system but a version of the Thrush S2R-660 crop duster highly-modified for the close air support role. According to Col Wellons, systems used in WTI can be under development, in the




acquisition process, under operational test, or already released to the fleet; whatever the status, the ADT&E department look at future applications. He said: “During my time as a Harrier instructor with MAWTS-1, the Litening pod was a Program of Record, but we were constantly looking at ways to improve the interface between the pod and the cockpit. Northrop Grumman visited MAWTS-1 to discuss the pod’s advancement with test pilots from China Lake and Patuxent River and the squadron’s instructors. Experiences [of using the Litening pod] were discussed and how we would like the display modified to enhance the pilot’s situational awareness. MAWTS-1 has the experience and agility to make such inputs and see them potentially incorporated into a mature programme.”

New Types, New Capabilities Explaining how the course accommodates new capabilities provided by new types like the MV-22B and F-35B, Col Wellons said the



collaboration between MAWTS-1 staff and the aviation department, Headquarters US Marine Corps, is key. Each type has a small team that is responsible for managing the programme. That team, in conjunction with the Marine Corps Development Command based at Quantico, Virginia, develop concepts of employment for all aircraft. Each programme team provides MAWTS-1 with the Marine Corps’ concept of employment for a given aircraft. In addition, MAWTS-1 works with the test community based at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Maryland and Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake, California and VMX-1 at Yuma to get early insight of the aircraft and its capabilities. By understanding the aircraft, its capabilities and its concept of employment, the instructors with MAWTS-1 are able to create a syllabus to optimise the capability of the aircraft and when it’s integrated with the other types in the Air Combat Element.

One example involved the cruise speeds of the AH-1Z Cobra and MV-22B Osprey. One of the Cobra’s tasks is armed escort for Ospreys, but the MV-22’s 280kts (518km/h) cruise speed is much faster than the AH-1Z at 139kts (257km/h). On an armed escort mission, the Osprey outpaces its escort ship which could leave the less well-armed MV-22 vulnerable. A situation not acceptable to the Marine Corps, and one that the smart thinking Marines at MAWTS-1 were tasked to overcome by developing tactical employment methods to avoid vulnerability and achieve mission success. The solution has been successfully implemented. And the work does not stop once a new type, like the MV-22, has entered service. Constant changes in operating environments, technology and weapons deem it necessary for instructors and staff working in all of the different aircraft divisions at MAWTS-1 to continuously re-write standard operating procedures. Col Wellons described the work

US MARINE CORPS WEAPONS SCHOOL MILITARY 1 CH-53E Super Stallions prepare to land at Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms, California during FINEX 1. Lance Cpl Danny Gonzalez 1st MARDIV COMCAM/US Marine Corps

2 An MV-22 crew chief with VMM-162, surveys the flight line during a training event dubbed Assault Support Tactics 3. Lance Cpl Danny Gonzalez 1st MARDIV COMCAM/US Marine Corps

3 An MV-22B Osprey refuels from a KC-130J during a WTI 1-17 mission. Lance Cpl Danny Gonzalez 1st MARDIV COMCAM/US Marine Corps

4 A CH-53E Super Stallion lands with a crate of 155mm ammunition during a CH-53 battle drill exercise at Fire Base Burt. Lance Cpl Danny Gonzalez 1st MARDIV COMCAM/US Marine Corps

5 A CH-53E Super Stallion lands at Yuma Proving Ground in a cloud of dust and dirt. Lance Cpl Danny Gonzalez, MAWTS-1 COMCAM/US Marine Corps

6 Marines with 1st Battalion, 11th Marine Regiment watch as a CH-53E Super Stallion lands with a M777 Howitzer during a CH-53 battle drill exercise at Fire Base Burt, in the Chocolate Mountain Aerial Gunnery Range. Lance Cpl Danny Gonzalez 1st MARDIV COMCAM/US Marine Corps


as one of the exciting aspects of MAWTS-1: “We’re in a community within the Department of Defense that is on the leading edge of determining how the Marine Corps will fight with the new types. The WTI course is training designed to prepare WTI officers to lead their individual units, but it’s also a giant combat experiment. We perform a mission in the way we think makes sense, against a realistic threat array akin to the real world, and measure losses. If we notionally lose any aircraft to a manpad [man-portable airdefence system], during the mission debrief we try to determine what went wrong. Did we not execute our tactics correctly or are we using the wrong tactics? That process happens continuously throughout the course.” “MAWTS-1 holds a hot wash after each course; one of the most important week’s worth of work in the year. The staff look at every single thing we did in the course and the critiques provided by the students from every class on the course. We scrub those things and are very hard on ourselves and address the tough questions. Why did we fall short in one area or not achieve mission success? What do we need to do to make it better next time?” Because of this exacting process, each subsequent course is subtly different to the previous edition, although the syllabus looks very similar. The challenge for the squadron staff is striking a balance between implementing subtle differences to the course while still achieving all of the requirements. Consideration is given to the impact of removing events, and whether that decision makes the course tactically unsound for a follow-on mission requirement. The staff must also avoid potential surprises faced by the WTI officers in a real world situation because something was missed on the course. Similar processes are also undertaken for all new munitions and weapons. Col Wellons stressed that the W in WTI stands for weapons and it is a big aspect of the course. No kidding. During 21 days of flying

for WTI 1-17, aircraft assigned to MAWTS-1 dropped nearly 500,000lb (227,000kg) of ordnance which included every weapon in the inventory. Statistics are recorded for the performance of every single weapon dropped including the effect on target. Was it a direct hit and if not how far was the miss? “We assess the statistics, course by course, year by year, to see if we did better in the live course. Operations analysts track the data which is reported to the department responsible for ordnance.” Each course yields a massive evaluation of the weapons dropped and each weapon type’s suitability for strike requirement by front line pilots. The data is used by MAGTF commanders to inform their decisions for which weapons are carried in combat.


Amphibious Warfare To support the Marine Corps’ amphibious warfare capability during the desert-locked training undertaken for the WTI course, MAWTS-1 has a scenario that overlays the entire course. Mexico, which is a few miles south of Yuma, is considered to be an ocean, so that naval warfare is incorporated to the course in a scenariodriven manner. Another event that brings the naval component into the course is MEUEX (Marine Expeditionary Unit exercise) which involves staging long-range raids using AV-8Bs, F-35Bs and MV-22s launched from simulated ships under the command of the C3 division. A US Navy TACRON (tactical air control squadron) based in San Diego deploys to Yuma to provide a quality assurance check on how a raid is launched from a landing strip which looks like a Landing Helicopter Dock amphibious assault ship, located out in the field. Col Wellons expects future courses to include more simulated naval assets and foresees potential for deploying to the west coast to conduct missions that involve US Navy units including command and control.




New Falcons


Martin Scharenborg and Ramon Wenink visited the Joint Multinational Readiness Center in Germany, a unit equipped with UH-72A Lakotas

t is a warm and busy day at the Joint Multinational Readiness Center (JMRC) in Hohenfels, close to the city of Regensburg in southern Bavaria, Germany. While new troops are checking in for Exercise Sabre Junction 2016, a formation of ten Sikorsky UH-60A Blackhawks, led by a UH-72A Lakota of JMRC’s Falcon Team, is doing a familiarisation flight over the vast training areas in preparation for the upcoming exercise. With on average ten to 12 exercises annually and a growing number of international participants, the Falcon Team is busier than ever before.


Strong Presence Following the Cold War period, US Army Europe (USAREUR) initially maintained a strong presence especially in the southern part of Germany. With shifting priorities, budget cuts and conflicts in the Middle East, USAREUR was gradually reduced from 213,000 troops in 1990 to 28,000 in 2015. This transformation included the closure of around 740 sites across Europe, ranging from housing areas to airfields. Currently USAREUR is concentrating its assets in Germany at Ansbach, Baumholder, Grafenwöhr, Hohenfels, Kaiserslautern,

Stuttgart and Wiesbaden. Other locations include Vicenza in Italy and a handful of NATO support sites in Belgium and the Netherlands. The aim is for a smaller but more efficient force that currently consists of two Brigade Combat Teams (BCT), one Combat Aviation Brigade (CAB) and supporting units. To maintain a skilled, flexible and efficient combat force that can execute a wide variety of missions ranging from medevac to full scale combat like that undertaken in Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan and Operation Iraqi Freedom, solid and

JOINT MULTINATIONAL READINESS CENTER MILITARY The UH-72A Lakota entered service with the Joint Multinational Training Center on April 28, 2010. One of the center’s Lakotas, UH72A 09-72105, is painted in this eye-catching, three-colour paint scheme, known as the ‘bruised banana’, designed to replicate enemy helicopters. All photos Martin Scharenborg and Ramon Wenink


MILITARY JOINT MULTINATIONAL READINESS CENTER relevant training is essential. The vast US Army training and gunnery sites in Germany were taken over from the German Wehrmacht after the end of the World War Two. One of them was the Hohenfels Training Area (HTA) which, by 1984, had 52 ranges and multiple Hawk Air Defence Missile Sites. Its primary focus shifted to facilitate training for the annual REFORGER (Return Forces to Germany) exercises. USAREUR’s growing training requirements led eventually in 1987 to the formation of the Combat Maneuver Training Center (CMTC) at the HTA, becoming the primary training facility for USAREUR soldiers. After a thorough transformation, the Combat Maneuver Training Center was renamed into the Joint Multinational Readiness Center in 2005.

Realistic Environment The JMRC is the only US Army combat training centre outside the United States, and reports to USAREUR’s 7th Army Joint Multinational Training Command (JMTC) with headquarters at Grafenwöhr. It trains units, leaders and staff up to Brigade Combat Teams from the United States and partner nations to dominate in the conduct of Unified Land Operations (ULO) anywhere in the world. It provides tailor-made scenarios for units that need special qualifications and validations. It also integrates multinational participation in every rotation or exercise. The HTA provides a complex and realistic environment for these exercises, including 1,345 buildings, several exercise villages, 319km (198 miles) of roads and trails, two forward arming and refuelling points (FARPs) with a total of 37 parking pads, a 2,188ft (666m) concrete runway, a 3,000ft (914m) short take-off/landing gravel runway and an opposing force (OPFOR).

‘Critter’ Teams The 60,000 soldiers passing through JMRC annually are coached and trained by 15

Observer Coach Training (OCT) teams, nicknamed ‘Critter’ teams. The OCT teams train and observe units and personnel during the planning, preparation and execution phases of the exercises and provide evaluation and lessons learned for all military specialties within a US or multinational Brigade Combat Team. Thorough after action reviews are provided to the US Army unit in training with feedback in the form of tactics, techniques and procedures. There are 15 OCT teams, each of which has its own speciality: • Adler: coaches Brigade Support Battalions, Combat Sustainment Support Battalions; • Bullseye: responsible for the integration of close air support into the ‘fight’ • Griffin: responsible for live, virtual, constructive training • Grizzly: training cavalry or scout squadrons in reconnaissance and security tasks during unified land operations, while executing decisive action training environment exercises • Minutemen: the National Guard and Reserve Component Office • Mustang: coaches brigade and division level staff during command post exercises and field training exercises • Operational Environment: constructs relevant and complex operational environments, develops and executes education and training, replicates interagency and intergovernmental entities, and incorporates lessons learned into publications and doctrine • Oscar: responsible for providing trained professional role-players for all rotations at JMRC • Raptor: aligns with a US Army Brigade Engineer Battalion and Brigade Special Troops Battalion elements • Timberwolf: an infantry and armour battalion that trains US and multinational units, leaders, and staff, up to battalion level

1 2

1 The UH-72As at JMRC are flown by experienced instructor and standardisation pilots on AH-64 Apache, UH-60 Blackhawk and CH-47 Chinook helicopters. They use the same tactics and techniques and therefore replicate a realistic scenario. 2 The Blue air scenario, for which the JMRC’s green Lakotas are used, involves replicating a number of scenarios including reconnaissance, security, attack, medevac, command and control and limited air assault movement. Here a UH-72A practices with underslung loads.

• Vampire: teaches and mentors leaders and staff of field artillery units

• Vipers: the combat camera element • Warthog: trains leaders and staff in

manoeuvres for units up to Battalion Task Force Teams • Wolverine: aims to improve the interoperability between conventional and special operations forces. The 15th OCT is team Falcon. As the aviation element of the JMRC, it trains, coaches and observes the participating aviation units and brings aviation elements into the ‘fight’ where necessary to create a realistic scenario, including the use of an OPFOR. The Falcon team is focused primarily on training aviation battalion attack, reconnaissance and security operations, aero-medical evacuation (medevac), air assault planning and operations, downed aircraft recovery, manned-unmanned teaming operations (MUM-T), US and multinational partnered training, and air-to-ground operations. The Falcon team pilots are experienced US Army pilots and most of them instructor



pilots on the UH-60 Blackhawk, AH-64 Apache and CH-47 Chinook.

Huey Farewell Since the foundation of CMTC in 1987, the UH-1H Huey helicopter was a familiar sight over the HTA. The Falcon OCT team operated ten UH-1H helicopters in a wide variety of tasks and were fitted with special equipment including laser-warning receivers. Four OPFOR UH-1H helicopters were painted in a distinctive camouflage to resemble hostile Mil Mi-24P Hind-F helicopters. These helicopters were initially part of the Raven OCT team that was disestablished in the early 1990s and merged with the Falcon team. The remaining six UH-1Hs were painted in the standard US Army colour scheme but were fitted with orange doors to act as observer controller/referee aircraft for exercise evaluation. They could also be used for active training by assisting the rotational units to simulate ‘friendly’ helicopters to practise rules of engagement, forward air control, close air support, transportation, medevac and

liaison missions. Preparations for the arrival of the UH1H’s successor, the UH-72A Lakota, at the JMRC started in 2008 but the venerable Huey soldiered on until April 2011. On April 27, 2011 a retirement ceremony was held at the JMRC, marking the last flight of an US Army Huey in Germany. A formation of four Hueys flew over the airfield and the HTA before leaving to the North, heading for Ramstein Air Base from where they were flown back to the United States. The remaining aircraft left Hohenfels in the following days. Only one UH-1H Huey remained at Hohenfels and is now preserved next to the Air Traffic Control Tower on Hohenfels Army Airfield to mark more than 40 years of US Army Huey operations over Germany. The last UH-1H

left US Army activeduty service on August 18, 2012 at Robert Grey Army Airfield at Fort Hood, Texas.

Introducing the Lakota The Light Utility Helicopter (LUH) programme was set up by the Department of Defense to replace the UH-1, the Bell OH-58 Kiowa and, at a later stage, the Bell TH-67 Creek helicopters in service with the active-duty US Army and US Army National Guard. On June 30, 2006, EADS North America (now Airbus Helicopters Inc) was awarded the LUH contract for the UH-72A helicopter. This militarised version of the EC145 has, amongst other features, a night vision goggles-compatible glass cockpit with five LCD screens, a vehicle and engine management display, a three-axis autopilot,




1 2 1 The JMRC’s last UH-1H Hueys flew alongside the UH-72A Lakota in 2010 and early 2011 before they were withdrawn from use in April 2011. The camouflage was meant to resemble Mil Mi-24s. 2 This UH-72A, serial 09-72100, was the 100th Lakota delivered to the US Army.


MILITARY JOINT MULTINATIONAL READINESS CENTER They were re-assembled by the 405th Army Support Brigade/21st Theater Sustainment Command at the Theater Aviation Sustainment facility at Ramstein by personnel from EADS North America and the Utility Helicopters Product Office from Redstone Arsenal in Alabama. Test flights were made at Ramstein on April 19 followed by the two-hour delivery flight from Ramstein to Hohenfels on April 28, 2010. At first, the Lakotas operated side by side with the remaining UH-1Hs but gradually the Lakotas took over. Captain Jeremy Saldana started his flying career in the US Army in 1999, and flew the UH-60 Blackhawk in Iraq during Operation Iraqi Freedom and flew the RC-12 in Afghanistan during Operation Enduring Freedom. He has more than 2,800 flying hours and is now the 1 Operations Commander with the Falcon OCT team at the JMRC. low noise rotor blades and the ARC-231 assembly line at Columbus, Mississippi, Capt Saldana said: “It was very sad to VHF/UHF tactical radio set. delivered its first UH-72A in December 2006 see the Huey go. Everyone loved to fly Initially the US Army Lakotas were and full rate production was subsequently this iconic helicopter with its distinctive delivered in two configurations: medevac approved by the US Army in August 2007 for sound and history. However, the Lakota and VIP. The medevac version can carry two an initial 345 aircraft. The first US Army UHis an excellent successor. We needed a stretchers, has an environmental control unit 72As were delivered to the National Training helicopter that could be flown by multiple (ECU) and can be equipped with a hoist. The Center at Fort Irwin-Bicycle Lake Army Air aviators. This team is made up of Apache, VIP version also has the ECU but is equipped Field (AAF), California, followed by the Training Chinook, and Black Hawk pilots. We needed with comfortable seats and a carpet. In a and Doctrine Command at Fort Eustis-Felker a common platform that everybody could later stage, three other mission equipment AAF in Virginia. The first Lakotas for the Army use and that didn’t take a long time to train packages (MEPs) were developed. These National Guard were eventually fielded with in. So it did need to have the power, the are security and support (S&S), observer the 1/144th Service Battalion at Tupelo AAF, range and all the weapon systems that all controller and opposing forces. Mississippi in June 2008. these other aircraft have and that is why the The S&S MEP features the EuroNav 5 Lakota is fit for this job.” The Lakota RN6 Situational Awareness and Mission The Falcon OCT team currently consists of The first US Army Combat Training Center Management System, the Skyquest/Curtiss 55 soldiers, 16 civilians and 13 contractors, to receive the UH-72A Lakota was the Wright VRDV-4010 digital video recorder and and flies eight UH-72A Lakotas. Four of the Joint Readiness Training Center at Fort the Sierra Nevada Corporation TactiLinkhelicopters are painted in a green colour Polk AAF in Louisiana. However, the Joint Eagle communications system. The observer scheme and four in an eye-catching yellow Multinational Readiness Center at Hohenfels controller MEP features an external Power colour scheme to replicate an enemy rotary AAF, Germany was not scheduled to receive Sonix PSAIR 22A loudspeaker system and a wing threat. its first Lakota before 2010. On April 13, sling-type cargo hook while the OPFOR MEP is Capt Saldana said: “We have nicknamed 2010 the first five of eight UH-72A Lakotas equipped with the loudspeaker system and the our yellow birds in the squadron ‘the destined to serve with the JMRC arrived by Multiple Integrated Laser Engagement System/ bruised bananas’. We fly the Lakota with C-17A Globemaster III at Ramstein Air Base, Tactical Engagement System (MILES/TES). a crew of three. The pilot and co-pilot are Germany. The Airbus Helicopters Inc UH-72A both observer/coach and the crew chief is our flying maintainer. Every member of 2 the crew are observer controllers; they are 1 Four of the Joint Multinational Training Center UH-72As are painted in the bruised banana multitasking. They are not only flying the scheme to represent opposition forces. The other four have a green colour scheme for aircraft, they are observing and refereeing the observer/controller duties. fight as it goes on. 2 The Lakota is flown with “We also have pilots who will sit in the a crew of three. The flight operations room and through their pilot and co-pilot are both computer-based systems they can see observer/coach and the the position of every aircraft in the training crew chief is the flying maintainer. area and monitor if they have been shot at, damaged or need, for example, medevac. After arrival, new units spend five days of training and discuss the tasks they want to go over, followed by the exercise dates, and then we will test and validate them.” To monitor all those movements on the battlefield, the helicopter crews receive a GPS kit upon arrival. The Lakotas can replicate a number of scenarios. During White air operations, the team is observing safety of flight, doing aerial engagement adjudication, aircrew training requirements, VIP and key leader transport and reconnaissance missions. The Blue air scenario, for which the green Lakotas are used, comprises reconnaissance, security, attack, assault helicopter battalion, general support battalion aviation battalion replication, medevac, command control, and limited air assault air movement.



3 An OPFOR UH-72A awaiting clearance for take-off at Hohenfels Army Air Field. 4 A UH-72A Lakota on final approach to Hohenfels Army Air Field’s runway 27. On the left, an OPFOR Lakota is hover taxiing back to its parking position while left of the runway, two UH-60 Blackhawks can be seen on medevac duty. 3

The OPFOR scenario, for which the yellow yellow Lakotas are used, simulates enemy helicopter threat over the battlefield. Capt Saldana explained: “Although we do not have shootback capability, we do carry the MILES [multiple integrated laser engagement system] in our yellow birds. When we are illuminated by laser emitters, attached to, for example, rifles; our helicopter is shot. In turn we can use our loudspeaker system and make the sound of guns or rockets and coordinate with the operations room that

we have used a certain weapon to down a helicopter or engaged ground targets. “Our specialised helicopter pilots can replicate any scenario because they are specialists on the Blackhawk, Apache and Chinook and use the same tactics and techniques. We also do MUM-T missions with unmanned aircraft systems like the army’s RQ-7 Shadow over the Hohenfels Training Area.” With more and more countries training with JMRC at Hohenfels, Lakota pilots

fly on average 60 to 80 hours annually, depending on the number of rotations going through. Capt Saldana said: “Just a few weeks ago we trained Czech and Bulgarian helicopter units doing slung loads and medevac and they will return again later this year. “We train a lot with British and German Forces and other countries are increasingly using the JMRC. On average we have around ten rotations annually and a large number of exercises.”


EXERCISE SABER JUNCTION 2016 Exercise Saber Junction was held from March 31 to April 24, 2016 and prepared the armies of 16 NATO countries for full-scale offensive, defensive and stability operations. Saber Junction is at the same time an annual qualification and certification exercise for one of USAREUR’s combat brigades. This year, no less than 5,000 soldiers participated in and over the Hohenfels Training Area in the exercise. Participants came from Albania, Armenia, Bosnia, Bulgaria, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Macedonia, Moldova, Romania, Serbia, Slovenia, Sweden, the United Kingdom and the United States. This year’s exercise included para droppings by the 173rd Airborne Brigade, material drops and intensive use of the 3,000ft short take-off and landing (STOL) runway by US Air Force C-130 Hercules aircraft. Close air support was given by US Air Forces in Europe F-16 Fighting Falcons from Spangdahlem Air Base and F-15E Strike Eagles from RAF Lakenheath. A large contingent of UH-60 Blackhawks, CH-47 Chinooks and some AH-64 Apaches were deployed to the various FARP locations in the Hohenfels HTA.




razilian aircraft manufacturer Embraer recently announced the delivery of the 700th example of its Phenom family of light executive jets. That’s 700 since the programmes were launched in 2005, a figure that represents almost half of the market share in the entrylevel and light jet segments. The family includes the Phenom 100, an entry-level jet (formerly referred to as a very light jet) capable of seating four passengers, and the larger Phenom 300 light jet, which is typically able to carry six passengers. Business aviation company NetJets received the 700th aircraft, a Phenom 300 and the company’s 60th aircraft, delivered from Embraer’s facility in Melbourne, Florida, home to the Phenom 100 and Phenom 300 production lines. Embraer also recently announced the Phenom 300 was the most delivered business jet in the world in 2015, for the third year running. As of early November, around 340 Phenom 100s and 360 Phenom 300s had been delivered to customers all over the world. In addition to the success Embraer has enjoyed in the executive jet market, the Phenom 100 has also found a niche role as a multi-engine training aircraft, with orders from several customers, including the UK Ministry of Defence, Emirates, Etihad, the

Finnish Aviation Academy (for Finnair), Purdue University in the United States and China Southern Western Australia Flying College (for China Southern Airways).

Programme History Embraer entered the business jet market with the launch of its Legacy aircraft in 2000, based on its successful ERJ-135 regional airliner, which first entered service in 2002. The Legacy later became known as the Legacy Executive, then the Legacy 600, and is still in production today as the Legacy 650E. A total of over 280 aircraft have been delivered. Success of the original Legacy was the catalyst for the creation of Embraer Executive Jets as a separate division in 2005. In May of that year, then-President and CEO of Embraer Maurício Botelho announced the company wanted to strengthen its position in the business aviation market with new products and services. Botelho said the first initiative would be to increase its executive jet portfolio into the very light and light jet segments. At the time, Maurício Botelho said: “The Legacy has paved the way for Embraer to build a name in the business aviation market. This has been an enriching experience with valuable lessons learned. The accrued knowledge will shape our entrance into the very light, entry

and light jet segments, keeping Embraer at the forefront of product development and innovation.” Embraer’s board had approved the plan the previous month, with $235 million allocated for the design of two types of aircraft. Embraer’s total market forecast for the very light, entry and light segments was approximately 3,000 aircraft over the first ten years – a figure that excluded aircraft purchased for the air taxi market. First came the smaller Phenom 100, which was later repositioned into the entry-level category that first flew on July 26, 2007, from São José dos Campos. It was awarded Brazilian type certification in December 2008 and deliveries began the same month. Development of the Phenom 300 followed around 12 months later, flying for the first time from São José dos Campos on April 29, 2008. Type certification and delivery to the first customer followed in turn in December 2009.

PHENOM 100EV CHARACTERISTICS Typical passenger load: Four Range: 1,178 nautical miles (2,181km) Cruise speed: 405kts (750km/h) at 33,000ft Max speed: Mach 0.70 Take-off field length: 3,200ft (975m) Max operating altitude: 41,000ft (12,500m) Payload (full fuel): 645lb (292.5kg) Hot and high take-off distance: 5,663ft (1,726m) Time to climb to 41,000ft: 35 minutes Baggage capacity: 60ft³ (1.7m³) Engines: Two Pratt & Whitney Canada PW617F1-E, each rated at 1,730lb (7.695kN) Avionics: Prodigy Touch (Garmin 3000)


A Slick B

Embraer’s Phenom 300. All images Embraer S.A.


Nigel Pittaway covers a phenomenon in the business aviation market: Embraer’s Phenom



COMMERCIAL EMBRAER PHENOM Embraer says the airframe is designed for high utilisation, with a life of 35,000 hours and maintenance intervals set at 12 months or 600 flight hours. The aircraft is powered by a pair of Pratt & Whitney Canada PW617F-E turbofans, each rated at 1,695lb (7.539kN) thrust in the initial version, but since increased to 1,730lb (7.695kN) in the latest Phenom 100EV. Embraer chose the 2016 edition of the EAA AirVenture show at Oshkosh, Wisconsin to announce the Phenom 100EV, a further evolution of the Phenom 100E introduced in 2013 that added multifunction flight spoilers to the original design. The new variant made its global debut at the NBAA Business Aviation Convention and Exhibition on 1 Orland Florida in early November. Changes over the original Phenom 100 At the time of launch in 2005, the list configuration include replacement of the prices (in 2005 dollars) for each aircraft Prodigy 100 (based on the Garmin 1000) were anticipated to be in the region of $2.75 avionics suite with the Prodigy Touch (Garmin million (Phenom 100) and $6.65 million 3000-based) suite, and replacement of the full (Phenom 300). Eleven years later, at the end authority digital engine control unit with a new of 2016, list prices (in 2016 dollars) are $4.5 system, which offers improved hot and high million and $9.0 million respectively. performance. Time to climb performance has Since the Phenom family’s development also been improved; the Phenom 100EV can Embraer’s portfolio of business jets has climb to the 41,000ft (12,500m) service ceiling increased further, beginning with the ultrain 25 minutes, compared with 33 minutes for large Lineage 1000, based on the E190 the original version. airliner, which entered service in 2009, Launch customers for the Phenom 100EV and most recently with the all-new Legacy are Across, a Mexican premium aviation 450 mid-light jet and Legacy 500 mid-size business services provider, and Emirates’ designs, which entered service in 2015 and Flight Training Academy. Across, based at

Embraer’s customer base for the Phenom 100 is worldwide; there are more than 340 currently flying in 37 countries around the globe: the enhanced Phenom 100EV will enter service in the first quarter of 2017. The Phenom family aircraft were initially produced in São José dos Campos, but the production lines were relocated to Melbourne, Florida, earlier this year. Production of the Legacy 450 and Legacy 500 is also in the process of being transferred to the United States, leaving only the Legacy 650E and Lineage 1000E (both derivatives of Embraer’s regional aircraft and airliner designs) remaining in Brazil by early 2017.

Phenom 300 Light Jet Although it shares the same cross-section of its smaller sibling, the BMW-designed cabin of the Phenom 300 is lengthened to accommodate six passengers. The aircraft also has a swept wing and Pratt & Whitney Canada PW535E engines, each producing 3,200lb (14.23kN) of thrust, which together provide a 453kts cruise speed and a maximum cruise altitude of 45,000ft (13,700m). Maximum range, with four passengers, is 1,971 nautical miles (3,650km). Embraer claims the aircraft has the best climb performance in its class and a cabin altitude of 6,000 feet (1,828m) at maximum cruise altitude. Other features are a single point pressure refuelling system and an externally serviced lavatory.

PHENOM 300 CHARACTERISTICS Typical passenger load: Six Range: 1,971 nautical miles (3,650km) Cruise speed: 453Kts (839km/h) Max speed: Mach 0.78 Take-off field length: 3,138ft (956m) External baggage capacity: 74ft³ (2.1m³) Engines: Two Pratt & Whitney Canada PW535Es, each rated at 3,200lb (14.23kN) Avionics: Prodigy Touch (Garmin 3000) 3


2014 respectively. In April 2016, despite being in the business aviation market for a little more than a decade and a half, Embraer announced the sale of its 1,000th executive jet, a Legacy 450.

Phenom 100 Entry-level Jet Designated the EMB-500, a company type designation, the Phenom 100 is listed with the capability of carrying between six and eight people, including the single pilot. The typical load is four passengers, seated in a club-style layout in a cabin designed by BMW Designworks. A fifth passenger can be accommodated in a sideways-facing seat at the rear of the cabin (which is also the lavatory) if required.


Toluca International Airport, serves Mexico City, so the company will benefit particularly from improved hot and high performance. Manager of Product Strategy for Embraer Executive Jets Alvadi Serpa told AIR International: “We have managed to reduce hot and high take-off field length by 1,000 feet [305 metres]. The Phenom 100 was able to deliver a range of 200 nautical miles [370km] out of Toluca on a hot day, while the Phenom 100EV delivers a range in excess of 900 nautical miles [1,670km] under the same conditions, so it’s a huge improvement. Previously we couldn’t make it to Cancun from Toluca, but now we can go to Managua in Nicaragua or Oklahoma City in the United States.”


Market Forecast

Like the Phenom 100, the Phenom 300 is designed for a service life of 35,000 flight hours with maintenance periods of 12 calendar months, or 600 flight hours. Priced at around $9 million, the Phenom 300 has sold over 360 units in 30 countries to date and, in 2015, its success allowed Embraer to claim a 54% market share in the light jet segment. By September 2016 the worldwide Phenom 300 fleet had accumulated over 300,000 flight hours. Alvadi Serpa said: “We are seeing great acceptance from all sectors in the market sector, high-level operators, charter companies and fractional operators. All of the large fractional operators around the world, companies like NetJets, Flight Options and Executive AirShare, all have Phenom 300s in their fleet.” In 2010, NetJets signed a $1 billion purchase agreement with Embraer for 50 aircraft and options for 75 more. In September

With over 700 aircraft delivered in just over seven years, Embraer’s Phenom family is an undoubted success story in the tough world of business aviation – a market that is very sensitive to global financial conditions. Embraer’s Vice President of Marketing and Sales for the Middle East and Asia-Pacific regions Claudio Camelier said: “Our executive jets division is the newest division in the brand. It was created in 2005 and in those ten years we’ve had remarkable progress and growth. We’ve expanded our portfolio from one aircraft, the Legacy 600, to a full portfolio of seven aircraft types today. We have aircraft flying in 60 countries and on every continent in the world [Antarctica excluded]. Our most successful products, in terms of quantities produced and delivered, are the Phenom 100 and 300.” Camelier said although the jet trainer market was not the original target for the Phenom 100, Embraer has been pleasantly surprised by its 4 performance in the segment.

2016, China’s Colorful Yunnan General Aviation Company signed a firm order for two Phenom 300s, to be delivered by the end of 2016. The aircraft will be used to expand Colorful’s services in Yunnan and offer an executive supplement to the airlines’ current network. At the European Business Aviation Convention & Exhibition held in Geneva during May, Embraer announced a range of interior improvements to the baseline Phenom 300 in a strategy aimed at retaining market share. Explaining the initiative, Alvadi Serpa said: “We have improved the design of the fold-out table, so now we have a flat surface all the way from the sidewall to the aisle, which increases 5 available space for the passengers. The cabin Embraer does not release a market forecast side ledge is now made from wood veneer by product line, so predictions of future sales instead of leather, a more durable surface. for the Phenom family are difficult to predict, We’ve also repositioned the cup-holders and but Camelier said the global market forecast electrical power outlets to make them easier – over all manufacturers and all aircraft types to access.” – is for 9,100 aircraft, valued at approximately $259 billion over the next ten years: “Last year, 1 A Phenom 100 cabin finished in a style called Tiffany. 2 The Phenom 100E is equipped with Embraer’s Prodigy 100 flight deck, a system based on the Garmin 1000 avionics suite. 3 Embraer’s Phenom 300. North America took 66% or two-thirds of new 4 The Phenom 300 is equipped with Embraer’s Prodigy Touch flight deck based on the Garmin 3000 business jet deliveries and we believe that avionics suite. 5 The Phenom 300’s cabin is both spacious and light. 2016 will be roughly the same.”


MILITARY F/A-18 HORNET An F/A-18C Hornet assigned to Strike Fighter Squadron 131 (VFA-131) ‘Wildcats’ taxis onto the catapult on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69). Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Alexander Delgado/US Navy

Still Got

Sting Lon Nordeen profiles F/A-18 Hornet operators worldwide




he F/A-18 Hornet was one of the most successful fourth-generation fighters. It was designed from the start to perform multiple missions, including air-to-air, air-to-ground and reconnaissance, with a single platform. The F/A-18 Hornet strike fighter was in production from 1980 to 2000 and 1,047 aircraft were delivered to the US

Navy and US Marine Corps, plus 431 to the air arms of Australia, Canada, Finland, Kuwait, Malaysia, Spain and Switzerland. Hornets fought in both Gulf Wars, over Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria and Yemen and in many other operations. There were 21 production Lots of the F/A-18, with many different configurations that included the single-seat F/A-18A and two-seat F/A-18B and the improved F/A-18C and F/A-18D respectively. This included two different radars (APG-65 and APG-73), two

different sets of engines (the General Electric F404-GE-400 and higher thrust F404-GE-402) and many different avionics and systems configurations. New systems have dramatically enhanced the Hornet’s combat performance: for example, the APG-73, ASQ-228 Advanced Targeting Forward Looking Infrared (ATFLIR) pod, Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM), AGM-154 Joint Stand-Off Weapon (JSOW), laser-guided bombs and the Joint HelmetMounted Cueing System (JHMCS) with the AIM-9X Sidewinder air-to-air missile.




F/A-18A, F/A-18C

NAS Oceana, Virginia VFA-15 ‘Valions’


VFA-34 ‘Blue Blasters’


VFA-37 ‘Bulls’


VFA-83 ‘Rampagers’


VFA-106 ‘Gladiators’

F/A-18B to D

VFA-131 ‘Wildcats’


VFC-12 ‘Fighting Omars’


An F/A-18C Hornet assigned to Marine Strike Fighter Attack Squadron 251 (VMFA-251) ‘Thunderbolts’ prepares to launch from the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71). Mass Communication Specialist Anthony Hopkins II/US Navy

NAS Patuxent River, Maryland US Navy Test Pilots School

F/A-18A, F/A-18B

VX-23 ‘Salty Dogs’

F/A-18A to D

NAS Pensacola, Florida Naval Flight Demonstration Squadron

F/A-18B, F/A-18C

NAWS China Lake, California VX-31 ‘Dust Devils’


VX-9 ‘Vampires’

F/A-18C, F/A-18D

NAS JRB New Orleans, Louisiana VFA-204 ‘River Rattlers’


US Navy The F/A-18A and F/A-18B entered service with Strike Fighter Squadron 125 (VFA-125) ‘Raiders’, the US Navy’s first Hornet Fleet Replacement Squadron at Naval Air Station Lemoore, California in 1981, and went on to serve with 34 Strike Fighter Squadrons (designated VFA), five Air Test and Evaluation Squadrons (designated VX) and various support squadrons. The 2016 US Naval Aviation Plan calls for all remaining F/A-18 Legacy Hornet squadrons (most based at Naval Air Station Oceana, Virginia) to convert to the Super Hornet or F-35C Lightning II by 2026. The intense flying rate experienced by US Navy, US Marine Corps and some international Hornet squadrons due to sustained operations over Afghanistan, Iraq, other military operations, and training has taken a heavy toll. The F/A-18 was designed to meet US Navy specifications for a 6,000-flight-hour service life. Structural evaluations, repairs and life extension

programmes have been in process since the 1990s to allow the F/A-18 to remain in service well beyond its initial service life. As of early 2016, 91% of US Navy and US Marine Corps Hornets had flown in excess of 6,000 flight hours, nearly 20% had flown more than 8,000 hours and the high-time F/A-18s had achieved 9,575 hours. Hornets have also suffered a series of issues and problems with their on-board oxygen generation systems that provide oxygen to the pilots and naval flight officers. In 2015, the then Chief of Naval Operations, Admiral Jonathan Greenert, commented about the challenges of extending the life of the Hornet: “We’re finding that it’s very complicated and it’s harder than we imagined.” Naval Air Systems Command’s F/A-18 and EA-18G Program Office, PMA-265 based at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Maryland is responsible for the life cycle of the F/A-18 Hornet, from concept to delivery to sustainment and finally retirement.

PMA-265’s fleet maintenance personnel work diligently to keep Hornets routinely modified and upgraded to keep them viable with the primary goal of keeping the aircraft safe for flight and operationally relevant for as long as the US Navy and US Marine Corps needs them to be. When more extensive maintenance is required NAVAIR’s Fleet Readiness Centers, the modern term used for a Naval Air Depot, provide extensive upkeep and repair. The Service Life Extension Program (SLEP) is a good example, a programme designed to increase the original 6,000 flight-hour design life, to a SLEP goal of 10,000 flight hours. This will allow the remaining inventory of legacy A, B, C and D-model Hornets to last until the type’s current planned sundown in 2030. All Hornets built in Lots 1 through 16 are being given a SLEP at the Fleet Readiness Centers where the aircraft centre barrel section, wing leading edges and other elements are inspected and replaced as needed. Later production Lot aircraft go

The two-seat F/A-18D Hornet equips four all weather attack squadrons. F/A-18D Hornet BuNo 164957/WK01 is assigned to Marine Strike Fighter AllWeather Attack Squadron 224 (VMFA-224) ‘Bengals’, one of two such squadrons based at Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort, South Carolina. Dan Stijovich


F/A-18 HORNET MILITARY and upgrades to their respective Hornet fleet. There are three ways a nation can manage its Hornet fleet: by commercial means, by government to government agreement and by a means internal to its air arm. This three-pronged approach helps to develop requirements and manage a nation’s fleet in much the same way as the US Navy does. Each nation shares similar objectives to the US Navy in terms of keeping the inventory relevant and operational for as long as required, but mission requirements, service and fatigue life vary. Successful examples include Switzerland’s Upgrade 25 programme, Canada’s consideration for extending service life, Finland’s midlife upgrade programme, and Australia’s recent centre barrel replacement.

US Marine Corps

through inspections and repairs. Since the year 2000 more than 350 Hornets have undergone major rework to keep them flying. As F/A-18 Hornets reach flight times between 6,000 and 8,000 hours, many require additional inspections, costly repairs and life extension updates due to cracking and corrosion. Such is the extent of these problems that the readiness centers have had problems completing Hornet repairs on schedule. During the FY2017 US Senate Armed Services Committee hearings on March 15, 2016, Admiral Michelle Howard stated: “The Fleet Readiness Centers face a significant backlog of work, particularly for the service life extension of our legacy Hornets.” Collectively, the air forces of seven nations, Australia, Canada, Finland, Kuwait, Malaysia, Spain and Switzerland, operate 409 legacy Hornets. Each nation’s relationship with PMA265 is one of both customer and partner, and as such each nation works with the program office for sustainment, enhanced capability

Over time, the Hornet has equipped 22 Marine Fighter Attack squadrons (designated VMFA). In 1982, the first Hornet squadron, VMFA-314 ‘Black Knights’ received its aircraft and the last production Hornet, a Lot 21 F/A-18D, was delivered to Marine Strike Fighter (All Weather) Attack Squadron 225 (VMFA[AW]-225) in 2000. In 2014, the US Marine Corps decided to accelerate introduction of the F-35B and F-35C Lightning II, retire the AV-8B Harrier II by 2025 and sustain its gradually shrinking fleet of Hornets to 2030. During a US Senate hearing in March 2016, Lieutenant General Jon Davis, Deputy Commandant Aviation, HQ US Marine Corps, was asked how many Hornets the US Marine Corps should have ready to go. He replied: “Under the current, shrunken force structure, 150: a training squadron of 30 and 12 combat squadrons of ten aircraft each. Until 18 months ago, that figure was 174 – 30 training aircraft and 12 squadrons of 12 aircraft each – but the Marines decided to shrink each squadron to reflect the reality of insufficient aircraft. “I pulled up our readiness data just yesterday. We have 87 aircraft that were mission capable. Out of those 87 airplanes, I put 30 airplanes in the training squadron and 40 airplanes deployed forward. There’s not a lot left for the [remaining] units to train with. The US Marine Corps aviation fleet is ageing. Last year, 19% of marine planes and helicopters – 159 aircraft – were out of action long term for maintenance reasons.” The depots are working to speed up legacy Hornet overhaul deliveries and

Boeing is refurbishing 30 retired F/A-18Cs to overcome inventory shortfalls. The first of the refurbished Hornets were delivered recently to Marine Strike Fighter Squadron 115 (VMFA-115) ‘Silver Eagles’ at Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort, South Carolina. Andy Vest, Director of the Boeing US Navy/ US Marine Corps Sustainment Team, said: “As the platform’s original equipment manufacturer, our engineers and technicians in Jacksonville, Florida, and St Louis, Missouri, partner our customers to work innovative solutions that help keep these jets in service.” In addition to structural enhancements, US Marine Corps Hornets are receiving a variety of new systems to keep them tactically viable until retirement. This includes upgraded cockpit displays, the AAQ-28 Litening Gen 4 targeting pod, APG-65 and APG-73 radar updates, AIM-9X Block II Sidewinder (2017) and AIM-120D AMRAAM air-to-air missiles, Advanced Precision Kill Weapon System 2.75-inch laser-guided rocket (2017–2018) and the AGM-65E2 laser-guided air-toground missile. For survivability, the Hornets are receiving the ALR-67(V)3 radar warning receiver, and the ALQ-165 Airborne Self-Protection Jammer, and for interoperability high order

US MARINE CORPS HORNET SQUADRONS MAG-11, MCAS Miramar, California VMFAT-101 ‘Sharpshooters’

F/A-18A to D

VMFA(AW)-225 ‘Vikings’


VMFA-232 ‘Red Devils’


VMFA-314 ‘Black Knights’


VMFA-323 ‘Death Rattlers’


MAG-12, MCAS Iwakuni, Japan VMFA(AW)-242 ‘Bats’


MAG-31, MCAS Beaufort, South Carolina VMFA-115 ‘Silver Eagles’


VMFA-122 ‘Crusaders’


VMFA(AW)-224 ‘Flying Bengals’


VMFA-251 ‘Thunderbolts’


VMFA-312 ‘Checkerboards’


VMFA(AW)-533 ‘Hawks’


MAG-41, NAS JRB Fort Worth, Texas VMFA-112 ‘Cowboys’


Australia is one of seven international F/A-18 Hornet customers. The type continues to equip three front line Royal Australian Air Force squadrons and one operational conversion unit. Paul Ridgway


MILITARY F/A-18 HORNET language mission computers (2020), and Multifunctional Information Distribution System Joint Tactical Radio Systems (2017). The US Marine Corps is already developing new tactics and operational concepts to allow upgraded Hornets to integrate with fifth-generation F-35B and F-35C Lightning IIs.

International Operators Hornet operators have long collaborated to share data on support, maintenance issues and upgrades. Working through Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR), McDonnell-Douglas/Boeing, industry and governments, Hornet operators have coordinated structural life assessment and management concepts because the

fighter has remained in service far longer than its initially planned 20-year service life. Countries have also shared the costs for upgrades, new weapons integration and added capabilities.

Canada In 1980, Canada agreed to buy 138 Hornets; 98 single-seat CF-18As and 40 two-seat CF-18Bs. These aircraft equipped squadrons at CFB Cold Lake, Alberta and CFB Bagotville, Quebec, and were assigned to the 1st Canadian Air Group based at Soellingen in West Germany. Twenty-six CF18s participated in the Gulf War, flying from Qatar. Canadian CF-18s also participated in operations over the former Yugoslavia in 1999 and over Libya in 2011. There were

1,378 CF-18 sorties flown over Iraq and Syria in 2014–2016. Canadian and Australian Governments and industry collaborated from 1988 to 2006 on the international follow-on structural test programme and other programmes to evaluate options to extend the life of their Hornets. More than 40 CF-18 aircraft have received new centre barrel modifications and most other jets received structural upgrades. From 2001 to 2010, 62 CF-18As and 18 CF-18Bs went through the two-phase Incremental Modernisation Project. Phase 1 added the APG-73 radar, improved communications with the ARC-210 radio, GPS/INS navigation systems, AYK-14 XN-8 mission computers and a new APX-111 Combined Interrogator and Transponder

ROYAL CANADIAN AIR FORCE CF-18 HORNET SQUADRONS 3 Wing, CFB Bagotville, Quebec 425 Tactical Fighter Squadron ‘Alouette’ 433 Tactical Fighter Squadron ‘Porcupine’ 4 Wing, CFB Cold Lake, Alberta 401 Tactical Fighter Squadron ‘Ram’ 409 Tactical Fighter Squadron ‘Nighthawks’ 410 Tactical Fighter Squadron ‘Cougar’

1 With a combined thrust of 32,000lb (142.3kN) generated by two GE F404-GE-400 low-bypass turbofan engines, an Ejército del Aire EF-18M takes off with full reheat. Ismael Jorda/AirTeamImages


As of September 2016, Ejército del Aire EF-18M C.15-41/1528 retains this full-colour paint scheme applied in 2010 to mark the 25th anniversary of Ala 15 based at Zaragoza Air Base. Weimeng/AirTeamImages


F/A-18 HORNET MILITARY identification friend or foe (IFF) system. In Phase 2, Boeing and Canadian industry added Link 16 networking, the JHMCS, new cockpit displays, electronic warfare systems, the AAQ-33 Sniper targeting pod and additional air-to-air and air-to-ground weapons. The Canadian Government invested into the Joint Strike Fighter programme to prepare for procurement of the F-35A as a replacement for the CF-18. However, later administrations did not confirm F-35 procurement and the current administration is now looking at all options.

Australia In 1981, the Government of Australia purchased 75 Hornets, comprising 57 F/A-

18As and 18 F/A-18Bs. Two aircraft were built in the United States and the remainder assembled at the Government Aircraft Factories plant at Avalon in Victoria, Australia between 1985 and 1990. These aircraft equipped an operational conversion unit (OCU) and three fighter squadrons at RAAF Base Williamtown, Queensland and RAAF Base Tindal, Northern Territories. Royal Australian Air Force Hornets participated in the Iraq conflict in February–April 2003 and are currently deployed on Operation Okra over Iraq and Syria against ISIS. Starting in 1999, Australia committed to Project Air 5376, known as the Hornet Upgrade Programme, to address structural issues and modernise the fleet to keep the aircraft current until replacement. Ten Royal

Australian Air Force Hornets received new centre barrels in Canada and the others had work done in Australia. This three-phase programme also replaced the APG-65 radar with the more capable APG-73 and added the AAQ-28 Litening targeting pod, updated mission computers, communications including Link 16, JHMCS and updated electronic countermeasures. Later programmes added weapons such as the AIM-120 AMRAAM and AIM-132 ASRAAM air-to-air missiles, the AGM-158 Joint Air-toSurface Stand-off Missile (JASSM) and Joint Direct Attack Munitions. Commander Air Combat Group, Royal Australian Air Force, Air Commodore Steven Roberton commented: “I have had the privilege of flying around 3,000 hours in A

“The Fleet Readiness Centers face a significant backlog of work, particularly for the service life extension of our legacy Hornets” Admiral Michelle Howard, US Navy


MILITARY F/A-18 HORNET Twenty-four former US Navy F/A-18As were purchased with deliveries in 1995– 1998. These Hornets were assigned to Ala 46, 462 Escadron at Gando Air Base in the Canary Islands and serve primarily in the air defence role. Spanish Hornets supported

EJÉRCITO DEL AIRE HORNET SQUADRONS Ala 15, Zaragoza Air Base 151 Escadron 152 Escadron 153 Escadron (the operational conversion unit) Ala 12, Torrejón Air Base 121 Escadron 122 Escadron Ala 46, Gando Air Base

Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Alexander Delgado/US Navy

through F models: A and B-model Hornets since the early 1990s; a subsequent tour with an operational US Marine Corps squadron in the late 1990s gave me experience with C and D models; and then as the lead of the Royal Australian Air Force’s Super Hornet introduction in 2007 to 2011, I flew the E and F model Super

ROYAL AUSTRALIAN AIR FORCE F/A-18 HORNET SQUADRONS RAAF Base Williamtown, Queensland No.2 Operational Conversion Unit No.3 Squadron No.77 Squadron RAAF Base Tindal, Northern Territories No.75 Squadron

Hornets with the US Navy. The Hornet is fun to fly, designed by and for pilots. The jet is very reliable and well proven in all air combat roles. In a turning fight, or in a complex air support environment, there is simply no other fourth-generation fighter in the world I’d rather be in.” The Royal Australian Air Force’s classic Hornet fleet today includes 71 aircraft. The OCU and No.3 Squadron will begin phasing out its F/A-18s in 2018 and all Hornets are planned to be replaced by F-35As by 2023.

Spain After an extensive evaluation, in 1982 the Spanish Government selected the F/A18 as the future Ejército del Aire (Spanish Air Force) fighter. The initial planned buy included 60 single-seat EF-18As and 12 two-seat EF-18Bs designated as the C.15 and CE.15 respectively.

462 Escadron

NATO operations over Bosnia and Kosovo and helped enforce the no-fly zone over Libya in 2011. The original Hornets have been upgraded twice; first to EF-18-plus standard and then to EF-18M mid-life update configuration. During 1993 and 1994 a team that included the Ejército del Aire Logistics Centre, Spanish and US industry performed structural enhancements and added upgraded mission computers, software, hardware, the AAS-38 Nitehawk FLIR and laser designation pod to complete the EF-18A+ and EF-18B+ upgrade. This first upgrade enabled employment of the AIM-120 AMRAAM air-to-air missile, AGM-65 Maverick air-to-ground missile and carriage of a wider variety of weapons configurations. From 2003 to 2016, the remaining Ejército del Aire Hornets (six have been lost in accidents) went through a unique Spanish mid-life upgrade, after which they

This image of an F/A-18C Hornet during arrestment on the flight deck of aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75) captures one flight deck procedure at the heart of US Naval aviation: the trap. The F/A-18 Hornet was designed for flight deck ops. Mass Communication Specialist Lindsay Preston/US Navy


F/A-18 HORNET MILITARY were designated EF-18Ms. This included a new head-up display, communications systems, IFF, cockpit displays, an upgraded central computer, the addition of the Rafael Litening FLIR or Reccelite pods, and the Thales helmet mounted cueing system to improve targeting. The EF-18M added new weapons; the AIM-2000 IRIS-T (Infrared Imaging SystemTail/Thrust-vector controlled air-to-air missile and the KEDP-350 Taurus conventionallyarmed stand-off missile. The Hornets are expected to serve in the Ejército del Aire for many years.

Kuwait The Al Quwwat Al Jawwaiya Al Kuwaitiya (Kuwait Air Force) bought 32 F/A-18C and eight F/A-18D Hornets in 1988 to replace its A-4KUs and Mirage F1s. These aircraft were delivered between 1991 and 1993 and were equipped with the more powerful F404GE-402 engines. The aircraft serve with 9 and 25 Fighter Attack Squadrons at Al Jaber Air Base and have received modifications to address structural issues and enhance their tactical capabilities. Kuwait Air Force Hornets flew missions over Iraq during Operation Southern Watch in the 1990s and have supported operations in Yemen since 2014.

Finland In 1989, a competition was launched to replace the Ilmavoimet Flyvapnet’s (Finnish Air Force) MiG-21s and Drakens for the air defence role, and in 1992 the Hornet was selected. Finland bought seven F-18Ds produced in St Louis and 67 F-18C kits, which were assembled by Patria in Finland between 1996 and 2000. The Finnish Hornets were all lateproduction Lot 17 F-18C and F-18Ds equipped with the APG-73 radar, high-thrust

FINNISH F/A-18 STATUS REPORT The Ilmavoimet Flyvapnet’s (Finnish Air Force) 62 F-18s (55 F-18C and seven F-18Ds) form the backbone of Finnish air defence. The F-18s stand on quick reaction alert at air bases across the country. In time of a crisis, the Hornet fleet maintains a readiness to shift its focus to defensive counter air missions. Under peace time conditions, Hornets are normally located at the main operating bases (Kuopio-Rissala, Rovaniemi and Pirkkala). If a need arises to adjust readiness level, either in peace time or in the event of a crisis, aircraft may be dispersed to road bases and other remote operating locations. Most Hornets are assigned to the Lapland and Karelia Air Commands, flown by 11 and 31 Fighter Squadrons respectively. Each operational squadron is responsible for training and air policing missions and flies the majority of the annual F-18 flight hour allocation. There isn’t a separate operational conversion unit; instead new pilots complete their advanced and tactical Hawk training syllabus, and thereby graduate from the Air Force Academy at Jyväskylä and move straight to an operational unit. The Finnish Hornet fleet has been subject to systematic updates, some minor, others full-scale upgrades. Partners have included Boeing, Naval Air Systems Command as an upgrade design organisation and equipment supplier, and the Finnish defence company Patria, which provides life cycle support services for the aircraft. Full modernisation was split between two separate mid-life upgrades, designated MLU 1 and MLU 2, which were incorporated between 2004 and 2010, and between 2010 and 2016, respectively. The focus of MLU 1 was to revamp the Hornet’s air-to-air capability. The aircraft were fitted with provisions for a helmet-mounted sighting system to improve close-range combat capability and the AIM-9X Sidewinder missile. A new APX-111 Combined Interrogator and Transponder identification friend or foe (IFF) system for easier identification during combat was also fitted. These features were supplemented by a tactical moving map capability. The primary objective of MLU 2 is to give Finnish Hornets an air-to-surface capability, by integrating direct-attack smart bombs, medium-range glide weapons, long-range stand-off missiles, and the AAQ-28 Litening targeting pod. MLU 2 further increases the Hornet’s capability in the air combat role and introduces modern self-protection, communication and information distribution systems. One aim is to make the aircraft more interoperable in joint operations and improve its interfacing with civil air traffic control services. MLU 2 will bring updated navigation systems and the Link 16-based Multifunctional Information Distribution System (MIDS). Large liquid crystal displays will be installed and updates to the Litening pod, Mode S IFF, radios with 8.33Khz channel spacing, and the ALR-67(V2) radar warning receiver. MLU 2 includes structural strengthening and purchase of line replaceable units and other spares to ensure the availability of aircraft at operational units until the end of the type’s life cycle. The entire upgrade programme and associated purchase of materials has led to significant synergy benefits through cooperation with other Hornet users. MLU 2 is in its final stage. Modifications to all MLU 2 airframes are being carried out by Patria. The project to provide Hornets with an air-to-surface capability has reached the weapons integration phase. Three variants of the Joint Direct Attack Munition – the 2,000lb GBU-31(V)1 and GBU-31(V)3, the 1,000lb GBU-32 and the 500lb GBU-38 – were tested in 2015 with four live drops. Additionally, the AGM-154C Joint Stand-Off Weapon has been integrated to meet the stand-off weapon release option. Two Ilmavoimet Flyvapnet F-18C Hornets arrived at Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake in California in mid-April where the compatibility of the AGM-158 Joint Air-to-Surface Strike Missile with the Hornet and its performance were due to be verified with ground and flight tests. The detachment will return to Finland in September 2017. At the start of 2016 the Ilmavoimet Flyvapnet Hornet fleet was given an initial operational capability for the JDAM and JSOW air-to-surface weapons and is expected to receive full operational capability at the beginning of 2018. Using stress modelling, Patria and the Ilmavoimet Flyvapnet have designed the Hornet operational load programme to monitor fatigue life expended (FLE). According to the data collected, Finnish Hornets will reach their expected 4,500-hour fatigue life without need for further airframe work, taking the Hornet to its out-of-service date of 2030. One reason for a higher FLE index usage than for most F-18 users is caused by the way the Ilmavoimet Flyvapnet operates its Hornets. Training areas are very close to the main air bases, so there is no need for long transit flights. With MLU 2 fully fielded, the Hornet will be at the peak of its life cycle performance and maintain its prowess until replaced by a modern multirole fighter. However, the combined effect of MLU 1 and MLU 2 will not extend the airframe’s service life since the cost-effective development of the aircraft’s capabilities to meet the technological advances in air warfare, foreseen over the coming decades, would not be feasible. Finland is not planning any further F-18 MLU programmes; instead the Ministry of Defence has launched the HX programme to replace the Hornet by 2025 with multirole fighters. Finnish Defence Forces Logistics Command has sent requests for information to the governments of the UK (Typhoon), France (Rafale), Sweden (Gripen NG) and the United States (Super Hornet and the F-35 Lightning II). The invitation to tender for the HX programme will be released in 2018 and the procurement decision is scheduled for 2021. The F-18 is very agile, easy to handle, and pilot to vehicle harmonisation is carried out effectively, which is extremely important in modern air warfare. Finnish F-18 simulation systems and a virtual training environment maximise the effectiveness of the pilot training system. In a beyond visual range scenario, the Hornet’s sensors provide comprehensive situational awareness and the aircraft’s performance and weapons allow tactical freedom and a first shot capability. In the visual arena, JHMCS and AIM-9X are a lethal combination. The F-18 is all-weather capable and its Link 16 systems and sensors allow very flexible use of different tactics. MLU 2 will enable Finnish pilots to exercise the full potential of the Hornet in joint and combined operations with a wide range of air-to-air and air-to-ground capabilities. Lieutenant Colonel Tuukka Elonheimo, AFCOMFIN A3 Operations Division, Chief of Flight Operations



EJÉRCITO DEL AIRE EF-18: EVOLUTION AND INTERNATIONALISATION The EF-18’s introduction to Ejército del Aire service provided a step change in the capability and quality of its combat air force and enabled Spain to participate in international operations like Operations Deny Flight, Deliberate Force and Allied Force during the Balkan wars. With the EF18, the Spanish Government had an asset suitable for military intervention anywhere in the world. The availability of a system capable of projecting military power outside of Spain contributed decisively to the change of mentality shown by Spanish society towards the air force. It marked a turning point in public opinion and involved moving from a traditional model of territorial defence to one that was, for example, ready to ‘impose’ peace in Bosnia-Herzegovina in a NATO mission. The EF-18 allowed the translation of political will into actions aimed at ensuring stability, or at least providing a certain degree of deterrence. The technological return to Spain’s aerospace and defence industry amounted to approximately 10% of the EF-18 programme cost as technology transfers. Clearance for Spanish companies to co-produce equipment for the EF-18, in a quantity greater than previous programmes such as the Northrop F-5 or the Mirage F1, allowed Spain to develop its own defence capabilities, which has contributed to the penetration by the Spanish companies into international markets. Having access to technology that facilitates modification of the aircraft’s hardware and software by organic (air force) and national means, enabled the EF-18 weapon system to use indigenously produced weapons and to update electronic equipment when it became obsolete. This was the case with the new tactical mission computer, which made it possible to display imagery captured by the Litening and Reccelite targeting pods, and provide improved management of mission data, to give the pilot greater situational awareness. Most of the expertise is held by personnel assigned to the Centro Logístico de Armamento y Experimentación (CLAEX), which provides the Ejército del Aire greater independence in providing the EF-18 with different versions of operational flight programme software tailored to Spanish needs. The arrival of the EF-18 was a pioneering programme represented the modernisation of Spanish air power in terms of the equipment used and the training of personnel including computer-assisted theoretical instruction, briefing and debriefing systems based on 3D representations, the hands-off throttle and stick concept and the implementation of air-tosurface night attack with laser target designation. The Multifunctional Information Distribution System provided pilots with a substantial increase in situational awareness, and adoption of new tactics also resulted in improvements to training. Equally, new precision-guided weapons with a targeting pod equipped with an integrated laser designator, also added to capability of Spanish air power. The EF-18 mid-life update continued the evolution of the operational flight programme software and integration of the KEPD-350 TAURUS conventionally-armed stand-off missile, the 1,000lb (454kg) EGBU-16 precision-guided bomb and the IRIS-T air-to-air missile. The increased weapon payload capability of the EF-18 was made possible by extending the data bus to each wingtip to enable carriage of missiles like the IRIS-T, modernisation of the APG-65 radar with an interrogator capability, fusion of inertial and GPS data into the weapons management system, and fitting two new systems; the SPAI-900 electronic warfare suite and the Scorpion visor, an integrated helmet-mounted sight that provides target designation capability. Twenty-four F/A-18A+ standard Hornets were bought from the US Navy, all of which were modernised (mainly by the CLAEX) to a standard equivalent to the original EF-18A configuration. The F/A-18A+ aircraft have participated in major multinational NATO exercises that include Spring Flag in Italy, Bold Avenger in Norway and Anatolian Eagle in Turkey. Despite the EF-18’s modernised configuration standard, the Ejército del Aire will have to replace the aircraft and is rigorously evaluating Future Combat Air Systems based on a ‘system of systems’ approach that will combine piloted fighter aircraft and remotely piloted systems. It is not the case of just replacing one platform for another, but rather of relying on what new technologies offer to provide the desired effects (such as accelerating the decision cycle using ISR and sensors embedded in a multiplatform system or taking advantage of technology that allows a new fighter to avoid A2/AD areas of enemy air defence). The reasoning is similar to that followed by NATO in its joint air power strategy for the design of a new air combat fighter aircraft. Various options are available to Spain, such as the Advanced Super Hornet or Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II. The really important aspect of the new acquisition process is timing: it needs to begin as soon as possible to enable the first aircraft to enter service in the middle of the next decade, when the first EF-18s are scheduled to retire. The number of aircraft and the ratio of piloted to non-piloted platforms depends of many factors and will be the subject of a full study; it is not possible to quote an exact number today. The non-piloted combat aircraft could arise from European initiatives already in progress, such as the Neuron UCAV prototype currently in flight testing. Thirty years after the EF-18’s arrival, the Ejército del Aire finds itself at another historic point: a new period in which a large component of its combat air capability needs replacing and in the none-too-favourable context of defence investment. All the weapons systems, including the most outstanding and versatile, have an expiry date and the end of the EF-18 is on the way. Spain needs to deliberate replacement of its Hornet fleet, and provide the Ejército del Aire with air superiority and ground attack capabilities that will endure in the future.  Colonel Juan Martin-Albo, Ejército del Aire

F404-GE-402 engines, a unique Finnish data link and armed with the AIM-120B AMRAAM and AIM-9M air-to-air missiles. The Hornets were assigned to HavLLv11 (11 Fighter Squadron) at Rovaniemi, HaLLv21 at Pirkkala and HaLLv31 at KuopioRissala. Defence reforms in 2014 meant most F-18s were assigned to HaLLv11 and HaLLv31. Pirkkala has now become the Air Combat Centre, responsible for developing air warfare tactics and flight-testing the Hornet fleet.

ILMAVOIMET FLYVAPNET F-18 HORNET SQUADRONS Rovaniemi Air Base HavLLv11 Pirkkala Air Base HaLLv21 Kuopio-Rissala HaLLv31


F/A-18 HORNET MILITARY Schweizer Flugwaffe F/A-18C J-5014 dispensing flares during a display at Payerne Air Base. Ismael Jorda/AirTeamImages

Finland has upgraded its Hornets in a twostep mid-life update programme, with MLU 1 taking place from 2004 to 2010 and then MLU 2 from 2010 to 2016 (see panel). The country is now starting its HX programme to replace the F-18 after 2025.

SCHWEIZER LUFTWAFFE F/A-18 HORNET SQUADRONS Meiringen Air Base Fliegerstaffel 11

an upgraded GPS, computer upgrades and structural enhancements. With an ageing F-5 fleet, budget cuts and a national referendum in 2014 which voted against a new fighter, the Hornet will continue to be the backbone of Swiss air defence for years to come.


Payerne Air Base


The Swiss Government selected the F/A-18 to be its future fighter for national air defence in 1988, and in 1993 purchased 26 F/A18Cs, eight F/A-18Ds and one fatigue test aircraft for the Schweizer Luftwaffe (Swiss Air Force). These late-production Lot 18 aircraft included the APG-73 radar, F404-GE-402 engines and strengthened wing spars. Two Hornets were delivered directly from the production line in St Louis and the remainder assembled from kits in country at Emmen between 1996 and 1999. Four Hornets have been lost in accidents. Swiss Hornets have undergone two upgrades since delivery. Upgrade 21 included integration of the JHMCS, Link 16 and

Fliegerstaffel 17

In June 1993, the Tentera Udara Diraja Malaysia (Royal Malaysian Air Force) placed an order for eight F/A-18Ds. The aircraft were delivered in 1997 to 18 Skuadron based at RMAF Butterworth. In 2011, Boeing received a US Government Foreign Military Sales contract to modernise Malaysia’s Hornets and enhance their capabilities. This included the addition of colour cockpit displays, GPS and IFF upgrades, the addition of the JHMCS, and support and training. The aircraft flew air strikes in support of anti-terrorist operations in Northern Borneo in 2013 and have been a regular participant in training with the US Navy, US Marine Corps and Royal Australian Air Force.

Fliegerstaffel 18

both the AIM-9X Sidewinder and AIM-120 AMRAAM air-to-air missiles. A Swiss F/A-18C was based at Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake, California for the duration of a flight test programme designed to evaluate the Upgrade 21 capabilities and to fire AIM9X and AIM-120 missiles. In 2008, the Swiss Government approved a further enhancement for the Hornet fleet entitled Upgrade 25. Systems added include the Raytheon ALR-67(V)3 radar warning system, the ASQ-228 Advanced Targeting Forward Looking Infrared (ATFLIR) pod, new cockpit displays,




1 Personnel from the 185° Reggimento Artiglieria Paracadutisti undertaking a FRIES training mission in Tuscany from a 3° REOS HH-412. All photos Riccardo Niccoli unless stated

2 The second Aviazone dell’Esercito ICH-47F MM.81779/E.I.702 over Lake Maggiore, northern Italy, before delivery. Clearly visible are the three chaff and flare dispensers on the rear part of port side, part of the SIAP self-defence suite. 3 An ICH-47F taxiing at Viterbo, with a CH-47C taking off behind. Clearly visible under the Foxtrot’s nose are the new Selex ES LOAM system, a FLIR sensor, and a high-intensity searchlight. AgustaWestland via author



n 2014, the Aviazione dell’Esercito (AVES, or Italian Army Aviation) made an important step in its ability to operate at high level in national and international environments in the special forces field. On November 10 that year, at Viterbo it activated the 3° Reggimento Elicotteri per Operazioni Speciali (REOS, or Special Operations Helicopter Regiment), known as ‘Aldebaran’.


Italian S The official ceremony to mark the squadron standing up was held on January 29, 2015, but the origins of this project date back to 2012, when the army realised 26° Gruppo Squadroni (Battalion) ‘Giove’, lacked the necessary capability to be fully included in the Italian special forces community. It was necessary to upgrade the unit to regiment level capable of building up to a task force when necessary, with the ability to operate at least two Special Operations Air Task Units, plus possible Direct Support Task Units and one Combat Service Support Unit, for national (joint) and international forces. The project was assigned by the Army General Staff to Colonel Andrea Di Stasio, who – after having conceived and organised the unit – was logically its first commander.

Organisation Aldebaran was created using 26° Gruppo Squadroni as the core unit, augmented by the addition of regiment HQ and command and logistics support squadrons. The flight

component comprises 426° Elicotteri da Trasporto Medio (ETM or Medium Helicopter Transport Squadron) equipped with CH47Cs, and 526° Elicotteri da Supporto al Combattimento (ESC or Combat Helicopter Support Squadron) equipped with HH-412As and UH-90As. At present, the Chinooks are not permanently assigned to 3° REOS, because they are being replaced by the new ICH-47F. When fully operational, 3° REOS will operate three squadrons: one ETM with up to six ICH-47Fs, one ESC with eight HH-412s, and another ESC with six UH-90s. Despite earlier plans, the regiment will continue to operate with the HH-412, because it is a valuable and flexible asset. It is light, compared to the heavy Chinook, and it is smaller and more agile than the UH-90A. Above all, the HH-412 is an excellent platform for heli-sniping and it is the only one of the three types that can be deployed with short notice in a C-130J. The regiment has been able to operate since the very beginning by increasing its


Riccardo Niccoli visited 3° REOS, Italian Army Aviation’s Special Forces Regiment

Special Ops capabilities. New personnel were used to build up and strengthen the support and operational components. Now, the regiment is able to conduct first level maintenance activity on all three types and is still growing in size.

Special Operations Course The unit’s personnel are volunteers from other AVES units. A first screening phase is carried out by the Army General Staff, the 9º Reggimento d’Assalto Paracadutisti (9th

Assault Parachute Regiment), and AVES Command. Those selected are sent on a course for special operations flying that is divided into two phases. The first 21-week phase is called Operatore Basico per Operazioni Speciali (OBOS or basic operator for special operations) and is dedicated to ground activity. The second 21-week phase, dedicated to flight operations, is carried out at different places and units. By the end of the course, the applicant is a qualified special operations pilot or specialist 3

flight crew. A different syllabus has been developed for the onboard gunners. They attend a 22-week OBOS course, and then a second 24-week course specific to gunners and run by 3° REOS. By spring 2015, just a few months after its establishment, the regiment was committed to several joint training activities with special operations forces from the Marina Militare (Italian Navy) and Aeronautica Militare (Italian Air Force) in force integration training, arranged by the Comando Interforze per le Operazioni delle Forze Speciali (Joint Special Forces Command). In June 2015, Viterbo was home of an important international exercise, Italian Blade 2015, organised by the European Defence Agency. This saw 3° REOS operate as the core unit in the exercise, which involved a series of tactical exercises based on typical special forces operations.

The New ICH-47F Aviazione dell’Esercito has operated the Chinook since 1973, when it started to


MILITARY 3° REOS - ITALIAN ARMY AVIATION receive the first of 40 CH-47Cs assembled by Elicotteri Meridionali, a subsidiary of Agusta. The experiences of four decades of operations with the CH-47C were so satisfactory that, when the need for a replacement arose, the AVES decided to replace the old Chinooks with… new Chinooks. The programme started in July 2008, when AgustaWestland (AW) signed an industrial agreement with Boeing for the licensed production of the CH-47F, which, after modifications requested by the AVES, was designated ICH-47F (I for Improved). The deal allows AW to produce and market the ICH-47F model not only to Italy, but also to other European and Mediterranean countries. AW is responsible for the systems integration, final assembly and delivery, and was qualified to produce the transmission system. Boeing is responsible for fuselage


manufacture. The €900 million contract for AVES was signed on May 13, 2009. It covers 16 helicopters (with an option for four more), plus five years of technical support. If resources are available, AVES hopes the four machines will be completed in a special operations configuration featuring enlarged fuel tanks.

Charlie and Foxtrot Differences


Compared to the old CH-47C, the ICH-47F features numerous new equipment and avionics systems that make it a modern and extremely capable and reliable machine. The autopilot can be programmed on board the helicopter, and with a ground planning station. The glass cockpit is dominated by five large, colour, LCD multifunction displays. For instrument flying rules and all-weather flight, there is a Rockwell Collins Common Avionics Architecture System advanced autopilot, coupled to the BAE Systems Digital Advanced Flight Control System. In addition, there is a Honeywell Primus WR700A weather radar, and a L3 Avionics WX500 Stormscope, for detection of electrical bursts in the air. A MIL-STD-1553 databus, allows the interface of digital systems in the battlefield, and better management of the navigation, communication and datalink data. The ICH-47F fuselage is produced in a single construction piece that is lighter and reduces vibrations and technical inspections compared to the CH-47C. A big performace improvement comes from the new Honeywell T55-LA-714A engines, each delivering 4,777shp (3,562kW) compared to the CH-47C’s Lycoming T55L-712E turbines each rated at 3,800shp (2,883KW). The new engines provide the power for a maximum speed of 170kts (315km/h), a maximum take-off weight of 49,956lb (22,680kg), and a maximum load of 26,652lb (12,100kg). The maximum combat range is 400 nautical miles (741km).

Customised Features



Besides the standard features of the F-model, the new Italian Chinook is equipped with systems specified by AVES; a new digital intercommunication system formed by HF SRT-170 radios, VHF/UHF SRT-651 radios and an SRT-651/P satcom radio, all assembled in three multiband units, one of them with satcom, secure voice and encrypted capability; a forward-looking

3° REOS - ITALIAN ARMY AVIATION MILITARY infrared (FLIR) system and video recording capability; laser range finder; an emergency egress lighting system; AgustaWestland’s Sistema Integrato di Auto Protezione (SIAP or Integrated Self-defence System) comprising radar, missile and laser warning sensors, plus six chaff and flare dispensers. Self-defence firepower comprises two M134 7.62mm miniguns, for each side door, and a Browning M3M 12.7mm machine gun on the rear ramp. There are five points to attach fast ropes and an external hoist above the right side door. The ICH-47F is fitted with the Selex ES LOAM (low obstacle avoidance monitoring) system and a high-intensity searchlight under the nose. Avionics include an M425 new-generation identification friend or foe, an ANV/421 multi-mode receiver (that integrates VOR/ILS/MB, DGPS and MLS), a UHF/ VHF DF430 homer, one emergency locator system, an ARS-700G airborne search and rescue system, and a TRD94 transponder.

Deliveries and Service The first ICH-47F (experimental serial CSX.81778) had its maiden flight on June 24, 2013, from AgustaWestland’s Vergiate facility. Various test and certification activities then followed for about a year. The official delivery ceremony for the aircraft with serial number MM81778/E. I.701, was held at Vergiate on October 2, 2014, in the presence of various civil and military authorities. The second helicopter (MM81779/E.I.702), actually the first to be accepted in service, took-off for the delivery flight to Viterbo. As with the Charlie models, ICH-47Fs will be operated by just two units, both based at Viterbo: 3° REOS Aldebaran and 1° Reggimento ‘Antares’ (the main operator). Viterbo is also the home of the 4° Reggimento di Sostegno (4th Technical Support Regiment) ‘Scorpione’, the AVES maintenance depot for the Chinook fleet. Aldebaran will receive at least four ICH47Fs in standard configuration, but equipped with a ROVER 5 system, new generation night-vision goggles, and bubble windows


to increase the gunners’ visibility. Unlike the CH-47C, the Foxtrot can be loaded with three Robinson ERFS II extended-range fuel tanks that can each carry 800 US gallons (3,028 litres) fitted into the cargo area. This capability, extremely useful for special operations, triples the Chinook’s endurance. With all three tanks installed the 3° REOS ICH-47Fs can reach most areas in North Africa from Viterbo. By the end of 2014, AgustaWestland had already delivered the first four ICH47Fs, although one (E.I.704) remained with the manufacturer to complete a series of certifications. Eight helicopters were available by the end of 2015, enabling Antares to reach initial operational capability. The production rate foresees the deliveries of four helicopters per year, with the last deliveries in 2017.

Training Courses Training of a first batch of personnel (eight pilots and four flight engineers, all qualified instructors) started in June 2014 at the AgustaWestland facilities at Sesto Calende, carried out by Boeing personnel. Later, in October and November 2014 after delivery of the first F-models, this first group completed the flight transition at

1 Six UH-90As, one of which is seen on the range at Monte Romano near Viterbo, will be assigned to 3° REOS. 2 The ICH-47F’s advanced glass cockpit is dominated by five colour multifunction displays. 3 The cargo cabin of the ICH-47F is similar to the older CH-47C, but features simpler hooking systems. 4 A CH-47C embarking soft boats before a soft boat release mission. 5 A CH-47C from 3° REOS conducting a soft boat release mission with the 185° Reggimento Artiglieria Paracadutisti during marginal weather conditions in the Thyrrenean Sea.


Viterbo. These already very experienced crews needed only a familiarisation phase, which lasted about 15 hours for the pilots, and seven to eight hours for the flight engineers. The first courses for operational pilots started on March 9, 2015, and AVES completed qualification of 32 pilots on the new type that year. At present, the courses are managed by the Centro Formazione Equipaggi, the aircrew training section of the Antares regiment. Training courses to qualify new Chinook pilots should start in 2017, which are estimated to be based on about 30 flying hours. In the meantime, qualification and certification activity for some systems (such as the SIAP and armaments) goes on, carried out in cooperation between AgustaWestland and AVES. The F-model has more advanced maintenance activity compared to the CH47C. Part of the technical inspections are no longer dictated by functional or calendar limits, but by the ‘on condition’ philosophy. The scheduled controls are more similar to those of the civil sector, thus being more frequent and shorter, to reduce stops and improve availability. One interesting additon to the maintenance schedule is the introduction of anti-corrosion checks, every 45–90 days.

FRIES TRAINING During AIR International’s visit to the regiment, we had the opportunity to follow a daytime training mission, in support of the 185° Reggimento Artiglieria Paracadutisti (185th Paratrooper Artillery Regiment). On this occasion, an HH-412 conducting fast rope training used the fast rope insertion and extraction system (FRIES), a specific technique used when special forces operators have to be released on a target where it is not possible to land. Using FRIES requires a high level of piloting skill and excellent coordination between the crew and the assault team, which can be achieved thanks to constant training. Separately, AIR International witnessed a CH-47C helicopter carry out a soft boat release, an insertion technique used to release operators and boats on water. As you can see from the accompanying photo, this activity was carried out in marginal weather conditions – quite representative of a possible real mission, when normal flying units may decide to abort the mission for safety reasons. This is the attitude of the special forces: to master all the technical and professional skills necessary to complete their missions, day or night, with the correct mental attitude to overcome the difficulties.





Alexander Mladenov and Krassimir Grozev look at Romania’s procurement of an F-16 force sourced second hand from Portugal and the United States The first six F-16s arrived in Romania with only nine pilots trained on the type in Portugal. More pilots will be converted to the type locally using a mix of FAR and Força Aérea Portuguesa instructors. Eugen Mihai/Romanian Ministry of Defence



he Forţele Aeriene Române (FAR, Romanian Air Force) is the latest member of the F-16 operator club. Three years after signing a purchase agreement, the first Vipers landed in Romania on September 29, 2016. Six F-16MLUs, complete with Romanian national insignia and serials, were formally handed over by the Força Aérea Portuguesa (FAP, Portuguese Air Force) at Base Aérea 5, Monte Real the previous day. Before that, the six aircraft, wearing a distinctive Carpathian ghost camouflage scheme featuring three shades of grey, flew training missions with Romanian pilots in the cockpit, but had no serials or national insignia applied. This first batch comprised five F-16AMs, FAR serials 1601, 1602, 1603, 1604 and 1608, and F-16BM 1610. A further three are expected in December and the last trio is set for delivery in October 2017. An official ceremony, to mark the commissioning of the first six Romanian

ROMANIAN AIR FORCE F-16s MILITARY F-16s purchased under the Peace Carpathian programme and approved by the US Government, was held on October 7. This was a high-key event attended by Romania’s Prime Minister Dacian Ciolos, Defence Minister Mihnea Motoc, and Portuguese Defence Minister Jose Alberto de Azeredo Lopes. Held at Baza 86 Aeriana (86th Air Base) Borcea-Feteşti, the ceremony marked the culmination of an effort by the Romanian Government to acquire new fighter aircraft. After deliberation, the government eventually decided to opt for a no-bid process at the beginning of the decade, in an attempt to put a new NATO-standard fighter type into service in a straightforward way to replace Romania’s ageing fleet of MiG-21 LanceRs.

Deal Romania’s decision to purchase the F-16 dates back to March 2010. At the time, the plan called for 24 second-hand Block 25 F-16s sourced from surplus US Air Force stocks with a large logistics package, all for a cool $1.3 billion. However, in August that

year the Romanian Government reportedly failed to pay the advance payment and thus walked away from the deal. Two years later, a new procurement plan called for the purchase of second-hand F-16MLUs sourced from a European nation. From the outset, Portugal and the Netherlands were regarded as the most likely sources, while Greece also offered Block 30 F-16s. Portugal’s offer was eventually selected as the best deal; the budget-constrained Iberian nation was seeking to dispose of nine F-16s. A letter of intent was sent in September 2012 and Romania entered into a headto-head competition with Bulgaria to buy Portugal’s surplus F-16s. In February 2013, Bulgaria quit the race due to the resignation of the government leaving Romania as the only bidder for the well-maintained aircraft. Contract signature for 12 Block 15 F-16s upgraded to mid-life upgrade (MLU) standard supplied with overhauled engines and initial logistics support comprising three spare engines, parts, ground support equipment and the training of 88 Romanian servicemen took place on September 30, 2013.


MILITARY ROMANIAN AIR FORCE F-16s from US Air National Guard service and placed in a long-term storage until delivery to Portugal in 1999. Consequently, the FAR has become their third operator. The Romanian aircraft are among the oldest F-16s flying in the world, but still have a service life of 4,000 to 4,500 flight hours remaining, which is deemed sufficient for another 20 years of operation.



The 88 personnel comprised nine pilots, 69 technicians and ten other officers (and among them were four mission planers). Nine F-16s were former Portuguese aircraft (seven single-seat F-16As and two two-seat F-16Bs), and the remaining three were former US Air Force examples (one single-seat F-16A and two two-seat F-16Bs) sourced from long-term storage at the 309th Aerospace Maintenance And Regeneration Group at Davis Mountain Air Force Base, Arizona. All 12 jets were set for configuration to Operational Flight Program (OFP) M5.2R standard, with support provided by Lockheed Martin. The configuration standard is noteworthy because M5.2R is not the latest MLU OFP and does not support the latest weapons certified for the F-16, such as the AIM-9X Sidewinder and AIM-120D air-to-air missiles, and the GPS/INS-guided weapons such as the Joint Direct Attack Munition, AGM-158 Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile and the GBU-39 Small Diameter Bomb, and the updated Link 16 datalink.

The decision to retain M5.2R rather than the latest M6.5 OFP is seen as a pragmatic one; Romania cannot afford expensive new-generation weapons, so there was no compelling reason to spend a lot of money for the new mission-standard software. However, the basic M5 standard includes improved satellite navigation, weapons integration, communications and mission planning capabilities and capability to carry more 500lb class (227kg) bombs, such as the EGBU-12 Enhanced Paveway GPS/laserguided bomb. Operational testing of M5 was completed in 2008, while M5.2 is so-called clean-up standard, featuring rectification of small glitches originally present in M5. The batch of FAR F-16s taken on strength in September were all built to Block 15 configuration between July 1983 and April 1984 and originally operated by the US Air Force. All six aircraft were withdrawn

1 The six-strong F-16 formation passes overhead Borcea-Feteşti at the end of the delivery flight from Portugal. Petrică Mihalache/Romanian Ministry of Defence 2 A Romanian F-16 pilot after the ferry flight from Monte Real Air Base in Portugal to Borcea-Feteşti. Petrică Mihalache/Romanian Ministry of Defence



A separate agreement covering the supply of a large logistics package (including ground servicing equipment, spare parts, services and training), in addition to a modest supply of weapons, was signed with the US Government. Weapons covered are: 60 AIM9M Sidewinder and 30 AIM-120C AMRAAM air-to-air missiles; CATM-9 and CATM-120 captive air training missiles; ten 500lb (227kg) GBU-12 Paveway II laser-guided bombs; 18 AGM-65H/AGM-65K Maverick air-to-surface missiles; four CATM-65 training rounds; and three ALQ-131 jammer pods. Romania will pay €628 million for the aircraft and support packages; logistics and weapons under a payment schedule between 2013 and 2017. The total includes €120 million for the aircraft, and €508 million for the upgrade, life extension effort, logistics support and weapons package, and pilot and ground personnel training. In a separate contract Lockheed Martin will supply an undisclosed number of AAQ33 Sniper targeting pods, with a unit price of about $1.5 million. In addition, €32 million (including €20 million granted by NATO) was invested in the refurbishment and modernisation of facilities at Borcea-Feteşti Air Base, including a runway extension from 8,200ft (2,500m) to 9,180ft (2,800m), installation of an arrestor cable system, construction of new hangars and improvements to the infrastructure needed to make the base good for F-16 operations.

Future Fighters As of October, the FAR had six F-16s and six qualified pilots,

ROMANIAN AIR FORCE F-16s MILITARY 3 F-16AM 1608 and F-16BM 1610 in formation with LanceR C 6807. The ageing MiG-21F upgraded with Israeli avionics in the late 1990s and early 2000s is set to remain in service until 2020. Romanian Air Force 4 All six FAR F-16s ready to depart Monte Real Air Base on September 29 for Borcea-Feteşti in south-east Romania. Eugen Mihai/Romanian Ministry of Defence


each with 200 flight hours accumulated during training in Portugal. In April 2017, three more pilots will complete their typerating course. To meet its initial combat-ready status the FAR F-16 force will be required to maintain quick reaction alert duty for the air policing mission. This is expected to be achieved in the fourth quarter of 2017, followed by full combat-ready status by 2019. Dates for the milestones listed are tentative, because it remains unclear how F-16 operations will develop in the near-tomid-term. One of the biggest issues faced by the FAR is the small number of trained maintenance technicians and engineers. In a bid to improve the situation, an additional agreement was signed with Portugal for a two-year secondment of pilots, engineers, programmers and technicians who will be tasked with assisting with the F-16’s entryinto-service process. To date there have been no announcements about how Romania intends to increase its stock of precision-guided weapons (especially air-to-surface munitions) or when it will gain a reconnaissance capability. Decisions depend on funding from the Romanian Ministry of Defence in the mid to long term. Currently, the highest priority is to master the air-to-air mission, so the F-16 force can replace the LanceR C in the Black Sea QRA role and provide the FAR with greater range and endurance.

More F-16s? Romania’s commitment to the F-16 is set to continue in the long term, with followon purchases of either second-hand or new aircraft. The FAR re-equipment plans call for a fleet of three multi-role fighter squadrons, each with 12 aircraft. That force is set to replace the current fleet of about 20 operational LanceRs currently assigned to two operational squadrons, one at Baza 86 Aeriana at Borcea-Feteşti and one at

Baza 71 Aeriana at Câmpia Turzii. Due to the limited number of F-16s in the fleet and the protracted process to gain initial operating capability, the last LanceRs are expected to remain in service until 2020. In 2015, Romania launched a search for another dozen second-hand F-16s, from European operators and the United States. During the October 7 ceremony, Romanian Defence Minister Mihnea Motoc hinted that talks on the possibility of purchasing more F-16s have been held with Greece, Poland and the United States. Among the biggest challenges for the FAR is standardisation of its future F-16 fleet to a common configuration. The United

likely plan involves surplus US Air Force F-16s being upgraded in Portugal, while the logistics support and weapons package will be purchased under a foreign military sales contract with the United States Government. Romania’s process for acquiring more F-16s will also depend on entry into service of the first batch. Among the challenges likely to be experienced by the FAR will be funding the higher maintenance costs of the F-16 compared to the simple and dependable LanceR. Direct operating costs of the Romanian F-16 fleet are expected to increase in the coming decade, when Romania may be the only remaining F-16 MLU operator in Europe. Lockheed Martin representatives confirmed to AIR International that the company has held talks with Romania about the possibility for delivery of new-build F-16Vs. However, the Balkan country has a limited window of opportunity, because the F-16 production line at Air Force Plant 4, the production facility run by Lockheed Martin, is set to close down in 2018 unless new export customers emerge in the foreseeable future to extend its life. Romania’s Defence Minister Mihnea Motoc 4 has already announced that the eventual aim of the country is to purchase the Lockheed States is able to supply Block 15 F-16A and Martin F-35A Lightning II, which will replace F-16Bs for subsequent upgrade to the MLU the F-16 in about 20 years. It remains to be standard, but can also offer second-hand seen if Motoc’s long-term plans are realistic. F-16C and F-16Ds. Greece is trying to sell For the time being, one thing is sure: Romania its oldest Block 30 F-16s, though it is not has already achieved its long-time political known what Poland can offer, as the Polish aspiration to get the F-16. This procurement Air Force operates ten-year old Block 52+ can be also seen as a good will gesture of the F-16Cs and F-16Ds. local political elite to show its loyalty to the It’s logical to expect the second batch United States, after allowing deployment of the of F-16s to be cycled through upgrade in US ballistic missile shield at Deveselu Air Base. Portugal, where the state-owned company For now, the new F-16 fleet must work OGMA (Indústria Aeronáutica de Portugal up to a level of capability that allows it to SA) is geared to perform an MLU upgrade, conduct a range of missions, a process refurbishment and all needed life extensions that could prove a time-consuming and at affordable prices. Consequently, the most expensive challenge.




elivery of the Royal Australian Air Force’s first P-8A Poseidon in November 2016 also marked an important milestone in the drawdown of the country’s Lockheed P-3C Orion force, 38 years after the first aircraft was delivered in 1978.

An AP-3C Orion jettisons flares during a selfprotection systems trial conducted by the Aircraft Research and Development Unit based at RAAF Base Edinburgh, South Australia. Cpl Peter Gammie/Royal Australian Air Force


In fact, Australia’s involvement with the Orion (named after the Great Hunter and son of Poseidon in Greek mythology) goes back even further, to the arrival of the first P-3B in 1968. Eighteen of the 19 surviving P-3Cs were upgraded to AP-3C

standard in the 1990s and Australia’s Orions have also been the beneficiary of continuous incremental upgrades, to the point where they are regarded by their crews as the most capable P-3s in the world today. However, time marches on and the fleet is becoming increasingly difficult and expensive to maintain and is now being replaced by a mix of manned and unmanned aircraft each with a potent maritime surveillance capability in the shape of the P-8A Poseidon (in the near future) the unmanned Northrop Grumman MQ-4C Triton.

AP-3C ORION MILITARY The first AP-3Cs retired in 2014 and the first of the RAAF’s two operational maritime patrol squadrons (11 Squadron) has now relinquished its aircraft as it transitions to the Poseidon. All of the AP-3Cs are now consolidated within 10 Squadron and the drawdown will continue apace as further Poseidon deliveries occur. On current planning, the last of the Great Hunters is due to leave service towards the end of 2019.

Australian Orions Australia’s involvement with the Orion goes back to the early 1960s, when plans

to replace the ageing Lockheed SP-2E Neptune, then in service with 11 Squadron, began to gain momentum. The Royal Australian Air Force has maintained two maritime patrol squadrons since the end of World War Two. At the time, 11 Squadron was equipped with the SP-2E, whereas 10 Squadron had the recently introduced the SP-2H variant. The P-3B (the production variant at the time) was selected in November 1964, as part of a major air power modernisation plan that also saw the acquisition of the Dassault Mirage III, Lockheed C-130E Hercules

and Aermacchi MB326H. Ten aircraft were ordered and deliveries began in May 1968. By the early 1970s, with the P-3Bs established in service, the SP-2Hs of 10 Squadron were in turn becoming increasingly obsolescent. Following due consideration, eight more Orions were ordered in May 1975. By this time, the production variant was the P-3C Update II, so once again Australia found itself with two different maritime patrol capabilities, albeit based on the same airframe. The P-3C order was later increased to 10 aircraft and the first aircraft arrived in Australia in May 1978.

Nigel Pittaway visited RAAF Base Edinburgh, home of 92 Wing and the AP-3C Orion force

Great Hunter Twilight of the





By 1980, the wheel had turned full circle once again and consideration of an upgrade or replacement programme for the P-3B began to gain momentum. This eventually resulted in the purchase of a further 10 P-3C aircraft in October 1981 to allow 11 Squadron to re-equip. In December 1984, the first new aircraft arrived at RAAF Base Edinburgh in South Australia, home to the RAAF Orion fleet since the first P-3B was delivered. This second batch of P-3Cs was built to Update II.5 standard. For the first time, both operational maritime patrol squadrons operated aircraft with similar capabilities. In RAAF service the Orion’s official numbering system prefix is A9, with each batch given a separate range of numbers: -600 for the Update II.5 series aircraft



assigned to 11 Squadron and -700 for Update II series aircraft operated (initially at least) by 10 Squadron. The three-digit suffix of the full Australian serial number is adopted from the last three digits of the allocated US Navy Bureau Number: A9656 to A9-665 (BuNo 162656 to 162665) and A7-751 to A9-760 (BuNo 160751 to 160760). Initially, each standard of P-3C was operated as a separate fleet by each squadron. Since conversion to a common AP-3C configuration in the late 1990s, the Orions have operated in a single pool. To date only one aircraft has been lost in operational service; A9-754 was forced to ditch into shallow water off Cocos Island in April 1991, following the loss of a wing leading-edge panel.

Operating Units The two operational Orion units, 10 and 11 Squadron, have been maritime patrol squadrons since their formation in the leadup to World War Two in 1939. With the arrival of the first P-3B, 11 Squadron relocated to Edinburgh from Pearce in Western Australia in 1968. No.10 Squadron moved from Townsville in Queensland and took delivery of the first P-3C. Both squadrons are part of No.92 Wing, also headquartered at Edinburgh, reporting to the RAAF’s Surveillance and Response Group based at RAAF Base Williamtown, New South Wales. The two squadrons were operated as separate entities, with a shared fleet of updated AP-3Cs from the late 1990s. Training was provided by No.292

1 This shot shows the FLIR Systems nose-mounted Star Safire III electro-optical and infrared imaging systems. Cpl Nicci Freeman/Royal Australian Air Force 2 LSIS Lee-Anne Mack 3 AP-3C Orion A9-653 lands at RAAF Base Curtin, Western Australia, during Exercise Northern Shield 2016. Cpl Kyle Genner/Royal Australian Air Force



Squadron, which also shared aircraft from the pool as required. No.10 Squadron was formed at Point Cook in Victoria in July 1939. Its personnel were sent directly to the UK to take delivery of Shorts Sunderland flying boats that Australia had ordered. In the event, the process was overtaken by the outbreak of war and the squadron operated the aircraft in the UK as part of RAF Coastal Command. Following disbandment at the end of the war, No.10 Squadron was re-formed as a maritime patrol squadron at Townsville in 1949, initially equipped with the Avro Lincoln and then, from 1962, the SP-2H Neptune, prior to moving to Edinburgh in 1978. No.11 Squadron was formed at Richmond in New South Wales in September 1939, equipped with two Supermarine Walrus amphibians and two Shorts Empire-class

flying boats. The unit re-equipped with the Consolidated Catalina in 1941 and operated in the Pacific Theatre until being disbanded at the end of the war. It re-formed at Rathmines, New South Wales, in 1948, again equipped with the Catalina. The squadron disbanded again and re-formed in 1950, this time at Amberley in Queensland and flying the Avro Lincoln. The squadron moved to Pearce shortly afterwards, followed by Richmond in 1954 to convert to the SP-2E Neptune, and finally to Edinburgh in 1968.

Sea Sentinel Formally known as Project Air 5276, the Sea Sentinel programme was aimed at upgrading the Orion fleet to a common configuration and ensuring its mission systems remained at the cutting edge of technology. The contract was awarded to E-Systems (later

Raytheon Systems) in January 1995. Upon completion of the upgrade each aircraft was redesignated as an AP-3C. Air 5276 replaced all of the major sensors on board the Orion with the exception of the infrared detection system. New systems integrated included: the Elta EL/M-2022A(V)3 multimode maritime surveillance radar; Elta ALR-2001 electronic support measures; a CAE magnetic anomaly detector; a General Dynamics Canada UYS-503 acoustic system (an earlier version of which was fitted to the Royal Australian’s S-70B-2 Seahawk fleet); dual Honeywell H-764G embedded GPS/ INS; a new communications suite, including UHF, VHF, HF and SATCOM; and the new DDC-060 data management system, a derivative of the Lockheed-Martin ASQ-212. Australia’s AP-3C prototype upgrade was done by Raytheon in the United States,

5 4 An AP-3C releases an Air Sea Rescue Kit during a training mission off the South Australian coast. The kits provide survivors with two life rafts and several days worth of supplies. Cpl Nicci Freeman/Royal Australian Air Force 5 Avionics technicians load a CATM-84J captive carriage training missile onto an AP-3C Orion aircraft. ABIS Kayla Hayes






with first flight in May 1999. The remainder were completed in Australia. However, the programme did not run to schedule, due mainly to delays in software development and difficulties integrating the sensors and systems. The first two AP-3Cs were delivered to Edinburgh in late 2001 and the 18th and final aircraft arrived back with the RAAF in March 2005. Under a further phase of Air 5276, four former US Navy P-3Bs were acquired for transport and training duties within 92 Wing. Three of the aircraft had mission equipment removed at the Naval Air Depot at Jacksonville in Florida. Each aircraft was redesignated as a TAP-3. The fourth (BuNo 152760) was delivered to Edinburgh and broken down for spares, with its cockpit section later being converted into an operational mission simulator. TAP-3s A9-434, A9-438 and A9-439 (BuNo 153434, 153438 and 153439) were delivered to No.292 Squadron between 1997 and


1999. All three were withdrawn from service and scrapped at Edinburgh in mid-2008. Around the time of the AP-3C upgrade, a media report suggested two Orions had also been configured by E-Systems for the electronic intelligence, a configuration that has never been acknowledged by the Australian Government. All but one of the RAAF’s 19 Orions were upgraded to AP-3C configuration. Aircraft A9-663 was instead used to support testing of systems and tactics to inform the ongoing incremental upgrades under Air 5276 and the capability requirements of the AP-3C replacement programme, dubbed Air 7000 Phases 1B and 2B. Aircraft A9-663 was the first RAAF C-model Orion to be retired and was scrapped in October 2014.

Orion on Operations Originally acquired to hunt Soviet submarines in the Pacific, Indian and Southern oceans during the Cold War, Australia’s Orions were

AP-3C ORION MILITARY tasked for overland intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) missions over Afghanistan for almost ten years between 2003 and 2012. The first aircraft deployed to the Middle East in early 2003 as part of the Australian Defence Force’s Operation Slipper. All Orions deployed to the Middle East were assigned to a 92 Wing Detachment. Both operational squadrons provided personnel to man the detachment until it was withdrawn towards the end of Australia’s involvement in Afghanistan in November 2012. During nine and a bit years, the 92 Wing Detachment conducted over 2,400 missions in support of Australian and coalition ground forces. In the light of the overland ISR role over the mountainous regions of Afghanistan, where line of sight communications was often significantly restricted by terrain, at least one AP-3C, aircraft A9-660, was modified with a wideband satellite communications capability. According to the RAAF, this capability is now being used to develop a full understanding of the communication links required for the P-8A Poseidon and MQ-4C Triton.

The Orion force has an ongoing commitment to Australia’s border protection as part of Operation Resolute. At least one aircraft is deployed on rotation to Darwin in Australia’s Northern Territory at any given time. This permanent commitment began in 2006 and is maintained to patrol the seas to the north and north west of the continent for illegal immigration and smuggling operations. As part of the Five Power Defence Arrangement between Australia, Malaysia, New Zealand, Singapore and the UK, the Orion force conducts regular deployments to RMAF Butterworth, under the long-running Operation Gateway. Up to three AP-3Cs can be deployed at any point in time, but the usual effort consists of a single aircraft. One recent mission over the disputed areas of the South China Sea gained international media attention when an aircraft chartered by a BBC news crew heard the Orion being challenged by Chinese authorities over the radio.

Current Operations One of the problems arising from a decade of overland ISR operations over Afghanistan has been the degradation of some of the

high-end anti-submarine warfare (ASW) skills. One of the key focus areas for 92 Wing after Operation Slipper concluded has been to rebuild the ASW skill set to meet the increased levels of ongoing undersea threats to surface shipping. Subsequent phases of Project Air 5276 continue to deliver enhanced capability to the Orion, despite its twilight years. Recent upgrades have added an electronic flight instrument system on the flight deck, upgrades to the electronic support measures system and the Star Safire III high definition electro-optical/infrared imaging system, acoustic and radar system upgrades, addition of Link 16 tactical data link, traffic collision avoidance system and crash data recorder, and an electronic warfare selfprotection suite. The latter comprises the BAE Systems ALE-47 countermeasures dispensing system and the Airbus Defence AAR-60 missile approach warning system. Prior to 11 Squadron’s transition to the P-8A in November, the final Orion Commanding Officer, Wing Commander Nigel Ward said the AP-3C is still a very capable platform, but it lacks the sensor fusion and systems integration inherent 1 Nigel Pittaway 2 Air Combat Officers and Airborne Electronics Analysts at their sensor stations during anti-submarine warfare training. Sgt Shane Gidall/Royal Australian Air Force

3 The shot shows the arrangement of sonobouy launch tubes in the aft fuselage underside. Cpl David Gibbs/Royal Australian Air Force



1 Lockheed Neptune SP-2H A89-273 (VH-IOY) is operated by the Historical Aircraft Restoration Society based at Illawarra Regional Airport, New South Wales. The aircraft is shown in formation with an AP-3C Orion during the Townsville Defence Force Air Show. Cpl David Cotton/Royal Australian Air Force 2 The flight deck of Update II standard AP-3C A9-752 shows how much of the cockpit functions with analogue displays. Nigel Pittaway

in modern aircraft such as the Poseidon. Wg Cdr Ward previously flew Nimrods in the Royal Air Force, including time as the Executive Officer on 42(R) Squadron, the Nimrod Operational Conversion Unit at RAF Kinloss, and has extensive experience in the maritime patrol world. He told AIR International: “Our AP-3C is still the most effective maritime patrol P-3 on the planet. I don’t think that’s an unsubstantiated claim; it is a very effective aircraft. During a recent deployment in support of Operation Gateway I was struck by just how effective the aircraft was in doing its job. The mission systems are excellent and very capable, [but] they are standalone legacy systems. As a weapons system, the P-3 is showing its age in comparison to modern weapons systems such as the P-8. I love flying the Orion and would fly it every day if I could. It’s a wonderful aircraft and is really well maintained, but time moves on.” The typical 12-person AP-3C crew consists of a captain, co-pilot and flight engineer on the flight deck; immediately aft of the cockpit are workstations for the tactical co-ordinator on the left and navigator on the right. Behind them in the centre of the main cabin on the left is the electronic support measures operator and the tactical rail of five workstations used by a sensor employment manager, two wet acoustics and two dry electronic support measures sensor operators. A second flight engineer is part of the crew on long missions to provide backup. Since 11 Squadron’s to the Poseidon, 10 Squadron is now home to the last flight engineers in the RAAF.


Orion Drawdown In 2014, the RAAF Orion fleet reduced to 16 aircraft. Other aircraft will be retired on a regular basis, as more P-8As are delivered. The challenge now facing 92 Wing is working up the Poseidon as a combat-ready platform, while simultaneously retaining a viable AP-3C capability until the type’s retirement in 2019. Wg Cdr Ward underlined the AP-3C still has a significant role to play and will remain 92 Wing’s principal warfighting aircraft well into 2018: “The aircraft will remain as the operational aircraft until the P-8A is declared fully operational. Then the AP-3C wrap-up process will begin in earnest.”

The Australian Government Defence Portfolio Budget Statement released in May 2016 forecasts AP-3C annual flying hours to decrease incrementally from 6,770 hours in the financial year 2015– 2016 to just 600 hours in 2019–2020. When the final Orion is withdrawn from service it will close a chapter in the RAAF’s maritime surveillance history that began with the arrival of the first P-3B in 1968. At that point, after more than 51 years protecting Australia’s maritime approaches, the Great Hunter will pass into welldeserved retirement.


USAF YB.indd 1

08/12/2016 16:43

EN Projects.indd 1

20/10/2016 11:36
Air International - January 2017

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