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AirForces Monthly Magazine - The World’s number one military aviation magazine

Brought to you by Key Publishing Ltd, Europe’s Leading Aviation Publisher.

AirForces Monthly is the world’s leading modern military aviation magazine featuring the world’s air forces, their conflicts, weaponry and exercises. Published monthly, it provides the best military aviation news coverage from around the globe and is essential reading for anyone seeking a well-informed view. AirForces Monthly is entirely devoted to modern military aircraft and their air arms and, since 1988, has built up a formidable reputation worldwide by reporting from places not generally covered by other military magazines. Its world news is the best around, covering all aspects of military aviation, region by region.

AirForces Monthly represents an unrivalled combination of news, reporting and in-depth features aided by the best network of freelance reporters anywhere in the world. It is the finest dedicated military aviation magazine available.

Regular features include:

• Comprehensive coverage of the world’s air forces
• The hottest military aviation news - by continent
• Military conflicts, weaponry

In this Issue

Last year marked Peru’s centenary of military aviation and February AFM pays tribute to the Peruvian Air Force with an extensive Force Report, including photography from Katsuhiko Tokunaga. Expect Fulcrums, Frogfoots, Mirages and more…

You’ll also find other charismatic fast jets in this month’s reports, including a public farewell to the Japan Air-Self Defense Force’s final F-4 Phantom IIs at Hyakuri and the veteran adversary F-5s of VFC-111 ‘Sundowners’ at Naval Air Station Key West, Florida.

Air arms in profile include an update on the Ukrainian Navy’s single aviation unit, which has recently received new rotary and fixed-wing equipment, and from Royal Jordanian Air Force facilities, where AFM contributor Elio Viroli undertook an exclusive visit.

On the operational side, there’s coverage from trouble spots around the globe, with the first of a two-part feature from the Central African Republic by war correspondent and Africa specialist Al J Venter, a report on the US military withdrawal from Syria and an assessment of People’s Liberation Army air power in Hong Kong.

There’s also transport action in the shape of the C-130 Hercules – workhorse of the Argentine Air Force – and coverage of the Italian Air Force’s 31° Stormo, which fulfils a niche transport role, undertaking operations for national agencies and the Vatican.

AFM marks ten years of Rafale flight demonstrations with an air-to-air photo sortie, while European exercises are now back in full flow, including Ocean Sky at Gando air base on Gran Canaria and the Swiss Air Force’s deployment of F/A-18 Hornets to RAF Leeming in the UK.

Other regular features include Intel Report on the continued modernisation of the United Arab Emirates’ military, while Air Marshal (ret’d) Greg Bagwell CB CBE examines the current status of airborne nuclear deterrence and explains how it still offers several advantages over other strategic delivery systems.

Discover the best professional documents and content resources in AnyFlip Document Base.
Published by Read My eBook for FREE!, 2020-02-09 04:35:22

AirForces - Monthly (February 2020)

AirForces Monthly Magazine - The World’s number one military aviation magazine

Brought to you by Key Publishing Ltd, Europe’s Leading Aviation Publisher.

AirForces Monthly is the world’s leading modern military aviation magazine featuring the world’s air forces, their conflicts, weaponry and exercises. Published monthly, it provides the best military aviation news coverage from around the globe and is essential reading for anyone seeking a well-informed view. AirForces Monthly is entirely devoted to modern military aircraft and their air arms and, since 1988, has built up a formidable reputation worldwide by reporting from places not generally covered by other military magazines. Its world news is the best around, covering all aspects of military aviation, region by region.

AirForces Monthly represents an unrivalled combination of news, reporting and in-depth features aided by the best network of freelance reporters anywhere in the world. It is the finest dedicated military aviation magazine available.

Regular features include:

• Comprehensive coverage of the world’s air forces
• The hottest military aviation news - by continent
• Military conflicts, weaponry

In this Issue

Last year marked Peru’s centenary of military aviation and February AFM pays tribute to the Peruvian Air Force with an extensive Force Report, including photography from Katsuhiko Tokunaga. Expect Fulcrums, Frogfoots, Mirages and more…

You’ll also find other charismatic fast jets in this month’s reports, including a public farewell to the Japan Air-Self Defense Force’s final F-4 Phantom IIs at Hyakuri and the veteran adversary F-5s of VFC-111 ‘Sundowners’ at Naval Air Station Key West, Florida.

Air arms in profile include an update on the Ukrainian Navy’s single aviation unit, which has recently received new rotary and fixed-wing equipment, and from Royal Jordanian Air Force facilities, where AFM contributor Elio Viroli undertook an exclusive visit.

On the operational side, there’s coverage from trouble spots around the globe, with the first of a two-part feature from the Central African Republic by war correspondent and Africa specialist Al J Venter, a report on the US military withdrawal from Syria and an assessment of People’s Liberation Army air power in Hong Kong.

There’s also transport action in the shape of the C-130 Hercules – workhorse of the Argentine Air Force – and coverage of the Italian Air Force’s 31° Stormo, which fulfils a niche transport role, undertaking operations for national agencies and the Vatican.

AFM marks ten years of Rafale flight demonstrations with an air-to-air photo sortie, while European exercises are now back in full flow, including Ocean Sky at Gando air base on Gran Canaria and the Swiss Air Force’s deployment of F/A-18 Hornets to RAF Leeming in the UK.

Other regular features include Intel Report on the continued modernisation of the United Arab Emirates’ military, while Air Marshal (ret’d) Greg Bagwell CB CBE examines the current status of airborne nuclear deterrence and explains how it still offers several advantages over other strategic delivery systems.

A pair of Peruvian Dragonflies, with
serial 127 (c/n 43482, ex 74-1706)
nearest the camera. Thirty-six new-
build A-37Bs were delivered from 1975,
followed by six ex-USAF OA-37Bs in
1992, 11 more ex-USAF OA-37Bs in 1996,
two more in 2002 and finally eight
South Korean A-37Bs in February 2010.
Around 15 survive today.
a fundamental milestone for In the mid-1930s, as a means help establish such an industry, but and remained in business until
the development of Peruvian of boosting national industry, the delicate geopolitical situation 1941. During its short life it not
military aviation, enabling the Peruvian government, led by around the world at the time only performed extensive repair,
the establishment of the General Oscar R Benavides with meant that most were preoccupied modification and maintenance work
Comandancia General de support from Congress, proposed with their own nations’ rearming on the plethora of aircraft in CAP
Aeronáutica (CGA, General the creation of a local aeronautical programmes. The exception was service, but also produced a dozen
Aeronautical Command), and industry to meet the needs of civil Societá Aeroplani Caproni in Caproni Ca 100 primary trainers.
the revision of the name Cuerpo and military aviation and reduce Italy, which was authorised by
de Aviación del Perú to Cuerpo the nation’s dependence on foreign the latter’s Fascist government to The 1941 campaign
Aeronáutico del Perú. Several powers. Being a presidential negotiate with the Peruvians to Aviation played an important
administrative, structural and initiative, the project was put set up a subsidiary in Lima. This strategic role during the undeclared
operational organisation before Congress for discussion and company, Fábrica Nacional de war between Ecuador and Peru
system changes were approval, which was given shortly Aviones Caproni Peruana (Caproni that began in July 1941 and was
also introduced which thereafter. It was hoped that foreign Peruana National Aviation Factory), used as a fundamental tool in
remained in use until 1950. companies would issue proposals to began operations in May 1937 the defence of Peruvian territorial



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Report Peruvian Air Force

Serial 526 is a Learjet 45 operated by Lima-based Escuadrón Aéreo 331. Built in
2007, the single example of this type was acquired secondhand from the US civilian
market and was operational by mid-March 2013. The Learjet replaced a Falcon 20F
that crashed in June 2010. The squadron also flies a pair of Learjet 36As.
Fuerza Aérea del Perú, air order of battle sovereignty, thanks to the to the government’s Legislative
Decree 11741, dated July 18, 1950,
deployment of CAP units under
Wing/Group Squadron Type Location the command of the Teatro de that established the Fuerza
Ala Aérea No 1 HQ Piura Operaciones del Norte (TON, Aérea del Perú (FAP, Peruvian Air
Grupo Aéreo Escuadrón Aéreo 612 MiG-29SM-P, Chiclayo Northern Theatre of Operations) Force), abandoning the previous
No 6 MiG-29UBM-P
and Teatro de Operaciones del CAP denomination. The same
Grupo Aéreo No 7 Escuadrón Aéreo 711 A-37B, OA-37B Piura Nor Oriente (TONO, Northeast year, the FAP saw the creation of
Grupo Aéreo No 11 Escuadrón Aéreo 112 Su-25, Su-25UB Talara Theatre of Operations). These the Servicio de Mantenimiento
Ala Aérea No 2 HQ Lima- units undertook bombing, attack, (SEMAN, Maintenance Service).
Callao liaison, reconnaissance and air In 1968 the FAP became the
Grupo Aéreo No 3 Lima-Callao superiority missions, facilitating first Latin American air force to
Escuadrón de Helicópteros 315 Bo 105LSA-3 a rapid advance and eventual enter the supersonic era with
the introduction of the Dassault
Peruvian victory. On July 23 that
Escuadrón de Helicópteros 332 Bell 212, Bell 412HP year, during the conflict, Lt José Mirage 5P. In the summer of
Escuadrón de Helicópteros 342 Mi-8MTV-1, Mi-17, Abelardo Quiñones Gonzales was 1977, it also became the first –
Mi-171Sh-P killed in action when he crashed his and only – Latin American air
Grupo Aéreo No 8 Lima-Callao bomb-laden North American NA-50 force to incorporate a variable-
Escuadrón de Transporte 841 Boeing 737-282(A), into Ecuadorian Army positions after geometry aircraft into its
Boeing 737-528 being hit by groundfire, becoming inventory with the Soviet-built
Escuadrón de Transporte 842 An-32B a hero of Peruvian military aviation. Sukhoi Su-22 Fitter replacing
Escuadrón de Transporte 843 L-100-20 Hercules On October 27, 1941, shortly after the FAP’s Hawker Hunters and
Escuadrón de Transporte 844 C-27J signing the Acta de Talara that North American F-86F Sabres.
Ala Aérea No 3 HQ ended military operations along In January and February of 1981
Arequipa the Peru-Ecuador border, the the FAP took part in military
Grupo Aéreo No 2 Escuadrón Aéreo 211 Mi-25, Mi-35P Vítor Peruvian government established operations over the Cordillera
(Arequipa) the Ministerio de Aeronáutica del Cóndor mountain range
Grupo Aéreo No 4 Escuadrón Aéreo 412 Mirage 2000P/DP La Joya (MA, Aeronautics Ministry), thus on the Peru/Ecuador border
(Arequipa) recognising the importance of in the so-called Paquisha War.
Ala Aérea No 5 HQ Iquitos aviation during the recent conflict. During these operations, FAP
Grupo Aéreo Escuadrón Aéreo 421 DHC-6 Series 300 Iquitos The creation of the MA centralised
No 42 and 400 all matters relating to military
Escuadrón Aéreo 422 PC-6 aviation, including the organisation
Base Aérea de No permanent Iquitos of existing training centres such
Santa Clara aircraft assigned as the ‘Jorge Chávez Dartnell’
Dirección de Vigilancia y Reconocimiento Aéreo (DIVRA), Santiago de Surco, Lima Central Aviation School, the Sub-
Escuadrón Aéreo 330 Various UAVs Officers School and the Seaplane
Escuadrón Aéreo 331 Learjet 36A, School at Ancón. Likewise, the CGA
Learjet 45 also ordered the establishment
Escuadrón Aéreo 334 C-26B Metroliner, of an Aviation Reserve, and the
Twin Commander creation of a new flying school at
690B Collique, on the outskirts of Lima.
Escuela de Formación de Pilotos (EFOPI, formerly Grupo Aéreo No 51), Pisco The following year the CGA also
Escuadrón Aéreo 510 de Schweizer S-300C laid the foundations for an aerial
entrenamiento básico and meteorological service, whose
Escuadrón Aéreo 511 de Zlin Z-242L, contributions would prove invaluable
entrenamiento primario CH-2000 Zenith to the development of the country.
Escuadrón Aéreo 512 de KT-1P
entrenamiento básico Creation of the FAP
Escuadrón Aéreo 513 de KA-1P
entrenamiento Avanzado Adapting the organisation and
Note: The Escuela de Aviación Civil (EDACI, Civil Aviation School), which relocated structure of Peruvian military
its operations from Collique to Las Palmas in 2009, supports elementary training of aviation to face the challenges of
FAP pilots. Equipment includes T-41D Mescalero and PA-34 Seneca aircraft. modern times more efficiently, led

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Mirage 5P and Su-22 fighter-
bombers undertook air superiority,
combat air patrol (CAP) and
close-support missions, while
Cessna A-37B-equipped ground-
attack units performed the close-
support role against Ecuadorian
positions inside Peruvian territory.
Notably, FAP units, like their CAP
predecessors in 1941, carried
out aerial assaults on occupied
positions, this time employing
helicopters to carry troops to
their objectives, enabling ground
forces to obtain a quick victory. A Peruvian Mi-25 strikes a menacing pose near San Ramón, over the jungles of the Chanchamayo province. At least 14 new-
In 1982, in response to the build Mi-25s were delivered from mid-1993 followed by at least seven former Nicaraguan aircraft in 1992. After withdrawal
experience gained during the from service in 2001, due to maintenance problems, a handful returned to service in early 2008, following a limited local
jungle operations the previous overhaul. In April 2011, the FAP also took delivery of two new Mi-35Ps.
year, a batch of 14 Soviet Mil forces infiltrating Peruvian territory War – but not without sustaining capabilities of its main combat
Mi-25 Hind-D combat helicopters during January-March 1995. heavy losses of life and materiel: aircraft (among them the Mirage
was ordered for the FAP, which, This time the better-organised around 60 personnel were killed, 5P4, Su-22M2 and M3 variants)
once again, became the first Latin Ecuadorian forces defended while four fixed-wing aircraft and as well as acquiring, during 1996-
American air force to introduce their positions with a network three helicopters were destroyed. 1998, 18 MiG-29S/UB Fulcrum
this type of weapon in the region. of portable air-defence systems. In 1996 the FAP set out to fighter-bombers (followed by
Three years later Peru was the The Peruvians fought bravely to modernise its combat aircraft three MiG-29SEs in 1999) and 18
third air arm to acquire the secure a strategic victory in what force. This included improving the Su-25/UB Frogfoots, the only jet
Dassault Mirage 2000, the most became known as the Cenepa electronic warfare and navigation aircraft optimised for the close
advanced fighter in Latin America
at the time of its introduction.
During the late 1980s and early
1990s economic and social unrest
in Peru meant difficult times for
the nation’s military forces. Despite
the rise of terrorist movements –
such as the communist Sendero
Luminoso (SL, Shining Path) and
Movimiento Revolucionario Túpac
Amaru (MRTA, Túpac Amaru
Revolutionary Movement) – the
precarious economic situation
resulted in a substantial reduction
in the military budget, with a
negative effect on operations and
modernisation plans. It
was under such conditions
that the FAP had to face,
once again, Ecuadorian
Above: Zlin Z-242L serial 464 (c/n 0715) up from Pisco. A total of 18 of these basic trainers entered service from 1998. The
most recent attrition losses occurred in March 2011, February 2012 (resulting in two fatalities) and May 2019. Below: An-23B
serial 327 (c/n 3207) climbs at altitude. A long-term ‘Cline’ operator, the FAP’s current examples are the three survivors from
an original total of seven An-32B versions acquired secondhand during 1995-96. One aircraft underwent complete overhaul
in-country and was returned to service in May 2008.

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Peruvian Air Force
Report Peruvian Air Force

included the manufacture of the first
four aircraft in Korea and the rest in
a facility that KAI would establish at
SEMAN in Lima. Delivery of the last
airframe took place in April 2017.
Also outlined in the Plan Quiñones
was the acquisition of at least a
dozen tactical transport aircraft
to replace the FAP’s dwindling
fleet of An-32Bs, the first of which
had arrived in 1987. Following a
procurement process, the C-27J
was named as the winner in
November 2013, with four having
been delivered to date, while
negotiations continue for the
acquisition of additional airframes.
The rotary-wing units were included
in the modernisation plan, in order Colombia
to extend the life of the Mi-25/35s Ecuador
in service with Escuadrón Aéreo
211 (EA 211). Accordingly, in July
2010 the Peruvian government and
Russia’s defence export agency Iquitos
Rosoboronexport negotiated Talara
a US$20m agreement for the
inspection and ‘Stage 1’ life- Piura
extension refurbishment of six
Mi-25/35s, as well as two Mi-17s
belonging to EA 342. The work Chiclayo
Above: Formation break by a quartet of KA-1Ps, led by serial 430. The FAP received ten of these armed light-attack and will be undertaken at Aircraft Brazil
counter-insurgency versions of the Woong-Bee, alongside a similar number of KT-1P trainers. The latter were assigned to the Repair Plant 810 at Chita, Siberia,
then Grupo Aéreo No 51, with which they complemented and then replaced the existing EMB-312 Tucanos in the pilot training extending the life of the aircraft Peru
role. All aircraft are assigned to EFOPI – the pilot training school. Inset: James Lawrence by 30 years or 4,000 hours.
air support (CAS) role in service and the fitting of a fixed in-flight 2018 and has ongoing contracts Work began in October 2011
in Latin America. The arrival of refuelling probe. In May 2013, the valid until 2023. Meanwhile, from with the transfer of two Mi-25s
the FAP Fulcrums also meant the Peruvian government announced 2013, the FAP High Command has (FAP 653 and FAP 694) and two
introduction of the Vympel R-27 its intention to modernise a continued to evaluate options for Mi-17s, all of which were delivered
(AA-10 Alamo) and R-77 (AA-12 second batch of eight fighters to the modernisation of the Mirage back to the FAP on January 30, Lima
Adder) beyond-visual-range (BVR) the same configuration, although 2000P force, which underwent 2012. Six days later, the remaining Lima-Callao
air-to-air missiles to the region. there is no concrete evidence a major inspection in 2012. four units — three Mi-25s and Pacific Las Palmas-Lima
of a deal having been agreed. In November 2012, the Peruvian one Mi-25U (serials 648, 650, 697
The present Back in November 2008, Russian authorities, Korea Trade-Investment and 698 respectively) — arrived Pisco
In the mid-2000s, to meet the aerospace holding company Promotion Agency (KOTRA) in Chita and work on them was
requirements of modern air warfare, Oboronprom had signed an and Korea’s Defense Acquisition completed in the second week Bolivia
the FAP High Command launched agreement with the Peruvian Program Administration (DAPA) of September 2012, before they
the Quiñones Strategic Plan, which defence ministry regarding the signed a contract for an estimated returned to Peru in October.
outlined the progressive upgrade establishing of a maintenance US$208.9m for the procurement Studies for the selection process La Joya
and modernisation of the FAP and repair centre for Mi-8, Mi-17 of 20 Korea Aerospace Industries for a future multi-role fighter aircraft Vitor
towards 2021, that year marking 200 and Mi-26 helicopters in Peru. (KAI) KT-1 advanced turboprop to replace the MiG-29 and Mirage
years of Peruvian independence. This was completed in December training aircraft. The agreement 2000 are expected to enter the
On August 13, 2008, in a bid
to establish the operational
capabilities outlined in the Núcleo
Básico de Defensa (NBD, Basic
Defence Core) – part of the
Quiñones plan – the Peruvian
government and RAC MiG signed
a US$106m contract to upgrade
eight of its 19 remaining MiG-
29S/SE fighters that the FAP
had acquired from Russia and
Belarus during the 1990s. The
first phase of the modernisation
process was completed in
the summer of 2012 with the
presentation of the eight MiG-
29s upgraded to SM-P standard,
including limited improvements Serial 629 is the FAP’s unique Bell 412HP, c/n 36020. The helicopter entered service in 1986 and serves with Escuadrón de
to radar and avionics equipment Helicópteros 332 at Lima-Callao, but is seen here over dramatic scenery near San Ramón.

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Dark-grey Boeing 737-528 serial 356 is part of the Escuadrón de Transporte 841
fleet. A new aircraft, configured for VIP/VVIP transportation, the jet was delivered
in September 1995. It serves alongside a 737-282(A), the sole survivor from a pair
built in 1983 and acquired by the FAP in 1998-99.
final stretch by the middle of the three examples had been handed
Colombia next decade. This procurement over to the Escuadrón Aéreo 112 of
programme for between 24 and Grupo Aéreo No 11 after work was
32 units has received proposals completed by SEMAN, with the
from various companies, including remaining aircraft expected to be
RAC MiG with the MiG-35; Sukhoi returned by the summer of 2020.
Iquitos with variants of the Su-30; Saab Also pending is the air-defence
Talara with its Gripen E/F; Dassault with and aerial surveillance programme
the Rafale, and even the Chengdu to establish a new air defence
Piura Aircraft Industry Corporation (CAIC) system comprising some 18
with its J-10. Further advanced is radars – 12 surveillance and early
the programme to purchase a lead- warning systems of 250-mile
Chiclayo in fighter training (LIFT) aircraft, (400km) range, and six surveillance
Brazil which is intended to replace the systems with a 110-155 mile (180-
A-37B and MB-339P, the latter 250km) range to cover areas of
Peru recently retired from service, with difficult topography – along with
either the KAI FA-50, Yakovlev a medium-range missile system,
Yak-130 or Leonardo M-346. man-portable air defence systems
On December 23, 2014, after (MANPADS) and an anti-ballistic
substantial delays, SEMAN and anti-missile system. Finally,
signed a US$31.99m contract with the FAP is expecting allocation
Lima Rosoboronexport for spare parts of funds for the acquisition of an
Lima-Callao and major repair services for six airborne early warning and control
Pacific Las Palmas-Lima Su-25s and four Su-25UBs. The (AEW&C) aircraft, four unmanned
agreement includes the repair of aerial vehicles for medium-altitude
Pisco major assemblies and accessories, long-endurance (MALE) operations,
the supply of spare parts and and a command, control,
technical documentation, as well communications, computers,
as the overhaul of 20 Tumanski intelligence, surveillance and
R-95Sh engines. This life-extension reconnaissance (C4ISR) aircraft,
La Joya programme will allow the FAP’s which will be most likely awarded
Vitor Frogfoots to remain in service for to one of the several consortiums
another 12 years (or 1,000 flying formed by Chinese, Israeli, Russian,
hours). As of August 2019, the first Swedish and US companies. AFM

Mirage 2000P serial 050 (c/n 41)
provides close escort for serial 528, one
of the FAP’s three surviving C-26Bs. The
service received four surplus ex-USAF
examples; the first pair was delivered
in 1996, followed by two more in July
2005. One of the original deliveries
was destroyed in an accident on an
unknown date.

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Commander’s Update Briefing

Airborne nuclear

deterrence making a


A veteran of the Cold War nuclear he distance from the hardened As they did so, they immediately checked in
quick readiness alert mission, Air T personnel shelter to the equally on the secure landline that connected them
hardened aircraft shelter was short
Power Association President, enough to sprint, even though both aircrew to their local operations centre, then pulled
out their mission packs, with the still sealed
Air Marshal (ret’d) Greg were in full flying kit and had only just been codes, and waited for their next instructions.
Bagwell CB CBE examines the woken from their sleep. The cold night air From the time they had first heard the
current status of airborne nuclear and the adrenaline rush was enough to have rather eerie but unmistakable klaxon until
deterrence and explains how it them fully awake as they arrived at the shelter. this moment, only three minutes had passed.
still offers several advantages over The police guard had already activated the The next words they would hear might be
the command to launch immediately on a
doors and an eerie glow crept out as the
other strategic delivery systems. heavily laden Tornado GR1 appeared between mission to drop the two armed and ready
the swinging clamshell metal doors. The nuclear bombs slung beneath their aircraft.
ground crew were running alongside, having Thankfully, what they actually heard was
fired up the generator as the crew raced the order to stand down from what had only
up the wide aircraft steps to the cockpit. been a test. It was not only this crew that
External power quickly brought the aircraft breathed a sigh of relief as the adrenaline
systems to life, as switches were left in the began to subside, but the four other crews
Above: This two-seat French Air Force Rafale B ‘on’ position from the checks the same team in nearby shelters who could now put their
from Escadron de Chasse 1/4 ‘Gascogne’ carries an
example of the ASMP-A nuclear-tipped cruise missile had made earlier that day when they came on aircraft back to 15-minute readiness and
on its centreline station. Today, France relies upon shift. They had also performed all the arming maybe try and go back and finish their sleep.
a three-tiered nuclear deterrence force: land-based checks for the two ‘shapes’ sitting under the Many people will have forgotten – or
Rafale Bs of the Forces Aériennes Stratégiques, fuselage. The aircrew’s helmets were left perhaps never knew – that, up until 1998,
carrier-based Rafale Ms of the Force Aéronavale
Nucléaire and sub-launched missiles of the Force connected in the cockpit, so the crew donned the RAF was a vital part of the UK’s nuclear
Océanique Stratégique. Armée de l’Air them before they even attempted to strap in. deterrent. Indeed, I and many of my Tornado

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“Air-launched nuclear
weapons tend to be
cheaper because they

can be fired from shorter
1: A pair of RAF Tornado GR1s from No IX (Bomber)
Squadron – a unit that the author commanded ranges and don’t have to
– taxies to the runway at Canadian Forces Base contend with the technical
Baden-Soellingen, West Germany, during Tactical
Air Meet ’88, a biennial Central European live-firing difficulty of a sub-

exercise. Only three months after arriving at RAF
Brüggen, Bagwell was on nuclear QRA duty. US DoD surface launch or higher
2: The resurgence of Russian military power has
included considerable e orts to upgrade strike trajectories.”

systems – both nuclear and conventional – in land,
sea and air domains. This pair of MiG-31Ks each colleagues of that era spent many 24-hour
carries an example of the Kinzhal air-launched periods holding nuclear alert on as many as
ballistic missile – a hypersonic weapon with a three bases in both the UK and Germany.
range of at least 1,240 miles (2,000km) and an
optional nuclear warhead. Piotr Butowski 3: Crews At its peak, the RAF held immediate quick
from the 5th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron load readiness alert (QRA) for roughly the same
AGM-86B Air-Launched Cruise Missile training number of targets in a single launch as a
rounds onto a B-52H at Minot Air Force Base, North UK Vanguard-class submarine does today.
Dakota in 2014. With the recent withdrawal of the
Conventional Air-Launched Cruise Missile, the The RAF had three versions of the WE177
nuclear-armed AGM-86B is the last of this family nuclear bomb, which had yields up to 450
of weapons in use. USAF/Tech Sgt Aaron D Allmon kilotons (nearly 30 times more powerful than
II 4: An F-111 banks to the right to reveal a pair of the Hiroshima bomb and more than four
B83 thermonuclear bombs – one below the wing
and the other in the fuselage payload bay. In this times as powerful as a Trident warhead).
case, these were dummy stores for testing. The All that came to an end when the UK opted
B83 remains in service today, but since the B-52 to place all its nuclear ‘eggs’ in one basket,
no longer delivers nuclear gravity bombs, the Cold through the Trident missile launched from
War-era weapon is now the preserve of the B-2
stealth bomber. US DoD the Vanguard-class submarine, using one of

3 4

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Commander’s Update Briefing

Below: A front view of four B61 nuclear freefall bombs
on a bomb cart, prior to loading on board a B-52. The
B61 remains in USAF service as a standard tactical
nuclear weapon and is also made available to NA TO
allies in Europe under the ‘dual-key’ arrangement. In
this way, US-owned bombs are available for wartime
carriage by tactical jets from Belgium, Germany, Italy,
the Netherlands and Turkey. US DoD Above: An unarmed AGM-86B Air-Launched Cruise Missile is released from a B-52H over the Utah Test and
Training Range during a Nuclear Weapons System Evaluation Program sortie in September 2014. Conducted by the
2nd Bomb Wing, Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana, the launch was part of an end-to-end operational evaluation
of the ability to take an ALCM from storage, load it aboard an aircraft, execute a simulated combat mission tasking
and successfully deliver the weapon from the aircraft to its final target. USAF/Staff Sgt Roidan Carlson Below: A Russian
Aerospace Forces Tu-160 seen from the cockpit of an RAF Typhoon scrambled from RAF Lossiemouth, Scotland, to
monitor two of the long-range bombers approaching UK airspace. The ‘Blackjack’ is one of few modern bombers
to have been fielded with exclusively nuclear armament – although work is under way to integrate conventional
stores, including the Kh-555 and,
reportedly, UPAB-1500 glide bomb.
Crown Copyright

four subs to maintain a constant deterrent at as well as nuclear strike missions. This Threat
sea under the name Operation Relentless. means that, for a very modest outlay of a The greater numbers, and potentially
Today, within the Western world, French and few aircraft ancillary systems, the majority of ambiguous posture, of a dual-use nuclear
US air arms still maintain an airborne nuclear conventional attack aircraft can be nuclear aircraft fleet makes a potential foe’s risk
launch capability to provide added flexibility. capable – suddenly you have hundreds of calculation extremely challenging. Nuclear
In the case of the USAF, this is supported by launch platforms, as opposed to just one deterrent theory places great store on the ability
land-based silos for ground-based missiles. submarine with a finite number of warheads. of protagonists to ‘outgun’ or out-threaten an
So what is the argument to support the This means you could choose to place none, opponent. That calculation is easy when you
continued use of an airborne nuclear capability? one or all of them at nuclear readiness and know an enemy’s capability is on a single launch
Survivability make your deterrent posture scaleable. Perhaps platform with a finite arsenal, but becomes
The UK emphasises that the relative just as importantly, an air-launched attack far more complex and unpredictable with the
invulnerability of the continuous submarine can be recalled right up until the point of multiple scenarios an air capability would pose.
patrol is vital to maintain the minimum deterrent release, rather than the potentially irreversible Moreover, this is a threat that can be escalated
posture and, by implication, dismisses other act of a sea- or land-launched weapon. or de-escalated as the situation warrants.
options as being more vulnerable. However, this Lower cost There is always strong debate in the UK
can be countered by the use of multiple aircraft, The flexibility of dual use means that a nuclear about the renewal of the deterrent under the
dispersed, hardened and employing multiple capability comes at only the additional cost of Dreadnought programme. Often, that debate
launch locations. Moreover, it is also about the the supporting nuclear arsenal. Moreover, air- ends up in an all-or-nothing argument, with
vulnerability of the weapon in flight, as well as launched nuclear weapons tend to be cheaper the minimum number of four submarines cited.
the launch platform. Airborne-delivered weapons because they can be fired from shorter ranges However, I hope that this article demonstrates
would have to be intercepted on multiple attack and don’t have to contend with the technical that the utility of an airborne launch is not dead,
axes and the short weapon time of flight and difficulty of a sub-surface launch or higher and that with the emergence of hypersonic,
low exposure profile would give little or no time trajectories. Indeed, the WE177 weapons were longer-range, airborne-launched missiles,
to intercept the weapon itself. And, of course, unguided and relied solely on gravity as their I believe it could well make a comeback. AFM
one submarine is a single point of failure. propulsion. Today, air-launched cruise (and
Flexibility/redundancy soon hypersonic) weapons can be readily NEXT MONTH:
Nuclear strike aircraft are usually dual use: modified to carry a nuclear payload and this Public-private partnerships
they can carry out conventional missions is a game-changer for airborne options.

Left: The USAF has four B61 variants in its stockpile: the Mod 3, 4, 7 and 10. Now, as part of life extension and tail kit upgrades, the service will replace all four weapons
with the latest B61-12, providing better accuracy and a substantial reduction in yield. The Air Force Nuclear Weapons Center received formal approval to enter the
production phase for the guided tail-kit assembly in October 2018. Here, an F-15E conducts a flight test of the B61-12’s new tail kit at the Tonopah Test Range, Nevada.
US DoD Right: An F-16A of the 313th Tactical Fighter Squadron from Hahn Air Base, West Germany, drops a BDU-38 nuclear simulator while participating in a bombing
practice exercise over the Spanish-American Bardenas bombing range during the latter years of the Cold War. The BDU-38 is a parachute-retarded recoverable bomb
unit designed to mimic the B61 tactical nuclear weapon. US DoD

58 // February 2020 #383 www.Key.Aero

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This issue features:


Jamie Hunter looks back at how the first
combat-coded F-22 Raptor was delivered

in May 2005 and how, some 15 years on,
the USAF is working to ensure the fighter

remains relevant


VFC-13 ‘Fighting Saints’ flies the F-5 Tiger

II in the adversary role at NAS Fallon,

Nevada. Jamie Hunter and Richard Collens
meet the squadron’s highly experienced



In the first of a two-part feature, Bob

JUST Archer and Tom Kaminski look at the
£4.99 service record of the US Air Force C-135
family as it marks 64 years of service


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03/01/2020 14:25
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Hong Kong Garrison rotors

H ong Kong has been in disarray since the
government ill-advisedly tried to pass a
criminal-extradition bill that would have
allowed the handover of citizens to mainland China.
Hundreds of thousands, perhaps up to two million,
Hong Kong residents took to the streets last June
to express their frustration with the territory’s
Beijing-appointed leadership, and protests have
subsequently become increasingly violent.
Fortunately, the communist regime has not
deployed People’s Liberation Army (PLA) forces
in Hong Kong and it seems certain the risk of
A pair of Z-9B helicopters participates in a such a mobilisation devolving into a ‘Tiananmen
counterterrorism training scenario at Shek Kong air Square 2.0’ scenario means it would represent
base, which is situated in northern Hong Kong not far a desperate last gambit for President Xi Jinping.
from the border with mainland China.
Nevertheless, the Hong Kong Garrison of the

With the Hong Kong Police stretched
to breaking point, there has long
been speculation that the Chinese
communist regime may set the
People’s Liberation Army loose on
Hong Kong streets to restore law and
Troubled times
order. Gordon Arthur examines the
forces of the Hong Kong Garrison.
in in
in the Special Administrative Region
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PLA is on high readiness levels and is prepared cargo vessel also disgorged additional troops Hong Ko ng Garrison
to intervene, a threat made perfectly clear during and vehicles, to boost the size and capability Hong Kong does not rank as a strategic location
the annual rotation of the garrison’s troops and of the garrison. Another first is believed to have for the PLA, though it does hold politically
equipment last August 28. The official Chinese occurred when Mi-171 helicopters landed at symbolic importance. More than two decades
state-run Xinhua News Agency stated that this Shek Kong on August 29. At least three, and ago, the UK handed its colony back to China – it
22nd rotation of troops into Hong Kong was possibly up to seven, Mi-171s allocated to the was July 1, 1997. Since then, it has been important
“a normal routine annual rotation in line with 74th Army Aviation Brigade’s base northwest for the PLA to maintain a garrison there to
the law of the People’s Republic of China on of Guangzhou arrived. This variant has never demonstrate ownership over it. Part of that
garrisoning the Hong Kong Special Administrative been seen in the Hong Kong Garrison before, military presence involves a small contingent
Region”. However, it was anything but normal. though it remains unclear whether they were of PLA helicopters designed to support the
It is typical for night road convoys containing delivering troops temporarily or have become a Hong Kong Garrison. The latter adopts a
tactical and armoured vehicles to cross over the permanent fixture in the troop contingent. If they joint structure with army, navy and air force
border from Shenzhen, and for helicopters to are assigned permanently alongside incumbent elements combined under a single command.
fly in to the former RAF airfield Shek Kong air Changhe Z-8 and Harbin Z-9 helicopters, they The Central Military Commission (CMC) in
base in the New Territories during these annual will offer the PLA much greater airlift capacity Beijing is in direct command of the garrison,
rotations – but this year a conscripted civilian for rapidly moving troops around the territory. but the unit is supervised by the Southern

Above: A closer look at the Chinese-built 23-2Z
cannon mounted on the stub wing of a Z-9WA. A
total of 240 rounds of ammunition are supplied
for each weapon. This armament was first seen in
Hong Kong in mid-2014. Left: Chinese special forces
personnel fast-rope from Z-8KH ‘6303’ in 2018. This
was the first time that the Z-8 had been used in such
a public aerial demonstration in Hong Kong.
Below: A closer view of the Z-8KH as special forces
troops slide down towards the ground. Up to four of
these large helicopters are present in Hong Kong at
any one time. All photos Gordon Arthur

Troubled times

in the Special Administrative Region

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Hong Kong Garrison rotors

Theatre Command. All costs relating to the surveillance and command and control (C2). Thanks to its optical and radio equipment,
garrison are borne by the Chinese government. The mainstay of the helicopter fleet for a long the Z-9ZH has an obvious application as
It is unclear how many troops are stationed in time was the Z-9B produced by the Harbin an airborne C2 platform. However, the PLA
Hong Kong, although Article 3 of Hong Kong’s Aircraft Manufacturing Corporation (now the states it can also be used for reconnaissance,
Basic Law states that the CMC will determine Harbin Aircraft Industry Group). However, patrol and SAR missions. Furthermore, the
garrison troop levels according to the territory’s the last time a ‘vanilla’ Z-9B was seen in PLA claims the Z-9ZH’s endurance stretches
perceived defence needs. China has never Hong Kong was May 2011. In the years before to 3 hours and 40 minutes or a range of 478
divulged exact figures on troop numbers, although that, the author witnessed Z-9Bs bearing miles (770km). With the arrival of the Z-9ZH,
commentators generally agree it could number eight different serial numbers, suggesting all older Z-9Bs based in Hong Kong were
approximately 66,000 troops – and probably a force of at least eight Z-9s in the city. withdrawn and despatched elsewhere.
more now because of the ongoing crisis. Interestingly, the garrison often serves as a There has been an apparent trend towards
An independent PLA Air Force (PLAAF) showcase for new equipment, making it a useful the PLA locating more advanced weapon
regiment with approximately a dozen barometer of Chinese military progress, including systems in Hong Kong – and correspondingly,
helicopters has been based at Shek Kong in the area of helicopter types. Thus, a completely it began basing armed light helicopters there
since 1997. Apart from Hong Kong International new variant of the Z-9 debuted in Hong Kong in in 2011. In October that year, the military
Airport at Chek Lap Kok, this is the only other May 2011. The Z-9ZH is a dedicated C2 platform demonstrated a Z-9WA fitted with rocket
airfield in Hong Kong, owing to the territory’s and differs from the Z-9B in several important pods, and another fitted with HJ-8 anti-tank
mountainous topography and crowded urban ways. It has a longer bulbous nose with an missiles. However, fitting such missiles to
areas. The runway, bounded at one end by integrated forward-looking infrared (FLIR) camera helicopters operating in Hong Kong seems
the territory’s highest mountain peak, is not system. This is the same Luoyang Electro-Optics a classic case of overkill. Even though
long enough to accommodate large aircraft. Technology Development Centre nose-mounted, Changhe Z-10 and Harbin Z-19 dedicated
As well as this base, there are helipads low-light TV and infrared search-and-track unit attack helicopters have been introduced
at various PLA bases around the city. fitted to the armed Z-9WA variant. This enables to every group army in the PLA, they have
the Z-9ZH to fly day and night missions in all not been seen in Hong Kong to date – and,
Helicopter types in service weather conditions, though the aircraft does given the limited training areas in Hong
Helicopters of the Hong Kong Garrison carry not carry weapons. The other main difference is Kong, they are unlikely to appear either.
serial numbers in the ‘6x0x’ range, and the evident in the cabin, where the standard rows The Z-9WA, with its chin-mounted FLIR
fleet is used for a variety of purposes. Missions of seats have been modified to accommodate a system, is optimised for night missions, while
include utility, VIP transport, airborne assault, digitised command console with radio sets and a redesigned cockpit is compatible with
patrol, close air support, medical evacuation, a multifunction display. A loudspeaker system is night-vision goggles (NVGs). Importantly,
search and rescue (SAR), counterterrorism, fitted beneath the fuselage on the starboard side. the Z-9WA has two stub wings or pylons on

Above: This helicopter bearing the serial number ‘381’ is a Z-18. It was photographed inside the hangar bay of
the ‘Liaoning’ when the Soviet-built and Chinese-refurbished carrier visited Hong Kong in July 2017.
Right: A Z-9ZH is towed back to its hangar by a PLA tug at Shek Kong air base. Note the integrated FLIR system
mounted on the nose.

62 // February 2020 #383 www.Key.Aero

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Above: Special forces of the PLA disembark from a Z-9B during a counterterrorism demonstration. The Harbin
Z-9B can accommodate up to ten soldiers in its cabin. Left: This PLA Army Aviation helicopter could be mistaken
for a Z-9ZH, but in fact is a Z-9WA, as indicated by the presence of stub wings on the fuselage sides. However, no
weapons are fitted. Far left: The newer Z-9ZH (note the nose profile) has a hoist fitted over the starboard cabin
door, which allows special forces to fast-rope from the platform and for conducting rescue missions.
which to mount weapons systems. It also has The Z-8KH offers a significant troop and ft (14,700m ) flight deck, plus rotorcraft in
chaff launchers, a radar warning receiver and cargo-carrying capacity, plus it is specially the form of a single Z-9S SAR helicopter,
data link, as evidenced by an antenna under configured for SAR duties. A rescue hoist is a Z-8JH and a Changhe Z-18. The carrier
the tail boom. The Z-9WA, which entered fitted on the starboard side and a FLIR system is capable of carrying up to 24 J-15s.
production in 2004, also incorporates armour is fitted under the nose. This means it can Commissioned in 2013, the PLAN also
plating in the cockpit area. It has a greater support the Hong Kong Government Flying has two Type 056 corvettes permanently
weapon-carriage capacity than the preceding Service, the principal agency responsible based in Hong Kong. When these head
Z-9W, although it was still a stopgap measure for maritime rescue in waters near Hong out on coastal patrols, they may embark
until the Z-10 and Z-19 entered service. Kong. The PLA also states it can be used for a PLAAF Z-9. This new corvette type has
The author has witnessed Z-9WAs with firefighting, medical evacuation, observation a flight deck but no hangar facilities.
four different serial numbers in Hong Kong. and counterterrorism duties. The Z-8KH Helicopters of the PLA can occasionally be
Armament can also be shifted around the has a listed endurance of 3hrs 55mins, and seen flying across Hong Kong’s skyline, but
Z-9WA fleet, with 57mm rockets, 23mm cannon a combat range of 447 miles (720km). Its of interest was an event in March 2013 when
and HJ-8 missiles all being seen. The HJ-8 anti- top speed is 149mph (240km/h) and the the garrison conducted a live-fire drill, during
tank missile has a range of 1,969-9,840ft (600- maximum cargo payload is 11,023lb (5,000kg). which helicopters fired cannon and missiles
3,000m), and is capable of penetrating 31in On the odd occasion when major PLA Navy at ground targets. Notably, this was the first
(800mm) of armour plating. Another possibility (PLAN) warships dock in Hong Kong, the such aerial live-fire drill to occur in the territory
is the fire-and-forget TY-90 missile, China’s Z-9C can also be observed. Equipped with since the 1997 handover. The PLA Daily quoted
first air-to-air missile designed for helicopters, a nose radar and having the ability to carry a military official as saying troops based in
which has a 1,640-19,685ft (500-6,000m) range. torpedoes, the Z-9C is a navalised version Hong Kong needed to prepare for actual
The Z-9WA incorporates a Chinese-designed that commonly operates aboard frigates combat and to train “for victory”. The exercise
helmet-mounted sight that can be used with and destroyers. To date, only two port visits apparently helped the PLA “collect data and
HJ-8 and TY-90 missiles, or even light anti- of the PLAN’s Gulf of Aden counterpiracy equip troops to react fast so that they are
ship missiles such as the C-701 and C-703. task force have been made in Hong Kong. well prepared, responsive and victorious”.
There is another military helicopter type A more dramatic visit occurred in July Given the tensions ratcheting up in Hong
that is also present in Hong Kong; the 2017 when the Liaoning aircraft carrier and Kong society and the sporadic riots that
much larger Z-8KH built by the Changhe accompanying warships of the PLAN arrived have broken out, military helicopters would
Aircraft Industry Group. There are four such in Hong Kong for what was essentially a doubtlessly allow the PLA to move troops
aircraft based in the territory, this being a public-relations exercise. AFM was able to quickly from area to area to seize control. We
type exclusive to the Hong Kong Garrison. visit the Liaoning, aboard which were eight can only hope that the order for the PLA to
Its first public appearance was in May 2011. Shenyang J-15 fighters on the 158,230 sq move out of its barracks is never issued. AFM

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Big ‘Pigs’
Argentina’s Hercules

o o o t he P mp a
of the Pampas
The C-130 Hercules is the workhorse
of many air arms, not least with the
of many air arms, not least with the
Fuerza Aérea Argentina. Here it has
Fuerza Aérea Argentina. Here it has
performed sterling service in some
performed sterling service in some
incredible and unexpected roles, as
incredible and unexpected roles, as
Esteban G Brea discovers.

64 // February 2020 #383 www.Key.Aero

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Big ‘Pigs’ Aires, its past has given it a rich history and

rgentine military aviation was born in
the small town of El Palomar. Sitting
on the edge of the city of Buenos
it retains its importance today as the home
of the I Brigada Aérea (1st Air Brigade) of the
Fuerza Aérea Argentina (FAA, Argentine Air
Force). This wing is the FAA’s main transport
unit, with the resident Grupo Aéreo 1 (1st Air
Group) consisting of a pair of squadrons. I
Escuadrón flies three variants of the Hercules,
with II Escuadrón being the last custodian of
the Fokker F28-1000C, the final example of
which was being reactivated last November.
With the FAA Fokker F27s having bowed out
in 2016, the importance of the C-130s – locally
known as ‘Chanchas’ (pigs) – has never been
greater. They truly are the backbone of the FAA.
Argentina first expressed interest in the
Hercules in 1961, but a plan to acquire C-130Bs
failed. Following the Cuban Missile Crisis in
November 1962, the Organization of American
States activated the Inter-American Treaty of Above: Paratroopers stream from the open fuselage side door of an FAA Hercules. FAA C-130s have to be a
Reciprocal Assistance (TIAR), thus constituting jack of all trades, flying paratroopers, vehicles and cargo, and supporting medical evacuations for all Argentine
a combined operations command. For this, the armed forces – not to mention occasionally transporting bulky cargo for private companies.
Below: Up close and personal with KC-130H TC-69 of the I Brigada Aérea. Delivered to Argentina in May 1979,
FAA made its HU-16 Albatross crews available, TC-69 is a veteran of Operation Desert Storm – having undergone an avionics upgrade with L3 Communications
specifically those that had been appointed for Integrated Systems it was redelivered to the FAA in early 2016. All photos Esteban G Brea unless stated

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Argentina’s Hercules

the frustrated C-130B aspiration. These teams
completed an accelerated four-week course with
the 4442nd Training Squadron at Sewart Air
Force Base, New York, and they subsequently
flew in mixed crews with USAF personnel during
the crisis. Upon their return to Argentina, the
knowledge acquired was applied to modernise 3
the FAA tactical transport aviation doctrine.
Interest in the Hercules remained and finally
on September 15, 1967, a contract was signed
with Lockheed to buy three C-130Es. These
aircraft (serials TC-61, TC-62 and TC-63)
arrived at El Palomar on December 23, 1968.
Into service
The arrival of the new Hercules immediately
cemented Argentina’s relationship with the
continent of Antarctica, beginning with an
exploration flight on February 11, 1969. On
March 1, the first cargo drops were made at
the Matienzo and Petrel bases. On April 11,
1970, C-130E TC-61 made the first landing at
Vicecomodoro Marambio, bringing in vital 1
machinery, materials and personnel for the
construction on the base that was still under way.
This has proved to be an enduring relationship
for the FAA’s C-130s. An important outpost, it is
now continually supplied throughout the year,
with the C-130s operating alongside Twin Otters
and Mi-171Es, plus the Bell 212s and 412s that fly
here during the Antarctic summer campaigns.
Over the years, I Escuadrón’s missions
have been varied and numerous and it
has been readily called upon to deal with
catastrophes and humanitarian crises
in Argentina and globally, as well as UN
peace missions. There are also regular 2 4

Crazy flights

Long-range probing flights during 1982’s Falklands/ Nigel ‘Sharkey’ Ward. The Hercules crew was killed. member of the Marambio base personnel on April 27,
Malvinas campaign were entrusted to the ‘Chanchas’, a role In another illustration of the C-130’s utility, one aircraft 1990, TC-64 made a direct flight between El Palomar and
for which they were most definitely not equipped. Known (TC-68) was modified in order for it to be able to attack Antarctica. As it flew close to the Falklands/Malvinas
as ‘vuelos locos’ (crazy flights), these high-risk missions merchant ships that were supporting the Task Force. it was intercepted by a Phantom FGR2 of No 1435
consisted of flying low over the sea near to points where The transport received multiple ejector racks so it could Flight that escorted it until it left the local airspace.
it was presumed the British Task Force was located. The carry six EXPAL 250kg (551lb) bombs, four supplementary C-130H TC-68 in bomber configuration to
C-130 pilots would execute a sharp climb, gaining altitude fuel tanks in its cargo bay and a MATRA SFOM gun/ commemorate the type’s service in the Falklands/
and briefly triggering a radar lock on. These echoes were bomb sight. Using the callsign ‘Tigre’, TC-68 targeted the Malvinas conflict during the ceremony marking 50
marked and interrogated by identification friend-or-foe tanker British Wye on May 29 without success. On June 8, years of C-130 operations at El Palomar on December
14, 2018.
(IFF) as the C-130 was illuminated by enemy radar, before together with two Canberras, it attacked and damaged
the crew descended at pace and performed evasive a tanker that was ironically named VLCC Hercules,
manoeuvres. A total of 14 these missions was carried out forcing it to divert to Brazil where it had to be scuttled.
and during one on June 1, TC-63, callsign ‘Tiza’ was shot One further post-war incident in this region is
down by Sea Harrier FRS1 XZ451 in the hands of Lt Cdr noteworthy. Faced with the urgent need to evacuate a

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1: Paratroopers disembark from an Argentine ‘Herc’.
2: The flight deck of TC-69 before upgrade, and after.
The modernised cockpit is based around a Rockwell
Collins Flight2 avionics package.
3: The nose of TC-56 – one of five C-130Bs received
via the US Foreign Military Sales programme between
1992 and 1994 – has been preserved as the gate
guardian of the I Brigada Aérea. It’s marked as TC-
63, representing the C-130E that was shot down by a
Sea Harrier during the Falklands/Malvinas campaign.
4: Night-time activity, with TC-64 on the flight line at
Jorge Newbery Airport, Buenos Aires. This aircraft will
be the last to undergo the latest avionics upgrade. 5:
Cargo waits to be loaded on board an FAA Hercules

involved in the relief e ort after Ecuador was struck
by an earthquake in April 2016. FAA. 6: Although the
two KC-130Hs had their in-flight refuelling capability
removed, this was reinstated in 2018.

4 5

day-to-day cargo and trooping duties. conditions around saturated small airfields. The KC-130Hs were kept gainfully employed,
In February 1970, a contract was signed When the first British attack took place on flying 47 missions, 31 of which saw them
for two C-130Hs (serials TC-64 and TC-65), May 1, the total blockade in the area meant providing in-flight refuelling support to the
and between 1972 and 1975 TC-66, TC-67 that the FAA Hercules became the only A-4B, A-4C and A-4Q Skyhawks and Super
and TC-68 were added to the fleet. aircraft able to maintain the air bridge into the Étendards. On two occasions, these tanker
C-130E TC-62 was lost on August 28, 1975 at islands. These high-risk flights were carried crews risked everything by pressing close to
Benjamín Matienzo Airport, Tucumán. With some out at extremely low altitude in the combat the islands to come to the aid of A-4s that
114 border patrol gendarmes – military security zone in a bid to avoid detection by radar. had significant fuel leaks. The KC-130Hs then
forces – aboard, the Hercules was supporting One army officer invited to fly in the cockpit dragged the Skyhawks back to the mainland,
the Independencia operation, a massive military on one such mission was famously quoted regularly plugging for fuel as they limped home.
action to annihilate revolutionary forces in the as saying: “This is an aircraft, not a boat!” The Hercules proved useful for one noteworthy
region, when it was the victim of a terrorist These missions were extremely intense. After deception mission, providing a mothership
attack. A hidden runway bomb detonated as landing, the rear cargo ramp was opened for two Learjet 35s that were generating
the aircraft took off, destroying the Hercules and the materials were immediately and obvious radar targets to act as decoys
and claiming six lives with 28 injured. In a bid unceremoniously pushed out as the Hercules and mask the arrival of combat aircraft.
to expand the fleet further, in May 1979 two still taxied. With engines running, the transport
KC-130Hs (TC-69 and TC-70) arrived in Argentina. was refuelled, the passengers offloaded and A fleet back on its feet
the wounded collected. Stretchers were To help compensate for the loss of TC-63 in the
Hercules goes to war arranged on the floor as there hadn’t been time Falklands/Malvinas (see Crazy flights), an L-100-
The FAA Hercules’ most notable period of to configure the Argentine C-130 for medical 30 was added to the FAA fleet on November
activity came in the Falklands/Malvinas evacuation (medevac). On two occasions the 26, 1982, several months after the end of
conflict of 1982. Their participation began on crew had to abandon the aircraft and take cover the conflict. Nearly a decade later, between
April 2 supporting the first phase of the Aries as air raid sirens warned of impending attack. January and March 1991 TC-69 participated in
82 operation. Four Hercules (TC-63, TC-64, In the 44 days until the end of the conflict, the 1991 Gulf War in Operation Desert Storm,
TC-65 and TC-68) spearheaded the air assault some 61 C-130 missions were carried out, 31 deploying a navy SA316B Alouette III and
delivering troops and equipment to Port Stanley of them actually landing on the islands. A total then ferrying personnel and cargo during 125
Airport, where TC-68 was first to land. The of 417 tons of cargo and 514 passengers were flight hours in which the aircraft penetrated
return to the mainland occurred the same day, transported, 264 injured were evacuated and the operational combat area four times.
with British prisoners evacuated aboard TC-63. 427 flight hours were accumulated. On one of Between 1992 and 1994 Argentina took five
The Hercules became a central part of the these flights, two deadly MM.38 Exocet missiles C-130Bs on charge (serials TC-56 to TC-60)
entire episode, ferrying in and out of the were delivered, which were modified and through the US Foreign Military Sales (FMS)
hubs established in southern Argentina. fired from the ground, one of which damaged programme. Four of these were scrapped
Indeed, as the threat of submarine attack HMS Glamorgan on June 12. There were also in 2016. The last FAA Hercules loss was
grew, the use of surface vessels diminished two missions during which ammunition and recorded on May 15, 1996 when TC-67 was
and the C-130s picked up the weight of the supplies were paradropped to positions at damaged beyond repair in a landing accident
support role in theatre, often flying in marginal Darwin on May 19 and at Fox Bay on May 20. at Tandil, northwest of Buenos Aries.

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Argentina’s Hercules

It was clear that the FAA C-130 fleet was in Intercontinental transpolar
dire need of upgrade. In 2000 this became a
very real prospect as Lockheed Martin Aircraft
Argentina SA (LMAASA) proposed a package
of improvements for four C-130Hs with a traffic
collision avoidance system (TCAS) and ground-
proximity warning system (GPWS) plus a glass
cockpit, night-vision goggle compatibility
as well as navigation and communications
enhancements and a self-protection system. It
was a plan that was, predictably, abandoned.
A pressing need to improve the avionics in
order to meet international standards triggered
a project known as ‘MATE’ (Transportation
and Liaison Aircraft Modernisation),
which included the C-130s as well as the
F27s, F28s and DHC-6s. This programme
started in 2008, with the work carried out
by LMAASA in the case of the C-130s. A Bell 212 loaded on board a Hercules for its transfer to the Antarctic outpost at Marambio. Bell 212s and 412s
TC-61 was the first to be upgraded and fly from here during the Antarctic summer campaigns. FAA
was completed during programmed depot One of the most memorable long-range flights made by I assisted take-off (RATO) bottles that combined to
maintenance (PDM). The work involved Escuadrón took place between December 4 and 10, 1973. enable the Hercules to make the first transpolar
adding the previously planned TCAS as This was an intercontinental transpolar flight flight joining three continents. The route took it from
well as other avionics upgrades to meet to demonstrate the feasibility of the route. Buenos Aires to Marambio, followed by stops at
navigation and traffic requirements. For this reason, C-130E TC-66 was modified with McMurdo in Antarctica, Christchurch (New Zealand)
In 2011, the US Defense Security Cooperation two auxiliary fuel tanks in the cargo bay and rocket- and Canberra (Australia), in 18hrs 55mins.
Agency (DSCA) reported a request from the
Argentine government for an FMS avionics interested parties. TC-61 entered the process was conducted under the control of the
upgrade for five C-130Hs, quoting an estimated in Córdoba in 2015 and was completed at the Cooperation of American Forces System.
cost of US$166m. Then in November 2014, TC-69 beginning of 2017. On September 19 of the The C-130’s search and rescue skills came
flew to the L3 Communications Integrated following year, TC-70 was formally presented to the fore in the hunt for the submarine ARA
Systems facility in Waco, Texas, for complete to defence officials as the third modernised San Juan, from which all contact was lost on
modernisation, receiving a Rockwell Collins Flight2 Hercules and the first to be completed November 15, 2017. In the initial phase, TC-69
avionics package, modern communications solely by FAdeA personnel. Currently work is was the best-equipped aircraft in the area.
equipment, satellite communications, a new being undertaken on TC-66, and TC-64 has The two KC-130Hs had lost their in-flight
AN/APN-241 ground-mapping radar, NVG also been inducted. The sole L-100-30 will refuelling capability, but this was revitalised
compatibility and a Wescam MX-10 forward- reportedly not undergo the improvements. in 2018 after five years. The Hercules
looking infrared (FLIR) sensor. The aircraft was subsequently flew the first FAA night refuelling
completed and redelivered in early 2016. Current situation missions for 25 years. This has triggered the
This programme allowed FAA and FAdeA After more than 50 years, the FAA’s C-130s incorporation of NVGs for the cockpit crew
(Argentine Aircraft Factory) personnel to have notched up a string of impressive feats. to help improve capabilities in this role.
learn the procedures involved in upgrading They were again called upon in April 2016 There are also moves for new aircraft.
TC-69, paving the way for this to be carried in Ecuador to assist with earthquake relief Between October 26 and 30, 2015 an FAA and
out on a further four aircraft in Argentina and and in March 2017 an avalanche in Peru FAdeA commission evaluated KC-130F/R/
enabling them to offer similar work to other saw them in action. On both occasions this Ts stored in the desert at Davis-Monthan
AFB, Arizona, with the 309th Aerospace
Maintenance and Regeneration Group
(AMARG) for possible acquisition via FMS.
Another alternative was evaluated during 2017
that involved adding the Modular Airborne Fire
Fighting System (MAFFs) II or Coulson Aviation’s
Retardant Aerial Delivery System (RADS) to
an aircraft to permit a firefighting capability.
The possibility of returning TC-65 and TC-68
to service has also been studied, but corrosion
problems deemed this to be prohibitively
costly. In the event, TC-68 was restored for
static display in its bomber configuration.
Ultimately, the five-aircraft modernisation
programme will keep the FAA in the
Hercules business for many years to come,
Above: Hercules TC-61 over water. This aircraft is part of the original September 1967 order for three C-130Es,
which arrived at El Palomar in December the following year. The aircraft was upgraded in FAdeA’s Cordoba and it will permit I Escuadrón to live up to
facilities between 2015 and 2017. Below: Serials TC-61 and TC-69 fly in formation near their home base. its motto: ‘We can so that others can’ . AFM

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Air war analysis

forgotten war

PART ONE In the first of a two-part feature, war correspondent and Africa specialist
Al J Venter reports from Bangui in the Central African Republic on the
ongoing conflict in the region – now in its seventh year – and one in which
air power is playing an important part.

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E very African war has its irregularities and
the ongoing Libyan conflict is a case
in point, where the front line changes
almost weekly. Another is the insurrection in the
Central African Republic (CAR), which the author
covered from the main operational base adjacent
to the country’s only international airport in
Bangui in September. While there, I needed to
go into town, in part to assess for myself the
political situation. No simple matter, I was told.
Such a journey would take time to organise,
which I thought odd since the city centre was a
short bicycle ride away. When we eventually
short bicycle ride away. When we eventually
did set out, it involved three Ballistic
did set out, it involved three Ballistic
Level 6-rated armoured vehicles
with doors weighing a quarter
of a ton each and armoured
windows almost an inch thick, Above: A view from the cabin of one of a pair of Mi-24 helicopter gunships provided by Senegal
plus an eight-man escort in for jungle operations in the CAR. Note the partially loaded UB-57-32 pod for 57mm rockets
case of ambush. The latter under the stub wing. Left: The insignia of Portugal’s Airborne Rapid Reaction Force in the CAR.
Below: The heavy machine gun position on a Portuguese armoured vehicle as a Senegalese
was perhaps just as well; at Mi-24 in UN markings prepares to depart a basic airstrip. Temporary bases deep in the interior
one essential stop in the heart of the Central African Republic, with fuel supplies, have proven essential in the ongoing war. All
of town the entire contingent photos Al J Venter Collection

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Air war analysis

dismounted and took up defensive positions as
an unidentified armed group approached. Similar
restrictions apply to aircrew operating out of
Bangui M’Poko International Airport, almost all
servicing flights to the interior of this vast African
state that lies just north of the Congo. Flying a
range of transport aircraft, mostly jet-powered
An-72s, but also various propeller-driven aircraft,
crews are billeted behind some of the heaviest
defences on the African continent, where access
is strictly controlled by the French Army.
The civil war in the CAR cannot be considered
a major conflict compared to those in the
Middle East and Asia, but it is sufficiently
widespread in this former French colony,
fractionally smaller than Texas, for the United
Nations (UN) to have committed a force of
almost 15,000 personnel (11,000 contingent
troops) in a bid to limit the spread of violence. I
had requested to be embedded with one of the
UN fighting units, a crack 180-man Portuguese
Above: Spanish Air Force KC-130H TK.10-07 ‘31-52’ serving with Ala 31 and operating in support of a CAR Army Paraquedista (paratroop) unit that calls
mission out of Libreville, Gabon. Below: A Joint Terminal Attack Controller with the Portuguese airborne unit itself the Rapid Reaction Force (RRF) and which
prior to despatch to the northeast during recent bush operations in the CAR. Bottom: Seen at a remote strip
in the interior of the CAR, South African-registered L-410UVP-E20 ZS-ATD/UNO-300P is one of the UN aircraft had already achieved fame in Afghanistan.
that brings in personnel and supplies. In his book Taking Command, former British
Chief of the Defence Staff General Sir David
Richards called them his “best fighting unit”
when he was in command of coalition forces in
Kabul. The war in the CAR, although sporadic,
is serious enough to occasionally involve
French fighter jets stationed at N’Djamena, the
Chadian capital. This has happened several
times, usually to intimidate rebel groups from
advancing towards UN defensive positions.
Mirage missions
The UN has disclosed that Armée de l’Air
(French Air Force) Mirage 2000s have
conducted missions over the northern town
of Kaga Bandoro to prevent armed groups
from assembling forces to march on Bangui,
where operations have been taking place to
clear Islamic-orientated suburbs of militants,
the majority of which are armed. There are two
such areas in the capital, PK-3 and PK-5, both
labelled by the UN’s Mission Multidimensionnelle

“I give those fellows impossible tasks
and they follow my orders to the letter...

they are tough, forceful and organised.”

General Balla Keita

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the country. A devout Muslim himself, and not
afraid of tackling problems at source, the general
is held in great esteem by all the European
senior officers in the region. He, in turn, displays
great affection for the Portuguese RRF under
his command, referring to it as “my personal
Cristiano Ronaldo squad”, and is on record as
stating that “I give those fellows impossible
tasks and they follow my orders to the letter...
they are tough, forceful and organised”. Big,
bluff and at times intimidatingly forthright,
Keita is not afraid to resort to military action in
a civil war in which Islamic radicals are pitted
against a majority of Christians and animists.
It is worth mentioning that the RRF has
distinguished itself in several dozen contacts
over almost three years against what is clearly
a resilient and mobile enemy. The unit has
not suffered a single fatality in the process,
with only a handful of its members having
been wounded, none critically. Asked how he
was dealing with local politicians, Keita was
disarmingly candid: “I do not trust them… How
can I when most have already moved their
Intégrée des Nations Unies pour la Stabilisation started, non-Muslims rallied under the banner money and their families to Europe? These
en République Centrafricaine (MINUSCA, of a movement known as anti-balaka. In the are really not the sort of people who have the
Multidimensional Integrated Stabilisation process more than a million people, in a nation interests of the people of the CAR at heart.”
Mission in the Central African Republic) of barely five times that number, fled their Also noteworthy is the fact that the
as ‘no-go’ areas. The UN has officially homes. The death toll remains uncertain, but no-nonsense Keita has tended to tackle ongoing
labelled the dissidents as criminal elements casualties are thought to be well into six figures, issues at their root, including despatching UN
and the Portuguese RRF has conducted the majority being of Islamic persuasion. forces to subdue some of the Jihadi armed
a number of operations in both areas. groups still fomenting revolution in the nation’s
There are other issues that constantly come MINUSCA air wing interior. There are 14 such hostile armed groups
into play. Hostilities originally started in 2012 A lot changed when the UN took matters in still active in the CAR and almost all have
with a mainly Islamic rebel force calling hand in 2014. Initially under French control, it Russian private military contractors (PMCs)
itself Séléka (Coalition), which invaded the established MINUSCA, which remains, like the serving within their ranks, usually billeted in their
country through its two northern neighbours, small French security force, headquartered in own camps adjacent to the main concentrations
Sudan and Chad. The insurgents began by Bangui. At its head is General Balla Keita, a of fighters. For their part, the Russians have
slaughtering every Christian community Senegalese former commando officer in overall repeatedly stated that their nationals attached
encountered in their push southwards control of all UN military matters in the country. to armed groups in the CAR have no military
towards Bangui, which they took two years Under Keita’s command, which includes all UN role, but are there in a “strictly advisory”
later, forcing the president to flee. This was fixed-wing aircraft, there is also a helicopter capacity. The number of Russian PMCs involved
not a simple matter. The country’s Muslim air wing of two Pakistan Air Force Mi-17s with armed groups in the country is currently
community is modest compared to the bulk and, until recently, a pair of Senegalese Mi-24 said to be well into the hundreds, although
of the population, which has historically been Hinds, one of which was lost during ongoing communications with the interior remain
Christian or animist. Once the killings had actions against armed groups while I was in patchy and exact figures are difficult to verify.

Above: AFM’s Al Venter (centre) with members of a UN-linked Portuguese paratroop squad at Bangui Airport
in the Central African Republic last September. Top: A United Nations ‘Hind’ over a Portuguese Rapid Reaction
Force protected convoy during operations in the interior of the country.

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Air war analysis

Dealing with mercenaries
In a recent interview with the author, French
Brig Gen Eric Peltier, head of the multinational
European Training Mission (EUTM) at Camp
Moana in Bangui, declared that any Russians
attached to still-hostile armed groups were
regarded as mercenaries. They maintain close
links with Moscow and their numbers range
from perhaps five or eight to several dozen
men per combat unit. Some officers of what
is now a series of irregular squads totalling
several hundred men have made approaches Above: Troops are airlifted into action aboard a UN ‘Hip’ during anti-armed group operations in the CAR. Below:
to talk to him, Peltier confided, “but I will not A United Nations ‘technical’ with a mounted Russian ZPU-2 14.5mm heavy machine gun guarding Bangui
deal with mercenaries... which is why I spoke to Airport, one of the most heavily defended in Africa.
the Russian ambassador here in Bangui about
the matter and a liaison officer has since been
appointed at the [Russian] embassy to deal
with these matters”. It also emerged during that
discussion that the state-of-the-art weapons
currently being supplied to these hostile armed
groups were almost all new, supplied either
by Russia or China. Most had been smuggled
into the CAR in container convoys, customarily
routed through either Sudan or Chad.
It is also highly likely that since roads in
these neighbouring countries are few and the
majority in abysmal condition, none of this
gun-running could have taken place without
the collusion of the relevant governments;
Brig Gen Peltier suggested that the CAR
had six such neighbours “and all six are
playing their own political games” in this
conflagration. He also disclosed that almost
all funds supporting those dissident armed
groups came from several Arab states in the France having established the headquarters have maintained an uneasy relationship for
Middle East. He proceeded to name them, but of its ongoing West African anti-insurgent decades. Both achieved independence from
specifically asked that details not be published. Opération Barkhane in N’Djamena in 2014. France more than half a century ago and disputes
Another source at EUTM headquarters Several squadrons of French aircraft as are regular. It deteriorated so much that the matter
suggested that almost all the armed groups were well as a 3,000-strong French ground force, was taken up by the UN Security Council in April
now supported by so-called ‘technicals’ – armed backed by troops from Mali, Chad, Niger, 2014, after Chadian soldiers killed 30 civilians
pick-up trucks with heavy weapons mounted on Mauritania and Burkina Faso, are also part and wounded 300 more during a marketplace
their flatbeds either of 12.7mm or 14.5mm calibre. of that defence equation. Chad is enormous, attack in Bangui. At that time Chad was part of
It was common knowledge, the source declared, twice the size of the CAR, and the N’Djamena the African Union Peacekeeping Mission in the
that several UN aircraft operating in CAR airspace government is not in total command of CAR, but as one official declared at the time, you
had come under fire in the past, including the entire country, especially those areas first have to achieve peace to be able to keep
the Pakistani and Senegalese helicopters. bordering Sudan and in Chad’s far south, it, and that was not the case. It is noteworthy
While it is well known that the Khartoum towards Cameroon and Bangui’s domains. that exactly the same situation holds for today.
government of Sudan’s deposed President For instance, several senior officers in Bangui
Omar al-Bashir fomented revolution far beyond admitted that the Russians had no problem Hind down
the frontiers of its own country, not a lot has bringing containers into southern Chad from A major nine-day operation was launched in
changed with the regime that replaced it. Sudan. They knew it was happening, but a September 2019 against one of the CAR’s most
Indeed, Sudan is just as much involved in good proportion of the frontiers are raw jungle active armed groups, which was terrorising a large
supporting rebel armed groups today as it and border controls almost non-existent. “If area adjacent to the border with Cameroon in the
ever was, only now with Russian mercenaries the convoys transporting these weapons are northwest of the country. At the behest of General
marshalling their efforts too. The Republic of stopped, a quick exchange of cash usually Keita the Portuguese RRF, backed by more
Chad has also played a somewhat ill-defined solves any delays,” one of them declared. than 50 fighting vehicles – mostly High Mobility
role in subverting the Bangui regime, despite Furthermore, the Chad and CAR governments Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle ‘Humvees’ with
One of the forward operational bases in the CAR’s
northwest during recent attacks on armed units.
It was no secret that there were Russian troops
embedded with the enemy.

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20mm cannon – were sent into the area, and over
the following week saw a good deal of action. The
general’s reaction stemmed from the gathering
of a large number of armed elements backed by
Russian instructors and operating outside the
Koui sub-prefecture, about 15 miles (25km) west
of Bocaranga, one of the largest towns in the
region. The arrival of the RRF was preceded by
an advanced detachment sent by air, the bulk of
the force covering the 370 miles (595km) from
Bangui by road. Owing to poor weather and
difficult terrain, it was a tough haul that lasted
three days. Also, the lone Senegalese Mi-24
helicopter gunship was forced down in peculiar
circumstances and its aircrew killed on the
second day of the operation. While the official UN
communiqué stated that the Hind had suffered
technical difficulties, the Mi-24 has two engines
and it is rare for them both to fail. Intriguingly,
headquarters staff back in Bangui spoke quite
openly about the helicopter having been “shot
down”. A later comment by one of the officers
made more sense: “We don’t go into detail about
this incident because we do not need to give the
enemy any kind of psychological advantage.”
During the movement of the motorised
column to the north, matters were made more
difficult owing to numerous tropical waterways
that required the construction of improvised
bridges able to take the weight of the heavy Soldiers from the
Portuguese 8x8 Pandur armoured vehicles Portuguese Rapid Reaction
with all-steel welded hulls. Also, there was a Force recover the wreckage
very real prospect of an enemy presence in of a crashed French drone
this isolated region. Top cover for protection from jungle north of Bangui.
against ambushes was provided throughout Cameroon from where there is considerable relatively new development – and worrying.
by both the Senegalese Mi-24 and a Pakistani infiltration into the CAR. Brig Gen Peltier During the course of the Portuguese onslaught
Hip accompanying the column, although this confirmed that this was a comparatively in the CAR’s north, a telling comment was
did not prevent the force from coming under new development with serious, long-term made by a retired senior UN officer, a former
attack several times. It was noted that, unlike implications for the entire region for several colonel in the South African Army’s Special
in earlier attacks, the rebels spent considerable reasons. First, earlier Séléka incursions into Forces, who had served for many years in
time and effort laying out textbook ‘L-shaped’ the CAR had entered the country through various conflict countries including Somalia,
ambushes, suggesting they had learned from Sudan. The new infiltration route through Afghanistan, both Sudans and others. Having
their Moscow instructors. Several of the vehicles Cameroon’s southeast border lay roughly 370 been briefed on the objectives of the RRF in
took direct hits and while a few men suffered miles (595km) further to the west, indicating the CAR, he declared that the Portuguese had
minor injuries, there were no serious casualties. a substantial escalation of hostile activity in demonstrated for the first time what all member
With the arrival of the Portuguese force vulnerable areas open to exploitation by Islamic state troop-contributing countries should do in
at Yade, about 12 miles (20km) southwest Jihadis. Secondly, and even more importantly, such circumstances. He went on: “My experience
of Bocaranga, on September 26, 2019, both Cameroon is now increasingly involved in the is that peacekeeping forces are very seldom
the air force element and Raven unmanned kind of Islamic insurrection that has become willing to engage proactively in combat, for the
aerial vehicles (UAVs) of the Portuguese Army prevalent further north, especially in Mali, as simple reason that member state contributing
monitored the opposing armed group fleeing the Republic of Cameroon Armed Forces is now countries release their forces with so many
into the jungle. The group’s Russian ‘instructors’ fighting Boko Haram terror groups along its restrictive conditions that it is almost impossible
had apparently departed a day or two before, northwestern border with Nigeria. Concurrently, to get the peacekeeping mission’s mandates
having been given word by unknown Bangui the Cameroonian government is also trying implemented. Moreover, most of them are ill-
sources of the approaching column. to counter infiltration from Chad through its equipped, not well trained, sometimes badly
The region in which the fighting took place northeastern frontier region. In his interview, disciplined and most have more of a regimental
is adjacent to the northeastern border with Brig Gen Peltier confirmed that this was a inclination than combat readiness.” AFM

Preparing for ‘ops’ at Bangui Airport last September. The derelict C-130A, TL-KNK, is a remnant of earlier
Séléka rebel attacks.

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Rafale solo display

“A presentation should not
exceed five or six minutes and

should be in a very limited volume
of sky and close to the ground.
It is necessary that the aircraft
displays its power and its ability

to manoeuvre with precise flight
controls.” Eric Gérard

Inset: Capt Nativel in the red-and-black jet that was
his mount for the 2018 display season.
Main image: Capt Sébastien ‘Babouc’ Nativel at the
controls of the specially marked demo team Rafale C
109 ‘4-IM’ in 2019. All photos Anthony Pecchi

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Ten years

of excellence

Since the first flight of the Rafale
A demonstrator in 1986, the
Dassault fighter has become
a popular airshow performer.
With its great lines, plenty of
raw power and fine-tuned flight
controls, it’s made for turning
heads at public displays, as
Anthony Pecchi explains.

D isplaying the Dassault Rafale is baked display featuring a Mirage 2000. In 2009, the
Rafale was considered to be ready to take over
into the aircraft’s DNA. From the
very first flights flown by the gloss this responsibility, with Escadron de Chasse
white Rafale A technology demonstrator (EC) 1/7 ‘Provence’ approached to assume the
in the hands of test pilot Guy Mitaux- task. However, with the Rafale having joined
Maurouard, the French fighter has grown combat operations in Afghanistan two years
in stature. The prototypes C01, B01, M01 earlier, it was already proving something of a
and M02 were all flown by Dassault test strain. In 2011, when missions over Libya kicked
pilots such as Yves Kerherve, Denis Garnier, off under Opération Harmattan, the decision
Eric Gérard and Philippe Duchateau. was taken to entrust the responsibility for the
Eric Gérard has been a Dassault test pilot solo display to Escadron de Transformation
since 1991. He told AFM: “During an airshow, Rafale (ETR) 2/92 ‘Aquitaine’ – the Rafale
the idea is to show the capabilities of the operational conversion unit – due to the fact
aircraft in a very short time. A presentation that this unit was less engaged in overseas
should not exceed five or six minutes and operations and, as such, more readily available.
should be in a very limited volume of sky The initial air force pilot selection for the role
and close to the ground. It is necessary in 2009 was undertaken with a clear mandate
that the aircraft displays its power and its from Dassault. Capt Cédric ‘Rut’ Ruet from
ability to manoeuvre with precise flight EC 1/7 was chosen in 2009, having come to
controls.” Famous for the size of his cigars, the Rafale from the Mirage 2000N in 2006.
Gérard is also known for pioneering the He was one of the most experienced serving
manoeuvre of looping immediately into an Rafale pilots at that time and was also a
incredibly steep descent to landing. “You previous solo display pilot in the Alpha Jet E.
need absolute confidence in the flight The work-up commenced with two flights
controls for this,” he smiles. “With the with Ruet in the back seat of a Rafale B and
Rafale, it’s worry-free and, to this day, the Duchateau in the front. Ruet then spent a few
Rafale is the only aircraft achieving it.” days with the Patrouille de France to learn
Philippe ‘Duch’ Duchateau assumed the role about aerobatics and display flying, as well as
of Dassault Rafale display pilot from Gérard what it meant to be an ‘ambassador’ with a high
in 2007. “I remember the debriefing of my profile within the service. He then got into the
first training flight very well,” he recalls. “I’m detail of a Rafale display, gradually polishing the
on the terrace of a café in the city centre of routine and getting down to display altitude.
Istres, and Gégé [Gérard] pulls on his big “I wanted to keep everything I liked in Duch’s
cigar and says: ‘It’s not too bad, Duch, demo,” explains Ruet. “The square loop, the
but you’ll have to tighten all that up.’” slow loop after a low-speed flypast, the steep
Rafale display A decade of trophies
in air force hands
Duchateau was the last Rafale The French Rafale solo demonstration has always
fared well at the Royal International Air Tattoo (RIAT)
display pilot from Dassault before at RAF Fairford, UK. It has won more than its fair
the reins passed to the Armée share of trophies over the years.
de l’Air (French Air Force) in Year Award Pilot
2009, three years after the 2009 Best solo display Sir Capt Cédric Ruet
aircraft entered service at Douglas Bader Trophy
Saint-Dizier. The air force 2011 Paul Bowen Trophy Capt Michael Brocard
had many public relations 2012 Sir Douglas Bader Capt Michael Brocard
tools at its fingertips, Trophy
including the Patrouille 2016 Paul Bowen Trophy Capt Jean-Guillaume
de France and what it Martinez
called Presentation 2017 King Hussein Capt Jean-Guillaume
Alpha, a solo Memorial Sword Martinez

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Rafale solo display

descent until touchdown. The demonstration
was supposed to be ten to 11 minutes and I did
not have any constraints on its construction.
I talked a lot about the sequence with Duch
to get his opinion and make corrections.”
Once Ruet was ready, he made his first public
display in the United Arab Emirates on the
occasion of the inauguration of the French
air base at Al Dhafra. “I’ll never forget this
presentation to the Emir [of Abu Dhabi] and
President Sarkozy,” he recalls. “The outside
temperature was 45° C [113° F] and the display
axis [was marked] on the ground in the sand,
and I had to fly in a yellowish haze without
much visibility.” He added that the pressure
wasn’t from the VIPs present, as much as
Eric Gérard also being in the audience.
An enduring mission
After two years in the hot seat, Ruet passed the
baton to Capt Michael Brocard, who had come
from the Mirage 2000Ds in Nancy and was
ideally placed for the Rafale having developed
his skills in both air-to-air and air-to-ground
missions. “I volunteered in 2001 to join EC 1/5
‘Vendée’ flying the Mirage 2000C in the air-to-air
mission,” Brocard says. “In March 2005, I joined
the CEAM [Centre d’Expertise Aérienne Militaire]
at Mont-de-Marsan in anticipation of the arrival
of the first Rafale, then joined EC 1/7 ‘Provence’
when the first aircraft arrived,
before moving to the ‘Aquitaine’
training unit from 2012. This is where
the solo display came in for me.”
With Ruet as his coach, Brocard
Above: ‘Babouc’ reefs the demonstration Rafale C into overbank, demonstrating the
impressive roll rate of the Dassault fighter. Right: The 2019 display scheme paid tribute
to ten years of the French Air Force Rafale demonstration team.

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stepped into the role, well aware of the even more impressive. After the rollover landing,
challenges of a particularly demanding the braking distance was extremely short. On
forthcoming display deep in the Swiss valleys the other hand, the most difficult demonstration
at Sion. “The axis [for the display] was locked I made was in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. The
in the mountains,” he says. “We didn’t know sky was stormy and the visibility was very
whether we would have to adapt the flight reduced. The presentation was intended for
or if it could fit in the [available airspace]. the Malaysian government in the presence of
After a training flight on site, we realised the French president, François Hollande, and
that we were the only ones to perform the all the leaders of major French aeronautical
entire demo without changing anything. companies. The pressure was intense!”
Even in the vertical axis, we did not exceed In 2018, Capt Sébastien ‘Babouc’ Nativel,
the highest peaks that surrounded us!” who had flown the Rafale since 2011 and who
The next Rafale solo pilot was Capt Benoît joined ETR 2/92 in 2015, became the demo
‘Tao’ Planche, another former Mirage 2000N pilot. He remained the display pilot for 2019
pilot, who spent three years displaying the and told AFM: “Coming after all these great
Rafale before Jean-Guillaume ‘Marty’ Martinez pilots is not an easy task. I didn’t want to
assumed the post in 2017. Martinez bought revolutionise the demo, just be worthy of my
some big changes, not least a spiral climb predecessors. So I analysed videos trying
directly after take-off. “I would have loved to change the angles and the sequence at
to have launched flares during the demo,” the beginning. Then I imagined what I could
he says. “On the Rafale, they are launched possibly bring [to the routine]. The first year,
upwards and I imagined a turn in a barrel I wanted to do a barrel roll with the gear
roll in front of the public while firing them. down just after take-off. The second year, I
From the ground, the spectators would have [reprised] the square loop of ‘Rut’ and ‘Duch’” .
seen a circle formed by the smoke, with In April 2019, Nativel brought together
the flares converging towards the centre of most of the former Rafale solo display
this circle. Another possibility would have pilots to celebrate a decade of the air force
been to fire them vertically while making a demonstration team. He says: “When I took
barrel. Unfortunately, flares are considered off for my flight, I knew that there were some
as weapons in France and using them big figures scrutinising me from the ground!”
in a public demo is a definite no-no.” Nativel flew his final display at the Dubai Above: This is the 2018 scheme. In 2020, Capt Jérôme
Martinez also has unforgettable memories of Airshow in November and, in 2020, Capt ‘Schuss’ Thoule becomes the latest to climb into the
displaying at Sion: “The plane was incredible, Jérôme ‘Schuss’ Thoule becomes the cockpit as the Rafale solo demonstration pilot.
the conditions were optimal, the wind was latest to climb into the cockpit as the air Below: The Rafale displays have evolved subtly over
the years, with agility and raw power being a common
right on the axis, which made the slow pass force’s Rafale solo demonstration pilot. AFM theme.

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without radar?

I just finished the Commander’s
Update Briefing in the November
2019 issue and had some RNoAF
thoughts on the caption for
the Apache image on p60.
I don’t think any air arm would anniversary
willingly give up situational
awareness in a conflict,
regardless of perceived threat. F-35A explained
It’s notable that while US Army
and Dutch Apaches generally Above: A close-up of F-35A 5146, specially marked for the RNoAF’s 75th anniversary last year. Nate Leong
flew without Longbow, the
Army Air Corps (AAC) aircraft I just read your report on the Royal F-35A, December 2019, p14). While to this jet dates back to World
always flew with the radar. Norwegian Air Force’s (RNoAF’s) Litago is in fact a popular brand War Two, when 332 Squadron,
My understanding is that the specially marked F-35A at Luke of chocolate-flavoured milk in based in the UK, operated a
re-engined AAC Apaches Air Force Base, Arizona – serial Norway, it’s also an old-fashioned Spitfire with this name (flown by
retained sufficient performance 5146 (AM-06, FMS 15-5146) – see name for a cow. I think the actual Johan Kristoffer Bjørn Ræder).
in Afghanistan’s ‘hot and high’ Anniversary markings for Norwegian reason for the name being applied Morten Hanche
summers to carry Longbow,
weapons and a useful fuel load
and still retain safe performance, Baz serial correction
while the US and Dutch aircraft
lacked power in these conditions.
Leaving the radar at home was
therefore a necessity driven by
performance; the lack of threat
meant they got away with it!
I’d also like to provide a quick
addendum to the Poseidon
story on p8 of the December
2019 issue – First Poseidon
delivered to RAF. The first
RAF aircraft will actually fly
into Kinloss, probably during
February 2020, with the second
likely to arrive there soon after.
The runways and infrastructure Israeli Air Force F-15C Baz serial 583 (c/n 901/IC018, FMS 83-0062), named ‘Golan’, in the markings of 106 ‘Tip of the Spear’
at Lossiemouth are expected Squadron during Exercise Cobra Warrior 2019. Edwin Schimmel
to be ready to accept No 120 I’d like to provide a correction to the The Israeli Air Force F-15C Baz serial a B-1B – the correct serial for the
Squadron around October 2020. item on p21 of the October 2019 issue 583 has the wrong US serial number Israeli fighter should be 83-0062.
Paul E Eden – Israeli Air Force joins Cobra Warrior. tie-up. Serial 83-0067 is actually Dietmar Fenners
More on 322 Squadron

Lightning IIs

Further to your report (RNLAF the move is intended to avoid
F-35A arrives in the Netherlands, disruption of 322 Squadron’s
December 2019, p12), currently, current F-16 operations.
the Military Aviation Authority – The new 3xx Squadron will be
the Netherlands (MAA-NLD) does manned and equipped under
not allow 322 Squadron to operate the project name Datum Ingang
two different types within the Nieuwe Organisatie (DINO, Date
same unit. Within 322 Squadron Opening New Organisation).
a shadow unit, designated 3xx Initially, it will be equipped with
Squadron, has been established. eight factory-fresh F-35As. DINO
This ‘squadron’ is administratively was set up ready to accept the first
responsible for the introduction operational F-35s at Leeuwarden Above: An Italian Air Force F-2000A Typhoon flies chase to RNLAF F-35A F-009
of the F-35A within the Royal Air Base in October 2019. (AN-09, FMS 17-5308) at Cameri, Italy. The Lightning II was flown from Cameri
to Leeuwarden AB by Lt Col Ian ‘Gladys’ Knight, the future commander of 322
Netherlands Air Force and Stephan de Bruijn Squadron. Paolo Rollino
Contact the AFM team by email at: [email protected]

80 // February 2020 #383 www.Key.Aero

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31° Stormo t l ’s
transport specialists
t t ra n sp o r t sp e c i a i t s

The Italian Air Force’s 31° Stormo fulfils a niche transport role,
undertaking operations for national agencies and the Vatican,
and, as Riccardo Niccoli discovers, it has also increasingly been
tasked with the role of emergency aeromedical missions.

C urrently based at Rome-Ciampino Gruppo operated from Ciampino with a mixed
fleet comprising four Convair 440s, four DC-6s,
International Airport (named for
pioneering military aviator G B two DC-9s and a few Piaggio PD.808TPs.
Pastine), the 31° Stormo (31st Wing) was Emergency aeromedical transport currently
established on March 1, 1965, at Pratica di forms an important part of the unit’s workload,
Mare air base, near Rome, as the 31° Stormo and accounts for a significant percentage of
Elicotteri (31st Helicopter Wing). In 1975 the the flying hours accrued throughout the year.
unit received the first of two Agusta-Sikorsky Currently the 31° Stormo’s operations focus
SH-3D/TS (Trasporto Speciale – Special on the work of its two squadrons; the 93°
Transport) helicopters, destined to transport Gruppo, which operates four Leonardo
the Pope within Italian national territory, AW139 helicopters (two VH-139As and
thanks to bilateral agreements between Italy two UH-139A/Bs) plus three Dassault
and the Vatican. In 1976, however, as part of Falcon 900EX (VC-900A) and 900Easy
a programme to reorganise the Aeronautica (VC-900B) jets, and the 306° Gruppo, which
Militare (AM, Italian Air Force), and with is assigned two Airbus A319CJs (VC-319As)
the disbandment of the Reparto Volo Stato and two Dassault Falcon 50s (VC-50As).
Above: Serial MM62209 (c/n Maggiore (Air Staff Flying Unit), the 31° Stormo
1795), one of the three Airbus was relocated to Ciampino, with a resulting Aeromedical missions
319CJ (VC-319A) VIP jets, in
flight over the Apennines. expansion of its VIP mission to include the Often (unjustifiably) considered by observers as
Thanks to auxiliary fuel tanks transport of high-ranking Italian military and a second-line unit, the 31° Stormo is not short
in the hold, this aircraft has civil officials. Of the wing’s two main units, the of operational demands, most notably rapid-
an endurance of 12 hours.
Italian Air Force/Troupe Azzurra 93° Gruppo (operating helicopters) remained reaction flights for aeromedical duties, for which
Inset: James Lawrence at Pratica di Mare until 1978, and the 306° the unit’s crews and technicians are on alert

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transport specialists

24 hours a day, 365 days a year. whose life is in immediate danger, Hospital mission flights are similar to
Every day, a Falcon fitted with a usually requiring urgent hospital medevac missions in terms of management,
stretcher and medical support treatment or at a specialist clinic but the patient is not in imminent danger.
equipment is ready to take off not available in their own area. A Humanitarian flights, however, are those
at immediate notice, capable typical example of this is Sardinia, authorised by the Presidenza del Consiglio
of responding to requests for where there is limited neo-natal dei Ministri (Prime Ministerial Cabinet) and
assistance within two hours. care available, and in the case which meet the requirements of the directives
The service is provided by two of post-natal complications, the regarding aeromedical flights to a foreign
crews on a rota shift of 12 hours hospitals on the island are forced destination – state-sanctioned flights for
each. Emergency requests are to seek the help of the AM. The Italians in difficulty abroad. Once all available
assigned alternatively to the two need for assistance is determined by information has been acquired and evaluated,
Gruppi, ensuring that the responsibility the medical authorities, which make an the potential mission is then audited against
for monthly operations is divided on a 50:50 initial request to the prefecture of the territory. the regulatory criteria, medical situation and
basis. A standard crew comprises two pilots, This is then forwarded to the Sala Situazioni technical aspects of the flight, before authority
a flight assistant and a Red Cross nurse – (Situation Cell) of the Comando Squadra Aerea to fly the mission is granted (or not), always
the latter a recently added element. All the (Air Squad Command), which notifies the through the Sala Situazioni of the Comando
nurses are qualified to perform their role Sala Operativa (Base Operations Centre) of Squadra Aerea, which activates the Stormo. In
thanks to a specialist aeromedical course the 31° Stormo. The pre-established readiness addition to the standard on-board equipment
provided ‘in-house’ by the 31° Stormo. period of two hours before take-off may seem (stretcher, oxygen and an electrical generator
Emergency aeromedical missions are divided excessive, but the unit must be apprised of all to power an incubator), a sanitary evacuation
into three categories: medical evacuation the information about the case, configure and (EVASAN) kit can also be incorporated in the
(medevac), hospital and humanitarian. The integrate the appropriate on-board equipment Falcon 900 EASY aircraft, and other medical
first case involves transporting a person and await the arrival of medical personnel. support equipment may also be integrated.

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31° Stormo

The humanitarian mission flights are planned
in advance, as these do not involve individuals
whose lives are in immediate danger. Like
the hospital missions, these also take into
consideration the permanent agreements Italy
has established with other states regarding
aeromedical flights in state-operated aircraft.
Alongside the Sala Operativa, which manages
the 31° Stormo’s aeromedical flights, the
Sezione Pianificazione (Planning Section)
examines future programmed activity,
selecting the most suitable aircraft and best-
qualified crew for each assigned mission, 1
issuing the selected crew members with an
electronic flight bag containing three iPads,
replacing the traditional pilots’ cases full of
navigation charts, manuals and issues of the
Aeronautical Information Publication (AIP).
Aircrew profile
The 31° Stormo’s pilots are all extremely
experienced, having arrived at Ciampino as a
second posting from other operational fleets.
Usually, apart from those recently assigned,
the pilots will have two, or occasionally three,
type qualifications on the aircraft in service,
and therefore may be assigned to the various
missions with a high degree of flexibility. On
average, each pilot flies between 150 and 250 2 3
hours over the year. Those joining the unit have unit itself. Maggiore (Major) Daniele Sgambati, concerning airspace transit and the use of
generally reached the rank of captain with communications officer for the unit explained: foreign airports. The wing’s pilots must therefore
five or six years of experience and begin their “The principal difficulty for 31° Stormo pilots be highly trained and aware of the procedures
period with the Stormo with an initial conversion to overcome is the requirement to continuously regarding military personnel abroad, including
course on one of the Falcons at the Stormo’s follow all the changes in civilian flying relationships with the local authorities and
Centro Addestramento Equipaggi (CAE, Aircrew regulations, which are also generated by the other potentially sensitive aspects. Essentially,
Training Centre). Given the civilian origins of introduction of new technologies, while always the Stormo’s crews are official representatives
the aircraft, the type rating is completed at keeping in step with our status as military of Italy while operating abroad. This is true not
specialist training companies, mainly through pilots and the directives applicable to our only for the hospital and humanitarian missions,
the use of simulators, and following the same operations. In practice, we have to ensure that but also for state flights, which may involve
syllabus as civilian pilots from the commercial we are constantly up-to-date in both arenas.” flying the president of the Italian Republic,
sector. Military qualification is subsequently Although the 31° Stormo is a military unit, prime minister or other high-ranking figures
completed using instructors within the Stormo, much of its operational capability is similar to of the government or armed forces around
the next step often being qualification as a that of civilian operators, incorporating flying on the world for official visits, conferences and
commander, although not in every case, as this instrument flight rules (IFR) along commercial high-level political, diplomatic, economic and
depends on a variety of factors, such as total routes in accordance with civilian airspace military meetings. Such flights are performed
number of hours flown, seniority within the unit, rules, as well as conforming to ICAO and EASA by the VC-319 or VC-900, both of which have
types of mission flown and the prospective (International Civil Aviation Organization and intercontinental range, either type being selected
requirements for operational service within the European Aviation Safety Agency) regulations on the basis of the size of the delegation being


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transported. The AM’s VC-319s are specifically VIP flagships screens, an Electronic Flight Instrument System
modified for long-range operations, with The flagship of the VIP transport fleet remains (EFIS) and fly-by-wire controls with a sidestick.
supplementary fuel tanks replacing half the the VC-319A, which entered service in 2000, Another long-range aircraft serving with the
standard luggage hold, increasing the aircraft’s three examples being acquired to replace the Stormo is the Falcon VC-900. Three examples
endurance to around 12 flying hours. In most ageing DC-9-32. In 2005 one of the VC-319As of the 900EX version entered service from
other aspects, the aircraft in service are virtually was sold to Turkey, to be replaced by a new September 1999. Two 900EASY variants were
identical to their civilian counterparts, apart example the following year. In 2015 the AM’s acquired during 2005-06, while two of the
from some minor but significant differences, first VC-319A was grounded and offered for older 900EX aircraft were put up for auction
including supplementary navigational systems sale, but it remains unsold, mainly because the in March 2015 and subsequently departed for
(the Falcon 50s are equipped with three engines have no flying hours available, and new owners. The Falcon 900 can carry up to
inertial platforms instead of two) and the the aircraft therefore cannot be flown out of 12 passengers; the flight deck incorporates a
digital aircraft communication addressing Ciampino. It’s possible that it could be returned head-up display (HUD) and is based on the
and reporting system (ACARS) data link for to operational service with the 31° Stormo. Honeywell Primus 2000 system. This aircraft
satellite communication of brief radio or text The VC-319A’s standard configuration offers a range of more than 4,970 miles
messages. The most recent multi-year budget comprises three separate areas in the (8,000km). The oldest model of the Falcon
plan issued by the Italian defence ministry passenger cabin: a working stateroom, a operated by the 31° Stormo is the VC-50,
proposed that, in future, the aircraft of the 31° presidential salon with bathroom, and a 40-seat four of which entered service from 1985,
Stormo should also be fitted with protection passenger area. The flight deck incorporates a although the two most heavily used of these
systems against surface-to-air missiles. glass cockpit, equipped with six multifunction were disposed of in March 2006. The VC-50

1: A stretcher inside the cabin of a VC-50A is standard equipment for aircraft on alert for medevac missions.
Riccardo Niccoli 2: The cockpit of the VC-900B is dominated by the Honeywell Primus 2000 system, including
head-up displays and five colour multifunction displays. Riccardo Niccoli 3: MM81807 (c/n 31408), one of
the two VH-139A VIP helicopters of the 31° Stormo’s 93° Gruppo over the Coliseum in Rome. Note the
‘REPUBBLICA ITALIANA’ titles. Italian Air Force/Troupe Azzurra 4: A 31° Stormo Falcon 900EX (VC-900A) over the
Mediterranean during a training flight. This aircraft has a range of more than 4,320nm. Italian Air Force/Troupe
Azzurra 5: The Airbus A340-500 that was acquired in 2016 under a leasing arrangement seen at Rome-Fiumicino
Airport. It was mainly used for qualification and training of aircrews, completing only a few state flights before
being retired in summer 2018. Mattia De Bon via author

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31° Stormo

can accommodate nine passengers and has
a range of around 4,035 miles (6,500km).
Until recently the 31° Stormo also operated
the two Piaggio P.180 Avantis formerly owned
by the Protezione Civile (Civil Protection
Department), but on February 9, 2018,
these were transferred to the 14° Stormo
as part of a rationalisation programme.
Another machine recently assigned to the
31° Stormo was the contentious Airbus A340-
500 with the Emirati registration A6-EHA,
much discussed in the Italian media owing
to the bitter political dispute surrounding the
high cost of its acquisition. The aircraft (c/n
0748), obtained under lease via Alitalia (Italian Above: Pilots from the 31° Stormo brief for a mission at the base’s Planning Section. Riccardo Niccoli
law prohibits the use of an aircraft provided A340-500 A6-EHD had a market price of less at Frosinone in central Italy. The Frosinone
by a non-EU carrier as a state aircraft) by the than €10m, suggesting direct acquisition of wing is also involved, when necessary, in
Presidenza del Consiglio during the Enrico the aircraft would have been much cheaper. the advanced training (Phase 3) of pilots
Letta government of 2013-14, was provided by Furthermore, refurbishing the aircraft with a destined to serve in the helicopter fleets.
Etihad Airways, with which it served during dedicated VIP configuration, estimated to cost Finally, for the technical and operational
2006-15. The A340 arrived in Italy in February around €20m, has never been completed. In management of the fleet, the 31° Stormo
2016 and, owing to its technical characteristics summer 2018 the Giuseppe Conte government incorporates a Servizio Efficienza Aeromobili
and performance, was housed in the Alitalia announced the suspension of the leasing (SEA) maintenance unit, which, while
facility at Rome-Fiumicino Airport, the company contract (which had come to around €75m drawing on the direct support provided by
consequently receiving public money (an by then), but Etihad has reportedly registered Airbus and Dassault, mainly receives its
overall total of some €38m according to some a dispute over the decision, which could maintenance support from airline companies
sources) for both the ‘sub-leasing’ contract result in the payment of penalties worth, such as Alitalia or Meridiana, to which
and maintenance of the aircraft. After a series according to some sources, approximately contracts are assigned after a tendering
of complications related to the registration €42m. The A340 is no longer used by the 31° process. The SEA has, however, achieved its
of the machine as a state aircraft – it was Stormo and remains non-operational in a own civilian certification for the inspection
ultimately given the registration I-TALY, and no hangar at Fiumicino. The Italian government’s and maintenance of the aircraft and its
military serial – it was used to qualify some accountability office continues to investigate equipment to a determined technical level,
crews, but had a fairly limited operational the affair. These unfortunate circumstances the aircraft following a planned check and
utilisation, owing mainly to continual political notwithstanding, the Italian state should have maintenance schedule identical to that used
arguments, which caused the Matteo Renzi a requirement for a large long-range aircraft by civilian operators. The same applies to
and Paolo Gentiloni governments to adopt soon; in all likelihood a Boeing 777 or Airbus the helicopters, with maintenance being
a low profile for the aircraft. The major A350 would be the most appropriate solution undertaken by the local SEA or by Leonardo.
advantages offered by the four-engined – funding and political climate permitting. In conclusion, the 31° Stormo is a unit
jet were the large number of passengers it which, in accordance with a new Italian
could carry (useful in the case of state visits Rotary fleet defence philosophy, offers more than a single
accompanied by business delegations) As mentioned, the 31° Stormo uses rotary- operational benefit. Beyond the traditional
and its very long range of more than 11,000 wing aircraft for VIP transport, and in particular role of state transport, the unit also fulfils the
miles (17,700km), which enabled non-stop for the Pope. Following the retirement of the emergency aeromedical transport mission,
flights to almost any global destination. last SH-3D/TS in 2012, two specially VIP- responding directly to the needs of the
The A340-500 variant was not a commercial configured VH-139As entered service the population and safeguarding human life.
success, with a mere 34 examples same year, together with two In the 2018 calendar year, the 31° Stormo
constructed during 2003-11. It was UH-139A/Bs formerly operated completed some 110 emergency aeromedical
considered extremely uneconomical, by the Protezione Civile. missions, equivalent to 360 flying hours, and
and the leasing contract agreed The latter two aircraft are saving the lives of around 100 people. AFM
between the Italian government flown by the 31° Stormo to
and Etihad/Alitalia does not satisfy the requirements Acknowledgements:
seem particularly cost-effective of the Protezione Civile Thanks to Frank McMeiken for the
either (almost €167m over eight but are managed in a English translation of the text.
years, up until 2024); the similar pool with the 72° Stormo
Right: An F-16-inspired patch
commemorating 25,000 flying hours by the
93° Gruppo’s Falcon 900 fleet. James Lawrence
Below: One of the 93° Gruppo Falcon
900Easy (VC-900B) jets, MM62210 (c/n 116)
is on the 31° Stormo ramp at Ciampino,
ready for the next mission.
Riccardo Niccoli

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Report Yorknite 2019

Swiss Air Force F/A-18C J-5006 taxies out of its HAS at
RAF Leeming during Yorknite 2019. Aircraft and crews
were provided by Fliegersta el 11, 17 and 18 based at

Payerne and Meiringen. All photos Mick Britton

Swiss Hornets
in the UK

supersonic flights. The solution for Mick Britton was at RAF
the Swiss Air Force has been to Leeming as the Swiss Air
turn to the relatively open airspace Force undertook a second
of northern England, which is even
less busy now with the cessation major detachment to the
of flying at RAF Linton-on-Ouse. UK for advanced flying
RAF Leeming offers training.
spare capacity in terms of
accommodation, with a disused the junior pilots as they develop
complex of hardened aircraft their skills – especially at night.
shelters (HASes), the The formal exercise period ran
s (
, t
n northern-most of which from November 12 until December
was occupied by
w a s o c c u p i e d b y 6. The flying was intense with
t the Hornets in three waves being launched daily,
November. Lt Col
N o ve m b e r . L t C o l including eight jets almost every
W ic k i d e s cr i b e d evening. AFM’s visit on November
Wicki described
e R
the RAF hosts 20 coincided with a morning flying
F h
Above: A pilot takes charge of his Hornet. After Leeming’s last as “exceptional”. . schedule consisting of seven


Tornado F3 squadron disbanded in 2008 the base’s extensive “ “Nothing is too Hornets, all emerging from the
s t
g i
HAS complexes began to fall into disrepair, but more are being
much trouble,” he
made usable once again. Right: The exercise patch depicted m u c h t r o u b l e , ” h e old No 25 (Fighter) Squadron
g t
t h
, a
the West Front of York Minster with a formation of F/A-18s flying s said, adding that he area. Despite the presence of
between the two towers and over the head of a Viking warrior. h hopes to return in 2020. . the resident No 100 Squadron
n 2
n i
o r
s t
T he Swiss Air Force arrived air c omba t t r aining w a s (name withheld for security o u x ’ Hawk T1A aggressors, the Swiss
o d
So does Hornet pilot ‘Sioux’
s H
t p
air combat training was
t ‘
contingent operated independently,
at RAF Leeming, North
necessary owing to the various
Yorkshire, on November domestic constraints at home. reasons) from Fliegerstaffel making full use of the ideal
11 with a large deployment for These include congested airspace, 17, who described the flying airspace and training areas which
what appears to be an annual high population density and severe experience in the UK as “fantastic” included Low Flying Area (LFA) 17
low-level and night flying exercise restrictions on low-level, night and and of considerable benefit to in the Lake District. AFM
in UK airspace – following on Left: A trio of Swiss F/A-18s heads out
from a similar event at RAF for the next mission from Leeming on
Lossiemouth, Moray, in 2018. November 20.
The latest manoeuvres, dubbed
Yorknite 2019, involved the
Payerne- and Meiringen-based
F/A-18C/D Hornets and personnel
of Fliegerstaffel 11, 17 and 18.
The nine-jet detachment was
commanded by Lt Col Aldo Wicki,
who explained that out-of-country
Yorknite Hornets
The nine aircraft detached to RAF
Leeming comprised F/A-18C serials
J-5006, 5009, 5016, 5018, 5024, 5025
and F/A-18Ds J-5233, 5236 and 5238.
www.Key.Aero #383 February 2020 // 87
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Sheppard T-6A Texan II

crash report released

The wreckage of USAF T-6A 07-
3890 ‘EN’ following its crash
on open farmland northeast of
Sheppard AFB last May 1. USAF
H EADQUARTERS AIR cumulus cloud formations, but and slightly nose-down elevator. ranch land, 1 mile (1.5km) north
Education and Training
of Highway 70 near Temple,
They attempted to maintain
assessed the conditions as still
Command has released acceptable for training and the neutral flight controls from spin Oklahoma, 21 miles (34km)
its Accident Investigation Board aircraft continued until it entered entry until ejection, but there were northeast of Sheppard AFB at
(AIB) report into the loss of a the Sheppard 2 MOA. The deviations, most noticeably in the 1313hrs local time. The mishap
USAF T-6A last May 1, about instructor pilot accomplished the elevator. This slightly nose-down aircraft debris was contained
21 miles (34km) northeast of training profile once established control input aggravated the spin within a 270ft (82m) radius of the
Sheppard Air Force Base, Texas – in the MOA and supervised the condition and delayed recovery. point of impact. There was no
see Attrition, July 2019, p107. The Italian pilot’s performance of a The instructor initially attempted post-crash fire. There was no loss
report, made public on December G-awareness exercise, power-on to counteract the left roll with of civilian property and the aircraft
17, cites pilot error as the cause stalls, traffic pattern stalls, slow right rudder application. Once was destroyed on impact. The cost
of the mishap. It also reveals the flight, steep turns and instrument inverted, the crew tried to maintain of the aircraft is about US$5.7m.
identity of the Texan II as 07-3890 confidence manoeuvres. neutral controls. However, post- Both pilots ejected and sustained
‘EN’ from the 80th Flying Training Then, at approximately 1300hrs mishap analysis revealed the minor injuries after landing in
Wing’s 89th Flying Training local time, the aircraft penetrated rudder remained deflected to a field 5 miles (8km) north of
Squadron (FTS) at Sheppard. cumulus clouds below safe flying the right at varying degrees the aircraft’s point of impact.
The mishap crew included an airspeed in an unusual attitude until ejection, which delayed The AIB president found, by a
instructor pilot from the 97th (aircraft orientation in relation recovery. Furthermore, the trim preponderance of the evidence,
FTS in the rear seat, who was to the horizon). The mishap aid system, which automatically that the cause of the mishap
supervising an Italian Air Force instructor pilot (MIP) flew the applies nominal rudder input was pilot error resulting from
pilot, from the 89th FTS, during aircraft in an unrecognised, based on variables such as torque, fixation on environmental factors
training manoeuvres as part of unintentional nose-high altitude airspeed and pitch rate, gave that led to an aerodynamic stall
a transition sortie in the Pilot with decreasing and insufficient the rudder a minor propensity and then failure to follow the
Instructor Training Course. airspeed and high-power setting. to the right (pro-spin rudder) prescribed memorised critical-
Following a weather diversion In an attempt to regain airspeed, due to the low airspeed and action recovery checklist.
to Fort Worth Alliance Airport the MIP tried to lower the nose of high-power setting. The crew While commonly practised
(KAFW) the crew departed from the aircraft towards the horizon continued to attempt to recover during continuation training and
there at 1237hrs local time via before penetrating the weather. the aircraft until the pilot assessed in the Euro-NATO Joint Jet Pilot
the Fort Worth Alliance Stereo Next, the MIP attempted to roll it unrecoverable and commanded Instructor Training syllabus, out-
Route to the Sheppard 2 Military wings level while still in a nose- ejection at approximately 10,800ft of-control flight is only performed
Operating Area (MOA) to complete high attitude with insufficient (3,290m) above mean sea level. in airspace clear of clouds. Once in
their training mission and then airspeed and high-power setting. Post-ejection, the unmanned the clouds, the crew lost the ability
return to Sheppard. While setting As a result, the mishap aircraft aircraft transitioned out of the to recognise altitude, turn direction
up the transition sortie as part departed controlled flight in spin into a nose-dive reaching and rate of turn. This coupled
of the Pilot Instructor Training a power-on, inverted spin. approximately 90° nose-low with inverted flight contributed to
Course and en route to the After departing controlled flight, travelling at 309kts when it the crew’s failure to remedy the
MOA, the crew noticed building the crew applied neutral ailerons crashed into privately owned out-of-control flight condition.

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Accident Reports

D: Oct 18 While approaching for a routine
N/U: Royal Canadian Air Force/ landing at Kunsan Air Base,
8 Wing/437 Transport South Korea, at around 1530hrs
Squadron local time the pilot ejected, for
T: CC-150 Polaris (Airbus unspecified reasons, before
A310-300) the aircraft crashed. The pilot
S: 15001 sustained minor injuries but
While undergoing routine was later released in good
maintenance, the aircraft was condition after routine checks
towed across the apron from at a medical facility. All military
the north ramp to Hangar 10 at and civil flying operations were
Canadian Forces Base Trenton, temporarily suspended after the
Ontario, by personnel from a incident, but the runway was
privately contracted maintenance reopened on December 4.
company. As the D-14 tow tractor
being used was too large for D: Dec 3
the limited space in Hangar N/U: Argentine Air Force/II
10, which is not normally used Brigada Aérea/Grupo
for the Polaris, the CC-150 was Above: Royal Canadian Air Force CC-150 Polaris 15001 with its nose embedded in a Aéreo 2/II Escuadrón
stopped and uncoupled from it hangar wall at CFB Trenton following its accident on October 18. RCAF Aerofotográfico
outside the hangar, chocked and damage to the port side of the D: Nov 27 T: Learjet 35A
the parking brake set so that a aircraft. This was categorised as N/U: Slovenian Armed S: T-26
smaller D-12 tow tractor could be a Class A mishap, indicating more Forces/15th Military During a navigation aids
used instead. However, before than US$2.5m of damage. No Aviation Regiment/152nd calibration flight at twilight near
the latter could be attached, the personnel were injured. Note that Fixed-wing Squadron San Fernando International
aircraft jumped its chocks, rolled Class A accidents were previously T: PC-9M Hudournik Airport, Buenos Aires, the aircraft
forwards and, despite attempts categorised as those involving While carrying out a routine struck a bird at an altitude of
by the towing crew, could not more than US$2m of damage, but low-level training sortie, the around 1,300ft (400m) and
be stopped. The starboard the cost threshold was increased aircraft struck a power line at declared an emergency before
engine hit the D-12, which was to US$2.5m effective from October around 1000hrs local time near making a safe landing at the
still parked inside the hangar 1. The BAMS-D, a modified RQ-4A, Dravograd in northern Slovenia. airport. Examination of the
and then the nose impacted was introduced as an interim The pilot immediately aborted aircraft on the ground found
the inside of the hangar wall, measure pending service entry of the training mission and diverted a large dent in the leading
resulting in substantial structural the more advanced MQ-4C Triton to the nearest airfield, Maribor/ edge of the port wing.
damage to both the nose cone variant. Although five BAMS- Edvard Rusjan Airport, where
and starboard engine cowling. Ds entered service, one (168739) he landed safely. The pilot was D: Dec 3
The Royal Canadian Air Force crashed into Chesapeake Bay, unhurt, but the PC-9M sustained N: French Sécurité Civile
said it will take “a significant on the US Atlantic coast, on June substantial damage to the tail T: EC145
amount of time” to repair the 11, 2012, while undergoing trials fin. The incident left a number of S: F-ZBPE ‘Dragon 30’
damage. Following inspection by with VX-20 (see Attrition, August properties without electricity until Contact with this helicopter was
engineering teams from Airbus 2012) and another (166510) was the power line could be repaired. lost at around 2130hrs local time
and General Electric, an initial shot down by Iranian air defences on December 2 while it was en
repair plan was formulated which over the Gulf of Oman on June D: Dec 2 route from Marseille Provence
should see the aircraft return 20, 2019 – see Attrition, August N/U: US Air Force/8th Fighter Airport to Le Luc-Le Cannet
to service around August. A 2019. The latest accident reduces Wing Airport, in foggy conditions, to
flight safety investigation has the active fleet to just two. T: F-16CM carry out a reconnaissance and
been launched into the incident. rescue mission. The wreckage
No injuries were reported. was found by a French Army
helicopter at 0114hrs the following
D: Nov 26 morning between the villages
N: US Navy of Rove and Pennes-Mirabeau,
T: RQ-4A Global Hawk/ Bouches-du-Rhône, near
BAMS-D Marseilles, in difficult-to-access
This Broad Area Maritime terrain in the Nerthe Massif area.
Surveillance – Demonstrator All three crew members had
(BAMS-D) unmanned aerial been killed and the EC145 was
vehicle struck foreign object destroyed. The fatalities were
debris during its take-off roll from later identified as Jean Garat –
an undisclosed airfield in the a Sécurité Civile pilot, Michel
Middle East/US Fifth Fleet area of Escalin – a flight engineer
responsibility. Although the base mechanic/winchman, and Norbert
was not specified, the BAMS-D Savornin – a helicopter rescue
is known to have previously been assistant from the Sapeurs
operated from Al Dhafra Air Base Pompiers des Bouches-du-
in the United Arab Emirates. Above: The wreckage of French Sécurité Civile EC145 F-ZBPE after its crash on Rhône (SDIS 13, Bouches-du-
The UAV sustained significant December 3 near Marseilles. SDIS 13 Rhône Fire and Rescue Service).
Abbreviations: D: Date N/U: Nationality/Units T: Type S: Serials

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D: Dec 5 The damaged port wing leading
N: Arab Republic of Egypt edge of Argentine Air Force Learjet
Air Force 35A T-26 following its bird strike
T: MiG-29M on approach to San Fernando
International Airport on December 3.
This aircraft crashed following a
sudden technical failure during
a training sortie in a dedicated
training area, location not
reported. The pilot ejected safely.

D: Dec 5
N/U: US Army/Minnesota
Army National Guard/34th
Combat Aviation Brigade/
C Company/2-211 AVN
T: UH-60A Black Hawk
Around nine minutes after take-off
for a maintenance test flight from
the St Cloud Army Aviation Support
Facility (AASF) at St Cloud Regional encountered a problem over D: Dec 9 Drake (Operation Drake Passage
Airport, Minnesota, the crew sent a Ain Zara in Libya and the pilot, N/U: Chilean Air Force/Grupo – named after the body of water
Mayday signal before the helicopter Major General Aamer Al-Jagam de Aviación No 10 in which the aircraft went down),
crashed. The incident happened at Alorifi, attempted to fly back T: C-130H Hercules some debris and human remains
around 1415hrs local time in a snow- to al-Watiya air base but was S: 990 were found at sea on December
covered tree line on a farm near the unable to make it and the aircraft This aircraft departed from 11, 325 miles (520km) northwest of
rural township of Marty, Kimball, crashed at al-Zāwiyah. He ejected Santiago at 1021hrs local time King George Island. It is assumed
Stearns County, about 16 miles over hostile territory and was with 17 crew and 21 passengers that all 38 on board were killed.
(26km) southwest of the AASF. All captured by al-Zāwiyah terrorists. on board. The flight to Teniente The aircraft was originally built
three crew members (CW2 James Libyan Government of National Rodolfo Marsh Martin Air Base, for the US Marine Corps as a
A Rogers Jr, CW2 Charles P Nord Accord (GNA) militants said they King George Island, Antarctica, KC-130R tanker and delivered in
and Sgt Kort P Plantenberg) were had shot the MiG down using was to transport personnel to 1978 as BuNo 160628, but later
killed and the helicopter destroyed. an SA-7 surface-to-air missile the Chilean Base Presidente de-converted to a standard C-130H
recently received from Turkey, Eduardo Frei Montalva to modify and supplied to Chile in July 1995.
D: Dec 6 but a statement by the General a floating fuel supply line and
N: French Army/Safran Command of the Libyan Arab carry out anti-corrosion treatment D: Dec 9
Electronics & Defence Armed Forces said the aircraft to Chilean facilities in the area. N/U: German Luftwaffe/HSG 64
T: Safran Patroller came down because of technical It landed to refuel at Base T: CH-53G
During an industrial acceptance difficulties. This airframe had Aérea Chabunco, Punta Arenas- S: 84+46
flight from Base Aérienne 125 been stored for many years at Presidente Carlos Ibañez del During an evening low-flying
Istres as part of the French Army’s Benina air base and returned to Campo Airport at 1444hrs, taking training mission from Laupheim air
Système de Drone Tactique operational service earlier in 2019 off again from there at 1653hrs. base using night-vision goggles, this
(Tactical UAV System) programme, after being refurbished by Libyan After passing waypoint Horno helicopter’s rotors grazed treetops
this UAV was destroyed when it National Air Force technicians, at 1744hrs it continued towards in the dark near Sigmaringen-
crashed at 1558hrs local time at using parts from several waypoint Drake, but disappeared Jungnau, Baden-Württemberg. The
Saint-Mitre-les-Remparts, near other aircraft. It was deployed at 1813hrs, eight minutes before crew made a safe precautionary
Istres, in the Bouches-du-Rhône. from Benghazi to al-Watiya it was scheduled to pass Drake. landing in a forest clearing and
Although the UAV crashed close in November to participate in After extensive searching, under a there were no injuries to the nine
to a number of houses, it struck a operations against GNA militias. mission dubbed Operación Paso personnel on board. Damage to
hillside and there were no casualties the CH-53G was thought to be
on the ground. The French Army minimal and confined to the main
has ordered 14 Patrollers, with rotor blades. It remained in the
the first system (comprising five field for several days, guarded
air vehicles and two ground by military police, during which
stations) due for delivery at the the rotor blades were replaced,
time of the accident. After testing enabling it to fly out on December
at Istres, the type will be used 12. However, it did not return
for training at Chaumont, where directly home – after a final night
more flight slots are available stop at Erding it eventually arrived
than at Istres, enabling training back at Hubschraubergeschwader
of personnel to be accelerated. 64’s (HSG 64’s) base at
Laupheim on December 18.
D: Dec 7
N: Libyan National Air Force D: Dec 10
T: MiG-23MLD N: UAE Air Force and Air
S: 26144 Defence
After concluding an evening Above: The tail of Libyan National Air Force MiG-23MLD 26144 following its crash T: Wing Loong UAV
combat mission, this fighter at al-Zāwiyah on December 7. GNA This UAV crashed in flames in the
Abbreviations: D: Date N/U: Nationality/Units T: Type S: Serials

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Sa’dah governorate, Yemen, close down in Hama governorate,
to the border with Saudi Arabia’s western-central Syria. It carried
Najran region. Houthi rebels a number of small bombs under
claimed to have shot it down. the wings, although none of them
exploded when it came down.
D: Dec 11
N/U: Russian Aerospace D: Dec 25
Forces/55th Independent N/U: Islamic Republic of Iran
Helicopter Regiment Air Force/22nd Tactical
(55 OVP) Fighter Squadron
T: Mi-28UB T: MiG-29
S: ‘17 Red’ Above: Russian Aerospace Forces Mi-28UB ‘17 Red’ lies inverted after its crash on S: 3-6103
Both crew members were killed December 11 near Korenovsk. This aircraft crashed in a remote,
and their helicopter destroyed Center to categorise the incident This was the first series-production mountainous area in the northwest
when it crashed near the as a Class A mishap, indicating in Su-57 and was carrying out one of the country, near the border
Russian village of Platnirovskaya, excess of US$2.5m of damage. of its initial flights. It had been with Azerbaijan, at 0900hrs local
approximately 1.5 miles (2.5km) due for handover to the Russian time. It had been involved in a
from the 6974th Aviation Base D: Dec 17 defence ministry by the end of 2019, functional check flight from the
at Korenovsk in the Krasnodar N/U: Russian Aerospace reportedly during that same week, 2nd Tactical Fighter Base (Shahid
region, at around 2300hrs Forces/22nd Guards Heavy for testing at Lipetsk – see First Fakouri Air Base) at Tabriz, having
Moscow time. The accident took Bomber Aviation Division series production Su-57 prepares just completed a major inspection
place during a routine nighttime (22 GvTBAD)/52nd Guards for delivery, January, p20. Although and periodic depot maintenance.
training flight in heavy fog. The Heavy Bomber Aviation unconfirmed, local media – quoting Some reports claimed that the
crew were later identified as Regiment (52 GvTBAP) sources in the defence industry – experienced test pilot, Major
Major Ruslan Kushnirenko and T: Tu-22M3 said a technical failure of the control Mohammad Reza Rahmani,
Lt Col Aleksandr Sklyankin. After taking off for a routine training system had caused the crash. The ejected before the crash, although
flight from its base at Shaykovka aircraft had been flying at an altitude this is unconfirmed. An extensive
D: Dec 12 in the Kaluga region of central of 26,500ft (8,000m) when the failure search by air and ground-
N: Unknown Russia, the bomber had an engine occurred, immediately after which based search and rescue teams,
T: Unidentified UAV failure and the crew were forced the aircraft spontaneously entered including three helicopters (among
An image posted on social media to make an emergency landing in a rapidly descending downward them an Islamic Republic of Iran
showed the burnt-out wreckage a field in the Astrakhan region of spiral. The pilot attempted to Police Aviation Bell 212 and Islamic
of this UAV after it crashed in southern Russia. The aircraft came use the manual control system Republic of Iran Army Aviation Bell
a field near Burweyn village, in down on restricted-access defence to get the aircraft back to level 214A) and members of the Ardabil
the Hiran region of Somalia. ministry-owned land, part of the flight, but he was unsuccessful Crisis Management Organisation,
Chkalov State Flight Test Centre and, having fallen to a height of immediately got under way to
D: Dec 13 at Akhtubinsk, hitting the ground 6,5000ft (2,000m), he decided to try to locate him, but the search
N: Libyan Government of just over 4 miles (7km) short of eject. This was the first total loss was hampered by severe weather
National Accord the runway there and catching of an Su-57, although one (fifth and snow-covered terrain and he
T: Bayraktar TB2 fire. The four crew members were prototype ‘055 Blue’/T-50-5) was could not immediately be found.
This UAV crashed in Ain Zara, uninjured and able to exit the extensively damaged by an engine Finally, on December 27, Iranian
south of Tripoli, Libya, at around aircraft unaided, following which fire after landing at Zhukovsky mountain rescue teams reached
1700hrs local time. Images show they were transported back to their on June 10, 2014 (see Attrition, the crash site and found the
the wreckage broken up and home base. There was no damage August 2014), but later rebuilt with body of the pilot. Unconfirmed
inverted on a dirt track alongside to property on the ground but parts from the incomplete sixth reports suggest a technical
a wall. Unconfirmed reports the aircraft, which did not carry prototype (T-50-6) and returned failure of the aircraft’s control
suggest it was shot down by any weapons or ammunition, was to the air on October 16, 2015. system had caused the crash.
the Libyan National Army. reported as substantially damaged.
D: Dec 24 Additional material from:
D: Dec 16 D: Dec 24 N: Unknown Piotr Butowski, Noam Menashe,
N/U: US Navy/VFA-106 N: United Aircraft Corporation/ T: Unidentified UAV Scramble/Dutch Aviation
‘Gladiators’ Russian Aerospace Forces This UAV crashed or was shot Society and Asagiri Yohko. AFM
T: F/A-18F Super Hornet T: Su-57
While this aircraft was undertaking S: ‘01 Blue’ (c/n 51001)
in-flight refuelling from an F/A- During a pre-delivery manufacturer’s
18E of VFA-106 in Warning Area test flight, this aircraft crashed at
72 (W-72) of the Virginia Capes 1114hrs local time in the Taiga forest
Operating Area, off the Virginia area of Khabarovsk territory in
coast, a ‘basket slap’ (ie, the Russia’s Far East, 69 miles (111km)
refuelling basket striking the aircraft) from Komsomolsk-on-Amur/Dzemgi
resulted in foreign object debris Airfield, where the aircraft was built
being ingested into and damaging at the KnAAZ production plant.
both engines of the receiving The pilot, Alexei Gorshkov from the
aircraft. Both aircraft returned safely 485th Voyennoye Predstavitelstwo
to their base at Naval Air Station (485 VP, 485th Military Mission) at
Oceana, Virginia. Subsequent Komsomolsk, ejected safely and
inspection of the damaged aircraft was recovered uninjured about half- Above: The wreckage of a Libyan Government of National Accord Bayraktar TB2
led the Naval Aviation Safety an-hour later by a Mi-8 helicopter. UAV in Ain Zara south of Tripoli, after reportedly being shot down on December 13.
Abbreviations: D: Date N/U: Nationality/Units T: Type S: Serials

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Operation Inherent Resolve

the great


ordered to pull out of Syria in O column of US Army mine-protected agreed to a request from his Turkish counterpart,
When US special forces were n a grassy plain in northwest Syria a conversation, US President Donald Trump
vehicles was lined up beside a rough
October 2019 the Pentagon had airstrip waiting to be loaded into the cavernous Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, to pull US troops out
from Syria to allow his troops to occupy a
to activate emergency plans to hold of a US Air Force C-17A airlifter from buffer zone on the Syrian side of the border.
evacuate its troops. Tim Ripley Air Mobility Command (AMC). Behind the It was a move that shocked the world.
looks at the airlift mission to extract vehicles, a gaggle of forklift trucks could
American soldiers from Syria. be seen preparing cargo pallets and ISO Turkey attacks
containers for loading. Overhead a pair of US Erdoğan had long viewed the SDF militia as
Army AH-64D attack helicopters was circling a front for Kurdish PKK ‘terrorists’ and he had
the airstrip to monitor the movement of civilian repeatedly pressed Trump to allow Turkish
vehicles on the roads that passed to the south. troops to enter Syria to hunt them down. When
Operation Break Glass was under way. Trump agreed to pull US observation posts back
Only days earlier, 1,000 American troops had from the Syria-Turkish border at the beginning
been patrolling northeastern Syria in alliance of October it set off a chain of events.
with a local militia organisation, known as the The Turkish operation began on October 9
Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). At the start of with a series of air strikes on Kurdish positions
Above: A US Army UH-60M Black Hawk at an
undisclosed location in Syria, on October 31, 2019. The 2018, the Kurdish-led SDF, helped by US, British by Türk Hava Kuvvetleri (THK, Turkish Air Force)
US military has remained in the area to help protect and French special forces advisors and air power, F-16C/D Fighting Falcons and armed Bayraktar
high-value sites. USMC/Sgt Branden J Bourque had overrun the last enclave of the so-called tactical unmanned aerial systems (UAS). These
Right: Loading pallets of ammunition onto a C-17A Islamic State (IS) in eastern Syria, effectively strikes concentrated on targets inside the 19-
Globemaster III at Kobanî Landing Zone (KLZ) on
October 21 during the phased withdrawal from Syria. ending the five-year-old Jihadi Caliphate. mile (30km)-deep ‘security zone’ that the Turks
US Army/SSgt Joshua Hammock In a bizarre and now infamous telephone wanted to set up, free of SDF militia fighters.

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the great


Turkish tank columns, accompanied by pro- drove out. Prior to this commanders in the prompting one of the agency’s Sikorsky S-92
Turkish Syrian militia fighters pushed across Special Operation Joint Task Force – Operation helicopters to make a dash into the danger
the border around the towns of Ras al-Ayn Inherent Resolve (SOJTF-OIR) headquarters zone to bring out American ‘operators’. A video
and Tell Abyad. Small contingents of US at a US facility near Erbil in Iraq had arranged clip posted online showed the civilian-crewed
troops had occupied bases near each of these for fighter jets and MQ-9 Reaper drones to helicopter flying between buildings to land
locations but days before the Turkish attack be overhead to protect their withdrawal. at the CIA enclave in a downtown district.
they had been pulled back to larger American The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) With fighting raging across northern Syria,
stations further south. The US troops simply station in Qamishli was caught in the crossfire President Trump ordered the 1,000 US troops
piled into their armoured troop carriers and when Turkish artillery opened fire on the city, left in Syria to be evacuated from the country

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Operation Inherent Resolve

on October 13. On the same day the Kurdish A mine-resistant ambush
leadership of the SDF agreed a deal to protected vehicle is loaded
onto a C-17A Globemaster III
allow Russian and Syrian troops to enter the at KLZ on October 24.
territory they controlled to take over from US US Army/SSgt Joshua
troops and hopefully block further Turkish Hammock
advances. These were desperate times for
the Kurdish fighters of the SDF who felt
they had been betrayed by Washington.
Operation Break Glass –
the air assets
US commanders had prepared for this
eventuality and in early October drew up a
contingency plan – codenamed Break Glass
– ready to cover the mass evacuation of their
troops and equipment from Syria. During
October 13, the plan was activated, and the
personnel began falling back on two of its
main operating bases, one in northwest Syria,
south of the town of Kobanî, with the other
in the east of Syria near Hasakah. Control of
the air over northern Syria was included as an
essential component of the American plan.
Although the 1,000 American special forces
troops in Syria (as well as small contingents
of British and French troops) were vastly
outnumbered by Syrian, Russian, Turkish and
SDF forces, the coalition had overwhelming The ability of the C-17
air supremacy. US aerial firepower devastated Globemaster III to operate from rough strips was a
major factor in the ability to withdraw troops and
an attack on an outpost by a group of Russian equipment quickly. US Army/SSgt Joshua Hammock
mercenaries in February 2018, inflicting
hundreds of casualties. Every US aircraft in the It’s unclear if RAF Typhoons based at RAF MH-60M helicopters on hand for the operation.
Middle East could potentially be mobilised to Akrotiri in Cyprus joined in this protection It was their job to carry elite troops of the US
protect the American ground troops as they cordon but Voyager tankers were tracked Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) on
withdrew, including F-15Es based in Jordan, flying over northern Syria on several occasions raids to kill or capture high-value IS personnel.
F-22As in Qatar (now relocated to Prince during the evacuation period. In addition, Within Iraq and Syria a network of more
Sultan AB in Saudi Arabia), F-35As in Al Sentinel R1 Airborne Stand-Off Radar aircraft than two dozen helicopter landing sites
Dhafra, United Arab Emirates, and F/A-18E/ from the RAF’s No V (Army Co-operation) were operated by the US Army’s 244th
Fs embarked on the USS Abraham Lincoln Squadron were also tracked flying around Combat Aviation Brigade (CAB). Its AH-64Ds,
(CVN 72) in the Northern Arabian Gulf. MQ-9 Syria at this time, helping to monitor CH-47F Chinook and UH-60 Black Hawk
Reaper and MQ-1C Gray Eagle drones were surface movements across the country. helicopters spent their time darting from one
also on station at air bases in Kuwait and Iraq. Located at a specially constructed air base site to another depending on the tactical
These fighters and drones were all positioned at Harir near Erbil in northern Iraq, the 160th situation. At any one point, eight Apaches
in continuous combat air patrols (CAPs) over Special Operations Aviation Regiment (SOAR) and a similar number of UH-60s would be
the key bases, with the support of tankers. ‘Nightstalkers’ had four MH-47G and eight operating from landing zones inside Syria.

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The main US Central Command (CENTCOM) An F-15C Eagle assigned to the Florida
theatre reserve was the Special Purpose Marine Air National Guard’s 159th Expeditionary
Air-Ground Task Force – Crisis Response – Fighter Squadron flying a combat air patrol
Central Command or SPMAGTF-CR-CC, at mission over Syria. USAF/MSgt Russ Scalf
Ahmed al Jaber AB in Kuwait. This composite
US Marine Corps unit included MV-22 tiltrotors
from VMM-161 and two KC-130J tanker/
transports from VMGR-252, which were
on standby to rapidly move a battalion of
marines to deal with emergency situations.
As the withdrawal operation gathered
momentum, the US, British and French
special forces started pulling out of a string
of small forward operating locations across
northwestern Syria – falling back on the US
airstrip 15 miles (25km) south of Kobanî.
In a race to escape advancing Syrian,
Russian and Turkish columns, allied special
forces often left their forward bases with
only a few minutes to spare. At one site
near Manbij – that was captured intact
by Syrian troops on October 14 – Russian
journalists filmed half-eaten meals left on
the mess hall tables. This abandoned facility
had been home to a British Special Air
Service (SAS) contingent since early 2018.
To prevent the former US special forces
headquarters in northwestern Syria being
captured, the Americans called in two Strike
Eagles to destroy a huge ammunition dump.
A vast plume of smoke and dust engulfed
the base that had been set up in a former On October 14, USAF C-17 and C-130 transport 437th Airlift Wing (AW) at Charleston AFB in
cement factory north of Raqqa city. aircraft started flying into the strip to pull out South Carolina. They shuttled between Kobanî
The American airstrip, dubbed the Kobanî the 600 US and allied troops who were now and the US installations at Harir and Ali al Salem
Landing Zone, was built in a field by US surrounded here, after Syrian, Russian and in Kuwait, helped by the SPMAGTF-CR-CC.
military engineers in 2016 to open the way Turkish troops threatened to cut all the roads to The British contingent of special forces
for giant cargo aircraft to land the heavy Iraq. An L-100-30 Hercules flown by a charter troops and intelligence experts was now
arms used by the Kurds to defeat IS and company linked to the CIA – its modern- concentrated on the airstrip alongside US
capture their ‘capital’ Raqqa. The massive day ‘Air America’ – was also tracked landing colleagues, taking their turn to be picked up
facility included helicopter landing pads, fuel at the strip in the ensuing days. The bulk of by RAF Hercules flown by No 47 Squadron.
dumps, ammo bunkers and prefabricated these missions were flown by C-17s from the
accommodation for several hundred troops. An expeditionary airlift squadron assigned to Striking Baghdadi
RAF Hercules suffered major damage trying the 379th Air Expeditionary Wing at Al Udeid Kobanî Landing Zone (KLZ) was in a precarious
to land at the strip in 2017 and subsequently in Qatar. Aircraft were identified in imagery position. Russian, Syrian, Turkish and SDF
crash-landed at an air base in Iraq. released by the Pentagon as being from the troops were all within 10 miles (16km) of the

Above: Soldiers in the 4th Battalion, 118th Infantry Regiment, 30th Armored Brigade Combat Team, North
Carolina Army National Guard, working on an M2A2 Bradley fighting vehicle in preparation to work alongside
Syrian Democratic Forces to help protect critical infrastructure in eastern Syria. US Army/Spc DeAndre Pierce
Left: A US Marine Corps MV-22 Osprey from the Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve,
lands at one of the US outposts in Syria. The SPMAGTF-CR-CC is designed to move with speed and precision to
support operations throughout the Middle East. US Army/Spc Alec Dionne Below: UH-60 Black Hawks assigned to
CJTF-OIR continue to help support Syrian Democratic Forces in eastern Syria. US Army/Spc DeAndre Pierce

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Operation Inherent Resolve

base and the political situation was evolving in the early hours of the following day. SDF several insurgents who tried to fire on the assault
by the hour in a very unpredictable way. It and US intelligence had tracked the infamous force, allowing the raiders to land from the
was necessary to secure the site while the leader to a hideout in Idlib province, some Chinooks and then storm Baghdadi’s hideout,
lightly armed special forces contingents 75 miles (120km) to the west of KLZ. before he retreated into a tunnel and detonated
packed up their equipment, so hundreds of Troops from JSOC’s strike unit, the famous a suicide vest, killing himself and two children.
US marines from the SPMAGTF-CR-CC were Delta Force, were given the job of leading The assault team then successfully recovered
flown in to beef-up the perimeter defence. the raid and they were carried to the target to Kobanî to refuel, en route back to Harir.
An added layer of protection was provided by MH-47Gs from the 160th SOAR. While President Trump ultimately decided to change
by the presence of four AH-64Ds from the 1st most media reports claimed that the strike his mind about pulling all troops out of Syria and
Attack Reconnaissance Battalion of the US force launched from an airstrip near Erbil, ordered the US military to remain in the country
Army’s 1st Aviation Regiment, flying from KLZ. subsequent briefings in the Pentagon say the to secure strategic oilfields close to the border
The value of the KLZ was dramatically raiders staged through a forward base in Syria, with Iraq. CENTCOM wanted to ensure it had
illustrated late on October 26 when it provided close to Idlib. That can only have been KLZ. sufficient personnel to defend these oilfields,
the launch pad for the raid that led to the The raid was a dramatic success. Apaches, so it ordered a contingent from the US Army
death of the IS founder, Abū Bakr al-Baghdadi, from the detachment at KLZ, gunned down armoured brigade in Kuwait to move into Syria
with Bradley heavy troop carriers. This was easier
said than done. There were few roads into this
region that were not controlled by hostile forces.
American top brass turned to the USAF to
move the Bradleys and within days C-17s
assigned to the 379th Air Expeditionary
Wing were back in action. The 62nd AW
C-17s first flew to Ali al Salem AB in Kuwait
to pick up the Bradleys and then flew into
a desert strip to the north of Hasakah. This
was a dramatic demonstration of airlift
power that few nations could match.
The Russians are coming
While the Americans were retreating from
Syria, Russian and Syrian troops were
surging into the region controlled by the
SDF, the former ally of the US. This followed
on from the October 22 agreement between
Presidents Vladimir Putin and Erdoğan that
allowed joint Russian and Turkish military
F-22A Raptors remain in the region, now operating from patrols in the border security zone.
Prince Sultan AB in Saudi Arabia. USAF/MSgt Russ Scalf Senior Russian, Turkish and US officers

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Left: Turkish and US senior military o icials assigned to the Combined Joint Operations Center-Akçakale,

return from a patrol of the security mechanism zone over northeast Syria aboard a Turkish Army UH-60. US
Army/Maj Juan L Martinez Below: An F-15E Strike Eagle receives fuel from a 28th Expeditionary Air Refueling
Squadron KC-135R Stratotanker during a combat air patrol mission over Syria. USAF/MSgt Russ Scalf

now talked daily over what was dubbed the On October 17, video imagery appeared the US withdrawal from northern Syria had
‘deconfliction hotline’ to choreograph these online showing Russian military vehicles been completed. As previously explained,
deployments and prevent any accidents or and personnel at Tabqa Airport, south of President Trump partially reversed his pull-
incidents that might spiral out of control. Raqqa city, as a VKS Mi-8AMTSh landed. out order and several hundred US troops have
To support their troops who were now policing The next phase of the US withdrawal took remained to safeguard a couple of oilfields in
the border security zone in co-operation place on the night of November 13/14 when eastern Syria. Although reinforced recently
with Turkish units, Moscow dispatched an the last US troops flew out of KLZ. Early the with Bradley infantry fighting vehicles, the
extra battalion of military police to Syria. It next morning Russian Mi-35 and Mi-8AMTSh US enclaves are in remote desert regions
arrived at Khmeimim air base in western rotorcraft began landing on the airstrip and with poor lines of communications back to
Syria via a series of Il-76s, along with more Russian military police started to spread out supporting US forces in Iraq. Russian and
than 30 armoured vehicles, on October 26. across the base. A camera crew from the Syrian troops are now positioned in the main
A Russian Aerospace Forces (VKS) Russian government-funded RT television population centres in the Kurdish region and
detachment of Mi-35 attack and Mi-8AMTSh network followed behind the Russian troops. It control critical transport infrastructure, including
transport helicopters was repositioned appeared that the Americans had left the site Qamishli Airport. The high tide of US influence
from Khmeimim to Kweires Airport, east of intact, including helicopter landing pads, barrack in Syria is now well and truly in retreat. AFM
Aleppo, to begin flying air patrols eastwards buildings, medical facilities and fuel tanks.
over advancing Russian columns. The appearance of Russian helicopters
The helicopters then flew to an airport in the across northern Syria added a new
heart of the Kurdish region in northeast Syria dimension to Moscow’s push to project
to provide air support to Moscow’s troops military forces into the heart of the Kurdish
policing the region. The Russian Ministry of region, formerly controlled by the SDF
Defence’s Zvezda television channel posted under the protection of US troops.
video imagery online on November 11 showing Qamishli Airport is the only airfield to the
two Mi-35s and one Mi-8AMTSh landing at east of the Euphrates with a hardened runway
Qamishli Airport. The helicopters made a under Russian and Syrian control and was
low-level approach to Qamishli city, before a key logistic hub for Syrian troops isolated
circling and landing at the nearby airport. in the region by IS fighters in 2014. It played
A ground support element, including at an important role as the Syrian government
least one fuel tanker and a Pantsir-S1 anti- air bridge to the besieged city of Deir ez-Zor
aircraft gun/missile system, was seen near between 2014-17. Since the agreement
the airport’s aircraft ramp in the video between Damascus and the SDF in October
imagery. Another Mi-8 was seen on the that allowed Syrian troops to expand their
ground on the ramp, although it is not clear presence in northeastern Syria, at least
if it was a Russian or Syrian helicopter. one Syrian Il-76 transport aircraft has been
The opening of Qamishli Airport to tracked heading towards Qamishli Airport. When the last US troops flew
Russian helicopters meant this was the The presence of Russian forces at the out of KLZ on November 14,
Russian Mi-35 and Mi-8AMTSh
second airstrip in northeastern Syria Kobanî Landing Zone was a symbolic event, helicopters began landing on the
to have a Russian military presence. signalling that the most difficult element of airstrip. Zvezda

www.Key.Aero #383 February 2020 // 97

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up in AFM

h 2
The March 2020 issue
0 i
e M
is on sale globally from
February 20.*

In the next issue of AFM, we report on the
Spanish Army’s latest Toro (Bull) manoeuvres,
the force’s main annual field exercise. Under the
command of the División ‘Castillejos’, around 6,000
troops, together with a dozen helicopters and
750 vehicles, conducted missions simultaneously
across a range of different locations. For their part,
the Fuerzas Aeromóviles del Ejército de Tierra
(FAMET, Army Airmobile Forces) Pumas, Super
Pumas and Cougars performed tactical
Pumas and Cougars performed tactical
assault, while Chinooks flew
assault, while Chinooks flew
heavy transport missions, with
heavy transport missions, with
Tigre HAD-Es and Gazelles
Tigre HAD-Es and Gazelles Other forthcoming features include:
providing escort, armed • The Royal Australian Air Force’s new PC-21 trainers
overwatch and close air at East Sale
support. • Forces Aériennes Stratégiques – France’s ‘big stick’
• C-160D Transall – the Luftwaffe’s veteran airlifter
SPECIAL ISSUE: • Operation Sophia – European MPAs at Sigonella
RAF’s Typhoon
Force in profile Main photo: Salvador Mafé Huertas Inset: James Lawrence. *UK
scheduled on-sale date. Please note that overseas deliveries are likely to
be after this date.

98 // February 2020 #383 www.Key.Aero

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