Ukrainian legacy keeps small Russian wings airborne

Ignore Russia took control of the Crimean peninsula in 2014 for a few moments, ignore the ongoing fights in Ukraine’s eastern areas with Russian troop, intelligence and command & control involvement. The Russian military is still building its logistic strength on the legacy from the country it has been trying to destabilize for years. For its short-haul fixed-wing flights.

Designed and originally made by Antonov in Ukrainian Kiev, the new Antonov AN-140-100 turboprop aircraft is still finding its way to units of the Russian armed forces, be it in small numbers. The latest passenger and cargo aircraft of the type went to the Russian Navy’s Pacific Fleet, on 14 February this year.

How many officially are in service is hard to say. Moscow planned to have at least 20 operational, but after the conflict with Ukraine resulted in an industrial break-up between Antonov and the Russian partners, the air frames already in Russia are planned to be finished with solely Russian equipment. As far as our sources go, we estimate the number of operational AN-140-100s within the Russian armed forces to be between 8 and 14, but Moscow wishes for more. Russian Aviacor is believed to deliver at least six of the machines it had on its premises in various stages of unfinished construction.

The AN-140-100 is able to transport up to 52 people or about 19,000 lbs (about 8,500) of cargo (including fuel weight) over 2,290 miles (3,700 km) of distance. It can operate from unpaved airstrips, which makes it an ideal aircraft to operate in island rich environments where unprepared or short airstrips are common.

© 2017 Airheadsfly.com editor Marcel Burger
Featured image: Official release photo of the AN-140-100 like the one recently delivered to the Russian Navy’s Pacific Fleet (Image © Russian Ministry of Defence)

More countries join European tanker effort

NATO has taken another step towards filling its infmaous European tanker gap,  with three more European countries looking to join the European program to acquire new refuelling aircraft. The program was started by the Netherlands and Luxembourg and should result in a shared fleet of up to eight additional tanker aircraft.

On Thursday 16 February, defense ministers from Belgium, Germany, and Norway signed a Declaration of Intent to join the creation of a European multinational fleet of Airbus A330 Multi Role Tanker Transport (MRTT) aircraft.

The Netherlands and Luxembourg launched this initiative in July 2016 and a first order was made for two MRTT aicraft, which are due to be delivered in 2020. The new agreement allows other partner countries to join the program with the provision to enlarge the fleet to up to eight aircraft. The aircraft should be stationed at Eindhoven airbase in the Netherlands.

Austria to sue Airbus over Eurofighter deal

Austria is planning to sue Airbus and Eurofighter GmbH over the troubled contract for 15 Eurofighter jets in 2007, according to news reports from Austria. An investigation by the ministry of Defense in Vienna has shown that fraud was likely involved in the deal, which was worth 1.75 billion EUR. In a response, Airbus said it is ‘surprised’.

In 2003, Austria was about to purchase a total of 18 Eurofighters for 2 billion EUR, with offset orders worth 4 billion EUR also part of the deal. After a change of government, the Alpine country wanted to back out of the deal, but after much hassle a deal was finally closed in 2007 for 15 Eurofighters against a 250 million EUR price reduction.

An investigation has been running since 2012 and has now found out that fraud was likely involved. Payments worth many millions of euro’s were made to firms that only existed on paper. The Austrian government is now seeking compensation in a court case.

Airbus later on Thursday said the Austrian government never dicussed the findings with the company, and that it only learned about the allegations through the media. Airbus also states it ‘cannot see any foundation’ for the allegation of fraud, but nevertheless will ‘support the authorities in investigating concrete suspicions’.

© 2017 Airheadsfly.com editor Elmer van Hest
Featured image: Austrian Eurofighter Typhoon on patrol on 24 January 2014 during the World Economic Summit in Swiss Davos (Image © Österreichs Bundesheer)

India and Saab: confidence in Tejas

Despite continued criticism on the jet’s performance, India still seems to have enough confidence in its indigenous Tejas fighter jet to open up a second production line. Meanwhile, Swedish Saab is offering its Airborne Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radar to be installed in the Tejas.

The government in New Delhi has just cleared a 200 million USD investment to open up a second Tejas production line next to the existing one at Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL). The news was announced on this week at the Aero India airshow in Bengaluru.

The Tejas jets produced, will solely be used the Indian Air Force, since the Indian Navy has rejected the naval variant and is now looking for 57 new fighter jets elsewhere. The Dassault Rafale and Boeing F/A-18 Super Hornet are likely candidates.

Saab hopes to sell the Indians its Gripen fighter jets instead. Possibly to win Indian harts, the Swedes now also offer their Airborne Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radar plus an additional  electronic warfare suite for use in the Tejas.

Celebrating the Viggen

It’s not regularly that we celebrate aviation milestones at Airheadsfly.com. In fact we only did it once before and back then, it was the 40th birthday of the F-16 that was cause for celebrations. But when a legendary fighter jet such as the Saab Viggen turns 50 years of age, we gladly make an exception again. Time to dig up a few images – old & new! – of this  prime and impressive example of Swedish aviation ingenuity.

The Viggen first flew on 8 February 1967 by the hands of Saab chief test pilot Erik Dahlström. The flight lasted 43  minutes, during which the jet performed as expected. In 1968, Stockholm ordered 175 jets, the first of which were delivered in 1971. The typical Viggen shape, dominated by the huge wings and the canards in front of it, became a familiar sight in Swedish skies – but not elsewhere.

The Viggen was successful in Sweden, which eventually made use of no less than 329 aircraft. But competing against – yes! – the F-16 on the international fighter jet market proved to be a bridge too far for the Swedish design, which was very practical but lacked the manoeuvrability and impressive  thrust to weight ratio of the F-16.

The last of the Swedish Viggens were retired in 2007. Despite never being used by air forces outside Sweden, quite a number of Viggens are currently preserved in European aviation museums. One aircraft keeps gracing the skies as part of the Swedish Air Force Historic Flight.

© 2017 Airheadsfly.com editor Elmer van Hest

A prototype Viggen is preserved in the Flygvapenmuseum (Air Force Museum) in Malmslätt.(Image © Elmer van Hest)
Sweden is famous for its candy. Here's some eye candy in the shape of a Saab Sk37E Viggen. Nothing sweet about that, however. (Image © Elmer van Hest)
Two-seater Viggens were mostly used for electronic warfare towards the end of the Viggen’s career. (Image © Elmer van Hest)
A classic interceptor Viggen, seen at Ronneby airbase in southern Sweden. (Image © Elmer van Hest)
This Viggen was painted red to celebrate its retirement. (Image © Elmer van Hest)
The Viggen’s shape could appear weird… (Image © Elmer van Hest)
…or beautiful! (Image © Elmer van Hest)
The Swedish Air Force Historic Flight Viggen. (Image © Elmer van Hest)