New Airbus Helicopters SAR capability for Spain

In a ceremony at the Airbus Helicopters plant in Albacete, the Spanish Air Force on Monday 3 October took delivery of its first H215 helicopter with an extensive mission capability that includes Search and Rescue (SAR). The new helicopter will enter into service immediately and be used to offer a SAR capability to the Canary Island.

The aircraft carried out final test flights at the Albacete plant late September, where it was painted and fitted with specific mission systems enhancing its Search and Rescue (SAR) and Personnel Recovery/CSAR missions. The Air Force’s H215 boasts additional fuel tanks that extend its range up to 560 kilometers, an emergency buoyancy system, a high-frequency radio, a hoist, and a cockpit compatible with night vision goggles, among other equipment.

The Spanish Air Force operates several helicopters belonging to the Super Puma family, in both civil and military versions.  A member of the Super Puma family, the H215 is a twin-engine, heavy helicopter. Its cockpit is equipped with multi-function digital screens and an advanced 4-axis autopilot which provides flight envelope protection and stability, even the harshest operating conditions.


Airbus flies improved A330 MRTT

Airbus Defence and Space on Monday 3 October reported it has successfully completed the maiden flight of the first new standard A330 MRTT Multi Role Tanker Transport. This model incorporates a number of enhancements introduced on the basic A330 as well as upgraded military systems as part of the company’s product improvement program.

The three-hour flight took place on 30 September and the crew reported that the aircraft performed in line with expectations. The new standard A330 MRTT features structural modifications, aerodynamic improvements giving a fuel-burn reduction of up to 1%, upgraded avionics computers and enhanced military systems. First delivery to customer Singapore is due in 2018.

A total of 51 A330 MRTTs have been ordered by 10 nations of which 28 have been delivered, according to Airbus. Apart from Singapore, France has ordered the aircraft. A joint purchase by the Netherlands and Luxembourg is to be finalized.

Green light voor Middle East fighter sales – but maybe too late?

After many years of hesitation, the US this week gave the green light for the sale of fighter jets to Kuwait and Qatar – although it may very well be too late. Since requesting the jets, both countries have decided to buy Eurofighter Typhoons and Dassault Rafales respectively. Their response to the green light from Washington remains unclear at this time.

Kuwait in 2015 requested to buy up at least F-18 Super Hornets to replace ageing older model F-18s, while Qatar’s request to purchase up to 72 Boeing F-15s goes even further back. Washington since has kept both countries in the dark about their request right until this week, when the White House notified US Congress that it approves the sale of the fighter jets.

The decision should be seen in light of the recent multi-billion military aid deal between the US and Israel, the biggest ever between those two countries. Probably to keep things in balance, the White House now decided to favour Kuwait’s and Qatar’s requests as well – doing the US economy a big favour on the side. Both contracts would be worth billions and billions of dollars (in fact, 20 billion in total), much of which will go into Boeing’s pocket. The aircraft manufacturer produces both the F-15 and F-18.

But no sale is final until a contract has been inked. And whether Kuwait and Qatar will actually do that, remains to be seen. Kuwait earlier this year did sign a deal for 22 Eurofighter Typhoons, worth 8 billion USD. Qatar in 2015 decided on 24 Dassault Rafales, worth 6.3 billion EUR.

That’s a lot of money to pay already. It may be the  same money that Kuwait and Qater waved in front of the US before. Time will tell if there is any money left for Washington and Boeing to grab. If not, then Washington may hope to sell brand new F-16s to Bahrain – another pending deal that was okayed this week by Washington.

© 2016 editor Elmer van Hest.
Featured image: A USAF F-15E Strike Eagle from the 48th Fighter Wing on 12 November 2015 over the northern Mediterranean. The unit is deployed to Incirlik AB in Turkey as part of Operation Inherent Resolve (Image © Senior Airman Kate Thornton/USAF)

Royal Air Force heads to the Far East

The Royal Air Force on Thursday 29 September started one if its largest operations in recent history, deploying Eurofighter Typhoons to the Far East. Meanwhile, the Red Arrows embark on a world tour that takes the team and its twelve Hawk trainer jets to 15 different countries.

The operation is named Eastern Venture and marks the first time Typhoons deploy to countries such as Japan and South Korea. There, the jets take part in military exercises alongside the Japan Air Self Defense Force (JASDF) and Republic of Korea Air Force (ROKAF).

Four Typhoons will fly to Japan with the support of Voyager tanker aircraft and a C-17 cargo aircraft. In Japan, the jets will operate from Misawa airbase in exercise Guardian North 16,  that also sees Japanese F-2 and F-15 fighter aircraft participating.

Next, the Typhoons will head to South Korea, undoubtedly as a show of force to neighbouring North Korea. Osan Air Base will host the aircraft, as well as ROKAF F-15s and F-16s. US Air Force F-16s and A-10s are permanently based at Osan.

Meanwhile, the Red Arrows will visit India, China, Thailand, Singapore, Vietnam, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates amongst other countries, taking part in airshows  and flying the UK flag.

Featured image: A RAF Typhoon on the flightline of Nellis during night ops (Image © LAC Michael Green / 28SQN AFID-CBR / Commonwealth of Australia, Department of Defence)

First Panther helicopter for Mexican Navy

The Mexican Navy on Wednesday 28 September took delivery of the first of ten AS565 MBe Panther helicopters purchased in 2014, becoming the first customer in the world to receive the new version of this multi-role, medium-class military rotorcraft. The Navy will receive three other units before the end of the year and the remaining six by 2018.

The helicopters will be operated by the Naval Aviation in the Gulf of Mexico and on the Pacific coast, where they will perform a range of missions including Search and Rescue (SAR), disaster relief transportation and evacuation, drug enforcement and coastal protection.  The contract also includes training of pilots and technicians to provide the Navy with full autonomy in managing its fleet and optimizing the availability of helicopters

New & proven
The AS565 MBe combines new and proven technologies, according to Airbus Helicopters. It is equipped with two Safran Arriel 2N engines, which enhance its performance in hot & high conditions and enable it to achieve a top speed of 278 km/h and a range of 780 kilometers. It also boasts a new main gearbox, a latest-generation tail rotor and a 4-axis autopilot that reduces crew workload and makes the most demanding missions, such as SAR, easier to perform.

“The Mexican Navy’s first Panther helicopters came into service ten years ago,” said Vice Admiral Jose Maria García Macedo. “Since then they have been our most loyal ally when it comes to saving lives, and it gives us great pleasure to expand our fleet with the more modern version of the same aircraft.”

Mexican Naval Aviation’s AS565 MBe Panthers are able to perform landings on moving ships 24 hours a day, and are thus able to operate right across Mexico’s territorial waters. Their equipment suite includes a main- and tail-rotor blade folding system, a deck-lock harpoon and an emergency flotation system.



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