The Kazakhstan Air Force is apparently very happy with the Airbus C295. With Summer on the horizon the Asian country ordered another two of these light medium-haul airlifters from the European aircraft giant.
The agreement, which includes a spares and support package, covers the final two aircraft included in a memorandum of understanding signed in 2012. Both aircraft will be delivered in the second half of this year and will take the Kazakhstan Air Defence Forces’ C295 fleet to eight.
Two C295 were already delivered in 2013, number three came in 2014, four in 2015, with five and six delivered after that.
The Swedish aviation icon SAAB is celebrating its birthday on 2 April. In 1937 the company was founded after a decision by the Swedish parliament to have the country produce its own aircraft. Eighty years later the military aircraft made in Linköping are more popular then ever.
The newest combat aircraft made in Sweden is in service with five nations: Sweden, Hungary, the Czech Republic, South Africa and Thailand. Two more nations will be flying the JAS 39 Gripen soon: Brazil and Slovakia; with Brazilian Embraer will even to produce the new and larger E-version supported by Saab engineers and technology. While the plant in Linköping will manufacture 60 of the Gripen E for its own Flygvapnet.
We at Airheadsfly.com say “Stort grattis på födelsedagen” (Happy birthday) Saab with a photo essay.
Russia’s newest military helicopter unit has gone through its final testing phase to be officially “combat ready”. Equipped with the Ka-52 Alligator, the Mi-28N Night Hunter and the Mi-35M Hind the military attack helicopter squadron of the Southern Military District underwent its flight-tactical exercise near Kuban in the Krasnodar District.
The unit’s Ka-52s arrived late 2016 to reinforce Mil choppers and get a total combat strength of 20 rotary wing, plus reserves. Flown by 60 pilots and navigators combined, and supported by 150 ground crew and other personnel, the full squadron embarked on relocation exercises, tactical airborne assaults in mountainous areas as well as attack of armoured and soft targets using the onboard guns and missile systems.
The Russian Ministry of Defence is not elaborating too much on details other then saying 60 unguided missiles were fired on 20 different kind of targets.
Russian War games
Also at other locations in Russia, attack helicopter units are engaged in war games. An army aviation brigade in the Pskov region (Western Military District) was brought to the highest state of alert, flying 30 sorties a day for four days in row with its Ka-52 and Mil Mi-8AMTSH helicopters.
It is believed that in the case of an armed conflict Russia will be able to quickly attack and control large areas – for example cities like Tallinn, Riga and Vilnius or parts of Kiev – by flying its very mobile assault helicopter units in from forward operating locations in Russia or Belarus, supported by Russian Air Force combat fighter jets and jamming capability.
The survivability of the future main combat jet of the US armed forces and many of their allies is again in doubt. Despite praising Red Flag Exercise after-action reports on deployed US Air Force and US Marine Corps F-35s, Airheadsfly.com feels the effectiveness in tomorrow’s air war against – let’s say – Russian or even Swedish fighter jets is not as rosy as we are “made” to believe.
A “Twenty-to-One kill ratio” by US Air Force F-35As and “extremely capable across several mission sets” for US Marine Corps F-35Bs. Wonderful statements in beautiful analyses on the most modern 5th generation fighter jet of US-allied armed forces going to “war” over the combat ranges of Nevada from Nellis Air Force Base. If we believe these reports flying the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II into combat is like winning the jackpot on The Strip in adjacent Las Vegas city.
But what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas? What is not clear in neither the US Air Force statements as in the recent released report written by Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 121’s Lt. Col. J.T. Bardo is how realistic the scenarios played at Red Flag are. We have no doubt they do mirror future war situations, but we do question if the more capable enemy aircraft are really put into play.
“Overall, the F-35 was far more survivable than the participating legacy aircraft,” commander Bardo writes on the six Marines F-35Bs participating in Red Flag 2016-3. Of course, the newer jet should be able to do a better job than the 4th generation F-16 Block 30 and 40s that were deployed. But can it match the Russian Sukhoi Su-37s or Swedish SAAB JAS 39C/D Gripen MS20s?
The “professional adversaries” (Aggressor aircraft) during the Red Flag 2016-3 were above all 1980/1990s-era F-16s of the US Air Force 64th Aggressor Squadron as well as 1960s-era McDonnell Douglas A-4 Skyhawks flown by the Draken International paramilitary organisation. Hardly comparable to the most modern aircraft of today.
When it comes to manoeuvrability and range the F-35 is by far outmatched by its modern Russian rivals, such as the Sukhoi Su-35BM/S equipped with trust-vectoring (movable) engines. The Lightning II flies only a two-thirds (1,200 mls / 2,200 km) of the distance the Su-35 (1,980 mls / 3,600 km), while having tankers in a bandit-rich environment is not considered a likely scenario.
JAS 39 Gripen MS20
True, the F-35 has the stealth advantage but according to sources within Swedish SAAB and the Swedish Air Force the newest MS20 software upgrade of the JAS 39 Gripen jet enables the aircraft’s radar and other systems to detect and counter these stealthy aircraft quite well. Although it is unlikely American jocks will fly against Vikings the new Meteor missile has given the JAS 39 Gripen – as well as the French Rafale – a lethal weapon against enemy aircraft over the 60 miles (100 km) range.
The Swedes have fielded the upgraded Gripen MS20 and Meteor mainly to cope with the Russian Sukhoi PAK A/T-50 stealthy air-supiority fighter and the non-stealthy Flankers of the 4+ generation. But the technology as such can – in the wrong hands – quite likely turn a F-35 into a smoking hole in the ground as well.
What the largest country of Scandinavia has, is quite likely to be available soon in some sort to the jocks flying for Moscow. Add the newest generation of Russian electronic counter measures and the Red Bear outclasses the American Eagle. Especially if the threat from the ground is added. Russia’s S-400 surface-to-air missile system can kill targets up to 250 miles (400 km) away at speeds up to Mach 5.9 (4,500 mph or 2,000 m/s).
Moreover, Russia is traditionally keeping a better pace between aircraft and missile technology, while US puts more money into its aircraft technology and let its pilots often fly with somewhat antiquated anti-air weaponry and having its ground forces operating with less-good-than-what-the-Russians-have missile batteries.
Believe vs Make-believe
We do believe the F-35s state-of-the-art sensors give its users a great asset in any war scenario, but with still lacking basic things as stand-off weapons, the ability to bring just four air-to-air missiles to the air war in order to remain stealthy (all weapons internal) and with the newest electronic counter and detect developments made by other defence manufacturers worldwide the survivability as advertised by the Red Flag after-action reports may very well be nothing more than make-believe.
Latin America’s most exciting aviation “thing” is moving up to WARP speed. The Embraer KC-390 is looking good, flying pre-operational testing missions with Brazilian Air Force (FAB) Northrop F-5Ms.
With the first in-flight refuelling mission and the first dry Wing Air Refuelling Pod (WARP) testing done last month, the Força Aérea Brasileira is understandingly anxious to get this new aircraft into its inventory.
In the near future the FAB’s combat aircraft can be refuelled in mid-air with 90 ft (30m) long refuelling hoses, bringing outposts of Brazil’s vast space within easier striking or air defence reach if ever necessary.
The country’s long reach combat capability has been crippled ever since the country retired the final of its four KC-137s in October 2013. The two KC-130s that could be used for the in-flight refuelling task are in dire need of back-up – especially as they may have to be used for basic transport duty in crisis situations. Being able to equip the 28 production KC-390s on order with WARPs will give the FAB a very nice flexibility, that will be further beefed up by three refurbished-into-tanker KC-767s the country ordered with Israel Aerospace Industries.
Fast jets scenario
As a freighter the KC-390 is already quite an ambitious project for Brazil’s own Embraer, making it the companies heaviest aircraft it ever made. Adding the tanker functionality doubles – or triples – the challenge. Key is not to have turbulence caused by the tanker to mess up the refuelling of the receiving aircraft behind it, and to find a operation speed that works both for the flight performance of the tanker as well as the thirsty fast jets in an operational scenario.
Therefore Embraer has currently two test vehicles for in-flight airborne, with a third being added to the prototype fleet soon. Plans call for the final in-flight refuelling test to be done in November or December 2018, after which at least 2,000 flight hours have been made on these missions alone.
Orders & Versions
Likely to enter service in 2019, Embraer already chalked up orders for 28 KC-390s for the Brazilian Air Force. There’s furhter interest from Argentina, Chile, Colombia, the Czech Republic and Portugal, with the latter two already signing a Letter of Intent (LoI) for the purchase of two and six KC-390s respectively.
Also, the Royal New Zealand Air Force seems to be very interested to buy five aircraft. Moreover, the Brazilian Postal Service is thinking about buying 15 civilian versions.