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Kazakhstan very happy with Airbus C295

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.

Source: Airbus
Featured image: The first Airbus (f.k.a. EADS f.k.a. CASA) C295 of the Kazakhstan Air Force (Image © Airbus Military)

Swedish aviation icon SAAB turns 80 years, going strong

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.

© 2017 Airheadsfly.com editor Marcel Burger
Featured image (top): Frontal view of the legendary Saab Draken
(Image © Marcel Burger)

Royal Danish Air Force (Flyvevåbnet) Saab T-17 (MFI-17 Supporter) training aircraft at Fliegerhorst Wittmundhafen (Wittmund AB), Niedersachsen, Germany (Deutschland). The aircraft with serial T-428 serves with the Flight School (Flyveskolen) at Karup. (Image © Marcel Burger)
Royal Danish Air Force (Flyvevåbnet) Saab T-17 (MFI-17 Supporter) training aircraft at Fliegerhorst Wittmundhafen (Wittmund AB), Niedersachsen, Germany (Deutschland). The aircraft with serial T-428 serves with the Flight School (Flyveskolen) at Karup. (Image © Marcel Burger)
We’re on top of a lot of Saab Gripen news lately, but at AIRheads↑FLY we’re sure not to forget the original Saab – at least in our eyes: the Draken. It needs no words. (Image © Elmer van Hest)
Saab S 100B Argus AEW&C aircraft of the Flygvapnet (Swedish Air Force), reg. no. 100002, with the Erieye radar (Image © Marcel Burger)
Saab S 100B Argus AEW&C aircraft of the Flygvapnet (Swedish Air Force), reg. no. 100002, with the Erieye radar (Image © Marcel Burger)
A Saab Gripen on patrol. (Image © Elmer van Hest)
A Saab Gripen on patrol. (Image © Elmer van Hest)
Saab Gripens at Lion Effort 2015 (Image © Martin Král)
Saab Gripens at Lion Effort 2015 (Image © Martin Král)
An Austrian Saab 105 training aircraft in cool tiger livery (Image © Elmer van Hest)
The "office" of a Gripen C pilot (Image © Saab AB)
The “office” of a Gripen C pilot (Image © Saab AB)
A Czech Gripen on alert on Iceland (Image © Tomáš Maruščák)
A Swedish Air Force SAAB SK 60 after landing (Image © Marcel Burger)
A Swedish Air Force SAAB SK 60 after landing (Image © Marcel Burger)
The end is near for the Saab 2000 in Braathens service. Seen here landing at Stockholm-Arlanda in March 2015 (Image © Marcel Burger)
The end is near for the Saab 2000 in Braathens service. Seen here landing at Stockholm-Arlanda in March 2015 (Image © Marcel Burger)
Saab 91D Safir in the historic livery of the Rijksluchtvaartschool Holland. (Image © Marcel Burger)
Saab 91D Safir in the historic livery of the Rijksluchtvaartschool Holland. (Image © Marcel Burger)
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)
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)
A restored Viggen flying from Linköping (Image © Elmer van Hest)
20140220_CASLAV_JAS39C_9238_FRONT-1024x682
Saab Gripen: a work of art and a Czech prize fighter. (Image © Dennis Spronk)
Roll-out of the new, more capable Gripen E in May 2016 (Image © Saab)
Roll-out of the new, more capable Gripen E in May 2016 (Image © Saab)
Saab coops with Boeing on the possible future T-X advanced trainer for the US Air Force. It may even replace the SAAB SK60 of the Swedish Air Force (Image © Boeing)
Saab coops with Boeing on the possible future T-X advanced trainer for the US Air Force. It may even replace the SAAB SK60 of the Swedish Air Force (Image © Boeing)
Take-off! (Image © Louise Levin / Försvarsmakten)
Take-off! (Image © Louise Levin / Försvarsmakten)
One of the two US Air Force B-52s in formation with Swedish Air Force SAAB JAS 39 Gripen jets passing by the USS San Antonio off the coast of Southern Sweden on 13 June 2015 (Image © US Navy)
One of the two US Air Force B-52s in formation with Swedish Air Force SAAB JAS 39 Gripen jets passing by the USS San Antonio off the coast of Southern Sweden on 13 June 2015 (Image © US Navy)
For a long time Saab's first jet aircraft was the only Swedish made combat jet ever to have been deployed during war, when it was supporting the UN forces in Congo in the 1960s. The current Gripen has seen action over Libya. (Image © Marcel Burger)
For a long time Saab’s first jet aircraft was the only Swedish made combat jet ever to have been deployed during war, when it was supporting the UN forces in Congo in the 1960s. The current Gripen has seen action over Libya. (Image © Marcel Burger)
A SAAB J32B Lansen taking off from Linköping Malmen. (Image © Marcel Burger)
A SAAB J32B Lansen taking off from Linköping Malmen. (Image © Marcel Burger)
A very cool frontal view of a Saab 2000 Erieye AEW&C showing off its missile defense suite (Image © Peter Liander / Saab AB)
A very cool frontal view of a Saab 2000 Erieye AEW&C showing off its missile defense suite (Image © Peter Liander / Saab AB)

Brand new Russian attack helo unit combat ready

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.

© 2017 Airheadsfly.com editor Marcel Burger
Featured image: A Russian Army Aviation Ka-52 Alligator during an earlier military exercise (Image © Russian Ministry of Defence)

Will this F-35 survive its enemy? We doubt it.

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.

The Royal Netherlands Air Force is one of the many countries that will field the F-35 as a successor to the F-16 (Image © Elmer van Hest)
The Royal Netherlands Air Force is one of the many countries that will field the F-35 as a successor to the F-16 (Image © Elmer van Hest)

Vegas

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 Sukhoi Su-35S (Flanker-E) (Image © Sukhoi Company)
The Sukhoi Su-35S (Flanker-E): F-35 killer? (Image © Sukhoi Company)

Adversaries

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.

Once upgraded to MS20 standard Swedish-made Gripen aircraft are said to be able to “see” stealthy adversaries very clearly (Image © Elmer van Hest)

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.

A French Rafale launching the new BVR Meteor AAM (Image © French Ministry of Defence)
A French Rafale launching the new BVR Meteor AAM (Image © French Ministry of Defence)

S-400

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.

An F-35A inflight. (Image © Lockheed Martin)
An F-35A inflight. (Image © Lockheed Martin)

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.

© 2017 Airheadsfly.com editor Marcel Burger
Featured image: Killer or prey? A hoovering F-35B at the Royal Internationl Air Tattoo in 2016 (Image © Elmer van Hest)

Warp speed for Brazilian freighter/tanker KC-390

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.

Into-tanker
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.

First flight of the new KC-390 (Image © Embraer S.A.)
The new KC-390, seen here during its first flight. (Image © Embraer S.A.)

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.

Test missions
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.

© 2017 Airheadsfly.com editor Marcel Burger
Featured image: WARP test of the KC-390 seen from a Brazilian Air Force F-5M cockpit (Image © Força Aérea Brasileira)