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Big day for A400M

The first A400M in service worldwide.  (Image © EADS)
The first A400M in service worldwide. (Image © EADS)

It’s a big day for Airbus and the Armée de l’Air, as the very first A400M transport aircraft was officially handed over today to the Armée de l’Air in Seville, Spain. It’s the first A400M in service worldwide, which unofficially already flew with the French Air Force since the beginning of August this year. Years of rigorous testing preceded the delivery, following the first flight on 11 December 2009.

France has ordered 50 A400M aircraft and will be one of the largest operators of the type. Other customers are Germany, the United Kingdom, Spain, Belgium and Turkey. Currently more than 170 A400Ms are on order. Next up for taking delivery of an A400M is Turkey.

The A400M is seen as a primary replacement for older C-130 Hercules types and C-160 Transalls. The new transporter is powered by four Europrop TP400-D6 engines and has a range of 3298 km at the max take off weight of 141,000kg.

The aircraft goes by the name of Grizzly, but is known by the French Air Force as ‘Atlas’. The aircraft involved has already been flying from Orléans-Bricy airbase for some weeks now.

© 2013 AIRheads’ Elmer van Hest

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Check out the French Air Force Orbat at Scramble.nl

Rapid Raptor Package

Rapid Raptor Package is an F-22 Raptor multiplied by four. (Image © DOD / Senior Airman Zachary Perras)
Rapid Raptor Package is an F-22 Raptor multiplied by four. (Image © DOD / Senior Airman Zachary Perras)

Creative and pragmatic brains have been at work at JB Elmendorf-Richardson in Alaska. Officers of the based 3rd Wing have come up with a concept that involves quick deployment of four F-22 Raptors to any forward location and having the fighters ready for duty at the new location, and all of that within 24 hours. The concept is called Rapid Raptor Package.

Rapid Raptor Package involves deploying four F-22s of the Elmendorf based 90th fighter squadron and 525th fighter squadron, with the support of one C-17A of 517th airlift squadron, also based at Elmendorf. The C-17 carries supporting materials, munitions and maintainers. The concept has already been tested several times during excercises.

The concept has a footprint that is considerably smaller than traditional Raptor deployments that tend to be larger in size. The smaller footprint leads to more speed and flexibility, which in turn generate the maximum capability out of the existing force structure, according to a US Air Force official.

Rapid Raptor Package expands the aperture of potential F-22 operations and the jet’s usefulness as a strategic asset, the same official points out.

Kadena airbase in Japan and Andersen airbase at Guam in the Pacific have seen larger deployments of F-22 Raptors in the past.

© 2013 AIRheads’ Elmer van Hest

First P-3C Orion for Taiwan

The first P-3C Orion for Taiwan upon arrival at Pingtung. (Image © Taiwan Ministry of National Defense)
The first P-3C Orion for Taiwan upon arrival at Pingtung. (Image © Taiwan Ministry of National Defense)

Taiwan received the first of twelve ex-US P-3C Orion aircraft this week. The aircraft was delivered to Pingtung airbase on Wednesday. It was a US crew who flew the plane. The other eleven P-3C’ should be delivered by 2015.

Taiwan and the US agreed on the sale, worth almost two billion USD, in 2007. Neighbouring China strongly objects to the deal. The Eastern superpower once more said this week that it opposes any arms sales to Taiwan.

Meanwhile Taiwan is using the Orions to replace their almost prehistoric Grumman S-2T Turbo Trackers, well known among enthusiasts by their fabulous blue camouflage scheme. Both the Turbo Tracker and the new Orion are anti-submarine platforms.

© 2013 AIRheads’ Elmer van Hest

‘Volkel to become main Dutch airbase’

A Leeuwarden based Dutch F-16 in colourful markings of 323 squadron. (Image © Elmer van Hest)
A Leeuwarden based Dutch F-16 in colourful markings of 323 squadron. (Image © Elmer van Hest)

According to several Dutch newspapers (Dutch only), Volkel is to become the main operating base for the F-35A Lightning II aircraft. Of the 37 aircraft about to be ordered, 25 are to be based in Volkel in the southern part of the Netherlands. The rest of the aircraft will be used for training in the United States, for missions abroad and for exercises at Leeuwarden airbase, now still home to two F-16 squadrons.

The reports are based on Dutch MoD findings, although officials will not comment on them. Suggestions are that one Leeuwarden’s F-16 squadrons (322 and 323) will face the axe. The most famous Dutch air force unit is 322 Squadron, which finds its roots in World War II. The squadron’s mascot is a parrot. The other unit is 323 Squadron, also occupied with tactical training and airborne tests.

In the end, Leeuwarden will be home to no more than twelve F-35’s, according to the newspaper reports.

© 2013 AIRheads’ Elmer van Hest

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WITH VIDEO: Final Vickers VC10 mission Brize Norton

The last VC10 landing at Brize Norton on September 20, 2013  (Image © Elmer van Hest)
The last VC10 landing at Brize Norton on September 20, 2013 (Image © Elmer van Hest)

The Vickers VC-10 flew its final mission today from RAF Station Brize Norton, after many years of faithful service with the Royal Air Force.

The last two flying VC-10s flew from ‘Brize’ on Friday September 20, 2013, and visited several airfields in the UK. They were accompanied by Tornado and Typhoon fighter aircraft. AIRheads↑Fly was waiting for them to return to RAF Brize Norton to see their final landing.

Camera ready, sound ready? Action! Witness the last ever landing down here. Be sure to see – and especially hear – the Vickers VC-10 in all its glory one more time. We from AIRheads↑Fly surely did!

© 2013 AIRheads’ Elmer van Hest