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New spirit for Rafale

Some much needed spirit for Rafale. (Image © Elmer van Hest)
Some much needed spirit for Rafale. (Image © Elmer van Hest)

We were wondering what was going on when Dassault’s twitter account erupted into life earlier today, and now we know why; France and Dassault signed the “F3 R” standard development contract for Rafale today, as minister for Defense Jean-Yves le Drian visited the Dassault Aviation plant in Mérignac. France is pumping 1 billion euro into further development of Rafale.

The F3 R standard is, according to Dassult, an evolution of the Rafale F3 standard. It will enable Dassault Aviation to integrate the more equipment and weapons onto Rafale, which for years has been struggling with sales outside France.

Among the hardware in question is the European Meteor long-range air-to-air missile. This high-performance missile will achieve maximum effectiveness thanks to the active array radar which equips all Rafales delivered since mid-2013. The development also makes room for the Thales PDL-NG new-generation laser designator pod, plus the laser homing version of the Sagem AASM air-to-ground modular weapon.

To date, 126 of the 180 aircraft ordered by France have been delivered. The fleet currently totals almost 120,000 flight hours, including 16,000 in operations.

F3 R will also include upgrades to all Rafale sensors and systems ensuring. According to Dassault, it guarantees that French forces will continue to have a high-performance aircraft adapted to their requirements. And last but surely not least, it reinforces the strong points of Rafale in export competitions.

That last bit seems a key motivation for this contract. Dassault and France recently lost the Brazilian bid for a new fighter to Saab Gripen, a move that surely surprised the French. The Rafale needs some new spirit, and it was given exactly that today.

Source: Dassault Aviation, with further reporting by AIRheads’ Elmer van Hest

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Iraq is building up serious airborne muscle

The Mil Mi-28 Night Hunter, or ‘Havoc’. (Image © Russian Helicopters)

Thirteen Mil Mi-28NE Night Hunters (NATO-name Havoc) attack helicopters have been delivered to Iraq so far, Iraqi and Russian media reported this weekend. In 2012, a contract for 36 Mi-28NE Havocs and other military hardware was signed between Iraq and Russia, worth 4.2 billion USD

Iraq will use the attack helicopters for counter-terrorism operation. On Saturday 4 January, it was already reported that Iraq is attacking apparent terrorists in the west of the country, using Cessna/ATK AC-208B Combat Caravans. Last November, it was reported that Iraq started receiving the first four Mi-35M Hind-Es. Last autumn, the Iraqi pilots and technicians finalized their training in Russia.

Meanwhile, Iraqi pilots are also training in the US to fly the Lockheed Martin F-16 block 52 Fighting Falcon.  The country is expecting delivery of the first of 36 F-16s it ordered in the US. The first 4.3 billion USD-contract for this order was signed in December 2011, and first deliveries are expected by September 2014. Procedures for forming the first squadron started roughly four months ago at Balad airbase in northern Baghdad.

Only last month, the Iraqi Air Force ordered 24 KAI T-50 supersonic advanced jet trainer and light attack aircraft on 12 December 2013. Iraq will use the Korea Aerospace Industries machines mainly as lead-in trainer for their 36 new F-16 Fighting Falcon multi-role fighters. The aircraft are designated T-50IQ

All in all, Iraq is building some serious airborne muscle.

© 2014 AIRheads’ Elmer van Hest

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Check out the Iraqi Air Force Orbat at

A century of commercial flight

A replica Hoffman X-4 flying boat celebrated a century of commercial flight on Wednesday 1 January 2014. It took off from St. Petersburg, FL.  (Image © Brian Blanco / AP Images for the International Air Transport Association)
A replica Hoffman X-4 flying boat celebrated a century of commercial flight on Wednesday 1 January 2014. It took off from St. Petersburg, FL. (Image © Brian Blanco / AP Images for the International Air Transport Association)

Has it been a hundred years? It has, in fact. On 1 January, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) celebrated the birth of commercial aviation, as on 1 January 1914, the first ever scheduled commercial flight took to the skies over Florida, connecting St. Petersburg and Tampa. It was an airboat that performed this very first flight, lasting 23 minutes. Among the paying passeners was the then mayor of St. Petersburg.

A century later, commercial flight took off in more ways than one. According to IATA more than 8 million people fly on an average day. In 2013 total passenger numbers were 3.1 billion—surpassing the 3 billion mark for the first time ever. That number is expected to grow to 3.3 billion in 2014. That’s the equivalent of 44 percent of the world’s population.

About 50 million tonnes of cargo is transported by air each year (about 140,000 tonnes daily). The annual value of these goods is some 6.4 trillion USD. Aviation supports over 57 million jobs and generates 2.2 trillion USD in economic activity. Global airline industry turnover is expected to be 743 billion USD in 2014, with an average industry net profit margin of 2.6 percent.

“Over the last century, commercial aviation has transformed the world in ways unimaginable in 1914. The first flight provided a short-cut across Tampa Bay. Today the aviation industry re-unites loved ones, connects cultures, expands minds, opens markets, and fosters development. Aviation provides people around the globe with the freedom to make connections that can change their lives and the world,” said Tony Tyler, IATA’s Director General and CEO.

“Aviation is a force for good. And the potential of commercial flight to keep changing the world for the better is almost unlimited. Aviation has always been a team effort. Growing and sustainably spreading the benefits of connectivity will require the industry, governments, regulators and local communities keep true to the ‘all-in-it-together’ ethos that was the bedrock of that pioneering first flight. And we should be guided by the long-term interests of all whose lives are positively transformed by commercial aviation every day.

A hundred years is something worth celebrating. And we look forward to creating an equally remarkable legacy for commercial aviation’s second century,” said Tyler.

Source: IATA.

Phantom Pharewell: The Movie

So here we are, 2013 is nearing its end. It was a year filled to the brim with aviaton news, but the most memorable moment was almost certainly the retirement of the great German F-4F Phantom. Vincent Kok was able to make a truly fantastic movie about this sad and at the same time festive occasion. Here’s to 2014 and the good ol’ Phantom one more time. Enjoy!

© 2013 AIRheadsFLY, with thanks to Vincent Kok.

Pics, pics, pics! Check these photo features!

Paint art at one of the last German Phantoms (Image © Elmer van Hest)
Phantom Pharewell Afterparty
Luftwaffe F-4F Phantom II with serial 38+28 in a shelter at Wittmundhafen AB (Image © Elmer van Hest)
Wittmund Pharewell
Hiko Kaihatsu Jikkendan. What's that? Hiko Kaihatsu Jikkendan, or in other words, the JASDF test unit. That's to whom this F-4EJ belongs. It is seen here at Gifu airbase. (Image © Elmer van Hest)
Phantom Pheature

Embraer Legacy 450 takes to the skies

The Embraer Legacy 450 had its first taste for flight on Saturday. (Image © Embraer)
The Embraer Legacy 450 had its first taste for flight on Saturday. (Image © Embraer)

That’s a nice way to end the year 2013: Embraer Executive Jets’ newest aircraft, the Legacy 450, made a successful first flight on Saturday 28 december from São José dos Campos. Embraer test pilots Eduardo Camelier and Eugênio Cará, supported by flight test engineer Carlos Kobayashi, flew the aircraft for one hour and thirty-five minutes, conducting the evaluation of handling and performance characteristics.

The Legacy 450 is a mid-light business jet with a best-in-class six-foot flat-floor cabin. It is also the first business aircraft in its segment with full Fly-By-Wire technology, featuring side stick flight controls, the state-of-the-art Rockwell Collins Pro Line Fusion avionics suite with four 15.1-inch high resolution LCD displays, graphical flight planning, Jeppesen charts and maps, and the Synthetic Vision System (SVS). The optional Embraer Enhanced Vision System (E2VS) encompasses the latest Rockwell Collins Compact Head-Up Display (HUD) and Enhanced Vision System (EVS).

The Legacy 450 is powered by two fuel-efficient Honeywell HTF 7500E turbofan engines. With four passengers and NBAA IFR Reserves, the Legacy 450 is capable of flying non-stop from Los Angeles to Boston, or Moscow to New Delhi.

The maiden flight covered a significant range of the flight envelope and allowed for a variety of inflight systems tests, benefiting from an advanced campaign of flight simulations and extensive ground tests. “The flight was a success,” said pilot Camelier. “The full fly-by-wire system, with side stick flight controls, made the flight very smooth. With the advanced avionics suite, the aircraft operation was very easy and intuitive.”

“The Legacy 450 will be the best-in-class mid-light business jet, responding to the needs and wishes of customers worldwide,” said Marco Túlio Pellegrini, Senior Vice President Operations and COO, Embraer Executive Jets. “With full fly-by-wire technology and the roomiest cabin in its category, this aircraft will deliver unique features and amenities.”

Source: Embraer

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