Category Archives: Attack

Aero Vodochody ready for new L-159 production

Czech company Aero Vodochody has produced is first L-159 light attack and trainer jet in 13 years, and is ready for more. The aircraft concerned is a L-159 two seater for the Iraqi Air Force. Aero Vodochody company says it will be turning its focus back on proprietary aircraft and the L-159 could become a flagship of this new approach. And perhaps even a condidate for the O-A competition in the US?

In the next ten years, there will be demand for hundreds of light attack aircraft on the market, Aero Vodochody claims, and the company wants its share.. “We know there is a relevant market and we know we have the right product. L-159 is the only aircraft in its category, that is currently on the market and it is proven in various types of missions. So now it is the right time to start offering L-159 again and giving a new future to this aircraft,” described Giuseppe Giordo, CEO of Aero Vodochody.

Giordo later added that South America is an ‘important region’ for Aero Vodochody’s marketing activities for both the L-159 and L-39NG that is currently being developed. Also, Giordo seems to hint at the O-A competition in the US, which seeks a new light attack jet for the US Air Force.

During the last decade, the Czechs  primarily competed in the international market in upgrading, maintaining, repairing, overhauling of existing aircraft and collaborated with others on several projects.

Those collaborations allowed Aero Vodochody to maintain key capabilities, which the company days was recently was demonstrated in the production of the L-159 for Iraq, plus the installation of a brand new wing production facility.

L-159 aircraft is operated by four customers – the Czech Republic, Hungary, Iraqi and US defense firm Draken International. Czech Army has the largest fleet and the aircraft in its service are serving in various missions around Europe and they are also actively participating on NATO exercises. In 2008-2010, Hungary Air Force leased L-159 for pilot training, it was the first deployment of the aircraft by international customer.

In 2014, Aero and Czech Ministry of Defence managed to sell some former Czech jets to Iraq and Draken International.

German Tornados in South Africa

Germany has deployed four Tornado fighter bombers to South Africa in an exercise named Two Oceans. The Tornados involved belong to Taktisches Luftwaffengeschwader 33 at Buechel airbase and are of the latest ASSTA 3.0 (Avionics System Software Tornado Ada) variant, which means the jets are capable of using laser-targeted Joint Direct Attack Munitions.

The four Tornados along with 150 personnel operate from Overberg airbase in the Cape province of South Africa. Overberg is home to the South African Air Force’s Test Flight Development Centre (TFDC). Over nearby ranges, Tornado crews will test their JDAM-capability against moving ground targets, among other things.

The Tornado has been in German service since 1980, but the number of jets has been greatly reduced over the last two decades, with the Eurofighter Typhoon acting as replacement. Two wings continue to operate the Tornado though, and could very well do so for up to 15 more years. And that’s unlike the British, who will dispose of their remaining Tornado jets in 2019.

© 2017 Airheadsfly.com editor Elmer van Hest
Featured image (top): A German Tornado pilot explores the South African coast line. (Image © Luftwaffe)

(Image © Luftwaffe)

RAF moves closer to Tornado farewell

The Royal Air Force moved closer to a final Tornado farewell as the Operational Conversion Unit (OCU) for the type flew its last mission from Lossiemouth airbase in Scotland on Friday. Five Tornados flew a formation flypast over the airbase and other places. The end for the Tornado in the UK is set for 2019.

The OCU was better known as XV (Reserve) squadron and for several decades was responsible for Tornado GR4 crew training in the ground-attack role. Earlier, the squadron was an operational unit, flying Cold War-type combat missions from Germany

Now, only three operational Tornado squadrons remain, all based at RAF Marham. For close, to four decades, the Tornado formed the backbone of the RAF with Tornado F3 variants taking care of air defense while Tornado GR4 jets fulfilled a ground attack role. See our Tornado Time feature here.

The RAF for the next few decades relies on the Eurofighter Typhoon and Lockheed Martin F-35.

© 2017 Airheadsfly.com editor Elmer van Hest

 

Is this the ideal OA-X candidate?

The pending US Air Force competition for a light-weight ground-attack aircraft has been widely publicized. The US is expected to formally announce the OA-X competition this summer. The winner of this competition could very well be the Embraer A-29 Super Tucano. Or could it?

Yes, the famed and feared Fairchild A-10 Thunderbolt will continue to cause hazards to forces opposing the US for a few more years. However, unsure about exactly how many more years and if the Lockheed Martin F-35 will be able to fill the Thunderbolt’s shoes when it finally leaves, the US Air Force is looking at its ground attack capabilities. And the conclusion is that a small and flexible aircraft is needed.

That aircraft may very well be the Embraer A-29 Super Tucano. This Brazilian turboprop was designed in Brazil but is currenty also license-built in the US by Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC). As part of a contract awarded in February 2013, these aircraft are adding a ground attack capability to the Afghan Air Force. Pilots from Afghanistan learn to fly the A-29 with the US Air Force’s 81st Fighter Squadron at Moody Air Force Base in Georgia.

Given this experience, the A-29 is likely candidate to enter in the OA-X competition. But ideal enough to actually  win? The US-designed and produced Beechcraft AT-6 Wolverine may fit the bill just as well. And how about an armed Textron AirLand Scorpion Jet?

The first flight of the production version of the Beechcraft AT-6 in August 2013 (Image © Beechcraft)
The first flight of the production version of the Beechcraft AT-6 in August 2013 (Image © Beechcraft)
Lookin’ tough: the Textron Airland Scorpion. (Image © Textron Airland)

Plus, let’s not forget there’s another competition running right now, and it’s called T-X. The candidates in that competition may also offer the flexibility the US is looking for. An armed version over Lockheed Martin’s and Korea Aerospace Industries’ T-50 trainer already exists, and its  called FA-50. Meanwhile, Leonardo in Italy is already busy developing the M-346FT Fighter Trainer, an armed version of the M-346 Master.

Obviously, the winner of OA-X competition won’t be announced for some years. But it’s just as obvious that upon closer inspection, there are a lot more likely candidates than just the A-29.

© 2017 Airheadsfly.com editor Elmer van Hest

The KAI FA-50 in flight (Image © KAI)
The KAI FA-50 in flight (Image © KAI)
The armed M-346FT development (Image © Leonardo Finmeccanica)
The armed M-346FT development (Image © Leonardo Finmeccanica)

 

 

US approves sale of Air Tractors to Kenya

The US State Department has approved the requested purchase by Kenya of twelve Air Tractor AT- 802L and two AT-504 trainer aircraft under the US Foreign Military Sale program. The estimated cost is 418 million USD.

The proposed sale provides a needed capability in the ongoing efforts to counter Islamic terrorist organisation al-Shabaab, according to the State Departement. Also, the Air Tractor maximizes Kenya’s  Close Air Support (CAS) ability because it is a short-field aircraft capable of using precision munitions and cost effective logistics and maintenance. The proposed sale supplements Kenya’s aging F-5 aircraft as it will be more able to be pre-positioned much closer to the conflict area than the F-5 fleet.

The prime contractor will be L-3 Communications in Waco, Texas.