Category Archives: Intelligence

M-55: the spy who loves Sweden

It sounds like your typical James Bond Cold War era movie: under the cover of international research a Russian aircraft is secretly being used to spy on military bases and weapons tests. Welcome to Sweden in the year 2016, as the following story evolves.

Star of the show is the Myasishchev M-55, or the “U-2 spyplane” of the Soviet Union. Currently the only high altitude geophysical research aircraft the twin-boom jet its latest mission may have been more worth its NATO reporting name Mystic-B, then of its current additional name Geophysica.

Kiruna Airport

From 1996 the Russian aircraft has been employed for measurement campaigns funded by the European Union. For another such stratospheric mission for the earth’s climate research – ran by the Stratoclim project, the M-55 touched down on Kiruna Airport in the Swedish Far North on 15 April, just when the diplomatic okay for its being in Swedish airspace ended. If Swedish sources are correct, the Russian embassy had a hand into the late arrival, proposed flight pattern during the research and pressed for a late departure.

Leaving a cloud of snow behind (Image © Louise Levin / Försvarsmakten)
According to some sources, the Russian really wanted to see new-styled Gripen ops like this one up close. Image taken during an exercise on Vidsel Air Station in March 2016 (Image © Louise Levin / Försvarsmakten)

Swedish armed forces tests

The Swedish quality newspaper Dagens Nyheter (DN) writes that Russian planners deliberately wanted the plane to be up just when the Swedish armed forces ran two important exercises: another new fighter jet dispersal test like the one at Airheadsfly.com wrote about, as well as a weapons launch from the “Edwards” of Sweden: Vidsel Air Station and the nearby ranges.

High altitude departure

There is controversy on why the plane was grounded much longer than planned. The Russian embassy apparently noted technical issues, while the Swedish Ministry of Defence suspects spy plans. If there was a real problem with either the plane or the crew’s intentions is uncertain, but it left Sweden on 21 April on a high altitude of about 58,000 feet – apparently with everything technically working as planned.

© 2016 Airheadsfly.com senior contributor Marcel Burger
Featured image: The Myasishchev M-55 Geophysica (Image © Rob Schleiffert)

Royal Air Force P-8A Poseidons one step closer

As a follow-up on the statement in the UK startegic defense review, announced by UK prime minister David Cameron in November last year, the UK government has now requested notification for the possible procurement of up to nine (9) P-8A Patrol Aircraft, associated major defense equipment, associated training, and support. The estimated cost is $3.2 billion.

This was announced by the US State Department on 25 March 2016. The State Department has made a determination approving a possible Foreign Military Sale to the United Kingdom for P-8A Aircraft and associated equipment, training, and support. The estimated cost is $3.2 billion. The Defense Security Cooperation Agency delivered the required certification notifying Congress of this possible sale on 24 March 2016.

The proposed sale will allow the UK to reestablish its Maritime Surveillance Aircraft (MSA) capability that it divested when it cancelled the Nimrod MRA4 Maritime Patrol Aircraft (MPA) program. The United Kingdom has retained core skills in maritime patrol and reconnaissance following the retirement of the Nimrod aircraft through Personnel Exchange Programs (PEPs). The MSA has remained the United Kingdom’s highest priority unfunded requirement. The P-8A aircraft would fulfill this requirement. The UK will have no difficulty absorbing these aircraft into its armed forces.

Implementation of the proposed sale will require approximately sixty-four (64) personnel hired by Boeing to support the program in the United Kingdom.

The US Navy is the main user of the P-8A Poseidon, but also the Indian Navy and Royal Australian Air Force (both 8 examples, maybe even 12) also bought this machine.

© 2016 DSCA, with additional information by Airheadsfly.com editor Dennis Spronk
Featured image: The 6th Boeing P-8I for the Indian Navy (Image © Boeing)

First 90 million dollar American Gulfstream asset ordered

The US Navy has become the first American armed force to order a very special Gulfstream air asset: the G550 Green heavily modified for Airborne Early Warning & Control duty.

With a price tag of almost 92 million dollar the people at the Gulfstream plant in Savannah, Georgia (USA), must be very excited that finally their own country recognized the quality of their platform, made in cooperation with Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI).

Conformal Airborne Early Warning

Planned for starting operations in January 2019, the US Navy G-550 Green AEW&C will join a small international fleet, although it has not been disclosed yet if the machines will be similar in looks as the pair of G550 CAEW (Conformal Airborne Early Warning) the Israeli Air Force is flying. Other users are the Italian Air Force (2 G550 CAEW) and the Republic of Singapore Air Force (4 G550 CAEW).

Gulfstream to US armed forces

The Gulfstream as such is not new to the US armed forces, but until now was mainly enrolled in VIP transport duties as C-37B and the current numbers are small: one with the US Air Force, three with the US Navy and one with the US Army.

© 2016 Airheadsfly.com editor Marcel Burger
Featured image: The Republic of Singapore Air Force Gulfstream G550 CAEW with IAI’s IAI EL/W-2085 sensors for AEW&C duty (Image © Owen65)

First Japanese E-2D “radar plane” in production

The first of four Northrop Grumman E-2D Advanced Hawkeye Airborne Early Warning & Control aircraft for the Japan Air Self-Defense Force (JASDF) has entered production at the new production plant in St. Augustine, Florida, the company has confirmed.

Bringing together what was previously spread out over several buildings, the 121,390 square metres (370,000 square foot) assembly hall can currently produce eight aircraft a year, to be increased to a maximum of 12 Hawkeyes in 365 days if needed.

13 E-2Cs in service

The Delta Hawkeyes are equipped with APY-9 Radars, and will join 13 JASDF E-2Cs already flying with 1st Hiko Keikai Kanshitai (squadron) out of Misawa Airbase, although Tokyo is considering locating the new E-2Ds at a different location.

US Navy Advanced Hawkeye

Apart from the Japanese military, the US Navy ordered 51 E-2Ds, with 22 of them delivered so far. The first operational cruise of the Delta occurred last year, with VAW-125 “Tigertails” squadron on board the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN-71). The Japanese Advanced Hawkeyes will be land-based only, with the first planned to arrive in 2018.

© 2016 Airheadsfly.com editor Marcel Burger
Featured image: A Northrop Grumman E-2D Advanced Hawkeye (Image © NAVAIR / Northrop Grumman)

Not Orions, but ageing TC-90s will patrol Philippine islands

The Philippines have taken a step away from leasing some of the 100 Lockheed-designed by Kawasaki produced P-3 Orions from the Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF). In stead Manilla will lease five Beechcraft King Air TC-90s from the JMSDF.

Although the announcement was made by Philippine president Benigno Aquino on Wednesday, no details have been released on the time frame of when the aircraft will start operations.

The JMSDF operates 34 TC-90s as trainers, mostly for P-3 crews, while it retains an additional five LC-90 transport versions and one UC-90 for photoreconnaissance. The Philippines are in desperate need for a capable aircraft for patrolling the island and seas of the much spread-out nation, while big China is increasingly military active close by in the Spratly Islands archipelago.

Just yesterday it was confirmed that the first of two ex-US Marines Hercules aircraft will arrive in the Philippines within a few days.

© 2016 Airheadsfly.com editor Marcel Burger
All images: The Beechcraft King Air TC-90 in action in Japan (Images © JMSDF)

A Beechcraft TC-90 of the Japanese Maritime Self-Defence Force (Image © JMSDF)
A Beechcraft TC-90 of the Japanese Maritime Self-Defence Force (Image © JMSDF)