Category Archives: Aviation Features

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Lithuanian Air Force’s first Dauphin

The Lithuanian Air Force received its first of three Airbus Helicopters (Aérospatiale / Eurocopter) AS365N3+ Dauphins on 2 June 2015. Before the end of the year the new search and rescue / environmental patrol asset is expected to number all three machines.

Russian-made Mil Mi-8 Hip choppers will be replaced with the new Western European helicopter already operational with many of the world’s armed force and SAR services. The main task of the Dauphins is civil and military SAR, including missions supporting NATO’s Baltic Air Policing mission. The latter meaning the rescue of fighter jocks of NATO’s combat aircraft in case they eject from their planes in case of an emergency.

The Lithuanian Ministry of Environment, which co-purchased the machines with the Ministry of Defence, gets 75 flight hours on the Dauphins a year, for environmental observation and control. The AS365s are also to deploy as fire-fighters and to transport organs for transplantation.

The Lithuanian Armed Forces signed the procurement contract with Eurocopter (now Airbus Helicopters) on the three Eurocopter AS365N3+ Dauphins in October 2013, for about 52 million euro including the training of pilots.

The Dauphins are equipped with a weather/SAR radar, infrared sensors, searchlight, an autopilot and other equipment to make recovery of people possible about 125 miles (200 km) from the take-off point possible. The Lithuanian Armed Forces have SAR detachments at Kaunas-Aleksotas in the south of the country and at Nemirseta on the Baltic Sea coast in the west.

Source: Ministry of National Defence Republic of Lithuania

The first of three AS365N3+ Dauphins arrive in Lithuania on 2 June 2015 (Image © Lithuanian Ministry of Defence)
The first of three AS365N3+ Dauphins arrive in Lithuania on 2 June 2015 (Image © Lithuanian Ministry of Defence)

Crashed A400M suffered power freeze on 3 engines

The numbers 1, 2 and 3 engine of the Airbus A400M that crashed on Saturday 9 May in Sevilla, Spain, experienced a power freeze immediately after take off, according to a Accident Information Transmission (AIT) issued by Airbus Defence and Space on 2 June. This AIT informs that the digital flight data recorder and CVR readouts have been successfully completed and that preliminary analysis has been conducted.

Investigators confirm that engines 1, 2 and 3 experienced a stuck power setting after lift-off and did not respond to the crew’s attempts to control the power setting in the normal way, whilst engine 4 responded to throttle demands. When the power levers were set to “flight idle” in an attempt to reduce power, the power reduced but then remained at “flight idle” on the three affected engines for the remainder of the flight despite attempts by the crew to regain power.

The aircraft crashed a short distance from Sevilla airport, hitting a power line first. Four people died in the crash, while two others were taken to hospital in serious condition. The aircraft was almost totally consumed by fire. An engine problem was suspected soon afterwards, as reported here on

Preliminary analyses have shown that all other aircraft systems performed normally. Accordingly, Airbus Defence and Space does not have any additional specific recommendations, other than the Alert Transmission Operator (AOT) already issued on 19 May. That AOT told all A400M operators to inspect the Electronic Control Unit (ECU) on all engines.

The problem by have been caused by incorrect installation of software during final assembly of the A400M concerned, which was destined for Turkey. Airbus Defence & Space has stated it is battling quality control issues in the A400M’s final assembly.

According to Airbus, the investigation continues and further updates will be given if significant new information becomes available.

© 2015 editor Elmer van Hest
Featured image (top): The cockpit section of the crashed A400M. (Image received through social media; photographer unknown)

Opinion: “Luftwaffe doesn’t trust A400M”

The German Air doesn’t trust the A400M it got in April this year, or any the future airlifters it will get from Airbus, until something radically changes at the European aircraft manufacturer’s plant in Seville (Sevilla) in Spain.

That a possible software bug in the Electronic Control Unit that commands the engines has led to the 9 May crash in Seville is not something the Luftwaffe command fears is all. Especially because the bug was neither found in the single A400M the German Air Force has since December 2014, nor in the six machines of the Armée de l’Air.

According to document German leading opinion magazine Der Spiegel got, Luftwaffe technicians fear more software programming mistakes, as well as the lack of quality control on the technical parts as well. The German Air Force apparently found between 800 and 900 errors in the single A400M – a majority of which should have been found if Airbus had done proper quality control on the product it delivers.

The fears of the Air Force technicians now seem to get support … from Airbus. “We have a serious final assembly quality problem,” Airbus group’s chief of strategy Marwan Lahoud has now told the German daily business newspaper Handelsblatt, basing is findings on the preliminary reports of the black box transcripts of the 9 May crash. Although many say it is officially too early to tell, Airbus itself now thinks a sloppy placed Electronic Control Unit might have either contributed or have been the cause of the engine problems that led to accident.

The star of current German airlift operations, the C-160 Transall, scores a 50% availiability rate (Image © Marcel Burger)
The star of current German airlift operations, the C-160 Transall (Image © Marcel Burger)

Unfortunately, the Seville plant – where the A400M takes off from – is not the only one with this issue. Earlier the German Defence Ministry complained about the lack of quality control of the production of its Eurofighter EF2000/Typhoon, in which Airbus is the major share holder with 46 percent participation. Moreover, the problems with the NHIndustries NH90 – Airbus Helicopters holds a 62.5 percent share – are not fully over yet either.

Hopefully the investigation results in the crash of Airbus’ military flagship on 9 May in Spain will mean significant changes in how Airbus does things, and that the four lives of the crew on board were not lost in vain. A lack of quality control is known to cause problems in ship, car and train building as well, but a shocking and deathly crash like with the A400M due to possible fundamental construction process problems is something the European aircraft manufacturer cannot afford a second time. Big buyers Germany and France are already looking in options to buy Lockheed Martin C-130J Hercules aircraft instead.

© 2015 editor Marcel Burger
Featured image (top): Take-off of the first Luftwaffe A400M from Seville, Spain, on 14 October 2014 (Image © Airbus Defence & Space)

Russia: “New stealth bomber to serve next to Tu-160”

Russia wants to buy up to 50 newly produced Tupolev Tu-160 (Ту-160) strategic bombers, to have them serve next to the PAK DA stealthy bomber that the country from the year 2023 or later. Russian Air Force Commander Col. Gen. Viktor Bondarev has said on Thursday 28 May that his country needs both aircraft – as confirmed in earlier reports.

A Russian Air Force Sukhoi Su-24 (Cy-24) taking off in 2011 (Image (CC) Alex Beltykov)
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The Tu-160 – NATO-reporting name Blackjack – can carry 24 cruise missiles and 40 tons of bombs and can be deployed with both a conventional as a nuclear load (or a combination). Only 35 of these strategic bombers were produced from 1984 to the break-up of the Soviet Union in 1991. The 13 to 16 Blackjacks still in service are currently modernized, the first two in 2014 and another three or four planned for 2015. The bombers will also be enable to fly the new Tu-160 Raduga Kh-101 cruise missile capable of hitting targets 6,000 miles (9,600 km) from launch point.

The PAK DA stealthy bomber is being developed since 2008, designed by Tupolev as well. Work on bringing the final design into life on the first prototype has started. Aim is to have the bomber fly at subsonic speeds, powered by four engines. Unlike the Tu-160s movable wings, the PAK DA will be more like “a flying wing” – with some similarities to the US B-2 bomber. To make matters easier the PAK DA will have stuff like avionics already in use in the PAK FA stealthy fighter. This jet is already flying, but still under development.

No word yet on how many PAK DAs Moscow intends to buy, but the Tu-160 strength is likely to gain numbers in the coming years judging the latest statements. Although the number of 50 new aircraft is probably not the first aim. believes that if production has really started, the fleet will first grow to 24, then to 32 aircraft before a decision on more is made. They will serve besides about 60 “Bear” bombers upgraded to Tu-95MS standard and – in a later stage – the first PAK DAs.

© 2015 editor Marcel Burger
Featured image (top): The Tu-160 (Image © Tupolev)

C-130 problem highlights militarization Spratly islands

A relatively minor incident with a Taiwanese Lockheed C-130H Hercules on Wednesday 26 May 2015 again puts the focus on the ongoing military and geopolitical play in the South Chinese Sea.

The Republic of China Air Force (RoCAF) airlifter landed at Nansha Taiping Island to have officials of the ministries of Defence and Transportation plus the Coast Guard inspect recent upgrades and the modernization of the Zhengjian Taiping Airport runways, navaids and facilities. The airport is small as such, but compared to the size of the island the 4,000 feet long airstrip occupies almost the entire length of the island. A oversized habour is located south of it.

Lift-off back to Taiwan was aborted because of an apparent failure in one of the flaps. But after some mechanical work on the ground, the plane left just before the evening anyway with a five hour delay.

Ongoing tensions
The Herc problem has again put the Spratlys – an archipellago of atolls, islands, islets, cays and reefs in the South Chinese Sea in between the Philippines, Malaysia and Vietnam – again in the footlight of the ongoing tensions in Asia. Although the Taiping Island in question is officially administered by Taiwan, it is situated 900 miles (1450 km) from the southern tip of the country. Mainland China (630 miles / 1020 km away), the Philippines (290 miles / 480 km), Malaysia (290 miles / 480 km) and Vietnam (380 miles / 610 km) say that the area is theirs as well.

During the last decades the countries have many times faced each other, but so far not with any serious military escalation yet. But as the search for oil and power intensifies with an ever strong mainland China, many wonder for how long the status quo can be maintained.

© 2015 editor Marcel Burger
Featured image: A RoCAF (Taiwanese) C-130H Hercules landing at Chih Hang AFB in 2013 (Image (CC) Xuán Shǐshēng)