Category Archives: Attack

Polish Fishbeds surface in Florida

This Polish MiG 21bis was seen in spring 2001 at Malbork airbase, central Poland. It clearly means business. (Image © Elmer van Hest)
This Polish MiG-21bis was seen in spring 2001 at Malbork airbase, central Poland. It clearly means business. (Image © Elmer van Hest)

At AIRheads↑FLY, we had been wondering for quite some time where they all went; the many MiG-21 Fishbeds – like this one – that once formed the backbone of the Polish air force. Now it turns out, that 25 ex-Polish MiG 21 were bought recently by US-company Draken International.

According to a statement of September 30th on the company’s website, delivery of the aircraft already took place. In the same statement it says “Draken International maintains the largest fleet of privately owned tactical aircraft in the world. The fleet is composed of over 50 ex-military aircraft including Douglas A-4K Skyhawks, Aermacchi MB-339CBs, Mikoyan MiG-21UM and MiG-21BIS fighters.”

Draken International uses the aircraft to act a ‘red air’ forces during military exercises. The company is located at Lakeland Linder Regional Airport in Lakeland, FL.

Poland used to have into the hundreds of MiG-21s in service with both its air force and its navy. The air force MiGs were partly replaced with MiG-29 Fulcrums and Lockheed Martin F-16s. The MiG-21 was the last fast jet to be operated by the Polish navy.

Source: Draken International, with additional reporting by © 2013 AIRheads’ Elmer van Hest

A-29s start flying with USAF/Afghans

The US Air Force will get the first of the 20 Embraer A-29 Super Tucano light air support aircraft (LAS) as planned in mid-2014, the Brazilian aircraft manufacturer confirmed this week. The first 40 personnel have already been recruited in the local Jacksonville community, Florida, where Embraer will complete the aircraft.

NEWER POST: Afghan Air Force A-29
status as of December 2015

An 81st Fighter Squadron instructor pilot flies an A-29 Super Tucano on 5 March 2015 (Image © Senior Airman Ryan Callaghan / US Air Force)
Check out our newest A-29 feature

The 40,000 square foot assembly hangar is located at Jacksonville International Airport and was opened on March 26, 2013, home of F-15s of the USAF 159th Fighter Squadron as well.

Embraer already has a plant in the southern American state, after it opened a US production facility in Melbourne (Florida) in 2011 for the production of the Phenom 100 and Phenom 300 executive jets. Embraer currently employs over 1,300 people across the United States. More than 100 U.S. companies will supply parts and services for the A-29 Super Tucano. Some 1,400 U.S. jobs will be supported by the LAS contract.

On February 27, 2013 the U.S. Air Force awarded the LAS contract to Sierra Nevada Corporation to supply 20 Embraer A-29 Super Tucano aircraft, as well as ground-based training devices, pilot and maintenance training, and logistical support. The Sierra Nevada Corporation and Embraer work together on the project. The USAF will move the A-29s to the Afghan Air Force, where they will form the backbone of the air support to ground units and will replace attack helicopters in that role.

The A-29 Super Tucano is a robust, relatively powerful turboprop aircraft developed from the Shorts/Embraer Tucano training aircraft. Its mission can include close air support (CAS) and intelligence, surveillance, counter-insurgency (COIN) and reconnaissance. The airplane is in use with nine air forces around the world and, for more than five years, has employed state-of-the-art munitions on real operational missions.

More than 190 Super Tucanos have been ordered, and over 170 delivered. The aircraft has logged more than 180,000 flight hours and 28,000 combat hours. It is equipped with advanced electronic, electro-optic, infrared and laser system technologies, as well as secure radio systems with data links and a relative high munitions capacity compared to similar aircraft.

Many experts feel the Super Tucano is the best affordable CAS/COIN aircraft at the moment, providing a robust light attack platform for US$ 1,000 to US$ 3,000 per flying hour, in stead of US$ 18,000 or more for today’s standard fighter and attack aircraft.

The A-29 has a higher survivability capability than f. ex. the militarised Cessnas and similar types that are commonly used around the world for cheap aerial forward air control and lighter air tasking missions. According to many, including US Air Force senior specialists, the Super Tucano outclasses competitor Beechcraft AT-6.

© 2013 editor Marcel Burger, including source information provided by Embraer
Featured image: The Embraer A-29 Super Tucano in Brazilian Air Force service (Image © Embraer)

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Is this real? Scorpion fighter for the Air National Guard

Artist impression of the Textron Scorpion light strike and reconnaissance aircraft (Image © Textron Inc)
Artist impression of the Textron Scorpion light strike and reconnaissance aircraft (Image © Textron Inc)

It is not everyday one stumbles upon something so strange, yet cool as the Scorpion lightweight strike and reconnaissance aircraft that American Textron Inc based in Providence, Rhode Island, has secretly developed with the US Air National Guard as the aimed customer.

The prototype, being marketed as “a versatile Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR)/Strike aircraft platform” will fly before this year ends, a company spokesperson writes. Textron Chairman and CEO Scott Donnelly: “We began development of the Scorpion in January 2012 with the objective to design, build and fly the world’s most affordable tactical jet aircraft capable of performing lower-threat battlefield and homeland security missions. We relied on commercial best practices to develop a tactical jet platform with flexibility and capabilities found only in far more costly aircraft.”

Textron hopes to sell the Scorpion for the US Air National Guard and nations friendly to the US that have increasingly smaller budgets. “The Scorpion’s design is well matched to the Air National Guard’s missions such as irregular warfare, border patrol, maritime surveillance, emergency relief, counter-narcotics and air defense operations”, the company spokesperson states. “While Scorpion’s lower acquisition price is an advantage, an equally important benefit is the lower cost of operation over the aircraft’s full life-cycle. Combining ease of maintenance and globally-available commercial components, the Scorpion can significantly lower the customer’s total cost of ownership.”

The Scorpion looks mostly like a fusion of the Saab Gripen and a twin-tale version of the Korean T-50, with the wings of a Cessna. And actually we think it looks pretty cool for a simple jet.

The aircraft will have six hard points on the wings for external stores up to 6,000 lbs, plus an internal payload bay for up to 3,000 lbs. The all-composite aircraft has a length of 43 feet and a wingspan of 47 feet. With a maximum speed of 450 knots the aircraft should manage to operate up to 45,000 feet and fly 2,400 nautical miles (4445 km) before it needs to refuel.

Source: Textron Inc

Black Hawk meets Osprey, with a touch of Lightning

Artist impression of a pair of attack versions of the new Bell Textron/Lockheed Martin V-280 Valor tilt-rotor aircraft (Image © Bell Textron)
Artist impression of a pair of attack versions of the new Bell Textron/Lockheed Martin V-280 Valor tilt-rotor aircraft (Image © Bell Textron)

What do you get when you fuse the well-known American Sikorsky Black Hawk helicopter with the Bell/Boeing V-22 Osprey? Well, put in a touch of Lightning and whoops there it is: the Bell Textron V-280 Valor tilt-rotor aircraft.

Bell markets the V-280 as the next-generation tactical combat and transport aircraft for any non-fighter mission or just as maybe the most multipurpose plane ever seen. The American company has just taken the next step in making its dream come true: Lockheed Martin has been selected as the preferred partner of the project. The move is fairly remarkable since Bell works together with Lockheed Martins competitor Boeing on the V-22 Osprey currently fielded by the US armed forces.

Lockheed Martin is the prime contractor of the new standard fighter jet of many armed forces worldwide: the F-35 Lightning II aka Joint Strike Fighter. For US Marines and British Royal Navy service Lockheed Martin makes a special vertical take-off F-35B version. With modern engine technology that might come off handy with the tilt-rotor concept as well.

The first flight of the concept V-280 is still far, far away, with only a full-scale so-called mock-up (a fake airplane in original size) ready. But if produced the V-280 could very well make an interesting choice not only on the military market, but in the civilian disaster response area as well. Reason: a tilt-rotor flies as fast as a normal transport plane, but can hoover and land as a helicopter. That’s why the US Army is already involved in the V-280 project.

© 2013 AIRheads’ Marcel Burger

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A-10 fleet gets new wings for another 30 years

Two A-10C Thunderbolt II aircraft pilots fly in formation during a training exercise March 16, at Moody Air Force, Ga. (Image © Airman 1st Class Benjamin Wiseman / USAF)
Two A-10C Thunderbolt II aircraft pilots fly in formation during a training exercise March 16, at Moody Air Force, Ga. (Image © Airman 1st Class Benjamin Wiseman / USAF)

The US Air Force is continuing to prepare to keep the Republic A-10 Thunderbolt II attack aircraft for at least 30 years more in service. It just gave a follow-on order of 56 new wings to the Boeing company.

Boeing is now on contract to build up to 242 new wings for the strong close air support aircraft that was deemed to disappear 25 years ago. But then the A-10s performed majestically well against Iraqi armour during the 1990-1991 Persian Gulf War and the American generals decided to keep this formidable air weapon.

Refitting the fleet of up to 395 aircraft with new wings will improve the mission availability of A-10s by an estimated 4 percent and will help save the Air Force an estimated $1.3 billion in maintenance costs during the next 30 years, says Boeing.

This latest order is valued at $212 million. Including this agreement, the Air Force has ordered 173 wings. The efforts of Boeing, its suppliers, and the Air Force will allow the A-10 fleet to operate into 2035.

The A-10 is a twin-engine jet designed for close air support of ground forces. It can be used against all ground targets, including tanks and other armored vehicles.

Source: Boeing