Category Archives: Fighters

“Netherlands threatens USA because of nukes”

Royal Netherlands Air Force (RNLAF) F-16AM fighter jet from 312 squadron based at Volkel. (Image © Marcel Burger)
Royal Netherlands Air Force (RNLAF) F-16AM fighter jet from 312 squadron based at Volkel. (Image © Marcel Burger)

The Netherlands is threatening the United States because of American nuclear bombs at Volkel Airbase, reports the Dutch public TV program Brandpunt Reporter Wednesday August 28th, 2013.

The collision between the two allies is not about the presence of the nukes, but rather about the financial impact in case something goes wrong. In short: the Netherlands wants the US to pay for an accident with one or more of the American nuclear bombs, say sources to TV investigative reporters. The Netherlands are said to threaten to cancel flights of US military aircraft through Dutch airspace if the Americans don’t compromise.

It is a public secret that Dutch Volkel Airbase is home to anything from 4 to 22 nuclear bombs, stored there since at least the 1960s. Officially their existence has never been confirmed, but US personnel is assigned to the Dutch base and mainly guard a separate section. Moreover, former Dutch prime minister Mr. Ruud Lubbers did talk about them in a recent National Geographic documentary.

From the 1970s to well into the 1990s Royal Netherlands Air Force F-16 fighter jets at Volkel trained for nuclear bombardment of targets in Eastern Europe. Since the Cold War between the American-led NATO and the Russia-led Warsaw Pact ended in the mids of the 1990s, the nuclear bombs remain in case they will ever be deemed needed by NATO allies or the US itself.

According to one of the sources the TV program spoke to the nuclear weapons are routinely rotated, meaning transport of nuclear weapons through the air by USAF C-17 Globemaster III strategic airlifters from the 62nd Airlift Wing. The Netherlands seem to be most afraid that one of the transport flights ends up in disaster.

© 2013 AIRheads’ Marcel Burger

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Survival of the Fitter

Poland still operates quite a number of Sukhoi Su-22 Fitters. This one is seen in June 2001 at Swidwin Airbase in central Poland. Nice artistic touch there to the fuel tanks. (Image © Elmer van Hest)
Poland still operates quite a number of Sukhoi Su-22 Fitters. This one is seen in June 2001 at Swidwin Airbase in central Poland. Nice artistic touch there to the fuel tanks. (Image © Elmer van Hest)

The Sukhoi Fitter family has always been a favourite with the AIRheads↑FLY editorial team. Why? Well, just take a look at the pics below. It doesn’t really look like a flying machine at all. It more resembles a dinosaur, one that survived extinction, one that will be around for some time to come, one that makes T-Rex look a tame animal. This is survival of the Fitter.

When you're talking dinosaurs, you're talking Su-7 Fitters. This is a Su-7U Fitter, with the extra U pointing at it being a twoseater aircraft. The aircraft is pictured in Muzeum Wojska Polskiego in Warsaw, were it survives. What else. (Image © Elmer van Hest)
When you’re talking dinosaurs, you’re talking Su-7 Fitter. This is a Su-7U Fitter, with the extra U pointing at it being a twoseater aircraft. The aircraft is pictured in Muzeum Wojska Polskiego in Warsaw, were it survives. What else. (Image © Elmer van Hest)
Another twoseater, this time a Su22UM-3K form 8.ELT at Mirosławiec. This Fitter was captured however at Lechfeld airbase in Germany in May 2006. (Image © Elmer van Hest)
Another twoseater, this time a Su-22UM-3K form 8.ELT at Mirosławiec. This Fitter was captured however at Lechfeld airbase in Germany in May 2006. (Image © Elmer van Hest)

Germany
German Fitters weren’t around for too long. The East German NVA operated quite a number of aircraft, but after the reunification with West Germany only a few were kept in service for test purposes. Most aircraft were disposed of. They generaly had very few hours on the clock.

Gerany operated some Su-22s for a number of years. They were used for test purposes and were flying out of Ingolstadt Manching with test unit WTD61. This one is seen in may 1998 at Leeuwarden, the Netherlands. (Image © Elmer van Hest)
In the nineties, a number of German Fitters were used for test purposes. They were flying out of Ingolstadt Manching with test unit WTD61. This one is seen in may 1998 at Leeuwarden, the Netherlands. (Image © Elmer van Hest)
Surviving, but barely. This German Fitter earned its place in the Luftwaffenmuseum in Gatow near Berlin. (Image © Elmer van Hest)
Surviving, but barely. This German Fitter earned its place in the Luftwaffenmuseum in Gatow near Berlin. (Image © Elmer van Hest)

Slovakia
Slovakia had its share of Fitters also and operated them well into the nineties. Some aircraft were eventually sold to other countries, Angola being one of them.

Slovak Fitter were a bit of a rare sight, but they paid a very welcome visit to the Netherlands in October 1997. Volkel airbase was the place to be. (Image © Elmer van Hest)
Slovak Fitters were a bit of a rare sight, but they paid a very welcome visit to the Netherlands in October 1997. Volkel airbase was the place to be. (Image © Elmer van Hest)

Czech Republic
When the Czech Republic and Slovakia split up into seperate countries in 1993, both of them continued flying the Su-22 Fitters that were before flying under the flag of Czechoslovakia. The Czech even had a display team flying the Fitters. Flying Fitters would actually have been a perfect name for them.

Czech_Su22
This is a Czech Su-22M-4 Fitter seen at RAF Fairford in 1995…. (Image © Elmer van Hest)
..... and this is the exact same aircraft, seen ten years later in Letecke Muzeum in Kbely near Prague. Fitters survive, it being in active service around the world or in well earned places in aviation museums. (Image © Elmer van Hest)
….. and this is the exact same aircraft, seen ten years later in Letecke Muzeum in Kbely near Prague. Either in active service around the world or in well earned places in aviation museums, Fitters survive. (Image © Elmer van Hest)

Strike Eagles, Typhoons, Hornets and Navy team up

A knife edge pass by a Boeing F-15E Strike Eagle. Sometimes, life is simple. (Image © Elmer van Hest)
A knife edge pass by a Boeing F-15E Strike Eagle. Sometimes, life is simple. (Image © Elmer van Hest)

The Royal Navy warship HMS Dragon, Royal Air Force Typhoons, US Marine Corps F/A-18 Hornet and US Air Force F-15E Strike Eagles have put their skills and technology to the test during a recent joint exercise.

The goal was to detect, classify and monitor contacts on the sea’s surface in the challenging conditions of the Gulf. The Type 45 destroyer provides a complementary service to the highly manoeuvrable and effective Typhoon fast jet combat aircraft.

One of Dragon’s fighter controllers, Lieutenant Francis Heritage, said: “We received the help of a United States Air Force Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System, or JSTARS, aircraft to cue our fighters onto their targets. The JSTARS surface radar is incredibly powerful. When combined with our own organic sensors and those of the jets under our control, we can provide force protection over a massive area.”

The American surveillance jet fed information directly into Dragon’s operations room, allowing the destroyer to cue fighter jets onto their objectives. HMS Dragon is in the second half of her inaugural deployment, which is a mix of carrying out maritime security operations with the UK’s Gulf partners and contributing to the wider air defence of the region, such as when she joined forces with the USS Nimitz Carrier Strike Group a few weeks ago.

Source: UK Ministry of Defence

The hours

An US Air Force F-16D seen at Luke Air Force Base in October 2000. This is a similar aircraft to the US F-16 that hit 7,238 flying hours, many more then any Dutch F-16 has ever clocked. (Image © Elmer van Hest)
An US Air Force F-16D seen at Luke Air Force Base in October 2000. This is a similar aircraft to the US F-16 that hit 7,238 flying hours, many more than any Dutch F-16 has ever clocked. (Image © Elmer van Hest)

There is an ongoing shady discussion in the Netherlands about a speedy replacement of the current F-16s with spankin’ new F-35A Lightnings. Shady, because it partly revolves around the number of flying hours the F-16s clocked up so far. We crunch some numbers and find out some numbers are far more impressive than others.

Just take a quick look at this stuff, the answer of the Dutch Ministry of Defence on questions from Dutch parliament about the number of flying hours per Dutch F-16. It shows that the aircraft with registration J-637 is the champion of all, having flown 4,893 flying hours already by December 2011. That’s a lot … Until we read this, about an USAF F-16 that happily flew 7,238 hours. This is stuff we love!

Yearly, each Dutch F-16 spends 180 hours in the air – give or take a few hours – so our hero J-637 now probably has over 5,000 flying hours. The Dutch MoD claims that its Fighting Falcons are getting old and require more and more maintenance.

Sounds logical. But why then is an American F-16 of similar age – the US high-flyer was delivered in 1984, while J-637 was delivered the year before – capable of spending 7,238 hours in the air while the Dutch fighters apparently start falling apart after 4,500 hours or so. Upgrades such as Pacer SLIP and Falcon Up should have prolonged service life beyond 6,000 flying hours, and have been costing the Dutch taxpayers millions and millions of euros. A service life of 8,000 hours was even mentioned back then. Recent updates to newer US aircraft even go as far as to give 10,000 hours of life for each airframe.

The usual argument is that Dutch F-16s were used more extensively then originally planned, for example during operations over Kosovo, Afghanistan and Libya. That’s probably true, although a lot of flying time is actually spent high up in the air, waiting for the close-air-support call or just looking for a tanker. Not exactly the most stressfull situation for any airframe. And still: the US high-flyer spent most of its years in the hands of inexperienced trainee pilots at Luke Air Force Base, Arizona. That’s a lot of hard landings, bumpy rides and mishandling. And besides that, a day at the fence of Luke shows based F-16s flying around with the same heavy weaponry that supposedly stressed out the Dutch Vipers all these years. For the record, Dutch F-16 J-015 – the current demo aircraft – only has 3,500 hours or so at this moment.

The Norwegians and the Danish – not to mention the Israelis (how about their flying hours?) – are still happily flying their oldest vintage 1978 F-16s, while the Dutch put those aside more than a decade ago, stripping them for parts and throwing the remains in the bin.

Dutch F-16AM J-254 was taken out of service years ago and clocked up a number flying hours that almost certain wasn' t anywhere close to 7,238 hours. The aircraft's tail number is not mentioned in the Dutch MoD documents, because it is not operational anymore.  (Image © Elmer van Hest)
Dutch F-16AM J-254 was taken out of service years ago and clocked up a number flying hours that almost certain wasn’t anywhere close to 7,238 hours. The aircraft’s tail number is not mentioned in the Dutch MoD documents, because this aircraft is not operational anymore. (Image © Elmer van Hest)

The Americans know how to treat an aircraft that fulfilled its task. Their high-flyers are resting in the Arizona desert, having done their job. We will not mention that even those aircraft will return to the sky as QF-16s, clocking up even more hours, only to be finally shot to pieces as live targets. How’s that for scrapping?

© 2013 AIRheads’ Elmer van Hest

Check out the Royal Netherlands Air Force Orbat at Scramble.nl

USN aircraft carrier Truman into the Mediterranean

US Navy CVN75 USS Harry S. Truman aircraft carrier passing Gibraltar on August 3, 2013 (Image © Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Ethan Schumacher / USN)
US Navy CVN75 USS Harry S. Truman aircraft carrier passing Gibraltar at August 3, 2013 (Image © Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Ethan Schumacher / USN)

The US Navy nuclear-powered aircraft carrier CVN75 USS Harry S. Truman transitioned to the Mediterranean Sea on August 3, 2013.

The flagship of its carrier strike group joined the US 6th Fleet in the area. It was seen passing the Rock of Gibraltar loaded with aircraft on deck.

Source: US Navy

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