Category Archives: Fighters

And the losers are …

The JAS 39 Gripen (Image © Elmer van Hest)
The JAS 39 Gripen (Image © Elmer van Hest)

As reported this week, the F-35A Lightning II has taken the final hurdle in the Netherlands. That leaves a few companies with empty hands, although it has to be said that Saab, Dassault and Eurofighter GmbH did just about everything they could. It’s however no major surprise that the F-35A will after all replace the Dutch F-16 in a few years time. Saab, Dassault, and Eurofighter GmbH were essentially the losers from the word ‘go’, as the Dutch MoD basically had only thing in mind. Here goes a tribute to losers!

The granddaddy of all; the first Rafale first flew on 4 July 1986, two months before the first Eurofighter technology demonstrater and two years before the first Saab Gripen. This is the same Rafale at the Le Bourget in 1991. Excuse the shitty picture, but the Rafale happens to be our favoruite loser. (Image © Elmer van Hest)
Le grand-père of all; the first Rafale first flew on 4 July 1986, two months before the first Eurofighter technology demonstrator and two years before the first Saab Gripen. This is the same Rafale at the Le Bourget Airshow in 1991. Excuse the shitty picture, but Rafale happens to be our favourite loser. (Image © Elmer van Hest)

In 2001, Rafale, Gripen and Eurofighter went head to head at the Leeuwarden airshow in the Netherlands. The JSF – as the F-35 was known as back then – was nowhere to been seen, since the prototype X-35 only flew first in October 2000.

First up was this Saab JAS39A Gripen. (Image © Elmer van Hest)
First up was this Saab JAS 39A Gripen … (Image © Elmer van Hest)
... followed by this Italian pre production EF2000. (Image © Elmer van Hest)
… followed by this Italian pre-production EF2000. (Image © Elmer van Hest)
Closing the curtains was the Rafale B. (Image © Elmer van Hest)
Closing the curtains at Leeuwarden was this Rafale B. (Image © Elmer van Hest)

In the years that followed, all three competitors started appearing in European skies more and more, while the F-35 only really started testing in late 2006.

In 1997, Eurofighters started to appear in the UK, Germany, Spain and Italy. This Spanish twoseater was a unfortunate one, as it crashed in November 2002. (Image © Elmer van Hest)
In 1997, Eurofighters started to appear in the UK, Germany, Spain and Italy. This Spanish two-seater was an unfortunate one, as it crashed in November 2002. (Image © Elmer van Hest)
Nice motion blur on this Swedish Saab JAS39A, seen in June 2006 at Satenäs in Sweden. The model A Gripen have now been replaced by C models. (Image © Elmer van Hest)
Nice motion blur on this Swedish Saab JAS 39A, seen in June 2006 at Såtenäs in Sweden. The model A Gripen has now been replaced by C models. (Image © Elmer van Hest)
New type, new training. In the UK, RAF Coningsby was and is the place to be for Typhoons, as the Eurofighter EF2000 is now called. (Image © Elmer van Hest)
New type, new training. In the UK, RAF Coningsby was and is the place to be for Typhoons, as the Eurofighter EF2000 is now called. (Image © Elmer van Hest)

Export
As production mounted, Saab, Dassault and Eurofighter started looking for export customers for their hardware in the hope that sells would really take off. All types saw action in the 2011 Libya war. Meanwhile, testing of the F-35 continues in the US. Some time between August 2016 and December 2016, the first USAF F-35 squadron will reach Initial Operational Capability.

A Rafale C takes off loaded with maximum fuel (Image © Elmer van Hest)
June 2008: an Armée de l’Air Rafale C takes off loaded with maximum fuel. Despite many efforts, the sky remains cloudy for Dassault. The company still hasn’t sold a single Rafale outside France. (Image © Elmer van Hest)
Saab is actually not with empty hands. The company has exported the Gripen to the Czech Republic, Hungary, South Africa and Thailand. (Image © Elmer van Hest)
Slightly clearer skies for Saab. The Swedish company exported the Gripen to the Czech Republic, Hungary, South Africa and Thailand. (Image © Elmer van Hest)
The Eurofighter Typhoon was sold succesfully to Saudi Arabia. (Image © Elmer van Hest)
The Eurofighter Typhoon was sold successfully to Saudi Arabia. (Image © Elmer van Hest)

Show off
In recent years, Gripens, Rafales and Eurofighters were steady performers at airshows worldwide. It is unclear when the first F-35 will be seen outside the United States.

Stick 'm up! (Image © Elmer van Hest)
Light ‘m up! (Image © Elmer van Hest)
Stick 'm up again! (Image © Elmer van Hest)
Light ‘m up again! (Image © Elmer van Hest)
The Gripen design in true form. (Image © Elmer van Hest)
The Gripen design in true form. (Image © Elmer van Hest)
Spanish Typhoon rolling during an airshow. (Image © Elmer van Hest)
A Spanish Typhoon rolling during an airshow. (Image © Elmer van Hest)
A Rafale rolling as well. Rafale and Eurofighter went head to head during several bids. (Image © Elmer van Hest)
A Rafale rolling as well. Rafale and Eurofighter went head to head during several bids. (Image © Elmer van Hest)
Gripen on approach (Image © Elmer van Hest)
Landing time for this Gripen. (Image © Elmer van Hest)
Landing time for this RAF Typhoon. (Image © Elmer van Hest)
Typhoon on approach. (Image © Elmer van Hest)
Rafale aims for a touchdown, and is still doing so in 2013. (Image © Elmer van Hest)
Rafale aims for a touchdown, and is still doing so in 2013. (Image © Elmer van Hest)
As a matter of fact, older JAS39A Gripens are already used as museum pieces. (Image © Elmer van Hest)
Forever touchdown: older JAS 39A Gripens are already used as museum pieces. (Image © Elmer van Hest)

The final loser
There is however one more loser in the well over a decade long debate about a Dutch F-16 replacement. It’s the F-35A Lightning II that in some years time will touch down on Dutch soil, but will have to do its very best to win the hearts and trust of Dutch taxpayers. Plus, we at AIRheads↑FLY simply think its not the sexiest thing in the sky. Go Rafale!

Dutch F-35A F-001 seen over Texas. (Image © Ministerie van Defensie)
Dutch F-35A F-001 seen over Texas. (Image © Ministerie van Defensie)

© 2013 AIRheads’ Elmer van Hest

South Africa keeps Gripen flying, despite budget issues

A SAAB JAS 39C Gripen of the South African Air Force (Image © Marcel Burger)
A SAAB JAS 39C Gripen of the South African Air Force (Image © Marcel Burger)

The South African Air Force will keep its SAAB JAS 39 Gripen fighter jet in the air despite hundreds of millions of dollars of budget shortages, sources within the South African military confirmed on September 6, 2013.

Both the Gripen, the Hawk training jet and several support aircraft are threatened with long-time storage already for months now in order to save money. But according to a new plan all 26 JAS 39C/D will stay active in turns by simply rotate them through maintenance and flying status. On the long run this would be more cost efficient and keep the country’s only proper airborne air defence assets available, say SAAF senior officials. This will mean 2 Squadron at Makhado Air Base, which flies the Gripen, will stay at strength. But it will also mean up to half of the Gripen fleet can be in ‘maintenance’ at certain times.

The faith of the 24 Hawk Mk 120 lead-in advanced trainer or other aircraft is still highly uncertain. The single Boeing 737 BBJ presidential aircraft is likely to be kept airworthy, as well as some of the army support helicopters like the Rooivalk attack chopper. The latter is destined to be deployed for UN or South African National Defence Force missions on the African continent.

© 2013 AIRheads’ Marcel Burger

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Check out the South African Air Force Orbat at Scramble.nl

Dutch JSF takes final hurdle

Dutch F-35A F-001 seen over Texas. (Image © Ministerie van Defensie)
Dutch F-35A F-001 seen over Texas. (Image © Ministerie van Defensie)

A Dutch order for F-35 aircraft seems only a matter of time now that the leftist PvdA party dropped its opposition against the fighter, according to Dutch media. There now is sufficient support in Dutch parliament to proceed with the order of 35 F-35s – or JSF, as the aircraft is still often called in the Netherlands.

The move by PvdA ends more than a decade of discussion about the replacement of Dutch F-16 fighter aircraft by the F-35. According to sources in The Hague, the Dutch government -made up by PvdA and right-wing VVD –  will finally decide on the order later in September.

The Dutch already took delivery of two F-35 aircraft earlier for test purposes. Despite those deliveries, an order for further F-35s remained subject of heated discussion that mostly focused on costs. One F-35 costs at least 65 million Euro, where 40 million Euro was originally planned. The total budget for the order is 4.5 billion Euro.

Dutch government will present its 2014-plans in two weeks time. A further reduction of available F-16s is on the cards. The two F-35 already delivered – with serial F-001 and F-002 – are still in the United States and will remain so for the foreseeable future. Real testing should start only in 2015.

Read our blog on Dutch F-16s and their flying hours here.

© 2013 AIRheads’ Elmer van Hest

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Check out the RNLAF Orbat at Scramble.nl

Lightning grips Thai Gripen

A Royal Thai Air Force JAS39C Gripen in person, and in much colder conditions than its Thai habitat. This pictures was taken in Sweden in June 2012. (Image © Elmer van Hest)
A Royal Thai Air Force JAS 39C Gripen ‘in person’, and in much colder conditions than its Thai habitat. This picture was taken in Sweden in June 2012. (Image © Elmer van Hest)

The final three JAS 39 Gripens for the Royal Thai Air Force were to arrive today at their new home of Surat Thani airbase in southern Thailand. A lightning strike to one of the aircraft prevented this however.

The three Gripens are now in India and will continue on to Thailand on Wednesday. The delivery completes the Thai order for twelve JAS 39C/D aircraft with Saab. The Gripens are flown in Thailand by 701st squadron ‘Sharks’, part of the 7th wing at Surat Thani.

The Royal Thai Air Force ordered its Gripens in 2007 as replacements for older F-5 aircraft. The Thai decision was sparked by neighbouring countries – like India, Malaysia, China and Indonesia – acquiring Russian Su-30 Flanker aircraft in all shapes and sizes.

The first Saabs were flown to Thailand in February 2011, while a further three followed last April. The Royal Thai Air Force also flies the Saab 340, one of which is fitted with the Erieye radar, an Airborne Early Warning and Control System (AEW&C) developed by Saab Electronic Defence Systems.

The aircraft that was hit by lightning, sustained only minor damage. Nobody was injured.

Update Wednesday September 4: according to several sources, at least two Gripens arrived today in Surat Thani, Thailand.

© 2013 AIRheads’ Elmer van Hest

Check out the Thai Armed Forces Orbat at Scramble.nl

Get a grip on these; Gripen tails from Hungary, UK, Sweden, Thailand and South Africa. (Image © Elmer van Hest)
Get a grip on these; Gripen tails from Hungary, UK, Sweden, Thailand and South Africa. (Image © Elmer van Hest)

MiG-31 stays ’till at least 2028, T-50 delayed

A MiG-31E Foxhound against the background of its motherland (Image © Mikoyan Gurevich)
A MiG-31E Foxhound against the background of its motherland (Image © Mikoyan Gurevich)

LATEST UPDATE 18 MARCH 2014 | The legendary Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-31 interceptor (NATO-name Foxhound) will remain in active Russian air force service at least until 2028, possible 2038.

Russian media report the quote of Russian Air Force chief Lt. Gen. Viktor Bondarev, who made a stand for the aircraft at the MAKS 2013 airshow in Moscow last Friday. Russia officially has 122 MiG-31s at strength. The type was introduced in 1981. 60 Foxhounds will be upgraded to MiG-31BM standard, with final delivery expected in 2020. The work will be done at the state-owned United Aircraft Corporation Sokol plant, one of the oldest in the country.

Meanwhile the development of the new stealthy 5th generation fighter / interceptor Sukhoi T-50 is behind schedule. With the first future representative version of the aircraft planned to be delivered to the Russian Air Force at year’s end, the real introduction in active military service has been delayed from 2015 to 2016.

However, Sukhoi test pilots made a quite impressive appearance with T-50 prototypes at the MAKS 2013 airshow in Moscow last week, to great enthusiasm of the public.

© 2013 AIRheads’ Marcel Burger

A stunning (!) photo shoot of the MAKS 2013: Peter Steehouwers’ work at the Scramble.nl message board