The Swedish aviation icon SAAB is celebrating its birthday on 2 April. In 1937 the company was founded after a decision by the Swedish parliament to have the country produce its own aircraft. Eighty years later the military aircraft made in Linköping are more popular then ever.
The newest combat aircraft made in Sweden is in service with five nations: Sweden, Hungary, the Czech Republic, South Africa and Thailand. Two more nations will be flying the JAS 39 Gripen soon: Brazil and Slovakia; with Brazilian Embraer will even to produce the new and larger E-version supported by Saab engineers and technology. While the plant in Linköping will manufacture 60 of the Gripen E for its own Flygvapnet.
We at Airheadsfly.com say “Stort grattis på födelsedagen” (Happy birthday) Saab with a photo essay.
The Polish Ministry of Defense and Boeing on Friday 31 March signed a contract for the delivery of three Boeing Business Jets, otherwise known as 737-800. The aircraft are to be used by the Polish Air Force for VIP transport. The contract is worth 523 million USD.
The first aircraft will be a used example and is scheduled for delivery in November 2017. It will be delivered in standard passenger configuration and upgraded later to BBJ standard at a later stage. The other aircraft will be completely new and be delivered in BBJ2 configuration. The first of these should arrive in Poland in 2020.
Poland formerly operated Tupolev Tu-154s for VIP-duties. One of these aircraft crashed near Smolensk on 10 April 2010, killing all 96 occupants, including Polish president Lech Kaczyński.
Poland since already ordered two G550 business jets, the first of which is about to be delivered.
Leonardo on Thursday announced plans to build a new aircraft manufacturing facility in Alabama to produce its T-100 integrated jet training system if it comes out winning the T-X competition. The company selected Moton Field Municipal Airport in Tuskegee for the new aircraft manufacturing site and final assembly line ‘because of the available local workforce and resources, plus the exisiting airfield infrastructure.
Leonardo earlier this year selected its US-based affiliate Leonardo DRS at the prime contractor for the T-X bid. Production of Leonardo’s T-100 jet trainer will have to take place in the US in order to have a chance at winning the valuable T-X contract. Under this contract, the Pentagon is to buy over 300 new jet trainers for the US Air Force, which will replace many dozens of old T-38 Talon trainers.
The T-100 is based on the M-346 Master, a jet Airheadsfly.com got to know from the inside last year. The M-346’s twin Honeywell F124 turbofan engines will also power the T-100 and will be built in Phoenix, Arizona.
The T-100 features an embedded training system, fifth-generation cockpit, open system architecture and in-flight refuelling capability and is designed to receive mission-focused next-generation enhancements to meet the requirements set by the U.S. Air Force.
Competitors have until 31 March to actual hand in their proposals. Boeing reported it has already delivered its proposal, while Leonardo now appears to have done the same. No doubt Lockheed Martin will follow with their offer.
Bigger and better airpower. That’s what Frisian Flag 2017 is all about, according to Denny Traas, commander of Leeuwarden airbase in the Netherlands and therefore host of this multinational military flying exercise. And if one thing becomes crystal clear on this early Spring-day in leeuwarden, it’s that learning how to fly alongside each other and getting to know each other, is the path towards ‘bigger and better’.
Frisian Flag 2017 takes in the strategic perspective of continued conflicts and increasing threats. “One of those threats is the posture of Russia”, says Traas. “And of course we see the conflict and the use of coalition airpower over Syria and Iraq. The need for coalition airpower will not change in the forseeable future, and that includes coalitions with non-NATO members. It’s a script that we’ll be using for quite a while.”
In many cases, these coalitions while have to form quickly and operate effectively. Resources however, are greatly reduced while on the other hand, the pressure is on. Collateral damage or other costly mistakes are of course heavily frowned upon in Western societies. Coalition airpower requires preparation and aircrews that know how to fly together in packages of up to dozens of fighter jets. It requires understanding.
Do you see me?
That’s what exactly shows when standing next to Leeuwarden’s runway as 44 jets take off. Prior to each take off and from under the dark visors of their flying helmets, pilots clearly seek mutual understanding by looking directly at each other. ‘Do you see me, everything ok, ready to go?’ After a nod or a thumbs up, the air each time fills with the sound of jet engines at ‘maximum noise’ setting.
After take off, all participants head to a temporary training area over the North Sea, where a different scenario is played out each time. Dynamic ground targets are set up in northern Germany for the bombers to strike, while ‘enemy’ air defenses in shape of SA-6 and Patriot ground-to-air missile systems await them.
Leeuwarden airbase for 20 years has been home to Frisian Flag, one of the largests exercises of its kind in Europe. For the hometeam – the Royal Netherlands Air Force (RNLAF) – this year’s exercise is another change to polish up skills. After decades of operations over Kosovo, Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria – where air-to-ground was the skill most usable – extra attention is now paid to air-to-air engagements. Recent exercises in the US where also aimed at making RNLAF F-16 pilot full ‘warriors’ again in all aspects of airpower.
Other players during Frisian Flag 2017 are US Air National Guard F-15 Eagles, Royal Air Force Tornados, Portuguese and Belgian F-16s, plus French Mirage 2000Ds and German Eurofighters. The latter make their debut in the air-to ground role during the exercise. Various tanker aircraft and a NATO E-3 AWACS support Frisian Flag.
Future editions of Frisian Flag may well see participation of MQ-9 Reaper unmanned aerial vehicles, plus interaction between current 4th generation fighter jets and 5th generation fighters suchs as the F-35. However, according to base commander Traas, the latter will probably sooner be US or UK F-35s instead of RNLAF jets. “In 2019 we’ll start receiving our own F-35s and then first work up to Initial Operational Capability in 2021. That could mean we will take break in organising Frisian Flag in 2020 and 2021.”
In 2018 and 2019 however, Frisian Flag is likely to be ‘on’. And with participation of other coalition partners and perhaps even the F-35 Lightning II, it will definitely be ‘bigger and better’.
Norway on Wednesday 29 Match formally signed a contract for the purchase of five Boeing P-8 Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft to replace six P-3 Orions and three Dassault DA-20s currently in service. The first Poseindon should arrive in 2022, with deliveries to be completed the next year.
The contract is worth 1.8 billion EUR and includes missions systems, anti-submarine weapons. Norway considers the P-8 the ideal solution for covering and protecting its vast coastal waters. The new aircraft wil be operated by 333 squadron at Andøya Air Station in northern Norway.