Upgraded Orion speeds to US Customs

The MLU P-3 Orion of US Customs and Border Protection lands at the agencies airfield of Greenville, South Caroline, July 2013. (Image © Lockheed Martin)
The MLU P-3 Orion of US Customs and Border Protection lands at the agencies airfield of Greenville, South Caroline, July 2013. (Image © Lockheed Martin)

US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) received its eight of 14 upgraded Lockheed P-3 Orion on July 18th, 78 days ahead of delivery schedule, from Lockheed Martin.

During the so-called Mid-Life Update (MLU) the manufacturer replaces all fatigue life-limiting structures with enhanced-design components; and incorporates a new metal alloy that is five times more corrosion resistant than the original material. This way the operating costs of the P-3 are reduced. The MLU solution removes current aircraft flight restrictions and extends the structural service life of the P-3 up to 15,000 hours, adding more than 20 years of operational use.

Worldwide the Lockheed P-3 Orion is extensively used for maritime patrol and reconnaissance, homeland security, hurricane reconnaissance, anti-piracy operations, humanitarian relief, search and rescue, intelligence gathering, and antisubmarine warfare.

During fiscal year 2012, the CBP P-3 fleet seized or disrupted more than 117,765 pounds of cocaine valued at more than $8.8 billion, totaling 21.1 pounds seized for every flight hour, valued at $1.5 million for every hour flown.

Source: Lockheed Martin

Time for Twentynine

It is July 29th today – and let’s just call this day International MiG-29 Day from now on. Yeah! Inspired by our recent digging up of ol’ F-4 Phantom shots, we started looking for some Fulcrums as well since we feel Phantoms and Fulcrums are sort of ‘in the same category’: the category of King of Cool, that is. Here are some hot shots.

We like Poland and we like MiG-29s. Good combo right there.

Was at 5 years ago already? That scorching hot airshow at Berlin-Schönefeld. This Polish MiG29 was a show stealer.
Take off during a scorching hot airshow at Berlin-Schönefeld back in 2008. This Polish MiG-29 stole the show. (Image © Elmer van Hest)
We had to dust off our trusty scanner to get this shot somewhat presentable for you. It's another Polish MiG29, in the colours of its former owner, the Czech Republic. Photo taken at Dijon, France, 1997. (Image © Elmer van Hest)
We had to dust off our trusty scanner to get this shot somewhat presentable for you. It’s another Polish MiG-29, in the colours of its former owner, the Czech Republic. Photo taken at Dijon, France, 1997. (Image © Elmer van Hest)

Hungary is great too! Both its capital Budapest and its MiG-29s. Good combo again!

Definitely not the time for a screwed up landing. Photo taken during the 2007 Kecskemét airshow. Kecskemét; we keep screwing up that name, so we checked the spelling especially for you, dear reader.
Definitely not the time to screw up a landing. Photo taken during the 2007 Kecskemét airshow. (Image © Elmer van Hest)

For more than a decade, Germany used a bunch of Fulcrums that were leftovers from the Nationale Volksarmee (NVA), otherwise known as the East German army. The German MiG-29s were eventually sold to Poland, although a few are preserved in Germany.

Want to pimp your ride? Call the Germans! They know about proper paintjobs on airplanes. This Fulcrum was seen at Florennes, Belgium in 2001. (Image © Elmer van Hest)
Want to pimp your ride? Call the Germans! They know about proper paintjobs on airplanes. This Fulcrum was seen at Florennes, Belgium in 2001. (Image © Elmer van Hest)

These guys are a bit rare, but have shown up in Dutch viewfinders before … Serbia operates a few Fulcrums and did so during the 2012 Batajnica airshow near Belgrade – a city we loved spending some time in while enjoying some Jelen beer.

What's not to like about those lines?
What’s not to like? (Image © Elmer van Hest)
Setting it down nicely on one of Batajnica's two runways.
Putting it down nicely on one of Batajnica’s two runways. The 2012 airshow saw high temperatures, a huge crowd and the treat of nine Fulcrums, of which four were from the host nation. (Image © Elmer van Hest)

Next up is a Slovakian MiG-29. We like the Slovaks – simply because they are still flying these things.

Back in the days, when Fulcrums were regulars at European airshows. This one shows its stuff at Fairford 1995.
Back in the days, when Fulcrums were regulars at European airshows. This one shows its stuff at Fairford 1995.

Bulgaria sent a MiG-29UB to the 2011 Izmir Airshow, and AIRheads↑FLY was there to capture it and enjoy some of that fine Turkish food and weather.

Are we taking it with us all the way to parking? Yep, we are.
“Are we dragging that thing with us all the way to the parking lot? Yep, we are.” (Image © Elmer van Hest)

MiG-29s come in flocks too! One such flock is called Team Strizhi in Russian, or Team Swallows for non-Russian speakers.

Team Stryyi were stars of the 2005 airshow in Brno. Key for succesfull photography at this airshow was to stay outside the airfield.
Team Stryyi was the star of the 2005 airshow at Brno. Key for succesfull photography at this airshow was to stay outside the airfield. A spot to the south of the runway provided excellent views. (Image © Elmer van Hest)

Always finish with a rarity is our motto. We anticipate this is rare enough for a grande finale:

A Cuban MiG29UB in the Museo del Aire in Havana. Yeah, that's rare, because it is on of only two Cuban MiG29UB's that ever excisted. This picture was taken in december 2006 and the museum has since completely vanished. Not a trace left. It made this MiG29 even rarer.
A Cuban MiG-29UB in the Museo del Aire in Havana. Yeah, that’s rare, because it is one of only two Cuban MiG-29UBs that ever existed. This pic was taken in december 2006 and the museum has since completely vanished. Not a trace left. Our guess is this MiG now resides at San Antonio de los Banos airbase near Havana, away from public eyes. It makes this Fulcrum even more rare. (Image © Elmer van Hest)

© 2013 AIRheads editor Elmer van Hest

First UK’s new Merlins delivered

Royal Navy's new AgustaWestland AW101 Merlin Mk2 helicopter (Image © AgustaWestland)
Royal Navy’s AW101 Merlin Mk2 (Image © AgustaWestland)

The first five of the UK’s fleet of next generation anti-submarine & maritime patrol Agusta Westland AW101 Merlin Mk2 helicopters have been handed over to the Royal Navy in the third week of July 2013.

The Royal Navy’s 824 Naval Air Squadron based at RNAS Culdrose in Southwest England received the upgraded machines from the manufacturer.

Fitted with a glass cockpit and improved aircrew mission console and avionics, the Merlin HM Mk 2 has advanced touch screen displays, and an improved ability to detect and track targets and share data with other aircraft and ships while airborne. These and equipment improvements will also enable the helicopters to carry out counter piracy and casualty evacuation roles.

Thirty Merlin Mk1 helicopters are being converted to Mk2s by AgustaWestland at its Yeovil facility. Following the completion of trials the first helicopters are expected to be ready to deploy on operations by summer 2014. Delivery of all 30 Merlin HM Mk2s will be completed in 2015.

Source: UK MOD / AugustaWestland

Cockpit of the Royal Navy's new AgustaWestland AW101 Merlin Mk2 helicopter (Image © AgustaWestland)
Cockpit of the Royal Navy’s new AgustaWestland AW101 Merlin Mk2 helicopter (Image © AgustaWestland)

Check out the Fleet Air Arm Orbat at Scramble.nl

Best of the best flock to Lossiemouth

RAF Typhoon ZJ803 during an earlier training (Image © Marcel Burger)
RAF Typhoon ZJ803 during an earlier training (Image © Marcel Burger)

Seventeen squadrons, 50 aircraft from four air bases and a great location to fly. The best of the best of the Royal Air Force flocked to RAF Lossiemouth, Scotland, in July for the Combined Qualified Weapons Instructor (CQWI) exercise.

,,The CQWI exercise is looking to pass 27 students over 2 weeks to gain their qualification as a weapon’s instructor. For most of the individuals involved in CQWI it is their final exercise in a gruelling 12 month training programme. The exercise is held for pilots who are considered the brightest and best, allowing them to gain tactical appreciation of the aircraft and the significance of their role on operations”, writes a RAF press spokesperson.

The exercise brings extra life to the homebase of the Panavia Tornado GR4s of 12(B), 15(R) and 617 Squadron. Eurofighter Typhoons, British Aerospace Hawk T1As, Lockheed C-130Ks, Lockheed C-130J, a Sentinel R1 and Dassault DA20 Falcons were all involved. Some act as bogey, some provide intel and some merely focus on the training.

RAF Typhoons of 1(F) squadron will move permanently to Lossiemouth from September 2014.

Source: Royal Air Force

Check out the Royal Air Force Orbat at Scramble.nl

Dutch F-35 delivered, to be stored

The first Royal Netherlands Air Force F-35 Lightning II (JSF) when it was rolled out of the Lockheed Martin manufactuering plant at Forth Worth, Texas, April 4th, 2012. (Image © Lockheed Martin)
The first Royal Netherlands Air Force F-35 Lightning II (JSF) when it was rolled out of the Lockheed Martin manufactuering plant at Forth Worth, Texas, April 4th, 2012. (Image © Lockheed Martin)

The Royal Netherlands Air Force (RNLAF / KLu) received its first next-generation fighter, the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II on July 25th, 2013. Although the Joint Strike Fighter is now officially Dutch, it will almost immediately after the planned ferry flight from Forth Worth, Texas, to Eglin AFB, Florida, be stored there. Reason: the Dutch parliament has not decided yet if it likes to continue with the purchase of up to 56 F-35s.

The Netherlands ordered two aircraft, the first in 2009, but budget crises and increasing JSF development and production costs scared off the Dutch people’s representatives a bit.

The second Dutch test JSF has been produced as well. According to the Dutch Ministry of Defence it undergoes a series of test and acceptance flights before it will join the first KLu F-35 stored at Eglin. The mothballing will continue until the Netherlands government makes a final decision on which aircraft will succeed the RNLAF F-16 fighters.

Source: NL Ministry of Defence / AIRheads↑Fly

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