About 15,000 troops, including 2,000 of non-NATO member Sweden, 40 aircraft and helicopters, about a thousand vehicles and several ships and boats are currently kicking a** in Northern and Central Norway. Exercise Cold Response included the taking of the normally peaceful village of Namsos, situated on the shores of beautiful fjords.
The 7th edition of the multinational winter war exercise hosted by Norway brings units from mainly NATO countries together, to show what they can as “bad” and “good” force against each other. To train for a possible real war scenario and to show NATO’s current strange “friend” Russia that the North American-European alliance still can.
Jordan flies about a dozen ex-Israeli Air Force Bell AH-1E/F Cobras in the “border patrol”, counter-insurgency role and in operations against so-called Islamic State forces, according to a fresh report by Reuters.
The international press agency quotes sources with insight in the deal, in which Israel apparently has transferred 16 of its decommissioned Bell attack helicopters to its Arab neighbour. Some are used for spare parts, but it is believed that 10 to 12 actually do fly. The Royal Jordanian Air Force already received 32 ex-US Army AH-1Fs, delivered in the late 1990s and beginning of the 2000s. About 20 to 25 of those are believed to still be operational, flying out of Zarqa Airbase, although some sources say only 12 are in flyable condition.
The location of the ex-Israeli Cobras is unknown, but may very well be a forward operating base aligned to the Cobra units based at Zarqa. Israeli Air & Space Force’s 160 Squadron flew the Cobras until it was disbanded in 2013 for budgetary and safety reasons. Jerusalem tried to sell the attack choppers to Nigeria first, but that deal was blocked by the United States as we reported earlier.
While more than 200 Bell/Boeing V-22 Ospreys are already in service with the US Air Force and US Marines (USMC), and the first international order has been placed, the operations with this tilt-rotor aircraft are more and more restricted. Especially when it comes to landing in dusty conditions and in desert environments.
According to military sources US authorities have now officially ordered Osprey pilots not to hover any longer than 30 seconds close to the ground when landing on a dusty or sandy patch of land, down from the earlier directive of 60 seconds. Although V-22 landings are normally done in much less then that, with the aid of on board sensors and instruments, the new order is cause for concern for the tilt-rotor units operating not only in the desert lands of Asia, Africa and the Middle East, but all over the world.
Reason for the new directive is the May crash of a USMC MV-22B on Marine Corps Training Area Bellows – a former Air Force Station turned into training location – on the island of Oahu of Hawaii. According to preliminary findings one of the two Osprey engines stalled after 45 seconds of hovering, presumably due to dust that came into the engine systems during a so-called Reduced Visibility Landing – meaning in this case landing in a dust cloud the rotors just kicked up themselves.
Although RVLs not only covers these so-called “brown outs” it is not proven yet that Ospreys have similar problems with “white outs” – when the down wash of helicopter or Osprey rotors creates snow clouds in winter conditions with the same less or no visibility upon landing.
The accident at Bellows, in which 2 of the 22 marines on board died, puts the focus again on the crappy filters of the V-22 engines. Changed after to the original design was cause for engine fires, the current filters apparently allow to much dust entering the power plants. Bell and Boeing are said to work on yet another solution, but that one has not been implemented yet.
Other military assets like the old CH-46 Sea Knight helicopters the V-22s are replacing – as well as the US Army’s CH-47 Chinooks of similar size – seem to have not much trouble at all with RVLs during normal operations in training and war situations.
While most V-22 pilots manage to put their planes down in under 20 seconds, the new directive orders them to stay above the dust clouds they kick up and continue to hover there if needed until the dust has settled down and it is safe to try to land again. In war zones such increased altitude and exposure of the Osprey will increase the risk of being hit by enemy fire. Food for though for the ones deciding over V-22 tactics in the field.
The Philippines have terminated the contract for the delivery of 21 ex-US Army UH-1D “Huey” (Iroquouis) helicopters. The choppers were to be refurbished by US based Rice Aircraft Services together with Eagle Copters of Canada, but the North American suppliers have now been blacklisted by Manilla for not living up to the deal.
The Philippines already “partially terminating” the contract on 27 March 2015 due to failure to meet the delivery schedule by Rice Aircraft Services, but according to Philippine sources it is now the end of it all.
The contract was awarded just before Christmas 2013 and called for the complete refurbishment of the choppers which are commonly known as Hueys. The aircraft became an icon of US operations in the war in Vietnam in the 1960s and 1970s. Modernised versions serve many civilian operators and armed services today – including the US Marine Corps.
Rice Aircraft Services/Eagle Copters were to deliver the aircraft fully operational but unarmed to the Philippines, but critics already wondered why the Pacific nation was buying older versions of the Huey in stead of the newer H-model. The Philippine Air Force is already operating those UH-1Hs from almost all of its 15 air field facilities throughout the country. Officially it has 44 Hueys on strength, but it is widely believed only half of them are airworthy. Eight similar Bell 205s serve primarily as search-and-rescue helicopters.
Croatia is to conclude the planned deal for 16 Bell OH-58D Kiowa Warrior armed scout helicopters in May 2015, according to sources in Zagreb.
According to a letter of intent signed in November 2014 the United States will provide the choppers free of charge as part of the Excess Defense Articles (EDA) Program and since Croatia is an allied nation. However, Zagreb is trying to secure funds to modernize / upgrade / overhaul the ex-US Army machines before they will be transferred to the Balkan nation.
Helicopters for the US Army are equipped with, among other high-resolution cameras, laser for marking targets, devices that allow fly at night and in bad visibility. Armed with the anti-tank and anti-aircraft guns and machine gun. Getting these helicopters would be only part of the process of replacing the existing Russian-made helicopters.
The Kiowa Warriors – of which more than 2,200 have been built – are to replace the Mil Mi-24 “Hind” attack helicopters the Croatian Air Force already has retired. However, it is uncertain if the new choppers will be based at the former Hind location of Pleso – near Zagreb – or divided over Pleso and other airbases like Zemunik in Zadar where the 93 Air Base Helicopter Squadron (93 Zrakoplovna Baza Eskadrila Helikoptera) already flies the Bell 206B, based on the same Jet Ranger model as the OH-58.
Flown by a crew of two the OH-58Ds normally operate with speeds of about 110 knots (127 mph or 204 kmh) and have a range of 160 miles (555 km). Airborne for max. 2 hours at a time the Kiowa Warriors can be armed on two points, one on each side of the chopper, with either a .50 or 12.7 mm machine gun, a LAU-68 rocket launcher for up to seven Hydra 70 rockets or 2 AGM-114 Hellfire missiles. Sources close the acquisition process believe Croatia will order the Hellfire anti-tank missiles almost certainly with the chopper order, with estimates running from 160 to 500 Hellfires during a first order.
Apart from the Kiowa Warrior deal Zagreb also hopes to be able to sell the remaining 12 to 14 aging Mil Mi-8-MTV transport helicopters flown by 93 Air Base Helicopter Transport Squadron out of the Divulje Barracks in Split, to free funds for the acquisition of 12 to 15 Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters, either of the new M-standard or former US Army machines.