Airbus delivered a significant number of A400M military transport aircraft to costumers in December, bringing to an end a year marked by the fatal crash of an A400M in Seville on 9 May. The program seems to have overcome the tragedy however.
In December, Germany received both its second and third A400M, while France took delivery of its eight aircraft. Also, Turkey and Malaysia got their hands on their third and second aircraft respectively. The latter was handed over to the Royal Malaysian Air Force in Seville on Wednesday 23 December and will head East soon.
The year 2015 saw four deliveries to the Royal Air Force (RAF), who declared the A400M Atlas C1 ‘ready for worldwide tasks’ last September. Meanwhile, Airbus reports it is making progress in assembling the first aircraft for Spain.
Neuburg Airbase, situated in the Bavarian region in southern Germany, is home to the German Luftwaffe’s JG74, flying the Eurofighter EF2000 (Typhoon) in the air defense role since 2006. This November Airheadsfly.com met them when they returned home to Neuberg after a long stay elsewhere.
For a considerable time, JG74 (Taktisches Luftwaffengeschwader, or Tactical Air Force Wing) had to call other airbases ‘home’ while the runway at Neuburg saw complete renewal. What was planned to be a nine month stay, turned out to be close to two years. This was caused by a few dozen World War II bombs found during the work.
During Airheadsfly.com’s visit, the return to Neuburg hadn’t been fully completed, as some Eurofighters – the Typhoon name was never adopted in Germany – were left behind for maintenance at Lechfeld, the airbase that served as the main home away from home.
JG74 is fully dedicated to air defense und Alarmrotte, which could well do with some explanation for non-native speakers. Alarmrotte (literally: red alert) is the German term for Quick Reaction Alert (QRA), which applies here because JG74 is responsible for guarding the skies over southern Germany. It’s not a recent thing by any standards. In fact, they have been doing it at Neuburg since May 1961. So next year sees the 55th anniversary of QRA duties at the Bavarian airbase.
Where now Eurofighters stand guard, F-4 Phantoms stood until not too long ago. Between 2006 and 2008 and after more than 30 years of service, JG74 replaced its Spooks for brand spankin’ new Eurofighters. Since 2013, the wing is a proud member of NATO’s Tiger Association. They took over the tradition from JBG32 (Jagdbombgeschwader, or bomber squadron), which flew the Panavia Tornado from Lechfeld until disbanded in 2012.
JG74 has 33 jets assigned, of which 24 are available at Neuburg. This year, the wing’s pilots and crews participated in large scale exercise Arctic Challenge in Norway, but they also did the “real thing” by supporting NATO’s Baltic Air Policing mission from Ämari airbase in Estonia. From there, German pilots in 2014 got to meet Russian pilots up close, albeit always thousands of feet up in the air and each in the cockpit of their respective aircraft.
At Neuburg they are pretty confident with the Eurofighter, the jet that saw Germany at it’s cradle as one of the founding nations of the Eurofighter consortium. Christian Härter, taking care of the jets at Neuburg since 2013, thinks the Eurofighter is the best all round fighter at this moment. “The Eurofighter has an 8:1 kill ratio against a variety of other fighter aircraft. Even the US Air Force F-22 Raptor is having a hard time in many aspects against our aircraft.” In reality of course, the Eurofighter has yet to achieve a real kill against any type of aircraft.
Criticism aimed at Germany’s top toy can’t be ignored. This fall, deliveries of German aircraft were halted over a production fault found across the fleet. According to Härter however, Typhoons serviceability at Neuburg is around 70 percent, the proof perhaps being the presence of three jets inside the T-Halle, a hangar that can house up to 6 aircraft. In the eight year old T-Halle, maintenance is being performed in more favourable conditions than in the hardened aircraft shelters that litter Neuburg. The T-Halle gets a lot of natural light from outside, which makes work very comfortable.
Flight hour costs
The presence of the many data cables and computers in the T-Halle clearly shows we’re dealing with a modern aircraft. As the computer/software is getting more and more important, Härter even expects the Eurofighter could well be the last manned aircraft of the Luftwaffe. One flight hour in a Eurofighter costs around 65,000 euro, of which fuel accounts for ‘only’ 6,000 euro. Therefore it might not come as a surprise that every pilot flies 40 hours on a Typhoon flight simulator each year. Aircraft like the Alenia Aermacchi M-346 are more and more being marketed as operational trainers, saving costly flying hours.
But on this beautiful day in November, pilots elect to fly for real. Up to seven Eurofighters roar into the skies in preparation for yet another busy year. For JG74, next year will see participation in the NATO Tiger Meet in May at Zaragoza airbase in Spain, while June will see an airshow at Neuburg because of the 55th anniversary of JG74. There might be even another tour of Baltic Air Policing, offering Russian pilots one more chance at the experience of meeting a Eurofighter up close – and be aware of a kill ratio that apparently stands at 8:1.
Traveling over the Germany Autobahn next week? Pay attention, as you may come across a Eurofighter Typhoon at very low level indeed. The road transport involves a Typhoon that was damaged in this midair collision close to a year ago.
The transport will take the Typhoon across large parts of Germany. The trip starts on Monday 25 May at Nörvenich airbase, where the aircraft succesfuly landed after its midair. On Thursday 28 May it is scheduled to arrive in Southern Germany, the exact destination being Manching, where the German Typhoons are manufactured.
The low-loader transport – 16 meters in length and 4 meters in hight – cannot take the most direct route due to obstacles in the way. Therefore, the Typhoon will first travel east over Autobahn A2 towards Berlin and then turn south over Autobahn A9. It will travel at night mostly.
Germany and France both take measures to bridge an airlift capability gap if delays keep plaguing the Airbus A400M, according to reports on Thursday 21 May. Germany is ready to pump 300 million EUR in keeping its old C-160 Transalls in the air for three year longer, while France is said to be looking into the Lockheed C-130J.
The A400M is supposed to replace the C-160 in Germany, but the Germans found their first-delivered A400M not up to par so far. Airbus apparently took notice of the complaints, as changes were made in the organization in order to improve quality and speed up deliveries. For Airbus, the 9 May crash that involved a brand new A400M destined for Turkey and killed four Airbus employees, could not have come at a worse moment. A software bug in the Electronic Control Unit (ECU) is suspected to have cut off the fuel supply to three out of the A400M’s four engines, leading to the crash.
Germany now considers keeping the C-160s in the air until 2012, three years longer than originally planned, at a cost of 300 million EUR for the German taxpayer. The German Air Force still has quite a number of C-160 left at two airbases, but the aircraft are nearing the end of their usable lives.
Furthermore, France has reportedly adapted its latest defense budget in order to possibly buy four Lockheed Martin C-130J Hercules transporters, whereas Paris earlier stood 100 percent behind the A400M. France already has C-130H Hercules aircraft in service, along with C-160 Transalls.
The German military is to receive the first of 15 H145M chopper (formerly EC645 T2) before the year-end, Airbus Helicopters reports on 15 May 2015. That’s the result of the type’s recent certification by the European EASA (European Aviation Safety Agency) airworthiness authority. First deliveries for the second H145M customer, the Royal Thai Navy, will begin in 2016.
The H145M is to be the mode of transportation for Germany’s Kommando Spezialkräfte (KSK), or special forces. The helo first flew in November last year and is based on Airbus Helicopters’ enhanced H145 civilian and parapublic rotorcraft (previously designated the EC145 T2). It has an increased maximum take-off weight of 3.7 metric tons, and can be equipped with mission equipment that includes a pintle-mounted door gun and the ability to carry weapons on external pylons; electro optical/infrared sensors with targeting capability; as well as military avionics for communications, navigation and flight management.
A rope-down system is available for special operations, and overall survivability is enhanced by the H145M’s crew ballistic protection, its self-sealing fuel tanks, and electronic warfare self-protection against missile threats.
“The H145M is tailored for a wide range of military operations – including transportation, reconnaissance, search and rescue, fire support and evacuations of wounded personnel. By using a civil certification for the H145M, we pursued a low-risk and low-cost approach for our customers, avoiding a costly and duplicative military qualification. This process also benefitted from the H145’s own civil certification last year, ensuring that the latest standards for safety and airworthiness are met”, said Manfred Merk, H145 Programme Director.