With the arrival of the first Airbus (CASA) CN235-300 at 50 Transport Squadron (l’escadron de transport (ET) 50) at La Réunion on 4 June 2015, the end of the C.160 Transall as France’s key air asset in the southern Indian Ocean has started.
Coming in from BA110 Creil the first Armée de l’Air (AdlA) to serve at the island about 500 miles (800 km) east of Madagaskar made stop overs in Algeria, Chad, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Tanzania before arriving on its new home base. A second CN235-300 will follow by mid-July.
The first of the two C.160 that currently form the Transall detachment that has been active at La Réunion since 1973 will leave after the second CN235 arrives. The second C.160 is planned to fly back to France in early August, according to a statement by the French Ministry of Defence.
The AdlA CN235s to operate from La Réunion are part of a batch of eight received in 2013.
UPDATED 20 FEBRUARY 2015 | Cope North Guam 2015 (CNG15), a multinational exercise of the United States and its closest allies facing China, is underway in the Pacific. The Republic of Korea Air Force (South Korea), the Japan Air Self-Defense Force (JASDF) and the Royal Australian Air Force are participating, as well as the US armed forces of course. Epicentre of the operations: Andersen Air Force Base.
CNG15 involves a large force employment performing simulated air combat and disaster relief operations according to various scenarios. For the Royal Australian Air Force this is the fourth time its personnel and aircraft are participating. To underline its importance the RAAF’s contribution is substantial: eight McDonnell Douglas (Boeing) F/A-18A/B Hornet multi-role fighters, a Airbus KC-30A Multi-Role Tanker Transport and Lockheed Martin C-130J Hercules.
The US Air Force has – amongst other assets – B-52s, F-15s, F-16s, KC-135s and C-130s in the area. Japan deployed indigenous Mitsubishi F-2 multi-role fighters and McDonnell Douglas (Boeing) F-15s, as well as C-130s, a KC-767J and the E-2C Hawkeye. The exact contribution of South Korea was not clear at the time of writing, but some of the images released by the RAAF give a minor clue. According to the exercise leaders officers of the Royal New Zealand Air Force and the Philippine Air Force are participating as well, but whether they bring their own aircraft was not confirmed.
Cope North Guam 2015 runs from 15 to 27 February. Corporal David Gibbs of the Royal Australian Air Force’s 28SQN AFID-EDN is at Andersen and made some nice shots!
UPDATED 2 JANUARY 2015 | Once again a catastrophe hit an Asian airliner. Air Asia’s Airbus A320-216 with flight number QZ8501 was officially declared missing on 28 December at 06:24 local time en route from Surabaya to Singapore. On 30 December the sad but expected news came that floating bodies and possible even the contours of the plane were spotted in the Java Sea, about 6 miles (10 km) from the location where all contact with flight QZ8501 was lost. That is about 100 miles (160 km) southwest of the Indonesian city of Pangkalan Bun at Kalimantan.
Radar controllers at both Jakarta’s Sukarno-Hatta IAP and the radar station of Kohanudnas lost contact with the plane at 06:17 on Sunday the 28th at coordinates 03 22’46 S and 108 50’07 E. Very bad weather has been reported in the area, with the pilot asking an alternative route likely to avoid it. The aircraft never reached it’s destination where it was suppose to land at 08:30 local time, nor did its crew send a distress signal.
According to high-ranking Indonesian Naval Aviation commander, Air Asia’s flight QZ8501 is thought to have crashed into Tanjung Pandan waters in Bangka Belitung area, where the water levels are as shallow as 75 to 150 feet (25 to 50 metres). Indonesia’s call during Monday for the US to assist in the search operations was heard. CNN reported just before Midnight London time that the destroyer USS Sampson (DDG-102) – with on board one or two Sikorsky SH-60 Seahawks – is en route to help. A US Navy Boeing P-8I Poseidon is also expected.
Initial reports say that the A320 flight crew contacted Jakarta Air Traffic Control at 06:12 local time and requested an altitude increase from 34,000 to 38,000 feet because of clouds. The plane is also said to have taken a route away from its pre-planned flightpath to evade turbulent weather. The aircraft in question is registered as PK-AXC and had its first flight on 25 September 2008 according to the Airfleets database. The Air Asia plane had taken off from Surabaya at 05:36 local time.
At the time of the disappearance six other planes were in proximity of Flight QZ8501, on somewhat similar routes. Those planes include aircraft from Garuda Indonesia, Lion Air and Emirates, according to reports released by AirNav, the Indonesian national Flight Navigation Service.
There was some debate about the time of disappearance – reports also indicated 07:24, but that seems to be the fault of the difference in time zones between Singapore and Indonesia. After the plane was lost, a search-and-rescue operation was started. But despite great efforts the mission was severely hampered by the weather conditions and darkness, with authorities even pausing the efforts overnight to find the missing plane. The search was resumed at about 06:45 Jakarta time / 07:45 Singapore time on Monday 29 December 2014.
From the air travellers 149 are from Indonesia, three from South Korea, one from Singapore, one from Malaysia and one from the United Kingdom. Six of the crew members are Indonesian, the co-pilot has the French nationality. Air Asia says the crew of A320 flight QZ8501 is seasoned, with Captain Iriyanto having 6,100 flying on Air Asia’s A320. First office Remi Emmanuel Plesel had a total of 2,275 flying hours with Air Asia Indonesia. According to the Indonesian Air Force (TNI-AU), missing Air Asia Airbus A320’s captain is a former Air Force pilot who used to fly the Northrop F-5 Tiger with 14 Squadron (Skadron Udara 14) based at Madiun/Iswahjudi.
Initial air force reports indicate that Indonesian Air Force (TNI-AU) was contacted at 07:55 local time (this might be 06:55 depending on the initial mix-up of time zones) to help search for the missing plane. One of the TNI-AU C-130 Hercules from 31 Squadron at from Halim Airbase went airborne on Sunday at 13:10 local time, but a spokesperson quickly called the weather already “rather challenging”. The Herc piloted by Pilot Mayor Pnb Akal Juang flew the Karimata Islands and surrounding areas down to an altitude of 1500 feet, while its crew and 11 pre-selected local journalist from Jakarta based media on board searched in vain. The C-130 returned without finding anything on 18:40 local time.
A spokesperson also said the TNI-AU scrambled a Boeing 737 MPA from Supadio/Pontianak at West Kalimantan, but is was not immediately clear if that was a mistake or if the plane just happened to be there since the 737s are not officially based there. Moreover an Airbus Helicopters NAS-332 Super Puma was ordered to search, likely coming from Skadron Udara 6 based at Bogor/Atang Senjaya Java. On Monday 29 December the Indonesian armed forces sent six aircraft in the air: two C-130s, a B-737-200 maritime surveillance aircraft, a Navy PTDI CN235 Persuaders and two Super Puma helicopters. The Jakarta Post reports that another three TNI-AU C-130s have participated in the search as well, but these might be the Hercs from neighbouring air forces. Bell 412s were also involved in the operations.
Singapore and India
Amongst the other search assets deployed were two Republic of Singapore Air Force C-130H Hercules’s from 122 Squadron based at Paya Lebar Airbase, joined on Monday by at least two RSAF Super Pumas. The Indian Navy put one of its brand new Boeing P-8Is based at Naval Air Station Rajali on stand-by on Sunday.
Royal Malaysian Air Force
At least one Royal Malaysian Air Force Hercules was readied on Sunday, likely from 20 Squadron based at Sultan Abdul Aziz Shah / Subang RMAF in Kuala Lumpur. On Monday 29 December the RMAF fielded a C-130 (likely the only C-130MP), a CN235-220M tactical airlifter and and a Beechcraft 200T Super King Air maritime patrol aircraft.
Royal Australian Air Force
Australia pre-alerted one of its AP-3C Orions on 28 December. The RAAF Orion joined the search on 29 December, taking off from Darwin in the early morning and heading to Indonesia. “The RAAF AP-3C Orion aircraft has a well proven capability in search and rescue and carries maritime search radar coupled with infra-red and electro-optical sensors to support the visual observation capabilities provided by its highly trained crew members,” RAAF Air Chief Marshal Binskin said in an official statement.
What is left for friends and families of the ones on board Air Asia A320 flight QZ8501 is hope that the combined search effort has at least some result and doesn’t end like Malaysia Airlines MH370.
What do you do when you want an airbase, but there is none. Then you just create it out of sand. The first tactical airlifters have already landed.
That is in short what the French Air Force Corps of Engineers is doing in the Niger desert. The 25th Régiment du Génie de l’Air (25e RGA). In Madama the French are creating new temporary airfields to support Operation Barkhane. That is the combined armed operations in the former French colonies in central Africa that include Burkina Faso, Mauritania, Niger and the Central African Republic to fight armed terrorists and rebel groups in the Sahel / Sahara Region.
On 4 December 2014 a French Air Force (AdlA) CASA (Airbus) CN235 landed on the runway of Madama, after leaving N’Djamena n Chad 3 hours and 40 minutes earlier. A C160 Transall followed on 7 December. Two C160s are already operating at Diori Hamani International Airport of the Niger capital if Niamey and fly in turn to Madama.
The 25e RGA made the Madama runway in little than a month time, from 5 to 30 November. It meant the recreation of the old track of 800 by 500 metres (2400 x 1500 feet). Leveling and reinforcing the ground included adding water – a scarce fluid in the region – to make it more compact to hold airlifters. The second phase of the project, which has just begun, consists of an extension of an additional 500 meter (1500 feet) track to reach a final length of 1800 meters (5400 feet). The Madame airfield will include a ramp, two aircraft parking locations and several helicopter landing zones.
The Royal Jordanian Air Force will get its two CASA (Airbus) CN235 Light Gunships in Spring 2014, a spokesperson of the US ATK Defence Group told the international press at the FIDAE 2014 fair in Chile last weekend.
Produced in Sevilla, Spain, the CN235s were sent to ATK on order of the King Abdullah II Design and Development Bureau (KADDB) in Jordan. The flight test program, commenced in November 2013, is soon to be concluded, upon which delivery will take place.
In collaboration with KADDB, ATK developed and provided the system integration and aircraft modifications to turn the cargo plane into a gunship. These modifications include installation of an electro-optical targeting systems, a laser designator, aircraft self-protection equipment, a synthetic aperture radar and weaponry. The latter comprises of the use of Hellfire lase-guided missiles, 2.75-inch rockets and a side-mounted M230 link-fed 30mm chain gun.
The gun is automatically aligned to the target, cued by a camera in conjunction with the mission management and fire control solution. These capabilities are integrated with and controlled by ATK’s Mission System, which provides both day and night reconnaissance and fire control capabilities, and the ability to acquire, monitor and track items of interest.