Just because we feel like it, and just because we can; it’s Tornado Time. Want loud? Want fast? Want beastly? Want a true Cold War working machine? The Panavia Tornado had and continues to have it all. Its numbers crowded European skies in the eighties and nineties, but those numbers now start to decrease slowly but steady. We take the time to look at its noisy and low-flying career.
The Tornado first flew on 14 August 1974 from Manching airfield in Germany. A total of 992 aircraft were eventually built and a good number of those will continue to fly for years to come. But the highlight of its career is behind it.
As reported this week, the F-35A Lightning II has taken the final hurdle in the Netherlands. That leaves a few companies with empty hands, although it has to be said that Saab, Dassault and Eurofighter GmbH did just about everything they could. It’s however no major surprise that the F-35A will after all replace the Dutch F-16 in a few years time. Saab, Dassault, and Eurofighter GmbH were essentially the losers from the word ‘go’, as the Dutch MoD basically had only thing in mind. Here goes a tribute to losers!
In 2001, Rafale, Gripen and Eurofighter went head to head at the Leeuwarden airshow in the Netherlands. The JSF – as the F-35 was known as back then – was nowhere to been seen, since the prototype X-35 only flew first in October 2000.
In the years that followed, all three competitors started appearing in European skies more and more, while the F-35 only really started testing in late 2006.
As production mounted, Saab, Dassault and Eurofighter started looking for export customers for their hardware in the hope that sells would really take off. All types saw action in the 2011 Libya war. Meanwhile, testing of the F-35 continues in the US. Some time between August 2016 and December 2016, the first USAF F-35 squadron will reach Initial Operational Capability.
Show off In recent years, Gripens, Rafales and Eurofighters were steady performers at airshows worldwide. It is unclear when the first F-35 will be seen outside the United States.
The final loser There is however one more loser in the well over a decade long debate about a Dutch F-16 replacement. It’s the F-35A Lightning II that in some years time will touch down on Dutch soil, but will have to do its very best to win the hearts and trust of Dutch taxpayers. Plus, we at AIRheads↑FLY simply think its not the sexiest thing in the sky. Go Rafale!
,,Can’t be!” one of the authors of AIRheads↑FLY thought after seeing F-4F Phantoms touchdown for the last time at Wittmundhafen airbase in northern Germany. It should be Phantoms Phorever. So let’s throw a little afterparty, right here and now.
Starting off with some chilling, easy Phantom vibes, here are some Germans doing what they do best: looking phabolous.
Hellenic Air Force
Turning up the heat with a taste of Southern Europe. The Greeks modified their Phantoms to F-4E AUP standard, including the AN/APG-65GY radar suited for AIM-120 AMRAAM missiles. Advanced radar warning receivers were added, and the Greeks also took the opportunity to integrate the Rafael Litening II pod and AGM-142 Popeye missile. Plus their Phantoms can use state-of-the-art JDAM ammunition. The modified Phantoms are recognized by the four IFF transponders on the nose. But we actually don’t really care about all that … as long as the results look this good.
Turkish Air Force
Slightly further south Turkey still uses Phantoms everyday. In 2011 the Türk Hava Kuvvetleri showed a modified RF-4E during the Izmir airshow, celebrating a 100 years of military aviation in Turkey. That’s two tasty Phantoms!
South Korean Air Force
Okay, getting into serious Phantom territory now, with rarer-than-rare South Korean rhinos. The Koreans used the ancient F-4D up till a few years ago. Crazy stuff.
The South Korean RF-4Cs are nearing the end of their lives, but they still haul some serious equipment around. Feel free to guess what the center-line pod on this Phantom is … because we just don’t know.
The F-4E is still in use in South Korea. No problem, keep it going! Phantoms Phorever!
As we are still digging through our archives, we found Japanese, Spanish and US Phantoms caught a long time ago. They are screaming to be seen again. So, we’ll be back soon with more of the mighty Phantom.
June 2013 will be noticed in the world’s aviation records as the goodbye to the legendary McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom II fighter from West-European skies as the German Air Force said farewell to the type after 40 years of operations. But not before Fighter Wing 71 (Jagdgeschwader 71) threw a little party at its homebase Wittmundhafen in the north of the country. Special paint jobs had turned the last of the Luftwaffe F-4s in tasty eye-candy, as witnessed by tens of thousands of enthousiasts, including AIRheads editors.
In 2011 Cambrai hosted the 50th NATO Tigermeet. Because of this anniversary and the fact that this French airbase was due to close the Tigermeet provided a last opportunity to visit Cambrai while still at operational status.