The air situation in the skies in and near Turkey continues to boil. While the dust of the shoot down of a Russian Su-24 flying near or into Turkish airspace from Syria has not even settled yet, fighter jets of the Greek and Turkish Air Forces continue to clash with each other over the Aegean Sea.
While no weapons have been fired, the dogfights between jocks of both NATO countries were not really a friendly match. On Tuesday 29 December six Turkish fighter jets escorting two Airbus CN235 aircraft violated Greek air space nine times, according to the Greek Ministry of Defence. Ankara denies the aircraft did anything wrong.
Hellenic Air Force cat and mouse
The Hellenic Air Force engaged – likely with its F-16 aircraft – leading to a cat and mouse game often practiced by many of the world’s air forces and known from movies like the 1980s classic Top Gun. No weapons were fired, but with aggression from both sides things can easily spin out of control.
Turkish F-16D shot down
Military jets from Greece and Turkey have often met each other in and around a 4 mile zone which resulting from a long standing twist of the boundaries of the nation’s borders, the natural resources in the area and airspace around the many islands – Greek and Turkish – in the Aegean Sea. Only once, in 1996, a Turkish F-16D was reportedly shot down by a Hellenic Air Force jet – killing one of two Turkish crew members while the second was rescued by Greek military forces.
This December the hostilities flared up again after political accusations from Greece that Turkey violated Greek airspace. The countries were in the brink of war since the 1930s, even though both are supposed to be friends within the NATO military alliance.
Textron owned Beechcraft is putting its hope on a fat order from the United Kingdom’s Ministry of Defence for its T-6 turboprop trainer aircraft, a company spokesman acknowledged. Beechcraft is about to finish the production of the 700-aircraft deal for the US military.
Since 2000 the Beechcraft T-6A Texan II has been replacing the Cessna T-37B Tweet within the US Air Force, with 449 T-6s delivered. The remainder of the 700-aircraft US deal goes to the US Navy (T-6B) and US Marine Corps, plus four specially adapted aircraft ordered by the US Army.
The Beechcraft trainer has had success abroad as well, with versions flying with the NATO Flying Training in Canada (24 CT-156 Harvard II), the Hellenic Air Force (25 T-6A + 20 armed T-6A NTA), the Israeli Air Force (25 T-6A), the Iraqi Air Force (15 T-6A + 24 T-6C ordered), the Mexican Air Force (12 T-6C+), the Mexican Navy (2 T-6+), the Royal Moroccan Air Force (24 T-6C), the Royal New Zealand Air Force (11 T-6C).
Now hopes are high for the United Kingdom, which sees the T-6 as the replacement for the Short Tucano in training both the Royal Air Force as well as Royal Navy future combat jet pilots; with an order in the range of 80 to 120 aircraft awaiting. As for new export customers: it won’t be easy for Beechcraft. The Pilatus PC-9 and PC-21 and the armed Embraer A-29 Super Tucano are very tough competitors, already having scooped up orders like for the Afghan Air Force that years earlier might have gone more naturally to Beechcraft.
There may be some other light on the horizon though. Upgrades of the basic A-model within the US Air Force, US Navy and Hellenic Air Force to C-standard are expected. The current C-model has a digital class cockpit with HUD, multi-function displays, HOTAS to access functions with buttons on the flight control stick and wing hard points, nice featured to incorporate on the A-model.
The cause of the dramatic Greek F-16 crash in Albacete, Spain, on January 26 was the result of an incorrect trim setting that went unnoticed, an accident investigation board has concluded. Eleven people lost their lives that day. The board’s findings were made public by the French Ministry of Defense on Monday 27 July. Most of the fatalities in the accident were French.
According to the board, the yaw trim was inadvertently set to maximum right deflection, drastically affecting the aerodynamics of the aircraft during takeoff. After the pilot of the two seat F-16D completed his before take off check list 20 minutes prior to the aircraft’s actual departure, the incorrect setting went unnoticed. In the time between the check and the actual take off, the knob for the trim setting may have accidentally been hit by something in the cockpit.
As the aircraft rotated, the incorrect setting caused the F-16 to turn right, heading for a platform were other aircraft were preparing for their mission. Data showed pilot tried to correct the unwanted turn by steering left, but the control inputs were insufficient to counter the right roll. The crashing F-16 hit several French Air Force aircraft as it came down, writing off a Mirage 2000D, two Alpha Jets and an Italian AMX. Several more aircraft sustained damage. Pics of the aftermath are here. The two pilots crewing the F-16 ejected, but fatally hit the ground.
Nine more people died in the crash at Albacete airbase in Spain. All were French personnel on the ground. Another 29 military personnel were wounded. The Greek F-16 was part of large formation of aircraft taking part in the Tactical Leadership Program (TLP) exercise.
The investigation board found that the manual trim panel in the F-16’s cockpit does not prevent all inadvertent movement of the setting. In this case, a check list used by the pilot is likely to have hit the panel without the pilot noticing it. The cockpit is also not equipped with a warning system for aircraft “mistrimming” prior to take off.
Other critical factors leading to the crash were the aircraft heavy gross weight, asymmetric configuration and a cross wind.
In an update on Monday’s tragic F-16 crash at Albacete in Spain, authorities have said that the Greek crew did in fact try to use their ejection seats immediately after take off. Their attempt ended fatal however, while the F-16 carried on to the ramp where other aircraft were preparing for take-off. Nine French military were killed as the steerless F-16 struck parked aircraft. The accident left 29 people wounded.
French Air Force chief of staff Denis Mercier stated that a technical failure seems to have led to the tragedy, which happened Monday at around 15:30 local time. The failure caused the F-16 to steer off course, with the crew initiating ejection. The Spanish Ministry of Defense confirmed the aircraft’s canopy was in fact jettisoned, and other sources suggest the crew did actually eject, but fatally hit the ground because of the aircraft’s attitude.
The F-16 is said to have come down on the ramp inverted. Pictures taken afterwards, show that at least one French Alpha Jet was destroyed by the crashing F-16 and that a French Mirage 2000D and an Italian AMX were severely damaged – and likely written off – by the fire that followed. All were taking part in a Tactical Leadership Program (TLP).
A Spanish investigation team is trying to determine the exact sequence of events and cause of the tragedy. Meanwhile, the bodies of the nine French victims were repatriated to Nancy airbase in France by a Spanish Air Force C-130 Hercules on Thursday. A Hellenic Air Force C-27J Spartan carried the bodies of the two F-16 pilots back home to Greece.
UPDATED 31 JANUARY 2015 | In a major incident at Los Llanos/Albacete airbase in Spain, a Hellenic Air Force Lockheed Martin F-16D crashed on Monday 26 January while taking part in NATO’s Tactical Leadership Program (TLP). The crashing airplane hit aircraft that were parked on the platform, with other personnel working there. The two F-16 crew members are confirmed dead, while another eight people died on the ground, with 29 people reported wounded of which one died later in the hospital. Pictures of the aftermath are here and here.
Check here for our latest update on the Albacete crash.
The accident happened around 15:30 local time, apparently right after the F-16D took off. Eye-witnesses reported a big explosion and fire. The Spanish Ministry of Defence later confirmed the jet lost power during take-off, its crew was unable to lift the aircraft and steer it away from parked planes on the platform.
The Spanish, Greek and French governments confirmed 11 fatalities, the two Greek pilots plus nine French military personnel on the ground (three male officers, one female officer and five male non-commissioned officers). Of the 29 wounded 11 are French, 10 are Italian and 8 (minor injuries) Americans. Five French and one Italian are in pretty bad shape. About 750 people of seven nations have been deployed to Albacete for the TLP 2015-1, according to Spanish sources. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said on Monday evening the tragedy ‘affects the whole NATO family.’
Aircraft on the ground affected or even destroyed by crash are reported as French Mirage 2000Ds and Alpha Jets, with the wreckage of the latter clearly visible on various pictures. An image appeared on Tuesday, showing burn marks on an Italian AMX. Other Images also show a Lakenheath-based US Air Force F-15E Strike Eagle, a German Tornado, two Eurofighter Typhoons and several AV-8B Harriers on base as well. The USAF has confirmed one of their Strike Eagles to be damaged, a second “too close to the crash site to determine if it has been damaged”. The third USAFE Strike Eagle returned to its homebase RAF Lakenheath alone, on 30 January 2015, with most of the US personnel deployed for the TLP.
The Tactical Leadership Program is an intensive military flying exercise that takes places several times a year. Its purpose is to teach pilots how to lead multi-aircraft and multi-national aircraft packages in combat missions. The history of the exercise goes all the way back to the Cold War. In the eighties and nineties, TLP took place over north western Europe, with aircraft operating out of Jever in Germany or Florennes in Belgium. The exercise was moved to Spain in 2009 because of better availability of airspace.
The crashed F-16D (nr. 084) belonged to 341 Mira, a Greek F-16 squadron based at Nea Anchialos airbase. Together with other participating aircraft, the Greeks arrived in Albacete last week to start the exercise.
List of participants TLP 2015-1
3 Lockheed Martin F-16C plus the 1 F-16D that crashed, Hellenic Air Force (341 Mira from Almiros/Nea Anchialos)
4 Eurofighter EF2000s, Spanish Air Force (ALA 11 from Morón)
2 Dassault Rafales, French Air Force (EC 01.091 from BA113 Saint Dizier)
2 Dassault Mirage 2000Ds, French Air Force (ETD 02.007 from BA133 Nancy/Ochey)
2 Mirage 2000-5, French Air Force (EC 01.002 from BA116 Luxeuil/St.Sauveur)
5 McDonnell Douglas AV-8B+, Italian Naval Aviation (Gruppo Aerei Imbarcati from Grottaglie/Taranto)
3 Boeing (McDonnel Douglas) F-15E Strike Eagle, 492nd Fighter Squadron, US Air Force in Europe (from RAF Lakenheath)
2 Dornier / Dassault Alpha Jets, French Air Force (EE 02.002 from BA120 Cazaux)
2 AMX, Italian Air Force (132° Gruppo from Istrana)
4 Panavia Tornado IDSs, German Air Force (Taktisches Luftwaffengeschwader 33 from Büchel)
2 British Aerospace Hawk, Royal Air Force (No. 100 Squadron from RAF Leeming)
According to the Spanish ministry of Defense, damage to other aircraft is being assessed.
Over the last decade, Albacete based aircraft were involved in two other deadly incidents in the area of or near the base. On 20 January 2009 three crew members died when two fighter jets collided in mid-air during combat training. On 4 May 2004 a single pilot died as he crashed on the way home after a refuelling mission.