UPDATED 10 June | One week prior to the Paris Air Show at Le Bourget, it’s clear that Pakistan stole everybody’s thunder by sending over three JF-17 Thunder fighter aircraft. The aircraft left Pakistan for France on Sunday 7 June. Le Bourget kicks off on Monday 15 June, with other high lights being the Bombardier CSeries and a sizable delegation from both Boeing and – remarkably – Qatar Airways.
Update 10 June: Airbus has confirmed an Airbus A400M will take part in the flying display. The company says it has complete confidence in the aircraft
The JF-17 is a joint endeavour by Pakistan and China, both already operating significant numbers of the type, although the Chinese prefer to call it the JC-1. Several countries have shown interest in the type, Argentina reportedly being one of them. One JF-17 will be on static display at Le Bourget, while the other two will be used for a solo flying display.
Bombardier The Paris Air Show marks the debut of the Bombardier CS100 and CS300 airliners, both still in development and in need of customers. Swiss was officialy announced as launch customer for the CS100 earlier this year, with deliveries commencing no sooner than next year.
Boeing On the military side of things, Boeing will bring a CH-47F Chinook, P-8A Poseidon and F-15E to Paris. The no-show of the F/A-18 Super Hornet is noteworthy, as the type is rumoured to have drawn interest from Kuwait. Other sources mention Kuwait is now eyeing the Eurofighter Typhoon, however. The P-8A is a serious contender for the UK, with an order on the cards in the not too distant future. Boeing will also present a 787-900 Dreamliner in Vietnam Airlines colours, plus a China Airlines 777-300ER.
For the US, an A-10C Thunderbolt tank killer should also pay a visit to Le Bourget. The type is currently deployed in Europe and the focus of a Boeing-effort of selling used airframes to interested nations.
Closer to home, Airbus is dispatching a A350XWB and an A380 to Le Bourget. It is uncertain if the Airbus A400M will be present at all after the fatal crash on 9 May in Seville, Spain. Airbus Helicopters will show a lot of its portfolio during the show
Quite remarkable is the presence of Qatar Airways at Le Bourget with an Airbus A380, A350, A320, A319 and a 787 Dreamliner. The major delegation fits into the current aggressive Qatar Airways marketing in Europe, which many European airlines see as a major threath to their business. It is said the recent order for 24 Dassault Rafale aircraft has opened many French doors for Qatar – the door of the Paris Air Show apparently being one of those doors.
Bombardier Commercial Aircraft is sending the CS100 to its international airshow debut at Le Bourget nex month, the Canadian company said on 7 May. The aircraft will also pay a visit to Zürich, Switzerland as part of a demonstration organized for Swiss International Air Lines’ local stakeholders. Swiss is launch customer of the CS100, receiving the first airliner in the first half of 2016.
The CS100 first flew on 15 September 2013. Swiss was previously announced as the launch customer for the CSeries aircraft program after parent Deutsche Lufthansa AG (Lufthansa) signed a firm purchase agreement in 2009 for 30 CS100 single-aisle aircraft for Swiss.
Bombardier has booked orders and commitments for 603 CSeries aircraft, which include firm orders for 243 CSeries airliners.
Boeing and Air France Industries KLM Engineering & Maintenance (AFI KLM E&M) have successfully completed the Mid-Life Upgrade modification on the first of four E-3F Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS) aircraft for the French Air Force. The upgrade is part of a 2010 agreement between France and the US.
In June last year, AFI KLM E&M began upgrading the electrical, mechanical and structural systems and mission hardware on this aircraft. The Mid Life Upgrade – the largest ever for French AWACS – will provide the fleet a robust picture of the battlespace and more actionable information while reducing aircrew workload.
The aircraft now will undergo ground and flight tests at Avord Air Base before being delivered to the Air Force later this year once qualified by DGA. The upgrade is the most important to date for the French fleet and is modeled on the Block 40/45 contract developed for the U.S. AWACS fleet. “The Mid-Life Upgrade capability of this airborne surveillance, command and control platform is unrivaled,” said Steve Swanz, Boeing’s French AWACS program manager.
While the first AWACS aircraft was housed at the AFI KLM E&M site at Le Bourget Airport near Paris, the three other AWACS aircraft will be upgraded in a new facility owned by AFI KLM E&M at Charles De Gaulle Airport in Paris. A dedicated Boeing team will continue to provide on-site leadership, engineering, quality assurance support, hardware and software while working together with the Air France Industries modification team.
It’s extraordinary to think that back in the early seventies, an average computer was the size of an average refrigerator. But that probably wasn’t what was going on in the mind of test pilot Phil Oestricher when he – albeit unintended – took the YF-16 to the air for the first time forty years ago, on 20 January 1974. It was the soon to be first large scale mass produced fighter jet flying with microchips and fly-by-wire, and boy did it almost end in disaster. Eventually of course, it came out a winner – and the flying proof of a digital, computerized future.
Oestricher and the people at General Dynamics must have watched in horror as the prototype YF-16, stuffed with micro computer technology that was basically unheard of in those days, accidentally got airborne during a fast taxi test at Edwards Air Force Base. What followed was an almost comical struggle between a pilot – wanting not to fly – and his aircraft wanting to fly. In the end, Oestricher (read his story here) decided to take the aircraft up. He landed back at Edwards immediately after, safely ending what later became known as ‘flight zero’. Two weeks later, he took the YF-16 up for the official ‘first’ flight.
That wobbly ‘flight zero’ in no way illustrates the phenomenal success the General Dynamics F-16 Fighter Falcon – or Electric Jet or Viper – became soon afterwards. As small as the aircraft is – 14.8 meters long and 9.8 meters wide – as big was and still is its commercial success. The USAF was of course the first user, but in ‘The Sale Of The Century’ the F-16 was also sold by the hundreds to Belgium, the Netherlands, Norway and Denmark. The deal was signed following the 1975 Paris Le Bourget airshow, where pilot Neil Anderson demonstrated the previously unseen manoeuverability of the YF-16.
Nowadays, 24 countries use the various further developed versions of the original YF-16. The two prototypes were followed by several pre-production aircraft, after which serial production started on three lines, which eventually became five lines in as many countries. The A/B versions were followed by the C/D versions. More recently E/F and I versions entered service. More obscure Fighting Falcons are the delta winged F-16XL and the General Electric J-79 equipped F-16/79. The US Navy’s (T)F-16N aggressor aircraft were also relatively short-lived.
More than 4,540 F-16s have been produced, mostly at the Lockheed Martin production line at Fort Worth. Apart from the four first European customers, Israel, Venezuela and Pakistan were among the early adopters as well, ordering aircraft in the early eighties. More recent customers include Chile, Morocco and Iraq. Lockheed Martin took over General Dynamics in 1993 and now has 48 aircraft remaining on order, according to a statement released on Thursday. Among the remaining orders are aircraft for Oman and Iraq. When asked, the company wouldn’t comment on any special activities relating to the Vipers’ 40th birthday.
Many Vipers have changed ownership already, with the US selling or leasing lots of of their surplus aircraft to other countries. Early model F-16A and B aircraft soon found their way to Israel, and later on similar aircraft were also delivered to Jordan. A small number of US F-16Cs went to Indonesia.
Belgium and the Netherlands are also in the business of selling Vipers abroad, customers being Jordan and Chile. Some F-16s are third hand already, as Portugal sold second hand Vipers to Romania last year.
In the pocket
The whine of either the Pratt and Whitney PW220 or General Electric F110 that equips the F-16 will be heard for many years to come, as Vipers are started up at airfields around the world to fill and patrol the skies. The computerized F-16 paved the way for many military and commercial airplanes, and also for many technological applications that are now standard in every household, and possibly even in the pocket of your jeans – if that’s where you keep your cellphone.
It’s extraordinary to think what an impact this little agile fighter has had. It sure didn’t look that way on 20 January 1974. Cheers!
“Why enemy pilots don’t sleep well”, said an eighties General Dynamics advertisement for the F-16 Fighting Falcon *. “Why allied pilots don’t sleep well”, is what applies to the Sukhoi Flanker family. The Flanker is a slender, delicate and elegant looking machine despite its surprisingly large dimensions. But most of all it is a feared fighter. Stuff of nightmares, really.
Let’s count from 10 to 37. The Flanker prototypes were designated T10, and the very first flight took place on 20 May 1977. NATO came up with the name ‘Flanker A’ for the prototypes, and ‘Flanker B’ for the production Su-27s that followed.
Counting on to 30. The Su-30 is a two-seat variant based on the Su-27UB ‘Flanker C’ trainer aircraft. Not many were built of the ‘vanilla’ Su-30 without thrust vectoring. Variants with thrust vectoring became a valuable Russian export success, however.
The Flanker platform was used for various other roles as well. The most ‘Frankenstein Flanker’ is probably the Su-34 Fullback, known earlier as Su-27IB and Su-32FN.
Going hi-tech now with the Su-37 Flanker F. This aircraft stunned airshow crowds in the nineties with truly spectacular moves that made the famous ‘Cobra’ act by Su-27s and MiG-29s look like childs play. If allied pilots weren’t worried before, they definitely were now.