Tag Archives: NATO

New European tankers one step closer

The Netherlands is ready to purchase two Airbus tanker/transport aircraft with Luxembourg, Dutch Defense minister Hennis Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert announced on Thursday 28 July.  The aircraft will be NATO property and will be stationed at Eindhoven airbase in the Netherlands for pooling and sharing. Belgium, Germany, Norway and Poland intend to join the agreement at a later date.

The purchase of the MRTT A330 type aircraft is an important step in filling the notorious European tanker gap. Compared to the US, European nations individually and combined have very limited air-to-air refuelling capabilities.

The European Defence Agency (EDA) is closely involved in the purchase of the aircraft. Luxembourg and the Netherlands will have exclusive user rights. In addition to the purchase, the MRTT project also covers maintenance and operational deployment. The Netherlands leads the multinational collaboration project.

The new aircraft will be registered in the Netherlands and stationed at Eindhoven airbase, as reported previously here at Airheadsfly.com.  A study will be carried out to determine whether European Air Transport Command, which is also stationed in Eindhoven, will be able to supervise the MRTT pool.

Costs and personnel will be allocated on the basis of the number of flying hours that each country needs. The expected life span of the fleet is 30 years and the investment budget is between €250 million EUR and 1 billion EUR.


The Netherlands and Luxembourg recorded the agreement in a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU). The contract with Airbus was signed today. If Belgium, Germany, Norway and Poland decide to take part in the agreement, both the MoU and the quotation given by Airbus allow for expansion. If more countries do indeed decide to join, the design costs will be shared with these countries too, leading to lower costs for Luxembourg and the Netherlands. The number of A330 MRTT aircraft to be purchased could eventually rise to 8.


The 2 participating countries are examining the possibility of collaboration with France and the UK, among others, in relation to training and instruction as well as maintenance. France is set to receive its first A330 aircraft in 2018. The UK already has A330 MRTTs in service.

The 2 aircraft will be delivered from 2020. In the same year, the Royal Netherlands Air Force will start to gradually decommission its current two KDC-10 aircraft.

Spain and Belgium take over Baltic Air Policing

Spanish Eurofighter Typhoons and Belgian Lockheed Martin F-16s this week take over NATO’s Baltic Air Policing mission from Hungarian Saab Gripens and German Typhoons respectively. Spain is acting as ‘lead’ nation.

Four Spanish Typhoons left their homebase of Albacate on Monday 4 January and headed for Šiauliai airbase in Lithuania. From there, Hungarian Gripens over the last three months performed 25 live intercepts of mainly Russian aircraft near the Baltics. The Hungarians clocked up 430 flying hours in total. Airheadsfly.com reported about Baltic Air Policing in Šiauliai last November, spectacular pics included.

Four Belgian F-16s- two from both Kleine Brogel airbase and Florennes airbase – are due at Ämari airbase in Estonia, previously a temporary home to German Typhoons.

The changeover ceremony for the total Baltic Air Policing mission is scheduled for Thursday 7 January. The changeover marks the 40th rotation for the mission, which in 2014 was doubled in size over increased Russian air activity.

© 2016 Airheadsfly.com editor Elmer van Hest
Featured image: A Spanish Eurofighter C.16 in its usual habitat (Image © Ejército del Aire)

Final C-17 Globemaster leaves Long Beach

After 21 years and 279 aircraft procuded, the curtain falls for Boeing C-17 Globemaster III production in Long Beach, California. The final C-17 left the production facility on Sunday 29 November on it’s way to another Boeing facility in Texas in preparation for delivery to the Qatar Emiri Air Force next year.

Qatar is one of nine operators of the  Boeing C-17 Globemaster, the military transport aircraft that first flew on 15 September 1991 from Long Beach. The US Air Force is the largest operator by far, taking 223 aircraft. The last USAF-delivery took place in 2013.


Over the last decade, India quickly became the second largest operator, counting 10 Globemaster. Australia and the UK both operate eight aircraft. Other operators are Canada, NATO, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

Along with the UAE, Qatar was one of the operators to snatch up some of the last Globemasters remaining for sale. Ahead of closing down production, Boeing decided to produce a dozen or so ‘white-tail’ C-17s; aircraft with no formal customer. Other countries to take some of these aircraft were India, Australia and Canada.

© 2015 Airheadsfly.com editor Elmer van Hest

RAAF C-17 Globemaster III (Image © Commonwealth of Australia, Department of Defence)
An Australian C-17 Globemaster III (Image © Commonwealth of Australia, Department of Defence)

NATO aircraft hunting Russian submarine near Scotland

NATO maritime patrol aircraft of France and Canada have come to the rescue of the Royal Air Force and are hunting a Russian sub off the coast of Scotland, according to some British sources on Monday 23 November 2015.

The Russian submarine was apparently detected a number of days ago just north of the United Kingdom. With the RAF having no anti-submarine capacity of its own, the UK Ministry of Defence called Paris and Ottawa. Two French Navy Dassault Atlantique 2 and a Royal Canadian Air Force Lockheed CP-140 Polaris are now forming the make-shift airborne maritime patrol fleet, operating out of RAF Lossiemouth.

The BAe Systems Nimrod MRA4 prototype during the 2007 RIAT at RAF Fairford. The project was later scrapped (Image © Marcel Burger)
The BAe Systems Nimrod MRA4 prototype during the 2007 RIAT at RAF Fairford. The aircraft was meant to be the future RAF sub hunter, but the project was later scrapped (Image © Marcel Burger)


London officially acknowledges the presence of “foreign aircraft” at Lossiemouth, but does not comment in length on their operations. Royal Navy sources however have confirmed the involvement of at least one frigate and a hunter-killer submarine in offshore operations in the area without releasing details.

Boeing P-8 Poseidon

If the NATO aircraft are indeed actively involved in “the hunt for Red November”, it marks the third time in 12 months this happens. Relieve is on the way, the Ministry of Defence just announced the purchase of nine Boeing P-8 Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft today. But since it will take a few years for the production to be done, NATO will likely have to step in again to serve Her Majesty’s once tough air weapon.

© 2015 Airheadsfly.com editor Marcel Burger
Featured image (top): A French Navy Atlantique 2 (Image © Jacques Tonard / Marine Nationale)

Kick off: large NATO exercise Trident Juncture

NATO allies and partner nations kicked off the Alliance’s Trident Juncture live military exercise on Monday 19 October during an opening ceremony at the Trapani air force base in Italy, launching three weeks of intensive training involving 36,000 troops from more than 30 nations across Italy, Spain and Portugal.

“Trident Juncture is the largest NATO exercise for over a decade,” said Deputy Secretary General Ambassador Alexander Vershbow. “Trident Juncture will increase our readiness and our ability to work together, including with our partners. It will demonstrate that NATO is capable of responding to threats from any direction.”

Ambassador Vershbow stressed that the exercise also showed the Alliance’s commitment to transparency and predictability. “We seek confrontation with no one. That is why we have invited observers from around the world, from as far away as Colombia and Russia.”

Opening ceremony of the Trident Juncture 2015 exercise. (Image © NATO)
Opening ceremony of the Trident Juncture 2015 exercise. (Image © NATO)

The Deputy Secretary General was joined by Italian Undersecretary of State for Defence, Gioacchino Alfano and Ambassadors from the North Atlantic Council at the ceremony which included a fly-by of Allied fighter, heavy lift and surveillance aircraft as well as helicopters. The Chairman of the NATO Military Committee, Gen. Petr Pavel and Supreme Allied Commander Gen. Philip Breedlove also attended.

Trident Juncture will continue until November 6. The exercise will also certify next year’s NATO Response Force headquarters and the functions of the new very-high readiness Spearhead Force.

Source: NATO

Featured image: Participants for Trident Juncture arriving at Trapani (Image © NATO)

Opening ceremony of the Trident Juncture 2015 exercise. (Image © NATO)
Opening ceremony of the Trident Juncture 2015 exercise. (Image © NATO)
Opening ceremony of the Trident Juncture 2015 exercise. (Image © NATO)
Opening ceremony of the Trident Juncture 2015 exercise. (Image © NATO)