Tag Archives: Portugal

Real Thaw 17 in Portugal: mission accomplished

Beja airbase in Portugal was a hive of military aviation activity in for two weeks in March. Responsible for all of this, was exercise Real Thaw 2017,  an air force exercise, planned and conducted by the Portuguese Air Command. The main objective of Real Thaw 17 was to evaluate and certify the operational capability of air power in a multinational joint training environment.

This ninth edition of Real Thaw saw participation of aircraft from almost every Portuguese Air Force squadron, ranging from F-16AMs from Monte Real airbase, P-3C Orion, Alpha Jets en Alouette helicopters from  from Beja itself, plus C-130 Hercules and C-295M Persuader from Montijo airbase.

Image © Jorge Ruivo
Image © Jorge Ruivo
Image © Jorge Ruivo
Image © Jorge Ruivo

US forces

The US Air Force Europe took part with two C-130J Super Hercules tactical transport aircraft and approximately 70 personnel from the 86th Airlift Wing, Ramstein Air Base, in Germany. During the exercise, the 37th Airlift Squadron will focus on tactical airlift training including formation and low-level flying, assault landings, and personnel and equipment airdrops with paratroopers from US Army Europe and partner nations.

Also participating were two MV-22s Ospreys from VMM-764, one KC-130 and 60 U.S. Marines from the Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force – Crisis Response – Africa (SPMAGTF-CR-AF) staged in Moron Air Base, Spain.

Image © Jorge Ruivo
Image © Jorge Ruivo

Other players

Other ‘players’ were the Netherlands and Belgium with a C-130H-30 Hercules each, plus Spain with EF-18 Hornets and a single C212 Aviocar from Ala 37, a small aircraft that thanks to its hardness and ability to operate from unprepared runways, carried out infiltration and extraction missions of special forces during Real Thaw 17. Finally, NATO dispatched a Geilenkirchen-based E-3A Sentry for air surveillance.

According to all participants, Real Thaw 17 ended with the sense of mission accomplished on March 17. The development of techniques, tactics and procedures, as well as the sharing of knowledge and experience, have added value in achieving a more proficient and cohesive operational structure in the carry out of the missions.

© 2017 Airheadsfly.com contributor Jorge Ruivo

Image © Jorge Ruivo
Image © Jorge Ruivo
Image © Jorge Ruivo
Image © Jorge Ruivo

Romania receives first F-16s

Romania took delivery of its very first F-16 fighter jets on Wednesday 28 September. Six aircraft switched ownership at Monte Real airbase in Portugal, transfering from the Portuguese Air Force to the Romanian Air Force. Some of these jets are actually third hand aircraft now, having served in the US Air Force earlier.

The aircraft will fly to Romania on Thursday, where they will be based at Fetesti airbase. Romania ordered the F-16s from surplus inventory in Portugal back in 2013, buying twelve in total. The remaining six jets will be delivered in 2017 at the latest.

The F-16s replace age old MiG-21s that are well past their retirement age.




Getting tough during Real Thaw 2016

From 21 February to 4 March, Portugal was the stage of Real Thaw, the annual exercise that provides special training to NATO units most likely to participate in military operations within international cooperative frame works. And if Portugal was the stage, Beja airbase was the dressing room. Fighter aircraft, transporters and helos all played their part.

Other than delivering jet noise over large parts of Portugal, the main goal of Real Thaw 2016 was to provide tough tactical training with participation of air, land  and sea forces and focusing on the execution phase. Participating forces were confronted with an operating environment as realistic as possible and typical of current operations, according to the Portuguese Air Force, organizer of Real Thaw.

(Image © Jorge Ruivo)
(Image © Jorge Ruivo)
(Image © Jorge Ruivo)
Many transport aircraft were involved in Real Thaw… (Image © Jorge Ruivo)
(Image © Jorge Ruivo)
…. as were plenty of fighter jets. (Image © Jorge Ruivo)
(Image © Jorge Ruivo)
An F-16 cleans up the gear. (Image © Jorge Ruivo)


The Portuguese sent all their assets to join Real Thaw, including F-16s, Alfa Jets, C-130 Hercules plus P-3 and C295 maritime patrol aircraft. Forces from other countries were invited to participate in Real Thaw 2016 in order to create a joint-operational environment.

Participation also came from the US (F-15, MV-22 and C-130), Norway (F-16), the Netherlands (C-130), Belgium (C-130), Denmark (AS550 support helicopters), Spain (C-212 light transport aircraft) and the UK. Also, a NATO E-3A Awacs was involved.

(Image © Jorge Ruivo)
Back on terra firma after a mission. (Image © Jorge Ruivo)
(Image © Jorge Ruivo)
The US Air Force brought a two seater F-15D to Beja. (Image © Jorge Ruivo)
(Image © Jorge Ruivo)
Portuguese Alfa Jets are known to wear attractive paint jobs. (Image © Jorge Ruivo)
(Image © Jorge Ruivo)
Taking part also were two MV-22 Ospreys. (Image © Jorge Ruivo)

Day and night

Missions took place at both day and night times environments and included the use of para jumpers, forward air controllers and other ground forces. The coordination of Real Thaw 2016 was run from Beja Air Base in central Portugal. In order to give support to air and ground missions that took place further north in the areas of Guarda and Pinhel,  a tactical air base was temporarily set up near the town of Seia.

Real Thaw 2016 was the eighth exercise in a series conducted by the Portuguese Air Force since 2009.

© 2016 Airheadsfly.com contributor Jorge Ruivo – www.cannontwo.blogspot.pt
Featured image (top): An F-16 thunders away from Beja. (Image © Jorge Ruivo)

(Image © Jorge Ruivo)
The maritime element in Real Thaw 2016: a P-3 Orion. (Image © Jorge Ruivo)
(Image © Jorge Ruivo)
Two Alfa Jets approach Beja in formation. (Image © Jorge Ruivo)
(Image © Jorge Ruivo)
Eagle at dusk. (Image © Jorge Ruivo)

Romania eyes more F-16s

The Romanian Air Force is starting the search to purchase another batch of 12 F-16 Fighting Falcon aircraft. This was revealed by plans of the Mihnea Motoc, the Romanian Minister of Defence on 26 February. It is planned the deal is going to be signed in 2017.

In 2015 the Romanian Air Force already bought a batch of 12 F-16s from Portugal, of which the first is expected to be delivered later this year, presumably september. Where the second batch of second hand Fighting Falcons will come from, isn’t clear at this moment, as Motoc stated: “To date, we have sent out requests for information to all the allied countries which operate such planes, including the US and five European allies.”

The extra purchase is made possible as Romania increased the defence expenditure up to 2% of the GDP, as stated in a memorandum of understanding in 2015. The reason of the increase has everything to do with the international situation, as a result of for example the Ukrainian crisis.

As we reported earlier, in November 2014 the first Romanian Air Force pilots flew solo on the Lockheed Martin F-16 Fighting Falcon from Monte Real air base in Portugal (click here).

© 2016 Airheadsfly.com editor Dennis Spronk
Featured image: 
A Portuguese Air Force F-16s similar to the ones Romania has bought (Image © Força Aérea Portuguesa)

Martinair crash Faro keeps the Dutch busy

Twenty-three years after Martinair flight MP495 crashed upon landing at Faro International Airport in Portugal, what happens keeps the Dutch busy.

The national news program EenVandaag adds a new chapter to the story on 16 January 2016, by quoting a former supervising technician saying the McDonnell Douglas DC-10 should never have left Amsterdam airport.

Landing gear

According to the technician, whose job apparently was to check the aircraft before clearing them for flight, to EenVandaag he was pressured to sign off while planned replacement of the landing gear of the wide-body airliner was postponed three times.

Wind shear crash cause

On 21 December 1992 the DC-10 crash-landed at Faro, killing 56 people on board and severely wounding at another 106. Wind shear is commonly blamed of having caused the crash, while other say pilot errors may have contributed or caused the crash. The news item puts the safety of the plane in doubt and puts new fuel in a public debate that has lasted more than two decades.

Investigation classified

Parts of the investigation documents have been classified by the Netherlands and will first be open to the public by the year 2073.

© 2016 Airheadsfly.com editor Marcel Burger
Featured image: Pre-announcement on the EenVandaag website on the upcoming news item on the MP495 crash at Faro, 16 January 2016 (Image © Airheadsfly.com)