Jordan flies about a dozen ex-Israeli Air Force Bell AH-1E/F Cobras in the “border patrol”, counter-insurgency role and in operations against so-called Islamic State forces, according to a fresh report by Reuters.
The international press agency quotes sources with insight in the deal, in which Israel apparently has transferred 16 of its decommissioned Bell attack helicopters to its Arab neighbour. Some are used for spare parts, but it is believed that 10 to 12 actually do fly. The Royal Jordanian Air Force already received 32 ex-US Army AH-1Fs, delivered in the late 1990s and beginning of the 2000s. About 20 to 25 of those are believed to still be operational, flying out of Zarqa Airbase, although some sources say only 12 are in flyable condition.
The location of the ex-Israeli Cobras is unknown, but may very well be a forward operating base aligned to the Cobra units based at Zarqa. Israeli Air & Space Force’s 160 Squadron flew the Cobras until it was disbanded in 2013 for budgetary and safety reasons. Jerusalem tried to sell the attack choppers to Nigeria first, but that deal was blocked by the United States as we reported earlier.
UPDATED 21APRIL 2015 | The Royal Saudi Air Force (RSAF) led air strikes on Houthi rebel positions in neighbouring Yemen has got a broad military support from many other Arab nations. As Airheadsfly.com got new data the RSAF F-15S (Strike) Eagles and EF2000 Typhoons didn’t fly into combat alone at all.
If our sources are correct the United Arab Emirates Air Force sent 30 of its fighter jets, mainly Lockheed Martin F-16E/F Desert Falcons and possibly a number of Dassault Mirage 2000s. The Royal Bahraini Air Force (RBAF) and Kuwait Air Force both said to have contributed about 15 combat jets each. If true, the relatively large RBAF contribution is remarkable, since the country has only about 15 to 17 operational F-16Cs and eight remaining and aging Northrop F-5Es.
The Kuwait Air Force used almost half of its 35 McDonnell Douglas (Boeing) F/A-18C/D Hornet fleet. The Qatar Emiri Air Force scrambled up to ten of its Mirage 2000s, while the Royal Jordanian Air Force flew six of its Lockheed Martin F-16s into combat in the Yemen.
Air Assets Operation Restoring Hope (known as Decisive Storm until the end of April 2015)
Royal Saudi Air Force (RSAF):
100 aircraft, including Boeing F-15C Eagle air-superiority fighters, Boeing F-15S (Strike) Eagles, Eurofighter EF2000 Typhoon multi-role fighters, Panavia Tornado interdictor / strike aircraft, Boeing E-3 Sentry AWACS aircraft, Boeing AH-64 Apache attack helicopters (unconfirmed), Aérospatiale (Airbus Helicopter) AS532M Cougar CSAR helicopters
United Arab Emirates Air Force (UAEAF):
30 fighter jets of Lockheed Martin F-16E/F Desert Falcon and Dassault Mirage 2000 type
Kuwait Air Force (KAF):
15 McDonnell Douglas F/A-18C/D Hornet multirole fighters. Some or all operating from King Khalid Airbase (Khamis Mushayt) in Saudi Arabia.
Royal Bahraini Air Force (RBAF):
15 aircraft of the Lockheed Martin F-16C Fighting Falcon and Northrop F-5 type
Qatar Emiri Air Force (QEAF):
10 Mirage 2000-5 fighters. Some or all operating from King Khalid Airbase (Khamis Mushayt) in Saudi Arabia.
Royal Jordanian Air Force (RDAF):
6 Lockheed Martin (General Dynamics) F-16A/B Fighting Falcon multirole fighters
Royal Moroccan Air Force:
6 Lockheed Martin F-16C/D Fighting Falcon multirole fighters
Sudanese Air Force:
3 to 6 Sukhoi Su-24 strike aircraft. Operating from King Khalid Airbase (Khamis Mushayt) in Saudi Arabia. Moreover the Sudanese Air Force has likely deployed some of its four C-130 Hercules and possible its two Shaanxi Y-8 transport aircraft in support
Egyptian Air Force:
US Air Force (USAF):
Boeing KC-135 Stratofortress upon Saudi request. First refuelling mission flown on 8 April 2015.
The air strikes are focusing on Houthi rebel positions, air defence sites, air bases and Sanaa international airport, command-and-control locations and army camps in Sanaa, Saada and Taiz. The first strikes were launched on 25 or 26 March 2015, with ground forces engaged as well in what has been dubbed Operation Decisive Storm. Officially it takes place under the flag of the Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf or Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), of which Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates are the members.
Footage posted by AlAribya on YouTube
Saudi Arabia has said to have committed a 100 aircraft, as well as 150,000 ground forces. The six F-16C/D Fighting Falcons that the Royal Moroccan Air Force already had in the United Arab Emirates to fight ISIS in Iraq have also been retasked with supporting the Saudi-led operations in Yemen. Sudan committed three combat aircraft, Sukhoi Su-24s (“Fencer”) sources say. Egypt pledged its support as well, but there is no information yet on how many and which aircraft it will sent.
The conflict in Yemen is between loyalist forces that support fled president Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi and the Houthi / Zaidi Shia rebels. Main focus is the western part of the country. There the loyalist forces have the most support in the Sunnis south – with Aden as the principal city. Whoever control Aden, controls the sea lanes to/from the Red Sea – a main supply route for oil and other goods. The Arab coalition led by Saudi Arabia is said to be pushing towards Aden with a ground force of about 5,000 troops.
The Houthi forces have a strong control of the northern part of the west, mainly north of the capital of Sanaa. They easily took control of the capital last September and are known to be an effective fighting force, meaning the Arab coalition will very likely deploy combat aircraft and maybe helicopters in the close air-support role. In fact, the Saudis deployed armed helicopters (likely Apaches, but this is unconfirmed) on the border when its ground forces clased with Houthi forces.
Footage posted by AlAribya on YouTube
During a large part of the 20th century there were two Yemens. North Yemen became a state in 1918, while South Yemen freed itself from colonizer Britain. The two united on 22 May 1990, but unrest has plagued the country since 1993. In the current conflict Arab nations led by Saudi Arabia support the loyalist forces – including military ground and air ops since this week. Iran is opposing the use of weapons by its Arab neighbours, but has so far stayed out of the conflict militarily.
Houthi rebel combat planes
Officially at least, since some sources indicate that Islamic Republic of Iran Air Force pilots are flying combat planes of Yemeni Air Force units who sided or were overrun by Houthi rebels. One or more Iranian ships have also docket in Hudaidah with military equipment and ammunition on board earlier this March.
But with the Royal Saudi Air Force controlling Yemeni air space since Thursday 26 March, it is unlikely that Houthi planes with Yemeni or Iranian pilots will stand much of a change. In fact, according to several sources on 30 March 2015 the Saudi-led air strikes have destroyed at least 11 fighter jets of the Houthi rebels. The rebels got quite a prize in the third week of March, capturing Yemeni Air Force Al Anad Airbase with apparently up to 21 Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-29 Fulcrum fighter jets. Some sources say that the Houthis never had more than 16 combat aircraft in total, so the exact details are somewhat sketchy.
Jordan F-16s have destroyed 56 Islamic State (ISIS) targets over the last three days, the Jordan government in Amman stated on 8 February. The stepped up effort is a response to the brutal execution of the Jordan F-16 pilot captured by ISIS last December. On the same day, US foreign minister John Kerry said the international coalition has significantly forced back ISIS.
Along with actual bombardments, the Jordan authorities have also stepped up propaganda effort, with lots of footage of bombs being loaded and airstrikes being carried out, showing up on YouTube. The Jordanians are now responsible for 20 percent of all air strikes against ISIS. Weapons depots and hide outs have been destroyed, according to Amman.
The Royal Jordanian Air Force (RJAF) has several dozen Lockheed Martin F-16s in use, mostly of the F-16AM and BM versions. The first contract for 16 aircraft was signed in 1996, with deliveries starting in 1997. All are ex US, Belgian or Dutch aircraft, with 15 more former Royal Netherlands Air Force (RNLAF) aircraft on the way.
The Royal Jordanian Air Force is launching its training and light scout operations with its new Robinson R44 Raven II helicopters, ordered in October. The first four out of an order of eight were planned to be in the country before New Year, the second batch is destined to arrive in January or February 2015.
Jordan chose the relatively cheap and easy to fly R44 Raven II to replace its fleet of Hughes 500Ds. The latter have been in service since 1981. The new white R44s will be used for primary helicopter training at the King Hussein Air College in Mafraq, Jordan.
The RJAF Raven IIs are equipped with Garmin and Aspin “glass” avionics and the Bendix King’s military KTR909 UHF transceiver. Low maintenance and operating costs were apparently key in the purchase of Robinson machines, according to a brief statement by the Jordanian military.
Before the arrival of the new choppers, ten RJAF pilots already attended Robinson’s safety course, as well did a dozen Jordanian mechanics. This way both groups already had a chance to familiarize themselves with their new equipment.
A Royal Jordanian Air Force F-16 fighter jet crashed in an area of Northern Syria controlled by the so-called Islamic State forces on Wednesday 24 December 2014. The pilot was captured by ISIS / ISIL troops, that claimed to have shot down the aircraft. If true, it would mark the first time ISIS/ISIL succeeded in shooting down a jet aircraft.
According to a human rights watch group the aircraft came down near Raqqa. Initial speculation about the downed jet being a Royal Jordan Air Force F-16 was later confirmed by ISIS, Jordanian and US sources. A picture of the canopy of the aircraft appeared quickly on social media. The pilot was later shown in a ISIS video surrounded by armed men of a rebel group, and Jordan has confirmed it is missing one of its pilots without going into further details.
Despite claims of ISIS that it shot down the RJAF F-16, there is no conclusive evidence the airplane was indeed shot down; it may well have crashed due to other reasons. However, Islamic State force earlier succeeded in shooting down an Iraqi Air Force EC635 helicopter over Iraq – killing its crew – but never before a fighter aircraft. If they did, that may point to the ISIS/ISIL-forces are getting their hands on more advanced weaponry. However,
The international coalition fighting ISIS/ISIL forces includes F-16s from several countries, with both the Belgian Air Component and the Royal Netherlands Air Force operating F-16s out of Jordan. But they focus on Iraq and sources were quickly to indicate the captured pilot spoke Arabic. A US Air Force F-16 was lost in an accident over Jordan on Sunday 30 November 2014, killing its pilot. The aircraft was involved in operations against ISIS / ISIL, but was not engaged in any combat action at that time.
The downing / crash of the RJAF F-16 in hostile area raises questions on how realistic and effective combat search and rescue (CSAR) missions are in the area. The thought of a CSAR mission package going into the area to retrieve a downed pilot in a environment this hostile and unpredictable, seems daunting. How well organised the international CSAR assets in the area are, is unknown. But the US did move A-10s from Afghanistan into Kuwait earlier, partly to support a possible future CSAR scenario.