The Royal Jordanian Air Force will get its two CASA (Airbus) CN235 Light Gunships in Spring 2014, a spokesperson of the US ATK Defence Group told the international press at the FIDAE 2014 fair in Chile last weekend.
Produced in Sevilla, Spain, the CN235s were sent to ATK on order of the King Abdullah II Design and Development Bureau (KADDB) in Jordan. The flight test program, commenced in November 2013, is soon to be concluded, upon which delivery will take place.
In collaboration with KADDB, ATK developed and provided the system integration and aircraft modifications to turn the cargo plane into a gunship. These modifications include installation of an electro-optical targeting systems, a laser designator, aircraft self-protection equipment, a synthetic aperture radar and weaponry. The latter comprises of the use of Hellfire lase-guided missiles, 2.75-inch rockets and a side-mounted M230 link-fed 30mm chain gun.
The gun is automatically aligned to the target, cued by a camera in conjunction with the mission management and fire control solution. These capabilities are integrated with and controlled by ATK’s Mission System, which provides both day and night reconnaissance and fire control capabilities, and the ability to acquire, monitor and track items of interest.
The Pakistan Air Force has purchased a whole F-16 squadron from Jordan, Pakistani media report. Without the pilots and ground crews of course.
The aircraft, 12 F-16AM and a single F-16BM of the Block 15 standard, will start operations in March this year and is hoping to keep them airborne for the next 20 years. The PAKAF already flies 63 F-16s of various versions.
It is not clear yet whether the ex-Jordanian Vipers are from the batch of sixteen Belgian Air Component and 8 Royal Netherlands Air Force F-16s the Southwest Asian country received in 2008.
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!
USA based ATK has completed its first test flight of two Royal Jordanian Air Force CASA / EADS / Airbus CN235 light gunship aircraft on 4 November 2013, the company announced.
ATK was awarded a contract by King Abdullah II Design and Development Bureau (KADDB) of Jordan to modify two of the country’s current CN235 transport aircraft into special mission planes. With modifications and ground testing complete, ATK began the flight test program to validate the installed weapons and gun system.
The modifications include installation of an electro-optical targeting systems, a laser designator, aircraft self-protection equipment, a synthetic aperture radar, and an armaments capability that can provide sustained and precise firepower in a variety of scenarios using Hellfire laser-guided missiles, 2.75-inch rockets, and a side-mounted M230 link-fed 30mm chain gun. The gun is automatically aligned to the target, cued by a camera in conjunction with the mission management and fire control solution. These capabilities are integrated with and controlled by ATK’s Mission System, which provides both day and night reconnaissance and fire control capabilities, and the ability to acquire, monitor and track potential targets.
ATK is specialised in rebuilding aircraft into surveillance or combat assets and has done so as well on the C-27J, the C-130, the Bombardier Dash-8, the Beechcraft King Air and the Cessna Caravan.
The Netherlands will sell 15 of its decommissioned F-16AM fighter jets together with 52 Maverick air-to-ground missiles to Jordan, confirmed Dutch Minister of Defence Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert on Wednesday September 25, 2013.
Jordan plans to replace older fighters with the newer and modernised F-16s that flew with the Royal Netherlands Air Force (RNLAF).
A few years ago Jordan already received 6 ex-Dutch F-16Bs two-seaters. The Netherlands currently has 61 Lockheed Martin F-16s active and will soon finalise the order for its replacement: the Lockheed Martin F-35A Lightning II, aka Joint Strike Fighter.