The US Civil Air Patrol (CAP), the official US Air Force civilian “home reserve” confirmed in 1948 by the US Congress, placed an order for 21 new Cessna Skyhawk 172 light utility aircraft on 2 February 2015.
The CAP has been buying Cessnas for 40 years, that are included in the fleet of 535 light aircraft, mostly Skyhawks and the Cessna Skylane 182 but it includes 46 gliders as well. These are supplemented by more than 4,000 aircraft of its volunteers. It’s a nice reserve that can be deployed for emergencies, with more than 34,370 senior members and about 24,500 cadets. They include 8,800 aircrew and 30,500 emergency responders trained to US Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) standards.
“Our largest customer for single-engine piston aircraft,” says Joe Hepburn, senior vice president of Cessna’s division for this type of machine. “The men and women of the CAP are involved in search-and-rescue operations, disaster relief, flight training, youth development and in promoting aviation throughout the country. We are proud to provide them aircraft in support of their mission.”
Don Rowland, chief operating officer of Civil Air Patrol adds: “Flying high wing aircraft is very helpful in conducting photo reconnaissance flights for emergency service providers in the aftermath of disasters, and the Skyhawk and Skylane are perfectly suited for our needs.”
Since 1955 Cessna has delivered more than 48,000 Skyhawks, which has become one of the most popular aircraft of the world of all times.
A naval version of the SAAB Gripen-E/F for the Brazilian Navy might be a step closer. The fleet air arm of Latin America’s biggest country has decided to not continue with the modernisation program of its carrier-borne fighter fleet as planned.
The first of 12 upgraded McDonnell Douglas A-4BR Skyhawk – dubbed AF-1/A locally – is about to go back to the Aviação Naval Brasileira (AvN) in January 2015, months later than originally envisaged. Meanwhile the Brazilian Navy has cut its upgrading project with Embraer by more than 50 percent to about 50 million US dollars. Moreover, the new AF-1/As are not planned to be fully upgraded and combat ready in Autumn 2015, but rather in 2017.
This slow-down is fuel for hardcore rumours that the AvN might opt sooner for a navalised SAAB Gripen, largely built by Embraer, instead. According to the Swedish manufacturer the changes to the original SAAB design are fairly easy and quickly made to get the Sea Gripen working.
Argentina is catching the eye these days for some extraordinary dance moves. Not the marvelous tango, but a Russian folk dance at the pay-back party seems to be the case. Here’s the tale of the Typhoon against the Fencer.
This autumn it came to light that Argentina was denied even to negotiate to buy up to 24 SAAB JAS 39 Gripen fighters by the British government. Since the Swedish planes are made and marketed with backing and cooperation of BAe Systems (the former British Aerospace), London has the power to block the export of a “typical” Swedish product.
But because of the war over the Falkland Islands / Islas Malvinas 32 years ago and the still ongoing political statements made every once in a while from Argentina, the British government doesn’t want to help selling stuff that it fears might someday bite back. With only a quartet of Royal Air Force Typhoons at QRA, a Voyager tanker and two Sea King choppers at RAF Base Mount Pleasant on East Falkland, other modern jets like the Gripen might just cause to much trouble if the British-Argentinian discussion over the islands turns sour.
12 Sukhoi Su-24
In a rather surprising move the Argentinians might now actually go for something that looks potentially more threatening: knock on the rent-a-plane store in Russia. Not your everyday sports plane either: rumour has it 12 Sukhoi Su-24s (NATO-name “Fencer”) are about to make their way to Fuerza Aérea Argentina in return for food supplies. With Moscow already being annoyed by NATO’s projection towards Ukraine in – what the Kremlin sees as interference – the Russian leadership is very likely not to put up any political barriers if Buenos Aires says “si”.
Half armed the Fencers with external fuel tanks could make it to the Falklands and supersonic speed, for example from Rio Gallegos Airbase in the south of the country, drop their bombs and make it back without even having to refuel. A fully armed Fencer doesn’t make it further than about 400 miles (630 km), but if the Argentina Air Force is able to use its KC-130 for in-flight “gas” it will be fuel on the fire of British worries.
Moreover, the Su-24 is quite capable of not only to bring drop-and-forget bombs, but also advanced air-to-air and air-to-ship missiles. True, the Argentine Air Force’s Mirage IIIs can do it too and maybe even with more finesse, but they are getting older, less airworthy and can carry less stuff on long-range missions. Neither the Mirages or the possible Su-24s have to fear much apart from the less than a handful Typhoons at Mount Pleasant. The UK’s Rapier ground-based air-defence missile system won’t make a difference if attacking planes stay above 15,000 feet and out of 5 miles (8 km) radius.
Moscow’s in tensions about the possible lease of the Fencers might even be to have Argentina opening up to even more sophisticated hardware. A future scenario where a pack of Su-24s are escorted by Sukhoi Su-27 air superiority fighters is not entirely unthinkable, even though it still seems far-fetched at this moment.
What is a fact is that Buenos Aires is in big need of new air assets. The current very much aging fighter and attack fleet is no match for the modern battlefield. The Argentine Navy Exocet-equipped Dassault Super Etendards might have caused havoc amongst the Royal Navy in 1982 and might do that again, but weapon systems of the British air and naval forces have advanced ever since.
It is commonly known that the Argentina Air Force has issues keeping it’s even less impressive fighter and attack fleet airborne. Buenos Aires feels its time for the Dassault Mirage IIIs and IAI Fingers / AMD M5 Daggers from Tandil Airbase and the McDonnell Douglas (O)A-4AR Fightinghawk (Skyhawk in the US) from Villa Reynolds Airbase to make way to something new. Russian supplied bombers – and fighters – with not so many strings attached might just make the dancing party extra interesting.
The announced sale negotiations of 28 ex-Czech Air Force L-159 ALCA advanced trainer aircraft to military subcontractor Draken International in the USA has brought new hopes to Czech aircraft manufacturer Aero Vodochody. With the American continent opening up to its aircraft, the company now starts developing a new and bigger trainer & light attack aircraft.
Czech media report that the new plane is designated L-169 and that it will be more Czech than the L-159, meaning less foreign components. According to an Aero spokesman the company intends to give the L-169 a bigger range than its predecessor, giving it a main fuel tank capable of 1,300 liters and innerwing storage for another 600 liters. A lot of times extended ranges are met by attaching underwing fuel pods, but they cause more drag and thus increasing the fuel consumption and decreasing the performance somewhat. The L-159 was able to cross 1,570 kilometres (845 nautical miles) on internal fuel and 2,530 km (1,365 nautical miles) with external fuel tanks.
The L-169 will primarily be designed as an advanced trainer, not like the L-159 that was meant to give the Czech Republic an affordable light combat capacity after the break-up of the Warsaw Pact and the limitation of military funds. With the combat role since 2005 taken over by the 14 much more capable Saab JAS 39C/D Gripen fighters, the L-159 has become less popular with its owner. Only 24 of 72 delivered planes are still in use, with the remainder mothballed.
For many of the decommissioned aircraft there seems to be a new life ahead across the Atlantic Ocean. Aero is talking to Florida based Draken International Inc to sell the subcontractor for the US military 28 L-159As from the Czech Air Force storage. “The successful conclusion of the sale and introduction of the aircraft in the USA would mark new phase in the life of L-159 and would bring significant benefits for Aero and other aerospace manufacturers in the Czech Republic, involved in the program”, according to a press release.
Draken International flies more than 50 military jets, including ex-Polish Air Force Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-21bis, McDonnell Douglas A-4 Skyhawks, Aero Vodochody L-39 Albatros and Alenia Aermacchi MB-339s. Draken is headquartered at Lakeland Linder Regional Airport and offers simulation of enemy aerial targets (aircraft, guided missiles), aerial training, tactical training, electronic warfare, in flight refueling and research and testing services to the US military.
Aero Vodochody has a good trainer reputation legacy to keep, with the historic L-29 Delfin and the still popular L-39 flying in both military and civilian roles worldwide.