You read it first last week here on Airheadsfly.com, and today it’s confirmed by Alenia Aermacchi. On Wednesday 29 October, the Italian aircraft manufacturer and the Slovak Defence Ministry signed a contract for the supply of two C-27J Spartan aircraft, including initial logistic support plus pilot and maintenance personnel training. First delivery is expected in 2016.
The acquisition of the C-27J by the Slovak Air Force is part of the Slovak Armed Forces’ modernisation programme, of which the two new tactical transport aircraft are a first step. The contract ends years of negotiations following a bid issued by the Slovak Defence Ministry. The bid ended in 2008 with the selection of the C-27J.
Alenia Aermacchi describes the Slovak Defence Ministry’s choice as prove that the Spartan is an ‘excellent cost-effective solution that offers the performance and capabilities of a true military transport aircraft’. According to the Italian company, the Slovak Air Force intends to increase its contribution to NATO, and the C-27J Spartan provides the means to do so.
The C-27J Spartan is new-generation, medium battlefield airlifter that is currently selling well. The aircraft is a twin-engine, turboprop, tactical transport aircraft with state-of-the-art technology in avionics, propulsion and other onboard systems. It provides performance, operating flexibility and cost efficiency, plus interoperability with heavier airlifters.
Apart from Slovakia, the aircraft has been ordered by the air forces of Italy, Greece, Bulgaria, Lithuania, Rumania, Morocco U.S.A., Mexico, Australia, Peru and an undisclosed African nation, which however is widely known to be Chad. Total orders now stand at 78 airplanes.
The government of Slovakia has confirmed it has finally decided to buy two C-27J Spartan tactical airlifters from Italian aircraft builder Alenia Aermacchi, with the contract to be signed in the last week of October. The deal is also likely to be officially announced by then. The two aircraft replace a small fleet of older Antonov An-26 transporters.
Talks about the Slovak purchase have ongoing for years. The deadly crash of a Slovak Antonov in 2008 in neighbouring Hungaria sparked a debate about replacing the old, Soviet era airlifters. The Slovak Air Force transport fleet is based at Malacky airbase, with VIP transport taking place from the capital of Bratislava.
According to Alenia Aermacchi, the C-27J Spartan is ideal for troop and materials transport, medical evacuation, paratroop and materials airdrops, search and rescue (SAR), logistic supply, humanitarian support, firefighting and civil emergency operations support. Purpose-designed kits also allow VIP transport and other missions. The combat MC-27J version is currently in development.
Slovakia should receive its first aircraft in 2016, with the second following a year later. Other C-27J operators include the United States (21, including 14 used by the US Coast Guard and 7 for the Army Special Operations Command), Italy (12), Greece (8), Romania (7), Morocco (4), Mexico (4), Bulgaria (3) and Lithuania (3). Australia ordered 10 Spartans, with the first one up for delivery next year, while Peru is up for four aircraft. with first delivery exptected next March. An African country – never publicly disclosed but known to be Chad – also ordered two Spartans.
Slovakia is eager to lease eight to twelve SAAB JAS 39C/D Gripen aircraft for the coming 10 to 15 years. According to Radio Slovakia on 28 July 2014, the Defense Minister of the East-European country, Martin Glváč, confirmed that Slovak fighter pilots will fly the Swedish jets.
Talks between Swedish authorities and Bratislava have been going on for some time now, with Slovakia aiming to have the new fighter enter service from 2016. The Slovaks are also cuddling up with the Czech, with whom they formed one country between 1918 and 1992. The Czech have been happily leasing Gripens since 2004.
According to sources within the Slovakian government their Ministry of Defence has now “down selected” the Swedish-made fighter jet as the only real candidate to replace the aging fleet of six Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-29AS (single-seat) and two MiG-29UBS (two-seat) fighter aircraft at Sliač. Some sources say 1. Bojová letka (1. Combat Squadron), that flies the type, has only two fighters airworthy at a given time, illustrating how desperately the Slovaks are in need of a reliable air defence asset. The MiGs are due to be decommissioned from 2016.
Swedish Export Authority
In Sweden both sources within SAAB as well as the Swedish export authority (Försvarsexportmyndigheten) have confirmed that they are talking with Bratislava, but both have not disclosed in which phase these talks are.
The Slovakian Ministry of Defence has in the mean time knocked on the neighbours door. Plan is to first increase the co-operation between the Slovak Air Force’s (Vzdušné Sily Ozbrojených Síl Slovenskej Republiky) 1. Bojová letka at Sliač and the Czech Air Force’s (Vzdušné síly Armády České republiky) 211. Squadron at Čáslav already flying 14 SAAB Gripens. Thereby the fighter units from both countries get to know each other a bit better again, making a fantastic opportunity for peer-to-peer learning led by the Czech once Slovakia has received the same multi-role fighter. Slovak pilots also are already regular visitors of the Tactical Simulation Center (TSC) in the Czech Republic, featured in this exclusive Airheadsfly.com story.
Moreover, the two countries will semi-integrate their airspace with each other, thereby somewhat restoring air force activities before the 1992 break-up of Czechoslovakia, with Czech Gripens and Slovakian Fulcrums – that’s the NATO-reporting name for the MiG-29 – making cross-border sorties and landing at each others airfields without much of a fuss. Some say Bratislava is even looking for integration of its Gripens into a joint Czech-Slovakian unit at a joint airbase. But that is just one option being examined and certainly not something that will be done at this moment. “For now we just want to maximally use the scope for the development of our cooperation under current conditions,” state-secretary of the Czech Ministry of Defence Daniel Koštoval told the newspaper Lidové Noviny in April 2014.
Fierce wars are fought out daily in a low-key building at Pardubice airbase in the Czech Republic. Yet, inside the guarded building it is quiet. Men in flying suits walk in, only to come out hours later, after being bombarded with knowledge on tactical flying. This is the Tactical Simulation Centre (TSC), where Czech Air Force and other NATO-pilots brush up their skills in blue vs. red scenarios, with up to eight players at one time. It’s done digitally, with interlinked cockpit simulators and the impressive ‘God’s view’. How’s that for multiplayer action?
In the darkened main room of the TSC, four large black half-domes house four tactical simulators. The cockpits represent those of Saab JAS 39C Gripen air superiority fighters or L-159 ALCAs used for ground attack, with potential of future extension to other types of aircraft if requested. Each pilot has all tactical instruments and information laid before him on touch screen displays, and of course he has a stick and throttle identical to those in real aircraft. On the inside of the domes, a digital flying world is created, true to any scenario in any place of the world. This is tactical flying simulation at its best.
Over to the side are four more tactical simulators, simplified versions with slightly less impressive visualization possibilities. Also in the TSC there are two Ground Controlled Intercept (GCI) stations and a Forward Air Controller (FAC) station. Elsewhere are briefing rooms, and in those rooms practicing pilots prepare their missions. However, they will never leave the ground while flying those missions. The TSC is a very cost effective solution; for the price of one flying hour in a modern fighter aircraft, dozens of aircrew can be trained for hours and hours.
No wonder other NATO-members are interested in the TSC, which is run by LOM PRAHA and is classified as ‘NATO secret’. Last year, a virtual Tiger Meet was successfully staged here, with air crew from various nations taking part.
Also, Slovak pilots have already trained in Pardubice and Germany and Poland are interested in having their pilots educated there as well. The TSC currently finishes adaption of the cockpit simulators to the L-39 standard, which means TSC can offer tactical training for all jet aircraft in the Czech forces. There are also plans to adapt the cockpit simulators to Lockheed Martin F-16 or MiG-29 standard.
Training takes place based on a range of scenarios, complete with radar threats, air defence systems, jamming. Air-to-air combat in simulated in beyond visual range (BVR) and within visual range (WVR) situations. Sit in one of the cockpit simulators and suddenly a Su-27 can pop up at long range inside your head up display (HUD), or even at your immediate 3 o’clock, too close for comfort. The GCI controller is guiding you via your headset. Maybe your wingman in the dome next to you will help you out, while you’re busy flying evasive maneuvers over a mountainous landscape. It gets exciting!
After the execution of the mission comes the debrief and 3D After Action Review (AAR). On large screens in the middle of the building, the mission is played back from all possible angles. The movements of each of up to eight ‘players’ are closely scrutinized, but there’s also the big picture (God’s view) of all the action. Each mission is thoroughly debriefed, evaluated and analyzed. And then, it’s lessons learned.
In the Tactical Simulation Centre it has been going on like this since November 2011, when the first courses started. Dozens and dozens of NATO combat pilots have been cost effectively trained on tactics. The centre has also attracted attention from fellow Air Combat Simulation Centre in Sweden, and a real-time connection to a similar installation in Sweden is on the cards. It’s good already at the TSC in Pardubice, and it will only get better.