Tag Archives: Slovakia

SAAB Gripen program update

During the annual Saab Gripen seminar, which was held on Thursday 17 March, Ulf Nilsson, head of Saab business area Aeronautics, and Richard Smith, head of Gripen marketing and sale, gave an update on the status on various developments on the Gripen.

Gripen E/F

At this moment, manufacturing of the first Gripen E prototype is still on schedule and within budget, as the aircraft is in final assembly now. Roll out is planned to take place at 18 May this year. This protoype will be used as test aircraft, so test equipment will be installed in it.

Competitions and tenders

At this moment, SAAB is involved in different competitions and tenders to market the Gripen system. Smith stated the Gripen has been offered to Croatia and Bulgaria as replacement of eageing eastern type of fighter aircraft. Negotiations started with Slovakia for delivery of 8 Gripens to replace the MiG-29 Fulcrum aircraft, which are reaching the end of their service life. Finland is looking for new aircraft as replacement for the F-18 Hornet, in which SAAB participates in a tender for 40 Gripen E/F aircraft. Belgium still has to decide what will be the successor of the F-16’s, and the Gripen will take part in the tender for 30-36 frames. In the Asian Pacific market, SAAB started the negotiating process with Malaysia, and they’re even confident the Gripen has in chance in Indonesia. Further more, SAAB stll has a focuss on India, as the Swedish and Indian Prime ministers met in India recently. In the Americas-region Colombia got marketing info about the Gripen system.

Brazil

Currently, there are 50 Brazilian engineers in Linköping, Sweden, who are being trained to learn the maintenance and development tools of the Gripen and the program. In April the next group will arrive in Sweden, and finally it is expected some 350 Brazilians have found there way to Linköping. SAAB and Embraer are building a new test and engineering center at Embraer’s industrial plant in Gavião Peixoto, Brazil. This will support the operations of the Brazilian Air Force Gripen aircraft.

SAAB expects to sell 400 aircraft in the next 20 years, with a backlog of 96 aircraft at the moment (60 Gripen E’s for Sweden and 36 for Brazil). At this moment the Gripen is already in service with the Swedish military, as well as in Thailand, South Africa, Czech Republic and Hungary.

Two Gripens over an Icelandic postcard. (Image © 21st TAFB)
Two Gripens over an Icelandic postcard. (Image © 21st TAFB)

Proven concept

The Gripen also proved its value in recent conflicts, for example by doing Air Policing missions, such as the Hungarians  did over the Baltics, and the Czechs operated several times from Iceland.

So we certainly will hear more about SAAB and the Gripen in the year’s to come.

© 2016 Airheadsfly.com editor Dennis Spronk
Featured image: Artist impression released by the Swedish Department of Foreign Affairs of the Saab JAS 39 Gripen E/F in Brazilian Air Force colours (Image © Utrikes Departementet)

 

Eastern Europe explores military helo options

UPDATED 27 January | Poland, Slovakia and the Czech Republic all are on the verge of replacing their fleets of Mil Mi-8/17 transport helicopters as well as Mi-24 Hind attack helicopters. Although each country seems to be heading down a different path, Bell Helicopter offers potentials for a joint program.

Update: according to Poland’s deputy defense minister on 26 January, a deal for Caracal helicopters now looks ‘very unlikely’.

In Poland, a multirole rotorcraft tender was won last year by Airbus Helicopters’ H225 Caracal, but after a change of government negotiations regarding offset investments are still ongoing. A spokesperson at Airbus Helicopters on Friday stated that ‘things seems to be moving in the right direction again’.

In the neighbouring Czech Republic, the air force flies 16 quite modern transport Mil Mi-171Sh helos, acquired from Russia in 2005 and recently upgraded with new communication, navigation and electrooptical equipment. The Czechs expect their Mi-171s to be used for at least one more decade, after which new helos will take their place as well as the place of current Mi-24 attack choppers. The new helicopters must be able to carry six to eight soldiers and be fitted out with guns plus guided and unguided rockets.

The Mi-17 Hip has a long heritage. (Image © Paweł Bondaryk)
The Mi-17 Hip has a long heritage. (Image © Paweł Bondaryk)

Czech offers

Previous plans of buying 12 machines are now revised in favour of a larger batch of 30-35 helicopters, due to better funding available in short term. Last year Czech MoD issued an request for information (RFI) to manufacturers of medium multirole helicopters; all Western producers responded with offers. Italian AgustaWestland offered the AW139, while Bell Helicopters is offering a tandem of its UH-1Y Venom and AH-1Z Viper used by the United States Marines Corps (USMC). Airbus Helicopters will most probably offer the Caracal just like it did in Poland, or the nine ton AS532ALe Cougar.

A preselection of preferred candidates is expected during the first half of 2016, with first deliveries planned a year or two later. Taking into account the strong presence of Bell Helicopters on the Czech civil rotorcraft market and police aviation using five Bell 412 helicopters, the UH-1Y is seen as strong contender. Bell in its offer underscores the possibility of establishing a joint Czech-Polish maintenance and training center if Poland also selects the Viper as a future attack chopper.

A US Marines UH-1Y Venom in action (Image © Bell Helicopter)
Also on offer: the UH-1Y. (Image © Bell Helicopter)
The AH-1Z Viper (Image © Bell Helicopter)
The AH-1Z Viper (Image © Bell Helicopter)
On offer: the Agusta Westland AW139. (Image © Paweł Bondaryk)
On offer: the Agusta Westland AW139. (Image © Paweł Bondaryk)

Support

As for industrial offset, there’s rather small chance of licence production of selected type in Czech Republic, but some overhaul capabilities may be handed over to Czech industry. AgustaWestland has already signed an Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with LOM Praha for maintenance support, provided AW139 is selected.

Slovakia

There’s no official news about a Sikorsky offer to the Czech yet, but it may be either S-70i, or UH-60M. Next door to the Czech Republic, Slovakia decided to acquire nine Sikorsky UH-60M Black Hawks through US FMS program. Four out of nine are to be delivered before May 2017.

In the meantime, there is already one Bell AH-1 in Czech Republic – albeit an unarmed TAH-1P. The chopper is owned by Heliczech company, and can be seen at the airshows in country quite often.

© 2016 Airheadsfly.com contributor Paweł Bondaryk
Featured image: A Czech Mi-24 Hind attack helicopter strikes a pose. (Image © Paweł Bondaryk)

Up close with a Airbus Helicopters H225M Caracal. (Image © Anthony Pecchi)
Up close with a Airbus Helicopters H225M Caracal. (Image © Anthony Pecchi)

‘Gripen off the table in Slovakia’

Slovakia is not leasing or buying Saab Gripen fighter jets and neither is it seeking a joint Gripen unit with the Czech Republic anymore. According to local media this week, funds don’t allow for eight JAS39 Gripens to be leased or purchased.

A possible lease of Gripens to Slovakia was subject of discussion for quite some time and even looked quite feasible as talks were progressing, also with neighbouring Czech Republic. The Czechs have been operating Gripen for well over ten years out of Čáslav airbase, and a joint squadron of 22 aircraft was also talked about.

Postcard Gripen stuff. (Image © 21st TAFB)
Postcard Gripen stuff. (Image © 21st TAFB)

Other purchases

The recent purchase of two Alenia Aermacchi C-27J Spartans and UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters doesn’t allow for more defense spending, the government in Bratislava has said. The former replace An-26 cargo aircraft, while the latter come in place of Mi-17 Hip helos.

MiGs

In Slovakia, the Saab Gripen would have replaced a small fleet of ageing MiG-29 Fulcrum fighter jets that have been in service since the late eighties. The country is now looking to keep  eight MiGs in the air for longer, with contacts already with Russian suppliers.

Czech Gripens may still be called upon in case this change of plans leads to reduced serviceability of Slovakian MiGs. The Czechs would be able to guard Slovakian airspace for roughly three months.

© 2015 Airheadsfly.com editor Elmer van Hest
Featured image: A Saab Gripen on patrol. (Image © Elmer van Hest)

Bell 429 for Slovak police

Slovakia took delivery of its first Bell Helicopter Bell 429s for the Slovakian police recently. These aircraft will be primarily used for border protection, search and rescue, natural disaster relief missions and road traffic law enforcement.

The first aircraft arrived in the Slovakian capital of Bratislava in August, with a second chopper due later this year. According to sources, the Slovaks have set eyes on a fleet of eight helicopters in the end.

The Bell 429 is gaining customers in police forces around the world. Bell Helicopter has recently delivered 15 Bell 429s to the Turkish National Police, four Bell 429s to the New York Police Department, and the first of two Bell 429s to the Slovakian Police, and the Swedish National Police will receive their first Bell 429 later this year.

Source: Bell Helicopter, with additional reporting by Airheadsfly.com editor Elmer van Hest
Featured image (top): The Bell 429 in Bratislava. (Image © Bell Helicopter)

Crash Slovakia: two L-410s with 38 on board

UPDATED | A sad day for the parajump and aviation communities of Slovakia. Two Let L-410s collided in mid-air and crashed on the ground on 20 August 2015, killing seven of those on board.

According to authorities the aircraft went down near the border with the Czech Republic, after colliding at about 5,000 feet altitude. One of the planes is confirmed burnt-out two kilometres (1,5 miles) from the village of Červený Kameň. The second plane came down in the Chotuč area, initial reports say. Later reports indicated the distance between the crash sites is about 500 metres/yards in a direct line. There were conflicting reports on the types, but it seems both aircraft were a Let L-410. The skydivers were practicing for a mass jump at the Slavnica Airfield airshow coming up this Sunday. The airshow was subsequently cancelled.

A combined total of 34 parachutists were on the planes, with officials saying them most of them might have made it out alive by jumping before the planes hit the ground. However, authorities did confirm the death of at least seven: the two pilots of each plane plus three jumpers on board of one of the planes. Fourteen parachutists on one plane managed to jump before the crash, all seventeen parachutists of the second plane jumped in time. Five of them sustained only minor wounds and were released from the hospital after treatment.

Rescue services scrambled three helicopters coming from Trenčín, Banská Bystrica and Nitra to reach the crash sites in hilly and forest terrain.

The Czech-made Let L-410 Turbolet is known as a trustworthy aircraft. Since production began in 1971 in then Czechoslovakia more than 1,140 aircraft have been produced, with the newest model being the L-410NG currently in production.

© 2015 Airheadsfly.com editor Marcel Burger
Featured image: A Let L-410. PLEASE NOTE: Archive photo, this is not one of the crashed planes (Image © Let Aircraft Industries)