Venezuela is buying 12 Sukhoi Su-30M2 multi-role fighters, Russian sources and Latin American media say.
As late as October this year the Venezuelan Air Force commander, Major-General Valentin Cruz Edgar Arteaga, met with representatives from the Russian state weapons export company Rosoboronexport to talk about the details. The Venezuelan government has allocated 480 million US dollars for the deal, which sounds like a bargain for these advanced jets.
Su-30 Venezuela crash
The Bolivarian National Air Force of Venezuela already operates almost two dozen Su-30MK2Vs. Of the 24 purchases in 2006 one crashed on 17 September 2015 while attempting to intercept an aircraft flying into Venezuela from Colombia. The Flankers make up the core of the combat fleet, which also includes 10 Lockheed Martin F-16A single-seaters and 2 F-16B two-seaters.
Most Sukhois currently operate from Barcelona / Luis del Valle Garcia Airbase halfway the capital Caracas and Trinidad and Tobago. However, the dozen new Su-30s may be based at El Sombrero/Capitan Manuel Rios Guarico AB south of the capital, which is already the second Flanker base of the country.
The Hongdu K-8VV (“Karakorum”) light attack and jet trainer aircraft was the star of a recent readiness exercise by the Venezuelan Air Force, officially called the Aviación Militar Nacional Bolivariana de Venezuela.
For the occasion at least three K-8VVs forward deployed to Luisa Cáceres de Arismendi Airbase on 21 March 2015. Part of Del Caribe Santiago Mariño International Airport the base is located on the popular tourism magnet of Isla de Margarita, part of the Nueva Esparta state. Located 195 miles (315 km) east of the Venezuelan capital of Caracas, the airbase is a 170 miles (270 km) away from to Grenada – the biggest next main Caribbean island – and roughly the same flying distance to Port of Spain, the capital of Trinidad and Tobago.
Although no data was released on the number of flights, the military militia of three islands that make up the Venezuelan state of Nueva Esparta got a great change of refuelling and servicing the planes, and performing the airbase services needed to make an operational deployment of the light attack planes possible.
The Venezuelan Air Force ordered 26 Hongdu K-8VV Karakorum, with reportedly at least 18 operational divided over the two squadrons of Grupo Aéreo de Caza 12 (12th Air Combat Group) at LT Vicente Landaeta Gil Airbase in Barquisimeto. The official main task is close-air support and counter-insurgency, but by forwarding them for the exercise to Isla de Margarita the Venezuelan leadership also promotes the jets as defensive asset to protect its interests.
Compared to the original JL-8, the Venezuelan versions of the Chinese made aircraft have improved improved cockpit avionics, a HUD and no US controlled parts. The first Hongdu KV-8VV arrived in March 2010. Since then not everything went as smoothly as wished for, with at least three aircraft lost so far.
The JL-8 was a joint effort by China and Pakistan. Starting in 1986 the aircraft had a lot of American made parts, including the Garrett TFE-731 engine and cockpit systems. After four prototypes the initial low-rate production resulted in 24 aircraft in 1992, with six for the Pakistan Air Force and 18 for the People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF). During the last two decades more than 500 have been produced. Pakistan operates at least 60 of them, while China has orders for 400 aircraft. Version have been exported to Egypt (118 aircraft), Myanmar (60), North Sudan (17), Zambia (15), Namibia (12), Zimbabwe (11), Bangladesh (9), Sri Lanka (7), Bolivia (6) and Ghana (4).
The Venezuelan Air Force (Aviación Militar Nacional Bolivariana de Venezuela) will operate ten new Dornier Do-228 liaison and utility aircraft before the end of 2014. The German-Swiss designed two-engine turboprop aircraft are an election promise by Venezuelan president Nicolás Maduro.
The first of the ten aircraft, a second-hand Dornier 228-212 arrived at Maracay Airport in the Latin America country already at the end of January. The second machine is also a pre-owned aircraft. The remaining eight will be brand new Do-228 New Generation aircraft, produced by Swiss RUAG in Oberpfaffenhofen in Southern Germany.
During his election campaign Venezuelan head-of-state Maduro promised to improve travelling between remote areas and regional capitals and to bring villagers medical care and support. With some areas hard-to-reach the Dornier 228s name to be able to cope with adverse weather conditions and less than perfect landing strips the ten Do-228s will be tasked to reach those who are difficult to get to.
The Dorniers will keep a civil registry, but flown by the Venezuelan Air Force on behalf of the government in Caracas.
Building on the heritage of the company founded by Claus Dornier which lasted from 1914 to 1998, RUAG restarted the production of the Dornier 228 in 2009 together with Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL). The Indian company has been producting the Do-228 under license since 1983 and manufactures the major parts of the aircraft. RUAG puts it all together at the old Dornier company location in Oberpfaffenhofen and adds additional equipment the customer wishes.
The RUAG New Generation version of the Do-228 has a new five-blade propeller, a so-called glass cockpit and improved performance such as a longer range. It has a large cargo door, making handling of cargo up to 4,410 lb (2,000 kg) easier. It’s normal take-off distance is only 2,600 feet (793 metres), but used with Short Take-Off and Landing procedures 1,690 feet (515 metres) will do.
The landing strip needs to be at least 1,480 feet (450 metres) long. The Dornier 228 NG has a maximum cruise speed of 234 knots (433 kmh) and a typical range (74% load or 14 passengers) of 690 nautical miles (1118 km). Although it can climb about 1,800 feet per minute, with one engine only the Do-228 NG is still able to do a nice 440 feet/min climb.
Source: RUAG with additional reporting by AIRheads’ editor Marcel Burger
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!