Monthly Archives: June 2013

Former US adversaries to buy Russian attack choppers…with US consent

According to the last year’s contract Iraq is to buy 10 Mi-28NE Night Hunter (NATO codename: Havoc) along with armament and equipment, reports.

It is the first delivery of choppers, being a part of a bundle of contracts between Iraq and Russia. The aggregate value is claimed to be of around $4.3 billion – it is indeed quite a lot.

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The Iraq’s Mi-28NE, being an export derivative of Mi-28N, are to increase the defense capabilities of the country significantly.

The equipment of the helicopter is pretty much the same as of the version used by the Russian Air Force and it includes: thermal imaging system, night vision system, Almaz-280 radar with a range of 10km. The radar is capable of detecting both ground and aerial targets.

Another peculiar feature of the Havoc is an integrated fly-by-wire system, capable of flying at low levels in an automated mode.

The armament is a 30mm cannon and several models of missiles, including Ataka anti-tank guided missiles as well as (quite unusual for an attack helicopter) air-to-air Igla-W and R-60 AAMs.

Not only does the Rosoboronexport offer include 10 helicopters, but it also contains pilots and ground crew training, supply of spare parts and armaments. It is the first contract of the two-party agreement.

Iraqi now being a democratic country, guided by the US may afford such expensive contract. As capt. Saad Al Khadfaji said in his interview for Arabian Aerospace: ‘We are a rich country. Our budget was $110 billion last year, and it will increase this year, so money is not a big issue’.

In the light of the above, $4.3 billion purchase of the Russian helicopters is just a tiny bit of the huge amount of money Iraq has at its disposal, probably thanks to the crude oil still being a valuable asset in the international market.

Iraq is not the sole former US adversary that buys military equipment from (another) former US enemy (Russia). Afghanistan also is to buy Mi-17V5’s until end of this year. A tripartite agreement between US, Afghanistan and Russia is a basis for this decision.

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Rosoboronexport was to deliver 21 helicopters, with prospects of delivering another 12 pieces for the Afghan Armed Forces. The value of the Afghan contract, which is paid by Pentagon (sic!) is to be of $900 million.

This contract has been harshly critizized in the US, as it avoids the prohibition of armament purchases from Rosoboronexport. The prohibition was implemented by the US congress.

Jacek Siminski for TheAviationist

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[Photo] F-35B head-on during aerial refueling from a KC-10

Taken by Dane Wiedmann and released by Code One magazine, this interesting photo shows USMC test pilot Lt. Col. Patrick Moran, flying F-35B BF-2, as he performs aerial refueling tests off of a U.S. Air Force KC-10 on Jun. 25, 2013.

F-35B aerial refueling

Image credit: Dane Wiedmann via LM

So far, the majority of the images of the F-35 being refueled came from the typical point of view of the KC-135 boom operator.

This image was taken by a KC-10 equipped with a hose (in place of the flying boom) hence the interesting perspective on the stealth plane.

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Awesome video: airdrop from the pallet (being airdropped) point of view

That’s a really interesting video.

French Air Drop

It shows a pallet being air dropped from a French Air Force C-160 Transal over Mali.

Have you ever seen an airdrop from the pallet’s point of view?

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Russia seeking for Antonov An-26 replacement

As reports, the Russian MoD has announced that it started to look for a replacement of the Antonov An-26 (NATO codename: Curl) plane.

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Twin-engined turboprop aircraft are slowly coming to an end of their service life. What is more – they start to become obsolete. Yurij Borisov, the vice-minister for Russian defence has informed that two airplanes are considered to be the replacement for the old 26.

Two options are currently considered to replace the aircraft that has been in service since 1970s.

The first option is a transport derivative of An-140-100, which is to be a replacement for An-24/An-26. It was developed in Aviacor facility in Samara. It already has many users, what is more back in 2011 the Russian Air Force ordered a few of these in a passenger version. The transport version is able to handle 6 tons of load.

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The alternative is the Il-112 by Ilyushin from WASO facility in Woronez. This design has been through many ups and downs, since despite it won the contest for An-26 replacement, the programme was hampered and ultimately put on hold back in 2011.

The Russian AF bought 7 pieces of An-140 instead and the programme was brought back to life last year.

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No specific requirements as to the contract were given. The contest is still going on.

In the Polish Air Force An-26s were replaced by CASA C-295 airplanes.

Nonetheless, employing European design in Russia would be quite impossible, as Russia is governed by its own rights and the politics aim at supporting local companies.

Jacek Siminski for TheAviationist

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Italy’s F-35 stealth fighter purchase review signals more cuts ahead.

Even if the Italian Air Force considers it “essential” for the future of the service in the next 20 years, the F-35 program will be reviewed for 6 months, as a consequence of the lower-house motion supported by the Letta cabinet presented on Jun. 26, 2013.

Based on the new motion, Italy’s participation in the program will not be cancelled, but parliament will have to approve any further stage of the 5th generation multi-role fighter jet purchase.

The new motion, passed 381 to 149 votes, calls on the government to push for more European Union defense projects integration to reduce military spending and defeated an opposition motion in favor of quitting the program.

On Feb. 15, 2012 former Italian Minister of Defense announced Italy’s plan to purchase 90 F-35s out of the original 131.

41 aircraft were be scrapped leaving the Italian Air Force and Navy with less than F-35 in the A and B version to replace about 300 current aircraft, including the Air Force’s Tornado and AMX, and the Navy’s AV-8B+ Harrier II on board the Cavour aircraft carrier, both involved in the Air War in Libya.

Italy plans to spend about 12 billion Euro on the aircraft over 45 years, starting in 2015. Considered the mounting pressure around the program, both within the coalition party and the opposition, and the need for the government to address the huge public debt and limit the budget deficit, a further reduction in the amount of planes that will be eventually procured seems to be not only likely but inevitable.

F-35B and C

Image credit: Lockheed Martin

Delays and cost overruns have raised the projected unit price from 75 million to 133 million USD, even if, in February 2012, Italian head of the agency that is responsible for the procurement of new armaments said that the unit price will be around 70 million each (Lockheed Martin estimated 65M USD for the F-35A and about 73M USD for the F-35B), less than the 79 million USD currently paid for the Eurofighter Typhoon and much less of the 121 million USD per aircraft anticipated in 2011.

Unit price depends also on the foreign sales. U.S. have commitments from allies to buy as many as 500 jets. Last year, The Economist warned that the program is in danger of slipping into the “death spiral” where increasing unit costs would lead to cuts in number of ordered plane, leading to further costs that would boost order cuts.

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