Author Archives: felixiturbide

Spanish pilot achieves impressive milestone: 4,000 flying hours on the Northrop Grumman F-5 Freedom Fighter

On Jul. 11, 2013, Lt. Col. Jesus Antonio Caballero, head of the Research Group & Air Forces of the Spanish Air Force (Ejercito del Aire) 23 Wing in Talavera Air Base, completed 4,000 flying hours on the F-5 aircraft . This accreditation, obtained individually, is a unique landmark in the Spanish Air Force and even internationally, as to date, there is no evidence that any other pilot from countries that operate or have operated different versions of F-5, to have reached that milestone.

The historical flight during which Caballero reached 4,000 flying hours consisted of a air-to-air nterception training mission, included in the Plan of Instruction for IPs (instructor pilots) of the 23 Wing.

SpAF F-5 pilot

Lieutenant Colonel Caballero made his first flight in F-5 back in 1987, after being assigned to the 23 Wing as a student. He continued with that fighter in the 21 Wing Air Base in Morón and in the Center of Logistics Armaments and Experimentation (CLAEX) in Torrejon Air Base. From 1993 he returned to the 23 Wing as an IP, having piloted the F-5 A/RF/B & M versions of this veteran aircraft.

The 23 Wing’s main mission is to provide training, both theoretical and flights (Fighter & Attack Phase) to students in the 5th year of the Spanish Air Force Air Academy selected to perform the said phase.

Bought in the sixties, the Spanish Government took the decision to provide to the Spanish Air Force +50 F-5 A & B fighters built under license by CASA.

First units provided fighter missions in Moron and Canary Islands Air Bases. Later, all the F-5 units marched to Talavera to replace veterans T-33.

In recent years the F-5 has undergone a complete modernization, especially its avionics, to suit the teaching Fighter & Attack skills as a step towards next-generation aircrafts such as the F/A-18A+ Hornet and the Eurofighter Typhoon. This new version of the aircraft is called F-5M

All fighter pilots that currently fly in the Spanish Air Force were formed in the F-5M.

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Picture Credit: Spanish Air Force


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Spanish Air Force to decommission Mirage F1 fleet in 2013

Whilst the French Air Force is currently using the plane as a reconnaissance and attack platform in the Mali Air War, the Spanish Air Force is about to decommission the Dassault Mirage F1.

The Chief of the Spanish Air Force Staff (JEMA), Air General Francisco Javier García Arnaiz, recently reported that this year they would “eliminate three systems,” those that already have substitutes: the C-212 Aviocar and Fokker F-27 in the SAR Service, and the Mirage F1 fighters.

In the latter case, the Eurofighter will replace it completely when it reaches the initial operational capability in the 14th Wing Air Base in Los Llanos (Albacete).

The acquisition of the French fighters by Spain in 1972 was due by the constant interference of the United States regarding the use of Spanish Air Force’s U.S. military equipment, especially in the case of the F-86 Sabre and T-33 Shooting Star jets in the conflict of Sidi Ifni (Morocco). With the acquisition of the Mirage F1, the Spanish government marked the end of dependence on diplomatic vetoes.

In 1975 a 1st batch of 15 Mirage F1 C(E) arrived to Los Llanos Air Base in Albacete. Designated C.14, the planes were assigned to 141 Squadron, the first of the newly created 14th Wing.

The F1 C was an all-weather interceptor, equipped with a Thomson-CSF Cyrano IV monopulse radar and a limited secondary ground attack capability. Initially, the aircraft was armed with two internal DEFA 553 30mm cannons and Matra R530 medium-range air-to-air missiles.

The Spanish Air Force’s Mirage F1 CE suffered modifications that allowed integration with American AIM-9 Sidewinder missiles.

In the second half of 1976 a 2nd batch of planes arrived and two years later a final 3th batch which included 6 two-seater F1 BE and 24 of the most advanced single-seat F1 EE was delivered.

The F1E had an upgraded equipment with a new computer data, Head-up Display (HUD), SAGEM-Kearfott inertial platform, digital computer updated Cyrano IV radar and a fixed refuelling probe.

With this new batch, Spanish Air Force could create the 142 Squadron. The most advanced F1EE went to  the 46th Wing based in Gando, Canary Islands.

In all, Spain has acquired 91 Mirage F1. 73 units initially purchased (45 F1 CE, 22 F1 EE and 6 F1 BE) plus 5 second hand units purchased from France and 13 second hand units also purchased to Qatar.

Mid-’90s, 51 single-seaters and 4 double-seaters were upgraded to F1 M version. They had a number of improvements including intelligent 26″ HUDs with integrated radar, HOTAS system, modernized Cyrano IVM radar for accurate ground-attack capability in four different modes, Night Vision Goggles compatibility, inertial navigator Sagem ULISS 47 and AIM-9 JULI Sidewinder compatibility among others.

Mirage F1 SpAF Tiger

Image credit: NATO Tiger Association / Spanish Air Force

From August 2006, Spain dispatched three Mirage F1 M fighters to Lithuania’s First Air Base in Zokniai/Šiauliai International Airport for a 4 months deployment as part of NATO’s 10th “Air Police” patrol mission within Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia’s territorial airspace, being scrambled twice to intercept undisclosed intruders.

Nicknamed ‘La abuela’ (Grandmother) by the Spanish pilots, the Mirage F1 has been an active member of the annual NATO Tiger Meet since 1986. From this year, the state-of-the-art Eurofighter Typhoon will take that role within the 142 Squadron.

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F-5 fighter jet pilot dies in training accident in Spain

On Nov. 2, a Northrop F-5M aircraft belonging to the 23th Wing of the Spanish Air Force (Talavera la Real Air Base), suffered an accident that killed one of his crew, Major and instructor Angel Alvarez Raigada, married and with two children. He was accompanied by his student, Lieutenant Sergio Santamaria, who was injured and remains in the Hospital in Badajoz.

The Technical Research Committee on Military Aircraft Accidents (CITAAM) continues its work to determine the exact causes and circumstances of the mishap. Although under the current regulations, no data may be provided as the research remains open, initial hypothesis suggests there was an engine failure.

Image credit: Spanish Air Force

The most recent crash of a F-5 was on Jan. 27, 2006, when a Captain and a Lieutenant, instructor and student, died in a crash while conducting a practice flight over the mountains of southern Badajoz.

On Apr. 30, 2003, another F-5 crashed near the base of Talavera la Real, killing the pilot and sole occupant, a Captain instructor.

That same year, on January 22, a Lieutenant instructor died and a 2nd Lieutenant student suffered slightly injuries when their F5 crashed near the town of Santa Marta de los Barros.

The light supersonic fighter aircraft F-5A/B Freedom Fighter is a simple, lightweight two-seater, made in Spain since 1970 by Aeronautical Constructions SA (CASA) under license from the U.S. company “Northrop” which began to build them in the early sixties.

Image credit: Spanish Air Force

The F-5 of the Spanish Air Force has undergone a complete modernization of its avionics especially to suit the teaching functions of training and aggressor aircraft as a step towards next-generation fighters such as the Eurofighter.

In its modernization, the plane integrates new equipment, including navigation systems VOR / ILS and TACAN, communication systems V / UHF, multifunction displays, MDP mission computer, integrated inertial EGI system (INS / GPS), radio altimeter, presentation HUD, new virtual radar for training. Also a new management systems and aircraft control, control systems and throttles levers (HOTAS), video recording systems and mission planning. This new version of the aircraft is called F-5M.

All fighter pilots that currently flies in the Spanish Air Force were formed in the F-5M.

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Spanish Armada Flagship completes operational assessment as Australia welcomes its largest ever warship

The Strategic Projection Ship LHD ‘Juan Carlos I‘ (L61), flagship of the Spanish Navy, has completed the operational assessment with two of the main aircraft used by the Army’s Air Mobile Forces (Fuerzas Aeromóviles del Ejército de Tierra – FAMET): Eurocopter AS 665 Tiger/Tigre (HA.28) HAP-E attack helicopters and AS 532UL Cougar transport helicopters.

Image credit: Spanish Navy

These tests aim to achieve the highest degree of interoperability between the ship and helicopters.

During the first phase, carried out at the ship’s home port of Rota, near Cadiz, earlier in the month, tests were made loading and carrying two helicopters type ‘Tiger’ and ‘Cougar’ with start-ups, hot refuelling, weapons replenishment, and take-off exercises.

Previously, in January, the FAMET’s heavy-lift helicopter Boeing CH-47D Chinook had been involved in trials on board the ship and conducted its first operational evaluation from the flight deck of “Juan Carlos l”.

With a length of 231 meters and a maximum displacement of 27,000 tons, the ship is the biggest one in the history of the Spanish Navy. It has the ability to operate as a multi-platform and can be configured as amphibious ship, aircraft carrier, force projection ship or platform of humanitarian aid operations.

Two days ago, oct 17, the hull of ‘Juan Carlos I’ sister ship, HMAS Camberra, the first of the Royal Australian Navy’s two new amphibious ships, arrived at its Australian home port for the next 18 months in Victoria.

Transported from Spain to Australia by the Heavy Lift Ship ‘Blue Marlin’, the trip has taken around eight weeks and 12,000 nautical miles (approx 18,520 km).

The Canberra Class LHDs, build by Spanish shipbuilding Navantia, are bigger than Australia’s last aircraft carrier HMAS Melbourne. Each ship can carry a combined armed battlegroup of more than 1100 personnel, 100 armoured vehicles and 12 helicopters and features a 40-bed hospital.

HMAS Canberra (LHD01) will be accepted into service in 2014, followed by her sister ship HMAS Adelaide (LHD02) the year after.

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Amazing video of the Spanish Air Force 43 Group flying the “Superscooper” shows why firefighting missions are a bit hazardous

The 43 Group (Grupo) is a unit of the Spanish Air Force (Ejercito del Aire) with the primary mission to collaborate in extinguishing forest fires and participate in supporting secondary missions of Search and Rescue Service (SAR) operationally dependent from the Military Emergency Unit (UME).

To address these missions, the 43 Group has 14 Bombardier CL-215T and 3 CL-415 “Superscooper” aircraft.

[vimeo w=460&h=259]

The 43 Group has two planes with their crews ready to depart with a very short notice 365 days a year at Torrejón Air Base. However, the Summer Campaign (between June 15 and September 30) is the period when the unit makes the most effort and maintains a minimum of 70% of the aircraft available, with their crews ready to act in any risk areas of the Peninsula and Balearic and Canary Islands.

The firefighting mission is undoubtedly one of the most hazardous for pilots. The flight at very low altitude, the smoke that reduces visibility, winds causing turbulence, the large concentration of aircraft on the same area, the topography of the area is generally abrupt, and the proper fire: these are risk factors that 43 Group crews face and assume through a continuous training plan.

[Read also: U.S. Air Force C-130H plane crashes during a firefighting mission in South Dakota]

So far, the unit has made a total of 133,100 flight hours and has made approximately 305,000 water loads. This year, the 43 Group have tripled their flying hours in the Summer Campaign compared to last year. As of Aug. 20, 1.894 flight hours were made with a total of 5,620 water downloads on fire.

Noteworthy is also the performance on August 11 in which 13 aircraft flew at the same fighting fire in different regions of Spain.

The interesting video, pays tribute to these brave crews and also remembers the fifteen members of this unit who gave their lives in the course of its mission.

“Apaga… y vámonos”

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