Author Archives: felixiturbide

The Spanish Air Force's Orion Detachment in Djibouti reaches 4,000 flight hours fighting piracy off Horn of Africa

The Spanish Air Force (Ejercito del Aire) detachment in Djibouti, inside the structure of the EUNAVFOR (European Union Naval Force) in the Operation ATALANTA, reached the 4,000 flying hours in operational missions in support of the fight against piracy in the Indian Ocean and Gulf of Aden.

Image credit: Spanish Air Force

This unit of the Spanish Air Force deployed in Djibouti has a Tactical Air Detachment entity with the mission of the surveillance, reconnaissance, information gathering and prevention of maritime piracy in the framework of Operation ATALANTA, within the European Security and Defence Policy (ESDP) and has been deployed continuously since the beginning of the mission, now three and a half years.

The past Aug. 19, during a flight with the Lockheed P-3 Orion, the ORION Detachment surpassed 4,000 flight hours in this mission. Of this total, approximately one quarter represents the contribution of the crew and staff of the 48 & 49 Wings, when they are deployed with a CN-235 VIGMA aircraft supporting the operation.

Image Credit: Lockheed Martin

This important figure coincides with the 50 years being in service of the Lockheed P-3 Orion, joining a very few club of airplanes in the world that can tout this distinct honor such as the spy plane Lockheed U-2 and the Boeing B-52 Stratofortress in the USAF, and the British Vickers VC10 in the RAF.

The P-3 Orion has been in the frontline from the Cuban Missile Crisis, three months after delivery of the first unit to the US Navy in 1962 to nowadays anti-piracy missions over the Gulf of Aden, with the spaniards P-3M Orion, flying tens of thousands of missions over the world’s seas and oceans.

El Lince Analista for TheAviationist.com 

Drone Revolution has just begun: Poland to replace Su-22 Fitter strike fighters with UCAVs (Unmanned Combat Aerial Vehicles)

Poland is planning to replace its fleet of aging Soviet era Sukhoi Su-22M strike aircraft with an unmanned strike aircraft (UCAV) system.

According to Poland’s Ministry of Defense, a future procurement of some 30 armed unmanned aircraft equipping three squadrons by 2018 is being considered. Senior defense officials say Poland will not modernize the Soviet-built jets, first of which are to be withdrawn from service in 2014.

Image credit: Chris Lofting/Wiki

Polish military discussed the acquisition of a further squadron of F-16C/D fighter jets. However, the plan was eventually scrapped by the ministry. The Polish Air Force has 48 F-16C/D Block 52+ fighter jets which were purchased in 2004.

The arguments in favour for UCAV system are that the unmanned aircraft would be more affordable, particularly considering the logistical nightmare of maintaining the aging Soviet fighters and lack of spares for such platforms. UCAV could also operate on longer missions and the training of operators and support personnel will be cheaper.

Moreover, the deployment of unmanned aircraft, in support of NATO operations overseas or in support of other peacekeeping operations, would become more affordable and require smaller logistics, compared to similar operations performed by manned aircrafts.

The actual options are narrowed to 4 platforms – General Atomics MQ-9 Reaper, IAI/Malat Heron TP, Elbit Systems Hermes 900 and turkish TAI Anka, although its payload is limited compared to the other alternatives.

Image credit: NATO

The Su-22 has been in service in the Polish Air Force since 1984. This export variant of the Soviet Su-17M2, had fixed inner portions of the wing with movable outer segments which could be swept to 28°, 45°, or 62° and was first produced in 1976.

Of the total 110 fighters delivered from Russia only 45 are still operational – 38 Su-22M-4K and seven Su-22UM-3k two seaters. Three squadrons currently operating the Fitters are 8th Tactical Squadron at Miroslawiec and the 40th and 7th Tactical Squadrons at Swidwin where the new drones are planned to be stationed.

El Lince Analista  for TheAviationist.com

Spain to defer the delivery and purchase of 12 Typhoon fighter planes signed with the Eurofighter Defense Consortium

Spanish Defense Minister, Pedro Morenés, has confirmed that Spain wants to defer the delivery and purchase of 12 Eurofighter Typhoon warplanes he has signed with the Eurofighter Defense Consortium and were going to get this year.

He has not detailed the economic impact of this decision, although it is clear that it will have a financial effect because the contract provides significant penalties for countries who do not acquire all units that were committed to receive.

Spain’s economic crisis has put government finances and defense budget under intense pressure. Late last year, the Spanish Ministry of Defense accumulated a delay of about 400 million euros by Cassidian Eurofighter but a payment of 309 million Euro in February brought the government back on track.

Spain committed to acquire a total of 87 European fighters amounting to 9.255 million euros, divided into three stages or tranches: 19 in the first phase, 34 in the second and 34 in the third. Subsequently, the third stage divided into two subphases: Phase 3A (20) and 3B (14).

In August 2009, during the Socialist government, Spain signed the purchase of 15 fighter jets and options for five more as part of the subphase or Tranche 3A and due to start being delivered in 2013.

Image credit: EADS CASA

Considered the situation in Euro-zone it appears less and less likely that there will be a Tranche 3B. The question is how to escape termination costs. Further negotiations can be expected, but one option is to count future exports as re-sales of scheduled orders from existing partner countries.

After BAE Systems failed its bid to supply 126 fighter jets to India, now Cassidian Spain leads the formal offer of the European consortium to secure a contract valued at over 7 billion euros with which South Korea desires to purchase 60 fighter aircrafts. In earlier statements, the final selection of the next-generation fighter would be announced sometime in October.

Now, DAPA (South Korea’s Defense Acquisition Program Administration) admits that October is only an optimistic initial target date and the final selection may not be announced until early 2013.

El Lince Analista for TheAviationist.com

Korean journalists visiting Spanish Air Force 11th Wing. Moron Air Base. May 8, 2012 (credit: Spanish Air Force)