Author Archives: Tom Demerly

Need Your Own Private Air Force in a Hurry? Here’s One For Sale.

Listing Offers Twenty Complete Combat Aircraft For Sale, With Parts! For “only” 200K USD.

Ever wanted to command your own private air force? Here’s your chance, and the price seems reasonable.

Raptor Aviation of Port St. Lucie, Florida in the U.S has listed the sale of 20 jet trainer/light strike aircraft, an entire squadron, with spare parts and sundries. The aircraft are IAI Tzukits, the Israeli version of the Fouga CM.170 Magister.

The price? Only 200,000 USD takes the lot according to their advert.

“They’ll need about 20,000-25,000 USD in repairs before they can fly again,” Albert from Raptor Aviation told us in a phone interview, “They need some restoration.”

The detailed listing on Raptor Aviation’s website and Facebook page shows the aircraft have relatively high hours on them, with the remaining hours listed. All the avionics and other components are specified in the .pdf file on the listing. When we phoned Raptor Aviation to ask about the aircraft, they picked up on the third ring and were ready to answer any questions about the planes.

The Tzukit is a twin-engine, tandem two-seater with a mostly straight wing and unique “V” tail like a Beechcraft Bonanza. The aircraft are listed by independent sources as originally costing $75,000 USD as new in 1955 dollars.

While developed largely as a primary jet trainer, the Israelis used the somewhat lumbering Tzukit in the Arab-Israeli Six-Day War as a strike aircraft. It’s also been flown by the Belgian “Red Devils” and Irish “Silver Swallows” aerobatic teams- and 20 of your own aircraft would make an impressive private jet demo team!

Adding to the colorful history of this type, the Tzukit/Magister was flown by mercenaries in Congo-Léopoldville, Central Africa during the siege of Jadotville in early 1961. The hired-gun pilots reportedly destroyed two large, four-engine DC-4s and a smaller twin-engine DC-3 during a ground attack using its 7.62 guns and somewhat cobbled up locally made aerial bombs.

If you want to start your own air force in the United States, however, the FAA, FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms (BATF) will need to have a chat with you.

Albert of Raptor Aviation told us “fleet” sales like this aren’t unusual, “I could list you a dozen fleets for sale right now, everything from these to other types of retired trainers. It’s just like anything else; air forces have to update their equipment. This is one place the old planes go.”

“One of two things will happen with the planes,” Albert told us in a phone interview, “Someone will buy them and sell them off as individual aircraft, we see that all the time, or, they’ll be sold as scrap.”

Considering a single aircraft ejector seat can fetch well over $20,000 USD as a cool-looking souvenir for a well-heeled aircraft enthusiast (see below…), this could be a good money-making venture.

Before you ring up Albert though, he reminded us that, “Whoever buys them has to get them back [to the United States] here though.” When I asked Albert where they are, he told me, “Israel”.

Image credit: Raptor Aviation

 

Salva

Boeing 747 freighter crashes in Kyrgyzstan. Flight crew of 4 and 33 civilians on ground killed.

Boeing 747-400 freighter crashed while attempting to land at Kyrgyzstan’s main airport in thick fog.

News media and intelligence reports indicate that MyCargo Airlines Boeing 747-412F registration “TC-MCL”, a freighter operating for Turkish Airlines as TK6491, crashed after a failed go-around attempt on final approach to Manas International Airport in the city of Bishkek, the capital city of Kyrgyz Republic.

The flight crew of four did not survive and reports indicate that 33 civilians living in the village of Dacha-Suu, approximately 2 kilometers (1.2 mi) west of Manas Airport were killed on the ground as a result of the crash.

Video from the scene shows small sections of the aircraft fuselage, larger portions of the nose and parts of the rudder and elevators protruding from destroyed buildings in Dacha-Suu.

B747 cockpit section (credit: EPA)

While official investigations of the cause have not yet concluded as of this early hour following the crash, U.S. news outlet CNN published, “Crew error appears to have caused the deadly crash of the Turkish cargo plane that barreled into a Kyrgyzstan village on Monday, a top Kyrgyz official told state-run news.”

CNN reported that “Kyrgyz Deputy Prime Minister Muhammetkaly Abulgaziev drew the conclusion that ‘crew error’ had led to the crash citing preliminary information, Kyrgyzstan’s [as reported by] state-run news agency Kabar.

A conflicting official airline press release reports, “There is no clear and confirmed information about the reasons for the incident yet.”

The crash occurred at 07:31 local zone time when most residents of the village were still in their homes. Weather in the area included dense early morning fog.

What remains of the tail of the B747-412F (credit: Reuters)

The cargo flight was crewed by four flight crew and was sub-chartered to ACT Airlines by Turkish Cargo. It originated in Hong Kong and was scheduled to land later today in Istanbul, Turkey.

The flight crew onboard Turkish Airlines Flight 6491 was reported by the airline in an official statement as Captain, Lead Pilot Ibrahim Gürcan Diranci; the flight’s Co-Pilot was Kazim Önüdl. Cargo loadmaster onboard was Melih Aslan. The final crewmember on board is reported as Flight Technician Ihsan Koca.

The aircraft had a payload of 85,618 kg (188,755 lbs or 94.3 tons) as reported by the airline. The aircraft’s manufacturer, Boeing, reports maximum payload capacities as between 112,990-124,330 kg (249,100-274,100 pounds or 124.5 -137.0 tons).

Top image credit: Wiki

 

As U.S. F-35s deploy to Japan, China Increases Naval Pressure Near Taiwan provoking a reaction.

Chinese Carrier Liaoning Crosses Taiwan Air Defense Identification Zone: Provokes Taiwanese Response.

Media and intelligence sources report the Chinese Aircraft Carrier Liaoning has crossed the politically sensitive Taiwanese Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) along with several escort ships. The Liaoning sailed up the west side of the median line of the strait separating the Chinese mainland from Taiwan.

The Chinese government issued a release stating the Liaoning and her support vessels were conducting drills to test weapons and equipment in the disputed South China Sea and that these operations are in compliance with international law.

In response, Taiwan dispatched patrol and fighter aircraft to monitor the passage of the Liaoning group. The Taipei Times reported a similar incident on Tuesday, Dec. 27th, 2016. During that incident people in the city of Hualien photographed Taiwanese F-16 and RF-16 aircraft taking off in response to the sighting of the Liaoning in monitored waters. Reports also indicate that Taiwan’s E-2K Hawkeye and P-3 Orion aircraft were dispatched to the area to maintain patrol and surveillance. These same aircraft likely responded to this passage of the Liaoning.

In unrelated activity in the western Pacific region, on Jan. 9, 2017 the U.S. Marines deployed ten F-35B Lightening II STOVL aircraft from Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 121 (VMFA-121), the “Green Knights” to Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni on Honshu Island in Japan. The squadron is part of the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing from Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) Yuma.

Although the deployment to Iwakuni is not a direct U.S. response to escalating tensions in the region as it represents a planned phase of the normal operational integration of the F-35B force for the U.S. Marine, the deployment of the most advanced American aircraft to the region has also a symbolic value.

MCAS Iwakuni is approximately 2,000 kilometers (1,079 nautical miles) northeast of central Taiwan. Range of the F-35 is generically reported as 1,200 nautical miles (2,200 kilometers) with a stated combat radius of 625 nautical miles (1,158 km) unrefueled.

The F-35B STOVL variant is intended for shipboard operations however, and was recently tested on board the amphibious assault ship USS America (LHA 6) that is currently operating from the west coast of the United States for deployment in the Pacific theatre. USS America is one of three amphibious assault ships in this class that also includes the USS Tripoli (LHA 7) and USS Bougainville (LHA 6).

The Liaoning (Chinese CV-16) has a complex history.

It started life as a Russian (then Soviet) Navy Kuznetsov class carrier christened the Riga and launched in late 1988. It was the largest Russian naval ship ever built. The ship was re-named the Varyag in 1990 after nearly being commandeered by Ukraine. The Chinese initially had a plan to repurpose the ship as a floating casino, but China eventually elected to use the vessel as a training aircraft carrier and presumably a full-scale feasibility study for the operation and development of new Chinese aircraft carriers.

China is well underway in construction of their second aircraft carrier, the Type 001A now designated the Chinese CV-17. The new carrier is an indigenous Chinese design that does still use the ski-jump style aircraft launch technique as opposed to a steam or magnetic driven catapult as with U.S. carriers. That only one of these new Chinese-engineered carrier class vessels is under construction suggests that China may be developing another, more advanced carrier class. Additionally, intelligence indicates the Chinese are developing an indigenous magnetic catapult launch system.

Reports in Chinese media indicate that the Liaoning has an onboard compliment of 36 aircraft total. They include up to 24 Shenyang J-15 Flying Shark fighters that are reported to be restricted from carrying heavy strike weapons by take-off performance on board the ship according to Russian media. If accurate, this limits these aircraft to the air superiority role while flying from Liaoning. The J-15 Flying Shark is analogous to the Russian Su-33, sharing a plan form similar to the entire Su-27 series of Sukhoi aircraft.

The remainder of the ship’s compliment is limited to rotary wing aircraft including the Changhe Z-18F anti-submarine patrol helicopter and the “J” variant of the Z-18 helicopter configured for airborne early warning. The ship also reportedly carries two smaller Harbin Z-9C helicopters for rescue operations, an important role given the experience of the Russian carrier in anti-ISIL operations off Syria.

Given the aircraft onboard Liaoning currently the ship’s role is limited, in an operational sense, to air security patrol. The ship’s aircraft have no strike or even heavy anti-ship capability beyond its ASW helicopters.

 

Watch U.S. F/A-18 Hornets Unleash Swarm of Mini-Drones in First Test

U.S. Navy F/A-18 Hornets released a swarm of 103 Perdix semi-autonomous drones in flight. Welcome to the future of war tech.

The U.S. Department of Defense has revealed in a press release dated Jan. 9, 2017 that three U.S. Navy F/A-18 Hornet two-seat variants have successfully released a “swarm” of 103 Perdix semi-autonomous drones in flight. The tests were carried out at China Lake range, on Oct. 25, 2016, and were administered by the Department of Defense, the Strategic Capabilities Office, partnering with Naval Air Systems Command.

The miniature Perdex drones, different from larger, more common remotely piloted vehicles (RPVs) like the well-known Reaper and Predator, operate with a high degree of collective autonomy and reduced dependency on remote flight crews to control them. The large group of more autonomous Perdex drones creates a “swarm” of miniature drones. The swarm shares information across data links during operation, and can make mission-adaptive decisions faster than RPV’s controlled in the more conventional manner.

In a statement released by the U.S. Department of Defense, Strategic Capabilities Office Director William Roper said, “Due to the complex nature of combat, Perdix are not pre-programmed synchronized individuals, they are a collective organism, sharing one distributed brain for decision-making and adapting to each other like swarms in nature,” Director Roper went on to say, “Because every Perdix communicates and collaborates with every other Perdix, the swarm has no leader and can gracefully adapt to drones entering or exiting the team.”

As said, the initial flight release tests were conducted in October 2016 at the China Lake NAVAIR Naval Air Warfare Center Weapons Division (NAWCWD). Based on released footage they were likely flown by two-seat F/A-18Ds of VX-30 the Navy’s Air Test and Evaluation Squadron Nine known as “The Bloodhounds”.

The Perdex drone swarm was released in flight from three F/A-18D’s dispensing the swarm from two underwing pylons.

The drones are named “Perdex” from Greek mythology after a human student who morphed into a small bird for survival. They are only 6.5 inches long with an 11.8 inch wingspan. Perdex is propeller driven from a small 2.6 inch propeller in a rear-mounted “pusher” configuration. The miniature robot aircraft has extremely short endurance, with only 20 minutes of flight possible in current versions.

The Perdex swarms were first released in flight by U.S. Air Force F-16 test and evaluation aircraft from Edwards Air Force Base in September 2014. Perdex swarms were widely used in U.S. Pacific Command’s Northern Edge exercise in Alaska a year later in September 2015 when 90 missions were flown deploying swarms as large as 20 Perdex drones.

During these latest Naval Air Warfare Center Weapons Division tests the D.o.D. released few specifics of the Perdex drone’s capability except, “This swarm demonstrated advanced behaviors like collective decision‐making, adaptive formation flying, and self‐healing.”

Here’s the footage showing the micro-drone test:

 

Photographers capture Airbus A400M at low level through the Mach Loop for First Time

An Airbus A400M tactical airlifter training low level flying is a pretty cool sight!

Aviation enthusiasts at the famous “Mach Loop” low level training area in West Central Wales on the west coast of UK got a treat early this week when an Airbus A400M Atlas made two low-level passes through the valley area.

It was the first appearance by the A400M in the area also known as the Machynlleth Loop or CAD West. These photos and video were captured at the “CAD East” viewing area across from CAD West.

Many local aviation photographers captured photos and video of the two passes. Among the best were shot by photographer Ben Collins of Llandudno, North Wales, UK.

Collins shot his photos using a Nikon D750 camera with an image-stabilized Sigma 150-600mm f5-6.3 DG OS HSM ‘S’ Sport zoom lens, a popular lens for aviation photographers used widely on the airshow circuit.

His original images were captured as RAW files. Collins is a regular at the famous Mach Loop, visiting the area between two and four times weekly when there is flying weather.

Aviation photographer Ben Collins shot his photos of the A400M from the popular vantage point called “Cad East”, a part of the Cad West lowing flying area loop.

Videographer Paul Williams shot a short YouTube video posted yesterday of the A400M’s transit through the area in perfect viewing conditions.

And here’s a cool video filmed by Ben Ramsey who got a great close-up footage!

The RAF A400M’s are relatively new aircraft in British service, with the first being delivered on November 14, 2014. The service will eventually employ 22 total A400M’s according to the RAF’s official website. The new Airbus A400M’s are staged replacements for the aging fleet of RAF C-130 aircraft.

The aircraft that flew through the Mach Loop today was likely aircraft number ZM411, an A400M-180 manufactured just before Aug. 26, 2016, and delivered to the Royal Air Force on Oct. 28, 2016.

There are three RAF squadrons operating A400M Atlas aircraft now, Squadron Number LXX, the first operational A400M squadron in the RAF that began operations on October 1, 2014. RAF Number XXIV Squadron flies the A400M from RAF Brize Norton in Oxfordshire, England. The Number 24 Squadron is the Fixed Wing Air Mobility Operation Conversion Unit and trains Atlas crews for the RAF. Finally the Number 206(R) Squadron fly the A400M as a test and evaluation unit.

The famous Mach Loop is a destination for aviation photographers and spotters from around the world since it provides a unique opportunity to photograph and observe many different aircraft types from several countries in an operational training setting that is very different from an airshow.

Image credit: Ben Collins