Tag Archives: Czech Air Force

NATO Days 2018 in Ostrava – How Centenaries Should be Done

All the most interesting “hardware” we have seen at Ostrava Air Show 2018.

On Sep. 14 – Sep. 16 we attended the NATO Days event organized in the vicinity of the Czech city of Ostrava. This year marked the 28th edition of this show which is said to be the most important of the Eastern European defense and security events. The annual show is organized at the Leoš Janáček Ostrava Airport and 2018 also marked the centenary of Czechoslovakian independence. The show, this year, was attended by 220,000 visitors.

This author regularly attends this event, and it should be said, since several years Ostrava is the place to go. The atmosphere, food court, rich static and dynamic programs altogether constitute factors that attract numerous visitors, coming from both the Czech Republic, as well as from all around Europe.

To commemorate the dignified anniversary of the Czechoslovakian independence, the show ended, on both days, with a symbolic drop of poppies carried by the OV-10 Bronco aircraft, being a part of the exceptional historical flypast.

The symbolic airdrop of poppies from the OV-10 Bronco. (All images: Author).

More than 40 dynamic displays took place during the event, but we, as The Aviationist, would like to focus on the highlights of the flying portion of the event. It is a tradition for Ostrava to have a special partner nation associated with the show. This year, this role was assumed by the United States. Hopes were very high, given the closeness of the Ample Strike exercise (involving the US bombers), however, the Americans only sent its equipment to the static display – including, as usually, the B-52 bomber.

One of the interesting highlights came in a form of the Croatian Wings of Storm aerobatic team, who had their Ostravian debut this year. Another national aerobatic team performing in Ostrava was the White-Red Sparks group, brought in by the Polish Air Force. Germany and Poland also showcased their land forces within the showground. The showground also involved numerous historical elements, provided by the Silesian Museum, including depiction of the Skoda brand history.

Close up of “Vador” in the cockpit of the Belgian F-16 during his demo.

Furthermore, given the fact that Czech Republic is looking towards acquisition of a new helicopter platform for their military, the Americans have additionally brought the UH-1 Venom helicopter to Ostrava, which was also displayed on within the static exhibition area. The fact that this helicopter was showcased is significant, as it shares 80% of its parts with the AH-1Z Viper platform. This creates an interesting set of relations, as Prague and Bucharest would like to acquire the armed variant of the Venom, while Viper is offered to Poland and Romania, as a part of attack helicopter tender procedure. All of the above is interwoven by the fact that the US-based company would like to fuse logistics between the users, creating a Central European maintenance base.

Czech Gripen.

We were in Ostrava starting from Friday, hoping that the weather would permit us to witness rehearsals and arrivals. However, heavy rain at the Mošnov airport made it impossible to carry out most of the flying scheduled on Friday. During the weekend, however, the weather was good, and humid air ensured some spectacular phenomena form during the dynamic displays.

The program on Saturday was opened by a Polish F-16, followed by an Eurofighter Typhoon from Spain. Then the Slovak VIP Airbus made a flypast over the airfield. After several ground displays the sky was taken over by a Slovenian PC-9M, and then a historical flypast took place, with the OV-10 Bronco dropping the poppies. This was followed by a spectacular display of the Vador Force Belgian Air Component F-16 display team.

The Special Tiger-colored Eurofighter Typhoon of the Spanish Air Force.

Also, notably, the Czechs have managed to bring a Spitfire to the Ostrava show. This element was undoubtedly missing from the Polish counterpart in Radom. The Czechs have proven that not only is it possible to attract the US forces to contribute to the show (even though they were only present within the static), but it is also feasible to properly honor own heritage during the event.

The Supermarine Spitfire.

Further attractions included a Danish F-16 and Finnish Hornet, both staging a spectacular dynamic display. The Finnish Hornet demo has to be one of the author’s favorites this year – in Ostrava the spectacular nature of the display was further enhanced with the jet dispensing large quantities of flares.

Alongside Spitfire, the Czech organizer has also addressed the Warsaw Pact era within the display, as we could have witnessed a MiG-15 jet in the air, alongside the flamboyant Mi-24/35 demo show. Traditionally for Ostrava, we’ve also seen the Swedish Air Force Historic Flight team take part in the event. This year, involving: Lansen, Viggen and Draken.

The Saab Viggen.

The Saab Draken.

The Polish Air Force participated in the NATO Days with its ASAR W-3 Sokół platform and the service has also sent its White-Red Sparks aerobatic team to Czech Republic. Slovaks, who are also a neighbor of the Czechs, have sent their Fulcrums to Ostrava, to perform a formation flypast, maneuvering over the airfield. For many Poles this has been one of a rare occasions to witness Fulcrum in the air, since the jets have now been grounded since July. The rumors, however, suggest that the Polish MiG-29s are going to be back in the air soon enough – fingers crossed here. The last two displays were performed by the French Armee de’l Air Rafale demo team and by the RAF Typhoon demo team.

The Rafale demo.

Then, a Czech Mi-24 performed a spectacular routine over the airfield. The dynamic/aviation portion of the show was brought to a closure by a “Nordic Flypast” involving the jets of the Swedish Air Force Historic Flight, Finnish Hornet and Danish F-16 – and this atypical formation also made several passes over Mosnov, also dispensing flares and performing some spectacular breaks.

The Swedish Air Force Historic Flight escorted by the Finnish AF F/A-18 and the Danish AF F-16.

Summing it up, NATO Days in Ostrava lived up to the expectations, and had it not been for poor weather on Friday, the event would have been almost perfect. It is also a significant benchmark set for the organizers of the airshows all around Europe. Since the Ostrava show was a Czechosolvakian centenary event, this forces one to draw a comparison to RIAT or Radom Air Show this year which have been mildly disappointing, given the special occasion. For instance, the Czechs have managed to have a Spitfire perform a dynamic display during their show, whereas in Poland no warbird as such, very much associated with the history of the Polish military aviation, was presented in the air.

The Finnish Air Force Hornet during its display routine.

The Polish Air Force F-16 Tiger Demo.

If one wanted to complain, we could say that one would expect the Special Partner Nation to send some hardware into the air. Despite the high hopes, no surprises appeared in the Czech Republic last weekend. A-10 demo team, or F-22 Raptor dynamic display were among the hopeful wishes that have been circulated around social media prior to the show. Maybe the organizers could use these as a suggestion for the next edition?

Regardless of the above, if you live in Europe and the last air shows of August and early September still leave you hungry for more, Ostrava is definitely a place to go and it cannot be recommended highly enough. The general conclusion, after being slightly disappointed with the Polish and British centenaries this year, is that there’s still some hope that the air shows may still be very good and leave one with a positive impression. The NATO Days event set the bar high.


[Photo] Armed Czech JAS-39 Gripen jets deploy to Iceland for NATO Air Policing Mission

Here are the first photos of the Czech Air Force JAS-39 Gripen fighter planes deploying to Iceland to undertake Icelandic Air Policing duty.

The Czech Air Force has deployed five of its JAS-39 Gripen fighter aircraft and a total of 80 aircrew and ground personnel from 21st Tactical Air Force Base Čáslav to Iceland.

Their ferry flight to Keflavik was supported by an Italian Air Force KC-767A tanker from the 14° Stormo (Wing) based at Pratica di Mare.

Gripen formation

The Gripens mission is to provide Airborne Surveillance and Interception Capabilities to meet Iceland’s Peacetime Preparedness Needs (ASICIPPN) on behalf of NATO.

Noteworthy, the aircraft deployed to Iceland carrying live AIM-9L Sidewinder air-to-air missiles.

Gripen landing

Image credit: Eggert Norðdahl


Russian intelligence gathering plane flies near Sweden. Swedish Air Force allegedly fails to intercept it.

On Mar. 29, two Russian Tu-22M Backfire bombers, escorted by four Su-27 Flanker fighter jets, conducted a simulated night attack on Sweden. The mock air strike did not cause any reaction by the Swedish air force.

On Apr. 25, Svenska Dagbladet reported about a Russian Air Force ELINT (Electronic Intelligence) plane that on the preceding day flew in an unusually aggressive fashion in a narrow line of international airspace in between two big strategically placed Swedish isles, Öland and Gotland.

The Russian plane, reportedly an Il-20 Coot, arrived from the southern Baltic Sea on a northern course between the islands, then it turned south: a route that brought the spyplane close to violating the Swedish airspace.

One reason for the Russian reconnaissance plane to fly so close to Sweden may have been the large international “Combined Joint Staff Exercise” that began on Apr. 20.

The annual exercise features intense signal connection between the staffs in Karlskrona, Enköping and Uppsala; signals that could be of interest for the Russian Il-20 whose presence between Öland and Gotland could also be aimed at testing the Swedish Air Force air defense readiness.

Il-20 Coot

It is not clear yet whether any Swedish Gripen interceptor was scrambled to intercept the spyplane.

According to some Svenska Dagbladet’s sources, Sweden did not launch any Gripen; other sources say the Gripens were launched, but a bit too late to intercept the intruder when flying between the Swedish islands.

Either case, the lack of proper/effective reaction by the Swedish Air Force to Russia’s aggressive posture in the Baltic is causing concern in Sweden.

In 2011, a Russian Il-20s was intercepted by JAS-39 Gripens of the Czech Air Force performing Baltic Air Policing tasks from Lithuania’s First Air Base in Zokniai/Šiauliai International Airport as the image in this article shows.

H/T to Erik Arnberg for the heads-up

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Lion Effort 2012: the biggest Gripen exercise to date (with South African Air Force planes for the first time in Europe)

Update Apr. 6, 2012 23.15 GMT

Taking place in Sweden from Mar. 27 to Apr. 5, 2012, Lion Effort 2012 was the biggest Gripen exercise ever held. All five Saab Gripen operators took part to the drills, four of which flying their own planes for some 30 JAS-39s and about 300 people attending the exercise.

Being the host nation, Sweden took part with about 15 Gripens, the  Hungarian Air Force brough 5 planes, the South African AF brought four and the Czech brought 3 Gripens to Ronneby, the base of Lion Effort 2012 located in the southeast corner of Sweden, home of the F17 Wing.

Noteworthy, it was the first time that the South African Air Force has taken part in a multinational exercise with its Gripens (that were the last four examples handed over and were already in Sweden, and did not return in-flight but were carried by a ship).

Although declaring its Gripen squadron operational, the Royal Thai Air Force took part to the exercise with only a number of observers.

The majority of the sorties launched during Lion Effort 2012 took place in the airspace over the Baltic Sea and, along with the Gripens, other assets supported the exercise : a Swedish Air Force Saab 340 Erieye AEW and a C-130 tanker were also involved in the exercise, as well as four Czech Air Force L-159s.

Above images credit: SAAB

Here below you can find some exclusive air-to-air pictures, including a nice image of The Aviationist patch flying a Lion Effort 2012 sortie on a JAS-39 Gripen.

Italian Call 2011: an ISAF-like scenario to train European crews in a "hot, dry and dusty environment" adopting common procedures

Italian Call 2011 is the name of a Multinational Helicopter Exercise held at Viterbo, Italy, from May 23 to Jun. 9, 2011, as part of the European Defense Agency’s Helicopter Training Program. It follows two past successful exercises: GAP 2009, held in France, and AZOR 2010, held in Spain.

The exercise had the purpose of practing missions and procedures that might be required on current and future operations with a special focus on multiship formations in multinational joint environment: Medical evacuation (MEDEVAC), QRF (Quick Reaction Force), SAR (Search And Rescue), troops insertion, combat air support to ground troops, Airmobile operations.

In particular, the aim of the Exercise was to train European crews and staff to operate “in a hot, dry and dusty environment adopting common procedures while operating as joint/combined Aviation Battalion in an exercise Crisis Response Operations (CRO)”. The ISAF Theater of Operations in Afghanistan was in fact used as Exercise Scenario.

Furthermore, Italian Call 2011 provided an important opportunity for helicopters operators to share information and best practices, to conduct multi-ship formations, NVG sorties, Target hand-over operations with Troops in Contact (TIC), escort and scout missions as well as live firing exercises.

The proposed scenario saw a multinational Aviation Battalion tasked to deploy in Area of Operations (AOO) under a Combined multinational command. Prior to the deployment phase multinational units were concentrated in Viterbo army airfield in order to achieve Full Operational Capability (FOC) and to integrate all assigned assets into the Task Force (TF). Aviation assets would be deployed in the Main Operating Base (MOB) in order to support ground forces.

Operating from a Forward Operating Base (FOB) the Aviation Battalion assets are called on a daily basis to operate to support ground units with fire suppression, Medical Evacuation and convoy escort missions. Local insurgents clans and several mixed terrorist elements are operating in the AOO with a wide array of threats: Improvised Explosive Devices (IED), Small Arms Fire (SAFIRE) and Rockets and Mortars (RAM) mainly attacking convoys. Regional policy was to set up further platoon-company size strong points along the main supply routes and around the main urbanized areas and to re-supply them by air and by ground as a daily routine activity. The Aviation Battalion was also tasked to escort ground convoys and to re-supply allied positions.

A total of 32 helicopters beloning to three classes were involved:
– CH-47, CH-53 (more than 10 tonnes payload);
– NH-90, EH-101 Merlin e Mi-17 (5-10 tonnes payload),
– A-109 & AB-412 (less than 5 tons payload).

Besides Italy, Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Germany and Slovenia participated with aircrafts and crews, with Lithuania and Greece having observers for a total of around 350 military.

Here’s a list of the participating assets as provided by the special blog published and updated on a daily basis to provide information and news about the Exercise (note that the list was not updated since it contains only 29 helos).

4 x A 129
2 x CH47C
2 x NH90
1 x SH-3D
4 x AB-212
3 x AB212
3 x A109
4 x Mi 17
2 x Mi 24
2 x CH-53
2 x Cougar

The Exercise took place within the huge R53 (“Romeo 53”) restricted airspace, an area that “surrounds” the Viterbo airport and that is dedicated to the military training activity of Italian Army helicopters.  All the participating units could get informed about ATC and planning procedures for IT CALL 2011 thank to the ENAC (Ente Nazionale Assistenza al Volo) “Self Briefing” platform which enables real time Web access to AIS, Meteo, AFTN and ATFM info via Internet.

More than 600 flying hours were flown during Italian Call 2011 with 50 daily sorties (on average) and a total consumption of 450.000 lts of fuel.

Thanks to the help of Col. Massimo Meola and Lt.Col. Giovanni Ramunno of the Italian Army, contributor Giovanni Maduli had the opportunity to report from Viterbo and to take the following interesting images of Exercise Italian Call 2011.