Tag Archives: Military Aviation

Photo: Venezuelan Air Force Sukhoi Su-30MkII backseater view

I’ve found this awesome picture almost by accident.

It was published on One Big Photo, a website that makes high resolution photographs of various subjects available to everyone. Usually, aircraft pictures you can find on photo/wallpaper sites are only spectacular images already published on several aviation-related websites.

The F-15E with lightning strike in the background photo, published also on Gizmodo, is an expample of those very well known images that arrive on photo websites months after being released by the U.S. Air Force.

However, the image taken by Sergio j. Padrón from the backseat of a Venezuelan Air Force Su-30MkII flying the slot position of a four-ship formation is not only extremely beautiful and interesting, but also rarer, although it was taken (according to the author’s Flickr profile) in December 2009.

Image credit: Sergio j. Padrón via One Big Photo

Following on India's MMRCA win, Rafale on the verge of winning UAE fighter deal?

Has Dassault won a 60 jet deal with the UAE?

French newspaper La Tribune reported on Feb. 2, 2012, that France could be on the verge of winning a long-awaited $10billion 60 jet deal with the United Arab Emerates which could be signed as soon as April.

Citing unidentified sources, the paper said on its website that President Nicolas Sarkozy would go to the UAE in March or early April when the contract is likely to be finalised.

The rumor comes only days after Dassalt virtually won the Indian MMRCA (Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft) deal and few months after Eurofighter consortium, beaten in the “mother of all tenders”, received  an RFP (Request For Proposal) by the UAE Air Force.

The deal has been in the pipeline since 2008 but negotiations stalled when the UAE described it as “uncompetitive and unworkable.” and had asked for information about the Typhoon. Althought how the deal was unlocked remains unclear a source told La Tribune that every issue has been solved.

If confirmed, this new order will unlock the possibility of further middle east deals for Dassault and Rafale in the Gulf, where countries could benefit of inter-operability that a common platform could offer. Qatar Emiri Air Force whose Mirage 2000s have taken part to the Air War in Libya  operating side to side with the French Air Force combat planes out of Souda Bay, Crete, could buy 24 to 36 Rafale to replace its ageing Mirages. Kuwait last year said it was also considering buying Rafales.

Richard Clements for TheAviationist

Photo by Alessandro Fucito

Low-Collateral Damage BONE: new weapon in the B-1's arsenal

This week, the 337th Test and Evaluation Squadron based at Dyess Air Force Base, Texas, has completed a compatibility test of the BLU-129 on the B-1 bomber over the Utah Test and Training Range.

The BLU-129 is a variant of the 250lb small diameter bomb in which the usual iron body has been replaced by a carbon-fibre body along with some changes to the explosive compound. The result is a munition that is very effective in an urban environment:  the carbon body disintegrates rather than fragments reducing the risk of collateral damages. This increases the explosive force in a confined area but largely removes the shrapnel issues further out from the target.

The munition tested on the B-1 is a larger 500lb version, and depending what nose/tail kits are attached, the munition can be a GPS-guided JDAM or a laser guided Paveway smart bomb.

Talking on the Air Combat Command website, Major Thomas Bryant 337th TES (Test and Evaluation Squadron) said “The weapon itself has already been validated, the goal of this test was to verify if a B-1’s software would be compatible with the weapon. We wanted to compare the blast effects between our 500-pound GBU-38 with a metal body as opposed to the BLU-129 with the carbon-fibre body.”

High speed cameras were used to see the differences in the targets destruction and the blast effects between the two munitions.

“Successfully accomplishing this test proves the B-1 is fully capable to employ this weapon” added Bryant. “In today’s fight, precision and accuracy are everything. Being able to take out a target while minimizing collateral damage gives combatant commanders a wide range of flexibility.”

It’s also worth pointing out that the weapon can be fitted to all of the guidance kits making the B-1 the ideal platform for the new weapon.

The adaptation of the BLU-129 and the Sniper pod along with the fact the weapon load out can be mixed will give much greater flexibility during combat missions.

Bryant’s final comment and a glowing reference to the aircraft was “If an aircrew needs to engage an enemy in an urban environment as well as destroy an entire enemy compound within a single sortie, only a select number of Air Force aircraft have that ability, with the B-1 bomber at the top of that list.”

Such senario’s are common place during sorties over Afghanistan where a B-1 can remain on call over enemy airspace for many hours. Therefore, it’s safe to say this weapon will be installed into the B-1’s weapons bay sooner rather than later.

Richard Clements for TheAviationist.com

Image credit: U.S. Air Force

China's Light Attack Helicopter Z-19: a silent (rather than radar evading) chopper

The new Z-19 does not have a cool name, but it does have some very interesting features.

The use of the word ‘Stealth’ is probably a little too strong a term for this new helicopter as the stealth used is not in the classical sense. In the case of the Z-19, it’s acoustic stealthiness along with exhausts that shield the aircraft from Infra-red threats, rather than radar-absorbing materials and shapes like the modified Stealth Black Hawk used in the Osama Bin Laden raid.

The Z-19 is being developed by Harbin Aircraft Industrial Corporation and is suspected to operate alongside the larger Z-10 which is roughly the size of a Ah-64 Apache and is more of a tank killer. Moreover, the Z-10 is now entering front line service with the smaller Z-19 a few years behind.

The Z-19 is roughly the size of an OH-58 Kiowa and made its first flight in May 2010. Although it has been reported that one prototype was lost during September 2010, there are no details of the cause of the crash or even if there were fatalities. The fuselage is the usual slim tandem cockpit design, although unlike most gunship designs the pilot sits in the front seat with the gunner in the elevated rear seat. The chin turret sits in the usual place and the cabin has the distinct look of the Agusta A-129 about it.

Moving to the rear of the aircraft, the Z-19 has exhuasts that point up reducing the infra-red signature, ‘stubby’ wings with hard points and the tail boom whose look remind the AH-66 Comanche with the fenestron tail. It’s the latter that gives clues to its acoustic damping that is ideal for a forward scout able to creep up on an unsuspecting enemy or provide targeting data for its partner in crime the Z-10.

The Z-19 boasts armour plating for its crew along with crash resisting seats; the chin turret has FLIR, TV and a laser range finder. The chopper can carry a wide weapons load including 23mm gun pods, anti-tank and air-to-air missiles giving it a wide-ranging punch. A range of 700km, a service ceiling of 2,400 m and a cruising speed of 245 km/h finishes off the performance figures.

The most interesting thing about the z-19, other than its obvious evolution over previous designs, is its export potential to countries that do not have the big budgets and are looking for a cheaper alternative to the Apache’s, Hinds and Z-10s.

China could find it has a best seller on its hands if it capitalizes on the new helicopters potential.

Its in service date is unknown. However, since it is currently in an advanced flight testing program, the PLAAF should be taking delivery of the Z-19 within the next few years.

Richard Clements for TheAviationist.com

Image via Chinese Internet

Another day, another Iranian drone. Tehran reveals the new "A1" UAV.

On Jan. 30, Iran has announced the development of a new UAV (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle) called the “A1”. According to the information released so far, the new drone allegedly has a service ceiling of 10,000 feet, an endurance of two hours and can carry up to a 11lbs (5kg) payload. Furthermore, it has an engine running on hi-octane gas/oil mix (2 stroke engine??) with a 2 blade pusher propeller and can be either launched from a ramp attached to the bed of a truck or ship-launched from rocket launchers.

These “features” seem to suggest that the new drone  is another variant of the Ababil indigenous UAV family, which already includes the Ababil-5,  used as a medium range surveillance platform, and the Ababil-T, a short to medium range UCAV with offensive capabilities.

Image credit: PressTV

Press TV website which broke the news also mentions a –B and a –S version but does not disclose what the purposes of these are.

It was an Ababil-T drone, allegedly launched from within Lebanon and sported Hezbollah markings, that was shot down in 2006 by an Israeli Air Force F-16 using a Rafael Python 5, about 5 nautical miles off Israel’s coast.

Ababil-T (credit: IDF)

The launching of the new drone is a further evidence of a blooming indigenous UAV program which has similar beginnings to that of the Israeli UAV program, started many years ago to develop drones for artillery spotting and battlefield overwatch as well as decoys for SAM sites (they are used to personify manned assets and spur a reaction by the SAM site that can be then attacked by other SEAD assets).

Although the significance of Iran’s UAV program remains unclear (especially if we consider the claims about the prodigious performance of some drones that are nothing more than scale models), it’s once again interesting to notice how the Iranian government use the local media to trickle out information on new systems being developed by Tehran.

The Aviationist will monitor further developments as and when they arise.

Written with The Aviationist’s Editor David Cenciotti