Tag Archives: Royal Canadian Air Force

Here Are The Highlights Of Malta International Airshow 2017

Once again, the traditional airshow brought several interesting visitors to Malta.

On Sept. 23 and 24, Malta hosted the yearly airshow over Smart City that gathered many interesting aircraft, including some exotic attendeeds, rarely seen at airshows around Europe.

Among them, one of the three Royal Canadian Air Force CF-188 Hornets of the 433 Squadron deployed to Solenzara airbase, Corse, to take part in Serpentex 2017 exercise alongside the RAF Tornado GR4s of the IX(B) Sqn deployed to Decimomannu, Sardinia (two of those took part in the static display at Malta Luqa airport).

Other interesting visitors were the “Turkish Stars” and accompanying A400M, the RAF Hawk T2, the “Saudi Hawks”, the German Navy P-3 and the Alpha Jet Solo Display.

In this post you can find some of the most interesting aircraft that took part in the airshow, photographed by aviation photographer Estelle Calleja.

A Turkish Air Force A400 supported the deployment to Malta of the NF-5 of the Turkish Stars display team.

The AlphaJet Solo Display was one of the highlights of the show. The French Air Force brought back the Alpha Jet Solo Display, it shut down in 2012.

The AW.139 helicopter and the King Air B200 of the Armed Forces of Malta Air Wing.

The Leonardo AW.139 of the Guardia di Finanza (Custom Police) was the only Italian participant this year.

The Royal Canadian Air Force took part in the airshow with one CF-188 Hornet of the 433 Squadron deployed to Solenzara for the Serpentex 2017 exercise.

One of the two RAF British Aerospace Hawk T2 ZK022 of 4(R)Sqn based at Valley.

A P-3C Cup Orion of the Marineflieger about to land in Malta Luqa airport.

A U.S. Navy P-8 Poseidon from VP-16 took part in the airshow. The aircraft is deployed to Sigonella airbase, Sicily, Italy, from where it conducts missions over the Black Sea and off Syria.

The Hawk Mk65 of the Saudi Hawks, the aerobatic team of the Royal Saudi Air Force.

A Tornado GR4 from IX Sqn. The unit was temporarily deployed to Decimomannu, Italy, to take part in Serpentex 2017.

One of the NF-5A Freedom Fighters of the Turkish Air Force aerobatic team “Turkish Stars”.


Image credit: Estelle Calleja

New Search For Avro Arrow Flight Models Lost 60 Years Ago in Lake Ontario Has Begun

Scale Model Flight Test Prototypes Sunk in Lake May Provide Clues to Mystery.

The Canadian-built CF-105 Avro Arrow is many things in aviation history, but more than anything else, it is an enigma.

Aviation historians suggest the Avro Arrow was an aircraft well ahead of its time. A Canadian project from the start, the CF-105 was a large, delta-wing supersonic interceptor built to repel the bomber threat from the Soviet Union.

During the 1950s at the height of the Cold War the Avro CF-105 Arrow project showcased many aviation firsts, including the first fly-by-wire flight control system and very impressive time-to-climb performance. By all measures, the CF-105 Avro Arrow program was a massive achievement for the Canadian aerospace industry, and a tangible competitor to other western aerospace contractors.

The story gets weird when then-Canadian Prime Minister John Diefenbaker cancelled the program abruptly in 1959. It gets even weirder when there appeared to be a conspirational effort to destroy every trace of the program; including all plans and the even the five test aircraft themselves. At the time espionage was suspected as a partial motive. More than one analyst has noted thematic design similarities between the early Avro Arrow and the later Russian MiG-25 Foxbat.

The Canadian-built Avro Arrow was an advanced high performance interceptor that remains shrouded in mystery. (Photo: Avro)

Another reason cited for the sudden cancellation of the Avro CF-105 was the development of ICBMs by the Soviets that effectively rendered interceptors obsolete.

Trying to find an accurate accounting of how, where and when the only five Avro Arrows were destroyed is difficult. The primary narrative is that they were, in fact, destroyed.

The mystery deepened again in December of 2011, when an ejection seat from an Avro Arrow surfaced on eBay with a starting bid of $250,000 USD. A previous seat surfaced in 2008 and was purchased for the Canadian Air and Space Museum in Toronto. The CF-105 was a two-seat aircraft with a pilot and radar intercept officer.

The discovery of the ejection seats fueled rumors that a single remaining Avro Arrow prototype had been smuggled out of Canada to England. One eyewitness claimed to have actually seen the aircraft over England, despite the fact that the Avro Arrow did not have the range to fly non-stop from Canada to England. Experts suggest the likelihood of an entire aircraft actually surviving the abrupt termination of the program are almost zero, but like other conspiracy theories the “hidden Avro Arrow” story has appeal, if not merit.

The Avro Arrow story regained momentum last week when Canadian mining tycoon John Burzynski announced a significant effort to recover the large-scale model prototypes used for flight testing over Lake Ontario, one of the Great Lakes between Canada and the United States.

The scale models launched from rockets off Point Petre in Prince Edward County east of Toronto during the 1950’s were intended to test stability of the aircraft early in the program. The Avro Arrow test models were three meters long (about 10 feet) or about 1/8th scale of the actual aircraft. A total of nine models were boosted by rockets and hurled into Lake Ontario as part of the early developmental testing.

Researchers are searching for test models launched over Lake Ontario at the end of large rocket boosters seen here. (Photo: Canadian Ministry of Defense)

The abandoned 10-foot long test models of the Avro Arrow likely lie in water between depths of 5 meters to nearly 100 meters, or 330 feet. Lake Ontario’s maximum depth is just over 240 meters, about 800 feet. The search grid for the large-scale models is over 60 square kilometers, half the size of the major Canadian city, Vancouver.

Researchers will use an autonomous programmable submarine surveillance vessel named the “Thunder Fish”. The small submarine uses high-resolution side-looking synthetic aperture sonar to make images of the lake bottom. During its submerged reconnaissance runs the mini-sub moves at about 3 knots speed.

Should the operation, called “Raise the Arrow” by its organizers, succeed in locating any of the aircraft models on the lake bottom for over 50 years they will be displayed at the Canadian Aviation and Space Museum in Ottawa and the National Air Force Museum of Canada in Trenton, Ontario.

The small, autonomous mini-sub before launching for the search of Lake Ontario last week.
(Photo: CBC)




Canadian CF-18 crashes near Cold Lake killing pilot. It’s the eighth Legacy Hornet lost in 6 months

Legacy Hornets are crashing at an alarming rate!

A Royal Canadian Air Force single-seat CF-188 Hornet from 4 Wing Cold Lake crashed inside the Cold Lake Air Weapons Range in Saskatchewan, on Nov. 28. The pilot died in the incident.

The rate of crashes involving legacy Hornets is quite alarming. At least 8 major incidents have involved legacy Hornets (that is to say, the older variant of the F/A-18) in the last 6 months!

Two U.S. Marine Corps F-18 Hornets from MCAS Miramar collided mid-air during a training mission on Nov. 9 near San Diego. One pilot landed safely at the NAS North Island whereas the other one ejected over the sea and was rescued.

Few days earlier, on Oct. 25, an F/A-18 Hornet from Miramar crashed near Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center in Twentynine Palms killing the pilot.

On Aug. 29, a Swiss Air Force F/A-18 Hornet crashed shortly after taking off from Meiringen airbase. The 27-year-old pilot was found dead two days later.

On Aug. 2, a U.S. Navy F/A-18C Hornet flown crashed near Fallon, Nevada. The pilot safely ejected.

On Jul. 27 another Marine Hornet pilot died in a crash near 29 Palms.

Same fate for a Blue Angels pilot flying a Hornet that crashed on Jun. 2, shortly after takeoff during a practice flight in Tennessee.

Capt. Stephen R. Miggins, Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 232 F/A-18 pilot and assistant operations officer, refuels from a KC-130J during flight training in support of Pitch Black 2012 Aug. 15.

Capt. Stephen R. Miggins, Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 232 F/A-18 pilot and assistant operations officer, refuels from a KC-130J during flight training in support of Pitch Black 2012 Aug. 15.

In the wake of the Hornet crashes from June through October, the U.S. Marine Corps temporarily grounded its non-deployed Hornets. Unfortunately, few days after the ban was lifted, two more F/A-18Cs were lost on Nov. 9.

Hornet crashes over the last year have depleted the number of available airplanes for training and operations. According to USNI News the service had 85 Hornets available for training, compared to a requirement for 171.

In order to face the critical shortage of operational fighters caused by both crashes and high operational tempos, the U.S: Marine Corps has launched a plan that will see Boeing upgrade 30 retired legacy Hornets (currently stored at the 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group at Davis-Monthan AFB, Arizona) to a standard dubbed F/A-18C+.

With this upgrade, that will also embed new avionics, the service will be able to keep up with its operational tasks until the F-35 is able to take over.

Once upgraded to the C+ standard, these “gap fillers” should be more than enough to conduct combat operations in low-lethality scenarios like those that see the USMC at work these days.

Furthermore, once these “refreshed” Hornets are delivered to the squadrons, older airframes can be retired, improving flight safety.

Canada has just announced the plan to use F/A-18E/F Super Hornet multi-role fighters as “gap fillers” until Ottawa decides on a replacement for its fleet of legacy Hornet aircraft.

Top image credit: RCAF






Israeli Government Approves Purchase of 17 more F-35s bringing the total to 50 stealth jets

Despite criticism, Israel decided to exercise the option for another 17 aircraft. And there might also be some F-35Bs at the horizon to enable the Israeli Air Force to continue operating from dispersed locations in case of attack.

On Nov. 27, the Israeli Ministerial Committee for National Security, headed by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu decided to purchase another 17 F-35A Conventional Take Off and Landing (CTOL) aircraft, bringing the total to 50 Lightning II jets.

The first two examples of the controversial, expensive, advanced 5th Generation aircraft, designated “Adir” (“Mighty One”) by the Israeli, are expected to be delivered to the Israeli Air Force (IAF), at Nevatim Air Base in southern Israel, in about three weeks.

The stealth aircraft, that the Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman defined “the most advanced in the world and the best for safeguarding Israel’s aerial superiority,” was contracted through the U.S. government’s Foreign Military Sales program; the first 33 examples were purchased in two batches: the first one worth 2.75 billion USD and the second for 2.82 billion USD, including infrastructure, parts, and training simulators.

The Israeli F-35s will have some components contributed by Israeli companies, including Israel Aerospace Industries that will produce the F-35’s outer wings, Elbit Systems-Cyclone, that will provide center fuselage composite components as well as Elbit Systems Ltd. that will provide Gen. III helmet-mounted display systems to be worn by all Lightning II pilots.

Although the extent of “domestic” modifications is still unknown, the IAF F-35As will be somehow different from the “standard” F-35s, as they will embed national EW (Electronic Warfare) pods, weaponry, C4 systems etc. This is the reason why Israeli F-35s are sometimes dubbed F-35I (for Israel), as if they were a different variant from the three baseline versions (A, B and C).

For sure, the new sales represents a good promotion for Lockheed Martin, considered the fame of the Israeli Air Force, known to be one of the most advanced and very well equipped: if the F-35s were deemed to be able to meet all the requirements of a service with a really strong reputation, that has been at war for decades and has employed its combat planes to perform some really complex operations (like the air strikes on the Iraqi nuclear reactor and the Syrian nuclear facility in 2007), then they should be good for most of the world air forces (some of those continue to invest in the program.)

Still, there are many, even at the Pentagon, who firmly believe that the F-35 is not suitable for combat for years to come.

By the way, the news comes few days after Canada announced the plan to use F/A-18E/F Super Hornet multi-role fighters as “gap fillers” until Ottawa decides on a replacement for its fleet of legacy Hornet aircraft. In fact, after investing in the program for several decades, the new Trudeau Government canceled Canada’s planned purchase of the F-35 (considered too expensive) and announced a new, forthcoming open competition for a permanent CF-18 replacement.

Anyway, it seems that the IAF might end up operating F-35Bs as well.

As we have already reported last year, talks between Israel and U.S. about a possible IAF acquisition of the F-35B, the STOVL (Short Take Off Vertical Landing) version of the Joint Strike Fighter, have started in 2015, according to some Israeli media outlets.

F-35Bs would allow the aircraft to take off and land from austere landing strips in should Iran be able to knock out IAF airbases with precision weapons.

Israel is a small country and its main airfields could be easily threatened by long-range weapons in the hands of state actors or handed over to militant movements like Hamas and Hezbollah: IAF’s only chance to continue operating in case of attack would be dispersing aircraft to remote locations, an option that would be viable only thanks to the unique F-35B STOVL capabilities.


 Image credit: Lockheed Martin



While its aircraft can be tracked online, the U.S. Air Force only worries about Tweets….

Bad OPSEC (Operations Security) exposed by Air War on ISIS?

“Loose Tweets Destroy Fleets” is the slogan (based on the U.S. Navy’s WWII slogan “Loose Lips Sink Ships”) that the U.S. Air Force Central Command used a couple of weeks ago for an article aimed at raising airmen awareness about the risk of sharing sensitive information on social media.

Indeed, the AFCENT article speaks directly to the threat posed by Islamic State supporters who, according to Stripes, on at least two occasions have acquired and posted online personal data of military personnel, urging sympathizers, “lone wolves,” to attack Americans in the States and overseas in retaliation for the air strikes.

The article highlights the importance of proper OPSEC to keep sensitive information away from the enemy and to prevent leakage of information that could put missions, resources and members at risk,  “and be detrimental to national strategic and foreign policies.”

Interestingly, the article only focuses on the smart use of social media. Ok, however, there are other possible OPSEC violations that the U.S. Air Force (as well as many other air arms currently supporting Operation Inherent Resolve, in Iraq and Syria, or Enduring Freedom, in Afghanistan) should be concerned of.

In October 2014 we highlighted the risk of Internet-based flight tracking of aircraft flying war missions after we discovered that a U.S. plane possibly supporting ground troops in Afghanistan acting as an advanced communication relay can be regularly tracked as it circles over the Ghazni Province.

The only presence of the aircraft over a sensitive target could expose an imminent air strike, jeopardizing an entire operations.

Although such risk was already exposed during opening stages of the Libya Air War, when some of the aircraft involved in the air campaign forgot/failed to switch off their mode-S or ADS-B transponder, and were clearly trackable on FR.24 or PF.net and despite pilots all around the world know the above mentioned websites very well, transponders remain turned on during real operations making the aircraft clearly visible to anyone with a browser and an Internet connection.

Magma 13

USAF C-146A Wolfhound of the 524th Special Operations Squadron

During the last few months many readers have sent us screenshots they took on FR24.com or PF.net (that only collect ADS-B broadcast by aircraft in the clear) showing military planes belonging to different air forces over Iraq or Afghanistan: mainly tankers and some special operations planes.

Hoser 15

Canadian tanker

We have informed the U.S. Air Force and other air forces that their planes could be tracked online, live, several times, but our Tweets (and those of our Tweeps who retweeted us) or emails have not had any effect as little has changed. Maybe they don’t consider their tankers’ racetrack position or the area of operations of an MC-12 ISR (Intelligence Surveillance Reconnaissance) aircraft a sensitive information…

A330 over Iraq

RAF A330 tanker over Iraq

Image credit: screenshots from Flightradar24.com