Prowling Over Scotland

HMS Illustrious handed back to RN

AS THE aircraft carrier HMS Illustrious (R06) enters the final stage of its £120 million, two-year refit, the ship was officially handed back to the Royal Navy (RN) on July 27 at Babcock Engineering Services’ Rosyth Dockyard. Some 550 new RN crew members will now assist in completion of the refit at Rosyth which will lead to an intensive period of sea training after she returns to the fleet in February 2005 before officially becoming the Fleet Flagship in June 2005.

Once the refit is completed, officially scheduled for November 6, ‘Lusty’ will look rather different. Distinctive external changes include an extra mast to accommodate its new, enhanced communications equipment, whilst the original ‘ski jump’ has been completely replaced by a re-profiled ramp optimised for future operation of Harrier GR.7s and GR.9s flown by both RN and RAF pilots.

As a result of the refit, the carrier will be able to continue in service until at least 2012 when the first of the two new CV(F) carriers is scheduled to come into service. Depending on operational requirements, the carrier will be able to embark Merlin HM.l ASW helicopters, Harrier GR.7s and GR.9s, AF.W Sea King AS&C.7s, Royal Marine Commando Sea King HC.4s and RAF Chinook HC.2s.

Much of the refit has been involved with changes in order to maintain this flexibility of operation with different aviation assets. New tie-down points have been fitted throughout the hangar and flightdeck for the Merlin helicopters, whilst enhanced fuel, water and power services are being provided on the flight deck, which also has an additional catwalk. In addition, workshops and store-rooms are being refurbished and the ship’s weapons, sensors and communications systems are all being upgraded.

Illustrious is one of three Invincible Class carriers in the RN, the other two being HMS Ark Royal (R07) and HMS Invincible (R05). As of September 30, 2003, Invincible assumed the role of ‘R2’ carrier and Fleet Flagship, ready to deploy anywhere in the world at 48 hours notice in support of UK Government foreign policy — as already mentioned above, this role will be transferred to Illustrious next year. Ark Royal, which is larger than her two sisters and has a steeper ski-jump, is currently in ‘extended readiness’ at Rosyth with a skeleton crew but is scheduled to remain in active service until 2015.

For the new Future Aircraft Carrier -CV(F) — programme, the Ministry of Defence has announced that the Assessment Phase activity will be extended for a further 12 months to allow further risk reduction work to be undertaken. The MoD says that this will not affect the target in-service dates for the two carriers of 2012 and 2015, although there is widespread industry doubt about whether these dates are now achievable. A Main Gate decision on going ahead with the project for the two 60,000 ton carriers, which will each be able to embark 36 F-35B Joint Strike Fighters, is now scheduled for around mid-2005.

Aermacchi M346 First Flight

AERMACCHI’S PROTOTYPE M-346 advanced jet trainer, MM.CS.X615 (c/n 001), finally flew for the first time on July 15, getting airborne from Venegono Airfield, Italy, at 0830hrs for a 55-minute flight in the hands of Aermacchi Experimental Chief Test Pilot Olinto Cecconello.

A pair of Aermacchi MB-339CD jet trainer aircraft acted as chase planes for the flight, which marks the start of a comprehensive flight test campaign that will involve three instrumented prototype aircraft that will conduct around 700 test flights.

First F-5Es Delivered to Austria

IN A formal ceremony at Graz-Thalerhof air base, Austria, the first four F-5E Tiger IIs being leased from the Swiss Air Force were officially handed over. The aircraft, J-3005, J-3030, J-3033 and J-3065, had arrived at Graz two days earlier, already in

Austrian markings, though as they are only leased they retain Swiss serials. Although the contract was signed earlier this year, it had to await US approval. This was formally granted on June 14, after which pilot and ground crew training began at

Diibendorf. Austria will lease a total of 12 F-5Es from Switzerland as a stopgap measure until delivery of its Eurofighter Typhoons. The next four deliveries will be J-3004, J-3038, J-3052 and J-3057, due by the year-end. The final four will arrive in mid-2005.

Turkish Air Force in Live Firing Exercise

THE TURKISH Air Force (TuAF) demonstrated its strike power on July 1, 2004, with a day-night live firing exercise at the 3rd Main Jet Base (MJB) Command at Konya. This was the first such exercise in five years, the biggest to date and the first time the TuAF had showed off its entire munitions inventory.

The exercise was basically a demonstration of force, and for this reason the Commander of the Turkish General Chief of Staff (TGS) General Hilmi Ozkok had been invited, along with Gen Ozkok, the Commander of the Turkish Naval Forces Command, and other Staff Generals of the Turkish Armed Forces.

Konya 3rd MJB Command was selected as the venue because of its extensive firing range, which allows pilots to fly at low level and drop live bombs. A number of TuAF squadrons and a total of nine aircraft took part: 132 Filo F-4F. (from Konya 3 MJB)

161 Filo LANTIRN-equipped F-16C (from Bandirma 6.MJB)

181 Filo LANTIRN-equipped F-16C (from Diyarbakir 8 MJB)

171 FiloF-4F. 2020 (from Malatya-Erhac 7 MJB)

111 Filo F-4F. 2020 (from F’skisehir 1 MJB)

113 Filo RF-4E (from Eskisehir 1 MJB) Before the exercise, the TuAF’s air-to-air and air-to-ground munitions inventory was on display in a hangar. A static display featured an F-4E 2020,

F-4E, F-16C and F-5A 2000. AN/AAQ-13 & AN/AAQ-14 LANTIRN and AN/AVQ-23 Pave Spike pods were among the highlights of the display, which also included the first showing to the media of the AGM-142 Popeye and its data link pod. The GBU-15 EOGB bomb was another interesting feature of the display.

The AGM-142 and GBU-15 are currently the TuAF’s basic stand-off weapons, carried by modernized F-4E 2020s. There was at one time a scheme for local production of the Popeye Lite missile for the TuAF F-16 fleet, but this was cancelled. Sources say that the TuAF received a number of AGM-142 Popeye missiles from Israel.

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