AirForces News 02 1991

A-12 Cancelled & B-2 Delayed

AFTER MONTHS OF uncertainty, the A-12A Avenger II development programme has been scrapped. The decision, announced by US Defence Secretary Dick Cheney after he had been briefed on the revised project programme on January 4, has stunned defence chiefs and comes as a bitter blow to General Dynamics and McDonnell Douglas which had jointly developed the aircraft as a next-generation carrier-borne replacement for the US Navy Grumman A-6E Intruder fleet. Original USN requirement for the type had been for 858 to be in service eventually but constant USN budget restrictions and cost overruns on the project (see December News) meant that proposed production has been progressively reduced.

Most recent problems stemmed from allegations of possible criminal activity and corruption relating to progress payments received for the programme which resulted in a federal investigation into both GD and McDD and a demand from the Pentagon for submission by the manufacturers of proposals for restructuring the entire programme. When the revised proposals were submitted the Navy seemed pleased with them but the Pentagon was less than impressed and has decided that it is not economically viable to continue the programme in the light of the reduced threat existing today, and the vast expenditure necessary for full scale development.

Also subject to budget cuts, the Northrop B-2 programme is again running into difficulties because the Air Force is unsure whether it can safely request funding this year for long-lead purchases required for 1992 production without antagonising the House Armed Services Committee. Although the Air Force is, at the present time, committed to overall production of 75 aircraft, reduced from the 133 actually required because of budget cuts, they cannot make firm the five or six aircraft proposed for 1992 production unless the long-lead items are allowed for now in the current budget.

It has also been reported that the USAF is to ‘freeze’ production at the 15th aircraft according to Boeing, a major B-2 sub-contractor, «because the Air Force does not intend to go forward and purchase numbers 16 and 17 production planes». Despite this claim, the USAF has stated that no decision has yet been reached on the future of B-2 production although a decision on 1991 spending on the B-2 should be announced before February 6.


A NEW DERIVATIVE of the Sukhoi Su-27 Flanker has been observed recently carrying out trials on board the Soviet Navy aircraft carrier Tbilisi (now renamed Kuznetsov). The aircraft has been modified as a side-by-side two-seat trainer, despite the existence of the Su-27UB Flanker C tandem two-seat trainer. Soviet sources claim that the new design was necessary because the tandem configuration was not suited to training pilots in the demanding carrier environment.

Extensive modifications needed to the aircraft suggest that the Soviets would not have gone to the considerable expense of developing the new variant merely to provide a few naval trainers without having other roles in mind. This has led to speculation that strike, reconnaissance and other operational roles may also be planned for the new two-seater, particularly in view of current restrictions on Soviet defence spending, which would presumably preclude the spending of large amounts of money on a variant only likely to be acquired in small numbers.

The all-moving canard-foreplanes previously seen on the carrier-capable Flanker D have been retained but alterations to the original design include widening of the nose to accommodate the second seat. The long leading-edge root extensions on the wings have also been extended even further, almost to the tip of the nose, producing SR-71 Blackbird-like chines.


CONTINUING BUDGETARY PRESSURES in the USA have forced the USAF to abandon plans to develop a new dedicated close air support (CAS) version of the GD F-16, the F/A-16, to replace the ageing A-10A Thunderbolt lls.

Instead, existing Block 30 F-16C/Ds will be modified for the CAS role and given night and adverse weather attack capabilities. Also under consideration is the possibility of retaining two wings of A-10s for the same role to supplement the modified F-16s. If this goes ahead, they too would be modified with night and adverse weather attack capability.


BUDGETARY CONSTRAINTS have meant that the twelve new BAe Hawk T.60s requested by the Finnish AF, which were recently reduced to eight, have finally resulted in a £210 million order being signed on December 28 for only seven examples.

Although Valmet assembled 46 of the original batch of 50 Finnish Hawks, the small extra number now required will be assembled by BAe at Brough rather than re-opening the Finnish production line.

BIDS FOR REPLACEMENT of the Finnish AF MiG-21s and Saab Drakens were due to be submitted to the Finnish Ministry of Defence by October 31.

The Finns have made it a condition that there will be 100% offset on the deal for the winning aircraft which will be either the Dassault Mirage 2000, GD F-16 or Saab JAS39 Gripen and comprise an order for 40 aircraft plus options on a further 20. The contract, excluding weapons or spares, will be worth $2.8 billion (£1436 million).


FIVE OR SIX of the former Warsaw Pact bases in Eastern Germany are thought likely to be retained by the newly combined Luftwaffe. It is known that the airfield at Laage, latterly home to the Sukhoi Su-22 Fitters of MFG-28 (see AFM August) and JBG-77, will be one of the airfields to be retained together with another unspecified base currently housing Soviet Air Force aircraft.

Two Luftwaffe fighter wings are to be stationed in eastern Germany, presumably using these two bases, while almost all former East German AF transport aircraft, which have all now been re-serialled. are to remain in service.


TUSAS AEROSPACE INDUSTRIES GD F-16 plant at Murted, Turkey, is seeking export rights for the type which the Turkish Government offered to Egypt during November. The Egyptian deal, which would involve 40 aircraft, is however subject to US Government approval required for any third party sales of the type and this has not yet been forthcoming. Egypt has already placed firm orders with GD for a total of 120 F-16s, comprising a mix of F-16 As and ‘Cs but still has a requirement for a further 40.

If approval is given for the Egyptian batch, these could be constructed in Turkey at a slightly lower cost than in the USA due to the cheaper labour rates and reduced delivery costs. Turkish built aircraft would still have to be sold through the USAF according to GD officials as they would otherwise not be eligible for Foreign Military Sales credits. It is reported that the Turkish AF are also interested in a second batch of F-16s and securing of this order may well influence the decision on whether to approve TAI’s request for export rights.

A SECOND PRODUCTION line for the CN-235 is to be set up by Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI) at Murted following the signing of a $550 million (£290 million) deal for the construction of 52 CN.235s by TAI. The deal provides for the first two Turkish aircraft to be constructed and delivered from the CASA plant at Seville with the remaining fifty examples produced at Murted using some locally built components.


FOLLOWING EVALUATION of the Pilatus PC-9 by the US Army Special Operations Test Board (USAABNSOTBD) at Pope AFB, North Carolina, and the US Army Aviation Engineering Flight Activity (USAAEFA) unit at Edwards AFB, California, during the types US tour in September 1989, an order has been placed for the PC-9 as a replacement for the vintage T-28 Trojans currently in use with these two US Army units for photo-chase work and similar missions.

Both the USABNSOTB and USAAEFA had earlier operated six Beechcraft T-34C Turbo Mentors on loan from the Navy but had to relinquish them back to the Navy. At that time the T-28s, which had already been withdrawn from use, had to be taken out of storage and overhauled to get them back into an airworthy state.

Although the elderly aircraft were adequate for the task, it was obvious that a replacement would soon have to be found and following testing of the PC-9 through a series of mission profiles to check the viability of the rear seat for still and video photography the type was selected.

Delivery dates for the PC-9s have not been announced but as the T-28s were all finally withdrawn from service and put into storage during August 1990 it must be assumed that commencement of deliveries is imminent.


FOURTH PROTOTYPE JAS-39 Gripen took to the air from Linkoping on December 23 for its first flight, lasting 43 minutes. JAS-39-4 is the first example to fly with production display systems and will be used initially for engine performance testing.

It joins JAS-39-2 in the test programme, the third prototype having not yet flown, although this is expected shortly. A modified Viggen is also being used in the development programme for flight testing of the radar and display systems.


A NEW ATTACK helicopter has been developed by Iran, apparently based on the Bell 206 JetRanger, using examples delivered to the Iranian armed forces before the downfall of the Shah. Known as the Zafar 300, the helicopter was built in Kashan and features a new fuselage with tandem two-seat cockpit with the gunner at the front and pilot behind. Details of armament and equipment are vague and little detail of performance has been released although it is said to have a three hour endurance and 270 litre fuel capacity. It is thought to be powered by an Allison 250-series turboshaft.


FURTHER DETAILS have emerged on the proposed Rockwell/MBB JPATS contender (see November News) which is a deriviative of the RFB Fantrainer and will be known as the FanRanger. Rockwell are to be prime contractor for the FanRanger which will differ from its predecessor in having a single Pratt & Whitney JT15D turbofan in place of the twin Allison 250 turboshafts which drove a ducted fan. Cockpit instrumentation and avionics will also be updated by Rockwell’s Collins division. MBB will initially build and certificate two demonstrators during 1992 although if successful in their JPATS bid, production aircraft would be assembled in the USA after shipping from Germany in kit form.


SUCCESSFUL USE of an unarmed Dornier Do28 by the Israeli Defence Force/Air Force (IDFAF) to stop a Palestinian guerrilla group landing on Israeli shores on May 30 has led to investigations by the IDFAF into arming the type with light machine guns. In the May incident, the Dornier made continual low passes over the guerillas, keeping them pinned down until a pair of AH-1 Cobras arrived to take more positive action which resulted in four of the eleven Palestinians being killed.

The IDFAF Dorniers have to date only been used for reconnaissance tasks but test mounting of a machine gun on one aircraft has already been carried out and a series of live firing trials have been conducted. If further trials are successful then the type may be permanently armed with a suitable weapon to fulfil this additional role.


BELGIUM HAS INSTIGATED a service life update programme for its fleet of twelve C-130H Hercules transports which should see them in service for a further twenty years. The five-year programme will be undertaken by the Sabena Teenies susidiary of the Belgian national airline which will fit a new wing developed by Lockheed in 1984 to counter corrosion, metal fatigue and fuel leak problems currently being encountered.

Flight controls and associated instrumentation are to be replaced and a new inertial navigation system installed together with a global positioning system, new communications equipment, electronic flight instrumentation and a flight management system. The aircraft will be refurbished two at a time and will appear in a new grey colour scheme in place of the current distinctive green and sand-brown camouflage.

NOW IN SERVICE with the Salvadorean AF are the two Basler Turbo-67 DC-3 conversions ordered through USAF FMS funding (see January 1990 News). The appearance of one example, FAES 110, at Guatemala’s 69th Anniversary of the Air Force airshow at La Aurora on December 7 above, revealed a little more about the role of these newly refurbished Daks. The aircraft appeared in an overall slate grey scheme, devoid of all nationality marks apart from the serial on the fin and was fitted for the gunship role with three 0.50 calibre machine guns on the port side, mounted for firing through the two rear window apertures which had been removed for this purpose.


KOREAN AIR has taken delivery of the first of 100 UH-60P Black Hawks destined for Korean Army use. The helicopter is to be built under licence by the company and is essentially similar to the US Army UH-60L with General Electric T700-GE-701C engines and improved main gearbox.

Seven examples will initially be assembled and test flown by Korean Air who will then gradually take on increased fabrication of major components and sub-assemblies. Eventually, within five years, all of the airframe will be built in South Korea apart from dynamic systems which will continue to be produced in the USA by Sikorsky and its sub-contractors.

Korean Air will also assemble and test the UH-60Ps T700 engines under a separate licence agreement with General Electric with some component parts being manufactured locally. In the future, Korean Air, as a licensed coproduction partner of Sikorsky, will be able to build UH-60s for other countries in the region, should orders be forthcoming.


IMPROVEMENT OF JAPAN’S search and rescue coverage (SAR) includes plans for the purchase of 56 aircraft over the next ten years by the Japan Maritime Safety Agency (JMSA). Supplementing the two Falcon 900s already in service for long-range SAR at Haneda AB will be a further five examples which will operate from Chitose, Hokkaido and Naha ABs.

Medium-range SAR coverage will also be increased with the purchase of six aircraft of a type yet to be chosen to supplement the existing fleet of sixteen Beech 200T Super King Airs and a pair of Short Skyvans. For coastal work, 30 additional medium/large all-weather day/night capable helicopters will be purchased for basing at fourteen locations around the Japanese coast and operation from ships when required.


MILITARY SALES of the PBN Islander continue in small numbers and include two BN2T turbine examples for the Ghana Defence Force, G-360 (c/n 2225, ex G-BRSR) and G-361 (c/n 2222 ex G-BRPB), which were at Hurn for painting during October/November and should have been delivered by the time these words are read.

These aircraft are part of the ten new orders announced by PBN at Farnborough last year which aside from four civilian aircraft for Morocco includes two more for Ghana as G-362 and G-363.

A SINGLE PBN BN-2T Turbine Islander is being purchased by the RAF, at a cost of £1.1 million, for use in the photo-mapping role as a cost-effective supplement to the Canberra PR.9s of 1 PRU. To be used essentially for large-scale mapping of small areas it will also have a secondary role as a light passenger transport and will be given a transport type designation as a CC.2 (the Mk. 1 already having been used for the Army ‘AL.1s).

Due to enter service on August 1, 1991, the aircraft, ZH576, will be based at RAF Northolt, rather than at Wyton with the more RAF PR aircraft, to be more conveniently situated with 32 Squadron to fulfil its secondary transport role.


NEW ACQUISITIONS by the Dubai Police Air Wing recently have included two Aerospatiale SA.365N1 Dauphins acquired from McAlpine Helicopters of London comprising DU-133 (c/n 6343 ex G-BRVP) delivered during October and DU-112 (previous identify unconfirmed) delivered around May 1990.


WINDING DOWN of the P-3 Orion production line at Burbank, California, was expected to result in its closure following completion of the final CP-140A Arcturus for Canada in May (see January News). A new $600 million (£313 million) order from the South Korean Navy announced on December 10 now means that production will transfer to Marietta, Georgia, where it had previously been planned to produce the now cancelled P-7A.

Transfer of production facilities to the Marietta plant will commence in early 1991 and assembly of the eight new build P-3C Update Ills for South Korea will commence during 1992 with first delivery scheduled during 1995. A decision has still to be announced by the company as to proposals for an alternative to the P-7A which the USN and German Navy both had proposed to acquire while it was also likely that the RAF may also have opted for the type as a replacement for the Nimrod MR. 2.


PURCHASE OF THREE McDD KC-1OA Extender tanker/transports is being sought by the Dutch AF (KLu) to improve their strategic mobility, giving them the ability to move F-16s more easily on training deployments to North America. The type was selected over the C-130 Hercules or Boeing 707 due mainly to the fact that KLM, who already operate the DC-10, would be able to provide maintenance facilities.

Once full details of the requirement have been formulated it will be presented to the Dutch State Secretary for Defence Procurement for approval of funding which is likely to be in the region of $1 78-238 million (£93-125 million).


MIKOYAN design bureau have announced their intention to actively seek sales of the advanced MiG-31 Foxhound twin-seat, high altitude, long-range interceptor to ‘friendly nations’. The bureau have also revealed that total sales of the MiG-29 Fulcrum to foreign customers (ie excluding production for the USSR) has now reached 250 examples at a cost of $30 million (£16 million) per aircraft.

Customers to date have comprised Afghanistan, Bulgaria, Cuba, Czechoslovakia, East Germany, India, Iran, Iraq, North Korea, Poland, Romania, Syria and Yugoslavia. Over 500 examples are also in service with Soviet forces in the USSR, Eastern Germany and Hungary.


AFTER ALMOST A YEAR in storage at the CASA factory at Seville, Spain, following completion, the seven Airtech CN.235Ms ordered by the Royal Moroccan AF and comprising CNA-MA/023, CNA-MB/024. CNA-MC/025, CNA-MD/026, CNA-ME/027, CNA-MF/028 and CNA-7P/031 were finally delivered during September/October 1990. The reason for the delay in delivery has not been revealed although it can be speculated that funding problems are the most likely cause.


DURING NOVEMBER India test flew a HAL HS.748 fitted with a 4.8m diameter fuselage mounted rotodome as part of its AEW aircraft development programme which was started in 1985 by the Indian Defence Research and Development Organisation. Since 1988 little has been heard of the programme and it was thought to have been shelved until the recent appearance of the development aircraft which it is thought is merely an aerodynamic test vehicle for the configuration.

Development is now being undertaken by the Aircraft Safety and Test Establishment in Bangalore and the renewed effort is most likely to be due to Pakistan’s recent interest in acquiring AEW aircraft.


PROTOTYPE NAMC/PAC K-8 KARAKORUM 8 tandem two-seat jet trainer and light attack aircraft developed jointly by China and Pakistan was first flown, in primer, on November 21 from the NAMC factory airfield at Nanchang, PRC. The 16 minute flight was trouble free and consisted of two circuits in the landing pattern with undercarriage extended. Following painting it is expected to make several more test flights before a formal ‘first flight’ in January.

Initially developed by NAMC as the L-8 for export with an international partner, the type was later re-designated the K-8 and named after the mountain range on the border between the two countries when PAC joined the programme. Five prototypes are due to be built following which 25 production aircraft are to be built for the Pakistan AF who have agreed to the purchase although it is believed that a formal contract has yet to be signed.


FURTHER ORDERS for the Lockheed Hercules have included two new stretched C-130H-30s for the French AF in addition to the twelve already in service. The Algerian AF has received a new C-130H-30, 7T-WHB (c/n 5224), supplementing its 1 7 examples. A previously unannounced order from the Egyptian AF for new C-130Hs has also been revealed with the appearance of three examples test flying from Lockheed’s Marietta facility recently, comprising 1293/SU-BKS, 1 294/SU-BKT (c/n 5191) and 1295/SU-BKU.

An order for five C-130Hs for Canada, at a total cost of $190 million (£ 100 million) has also been announced, all five of which will have been delivered to Northwest Industries Ltd (NWI) in Edmonton by the end of this month for minor avionics modifications and painting. The aircraft will be with NWI for about eight weeks before delivery to 435 Squadron at CFB Edmonton.


ALREADY IN SERVICE with the Peruvian Army are the first Agusta A109K2 multi-role helicopters of a batch of twelve, the order for which was only recently announced. The A109K is a hot and high military variant of the A109A Mk.ll designed primarily for the combat role with pilot and gunner, and capable of carrying a wide range of stores on four attachment points, two on each side of the cabin on outriggers.

It differs from the A109A in having a longer nose for housing additional avionics, and taller, non-retractable, high shock-absorption undercarriage together with uprated transmission, new composite blades and main rotor hub and a new tail rotor.

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