Image: Airbus Military A400M begins rough field tests

Airbus Military’s A400M transporter has completed its first set of unpaved runway tests.

May 28: Airbus Military’s A400M transporter has completed its first set of unpaved runway tests at Cottbus-Drewitz airfield in Germany.

‘Grizzly 2’ performed a series of ground runs on the grass surface including maximum-braked rejected take-offs. Analysis of the data and examination of the runway are now underway and the aircraft will return in due course for further trials.

New RAF Hercules support contract

The MoD has announced a £350 million contract to maintain the Royal Air Force’s C-130 Hercules aircraft fleet.

May 28: A £350 million UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) contract to maintain the Royal Air Force’s C-130 Hercules aircraft fleet will support 500 UK jobs, the MoD has announced.

The deal with Marshall Aerospace will sustain 500 UK jobs, with the majority based in the company’s facility at Cambridge Airport. Work will also be undertaken by Lockheed Martin at sites in Havant, Stansted and Gloucester, and by Rolls-Royce and its sub-contractor Vector Aerospace in Filton, Hook, Croydon and Brize Norton. Lockheed Martin UK will look after supply chain management and Rolls-Royce will maintain the engines.

This Hercules Integrated Operational Support (HIOS) contract saves the MoD £170 million by replacing several short-term contracts with one agreement that will provide the maintenance of the whole Hercules fleet until the end of 2015.

Minister for Defence Equipment, Support and Technology, Peter Luff, said: “This new agreement will not only save the tax-payer money but will also ensure the fleet has continued support to maintain aircraft availability, especially for Afghanistan. The announcement of this contract is just part of the comprehensive regeneration of our Armed Forces’ equipment that has been made possible thanks to the Government’s balancing of the defence budget for the first time in a generation.”

RAF’s eighth C-17 in UK

C-17A ZZ178 has landed at RAF Brize Norton.

May 24: UK Defence Secretary Philip Hammond talks to a member of aircrew at RAF Brize Norton in the RAF’s latest acquisition, C-17A ZZ178, which arrived from the USA earlier this week.

Known as “the workhorse of the RAF”, the C-17s play a vital role in sustaining the UK’s ‘air bridge’ with Afghanistan, carrying supplies and passengers into and out of the country. C-17s can fly for more than 4,500 nautical miles, meaning it can fly directly from Helmand Province to the UK.

As well as transporting troops and equipment, C-17s can also be converted rapidly to offer Intensive Care provision in support of the Aeromedical Airbridge – for more on this role see the July issue of AirForces Monthly, available from newsagents from June 7.

Eurofighters take on Italian QRA

Typhoons of the Italian Air Force have replaced the last F-16s on Quick Reaction Alert.

May 24: Eurofighter Typhoons of the Italian Air Force (ItAF) have replaced the last of the air force’s F-16 jets on Quick Reaction Alert (QRA).

The Typhoon is now solely responsible for the defence of Italian airspace. It is operational with four squadrons (Gruppi) across both northern and southern Italy – two at Grosseto air base and two at Gioia del Colle.

The ItAF leased 34 F-16s from the USAF for a period of five years, followed by an additional five under the programme ‘Peace Caesar’. The aircraft has been effectively used to fill the gap during the transition from the F-104 to the Eurofighter.

To date 62 Typhoons have been delivered to the ItAF and during operations over Libya in 2011 the fleet completed over 200 missions and flew 1,294 flying hours from their forward operating base in Trapani, Sicily.

Indian Air Force selects PC-7

Pilatus has announced that the Indian Air Force has bought 75 PC-7 MkII turboprop training aircraft.

May 24: Pilatus has announced that the Indian Air Force has signed a contract for 75 PC-7 MkII turboprop training aircraft.

The 500 Million Swiss Francs contract will also provide an integrated ground based training system and a comprehensive logistics support package and also contains an option clause for extending the scope within three years.

Delivery of the aircraft and the complete training system is scheduled to commence in Q4 2012. The decision to select the PC-7 MkII training system was made after a thorough evaluation by the Indian Air Force, which looked “at all available options”, according to Pilatus.

Coupled to this award will be the establishment of in-country depot level maintenance capabilities, which includes the required transfer of technology to Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL), enabling in-country maintenance of the platform throughout its service life of over 30 years. Pilatus has also entered into a separate off-set contract with the Indian Government for 30% of the contract value.

Shadow R1 Team Awarded MoD Commendation

Gama Support Services has been awarded the UK Ministry of Defence Chief of Defence Materiel Commendation.

Gama Support Services, a member of the Gama Group of global aerospace service companies, together with other project partners including the MoD’s Special Project Multi Air Platform Project Team, has been awarded the UK Ministry of Defence Chief of Defence Materiel Commendation in recognition of the “exceptional support Gama has given to the Royal Air Force and its Shadow R1 special mission fleet.”

The award was presented to key representatives of the Support Team including Gama Support Service’s Engineering Director, Paul Bristow by Bernard Grey, Chief of Defence Materiel at a special awards ceremony held at the UK Ministry of Defence in London on May 10.

Chief of Defence Materiel, Bernard Grey, is head of the UK’s Defence Equipment & Support organisation, which is accountable for the MoD’s equipment procurement and supply chains. Commendations recognise achievements of outstanding merit for services beyond normal performance expectations.

“I am both proud and honoured that Gama’s contribution in supporting this ‘Urgent Operational Requirement’ has been commended by the Chief of Defence Materiel,” said Paul Bristow. “We have been afforded the opportunity to support a number of UK Ministry of Defence programmes and appreciate the confidence placed in Gama by the MoD in keeping the RAF Shadow fleet airworthy, in what are particularly challenging operational circumstances. This has been a unique procurement and operational construct and we have played our part along with our industry partners. Keeping an operational military registered aircraft within civil oversight has been no mean feat, but has demonstrated the industry’s ability to adapt and come up with innovative ideas.”

The five-strong Shadow fleet is based at RAF Waddington in Lincolnshire with 14 Squadron, which re-formed on October 14, 2011. The Shadows had previously operated with V(AC) Squadron, but were split into a separate squadron once full operating capability was achieved.

Boeing delivers third Peace Eye to Korea

Boeing has delivered the third Peace Eye 737 Airborne Early Warning and Control aircraft to the Republic of Korea Air Force.

May 21: Boeing delivered the third Peace Eye 737 Airborne Early Warning and Control (AEW&C) aircraft to the Republic of Korea Air Force (ROKAF) on May 16.

The aircraft was delivered ahead of schedule to ROKAF Base Gimhae, the main operating base for the Peace Eye fleet. This is the second aircraft in the fleet to be modified into an AEW&C configuration by Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) at its facility in Sacheon.

“A key factor in our continuing success in delivering Peace Eye’s powerful capability is the close working relationship that exists among the Boeing team, the ROKAF, the Defense Acquisition Program Administration, and our Korean and US industry partners,” said Randy Price, Boeing Peace Eye programme manager. The last Peace Eye aircraft being modified by KAI will be delivered by the end of this year.

RAF gets latest C-17

The RAF has received its eighth C-17.

In a ceremony on May 18 at Boeing’s final assembly facility in Long Beach, California, the eighth Royal Air Force C-17A Globemaster III, ZZ178, was handed over to the UK Ministry of Defence.

“I’m honoured and delighted to deliver the RAF’s newest C-17 to join the fleet at Number 99 Squadron, where our seven C-17s are in constant demand flying missions in support of Defence and other government agencies’ requirements,” said RAF Wg Cdr David Manning, Officer Commanding 99 Squadron.

The RAF C-17As are operated by 99 Squadron at RAF Brize Norton, Oxfordshire. The first RAF C-17As entered service in 2001 and have surpassed 74,000 flight hours – 15% above the projected rate. After initially acquiring four aircraft, in order to cater for increasing demand, the UK contracted for its eighth C-17 in March of this year.

A dozen F-35s now at Eglin AFB

A twelfth Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II has arrived at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida.

May 16: The twelfth Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II destined for the training fleet has arrived at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida.

US Marine Corps pilot Lt Col Fred Schenk piloted the aircraft, BuNr 168062/BF-11 from Naval Air Station Fort Worth Joint Reserve Base in Texas to Florida’s Emerald Coast.

The F-35B short takeoff/vertical landing (STOVL) production jet is now assigned to the USMC unit Marine Fighter/Attack Training Squadron 501 residing with the host 33rd Fighter Wing of the US Air Force, where it will be used for pilot and maintainer training.

RAF Tornado GR4 Role Demo gets go-ahead

The RAF’s Tornado GR4 Role Demonstration team is set to be one of the star attractions at airshows across the UK this summer.

May 15: On Friday May 11 at RAF Coningsby in Lincolnshire the RAF’s Tornado GR4 Role Demonstration team gained its public display authorisation and is now set to be one of the air force’s star attractions at airshows across the UK this summer.

The team, from XV(R) Squadron based at RAF Lossiemouth in Moray consists of two crews – Crew 1, radio callsign ‘POKER 1’ is manned by team leader Flt Lt David ‘Simmo’ Simmonds (Pilot) and Flt Lt Chris ‘Stradders’ Stradling (Navigator), and crew 2, ‘POKER 2’ comprises Sqn Ldr Bev Thorpe (Pilot) and Flt Lt Rich Parsons (Weapon Systems Officer). For this year the team is managed by Sqn Ldr Bryan Parsons (Air Traffic Control) and Flt Lt Doug Smith (Operations Officer). They will perform the demonstration at 21 events including an overseas trip to Rennes in France.

For more on the team and a full list of dates see the July issue of AirForces Monthly, out on June 7.