Testing the new toys

Staff Sergeant Stephen Linch from the 352nd Special Operations Group public affairs answers questions about the exercise at RAF Fairford between December 9th and 12th. All images by Stephen Linch, unless otherwise stated.

Question 1: What was the purpose of the exercise? Was it an Operational Readiness Exercise similar to what we’ve seen at RAF Fairford before?

Answer 1: This exercise was a training event designed to ensure the group is able to practice and evaluate our ability to efficiently forward deploy our newest assets, the CV-22 and MC-130J.

Q2: What was the name (if any) and purpose of the exercise?

A2: The exercise was simply referred to as Special Operations Group Logistics Exercise 2013 or LOGEX 13.

Q3: Why is RAF Fairford the choice location for this exercise?

A3: RAF Fairford is a perfect location for us to test our ability to forward deploy our new CV-22s and MC-130Js. These new aircraft bring enhanced and new capabilities, and we greatly appreciate the opportunity to test ourselves so close to home. (attribute to Col. Christopher Ireland, 352nd Special Operations Group commander.)

Q4: During the exercise, what types of missions or scenarios were conducted?

A4: The 352nd SOG flights during this exercise were the same local lines we fly out of RAF Mildenhall. Airdrop, low-level flight, tactical landings and aerial refueling were conducted.

Q5: What numbers of aircraft/personnel deployed?

A5: Approximately 130 personnel and six aircraft (3 CV-22, 3 MC-130J) deployed for the exercise.

Q6: How many MC-130J/CV-22B are now on strength with the 352nd SOG?

A6: Currently there are three MC-130Js on station with a fourth scheduled to arrive soon. The 352nd Special Operations Group has five CV-22s.

Q7: What will be the full complement of aircraft?

A7: We expect to have 10 MC-130Js and 10 CV-22s in the next several years.

Q8: Any future plans to continue to utilize RAF Fairford?

A8: At this time we aren’t prepared to comment on future operations, however RAF Fairford is a valuable site for training and may be utilized in the future.

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Brazil Selects Gripen

On 18 December 2013 the Brazilian government announced the selection of the Gripen NG for the FX-2 replacement programme.

Brazil had been considering the Swedish fighter option in competition with offerings from Dassault and Boeing. Saab has offered a package to Brazil which includes 36 Gripen NG aircraft, financing, technology transfer, and bi-lateral collaboration between Saab and Brazil. Contractual negotiations between Saab and the Brazilian Air Force are expected to be concluded, with the order for the aircraft procurement expected to be placed, within the next year.

The news from Brazil comes in the immediate aftermath of two orders from the Swedish Defence Materiel Administration (FMV), for the integration of the Meteor weapon system and also for the modification of 60 Gripen C to Gripen E (for Sweden) with initial deliveries in 2018. The Gripen NG had previously been selected by the Swiss government for procurement as a future fighter jet, subject to a referendum within Switzerland scheduled for 2014.

Current Gripen operators include Sweden, South Africa, Hungary, Czech republic, Thailand and the United Kingdom Empire Test Pilot School.

Brazil Selects Gripen

On 18 December 2013 the Brazilian government announced the selection of the Gripen NG for the FX-2 replacement programme.

Brazil had been considering the Swedish fighter option in competition with offerings from Dassault and Boeing. Saab has offered a package to Brazil which includes 36 Gripen NG aircraft, financing, technology transfer, and bi-lateral collaboration between Saab and Brazil. Contractual negotiations between Saab and the Brazilian Air Force are expected to be concluded, with the order for the aircraft procurement expected to be placed, within the next year.

The news from Brazil comes in the immediate aftermath of two orders from the Swedish Defence Materiel Administration (FMV), for the integration of the Meteor weapon system and also for the modification of 60 Gripen C to Gripen E (for Sweden) with initial deliveries in 2018. The Gripen NG had previously been selected by the Swiss government for procurement as a future fighter jet, subject to a referendum within Switzerland scheduled for 2014.

Current Gripen operators include Sweden, South Africa, Hungary, Czech republic, Thailand and the United Kingdom Empire Test Pilot School.

Military Master!

AFM’s Alan Kenny had the opportunity to briefly chat with the BBC’s history expert, Dan Snow, about aviation

AFM: You have an impressive knowledge of military history. What era would you like to visit and why?

Dan: My first love is the 18th century, a period in which the foundations of our modern world were laid. The industrial revolution was changing our relationship with objects and nature, the first cross-channel hot air balloon flight took place and ideas about democracy and economics were developed which underpin our modern way of life. Europeans were exploring and mapping the world as never before. It was an exciting time to be alive.

Last May you flew with the Dambusters for the 70th Anniversary of 617 Squadron.

What was the experience like?

It was the most amazing experience. What made it special was the response of people on the ground. Everyone went wild, kids poured out of classrooms, cars stopped in the roads. The Lancaster means something to people.

Did you prefer the Lancaster or Tornado?

It’s like choosing between two different types of delicious fruit! They were utterly different but both wonderful.

Do you have an interest in military aviation or just the military?

I am fascinated by the role that war has played in our past and technology is an important part of that story. The history of war in the 20th Century is hard to understand without realising the importance of military aviation, how it evolved and where it is going.

I noticed the Spitfire appears on your Facebook page a few times. Have you been for a flight in one?

I’ve never been in the two-seater Spitfire. I would love to though! It is a dream.

What plans have you got in the pipeline?

Coming up I’m rafting down the Grand Canyon for BBC2 in January, charting the history of the Winter Olympics in February and then looking at the history of the British in India later in the year. Then comes the First World War anniversary!

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Can you help decipher Kamikaze insignia?

A rare Japanese kamikaze aircraft, an Ohka 2, which has been hanging from the rafters of the Fleet Air Arm Museum for over 30 years, has been removed in preparation for a new display to commemorate the War in the Pacific.

Now available for closer inspection, it has revealed some intriguing markings which the Museum are seeking help in translating.

The markings are found in two places. On the left hand side of the aircraft and on the hatch-cover which would have been opened to arm 1 ¼ tons of explosives in the nose of the aircraft.

Another marking on the side of the aircraft is that of a cherry blossom, from which the Ohka takes its name. The Ohka or cherry blossom is a Japanese symbol of flowering and rebirth.

There are thought to be fewer than 12 Ohka 2 kamikaze aircraft in existence today.

When used towards the end of WWII, they were fixed to the underside of Mitsubishi G4M bombers (nicknamed ‘Betty bombers’ by the Americans). They were flown to a height of 12,000 feet and released in a steep dive during which three solid fuel rockets would be ignited enabling the aircraft to reach speeds of up to 475mph and travel distances of 21 miles before reaching its target.

Says Museum spokesperson Jon Jefferies “It is chilling to look through the cockpit window of this piloted rocket and through the ringed sight. There’s a grab handle fixed to the inner wall of the cockpit as acceleration generated by the three solid fuel rockets would have been incredible.”

The aircraft will eventually undergo a detailed forensic process during which the paint applied after the war, will be removed layer by layer to return it to its original paintwork and markings. This process has been pioneered by the Fleet Air Arm Museum and used to return a WWII Corsair to its original paintwork and markings and is currently nearing completion on a WWII Grumman Martlet.

If you are able to assist in the translation of the Japanese insignia on the Ohka, please contact the Museum’s Curator of Aircraft Dave Morris. davem@fleetairarm.com

Sky High!

The 2013 RAF Waddington International Air Show has had its most successful year ever raising over £375,000 for Service and local charities!

WITH ALL proceeds raised at the The Show going to good causes the organisers are thrilled to announce that both the Royal Air Force Benevolent Fund (RAFBF) and The Royal Air Force Association (RAFA) will each benefit from a whopping £135,000 donation; the most RAF Waddington International Air Show has ever donated. Both charities provide financial, practical and emotional support to all members of the RAF both past and present. In addition the local community are also set to benefit from a £29,000 donation to the Station Charities Fund; money which is available throughout the year for disbursement to local charities. Not only that; the Air Cadets Organisation is also set to receive £29,000 and a further £50,000 has already been donated to the Lincoln Bomber Command Memorial fund.

Since the Air Shows inception in 1995 this brings the total raised for Charity to a massive £3.3 Million.

RAF Waddington International Air Show Director Mr. Paul Sall said:

“Given our ongoing operational commitments, there is a great sense of achievement for everyone at RAF Waddington. We’re immensely proud that all the hard work that goes in to putting on such a spectacular show has meant we are able to donate such a significant amount of money knowing that it will make a real difference amongst the Service and local community alike”

[img src=8491 align=left]On receiving the donation Commandant Air Cadets Air Commodore Dawn McCafferty said:

“The Air Cadet Organisation is delighted to accept this very generous donation from the RAF Waddington Air Show. Many hundreds of cadets and supporting adult volunteers attend the Show every year performing essential support tasks on the ground to enable the Waddington Air Show to be such an international success. We will use this donation to further promote aviation in the Air Cadet Organisation and recognise the excellence of our cadets and volunteers”

The RAF Waddington International Airshow showcases the UK’s Defence capabilities as well as highlighting RAF Waddington’s contribution to Operations. You can re-live the thrills of this years show on the official 2013 DVD which includes exclusive in depth features about the Royal Air Force.

Plans are well under way for next years show which will be held on Saturday 5th June and Sunday 6th July. Themes for 2014 are the Commemoration of the First World War, the 65th Anniversary of NATO, the 70th Anniversary of D Day and the 50th Display Season of RAFAT the Red Arrows.

Visitors can expect to see aircraft both old and new. Not only that there is a comprehensive static aircraft display to view, over 250 trade stands and exhibitors plus a fantastic fun fair. All arms of the military are present with fantastic hands on displays which will thrill any enthusiast both young and old. The 2014 RAF Waddington International Air Show stands to be another great day out for all members of the family; tickets are now on sale for the 2014 Air Show and make wonderful Christmas presents. For details and on-line bookings please visit the website atwww.waddingtonairshow.co.uk

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From One Year to the Next

Planning the 2014 RAFA Shoreham Airshow

Words by John Periam (Press Officer)

WHEN THE last aircraft has taken off on the Sunday night, to return to base, the organising team start the mammoth task of clearing the airfield ready for it to be returned to normal operational status on the Monday afternoon.

Derek Harber, the Airshow organiser, supported by his wife Lesley and Sue Halfpenny, then set about paying the many bills and collecting ticket sale money from the different outlets. This process takes about two months.

There is then the all-important ‘Airshow De-Briefing’ where the committee go through the show in fine detail, discussing any issues that caused some concern. This can cover all aspects from car parking to the flying display. Nothing is too small. Once approved by the shows Directors, interim budgets are agreed for the next airshow.

[img src=8486 align=left]Number one priority is the flying display. Rod Dean, our Display Director, contacts the RAF Events Team to book all aircraft on their schedule. He will not know until March what has been allocated. The same will happen with other military services, as well as some of the important civilian display teams. Schedules have to be worked out as there are other displays around the UK. We always try to go for the same weekend every year. Bournemouth’s Seafront show is on also then. It is a different catchment area, and we can share aircraft. The fast jets base themselves at Hurn and have the slower aircraft that can work out of Shoreham’s airfield. One word describes this ‘logistics’!

Many civilian display pilots class Shoreham as their favourite event – often resulting in a waiting list of aircraft wishing to participate. What we try to do is vary the show each year with a set theme, whilst at the time retaining some of our favourite scenario slots, such as the Airfield Attack and Scramble.

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Each team member has a specific role. Andrew Lamb is Derek’s second in command and looks after the budgets, as well as many other hidden tasks. The way to describe Andrew is that he is a ‘Networking Specialist’ who has an endearing way of communicating with people that bring positive results!

As Press Officer, I set the ball rolling with booking adverts in the media for the year, working with our sponsors, planning the programme schedule with Geoff Lee, my assistant press officer, and working with Dean Cook our all-important Art Designer in planning the programme. Colin Baker looks after all the advertising and getting new sponsors on board.

Ian Taylor is our Airshow Safety Officer having a proven track record in this specialist field. His brief is to see that the airshow runs to plan without any incident in the air, and on the ground. He works with the fire, police and ambulance services as well as security and the CAA. Shoreham is respected by all for its stringent safety procedures!

[img src=8484 align=right]By the end of December we know how much we can give to our charity, The Royal Air Forces Association. To date we have given almost 1.9 million pounds – a record equalled by none! RAFA celebrated its 70th Anniversary in 2013 and has over 65,000 members world-wide with over 430 branches. Our donations go to helping past and present members of the RAF and their families.

Paul Johnson (Flightline UK) works on the Airshow Website along with James George – this is updated on a regular basis with any airshow news. As the event gets closer, meetings are held with caterers, marquee builders and the dreaded toilet providers (always a bone of contention).

Ken Bird liaises with the trade stand owners who always want the best site. Planning the static aircraft display is left to the experienced Alan Mates. Rod Dean is now at the stage with the display planning where he is working out time slots for each aircraft or display team. As one flies off – another arrives. Fast jets like the Typhoon have limited fuel on board, so need to fly into their display before returning back to Hurn. Tickets, car passes, programmes, posters, flyers and passes for all and sundry, disabled badges and airfield fencing and markings have to be scheduled along with the important airfield grass cutting. No rest!

Our excellent commentator Terence Henderson (Retired Concorde Captain) starts to work on his schedule with Rod, so that on both days his commentary goes to plan. If anyone has to look out for last minute changes, Terence does!

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The media team are doing radio interviews, providing editorial, planning ticket competitions and working with regional radio and television to get some valuable air time. Press Day comes and goes – an important part of pre-planning with presentations to the media from Rod, Derek, RAFA HQ and me – supported by Geoff Lee behind the scenes.

[img src=8483 align=left]It is all go right up until the week before, when our dedicated helpers arrive to help set up the fencing, and entrance areas. Friday sees an influx of people waiting for the arrival of most of the display aircraft based at Shoreham. The look-a-likes set up their areas – always popular with the crowds.

The organisers are going through last minute panic attacks re the advance weather forecast, cancelled display slots, etc. Hotel accommodation is looked after by Margaret Wards (we take over most hotels in Worthing for aircrew).

Andrew Lamb changes into his ‘shorts’ for the duration of the airshow and commences to consume the odd pint or two of Spitfire Ale between a work schedule most would run away from. Derek Harber and his wife Lesley seem to take on the pressures without a murmur – supported by dedicated family members

[img src=8482 align=right]A big thank you must go to the many Air Cadets under the control of Squadron Leader Kevin Tucker, who one day could well be the future RAF.

The Executive Marquee is looked after by Pauline Webb and her team, whilst Maureen Meadows manages the VIP Guest area. The onsite zone managers and gate managers prepare for the many issues that will come their way over the next 2 days. Their patience, at times is stretched to the limit trying to meet many public requests!

Then there is the Hush!!! The first display aircraft arrives for the 2014 Shoreham Airshow. Total budget is in the region of £450,000. We go through the next two days counting to ten, hoping that all goes to plan.

Running such a large event is a mammoth task. We also need to thank Kenny Wards MBE, Ivor Lewis (both long standing team members), Chris Scriven, Gerald Prince, Bob Easterbrook ,Bob Webb, Alan Jones, John Place, Bill Nicholson and Anne Bean plus many others, who have now taken a back seat, and yet still find time to help on both days. Also a big thank you to our absent friends who were, and are still so much part of what the show is all about – ‘A Family Event’.

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Boeing Delivers 13th P-8A Poseidon to US Navy

All 2013 deliveries on or ahead of schedule

SEATTLE, Dec. 5, 2013 — Boeing has delivered the 13th production P-8A Poseidon ahead of schedule to the U.S. Navy, marking a perfect on-time record for the year. The aircraft’s arrival at Naval Air Station Jacksonville, Florida, on Dec. 4 follows the Navy’s announcement of initial operational capability and first P-8A deployment last week.

The versatile maritime patrol aircraft, based on Boeing’s Next-Generation 737-800 platform, departed from Boeing Field in Seattle, where all P-8As are assembled and tested.

“This track record of on-time or ahead-of-schedule deliveries is a tribute to the efforts of the entire industry team as well as our Navy customer,” said Rick Heerdt, Boeing vice president and P-8 program manager. “The P-8A’s industry-unique assembly process, which takes full advantage of the efficiencies in the Next-Generation 737 production system, will continue to pay off as we move into full-rate production.”

“The program office will continue to support the fleet as we transition from the P-3C to P-8A. The fleet will use this aircraft, along with the previously delivered aircraft, to train and participate in operational missions,” said Commander Tony Rossi, deputy program manager for the P-8A Poseidon program.

The P-8A delivery is the last of the second low-rate initial production (LRIP) aircraft lot awarded in 2011. Boeing currently is building Lot 3 aircraft, the first of which will be delivered in 2014.

Overall, Boeing has received four LRIP contracts for a total of 37 aircraft. The Navy plans to purchase 117 of the versatile multi-mission aircraft to replace its P-3 fleet. P-8As provide anti-submarine warfare, anti-surface warfare, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities.

48th Fighter Wing in action

USAFE aircraft based at RAF Lakenheath train all year round in all weathers. Alan Kenny was there on December 3rd.

RAF Lakenheath in Suffolk is a busy base. It is home to the 48th Fighter Wing which consists of four flying squadrons. They are the 56th Rescue Squadron (56 RQS) operating the HH-60G PAVE Hawk Combat Search and Rescue helicopter, the 492nd Fighter Squadron (492 FS) with the F-15E Strike Eagle, 493rd Fighter Squadron (493 FS) with the F-15C/D Eagle and 494th Fighter Squadron (494 FS) with the F-15E Strike Eagle. It is quite rare to get a completely quiet day at the base as there is usually aircraft up, even if only a couple.

Some aircraft from the 492th FS are currently out in Israel for exercise Blue Flag, so the base squadron wasn’t at its full complement of Strike Eagles. However, it was still busy with multiple launches of F-15s from the remaining 492nd FS, along with 494nd FS and 493rd FS. A HH-60G PAVE Hawk from 56 RQS was busy performing approaches and hovers.

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