It is an exciting time the lead up to any airshow. Especially an International one where the manufacturers line up to display their latest in aviation technology. Airlines and defence forces bring their latest and greatest to wow the crowds.
This years Australian International Airshow was of course no exception. Spotters come up to be road side nearly two weeks before the main event to catch the aircraft on the approach to Avalon Airport. This year the weather gods were certainly on the side of the spotters. The blue skies and warm weather let everyone catch the arrivals in some fantastic light.
These lead up days are also one where the spotting community come together to swap stories on all sorts of subjects. The cameras are joined by the deck chairs, cold bevies and even a BBQ or two. The number of spotters continues to grow at these sorts of lead up days.
United States Air Force Lockheed Martin F-22A Raptor
The United States Air Force again brought their fifth generation fighter to Avalon. Two aircraft from Elmendorf in Alaska arrived with their long range fuel tanks on the wing hard points. 40 F-22A Raptors are based at Elmendorf. The aircraft were flown and maintained by the active-duty Air Force’s 90th Fighter Squadron and Air Force Reserve 302d Fighter Squadron.
Boeing KC-135R Stratotanker
Supporting the F-22s on their journey from Japan were two Boeing KC-135R Stratotankers. Operated by the 912th Air Refuelling Squadronwhich is a unit assigned to the 92d Operations Group. The unit operates from March Air Reserve Base, in California. The squadron is an active duty associate unit of the reserve 336th Air Refueling Squadron of the 452d Operations Group.
United States Air Force Boeing B-52H Stratofortress
The USAF brought the mighty Boeing B-52 Stratofortress to Avalon with both static and flying examples making appearances. First to arrive at the airport was B-52H Stratofortress ( 60-0007, c/n-464372) ‘Guardians of The Upper Realm’, from the 23rd Bomb Squadron which is apart of the 5th Bomb Wing based at Minot Air Force Base, North Dakota. Another 23rd BS B-52H (60-0060, c/n 464425 ‘Iron Butterfly’), had made the 8 hour flight from Guam to perform its flyover.
During its return flight to Anderson AFB, 60-0060 due to a malfunction had to return to Avalon as a safety precaution, and in doing so, creating history, as this was the first time since the Airshow has been held at Avalon Airport that two Boeing B-52H Stratofortress bombers were on the ground at the same time, although if only for a 24 hour period.
Japanese Air & Self Defence Force Kawasaki C-2
The JASDF returned to the Airshow with a rather unusual type, the Kawasaki C-2. Operated by the 第403飛行隊 (403nd Tactical Airlift Squadrondai403hikoutai) is the sole transport squadron of the 3rd Tactical Airlift Group based at Miho Air Base in Tottori Prefecture. Serial number 68-1203 ‘203’ arrived in some fantastic light.
Republic of Singapore Air Force
The RSAF again had a big presence at the Airshow,with two Pilatus PC-21s and a pair of rarely seen Boeing CH-47 Chinooks arriving for the event. The CH-47s arrived over head beating the air around them into submission. A first appearance for the Chinook at Avalon with the Super Pumas having been displayed several times in the past.
The arrival of the PC-21s which have previously visited was further enhanced with the arrival of aircraft 9101 with its newly applied 25th Anniversary tail art. This was to commemorate 25 years of operations from RAAF Pearce.
Airbus and the Malaysian Air Force A400M
Again making its presence was the Airbus A400M. The difference this time being the air arm which brought it for display. The Royal Malaysian Air Force’s (Tentera Udara Diraja Malaysia (TUDM) 22 Squadron flew aircraft, M54-04 from Subang Air Force Base.
Royal Australian Air Force arrivals
The ADF including the RAAF are huge supporters of the Australian International Airshow. This year saw an example of all the latest and greatest along with soon to retire types.
Boeing P-8A Poseidon
Boeing E-7A Wedgetail
Alenia C-27A Spartan
Lockheed C-130J Hercules
Boeing C-17A Globemaster III
McDonnell Douglas F/A-18 ‘Classic’ Hornet
Aviation Spotters Online again thanks the Australian International Airshow for allowing the team to cover and present article and video from the event.
We look forward to the next event which will be held over the 23-28th of March in 2021
The 2018 fire season started a lot earlier than usual this season. With the first major fire occurring in the Southern New South Wales area of Nowra. It wasn’t long before one near Ulladulla and another in the Bega Valley burnt more than 4,600 hectares in August 2018. It was no surprise really, with 100 per cent of N.S.W in drought, forest fuels were extremely dry as that state transitioned into Spring.
As the season shifted into the summer proper it was Queensland and again N.S.W that saw fires of large sizes ignite just as the international aircraft and helicopters had started to arrive.
Two states that had an urgent call for aerial assets came from Tasmania and Victoria. As the fires continued to burn and spread, the call for additional support came from across the country.
Tasmanian fires were some of the largest in the state’s history. As the state only has a smaller aerial attack fleet, assets were called upon from N.S.W and Victoria to support the ground units.
The Victorian blazes in the high country and Grantville which saw all the local air attack assets put to work. Late in the season saw lots of fires which saw extension of contracts. The combination of all the LATS, SEATS, and rotary elements were all combined to minimise damage and destruction.
The highs for season 18/19
2018/19 is notable for several reasons this season. It was the first deployment of Coulson’s Boeing 737 Fireliner, and Lockheed C-130Q ‘Rat Rod’ after its conversion to a fire bomber. Both were on contract to the N.S.W Rural Fire Service. The New South Wales state government announced funding of some $26.3 million to purchase one large fixed-wing air tanker and two fixed-wing lead/supervision aircraft to maintain a resident near-year-round large airtanker capability. This resident capability will continue to be supplemented by contracted seasonal large airtankers.
Western Australia has seen the deployment of a single Dauphin helicopter FIREBIRD 661. This has been brought on to boost WA’s aerial surveillance and reconnaissance capability. It will fly for up to 306 days of the year compared to the previous 110-day fixed service.
Victoria completed their work up trials and subsequent operational deployment of a night time fire fighting capability. The work up phase was a conjunction between the aviation regulator CASA, Victoria’s Fire Agencies, Emergency Management Victoria and Coulson Aviation and Kestrel Aviation. As mentioned the work up phase was completed just prior to fires taking off in the state.
Night time water bombing of the Rosedale fires saw the capability put to use. It also included a world-first hover-filling, in which choppers could quickly fill their tanks from remote water locations instead of heading back to base to refill.
To further emphasise the significance of this Kestrel Aviation of Australia, Coulson Aviation of Canada and Emergency Management Victoria’s Wayne Rigg, has been awarded a prestigious international honour for its pioneering work.
The Walt Darran Award was jointly presented collaborative work in developing safe and effective practices for aerial firefighting at night at a ceremony this month in France. This sort of recognition shows the growing level of professionalism and scope of operations now in effect across the country.
Lows for season 18/19
As with all things in life with the highs there must be some lows. In August, while fighting the fires near Ulladulla, A BK-117 owned by Sydney Helicopters got its bucket cable caught in trees. Alan Tull the pilot, sadly didn’t survive the accident. Alan’s loss was a big blow to the industry, his professionalism and skills will be missed on the fire ground.
Another incident in January saw one of the Erickson/Kestrel operated AirCranes crash into the dam which it was drawing from. The three crew managed to escape as the AirCrane flipped over into the dam. All Aircranes were temporarily grounded until a clearance to resume flights was granted a day later. The cause of the incident is still under investigation. The crane was later sad when it was up righted and dissembled in situ and lifted out by land crane. The pieces were then trucked to the docks for return to the Erickson offices for rebuilding.
Changes for season 2019/20
On the 5th of December 2018 The Prime Minister, Scott Morrison announced that his government would contribute an extra $11.0 million to aerial fire fighting for 2018-19 via the NAFC.
This was part of a larger funding package that included a number of other initiatives to support bushfire response and community resilience. The $11.0 million for aerial fire fighting is a one-off extra contribution for 2018-19, recognising that the Australian 2018-19 season is forecast to be above normal in key bushfire risk areas.
For 2018-19, it means that the total direct contribution to aerial fire fighting from the federal government will be $25.8 million. The NSW Rural Fire Service also announced that they will be acquiring two ex Australian Army S-70A Blackhawks for use in the 2019/20 Fire season. These will be used for a variety of duties including to fly emergency service personnel to bushfires, floods and other disasters across the state.
Both Victoria and Tasmania were pushed to their limits this season. The combination of low rain fall and longer seasons making the states tinder dry. The call for back up from interstate was answered with aircraft and helicopters flying in to help contain the huge fires in both states.
On March 5th the entire Victorian air fleet was dispatched to fires within the state. Something never seen before, and hopefully not again in the near future. Although with the seasons now being longer and longer each year it will likely more common.
With fires still igniting in the exceptionally dry period in April, the 2019-20 season saw some contracts extended by an extra couple of weeks.
The NAFC issued tenders to suit the various types of fixed wing aircraft it can mobilise. Fixed wing aircraft used for fire bombing will be assigned a type number based on their water carrying capacity and design features, as specified below:
Water carrying capacity
Greater than 11,356 litres
Between 11,356 and 6,813 litres inclusive
Less than 6,813 litres
Greater than 2,270 litres
Less than or equal to 2,270 litres
Rotary wing aircraft are also broken down into four distinct types, based on their varying capacities.
This season six large air tankers from North America worked across the country during the summer. Three of those tankers were based at RAAF Richmond in New South Wales. These included 737 (T-137), a C-130Q (T-134), and RJ85 (T-165). Two LATs were based again at Avalon Airport which were C-130Q (B-390) and RJ85 (B-391). T-166 also an RJ85 was based at Dubbo. These were joined by forty four Air Tractor AT-802s (including Fireboss versions) two PZL Dromaders, three Learjets, one King Air, three Turbo Commanders, two Cessna Caravans, three Cessna 337s and two Cessna 182s.
All the aircraft were on contract to the various fire agencies across the country. A total of 68 fixed wing aircraft are on contract this season. These are also backed up by significant number on call as required and contracted through government agencies.
As with previous years, there are a number of aircraft not on direct contract through the NAFC which were on call as required basis.
Boeing 737 Fireliner
A first for Australia and a first for an operational deployment in the world was, Coulson Aviation’s Boeing 737 Fireliner. The company has purchased six 737-300’s with GAIA being the first converted into a 15,000 litre “Fireliner” air tanker. After conversion and work up trials including drop pattern testing the aircraft N137CG was soon on its way to Australia. It wasn’t long after the aircrafts arrival it was soon deployed.
It was used operationally for the first time providing support to ground crews at the Richardson Road, Campvale and Hospital Road, Weston fire in New South Wales in Late November. This season has been a very busy one with the aircraft deployed to assist in Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria and Tasmania in support of the local fire services.
From the periods of the 26/11/2018 until the 05/12/2018 in forty three drops by the 737 it dropped 533,961 litres over twenty seven flight hours
On the 14th of May the NSW Government signed a contract for the purchase of a new aircraft along with and two Citation V, Lead/Intelligence Aircraft. The government’s $26.3 million investment will see the ‘737’ operated by the aircrafts fire bomber conversion company Coulson Aviation. The purchases are accompanied by a ten-year operational contract where Coulson will provide all flight and maintenance personal.
Coulson Aviation CEO Wayne Coulson said he looked forward to being able to work with the RFS on this new venture and would be expanding its NSW base in the coming months and will be looking to hire Australian pilots and ground crew.
The new 737 is due to at RAAF Richmond in July this year.
Air Tractors are certainly the backbone of the fixed wing aerial attack in Australia with eleven operators here flying the type on contract through the NAFC to the respective fire agencies across the country.
Operators of the type include Field Air from Ballarat, AGAIR in Stawell, Pay’s Air Service from Scone, Kennedy Air Ag from Gunnedah, Precision Aerial from Meandarra, Aerotech from Kent Town, Aircair from Moree, Sky Croppers in Griffith, Fred Fahey Aerial Services from Cowra, Dunn Aviation from Jandakot, and Aerotech NT from Bachelor all have Air Tractors on contract or working this season.
The benefits of a versatile machine such as the Air Tractor where it can be adapted to various roles is the main reason for their popularity. In the Fire Season the machines are converted from their crop spraying/dusting roles used in the winter and spring months see the spray bars and spreaders taken off and the belly tanks refitted for their fire fighting bombing roles.
It is worth noting that nearly all the Air Tractors have different styled tanks and door designs amongst other operational features. Some operators have infra-red cameras installed, electronically controlled drop doors and a host of features all designed to get the water and or phos-check on target.
Airtractor AT-802 Fireboss
An interesting type which is not all that prolific in numbers is the AT-504. Dunn Aviation has a single example VH-FEC or Bomber 614 based at Jandacot. This machine is capable of carrying some 1836 Litres of water or mixed tank for dropping on a fire. It does have one other very unique feature, its a two seater. Not like its bigger AT-802 which seats two people in tandem. The AT-504 seats two people side by side, a perfect training platform for an upcoming fire bomber pilot. This is exactly what Dunn Aviation uses the type for, training pilots on drops and fire bombing techniques.
For this season three Cessna 337’s are contracted through the Victorian Government. Ballarat operator Aerovision provided them for use across the state. The type is extremely well suited to the roles of fire detection, reconnaissance and fire supervision, hence the Birddog call sign. The aircraft can loiter on scene for up to 7 hours on a single tank of fuel. The speed of the Cessna 337 is well matched to the Air Tractor AT-802 firebombing aircraft.
For season 2018/19 the Victorian and NSW Governments have contracted three Learjet 35/36 fire scanning aircraft. Operating at high flight levels, the aircraft are equipped with a pod which features infrared and mulitspectrial line scanning instrument and data processing equipment. The imaging is processed on board with GPS coordinates and terrain elevation data.
This processing geo-rectifies the image to make it usable in mapping software and geospatial information systems. The combination of thermal and visual sensors used and the geo-rectification process creates images that are easy for fire fighters to interpret and for them to understand where the fire is and what it is doing.
A broadband satellite data communication system enables rapid transfer of processed and raw data from the aircraft to users on the ground regardless of the aircraft’s location.
Rockwell Turbo Commander
The NSW, Victorian and Queensland Governments have all contracted an example of the Commander for use within their respective states this season. A fourth piston engine Commander is also on contract. The type is used to supervise Airtanker operations.
Seating five people, one of the passengers is an Air Attack Supervisor will direct air tankers on where and how to drop their loads on a fire. Another role for the ‘Birddog’ is as a lead in aircraft where the Commander flies the drop profile for the larger tankers where to drop and what to be aware of on a drop. This role is done using a smoke trail for the tankers to follow in.
The Victorian and NSW Governments both contracted through NAFC, one Beechcraft King scanning aircraft. The aircraft is operated by Nowra based company Air Affairs and was kept busy this season. The aircraft is used to photograph and produce real time imagery for the fire agencies which are used to draft the plans to fight the fire both on the ground and in the air.
Cessna C-208 Caravan
Cessna’s C-208 Grand Caravan is contracted through the South Australian and Victoria State Governments. Four are on contract this season. The type flies mainly in the air supervision role and also acts as transport for fire officials and other crews to quickly get on scene as required.
This season was the first time that three of the Conair/Field Air operated RJ85s went into action across New South Wales and Victoria.
C-GVFK was the first to arrive and commenced standby at RAAF Richmond in late August 2018 with the callsign Bomber 165. It was joined just over two months later when C-GVFT Bomber 166 arrived into New South Wales and commenced standby at Dubbo Regional Airport.
At the beginning of December, Bomber 165 moved down to Victoria and took up its usual position operating from Firebase Avalon Airport (with a change of tail number and callsign to the familiar Bomber 391). During its contract it was also deployed to a temporary base at RAAF East Sale working on the large Rosedale fire in South Eastern Victoria.
Bomber 166 remained based at Dubbo Airport on a NSW Rural Fire Service contract for the balance of the seasons The aircraft at one point joined the fight helping out in Tasmania as well as a number of short deployments in Victoria.
The third RJ85 that operated this season was N366AC callsign Bomber 163. It completed one of the NSW contracts and unfortunately could stay no longer due to crew/aircraft commitments back in USA.
During the season, the RJ85’s conducted operations in New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland and Tasmania, delivering over three million litres of fire suppressants. Both C-GVFT and C-GVFK returned to their home base in Abbotsford BC in April 2019.
Lockheed C-130 Hercules
Coulson again brought two of their Lockheed C-130 Hercules on contract this season. Once again Victoria contracted N130FF, Bomber 390. The NSW Rural Fire Service contracted a second aircraft N130CG or Bomber 134. This aircraft had only recently left the conversion facility at its home base Mesa, Arizona where it was transformed into Coulson’s fourth C-130 air tanker.
Bomber 134 wasn’t in the country long when it was called to assist on a fire near NASA’s Deep Space Network of satellite antennas near Canberra. This was the aircraft first usage on a going fire anywhere in the world. Bomber 134 has been seen and operated out of NSW, ACT, Victoria and Tasmania this season. It was called into to supplement Bomber 390 in Victoria this season when the aircraft was off line for some maintenance. Both were kept exceptionally busy working the fires burning in Victoria late in the season. The two returned back to the United States in mid March in preparation for taking up working contracts for the start of the Northern fire season.
American Champion 8GCBC Scout
Western Australia has again contracted six Scout aircraft for the season. Owned and operated by the Department of Biodiversity Conservation and Attractions. Operated in the Firespotter role which supervise waterbombing operations in the south-west, relaying information on fire behaviour to fire controllers. The aircraft are based at Albany, Manjimup, Jandacot and Bunbury.
VH-KTG returns from another patrol to its Jandacot base.
The Ayres Thrush is also in use in the fire fighting role within Australia. Central Highlands Aerial Services based in Emerald, Queensland. The company deployed two of their Thrush S2R aircraft on fires in the state.
Rotary fleet for the season
This year was another growth year for the rotary fleet. Both in terms of numbers, types and capabilities. Starting with the larger Type 1 fleet which is a machine able to carry or hold more then 2,650 litres of water. Six Erickson S-64’s, three Sikorsky S-61’s, three UH-60 Blackhawks from Firehawk/TOuchdown and Timberline/Pay’s and fourteen Bell 214B Big lifters make up this large array of machines. The operators like, Erickson, Kestrel, Timberline, Pay’s and McDermott’s coupled with very experienced and well seasoned crews make for a formidable lineup. Additional smaller types like the AS-350, BK-117, Bell 204, Bell 206 are part of the varied mix required by the NAFC fleet.
Airbus helicopters AS350
One of the more numerous types in service across the country is the Squirrel. With some twenty five of the single and twin engined versions. The number of operators is just as long.
Eurocopter AS365N2 Dauphin
The Dauphin, is deployed with two examples by DFES in Western Australia this season. Firebird 661 and 662 with 1000 and 1200 litre tanks fitted respectively. Firebird 661 is also fitted out for surveillance and reconnisannce as well.
Airbus Helicopters EC-120
The Victorian Government through the NAFC has three EC-120 Helicopters on contract this season. Operated by Jayrow and Microflight Helicopters from Moorabbin Airport. The type is a very suitable platform for the Firebird role in which it is employed. The large windows allow for great air observation of fire fighting activities by Helitaks. Its high speed makes it ideal to get quickly on scene in preparation for fire bombing. The information from the Firebird is then passed onto the incident control team.
A type seen regularly in New South Wales is the the MBB/Kawasaki BK-117. The helicopter is extremely versatile and can be used for a variety of tasks, including water bombing, reconnaissance, mapping and aerial incendiary work. When used for water bombing operations a tank with up to 1,000 litres of water and retardant is fitted. It can also be used to winch Remote Area Firefighting Teams and Rapid Aerial Response Teams into difficult to reach areas.
Helitreck owns and operates five Kawasaki BK117B2 helicopters which can be used for water bombing operations with up to 1,000L of water and retardant. Since 1999, the company has operated as a contractor to NSW Rural Fire Service.
Last year we spoke about the important role of the Sikorsky S-76 in the Night Fire Bombing role. This season at the culmination of the work up phase the S-76 operated by Coulson Aviation was put to work. The S-76 which acts as the Supervision aircraft has an air attack office on board. The role he conducts is too safely guide the helitak aircraft to their field of operations and conduct the fire bombing drops based on the reconnaissance of the area that was done prior to working the fire ground. Once water bombing has begun the infrared camera on the single example of the Sikorsky S-76A in operation records and also monitors hot spots which will need further dousing. The Coulson Aviation team who were operating the machine are extremely skilled, with some of the crew with over 20 years of fire bombing operation experience.
A small fleet of the ubiquitous Bell 205 or the civilian version of the UH-1 Huey are in use in Australia this season. Valhalla Helicopters returned again this season with three machines from their fleet. This included Bell 205 C-GRUV. As seen in the photos the Valhalla machines are some of the cleanest looking examples of the type in operation I have seen. Originally built for the use by United Arab Emirates Air Force Silāḥ al-Jaww as-Sulṭāniy ‘Umān (Royal Air Force of Oman), this particular machine was built in 1975.
Bell UH-1 Huey
Touchdown Helicopters operate several examples of the UH-1 Huey in the fire suppression role. All are equiped with Bambi Max multi drop aerial fire fighting buckets which are also configured with foam-injection capabilities. The buckets have a 1230 litre capacity. VH-OXE and OXI were both noted flying into Rockhampton Airport in support of the fire which was very active at the airport during December 2018.
Bell 206 Longranger
Another type from the Bell factory is the smaller Bell 206 Longranger. Several examples are tasked for operation during the fire season. It is particularly well suited to the supervision of firebombing operations with its high speed enabling it to keep up with the largest of firebombing helicopters and the ability to slow down and loiter in the fire area. When working as a ‘firebird’ the primary responsibility for the crew is to supervise aerial fire fighting operations and to collect intelligence information about a fire and pass it on to the incident management team.
For an airframe built in 1979 Paton Air’s Bell 206L-1 certainly doesn’t look its age.
A well seasoned campaigner here and abroad for fire fighting is the Bell 212. Six of the type are on contract for the season. When fitted with the 1477 litre belly tank, the versatile Helitak is frequently on task. Victorian operators like Microflight, Jayrow and Kestrel all operate the type. Some of the 212s on contract can be fitted with a rappel line system to insert specialist smoke jumpers into areas that require a back burn where transport by vehicle is inaccessible or safe.
The bigger version of the 212 is the Bell 214 ‘Big Lifter’. It is one of the more numerous rotary types on contract this season again. Some twelve are deployed across the country with Tasmanian, New South Wales, Victorian, and Western Australia fire agencies. Fitted with a 2,650 litre belly tank or Tsunami tank which is able to be filled within 35 seconds. The 214 is the most powerful single engined helicopter in the world.
The twin engined Bell 412 is a popular type in the fire frightening role across the world. Commonly fitted with a 1400+ litre belly tank, the type is able to get into areas where the larger machines can’t. The tank is also able to have a foam concentrate injected to further increase the effectiveness of the tank during a drop. Both the NSW and Victorian Governments have contracted five 412’s this season.
A unique aircraft in the aerial fire fighting fleet and even more so as a type on the Australian VH register. Rotor lift Aviation from Hobart in Tasmania operate Firebird 700, VH-XCW. The aircraft was previously in aeromedical configuration with Careflight in Queensland.
Now operating in the Firebird role the aircraft was very active in the firefight around Southern Tasmania this season. With a light passenger loading and full fuel tanks the aircraft has approximately fours endurance which is extremely useful in the fire observation and control role.
Erickson S-64 Air-Crane
As was noted previously, Eriskson and Kestrel again teamed up to bring in and operate the Air-Crane this season. This long standing operation see the merging of two well experienced companies who deploy six of the Air-Cranes across the country. The pilots and maintainers are very seasoned campaigners, with some having over twenty plus years of experience with the type. Pilots from New Zealand, Canada, United States are among some of the countries that the experience is drawn from.
These large Type 1 helicopters are well known in Australia now having been deployed continuously for over 20 years now. This season saw the machines working fires across the country with high utilisation. The high tempo was made more so with the incident of N173AC crashing into a dam in South Eastern Victoria. Thankfully the three crew were uninjured and the Air-Crane was recovered and will be rebuilt to fly again. Being one machine down put a large workload on the remaining five machines which saw them being moved to where they were required and being deployed into other states.
The six machines on contract this season were:
N189AC ‘Gypsy Lady’
N154AC ‘Georgia Peach’
Sikorsky UH-60 Blackhawk
Australia was host to its largest fleet of Blackhawks fighting fires ever this season. Timberline again in cooperation with local operator Pay’s from Scone NSW brought two UH-60A Blackhawks to work on call as required contracts. These two machines were in operation across NSW, Victoria and Tasmania blazes. Another UH-60 operator in Australia this season is Touchdown Helicopters. Working in a partnership with the owner of the helicopter, Firehawk Helicopters from Leesburg Florida. The partnership has brought another ex US Army UH-60A Blackhawk modified for the fire fighting role. All three Blackhawks were flown in operations with the Bambi bucket on a long line.
Life in the airframe thanks to Australian involvement.
As the Blackhawk and Seahawks enter the civilian market from military stocks, the use of the machines for firefighting works sees companies develop new technologies for these airframes as the retire from military service. One such company is Queensland based Helitak Fire Fighting Equipment. The company has developed a underslung belly tank for the Blackhawk with the design on show at this years Australian International Airshow at Avalon. Paul Blundell the Operation Manager at Helitak and Jason Schellaars took time to show ASO over the tank and its features during the show.
With a capacity of 4500 Litres and electric control of the drop distribution the tank has been designed so it can be fitted in as little as 25 minutes. The tank is fitted with a 6000 litres per minute fill pump which enables it to be filled in 46 seconds. The impressive design has been ordered by several overseas companies. Some of the unique features of the design also include:
The Helitak designed bomb doors are over 2m in length providing an unequalled delivery of controllable water to the fire ground.
Next generation Programmable Logic Controller that provides complete reporting of tank operations and telemetry analysis via the cloud to the operators operations centre.
A proven fire suppression tank with operators enjoying over 1000 hours of operations
The company is also currently in discussions with hopes of supplying the tanks to a new Australian Blackhawk/Seahawk operator,Skyline Aviation Group. A helicopter operator out of the Newcastle and the Hunter Valley region’s who announced the acquisition of eleven former Royal Australian Navy S-70B-2 Seahawk helicopters. All of which are now at the companies headquarters awaiting conversion.
This season Coulson Aviation Australia has supplied three Sikorsky S-61N Type 1 helicopters based across Victoria. Helitak 347 C-FXEC in its striking black and white livery was deployed from Colac most of this season. Helitak 348 N161CG, was based most of the season from the fire-base at Mansfield in Victoria’s high country. The third S-61, Helitak 349 C-FIRX operated from Ballarat providing both a daytime and night time fire-bombing services.
Helitak 349 was part of the fleet involved in the Night Fire Fighting trial and fire deployments. Helitak 349 operated at night at various locations in the rugged eastern part of Victoria and the south eastern interface areas of metropolitan Melbourne during the season. An Australian connection to the two Canadian registered S-61s is their tanks, which were built in Australia.
Aviation Spotters Online, wishes to thank all the pilots, crew and companies who have taken the time to work with us on this article again. It is dedicated to all the fire Fighting personal, both paid and volunteer who go above and beyond to protect Australian’s from fire. I hope this article does you proud for the vitally important work done on the fire ground.
Thanks to the ASO team in helping out with photos and also to Brenden Scott for the use of his images.
2 Operational Conversion Unit, Royal Australian Air Force
Mildura Airport located approximately five hours from Melbourne has a significant wartime heritage. This weekend that history was again honoured with a visit by a Royal Australian Air Force F/A-18B ‘Classic’ Hornet. The aircraft from the 2 Operational Conversion Unit (2OCU) arrived to honour the units history which started at this very airport. A21-116 painted in the spectacular Anniversary Tiger livery, arrived Friday afternoon. The units Commanding Officer Wing Commander (WGCDR) Scott Woodland, arrived in the aircraft which would be the last opportunity to showcase the aircraft before the squadron transitions to the F-35A Joint Strike Fighter.
A parade with a contingent of 2OCU personnel along with Australian Air Force cadets marched through the city of Mildura on Saturday morning, which was followed up with the Hornet inspection on the Sunday. Some 10,000 people descended on Mildura Airport.
Unit History of 2OCU:
Established and stood up as an active unit in April 1942, the No. 2 (Fighter) Operational Training Unit (No. 2 OTU) initially operated from Port Pirie, in South Australia. The unit was soon relocated to the new RAAF Station Mildura, Victoria, in May the same year. The unit was formed to train pilots for the war effort.
Wing Commander Peter Jeffrey, a fighter ace who had led No. 3 Squadron in North Africa. Wing Commander, Jeffrey brought Nos. 75 and 76 Squadrons on line to defend Northern Australia as the Japanese advanced toward New Guinea. Fellow instructors included, Clive Caldwell and Wilf Arthur fellow aces from the North African campaign.
Once the unit established itself in Mildura it was quickly operating a diverse range of types which included, P-40 Kittyhawks, Vultee Vengeances, Avro Ansons, CAC Boomerangs, Supermarine Spitfires and Airspeed Oxfords. The unit remained operational after the war, March 1947 it was disbanded.
It is worth noting that at Mildura Airport there is a museum dedicated to the preservation of the unit’s history while stationed at Mildura. The 2OTU museum is run by volunteers and has a fantastic and interesting history on display of the unit within their building. The museum is under going some expansion with the addition of its first complete aircraft, a CAC Sabre, example A94-989 that is soon to arrive from the Australian National Aviation Museum at Moorabbin. The group is also wishing to acquire an F/A-18 Hornet from defence disposals once the aircraft is formally retired.
A second group is also trying to build a new memorial and museum to honour the men who served at 2OTU. The group formed by Anthony Koch and Sean Morgan back in 2014, had their plans and display on show.
In addition to this a further project being embarked upon is the desire to display a P-40 Kittyhawk within a building expansion also under planning. Some of the museum’s volunteers were on hand during the Hornet inspection on Sunday to showcase their works and some parts of the P-40 Kittyhawk which were collected and will be incorporated into a static airframe. A recent piece of work has been on a new tail assembly which was on display.
As with all projects this is no small feat nor is it cheap. So the group is asking for the donation of P-40 parts and also financial help to see the honour of the men who paid the ultimate sacrifice presented appropriately. Please contact the team via their Facebook page for any assistance you can offer: https://www.facebook.com/mildura2OTUheritage/
It wasn’t long before the unit was re-formed, this time at RAAF Williamtown in March 1952. This was due to the demand for more highly trained pilots to serve in the Korean War.
Equipped with Wirraways, Mustangs, and de Havilland Vampire jets. Dick Cresswell took command of No. 2 OTU on 21 May 1953. The unit ceased flying Mustangs that October, retaining its Wirraways and Vampires. In April 1954, it began conducting fighter combat instructor courses, as well as refresher courses on jets. Dick Cresswell also delivered the first Australian-built CAC Sabre jet fighter to No. 2 OTU in November.
It was renamed the No. 2 (Fighter) Operational Conversion Unit in September 1958. From then the unit conducted training with the CAC Sabre, Dassault Mirage III, and Macchi MB-326, prior to taking delivery of the Hornet.
Currently the unit trains pilots to operate the McDonnell Douglas F/A-18 Hornet. Conducting refresher courses for pilots returning to the type and trains future Hornet instructors. Pilots new to the Hornet enter No 2 OCU after first qualifying to fly fast jets at No. 79 Squadron on the BAe Hawk 127. Then undertaking initial fighter combat instruction at No. 76 Squadron. Once qualified on the F/A-18, they are posted to one of No. 81 Wing’s operational Hornet units, No. 3 Squadron, No. 75 Squadron or No. 77 Squadron.
Today the 2OCU is under going another transformation. With the winding down of the classic Hornet fleet and its replacement by the 5th Generation Lockheed Martin F-35A Lightning II. The unit is having a change of training syllabus and also a new type brings about advancement in tactics thanks to the new hardware.
The Air Force expects that Initial Operating Capability (IOC) for the F-35 to be achieved by 2020. By this date two F-35 squadrons, No. 3 Squadron and No. 2 Operational Conversion Unit (2OCU) are expected to be equiped with between thirty and thirty-three F-35s. RAAF Williamtown will eventually be home to 56 F-35s. 2OCU will continue to look after all aircrew and maintenance training for the RAAF F-35 capability.
With the Hornet arriving on Friday afternoon, there was a noticeable buzz around the town (No pun intended).
Saturday Morning Mildura was presented with a parade by the 2OCU members and 623 Squadron cadets from Mildura.
Sunday morning was the open day at Mildura Airport. A21-116 was positioned in the hangar near the airport terminal. A huge crowd of locals descended on the airport keen to see the Hornet up close.
As the crowds dispersed the time had come for Hornet A21-116 to begin preparations for its departure from Mildura. The jet was descended upon by RAAF personal who got the aircraft ready to come out of the hangar. Wing Commander (WGCDR) Scott Woodland, took the time to give ASO a shortened version of a ‘Classic’ Hornet preflight. See the video here:
Once the aircraft was ready it departed the hangar for refuelling.
History of A21-116
The aircraft was ordered in 1981, and built as a Block 22, B model Hornet construction number ATF-16. The aircraft was one of eighteen twin seat B models ordered by the RAAF. Along with fifty seven single seat A models. The aircraft was delivered on 31st of August 1988. At the end of 2019 the aircraft will retire from flight along with Wing Commander (WGCDR) Scott Woodland. A fitting tribute to an aircraft and serviceman who have both served Australia and its people so well.
On a very cool winters morning F/A-18B A21-116 was fired up and departed Mildura Airport. Wing Commander (WGCDR) Scott Woodland wanted to make his departure a good one. We think you’ll agree it was a spirited one.
Aviation Spotters Online wishes to acknowledge the help and time granted to both Mark and Dave during their time at Mildura. Thanks go out to Mildura Airport Corporation, Royal Australian Air Force, Wing Commander (WGCDR) Scott Woodland and members of 2OCU, 623 Royal Australian Air Force Cadets and finally the Royal Australian Air Force media department.
Air Vanuatu has returned to Melbourne Airport launching the carriers three time a week service between Port Villa and Melbourne.
Marking the return of the airlines services to Melbourne was a ceremony conducted outside gate 20 of the International terminal.
Standing outside on the hardstand was the airlines Boeing 737-8SH, wearing registration YJ-AV8, on a cold and dark Melbourne morning. A stark contrast to the passengers who will arrive to a beautiful and warm 27 degrees later on that day.
Launching the service was Melbourne Airport Chief of Aviation David Hall, who was thrilled to announce another airline to his airports ever growing portfolio, adding more destinations served from Melbourne. “The service to Port Villa is a big win for Victorian travellers as well as holiday makers in Tasmania and Adelaide who use Melbourne as a hub to reach overseas destinations”, said Mr Hall.
Also present at the launch was Air Vanuatu Managing Director and CEO Derek Nice. “We (Air Vanuatu) are excited to commence our new direct service today from Melbourne Airport to Port Vila, Vanuatu. Our direct nonstop morning flight, which sees our guests arrive in Vanuatu by lunchtime is a great opportunity for Victorian’s to explore our idyllic island nation and immerse themselves in the Melanesian spirit from the moment they arrive”.
The airline will fly to and from Melbourne on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays with departure from Melbourne at 7am.
The first Air Vanuatu flight, operated by a McDonnell Douglas DC-9-31 which was owned and operated by Ansett, departed Sydney for Port Vila on 5 September 1981. In May 1982 a Boeing 737–200 of Polynesian Airlines replaced the DC-9. This in turn was replaced by an Ansett 737-200 in October 1985. Air Vanuatu commenced operations in its own right in 1987 first leasing a Boeing 727-200 from Australian flying from Port Villa to Sydney. Main cities such as Sydney, Melbourne, Auckland and Brisbane are its principal destinations.
In 2004 the Government of Vanuatu decided to join the operations of Vanair, a well established domestic inter-island airline, with the international operations of Air Vanuatu. Noumea was added to its international schedule and the next generation Boeing 737-800 replaced the older 737-400 model then in service. Air Vanuatu is one of a few airlines using the Chinese made, regional turboprop Y-12 aircraft.
The airlines current fleet includes, three Viking Air DHC-6 Twin Otters, two Yunshuji T-12, two ATR 72, two Britten Norman BN-2 and a single Boeing 737-800.
Air Vanuatu has ordered two Airbus A220-100s and two A220-300s, making it the launch customer for the A220 in the South Pacific. The first delivery from the order is due in June 2020.
ASO again wishes to thank Melbourne Airport Corporation and Air Vanuatu for their assistance.
I make no apologies for writing and photographing as many aviation museums’ as I have here at Aviation Spotters Online. Nearly all are run and managed by passionate volunteers who wish to preserve and tell the story of aviation in relation to their country, area of operations, war zones or as is the case here an airforce’s history.
The JASDF Museum at Hamamatsu has been on my list of places to visit for many years. The museum is set on the side of the Hamamatsu Air Force base where it was established in 1999. Getting there is relatively simple, a bus from the Hamamatsu train station or hire a car from the afore mentioned station and drive about 25 minutes to the entrance.
Greeting you at the main entrance is a Blue Implulse marked F-86E Sabre serial number 02-7966. Hamamatsu was the home of the JASDF’s display team where the team formed flying the Sabre in 1960. Flying six F-86Es the team was part of the 21 Squadron, which was part of the 4th Air Wing.
Tuesday ( 9:00 AM ~ 4:00PM )
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Open on National Holidays, but closed the next day ( 12:00 AM ~ 12:00 AM )
Buses on Line 51 depart from Bus Stop 14 of Hamamatsu Station bus terminal, or the museum is within walking distance from a bus stop at Izumi-yon-chome.
Outside are a couple of airframes, hopefully in time they will move inside when time and space occurs. As with all museums space is at a premium. This however doesn’t detract from a great display of the post war JASDF. From early British and American designs too Japanese developed aircraft this small nation has progressed rapidly in its capabilities.
Curtiss C-46A Commando, s/n 91-1138
The JASDF was a significant operator of the Curtis C-46 Commando. The type was flown in several versions including electronic countermeasures training versions. On display is Commando 91-1138. This was ex USAF 42-101098, and it was delivered to the JASDF in December 1959. Withdrawn from use on 11 March 1978, and had been placed on display at Hamamatsu Air Base by 1984.
Piasecki CH-21B Workhorse s/n 02-4756
The Piasecki H-21 “Workhorse/Shawnee” is an early American designed helicopter. Fourth in a line of tandem rotor helicopters designed and built by Piasecki Helicopter (later Boeing Vertol). Commonly called the “flying banana”, it was a multi-mission helicopter, utilising wheels, skis, or floats.
Japan Air Self-Defense Force operated 10 H-21B helicopters in the search and rescue role. The Japan Ground Self-Defense Force operated 2 Model 44A helicopters for testing. Four of the surviving helicopters are preserved in Japan.
Walking inside the main hangar you can’t help but notice the variety of colours and aiframes on display.
North American T-6 Texan s/n 52-0010
Known as the pilot maker across the world, the JASDF operated the North American T-6 Texan. They were among the first military aircraft which Japan was allowed to operate post-war. Some 195 eventually seeing service with the JASDF between 1955 and 1970. A further 62 were flown by the Japanese Navy.
de Havilland Vampire T.55 s/n 63-5571
The JASDF acquired this aircraft in 1955 for evaluation. The Japanese decided not to purchase it after evaluation. It remains the only Vampire flown by Japan. And thus a very unique exhibit in the museum.
Japan was looking for a replacement for its war weary North American T-6 Texan fleet. First flying in 1957 with the British Orephus engine as its power plant this was soon replaced with the locally built and designed JO-1 Engine. Long delays in the engines development saw the Orephus soon back in the airframe. Some sixty six examples of both the T-1A, T-1B and T-1C were produced and taken into service with the JASDF. The type had a long and successful career with the 13th Flying Training Wing stationed at both Gifu and Ashiya. Replaced by the locally designed and built Kawasaki T-4 in 2006. On display is T-1A 15-5825, delivered to the JASDF in 30/9/1961 it was withdrawn on the 29/3/1999 at Ashiya.
Beech 65 Queen Air
Used in the Communications and navigation trainer role the JASDF took on some 28 examples beginning in 1963. The type retired in 2000. The B-65 displayed at the JASDF Air Park bears the markings of the Southwestern Command Support Flight based at Naha, Okinawa Prefecture. It was from there that the aircraft was flown to Hamamatsu after its withdrawal from service.
North American T-28 Trojan
Initially assigned the civil registration JA3086 when imported from the manufacturer in 1954, this North American T-28B Trojan was passed to the then Japan Defense Agency for technical research purposes in 1956. Converted for the reconnaissance training role in 1962, the aircraft suffered a heavy landing at Utsunomiya, Tochigi Prefecture, on July 3, 1963, when serving with the 501st Sqn. For a time used as an instructional airframe at Kumagaya AB in Saitama Prefecture, the aircraft was in place
when the Air Park first opened its doors in April 1999.
North American T-33 Shooting Star
A type flown in large lumbers by the JASDF was the Lockheed T-33 Shooting Star. Entering service in 1956 and retiring in 1994 the type was flown by fourteen different Tactical Fighter Squadrons in the JASDF. Over 210 examples were eventually to be operated with many built by Kawasaki Heavy Industries. T-33 was developed from the Lockheed P-80/F-80 by lengthening the fuselage by and adding a second seat, instrumentation, and flight controls. On display is 71-5239.
Mitsubishi A6M Zero
A type which was to be a mainstay in Japan’s war in the Pacific. The Zero is a long-range fighter aircraft formerly manufactured by Mitsubishi Aircraft Company, a part of Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, and operated by the Imperial Japanese Navy from 1940 to 1945. It was one of the most capable carrier-based fighter in the world when it was introduced early in World War II, combining excellent manoeuvrability and very long range. Nearly 11,000 examples were produced.
On display is a genuine combat veteran Zero. An A6M5 version serially 43-188. It was shot down on June 19th 1944. This being the first day of the Battle of the Philippine Sea better known as the “Marianas Turkey Shoot”. Pilot Shimazu Ozaki and another Zeke straffed a Navy SOC seaplane attempting a rescue of a downed American flyer. A USN F-6F of VF-10, flown by Lt. Henry C. Clem joined the battle, but was shot down by Ozaki. In turn, a F4U-2 Nightfighter on temporary day duty, flown by Lt.Cdr. R.E. Harmer of VF(N)-101 pursued Ozaki, and damaged his Zeke.
Escaping back towards Guam streaming smoke. Ozaki crash landed his Zeke just off the airstrip, and later died of his wounds. Rediscovered in 1962 the aircraft was exhumed nearly totally complete apart from the fabric covered rudder. It was retuned to Japan in 1964 and rebuilt and repainted into its wartime markings.
Restored by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries in a hangar at JASDF Hamamatsu Airbase, it is a true time capsule example of the famous Zero.
Helicopters on display
The museum has a vast three examples of helicopters on display within the main hall.
All three are painted in their Search and Rescue (SAR) markings.
A single turbine engine, three-blade rotor amphibious helicopter. Originally developed as a commercial venture by the Sikorsky Aircraft Corporation of Stratford, Connecticut, it was used by the JASDF in the Search and Rescue role. Produced under license in Japan by Mitsubishi. Nine Mitsubishi-built Sikorsky S-62J rescue helicopters were operated. Known by the unofficial name of Raicho (Ptarmigan), the type was in service from 1963 to 1983 before being replaced by the more capable, twin-engined Kawasaki-Vertol KV-107.
Boeing Vertol Model 107
The KV-107 started life as Boeing Vertol Model 107 which was a twin-rotor, twin-engine design that first flew in April 1958. Japan was interested in the Model 107 for service in its Self Defense Forces and Kawasaki Heavy Industries acquired a license to manufacture the aircraft in Japan.
The JMSDF acquired the KV-107-II-3 as a mine sweeper; the JGSDF selected the KV-107-II-4 as its assault and transportation helicopter; while the JASDF adopted the KV-107-II-5 as its primary rescue helicopter. In 1988, the Japan Air Self-Defense Force choose the UH-60L to replace its KV-107 and Sikorsky S-62 helicopters.
The KV-107 started life as Boeing Vertol Model 107 which was a twin-rotor, twin-engine design that first flew in April 1958. The KV-107 started life as Boeing Vertol Model 107 which was a twin-rotor, twin-engine design that first flew in April 1958.
The Mitsubishi MU-2 made its maiden flight in September 1963 and was produced until 1986. It is one of postwar Japan’s most successful aircraft, with 704 manufactured in Japan and San Angelo, Texas, in the United States.
29 MU-2Es were purchased by the Japan Air Self-Defense Force as search-and-rescue aircraft and designated MU-2S. Additional equipment consisted of a “thimble” nose radome, increased fuel capacity, bulged observation windows, and a sliding door for dropping rafts. The type was replaced in 2008 by the British Aerospace U-125A.
Four C-model aircraft were built, in addition to 16 MU-2Ks, entered service with the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force (JGSDF) with the designation LR-1; they were used as liaison and photo reconnaissance aircraft.
North American F-86 Sabre
The first Sabres were delivered in December 1955 when a number of F-86F models arrived in Japan. The delivery of these F-86s coincided with the establishment of the Kokudan (Air Wing) at Hamamatsu airbase, eventually forming the 1st and 2nd Hikotai (Squadron) within it, both equipped with F-86F Sabres. The Sabre numbers were expanded to a sizeable air force with the backbone being formed by 180 US built and 300 Mitsubishi built F-86Fs.
A tactical reconnaissance unit was established December 1961 when the 501st Hikotai was activated at Matsushima, flying converted Sabres designated RF-86F.
F-86D all weather interceptors also flew with the JASDF. Eventually some 122 US F-86Ds, which operated between 1958–1961 They were assigned to four all-weather interceptor Hikōtai, and the Air Proving Ground at Gifu.
Beechcraft T-34 Mentor
Japan operated 173 T-34 Mentors with them being built locally by Fuji Heavy Industries. Derived from the Beechcraft Model 35 Bonanza, it first flew in 1948. On display is 51-0382.
The Fuji T-3 is a primary military trainer aircraft that was used by the JASDF. Manufactured by Fuji Heavy Industries. Its first flight was in 1978. In total 50 aircraft were produced. The type was replaced by the Fuji T-7 in 2002. 91-5517 is on display.
The Mitsubishi T-2 is a supersonic jet trainer. Introduced in 1975, it was the twin seat development of the Mitsubishi F-1 military aircraft. It was also the first Japanese aircraft to break the sound barrier. All T-2s were retired by 2006.
Entering service in 1975, with the first unit, the 21st Hikōtai becoming fully operational on 1 October 1976, with a second squadron, the 22nd Hikōtai following on 5 April 1978, allowing the North American F-86 Sabre to be phased out of the advanced training role.
The “Blue Impulse” aerobatic display team of the JASDF re-equipped with the T-2 in the winter of 1981–82. T-2s were also used by a dedicated Aggressor squadron. T-2s were also used as conversion trainers for squadrons operating the Mitsubishi F-1, a development of the T-2.The type was retired from service by 2006.
The Mitsubishi F-1 is Japan’s first domestically developed and built supersonic jet. It was nicknamed “Supersonic Rei-Sen” (Rei-Sen being the Japanese term for Mitsubishi’s A6M “Zero” fighter). Mitsubishi Heavy Industries and Fuji Heavy Industries jointly developed the F-1. Entering service in April 1978 the type Continued until its retirement in March 2006. Seventy Seven airframes went on to serve the JASDF. Its primary role is anti-ship attack with a secondary ground attack role. It can carry AIM-9 Sidewinder missiles for self-defense.
Lockheed F-104J Starfighter
Some 210 F-104J air-superiority fighters and 20 dual-control trainer F-104DJs. Called Eiko (“Glory”), they served from October 1962 to 1986, losing only 3 airplanes in this time including a mid-air collision accident. Seven air-superiority squadrons used them: 201, 202, 203, 204, 205, 206, 207. Japanese F-104s were constantly engaging intrusive Soviet airplanes during the types long service. Twenty two of the Japanese F-104s were eventually converted to drones for aerial target practice. 31 F-104J and five F-104DJ aircraft were sold to Taiwan. The museum has two examples on display, 76-8693 and 76-8998.
In the second hall are display relating to the history of the JASDF and its current fleet. Some creative and interactive parts are sure to have you spending some time in this hall. Two aircraft are also on display within the hall. A mockup of the F-2 and a F-1 which has been de-skined to show the inner workings of an airframe.
I highly recommend this museum, it is a great place to learn about the JASDF from its humble beginnings to its current incarnation.
In this the first of our Australian International Air Show articles we focus on an aircraft type that has previously visited the Australian International Air Show. The Airbus Defence and Space Military aircraft, the A400M Atlas. It was again part of the line up to be displayed among the other international aircraft on the flight line at this years event. The Royal Malaysian Air Force and Airbus Industries not only flew the Atlas to Avalon, but it was demonstrated to invited guests during the event.
Airbus are keen to see more Air Forces in the Asia-Pacific region replace legacy types like the Lockheed C-130, and Transal C-160 with the A400M.
Positioning the A400M after a demonstration flight.
The type was launched in 2003 to response to the future airlifter needs of several European nations. France, Germany, Italy, Spain, the United Kingdom, Turkey, Belgium, and Luxembourg had a need to replace older transport aircraft, such as the Transall C-160 and the Lockheed C-130 Hercules.
All the major assemblies built at the company’s other facilities across Europe, are brought to the Seville facility by Airbus Beluga transporters, for the final assembly. The type first flew on 17 December 2008, it was originally planned to fly during the first quarter of 2008. This was postponed due to the well documented programme delays, schedule adjustments and financial pressures.
While development and cost overruns are common place with aircraft development the program was close to being terminated. In 2009, Airbus stated that the programme was expected to lose at least €2.4 billion and could not break even without sales outside NATO countries. Then in January 2010, Airbus again repeated that the A400M may be scrapped, costing Airbus €5.7 billion unless €5.3 billion was added by partner governments.
Orders and Deliveries
It was November 2010, when the governments of Belgium, Britain, France, Germany, Luxembourg, Spain and Turkey finalised the contract and agreed to lend Airbus Military €1.5 billion. The programme was then at least three years behind schedule. The RAF reduced its order from 25 to 22 aircraft and German Luftwaffe from 60 to 53, decreasing the total order from 180 to 170.
The A400M entered military service a decade later on the 30th of September 2013. It was the French Air Force who took delivery of the first production aircraft and has orders for fifty. Turkey took delivery of their first A400M in 2014, of ten for that service. The Royal Air Force has ordered twenty two and took delivery of their first aircraft in 2014 also.
The German Luftwaffe took the first of their fifty three on order in 2014. In March 2015 the Royal Malaysian Air Force took delivery of its first A400M, of four on order. 2016 saw the Spanish Air Force take delivery of the first of twenty seven on order for their air arm. This year (2019) Belgium was handed over the first of seven their Air Force will except. Luxembourg will also take delivery of a single example in 2019.
To date some 174 aircraft have been ordered with Airbus keen to sell the aircraft to other operators including the Royal New Zealand Air Force who are considering the type to replace their 1965 delivered Lockheed C-130H Hercules.
Arriving at Avalon Airport ahead of the airshow was, RMAF M54-04 was previously deployed along with RMAF F/A-18 Hornets to Pitch Black 2018.
Wearing civilian registration, F-RBAF. Armée de l’Air (French Air Force) A4M014 departs Avalon.
Armée de l’Air (French Air Force) A4M014
Royal Air Force A400M C.1, ZM401 operated by XXIV Squadron, was present at the 2017 event.
Aviation Spotters Online was invited by Airbus and the RMAF (Tentera Udara Diraja Malaysia (TUDM) to experience and look at the Atlas in detail during the Australian International Airshow 2019.
Engine and Propeller Combination
It was parked near some of it’s air lifting counterparts on the hard standing at the airshow which included, the Lockheed C-130H and J models, Boeing C-17A, Kawasaki C-2A. The A400M casts a large shadow where based on size alone looks like a perfect fit among the mix. The huge eight bladed Ratier-Figeac FH385 and FH386 variable pitch tractor propellers with feathering and reversing capability are 5.3 meters in diameter. Coupled to the four Europrop TP400-D6 turboprop, 8,200 kW which produce some 11,000 horsepower each, gives the A400M a cruise speed of 781 km/h at 31,000 feet.
The eight bladed Ratier-Figeac FH385 and FH386 variable pitch tractor propellers, churn away as we climb out over Geelong
The RMAF crew prepare the cabin for the media flight.
With a maximum payload of up to 37 tonnes (81 600 lb) and a volume of 340 m3(12,000 ft3), the A400M can carry numerous pieces of outsize cargo. It is not limited to vehicles and helicopters that are too large or too heavy for previous generation tactical airlifters, for example, a NH90 or a CH-47 Chinook helicopter, or a heavy infantry fighting vehicle. It can also carry a single large truck, rescue boat, excavators or mobile cranes needed to assist in disaster relief.
Personnel and troops
Airbus has designed the A400m to accommodate 116 fully equipped troops or paratroops, seated in four longitudinal rows. Broken down this equates to:
54 sidewall seats permanently installed in the cargo hold can be easily folded against the sidewalls.
Two-centreline seat rows (62 seats) are fully removable to clear space for cargo.
An Atlas cockpit is based on the layout and design of the civilian A380 passenger liner. The full glass cockpit which features four large glass displays are combined with systems designed to reduce the workload in the flight deck. A HUD or Heads Up Display is a prominent feature in forward vision from both the right hand and left hand seats. Other systems like a T-TAD (Tactical Terrain Awareness Display), ECAM (Electrical Centralised Aircraft Monitoring) and Fly by Wire controls all aim to reduce pilot workload during its varying mission suites.
Air to Air Refuelling
The Atlas was designed to be a dual-role transport and tanker aircraft. A standard A400M has much of the equipment and software provisions for 2-point air-to-air refuelling operations already installed. Any A400M can be rapidly reconfigured to become a tactical 2-point tanker able to refuel probe-equipped receiver aircraft. Having a fuel capacity of some 63,500 litres (50,800 kg) which can be even further increased with additional cargo hold tanks.
The aircraft uses Cobham designed 908E refuelling pods which are mounted on the external hard points out board of the engines. A further 808E Hose Drum Unit can be installed in the aircraft’s fuselage.
The RMAF has already certified air to air refuelling with its three fighters, the Flanker, Hornet and Hawks. The RMAF has ordered two sets of the refuelling pods for its four A400M, all of which are wired for air to air refuelling.
The A400M loadmaster sits underneath the main cockpit. The station has monitors to access the cameras feeding information from around the aircraft to the crew member.
RMAF roundel proudly worn on the A400m.
The Royal Malaysian Air Force’s 22 Sqn, is the services sole operating squadron of the Airbus A400M. Based at Subang Air Force Base which was Kuala Lumpur’s main airport from 1965 to 1998. This was before the Kuala Lumpur International Airport in Sepang was opened. The motto of the squadron is “Gagah Berani or The Strong and The Bold, which officially stood up in 2015.
On 8 December 2005, four Airbus Military A400M aircraft were ordered to enhance the air force’s airlift capability. By March 2017 all Malaysian A400Ms had been delivered to the squadron.
Climbing out of Avalon.
The power from the four Europrop TP400-D6 turboprops is huge.
Flying over Northern Victoria
Taking in the vies from the cockpit.
The RMAF did an amazing job presenting the aircraft to the public.
Humanitarian efforts with the A400M
In October 2018 an earthquake and tsunami in Palu Indonesia, saw the Royal Malaysian Air Force and Airbus Foundation working together to support humanitarian efforts. The deployment of a single A400M was to aid the distribution of emergency supplies to the city. It arrived at Jakarta’s Halim Air Base on 4 October, to support the devastated city.
Specialised cargo which would be a first of kind transport for the RMAF, included fuel trucks and excavators. Other supplies like food, drinks, clothes, and medical supplies were brought in on subsequent flights also.
Major Hasan, who is a RMAF A400M Captain and also the Commander of Operations, took time out to speak with the assembled media about the aircraft, in the Air Force’s service.
The Major noted that the A400M has a quicker pre-flight preparation due to the aircraft’s on-board flight computer. It also enables a quicker turn around when the aircraft is on the ground.
It is a truly amazing aircraft with fantastic capabilities, we hope to see the type in Asia Pacific region in other air arms markings soon.
Aviation Spotters Online wishes to thank the crew of The Royal Malaysian Air Force (RMAF Malay Tentera Udara Diraja Malaysia (TUDM) and Airbus Defence and Space for the invitation to experience the Airbus A400M Atlas during the Australian International AirShow 2019.
There is now only 10 days left until the Australian International Airshow 2019 at Avalon opens to the public. Check your calendar now to make sure your there when this great show takes off on Friday March 1st, 2019.
The 2019 Australian International Airshow will also showcase a significant number of aircraft and types flown on the civilian registers. Each year the airshow brings in International displays who wow the crowd with their aerobatic, aircraft performance and a look at where aviation has come from. The Airshow for 2019 will be no different. Some of the displays and type that will be seen are as follows:
1st March – 3rd March Australian International Airshow (public access starts at 2pm on Friday)
**Hot Tip** Whilst the flying displays don’t start until 2pm on the Friday, if your a Gold Pass holder on the Friday you can get in to the airshow from 9am Friday. This is a great opportunity to get around the large number of aircraft on static display before the crowds build.
Take a look at the bottom of this story for links to the program details.
Paul Bennet Airshows and the Skyteam will be showcasing their amazing piloting skills from Glenn Graham, Glenn Collins and Ben Lappin alongside their performances from their aircraft which include:
Wolf Pitts Pro
Wolf Pits S1-11X
The Temora Aviation Museum at Temora in New South Wales will be bringing and displaying the following:
CAC CA-13 Boomerang
Cessna A37 Dragonfly
Supermarine Spitfire XVI
Jeff Trappett former RAAF Squadron leader based at Latrobe in Victoria will display his Douglas C-47 Dakota painted as a USAF AC-47 Gunship.
Extra 330C Paul Andronicou
Nanchang CJ-6A/Yak-52 – Russian Roolettes
SIAI-MARCHETTI S-211 Jetworks Display Team
Curtiss P-40N Kittyhawk – Alan Arthur
Lockheed 12A Electra Doug Hamilton
Sopwith Snipe, Sopwith Pup and RE.8
Other types on display around the airport will include:
A CA-25 Winjeel
AAT Tercel Gyroplane
Aeropilot Legend LSA
Aerospatiale AS365 Dauphin
AESL Airtourer Super 150
Airborne M4 Sport Microlight
Alpi Pioneer 200
Alpi Pioneer 300
Alpi Pioneer 300 Hawk
Auster MKV TW371
Autogyro de Cavalon
Autogyro de MTO Sport
Beech T-34 Mentor
Beechcraft A36 Bonanza
Bell 47 Helicopter
Bushby Mustang II
Corby Starlet CJ-1
DH.94 Moth Minor
Diamond HK-36 TC100 Motorglider
DTA J-Ro Tandem
ELA 09 Drover
Eurocopter AS365 Dauphin
Flight Design CTLS
Fly Synthesis Texan 550
Fresh Breeze Xcitor
Glasair III Super Turbo
Grumman Tiger AA58
ICP Savannah S
LA 4-200 Buccaneer
M912 Sport Copter
Magni M-16 Tandem
Magni M-24 Orion VIP
Morgon Aeroworks Cougar MK1
Percival Jet Provost
Piper Arrow IV
Piper Cherokee 6 PA32
Piper PA 15 Vagabond
Pipistrel Alpha Trainer
Searey – Southern Sun
Super Petrel LS
TAG Aviation Titanium Explorer
Tecnam P92 Echo Super
Tecnam P92 TD
TL Ultralight Co TL-3000
Wittman Tailwind W10
Zenair STOL CH 750
More Information and links to resources and tickets.
As Australia’s premier Airshow its an event not to be missed. For more information here are a few handy links:
Naval Air Facility Atsugi (厚木海軍飛行場Atsugi Kaigun-hikōjō) is a naval air base located in the cities of Yamato and Ayase in Kanagawa Prefecture. The 1,249 acres of Naval Air Facility Atsugi is in the heart of the Kanto Plain on Honshu, the main island of Japan.
Aircraft and Squadrons:
The following Fleet Air Force units of the Japanese Maritime Self Defence Force units are based at NAF Atsugi:
Fleet Air Wing 4, Air Patrol Squadron 3 flying the Lockheed P-3C Orion and Kawasaki P-1.
Air Transport Squadron 61 operating the Lockheed C-130R Hercules and the Beechcraft LC-90.
Air Development Squadron 51 operating the P-1 & UP-1, P-3C & UP-3C Orion and a mix of SH-60J/K & USH-60K Seahawks.
The Unites States also has a presence at the base, although much less then it previously had.
Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron 77 Saberhawks operating the MH-60R Seahawk.
Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 12 Golden Falcon operating the MH-60S Seahawk.
The Imperial Japanese Navy constructed the base in 1938 to house the 302nd Kokutai, one of the Navy’s most formidable fighter squadrons during World War II. Aircraft based at Atsugi shot down more than 300 American bombers during the fire bombings of 1945. After Japan’s surrender, many of Atsugi’s pilots refused to follow Hirohito’s order to lay down their arms, and took to the skies to drop leaflets on Tokyo and Yokohama urging locals to resist the Americans. Eventually, these pilots gave up and left Atsugi.
After the end of hostilities the United States took up residence at the base. The USAAF 3d Bombardment Group moved in on the 8 September, before they were replaced by the USAAF 49th Fighter Group on 15 September which handled the initial clean up of the heavily damaged airfield along with the 1539th Army Air Forces Base Unit to provide station facilities. Flight operations were restored by October which allowed the P-61 Black Widow-equipped 418th Night Fighter Squadron to operate from the airfield to provide air defence over the area, along with the P-38 Lightnings of the 49th Fighter Group.
In later years the base became host to many types including, the Lockheed U-2 spy plane, United States Marine Corps operated F8U-2 Crusader, McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom II, Boeing F/A-18E Super Hornets operated by VFA-115 and VFA-195 and the EA-18G Growler-equipped VAQ-141. Most American squadrons have since departed the base leaving just three squadrons being hosted today.
One of the highlights from my trip was the chance to see the latest in Japanese Anti-Submarine and patrol aircraft the Kawasaki P-1. We arrived early in the morning on a low cloud base day. The weather was a lot colder then the previous visits. However the weather didn’t stop the action in the skies above. A full day at the base where there is some of the best spotting facilities I have ever seen. A park with mounds and bridges to elevate you to look into the base, toilets, and shops all within walking distance to the base made it a fantastic day out. I highly recommend the Lawson’s fried chicken and the yakisoba noddles for lunch!
Now its onto the photos, and the day produced some great arrivals and departures as it went on. The weather got better and so did the light of course.
Lockheed P-3C Orion
Kawasaki Heavy Industries Ltd, based in Kobe, Japan, manufactured the P-3C aircraft in Japan under licensed agreement. Kawasaki is the prime contractor to the Japan Maritime Self-Defence Force (JMSDF) for the supply of 110 P-3C aircraft. Ishikawajima-Harima Heavy Industries (IHI), based in Tokyo, manufactured the engines.
As a manufacturer of the P-3C Orion, Kawasaki was allowed to authorise changes and improvements to the design up to a certain level. Major changes however had to be reviewed and authorised by Lockheed and the US Navy before implementation to the design. Originally Kawasaki produced P-3C-II½ Orions from the 70th aircraft and up they followed the Americans and switched to the P-3C-III.
During 1990 Kawasaki unveiled plans for a series of special variants of the Orion for service with the JMSDF. These included an Electronic Warfare trainer, an oceanographic research version, a systems test and evaluation aircraft and a transport variant. Kawasaki delivered its final P-3C-III to the JMSDF on 17 November 1997. The very last Orion built in the world, Kawasaki’s UP-3D (9163) was delivered to the JMSDF on 1 February 2000. This marked the end of 38 years of continuous P-3 production.
The Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force has operated a total of 40 C90 and C90A King Airs, since deliveries started in 1973. These have been given various designations by the JMSDF and consist of 34 TC-90 trainers, five LC-90 transports and a single UC-90 which is configured for photographic aerial survey. The TC-90s and the UC-90 comprise the 202nd Naval Air Training Squadron (JMSDF) based at Tokushima Air Base, while the LC-90s are attached to various Lockheed P-3 Kokutai (Squadrons) and a Air Transport Squadron 61 as liaison aircraft.
During the visit LC-90, 61-9302 was very active through out the day.
The Kawasaki P-1 is a purpose-built maritime patrol aircraft powered by four IHI F7-10 turbofan engines. The four-engine low-wing loading design adopted for the P-1 results in a flight profile with better manoeuvrability and stability at low-speed and low-altitude flight.
The P-1 is equipped with many newly developed technologies and features, particularly in terms of its avionics and missions systems. One such key feature is the use of a fly-by-light flight control system. This has the effect of decreasing electro-magnetic disturbances to the sensors in comparison to more common fly-by-wire control systems. The P-1 is the first production aircraft in the world to be equipped with such a flight control system. Various on board systems are provided by Honeywell, who is the largest non-Japanese supplier to the project, such as the auxiliary power unit, environmental and pressurisation control systems, ram air turbine, sonobuoy dispensers and elements of the avionics.
Next P-1 to arrive back at base was 5502.
A welcome visitor was the next in the pattern. Various United States military aircraft still frequent the base. Today would be no exception. With both a US Navy Boeing C-40A Clipper and US Marines Lockheed KC-130J Hercules dropping in.
Boeing C-40A Clipper
Yet another welcome visitor was a US Marines operated type. The Lockheed KC-130J Hercules.
Lockheed KC-130J Hercules
The KC-130J provides the Marines with tactical aerial refuelling, assault-support, close air support, and multi-sensor imagery reconnaissance, day or night, under all weather conditions. It is the only long-range, fixed-wing assault support capability available to the Marine Corps.
Other improvements include a Rolls Royce AE2100 propulsion system, a Dowty R391 advanced-technology, six-bladed propeller system, and a 250-knot cargo ramp and door. All of the active component KC-130T aircraft have been replaced with KC-130Js.
Then it was time for some more P-1 actions as aircraft 5508 and 5514 returned to base. All the while SAR UH-60J flew the pattern on duty.
Aircraft 5514 then proceeded to preform a series of touch and goes at the base.
Up and down all day on training missions was the LC-90.
Having only seen one of the P-3C Orions depart I was starting to lose hope we would see one in the air on approach. Thankfully the JMSDF didn’t disappoint. Lockheed P-3C 51-5088 was soon on the approach. The JMSDF operate several variants of the Orion, which includes sixty eight of the Maritime patrol P-3C, four of ELINT EP-3C, five of the Optical reconnaissance OP-3C, one Equipment test UP-3C airframe and finally three Electronic warfare trainer UP-3D . Since 2009 the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force has deployed P-3s to Djibouti for anti-piracy patrols.
And yet again another P-1 was on the approach, it looked as through we would get the entire fleet in the air at this stage.
As one landed another prepared to depart this time another Lockheed P-3C Orion was on taxi for departure.
As a spotting base Atsugi really is one of the best set ups I have ever seen and I really do recommend a visit to this base.
The count down is ON … only 21 days left until the Australian International Airshow 2019 at Avalon opens to the public. Check your calendar now to make sure your there when this great show takes off on Friday March 1st, 2019.
The Australian International Airshow which first commenced in 1992 sees Avalon Airport come alive with a civilian and military trade show at the start of the event. The airshow opens to the public on Friday afternoon through until Sunday. Once again on the Friday night the 1st March the airshow displays will start from 2pm for the Friday Night Alight spectacular until 9:15pm (approx.)
The Airshow is a biennial global business event, attracting senior civil aviation, air transport, aerospace and defence industry, military and government decision‐makers from around the world. The 2017 event included 664 companies from 25 countries, 158 delegations and more than 33,000 accredited trade attendances, with a total event attendance of 210,664.
The public Airshow runs alongside The Australian International Aerospace And Defence Exposition Avalon 2019. This is one of the region’s largest aviation, aerospace and defence trade shows.
26th February – 3rd March 2019 Australian International Aerospace And Defence Exposition Avalon 2019 (registered trade visitors only)
1st March – 3rd March Australian International Airshow (public access starts at 2pm on Friday)
**Hot Tip** Whilst the flying displays don’t start until 2pm on the Friday, if your a Gold Pass holder on the Friday you can get in to the airshow from 9am Friday. This is a great opportunity to get around the large number of aircraft on static display before the crowds build.
Take a look at the bottom of this story for links to the program details.
What to expect from the military!
There are always great displays from the Royal Australian Air Force, Royal Australian Navy, Australian Army, United States Air Force among many. This years line up for is looking like no exception.
So what can we expect this year in terms of the military displays? We thought we’d put together this montage in both video and pictorial format to give you some idea of what to see and hear. The confirmed military attendees this year looks like this:
Airbus A400M – Royal Malaysian Air Force
ARH Tiger Helicopter – Australian Army
Boeing B-52 Stratofortress – United States Air Force
Bell 429 Global Ranger – Royal Australian Navy
Boeing C-17A GLobemaster III – Royal Australian Air Force
Boeing C-17A Globemaster III – United States Air Force
Alenia C-27J Spartan – Royal Australian Air Force
Lockheed C-130H Hercules – Royal New Zealand Air Force
Lockheed C-103J Hercules – Royal Australian Air Force
CASA CN-235 – ARMEE DE L’AIR (FRENCH AIR FORCE)
Boeing CH-47F Chinook – Australian Army
Boeing CH-47 Chinook – Republic of Singapore Air Force
Boeing E-7A Wedgetail – Royal Australian Air Force
Boeing EA-18G Growler – Royal Australian Air Force
Airbus Helicopters EC-135T2+ – Royal Australian Navy
Lockheed Martin F-22A Raptor – United States Air Force
Boeing F/A-18A Hornet – Royal Australian Air Force
Boeing F/A-18-F Super Hornet – Royal Australian Air Force
Lockheed Martin F-35A Joint Strike Fighter – Royal Australian Air Force
BAe Hawk-127 – Royal Australian Air Force
Beechcraft King Air 350 – Royal Australian Air Force
Beechcraft King Air 350 – Royal New Zealand Air Force
Kawasaki C-2 – KoKu-Jieitai (JAPAN AIR SELF DEFENSE FORCE)
Airbus MRTT- KC-30A – Royal Australian Air Force
Boeing KC-135R Stratotanker – United States Air Force
Sikorsky MH-60R Seahawk – Royal Australian Navy
MRH-90 Taipan – Australian Army & Royal Australian Navy
Boeing P-8 Poseiden – Royal Australian Air Force
Boeing P-8 Poseiden – United States Navy
Pilatus PC-21 – Royal Australian Air Force
Pilatus PC-21 Republic of Singapore Air Force
Pilatus PC-9/A – Royal Australian Air Force
More Information and links to resources and tickets.
As Australia’s premier Airshow its an event not to be missed. For more information here are a few handy links:
I’ll open this report with the statement, that from 1988 through to 1992 I was a resident of Kobe Japan. I grew up watching the Shin Meiwa PS-1 and US-1A flying boat take off from Kobe harbour. It was a great sight and sound and one which I’ll never forget. So the passion for the JASDF is a long and deep seated one. And after many years I was so happy to be back where I spent a portion of my youth watching the Japanese Aviators. Though I had never been to Hamamatsu it certainly felt like at times like going back to those early childhood memories.
The base is located 5.6 km North of the city of Hamamatsu, Shizuoka Prefecture, in central Japan.
Hamamatsu Air Base was established in 1925 as an Imperial Japanese Army Air Force base to be home to the newly formed IJAAF No.7 Air Regiment. In 1933, it was designated as the primary flight school for Japanese army aviation. After the end of fighting in World War Two , the base facilities were used as an emergency landing strip by the United States Air Force, and were returned to the Japanese government in 1952 for use as a flight training school for the Japan Air Self-Defense Force.
The training syllabus was transformed in 1954 into separate schools for flight training, aircraft maintenance and communications. The base was divided into northern and southern areas in 1958, with the operational area in the north housing the 1st Air Wing, and from 1960, the Blue Impulse aerobatic squadron and the southern area housing the administrative and training facilities.
The Blue Impulse squadron was transferred to Matsushima Air Base in 1981, however this was marred when the team suffered a fatal mid-air collision during a farewell performance at Hamamatsu in 1982.
The First Air Wing transitioned from Lockheed T-33A trainers to Kawasaki T-4 trainers in 1988. In 1989, the northern and southern halves of the base were reunited into a single administrative entity. From 1998, Hamamatsu Air Base became the home base of Japan’s squadron of Boeing E-767 AWACS aircraft.
In 1999, an aviation museum, the JASDF Hamamatsu Air Base Publication Centre (航空自衛隊浜松広報館Hamamatsu Kōhōkan), was established. We have a separate report on this coming up soon!
Aircraft and Squadrons:
The squadrons and units based at Hamamatsu include the following:
1st Air Wing
31st Training Squadron flying the Kawasaki T-4
32nd Training Squadron flying the Kawasaki T-4
Airborne Early Warning Group
602nd Squadron flying the Boeing E-767
Air Basic Training Wing
Air Rescue Wing Hamamatsu Detachment flying the U-125A and UH-60J
Hamamatsu Anti-Aircraft Missile Group
Air Officer Training School
1st & 2nd Technical School
Air Training Aids Group
Air Traffic Control Group
Air Weather Service Group
Hamamatsu Air Police Group
This report will take in two days of flying including the practice day display by the Blue Impulse display team.
As noted in the first report about JASDF Iruma, The Kawasaki T-4 is the JASDF’s primary jet trainer. A number are on strength at various squadrons as ‘hacks’. Some 208 aircraft were eventually delivered for service. Both the 31st and 32nd Training Squadrons are based at Hamamatsu flying the type. A 31 Squadron aircraft is identified by a blue stripe under the yellow and black chequer board and 32 with the red line.
Beechcraft T-400 Jayhawk
Once the T-4s were on the ground it was time to watch a handling display from type I hadn’t seen since an airshow in the United States. The Beechcraft T-400 Jayhawk. Operated by the 41st Flight Training Squadron, the dai41kyouikuhikoutai is a training squadron of the 3rd Tactical Airlift Group. Equipped with 13 of the T-400 Jayhawk aircraft. The squadron trains JASDF pilots who will go on to fly large jet aircraft like the Kawasaki C-1, Kawasaki C-2, KC-767 and E-767.
Raytheon (Hawker) U-125A
Another type converted from a biz jet platform for military service is the Raytheon (Hawker) U-125A. The U-125 search-and-rescue variant of the Hawker 800, was engineered and equipped for the maritime search-and-rescue duties that the JASDF require. Features such as large observation windows on either side of the fuselage, a Toshiba 360-degree radar system, Melco thermal imaging equipment (TIE) system, a flare and marker-buoy dispenser, life raft and an emergency equipment dropping system. Other features include a comprehensive suite of communications equipment and enhanced protection against the salt water environment in which the aircraft operate.
Fourteen Hawkers were ordered initially for the search and rescue role. Operated by the Air Rescue Wing, which headquarters in Iruma, all units operate and fly both the U-125A and UH-60J.
Aircraft are based at the following;
Air Rescue Wing (HQ: Iruma) Detachments (All are equipped with the U-125A and UH-60J)
Komaki, Aichi (Training Sqn)
Sikorsky UH-60J Blackhawk
As mentioned above all base units have UH-60J Blackhawks. A licence built version of the Sikorsky type, Japanese examples where built by local subsidiary Mitsubishi Heavy industries. To date some 178 have been built.
A unique aircraft within the JASDF Fleet, the Boeing E-767 was designed in response to the Japan Air Self-Defence Force’s requirements. Taking the Boeing E-3 Sentry’s surveillance radar and air control system and then installed on a Boeing 767-200 airframe. The JASDF took delivery of the first aircraft on March 11, 1998 along with the second E-767. The third and fourth aircraft were delivered in January 1999. Operated as part of the Airborne Early Warning Group (AEWG), and flown by 602nd Squadron which is based at Hamamatsu Air Base.
McDonnell-Douglas (Boeing) F-15J/DJ Eagle
The JASDF took delivery of its first US assembled F-15J on the July 15 1980. The first assembled aircraft made at the Mitsubishi Industries plant at Komaki was handed over on the 19th August 1981. To date some 223 aircraft of the F-15J and F-15D/J Eagles have been delivered for service. The JASDF ordered the fourth generation interceptor to replace the large numbers of Lockheed F-104J Starfighters and McDonnell-Douglas F-4EJs in service. The last of which rolled of the production line in 1997. The aircraft has equipped many squadrons over time this includes:
2nd Air Wing Chitose Air Base
201st Tactical Fighter Squadron (1986-)
203rd Tactical Fighter Squadron (1983-)
6th Air Wing Komatsu Air Base
303rd Tactical Fighter Squadron (1987-)
306th Tactical Fighter Squadron (1997-)
5th Air Wing Nyutabaru Air Base
202nd Tactical Fighter Squadron (1981-2000)
305th Tactical Fighter Squadron (1993-)
9th Air Wing Naha Air Base
204th Tactical Fighter Squadron (1984-)
304th Tactical Fighter Squadron (1990-)
Air Development and Test Wing
23rd Flying Training Squadron (2000-)
During the airshow a single example, 55-8853 a F-15DJ operated by the 23rd Flying Training Squadron which is part of the Air Development and Test Wing did the performance.
McDonnell Douglas F-4EJ Phantom II
Now in its twilight years of service, The McDonnell-Douglas F-4E Phantom II. Japan selected the F-4 Phantom II as its new fighter at the end of the 1960s. Japan became one of the few countries that license-produced this aircraft outside the USA. a total of 154 F-4EJ and RF-4Es. The F-4EJs were built almost entirely by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, the RF-4Es were bought directly from McDonnell-Douglas. The Phantom has served with a number of Units with retirement scheduled in 2021. The aircraft will be replaced with a mix of F-2s and F-35 Lighting II’s. Units to fly the aircraft includes:
During the show F-4EJ aircraft 47-8336 performed a great display was from the 23rd Flying Training Squadron which is part of the Air Development and Test Wing.
After the Phantom display which was loud and impressive anything else would almost seem lack lustre. However a nine ship formation of Kawasaki T-4s wasn’t half bad.
After the main displays there was a break for lunch, during this period I headed into the main base to record the day’s activities.
The base was full of interesting displays, this included several T-4s in various degrees of servicing.
The Mitsubishi F-2 is a multirole fighter derived from the General Dynamics F-16 Fighting Falcon, and manufactured by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries and Lockheed Martin, with a 60/40 split in manufacturing between Japan and the United States. Production started in 1996 and the first aircraft entered service in 2000. The first 76 aircraft entered service in 2008, with a total of 94 airframes produced. On display at the show was an F-2 from the 1st Training School. The primary role of the 1st TS is to provide the full gamut of technical training on the maintenance of the aircraft in service with the JASDF and the weapons with which the combat aircraft types are armed.
Bell AH-J Cobra
Northrop Grumman E-2 Hawkeye
The JASDF purchased thirteen E-2C aircraft to improve its early warning capabilities. The E-2C was put into service with the Airborne Early Warning Group (AEWG) at Misawa Air Base in January 1987. 89iuIn June 2015, the Japanese government requested to buy four E-2Ds through a Foreign Military Sale. A follow up order placed in September 2018, by the Defence Security Cooperation Agency notified Congress of the possible sale of up to 9 E-2Ds to Japan.
The Kawasaki C-2 is a long range twin-engine transport aircraft. In comparison with the older C-1 that it replaces, the C-2 can carry payloads up to four times heavier. Powered by a pair of General Electric CF6-80C2K turbofan engines. Some 40 examples are on order.
The Finale- The Blue Impulse Display Team
As the airshow drew to a close the hype for the next performance was very noticeable. People standing to see the crews prepare to depart, waving as they taxied out and people rushing to gain a better view as the Blue Impulse display team set about wowing the attendees. The teams flew several different displays involving up to six aircraft, solo displays and four ship formations. The team currently operated by number 11 Squadron, part of the 4th Air Wing is based at Matsushima Air Base.
Another great adventure to another Japanese base, I hope you all enjoyed this over view of the event. In out next instalment it will cover the JASDF Museum at Hamamatsu. Lots of interesting aircraft and helicopters.
See Part One of Dave’s series of Japanese Air Base visits HERE
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