Showing posts with label Exotic Aircraft. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Exotic Aircraft. Show all posts

Thursday, 10 February 2022

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By Stijn Mitzer
 
Turkey's ambitions in the field of aviation have spawned advanced aircraft designs like the TF-X stealth fighter, the Hürjet advanced jet trainer and the T625 Gökbey helicopter. Equally great strides have been made in the design and production of unmanned combat aerial vehicles (UCAVs), most notably the Bayraktar Akıncı and the MIUS combat jet. Research, development and production of these designs (often within short timeframes) by Turkey is impressive, showing just what teams of motivated engineers supported, but not micromanaged, by its government can achieve.

Monday, 7 February 2022

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By Stijn Mitzer

As a pioneer in the aerospace sector, Turkey has designed a number of advanced manned and unmanned aircraft types. Most of these have been for the benefit of the Turkish Air Force and other air arms around the globe. Still, Turkey once had ambitious plans to enter the civilian aviation market with its TRjet domestic airliner project, which was cancelled in 2017. While this appeared to have put an end to any concrete plans to design and produce civilian aircraft at that time, it is certain that Turkey's ambitions in this sector continued to simmer in the background.

Tuesday, 18 January 2022

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By Stijn Mitzer
 
Out of all the aerospace collaborations currently discussed between Ukraine and Turkey, the possibility of completing the second An-225 Mriya, the world's largest cargo aircraft, is arguably the most fascinating. Turkey's interest in the An-225 was first reported in October 2020, when President Erdoğan raised the idea of completing the aircraft during a visit of Ukrainian President Zelensky to Ankara. [1] Although little has been heard of the plan since, Turkish involvement could mean a breakthrough in providing the stimulus and funds to finally complete the second An-225 and bringing it into service.

Thursday, 13 January 2022

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By Stijn Mitzer
 
The Su-30 was a notable absentee from the air war over Nagorno-Karabakh during the latest escalation of the unresolved conflict over the region. Hailed by Armenia's Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan as "our most important acquisition this year" in 2019, many expected to see the Su-30's participation in the conflict sooner or later, combatting Bayraktar TB2 drones and deterring Azerbaijani aircraft from releasing their deadly ordnance on Armenian soldiers below. [1] But as days turned into weeks, it became increasingly clear that the Su-30s were deliberately kept out of the fighting, earning the Su-30 the status of 'White Elephant' for some. This article will attempt to provide a rationale for why the Su-30s didn't participate in the conflict and look into Armenia's decision to acquire the aircraft.

Friday, 31 December 2021

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By Stijn Mitzer and Joost Oliemans
 
Turkmenistan is on the largest aircraft-buying spree in the history of the country. This has so far seen the acquisition of M-346 and A-29B combat aircraft, C-27J NG transport aircraft and Bayraktar TB2 UCAVs for the Turkmen Air Force, and a fourth Boeing 777-200LR airliner and two Airbus A330-200P2F cargo aircraft for Turkmenistan Airlines. [1] [2] Also acquired are a single Kazan Ansat and one Mi-17-1V helicopter to provide emergency ambulance services throughout the country. [3] The helicopters were delivered in April and May 2021, entering service with Turkmenistan Airlines, which operates the helicopters on behalf of the Ministry of Health and Medical Industry. [4] 

Thursday, 9 December 2021

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By Stijn Mitzer and Joost Oliemans
 
A report by Al Jazeera from Kabul International Airport (IAP) shows that the new Afghan Air Force is currently working on introducing a fast jet capability to its air force. [1] The footage shows an L-39 undergoing an engine test after languishing in storage at Kabul IAP since the early 2010s. [2] Even though the United States saw little use in the operation of Mi-24 attack helicopters and L-39C jet trainers by the Afghan Air Force, both types were maintainted in operational condition, even though the L-39s are not believed to have flown in the past several years.

Thursday, 4 November 2021

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By Stijn Mitzer and Joost Oliemans

The Ethiopian Air Force (ETAF) has traditionally relied on its fleet of Soviet-era MiG-23BN fighter-bombers to carry out bombing missions and to provide close air support (CAS). These rugged aircraft have seen considerable use during the Tigray War that commenced in November 2020, so far leading to the loss of two airframes in November and December 2020. [1] Although appreciated by the ETAF for their ability to carry a hefty bomb load, the less than a dozen or so remaining MiG-23BNs lack the ability to deploy modern precision-guided munitions (PGMs), severely limiting their options to accurately strike enemy targets.

Wednesday, 22 September 2021

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By Stijn Mitzer and Joost Oliemans

Some 30 years after the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the inventories of many post-Soviet air forces are still very much defined by the Soviet-era aircraft types they inherited. This is especially true for combat aircraft, the expensive price tag of which has dissuaded many nations from acquiring new types to replace older generations currently in service. Instead, proven types such as the MiG-29 and Su-25 undergo overhauls again and again in an attempt to not only keep them flying, but also to keep them relevant in the age of 21st century warfare.

Thursday, 26 August 2021

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By Stijn Mitzer and Joost Oliemans
 
The Su-25 has earned its stripes as a rugged close air support aircraft capable of delivering a wide variety of ordnance while withstanding a significant beating from AA guns and MANPADS. From the onset designed with a limited guided weaponry capability in mind, Soviet designers would eventually expand on these capabilities through the development of the Su-25T dedicated anti-tank hunter version. Although offering a number of highly advanced features for its time, its inception during the final years of the USSR ultimately prevented the aircraft from entering into service.

Sunday, 22 August 2021

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By Stijn Mitzer and Joost Oliemans
 
The Chinese Y-8 transport aircraft is unlikely to receive an award for the originality of its design – it being a 1970s reverse engineered variant of the Soviet An-12 with marginal changes to suit Chinese requirements. From the 1970s onwards, the Shaanxi Aircraft Factory set out to improve on the proven design, building on experiences gained with the serial production of the Y-8 but also taking advantage of foreign expertise through Lockeed Martin as well as Antonov, the original designer of the An-12. The resulting aircraft, the Y-8F-600 and Y-9, still have a clear outward resemblance to the earlier Y-8 variants but feature a stretched and redesigned fuselage, a glass cockpit and the ability to use Pratt & Whitney turboprop engines.

Monday, 16 August 2021

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By Stijn Mitzer and Joost Oliemans
 
Military analysis circles have lately been abuzz with speculation suggesting that Bulgaria is eying the acquisition of at least six Bayraktar TB2 unmanned combat aerial vehicles (UCAVs) from Turkey. If this procurement goes through, it would reintroduce capabilities long lost to Bulgaria and simultaneously add to a rapidly growing list of countries interested in acquiring the TB2 or currently already in the process of doing so. Bulgaria is said to have kickstarted its attempt at purchasing TB2s in 2020, but postponed the decision because of the COVID-19 pandemic. [1] If the TB2 does eventually arrive to Bulgaria, it will be the second country (or third pending Latvia's acquisition) in the European Union to purchase the system after Poland acquired 24 TB2s in May 2021.

The Central and Eastern European interest in the Bayraktar TB2 is undoubtedly a result of its repeated successes over Libya, Syria and more recently Nagorno-Karabakh. Another obvious factor at play is the system's low initial price and operating costs, which actually for the first time makes the cost-benefit analysis of operating modern U(C)AVs a favourable one to countries like Bulgaria, with contemporary systems such as the MQ-9B Reaper simply being too expensive. The fact that the TB2 can be bought from a fellow NATO member will surely also be appreciated, providing an additional degree of security as well as a guarantee of quality that might be lacking from other providers.

It is little known that Bulgaria once operated a significant fleet of reconnaisance aircraft that at one point even included a number of MiG-25RBT 'Foxbats'. Bulgaria was the only Warsaw Pact country to operate the mighty Foxbat, the highly specialised nature of which and prohibitive operating costs were apparently enough to dissuade all other Warsaw Pact members from acquiring the aircraft. Bulgaria itself would only purchase four MiG-25s, which likely did little to improve the operations and maintenance costs per unit while they were in operational service.

Presumably for this reason, but also the drastically changed post-cold war security climate, the remaining MiG-25s were retired already within ten years of entering service and exchanged for five MiG-23MLD fighter-aircraft with Russia in 1991. Although this marked the end of 'Foxbat' operations in Bulgaria, Ukraine would continue to operate its MiG-25PD(S) interceptors and MiG-25RBTs until 1996 while Russia only retired its last MiG-25RB(T)s in November 2013, some 50 years after the type first entered service.


Two decades earlier, in November 1982, three MiG-25RBTs (serials: 731, 736 and 754) and a single MiG-25RU two-seat conversion trainer (serial: 51) arrived at Dobrich Air Base in northeastern Bulgaria. The aircraft subsequently entered service with the 26th Reconnaissance Air Regiment for photo reconnaissance and electronic signals intelligence (ELINT) duties. Tragedy struck on the 12th of April 1984 when a MiG-25RBT was lost after running out of fuel in bad weather, forcing the pilot to eject. Luckily the pilot was unharmed, and this would be the only loss of a MiG-25 in Bulgarian service. In May 1991, the three remaining aircraft roamed through Bulgarian airspace for the last time as they departed for an uncertain future in a crumbling USSR. After the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the aircraft were taken over by the Russian Air Force and flown from Lipetsk and later from Shatalovo, later even seeing action during the Chechen Wars. [2]

 
During the 1950s the 26th Reconnaissance Air Regiment was initially equipped with a hodgepodge of aircraft that weren't particularly well-suited to the reconnaissance role, mostly comprising bomber aircraft that were flown in their original configuration. But in the decades that followed, the unit eventually grew out to become the best-equipped aerial reconnaissance unit in the Warsaw Pact.

In the course of the 1950s, it received fourteen Il-28R (and one Il-28U trainer) aircraft, supplemented by some twelve MiG-15bisR at the start of the 1960s. Though their service in Bulgaria wouldn't be exceptionally longlasting, it bears mentioning that such aircraft have elsewhere weathered the ages and found use even in today's day and age, with North Korea still maintaining them in operational condition. [3]

The Il-28Rs and MiG-15bisRs were later supplemented and replaced by MiG-21R combat-capable reconnaissance aircraft and MiG-21MFs modified for the same role. The 1980s would see the unit's golden decade with the delivery of the MiG-25RBTs as well as Su-22M-4s. [4] [5] As the last remaining MiG-21R and MiG-21MF-R aircraft were retired from service, Dobrich Air Base closed its doors in 2002, followed by the retirement of the Su-22M-4s two years later. Since then, no dedicated reconnaissance aircraft are operated by the Bulgarian Air Force.
 

A Bulgarian MiG-25 is flanked by two MiG-21s, clearly showcasing its massive size

When equipped with multiple ejector racks (MERs), the reconnaissance-configured MiG-25RBT could be turned into a high-speed bomber armed with up to eight 500kg FAB-500Ts. There is no evidence to suggest Bulgaria ever received MERs for its MiG-25s or had any interest in deploying its aircraft as bombers in the first place however. [6] This was likely the case because of the terrible accuracy associated with using MiG-25s as bombers, which were originally supposed to deliver nuclear weapons only, so that accuracy wasn't of too great importance. 


The days of Bulgaria operating dedicated reconnaissance aircraft are long gone, with the air force struggling to maintain and eventually completely replace its other Soviet-era air assets like the MiG-29 and Su-25 with more modern Western aircraft. In this respect, a UCAV like the TB2 could present not only a valuable reconnaissance asset, but also form a cost-effective option to take over at least some the roles of the Su-25s and Mi-24s currently still in service, propelling Bulgaria into the age drone-powered warfare at a price more compatible with its current expenditures.

Whether an acquisition ultimately materialises or not, the odds that Baykar's TB2 has seen its last sale in the European Union are slim indeed. In fact, current interest in the type seems to indicate a virtual wave of exports spanning more than just the European subcontinent is at hand. At present, Bulgaria could well be among the first EU nations to ride this wave, ensuring the continuation of its rich history of operating reconnaissance aircraft.
 

[4] Bulgarian Air Defence and Air Force’s Tactical Air Units in January 1, 1983 http://www.easternorbat.com/html/bulgarian_tactical_air_force_8.html
[5] Bulgarian Air Defence and Air Force’s Tactical Air Units in January 1, 1988 http://www.easternorbat.com/html/bulgarian_tactical_air_force_81.html
 

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Monday, 9 August 2021

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By Stijn Mitzer and Joost Oliemans
 
Turkmenistan has embarked on an ambitious re-equipment programme with the aim of modernising its air force through the acquisition of various types of new combat and transport aircraft. This acquisition drive has included types like the M-346 combat jet aircraft and the C-27J NG transport aircraft that have both been ordered from Italy. Another introduction that had been anticipated is the Brazilian A-29B Super Tucano turboprop light attack aircraft, which has so far been bought by more than fifteen countries around the globe. Turkmenistan was long rumoured to have been eying the acquisition of the popular attack aircraft, and one Super Tucano was even tested in the country for a short period in 2019.

Wednesday, 19 May 2021

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By Stijn Mitzer and Joost Oliemans
 
Benden bu millet için bir șey istiyorsanız, en mükemmelini istemelisiniz. Madem ki bir millet tayyaresiz yaşayamaz, öyleyse bu yaşama vasıtasını başkalarının lütfundan beklememeliyiz. Ben bu uçakların fabrikasını yapmaya talibim. - If you want something from me for this nation, you should ask for the most splendid. Seeing that a nation cannot live without a plane, we shouldn't expect this means of living from the grace of others. I aspire to build the factory for these planes. (By Nuri Demirağ)
 
Turkey's ascension as a global aviation giant has in modern history been unrivalled in the scale, scope and speed of its achievements. This accomplishment is in no small part due to the country's determined endeavours towards attaining near self-sufficiency in the defence sector, in turn becoming less dependent on foreign suppliers and countries that have sanctioned Turkey on more than one occasion. Although the fruits of this policy are already in active service in most sections of the Turkish Armed Forces, arguably the most ambitious attempts at achieving self-sufficiency are the development of the Hürjet advanced jet trainer and the TF-X stealth air superiority fighter, both of which are slated to make their first test flights this decade.

Monday, 5 April 2021

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By Stijn Mitzer and Joost Oliemans 
 
Turkish Airlines is one of the largest airlines in the world, flying to more destinations than any other carrier in the world. It operates a fleet of more than 350 Airbus and Boeing aircraft that serve some 300 destinations domestically and internationally today, a huge leap from its humble beginning of four domestic destinations in 1933, and just 103 destinations in 2003. Over the past century, Turkish Airlines has operated a wide variety of aircraft that haven't always been in the spotlight as much as their more modern brethrens. One of these aircraft is the German Ju 52, which has long remained elusive in imagery and footage during its years of service in Turkey.

Wednesday, 31 March 2021

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By Stijn Mitzer and Joost Oliemans

Saturday, the 6th of November 2004. Two Su-25UBs of the Force Aérienne de la Côte d'Ivoire (FACI) strafe a French peacekeeper camp in Bouaké. As sudden as the unprovoked attack had commenced its tragic results would become palpable: the deaths of nine French soldiers and another 31 wounded. This grave provocation would ultimately lead to the destruction of the FACI and have drastic repercussions for Côte d'Ivoire for years to come. Just hours after the attack, all that remained of its fledging air arm was a smoldering heap of junk.
 
The events leading up to this tragedy began to unfold on the 19th of September 2002, when the government of Laurent Gbagbo found itself in a precarious situation after the rebel umbrella organisation Mouvement Patriotique de Côte d'Ivoire (MPCI) took control over much of the northern part of the country, effectively splitting Ivory Coast into two. Also captured was Bouaké airbase, which was home to six inoperational Alpha Jet light attack aircraft. Its confidence bolstered significantly by the capture of the jets, the MPCI boldly threatened to reactivate the Alpha Jets to use them against their former owners which having no combat aircraft of its own could offer little to counter this threat. [1]

Thursday, 21 January 2021

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By Stijn Mitzer and Joost Oliemans
 
The Libyan Civil War has had a devastating impact on the country's civilian aviation sector, and its two giant An-124 cargo aircraft have not eluded their fair share of suffering. Libya's aviation industry came to a near standstill during the 2011 revolution, and even after the cessation of hostilities it took Libyan airline companies anywhere from months up to a year to restart their operations, while some never flew again. Those that did in doing so expressed their renewed confidence for the future, but insecurity and political turmoil in the wake of the civil war ultimately brought an end to any optimism, and soon the Libyan aviation industry was fighting for its very survival.
 
As the civil war ravaging Libya continued with no prospect of relative stability in sight, the threat of extinction loomed large over the An-124s. At a time when the single aircraft that was still present in Libya was dodging artillery fire left and right, the other An-124 was facing the possibility of being auctioned off by Ukraine in 2017 if the Libyan government failed to pay the $1.2 million it owed to Antonov for storage and routine maintenance of the aircraft since 2009 at the Antonov facility in Kiev.

Wednesday, 9 December 2020

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By Stijn Mitzer and Joost Oliemans
 
The Caspian Sea is well known for being the world's largest inland body of water, its vast oil and gas reserves and, of course, the Caspian Sea Monster... Wait the Caspian what!? The Caspian Sea Monster! A ground-effect vehicle (known as ekranoplan in Russia) that puzzled Western intelligence agencies until even the Russians themselves came to the conclusion that while inherently cool, it in no way presented a feasible project for any military or civilian adaption.

Saturday, 24 August 2019

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By Stijn Mitzer and Joost Oliemans

With SyrianAir's sole A340 aircraft marking more than two years of successful operations to destinations in North Africa, the Middle East and Russia, photos posted on SyrianAir's website reveal interesting details on the operations of an airline that had nearly succumbed to years of sanctions. After years of scaling back its operations due to a slow degradation process that would see SyrianAir retiring ever more aircraft as spare parts became increasingly difficult to acquire, SyrianAir is now expanding its operations amidst an increasingly stable security situation in all of Syria's major population centres.

Friday, 5 October 2018

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By Stijn Mitzer and Joost Oliemans

The Syrian Arab Air Force's Hip fleet is perhaps best known for its leading role in the indiscriminate bombing of civilian areas across Syria with what have popularly become known as barrel bombs, an act that has defined the usage of aerial assets during the Syrian Civil War. While the role of makeshift bomber currently remains one of the main tasks of Syria's Mi-8/17s, other roles the Hip fleet has carried out during the past six years of brutal war have been largely underreported.

Sunday, 19 November 2017

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By Stijn Mitzer and Joost Oliemans

As SyrianAir continues its operations out of the war-thorn country of Syria, the airline's venerable Boeing 747SP aircraft have been notable absentees on the few remaining routes and destinations SyrianAir continues to serve. While the airline had originally operated two Boeing 747SPs (a shorter variant of the Boeing 747-100 designed for ultra-long ranges) delivered in 1976, both aircraft were effectively grounded in 2008 as U.S. sanctions prevented the aircraft from receiving their extensive D-checks, forcing SyrianAir to retire the Boeing 747SP after 32 years of service.