Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Mirage upgrade augments new fighter force

Despite the ongoing acquisition of new F-16s to strengthen its fighter force, Morocco is pressing on with ambitious upgrades to its legacy types, which will remain in service for many years, augmenting the new aircraft.

Upgraded F-5s have already entered service and Morocco ’s MF2000 Mirage F1 upgrade is now flying in prototype form.
The Moroccan Mirage F1 upgrade was designed and is being integrated by the new Association Sagem Thales pour la Rénovation d'Avions de Combat (ASTRAC) consortium. This is a joint venture between Thales and Sagem Défense Sécurité (SAFRAN) and was established in November 2005 at the request of the French Ministry of Defence.
ASTRAC aimed to provide an upgrade for remaining Mirage F1 export customers – principallyMorocco – whose aircraft still enjoyed competitive performance characteristics but whose avionics were dated, and whose operational capabilities were somewhat limited.
Thales brought its experience of the Spanish Mirage F1M upgrade to the project, while SAFRAN has played a major role in a number of Mirage and other combat aircraft upgrades, including the upgrade of French Mirage F1C interceptors to multi-role F1CT fighter-bombers.
The ASTRAC consortium put together an upgrade (using the designation MF2000) which transforms the capabilities of the ageing Mirage F1 in both air-to-air and air-to-ground operations, providing a new multi-mode radar, a laser designation pod, new electronic warfare and self-protection systems and giving compatibility with a range of new weapons.
Much of the upgrade is based on technology developed for the latest Mirage 2000 versions (Mirage 2000-5 and 2000-9). The cockpit is transformed, becoming a modern, digital glass cockpit with two-colour multifunction displays replacing the analogue flight instruments and the old analogue Cyrano IV radar screen. The aircraft is also fitted with a new HUD with a broad panel up front control panel (UFCP) and features full HOTAS controls. The aircraft has two SAGEM mission computers interfaced with a MIL STD 1553B digital databus, and a hybrid Sigma IN/GPS. The MF2000 has new secure voice radios, and the cockpit is compatible with a helmet mounted sighting system. Finally, the pilot sits on a modern zero-zero capable ejection seat.
The upgraded Mirage F1 is fitted with a Thales RC400 (RDY3) multi-mode pulse Doppler radar. This is based on the Mirage 2000-5’s RDY radar, but with a smaller antenna giving shorter range.
The Mirage F1’s electronic warfare capabilities are similarly enhanced, with a new digital radar warning receiver (RWR) and an external PAJ FA ECM pod designed to detect, classify and counter search, fire-control, and missile seeker radars. The aircraft is also fitted with Corail flare launchers and Phimat chaff dispensers.
The upgraded Mirages retain their internal 30-mm DEFA cannon with 135 rounds per gun, and augment these with a variety of externally carried weapons. For use in the air-to-air role, the MF2000 can carry AIM-9L/M Sidewinder, Magic 2 or IR MICA missiles with MICA EM available for BVR use.
For air-to-ground missions, the MF2000 can carry a wide range of guided and unguided munitions. Use of the Damocles day/night laser designation pod allows the carriage of a variety of laser-guided bombs, but perhaps the greatest expansion to air-to-ground capabilities is provided by the new AASM precision-guided, stand-off rocket-boosted bomb, supported by a mission preparation system provided by Sagem Défense Sécurité and a debriefing system from Thales.
For more specialised missions, the MF2000 is compatible with the ARMAT anti-radiation missile, and with the MBDA AM39 Exocet anti-ship missile.
Though there have been proposals to re-engine the Mirage F1 (with South Africa successfully integrating a derivative of the MiG-29’s RD-33 engine) the MF2000 retains the basic Snecma ATAR 9K50 engine, though this is ‘optimised’ under the so-called ATAR Gratification programme, with a new compressor module, a redesigned HP turbine, a six per cent increase in mass flow and a 40 per cent increase in turbine entry temperatures combining to increase thrust from 7,200 kg to 7,500 kg.
At the Paris Air Salon at Le Bourget, ASTRAC displayed what purported to be an example of the MF2000 in the aircraft static park though, in fact, the aircraft was a loaned Armée de l’Air Mirage F1CT (No.281), with some cockpit modifications. But though the aircraft wore an interesting black and grey camouflage scheme, it was not fully representative of the Moroccan upgrade configuration.
As it had done when undertaking the Spanish Mirage F1 upgrade programme, Thales gave responsibility for incorporating modifications on the real ‘prototype’ aircraft to Belgium ’s SABCA at Charleroi , near Brussels .
In the case of the Moroccan upgrade, the first two aircraft (173 and one other) were upgraded atCharleroi , with the third (150) undergoing modifications in-country. The prototype made its maiden flight on October 19 2009, and flight tests and certification are expected to continue throughout the spring and summer of 2010, before activity transfers to Sidi Slimane.
Some 27 Mirage F1s (a mix of Mirage F1CH, F1EH and probe-equipped F1EH-200) will be upgraded to a common MF2000 standard under the ‘F1 Renovation’ programme, at an estimated cost of $420m US.
It has been claimed that with RDY-3 radar and MICA missiles, the upgraded Mirage F1 enjoyed the same BVR air combat capabilities as the Mirage 2000-5, while the combination of Damocles and AASM transforms the aircraft into a ‘pocket Rafale’ in the air-to-ground role.
Though the Mirage F1 has been retired from service in Greece , Jordan , and will soon bow out of Armée de l’Air service, further upgrade opportunities may exist in Gabon , Libya and perhapsEcuador .
Also, new customers may emerge for the aircraft retired by Jordan (and France), perhaps including Argentina, which was recently reported to be examining a $100 million proposal to buy 12 ex-Jordanian air force Dassault Mirage F1CJ fighters and one F1BJ trainer, having rejected a Spanish offer for a similar number of F1s. The aircraft would replace the Fuerza Aerea Argentina’s surviving Mirage IIIEAs, which are scheduled to be retired in 2012.
ASTRAC hopes that many of the Mirage F1s that will be retired by France and Spain during the next five years will find new customers, and will provide them with a source of upgrade work.

Iranian navy plane flies near USS Eisenhower in Gulf of Oman

Washington (CNN) -- An Iranian navy plane that approached a U.S. aircraft carrier last week was flying as low as 300 feet as it neared the USS Eisenhower, U.S. military officials said Wednesday.
The incident, first reported by CNN on Tuesday, came as Iran was beginning a series of military exercises last week meant to show off their military prowess.
The Eisenhower was on duty in the Gulf of Oman in the northern Arabian Sea, in support of the Afghanistan war efforts, when the Iranian maritime patrol aircraft flew within 1,000 yards of the vessel, according to military officials.
While the encounter was not threatening, it was unusual. U.S. navy ships have regularly encountered Iranian aircraft in the Persian Gulf in recent years, but this encounter took place in the Gulf of Oman, in an area where Iranian jets are seen much less frequently, several Navy officials said.
The officials declined to be identified, citing the extremely sensitive nature of any U.S. military interaction with Iranian forces.
Adm. Gary Roughead, the top Navy officer, confirmed the April 21 incident. The Iranians were "not provocative or threatening. As long as they are professional and not threatening or reckless, it's international space," he said.
Radar on the Eisenhower and other U.S. ships in the vicinity closely tracked the Iranian aircraft as it approached the aircraft carrier to ensure it maintained a nonthreatening path, Roughead said. A senior U.S. military official said the Iranian plane was tracked by U.S. units for nearly 100 miles before it reached the Eisenhower.
The Iranian aircraft was a Fokker F27 that was unarmed, officials said. It remained in the vicinity of the Eisenhower for about 20 minutes before leaving the area, according to the senior official. The Eisenhower had just finished a series of carrier aircraft flight operations and a resupply at sea mission.
U.S. officials believe the Iranians wanted a close look at the carrier, but they could not say if the Iranians took photos of the ship.
One of the officials also said Iran may simply have been trying to demonstrate its aerial capabilities to the United States.
U.S. military officials continue to emphasize that recent encounters with Iranian naval forces in the Persian Gulf have been professional and without confrontation or problems. The U.S. Navy takes great care to try to stay out of the way of any Iranian forces in the region, officials said.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Pak receives second AWAC systems from Sweden

Pakistan has received second of the four Saab-2000 airborne early warning and control system aircraft ordered from Sweden, boosting its capability to monitor Indian airspace.

A statement issued by the Pakistan Air Force said the Saab-2000 aircraft landed at an operational base on Saturday and would shortly be inducted into the fleet.

Two more Saab-2000 aircraft equipped with the Erieye radar system are expected to be delivered to Pakistan by Sweden later this year.

The Dawn newspaper quoted an unnamed official as saying that the Erieye radar system mounted on the turboprop aircraft will enable the PAF to detect "all aircraft taking off and landing at all forward Indian airbases near Pakistan" and to identify the type of the aircraft, their weapons systems and their direction of flight.

The capabilities and range of the radar system will enable the PAF to "receive early warning in case of pre-emptive attacks from across the border," the official said.

Pakistan is also conducting negotiations with China for four more airborne warning and control aircraft and these are expected to be inducted by 2012.

India – C-17 GLOBEMASTER III Aircraft

WASHINGTON, April 26, 2010 – The Defense Security Cooperation Agency notified Congress on
April 23 of a possible Foreign Military Sale to India of 10 Boeing C-17 GLOBEMASTER III aircraft
and associated equipment, parts, and logistical support for an estimated cost of $5.8 billion. 
The Government of India (GOI) requests a possible sale of 10 Boeing C-17 GLOBEMASTER III
aircraft, 45 F117-PW-100 engines (40 installed and 5 spare engines), 10 AN/ALE-47 CounterMeasures Dispensing Systems, 10 AN/AAR-47Missile Warning Systems, spare and repairs parts,
repair and return, warranty, pyrotechnics, flares, other explosives, aircraft ferry and refueling support,
crew armor, mission planning system software, communication equipment and support, personnel
training and training equipment, publications and technical data, U.S. Government and contractor
technical, engineering, and logistics support services, and other related elements of logistics support. 
The estimated cost is $5.8 billion.
This proposed sale will contribute to the foreign policy and national security of the United States by
helping to strengthen the U.S.-India strategic relationship and to improve the security of an important
partner which continues to be an important force for political stability, peace, and economic progress in
South Asia.
India will likely use these aircraft to replace its aging aircraft and associated supply chain with new and
highly reliable aircraft.  The acquisition of these C-17s will not present a new capability for the Indian
Air Force, but will offer an increase in airlift capacity, reliability, and safety.  The C-17 will increase
the ability of the GOI to mobilize troops and equipment within the country and will enable India to
provide significantly increased humanitarian assistance and disaster relief support within the region. 
Additionally, the C-17s will facilitate enhanced standardization with the United States.  India will have
no difficulty absorbing these aircraft into its armed forces.
The proposed sale of this equipment and support will not alter the basic military balance in the region.
The principal contractors will be The Boeing Company in Long Beach, California, and Pratt &
Whitney Military Engines in East Hartford, Connecticut.  Additional subcontractors may be needed
depending on the exact nature of the contracting arrangements established.  At this time, there are no
known offset agreements proposed in connection with this potential sale.  
Implementation of this proposed sale will require the participation of up to 20 U.S. Government and
20 contractor representatives for annual program management and technical reviews in India or the
U.S. for one week per review for approximately six years.  

Thursday, April 8, 2010

IAF Launches New Airfield Near Pakistan Border

The Indian Air Force has opened an airfield in the Rajasthan desert along the border with Pakistan.
The Phalodi airbase is located in the centre of the Jaisalmer-Jodhpur-Bikaner triangle and will bridge the air defence gap in the western sector.
The airfield will be capable of operating all types of fighter, transport and rotary wing aircraft.
It will also boost the facilities available for fighter operations at the Jaisalmer and Jodhpur airbases.
The Indian Government approved the airfield in April 2000 after considering the geo-political scenario and the need for in-built flexibility in operational requirements.


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