A blog on military and commercial aviation matters in the Asia-Pacific region
January 12, 2018 • Leave a Comment
The Royal Thai Air Force (RTAF) put on display one of its 701 Fighter Squadron's JAS-39C Gripens with a pair of RBS-15F air-launched anti-ship missiles at the Surat Thani Children's Day airshow held on 13 January. While it is widely known that an unspecified number of the missiles were included in the Gripen Air Defence Package signed between the RTAF and the Swedish Defence Materiel Administration in 2008, it is believed that this is the first time they have been seen publicly.
The RBS-15Fs — which could deliver a 200 kg warhead from a range of 70 km via a a sea-skimming approach — are of the radar-guided Mk.1 version and lack the land-attack capabilities of the longer-ranged, dual GPS and radar guided Mk.3 variant which comes only in the ship-launched version. The RBS-15Fs provide the Thai Gripens with the teeth for their anti-shipping missions. Strategically based at Surat Thani in southern Thailand, both the resource-rich Gulf of Thailand and Andaman Sea are within easy reach of the Gripens.
In other RTAF-related news, the delivery of the first pair of T-50TH Golden Eagle fighter trainers to Thailand has been post-phoned. According to a statement from the RTAF, the T-50THs flew into severe weather while on their third leg of their journey home between Clark Airbase in the Philippines to Kuantan Airbase in Malaysia. Post-flight inspections revealed certain irregularities which had to be rectified. While it was not announced when they will eventually arrive home, sources have indicated that the delivery could be delayed by up to two weeks. The T-50THs had been expected to arrive at Takhli Air Base in central Thailand on January 11 after a 6,658 km ferry flight that had also taken them to Kaoshiung, Taiwan from the Korea Aerospace Industries factory in Sacheon.
December 01, 2017 • Leave a Comment
This is an abridged version of the article. The full text can be viewed in the February 2018 issue of AirForces Monthly pp 30-31.
The Republic of China Air Force (ROCAF) has withdrawn its final operational S-2T Tracker and declared its fleet of 12 P-3C Orions fully operational in a ceremony witnessed by President Tsai Ing-wen on 1 December 2017 at Pingtung North AFB. The S-2T, serial 2220, returned from its last sortie and was greeted by a water cannon salute, bringing an end to the type's iconic and rich career with the Taiwanese military.
The mainstay of Taiwanese maritime surveillance and anti-submarine work for half a century, The ROCAF inducted 10 S-2As in 1967 as its first ASW-capable aircraft. Thirty-four S-2Es were put on strength in the late 1970s with the 33rd and 34th Squadrons, followed by seven S-2Gs in the mid-1980s. Under Project 'Tien Shan', 27 S-2E/Gs were upgraded to S-2T standard in the late 1980s and early 1990s, incorporating new engines and various mission equipment improvements to the sonobuoy receivers and processors, magnetic anomaly detector, radar and FLIR. The upgraded Trackers proved their worth in the 1990s detecting Chinese and American submarines snooping on major Taiwanese military exercises, the latter was a USN Los Angeles-class submarine on a SIGINT-collection mission while ROCAF Mirage 2000s were live-firing MICA missiles in an exercise in 1998. Taiwan was the only user of the MICA outside France at that time and this presented a unique opportunity for the US to gather telemetry data of the missiles.
In recent years, the S-2T’s poor mission availability and its inability to track the latest Chinese submarines saw the Defence Ministry procure 12 P-3C Orions in a US$1.96 billion contract in 2007. The P-3s were pulled from storage at AMARG and underwent a re-wing and structural service life extension program, as well as an avionics upgrade to bring them to late USN P-3C Orion standards.
September 30, 2017 • Leave a Comment
One of eight RAAF 'classic' Hornets participating in Ex. Churinga 2017 returns to base after a sortie with RSAF F-15SGs in dreary weather. The ARDU markings on A21-32 indicate a previous life supporting flight tests.
The Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) No. 75 Squadron is participating in Exercise Churinga 2017 — a bilateral fighter exercise with the Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF). Eight F/A-18 'classic' Hornets have been deployed at Singapore's Paya Lebar Air Base from 16 September, fresh from the 77 Sqn-led Exercise Thai Boomerang in Korat Air Base, Thailand. One would expect that dissimilar air combat training and large-force employment for interoperability enhancements would be the usual themes of the exercise.
A notable point of the exercise was the resurrection of 'Churinga' as the exercise codename. It was first introduced in 1983 when the RAAF's continuous presence of Mirage IIIOs at Tengah Air Base was switched to peroidic training deployments at Paya Lebar. The label was subsequently applied to the RAAF's other fighter training deployments in that part of the region when bilateral air exercises with Malaysia were also code-named as such. The last of the 'Churinga' series of exercises was held in 2001, and the resurrection of air combat training deployments to Singapore this year is yet another key indicator that defence cooperation under the Australia-Singapore Comprehensive Strategic Partnership framework is in full swing (read more on the strategic defence partnership in my Australian Defence Magazine Nov 2016 article).
Exercise Churinga 2017 is also significant in that it has been 11 years since the RAAF has deployed a fighter detachment to Singapore; the RAAF last dispatched a similar number of F/A-18A/Bs to Paya Lebar to participate in the multilateral Five Power Defence Arrangement (FPDA) Exercise Bersama Padu 2006 in September that year.
September 12, 2017 • Leave a Comment
With explosive tensions mounting on the Korean peninsular, the Republic of Korea Air Force (ROKAF) has announced that it has conducted its first drill for the Taurus KEPD 350K air-launched cruice missile from an F-15K on 12 September. A press release by the ROKAF said that the missile flew some 400 kilometers and hit an intended target in coastal waters off Gunsan, North Jeolla Province.
Video footage released by the ROKAF indicated that while the missile is functional, stencils on it, as well as the lack of explosion (on impact or delayed) revealed that it was an experimental or test round. A statement from the ROKAF confirmed that for the safety of ships in the general area, no explosives were used.
The ROKAF is on course to deploy 260 Taurus cruise missiles purchased in two batches, the second of which for 90 was placed in late-2016. The KEPD 350K differs from the baseline model with the additon of a GPS receiver as well as greater resistance to spoofing and jamming. The purchase of the German-manufactured missiles largely stemmed from the US's unwilingness to export the AGM-158 JASSM missile to the country for fear of upsetting the strategic balance in the region.
In a hot war with North Korea, the Taurus KEPD 350K will be used to target infrastructure and support facilities for the nuclear and ballistic missile programs, key military facilities and the North Korean regime's command and control capabilities.
September 07, 2017 • Leave a Comment
As part of celebrations to mark 50 years of bilateral ties between Indonesia and Singapore — dubbed "RISING50" — the Indonesian Air Force (Tentara Nasional Indonesia-Angkatan Darat — TNI–AU) and the Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) flew in separate and joint formations over the Marina Bay area on 7 September. Witnessed by leaders and dignitaries from both countries, the F-16s flew in unilateral "Arrowhead" formations and jointly in a "50" formation. A "bomb-burst" manoeuvre by RSAF F-15SGs concluded the display.
Like all relationships, the half century of relations had its ups and downs. There were episodes of great cooperation and assistance in the economic, social and defence realms but also periods of friction and tension between both countries. There being much fractional rivalry in Indonesian politics, and the small geographical size and vulnerability of Singapore often lead to each side pursuing different tangents that have adverse effects on relations. The Indonesia-Singapore relationship will only stay strong and continue to prosper in the next 50 years through cool-headed decision-making and the commitment to seek cooperation and mutual benefits by leaders on both sides of the Straits of Singapore.
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