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      Military Aviation News 2008

Royal Saudi Air Force orders A330 tankers
USAF considers shrinking F-15 fleet
Italian Air Force grounds AMX fleet
Korean F-15Ks to take part in Red Flag
Thailand approves Gripen order
Indian Air Force evaluates Merlin and S-92
Polish C-295 crash kills 18 on board
Russian Air Force exercises over the Atlantic
India orders six C-130J Hercules transport aircraft
C-17 Globemasters deploy to Ramstein
Many F-15s still grounded
Algeria to return MiG-29s to Russia
Boeing expects 130 more Asian F-15 orders
B-2 stealth bombers crashes on Guam
Airbus A330 wins USAF tanker deal
Indonesia requests more F-16s
USAF to develop new Mach 5+ aircraft
Typhoon operaters united in exercise
Sri Lanka places MiG-29 order
Russia freezes Su-30 deliveries to Algeria
Indonesian Air Force to replace aging aircraft
Stealth bomber returns to flight
Boeing withdraws from Swiss fighter competition
German Army seeks training helicopters
Venezuela to buy more Russian hardware
Norwegian Hercules fleet withdrawn from use
Lockheed-Martin to build F-16s for Morroco
Croatian Air Force expands fire fighting fleet
Brazilian Navy acquires S-70 Seahawk
Austrian Eurofighters begin air surveillance
RAF might extend Tucano's service life
Austria looking for new jet trainers
NATO commander seeks AWACS planes for Afghanistan
RAF Sentinels ready for deployment
Singapore eliminates Hawk from trainer contest
USAF to convert one C-27 to gunship
Canada to lease Russian helicopters for Afghanistan
Pakistan to get 20 additional T-37 trainers
USAF not ready to retire U-2
Two pilots killed in Zimbabwe K-8 crash
Russian Navy to get four A-42 amphibious planes
First South African Gripens delivered
Final seven MH-53 Pave Lows to be retired
Malaysia to replace S-61 fleet with Cougars
Chile to increase F-16 fleet
Bulgaria to deploy helicopters in Afghanistan
Indian Air Force upgrades transport fleet
Swiss Hornets reach 50,000 flight hours milestone
Italy may extend F-16 lease deal
Oman shows interest in Eurofighter Typhoon
Croatian fighter tender cancelled
Belgian Air Component retires first Sea King
Mexico to buy anti-drug aircraft from US funds
Austrian Air Force may get L-159 ALCA

 
29 Dec - Austrian Air Force may get L-159 ALCA
Austria The Austrian ministry of defence is considering to replace the Air Force's Saab 105 trainer fleet, which has been in service for almost 40 years, with Czech L-159 Advanced Light Combat Aircraft. The Austrian Air Force is in urgent need of 10 to 20 new training aircraft, but faces a limited budget. The Czech Air Force has over 70 L-159s, but operates only 20 single seaters in the close air support role. Austrian pilots and experts will soon visit the Czech Republic to evaluate the aircraft, which will have to be rebuilt to double seat trainers before they could be acquired.

 
06 Dec - Mexico to buy anti-drug aircraft from US funds
Mexico The Mexican Navy is to receive money for four EADS Casa CN-235 maritime patrol aircraft, with the Mexican government planned to buy another six with its own funds. They will be among the first equipment purchased by Mexico with funds provided by the US government under the Merida Initiative to provide assistance in combating drug trafficking in the region. The CN-235s will augment seven maritime-patrol EADS Casa C-212s operated by the Navy. The Mexican Air Force is to get eight extra Bell 412EP utility helicopters to provide a complete squadron for rapid reaction forces.

 
04 Dec - Belgian Air Component retires first Sea King
Belgium The Belgian Air Component announced that the first of 5 Westland Sea King Mk48 search and rescue helicopters will be retired this month. In 32 years Sea King RS01, which was the first to be delivered in 1967, accumulated over 10000 flying hours, saving countless lives. Another Sea King is stored at its homebase Koksijde and appears to be used for spare parts to keep the remaining three airborne. The Belgian Sea Kings and Alouette IIIs will be withdrawn from use from 2011 when the NH90 enters service.

 
20 Nov - Croatian fighter tender cancelled
Croatia In the face of the global economic situation, the Croatian government has decided to postpone the fighter competition to replace its MiG-21 Fishbeds. It could take up to two years before the tender will be reopened, in the mean time the Croatian Air Force will continue to fly its ageing MiG-21s. It is estimated that the current fleet could be stretched to 2012, while six additional aircraft would be returned to flying status from storage. On a side note, the Ministry of Defence also concluded that 12 new fighters would not be enough. To fulfill its tasks the Croatian Air Force would need at least 12 single seaters and four dual-seat trainers.

 
12 Nov - Oman shows interest in Eurofighter Typhoon
Oman BAe Systems is in talks with Oman to sell up to 24 Eurofighter Typhoon fighter aircraft. Defence sources close to the negotiations said the country wants to replace its ageing fleet of Sepecat Jaguars with Typhoons over the next four years. The Royal Air Force of Oman currently operates 16 Jaguars in the ground attack role and 12 multi-role F-16 Fighting Falcons.

 
31 Oct - Italy may extend F-16 lease deal
Italy Italy is negotiating an 18-month extension to a lease contract for about half of its F-16 fighters. An extension to the lease agreement could be signed in January 2009, and would allow the Italian Air Force to retain about 15 F-16s until late 2012. The 31 F-16s currently operated by the Italian Air Force fulfil the country's air defence pending the delivery of further Eurofighter Typhoons.

 
24 Oct - Swiss Hornets reach 50,000 flight hours milestone
Switzerland The Swiss Air Force's F/A-18 Hornet fleet reached a milestone of 50,000 flight hours in October. From January 1997, Switzerland received 34 Hornets consisting of 26 F/A-18C single-seaters and 8 F/A-18D dual-seat trainers. Their main role is air policing, along with the F-5 Freedom Fighters for which the country is now seeking replacement. The Hornets are currently being upgraded with a datalink to exchange mission data during flight and improved avionics which will allow the fighter jets to launch the AIM-9X Sidewinder missile.

 
15 Oct - Indian Air Force upgrades transport fleet
India In an effort to infuse fresh life into its transport fleet, the Indian Air Force will begin an upgrade programme for its Antonov An-32s and Dornier Do228s. After this upgrade, over 80 An-32s would be able to fly for another 15 to 20 years. Along with the C-130Js, which are to be delivered from 2010, the upgraded Antonovs will increasingly be used for special operations. The country's Dornier Do228 light transport aircraft will be upgraded with better avionics and supplemented by Saras transport jets. A request for information to find replacements for the ageing Il-76 Candids is also expected shortly.

 
14 Oct - Bulgaria to deploy helicopters in Afghanistan
Bulgaria Bulgaria is going to reinforce the international forces in Afghanistan by sending two Mil Mi-17 transport helicopters to the country. As a result, a special fund was created that will provide money for the renovation of older Soviet-made equipment, which could then be used in Afghanistan. Meanwhile, the Bulgarian government has given green light to the long awaited purchase of a new multi-role military aircraft for the armed forces. Candidates to replace Bulgaria's MiGs and Sukhois are the Eurofighter Typhoon, F-16 Fighting Falcon, F-18 Hornet, JAS-39 Gripen and the Rafale.

 
11 Oct - Chile to increase F-16 fleet
Chile Chile has shown interest in purchasing another batch of refurbished F-16 Fighting Falcons from the Netherlands. The new fighters will replace the ageing F-5 Tigers which wil be retired in 2009. Chile currently has 28 F-16s, of which ten F-16C/D Block 50 models were purchased brand new in 2002. Three years ago Chile purchased 18 upgraded F-16 from the Royal Netherlands Air Force.

 
26 Sep - Malaysia to replace S-61 fleet with Cougars
Malaysia The Royal Malaysian Air Force will replace its ageing fleet of Sikorsky S-61 Nuris, a Malaysian export version of the Sea King, with Eurocopter’s EC725 Cougar. The EC725 was one of four candidates to replace the Nuri. The other three were the Sikorsky S-92, Agusta Westland AW101 Merlin and Russian-made Mil Mi-17 Hip. The government is allocating money to buy eight Cougars for the air force and another four for the army.

 
22 Sep - Final seven MH-53 Pave Lows to be retired
United States of America The United States Air Force will retire its final seven Sikorsky MH-53 Pave Low helicopters at the end of September. Air Force Special Operations Command originally operated 39 MH-53s, but they have gradually been replaced by the Boeing CV-22 Osprey. Meanwhile, its successor is being pressed into service in Africa for the first time in October. To date 31 Ospreys, of which the CV-22 is designed for special operations, have been ordered for the US Air Force, but the requirement will almost certainly increase.

 
17 Sep - First South African Gripens delivered
South Africa In a spectacular ceremony at Ysterplaat the South African Air Force welcomed its first four of 26 Gripen fighters. The occasion was marked in style with a flypast of the four jets, with Cape Town’s famous Table Mountain providing a great backdrop. South Africa has ordered 26 Gripen fighters, 9 JAS-39D two-seaters and 17 JAS-39C single seaters. Deliveries commenced this year, with four aircraft already in-country, and the remainder are scheduled to be delivered progressively until 2012.

 
07 Sep - Russian Navy to get four A-42 amphibious planes
Russia Russia's Navy will receive four new A-42 amphibious planes by 2013. The A-42 is the search and rescue variant of the A-40 anti-submarine warfare aircraft, which can be used for reconnaissance and target designation during patrols over coastal and international waters. It is the largest amphibious aircraft in the world. The A-42 will become the main reconnaissance and anti-submarine warfare aircraft of the Russian Navy after 2015 and would replace the ageing fleet of Be-12 and Il-38 maritime patrol aircraft.

 
05 Sep - Two pilots killed in Zimbabwe K-8 crash
Zimbabwe Two AFZ (Air Force of Zimbabwe) pilots were killed when their K-8 jet crashed during a training flight for a ceremonial flypass. No indication was given of how the crash occurred and the names of the victims were not released. It is the first crash involving a Zimbabwean K-8 jet trainer since they were purchased in 2005.

 
26 Aug - USAF not ready to retire U-2
United States of America Once again the United States Air Force is considering to delay the retirement date of the Lockheed U-2 Dragon Lady, as developers work out issues with integrating a signals intelligence payload onto the Global Hawk unmanned aerial vehicle. The current plan calls for the completion of U-2 retirement in the third quarter of fiscal 2012. But the Pentagon is considering delaying the retirement to 2014 or possibly later, depending on the maturity of the Global Hawk.

 
22 Aug - Pakistan to get 20 additional T-37 trainers
Pakistan The US government authorised the delivery of 20 T-37 Tweet trainer aircraft to Pakistan. These are all used aircraft which are being refurbished for the Pakistani Air Force. The US government would not charge for the aircraft and Pakistan would only have to bear shipment costs.

 
30 Jul - Canada to lease Russian helicopters for Afghanistan
Canada Canada will lease up to eight Russian-built helicopters to ferry supplies around the battlefield in Afghanistan until it gets new American helicopters. It is a temporary measure meant to get Canadian army supply convoys off the bomb-laced roads of Kandahar, where explosives have been taking an increasingly deadly toll. A deal to acquire six CH-47D Chinooks from the US Army has been worked out, but those heavy-lift transport helicopters will not arrive until late this year, or early next.

 
24 Jul - USAF to convert one C-27 to gunship
United States of America One of the C-27J Spartans scheduled for delivery to the United States Air Force will be modified to a gunship prototype for testing. This aircraft will serve as a risk mitigation effort to field a new platform to operate in austere locations, with increased operational flexibility and a smaller support of manpower and logistics. The US Army and Air Force are already on contract to receive the first C-27Js for use as light cargo transports from 2009.

 
15 Jul - Singapore eliminates Hawk from trainer contest
Singapore Singapore has eliminated the BAe Systems Hawk 128 from its advanced jet trainer competition, leaving the Alenia Aermacchi M-346 and Korea Aerospace Industries T-50 to compete for the contract. The southeast Asian country will hold detailed briefings with the remaining candidates and conduct further flight trials with the aircraft in the coming months.

 
14 Jul - RAF Sentinels ready for deployment
United Kingdom The Royal Air Force is preparing to deploy its new Sentinel R1 airborne standoff radar (ASTOR) aircraft to Afghanistan, following the successful completion of a series of tests. No decision to deploy the aircraft has been taken yet, but the aircraft and crews are ready should they have to. Four of the five aircraft ordered have been delivered by Raytheon, giving Britain a surveillance capability using synthetic array and ground moving target radars. The fifth aircraft is scheduled to be delivered by the end of the year.

 
12 Jul - NATO commander seeks AWACS planes for Afghanistan
NATO NATO's commander in Afghanistan has asked the alliance to send E-3A Sentry surveillance planes to the country in support of the war against terrorism. No details were available on the reasons for the request, but NATO commanders have long complained about the difficulty of carrying out proper surveillance of a country the size of France with poor or non-existent internal infrastructure. NATO owns a fleet of 17 Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS) radar aircraft that are operated by multinational crews.

 
11 Jul - Austria looking for new jet trainers
Austria Austria considers buying new jet trainers to replace its Saab 105s, which are plagued by maintenance issues, and also to offload some Eurofighter currency training to a lower-cost platform. Options range from buying used aircraft such as F-5Es to new trainers like the M-346 or Hawk. The new jet will also be involved in air policing, the Austrian Air Force's primary role.

 
8 Jul - RAF might extend Tucano's service life
United Kingdom The UK Ministry of Defence has postponed the planned retirement date for the Royal Air Force's Tucano T1 fleet from April 2010 until at least 2012. Due to delayed signature of a contract to purchase replacement aircraft, the RAF might even keep the Tucano trainers in the air until 2016. Potential aircraft to replace the Tucano include the Pilatus PC-21 and Aermacchi M-311.

 
1 Jul - Austrian Eurofighters begin air surveillance
Austria A year after the Austrian Air Force received its first Eurofighter Typhoon, it has started patrolling the skies with the brand new jet. The role was taken over from the F-5 Tigers that were leased from the Swiss Air Force for the past four years awaiting the service entry of the Eurofighter. Although only eight Eurofighters have been delivered, with final deliveries taking place in 2009, all F-5s will return to Switzerland this Summer.

 
27 Jun - Brazilian Navy acquires S-70 Seahawk
Brazil The Brazilian Navy has signed a contract for the purchase of four Sikorsky S-70B Seahawk helicopters, plus an option for a further two. The Seahawks will replace the ageing fleet of SH-3 Seakings, which have been in Brazilian Navy service since 1972. Sources indicate that up to eight more helicopters might be purchased between 2010 and 2015.

 
6 Jun - Croatian Air Force expands fire fighting fleet
Croatia The Croatian Air Force has significantly increased its fire fighting capability with the recent service entry of three additional amphibious Air Tractor AT-802A Fire Boss aircraft. These float-equipped fire fighting aircraft can land on a traditional runway or on water, but they can also scoop water from a lake which results in a much shorter and narrower drop pattern than wheeled AT-802s.

 
30 May - Lockheed-Martin to build F-16s for Morocco
Morocco Lockheed-Martin was awarded a contract to start building 24 F-16 Fighting Falcons for the Royal Moroccan Air Force. The manufacturer has a backlog of over a hundred F-16 orders, which should keep the production line open until at least 2011. Last week the Pentagon notified Congress that it also planned to sell 24 new and 24 used F-16s to Romania.

 
21 May - Norwegian Hercules fleet withdrawn from use
Norway With a final farewell flight by two aircraft the Royal Norwegian Air Force said goodbye to its fleet of six 39-year old C-130H Hercules transport aircraft. The aircraft will be replaced by four C-130Js, which will be delivered from November 2008. In the mean time the Norwegians will rely on transport aircraft from allied nations and chartered civil aircraft to meet their airlift demand.

 
13 May - Venezuela to buy more Russian hardware
Venezuela The Venezuelan Air Force has succesfully completed tests with two Russian Il-76 Candid transport planes. In the near future, a contract will be signed for the purchase of ten Il-76MD Candids and two Il-78MK Midas tankers. They will replace six old C-130s and two Boeing 707s. The country also wants to purchase ten Mi-28NE Night Hunter attack helicopters, with deliveries beginning in 2009.

 
9 May - German Army seeks training helicopters
Germany The German ministry of defence is competing a requirement for nine new basic training helicopters to be used by the Army. The helicopters will be used for initial rotary flying training, before pilots convert to the Eurocopter EC135. The new helicopter is supposed to allow single-pilot operations by day or night and should have good autorotation capability to train students in emergency procedures.

 
30 Apr - Boeing withdraws from Swiss fighter competition
Switzerland Boeing has announced its decision to drop the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet out of the Swiss competition to replace the Northrop F-5 Tiger fleet. After reviewing the contents of the request for proposal, Boeing withdrew from the competition due to the disparity between the requirements for an F-5 replacement aircraft and the next-generation capabilities of the Super Hornet. Boeing stated that it will continue to support and modernize the Swiss Air Force's F/A-18C/D Hornet fleet.

 
21 Apr - Stealth bomber returns to flight
United States of America After a 53-day safety pause the B-2 Spirit made a successful return to flight on 15 April. While an accident investigation board is still ongoing, safety experts gave the 509th Bomb Wing the green light to fly again. B-2 Spirits have been flying around for almost 20 years and are renowned for their unprecedented safety record.

 
18 Apr - Indonesian Air Force to replace aging aircraft
Indonesia The Indonesian Air Force is planning to replace its aging Hawk Mk53 and OV-10 Bronco aircraft while increasing its fleet of Su-27/Su-30 Flankers to 10. The Indonesian government is about to make a decision on the replacement of the OV-10 Bronco by the Embraer Super Tucano. The Hawk Mk53s are next in line to be replaced as only two of the six still in service are in good condition to fly and its service period will expire in 2011.

 
28 Mar - Russia freezes Flanker deliveries to Algeria
Algeria Russia has postponed deliveries of Su-30MKA Flankers to Algeria over non-payment, following the country's decision to return 15 MiG-29 fighters. Algeria froze all military contract payments to Russia in October 2007, requiring that Russia first takes back 15 MiG-29 fighters over their inferior quality. Algeria already received six Flankers, but delivery of the remaining 22 fighters will be suspended when the country refuses to pay. Rumours suggest Algeria might opt for French Rafales as France builds up its presence in North Africa.

 
19 Mar - Sri Lanka places MiG-29 order
Sri Lanka Sri Lanka concluded negotiations with Russia about the purchase of five MiG-29 Fulcrum fighter jets. Four of those will be MiG-29SM Fulcrums, capable of carrying air-to-ground bombs and air-to-air missiles, and one will be a MiG-29UB double seater. The five jet aircraft will boost the Sri Lanka Air Force's capabilities, which now operates the MiG-27 and Kfir.

 
14 Mar - Typhoon operators united in exercise
Spain For the first time all four Eurofighter Typhoon core air forces combined their skills during a mutual exercise at Moron airbase in Spain, upon invitation of the Spanish Air Force. In total, 20 Eurofighter Typhoon aircraft took part in the exercise which also involved participation of Spanish Hornets and Mirage F1s, and Portuguese F-16s. The objective was to demonstrate the interoperability of the Eurofighter Typhoon and its air-to-air capabilities while training with, and in combat against, other fighter aircraft types. The Eurofighter Typhoon is in service since 2004, more than 140 aircraft have been delivered to Germany, Italy, Spain, the United Kingdom and Austria.

 
11 Mar - USAF to develop new Mach 5+ aircraft
United States of America The United States military will release a request for proposals in the next weeks for project Blackswift, a new programme that will lay the technological groundwork for a successor to the SR-71 Blackbird. Blackswift itself will be the USAF's first important step in seeing if an SR-72 can be developed. It envisions an SR-72 conducting reconnaissance missions similar to the Blackbird but at hypersonic speeds, Mach 5 or higher.

 
3 Mar - Indonesia requests more F-16s
Indonesia Indonesia is discussing with the US government the possibility to buy six Lockheed-Martin F-16 Fighting Falcon, and upgrade its older F-16s and C-130s. The six Block 50/52 F-16s would be delivered from 2010 and six old F-16s would be upgraded to the latest standards. This would enable the Indonesian Air Force to replace its F-5E Tigers by 2014.

 
29 Feb - Airbus A330 wins USAF tanker deal
United States of America Northrop Grumman has been awarded a contract to build the next generation of aerial refueling tankers for the United States Air Force. The company will build up to 179 KC-45A aircraft based on the Airbus A330. The announcement comes as a surprise as Boeing was considered a huge favorite to replace the aging KC-135 tankers.

 
23 Feb - B-2 stealth bombers crashes on Guam
United States of America A B-2 stealth bomber crashed at an air base on Guam just after take off, but both pilots ejected safely and were in good condition. The Air Force has been rotating several stealth bombers, along with B-1B Lancers and B-52 Stratofortresses, through Guam since 2004. The rotations are designed to boost the US security presence in Asia and the Pacific while other US forces diverted to fight in the Middle East.

 
20 Feb - Boeing expects 130 more Asian F-15 orders
South Korea Boeing is expecting orders for 130 F-15 fighter jets from Asian customers as nations increase military spendings. Possible orders from South Korea and Japan would add to the 32 F-15s awaiting delivery to the region. This year South Korea will receive its final batch of 8 F-15K Slam Eagles and Singapore will receive its first F-15SG Eagles. South Korea, which ordered 40 F-15Ks in 2002, may soon ask for another 20 from Boeing and another 60 later. Japan may order as many as 50 F-15s to replace two squadrons of ageing F-4 Phantoms.

 
19 Feb - Algeria to return MiG-29s to Russia
Algeria For the first time in history a foreign customer is returning MiG-29 Fulcrums to the manufacturer, after low-quality parts were found in the aircraft. Last week an agreement was signed to return 15 MiG-29s purchased between 2006 and 2007. In May 2007 Algeria refused further deliveries when 15 of the proposed 29 aircraft had been delivered. It has not been determined yet how Algeria will compensate the forfeiture of the contract, but Russia has already offered to sell more up-to-date MiG-29M or MiG-35 fighters instead.

 
16 Feb - Many F-15s still grounded
United States of America A month after the United States Air Force cleared two-thirds of its F-15s to resume flying activities, 158 Eagles are still grounded awaiting a decision whether to repair or retire the aircraft. Nine of the grounded jets have cracks in longerons that reinforce the fuselage, the remaining 149 have longerons that were not manufactured to the original specifications. The greatest impact has been with the two-seat training models: all six F-15Bs in service remain grounded, as well as 30 of the 41 F-15Ds. The F-15 Eagle fleet had been ground between early November and January after an F-15 split in two during a high-G turn.

 
9 Feb - C-17 Globemasters deploy to Ramstein
United States of America In a coordinated effort with the US Air Forces in Europe and Air Mobility Command, the Air Force Reserve Command is providing dedicated aircrews to fly C-17 Globemasters from Ramstein, Germany. The aircraft will be used to provide airlift to US forces in Europe and support military operations in Africa. The C-17s will come from various bases in the States on a rotational basis. Ramstein is already USAF's main transit base in Europe, having a squadron dedicated to maintaining visiting C-17s.

 
7 Feb - India orders six C-130J Hercules transport aircraft
India India has signed a major deal with the US government to buy six C-130J Hercules special operations aircraft. The deal is reported to be worth over 1 billion dollar and includes an option on another six aircraft later. Delivery is scheduled to take place from 2010.

 
31 Jan - Russian Air Force exercises over the Atlantic
Russia Over thirty Russian strategic bombers and long-range interceptors participated in exercises over the Atlantic Ocean in the last week of January. Russian officials stated eight Tu-22 Backfires, two Tu-95MS Bears, two Tu-160 Blackjacks, two A-50 Mainstay airborne early warning aircraft, four MiG-31 Foxhounds, twelve Su-27 Flankers and a pair of Il-78 Midas aerial tankers were involved in the exercise that also included participation of Russian Navy Flankers from the Admiral Kuznetsov aircraft carrier. The exercise is the largest exercise of the Russian armed forces in the Atlantic in 15 years.

 
24 Jan - Polish C-295 crash kills 18 on board
Poland Eighteen people were killed when a Polish Air Force C-295 transport aircraft crashed near the village of Miroslawiec, in northwest Poland. It is the first crash involving an C-295 in Poland. Ten aircraft were purchased by the Polish government from 2001 to replace the ageing fleet of An-26 Curls. Another two, ordered in October 2007, will join the Polish Air Force in 2008. As a result of the crash the Polish Air Force grounded its entire C-295 fleet.

 
22 Jan - Indian Air Force evaluates Merlin and S-92
India From 14 to 19 January the Indian Air Force conducted trials of the Agusta-Westland AW101 Merlin and Sikorsky S-92, which are competing to fill the IAF’s need for a medium-lift and VIP transport helicopter. The Air Force will buy four 30-passenger medium-lift helicopters and eight 12-person VIP helicopters. Officials said they will take two months to finalize the evaluation, and the contract is likely to be signed before March 2009. The new helicopters will replace aging Russian Mi-8 Hips.

 
16 Jan - Thailand approves Gripen order
Thailand Thailand's government has approved budget for the purchase of six Saab JAS-39C/D Gripen fighters to replace their ageing fleet of F-5 Tigers. Thailand has an option on six more Gripens, but the new government will take the decision about a further purchase in 2009. As part of the deal also two Saab 340 airborne early warning and control aircraft were ordered. Deliveries will take place between the end of 2008 and 2012.

 
14 Jan - Korean F-15Ks to take part in Red Flag
South Korea Six F-15K Slam Eagles of the South Korean Air Force will participate in the Red Flag exercise this Summer. Although this marks the F-15K's debut at Nellis, the South Korean Air Force took part in the Red Flag exercises from 1979 to 1992 using F-16 aircraft. The Korean Air Force will receive new F-15K aircraft directly from the Boeing factory and fly them in simulated combat during Red Flag just one week later. The F-15K is capable of air-to-ground, air-to-air and air-to-sea missions day or night, under any weather conditions.

 
11 Jan - Italian Air Force grounds AMX fleet
Italy The Italian Air Force's fleet of 70 AMX fighter-bombers has been grounded as part of a crash investigation. On 20 October 2005 an AMX crashed near Decimomannu after the pilot was able to eject from the aircraft when the canopy opened in mid-flight. Twelve Italian AMX aircraft have been involved in crashes since delivery started in 1989, the 2005 crash being the only one caused by a canopy malfunction. The Italian Air Force has previously grounded their AMX aircraft to resolve engine problems.

 
8 Jan - USAF considers shrinking F-15 fleet
United States of America The United States Air Force will probably order many F-15 fighter jets permanently grounded because of crucial structural flaws. About 260 of the remaining grounded planes returned to duty in early January, but another 180 will remain idle because of suspected structural flaws. After an F-15 broke apart during a dogfight last year, over 700 aircraft, the complete F-15 fleet, were grounded. The problems with the F-15 have increased the need to purchase more F-22 Raptors.

 
4 Jan - Royal Saudi Air Force orders A330 tankers
Saudi Arabia Saudi Arabia has selected EADS to produce three Airbus A330 tankers for the Royal Saudi Air Force. The aircraft will be equipped with hose and drogue pods to refuel their fleet of Tornado's and Typhoons, the latter being ordered in 2007. Delivery of the A330 tankers will result in the withdrawal of the Saudi KE-3A tankers. The tanker variant of the Airbus A330 has been ordered by Australia, the United Arab Emirates and the United Kingdom.

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