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North American T-6 Harvard / Texan - 'The Pilot Maker'

August 07, 2018  •  Leave a Comment

North American T-6  "The Pilot Maker"

Harvard or Texan, what do you prefer ?
This aircraft is known by so many names including the Mosquito, The Window Breaker, The Pilot Maker and many more. There are so many variations in models it gets confusing as so many countries operated this aircraft as the primary fighter trainer.  

 In 1937, the North American NA-26 prototype won a competition for a basic combat trainer for the USAAC, and, in due course, it went into production as the BC-1.   North American's rapid production of the T-6 Texan coincided with the wartime expansion of the United States air war commitment. As of 1940, the required flights hours for combat pilots earning their wings had been cut to just 200 during a shortened training period of seven months. Of those hours, 75 were logged in the AT-6. U.S. Navy pilots flew the airplane extensively, under the SNJ designation,


he North American T-6 Texan two-place advanced trainer was the classroom for most of the Allied pilots who flew in World War II. Called the SNJ by the Navy and the Harvard by the British Royal Air Force, the AT-6 (advanced trainer) was designed as a transition trainer between basic trainers and first-line tactical aircraft. It was re-designated T-6 in 1948.

British interest in the Texan design was piqued as early as 1938 when it ordered 200 under the designation Harvard Mk I for service in Southern Rhodesia training under the Commonwealth Air Training Program. As the Harvard Mk I  design was modeled after the early BC-1 design, the subsequent Harvard Mk II utilized the improvements of the AT-6 models. During 1944, the AT-6D design was adopted by the RAF and named the Harvard MK III. This version was used to train pilots in instrument training in the inclement British weather and for senior officers to log required airtime. Much to the chagrin of the Air Force High Command, the Harvard  was often used for non-military activities like joy-riding and unofficial jaunts across the English countryside.

SNJ-1 versions of the BC-1 went to the US Navy, while deliveries of the BC-1s to the RAF started in December 1938, these aircraft being called Harvard 1s by British Commonwealth Air Forces. The BC-1A, and subsequent versions, had a revised rudder shape, blunt wing tips and a metal covered fuselage, with one exception, which had a wooden fuselage. There was the AT-6B, then came the AT-6C (SNJ-IV and Harvard 2A) which was redesigned with, among other changes, a wood rear fuselage in case of strategic material shortages during WW2. But there were no shortages and the standard structure was reverted to later on. There was also the AT-6D/SNJ-5/Harvard III, which with AT-6A and C versions and their SNJ and Harvard equivalents formed the basis of nearly all WW2 contracts.

During 1946, the Canadian Car and Foundry company developed the Harvard Mk IV trainer to the specifications of the T-6G and produced 285 T-6Js under the same design for the USAF Mutual Aid Program. Designated the T-6G, the Texan saw major improvements in increased fuel capacity, an improved cockpit layout, as well as a steerable tailwheel. U.S. Air Force and U.S. Navy forces in the Korean War modified the Texan under the LT-6G designation and employed it in combat for forward air control of propeller and jet powered strike aircraft.  Spain utilized the armed T-6 in combat during the Sahara conflict for patrol and counter-insurgency operations.  France made extensive combat use of armed T-6 aircraft during the Algerian conflict. Although the U.S. retired the T-6 from active duty by the end of the 1950's, several nations, including Spain, South Africa, Brazil, China, and Venezuela, utilized "the pilot maker" as their basic trainer well into the 1980's.

The total number of Harvard's of different types and sources used by the Belgian Air Force amounted at 148 machines. One could add to these some 14 aircraft which were used as spare parts resources and ten Harvard’s leased from the Dutch Air Force to help out with a temporarily shortage on aircraft in 1948/1949.   As of 1947 a first large order of 46 former-“lend lease” Harvard IIA and Mk.III were ordered together with ten aircraft purely used to proved spare parts, from RAF stocks. Although many of these aircraft already had served with three air forces, most of them had only little flying time. They only were active with the South-African Air Force in the framework of the “Commonwealth Training Program” during WWII and were only assigned to the USAAC and the RAF on paper. Originating from different sources, 32 AT-6’s of subtypes MK.IIB and MK.III were later acquired. These Harvard’s had served with the Dutch Air Force, others with the RAF or came from civil companies such as Intair and Rollason. The Americans delivered 46 more AT-6D’s and Harvard 4, while 24 former RAF Harvard’s IIA from the training base of Bulawayo in Rhodesia were shipped to the Belgian Air Force base at Kamina (Belgian Congo).  
This mixture of models was standardised and upgraded by the BAF to what was called Harvard 4K, which was very similar to the Harvard 4. In 1959 sixteen Harvard’s based initially at Kamina received an armament which consisted of two 7.62 calibre machineguns, two Alcan 261 bomb racks and two rocket launchers Matra 13. These aircraft which were designated 4K and were grouped in new units called Fire Assistance Flights These FAF’s  were successfully used during the Congolese rebellion in July 1960.
The last pilot training on Harvard took place in mid-1960 after which advanced training was done on the new Fouga Magister. Between 1960 and 1962 only a handful of armed Harvard’s 4KA remained in used in Rwanda and Burundi

After World War II, the Reno Air Races Association established a unique racing class for the AT-6/Texan/Harvard aircraft. This class continues today at the Reno National Air Races each year in September.

For the production of the 20th Century Fox movie  “ Tora! Tora! Tora! “  T-6’s were converted and stood in for the Mitsubishi A6M Zero’s, as there were no airworthy types at that time. These CAF airplanes were also used in the more recent  ‘Pearl Harbor’  movie.
The Commemorative Air Force's Gulf Coast Wing's ‘Tora! Tora! Tora!’ team still fly the movie's aircraft simulating the attack at airshows al over the USA.

Today, over 600 T-6 Texan’s remain in airworthy condition.  

Pictures taken at Reno Air Races, CAF Airsho Midland TX, and EAA Air Venture  Oshkosh MI with CANON cameras EOS D1 Mk II & III and lenses from 28mm up to 400mm.

A Team Just Found Another P-38 Under 300 Ft. Of Ice-Prepping To Recover

July 31, 2018  •  Leave a Comment

A Team Just Found Another P-38 Under 300 Ft. Of Ice-Prepping To Recover

A Team Just Found Another P-38 Under 300 Ft. Of Ice-Prepping To Recover | World War Wings Videos

U.S. Army / Public Domain (right) | Jim Salazar / Public Domain (left)

After 7 years of waiting and strategizing, a non-profit organization called Arctic Hot Point Solutions returned to the frozen lands of Greenland to try to locate a specific aircraft that’s been buried there for more than seven decades.

In July 2018, they send down a probe through 350 feet of ice and got confirmation that they hit their target and found the aircraft they were looking for

Lost Squadron

The story of the Lost Squadron as it is now known began on July 15th, 1942. Six P-38s and two B-17s took off from a secret Army base in Greenland headed to an airfield in England to join the fight against Germany but didn’t get very far.

The squadron encountered a massive blizzard en route and was unable to get to their destination as they were flying blind. Returning to base was also out of the question as they the planes did not have enough fuel so the squadron made the decision to crash land.

A picture taken by the recovery crew of the Lost Squadron. | U.S. Army / Public Domain

Most of the aircraft made a gear up landing an slid into their final resting place where they remained for decades. The crew was rescued nine days later with only a few crewmembers suffering minor injuries.

Glacier Girl

One P-38 Lightning was already uncovered back in 1992. It took a different team called Greenland Expedition Society years to pinpoint where the aircraft was and through a lot of time and effort, brought it up to the surface.  You can see some of the incredible recovery pictures here.

A picture of the restored P-38 called Glacier Girl. | Greg Goebel / Public Domain

Ten years later, in 2002, the aircraft was completely restored, given an airworthiness certificate and was adequately named Glacier Girl.

2018 Detection And Extraction

The next aircraft to be recovered, called Echo and piloted by Lt. Robert Wilson, has shifted over the years as the icecap was moving so the team had to use special radar technologies to locate it.

Picture of Lt. Robert H. Wilson, the pilot of the P-38 named Echo. | Public Domain

Using a drone, they found a large mass under the ice but weren’t sure if it was the aircraft or a rock so they had to make sure what they were going to dig for. That’s where the heat probe came in.

Burrowing into the ice some 350+ feet, they hit something hard that couldn’t be melted and pulled the probe up. To their surprise and delight, it was covered in thick hydraulic fluid so their suspicions were confirmed. This was in fact, one of the lost P-38s.

The team is now working with the United States, Greenland, and the United Kingdom to return next year and start the excavation process. 

For reference, the short clip below shows just how deep 300 feet is when digging into the ice.

Below is the latest video uploaded by the Arctic Hot Point Solutions team. It takes you on an epic helicopter ride over the Greenland Ice Cap and to their base camp as they prepare to inspect the crash site.



Setting a new standard: California Highway Patrol

July 31, 2018  •  Leave a Comment

Setting a new standard: California Highway Patrol

Posted on  by Dan Megna


Since it was first established in 1929, the primary mission of the California Highway Patrol (CHP) has been enforcing traffic laws and promoting vehicle safety across the state’s extensive system of highways and byways.

As the California Highway Patrol transitions its fleet to the Airbus H125, the organization is also adopting new hoist techniques for improved safety and efficiency. Dan Megna Photo
As the California Highway Patrol transitions its fleet to the Airbus H125, the organization is also adopting new hoist techniques for improved safety and efficiency. Dan Megna Photo


In the 1960s, the CHP adopted the use of aircraft, a mix of airplanes and helicopters, which provided effective alternatives for traffic control and law enforcement. The CHP’s Office of Air Operations (OAO) was created to manage and coordinate the program throughout agency’s eight operational divisions.

The first helicopters were Hughes 500s and Fairchild Hiller FH-1100s. In the 1970s and ’80s, the CHP acquired additional rotary-wing aircraft: Bell 206 LongRangers, MBB Bo.105s, and a Eurocopter (now Airbus Helicopters) AS350 BA AStar. The improved performance of these helicopters allowed the CHP to expand its mission capabilities to include medevac and search-and-rescue (SAR) using short-haul and hoisting techniques. These new capabilities were quickly recognized as crucial lifelines, especially for those in rural communities and remote areas of the state.

In the late 1990s and early 2000s, the CHP moved to standardize its helicopter fleet. It began taking delivery of what would ultimately be 15 AS350 B3 AStars, each equipped with rescue hoists and the latest in infrared and imaging technology.

The B3’s enhanced high and hot performance was a game changer for CHP’s SAR mission and it became a highly regarded workhorse. It excelled in the scorching desert environments supported by CHP’s Southern Division and in the Inland Division’s high-altitude work in the mighty Sierra Nevada mountain range, home to 14,505-foot (4,420-meter) Mount Whitney, the highest point in the contiguous United States.

Personnel at a recent CHP training session included, in the top row, from left, Scott Grant, Mike McAuley, Brandon Hallam, and Scott Rodda; and in the front row, from left, Kevin Vinatieri, Scott Clays, Mike Crain, Dan Gallagher, Bryan Souza, Shaun Bouyea, Tyler Johns, Larry O'Brien, Joe Kingman, and Gerry Perez. Dan Megna Photo
Personnel at a recent CHP training session included, in the top row, from left, Scott Grant, Mike McAuley, Brandon Hallam, and Scott Rodda; and in the front row, from left, Kevin Vinatieri, Scott Clays, Mike Crain, Dan Gallagher, Bryan Souza, Shaun Bouyea, Tyler Johns, Larry O’Brien, Joe Kingman, and Gerry Perez. Dan Megna Photo

In 2015, with several of the agency’s B3s eclipsing 16 years of service, a multi-year fleet replacement plan with Airbus Helicopters delivered the first of what will ultimately be 15 H125s, an upgraded and more powerful variant of the popular AS350 AStar (see p.40, Vertical 911, Summer 2016).

“The H125 offers an increase in power, increased gross weight, advanced avionics, upgraded FLIR, more capable hoist, and a full suite of law enforcement radios to meet all our communication needs throughout California,” said CHP chief helicopter pilot Sergeant Tyler Johns. “It has increased our ability to do our mission in the high, hot, and heavy scenarios we are routinely faced with in the rescue environment. The increased power means we can have more fuel, more personnel, more equipment, or increased performance margins while conducting high-altitude rescues.”

One important performance item Johns highlighted is the time the H125 can sustain maximum takeoff power. He said, “The maximum permissible power that can be used for takeoff (MTOP) for a limited time in the H125 is 30 minutes. The MTOP for the B3 was five minutes. A lot of our hoist extractions occur at very high altitudes, 10,000 to 14,000 feet, and require using MTOP to complete the hoist operation. Having more time allowed in that power range increases our safety in the operation without the undue pressure of rapidly executing a very complex rescue operation.”

With CHP’s eight operational divisions spread all throughout the state, the various helicopter units are somewhat isolated from each other and rarely have an opportunity to interact or train together. As a result, many aspects of SAR techniques and crew communications were not necessarily standardized across the organization.

Flight officer Dan Gallagher pre-flights the hoist hook prior to a training evolution. Dan Megna Photo
Flight officer Dan Gallagher pre-flights the hoist hook prior to a training evolution. Dan Megna Photo

In hoist operations, for example, most crews favored a technique referred to as “static hoisting” as the basis for their missions. As O’Brien described it, “Static hoisting is bringing the helicopter into a hover over the site, then deploying the hoist hook to the ground. Then recover the hook before beginning any forward movement, departing the scene.”

However, the individual crews had the freedom to develop their own procedures and methods for communicating. CHP pilot and OAO helicopter maintenance officer Bryan Souza said, “We all operated about the same but perhaps the divisions spoke a different language, like we were not entirely on the same sheet of music.”

An outside perspective

About the time the H125s were coming on line, OAO began an assessment of existing policies relating to SAR operations. It was noted that while the organization had enjoyed many years of success and a remarkable safety record, it had never invited an independent audit from an outside provider to examine how it was doing business, especially with respect to hoist and external load operations.

OAO officials understood that, given the program’s years of success, the suggestion of an outside audit and training provider might be met with skepticism if not outright push-back. But they also understood the potential risks they would assume should they not pursue seeking a fresh perspective.

While the CHP crews maintain currency in conducting human external load missions, the Goodrich hoists installed aboard the new H125s are providing improved hoisting capabilities over the hoists installed on their legacy fleet of AS350 B3s. Dan Megna Photo
While the CHP crews maintain currency in conducting human external load missions, the Goodrich hoists installed aboard the new H125s are providing improved hoisting capabilities over the hoists installed on their legacy fleet of AS350 B3s. Dan Megna Photo

So after careful considerations of several independent SAR consultants and training providers, CHP chose Oregon-based Air Rescue Systems (ARS). According to CHP OAO chief flight officer Larry O’Brien, “In my search for a company to provide this training it was essential that whoever we bring on board understand our mission. After talking with several providers I felt most comfortable with Bob [Cockell] from ARS. I felt he really understood where we were and where we wanted to go with the program.”

A three-year program was developed, with ARS providing on-site training in seven-day blocks for small groups of senior training pilots and flight officers as a “train the trainer” model.

O’Brien recalled, “This was a big leap for us! We had some real strong personalities, ‘Doubting Thomases’ at the beginning, who were skeptical. We really had not had an outside agency look at our program and now we’re having somebody take a look at what we do and we’re opening a window to outsiders to see what’s going on. Quite frankly it made us feel a little vulnerable.”

ARS vice president Cockell and his trainers were keenly aware of the potentially sensitive nature of the situation. The CHP crews were seasoned SAR professionals with years of successful missions to their credit, often in extreme environments. ARS on the other hand was an unknown outsider to the CHP, and earning the crews’ acceptance wasn’t at all guaranteed.

CHP helicopter flight officers are all paramedics. When necessary, CHP can also pull flight officers from the fixed-wing program who are qualified to run the hoist. Dan Megna Photo
CHP helicopter flight officers are all paramedics. When necessary, CHP can also pull flight officers from the fixed-wing program who are qualified to run the hoist. Dan Megna Photo

Cockell said, “Look at their long history, they’ve been doing this for many years. So we knew [they] were going to have a lot of strengths going into the process. Just the experience, flight time, and their working environment is so varied, so I knew there would be a great capability that would surface. With this in mind, I toned the training toward that, to use what they have been doing and not just discard or disregard all their collective past knowledge. We needed to honor the proficiency and the legacy of the program they created.”

The ARS course utilizes a “crawl, walk, run” approach to teach indirect vertical reference (IVR), a method for precision hoisting that emphasizes dynamic, fluid aircraft movements and precision load control techniques.

Courses begin with two days of classroom instruction covering operations safety, risk management, crew resource management (CRM), “rotor-flow dynamics,” and the physical laws and constraints relating to hoisting and load control. An afternoon is then dedicated to aircraft rigging and equipment familiarization to include ARS’ innovative AStar Human Anchor Plate (HAP) and the new Goodrich hoists installed on the H125s.

The AStar HAP was designed by ARS along with the Utah Highway Patrol to provide much-needed additional anchor points inside the rear cabin of AStars configured with LifePort’s rear seat mounting rails. Meanwhile, the Goodrich hoist has performance enhancements over the CHP’s previous model and enhances mission capabilities. It has an increased load capacity allowing “two up” attended hoist rescues. Additionally, in the dynamic hoisting environment, the increased speed of the hoist aids in load control and ability for precision hook placement. It also means less time in an out-of-ground-effect (OGE) hover during the actual hoist operation.

CHP crews must be mindful of center-of-gravitity (CG) limits during rescue operations. According to CHP chief flight officer Larry O'Brien,
CHP crews must be mindful of center-of-gravitity (CG) limits during rescue operations. According to CHP chief flight officer Larry O’Brien, “When the hoist boom arm is in its deployed position, with a maximum static load, it puts us right at the edge of CG limitations. Now with a load on the line in a dynamic situation, the boom arm flexes, which translates the energy back into the aircraft. This movement can exceed the CG limits and begins to drive the aircraft.” Dan Megna Photo

The balance of the course instruction is conducted in the field. Each student is given the opportunity to perform literally dozens of hoist evolutions each day in progressively challenging real-world environments.

Tone, tempo, and timing

At the core of the IVR method is the communication that must exist between the flight officer/hoist operator and the pilot, and the ability to accurately express one’s needs, directions and information.

Most traditional hoisting techniques utilize rigid commands to direct single-path or “one-ended” movements of the aircraft. Flight officer Matt Calcutt said, “In our old way of communicating we would open and close a command before issuing another. For example, if the aircraft needed to go ‘forward and left’ the command would be given, ‘forward’ to a particular point and then a second command of ‘left.’ So the pilot would follow that ‘forward’ command: 5… 4… 3… 2… 1… stop. Then be given the ‘left’ command: 5… 4… 3… 2…1… stop. This creates a right angle.”

While the CHP's AStars are capable rescue platforms, they do have some limitations, one of which is a maximum allowable weight on the hoist of only 450 pounds (205 kilograms). Dan Megna Photo
While the CHP’s AStars are capable rescue platforms, they do have some limitations, one of which is a maximum allowable weight on the hoist of only 450 pounds (205 kilograms). Dan Megna Photo

The ARS method promotes “compound movements” like forward and left or down and right. Voice inflections are used to convey to the pilot such things rate of closure. Calcutt explained, “A command delivered such as ‘easy left’ lets the pilot know he has more ground to cover than if the flight officer uses an inflection to say, ‘eeaassy left’ which would convey a shorter, more precision movement of the aircraft. The whole goal is to have that pilot fly that aircraft as long as they can and then pass the control of the aircraft to the hoist operator who gives clear verbal commands to the pilot to precisely position the aircraft.”

“What we teach is a casual conversation that’s very fluid, based on the 3 Ts — tone, tempo, and timing — in our message,” said Cockell. “We use coordinated, compound progressive movements. So the aircraft is always moving efficiently. You’re either descending and moving right, maybe back, up and left… That’s the way you fly the aircraft, so why not hoist that way? It reduces the time you’re sitting there and it definitely reduces the amount of unwanted movement the load receives due to aircraft stair-stepping movements.”

Another critical element of the ARS method is cable hand input and thumb control of the hoist control’s pendant controlling the cable speed. This provides fine control of the load required for precision placements.

Calcutt said, “While the thumb control exercises may be viewed as baby steps in the beginning, they’re foundational in teaching a hoist operator the skills of finessing the hook, especially within close proximity to the ground, allowing the load to be placed very gently and with great precision.”

CHP flight officers practice transitions into and out of the helicopter during training evolutions. Dan Megna Photo
CHP flight officers practice transitions into and out of the helicopter during training evolutions. Dan Megna Photo

Compared to its old method of static hoisting, CHP has now embraced a dynamic hoisting technique. As O’Brien explained, “Our new technique of dynamic hoisting is deploying the hook prior to arrival and then having it arrive in hand as the helicopter holds overhead briefly. As soon as the load is off the ground and clear of obstacles, we transition to an easy forward and then once recovered to the aircraft, [are] cleared for forward flight.” O’Brien said the technique is faster and limits the amount of time the helicopter spends in a hover and in the “avoid” area of its height-velocity curve.

Presently, the CHP is operating a fleet of 15 helicopters including eight H125s. Of those, 12 are fully SAR capable. The other three aircraft operate out of the Metro Division in the Los Angeles Basin and are primarily used for law enforcement support. Two additional H125s are expected to join the fleet in the next two years. Budgets will dictate the timing of the remaining purchases to completely turn over the fleet.

In 2017, the 12 CHP SAR aircraft flew nearly 10,000 hours, conducting 471 SAR missions throughout the state. They conducted 351 Advanced Life Support (ALS) medical transports and performed 153 hoist rescues.

With the agency having recently completed its fourth course with ARS, the overwhelming response from CHP pilots and flight officers is clearly energized enthusiasm. O’Brien said, “The ARS training really opened our eyes and gave us a real understanding as to the dynamics involved in hoisting and learning thumb control of the cable. In the past if we developed an oscillation we’d just bring the load up to the helicopter real quick and get out of there. But now, understanding the dynamics of everything, we can now control the load and fix oscillations and bring a controlled load up to the helicopter.”

ARS instructor David Arias (left) looks on as officer Shaun Bouyea (on the hoist hook) and officer Brandon Hallam familiarize themselves with hoist hardware and procedures. Dan Megna Photo
ARS instructor David Arias (left) looks on as officer Shaun Bouyea (on the hoist hook) and officer Brandon Hallam familiarize themselves with hoist hardware and procedures. Dan Megna Photo

Souza said, “With the ARS training, we now know what we didn’t know. It wasn’t that we were doing anything wrong. But now we’ve just learned better ways of doing it. And by doing this it has increased our efficiency and has helped minimize some of the risks. And the ARS training will help us standardize the training program for hoist operations throughout the entire agency.”



Government seeks input on sustaining the future fighter

July 31, 2018  •  Leave a Comment

Government seeks input on sustaining the future fighter

Posted on  by Chris Thatcher


The federal government is asking the Canadian aerospace industry for input on sustaining a future fleet of fighter aircraft.

The government has committed to acquiring 88 advanced fighter jets to replace a legacy fleet of 30-year-old CF-188 Hornets (pictured). Mike Reyno Photo

On July 20, the government issued a letter of interest (LOI) in an effort to better understand “Canadian industrial capabilities” and to what extent companies could provide sustainment services not assigned to

Royal Canadian Air Force maintenance technicians, in concert with the eventual aircraft manufacturer.

Companies have until Aug. 17 to respond.

In-service support was identified as one of six Canadian key industrial capabilities (KICs) in a 2013 report prepared for the Conservative government on leveraging defence procurement to increase economic activity.

The Liberals have continued to promote KICs, especially sustainment and training systems, as a way to ensure small and medium-sized Canadian businesses are included in large multinational defence acquisition projects, from upgrading the CH-149 Cormorant helicopter fleet, to the new CC-295W fixed-wing search and rescue aircraft, to the future fighter capability project (FFCP).

“Sustainment is a significant area of focus providing many high value opportunities for Canadian firms, and Canada is seeking feedback to help finalize the overall sustainment approach for the FFCP,” according to the LOI.

Information gathered as part of the process will also be used to develop a framework to evaluate Industrial and Technological Benefits (ITBs) that must be included as part of an eventual bidder’s value proposition.

Under the ITB policy, the winning supplier must make investments in Canada equal to the value of the contract. The policy is intended to promote investment in Canadian industry, support research and development, and expand export opportunities.

“In line with these objectives, the sustainment of the future Canadian fighter fleet is a key area of opportunity that Canada is seeking to maximize,” the LOI stated.

The government has committed to acquiring 88 advanced fighter jets to replace a legacy fleet of 30-year-old CF-188 Hornets, the largest procurement project for the Royal Canadian Air Force in decades and potentially one of the largest sustainment contracts as well.

Following an invitation in January 2018 to join a suppliers list, five aircraft manufacturers and their national governments were selected to participate in the process: the Lockheed Martin F-35A Joint Strike Fighter and Boeing Super Hornet, both from the United States; the Dassault Aviation Rafale of France, with support from Thales and Safran Aircraft Engines; Sweden’s Saab JAS 39 Gripen; and the United Kingdom- and Northern Ireland-backed Eurofighter Typhoon.

The government said all five had “demonstrated their ability to meet Canada’s eligibility criteria,” and would be the only ones “invited to participate in subsequent formal engagement activities and to submit proposals in the competition.”

In the lead-up to the LOI, the government has hosted an industry day and regional consultations with Canadian companies to explain the process and gather feedback on the planned approach for industrial participation. Over 250 Canadian companies and 50 universities and research institutions attended the regional forums.

The LOI itself contains a list of notional areas of sustainment responsibility companies should be able to meet, broken into three phases: sustainment set-up, sustainment transition and sustainment steady state.

The LOI noted while in-service support would be awarded to the winning bidder, that manufacturer could, “in turn, contract some or all of this work to Canadian industry.”

“Depending on the winning supplier’s proposal, some or all of steady-state sustainment may be included in the contract(s)/arrangement(s) that Canada will sign as a result of the FFCP competition or it may be competed separately by Canada in the future,” the LOI added.

To assuage industry concerns about sufficient access to intellectual property to fully develop domestic sustainment capabilities, the government said it would aim to “acquire sufficient rights to intellectual property and access to technical data to ensure Canadian industry can conduct the work assigned to them.”


Q Duty

July 30, 2018  •  Leave a Comment

Q Duty

Posted on  by Chris Thatcher


What does it take to man the Q, more formally known to CF-188 Hornet pilots as the NORAD quick reaction alert? Lots of coffee.

A CF-188 pilot boards his aircraft during a scramble exercise at a forward operating location (FOL) in Inuvik, N.W.T. Cpl JF Lauze Photo

It is probably the most important mission of the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF), defending and deterring threats from Canadian sovereign airspace. Though much of how it is conducted is highly classified, pilots and support personnel from 401 Tactical Fighter Squadron (TFS) were willing to share a little about a typical day in the Q that involves copious amounts of coffee and most describe as the epitome of hurry up and wait.

The RCAF’s four fighter squadrons alternate the responsibility from various locations across Canada, including their main operating bases at 4 Wing Cold Lake, Alta., and 3 Wing Bagotville, Que., providing a round-the-clock, short-notice response to foreign military aircraft skirting the edge of North American airspace, civilian airliners not responding to air traffic control, and ships transiting into NORAD’s area of operations.

“It is exciting because you just don’t know what is going to happen. We carry this huge bag of publications for pretty much the whole of western Canada and the U.S. because often, we don’t know where we will be going,” said Capt Christopher Mileusnic, a former Royal Air Force fighter pilot now in his sixth year with 401 TFS. “Typically, when we’re scrambled we have an idea if we’re going north, south, east or west, but that’s pretty much it.”

A CF-188 practices intercept and escort procedures with a U.S. Air Force B-52H. USAF Tech Sgt Gregory Brook Photo

“There’s always a lot of mystery behind it because you don’t always train for the NORAD mission at 410 (Tactical Fighter Operational Training Squadron), and when you get to the Q, there is a lot of unknown,” added Capt Patrick Shaver, a recent arrival to the squadron.

That can mean a certain level of tension as crews wait for the alarm to send them into action. But in between those calls, each day or night shift involves coffee to remain alert and offers “a good place to catch up on studying and reading the volumes of manuals you need to know for NORAD duties and our various mission sets,” Shaver admitted.

NORAD’s long-standing role of early warning and air control since the binational partnership was formed in 1958 remains the primary mission. Though Canadian fighter pilots saw a pause following the end of the Cold War in 1992, Russia in 2007 resumed strategic long-range flights of Tupolev Tu-95/-142 four-engine turboprop bombers, better know as Bears, and various fighter jets along North American, Scandinavian and European airspace.

In response to the terrorist attack of Sept. 11, 2001, in which four airliners were hijacked and turned into weapons, NORAD turned inward, adopting another mission called Operation Noble Eagle to monitor and respond to aircraft posing a threat to either Canada or the U.S. And in 2006, NORAD added maritime warning, collaborating with other government agencies to identify ocean traffic transiting or entering NORAD’s area of operations.

The RCAF has both CC-130 Hercules and CC-150 Polaris air-to-air refuelling tankers to support the CF-188 Hornets on long flights over the Arctic Ocean, but much of the airborne tanking comes from U.S.-based aircraft on alert.

Exact numbers of sorties are considered classified. LCol Forrest Rock, commander of 401 TFS, said the tempo of operations “ebbs and flows” throughout the year, but “the frequency of operations has remained relatively constant.”

When missions do occur, however, they generate a jolt of adrenaline. Mileusnic has twice intercepted Bears over the Arctic and said that while the flying itself is relatively simple, “the potential for something to go wrong persists. Flying in the Arctic is hazardous. If you end up in the Arctic Ocean, which even at the warmest time of the year is frigid, your chances of survival are very low regardless of survival gear.”

Some pilots wait weeks or even months to encounter a Bear; Mileusnic made contact on his very first shift, a lengthy flight that involved several hours of flying over the Arctic without success, an overnight stay at a northern base, and finally an intercept of two Bears the next morning. His second came a few months later at two o’clock in the morning in poor weather conditions.

“It’s big,” he said of the Tupolev. “There is some strange turbulence that comes off those counter-rotating propellers.”

The objective of each encounter, which can last for over 45 minutes, is not confrontation but rather a show of capability.

“The intent is to be seen. They know each time they come they are going to get met by fully armed Hornets,” Mileusnic explained. “We issue various warnings, letting them know we know where they are, and that they are approaching our territory. In essence, we shadow them overtly, making sure they can see we are watching them.”

Though less frequent, Operation Noble Eagle, too, is a demonstration of the RCAF’s rapid response capability. “Anytime an airborne entity doesn’t respond to communications or deviates without cause from its flight plan, we adopt a heightened posture,” said Mileusnic. “It is normally completely innocent.”

For the squadron’s maintainers, being on quick reaction alert provides a greater sense of urgency. While technicians strive to keep the squad’s CF-188s flying every day, knowing what’s at stake while on Q duty provides a different sense of priority, 401 TFS maintainers told RCAF Today.

“The Q is our priority,” said Sgt Glen Jefferson, an air weapons specialist. “If we hear anything go wrong, anything breaks, immediately the sense of urgency in this building spools right up, and technicians bend over backwards to get that jet out the door. Everyone here knows the Q is a national priority and everyone feels that pressure to get it ready. No one wants to fail.”

Deployments like the Q and international operations help bring into focus the hours of maintenance and the search for parts to keep the Hornets performing, said Aviator Brett Carr, an aviation systems technician.

“The Q definitely adds more of a workload, but it does provide a significant sense of accomplishment because you know your efforts are important to national security.”

There’s also a feeling of reward when pilots intercept an aircraft bordering Canadian sovereign airspace. “The squadron did that. It wasn’t one person, it was all of us–supply/logistics, maintenance and the pilots [flying the mission]. We did our job,” said Jefferson.