Tag Archives: Royal Air Force

Muret Air show 2011

The Red Arrows are the UK Royal Air Force Aerobatic Team. They are one of the most famous acrobatics teams worldwide. They were formed in the ‘60s when several unofficial teams were united under the new official team of the RAF.

The Red Arrows were performing yesterday at Muret Air exhibition, just 12km away from Toulouse so I went there to spend the day with some colleagues from Airbus (which kindly sponsored the show providing fuel for the aircraft). The organization of the event left the Red Arrows for the end of the day. The team is composed of 9 pilots plus an extra one who acts as road manager and commentator during the show (animator I should say). They fly BAE Hawk airplanes and are about 33 years old on average.

The several figures in different formation patterns that they performed were impressive (Diamond, Apollo, Vixen, Heart, Palm tree, etc.). I must admit that this was the first exhibition I attended, as the only other time when I witnessed acrobatics was at the Red Bull Race in Budapest in the summer of 2007, when I was on holidays there with friends.

I took several pictures and videos of their performance, but somehow I didn’t manage to save most of the videos correctly, so I can only show below the pictures in the slide show below:

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There were another two teams performing: the French Air Force Cartouche Doré (flying 3 TB30 Epsilon, made by Socata, a filial of EADS) and the Breitling Jet Team. The latter is a civilian acrobatic team (the only one) based in France. They fly L-39 Albatros.

Apart from these teams, there were several other planes that were flying in the show: L-39 Albatros, Cap 232, ATR-42, Beech King Air 200, some Pipers (simulating a fight between a police airplane and another one), P40… but the only ones my smartphone saved correctly in videos were the flights of the A380 and the A400M (no kidding, I did over 20 videos and discovered only these 2 were stored in the memory), enjoy them:

It was a good experience, perfect for a sunny Saturday. I wanted to remark the importance of having a good commentator and music to enhance the show. In Muret the commentator was great (apparently he is famous in France and engaged in all air shows) but the music was not always the best, though when it was it really made you (seriously) think “I want to fly one of those”…

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Filed under Aerospace & Defence, France

Nimrod: endless development, never delivering

Aerospace and Defence programmes are formidable undertakings full of complex developments, new technologies, changing requirements that make them difficult to manage and keep in control. This is not new and lead Norman Augustine to write his famous “Augustine’s Laws” of which I already wrote a post in this blog.

Few months ago I was having lunch with my colleagues while we were discussing about some current defence programmes with sound cost overruns and delays. One of us challenged the rest with the question of what was the programme in the direst situation. Among the answers came the British Nimrod Maritime, Reconnaissance and Attack (MRA) Mk 4 aircraft programme.

The programme called for the upgrade of existing Mk 2 aircraft. The upgrade involves extensive (80%) reconstruction of the airframe, plus incorporation of many new components, including engines, wings, landing gear and general systems, as well as new flight deck and detection systems. The contract was awarded in January 1997. The original order was for 21 aircraft.

Nimrod modifications.

One of my colleagues jokingly said “that programme is just the perfection of the British A&D business model: charging money to the tax payers without delivering a single aircraft, being paid simply for developing”. We all laughed at the comment, sure.

In 2002 the contract was reduced to 18 aircraft. In 2004 the in-service fleet requirement was reduced to 12 aircraft, including the 3 prototypes. By 2008 BAE had only been contracted to for 9 aircraft in addition to the development contract. In 2009 the Defence Equipment Minister announced that it was not necessary to upgrade the 3 development aircraft.

When first ordered the programme had an estimated cost of 2 billion pounds; by 2006 the estimation was of ~3.8 billion pounds (+90%). When ordered the first delivery to the Royal Air Force (RAF) was scheduled for 2001, with the Initial Operational Capability (IOC) in 2003, on the delivery of the 7th aircraft.

BAE Nimrod.

Last week we could read in the British press that the air force chiefs to the Strategic Defence and Security Review had proposed to cancel the Nimrod programme in order save money under current budgetary pressures. The measure would “only” save now 200 million pounds, as most of the development and acquisition costs (~95%) have already been paid. The savings would come in the longer term, due to the saving of operation and support costs related to that fleet.

If this cancellation becomes effective, that would be consummation of that model: being paid (180% of initially estimated costs) for developing of a fleet of aircraft (along a period twice as long as initially expected) to end up not having to deliver those aircraft (not 21, not 18, not 12, not 9… not a single one).

Aside from this humorous note, that would be a very sad happening for BAE engineers, managers and technicians.


Filed under Aerospace & Defence