After a year-long delay, the Airbus Military A330MRTT has gained its “release to service” as a tanker in the UK, allowing the Royal Air Force (RAF) to start operational refueling. The service had been obliged to extend the service life of its aging VC10 and TriStar tankers in the meantime. The recent deployment of RAF Eurofighter Typhoons to Malaysia relied on Italian Air Force Boeing KC-767s to refuel the aircraft en route.
The Russian navy introduced the first of a planned eight Antonov An-140-100 twin turboprops at Ostafievo naval air station. This follows delivery of four similar aircraft to the Russian Air Force, three of which are based at Chkalovsky airbase. But it is still unclear whether the Russian ministry of defense will order the Ukrainian design in quantity.
Ilyushin and the Russian defense ministry have begun a joint flight-test and certification program for the Il-76MD-90A airlifter. The first flight in the program took place on March 18 at the Gromov Flight Test and Research Institute, in Zhukovsky, using the prototype (RA-78650) that first flew from the Aviastar manufacturing facility in Ulyanovsk in September last year.
With delivery of the first A400M airlifters nearing, Airbus Military has concluded an initial support deal with the French air force and a long-term training contract with the UK Royal Air Force (RAF). Meanwhile, Airbus Military is equipping its international training center in Seville with A400M computer-based trainers and a full-motion simulator.
The first large military airlifter developed by China made its maiden flight on January 26. The Y-20 prototype, seen previously upon rollout, was airborne for about one hour before returning to the Yanliang air base in Xian, amid the cheers of a flag-waving crowd. The test flight was called a key step toward building China’s strategic force. Judging from the prototype’s serial number–20001–at least 100 Y-20s could be produced.
China has ordered 10 used Il-76s from Russia’s arms vendor Rosoboronexport as an interim measure to enlarge its fleet of the heavy airlifters, before the redeveloped Il-476 version becomes available. Sergei Kornev, head of Rosoboronexport’s aviation equipment department, told AIN that his company has already found seven suitable airframes on the secondary market. They are being overhauled before delivery to the PLA Air Force. Rosoboronexport is still sourcing the other three aircraft, which could come from non-Russian fleets.
Airbus Military says it hopes to resume, in November, the remaining 140 hours of function and reliability flight-testing that is required before its A400M airlifter can be granted a full type certificate. The flights with MSN6, the first production-representative aircraft, were suspended in July because of the repeated detection of metallic chips in the oil system of one of the TP400 engines.
The Russian defense ministry has extended its commitment to the Antonov An-140 twin turboprop to a total of 11 units, following acceptance of two such aircraft earlier this year. In the meantime, Russia and Ukraine are negotiating on setting up a final assembly line of the An-72 light tactical twinjet at the MoD’s 308th Aircraft Repair Plant in Ivanovo, which has been long doing repair and maintenance on the type. Formal government-level agreement on the matter is expected later this year.
AIN’s team of editors and reporters provided full coverage of the Farnborough International airshow this week. All the stories can be found online.
Airbus Military will supply a Thales full-flight simulator (FFS) for the A400M Atlas airlifter to the UK Royal Air Force in spring 2014, ahead of the aircraft’s entry into RAF service in late 2014. A joint venture between Airbus Military and Thales will maintain the FFS, which will be located at RAF Brize Norton, where all 22 UK Atlas aircraft will be based.