Tag Archives: jet

Military Aircraft: South African Atlas Impala (Macchi MB-326) Military Aircraft 13 MAY 2015

My introduction to the Impala as a boy growing up in the 80’s was of course through promotional images of the Silver Falcons proudly flying these distinctive jet airplanes throughout the country. In other words, it is about time I featured the Impala on this site then!

south african airforce SAAF Atlas Impala Mk II

Introduced in 1962, the Aermacchi or Macchi MB-326 is a light military jet aircraft designed in Italy. Originally conceived as a two-seat trainer, there have also been single and two-seat light attack versions produced. It is one of the most commercially successful aircraft of its type, being bought by more than 10 countries and produced under licence in Australia, Brazil and South Africa. It set many category records, including an altitude record of 56,807 ft (17,315 m) on 18 March 1966. More than 600 were built.

Macchi MB-326 atlas impala jet fighter plane 2

South Africa obtained a license to produce the MB-326M (similar to the ‘G’ model), as the Impala Mk I in 1964 with production starting in 1966. It received 40 Italian-built aircraft followed by about 125 built locally by the Atlas Aircraft Corporation, using them both as trainers and in an armed configuration. Seven examples of the MB-326K were also bought as light attack aircraft, with a further 15 assembled from kits, while around 78 were license-produced and known as the Impala Mk II. Licence production of the single seat version began in 1974. The Impala Mk II, locally manufactured and equipped with French armament, was also advanced with a South African ECM suite.

Macchi MB-326 atlas impala jet fighter plane 3

The South African Defence Force employed Impalas during campaigns against the Armed Forces for the Liberation of Angola (FAPLA) and Cuban expeditionary troops in Angola between 1975 and 1989. Impala pilots typically flew at 550–650 km/h at a height of 15 m to avoid Angolan air defences. Over the course of the South African Border War, one was downed by an SA-7; another returned with an unexploded missile in its exhaust.

Macchi MB-326 atlas impala jet fighter plane 4

The aircraft had many advantages over expensive supersonic jets. Although slower, it could operate take off from relatively primitive airfields and strike swiftly. The South African Air Force (SAAF) used up to 6 x 120 kg or 4 x 250 kg bombs. The main armament consisted of 68 mm SNEB rocket-launchers (four x 6 or two x 18), and two 30 mm autocannon (with 300 rounds). These cannons were the real bonus for the Impala Mk II, helping to give a superior performance compared to earlier two-seat versions. The latter could also carry a pair of 30 mm DEFA guns in under-wing pods. However, dual capability as trainer-attackers was better appreciated, as was the availability of six hard points and so dual-seat versions were far more common. Six squadrons were equipped with the Impala Mk II in the SAAF during the 1970s and 1980s. Prior to Operation Moduler, most Impalas were withdrawn from their operating bases in South-West Africa, leaving the work to Mirage IIIs and Blackburn Buccaneers.

Macchi MB-326 atlas impala jet fighter plane 5

Impala Mk IIs were also opportunistically used as interceptors. In several encounters in 1985 with Mi-8 and Mi-24 helicopters, they shot down a total of six. This happened during a crucial phase of the ground war, when Angolan and Cuban troops were checked in an offensive against UNITA bases. This ended in disaster for the Angolan/Cuban alliance when their supplies were cut off by UNITA and the SAAF and front line troops ran out of ammunition. Helicopters were being used to supply the besieged troops and the SAAF cut off this link. Two Mi-24s were shot down in the first encounter while escorting Mi-17s. The MiG-21s that escorted them flew too high to react in time. Two days later the Impala Mk IIs struck again, downing two Mi-24s and two Mi-17s. Attacks on unsuspecting helicopters were carried out with only two guns per aircraft. The single seat Impala Mk IIs were also sometimes armed with Matra R550 Magic air-to-air missiles for self-defense. The Impala Mk II operated at extreme ranges and had to fly very low, climbing only when helicopters were seen at medium altitude. After each attack they returned to low level to avoid interception by enemy MiGs.

And as I started this whole passage off, the Silver Falcons, the SAAF aerobatic team, were of course equipped with Impala Mk Is for a long period of time as well.

Macchi MB-326 atlas impala jet fighter plane 6 silver falcons aerobatic team impala

Related Link: Wikipedia | SAAF

Military Aircraft: British de Havilland DH.115 Vampire Military Aircraft 21 APR 2015

The de Havilland DH.100 Vampire was a British jet fighter developed and manufactured by de Havilland. Having been developed during the Second World War to harness the newly developed jet engine, the Vampire entered service with the Royal Air Force (RAF) in 1945. It was the second jet fighter, after the Gloster Meteor, operated by the RAF and its first to be powered by a single jet engine.

south african airforce saaf de havilland dh.115 vampire trainer jet aircraft 1

The RAF used the Vampire as a front line fighter until 1953 before it assumed secondary roles such as pilot training. It was retired by the RAF in 1966, replaced by the Hawker Hunter and Gloster Javelin. It achieved several aviation firsts and records, including being the first jet aircraft to cross the Atlantic Ocean. The Vampire had many export sales and was operated by various air forces. It participated in subsequent conflicts such as the 1948 Arab–Israeli War, the Malayan emergency and the Rhodesian Bush War.

south african airforce saaf de havilland dh.115 vampire trainer jet aircraft 2

Almost 3,300 Vampires were manufactured, a quarter of them built under licence in other countries. The Royal Navy’s first jet fighter was the Sea Vampire, a navalised variant which was operated from its aircraft carriers. The Vampire was developed into the DH.115 dual-seat trainer and the more advanced DH.112 Venom ground-attack and night fighter.

south african airforce saaf de havilland dh.115 vampire trainer jet aircraft 3

The South African Airforce (SAAF) operated the DH.115 Vampire as primarily a trainer, with a period of service stretching from 1953 to 1978.

south african airforce saaf de havilland dh.115 vampire trainer jet aircraft 4

south african airforce saaf de havilland dh.115 vampire trainer jet aircraft 5

Related Link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/De_Havilland_Vampire | SAAF

Military Aircraft: Swedish Saab JAS 39 Gripen (1997) Military Aircraft 01 JAN 2014

The Saab JAS 39 Gripen (Griffin) is a lightweight single-engine multi-role fighter jet manufactured by the Swedish aerospace company Saab. It was designed to replace the Saab 35 Draken and 37 Viggen in the Swedish Air Force (Flygvapnet). The Gripen has a delta wing and canard configuration with relaxed stability design and fly-by-wire technology. It is powered by the Volvo-Flygmotor RM12 engine, a derivative of the General Electric F404, and has a top speed of Mach 2. Later aircraft are equipped for in-flight refuelling; most of the export aircraft have been designed to be compatible with NATO interoperability standards.

A further development of the Gripen, often referred to as Gripen NG or Super Gripen, is in development as of 2013. Amongst the changes includes the adoption of a new powerplant, the General Electric F414G, an active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar, and significantly increased onboard fuel capacity. Other derivatives, including a navalised Sea Gripen for carrier operations and an optionally-manned aircraft capable of unmanned operations, have also been proposed by Saab.

This particular shot captures one of the South African Air Force’s recently purchased Gripen Jets flying above the Union Buildings, Pretoria.

Saab JAS 39 Gripen fighter jet flying over Union Buildings in Pretoria South Africa

Related Link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saab_JAS_39_Gripen

Military Aircraft: American McDonnell Douglas F-15 Eagle (1976) Military Aircraft 09 NOV 2013

The McDonnell Douglas (now Boeing) F-15 Eagle is a twin-engine, all-weather tactical fighter designed by McDonnell Douglas to gain and maintain air superiority in aerial combat. It is considered among the most successful modern fighters, with over 100 aerial combat victories with no losses in dogfights.

Following reviews of proposals, the United States Air Force selected McDonnell Douglas’ design in 1967 to meet the service’s need for a dedicated air superiority fighter. The Eagle first flew in July 1972, and entered service in 1976. Since the 1970s, the Eagle has been exported to Israel, Japan, Saudi Arabia, and other nations. The F-15 was originally envisioned as a pure air superiority aircraft. Its design included a secondary ground-attack capability that was largely unused.

The design proved flexible enough that an all-weather strike derivative, the F-15E Strike Eagle, was later developed, and entered service in 1989.

american McDonnell Douglas F-15 Eagle

Related Link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/McDonnell_Douglas_F-15_Eagle

Military Aircraft: American Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor (2005) Military Aircraft 30 JUL 2013

The Lockheed Martin/Boeing F-22 Raptor is a single-seat, twin-engine fifth-generation super-maneuverable fighter aircraft that uses stealth technology. It was designed primarily as an air superiority fighter, but has additional capabilities that include ground attack, electronic warfare, and signals intelligence roles.

Lockheed Martin Aeronautics is the prime contractor and is responsible for the majority of the airframe, weapon systems and final assembly of the F-22. Program partner Boeing Defense, Space & Security provides the wings, aft fuselage, avionics integration, and training systems.

The aircraft was variously designated F-22 and F/A-22 during the years prior to formally entering USAF service in December 2005 as the F-22A. Despite a protracted and costly development period, the United States Air Force considers the F-22 a critical component of U.S. tactical air power, and claims that the aircraft is unmatched by any known or projected fighter

american Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor flying over snowy mountains

Related Link: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lockheed_Martin_F-22_Raptor