SAAB/Gripen International JAS39A Gripen (Gryphon) 7 Wing, Swedish Air Force, 2000.

Airfix repackage Italeri's nicely detailed Gripen kit, albeit with less weaponry. Decals are quite good though, giving the (comparatively) colourful early scheme.

Sweden's commitment to neutrality is clearly evidenced by their determination to develop indigenous combat aircraft. The Gripen was the first of the current fighter generation to become operational and has established itself as the front running F-16 successor; in a joint venture with BAe, it has also achieved significant export success, with sales to South Africa, Hungary and the Czech republic. Thailand has also recently ordered 2 batches of Gripens as F-5 replacements.

Like its predecessor, the Gripen is designed to fly from austere facilites (e.g. roads and dispersed operating bases) and with minimal support, which makes it an ideal candidate for modern expeditionary warfare.

Although not widely publicised, the aircraft had significant British design input, particularly in wing design, that can be traced back to 1970s Hawker designs for advanced combat aircraft. Its radar system is also based on the SELEX (ex-Ferranti) Blue Vixen system, developed for the Sea Harrier and which also forms the basis of the Eurofighter CAPTOR radar. In Swedish Af service, Gripens are fitted with the advanced STRIL90 system, which provides a fully linked and integrated Ground-Air network environment, allowing co-operative use of sensors and weapons systems.

SAAB JAS39B Gripen (Gryphon), UK MoD Empire Test Pilot School, 2006.

Italeri's 2-seat Gripen is currently more difficult to find than the more common single seat kit. It shares most sprue parts with the single seater, but includes a different fuselage. The forward undercarriage doors also reflect the far more complicated set-up on the twin seater and there is a different aerial fit. Link to build page

Since 1999, leased Gripens have been used by the QinetiQ-operated UK MoD Empire Test Pilot School (ETPS) to train military test pilots and Flight Test Engineers on modern high perfomance aircraft, including students from the British Royal Air Force, the Royal Australian Air Force, the United States Navy and the French Air Force.

Although normally operating from SAAB's facility at Linkoping in Sweden, a specially marked ETPS Gripen is regularly seen at UK shows, and it was in this guise that it appeared at the 2006 Farnborough Air Show, complete with blue fin and spine, ETPS badge and QinetiQ titles on the forward fuselage. The blue trim and badge remain, but the QinetiQ titles apparently annoyed the Swedish Air Force and were quickly removed.

SAAB JAS39C Gripen (Gryphon), F7 Wing Swedish Air Force, Satenas, 2012.

The standard Italeri single-seat Gripen kit is intended to represent the JAS39A model, but as the two variants are effectively identical from the outside I have marked this one up as a C model, adding some spare Taurus and IRIS-T missiles from the Revell Typhoon kit. Link to  build page

The JAS39C variant of the Gripen adds a more powerful engine, air to air refuelling capability and improved NATO weapons compatability via a Mil-Std databus.

With a new colour glass cockpit, the JAS39C retains all the air to air capability of the JAS39A, but provides additional air to ground capabilities and new weapons systems including the KEPD350 Taurus cruise missile. Similar to the UK-French Storm Shadow / Apache missile, Taurus is larger and with a greater (<500km) range, onboard defensive counter measures and specialist anti-bunker warhead.

As well as new build aircraft, many existing JAS39A aircraft have now been converted to C standard. Gripens now also carry the latest IRIS-T short range air-to-air missile, a highly agile and full backward compatible Sidewinder replacement.

Friends & Allies - Part 3b - Other Friends & Allies

Friends & Allies Index RAF 1918-45 RAF 1945-80 RAF 1980 on US Aircraft NATO French Aircraft Civil Aviation

Folland Gnat F.1

HavLv 11/HamLsto Ilmavoimat (Finnish Air Force), Luonetjarvi, Finland 1971

Special Hobby have produced a superb little model of the single seat Gnat that is available in several sets of markings, including RAF, Indian Air Force, Yugoslavian and this Finnish example. Link to build page

SAAB J-29 Tunnan

F3 Wing, Malmen (Linkoping), Royal Swedish Air Force, 1963

I have always thought the barrel shaped Tunnan looked impressively pugnacious, so acquired this kit to add to my Gripens and Viggens. As is normal for Matchbox, the panel lines are very deep and detail rather crude, but buildability and fit are good. Link to build page

The Saab J-29 first flew in the early 1950s and continued in front-line service up until the 1970s. Based on WW2 German swept wing developments, the J-20, or Flygande Tunnan (flying barrel) was fast and agile, with power provided by a Swedish built variant of the DeHavilland Ghost turbojet. A total of 661 Tunnans were built, making it the largest production run of any Saab aircraft. In 1954 it briefly held the world air speed record with a verified 607 Mph over a 500km closed circuit course.

The Tunnan's early crash record was poor, due to the advanced and demanding nature of the jet engines and swept wings. As a result the Swedish Air Force purchased twin seat De Havilland Vampire T.11s to train their J-29 pilots.

Swedish Tunnans saw combat service in the Congo from 1961 to 1964, flying ground attack missions in support of the UN peacekeeping forces. The aircraft were rated very highly by those who saw them, with their performance and availability at least the match of any of the aircraft fielded by the major powers. The final F variant of the J-29 introduced an afterburning Ghost engine, plus a dogtooth wing to improve maneuverability and from 1963, the capability to carry AIM 9B Sidewinder air to air missiles on wing pylons.

Vertol 107 HKP-4, Royal Swedish Navy, 2008.

The Boeing Vertol 107 design was selected by the US Marines in early 1961 as the CH-46 Sea Knight assault helicopter and is expected to remain in service until 2014, when the last squadrons will have converted to the MV-22 Tilt Rotor aircraft.

In Swedish service, the aircraft is known as the HKP-4; as well as its normal assault and cargo role with the Swedish Air Force, Swedish Navy Vertols are used as Anti-Submarine helicopters, fitted with a radar dome on the rear ramp and capable of carrying depth-charges and homing torpedoes. 107 variants were also built under licence by Kawasaki in Japan.

SAAB AJ-37 Viggen. 2nd Prototype/development aircraft

As is often the case with kit manufacturers, in their rush to sell a Viggen kit, Airfix produced the prototype, which is very different from the later production versions. Although it looks the part, it is a rather crude kit, which doesn't fit together all that well.

"Viggen" is apparently a play on words - not only is it the mythical sound of Thor's hammer, but it is also a type of duck, most appropriate for a canard winged aircraft (although I have never personally seen a duck with wings at the front!).

Designed as a multi-role fighter, able to operate from Sweden's dispersed airfields (including sections of highway) its development represented an astonishing achievement for a single nation. One of the Viggen's roles was to patrol the Baltic sea, keeping track of NATO and Warsaw Pact aircraft and shipping and guarding Swedish neutrality.

DHC-6 Twin Otter.

Gruppo 5, Fuerza Aerea de Chile, El Tepual Military Air Base, Puerto Montt, Chile 2008

Revell re-released the old Matchbox DHC-6 kit a few years back as one of their limited edition "classic kits", with some typically superb modern decals for a short-nosed yellow Canadian Air-Force aircraft and for another rather unimaginative long-nosed yellow example belonging to Guernsey-based Aurigny Air Services. However, I fancied doing something a little different and more "military" for this long-nosed example.

Link to build page

The DHC-6 Twin Otter is a 20 passenger turboprop STOL aircraft that first flew in 1965. Developed from the highly successful single piston engined DHC Otter, the improved reliability and power of the Twin Otter assured its success in bush and rough field operations around the world with over 850 built to date.

De Havilland Canada (owned at the time by Boeing) ended production in 1988, but eighteen years later in 2006, Viking Air announced that it would restart production of a modernised and improved variant, with the first new aircraft receiving type certification and being successfully delivered in 2010.

The Chilean Air Force is the 4th oldest independent air arm in the world and took delivery of its first Twin Otters in 1967, operating them in widely varying conditions across their very long country, from the hot and high desert airstrips of the far north through the temperate central valleys to the snow covered strips of the south and on into the antarctic.

Douglas A-4G Skyhawk

805 Squadron / VF-805, Royal Australian Navy, HMAS MELBOURNE, Spithead, June 1977

Hasegawa, 1/72 with ModelDecal transfers. Link to build page

After re-forming with Seafires for the Pacific campaign, 805 Sqn finally disbanded in 1948, but was immediately resurrected as a Royal Australian Navy Squadron. Initially equipped with Sea Furies and embarked in the RAN's first aircraft carrier, HMAS SYDNEY, the squadron saw active service in Korea, before transitioning to the Sea Venom in 1958, embarked this time in HMAS MELBOURNE.

In 1968, 805 Sqn received its first A-4G Skyhawks, an aircraft it would retain until the end of RAN fixed-wing flying in 1982. Small enough to operate from the RAN's limited carrier deck space and offering increased operational compatibility with the USN, the A-4 packed a powerful punch for its size, costing less than half the price of an F-4, but capable of carrying a greater weapons load.

In 1977, HMAS MELBOURNE brought her A-4Gs to the Solent to participate in the HM The Queen's Spithead Silver Jubilee Fleet review.

Douglas A-4K Skyhawk

75 Squadron, Royal New Zealand Air Force, June 1969

FROG, 1/72. Link to build page

The RNZAF replaced their small force of Canberras with the Skyhawk in 1969.  With regular technological updates, including fitting of an F-16 type radar under project Kahu, these versatile and capable aircraft gave valuable service until 2001 when the NZ government decided to abandon their combat aircraft force.

British Aerospace AV-8S Matador

Esc 008 Armada Espaniola (Spanish Navy) 1976

ESCI, 1/72. Link to build page

The Spanish Navy was quick to grasp the potential of the Harrier at sea, deploying the AV-8S Matador from their WW2 era wooden decked carrier, SNS DEDALO long before the RN adopted the Sea Harrier.

British Aerospace Sea Harrier FRS.51

300 White Tigers Sqn, Indian Navy, INS VIKRANT 1983

Fujimi 1/72.

The Indian Navy was the only operator of the SHAR other than the RN.  From 1983 to 2016 their aircraft operated from the carriers INS VIKRANT and INS VIRAAT.

British Aerospace Sea Harrier FRS.51 LUSH

300 White Tigers Sqn, Indian Navy, INS VIRAAT 2016

Fujimi 1/72.

The Indian Navy was the only operator of the SHAR other than the RN.  From 1983 to 2016 their aircraft operated from the carriers INS VIKRANT and INS VIRAAT.  In 2007 a small numbe rof aircraft were given the Limited Upgrade Sea Harrer (LUSH), adding a modern pulse doppler radar, improved cockpit and the Rafale Derby BVR missile.  The Indian SHARs were finally retired in 2016.

#Gnat #Tunnan #Vertol #Gripen #Gryphon #Gryphon #Viggen #Otter #Skyhawk #Skyhawk2 #Matador #VIKRANT #LUSH #Ghost

Lviv State Aircraft Repair Plant - MiG-29 MU2 (updated Fulcrum C)

“The Ghost of Kyiv”, Ukrainian Air Force, 2022

ICM Special Issue (manufactured under war conditions) 1/72. (Link to build page)

At the start of the Russian attack on Ukraine in February 2022, Russian forces undertook a major assault on the Kyiv region. Despite overwhelming force and major damage, the attack was  fiercely repulsed by Ukrainian defenders.  

A key element of the Ukrainian response was the deployment of locally upgraded MiG-29 fighters in an air defence/air dominance role.  Word began to spread of a Ukrainian pilot who had scored remarkable successes against the Russians.  This unknown pilot quickly became known as “The Ghost of Kyiv”, with their exploits becoming a legendary morale booster for the Ukrainian Forces and Ukrainian population.

Whilst it is doubtful that the Ghost  is actually one single person, there is no doubt that the Ukrainian Forces have put up a remarkable defence against Russian aggression, at great ongoing cost to themselves.  Whether the Ghost of Kyiv is real or not,  they remain a potent symbol of Ukrainian resistance, both at home and around the world.

The MiG-29 is the backbone of the Povitryani Syly (PS, Ukrainian Air Force) fighter fleet . In recent years, locally modernised variants of the MiG-29, the MU1 and more extensively modernised MU2, have been produced by the Lviv State Aircraft Repair Plant  (LSARP) for Ukraine and for other former Soviet client states.  As well as total overhauls of older aircraft, improved radars, sat nav systems, engine monitoring and modern avionics , ICAO compliant radios and transponders have been fitted.  LSARP have also developed modern reliability-centred, condition-based maintenance routines to increase the lifespan and cost effectiveness of the aircraft.  

MU2 aircraft also have limited ground attack capabilities.


Moscow Helicopter Plant Mil Mi-17 (NATO Codename Hip-H)

Ukrainian Army Aviation, Azovstal Steelworks, Mariupol, March 2022

Hobby Boss 1/72 with own decals and scratch additions. (Link to build page)

The highly successful Mil Mi-17 helicopter is a development of the Soviet era Mi-8 troop carrier that first flew in 1961. The improved and up-engined Mi-17 followed in 1975, entering active service 5 years later, with over 12,000 built to date.  Designated by NATO as the "Hip-H" it remains in active service around the world, with new aircraft being ordered as recently as 2021.  In Russian service it is known as the Mil Mi-8MT, with the Mi-17 designation reserved for export aircraft.  

Ukraine is (or was) a major user of the Mi-17 with most operated by the Ukrainian Army Aviation, although a smaller number belong to the Ukrainian Air Force. After 5 months of Russian attacks, It is not clear how many Ukrainian Hips remain operational, although it is reported that many more are being supplied by friendly countries to replace losses.


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