Every so often, a piece of technology comes along that is “just right” by so many that everyone has to have it and it becomes ubiquitous and matures in degrees of longevity and utility far in excess of what its designers ever could have imagined.
In the case of modern fighter aircraft, the F-16 Fighting Falcon certainly falls into that category.
August 17 of 1978 marked the entry of the F-16 into U.S. Air Force service. Four decades later, the design is still going strong and in service with no fewer than 25 nations and is still securing new customers on both first and second hand markets.
With over 4,500 produced to date across no less than 25 sub-variants, the F-16 has matured well past the simple light fighter specification it was initially designed to meet into a true multi-role aircraft that has met with wide popularity with both air and ground crews in the nations that it serves.
It’s also a very popular staple performer at airshows worldwide and quite possibly one of the most easily recognisable modern fighter jets to the public eye because of that.
As it stands right now, a number of the F-16’s initial user nations are in the process of preparing to replace some or all of their F-16 fleets with the F-35.
However, the coming of the F-35 is far from the end of the F-16. In 2016, Romania started taking delivery of second hand F-16s bought from Portugal. In March of 2018, Croatia announced they would be buying second hand aircraft from Israel. In July of 2018, Slovakia confirmed they would be buying a fleet of factory fresh aircraft of the latest F-16V version.
The F-16 looks set to stay in service in high numbers for a long while yet.
It’s been a while since I participated in any of the photo challenge type activities that some other bloggers run, so I decided to contribute to one today to take a break from a longer post I’m working on.
This is for “Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge”, run by Cee Neuner. Her challenge this week included airplanes as one of the possible themes and I can certainly contribute to that . 🙂
This is a shot I took of a Ryanair Boeing 737 just after landing at Brno’s Tuřany airport at the end of August, 2017. With the late afternoon sun just right in the sky outside the frame and the airport’s radar on the hill in the background, everything just came together quite nicely in the picture.
If you’d like to see what others are contributing to the photo challenge, follow this link:
1918-2018: From the First Republic to the Czech Republic
As I’m based in the Czech Republic and 2018 marks the centennial of the founding of the First Czechoslovak Republic, I would be remiss if I did not take a bit of time to reflect on that occaision and mark some notable anniversaries that are relevant to the aviation history the Czech lands.
For manageability, I will be going by ten year increments from 1918:
October 28, 1918:
The independent and democratic state of Czechoslovakia is established and recognised by the rest of the world.
October 30, 1918:
The Czechoslovak army air corp (Letecký sbor), the ancestral organisation of the Czech air force, is established.
December 1, 1918:
Kbely airport in Prague is opened. Kbely served as a civil airport until the 1930s; today it is a military airport and home to the largest air museum in the country.
1918 also saw the birth of the Czech aviation industry as it was the year the Letov aircraft company was established.
September 28, 1938:
First flight of the Avia B.35 fighter prototype. The B.35 was an elegant monoplane fighter design made largely of laminated wood structures that was intended to replace the Avia B.534 biplane fighter in Czechoslovak air force service.
Unfortunately, the Second World War and German occupation of Czechoslovakia put an end to the B.35 before it could be developed much further.
July 8, 1948:
The first flight of the Soviet designed Ilyushin Il-28 jet bomber takes place. Over 100 of the type across three variants were license built in Czechoslovakia by the Avia company.
The type served in the Czechoslovak air force from 1954 to 1973.
October 4, 1968
The Tupolev Tu-154 airliner flies for the first time.
The Tu-154 served the Czech air force from 1998 to 2007 primarily as a VIP transport.
November 4, 1968
The first flight of the Aero L-39 Albatros jet trainer.
The L-39 is Aero’s highly successful follow on to their L-29 Delfín trainer. The design is 50 years old and shows no signs of slowing down.
November 8, 1978
The first flight of the Canadair CL-601 Challenger business jet. The Challenger has been serving the Czech air force’s smaller VIP transport needs since 1992.
December 9, 1988
Saab’s JAS 39 Gripen fighter flies for the first time. The Gripen has served as the Czech air force’s air defence fighter since 2005.
December 28, 1988
The first flight of the Let L-610, the ill fated successor to Let’s very popular L-410 Turbolet. Thankfully, some L-610s are preserved and can be viewed in Czech air museums today.
Very recently, events have allowed me to give much needed updates to two long standing pages on this blog:
Koněšín Air Museum
I am extremely happy to be able to finally update this museum’s page. When I first covered it, it was still in its former location in the eastern city of Olomouc and quite easy to visit. However, after being forced to leave that location and not open to the public for the 2015 season, they eventually found a new but much less accessible location near the small town of Koněšín and have been there since 2016.
Largely due to my own schedule and the museum’s schedule not working well together, it has taken until July of 2018 for me to get out there and see it in its current state.
I came away with enough information and photos to give a good update to the page and I sent an email to the museum asking a few additional questions about plans for it.
Here is a link to the updated page. If the museum responds to my email, it may get more updating:
My recent trip to Koněšín, as well as the “Military Day” event at Kunovice and the temporary display of Czech aircraft in Brno’s main square have given me the chance to update some of the photos in my page about the Let L-610.
None of the text has changed, but it’s good to have some fresh pictures:
June 30 of 2018 saw me pay a visit to the Military Day event at Kunovice airport in the south east of the Czech Republic.
The event is an open day hosted by the Kunovice air museum and the Slovácky Aeroklub. It includes historical reenactment groups with WWII uniforms, vehicles and gear as well as dynamic demonstrations by modern police, military and airport fire brigade units.
The 2018 event was bigger than the 2017 event and very well attended. Here’s a taster of what was to be seen from the aviation standpoint:
With it’s long nose, triple fin tail and substantial size for a single engine aircraft; the F+W C-3605 Schlepp (Tug) is a distinctive and imposing presence wherever it makes an appearance. Its shape turns heads while its unusual origins and rarity generate many questions from those not familiar with the type.
All those design features that make the C-3605 an eye catching, if ungainly, sight on the ground belie a machine of impressive agility and performance in the air.
The C-3605 was the final version of the C-36, a pre Second World War design for a multi-purpose combat aircraft by the Swiss state owned Federal Construction Works (EKW).
The piston engined EKW C-3603 version entered Swiss military service in 1942 and was used alongside Swiss license built versions of the Morane-Saulnier M.S. 406 fighter to defend the neutrality of Swiss airspace suring the Second World War.
Through the 1940 to 1943 period, the aviation arm of EKW was moved from Thun to Emmen and renamed Federal Aviation Works (F+W).
Today the F+W legacy is in the hands of the RUAG Group.
The Life of the “Anteater”
In the late 1940s, after being replaced in their combat capacity by the DeHavilland Vampire, a number of C-3603 aircraft were converted to target tug configuration by F+W. The converted aircraft were redesignated C-3603-1.
In the mid 1960s, with the WWII era Hispano-Suiza piston engines that powered the C-3603-1 reaching the end of their usable lives, studies were carried out on how best to maintain the target tug role in the Swiss air force.
By the late 1960s, it was determined that the airframes of the C-3603-1 fleet had at least another ten years of usable life in them and that the most cost effective solution would be to re-engine them so that they could carry on the target tug duties themselves.
The decision was made to convert a number of C-3603-1 aircraft to turboprop power via the American made Lycoming T53 engine. The conversion process would be overseen by F+W’s chief engineer, Jean Pierre Weibel (1934-2013), and the first converted prototype took to the air for the first time in August of 1968.
The most prominent aspect of the conversion was the nearly two metre nose extension that led to the new variant, designated C-3605, to be given the nickname “Alpine Anteater”. The extension was required in order to maintain the aircraft’s centre of gravity; as the new Lycoming engine was lighter than the old Hispano-Suiza engine by an order of nearly 160 kilograms, physics demanded that it be placed in a position much further forward than the old engine to maintain the aircraft’s balance and stability.
Flight testing revealed that a third vetical tail fin would give the C-3605 improved stability over the two vertical fins of earlier variants in the C-36 family.
With the new nose, third tail fin and a number of cockpit modifications, the C-3605 entered Swiss military service in 1971. A total of 23 aircraft were converted to the C-3605 standard between 1971 and 1973 including two as dual control flight trainers.
The aircraft did very well for itself in military service, staying on charge much longer than the ten years projected for the airframes in the late 1960s when the conversion was ordered. Ultimately, the C-3605 served until 1987 when it was replaced by a target tug variation of the Pilatus PC-9. After retirement, the bulk of the C-3605 fleet was auctioned off in late 1987.
In military service, the C-3605 was appreciated for its good handling qualities, stability, agility and a wide range of speeds that allowed it to operate effectively from speeds lower than 150 kph to speeds exceeding 550 kph.
The “Anteater” Today
Given that only around two dozen aircraft were converted to C-3605 status, the machine has done reasonably well for itself in retirement.
A number are known to be preserved in American, German and Swiss museums.
The peculiar appearance and impressive performance qualities that made it popular in military service have followed it into retirement and ensured that enough interest exists to keep the C-3605 flying.
As of 2018, the world knows two airworthy examples of the type. Both fly on the Swiss civil register and make appearances at European airshows.
According to some references, some examples of the type currently in museums could be made airworthy again. As such, time will tell if the world will see more of the “Anteater” in the sky in the future.
This link will take you to the “Warbirds” page of the website of 46 Aviation, the operator of an airworthy C-3605. Here you’ll find some information on their C-3605: https://www.46aviation.com/warbirds/
This link will take you to the C-3605 page of Yak UK, a British organization which used to keep a C-3605 airworthy on the British civil register. While their “Anteater” has not flown in some time, there is still a good amount of information on the type there: https://www.yakuk.com/aircraft/c3603-c3605/
2018 marks the centenary of the founding of the old Czechoslovakia and several celebrations are going on across the Czech Republic and Slovakia through the year to mark the event.
Yesterday, on Brno’s Svobody square, a small group of Czech aircraft were put on temporary display along with other items showing Czech accomplishments in aerospace. This is to mark the 100th anniversary of Czech aviation, which also happens to be in 2018.