Lockheed P-49



Bearing a close resemblance to the P-38, the P-49 was a high-performance warplane with good fighting qualities. The requirement for this long-range aircraft never materialised as the P-51D proved a superior escort fighter when fitted with drop tanks.

The Lockheed XP-49, its designation seemingly out of sequence in that it was a conception of pre-war years, was designed in 1939 with the ambitious goal of attaining 473mph (761.2km/h) in level flight at 15,000ft 14572m). The XP-49 would have been a veritable flying arsenal in its day as it was to be armed with two 20-mm cannon and four 0.5-in (12.7-mm) machine-guns. It was rigorously and exhaustively tested at Burbank, California, and Wright Field, Ohio, and the XP-49 was denied production status because of an engine substitution and the appearance of the Thunderbolt and Mustang.

The XP-49 was an outgrowth of the P-38 Lightning but in most respects was an entirely new design by the Lockheed-Burbank fighter team under H. L. Hibbard and Clarence (Kelly) Johnson. Ordered by the US Army on 3 August 1939 to meet a twin-engine fighter requirement (which also produced the Grumman XP-50) the sole XP-49 140-3055) was expected to attain unprecedented performance by mating the Lightning’s familiar twin-boom layout with two 2,300-hp (1715.1-kW) Pratt & Whitney X-1800 24-cylinder inline engines.

When plans to develop the powerplant proved too ambitious, twin 1,350-hp (1006.7-kW) Continental XIV-1430-1 engines had to be substituted, reducing speed to a still impressive 458mph (737.1km/h), although this was reached because the test ship lacked the added weight of protective armour which would have been fitted on a production variant. “We still felt we had a winner, says a Lockheed engineer. ”We had a roomy, pressurised cabin, good handling characteristics and, eventually, good maneuverability.” US Army planners saw the XP-49 as a possible ‘convoy fighter’ able to escort bombers on deep penetration raids. It might have been accorded higher priority had England been lost as a base from which to mount the air assault on the Third Reich.

The XP-49 first flew 11 November 1942 at Burbank, apparently with Milo Burcham at the controls. When it became necessary to increase the vertical fin area to improve yaw characteristics, the result was an unusual set of markings: Army directives called for 13 alternating red and white horizontal stripes on the rudder, symbolic of the original 13 American colonies. When the tail was heightened, painters simply added non-regulation extra stripes.

At Burbank, the XP-49 survived a crash-landing caused by hydraulic failure, was repaired, and was ferried to Wright Field, Ohio, on 25 June 1943. Though it was a clear improvement over the P-38, able to “fly rings around the Lightning” in the words of one pilot, minor but troublesome fuel leakage problems led to XP-49 tests being discontinued and the airframe being scrapped, just when Mustangs with long-range drop tanks were appearing over Berlin. The ‘convoy fighter’ concept was studied later with the Lockheed XP-58 but never produced an operational aircraft.

Specifications (XP-49)

General characteristics

Crew: One

Length: 40 ft 1 in (12.2 m)

Wingspan: 52 ft (15.8 m)

Height: 9 ft 10 in (3.0 m)

Wing area: 327.5 ft² (30 m²)

Empty weight: 15,410 lb (6990 kg)

Loaded weight: 18,750 lb (8505 kg)

Powerplant: 2 × Continental XI-1430-1 inverted V-12s, 1,600 hp (1,193 kW) each


Maximum speed: 406 mph (653 km/h) 15,000 ft (4,570 m)

Range: 679 mi (1,093 km)

Rate of climb: 3,300 ft/min (16.8 m/s)


2 × 20 mm (.79 in) cannons

4 × 0.5 in (12.7 mm) machine guns

Wellington Bomber in Service




On 15 August 1936, however, the Air Ministry had placed an order for 180 Wellington Mk Is to Specification B. 29/36. These were required to have a redesigned and slightly more angular fuselage, a revised tail unit, and hydraulically operated Vickers nose, ventral and tail turrets. The first production Wellington Mk I was flown on 23 December 1937, powered by Pegasus X engines. In April 1938, however, the 1,050-hp (783-kW) Pegasus XVIII became standard for the other 3,052 Mk Is of all variants built at Weybridge, or at the Blackpool and Chester factories which were established to keep pace with orders.

Initial Mk Is totalled 181, of which three were built at Chester. These were followed by 187 Mk lAs with Nash and Thompson turrets and strengthened landing gear with larger main wheels. Except for 17 Chester-built aircraft, all were manufactured at Weybridge. The most numerous of the Mk I variants was the Mk IC, which had Vickers ‘K’ or Browning machine-guns in beam positions (these replacing the ventral turret I, improved hydraulics, and a strengthened bomb bay beam to allow a 4,000-lb (1814-kg) bomb to be carried. Of this version 2,685 were built (1,052 at Weybridge, 50 at Blackpool and 1,583 at Chester), 138 of them being delivered as torpedo-bombers after successful trials at the Torpedo Development Unit, Gosport.

Many of the improvements incorporated in the Mks IA and IC were developed for the Mk II, powered by 1,145-hp (854-kW) Rolls-Royce Merlin X engines as an insurance against Pegasus supply problems. The prototype was a conversion of the 38th Mk I, and this made its first flight on 3 March 1939 at Brooklands. Although range was reduced slightly, the Wellington II offered improvements in speed, service ceiling and maximum weight, the last rising from the 24,850 lb (11272 kg) of the basic Mk I to 33,000 lb (14969 kg). Weybridge built 401 of this version.

With the Wellington III a switch was made to Bristol Hercules engines, the prototype being the 39th Mk I airframe with Hercules HEISMs, two stage superchargers and de Havilland propellers. After initial problems with this installation, a Mk IC was converted to take two 1,425-hp (1063-kW) Hercules III engines driving Rotol propellers. Production Mk IIIs had 1,590-hp (1186-kW) Hercules XIs, and later aircraft were fitted with four-gun FN.20A tail turrets, doubling the fire power of the installation in earlier marks. Two were completed at Weybridge, 780 at Blackpool and 737 at Chester.

The availability of a number of 1,050-hp (783-kW) Pratt & Whitney Twin Wasp R-1830-S3C4-G engines, ordered by but not delivered to France, led to development of the Wellington IV. The prototype was one of 220 Mk IVs built at Chester, but on its delivery flight to Weybridge carburettor icing caused both engines to fail on the approach to Brooklands, and the aircraft made a forced landing at Addlestone. The original Hamilton Standard propellers proved very noisy and were replaced by Curtiss propellers.

For high-altitude bombing Vickers was asked to investigate the provision of a pressure cabin in the Wellington: the resulting Mk V was powered by two turbocharged Hercules VIII engines. Service ceiling was increased from the 23,500 ft (7165 m) of the Mk II to 36,800 ft (11215 m). The cylindrical pressure chamber had a porthole in the lower nose position for the bomb-aimer, and the pilot’s head projected into a small pressurised dome which, although offset to port, provided little forward or downward view for landing. Two prototypes were built in Vickers’ experimental shop at Foxwarren, Cobham, to Specification B. 23/39 and one production machine, to B. 17/40, was produced at the company’s extension factory at Smith’s Lawn, Windsor Great Park.

The Wellington VI was a parallel development, with 1,600-hp (1193-kW) Merlin 60 engines and a service ceiling of 38,500 ft (11735 m), although the prototype had achieved 40,000 ft (12190 m). Wellington VI production totalled 63, including 18 re-engined Mk Vs, all assembled at Smith’s Lawn. Each had a remotely controlled FN.20A tail turret, and this was locked in position when the aircraft was at altitude.

Intended originally as an improved Mk II with Merlin XX engines, the Wellington VII was built only as a prototype, and was transferred to Rolls-Royce at Hucknall for development flying of the Merlin 60s.

First Wellington variant to be developed specifically for Coastal Command was the GR. VIII, a general reconnaissance/torpedo-bomber version of the Pegasus XVIII-engined Mk IC. Equipped with ASV (Air to Surface Vessel) Mk II radar, it was identified readily by the four dorsal antennae and the four pairs of transmitting aerials on each side of the fuselage. A total of 271 torpedo-bombers for daylight operation was built at Weybridge, together with 65 day bombers, and 58 equipped for night operation with a Leigh searchlight in the ventral turret position. In these last aircraft the nose armament was deleted and the position occupied by the light operator.

The designation Mk IX was allocated to a single troop-carrying conversion of a Wellington lA, but the Mk X was the last of the bomber variants and the most numerous. It was based on the Mk III, but had the more powerful 1,675-hp (1249-kW) Hercules VI or XVI engine with downdraught carburettor, and was identified externally from earlier marks by the long carburettor intake on top of the engine cowling. Internal structural strengthening, achieved by the use of newly-developed light alloys, allowed maximum take-off weight to raise to 36,000 lb (16 329 kg). Production was shared between Blackpool and Chester, with totals of 1,369 and 2,434 respectively. After withdrawal from first-line service with Bomber Command, Mk Xs were among many Wellingtons flown by Operational Training Units. After the war a number were converted by Boulton Paul Aircraft as T.10 crew trainers, with the nose turret faired over.

Making use of the experience gained with the Wellington VIII torpedo-bombers, the GR. XI was developed from the Mk X, using the same Hercules VI or XVI engines. It was equipped initially with ASV Mk II radar, although this was superseded later by centrimetric ASV Mk III. This latter equipment had first been fitted to the GR. XII, which was a Leigh Light-equipped anti-submarine version. Weybridge built 105 Mk XIs and 50 Mk XIIs, while Blackpool and Chester respectively assembled 75 Mk XIs and eight Mk XIIs, but with 1,735-hp (1294-kWl Hercules XVII engines Weybridge was responsible for 42 Mk XIIIs and 53 Mk XIVs, Blackpool for 802 XIIIs and 250 Mk XIVs, and Chester for 538 Mk XIVs.

A transport conversion of the Mk I, the C.I.A, was further developed as the C.XV, while the C.XVI was a similar development of the Mk IC. They were unarmed, as were the last three basic versions which were all trainers. The T. XVII was a Mk XI converted by the RAF for night fighter crew training with SCR-720 AI (Airborne Interception) radar in a nose radome. Eighty externally similar aircraft, with accommodation for instructor and four pupils and based on the Mk XIII, were built at Blackpool as T. XVIIIs. Finally, RAF-converted Mk Xs for basic crew training were designated T. XIXs. In total 11,461 Wellingtons were built, including the prototype, and the last was a Blackpool-built Mk X handed over on 25 October 1945.

The fourth production Wellington Mk I was the first to reach an operational squadron, arriving at Mildenhall in October 1938 for No. 99 Squadron. Six squadrons, of No. 3 Group (Nos. 9, .37, .38, 99, 115 and 149) were equipped by the outbreak of war, and among units working up was the New Zealand Flight at Marham, Norfolk, where training was in progress in preparation for delivery to New Zealand of 30 Wellington Is. The flight later became No. 75 (NZ) Squadron, the first Dominion squadron to be formed in World War II. Sergeant James Ward of No. 75 later became the only recipient of the Victoria Cross while serving on Wellingtons, the decoration being awarded for crawling out on to the wing in flight to extinguish a fire, during a sortie made on 7 July 1941.

On 4 September 1939, the second day of the war, Wellingtons of Nos. 9 and 149 Squadrons bombed German shipping at Brunsbüttel, sharing with the Bristol Blenheims of Nos. 107 and 110 Squadrons the honour of Bomber Command’s first bombing raids on German territory. Wellingtons in tight formation were reckoned to have such outstanding defensive firepower as to be almost impregnable, but after maulings at the hands of pilots of the Luftwaffe’s JG 1, during raids on the Schillig Roads on 14 and 18 December, some lessons were learned. Self-sealing tanks were essential, and the Wellington’s vulnerability to beam attacks from above led to introduction of beam gun positions. Most significantly, operations switched to nights.

Wellingtons of Nos. 99 and 149 Squadrons were among aircraft despatched in Bomber Command’s first attack on Berlin, which took place on 25/26 August 1940; and on 1 April 1941, a Wellington of No. 149 Squadron dropped the first 4,000-lb (1814-kg) ‘blockbuster’ bomb during a raid on Emden. Of 1,046 aircraft which took part in the Cologne raid during the night of 30 May 1942, 599 w ere Wellingtons. The last operational sortie by Bomber Command Wellingtons was flown on 8/9 October 1943.

There was, however, still an important role for the Wellington to play with Coastal Command. Maritime operations had started with the four DWI Wellingtons: these had been converted by Vickers in the opening months of 1940 to carry a 52-ft (15.85-m) diameter metal ring, which contained a coil that could create a field current to detonate magnetic mines. Eleven almost identical aircraft, with 48-ft (14.63-m) rings, were converted by W. A. Rollason Ltd at Croydon, and others on site in the Middle East.

No. 172 Squadron at Chivenor, covering the Western Approaches, was the first to use the Leigh Light-equipped Wellington VIII operationally, and the first attack on a U-boat by such an aircraft at night took place on 3 June 1942, with the first sinking recorded on 6 July. From December 1941 Wellingtons were flying shipping strikes in the Mediterranean, and in the Far East No. 36 Squadron began anti-submarine operations in October 1942.

In 1940 the entry of the Italians into World War II resulted in Wellingtons being sent out from Great Britain to serve with No. 205 Group, Desert Air Force. No. 70 Squadron flew its first night attack on 19 September, against the port of Benghazi, and as the tide of war turned during 1942 and 1943, units moved into Tunisia to support the invasions of Sicily and Italy, operating from Italian soil at the close of 1943. The last Wellington bombing raid of the war in southern Europe took place on 13 March 1945, when six aircraft joined a Consolidated Liberator strike on marshalling yards at Treviso in northern Italy.

In the Far East, too, Wellingtons served as bombers with No. 225 Group in India, Mk ICs of No. 215 Squadron flying their first operational sortie on 23 April 1942. Equipped later with Wellington Xs, Nos. 99 and 215 Squadrons continued to bomb Japanese bases and communications until replaced by Liberators in late 1944, when the Wellington units were released for transport duties.

After the war the Wellington was used principally for navigator and pilot training, Air Navigation Schools and Advanced Flying Schools until 1953.

Naval Recce



In 1919 the Royal Navy had an urgent need for a three-seat spotter/reconnaissance aircraft. In order to save money, it was decided to adapt the existing Airco DH.9A, for which part completed airframes were available in large numbers following the end of the First World War and the subsequent cancellation of production orders. The initial attempt was carried out by Armstrong Whitworth Aircraft, adding provision for an observer and removing the stagger from the wings to produce the Armstrong Whitworth Tadpole.

Further development, however, was passed on to Westland, who further modified the aircraft to produce the Walrus, with a 450 hp (336 kW) Napier Lion II engine replacing the Liberty engine of the DH.9A and Tadpole. Like the DH.9A, the Walrus was a single-engined, two-bay biplane. It was fitted with an extra cockpit for the observer/radio operator behind the gunner’s cockpit, while the observer also had a prone position for observing in a ventral pannier. The undercarriage was jettisonable and the aircraft was fitted with floatation bags and hydrovanes to aid safe ditching, together with arresting gear to aid landing on aircraft carriers. The wings were detachable to aid storage. The prototype first flew in early 1921, proving to have poor flying characteristics, being described by Westland’s Test pilot, Stuart Keep as “a vicious beast”. Despite this, a further 35 were ordered.

The earliest American and British experiments were conducted using landplanes equipped with flotation bags in case of an emergency water landing. By the time of the Hibernia trials the Royal Navy was using seaplanes, which predominated in shipboard use thereafter until well into World War I. René Caudron and the Farman brothers in France, Glenn Curtiss in the United States, and the Short brothers in Britain all developed practical seaplanes by 1912. They quickly were joined by other designers, especially after the French industrialist Jacques Schneider established the valuable Coupe d’Aviation Maritime Jacques Schneider in December 1912 to encourage the development of seaplanes through international races to be held annually from 1913. Flying boats also developed rapidly, with very practical machines emerging from Curtiss, again, in the United States, Sopwith in Britain, the Franco-British Aviation Company in France, Lohner in Austria, and Oertz in Germany. Seaplanes, aircraft with float undercarriages, nevertheless predominated over flying boats, aircraft with boat-type fuselages, for shipboard operations.

Some further developments were very significant for the emergence of effective aircraft carriers. In 1913 the Short brothers patented their wing folding mechanism. This allowed them to reduce the stowed width of their seaplanes to as little as 12 feet and permitted rapid and trouble-free unfolding before flight, while maintaining structural strength for safe operation. This advance greatly increased the potential aircraft capacity of carriers, since the relative fragility of early machines required hangar stowage while at sea if they were to remain operational. In 1914, working very closely with Commander Charles R. Samson, in command of the Naval Wing of the Royal Flying Corps (usually known as the Royal Naval Air Service), and Captain Murray Sueter, head of the Royal Navy’s Air Department, Short produced more powerful versions of its folder seaplanes that were equipped to carry and drop torpedoes or bombs. This enabled the Royal Naval Air Service to conduct experiments in using its aircraft offensively. The greater load-carrying capabilities of these seaplanes also permitted experiments with wireless telegraphy communications, long-distance navigation over water, and some early trials of night flying operations.

Early in WWI the Royal Navy in the Canal Zone created two carriers “in theater” from German merchantmen interned at Port Said. Modifications to the Anne and the Raven II consisted of adding a 12-pound low angle gun for self defense and erecting canvas screens to protect embarked aircraft. These vessels initially operated under the Red Ensign with mixed naval and civilian crews and their first aircraft were up to six French Nieuport floatplanes apiece, originally operated by the French seaplane carrier Foudre, flown by French pilots with British observers, an extraordinary arrangement that worked very well in practice. During the summer of 1915 they were at last commissioned as Royal Navy vessels with naval crews and served until the later half of 1917.

The French Navy too created a seaplane carrier locally at Port Said in 1915 from a requisitioned French cargo liner, the Campinas. This vessel was very similar to the two extemporized British vessels and operated as many as ten Nieuport floatplanes. In home waters the French Navy also created a pair of seaplane carriers from cross channel packets. The Pas-de-Calais and the Nord acquired two hangers to accommodate two or three F. B. A. flying boats and were lightly armed. Their main distinction was their propulsion system- they were very unusual among aircraft carriers in being side-wheel steamers.

Navies placed considerable emphasis on the reconnaissance and gunfire observation missions from the outset. The Royal Navy’s first such aircraft was the Parnall Panther, whose design originated late in World War I as a dedicated carrier machine. It featured a wooden monococque fuselage that folded for stowage. Powered by a 230- horsepower Bentley B. R. 2 rotary engine, it attained a top speed of 108 miles per hour and had a maximum range of 350 miles. British carriers then embarked a series of three-seater biplanes from the Fairey Aviation Company, derived from a successful medium-size floatplane design that saw limited service during World War I.

Unlike other fleets, the Royal Navy also briefly deployed highly specialized gunnery observation aircraft equipped with facilities intended to maximize their effectiveness in this limited role. The first was the Westland Walrus, a much-modified variant of the Airco D. H. 9A light bomber featuring an observation cupola below the fuselage to accommodate the gunfire spotter. Powered by a 450- horsepower Napier Lion engine, it reached a top speed of 124 miles per hour and had a range of 350 miles. Its successors were the Avro Bison and Blackburn Blackburn. Both aircraft featured large cabins with good observation facilities to accommodate gunnery spotters and their equipment. Their Napier Lion engines gave them top speeds of 105 and 122 miles per hour respectively, while their maximum ranges were 360 and 440 miles. By 1931 the Royal Navy determined that the performance penalties of their accommodations and the burden of incorporating such specialized aircraft within the limited size of carrier air groups made further development of this category unnecessary, and the mission devolved on the fleet’s regular reconnaissance aircraft.

The French Navy too introduced dual-purpose observation and reconnaissance aircraft in 1928, when the Levasseur PL. 4 entered service aboard the Béarn. This three-seater biplane, with an all- metal structure, was powered by a 450-horsepower Lorraine 12eb engine, giving it a top speed of 111 miles per hour and a range of 560 miles. Its successor, the Levasseur PL. 10, entered service in 1932. Its 600-horsepower Hispano-Suiza 12Lb engine gave it a maximum speed of 137 miles per hour but its range fell to 450 miles.

The Imperial Japanese Navy gave up deploying carrier-based reconnaissance aircraft when the Mitsubishi C1M left front-line service in 1931. This aircraft was introduced in 1922 as the Type 10 Carrier Reconnaissance Plane, one of a trio of designs by Herbert Smith who came to Mitsubishi from the defunct Sopwith Aviation Company and created the navy’s first machines specifically designed for carrier service. It had a 300-horsepower Mitsubishi Type Hi engine giving it a top speed of 127 miles per hour and a range of 350 miles. Thereafter, until well into World War II, Japanese carriers relied on dedicated reconnaissance support from aircraft deployed on accompanying heavy cruisers and, to a lesser extent, on missions flown by their own attack aircraft.

Dedicated carrier reconnaissance types fared considerably better in the United States Navy. The Chance Vought Corporation produced a series of two-seater biplanes, derived from the successful VE-7 advanced trainer, that formed the backbone of the fleet’s carrier observation aircraft from 1922 until 1934. These machines started as all-wooden airframes and switched to steel tube fuselages in 1927. The original engine was a 200-horsepower Wright J-3 radial that gave the OU-1 a top speed of 124 miles per hour and a range of 400 miles. The improved O2U, powered by a 450-horsepower Pratt & Whitney Wasp radial engine, could reach 150 miles per hour and had a range of 600 miles, while the final SU-4, with a 600-horsepower Pratt & Whitney Hornet radial engine, had a top speed of 167 miles per hour and a range of 680 miles. An early Grumman Aircraft Engineering Corporation product, the SF-1, briefly supplemented these Vought types until 1936. This biplane aircraft, with an all-metal structure and powered by a 700-horsepower Wright Cyclone, featured a retractable undercarriage and could reach 207 miles per hour with a range of 920 miles. The real replacement for the Vought observation aircraft, however, was a series of scout-bombers, introduced in late 1935, that combined the scouting role with the dive bombing mission.

The most important proving grounds for testing tactics were the regular unit, squadron, and fleet-level exercises that all the carrier-operating navies conducted. Such exercises allowed naval aviators to explore new ideas and validated their concepts to squadron and fleet commanders so that the tactical possibilities offered by improved aircraft and weaponry could be incorporated into operational doctrine. In these venues carrier aircraft units demonstrated the efficacy of coordinated torpedo attack, dive bombing against fast-moving warships, tactical search missions, strike operations against shore targets, and distant reconnaissance. They also enabled fleet and squadron commanders to evolve effective combinations of carriers and escorting surface warships, and to develop concepts to integrate fast-moving carrier forces with battle fleet operations. These exercises also revealed the limitations of aviation: the vulnerability of carriers to tactical surprise brought on by deficiencies in search, the impact of weather, and, above all, the magnitude of the task of maintaining an effective defense against an enemy air attack. Navies discovered that it was very difficult to provide adequate fighter cover, since the warning time of an incoming attack was more often than not too short to allow quick launch of defending fighters while it was impossible to maintain a large enough standing covering force without crowding out attack aircraft from the carrier’s air group. This problem would not be solved until the advent of radar and accounts for the emphasis navies placed on striking fast and first with the most aircraft possible, the attendant diminution of fighter strength in favor of attack aircraft, and even the adoption of armored carriers by the Royal Navy.

To address the shortfall in carrier tonnage imposed by the Washington and London treaties, Japanese naval planners added to the fleet a number of modern auxiliaries whose design incorporated specific features allowing their relatively straightforward conversion into full-fledged aircraft carriers if required. A total of seven such vessels were ordered, three submarine depot ships (the Taigei, the Tsurugisaki, and the Takasagi) and four seaplane carriers (the Chitose, the Chiyoda, the Mizuho, and the Nisshin). All but two of the seaplane carriers (which were sunk while operating in their original role) were converted into carriers either before Japan’s entry into World War II or during the conflict.

1944-45 German Aircraft Quality and Production


The protracted development work required in order to make new technologies ripe for operational use was the main reason jet and rocket aircraft entered operational service only in 1944. The main problem with jet aircraft was the low reliability of their engines. Only in summer 1944 did German jet engines become reliable enough for operational use, even though their development had begun in late 1939. The same problem plagued rocket fighters. Prototypes of the Me 163 rocket interceptor began powerless flight testing already in 1941, but entered limited operational service only at the end of May 1944. This long delay was caused by the difficulties involved in making a rocket-propelled aircraft ready for operational service. These problems were never fully solved and rocket-propelled aircraft were somewhat sidelined after initial enthusiasm.

Some of the new jets figured prominently in production plans submitted from mid–1943. The RLM planned a massive procurement of some of the more developed types and the aviation industry geared up to produce them en masse. They subsequently appeared in increasing numbers on the production lines in 1944–45. These modern aircraft entered series production just as the aviation industry went through the greatest transformation in its history.


Me 109

This single-seat, single-engine fighter was designed by Willy Messerschmitt and entered operational service with the Luftwaffe before the outbreak of the war. It was even used in the Spanish Civil War. It was the most produced fighter ever, with around 35,000 units built before and during World War II. Some 13,942 Me 109s were produced in 1944 alone. It was supposed to be replaced as the main Luftwaffe fighter in 1942, but delays with the introduction of a replacement, and subsequently the decision to produce the Me 262 as its replacement, meant that it was never replaced. Mass production of its modified versions continued right until the end of the war, even though by 1944 it was inferior to both Western and Eastern fighters in many respects. It was considered difficult to fly and the masses of young and inexperienced late-war German fighter pilots mostly lacked the skills needed in order to fly it effectively in combat.


FW 190

Another single-seat, single-engine fighter that was somewhat outdated by 1944. It was developed and purchased as a more advanced complement to the Me 109. It entered operational service with the Luftwaffe in autumn 1941, but suffered continuous problems with its BMW engine. Advanced and much improved versions of this fighter were supposed to enter series production in mid–1944. These were the re-engined and redesigned FW 190D and the Ta 152. The latter was designed primarily as a high-altitude fighter. These fighters were considered to be more than equal to modern Allied fighters. Severe delays in their production meant that the older models soldiered on and remained the most dominant types. The FW 190 was also used as a fighter-bomber and as ground support aircraft.



Ju 88, Ju 188, Ju 388

The initial model was the Junkers 88, which was developed before World War II as the Luftwaffe’s “wonder bomber.” The production of this aircraft formed one of the largest contracts in the history of the German aviation history and turned state-owned Junkers into one of the giants of German industry. This twin-engine aircraft was later converted into an efficient night fighter, and in this role it stayed in series production almost until the end of the war. Its wartime development was the improved Ju 188, which entered service in early 1943. The completely different Ju 388 bomber-reconnaissance aircraft came too late to enter service in meaningful numbers. The production of these three Junkers aircraft was terminated in February 1945.

Less important types were produced in ever-decreasing numbers during 1944, but all of them were stricken from the production plans before the end of that year. In any case, of all the 20 types produced in significant numbers in 1944, the piston-engine types described above constituted 74 percent of total aircraft production for the year. Taking into account that other planes included in the 20 types were also propelled by piston engine, the dominance of “traditional” aircraft over jets on the production lines is obvious.

Paradoxically, at the time Germany commenced production of some of the most advanced aerial weapon systems of their time, there was a marked drop in the production quality of German aviation products. Hermann Göring generally confirmed the deterioration of quality after the war and attributed it to the dispersal of the aviation industry in 1944. Adolf Galland, former influential General of the Fighters, gave the following explanation when asked by American interrogators why dispersal caused deterioration of quality: “Because the assembly lines were interrupted. The planes no longer were in assembly halls, but somewhere the control surfaces were manufactured, in another plant fuselages were made, construction took place in destroyed halls and construction took place in the open air instead of under roofs.”

The explanations offered by these two wartime leaders provide only a partial explanation for this phenomenon. It appears that particularly the high-priority modern jets and other new aircraft types suffered from these declining production standards. Following a comparison flight test of an Me 262 against an Ar 234 prototype in June 1944, Messerschmitt’s main development office at Oberammergau complained about the quality of production Me 262s: “Workmanship— The workmanship carried out on production Me 262s leaves much to be desired. Armament hatch covers, sheet steel cockpit, engine cowlings, etc., were all poor as were those of most production machines. The surface finish is also coarse.” Problems with series Me 262 continued and became even worse. In February 1945 Messerschmitt’s chief test pilot Fritz Wendel reported severe technical problems originating from poor quality control after visiting operational units flying the plane.

Conventional types also suffered from this deterioration. Poor quality of the initial production runs of the Ta 152 fighters led to a brief production halt in order to enable the engineers to locate all the defects and to fix them. The main problem appeared to be faulty welding of the aileron pushrods. Further technical problems and other sticky production difficulties finally led to the cancellation of this aircraft at the end of March 1945, when its production capacity was allocated to the production of older proven types.

Unit commanders and pilots receiving the new aircraft experienced severe problems with their new mounts, caused by poor workmanship and slack quality control. Erich Sommer, flying Ar 234 reconnaissance aircraft since the summer of 1944, reported that “spare engines and accessories had to be stripped before use as quality control in the factory became less and less reliable.”

It seems that production standards of series Ar 234s was particularly low. Captain Dieter Lukesch, who commanded the first operational Ar 234 squadron, remarked about the production quality of the brand-new aircraft his unit received in July 1944: “Hardly any aircraft arrived without defects which covered all systems and were caused by hasty completion and shortage of skilled labor at the factories. The same applied to the Arado’s equipment.”

These problems were well-known and higher authorities tried to solve them in different ways. Among others, the Germans tried to use Allied standards in order to restore their own standards of quality. In this framework the Airframe Main Committee arranged to have wing sections of shot-down American aircraft sent around to aircraft factories to show the relative superiority of American workmanship in this regard, and serve as an incentive to do as well. At the end of September 1944 Ernst Heinkel pointed at the excellent polish of the wings of the American Mustang fighters and at the way such finish could improve the performance of German planes. He blamed the inferior German finish on a poorly trained workforce and demanded better training in order to achieve better workmanship.

The main solution was to improve quality control. Quality control was normally preformed on the final products upon leaving the production line. From 1944 it became generally slacker and less efficient. The dispersal of most factories in 1944 made it much more difficult to perform proper quality control because quality control departments usually stayed at the main factory and could not satisfactorily perform their tasks in the dispersed facilities. Furthermore, while efforts were invested in expanding production, much less effort was invested in expanding quality control departments to cope with the new situation.

The countermeasures failed in most cases to improve the quality of the end products and the production standards of German aviation products kept deteriorating until the end of the war. Arguably, the main reason for this failure, and for the worsening quality, was the composition of the workforce the Germans used at that time for aviation production. This huge army of foreigners, POWs, and concentration camp inmates lacked the motivation that prevailed in the German aviation industry before the war. With such manpower it was extremely difficult to preserve the prewar standards.


The F-15S over Yemen, 2015


The F-15SA is the most advanced production F-15 Eagle ever built. Saudi Arabia ordered 84 new build F-15SAs and close to 70 kits to upgrade their existing F-15S fleet to the SA configuration. Just one part of this upgrade is the activation of Eagle’s outboard wing stores stations, which will expand the jet’s already heavy combat punch.


The image above shows the F-15SA once again, albeit this time it is in an air-to-air configuration, including no less than eight AIM-120 AMRAAMs and eight AIM-9X Sidewinders. This amounts to double the missile carrying capability of the F-15C or F-15E. Also note the Infrared Search and Track system mounted above the jet’s radome. This, combined with its state of the art radar’s low probability of intercept modes, advanced radar warning receiver and Link 16 data-link, allows the F-15SA to hunt for enemy aircraft in electromagnetic silence while still maintain high-situational awareness.

The F-15S entered combat over Yemen on November 4, 2009, primarily flying cross-border strikes against insurgents on a daily basis into 2010. It was a difficult conflict for the Saudis and while the RSAF had problems adapting to counter-insurgency – as have many air arms – it did not suffer the setbacks of the Saudi ground forces. In 2010-15, RSAF aircraft carried out occasional cross-border strikes into Yemen.

The RSAF encountered shortages of precision-guided munitions (PGMs) and there were unconfirmed reports of its attacks inflicting collateral damage. The F-15S units emerged as the RSAF’s close air support specialists, however, the Saudis considering the F-15S superior to the Panavia Tornado IDS (Interdictor Strike) for medium-altitude PGM-delivery sorties. These had become the RSAF’s primary offensive mission profile, as reflected by its investment in large PGM stockpiles in 2011 and 2013.

Following intervention in Yemen to prevent the government falling to the Ansar Allah insurgent group (known as the Houthis), Saudi F-15 operations over Yemen resumed on March 26, 2015 with the launching of Operation Decisive Storm, which ran until 21 April. More than 100 Saudi aircraft were reinforced from Bahrain (15 F-16s), Egypt (F-16s), Jordan (six F-16s), Kuwait (15 F/A-18s), Morocco (F-16s), Qatar (six F-16s), Sudan (three Sukhoi Su-24 Fencer bombers and an Antonov An-26 Curl twin-turboprop transport) and the UAE (30 combat aircraft) participated in this opening stage of what has become a prolonged conflict. According to press reports, Saudi F-15S bomb loads included WCMDs containing SFW sub-munitions.

The air campaign was planned at a joint fusion centre near Riyadh, which included six to ten US liaison personnel, with a further 50-60 providing coordination and support. The Saudis appear to have relied on preplanning and a centrally approved air tasking order (ATO), similar to those used during the 1991 Gulf War, rather than the type of near-real-time and in-flight tasking/retasking that has become more commonplace since 2002 among the US and its coalition partners. Theatre ballistic missiles (TBMs), including the SS-1 Scud and SS-21 Scarab, were fired at Saudi bases during the air offensive, leading to further coalition attacks.

The US provided support, including tanker sorties. The first coalition aircraft refuelled by a US Boeing KC-135 tanker during the operation were an RSAF F-15 and an Egyptian Air Force F-16. Losses included a Moroccan F-16 and, on March 26, an RSAF F-15S that suffered engine failure over the Gulf of Aden. US forces based in Djibouti, including an Alaska Air National Guard helicopter, rescued its crew and brought them aboard a US Navy destroyer, before returning them home.

Operation Restore Hope followed the initial operation and on July 14, 2015, the Saudi-led Operation Golden Arrow saw coalition air forces supporting ground forces in Yemen. Coalition aircraft flew from Aden International Airport and included Boeing AH-64D Apache helicopters, presumably from the UAE. In Washington on October 9, Prince Sultan bin Khaled al Faisal said Saudi special forces on the ground were performing “precision lasing for our air assets.” “You cannot say there has been no progress”, he said. The coalition’s operational tempo has slowed, reflecting the Saudis hosting ongoing peace negotiations in 2016. But the Saudi request to the US for 13,000 precision guided munitions, made in late 2015, shows the scope of the operations and their impact on existing weapons stockpiles.

Royal Saudi Air Force F-15SA programme

Despite continued delays to the Royal Saudi Air Force F-15SA programme, both the RSAF and Boeing are confident the issues will soon be resolved. So far 40 of the jets have been produced, but none have been delivered. Saudi sources close to the programme are citing software issues with the flight control system, as well as the integration of so many weapons as the main reasons.

The RSAF is procuring new production Boeing F-15SA (Saudi Advanced) Eagles, while upgrading its current F-15S aircraft to F-15SA standard. The move is part of a force modernisation programme begun in 2011, a manifestation of Saudi determination to possess and use effective airpower.

The F-15SA is an improved F-15S two-seat air-to-ground fighter incorporating elements of Singapore’s F-15SG and the F-15SK Silent Eagle – intended for the Republic of Korea, but never built. Its new systems include some more advanced than those fitted to United States Air Force (USAF) F-15E Strike Eagles, including fly-by-wire (FBW) controls.

Under the original plan, after an initial training period, the first F-15SAs were to have be delivered to KKAB, their Saudi main operating base, (where US$166 million in construction contracts to accommodate the F-15SA were awarded in February 2015).

A Lockheed Martin-integrated F-15SA ground training system is being installed at KKAB and is due for completion by 2020. By early 2017, Number 55 Squadron (Fighter Training Unit) at KKAB and 29 Squadron at KFAB were to have each had 24 F-15SAs, plus four at KAAB with 92 Squadron and the Fighter Weapons School.

Number 93 Squadron, at Prince Sultan Air Base (PSAB), as to receive its first F-15SAs in mid-2017 be at its full 24-aircraft strength in a year. Deliveries of F-15SAs will continue until 2019. But the delays to the flight test programme will likely postpone these target dates.

The first F-15S to F-15SA upgrade was to be delivered to KAAB in mid-2017, but that also is likely to be delayed by six months or more. The upgrade line will start delivering F-15SAs to KAAB soon after, at a rate of one to two per month.

In early 2015, the flight-test programme was accelerated. Today, 40 production F-15SAs have been built and stored at St Louis, awaiting the completion of the four- aircraft test flying programme, while the training pipelines were already open.

Training, initially for instructors, was provided in the US by ex-US military personnel working for Mohawarean Aviation Services Co, a Saudi corporation. Five adjustments to the F-15SA programme were funded and implemented by the end of 2015.

The schedule for F-15SA delivery to the RSAF was the subject of a high-level review. Maj General Mohammed bin Saleh Al Qtaibi, the Saudi air chief and Heidi Grant, the Deputy Under Secretary of the Air Force for International Affairs, met in Washington on January 11-13, 2016.

A US Air Force spokesman reported, “the program was on track.” This meeting was intended to help set the stage for president Obama’s visit to Saudi Arabia in April.

The delays have all come from the US side of the programme, rather than the Saudis’ economic problems (development funding was largely front-end loaded) or their ability to integrate the aircraft into their force structure, with the simultaneous need to focus on combat operations.

Prince Sultan bin Khaled al Faisal, a US-trained Saudi officer now at a Riyadh think tank, said in Washington on October 9, 2015: “I do not see a problem with any weapon system we decide to buy. We are able to train through every operational cycle and our groundcrews are some of the best in the world.”

Beriev Be-12 Tchaika ‘Mail’ (‘Mail’ is the NATO denomination)




Together with the Japanese Maritime Self-Defence Force, the AV-MF (Soviet Naval Aviation) is the last major service to operate fleets of combat flying-boats and amphibians. Elsewhere, the role of the patrol flying-boat was taken over by long-range landplanes in the 1950s. This process may continue, as no amphibious replacement for the Beriev Be-12 Tchaika (Seagull), codenamed ‘Mail’ by NATO, has been reported, and the AV-MF has introduced specialised landplanes for the anti-submarine role, the llyushin 11-38 ‘May’ and the Tupolev Tu-142 ‘Bear-F’.

The Beriev design bureau, based at Taganrog on the Sea of Azov, has been the main supplier of marine aircraft to the Soviet Navy since 1945, most of its aircraft going to the Northern and Black Sea Fleets. The origins of the Be-12 go back to the LL-143 prototype of 1945, which led in 1949 to the Be-6 ‘Madge’. This latter twin-engined flying-boat served with success until 1967.

Following the Be-6, the Beriev team carried out a considerable amount of research into jet-powered flying-boats, producing the straight-winged Be-R-1 of 1952 and the swept-wing Be-10 of 1960-1. The latter, powered by two Lyul’ka AL-7RVs (unaugmented versions of the Su-7 powerplant), established a number of seaplane records in 1961, but only three or four are believed to have been built.

The lessons learned in the design of the Be-R-1 and Be-10, however, were incorporated in the design of a much improved flying-boat based loosely on the Be-6 and identified originally by NATO as a re-engined version of the older type. In fact, the Be-12, designated M-12 in AV-MF service, bears little more than a general resemblance to the Be-6, sharing only the gull-wing layout and twin tail of its predecessor. The greater power and lighter weight of the turboprop engines have permitted a forward extension of the hull, with a new planing bottom similar to that of the Be-10. The prominent spray suppressor around the bows of the Be-10 is also a feature of the turboprop aircraft. The most significant change, however, was the addition of massive and sturdy retractable landing gear, making the Be-12 amphibious and thus considerably more versatile than the earlier Beriev designs. The turreted gun armament of the Be-6 has been deleted, being replaced by MAD (magnetic anomaly detection) gear in the tail, above the tailwheel well, while the search radar is carried in a long nose housing instead of the ventral retractable dustbin radome of the Be-6. One of the drawbacks of the high-wing layout, the excessive height of the engines above the ground, has been mitigated by the design of engine cowling panels which drop down to form strong working platforms.

The considerable weight-lifting capability of the Be-12 was demonstrated in a series of class records for amphibians set up in 1964, 1968 and 1970, suggesting a normal weapons load as high as 5000kg (11,023lb). The Be-12 can load on the water through large side hatches in the rear fuselage, and stores can be dropped through a watertight hatch in the hull aft of the step. Unlike land-based ASW platforms, a marine aircraft can, in reasonably calm conditions, settle on the water, and search with its own sonar equipment, rather than relying exclusively on sonobuoys. This assumes that the Be-12 has this capability.

With the increasing use of the Mil Mi-14 ‘Haze’ ASW helicopter and the llyushin II-38 ‘May’, there would seem to be a diminishing ASW role for the Be-12, although the type will certainly remain in service as a high-speed search-and-rescue (SAR) vehicle. It is also believed to have been used for mapping, geophysical survey and utility transport. By Soviet standards the type was not built in large numbers, only 95 being reported in service in the late 1980s.


Ukrainian Be-12


Twin-engined maritime reconnaissance, anti-submarine warfare flying-boat.


Ecological reconnaissance version.


Flying laboratory version.


Utility transport, experimental passenger trasport version.


Search and rescue version.


Fire-fighting version.


Firefighting version.


Used for nuclear depth charge tests.


Scientific research version.

Iraqi Air Force 2003 and Rebuilt 2006

030706-F-0000C-907 A U.S. military search team uncovers a MiG-25R Foxbat-B from beneath the sands in Iraq on July 6, 2003.  Several MiG-25s and Su-25 aircraft have been found buried at Al-Taqqadum airfield west of Baghdad.  DoD photo Master Sgt. T. Collins, U.S. Air Force.  (Released)

A U.S. military search team uncovers a MiG-25R Foxbat-B from beneath the sands in Iraq on July 6, 2003. Several MiG-25s and Su-25 aircraft have been found buried at Al-Taqqadum airfield west of Baghdad. DoD photo Master Sgt. T. Collins, U.S. Air Force. (Released)




By 2003, after years of military sanctions, it was assessed by Western intelligence that the Iraqi Air Force still had approximately 130 attack aircraft and 180 fighters. of these, only 90-100 were deemed to be operational (MiG holdings may have included thirty MiG-21PF/MF, thirty MiG-23MLs, five MiG-25PDs and four MiG-29s at the end of 2002), enough to thwart any internal unrest but not to take on the might of the United States Air Force (USAF).

The Iraqi Army Air Corps obtained approximately fifty Mi-24 Hind helicopter gunships, of which at least ten were lost in air-to-air combat during the Iran-Iraq War. Allowing for a conservatively similar number lost to Iranian ground fire, only about half those remaining were likely to be serviceable (with the other 50 per cent cannibalized for spares). None were lost in the First Gulf War. This left the Iraqis a fleet of about ten Hinds, sufficient for operations against the Kurds and possible insurrection, but little else. Iraqi Gazelle and Bo-105 helicopters were in a similar state. Likewise, it is doubtful that 100 of its transport helicopters such as the Mi-8s were airworthy.

The IrAF learnt an important lesson during desert Storm; they could not resist or even withstand Coalition airstrikes, and therefore the key to survival was wide dispersal. Hiding places were limited as Coalition intelligence on Iraqi dispersal sites was first class, and the IrAF was only too aware of the danger from Coalition Special Forces ranging far and wide in their search for Saddam and his weapons of mass destruction. one solution to this was deception. The IrAF had a lot of derelict airframes and many of these were placed visibly in revetments as decoys; the challenge for the Coalition was to detect those still operational. The IrAF lost more than 100 aircraft to Coalition military action in 1991; this time round, the battle damage assessment was much harder because of the numbers of Iraqi aircraft that were already little more than junk.

According to General Saadoun, the order to safeguard their aircraft rather than fight was issued in late February 2003, when they began to disassemble and conceal them. The IrAF, along with the Iraqi Army Air Corps (IrAAC), abandoned its air bases and civilian dispersal sites, which were well known to Coalition intelligence and scattered across the width and breadth of the country. Just as in desert Storm, the IrAF escaped north of Baghdad. this time round though, the IrAF knew better than to flee to Iran, because in 1991 this expedient failed to safeguard precious airframes after Tehran refused to return more than 100 front-line aircraft.

It is also alleged that the Iraqi Air defence Command (IrAdC), operating at 50 per cent of its capacity, also received instructions not to use its radars. Turf squabbles, deliberate or not, stymied the air defence of Baghdad. Some IrAdC units were reminded that this was the responsibility of the Republican Guard and ordered not to activate their weapons. Nonetheless, Lieutenant General Muzahim Sa’b Hassan al-tikriti, the IrAdC commander, was number twelve on the Americans’ wanted list.


The new Iraqi Air Force faced a similar challenge. ‘We are starting over,’ said IrAF Chief of Staff, Major General Kamal Barzanjy, in early 2006. ‘America has given us a lot of help, and we have already accomplished many things, but we need to keep growing.’ Saddam Hussein’s air force was allegedly the sixth largest in the world at the outbreak of the 1991 Gulf War, with almost 800 fighter aircraft, but by 2003, only about 100 of these were still deemed operational. When operation Iraqi Freedom came to an end only about 50 per cent remained and most of these had been badly damaged by crude Iraqi concealment efforts. The IrAF’s commander, Lieutenant General Hamid Raja Shalah al-tikriti, was captured on 14 June 2003. The old Iraqi Air Force ceased to exist and its personnel, along with the rest of the Iraqi armed forces, were sent home.

A significant milestone was reached on 7 March 2006, with the opening of the first Iraqi air base at new Al Muthana, while the first all-Iraqi aircrew flew their inaugural mission on 28 November 2005. Members of the IrAF’s no. 23 Squadron navigated their C-130e transport aircraft from Ali Air Base, near Nasiriyah, in south-east Iraq, to new Al Muthana Air Base (the refurbished West Baghdad International Airport air base). They also flew their first cross-border humanitarian mission in February, air-lifting five children to Turkey for eye surgery.

On display at the official opening ceremony at new Al Muthana were the fledgling air force’s American-supplied C-130e transport aircraft and Russian-built Mi-17 transport helicopters. ‘It is important for Iraqis,’ said Major-General Kamal. ‘It is important for them to see tangible results and co-operation. Building up an air force takes so much work, finance and dedication.’

‘Now our Air Force supports the government and the people,’ said Colonel Jabber. ‘In the past the Air Force only supported Saddam. We are humanitarian now.’ No. 23 Squadron had first moved to new Al Muthana in January 2006. the base provided the foundation on which Iraq’s air force could rebuild with help from its Coalition allies.

The Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) announced in April 2004 that it intended to help build a new IrAF, which would have a border patrol and surveillance role. Efforts to rehabilitate the discredited old IrAF and create a new force commenced in mid-2004, when more than 100 former IrAF personnel were sent for training with the Royal Jordanian Air Force (RJAF) in Amman. By the end of 2004, the new IrAF was 500-strong, equipped with a variety of light aircraft divided between bases at Tadji and Baghdad.

It was decided by the CPA that a major general would command a revitalized Iraq Air Force based at the Air Headquarters in Baghdad, and would act as the Chief of the Defence Staff ’s senior air adviser. Also, the IrAF’s air missions would be fully integrated into Coalition air activity through the multi-national Force Iraq. The new IrAF was principally tasked with transporting the army, border policing and surveillance of national assets. It is also involved in intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance operations.

The new IrAF first became operational in mid-2004 with a squadron of six ex- RJAF UH-1H Iroquois utility helicopters stationed at Tadji. they were tasked with border and coastal patrol, troop transport and search and rescue. the new IrAF acquired an initial tactical airlift capability in October 2004 using two ex-RJAF C- 130Bs based at the Baghdad Air Station.

The United Arab emirates provided the IrAF with seven Comp Air 7Sl aircraft and four Bell Jet ranger helicopters, which were flown by No. 3 Squadron. the latter became operational in April 2005 and is based at new Al Muthana. the first four 7Sl arrived at Basra Air Base on 13 November 2004.

Similarly, Jordan has also supplied two Seeker SB7l-360 and sixteen CH2000 light reconnaissance aircraft that are equipping No. 70 and No. 2 Squadrons.

A follow-on order was anticipated, but instead the new IrAF opted for sixteen US SAMA CH2000. Jordan Aerospace Industries manufactured these aircraft under licence from the Canadian Zenair Company (which builds the Zenair Zenith 2000) and delivered during 2005. The CH2000 Military Tactical Surveillance Aircraft (MTSA) variant is a two-seater trainer equipped with infrared thermal imaging and daytime TV camera. Half the CH-2000 equip No. 2 Squadron at Kirkuk Air base.

In the face of the escalating security situation, from November 2005 the United States Air Force (USAF) in theatre worked to stand up the new IrAF as quickly as possible. The new IrAF suffered its first aircraft loss on 30 May 2005, when one of the 7SL crashed near Jalula, 80km north-east of Baquba, while operating out of Kirkuk Air Base. Unfortunately, fatalities included an Iraqi airman and four US servicemen. They were buried in Arlington national Cemetery. Iraqi Air Force Captain Ali Hussam Abass Alrubaeye, thirty-four, became the first Iraqi ever buried at the United States’ national military cemetery.

It seemed, post-Saddam, Iraq would abandon its Soviet aircraft legacy. However, the new IrAF is flying Soviet-designed aircraft. During 14-17 February 2006, eight former Polish Mi-17 Hip helicopters were delivered to new Al Muthana by a Russian An-124 transport aircraft. Reportedly, these were the first systems that the IrAF had acquired directly without CPA funding. The IrAF intended to be operating a total of twenty-four Mi-17s by mid-2007 from Taji Air Base in a deal worth US $105 million.