Did The AirAsia Flight Explode In The Air Or Crash?

Conflicting reports are coming out of Indonesia as to whether the AirAsia passenger plane that crashed last month may have exploded before hitting the water.

Navy divers have now found and retrieved the black box flight data recorder from near the wrecked wing of the plane in the northern Java Sea.

An explosion is a likely scenario according to the operations coordinator at Indonesia’s National Search and Rescue Agency, who has pointed to a significant change in air pressure as a possible cause.


Still No Sign Of AirAsia Jet QZ8501

According to Yahoo Singapore, the second day of the international search operation produced scant (or no) evidence of the missing AirAsia flight QZ8501, which departed for Singapore from Surabaya’s Juanda International Airport on Sunday morning and dropped off the radar after about an hour of flight.

Updated map and factfile on AirAsia flight QZ8501 that went missing with 162 people on board. Includes timeline of events

Flight search operations were suspended by about 6:45pm Indonesia time on December 29th, while some 30 ships from Indonesia, Singapore and Malaysia continued searching the Java sea in the northern and eastern parts of Belitung island past dusk.

According to the Huffington Post, the Indonesian Transport Ministry’s air transportation director Joko Muryo Atmodjo said no distress signal had been sent from the plane, adding, “Therefore we cannot assume anything yet.”

“We are coordinating with [the] rescue team and looking for its position. We believe it is somewhere between Tanjung Pandan, a town on Belitung island, and Kalimantan,” he said.

A specialist from Singapore's Ministry of Transport's Air Accident Investigation Bureau (AAIB) showcases a set of underwater locator beacon detector that will be used to assist in locating the flight recorders of the missing AirAsia flight QZ8501 plane, at Changi Airport in Singapore December 29, 2014. The missing AirAsia jet carrying 162 people could be at the bottom of the sea after it was presumed to have crashed off the Indonesian coast, an official said on Monday, as countries around Asia sent ships and planes to help in the search effort. REUTERS/Edgar Su (SINGAPORE - Tags: TRANSPORT DISASTER)
A specialist from Singapore’s Ministry of Transport’s Air Accident Investigation Bureau (AAIB)

Two more Singapore naval vessels, a landing ship tank and a Singaporean submarine support and rescue vessel, have been given the green light to set sail for the area by authorities.

15 planes from various nations have been searching for the airliner.

On board the missing AirAsia plane were a total of 162 people — 138 adults, 16 children and one infant, making up 155 passengers along with seven crew members (two pilots, four flight attendants and one engineer).

The last communication from the cockpit to air traffic control was a request by one of the pilots to increase altitude from 32,000 feet (9,754 meters) to 38,000 feet (11,582 meters) because of the rough weather.

Captain IriyantoThe U.K. Daily Mail states that the pilot in command, Captain Iriyanto, had a substantial total of 6,100 flying hours and the first officer, Remi Emmanual Plesel, a total of 2,275 flying hours, said AirAsia.

AirAsia has established an Emergency Call Center for family or friends of those on board the aircraft, at: +62 212 927 0811 or 031- 869 0855 or 031- 298 6790 (Surabaya).



Russia, China Plan To Build High Numbers Of New Stealth Fighters


It’s probably fair to say that Russia can design and build good fighter planes.  They also  seem to be perfectly willing to sell planes – or the technology to build them – to other countries. Russia now builds a new Stealth fighter plane called the T-50 PAK FA.

The plane was designed to counter what is probably the U.S.’s best fighter, the F-22 Raptor. The U.S. built 187 F-22s and has already stopped production and there are no plans to build more.

Russia, on the other hand, plans to build and license possibly 1000 T-50s.

America’s first stealth fighter, the F-117A Nighthawk entered production about 30 years ago, and was used in the first Gulf War.

According to usairpower.net: “In the intervening period the Soviet Union collapsed and China industrialized on a large scale. The notion that the United States could hold this technological and strategic advantage indefinitely was never realistic, as appealing as this idea may have been in United States policy circles.”

Usairpower.net claims that during the tenure of Robert M. Gates, the United States Office of the Secretary of Defense had a lack of interest in these new developments by the Russians and Chinese, which led to ignoring or denigrating the creation of the PAK-FA and the new Chinese fighter called the J-20.

Usairpower.net considers this to be a huge blunder “on the scale of the unquestioning belief in the Maginot Line and ‘invincible’ Battleships during the period preceding the Second World War.”

The United States and its many allies have apparently just over 187 F-22A Raptors available to strategically balance the planned Russian PAK-FA build of about 1,000 aircraft for Russian and export customers and some yet to be determined number of Chinese J-20s to be operated by the Chinese.

The large numbers of PAK FA fighters will be reached because of outsourcing and license agreements to other countries.

The Heritage foundation states: “Although Russia is leading the program and shouldering the bulk of the cost, India is set to provide significant assistance, aiming to have a 25 percent stake in designing and developing the fighter (PAK FA).

“India is currently negotiating with Sukhoi to build an Indian variant called the Fifth-Generation Fighter Aircraft (FGFA). India reportedly plans to purchase 250 of these fighters: 200 twin-seaters and 50 single-seaters, with an option for future orders that could increase the total to 300.”

The Heritage Foundation states that Mikhail Pogosyan, General Director of the Sukhoi Design Bureau, calculates that there could be a world market for 1,000 PAK FAs in the next 40 years.

Another likely buyer for the PAK FA is China. Although Beijing is reportedly developing its own fifth-generation fighter aircraft (the J-20), the Chinese military could conceivably buy up to 250 PAK FA planes, especially if its own program encounters delays.

In addition, Russia would likely seek to export the PAK FA to Algeria, Libya, Iran, Syria, and Venezuela. Other countries that could be interested are: Kazakhstan, Malaysia, Vietnam, Indonesia, as well as oil-rich powers in the Middle East.

According to the Heritage Foundation, Washington may refuse to sell America’s oil-rich Arab allies F-35s and instead export up to 100 F-35s to Israel – therefore these countries will likely want to purchase the T-50 PAK FAs.  The F-35 is a new plane built by the U.S. that will also have stealth capability.

The PAK FA will likely form the basis for several foreign variants, in the same way that the Russian Su-27 Flanker fighter spawned several iterations for other countries.  According to Russian officials, the joint Russo–Indian PAK FA/FGFA fighter should be ready by 2015 or 2016. It may also incorporate equipment from third countries, just as Russia has previously integrated French and Israeli technology into its weapons systems. Indian officials hope the FGFA will be fully developed by 2016 so that it can enter service in 2017.

According to the Washington Times, China is building a new stealth fighter, the J-20.  Richard Fisher, a specialist on Chinese weapon systems, said “We can be assured that J-20 production will significantly exceed that of the 187 F-22 fighters…”

The US Air Force, Navy, and Marine Corps are supposed to get a total of 2,443 F-35s.

The F-22 and the new F-35 are meant to replace the Air Force’s F-16 and F-15 fighters. According to sources, that means a total of 2630 aircraft will replace 5932.

In addition to having perhaps 1000 new T-50 PAK FAs in the world, sources state that Russia has over 1500 Mig-29’s, about 1000 SU-27-37’s.

Ibloga.blogspot.com:  “And in case you think everything we make is totally superior, consider this from the Federation of American Scientists:”

At about 40 miles apart, the American planes have the advantage because of avionics. At 10 miles the advantage is turning to the MiG. At five miles out, because of the MiG weapons sight and better maneuverability, the advantage is to the MiG. The weapons sight is a helmet-mounted system that allows the missile to follow the line of sight of the pilot’s helmet. Where the pilot looks is where it goes.

To make a long story short: qualitatively and quantitatively, the U.S. (and its allies) may soon no longer have the air superiority that they once enjoyed since the end of the Cold War.



Irresponsible? Russia Makes Sophisticated Fighter Jet – Gives Out The Technology


According to Wikipedia, “(t)he Sukhoi Su-30MKI is a super-maneuverable air superiority fighter developed by Russia’s Sukhoi and built under licence by India’s Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) for the Indian Air Force (IAF).”

It is a variant of Russia’s Su-30, and shares components with the highly sophisticated Su-35.  It is an all-weather, long-range fighter.

So not only does Russia make a very sophisticated fighter plane like the Su-35, but it is spreading the technology to certain countries.

Development of the variant started after India signed a deal with Russia in 2000 to manufacture 140 Su-30 fighter jets.

The first Russian-made Su-30MKI variant was accepted into the Indian Air Force in 2002, while the first India-assembled Su-30MKI entered service with the IAF in 2004.  Additional MKIs have been ordered to increase the total to 272.  The IAF had 200 Su-30MKIs in service as of August 2014.

The Su-30MKI is expected to form the backbone of the Indian Air Force’s fighter fleet to 2020 and beyond.

The aircraft is tailor-made for Indian specifications and integrates Indian systems and avionics as well as French and Israeli subsystems.  It has abilities similar to the Sukhoi Su-35 with which it shares many features and components.

The Su-30MKI was jointly designed by Russia’s Sukhoi Corporation and India’s Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL).

The Indian Air Force’s Sukhoi Su-30MKI is considered to be a generation ahead of Su-30MKK/MK2 fighters sold to China.

Russia’s Defense Ministry was impressed enough with the performance of the Su-30MKI to have ordered 30 Su-30SMs, a localized version of the Su-30MKI, for the Russian Air Force.

It features state of the art avionics developed by Russia, India, and Israel which includes display, navigation, targeting and electronic warfare systems. Some avionics suites used in the aircraft were also sourced from France and South Africa.


After two years of evaluation and negotiations, India signed a US$1.462 billion deal with the Sukhoi Corporation on 30 November 1996 for the delivery of 50 Su-30MKI aircraft in five batches. The first batch were eight Su-30MKs, the basic version of Su-30. The second batch were to be 10 Su-30Ks with French and Israeli avionics.

The third batch were to be 10 Su-30MKIs featuring canard foreplanes. The fourth batch of 12 Su-30MKIs and final batch of 10 Su-30MKIs aircraft all were to have the AL-31FP turbofans. These 50 aircraft were made by Sukhoi in Russia.

In October 2000, a MoU (Memorandum of Understanding) was signed confirming the license production of 140+ Su-30MKIs in India and in December 2000.  The deal was sealed at Russia’s Irkutsk aircraft plant, with full technology transfer.

The first Su-30MKIs from Nasik, India, were to be delivered from 2004, with the staged production until 2017–18. However in November 2002, the delivery schedule was expedited with production to be completed by 2015.  An estimated 920 AL-31FP turbofans are to be manufactured at HAL’s Koraput Division, while the mainframe and other accessories are to be manufactured at HAL’s Divisions in Lucknow and Hyderabad.

Final integration of the aircraft and its test flight are to be carried out at HAL’s Nasik Division.

The MKI production was planned to be done in four phases, with increasing Indian content: Phase I, II, III and IV respectively. In phase I, HAL manufactured the aircraft from completely knocked-down kits, moving to semi knocked-down kits in phase II and III, with the phase IV featuring aircraft manufactured by HAL from raw materials. Phase IV aircraft started getting delivered in 2013.

In 2008, Samtel HAL Display Systems (SHDS), a joint venture between Samtel Display Systems and HAL, won a contract to develop and manufacture multi-function avionics displays for the MKI.  A helmet mounted display, Topsight-I, based on technology from Thales and developed by SHDS will be integrated on the Su-30MKI in the next upgrade.

In March 2010, it was reported that India and Russia were discussing a contract for 42 more Su-30MKIs.   In June 2010, it was reported that the Cabinet Committee on Security had cleared the INR150 billion (US$2.4 billion) deal and that the 42 aircraft would be in service by 2018.

By August 2010, the cost increased to $4.3 billion or $102 million each.  This increased unit cost compared to the previous unit cost of $40 million in 2007, has led to the rumors that this order is for the Strategic Forces Command (SFC) and these aircraft will be optimized and hardwired for nuclear weapons delivery. The SFC had previously submitted a proposal to the Indian Defence Ministry for setting up two dedicated squadrons of fighters consisting of 40 aircraft capable of delivering nuclear weapons.

So, it seems that India will have sophisticated fighter jets capable of delivering nuclear weapons.

HAL expected that indigenisation of the Su-30MKI program would be completed by 2010. V. Balakrishnan, general manager of the Aircraft Manufacturing Division stated that “HAL will achieve 100 per cent indigenisation of the Sukhoi aircraft – from the production of raw materials to the final plane assembly”.

On 11 October 2012, the Indian Government confirmed plans to buy another 42 Su-30MKI aircraft.  On 24 December 2012, India ordered assembly kits for 42 Su-30MKIs by signing a deal during President Putin’s visit to India.  This increases India’s order total to 272 Su-30MKIs.

The Sukhoi Su-30MKI is the most potent fighter jet in service with the Indian Air Force in the late 2000s, and the MKIs are often fielded by the IAF in bilateral and multilateral air exercises.

Is The F-15 Safe?


In a previous article, OK, Fine noted that the F-15 is an expensive jet to maintain.  The U.S. fleet of F-15s is also getting older, and many of the planes are now over 30 years old.

What are some recent events with the F-15?

On October 8th, a USAF F-15 with the 493rd Fighter Squadron based out of Lakenheath, England, crashed 38 miles away at Lincolnshire, England.

On August 27th, an F-15 with the 104th Fighter Wing of the Massachusetts Air National Guard crashed near Deerfield, Virginia.

There have been some emergency landings by F-15s over the past year.  On August 21st, a USAF F-15 made an emergency landing in Turkey.

On April 24th, an F-15 made an emergency landing in Lithuania.

On April 7th, a Boeing 737 passenger plane and three U.S. F-15s had a “near miss” above Montrose, in Scotland.

On March, 25th, an F-15 made an emergency landing at PDX airport in Porland, Oregon.

On March 4th, a U.S. F-15 made an emergency landing at Kadena Air Base in Japan.

On May 27th, 2013, an F-15 crashed near Okinawa, Japan.

The F-15 has apparently never been shot down in combat.  However, Wikipedia states:  “As of 8 January 2014, 123 USAF F-15 aircraft had been destroyed in mishaps, with 52 fatalities.”

Loren Thompson, head of the Lexington Institute and a Pentagon consultant, said part of the reason for the problems with the F-15 is “corrosion, metal fatigue and parts obsolescence.”

The Cost Of Flying The F-15

f-15Recently, the pentagon decided to cut the 65th Aggressor Squadron, the United States Air Force F-15 unit that mimics enemy fighters like the Russian Su-27.  This squadron was used for training, playing the adversary role in dogfights.

The reason was the cost.  According to Time Magazine, the cost per flight-hour for some military jets is gigantic.  The F-15 costs roughly $41,921 per flight hour. (This includes fuel and maintenance costs.)

By comparison, the  F-16 costs $22,514.

Some European fighter jets like the SAAB JAS 39 Gripen have costs closer to that of the F-16.

The A-10 Warthog costs $17,716 per flight hour.  (It is also the subject of a budget battle at the Pentagon and may be cut to help fund the new F-35 Joint Strike fighter.)

Smaller drones like the Predator and Reaper drones cost $4000 or $5000 per flight-hour.

These costs do not include the costs of the bombs and ammunition.