Acquisitions pending delivery and the units to which they will be destined

The airplanes and helicopters that the Spanish Air Force expects to receive soon

Today, December 10, is the day of the Virgin of Loreto, patron saint of aviators and of the Spanish Air Force.

The plans of Spain to replace its EF-18M fighters: will the F-35 finally arrive?
Spanish Air Force will receive 16 C295W MPA/MSA: this is how these aircraft are for maritime missions

In addition to congratulating on this day the aviators who ensure the security of Spain's airspace 24 hours a day and 365 days a year, today is a good day to talk about the acquisitions that the Spanish Air Force is making. pending receipt, to replace aircraft that have reached or are about to reach the end of their operational life.

Full-scale model of the Eurofighter Tranche 4 of the Halcón program, presented by Airbus at the last Le Bourget air show, in France (Image: Revista de Aeronáutica y Astronáutca).

45 new Eurofighter Typhoons to replace the EF-18 Hornet

Among the already confirmed acquisitions, 45 new Eurofighter Typhoon combat aircraft stand out. In June 2022, the purchase of 20 of these aircraft (16 single-seaters and 4 two-seaters) was confirmed in order to replace the already old 20 EF-18A+ Hornets of the 46th Wing, with base in Gando (Gran Canaria). In September 2023 the purchase of 25 more Eurofighters was confirmed, in this case to replace the EF-18M of Ala 12 (Torrejón) and Ala 15 (Zaragoza). It must be taken into account that the Hornet is the fighter that has been active with the Air Force for the longest time in its entire history: the first EF-18 entered service in 1986.

The new Spanish Eurofighers are expected to be Tranche 4 in P3E configuration, the most modern and advanced variant of this aircraft, equipped with a new ECRS Mk1 electronically scanned array radar and a defensive aid subsystem (DASS) Praetorianfor electronic jamming of enemy systems. Taking into account the units of this aircraft that the Air Force already has active, once the Tranche 4 are received, Spain will operate a total of 114 Eurofighters, being the largest fighter operated by the Air Force from the F-86 Saber of the 1950s.

A C295W MPA maritime patrol (Photo: Airbus).

The 16 C295W MPA/MSA maritime patrol and surveillance aircraft

Another aircraft highly anticipated by the Air Force will come to fill the void left by the retirement of the last P-3M Orion maritime patrol aircraft of Group 22. In June 2023 it was confirmed the purchase of 6 C295W MPA maritime patrol aircraft and 10 C295W MSA maritime surveillance aircraft. The 6 C295W MPA will cover the gap left by the P-3M, while the 10 C295W MSA will replace the eight CN235 VIGMA maritime surveillance aircraft of the Air Force, currently assigned to the 801 Squadron (49th Wing), Mallorca), the 802 Squadron (46th Wing, Gando) and the 803 Squadron (48th Wing, Getafe).

The C295W MPA has a range of 5,750 km and a cruising speed of 480 km/h, features that are lower than those of the P-3M, but it is much cheaper than the Boeing P-8 Poseidon , the American replacement for the Orion. The C295W MPA has six underwing mounts in which it can carry torpedoes, air-to-surface missiles, bombs, depth charges and electronic warfare ECM nacelles, as well as a sonobuoy launcher for submarine detectionat the rear of the fuselage. In turn, the C295W MSA has a range of 4,352 km, being a model more oriented towards surveillance and rescue.

The second of the A330s of the 45th Air Force Group, upon arrival in Spain in May 2022 (Image: Ejército del Aire).

The 16 new Pilatus PC-21 for the AGA and CLAEX

In December 2022 it was confirmed the purchase of 16 new Pilatus PC-21 turboprop training aircraft, of which 14 will be assigned to the General Air Academy (AGA) of San Javier and 2 for the Armament and Experimentation Logistics Center (CLAEX), based in Torrejón de Ardoz. This acquisition will make the Air Force one of the largest operators of this model, with 40 units.

The second of the A330s of the 45th Air Force Group, upon arrival in Spain in May 2022 (Image: Ejército del Aire).

The Airbus A330 and its conversion to the MRTT variant

Among the acquisitions pending delivery there is also an Airbus A330, which will complete a fleet of three aircraft of this type assigned to the 45th Air Force Group. The second plane arrived in Spain in May 2022. The third was expected for 2023, already converted to the MRTT variant, but it seems to be delayed. The A330 is the largest aircraft of the Spanish Armed Forces. It can transport 288 passengers and more than 35 tons of cargo, with a range of 16,000 kilometers. Once all the aircraft have been delivered, the first two A330s will be converted to the MRTT variant, which will also allow them to be used as in-flight refueling aircraft, improving the force projection capabilities of the Air Force.

One of the new H135 of the Air Force (Image: Pablo Rada).

The new H135 helicopters of the 78th Wing

In July of this year the first two H135 helicopters arrived at the Armilla Air Base, in Granada, destined for the 78th Wing as training aircraft for the Military School of the Air Force Helicopters, which trains pilots from the three branches of the Armed Forces and the Civil Guard. The Air Force expects to receive a total of 9 H135, which will serve to replace the 9 Sikorsky S-76C Spirit of the 781 Squadron, which have been in service for 32 years.

The first NH90 Lobo of the Air Force, delivered in October 2020 (Image: Airbus).

Pending deliveries of NH90 Lobo helicopters

In the helicopter chapter it should also be noted that the Air Force has already received half of the 12 NH90 Lobo that it expects to operate. The first of these helicopters was delivered by Airbus to the 803 Squadron (Ala 48, Getafe) in October 2020. These helicopters have the mission of search and rescue (SAR), personnel recovery (PR) and special air operations (SAO). The pending deliveries will serve to replace the AS-332B Super Puma that are still active.

A mockup of the European MALE RPAS, also known as Eurodrone (Image: Ministerio de Defensa).

The future European MALE RPAS drones

Another project in which Spain has already confirmed the acquisition it will make is the European MALE RPAS, also known as Eurodrone, an unmanned aerial vehicle powered by two turboprop engines that is expected to make its first flight in 2025. This is a joint project promoted by Airbus, Dassault Aviation and Leonardo, with the support of Germany, Spain, France and Italy. The Air Force will receive 12 units. It will be the largest unmanned aerial vehicle operated by Spain, and can be used in reconnaissance missions and also in combat missions, as it can transport weapons. Like the MQ-9 Predator B in service today, they will surely be assigned to the 23rd Wing (Talavera la Real).


Main photo: Estado Mayor de la Defensa.

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