Flight International — 22 August — 4 September 2017

(C. Jardin) #1


18 | Flight International | 22 August-4 September 2017 flightglobal.com


ustralia has joined Germany
in grounding its fleet of Air-
bus Helicopters Tiger attack
rotor craft in the wake of a fatal
crash in Mali in which two crew
members were killed.
Investigations are ongoing into
the late July accident involving a
German army-operated example,
which came down in unex-
plained circumstances about
44nm (82km) northeast of Gao.
Berlin immediately withdrew
its Tigers from service, although
four aircraft remaining in Mali –
deployed as part of a multi-
national fight against an Islamic
insurgency – can perform mis-
sions in emergency situations, its
defence ministry says.
On 14 August Australia said it

would cease flying its Tiger
armed reconnaissance helicop-
ters “until further information be-
comes available”.
Spain is also thought to have
suspended flights involving its
Tiger inventory. Its defence min-
istry says: “The army will follow
the technical recommendations
of the manufacturer once it con-
ducts the necessary investiga-
tions and checks to find out what
could have caused the accident.”
France continues to fly its Ti-
gers in Mali, but most domestic
training was already on hold be-
cause of the summer holidays.
So far, little detail has been re-
leased about the circumstances of
the crash, but statements from the
German defence ministry indi-

cate that the Tiger lost its main
rotor blades after entering into a
sudden steep descent. It hit the
ground about 10s later, and the
wreckage was consumed by a
post-impact fire.
Crash investigators have recov-
ered the helicopter’s flight-data
recorders, but both are heavily
damaged and may be unable to
be accessed.
With Airbus Helicopters not
directly participating in the acci-
dent probe, it was required, as
part of its contract with the na-
tions, to issue a notice advising

that the Tiger is unsafe, without
being able to offer any related
guidance. This was released
shortly after the crash and updat-
ed on 10 August.
“Airbus Helicopters declares
[an] UNSAFE condition for all
Tiger versions. AH can neither
identify the part, the failure of
which would lead to the acci-
dent, nor the origin of the failure
(design, manufacturing, mainte-
nance). Consequently, AH is not
in the position to propose a pro-
tective measure,” the warning
notice says. ■


ulgaria’s government has
postponed taking a final deci-
sion on the selection of a new-
generation fighter until later this
year, while the nation also con-
siders significant investments in
the maintenance of its RAC MiG-
29 and Sukhoi Su-25 fleets.
In late June, Bulgaria’s newly
elected parliament decided to es-
tablish an investigation board to
review all aspects of the fighter
tender. This followed the an-
nouncement by a temporary gov-
ernment in late April that the
Saab Gripen C/D was the pre-
ferred candidate in the country’s
new combat aircraft competition.
The Swedish bid, using new-
build aircraft, was ranked ahead
of proposals with Tranche
1-standard Eurofighter Typhoons

from Italy, and used Lockheed
Martin F-16s promoted by the
USA and Portugal. The com-
bined US/Portuguese offer was
disqualified, reportedly after fail-

ing to meet several key require-
ments, including a deferred pay-
ment scheme.
Sofia had requested informa-
tion on an eight-aircraft deal to be

completed under a government-
to-government agreement, with
deliveries to occur by 2020. The
deal has an allocated budget of
€767 million ($900 million). The
plan calls for another eight of the
same type to be purchased be-
tween 2022 and 2023.
Meanwhile, defence minister
Krasimir Karakachanov has
called for the air force’s current
fighters and strike aircraft to re-
ceive funding to maintain their
airworthiness. The service has 15
MiG-29s and 14 Su-25s, but he
says that in early August only
eight and four, respectively, were
in a serviceable condition.
Karakachanov says he has held
talks with representatives of RAC
MiG about the options for main-
taining the MiG-29 fleet. ■

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Sofia may increase funding to improve maintenance of its Su-25 fleet

Alexander Mladenov

Two German crew members died during a mission flown from Gao



Tiger user nations

ground type amid

Mali crash mystery

Unexplained loss halts operations with attack helicopter
while Berlin tries to gather information about fatal accident


Gripen deal waits as Bulgaria reviews selection

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