In a recent interview with AFM, he stated that “Bangladesh is a small country, and therefore our air force will always be small in size, but each soldier must be able to perform various tasks. The air force is essentially defensive, and they face the only task - the country's air defense. The military component is transformed into arms supplies. But I doubled, and in some cases tripled, the supply of arms and the number of sorties. In order to increase combat readiness, they [fighter pilots] of the order of 20 hours spend at radar stations, observing the work of fighter aviation guidance operators. That way, when they return to the air again, they will be able to read each other’s thoughts with minimal communication. Now they are one team that is able to reach the enemy. "
“Our foreign policy is aimed at establishing friendly relations with everyone, we do not want evil to anyone. Accordingly, we are still very actively involved in UN peacekeeping operations, providing Bell 212, Mi-17 helicopters and C-130 aircraft. To date, about 20% of air raids (approximately 4000 hours) of all Air Forces accounted for operations in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and a significant portion of them is carried out on the Mi-17. We recently worked in South Sudan, and now also in Côte d'Ivoire. We support UN operations with 1995 and since then the raid for these purposes has been 34000 hours. Fortunately, we did not have a single accident with our helicopters, although in many cases they brought bullet holes. For the Bengal Air Force, UN operations are a key source of experience. ”
Air Force Base Bir Shrestho Matiur Rahman
Pilots begin their flying career at the Bir Shrestho Matiur Rahman airbase (136 km south-west of Dhaka), where the training wing of the Bengal Air Force Academy is located. Before starting basic flight training, cadets complete a one-year course at the air base, and three years later they graduate from there with a bachelor's degree from the Bengali Professional University (Bangladesh University of Professionals) with the participation of the Academy's academic wing. On average, 20-25 cadets are selected annually for the initial flight training, and then the lucky ones go through a one-year course on the Nanchang PT-6 training aircraft. During this time, as part of the 11 squadron, they fly 120 hours during 119 sorties. The PT-6 is an export version of the CJ-6, which in turn is a copy of the Soviet Yak-18, was first shipped from China to 1977 and is the most numerous type of aircraft in the Air Force. A total of 46 aircraft was received, the last batch was adopted in May 1996. In recent years, some RT-6 have been modified using Western avionics, including the Garmin GPS system and automatic radio compass.
Approximately 30 PT-6 are still in flying condition. Some of them are stationed in Borg, located in 210 km north-west of Dhaka, they are at the disposal of the Pilot Instructor School (STI). In the past, the Bengal Air Force pilots were trained by foreign instructors, including representatives of the prestigious Central Flight School (CLS) of the British Air Force, and CLS teachers visit Bangladesh every three years to evaluate and standardize the training process.
The Bengal Air Force still retains title systems and the structure of the Royal Air Force units and is very proud of the fact that the CLS instructors rate their training standards very high. Cadets from Sri Lanka, India and Malaysia were trained in Borg, who sent them there to attend a pilot-instructor training course to obtain the status of Qualified Flying Instructor (QFI).
At present, the HELY releases one or two streams per year. During the six-month 10 course, selected cadets fly 75 hours on RT-6, after which they must spend almost a year in the role of instructors and train cadets as part of the 11 squadron at Jessore. QFI can then become instructors on L-39 aircraft, and then return to their units to train combat pilots. Qualified helicopter instructors pass initial training on Bell 212 helicopters as part of the 18 squadron.
Until recently, cadets who had been selected for flying on airplanes who had successfully mastered the RT-6 immediately transferred to the Cessna T-37B 15 squadron in which they had completed a six-month course in jet aircraft. Of the 12 T-37В, supplied from the presence of the USAF in 1995, as of December 2011, only five or six remained in flying condition, after which the aircraft were deposited. Despite the fact that this type is taken out of service, the T-37B conducts a regular engine race to ensure that they are in good condition. The cadets who successfully completed training on T-37В with 35 hours of flight begin to fly on the Aero Vodochody L-39ZA Albatros training and combat aircraft that are part of the 25 Squadron (Zahurul Haque Air Base). Those cadets who did not meet the requirements for high-speed jet aircraft continued to study at Cessna T-37B, as future pilots of multi-engined transport aircraft were also trained on this aircraft.
Those cadets who were selected as helicopter pilots, after training at the RT-6, begin to fly on Bell 206 JetRanger helicopters. During the six-month training course, they must successfully make 57 sorties and spend 45 hours in the sky, after which they are distributed either to Bell 212 helicopters or Mi-17 helicopters.
The 18 Squadron has two Bell 206L-1 LongRanger II helicopters delivered in 1983, two Bell 206L-4 LongRangerIV, received respectively in 1997 and 2004. Since the L-4 version has improved performance and is equipped with more modern avionics, the Bengal Air Force plans to upgrade the L-1 helicopters to the L-4 version, although the timing has not yet been determined.
In addition to training pilots for the Air Force, the 18 Squadron also trains pilots of ground forces and navy, as well as foreign cadets.
Zahurul Haque airbase
Four squadrons are stationed at Zahurul Haque air base, the base itself is located in the southern suburbs of Chittagong. Because of its proximity to the Bay of Biscay, the air base is of strategic importance.
The Trendsetters 25 Squadron operates L-39ZA training aircraft that serve both basic and advanced training. Currently, basic training and retraining chickens on a jet plane are combined, the total number of flying hours is 110. With the ability to use a dual 23-mm cannon and carry P-3С missiles with IR GOS, 57-mm NURS suspension blocks and a maximum bomb load of up to 1000 kg, the aircraft is used to train students in the basics of use weapons. After completing the course, the cadets are transferred to the 35 squadron at the Kurmitola air base.
The Bengal Air Force bought eight new L-39ZAs in 1995, but one aircraft crashed on April 8 on an ordinary training flight almost immediately after taking off from the Kurmitol air base. Although both members of the crew managed to eject, the pilot-officer Shariful Haq died of his injuries at the United Military Hospital in Dhaka. In the flying state is constantly six copies, and the remaining aircraft is being repaired at the company Aerostar in Romania.
The cadets selected for flight service on the aircraft are transferred to the 3 Squadron Unicorns to complete the basic flight training course. There they fly around 75-80 hours on an An-32 transport aircraft, after which they receive a diploma.
Two An-32 were received by Bangladesh in 1989 g, the third entered 1995 g. Although they are mainly used as medium-capacity transport aircraft, they can also be used as bombers, since bombs weighing up to 500 can be raised at each of the four suspension points kg The Avengers 21 Squadron is a unit that specializes in assault operations and direct support for troops. It is armed with Nanchang A-5IIIA Fantan aircraft (which, in turn, is a Chinese copy of the Soviet MiG-19 fighter - Shenyang J-6). In 1986, 16 of such aircraft was obtained, nine of which are still operational, after the loss of two attack aircraft. In the period 2006-2009. seven A-5 were sent to the PRC for the program to extend the resource, after which it was extended for another 600 hours (or 12 years). In 2009, two more aircraft underwent a similar modernization, already conducted by technicians of the Bengal Air Force under the guidance of Chinese specialists, as a result, the resource was increased by 400 hours or eight years.
In 2008, a study was conducted on the possibility of using Chinese guided bombs LS-5 with GPS guidance on A-6, and laser-guided LT-2 bombs. Despite appearances that have appeared, not a single aircraft has undergone such a modernization and not a single aircraft of the Bengal Air Force can currently use guided weapons.
A-5 is armed with two 23-mm cannons, and in the Bengal Air Force can use a maximum of six Bombs N82, four concrete bombs Matra Durandal to destroy the runways or two 57-mm or 90-mm NURS bombs for eight missiles. Bengal A-5 will always be used under cover of F-7BG / MB or MiG-29 fighters, therefore A-5 no longer carry Matra R550 Magic air-to-air missiles with IR GOS for self-defense.
The A-5 stormtroopers are approaching the exhaustion of their resource and are now considering options for replacing it. Taking into account the available resource of the glider А-5, it is planned to write off in the period from 2017 to 2021, although it is not excluded that this will happen earlier.
Pilots who are selected for the A-5 attack aircraft receive a few hours of flight time on the FT-6 training aircraft. Although it is not a special A-5 training aircraft, this export version of the Chinese JJ-6 has the same engine. This type is mainly used to familiarize cadets with engine starting procedures, although it also allows A-5 pilots to improve their skills. The aircraft is equipped with a 30-mm cannon with 50 shells, in addition, it can carry two NURS caliber 68-mm or two 57-mm NURS units for eight missiles. The FT-6 is a rare bird, and the fact of its operation by the 21 squadron speaks to the ability of the Air Force to maintain its outdated fleet in a flying state and squeeze the maximum resource out of them, as far as it is economically efficient. The first batch of FT-6 was received from China in 1982, then former Pakistani planes were added to them, and by 1992, when the last plane was handed over, the total number of copies delivered by these two countries reached ten. In 2007, three FT-6 were sent to the PRC for repair and extension, as a result of which it was increased by 600 hours. The other three aircraft underwent similar work in Bangladesh under the supervision of the Chinese, and in this case the resource was extended for 400 hours. Finally, three more aircraft will be sent to China in the next two to three years to extend the resource on 300 hours. More recently, five aircraft of this type were in flying condition, one crashed 17 June 2009.
At the Zahurul Haque airbase, one of the three helicopter units of the Bengal Air Force is also based - the 1 squadron Pioneers, armed with a small number of Bell 212 and Mi-17 / 171 / 171Ш helicopters. But most of the helicopters are deployed at Bashar airbase.
Bashar Air Base
Bashar Air Base is located in the southern sector of a large military camp located in the capital, Dhaka. It occupies the territory of the former Tejgaon International Airport, and Bashar, like the Air Force Bir Shrestho Matiur Rahman and Zahurul Haque, is named after national heroes.
After completing the training course on the Bell 206 helicopter, the helicopter pilots are sent to Bashar Air Base to operate Bell 212 or Mi-17. After the 25 hours of raid on Bell, the 45 hours are worn on Mi, they get the qualification of "Category D" (co-pilot). Those who subsequently retrain from the Mi-17 to the Mi-171 need another seven hours of flying time to familiarize themselves with the type and another five hours to learn the use of weapons, after which they are considered to be prepared to control the Mi-171.
The 9 Squadron “Scorpions” is armed with Bell 212 helicopters, nine of which were received in 1977. Two more arrived in 1988 for VIP transportation. Another helicopter, delivered in 1998, had an inflatable chassis and was operated by an 1 squadron to conduct search and rescue operations over the sea. The Bengal Air Force relies heavily on Bell 212 for transportation, in addition it is used to drop airborne troops and evacuate troops, as well as tactical reconnaissance in areas bordering India and Myanmar. This type of helicopter is a workhorse: from the time of delivery, the total amount of this type is equal to the distance, 375 times the length of the equator.
The 31 Squadron is armed with Mi-17 / 171 / 171Sh helicopters. In addition to the use of qualifying flights for instructors, the division has tasks of transportation, tactical fire support of ground units, ambulance flights and search and rescue operations. In 1991-1994 Bangladesh received 16 Mi-17 helicopters, eight of which were equipped with trusses for weapons suspension. To provide ground-based fire support from the air, six units with NURS, a total number of 192-mm missiles, a container with 57-mm guns or bombs with a total weight of up to 23 kg can be suspended on helicopters. Two more unarmed Mi-1500s were received in 17, and they are in service with the 1996 squad of special operations.
To ensure the protection of the crew during operations that resulted from unrest in the mountainous region of Chittagong Hill Tract in the south-east of the country, armor plates were installed in 1992 around the cockpit and engines. This defense proved invaluable during the UN peacekeeping operation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), where Mi-17 crews came under fire.
The entire Mi-17 fleet is also equipped with a second VHF radio station: the Collins radio stations were removed from the Fouga CM-170 Magister training aircraft after writing off the latter in 1997, and then installed on the Mi-17. This can serve as a good illustration of the ingenuity and typical approach to economic feasibility that take place in the Bengal Air Force.
The Air Force also has three Mi-171 helicopters delivered at 2005, and funding has been requested for the purchase of another batch. Three Mi-17Sh helicopters were added to the Mi-2007 family fleet in 171. They can use the same weapons as the armed versions of the Mi-17, but in the nose of the Mi-171X there is a firing point for a machine gun of the 7,62 caliber mm.
The 101 Special Operations Squad is responsible for VIP transportation. Along with two Mi-17, acquired in 1996 and two Mi-17-1В, received in 2006, the armament of the detachment also has military transport aircrafts Lockheed С-130В Hercules, which performs transportation and, if necessary, new pilots for them are transferred from the 3 squadron. Of the four former American C-130, delivered in 2001, three cars remain in flying condition. One of these is usually deployed in DRC to support UN operations. Three C-130Vs were repaired - the first was sent to AIROD Malaysian in 2005 (returned a year later), and two more in 2008 were sent to the Chilean plant Empressa Nacionale de Aeronautica (ENAER), where they were repaired in same year. The Air Force plans to repair the fourth C-130. According to Air Marshal Rahman, “in 2011, we planned to sign a contract to repair the non-flying C-130. Unfortunately, this did not happen. Therefore, we had to declare the tender again so that someone could return the plane to the flying state, then we could overtake it on our own at the aircraft repair plant. Over the past two years, I have asked the US government to purchase from two to four C-130Es under the foreign military procurement program (FMS) to provide additional transportation in the interests of the UN. ”
Kurmitola Air Base
The Kurmitola air base is located in the northern part of the military camp in the Dhaka region, it shares its runway base with the Hazrat Shahjalal international airport, and three fighter units are stationed here.
The oldest type of aircraft in service with the Bengal Air Force is the Chinese version of the MiG-21F-13 - Chengdu F-7. The 35 squadron "Thunder Cats" is armed with F-7MB Airguard fighter jets and Guizhou FT-7A / B double combat training fighters, an export modification of the Chinese JJ-7 Sparky (which is a development of the Soviet MiG-21U). The main task of the squadron is to protect the airspace, direct support of the troops, as well as to isolate the combat area. To do this, the F-7MB is equipped with a radar, two 30-mm cannons, as well as two short-range air-to-air missiles with PL-7 IR homing missiles. Airplanes can also be armed with 57-mm and 90-mm NURS and raise kg bombs to 2000.
In addition to the supporting role as part of the defense, 35-I squadron is also a subdivision, where retraining to fighters takes place. Upon completion of the training course on the L-39, the cadets are seconded to this part, where during the one-year course of study they have a raid in 65 hours, after which they are considered prepared for piloting the F-7MB fighter. After it, they can retrain to A-5IIIA, F-7BG or MiG-29B.
The Bengal Air Force received the 16 F-7MB (the letter “B” means Bangladesh) in 1989, the aircraft of this party were initially divided between the 5 and 35 squadrons following the decommissioning of the MiG-21MF. Some aircraft were modernized and were able to carry a reconnaissance outboard container, although it was already a few years ago since it was last used. Another modification, carried out by local technicians, was the installation of GPS systems and special equipment on the aircraft, which made it possible to draw a cone to practice the firing of guns.
The first batch of three F-7MB arrived in 1990, another aircraft followed in 1991, three in 1999, and one in 2002. The only FT-7A was received in 2007. This aircraft, in contrast to FT- 7B is equipped with an indicator on the background of the windshield. Another difference between the new combat training aircraft was the installation of the ejection seat Martin-Baker, which allows the aircraft to leave at zero height and speed, unlike the Chinese TY6E seat, which is equipped with the FT-7A. Both options can be equipped with a gun mount.
The most modern version of the F-7 currently in service is the F-7BG / BGI, which is equipped with the 5-I squadron "Supersonics" and 35-I squadron "Thunder Cats". 12 F-7BG (and again “B” means Bangladesh) were delivered in 2006 along with four combat training Guizhou FT-7BG. The aircraft installed a Chinese copy of the Italian radar FIAR Grifo-7 - SY-80. F-7BG is primarily intended for solving air defense tasks, tracking and ground attack of ground targets. An additional task facing the 5 Squadron is ground support and visual reconnaissance. Unlike the F-7MB, not a single F-7BG has been upgraded to use the reconnaissance container.
F-7BG is equipped with the same indicator on the background of the windshield and weapon control system, as the F-16A fighter. In addition to the two 30-mm cannons, he is armed with either four air-to-air missiles PL-5E, or two PL-9C and IR GOS. For bombardment of ground targets, suspension units for Western armaments can be installed on it, as a result of which the aircraft can lift either 250-kg or 500-kg bombs, Durandal concrete bombs, BL-755 and 90-mm NURS cluster bombs. The combat training FT-7BG is distinguished by an elongated fuselage, an 30-mm cannon mounted on it, as well as a similar F-7BG avionics, including the SY-80 radar. All F-7BG / FT-7BG airplanes are flying, although none of them have been repaired. As in the case of the F-7MB, the only modification of the F-7BG from the time of delivery was the installation of a GPS navigation system and targeting equipment.
The Bengal Air Force had just received X-NUMX F-12BGI fighters with a glass cockpit, and four Sparki armed X-NUMX squadrons. The F-7МВ / FT-35А / В fighters will be transferred to the 7 squadron from the Zahurul Haque airbase, which will serve as re-training for the fighters.
When Bangladesh received six MiG-1999B fighters and two combat-fighting MiG-29UBs in 29, they were transferred to the Vigilance, Valor, Victory 8 squadron to replace the F-6 / FT-6. The main task of the MiG-29 - the implementation of air defense. Both “clean” fighters and “Sparky” are equipped with a single-barreled 30-mm cannon mounted on the left side, but the MiG-29UB ammunition is limited to 50 shells, unlike 150 shells on the MiG-29B. Both versions can apply short-range missiles P-73 with IR GOS.
The helmet-mounted sighting device is connected to a quantum optical-location station (COLS) and an integrated surveillance-tracking finder, and both of these systems, in turn, are connected to the infrared homing missiles. When the helmet-mounted device is not used for defining the target, there is for this purpose an overview-tracking finder, which is controlled using the button on the control stick. The KOLS, which is a passive system (located to the left of the pilot's cabin), also has a laser rangefinder, with a range of 6,5 km. In a dogfight-type air combat, the P-73E rocket is the most optimal weapon, since, thanks to its maneuverability, it can hit targets that are on the side of the fighter.
MiG-29B is equipped with radar H-019, which allows the use of medium-range missiles R-27Р1 with semi-active seeker. In turn, the MiG-XNUMHUB radar is absent, although for training purposes it can be equipped with an emitter simulating the operation of the radar. Helmet system is also associated with the radar, but it is mainly used in the use of missiles with IR GOS.
Although the MiG-29 was originally developed as a fighter of air superiority, in the Bengal Air Force, as an auxiliary task, it can carry out ground attack missions and direct support of troops. In addition to using ground guns for firing ground targets, either two 500 kg FAB-500 bombs, two 240-mm NURS, or 80-mm NURS blocks (each with 20 NURS) can be suspended on a fighter. It may be somewhat unusual to use the P-73E rocket against ground and surface targets, when the MiG-29 acts as a sea strike aircraft.
As part of the extension of the life of the aircraft, three MiG-29B and one "Spark" underwent repairs, which increased the resource by eight years. Given Bangladesh’s plans to modernize its MiG-29, according to Air Marshal Rahman, “today there are many variables and the time factor should be taken into account. It depends on whether we receive on time, or not, the necessary funding. Under existing circumstances, aircraft have a large residual resource, so there is nothing to worry about. There is the option of applying to them the program of modernization and extension of the life cycle. However, they also offered MiG-29CMT, whose characteristics are almost twice the parameters of the current aircraft. We also have the opportunity to put into service the Su-30. In addition to funding issues, we must also be satisfied with the performance of the aircraft, that is, we need to send a group of technicians and pilots. From previous experience, we realized that we do not always like what we pay for. Now, however, before the purchase of new weapons must first be tested both in terms of technology and operation. "
As part of the modernization policy of its air force, Bangladesh purchased a squadron of new fighters, whose supplies are about to begin. Air Marshal Rahman approvingly reacted to this purchase, which is the first step of the long-term program of re-equipment of the Air Force. According to him, “we need a new aircraft. The new F-7BGI fighter we received in December is different from the early F-7 modifications that are in service. With its appearance, our Air Force will be armed with a “glass cabin” aircraft for the first time, and we also switched to multifunctional monitors and a side control stick. Our acquisition is that we are preparing pilots for the future, by the time when we can afford the most advanced fighters. And in this case, the transition to them will be much easier. "
“We are considering various options for guided weapons. Initially, we opted for some Chinese samples [LS-6 guided planning bombs], but before placing an order we will conduct a series of tests. Also proposed laser-guided bomb [LT-2], but in this matter we are not moving very fast. Until today, we used only free-fall bombs and unguided rockets. I expect 100% success from initial systems during the initial tests - therefore at the moment we are only looking at the GPS-guided bomb [LS-6] ”.
“T-37 aircraft have now been written off, and this significantly increases the load on the L-39 fleet, since these aircraft will have to play basic and advanced training aircraft. L-39 will be written off in 12 or 14 years, and therefore we are currently looking for a replacement for it as an in-depth training aircraft. Aermacchi M-346, Yak-130, KAI T-50 and Hongdu L-15 are considered. We have time to wait and see which production of which of these aircraft will be the most massive, and this will ultimately affect the most important criterion for us - the cost of one unit. We started the technical analysis in 2005 and we have to understand what we want and when we can afford it for 2013. However, the actual purchase is a completely different matter. "
“We are also thinking about a new multi-purpose fighter, since obsolete types, such as the A-5, will soon be written off. We need a multifunctional fighter that would have the ability to strike outside the air defense range, as well as perform tasks over the sea, that is, to possess those functions that we currently lack. Piracy and illegal fishing are a problem, therefore, tactical air support for operations at sea plays a very important role. We are trying to expand our capabilities over the sea through the use of An-32 and C-130В. However, this is not quite the same, as the planes are designed for other tasks. We are currently working on the development of the “Air Force General Staff Requirements,” and are considering the revised versions of the F-16, Gripen, J-10, Su-30 and MiG-29SMT.
“As part of our reconstruction plan, which we call Air Force targets in 2030, our goal for the medium term is ten squadrons: one specializing in naval percussion operations, three multifunctional, and six in the interests of air defense. But in reality, a specialized marine unit can be very expensive, and we will most likely delay with this option. ”
"In the short term, we can create two squadrons of multifunctional fighters, and three air defense squadrons, and this will be enough given our financial constraints."
Although the Air Force accounts for the minimum part of the defense budget of Bangladesh, this type of armed forces manages to create an adequate fleet of aircraft. Currently, only the RT-6 training aircraft and Bell 206 / 212 helicopters are serviced by Bengali technicians. But as soon as the new aircraft repair plant in Kurmitol will be put into operation, the Air Force plans to expand the list of repairs. According to Marshal of Aviation Rahman, “in the first stage, we will repair F-7 fighter jets, which are in service with significant quantities. However, during the 5-10 years, these works will be carried out on other types of fighters. In addition to the fact that this activity will make it possible to establish relations with other countries, the presence of such aircraft repair plants will also allow our government to receive much-needed funds, and ultimately, the country's population. Due to the conduct of such work in our own scientific base will also gradually expand. "
“We have a bigger task ahead of us: over the next 10 years, we should get the necessary opportunities for independent production of a training aircraft of basic training. After gaining experience, we use this springboard to produce a better aircraft, perhaps for 20 years. ”
“We have been repairing our RT-6 over 20 years, repaired around 80 aircraft. They flew about 150000 hours without a single breakage. We recently passed ISO certification, and now we do not exclude the possibility of repairing aircraft of friendly countries. We are repairing our Bell 212 helicopters, and I invited Bell employees to monitor our work. We would like to partner with Bell in order to be able to repair Bell 212 helicopters from other countries. ”
“We are also working on the creation of a repair enterprise for work on the glider of the Mi-17 helicopters, which will allow us to control the time spent on this operation. Today we are dependent on others, and sometimes delivery may be delayed. Our goal is to constantly have eight Mi-17 in flying condition, but today there are only five of them ”.
The stunning statistics of the Bengali Air Force failure-free is a testament to the professionalism demonstrated at all levels. Air Marshal Rahman sets high targets for the Air Force, for the benefit of their own people and the people of the country.
If his idea of a local-made training aircraft comes to practical implementation, the Bengal Air Force will take the first step towards true self-sufficiency.
Original publication: Air Forces Monthly, April 2013 - Sean Wilson, Paul Mulligan