Spotter Magazine Issue 18

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welcome Welcome to the first issue of Spotter Magazine for 2019. This is indeed a big moment for us, as we bring to you exclusive photos from the Hellenic Army Aviation’s base at Megara. Clear signs that the magazine is, despite its humble beginnings, growing in recognition and popularity.

Like most issues, we had to dedicate some pages to some sad farewells. This time round, it’s British Airways’ 767s and the Japan Self Defence Air Force’s 747s. Both iconic aircraft that will sadly be missed in the skies. Once again, our heartfelt thanks to all our volunteer contributors. We want to continue to make this magazine a worldwide celebration of our passion. Please support out efforts by forwarding links to anyone who may be interested in reading it. Enjoy!

Mark Zerafa Editor


Mark Zerafa

Design Assistant: Massimiliano Zammit


EDITORIAL ADDRESS: 238, ‘Morning Star’, Manuel Dimech Str., Sliema,

copyright notice All photos and articles remain the intellectual and artistic property of the respective credited persons. All unauthorised reproduction, by any means, both printed and digital, is considered an infringement of this copyright and all remedies available by law will be taken against any infringements of such copyright.

contents Clear Sky 2018


Hellenic Army Aviation Megara


Cal Fire


Speedbird 767 Farewell


Japanese 747s Farewell


Finland’s Last Bf-109


Red Bull Air Race Wiener Neustadt


Farnborough International Airshow


credits Graphic Design:

Massimiliano Zammit,


Richard J. Caruana


Paul Ridgwell Kyle Mizzi Lawrence Brincat Bastian Haart Jason Wong Cliff Ibell

Clear Sky 2018 Text: Paul Ridgwell, Erik Bruijns Photos: Paul Ridgwell

During October eight F15Cs of the 144 Fighter Wing, California Air National Guard, deployed to Starokostiantyniv Air Base in Ukraine for Exercise Clear Sky 2018. The unit has been associated with Ukraine for many years and this exercise was a continuation of that relationship. A total of nine countries were involved in various aspects, aimed at enhancing the interoperability between Ukraine, the USAF and other NATO countries and to improve the skills of air crews and command/control personnel.

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Locally upgraded Su-25 (Blue-31) with weapons display

The exercise consisted of three distinct phases: Deployment Phase of 6 days, the main Active Phase of 12 days – with almost 200 sorties flown and a 4-day re-deployment phase, where units returned to their ‘mother’ bases. Based at Starokostiantyniv were 144 FW California ANG F15Cs and the tactical aircraft and CSAR helicopters from various Air Force of Ukraine units. Romanian and Polish F16s operated from their home bases at Fetesti and Poznan-Krzesiny respectively. U.S. MQ-9 Reaper and Ukrainian PD-1 UAVs were a key part of the co-operative training, involving ISR personnel from several nations. The transport contingent operated from Vinnytsia in Ukraine and the air refuelling was provided by the USAF/ANG, also operating from Poland.

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Personnel from participating nations salute the exercise commanders.

The links between the state of California and Ukraine extend beyond military co-operation and include cultural exchanges. Here the band of the Ukranian Air Force perform with traditional dancers.


Locally upgraded Su-24M with flight-line consisting of Su-27PIM, MiG-29Mui and F-15C

During the Active Phase the aviation component undertook dissimilar-air-sovereignty and CAP sorties, air-to-ground operations - within permissive and non-permissive environments, combined air-drops of personnel and cargo, CSAR and SERE missions, and air-refuelling. The ISR component conducted air surveillance and search/identification missions using UAVs, with real-time ISR sharing and cyber defence, the aim being to enhance operational and tactical proficiency, through experience-exchange between nations.

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The Band of the United States Air Force Europe (USAFE)

MiG-29Mui (White 05) is another locally upgraded type in the Ukranian Air Force inventory


A variety of Ukranian Air Force aircraft on display in their respective hardstands. Note the flare dispensers on the tail and the engines of the Su-25.

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F-15C 84-004 wearing a special scheme to mark the 75th anniversary of the 144 Fighter Wing.

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Aero L-

Upgraded Su-24M (White 41)


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-39 (Blue-74)

9 Mui (White - 08) 17


A total of 20 NH-90s are now in service with the Hellenic Army Aviation. Four of these are expected to be configured for Special Forces configuration. Together with an increased number of Chinooks, these helicopters are intended to replace the UH1s in Greek service.

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ellenic Army Aviation Text: Mark Zerafa Photos: Mark Zerafa, Lawrence Brincat, Kyle Mizzi Megara Air Base, in Attica Greece, West of Athens, is the cradle of Hellenic Army Aviation. This is where, in August 1950, the 190th Air Observation Unit was formed. As part of the artillery forces, its role was that of air observation in support of the artillery. In 1961, the first rotary-wing equipment was received in the form of the Bell 47G. This was followed in 1969 by the legendary Bell UH-1 Iroquois in 1969, which allowed a wider scope of operations to include air transport. Further capability was introduced with the CH-47 Chinook in 1981. The arrival of the first AH-64 Apaches in 1995 brought enhanced attack capability, whilst the NH-90 is set to modernize the Hellenic Army’s transport and SAR capabilities.


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The UH-1 and the Agusta Bell AB-205 are the most numerous aircraft in the Hellenic Army inventory, with 25 UH-1s and 62 AB-205s currently in the inventory. After initial training on the Nardi-Hughes 300C at the Army Aviation School, all Army pilots convert to the UH-1. 21

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UH-1H Serial 658 was given this special colour scheme in 2017 to celebrate the 40 years of the 2nd Helicopters Battalion.


Tough, rugged and reliable, the UH-1 soldiers on in service in numerous air arms.

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As part of the modernisation programme for the Hellenic Army Aviation, 20 NH-90s were ordered in 2013, with options for a further 14. Featuring a fully-composite airframe, a superb power to weight ratio, fly-by-wire flight controls and a wide range of equipment, the NH-90 brings a highly enhanced operational capability compared to the Huey, at the expense of increased cost and complexity.

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The large number of islands bordering arch-rival Turkey has required the Hellenic Army to invest in one of the largest heavy-lift helicopter fleet in the region. An initial purchase of CH-47Cs was made, of which nine were upgraded to CH47D standard. The fleet was then increased to 24 Chinooks, some in ‘Super D’ configuration with larger fuel tanks. A further six ex-US Army CH-47Ds are on order, to bring the fleet count to 30 examples. Besides combat operations, the Chinooks are also tasked with the fire-fighting role, equipped with Bambi buckets.

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Four Israeli F-16Cs , resplendent in their distinctive camouflage also participated in the exercise, and created quite a spectacle with a very spirited departure on the Press Day.

CH-47D Serial 929 has been given special markings in 2018 to mark the 20 years of the type’s service, during which 43,000 flying hours were flown.

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The Cessna U-17A Skywagon is slowly being phased out of service, some already guarding the gate at Megara. With the arrival of OH-58 Kiowas for the observation role, and heavier helicopters in the transport role, there is little scope in extended the type’s service life any further. The Hellenic Army is considering the purchase of Pegasus drones to fulfill the reconnaissance role.

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Initially designed as a turboprop executive transport, the Beechcraft King Air has proven itself considerably adaptable to military use as the C-12. The Hellenic Army operates three examples in the reconnaissance and VIP transport role.

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Spotter Magazine would like to thank the General Staff of the Hellenic Army, as well as the personel at Megara Air Base, for their kind hospitality and for making this visit possible. In a special way, we would like to thank Col. Ioannis Koukoulis, Commander of Megara Air Base, for his time and hospitality.


Cal Fire Text: Jeroen Van Toor Photos: Baastian Hart CAL FIRE operates a fleet of over 50 aircraft, both fixed-wing and helicopters, making it the world’s largest firefighting fleet. With a diverse fleet of aircraft, the California Fire Department can count on having the right aircraft for every kind of blaze.

The California Fire Department first started using aerial firefighting techniques in the 1950s, when crop -dusting aircraft were used to drop water on fires. In 1958, private contractors were hired to provide the service, using larger, surplus aircraft from World War II, which had been converted into fire-bombers.

Besides fire-bombers, the department advocated the use of small, agile aircraft to act as aerial coordinators of the firefighting operation, much like forward air control aircraft in combat. In 1974, 20 Cessna O-2s entered service. These were eventually replaced by 16 OV-10 aircraft.

By 1970, the department began to evaluate the Grumman S-2 Tracker, which was then being phased out by the US Navy. A fleet of S-2As was built over the next ten years. The Trackers were subject to upgrades, with a turbine conversion programme commencing in 1987, and completed in 2005.

In parallel to the fixed-wing program, the California Fire Department also began using helicopters for its mission. Initially, these were operated by private contractors, but twelve Bell UH-1Fs were acquired in 1981 from surplus USAF stocks. These were replaced by UH-1Hs by the end of the decade. Eventually a mix of spotter and fire-fighting rotary-wing types was developed.

As widebody airliners started being retired by the airlines, the opportunity arose for the conversion of larger aircraft capable of tackling large forest fires. In 2006, the Department contracted the conversion of a DC-10 for this purpose.

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Originally flying for National Airlines, Pan Am, American Airlines and Hawaiian Airlines and Omni Air, this DC-10 was then converted into a water bomber and is operated by 10 Tanker Air Carrier. Utilised in fighting wildfires, usually in rural settings, the DC-10 can carry up to 12,000 gallons of fire retardant in an underbelly canoe fairing. Lack of dedicated ground support facilities, available only in Victorwille and McClellan, restrict somewhat the operation of the DC-10 compared to smaller aircraft. However, once in action, it packs a heavyweight punch, with one drop covering an area 300 feet wide by one mile in length.


The Sikorsky S-64 Skycrane was originally a military helicopter capable of carrying cargo or troops in an interchangeable pod which would be fitted behind the cockpit. In 1992, Erickson Air Crane purchased the manufacturing rights to the S-64 and developed a firefighting pod which could hold 2,650 gallons of water. The system also includes a hose which allows the pod to be replenished from any body of water in less than a minute, with the helicopter just hovering above the water. This is ideal when operating near lakes which are not large enough for the CL-415s to make replenishment runs, saving time which would otherwise be required to return to base and return.

Orig 2 ha cha bop lier its atta

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ginally a carrier-borne anti-submarine aircraft, the Grumman Sas found a new lease of life as a fire-bomber. 26 S-2s were purased in 1996 from surplus US Navy stocks. Re-engined with turprops and adapted for their new mission, they replaced an earfleet of piston-engine S-2As which CalFire had operated since early days. They are principally tasked with the fast initial ack on wildland fires.


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Another conversion by Erickson is MD-87 N295EA. Originally delivered to Iberia in 1991, the aircraft thn flew for a brief period with SAS before being sold to Erickson in September 2012. The conversion was completed in 2014. Erickson owns eight MD80 series aircraft, of which four are in storage and four operational.


The Rockwell OV-10A Bronco is another military veteran. Originally operated by the US Navy and the Marines as a counter-insurgency and close air support aircraft , the Broncos are now used as aerial command and control posts coordinating the action of other air tanker and helicopter assets. 16 examples were acquired in 1993, replacing the Cessna O-2As.

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The S-64 is a massive helicopter. Note the positioning of the firefighting mission pod exactly on the aircraft’s centre of gravity and the rearwards-facing cockpit glazing to allow an operator a better view of the payload delivery.


Developed in the late 50s from the Electra airliner, the P-3 Orion is at the twilight of its career as an anti-submarine patrol aircraft with the US Navy. A number have been thus converted to firebombers. Aero Union Inc. operates eight P-3As, which are then leased to the US Forest Service, CalFire and other agencies for firefighting use.

Originally built in 1991 for Jap converted into a freighter, and firefighting aircraft with Global ary 2016.

pan Airlines, Boeing 747-400 N744ST was first d then found a third lease of life as an outsize l SuperTanker Services, entering service in Janu-

Issue 18 An evergreen aviation classic, the UH-1H Huey is used in the initial attack phase, delivering up to nine firefighters where they may be needed, then assist with the firefighting by effecting water drops using a Bambi-bucket. The Huey is also used for Rescue operations.

As earlier-model Hercules aircraft are retired by the military, many have been drafted into service as fire-fighting aircraft. The US Forestry Service has developed a modular system which allows any Hercules aircraft to be quickly reconfigured as a water-bomber. All USAF, and ANG C-130s can be rapidly deployed with this system should the mainline firefighting resources be insufficient.

The Canadair CL-215/415 family is one of the very few aircraft designed from the outset for the firefighting mission. Although CalFire does not own any examples of its own, it leases the aircraft from other operators according to demand.


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Once the mainstay of aerial firefighting, Douglas DC-6 and DC-7s are rapidly being retired as more modern types become available, especially in view that the aircraft of that age cannot continue to cope with the rigours of the stresses imposed on the airframe by the manouvers required for aerial firefighting.


Text: Mark Zerafa Photos: Mark Zerafa

British Airways operated its last 767 service on the 25th November 2018, with flight BA663 from Larnaca, Cyprus to London Heathrow, flown by G-BZHA. The British flag carrier ordered Boeing’s first wide-body twin in 1987, with an order for 28 767-300s. It was one of the very few airlines to opt for Rolls Royce RB.211 engines to power their 767s. Deliveries started in February 1990, replacing the airline’s Tristars and DC-10s.

The heavier RB.211 engines initially caused cracks in the engine pylons, which led to a temporary grounding until a modification was introduced. During the first and second Gulf Wars, a decrease in demand led to a few 767s being parked in the desert until business picked up again. Seven were sold to QANTAS.

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The aircraft eventually found its niche flying to the Caribbean and some North American cities, as well as operating flights to New York and Los Angele from Manchester.

The last two 767s in British Airways service, G-BHZA and G-BHZB, have since been flown to St. Athan in Wales, where they will be broken up for spares recovery.

Towards the end of their careers BA 767s were a common sight in Europe, flying high-density short-haul routes such as Amsterdam, Madrid, Frankfurt, Athens and even Edinburgh.

Sales prospects for the used 767s are very low due to their unusual engine option, with practically all 767s now flying being powered by General Electric or Pratt & Whitney turbofans. In fact, only 31 Rolls-Royce powered 767s were ever built. 55

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apan’s Air Force One Text: Mark Zerafa Photos: Jason Wong

Due for replacement in early 2019 with the arrival of two VIP configured Boeing777300ERs, Japan’s pair of 747-400s have served faithfully since 1991. Always flying in pairs, the aircraft use the callsigns ‘Japan Air Force One’ and ‘Japan Air Force Two’ while on official missions and ‘Cygnus One ‘ and ‘Cygnus Two’ when flying on non-official business.


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Prior to their acquisition in 1987, Japanese government officials and the Japanese Imperial Family had to charter aircraft from Japan Airlines for their air travel requirements. Delivered in 1991, the aircraft was first used by Prime Minister Kiichi Miyazawa for his visit to the US in 1993. The 747s were often then subject of budgetary considerations and public sensitivities, however the aircraft were retained for national security purposes.

Only the lower deck is used for passengers, with the upper deck being used for communications and reserve crew. On the lower deck, there is an office area at the front of the plane, followed by a section with lie-flat seating, a separate enclosed VIP cabin with only two seats, and then a main cabin, intended primarily for the press.


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MT-507 was the last flying Finnish Bf-109, last flown on March 13th, 1954 by Major Erkki Heilia, the aircraft is now displayed at the Central Finland Aviation Museum.

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Finnish 109s Text: Photos: Profiles:

Mark Zerafa Mark Zerafa Richard J. Caruana

Probably the best fighter available to Finland during the Continuation War, the Finnish Air Force’s Messerschmitt Bf-109s scored 667 aerial victores for the loss of 34 aircraft. In the air, 16 to accidents and eight destroyed on the ground. 102 BF-109s survived the war, and went on to serve with the Finnish Air Force well into the 1950s.


MT-507 features the later-type ‘Galland hood’ cockpit canopy, introduced in later G variants This removed the heavy canopy framing which reduced visibility considerably.

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During the 1940-1941 truce with Russia, Finnish Air Force officers were invited to occupied France to evaluate the Messerschmitt Bf-109 with JG-1 at Abbeville. A contract for 109s was signed on February 1st, 1943, and after some familiarisation flying in Germany, these were ferried to Finland by Finnish pilots between March and May 1943. LeLv 34 had been reactivated at Immola air base on January 23rd, 1943, with the aim of creating an elite unit to fly the best fighter the Finns would field during the war. The first aircraft to fall to a Finnish 109’s guns was a Soviet Pe2 on March 24th. The unit would account for 345 aerial victories during the war. Amongst its most notable pilots was Warrant Officer Ilmari Juutilainen, the highest-scoring nonGerman ace, with 94 confirmed aerial victories, 58 of which whilst flying a 109.

The 1947 Peace Treaty allowed the Finnish Air Force to operate a maximum of 60 fighters, so a number were placed in storage, but the aircraft soldiered on till 1954. In Finnish service, the Bf-109Gs accumulated 23,000 flying hours. Five Bf-109s are known to survive in Finalnd. Of these, three reside at Tikkakoski (Bf-109F-4 7108 NE+ML, Bf-109G-6 MT507 and Bf-109E-3) A Bf-109G-2 MT-208 is at the Finnish Aviation Museum at Helsinki-Vantaa Airport, and MT-452 is at Utti.

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A Day at the Races Text: Mark Zerafa Photos: Mark Zerafa

Spotter Magazine was invited to Wiener Neustadt for one of the legs of the 2018 Red Bull Air Race championship. Returning to its Austrian roots, this was the first time the race was organised at Wiener Neustadt, in the lower Austrian Alps near Vienna.

It was the first time in the 2018 season that the competitors had a standing start, this being the first race over land for the 2018 season. With Czech Martin Sonka showing incredible form in Kazan, American Michael Goulian still holding on to the lead, Wiener Neustadt could see the tables being turned for a number of competitors. Japanese Yoshide Muroya displayed excellent form throughout the heats and qualifying, with solid and consistent lap times, followed by Dolderer and Sonka. Australian Matt Hall was determined to make a comeback , placing 5th in the qualifying behind Canadian McLeod and achieved this with a credible third place, a frustrating 0.05 seconds behind runner-up Muroya and 0.08 seconds behind Sonka. Probably the biggest disappointment for the weekend was veteran racer Kirby Chambliss, who had one of his qualifying runs disqualified due to an engine over-rev. He went on to face former Red Arrow and Blades pilot Ben Murphy before losing out to Muroya in the semi-final stage. In the Challenger Class, the honours went to Kenny Chiang from Hong Kong, followed by the Pole Luke Czepiela and the Frenchman Baptiste Vignes.

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Matt Hall made an impressive comeback to form in his immaculate Edge 540


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Sonka taking his Edge 540 through its paces. Besides extremely tight and accurate flying, he adopted a slightly different approach to the circuit, giving him the slight edge over Muroya.

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Spaniard Juan Velarde in his Edge 540.


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Francois Le Vot


Mike Brageot


Farnborough International 2018 Text: Cliff Ibell Photos: Cliff Ibell

Located 30 miles West of London, Farnborough is the spiritual home of aviation within the Unite Kingdom since 1904 when the Army Balloon Factory was established on the then Farnborough Common and Samuel Cody built and flew biplanes as long ago as 1906. Since then Farnborough became the primary site for experimental flying, through the creation of the Royal Aircraft Establishment such achievements as test evaluation of captured German aircraft designs, Concorde and many innovations to aircraft technologies and safety. It is due to this background in innovation and design that the Farnborough Airshow was created in the 1940s as the primary showcase for the UK aviation manufactures. This soon opened up to international manufactures and has become one of the leading trade shows for the world’s aeronautical industry both in terms of aircraft and their supply chain of goods and services.

Boeing presented the latest 747-8 Freighter

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The first four days of the airshow are devoted to the aeronautical trade where behind closed doors deals are brokered between aircraft manufactures and their customers both civil and military. This year alone Boeing announced that they had taken orders worth $98.4bn and Airbus announcing total orders for 754 aircraft. As expected the large players in the market brought samples to woe buyers. This year’s emphasis was on the emerging markets in feeder liners both in Asia and Africa. The current inventories of both Airbus and Boeing showed a hole in the 50 to 85 seat markets and so to plug these

holes both Boeing (Embraer) and Airbus (Bombardier have made alliances with smaller manufactures who specialise in the feeder market ie: Boeing working with Brazils Embraer and Airbus with Canadas Bombardier. Other manufactures were also well represented, including Leonardo, BAe Systems, Lockheed Martin, Mitsubishi, Gulfstream, Dassault, L3 Technologies to name but a few. Friday Saturday and Sunday have become public days with trade aircraft and exhibitors replaced by the more traditional airshow acts.


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As expected, Boeing presented a number of aircraft from its diverse line-up, including the CH-47F Chinook, the Boeing 787 and the 737 MAX-7


EMBRAER was keen to show its KC-390 military freighter and tanker. Currently cying for its share of the growing market for C130 replacements.

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With the first generation of Regional Jets also due for replacement, Embraer also presented its EMB-190E-2, which offers reduced fuel burn compared to earlier variants.

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Airbus presented a line-up of its best-selling aircraft, including the rechristened Airbus A220, its A350, and its recently flown A330 NEO

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Antonov presented the An-178. First flown in May 2015, the aircraft aims to replace the ageing fleets of An-12, an-26s and An-32s.


BAE Systems presented a mock-up of its proposed Tempest 6th Generation Fighter. Visually borrowing a number of features from both the F-22 and th e F-35, the aircraft will be intended to supplement and eventually replace the Typhoon and F-35.

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Lockheed Martin presented two of its legacy products, including a Spangdahlen-based F-16 sporting multiple mission markings and a Wyoming ANG C-130J.

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Leonardo presented a range of helicopters, from a Norweigan rescue-configured Merlin to the AW-139 and the Super Lynx 300.

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With its flagship C-Series now taken over by Airbus, Bombardier also presented its main legacy products, including the CRJ900 and the Dash 8, and its ever popular high-end Global business jets.


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