Of pipedreams, plastic planes & politicians
Gary Parsons reflects on this year's Internationale Luft-und Raumfahrtausstellung (ILA) at Berlin-Schönefeld - pictures by the author and Frank Togher
Pipedream <noun> - Extravagant fancy, impossible wish.
Berlin's ILA 2004 passed without fanfare over the week of 10-16 May, the show seemingly burdened with a lacklustre feel after the cancellation of many promised participants and a week of mostly cold, dull weather that played havoc with the scheduled flying display programme each day. Despite the inclement weather, 201,500 trade visitors and members of the public attended the seven-day event.
More high-ranking delegates visited ILA2004 than in previous years - among these were the German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder, who again opened the event, as well as 120 deputies from twenty-two European countries. Leading representatives from the new member countries of the EU and NATO made use of this year's ILA to exchange views, the defence ministers from Bulgaria, Georgia, Lithuania, Ukraine and Turkey attending the 'International Workshop on Global Security'. The four ministers with responsibility for the Airbus programme from France, the United Kingdom, Spain and Germany met at the Airbus Ministers' Conference, as did ministers representing the Eurofighter programme. There were more than 70 conferences at which some 6,000 experts from the various commercial sectors of the aerospace industry discussed current issues.
New news would be good news
But even so searching for news was difficult - things now move very slowly in the aviation development world, and there is reluctance amongst the manufacturers to commit prototypes to public display before being fully developed into production examples. Very little was new, especially in the military sphere, and the United States was conspicuous by its absence in the flying displays - only a token handful of European-based aircraft graced the static park and the ubiquitous plastic JSF could be found outside the Lockheed chalet. Maybe it actually stands for Just Super-Ficial? Maybe it doesn't really exist, except in some clever super-animated video and in museums. With the threat of some European partners pulling out of the programme, principally Norway and Denmark, you'd have thought Lockheed Martin would make an effort to entice them to stay. Rumours that proposed production lines feature polystyrene moulds have yet to be disproved…
Today's aviation industry seems to live on pipedreams, constantly looking forward to the realisation of the next big project. Eurofighter's Typhoon is finally there, some twenty years after EAP and ten years since its first flight. The talk of trade shows for those last twenty years, at last we can see the tangible goods - Chris Worning's stunning routine in a genuine production 'Taifun' (the Germans simply call it Eurofighter, but we won't) was the highlight of the trade days, the light-switch afterburners of the EJ200 engines lighting up the drab sky each day. But, for long as we can remember, talk has been about other projects - JSF, A400M, F-22 et al.
One project that is seemingly outstripping all others is Airbus's A380, introduced in a fanfare about eight years ago but is due for its first flight this year. The first engine destined to power the A380, the Rolls-Royce Trent 900, made a successful first-flight aboard Airbus's A340-300 testbed at Toulouse on the last day of ILA 2004.Too late for ILA and Farnborough this year, but '06 should see the first production aircraft gracing the skies. Taking up the Airbus baton at Berlin in the display were the diminutive A318 and broomstick-like A340-600, both thrown around the sky in the style we have become accustomed to over the last few years. The A380 should be some sight in the future, a frame-filler for sure.
Military focus was very much on the four major programmes to eventually equip the German armed forces in the near future, namely Typhoon, Tiger, NH90 and Airbus MRTT (Multi-role Tanker Transport).
Germany has ordered 180 Eurofighters (or Taifun as we think they should call them) and, unlike the UK, seems to want to procure them all to replace the F-4F, MiG-29 and Tornado. At ILA, four Defence Ministers gave their unwavering support for the programme - Mr Ivor Caplin, Under Secretary of State for Defence (UK); Hon. Philippo Berselli, Under Secretary of State for Defence (Italy); Excmo. Sr. Carlos Villar Turrau, General Director of Armament & Materials (Spain); Dr. Peter Eickenbohm, Permanent Secretary of Defence (Germany). Although they stood in front of the plastic Typhoon at the show, at least there really was a real one in the static park…flying in the display was one of the 44 German Typhoons from Tranche 1 of the production line, currently with the Fighter Wing (Jagdgeschwader/JG) 73 "Steinhoff" at Rostock-Laage in Northern Germany for type acceptance, much in the same way as 17(R) Squadron is operating from Warton.
The Eurocopter EC 665 Tiger is an attack helicopter manufactured by the Eurocopter Group. In Germany it is known as the Tiger; in France it is called the Tigre. Germany has ordered 80 aircraft, all of the UHT version and has a total requirement for 212 aircraft (although this is unlikely to be achieved with recent defence cuts). The Tiger UHT (i.e. Unterstützungs Hubschrauber Tiger or Support Helicopter Tiger) is a medium-weight multi-role fire support helicopter built for the German Army. It can carry Trigat "fire and forget" and/or HOT anti-tank missiles, as well as 68 mm air-to-ground fire support rockets. For air-to-air combat Stinger missiles can be fitted. Like the Apache Longbow it uses a mast-mounted sight which has a second-generation infrared channel and a TV channel. Countermeasures include radar/laser/missile launch/missile approach warning receivers and decoy launchers.
NHI's NH90 is a twin-engine, ten-ton multi-role helicopter manufactured by NHIndustries, a company established by Agusta, Eurocopter and Stork Fokker Aerospace. Germany has ordered 80 of the TTH (Tactical Transport Helicopter) version for the Army and Air Force with the option for a further 54 in the future. The primary role of the TTH version is the transport of twenty troops or more than 2,500 kg of cargo, heliborne operations and search & rescue. Additional roles include medical evacuation (12 stretchers), special operations, electronic warfare, airborne command post, parachuting, VIP transport and flight training. The first serial NH90 helicopter to come off the Eurocopter production line in Germany was publicly presented at the ILA Berlin Air Show on 11 May, having performed its maiden flight the week before on 4 May at Eurocopter's Donauwörth facility in Germany.
Opening the flying on Thursday, the Airbus tanker was devoid of Tornado chicks, but demonstrated the Luftwaffe's desire to be independent during overseas deployments. While operated for some time as a pure transport aircraft the tasking of four of the Luftwaffe's seven Airbus A310s is to be extended through the addition of an aerial refueling capability. The aircraft are manufactured and modified by EADS/Airbus Industrie and the conversion involves the installation of two AAR pods under each wing, four additional fuel tanks (extra 28,000kg) giving a total capacity of almost 78,000kg, a Fuel Operator Station (FOS) to control fuel offload, cameras etc, military radios and exterior lighting, reinforced wings and aircraft floor together with some minor cockpit modifications.
Schönefeld set for the future
term future of the event at Berlin/Brandenburg
is assured as the result of a declaration of intent signed by the Land
Berlin, the Land Brandenburg, Flughafen-gesellschaft FBS (the airport
company) and the organisers of the ILA, the BDLI and Messe Berlin, covering
the next three events up to and including ILA2010. ILA2006 will take place
from 15 to 21 May 2006, again using the southern side of Berlin-Schönefeld
Airport, before its expansion as BBI International.