In October 2014, MAR attended the 75th Anniversary of the Spanish Air Force held at Torrejon Air Base in Madrid. This event coincided with the regular Tactical Leadership Program held in Albacete and thus it was a no brainer to attend both events.
Torrejon Air Base is the base of a Spanish Air Force fighter wing, an aerial firefighting group and the flight test group of the Spanish Air Force. Following the withdrawal of USAF from the base, Ala 12 of the Spanish Air Force, the 54 Flight Test Group and the 43 Grupo dedicated to aerial firefighting, which had always been based in the Spanish part of Torrejon Air Base, continued using the base.
Currently the Ala 12 of the Spanish Air force operates two squadrons with McDonnell Douglas F/A-18 Hornet, the 54 Flight Test Group operates with a very diverse range of airplanes and the 43 Grupo operates with the Bombardier CL215 and the newer Canadair CL415. In order to fill the space left by the withdrawal of USAF, the Spanish Air Force moved into Torrejon Air Base additional following units: the 45 Grupo dedicated to VIP transport and 47 Grupo dedicated to electronic warfare.
MAR was primarily after the AV-8B Matadors of the Spanish Navy, as they were down to attend both in the flying display and the static display. To date most of us had never seen one despite being very close during a brief trip to Farnborough air show in 2014. Luckily, MAR was able to get see two examples during the show, and witness the mighty and legendary hover of the harrier jump jet.
The event saw a number of unplanned cancellations, mainly due to the weather as the morning rain did not allow for good photos of the fast jet demos and most display teams had to cancel their displays. This led me to focus mainly on the static display, which contained most types in service with the Spanish Air Force. Unfortunately, most aircraft were open for the public, and thus it was quite challenging getting the perfect shot as the people, railings and the weather tested my patience on more than one occasion.
The event also saw some foreign participants, including the Royal Netherlands Air Force F-16 Demo, The RAF Tucano Demo Team, the Patrouille de Suisse and the Swiss Air Force PC-7 Team, the Polish Air Force Orlik Team, the Italian Frecce Tricolori, and the French Patrouille De France. There were also 2 F-16s from the Portugese Air Force on Static. It must be noted that it was probably the final display by the Royal Netherlands Air Force F-16 Demo, as it has not performed a display ever since mainly due to budget cuts within the Air Force.
Airbus is firmly rooted within Spain and hosts aircraft manufacturing plants for civil and military aircraft. In relation to commercial aircraft, Airbus operations in Spain employ approximately 3,400 employees, and produces the horizontal stabilisers for the entire range of Airbus commercial aircraft at its facilities in Getafe, Illescas, and Puerto Real, among other components.
Getafe plant is responsible for designing, engineering and manufacturing of components for all Airbus aircraft. They include the horizontal stabiliser for the A380, the assembly and testing of the horizontal stabilisers for the A350 XWB and A330, as well as for A320 Family. This site also is responsible for producing the two sections that comprise the A380’s tail cone, as well as the A350 XWB’s tail cone.
The site of Illescas (Toledo) is responsible for manufacturing the components of the empennage and aft fuselage for all Airbus aircraft versions and for the Eurofighter. The A350 wing’s lower cover – the largest carbon fibre single component on this aircraft – is also produced at the site.
Final assembly and functional testing of the A380 horizontal stabiliser is completed at Puerto Real. The plant also produces the horizontal stabiliser’s lateral boxes for the A350 XWB and A330 families, and elevators for the A320 family, among components.
Airbus Helicopters employs more than 500 people in the cities of Albacete and Getafe, where rotary-wing aircraft are designed, developed and integrated, as well as flight tested and certified. Final assembly of Tiger attack helicopter and multi-role NH90 military rotorcraft are performed in Spain, along with sub-assembly production for tailbooms on the Tiger and H135 light utility helicopter, and the NH90’s forward fuselage.
Airbus’ defence and space activities combined employ the greatest share of the company’s Spanish workforce, with close to 7,700 employees spread across five sites. The San Pablo and Tablada sites, located in the Seville area, serve as the epicentre of Airbus’ military transport business – with final assembly lines for the four-engine turboprop-powered A400M airlifter and twin-turboprop C295 and CN235 transports.
Getafe is the home to the A330 MRTT conversion centre, where the refuelling systems and military avionics are installed on the Airbus’ A330 jetliners in their transformation to the Multi Role Tanker Transport version. Airbus undertakes parts manufacturing and the assembly for the Eurofighter also at the Getafe site. It was therefore no surprise to see examples of the A400M, CN235, C295 and also a rare example of an A310 MRTT Flying Testbed version in the static park of the event.
The Spanish Guardia Civil (Civil Guard) was also present at the event with a fixed wing aircraft and a rotary aircraft. This was a very welcome addition to the static park of the event as these types are rarely seen. The Guardia Civil operates as a Gendarmerie with both civil and military functions, in a similar manner to the French Gendarmerie and Italian Carabinieri. In peacetime the organisation operates under the Ministry of the Interior, but in wartime control passes to the Ministry of Defence. The current aircraft inventory of the Guardia Civil includes:
- MBB BO-105CB
- CASA/IPTN CN-235 MPA
- Eurocopter EC-135P-2+
- Eurocopter AS-365N3 Dauphin
- Tecnam P-2006T
The current responsibilities of the Guardia Civil include: highway patrol, VIP protection, anti-smuggling and counter-narcotics operations, customs and border security, search and rescue, rural policing and coast guard duties. Civil Guard helicopters are maintained by the Army on behalf of the Civil Guard. The future plans of the Guardia Civil include the replacement of the Bo 105 helicopters in favour of the EC 135, as well as establish new helicopter units.
Despite the challenges mentioned earlier, I managed to capture most types present in both the static park and the aerial demo. The flying display started with the presence of some vintage aircraft belonging to the Fundacio Infante de Orleans based as the military airport of Cuatro Vientos. This organisation aims to preserve aviation in Spain by keeping airworthy aircraft that belonged to the Spanish Armed Forces. The airport of Cuatro Vientos is also the location of the Spanish Air Force Museum, a separate report of which will be published at a later stage on this website.
The aircraft on display from the Fundacio Infante de Orleans consisted of 4 Bucker Bu-133C Jungmeister, 1 Beech C-45H Expeditor (D18S), 1 North American T-6G Texan, 1 Polikarpov I-16 Type 24 Ishak and 1 Beech T-34A Mentor (45). All these aircraft performed a series of solo and formation fly bys and also gave us the luxury of taxiing past the spectators following landing.
Moving on from the past to the present, to celebrate its 75th anniversary the Spanish Air Force was present in force, starting from the single engine training aircraft to the front line fighters, rotary helicopters, transport and utility aircraft, and electronic warfare aircraft. A selection of all types seen at the event can be seen in the images below:
The two Spanish display teams also performed displays. Of particular note, the Spanish Patrulla Aguila performed a flyby with an Airbus A330 of Air Europa on the day before the event which was not replicated on the actual day of the airshow. Nonetheless, the Patrulla Aspa helicopter team and the Patrulla Aguila gave the home crowd several reasons to cheer, which was evidenced by the noticeable clapping and cheering as the aircraft performed their demos and taxied past the crowd after landing.
The Spanish army was also present at the event with multiple aircraft, most notably 2 Eurocopter (Now Airbus) EC-665 Tigre HAPs, one for the static display and one performing a flying demonstration, highlighting the enormous agility of this attack helicopter. The Spanish Army also sent two Eurocopter (Now Airbus) AS-532UL Cougars, one example performing a firefighting demo and sported bright orange high visibility markings and another for the static display, which was very hard to photograph. The last example from the Spanish Army came in the form a Boeing CH-47D Chinook that also took part in the static display. It was great seeing so many types of the Spanish Army as all rotary types had beautiful camo liveries that are not seen so often when compared to the normal boring grey schemes in Europe.
It was only fitting that the Spanish Navy also supported the show with multiple aircraft. As previously mentioned, my personal star favourites were the two Spanish Navy EAV-8B Matadors, one for the static and one for a flying demonstration. In addition to the matadors, the Spanish Navy also brought along two Sikorsky SH-3H Seakings, which we had also previously seen during the same week at Albacete in Spain taking part in the Tactical Leadership Program.
Despite the challenges faced with the weather and the non exceptional positioning of the fences near the aircraft, the airshow proved to be a welcome experience for all aviation enthusiasts as they got to see up close and personal many types of the Spanish Air Force, Army and Navy that are rarely seen nowadays, especially outside Spanish borders.