Airpower 2003

Zeltweg, Austria, 28 June 2003


As in 1997 and 2000, the Austrian Air Force's base at Zeltweg in Steiermark hosted the country's major Airshow this year. Unlike in previous years, Airpower 2003 was organised by it's main sponsor, beverage manufacturer Red Bull. 

Red Bull has been known as an aviation sponsor and this showed well during Airpower 2003. Apart from an aerobatic performance by piston powered civilian light planes, star performer under the Red Bull banner certainly must be this DeHavilland Sea Vixen D.3. Formerly as XP924 with Britain's Royal Navy, it now is registered G-CVIX. Although it was good to see a Vixen being put through it's paces, one can not help but feel that it should have worn it's Royal Navy livery.

Main fighter type with the Austrian Air Force and in fact based at Zeltweg is the SAAB J-35Oe Draken. Since the Swedish Flygvapnet retired the type some years ago, Austria is the sole country still flying Drakens. Of 24 procured, this example 351108/08 has been wearing a special colour scheme since 1996. In 996 AD the current nation of Austria was first mentioned in an official document and part of this document was reproduced in a stylised fashion on this jet a thousand years later. The other Drakens in the Air Force's service wear a more usual Air Defence grey colour scheme.

It still is something of a political hot patatoe in Austria, but the Draken's most likely successor is the Anglo-German-Italian-Spanish Eurofighter Typhoon. Instead of the planned 24, just 18 will now be procured for service entry after 2005. By that time the Drakens will propably have gone already, so an interim solution may have to be found. 

This example, MMX603, was displayed by Alenia, the Italian partner in the Eurofighter consortium. Selection of the Eurofighter may have been encouraged by the prospect of interoperability with neighbouring Typhoon operators Germany and Italy.

A large part of the Austrian Air Force is made up of helicopters. Several types are flown for a variety of missions. Border patrol is an important mission for the Bell OH-58B Kiowa. Note the Minigun mounted on 3C-OH's fuselage side. The American built OH-58B is used alongside very similar Italian built AB.206's. This Kiowa came from Flieger Regiment 1, 3 Helicopter Squadron.

A type used for transport missions is the Agusta AB.212. Derived from the Bell UH-1N, AB.212's like 5D-HH fly with Fliegerregiment 1 at Tulln-Langenlebarn and Fliegerregiment 3 at Linz-Hörsching. 

So impressed was the Austrian Air Force  with the performance of the US Army's Sikorsky UH-60 Blackhawks during the Galtur avalnche rescue operations in 1999 that it chose this type as it's next transport helicopter. A total of nine have been delivered and have in effect replaced AB.204's which had already been retired before arrival of the first Blackhwaks. Depicted is 6M-BF Flieger Regiment 1, 1 Helicopter Squadron. As can be seen, Austrian Blackhawks carry a nose radar system.They may also be fitted with pylon mounted fuel tanks and skis to operate from  snow coveres surfaces.

Similar in many respects to the OH-58, the Agusta AB.206's like 3C-JB chiefly seve as training helicopters with Fliegerregiment 1/ 2 Helicopter Squadron at Tulln. The AB.206 can easily be distinguished by virtue of it's different undercarriage and faired-over tail rotor drive shaft.

Visiting display performers from outside Austria included this Swedish Air Force JA-37 Viggen 37411/11 from Uppsala's F16 Upplands Flygflottilj. Dark grey bands have been added to it's light grey camouflage and 3.Division / F16 badges have been applied to the dark band. F16 retired it's last Viggens immediately after the Airpower 2003 show.

Adorned with a toned-down version of the famous Polly Grey motive, Royal Netherlands Air Force F-16AM J-063 taxies out for it's display. The artwork on the jet's tail stems from the 60th anniversary of 322 sq in 2003. Nowadays based at Leeuwarden, 322 sq first formed within the RAF on Spitfires during 1943.

One of the aerobatic teams to give acte de presence at Zeltweg were the Turkish Air Force's Turkish Stars. Flying former Royal Netherlands Air Force Northrop NF-5', a trio of the teams jets can be seen thundering aloft. The team is very much the pride of the Turkish Air Force and this showed during taxying in after landing with a Turkish flag flying from the rear cockpit of the two-seater.

All in all, Zeltweg hosted many interesting aircraft. However, from a photographer's standpoint there were some things calling for improvement. Despite the fact that many good shots could be made on the taxiway, the static was very poorly laid out. No decent shots could be made unless one arrived very early. Something for next time to improve? Let's see in 2005.


All pictures (c) Hans Rolink.