Spain February 2019
España (Spain) February 2019
Sunday February 24th 2019 I board my Ryanair flight (FR8363) bound for San Pablo airport, Sevilla, España. The flight takes just two hours twenty five minutes from take-off to touch down. I’m in good company today with David Moore and Bob Evans, David is our duty driver and Bob is the spare.
Altogether there were ten of us in the group, two had come from Germany, one from Portugal albeit he was from The Netherlands and four from East Yorkshire as well as David and Bob from Essex.
Having passed through Immigration control with no effort involved we set off to collect our pre-booked rental car thus within the hour of landing we were scouring the airport in search of not only extant airframes but new Airbus A400M Atlas aircraft and the Airbus (formerly CASA) C.295’s.
Within an hour we had seen ten (10) Airbus A400M Atlas of various Nations, at least three (3) C.295’s and all but one of the listed Wrecks & Relics for the airport. The only one we did not see was the CASA 127 U.9-40, albeit it was reportedly sighted close to the withdrawn Lockheed C-130H (Hercules) T.10-04 in October of 2018. With the light fading we then went off to our hotel the Aeropuerto ibis budget.
The following morning we were all up early and assembled at the visitor’s entrance to Airbus Defence & Space, San Pablo Sur, Sevilla. Our tour of the Airbus A400M Atlas facility began promptly and our guide today was Zaira Torrado González the Public Affairs Officer for DiscoverOn who organise and carry out the visits on behalf of Airbus.
From the gallery it was possible to see six A400M’s in various stages of (final) construction, the components for the Airbus A400M are flown in from various locations around Europe and the U.K. for final assembly and eventual test flying resulting in delivery to various World Air Arms. As yet as far as I am aware no A400M’s have been or are on order from any civilian operators. Sadly after ninety minutes our tour was complete and bidding farewell again to Zaira it was time to move on to our next destination.
Fifty two kilometres later we arrived at Air Base Morón; this was another ‘first’ for me and for some of the group I was leading.
Having checked in to Security our Passports checked we were handed over to Sergeant García Miñana from the base Public Affairs Office. He asked what we would like to see, and it was a resounding chorus of “everything”.
Air Base Morón is the home of Ala 11 who currently fly the EuroFighter 2000 and 2000T, it is also home of Group (Grupo) 22 who currently fly the P-3M Orion.
Before I begin with the story of our visit here’s just a little bit of history about the air base at Morón de la Frontera. Work on the base that is today known as Air Base Morón began in 1940 as the “Vázquez Sagastizabal” military aerodrome. In 1941 it was retitled “The Hunting School”. (T.N: In Spanish, the word “caza”, although it literally means “hunting”, here stands for the English term “fighter”. E.g: the word “Euro-fighter” translated into Spanish would, be something like “Euro-caza”).
Air Base Morón occupies some 1,400 hectares of land within a 22 Km perimeter fence of the Andalusian country side. It employs in excess of 3,000 people and is adjoined to four municipalities, they being Utrera which has approximately 53,000 inhabitants, Morón de la Frontera with 30,000+, Arahal, 20,000 and Coronil with approximately 5,000 inhabitants.
The first aircraft to be flown from this aerodrome was the Fiat CR-32 “Chirri”; the Hunting School continued to work at the airfield until 1956 when Light Bombardment Wing 11 was created with the Heinkel 111, only to be superseded three years later by Hunting Wing number 5 with the North American F-86 Sabre aircraft.
1970 saw the introduction of the Northrop F-5 Freedom Fighter designated A.9 by the Spanish Air Force / Ejercito del Aire. The aircraft licence built by CASA (Construction Aeronautics S.A.) at the Getafe facility located to the south west of Madrid.
Tactical Wing 21 was born at Morón in 1971, once known as the “most highly trained” operative in Europe following the “outstanding work” they carried out in the decolonisation of the Sahara.
1992, saw the retirement from Air Base Morón of the F-5 Freedom Fighter, they in turn were replaced at Air Base Morón by the CASA C-101 (designated E.25-). Also in 1992 Morón received its first Lockheed P-3 ‘Orion’s) from their former base at Jerez Air Base (Cádiz), those aircraft being incorporated into Group 22 of Wing 21.
Between 1995 and 1997 Group 21 is formed, operations started in 1996 when Grupo 21 received their first eight (8) McDonnell-Douglas F/A-18 ‘Hornet’ (now made by Boeing) gradually replacing the C.101’s. In 1997 with the closure of the Manises (Valencia) Air Base the Unit adopted the current title of Wing 11 comprised of Ala. 11 (McDD F/A-18) and Grupo 22 (P-3M Orion)
It wasn’t until May 24th 2004 that the first three (3) EF Tifóns designated C.16 arrived at Air Base Morón. They in turn became part of Wing 11 and formed the Operational Conversion Unit (OCU) 113 for the training of future pilots together with specialists from EADS-CASA at Getafe.
Just four years later Ala.11 was participating actively in missions that controlled airspace and air defence of Spain assigned to the Spanish Air Force. Foreign missions did not take place until early 2015 during which time they participated in Operation Baltic Air Policing (BAP) in the AMBAR detachment. Aircraft from Ala.11 were flown to Amari Air Base in Estonia where they performed actual and simulated Quick Reaction Alert (QRA) duties.
Later in the same year deployment to carry out real missions was confirmed, Ala.11 successfully passing a CAPEVAL (Capability Evaluation) lead by NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organisation).
For the first time in February 2017 the Spanish Eurofighters (Tifón) were deployed to Nellis Air Force Base (AFB) in Nevada (NV) USA to participate in Exercise Red Flag. Red Flag is the largest and most realistic NATO training exercise that takes place annually. NATO air arms fly against each other and against ‘hostile forces’ normally supplied by the United State Air Force (USAF), US Navy (USN) and US Marine Corps (USMC).
Nellis AFB is located to the North East of the City of Las Vegas NV, it like most bases in the USA tries to discourage Aviation Enthusiasts / ‘Spotters’ from looking over the fence at the activities going on on-base.
Ala.11 is the operative Squadron, supplemented by 113 Esc. (Squadron) who are responsible for the training of not only Spanish pilots but also those from their NATO allies the Luftwaffe.
Grupo 22 (Gr.22) / Group 22
Grupo 22 formed in 1962 in La Parra air base Jerez de la Frontera initially being called 601 Air Naval Squadron, it retained that name until 1973 when it became Wing 22. When formed they used the Grumman HU-16 Albatross a plane capable of taking off from the land as well as water. Gr. 22 kept the Grumman Albatross until 1978, by which time the aircraft had flown 28,000 hours.
July 1973 saw the arrival of the very first Lockheed P-3A Orion four other P-3A’s were subsequently added to the inventory. The aircraft were all leased from the United States under what is termed the MAP (Military Aid Program).
1998 saw the acquisition of five Lockheed P-3B Orion aircraft from the Norwegian Air Force, today (2019) there are just three (3) and are now designated the P-3M (M = modernised) serving with Gr.22.
The Lockheed P-3 Orion is a very versatile aircraft it can be used for missions such as anti-submarine, anti-surface fight, maritime surveillance, anti-drug trafficking and illegal immigration. Search and Rescue (SAR), Air Control and Command, photographic and electronic intelligence, and communications relay are just a few of the roles that can be undertaken by this versatile aerial platform.
Today Gr.22 have a detachment based in Yibuti in the Horn of Africa, where they form part of an EU (European Union) operation against piracy in places such as the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden. To date Gr.22 had accumulated 80,000 hours of flying since its inception in July 1973.
Other Groups at AB Morón
No Military organisation can operate with effective support; to this end there is a large contingent of both Military and Civilian personnel that support the flying operations. These are formed into a Materials Group, Maintenance Squadrons, one each for the Eurofighters and one for the P-3 Orion’s. There are other support Squadron, an economic section and a secretary general who are all fundamental in completing the assigned mission(s).
Other units based here are the Second Support Group of Air Deployment (SEADA), the Second Military Battalion Emergency Unit (SMBEU) and North American Forces comprised of the 469th Air Base Squadron (United States Air Force logistics support) and the United State Marine Corps (USMC)
Our first sighting was the Gate Guard to the base a P-3A Lockheed Orion serial P.3-3 coded 22-22; this aircraft was supplied to Spain under the FMS (Foreign Military Sale) program. Insert here picture of the Gate Guard (Note: It has already been re-painted and now shows a nicer look, closer to its original state. Also I have checked it and I can confirm that 22-22 was its number for the time it was in service)
The P-3A Orion Gate Guard at Air Base Morón
A short drive later and our next Wreck & Relic; an F-86F serial C.5-231 coded 151-21 sat on a plinth in the middle of a roundabout. A short walk away and outside the Head Quarters of Ala. 11 was a HA200D serial C.10B-52 coded 214-52.
Another short drive, but this time very slowly as there was a detachment of US Marine Corps KC-130 Hercules and more importantly to us five Marine Corps MV-22B Ospreys and a lone USAF KC-135R tanker with a hose and drogue unit fitted to its tail boom sitting on the US ramp space.
At the rear of a building looking out over the EuroFighter ramp was another airframe on a plinth, this was an SRF-5A serial AR.9-060 coded 21-55. After a few minutes photographing the Marine Corps aircraft and the SRF-5A Freedom Fighter it was time to get back onto our transport and head for our next destination.
Next stop was Grupo 22; the facility here was ‘guarded’ by a Grumman HU-16B Albatross serial number AN.1-8A-13 coded 221-13.
Me (the author), posing with the HU-16B of Gr.22
Today (2019) Grupo 22 fly the Lockheed P-3M Orion in its Maritime Surveillance role, today (Feb. 2019) there are just three (3) Lockheed P-3M’s on the active inventory. All are former P-3B’s that have been modified to the 3M type. On the day I visited P.3M-09 coded 22-32 was in the hangar undergoing maintenance.
Sitting in the Noon day sun was an extant P-3B serial P.3B-11 coded 22-34; this aircraft is due according to Scramble.nl to eventually be sited in a playground in the town of Utrera, Andalusia, not too distant from the Base.
From the Grupo 22 facility it was possible to see two EF2000’s of Ala. 11 sitting in the Alert barns, despite the PAO’s best efforts we were denied access to the alert barns lest the aircraft needed to be scrambled while we were in there. Suffice to say it was good to see them and eventually later in the day we managed to obtain their tail numbers.
Our next stop was back down towards the EF2000 Eurofighter or as the Spanish calls them Tifón. When we arrived at the Eurofighters it was time to change vehicles as our vehicle and driver had alternative work.
We were taken towards a row of old looking hangars located inside were five more Eurofighters. One of the five had been ‘sanitised’ so that we could all look into but not photograph the cockpit. For me it would (at 76.4 Kg) have been a very tight fit if I had been permitted to try and sit in one of these cockpits. Opposite this hangar there was another with a little surprise for us all one of the extant airframes was undergoing restoration work and a re-paint. It was another F-5 Freedom Fighter this one being A.9-038 coded 212-38 making it a SF-5A. When the restoration and re-paint is completed this aircraft will once again be replaced outside Ala.11’s Head Quarters building. (Note: Already back to its rightful place, guarding the front of the Base HQ)
From the hangars we were taken out towards the taxi-way here we were permitted to stand I’d estimate within 200 metres of it.
The ‘business end’ of a Eurofighter 2000, serial C.16-41, seen here coded as 11 – 17 from Ala.11
During the time we were there we saw several Eurofighters taxi past on their way towards the runway some even acknowledging us. Whilst standing there we also witnessed a CASA 101 E.25-55 land and taxi towards us prior to turning off for the VASS (Visiting Aircraft Servicing Section) ramp.
The picture below is a CASA 101EB Aviojet serial E.25-55 coded 54-21 from Grupo 54 based at Madrid – Torrejón (LETO).
With the departure of the active Eurofighters we were then driven around all the ‘sun shelters’ that house the Eurofighters in order that we could get all the tail numbers (serials) etc. from the aircraft still in situ.
As with all good things this had to come to an end; 14:00 is the end of the flying day and marked the end of our visit to Ala. 11. We almost drove past the CASA 101 but fortunately our host knew that we’d like to photograph it. Onwards to towards the exit we had once again to drive by the US section of the ramp. Our last stop before being shown out was at the P-3 Orion Guarding the Gate (entrance) to the base.
As visits go that is one of the best I have ever been on for not only hospitality but for the sheer enthusiasm of the Public Affairs Officer and of course we saw all but one aircraft which was a sixth MV-22B Osprey which the Americans were not going to let us see as it was under maintenance in their hangar!
My personal thanks to Sergeant García Miñana and his colleagues at the Public Affairs Office, of Ala. 11 and to HQ’s of the Spanish Air Force Madrid for authorising the visit.
For the rest of the day David, Bob and I set off looking for what we know as Wrecks & Relics, these are extant airframes that have been put on public and sometimes private display or within a Military establishment.
Our first port of call was in the town of Morón de la Frontera where there is an SRF-5A Freedom Fighter (recognisance version) displayed on a plinth in the middle of a roundabout.
Further down the road was the town of Utrera, located in a motor vehicle scrap yard is a Hispano HA.220, a few kilometres along the same road where yet again the centre of a roundabout is a SRF-5E Freedom Fighter.
Next stop was at Tablada; once a military airfield the Gate to this airfield is ‘guarded’ by a Mirage F-1EDA that wears the false serial of C.14-83 when really it should be C.14C-83.
This is the Mirage F1EDA that ‘guards’ the gate at Tablada
On my previous visit in October 2018 I had been unable to see the CASA/Dornier 207 that is located within this former base, however with the assistance of our friend Google Maps we were able to find the exact position of it on-base and then position ourselves outside from where we could see it – mission accomplished! Another aircraft that had also eluded me was the CASA 212 which allegedly was in the Airbus facility literally over the road from the base. Again using Google Maps we were able to pin point its location and only by lying on the ground and looking under a gate could I / we see the aircraft. A little to my dismay when I realised I had seen the same aircraft many years ago in service with the Ejercito del Aire.
We then had a few more kilometres to drive to our next stop at San Juan de Aznalfarache where there is yet another Hispano HA.200 that forms the centre piece of a local café. Pressing on our next stop was at a sports ground at Gelves where a really battered and rather derelict looking CASA 207 lay soaking up the late afternoon sun. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if one day soon this aircraft was scrapped in situ.
The penultimate stop of the day was at Dos Hermanas for yet another pole mounter HA.200 this aircraft was also wearing a false serial of E.14A-17 when really it should be E.14A-18. I think that they do it to ‘test’ us enthusiasts!
Getting to our final destination of the day was interesting, when only a few hundred metres from out turning at Espartinas we had a motor scooter ride into the rear driver’s side of our rental car. Naturally we phoned the local Police and we were politely told that they don’t attend such accidents. The rider of the scooter was middle-aged and spoke no English and none of us spoke Spanish.
However the evening was saved by the rider’s Niece who lived less than 100 metres from where the incident occurred. She spoke perfect English and within no time all the necessary paperwork had been completed as the rider had freely admitted he was riding too close to our rear and wasn’t taking that much notice of us slowing down. Better late than never we arrived albeit in the dark to see and photograph the Lockheed T-33A that was in a park next to the school. Mission accomplished we returned to the hotel.
The Lockheed T-33A Shooting Star at Espartinas at dusk
February 26th – home time; this was our last few hours in Sevilla and we wanted to make the most of it so we headed back to a vantage point to see what we could see at Airbus Defence & Space. We identified and logged all but one of the aircraft, a mixture of A400’s and C.295’s before setting off towards the Technical School (ICADA) on outskirts of Sevilla.
From the outside at best it is only possible to see about four of their extant airframes, so we did no more than ask at Reception if it was possible for us to enter and look / photograph the others. Well we did better than that; first we were introduced to the President of the Technical School, Javier Fernandez-Montes who arranged for us to have a guided tour of the facility.
Much to my delight there were five (5) MBB Bo.105’s that had seen service with the Heeresflieger and of which two were now instructional airframes inside the work shops along with a civilian registered Piper Aztec and Cessna 337. In the open were a further three MBB.105’s and a former Aviation Legere De L’Armee de Terre (ALAT – French Army) Alouette II (wears a Hungarian civil registration HA-LFZ, MSN or c/n 2043).
In this picture to your left is the former 80 49 MSN 5049 of the Heeresflieger (German Army)
There were a further four civilian registered aircraft that had been visible from the outside which included a Robinson R.44 helicopter.
As with all good things coming to an end it was time to head back to the airport, return the car and await our flight back to London-Standstill courtesy of Ryanair. The flight back was on yet another Ryanair Boeing 737-8AS registration EI-DLF, our flight taking us to the West of Madrid over the Bay of Biscay and to the West of London landing on runway two-two (22) at Standstill or to give its correct name London-Stansted.
For me what was even nicer was that one hour and seventeen minutes later I was at home thanks to my former Chauffeur colleague Neil of Kirkham’s Chauffeur Services (www.kirkhams.co.uk)
Our thanks go to the following;
Zaira Torrado Gozáles, Public Affairs Coordinator, DiscoverOn at Airbus Defence and Space, San Pablo Sur, Sevilla.
Head Quarters of Ejercito del Aire, Madrid, for authorising the visit to Air Base Morón
Sargento 1° García Miñana, Public Affairs at Ejercito del Aire, Ala.11, Air Base Morón
Presidente Javier Fernández-Montes, ICADA Technical School, Sevilla
Of course not forgetting all the others that helped during and on the visits to make our few days in Spain so enjoyable, another set of experiences we will not forget anytime soon.
Photos are all Copyright © / Intellectual property of the Author, except for the picture of us at Airbus which remains Copyright © / Intellectual property of DiscoverOn and the P-3A Orion which remains the Copyright © / Intellectual property of the Spanish AF Ala.11. No unauthorised copying, reproduction etc. without permission from the Author or DiscoverOn.