Bahrain International Air Show

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With an ever smaller world the time that you could use a long winter to sort out your photos of the previous year is well behind us. Nowadays there is an air show in reach every month of the year.But usually in the more sunny areas of the planet. Like for example the middle east. Having said that aviation spotting in the middle east is a risky business. So the only manner of getting some decent shots of the various aircraft of those nations is visiting the several trade shows in that area. From January 14th till 18th 2014 the Bahrain International Air Show (BIAS2014) was held at Sakhir Air Base. Bahrain is part of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) and it’s air defence is part of the GCC ‘Sector B’ together with Qatar and a part of Saudi Arabia’s air space.In the past the BIAS trade shows were aimed at the very wealthy and the military. For the wealthy there are private jets, think high end Gulfstream, Boeing and Airbus types. For the military there are the latest western jets and related equipment. Currently the acquisition of a new jet to replace the Northrop F-5 Tiger IIs and an attack helicopter are high on the Bahraini shopping list.Clearly one of the contenders of the jet contest was the Eurofighter with 4 present. Three RAF and one Saudi which was only delivered in December.A third party that is getting more attention at shows like these is the growing population of local mainline airliners. Both an Airbus A380 and a Boeing 787 were present in the static.

The show itself is one of very few opportunity’s to see a large number of types of the Royal Bahraini Air Force(RBAF). Also neighbouring countries like the UAE and Saudi Arabia sent a number of aircraft both for the show and as support. Although a trade show no les then three demo teams were around the Saudi Hawks with their BAe Hawks Mk.65A, the UAE team Al Fursan with their AermacchiMB.339A and the Russian Knights withSukhoi Su-27 Flankers. The show also showed the return of the USA to the air show circuit with a large compound and very cooperative staff.

The areal demos were flown in the afternoon which is why the photographers amongst us left the terrain and went outside the base because the sun crossed the runway around noon. The show consisted of mainly the same items but with a different order at the different days. The show opening was a para jump from a Sikorsky Blackhawk followed by some light aircraft. After a break a fly pass with a Gulf Air Airbus in formation with four Northrop F-5 Tigers and four Lockheed-Martin F-16 Fighting Falcon of the RBAF. Next were the demo’s by fighters like a UAE F-16E, A UAE Mirage 2000-9, a RAF Typhoon FGR.4 and anAdlADassaultRafale. Some fly passes of a Boeing 757, a Rockwell B-1B Lancer and a Lockheed Martin F-22A Lighting II. And in between the three demo teams. Most interesting items were the TAI T-129 ATAK helicopter and the Embrear EMB-145I AEW&C. A little bit of history was added to the show by a recently restored Supermarine Spitfire dual in colours representing the aircraft that were paid for by public money from Bahrain during WOII.

All in all a very interesting show with very cooperative staff around. Not for large numbers but a must see for spotters/photographers/enthusiasts if you want to see more of the RBAF. Just make sure you are on the business end of the show if you go because that is where the static is.

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Pieter Stroobach

I reside in Eindhoven, the Netherlands.

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