Thiarian Air Corps Airbus aircraft in 2014:
The 'oldest' Airbus liners to serve with the Thiarian Air Corps are eight A319ACJs (Airbus Corporate Jets) which were purchased in 1997 to replace the same number of 1972 vintage Tupolev Tu-134s, which had become structurally deficient over the years, with one notorious crash in 1996 that killed the Thiarian Minister of Finance and a delegation of high-ranking European businessmen. They were commissioned in 1998/9 with the 1st Government Service Squadron and used for VIP transport, but also Medevac missions (there are six conversion kits available which can be fitted on a day's notice). Two of the planes were transferred to Thiaria's Ministry for Development Aid in 2007 and permanently converted to Medevac planes; they lost their military designations and are now purely civilian planes again.
Airbus A319 ACJ
Thiaria did not possess any airborne early warning and control capabilities prior to 2000; only the Navy operated some Super Frelon helicopters modified to AEW platforms. The Air Force's fleet of Mirage 4000 interceptors were controlled in the 1970s Soviet style by ground radar facilities. The need to acquire AEW&C platforms was identified as early as 1982, but the project was repeatedly delayed, since during the 1980s the purchase of US planes was politically impossible and realistic alternatives did not exist. A project to develop an AEW plane based upon a heavily modified Dassault Mercure lingered between 1985 and 1995 and was finally cancelled because it proved structurally impossible to fit the necessary amount of fuel tanks to this very short ranged airliner. Between 1992 and 1996, the conversion of Airbus A340-200 ultra-long range airliners was studied, but also eventually dropped due to the ruinous cost of such a project. With radar and electronics gear becoming considerably lighter and more compact during the 1990s compared with the 1970s vintage equipment the Boeing E-3 Sentry had been developed around, it became possible to use a much smaller platform in the late 1990s, and by 1998, SCI was able to integrate a domestically developed electronically scanned pulse doppler radar system with similar capabilities as the AN/APY-2 and the appropriate support gear into an A319 hull. The prototype flew in 1999 and performed convincingly, with only few structural modifications to the basic A319 airframe necessary. An order for 15 machines was placed in 2000, and they were delivered from 2002 through 2005. All 15 were off-the-shelf A319-100s assembled in Germany without passenger cabins; 12 of them received their mission equipment in Thiaria, with the balance put on storage. The 12 fully equipped machines were commissioned with the 11th AEW squadron. Total cost per unit was slightly more than $260 million, a very reasonable price for a plane with similar capabilities as the latest E-3C. Further orders were almost inevitable; Italy ordered 4 units in 2008, and in 2010, the Airbus A319AEW&C was finally selected to replace the 25 to 28 year old E-3A with the NATO common AWACS wing in 2010. Although most western European governments will refrain from buying new airplanes when they can spend the same money on refurbishing old ones, this time reason prevailed, mostly because the E-3As no longer conformed to EU noise and environmental regulations.
Airbus A319 AEW&C
The Airbus A319 AEW&C was also used by the Thiarians as the basis for an electronic warfare and signals intelligence plane. The aircraft carries an ELINT subsystem for detection, analysis and location of radar sources (both sides of the forward hull), together with a COMINT subsystem for detection, interception, classification, listening-in, analysis and location of radio transmitters (wingtips). The aircraft also have a photographic reconnaissance capability and can carry a variety of cameras in the rear fuselage; under the forward fuselage, there is a retractable ground-surveillance radome, and a pod on top of the tailfin carries jamming gear. Five units were delivered from 2004 through 2006 and commissioned by the 18th Electronic Warfare Squadron, a former heavy bomb unit of WWII fame which was reactivated for these ELINT Airbuses and some IAI drones; the unit will receive seven domestically-built SCI/EADS Talarion EW/ELINT Drones from 2016. France purchased two very similar Airbus A319 ELINT machines in 2010 to replace her ancient C-160G Transall-Gabriels.
Airbus A319 ELINT
Two Airbus A340-500 liners were ordered in 2008 as Thiaria's new presidential aircraft to replace two specially fitted Airbus A340-200s operated by Thiaria's national airline; this mission was transferred to the Air Corps in 2010 when the new A340-500s were received. They received additional commo gear, countermeasures equipment and jamming gear, although they lack aerial refuel capabilities and thus are not suitable to function as airborne command posts.
Thiaria used modified Ilyushin Il-62 airliners as aerial refueling aircraft between 1970 and 1992, then a dozen second-hand Airbus A310s acquired from the bankrupt Pan-Am fleet in 1992 and modified to the MRTT standard. These planes reached the end of their service life in the late 2000s. Due to Thiaria's involvement with Airbus - by 2005, SCI and two other Thiarian Holdings were in possession of 15% of the company's shares - the selection of the A330MRTT was a foregone conclusion, and twelve were ordered in 2007. Deliveries commenced in 2010 and were complete in 2013. The machines were generally similar to the RAF Voyagers (same engines, no telescopic boom) but had a third standard refueling station under the rear hull.
Airbus A330 MRTT