Before consigning the photographic files from my trip to Cairo to an external hard drive for storage, I took one final (promise) look through the 6000 images I returned with.
And I discovered that I had not featured the Silver Stars in any of my previous posts. Let me rectify that now…
The participation of the Silver Stars contributed to a larger air display that took place during the Military Academy graduation ceremony in Cairo on 12th October 2023.
I have never really been an ‘air show’ person, but this display changed my point of view.
The aircraft that participate are not left to their own devices when it comes to the actual event.
Every formation is carefully scripted and timed to the second. With some of the aircraft involved travelling at more than 2000km/h, it is not difficult to realize just how quickly it could all go wrong.
The hand in the image belongs to one of the high-ranking members of the Egyptian Air Force, and he is working on a script that had been honed during several rehearsals.
The “Silver Stars” are the current Egyptian Air Force aerobatic display team flying K-8E Karakorum jet trainer aircraft.
These aircraft are capable of speeds of up to 800 knots,(1 knot = 1.852 kilometers per hour). That being said I had noticed that during certain of the formations the K-8E were flying with the wheels in the ‘landing’ position.
I asked the Air Force officers about this and they informed me that as the planes had to perform at a ‘reduced’ speed over a built-up area, this was a safety measure!
I was not told how slow their slow was.
Interestingly enough, these aircraft are not as loud as I expected and they almost ‘snuck’ by my lens on several occasions.
The images I captured resulted from paying attention during the earlier rehearsals.
The Silver Stars are the Egyptian Air Force aerobatic display team flying K-8E Karakorum jet trainer aircraft painted in white, red and black colours. All planes are equipped with red, white and black smoke generators. During the shows, the Silver Stars perform eight different formations along with several single aircraft passes.
All pilots are flying instructors at the Egyptian Air Academy based in Belbeis Airport.
The Silver Stars team was formed in the middle of 1974 to participate in the “October War” anniversary.
Originally the pilots of the aerobatics team were flying instructors at the Air Force College and flew four L-29 planes painted in dark green brown and yellow – a standard colour scheme. In 1984, the Sliver Stars aerobatic team switched to six Alpha Jet training aeroplanes.
In 2003, the team made the switch to the K-8E Karakorum trainer and from 2005 was led by Group Captain Mostafa Fathi. Since 2010, the team has now flown ten aircraft – nine plus one solo.
The Hongdu JL-8 (Nanchang JL-8), also known as the Karakorum-8 or K-8 for short, is a two-seat intermediate jet trainer and light attack aircraft designed in the People’s Republic of China.
It also seems to be able to be hurled around the sky with a joyous abandon that defies gravity. Although the timing and the formations need to be split-second perfect, to me, as an outsider, it did seem that the pilots were having fun as they demonstrated the prowess of both themselves and their aircraft.
The first aerial display that the K-8 took part in was during the 1993 Singapore Air Show. Since then has been a presence at Air Shows in Dubai, Paris, Farnborough, Bangkok and Zhuhai to name a few.
Screaming proudly over the Egyptian flag with coloured smoke on.
Did you know?
The colours on the current Egyptian flag denote the following:
The red band represents the Egyptians’ blood in the war against colonization.
The white band symbolizes the purity of the Egyptians’ hearts.
The black band below the white refers to how darkness is overcome.
The gold bird represented in the white band is the Steppe eagle, the national bird of Egypt.
Off into the distance at a rate of knots…only to appear again from an angle least expected.
The entire complement of the Silver Stars, bar the solo plane which was missing from this formation.
This K-8 variant was developed for export to Egypt in 1999, featuring 33 modifications to the airframe and avionics.
Built in Egypt from Chinese-supplied kits, the production of 80 Egyptian-built Chinese kits was completed in 2005, with licensed production of an additional 40 K-8Es undertaken thereafter.
Filling the sky over Cairo in spectacular style.
During this manoeuvre, the pilot is subjected to between 4-5 G.
What could go wrong?
3 – 4.5G pilots suffer partial loss of vision. 4.5 – 5.5G pilot’s vision may blackout. 5.5 – 6G hypoxia and loss of consciousness can occur. High negative G forces cause vision to go red and may take days to clear, or can temporarily cause unconsciousness.
With the setting sun as a backdrop, the solo pilot goes through his formations. I did comment to the Air Force team on the ground with me that he looked like he was having fun.
I did mention earlier that before I witnessed this display, I was not someone who was a regular visitor to airshows.
However, after having been exposed to this team on several occasions, it was hard for me not to become emotionally invested in the training and the expertise demonstrated by the EAF pilots.
I count myself blessed to have been involved in this aspect of the graduation ceremony and I am still in contact with one member of the EAF team who shared roof space with me on several occasions.
Almost time to say farewell.
The smoke from the generators on board the aircraft makes for an interesting backdrop for the planes and the large Egyptian flag.
The solo pilot hurtles across Cairo after being part of a final formation before the entire team returns to base.
They left their ‘HEART’ above Cairo, and in doing so certainly won mine.
inshallah, I will return one day to reconnect with the friends that I made and to get to see the sights that I was not able to do during this particular visit.
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