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Updated: 1 week 6 days ago

GoPro footage of a dogfight between Dutch F-16 and U.S. F-15 over the North Sea

Wed, 03/06/2015 - 15:34
Join a Royal Netherlands Air Force F-16 during aerial combat against a U.S. F-15.

At the end of March 2015, 125th Fighter Wing, Florida Air National Guard, from Jacksonsville, Florida, deployed to Leewuwarden air base with 12 F-15C Eagle as part of the first Air National Guard TSP (Theater Security Package) in support of Operation Atlantic Resolve.

From Apr. 13 to 24, the F-15s and supporting personnel (belonging to units from Florida, Oregon, California, Massachusetts and various bases throughout Europe grouped, regardless of their origin, in the 159th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron) took part in Frisian Flag 2015 one of the largest exercises in central Europe.

The footage in this post was filmed from the cockpit of a Dutch F-16 during a FF 2015 mission.

It shows the RNlAF “Viper” depart from Leeuwarden, join and refuel from an American KC-135 tanker launched from RAF Mildenhall, UK, over the North Sea, and engage a U.S. F-15 in a 1 vs 1 dogfight.

Watch the F-16’s pilot, wearing a JHMCS (Joint Helmet Mounted Cueing System) maneuver under high g-loads to try to get a shot on the Eagle. The JHMCS, used also by the American F-15 pilots, is a multi-role system that enhances pilot situational awareness and provides head-out control of aircraft targeting systems and sensors. It can be used in an air-to-air role, combined with the AIM-9X missile, as High-Off-BoreSight (HOBS) system, to cue onboard weapons against enemy aircraft merely by pointing their heads at the targets to guide the weapons.

H/T to Giuliano Ranieri for the heads-up

 

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U.S. A-10s to perform low level training in Latvia

Tue, 02/06/2015 - 19:19
Low flying Thunderbolts over Latvia.

According to the information released by the Latvian Ministry of Defense, NATO air assets, namely the A-10 Thunderbolts deployed as a part of the Theater Security Package, are going to use the country’s airspace to conduct low-level flying.

The release issued by the Latvian authorities asks the public not to be worried about the low-flying Hogs. The missions are going to take place only on specific, agreed dates and times, starting from Jun. 8, 2015.

The low-level flying is to be carried out outside the firing ranges – this is the reason why the event is so unusual. It was said that the training’s purpose is to maintain and refine the pilots’ skills and combat readiness.

All the information pertaining the operations are going to be available on the Internet. It was already said that the sorties would take place in seven districts, namely: Rūjiena, Smiltene, Aluksne – Gulbene, Balvi – Vilani, Madona – Plavinas, Jēkabpils and Preiļi – Līvāni.

According to the Ministry, the Warthog training operations within the Latvian airspace are a part of the Operation Atlantic Resolve, undertaken by NATO in the light of the Ukrainian crisis. The low-level training operations are going to be organized in a way that will not pose a threat to the public.

 

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Video from U.S. destroyer in the Black Sea as Russian Su-24 Fencer flies by

Mon, 01/06/2015 - 21:10
Here’s the video of  a Russian Su-24 flying close to USS Ross in international waters in the Black Sea.

Few days ago, Russian media reported that Russian Navy Su-24 Fencer jets scrambled from an airbase in Crimea “forced” a U.S. Navy destroyer in the Black Sea to leave for neutral waters while approaching Russia’s territorial waters.

Russian outlets claimed that USS Ross turned around because it was scared by the sight of the Su-24, a type of aircraft involved in a similar incident with USS Donald Cook, an American destroyer allegedly “blinded” by a Fencer in the Black Sea in April 2014.

Although, Russian flybys performed by Su-30s and Su-24s aircraft from Russia’s Black Sea Fleet launched from Crimea, have been reported by NATO warships operating in the Black Sea previously, the whole story of USS Ross deviating from its planned operations because of a Fencer immediately appeared to be unlikely and quite hard to believe.

Then came the official statement by U.S. Navy.

According to the U.S. 6th Fleet: “USS Ross continued on her mission after observing the aircraft return to base. At no time did Ross act aggressively nor did she deviate from her planned operations. The conduct of her crew has been and continues to be professional. Ross’ Sailors observed that the SU 24 carried no weapons – wings were “clean.”

And here’s the video that proves this version.

 

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Russian warplanes allegedly force US destroyer away from territorial waters in Black Sea

Sat, 30/05/2015 - 22:22
It looks like Russian Su-24s flew over US warship in Black Sea. Again.

According to several Russian media outlets, Russian Navy Su-24 Fencer jets “forced” a U.S. Navy destroyer to head towards neutral waters after it was noticed by Russian Black Sea monitoring stations heading into Russia’s territorial waters.

Reportedly, the U.S. Navy destroyer USS Ross was heading directly towards Russian waters after leaving the Romanian port of Costanta. Russian Su-24s were scrambled towards the warship.

After the close encounter with the Su-24 jets, the destroyer “then turned around and left for neutral waters,” says RT, suggesting an unlikely violation of the Russian territorial waters by the U.S. warship.

“It seems that the Americans did not forget the April 2014 incident when one Su-24 actually shut down all equipment on the new USS Donald Cook American destroyer with anti-missile system elements,” an unnamed source said to Sputnik News.

The mysterious source refers to the April 2014 incident when a Su-24 Fencer flew multiple passes at 500 feet above sea level, within 1,000 yards of the USS Donald Cook, the U.S. Navy destroyer operating in the Black Sea at that time: a behaviour that the ship commander considered “provocative and inconsistent with international agreements.”

Following the incident, speculations (fueled by propaganda) reported that the Su-24 jammed all the systems aboard USS Cook to such an extent all the onboard screens went black and 27 officers resigned as a consequence of the attack: a quite unbelievable and unlikely story.

Anyway, Russian Su-30s and Su-24s aircraft from Russia’s Black Sea Fleet launched from Novofedorvka, an airbase captured on Mar. 22, 2014, in western Crimea peninsula 70 kilometres north of Sevastopol, have conducted attack runs on NATO warships operating in the Black Sea recently.

Image credit: Andrey Zinchuv/Airforce.ru and U.S. Navy

 

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This Is What It’s Like to Fly to the Edge of Space in a MiG-29 Fulcrum

Fri, 29/05/2015 - 21:13
GoPro cameras bring you aboard a Mig-29 Fulcrum during a flight to the Edge of Space.

Ever wondered what flying one of the most famous Russian warplanes at supersonic speed and so high (between 17 and 22 km) that you can clearly see the curvature of Earth?

The video below will give you a hint.

It was produced by MigFlug, a company that offers fighter jet flying experiences in wide variety of aircraft in Russia, Europe and North America, during a Edge of Space mission with their MiG-29 Fulcrum.

Interestingly, the video was shot by a famous aviation video producer, Artur Sarkysian, who attached a GoPro cameras to the two-seater Mig-29UB’s outer surfaces in such a way they could withstand speed up to 2450 km/h and a load factor of 9g!

From several different points of view you can watch one of the most famous Soviet-era jet (still serving in Russia, Ukraine, North Korea, Poland, Syria and Iran, among the others) fly at supersonic speed and high altitude, maneuver, perform aerobatics and land.

The video was produced over a time of 6 months. But the results are stunning.

Here below you can watch the whole video. Enjoy!

 

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U.S. and Moroccan F-16s train during largest Department of Defense exercise in Africa

Thu, 28/05/2015 - 18:10
U.S. and Royal Moroccan Air Force F-16s have operated together during the annual, bilateral African Lion exercise in Morocco.

Six F-16 Fighter Falcon aircraft belonging to 480th Fighter Squadron from Spangdahlem, Germany, along with support assets deployed to Ben Guerir airbase, in Morocco, to participate in joint and combined air training during African Lion 2015, the largest U.S. exercise in Africa.

Taking place between May 15 and 22, the annual exercise is designed to improve interoperability and mutual understanding of each nation’s tactics, techniques and procedures.

According to the U.S. Air Force, the training included first-time Royal Moroccan air force in-flight air refueling with U.S. tankers, emergency landing barrier training and joint datalink ops.

The training activities were carried out few days after a Royal Moroccan Air Force F-16C Block 52+ (serialled #08-8008), taking part in the Saudi-led coalition air campaign in Yemen was shot down by Houthi rebels on May 11.

The aircraft, belonging to a contingent of six F-16s deployed to UAE to take part in the air war against ISIS, was involved in one of the very first RMAF missions over Yemen when it was hit by small arms fire. Pilot was killed in the downing.

 

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Cool photograph of a head-on ultra-low level flying Mig-23 Flogger

Wed, 27/05/2015 - 20:13
Libyan Mig-23 Flogger performs insanely low flyby.

Some videos showing FLAF (Free Libya Air Force) Mig-23 Flogger jets have emerged recently: filmed from at an unknown airbase and posted on the official FB page of the Libyan Air Force they show the Soviet-era jets thundering at ultra-low altitude.

In this post you can find another image that has surfaced on the social network, reportedly released by the FLAF showing one of the flybys from a quite privileged standpoint.

According to the always very well informed Oryx Blog, the Libyan Air Force currently has two MiG-23MLs operational: 6472 based at Benina and 6132 based at al-Watiya. The two aircraft support the war of attrition against Libya Dawn forces that also operate one remaining Mig-23ML (the other one crashed after attacking the airstrip of al-Zintan on Mar. 23, 2015).

Image credit: FLAF

 

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Awesome video of KC-10 refueling another KC-10 against a full moon….through IR vision

Tue, 26/05/2015 - 20:04
This incredible video was taken by a Damocles targeting pod.

The video in this post was probably taken somewhere over Afghanistan.

It shows U.S. Air Force KC-10 “buddy” refueling against a full moon.

The IR-vision scene, with the moon appearing closer due to the magnifying effect of the zoom, was filmed with a Damocles multi-function targeting pod, by a French aircraft, possibly a Dassault Rafale, a Mirage 2000 or a French Navy Super Etendard that are equipped with the pod used for laser designation and day/night smart weapons guidance.

H/T Gizmodo

 

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The story of an F-14 Tomcat RIO who became prisoner of war during the First Gulf War

Mon, 25/05/2015 - 15:34
The dramatic story of a US Navy Tomcat RIO, POW during Operation Desert Storm.

As we have recently explained, in the early morning of Jan. 21, 1991, the F-14B (BuNo 161430, at the time designated F-14A Plus) from the VF-103 “Sluggers,” callsign “Slate 46”,  flown by Lt. Devon Jones and RIO Lt. Lawrence Slade, was hit by an Iraqi SA-2 Surface to Air Missile.

The crew was forced to eject due to the violent flat spin which followed the SAM explosion.

During the descent, the two men saw each other for the last time before entering the clouds and once they put their boots on the ground their fate was quite different.

In fact, while Lt. Jones was saved with a spectacular Combat SAR mission, Lt. Slade tried to go as far as he could from the Tomcat crash site, walking for about 2 ½ hours in the desert using his radio every hour without receiving any reply.

Then, while Slade tried to hide himself near a little knoll, the Iraqis found him.

“At about 1030, a white Datsun pickup truck came around the knoll,” Slade says in the book Gulf Air War Debrief.

“It was probably bad luck because I don’t think they were looking for me; they were just driving by. Two men stopped and got out. One had a 12-gauge shot gun, the other, an AK-47. […] They approached me, but it never crossed my mind to pull out my pistol. I was obviously had. They made me strip off all my gear.”

The two men were very polite and after they put Slade between them in the pickup, took him in their tent where they fed him.

Then, after the lunch, they put him again in the pickup and they asked him if he wanted to go to either Saudi Arabia or Baghdad. Of course, he told them Saudi Arabia, choosing the most northern town he could recall. Slade knew that if the trip took three hours, it would have been Baghdad; eight, Saudi Arabia. Sure enough, 3 ½ hours later they pulled into an army camp, and he knew it wasn’t Saudi Arabia. For the rest of the day Slade was shuttled to six different camps, blindfolded and handcuffed. Nevertheless he was for sure a subject of interest, since people came out to see him, take pictures of him and poke at his gear. They’d pick on him, kick him, and if they spoke English they’d say things like “You kill our children.”

Slade spent the following three days in Baghdad where he experienced very harsh interrogations, then he was transferred in the first of several prisons where he spent his POW (Prisoner Of War) experience.

As he recalls: “In retrospect, I was shot down on the fourth day of the war and they had already had a few prisoners: a couple of Tornado crews, an A-6 crew and a Marine OV-10 crew. ”

Lieutenant Slade and his fellow POWs changed different prisons in Baghdad where they also experienced several allied bombs raids, the most intense of which was the one that took place on Feb. 23, when 2,000-lb bombs almost completely destroyed their jail.

But for sure the most impressive experience faced by Slade were the interrogations by Iraqi jailers. He had a total of six interrogations, some of what they called soft-sell, where they just asked him questions. Then there were the hard-sells, where they pounded on him. For the most part, they didn’t use any classic torture methods. They just beat him up, tied his hands behind his back and double-blindfolded him to the point where he couldn’t even blink.

They beat allied prisoners even when they answered their questions. Slade, as well as the other POWs answered to the questions just to make beatings stop “even though the answers were complete garbage. Some I didn’t know the answer to, and I’d tell them, then I’d make up something. I could hear them writing it down. I thought, ‘You idiots!’ […] Some time toward the end of February, they banged me up against the wall and broke my seventh vertebra.”

During these interrogations Slade was blindfolded and never saw his interrogators, probably so that he could not identify them later, or perhaps because the Iraqis understood how terrifying it is to be blind in the hands of  a torturer.

Lt. Slade endured interrogation, torture and starvation in the Iraqi hands for 43 days: even if his six weeks as a POW were not anywhere as long as six years in North Vietnamese prisons, to Lawrence Slade every week must have seemed like a year.

Image credit: U.S. Navy

 

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Rare video exposes U.S. Special Operations helicopters at work in north Iraq

Sun, 24/05/2015 - 19:21
A clip filmed with a smartphone shows a formation of Special Ops helicopters at work north of Baiji in Iraq.

Although the quality of the footage is pretty bad, the clip in this post, filmed by Iraqi forces north of Baiji, Iraq, is extremely interesting.

It shows a formation of four U.S. MH-60 and two MH-47E choppers, followed by two more Black Hawks, flying at very low level during a mission somewhere in Iraq.

The helicopters belong to the US Army’s 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (Airborne) “Night Stalkers”, a Special Operations unit that has been quite active in the region since August 2014. More recently, the 160th SOAR took part in a “daring” raid to kill ISIS high level operative Abu Sayyaf,  in eastern Syria.

Here below you can find a couple of screenshots:

Noteworthy the helicopters are not flying under the cover of night: returning from a raid or heading towards the target?

 H/T to @guidoolimpio for the link to the video

 

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Audio and Video of the U.S. P-8A aircraft defying China’s Navy warnings to leave airspace over disputed islands

Fri, 22/05/2015 - 18:26
A P-8A Poseidon from Patrol Squadron (VP) 45 captures surveillance footage of the Peoples Republic of China (PRC) conducting land reclamation operations in the South China Sea.

On May 20, a P-8A Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft belonging to Patrol Squadron (VP) 45 conducted a routing surveillance flight over the South China Sea, where has started building an airstrip on the disputed Spratly Islands in the waters claimed by the Philippines.

During the flight, the crew of the P-8A documented several warnings, issued by China’s People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN), most probably on the International Emergency (“Guard”) frequency 121.5 MHz, to leave the area as the U.S. military plane was approaching their military alert zone.

Interestingly, the U.S. aircraft replies to the Chinese Navy operators urging it to leave their area “quickly” as follows:

“Station calling U.S. military plane, please identify yourself”.

Then, after receiving confirmation that it was a People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) operator, the answer is always the same: “I’m a U.S. military aircraft conducting lawful military activities outside national airspace; I’m operating with due regard as required under International Law.”

The audio seems to be disturbed by some kind of jamming.

Anyway, according to the U.S. Navy, the P-8 mission documented the continued expansion of reefs which have been turned into man-made islands with airport infrastructure in the South China Sea.

 

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Four U.S. A-10 Thunderbolt jets have deployed to Slovakia

Fri, 22/05/2015 - 15:28
A-10s continue their tour of eastern Europe.

Four A-10 Thunderbolt II jets and approximately 40 airmen from the U.S. Air Force Theater Security Package, deployed to Sliac Air Base, Slovakia, May 16, in support of Operation Atlantic Resolve.

The contingent of the 354th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron have taken part to a joint training with the Slovakian air force whose aim was to improve interoperability in allied air operations and multinational close-air-support operations.

According to U.S. Air Force Gen. Frank Gorenc, U.S. Air Forces Europe and Air Forces Africa commander: “The U.S. Air Force’s forward presence in Europe, augmented by a rotational force like the TSP, allows us to work with our allies to develop and improve ready air forces capable of maintaining regional security.”

The 354th EFS is currently deployed to Campia Turzii, Romania, but takes part in “micro deployments” across eastern Europe to reassure local NATO allies and show them the U.S. commitment: since they started their six-month tour of duty in Europe, the 12 TSP “Warthog” attack planes from the 355th Fighter Wing, Davis-Monthan AFB, Arizona, have been stationed in Germany, UK, Poland, Romania, and Estonia.

During their stay in Slovakia, the A-10 worked with the Slovakian air force L-39s in joint close air support training with JTACs (joint terminal attack controllers).

Image credit: U.S. Air Force

 

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The most interesting close encounters between NATO and Russian planes since 2013 in one infographic

Thu, 21/05/2015 - 16:37
Mapped, all the most interesting close encounters between NATO and Russian warplanes all around the world since 2013.

Last week, all those readers who completed a quick survey on The Aviationist were given the possibility to download an exclusive ebook: “Cold War 2.0: All the most significant close encounters between NATO and Russian warplanes since 2013″

The ebook is a collection of posts we have published on this site between 2013 and 2015, and helps you understand how routine interceptions have become recurrent, tenser and more dangerous; the proof that we live in a new Cold War, or a “Cold War 2.0″, as we dubbed it.

Based on our ebook, Willum Morsch, Graphics editor at The Volkskrant prepared an interesting infographic that maps all the events we have reported about in our 70-page report.

Click below for a larger version of the infographic; by the way, you can still download the ebook after taking the survey here.

Image credit: de Volkskrant/The Aviationist

 

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Stunning pics of a B-52 strategic bomber doing some heavy carpet bombing in Jordan

Wed, 20/05/2015 - 18:59
B-52 Stratofortress bomber doing what it does best.

The photographs in this post were taken during a combined live fire demonstration in Wadi Shadiya, Jordan, May 18.

They show a B-52H from 2nd Bomb Wing, from Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana, drop some 500-lb GBU-38 JDAM (Joint Direct Attack Munition) bombs during the “monumental military demonstration” that was the final event of Exercise “Eager Lion” a recurring multinational exercise designed to strengthen military-to-military relationships, increase interoperability between partner nations, and enhance regional security and stability.

Noteworthy, the two B-52 Stratofortress bombers that marked the first participation of strategic bombers to Eager Lion, performed a 30-plus hour, 14,000 mile nonstop mission to the U.S. Central Command area of operations.

They coordinated the attack with Jordanian JTACs (Joint Terminal Attack Controllers) and, after the attack run, overflew the range escorted by two Royal Jordanian Air Force F-16s.

In addition to 5,000 U.S. servicemen, the two-week yearly exercise saw the participation of Jordanian forces as well as contingents from 16 other countries for a total force of about 10,000 troops.

The exercise was held among five sites across Jordan and based on the scenario of a friendly contingent committed to the aid of an allied nation under threat by an aggressive neighbor. Along with the U.S. Air Force strategic bombers, Jordanian tactical planes and U.S. Army helicopters of the 185th Theater Aviation Brigade’s aviation task force, EOD (explosive ordnance disposal) teams, Seabees and patrol craft were used to perform port security in Aqaba, Jordan’s only coastal city, while a Marine crisis-response force out of Kuwait took part in the drills, practicing non-combatant evacuation operation (NCO) by means of MV-22 tilt-rotor aircraft in the north.

Image credit: U.S. Marine Corps

 

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A view on the quite impressive F-15 Engine Shop at RAF Lakenheath airbase

Tue, 19/05/2015 - 13:07
There are 17 F-15’s exhaust engine nozzles in this image.

The photo in this article was posted by the 48th Fighter Wing on their FB page. It shows at least 17 complete exhaust engine nozzles for the F100-PW-220 and F100-PW-220-229 engines of the F-15C, D and E jets based at RAF Lakenheath, UK.

You can clearly see the typical convergent-divergent profile of the axially symmetrical exhaust nozzles, the nozzle actuators and the titanium actuating rods.

Noteworthy, unlike many other supersonic aircraft’s jet engines, the PW-220 and -229 are “exposed” and lack the so-called “Turkey Feathers” cover plates. These covers were removed in the 1970s to make maintenance easier on U.S. Eagle jets; the Israeli F-15Is, that are equipped with the same engines, or the F-15K Slam Eagles (the Strike Eagle version for the Republic of Korea Air Force) still use them.

The one depicted in the image must be a part of the Engine Shop of the 48th CMS (Component Maintenance Squadron), one of the units of the 48th FW, responsible for on-equipment and off-equipment maintenance and accessory repair of F-15C, F-15D, F-15E and HH-60G aircraft.

According to the unit’s Factsheets, among all the other things, the 48th CMS also manages equipment calibrations and intermediate level maintenance on F-15C, F-15D, F-15E and C-130 avionics line replaceable units; F-15E, F-16, and A-10 LANTIRN navigation, targeting and reconnaissance pods as well as F100-PW-220 and F100-PW-220-229 engines.

Image credit: 48th FW

 

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U.S. raid in Syria supported by secret Stealth Black Hawk helicopters?

Sun, 17/05/2015 - 17:09
According to some sources, the evasive MH-X may have taken part in the raid that killed Islamic State member Abu Sayyaf.

In the night between May 15 and 16, U.S. Special Operations forces killed ISIS high level operative Abu Sayyaf, in a daring raid that took place in eastern Syria.

Little is known about the raid.

According to the CNN, the operation was conducted by U.S. Army’s Delta Force, which was carried to a residential building in Deir Ezzor, to the southeasth of Raqqa, by Army Blackhawk helicopters and Air Force CV-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft.

It’s pretty obvious many other assets were actually involved in the raid, including support assets providing electronic support to the intruding choppers and drones, as happened during Operation Neptune’s Spear, for the killing of Osama Bin Laden.

The presence of some Air Force Special Operations Command Ospreys during a raid against ISIS is not a first.

U.S. Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft probably based in Kuwait have already conducted missions in Syria and Iraq: on Jul. 3, 2014, some V-22 aircraft were used to carry Delta Force commandos to a campsite in eastern Syria where ISIS militants were believed to hold American and other hostages (that had been moved by the time the commandos attacked the site).

On Aug. 13, 2014, V-22s deployed military advisers, Marines and Special Forces on Mount Sinjar to coordinate the evacuation of Yazidi refugees.

What could really be a “first” is the possible involvement of the Stealth Black Hawk helicopter exposed by the raid in Abbottabad, Pakistan, back in 2011.

For the moment it’s just a hypothesis, but Homeland Security suggests that the Delta Force team were transported deep into ISIS-held territory “via presumably stealth equipped Black Hawk helicopters” of the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (Airborne) “Night Stalkers”.

The U.S. Army special ops force provides support for both general purpose and special operations forces. They fly MH-47G Chinooks, MH-60L/K/DAP Black Hawks, A/MH-6M Little Birds, MH-X Silent Hawks (the latter is an unconfirmed designation for the Stealth Black Hawk), maybe stealthy Little Birds and stealthy Chinooks, as well as MQ-1C Gray Eagle drones.

160th SOAR’s Black Hawk helicopters presence in the region was first unveiled after an unspecified variant belonging to the U.S. Army took part in an unsuccessful raid to free captured American journalist James Foley and other captives from ISIS in eastern Syria in August 2014.

Even though American aircraft have already demonstrated their ability to operate completely undisturbed well inside the Syrian airspace, we can’t rule out the possibility that the Pentagon, as done in 2011 when the time to kill Bin Laden arrived, considered the importance of the most recent raid against the senior ISIS leader and the failure of at least a couple previous raids, decided to commit the most advanced and secret Black Hawk helicopter to the delicate mission against Abu Sayyaf: the stealth variant.

 

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We are closer to a European shared Aerial Refueling Capability

Sun, 17/05/2015 - 14:01
“Pooling and Sharing” may soon apply to the Aerial Refueling capability.

As we reported it at the end of last year, Poland, the Netherlands and Norway are willing to acquire shared aerial refueling capabilities. According to the information obtained by Polish media outlet defence24.pl, Poland’s share in the program is 22 percent, proportional to the flight hours allocated to the Polish Air Force.

In his interview for defence24, Jacek Sońta, spokesperson for the Polish Ministry of Defense stated that the request for proposal is about to be sent to the contractor – the Airbus company, which will provide the Airbus A330 MRTT (Multi Role Tanker Transport) aircraft – by the OCCAR agency (Organisation Conjointe de Coopération en Matière D’armement – Organization for joint cooperation within the field of armament), part of EDA (European Defense Agency), on behalf of the program member states.

Analysts highlighted that the tanker fleet spending is not contained within the Polish MoD’s “Technical Modernization Plan,” however, the Polish F-16 fighter jets are already using the refueling services provided to them by RNlAF (Royal Netherlands Air Force) and it is quite likely that the budget allocated to the AAR (air-to-air refueling) missions will be shifted to the program led by the EDA.

According to the report published by Aviation Week, ultimately up to four A330 MRTTs are going to be used for carrying out the refueling tasks. The basic plan assumes that the tankers are to reach the operational capabilities by 2019, and the program itself is to begin in mid-2020. The relevant agreement is scheduled to be signed next year, according to the information provided by the Polish MoD.

What is more, Aviation Week sheds some light on the operational details pertaining the joint aerial refueling initiative: the fleet of tankers is going to be based at the Eindhoven Air Base, even though the program assumes that forward operating locations will be established within the territories of the program participants. Airbus is going to provide the A330 tankers with both the flying boom, as well as the hose-and-drogue refueling systems.

One of the air bases in Poland that is probably going to host the tankers is Powidz AB, home for the Polish Air Force’s fleet of the Hercules transport aircraft, and equipped with a sufficiently long runway. So far it has accommodated large aircraft such as the E-4B, the AWACS, and more recently – the USAF A-10 deployment, which was a part of the Theater Security Package deployed to Europe, in the light of the Ukrainian Crisis.

Aviation Week also duly notes that the initiative is going to constitute a replacement for the Dutch KC-10 tankers, while in case of Norway it is going to seriously bolster the F-35 program. In case of Norway and Poland, utilizing the tanker would be a novelty. The whole program stems from the fact that, so far, the European air forces were relying on the US air refueling assets during training as well as real operations (like in Libya or the Balkans). Thus, a new, independent tanker program would provide the Europeans with a higher degree of independence.

The formal procedures related to the multinational use of the aerial-refueling capabilities are yet to be created.

Notably, the Airbus’s aircraft could also be used for multi-role transport operations and support several different duties, including the deployments of land forces abroad.

Image credit: © Commonwealth of Australia 2015

 

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U.S. Air Force A-10 and F-15 Theater Security Package activities in Europe in one infographic

Fri, 15/05/2015 - 19:52
An interesting infographic provides some detail about the two TSPs in Europe.

12 A-10s belonging to the first Air Force Theater Security Package and 12 F-15s of the first ANG  TSP (theater security package) are currently deployed in eastern Europe in support of Operation Atlantic Resolve.

Both TSPs will operate from bases across the Old Continent for about 6 months to augment U.S. Air Force in Europe support to Operation Atlantic Resolve, and reassure regional allies.

The following infographic provides some additional detail about the activities conducted by the TSPs so far (actually, until May 11).

 

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The U.S. will base B-1 bombers and surveillance planes in Australia amid South China Sea tensions

Thu, 14/05/2015 - 17:47
Bombers and ISR (Intelligence Surveillance Reconnaissance) aircraft head towards the Pacific.

It looks like the U.S. Air Force is planning to deploy some strategic bombers and surveillance aircraft in Australia to put some pressure on China amid South China Sea tensions.

The South China Sea is the subject of several territorial claims. China claims sovereignty on some island chains and  waters that are within the 200 nautical miles exclusive economic zone of Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam

This year, China has started building an airstrip on the disputed Spratly Islands in the South China Sea  waters claimed by the Philippines.

According to FP, the Defense Department’s Assistant Secretary for Asian and Pacific Security Affairs David Shear, during testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on May 13, said that along with moving U.S. Marines and Army units around the region, the Pentagon will deploy air assets in Australia, “including B-1 bombers and surveillance aircraft.”

The U.S. Air Force ISR aircraft, possibly unmanned Global Hawk drones, will monitor activities around the disputed islands, whereas the “Bone” heavy bombers will serve as a deterrent to challenge Beijing aggressive ownership claims.

U.S. strategic bombers have already been temporarily deployed to Australia, to take part in exercises with the Royal Australian Air Force, in 2012 and at the end of 2014 as a consequence of a joint Force Posture Initiative signed in 2011 to train together to face threats in the Pacific.

Actually, U.S. aircraft don’t really need to deploy to Australia to put pressure on China: Air Force Global Strike Command’s bombers, including B-52s and B-2s, routinely operate from Andersen Air Force Base, in Guam, strategically located 1,800 miles (about 2,900 km) to the east of China. And they can even launch round-trip strike missions from their bases located in the Continental U.S.

According to Xinhuanet, China cautioned the U.S. against taking any actions in the region, urging Washington “not to take any risks or make any provocations so as to maintain regional peace and stability.”

Image credit: Boeing

 

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The Italian Air Force has unveiled a new indigenous trainer: the T-344 V.E.S.P.A.

Wed, 13/05/2015 - 17:01
The Italian Air Force is developing a new indigenous jet trainer.

The Italian Air Force has identified the new trainer that will replace the SF-260EA in the role of initial flight screener of its student pilots.

The mock-up of the new indigenous project, dubbed T-344 V.E.S.P.A. (Very Efficient Smart Power Aircraft) was unveiled during a press open day organised at Cameri airbase as a side event of the EURAC (European Air Chiefs’ Conference) on May 7.

The T-344 is based on the Caproni C-22J, a light jet-powered aircraft developed in the 1980s: it features a side-by-side digital cockpit, two 170-kg thrust engines, retractable tricycle undercarriage, maximum speed of Mach 0.48 and service ceiling of 25,000 feet.

The cockpit is not pressurized, meaning that the pilots will have to use the flight helmet and oxygen mask.

The V.E.S.P.A. is being developed through Reparto Sperimentale Volo (Italian Air Force Test Wing based at Praitca di Mare) by the ItAF itself, that will assign production to an aerospace company at a later stage.

With the new jet trainer the Italian Air Force will complete the renewal of its fleet of trainers that in the future will be based on three flight lines: T-344, T-345 (ItAF designation for the M-345 HET) and T-346 (already in service at 61° Stormo multinational training hub).

Interestingly, other innovative projects were showcased at Cameri.

Among them, the AgustaWestland HH-101A Caesar, the new CSAR (Combat Search And Rescue) helicopter that the ItAF will use for Special Forces support, Personnel Recovery in hostile environments, MEDEVAC (Medical Evacuation) and SMI (Slow Mover Intercept) missions; the Alenia Aermacchi MC-27J Praetorian, a gunship version of the successful C-27J Spartan equipped with pallettized machine guns, targeting sensors and C3I-ISR (Command, control, communications and intelligence – intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance) systems; the AgustaWestland AW-149, that could find its way to the ItAF SAR fleet in the future; and the P.1HH HammerHead UAS (Unmanned Aerial System), that the ItAF has already procured (three UAS systems, consisting of six aircraft and three ground stations and complete with ISR configuration, that will be delivered early next year).

Even a scale model of the MALE 2020 medium-altitude, long-endurance UAV project developed by Italy, France and Germany.

Among the future project, even some very known ones, including the Eurofighter Typhoon, the T-346A (carrying dummy IRIS-T missiles), the mock-up of the M-345/T-345 in the Frecce Tricolori color scheme, and the HH-139 SAR helicopter.

Also one the two F-35s assembled in Italy and destined to the Aeronautica Militare could be seen at Cameri, along with the two types the Joint Strike Fighter is going to replace in the ItAF, the Tornado and the AMX, as shown by the much interesting image below:



Image above: Italian Air Force

All the images in this post were taken by The Aviationist’s photographer Iolanda Frisina during the press day at Cameri airbase unless otherwise stated.

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