Author Archives: David Cenciotti

Here’s where a U.S. spyplane sought terrorists behind Bardo museum attack in Tunisia

A civil registered U.S. King Air used to track high-value and time-sensitive targets, including people, has conducted some missions over western Tunisia.

From Mar. 21 to 26, a U.S. Beechcraft King Air 350ER has conducted reconnaissance missions over the western Tunisia regions where jidahist terrorists behind the Bardo Museum attack have been hiding.

The news, exposed by the Corriere della Sera newspaper, was unveiled by Tunisian bloggers who noticed the civil-registered plane on Flightradar24.com: in fact, although it was probably involved in an intelligence gathering mission, the King Air “N351DY” did not turn off its ADS-B transponder and could be clearly tracked on the popular website (as already happened to other U.S. spyplanes over Afghanistan…) as it circled over the Jebel Chambi mountain between 22,500 and 24,500 feet.

Noteworthy, the aircraft operated by Pantelleria airport, a little Italian island off Tunisia: most probably, deploying the plane to a Tunisian airport was not safe, Sigonella airbase, in Sicily, from where U.S. Global Hawk and Predator and Reaper drone operate, was too far and Pantelleria was chosen as the closest base for the clandestine task.

The N351DY is registered to Aircraft Logistics Group LLC, based at Oklahoma City, known to have cooperated with Pentagon in the past.

The plane is the civil version of the MC-12W, an ISR (Intelligence Surveillance Reconnaissance) platform operated by the U.S. Air Force and equipped with a full array of sensors, a ground exploitation cell, line-of-sight and satellite communications datalinks, a robust voice communications suite as well as an electro-optical infrared sensor with a laser illuminator and designator.

The Air Force MC-12W, Army King Airs as well as several civil-registered King Airs (which appear similar to general aviation aircraft during their covert missions), are actually spyplanes used for several Special Operations and particularly capable to “find, fix, and finish” bad guys.

Here below is the track the plane flew on Mar. 22. On top of the article you find the route of Mar. 26’s mission, the last that could be tracked on FR24.

N351DY Mar 22

Image credit: Flightradar24.com

 

The U.S. Air Force is deploying 12 F-15 jets to Europe as first Air National Guard theater security package

Twelve F-15C jets will operate in the Netherlands before moving to Bulgaria.

It looks like the military build-up in eastern Europe continues.

The U.S. Air Force is deploying 12 F-15C belonging to the 125th Fighter Wing, Florida Air National Guard, Jacksonville, Fla., to Europe.

The Eagles, part of the first ANG TSP (Theater Security Package) will first operate from Leeuwarden airbase, in the Netherlands, where they will take part in the Frisian Flag mutinational exercise, then, they are expected to move east and be temporarily based at Graf Ignatievo, Bulgaria.

The Air National Guard F-15s are the second TSP to deploy to Europe in support of Operation Atlantic Resolve, the mission aimed at showing Washington’s commitment to peace and stability in the region and reassure local allies amid growing tensions with Russia following the annexation of Crimea last year.

Last month, 12 A-10s of the 355th Fighter Wing at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Arizona, deployed to Germany as part of the first theater security rotation on the Continent. The unit first flew from Spangdahlem air base, and then moved to RAF Lakenheath, UK, and to Poland.

TSPs are not the only U.S. forces currently operating from Europe: 14 F-16s from Aviano airbase, have deployed to Estonia, to conduct joint training with local military forces.

Image credit: U.S. Air Force

 

U.S. F-15E Strike Eagle jet supports PSYOPS in Syria, drops leaflets over Islamic State insurgents

A U.S. Air Force F-15E Strike Eagle has delivered leaflets over ISIS insurgents in Syria.

On Mar. 16, a U.S. F-15E Strike Eagle fighter jet deployed in the Gulf region has conducted an unusual mission: it has dropped some 60,000 leaflets over Raqqa region, the ISIS stronghold in Syria.

The leaflet depicts a gruesome drawing, showing 7 men being lined up for a meat grinder (labelled “Daesh”) by a “Daesh Recruiting Office” (Daesh is the Arabic acronym for ISIS).

The leaflets were released by means of a PDU-5B leaflet canister.

The purpose of the leaflet is to support PSYOPS (Psychological Operations) in Syria. The message of the leaflet is clear: those recruited by ISIS will find themselves in a meat grinder.

Leaflet Daesh

Image credit: U.S. DoD

During 2011 Air War in Libya, U.S. Air Force EC-130s broadcast radio messages to the Libyan military, to persuade them to return to their families before it was too late, whereas Italian C-130J aircraft dropped leaflets over Tripoli to counter Gaddafi’s regime propaganda in Libya’s capital city.

Air drop of leaflets in support of Information Operations have been conducted by the U.S. Army above Helmand province, Afghanistan, using U.S. Marine Corps MV-22B Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft to deliver information to areas of Helmand province unreachable by conventional communication.

Leaflets have been also air dropped by Syrian Arab Air Force Mil Mi-8 helicopters over Aleppo in August 2012 to urge rebels to surrender to the Syrian Army.

Israeli A-4 dropped leaflets over Gaza in the past as well.

 

Watch a U.S. Marine Corps KC-130J refuel two F-35B Joint Strike Fighters

If you suffer air sickness, this footage is not for you.

Here’s a B-roll showing two U.S. Marine Corps KC-130s flying with two F-35B Lightning II Joint Strike Fighters over Beaufort, South Carolina, during an aerial refueling mission on Mar. 19, 2015.

The KC-130 is an extended range tanker transport aircraft modified for aerial refueling of aircraft equipped with an IFR (In Flight Refueling) probe: in other words, F-35B and C, the variants for the U.S. Marine Corps and U.S. Navy.

 

Russian Tu-22 bomber scares NATO air defenses flying at supersonic speed over the Baltic Sea for the first time

The latest close encounter between NATO and Russian planes over the Baltic Sea was  different.

Early morning on Mar. 24, NATO and Swedish QRA (Quick Reaction Alert) interceptors were scrambled  to identify and shadow a formation of two Russian Air Force Tu-22M Backfire bombers escorted by two Su-27 Flanker aircraft.

As usual, the aircraft were flying with no FPL, no transponder, in international airspace. But, unlike all the previous events the leading Tu-22M bomber was flying at supersonic speed!

As a consequence of the high-speed of the Russian planes, the Italian Air Force Eurofighter Typhoon jets, providing BAP (Baltic Air Patrol) duties from Siauliau airbase, Lithuania, had to perform a supersonic run to intercept and escort the Tu-22s and accompanying Su-27s.

According to our sources, this was the very first time a Russian Air Force plane flying from mainland Russia to Kaliningrad Oblast was flying abeam Latvia, within the Riga FIR (Flight Information Region), heading towards Denmark and the Scandinavian peninsula at supersonic speed.

The Backfire decelerated to subsonic speed and rejoined with the rest of the formation that was picked up by a flight of two Su-27s from Kaliningrad that relieved the other two Flankers.

Although the Russians did not violate any rule, their flying without transponder, without establishing radio contact with any ATC agency, may pose dangers to civilian aviation. Even more so, if the bombers or their escort jets fly at supersonic speed or aggressively react to aircraft that are launched to intercept them.

Some analysts believe the purpose of the flight was provocative: Moscow has recently warned Denmark that if it joins Nato’s missile defense shield, its navy will be a legitimate target for a Russian nuclear attack.

As a side note, on the afternoon on Mar. 24, the Italian Typhoons were scrambled again to perform another supersonic interception of two Su-27 Flanker returning to mainland Russia from Kaliningrad: the pair that had been relieved by the second flight of Flankers earlier on the same day.

H/T to Erik Arnberg for providing additional details.

Image credit: Alex Beltyukov – RuSpotters Team /Wikipedia