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 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.
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.
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.
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