Author Archives: David Cenciotti

Italian Typhoon jets have intercepted a Russian Air Force Il-78 tanker over the Baltic Sea

The Italian Eurofighter Typhoon interceptors have had their first close encounter with a Russian jet since taking over the lead nation role within NATO Baltic Air Patrol.

On Jan. 30, two Italian Air Force Typhoons deployed to Šiauliai, Lithuania, to provide Air Policing in the Baltics region, were scrambled to identify and escort a Russian Air Force Il-78 Midas flying close to NATO Baltic States airspace, Latvia’s Military said on its official Twitter account.

Although no further details about the mission have been disclosed, it looks like the Russian Il-78 shadowed by the Italians was not one of the tankers that supported the Russian Tu-95 Bear strategic bombers on their 19-hour mission to the Atlantic Ocean earlier this week, but it was probably only flying a training sortie over the Baltic Sea.

Still, the air policing mission marks the first intercept mission by the Italian F-2000s (as the Typhoons are designated within the Aeronautica Militare) on Russian planes since the Italian Air Force took over the lead role of BAP on Jan. 1.

Russian Air Force missions in the region often require NATO jet fighters on QRA (Quick Reaction Alert) at several airbase in Lithuania, Estonia and Poland, to perform Alert Scrambles, to intercept Il-20 spyplanes, Tu-22M Backfire bombers and Su-27 fighter jets. Such close encounters have become a bit more frequent since Russian invasion of Crimea and subsequent international crisis over Ukraine.

Image credit: Eurofighter

 

 

Amazing shots of a frozen F-35 Lightning II jet during all-weather climatic testing

An F-35 Lightning II has endured extreme weather temperatures to certify the capability of the Joint Strike Fighter to deploy to any place of the world.

An F-35B, a STOVL (Short Take Off Vertical Landing) variant of the Joint Strike Fighter jet, from the F-35 Patuxent River Integrated Test Force in Maryland has undergone extreme weather testing at the U.S. Air Force 96th Test Wing’s McKinley Climatic Laboratory located at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida according to a release by Lockheed Martin.

The testing is aimed to validate the capability of the plane to operate in the meteorological conditions representative of all the locations from which the aircraft is going to operate: from the Australian Outback and the U.S. deserts, to the Arctic Circle, above Canada and Norway.

The F-35B has been ferried to Eglin AFB in September 2014 and it is expected to remain at the airbase in Florida until March 2015: a six month assessment of the Joint Strike Fighter’s performance in wind, solar radiation, fog, humidity, rain intrusion/ingestion, freezing rain, icing cloud, icing build-up, vortex icing and snow.

Climatic Testing; Solar Array hoist, set up and lighting test over BF-05.

According to F-35 test pilot Billie Flynn, the aircraft is being pushed to its environmental limits, ranging from 120 degrees to -40 degrees Fahrenheit (49 to – 40 degrees Celsius) and so far it has met expectations.

BF-05 Ice Cloud Calibration and Teams.

The press release comes few weeks after an Air Force press release, reported that fuel trucks at Luke Air Force Base, in Arizona, where temperature can reach beyond 110° F (43° C) in summer months, were given a new look, by applying a two layer coating, dubbed “solar polyurethane enamel”, in order to prevent fuel stored in the tanks from over-heating: the Lightning II engine has a fuel temperature threshold and may suffer shutdowns if the fuel is delivered to it at high temperature.

Image credit: Michael D. Jackson, F-35 Integrated Test Force

 

Russian Tu-95 bombers escorted by Mig-31 interceptors skirt UK, get intercepted multiple times

Two Russian Tu-95MS strategic bombers performed a 19-hour mission over the Atlantic Ocean. They were intercepted multiple times along the way.

On Jan. 29, two Russian Air Force Tu-95 strategic bombers from Engels airbase successfully completed a 19-hour long range mission over neutral waters near the Barents and Norwegian Seas, the Atlantic Ocean.

The Bears, accompanied by Mig-31 Foxhound long-range interceptors, were refueled twice by Il-78 Midas aerial refuelers and were intercepted and escorted by RAF Typhoons, Norwegian F-16s and French Mirage 2000s at various stages of their trip.

Even though according to the Office of Press and Information of the Ministry of Defence of the Russian Federation “All flights of the [Russian] Air Force were carried out in strict accordance with international regulations on the use of airspace over neutral waters, without violating the borders of other states,” during their tour, the strategic bombers flew quite close to the UK airspace, causing “disruption to civil aviation”.

The Russian Tu-95s flew within 25 miles of the UK without filing a Flight Plan (FPL), without radio contact with the British ATC agencies and, obviously, without transponder switched on, and were shadowed by Typhoon jets scrambled from RAF Lossiemouth and RAF Coningsby supported by a Voyager tanker.

This was not the first time Russian bombers skirted the UK airspace and it won’t be the last one. However, the UK summoned the Russian ambassador after the latest “dangerous” episode.

Image credit: Russian Federation MoD

 

 

Boeing 747-8 selected as next Air Force One platform. And here’s how it will probably look like.

U.S. Air Force has identified the Boeing 747-8 platform for next Air Force One

A “fully missionized” platform based on the 747-8, the latest and largest version of the iconic Boeing 747 Jumbo Jet, will serve as the presidential aircraft, Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James, announced on Jan. 28.

The Boeing 747-8 was selected following a market research and the assessment of the capabilities of the two four-engine aircraft that could meet the requirements: the Boeing 747-8 and the Airbus A380.

“This decision is not a contract award to procure 747-8 aircraft,” said Col. Amy McCain, the Presidential Aircraft Recapitalization (PAR) program manager in a release on the U.S. Air Force website. “We still need to finalize the overall acquisition strategy and conduct risk-reduction activities with Boeing to inform the engineering and manufacturing development contract negotiations that will define the capabilities and cost.”

A fleet of three Boeing 747-8 will replace the current, obsolete VC-25 aircraft. Once ready, in 2018, the new aircraft will be more capable and efficient than their predecessors, heavily modified Boeing 747-200 jets.

As already explained on The Aviationist, along with the internal design, meeting rooms and wide array of communication systems, what makes the Air Force One different is the self-protection suite. Much information on this topic is classified, still, the VC-25 aircraft is known to be fitted with active electronic counter measures, that are able to jam enemy radar frequencies as well as IRCM (Infrared Counter Measure) systems needed to divert heat seeking Infra Red missiles by disturbing their guidance systems.

The one in use on the AF1 is the AN/ALQ-204 Matador produced by the BAe Systems. Such system protect the plane from both IR air-to-air and ground-to-air (MANPADS – Man Portable Air Defense Systems) missiles.

The plane is also equipped with chaff and flares dispensers: the first type is used to divert radar-guided missiles, while the flares are high-temperature heat sources ejected from the aircraft’s dispensers to mislead the missile’s heat-seeking targeting system: since the burn temperature is hotter than that at the engine’s exhaust the burning flares attract and deceive heat-seeking missiles fired at the aircraft.

Similar and surely more advanced countermeasures will equip the new ones.

When, about three years ago, the selection of the Boeing 747-8 became obvious, we asked our contributor Al Clark to prepare a digital mock-up of the new plane sporting the Air Force One’s traditional light-blue and sky-blue color scheme that you can find on top of this article.

Digital mock-up by Al Clark

 

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U.S. Air Force F-22 Raptor stealth jet suffers landing accident at Hawaii. Again.

An Alaskan Raptor suffered a landing accident at Hawaii.

A U.S. Air Force F-22A Raptor, belonging to the 3rd Wing from Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, deployed to the Hawaii to take part in the Sentry Aloha exercise, had an incident landing at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, in Honolulu on Jan. 14.

According to the few information available at the moment, the left main brake overheated and caught on fire after the Raptor landed on runway 08L.

HNL Rare Birds website published the image of the F-22 in fire suppressive foam: the runway remained closed for most of the day as maintenance personnel worked on the stealth jet.

According to the ATS website, it will take 30 days for a depot team to inspect the aircraft, and a decision to be made as to whether the aircraft is fixable.

F-22 mishap

Image above credit (click on the image to open it at full resolution): HNL RareBirds

This was not the first time a Raptor suffered a landing mishap at the Hawaii: an F-22 Raptor, assigned to the 199th Fighter Squadron, Hawaii Air National Guard, sustained 1.8 million USD in damage in a landing incident at Joint Base Pearl Harbor – Hickam, on Dec. 7, 2012.

Top image credit: Lockheed Martin