Author Archives: Dario Leone

How two F/A-18s brought their pilots home after colliding mid-air during air combat training

The risky business of being an adversary pilot.

Dissimilar Air Combat Training (DACT) is one of the most important parts in the training of modern fighter pilots. At the same time, an air combat maneuvering (ACM) session, where friendly and (simulated) enemy fighters fly against each other, can be one of the most dangerous training environment.

Although quite rarely, mid-air collisions do occur, sometimes with fatal results.

The evidence DACT can be quite dangerous is in the following photos, taken after a mid air occurred on Apr. 22, 1996 between two F/A-18As (BuNo. 162454 and BuNo. 162475) from VFC-12 Fighting Omars.

The two Hornets, along with another F/A-18, were playing the MiG-29 role during a Strike Fighter Advanced Readiness Program (SFARP) sortie. Flown by the Flight Lead LCDR Greg “Stubby” Stubbs and his two wingmen, LCDR Greg “G.I” Anderson and LCDR Cal Worthington, the three F/A-18s engaged two VF-41 F-14s that were escorting an EA-6B Prowler.

Almost immediately the two Tomcats scored two kills with simulated missile shots at eight miles out against LCDR Stubbs and against LCDR Anderson.

The three Hornets remained in formation together until the merge point (where friendly fighters meet enemy fighters) and following the rules of engagement the two “MiGs” killed by simulated shots, executed aileron rolls to give the students a visual indication of which Bandits were killed and which one they should attack.

It was in the middle of the second aileron roll that Stubbs and Anderson collided, as explained by LCDR Stubbs himself to Rick Llinares and Chuck Lloyd for their book Adversary: America’s Aggressor Fighter Squadrons.

The nose of the Hornet flown by Anderson ripped through Stubbs F/A-18’s left wing and clipped off half of the vertical tail, while Anderson Hornet’s nose cone along with his canopy and his drop tank were lost. One of his engines was damaged as well.

The “Knock it off” (the signal given by the pilots to stop a training air engagement) of the furball was called and someone said on the radio that a mid-air had occurred. LCDR Worthington called Stubbs asking him if he could control his F/A-18. Stubbs applied right stick, right rudder and started pulling the power back a little bit and the nose came up. He answered to Worthington “yeah, I have it.” In the meantime also Anderson called to say he was fine, even if the sound of the wind filled his radio communications.

F/A-18A 1

Both the damaged Hornets headed towards the coastline, with Stubbs assisted by Worthington, while the F-14s were trying to communicate with Anderson. Since the Tomcats weren’t able to contact LCDR Anderson because of a radio problem, Stubbs said to Worthington that he had to join up with Anderson since he was facing more serious problems: in fact Anderson had lost his probes during the collision and his airspeed and altitude indicators didn’t work.

Even though the Coast Guard station in Elizabeth City was the nearest airfield, it lacked an arresting cable system and so Stubbs and Anderson decided to go to Oceana. Not only did the aircraft configuration make a standard approach almost impossible, but Stubbs also discovered that his Hornet entered in dangerous left rolls if the speed descended below 200 knots. So the long runway and the arresting cable system available at NAS Oceana were the best option for them.


After consulting with a McDonnel Douglas representative Stubbs decided to land without lowering his remaining flap. Two more Hornets, flown by LCDR Bertran and Bowman, joined up with him while he was preparing to lower his landing gear.

The damaged Hornet touched the runway at 200 knots, a speed that exceeded both the arresting gear engagement speed limit (175 knots) and the speed limit beyond which the hook might be ripped off (182 knots).

Few moments later also Anderson came to landing: his F/A-18 had lost the whole canopy aft of the windscreen (hence the sound of the wind that filled his radio communications) and wires were flapping out of the nose, beating against the side of the jet, but he was able to safely land.

midair 2

After two months, both pilots returned to flight status. Among the lessons learned in the mishap there was the need to put more emphasis on how pilots have to come out from the merge during the pre-flight briefing.

Conversely this accident was a significant testament to the sturdiness of the F/A-18: in fact although both the fighters were written off, the two Hornets were able to bring back home their pilots safely even after sustaining huge damages shown in the photos above.

Image credit: U.S. Navy via

Cool night pictures show RAF fast jets participating in Ex. Trident Juncture 2015 from Spanish airbase

The Royal Air Force fighter jets have taken part in Trident Juncture 2015.

As the following unique night photos show, most of the RAF fast jets involved in the largest NATO exercise since 2002 were based at Albacete, Spain which became temporary home to 1(F) Squadron and 31 Squadron for the duration of the Trident Juncture 2015 3-week exercise.
Tornado RAF 2

Noteworthy, the RAF fast jet crews performed day and night sorties in a range of scenarios varying from leading offensive strike packages of 40 aircraft, to night combat search and rescue supported by US Air Force CV-22 Osprey tiltrotor aircraft.
Typhoon RAF 1
The Tornado GR4s from 31 Squadron and the Typhoon FGR4s from 1(F) Squadron have also had the chance to work together during several missions of the drill: throughout these mixed formation sorties in fact, the Typhoons protected the Tornados on the way into a target and then both the machines simulated dropping Paveway IV precision bombs. The Typhoons then switched back to the air-to-air role to fight their way out.
Tornado RAF 1
During Trident Juncture 3000 flying sorties were flown, 1,200 in Spain alone, where 120 aircraft were spread over seven air bases.  The aim of Trident Juncture 2015, which took place from Oct. 3 to Nov. 6, was training the troops of the NATO Response Force (NRF) and other Allied forces, to increase their readiness to respond to a wide range of challenges.
Typhoon RAF 3

Image credit: Crown Copyright


Awesome photos feauture U.S. F-15C Eagles participating in Exercise Vigilant Shield 16

Some cool F-15C Eagle air-to-air images.

As we have recently explained, thanks to its privileged position onboard a tanker, the boomer has a unique place from which he can take interesting photos of military aircraft.

Taken by photographers MSgt. David Loeffler and SSgt. Christian Jadot from the boomer position, these cool shots prove once again this claim.

Taken during Exercise Vigilant Shield 16, which took place from Oct. 15 to Oct. 26 and involved approximately 700 members from the Canadian Armed Forces, the United States Air Force, United States Navy and the United States Air National Guard, the following pictures show F-15C Eagles assigned to 194th Fighter Squadron from the California Air National Guard’s 144th Fighter Wing receiving fuel from a KC-135 Stratotanker.

Even though the U.S.’s premier air superiority fighter is the Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor, the F-15 is still one of the best western interceptors and the Eagles of the units belonging to the U.S. Air Force and to the Air National Guard are routinely deployed overseas for both training and real operations.

Image credit: MSgt. David Loeffler and SSgt. Christian Jadot / U.S. Air Force

Super cool video shows the rehearsal of Axalp 2015 live firing exercise

Here’s how a neutral country protects its airspace.

Even if this year’s edition of the famous Axalp “unconventional” and unique airshow, planned for Oct. 7-8, was cancelled because of bad weather on the shooting range, the rehearsal of the live fire exercise took regularly place on the previous days.

The following stunning video was in fact filmed on Oct 5-6 at Meiringen air base and on the most famous range of the Swiss Air Force: Axalp Ebenfluh.

As the clip shows, the event is not limited to the shooting sessions of the Hornets and the F-5s but it also comprises Search And Rescue demonstrations, dogfight simulation (with huge use of flares) solo exhibitions and ends with the display of the Patrouille Suisse.

Impressive previously unreleased footage shows how two F-14 Tomcats shot down two Gaddafi’s MiG-23s

Watch the full declassified footage of the second Gulf of Sidra Incident.

After two F-14As from VF-41 Black Aces shot down two Su-22 Fitters on Aug. 19, 1981, the Tomcat faced again LARAF (Libyan Arab Republic Air Force) fighters on Jan. 4, 1989, when two jets from VF-32 Swordsmen shot down a pair of MiG-23 Floggers.

In the following video you can see, for the very first time, the whole dogfight, including previously unreleased (at least not available on the Web) footage.

The air-to-air combat occurred during a freedom of navigation exercise conducted by Sixth Fleet off the Libyan coastline.

The two VF-32 F-14s, BuNo. 159610, call sign “Gypsy 207” flown by Swordsmen skipper Commander Joseph B. Connelly and by Commander Leo F. Enwright as Radar Intercept Officer (RIO) and BuNo. 159437, call sign “Gypsy 202″ crewed by Lieutenant Hermon C. Cook III and Lieutenant Commander Steven P. Collins as RIO, were flying Combat Air Patrol (CAP) from USS John F. Kennedy (CV-67), when an E-2C detected the two MiGs taking off from Bumbah air base.

The Floggers, heading towards the U.S. Navy jets, were picked by the F-14s’ AN/AWG-9 radar at a distance of 72 miles.

As proved by the radio communications between the aircrews involved in the engagement, the VF-32 fighters performed avoidance maneuvers for five times to avoid confrontation, but the LARAF aircraft matched their turns every time.

Then at 6 minutes and 27 seconds in the footage, at a range of 12.9 miles you can hear Gypsy 207 calling for a “Fox One” shot, meaning that he has just fired a Sparrow which, probably because of a guidance problem, misssed the target. The F-14s and MiGs continued to move closer until, at 6 minutes and 37 seconds in the video, Gypsy 202 fired another Sparrow at a distance of about ten miles against the same Flogger, destroying it.

At 7 minutes and 21 seconds the clip shows that, with the remaining Flogger now in their eyeballs, Connelly and Enwright took advantage of their action to get back of the MiG-23 calling for a “Fox Two” shot  (referring to the launch of a Sidewinder) at 7 minutes and 36 seconds. Noteworthy at 7 minutes and 44 seconds the missile hit the second Flogger downing it.

The two Libyan pilots managed to eject at the last minute ending the engagement.

Here you find the full story of the aerial combat. Chunks of the footage were released by the DoD shortly after the incident.

Image credit: U.S. Navy