Author Archives: Dario Leone

Turkey has denied a Russian Open Skies observation flight over its territory because it was near the Syrian border

Another episode that further escalates the crisis between Turkey and Russia.

Turkey has barred a Russian Antonov An-30B spyplane, that was supposed to operate out of Eskisehir airfield, Turkey, on Feb. 1 to 5, from performing an Open Skies Treaty flight over its territory.

As told to by Sergey Ryzhkov, chief of the Russian Defense Ministry’s department for control of implementation of treaties, the Turkish military refused to allow the flight to take place after the flight route was discovered to include observation areas adjacent to the Syrian border and airfields where NATO aircraft are concentrated.

Ryzhkov added that, in this way “A dangerous precedent was created of an uncotrolled military activity of an Open Skies Treaty member state. We are not going to leave without proper attention and relevant reaction violations of the Open Skies Treaty on the part of the Turkish republic.”

The Open Skies Treaty was signed in 1992 and has 34 member states.

Its key tasks are to monitor the fulfillment of armament control agreements and expand capabilities to prevent crises in the framework of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and other international organizations. Surveillance flights are conducted over Russia, United States, Canada and European countries.

Noteworthy Turkey has halted Russian Open Skies flight few days after a RuAF Sukhoi Su-34 Fullback bomber allegedly violated Ankara’s airspace while performing a mission from Hmeymim airbase, near Latakia, in northwestern Syria.

An-30B Spyplane

File photo showing a Russian Open Skies An-30 escorted by two Danish F-16s (credit: OSCE). Top image credit: OSCE.


Gulf War 25th Anniversary Special: how a U.S. Navy F-14 Tomcat shot down an Iraqi Mi-8 Hip helicopter 25 years ago today

The story of the only air-to-air kill achieved by the F-14 Tomcat during Operation Desert Storm.

Even though the F-14 Tomcat scored only one air-to-air kill during the Gulf War in the form of an Iraqi Mi-8 Hip, that aerial victory has an important place among the air engagements because it represents the first helicopter shot down in combat by a U.S. aircrew.

On Feb. 6, 1991 Lieutenant Stuart “Meat” Broce from VF-1 Wolfpack and his RIO (Radar Intercept Officer) and squadron commander, Commander Ron “Bongo” McElraft, were tasked to provide the air cover for a high value asset: an EA-6B Prowler on a jamming mission in support of a daylight air strike in occupied Kuwait.

Meat and Bongo took off from the USS Ranger (CV-61) flying the F-14A BuNo. 162603, call-sign Wichita 103, paired with another F-14 from VF-1, flown by Scott “Ash” Malynn and his RIO Dan “Zymby” Zimberoff. Since

McElraft was the squadron commander, he and Broce took the lead of the section.

USS Ranger

While proceeding to their assigned rendez-vous point, Bongo told Meat that their radar was inoperative.

After the weapons checks were complete, the controller informed the two Tomcats that from that moment they had an alternate task: they had to refuel from an Air Force KC-135 and then proceed to a new CAP (Combat Air Patrol) station to look for enemy activity there.

A change in tasking was unusual during the war, so the aircrews had to find where their new CAP station was on their navigation charts. None of their charts covered the northern part, so they imagined that the new CAP station was between the Gulf and Baghdad, farther north than any aircraft in the battle group had gone and where the U.S. Air Force F-15s were getting all the kills.

As they were heading north, Broce, who was the Wolfpack junior pilot in terms of fleet Tomcat experience, with only six months in the squadron (Malynn was the third most junior pilot in the squadron with only a year and half under his belt), thought about the weapons options of his F-14.

The fighter was armed with four AIM-9s and four AIM-7s plus 700 high-explosive 20mm bullets, but with Tomcat’s radar off he could launch his missiles only by pointing F-14’s nose at the intended target, meaning that the weapons could only be used in degraded launch modes, highly degraded in the case of the radar-guided Sparrows.

VF-1 F-14A

Soon the Tomcats went out of radio range of their E-2 Hawkeye and were transferred under a USAF AWACS control.

After about ten minutes on station, as Broce himself explains in Craig Brown book Debrief: A Complete History of U.S. Aerial Engagements-1981 to the Present, the controller “broke the (until then) radio silence with, ‘Wolfpack, engage bandit, vector 210-36, angels low, nose on!’ Translation: ‘Hey! Turn to a heading of 210°. Attempt to destroy the enemy aircraft 36 miles in that direction. He’s low and heading toward you!’ No word on what type of aircraft it was.”

Since his Tomcat had the radar off, Meat passed the lead for the interception to Malynn and Zimberoff.

Bongo contacted the AWACS to verify if they were really cleared to fire and the AWACS voice that came back said: “Affirmative! Cleared hot, weapons free!”

Broce selected master arm switch to ‘on’ and since he wanted to record the engagement on their onboard HUD camera/voice recorder, said “Recorder on!”

The two F-14s accelerated while the AWACS was updating them with bearing and range calls. Broce repeated “Recorder on!” but again, he didn’t receive any response from McElraft.

With Malynn over a mile to his right, Meat levelled off at 3,000ft and after four or five seconds Bongo said “Come left! Helicopter!”

Broce performed a 7g turn and he visually pick up a Mil Mi-8 Hip armed transport. Meat switched to AIM-9 and pitched up and to the left trying to gain a little bit of altitude and lateral separation, then reversing for high-aspect attack from above at about a mile off the helicopter’s left side.

But since the seeker head hadn’t the right tone, he moved the F-14 nose around searching for a hotter spot. They were accelerating toward the ground from a low altitude and after a third attempt to get a lock-on, Broce let the nose drift a little behind the target on a hunch that there was enough of a heat of a signature for a lock, despite the lack of a tone.

As Broce recalls, when he started the firing sequence McElraft shouted “PULL UP! WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU…” then he stopped as the missile roared off its rail and rocketed loudly past the canopy to his left. Broce thought that the Sidewinder had gone stupid and was racing for a sand dune in front of the Mi-8, but instead the AIM-9 flame turn hard toward the target and he turned his head just to watch the Hip instantly turned into a bright yellow fireball.

Wichita 103

Bongo contacted the AWACS to inform the controller that they had downed one helicopter, then they rejoined with Malynn and Zimberoff and they refuelled from a KC-135 with two other VF-1 F-14s.

They returned to the CAP station, then they refuelled from a KC-10 and returned again to the CAP station for the last half an hour before heading to the Gulf when the AWACS requested them to perform a battle damage assessment (BDA) on an attacked strategic target.

After having passed the BDA to the AWACS, they finally headed to the Ranger in the night, just to discover that a Wolfpack Tomcat had just launched but the gear wouldn’t retract.

Malynn and Zimberoff landed, while Bongo used his flashlight to check out the Tomcat landing gear. Since everything was ok, the F-14 landed and it was immediately discovered that the deck personnel had forgotten the “red flags” attached,. After the pins were removed the Tomcat was launched before Meat and Bongo recovered.

Finally, six and a half hours after launch, Broce and McElraft landed.

After the CAG (Commander of the Air Group) Captain Jay “Rabbit” Campbell and thirty other people congratulated them on the success of their air-to-air engagement, a maintainer came up to Meat and said “Where’s your tape?” Broce replied “What?” “The HUD tape. There isn’t one in the recorder!”

Broce then remembered the skipper’s silence every time he said “Recorder on!” and he suddenly understood: three weeks earlier McElraft said to every officer in the squadron that it was RIO’s responsibility bringing a video tape to the jet and ensure it was inserted into the onboard recorder but he had forgotten the tape on this flight!

F-14 Meat-Bongo

Image credit: U.S. Navy

Rendering Courtesy of


Stunning pictures show U.S. F-16s conducting a night elephant walk in South Korea

Some impressive images captured at Kunsan Air Base during a recent elephant walk exercise.

Taken on Feb. 3, 2016 these striking photos feature U.S. Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcons from 35th and 80th Fighter Squadrons of the 8th Fighter Wing Wolf Pack, performing a night elephant walk at Kunsan Air Base, Republic of Korea during exercise Beverly Pack 16-2.

8th FW Elephant Walk

As we have already explained elephant walk exercises are conducted to test squadrons ability to launch a large formation of aircraft with little notice.

Beverly Pack 16-2 is jointly conducted with Republic of Korea Air Force and is aimed to demonstrate the U.S. ability of responding to wartime and armistice threats in the Korean Peninsula.

Elephant Walks are quite frequent in South Korea and are an interesting show of force in response to the North Korea’s aggressive posture. But they are not the only way Washington flexes muscles at Pyongyang: on Jan. 10, following North Korea’s nuclear test, a U.S. Air Force B-52 from Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, performed a low-level flight over Osan Air Base, South Korea.

Night Elephant Walk

Image credit: Staff Sgt. Nick Wilson / U.S. Air Force


New HD video shows Russian Su-35S Flankers at Latakia airbase

Last few seconds of this footage feature Russian Su-35S Flankers on the flightline at Latakia airbase.

Taken at Hmeymim airbase, the following interesting video shows Russian combat planes involved in the air war over Syria taking off and landing from the airfield located near Latakia, in northwestern Syria.

Noteworthy, in the last few seconds of the clip you can also see the four Su-35S fighters that joined the Russian air war in Syria last week.

These aircraft, that were delivered to the Russian Air Force in the last quarter of 2015, wear serial numbers 02517, 02518, 02619 and 02620.

Blind RAF Hawk pilot lands safely thanks to the help of his wingman

An incredible rescue mission recently took place at RAF Leeming during a training sortie in a Hawk jet.

On Jan. 28, 2016 an unnamed Royal Air Force Hawk pilot that lost his sight due to an eye infection while in a routine training sortie, was able to make a safe landing thanks to the help received from another pilot who flew alongside his plane to talk him down.

As reported by, at one point the pilot’s vision was so bad that his commander considered having him to eject into the North Sea since there was little chance he could land safely.

But because of the ejection injuries he could have suffered, the commander decided to dispatch another pilot, Flt. Lt. Paul Durban, an experienced  Tornado driver now assigned to RAF Leeming, who talked him down.

According to a RAF spokesman, the pilot that suffered the partial loss of vision was flanked by Durban and then they flew in formation back to RAF Leeming “where the pilot landed the aircraft uneventfully. Flying in formation, and conducting an approach to land as a formation, is a skill practised daily by RAF fast jet pilots.”

The BAe Hawks belonged to the RAF’s 100 Sqn which uses this aircraft to train forward air controllers and to act as enemy jets in training missions.

Image credit: Crown Copyright