Disbandment of Swiss Air Force display team could make its “Flat Eric” yellow puppet mascot unemployed May 15, 2013Posted by Dario Leone in : Airshow, Military Aviation , 1 comment so far
The Patrouille Suisse is one of the most renowned aerobatic display team in Europe.
Equipped with the F-5E Tiger the team is, together with the Turk Yildizlari (Turkish Stars), that flies the NF-5A/B Freedom Fighter, the only European display team on supersonic fighter jets.
Despite being regularly invited to attend airshows across the continent, the Patrouille Suisse could be forced to stand down from 2016 as a consequence of budget cuts.
Indeed, beginning in 2016, the ageing F-5 fleet will be progressively retired and replaced by the first Gripen examples and, simply, there will not be many military aircraft in the Swiss Air Force, at least, not enough to equip an aerobatic display team.
In spite of Swiss Minister of Defense claims that the Patrouille Suisse will survive transiting on the F-18 Hornet or the new JAS-39 Gripen (even if the Swiss Parliament has suspended the purchase of the Sweden fighters ordered in 22 examples) the chances that there will be enough resources to dispatch some of these few frontline fighters to the team appear scarce.
Along with the team, even its mascot and honorary member “Flat Eric” will probably be put apart.
Flat Eric is a yellow puppet character from Levi’s commercials that is part of the Patrouille Suisse since 2000. It flies on board aircraft number 2.
Image credit: Daniel Rychcik/Flickr
One of the maneuvers performed by the team and called “Flat Mirror” is dedicated to Flat Eric: it consists of the classic mirror performed by the two team solos during a schneider turn.
One of Flat Eric’s distinctive characteristic is that it wears a Red Arrows flight suit since 2004, when it was kidnapped by the British aerobatic display team: when it reappeared in the spring of 2005 it was adorned with this special dress.
Since it belongs to the Patrouille Suisse, it follows the team in every air show and deployment; moreover “Flati”, as it is affectionately called by other team members, posses his own Swiss Air force identification card and a log book like all other Swiss pilots.
If the Patrouille Suisse will eventually be disestablished in 3 or 4 years, the airshow circus will not only lose one of its main and best aerobatic display teams, but also one of the most funny mascottes.
David Cenciotti has contributed to this article
Broken Arrow incidents: when U.S. B-52 bombers lost their nuclear weapons during the Cold War April 24, 2013Posted by Dario Leone in : Military Aviation, Military History , 4comments
Back in 1955, when it entered the operational service with the U.S. Air Force Strategic Air Command (SAC), the Boeing B-52 Stratofortress had the nuclear strike against the Soviet forces as its main mission.
During the Cold War, in particular between the end of the 1950s and the beginning of the 1960s the United States and the Soviet Union nuclear arsenals grew up so much that the Doomsday Scenario appeared to be quite close so as the consequent danger of the worst case scenario: the MAD (Mutual Assured Destruction).
The MAD soon became also a principle which stated that a nuclear power would not try the destruction of another one due to the fear that it would be destroyed itself.
To ensure the application of the MAD principle both super powers created their own nuclear deterrent. U.S. one was made by submarine-based missile force and by land-based missile force integrated by the manned bombers of those the mighty BUFF (Big Ugly Fat Fellow – B-52 nickname) was the best expression.
During the “MAD age” there were several B-52 crashes that involved not only the airframes alone, but also the nuclear weapons aboard the aircraft: these were code named “Broken Arrow” incidents.
The two most famous of the Stratofortress Broken Arrow incidents happened in Spain and Greenland.
The first happened on Jan. 17, 1966, when a B-52G collided with a KC-135 Stratotanker during aerial refueling above the Mediterranean Sea, near the coast of Spain. Both aircraft exploded in mid air killing seven aircrew members.
The Stratofortress carried four B28 thermonuclear weapons, three of those hit the land near Palomares: two of them caused a non nuclear TNT explosion, but in their impact with the land they released some radioactive plutonium.
The fourth bomb was lost into the Mediterranean and it was found unexploded at a depth of 2,550 feet on Mar. 17; it was recovered only on Apr. 7 by some U.S. Navy ships.
The second incident involved another B-52G and it occurred on Jan. 21, 1968 when a Stratofortress crashed in Greenland.
The bomber failed to make an emergency landing at Thule AB (Air Base) in Greenland after having experienced a cockpit fire and it crashed on sea ice in North Star Bay.
Even if six men of the seven crew members were able to eject safely, the four B28s aboard scattered and some radioactive material was released. An attempt to restrict the radiation leaks immediately started, but it turned out to be a really though operation, due to the high winds, the cold temperatures and the fire that not only burned the B-52 but also caused the dispersion of some other radioactive material into the sea.
Image credit: U.S. Air Force
At the end, most, but not all, of the bomb parts were recovered and this incident produced some concern to the Danish government, since Greenland is an autonomous country within the Kingdom of Denmark and because Denmark had stated that its lands were nuclear-free zones.
These two very well known BUFF Broken Arrow incidents along with the embarrassment they caused brought this kind of missions, carried out with nuclear weapons aboard, close the shores of other countries, to an end.
Written with David Cenciotti
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Among the contents of the November 2012 issue of Classic Aircraft (a magazine that since Jan. 2013 has been incorporated into its sister magazine Aviation News), an interesting article written by Angus Batey gives an exclusive overview about the birth of the legendary Lockheed’s Skunk Works division.
The father of this facility was Clarence L. “Kelly” Johnson, one of the best aircraft designer in the aviation history.
He created the Skunk Works with the aim to develop some of the most revolutionary military aircraft following a concept: a project would have turned into a great aircraft if only few qualified people had worked on it.
In Batey’s article some of the people who contributed to create these classified concepts and former Skunk Works members also explain which are the main differences between the rules followed by Lockheed during the development of the above mentioned aircraft and the rules followed by Lockheed during F-22 and F-35 development: these differences may be among the reasons which led to the problems of the last two US (multirole) fighter jets.
According to Batey, Alan Brown, a British guy who joined Lockheed in 1960 before joining the Skunk Works in 1975 and being involved in the Have Blue and F-117 programs, had “a simple algebraic formula”:
[…] “the time it takes to go from initial design to operational use by the Air Force is directly proportional to the size of the Air Force oversight committee that’s guiding the airplane design. For the F-117, the Air Force team was a colonel and six other experts-the corresponding team on the F-22 was 130. And if you ratio 130 over seven, you’ll get just about the ratio of the time it took from starting the airframes to getting them in service,” Brown explained.
Bob Murphy, who joined the Skunk Works in 1954, managed flight-test on the U-2 and became deputy director of operations, illustrated the troubles faced by the Joint Strike Fighter to Batey.
“Because of bureaucracy”, […] “once you get all these organizations involved-all the different Air Force bases across the country, and every contractor that makes a screw for the airplane-when they have meetings, everybody comes to every meeting, and nothing ever gets settled. It’s crazy! If you’ve got 300 people in a meeting, what the hell do you solve? Nothing,” Murphy stated.
But F-35′s cost overruns and slippage were are also due to the philosophy which brought to the three different F-35 versions, as explained again by Brown:
“In the mid-1960s, there was a proposal by the Secretary of Defense to combine the F-14 and F-15 programs, so we did some analysis”, […] “the Air Force wanted 200 F-15s and the Navy wanted 200 F-14s.
If you designed an airplane for each individual service to do what they wanted, each airplane would weight about 40,000lb, but if you combined them so one airplane could do the job that was needed for each service, the weight suddenly went up to about 70,000lb-and back then it was generally accepted that airplanes cost about a thousand dollars per pound of weight.
The cost savings on producing 400 of one airplane rather than 200 of two was about 10 percent, so it was clearly much more cost-effective to have two separate airplanes doing their own job best.
So how we manage, on the F-35, to suddenly reverse that idea is not clear to me.”
It’s a shame that the experience made on some of the most advanced and adveniristic projects ever made in aviation history did not guide LM and the U.S. Air Force and Navy through the development of the Lightning II.
David Cenciotti has contributed to this article.
Image credit: Lockheed Martin
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Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) was a huge success for the U.S. Navy’s F-14 squadrons: over Iraq, Tomcat pilots and radar intercept officers (RIO) flew different kinds of missions such as air defense, precision bombing, FAC (A) – forward air control airborne, strike coordination and reconnaissance (SCAR) and photo-reconnaissance.
Among the squadrons that took part to OIF there was the VF-2 “Bounty Hunters” that were embarked on the USS Constellation (CV-64). Some of their Tomcats were equipped with the Tactical Airborne Reconnaissance Pod System (TARPS) for recce missions, but when the needs for close air support (CAS) grew, VF-2 TARPS jets were also fitted with 500 lb Mk 82 slick bombs.
The Bounty Hunters Tomcats, armed with these dumb bombs, accomplished a spectacular mission on Mar. 27, 2003, when two VF-2 crews attacked Saddam Hussein’s yacht.
Saddam Hussein’s presidential yatch was named Al Mansur (The Victor). It was launched in 1982 and amazingly escaped damage during the Iran-Iraq War between 1980 and 1988.
The Al Mansur was decorated with silver and gold fittings and it was Iraqi largest ship, but it had no military use. Before the start of the war the yacht was moved to Basra port for a better protection and it was constantly overseen by Republican Guards troops. The vessel had been attacked only after the Combined Air Operations Center (CAOC) knew that the radio equipments of the ship were used for battlefield communications.
On 27 March 2003 a couple of F-14Ds belonging to the Bounty Hunters of VF-2, were flying near the Euphrates River for a standard TARPS mission. Each jet was also armed with a pair of Mk 82, allowing the two Tomcats to act as gap filler for strike missions.
Suddenly, a British Army forward air controller (FAC) asked the Tomcat crews to attack Saddam’s yacht. The ship had already been hit by a Maverick shot by a S-3B Viking but missed by two laser guided bombs (LGB) released by F/A-18 Hornets.
The attack was conducted by the lead Tomcat flown by Lt Mark Callari and Lt Jeff Sims (RIO), while the second F-14, flown by Lt Pat Baker and Lt Sean Mathieson (RIO), provided the cover at high altitude.
The pair of Mk 82 dropped in two bomb runs by Callari and Sims struck the Al Mansur, then the lead F-14 exchanged its place with the other Tomcat. Baker and Mathienson dropped their bombs in a unique run and the two Mk 82 hit the hull above the waterline and the ship’s superstructure.
Image credit: U.S. Navy
The two Tomcats headed to the Constellation while the Al Mansur was on fire, but the F-14s crews knew that their bombs did not sink the vessel: since the bombs were armed with istantaneous fuses which they were ideal for the ground support but not for sinking a ship, the Mk 82s exploded before coming into contact with the yacht.
However the damages caused by the Mk 82s were enough to make Al Mansur unusable: it was eventually decommissioned on Jun. 12, 2003 and scrapped at Basra in early 2005.
That deployment was the last one for both the USS Constellation, which was decommissioned on Aug. 6 2003, and for the VF-2 Bounty Hunters with their F-14Ds: in fact on Oct. 6 2003 the unit took delivery of its first F/A-18F Super Hornet and changed its designation from Fighter Squadron (VF) to Strike Fighter Squadron, becoming VFA-2.
“Welcome to Russia, Blue Angels”: the first U.S. military presence over Moscow since the end of the Cold War March 18, 2013Posted by Dario Leone in : Military Aviation , add a comment
The following video is part of a film called “Blue Angels: Around the World at the Speed of Sound”, realized to support the Blue Angels 1992 season.
The story behind it is very interesting and it is worth to be told.
Generally speaking, air shows across the world to represent the United States are flown by the USAF Air Demonstration Squadron, the Thunderbirds. But in 1992 it was the US Navy Flight Demonstration Squadron, the Blue Angels, that flew overseas for a series of air shows which included the first U.S. military presence in the skies over Moscow after the end of the cold war.
Obtaining the approval to go overseas was a hard thing for the Blue Angels Commanding Officer, Greg Woodbridge, who took command of the team in November 1990.
The team’s three main tasks are: to improve community relations, to enhance the morale of the folks already wearing the US Navy uniform and, the most important of all, to enhance recruiting in the Navy.
Since the Blue Angels mission is strictly linked to the Navy’s recruiting command, the team flight activity is mainly scheduled across the United States where there is more chance to improve recruitment.
Image credit: U.S. Navy
However the 1992 tour saw the Blue Angels to perform in Russia, Bulgaria, Romania, England, Spain, Italy, Finland and Sweden: eight different countries in one month, in the first European tour in 19 years.
Since this trip would have brought not only the team, but also the United States military services in several former Soviet Block countries for the first time, during winter training, Woodbridge thought to go to Hollywood to find a producer to realize a film which should have had to support the Blue Angels tour.
He found Rob Stone who had just started his production company and since Woodbridge had no money for this kind of project, he told Stone that he would have to get his own funding to produce the documentary.
Stone and two of his guys went to the Blue Angels winter training and they filmed a movie hosted by the Hollywood star Dennis Quaid which is called “Blue Angels: Around the World at the Speed of Sound” which was showed across the United States for almost two years and then sold to the Discovery and History Channel.
Stone did a great job with this film since it gave to the Blue Angels some extra exposure enhancing Navy recruiting.
Once they were in the former Soviet Union, the Blue Angels pilots were given the opportunity to fly with one of the Russian frontline fighters, the Su-27 Flanker of the Russian Knights or the MiG-29 Fulcrum of the Swift, the two Russian demonstration teams, while the American pilots hosted the former Soviet pilots in the two seat Blue Angel F-18 Hornet.
The tour in the former Soviet Union was a huge success for the Blue Angels, the first foreign flight demonstration team to perform there: they flew a modified air show in Moscow Day to honor the anniversary of the birth of the city and Woodbridge discovered that from west to east, people loved them.
Noteworthy, mixed formations, including Blue Angels F-18 and Russian Su-27 and Mig-29 jets were flown during the Russian tour.
David Cenciotti has contributed to this post.