Author Archives: Jacek Siminski

Photo Report: Refueling some thirsty GAF Tornado ECR combat planes with an Airbus A310 MRTT

Aerial refueling, German-style.

Joint Warrior is a twice-yearly UK-led multinational exercise, involving warships, aircraft, marines and troops.

Last year, Foto Poork‘s photographer Filip Modrzejewski had the opportunity to take part in an aerial refueling mission in support of some of the aircraft involved in the exercise.

JW2015_FotoPoork_00005

He flew aboard a German Air Force Airbus A310 MRTT (Multi Role Tanker Transport), a tanker-variant of the civilian A310, that operated at 20,000 feet supporting some GAF Panavia Tornados, which can be refueled mid-air using the so-called hose-and-drogue system.

JW2015_FotoPoork_00014

The Tornados belonged to the Aufklärungsgeschwader 51 (AG51), one of the three GAF squadrons flying the Tornado IDS and tasked with reconnaissance role and the Tornado ECR specialized in SEAD (Suppression of Enemy Air Defenses). Six GAF Tornados are currently deployed to Incirlik, Turkey, to contribute to the anti-ISIS air war by using the Rafael RecceLite, a Day/Night electro-optical pod able to provide real-time imagery collection. The pod is made of a stabilized turret, Solid-state on board recorder that provides image collections in all directions, from high, medium and low altitudes and can transmit to a ground station the collected data in real-time via data-link.

JW2015_FotoPoork_00009

JW2015_FotoPoork_00003

JW2015_FotoPoork_00001

Once the refueling was finished, the Airbus tanker climbed to 30,000 feet and returned to Cologne.

JW2015_FotoPoork_00016

Along with the images of the refueling, the photo report also provides some interesting shots of the cockpit and the refueling system operator’s station.

JW2015_FotoPoork_00017

Image Credit: Filip Modrzejewski/Foto Poork

Polish Air Force about to receive the first new M-346 advanced jet trainers

Poland expands the Deblin training aviation base. The Initial M-346 Master Advanced Jet Trainers are in production.

According to the media buzz around the Polish defense-related outlets, Poland is going to receive the initial two examples of the Alenia Aermacchi M-346 Master AJT (Advanced Jet Trainer) quite soon. As Szczepan Głuszczak, Spokesman for the General Command of the Polish Armed Forces, stated, the first two aircraft wearing the Polish roundels are already in production.

This means that a revolution is taking place at the Polish aviation training facilities, since finally Poland is going to be capable of training the pilots for flying the fifth generation fighter aircraft, the acquisition of which is planned by the Polish Air Force in the upcoming years (probably until 2020).

The “Master,” the Italian cousin of the Russian Yak-130 trainer (both designs share a large portion of the genotype), is going to become the backbone of the training programs pursued by the Polish Air Force, replacing the obsolete Iskra trainers.

Nonetheless, it must be noted that not only are the Poles willing to modernize their pilots training, but they are also intending to create a fifth generation fighter training facility at the Dęblin Airbase: Alenia Aermacchi representatives stated that the Polish base, along with the Italian Lecce-Galatina air base, both operating the Master, may start offering services within the scope of training for the fifth generation fighter pilots for third parties that may not be able to afford establishing a full-scale training system in the first place.

Meanwhile, according to IHS Jane’s, Poland is willing to proceed with the initiative created by the Air Force Institute of Technology (Instytut Techniczny Wojsk Lotniczych, ITWL) – the “Grot 2” aircraft.

During the conference, related to the helicopter programs in the Polish Army, Colonel Ryszard Szczepanik working as the director of the institute stated that Grot-2 initiative is to be continued with the Motor-Sich company from Ukraine, providing the track-proven engine. Initially, the jet was to be equipped with the Honeywell/ITEC F124-GA-100 powerplant, as Jane’s states. Motor-Sich’s Director, as Jane’s reports, stated that Grot-2 jet could use “the AI-222-28F design” powerplant developed at the Ivchenko/Progress design bureau, destined to be applied in the Chinese Hongdu Aviation L-15 jet trainer.

However, even though the Grot’s airframe is similar to that of Master’s, Poland considers this design to become the successor of the Su-22 Fitter attack aircraft. Nonetheless, this role is being already taken by a UAV-dedicated airbase, and partially divided between the F-16 fighters and the M-346 acquisition.

Common sense would also make us point to lack of budget, needs, and finally, the export prospects, meaning that the Grot-2 project is probably not going to happen. Secondly, most of the Polish indigenous jet designs have been unsuccessful, mainly due to the lack of a proper know-how and potential which should be possessed by the Polish industry.

Moreover, one should take it into account that IHS Jane’s bases its report on information provided by the Polish NCSS think-tank, however, it must be noted that this organization is tied to “Law and Justice” party, which has just won the election in Poland, and which is driven towards consolidation and reinforcement of the Polish armament industry. Hence, the rumours pertaining the Grot-2 programme may be just another issue, fueling the political discussion in Poland.

Image Credit: Jacek Siminski

 

Stunning Air-to-Air photographs of the Latvian Baltic Bees Aerobatic Display Team

The Baltic Bees Jet Team is an aerobatic team which took part in several events in Poland this year. Here are some amazing air-to-air shots of the team, taken in connection with the Poznan Aerofestival.

The Latvian Baltic Bees team flies six L-39 Albatros jets, capable of reaching speeds close to 900 kilometers per hour, with 22 meters per second climb rate.

The aircraft used by the team are painted in a characteristic blue-yellow-striped color scheme, with a silhouette of a bee, painted under the fuselage. What is interesting, the team offer aerobatic flights for “civilians”: they provide a chance to fly a quasi combat aircraft (with the instructor pilot) to people who have always dreamed of flying a fighter jet.

BalticBees_FotoPoork_00003

The Baltic Bees provides these services as one of a few companies in Europe.

Filip Modrzejewski, editor-in-chief of the Foto Poork website, accompanied the Latvian pilots last year, during their transfer from Jurmala (close to Riga) to Poznan. The team flew to Poland in order to take part in the Aerofestival air show, taking place at the Ławica airport in Poznan.

BalticBees_FotoPoork_00005

The whole cruise, in a “Diamond Trail” formation, took place at FL250. Filip was tasked with taking photos of the team, flying in the jet No. 5, piloted by Valery Sobolev, as this was the best position for him to take good shots – all aircraft were visible during the climb, or during a low-pass. In case of air-to-air photo-shoots, good communication is the key – thanks to that it is possible to achieve good photographic position.

BalticBees_FotoPoork_00011

Notably, next year’s edition of Aerofestival has been already scheduled on May 28 and 29, 2016. At the moment, the details related to the planned highlights remain unknown. We will – most certainly – attend the event and provide you with a report.

BalticBees_FotoPoork_00013

The photos in this post include some shots shot on the ground.

BalticBees_FotoPoork_00022

BalticBees_FotoPoork_00020

All Images – Credit: Filip Modrzejewski / Foto Poork.

 

Russian bombers now flying with air-to-air missiles for self-protection over Syria

Following the downing of the Su-24 Fencer on Nov. 24, Russian attack planes fly with air-to-air missiles for self-protection.

The Russian Air Force has decided to arm the Su-34 Fullback attack planes based at Latakia, in Syria, with air-to-air missiles to enhance the defensive capabilities of the aircraft conducting air strikes against terrorists across the country.

This is one of the measures Moscow put in place after a Su-24 Fencer was shot down by a Turkish Air Force F-16 near the Syria-Turkey border on Nov. 24.

A video posted by the Russian MoD, shows the first Su-34 Fullbacks departing from Latakia on Nov. 30 carrying the R-27 (AA-10 Alamo) and R-73 (AA-11 Archer) missiles along with guided (KAB-500KR) and unguided (OFAB-500) bombs.

Besides the introduction of the air-to-air missiles, the Russian Air Force also announced the decision to enhance strike packages protection with a fighter escort: although there are images showing two Su-34s chased by a single Su-30SM multirole aircraft, the number of Flankers is (still) quite limited to provide such a HVAAE (High Value Air Asset Escort) to all the Russian bombers carrying out raids across Syria.

 

Britain offers France use of airbase in Cyprus to support air war on ISIS in Syria

French combat aircraft may use RAF Akrotiri base, in Cyprus, to launch air strikes on IS.

In the wake of the Paris terror attacks, Britain has offered France the use of its airbase in Cyprus, strategically located on the island in the eastern Mediterranean Sea off Syria, to support air strikes on ISIS.

Primarily, the base is going to act as a reserve diversion airfield for the jets operating from the French  nuclear-powered aircraft carrier Charles De Gaulle that has been operating in the eastern Mediterranean Sea, from where it launched the first raids against ISIS earlier this week.

British Defense Secretary Michael Fallon said:

“This offer is another demonstration of our solidarity with our French allies. It is right that we do all we can to help them hit ISIL harder. Meanwhile, we will continue to strike this vile organization in Iraq and build the case for extending those strikes to Syria.”

At the moment, a dozen French Rafale and Mirage 2000 jets are supporting Operation Chammal from Muwaffaq Salti Air Base in Jordan and Al Dhafra Air Base in the UAE. This component is supplemented by another 20 jets based on the CDG aircraft carrier, operating in the Mediterranean Sea.

According to The Telegraph, David Cameron claimed that Great Britain is going to do “all in its power”, supporting France in the struggle against ISIS, in a response to the Paris acts of terror. The proposal emerged after the meeting of the British PM David Cameron and Francois Hollande, the French President

The RAF has been using its Cyprus airbase to conduct airstrikes against ISIL in Iraq since September 2014. Tanker and reconnaissance aircraft are also stationed there.

Interestingly, this is not the first time the French are using the British Airbase in Cyprus in cooperation with the Royal Air Force. During the Suez Crisis, in 1956, the air forces of both countries were stationed in Cyprus, launching air strikes against Egypt and flying sorties, the aim of which was to neutralize the Egyptian Air Force.

In 2012, Akrotiri airbase was “targeted” by Syrian Su-24 Fencer attack jets launched by Assad to probe the local air defenses. As we commented back then, buzzing the enemy airspace to test its reaction time or actively disturbing the enemy training activities is not rare. Much rare are actual engagements, like the one that saw a Russian Su-24 shot down by TuAF F-16 yesterday along the Turkey-Syria border).

Image Credit: Dassault Aviation