Author Archives: Richard Clements

Belbek Airport in Sevastopol, Ukraine, taken over by “unknown” troops

Belbek

There are reports that Belbek airport has been surrounded by an unknown militia.

Although civilian flights were suspended in 2007, the airfield, currently guarded by unknown troops is known as Sevastapol International airport.

Its current occupants are the Ukranian Department of Defence and specifically the 204th Tactical Aviation Brigade of the Ukrainian Air Force, equipped with the Mig-29 Fulcrum.

The airfield itself is a few kilometers north of the strategically important port of Sevastapol and has a 3,009 mt (9,863 ft) long runway which can also handle any weight aircraft (indeed, it is described as unlimited maximum take off weight).

Perfect for heavily laden transport aircraft needed to supply a potential air bridge between the Russian Black Sea fleet and Russia itself.

Two videos have already surfaced showing 12 Russian helicopters entering the airspace over Crimea.

There are also reports that Russian jets are flying combat air patrol (CAP) over the Sea of Azov to the east of the Crimean Peninsula right up to Ukrainian airspace; the airspace over Savastopol is closed.

 

FR24 Crimea

Image credit: Google Earth (top) and FlightRadar24.

 

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[Video] 11 Russian gunship helicopters flying into Ukrainian airspace over Crimea

Mi-24 Russia

Some 10 Russian Mi-24 Hind helicopters were allegedly filmed entering Ukrainian airspace over Crimea.

Amateur video uploaded on Youtube shows eleven Mil Mi-24 helicopters allegedly flying towards the military airport at Sevastopol early in the morning of Feb. 28.

According to some regional media outlets, the news of the gunships was confirmed by Ukrainian Border Guards.

 

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The story of the first U-2 spy missions over Soviet Union

U-2

U-2 operations in Europe in 1950s.

According to documents released last year, the first four “Dragon Lady” planes destined to launch spy missions over Soviet Union were deployed to RAF Lakenheath on Apr. 29, 1956 under the cover story that a Lockheed-developed aircraft would be flown by the USAF Air Weather Service to study high-altitude weather phenomena such as the jet stream and cosmic ray effects up to 55,000 feet.

However, the first overflight missions were not launched from Lakenheath due to events outside.

Firstly an incident in Portsmouth harbour involving a frogman who was to look at the hulls of Soviet ships which had brought Soviet leaders to the UK  that soured Anglo-Soviet relations so much so that the then British Prime Minister Eden wrote to President Eisenhower asking for the overflights to be postponed until things had calmed down.

Then, two days later a U-2 on a training flight was spotted by the British radar network making the RAF scramble jets to intercept the “unknown” aircraft: as a result, the British air ministry announced that a special National Advisory Committee on Aeronautics (NACA) aircraft was conducting high-altitude research over the UK.

Due to the continued overt publicity and the fact that the US State Department had told Prime Minister Eden that there was only one U-2 example operating from Lakenheath, when in fact there were four, and not wanting to raise further reaction, the spyplanes were moved to Wiesbaden in West Germany.

The exposure continued as Wiesbaden was one of the busiest airfields in West Germany and the sight of strange looking aircraft with very long wings raised significant interest. Wiesbaden was a temporary home as after having more powerful J57/P-31 engines fitted, the U-2′s were later moved to Giebelstadt near the East German border.

The first overflight of “hostile” territory took place on Jun. 20, 1956 when a U-2 equipped with a A-2 camera flew over Poland and East Germany. The mission film was rushed back to the U.S immediately and the pictures were considered to be of good quality.

The spyplanes were not given permission from the President to fly over the Soviet Union until Jun. 21, 1956; however no flights were to be undertaken before the end of June 1956.

The first few days of July found the weather was not good over the target area therefore two more overflights were carried out, the first over Czechoslovakia, Hungary and Bulgaria and the second over East Germany, Poland, Hungary and Romania.

President Eiasenhower was briefed on the first of the two overflights and was anxious to know if the U-2s had been tracked on radar. The CIA admitted that the U-2 had been picked up on radar but had been misread.

The first overflight of the Soviet Union took place on Wednesday Jul. 4 1956 from Wiesbaden: the Dragon Lady flew over Poznan (Poland) then Belorussia and then north to Leningrad and finally back to Wiesbaden via the Soviet Baltic states. The main area of interest on this first flight were the naval ship yards in Leningrad.

The second U-2 overflight of the Soviet Union took place the very next day and brought the plane over the Soviet capital Moscow: this was to become the only time a U-2 ever flew over Moscow itself.

On both missions, U.S. black spyplanes went after several targets, including the new Myasishchev M-4 “Bison” bomber.

President Eisenhower was concerned that, although the Soviets could not intercept them, the U-2 overflights of Moscow and Leningrad could worsen the relations with USSR and eventually cause a war.

For this reason, he ordered that the U-2 missions stop if the spyplanes could be tracked.

The overflights were resumed in 1957 from Alaska and, beginning in 1959, British pilots were involved in U-2 flights after an agreement between CIA and MI6. But this is another story…..

Richard Clements for The Aviationist.com

U-2 new

Image credit: Lockheed Martin

 

 

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Israeli Air Force reportedly hit targets in Bekaa Valley near Lebanon-Syria border

F-16 takeoff

Although still unconfirmed, it looks like Israeli planes have conducted raids against Hezbollah targets.

Several media outlets in both Lebanon and Israel are reporting about a series of air strikes conducted by Israeli warplanes in the evening of Feb. 24 on the Lebanese-Syrian border area.

Al-Arabiya TV quoted witnesses according to those “more than two Israeli airstrikes have targeted Hizbullah posts in the outskirts of the towns of Janta, Brital and al-Nabi Sheet,” even if it is still unclear whether the airstrikes hit targets located inside Syria or Lebanon.

According to Lebanon’s state-run National News Agency two Israeli airstrikes were conducted on “the outskirts of al-Nabi Sheet near the Lebanese-Syrian border,” whereas LBCI TV said the Israeli planes struck targets “in the countryside facing the towns of Janta and Yahfoufa,” inside Syria.

Similar attacks were launched against Syrian targets in May 2013, one of those hit a convoy with weapons destined to Hezbollah near Damascus with PGMs (Precision Guided Munitions) and plenty of EW (Electronic Warfare) support.

Image credit: IAF

Written with David Cenciotti

 

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Iraq to get 24 AH-64E Apache gunships in a deal worth 4.8 billion USD

AH-64 Apache

Renaissance of the Iraqi Armed Forces continues: the U.S Department of Defence Security co-operation Agency has notified Congress of a possible sale to Iraq of 24 AH-64E Apache Longbow helicopters.

The gunship helicopters won’t come alone.

Included in the deal, according to the press release, are “56 T700-GE-701D Engines, 27 AN/ASQ-170 Modernized Target Acquisition and Designation Sight, 27 AN/AAR-11 Modernized Pilot Night Vision Sensors, 12 AN/APG-78 Fire Control Radars with Radar Electronics Unit (LONGBOW component),  28 AN/AAR-57(V)7 Common Missile Warning Systems, 28 AN/AVR-2B Laser Detecting Sets, 28 AN/APR-39A(V)4 or APR-39C(V)2 Radar Signal Detecting Sets, 28 AN/ALQ-136A(V)5 Radar Jammers, 52 AN/AVS-6, 90 Apache Aviator Integrated Helmets, 60 HELLFIRE Missile Launchers, and 480 AGM-114R HELLFIRE Missiles.”

Also included in the potential deal according to the release are “AN/APR-48 Modernized Radar Frequency Interferometers,  AN/APX-117 Identification Friend-or-Foe Transponders, Embedded Global Positioning Systems with Inertial Navigation with Multi Mode Receiver, MXF-4027 UHF/VHF Radios, 30mm Automatic Chain Guns, Aircraft Ground Power Units, 2.75 in Hydra Rockets, 30mm rounds, M211 and M212 Advanced Infrared Countermeasure Munitions flares, spare and repair parts, support equipment, publications and technical data, personnel training and training equipment, site surveys, U.S. government and contractor engineering, technical, and logistics support services, design and construction, and other related elements of logistics support.”

All worth a cool $4.8 billion!

The proposed sale must have been brought about due to the difficulties encountered by Iraqi forces in dealing with heavily armed insurgents that took over Falluja earlier this month.

Richard Clements for TheAviationist.com

 

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