Category Archives: Aircraft Carriers

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 AircraftProfilePrints.com

 

Tehran releases footage of Iranian navy submarine allegedly aiming at a U.S. aircraft carrier

The Iranian Navy has spied on a U.S. aircraft carrier in the Strait of Hormuz with drones and subs.

Iranian Tasmin News media outlet has aired a short video, allegedly filmed by a Ghadir-class submarine during a maritime exercise in the Strait of Hormuz.

The footage (click here) shows the submarine or a warship (the image above seems to be taken from a certain height from above the sea level…) somehow aiming or at least pointing its sensors at the American warship. According to the reports from the Iranian media, a drone took part in the surveillance operation as well, taking pictures of the American flattop from above.

In another video, you can see an IRGC drone flying close to the carrier (click here).

It’s not clear if and when the “close encounter” really happened nor the name of the “targeted” U.S. vessel; currently the USS Harry S. Truman aircraft carrier is operating in the Persian Gulf supporting Operation Inherent Resolve against ISIS in Iraq and Syria.

The incident occurred just a few days after ten U.S. sailors were abducted by Iran, following a technical malfunction that caused them to enter Iranian national waters near an island in the Gulf.

On Dec. 26, 2015 an Iranian vessel approached aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman while transiting the Strait of Hormuz and fired rockets in a direction away from the American flattop.

This is not the first time Iranian surveillance planes or even subs operate in the vicinity of an American aircraft carrier transiting across Hormuz. However, especially when sailing in troubled waters, all the aircraft carrier’s defenses (including surface to air missiles) are on heightened alert status and almost no suspect (manned or unmanned) aircraft approaching the ship goes unnoticed.

On the other side submarines can be a significant threat to the U.S. CSGs (Carrier Strike Groups).

During exercises and real ops, submarines regularly slip in the heart of the multi-billion-dollar aircraft carrier’s defensive screen to pretend-sinking U.S. supercarriers, whose underwater defenses are far from being impenetrable.

Last year we reported about the U.S. aircraft carrier and part of its escort “sunk” by French submarine during drills off Florida.

H/T @RagazzidiTehran for the heads-up. Image: screenshot from Tamir News footage.

U.S. Navy bids farewell to the S-3 Viking

The last two U.S. Navy S-3 Vikings have performed the final Navy flight.

After more than 40 years of service the last pair of S-3B Vikings took off for the last time from the runway at Naval Base Ventura County, Point Mugu, California, on Jan. 11.

Developed to replace the S-2 Tracker, the “Hoover” (as the S-3 was nicknamed by its aircrews) entered the active service in 1974 and served in a wide variety of roles such as the anti-submarine warfare (ASW), the air-to-air refueling, the electronic intelligence and the carrier onboard delivery (COD).

Officially withdrawn from U.S. Navy front-line service in 2009, two retired Vikings were assigned to Air Test and Evaluation Squadron (VX) 30 to monitor the vast Point Mugu Sea Range.  As explained by Capt. John Rousseau, who led the charge to bring the retired aircraft to VX-30, the S-3B was the perfect aircraft to patrol the range: “It’s got legs, it can go fast and long. The radar, even though it’s old, there’s not many better. We still spot schools of dolphins and patches of seaweed.”

The VX-30, that still operated three Vikings, retired the first of its S-3Bs in November when the airplane was flown to the military aircraft boneyard at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Arizona.

Unlike the two that launched from Point Mugu for the final Navy sortie, at least one will continue flying with NASA.

S-3 Viking Farewell
Top image: Scott Dworkin / U.S. Navy; Bottom image: Photographer’s Mate Airman Apprentice Nathan Laird / U.S. Navy 

This Seahawk helicopter FLIR video shows Iranian vessel firing rockets near a U.S. aircraft carrier

This video shows that an Iranian ship actually fired rockets near USS Harry S. Truman.

As reported by several media outlets on Dec. 26, 2015 an Iranian vessel approached aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman (CVN-75) while transiting the Strait of Hormuz and fired rockets in a direction away from the American flattop.

According to some U.S. Central Command officials, 20 minutes before the incident occurred, the Iranians announced over maritime radio that they would carry out a live-fire exercise.

Few days later Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ spokesperson Gen. Ramezan Sharif claimed that none of its ships fired rockets near the American flattop.

But, as reported by Marinecorpstimes.com, a video of the incident released on Jan. 9, 2016 by U.S. Navy officials to Military Times in response to a Freedom of Information Act request proves that Gen. Sharif statement was wrong.

In fact, as shown by the following Forward Looking Infrared Radar (FLIR) footage taken by a U.S. Navy Seahawk helicopter operating from the U.S. aircraft carrier, an Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy (IRGCN) fast inshore attack craft (FIAC) fired several unguided rockets near the USS Harry S. Truman and other Western warships and commercial craft.

Noteworthy this is not the first interaction between Iranian forces and the U.S. Navy, but while these “encounters” are usually professional, this last one was not, since the event was contrary to efforts to ensure freedom of navigation and maritime safety in the global commons.

A claim confirmed by Cmdr. Kevin Stephens, spokesman for the U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet, who affirmed that even though the rockets traveled away from the carrier, firing weapons “so close to passing coalition ships and commercial traffic within an internationally recognized maritime traffic lane is unsafe, unprofessional and inconsistent with international maritime law.”

 

Here’s why the U.S. Navy recovered this F/A-18F Super Hornet wreckage from the sea

These photos show that also an aircraft wreckage can be useful to avoid future incidents.

Taken on Jul. 22, 2015 the following interesting pictures feature U.S. Navy Divers and Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) technicians, assigned to Commander, Task Group (CTG) 56.1, successfully salvaging an F/A-18F Super Hornet lost at sea aboard USNS Catawba (T-ATF 168).

Noteworthy this aircraft was lost because of a mechanical failure suffered by one of its engines and its salvage will allow a close inspection on the engine that failed.

This F/A-18F (AB 210, BuNo 166814) was assigned to the “Fighting Checkmates” of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 211 and crashed in the Arabian Gulf on May 12, 2015 shortly after its launch from the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN-71).

The aircrew ejected safely and was recovered by USS Theodore Roosevelt search and rescue personnel.

Image credit: Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Arthurgwain L. Marquez / U.S. Navy

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