Category Archives: Military Aviation

While its aircraft can be tracked online, the U.S. Air Force only worries about Tweets….

Bad OPSEC (Operations Security) exposed by Air War on ISIS?

“Loose Tweets Destroy Fleets” is the slogan (based on the U.S. Navy’s WWII slogan “Loose Lips Sink Ships”) that the U.S. Air Force Central Command used a couple of weeks ago for an article aimed at raising airmen awareness about the risk of sharing sensitive information on social media.

Indeed, the AFCENT article speaks directly to the threat posed by Islamic State supporters who, according to Stripes, on at least two occasions have acquired and posted online personal data of military personnel, urging sympathizers, “lone wolves,” to attack Americans in the States and overseas in retaliation for the air strikes.

The article highlights the importance of proper OPSEC to keep sensitive information away from the enemy and to prevent leakage of information that could put missions, resources and members at risk,  “and be detrimental to national strategic and foreign policies.”

Interestingly, the article only focuses on the smart use of social media. Ok, however, there are other possible OPSEC violations that the U.S. Air Force (as well as many other air arms currently supporting Operation Inherent Resolve, in Iraq and Syria, or Enduring Freedom, in Afghanistan) should be concerned of.

In October 2014 we highlighted the risk of Internet-based flight tracking of aircraft flying war missions after we discovered that a U.S. plane possibly supporting ground troops in Afghanistan acting as an advanced communication relay can be regularly tracked as it circles over the Ghazni Province.

The only presence of the aircraft over a sensitive target could expose an imminent air strike, jeopardizing an entire operations.

Although such risk was already exposed during opening stages of the Libya Air War, when some of the aircraft involved in the air campaign forgot/failed to switch off their mode-S or ADS-B transponder, and were clearly trackable on FR.24 or PF.net and despite pilots all around the world know the above mentioned websites very well, transponders remain turned on during real operations making the aircraft clearly visible to anyone with a browser and an Internet connection.

Magma 13

USAF C-146A Wolfhound of the 524th Special Operations Squadron

During the last few months many readers have sent us screenshots they took on FR24.com or PF.net (that only collect ADS-B broadcast by aircraft in the clear) showing military planes belonging to different air forces over Iraq or Afghanistan: mainly tankers and some special operations planes.

Hoser 15

Canadian tanker

We have informed the U.S. Air Force and other air forces that their planes could be tracked online, live, several times, but our Tweets (and those of our Tweeps who retweeted us) or emails have not had any effect as little has changed. Maybe they don’t consider their tankers’ racetrack position or the area of operations of an MC-12 ISR (Intelligence Surveillance Reconnaissance) aircraft a sensitive information…

A330 over Iraq

RAF A330 tanker over Iraq

Image credit: screenshots from Flightradar24.com

 

Eight U.S. A-10 tankbusters have just deployed to Estonia

Another package of U.S. Air Force A-10 Thunderbolt II attack planes has arrived in Estonia.

Eight A-10s and approximately 170 reservists have arrived to Ämari Air Base, Estonia, as part of a flying training deployment in support of Operation Atlantic Resolve on Aug. 22.

The aircraft belong to the 303rd Fighter Squadron, 442nd Fighter Wing, from Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri, and they task is to show “continued commitment to the collective security of NATO and dedication to the enduring peace and stability in the region.”

Supported also by guardsmen from three Air National Guard units, the A-10s will train with their Estonian counterparts for three weeks and will also take part in training with Finnish air forces.

The “Hogs” will also perform low-level flying activity during the deployment.

The U.S. Air Force “tankbusters” have become quite a frequent presence across eastern Europe following the war in eastern Ukraine two years after the last A-10s to be permanently based in Europe left their permanent base Spangdahlem in May 2013.

Image credit: U.S. Air Force

 

Watch an F-35A fire 181 rounds from its four-barrel 25mm Gatling gun embedded in the left wing

F-35 fired its embedded gun at full capacity.

The F-35 Integrated Test Force has just released an interesting video showing the 181 round gun burst of the 25 millimeter Gatling gun embedded in the F-35A’s left wing root.

The video was filmed during a ground test at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., Gun Harmonizing Range on Aug. 14; initial shots were fired on Jun. 9 and ground testing should be completed by the end of this month. Airborne testing is to start in the fall and at the end of the firing campaign the gun will be operative by 2017.

According to LM, the F-35 flight sciences aircraft, AF-2, underwent instrumentation modifications and used a production version of the GAU-22/A gun to achieve the full capacity of 181 rounds: along with practice PGU-23/U target practice rounds (which do not explode on impact) software to replicate being in flight was uploaded to the aircraft to conduct the test.

The F-35 GAU-22/A gun has been among the most controversial topics lately: some criticised the fact that the Joint Strike Fighter’s gun can only hold 181 20mm rounds, fewer than the A-10 Thunderbolt’s GAU-8/A Avenger, that can hold some 1,174 30mm rounds.

Interestingly, the gun is hidden behind closed doors, to reduce the plane’s RCS (radar cross section) and keep it stealth, until the trigger is engaged.

While the F-35A will be equipped with an embedded GAU-22 gun, the B (STOVL – Short Take Off Vertical Landing) and C (CV – Carrier Variant) variants will carry it inside an external pod capable to hold 220 rounds.

Image credit: F-35 Integrated Test Force

 

This cool infographic shows all weapons carried by Russia’s next generation fighter

All the PAK FA armament in a single infographic.

Not only does the Sukhoi T-50 PAK FA feature stunning maneuverability. As this interesting infographic shows, the fifth generation stealth multi-role combat plane will carry a wide variety of weapons, including air-to-air, air-to-surface and anti-ship missiles.

Among those that the PAK FA will be able to carry (internally or externally – hence “stealthy” or not), there are: the Izdelie 810, a derivative of the R-37M designed to kill High Value Targets and AWACS at a distance of 400 km; the K-77M air-to-air missile fitted with an AESA seeker; the KH-35UE anti-ship cruise missile; the KH-58UShKE stand-off anti-radiation missile; the Brahmos-NG supersonic cruise missile produced with India; and the KAB bombs.

PAK FA armament infographic

Image credit: United Aircraft Corporation Russia

 

Stunning aerial photos show Textron Scorpion tactical jet in Royal Navy demonstrations

The prototype of Textron AirLand’s ISR/Strike aircraft teamed up with Vortex Aeromedia to show off its maritime capability.

The Scorpion is an Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR)/Strike aircraft with twin canted tails, two 8,000-lb turbofan engines, straight wings with internal weapons bay and  external hardpoints to accommodate precision guided munitions that made its first flight from McConnell Air Force Base in Wichita, Kansas, in December 2013.

Scorpion_1

Developed in about 2 years and featuring a ferry range of 2,400 NM (nautical miles) and a payload of 3,000 lbs internal stores as well as underwing PGMs (Precision Guided Munitions), the two-seater is the “affordable warplane for low-threat missions,” including COIN (Counter Insurgency) and SMI (Slow Mover Interceptor).

Scorpion_3

During the Scorpion’s 2015 European Tour which brought the plane to both Paris Le Bourget Airshow and the Royal International Air Tattoo at RAF Fairford, UK, Textron AirLand also found the time to conduct demonstration flights with the British Royal Navy and RAF.

Working with 849 Naval Air Squadron, operators of the specialist ASaC7 variant of the Sea King in the AEW (Airborne Early Warning) and ISR roles, the Scorpion tactical jet provided valuable fighter-control experience to the Navy aircrews.

Scorpion_4

In addition, Textron AirLand tested the integration of their Thales I-Master radar and L-3 Systems Wescam MX-15 DI sensor by tracking and identifying targets up to 100 miles off the British coast.

During the demonstrations, Textron AirLand said that their $20M jet operated at less than $3,000 per hour, even with engine overhaul costs accounted for: more evidence that the aircraft is perfect match for the “low-cost combat plane to contain the cost of prolonged operations,” whose need emerged during Libya Air War 2011.

Scorpion_6

After the joint operations with Royal Navy the jet returned to the US in mid-July and is scheduled to begin weapons trials in 2016.

Scorpion_8

Image credit: © Textron AirLand/Vortex Aeromedia 2015