Category Archives: Military Aviation

The most interesting aircraft displayed at the Belgian Air Force Days

Here are some stunning photos of the Belgian Air Force Days, held at Kleine Brogel airbase.

On Sept. 13 – 14, Kleine Brogel airbase, in Belgium, hosted the Belgian Air Force Days, an airshow attended by several interesting local and foreign aircraft whose main themes were the +100 years of Military Air Power and the 40th anniversary of the F-16.

The air show, preceded by a Spotter Day on Sept. 12, was particularly interesting, as it featured not only the usual solo display of several aircraft types, including the Dassault Rafale and the Mig-29, but also a tactical event whose aim was to provide the spectators a better insight on the how the Belgian Air Force is integrated in a NATO operation: the BAF set up a fictional scenario based on the current PSO (Peace Support Operations) in Afghanistan, within which 10 F-16 jets, supported by A-109 and Mi-24 helicopters, B-Hunter UAV (from 80th UAV squadron of the BAF) and NATO E-3A AWACS demonstrated some of their capabilities to the public.

Baf_Days_12

Baf_Days_5

Baf_Days_28

Baf_Days_27

Among the most interesting aircraft that took part in the BAF Days there were two Slovak Air Force Mig-29s, a single seater and a two-seat aircraft (the latter in static display only) belonging to the N° 1 Squadron. The Slovak Air Force is equipped with 12 Mig-29s based at Sliac.

Baf_Days_30

Even the Polish Air Force flew its Mig-29 Fulcrum, an aircraft they have used to provide Baltic Air Policing until Sept. 1.

Baf_Days_21

Another interesting aircraft was the F-16C Block 52+ of the Hellenic Air Force Solo Demonstration team “Zeus” from Souda Bay airbase, in Crete. The team, formed in 2009, flew its first official demo flight in November 2010 and has so far made only a few overseas appearances.

Baf_Days_26

Other highlights of the show included the special colored F-16 of the Solo Turk, the Turkish Air Force F-16 demo team, the Mirage 2000Ns of the RAMEX Delta display team of the French Air Force, the Dutch F-16 and AH-64 demo teams, the F-16 solo display of the Belgian Air Component, as well as the 7-ship Alpha Jet from 11sm formation of the Belgian Air Force.

Baf_Days_15

Baf_Days_16

Baf_Days_23

Baf_Days_22

Several display teams took part in the show. Along with the world-famous Frecce Tricolori, Red Arrows and Patrouille de France, that have been flying for 50 years, there were also the PC-7 Team, the Team Breitling, the Royal Jordanian Falcons and a relatively new team on the airshow scene: the United Arab Emirates air force’s Al Fursan, or “The Knights”.

Baf_Days_1

Baf_Days_24

The team flies six MB-339 trainers, the same aircraft as the Frecce Tricolori the team that helped the Al Fursan display team, in an attractive black and gold colour scheme, symbolizing the desert with oil underneath, with the colours of the United Arab Emirates’ flag on the bottom of the planes. The flag’s colours are also the colours of their smoke: white, red, green and black.

Baf_Days_20

All the images in this post were taken by The Aviationist’s photographer Alessandro Fucito during the BAF Days.

Baf_Days_7

Baf_Days_29

Baf_Days_8

Baf_Days_18

Baf_Days_14

Image credit: The Aviationist’s Alessandro Fucito

 

Video shows French air strike in Iraq from launch to recovery, including aerial refueling

Yesterday two Rafale jets conducted the first French air strike in Iraq. And here’s a video which shows the mission from beginning to end.

On Sept. 19, two Rafales of the EC 3/30 “Lorraine” supported by a C-135FR Tanker of the GRV 2/91 “Bretagne” were involved in the first air strike on an ISIS  target in northern Iraq.

The 7-hour mission from Al Dhafra saw the attack plane drop four GBU-12 LGB (Laser-Guided Bombs) on a munition and fuel depot near the town of Zumar.

Each aircraft was equipped with four GBU-12s, a Damocles designation pod and MICA air-to-air missile.

Image credit: French MoD via Theatrum Belli

Russian “Bear” strategic bombers intercepted by Typhoon jet from base in Scotland for the first time

RAF Typhoons from RAF Lossiemouth, Scotland, intercepted Russian Tu-95 bombers.

This news would sound different if Scotland got independent anyway, on Sept. 19, Royal Air Force Typhoon FGR4 aircraft, based at RAF Lossiemouth were scramble for the first time since they relocated from RAF Leuchars, Scotland, to the most northerly Scottish base, to identify, intercept and escort Russian Air Force Tu-95 Bears.

This was the very first time the Quick Reaction Alert (QRA) was launched since the Scottish base took on the role of defending the UK’s Northern airspace on Sept. 1.

The Bear bombers were flying a routine long-range training mission off the British Isles and did not enter UK airspace (unlike what two Su-24 did in Sweden earlier this week to probe Swedish Air Force readiness).

This is not the first time Typhoon from the 6 Sqn intercept Russian strategic bombers skirting the UK airspace: on Apr. 23, two RAF Typhoons from RAF Leuchars (where the squadron was previously based), intercepted and escorted two Tu-95 “Bear-H” aircraft that were approaching the British Isles.

Image credit: Crown Copyright

 

F-15 Eagle vs CF-18 Hornet vs F-16 Fighting Falcon: a pilot’s perspective

Although they are two different airframes, the F-15 and the F-18 have similar avionics, as you can read in the following interesting story released by an experienced Eagle driver.

Disclaimer: the story is based on an interview to an F-15, published on a magazine profiling the F/A-18 Hornet.

Developed as a multirole naval fighter, the McDonnell Douglas (now Boeing) F/A-18 Hornet has become the backbone of  the U.S. Navy, the U.S. Marine Corps and several air arms around the world.

Among them there is also the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF), formerly known as Canadian Forces Air Command, that began receiving a slightly modified version of the standard legacy Hornet, designated CF-18 (Canadian military designation is CF-188), in 1982.

Two years later, the first CF-18 fighter planes were also delivered to the Canadian units permanently based in Germany to replace their aging CF-104 Starfighter.

Some U.S. Air Force pilots stationed in Europe had a chance to learn more about the CF-18 capabilities. One of them was an F-15C pilot, Robert I “Scout” Winebrenner, who flew with Canadian Hornets while he was assigned to 32 Tactical Fighter Squadron in Soesterberg, the Netherlands.

In fact, during his tour of duty in Europe, Winebrenner became a Tactical Leadership Program (TLP) instructor and, as such, he had the opportunity to experience several observation flights aboard the two seat variants of the aircraft belonging to the units that took part to the exercise.

As Winebrenner recalls in Issue 23 “McDonnell Douglas F/A-18A/B/C/D Hornet” of Aviation Classics magazine, most of these flights were in the F-16s used by several European air forces, and in the Canadian CF-188B Hornets.

Dealing with the F-16, “Scout” explains that he never felt really comfortable in the Viper (as the Fighting Falcon is nicknamed by the fighter pilots community) cockpit even though the plane’s HOTAS (Hands On Throttle And Stick) feature provided the ability to perform myriad tasks without moving the hands away from the stick and throttles.

In particular, the radar scope located between the legs in the early “A” blocks felt like a “foreign object” in the first few flights on the F-16.

On the contrary his perspective from the CF-18 cockpit was completely different, as everything was where it was supposed to be.

The switches, knobs and gauges had a familiar look. Not surprising, since both the Eagle and the Hornet were McDonnel Douglas products and came from the same St. Louis plant.

Still, according to Scout, there were other reasons.

First of all, he felt extremely comfortable in the Hornet cockpit, to such an extent, after his very first flight on the plane, he said to the Canadian pilot who was flying in the front seat the following words: “You know, this could be completely over-the-top misplaced confidence on my part, but after that flight, I have the feeling that I could walk out there fire one up, and go out and fly the airplane, run the systems and even employ it tactically…just like that.”

During his several sorties on board Canadian Hornets, Winebrenner discovered that several functions of the CF-18 cockpit were even better than those owned by the Eagle one, such as the displays arrangement: whilst most Hornet fighter jocks put their radar display on the right MFD, the system was flexible and let the pilot chose the preferred arrangement.

He put his on the left (where the radar display is located in the F-15 cockpit), and “felt right at home.”

Moreover he liked the slightly larger HUD (Head Up Display), which gave to the cockpit a  more modern appearance. The 70° gimbal limit was great. The stick grip was also well designed with the extra control knob (the ‘castle’ switch), and the same stick grip was fitted in the F-15C with the Multi-Staged Improvement Programme (MSIP) modification to run the Multi-Function Colour Display (MFCD) that worked also as Joint Tactical Information Distribution System (JTIDS) terminal.

But Winebrenner also found few things that he didn’t like about Hornet avionics, the first of those was the radar.

“Not that the Hughes APG-65 was a bad radar – far from it. But the narrower beam width and brute force of the F-15’s APG-63 was superior for most air-to-air situations. Moreover, the APG-65 was optimized for over-water operation, and incorporated some rather severe side-lobe suppression techniques which drastically reduced detection range if the Hornet was at lower altitude over land. The Eagle’s radar did similar things, but not anywhere near to the same extent.”

Thanks to its brute force and power, the APG-63 was better at dealing with Electronic Counter Measures (ECM) than the APG-65.

Another thing that Winebrenner liked more in the F-15C than in the CF-18, was the visibility in the cockpit, especially in the rear cockpit; however, in this case, we can’t but notice that the Eagle pilot was not impressed by the large single-piece bubble canopy with no forward bow frame that makes the Lockheed Martin F-16, at least the single seat, by far the fighter jet with the best 360° visibility of any combat plane in the world.

But, as a disclaimer, we told you at the beginning of this article that the interview was published on an issue dedicated to the F/A-18 Hornet….

Image credit: RCAF

 

[Video] Buzzed by U.S. F/A-18 jets in the Death Valley

The American “Mach Loop” is on the Death Valley

Beware: video contains strong language

There is a series of spotting places in Wales, UK, that aviation enthusiasts have nicknamed the “Mach Loop” after the small town at the circuits’ most southern point: Machynlleth.

The “Mach Loop” is located inside an unpopulated area that was given the designation ‘Low Flying Area’ 7 (LFA-7).

LFA-7 has a series of valleys, lined by steep sides with mountains either side rising to around 1,000 metres the highest in the chain being Snowdon (1,200 metres), that allows the pilot to do circuits or to leave this circuit at any point (usually due to low cloud).

It looks like that, besides Coyote Summit, used to spot Red Flag traffic near Area 51, there is a somehow similar place in the famous Death Valley.

Here’s a cool video showing multiple F/A-18 Hornet jets flybys during a training sortie over there.