During the Live Firing Exercise, the Danish pilots had the opportunity to fire AIM-9L and AIM-9X Sidewinder IR-guided air-to-air missiles against burning flares as well as AIM-120 AMRAAMs (Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missiles).
And, fortunately, they also filmed the live firing activity with both GoPro cameras as well as the aircraft’s targeting pod (you will probably remember the epic selfie shot during a Livex last year by a RDAF pilot).
The RDAF video clearly shows the Danish pilots wearing the JHMCS (joint helmet-mounted cueing system) a multi-role system that enhances pilot situational awareness and provides head-out control of aircraft targeting systems and sensors.
The helmet can be used in an air-to-air role: in this case it was used in combination with the AIM-9X missile, as High-Off-BoreSight (HOBS) system, that enables pilots to cue onboard weapons against enemy aircraft merely by pointing their heads at the targets to guide the weapons.
A Sukhoi of the Uganda People’s Defence Air Force makes a low pass over raft.
Uganda People’s Defence Air Force (UPDAF) operates a small fleet of Su-30MK2 aircraft.
Six such multirole jets have been delivered to the Ugandan Air Force by Rosoboronexport, the Russian state arms company, starting in 2011.
The aircraft, based at Entebbe, can carry air-to-air missiles as well as various general purpose bombs for air-to-surface missions. The six Su-30s are believed to have conducted missions against Al Qaeda targets in Somalia, to provide support for UPDF acting under the Africa Union/UN mission (AMISOM), and have reportedly launched airstrikes against opposition forces in South Sudan.
In spite of its quality, the following video is quite interesting as it one of the few available on the Internet showing a Ugandan Su-30s at work: the aircraft was filmed from a raft as a group of people were rafting on the Nile in Uganda.
According to the author, the jet flew over the raft twice; the second time he filmed it. “It did a couple spins after it passed us. I think it was about 50 meters high, maybe lower,” the author says on Youtube.
Two F-35 Lightning II took on a primary role as Close Air Support providers during GF 15-08.
For the first time, F-35s belonging to the 31st Test and Evaluation Squadron played a major role during one of the 10 yearly iterations of Green Flag, an exercise conducted on the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, California, where more than 5,000 U.S. Army soldiers against simulated enemy forces in a 14-day long pre-deployment trial by fire.
Although the JSF has sporadically taken part in past Green Flag drills in the past, this was the very first time the F-35 had the primary exercise role of CAS providers: the pricey stealth multi-role planes penetrated a “contested and degraded battlespace” waiting for calls for support from JTACs (Joint Terminal Attack Controllers) and liaison officers on the ground.
According to the Air Force, the F-35s did the job effectively “just like those that came before it,” a comment that seems to suggest that F-35 is already as capable as the an A-10 or an F-16 in the CAS role, at least in the type of support with Troops in Contact required during a Green Flag exercise.
“The roles played by the two operational test fighters seem relatively modest when examined within the immense scale of a National Training Center rotation. Fourteen days of maneuvering against adversaries in vast desert mountain ranges makes Green Flag a test of the mind and body alike. But when help from the air was called upon, F-35 pilots from the 31st TES communicated and used their systems with precision. They created strategic effects that left troops on the ground largely unaware and unconcerned of what airframe they might be using — seamless integration at its finest,” says the release by the 99th Air Base Wing Public Affairs.
There is a widespread concern that the pricey, troubled multirole F-35 will not be as effective as an A-10 Thunderbolt II or any of the other aircraft the JSF is about to replace but the Air Force seems to be enthusiastic about its new combat plane, especially in the much debated CAS role.
According to AW&ST the Lightning IIs achieved an important result during GF 15-08: not a single F-35 was “shot down” during the drills, a significant achievement for the JSF at its first active participation in a major exercise, especially considering that A-10s and F-16s were defeated in the same conditions.
On the other side, several other analysts claim the participation of two test aircraft in the exercise was just a PR stunt, since the aircraft is still quite far from achieving a combat readiness required to really support the troops at war: it can’t use the gun, it is limited to a couple of JDAMs (Joint Direct Attack Munitions) and it is still flawed by a long list of serious issues, including those to the 400K USD HMD (Helmet Mounted Display).
The debate between F-35 supporters and critics was made more harsh by a brief obtained by War Is Boring, according to which the JSF was outclassed by a two-seat F-16D Block 40 (one of the aircraft the U.S. Air Force intends to replace with the Lightning II) in mock aerial combat.
Although we have already debunked some theories about the alleged capabilities of all the F-35 variants to match or considerably exceed the maneuvering performance of every fourth-generation fighter, to such an extent we already highlighted that there is no way a JSF will ever match (for instance) a Eurofighter Typhoon in aerial combat, it must be remembered that the simulated dogfight mentioned in the unclassified report obtained by WIB involved one of the very first test aircraft: the AF-02 is quite a basic JSF that lacks a mission systems software to use all the onboard sensors, does not have the special stealth coating that makes it virtually invisible to radars and it implemented an obsolete software code full of limitations.
This does not mean the F-35 will ever be as maneuverable and lethal in aerial combat as an F-22 or an F-16, but it will probably perform a bit better than AF-02 did during its simulated dogfight against the F-16D Block 40.
Designated as a utility type to disguise its primary mission, the Lockheed U-2 was born as high altitude reconnaissance aircraft.
Flying for about 8 hours, at 500 mph, at altitudes in excess of 70,000 feet, U-2 spyplanes launched from airbases in Turkey and Pakistan in the mid to late 1950s and early 1960s landed on the other side of the Soviet Union, at Bodo airfield in Norway, at the end of their reconnaissance missions, with fuel tanks virtually empty.
To extend the range of the aircraft and reach more remote targets, the CIA approached the Navy proposing to develop the ability to launch and land U-2s from carriers.
Project Whale Tale began on an August morning in 1963, when test pilot Bob Schumacher took off with his U-2 from the USS Kitty Hawk aircraft carrier that sailed out of San Diego Harbor. After his successful launch, Schumacher performed several landing approaches, proving that the U-2’s performance made arrested landing and wave off (if needed) possible.
But while he was attempting his first landing, one wingtip struck the deck. Schumacher barely managed to take to the air again preventing the plane from crashing overboard.
In spite of the close call, the program continued and three U-2As were modified and got a stronger landing gear, an arresting hook, and wing spoilers that decreased lift during landing. While these modifications were taking place, Schumacher and several CIA pilots developed their carrier landing skills flying T-2 Buckeye trainers from USS Lexington aircraft carrier.
Schumacher landed the first U-2G (as the modified U-2 was designated) on the USS Ranger on Mar. 2, 1964, off the California coast, experiencing only one small problem when the engaged arrestor hook, forced the plane’s nose toward the deck and broke off the pitot tube. After quick repairs, he successfully took off again and in the following days, Schumacher and the CIA pilots received carrier qualifications from the Navy.
Even if the operational ability to take off from and land on a carrier was used only once, in May 1964, when a U-2G operating off the USS Ranger was used to monitor the French nuclear test range, at Mururoa Atoll, in the South Pacific Ocean, well out of range of any land-based U-2 aircraft, the program continued to advance in the following years.
In 1967 Lockheed introduced a new variant, designated U-2R, that was larger (by about 40 percent) and featured about twice the range and four times the payload of a standard U-2G. This plane was equipped with an integral arrestor hook, and with wings folding mechanism that reduced the aircraft’s footprint and made carrier operations easier.
Lockheed test pilot Bill Park and four CIA pilots conducted tests with the new type of U-2 in November 1969 , from the deck of USS America sailing off the Virginia coast: as part of the tests, a U-2R was successfully moved using one of the America’s elevators.
Still, none of these carrier-capable spyplane ever entered active service, being replaced by cheaper spy satellites.
In the impressive footage below you can see several U-2s perform carrier take offs, touch and gos and landings and even if today carrier-based U-2s are only a footnote to Cold War history, the last variant of this legendary aircraft, designated U-2S, is still in service and it remains one of the best intelligence platform among those operated by the U.S. Air Force.