Category Archives: Military Aviation

Incredible photo of F-16 fighter planes under sky set alight by Northern Lights

Here’s an unbelievable photo shot at Amari Airbase, Estonia.

Taken by photographer Gen Vagula at Ämari Airbase, Estonia, where the aircraft have been deployed to undertake Baltic States air policing duties, this awesome image shows four Royal Danish Air Force F-16 jets parked under a sky set alight by Aurora Borealis.

Aurora (“Aurora Borealis” or “Northern Lights” in the northern hemisphere and “Aurora Australis” or “Southern Lights” in the southern one) is a natural light display caused by the collision of solar wind and magnetospheric charged particles with the high altitude atmosphere (thermosphere).

Ämari, located some 40 kilometers (25 miles) to the southwest of Tallinn, is the second airbase used by NATO to perform QRA (Quick Reaction Alert) duties and provide air defense for those member states that have no fighter jets of their own to secure their airspaces: Lithuania, Estonia and Latvia.

NATO planes deployed to the Baltics (the other airbase is Siauliai in Lithuania), are often scrambled to intercept Russian planes flying to/from Kaliningrad oblast, performing long-range missions around Scandinavia and the British Isles, or simply spying in the Baltic region.

Image credit: Gen Vagula

 

Finland steps up air defense following airspace incursions by Russian planes

Even though on average there are about about four to six incidents a year Russian planes have entered the Finnish airspace without permission three times in the last week.

Finnish Air Force is stepping up readiness of its air defense assets following three incidents in a week during which Russian planes entered Finland’s airspace without authorization.

According to the Finnish media outlet Yle.fi, the latest such incursions occurred on Aug. 28, when a Russian An-72 transport plane entered the Finnish airspace over the Gulf of Finland and flew within Helsinki’s FIR for about four minutes.

An-72 FinnAF

Image credit: Finnish Air Force

Even though the aircraft did not penetrate deep into Finland’s territory, the frequency of such violations (the others were recorded on Aug. 23 and 29) raised concern among Finnish authorities, to such an extent Finnish Air Force F/A-18 Hornets have been moved to support bases in the south from where they are flying surveillance flights.

One of the Hornet bases closer to the 1,300-kilometer border with Russia is Kuopio/Rissala, even though the Air Force spokesperson said that standby aircraft have been based at Seutula and Vantaa, Yle.fi reported.

Furthermore, Finnish Hornets are trained to operate from public roads, a type of operations that has been part of the standard training conducted mainly in Central, Eastern and Northern Europe since the Cold War.

Top image credit: U.S. Air Force in Europe

H/T to Antti Hietaniemi for the heads-up

[Video] Test missile fired at F-16 used as a target drone for the first time

QF-16 performs for the first time as an aerial target

A remotely controlled QF-16 Full Scale Aerial Target was launched for the first time as an aerial target at Holloman Air Force Base, New Mexico.

The missile used in the test was modified so it could not hit its target; however, the QF-16 has a scoring system which tells the ground station how close the missile came and its trajectory.

According to Boeing, “The ground control station sets the coordinates for the missile. Then, using its on board system, the QF-16 validates that the missile hit those coordinates, and detects the distance and speed of the missile. If all the data matches up, the mission is considered a kill.”

 

The F-16 and the Forward Air Controller (Airborne) mission

The Lockheed Martin F-16 Fighting Falcon is the western world’s most prolific fighter of the last 40 years.

Born in response to LWF (Light Weight Fighter) requirement for a small and agile fighter, the Viper has become U.S. Air Force’s standard multirole jet.

Among the many tasks that the F-16 can perform, there is also the Forward Air Controller (Airborne) or FAC (A) mission.

In the cool video below you can see the strafing run of eight F-16CJs belonging to 22nd and 23rd Fighter Squadrons from Spangdahlem AB, during a NATO FACs exercise held at Nordhorn Range in Germany on Aug. 20, 2009.

But which are the skills requested to perform a FAC(A) mission?

In this kind of mission, the airborne platform has also the task to allocate fighters to targets designated by the ground troops.

Even if the FAC(A) concept dates back to WWII and, later, Korea Air War, nowadays the job generally requires a single seat plane, with a quite busy pilot who runs the radios, coordinates the attack runs with the ground troops, writes down some specific data information and flies the aircraft.

Aircraft flying FAC(A) missions usually carry a wide variety of ordnance such as dumb bombs, white phosphorus rockets (used to mark targets for inbound attackers) and also 20 mm rounds which flank the latest precision guided munitions that the Joint Helmet Mounted Cueing System (JHMCS) and Sniper targeting pod (along with Link 16 and other on board tech) make more efficient.

The FAC(A) manages the Close Air Support stack, that is the vertical pier of airplanes that respond to the FAC(A)’s call for support.

While flying his own airplane and avoiding enemy Surface to Air Missiles (SAMs) and Anti Aircraft Artillery (AAA), the FAC(A) must keep track simultaneously the CAS stack which is made up of different types of aircraft, with many different types of air-to-ground munitions most of the times, and furthermore they have different loiter times, airspeeds and ability to hit targets on the ground.

Moreover the FAC(A) also coordinates army artillery fires. Therefore, it’s a quite busy mission!

The F-16, a fast jet that offers its pilot an impressive visibility, can carry plenty of ordnance, is maneuverable even at low-speed and high AOA (Angle of Attack) and can effectively cooperate with different types of aircraft, is the perfect asset to perform FAC(A) missions.

Another aircraft quite good in the same role is the OA-10 Warthog.

Image credit: U.S. Air Force

 

U.S. Air Force F-15C crashes in Virginia

104th Fighter Wing F-15C crashed earlier today in in Virginia’s Augusta County.

A pilot is still missing after a 104th Fighter Wing F-15C jet went down during a cross country mission.

At approximately 9:05 a.m. LT on Aug. 27, radio contact with an F-15C was lost as the unarmed aircraft was flying over the Shenandoah Valley Virginia. According to the 104th FW Press Release, the pilot flying the Eagle aircraft reported an inflight emergency prior to radio contact being lost.

The aircraft crashed in a remote, wooded area not far from the Virginia-West Virginia border. Even though the status of the pilot is still unknown, there are unverified reports by witnesses that saw an ejection and subsequent chute.

Image credit: U.S. Air Force