Category Archives: Military Aviation

Boeing 747-8 selected as next Air Force One platform. And here’s how it will probably look like.

U.S. Air Force has identified the Boeing 747-8 platform for next Air Force One

A “fully missionized” platform based on the 747-8, the latest and largest version of the iconic Boeing 747 Jumbo Jet, will serve as the presidential aircraft, Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James, announced on Jan. 28.

The Boeing 747-8 was selected following a market research and the assessment of the capabilities of the two four-engine aircraft that could meet the requirements: the Boeing 747-8 and the Airbus A380.

“This decision is not a contract award to procure 747-8 aircraft,” said Col. Amy McCain, the Presidential Aircraft Recapitalization (PAR) program manager in a release on the U.S. Air Force website. “We still need to finalize the overall acquisition strategy and conduct risk-reduction activities with Boeing to inform the engineering and manufacturing development contract negotiations that will define the capabilities and cost.”

A fleet of three Boeing 747-8 will replace the current, obsolete VC-25 aircraft. Once ready, in 2018, the new aircraft will be more capable and efficient than their predecessors, heavily modified Boeing 747-200 jets.

As already explained on The Aviationist, along with the internal design, meeting rooms and wide array of communication systems, what makes the Air Force One different is the self-protection suite. Much information on this topic is classified, still, the VC-25 aircraft is known to be fitted with active electronic counter measures, that are able to jam enemy radar frequencies as well as IRCM (Infrared Counter Measure) systems needed to divert heat seeking Infra Red missiles by disturbing their guidance systems.

The one in use on the AF1 is the AN/ALQ-204 Matador produced by the BAe Systems. Such system protect the plane from both IR air-to-air and ground-to-air (MANPADS – Man Portable Air Defense Systems) missiles.

The plane is also equipped with chaff and flares dispensers: the first type is used to divert radar-guided missiles, while the flares are high-temperature heat sources ejected from the aircraft’s dispensers to mislead the missile’s heat-seeking targeting system: since the burn temperature is hotter than that at the engine’s exhaust the burning flares attract and deceive heat-seeking missiles fired at the aircraft.

Similar and surely more advanced countermeasures will equip the new ones.

When, about three years ago, the selection of the Boeing 747-8 became obvious, we asked our contributor Al Clark to prepare a digital mock-up of the new plane sporting the Air Force One’s traditional light-blue and sky-blue color scheme that you can find on top of this article.

Digital mock-up by Al Clark

 

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U.S. Air Force F-22 Raptor stealth jet suffers landing accident at Hawaii. Again.

An Alaskan Raptor suffered a landing accident at Hawaii.

A U.S. Air Force F-22A Raptor, belonging to the 3rd Wing from Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, deployed to the Hawaii to take part in the Sentry Aloha exercise, had an incident landing at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, in Honolulu on Jan. 14.

According to the few information available at the moment, the left main brake overheated and caught on fire after the Raptor landed on runway 08L.

HNL Rare Birds website published the image of the F-22 in fire suppressive foam: the runway remained closed for most of the day as maintenance personnel worked on the stealth jet.

According to the ATS website, it will take 30 days for a depot team to inspect the aircraft, and a decision to be made as to whether the aircraft is fixable.

F-22 mishap

Image above credit (click on the image to open it at full resolution): HNL RareBirds

This was not the first time a Raptor suffered a landing mishap at the Hawaii: an F-22 Raptor, assigned to the 199th Fighter Squadron, Hawaii Air National Guard, sustained 1.8 million USD in damage in a landing incident at Joint Base Pearl Harbor – Hickam, on Dec. 7, 2012.

Top image credit: Lockheed Martin

 

Are the Polish F-16s combat-worthy?

So far, the Polish Air Force has not sent its F-16 on a single combat deployment beyond the Polish borders. Some of the journalists have asked the question – why?

Back in September 2013, as rumors that the backbone of the Polish fighter force was to be deployed to Syria, we explained that one of the main flaws of the “Jastrząb” (Polish name for the F-16) was that the aircraft lacked AIDEWS (Advanced Integrated Defensive Electronic Warfare Suite ) capabilities.

On Sep. 1. 2014, in an interview to madmagazine.pl defense outlet, General Gocul, the chief of the Polish Armed Forces General Staff, claimed that keeping the Vipers at home is justified both technically, as well as economically.

First of his arguments referred to the known FOD (Foreign Object Damage) sensitivity of the F-16. Gocuł claimed that the fighter’s engine is particularly prone to damage, and that Poles would be forced to expand the BAP (Baltic Air Policing) operation with runway cleaning equipment which may be expensive should the Polish Air Force deploy the F-16s to Lithuania to provide air policing of the Baltic States. In case of the MiG-29 Fulcrums (regularly taking part to BAP rotations), the air intakes are designed so as to prevent the threat of FOD – this is a fact, as the intakes feature a special flap system, which is closed when the aircraft is taxiing. However, it has been shown that this obstacle can be easily removed as Siauliai airbase has been a home for NATO F-16 jets before (for example the Portuguese F-16s).

Polish F-16 NTM 2011

The second argument provided by General Gocuł dealt with the operative costs associated with the F-16:  the MiG-29 is cheaper to operate than the Fighting Falcons hence, deploying the Fulcrums is a way for not burdening the taxpayers. Apparently, cost of one flight hour of the MiG-29, according to various sources (exact data is unknown), is shaped at around 5,500 USD. In case of the F-16 the amount is as much as 7,700 USD.

But again, Gen Gocuł stated in an interview for the January issue of the Polish “Lotnictwo” magazine, that the Polish MiG-29s clocked 300 flying hours during May-August 2014, which is approximately 75 hours per aircraft. This provides a rough estimate of how much the Poles spent on its MiG-29s operational activities. This figure stands at around 1.7 million USD per fleet compared to 2.3 million USD it would cost to utilize the F-16s.

These arguments seem to be vague, as the nature of the Polish AF resistance towards sending the Block 52+ F-16 fighters abroad may stem from different reasons. Another point that has been made by Mad Magazine was that the Polish AF is not willing to expose the combat capabilities possessed by the Vipers to the Russians, by operating the F-16 in close vicinity of the forces of the potential adversary.

However, in the opinion of Konrad Muzyka, working for IHS Jane’s, there may be a third reason. When asked about the Final Operational Capability (FOC) of the F-16, Muzyka provided us with the following statement:

The issue pertaining to the operational capabilities of the Polish F-16s is a curious one. The Ministry of National Defence has never officially confirmed whether the aircraft possess AIDEWS thus raising questions if the F-16s are at FOC. This comes despite the fact that the contract was concluded as far back as in 2008. Naturally, it is in the Warsaw’s interest not to shed any light on the capability of the Polish Vipers, but the fact that they have never been operationally deployed abroad is concerning.

Officially, the Polish Vipers do maintain the combat ready status. They are regularly involved in exercises such as Red Flag or NATO Tiger Meet. Nonetheless, there are some questions to be asked: is it really the cost of operation that stops Poland from deploying the F-16s abroad?

Is Warsaw really concerned that Russian intelligence aircraft, often flying near the Lithuanian airspace, may collect sensitive data about the Polish Vipers?

And final question is – did the Polish F-16 really achieve FOC status, even though they have never been deployed abroad?

Polish AF F-16 taxi

 

Videos of the first ever F-35 Flyover at the 2015 NFL Pro Bowl

F-35 aircraft from the 61st Fighter Squadron at Luke Air Force Base, Arizona have done their first flyover at the 2015 NFL Pro Bowl.

On Jan. 25, the F-35s belonging to the 56th Fighter Wing from Luke Air Force Base performed the first ever Lightining II aircraft flyover opening the 2015 NFL Pro Bowl game at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Arizona at 6.00 PM LT.

According to one of our readers, “Cougar”, “Jeb”, “Merc”, and “CATA” are the nicknames of the Joint Strike Fighter pilots of the 61 FS who performed the flyover.

Here below you can see one of the pilots preparing to strap in the cockpit.

Step time

Here’s the patch the 56th FW has produced to celebrate the event:

Patch Flyover Probowl

Here below is the video of the flyover, officially released by the U.S. Air Force.

Here’s a clip shot from inside the stadium:

Image credit: U.S. Air Force / 56th Fighter Wing

 

Video shows A-10 Thunderbolts support Peshmerga forces attacking ISIS militants near Mosul

BRTTTTTTTTT…..

The first 20 seconds of the following footage show an A-10 Thunderbolt, attacking ISIS positions near Mosul, Iraq, on Jan. 22.

Interestingly, the footage shows, once again, a U.S. Air Force A-10 flying at medium/low altitude over the battlefield, where the Warthog face the threat of MANPADS known to be in possession of Islamic State forces: according to a recent report, American A-10s were shot at with four Strela missiles during previous close air support missions in the same area.