Category Archives: Syria

Watch an ISIS compound be wiped out through an F-15E Strike Eagle’s SNIPER advanced targeting pod

An interesting point of view: from an F-15E Strike Eagle Advanced Targeting Pod

Designated AN/AAQ-33, the Lockheed Martin Sniper Advanced Targeting Pod (ATP), equips several U.S. and foreign attack planes including the B-1B “Lancer” and the F-15E Strike Eagle.

The pod, equipped with a Laser designator used to guide LGBs (Laser Guided Bombs) and a FLIR (Forward Looking Infra Red) and CCD TV camera,  is used for identification of targets (both on the ground and airborne ones), tracking, coordinate generation, and guidance.

F-15E Sniper

Although some videos recorded through the Sniper ATP are available online, here’s one released by the Pentagon showing an attack on an ISIL Compound near Kobani, Syria.

Blast aside, the symbology that appears in the ATP footage is interesting: target aside, there are a lot of symbols that we know nothing about, a result of the so-called “sensor fusion,” the combination of sensory data derived from the plane and other assets’ data sources.

 

These may be the only F-22’s Achilles’ heels in a dogfight against 4th gen fighter jets

Considered almost unbeatable in the air-to-air role, the F-22 successfully debuted in combat, taking part in air strikes against ISIS targets. But what if the F-22 found a 4th Gen. opponent?

Even though we don’t know much details about them, missions flown by the F-22 Raptor over Syria marked the combat debut of the stealth jet.

As already explained, the radar-evading planes conducted air strikes against ISIS ground targets, in what (considering the 5th Generation plane’s capabilities) were probably Swing Role missions: the stealth jets flew ahead of the rest of the strike package to cover the other attack planes, dropped their Precision Guided Munitions (PGMs) on designated targets, and escorted the package during the way back.

Considered that it could not carry external fuel tanks (to keep a low radar signature), the F-22 were refueled at least two or three times to make it to North Syria and back to the UAE, flying a mission most probably exceeding the 6 – 7 hours flying time.

Raptor’s stealthiness is maintained by storing weapons in internal bays capable to accomodate 2x AIM-9 Sidewinder missiles, some AIM-120C AMRAAM air-to-air missiles (the number depending on the configuration), as well as 2x 1,000 pound GBU-32 JDAM or 8x GBU-39 small diameter bombs: in this way the Raptor can dominate the airspace above the battlefield while performing OCA (Offensive Counter Air) role attacking air and ground targets. Moreover its two powerful Pratt & Whitney F-119-PW-100 engines gave to the fifth fighter the ability to accelerate past the speed of sound without using the afterburners (the so called supercruise) and TV (Thrust Vectoring), that can be extremely useful, in certain conditions, to put the Raptor in the proper position to score a kill.

All these capabilities have made the F-22 almost invincible (at least on paper). Indeed, a single Raptor during one of its first training sorties was able to kill eight F-15s in a mock air-to-air engagement, well before they could see it.

These results were achieved also thanks to the specific training programs which put F-22 pilots against the best US fighters jocks in order to improve their abilities to use the jet’s sophisticated systems, make the most out of sensor fusion, then decide when and to execute the correct tactic.

The Raptor has a huge advantage against its adversaries as demonstrated by the F-22’s incredible kill ratio against USAF Red Air (which play as enemy air forces during exercises) and its F-16s and F-15s, during the exercises undertaken in the last decade: for instance, during exercise Noble Edge in Alaska in June 2006, few F-22s were able to down 108 adversaries with no losses, while during the 2007 edition of the same exercise, they brought their record to 144 simulated kills.

In its first Red Flag participation, in February 2007, the Raptor was able to establish air dominance rapidly and with no losses.

As reported by Dave Allport and Jon Lake in a story which appeared on Air Force Monthly magazine, during an Operational Readiness Inspection (ORI) in 2008, the F-22s scored 221 simulated kills without a single loss.

Still, when outnumbered and threatened by F-15s, F-16s and F-18s, in a simulated WVR (Within Visual Range) dogfight, the F-22 is not invincible.

Raptors refuel

Apparently along with the Rafale, one aircraft which proved to be a real threat for the F-22 is the Eurofighter Typhoon: during the 2012 Red Flag-Alaska, the German Eurofighters not only held their own, but reportedly achieved several kills on the Raptors.

Even though with don’t know anything about the ROE (Rules Of Engagement) set for that training sorties and, at the same time, the outcome of those mock air-to-air combat is still much debated (as there are different accounts of those simulated battles),  the “F-22 vs Typhoon at RF-A” story, raised some questions about the threat posed to the Raptor by advanced, unstealthy, 4th Gen. fighter jets.

In fact, even though these aircraft are not stealth, Typhoons are equipped with  Helmet Mounted Display (HMD) systems and IRST (the Infra-Red Search and Track), two missing features on Raptors.

The Typhoon’s HMD is called Helmet Mounted Symbology System (HMSS). Just like the American JHMCS (Joint Helmet Mounted Cueing System) which is integrated in the U.S. F-15C/D, F-16  Block 40 and 50 and F-18C/D/E/F, HMSS provides the essential flight and weapon aiming information through line of sight imagery. Information imagery (including aircraft’s airspeed, altitude, weapons status, aiming etc) are projected on the visor (the HEA – Helmet Equipment Assembly – for the Typhoon) , enabling the pilot to look out in any direction with all the required data always in his field of vision.

The F-22 Raptor is not equipped with a similar system (the project to implement it was axed following 2013 budget cuts). The main reason for not using it on the stealth jet is that it was believed neither an HMD, nor HOBS (High Off-Boresight) weapons that are fired using these helmets, were needed since no opponents would get close enough to be engaged with an AIM-9X in a cone more than 80 degrees to either side of the nose of the aircraft.

Sure, but the risk of coming to close range with an opponent is still high and at distances up to 50 km an aircraft equipped with an IRST (Infra-Red Search and Track) system, which can detect the IR signature of an enemy fighter (that’s why Aggressors at Red Flag carry IRST pods….), could even be able to find a stealthy plane “especially if it is large and hot, like the F-22″ as a Eurofighter pilot once said.

Summing up, the F-22 is and remains the most lethal air superiority fighter ever. Still, it lacks some nice features that could be useful to face hordes of enemy aircraft, especially if these include F-15s, Typhoons, Rafales or, in the future, the Chinese J-20 and Russian PAK-FA.

David Cenciotti has contributed to this post.

Top it off: Tankers refuel RED FLAG-Alaska

Image credit: U.S. Air Force

 

Video shows U.S. Air Force B-1 bomber taking gas during Syria air strikes through NVGs

B-Roll of a U.S. Air Force B-1 “Lancer” refueling mid-air during a night air strike in Syria.

Beginning on Sept. 23, B-1B bombers of the 7th Bomb Wing from Dyess AFB, deployed to Al Udeid airbase, in Qatar, have taken part in the air strikes on ISIS targets in Syria.

Supported by KC-135 tankers (also based at Al Udeid), the B-1 “Lancer” supersonic variable-sweep wing, strategic bombers have pounded ground targets in both Syria and Iraq.

Here’s an interesting video showing one “Bone”(from “B-One”) refueling at night from a KC-135 while enroute to the target area in Syria on Sept. 27, as seen through the NVG (Night Vision Googgles).


 

Super Cool Night Photos of the F-22 Raptor stealth jets refueling mid-air enroute to Syria

Here are some interesting photographs of the F-22 Raptor of the 1st Fighter Wing, refueling mid-air during strike operations in Syria.

Taken on Sept. 26, the following images were taken from the boomer position aboard a U.S Air Force KC-10 Extender tanker during air-to-air refueling operations of an F-22 Raptor fighter aircraft enroute to Syria.

Raptors refuel

The Raptors, launched from Al Dhafra, in the UAE, where they are deployed along the F-15E Strike Eagles from RAF Lakenheath, were part of a strike package that was engaging ISIL targets in Syria.

Raptors refuel

The F-22 Raptors of the 1st FW that have been stationed in the Persian Gulf from 6 months, will soon be replaced by 6 Raptors belonging to the 95th FS from Tyndall Air Force Base.

Raptors refuel

F-15E aircraft from RAF Lakenheath will be releaved by Strike Eagles from Seymour Johnson Air Force Base.

Raptors refuel

Image: U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Russ Scalf

 

Photos of B-1B over Fallujah remind us “Bones” are bombing ISIS in Iraq and Syria

B-1B “Lancer” bombers belonging to the 7th Bomb Wing from Dyess Air Force Base, in Texas, are bombing ISIS militants in Iraq and Syria.

An unspecified number of B-1B bombers of the 7th Bomb Wing from Dyess AFB is currently operating from Al Udeid airbase, in Qatar. If you type the Qatari airbase name in Google Earth, you can spot at least 5 “Lancers” parked on the main apron, along with KC-135 tankers.

Al Udeid

Image credit: Google Earth

Originally the “Bones” (as the plane are nicknamed by their pilots), supported by 300 airmen, were deployed to the region to support Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan as part of a standard 6-month rotation to the main U.S. Air Force base in the Persian Gulf.

Then, they were destined to the current air campaign against ISIS in Iraq and Syria.

More or less at the same time when their presence in the opening waves of air strikes in Syria was confirmed by officials at the Pentagon, a composite photo made with video stills, of a B-1B circling over Fallujah, 69 kilometers to the west of Baghdad, on Sept. 24, was posted on Arab forum: a reminder that there’s a war going on in Iraq too and that air strikes on ISIS not only involve F-22 Raptor stealth fighter jets and F-15E aircraft, but also supersonic variable-sweep wing, jet-powered strategic bombers too.

Strategic bombers that can perform complex combined operations with escorting F-22, drop stealthy air-launched cruise missiles, perform maritime attacks and old-fashioned carpet bombings.

Top Image: Defense-arab.com.

H/T Tom Cooper at ACIG.info for finding the image.