Tag Archives: Afghanistan

This is how a Reaper drone is deployed to Afghanistan. In Kit Form.

Did you know RAF delivered its five Reaper UAS (Unmanned Aerial Systems) as if they were model kits?

The Royal Air Force has just deployed five more MQ-9 Reaper remotely-piloted aircraft that have joined the five Reapers already there and support ISR (Intelligence Surveillance Reconnaissance) operations in Afghanistan. Interestingly, the drones are delivered as model kits and re-assembled at Kandahar airfield as the following images, released by the UK MoD.

Reaper model kit

Along with the images of the British have also released some figures about the air strikes against Taliban conducted by the RAF unmanned aircraft in theater with LGBs (Laser-Guided Bombs) and Hellfire missiles:

“In over 54,000 hours of operations using Reaper in Afghanistan, only 459 weapons have been fired, which is less than one weapon for every 120 hours of flying.”

Reaper model kit 3

And here’s the reassembled Reaper:

Reaper model kit 4

Image credit: Crown Copyright

 

What’s this Pod Carried by a U.S. MQ-9 Reaper drone in Afghanistan?

An interesting picture, shared by the U.S. Air Force, shows a Reaper UAS (Unmanned Air System) on the ground at Kandahar airbase, with two interesting pods.

The image in this post (that we’ve edited to highlight the detail of interest) was released by the U.S. Air Force.

Taken on Aug. 18, it shows MQ-9 Reapers with the 62nd Expeditionary Reconnaissance Squadron at Kandahar airfield, Afghanistan.

Noteworthy, one of the Reaper drones (that are launched, recovered and maintained from Kandahar and remotely operated by pilots in bases located in the U.S.) carries two Electro-Optical/Infrared (EO/IR) sensors under each wing.

62nd ERS keeps mission going

These could be the latest version of the rarely seen before Gorgon Stare (formerly known as the Wide Area Airborne Surveillance System – WAAS), a pod-based sensor package used to track people, vehicles, and objects in areas of +10 square kilometers.

The ISR (Intelligence Surveillance Reconnaissance) pod is integrated in a networked imagery distribution system to provide hi-resolution, real-time full motion video of activities of interest.

Usually, a Gorgon Stare system is made of two pods, one carrying networking and communications equipment, the other with Visible/IR Camera Arrays and Image Processing module: interestingly, the MQ-9 shown in the picture carries two seemingly identical pods (with EO/IR turrets).

A new system or just the recently announced Gorgon Stare Increment 2?

Most probably, the second one, even if images released so far show different kind of pods.

Image credit: U.S. Air Force

 

[Photo] Ukrainian Antonov An-124 cargo visits NAF El Centro, California

An An-124 recently visited at Naval Air Facility (NAF) El Centro to load British Chinooks for their return to the UK.

On Aug. 14, an Antonov 124 of the “Antonov Design Bureau” (Ukraine’s state-owned company currently known as Antonov State Company), visited NAF El Centro, in Southern California. The huge cargo, departed the following day and flew to RAF Brize Norton via Detroit.

The An-124 has become something of a regular visitor to El Centro, moving helicopters from a number of NATO forces (such as British, Danish, Dutch and German) to the local base where they train in “hot and high” conditions prior to deployments to Afghanistan.

Actually, the Ukrainian company’s An-124 aircraft have been used to transport helicopters all around the world.

El Centro’s ready access to large ranges with desert and mountainous terrain (Chocolate Mountains and Yuma, AZ range) make it an ideal location for cost effective pre-deployment training.  Aircraft can depart El Centro and be on range within a matter of minutes making helicopter training particularly efficient.

AN124 El Centro side view

Todd Miller lives in MD, US where he is an Executive at a Sustainable Cement Technology Company in the USA. When not working, Todd is an avid photographer of military aircraft and content contributor.

 

 

[Photo] U.S. A-10 Warthogs during aerial refueling over Afghanistan

An interesting gallery of U.S. Air Force’s A-10s being refueled over Afghanistan.

Taken on Jul. 10, 2014, the images in this post show U.S. Air Force A-10 Thunderbolt II aircraft assigned to the 303rd Expeditionary Fighter Squadron, from Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, refueled over Eastern Afghanistan by a KC-135 Stratotanker with the 340th Expeditionary Air Refueling Squadron from Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar July 10, 2014.

Operation Enduring Freedom

The A-10’s armored fuselage, maneuverability at slow speeds and low altitude has made the Thunderbolt (known as Warthog by its pilots) one of the best (if not the best) CAS (Close Air Support) asset throughout Operation Enduring Freedom (and several more operations, including Desert Storm).

Operation Enduring Freedom

However, the U.S. Air Force has plans to retire the A-10C aircraft between 2015 and 2018, even if the deadline might be postponed until 2028.

Operation Enduring Freedom

Image credit: U.S. Air Force

 

U.S. airborne communication plane could be tracked on the Web for 9 hours during air strike that killed Taliban leaders in Afghanistan

At least seven Taliban militants were killed following a NATO air raid Afghanistan. Noteworthy, a sign of the developing operation may have been a U.S. Air Force E-11A BACN plane orbiting over southeasern Ghazni province, clearly visible on Flightradar24.com.

Although many military aircraft are equipped with Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B) transponders they are usually turned off during real war operations. In fact, by automatically broadcasting the plane’s callsign, GPS position, speed and altitude, these special transponders provide information about the plane can be received by ground stations, by other nearby aircraft (thus enhancing situational awareness) and also by commercial off-the-shelf or home-built receivers.

Flightradar24 and PlaneFinder have a network of several hundred feeders around the world who make the flight information received by their home kits available for anybody on their websites, or by means of their smartphone apps.

Even though some pilots have confirmed they are well aware of the above mentioned websites and for this reason are instructed to turn off their transponders when involved in real operation, during the opening stages of the Libya Air War, some of the aircraft involved in the air campaign forgot/failed to switch off their mode-S or ADS-B transponder, and were clearly trackable on FR.24 or PF.net.

Three years later, a U.S. plane involved in war mission over Afghanistan could be monitored for several hours as it circled at 41,000 feet to the southeast of Ghazni.

The aircraft did not broadcast its mission callsign, but based on the hex code FR24 could identify it as a Bombardier Global 6000 aircraft, an advanced ultra long-range business jet that has been modified by the U.S. Air Force to accomodate Battlefield Airborne Communications Node (BACN) payload.

Within the U.S. Air Force, the modified jet is designated E-11A.

BACN is technological “gateway” system that allows aircraft with incompatible radio systems and datalinks to exchange tactical information and communicate.

By orbiting at high-altitude, BACN equipped air assets provide a communications link from ground commanders to their allies in the sky regardless of the type of the supporting aircraft and in a non-line-of-sight (LOS) environment. In the rugged, mountainous terrain of Afghanistan, troops are not always able to establish LOS communications with close support aircraft overhead and moving position or relocating to higher ground could be fatal. In such situation, a legacy USAF A-10 attack aircraft could loiter away from the battlefield while using the BACN link to communicate with a special-forces Joint Terminal Air Controller (JTAC) on the ground until all targeting information is ready before “un-masking” and beginning an attack run.

The BACN system is also deployed onboard EQ-4B Global Hawk UAVs.

Anyway, the E-11A could be tracked on FR24.com for about 9 hours, from 21.54 UTC on Aug. 10 to 06.45 UTC on Aug. 11, when the aircraft got out of the flightradar24 coverage while returning back to Kandahar airfield (?). At the same time a NATO air strike in the same zone killed seven Taliban and wounded four.

Next time NATO is preparing a similar operation, the presence of the orbiting E-11A could expose and jeopardize the imminent air strike.

H/T to Jerod Harris for the heads-up.

Image credit: screenshot form flightradar24.com