Tag Archives: aircraft carrier

Hornet Ball 2014: the best naval aviation video of the year

Once again, Hornet Ball is the best naval aviation video of the year.

The Hornet Ball (Strike Fighter Ball Pacific) is an annual event consisting of all the West coast Naval F/A-18C Legacy Hornet and F/A-18E/F Super Hornet squadrons, their pilots and guests.

Each year the event features a video, produced by “Wingnut”, a Hornet pilot himself, compiled from all the squadrons’ last year of flying in both combat and training missions: catapult launches, trap landings, aerobatics, dogfighting against Su-30s and Mig-29s, live firing of air-to-air missiles, HARM anti-radion missiles, LGBs (Laser Guided Bombs), cluster bombs, low level flying in the desert, ATFLIR  (Advanced Targeting Forward Looking Infrared) pod clips, and much more.

Here’s the Hornet Ball 2013.

H/T Tom Demerly and Al Clark for the heads-up

 

[Photo] F/A-18E lands on USS Nimitz with SLAM-ER stand-off missile

An interesting shot, shows a Super Hornet land on aircraft carrier with an AGM-84 Standoff Land Attack Missile-Expanded Response weapon.

This image shows an F/A-18E Super Hornet belonging to the Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 147 Argonauts as it performs an arrested landing on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz underway conducting routine training exercises in the Pacific.

What makes the photo particularly interesting is the presence of an AGM-84 SLAM-ER on the Hornet‘s right hand underwing pylon, along with a centerline tank for buddy refueling.

The AGM-84H/K SLAM-ER (Standoff Land Attack Missile-Expanded Response) is a precision-guided, air-launched cruise missile for attack of land and sea targets at a maximum distance of 155 miles (250 km). The stand-off missile can be used for air strikes against still and moving targets, thanks to a GPS and IR (Infra-Red) imaging for its navigation and control and can be remotely controlled while in flight to be dynamically redirected to another target, should the need arise.

Even if the SLAM-ER is not a new weapon in the U.S. Navy inventor you can’t find many photos of the Super or Legacy Hornets operating from a flattop with the stand-off missile.

Image credit: U.S. Navy

 

The U.S. forces that could be used to strike ISIS in Iraq and Syria

It won’t be easy to strike all ISIS positions in Syria and Iraq. But the U.S. has already amassed several “useful” weapons systems in the region.

Last year, when the U.S. (and France) seemed to be about to launch air strikes on Syria and its chemical weapons, we explained that the air campaign would probably be a limited air war, opened by the usual rain of cruise missiles shot by warships, submarines and bombers with little to no involvement of the so-called “tacair”, the tactical airplanes.

13 months later, the scenario has changed a bit.

Several F-15E Strike Eagles and F/A-18E/F Super Hornets carrying their PGMs (Precision Guided Munitions), are already flying over Iraq hitting ISIS targets five times a day, and they prepare to expand their mission to attack terrorist targets located in Syria.

Whilst last year there was no sign of imminent deployment of F-15s, F-16s or F-18s squadrons to airfields across the region, several warplanes, along with support assets (including tankers and ISR – Intelligence Surveillance and Reconnaissance – platforms) are not only in place, but they are also flying daily missions over Iraq since July.

And, above all, there’s a supercarrier and its powerful Strike Group sailing in the Persian Gulf and pounding militants.

Stand-off weapons, cruise missiles and….stealth bombers?

Since U.S. planes are already freely flying inside Iraqi airspace, it is quite likely they will continue to do so to perform surgical attacks on ISIS targets in Iraq. The aircraft are deployed to Al Udeid, Qatar, and Al Dhafra, UAE, but they could also count of Jordan airbases, some of which already host some U.S. Marine Corps F/A-18 Hornets and Air Force F-16s.

On the other side, Syrian targets will be more difficult to hit: unless Washington will be allowed to use Syria’s airspace any incursion could theoretically require plenty of Electronic Warfare cover and SEAD (Suppression of Enemy Air Defense) support to make Syrian Air Defense harmless. In other words, the unathorized use of Damascus airspace would not be cost-effective along with causing diplomatic issues, as it would require the U.S. to fight a war against Syria (by blinding or destroying Syrian radars and SAM – Surface to Air Missile – batteries) and against ISIS in Syria. And don’t forget that some Syrian Arab Air Air Force planes are fighting their war against local rebels and this raises two issues: deconfliction with SyAAF planes and the risk of being shot down by MANPADS (Man Portable Air Defense Systems) or other Anti-Aircraft weaponry in the hands of the Free Syrian Army.

A more clandestine approach is probably ahead, with a war made of drone strikes, stand-off weapons, and some limited stealth air strikes.

Dealing with drones, as said, they are already operating in Iraq, hence, they could extend their current mission to perform Strike Coordination And Reconnaissance missions in or close to Syria from Incirlik, in Turkey, that has been used as a drone forward operating base, for several years.

Cruise missiles could be fired U.S. destroyers theoretically capable to launch up to 90 Tomahawks Tactical Cruise Missiles as the USS Cole, currently in the Sixth fleet area of operations.

Some more cruise missiles could be fired by U.S. strategic bombers that would perform some global reach, round trip missions from the US (as well as from Diego Garcia): for sure, B-2 Spirit stealth bombers‘ r/t sorties from Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri, to be followed by some more B-1 air strikes  as done during the Libya Air War in 2011, and possibly B-52 ones.

Wars are always an opportunity to test new weapons systems so we can’t rule out an extended campaign in Iraq and Syria will eventually see the baptism of fire of the F-22 Raptor as a multi-role jet or even the mysterious triangle-shaped bomber spotted over the U.S. few months ago. Six F-22s are already stationed at Al Dhafra, in the Gulf area.

High flying U-2 Dragon Lady aircraft and Global Hawk drones flying from Incirlik, Sigonella or Al Dhafra are already getting the required imagery and will perform the post-strike BDA (Battle Damage Assessment) should the need arise.

Even if it will be an American air war, allied air arms will take part in the strike. France was about to fire some Scalp missiles from a handful of Rafale jets in 2013; they will probably ready their “omnirole” fighter jets this time. The UK has already committed some Tornado GR4s to perform reconnaissace and air-to-surface missions, whereas the Italian MoD has affirmed Rome is ready to offer its tanker aircraft (most probably the advanced KC-767 aerial refuelers).

Image credit: U.S. Air Force

 

[Video] Ten of the most dangerous carrier deck mishaps

Take off and landing from an aircraft carrier can be extremely dangerous.

Even if they are extremely important to project power across the globe, aircraft carriers and their flight decks are among the most dangerous working places all around the world.

Planes and helicopters that operate from aircraft carriers and huge ships face space constraints, weight limits, challenging weather conditions and, usually, unavailability of a nearby divert airfield: that’s why in spite of a lot of training and skills, something goes wrong every now and then.

The following video shows some famous and other less known mishaps, close-calls and incidents aboard U.S. and foreign aircraft carriers and warships at sea.

Obviously there are many other videos available on the Web. Let us know which one in your opinion is the most shocking or somehow interesting footage showing a carrier deck mishap.

 

Pilots explain how Navy’s F-4 Phantoms intercepted Soviet Bombers near U.S. aircraft carriers

Developed as interceptor to protect U.S. Navy’s Carrier Battle Groups (CVBG), the F-4 had frequent close encounters with Soviet Tu-95 and Tu-16 bombers near aircraft carriers around the world

U.S. Navy F-4 Phantom jets were frequently launched by American flattops to intercept and shadow USSR strategic bombers that skirted aircraft carriers at low level to probe their reaction times.

The F-4s involved in these kind of interceptions, had the main task to ensure that all airborne intruders were met within the Carrier Group’s outer air defense perimeter.

LCDR Fred Staudenmayer, who was the first RIO (Radar Intercept Officer) to command an East Coast F-4J operational USN squadron (the VF-33 Tarsiers from Jun. 21, 1973 to Jan. 19, 1974, had several chances to intercept Tu-95s and Tu-16s during his deployment in the Mediterranean sea.

Staudenmayer explained one of these close encounters with Soviet bombers in Peter E. Davies book F-4 Phantoms U.S. Navy and Marine Corps Gray Ghosts:

“I once launched against a Soviet Tu-95 Bear that was almost upon the carrier when initially detected by our pathetic ship’s radar. […] I had the radar operating and detected a huge radar blip at about twelve miles, followed right away by a visual, and we were able to join up on his wing before he passed over the carrier at about 500 ft. This was always the goal and the politically correct thing: be on Bear or Badger’s wing, showing the world that you were escorting these uninvited visitors. […] During a cruise in the Bay of Biscay in USS Independence we had a large number of Soviet over-flights, thirty or forty as I recall, and we intercepted all of them (with assistance from sensors external to the Fleet!).”

Dealing with the attack profile followed by the F-4s during the interception: ”As a general rule, our attack profile started from a low or mid CAP (Combat Air Patrol) station (5,000 or 15,000 ft), and depending on ranges, etc. we would be in climbing attack, usually trying to attack from below. Not too much thought was given to vertical separation, sun position, hiding in the clouds, etc. These were all-weather attack profiles,” Staudenmayer recalled.

The main Bear and Badger weapons were their long range air-to-surface missiles, which caused several concerns to the Phantoms crews according to Staudenmayer:

“As the Soviet air-to-surface missiles got faster and more formidable capable our CAP stations got pushed further and further out. The goal was to be in a position to destroy the targeting or launch aircraft prior to missile release. Nevertheless, we usually trained against descending supersonic missile simulation […] We always thought we had a pretty good capability against such missiles, and an outstanding capability against Bears and Badgers.”

The F-4s belonging to the VF-11 Red Rippers were also involved in many Tu-16 interceptions, and William Greer told to Davies how several of them took place at night:

“Many intercepts were run at night, and the Badger would frequently shine a rather bright and distracting light at the escorting Phantom pilot. VF-11 rigged up a very strong spotlight, powered from the Phantom’s electrical system, and the first time we hit the Badger with that their performance became somewhat more restrained. I once intercepted a Bear while returning from my cruise in USS Enterprise, and with the aid of my two years of Russian at the Naval Academy, some white cards and a grease pencil, exchanged brief notes with the crewman occupying the rear gun sighting position.”

Another U.S. Navy Spook (as the legendary Phantom was dubbed by its personnel) pilot, Steve Rudloff, who experienced several Bear encounters, revealed that despite the tense moments, funny  events took place during these interceptions, as happened when one Tu-95 rear gunner offered a bottle of vodka to him: “ On Alert 5 (the high alert condition for crew members on the deck) aircraft for a brief time the back seat was equipped with a copy of Playboy magazine. I took off and intercepted a Bear, and in retaliation for the vodka I flashed the magazine centerfold, getting a hearty smile and a thumbs-up in response. We were always taking pictures of them, and vice versa. We were more than willing to take our oxygen masks off and let them get pictures.”

Moreover as explained by Rudloff, Phantom pilots experienced also chatty times with Soviet aircrews: “There was a point on one of my cruises where we actually spoke to some of Bears crew members. We indicated which frequency we were on and talked to a crew member who spoke English. He told us he lived in Moscow. Suddenly there was some talk in the background in Russian, and the conversation ceased, even though we tried to raise him again.”

F-4 Phantom II intercept

Image credit: U.S. Navy via F-4 Phantom II FB page