Tag Archives: Belgian Air Force

The most interesting aircraft displayed at the Belgian Air Force Days

Here are some stunning photos of the Belgian Air Force Days, held at Kleine Brogel airbase.

On Sept. 13 – 14, Kleine Brogel airbase, in Belgium, hosted the Belgian Air Force Days, an airshow attended by several interesting local and foreign aircraft whose main themes were the +100 years of Military Air Power and the 40th anniversary of the F-16.

The air show, preceded by a Spotter Day on Sept. 12, was particularly interesting, as it featured not only the usual solo display of several aircraft types, including the Dassault Rafale and the Mig-29, but also a tactical event whose aim was to provide the spectators a better insight on the how the Belgian Air Force is integrated in a NATO operation: the BAF set up a fictional scenario based on the current PSO (Peace Support Operations) in Afghanistan, within which 10 F-16 jets, supported by A-109 and Mi-24 helicopters, B-Hunter UAV (from 80th UAV squadron of the BAF) and NATO E-3A AWACS demonstrated some of their capabilities to the public.

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Among the most interesting aircraft that took part in the BAF Days there were two Slovak Air Force Mig-29s, a single seater and a two-seat aircraft (the latter in static display only) belonging to the N° 1 Squadron. The Slovak Air Force is equipped with 12 Mig-29s based at Sliac.

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Even the Polish Air Force flew its Mig-29 Fulcrum, an aircraft they have used to provide Baltic Air Policing until Sept. 1.

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Another interesting aircraft was the F-16C Block 52+ of the Hellenic Air Force Solo Demonstration team “Zeus” from Souda Bay airbase, in Crete. The team, formed in 2009, flew its first official demo flight in November 2010 and has so far made only a few overseas appearances.

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Other highlights of the show included the special colored F-16 of the Solo Turk, the Turkish Air Force F-16 demo team, the Mirage 2000Ns of the RAMEX Delta display team of the French Air Force, the Dutch F-16 and AH-64 demo teams, the F-16 solo display of the Belgian Air Component, as well as the 7-ship Alpha Jet from 11sm formation of the Belgian Air Force.

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Several display teams took part in the show. Along with the world-famous Frecce Tricolori, Red Arrows and Patrouille de France, that have been flying for 50 years, there were also the PC-7 Team, the Team Breitling, the Royal Jordanian Falcons and a relatively new team on the airshow scene: the United Arab Emirates air force’s Al Fursan, or “The Knights”.

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The team flies six MB-339 trainers, the same aircraft as the Frecce Tricolori the team that helped the Al Fursan display team, in an attractive black and gold colour scheme, symbolizing the desert with oil underneath, with the colours of the United Arab Emirates’ flag on the bottom of the planes. The flag’s colours are also the colours of their smoke: white, red, green and black.

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All the images in this post were taken by The Aviationist’s photographer Alessandro Fucito during the BAF Days.

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Image credit: The Aviationist’s Alessandro Fucito

 

F-16, F/A-18 and Mig-29’s Solo demos at Roma International Air Show 2014

Two F-16 Fighting Falcon jets, one F-18 Hornet and one Mig-29 Fulcrum were among the most interesting foreign guests of Roma International Air Show 2014.

Along with the Frecce Tricolori and Patrouille de France display teams and the usual solo displays by the Italian Air Force’s F-2000, Tornado IDS, AMX and C-27J, Roma International Air Show 2014, didn’t fail to meet the expectations of about 1 million spectators bringing in the skies over Ostia, on the coast to the west of Rome, Italy, some really interesting guests: the Dutch F-16 Demo Team, the Belgian Air Force F-16 demo team, the Swiss Air Force F-18 demo and the Polish Air Force Mig-29 demo.

In this page you can see some images taken on Jun. 28, during the airshow rehearsals.

F-16 RNlAF Demo team:

F-16 RNlAF demo

Swiss Air Force F/A-18 Hornet:

F-18 Swiss Air Force

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F-18 fast climb

F-16 BAF Demo:

F-16 BAF turn and burn

F-16 BAF climb

F-16 cloud

Mig-29 Polish Air Force

Mig-29 pass

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Mig-29 Polish Air Force

Frisian Flag 2014: European Air Arms train for multinational air campaigns like Libya and Afghanistan

From Mar. 31 to Apr. 11, 60 aircraft from eight different European countries will take part to NATO Exercise Frisian Flag 2014 whose purpose is to train for complex, multinational operations, like those over Libya and Afghanistan. Ruben Veenstra and Lieuwe de Vries went to Leewarden airbase, in the Netherlands, to report from Frisian Flag for The Aviationist.

It’s 9 o’clock in the morning and the first fighters are lined up on Runway 27 of Leeuwarden AB, the Netherlands. It’s the second day of the NATO exercise Frisian Flag 2014. The exercise, held since 1992 (in 1999 it took its current name), is meant for European nations to train for multinational operations like those over Libya and Afghanistan. It is also an opportunity for pilots to engage in dissimilar aircraft training (DACT) missions.

Host nation aside, Belgians, Danish, Norwegians and Portuguese with their F-16s, Spain and Germany with their Eurofighters, and the Finnish with their F-18 Hornets are taking part to the Frisian Flag. Support will be provided by a French Air Force AWACS E-3F, a British civilian operated DA-20 for EW (Electronic Warfare) and a DA-42 M-NG in a S-UAV role. Yep, you read that right: that’s a heavily modified Diamond DA-42 (a type of surveillance plane flown by Ukraine as well) with basically all the electronics and equipment of a RQ-1 Predator due to an absence of European operated Predators. It’s a manned aircraft but for all intents and purposes during Frisian Flag, it’s a recon drone with a real live feed to Leeuwarden AB.

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In conjunction with Frisian Flag, the European Defense Agency is holding its first-ever multinational air-to-air refueling (AAR) exercises called, unglamorously, European Air-to-Air Refueling Training 2014 (EART14). A Dutch KDC-10, a German A310 and an Italian KC-767A will fly dedicated AAR (Air-to-Air Refueling) training missions from Eindhoven AB. Next to assisting Frisian Flag in AAR, they will train in Link 16 procedures, bailout procedures and multiple AAR formations. EART14 will also further certification for the Italian KC-767.

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EART14 was born out of the realization of European member states that they are suffering from a lack of equipment and interoperability. In comparison: the EU member states have 40 tankers of ten different types, whereas the U.S. have over 550 tankers of just three types. In recent years, the EDA has defined three objectives: increasing the overall AAR capacity, reducing fragmentation of the fleet and optimizing the use of assets.

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Although NATO-members have a long tradition of training with each other, Frisian Flag is one of the few initiatives in Europe that simulates large-scale wartime missions and conditions.

Complex missions are being flown above three countries (The Netherlands, Germany and Denmark) and will simulate real world operations like those in former Yugoslavia, Afghanistan and Libya. Missions range from defensive (like protection of ground objects and slow movers) to offensive missions (air interdiction and SEAD -Suppression of Enemy Air Defenses). To make things even more interesting, the Germans have placed SA-6s and SA-8s in the fighting area. The aircrews have no idea where they are placed, maximizing the training value. In turn, the Dutch have placed several Smokey Sams and inflatable targets.

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For Close Air Support missions the fighters will rely on JTAC (Joint Terminal Attack Controller) units from the Dutch Special Forces who have operated previously in Afghanistan. An active Link 16 network is set up for communications throughout the two-week exercise.

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Crews are divided in 12-hour morning and afternoon shifts with planning alone taking 6 hours a day. Each shift has a wave of 44 aircraft. This pace is being help up every day, for twelve consecutive days with the missions getting more and more complex along the way.

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Reporting by Ruben Veenstra; Photography by Lieuwe de Vries

 

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Inverted over the enemy: Mirage 2000 intercepts F-16 upside down

The first thing the image in this post reminded us is the famous scene of Top Gun (when Maverick turns its F-14 Tomcat upside down to give the finger to a Soviet Mig pilot) and the subsequent talk with “Charlie”:

 

C: “So, where exactly were you?”

M: “We started up on his six when he pulled through the clouds. I went above him.”

C: “If you were directly above him, how could you see him?”

M: “Because I was inverted.”

 

The photo was taken by a pilot of a French Air Force Mirage 2000-5F pilot during a training intercept on a Belgian Air Force F-16AM.

Most probably, the Belgian “Viper” did not react at all to the simulated attack by the French fighter jet belonging to the Groupe de Chasse 1/2 Cigognes (that posted the image on their Facebook page): every now and then, NATO and allied air forces take the opportunity to practice interception on military traffic transiting through their airspace of responsibility that agrees to be intercepted for training purposes.

Such close encounters terminate with the identification of the “zombie” and no simulated dogfight takes place, as the “enemy” plane is not involved in any exercise but is simply flying as a General Air Traffic.

Image credit: EC 1/2 French Air Force

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Operation Unified Protector (was Odyssey Dawn) explained (Day 81 – 104)

Previous debriefings: Archive

With the air campaign in Libya in progress for more than 100 days, I think it’s better to give the blog’s reader an extremely quick recap of the main political and military updates (just to recall the latest developments that can be found on mainstream media) and then focus a bit more on the many “Other interesting things, information and thoughts” section of my Debriefs.

On Jun. 27, the International Criminal Court (ICC) has issued an arrest warrant on suspicion of crimes against humanity for Libyan leader Gaddafi along with his closest aides: his son Saif al-Islam and intelligence chief Abdullah al-Senussi. Libya dismissed the ICC warrant, rejecting the authority of the tribunal.

In the meanwhile, with the air support of NATO, rebels are continuing their advance towards Tripoli: their forces are now within 50 miles from the capital. They have recently seized some Libyan arms depots located 25 km south of Zenten and collected many weapons left on the field by the retreating Gaddafi’s troops. Actually, they have also been supplied with large amounts of rocket launchers, assault rifles, machine guns and anti-tank missiles, into the Jebel Nafusa region by France, Le Figaro newspaper reported on Jun. 28 (citing an undisclosed source). These “humanitarian drops” gave the anti-Government forces the impetus to push towards the capital and to protect undefended civilians that were threatened by loyalists. For sure such air drops could not be done without a prior coordination with NATO, required for planes deconfliction; however, as important as informing partners of such mission was a prior coordination with liaison officers on the ground (like those I talked about on my last report) who could ensure that the dropped “goods” did not go in the wrong hands.

Anyway, NATO and partners’ air and sea activities have contributed to bring some stabilization in certain parts of Libya as Lieutenant General Charles Bouchard, Commander of the Operation Unified Protector, explained in Jun. 28 Press Briefing. Benghazi is now seeing signs of normalcy, while Brega and Ajdabiya continue to stabilize, even if “a significant size force in the Brega area” is still under the regime control.

Further to the west, in the Misratah area, the population has been able to move forward from the port while in the area between Zlitan and Dafiniyah the regime forces have placed around 300 civilians to shield themselves against any operations.

In the west, Nalut area is still under shelling by artillery pieces while fighting in the town of Yafran and Zlitan have stopped. “In Tripoli, the situation remains very tense. We have reports that the population has tried at some places to show some demonstrations against the regime. But these demonstrations have been very severely put down by a very repressive security force” Bouchard said.

Noteworthy, during the Press Briefing NATO showed reconnaissance imagery showing the words “TNX NATO” or “Thank you” written on a road next to a check point or on a roof top to be seen from above: a sign of appreciation for what NATO is doing in Libya from local population.

Dealing with figures of NATO air campaign, since the beginning of Unified Protector (Mar. 31, 08.00GMT) a total of 13.035 sorties, including 4.908 strike sorties, have been conducted.

Above: air strike sorties trend since Mar.31 (courtesy of @88simon88)

Few days earlier, on Jun.10, outgoing US Defense SecretaryRobert Gates had lashed out US European allies complaining that the poorly effective air campaign in Libya was pushing NATO towards  “collective military irrelevance.”

US SECDEF condemned European nations for years of shrinking defense budgets that have forced the US to play, once again, a major role in the NATO operation. With frustration, he said:

“The mightiest military alliance in history is only 11 weeks into an operation against a poorly armed regime in a sparsely populated country,  yet many allies are beginning to run short of munitions, requiring the U.S., once more, to make up the difference.”

However “a NATO with reduced capabilities is still better than no NATO at all”, he said.

Under a political point of view, another interesting news is that Germany will supply bombs and other ordnance components to help NATO in Libya in spite of Berlin’s opposition not only to join air strikes but also to flying support missions (you’ll remember the decision to remove their crews from NATO AWACS operating in Libya). It looks like the decision came after a request from NATO Maintenance and Supply Agency (NAMSA).

On Jun. 14 Tunisian AF F-5s & reconnaissance helicopters flew along the Tunisia-Libya bordar after Libyan troops fired rockets (thanks to @Marguer_D for the heads up). Tunisian planes had been reported flying along the border as “show of force” even on May 17, after pro-Gaddafi forces had fired shells to retake the border crossing near the small Tunisian town of Dehiba.

Other interesting information, things and thoughts:

1) On Jun. 19 NATO acknowledged that a missile had destroyed a civilian home in Tripoli, saying it may have killed civilians. Although NATO’s bombs had already hit rebels in the past months, it was the first such admission of collateral damages involving civilians in the three-month-long air campaign of airstrikes in Libya.

2) On Jun. 21, a US Navy unmanned helicopter MQ-8B Fire Scout, flying a reconnaissance mission over Libya, crashed at 07.20 AM LT. The only information disclosed by both NATO and USN is that the aircraft crashed on the coast so it is still unknown whether the UAS (Unmanned Aircraft System) lost control or was attacked and from where it was being controlled (even if it must have been a US ship in the area). It would be extremely interesting to know if the drone suffered communication link loss like the example lost on Aug. 2, 2010 when the little remotely-piloted helo, departed from NAS Patuxent River, because of a software glitch flew towards Washington DC and entered restricted airspace before another ground control station was able to regain command of the UAS and directed it to Webster Field, MD.

We already knew that, along with armed US Predators, unarmed US Global Hawks were flying reconnaissance missions in Libya in support of Unified Protector and that these could be soon joined by recently acquired (unarmed) Italian Air Force Predator B (MQ-9 Reaper) based in Amendola, that Italy could use over Libya by mid July. Now we know that also smaller drones flying from ships have been conducting ISR (Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance) missions.

3) On Jun. 10, the Dutch Government decided to extend the RNlAF contribution to the NATO operation in Libya until September 2011. The six F-16s deployed to Decimomannu airbase will not change their role and will not take part in air strikes.

However, in the same days, the Netherlands were asked to help replenish the RDAF stock because, having flown 346 sorties dropping 565 PGMs to date,  Danish F-16s deployed to Sigonella have almost ran out of bombs.

On Jun 9, the Norwegian government decided to keep contributing to Unified Protector with a reduced contingent of 4 (instead of 6) F-16s until Aug. 1. On Jun. 14 Aksel Magdahl provided the following tally of the RNoAF effort in Libya: 198 missions, 445 sorties, 409 bombs dropped. An interesting 6 mins movie about Norwegian missions from Souda Bay can be found here: http://forsvaret.no/aktuelt/publisert/nyheter/Sider/Rundet–2000-flytimer.aspx

Swedish parliament voted 230-18 in support of 3 month extension of SwLm JAS-39 Gripen mission in Libya on Jun. 17. As of Jun. 29, Swedish recce Gripens have conducted 248 missions shooting 130K images (@GripenNews).

4) Canadian air sorties as of 2359Z Jun. 27: CF-188: 461; CC-150: 138; CC-130: 46; CP-140: 82. Dealing with the 2 CP-140s, an interesting article published on the Canada National Defense website, explains that the “Aurora”, originally designed for anti-submarine warfare is being used also in ISR (intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance) missions.

Here’s an excerpt:

Throughout thosee early maritime surveillance missions, the Auroras showed their top-class form. Not only fast — they can do 400 knots, as fast as the CT-114 Tutor jets the Snowbirds fly — Auroras have plenty of stamina, staying aloft for up to 12 hours. They carry an array of sensors to gather and record the precise, reliable intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) data required to create a clear picture of the situation at ground level or at sea. With this unique combination of capabilities, the Auroras were a natural choice for inland ISR missions, and they now provide ISR data on Libya’s coastline, highways and command and control centres.

“This is a new role for us,” said Captain Stephanie Hale, the Air Combat Systems Officer and Operations Officer on Roto 0 of the Sigonella detachment. “The new mission suite systems, including electro-optic infrared and overland equipment, have changed what we’re able to provide, and changed where we’re able to work.”

For what concerns the CF-188s, on the Canadian Combat Camera website I’ve found a nice picture of a Hornet being washed (on Apr. 20) on arrival to Trapani from Iceland. Interestingly, it’s using the same “showers” used in the past by the 82° CSAR HH-3F of the ItAF based in Trapani as the picture below on the right (taken in 2008) shows.

According to what a senior Canadian official told AFP on condition of anonymity, the Canadian Air Force has decided to pull out of the NATO AWACS program to trim costs and eliminate budget deficit.

5) The recent Paris Air Show 2011, at Le Bourget, gave both Eurofighter and Dassault the opportunity to showcase their now combat-proven fighters, shortlisted for the Indian MMRCA tender. Hence, Typhoon and Rafale fought virtually with a series of  press briefings and war stories aimed at showing aircraft advantages on competitor hiding its flaws.

The “omnirole” Rafale can claim to have been the first aircraft to enter to Libyan airspace on Mar. 19 (even though I’ve already explained this happened in the Benghazi area where the risk of SAM and AAA fire was low) thanks to the Spectra integrated defensive aids suite developed by Thales. For sure although it can’t be considered as multirole as to be capable to perform a typical SEAD strike as an F-16CJ or a Tornado ECR, the French plane has the possibility to combine its sensors (such as the Spectra) and the AASM (Armement Air-Sol Modulaire  – Air-to-Ground Modular Weapon) PGM to identify, designate and hit ground targets. Furthermore, during Unified Protector, the AASM demonstrated to be effective against a tank at a range of 57 km.

The Rafale will also be the first European combat plane to use an electronic scanning radar; with “Tranche 4”, expected to be handed over from 2013, the 60 French upgraded Rafales will carry an AESA (Active Electronically Scanned Array) RBE2 radar (compatible with long range METEOR air-to-air missiles) whose beam can be pointed from one area to another one quickly, in all weather and in a jammed environment, and that can be used in air-to-air and air-to-ground modes at the same time, with an enhanced detection capability.

Image: French MoD

RAF 11 Sqn’s Squadron Leader Rupert Joel, just returned from Gioia del Colle, met the press at Le Bourget to talk about Typhoon’s sorties in Libya. He explained that Tornado GR4s are flying joint sorties with Eurofighter Typhoons as happened during Desert Storm, when Buccaneers accompanied Tornados in Iraq. Mixed pairs have been useful because “Tonka” navigators have assisted Typhoon pilots with laser targeting although GPS-guide has been preferred in many cases.

A typical sortie lasts 5.5 hours requiring three air-to-air refuellings. Some missions lasted up to 9 hrs. Typhoon usually carry four Enhanced Paveway II GPS/laser-guided bombs, a Litening III targeting pod, and AIM-120 air-to-air missiles (as picture below, released by Eurofighter, shows).

Slightly Off Topic

So, who’s gonna win in India? Difficult to say. Surely, Rafale is a more mature plane, capable of performing a wide variety of missions, from SEAD(-lite) to reconnaissance, and it is already available in navalised version for aircraft carrier ops. BTW for all Rafale news, info, configurations, etc, I suggest you to visit the Rafale News blog.

However, Eurofighter already has export customers that Rafale lacks, and it has an attractive user community that could give stronger strategic ties with 4 European nations. Furthermore, the Typhoon has a more powerful engine, a better BVR capability and is able to pull max G-load while launcing its weapons and carrying three external fuel tanks. It has also an extensive air-to-air missile load and can perform supersonic launching while supercruising with a large missile load. The Typhoon has a very lightweight operational bifocal Helmet Mounted Display, which in combination with the IRIS-T or ASRAAM High Off Boresight Missiles provides the F-2000 with superior dogfight capabilities. So, it’s a lethal weapon in the air-to-air scenario, and it has a potential still to be developed to become a real multirole. Finally, Eurofighter is working on a navalised Typhoon too….

6) Times Of Malta website has a video showing the last French emergency landing in Malta international airport in the night between Jun.30 and Jul. 1. It’s the second to involve Rafales. Although Times Of Malta says it is the first time, another Rafale diversion took place on Jun.8, 2011.

7) Again slightly off topic.

On Jun 22, Alenia Aeronautica, announced that it is evaluating the feasibility of an aircraft for the Italian Air Force to support National Special Forces Operations.

“The Italian Defence has decided to launch the so called Pretorian Programme, as a special version of the C-27J, in order to analyse potential technical solutions for providing weapons and integrated weapon systems, Communications Intelligence (COMINT), EO/IR Sensor (Electro optical/Infra-red) to the C-27J Aircraft, as existing platform”.

It would be interesting to know whether this aircraft is intended to replace or to support the only Italian G-222VS (currently used in Libya under NATO command).

8) More ItAF updates? Check its official website or the Italian MoD one once a week.