Tag Archives: Eurofighter Typhoon

Russian Tu-22 bomber scares NATO air defenses flying at supersonic speed over the Baltic Sea for the first time

The latest close encounter between NATO and Russian planes over the Baltic Sea was  different.

Early morning on Mar. 24, NATO and Swedish QRA (Quick Reaction Alert) interceptors were scrambled  to identify and shadow a formation of two Russian Air Force Tu-22M Backfire bombers escorted by two Su-27 Flanker aircraft.

As usual, the aircraft were flying with no FPL, no transponder, in international airspace. But, unlike all the previous events the leading Tu-22M bomber was flying at supersonic speed!

As a consequence of the high-speed of the Russian planes, the Italian Air Force Eurofighter Typhoon jets, providing BAP (Baltic Air Patrol) duties from Siauliau airbase, Lithuania, had to perform a supersonic run to intercept and escort the Tu-22s and accompanying Su-27s.

According to our sources, this was the very first time a Russian Air Force plane flying from mainland Russia to Kaliningrad Oblast was flying abeam Latvia, within the Riga FIR (Flight Information Region), heading towards Denmark and the Scandinavian peninsula at supersonic speed.

The Backfire decelerated to subsonic speed and rejoined with the rest of the formation that was picked up by a flight of two Su-27s from Kaliningrad that relieved the other two Flankers.

Although the Russians did not violate any rule, their flying without transponder, without establishing radio contact with any ATC agency, may pose dangers to civilian aviation. Even more so, if the bombers or their escort jets fly at supersonic speed or aggressively react to aircraft that are launched to intercept them.

Some analysts believe the purpose of the flight was provocative: Moscow has recently warned Denmark that if it joins Nato’s missile defense shield, its navy will be a legitimate target for a Russian nuclear attack.

As a side note, on the afternoon on Mar. 24, the Italian Typhoons were scrambled again to perform another supersonic interception of two Su-27 Flanker returning to mainland Russia from Kaliningrad: the pair that had been relieved by the second flight of Flankers earlier on the same day.

H/T to Erik Arnberg for providing additional details.

Image credit: Alex Beltyukov – RuSpotters Team /Wikipedia

 

Italian Typhoon jets have started Operational Testing and Evaluation in the air-to-ground role

The Italian Eurofighter Typhoons are involved in the OT&E in the air-to-ground mission.

In the last weeks, the Italian Air Force Typhoons currently deployed to Decimomannu airbase in Sardinia have flown with Litening targeting pods and inert GBU LGBs (Laser Guided Bombs), the first sign of their involvement in the OT&E (Operational Testing and Evaluation).

Indeed, the Italian F-2000s (as the aircraft are designated within the Italian Air Force) are conducting tests aimed at assessing their potentiality in the air-to-ground role: not only is a multi-role Typhoon capable to carry Paveways and JDAMs (Joint Direct Attack Munitions), already used by the ageing Tornado and AMX (that will be replaced by the F-35 in the future), useful for the Aeronautica Militare as it is for the Royal Air Force, but it could also be more appealing for potential foreign buyers.

Although the air superiority role remains priority, considered their ability to use the ordnance in inventory for other aircraft (including the Storm Shadow air launched staff off missile), the Eurofighter will possibly be used in the swing role or as “back up” attack platforms within the Italian Air Force for several years to come.

Typhoon with GBUs

Image credit: Giampaolo Mallei

 

Listen to Russian Strategic Bombers talk to their Ground Control while skirting UK airspace

Here is an interesting six-minute-long message recorded using a high frequency radio.

On Feb. 18, two Russian Air Force Tu-95MS Bear bombers on a long-range patrol flew close to the UK airspace off Cornwall.

Although the 60-year old 4-engine powered turboprop planes remained in international airspace, they were shadowed by two RAF Typhoons in QRA (Quick Reaction Alert): something that is becoming a sort of routine considered the frequency of such Russian missions over northern Europe.

Noteworthy, as the Bear H aircraft flew close to UK, Tom Hill, a radio enthusiast and reader of The Aviationist, using an HF receiver, recorded the following 6-minute audio.

It’s a coded message believed to be a message passed by the Tu-95 to a female controller on the Russian Air Force Strategic HF Voice net.

Any Russian reader can translate it? If so, leave a comment below.

Interestingly, according to one of our sources, for the first time in several months, the entire Bear mission on Feb. 18 was supported by a Russian airborne command and control aircraft: the Ilyushin Il-80 (NATO reporting name “Maxdome”).

 

[Video] Russian strategic bomber films British and French jets escorting it

British and French fighter jets shadow a Russian Tu-95 bomber, and surprisingly the footage is recorded by the crew members of the Tu-95.

Here is an interesting video filmed from inside a Tu-95 Bear escorted by Royal Air Force Typhoons and French Air Force Mirage 2000s during one of the recent missions of the Russian Air Force strategic bombers in northern Europe.

Even though RAF jets were scrambled on Feb. 18 to intercept two Tu-95MS bombers off the Cornwall coast, the footage was probably filmed on Jan. 29, when two Bears, accompanied by Mig-31 Foxhound long-range interceptors, were refueled twice by Il-78 Midas aerial refuelers and were intercepted and escorted by RAF Typhoons, Norwegian F-16s and French Mirage 2000s at various stages of their trip.

Indeed, the video briefly shows also an armed French Mirage shadowing the Russian Bear.

H/T to Ka Kiu Chan for the heads up

Red Flag 15-1: Simulating Modern Warfare at Nellis Air Force Base

Over the past 40 years the US Air Force-sponsored Red Flag exercise has established itself as the premier integrated air warfare exercise in the world.

The first of 2015’s 4 scheduled Red Flags is taking place at Nellis AFB from Jan. 26 to Feb. 13 with two mission windows (mid afternoon and early evening) flown each day. Each daily mission involves approx. 60-70 aircraft with each aircraft type representing a specific capability set utilized to accomplish the mission objectives.

Forces are divided in Red Air (hostile) and Blue Air (friendly). Red Air is primarily flown by the 64th Aggressor Squadron of Nellis AFB flying F-16s and F-15Cs painted colorfully, and trained specifically to use tactics representing hostile forces. In this particular Red Flag F-15Es from Seymour Johnson AFB, NC also mixed it up by representing strikers (ground attack) flying on the side of Red Air.

F-16 Aggressors

Missions are flown over the Nevada Test and Training Range (NTTR) which covers 12,000 sq. miles of airspace in central Nevada (5,000 sq m restricted range plus the adjacent 7,000 sq m Military Operating Area (MOA).

While Red Flag may have been seen in the past as an international air combat exercise, it is now much more. This exercise represents the cutting edge of training, and as such now includes unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), space assets, electronic warfare, the latest radar systems and cyber security threats. Every effort is made to simulate the known and anticipated tactics of a potential adversary. While difficult for the casual mind to conceive how all these threats are simulated, suffice it to say Red Flag integrates all threats and capabilities in a full on simulated war environment for the war of today and tomorrow. Blue Air receives specific mission objectives to achieve in this dynamic, high threat environment.

F-15C close up

Red Flag 2015-1 included US Air Force, Navy, Marine & Air National Guard units, as well as Participation from the Royal Air Force (RAF) and the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF), a roster of participating aircraft and units is available here. While many of the aircraft roles are understood, Flight Lt Andrew North, 1 Air Control Center, RAF Scampton, noted that the RAF Typhoons flew primarily in the “Swing Role” carrying Paveway 4s with the objective to fight their way in, drop their ordinance, and fight their way out.

Typhoon taxi

This is not the first time the RAF Typhoons have carried the Paveway 4s, but it is a recently added capability. The RAF Typhoons also worked on tactical integration with the F-22 Raptors in Air to Air combat versus the Red Air forces.

B-2 Pilot, Captain Brandon “Bloc” Bond, 393rd Bomb Squadron, Whiteman AFB noted that the B-2s were configured to carry virtually any capable weapon (non-nuclear) in their inventory – all the way up to the Master Ordinance Penetrator, the Bunker Busting 30,000 lb GBU-57.

B-2 landing

With two B-2s in the air, a wide variety of ordnance options were available to the Mission Commander to deploy on target, at any given time (though the B-2 itself dropped no live ordinance). Approximately 50% of the Air to Ground (A2G) missions were flown dry (no ordinance dropped) 25% dropped inert ordinance, and 25% of the missions dropped live ordinance on designated range targets.

The mission participation of the RAAF C-130Js was described by Wing Commander Darren Goldie, 37 Squadron RAAF, Sydney, as slipping under the fight to achieve mission objectives. While Red air and ground assets battle at altitude, the relatively large and lumbering RAAF C-130Js fly as low as 250 ft on simulated missions to insert Special Forces, or land on a dry lake bed/unimproved airfield to resupply forward ground units.

Growler closeup

While the missions themselves may last only 90 minutes, the entire time spent in preparation, mission and debriefing equals about 12 hours. The debriefing includes real-time telemetry for review and provides an opportunity to learn from what tactics worked and what did not. The lessons learned in the Red Flag “battle” are taken back to be taught to non-participating squadron units and personnel.

The primary objective of the exercise is “asset & capability integration to achieve mission success.” As described by 1st Lt Paul Heins, Deputy Targets Chief, 547th Intelligence Squadron, Nellis AFB, “we want all participants to experience their first 10 combat mission sorties here at Red Flag, as it will increase their survivability tenfold when involved in fighting real wars.”

F-15C base turn

The integration and communication between units is a vital learned skill. This was captured by Airman First Class Johnelle Walker, 48th OSS Intelligence Squadron, RAF Lakenheath, who identified the greatest value of the exercise as integration, “From the first to the second week one sees the improvement in information sharing. Sometimes we are not beaten by enemy tactics, sometimes we beat ourselves by not sharing information and by not communicating effectively.” Red Flag teaches specialized units that each have unique capability sets to communicate and work together to achieve mission success.

F-15E SJ take off

While some question the cost and value of these exercises one can see them as parallel to a sports team holding “team scrimmages” prior to a championship game. Losing is not an option, and every good team learns how to take what may well be an international assembly of players with a wide variety of skill sets and through intense practice turn them into a championship team. In the case of Red Flag, the objective is to develop a championship war fighting machine. Red Flag ensures our military forces (including our coalition partners) are the best prepared, most capable, and ready forces in the world.

F-16 Lobos landing

Special thanks to the USAF 99th ABW PA MSgt. David Miller and PA Team

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.