A Socata TBM-700 flown by a non-responsibe pilot crashed 14 miles off Jamaica, while enroute to Naples, Florida. Several U.S. Air Force plane took part in the escort mission.
On Sept. 5, a Socata TBM-700, N900KN, departed at 08.26LT from Rochester, New York, end en route to Naples, Florida, whose pilot had become unresponsive, crashed 14 miles off the coast of Jamaica, after running out of fuel.
The pilot had requested the Air Traffic Control to descend to a lower altitude because of a problem but became unresponsive as the TBM-700 was flying at FL250.
Military Radio Comms Expert Allan Stern monitored most of the flights involved in the escort of the unresponsive private plane and his logs helped us to draw a more detailed picture of the U.S. Air Force’s response to the emergency.
Image credit: U.S. Air Force
At 10.00 NORAD (North American Aerospace Defense Command) scrambled two F-16s out of McEntire ANGB, South Carolina, callsign “Stalk 52″. The two “Vipers” escorted the TBM-700 until they were reached by a flight of two F-15s, belonging to the Florida Air National Guard, out of Jacksonville, Florida, radio callsign “Lucky 01″.
The fighter planes were heard on frequency 141.625 talking one another about the TBM plane flown by a non-responsive pilot who was slumped forward.
Both tried to contact the pilot on VHF Emergency “Guard” frequency 121.5 MHz.
The interceptors were supported by “Gasman 02″, an Alabama ANG KC-135R, 58-0106, out of Birmingham AL, under control of NORAD’s Huntress on UHF frequency 260.9.
As the TBM-700 continued to fly southbound, they switched to Miami Control at Palm Beach, on frequency 270.325.
Later on, Stern heard “Stalk 52″ as it was RTB (returning to base) to McEntire, telling NORAD’s Huntress on 228.9, that he was able to see the pilot slumped over, but that the pilot began to breath when the plane descended to lower altitude, indicating that he had been oxygen starved.
The two F-15s shadowed the unresponsive plane until it entered the Cuban airspace. The TBM-700, overflew Cuba and started to lose altitude approaching Jamaica. It crashed about 14 miles off the coast of Port Antonio, Jamaica at about 2:15 p.m. EDT.
Some of them are well described in the book The Sword of David – The Israeli Air Force at War, written by Donald McCarthy.
According to McCarthy, who served in the U.S. Air Force from 1964 to 1968 before becoming a respected and well informed historian, the information for Operation Orchard is alleged to have come from Ali Reza Asgari, an Iranian general disappeared in February 2007, who may have been the source of the intelligence required by the Syrian nuclear site attack.
After gathering the required details, the Israelis planned a secret mission that was launched on Sept. 6 2007, at night.
McCarthy points out the fact that Syria as well as other Arab countries were equipped with advanced Russian air defense systems, such as the Pantsir-S1 (SA-22 Greyhound as reported by NATO designation), claimed to be immune to electronic jamming. At the time of Operation Orchard, Syria operated twenty nine of these advanced air defense systems, so it remains unclear how the IAF aircraft flew undetected into the night sky out over the Mediterranean Sea, across the Euphrates River and along their route to the nuclear facility.
As explained by McCarthy, according to the most widely accepted theory the strike force included one or more Gulfstream G550 aircraft, equipped with the IAI Elta EL/W-2085 radar system.
Indeed, the success of the operation was largely attributed to effectiveness of the Israeli Electronic Warfare platforms that supported the air strike and made the Syrian radars blind: some sources believe that Operation Orchard saw the baptism of fire of the Suter airborne network system against Syrian radar systems.
This system, combined with the F-15Is electronic warfare capabilities, shut down Syrian air defense systems, providing the other airplanes the cover they needed to hit and destroy the Dir A-Zur nuclear plant.
After the attack, the initial reports stated that the IAF aircraft had almost entirely destroyed the nuclear site, claims that were also confirmed by the comparison of pre and post-attack satellite imagery.
Even if the incident was shrouded in secrecy, Turkish media outlets reported that external fuel tanks were found on the ground not far away from the Syrian border: as reported by Shlomo Aloni & Zvi Avidror in their book Hammers Israel’s Long-Range Heavy Bomber Arm: The Story of 69 Squadron, these external fuel tanks were identified by foreign press as belonging to F-15 aircraft.
The dogfight took place off the coast of Penang, Malaysia, Jun. 16, 2014, during “Cope Taufan 2014″ a biennial LFE (large force employment) exercise taking place June 9 to 20 designed to improve U.S. and Malaysian combined readiness.
Both aircraft are currently deployed to Royal Malaysian Air Force P.U. Butterworth, Malaysia.
The exercise, that marks the F-22’s first deployment to Southeast Asia, featured also some interesting mixed formation between U.S. planes with Royal Malaysian Air Force MIG-29N Fulcrum, Su-30 and F-18 Hornet jets.
Four Russian Air Force Tu-95 Bear were intercepted by F-22s near Alaska. Two of the strategic bombers came within 50 miles from California Coast.
As we reported few days ago, a U.S. Air Force RC-135U performing a routine surveillance mission in international airspace over the Sea of Okhotsk, north of Japan, some 60 miles off eastern Russia on Apr. 23, was intercepted by a Russian Su-27 Flanker.
Just in case you though only U.S. (spy)planes fly in the vicinity of the Russian airspace, the Washington Free Beacon unveiled that U.S. fighter planes were scrambled to intercept four Tu-95 Bear H bombers, two of those came within 50 miles of California coast.
Two USAF F-22 Raptor stealth jets, most probably from 3rd Wing at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson intercepted the “intruders”, that were seemingly conducting a training attack run, over the Aleutians.
Then, two of the four Tu-95s headed back home, whereas the remaining two flew off Northern California, triggering another alert scramble by NORAD (North America Aerospace Defense Command) that dispatched two F-15s to intercept and shadow the Russians.
According to the defense officials who talked to the Free Beacon, the bombers were supported on their (typical) long range mission by two IL-78 tankers .
33 years ago, one of the most famous and dangerous long range attack mission in Israeli Air Force history.
Israeli Air Force’s interest in the Lockheed Martin F-16 was born after the Yom Kippur War when the IAF realized that, alongside the F-15 Eagle, they needed a new, advanced, relatively cheap, multirole jet.
The negotiations with the U.S. to acquire the F-16 started in 1975 and after some years of delay, caused by the Middle East tensions, the Fighting Falcon sale was finalised in 1979 as result of the Camp David peace treaty between Israel and Egypt.
The first F-16s were delivered to the IAF in 1980 and the following year, before all the Netz (as the F-16A is called by IAF) were handed over, the new Vipers took part in one of the most famous mission in Israeli Air Force history, the Operation Opera.
The operation was aimed at destroying the Iraqi Osirak nuclear plant, also called Tamuz 1, at Al Tuwaitha, 12 miles southeast of Baghdad.
As explained by Bill Norton in his book Air War on the Edge, A History of the Israel Air Force and its aircraft since 1947, the IAF conducted this attack following Saddam Hussein’s bellicose claims which led to the Israeli fear that the French-built facility could have the capabilities to produce weapons-grade fissionable material.
The training was conducted in the Negev where a mock-up of the nuclear plant was built: against this facility at least two attacks were simulated in August and September 1980. After the training missions, four dates were set and after three of them were cancelled, on Sunday May 10, 1981 pilots were already aboard their aircraft when the operation was cancelled once again because of the risk some French employees could be inside the Osirak plant at the time of the attack.
But finally on Jun. 7, 1981 at 15:55LT Operation Opera was launched.
Eight F-16s, belonging to both 117 and 110 Squadrons both based at Ramat David, took off from Etzion, the best placed base for the attack, escorted by six F-15s while an E-2C Hawkeye provided airborne early warning and control and several CH-53s for SAR duties were deployed near the Iraqi border.
Two more Fighting Falcons were kept as a reserve.
The F-16s were armed with two 2,000 pounds Mk. 84, two AIM-9J Sidewinders, two 370 gal. external tanks under the wings and one 300 gall tank under the belly.
As told by Norton, the Israeli jets flew more than 600 miles in the skies of three supposedly enemy nations: to reach the target, the first country that the aircraft overflew was northern Saudi Arabia and its deserts.
At 17:35 with the sun at their back complicating any intercept attempt, the aircraft arrived over the target: before releasing their bombs the F-16s lit their afterburners at about 12.5 miles from the nuclear plant, climbed to 8,000 ft and then dived at 600 kts releasing their Mk. 84s at 3,500 ft.
The weapons were delivered on target by two waves of four Falcons each.
Even if two bombs missed the target the others were able to destroy and damage the reactor and several facilities. Some Mk. 84s had very long delayed fuzes to avoid any attempts to repair or rebuild the plant.
The attackers remained on the reactor site for less than two minutes and the only opposition they faced, were an inefficient AAA fire and some SAM launches which missed the F-16s.
On their way home, the Fighting Falcons climbed to 40,000 ft to save fuel and overflew the third hostile country, Jordan, which however didn’t show any opposition against them.
One F-15 and one F-16 diverted from the planned route to complicate any intercept attempts, while all the aircraft landed at Etzion after a 3 hours of mission, during which no aircraft was damaged.
A documentary (spit into three videos you can find below) explains how IAF planned and executed the Operation Opera, to date one of the best examples of how a long range attack mission can be carried out.