Blue Flag exercise in Israel gathered combat planes from Poland, Greece and U.S.
Blue Flag 2015 is the biggest aerial exercise in the history of the Israeli Air Force.
Kicked off on Oct. 18 and continuing through Nov. 3, the Blue Flag drills gathered to Ovda airbase, near Eilat, in southern Israel, combat planes from the U.S., Poland and Greece involved in a series of missions that saw them fight a fictional enemy through nearly all the airspace over Israel (condensation trails of the aircraft taking place in the exercise could be seen even from Tel Aviv).
The Hellenic Air Force took part in the exercise with five F-16C/D Block 52+ jets (from 337 Sq., based at Larissa), the same type of aircraft deployed to Israel by the Polish Air Force. The U.S. Air Force brought to Ovda six F-15C belonging to the 493 FS from RAF Lakenheath, UK. All these assets joined the local squadrons of F-15 Baz, F-16C/D Barak, F-16I Sufa and the about-to-be-retired F-16A Netz aggressors.
Although little more is known about Blue Flag, the IAF has released some cool shots showing the aircraft flying over the Dead Sea and the Negev Desert as well as on the ground at Ovda airbase.
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.