Tag Archives: F-16

New Photos of Russian Planes intercepted by Norwegian Fighter Jets

Here’s a nice collection of images shot by the Royal Norwegian Air Force during the recent close encounters with Russians off Norway.

On Dec. 18, two RNoAF F-16s in QRA (Quick Reaction Alert) were scrambled from Bodo airbase to intercept an unidentified aircraft flying off the north of Norway.

The aircraft was later identified as an Il-20 Coot intelligence gathering plane, flying in international airspace off Finmark.

The news of the latest close encounter was given by the Norwegian media outlet Nordland in an article on their website which included an extremely interesting collection of images (some of those posted below) taken by RNoAF pilots during recent intercept missions of Russian Air Force combat planes.

Here below, an armed Mig-31:

Mig-31 side
A couple of weeks ago, the RNoAF released HUD (Head Up Display) footage of an F-16 almost colliding mid-air with a Russian Mig-31 Foxhound flying alongside Su-34 Fullbacks.

Below, an armed Tu-22M:

Tu-22

Tu-22 missile

A Su-24 Fencer:

Su-24

Bottow view of an armed Mig-31 Foxhound:

Mig-31

Il-78 refueling a Tu-95 Bear:

Il-78 refueled

Image credit: RNoAF

H/T to Stefan Bøyum Schlömilch for the heads-up

 

U.S. Air Force has approved mass production of the stealthy JASSM air-launched cruise missiles

According to Lockheed Martin the U.S. Air Force granted a consent to start mass production of the extended range variant of the Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile, also known as AGM-158B.

The JASSM-ER has successfully completed the USAF program of Initial Operational Test and Evaluation. Out of 21 launches, 20 were successful. USAF plans to acquire 100 ER variant missiles within Lot 11 and 12, specified by the contract signed in Dec. 2013.

According to Lockheed Martin, more than 1500 examples have been produced so far. Target quantity to be delivered to the USAF is 4,900 missiles.

Lockheed Martin stated that the decision undertaken by the U.S. Air Force means that the flying branch is confident the new missiles can provide an effective first-strike capability in dense air defense environments.

AGM-158B JASSM-ER missile is capable of striking targets at ranges of at least 925 kilometers (ca. 500 miles), and it is armed with a dual-mode penetrator equipped with a blast-fragmentation warhead.

The missile itself has been designed, similarly as the A variant, with stealth features. Missile uses two-mode GPS/Infra-Red guidance system, which contributes to its precision strike capabilities.

So far, solely the B-1B bombers possess a capability of using the ER variant of the missile. The basic version, the AGM-158A, can be dropped by B-2s, B-52s, F-16s and F-15Es. However, back in April this year press releases by USAF suggested that JASSM-ER is to be also integrated with F-15E, F-16 and B-52H fleets.

Whilst Australia and Finland use the A-variant of the missile with their F/A-18 Hornets, the baseline JASSM is also to be procured soon by the Polish Air Force for the F-16 Block 52+ planes.

As explained earlier this year, the Polish deal, a bit expensive at the first sight (with 40 missiles worth about $250 million), should also include a modernization bundle for the Polish Air Force F-16 fighters.

The Polish Vipers are to be upgraded up to the M6.5 standard, in order to facilitate use of the new weapons system. The upgrade includes modification in the avionics to improve Link-16 data exchange system and IFF capabilities, the update of the AIDEWS defensive suite, as well as modernization of the Sniper targeting pods. Nevertheless, a larger Mid-Life Update program should be undertaken by the fleet in the next few years, according to the Polish media outlet Dziennik Zbrojny.

According to the official information released by the Polish Ministry of Defense, Minister Tomasz Siemoniak expressed the Poland’s will to procure the ER variant as well even though it is yet unclear whether the M6.5 upgrade would provide the Polish Vipers with the -ER capability in advance.

Poland has signed Letter of Acceptance, regarding procurement of the first 40 missiles on Dec. 11. 2014 at Krzesiny AB, near Poznan.

The agreement falls within the US Foreign Military Sales program and the first deliveries are to take place in the second half of 2016. One additional missile is to be delivered for test firing purposes. Initial Operational Capability is planned to be achieved by 2017, as the F-16 modernization program is to be started in the 2nd half of 2016, at a pace of 2 fighters per month.

The JASSM-ER can be considered to be a strategic weapon, so it will most probably boost Poland and NATO’s deterrence capabilities in eastern Europe: will it be an effective deterrent? Hard to say. For sure, the air-launched cruise missiles are not the only measure the Polish Armed Forces are acquiring at the moment to face the Russian threat. There are additional programs, including the procurement of NSM (Naval Strike Missile) systems.

Secondly, as one of The Aviationist readers pointed out, the M6.5 upgrade for the F-16 fighters may mean that they would be capable of using the AIM-120D air-to-air missiles that have been reserved exclusively for the USAF so far.

These missiles may provide a significant boost of the Polish Viper’s air-to-air capabilities, which would be implemented in the shadow of JASSM deal, but this claim has not been officially confirmed. The Air Force has already stated that it analyses potential implementation of new armament that may be used by the Viper thanks to the envisaged upgrades.

Lastly, as Polish MoD Secretary of State said the use of the JASSM missiles will not be externally limited by the US Authorities. This means that Poland will be free to use the missiles at its own will, if needed.

Image credit: Lockheed Martin

 

Video allegedly shows Norwegian F-16 almost collide with Russian Mig-31 during Su-34 intercept mission

The Royal Norwegian Air Force has released an HUD (Head Up Display) video that would show Russian aggressive flying.

The RNoAF has released HUD (Head Up Display) footage, filmed by an F-16 of the 331 Sqn, based at Bodo, during the escort of a Russian Su-34 Fullback long-range strike planes on armed patrol off Finmark on Oct. 29.

This was the first time the Su-34s were observed and identified while flying in international airspace off Norway.

Although the video does not show it very clearly, according to Norway’s military as the F-16 was getting closer to the Su-34’s left wing, a Mig-31 that was escorting the Foxhound initiated a sudden maneuver, forcing the Norwegian interceptor to perform an evasive left turn to avoid a mid-air collision.

As said, the footage does not show the close call: all we can see is the F-16 roll to the left while approaching the Mig-31 (that appears to be flying more or less straight when it enters the HUD field of view). Nevertheless, Nowegian authorities said the video prove how dangerous and aggressive Russian pilots are during such close encounters that have become quite frequent in the Nordic region of Europe.

Photographs taken by RNoAF F-16s on QRA (Quick Reaction Alert) at Bodo airbase were released last month: they depict a Su-34 Russian aircraft carrying what looks like a single external fuel tank and two Vympel R-73 air-to-air missiles, shadowed by another F-16 carrying two drop tanks and two AIM-120 AMRAAM (Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missiles).

H/T Lars Westholm for the heads-up

 

Video of E-3F AWACS refueled mid-air by French tanker over Iraq

French C-135FR refueling Belgian Air Force F-16 and E-3F AWACS over Iraq during air strikes on ISIS.

You don’t see an AWACS refuel mid-air too often. Although AAR (Air-to-Air Refueling) of E-3s take place quite often, the size of the aircraft and the rotating radar dome may make the operation a bit more difficult than usual.

In this case, the video shows a French Air Force E-3F taking gas from a French C-135FR over Iraq, during air strikes on ISIS in both Syria and Iraq.

During the same sortie, the French tanker refueled also an F-16AM of the Belgian Air Force, carrying a GBU-12 LGB (Laser Guided Bomb), a GBU-38 JDAM (Joint Direct Attack Munition), two AIM-120 AMRAAMs (Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missiles) and two AIM-9 Sidewinder IR-guided air-to-air missiles.

The aging fleet of C-135FRs, the French variant of the C-135 used as dual-role tanker/cargo and troop carrier aircraft, will be replaced with A400M and A330 MRTT (Multi Role Tanker Transport) aircraft.

[Photo] NATO Nuclear Exercise “Steadfast Noon 2014″

Here are some images of Steadfast Noon 2014, a NATO Nuclear exercise.

With news, AIP supplements, comments all over the Internet, and photographs published on aviation websites and spotters forums across Europe, it’s not a secret that, at the end of October, Ghedi airbase, in northern Italy, hosted Steadfast Noon 2014, a yearly exercise whose aim was to train NATO units employing “special weapons” (i.e. nuclear bombs).

Tornado IDS turn

Needless to say, such exercises are routinely conducted without the aircraft carrying any bomb, since their purpose is to train the crews to load and unload nukes and to assess the participating units’ ability to safely deal with this kind of ordnance.

Turkish AF F-16 landing

In other words, Steadfast Noon exercises and Strikeval (Strike Evaluation) inspections and certifications are extremely important to ensure nuclear weapons can be properly managed should the need arise.

F-16 AV

Among the various European air arms taking part in Steadfast Noon there was also the Polish Air Force, that deployed to Ghedi its F-16 Block 52+ jets from Lask air base, in western Poland, the same airbase where U.S. F-16 are being frequently rotated.

As highlighted by the Federation of American Scientists in an article by Hans M. Kristensen, the participation of the Polish F-16s is particularly interesting since they are not believed to be assigned a nuclear strike mission under NATO nuclear policy.

F-16 RNlAF

Anyway, in this post you can find some interesting photographs depicting the Steadfast Noon participants, from Poland, Belgium, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Turkey, and United States, taken by photographer Fabrizio Berni.

F-16 BAF

Tornado GAF

Image credit: Fabrizio Berni