The following picture shows an F/A-18C Hornet Tactical Operational Flight Trainer (TOFT) that the U.S. Marine Corps have recently relocated to MCAS (Marine Corps Air Station) Iwakuni, Japan.
The TOFT is used to support the entire strike-fighter pilot’s training including radar intercept, imagery and warning system operation; weapons delivery; HARM (high-speed, anti-radiation missile) system operation; and electronic attack.
Previously located at Naval Air Station Atsugi, Japan, the TOFT hhas received various upgrades at Iwakuni: among them a sensor video-recording system that provides communication access and networking capability to interconnect it with other simulators, making air-to-air and air-to-ground tactical mission training involving other similar systems possible.
Published by Lt. Gen. Jarmo Lindberg, commander of the Finnish Air Force, on his Twitter timeline few days ago, the following picture (by Harri Koskinen) shows a F-18D Hornet routine arrested landing practice at Rovaniemi on the Arctic Circle.
The photograph is interesting because it shows an aircraft about to catch the wire on a land base and it is taken from a position that gives a clear view of the distance between the Main Landing Gear and the arrestor hook on the Hornet: 18.9 ft.
As explained in a post dealing with the difficulties of the F-35C to get aboard U.S. aircraft carriers, although the current JSF Carrier’s variant tailhook design was based on that of the Hornet, the F-18 geometry places the tailhook at a distance where the cable, after being trampled by the wheels, has enough time to respond and flex back to its original position, making cable catch “easy”.
On Oct. 3, the F-35B test aircraft BF-2, piloted by Marine Corps test pilot Lt. Col. Fred Schenk, performed the first at-sea vertical landing on USS Wasp’s (LHD 1) flight deck.
The first vertical landing marks the first step of the initial ship trials for the STOVL (Short Take Off Vertical Landing) version of the JSF (Joint Strike Fighter), whose goal is to collect data about the aircraft capabilities to perform take-offs and landing on a ship and its degree of integration with the vessel. The trials are expected to last two weeks.
Here’s the video of the first vertical landing.
You will notice that the landing procedure is almost the same used by the USMC (and Italian or Spanish Navy) AV-8B Harriers even if the F-35 should be much easier to fly and land than the “Jump Jet” thanks also to some hi-tech sensors and, above all, to the futuristic pilot’s helmet-mounted display system (HMDS), that combines images coming from a set of cameras mounted on the jet’s outer surfaces providing a sort of X-ray vision.
This post’s title is defiant but, oddly, the video doesn’t let you hear the aircraft engine noise that has been one of the issue of the STOVL JSF. According to some studies the F-35B could be two to three times louder than another modern fighter jet raising noise concerns for those onboard ship, both above and below deck.
As many already know by now, the F-35B si the most costly version of the already costly F-35B. But it is also vital to the USMC (and to the other foreign services, like the Marina Militare) that needs it to replace both the Harrier and the F-18 Hornet. So vital that there’s no “Plan B” if the F-35B does not survive after the two-year probation period that then-Defense Secretary Robert Gates placed upon the variant when it encountered technical and noise problems and fell behind the testing schedule.
The USMC needs an aircraft that can be based everywhere and able to support Marine ground operation from a forward located amphibious assault ship, an aircraft that would double the number of aircraft carriers able to carry strike aircraft. However the service has also a plan to buy 80 Carrier variant models, to support the Navy’s carrier fleet, even if the F-35B will be also able to operate from a USN supercarrier.
Noteworthy, the USS Wasp, already involved in the at-sea trials of the V-22, was stationed on the US East Coast, at a short helicopter ride from New York Harbor (along with the USS New York and the USS San Antonio) to provide relief and support after Hurricane Irene.
So, if the F-35C and (probably) B represent the future of the naval aviation, the F-18 both Legacy (C version) and Rhino/Super Hornet (E/F models) are the present. The following video provides a glimpse into today’s flying activities of a US Navy squadron (the VF-211) embarked on USS Enteprise.
In the last few weeks readers of this blog have had the opportunity to read articles and watch pictures taken at airshows all around the world: in September, with a series of posts, I described the 50th Anniversary of the Frecce Tricolori airshow in Rivolto; then, I reported about the RAAF Williamtown airshow thanks to the pictures and report provided by Ed Armstrong and a few days ago, I wrote a post about the famous Axalp airshow, attended this year by Simone Bovi. The “world airshow tour” completes with another interesting report, this time by Moreno Aguiari, a former Italian commercial and Cropduster pilot living in the USA, who attended the Wings over Atlanta airshow, at Dobbins Air Reserve Base, that among the others, featured the interesting displays of the US Navy Blue Angels and Canadian Snowbirds, a rare sight outside America. Moreno sent me the following pictures and wrote an interesting detailed report of the Dobbins airshow for the readers of this site:
In the Oct. 16-17 weekend, like previous years, the skies over Dobbins ARB in Atlanta were filled with aerobatics during the 2010 “Wings over Atlanta” airshow. Aerial feats were performed by noted military teams like the Navy’s own Blue Angels and the Air Force Academy’s Wings of Blue elite parachute team. International guests, like the Canadian Snowbirds were also in attendance, offering thrilling examples of advanced aerial skills and tricky formations. Along with the performers, the audience enjoyed static displays, food, and opportunities to talk to pilots, civilian and military personnel about their professions. After the 2008 air show became a traffic issue for many visitors, this year’s organizers reached out to area transit providers and lot owners for help. In response, 127 busses were contracted and used to transport nearly 200,000 spectators, free of charge, who arrived for the show both on Saturday and on Sunday. Parking space was provided by Lockheed Martin, located on the Dobbins base. Organizers were pleased with the results as crowds gasped and applauded at the many thrilling aerial exercises provided by the experienced pilots and their support teams. Other performances by Red Eagle, Dan Buchanan, Gary Rower, Bill Braak and his Smoke-N-Thunder Jet Car, F/A -18 Hornet Demo, Kent Pietsch Jelly Belly, Dobbins C-130 Airdrop, “Otto” The Helicopter (a favorite, especially among children), Georgia State Patrol Helo Demo, Viper East F-16 Demo, Sean D. Tucker/Oracle and others provided even more excitement for the day. The organization of the air show was handled by the 94th Airlift Wing, that is organized into a headquarters element, three groups, and a medical element containing 11 Squadrons and 4 Flights (1,800 personnel) and whose mission is threefold. The primary mission is to train C-130H aircrews for the United States Air Force — active duty, guard and reserve components. The second mission is to maintain combat ready units to deploy on short notice to support contingencies anywhere in the world. The third mission is to support all agencies and tenants at Dobbins Air Reserve Base.
The highlight of the show was, without a doubt, the performance of the US Navy Blue Angels F/A-18s and their support plane, the C-130, affectionately known as “Fat Albert”. The aerial demonstration begun by exhibiting the jet’s maximum performance capabilities during a ten-minute performance. Shortly thereafter, it was the time for the graceful aerobatic maneuvers of the four-jet Diamond Formation, in concert with the fast-paced, high-performance maneuvers of its two solo pilots. Finally, the team illustrated the pinnacle of precision flying, performing maneuvers locked as a unit in the renowned, six-jet Delta Formation.
The Blue Angels, although less aerobatic from a pure jet handling point of view than the USAF counterparts, the Thunderbirds, showed off some incredible precision flying, considering the size of Hornet. The Blue Angels were scheduled to fly 68 performances at 35 airshow sites in the United States during the 2010 season as the team celebrates its 23rd year of flying the F-18. The Dobbins Airshow was the 66th of the season, and the Angels still have one more show in Homestead, FL before of the Homecoming show in Pensacola, Florida on November 11th and 13th. This year’s show also hosted the Canadian Snowbirds. Officially known as the Canadian Forces 431 Air Demonstration Squadron, they fly the CT-114 Tutors that were designed and built by Canadair. The Canadians are well known for their precise flight program that includes different formations composed by 9 or 7 planes, as well as solo flights. Another amazing show was performed by flying legend Sean D. Tucker, flying his custom built Oracle Challenger III biplane which produces more than 400 horsepower, weighs only 1,200 pounds, and is considered the most high-performance aerobatic aircraft in the world. The Challenger III is equipped with a unique set of wings that use 8 ailerons instead of 4. The tail on the airplane is modeled after the tail used on high-performance radio control airplanes. What Sean does with his plane seems beyond the all laws of aerodynamics.
The power of the Oracle’s engine allows Sean to “hang” vertically in the skies without losing altitude. Sean D. Tucker’s “Sky Dance” daytime performance begins with an unbelievable sequence of events. One second he’s tumbling the 330 HP Randolph Sunglass Challenger end-over-end, and then all the sudden flying it tail-first, straight towards the earth for 500 feet at negative airspeeds of up to 90 MPH while rolling his aircraft counter-clockwise! Before the first spiral of smoke begins to fade, Tucker plunges into a powerful and complex aerobatics sequence that demonstrates the talent that won him the coveted U.S. National Advanced Aerobatics Trophy in 1988. Tucker’s spectacular sequence includes original, adrenaline-pumping maneuvers like “The Centrifuge,” “The Son of Edwin,” “The Spiraling Tower,” “The Tucker Upper,” “The Harrier Pass” and the heart-stopping finale “The Triple ribbon Cut.”
The static display, whose centerpiece was the F-22 Raptor with its incredible engines strictly covered, was very impressive this year with some of the greatest warbirds, such as P-51 Mustangs, the P-40, the mammoth Grumman TBF Avenger and many more. As usual the planes were open cockpit and from the giant planes like the C-5, C-17, and KC-135 it was possible to enter in the cargo bay and climb up into the cockpit. Delta Airlines flew one of its B-757’s to Dobbins, promoting the fight against cancer.
Without a doubt this year’s Wings over Atlanta was another successful airshow for the 94th AW.
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