Upgraded F-35 Block 2A Joint Strike Fighters delivered to the U.S. Air Force. Still much to do, though. May 11, 2013Posted by Jacek Siminski in : F-35 , 6comments
The brand new Joint Strike Fighters reached the 58th Fighter Squadron on May 6, 2013. The difference between the mentioned plane and the older ones is the fact that it already incorporates the Block 2A avionics software and will start flying in 2-3 weeks.
Image Credit: Lockheed Martin
26 F-35As (including 2 spares) are going to be a part of the Squadron in Eglin by the beginning of 2014. Some of them will support a training squadron that will be stationed at Luke AFB and is scheduled to receive its first JSFs in January 2014.
The new software introduces interesting capabilities.
First of all, it allows the pilot to use all six thermal imaging cameras of the EO-DAS AN/AAQ-37 optical set.
The purpose of the device is to detect and track the enemy aircraft and provide early warning messages about the launched missiles.
Nevertheless it is not integrated with the on-helmet-sight yet even if it allows displaying weather info.
In spite of the latest upgrade, the F-35A is still restricted. It can’t conduct IMC flights, night flights, aerobatics (have you ever seen JSF on an Air Show?!) and formation take-offs and landings. Even if it is in a post-prototype stage of development the F-35 is still not a fully capable fighters, and it evokes mixed feelings among the Lockheed Martin employees, as The Aviationist reported earlier.
However, the Block 2A software extends the F-35′s capabilities, because it lets the pilot simulate the launch of AIM-120 missiles. Still, the g-limit for the airframe is 5,5 G that is quite ridiculous, taking into account the objectives the JSF is designed to face. Hopefully the g-limit will be lifted soon.
Image Credit: USAF
The 58th Fighter Squadron already operates 9 F-35A Block 1B, which were used to train USAF instructors and test pilots. The ultimate number of trained pilots is to reach 45.
The initial problems with the Lockheed-Martin fighter jet are not an issue for some of the customers. Just recently Israel has transferred $20,1 million for the jets that they are going to buy. The money is to fund additional 2 planes to the 6 already existing in the order. They are to be a part of LRIP – Low Rate Initial Production.
Out of the remaining planes of LRIP VIII (45 examples) 29 are to stay in the US (19 F-35A’s – for USAF and 6 VTOL F-35B’s for the Marine Corps and 4 F-35C’s for US Navy). The remaining 19 planes are to be delivered to the customers as follows: 4 F-35B’s for UK, 2 F-35A for Norway, 4 F-35A for Japan and two abovementioned examples for Israel.
Jacek Siminski for The Aviationist
Israeli Air Force strikes Syria for the second time. Syrian air defenses unable to react. May 5, 2013Posted by David Cenciotti in : Military Aviation, Syria , add a comment
For the second time in three days, the Israeli Air Force has conducted air strikes in Syria.
If the first raid hit a convoy believed to be moving Fateh-110 missiles destined to Hezbollah, the one launched in the night between May 4 and 5 pounded several targets located near Damascus: the Jamraya scientific research centre (the only one officially confirmed by the Syrian TV), some missile fuel storage depot as well as the 4th Brigade of the Republican Guard’s barracks.
By the type of targets allegedly hit by the last raid we can assume that Israel is not only worried that the Fateh-110 missiles coming via Lebanon could reach Hezbollah, but also that Tel Aviv wants to degrade the Syrian capability to use its chemical weapons by neutralizing its Scud missiles fuel stocks.
In other words, since destroying CW warehouses could be difficult and dangerous, they are attacking the missiles fuel depots.
Indeed, the following video most probably shows the massive explosion of a fuel depot hit by Laser Guided Bombs.
A mushroom cloud that reminds that of nuclear weapons (even if, quite obviously, no nukes were dropped).
The attack on the Republican Guard (provided the elite unit was not hit just because it was next to the missiles to defend them), may have been a message to Assad: Israel can hit his closest ring of defense against the rebels.
Regardless of the purpose of the attack, what is quite evidend is that the Israeli fighters can almost freely violate (Lebanon and) Syria’s airspace without being disturbed too much by the local air defenses.
As explained after the Israeli air strike on a weapons convoy and military complex near Damascus, in January, the IAF bombers entered and egressed the Syrian airspace almost completely undetected thanks to a huge Electronic Warfare support.
An integral part of the “package” involved in the air strikes over Syria must have been Israeli ELINT aircraft and the Suter airborne network system capable to blind the Syrian radars, monitor them, or inject misleading information.
Perhaps many Assad’s air defenses have been sabotaged or hit by the rebels activity but the area is still believed to be heavily defended by several Soviet-made SAM (Surface to Air Missile) batteries.
In June 2012, a Syrian coastal anti-aircraft artillery battery downed a Turkish Air Force RF-4E Phantom that had violated the Syrian airspace over the Mediterranean Sea, proving Damascus’s air defenses capabilities.
A major role, especially in the phases preceding the attack was also played by drones, performing ISR (Intelligence Surveillance and Reconnaissance) missions in South Lebanon and, possibly, along the border with Syria.
The IAF operates a huge fleet of UAVs of various kind, used for various purposes, including pinpointing missiles being moved from Lebanon to Syria.
Noteworthy, according to some readers of The Aviationist, there are so many Israeli drones flying over Lebanon lately, that the Israeli Air Force mistakenly shot down one of them on Apr. 25 near Haifa. A blue-on-blue episode or just speculation?
Israel strikes weapons convoy in Syria to halt shipment of “game changing” missiles to Hezbollah May 4, 2013Posted by Richard Clements in : Military Aviation, Syria , 1 comment so far
Although it was not officially confirmed by either side, early in the morning on May 4, news agencies reported that Israeli jets have conducted a new air strike in Syria, destroying a convoy of weapons possibly destined for use by Hezbollah.
Reuters went on to quote an Israeli embassy spokesman as saying ”We cannot comment on these reports, but what we can say is that Israel is determined to prevent the transfer of chemical weapons or other game-changing weaponry by the Syrian regime to terrorists, especially to Hezbollah in Lebanon.”
Two U.S officials quoted by CNN said that they had data that suggests that Israeli jets flying over Lebanon had carried out the attack without entering the Syrian airspace, perhaps suggesting the use of missiles or some kind of stand-off weapon was used.
Some news agencies reported that a warehouse which stored chemical weapons was hit; an Isreali source was quoted by the CNN as saying ”We will do whatever is necessary to stop the transfer of weapons from Syria to terrorist organizations. We have done it in the past and we will do it if necessary the future.”
None of the media outlets have suggested what type of aircraft had carried out the strike but its thought the air strike occured in the Thursday May 2. Friday May 3. timeframe and involved 16 aircraft, including some Electronic Warfare assets, as those that were used in the last air strike in Syria.
David Cenciotti has contributed to this post
Israel successfully test fires its latest version of the Arrow anti-missile system February 26, 2013Posted by Richard Clements in : weapons , add a comment
The Israeli Air Force has released details that it successfully test fired the latest version of its Arrow anti-missile system on Feb. 25, 2013.
Image credit: EPA via Telegraph
The block 4.1 system introduces a new missile, new radar and new shields for the launchers as well as a new battery. The Arrow system is Israel’s outer ring to an anti-missile defense shield, that seeks to intercept long range missiles.
The release in full:
“The people of the Wall Administration of the Ministry of Defense, together with the U.S Missile Defense Agency, carried out the first flight experiment of the “Arrow 3″ interceptor. The experiment, which was deemed a success, was conducted from experimental field in the center of Israel from which the capabilities of the “Arrow 3″ system were now first tested. The Ministry of Defense reports that the success of the experiment is an important stepping stone in the construction of the operational capabilities of the State of Israel to deal with the threats it faces.
The “Arrow 3″ system is designed to intercept long-range missiles and is a central part of the multi-layered defense formation developed by the Ministry of Defense. Since the Arrow System was first deemed operational in the year 2000, it is routinely advanced and upgraded by the IAF and security industries. The purpose of the ongoing upgrades is to provide the system with higher mission capabilities–intercepting long-range ballistic missiles.
In the past years, the Arrow system has progressed immensely. Its newest version (Block 4.1) includes advanced interception missiles, new radar to complement the veteran one, a new operational battery, special shields for the missile launchers and more. In order to examine the system advancements, the IAF and security industries are carrying out experiments that observe the new system capabilities out in the field. The experiments allow the examination of radar activity (its capability to discover a missile launch simulating a ballistic target) and the interceptors (using a literal launch of the advanced missile and examining its function) and the like.”
Richard Clements for TheAviationist.com
Image credit: IAF
Air strike on Damascus military complex shows Syrian Air Defense can do nothing against Israeli Electronic Warfare February 1, 2013Posted by David Cenciotti in : Military Aviation, Syria , 10comments
The Israeli air strike on a weapons convoy and military complex near Damascus, on the night between Jan. 29 and 30 has something in common with a similar air strike, the Israeli Air Force launched in 2007: the bombers entered and egressed the Syrian airspace almost completely undetected by the Syrian air defenses.
On Sept. 6, 2007, ten F-15I and F-16 jets attacked a nuclear facility being built in Syria. The success of that mission, dubbed “Operation Orchard“, 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 from some ELINT aircraft.
It is quite likely that Israel’s EW capabilities, most probably furtherly improved since 2007 (someone speculated Israel is capable to inject malware from its F-16s), have played a major role in the recent strike that hit a target located only 5 kilometers from Assad’s headquarters.
Although the current status of the SAM (Surface to Air Missile) coverage around Damascus is quite difficult to assess, since some of the batteries protecting the capital town may have been sabotaged or hit by the rebels activity, the area is still believed to be heavily defended by several Soviet-made anti-aircraft system (even if most of all not so up to date).
The following image comes from 2010′s survey of the Syrian SAM deployment, published on the interesting Sean O’Connor’s IMINT & Analysis blog.
Although probably outdated, it still gives an idea of how crowded of SAM systems the area surrounding Damascus is.
In June 2012, a Syrian anti-aircraft artillery battery downed a Turkish Air Force RF-4E Phantom that had violated the Syrian airspace at low altitude over the Mediterranean Sea, thus proving that Damascus’s air defense are still somehow dreadful for enemy fighter jets.
Even though EW coverage (embedded in the strike package or supporting it from distance) has probably contributed to the successful outcome of the air strike making the bombers somehow “stealthy”, another key factor in last night’s attack was the relatively short distance of the target area from the border and the local orography, that has helped the Israeli jets flying at low altitude achieving some terrain masking.
The following image, drawn by The Aviationist’s contributor Giuliano Ranieri, shows a possible ingress route that exploits the terrain masking provided by the Mt. Heron and overflies a scarcely populated area.
It’s just a hypothesis, still, likely, not too far from the route actually flown by the Israeli fighters.
Some videos have been uploaded to Liveleak allegedly showing the Israeli fighter over Damascus at dawn. The one you can watch here has nothing to do with the air strike though: the type of contrails, the type of formation and, above all, the altitude of the planes depicted in the footage are not consistent with the IAF raid.