Tag Archives: Joint Direct Attack Munition

A U.S. Air Force Intel team turned a comment on social media into an airstrike on ISIS building

A comment on a social media can attract three JDAMs (Joint Direct Attack Munitions).

It looks like the imprudent use of social media cost ISIS an air strike and three JDAMs dropped by U.S. attack planes on one of their buildings.

According to Air Force Gen. Hawk Carlisle, head of Air Combat Command, airmen belonging to the 361st Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Group, at Hurlburt Field, Florida, were able to geo-locate an ISIS headquarters building thanks to a comment posted on social media by a militant.

As Carlisle explained to Defense Tech:

“The guys that were working down out of Hurlburt, they’re combing through social media and they see some moron standing at this command. And in some social media, open forum, bragging about the command and control capabilities for Daesh, ISIL. And these guys go: ‘We got an in.’ So they do some work, long story short, about 22 hours later through that very building, three [Joint Direct Attack Munitions] take that entire building out.”

Although the U.S. Air Force did not release any further information about the location of the headquarters or the aircraft that carried out the attack, the story is quite interesting as it proves that not only are social media used by ISIS for propaganda and recruiting purposes, they are also used by U.S. intel team to identify ground targets, supplementing ISR (Intelligence Surveillance Reconnaissance) activities conducted with the “usual” platforms, like satellites, spyplanes and UAVs (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles).

U.S. and NATO soldiers are always made aware of the risk of using social media and, generally speaking, digital technologies which embed information that can be exploited by the adversaries in various ways. Still OPSEC (Operations Security) breaches occur.

In 2007 four Apache helicopters were lost in Iraq because of smartphone geotagging: insurgents were able to determine the exact location of the AH-64s and successfully attack them because some soldiers had taken pictures on the flightline and uploaded them (including geotagging data) to the Internet.

Now even IS militants have experienced how dangerous an incautious use of social media can be.

Image credit: U.S. Air Force

 

This photo shows all the weapons the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter is designed to carry

The F-35 and its weapons suite.

Top image shows an F-35A, at Edwards AFB, California,nexto to its F-35 Systems Development and Demonstration Weapons Suite the aircraft is designed to carry.

According to Lockheed Martin, the Joint Strike Fighter can carry more than 35-hundred pounds of ordinance in Low Observable (stealth) mode and over 18-thousand pounds uncontested.

The Lightning II is conducting testing required for full weapons certification through a campaign which included validating 2B weapons software and successfully executing several weapons separation and engagement tests.

“Comprehensive flight test on the F-35A variant GAU-22 25mm gun system is scheduled to begin mid-year at Edwards AFB, Calif., and will include ground fire tests, muzzle calibration, flight test integration and in-flight operational tests. The 25mm missionized gun pod carried externally, centerline mounted on the F-35B and F-35C also begins testing this year to meet U.S. service’s desired schedule for full warfighting capability software known as 3F. The 3F software is currently planned for delivery with the Low Rate Initial Production nine (LRIP 9) U.S. aircraft in 2017,” Lockheed Martin team say in a press release.

Among the most recent tests there is the first separation test of a GBU-39 Small Diameter Bomb, a 250-lb. precision-guided glide weapon (Oct. 21) and multi-separation test (Nov. 20); first external flutter tests flown with the AIM-132 Advanced Short Range Air-to-Air Missile (ASRAAM) (Oct. 29) and Paveway IV missiles (Nov. 13); and the first supersonic-guided missile launch and the first JDAM release on target coordinates generated from the Electro-Optical Targeting System (EOTS) (Nov. 18-25 ).

The photo and updated weapons integration status report come few weeks after a report claimed the F-35 will be unable to use its gun until 2019.

Weapons Stations  Capacity_v1

Lockheed Martin Photo by Matt Short

 

[Photo] U.S. Navy’s Last EA-6B Prowlers and F/A-18C Legacy Hornets take fuel over Iraq

U.S. Navy aircraft, launched from USS George H.W. Bush are taking part in the air strikes against ISIS in Iraq and Syria.

On Aug. 8, the U.S. military launched the first targeted airstrike against ISIS terrorists. The raid involved aircraft belonging to Carrier Air Wing 8 embarked on USS George H.W. Bush aircraft carrier.

US Navy F-18E Super Hornets supporting operations against ISIL

Two months later, F/A-18E/F Super Hornet, F/A-18C “Legacy” Hornet as well as EA-6B Prowler jets, launched from the flight deck of the U.S. Navy nuclear flattop sailing in the Persian Gulf, are still taking part in the air campaign against ISIS in Iraq on a daily basis.

US.Navy F-18E Super Hornets supporting operations against ISIL

The images in this article show Hornets and Prowlers refueled mid-air from a U.S. Air Force KC-135 Stratotanker aerial refueler over Iraq. With minor modifications, both KC-135 and KC-10 are able to refuel Navy aircraft that, unlike Air Force combat planes (that have a receptacle for the flying boom), are equipped with a “probe” compatible with the so-called hose-and-drogue refueling system.

US Navy EA-6B Prowlers supporting operations against ISIL

EA-6B from VAQ-134 are conducting electronic warfare missions; more or less what have been doing for several years in Afghanistan: they eavesdrop “enemy” radio signals and jam those frequencies in order to prevent terrorists from talking one another on the radio or use portable transmitters to trigger IEDs (Improvised Explosive Devices).

US Navy EA-6B Prowlers supporting operations against ISIL

The F/A-18Cs are instead used for bombing insurgents and wipe out their vehicles (or tanks) using JDAMs (Joint Direct Attack Munitions) or AGM-65 Maverick missiles. Interestingly, the configuration of all U.S. Navy Hornets (both C/D and E/F examples) is such they don’t carry any external store on the left wing inner pylon, in order to keep the ATFLIR (Advanced Targeting Forward Looking Infrared) pod point-of-view free from any obstacle.

US Navy F-18E Super Hornets supporting operations against ISIL

Image credit: U.S. Air Force

 

These may be the only F-22’s Achilles’ heels in a dogfight against 4th gen fighter jets

Considered almost unbeatable in the air-to-air role, the F-22 successfully debuted in combat, taking part in air strikes against ISIS targets. But what if the F-22 found a 4th Gen. opponent?

Even though we don’t know much details about them, missions flown by the F-22 Raptor over Syria marked the combat debut of the stealth jet.

As already explained, the radar-evading planes conducted air strikes against ISIS ground targets, in what (considering the 5th Generation plane’s capabilities) were probably Swing Role missions: the stealth jets flew ahead of the rest of the strike package to cover the other attack planes, dropped their Precision Guided Munitions (PGMs) on designated targets, and escorted the package during the way back.

Considered that it could not carry external fuel tanks (to keep a low radar signature), the F-22 were refueled at least two or three times to make it to North Syria and back to the UAE, flying a mission most probably exceeding the 6 – 7 hours flying time.

Raptor’s stealthiness is maintained by storing weapons in internal bays capable to accomodate 2x AIM-9 Sidewinder missiles, some AIM-120C AMRAAM air-to-air missiles (the number depending on the configuration), as well as 2x 1,000 pound GBU-32 JDAM or 8x GBU-39 small diameter bombs: in this way the Raptor can dominate the airspace above the battlefield while performing OCA (Offensive Counter Air) role attacking air and ground targets. Moreover its two powerful Pratt & Whitney F-119-PW-100 engines gave to the fifth fighter the ability to accelerate past the speed of sound without using the afterburners (the so called supercruise) and TV (Thrust Vectoring), that can be extremely useful, in certain conditions, to put the Raptor in the proper position to score a kill.

All these capabilities have made the F-22 almost invincible (at least on paper). Indeed, a single Raptor during one of its first training sorties was able to kill eight F-15s in a mock air-to-air engagement, well before they could see it.

These results were achieved also thanks to the specific training programs which put F-22 pilots against the best US fighters jocks in order to improve their abilities to use the jet’s sophisticated systems, make the most out of sensor fusion, then decide when and to execute the correct tactic.

The Raptor has a huge advantage against its adversaries as demonstrated by the F-22’s incredible kill ratio against USAF Red Air (which play as enemy air forces during exercises) and its F-16s and F-15s, during the exercises undertaken in the last decade: for instance, during exercise Noble Edge in Alaska in June 2006, few F-22s were able to down 108 adversaries with no losses, while during the 2007 edition of the same exercise, they brought their record to 144 simulated kills.

In its first Red Flag participation, in February 2007, the Raptor was able to establish air dominance rapidly and with no losses.

As reported by Dave Allport and Jon Lake in a story which appeared on Air Force Monthly magazine, during an Operational Readiness Inspection (ORI) in 2008, the F-22s scored 221 simulated kills without a single loss.

Still, when outnumbered and threatened by F-15s, F-16s and F-18s, in a simulated WVR (Within Visual Range) dogfight, the F-22 is not invincible.

Raptors refuel

Apparently along with the Rafale, one aircraft which proved to be a real threat for the F-22 is the Eurofighter Typhoon: during the 2012 Red Flag-Alaska, the German Eurofighters not only held their own, but reportedly achieved several kills on the Raptors.

Even though with don’t know anything about the ROE (Rules Of Engagement) set for that training sorties and, at the same time, the outcome of those mock air-to-air combat is still much debated (as there are different accounts of those simulated battles),  the “F-22 vs Typhoon at RF-A” story, raised some questions about the threat posed to the Raptor by advanced, unstealthy, 4th Gen. fighter jets.

In fact, even though these aircraft are not stealth, Typhoons are equipped with  Helmet Mounted Display (HMD) systems and IRST (the Infra-Red Search and Track), two missing features on Raptors.

The Typhoon’s HMD is called Helmet Mounted Symbology System (HMSS). Just like the American JHMCS (Joint Helmet Mounted Cueing System) which is integrated in the U.S. F-15C/D, F-16  Block 40 and 50 and F-18C/D/E/F, HMSS provides the essential flight and weapon aiming information through line of sight imagery. Information imagery (including aircraft’s airspeed, altitude, weapons status, aiming etc) are projected on the visor (the HEA – Helmet Equipment Assembly – for the Typhoon) , enabling the pilot to look out in any direction with all the required data always in his field of vision.

The F-22 Raptor is not equipped with a similar system (the project to implement it was axed following 2013 budget cuts). The main reason for not using it on the stealth jet is that it was believed neither an HMD, nor HOBS (High Off-Boresight) weapons that are fired using these helmets, were needed since no opponents would get close enough to be engaged with an AIM-9X in a cone more than 80 degrees to either side of the nose of the aircraft.

Sure, but the risk of coming to close range with an opponent is still high and at distances up to 50 km an aircraft equipped with an IRST (Infra-Red Search and Track) system, which can detect the IR signature of an enemy fighter (that’s why Aggressors at Red Flag carry IRST pods….), could even be able to find a stealthy plane “especially if it is large and hot, like the F-22″ as a Eurofighter pilot once said.

Summing up, the F-22 is and remains the most lethal air superiority fighter ever. Still, it lacks some nice features that could be useful to face hordes of enemy aircraft, especially if these include F-15s, Typhoons, Rafales or, in the future, the Chinese J-20 and Russian PAK-FA.

David Cenciotti has contributed to this post.

Top it off: Tankers refuel RED FLAG-Alaska

Image credit: U.S. Air Force

 

F-15E Strike Eagles took part in the first air strikes in Syria along with stealth F-22 Raptor Jets

Not only F-22 Raptors conducted the air strikes on ISIS in Syria. F-15E Strike Eagles took part to the first coalition strike package.

According to the U.S. Air Force, F-15E Strike Eagles were part of the large coalition strike package that was the first to strike ISIS targets in Syria.

The attack planes, that were already taking part in the offensive against terrorist in Iraq, must have been those of the 48th Fighter Wing, from RAF Lakenheath, currently deployed to Al Udeid, Qatar Al Dhafra, UAE.

Although it could be guessed, the opening wave of the air strikes in Syria included a mix of stealth and conventional planes. Among them, there were also F-15E Strike Eagles that, although far from being radar-evading, can carry more weaponry than the F-22s that, according to official sources, employed only two 1,000-lb GBU-32 GPS-guided JDAMs (Joint Direct Attack Munitions).

So, were the F-22s really necessary?

Yes and no.

For sure the air strikes take place well inside an airspace still guarded by Syrian air defense radars and surface to air missile batteries, where Syrian planes involved in their domestic war against rebels, usually operate. Moreover it’s quite difficult to assess the current state of the Syrian air defenses (some equipment was seized by rebels, other systems were probably restored or being restored, others may be in the hands of some groups, etc.) and, considered that it seems these first strikes were not aimed at the Syrian anti-aircraft equipment, it’s safe to say they can still theoretically pose a threat to U.S. and allied airplanes. Do you remember what happened to the Turkish RF-4E shot down by Syrian anti-aircraft artillery fire a couple of years ago?

Even if any sort of reaction by some of these Syrian air defenses was and still is quite unlikely, stealth planes, supported by EW (Electronic Warfare) platforms, could be used to attack targets close to SAM batteries and other dangerous spots.

Hence, the F-22 Raptor stealth fighters were useful because of their ability to enter, mostly undetected, an anti-access target aerea, gather details about the enemy systems with their extremely advanced onboard sensors, escort other unstealthy planes and, last but not least, attack their own targets with JDAMs.

In recent exercises, F-22s flew dual missions that they will probably fly over Syria as well: HVAAE (High Value Air Asset Escort) and air-to-surface, providing the capability to perform an immediate restrike on the same target (or one nearby), if needed.

Moreover, the U.S. has invested a lot in the F-22 Raptor and the U.S. Air Force has worked so much in the last few years to turn the troubled, expensive interceptor into a real multi-role platform that could be eventually used in a real operation.

And it must not be forgotten that recent conflicts have always been a marketing opportunity” to “advertise” and/or test old and new weapons systems; in this case it was also the chance to appease those who criticised the costly stealth plane and the fact it was never used in combat (until yesterday).

Image credit: U.S. Air Force