Tag Archives: NATO

NATO jets, including Canadian Hornets, scrambled twice in two days to intercept Russian spyplane

NATO QRA (Quick Reaction Alert) jets scrambled twice in two days to intercept Russian military aircraft

The Il-20 is the most frequent Russian Air Force aircraft intercepted by NATO fighter jets in the Baltics.

Noteworthy, as the Swedish Air Force is hunting the foreign submarine in the Stockholm archipelago, the spyplane has been intercepted twice in two days, over the Baltics.

According to the Latvian military on Oct. 20, a Russian Il-20 was intercepted by Royal Canadian Air Force CF-188s scrambled from Siauliai Air Base in Lithuania. Then, on the following day, Portuguese AF F-16s, also deployed to Siauliai airbase for NATO Baltic Air Policing mission were scrambled to intercept and shadow an Il-20 Coot intelligence gathering aircraft.

Russian Air Force Il-20s regularly fly in the Scandinavian region causing alert scrambles by NATO planes providing QRA (Quick Reaction Alert) for the Baltic Air Policing mission. On Mar. 3, 2014 one the Russian ELINT (Electronic Intelligence) planes almost collided with SAS Boeing 737 with 132 people on board southwest of Malmö, Sweden.

Image credit: RCAF

 

[Photo] Armed Czech JAS-39 Gripen jets deploy to Iceland for NATO Air Policing Mission

Here are the first photos of the Czech Air Force JAS-39 Gripen fighter planes deploying to Iceland to undertake Icelandic Air Policing duty.

The Czech Air Force has deployed five of its JAS-39 Gripen fighter aircraft and a total of 80 aircrew and ground personnel from 21st Tactical Air Force Base Čáslav to Iceland.

Their ferry flight to Keflavik was supported by an Italian Air Force KC-767A tanker from the 14° Stormo (Wing) based at Pratica di Mare.

Gripen formation

The Gripens mission is to provide Airborne Surveillance and Interception Capabilities to meet Iceland’s Peacetime Preparedness Needs (ASICIPPN) on behalf of NATO.

Noteworthy, the aircraft deployed to Iceland carrying live AIM-9L Sidewinder air-to-air missiles.

Gripen landing

Image credit: Eggert Norðdahl

 

U.S. airborne communication plane could be tracked on the Web for 9 hours during air strike that killed Taliban leaders in Afghanistan

At least seven Taliban militants were killed following a NATO air raid Afghanistan. Noteworthy, a sign of the developing operation may have been a U.S. Air Force E-11A BACN plane orbiting over southeasern Ghazni province, clearly visible on Flightradar24.com.

Although many military aircraft are equipped with Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B) transponders they are usually turned off during real war operations. In fact, by automatically broadcasting the plane’s callsign, GPS position, speed and altitude, these special transponders provide information about the plane can be received by ground stations, by other nearby aircraft (thus enhancing situational awareness) and also by commercial off-the-shelf or home-built receivers.

Flightradar24 and PlaneFinder have a network of several hundred feeders around the world who make the flight information received by their home kits available for anybody on their websites, or by means of their smartphone apps.

Even though some pilots have confirmed they are well aware of the above mentioned websites and for this reason are instructed to turn off their transponders when involved in real operation, during the opening stages of the Libya Air War, some of the aircraft involved in the air campaign forgot/failed to switch off their mode-S or ADS-B transponder, and were clearly trackable on FR.24 or PF.net.

Three years later, a U.S. plane involved in war mission over Afghanistan could be monitored for several hours as it circled at 41,000 feet to the southeast of Ghazni.

The aircraft did not broadcast its mission callsign, but based on the hex code FR24 could identify it as a Bombardier Global 6000 aircraft, an advanced ultra long-range business jet that has been modified by the U.S. Air Force to accomodate Battlefield Airborne Communications Node (BACN) payload.

Within the U.S. Air Force, the modified jet is designated E-11A.

BACN is technological “gateway” system that allows aircraft with incompatible radio systems and datalinks to exchange tactical information and communicate.

By orbiting at high-altitude, BACN equipped air assets provide a communications link from ground commanders to their allies in the sky regardless of the type of the supporting aircraft and in a non-line-of-sight (LOS) environment. In the rugged, mountainous terrain of Afghanistan, troops are not always able to establish LOS communications with close support aircraft overhead and moving position or relocating to higher ground could be fatal. In such situation, a legacy USAF A-10 attack aircraft could loiter away from the battlefield while using the BACN link to communicate with a special-forces Joint Terminal Air Controller (JTAC) on the ground until all targeting information is ready before “un-masking” and beginning an attack run.

The BACN system is also deployed onboard EQ-4B Global Hawk UAVs.

Anyway, the E-11A could be tracked on FR24.com for about 9 hours, from 21.54 UTC on Aug. 10 to 06.45 UTC on Aug. 11, when the aircraft got out of the flightradar24 coverage while returning back to Kandahar airfield (?). At the same time a NATO air strike in the same zone killed seven Taliban and wounded four.

Next time NATO is preparing a similar operation, the presence of the orbiting E-11A could expose and jeopardize the imminent air strike.

H/T to Jerod Harris for the heads-up.

Image credit: screenshot form flightradar24.com

 

How the U.S. F-15s intercepted Russian Bear bombers in the GIUK Gap: tensions and hilarious moments above Iceland

The tight gap between Greenland Iceland and the UK (“GIUK Gap”) was once the main “highway” used by Soviet bombers and maritime reconnaissance aircraft flying to Cuba, monitoring NATO maritime activities or simply probing local air defenses.

The mission to intercept the Soviet Tu-95/Tu-142 was assigned to the 57th FIS (Fighter Interceptor Squadron) “Black Knights”, ldeployed to Keflavik air base, in Iceland, since November 1954. The 57th FIS flew several types of aircraft such as the F-102, the F-106 and the F-4E, before receiving the F-15C/Ds  in November 1985.

The Eagles belonging to the 57th FIS were fitted with CFTs (Conformal Fuel Tanks) which boosted their range allowing the F-15s to intercept and shadow the Bears much further out and for longer time.

A former Black Knights pilot, Lt. Col. Tim “Sweet Lou” Kline described to Steve Davies for his book F-15 Eagle Engaged how an intercept against the Bears took place:

“They were long intercepts. […] we’d be sitting there waiting, looking down at the water-the icebergs in the cold water-and getting our gas from the tanker while we waited, hoping our refueling equipment worked because we were away from Keflavik. Sometimes we could be out there six hours.”

Thanks to the standard CFTs, the F-15 demonstrated to be the perfect aircraft to intercept the Bears in the GIUK Gap.

“When they did show up, they’d still at altitude. Oftentimes we would simply go ‘pure pursuit’ on the raw return because to obtain a lock on would not only give away our presence but also allow the ‘Bear’s’ EWO (Electronic Warfare Operator) to begin tuning in his EW gear and start ‘dueling electrons’ with the APG-63 (the F-15 doppler radar). It was important to not let them know what range we could actually get a lock on at and other information that would prove valuable intelligence to them,” Kline explained.

If the aircraft were Soviet Navy maritime reconnaissance aircraft, instead of flying at cruising level “they’d ramp down to about 300-500ft altitude and slow down to about 230 knots to start dropping the sonobuoys and we would ‘call the drops’ so AWACS could plot their locations for Intel. When they were done they would turn around and go back northeast to Russia.”

Sometimes, during bad weather interceptions, the Soviets turned into the F-15 trying force the fully loaded and bit less responsive Eagle into a dangerous attitude.

Interestingly, at the apex of the Cold War tension, the 57th FIS mechanics fabricated a fictitious EW (Electronic Warfare) pod from a normal baggage pod. To make it more realistic, the fake pod was fitted with various unused UHF, automobile and other types of antennas and was mounted beneath one of the underwing pylons of one of the local F-15s. When the Eagle carrying the faux EW pod intercepted the Bear, the pilot rolled out alongside the Soviet aircraft with the pod fully visible to the Russian aircrew which took a lot of pictures of the previously unseen pod: how much time that Soviet intelligence officer had to waste in trying to identify the new “EW pod” remains a mystery.

Another hilarious moment dates back to the time when one F-15 pilot showed off a Playboy nude centerfold across the expansive side of the Eagle’s canopy, for the Soviet aviators entertainment. Once they saw it, they responded by running the Bear air to air refueling probe (which was encased in a long cylindrical tube extending above the nose and would be run out to clog up into the drogue basket) in and out, and in and out of its protective sleeve.

The Black Knights did not survive too long after the end of the Cold War: in fact the F-15s of the 57th FIS ensured the QRA service at Keflavik until Mar. 1, 1995 when they were eventually disbanded.

Image credit: U.S. Air Force via 318fis.com

 

[Photo] KFOR Multinational Multi-Helicopter formation over Kosovo

Eight combat helicopters belonging to four different air arms have taken part in a multinational mission over Kosovo. And here are some interesting shots.

The pictures in this article were taken on Jul. 12, by Cpt. Rory J. McCarthy, a UH-60 pilot who flew aboard an Mi-171 during a multinational multi-helicopter mission which included two Croatian Mi 171sh, one Swiss AS-532 Cougar, one Slovenian AS-532 Cougar, and four U.S. UH-60/A Blackhawk choppers.

The mission was flown to prepare the aircrews to operate with troops on board, to fulfill a tactical exercise requirement KFOR, the NATO-led international peacekeeping force, has in Kosovo.

KFOR Multi-ship UH-60

As a part of the NATO Multinational Task Force, KFOR helicopter detachments support a safe and secure environment and freedom of movement Kosovo wide. On order, Croatian, Slovenian, Swiss and U.S. helicopters work together to move 90 Crowd Riot Control (CRC) equipped troops Kosovo wide on short notice.

In addition to troop transport, select helicopters are equipped for MEDEVAC (Medical Evacuation), fire fighting, airborne and SPIES (Special Patrol Infiltration and Exfiltration System) operations.

KFOR Multi-ship takeoff

Image credit: Cpt. Rory J. McCarthy