Tag Archives: Pentagon

[Photo] Aboard USS George H.W. Bush: the aircraft carrier that launched first airstrikes against ISIS in Iraq

These are some action shots from the only photographer to have been on USS George H.W. Bush out in the Gulf few days before it launched the first airstrikes against ISIS positions in Iraq.

On Aug. 8, at approximately 10:45 UTC, the U.S. military launched the first targeted airstrike against Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) terrorists.

According to Pentagon, “Two F/A-18 aircraft dropped 500-pound laser-guided bombs on a mobile artillery piece near Erbil. ISIL was using this artillery to shell Kurdish forces defending Erbil where U.S. personnel are located.”

EA-6B

Then, the U.S. launched a second round of airstrikes, which involved an RPA (Remotely Piloted Aircraft), that struck a terrorist mortar position twice, and four Hornets which successfully struck a stationary ISIL convoy of seven vehicles and a mortar position near Erbil.

E-2C Hawkeye

The manned planes involved in the first airstrikes belong to the Carrier Air Wing 8 embarked on USS George H.W. Bush aircraft carrier.

Few days ago, photographer Rich Cooper, went aboard the carrier sailing in the Gulf where it took the images you can find in this post. These were the last taken before the CVW-8 launched the first airstrikes against ISIS.

Hornet front

Operating from USS George Bush are also some of U.S. Navy’s last EA-6Bs on their final cruise (the Prowler will be out of service at the end of this year.)

EA-6B Prowler

Image credit: RC-Pro Photography

F-35s return to flight. But they can’t attend Farnborough airshow in the UK

Grounding has been lifted with some restrictions. That’s why the F-35Bs will not be able to cross the Ocean to attend the Farnborough International Airshow.

On Jul. 15, the Pentagon announced the fleet wide grounding has been lifted after investigation on the issue that caused the engine fire on an F-35A CTOL (Conventional Take Off and Landing) on Jun. 23 did not highlight a systemic problem.

The root cause of the fire has been identified in excessive rubbing between the turbine blades and the cowling, a problem not endemic to the fleet, based on the inspections of the other F-35 engines;  still something that must be closely monitored.

That’s why the return to flight is restricted: the F-35s can’t fly faster than Mach 0.9 and are limited to 18 degrees of angle of attack. The envelope is limited from -1 G to +3 Gs and, above all, after three hours of flight time, each front fan section of each engine has to be inspected with a borescope.

Therefore, the aircraft can’t undertake a long range ferry flight across the Pond and for this reason the four F-35B STOVL (Short Take Off and Landing) currently stuck on the ground at NAS Patuxent River (three of those expected to fly to Europe along with a RAF F-35B out of Eglin Air Force Base) will not be able to attend FIA 2014 in the UK.

The official cancellation of the FIA participation brought speculations and rumors, confirmations and denials, to an end.

F-35 to depart

Image credit: U.S. Navy / NAS Patuxent River

 

U.S. RC-135U spyplane and Russian Su-27 in one of the most dangerous aerial encounters since the Cold War.

According to U.S. Defense officials, the one between a U.S. RC-135U and a Russian Air Force Su-27 Flanker was something more than a routine intercept.

The RC-135U is one of the most secretive U.S. surveillance planes. It provides strategic electronic reconnaissance information, performing signal analysis by means of a wide variety of commercial off-the-shelf and proprietary hardware and software, including the Automatic Electronic Emitter Locating System.

In short, the Combat Sent can simultaneously locate, identify, and analyze multiple electronic signals.

Only two such kind of RC-135 are operated by the 55th Wing from Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska but they are usually deployed abroad to keep an eye where needed.

On Apr. 23, a U.S. Air Force RC-135U Combat Sent performing a routine surveillance mission in international airspace over the Sea of Okhotsk, north of Japan, some 60 miles off eastern Russia was intercepted by a Russian Su-27 Flanker.

Unlike almost all similar episodes, occurring quite often during and after the Cold War across the world, the one conducted by the Russian Air Force Su-27 at the end of April was a “reckless intercept”, “one of the most dangerous aerial encounters for a U.S. reconnaissance aircraft since the Cold War,” according to Defense Officials who talked to Washington Free Beacon’s Bill Gertz, who first unveiled the near collision.

According to the Pentagon, the first part of the interception was as standard: the Su-27 (most probably the leader of a flight of at least two Flankers) approached the RC-135U and positioned more or less abeam the “intruder”. Then, instead of breaking away after positive identification of the “zombie” without  crossing the line of flight of the intercepted aircraft, the Su-27 crossed the route of the U.S. spyplane putting itself within 100 feet of the Combat Sent.

A dangerous maneuver (not compliant with the international standards) that momentarily put the two aircraft in collision course.

An episode that reminds the far more dangerous close encouter of another U.S. spyplane with the Chinese Navy back in 2001.

On Apr. 1, 2001, a U.S. Navy EP-3E with the VQ-1, flying an ELINT (Electronic Intelligence) mission in international airspace 64 miles southeast of the island of Hainan was intercepted by two PLAN (People’s Liberation Army Navy) J-8 fighters.

One of the J-8s piloted by Lt. Cdr. Wang Wei, made two close passes to the EP-3 before colliding with the spyplane on the third pass. As a consequence, the J-8 broke into two pieces and crashed into the sea causing the death of the pilot, whereas the EP-3, severely damaged, performed an unauthorized landing at China’s Lingshui airfield.

The 24 crew members (21 men and three women), that destroyed all (or at least most of ) the sensitive items and data on board the aircraft, were detained by Chinese authorities until Apr. 11.

Anyway, Russian pilots have been involved in similar incidents during intercept missions during the years. Just two examples.

On Sept. 13, 1987, a RNoAF P-3B had a mid air collision in similar circumstances with a Soviet Sukhoi Su-27 Flanker over the Barents Sea.

In Apr. 2012, whilst flying over the Barents Sea on a routine mission, a Norwegian P-3 Orion came across a Russian Air Force Mig-31 Foxhound.

Image credit: U.S. Air Force

H/T to Giuseppe Stilo for the heads-up.

 

 

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F-22 Raptor stealth jets to get automatic backup oxygen systems to prevent new hypoxia-like symptoms

More than 24 months since the last hypoxia-like incident occurred, the U.S. Air Force has decided to equip its F-22s with a backup oxygen system.

The Raptor fleet will soon receive a brand new backup oxygen system as part of multiple contracts awarded to Lockheed Martin (worth 30 Million USD) DefenseNews reported.

F-22s belonging to the 3rd Wing from Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, have already received the new system, that will be implemented by the rest of the radar-evading planes by the second quarter of year 2015.

Being automatic, the new system does not require pilot intervention; a big improvement from the previous one that had to be activated by the pilot, which might be quite difficult, if not impossible if the latter was experiencing hypoxia-like/oxygen deprivation symptoms.

Because of the mysterious problem that plagued the stealthy fleet to such an extent the radar-evading aircraft were grounded back in 2011 following a deadly incident involving an Alaska-based, the Pentagon initially grounded the F-22s, and then, after lifting the flight ban, it restricted Air Force Raptors to fly near a “proximate landing location” in order to give pilots the possibility to land quickly if their planes’ On Board Oxygen Generating System (OBOGS) fail.

In May 2012, two 1st Fighter Wing “whistleblowers” appeared on CBS 60 minutes to explain why they were “uncomfortable” flying the Raptor (before changing idea few days later).

The installation of the new automatic backup oxygen system is not the only upgrade the U.S. Raptors will get in 2015: according to DefenseNews, along with advanced electronic warfare protection and improved ground threat geolocation, F-22s should also get the ability to carry AIM-120D and AIM-9X advanced missiles.

In April 2013, the plan to integrate the Visionix Scorpion helmet-mounted cueing system (HMCS), that would have made the F-22 capable to use HOBS (High Off Boresight System) air-to-air missiles as the AIM-9X, filling a gap against other current and future stealth planes in close air combat, was cancelled following the cuts imposed by the sequestration.

Let’s see what happens this time.

Image credit: U.S. Air Force

 

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Pentagon’s vision of future of military drones takes “man” out of “unmanned”

According to the roadmap just published, in the next 25 years Pentagon aims at fielding military unmanned systems that will be autonomous and able to perceive, analyzw, correlate and make decisions or react without human intervention.

An obvious move that, among all the other implications, will also reduce the amount of UAS (unmanned aerial system) mishaps, the majority of those are caused by the human factor.

DoD vision up to 2038 is quite clear: drones are the key for U.S. military. And will be even more in the future, when the U.S. will have to face several problems: Pressure for reductions in federal budgets; U.S. military rebalance; Nuclear Proliferation; Violent extremism at home and across the globe; Threats in the Cyberspace (as in land, sea or air and space); Enemy Unmanned Systems.

Noteworthy, the Pentagon has added a new domain to its battlefield: cyberspace.

Acknowledging the risk of drones being hacked or hijacked, the DoD envisages higher data rate cryptography, and open standards to enhance encryption of data links and protect communicated information.

In the future, drones will be increasingly used to fulfil different tasks, including those currently not assigned to unmanned systems: “Although currently prohibited by policy, future capabilities by unmanned systems could include casualty evacuation and care, human remains evacuation, and urban rescue. The unmanned vehicles are intended to mitigate risk to the maximum extent by reducing the requirement to operate manned vehicles when the weather, terrain, availability, and enemy pose an unsuitable level of risk.”

Roadmap

If the long term vision foresees squadrons of robots conduct different missions in the battlefield, there will be a point in the near future when manned and unmanned systems will have to team up. It’s what the report calls MUM-T [Manned-Unmanned System Teaming].

“A force of the smaller, more agile manned-unmanned systems of the near future will enable DoD to mobilize quickly to deter and defeat aggression by projecting power despite A2/AD challenges. MUM-T will provide the following key capabilities: Defeating explosive ground surface, sub-surface (tunnel), and sea hazards from greater standoff distances; Assuring mobility to support multiple points of entry; Enabling movement and maneuver for projecting offensive operations; Establishing and sustaining the shore lines of communications required to follow forces and logistics; Protecting austere combat outposts; Providing persistent surveillance to detect and neutralize threats and hazards within single- to triple-canopy and urban terrain.”

Here comes Skynet.

Image credit: DoD

 

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