Tag Archives: Royal Air Force

While its aircraft can be tracked online, the U.S. Air Force only worries about Tweets….

Bad OPSEC (Operations Security) exposed by Air War on ISIS?

“Loose Tweets Destroy Fleets” is the slogan (based on the U.S. Navy’s WWII slogan “Loose Lips Sink Ships”) that the U.S. Air Force Central Command used a couple of weeks ago for an article aimed at raising airmen awareness about the risk of sharing sensitive information on social media.

Indeed, the AFCENT article speaks directly to the threat posed by Islamic State supporters who, according to Stripes, on at least two occasions have acquired and posted online personal data of military personnel, urging sympathizers, “lone wolves,” to attack Americans in the States and overseas in retaliation for the air strikes.

The article highlights the importance of proper OPSEC to keep sensitive information away from the enemy and to prevent leakage of information that could put missions, resources and members at risk,  “and be detrimental to national strategic and foreign policies.”

Interestingly, the article only focuses on the smart use of social media. Ok, however, there are other possible OPSEC violations that the U.S. Air Force (as well as many other air arms currently supporting Operation Inherent Resolve, in Iraq and Syria, or Enduring Freedom, in Afghanistan) should be concerned of.

In October 2014 we highlighted the risk of Internet-based flight tracking of aircraft flying war missions after we discovered that a U.S. plane possibly supporting ground troops in Afghanistan acting as an advanced communication relay can be regularly tracked as it circles over the Ghazni Province.

The only presence of the aircraft over a sensitive target could expose an imminent air strike, jeopardizing an entire operations.

Although such risk was already exposed during opening stages of the Libya Air War, when 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 and despite pilots all around the world know the above mentioned websites very well, transponders remain turned on during real operations making the aircraft clearly visible to anyone with a browser and an Internet connection.

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USAF C-146A Wolfhound of the 524th Special Operations Squadron

During the last few months many readers have sent us screenshots they took on FR24.com or PF.net (that only collect ADS-B broadcast by aircraft in the clear) showing military planes belonging to different air forces over Iraq or Afghanistan: mainly tankers and some special operations planes.

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Canadian tanker

We have informed the U.S. Air Force and other air forces that their planes could be tracked online, live, several times, but our Tweets (and those of our Tweeps who retweeted us) or emails have not had any effect as little has changed. Maybe they don’t consider their tankers’ racetrack position or the area of operations of an MC-12 ISR (Intelligence Surveillance Reconnaissance) aircraft a sensitive information…

A330 over Iraq

RAF A330 tanker over Iraq

Image credit: screenshots from Flightradar24.com

 

Stunning aerial photos show Textron Scorpion tactical jet in Royal Navy demonstrations

The prototype of Textron AirLand’s ISR/Strike aircraft teamed up with Vortex Aeromedia to show off its maritime capability.

The Scorpion is an Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR)/Strike aircraft with twin canted tails, two 8,000-lb turbofan engines, straight wings with internal weapons bay and  external hardpoints to accommodate precision guided munitions that made its first flight from McConnell Air Force Base in Wichita, Kansas, in December 2013.

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Developed in about 2 years and featuring a ferry range of 2,400 NM (nautical miles) and a payload of 3,000 lbs internal stores as well as underwing PGMs (Precision Guided Munitions), the two-seater is the “affordable warplane for low-threat missions,” including COIN (Counter Insurgency) and SMI (Slow Mover Interceptor).

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During the Scorpion’s 2015 European Tour which brought the plane to both Paris Le Bourget Airshow and the Royal International Air Tattoo at RAF Fairford, UK, Textron AirLand also found the time to conduct demonstration flights with the British Royal Navy and RAF.

Working with 849 Naval Air Squadron, operators of the specialist ASaC7 variant of the Sea King in the AEW (Airborne Early Warning) and ISR roles, the Scorpion tactical jet provided valuable fighter-control experience to the Navy aircrews.

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In addition, Textron AirLand tested the integration of their Thales I-Master radar and L-3 Systems Wescam MX-15 DI sensor by tracking and identifying targets up to 100 miles off the British coast.

During the demonstrations, Textron AirLand said that their $20M jet operated at less than $3,000 per hour, even with engine overhaul costs accounted for: more evidence that the aircraft is perfect match for the “low-cost combat plane to contain the cost of prolonged operations,” whose need emerged during Libya Air War 2011.

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After the joint operations with Royal Navy the jet returned to the US in mid-July and is scheduled to begin weapons trials in 2016.

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Image credit: © Textron AirLand/Vortex Aeromedia 2015

 

Fantastic Video of the Last Flying Vulcan Bomber during a stunning performance at the Beachy Head white cliffs

Avro Vulcan Bomber XH558 made a stunning performance at the Beachy Head Cliffs, Eastbourne Airshow 2015.

Avro Vulcan XH558 (carrying civil registration G-VLCN), is the only airworthy bomber of a fleet of 134 Vulcan V bombers operated by the Royal Air Force from 1953 until 1984.

The aircraft, made its maiden flight in 1960, was converted in maritime recce role in 1973 and then flew as an aerial refueler from 1982 until 1984, when it was retired from active service.

It continued to fly with the RAF’s Vulcan Display Flight, performing until 1992.

It was brought back to airworthy condition by the Vulcan To The Sky Trust, through a combination of public donations and lottery funding, in 2007 and returned to flight on Oct. 18 of the same year.

Its display career restarted in 2008, funded by continuing donations and after attending several airshows in the past years, that gained the plane two extra years of flying; however, on May 15 2015 it was announced that 2015 would be the Vulcan XH558 last flying season.

Before being retired, the aircraft performed a stunning display at the 500ft Beachy Head white cliffs, a really great place to see one of the last flypasts of the legendary plane.

 

Have Indian Su-30s really “dominated” RAF Typhoons in aerial combat with a 12-0 scoreline? Most probably not.

Indian fighter jocks claim they have “humiliated” the RAF colleagues in mock aerial combat exercises conducted during Exercise Indradhanush 2015. “Our analysis does not match what has been reported” the RAF said.

As we have already reported, four Indian Air Force Su-30MKI Flankers from 2 Sqd have recently been deployed to RAF Coningsby, UK, to take part in Indradhanush 2015, a two-week training exercise with the Royal Air Force Typhoon FGR4s.

The exercise has ended and the Russian-built aircraft have returned to India but Exercise Indradhanush 2015 left an unexpected trail of controversy after Group Captain Srivastav, the Indian Contingent Commander in the drills, told the Indian NDTV that the performance of his pilots was “exceptional.”

According to Srivastav, India’s most experienced Su-30 pilot, the IAF pilots came away from the exercise with a resounding 12-0 victory against the RAF Typhoons in WVR (Within Visual Range) engagements conducted while in the UK.

Here’s the report of the mock aerial combat exercises published on the NDTV website:

“The first week of the exercises pitted the Su-30, which NATO calls the Flanker, in a series of aerial dogfight scenarios. First, there were 1 v 1 encounters, where a single jet of each type engaged each other in Within Visual Range (WVR) combat, firing simulated missiles to a range of two miles. The exercises progressed to 2 v 2 engagements with two Eurofighters taking on two Su-30s and 2 v 1 exercises where two Sukhois took on a single Typhoon and vice versa. Notably, in the exercise where a lone Su-30 was engaged by two Typhoons, the IAF jet emerged the victor ‘shooting’ down both ‘enemy’ jets.”

So, not only held the Su-30s an edge on the Typhoons on 1 vs 1 and 2 vs 2, but even when a Sukhoi flew against two Typhoons, it managed to shoot down both enemies.

The response to such claims was almost immediate, even though not too detailed. According to an RAF source quoted in an Independent piece the Indian claims were “clearly designed for a domestic audience“.

A UK MoD blog on this topic said: “As you would expect, advanced military capabilities are rarely operated to the limits of their potential, especially when exercising against other nations’ aircraft. This exercise was no exception for the Typhoon Force.”

True.

A spokesperson for the RAF just said:

“Our analysis does not match what has been reported, RAF pilots and the Typhoon performed well throughout the exercise with and against the Indian Air Force. Both forces learnt a great deal from the exercise and the RAF look forward to the next opportunity to train alongside the IAF.”

So, the outcome of the engagements is at least unclear. However something can be said.

First of all, the purpose of such exercises is usually to study the opponents, learn their tactics and strategy, sometimes without showing the “enemy” the full extent of a weapon system capability (even though the latter is also the “excuse” air arms most frequently use to comment alleged defeats). Then, the kill ratio depends on how the scenario has been set up, with the Rules Of Engagement affecting the number of simulated kills.

Actually, this wasn’t the first time the Indian Air Force publicly claimed a resounding (and debated) victory: during Cope India 04, Indian Su-30 were able to achieve a 9:1 kill ratio against U.S. Air Force F-15C jets from 3rd Wing based at Elmendorf Air Force Base, Alaska.

In that case, the kill ratio was confirmed but it was also explained that the F-15s were defeated because they lacked an advanced active electronically scanned array (AESA) and were called to fight the Su-30s in scenarios that involved six Eagles against up to eighteen IAF aircraft with no chance to simulate any beyond visual range (BVR) missile shot (due to the Indian request of not using the AMRAAM). Furthermore, since the drills took place during F-22 budget reviews, some analysts affirm the Air Force intentionally accepted the challenging ROE (Rules Of Engagement) to gain more Raptors…

Anyway, just like all the simulated kills we have much talked about in the past, including some involving F-22 shot down, all these kill ratio claims should be taken with a grain of salt since they are often used for internal “propaganda” and marketing purposes and they have very little value unless we have some details about the scenario, the supporting assets involved in the engagement (AWACS, Electronic Warfare platforms, Ground Controlled Interceptors, etc.) and the ROE.

In this case, for instance, dealing with the ROE, an RAF source said the Typhoons fought “with one arm behind their backs.”

Moreover, WVR engagements, in which the super-maneuverable Su-30 excels, are less likely than BVR (Beyond Visual Range) ones where a Flanker would be much more vulnerable, as Indradhanush 2015 seems to have proved.

Here is what Group Captain Srivastav told NDTV about LFE (Large Force Engagements) that saw from 4 vs 4 to 8 vs 8 engagements at BVR in the skies near Coningsby:

“Asked about the performance of IAF pilots in these Large Force Engagements, Group Captain Srivastav told NDTV his pilots performed “fairly well” though “quantifying [the results] is difficult”. It was not unexpected for the IAF to “lose” one or two jets (over all the Large Force Engagements put together) given that the movement of each formation was directed by fighter controllers coordinating an overall air battle.”

Image credit: Crown Copyright / Royal Air Force

 

Photos of 10 Russian warplanes intercepted by RAF Typhoons over the Baltic Sea….in one sortie!

Last Friday was quite a busy day for the RAF Typhoons supporting NATO Baltic Air Patrol mission.

On Jul. 24, the Royal Air Force Eurofighter Typhoon jets intercepted and identified 10 (!) Russian military aircraft flying in international airspace over the Baltic Sea.

The RAF Typhoons from 6 Sqn at RAF Lossiemouth, in QRA (Quick Reaction Alert) at Amari airbase, Estonia, were launched as a large formation of Russian planes flew close to the Baltic States airspace (most probably going to or returning from Kaliningrad Oblast).

Su-34s Jul. 24

According to the UK MoD, once airborne, the RAF jets identified the aircraft as 4x Sukhoi Su-34 Fullback attack planes, 4x Mikoyan MiG-31 Foxhound fighters and 2 x Antonov An-26 Curl transport aircraft who appeared to be carrying out a variety of routine training.

Su-34s Jul. 24 2

Newsworthy, Russian activity in the Baltic region has increased even more in the last few days. On Jul. 29, NATO interceptors identified 12 Russian military aircraft flying near the Latvian border: 3x An-76 and 1x Il-76 cargo planes, 4x MiG-31s and 4x Su-24s, were detected flying near the Latvian outer sea border, above the Baltic Sea in international airspace.

An-26 Jul. 24

Image credit: Crown Copyright