What makes the photograph interesting is the rather unusual loadout of the aircraft: two 2,000-lb GBU-31s carried under the right hand wing.
GBU-31s are heavy JDAMs (Joint Direct Attack Munitions), Mk-84 general purpose gravity bombs which integrate a GPS/INS guidance kit to improve accuracy and are suitable for those targets where adverse weather may affect laser guidance.
JDAMs autonomously navigate towards their designated target coordinates that can be loaded into the aircraft before take off, or manually or automatically entered through the onboard targeting system.
Although the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet fleet carry JDAMs and, in particular, GBU-31s as a standard payload, you won’t find many images showing other “Rhinos” (as the Super Hornet is nicknamed in the U.S. Navy community) carrying two heavy 2,000-lb GBU-31s under the same wing: a sign that the coalition is still looking for targets in Syria and Iraq which require a significant destructive power and blast radius.
Generally speaking, U.S. Navy jets as well as other coalition aircraft carry a mixed-payload which may include lighter JDAMs and LGBs (Laser Guided Bombs), for more flexibility against targets of opporunity.
However, the mission had to be aborted after the commando, heading towards a private house in Al-Raqqa, in the northern part of central Syria, where the Royal Jordanian Air Force pilot was hidden, lost the element of surprise and the helicopters came under heavy fire.
The news was reported by Israel News media outlet, but the source are rebels in Syria according to Turkish news report in El Andalul. So, once again, it’s difficult to determine what’s true and what’s just propaganda.
According to the rebels, two U.S. helicopters were involved in the rescue operation, supported by several combat planes.
Although it is impossible to verify such reports, we can’t rule out the possibility the U.S. launched a rescue mission in the aftermath of the capture of pilot Muaz Yossef El Kasasba to free the first coalition pilot in captivity. Indeed, the presence of (Air Force Special Operations Command) Osprey tiltrotor aircraft based in Kuwait exposed by Google Maps imagery, seems to suggest the U.S. are prepared to conduct CSAR (Combat Search And Rescue) missions in Syria and Iraq, should the need to recover a pilot arise.
If confirmed this would be the second failed raid in about six month, the first on Jul. 3, 2014, when some V-22 aircraft were used to carry Delta Force commandos to a campsite in eastern Syria where ISIS militants were believed to hold American and other hostages (that had been moved by the time the commandos attacked the site): a sign that special operations are extremely difficult and dangerous in that region.
Anyway, as a consequence of the capture of one of their pilots Jordan has suspended the Royal Jordanian Air Force operations against ISIS, Jordan newspaper “Arab al-Yaum” wrote.
Along with the KC-767s, already supporting the coalition forces with an aerial refueling capability, Rome has committed four Tornado IDS and two Predator drones to the war on ISIS in Iraq and Syria.
The Italian Air Force is about to move four Tornado IDS attack planes, belong to the 6° Stormo, from Ghedi airbase, to Kuwait, to join the US-led coalition that is fighting ISIS in Iraq and Syria. According to DefenseNews, the aircraft are going to be based at Ahmed Al Jaber air base in Kuwait, the same country where Rome has deployed one of its brand new KC-767 tankers.
For this kind of mission, the aircraft usually carry a Rafael Reccelite reconnaissance pod: the Reccelite is a Day/Night electro-optical pod able to provide real-time imagery collection. It is made of a stabilized turret, solid-state on board recorder that provides image collections in all directions, from high, medium and low altitudes.
The Reccelite reconnaissance pod is used to broadcast live video imagery via datalink to ground stations and to ROVER (Remote Operations Video Enhanced Receiver) tactical receivers in a range of about 100 miles.
The pod can also be carried by the AMX ACOL, the light tactical jet that has performed close air support/air interdiction and ISR missions in support of ISAF from 2009 until the summer of 2014.
The Italian Air Force operates a mixed force of 6 MQ-9 Reaper and 6 MQ-1C Predator both assigned to the 28° Gruppo (Squadron) of the 32° Stormo (Wing).
The Italian UAS (Unmanned Aerial Systems) have already operated in Iraq between January 2005 and 2006 when the first RQ-1 Predator A was deployed to Tallil airbase, in Iraq. Later, two Predator A+ (designated MQ-1C A+ a standard to which all the former RQ-1 were upgraded) were deployed to Herat, in Afghanistan, to perform a wide array of missions: mainly MEDEVAC (Medical Evacuation), support to TIC (Troops In Contact), IED (Improvised Explosive Devices) monitoring and Convoy Escort.
The Italian unarmed drones will probably be involved in High Value Target surveillance and Reconnaissance (and, maybe special ops support).
Although it was not disclosed, most probably Predators will be employed in Iraq as they were employed in Afghanistan: in accordance with the so-called Remote Split Operations (RSO). During RSO, aircraft is launched from a local, in theater airbase, under direct line-of-sight control of the local MGCS (Mobile Ground Control Station).
Then, by means of satellite data link, it is taken on charge and guided from Amendola. When the assigned mission is completed, it is once again handed over to a pilot in Afghanistan, who lands it back to Herat airbase. The 1-second delay introduced by the satellite link is not compatible with the most delicate phases of flight; hence, aircraft are launched and recovered in line-of-sight by the deployed MCGS (US drones use the same kind of remote control).
Video shows what happened to a hill near Kobane. Wiped out by an air strike conducted by US-led coalition bombers.
This is a striking video showing what happened to a hill near Kobane, where ISIS had just planted a flag. IS fighters are unware the position is going to be literally buried by bombs dropped by coalition jets.
A video, filmed in central Syria today allegedly shows the first ISIS jet in flight.
In the last few days, several media outlets reported the news that the Islamic State has started combat operations using “Mig” fighter jets from an airbase in Syria.
Indeed, in 2014, ISIS has captured two airbases in central Syria, Tabqa and Kshesh, where Islamic State fighters have seized some Syrian Arab Air Force airplanes. Among these aircraft, several Mig-21s and L-39s, some of those, if not airworthy, were probably at least in pretty good shape.
Photos of IS fighters posing next to intact L-39s at Kshesh, about 70 kilometers to the east of Aleppo, have been published on several websites and social media: some of them show the combat trainers in near operational conditions.
Obviously, the mere fact that some aircraft, with some missing parts were captured by ISIS, does not mean they now have an Air Force. Still, their capability to bring a few of those “Migs” to flight conditions should not be underestimated: with the help of the Iraqi personnel formerly serving with the Iraqi Air Force the three planes were reportedly brought back to operational status at Kshesh. Most probably piloted by Iraqi, IS supporters or mercenaries.
On Oct. 18, a video reportedly filmed near Kshesh emerged. It shows a jet landing at the airbase under IS control in central Syria.
Although it’s not easy to guess the type of aircraft, it may be an L-39.
As said, the fact that some aircraft have been brought to operational status is far from being surprising. What’s weird is that U.S. aircraft involved in Operation Inherent Resolve (as the U.S.-led campaign against ISIS was dubbed) have not yet targeted Kshesh airbase to wipe out the first three aircraft of the quite basic IS Air Force…