Tag Archives: Typhoon

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

 

Air-to-Air image of RAF Typhoon Display Jet’s first flight with newly painted tail

The newly painted tail of the RAF Typhoon Display jet, from 29 Reserve (R) Squadron (Sqn) flew for the first time and accompanied by a Typhoon in the original design.

Royal Air Force (RAF) Coningsby in Lincolnshire is the homebase of 29(R) Sqn, whose role is to train new pilots destinated to the Typhoon.

Also belonging to the Sqn is Eurofighter Typhoon Display Team and Flight Lieutenant (Flt Lt) Noel Rees, 2014 display pilot. This year the aircraft sports a special tail designed by Adam Johnson of Adam Johnson Concepts and painted by Serco contractors based at RAF Coningsby.

The special tail was completed in four days and contains the squadrons eblem, the buzzard and its famous XXX.

Image credit: Crown Copyright

 

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Red Flag 13-3: focusing on Electronic Warfare, SEAD and Intelligence. With plenty of Aggressors.

Red Flag 13-3 currently underway at Nellis Air Force Base focuses on complex combat ops, in an “electronic scenario”.

At least, this is what seems to emerge based on the analysis of the units taking part of the world’s largest and more realistic exercise.

RF 13-3 is the first to include real-time intelligence by ISR platforms thanks to the involvement of the Air Force Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Agency, via its 526th Intelligence Squadron.

Indeed, the 526th IS has developed a scenario with realistic environment for ISR platform to collect against, that includes enemy communication tactics and procedures.

Among the most interesting platforms taking part to the exercise is an MC-12W that, just like RF 12-3 last year, supports ground forces tracking high-value and time-sensitive targets, including people, as well as provide tactical intelligence and airborne command and control for air-to-ground operations.

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Considered the amount of Aggressors launched during the sorties I’ve witnessed, I strongly believed that, compared to 12-3, the air threats were sensibly higher: last year the MC-12W at their first RF were used in a “permissive” scenario, with limited risk to be intercepted by enemy planes.

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Such scenario was probably made a bit more difficult with enemy fighter planes (and need to rely on huge escort, that included F-22 Raptor stealth fighters).

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EC-130H, EP-3, RC-135 are among the other interesting assets, both providing Electronic Warfare capabilities to the RF participants; SEAD (Suppression of Enemy Air Defense) planes include U.S. Navy E/A-18G Growlers, U.S. Marine Corps EA-6B Prowlers and U.S. Air Force F-16CJ aircraft.

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The Royal Australian Air Force deployed to Nellis two E-7 AEW (Airborne Early Warning) aircraft, while UK’s Royal Air Force is taking part to the RF 13-3 with both the Tornado GR4 and the Typhoon FGR4.

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Other participating weapon systems include the F-15E (from the 48th FW based at RAF Lakenheath) and the 53rd Wing’s F-15C, the 509th BW B-2 Spirit, and support assets (E-3s and KC-135s among the others).

Not bad for a Red Flag (before sequestration…..)

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The lack of any A-10 (actually, there are on base but involved in Green Flag) and B-1s is (probably) a sign that the CAS (Close Air Support) was not among the “topics” of the exercise.

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Up close and personal with the badass Typhoon’s Helmet Mounted Symbology System

Taken at Grosseto airbase during the recent Spotter Day, the following close up pictures show the Eurofighter Typhoon‘s HMSS (Helmet Mounted Symbology System).

Based on data made available by Eurofighter, the Typhoon’s HMSS features lower latency, higher definition, improved symbology and night vision than the most common fighter helmet, namely the American JHMCS (Joint Helmet Mounted Cueing System), that equips all the U.S. armed forces F-16, F-18 and F-15 jets, and became operational towards the end of the ’90s.

The rather “bumpy” HMSS (as well as the JHMCS, the DASH, Striker and so on), provides the essential flight and weapon aiming information through line of sight imagery, making the Typhoon quite lethal in air-to-air engagements.

Noteworthy, U.S. F-22 pilots, that dogfighted with their German colleagues with the Typhoon at the recent Red Flag Alaska, are not currently equipped with a Helmet Mounted Display.

Information (including aircraft’s airspeed, altitude, weapons status, aiming etc) is 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.

Image credit: The Aviationist’s Giovanni Maduli

A rare look into the Eurofighter Typhoon ASTA (Aircrew Synthetic Training Aids) simulator

On Oct. 30, thanks to the Italian Air Force and the Rivista Aeronautica (service’s official magazine), The Aviationist had the opportunity to visit the Italian Eurofighter Typhoon’s Main Operating Base at Grosseto.

Among the highlights of the tour of the planes and equipment of the local based 4° Stormo (Wing), there was a visit to the Cockpit Trainer of the ASTA (Aircrew Synthetic Training Aids) simulator.

Developed by Alenia Aeronautica and SELEX Galileo, ASTA is actually not a single simulator, but a set of two simulator and accompanying training systems. In fact, it is made of a Full Mission Simulator (FMS) and Cockpit Trainer (CT). The first simulator is an exact reproduction of the Typhoon’s cockpit, including real HUD (Head Up Display), G-seat simulating acceleration effects, full avionic and sensor suit, and it is suitable for tactical training level.

The FMS features a synthetic visualising system which projects images of the external scenario on a spherical dome where 13 high-resolution projectors and 6 target projectors assure a vision range of 360° to the pilot.

The Cockpit Trainer, the one you can see in the images below taken by The Aviationist’s Giovanni Maduli, is a sort-of simplified simulator. It lacks the g-seat and has a reduced visual system, but it can be interconnected to the FMS for networked training.

In spite of a simplified architecture, the CT is not only used for basic aircrew training, but it is also used for advanced training in the air-to-air mission and it is one of tools used by the pilots to achieve the Limited Combat Readiness.

Supporting both the CT and the FMS  are the Lesson Planner and Scenario Generator, Debriefing Station & Theatre, in addition to Database Generation System and Training Management Information System.

Image credit: The Aviationist’s Giovanni Maduli