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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
Although a Royal Air Force Typhoon took part to the daily air display, the most interesting thing at Farnborough International Airshow 2012 was the opportunity to get some more details about the recent participation of the German Air Force Eurofighter Typhoons to the Red Flag.
As we have already reported, the Typhoons and the Raptor had the opportunity engage each other in dissimilar air combat training but only a part of the story about the outcome of the mock engagements has been reported so far: the one about the German commander saying that the F-22’s capabilities are “overwhelming,” a statement that, according to Eurofighter sources, was taken out of context.
Indeed, Typhoon pilots at Farnborough said that, when flying without their external fuel tanks, in the WVR (Within Visual Range) arena, the Eurofighter not only held its own, but proved to be better than the Raptor.
Indeed, it looks like the F-22 tends to lose too much energy when using thrust vectoring (TV): TV can be useful to enable a rapid direction change without losing sight of the adversary but, unless the Raptor can manage to immediately get in the proper position to score a kill, the energy it loses makes the then slow moving stealth combat plane quite vulnerable.
This would be coherent by analysis made in the past according to which the TV it’s not worth the energy cost unless the fighter is in the post stall regime, especially in the era of High Off Bore Sight and Helmet Mounted Display (features that the F-22 lacks).
Obviously, U.S. fighter pilots could argue that, flying a stealthy plane they will never need to engage an enemy in WVR dogfight, proving that, as already explained several times, kills and HUD captures scored during air combat training are not particularly interesting unless the actual Rules Of Engagement (ROE) and the training scenario are known.
However, not all the modern and future scenarios envisage BVR (Beyond Visual Range) engagements and the risk of coming to close range 1 vs 1 (or 2 vs 2, 3 vs 3 etc) is still high, especially considered that the F-22 currently uses AIM-120 AMRAAM missiles, whose maximum range is around 100 km (below the Meteor missile used by the Typhoon).
Moreover, at a distance of about 50 km the Typhoon IRST (Infra-Red Search and Track) system is capable to find even a stealthy plane “especially if it is large and hot, like the F-22″ a Eurofighter pilot said.
Anyway, the Typhoons scored several Raptor kills during the Red Flag Alaska. On one day a German pilot, recounting a succesfull mission ironically commented: “yesterday, we have had a Raptor salad for lunch.”
Above images (credit: The Aviationist’s photographer Giovanni Maduli) show the Typhoon at Farnborough International Airshow 2012.