Even if we have often reported the presence of the F-22 Raptors at Al Dhafra, satellite imagery showing five radar evading planes parked at the main airbase in the UAE has been made publicly available for the first time recently.
The aircraft, parked next to an F-15E Strike Eagle, are five of the six F-22 that had (more or less secretely) deployed in South East Asia from Holloman New Mexico, via Moron, Spain, on Apr. 20, 2012.
The image is not only interesting because it shows the main U.S. Air Force plane about 100 miles from Iran, but also because it is the first one to show fast jets on one of most important U.S. airbases in the region.
Using the time option on Google Earth, you may even observe how the airbase has grown since 2004: the large apron in front of the light hangars where the F-22 were parked in April 2012, did not exist in the satellite image taken 9 years ago.
Image credit: Google Earth
Moreover, if you watch the imagery of the subsequent years you will notice that only support planes (E-3s, KC-135s etc) could be seen stationed at Al Dhafra: the presence of the F-22s beginning in 2012, is a clear sign of how the situation in the region has gradually changed with an increasing tension with Iran.
Upgraded F-35 Block 2A Joint Strike Fighters delivered to the U.S. Air Force. Still much to do, though. May 11, 2013Posted by Jacek Siminski in : F-35 , 6comments
The brand new Joint Strike Fighters reached the 58th Fighter Squadron on May 6, 2013. The difference between the mentioned plane and the older ones is the fact that it already incorporates the Block 2A avionics software and will start flying in 2-3 weeks.
Image Credit: Lockheed Martin
26 F-35As (including 2 spares) are going to be a part of the Squadron in Eglin by the beginning of 2014. Some of them will support a training squadron that will be stationed at Luke AFB and is scheduled to receive its first JSFs in January 2014.
The new software introduces interesting capabilities.
First of all, it allows the pilot to use all six thermal imaging cameras of the EO-DAS AN/AAQ-37 optical set.
The purpose of the device is to detect and track the enemy aircraft and provide early warning messages about the launched missiles.
Nevertheless it is not integrated with the on-helmet-sight yet even if it allows displaying weather info.
In spite of the latest upgrade, the F-35A is still restricted. It can’t conduct IMC flights, night flights, aerobatics (have you ever seen JSF on an Air Show?!) and formation take-offs and landings. Even if it is in a post-prototype stage of development the F-35 is still not a fully capable fighters, and it evokes mixed feelings among the Lockheed Martin employees, as The Aviationist reported earlier.
However, the Block 2A software extends the F-35′s capabilities, because it lets the pilot simulate the launch of AIM-120 missiles. Still, the g-limit for the airframe is 5,5 G that is quite ridiculous, taking into account the objectives the JSF is designed to face. Hopefully the g-limit will be lifted soon.
Image Credit: USAF
The 58th Fighter Squadron already operates 9 F-35A Block 1B, which were used to train USAF instructors and test pilots. The ultimate number of trained pilots is to reach 45.
The initial problems with the Lockheed-Martin fighter jet are not an issue for some of the customers. Just recently Israel has transferred $20,1 million for the jets that they are going to buy. The money is to fund additional 2 planes to the 6 already existing in the order. They are to be a part of LRIP – Low Rate Initial Production.
Out of the remaining planes of LRIP VIII (45 examples) 29 are to stay in the US (19 F-35A’s – for USAF and 6 VTOL F-35B’s for the Marine Corps and 4 F-35C’s for US Navy). The remaining 19 planes are to be delivered to the customers as follows: 4 F-35B’s for UK, 2 F-35A for Norway, 4 F-35A for Japan and two abovementioned examples for Israel.
Jacek Siminski for The Aviationist
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An EC-130J Commando Solo (00-1934/STEEL74) of the 193 SOS, operating out of Sigonella, in Italy, became particularly famous in 2011, during the Libya Air War.
The aircraft broadcast messages both English and Arab language inviting sailors and naval officers of a Libyan ship to leave the vessel and return to their families, that were often intercepted by radio hams from all around the world and published almost everywhere, from Audioboo to Youtube.
The EC-130J is a particular version of the EC-130 flying with the Pennsylvania Air National Guard that is used for PSYchological OPerationS (PSYOPS) and is capable of broadcasting TV and radio messages on all bands.
Images taken inside the Commando Solo are quite rare.
However, the U.S. Air Force has recently published some interesting photographs taken aboard an EC-130J involved in Exercise Emerald Warrior 2013, at Hurlburt Field, Fla., May 1.
Electronic communication systems operator and medium frequency operator stations are clearly visible.
Some displays show the frequencies used to broadcast messages.
The primary purpose of Emerald Warrior is to exercise special operations components in urban and irregular warfare settings to support combatant commanders.
Emerald Warrior leverages lessons from Operation Iraqi Freedom, Operation Enduring Freedom and other historical lessons to provide better trained and ready forces to combatant commanders.
Image credit: U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Elizabeth Rissmiller
U.S. Air Force KC-135 crash in Kyrgyzstan update May 5, 2013Posted by David Cenciotti in : Military Aviation , 9comments
The plane, operating from Manas crashed at 2:55 p.m. (Kyrgyzstan time) near Chaldovar, a village located about 100 miles west of the departure airport.
The aircraft, KC-135R 63-8877, had left McConnell AFB using callsign “RCH806″ on Apr. 30. It made a stopover in RAF Mildenhall, on May 1 and departed again to Manas on the following day: the one on May 3 may have been the first operative sortie since its arrival in theater.
The doomed plane during a recent visit to RAF Mildenhall. Image credit: Tony Lovelock
Bodies of the three crew members were recovered by search teams.
Although the nose section of the aircraft has not yet been found, few pieces of the plane, including a part of the tail, were found on a grassy field bordered by mountains; images of the two impact points seems to prove that the plane, or part of it, hit the ground at very high-speed.
Image credit: Kloop.kg
Some local eye witnesses told reporters that they heard an explosion and then saw the plane splitting into three pieces.
Image credit: Kloop.kg
U.S. KC-135 refueling plane crashed in Kyrgyzstan. Air Force got rid of parachutes on these tankers in 2008. May 3, 2013Posted by David Cenciotti in : Military Aviation , 15comments
Local news outlets are reporting that a C -135 tanker (most probably a KC-135) aircraft disappeared from radar screens near Kyrgyz-Kazakh border owned by U.S. Manas Transit Center.
According to Interfax, the Kyrgyz Emergency Situations Ministryconfirmed the information about the plane crash. Looks like citizens of Zhayil region saw the blast of the aircraft crashing into a mountain.
Image credit: Russell Hill
Although it’s too early to say ejection seats or chutes may have saved the crew, we can’t but notice that the KC-135 has no ejection seats.
Actually, there is an escape hatch on the KC-135 but chutes were removed from the Stratotankers, bacause:
“KC-135s are not like other aircraft. They seldom have mishaps, and the likelihood a KC-135 crew member would ever need to use a parachute is extremely low,” according to an article published on the Air Force website.
KC-135 are deployed to Manas in Kyrzyzstan to support Operation Enduring Freedom over Afghanistan.
In 2004, an Air Force KC-135 collided on the ground at Manas with a Kyrgyzstan Airlines Tupolev Tu-154. There were no injuries on either aircraft.