Tag Archives: U.S. Air Force

Some interesting photographs of the Air National Guard F-15s at work in Europe

Twelve F-15C Eagle fighter aircraft are currently based at Leeuwarden Air Base, Netherlands, for a six-month deployment to Europe.

The 125th Fighter Wing, Florida Air National Guard, from Jacksonsville, Florida, leads the first ANG  TSP (theater security package) to deploy in support of Operation Atlantic Resolve, the second such TSPs in Europe (12 A-10 of the Air Force TSP deployed to several airbases across eastern Europe beginning last month).

The F-15s and personnel taking part in this TSP are based out of units in Florida, Oregon, California, Massachusetts and various bases throughout Europe and they are grouped, regardless of their origin, in the 159th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron.


They will attend Frisian Flag exercise, due to start on Apr. 13, then, as done by the USAF A-10s, they will head east, to Bulgaria, where they will conduct training alongside other NATO allies and show U.S. support to local allies.


The images in this post were taken on Apr. 5, by photographer Marco Ferrageau, at Leeuwarden airbase, as the Eagles launched for their first missions over Europe.


Image credit: Marco Ferrageau


How the legendary Starfighter was used to train astronauts: the story of the NF-104

The story of how the Starfighter was used to train future astronauts.

Being the first operational aircraft able to reach and maintain a speed of more than Mach 2.0, the Lockheed F-104 was a huge leap forward when strictly compared to the contemporary subsonic jets.

Thanks to its performance, the Starfighter was chosen to train test pilots destined to fly the X-15, a winged spacecraft that was air-launched by a B-52 Stratofortress, flew into space and then landed conventionally.

The idea to modify several F-104As to serve as “manned spacecraft transition trainers” is credited to astronaut Frank Borman who was both student and instructor at Edwards Air Force Base, California, home of the Air Force’s Aerospace Research Pilot School, later renamed U.S. Air Force Test Pilot School.

The major modifications to the Starfighters consisted in the addition of a 6,000 pound thrust rocket engine at the base of the vertical tail, reaction control thrusters in the nose and in each wing tip, a larger vertical tail, increased wing span, tanks to store the rocket propellants, provision for a full pressure suit, a cockpit hand controller to operate the reaction control thrusters, and modified cockpit instrumentation.

Moreover, the unnecessary equipment, like the gun, fire control system, tactical electronics, and auxiliary fuel tanks, was removed.

The Starfighters with these modifications were renamed NF-104s. They entered in service in 1963 and their pilots could zoom to more than 100,000 feet in a full pressure suit, experience zero “g”, and use reaction control to handle the aircraft.

Only about 35 students had the privilege to fly the NF-104 and each pilot had to be prepared for these “space flights” by using standard Starfighters. The first mission was a pressure suit familiarization flight, with the F-104 flown to high altitude with the cockpit depressurized allowing the student to experience a flight in a fully pressurized suit. To practice the zoom profile, the second flight was conducted in a two-seat F-104, with the instructor that showed to the student how reaching an altitude of 70-80,000 feet performing a 30 degree climb, while the last three missions were made in a single seat Starfighter increasing the climb angle to 45 degrees and reaching an altitude of 90,000 feet.

After these five preparation flights, the student finally performed the two programmed NF-104 missions.

As described by Steve Markman and Bill Holder in their book One Of A Kind Research Aircraft A History Of In Flight Simulators, Testbeds & Prototypes, the typical flight syllabus started with taking off on jet power, climb to 30-40,000 feet, and accelerate to Mach 1.7-1.9. Then the pilot ignited the rocket engine and pitched the nose up to start the steep climb.

After two minutes the Starfighter passed through 80,000 feet, the jet engine flamed out, the rocket engine ran out of fuel and the pilot began a parabolic arc to the peak altitude.

It was during the parabolic arc that the pilot experienced “weightlessness” for about one minute and used the side stick to fire the reaction control rockets to control the aircraft’s pitch, roll and yaw motions.

Once at a lower altitude, the pilot restarted the jet engine and made a conventional landing: the whole mission lasted about 35 minutes from taxi to landing and was performed in a full pressure suit.

One NF-104 was destroyed on Dec. 10 1963. The plane was piloted by legendary Col. Chuck Yeager at that time the Aerospace Research Pilot School Commander. Yeager was attempting to reach an altitude record and after a 60 degree climb, while he was at 101,595 feet, the Starfighter experienced an uncontrollable yawing and rolling motion.

Yeager wasn’t able to recover the plane and was forced to eject at 8,500 feet.

During the separation from the ejection seat the rocket nozzle hit his face shield breaking it, while the combination of the red hot nozzle and oxygen in his helmet produced a flame that burned his face and set several parachute cords on fire.

Yeager was able to extinguish the flames with his glove hands and after the accident was hospitalized for two weeks.

The accident was depicted in the book (and film of the same name) “The Right Stuff”.

Col. Charles E. Yeager

Another NF-104 flight almost ended in disaster on June 15, 1971, when Capt. Howard Thompson experienced a rocket engine explosion while trying to lit it at 35,000 feet and Mach 1,15: luckily Thompson made a safe lading to Edwards AFB using the normal jet engine.

The program was terminated when it was decided that the aerospace training mission would be performed by NASA and the last NF-104 flight was performed in December 1971.

During its service with the U.S. Air Force the highest altitude reached by an NF-104 was 121,800 feet, achieved by Maj. Robert Smith during acceptance testing.

Today the last of the NF-104s is on static display in front of the Air Force Test Pilot School at Edwards AFB.

Image credit: U.S. Air Force


“A-10 will always be better than F-35 in Close Air Support. In all the other missions the JSF wins” F-35 pilot says

…and (quite obviously) the F-22 will always be better in Air-to-Air combat. But, in all the other missions the F-35 wins.

It’s wrong to compare the F-35 with any other asset that was designed to perform a specific mission: this is, in simple words, what a U.S. F-35 pilot said in an interview he gave to the Danish website focusing on military topics Krigeren.

Interviewed at Luke Air Force Base, by Christian Sundsdal, Maj. John Wilson, an F-35 pilot with an F-16 background clearly explained something that is quite obvious to everyone: an A-10 Thunderbolt II will always be better in CAS than the F-35 because it was designed to perform that kind of mission. Similarly, an F-22 will always be better than the JSF in air-to-air combat, because it was designed for that role. However, the F-35 is better in all the other missions.

For sure, aircraft designed for a specific role are going to be more effective in that one than other multi-role platforms. The problem in this case is that the F-35 is going to replace these assets, even though many believe this is not cost-effective, and could even cost some human lives as far as CAS missions, with Troops in Contact is concerned.

Furthermore, according to Wilson, once all the limitations are removed and it can carry weapons, the F-35 will be as capable as the F-16 in the CAS role.

According to Wilson, the majority of CAS missions that have been flown in Iraq, Afghanistan or elsewhere, were flown by Predators, F-15E Strike Eagles, F-16s and F-18s.

“The A-10s make up a very small percentage [and the fact that] every JTAC or guy on the ground that has been saved, has been saved by an A-10, that’s just not true” Wilson says.

“If the guys on the ground are concerned about that…I’d say they shouldn’t be. They should only be concerned that the pilots of whatever aircraft it is, is properly trained and doing his job, dropping the right bomb, on the right target, at the right time.”

Wilson admits the aircraft is expensive, but he says that maintaining several different types in service is even more costly.

Here’s the interview.

Interview with F-35 Pilot from Krigeren.dk on Vimeo.


Impressive images of U.S. A-10 Warthogs firing 30mm gun on range. In Romania.

Theater Security Package A-10s are pretty busy in eastern Europe.

Twelve U.S. Air Force A-10 Thunderbolt II jets assigned to the 354th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron involved in a theater security package deployment in eastern Europe have arrived at at Campia Turzii, Romania.

A-10s deploy to Romania for Operation Atlantic Resolve

A-10s deploy to Romania for Operation Atlantic Resolve

A-10s deploy to Romania for Operation Atlantic Resolve

On Apr. 1, the aircraft conducted live firing activity on the nearby range, where they could use the 30mm  rotary cannon against dummy vehicles.

A-10s deploy to Romania for Operation Atlantic Resolve

A-10s deploy to Romania for Operation Atlantic Resolve

The effect of their GAU-8 Avenger 30 mm hydraulically driven seven-barrel Gatling-type (the same heavily used to attack ISIS targets in Syria and Iraq). on the ground targets is pretty impressive as the images in this post show.

A-10s deploy to Romania for Operation Atlantic Resolve

A-10s deploy to Romania for Operation Atlantic Resolve


A-10s deploy to Romania for Operation Atlantic Resolve

The A-10 Thunderbolts are involved in the “Dacian Thunder 2015”, a long exercise taking place in Romania from the end of March to July.

A-10s deploy to Romania for Operation Atlantic Resolve

U.S. and Romanian air forces are conducting joint training aimed to strengthen interoperability and demonstrate the countries’ shared commitment to the security and stability of Europe amid tensions with Russia. Not far from Ukraine, Crimea and Moldova.

A-10s deploy to Romania for Operation Atlantic Resolve

Image credit: U.S. Air Force


Here are the first photos of the Florida ANG F-15C Eagle jet arriving in Europe

First ever Air National Guard Theater Security Package has arrived in Europe.

The first six F-15C Eagles from the Florida Air National Guard’s 159th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron have arrived at Leeuwarden airbase, Netherlands, on Mar. 31.

Twelve Eagle jets are deploying to Europe as the first ever ANG theater security package in the continent. The second wave of F-15s is expected to arrive at the Dutch airbase on Apr. 1.

F-15C Theater Security Package Arrives in Europe

They will initially operate from the Dutch base, where they will take part in Frisian Flag exercise before moving to Bulgaria to conduct training alongside other NATO allies “to strengthen interoperability and to demonstrate U.S. commitment to the security and stability of Europe.”

The air superiority planes complement the 12 A-10 of the Air Force TSP deployed to several airbases across eastern Europe beginning last month and the 14 F-16s from Aviano airbase, deployed to Amari airbase, in Estonia, to conduct joint training with regional allies.

F-15C Theater Security Package Arrives in Europe

Image credit: U.S. Air Force