Tag Archives: U.S. Navy

The U.S. forces that could be used to strike ISIS in Iraq and Syria

It won’t be easy to strike all ISIS positions in Syria and Iraq. But the U.S. has already amassed several “useful” weapons systems in the region.

Last year, when the U.S. (and France) seemed to be about to launch air strikes on Syria and its chemical weapons, we explained that the air campaign would probably be a limited air war, opened by the usual rain of cruise missiles shot by warships, submarines and bombers with little to no involvement of the so-called “tacair”, the tactical airplanes.

13 months later, the scenario has changed a bit.

Several F-15E Strike Eagles and F/A-18E/F Super Hornets carrying their PGMs (Precision Guided Munitions), are already flying over Iraq hitting ISIS targets five times a day, and they prepare to expand their mission to attack terrorist targets located in Syria.

Whilst last year there was no sign of imminent deployment of F-15s, F-16s or F-18s squadrons to airfields across the region, several warplanes, along with support assets (including tankers and ISR – Intelligence Surveillance and Reconnaissance – platforms) are not only in place, but they are also flying daily missions over Iraq since July.

And, above all, there’s a supercarrier and its powerful Strike Group sailing in the Persian Gulf and pounding militants.

Stand-off weapons, cruise missiles and….stealth bombers?

Since U.S. planes are already freely flying inside Iraqi airspace, it is quite likely they will continue to do so to perform surgical attacks on ISIS targets in Iraq. The aircraft are deployed to Al Udeid, Qatar, and Al Dhafra, UAE, but they could also count of Jordan airbases, some of which already host some U.S. Marine Corps F/A-18 Hornets and Air Force F-16s.

On the other side, Syrian targets will be more difficult to hit: unless Washington will be allowed to use Syria’s airspace any incursion could theoretically require plenty of Electronic Warfare cover and SEAD (Suppression of Enemy Air Defense) support to make Syrian Air Defense harmless. In other words, the unathorized use of Damascus airspace would not be cost-effective along with causing diplomatic issues, as it would require the U.S. to fight a war against Syria (by blinding or destroying Syrian radars and SAM – Surface to Air Missile – batteries) and against ISIS in Syria. And don’t forget that some Syrian Arab Air Air Force planes are fighting their war against local rebels and this raises two issues: deconfliction with SyAAF planes and the risk of being shot down by MANPADS (Man Portable Air Defense Systems) or other Anti-Aircraft weaponry in the hands of the Free Syrian Army.

A more clandestine approach is probably ahead, with a war made of drone strikes, stand-off weapons, and some limited stealth air strikes.

Dealing with drones, as said, they are already operating in Iraq, hence, they could extend their current mission to perform Strike Coordination And Reconnaissance missions in or close to Syria from Incirlik, in Turkey, that has been used as a drone forward operating base, for several years.

Cruise missiles could be fired U.S. destroyers theoretically capable to launch up to 90 Tomahawks Tactical Cruise Missiles as the USS Cole, currently in the Sixth fleet area of operations.

Some more cruise missiles could be fired by U.S. strategic bombers that would perform some global reach, round trip missions from the US (as well as from Diego Garcia): for sure, B-2 Spirit stealth bombers‘ r/t sorties from Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri, to be followed by some more B-1 air strikes  as done during the Libya Air War in 2011, and possibly B-52 ones.

Wars are always an opportunity to test new weapons systems so we can’t rule out an extended campaign in Iraq and Syria will eventually see the baptism of fire of the F-22 Raptor as a multi-role jet or even the mysterious triangle-shaped bomber spotted over the U.S. few months ago. Six F-22s are already stationed at Al Dhafra, in the Gulf area.

High flying U-2 Dragon Lady aircraft and Global Hawk drones flying from Incirlik, Sigonella or Al Dhafra are already getting the required imagery and will perform the post-strike BDA (Battle Damage Assessment) should the need arise.

Even if it will be an American air war, allied air arms will take part in the strike. France was about to fire some Scalp missiles from a handful of Rafale jets in 2013; they will probably ready their “omnirole” fighter jets this time. The UK has already committed some Tornado GR4s to perform reconnaissace and air-to-surface missions, whereas the Italian MoD has affirmed Rome is ready to offer its tanker aircraft (most probably the advanced KC-767 aerial refuelers).

Image credit: U.S. Air Force

 

[Video] Ten of the most dangerous carrier deck mishaps

Take off and landing from an aircraft carrier can be extremely dangerous.

Even if they are extremely important to project power across the globe, aircraft carriers and their flight decks are among the most dangerous working places all around the world.

Planes and helicopters that operate from aircraft carriers and huge ships face space constraints, weight limits, challenging weather conditions and, usually, unavailability of a nearby divert airfield: that’s why in spite of a lot of training and skills, something goes wrong every now and then.

The following video shows some famous and other less known mishaps, close-calls and incidents aboard U.S. and foreign aircraft carriers and warships at sea.

Obviously there are many other videos available on the Web. Let us know which one in your opinion is the most shocking or somehow interesting footage showing a carrier deck mishap.

 

[Video] F/A-18C Hornet painted in Russian Flanker paint scheme takes part in Top Gun training

U.S. Marine Corps F/A-18C in Adversary role at Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort, South Carolina.

Eye-catching paint schemes which make fighter planes similar to their Russian counterparts have become a distinguishing feature of U.S. Aggressors and Adversary jets.

Along with “splinter” patterns, that are inspired by Russian 4th and 5th generation aircraft, more traditional camouflage, like that used by the Russian Naval Aviation, is applied to U.S. Marine Corps F/A-18 Hornets (that inadvertently invented the splinter paint design).

The following video shows Marine Corps VMFAT-101 F/A-18 and NSAWC (Naval Strike and Air Warfare Center) F-16s (including some Adversaries in Flanker color scheme) taking part in Top Gun jet fighter training at Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort, SC.

Chinese Su-27 Jet Threatened U.S. Surveillance Aircraft with a barrel roll stunt over the top of it

A Chinese Su-27 Flanker flew within 50 feet of a U.S. Navy P-8A Poseidon anti-submarine warfare aircraft.

It looks like not only Russian Su-27 Flanker are involved in close encounters with U.S. surveillance planes around the world.

As reported by the Washington Free Beacon, a Chinese Su-27 flew dangerously close to a U.S. Navy P-8 Poseidon ASW (Anti-Submarine Warfare) aircraft over the East China Sea, on Aug. 19.

The P-8, a derivative of the Boeing 737, capable to carry the Mk-54 airborne torpedo and the Harpoon anti-ship missile, and to perform ASW missions as well as ISR (Intelligence Surveillance and Reconnaissance) tasks, was conducting a routine surveillance mission in international airspace when a Chinese Flanker intercepted it.

Routine stuff, until the Chinese jet flew within 50 feet of the Poseidon “and then carried out a barrel roll over the top of the aircraft” a maneuver meant to threaten the American aircraft, as commented by US officials familiar with the incident who have talked to Washington Free Beacon’s

The American jet was one of the aircraft assigned to U.S. Navy’s VP-16, a squadron based at Naval Air Station Jacksonville, Florida, that has been deployed to Kadena, Okinawa, one the largest U.S. airbases in the Asia-Pacific region, located about 400 chilometers East of the disputed Senkaku islands (Diaoyu for China), since December 2013.

Navy’s Poseidons not only assisted rescue efforts in the Philippines, supporting Operation Damayan, but they are constantly monitoring Chinese movements in region where tension is still high following the establishment of a Chinese Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ).

As already recalled when reporting about the RC-135U intercept last June, on Apr. 1, 2001, a U.S. Navy EP-3E with the VQ-1, flying an ELINT (Electronic Intelligence) mission in international airspace 64 miles southeast of the island of Hainan was intercepted by two PLAN (People’s Liberation Army Navy) J-8 fighters.

One of the J-8s piloted by Lt. Cdr. Wang Wei, made two close passes to the EP-3 before colliding with the spyplane on the third pass. As a consequence, the J-8 broke into two pieces and crashed into the sea causing the death of the pilot, whereas the EP-3, severely damaged, performed an unauthorized landing at China’s Lingshui airfield.

The 24 crew members (21 men and three women), that destroyed all (or at least most of ) the sensitive items and data on board the aircraft, were detained by Chinese authorities until Apr. 11.

H/T to Isaac Alexander for the heads-up

P-8A Safe Sep Harpoon #1 T-3 BuNo 167954 TD Ray Samora.

Image credit: PLAAF, U.S. Navy

 

[Video] U.S. Navy X-47B drone and F/A-18 Hornet conduct historic combined manned, unmanned carrier ops

With a series of tests conducted aboard USS Theodore Roosevelt the Navy’s unmanned X-47B drone demonstrated its ability to operated safely and seamlessly with manned aircraft.

On Aug. 17, the U.S. Navy successfully tested its X-47B UCAS (Unmmaned Combat Air System) alongside an F/A-18F Hornet in a flight deck working environment.

The unmanned aircraft (destined to become USN’s first “killer drone”) completed a series of tests, which included a catapult launch and arrested landing, which demonstrated its ability to operate safely and seamlessly with manned aircraft.

After hitting some important milestones operating as a singleton, the next step was to occupy the carrier pattern with the manned aircraft in order to test whether the UCAS is able to land and vacate the landing area within the time lines that are required for blue water ops aboard a U.S. flattop.

According to the U.S. Navy:

“The first series of manned/unmanned operations began this morning [Aug. 17] when the ship launched an F/A-18 and an X-47B. After an eight-minute flight, the X-47B executed an arrested landing, folded its wings and taxied out of the landing area. The deck-based operator used newly developed deck handling control to manually move the aircraft out of the way of other aircraft, allowing the F/A-18 to touch down close behind the X-47B’s recovery.

This cooperative launch and recovery sequence will be repeated multiple times over the course of the planned test periods. The X-47B performed multiple arrested landings, catapults, flight deck taxiing and deck refueling operations.”

Future plans include nighttime taxiing and flying.

 

Image and Video credit: U.S. Navy