Tag Archives: United States Air Force

What’s this new camera installed on a U-2 spyplane spotted at Palmdale?

While Lockheed Martin works on its  stealthy replacement, looks like the U-2 is still being modified.

Lockheed Martin has just revelead the “TR-X” a Skunk Works proposal for the next generation, all-new stealthy spyplane to replace the iconic U-2 Dragon Lady.

The new aircraft will combine the features of the U-2 and those of the RQ-4B Global Hawk UAS (Unmanned Aerial System) into a new ISR (Intelligence Surveillance Reconnaissance) platform capable to operate at very high altitude and to penetrate contested airspace.

For the moment, the Air Force is not committed to the new design or any other U-2 replacement concept: addressing reporters earlier this week, Lt. Gen. Robert Otto, deputy chief of staff for ISR, said the U.S. Air Force can’t simply afford its two high-altitude ISR platforms (U-2 and RQ-4) as well as develop the new aircraft.

Indeed, even though it could continue to operate for other two or three decades, the U-2 is slated to be withdrawn from use in 2019 and when the upgraded Global Hawk will take over all the high-altitude ISR tasks.

Nevertheless, even the Dragon Lady is constantly being upgraded with new sensor packages, as the images in this post seem to suggest.

Taken by Kevin Joyce from Sidewinder Aviation Photography at Palmdale, California, widely known as “Skunk Works” LM’s Advanced Development Program Facility (that is to say, where some of the most futuristic “black projects” are developed), the photos show a new, big camera installed underneath the nose section of a Dragon Lady landing at Air Force Plant 42.

Any idea what it can be? Just a new wide-angle hi-rez camera?

U-2 Palmdale large

Image credit: Kevin Joyce / Sidewinder Aviation Photography  (H/T Matt Hartmann for the heads-up)


U.S. Air Force A-10 Close Air Support missions as seen through GoPro cameras

This is one of the coolest A-10C Thunderbolt videos ever.

GoPro cameras in the cockpit of U.S. Air Force A-10s while they fly at low altitude or through the mountains, refuel from a KC-135 tanker, fire AGM-65 Maverick missiles and GAU-8 Avenger 30 mm hydraulically driven seven-barrel Gatling-type gun.

It may be close to retirement (even though it is supporting Operation Inherent Resolve against ISIS targets in Syria and Iraq and strengthening U.S. presence across eastern Europe), but the “Hog” remains one of the most badass aircraft around.

The video was filmed by pilots of the 25 Fighter Squadron belonging to the 51st Fighter Wing at Osan Air Base, South Korea.

H/T to Tom Demerly for the YT link


U.S. F-15E goes supersonic over UK: ceiling tiles come down in local Supermarket

A sonic boom probably caused by U.S. F-15E Strike Eagles shook homes and businesses in Wales.

The sonic boom that caused several ceiling tiles come down in a supermarket in the Welsh town of Aberystwyth, UK, was caused by U.S. fighter planes.

Indeed, according to the statement issued by the Air Force F-15E Strike Eagle aircraft from RAF Lakenheath had been training in the area when something went wrong.

Initially, the exercise was to be carried out over the sea, but due to the fact that the airspace the exercise was planned in was lost, the jets were directed to RAF military training airspace over the southern part of Wales.

The Strike Eagle which went supersonic broke the “sound barrier” at the altitude of 18,000 feet inadvertently causing the sonic boom.

Here’s  how the last part of the USAFE statement reads:

We offer our sincerest apologies for any disturbance or concern that this may have caused. We continue to emphasise airspeed restrictions in our pre-flight briefings to minimise the possibility of inadvertently breaching the sound barrier.

Supersonic flight over the land is usually forbidden for the military aircraft in normal, peacetime conditions except for specific areas.

In CONUS (Continental US) one of these areas is the HASSC (High Altitude Supersonic Corridor), located in Southern California. HASSC is used for flight testing, and it passes over Edwards Air Force Base. It is not the sole corridor of this type, but it is one of the few controlled by the military.

Most of these are within the FAA jurisdiction.

According to the FAA regulations the controlled airspace extends up to 60,000 feet. Anything flying above may fly at “unlimited speeds.”

There is no risk of noise pollution at these altitudes. Supersonic flights are of course permitted in special conditions, for example in case fighter jets have to intercept hijacked liners.

Jacek Siminski for TheAviationist

Image credit: U.S. Air Force


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Final Special Operations MC-130P Combat Shadow leaves European theater

Special Operation Command Europe’s transitioning from the Combat Shadow to the MC-130J Commando II.

The departure of the last MC-130P Combat Shadow, tail number 66-0215, from its home base at RAF Mildenhall,  UK, on Feb. 3, marked the final step of the convertion of the 352nd Special Operations Group to the new MC-130J Commando II.

While flown as a routine training mission, the last sortie brought the plane on a final farewell flight to all those fields that the 67th SOS was stationed at in the UK including RAF Sculthorpe, RAF Prestwick, RAF Woodbridge and RAF Alconbury.

Noteworthy, during the farewell flight the MC-130P performed an aerial refueling (AAR) with one of the 352nd SOG’s newest aircraft, a CV-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft from the 7th Special Operations Squadron.

Since the mid-1980s, the Combat Shadow took part on a wide variety of special operations across the world, including AAR, precision airdrop of personnel and equipment; and the execution of night, long-range, transportation and resupply of military forces.

Since Vietnam, the Combat Shadow has deployed for Operation Just Cause in Panama, Operation Desert Storm in Saudi Arabia and Turkey, Operation Deny Flight in Yugoslavia, Operations Restore Democracy and Uphold Democracy in Haiti, Operations Deliberate Force and Joint Endeavor in Bosnia, Operation Assured Response in Liberia, Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan, Operations Iraqi Freedom and New Dawn in Iraq and Operation Odyssey Dawn in Libya.

The first of a reported 12 MC-130J’s arrived on Jun. 7, 2013 to replace the 67th SOS (Special Operations Squadron) aging fleets of MC-130E and P tankers.

The 67th SOS primary roles are Air refuelling of SOF helicopter/tilt rotor aircraft, infiltration, exfiltration and resupply of SOF by airdrop and land.

Image credit: U.S. Air Force


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US F-16 to deploy to Poland for the next two weeks

About 150 men and 6 F-16 Viper fighter jets are going to be flying over the Polish territory for the next two weeks. The supporting C-17 transport planes and the ground crews have already arrived on Thursday, while the F-16’s are going to arrive in 32. AFB in Łask today (May 11, 2013).

As the Polish Air Force Commander, General Majewski, said, the planes from the Air National Guard 176th Tactical Fighter Squadron originating from Truax AFB in Wisconsin are going to train integration and interoperability with the Polish Jastrząb (Polish name for the F-16) planes. Additionaly the exercise will involve Su-22‘s from 21 AFB in Świdwin and MiG-29‘s from 23 AFB in Minsk Mazowiecki.

Sentry Eagle 2007

Image Credit: USAF

The aim of the exercise is to facilitate integration of pilots, ground and logistics crews. What’s more, the exercise also aims at improving the English linguistic proficiency of the Polish aviators.

On May 17, the American aviators are to be visited by the US Ambassador in Poland, Stephen Mull and by general Majewski.

Integration between PAF and USAF has already begun: a regular rotation of USAF detatchments in Poland has started this year (with Nellis AFB detatchment in Łask being the first one).

Jacek Siminski for TheAviationist

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