Monthly Archives: February 2013

Lockheed awarded $6.9 billion upgrade “indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity” contract to make the F-22 Raptor a real multirole fighter jet

The US Air Force has awarded Lockheed Martin an indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity contract with a ceiling of $6.9 billion to upgrade the service’s fleet of F-22 Raptor stealth fighters.

Lockheed said that “The Air Force uses this to authorize the Incremental Modernization capability efforts such as Increment 3.1, Increment 3.2A and Increment 3.2B”

“F-22 modernization provides upgrades that ensures the Raptor maintains air dominance against an ever advancing threat – with capabilities such as advanced weapons, multi-spectral sensors, advanced networking technology and advanced anti-jamming technology.”

F-22 Nellis

Image credit: U.S. Air Force

Under increment 3.1 upgrade the fleet of radar evading 5th generation planes will get synthetic aperture radar (SAR) with ground mapping capability as well as the ability to carry eight 113kg (250lb) Small diameter bombs, in 2014; the increment 3.2A will see additional electronic protection measures and upgrades to the Link-16 data link system and its ability to work with the jets sensor suite.

In 2017, increment 3.2B will see the software and hardware upgrade to allow the Raptor to use the AIM-120D and AIM-9X missile systems, although a limited ability will be added before this date.

The use of the AIM-9X with an Helmet Mounted Display (initially not implemented on the plane) would give the F-22 an HOBS (High-Off Bore Sight) capability currently lacking.

Further upgrades as part of 3.2B will see further improvements to the electronic protection system and an upgrade to the aircraft geo-location system.

Increment 3.3 is in the pipelines but will be funded from another proposal at a later date and no further details as to what this will actually be is available.

The upgrades will give the costly and troubled stealth fighter, whose dominance of the skies has been debated since the Eurofighter Typhoons involved in the Red Flag Alaska exercise last year achieved some (simulated) Raptor kills, the capability to perform effectively in both air-to-air and air-to-surface missions.

Something the F-35 should sometime do as well.

David Cenciotti has contributed to this post

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Here’s how a boom operator refuels an A-10 from a KC-135 tanker

The following video is not only interesting for the stunning footage showing some A-10C Warthog aircraft with 190th Fighter Squadron refueling from a KC-135 but because it shows, from a quite unusual point of view, how the “boomer” (the operator who controls and moves the flying boom) works.

At 00:50 you can see the boom operator lying over the large window located on the tail of the KC-135 aerial refueler and moving the flying boom by means of joystick.


Needless to say, the privileged observation position makes the “boomer” job, one of the most interesting in the Air Force.

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The very best “seat” you can find on a C-130 airlifter

As the image below proves, the observation window on a Royal Air Force C-130K (that reminds a WWII gunner’s ball turret) may be the best seat you will ever find on board an Hercules cargo.

Especially if the plane is flying a low level training sortie in the famous Mach Loop.


Image credit: Rob Birmingham

Low flying training is a crucial part in both jets and airlifters pilot training. Aircraft involved in special operations, reconnaissance, Search And Rescue, troops or humanitarian airdrops in trouble spots around the world may have to fly at low altitudes.

RAF C-130 Hercules pilots relied on their low level training when they flew over the desert and in hostile airspace to rescue oil workers trapped in Libya in 2011, when the country was evacuated.

The RAF Hercules C-130K fleet will soon be retired, the specialist operations role will be transferred to the newer C-130J Super Hercules fleet.

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Israel successfully test fires its latest version of the Arrow anti-missile system

The Israeli Air Force has released details that it successfully test fired the latest version of its Arrow anti-missile system on Feb. 25, 2013.

Arrow 3

Image credit: EPA via Telegraph

The block 4.1 system introduces a new missile, new radar and new shields for the launchers as well as a new battery. The Arrow system is Israel’s outer ring to an anti-missile defense shield, that seeks to intercept long range missiles.

Other Israeli anti-missile defense systems include Arrow 2, Iron Dome and David’s Sling.

The release in full:

“The people of the Wall Administration of the Ministry of Defense, together with the U.S Missile Defense Agency, carried out the first flight experiment of the “Arrow 3” interceptor. The experiment, which was deemed a success, was conducted from experimental field in the center of Israel from which the capabilities of the “Arrow 3” system were now first tested. The Ministry of Defense reports that the success of the experiment is an important stepping stone in the construction of the operational capabilities of the State of Israel to deal with the threats it faces.

The “Arrow 3″ system is designed to intercept long-range missiles and is a central part of the multi-layered defense formation developed by the Ministry of Defense. Since the Arrow System was first deemed operational in the year 2000, it is routinely advanced and upgraded by the IAF and security industries. The purpose of the ongoing upgrades is to provide the system with higher mission capabilities–intercepting long-range ballistic missiles.

In the past years, the Arrow system has progressed immensely. Its newest version (Block 4.1) includes advanced interception missiles, new radar to complement the veteran one, a new operational battery, special shields for the missile launchers and more. In order to examine the system advancements, the IAF and security industries are carrying out experiments that observe the new system capabilities out in the field. The experiments allow the examination of radar activity (its capability to discover a missile launch simulating a ballistic target) and the interceptors (using a literal launch of the advanced missile and examining its function) and the like.”

Richard Clements for

Arrow 3 2

Image credit: IAF

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How the “Black Jet” became the “Gray Dragon”: the story of the only gray F-117 stealth plane

The Lockheed F-117A was not only the world’s first operational stealth aircraft, but also one of the most secret plane ever developed.

Conceived for night secret missions, the “Nighthawk” was restricted to fly only with darkness. In fact, in each operation from “Just Cause” in 1989 to “Iraqi Freedom” in 2003, the F-117s only flew after sunset.

Even if one example was lost in 1999 near Belgrade during “Operation Allied Force“, the F-117A unique design, which consisted in blending different angles, made the aircraft very hard to detect by the air defense systems.

But, low observability to radar alone was not sufficient to guarantee the plane to fly undetected through the enemy airspaces.

During the development of the F-117, the Skunk Works (the Lockheed legendary division that designed secret aircraft) found that to evade visual detection the best solution was a paint scheme in different shades of gray.

Gray Dragon 1

But since the F-117 had to fly only night missions, the U.S. Air Force stated that the Nighthawks had to be painted in black.

However, in 2003 one example of the F-117A was painted in gray with the task to determine if the aircraft could play a role in daytime missions. This Nighthawk was nicknamed “The Dragon” and the operational testing on the type was accomplished at Holloman AFB (Air Force Base), New Mexico, by the 53rd Test and Evaluation Detachment 1 (Det 1).

Flying two missions every day Det 1 pilots were able to determine their daytime capabilities and limitations.

The new kind of coat proved immediately that the “classic” black paint scheme wouldn’t be good during daylight operations. During the tests “The Dragon” was also upgraded with new software and hardware; furthermore the new paints were evaluated by measuring the impact that the gray had on the maintenance.

All these trials were necessary to provide an accurate evaluation of the daytime operations with the gray paint scheme, to ensure a 24-hour stealth presence above the future battlefields.

However, despite the good results of the trials, “The Dragon” would have been the only F-117 painted in gray: in fact, in 2005 when the USAF had to take a decision about repainting in gray the entire fleet , it was decided to retire all the Nighthawks.

The gray F-117 made its last flight on Mar. 12, 2007 at Holloman AFB.

Image credit: U.S. Air Force

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