Monthly Archives: September 2013

[Photo] Alaska’s F-22 Raptor stealth fighters on their way to the Middle East

Six F-22 Raptor aircraft belonging to the 3rd Wing from Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson have arrived at Lajes field, in the Azores on Sept. 27.

The aircraft were deploying to an undisclosed location in the Middle East: considered the almost permanent presence of the stealth fighter jets at Al Dhafra, it is quite likely the Raptors photographed by André Inácio were on their way to the large U.S. base in the United Arab Emirates.

Few days ago, Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh said that an F-22 Raptor flying an HVAAE (High Value Air Asset Escort)  over the Persian Gulf flew under two Iranian F-4 to check out their weapons load without them knowing that he was there, and then pulled up on their left wing, called them and said ‘you really ought to go home’ because they were pursuing an MQ-1 Predator.

The 3rd Wing has recently developed a new concept to deploy four F-22s and make them ready for combat from a remote location in 24 hours. Raptors from JBER in Alaska are among the F-22s with the most recent “Block 3.1″ hardware and software upgrade, that provides the ability to find and engage ground targets and drop GBU-39 small diameter bombs.

F-22 Lajes 2

Image credit: André Inácio

 

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At nearly 40, the IAI Kfir fighter jet received a new lease of life

The IAI Kfir, (“Lion Cub” in Hebrew) has just received an upgrade program to extend its life for another 40 years (possibly).

During the late 1960’s the Israel Aircraft Industries were forced to look inwardly after France had imposed an arms embargo on Isreal (which lasted 42 years) after Israel had paid for development work by Dassault on the Mirage V, a fair weather ground attack aircraft to replace the Israeli Mirage III’s in that role.

In short, avionics were removed from behind the cockpit to increase the fuel capacity and to lower maintenance costs and, in response to the arms embargo, Israel produced an unlicensed copy of the Mirage V and called it the Nesher, after it is thought that the blueprints for the engine and air frame had been acquired from third party Mirage producers.

After the Six Day war, supplies of Mirage III were pretty low so producing a domestic version made sense and got around the embargo completely.

The Kfir program began whens the need to enhance the Nesher became apparent due to the improving Soviet era jets that Israel’s neighbours were acquiring at the time.

The first thing the Kfir designers were to look at was an engine; two engines were looked at: the Rolls Royce Spey Turbofan (which had been used in the Blackburn Buccaneer, F-4K Phantom in UK use and by the AMX project in Italy) and the General Electric J79 Turbojet, the same as in the McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom of which the Israeli Air Force (IAF) were just starting to take delivery of, which was selected and produced locally.

Due to the need for increased cooling of the J79, the Israeli engineers shortened the Mirage III rear fuselage and widened it to accommodate wider air intakes and an additional air intake was also introduced to the bottom of the vertical stabilizer.

A modified two seat Mirage IIIc took to the skies in 1970 powered by the new J79 engine shortly followed thereafter by a J79 powered Nesher during September 1971. But it was June 1973 when a highly modified Nesher powered by the J79 took to the skies for the first time, along with the Israeli avionics on board and re-arranged fuel tanks to improve range.

The finished article entered IAF service during 1975 and saw its first combat during an air strike into Lebanon during 1977 and even got its first kill, a Syrian Mig-21, in 1979 the same day as the F-15 took its first air to air kill. By 1982 the Kfir was used mostly in the ground attack role, leaving the F-15’s & F-16’s to take on the air superiority role.

The Kfir was retired from IAF service in 1996 but is still used by several export customers. Due to the J79 being a U.S design it meant that Israel had to gain permission from the U.S State Department to export the Kfir which did limit the export potential but was bought by Colombia, Ecuador and Sri Lanka and have been used extensively by those nations.

Twenty five examples were also used by the U.S Navy as aggressor aircraft operating out of NAS Fallon and were given the name of F-21A.

Israel has recently announced a new upgrade program to extend the life of the existing export examples named “Block 60.”

The upgrade basically strips the aircraft back to its fuselage and then performs a nuts and bolts rebuilt, upgrading avionics and other systems including a new data-link system, something the Kfir never had being a third generation aircraft.

IAI state that the improvements bring the Kfir up to a fourth generation aircraft and something that is suitable for the 21st Century.

All of Colombia’s Kfir jets have gone through this program as well as the further twelve examples that were acquired; IAI is hoping that it can sell the Block 60 upgrade to the other two operators.

Richard Clements for TheAviationist.com

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French Air Force’s Nuclear Deterrence Drills with the Mirage 2000N

The French Air Force have conveyed a complex drill whose aim was to test the nuclear capability of the service, the French Ministry of Defence said.

The exercise featured a Mirage 2000N jet carrying ASMP-A missiles and took place on Sept. 23, 2013.

The scenario featured a single Mirage 2000N from 2/4 La Fayette Squadron, based in Avord AB in a mission that lasted 3 hours.

The fighter flew to the operative area at high altitude, joined a C-135FR tanker for in-flight refueling then turned towards the target, low level, using terrain to avoid radar detection and infiltrate the enemy territory.

The ASMP-A missile (of course without the warhead) hit the target as planned.

The ASMP-A missiles are the main French nuclear deterrent since 2009. This is a new generation of ASMP missile with an enhanced, longer range of 500-600 km.

Both Mirage 2000N and Rafale can carry the ASMP-A. Besides that, French nuclear assets include the Le Triomphrant submarines carrying ICBMs (Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles).

Jacek Siminski for TheAviationist

Image Credit: French Air Force

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No match for a U.S. Hornet: “China’s Navy J-15 more a flopping fish than a flying shark” Chinese media say

Even if some analysts compared it to the F/A-18 Hornet, the Shenyang J-15 “Flying Shark” may not be the powerful and deadly threat to the U.S. Navy Air Power in the Pacific.

Indeed, in spite of the recent claims that it had succesfully achieved full-load take off and landing on the Liaoning aircraft carrier, the China’s embarked plane may not be able to operate from Beijing’s first supercarrier.

According to the Sina Military Network, that has (weirdly) criticized the Flying Shark calling it a “flopping fish”, the recent tests with heavy weapons have limited the attack range of the J-15 to a distance of 120 kilometers from the carrier: whilst it is said to be capable to carry 12 tons of weapons, when the aircraft is fully loaded with fuel, it can’t carry more than 2 tons of missiles and munitions, meaning that only two YJ-83K anti-ship missiles and two PL-8 air-to-air missiles could be carried (in an anti-ship configuration).

People’s Liberation Army Navy’s next generation carriers will have electromagnetic catapults that will safely launch heavy J-15s. The problem is the ski-jump ramp of the current, only PLA Navy aircraft carrier, that makes take off of aircraft exceeding 26 tons of total weight extremely difficult unless you have a more powerful aircraft, as the Mig-29K.

That’s why a lone Soviet aircraft carrier with ski-jump is no match for a U.S. flattop. And a J-15 carrying only handful of medium and short range air-to-air missiles in air defense configuration to be able to launch for Liaoning would probably be no match for U.S. carrier-based F/A-18E/F Hornet.

Image credit: www.news.cn

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Rapid Raptor package: U.S. Air Force’s new concept for deploying four F-22 stealth fighters in 24 hours

The U.S. Air Force’s 3rd Wing at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, has conceived a new rapid deployment concept that allows to deploy a package of F-22s and supporting logistics to any forward operating base and have the stealth fighter jet ready for combat operations within 24 hours of deploying with a small logistics footprint.

According to Air Force Magazine, the 3rd Wing has tested this new rapid deployment package during several exercises and, although it is scalable, it is built around four F-22 airframes and a single C-17 Globemaster cargo whose role is to carry materials, munitions and maintainers in theater.

In a recent interview with Daily Report, Pacific Air Forces Commander Gen. Hawk Carlisle said that the Rapid Raptor Package denies the enemy the ability to locate the F-22s for an extended period by preventing adversaries from knowing from which airbases the only U.S. 5th generation fighter plane launch.

The agility of the new deployment package denies a potential adversary the ability to locate the F-22s for an extended period and make the precious assets less targetable.

It must be noticed that, even if such kind of deployment could be completed fairly easily, quickly and possibly in a stealthy manner, it involves just two pairs of Raptors, a ridiculous amount even for a small scale operation.

Few days ago, U.S. F-22 stealth fighter pilot taunted Iranian F-4 Phantom combat planes over the Persian Gulf.

 

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