Monthly Archives: February 2015

New Iraqi Air Force F-16IQ Block 52 fighter jets train in Arizona

F-16IQ Block 52 Fighters shot in Arizona

Iraq has taken delivery of the first of 36 ordered Lockheed Martin F-16 Block 52 jets destined to rebuild the Iraqi Air Force.

Sporting the brand new, exotic two-tone grey camo, the first four F-16IQ Block 52 jets were delivered to Tucson, Arizona, beginning in December 2014.

The F-16IQ jets will be stationed in the U.S. until air bases are readied for the new planes and, above all, secured; in the meanwhile, the Iraqi pilots can be trained in a safe environment by the U.S. instructors of the Arizona ANG’s 162nd Wing, that already own an established experience with foreign students from the Netherlands, Norway, Singapore and Japan.

IAF 1602. F-16D-52-CF.156FS. IRAQ A-F. Tucson Int A-P. 06.02.2015

The training pipeline includes 14 Iraqi student pilots which will get qualified and combat capabable with the Fighting Falcon in about 300 flying hours. Then, they will return to their home and defend their own country with the new jet.

The Aviationist’s photographer Tony Lovelock was at Tucson at the beginning of February and took the pictures of the Iraqi F-16C and D models involved in local training sorties.

IAF 1601. F-16D-52-CF. 156FS. IRAQ Air Force. Tucson 06.02.2015

Image credit: Tony Lovelock

 

Russians have started working on a new engine for their 5th generation stealth fighter

The Russians have started the test and design works, aim of which is to provide the Russian 5th Generation fighter with a relevant power-plant.

If there is one field in which the Russians seem to fall behind in aircraft development – it is definitely the propulsion systems for the new jets.

Currently, prototypes of the Sukhoi T-50 PAK-FA (Perspektivny Aviatsionny Kompleks Frontovoy Aviatsii—Future Tactical Air System) which is the Russian 5th Generation fighter design, use the Saturn AL-41F1 engines, which are a series production model used by the Russian 4.5 generation fighters, such as Sukhoi Su-35.

We must remember that childhood of T-50 PAK-FA has been quite troublesome and engines have already been cause of some quite embarrassing incidents in the near past.

The current engine should not be mistaken with the NPO Saturn AL-41F engine, which has been designed for the Multi-Role Frontline Fighter, also known as MiG-1.44. The engine used by the PAK-FA prototypes is actually an updated variant of the AL-31F power-plant.

According to altair.com.pl, NPO Saturn corporation representatives recently announced that the prototype of the second engine is expected to be ready for flight testing in 2015. The new engine, shall be ready for the series production by 2020, with the first prototype being completed by 2016, and flight tests planned to happen in 2017.

At least such statements were made during the Aero India 2015 expo by Vladislav Masalov, who is the chief of the ODK company working on the jet propulsion systems.

In the meanwhile, numerous media outlets report that Russia and India are going to sign a contract, regarding the future development of a 5th Generation Fighter in 2015. According to IHS Jane’s, Yuri Slyusar, who is the CEO of the United Aircraft Corporation (UAC), stated that the parties are at the final stage of negotiations. The preliminary agreement has already been signed. The program is to involve the UAC company on the side of Russia and the Hindustan Aeronautics Limited company for India. Slyusar confirmed the fact that the new generation engine testing program is under way.

It is yet unclear, when we may expect the PAK-FA or the Indian fused design to be introduced into service in the front-line units though.

Image credit: Dmitry Zherdin/Wiki

 

Iran destroys mock U.S. aircraft carrier in naval wargames

Do you remember Iran’s mock Nimitz class flattop? Here’s what it was built for.

On Feb. 25, a mock U.S. aircraft carrier, was destroyed by missiles launched by Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guards Corps missiles during the IRGC Navy’s massive Payambar-e Azam 9 (The Great Prophet 9) drills in the Persian Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz.

The model had first appeared in April last year, when images of the mock USS Nimitz class ship being assembled in an Iranian shipyard on the Persian Gulf had spread through social media.

Although the purpose of the fake carrier was not clear back then we mentioned the possibility the giant warship (adorned with several airplanes) might have built to test weapons or serve as a training tool to develop tactics to attack a U.S. flattop in the Persian Gulf exploiting its vulnerabilities.

According to the FARS News Agency, the model came under attack and was destroyed by missiles and rockets fired from tens of IRGC speedboats; also a number of the IRGC cruise and two ballistic missiles were fired at the mock US aircraft carrier.

H/T to Giuliano Ranieri for the heads-up

 

The F-14 Tomcats that never were vs F/A-18E/F Super Hornet: who would have won?

Several years since it was eventually retired from the U.S. Navy, the Grumman F-14 Tomcat remains one of the most loved planes by aviation enthusiasts.

Any article about this iconic fighter plane, still operating with the Islamic Republic of Iran Air Force, its story, capabilities, records and surrounding anecdotes, always become a much debated and commented post on The Aviationist. For this reason, we will continue writing about this legendary plane and its replacement: the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet.

After the Tomcat retirement, the Rhino (as the F/A-18E/F is nicknamed by its aircrews) has not only quickly become the backbone of every Carrier Air Wing (CVW), but it has also replaced some of the oldest Legacy Hornets on the American flattops. Having fulfilled such a difficult task, the Super Hornet has demonstrated to be one of the best multirole jets available today. But could an advanced version of the F-14 have been even better?

LCDR Joe “Smokin” Ruzicka, who was the Radar Intercept Officer (RIO) who flew the last F-14 Demonstration before the Tomcat’s retirement in 2006, last year released an interesting interview to Foxtrot Alpha’s Tyler Rogoway. Among all the other things, Ruzicka explained that, while the Super Hornet is a great plane, it seems like its strength mainly comes from technology. “In the Tomcat, I think you had to be a better aviator because the technology just wasn’t there. It was up to the aircrew to maximize its performance (or minimize it if you sucked).”

That said, one might wonder whether integrating the same technology in the F-14 would have been possible.

By 1987, Grumman realized that the potential for growth had not yet been reached by the F-14 airframe, and they proposed to the U.S. Navy four advanced versions of the F-14, as told by Tim Callaway in Issue 13 “Grumman F-14 Tomcat” of Aviation Classics magazine.

The F-14D Quickstrike was the first proposal: featuring an enhanced version of the APG-71 radar, this advanced Tomcat version would have carried stand off weapons such as the Harpoon, HARM and SLAM (Standoff Land Attack Missile) missiles.

Requiring only new software and minor modifications to existing F-14Ds, the Quickstrike would have been a cost-effective attack platform but it didn’t meet the Advanced Tactical Fighter specification and the U.S. Navy chose the shorter ranged F/A-18E/F.

The second proposal was the ST21, the Super Tomcat for the 21st Century. The latter would have been a structural upgrade to the existing F-14Ds, that would have introduced a new wing glove design and single piece windscreen, while sensors positioned in front of the under fuselage weapons rails would have supplemented the chin pods. Moreover the ST21 would have also received a new engine the F110-GE-129 of 13,154kg of thrust, which would have provided a supercruise speed of Mach 1.3 featuring also thrust vectoring nozzles for greater maneuverability. These new engines would have supplied to the ST21 a tremendous acceleration alongside with a greatly increased range of the aircraft.

Another modification to the standard F-14D would have been the AST21, the Attack Super Tomcat for the 21st Century.

This advanced Tomcat would have been fitted with additional extra bomb pylons under the engine nacelles, a nuclear weapons capability, a modified radar with a Forward Air Controller (FAC) mode and an Integrated Defensive Avionics Package (IDAP) to improve survivability in the air to ground environment. The last proposal, as Callaway explains, was the ASF-14 Advanced Strike Fighter.

The ASF-14 would have been a totally new aircraft with the F-14 shape and it would have taken advantages of the new materials and new technologies developed for the Advanced Tactical Fighter and Advanced Tactical Attack Aircraft programs.

None of these proposals has been built and we’ll never know if an advanced Tomcat would have been better than the actual Super Hornet, but for sure these two fighters are two different aircraft as explained by Ruzicka, who told to Rogoway that the better way to understand the differences between the F-14 and the F/A-18E/F is using the analogy of a muscle car to a mini-van, “with the Tomcat being the former and the Super Hornet being the latter. The muscle car doesn’t have much to it in the way of fancy technology, just some raw speed and the coolness of a Steve McQueen movie, but it gets the job done. The mini-van on the other hand is a very nice car, complete with DVR’s for the kids, Air Conditioning, power windows, and lots of places to put your sippy cup. It’s a great car—-but it’s still a mini-van.”

Image credit: U.S. Navy

 

Unique Point of View: R-73 Missile Launch as seen from the pylon of a Russian Su-27 Flanker

Cool photo of a Vympel R-73 (NATO reporting name AA-11 Archer).

The R-73 is an infrared homing (heat-seeking), short-range missile with a sensitive, cryogenic cooled seeker that can “see” targets up to 40° off the missile’s centerline.

Developed by Vympel NPO, the missile has an off-boresight capability and can be targeted by a helmet-mounted sight (HMS): pilots can designate targets from a minimum range of about 300 meters to nearly 30 km by simply looking at them.

In this post you can see an interesting image released by UAC, the Russian holding which encompasses Irkut, Mikoyan, Sukhoi, Ilyushin, Tupolev, Beriev and Yakovlev, showing an R-73 just fired by a Sukhoi Su-27.

Image credit: Airforce.ru