Monthly Archives: March 2016

U.S. Air National Guard F-15s deploying to Iceland and the Netherlands “to deter further Russian aggression”

Time for another deployment to Europe.

Beginning tomorrow, 12 F-15C Eagles and approximately 350 Airmen and support equipment belonging to the 131st Fighter Squadron, Barnes Air National Guard Base, Massachusetts, and the 194th Fighter Squadron, Fresno Air National Guard Base, California, will deploy to the European theater for a 6-month tour in support of Operation Atlantic Resolve.

The arrival of these F-15s marks the latest iteration of a Theater Security Package (TSP), a temporary deployment from CONUS (Continental US) of a force whose aim is to augment the Air Force presence in a specific region, for deterrence purposes.

The TSP “will conduct training alongside NATO allies and partners as part of OAR to strengthen interoperability, demonstrate the U.S. commitment to a Europe that is whole, free, at peace, secure, and prosperous and to deter further Russian aggression,” according to a USAF release.

The wording with the reference to the Russian aggression is noteworthy.

Interestingly, the F-15s will head to two separate locations to simultaneously: Keflavik, in Iceland, to undertake air policing duties in support of NATO, and Leeuwarden Air Base, Netherlands.

While at Leeuwarden, the F-15s will also take part in Exercise Frisian Flag.

As done by the TSPs last year, during their six months in theater, the F-15s will also forward deploy to other NATO and partner nations to include Bulgaria, Estonia and Romania.

Image credit: U.S. Air Force

 

Here’s why the U.S. should restart the F-22 Raptor production line instead of developing a sixth generation fighter

With some tweaks the F-22 Raptor can maintain the edge over the future fighters the U.S. adversaries are developing.

The development of a sixth generation fighter should not be a top priority for the U.S Air Force given that, according to Rob Weiss, executive vice president and general manager of Lockheed Martin’s legendary Skunk Works division, regular updates to the F-22 and F-35 would keep the edge of the current U.S. stealth fighters over China’s and Russia’s future fifth generation warplanes.

Weiss recently told to DefenseOne.com, that these aircraft already enable the U.S. to have a distinct advantage over the capabilities its adversaries are developing and that a replacement for today’s F-22 and F-35 fighter jets isn’t needed anytime soon: “We’ve done this analysis for more than a decade now and it’s clear that the fifth-generation F-22s and F-35s are very capable versus a threat and substantially more capable than any fourth-generation airplane. There’s, in our view, little point in developing a new airplane that doesn’t do anything more than what you can do as you modernize F-22s and F-35s.”

Instead the Pentagon should invest in developing “truly game-changing technologies and capabilities” that will be part of the future sixth-generation fighter whose development, added Weiss, should start in a decade or more from now.

On the contrary, the U.S. Air Force is already procuring the ultimate future fighter that will eventually replace the Raptor under the so-called Next Generation Air Dominance (NGAD) program.

But, assuming that a new fighter would require no less than twenty years to be developed, restarting the F-22 production line would be for sure a more cost-effective move for the service.

The procurement of additional Raptors would also make the JSF more capable, given that as we have already explained, the Air Force said that without the support of a dedicated air superiority fighter such as the F-22, the F-35 would be irrelevant.

Furthermore reopening the Raptor production would give the chance to fix the few shortcomings the aircraft has.

For instance, thrust vectoring (TV) wasn’t a strictly needed feature since it could bring some stealthy trade-offs to the airframe of an aircraft built to achieve most of his kills silently. Moreover, although during within visual range (WVR) engagements TV can be very useful to put the F-22 in the proper position to score a kill, it requires an appropriate use to prevent the Raptor from losing energy and becoming very vulnerable.

Eventually a helmet-mounted display (HMD), which the aircraft still lacks, coupled with the recently integrated AIM-9X missile, could equally turn the F-22 into a lethal dogfighter, given that the HMD would enable the pilot to exploit the full High Off-Boresight (HOBS) capabilities of the weapon.

Fixing the F-22 shortcomings and then restarting its production line would be the best solution for the U.S. Air Force also according to Jamie Hunter, editor of Combat Aircraft Monthly, who wrote on the December 2015 issue of the magazine: “How about a risk-reduced approach for NGAD? Take the almost perfect Raptor and put it back into production, albeit this time with the tweaks that make it truly the best fighter ever can be. That approach may just help mitigate against the early cost over – runs and delays – and provide capability faster and when it’s needed.”

F-22 Vs Sixth Generation fighter

Image credit: Staff Sgt. Natasha Stannard / U.S. Air Force

Watch out these photographs of 14 KC-135 tankers performing an “Elephant Walk” at McConnell AFB

Simulated alert call at McConnell Air Force Base, Kansas.

On Mar. 24, fourteen KC-135 Stratotankers performed an “Elephant Walk” as part of an exercise aimed at testing the rapid mobility capabilities and teamwork of the crews at McConnell Air Force Base, Kansas.

KC-135 Elephant walk 2

Elephant walks are periodically performed at airbases all around the world to train fighter jets, bombers, airlifters as well as tankers for war-time operations and test crews ability to quickly and safely mass launch base aircraft within minutes of being notified of a mission; depending on the purpose of the training event Elephant Walk may terminate with the aircraft taking off in sequence, or taxi back to the apron.

KC-135 Elephant walk 3

Image credit: U.S. Air Force photos/Airman 1st Class Christopher Thornbury

Cool video shows British E-3D AEW aircraft refueling from U.S. KC-135 tanker over Iraq

E-3 AEW (Airborne Early Warning) aircraft require aerial refuel to extend their on-station time.

The following video shows a U.S. KC-135 Stratotanker with the 340th Expeditionary Air Refueling Squadron, refueling a RAF E-3D Sentry over Iraq.

Both aircraft were involved in missions in support of Operation Inherent Resolve and the fight against the terrorist group ISIL.

Even though E-3s perform AAR quite regularly, the size of both the refueler and the receiver make the operation a bit more difficult, at least according to Sentry pilots.

A few years ago we posted a video of a NATO E-3A that almost hit the tail of the tanker and its flying boom during air-to-air refueling operations.

In that case, the AWACS came within a few meters from the KC-135 and performed a quite aggressive evasive maneuver pulling several negative g-forces to gain quick separation from the refueler.

 

Watch a B-1 Lancer perform a double aileron roll during an airshow

Ever happened to see a B-1 Lancer doing a double aileron roll?

The B-1 “Lancer” supersonic swing-wing strategic bomber is a highly maneuverable video, as proved by this really interesting amazing video.
It shows a “Da Bone” (from “B-One”) doing a high-speed low altitude pass over MacDill Air Force Base followed by a double aileron roll performed with the aircraft climbing with full afterburner.

Quite unusual, since heavy bombers don’t perform such kind of maneuvers at airshows. Still, pretty cool.

The B-1s have completed a Tour of Duty in support of Operation Inherent Resolve in the Central Command area of responsibility, where they have been deployed to pound ISIS last January. They returned home after a 6-month deployment worth 3,800 munitions on 3,700 targets in 490 sorties, to receive upgrades; they could head back to the Mideast this summer after they receive additional cockpit upgrades.