Monthly Archives: April 2016

Russian Su-27 barrel rolls on U.S. spyplane over the Baltic Sea. Once again.

Another day, another Top Gun stunt in the Baltic.

On Apr. 29, a Russian Su-27 Flanker “barrel rolled” over the top of a U.S. Air Force RC-135 which was flying a recon mission in international airspace above the Baltic Sea, the CNN reported.

The Russian interceptor approached alongside within 25 feet of the U.S. intelligence gathering aircraft and then flew inverted over the top of the plane to the other side, performing the same Top Gun-like stunt another Su-27 had carried out on a Rivet Joint over the Baltic on Apr. 14.

Still, such aggressive maneuvers are becoming dangerously frequent during the routine close encounters between American spyplanes and Russian fighters in the skies across the world. On Jan. 25, 2016 a U.S. RC-135 intelligence gathering jet was intercepted by a Russian Su-27 Flanker fighter jet over Black Sea: during the interception, the Su-27 made an aggressive turn that disturbed the controllability of the RC-135.

On Apr. 7, 2015 another Su-27 flew within 20 feet of an RC-135U, over the Baltic Sea.

On Apr. 23, 2015 a U.S. Air Force RC-135U Combat Sent performing a routine surveillance mission in international airspace over the Sea of Okhotsk, north of Japan, some 60 miles off eastern Russia was intercepted by a Russian Su-27 Flanker that crossed the route of the U.S. aircraft putting itself within 100 feet of the Combat Sent.

So, it looks like these “aerobatic maneuvers” performed by the Russian Flankers out of Kaliningrad oblast are becoming a de-facto standard in interceptions carried out by the RuAF Su-27s over the Baltic Sea (unless it’s always the same pilot). A bit unprofessional and much dangerous.

Image credit: Crown Copyright


The story of the first unofficial MiG Kill achieved by an American fighter in the skies over Vietnam

The F-100 Super Sabre flew more individual sorties in Vietnam than any other fighter, but it was never credited with an air-to-air victory.

The first officially listed American aerial victory during the Vietnam War was achieved by a U.S. Navy F-4B Phantom that destroyed a Chinese MiG-17 on Apr. 9, 1965. However, compelling evidence clearly suggests that another MiG-17, this time a North Vietnamese one, was shot down by a USAF F-100D, flown by Capt. Donald Kilgus on Apr. 4, achieving the only Super Sabre air-to-air victory and predating the first US Navy MiG Kill by five days.

Nevertheless according to Donald J. McCarthy, Jr. book, “MiG Killers A Chronology of U.S. Air Victories in Vietnam 1965-1973,” the outcome of the air battle during which Kilgus destroyed the MiG-17 has long been the subject of much debate by historians over years.

This aerial engagement took place during the second strike on the Dragon’s Jaw bridge, 70 miles from Hanoi: the bridge was attacked by several F-105s while a total of 16 F-100Ds from the 416th Tactical Fighter Squadron (TFS) fulfilled both Rescue Combat Air Patrol (RESCAP) and MiG Combat Air Patrol (MiGCAP) missions.

As explained by Peter Davies and David Menard in their book “F-100 Super Sabre Units of the Vietnam War,” the RESCAP F-100D flight (using “Green” as callsign), carrying 2.75-in rocket pods, set up an offshore orbit, ready to move in and cover for SAR forces if required. As the strike package approached its target, the North Vietnamese controllers vectored two MiG-17s behind Green flight from a head-on approach.

The 416th TFS F-100s turned to meet them and Capt. Kilgus (flying the F-100D tail number 55-2894, callsign “Green 2”) pursued one of the MiGs in a steep dive from 20,000ft down to 7,000ft, firing several bursts with his 20mm cannons and observing hits on the fighter’s right stabilizer.

He and other flight members saw pieces flying off the MiG, but at the last moment Kilgus had to pull out of his dive, whereupon he lost sight of the target in the hazy conditions above the Gulf of Tonkin.

Super Sabre

Other three MiGs were able to attack the F-105s and two North Vietnamese pilots, Capt. Tran Hanh and Le Minh Huan, downed two of them, while the MiGCAP F-100Ds tried unsuccessfully to defend the Thuds, firing two Sidewinders and several bullets from their 20mm cannons that missed the MiG-17s.

Even though Kilgus believed that his MiG could not have survived, he was credited with only a probable victory by the U.S. Air Force because nobody had seen a pilot eject nor an aircraft crash. Moreover, the request to reconsider his claim was refused by the Air Force, given that President Lyndon Johnson had said that he did not want any MiGs to be shot down because he feared that aerial engagements of this kind provoked Russia and China, North Vietnam’s main allies during the war.

However, the Vietnamese have later admitted the loss of not one, but as many as three MiG-17s during the air battles on Apr. 4, 1965. They also identified the pilots by name and unit: Pham Giay, Le Minh Huan, and Tran Nguyen Nam, all of the 921st Fighter Regiment. According to Istvan Toperczer’s book “MiG-17 and MiG-19 Units of the Vietnam War,” the only Vietnamese pilot to survive to this air battle was Capt. Tran Hanh who said that the three MiGs lost that day were lost to American fighters.

Noteworthy, in the mind of Capt. Kilgus there has never been any doubt about the outcome of this air battle: in fact he painted a MiG kill marking beneath the windscreen of the F-100D tail number 55-2894 and another on the F-105G Wild Weasel that he flew later in the war.


Image credit: U.S. Air Force

Russian Mig-31 intercepts U.S. P-8 patrol aircraft near Russia’s Far East

A U.S. Navy P-8 Poseidon was intercepted by a Mig-31 near the Kamchatka peninsula.

On Apr. 21, a Russian Air Force MiG-31 jet intercepted a U.S. P-8 Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft flying in international airspace near Kamchatka Pensinsula, in Russia’s Far East, where a firing range used also to test intercontinental ballistic missiles launched from Borei-class strategic nuclear submarines is located.

The Russian Soviet-design supersonic interceptor flew within 15 meters of the U.S. Navy reconnaissance plane but unlike some of the previous “close encounters”, the interception was conducted in a “safe and professional” manner according to Cmdr. Dave Benham, a spokesman for the Pacific Command, who spoke to the Washington Free Beacon.

Indeed, the incident occurred one week after a U.S. Air Force RC-135 electronic intelligence gathering aircraft flying a routine mission (in international airspace) over the Baltic Sea was intercepted by a Russian Su-27 that barrel rolled over the American spyplane.

Few days earlier, Russian Su-24s performed several low passes over a U.S. destroyer in the Baltic Sea, whereas on Jan. 25, 2016 a U.S. RC-135 intelligence gathering jet was intercepted by a Russian Su-27 Flanker fighter jet over Black Sea that made an aggressive turn that disturbed the controllability of the Rivet Joint.

On Apr. 7, 2015 another Su-27 flew within 20 feet of an RC-135U, over the Baltic Sea.

On Apr. 23, 2015 a U.S. Air Force RC-135U performing a routine surveillance mission over the Sea of Okhotsk, north of Japan, some 60 miles off eastern Russia was intercepted by a Russian Su-27 Flanker that crossed the route of the U.S. aircraft putting itself within 100 feet of the Combat Sent.

What’s newsworthy this time is the fact that the interception was conducted by one of the world’s fastest interceptor on one of the newest U.S. reconnaissance planes.

The Poseidon is a derivative of the Boeing 737, incorporating a 737-800 series fuselage mated to 737-900 wings and featuring raked winglets to improve low-altitude fuel burn. The aircraft can carry the Mk-54 airborne ASW torpedo and the Harpoon anti-ship missile. The aircraft is also an intelligence gathering asset offering greatly improved communications and connectivity in comparison with the P-3C Orion.

On the other side, the Mig-31 Foxhound is a two-seat Mig-25 Foxbat derivative in service since 1983.

Whilst the MiG-25 was built as a high-speed, high-altitude interceptor, capable of reaching the speed of Mach 3.2 to intercept American B-58 and B-70 bombers, the MiG-31 was designed to intercept the B-1B bomber, which was designed to operate at low-level, below the radar coverage.

Hence the MiG-31 has quite good low-level capabilities (which MiG-25 does not) and is equipped with an advanced radar with look-down-shoot-down capability (needed to detect low-flying bombers), and data bus, allowing for coordinated attack with other fighters.

Although the Mig-31 is quite obsolete, it is still one of the most amazing interceptors ever built, with top speed of Mach 2.83 and a range of 1,450 km. The production of the Mig-31 ended in the early 1990s, but the interceptor is being upgraded to extend its operative life up to the 2028 – 2030.  Until a replacement is available the Mig-31 will remain one the world’s fastest tactical fighter in active service to defend the Russian airspace.

Image credit: Dmitriy Pichugin

Take a look at this unique formation: F-15C, F-15E, F-22 and Typhoon

Raptors and Eagles and Typhoons flying together.

A four-ship formation consisting of a U.S. Air Force F-15E Strike Eagle from the 494th Fighter Squadron, an F-15 Eagle from the 493rd Fighter Squadron, an F-22A from the 95th Fighter Squadron, and a Royal Air Force Typhoon flew together during a training sortie on Apr. 26.

12 Raptors from the 95th FS are deployed from Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., and will be conducting air training exercises with other U.S. and Royal Air Force aircraft over the next several weeks.

On Apr. 25, two F-22s deployed to a Romanian airbase on the Black Sea coast.

On Apr. 26, two F-22s flew at low altitude through the famous Mach Loop training area in Wales.

On Apr. 27, two F-22s deployed at Siauliai airbase, Lithuania, where NATO BAP (Baltic Air Patrol) jets are based.

Image credit: U.S. Air Force/ Jim Haseltine

Italian Air Force aircraft take part in “Tende Scaglia” Special Operations exercise

We attended the tactical event that closed “Tende Scaglia 2016” exercise.

Taking place from Apr. 4 to 22, “Tende Scaglia 2016” (TS 16) was an exercise organized and managed by the 1^ Brigata Aerea Operazioni Speciali (1st Special Operations Air Brigade) of the Italian Air Force.

The MOB (Main Operating Base) of the TS 16 was Cervia airbase, on the Adriatic coast, that gathered 480 military belonging to 10 different units as well as several different assets: 2x HH-212, 2x HH-139, 1x EC-27J, 1x MC-27J and 1x HH-101.

Since the first HH-101A “Caesar” medium-lift helicopter was taken on charge by the ItAF in February 2016, the helicopter, a military variant of the AW.101 that will be used to perform personnel recovery and special forces missions, SAR (Search And Rescue) and CSAR missions, as well as medical evacuation (MEDEVAC) tasks did not actively take part in the exercise.


The last phase of the multidimensional exercise included several attacks to the base, a water supply contamination and a MEDEVAC event that The Aviationist’s reporter Pierpaolo Maglio had the opportunity to attend on Apr. 21.

The latter took place in the Italian Army range at Foce del Reno, 10-minute flight time from Cervia and started with a (simulated) suicide attack against a convoy and the subsequent explosion of a loaded truck. Immediately after the explosion, 3 VTLM (Veicolo Tattico Leggero Multiruolo – Multirole Lightweight Tactical Vehicle) Lince (Lynx) secured the zone and closing all access to the landing area with the onboard machine guns.



During this phase the MC-27J Praetorian gunship aircraft established a radio-link with the troops on the ground and called in the four MEDEVAC helicopters while an EC-27J Jedi prevented the attackers from using electronic devices to remotely detonate any Improvised Explosive Device (IED).

The MEDEVAC was carried out by 2x HH-139s from the 15° Stormo (Wing), and 2x HH-212s from the 9° Stormo followed by a last HH-139 that was first refueled on the field by the FARP (Forward Arming & Refueling Point) of the 3° Stormo and then took off again to carry the last light injured to a field hospital (Camp Giudecca).


Along with the Special Ops C-27Js from the 46^ Brigata Aerea from Pisa, the exercise was supported by some “on-demand assets”: ItAF AMX tactical aircraft and Predator UAVs (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles).

Image credit: The Aviationist / Pierpaolo Maglio