Monthly Archives: July 2017

Watch A USAF C-17 Air-Launch An Intermediate Range Ballistic Missile Target Over The Pacific Ocean During A THAAD Test

A C-17 Globemaster III assigned to the 418th Flight Test Squadron air-launched a ballistic missile target over the Pacific Ocean.

On July 11, a U.S. Air Force C-17 airlifter supported a Terminal High Altitude Area Defense test at Pacific Spaceport Complex Alaska in Kodiak, Alaska.

Indeed, the C-17 air-launched an IRBM (Intermediate Range Ballistic Missile) target north of Hawaii that was detected, tracked and intercepted by the TGAAD weapons system.

According to an Air Force release, the test, designated Flight Test THAAD (FTT)-18, was executed by MDA, supported by elements of the U.S. Army, Joint Forces Component Command for Integrated Missile Defense, U.S. Air Force, U.S. Coast Guard, Pacific Spaceport Complex Alaska, Ballistic Missile Defense Operational Test Agency, DoD Operational Test and Evaluation, and the Army Test and Evaluation Command.

This was the 14th successful intercept in 14 attempts for the THAAD weapon system. According to MDA, “the THAAD element provides a globally-transportable, rapidly-deployable capability to intercept ballistic missiles inside or outside the atmosphere during their final, or terminal, phase of flight. The MDA says THAAD is strictly a defense system. The system uses hit-to-kill technology whereby kinetic energy destroys the incoming target. The high-altitude intercept mitigates effects of enemy weapons before they reach the ground.”

A Terminal High Altitude Area Defense interceptor is launched from the Pacific Spaceport Complex Alaska in Kodiak, Alaska, during Flight Test THAAD (FTT)-18 July 11, 2017. During the test, the THAAD weapon system successfully intercepted an air-launched intermediate-range ballistic missile target. (Missile Defense Agency photo)

The 418th Flight Test Squadron has supported these MDA tests over the years.

“The 418th is the only organization on Earth capable of airdropping MDA’s largest and most capable ballistic test missiles providing a vital examination of U.S. strategic defense assets,” said Lt. Col. Paul Calhoun, 418th FLTS commander. Soldiers from the Army’s 11th Air Defense Artillery Brigade conducted launcher, fire control and radar operations using the same procedures they would use in an actual combat scenario. Soldiers operating the equipment were not aware of the actual target launch time.

The successful demonstration of THAAD against an IRBM-range missile threat comes amidst growing concern about the country’s defensive capability against developing missile threats in North Korea.

Ballistic missiles have been carried by U.S. Air Force cargo aircraft during testing activities conducted in the past.

In 1974, the U.S. thought that the best way to preserve its ICBMs (Inter Continental Ballistic Missiles) from Soviet nuclear strikes was to load them in C-5 Galaxy airlifters and keep them on the move.

A three-stage Minuteman, 56 feet in length and 86,000 pounds in weight, was attached to some parachutes that could drag it out of the cargo hold and then point it upward, then it was loaded into a Galaxy and air launched over the Pacific from the aircraft: a timer ignited the rocket motor and the missile flew for about 25 seconds before it cascaded into the Pacific Ocean.

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Take A Look At These Interesting Photographs Of UAE’s New Intelligence Gathering Plane During Flight Trials In The UK

One of two Bombardier Global Express 6000 being modified by Marshall Group of Cambridge undertook flight tests at the beginning of July. And these photographs unveil some interesting details.

The photographs in this post were taken by The Aviationist’s contributor Tony Lovelock at Cambridge airport on Jul. 5 and 7, 2017.

They show one of the two Bombardier Global Express 6000 aircraft reportedly destined to UAE and being modified by Marshall Group into an ELINT/SIGINT platform, during flight trials flown as “UAE 1326.”

As first unveiled by Aviation Week’s Tony Osbourne back in May, the aircraft is probably an advanced electronics and signals intelligence-gathering (elint/sigint) derivative of Bombardier’s Global 6000 business jet: it sports.

“A large canoe fairing extends back to the center of the wingbox,” noted Osbourne. “Behind the wing is a large antenna farm with 10-15 aerials. Further aft, under the engines, are several dielectric panels, three on either side of the aircraft, perhaps for electronic surveillance measures. The enlarged fairings feature two antennas and sensors. Two ventral fins have been added for stability, as per other special-mission variants of the aircraft, and what appear to be a pair of warning receivers have been attached to the back of the tail cone. One notable feature is a squared-off, vertically facing aperture in the center of the canoe fairing that might be a retractable sensor. On top of the fuselage are an apparent semi-conformal satellite communications antenna and several nonstandard ones. On the port side of the fuselage, next to the engine, there appears to be a nonstandard intake, presumably for the cooling of onboard equipment.”

Analysts and sources seem to be agree that the aircraft embeds modification required to perform both ELINT and SIGINT missions.

The photographs taken by Lovelock on Jul. 5, show the aircraft landing at Cambridge after a test sortie. The attached nylon strings are about 5 inches long, and are positioned to determine the air flow over the pod and various appendages, photographed air-to-air by a Hunter from RAF Scampton for analysis.

UAE 1326 landing at Cambridge at the end of a test flight on Jul. 5, 2017.

Another shot of the UAE 1326 landing at Cambridge at the end of a test flight on Jul. 5, 2017.

The two pictures taken during rotation at Cambridge on Friday Jul. 7 show the alleged ISR (Intelligence Surveillance Reconnaissance) aircraft with the “Trailing Cone” attached to the tail,  required to conduct Heavy Take Off trials at Doncaster that afternoon.

The “trailing cone” is a nylon cable with a stabilizing cone deployed in flight, generally 1 to 1.5 times the wing span length, or about 50 metres, behind the aircraft to measure the ambient atmospheric pressure (static pressure) precisely, in the “free-stream air-flow” outside the disrupted air-flow generated by the aircraft – a key parameter for the pilots.

The UAE ISR platform taking off from Cambridge on Jul. 7. Note the “Trailing Cone.”

Another interesting image of the UAE heavily modified Bombardier Global Express 6000 at Cambridge. (All images: Tony Lovelock)

 

 

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What These Pictures Of Two Russian Yak-130 Jets That Crash Landed Almost Simultaneously in Russia Say About The Causes Of The Mishaps

Two Yak-130 Jets Have Crashed Simultaneously in Armavir and Borisoglebsk Last Month. And Here’s An Investigation On The Root Causes.

According to several reports, two Russian Air Force Yak-130 Trainer/Light Attack (LA) Aircraft (Tail number 43white/RF-44496 from Borisoglebsk airbase and 55red/RF-44583 from Armavir) crashed almost simultaneously in two different places on Wednesday June 21, 2017. Information about incident has not released by the RuAF (Russian Air Force).

The Yakovlev Yak-130 is a subsonic two-seat advanced trainer originally developed by Yakovlev and Aermacchi (now Leonardo).

Along with the advanced jet trainer role, the “Mitten” (Yak-130 NATO’s nickname), able to replicate the characteristics of Russian Gen. 4 and 4++  combat aircraft, is capable of fulfill Light Attack (LA) and Reconnaissance tasks and it can carry a payload of 3,000 kilograms, including guided and unguided weapons, external fuel tanks and electronic pods.

The LA version, dubbed YAK-131 and equipped with mechanical radar (Phazotron) or Passive Electronically Scanned Array (PESA), is planned to replace the Su-25 Frogfoot.The Russian Air Force has also developed a reconnaissance variant of the Mitten, dubbed  Yak-133.

The Yak-130 bear a significant resemblance with Italian M-346 “Master”, produced by Leonardo Company and already operated by the ItAF (Italian Air force), IAF (Israeli Air Force), RSAF (republic Singapore Air Force) and Polish Air Force. This Author has been one of the first pilots and IP (Instructor Pilot) on the Italian T-346 (ItAF designation of the baseline M-346).

At the moment, the RuAF has not given any official information about the dual accident and the possible causes are still under investigation. However, local sources reported the first crash occurred during a normal flying training and has involved the Yak-130 (55 red/RF-44583) that belong to the Armavir Flying School.

Soon after the first crash, a second Yak-130 (43 white/RF-44496) belonging to the Borisoglebsk Air Force Base was forced to land on the runway.

INVESTIGATION ON GEAR UP LANDING. (55 red/RF-44583 Armavir)

In my career as a combat pilot, I’ve had the opportunity to undertake many different training courses. One of those was the Flight Safety Office (FSO) which include the investigation section with a simulated crash to “solve.”

By means of the methodology and approach used to investigate real incidents I’ll  drive you in a very simple and basic investigation. We will analyze all the available details and see whether it is possible to determine the causes of these crashes.

55 red/RF-44583 from Armavir after the crash landing (via Ilya.A—Petya.A’s bro)

Close up view of the left air intake of the Yak-130 (via Ilya.A—Petya.A’s bro)

First of all, what we can do is a “picture analysis” and looking at the picture of 55 red/RF-44583 you can notice some of important details useful to understand the landing or crash dynamics:

  1. The aircraft landed on the belly without any other damage or structural breaks: this means the aircraft touched the ground with a correct and normal attitude used during a normal landing. Therefore, we can assume the pilot “planned” to land on the grass;
  2. The aircraft had the LEF (Leading Edge Flap) in down position: this means the pilot lowered the LEF with the intent to land like he was on the runway;
  3. The canopy seems to be open in a normal way (no damage or glass rupture): in other words the two pilots abandoned the aircraft “normally” soon after the jet stopped. This detail suggests the pilot purposely landed there and did a soft touch down with no other consequence;
  4. Looking at the air intake, you can see the internal section extremely clean without any FOD: this means the engine was not running and it didn’t suck anything. One possible reason is a flame out or the pilot decided to shut down the engine seconds before the touchdown to avoid any fire.

After a FIR (First Impression Report), the second step is to merge all the above consideration in order to elaborate a possible scenario. Based on the above points, the two pilots most probably attempted an emergency landing with one or both engines not operating.

Now let’s move to the possible causes that forced the Yak-130 to land out of the runway and let’s try to understand WHY the pilot did take the decision to land on grass field.

First consideration is that the emergency was TIME CRITICAL, otherwise they could have enough time to fly and steer toward a suitable airfield. Based on my experience the most important hint comes from the picture of the air intake: this picture seems to suggest engines or thrust problems that forced the pilot to perform a forced landing out of the runway. Let’s explore possible reasons:

  1. The aircraft was completely out of fuel. This situation seems quite unlikely, almost impossible, unless aircraft showed false fuel indications (a case of multiple emergencies, that is to say fuel transfer failure combined with false fuel indication) because pilots use to plan the fuel required for all training tasks: the fuel to recovery to the base with enough fuel in case they need or to practice some visual pattern; and the fuel to divert to the alternate in case of problem with the home base;
  2. The aircraft had a fuel transfer failure and the crew suddenly found to have less fuel available to return home or to the nearest suitable airfield;
  3. The aircraft had a double engine flame out (this option can be also caused by the point 1 and 2) and the pilots were forced to find a suitable “strip” to land.

Of course I don’t know the RuAF SOP (Standard Operations Procedures) and the YAK-130 emergency check list procedures for the above emergencies.

In case of double engine flame out, due to fuel or engines malfunction, most of the military aircraft procedures require the pilots to eject unless they can safely recover or land the aircraft. Landing on the grass without gear is not a safe recovery but in this case (I want to remember that we don’t know too many details about the reason of crash and we are conducting an investigation based on a picture) pilots took a very brave decision and the option to land without landing gear was in the end a smart decision to soften as much as possible the touchdown on an “unprepared field”. In this case pilots took a huge risk but they were extremely lucky to land without further problems (such as fire, structural damage, unintentional ejection seat activation and so on.)

Although we can’t rule out multiple failures, such as engine flame out and landing gear system failure, my instinct and experience suggest that the gear up landing was done on purpose.

INVESTIGATION ON NOSE GEAR UP LANDING (43 white/RF-44496 Borisoglebsk)

The 43white/RF-44496 from Borisoglebsk (via Ilya.A—Petya.A’s bro)

Looking at the picture, the aircraft seems to have landed normally with few damages. This assessment helps limiting the range of possible failures that may have caused the gear up landing, because we can assume the aircraft was operating efficiently.

Since the plane seems to have landed normally (making engine failure less likely unless this has happened in the vicinity of the airfield) we can focus on a possible landing gear system malfunction. Therefore, let’s have a look at some details:

  1. The aircraft has the LEF down and we already know why and what this may mean;
  2. Only the main landing gear is down: this may have been caused by nose landing gear malfunction, structural damage due to bird strike, nose landing gear not completely locked or hydraulics malfunction;
  3. The main gear doors seem to be in open position. Most of the military jets, when reporting landing gear malfunction or hydraulics system failure, have the option to use the emergency gear lowering system. When the pilot activates the Emergency lowering system this overrides the normal gear system using enough pressure to lower the gear but not enough to close the gear doors. On the other side I cannot be 100% sure about this because of the picture resolution; still, during incident investigations it is important to take how systems work into proper consideration.

At this point, merging all the above points we can assume that the aircraft had some problem with landing gear system or hydraulics system and the pilot decided to land without nose gear.

During a nose gear-up landing it is paramount for the pilot to comply with the following action list:

  • Be very precise on approach with speed and attitude;
  • Perform aerodynamic braking during landing roll;
  • Before the HT (Horizontal Tail) loses lift, the pilot needs to gradually reduce the back pressure on the stick to allow a soft touchdown between the ground and the airframe;
  • Re-apply again the back pressure on the stick as soon as the nose touches the ground to reduce the weight on the nose trying to minimize the damage.
  • Avoid to use the brakes;
  • Shut down the engine in order to avoid engine mechanical failure and reduce thrust and, consequently, the landing distance.

According to my experience most of the aircraft are allowed to land with a symmetric configuration like: NO GEAR, ONLY MAIN GEAR, ONLY NOSE GEAR.

Summing up, based on a few pictures we can conclude that:

  • the aircraft 55 red/RF-44583 from Armavir had some problem with fuel quantity/transfer or with both engine and the pilot was forced to land on the grass
  • the aircraft 43 white/RF-44496 from Borisoglebsk had some problems with landing gear system or hydraulics system.

 

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U.S. Commissioning New Class of Supercarrier, USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78) Tomorrow

UK, China and U.S. Launch New Carrier Classes in 2017, Russia Lags Behind.

The U.S Navy and Newport News Ship Building Company officially commissioned a new class of “supercarrier” advanced nuclear-powered aircraft carrier tomorrow at the Norfolk Naval Station in Norfolk, Virginia.

The USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78) is the first ship in this new class of nuclear-powered aircraft carriers for the U.S. Navy. It is the first major redesign of U.S. aircraft carriers in 42 years.

Among a long list of new engineering features on board USS Gerald R. Ford are the controversial electromagnetic catapults and arresting gear, a new, smaller, lower radar cross section island structure, larger and more efficient flight deck facilitating faster aircraft launching, more than twice the electrical power of previous carrier classes and a more efficient crew compliment with 500 fewer personnel on board. The massive 1,106-foot-long carrier displaces a staggering 100,000 tons fully loaded and is powered by two new generation nuclear reactors.

U.S. President Donald Trump has been critical of the costs of the program, especially the new electro-magnetic catapult and arrestor take-off and landing systems. The benefits of the new systems are claimed to be less buffeting of aircraft upon launch resulting in better control and less airframe fatigue per launch and recovery. The electromagnetic catapults are also lighter in weight than steam catapults in use on current U.S. carriers and are claimed to require less maintenance than steam-powered launch and recovery systems.

It’s worth noting that some problems have already occurred in launch testing on other carriers with the U.S. Navy’s version of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, the larger wingspan, folding wing F-35C. The problems may have been limited to test launches with no weapons loads and required modifications to F-35C landing gear. Depending on the status of these issues the Navy’s F-35C may benefit in particular from electromagnetic catapults.

CF-03 FLT 182/CF-05 FLT 91 First Arrestment aboard USS Nimitz on 03 November 2014. CDR Tony Wilson was flying CF-03 and LCDR Ted Dyckman was flying CF-05.

This year has been noteworthy for new international aircraft carrier operations.

On Jul. 17, 2017, the Royal Navy launched the first of its new Queen Elizabeth Class of aircraft carrier. The HMS Queen Elizabeth (RO8) is the first of two carriers in this new class that will include the second vessel, the HMS Prince of Wales (RO9) when it is launched in 2020.

HMS Queen Elizabeth uses non-nuclear electric propulsion that burns primarily diesel fuel. This is a lower cost alternative to the U.S. nuclear powered carrier. HMS Queen Elizabeth is a smaller carrier than its new U.S. counterpart, and intended to operate with a compliment of thirty-six F-35B V/STOL aircraft and four helicopters. The vessel is currently configured without launch catapults, but is engineered to be “backwards and forwards compatible” for retrofitting of a catapult launch system. The vessel is also smaller than its U.S. counterpart, the new USS Gerald R. Ford. The HMS Queen Elizabeth is 920 feet long compared to the USS Gerald R. Ford’s 1,106 foot length. It also displaces “only” 70,600 tons compared to the Ford’s 100,000+ tons of displacement.

A Royal Navy Merlin helicopter was the first aircraft to fly from the deck of the England’s new HMS Queen Elizabeth. (Photo: Daily Telegraph)

The Chinese have also been vigorous in their carrier development program with the recent launch of the impressive Type 001A, their first indigenous construction carrier. Previous Chinese aircraft carriers were purchased second-hand, mostly from Russia, and served primarily as development testbeds for aircraft, crews and likely doctrine.

This first domestically built Chinese carrier, likely to be named “Shandong”, was officially launched in Dalian, Liaoning province, on Apr. 26, 2017. The Type 001A “Shandong” uses a ski-jump style launch system and an arrestor cable recovery.

A Chinese J-15 makes an arrested landing on the carrier Liaoning. (Photo:USNI)

There have been recent photos of Chinese J-15 aircraft with updated landing gear that is both reinforced for carrier landings and, most interestingly, a catapult bar on the nose wheel. The new version of the J-15, referred to frequently as the “J-15A”, is considerably reworked to include not only the landing gear modifications but new engines and avionics.

A new version Chinese J-15A appeared with catapult launch capable landing gear. (Photo: Chinese Media)

A Jul. 6, 2017 report filed on Chinese media reported that the Chinese People’s Liberation Army Navy, or “PLAN”, is conducting land-based testing on a new electromagnetic catapult similar to the one already installed on the new U.S carrier Gerald R. Ford.

Satellite images showing a land-based catapult launch test facility at Huangdicun Airbase in Liaoning Province, China. The U.S. Naval Institute, an intelligence publications resource, reported that satellite imagery showed two types of catapults located at the Huangdicun facility beginning in late 2014, one steam and one electromagnetic. This base also houses China’s J-15 aircraft on land.

Finally, with news of new aircraft carriers from the United States, China and England an assessment of Russia’s current aircraft carrier capabilities suggests they are lagging behind.

Russia deployed its only carrier, the Admiral Kuznetsov, to the eastern Mediterranean in fall of 2016 in support of operations in Syria. The results could accurately be described as “mixed”.

Kuznetsov, an old ship originally launched in 1985, lost two if its only fifteen aircraft to accidents including an embarrassing one when one of Russia’s most experienced pilots was forced to ditch his aircraft next to the carrier due to problems onboard that prevented him from landing. He was ordered to hold in the landing pattern so long while addressing the onboard recovery problem that his aircraft eventually ran out of fuel. The pilot ejected next to the carrier and was recovered. The aircraft was one of two lost on the Russian adventure to the Mediterranean in support of the President Bashar al-Assad regime in Syria.

The Admiral Kuznetsov has had previous problems on its only seven deployments since 1990.

In 1996, the ship’s potable water distillation system failed and, embarrassingly for the Russians, the U.S. Navy came to the aid of the vessel, supplying fresh drinking water to the crew.

Back in 2015 Russia announced insights into a proposed new, very large aircraft carrier class in the 100,000 ton “supercarrier” range. Russian Deputy-Director of the Krylov State Research Center told IHS Jane’s that the project was being called “Project 23000E” or “Storm”. Budget constraints, Russia’s support of the war in Syria and economic concerns have all but cancelled progress on the project. The most recent intelligence suggests Russia was attempting to partner with India to share development costs in the hopes of India eventually acquiring one of the new class of proposed Russian supercarriers for its own navy.

Russia’s carrier Admiral Kuznetsov is beginning to show its age. (Photo: RT)

 

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New Russian Su-35S Super-Maneuverability Display Wows MAKS Crowds, Videos Go Viral

Following New F-35 Display at Paris, Moscow Wows with Sukhoi Su-35 Super-Maneuverability Display: But Does it Matter?

Video of Sukhoi’s Su-35 super-maneuverable aircraft flying an impressive new demonstration routine at the MAKS airshow in Russia this week has gone viral on social media.

This year’s updated Russian Sukhoi aerobatic demonstration, similar to previous Sukhoi and MiG demos, follows the first-ever aerobatic display of the American F-35A Lightning II at the Paris Air Show a month ago.

The Su-35S “Flanker E” is the 4++ generation variant of the Su-27 Flanker aircraft.

The multirole aircraft features thrust-vectoring, radar-absorbent paint, Irbis-E passive electronically scanned array radar, IRST (Infra-Red Search and Track) and the said ability to detect stealth planes like the F-35 at a distance of over 90 kilometers (…), the Khibiny radar jamming system along with the ability to use some interesting weapons, including the ultra-long range R-37M air-to-air missile that could target HVAA (High Value Air Assets) such as AWACS and tanker aircraft.

The aircraft were deployed to Hmeymim airbase, near Latakia, in February 2016 to undertake air superiority and escort missions over Syria.

Aviation analysts have long contended that displays of so-called “super maneuverability” at low speeds have little or no tactical value in the real world air combat environment. These displays do often lead to conversations comparing aircraft capabilities and re-open the never-ending debates about which aircraft design doctrine provides a real world tactical advantage.

Are such low speed maneuvers worthless to fight against the U.S. 5th Gen. stealth aircraft that would engage the Su-35S from BVR (Beyond Visual Range) exploiting their radar-evading capabilities?

Real world tactical merit aside, Sukhoi’s display is sensational. The aircraft seems to depart the conventional control regime as it flips, twists and tumbles. The Su-35’s most remarkable sequence is a low speed “Pugachev’s Cobra” transitioning to a tumbling back flip followed by a side-slip to an inverted spin and then a classic recovery gained by pointing the aircraft’s nose to the ground to regain lost energy in exchange for altitude. The entire sequence is flown at altitude that presumably lives little margin for error, making it even more thrilling.

The massive International Aviation and Space Salon MAKS Airshow is happening now at Zhukovsky International Airport outside Moscow, Russia. The show, that runs from July 18-23rd, is one of the most important international airshows in the world. Some estimates suggest 40,000 more aviation enthusiasts and business people attend MAKS than the famous Paris Air Show that took place in June.

“In 2015, MAKS welcomed 404,000 visitors – 52,000 more than attended the Paris Air Show held at Le Bourget in the same year.” According to Russian Aviation Insider.

The MAKS Airshow continues through this weekend. We will report on highlights from the show after it concludes next week.

Top image: The SU-35 wowed MAKS audiences with a new demonstration routine outside Moscow. (Photo: RT)

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