Monthly Archives: September 2017

Poland Introduces New Aircraft, Changes Its VIP Airlift Regulations: Lessons Learned After Smolensk Crash

The Polish Air Force is renewing its VIP fleet and flights regulation.

Poland is about to change its Presidential and governmental (VIP) flights instructions and requirements, as the Polish Air Force takes delivery of its new aircraft and MoD plans to amend and prepare new regulations with regards to the VIP transport operations.

According to Col. Michał Marciniak, a member of a group within the Polish MoD which works on the new VIP/Head of State flights regulations who recently gave an interview to the Polish dlapilota.pl outlet, “One of the reasons for changes is the expansion of the Polish Air Force’s VIP fleet, including procurement of the new [Gulfstream G550 and Boeing B737-800/BBJ2] jets. Some of the provisions are resulting from the experiences.” Marciniak is probably referring to the controversial Smolensk crash, when the Polish President was killed aboard a Tu-154 in a CFIT (Controlled Flight Into Terrain) incident that took place in very bad weather conditions in Smolensk, Russia back in 2010. During the said infamous flight, e.g. numerous officials were flying together with their replacements (Deputy Ministers and Ministers, Commanders of the Armed Forces and so on) onboard of a single aircraft, which has been one of the reasons for harsh social pressure placed on the authorities, to redefine the VIP transport regulations and requirements.

Indeed the accident caused 96 victims: along with the President of Poland Lech Kaczyński and his wife Maria, the former President of Poland in exile Ryszard Kaczorowski, the chief of the Polish General Staff and other senior Polish military officers, the president of the National Bank of Poland, Polish Government officials, 18 members of the Polish Parliament, senior members of the Polish clergy and relatives of victims of the Katyn massacre.

The crash sparked also a wave of conspiracy theories; however, no evidence supporting the version according to which the accident was the result of a political assassination was found in Polish and international investigations

The first of the listed amendments assumes that the PM, deputy PM and two Vice-PMs may fly on-board of a single aircraft, nonetheless the third vice-PM cannot fly in the same airframe, which shall guarantee continuity of leadership, should any incident take place. This is still a problematic issue, since many important persons would be flying on-board a single jet.

Changes concerning the flying crews requirements seem to be even more worrying.

The VIP pilot has to have at least 250 hours of flight time accumulated on the given type of aircraft. Nonetheless, according to Marciniak “gaining the operational readiness on a new aircraft is prolonged by several months”, hence “task-based flight-time is going to be more important”, as, and this is the most controversial claim “higher amount of hours logged does not always translate into higher skills”. The Polish official states that the new regulations assume that if the pilot can fly in tough weather, this would be sufficient for him to be eligible to fly similar operations in HEAD settings. Ultimately the General Commander of the Armed Forces, would be the decisive person to approve the given crew for VIP operations. Each of the crew members should also have multi-engine aircraft experience, with the commanders having at least 1,000 hours of lifetime flight-time logged.

Arrangement of the VIP flights is also going to be changed, as it would be permissible to plan the flight less than 24 hours before the departure, on condition that the Polish Government Protection Bureau issues an approval and that the commander of the Airlift-responsible military unit issues a confirmation of readiness (i.e. ensuring that a crew is available, with proper approvals issued, airframe is available and so on). The assumption is that in case of the newly acquired VIP aircraft (G550 and to-be-acquired 737 jets) three crews per jet would be formed to ensure that a crew is always available in case an unforeseen flight is requested.

A question that emerges almost instantly, when considering the aforesaid flight-time requirements is that little experience is required to pilot a Polish VIP flight compared to the requirements in place in other air arms.

For instance, in case of the U.S. Air Force One, the Air Force Personnel Center claims that the applicant needs to have flown as an Airlift, Tanker, or C2ISR (E-3, E-4, E-8, KC-135) Major Weapon System (MWS) Aircraft Commander, with no fighter experience. It is also explicitly stated that no fighter pilots would be accepted in that role. The required flight-time in case of AFO is 2,000 hours in total, with 3 years Time on Station. Furthermore, Instructor experience is required. It would be also highly desired by the 89th Airlift Wing that the pilot has logged 2,500 total hours, with 250 gained as a MWS/OSA instructor with evaluator pilot experience. Moreover, the ideal candidate should also have recent worldwide flights experience and minimal number of qualification level 3 (or equivalent) flight evaluations. In practical terms, the AFO pilots often have more than 4,000 hours logged.

According to the reformed Polish regulations, the pilot applying to serve in the 1st Airlift Base in VIP operations may have logged his flight hours on any type of multi-engine aircraft.

Image Credit: Author

U.S. Marine Corps MV-22 Osprey Tilt-Rotor Aircraft Crashes In Syria. Two Injured.

It’s the third Osprey crash this year.

A U.S. Marine Corps MV-22 Osprey has crashed in Syria on Sept. 29, according to defense officials.

Two servicemen were injured in the crash; their conditions are not life-threatening.

The cause of the incident has not been unveiled, but it was not caused by enemy activity, an official said on the condition of anonymity to Stars & Stripes. The Osprey was heavily damaged in what has been described as a “hard landing” and could not be salvaged: for this reason it was destroyed “by the troops” (not clear how – maybe hit with a PGM dropped by a combat aircraft as done in the past?)

 

The unit the MV-22 and two injured servicemembers have not been disclosed: the U.S. DoD Pentagon acknowledges having some 500 troops inside Syria training and assisting Syrian Democratic Forces in their fight against ISIS militants.

Noteworthy, the one in Syria is the third major accident involving an Osprey this year.

On Jan. 29, one American Special Operations commando was killed and three others were injured in a firefight with Al Qaeda fighters in Yemen. A U.S. Marine Corps MV-22 Osprey aircraft called in to evacuate the wounded American soldiers crash landed, injuring 2 service members. The Osprey was intentionally destroyed in place by a U.S. Air Force F-16 raid once it was determined that it could not leave the crash landing site.

On Aug. 5, an MV-22 Osprey assigned to Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 265 (Reinforced), 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit was involved in a mishap off of the east coast of Australia. The tilt-rotor aircraft involved in the mishap had launched from the USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6) and was conducting regularly scheduled operations when the crashed. Three Marines died in the accident.

Top image credit: U.S. Marine Corps

 

French C-135FR Tanker Refuels U.S. Air Force B-52 Bomber Over Europe In Rare International Refueling Operation

This is something you don’t see too often: a U.S. Stratofortress bomber refueled by a foreign tanker.

On Sept. 25, a U.S. Air Force B-52H Stratofortress deployed to RAF Fairford, UK, refueled from a French Air Force C-135FR belonging to the Groupe de Ravitaillement en Vol 2/91 “Bretagne” from Istres.

B-52 bombers from the 2nd BW are currently deployed to Europe for three weeks to support Bomber Assurance and Deterrence operations (BAAD).

A French air force KC-135 Stratotanker, refuels a B-52 Stratofortress over Europe Sept. 25, 2017. The Stratofortress is deployed from Barksdale Air Force Base, La., to RAF Fairford, United Kingdom in support of bomber assurance and deterrence operations. U.S. Strategic Command bomber forces regularly conduct combined theater security cooperation engagements with allies and partners, demonstrating the U.S. capability to command, control and conduct bomber missions across the globe. Bomber missions demonstrate the credibility and flexibility of the military’s forces to address today’s complex, dynamic and volatile global security environment. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Joshua J. Garcia)

Based on the footage released by the U.S. Air Force, the C-135FR involved in the refueling mission was the example 471/31-CB that was tracked online while flying over the Tyrrhenian Sea in bound to the refueling area over the Mediterranean Sea via Mode-S/ADS-B transponder (H/T to @CivMilAir for catching the tanker)

Part of the track followed by a FAF C-135FR during the Sept. 25 mission tracked via Mode-S. Image credit: @CivMilAir

Although U.S. Strategic Command bomber forces regularly conduct combined theater security cooperation engagements with allies and partners, demonstrating the U.S. capability to command, control and conduct bomber missions across the globe, the bombers are almost always refueled by U.S. Air Force KC-135s or KC-10s.

Still, B-52s can be refueled by other types of tankers for testing or operative purposes.

For instance, an Italian Air Force Boeing KC-767 tanker (s/n 14-01) refueled a U.S. Air Force Boeing B-52H-150-BW Stratofortress (s/n 60-0036) over California’s Mojave Desert on Mar. 5, 2007, as part of the tanker’s flying boom testing at Edwards Air Force Base, California (USA).

An Italian Air Force Boeing 767 tanker refuels an Edwards B-52 over California’s Mojave Desert on March 5, 2007. The tanker successfully extended its fifth generation, fly-by-wire air refueling boom and transferred fuel for the first time to another aircraft. (Photo by Jet Fabara)

And, as proved by Sept. 25 mission, the “Buff” can be refueled by the French C-135FR that is quite similar to the U.S. KC-135. Usually the FAF tankers operate with a basket attached to the flying boom since FAF planes use the hose and drogue system and get the fuel through an IFR (In Flight Refueling) probe.

The aging fleet of C-135FRs, the French variant of the C-135 used as dual-role tanker/cargo and troop carrier aircraft, will be replaced with A400M and A330 MRTT (Multi Role Tanker Transport) aircraft. The latter, called the “Phénix” when in service, has been ordered in nine examples by France (plus an additional three that have not yet been confirmed.)

 

Salva

Salva

New Video Shows Russian Tu-22M3 Bomber Overshooting Runway During Take-Off Accident at Shaikavka

Russian Tu-22M3 Damaged After Deploying Drag Chute, Overshooting Runway.

A new video has been published of the crash of a Russian Tupolev Tu-22M3 “Backfire” on Sept. 15, 2017. The heavy bomber, said to be near maximum take-off weight at the time of the accident according to Russian language reports, ran off the end of the runway at Shaikavka Airbase during Zapad 2017 exercise. The video was released today by the media outlet “Vzglyad”, a Russian-language online news source. The aircraft is attributed to the 52nd Guards Heavy Bomber Aviation Regiment.

One Russian language news outlet quoted a “high-ranking source” as saying, “The cause of the accident was the failure of speed sensors during the take-off, resulting in the crew decided to stop taking off.” There have been no official statements released about the cause of the accident. The four crew members on board the large supersonic strategic bomber were not injured in the accident.

This is the third similar incident reported in Russian media during take-off of a Tu-22M3 bomber. The first two incidents were less serious since the aircraft involved were at lower take-off weights and could stop short of the end of the runway.

Tu-22M3 RF-94233 in the grass after running off the runway at an airbase in western Russia. (Image credit: RuAF)

The Russian Tupolev Tu-22M3 can be compared to the U.S. B-1B heavy bomber. Both aircraft are supersonic and use variable geometry swept wings. The Tu-22M3 however, is a twin-engine aircraft compared to the four engines on the B-1B of the U.S. Air Force. The two aircraft are of roughly similar size with the Tu-22M3 being slightly smaller than it’s U.S. counterpart, the B-1B.

The Tu-22M3 and M3M variants are in wide service in Russia, with over 80 reported in flying with the Russian Air Force and more than 40 in use with Russian Naval Aviation as long-range maritime patrol, surveillance and attack aircraft. The naval variant of the aircraft became famous in the West following the 1991 release of the fictional best-seller The Sum of All Fears by late author Tom Clancy. It was followed by a feature film of the same name in 2002. In the fictional story a group of Tu-22M3s launch a cruise missile attack on a U.S. aircraft carrier in the Atlantic during an international crisis between the former Soviet Union and the United States.

Russian Tu-95 “Bear” Bombers Hit Daesh Terrorist Camps With KH-101 Cruise Missiles In Long Range Strike

Cruise Missile Attack from Russia Avenges Lieutenant General Valery Asapov Death.

Russian long-range Tupolev Tu-95 “Bear” bombers launched cruise missile strikes against targets said to be controlled by Daesh Takfiri terrorists in the Syrian provinces of Deir al-Zour and Idlib on Sept. 26, 2017.

The strikes were largely in retaliation for the death of a high-level Russian commander in the region, Lieutenant General Valery Asapov. Asapov was most recently reported as commander of the 5th Red Banner Army. He was posted to Syria on special assignment as a senior military adviser. Lieutenant General Asapov died in a mortar attack by Daesh terrorists during operations outside Dayr al-Zawr over the weekend. Asapov’s death happened approximately 450 kilometers (280 miles) northeast of Damascus, the Syrian capital. Some Russian internet blogs have partially blamed U.S. interference, including intelligence leaks in the region, for Lieutenant General Asapov’s death.

The bombers that conducted the long-range cruise missile strikes were Russian Air Force Tu-95MS “Bear H” or “MSM” version aircraft likely belonging to the 184th Guards Heavy Bomber Regiment, named the “Sevastopol” regiment, after the historic siege of Sevastopol from 1941-42. The aircraft are the most modern examples of the aging Tupolev turboprop strategic bomber that first flew in 1952. The TU-95MSM first saw combat over Syria in November, 2016.

The Russian Tu-95 is roughly analogous to the U.S. B-52 Stratofortress eight engine all turbojet strategic bomber that made its first flight in the same year. By contrast, the Tu-95 uses four unique turboprop powerplants turning large, counter-rotating propellers. The Russians settled on turboprops with the Tupolev trademark contra-rotating propellers to improve un-refueled range while maintaining relatively high speed. Benefits of the Tupolev/Kuznetsov powered turboprops include relatively high speed and extremely long-range. The TU-95 has an unrefueled range of 9,400 miles compared the U.S. B-52 range of “only” 8,800 miles, roughly 7% less range than the “Bear”. Speeds between the U.S. B-52, B-2 Spirit stealth bomber and decidedly non-stealthy Tu-95 are similar, with the B-52 having a top speed of about 644 MPH, the B-2 Spirit at about 628 MPH and the Russian TU-95 at a relatively competitive 575 MPH even with its turboprop engines compared to the jet-powered B-52 and B-2. Top speed difference between the Russian Tu-95 and the American B-2 is only about 8%.

The Tu-95MS bombers used the new Russian KH-101 cruise missile in the attacks on Deir al-Zour and Idlib on Tuesday.

The KH-101 is a recently developed long range cruise missile roughly analogous to the U.S. Tomahawk family of cruise missiles. Eight KH-101 cruise missiles can be carried by a Tu-95 bomber, although video from the recent Syrian strike only showed four of the missiles on the Tu-95 MS aircraft.

The new Russian KH-101 stealth, long-range cruise missile was used in the strike. (Photo: Russian Air Force)

The KH-101 cruise missile has an effective combat range of 2,790-3,000 miles (about 4,500+ kilometers) and can carry a variety of different warheads depending on the target to be struck. This newest of the Russian cruise missiles is reported to have low-observable (“stealth”) characteristics and is capable of adjusting its targeting while in flight to the assigned target. It’s accuracy is reported as “within 10 meters”. Russian media reports showed the missiles striking large buildings as well as encampments in the Syrian desert.

The Russian Bear/KH101 strikes on Deir al-Zour and Idlib were escorted by a number of some version of Sukhoi Su-27 fighter aircraft as the strike package flew over Iran and Iraq on the way to the missile launch point.

Top image credit: Russia Air Force