Here’s 2017 West Coast Strike Fighter Ball Video: No ATFLIR and No Gun Camera Footage. And It’s Probably Not By Accident.

This year’s West Coast Strike Fighter Ball Video does not feature the “real ops” stuff: bombs, ATFLIR footage, and aerial “gun camera” clips. It seems that someone was not happy when a recent cruise video included footage of a Syrian Su-22 being shot down by a Hornet….

“Hornet Ball” and “Rhino Ball” are the names of a famous yearly compilation of videos produced by LT Joseph “C-Rock” Stephens, an Instructor WSO with the VFA-122 Flying Eagles.

The “Ball” series is made of clips from squadrons based on the West Coast (as well as the 4 forward deployed squadrons in Japan) during their daily activities at home or deployed in support of real operations, such as Operation Inherent Resolve (OIR) against ISIS in Syria and Iraq. Here you have the links to the previous editions: Rhino Ball 2016; Hornet Ball 2015; Hornet Ball 2014; Hornet Ball 2013.

This year’s edition has been dubbed “Strike Fighter Ball” as NAS Lemoore, along with the “legacy” F/A-18A-D Hornets and F/A-18E/F Super Hornets,  has started operating the F-35C Lightning II “Joint Strike Fighter” with the VFA-125 Rough Riders since Jan. 25, 2017.

Whilst the 2017 video remains extremely cool (and funny, considered the arcade game theme) with cats/traps, air-to-air merges, low levels, fly-bys, aerial refueling etc., it appears to be a bit watered-down: whereas previous years videos featured plenty of bomb, ATFLIR (Advanced Targeting Forward Looking Infra Red) pod, HUD (Head Up Display) and Gun Camera footage, this year’s compilation has just some AIM-9X Sidewinder and AGM-88 HARM (High-speed Anti-Radiation Missile) shots.

Indeed, according to multiple sources, the U.S. Navy was not too happy when the VFA-31 Tomcatters release their 2017 OIR cruise video that included footage of the aerial engagement between an F/A-18E Super Hornet belonging to the VFA-87 “Golden Warriors” and a Syrian Su-22 (that ended with the Fitter being shot down by an AIM-120 AMRAAM missile near Raqqa, Syria), filmed with an ATFLIR pod.

In order to prevent some sensitive footage from leaking to the public, the Navy has probably decided to put the kibosh on all footage taken on theater…

Anyway, enjoy!

Warbird Digest
About David Cenciotti 3633 Articles
David Cenciotti is a freelance journalist based in Rome, Italy. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviationist”, one of the world’s most famous and read military aviation blogs. Since 1996, he has written for major worldwide magazines, including Air Forces Monthly, Combat Aircraft, and many others, covering aviation, defense, war, industry, intelligence, crime and cyberwar. He has reported from the U.S., Europe, Australia and Syria, and flown several combat planes with different air forces. He is a former 2nd Lt. of the Italian Air Force, a private pilot and a graduate in Computer Engineering. He has written four books.