Monthly Archives: October 2017

Spanish Eurofighter Typhoon Crashes Near Albacete After Performing In National Day Parade, Killing Pilot

It’s the third deadly crash of a Eurofighter in one month.

A Spanish Air Force Eurofighter Typhoon has crashed at Albacete, southeast on Madrid, Spain, while recovering to Los Lanos airbase after taking part in a National parade. The pilot did not manage to eject from the aircraft and was killed in the accident.

According to the Spanish MoD, the Eurofighter, one of four Typhoons that took part in the parade over Madrid, crashed, for unknown reasons, on approach to Albacete.

Albacete is the home base of the Eurofighter Typhoon C.16 jets from Ala 14 and the main operating base of NATO Tactical Leadership Programme.

This is the third deadly crash of a Typhoon in one month: a RSAF Typhoon combat aircraft involved in a mission against Houthi fighters over Yemen crashed into a mountain in Al Wade’a district on Sept. 13, 2017; then, on Sept. 24, an Italian Air Force Typhoon crashed into the sea while performing its solo display during the Terracina airshow.

File photo of a Spanish Typhoon from Albacete taking off during Anatolian Eagle exercise in Turkey in 2014.

This Photo Shows A U.S. Air Force C-5M Galaxy Landing in St. Maarten For The Very First Time To Support Hurricane Irma Relief Operations

A giant C-5 Galaxy landed at Princess Juliana International Airport in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma.

Maho Beach, located on the final approach to the Princess Juliana International Airport’s runway, is one of the world’s most famous spots for aviation enthusiasts and photographers who can take breathtaking shots of aircraft, including wide-bodies, about to land in the Caribbean island of St. Maarten.

If you look for images of aircraft landing at St. Maarten’s Princess Juliana Airport (SXM) online, you’ll literally find thousand close-up photographs showing planes flying extremely low over bystanders at Maho Beach.

Unfortunately, St. Maarten and its remarkable beaches have been almost destroyed by Hurricane Irma last month.  Although the airport was “hit hard, with what appeared to be sand washed up to parts of the main terminal and the building’s roof extensively damaged,” and remain closed to commercial operations, the runway at SXM was made available to aircraft supporting the relief operations on Sept. 16.

Whilst the very first aircraft to land in St. Maarten after Irma was a KLM Boeing 747-400, one of the rarest jets to operate from the Caribbean airport was probably the U.S. Air Force C-5M Super Galaxy 86-0020 that landed at SXM on Sept. 18. Photographer Marseno Bremer was there and took the stunning shot of the aircraft over Maho Beach that you can find in this post.

Noteworthy, the C-5M that landed at Princess Juliana Airport was the same involved in a nose gear up landing at Rota Air Base in Spain in May 2017.

[Updated] U.S. Air Force C-5 Galaxy Performs Nose Gear Up Landing At Rota Air Base in Spain

As a consequence of a second malfunction of a C-5’s nose landing gear (occurred on Jul. 15), the U.S. Air Force grounded 18 Galaxy cargo planes based at Dover Air Force Base (out of 56 flown by the Air Mobility Command) pending further investigation, on Jul. 18. The grounding was lifted for 5 C-5s at the beginning of August.

Image credit: Marseno Bremer

Russian Su-24 Fencer Jet Crashes Near Hmeymim Airbase In Syria. Crew Killed.

A Russian Fencer has crashed shortly after (or during) take-off from airbase near Latakia, in western Syria. Pilot and Nav killed in the accident.

A Russian Air Force Su-24M2, deployed to Syria, has crashed earlier today near Hmeymim air base, near Latakia.

According to the first reports, the aircraft skidded off runway during take-off; based on other reports, the aircraft caught fire shortly after take-off and crashed 1 km east of the village of Shrachir. Anwyay, the crew did not eject from the Fencer and died in the accident.

A technical malfunction could have been the root cause of the accident, that did no cause damage on the ground, the Russian MoD said.

This is the second Su-24 that the Russian Air Force has lost since the beginning of the air campaign over Syria. The first one was the Su-24 that was shot down by a Turkish Air Force F-16 on Nov. 24, 2015 after violating Turkey’s airspace for 17 seconds. Both the crew members managed to eject from the aircraft but whilst the navigator was rescued, the pilot was shot and killed by Syrian rebel ground fire while descending by parachute.

Other Russian jets lost during the air war on ISIS include the Russian Navy MiG-29K and Su-33 that respectively crashed on Nov. 14 and Dec. 5, 2016,  while attempting to land aboard the Admiral Kuznetsov aircraft carrier at its first combat cruise off Syria.

Image credit: Russian MoD

We Encountered The B-2 Stealth Bomber At Night in Stormy Skies To Get These Crazy Cool Photos. Here’s How It Went.

Close Encounter With Two Ghostly B-2 Spirit Stealth Bombers At Night.

“It’s go time!” The crew announcement snaps me from my sleep. It’s near zero hundred and we fly in dark skies over western Missouri. The anticipation amps up on FORCE 26, a 305th Air Mobility Wing (AMW) KC-10 from Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, NJ (JBMDL). I hurriedly gather my camera equipment and follow the crew to the refueling station.

FORCE 26 skims the top of a storm front, slipping in and out of clouds. The KC-10 rattles, thumps and bounces in the bone jarring turbulence. I struggle to get seated and configure my camera for a hopeful, if not mercilessly difficult shot. I can see nothing but heavy grey clouds below and deep black skies behind. Unseen, three thirsty Spirits are surely closing quickly.

To my right the boom operator, Senior Master Sergeant Carl Wise buckles in. Wise has 10 years on the boom but an eighteen-month hiatus requires his requalification. Tonight, is his check ride. To his right sits active instructor and assessor, Tech Sergeant Adam Sochia. Sochia watches closely as Wise moves through system checks. An audible alarm sounds and warning light flashes. Oh no, not possibly now… No additional drama required, but tonight we have it in spades.

Outwardly Wise and Sochia appear calm, proficient and thorough, but the tension in their voices is palpable. Radios crackle between Wise and the flight crew in the KC-10 cockpit. They too have noted the alarm, and together discuss appropriate action. Despite years of experience Wise is now tested by the system and the conditions. His decision making and skills evaluated during in-flight refueling with the USAF’s most prized asset – in turbulent air at visibility limits. Wise extends the boom and verifies complete movement and control. Check. Proceed.

Eyes outward, I am only peripherally aware of their challenges. I have my own. I frantically move through camera settings – looking for something, anything that will work in darkness beyond what I had imagined. Autofocus is out of the question, ISO settings through the roof, lens wide open, shutter speeds impossibly low…. I am out of time. BAT 71 draws near at constant speed, her strobes flashing and command module glowing. Is she beast, or some machine from the future? Whatever the case, these are her skies and she rises through the fog like a wraith to take …. our fuel.
Before she can connect we slip into the clouds. I discern her outline a mere 100 ft off the boom, some 150 ft away. Enshrouded in cloud she stops and holds position, as if to study her prey before moving in. We cut in and out of cloud catching glimpses of her dark and mysterious form. Wisps of cloud flash eerily over her wings like flowing grey hair. City lights reappear as the jagged robe of her trailing edge passes by. We bounce and rattle through the skies, while BAT 71 glides smoothly behind. This unearthly Spirit is at home in the dark and turbulent skies.

The Spirit comes… BAT 71 B-2 from the 509th BW (Whiteman AFB) incoming on FORCE 26, a KC-10 from the 305th AMW (Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst). 0 Dark Thirty over southwest Missouri.

Sights like this may be common for boom operators, but leave a word defying imprint on me. Surreal, Supernatural, Magic – no word, no description is adequate. Yet make no mistake, in another place and at another time encountering three wraiths can only mean one thing – the impending doom of someone or something. The B-2 Spirit is both the ultimate global deterrent and Grim Reaper.

Bouncing through the clouds and turbulence just after midnight and BAT 71 a 509th BW B-2 Spirit (Whiteman AFB) holds just off the boom of FORCE 26, a KC-10 from the 305th AMW (Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst).

Radios crackle, “Kansas City Center, FORCE 26, request climb to clear weather.” “FORCE 26, Kansas City Center cleared to climb and work airspace block 23 – to 28,000 ft.” “Climbing to work airspace block 23 – 28,000 ft. FORCE 26”

The KC-10 starts upward and BAT 71 follows as if suspended just off boom. Breaking free from the clouds we find smooth, clear air. Wise, now in control of the refueling operation clears BAT 71 to connect. The Spirit slides forward. Though close to her home at Whiteman AFB, MO the B-2 Spirit has been aloft for near four hours and requests thousands of pounds of fuel.

Small talk non-existent, gas and go with a B-2 is often done with no words exchanged. In the best conditions an air to air connect is no simple task. It is a choreography of dance between aircraft of all types and sizes – the two platforms briefly becoming one. The team on both sides of this boom are seasoned professionals and make this connect look as easy as walking up and shaking hands. BAT 71 is on the boom and I ponder her mystery.

Operated by the 509th Bomb Wing at Whiteman AFB the B-2 is the premier platform of the United States Air Force Global Strike Command (AFGSC). Invisible by night, the stealthy B-2 bomber can penetrate heavily defended airspace and deliver a punishing knock-out blow. Traveling around the globe from Whiteman AFB, the Spirit is well-known to fly missions of over 24 hours. Earlier this year the B-2 recorded a mission of over 30 hours requiring 15 aerial refuelings!

The 305th AMW and their force of KC-10 tankers at JBMDL enable the Global Reach of the USAF. On this mission we fly with crew from the 32nd Air Refueling Squadron (ARS) with the clear and accurate motto “Linking the Continents.” It is a simple fact, without units like the 305th AMW the Global Reach of the USAF would be severely diminished.

The importance and value of the mission is not lost on boom operators like Wise, who comments “a boom operators job offers instant satisfaction. Every time we refuel an aircraft we enable it to complete its mission, whether in training, combat, or humanitarian relief.” This job satisfaction explains why I find myself with 3 very experienced boom operators. All three are Instructors, including Master Sergeant Jessica Stockwell with 11 years’ experience. The three are passionate and have found tremendous rewards in service. Stockwell notes that it is an incredible team effort from the maintenance group to the entire crew on the aircraft. As it relates specifically to her role as in-flight refueler she says, “during preparation and flight the 2 pilots and flight engineer are responsible for everything that happens in the cockpit, the in-flight refueler is responsible for everything that happens outside the cockpit, air to air refueling, cargo, people and more. It is very rewarding to have that mission responsibility.”

BAT 71 B-2 Spirit from the 509th BW (Whiteman AFB) takes fuel from FORCE 26, a KC-10 from the 305th AMW (Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst). 0 Dark Thirty over southwest Missouri.

Buffeted by turbulence BAT 71 drops briefly off the boom. As the turbulence subsides she slides back making another connect look effortless. This Spirit is not leaving without getting all her intended fuel. The entire encounter speaks of planning, precision and the utmost professionalism. Dropping off the boom a final time, BAT 71 disappears into the night. Under duress, SMSgt Wise passes his review and moves forward toward instructor requalification.

BAT 71 – 509th BW B-2 Spirit head on as seen from FORCE 26 – 305th AMW KC-10 just after midnight in the skies over southwest Missouri.

Sochia and Stockwell fuel BAT 72 & BAT 73. Time passes too quickly. Their thirst satisfied the bombers disappear into the dark skies to destination(s) unknown. This was a training mission. In the same fashion, the Spirits loaded with deadly ordnance could be destined to strike a target on the other side of the globe. As happens, cable news quick to broadcast pictures of the impact of their undetected visit.

B-2 Spirits are each identified with a unique U.S. State, such as “The Spirit of Missouri.” I always considered the name “Spirit” in such context. Zero Hundred, October 3 has forever changed my perspective. “Spirit” as perhaps was always intended, is; “one emerging from the clouds, lights glowing, hair flowing, mysterious, ghostly – and most certainly, deadly.”

BAT 72 B-2 Spirit from the 509th BW (Whiteman AFB) takes fuel from FORCE 26, a KC-10 from the 305th AMW (Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst). 0 Dark Thirty over southwest Missouri.

The Aviationist expresses gratitude to the 305th AMW, the 32nd ARS, Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst Public Affairs Team Shaun Eagan, SrA Lauren Russell, A1C Zachary Martyn, the exceptional team of in-flight refuelers and entire flight crew of FORCE 26! All professionals through and through in the finest sense.

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Six F-22 Raptor jets Have Deployed To RAF Lakenheath, UK

Six U.S. Air Force F-22 Raptors have deployed to Europe as part of the European Deterrence Initiative.

Six U.S. Air Force Raptor jets, belonging to the 27th Fighter Squadron and 94th Fighter Squadron, Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia, have deployed to RAF Lakenheath, UK, on Oct. 8, using radio callsign Trend 11-16.

At the time of writing it’s still unclear whether 6 additional F-22s, expected in the next few days as they return stateside from their deployment to the Middle East to support Operation Inherent Resolve, will remain in the UK along with the other jets (their callsign will be Trend 21-26).

The stealth multirole aircraft that will remain in the UK will be involved in a FTD (Flying Training Deployment) to conduct flying activity with other U.S. aircraft based in Europe as well as regional NATO allies.

According to the official USAF release “while in the European theater, the F-22s will also forward deploy from the U.K. to other NATO bases to maximize training opportunities, demonstrate our steadfast commitment to NATO Allies and deter any actions that destabilize regional security. This FTD is fully funded by the European Deterrence Initiative (EDI).”

One of the Raptors that have deployed to the UK on Oct. 8, 2017. (Image credit: U.S. Air Force).

The last time U.S. F-22s deployed to Europe was in Spring 2016, when the 95th FS completed a historic deployment to RAF Lakenheath with 12 stealth jets in what was at the time the largest Raptor deployment in Europe.

During the deployment, part of their Global Response Force training, the F-22s performed several training sorties (usually two waves were launched each day, one at around 08.00AM, the second in the early afternoon): the Raptors took part in exercise Iron Hand 16-3, conducted air training with all three RAF Lakenheath fighter squadrons and RAF Typhoons.

The F-22 also had the chance to pay visit to some NATO countries: Romania, Lithuania and also performed a flyover for the 100th anniversary of the Lafayette Escadrille in Paris. Last but not least, the F-22s had a chance to practice low-level flying in the famous Mach Loop.

The F-22s landing at RAF Lakenheath on Oct. 8, 2017. (Image credit: U.S. Air Force)

 

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