Monthly Archives: November 2017

The Italian BR-1150 Atlantic Has Completed Its Last Flight Ending An Impressive 45-year Career

The Italian Air Force bid farewell to the Breguet Atlantic. And Here Are Some Of The Most Significant Moments Of Its 45-year Career.

On Nov. 22, 2017, the Italian Air Force retired its last BR-1150 Atlantic with a final flight from Sigonella to Pratica di Mare.

The aircraft MM40118/41-03, the Atlantic in special color scheme that had been unveiled during a ceremony held at Sigonella on Sept. 21, will now be transported and then exhibited in the ItAF Museum in Vigna di Valle. The first of 18 MPA (Maritime Patrol Aircraft) with ASW (Anti-Submarine Warfare) capabilities Atlantic aircraft, the BR-1150 MM40108 was taken on charge by the Aeronautica Militare at Toulouse, France, on Jun. 27, 1972. On the very same day, after a stopever in Nimes, France, the aircraft landed at Sigonella, for the very fist time at 16.25LT. The retirement has come after 45 years and almost 260,000 flying hours (actually 258K) logged by a fleet made of 18 aircraft.

The first Atlantic, MM400108/41-70, about to land for the first time at Sigonella at the end of its delivery flight on Jun. 27, 1972. (all images: ItAF)

The Atlantic flies in formation with the Grumman S-2F Tracker, the aircraft it replaced, close to the Etna, in 1972.

Throughout its career, the Atlantic flown by mixed Air Force/Navy crew of 13 people in missions lasting up to 12 hours (actually the record of the Italian BR-1150 is 19 hours and 20 minutes!), carried out thousand Maritime Patrol, ASW and ASuW (Anti-Surface Warfare – limited to the reconnaissance and surveillance part since the aircraft was not equipped with ASuW weapons) sorties as well as Maritime SAR (Search And Rescue) operations taking part also in hundreds exercises: from Dawn Patrol back in 1973 to the recent Dynamic Manta, the BR-1150 have played a role in the Display Determination, Dog Fish, Vento Caldo, Daily Double, Mare Aperto, Tridente, Deterrent Force, Passex, Storm Two, Fleetex, Sharp Guard, Destined Glory, Tapoon and many more ones. The aircraft has flown to the North Pole in 1997, landed at all the major European airports, including Iceland, and reached India, Morocco, Canada, Egypt, Lebanon, UAE and the U.S.

The aircraft was flown by a mixed Air Force/Navy crew of 13 people.

A formation of BR-1150 aircraft in 1994.

In 1997, the Italian Atlantic reached the North Pole.

Two units operated the type within the Italian Air Force (each being assigned 9 aircraft): the 41° Stormo (Wing), with its 88° Gruppo (Squadron) at Sigonella, and the 30° Stormo with its 86° Gruppo at Cagliari Elmas. The latter was disbanded on Aug. 1, 2002 with all the Breguet Atlantic aircraft (“P-1150A” in accordance with the current Italian Ministry of Defense Mission Design Series) taken on charge by the 41th Wing.

Although to a far lesser extent than the French Atlantique 2 (ATL2), that have been upgraded to extend their operative life beyond 2030 adding further capabilities, the Italian Atlantic fleet has undertaken a limited operational update between 1987 and 1997, as part of the ALCO (Aggiornamento Limitato Componente Operativa) programme, that has included, among the others and in different times, new INS (Intertial Navigation System), IFF (Identification Friend or Foe) system, along with new Iguane radar and ESM (Electronic Support Measures) sensors to perform electronic reconnaissance/surveillance systems as well as AIS (Automatic Identification System).

Approaching a warship during a sortie from Sigonella in 2009.

An ItAF P-1150A during a maritime surveillance mission in 2010.

The Atlantic will be partially replaced by the P-72, a multirole Maritime Patrol, Electronic Surveillance and C4I (Command, Control, Communications, Computers, and Intelligence) aircraft that shares many sensors and equipments which were developed for the ATR 72ASW developed by Leonardo for the Turkish Navy. However, the Italian P-72A fleet, that will be made of four aircraft, the first of those delivered to the 41° Stormo on Nov. 25, 2016, lacks an ASW (Anti-Sub Warfare) capability and this is the reason why it is considered a “gap filler” until the budget to procure a Long Range MPA with ASW capabilities will become available.

The Atlantic and the P-72 flew alongside during the very last flight of the Atlantic, from Sigonella to Pratica di Mare on Nov. 22, 2017.

Anyway, the P-72A, that has already debuted in real operations conducting intelligence gathering and electronic surveillance missions during the G7 meeting in Taormina, in May 2017, can undertake a variety of roles ranging from maritime patrol for the search and identification of surface vessels, SAR (search and rescue) missions, the prevention of narcotics trafficking, piracy, smuggling, territorial water security and monitoring and intervention in the event of environmental catastrophes. The P-72A is equipped with a communication suite that enables the aircraft to transmit or receive information in real-time to/from command and control centres either on the ground, in the air or at-sea, to ensure coordinated and effective operations. The aircraft is also equipped with a self-protection system. The aircraft is said to be able to fly missions lasting six and a half hours at ranges up to 200 nautical miles from its starting location.

The last Atlantic at Sigonella on Nov. 21, the sunset before its last flight.

The very last take off from Sigonella on Nov. 22, 2017. The end of an era.

The aircrew of the last flight.

 

During 45 years and about 260,000 FH, the Italian Atlantic fleet suffered no losses.

The author wishes to thank 1°M. Carmelo Savoca of the 41° Stormo for providing information about the aircraft as well as the stunning official images you can find in this post.

India Successfully Test Fires “Fastest Cruise Missile” From Aircraft

Multi-Mission BrahMos Cruise Missile Claimed to be Fastest in the World.

The Indian Air Force conducted the first-ever successful air launch of the BrahMos cruise missile from a Sukhoi Su-30 MKI multirole aircraft on Wednesday, Nov. 22, 2017. According to an official statement from the Indian Air Force (IAF), “The IAF is the first air force in the world to have successfully fired an air-launched Mach 2.8 surface attack missile of this category.” The missile is reported to have been fired at test target in the Bay of Bengal.

The BrahMos is a large, 28-foot long (8.4 meter), 5,500-pound (2,500 kilogram), two-stage solid fuel and ramjet powered cruise missile. The SU-30MKI that launched the BrahMos had modifications to landing gear, hard points and airframe to support the extra weight of the missile. One report suggests that up to 50 SU-30MKIs will be modified or built to carry one of the 200 air-launched BrahMos in the next years.

The air-launched variant of the BrahMos on display at MAKS 2016 outside Moscow. (Photo: Allocer)

According to a quote from Indian defense officials in a story published Wednesday, Nov. 22, by the India Times, “The integration on the aircraft was very complex involving mechanical, electrical and software modifications on the aircraft. The IAF was involved in the activity from its inception.”

The BrahMos cruise missile is a joint development of Russia and India. In various versions the large, fast cruise missile can be launched from surface ships, submarines and now from combat aircraft. Russia is responsible for a reported 65% of the missile’s components, with India providing the majority of the remaining missile components. The design of the BrahMos is based on the Russian P-800 Oniks sea-skimming cruise missile.

Performance of the BrahMos includes a quoted air-launched range of 250 miles (400 kilometers) and a warhead weighing 660-pounds (300-kilograms). This combination of range and payload makes the weapon a significant threat to large surface ships such as aircraft carriers and fortified land targets. The fast speed of the missile may mean anti-missile systems, especially shipboard ones, may have a difficult time intercepting the BrahMos. The BrahMos is also reported to be “nuclear capable”.

The BrahMos missile and Wednesday’s air-launch demonstration send a clear message to other regional powers (such as Pakistan) as well as countries that already have and are developing aircraft carrier capability, most notably China, following the introduction of a Chinese aircraft carrier program in 2011 and subsequent commissioning of their first aircraft carrier, the Liaoning (CV-16) Type 001 aircraft carrier, in 2012.

Relations between India and China, the two most populous countries on earth with the two fastest growing economies, are generally constructive but have been strained over a regional dispute in Bhutan, a country between China and India in the Himalayas. The dispute does not threaten the two countries strategic relationship given their co-dependence on trade.

India does have a massive coastline to its south that lies above major strategic sea lanes for the transport of nearly every commercial and military commodity moved by sea. It is also a major route for oil tankers. Because of the strategic importance of the Arabian Sea, Indian Ocean and Bay of Bengal, the BrahMos cruise missile is an important asset in the Indian arsenal and especially relevant in its new air-launched variant.

U.S. Navy C-2A Aircraft Carrying 11 Crew And Passengers Crashed In The Ocean Southeast Of Okinawa

C-2 Greyhound COD confirmed involved in the crash.

According to the U.S. Navy 7th Fleet, a United States Navy C-2A aircraft belonging to VRC-30 “Providers” carrying 11 crew and passengers crashed into the ocean southeast of Okinawa at approximately 2:45 p.m. local time on Nov. 22.

“Personnel recovery is underway and their condition will be evaluated by USS Ronald Reagan medical staff. The aircraft was en-route to the U.S. Navy aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76), which is currently operating in the Philippine Sea. USS Ronald Reagan is conducting search and rescue operations. The cause of the crash is not known at this time.”

160707-N-NF288-020 SOUTH CHINA SEA (July 7, 2016) Distinguished visitors from Cambodia land on the flight deck of the Navy’s only forward-deployed aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76). Ronald Reagan, the Carrier Strike Group Five (CSG 5) flagship, is on patrol in the U.S. 7th Fleet area of responsibility supporting security and stability in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Jamaal Liddell/Release

The official release did not initially specify the type nor the unit of the aircraft involved in the crash. However, it seemed immediately quite reasonable to believe it is a C-2 Greyhound involved in a COD (Carrier Onboard Delivery) mission. Indeed, the Grumman C-2A Greyhound is a twin-engine, high-wing cargo aircraft, designed perform the COD mission to carry equipment, passengers (including occasional distinguished visitors) supplies and mail to and from U.S. Navy aircraft carriers, “ensuring victory at sea through logistics.”

8 out 11 people on board have been found. SAR operation underway to find and rescue the missing ones.

According to the U.S. Navy:

Eight personnel were recovered by the “Golden Falcons” of U.S. Navy Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC 12). The eight personnel were transferred to USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76) for medical evaluation and are in good condition at this time.

“Our entire focus is on finding all of our Sailors,” said Rear Adm. Marc H. Dalton, Commander, Task Force 70. “U.S. and Japanese ships and aircraft are searching the area of the crash, and we will be relentless in our efforts.”

USS Ronald Reagan is leading search and rescue efforts with the following ships and aircraft: U.S. Navy guided-missile destroyer USS Stethem (DDG 63); MH-60R Seahawk helicopters of the “Saberhawks” from U.S. Navy Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron (HSM 77); P-8 aircraft from the “Fighting Tigers” of U.S. Navy Maritime Patrol and Reconnaissance Squadron (VP) 8; P-3 Orion aircraft of the “Red Hook” U.S. Navy Maritime Patrol and Reconnaissance Squadron (VP) 40; Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) Helicopter Carrier Japan Ship (JS) Kaga (DDH 184); and JMSDF Hatakaze-class destroyer Japan Ship (JS) Shimakaze (DDG 172).

This is the 6th C-2 lost since the type entered active service (a prototype YC-2A was lost on Apr. 29, 1965, during a test flight resulting in 4 fatalities):

 

  • On Oct. 2, 1969, C-2A BuNo 152796 from VRC-50, carrying 6 crew members and 21 passengers crashed in the Gulf of Tonkin en route from Naval Air Station Cubi Point to USS Constellation in the Gulf of Tonkin. All the 27 POB were killed but since their bodies were never recovered, they are listed as MIA (Missing In Action).
  • On Dec. 15, 1970, C-2A BuNo 155120 from VRC-50 crashed shortly after launch from USS Ranger, killing all 9 POB (4 crew members and 5 passengers).
  • On Dec. 12 1971, C-2A BuNo 152793 crashed en route from Cubi Point to Tan Son Nhat International Airport, resulting in the death of all 4 crew members and 6 passengers.
  • On Jan. 29, C-2A BuNo 155122 crashed while attempting to land on the USS Independence in the Mediterranean Sea, killing both crewmen.
  • On 16 November 1973, C-2A BuNo 152787 crashed into the sea after takeoff from Souda Bay, Crete. 7 of 10 POB died in the incident.

 

We will update this story as new details are made available.

In 2000, the C-2 began Service Life-Extension Program (SLEP) installations, which included improvements such as structural enhancements, dual ARC-210 radios, the Terrain-Awareness Warning System, the Traffic Collision-Avoidance System and a rewire of the aircraft to remove older and potentially hazardous Kapton wiring. Eight-blade NP2000 propellers were installed in 2010-2011. The Communication, Navigation, Surveillance/Air Traffic Management (CNS/ATM) system features components that expanded the aircraft’s communications capability by increasing the number of usable radio frequencies, therefore reducing channel congestion. As part of the navigation upgrade, a system combining Global Positioning System (GPS) equipment and an inertial navigation system were integrated to provide accurate positioning and velocity, allowing flight crews to perform precise landing approaches.

Top image: file photo of a C-2 Greyhound

 

Everything We Know About The Hunt for Missing Argentine Submarine

U.S. Navy Maritime Patrol Aircraft along with several other assets race against time in dramatic search.

The U.S. Air Force and the U.S. Navy have dispatched a large number of transport and maritime surveillance aircraft along with specialized personnel and submarine rescue equipment in an attempt to help locate the missing Argentine submarine A.R.A. San Juan (S-42) off the southeastern coast of South America.

The submarine disappeared on Wednesday, November 15, 2017 when last communication was received. The first problems were reported that morning around 7:30 AM when the captain radioed that the submarine was having “battery problems” in heavy seas. Following the report, the submarine was ordered back to port. Communications were lost shortly after. The submarine was last seen over 200 kilometers off the Patagonian coast of Argentina. Bad weather with waves of 26 feet and 45 MPH winds initially hampered search efforts both on the surface and with sensors searching underwater for the submarine.

The missing A.R.A. San Juan in an official Argentine photo. (Photo: Argentine Navy)

The A.R.A. San Juan (S-42) was on an ecological surveillance mission to interdict illegal fishing boats off the coast of Patagonia. She was patrolling from a naval base in Ushuaia, Argentina, the southernmost point of South America and the gateway to the Straits of Magellan. The area is considered among the most dangerous seas in the world. Its destination was Mar Del Plata, 2,800 kilometers farther north along the Argentine coast.

The A.R.A. San Juan is a TR-1700 class diesel-electric submarine with a crew of 44. Her crew includes the first-ever female naval officer on board a submarine in the Argentine navy. She was manufactured by Thyssen Nordseewerke of Emden, Germany and commissioned in November, 1985. The TR-1700 is a proven undersea warfare platform operated by Israel, South Africa and Argentina. It is among the fastest diesel-electric submarines in the world and boasts a strong safety record.

Among the U.S. Navy’s search assets dispatched to the area in the increasingly urgent search are two Boeing P-8A Poseidon maritime surveillance aircraft from Maritime Patrol Squadron 45 (VP-45), “The Pelicans”. Their home base when not deployed to the region is Naval Air Station Jacksonville, Florida. The Boeing P-8A Poseidon is the U.S. Navy’s newest and most advanced anti-submarine surveillance and attack aircraft. It contains sensors that can detect magnetic anomalies in the ocean, monitor undersea communications and deploy specially equipped sonobuoys by parachute that sink into the ocean and send sonar signals into surrounding seawater then transmit findings back to the aircraft.

Two U.S. Navy P-8A Poseidon Anti-Submarine Warfare aircraft from Maritime Patrol Squadron 45 (VP-45), “The Pelicans” have joined the search for the A.R.A. San Juan. (Photo: US Navy)

The first U.S. Navy P-8A was dispatched on Saturday as part of the U.S. Navy’s Southern Command. The U.S. military’s Southern Command (SOUTHCOM) conducts combined U.S. military operations in the Caribbean, Central American and South American theatre.

A second P-8A aircraft was added to the search on Sunday. The two U.S. Navy P-8As join a large number of search aircraft and ships from several nations already on station in the southern Atlantic conducting the urgent search. The two P-8A Poseidons flew from a deployment at El Salvador’s Comalapa Air Base to Bahia Blanca, Argentina to support the search and rescue effort. The aircraft are temporarily based in El Salvador in support of ongoing anti-narcotics operations.

On Nov. 19, the Argentine Navy released details about the rescue efforts and search area.

The U.S. Navy also announced on Sunday that it has deployed unmanned underwater vehicles (UUV) to join in the search for the A.R.A. San Juan. The additional search equipment includes one Bluefin 12D (Deep) Unmanned Underwater Vehicle (UUV) and three Iver 580 UUVs. These remotely-operated mini-subs are operated by the U.S. Navy’s recently-established Unmanned Undersea Vehicle Squadron 1, based in Keyport, Washington.

Both types of UUVs are capable of deploying quickly and searching wide areas using Side-Scan Sonar, a system that is used to efficiently create an image of large areas of the sea floor. The Bluefin 12D is capable of conducting search operations at 3 knots (3.5 mph) at a maximum operating depth of almost 1,500 feet for up to 15 hours, while the Iver 580s can operate at a depth of up to 325 feet, traveling at 2.5 knots (2.8 mph) for up to 5 hours.

U.S. Air Force C-17s and C-5s from Travis Air Force Base, Calif. and Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, airlift equipment from Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, Calif. to Comodoro Rivadavia, Argentina. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Ronald Gutridge)

There is also a NASA P-3 research aircraft currently supporting the ongoing search efforts over the submarine’s last known location.

A NASA P-3 Orion was diverted north from Antarctica to help coordinate the search for A.R.A. San Juan. (Photo: NASA)

Radar tracks show the NASA P-3 (N426NA) aircraft was diverted north from Antarctica to join the search on Nov. 19. At the time of writing the aircraft has returned to its usual task and is no longer involved in the search.

NASA P-3 supported the search and rescue efforts on Nov. 19.

Also on Sunday, the Royal Navy told England’s Daily Telegraph that the elite Submarine Parachute Assistance Group (SPAG) was flying to the region to join the hunt. The specialized rescue team is famous for their capability to parachute into the sea from search aircraft to join a submarine search and rescue, although that capability is unlikely to be employed during this search and rescue mission. Members of the team include specially trained medics, engineers and undersea escape specialists. The team is on notice to respond to a submarine emergency anywhere in the world in hours. For this operation, the SPAG team will operate from the Royal Navy’s HMS Protector (A163), a modern, specially designed ice patrol ship built in 2001 and already on station in search area.

A member of the Royal Navy’s Submarine Parachute Assistance Group (SPAG) in a demonstration. (Photo: Royal Navy)

On Sunday, additional assets from California and Hawaii, as well as other local nations, have been dispatched to scan the sea floor for in the search and rescue effort.

As hours tick by the search effort becomes increasingly urgent. Dr. Robert Farley, a lecturer at the University of Kentucky was quoted by the BBC World News as saying, “The outer range [of survival] appears to be ten days if they were well prepared.” On Wednesday, the search effort enters its seventh day. At least the weather is better than before and it should help a bit in the hunt.

During the last few days there have been several false alarms:

  • Seven failed satellite calls made to naval bases on Saturday turned out to come from another phone
  • Noise (resembling bangs on the sub’s wall in Morse code) picked up by a sonar was found not to have come from the missing vessel
  • White flares reported on Tuesday, were most probably not fired by the missing submarine

 

Ironically, the very same characteristics that make the submarine A.R.A. San Juan (S-42) so effective also make it difficult to find in a search effort. The San Juan is a stealthy diesel-electric submarine that is extremely quiet underwater and gives off few detectable emissions, especially if some of its systems may be disabled.

An anti-submarine warfare expert and former U.S. Navy submariner told TheAviationist.com that it is “Like trying to find a hole in the water”.

The current search area for the missing A.R.A. San Juan. (Argentine Navy)

These Images Document The Heat Damage To The X-15A Hypersonic Aircraft After Its Record Breaking Mach 6.7 Flight

Aerodynamic heating at Mach 6.72 (4,534 mph) almost melted the airframe.

On Oct. 3 1967 the North American X-15A-2 serial number 56-6671 hypersonic rocket-powered research aircraft achieved a maximum Mach 6.72 piloted by Major Pete Knight.

Operated by the United States Air Force and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration as part of the X-plane series of experimental aircraft in the 1960s, the X-15 was a missile-shaped vehicle built in 3 examples and powered by the XLR-99 rocket engine capable of 57,000 lb of thrust.

The aircraft featured an unusual wedge-shaped vertical tail, thin stubby wings, and unique side fairings that extended along the side of the fuselage.

The X-15 was brought to the launch altitude of 45,000 feet by a NASA NB-52B “mothership” then air dropped to that the rocket plane would have enough fuel to reach its high speed and altitude test points. Depending on the mission, the rocket engine provided thrust for the first 80 to 120 sec of flight. The remainder of the normal 10 to 11 min. flight was powerless and ended with a 200-mph glide landing.

An interesting account of Oct. 3, 1967 record flight was written by Flight Engineer Johnny G. Armstrong on his interesting website. Here’s an excerpt:

As the X-15 was falling from the B-52 he lit the engine and locked on to 12 degrees angle of attack. He was pushed back into his seat with 1.5 g’s longitudinal acceleration. The X-15 rounded the corner and started its climb.

During the rotation as normal acceleration built up to 2 g’s Pete had to hold in considerable right deflection of the side arm controller to keep the X-15 from rolling to the left due to the heavier LOX in the left external tank. When the aircraft reached the planned pitch angle of 35 degrees his scan pattern switched from the angle of attack gauge to the attitude direction indicator and a vernier index that was set to the precise climb angle.

The climb continued as the fuel was consumed from the external tanks, then at about 60 seconds he reached the tank jettison conditions of about Mach 2 and 70,000 feet. He pushed over to low angle of attack and ejected the tanks. He was now on his way and would not be making an emergency landing at Mud Lake.

“We shut down at 6500 (fps), and I took careful note to see what the final got to. It went to 6600 maximum on the indicator. As I told Johnny before, the longest time period is going to be from zero h dot getting down to 100 to 200 feet per second starting down hill after shutdown.”

Final post flight data recorded an official max Mach number of 6.72 equivalent to a speed of 4534 miles per hour.

From there down Pete was very busy with the planned data maneuvers and managing the energy of the gliding X-15. He approached Edwards higher on energy than planned and had to keep the speed brakes out to decelerate.

On final approach he pushed the dummy ramjet eject button and landed on Rogers lakebed runway 18. He indicated he did not feel anything when he activated the ramjet eject and the ground crew reported they did not see it. Pete said that he knew something was not right when the recovery crew did not come to the cockpit area to help him out of the cockpit, but went directly to the back of the airplane.

Finally when he did get out and saw the damage to the tail of the X-15 he understood. There were large holes in the skin of the sides of the fin with evidence of melting and skin rollback. Now we are talking Inconel-X steel that melts at 2200 degrees F. Later analysis would show that the shock wave from the leading edge of the ramjet’s spike nose had intersected the fin and caused the aerodynamic heating to increase seven times higher than normal. So now maybe we knew why the ramjet was not there.

X-15-2 after the record flight (#189) on Oct. 3, 1967. The aircraft achieved the record without any NASA marking. The aircraft was painted in white that covered an ablative material that protected the fuselage. The Martin Marietta’s MA-25S ablative would erode slowly shedding the heat of aerodynamic friction. Pink in color, the ablative the MA-25S ablative reacted when exposed to liquid oxygen burned by its XLR-99 rocket engine. For this reason it was sealed under white paint. More details here.

The following 48-sec footage shows the extent of the damages to the X-15-2 aircraft. Noteworthy, the ramjet detached from the aircraft at over 90,000 feet and crashed into the desert over 100 miles from Edwards Air Force Base.

Here are some details.

Wing leading edge burns.

Reaction Control System thrusters.

Two holes appeared on the fuselage along with burns.

The nose of the aircraft shows ablative damages as well as a result of frictional heating.

The X-15A-2 never flew again after the record flight. It is currently preserved and displayed at the United States Air Force Museum, Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio.

The top image shows the damage to one of the two ventral UHF antennas of the X-15.