Monthly Archives: January 2018

Navy Has Released Additional Videos Of The Russian Su-27 Intercepting U.S. EP-3E To Show How Close The Flanker Was To The Spy Plane

The new videos show the Russian Flanker flying close to the EP-3E Aries II. Still, the clips don’t show the most dangerous maneuver.

As you already know by now, on Jan. 29, a U.S. EP-3 Aries II intelligence gathering aircraft flying in international airspace over the Black Sea as FARM26 was intercepted by a Russian Su-27. During the intercept, the Russian Flanker allegedly performed an unsafe maneuver: the Su-27 closed to within five feet and crossed directly through the EP-3’s flight path, causing the EP-3 to fly through the Su-27’s jet wash.

Yesterday, the U.S. Navy released the footage of the Su-27 “buzzing” the Navy spyplane. Although the Flanker appears to be quite close to the EP-3E, as explained, the clip does not help determining the distance from the EP-3E’s wingtip.

Today, the 6th Fleet released more videos of the dangerous interaction along with some interesting comments (highlight mine):

The videos show the Russian Su-27 maneuvering around the U.S. Navy EP-3 in close proximity and in varying positions.

While not shown in the released imagery, during the intercept, the Russian Su-27 executed a hard right-to-left turn from the U.S. EP-3’s right side with an excessive closure rate and came within five feet of the EP-3’s right wingtip. The Russian Su-27 then proceeded to enter the flight path of the U.S. Navy EP-3, crossing within 10 feet and executing a sharp dive below, which resulted in violent turbulence for the U.S. EP-3 and its crewmembers.

“These videos show the Russian Su-27 intercepting the EP-3 from a very close position, at the same altitude, and with an estimated wingtip-to-wingtip horizontal separation as little as five feet at times,” said U.S. Navy Capt. Bill Ellis, commander of Task Force 67. “For the Russian fighter aircraft to fly this close to the U.S. Navy aircraft, especially for extended periods of time, is unsafe. The smallest lapse of focus or error in airmanship by the intercepting aircrew can have disastrous consequences. There is no margin for error and insufficient time or space for our aircrews to take corrective action,” said Ellis.

Here are the additional clips. Beware, the zoom affects the perception of the distances between the two aircraft.

H/T to our friend @CivMilAir for the heads up

Here’s The Video Of the Russian Su-27 Flanker Buzzing A U.S. Navy EP-3 Aries Over The Black Sea

For the first time in a few years, the U.S. Navy has released the video of the dangerous interaction between a Navy spyplane and a Russian fighter.

On Jan. 29, a U.S. EP-3 Aries aircraft flying in international airspace over the Black Sea was intercepted by a Russian Su-27.

According to the U.S. Navy “This interaction was determined to be unsafe due to the Su-27 closing to within five feet and crossing directly through the EP-3’s flight path, causing the EP-3 to fly through the Su-27’s jet wash. The duration of the intercept lasted two hours and 40 minutes.”

“The Russian military is within its right to operate within international airspace, but they must behave within international standards set to ensure safety and prevent incidents, including the 1972 Agreement for the Prevention of Incidents on and Over the High Seas (INCSEA). Unsafe actions‎ increase the risk of miscalculation and midair collisions.

The U.S. aircraft was operating in accordance with international law and did not provoke this Russian activity.”

We have often reported about alleged unprofessional intercept maneuvers performed by Russian or Chinese fighters on U.S. spyplanes. Here’s what we have reported last year:

This is not the first time a Chinese or Russian fighter pilot performs a Top Gun-like stunt or aggressively maneuvers close to a U.S. aircraft.

In February 2017, a People’s Liberation Army Air Force KJ-200 and a U.S. Navy P-3 Orion aircraft were involved in what was defined by U.S. officials as an “unsafe” close encounter over the South China Sea.

Last year, on Apr. 29, 2016, a Russian Su-27 Flanker barrel rolled over the top of a U.S. Air Force RC-135 aircraft operating in the Baltic Sea. The Russian jet came within 25 feet of the U.S. intelligence gathering aircraft.

Another Su-27 had carried out the same dangerous maneuver on another US Rivet Joint over the Baltic on Apr. 14, 2016.

Previously, on Jan. 25, 2016 another U.S. RC-135 intelligence gathering jet was intercepted over the Black Sea by a Russian Su-27 Flanker that made an aggressive turn that disturbed the controllability of the RC-135.

On Apr. 7, 2015 another Su-27 flew within 20 feet of an RC-135U over the Baltic Sea.

On Apr. 23, 2015 a U.S. Air Force RC-135U Combat Sent performing a routine surveillance mission in international airspace over the Sea of Okhotsk, north of Japan, some 60 miles off eastern Russia was intercepted by a Russian Su-27 Flanker that crossed the route of the U.S. aircraft putting itself within 100 feet of the Combat Sent.

In 2014, a Chinese Flanker made a barrel roll over a U.S. Navy P-8 maritime surveillance plane 135 miles east of Hainan Island, a spot where a dangerous close encounter of another U.S. electronic surveillance plane with the Chinese Navy took place back in 2001: on Apr. 1, 2001, a U.S. Navy EP-3E with the VQ-1, flying an ELINT (Electronic Intelligence) mission in international airspace 64 miles southeast of the island of Hainan was intercepted by two PLAN (People’s Liberation Army Navy) J-8 fighters. One of the J-8s piloted by Lt. Cdr. Wang Wei, made two close passes to the EP-3 before colliding with the spyplane on the third pass. As a consequence, the J-8 broke into two pieces and crashed into the sea causing the death of the pilot, whereas the EP-3, severely damaged, performed an unauthorized landing at China’s Lingshui airfield.

The 24 crew members (21 men and three women), that destroyed all (or at least most of ) the sensitive items and data on board the aircraft, were detained by Chinese authorities until Apr. 11.

Interestingly, unlike most (if not all) the previous incidents, this time the U.S. Navy has released footage of the Su-27 buzzing the EP-3. You can also see the coordinates where the close encounter occurred. BTW, here’s the track the EP-3E Aries II followed during its mission out of Souda Bay:

To be honest, the Flanker does not seem to be as close as five feet during this pass, although the camera zoom may be a factor here. Moreover, the whole intercept lasted 2 hours and 40 minutes, so this may be one of the few passes performed during that time, not the closest one.

What do you think?

Here Are The F/A-18C Hornet Jets That Enforced The No-Fly Zone Over Davos During World Economic Forum 2018

We went to Meiringen to see the Swiss “Legacy” Hornets involved in the WEF 2018 air defense.

From Jan. 22 to 27, Swiss Air Force F/A-18C/D Hornet jets contributed to the security of the WEF international conference at Davos, Switzerland.

The aircraft operated out of Meiringen (and Payerne too), flying CAPs (Combat Air Patrols) that saw the aircraft carrying two live AIM-9X Sidewinders at the wingtips and either two live AIM-120 AMRAAM (Advanced Medium Range Air to Air Missiles) or one AIM-120 and the ATFLIR (Advanced Targeting Forward Looking Infra Red) pod, particularly useful to perform long-range visual IDs. All the Hornets had the “STBY 121.5” marking on their 1,200 lt centerline external fuel tank: a message to any intercepted aircraft to switch their radio to the international VHF emergency frequency 121.5 MHz to get instructions from the interceptor and the air defense radar.

The F/A-18C J-5011 from the Fliegerstaffel 11 “Tigers” with the special tail color scheme seen returning to Meiringen after a WEF sortie. (All photographs: Alessandro Fucito)

The Swiss Hornets standard configuration included the centerline fuel tank, two AIM-9X and two AIM-120 AAMs. Some aircraft flew with one AIM-120 and the ATFLIR pod.

At any given time, each CAP station involved six Hornets: two aircraft flying the assigned racetrack, two heading to the CAP racetrack to relieve the first pair and another two returning to base at the end of their “on station” time. This year, no F-5E/F Tiger took part in the operation…

A Swiss AF Hornet about to land at Meiringen airbase. Note the 121.5 text, meant as a message to an intercepted aircraft to switch the radio to the international emergency frequency 121.5 MHz.The Austrian Air Force contributed to the enforcement of the NFZ too, with its Eurofighter Typhoons.

The Aviationist’s Alessandro Fucito went to Meiringen and took the photographs you can find in this post.

Take off at dusk for this Staffel 11 F/A-18C Hornet. This year, the venerable F-5 Tiger jets did not take part in the WEF air defense efforts.

Check Out This F-16C From Nellis Air Force Base’s Aggressor Squadron Wearing The Have Glass V Paint Scheme

To our knowledge, there are three new F-16Cs (including this one from the 64th AGRS) sporting the Have Glass V paint scheme.

The photos in this post (released by the Australian Department of Defence within a set of shots taken at Nellis Air Force Base where the Royal Australian Air Force has deployed with four EA-18G Growlers, one of those involved in a take off incident on Jan. 27) are particularly interesting as they show an F-16C at Nellis Air Force Base wearing a brand new Have Glass 5th generation paint scheme.

The aircraft, serial 86-0280, is an F-16C assigned to the 64th Aggressor Squadron, a jet previously painted with the Arctic and Desert color schemes. At this link you can find a shot of the aircraft in Arctic livery (but make sure to visit the rest of Bruce Smith’s Flickr gallery for other outstanding photographs of this as well as many other jets operating out of Nellis).

F-16C jets belonging to the 64th (and 18th) AGRS have been sporting different paint schemes for decades now. “Arctic”, “Blizzard“, “Splinter” and “Desert” are just a few of the “exotic” paint jobs used on the F-16s to make the Aggressor jets as similar as possible to the real threats and put the pilots in training against the Red Air in a similar situation to what they would see during an engagement with the opposing combat air forces. For this reason, such “themes” have become a distinguishing feature of U.S. Air Force Aggressors to make their fighter jets similar to a Russian 4th and 5th generation aircraft.

However, as the shots in this post seem to prove, even the Aggressors have started flying with F-16 painted with the Have Glass V: the “Have Glass 5th generation” is the evolution of the standard Have Glass program that saw all the F-16s receiving a two-tone grey color scheme made with a special radar-absorbing paint capable to reduce the aircraft Radar Cross Section. Indeed, all “Vipers” are covered with RAM (Radar Absorbent Material) made of microscopic metal grains that can degrade the radar signature of the aircraft. The Have Glass V is the latest version of the special paint.

An F-16C Aggressor from the United States Air Force prepares for another sortie from Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada. *** Local Caption *** The Royal Australian Air Force has deployed a contingent of approximately 340 personnel to Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada for Exercise Red Flag 18-1, taking place from 29 January to 16 February 2018.
Established in 1980 by the United States Air Force, Exercise Red Flag centres on the world’s most complex reconstruction of a modern battlespace and is recognised as one of the world’s premier air combat exercises. The exercise involves participants from the United States Navy as well as the United Kingdom.
For 2018, an AP-3C Orion, E-7A Wedgetail and a Control and Reporting Centre have been deployed on the complex, multi-nation exercise. Four EA-18G Growler aircraft from Number 6 Squadron have also been deployed for the first time on an international exercise, since being transferred to the Royal Australian Air Force in January 2017.
Training alongside allied nations is critical to the success of Air Force units on real world operations; helping develop further familiarity with foreign terminology, methods and platforms.

We don’t know yet why the F-16C AF 86-0280 was given the somehow standard HG V paint scheme (is it going to be handed over to another Squadron or are the Aggressors going to fly a few aircraft in standard color scheme?), still the Viper in the dark grey Have Glass livery looks pretty cool.

Our reader and friend Stephan de Bruijn informed us that two more 64th AGRS birds were spotted on Nov. 29, 2017, with the HG V livery: 91-0374 and 90-0740. You can find two shots from Stephan in the comment thread. Actually it’s not clear whether these Vipers belong to the Aggressors too: in fact, according to some sources these F-16s, are assigned to the Weapons School. According to Dennis Peteri, both 90-0740 and 91-0374 left OT/422nd TES for WA/16th WPS sporting HG V. 64th AGRS only operate Block25/32 aircraft while 374 and 740 are Block 42s. So, at the moment, the AF 86-0280 should be the very first HG V of the 64th AGRS.

If you have further details let us know.

Image credit: CPL David Gibbs / © Commonwealth of Australia, Department of Defence

H/T Gordon Bradbury for the heads-up

Australian EA-18G Growler Jet Damaged in Incident at Nellis Air Force Base

Aircraft Photographed with Smoke from End of Runway. Crew Reported as Uninjured.

A Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) EA-18G Growler electronic warfare aircraft is being reported as damaged in an incident that occurred at 10:45 AM local time on Jan. 27 at Nellis AFB, outside Las Vegas, Nevada, according to a statement issued by Nellis AFB and quoted in the Sydney Morning Herald.

The aircraft, one of a contingent of four Australian EF-18G Growlers at Nellis AFB for the Red Flag 18-1 air combat exercise, is part of the 340-person contingent of the Royal Australian Air Force participating in this year’s first Red Flag Exercise.

Red Flag is a large-scale, highly realistic air combat exercise originating from Nellis AFB and taking place over the large air combat training ranges that surround the area.

Early reports in both Australian and U.S. media say the aircraft is from the RAAF No. 6 Squadron who are participating in Red Flag now. There are also reports that the Australian EF-18Gs are “operating alongside US Navy EA-18Gs” at Nellis as indicated in a January 2018 article on Combat Aircraft magazine’s website.

Australian journalist Elena McIntyre of Ten News Sydney reported in a tweet that an “RAAF Growler apparently experienced a critical engine failure during takeoff at Nellis AFB, before skidding off the runway. Pilot and ground crew are safe.”

According to an article in Australia’s Air Force magazine, the first RAAF EA-18G Growler instructor pilot began flying the electronic warfare aircraft in the U.S. at Naval Air Station Whidbey Island in the United States in November 2013. Production of the first of 12 RAAF EA-18G Growlers began in 2015. Before that, RAAF flight crews trained on the U.S. EA-18Gs with the U.S. Navy’s Electronic Attack Squadron 129, “The Vikings”, permanently stationed at NAS Whidbey Island, in Washington state.

Photos from the accident that appeared on Twitter show the aircraft sitting upright, intact, with the canopy open and the leading-edge slats and arrestor hook down. There appears to be discoloration on the left vertical stabilizer from dark smoke also seen in photos that appeared on Twitter.

RAAF photos distributed prior to the incident show the four aircraft at Nellis AFB, with one of them painted in a special color scheme with a bright blue and yellow tail and upper fuselage. Based on the photos shown on Twitter the aircraft involved in the incident appears to be one of the other three aircraft without the special color scheme.

EA-18G Growlers from Number 6 Squadron arrive at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, for Exercise Red Flag 18-1. *** Local Caption *** The Royal Australian Air Force has deployed a contingent of approximately 340 personnel to Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada for Exercise Red Flag 18-1, taking place from 29 January to 16 February 2018.
Established in 1980 by the United States Air Force, Exercise Red Flag centres on the world’s most complex reconstruction of a modern battlespace and is recognised as one of the world’s premier air combat exercises. The exercise involves participants from the United States Navy as well as the United Kingdom.
For 2018, an AP-3C Orion, E-7A Wedgetail and a Control and Reporting Centre have been deployed on the complex, multi-nation exercise. Four EA-18G Growler aircraft from Number 6 Squadron have also been deployed for the first time on an international exercise, since being transferred to the Royal Australian Air Force in January 2017.
Training alongside allied nations is critical to the success of Air Force units on real world operations; helping develop further familiarity with foreign terminology, methods and platforms.

The RAAF received their first EA-18G Growlers in 2017. The aircraft are to be operated from the Australian RAAF Base Amberley about 50 km (31 miles) southwest of Brisbane.

So far there has been no official report about the status of the Red Flag 18-1 flight operations following the incident, even though no much disruption is expected.