Monthly Archives: June 2018

USAF Light Attack Experiment Halted Following Fatal Crash

Overall Light Attack Acquisition Project Continues Despite Accident.

Military.com’s Oriana Pawlyk reports that the innovative U.S. Air Force Light Attack Experiment has been halted following last week’s fatal crash of an Embraer A-29 Super Tucano light attack aircraft within the Red Rio Bombing Range at the White Sands Test Facility in Las Cruces, New Mexico outside Alamogordo.

The Light Attack Experiment is intended to test both a new evaluation process for some USAF acquisition programs and simultaneously provide functional analysis of small, tactical light attack aircraft that can be operated economically and efficiently for close air support and reconnaissance in an insurgent conflict. Most of the participant aircraft are single engine turboprops. The program is said to potentially compliment and economize other Air Force programs including the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter by offering a less expensive, more agile program architecture that is suggested to even include innovations in how the Air Force trains new pilots.

U.S. Navy pilot Lt. Christopher Carey Short, from Canandaigua, New York died in the crash on Friday, June 22, 2018 while flying the Embraer A-29 Super Tucano. Another crew member on board the two-seat light turboprop attack and trainer aircraft is being reported as injured after ejecting from the aircraft.

The Embraer A-29 Super Tucano that crashed is a successful, combat-proven light tactical trainer, strike and intelligence/surveillance/reconnaissance aircraft that is being evaluated in the Air Force Light Attack Experiment.

No cause for the accident has been reported and the cause of the accident is under investigation according to Air Force Public Affairs at Holloman AFB.

According to Pawlyk’s report, U.S. Air Force Air Combat Command commanding officer General Mike Holmes told reporters that, “The OA-X tests have been suspended amid the ongoing accident investigation, and will remain on hold until officials can decide if more testing is even needed.”

Gen. Holmes comments did not clarify specifically if the program will potentially move ahead to an acquisition phase without further testing, or, if the program may be suspended following this fatal accident.

Journalist Pawlyk reported in early December 2017 in a separate article for Military.com that Members of Congress were, at the time, eager to hear the findings of the Light Attack Experiment.

“During a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on acquisition reform Thursday [in 2017], senators said they are hopeful the light attack aircraft, known as OA-X, procurement strategy may improve how future weapons systems are acquired,” Pawlyk reported.
General Holmes did go on to tell reporters, “I don’t think this will have a chilling effect on future experiments. Whenever you’re trying something new there are risks.”

The Light Attack Experiment is in Phase II of now, with evaluation flights being conducted mostly from Holloman AFB, New Mexico. The program was originally intended to run through July, 2018.

During a media event in 2017, journalists and observers were invited to Holloman AFB to see aircraft being evaluated in the Light Attack Experiment and gain insights into the Air Force’s potential concepts for acquisition. At the time, program leaders including General Holmes and Secretary of the Air Force Dr. Heather Wilson, emphasized that the program was not a “fly-off” competition, but an insight into potentially new processes for evaluating some new Air Force programs.

Secretary of the U.S. Air Force, Dr. Heather Wilson (left) and USAF General James M. “Mike” Holmes, Commander, Air Combat Command at the Light Attack Demo media day last year at Holloman AFB. (Photo: Tom Demerly/TheAviationist.com)

Reporters, including this writer, were scheduled to return to Holloman AFB in July to report on the Light Attack Experiment again as the program neared its completion.

“Top Gun: Maverick”: Son of “Goose” Arrives, Kenny Loggins Possibly Redoing Theme Song

Hollywood Has Been Rife with Top Gun Rumors. Here Are the Most Recent Ones.

Three actors have been tipped by Hollywood insiders as top choices to play the son of LTJG Nick “Goose” Bradshaw in the upcoming “Top Gun: Maverick” slated for release in July, 2019. Entertainment industry news outlet CinemaBlend.com writer Nick Evans, reported last night that, “The son of Goose is set to have a key role in the film and casting is underway for the part. The frontrunners are Nicholas Hoult, Glen Powell and Miles Teller.”

Actors Nicholas Hoult, Miles Teller and Glen Powell are tipped as favorites for the role of the son of “Goose” in Top Gun: Maverick”. (Photo:JohnShearer/Getty; Manny Crabel/WireImage; Santiago Felip/Getty)

As every Top Gun fan knows, “Goose” died in a tragic training accident in the original film when “Maverick” (Tom Cruise) flies his F-14 Tomcat through the wake vortex of “Iceman’s” Tomcat, flaming out both engines and being forced to eject. “Mav” gets out OK, but LTJG Nick “Goose” Bradshaw collides with the aircraft canopy as it is blown off the F-14 Tomcat during the ejection. Tragically, he does not survive.

Reporter Nick Evans went on to talk about the potential significance of the new character in “Top Gun: Maverick”:

“When we first heard about Goose’s son being in the sequel last year, it seemed that he might be named Wrigley and will immediately butt heads with his instructor Pete Mitchell at Top Gun class. This will potentially be an antagonistic relationship between teacher and student in the beginning, which makes sense considering Goose was killed while flying with Maverick.”

In other “Top Gun: Maverick” rumors flying fast and low around Hollywood and on the set at Naval Air Station North Island on Coronado Island, San Diego, entertainment reporter Ryan Scott of MovieWeb.com reported on June 6, 2018 that, “[Kenny] Loggins would return to help out with the movie’s soundtrack. It sounds like that’s going to happen, as he’s going to put a new twist on “Danger Zone” with a younger artist.”

Hollywood reports leak that Kenny Loggins may have a role in the new soundtrack for “Top Gun: Maverick” (Photo: via YouTube)

Musician Kenny Loggins told reporter Ryan Scott that, “I met Tom Cruise on Fallon and I asked him that question. He said ‘Of course we have to use Danger Zone.’ So, I’d probably do it maybe as a duet with a young act. I’d like to work with, well there’s young and then there’s young…we have some feelers out there. Some pretty cool rock acts. The rockers that I’m interested in are male.”

There have been no confirmations so far about the soundtrack from Paramount Pictures, the studio producing “Top Gun: Maverick”, or from Kenny Loggins’ agent, Michael Jensen of Jensen Communications.

As we reported previously on TheAviationist.com, the plot for “Top Gun: Maverick” will likely introduce dramatic conflict between the world of traditional manned-fighter aircraft like the F-14 Tomcats (made famous in the original film) and their more modern replacements and the emerging role of Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA) or “drones” like the U.S. Navy’s new X-47B experimental remotely piloted aircraft and the Navy’s giant MQ-4C Triton UAVs. Tin the real world, MQ-4C Tritons are to be deployed to Guam for surveillance missions in the region this summer, so the plot for “Top Gun: Maverick” has particular relevance. The first photos teased on social media from Tom Cruise show a Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet, suggesting the Navy’s new F-35C Lightning II, the carrier-launched variant of the Joint Strike Fighter, may not have made it through auditions for the movie’s airplane cast.

Image credit: Paramount Pictures

VUP-19 DET PM MQ-4C “Triton” Drone Performs First Flight From NBVC Point Mugu

U.S. Navy’s MQ-4C “Triton” belonging to the Unmanned Patrol Squadron One Nine (VUP-19) DET Point Mugu conducted first flight from Naval Base Ventura County (NBVC) Point Mugu.

On Jun. 27, VUP-19 DET Point Mugu launched its first MQ-4C “Triton” UAVs (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles) from Naval Base Ventura County (NBVC) Point Mugu.

Based on the photographs released by the U.S. Navy, the drone that carried out the first sortie is MQ-4C #168461, one of the two Tritons assigned to the unit (the other being the example #168460 that, at the end of May, sported high-rez tail markings).

The U.S. Navy’s MQ-4C “Triton” Broad Area Maritime Surveillance (BAMS) is an ISR (Intelligence Surveillance Reconnaissance) platform that will complement the P-8A Poseidon within the Navy’s Maritime Patrol and Reconnaissance Force family of systems: for instance, testing has already proved the MQ-4C’s ability to pass FMV (Full Motion Video) to a Poseidon MPA (Maritime Patrol Aircraft). An advanced version than the first generation Global Hawk Block 10, the drone  it is believed to be a sort of Block 20 and Block 30 Global Hawk hybrid, carrying Navy payload including an AN/ZPY-3 multi-function active-sensor (MFAS) radar system, that gives the Triton the ability to cover more than 2.7 million square miles in a single mission that can last as long as 24 hours at a time, at altitudes higher than 10 miles, with an operational range of 8,200 nautical miles.

Navy pilots from VX-1 and VUP-19 flew the MQ-4C from NBVC Point Mugu during the first flight of the Triton.

Interestingly, the first flight of a VUP-19 MQ-4C from NBVC PM was chased by a MQ-8B Fire Scout from VTUAV (vertical take-off and landing tactical unmanned air vehicle) DET Point Mugu.

An MQ-8B follows the MQ-4C Triton during its first flight from NBVC.

The U.S. Navy plans to procure 68 aircraft and 2 prototypes. VUP-19 DET PM has recently achieved an Early Operational Capability (EOC) and prepares for overseas operations:  as alreadt reported, Point Mugu’s MQ-4Cs are expected to deploy to Guam later in 2018, with an early set of capabilities, including basic ESM (Electronic Support Measures) to pick up ships radar signals, for maritime Intelligence Surveillance Reconnaissance mission.

The Triton is expected to reach an IOC (Initial Operational Capability) in 2021, when two additional MQ-4Cs will allow a 24/7/365 orbit out of Andersen Air Force Base, Guam.

Image credit: U.S. Navy

 

Here Are The First Photographs Of U.S. Air Force C-17 and Marine Corps KC-130J Operating From New U.S. Airfield in Northern Syria

U.S. Air Forces Central Command has just released some photographs from an “undisclosed location”: geolocation proves they are the first from a recently-built airbase in northern Syria.

CENTCOM has just published some interesting photographs of U.S. assets supporting Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve. In particular, the images depict U.S. Air Force C-17 Globemaster III and U.S. Marine Corps KC-130J operating from an austere runway at what the official captions refer to as an “undisclosed location”.

Here is one of those images:

A U.S. Marine Corps C-130 Hercules departs from an undisclosed location, June 22, 2018. The C-130 transported personnel and supplies to another location in the area of operations in support of Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve (CJTF-OIR). In conjunction with partner forces, CJTF-OIR’s mission is to defeat ISIS in designated areas of Iraq and Syria and set conditions to increase regional stability. (U.S. Air Force Photo by Staff Sgt. Corey Hook)

However, the new images, taken between Jun. 20 and 23, 2018 and released by CENTCOM Public Affairs earlier today, were immediately geolocated by the OSINT investigator and famous Twitter user Samir (@obretix).

Therefore, those you can find in this post are, to our knowledge, the very first photographs showing operations at a new U.S./Coalition military base in Syria’s northeastern province of Al-Hasakah whose construction works were exposed by OSINT (Open Source Intelligence) analysis of satellite pictures in 2017 and completion appeared to be imminent or just finished at the end of April 2018:

 

Another U.S. airfield is located in northern Syria: Sarrin. The base was built in 2016 and the first aircraft appeared to operate from there in July 2017. Here below you can find a tweet with some recent images from there:

Noteworthy, the images released today of the operations at the new airfield in Syria show an interesting KC-130J. This airframe (serial 167110), whose main role is to act as an aerial refueler, has a pretty career: back in 2010, the aircraft deployed to Kandahar, Afghanistan, and was fitted with what was been dubbed the Harvest Hawk weapons system. Along with the traditional air-to-air refueling, and cargo and troop transportation tasks, the KC-130J from Marine Aerial Refueler Transport Squadron 352 out of Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, California carried out several Close Air Support missions earning many mission markings firing AGM-114K and Griffin missiles.

A U.S. Marine Corps C-130J Hercules flies over an undisclosed location after departure, June 22, 2018. The C-130 was transporting personnel and supplies to another location in Combined Joint Task Force’s area of operations. The KC-130J Hercules supports expeditionary operations by providing air-to-air refueling, rapid ground refueling and logistic support to operating forces. Tactical transportation of personnel or cargo includes aerial delivery or austere landing zone operations. (U.S. Air Force Photo by Staff Sgt. Corey Hook)

H/T @obretix for the help in writing this article

Footage Of Japan’s New Kawasaki C-2 ELINT Variant Operating From Iruma Air Base Emerges

New footage shows the intelligence gathering aircraft at Iruma Air Base.

Footage and photographs have emerged of the Japanese Kawasaki C-2 Electronic Intelligence variant (also dubbed “RC-2”) operating at Iruma Air Base, north of western Tokyo, Japan.

The aircraft, a heavily modified baseline C-2 tactical transport aircraft with a modified nose section and large fairings top of the tail, fuselage and sides of it, as well as several antennas underneath the fuselage, is serialled 18-1202 and was first spotted undergoing taxi tests and first flights at Japan Air Self-Defense Force base at Gifu, home of JASDF’s Air Development and Test Command and Kawasaki Heavy Industries facility, at the beginning of February 2018. The C-2 ELINT is going to replace the obsolete JASDF’s YS-11EB ELINT aircraft.

All the enlarged fairings on the C-2 ELINT testbed 18-1202. Not visible in this screenshot are the antennas located underneath the fuselage. (Modified screenshot from video below).

Interestingly, on Jun. 26, the “RC-2” visited Iruma, where the NAMC YS-11EB of the Electronic Intelligence Squadron are based:

The following video shows the C-2 ELINT taxiing and taking off from Iruma Air Base:

Little is known about the intelligence gathering variant of the C-2: considered that it will be an ELINT/COMINT (Electronic Intelligence/Communication Intelligence) platform, it’s safe to assume will be equipped with sensors and antennas required to collect signals from distance, process the data to classify and geo-locate it and then store or share the information to other aerial, naval or ground assets. More or less what other modern (or ageingspyplanes do.

The NAMC YS-11EB is the aircraft the C-2 ELINT will replace. (Credit: Toshi Aoki – JP Spotters)

Noteworthy, the first trip to Iruma made the C-2 ELINT aircraft trackable by means of ADS-B/Mode-S transponder. The track collected by our friend @CivMilAir shows the aircraft arriving from Gifu to Iruma on Jun. 26:

The part of track showing the C-2 ELINT on its way to Iruma Air Base. (Credit: @CivMilAir)

Top image: screenshot from @amuro1415 video on Twitter.