Author Archives: David Cenciotti

Spanish Hornet Crashes During Take Off From Torrejon Air Base Killing Pilot

The Spanish Air Force has just suffered another deadly accident: an EF-18 Hornet from Ala 12.It’s The 12th Major Incident Involving A Hornet In The Last 17 Months.

Just five days after losing a Eurofighter Typhoon at Albacete, the Ejército del Aire (Spanish Air Force) has suffered another accident this morning, when an EF-18 Hornet belonging to the Ala 12 crashed during take off from its homebase at Torrejon Air Base, near Madrid.

According to the Spanish MoD, the pilot was killed in the crash.

Images emerging on social media show a column of smoke pouring from the crash site:

No further detail about the accident and its route causes has been released at the time of writing.

However, it’s worth of note that not only does the one at Torrejon is the second deadly accident in 5 days involving a Spanish combat aircraft but it is also the 12th incident involving an F/A-18 of any variant since May 2016.

Dealing with the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet fleet, four aircraft were lost (fortunately resulting in 0 fatalities): two VFA-211 F/A-18F jets from NAS Oceana collided and crashed 25 miles E of the Oregon Inlet, Nags Head, NC on May 26, 2016; then, on Apr. 21, 2017, a VFA-137 F/A-18E crashed during a landing attempt on USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70) in the Celebes sea, between Indonesia and the Philippines; whereas an F/A-18E of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 146 assigned to the USS Nimitz (CVN 68) departed the runway forcing the pilot to eject during an emergency landing at Bahrain International Airport on Aug. 12, 2017.

Legacy Hornets are crashing at an even more alarming rate: two U.S. Marine Corps F-18 Hornets from MCAS Miramar crashed on Nov. 9, 2016, near San Diego. Another F/A-18C crashed near USMC Air Ground Combat Cente, Twentynine Palms, on Oct. 25, 2016. A U.S. Navy F/A-18C belonging to the Strike Fighter Wing Pacific, Detachment Fallon, crashed on Aug. 2, 2016, 10NM to the south of NAS Fallon. On Jul. 27, 2016 a USMC F/A-18 belonging to the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing crashed during a night strafing run on a weapons range near Twentynine Palms (killing the pilot). On Jun. 2 a Blue Angels Hornet crashed after taking off from Smyrna/Rutherford County Airport (KMQY), Smyrna, Tennessee: the only pilot on board was killed in the incident. For what concerns the international accidents (both causing the death of the pilots), a Swiss Air Force Hornet was lost on Aug. 29, 2016, a Canadian CF-188 was lost on Nov. 28, 2016, and the Spanish Hornet on Oct. 17.

Interesting Photo Shows F-22 Raptor Landing At RAF Lakenheath With Open Missile Bay

This Is Something You Don’t See Too Often.

The photographs in this post were taken by our contributor Alessandro Fucito on Oct. 12, 2017. They show a U.S. Air Force Raptor jet, belonging to the 1st FW, Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia, deployed to the UK, since Oct. 8, landing at RAF Lakenheath with the side weapon bay open.

The stealth multirole jet AF 08-154 is one of the six involved in a FTD (Flying Training Deployment) in Europe. The aircraft have just completed a tour of duty at Al Dhafra airbase, UAE, in support of Operation Inherent Resolve in Syria and Iraq.

Noteworthy, an AIM-9X Sidewinder can be seen inside the open weapon bay.

The F-22 with the open side bays landing at RAF Lakenheath. (Image: Alessandro Fucito).

The latest variant of the Sidewinder missile is a recent addition to the F-22 Raptor inventory: the IR-guided missile has been integrated on Mar. 1, 2016, when the 90th Fighter Squadron (FS) belonging to the 3rd Wing stationed at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska officially became the first combat-operational Raptor unit to equip an F-22 with the AIM-9X Sidewinder.

Most of US combat planes use the AIM-9X along with a Helmet Mounted Display since 2003 (by the way, one was fired at a Syrian Su-22 recently, but failed for reasons that are still unclear): with a HMD (like the American Joint Helmet Mounted Cueing System – JHMCS), information imagery (including aircraft’s airspeed, altitude, weapons status, aiming etc) are projected on the visor enabling the pilot to look out in any direction with all the required data always in his field of vision. The HMD enables the pilot to exploit the full HOBS (High Off-Boresight) capabilities of the AIM-9X and engage a target by simply looking at it.

However the AIM-9X will not be coupled to a HMD as the Raptor is not equipped with such kind of helmet that provides the essential flight and weapon aiming information through line of sight imagery as the project to implement it was axed following 2013 budget cuts.

In 2019, the Air Force plans to equip the F-22 with the AIM-9X Block II, the F-22 will probably fill the gap as the most advanced variant of the Sidewinder is expected to feature a Lock-on After Launch capability with a datalink, for Helmetless High Off-Boresight (HHOBS) at intermediate range: the air-to-air missile will be launched first and then directed to its target afterwards even though it is behind the launching aircraft.

This will not give the F-22 the same ability as an HMD-equipped aircraft, still better than nothing.

The different AIM-9X envelopes (credit: Hughes via The War Zone)

Back to the top photo, we don’t know the reason why the aircraft flew with an open weapon bay. Although the aircraft can take-off and land with the open side bays, it’s something that happens quite rarely and this leads to believe it might have been because of some sort of system fault that prevented it from being closed.

Salva

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Seventy Years Ago Today, Chuck Yeager Became The First Pilot To Break The Sound Barrier

70 years ago, the first manned supersonic flight.

On Oct. 14, 1947, U.S Air Force Captain Charles “Chuck” Yeager (now 94), flying the rocket-powered Bell X-1 aircraft #46-062 christened “Glamorous Glennis,” dropped from the bomb bay of a specially modified B-29 from Muroc Army Air Field (now Edwards Air Force Base), “broke” the sound barrier achieving a peak speed of Mach 1.06 (361 m/s, 1,299 km/h) at 45,000 feet, before landing on a dry lake bed.

Chuck Yeager in front of the Bell X-1, the first aircraft to break the sound barrier in level flight.

It was flight number 50 and the achievement, meant to be secret but leaked to press later, took place in the skies over Rogers Dry Lake in the Mojave Desert.

Yeager enlisted as a private in the U.S. Army Air Forces Sept. 12, 1941. Later he was accepted to flight training in the flying sergeants program and, upon completion, was promoted to flight. Yeager demonstrated his flying skill during World War II when he became an, “ace in a day” after downing five enemy aircraft in one mission.

Yeager is among the guest stars in The Right Stuff, a 1983 American epic historical drama film based on Tom Wolfe’s best-selling 1979 book (actually he also play a cameo in the movie). The Right Stuff is about the Navy, Marine and Air Force test pilots who were involved in aeronautical research at Muroc Army Air Field, as well as the Mercury Seven, the seven military pilots who were selected to be the astronauts for Project Mercury, the first manned spaceflight by the United States.

The Right Stuff’s first part is about the attempt of breaking of the sound barrier that, indeed, “opened up the doors of space to us,” as Yeager explained 65 years later.

Interestingly, as shown in the movie, two nights before the schedule date for the record flight, Yeager fell from a horse and broke two ribs. He was worried that the injury prevent him from flying the mission. He went to a civilian doctor who taped his ribs and only told his wife, as well as friend and fellow project pilot Jack Ridley, about the accident.

On the day of the flight, Yeager could not seal the X-1’s hatch by himself, such was the pain from the broken ribs and Ridley, flying in the B-29 “mothership” along with his friend, helped Yeager to seal the hatch by means of a lever: the end of a broom handle.

The rest is history.

To celebrate the first supersonic flight the U.S. Air Force has released an interesting infographic that shows the milestones of supersonic flight: from Mach 1 of the Bell X-1 to Mach 9.6 achieved on Nov. 16, 2004, by the third flight of the X-43A Hyper-X, a small experimental unmanned research aircraft, built in three examples, designed to flight-demonstrate the technology of airframe-integrated supersonic ramjet or “scramjet” propulsion at hypersonic speeds above Mach 5.

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