Author Archives: David Cenciotti

Here’s Why Calling The Footage of a RAAF Boeing C-17 Flying Low Over Brisbane a “9/11 Stunt” is Nonsense

A Royal Australian Air Force C-17 Globemaster III took part in the traditional Brisbane Riverfire Festival. Clips of the airlifter flying between the buildings inundated the social networks. And someone labelled the display as an unnecessary “9/11 stunt”. Here’s why that’s pure nonsense.

Held each year at the end of September, Riverfire is the big finale to Brisbane Festival, Queensland’s three week arts and cultural festival in Brisbane, Australia. The event is also quite famous for the flypasts and aerial displays of Royal Australian Air Force aircraft: almost all the aviation lovers will probably remember the iconic RAAF F-111 AArdvaark’s “dump and burn“. Performed from 2006 to 2010 at night, the maneuver saw the aircraft dump fuel through a nozzle positioned between the two engines and ignite it with afterburner as shown in the video below.

With the retirement of the F-111 at the end of 2010, the RAAF had to find something else to thrill the crowds in the lead up to the evening fireworks display.

While the Australian F/A-18 Hornet have been the guest stars of the last years flypasts, in 2018, along with the display of the Roulettes Aerobatic team and the flypast of the EA-18G Growler (that made its Riverfire debut last year), the RAAF took part in the Riverfire Festival with a C-17A Globemaster. And this time, the airlifter, that had already taken part to the show in 2017 with a pretty high flypast, literally “stole the stage” performing its flypast at a much lower altitude resulting in the tons of videos you have probably already found online.

Here’s one of those I like the most:

If the majority of those who have watched the flypast, either in person or on the Internet, found it “cool”, many others have been scared by the sight of a big aircraft zipping between the skyscrapers, according to the mainstream media. Some have called the flypast “9/11 stuff” and were “terrified” by the “unnecessarily stupid and dangerous stunt” as the display was defined by those who slammed it on the social media.

However, all this criticism seems to be a little exaggerated. The Riverfire Festival is something planned months ahead. Almost everyone in Brisbane knows about the flypasts and the public is informed in advance as to when the displays are taking place and what are the best viewing points in town.



Here’s what the RAAF posted on their website to notify about the rehearsals on Thursday Sept. 27: “The aircraft will depart RAAF Amberley and reach the Brisbane CBD flying as low as 100 metres at approximately 300 km/hr. The aircraft will fly along the Brisbane River from the William Jolly Bridge to the Riverside Expressway where it will climb and do a loop over South Brisbane and come back to Kangaroo Point to fly along the Brisbane River down to the Storey Bridge. The aircraft will then make a second pass of the same flight path.”

Although the videos may not show that clearly, there was a lot of clearance between the C-17 and the surrounding buildings, giving the big but highly maneuverable Globemaster several “evasion” routes if needed to cope with some kind of in-flight issue. Moreover, as just said, despite its size, the aircraft is pretty agile and aircrews are trained to maneuver aggressively at low altitude as shown, for example, by the C-17s that visit the famous Star Wars Canyon in the U.S. or Mach Loop in the UK. For sure, you don’t happen to see a large military transport aircraft flying outside your window too often and this may be somehow worrisome. Unless it’s the end of September and you live or work in Brisbane: in this case you should be used to military jets and cargo aircraft performing flypasts over downtown.

That said, you may easily understand why comparing a low-risk, very-well-rehearsed display, performed by experienced and professional aircrews (who had also practiced the flypast in the simulator before rehearsing it in flight), flying a modern airlifter at low altitude and medium speed, in accordance with a widely advertised plan, to the 9/11-type of flying is pure sensationalist nonsense.

Top image: screenshot from Kirk Millar video via Airlive.net.

Ukrainian Air Force Su-27 Has Crashed in Ukraine. Unconfirmed Reports Say Ukrainian And American Pilot Killed.

Unconfirmed reports say an American pilot was also aboard the Ukrainian Flanker.

On Oct. 16, a Ukrainian Air Force Su-27 flying a training mission crashed near Ulaniv (between the settlements of Berdichev and Khmilnyk) in Ukraine, the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine announced.

According to Meduza, a Riga-based online newspaper and news aggregator in Russian language, a Ukrainian and an American pilot were killed in the accident.

However, the U.S. Air Force in Europe has not yet confirmed the fate of the U.S. pilot.

Here’s what the USAFE website says:

We are aware of a Ukrainian Su-27UB fighter aircraft that crashed in the Khmelnytskyi region during Clear Sky 2018 today. The incident is currently under investigation and do not have any other information to provide at this time.  We will provide more information as soon as it becomes available.

**UPDATE**

We have seen reports claiming a U.S. casualty and can confirm a U.S. service member was involved in this incident. It is currently under investigation and we will continue to provide more information as it becomes available.

According to AFM Editor Thomas Newdick, the aircraft involved in the incident is an upgraded Su-27UB1M “70 Blue”.



Several U.S. military are currently deployed to Starokostiantyniv, an airbase to the west of Kiev, to take part in Clear Sky 2018, a multinational exercise that will see the participation of 950 military from 9 countries, with assets distributed across several bases, both in Ukraine and Poland. Among them, the airmen from the 194th Fighting Squadron of the 144th Fighter Wing, California ANG, from California Air National Guard Base Fresno, California, who have deployed to Ukraine along with their F-15C.

Two-seat aircraft are often used for familiarization sorties and exchange backseat flights during exercises, so the eventual presence of a U.S. pilot aboard the Ukrainian aircraft would be quite normal.

Image credit: Chris Lofting/Wiki

 

UK F-35B Performs World’s First Shipborne Rolling Vertical Landing During HMS Queen Elizabeth Trials

The F-35 Patuxent River Integrated Test Force (ITF) achieved a new milestone performing a Shipborne Rolling Vertical Landing (SRVL) on aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth.

On Oct. 13, an F-35B STOVL (Short Take Off Vertical Landing) variant of the Joint Strike Fighter performed the first  Shipborne Rolling Vertical Landing (SRVL) on the flight deck of HMS Queen Elizabeth, as part of the ongoing First of Class Flight Trials (Fixed Wing), or FOCFT (FW). BAE Systems test pilot Pete “wizzer” Wilson, achieved the F-35B’s first real SRVL touching down at about 40 knots and decelerating to a standstill in about 175 feet.

Britain’s newest aircraft carrier (able to accommodate up to 24 F-35Bs out of the planned 138 F-35 Lightning jets) and the F-35 Patuxent River Integrated Test Force (ITF) are conducting a variety of flight maneuvers and deck operations to develop the F-35B operating envelope for QEC carriers.

A composite image of the first SRVL.

Among the most important parts of the trials are the rolling vertical landings: as the acronym suggests, STOVL aircraft use the vertical landing to return to the ship. Using this kind of procedure, the approaching aircraft slowly reaches a hovering position to the port side of the ship before moving sideways over the deck and descending slowly. This technique has pretty strict weight requirements because of the thrust required to keep the aircraft airborne the time needed to put the wheels down. The rolling technique is intended to allow pilots to recover to the ship with more stores: the combination of thrust from its rotating nozzle, lift-fan and lift generated by the wing as an effect of the (slow) forward movement of the aircraft can save up to 7000lbs greater all up weight (UAW). Without the SRVL technique, the F-35B would be forced to jettison some or all of its external store when returning to the ship.

According to some sources the Soviet Yak-38 “Forger” jets could perform rolling landings on carrier decks but required the use of a safety barrier net; however, it’s not clear whether actual tests were conducted at sea.



In order to prepare to the first SRVL pilots and engineers tested the new technique using BAE Systems’ F-35/QEC Integration Simulator—a full motion, dome simulator—based in Warton, England. Some 3,000 takeoffs and landings were important to discover “where the edges of the test envelope are,” said Royal Air Force Sq. Ldr. Andy Edgell, FOCFT (FW) lead test pilot at the Pax River ITF.

“SRVL tests are truly experimental,” Edgell said. “It involves landing a fast jet onto an aircraft carrier with forward relative speed but without the braking assistance typically provided by an arresting gear and hook. It’s going to be a really rewarding moment for British aviation to watch that procedure actually take place.”

Back in 2007, Qinetiq’s VAAC Harrier testbed was used by the Aircraft Test and Evaluation Centre using a “dummy deck” at Qinetiq’s Boscombe Down site in Wiltshire, to assess the possibility to perform SRVL approaches as a way to use thrust-vectoring to a slow speed while still gaining the benefit of wing-borne lift.

The UK is the only nation currently planning to use the SRVL technique. However, the US Marine Corps and the Italian Navy (which should operate the F-35B to replace the AV-8B+ Harrier II from Italy’s Cavour aircraft carrier in the future) might take advantage of the rolling landing in the future, leveraging the testing conducted by the F-35 ITF aboard HMS Queen Elizabeth.

Following the crash occurred on Sept. 28 and involving a U.S. Marine Corps F-35B, the U.S. Services and international partners temporarily suspended F-35 flight operations while conducting a fleet-wide inspection of a fuel tube within the engine on all F-35 aircraft. British F-35Bs involved in the flight trials from HMS Queen Elizabeth and Italian F-35 were not grounded though, as inspections did not find the faulty part.

Top image credit: Royal Navy / Crown Copyright

Take A Look At These Shots Of The Airdrops Performed During Operation “Market Garden” Celebrations in the Netherlands

Each year, waves of paratroopers commemorate Operation Market Garden fought in the Netherlands in September 1944.

Operation “Market Garden” is the name of an unsuccessful Allied military operation launched during World War II and fought between Sept. 17-25, 1944, in the Netherlands. The objective of the operation was planned to be achieved through two subsidiary operations: the first one was an airborne assault to seize a series of nine key bridges that could have provided an Allied invasion route into Germany (“Market”); the second one was a ground attack (“Garden”).

Whilst the airborne and land forces managed in the liberation of the Dutch cities of Eindhoven and Nijmegen, they were defeated during the Battle of Arnhem in their attempt to secure the last bridge, over the Rhine.

An Air Force Reserve C-130 taking off from Eindhoven. (All images: Marco Ferregeau).

Operation “Market Garden” saw the largest airborne operation up to that point of WWII but its failure led to 16,000 allied casualties and 13,000 German ones.

Each year, the people of Arnhem, Oosterbeek, Ede and Driel commemorate mid September the commitment and dedication of the allied soldiers. During the ceremonies Dutch people respectfully honour the veterans, their fallen comrades and their relatives, who bravely fought during the Nattle of Arnhem.

Thousands of visitors attended the annual commemorations of the “Market Garden” airborne landings on the Ginkelse Heide in Ede, in the Dutch province of Gelderland. Around 15 veterans well over the age of 90 were the guests of honour at the 74rd annual commemorations, including paratroopers and pilots from Holland, Great Britain, Belgium, US and Poland.

C-130 Elephant Walk at Eindhoven.

The Airborne program started at 09.30 hrs and ends at 16.30 hrs. at Ginkel Heath. After the first Mass Drop the official commemoration started.

British parachutists, soldiers of the 11th Air Manouvre Brigade from The Netherlands, para’s from America and several NATO countries and many parachutists of the Parachute Group Holland jumped from C-130 Hercules aircraft and one Dakota.

Para’s boarding.

Hercules Loadmaster. Take a look at the memorial jump patch.

Photographer Marco Ferrageau attended the ceremonies and had the opportunity to take the shots that you can find in this article.

Parachute jump.

RNlAF C-130 taking part to the memorial jump.

U.S. Marine Corps F-35B Connects To HIMARS For Rocket Shot In a “Direct Sensor-to-Shooter” Scenario

Using Datalink, an F-35B shared target data with an M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS). 5th Gen. aircraft increasingly used to shorten the “sensor-to-shooter” cycle.

According to Lt. Gen. Steven R. Rudder, deputy commandant for aviation, the U.S. Marine Corps have achieved a milestone when a target was destroyed by connecting an F-35B Lightning II aircraft with a HiMARS rocket shot for the first time.

“We were able to connect the F-35 to a HIMARS, to a rocket shot … and we were able to target a particular conex box,” Rudder told audience members Friday at an aviation readiness discussion at the Center for Strategic & International Studies, or CSIS, Marine Corps Times reported.

The integration occurred during Marines’ latest weapons and tactics course at Yuma, Arizona: the F-35 gathered the target location using its high-end onboard sensors and shared the coordinates of the target to the HIMARS system via datalink in a “sensor to shooter” scenario. The HIMARS unit then destroyed the target.

The HIMARS is a movable system that can be rapidly deployed by air, using a C-130 Hercules. It carries six rockets or one MGM-140 ATACMS missile on the U.S. Army’s new Family of Medium Tactical Vehicles (FMTV) five-ton truck, and can launch the entire Multiple Launch Rocket System Family of Munitions (MFOM). In a typical scenario, a command and control post, a ship or an aircraft (in the latest test, an F-35B – the type that has just had its baptism of fire in Afghanistan) transmits the target data via a secure datalink to the HIMARS on-board launch computer. The computer then aims the launcher and provides prompt signals to the crew to arm and fire a pre-selected number of rounds. The launcher can aim at a target in just 16 seconds.

The Corps has been testing new ways to use its HIMARS lately. For instance, last fall, the Corps successfully fired and destroyed a target 70 km out on land from the deck of the amphibious transport dock Anchorage. Considered the threat posed to maritime traffic by cruise missiles fired by coastal batteries in the hands of terrorist groups and militias, the amphibious group’s ability suppress coastal defenses from long-range using artillery is important to allow Marines to come ashore.

The aim is clearly to shorten what is known as the sensor-to-shooter cycle – the amount of time it takes from when an enemy target is detected by a sensor – either human or electronic – and when it is attacked. Shortening the time is paramount in highly dynamic battlefield.

Two U.S. Marine Corps F-35B Lightning II’s assigned to the Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 211, 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit, fly a combat mission over Afghanistan, Sept. 27, 2018. During this mission the F-35B conducted an air strike in support of ground clearance operations, and the strike was deemed successful by the ground force commander. The F-35B combines next-generation fighter characteristics of radar-evading stealth, supersonic speed, fighter agility and advanced logistical support with the most powerful and comprehensive integrated sensor package of any fighter aircraft in the U.S. inventory, providing the commander of U.S. Naval Forces Central Command (NAVCENT) significantly improved capability to approach missions from a position of strength. (U.S. Air Force Photo by Staff Sgt. Corey Hook)

In September 2016, a live test fire demonstration involved the integration of U.S. Marine Corps F-35B from the Marine Operational Test and Evaluation Squadron (VMX 1), based in Edwards Air Force Base, with existing Naval Integrated Fire Control-Counter Air (NIFC-CA) architecture. The test was aimed at assessing the ability to shoot down incoming cruise missiles.

The F-35B acted as an elevated sensor (to detect an over-the-horizon threat as envisaged for the F-22) that sent data through its Multi-Function Advanced Data Link to a ground station connected to USS Desert Ship (LLS-1), a land-based launch facility designed to simulate a ship at sea. Using the latest Aegis Weapon System Baseline 9.C1 and a Standard Missile 6, the system successfully detected and engaged the target. Indeed, increasingly, 5th generation aircraft are seen as tools to provide forward target identification for both defensive and offensive systems (such as strike missiles launched from surface warships or submerged submarines). Back in 2013, PACAF commander Gen. Hawk Carlisle described the ability of advanced aircraft, at the time the F-22, to provide forward targeting through its sensors for submarine based TLAMs (Tomahawk Land Attack Missiles).



In the following years, the stealthy F-22s, considered “electronic warfare enabled sensor-rich multi-role aircraft”, saw their main role in the war on Daesh evolving into something called “kinetic situational awareness”: in Syria and Iraq, the Raptors escorted the strike packages into and out of the target area while gathering details about the enemy systems and spreading intelligence to other “networked” assets supporting the mission to improve the overall situational awareness. To make it simple, during Operation Inherent Resolve, the 5th generation aircraft’s pilot leverages advanced onboard sensors, as the AESA (Active Electronically Scanned Array) radar, to collect valuable details about the enemy Order of Battle, then shares the “picture” with attack planes, command and control assets, as well as Airborne Early Warning aircraft, while escorting other manned or unmanned aircraft towards the targets. Something the F-35 will also have to do in the near future.

Top image: “artwork” made using USMC images