Author Archives: David Cenciotti

Israeli Combat Aircraft Which Participated In The Attack On The Syrian Nuclear Reactor in 2007 Given New Mission Marking

Syrian Reactor Mission Markings for the jets involved in the raid.

On Sept. 6, 2007 the Israeli Air Force (IAF) destroyed the nuclear reactor in Dier ez-Zor, Syria as part of an operation named “Silent Tone” (previously unofficially named “Operation Orchard” by international media).

For more than 10 years, Israel never publicly admitted that some of its aircraft destroyed the facility in eastern Syria, even though some details about the clandestine mission leaked throughout the years. Then, on Mar. 21, 2018, the Israeli Air Force published a detailed report on its website providing official confirmation along with some details: the raid was carried out by Israeli Air Force (IAF) 69 Squadron F-15I “Ra’am” (Thunder) and 119 and 253 Squadron F-16I “Sufa” (Storm) jets and an ELINT aircraft: as many as eight aircraft participated and at least four of these crossed into Syrian airspace. The reactor was destroyed as planned shortly before being officially rendered active.

“If the nuclear reactor would have been established successfully, Israel could have shared a border with an enemy state which has nuclear capabilities,” Brig. Gen. A. who took part in the raid flying a Sufa, said in an official release. “Beyond that, the IAF’s operational activity against the Hezbollah terrorist organization and the Iranian military establishment may have been limited by the looming nuclear threat. In addition, the activity in Syria over the past years may have turned out different if it had nuclear capabilities, seeing as they might have landed in the wrong hands. The operation is of indubitable historical importance to both the state of Israel and our neighboring countries”.

On Sept. 6, 2018, 11 years after the successful raid, during a ceremony held at the Israeli Ramon and Hatzerim airbases in parallel – the attacking F-15I aircraft from the 69th (“Hammers”) Squadron and F-16I aircraft from the 253rd (“Negev”) Squadron were given special mission markings that commemorate Operation “Silent Tone”. An additional ceremony will be held on September 14th, at the 119th (“Bat”) Squadron, which operates “Sufa” aircraft as well.

The mission marking being applied to a Sufa. (IAF Spokeperson).

The aircraft were given a decal bearing the operation’s symbol: a triangle, which symbolizes a strike sortie, colored in the Syrian flag’s colors (red, black and white in the background with two green stars), and at its center, a radiation hazard symbol symbolizing the nuclear reactor.

According to the IAF website, the mission markings were imprinted by representatives who participated in the attack, representatives of the technical departments who assisted in the attack and the squadron commanders, Lt. Col. G’ and Lt. Col. R’.

The mission marking (Ranann Weiss via IAF)

According to the book “The Sword of David – The Israeli Air Force at War” written by Donald McCarthy, the ELINT aircraft that is believed to have supported the raid was a Gulfstream G550 aircraft equipped with the IAI Elta EL/W-2085 radar system by means of that the IAF took over Syria’s air defense systems, feeding them a false sky-picture.

Indeed, the success of the secretive air strike was largely attributed to effectiveness of the Israeli Electronic Warfare platforms that supported the air strike and made the Syrian radars blind. As we have often reported here at The Aviationist, many sources believe that Operation “Silent Tone” also saw the baptism of fire of the Suter airborne network system against Syrian radar systems. Still, since it was not mentioned in the official release, it’s safe to assume the G550 won’t get any mission marking.

Top image: IAF

Two U.S. F-22 Raptor Jets Escorted Two Russian Tu-95MS Strategic Bombers Off Alaska

A routine close encounter between Russian bombers and American stealth interceptors in the Northern Pacific Ocean.

On Sept. 1, two Russian Tu-95MS strategic bombers involved in “scheduled flights over the waters of the Arctic Ocean, the Bering and Okhotsk seas” and supported by at least one Il-78 Midas tanker were, at some stages, accompanied by U.S. Air Force F-22 fighters, Russian Defense Ministry told to journalists on Friday according to TASS news agency.

The two U.S. Air Force F-22 Raptor jets were scrambled from Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska to intercept and visually identify the two Bear bombers flying off Alaska, south of the Aleutian Islands and inside the ADIZ (Air Defense Identification Zone).

According to NORAD (that used a standard phrase to describe the episode), the Russians were “intercepted and monitored by the F-22s until the bombers left the ADIZ along the Aleutian Island chain heading west,” and, as usual, remained in international airspace.

The ADIZ, is a special zone, that can extend well beyond a country’s territory where aircraft without authorization may be identified as a threat and treated as an enemy aircraft, leading to an interception and VID (Visual Identification) by fighter aircraft.

Alaska ADIZ detail

Such close encounters are quite frequent and may also involve fighters, as happened in 2017, when the Bears were escorted by two Su-35S Flanker-E jets, and an A-50 AEW (Airborne Early Warning) aircraft. Anyway, this is the second time that Russian Bears pay a visit to the Alaskan ADIZ: on May 12, 2018, two F-22s were launched to perform a VID and escort two Tu-95 on a similar mission in the Northern Pacific.

It’s worth noticing that Raptors in peacetime QRA (Quick Reaction Alert) *usually* fly with external fuel tanks and Luneburg lenses/radar reflectors (clearly visible in the top image): this means that they are (consciously) visible to radars, exactly as any other QRA aircraft.

Top image: file photo an F-22 Raptor from Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska takes off at Yokota Air Base, Japan, Aug. 3, 2018. (U.S. Air Force photo by Yasuo Osakabe)

The Italian Typhoons Have Deployed To Iceland To Take Over NATO’s Icelandic Air Policing Duty

For the third time, the Italian F-2000A jets have deployed to Keflavik to ensure the safety of Iceland’s airspace.

On Sept. 4, four Italian Air Force Eurofighter Typhoon jets deployed to Keflavik Air Base, Iceland, to contribute to NATO’s enforcement of Iceland’s sovereignty.

Over the next few weeks, the Italian pilots will undertake QRA (Quick Reaction Alert) duties, providing intercept capabilities for Iceland, a NATO ally that does not have a full range of air defence assets. Along with the standard air policing activities, the Italian Typhoons will also conduct joint training activities together with the Icelandic Coast Guard and the NATO Control and Reporting Centre.

This is the third time, after 2013 and 2017, the Italians deploy to Keflavik for NATO’s Icelandic Air Policing.

According to NATO, over the past ten years, nine Allies – Canada, the Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Norway, Portugal and the United States – have deployed fighter aircraft on the mission in Iceland.

Over the last few years, the Italian Typhoons have contributed to the enhanced air policing across all Europe, including Bulgaria, Montenegro and the Baltic States. From January to April 2018, when four Italian F-2000 Typhoons were deployed to Amari, Estonia, as part of the Enhanced Air Policing North Baltic Eagle, the Italian Air Force was securing the airspaces of six nations [Italy, Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia, Slovenia and Albania (on a rotational basis with effort shared with the Hellenic Air Force)]. A record within NATO.

Here’s An Interesting Video Showing Some Of The Russian Aircraft Deployed To Syria For the Major Naval Exercise In the Med Sea

Tu-142, Su-30SM, Il-78 and Il-20 are taking part in the large-scale drills in the Mediterranean Sea.

An interesting video released by Zvezda shows most of the aircraft taking part in the drills in the Mediterranean sea the Russian Ministry of Defense announced last week in a move Moscow said was justified by a failure to deal with rebels opposed to Syrian President Assad in Idlib and surrounding areas in Syria.

As a Russian-backed offensive on Idlib looms, the Russians have amassed a naval armada in the eastern Mediterranean Sea made of 26 warships (including 2 subs) and 34 aircraft. The air contingent involved in the drills include the Russian Air Force Tu-160 strategic bombers, the Russian Navy Tu-142 Bear-F long-range maritime patrol and anti-submarine warfare aircraft (two of those were reportedly deployed to Syria a few days ago) and various Flanker variants, including the Su-30SM.

The clip shows some armed Russian Navy Su-30SM taking off from Khmeimim Air Base along with Il-78 Midas and an Il-20 Coot spyplane. Then the Flanker-derivative 4++ Gen aircraft can be seen escorting a Tu-142M “Bear F”, a reconnaissance and ASW variant derived from the iconic Tu-95 Bear bomber, with the characteristic tail with a MAD (Magnetic Anomaly Detector) boom.

You can count seven Su-30SMs and four Il-78 on the ground at the beginning of the video.

Noteworthy, the footage also shows the Su-30SMs refuel from the Il-78 tankers: according to the Sputnik media outlets, Su-30 pilots of the Russian Navy’s fleet air have only recently practiced air-to-air refueling for the first time. That’s why you won’t find many videos online showing the type during AAR (Air-to-Air Refueling) operations, including from inside the cockpit.

Check Out This Nostalgic 1981 U.S. Navy Commercial Featuring the F-14 Tomcat

It’s short but worth watching.

The video below is a U.S. Navy commercial dating back to the 1981. In the early eighties the F-14 Tomcat was the Navy’s premier fighter: inducted into active service beginning in 1974, the legendary aircraft had already replaced the F-4 Phantom II in most Carrier Air Wings aboard US aircraft carriers. Actually, in 1981, the F-14 had its first air-to-air kills during what became known as the First Gulf of Sidra incident. In that aerial engagement, on Aug. 19, 1981, two F-14s from the VF-41 Black Aces downed two Libyan Su-22 Fitters.

Anyway, few years before it starred in Top Gun movie, the F-14 served as “U.S. Navy’s best recruiting tool” in a short clip that will bring you back to the “1980s”!

By the way, the aircraft you can see in the commercial is the F-14A Tomcat modex “212” belonging to VF-2 “Bounty Hunters”, a squadron assigned to CVW-2 deployed to sea (WestPac and Indian Ocean) aboard USS Ranger (CV-61) between Sep.10, 1980 and May 5, 1981. The aircraft sports the striking high-visibility camouflage/color scheme and markings that were used on Navy’s combat aircraft in that period before they were replaced by the overall grey low-viz patterns.

The airbase appears to be NAS Miramar (now MCAS Miramar).

Noteworthy, the commercial focused on the pilot alone, forgetting the other Tomcat’s crewmember: the RIO (Radar Intercept Officer).