Author Archives: David Cenciotti

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.

Behind The Scenes Of An Amazing Air-To-Air Photoshoot With Two F-16C Block 52+ Jets

Ever wondered how some of the air-to-air photos which appear in aviation magazines are taken? This video will give you an answer…

The following clip was filmed by world famous photographer Sławek Krajniewski, best known as “Hesja“, from a Polish Air Force CASA C-295 during NATO Tiger Meet 2018, that took place at the 31st Tactical Air Base in Poznan-Krzesiny, Poland, between May 14 and May 25.

The air-to-air photo shooting involved two Polish Air Force F-16C Block 52+ Fighting Falcon jets from 6th Tiger’s Fighter Squadron somewhere over Kołobrzeg and Bagicz airfield.

As you can see, the two “Vipers” flew extremely close to the photo-ship, so much so it seems the photographers could almost touch the F-16s. The video is also interesting because it shows the maneuvering and work required from both sides (pilots and photographers) to get the cool shots you can find on aircraft magazines and websites all around the world.

In case you were wondering what kind of lens Hesja used during the shooting, here they are: 70-200mm and 24-120mm. One of the shots resulting from the multiple “breaks” that you can see in the last part of the clip can be found here below:

Make sure you visit Hesja website and like his Facebook page here for more amazing photographs!

That Time An Alitalia B747 (Escorted By Italian Air Force Tornado and AMX) Wowed The Crowd At An Air Show Near Rome

In 1996, an Alitalia B747-200 Jumbo Jet accompanied by two ItAF combat aircraft performed a remarkable display during Ostia Air Show.

Ostia, on the Tyrrhenian coast, few kilometers to the west of Rome, has hosted 13 editions of the Ostia then Rome International Air Show: the first one in 1988 and the last in 2014.

Located between an international airport (Rome-Fiumicino) airport and a military airfield (Pratica di Mare airbase), the air show has often attracted interesting aircraft, including large airliners and fast jets. As happened in 1996. On Jun. 2, 1996, the Ostia Air Show included a really unique display: an Alitalia B747-200 performed some flybys escorted by an Italian Air Force Tornado IDS and an AMX belonging to the 311° Gruppo of the Reparto Sperimentale Volo (ItAF’s Test Wing) from “Pratica”.

The B747 trailed by an AMX and a Tornado. (All photos: Author)

Unfortunately all I could find about that airshow (that I attended) are the three photographs (hence the poor quality) that you can find in this post. You can still get an idea of the sight (by the way if some of our readers have better photographs or a video, please let us know).

The somehow crappy photos taken from the beach by this author show the Alitalia Jumbo (a type that had already taken part, alone, to the 1991 edition of the airshow) flying alongside the Italian combat jets (noteworthy, the Tornado IDS was still wearing the Desert livery applied to the fleet that took part in Operation Locusta – the Italian contribution to Desert Storm in 1991 – from Al Dhafra, in UAE).

By the way, between 1970 and 2004, Alitalia operated a fleet of 21 B747s: 2x -100 and 19x -200 examples.

The B747 turning over the sea while performing a gear-down passage.

As already said, the airshow often featured airliners along with combat aircraft. Watch what this ATI MD-82 did in 1992 (I was there as well):

All photos: Author