Author Archives: David Cenciotti

Here’s South Korea’s First F-35A Lightning II Stealth Aircraft During Its Maiden Flight

The first F-35 destined to the ROKAF (Republic Of Korea Air Force) has successfully completed its first flight.

On Mar. 19, 2018, the first F-35A destined to the ROKAF performed its maiden flight at Lockheed Martin Ft. Worth facility, Texas. Piloted by LM F-35 Chief Test Pilot and Test Flight Director Alan Norman, the aircraft flew as “Lightning 41”, taking off at 14.48LT and landing at 16.40LT. The photo in this post was taken by Highbrass Photography’s Clinton White during South Korea’s F-35’s first sortie (designated C01).

Known as AW-1, the aircraft is the first South Korean 5th generation combat aircraft out of 40 F-35A Conventional Take Off and Landing (CTOL) variant jets that the ROKAF with all aircraft slated for delivery by 2021.

The Republic of Korea concluded its F-X III fighter acquisition program with the signing of a Letter of Offer and Acceptance (LOA) between the U.S. and Korean governments on Sept. 30, 2014. In December 2017, South Korea’s Defence Acquisition Program Administration established a process for procuring the 20 additional aircraft, the Joongang Ilbo newspaper reported, citing multiple government sources.

Make sure to visit Clinton White’s Flickr photostream for more cool shots (including many F-35s)!

H/T to Emiliano Guerra for the heads up.

 

U.S. Air Force C-5M Super Galaxy Performs Nose Gear Up Landing. Again..

It’s the second time a Super Galaxy lands on nose after gear malfunction in less than one year.

On Mar. 15, an Air Force Reserve Command C-5M Super Galaxy performed an emergency landing at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas: a failure caused the airlifter to land on its nose, skidding three-quarters of the way down the 11,500-foot runway before coming to a stop.

There were 11 personnel on board, but no injuries were reported.

Noteworthy, although this was the first incident of this kind for the 433rd Airlift Wing, it’s the second time a C-5M lands on its nose in less than one year. Indeed, a Super Galaxy performed a nose gear up landing at Rota Air Base in Spain in May 2017.

As a consequence of a second malfunction of a C-5’s nose landing gear (occurred on Jul. 15), the U.S. Air Force initially 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. But, on the very next day, AMC’s Gen. Carlton Everhart ordered a fleetwide assessment of the command’s 56 C-5s.

During the assessment, maintainers found that the ball-screw drive assembly was causing issues with the extension and retraction of the nose landing gear.

The ball-screw assembly was replaced for all C-5s in the fleet (including the aircraft involved in the latest incident) and the Super Galaxy cargo aircraft slowly returned to service: the grounding was lifted for 5 C-5s at the beginning of August; at the beginning of September 2017, 38 out of 56 aircraft were ready to fly again.  On Sept. 18, the first C-5M to ever land at Princess Juliana Airport in St. Maarten, as part of the Hurricane Irma relief efforts, was the example 86-0020, the same involved in a nose gear up landing at Rota Air Base, on May 23, 2017.

Initial information suggests last week’s incident at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland is an isolated event, AMC spokesperson told Air Force Times. However, the frequency of nose gear issues (three in less than one year, with two of those causing nose gear up landings) seems at least a bit unusual.

For some details about Galaxy historical nose gear up or belly landings, read this post we published a few months ago.

Top image credit: screenshot from KCBY-TV

Saab GlobalEye Airborne Early Warning & Control Aircraft Completes First Flight

Saab’s new AEW&C aircraft has successfully completed its maiden flight.

On Mar. 14, Saab GlobalEye, a modified Bombardier Global 6000 jet turned into surveillance platform, took off on its first flight at 12.52 LT from Saab’s airfield in Linköping, Sweden.

The aircraft was officially unveiled to the media on Feb. 23, 2018. It carries a full suite of sophisticated sensors including the powerful new extended range radar (Erieye ER), an AESA (active electronically scanned array) radar. The Erieye ER is contained within the same “skibox” fairing used by other AEW platforms (i.e. the Hellenic Air Force EMB-145H), but new technologies, such as gallium nitride transmit/receive modules are said to provide a 70% increase in detection range.

The aircraft is also equipped with the Leonardo Seaspray 7500E X-band maritime search radar and a FLIR Systems EO/IR (electro-optical/infra-red) turret below the nose.

The GlobalEye launch customer is the United Arab Emirates Armed Forces, where it is known as the Swing Role Surveillance System (SRSS). Three aircraft have been ordered in 2015. The SRSS won’t be the UAE AF’s first AEW&C platform: two Saab 340AEW&C were delivered as an interim solution between 2010 and 2011. Although it’s not clear what will happen to these two aircraft as the new GlobalEye enters active service, the new assets, with the first application of the Erieye ER, will give the UAE a pretty unique AEW force among the Gulf States, with simultaneous airborne, maritime, and ground surveillance capability. Moreover, the UAE AF is about to be equipped with other heavily-modified Global 6000 aircraft: two such planes are reportedly being modified by Marshall Group at Cambridge, UK, into ELINT/SIGINT platforms.

The maiden flight of the GlobalEye, preceded by a series of ground trials including high and low speed taxi tests (during those the aircraft started “pinging” on ADS-B), lasted 1 hour 46 minutes. During the flight, the aircraft (with registration SE-RMY) could be tracked online on Flightradar24 portal.

The GlobalEye, registration SE-RMY, could be tracked online during its first flight by means of ADS-B. (Image: screenshot from Flightradar24).

According to Saab, the test flight was important to collect extensive flight-test data using the on-board instrumentation suite. This data is then used to verify the aircraft performance and associated modelling.

“The first flight is the second major milestone for the GlobalEye programme within a very short space of time. Yet again we have demonstrated that we are delivering on our commitments and that we are on track with our production of the world’s most advanced swing-role surveillance system,” said Anders Carp, Senior Vice President and head of Saab’s business area Surveillance, in a public release.

“Today’s flight went as planned, with the performance level matching our high expectations. The aircraft’s smooth handling was just as predicted and a real pleasure for me to fly,” said Magnus Fredriksson, Saab Experimental Test Pilot.

Image credit: Saab

Check Out This Interesting Video Of The Italian Typhoons At Work in Estonia During Operation Baltic Eagle

The clip shows also an “interaction” with a Russian Navy Su-30SM.

As part of the Task Force Air (TFA) 36° Stormo (Wing), four Italian Air Force Typhoons are currently deployed to Ämari Air Base, Estonia, to augment NATO’s Baltic Air Policing mission. Together with the Royal Danish Air Force lead detachment at Siaullai, Lithuania, the task of the Italian Operation “Baltic Eagle” is to provide 24/7 fighter capabilities that can be launched by the CAOC at Uedem, Germany, in response to unidentified air tracks in the Baltic Region.

Since early January, the Typhoons of the Aeronautica Militare (Italian Air Force) have already logged six A-Scramble (Alert Scrambles) along with several T-Scramble (T for Training) ones. The following video has been released by the Italian MoD to show the Eurofighters during their daily activities in Estonia. Along with the cool cockpit footage, there are some interesting “things” worth of note: the Russian Il-20 Coot intercepted on Mar. 2, 2018; two Su-27s escorting an Il-20 (not clear whether this is the same shadowed during the Mar. 2 mission); the joint sorties with the RDAF F-16s, the U.S. F-16 of the TSP (Theater Security Package) supporting Operation Atlantic Resolve as well as the Swedish Gripens of the FSTE (Finland Sweden Training Event); the SMI (Slow Mover Intercept) activities conducted with the Estonian An-2 and L-39 aircraft. At 00:28 you can also see some maneuvering during a close encounter with a Russian Navy Su-30SM.

This is the second time the ItAF deploy to the Baltic region to support NATO BAP mission. From Jan. 1 to Aug. 27, 2015, as part of the TFA (Task Force Air) based at Šiauliai, Lithuania, four Typhoons of the 4°, 36° and 37° Stormo (the three Wings that fly the Euro-canard) logged about 900 flying hours, launching for 40 A-Scrambles (Alert Scrambles) and more than 160 T-Scrambles (Training Scrambles).

As already explained in a previous post, no photograph nor footage of intercepted Russian aircraft were released during and after the 2015 detachment, even though the Italians had some really interesting close encounters with some pretty interesting aircraft, including some Tu-22 Backfire, Tu-160 Blackjack and Su-27 Flanker jets. Therefore, something has changed since then.

Two Typhoons of the TFA 36 Wing. Note the configuration that includes AIM-120 AMRAAM and IRIS-T missiles (image credit: Italian MoD)

Interestingly, while securing its national airspace and augmenting Allied Air Command’s Baltic Air Policing mission, the Italian Air Force permanently conducts Air Policing over Slovenia, and in conjunction with the Hellenic Air Force, over Albania: in total, the Italian Typhoons provide Air Policing for six NATO nations (Italy, Albania, Slovenia, Lithuania, Estonia and Latvia).

Image credit: Italian MoD

The Italian F-35A Stealth Jets Declared Operational In The Air-To-Air Role

The Italian Air Force F-35A Lightning II have successfully achieved the IOC (Initial Operational Capability) in the air-to-air role.

The first Italian F-35A Lightning II aircraft assigned to the 13° Gruppo (Squadron) of the 32° Stormo (Wing), based at Amendola air base, in southeastern Italy, have achieved the IOC (Initial Operational Capability), the Italian Air Force has announced.

Since Mar. 1, 2018, the first five stealth aircraft assigned to the Aeronautica Militare have been supporting the SSSA (Servizio Sorveglianza Spazio Aereo – Air Space Surveillance Service) with a Standard Conventional Load (SCL) that includes the AIM-120C5 AMRAAM (Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missile) missile. This means that, if needed, the 5th generation aircraft can undertake regular QRA (Quick Reaction Alert) shifts or be diverted from a different mission to intercept and identify unknown aircraft.

An armed F-35 sits inside the shelter at Amendola Air Base. AIM-120s are housed inside the weapon bays (hence not visible). Image credit: ItAF.

Whilts the F-35 is a multirole aircraft (hence an air-to-air capability should not be too surprising) all the Italian Air Force combat planes (including Tornado and AMX fighter bombers as well as the T-346 advanced jet trainers) are required to be fully capable in the air-to-air role to support Italy’s Air Defense.

Scramble in progress!

The IOC in the air-to-air role comes after a long period of training that has seen the F-35s perform T-Scrambles (Training Scrambles) as well as joint drills with Typhoons, G550 CAEW (Conformal Airborne Early Warning) and T-346 jets. Last year, the Italian Lightnings took part in their first national large scale drills during Vega 2017 multinational joint exercise.

ItAF F-35 about to taxi from the shelter.

In December 2016, the Italian Air Force became the very first service to take delivery of the 5th generation stealth jet outside of the U.S. The IOC in the air-to-ground role of the Italian JSF has not been declared yet.