Author Archives: David Cenciotti

30 Combat Aircraft from 7 Nations Take Part In APROC 2018 Personnel Recovery Exercise In The Netherlands

Air Centric Personal Recovery Operative Course 2018 was held at the Dutch base of Gilze-Rijen, in the southern part of the Netherlands.

The 12th iteration of the Air Centric Personnel Recovery Operatives Course (APROC 2018) took place from May 23 to Jun. 7 at Gilze-Rijen, in the Netherlands, home of the Defense Helicopter Command (DHC) of the Royal Dutch Armed Forces.

Along with 577 personnel from 12 countries, several combat planes and helicopters supported the exercise: Dutch F-16s and Italian F-2000 Typhoons in the Fixed Wing RESCORT role; French AS555, Dutch AH-64 and Polish Mi-24 helicopters in the Rotary Wing RESCORT role; Dutch CH-47, Spanish AS332, French Navy NH-90, Royal Navy Merlin HC4, Italian Air Force HH-101 and ItNavy EH-101, Swedish Hkp.16a in the Extraction Vehicle role.

Spanish AS.332B

The photographs in this post, showing some of the participant aircraft, were taken at Gilze-Rijen airbase by Marco Ferrageau and Corne Rodenburg.

An Italian Air Force HH-101 Caesar of the 15° Stormo during APROC 2018. (All images credit: Marco Ferrageau and Corne Rodenburg)

The exercise was also supported by the Italian Air Force G550 CAEW (Conformal Airborne Early Warning and Control) aircraft belonging to the 14° Stormo (Wing) from Pratica di Mare airbase to Gilze-Rijen, that undertook the AMC (Airborne Mission Coordinator Role). The two Italian aircraft, MM62293/14-11 and MM62303/14-12 proved to be crucial as all the NATO E-3 AWACS jets that were supposed to support the drills from their homebase at Geilenkirchen cancelled their missions due to aircraft availability issues. Also Extraction Forces from Italy, Spain, UK, France and Sweden joined APROC 2018 as members of the primary training audience.

The ItAF G550 supporting the exercise on May 30. (Screenshot by Hugo Fonteyn).

“The course aims to educate and train Aircrews and Extraction Forces in the implementation of internationally agreed techniques and procedures for Personnel Recovery operations as a member of a combined and joint force contingent,” says the European Personnel Recovery Center in a release published after the course. “The result of this kind of training will be an interoperable force that will be able to provide a viable PR capability for future contingencies. The course aims were achieved by planning and conducting 26 missions in 9 flying days, resulting in more than 140 sorties and 300 flight hours of the participating 20 aircraft. This training opportunity enables the participants to train the Personnel Recovery mission profile in a realistic and international environment that uses the processes and structures found in international operations. The APROC is currently the only European opportunity that focuses entirely on this mission set and attracts great interest in many countries.”

French Navy NH-90-NFH

More than 30 aircraft (including support assets) took part in exercise APROC 2018. Next year’s iteration will be hosted by the Spanish Air Force at Zaragoza airbase.

Here’s the High Speed Test Track The U.S. Air Force Uses To Perform Simulated Ejections Of Anthropomorphic Test Devices

The 10-mile long Holloman High Speed Test Track (HHSTT) is a United States Air Force aerospace ground test facility used to perform a various variety of tests, including simulated ejections.

Located at Holloman Air Force Base, New Mexico, and operated by the 846th Test Squadron, the HHSTT is one of the world’s longest tracks, used to perfom tests in a realistic scenario, where a special sled can be launched at speeds in excess of 9,000 feet per second, that is around Mach 8.6 calculating for altitude!

A recent article published by Airman, the official magazine of the United States Air Force, shed some light on the activities carried out at the HHSTT whose mission is “to provide a cost-effective, realistic, dynamic test environment for the entire acquisition community, including the DoD, and contractors. As a ground-based test facility, the HHSTT provides a cost-effective, controlled test environment for high-speed weapons, systems, and components.”

Ejection seat tests are no longer carried out with humans. The last pilot to ride a rocket-propelled sled was Col. John Paul Stapp, who earned the title “the fastest man on Earth” at Holloman on December 10, 1954, to a land speed record of 632 mph in five seconds: during the test, Stapp decelerated in 1.4 seconds, which equaled 46.2 Gs, the greatest g-load ever sustained by a man. His eyes were flooded with blood and although he ragained most of his normal vision on the next day, he lost his eyesight forever.

Nowadays, tests are carried out with full-scale hi-tech mannequins, dubbed ATDs (Anthropomorphic Test Devices) that simulate the dimensions, weight proportions and articulation of the human body, and embed sensors that record data about the dynamic behavior of the ATD in simulated ejections. The collected data is then analysed and complemented with high-speed imagery and footage (like the one below) so that scientists can assess the outcome of the test.

“With a human you’re going to have to conduct a post-testing examination and then look at variables from human to human, where if you can put all the instrumentation on board a mannequin you can get all that data,” said. Lt. Col. Jason Vap, commander of the 846th Test Squadron at Holloman AFB, to Airman’s Master Sgt. Brian Ferguson for the article titled “Staying on track“. “You can take that one step further and figure out what you need to do to your seat design, or perhaps a helmet design, or your flight gear to mitigate problems. Those are things that you are only going to get from a highly instrumented mannequin. Not from post-test examination of an individual or examining what kind of pains that they suffered from that.”

Take some time to watch the following video for more details on the activities at HHSTT. By the way, the goal speed is Mach 10, not surprising, considered the U.S. Air Force is working on hypersonic missiles and aircraft

U.S. Air Force A-10 Attack Aircraft Practice Landings And Take Offs From Rural Highway And Austere Runway In Estonia

U.S. A-10s Thunderbolt II aircraft deployed to Europe to take part in Sabre Strike 18 have conducted “rough field training” in Estonia.

Thanks to its engines mounted far from the surface of the runway, the A-10 attack aircraft is practically immune to FOD (Foreign Object Damage) caused by debris flying up from unprepared runways. For this reason, the Warthog (one of the most popular A-10 nicknames) often practice austere landing and take off operations, especially when they are deployed to eastern Europe, a theater that is scattered with highway strips as well as abandoned Warsaw Pact military airfields, which have not been in use since the Cold War, that are perfectly suited for such kind of training.

Since the beginning of the month, eight A-10C from the 107th Fighter Squadron, from Selfridge ANGB Michigan, have deployed to Lielvarde Air Base, Latvia, to take part in Exercise Saber Strike 18, “a longstanding U.S. Army Europe-led cooperative training, designed to enhance readiness and interoperability among allies and regional partners.”

On a rural highway in northern Estonia, a pilot flies an A-10 Thunderbolt II attached to the 107th Fighter Squadron, Selfridge Air National Guard Base, Mich., from Lielvarde Air Base, Latvia, to practice landings and take offs, during the Exercise Saber Strike 18 on June 7, 2018. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. David Kujawa)

In order to test and train unimproved surface operations while training with NATO’s enhanced Forward Presence (eFP) battlegroups, on Jun. 7, the A-10’s have practiced operations on Jägala-Käravete Highway in Jägala, a rural highway in northern Estonia. That is the very same unprepared landing strip where, on Aug. 10, 2017, one of the A-10C (assigned to the 104th Fighter Squadron, Maryland Air National Guard) hit and damaged a road sign while performing landing and take off training.

U.S. Air Force A-10 Thunderbolt II, assigned to 107th Fighter Squadron, Selfridge, Mich., practice landing at Haapsalu, Estonia, during Saber Strike 18 June 7, 2018. The aircraft is loaded with dummy bomblets and a Litening targeting pod (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Bobbie Reynolds)

The training also involved practice landing on a un-operational, austere runway in Haapsalu, Estonia.

Two U.S. Air Force A-10 Thunderbolt II assigned to 107th Fighter Squadron, Selfridge, Mich., practice landing on a un-operational, austere runway in Haapsalu, Estonia (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Bobbie Reynolds)

Interestingly, among the aircraft conducting the austere landing operations in Estonia there as also the special-colored A-10C 81-0994/MI, that commemorates the 100th Anniversary of the Red Devils of the 107th Fighter Squadron, with a livery inspired to the P-51 (F-6A) of the 107th TRS, that flew the Mustang over Normandy during WWII. Before deploying to Latvia, this aircraft, from RAF Mildenhall, flew over the beaches of Normandy, France, as part of the commemoration ceremonies for D-Day 74.

The special colored A-10C Thunderbolt II #81-0994 practice landing on a un-operational, austere runway in Haapsalu, Estonia, during Saber Strike 18 June 7, 2018. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Bobbie Reynolds)

 

Video Shows Ukrainian Air Force Su-24MR Fencer Buzzing The Flight Line At An Airbase in Ukraine

Here’s yet another ultra-low pass of a Ukrainian combat aircraft.

The following footage was reportedly filmed in 2014. It shows a Su-24MR Fencer-E performing a low pass over the flight line at an airbase in Ukraine, most probably Starokostiantyniv (or “Staro”) where the Fencers of the 7th Tactical Aviation Brigade are based.

The Su-24MR is a tactical reconnaissance aircraft that can conduct all-weather “recce” missions up to 400 km from the front line. The Soviet-era jet is equipped with sideways looking radar, allowing tracking ground targets, including enemy fortifications and equipment, using sensitive high-resolution cameras, radio detection systems and infrared sensors to detect camouflaged objects. The Ukrainian Su-24MR are being upgraded to be equipped with ICAO- and NATO-compatible communication and navigation equipment along with other more modern systems. Seven aircraft are believed to be currently operational at “Staro”.

Low passes and flybys are pretty common in Ukraine. Here’s a list of videos we have posted on this subject here at The Aviationist: a Ukrainian Mig-29 overflying pro-Russia separatist blocking rails; an Ilyushin Il-76 buzzing some Su-25s (and the Frogfoots returning the favor while buzzing the tower); here’s an Mi-17 helicopter flying among the cars on a highway and another fully armed Mig-29 Fulcrum in the livery of the Ukrainian Falcons aerobatic display team flying over an apron at an airbase in Ukraine; here’s a Su-25 flying low over the heads of a group of female soldiers posing for a photograph and then performing an aileron roll; and here you can see a Su-27 performing a low pass after take off. More recently, we posted a video of a Su-25 flying low and fast over the Sea of Azov, off Kirillovka, a resort town on the Sea of Azov, in southeastern Ukraine, some 65 km from the border with Russia in Crimea in the southwest, and about 140 km southwest of the breakaway Donetsk region. That footage was pulled from Youtube shortly after it was uploaded and went viral.

U.S. Navy Inducts MQ-4C Triton Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Into Service Ahead Of First Operational Deployment to Guam

NBVC Point Mugu’s first two Triton drones commence operations (with interesting tail markings).

On May 31, Unmanned Patrol Squadron One Nine (VUP-19) DET Point Mugu hosted a ribbon cutting ceremony, marking on track delivery of an Early Operational Capability (EOC) to the Fleet and completion of their new hangar at Naval Base Ventura County (NBVC) Point Mugu.

VUP-19, that will fly and maintain Triton to support overseas operations beginning in 2018, currently operates two MQ-4C Tritons: the first arrived at NBVC on Nov. 9, 2017 and the second arrived in April this year. The two UAVs are housed in a specially built hangar used by the maintenance detachment to accommodate the pair of 130.9-ft wingspan drones built by Northrop Grumman for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance missions.

Shorealone Films photographer Matt Hartman attended the ceremony at NBVC Point Mugu and took the photographs you can find in this post. Noteworthy, the two aircraft feature different tail markings: the first one #168460 sports a high-visibility emblem of VUP-19, whereas the second one #168461 sports a smaller, low-rez badge.

High-rez markings on the MQ-4C #168460

Low-rez markings on the MQ-4C #168461

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.

The U.S. Navy plans to procure 68 aircraft and 2 prototypes.

VUP-19 emblem on the new hangar at NBVC Point Mugu.

The unmanned aircraft of VUP-19 are expected to deploy to Guam later this year, with an early set of capabilities, including basic ESM (Electronic Support Measures) to pick up ships radar signals, for maritime Intelligence Surveillance Reconnaissance mission. A more significant SIGINT (Signal Intelligence) capability will be deployed to the fleet in 2021, when the Triton is expected to reach an IOC (Initial Operational Capability). By then, the U.S. Navy plans to add two additional MQ-4Cs to the Guam deployment that would allow a 24/7/365 orbit. With the IOC of the Triton, the service will retire the EP-3E ARIES II as the Navy’s signals-intelligence platform.

Interestingly, some of the MQ-4C test flights could be tracked online. Here’s an example dating back to October last year:

The U.S. Navy plans to operate five 24-hour orbits around the world. The UAVs will be controlled from two MOBs (Main Operating Bases): Naval Station Mayport, Florida, and Naval Air Station Whidbey Island, Washington. The aircraft will be launched (and recovered) from 5 bases: Naval Air Station Sigonella, Italy; an unspecified location in the Middle East (Al Dhafra, UAE, where the U.S. Air Force RQ-4 are forward deployed?); Naval Air Station Guam; Naval Station Mayport; and Point Mugu.

Make sure you visit this link to have a look at the whole set of photographs taken by our friend Matt Hartman during the ribbon cutting ceremony at Point Mugu.