Author Archives: Richard Clements

Can you spot the second plane flying fast at very low altitude through the valleys?

The following video, shared on Flickr by renowned photographer and pilot Paul Heasman, shows two RAF’s BAE Hawk T2 trainers flying through the Ogwen valley in North Wales en-route to RAF Valley after a training sortie around the Snowdonia area on Dec. 4.

Can you spot the second plane in the video?

Richard Clements for The Aviationist


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Israel scrambled F-15 fighter jets against multiple airspace violations by unknown drones

The Jerusalem Post has reported that on Sept. 28, two Israeli Air Force (IAF) jets were scrambled to intercept two unidentified objects over Northern Israel.

The report is very limited in detail as it does not state whether an intercept was made or the two objects departed Israeli airspace.

Quoting Israeli TV Channel 2 news, they also said another jet was scrambled over an unnamed southern city;  no further details are known about this episode either, although the Times of Israel said that this jet had taken off from the Tel Nof Air Force base and flew over Haifa, in what it is believed to be a series of intrusions by drones.

The Times of Isreal also posted a link to the Channel 2 website which has a video of what it says was the F-15 that scrambled over Haifa.

On Apr. 25, 2013, an Israeli Air Force F-16 shot down an UAV (unmamned aerial vehicle) over the sea off Haifa.

Richard Clements for


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France had Rafale jets armed with Scalp missiles ready for strike on Syria

According to to French weekly le Nouvel Observateur (LNO) France came within hours of striking Syrian Chemical weapons sites after thinking that the U.S had planned a huge attack on Sept. 1, 2013.

The report states that French President Francois Hollande had convened a meeting early in the morning of August 31; the plan on how France was going to attack the chemical weapons sites was formed during this meeting.

According to LNO the French planned to fly Rafale jets supported by French tankers from French soil and launch the attack from international waters over the Mediterranean, avoiding Turkish airspace in an attempt to prevent Turkey from being attacked in retaliation by Syria, therefore avoiding the clause in the NATO constitution that would drag in the other member states into the conflict.

In the meeting, speeches were written so that Hollande would justify the attacks to the French public.

All of this had started after conversations with U.S politicians in the two previous days had lead the French to think that the U.S were to launch what would amount to a three day campaign.

Even on the Friday, the U.S was saying that it was going to strike soon and planned to contact the French on a hot line to give the go.

It took until 18.30 on Aug. 31 for the U.S President to contact Hollande and announce that he was going to seek congressional authorization, therefore calling off the attack.

The plan was for the Rafale jets to launch Scalp missiles onto targets within Western Syria: due to the 250km range of the missiles the French thought that the U.S would handle targets further inside Syria possibly using Tomahawk missiles.

The French were not to rely on US military assets for the attack according to the LNO article, on a sort of remake of the Mar. 19, 2011’s opening attack on Libya.

Richard Clements for


Image credit: Alexandre Paringaux/MBDA


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At nearly 40, the IAI Kfir fighter jet received a new lease of life

The IAI Kfir, (“Lion Cub” in Hebrew) has just received an upgrade program to extend its life for another 40 years (possibly).

During the late 1960’s the Israel Aircraft Industries were forced to look inwardly after France had imposed an arms embargo on Isreal (which lasted 42 years) after Israel had paid for development work by Dassault on the Mirage V, a fair weather ground attack aircraft to replace the Israeli Mirage III’s in that role.

In short, avionics were removed from behind the cockpit to increase the fuel capacity and to lower maintenance costs and, in response to the arms embargo, Israel produced an unlicensed copy of the Mirage V and called it the Nesher, after it is thought that the blueprints for the engine and air frame had been acquired from third party Mirage producers.

After the Six Day war, supplies of Mirage III were pretty low so producing a domestic version made sense and got around the embargo completely.

The Kfir program began whens the need to enhance the Nesher became apparent due to the improving Soviet era jets that Israel’s neighbours were acquiring at the time.

The first thing the Kfir designers were to look at was an engine; two engines were looked at: the Rolls Royce Spey Turbofan (which had been used in the Blackburn Buccaneer, F-4K Phantom in UK use and by the AMX project in Italy) and the General Electric J79 Turbojet, the same as in the McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom of which the Israeli Air Force (IAF) were just starting to take delivery of, which was selected and produced locally.

Due to the need for increased cooling of the J79, the Israeli engineers shortened the Mirage III rear fuselage and widened it to accommodate wider air intakes and an additional air intake was also introduced to the bottom of the vertical stabilizer.

A modified two seat Mirage IIIc took to the skies in 1970 powered by the new J79 engine shortly followed thereafter by a J79 powered Nesher during September 1971. But it was June 1973 when a highly modified Nesher powered by the J79 took to the skies for the first time, along with the Israeli avionics on board and re-arranged fuel tanks to improve range.

The finished article entered IAF service during 1975 and saw its first combat during an air strike into Lebanon during 1977 and even got its first kill, a Syrian Mig-21, in 1979 the same day as the F-15 took its first air to air kill. By 1982 the Kfir was used mostly in the ground attack role, leaving the F-15’s & F-16’s to take on the air superiority role.

The Kfir was retired from IAF service in 1996 but is still used by several export customers. Due to the J79 being a U.S design it meant that Israel had to gain permission from the U.S State Department to export the Kfir which did limit the export potential but was bought by Colombia, Ecuador and Sri Lanka and have been used extensively by those nations.

Twenty five examples were also used by the U.S Navy as aggressor aircraft operating out of NAS Fallon and were given the name of F-21A.

Israel has recently announced a new upgrade program to extend the life of the existing export examples named “Block 60.”

The upgrade basically strips the aircraft back to its fuselage and then performs a nuts and bolts rebuilt, upgrading avionics and other systems including a new data-link system, something the Kfir never had being a third generation aircraft.

IAI state that the improvements bring the Kfir up to a fourth generation aircraft and something that is suitable for the 21st Century.

All of Colombia’s Kfir jets have gone through this program as well as the further twelve examples that were acquired; IAI is hoping that it can sell the Block 60 upgrade to the other two operators.

Richard Clements for

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U.S moves Djibouti Reaper drone fleet to remote location amid safety concerns

The Washington Post has revealed that the Governement of Djibouti has asked the U.S. to move its fleet of Reaper UAVs (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles) away from Camp Lemonnier due to local population concerns regards their safety.

The Post revealed that there has been at least five crashes since January 2011 close to the base, which also serves as the country’s only International Airport.

The Djibouti government was concerned due to the amount of air traffic now flying from the airfield, not only the UAV movements numbering around 16 per day but also of the other military aircraft movements. The Post report also revealed that a Reaper crash had shut down the Seychelles only International airport that serves the popular holiday destination.

They also argued that a shared military/civilian facility would also increase the risk to civilians, should militants attack the airfield in retaliation to the drone strikes launched from the same location. The Reaper fleet has for the time being been moved to another airfield in the country which is in a more remote location therefore not posing such a risk to local civilians.

The U.S. Air force has found a short term alternative in Djibouti’s desert at Chabelley airfield a little used and (more importantly) remote airfield (to the SW of Djibouti) and has upgraded the facility so they can use it for Reaper operations. It remains to be seen if this is going to be used long term or that the U.S. is going to need to find a new location to continue its operations (and shadow war) from the Horn of Africa.

Richard Clements for

Image credit: U.S. Air Force

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