Author Archives: Tom Demerly

Hijacked Helicopter Launches Bizarre Attack on Venezuelan Government Installations In Alleged Coup Attempt

Helicopter Attack in Venezuela Mimics Failed 2016 Turkish Coup.

In a bizarre incident a man described as “rogue policeman Oscar Perez” allegedly led the commandeering of a Bolkow BO-105 police helicopter on Wednesday, June 28. The party used the aircraft to attack the Interior Ministry firing small arms at the building and then dropped grenades on the Supreme Court building in downtown Caracas, Venezuela.

The incident is reminiscent of the July 15, 2016 coup d’état attempt in Turkey when Turkish gunship helicopters attacked the police Special Forces headquarters and police air force headquarters in Golbasi, Turkey outside the city of Ankara. The Turkish attacks were more significant than the Venezuelan incident, at least so far. The Turkish incident escalated to an unsuccessful coup that accounted for many fatalities before it was stopped.

Rogue policeman Oscar Perez commandeered a Bolkow BO-105 police helicopter used to attack the Interior Ministry building and Supreme Court building in downtown Caracas, Venezuela (Photo: RT News)

The incident in Venezuela continues questions about the stability of the government and the security it exerts over its armed forces, particularly its air force.

Venezuela operates a small but modern air force consisting of a mix of light, counterinsurgency aircraft such as the Cessna 208 Caravan single-engine transport aircraft, Fairchild Metroliner twin-engine turboprops, Dornier DO-228 and Short 360 twin-engine box turboprops, both of which can be used for special operations and even gunship applications. They also operate the Russian built Mi-17 helicopter and French Eurocopter AS532. Both helicopters have gunship capability.

At the more regional level Venezuela has a potentially capable inventory of tactical jet combat aircraft that include twenty-three Sukhoi SU-30MK2 multi-role aircraft of unknown serviceability and sixteen U.S. manufactured F-16As. There have been persistent reports since 2004 of ongoing negotiations to purchase up to fifty MiG-29s from Russia, including two-seat trainer versions. In a report from intelligence think tank GlobalSecurity.org, Venezuela’s F-16A fleet was characterized as having “Only six of the 21 remaining F-16s in the Venezuelan fleet being fully mission capable, while a proposed US overhaul of the F-16 squadron remained on hold.”

One of Venezuela’s new Sukhoi SU-30MK2 aircraft. A coup attempt could leave these aircraft vulnerable to exploitation by revolutionaries.
(Photo: Venezuelan Air Force)

In the event of elevated instability in the region these aircraft could play a significant tactical role, in a similar way that commandeered aircraft influenced the failed Turkish revolt of 2016.

In any event this escalation of insurgent activity that includes highjacked aircraft will warrant increased monitoring of the military situation in Venezuela, especially its remaining air assets.

This undated file photo likely shows rogue Venezuelan policeman Oscar Perez in the pilot’s seat of a Bolkow BO-105 police helicopter painted differently than the one used in today’s attack on downtown Caracas, Venezuela (Photo: Harold Castro)

F-16 Special Paint Scheme Commemorates D-Day Invasion and P-47 Thunderbolts.

Look at this Beautiful 70th Anniversary USAF F-16 from the Texas Air National Guard.

Special paint schemes on combat aircraft are common enough now that it is impossible to report on them all, but this beautiful F-16C (Block 30) from the 149th Fighter Wing of the Texas Air National Guard stands out for a few reasons.

This single seat F-16C, flown by USAF Colonel Timothy J. Madden, Commanding Officer of the 149th Fighter Wing, Texas Air National Guard, wears a new paint scheme for the upcoming 70th anniversary of the U.S. Air Force later this year on Sept. 18. The aircraft was first photographed at the U.S. Air National Guard Aircraft Paint Facility in Sioux City, Iowa on May 26, 2017.

Nose of the new special color.

The tail of the 149th FW “special”

The aircraft is painted to mimic the livery of a Republic P-47D Thunderbolt from 1944. Interestingly, this is well before the U.S. Air Force was started and U.S. combat aircraft flew under the Army Air Corps, then a part of the U.S. Army.

The 149th Fighter Wing holds a number of significant firsts in Air Force history including the first unit to perform midair refueling during a combat mission and the first Air National Guard unit to shoot down a MiG in combat. Both of these firsts happened during the Korean conflict.

The original P-47D’s that provided inspiration for the new heritage markings on the 149th FW F-16C. (Photo: US Army)

As with the P-47D Thunderbolt from 1944 it is patterned after, not only does this F-16C wear the bright yellow markings but also the striking black and white “invasion stripes” painted on all allied aircraft in the days just prior to the D-Day invasion of Europe on June 6, 1944. The black and white invasion stripes were a way for gunners both in the air and on the ground to avoid friendly fire incidents. In 2015 the Royal Air Force painted invasion stripes on a Typhoon based at RAF Coningsby to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the D-Day landings.

The special livery on this F-16C is likely to become popular with aviation photographers since it is highly visible in most lighting conditions, even overcast, and the distinctive mix of invasion stripes and yellow squadron regalia can be seen from any angle. No matter which flight attitude the aircraft is in, it remains highly recognizable.

This is not the first time a USAF F-16 has worn invasion stripes to commemorate a P-47 unit from WWII. Back in 2014, F-16 aircraft number 84-1264 was given an orange tail and invasion stripe heritage paint scheme to honor the 358th Fighter Group of WWII. The F-16’s modern unit, the 122nd Fighter Wing, traces its back to this unit in WWII. The original 358th FG flew P-47s and operated in Europe before and after D-Day.

GRISSOM AIR RESERVE BASE, Ind., — A specially painted F-16 from the 122nd Fighter Wing from the Indiana Air National Guard based out of Fort Wayne, Ind., pulls away from the boom following an aerial refueling with a Grissom KC-135R Stratotanker. The F-16 is designated as a ‘Heritage Bird’ and is painted to pay homage to the 122nd FW’s history. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Doug Hays)

While no official word has been seen about airshow appearances by this aircraft, it will hopefully be seen at airshows throughout the summer in Texas and around the region in celebration of the 70th anniversary of the U.S. Air Force.

Thunderbird F-16D Ground Accident in Ohio, Global Hawk Drone Crashes in California.

RQ-4 Long Range RPV From Beale AFB Crashes in Mountains, Thunderbirds F-16D Crashes In Runway Rollover.

In two separate, unrelated incidents a U.S. Air Force F-16D Fighting Falcon of the Thunderbirds flight demonstration team flipped over after landing at Dayton International Airport in Ohio and a U.S. Air Force RQ-4 Global Hawk long range surveillance drone has crashed on a ferry mission from Edwards Air Force Base back to its home base at Beale AFB in California.

The Thunderbird F-16D involved in the crash is a two-seat variant often used for orientation and public relations flights with two people on board, a Thunderbird pilot and guest of the team.

There is a report that the second person on the Thunderbird F-16D may have been an enlisted Thunderbird maintenance team member. Enlisted members of the Thunderbird team are sometimes flown for orientation and media purposes. Reports from the crash scene suggest one of the persons in the aircraft was waving to emergency personnel from inside the aircraft. Because the aircraft came to rest upside down the canopy could not immediately be opened. Rescue personnel were on scene immediately following the accident.

In an official release on the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds’ Facebook page, the team’s social media liaison wrote, “The United States Air Force Thunderbirds were conducting a single-ship familiarization flight on Friday June 23, 2017. Upon landing there was a mishap at the Dayton International Airport with an F-16D Fighting Falcon at approximately 12:20 p.m. Emergency services are on the scene. We will provide more information as it becomes available.”

Although no official cause of the accident has been released, weather may have been a factor. As of 1:00 p.m. local time weather websites for the area reported thunderstorms with heavy rain and lightning with wind gusts up to 23 M.P.H.

A Thunderbird F-16D two-seat aircraft flipped over while on the ground at Dayton International Airport today in preparation for an airshow there this weekend. (Photo: WHIO-TV via Facebook)

On Jun. 2, 2016, a U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds F-16 crashed shortly after the demo team had performed a flyover at the annual Air Force graduation ceremony in Colorado Springs. The pilot managed to eject before the aircraft crash landed in a field not far from Peterson AFB, Colorado. The cause of the F-16CM #6 crash was found in “a throttle trigger malfunction and inadvertent throttle rotation.”

In an unrelated incident a U.S. Air Force RQ-4 Global Hawk long range surveillance drone had crashed on a ferry mission from Edwards Air Force Base back to its home base at Beale AFB in California on Jun. 21. Media reports said the remotely piloted vehicle was from the 12th Reconnaissance Squadron at Beale and was on a routine flight from Edwards Air Force Base. The aircraft went down near Mt. Whitney in the Sierra Nevada mountains at approximately 1:45 p.m. PST on Wednesday, June 21.

The Northrop Grumman RQ-4 Global Hawk is a key strategic intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance asset for the U.S. Air Force. It is a long range, long duration surveillance asset. The RQ-4 uses synthetic aperture radar to “see through” overcast and nighttime conditions to provide precise imagery of terrain features. A series of infra-red and long-range electro-optical/infrared (EO/IR) sensors provide imagery and spectrum analysis of targets from the RQ-4. Some analysts compare the mission and performance of the unmanned RQ-4 Global Hawk to the manned TR-2/U-2 long range, high altitude reconnaissance aircraft. There may be as few as four of the RQ-4s operating from Beale AFB.

A file photo of a U.S. Air Force RQ-4 Global Hawk long range surveillance remotely piloted vehicle. (Photo: Northrop Grumman)

 

Airbus A400M Atlas Tactical Transport Completes Beach Landing Trials.

Interesting Exercise Demonstrates A400M Unimproved Takeoff/Landing Capabilities.

The new Royal Air Force Airbus A400M tactical transport, aircraft ZM414, recently conducted a fascinating tactical capability trial at the Pembrey Sands Air Weapons Range in South Wales, U.K.

The Airbus A400M demonstrated its capability to insert into and deploy from unimproved sand airstrips while loaded. This is a critical mission set for tactical transports, especially in support of special operations in forward areas in austere conditions.

While landing and take-off operations from unimproved airstrips have been previously proven with the A400M this test confirmed the aircraft’s capabilities with a heavy load. Close examination of the aircraft’s performance, especially on landing, suggest it was heavily laden during the Pembrey Sands tests.

The testing and verification flights were organized by the DE&S (Defense Equipment & Support) A400M Project Team, based at MOD Abbey Wood in Bristol, working with the Airbus A400M development team and the Royal Air Force.

In a statement released by the MoD (Ministry of Defense) local Wing Commander Simon Boyle told media that the “Indication is that the aircraft will perform very well in the tactical role and on unprepared runways. We’re starting to understand how good the aircraft could be in the tactical environment.”

The Pembrey Sands Air Weapons Range is a fascinating test and training range that is effectively an island separated from the mainland on the West and North by an estuary and Carmarthen Bay, then to the East by a shallow, marshy inlet. The southern border is virtually impenetrable thick forest of the Pembrey Country Park.

A RAF Airbus A400M Atlas conducts testing of unimproved forward airfield operations at Pembrey Sands Air Weapons Range in South Wales, U.K. (Crown Copyright)

Pembrey Sands is an active live weapons deployment range used by a wide variety of tactical combat aircraft from many countries. Hulks of derelict vehicles and even old Jaguar combat aircraft are strewn around the island for use as targets. It is a unique facility for training and testing of the RAF and other air arms.

Other tactical transports have conducted beach and grass landing exercises at Pembrey Sands prior to the A400M trials including C-130s and C-160 Transalls.

Mission sets that may include the capability to land on unimproved or dirt/sand airstrips could include the insertion of special operations light vehicles for strike and/or reconnaissance missions in denied areas and support of airborne assault operations. The ability to take-off from sand landing areas is especially important for the evacuation of casualties from forward areas. In general a team of pathfinder personnel is inserted into an unimproved, austere landing area to inspect and prepare the landing area and then to act as air and ground traffic controllers once aircraft begin to use the area.

Perhaps one of the most infamous examples of air forces using tactical transports in the special operations role from unimproved airstrips is the April 1980 U.S. Operation Eagle Claw, the failed attempt to rescue hostages in Iran. The mission ended in disaster. A U.S. heavy helicopter and C-130 transport collided in the dark on the ground while forward refueling resulting in a fire and the operation being abandoned. Testing and qualification of the A400M Atlas in sandy, unimproved conditions is a direct effort to avoid similar outcomes in the future.

A significant amount of preparation of the landing/takeoff area at Pembrey Sands was done before for the trials by the 23 Parachute Engineer Regiment, based at the neighboring Rock Barracks.

Despite some early concerns the A400M Atlas development program has gained momentum with several countries including the U.K. and Germany over the past year. This RAF exercise is an example of the program’s continued success.

Here’s The Video Of The First Aerobatic Flight Demo Of The F-35: Does It Showcase Exceptional Maneuverability Or Quite The Opposite?

Lockheed Martin Test Pilot Billie Flynn just performed his first F-35A Flight Demo At Paris Air Show. Did he “crush years of misinformation about what this aircraft is capable of doing” as promised?

Set against a brilliant French sky with puffy cumulus clouds Lockheed Martin’s star test pilot Billie Flynn thrilled the crowd at Le Bourget Airport outside Paris, France today as he wheeled and tumbled his F-35A Lightning II through an aerobatic demonstration some critics claimed was nearly impossible.

The performance included low speed, high angle of attack maneuvers, tight turning, numerous rolls and maximum performance climbs that would silence the critics who said the F-35 could not dogfight and “crush years of misinformation about what this aircraft is capable of doing“.

While the F-35’s advanced sensor and integration avionics are designed to win the fight long before the “merge” of aerial combat into visual dogfighting range, this demonstration aimed to show the controversial Joint Strike Fighter can hold its own in a knife-fight with the Sukhois, MiGs, Chengdus, Shenyangs and other likely adversaries.

At the 2:00 mark in the video test pilot Flynn positions the F-35A at show left and performs a high-alpha, ultra low speed pass, standing the Lightning II on her tail and dancing across the Paris sky as the aircraft’s twinkle-toed elevators maintain stable flight on a boiling cushion of thrust from her growling Pratt & Whitney F135 engine. It is a spectacular sight. Enough to silence the skeptics? Hard to say. Most probably not enough, considered what people are used to see when a 4th Gen. aircraft or the F-22 are able to do during an airshow routine.

Returning to lower altirude in the demonstration box, Flynn performs a maximum performance, high-G turn with afterburner similar to what we’ve seen with many other demos. This version of the flight demonstration does not feature the open weapon bay doors as with the F-22 demo we’ve seen many times. One of the F-35A demo routines does include a pass with the weapons bay doors opened.

Honestly speaking the new PAS 2017 routine seems to be more dynamic than expected. But in terms of instantaneous and sustained turn rates the F-35 does not seem to match the performance of the famous super-maneuverable Sukhois, Eurofighter Typhoon, Gripen or Rafale (to name but few).

Still, the unique features of the JSF are its stealth design, sensor fusion capabilities and unmatched SA (Situational Awareness): that is to say all the ingredients for success in modern air-to-ground operations. Comparing the F-35 to an F-22, Typhoon or even F/A-18 in terms of energy-maneuverability is probably wrong and misleading.

So, let us know what are you thoughts after watching this demo:

a) do you think it’s more than enough considered that the aircraft will probably never be engaged in a Within Visual Range dogfight?

b) it’s rather disappointing because super-maneuverability remains a key to succeed in modern scenarios?

You judge.

Top image: file photo of the F-35 Heritage Flight Team’s F-35A validation flights on July 5, 2016.

 

Salva