Author Archives: Tom Demerly

In-Flight Emergency, New Kawasaki Motorcycle And More: All The “Top Gun: Maverick” News We Can Tell You, And Some We Can’t…

Among all the other things, Tom Cruise Has Emergency “Flap Caution” Landing During “Top Gun” Sequel Filming.

Hollywood action film star Tom Cruise had to cut short the filming of an aerial sequence for the upcoming “Top Gun: Maverick” after a “flap warning” indication appeared in the U.S. Navy F/A-18F Super Hornet he was flying in Monday afternoon, September 17, 2018. The aircraft diverted to an alternate airfield following the incident.

The 56-year old Golden Globe Award winning actor was photographed wearing U.S. Navy flight gear and a specially painted Gentex HGU-68/P lightweight flight helmet. The photos were said to have been taken at “an airbase in Nevada” and have circulated on Hollywood gossip and aviation fan blogs including TMZ.com. Our own David Cenciotti was the first to notice that Maverick used the modern flight helmet instead of the old HGU-33:

Other photos surfaced on the “Eggs, Bacon and Joey Morning Show” Facebook page that showed Tom Cruise dressed in a flight suit shaking hands with men and women also in military flight suits at Naval Air Station Lemoore in Kings County and Fresno County in Central California. F/A-18 aircraft appear in the background including the tips of the twin tails of one F/A-18 painted in colors that may be similar to the one we showed in a previous update that will be used in the filming of the upcoming “Top Gun: Maverick”.

A story on ABC30.com by columnist Jim Jakobs confirmed from the U.S. Navy that, “The Navy can’t tell us if Cruise is in Lemoore. But, the Navy can say that NAS Lemoore’s F/A-18 Super Hornets and F-35’s will play a big role in the movie.” The article mentioned our editor David Cenciotti as a source for new photos of the specially painted F/A-18F to be used by Tom Cruise in the movie. ABC30 writer Jim Jakobs went on to quote Cmdr. Ron Flanders, Public Affairs Officer, Naval Air Forces as saying, “A great deal of the flying in this film will be done by Lemoore based aviators.”

Enough rumors also flew fast and low earlier this week about the upcoming “Top Gun: Maverick” to make you spill your coffee in the tower. But just like any target rich environment, in a matter of minutes, the most interesting- and as it later turned out- accurate rumors, disappeared from social media like a MiG-28 on afterburner. We’d tell you more, but we’d have to… you know. Most of the rumors that were acknowledged as accurate mentioned locations for filming the low flying sequences of the film. TheAviationist.com was asked not to reveal these locations.

Photos of U.S. Navy aggressor aircraft never before photographed in specific western U.S. low flying areas began surfacing on social media. Similar or identical aircraft were used in the first “Top Gun” movie in 1986. The photos sparked rumors and speculation about set locations for the movie. After responses to our inquiry about the photos we were asked not to say anything more. Our post on social media inquiring about the location disappeared after the information was privately confirmed.

What we can report is that better photos have surfaced of the aircraft that is going to be used for Captain Pete “Maverick” Mitchell in the movie, as played by Tom Cruise. We first ran unattributed photos rumored to be “Maverick’s” plane on September 13 after they appeared in at least two Hollywood entertainment gossip blogs. Within hours the rumors were at least unofficially confirmed and more photos surfaced- the one shown here.

Then, more interesting news appeared online:

No “Top Gun” sequel would be complete without the need for speed, and photos have surfaced of Tom Cruise being filmed as Captain Pete “Maverick” Mitchell riding a new Kawasaki Ninja H2R motorcycle on a runway for a possible title sequence that reprises the original 1986 sequence. This new Kawasaki Ninja H2R replaces the Kawasaki GPZ900R that he rode in the original 1986 film. “Maverick”’s new Ninja H2R displaces 998cc’s and has a top speed of (seriously) Mach .327 or between 206 and 249 MPH.

Fox News and other Hollywood gossip sites have ran spy photos of Tom Cruise as “Maverick” filming a possible title sequence on a new 200 MPH Kawasaki Ninja H2R. (Photo: Via Fox News/Facebook/Kawasaki)

Raven-haired Hollywood hottie Monica Barbarow has been cast in the role of a pilot trainee in “Top Gun: Maverick” and will fill a major part of the female cast of the film as the love-interest of another pilot in the film, “Bradley Bradshaw” as played by actor Miles Teller. Barbarow is a formally trained ballerina who left dance to pursue acting full time. She has appeared in the NBC television legal drama “Chicago Justice”.

Filming for “Top Gun: Maverick” has also been taking place onboard the U.S. Navy aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN-72) during August. Film crews from Paramount and Bruckheimer Films were aboard the carrier until Sunday, August 26.

Tom Cruise as Capt. Pete “Maverick” Mitchell was spotted shaking hands at NAS Lemoore in California. (Photo: Via Facebook/Eggs, Bacon and Joey Morning Show)

The release date for the film has been pushed back nearly a year until June 26, 2020 from the original release date of July 2019. Entertainment writer Anthony D’Alessandro reported in Deadline.com that the film is being delayed to, “Work our all the complex flight sequences so that the pic can be great.”

The delay has led to speculation about the plot for “Top Gun: Maverick” that is already said to include remotely piloted aircraft and the Navy’s new F-35C Lightning II. The Navy has confirmed the F-35C will be included in the movie.

Top image: Several websites leaked photos of a U.S. Navy F/A-18F Super Hornet with special markings that could be for Tom Cruise’s character “Maverick” in the upcoming Top Gun sequel (Photo: Via RevengeOfTheFans.com courtesy of Mario-Francisco Robles)

USAF T-6A Texan II Trainer Crashes Near Randolph AFB, Texas: Crew Ejects Safely.

Accident is Eighth USAF Loss This Year, Second Trainer Crash in a Week.

A U.S. Air Force T-6A Texan II single-engine, two-seat turboprop primary trainer aircraft crashed on Tuesday afternoon, Sept. 18 outside Randolph Air Force Base in Texas near the town of San Antonio Texas. The two crew members on board ejected from the aircraft and survived. The aircraft was from the 12th Flying Training Wing as confirmed by a USAF statement released on social media. There were no injuries on the ground from the accident and an investigation is under way.

According to a local news report filed by MySanAntonio.com reporters Sig Christensen and Jacob Beltran earlier today, “The plane crashed in a field near Nacogdoches Road just outside Loop 1604 in the northern suburban fringe, where such wide-open acreage is rapidly shrinking.”

Photos of the crew from the crashed T-6A Texan II appeared on Twitter minutes after the crash. (Photo: Luke Simons/kens5eyewitness via Twitter)

The crash brings the number of USAF aircraft destroyed in accidents this year to 8, and is the second loss of a training aircraft for the Air Force in 7 days.

On Monday, Sept. 11, 2018, a USAF T-38C advanced twin-engine, two-seat, jet trainer from the 80th Flying Training Wing at Sheppard Air Force Base in Texas departed the runway prior to takeoff. Both crewmembers ejected. One of them, Major Christian Hartmann of the German Air Force, was treated for minor injuries according to the Sheppard Air Force Base Facebook page. Luftwaffe (German Air Force) Maj. Hartmann is part of the Euro-NATO Joint Jet Pilot Training Program at Sheppard AFB. Last week’s T-38 accident was the fourth involving a T-38 advanced jet trainer in 11 months.

In response to the number of aviation accidents during the 24 months prior to May, 2018, U.S. Air Force Chief of Staff General David L. Goldfein directed a single-day safety stand-down for an operational safety review earlier this year.

The single-day safety stand-down directed by General Goldfein earlier this year does not appear to have exerted an effect on the frequency of incidents and accidents for the U.S. Air Force in the four months since it was directed.

Earlier this year on April 8, Air Force Times reporter Stephen Losey wrote that, “The Air Force’s overall aviation mishap rate has hit a seven-year high, fueled by a growing number of non-fatal “Class C” mishaps, which experts say is an ominous warning sign. While the major mishaps that result in deaths and cost millions in damages, known as “Class A” mishaps, are ticking downward for the Air Force, the fleet is reporting a rise in the less-severe accidents that cause more modest damage and injuries.”

No single, specific reason for USAF accidents has been identified. Some observers suggest the number of military aviation accidents is related to a pilot shortage across all U.S. military branches. The pilot shortage may be compounded by an increasing training and operational tempo as the demand for military aviation assets increases.

The T-6A training aircraft involved in Tuesday’s crash has a proven record of airworthiness. The Beechcraft T-6A first flew in 2000 and replaced the previous Cessna T-37B twin-engine, two-seat light jet trainer for the Air Force. The T-6A was also adopted by the U.S. Navy as a replacement for its aging Beechcraft T-34C Turbo Mentor primary trainer.

Top: USAF file photo of a Beechcraft T-6A Texan II

Let’s Recap Everything We Know About The Russian Il-20M Shot Down By A Syrian S-200 Missile System Yesterday

The Il-20M was shot down off Syria shortly after an Israeli air strike had hit targets in the Latakia Province.

Written with The Aviationist’s editor David Cenciotti

In the hours following the downing of a Russian military Il-20M “Coot-A” surveillance and control aircraft off the Syrian coast with 15 personnel on board, the leaders of Israel and Russia have expressed regret over the incident.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu phoned Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday to express regret for the incident and emphasized that Syria was to blame for the loss of the aircraft and crew.

Russian President Putin was reported as saying the incident was, “A chain of tragic accidental circumstances” in quotes published by the BBC World News and other news outlets.

As the circumstances become clearer about how the large, four-engine turboprop Russian Il-20M “Coot-A” surveillance aircraft was lost previous theories have been debunked. It now appears certain the incident was a result of Syrian anti-aircraft batteries attempting to engage four Israeli F-16s that were striking targets in the region at the time. The Syrian S-200 surface to air missiles accidentally hit the larger, slower Russian Il-20M surveillance plane instead of any of the attacking Israeli F-16s (and possible escorting aircraft).

Early theories about who may be responsible for the destruction of the Russian aircraft included anti-aircraft missiles from the French missile frigate Auvergne off the Syrian coast and even the possible involvement of Israeli F-35I Adir aircraft or the four Israeli F-16s directly involved in the strike over Syria at the time the Russian Il-20M was lost. All of these theories have been dismissed as false.

But even with official acknowledgement of the circumstances leading up to the incident, which appears to be “fratricide” or a tragic “friendly fire” incident between allies, questions still remain. Columnist Joe Trevithick of “The War Zone” wrote after the incident, “Israel has used a deconfliction hotline in the past to alert Russia of impending strikes in Syria. The Israeli Air Force says it did give the Kremlin advance notice in this case, as well, but did not say how much time elapsed between that notification and the first missiles hitting various targets in Latakia.”

Trevithick’s observation has merit. Suggestions that the four attacking Israeli F-16s were using the large, slow Il-20 as a “shield” during the attack as suggested by the Russian MoD also seems tactically implausible to some, although deconfliction over a crowded target area is a problem in aerial combat that dates back to WWI, as is the corresponding threat of fratricide from anti-aircraft fire.

Suggestions have surfaced on social media, including Facebook pages originating in Russia, that the Russian Il-20M “Coot-A” was, “Landing in the Syria defense zone, all of the radar systems were turned off. Israeli planes took advantage of this situation and under cover [of the Russian Il-20M] struck positions of the Syrians. The S-200 air defenses of the Syria struck our plane by mistake.” Others have pointed out that the IFF used by the Russian aircraft should have prevented the “blue on blue” accident.

However, there have been previous episodes of friendly fire, including a famous accident that saw a RAF Tornado shot down by a U.S. Patriot missile in Iraq on Mar 22, 2003. Back then the UK MoD pointed to a “system error” as the cause, linked to failure of the aircraft’s “identification friend or foe” (IFF) system against a backdrop of of “inexperienced US troops, heavily reliant on technology to make decisions”.

Indeed, the IFF is not always reliable and the safety of friendly aircraft is also ensured by coordination, use of “Transit Corridors”, etc.

And EW (Electronic Warfare) support, decoys etc. that have proved to be extremely effective in the past, can have played a role:

Indeed, on Sept. 6, 2007, ten F-15I and F-16 jets attacked a nuclear facility being built in Syria. The success of that mission, dubbed “Silent Tone” (previously unofficially named “Operation Orchard” by international media), was largely attributed to effectiveness of the Israeli Electronic Warfare platforms that supported the air strike and made the Syrian radars blind: some sources believe that Operation Orchard saw the baptism of fire of the Suter airborne network system against Syrian radar systems from some ELINT aircraft.

Anyway, other contributing factors to the “friendly fire” that brought down the Il-20M may have been defective equipment as well as lack of training/expertise, even though we must also remember that, in June 2012, a Syrian anti-aircraft artillery battery was able to down a Turkish Air Force RF-4E Phantom that had violated the Syrian airspace at low altitude over the Mediterranean Sea, thus proving that Damascus’s air defense were (at that time) somehow dreadful for enemy fighter jets.

Photos appeared on Twitter today showing the alleged target of the Israeli F-16 strikes. Originally appearing from the Twitter user @aldin_ww and then shared on the unofficial Russian Aerospace Facebook fan page ВКС РОССИИ, the photo from before the strike showed a large, apparently single story building that appeared to be a warehouse. The photo posted that was claimed to be after the strike showed a similar building destroyed. No claim of the authenticity of the photos has been made by Israeli sources.

Official Israeli sources on Twitter released a series of tweets explaining their version of events surrounding the incident. Included in the Twitter statements from @IDFSpokesperson was the tweet that, “Israel will share all the relevant information with the Russian government to review the incident and confirm the facts in this inquiry.” Further posts on social media claimed that Israel had offered to send the “commander of the Israeli Air Force” to Russia to provide information about the Israeli actions surrounding the incident.

From the tactical point of view, the most interesting IDF statement claimed that the F-16s were already in Israeli airspace when the Il-20 was engaged by the Syrian S-200: a version that contradicts the official Russian MoD stance that the Israeli aircraft used the spyplane as a cover.

So, what has really happened on Sept. 18?

Based on the details available to date, it quite likely that the Syrian S-200 battery, facing multiple target, some real ones and other fake ones possibly generated by decoys and EW activity shot at anything within range. Panic and stress on the Syrian side may have contributed.

As Popular Mechanics remembers, misidentification by air defenses operated by Russian-backed forces led to the downing of Malaysia Airlines MH17 flight about 50NM to the northwest of Donetsk in Eastern Ukraine on Jul. 17, 2014. On Jul. 3, 1988, an Airbus A-300 (registration EP-IBU) operating as Iran Air Flight 655 from Tehran Bandar Abbas to Dubai was shot down by two ground-to-air missiles fired by the USS Vincennes, a Ticonderoga-class warship that was cruising in the Persian Gulf waters that misidentified the airliner as an Iranian F-14.

As the news cycle and social media conversation surrounding the incident continue it would appear that there will be no military response from Russia toward any nation. Russian social media has begun to show posts expressing remorse for the loss of the 15-member crew on board the Ilyushin Il-20M Coot. Names of the crew have not yet been seen on social media.

Top image credit: Dmitry Terekhov/Wiki

Russia Reports Il-20M “Coot-A” Electronic Intelligence Aircraft Lost in Syria During Israeli Air Strike Near Latakia

Confusion surrounds the causes of the loss. U.S. military says they believe the aircraft was shot down by Syrian Air Defense. Russians mention the proximity of Israeli F-16 Jets and French frigate in the area at the time of the incident.

A Russian military Ilyushin Il-20M Coot-A spyplane has been reported as “down” at approximately 2300 local time (2000 GMT) on Monday Sept. 17, in the Mediterranean Sea off the Syrian coast. There were 14 crewmembers on board the aircraft according to multiple reports.

Russian government media outlet TASS posted that, “On September 17, at about 11:00 Moscow time, the connection with the crew of the Russian Il-20 aircraft was lost over the Mediterranean Sea when the plane was returning to the airbase of Khmeimim, 35 kilometers from the coast of Syria.”

The report in Russian media released early September 18 in U.S. time zones, went on to say, “The ministry specified that the mark of Il-20 went off the radars disappeared during the attack of four Israeli F-16 aircraft on Syrian targets in the province of Latakia.”

In the United States, media outlet CNN immediately attributed the loss of the Russian surveillance and control aircraft to the Syrians, reporting that, “A Russian maritime patrol aircraft with multiple personnel on board was inadvertently shot down by Syrian regime anti-aircraft artillery on Monday after the Syrians came under attack by Israeli missiles, according to a US official with knowledge of the incident.”

The incident happened during an Israeli air strike in Syria being conducted by four F-16s according to CNN and other media outlets. The alleged Israeli strikes were reported to have hit multiple targets in the Syrian province of Latakia.

Photos that appear to show anti-aircraft missiles being launched appeared on Twitter and in Arab media. (Photo: Via Twitter)

The Russians media outlets mentioned the proximity of four Israeli F-16s involved in an air strike on Syrian targets in the province of Latakia, western Syria, when the Il-20 disappeared. No other reports have attributed the loss of the Russian Il-20 to the Israeli Air Force or the four Israeli F-16s reported to be operating in the area at the time. A report in Israeli media outlet Haaretz said only, “Unusual strikes attributed to Israel by Arab media: Missiles hit area near Russian military base injuring 10; Syrian military source says some [missiles] were intercepted.” The Israeli media went on to report that, “The attack near Latakia is especially unusual because the port city is located near a Russian military base, the Khmeimim Air Force base. The base is home to Russian jet planes and an S-400 aerial defense system. According to Arab media reports, Israel has rarely struck that area since the Russians arrived there.”

A conflicting war of words has emerged on Twitter about the incident. (Photo: Via Twitter)

Israeli media has said the missing Russian aircraft was “35 kilometers (20 miles) from the Syrian coastline” but attributed their report back to Russian sources. One Israeli press report also mentioned the proximity of the French missile frigate Auvergne to the area.

The Russian Defense Ministry was also quoted as releasing that, “At the same time, the Russian radars fixed missile launches from the French frigate Auvergne, which was in that area”

This is the fifth Russian aircraft reported lost in operations near Syria in 2018. A total of 58 personnel have been lost in Russian aircraft over Syria so far this year.

Dealing with the aircraft, this is how The Aviationist’s Editor David Cenciotti described the Il-20 when it first appeared in the Syrian theater of operations in 2015:

The Il-20 is an ELINT (Electronic Intelligence) platform: it is equipped with a wide array of antennas, IR (Infrared) and Optical sensors, a SLAR (Side-Looking Airborne Radar) and satellite communication equipment for real-time data sharing, the aircraft is Russian Air Force’s premiere spyplane.

Russian Il-20s regularly perform long-range reconnaissance missions in the Baltic region, flying in international airspace with its transponder turned off; a standard practice for almost all ISR (Intelligence Surveillance Reconnaissance) aircraft. However, at least twice in the last couple of years Russian Coot spyplanes flying close to civilian airports or congested airways were involved in “air proximity” incidents: in March 2014, a SAS Boeing 737 with 132 people almost collided with an Il-20 Coot, about 50 miles to the southwest of Malmö, Sweden; in December 2014, a Canadair CRJ-200 from Cimber Airlines was involved in a near collision with an Il-20 halfway between Ystad, Sweden and Sassnitz, Germany.

In Syria, the aircraft will probably perform intelligence gathering missions, eavesdropping into IS militants communications, detecting their systems’ emissions to build an Electronic Order of Battle of ISIS in the region,  and pinpointing their positions. And, as happened in northern Europe, unless their missions are coordinated, there is the risk of a close encounter with a US-led coalition aircraft involved in Operation Inherent Resolve.

Update Sept. 18, 09.00 GMT

According to the Russian MoD the Il-20M was shot down by Syrian S-200 battery after the Israeli Air Force F-16s used the spyplane as cover. It claims IAF jets dropped GBU-39 SDBs (Small Diameter Bombs) to attack their targets. The wreckage of the downed aircraft was reportedly located about 30 km west of Banias, Syria.

Picture of airspace over the eastern Med Sea and Syria in the night of Sept. 17, released by the Russian MoD after the downing of the Il-20M.

Update Sept. 18, 12.00 GMT

Here’s the official Israeli stance on the entire episode. According to the IDF spokesperson, the F-16s were already in Israeli airspace when the Il-20 was shot down, anyway, “Israel will share all the relevant information with the Russian Government to review the incident and to confirm the facts in this inquiry.”

Top image: FAF via Wiki

Is This “Maverick’s” New F/A-18F Super Hornet for Filming “Top Gun” Sequel?

Hollywood Gossip Site Leaks Photo of F/A-18F With Special Markings.

Even though all of us feel the need for speed to get the new Top Gun sequel, “Top Gun: Maverick” released it sounds like Paramount Pictures has requested another flyby even as photos of a newly painted U.S. Navy F/A-18 Hornet that may be linked to the film’s production have been leaked.

While Top Gun fans can’t bring back that lovin’ feelin’ fast enough for their taste, Paramount Pictures announced in late August that the release of the upcoming “Top Gun: Maverick” will be delayed until (gasp…) June 26, 2020.

Even though this news is worse than having a MiG-28 stuck on your six it may also suggest that the Navy is working on something truly special in cooperation with Paramount Pictures for the new film. Video has surfaced on social media of U.S. Navy F-35s practicing “buzzing the tower” off U.S. aircraft carriers with references to the Top Gun script in the posts.

The U.S. Navy’s official VFA-125, the “Rough Raiders” Facebook page, “Home of the F-35”, posted video clips two weeks ago showing aircraft forming vapor cones and performing almost exactly the same low altitude, high speed pass made famous in the F-14 Tomcat in the first Top Gun film. The video may (and also may not) hint that the F-35s appearance in the film could be significant. There was no confirmation if coffee was spilled during any of the fly-bys, but plenty of flight deck crew were out taking video with smartphones.

In a USA Today story written by Bryan Alexander published on August 29, 2018, Alexander reported that, “The studio dropped the bomb [heh…] Wednesday that the release date for Tom Cruise’s anticipated sequel “Top Gun: Maverick” would be delayed one year to June 26, 2020.”

While the announcement of the delay is disappointing, Alexander did go on to provide a tantalizing teaser for readers who know naval aviation, “The extra time will give filmmakers the opportunity to work out the logistics of presenting flight sequences with new technology and planes, according to a Paramount statement.”

Translated into fan speak, that may very well mean we’re getting the Navy’s big, wide-winged F-35C in more than a cameo appearance in “Top Gun: Maverick”.

Meanwhile, Hollywood reporter Michael Briers over at the fan site “WeGotThisCovered.com” leaked photos of what may be Tom Cruise’s new ride as “Maverick” in the Top Gun sequel. Based on the watermark, the photos appear to come from an article on website “RevengeOfTheFans.com”. We got the permission from Mario-Francisco Robles at “Revenge Of The Fans” to publish the photo here at The Aviationist.

An F/A-18F Super Hornet was photographed with special markings including Capt. Pete Mitchell “Maverick” stenciled on the right cockpit rails. The aircraft may have been at Naval Air Station Fallon, as suggested by aviation and defense journalist Tyler Rogoway of “The War Zone” this morning when he posted that, “The jet has Topgun’s iconic seal on its tail, which means it would belong Naval Air Warfighting Development Center (NAWDC) at NAS Fallon. So it looks like Maverick is an instructor at the school, which is not surprising.”

Capt. Pete Mitchell “Maverick” stenciled on the special colored Super Hornet. Credit: Revengeofthefans.com

While speculation about the specifics of the film and its plot continue and news of the delay is disappointing, the promise of getting a look at some of the Navy’s newest aircraft along with a special livery F/A-18F Super Hornet is very exciting. Now all we need to do is get the Navy to fly Maverick’s new Super Hornet through Star Wars Canyon for a photo-op, preferably, while inverted.

Top image: Several websites leaked photos of a U.S. Navy F/A-18F Super Hornet with special markings that could be for Tom Cruise’s character “Maverick” in the upcoming Top Gun sequel (Photo: Via RevengeOfTheFans.com)