Category Archives: Aircraft Carriers

U.S. Department Of Defense Video Shows Unknown Object Intercepted By U.S. Navy Super Hornet And We Have No Idea What It Was.

This video shows the weird object as seen from a U.S. Navy F/A-18F Super Hornet’s ATFLIR (Advanced Targeting Forward Looking Infrared) pod. What is it? Any idea?

On Dec. 16, the NYT published an interesting story about a U.S. Department of Defense program that investigated reports of UFOs (unidentified flying objects). Along with interviews with program participants and records they obtained investigating the mysterious Pentagon program, The New York Times has released a video that shows a close encounter between an F/A-18F Super Hornet out of USS Nimitz and one of these UFOs back in 2004.

Take a look and tell me if you have an idea what that object might be.

Back in 2007, a user (cometa2) of the popular Above Top Secret (ATS) forum posted an alleged official CVW-11 Event Summary of a close encounter occurred on Nov. 14, 2004. Back then, when the encounter had not been confirmed yet, many users questioned the authenticity of both the event log and the footage allegedly filmed during the UFO intercept. More than 10 years later, with an officially released video of the encounter, it’s worth having a look at that unverified event log again: although we can’t say for sure whether it is genuine or not, it is at least “realistic” and provides some interesting details and narrative consistent with the real carrier ops. Moreover, the summary says that the callsign of the aircraft involved in the encounter is Fast Eagle: this callsign is used by the VFA-41 Black Aces – incidentally the very same squadron of David Fravor, formed Co of VFA-41, the pilot who recalled the encounter to NYT.

Anyway, here’s an excerpt:

FAST EAGLES 110/100 UPON TAKE OFF WERE VECTORED BY PRINCETON AND BANGER (1410L) TO INTERCEPT UNID CONTACT AT 160@40NM (N3050.8 W11746.9) (NIMITZ N3129.3 W11752.8). PRINCETON INFORMED FAST EAGLES THAT THE CONTACT WAS MOVING AT 100 KTS @ 25KFT ASL.

FAST EAGLES (110/100) COULD NOT FIND UNID AIRBORNE CONTACT AT LOCATION GIVEN BY PRINCETON. WHILE SEARCHING FOR UNID AIR CONTACT, FAST EAGLES SPOTTED LARGE UNID OBJECT IN WATER AT 1430L. PILOTS SAW STEAM/ SMOKE/CHURNING AROUND OBJECT. PILOT DESCRIBES OBJECT INITIALLY AS RESEMBLING A DOWNED AIRLINER, ALSO STATED THAT IT WAS MUCH LARGER THAN A SUBMARINE.

WHILE DESCENDING FROM 24K FT TO GAIN A BETTER VIEW OF THE UNID CONTACT IN THE WATER, FAST EAGLE 110 SIGHTED AN AIRBORNE CONTACT WHICH APPEARED TO BE CAPSULE SHAPED (WINGLESS, MOBILE, WHITE, OBLONG PILL SHAPED, 25-30 FEET IN LENGTH, NO VISIBLE MARKINGS AND NO GLASS) 5NM WEST FROM POSITION OF UNID OBJECT IN WATER.

CAPSULE (ALT 4K FT AT COURSE 300) PASSED UNDER FAST EAGLE 110 (ALT 16KFT). FAST EAGLE 110 BEGAN TURN TO ACQUIRE CAPSULE. WHILE 110 WAS DESCENDING AND TURNING, CAPSULE BEGAN CLIMBING AND TURNED INSIDE OF FAST EAGLE’S TURN RADIUS. PILOT ESTIMATED THAT CAPSULE ACHIEVED 600-700 KTS. FAST EAGLE 110 COULD NOT KEEP UP WITH THE RATE OF TURN AND THE GAIN OF ALTITUDE BY THE CAPSULE. 110 LOST VISUAL ID OF CAPSULE IN HAZE.
LAST VISUAL CONTACT HAD CAPSULE AT 14KFT HEADING DUE EAST.

NEITHER FAST EAGLES 110 OR 100 COULD ACHIEVE RADAR LOCK OR ANY OTHER MEANS OF POSITIVE ID. FAST EAGLE 100 WAS FLYING HIGH COVER AND SAW THE ENGAGEMENT BY FAST EAGLE 110. FAST EAGLE 100 CONFIRMS 110 VISUAL ID; 100 LOST CONTACT IN HAZE AS WELL.

CPA OF ACFT 110 FROM CONTACT 4000-5000 FT.

So, what’s your opinion on the video (BTW here you can find an interesting description of the ATFLIR symbology)? What’s that “capsule shaped (wingless, mobile, white, oblong pill-shaped)” object?

H/T to @obretix for the help preparing this article.

U.S. Navy C-2A Aircraft Carrying 11 Crew And Passengers Crashed In The Ocean Southeast Of Okinawa

C-2 Greyhound COD confirmed involved in the crash.

According to the U.S. Navy 7th Fleet, a United States Navy C-2A aircraft belonging to VRC-30 “Providers” carrying 11 crew and passengers crashed into the ocean southeast of Okinawa at approximately 2:45 p.m. local time on Nov. 22.

“Personnel recovery is underway and their condition will be evaluated by USS Ronald Reagan medical staff. The aircraft was en-route to the U.S. Navy aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76), which is currently operating in the Philippine Sea. USS Ronald Reagan is conducting search and rescue operations. The cause of the crash is not known at this time.”

160707-N-NF288-020 SOUTH CHINA SEA (July 7, 2016) Distinguished visitors from Cambodia land on the flight deck of the Navy’s only forward-deployed aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76). Ronald Reagan, the Carrier Strike Group Five (CSG 5) flagship, is on patrol in the U.S. 7th Fleet area of responsibility supporting security and stability in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Jamaal Liddell/Release

The official release did not initially specify the type nor the unit of the aircraft involved in the crash. However, it seemed immediately quite reasonable to believe it is a C-2 Greyhound involved in a COD (Carrier Onboard Delivery) mission. Indeed, the Grumman C-2A Greyhound is a twin-engine, high-wing cargo aircraft, designed perform the COD mission to carry equipment, passengers (including occasional distinguished visitors) supplies and mail to and from U.S. Navy aircraft carriers, “ensuring victory at sea through logistics.”

8 out 11 people on board have been found. SAR operation underway to find and rescue the missing ones.

According to the U.S. Navy:

Eight personnel were recovered by the “Golden Falcons” of U.S. Navy Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC 12). The eight personnel were transferred to USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76) for medical evaluation and are in good condition at this time.

“Our entire focus is on finding all of our Sailors,” said Rear Adm. Marc H. Dalton, Commander, Task Force 70. “U.S. and Japanese ships and aircraft are searching the area of the crash, and we will be relentless in our efforts.”

USS Ronald Reagan is leading search and rescue efforts with the following ships and aircraft: U.S. Navy guided-missile destroyer USS Stethem (DDG 63); MH-60R Seahawk helicopters of the “Saberhawks” from U.S. Navy Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron (HSM 77); P-8 aircraft from the “Fighting Tigers” of U.S. Navy Maritime Patrol and Reconnaissance Squadron (VP) 8; P-3 Orion aircraft of the “Red Hook” U.S. Navy Maritime Patrol and Reconnaissance Squadron (VP) 40; Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) Helicopter Carrier Japan Ship (JS) Kaga (DDH 184); and JMSDF Hatakaze-class destroyer Japan Ship (JS) Shimakaze (DDG 172).

This is the 6th C-2 lost since the type entered active service (a prototype YC-2A was lost on Apr. 29, 1965, during a test flight resulting in 4 fatalities):

 

  • On Oct. 2, 1969, C-2A BuNo 152796 from VRC-50, carrying 6 crew members and 21 passengers crashed in the Gulf of Tonkin en route from Naval Air Station Cubi Point to USS Constellation in the Gulf of Tonkin. All the 27 POB were killed but since their bodies were never recovered, they are listed as MIA (Missing In Action).
  • On Dec. 15, 1970, C-2A BuNo 155120 from VRC-50 crashed shortly after launch from USS Ranger, killing all 9 POB (4 crew members and 5 passengers).
  • On Dec. 12 1971, C-2A BuNo 152793 crashed en route from Cubi Point to Tan Son Nhat International Airport, resulting in the death of all 4 crew members and 6 passengers.
  • On Jan. 29, C-2A BuNo 155122 crashed while attempting to land on the USS Independence in the Mediterranean Sea, killing both crewmen.
  • On 16 November 1973, C-2A BuNo 152787 crashed into the sea after takeoff from Souda Bay, Crete. 7 of 10 POB died in the incident.

 

We will update this story as new details are made available.

In 2000, the C-2 began Service Life-Extension Program (SLEP) installations, which included improvements such as structural enhancements, dual ARC-210 radios, the Terrain-Awareness Warning System, the Traffic Collision-Avoidance System and a rewire of the aircraft to remove older and potentially hazardous Kapton wiring. Eight-blade NP2000 propellers were installed in 2010-2011. The Communication, Navigation, Surveillance/Air Traffic Management (CNS/ATM) system features components that expanded the aircraft’s communications capability by increasing the number of usable radio frequencies, therefore reducing channel congestion. As part of the navigation upgrade, a system combining Global Positioning System (GPS) equipment and an inertial navigation system were integrated to provide accurate positioning and velocity, allowing flight crews to perform precise landing approaches.

Top image: file photo of a C-2 Greyhound

 

Here’s 2017 West Coast Strike Fighter Ball Video: No ATFLIR and No Gun Camera Footage. And It’s Probably Not By Accident.

This year’s West Coast Strike Fighter Ball Video does not feature the “real ops” stuff: bombs, ATFLIR footage, and aerial “gun camera” clips. It seems that someone was not happy when a recent cruise video included footage of a Syrian Su-22 being shot down by a Hornet….

“Hornet Ball” and “Rhino Ball” are the names of a famous yearly compilation of videos produced by LT Joseph “C-Rock” Stephens, an Instructor WSO with the VFA-122 Flying Eagles.

The “Ball” series is made of clips from squadrons based on the West Coast (as well as the 4 forward deployed squadrons in Japan) during their daily activities at home or deployed in support of real operations, such as Operation Inherent Resolve (OIR) against ISIS in Syria and Iraq. Here you have the links to the previous editions: Rhino Ball 2016; Hornet Ball 2015; Hornet Ball 2014; Hornet Ball 2013.

This year’s edition has been dubbed “Strike Fighter Ball” as NAS Lemoore, along with the “legacy” F/A-18A-D Hornets and F/A-18E/F Super Hornets,  has started operating the F-35C Lightning II “Joint Strike Fighter” with the VFA-125 Rough Riders since Jan. 25, 2017.

Whilst the 2017 video remains extremely cool (and funny, considered the arcade game theme) with cats/traps, air-to-air merges, low levels, fly-bys, aerial refueling etc., it appears to be a bit watered-down: whereas previous years videos featured plenty of bomb, ATFLIR (Advanced Targeting Forward Looking Infra Red) pod, HUD (Head Up Display) and Gun Camera footage, this year’s compilation has just some AIM-9X Sidewinder and AGM-88 HARM (High-speed Anti-Radiation Missile) shots.

Indeed, according to multiple sources, the U.S. Navy was not too happy when the VFA-31 Tomcatters release their 2017 OIR cruise video that included footage of the aerial engagement between an F/A-18E Super Hornet belonging to the VFA-87 “Golden Warriors” and a Syrian Su-22 (that ended with the Fitter being shot down by an AIM-120 AMRAAM missile near Raqqa, Syria), filmed with an ATFLIR pod.

In order to prevent some sensitive footage from leaking to the public, the Navy has probably decided to put the kibosh on all footage taken on theater…

Anyway, enjoy!

F-35B In “Third Day Of War” External Weapons Load Configuration Demonstrates Ski Jump Launch in U.S. for Royal Navy.

Check Out This Cool New Video of F-35B Doing Ski Jump Launch Trials for the QE2.

British Aerospace test pilot Peter “Wizzer” Wilson demonstrated the F-35B Lightning II’s capability to launch from a ski-jump style launch ramp during phase 2 testing with a heavy external weapons load last week in a series of capability flights at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Maryland.

The Lockheed Martin F-35B Lightning II STOVL (Short Take Off Vertical) variant was configured in a “third day of war” load-out with heavy external Paveway precision guided bombs and AIM-132 ASRAAM air-to-air missiles in addition to any internal load and the aircraft’s GAU-22A 25mm internal cannon.

The external weapons configuration demonstration (as the one done by the F-35C firing a missile while inverted) is interesting since it includes the broad capability of the F-35B across the entire tactical conflict spectrum. With a “first day of war” configuration the F-35B would likely carry weapons internally to maintain low radar cross-section and observability from sensors. However, as a conflict evolves and enemy air defense assets including sensors, air defense missile and gun systems and enemy aircraft, are degraded by airstrikes from F-35s in the low-observable configuration the environment becomes more permissive. The F-35 no longer relies on low-observable capability for survivability. It can shift to carrying large external loads to accelerate the prosecution of ground targets in an effort to overwhelm an adversary with highly effective precision strikes.

Moreover, as already explained in previous posts on this subject, LO aircraft in un-stealthy configuration because of the external loads achieve stealthiness and can play a different role once their external weapons have been expended.

The F-35B in this series of launch tests is in the “third day of war” external load configuration.

The demonstration highlights the compatibility of the aircraft with the new Queen Elizabeth class of aircraft carriers including the recently commissioned HMS Queen Elizabeth II (RO8) and the upcoming HMS Prince of Wales (RO9) to be commissioned in 2020. Both new carriers use the traditional ski-jump launch ramp as employed on legacy Royal Navy ships and also by the Chinese, Russian and upcoming Indian navy carriers. These aircraft carriers do not yet have, or need, launch catapults.

F-35B Test Pilot Pete “Wizzer” Wilson flew the ramp launch tests. (Photo: Wilts and Glos Standard)

The tests were conducted the week of August 14, 2017 in anticipation of upcoming trials on the HMS Queen Elizabeth II. BAE Systems ski jump project lead test pilot Peter Wilson, a former Royal Navy and Royal Air Force pilot now living in the U.S. during the flight test program, told writer George Allison for the media outlet U.K. Defence Journal that:

“Friday’s F-35B ski jump was a great success for the joint ski jump team. I’m exceptionally proud of this team. Their years of planning, collaboration and training have culminated in a fantastic achievement that advances the future capabilities of the aircraft and its integration into UK operations.”

 

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U.S. Commissioning New Class of Supercarrier, USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78) Tomorrow

UK, China and U.S. Launch New Carrier Classes in 2017, Russia Lags Behind.

The U.S Navy and Newport News Ship Building Company officially commissioned a new class of “supercarrier” advanced nuclear-powered aircraft carrier tomorrow at the Norfolk Naval Station in Norfolk, Virginia.

The USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78) is the first ship in this new class of nuclear-powered aircraft carriers for the U.S. Navy. It is the first major redesign of U.S. aircraft carriers in 42 years.

Among a long list of new engineering features on board USS Gerald R. Ford are the controversial electromagnetic catapults and arresting gear, a new, smaller, lower radar cross section island structure, larger and more efficient flight deck facilitating faster aircraft launching, more than twice the electrical power of previous carrier classes and a more efficient crew compliment with 500 fewer personnel on board. The massive 1,106-foot-long carrier displaces a staggering 100,000 tons fully loaded and is powered by two new generation nuclear reactors.

U.S. President Donald Trump has been critical of the costs of the program, especially the new electro-magnetic catapult and arrestor take-off and landing systems. The benefits of the new systems are claimed to be less buffeting of aircraft upon launch resulting in better control and less airframe fatigue per launch and recovery. The electromagnetic catapults are also lighter in weight than steam catapults in use on current U.S. carriers and are claimed to require less maintenance than steam-powered launch and recovery systems.

It’s worth noting that some problems have already occurred in launch testing on other carriers with the U.S. Navy’s version of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, the larger wingspan, folding wing F-35C. The problems may have been limited to test launches with no weapons loads and required modifications to F-35C landing gear. Depending on the status of these issues the Navy’s F-35C may benefit in particular from electromagnetic catapults.

CF-03 FLT 182/CF-05 FLT 91 First Arrestment aboard USS Nimitz on 03 November 2014. CDR Tony Wilson was flying CF-03 and LCDR Ted Dyckman was flying CF-05.

This year has been noteworthy for new international aircraft carrier operations.

On Jul. 17, 2017, the Royal Navy launched the first of its new Queen Elizabeth Class of aircraft carrier. The HMS Queen Elizabeth (RO8) is the first of two carriers in this new class that will include the second vessel, the HMS Prince of Wales (RO9) when it is launched in 2020.

HMS Queen Elizabeth uses non-nuclear electric propulsion that burns primarily diesel fuel. This is a lower cost alternative to the U.S. nuclear powered carrier. HMS Queen Elizabeth is a smaller carrier than its new U.S. counterpart, and intended to operate with a compliment of thirty-six F-35B V/STOL aircraft and four helicopters. The vessel is currently configured without launch catapults, but is engineered to be “backwards and forwards compatible” for retrofitting of a catapult launch system. The vessel is also smaller than its U.S. counterpart, the new USS Gerald R. Ford. The HMS Queen Elizabeth is 920 feet long compared to the USS Gerald R. Ford’s 1,106 foot length. It also displaces “only” 70,600 tons compared to the Ford’s 100,000+ tons of displacement.

A Royal Navy Merlin helicopter was the first aircraft to fly from the deck of the England’s new HMS Queen Elizabeth. (Photo: Daily Telegraph)

The Chinese have also been vigorous in their carrier development program with the recent launch of the impressive Type 001A, their first indigenous construction carrier. Previous Chinese aircraft carriers were purchased second-hand, mostly from Russia, and served primarily as development testbeds for aircraft, crews and likely doctrine.

This first domestically built Chinese carrier, likely to be named “Shandong”, was officially launched in Dalian, Liaoning province, on Apr. 26, 2017. The Type 001A “Shandong” uses a ski-jump style launch system and an arrestor cable recovery.

A Chinese J-15 makes an arrested landing on the carrier Liaoning. (Photo:USNI)

There have been recent photos of Chinese J-15 aircraft with updated landing gear that is both reinforced for carrier landings and, most interestingly, a catapult bar on the nose wheel. The new version of the J-15, referred to frequently as the “J-15A”, is considerably reworked to include not only the landing gear modifications but new engines and avionics.

A new version Chinese J-15A appeared with catapult launch capable landing gear. (Photo: Chinese Media)

A Jul. 6, 2017 report filed on Chinese media reported that the Chinese People’s Liberation Army Navy, or “PLAN”, is conducting land-based testing on a new electromagnetic catapult similar to the one already installed on the new U.S carrier Gerald R. Ford.

Satellite images showing a land-based catapult launch test facility at Huangdicun Airbase in Liaoning Province, China. The U.S. Naval Institute, an intelligence publications resource, reported that satellite imagery showed two types of catapults located at the Huangdicun facility beginning in late 2014, one steam and one electromagnetic. This base also houses China’s J-15 aircraft on land.

Finally, with news of new aircraft carriers from the United States, China and England an assessment of Russia’s current aircraft carrier capabilities suggests they are lagging behind.

Russia deployed its only carrier, the Admiral Kuznetsov, to the eastern Mediterranean in fall of 2016 in support of operations in Syria. The results could accurately be described as “mixed”.

Kuznetsov, an old ship originally launched in 1985, lost two if its only fifteen aircraft to accidents including an embarrassing one when one of Russia’s most experienced pilots was forced to ditch his aircraft next to the carrier due to problems onboard that prevented him from landing. He was ordered to hold in the landing pattern so long while addressing the onboard recovery problem that his aircraft eventually ran out of fuel. The pilot ejected next to the carrier and was recovered. The aircraft was one of two lost on the Russian adventure to the Mediterranean in support of the President Bashar al-Assad regime in Syria.

The Admiral Kuznetsov has had previous problems on its only seven deployments since 1990.

In 1996, the ship’s potable water distillation system failed and, embarrassingly for the Russians, the U.S. Navy came to the aid of the vessel, supplying fresh drinking water to the crew.

Back in 2015 Russia announced insights into a proposed new, very large aircraft carrier class in the 100,000 ton “supercarrier” range. Russian Deputy-Director of the Krylov State Research Center told IHS Jane’s that the project was being called “Project 23000E” or “Storm”. Budget constraints, Russia’s support of the war in Syria and economic concerns have all but cancelled progress on the project. The most recent intelligence suggests Russia was attempting to partner with India to share development costs in the hopes of India eventually acquiring one of the new class of proposed Russian supercarriers for its own navy.

Russia’s carrier Admiral Kuznetsov is beginning to show its age. (Photo: RT)

 

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