The three Eurofighters, two single-seaters and a two-seater (along with a photo-ship, perhaps another Typhoon) flew near the Admiral Kuznetsov in what was just a show of force: the British multirole aircraft have no real anti-ship capability nor carried any armament.
Based on the photographs, only one Typhoon FGR4 ZJ927 had at least one (dummy) ASRAAM (Advanced Short-Range Air-to-Air Missile) on the outer port pylon.
Here’s an interesting clip filmed by the RAF jets during their flying activity in the vicinity of the Russian carrier.
Image credit: Crown Copyright
Russia’s MoD claimed the British performed a useless escort. Here’s Russian Defence Ministry comment on the statement of the British Secretary of State for Defence Michael Fallon concerning the escort of the Russian carrier group by the British ships off the coast of Great Britain:
“We have paid attention to the statement of the British Secretary of State for Defence Michael Fallon concerning the Russian carrier group which is passing the English Channel on its way home after combat task performance.
The goal of such statements and show concerning the escort of the Russian ships is to draw the attention of the British taxpayers away from the real state of affairs in the British Navy.
First, the Russian combat ships do not need escort services; they know the fairway and the course.
Second, Mr. Fallon is recommended paying more attention to the British fleet all the more there is every reason for it according to the same British press.“
The Russian MoD also highlighted that the British newspaper Sunday Times reported about a failed launch of a ballistic missile from submarines of the British Navy recently.
According to a Royal Navy spokesperson “Remaining at a respectful distance, but keeping the Russian warships clearly visible, Royal Navy sailors keep watch on every movement through their binoculars and use state-of-the-art radars to track the course and speed of the ships as they pass close to the UK.”
BBC defence correspondent Jonathan Beale says Typhoons may have used their sensors to try to detect the Russian’s air defence systems but the Eurofighter ESM (Electronic Support Measures) capabilities are quite limited if compared to other specialized aircraft (including the RAF E-3D or the Sentinel R1, whose presence in the same “surveillance operation” can’t be ruled out) that could gather much more significant data (if any, considered that the Russian aircraft carrier has been closely monitored while operating in the Med Sea with all its systems turned on….) from (safe) distance.
Chinese Carrier Liaoning Crosses Taiwan Air Defense Identification Zone: Provokes Taiwanese Response.
Media and intelligence sources report the Chinese Aircraft Carrier Liaoning has crossed the politically sensitive Taiwanese Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) along with several escort ships. The Liaoning sailed up the west side of the median line of the strait separating the Chinese mainland from Taiwan.
The Chinese government issued a release stating the Liaoning and her support vessels were conducting drills to test weapons and equipment in the disputed South China Sea and that these operations are in compliance with international law.
In response, Taiwan dispatched patrol and fighter aircraft to monitor the passage of the Liaoning group. The Taipei Times reported a similar incident on Tuesday, Dec. 27th, 2016. During that incident people in the city of Hualien photographed Taiwanese F-16 and RF-16 aircraft taking off in response to the sighting of the Liaoning in monitored waters. Reports also indicate that Taiwan’s E-2K Hawkeye and P-3 Orion aircraft were dispatched to the area to maintain patrol and surveillance. These same aircraft likely responded to this passage of the Liaoning.
Although the deployment to Iwakuni is not a direct U.S. response to escalating tensions in the region as it represents a planned phase of the normal operational integration of the F-35B force for the U.S. Marine, the deployment of the most advanced American aircraft to the region has also a symbolic value.
MCAS Iwakuni is approximately 2,000 kilometers (1,079 nautical miles) northeast of central Taiwan. Range of the F-35 is generically reported as 1,200 nautical miles (2,200 kilometers) with a stated combat radius of 625 nautical miles (1,158 km) unrefueled.
The F-35B STOVL variant is intended for shipboard operations however, and was recently tested on board the amphibious assault ship USS America (LHA 6) that is currently operating from the west coast of the United States for deployment in the Pacific theatre. USS America is one of three amphibious assault ships in this class that also includes the USS Tripoli (LHA 7) and USS Bougainville (LHA 6).
The Liaoning (Chinese CV-16) has a complex history.
It started life as a Russian (then Soviet) Navy Kuznetsov class carrier christened the Riga and launched in late 1988. It was the largest Russian naval ship ever built. The ship was re-named the Varyag in 1990 after nearly being commandeered by Ukraine. The Chinese initially had a plan to repurpose the ship as a floating casino, but China eventually elected to use the vessel as a training aircraft carrier and presumably a full-scale feasibility study for the operation and development of new Chinese aircraft carriers.
China is well underway in construction of their second aircraft carrier, the Type 001A now designated the Chinese CV-17. The new carrier is an indigenous Chinese design that does still use the ski-jump style aircraft launch technique as opposed to a steam or magnetic driven catapult as with U.S. carriers. That only one of these new Chinese-engineered carrier class vessels is under construction suggests that China may be developing another, more advanced carrier class. Additionally, intelligence indicates the Chinese are developing an indigenous magnetic catapult launch system.
Reports in Chinese media indicate that the Liaoning has an onboard compliment of 36 aircraft total. They include up to 24 Shenyang J-15 Flying Shark fighters that are reported to be restricted from carrying heavy strike weapons by take-off performance on board the ship according to Russian media. If accurate, this limits these aircraft to the air superiority role while flying from Liaoning. The J-15 Flying Shark is analogous to the Russian Su-33, sharing a plan form similar to the entire Su-27 series of Sukhoi aircraft.
The remainder of the ship’s compliment is limited to rotary wing aircraft including the Changhe Z-18F anti-submarine patrol helicopter and the “J” variant of the Z-18 helicopter configured for airborne early warning. The ship also reportedly carries two smaller Harbin Z-9C helicopters for rescue operations, an important role given the experience of the Russian carrier in anti-ISIL operations off Syria.
Given the aircraft onboard Liaoning currently the ship’s role is limited, in an operational sense, to air security patrol. The ship’s aircraft have no strike or even heavy anti-ship capability beyond its ASW helicopters.
Iwakuni becomes the first airbase outside the U.S. to host a permanent deployment of US military F-35 stealth jets.
On Jan. 9, 2017, Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 121 (VMFA-121), an F-35B squadron with 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, departed MCAS (Marine Corps Air Station) Yuma, Arizona, for relocation to MCAS Iwakuni, Japan, in what is the first deployment of the U.S. Joint Strike Fighter outside of CONUS (Continental US).
Formerly a 3rd MAW F/A-18 Hornet squadron, the VMFA-121 “Green Knights” was re-designated as the Corps’ first operational F-35 squadron on Nov. 20, 2012. About three years later, on Jul. 31, 2015, IOC (Initial Operational Capability) was declared and in December 2015, the Squadron flew its F-35Bs in support of Exercise Steel Knight, “a combined-arms live-fire exercise which integrates capabilities of air and ground combat elements to complete a wide range of military operations in an austere environment to prepare the 1st Marine Division for deployment as the ground combat element of a Marine Air-Ground Task Force.”
In October 2016, a contingent of 12 F-35Bs took part in Developmental Test III aboard USS Amerca followed by the Lightning Carrier “Proof of Concept” demonstration on the carrier on Nov. 19, 2016.
During the POC, the aircraft proved it can operate at-sea, employing a wide array of weapons loadouts with the newest software variant, so much so, some of the most experienced F-35B voiced their satisfaction for the way the aircraft is performing: “the platform is performing exceptionally,” they said.
The first two F-35B deployments aboard U.S. Navy amphibious carriers will take place in 2018.
NORTH PACIFIC OCEAN – An F-35B from Marine Fighter Attack Squadron (VMFA) 121, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, refuels in flight while transiting the Pacific from Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Ariz., to Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, Jan. 9, 2017, with its final destination of Iwakuni, Japan. VMFA-121 is the first operational F-35B squadron assigned to the Fleet Marine Force, with its relocation to 1st Marine Aircraft Wing at Iwakuni. The F-35B was developed to replace the Marine Corps’ F/A-18 Hornet, AV-8B Harrier and EA- 6B Prowler. The Short Take-off Vertical Landing (STOVL) aircraft is a true force multiplier. The unique combination of stealth, cutting-edge radar and sensor technology, and electronic warfare systems bring all of the access and lethality capabilities of a fifth-generation fighter, a modern bomber, and an adverse-weather, all-threat environment air support platform.
It shows a “troubleshooter” or “Final Checker”, be blown away by the jet blast of the aircraft during the catapult launch.
The role of the final checker (with a white jersey) is to make sure the aircraft’s flight controls are freely moving and that everything is ok. So they have to operate quite close to plane to spot potential hydraulic leaks or something that could lead to an aborted launch.
Here’s how the mishap is described by the alleged cameraman on Liveleak:
“This was the final flight on our deployment. During the final flight, people tend to push the boundaries because the deployment is over. Getting close to the exhaust on launch is a kind of “right of passage” for most troubleshooters since it increases the jet blast. So, the guy in the video decided that he wanted to get closer to the exhaust. He got a little TOO close and it threw him about 40 feet. The deck of the carrier is extremely rough and cover with “non-skid.” It’s so rough it can wear out the sole of you shoes in about 5 months. He was extremely scraped up, but took it like a champ!”
“As far as why the checkers stand so close, that is a personal preference. You need to be somewhat close so you can observe the aircraft” says another guy who’s posted a similar video to Youtube.
“You need to be somewhat close so you can observe the aircraft. The Prowler‘s jet exhaust blows down and out, so when the aircraft takes off, the closer you are, the harder it hits you.”
Several Maritime Patrol Aircraft are involved in a big hunt: one (possibly two) Oscar II-class submarine that Russia has sent after NATO warships.
According to military sources close to The Aviationist, a big hunt is underway in the eastern Med: several MPA aircraft, including U.S. Navy P-8 Poseidon jets operating from NAS Sigonella, Sicily, are looking for one, possibly two, Russian Navy submarines operating in the vicinity of a group of warships of the NATO Maritime Group.
What makes the news even more interesting is the fact that the Russian Navy submarine would be an Oscar II Class, that is to say a “carrier killer” sub, designed with the primary mission of countering aircraft carrier battlegroups. Among the NATO vessels in proximity of the Oscar II there is also the French Charles De Gaulle nuclear-powered aircraft carrier and the USS Eisenhower is not too far away either.
Therefore a massive Cold War-style hide-and-seek in underway, keeping both sides quite busy.
Those were scripted drills, with the flattops put in the most challenging conditions for training purposes; still, the simulated sinkings once again prove that aircraft carriers’ underwater defenses, albeit excellent, are not impenetrable and subs still pose a significant threat to powerful Carrier Strike Groups.
Especially when the attacker is a quite advanced Oscar II class nuclear-powered guided-missile submarine (SSGN) using long-range SS-N-19 “Shipwreck” ASCMs (anti-ship cruise missiles).
Based on the latest reports, 8 Oscar IIs are in active service built in the 1980s and early 1990s, eight remain in service. Even though deemed to be inferior to those of the Akula II, the acoustic performance of the Oscar II class is believed to be superior to early Akula-class submarine.
In 2016 Russia has started a multiyear plan to modernise all its Project 949A Oscar II-class subs that includes replacing the 24 SS-N-19 missiles with up to 72 newer 3M55 Oniks (SS-N-26 ‘Strobile’) or 3M54 Klub (SS-N-27 ‘Sizzler’) anti ship missiles.
Composite image created by merging tweet from @Mil_Radar and image on Military-today.com