Category Archives: Aircraft Carriers

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.”

 

Salva

Salva

Salva

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)

 

Salva

Salva

“Aircraft Carrier” Documentary Provides Unique Perspective and Insight Into Naval Aviation And F-35 Ops At Sea.

Beautiful Visuals Meet Mechanical Understanding in Aircraft Carrier Documentary. With some cool footage of F-35B and F-35C stealth jets.

Large format filmmaker Stephen Low has taken his IMAX cameras to sea for the filming of his new hour-long documentary Aircraft Carrier. The 43-minute long film premiered at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in Washington D.C. in the United States on May 24 and has opened at large format IMAX theaters around the U.S. this week.

We had a chance to preview the film at The Henry Ford in Dearborn, Michigan. The Henry Ford, formerly Greenfield Village and The Henry Ford Museum, has a large format IMAX movie theater and sound system. If you haven’t seen one, an IMAX theater is a large format film theater that uses much larger imaging film and screen for higher resolution. It is combined with a more immersive sound system and frequently uses 3-dimensional filmmaking requiring the viewer to wear 3D glasses to see the images correctly and with as increased sense of depth perception.

The Henry Ford Museum also has an impressive collection of historical aircraft including a 1928 Ford 4-AT-B Tri-Motor Airplane, the “Floyd Bennett,” Flown Over the South Pole by Dean Smith as commanded by Richard E. Byrd on Nov. 28, 1929. The museum also houses a Fokker Triplane used on various early arctic expeditions.

Aircraft Carrier was shot mostly on and around the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN-76), a Nimitz-class nuclear powered carrier commissioned in 2003 with a homeport of Yokosuka Naval Base in Japan. She carries a massive crew of over 5,000 personnel in both the air wing on board and for the ship’s crew. The ship itself is over a thousand feet long.

The film and the format work together to communicate a feeling of size and grandeur. The opening scenes are breathtaking and, like any well-made film or documentary, draw the viewer in.

Filmaker Stephen Low operates a large format IMAX film camera (credit: Stephen Low Company)

The IMAX filmmaking crew with their camera helicopter (credit: Stephen Low Company)

There are effectively three themes to Aircraft Carrier. Firstly, there are sweeping visuals that entertain and inspire. Secondly, there are historical insights that add context. The slides used in this segment are excellent. And finally, strong technical graphics that, while probably the weak visual link in the film – especially in large format – do an excellent job of helping the viewer visualize complex systems onboard an aircraft carrier.

Another segment of the film focuses on new F-35C and F-35B operations and the testing and integration of the Joint Strike Fighter into the U.S. Navy and U.S. Marines. These sequences are visually remarkable in clarity and composition. When you add the 3D visual effect they have depth and resolution that feel like seeing the flights in person.

A screenshot from Aircraft Carrier showing JSF blue-water ops.

The strength of Aircraft Carrier is that it offers fresh and inspiring imagery for the aircraft enthusiast and a set of basic insights for the non-aircraft enthusiast to remain interested. It’s a good film to take people to who are not aviation experts or enthusiasts, but it is visually exciting enough to keep the aircraft enthusiast interested. Finally, since this is a quick little film at only 43 minutes it is great for young audiences.

Mostly, this is a beautiful and reverent visual and sensory experience that does a better job than any Hollywood movie of showing naval aviation at its most remarkable.

If there is an IMAX theater near you, seek out Aircraft Carrier; you will most certainly enjoy it.

This VAQ-130 Cruise Video Showcases The Air War Against ISIS From The EA-18G Growler Aircrews Point of View

In 2016, VAQ-130 Growler Electronic Attack aircraft worked hard to deny the ISIS militants the ability to communicate.

Islamic State militants rely heavily on COTS (Commercial Off The Shelf) and DIY radios along with smartphones to communicate, browse the Internet, send emails, exchange messages, dispatch orders, trigger IEDs (Improvised Explosive Devices) etc.

Various platforms of the US-led coalition that fights ISIS in Syria and Iraq continuously work to snoop into Daesh comms, intercept the signals emitted by their devices and, if needed, make such communication impossible (by disturbing the comms or attacking the cell towers or targeting specific high value individuals using cell phones).

“Kinetic Electronic Attack platforms” can be called in by other aircraft (such as the RC-135 Rivet Joint spyplanes which can disseminate data gathered in real-time via tactical data link) or ground forces to prevent ISIS fighters from talking to other militants by jamming their cell phones with high-power signals or by dropping actual ordnance at them.

Last year, among the units waging the Air War on ISIS frequencies, there were also the VAQ-130 Zappers.

Embarked on USS Eisenhower with their Boeing EA-18G Growler, the Electronic Warfare variant of the two-seat F/A-18F Super Hornet (that replaced the EA-6B Prowlers in U.S. Navy service), the “Zappers” have supported Operation Inherent Resolve carrying out a wide variety of missions.

The badge sported by the VAQ-130’s EA-18G during their 2016 cruise.

Indeed the Growler has the ability to jam the enemy communications or work in combination with other EA-18s to geo-locate a signal source and target it from stand-off distance with air-to-surface missiles such as the AGM-88 HARM (High-speed Anti-Radiation Missile).

The following video provides the highlight of VAQ-130’s 2016 cruise. And includes much OIR footage.

Enjoy!

H/T Maximilien Pétré for the heads-up

This is what it looks like when you land an E-2C Hawkeye on an aircraft carrier at night

E-2C Hawkeye Night Carrier Landing from the cockpit. With radio comms.

The following video was filmed on Apr. 16, 2013, and shows a night (let’s say a sunset) carrier arrested landing by a VAW-121 E-2C Hawkeye’s pilot at his last night trap with the squadron.

The video is particularly interesting as it includes radio comms (both with the ship and Landing Signal Officers), the PLAT (Pilot Landing Aid Television) from about a mile to the touchdown.

The PLAT system gives a hint of the horizontal visibility on the flight deck and the “C” (or flashing “F”) in the upper screen of the PLAT is for “Clear” deck, or “Foul” deck, whereas the “W” in the bottom would mean “Waveoff.”

The pilot in command is the one in the left seat (with the camera), whereas the pilot in the right seat is handling radio calls, coordination with the CIC (Combat Information Center) crew. You can also hear the chat with the LSOs (Landing Signal Officers) providing final approach assistance to aircraft.

Enjoy.

 

Salva