Category Archives: Aircraft Carriers

We have been aboard USS George Washington during F-35C’s latest carrier trials

Report: F-35Cs Descend in Mass on the USS George Washington During DT-III.

The USS George Washington (CVN-73) is hosting the F-35C in its final Developmental Testing cycle, DT-III through Aug. 23.

However, for a couple of days the two VX-23 “Salty Dogs” F-35C Lightning IIs from NAS Patuxent River were joined by 5 F-35Cs from VFA-101 “Grim Reapers” out of Eglin AFB. The 7 F-35Cs on the deck of the carrier represented the largest carrier contingent of F-35Cs to date.

F-35C from VFA-101 "Grim Reapers" performs a touch and go on the USS George Washington (CVN-73) during DT-III with VX-23 August 15, 2016 VX-23 "Salty Dogs" F-35C in foreground aside another VFA-101 F-35C.

F-35C from VFA-101 “Grim Reapers” performs a touch and go on the USS George Washington (CVN-73) during DT-III with VX-23 August 15, 2016 VX-23 “Salty Dogs” F-35C in foreground aside another VFA-101 F-35C.

Media were hosted on the USS George Washington Monday, Aug. 15 to witness the pilots completing their carrier qualifications (CQs) at the onset of DT-III. All pilots embarking must perform a number of “cats” and “traps” prior to executing the specific tests involved with DT-III.

F-35C from VFA-101 "Grim Reapers" dropping from deck and into the hangar for engine change. The aircraft is 100%, just an exercise to see if anything unusual crops up. On the USS George Washington (CVN-73) during DT-III with VX-23 August 15, 2016.

F-35C from VFA-101 “Grim Reapers” dropping from deck and into the hangar for engine change. The aircraft is 100%, just an exercise to see if anything unusual crops up. On the USS George Washington (CVN-73) during DT-III with VX-23 August 15, 2016.

DT-III includes validation of the aircraft’s flying capabilities with full internal and external stores (up to 4 GBU-12s and two AIM-9X on external hard points); handling tests with asymmetrical loads; testing for maximum weight launches (up to 65,000 lbs) at minimum power; evaluating all of these in a variety of wind and sea states.

F-35C from VFA-101 Grim Reapers getting ready to snag a 3 wire on the USS George Washington (CVN-73) during DT-III with VX-23 August 15, 2016

F-35C from VFA-101 Grim Reapers getting ready to snag a 3 wire on the USS George Washington (CVN-73) during DT-III with VX-23 August 15, 2016

As explained by Tom “Briggo” Briggs ITF (Integrated Test Force) Chief Test Engineer there were some additional aspects they wanted to evaluate. These areas to assess included shipborne evaluation of tweaks made to control laws (based on previous DT testing), shipborne logistical support and some night launches to verify adjustments made to the Gen 3 helmet performed as desired.

The ITF (Integrated Task Force) and supporting team of personnel have worked tirelessly to bring the program to this point, and yet the reality of DT-III was – “business as usual.”

Media probed for human interest stories from the cadre of pilots on board, “What was it like, after all the simulator hours and practice landings at the airfield to actually land on the ship?” From pilots who had 50 traps with the F-35C to those who had just realized their first – they struggled to provide any other answer; “no drama, no surprise, performed as expected, very vanilla, pretty easy.”

F-35C from VX-23 "Salty Dogs" arrested landing, during DT-III on the USS George Washington (CVN-73) August 15, 2016.

F-35C from VX-23 “Salty Dogs” arrested landing, during DT-III on the USS George Washington (CVN-73) August 15, 2016.

The preparation had been solid and thorough and DT-III itself was simply moving according to plan – that is if you can plan to be ahead of schedule after only 1.5 days!

F-35C from VX-23 "Salty Dogs" crosses the deck after fueling, on the way to the catapults. During DT-III on the USS George Washington (CVN-73) Monday, August 15.

F-35C from VX-23 “Salty Dogs” crosses the deck after fueling, on the way to the catapults. During DT-III on the USS George Washington (CVN-73) Monday, August 15.

In many ways DT-III was “upstaged” by the appearance of VFA-101, and yet it was upstaged in a fashion that brought ultimate satisfaction to the ITF’s efforts.

As U.S. Navy Commander Ryan “Flopper” Murphy, F-35 ITF lead said, “the greatest satisfaction was to watch the fleet (VFA-101) start to utilize the aircraft.” After all, that was the point of all the years of work; to equip and empower the Fleet with the F-35C.

160814-N-XW558-090 ATLANTIC OCEAN (Aug. 14, 2016) Lt. William Bowen taxis in an F-35C Lightning II carrier variant, assigned to the Salty Dogs of Air Test and Evaluation Squadron (VX) 23, on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS George Washington (CVN 73). VX-23 is conducting its third and final development test (DT-III) phase aboard George Washington in the Atlantic Ocean. The F-35C is expected to be Fleet operational in 2018. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Alex L. Smedegard)

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ATLANTIC OCEAN (Aug. 14, 2016) Lt. William Bowen taxis in an F-35C Lightning II carrier variant, assigned to the Salty Dogs of Air Test and Evaluation Squadron (VX) 23, on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS George Washington (CVN 73). VX-23 is conducting its third and final development test (DT-III) phase aboard George Washington in the Atlantic Ocean. The F-35C is expected to be Fleet operational in 2018. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Alex L. Smedegard)

12 VFA-101 pilots with 5 F-35Cs completed their CQs in just over 1.5 days. As Capt. James Christie of VFA-101 described, that includes 10 landings and 2 touch and gos each. A total of 120 cats, 120 traps and 24 touch and goes. Simultaneously the 5 VX-23 pilots performed their CQs. F-35Cs were all over the carriers deck, moving, landing, and launching – much like I would imagine an operational tempo.

F-35C from VX-23 "Salty Dogs" waits to cross the deck for fueling. During DT-III on the USS George Washington (CVN-73) Monday, August 15.

F-35C from VX-23 “Salty Dogs” waits to cross the deck for fueling. During DT-III on the USS George Washington (CVN-73) Monday, August 15.

There were instances of hot refueling, with pilot changes during refuel and the aircraft cycling back for more CQs.

As VX-23 F-35C pilot Ted “Dutch” Dyckman explained, everybody completed their CQs faster than with the Hornet or Super Hornet. The additional fuel on the F-35C, the ease of landing due to Delta Flight Path mode, along with aircraft reliability all played a part in the accelerated CQs.

The innovative “Delta Flight Path” mode that is engaged on approach alters the F-35C control laws, setting auto throttles and maintaining the optimal 3 degree glide slope to landing. This approach makes landing on the carrier much easier, and pilots were hitting the desired 3 wire virtually 100% of the time.

160814-N-MY901-131 ATLANTIC OCEAN (Aug. 14, 2016) An F-35C Lightning II carrier variant assigned to the Grim Reapers of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 101, the Navy’s F-35C Fleet replacement squadron, lands on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS George Washington (CVN 73). VFA-101 aircraft and pilots are conducting initial qualifications aboard George Washington in the Atlantic Ocean. The F-35C is expected to be Fleet operational in 2018. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Apprentice Krystofer Belknap)

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ATLANTIC OCEAN (Aug. 14, 2016) An F-35C Lightning II carrier variant assigned to the Grim Reapers of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 101, the Navy’s F-35C Fleet replacement squadron, lands on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS George Washington (CVN 73). VFA-101 aircraft and pilots are conducting initial qualifications aboard George Washington in the Atlantic Ocean. The F-35C is expected to be Fleet operational in 2018. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Apprentice Krystofer Belknap)

Delta Flight Path utilizes the flaps to add or decrease lift during approach to maintain the glide slope. Observers can see a tremendous amount of flap movement during the aircrafts approach to the deck.

These movements are all controlled by the computer to provide the pilot what they want – stable glideslope to the deck. The F/A-18E/F and EA-18G control laws are being modified to feature the same Delta Flight path in an initiative called “Magic Carpet.”

F-35C from VFA-101 Grim Reapers crosses the deck for fueling on the USS George Washington (CVN-73) during DT-III with VX-23 August 15, 2016

F-35C from VFA-101 Grim Reapers crosses the deck for fueling on the USS George Washington (CVN-73) during DT-III with VX-23 August 15, 2016

As Briggs explained, DT-III is to prepare the aircraft launch and recovery bulletins (ALB/ARB). These are the operating guides the Navy will utilize to determine the appropriate launch and recovery parameters for the aircraft, given weights and conditions. These bulletins are required for operations, and ensure the aircraft can safely launch and recover with the desired loads to complete assigned missions.

F-35C from VFA-101 Grim Reapers landing on the USS George Washington (CVN-73) during DT-III with VX-23 August 15, 2016

F-35C from VFA-101 Grim Reapers landing on the USS George Washington (CVN-73) during DT-III with VX-23 August 15, 2016

Recently appointed to the new position, Director of Joint Strike Fighter Fleet Integration, Rear Admiral Roy “Trigger” Kelley was also aboard the USS George Washington. Kelley will be directing the F-35C program towards IOC between August 2018 and Feb 2019. Kelley is excited about the capabilities the F-35C will bring to the Fleet; first day access into contested areas that host sophisticated integrated air defense systems; the ability to utilize stealth and sensors to define the battlespace combined with advanced command and control capabilities that will empower the entire fleet.

DT-III is a significant milestone, and it is clear the F-35C is now tracking very quickly and methodically to a IOC with the U.S. Navy.

F-35C from VX-23 "Salty Dogs" executes a last second wave-off with F-35Cs from VX-23 and VFA-101 "Grim Reapers" in background. During DT-III on the USS George Washington (CVN-73) Monday, August 15.

F-35C from VX-23 “Salty Dogs” executes a last second wave-off with F-35Cs from VX-23 and VFA-101 “Grim Reapers” in background. During DT-III on the USS George Washington (CVN-73) Monday, August 15.

The Aviationist would like to thank the following for their support: Sylvia Pierson, F-35 ITF/JPO PA; CDR Dave Hecht, Naval Air Force Atlantic PAO; Capt. Timothy Kuehhas, CO USS George Washington; and the many supporting PAOs on and off shore, pilots, engineers, and C-2 Greyhound crews. The entire US Navy team were professional, gracious hosts.

Image credit: U.S. Navy and Todd Miller

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This fantastic video celebrates the French Super Etendard attack jets that flew for the last time today

A crazy cool clip to say good-bye to the SEM (Super Étendard Modernise).

On Jul. 12, 2016, the French Super Étendard Modernise of the Marine Nationale (French Navy) was retired from active service, 42 years after the subsonic attack jet performed its first flight.

The aircraft, an advanced development of the Étendard IVM that made its maiden flight in October 1974 and entered the active service in June 1978 has taken part to almost all the conflicts that have seen the French Navy participation in the last 40 years: Lebanon, Kosovo, Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya.

During nearly four decades, the jet underwent a series of upgrades: the pure attack Étendard IVMs were retired from French service whilst the SEM became the French Navy’s primary maritime strike and reconnaissance aircraft, capable to deliver PGMs (Precision Guided Munitions).

Along with the French Navy, also Iraq and Argentina operated the Super Étendard in combat: the first used it for maritime attack against oil tankers and merchant shipping during the Iraq-Iran War; the second flew the aircraft as Exocet anti-ship missile platform during the 1982 Falklands War (Malvinas for the Argentine).

The aircraft, that will be replaced by the “omnirole” Rafale M jet, undertook its final carrier launch with the French Navy on Mar. 17, 2016.

The following video shows some cool footage of the SEM at work: PGMs, flares, low-level flying, carrier landing, etc.

Enjoy!

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Join the “Bounty Hunters” of VFA-2 flying the F/A-18F Super Hornet from USS Washington

Here’s another cool, long Naval Aviation video.

The following video was filmed by F/A-18F Super Hornet pilots from the “Bounty Hunters” of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 2 embarked on the USS George Washington (CVN 73) aircraft carrier in 2015 during the Southern Seas deployment within the U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command/U.S. 4th Fleet AOR (Area Of Responsibility).

The video offers the usual collection of cool footage: air combat, formation flying, low level flying, high and low altitude air-to-air refueling (including “buddy” refueling from another Super Hornet), firing practice and much “condensation clouds” generated during high-g maneuvering.

During the deployment the F/A-18F Super Hornets of VFA-2 took also part in the 56th edition of UNITAS, the U.S. Navy‘s longest annual multinational maritime exercise held in two phases: UNITAS Pacific, hosted by Chile, in October 2015 and UNITAS Atlantic, hosted by Brazil in November 2015.

Enjoy!

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USS Eisenhower entered the Med Sea not to pound Daesh but to test alternative fuel

The USS Dwight D. Eisenhower Carrier Strike Group (IKE CSG) supports the Great Green Fleet initiative.

The USS Eisenhower and the ship of its CSG entered the Mediterranean Sea through the Strait of Gibraltar on Jun. 13, 2016.

The IKE CSG consists of the aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69), Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 3, guided-missile cruisers USS San Jacinto (CG 56) and USS Monterey (CG 61), and Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) 26 with its associated guided-missile destroyers USS Roosevelt (DDG 80), USS Mason (DDG 87), USS Nitze (DDG 94) and USS Stout (DDG 55).

With the arrival of IKE CSG, two are the carrier strike groups operating in the 6th Fleet AOO (Area Of Operations): USS Harry S. Truman Carrier Strike Group is also in the Med conducting combat sorties in support of Operation Inherent Resolve, the US-led air war on Daesh in Syria and Iraq.

The presence of two flattops demonstrates the mobility, flexibility and power projection capability of the USN as well as Washington’s commitment to safety and security in the region.

However, IKE CSG is not operating in the Med to pound Islamic State targets, at least for the moment: as part of the Great Green Fleet Initiative, which emphasizes use of energy conservation measures as a key combat enabler to allow ships to go farther, stay longer and deliver more firepower, USS Eisenhower will conduct Great Green Fleet operations in Europe. These will involve a multi-day passing exercise (PASSEX) with units of the Italian Navy’s Flotta Verde highlighting energy conservation operations involving refueling at sea (RAS) event during which an Italian oiler will refuel IKE CSG ships with advanced alternative fuel (F76 equivalent).

According to the DoD “the centerpiece of the Great Green Fleet is a Carrier Strike Group (CSG) that deploys on alternative fuels, including nuclear power for the carrier and a blend of advanced biofuel made from beef fat and traditional petroleum for its escort ships. These biofuels have been procured by DON [Department Of Navy] at prices that are on par with conventional fuels, as required by law, and are certified as “drop-in” replacements that require no engine modifications or changes to operational procedures. The CSG also uses energy-efficient technologies and operating procedures referred to as Energy Conservation Measures (ECMs) during the course of its normal operations.”

Even though the IKE CSG does not take part in the raids, the Truman is not the only naval aviation force conducting air strikes on Daesh: U.S. Marine Corps AV-8B Harriers flying from USS Boxer (LHD 4) in the Arabian Gulf joined have joined Operation Inherent Resolve, marking the first naval aviation combat strike missions of OIR launched from Navy warships in two different operational theaters.

 

Russian Tu-142 appears over Syria for the first time (the day after the USN launched first strikes from the Med Sea)

One day after the U.S. Navy launched the first strikes from the Mediterranean a Russian Tu-142, an aircraft developed for reconnaissance and Anti-Submarine Warfare, was spotted over Aleppo, Syria.

The following video, allegedly filmed on Jun. 5, 2016, at Aleppo, Syria clearly shows a Russian Bear flying overhead.

Based on the barely visible search radar underneath the fuselage and the characteristic tail with a MAD (Magnetic Anomaly Detector) boom, the aircraft seems to be a Tu-142M “Bear F”, a reconnaissance and ASW variant derived from the iconic Tu-95 Bear bomber.

Whilst the “standard” Tu-95s have already been used to carry out air strikes against Syrian ground targets beginning in November last year, the one spotted over Aleppo would be (if confirmed) the first Tu-142 to take part in the air war over Syria.

As said the Tu-142 was developed as a maritime patrol and anti-submarine aircraft. However, it is believed to be able to carry different sensor packages and some believe the Bear F could be used as an ISR (Intelligence Surveillance Reconnaissance) platform, to pinpoint targets for tactical strike aircraft.

However, as long-range naval reconnaissance plane, the Tu-142 could also have been tasked to keep an eye on the USS Truman CSG (Carrier Strike Group): a “response” of Moscow to the first air strikes launched by an aircraft carrier from the eastern Mediterranean Sea since 2003.