For one week U.S. Air Force’s Southern Command undertook a surge of its operations against the trafficking of illicit drugs into the United States, using bombers flying as NTISR (non-traditional intelligence surveillance reconnaissance) aircraft.
U.S. Southern Command oversees an area covering more than 40 million square miles, a region whose major challenge is the war against trafficking of illicit drugs into the US.
For one week in August 2016, the Southern Command surged its anti-drug smuggling operations with bombers, KC-135 aerial refuelers, E-8 Joint STARS (Surveillance Target Attack Radar System) and E-3 Sentry AEW (Airborne Early Warning) aircraft that expanded their work supporting the United States Coast Guard and the JIATF-South (Joint Inter Agency Task Force South), the U.S. agency leading the fight against narco-traffickers.
Dubbed the “Big Week”, the operation saw the involvement of B-1 Lancers and B-52 Stratofortresses that were assigned the difficult task of flying over large areas of the ocean in search of suspected trafficker boats acting as non-traditional Intelligence Surveillance and Reconnaissance (NTISR) platforms.
The heavy bombers contributed to the surveillance mission sharing the data collected by the targeting systems and onboard sensors with multiple Naval-Coast Guard assets, something they usually don’t train too often.
Still, NTISR is a sort-of secondary mission for all the U.S. bombers performing on-call CAS (Close Air Support) in Afghanistan or Iraq, where they augment traditional ISR efforts by means of their targeting pods with downlink capabilities.
The operation resulted in six metric tons of cocaine seized or disrupted, illegal drug which never made it into the United States.
Stratotankers were important to expand Big Week’s operational reach keeping Air Force bombers in the air and adding critical hours to the surveillance mission, whereas intelligence personnel provided the required informational flow between aircraft, maritime, and intelligence assets so that, once detected, drugs could be taken off the water.
Big Week allowed the joint interdiction team to test their training in a real-world environment, cooperating with agencies and in a scenario and area they don’t typically operate out of.
According to the U.S. Air Force”Big Week was a vast operation, meant to show how members of different agencies and services could operate in a joint environment against a common threat. Big Week proved that a determined and organized drug interdiction team could effectively challenge illicit drug trafficking into the United States.”
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
Several aircraft flew over the advanced multi-mission guided-missile destroyer as it travelled to its new home port of Sand Diego.
In this post you can find the most interesting photos.
The top one (courtesy of Naval Air Systems Command) is particularly cool. It shows a Northrop Grumman MQ-4C Triton overflying USS Zumwalt.
U.S. Navy’s MQ-4C “Triton” Broad Area Maritime Surveillance (BAMS) unmanned aircraft system (UAS), is an ISR (Intelligence Surveillance Reconnaissance) platform under development that will complement the P-8A Poseidon within the Navy’s Maritime Patrol and Reconnaissance Force family of systems.
With a 130.9-foot wingspan, the drone features an AN/ZPY-3 multi-function active-sensor (MFAS) radar system, that gives the Triton the ability to cover more than 2.7 million square miles in a single mission that can last as long as 24 hours at a time, at altitudes higher than 10 miles, with an operational range of 8,200 nautical miles.
The U.S. Navy plans to procure 68 aircraft and 2 prototypes. The program received Milestone C low-rate initial production approval after a successful Milestone Decision Authority review at the end of September 2016.
161017-N-UZ648-029 CHESAPEAKE BAY, Md. (Oct. 17, 2016) An E-2C Hawkeye and a C-2A Greyhound assigned to Air Test and Evaluation Squadron (VX) 20 fly over USS Zumwalt (DDG 1000) as the ship travels to its new home port of San Diego, California. Zumwalt was commissioned in Baltimore, Maryland, Oct. 15 and is the first in a three-ship class of the Navy’s newest, most technologically advanced multi-mission guided-missile destroyers. (U.S. Navy photo by Erik Hildebrandt/Released)
161017-N-UZ648-054 CHESAPEAKE BAY, Md. (Oct. 17, 2016) A P-8A Poseidon assigned to Air Test and Evaluation Squadron (VX) 20 flies over USS Zumwalt (DDG 1000) as the ship travels to its new home port of San Diego, California. Zumwalt was commissioned in Baltimore, Maryland, Oct. 15 and is the first in a three-ship class of the Navy’s newest, most technologically advanced multi-mission guided-missile destroyers. (U.S. Navy photo by Erik Hildebrandt/Released)
161017-N-CE233-334 CHESAPEAKE BAY, Md. (Oct. 17, 2016) An SH-60R assigned to Air Test and Evaluation Squadron (HX) 21 flies near USS Zumwalt (DDG 1000) as the ship travels to its new home port of San Diego, California. Zumwalt was commissioned in Baltimore, Maryland, Oct. 15 and is the first in a three-ship class of the Navy’s newest, most technologically advanced multi-mission guided-missile destroyers. (U.S. Navy photo by Liz Wolter/Released)
An F-35 Lightning II Carrier Variant (CV) piloted by U.S. Marine Corps Maj. Robert “Champ” Guyette II, a test pilot from the F-35 Pax River Integrated Test Force (ITF) assigned to the Salty Dogs of Air Test and Evaluation Squadron (VX) 23, flies over the stealth guided-missile destroyer USS Zumwalt (DDG 1000) as the ship transits the Chesapeake Bay on Oct. 17, 2016. USS Zumwalt, the Navy’s newest and most technologically advanced surface ship, joined the fleet Oct. 15. The F-35C Lightning II — a next generation single-seat, single-engine strike fighter that incorporates stealth technologies, defensive avionics, internal and external weapons, and a revolutionary sensor fusion capability — is designed as the U.S. Navy’s first-day-of-war, survivable strike fighter. The U.S. Navy anticipates declaring the F-35C combat-ready in 2018. (U.S. Navy photo by Andy Wolfe/Released)
The guided missile destroyer USS Nitze (DDG 94) launched a TLAM strike against three coastal radar sites in Houthi-controlled territory on Yemen’s Red Sea coast.
On Oct. 13, at around 4AM LT, the U.S. Navy has launched a retaliatory strike against coastal Houthi-controlled radar sites in Yemen, after three American vessels, USS Nitze and USS Mason guided-missile destroyers, and the Austing-class USS Ponce Afloat Forward Staging Base (formerly, amphibious transport dock) were attacked twice in just three days in international waters off Yemen.
“Due to hostile acts, continuing and imminent threat of force, and multiple threats to vessels in the Bab-al Mandeb Strait, including U.S. naval vessels, Nitze struck the sites, which were used to attack U.S. ships operating in international waters, threatening freedom of navigation. Nitze is deployed to the 5th Fleet area of operations to support maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts.”
The footage below shows USS Nitze fire Tomahawk cruise missiles against Iran-backed Houthi targets that have threatened attacks against ships in the Red Sea.
The three U.S. warships have been operating in the vicinity of Bab el-Mandeb following the attack on the UAE-flagged high-speed transport vessel HSV Swiftseverely damaged after being attacked by the rebels with what is believed to be a Chinese C-802 anti-ship missile possibly provided by Iran.
The Tomahawk IV can hit at a range of 1,000 miles and can adjust its flight path to pursuit moving targets. Guidance can come from various platforms, including ISR (Intelligence Surveillance Reconnaissance) planes and tactical aircraft.
In an interview given at the end of 2013, PACAF commander General Hawk Carlisle said 5th gen. aircraft will provide forward target identification for strike missiles launched from a surface warship or submerged submarine, in the future. The PACAF commander described the ability of the F-22s, described as “electronic warfare enabled sensor-rich aircraft,” to provide forward targeting through their sensors for submarine based Tomahawks. It’s not known whether the U.S. Air Force has already implemented this capability, though.
The missile, launched through a Vertical Launch System (VLS), is guided by an operator that can redirect the TLAM towards pre-planned alternate targets, or bring the missile to a “holding area” where it can wait for a new target of opportunity. It also features an anti-jam GPS receiver for enhanced accuracy. By means of data link, the RGM-109E missile can download imagery and health status messages to the control station so as to give the operator the ability to change the mission in accordance with the battlefield and cruise conditions.
The images in this article were posted by the Royal Navy and show USS Hampton (SSN 767) from San Diego, emerging through thick ice to report its safe transit through the Bering Strait and to re-fix the boat’s position by GPS before continuing to U.S. Navy Ice Camp Sargo, around 170 miles north of Alaska’s Prudhoe Bay.
USS Hampton is one of the subs taking part in Ice Exercise (ICEX) 2016, a five-week exercise that include multiple arctic transits, a North Pole surfacing, scientific data collection and other training evolutions during their time in the region.
As mentioned above, the photos were released by the Royal Navy: two officers, Lt Cdr Moreland (HMS Astute) and Lt Harris (HMS Trenchant), are operating aboard USS Hampton, looking into the equipment, training and procedures needed to allow the Royal Navy’s hunter-killer boats – Trafalgar and Astute-class boats to safely return under the ice after more than a decade.