Category Archives: Military Aviation

U.S. Air Force Issues “Gag” Order on Public Affairs Reporting: Is Something Up?

Order for Retraining of Public Affairs Officers Signals Tighter Control on Reporting.

The U.S. Air Force has issued new, more controlled directives for its interaction with media reporters. The new directives may significantly limit the access journalists have to reporting on some stories about the U.S. Air Force. Officials within the U.S. Defense Department and U.S. Air Force handed down a memo on March 1, 2018 titled, “OPSEC and Public Engagement Reset” announcing new, more controlled restrictions on media reporting.

Included in the March 1 USAF Public Engagement Reset directive is the specification that, “Media embeds, media base visits and interviews are suspended until further notice.” The statement goes on to read, “Limited exceptions may be provided by SAF/PA.” (Secretary of the Air Force/Public Affairs).

The increasingly evolving defense and aerospace media relies heavily on access to military facilities and personnel to generate a wide variety of stories. Storylines, like the ones you read here on The, range from public interest stories that inspire young people to pursue a military career to military technology, reporting on news about training and operations and stories about historical topics.

The U.S. Air Force and other military services work in cooperation with media outlets to provide access to bases, training areas and personnel for the purpose of generating news stories in promotion of military doctrine and in compliance with the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment that guarantees freedom of the press.

Journalists who report on U.S. Air Force subjects have, in general, voluntarily maintained a balanced relationship between maintaining operational security in the interest of overall national security and bringing news stories to the public audience. Reporters know that if they intentionally or inadvertently report on a topic that violates or presses the limits of maintaining operational security (OPSEC) their access will be revoked and they may create a potentially dangerous circumstance putting U.S. service members and defense initiatives at risk. For all defense journalists, maintaining the balance between operational security and freedom of speech in reporting is a significant responsibility and delicate balancing act.

Dr. Heather Wilson, Secretary of the Air Force, conducts a media interview at Holloman AFB in 2017 during a media event. Media specific events grant exclusive access to multiple news outlets providing a broad spectrum of perspectives and analysis on Air Force news. (Photo:

The reasons for this March 1, 2018 change in media directives for the U.S. Air Force could be multi-fold.

During the last decade defense media has evolved and expanded significantly to include vastly greater numbers of media outlets. The quality and credibility of the outlets range from casual social media to major international network news media. Since the onset of media proliferation most of the military services at the national level have done little to adapt their media services to work safely and effectively with the greater number and scale of media outlets. As a result, some public affairs operations have had greatly increased workloads with little strategic direction set against the backdrop of the evolution in media. For the most part, the system has worked well, but the two entities occasionally must moderate the sometimes-conflicting motives of the media to release compelling stories and the Air Force to maintain security. One example was the September, 2017 fatal accident of U.S. Air Force pilot Lt. Col. Eric Schultz.

Lt. Col. Schultz’s remarkable career eventually led to his involvement in classified operations over the vast Nellis Ranges in Nevada. When he died in an accident on September 5, 2017 popular aviation media was rife with speculation about what Lt. Col. Schultz’s mission may have been at the time. Some outlets questioned if Lt. Col. Schultz’s death was being kept classified to protect specific air force programs from criticism. The Air Force was quick to issue media statements from the command level dispelling those theories.

Another reason for changes in Air Force public relations may be more sensational. Several new key technologies may be reaching a level of maturity that mandates a reset of security to protect them from being compromised. The Air Force and aerospace contractors have been selectively public in their disclosures about major programs like the new Long Range Strike-Bomber (LRS-B). But as more media outlets across the entire spectrum press harder and harder for a “scoop” the necessary operational security surrounding these programs becomes more difficult to maintain.

Finally, another contributing factor to the change in Air Force media policy may be that the current internal system is simply overloaded. Given the increase in media outlets and growth in public interest and new story lines the current Air Force public affairs system is trying to sip water from a fire hose. There are simply too many media outlets, reporters asking for access and stories and too few Air Force public affairs personnel to moderate the exploding demand for media against the very real need to maintain operational security while ensuring the media outlets are producing quality media.

This new media restriction couldn’t come at a worse time for the Air Force from a recruiting perspective. A central problem facing the U.S. Air Force is a critical pilot shortage. While there may be no quick fix for producing proficient new Air Force pilots a reduction in the volume of inspiring media about Air Force careers will not help drive new officers and airmen to join the Air Force.

Brigadier General Brook Leonard, Commander of the 56th Fighter Wing, speaks to reporters during a media briefing at an F-16 training facility. (Photo:

An embarrassing incident on social media from January, 2018 at Nellis AFB in Nevada was also highlighted in the news earlier this year. USAF Tech. Sgt. Geraldine Lovely of the 99th Force Support Squadron at Nellis posted derogatory comments about subordinates on a social media platform. Here angry remarks, that included profanity and racial slurs, were viewed by over 1 million people and shared over 8,000 times. Tech. Sgt. Lovely was subsequently disciplined and in-service training for the use of social media by Air Force personnel was initiated in response to the incident.

If there is a singular theme to this story it is that media and stories have expanded and changed faster than Air Force public relations capabilities. This, set against a backdrop of what may be some emerging (and exciting) new technologies for the Air Force has caused the story faucet to be turned off. Now it is up to reporters to figure out innovative ways to quench readers’ thirst for Air Force news in this new information draught.

Top image: News reporters interview Maj. Henry Schantz, commander of the U.S. Air Force F-22 Raptor Demonstration Team, at the Kentucky Air National Guard Base in Louisville, Ky., on April 18, 2012. Schantz, who is based at Langley Air Force Base, Va., will be piloting the F-22 in Louisville’s 22nd annual Thunder Over Louisville air show, to be held along the banks of the Ohio River on April 21. The Raptor is the U.S. military’s premier fighter aircraft, with capabilities that are unmatched by any other plane. (U.S. Air Force Photo by Maj. Dale Greer)

Saab GlobalEye Airborne Early Warning & Control Aircraft Completes First Flight

Saab’s new AEW&C aircraft has successfully completed its maiden flight.

On Mar. 14, Saab GlobalEye, a modified Bombardier Global 6000 jet turned into surveillance platform, took off on its first flight at 12.52 LT from Saab’s airfield in Linköping, Sweden.

The aircraft was officially unveiled to the media on Feb. 23, 2018. It carries a full suite of sophisticated sensors including the powerful new extended range radar (Erieye ER), an AESA (active electronically scanned array) radar. The Erieye ER is contained within the same “skibox” fairing used by other AEW platforms (i.e. the Hellenic Air Force EMB-145H), but new technologies, such as gallium nitride transmit/receive modules are said to provide a 70% increase in detection range.

The aircraft is also equipped with the Leonardo Seaspray 7500E X-band maritime search radar and a FLIR Systems EO/IR (electro-optical/infra-red) turret below the nose.

The GlobalEye launch customer is the United Arab Emirates Armed Forces, where it is known as the Swing Role Surveillance System (SRSS). Three aircraft have been ordered in 2015. The SRSS won’t be the UAE AF’s first AEW&C platform: two Saab 340AEW&C were delivered as an interim solution between 2010 and 2011. Although it’s not clear what will happen to these two aircraft as the new GlobalEye enters active service, the new assets, with the first application of the Erieye ER, will give the UAE a pretty unique AEW force among the Gulf States, with simultaneous airborne, maritime, and ground surveillance capability. Moreover, the UAE AF is about to be equipped with other heavily-modified Global 6000 aircraft: two such planes are reportedly being modified by Marshall Group at Cambridge, UK, into ELINT/SIGINT platforms.

The maiden flight of the GlobalEye, preceded by a series of ground trials including high and low speed taxi tests (during those the aircraft started “pinging” on ADS-B), lasted 1 hour 46 minutes. During the flight, the aircraft (with registration SE-RMY) could be tracked online on Flightradar24 portal.

The GlobalEye, registration SE-RMY, could be tracked online during its first flight by means of ADS-B. (Image: screenshot from Flightradar24).

According to Saab, the test flight was important to collect extensive flight-test data using the on-board instrumentation suite. This data is then used to verify the aircraft performance and associated modelling.

“The first flight is the second major milestone for the GlobalEye programme within a very short space of time. Yet again we have demonstrated that we are delivering on our commitments and that we are on track with our production of the world’s most advanced swing-role surveillance system,” said Anders Carp, Senior Vice President and head of Saab’s business area Surveillance, in a public release.

“Today’s flight went as planned, with the performance level matching our high expectations. The aircraft’s smooth handling was just as predicted and a real pleasure for me to fly,” said Magnus Fredriksson, Saab Experimental Test Pilot.

Image credit: Saab

Check Out This Interesting Video Of The Italian Typhoons At Work in Estonia During Operation Baltic Eagle

The clip shows also an “interaction” with a Russian Navy Su-30SM.

As part of the Task Force Air (TFA) 36° Stormo (Wing), four Italian Air Force Typhoons are currently deployed to Ämari Air Base, Estonia, to augment NATO’s Baltic Air Policing mission. Together with the Royal Danish Air Force lead detachment at Siaullai, Lithuania, the task of the Italian Operation “Baltic Eagle” is to provide 24/7 fighter capabilities that can be launched by the CAOC at Uedem, Germany, in response to unidentified air tracks in the Baltic Region.

Since early January, the Typhoons of the Aeronautica Militare (Italian Air Force) have already logged six A-Scramble (Alert Scrambles) along with several T-Scramble (T for Training) ones. The following video has been released by the Italian MoD to show the Eurofighters during their daily activities in Estonia. Along with the cool cockpit footage, there are some interesting “things” worth of note: the Russian Il-20 Coot intercepted on Mar. 2, 2018; two Su-27s escorting an Il-20 (not clear whether this is the same shadowed during the Mar. 2 mission); the joint sorties with the RDAF F-16s, the U.S. F-16 of the TSP (Theater Security Package) supporting Operation Atlantic Resolve as well as the Swedish Gripens of the FSTE (Finland Sweden Training Event); the SMI (Slow Mover Intercept) activities conducted with the Estonian An-2 and L-39 aircraft. At 00:28 you can also see some maneuvering during a close encounter with a Russian Navy Su-30SM.

This is the second time the ItAF deploy to the Baltic region to support NATO BAP mission. From Jan. 1 to Aug. 27, 2015, as part of the TFA (Task Force Air) based at Šiauliai, Lithuania, four Typhoons of the 4°, 36° and 37° Stormo (the three Wings that fly the Euro-canard) logged about 900 flying hours, launching for 40 A-Scrambles (Alert Scrambles) and more than 160 T-Scrambles (Training Scrambles).

As already explained in a previous post, no photograph nor footage of intercepted Russian aircraft were released during and after the 2015 detachment, even though the Italians had some really interesting close encounters with some pretty interesting aircraft, including some Tu-22 Backfire, Tu-160 Blackjack and Su-27 Flanker jets. Therefore, something has changed since then.

Two Typhoons of the TFA 36 Wing. Note the configuration that includes AIM-120 AMRAAM and IRIS-T missiles (image credit: Italian MoD)

Interestingly, while securing its national airspace and augmenting Allied Air Command’s Baltic Air Policing mission, the Italian Air Force permanently conducts Air Policing over Slovenia, and in conjunction with the Hellenic Air Force, over Albania: in total, the Italian Typhoons provide Air Policing for six NATO nations (Italy, Albania, Slovenia, Lithuania, Estonia and Latvia).

Image credit: Italian MoD

73 Years Ago Today: The Deadliest Air Raid in History, Operation Meetinghouse.

Worse than the Nuclear Strikes on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, The Tokyo Fire Raid.

01:00 Hrs Local, Tokyo, Japan. March 9-10, 1945.

All of Tokyo is a funeral pyre.

Burning at over 1,100° Fahrenheit, rising flames create their own hurricane vacuum that inhales everything combustible to fuel the growing, miles-wide conflagration.

Fluttering to the ground in a wobbly topple incendiary bomblets continue to rain down from the night sky. These are not normal aerial bombs. The tiny bomblets are soft blobs of gooey, formless terror. They are E-46 chemical incendiary bombs or “fire bombs”.

The E-46s, one type of several incendiaries used in the raid, are dropped a mile above the city. They fall inside what looks like a conventional bomb casing built in Mays Landing, New Jersey. The nine retainer straps on the outside of the bomb break in unison, allowing the cluster bomb canister to open. They dispense a blizzard of 47 smaller, soft cheesecloth bags. The bags continue to tumble to earth. There is no concussive explosion or shockwave. No shattering glass. They quietly plop onto thatched rooftops and wooden buildings and begin to burn. And burn.

It is a strange, slow-motion attack. There are few thundering explosions. The air raid siren rises in volume through the night air. Then the low rumble of aircraft in the darkness overhead, the quiet pop and smack of incendiary packages bursting open and landing on rooftops as the first bomblets hit. A rising chorus of panicked screams follows as the fires begin to spread. The small fire from one bomblet quickly connects to another, then another, and then more. Soon the fires consume a city block, then the blocks of fire connect. More bags of fire land. The growing fire monster needs air to survive, and it begins a massive, city-wide yawn for oxygen to fuel its building inferno. Wind speeds pick up, pulling paper, cloth, even people into the building fire-hurricane.

Hell has come to earth.

Overhead a procession of 300 of the world’s largest strategic bomber, the Boeing B-29 Superfortress, rains flaming death with no quarter. This is Operation Meetinghouse. It remains the single deadliest air raid in human history, with a higher attributed death toll than either the Hiroshima or Nagasaki nuclear strikes or the fire raids on Dresden, Germany and the strategic bombing of German cities like Berlin.

File photo from WWII shows B-29s dropping incendiary bombs during a daylight raid over Japan. (Photo: USAF Archive)

The number of Japanese deaths in the Operation Meetinghouse air raid on the night of March 9-10, 1945 is disputed. The morbid accounting estimates a “low” of “88,000” (U.S. Strategic Bombing Survey, 1945) to a high of 200,000 deaths- a fifth of a million- by Elise K. Tipton, professor of Japanese studies at the University of Sydney, Australia. Over 1 million people are homeless. More will die of burns, disease and malnutrition in the coming days and weeks as every relief effort is not just stretched to the breaking point, it is shattered many times beyond it.

The stage for this human catastrophe was set years earlier, beginning with the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941. But the factors that converged to enable the severity of Operation Meetinghouse took years to build, like a stack of petroleum soaked rags piling up in a corner until one day…

Japan was geographically isolated. Its conquest of the Pacific region was brutal beyond measure. Prisoners of the Japanese were often tortured, malnourished and diseased. There was little humanitarian treatment of prisoners. Many island populations were forced into slavery by the occupying Japanese. During one forced-march of U.S. and Philippine prisoners from Saysain Point and Mariveles, Bataan through almost 70 miles of jungle trail to a train station at Camp O’Donnell on April 9, 1942, as many as 18,650 prisoners died, including an estimated 600 Americans. The atrocity became known as the Bataan Death March. It followed closely on the surprise attack at Pearl Harbor a few months earlier.

The aggression between the Japanese and Allied forces was easily stoked by fears of an invasion in the United States. Barrage balloons flew over west coast U.S. cities. Fears of Japanese submarines landing saboteurs on the California beaches ran rampant. Following the Pearl Harbor attacks the Japanese stoked American fear by using crude balloon bombs released from submarines in an ineffective attempt to start forest fires in the American west. Japanese-Americans were confined to internment camps for “security” but were treated humanely compared to allied prisoners of the Japanese.

Both sides leveraged the racial differences between the Japanese and the Anglo-Americans to reinforce the notion that the other side was not human, but monsters who must be destroyed. Both populations bought into the narrative that this was a titanic battle for survival, and that the loser would be annihilated. In modern terms the war was portrayed as a kind of zombie-apocalypse. Propaganda portrayed the “Japs” as miniature, soulless yellow rodents with buck teeth and babies impaled on their bayonets. The Japanese painted the Americans as pale, marauding giants bent on murder, global domination, greed and conquest attempting to drive the Japanese to extinction.

In the months and years preceding Operation Meetinghouse the Pacific island-hopping campaign by the United States gathered momentum with the invasions of Rabaul, Guadalcanal and the Solomon Islands, advancing across the Pacific toward Japan.

Incendiary aerial bombs were tested on mock targets at the Dugway Proving Grounds in the U.S. (Photo: Standard Oil Company Archives)

But the distances between the islands were vast, making logistics difficult and creating a constant fury of running sea battles. The U.S. was making progress though. As the succession of invasions got closer to the Japanese home islands the fighting took on an even more maniacal brutality. In February, 1945, the U.S. invaded the island of Iwo Jima, the first landing on Japanese home territory. The fighting was horrific. Over 6,000 U.S. Marines, soldiers and sailors died while Japanese casualties were above 20,000. Iwo Jima was only 9 square miles. The Japanese and American forces traded nearly 3,000 lives per square mile on the barren island.

If the ratio of 3,000 lives lost for every one square mile of territory regained were applied to all of the Japanese islands covering 145,932 square miles the body count could rise to… 437,796,000 deaths, an impossible number six times greater than Japan’s total population. The improbable equation suggested Japan faced annihilation if invaded.

During strategic planning meetings in the U.S. estimates of the number of Allied casualties from an invasion of the Japanese home islands mentioned numbers that exceeded one million Americans. Japanese casualties would be much higher. Japan’s total population recorded in late 1945 was 71,998,104. In Russia’s defense of its homeland from invasion by the Germans they had somehow endured a staggering 26.6 million dead according to a 1993 study by the Russian Academy of Sciences, the greatest loss of human life by any country, in any war. It was reasonable to suggest Japan may lose well over 10 million people if the U.S. attempted an invasion of the main Japanese islands prior to forcing a surrender.

In the brutal calculus of global war there had to be a discounted solution to the horrifying equation.

Unbeknownst to nearly every person in the U.S. government and military, there was a small group of women and men working on a war-ending weapon in the remote desert of the southwestern United States, but that secret weapon, a bomb that released the energy of a splitting atom, was months away and still not a sure thing.

In the interim the U.S. felt it had only one option; massive fire-bombing of Japanese cities to destroy their war manufacturing and demoralize their population, forcing capitulation. It was late February, 1945.

The March 9-10 Operation Meetinghouse fire bombing centered on Japanese defense infrastructure. The Japanese had dispersed a significant amount of defense-related manufacturing to cottage industries in the outlying areas of Tokyo and other cities. Attempting to destroy each one with precision high-altitude bombing was impossible.

The Americans had a new super-weapon capable of striking Japan. It was a gigantic, gleaming silver bomber bigger than anything seen before. The huge plane was sleek and aerodynamic, with long, narrow wings and four massive engines prone to catching fire. It’s long, cylindrical fuselage was pressurized for high-altitude flight without supplemental oxygen and the crew compartments were heated. Even its defensive fire-control system was remote-controlled. The forward gun turret was fitted with four .50 caliber machine guns, twice the number on the top turret of the older B-17. Unlike the B-17 bomber crews, crews of the new mega-bomber did not have to wear heavy, electrically-heated flight suits and rely on oxygen to stay alive at altitude. These bomber crews fought in tropical utility shirt-sleeves.

The new plane was the Boeing B-29 Superfortress. My father was a draftsman and engineer for Boeing Aircraft in Seattle, Washington at “Plant 2” near the Duwamish River then. He worked on the top-secret development of the B-29. One of his assignments was to help draw plans for a pressurized crew tunnel through the bomb bay compartment from the front of the aircraft to the rear. He was sworn to secrecy during the aircraft’s development. Not even my mother knew what he was working on. Another project was to prepare drawings of the remotely controlled defensive gun control system.

The Boeing B-29 Superfortress was a massive technological advancement over previous long range bombers. (Photo: USAF Archive)

The B-29 Superfortress was designed for high altitude strategic attacks. But the early high altitude airstrikes on Japan by B-29s were largely ineffective. The conventional explosive bombs did little damage on a large enough scale. Bomber crews were also wrestling with a new weather phenomenon encountered by the high-flying B-29. They discovered a consistent, ultra-fast wind aloft that ruined bombing accuracy called the “jet stream”.

In January, 1945, the commander of strategic air operations against the Japanese home islands was Major General Curtis LeMay. A somewhat controversial figure, LeMay was a pragmatist when it came to achieving military victory. It was simply a matter of lethal arithmetic. LeMay ordered the B-29s to begin bombing at night from low altitude instead of during the day. To improve aircraft performance and bomb payload, he ordered all of their defensive machine guns and their gunners removed.

LeMay’s Superfortresses would attack Tokyo on March 9-10 under the cover of darkness from low altitude, showering targets with fire bombs. Pinpoint accuracy was unnecessary. The first wave of bombers would drop their weapons to form a gigantic, flaming “X” to mark the center of the target. The rest of the Superfortresses would simply drop theirs as close as they could. The fires would do the rest.

Map of Tokyo showing areas most likely to burn during Operation Meetinghouse. (Photo: USAF Archive)

It was difficult to keep the B-29s flying. Their four huge Wright R-3350 Duplex-Cyclone radial engines, the largest ever, were prone to catching fire. Maintenance was constant to prevent engine fires. When the heavily loaded bombers strained to take off, heaving massive bomb and fuel loads into the air, crashes were common.

Some aircraft were to launch from Tinian and Saipan, others from Guam. There were two parallel 8,500 foot runways recently built on Guam specifically to support the B-29 strikes on Japan. From this field Superfortresses of the 421st Bombardment Squadron, 504th Bombardment Group, would take-off.

Author Robert F. Dorr wrote what may be the definitive account of the Tokyo fire raid in his book “Mission to Tokyo”. Dorr wrote that while nearly all of the air crews in the B-29s on the night of March 9, 1945 were experienced veterans, many of them felt they would not survive this mission.

Major General LeMay’s order for the Superfortresses to fly without their defensive guns was not well received by crews. Robert F. Dorr wrote that the commander of one B-29 named “Lady Annabelle”, Capt. Percy Usher Tucker said, “I’m not leaving guns behind”. Other crew members said, “I’m not sure what General LeMay is thinking.” While official historical records did not indicate it, some crews kept guns and gunners on their aircraft, not putting the gunners’ names on the crew manifests for the mission.

Prior to Operation Meetinghouse, no bombing raid this large had been flown this low. Low altitude bombing missions were prone to heavy losses, as proven by the infamous Ploesti oil field raids in Romania in 1943. At Ploesti, losses of the B-24 Liberator bombers were horrendous when they flew into a maelstrom of enemy flak and the rising smoke of burning oil tanks on the ground.

While numerous historical accounts all agree that once the B-29 crews were airborne they were all-business, on take-off it was different. Most of the crew except the pilots sat idly in the dark aircraft hoping against a catastrophic engine failure with a full fuel and bomb load. One starboard gunner, Cpl. John R. Dodd, had a white-knuckle grip on his rosary. His voice came over the intercom saying, “I can’t do this, I can’t do this. I can’t do this.”

Oddly, the B-29s did not fly in formation on the way to Japan, but in a long, single file procession stretched out over miles and hours.

Reports differ about the lights being on or off in Tokyo that night. Some aircrews interviewed by author Robert F. Dorr told him they saw lights in the streets below. Japanese survivors say the standard air raid prevention protocols were in place, but often ignored. There was a quarter moon over Tokyo the night of the strike, so most B-29s made easy work of the long navigation to Tokyo. They arrived over the target accurately within minutes of their assigned time on target.

Few photos of the raid exist, but many survivors painted their impressions of its horrors in the years after. (Photo: USAF Archive)

The pilots handed control over to their bombardiers who steered the aircraft to the precise release points using the autopilot slaved to their Norden bomb sights. Then they dropped their bombs.

Just before 2:00 AM in Tokyo the air raid was ending. Rising heat from the conflagration below caused massive turbulence for the last waves of bombers as they arrived over Tokyo. The planes bucked wildly on columns of ascending hot air. The target below was alternately obscured by smoke or illuminated by waves of flame below. Accurate bombing was impossible. So, the planes simply dumped their lethal ordinance. Losses of B-29s over the target were moderate.

When it was over, Tokyo was destroyed.

Interviews with survivors of Operation Meetinghouse on both sides are eerie. They both say some of the same things. The day after the raid there was an oppressive silence. In Tokyo, charred survivors, many with clothes singed off their bodies, wandered listlessly back into the smoke and embers of Tokyo’s ruins to find anything they could salvage. There was little. Among B-29 bomber crews who returned from the raid there was fatigue, exhaustion and the onset of a new phenomenon that did not yet have a name, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Neither side emerged from Operation Meetinghouse unchanged. Even the granite-faced General Curtis LeMay seemed sobered by the aftermath.
The B-29 crews fought with tenacity to reach their targets and strike it accurately. While the moral ramifications of the raid would be debated to this day, these crews did not have the luxury of reflection on their mission. Japan was a desperate and lethal adversary entering its death throes. There was no negotiation, no time or space for moderation.

From the altitude of 73 years that has elapsed since Operation Meetinghouse aerial bombing has evolved tremendously. While “humane” is never a word to describe aerial bombing, airstrikes have become more precise and produce less “collateral damage”, the antiseptic term coined for civilian casualties. Operation Meetinghouse was also one more straw added to the camel’s back of Japan’s resistance that was final broken by the nuclear strikes at Hiroshima and Nagasaki later that year.

In retrospect Operation Meetinghouse is largely missing from popular U.S. history of WWII. Few people know it happened. U.S. history classes almost never mention it, even though it was the largest air strike in history. But remembering this cataclysmic, deadliest air strike is key to avoiding any similar repeat in the future.

One of only two currently flying Boeing B-29 Superfortresses, “FiFi”. (Photo: Tom Demerly/

The Italian F-35A Stealth Jets Declared Operational In The Air-To-Air Role

The Italian Air Force F-35A Lightning II have successfully achieved the IOC (Initial Operational Capability) in the air-to-air role.

The first Italian F-35A Lightning II aircraft assigned to the 13° Gruppo (Squadron) of the 32° Stormo (Wing), based at Amendola air base, in southeastern Italy, have achieved the IOC (Initial Operational Capability), the Italian Air Force has announced.

Since Mar. 1, 2018, the first five stealth aircraft assigned to the Aeronautica Militare have been supporting the SSSA (Servizio Sorveglianza Spazio Aereo – Air Space Surveillance Service) with a Standard Conventional Load (SCL) that includes the AIM-120C5 AMRAAM (Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missile) missile. This means that, if needed, the 5th generation aircraft can undertake regular QRA (Quick Reaction Alert) shifts or be diverted from a different mission to intercept and identify unknown aircraft.

An armed F-35 sits inside the shelter at Amendola Air Base. AIM-120s are housed inside the weapon bays (hence not visible). Image credit: ItAF.

Whilts the F-35 is a multirole aircraft (hence an air-to-air capability should not be too surprising) all the Italian Air Force combat planes (including Tornado and AMX fighter bombers as well as the T-346 advanced jet trainers) are required to be fully capable in the air-to-air role to support Italy’s Air Defense.

Scramble in progress!

The IOC in the air-to-air role comes after a long period of training that has seen the F-35s perform T-Scrambles (Training Scrambles) as well as joint drills with Typhoons, G550 CAEW (Conformal Airborne Early Warning) and T-346 jets. Last year, the Italian Lightnings took part in their first national large scale drills during Vega 2017 multinational joint exercise.

ItAF F-35 about to taxi from the shelter.

In December 2016, the Italian Air Force became the very first service to take delivery of the 5th generation stealth jet outside of the U.S. The IOC in the air-to-ground role of the Italian JSF has not been declared yet.