Category Archives: Military Aviation

F-35A Apparently Cleared for More Aerobatics During Airshows: New Video Shows A Full Aileron Roll Eventually Added To The Display

Can You Spot What’s New In This F-35A Heritage Flight Demo?

If you are a keen observer of airshow flight demonstration routines then you already know the USAF F-35A has not flown inverted as a part of its demonstration routine during the previous Heritage Flight displays.

Last year at the Aviation Nation airshow at Nellis AFB in Nevada this Author saw F-35A demonstration pilot USAF Major Will Andreotta, call sign “D-Rail”, momentarily approach inverted flight during a pull-out from a high performance pass following the formation flight portion of the Heritage Flight demo. But the F-35A did purposely not fly completely inverted due to administrative restrictions on the aircraft’s demonstration routines.

In the last Heritage Flight of the 2016 airshow season at Nellis AFB this was as close to inverted as the F-35A would fly, close, but not a completely inverted roll. (Image credit: Author)

It would appear some, or perhaps nearly all, of the demonstration flight restrictions have been removed based on this new video of a USAF F-35A Lightning II flying with an F-86 Sabre and a P-38 Lightning during the Heritage Flight demo at the Planes of Fame Airshow in Chino, California on May 6th and 7th 2017.

As you can see in the video, the F-35A does its relatively normal climb out, but then appears to maneuver somewhat more aggressively than was seen in the 2016 demonstration season where “G” load and aerobatic restrictions were imposed.

Most significantly, at the 1:29 point into the video the Heritage Flight formation calls for “break!” and performs its normal horizontal separation. At the final Heritage Flight of the season in 2016 at Nellis AFB the other aircraft in the formation passed one-by-one in review in front of the crowd line and executed a single, slow aileron roll. The F-35A was the only aircraft that did not perform the fully inverted roll, again, likely due to demonstration restrictions at the time.

In this new video, however, at the 1:36 point in the video the F-35 pulls slightly nose-up, then executes a rather smart looking right aileron roll, the first we’ve seen in any Heritage Flight or, for that matter, the first ever USAF F-35A complete aileron roll seen at an airshow.

At 1:36 into this video by Spencer Hughes the F-35 completes a full aileron roll. (screenshot from Spencer Hughes’s YouTube video)

Considered what other combat aircraft can do, an aileron roll is the least the F-35 can do to show a bit of maneuverability.

News outlet Aerospace Daily and Defense Report wrote in a May 17, 2017 story that the F-35A will fly its first aerial demonstration at the Paris Air Show this year, with Lockheed Martin pilots, not U.S. Air Force pilots, performing aerobatics in the skies above Le Bourget Airport.

Aerospace Daily went on to report that the Paris Air Show demonstration by the F-35A “Will showcase the maneuverability of Lockheed’s fifth-generation fighter, and perhaps lay to rest claims that the F-35 cannot match some fourth-generation aircraft in power and performance. The Joint Strike Fighter’s maneuverability was famously called into question in July 2015, when a blogger got his hands on a report in which the aircraft was outclassed by the F-16 in mock aerial combat.”

This new apparent relaxation of flight performance restrictions for the USAF F-35A means the 2017 flight demonstration season will likely be a bit more exciting than ever…

 

Salva

Watch This: F-35B Fires GAU-22 External Gun Pod in Flight

New Caliber Gun Provides Close Air Support Capability for U.S. Marines.

The U.S. Marine Corps Lockheed Martin F-35B Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter has completed the test firing of its externally mounted General Dynamics GAU-22 25mm gun pod.

The final aerial test firing took place on May 8, 2017 and was conducted by The Salty Dogs of Air Test and Evaluation Squadron (VX) 23’s Integrated Test Force (ITF) at Naval Air Station (NAS) Patuxent River.

Of particular interest in the video just released (that includes footage from several different sorties) is the variety of additional external stores carried on the test F-35Bs. The aircraft are shown with a version of the AIM-9X Sidewinder air-to-air missile and, in a separate flight, with what appears to be a 500lb laser guided bomb possibly a version of the GBU-12 Paveway II.

The new General Dynamics GAU-22 25mm gun pod uses a unique four-barrel configuration that was developed from the highly successful five-barrel, 25mm GAU-12/U gun also built by General Dynamics. The new GAU-22 gun, carried internally on the USAF F-35A variant and in the external pod for the U.S. Marines’ F-35B is and U.S. Navy F-35C is more than 40 pounds lighter and requires 20 percent less overall space than the earlier GAU-12, 5-barrel 25mm gun. The new GAU-22 weapon has a reported rate of fire of “up to 3,300 rounds per minute”. The rate of fire of aerial guns is often reported as “up to…” since the gun can take several seconds to achieve its maximum rate of fire because of the weight of the rotating gun barrels.

The GAU-22A Gun Pod. (Image credit: LM)

The successful in-flight test firing of the 25mm gun pod (started at the end of February), specifically on the U.S. Marine Corps F-35B, somehow addresses questions over the F-35 program’s ability to perform the close air support mission. Several analysts have expressed concern over whether the F-35 is suited for the close air support mission and is a suitable substitute for the CAS-specific A-10 Warthog.

Generally speaking it’s wrong to compare the F-35 with any other asset that was designed to perform a specific mission: the A-10 was built around a unique 40mm cannon nearly as long as the aircraft’s entire fuselage that was intended for the anti-armor close air support (CAS) mission.

While this initial test-firing does not resolve questions surrounding all of the F-35B’s close air support capabilities it is another successful step forward in the program’s progress. At least it can use the gun if called into action during a CAS mission!

The F-35 GAU-22/A gun has been among the most controversial topics: some criticised the fact that the Joint Strike Fighter’s gun can only hold 181 20mm rounds, fewer than the A-10 Thunderbolt’s GAU-8/A Avenger, that can hold some 1,174 30mm rounds.

Moreover, although it was designed with LO (Low Observabity) characteristics, the external pod degrades the F-35’s radar cross section making the 5th generation aircraft more visibile to radars. Still, this should be acceptable for the scenarios where the U.S. Marine Corps F-35B will be called to carry out CAS missions.

Salva

Salva

Salva

Salva

Salva

Salva

Salva

Salva

Russian Su-24 Fencer Combat Aircraft (Closely Watched By Swedish JAS 39 Gripen Jets) Buzz Dutch Navy Frigate In The Baltic

Russian Fencers have started buzzing NATO warships in the Baltic Sea again.

On May 17, two Russian Su-24M Fencer attack jets flew quite close to the Royal Netherlands Navy Frigate HNLMS Evertsen, operating in the Baltic Sea.

The two unarmed aircraft, escorted by Swedish JAS-39 Gripen jets in QRA (Quick Reaction Alert), come within 200 meters of the ship.

The Fencers that carried out the low passages over a Dutch Navy frigate in the Baltic. Highlighted is an accompanying JAS 39 Gripen. Credit: Royal Netherlands Navy.

The Fencer are not new to this kind of “overflights”: in Apr. 2016, some Su-24s performed as many as 20 overflights, within 1,000 yards of the ship, as low as 100 feet and 11 “very low simulated attack” over USS Donald Cook destroyer in the Baltic Sea. Two years earlier, in April 2014, a Russian Su-24MR, flew within 1,000 yards of the very same US Navy destroyer that was operating in the Black Sea following the crisis in Ukraine. At that time, a show of force considered  “provocative and inconsistent with international agreements.”

One of the two Russian Su-24 Fencer jets that “harassed” the Dutch frigate in the Baltic Sea on May 17.

This time the Dutch Navy has claimed “the passage wasn’t a threat to the ship.”

Indeed, HMLMS Evertsen is one of the four De Zeven Provinciën-class highly advanced air-defense and command frigates in service with the Dutch Navy.

It is specialised in the anti-air warfare equipped with a long-range surveillance SMART-L and the APAR multi-function radar. The warship is equipped with 32 Evolved Sea Sparrow Missiles launched by the Mk41 VLS (Vertical Launch System), for point defence; and 32 SM-2 Block IIIA, area defence missiles: a heavily armed warship that could probably counter the Su-24 threat pretty well.

Fast and low, one of the Russian Su-24s approaching the Dutch warships in the Baltics.

In the event of a real attack, the jets would have to employ stand-off weaponry

H/T Steven Bal for the heads-up. Image credit: Dutch Navy.

Salva

Newest Russian T-50 Stealth Aircraft Makes First Appearance in Spectacular New Camouflage

New Sukhoi Fifth Generation Fighter Uses Pixelated Color Scheme.

 Photos of the newest Sukhoi T-50-9 have surfaced on Russian aircraft spotter blogs and forums. According to Russian media the aircraft made its first flight to Komsomolsk-on-Amur on April 24, 2017. The flight remained secret and no public photos were made.

Between May 10 and May 12 Russian aircraft spotters began to see the new T-50-9 for the first time. The aircraft was identifiable by its new “bort” number, 509, and most significantly by a wild new pixelated paint scheme. The first photos came from the Zhukovsky region near Moscow. Some of the photos first appeared on the Twitter account of Vasily Kuznetsov with what appears to be a cell phone photo of a digital camera playback before the photos were even uploaded to the Internet. At least one air-to-air photo allegedly shows “509” with two 8,000 lt drop tanks.

The T-50 in the new color scheme (Image credit: Stepanov Yury/RussianPlanes.net)

Comparisons between the new T-50 and the U.S. F-22 have been popular on forums and in news stories. The short story is that the performance of the newest T-50 will be similar to the F-22 according to Russian news sources, but that the aircraft will be re-engined with a new power plant that is reported to be “ahead of schedule”.

However, considered that the Russian stealth aircraft is still being developed analysts suggest the F-22 will still have an edge in low-observable technology, sensor suites and avionics.

This appears to be the eighth Sukhoi PAK-FA T-50 prototype. Once the aircraft becomes operative it will likely receive a more common designation such as “Sukhoi Su-50”. The T-50 is made to compete directly with other 5th generation aircraft such as the U.S. F-22 and the Chinese Chengdu J-20 and Shenyang J-31. India also claims to have an indigenous 5th generation fighter program underway although no prototype has been built.

Russia has said that its fifth generation fighter aircraft (FGFA) program that is being planned with India would be a ‘completely new aircraft’ and is not linked to Moscow’s own new generation fighter.

According to Russian media outlets there are no export plans for the T-50, even though several variants are being considered for foreign markets.

Credit: DefendingRussia/Sukhoi

Most of the photos that have surfaced are very good quality images of the aircraft on the ground of taking off. One photo circulating in Russian social media appears to be an officially sourced image of the T-50-9 aircraft number 509 in flight with what is apparently a pair of long-range fuel tanks on the wings similar to the ones seen on the F-22.

The PAK-FA T-50 is quoted at approximately $50 million per aircraft current cost. According to Russian sources the aircraft is capable of a top speed of 1,516MPH (2,440kmh) and effective range of “3,418 miles”.

Top image Russian Air Force via Russiandefence.net

 

Salva

Salva

Salva

Salva

Salva

Salva

Salva

Special Colored RAF Typhoon FGR4 “GiNA” Returned to Operational Paint Scheme

Aviation Fans and Spotters Sad About Memorial Aircraft Being Repainted.

One of the most recognizable and popular demonstration aircraft in the world, a Royal Air Force Typhoon FGR4 registration ZK349 of the 29(R) Squadron, painted in a striking Battle of Britain commemorative camouflage paint scheme, has been returned to its original operational low-visibility tactical paint scheme.

The aircraft memorialized the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Britain celebrated in 2015. It has flown numerous airshow flight demonstrations around Europe since then.

Royal Air Force Typhoon FGR4 registration ZK349 of the 29(R) Squadron in its distinctive markings memorializing the WWII Hurricane of 249 Squadron’s Flt. Lt.James Brindley Nicolson. (Image credit: Paul Smith)

Typhoon ZK349, “GiNA” (from the G/NA designation around its roundel), was so popular she was voted the “Favourite Special Scheme” among airshow fans on the popular airshow forum “UK Airshow Review”. It won the vote by a large margin over other airshow performers. Fans of the aircraft started a “Save GiNA” campaign on Twitter with the hashtag “#SaveGina”.

News of the GiNA’s repainting was first seen in the Aviation Photographers closed group on Facebook.

A statement on the “Save GiNA” page read: “The campaign has been started with the intent of showing the RAF the weight of public opinion, so they can take that in to account when making any decisions to return the colour back to Grey or when deciding which aircraft to use. First and foremost the Typhoons are the UK’s most advanced fully operational Fighter Jets so we appreciate that priority must be given to their operational requirements which include defence of the Falkland Islands, their Quick Reaction Alert roles and current operations in the Middle East. However if the specific aircraft is available for the 2016 Display Season it is easy to see why the public would like to keep it in the unique colour scheme that little bit longer.”

News of GiNA’s repainting spread on Thursday around the world and was first seen in a post by Mr. Mike Grundy, a contributor in the closed Facebook group “Aviation Photographers”, a large international group of over 7,500 aviation photography fans.

The special colored Typhoon at RIAT 2015. (Paul Smith)

Royal Air Force Eurofighter Typhoon ZK349 was originally repainted in 2015 to match the markings of a RAF WWII Hawker Hurricane belonging to 249 Squadron’s Flight Lieutenant James Brindley Nicolson. Nicolson was the winner of the Victoria Cross and the Distinguished Flying Cross. This was the only Victoria Cross awarded to Fighter Command on Aug. 16, 1940.

Flight Lieutenant Nicolson was shot down in August 1940 by German aircraft over Southampton. He was seriously wounded when his Hurricane fighter was hit by enemy aircraft fire. He was about to bail out of his damaged, burning aircraft, but just before jumping he saw another German aircraft. Choosing to remain inside his burning plane and ignoring his grievous wounds, Flt. Lt. Nicolson aggressively pressed home a new attack and shot the additional enemy plane down. He received more serious burns over much of his body. When he did finally parachute to the ground, now even more gravely wounded, Home Guard volunteers who mistook him for a German pilot under his parachute mistakenly shot him in the legs.

In recognition of this heroic action and to commemorate the Battle of Britain, the Royal Air Force Battle of Britain Memorial Flight (RAFBBMF) was formed. The flight is based at RAF Coningsby, a very busy Typhoon and fighter base in Lincolnshire. RAF Coningsby is also a very popular location for aircraft spotters and photographers from around the world. The fans and historians have grown a unique and constructive relationship with the base.

Night shot of “GiNA” on the ground at RAF Coningsby. (Paul Smith).

Mr. Paul Smith, 43, of Stourpaine was kind enough to share some of his excellent photos of the Typhoon affectionately known as “Gina” from her markings commemorating Flt. Lt. Nicolson’s Hurricane that wore the same G/NA designation around its roundel.

Paul Smith has traveled to airshows around the world, and we met him in person last year at Nellis AFB in the U.S. He told us this about Typhoon ZK349’s significance:

“In the run up to the 2015 airshow season there was a lot of speculation around what the RAF would do to commemorate the 75th anniversary of Britain’s finest hour. When I saw the first pictures of the aircraft rolled out of the paint shop I wasn’t disappointed! The Typhoon looks magnificent in the classic early wartime scheme of dark earth and green and I was particularly happy that they had chosen to represent the markings of a hurricane; the backbone of fighter command during the battle. We will remember all of ‘The Few’ and their extraordinary effort during the battle, but Flt Lt James Nicolson VC DFC is a fine representative of the many aircrews from all over the world who bravely took on the Luftwaffe in the battle for freedom from tyranny. Seeing the Typhoon put on such an excellent display with the iconic Spitfire was an incredible experience and the obvious difficulty of the routine with two such dissimilar aircraft was made to look effortless. (Editor’s note: Airshow demonstrations with the Typhoon were flown with a Spitfire, not a Hurricane, as Paul correctly notes here) I hope this project bodes well for the centenary of the RAF in 2018.”

Thanks to Mr. Paul Smith for his excellent photos and to our friends in the Facebook group Aviation Photographers for their assistance with this feature.