Category Archives: Military Aviation

Here’s 2017 West Coast Strike Fighter Ball Video: No ATFLIR and No Gun Camera Footage. And It’s Probably Not By Accident.

This year’s West Coast Strike Fighter Ball Video does not feature the “real ops” stuff: bombs, ATFLIR footage, and aerial “gun camera” clips. It seems that someone was not happy when a recent cruise video included footage of a Syrian Su-22 being shot down by a Hornet….

“Hornet Ball” and “Rhino Ball” are the names of a famous yearly compilation of videos produced by LT Joseph “C-Rock” Stephens, an Instructor WSO with the VFA-122 Flying Eagles.

The “Ball” series is made of clips from squadrons based on the West Coast (as well as the 4 forward deployed squadrons in Japan) during their daily activities at home or deployed in support of real operations, such as Operation Inherent Resolve (OIR) against ISIS in Syria and Iraq. Here you have the links to the previous editions: Rhino Ball 2016; Hornet Ball 2015; Hornet Ball 2014; Hornet Ball 2013.

This year’s edition has been dubbed “Strike Fighter Ball” as NAS Lemoore, along with the “legacy” F/A-18A-D Hornets and F/A-18E/F Super Hornets,  has started operating the F-35C Lightning II “Joint Strike Fighter” with the VFA-125 Rough Riders since Jan. 25, 2017.

Whilst the 2017 video remains extremely cool (and funny, considered the arcade game theme) with cats/traps, air-to-air merges, low levels, fly-bys, aerial refueling etc., it appears to be a bit watered-down: whereas previous years videos featured plenty of bomb, ATFLIR (Advanced Targeting Forward Looking Infra Red) pod, HUD (Head Up Display) and Gun Camera footage, this year’s compilation has just some AIM-9X Sidewinder and AGM-88 HARM (High-speed Anti-Radiation Missile) shots.

Indeed, according to multiple sources, the U.S. Navy was not too happy when the VFA-31 Tomcatters release their 2017 OIR cruise video that included footage of the aerial engagement between an F/A-18E Super Hornet belonging to the VFA-87 “Golden Warriors” and a Syrian Su-22 (that ended with the Fitter being shot down by an AIM-120 AMRAAM missile near Raqqa, Syria), filmed with an ATFLIR pod.

In order to prevent some sensitive footage from leaking to the public, the Navy has probably decided to put the kibosh on all footage taken on theater…

Anyway, enjoy!

We Have Found Ultra Rare Footage Showing A B-2 Spirit Stealth Bomber Dropping A 30,000-Pound Bunker Buster Bomb

This Is Probably The First Clip Showing The B-2 As It Drops The GBU-57 Massive Ordnance Penetrator.

The B-2 Spirit stealth bomber is the only aircraft in the U.S. Air Force inventory currently capable to operationally drop the massive 30,000-lb (14,000 kg) GBU-57 Massive Ordnance Penetrator (even though the testing of the MOP involved a B-52 back in 2009, the weapon’s intended platform is only the B-2).

The 14-ton GBU-57 is a 20-foot long GPS-guided bomb said to be able to penetrate 200 feet of concrete before exploding: for this reason it is considered the weapon of choice in case of attack on buried targets (such as the North Korean bunkers).

Whilst there are just a few images showing the GBU-57 carried by or next to a B-2 (we published one of these in 2013, here) you will hardly find any video of the B-2 dropping one of the two MOPs the stealth bomber can carry in its internal bomb bay.

However, we have spotted a clip of a MOP released from the B-2’s bomb bay in a recently published video from the 393rd Bomb Squadron, one of the units that operate the Spirit stealth bomber as part of the 509th Bomb Wing at Whiteman Air Force Base Missouri.

The impressive size of the MOP is pretty evident in the footage (skip towards the end of the video).

The MOP is sometimes mistaken with the 11-ton, parachute deployed, GBU-43B MOAB (Massive Ordnance Air Blast) also known as “Mother Of All Bombs”. The MOAB is the largest conventional air dropped weapon ever employed by the U.S. military: a U.S. Air Force Special Operations MC-130 Combat Talon II dropped the GBU-43B on an ISIS cave complex target in Afghanistan, for the very first time on Apr. 13, 2017.

 

Military and Contract Air Assets (Including U.S. Air Force MQ-9 Reaper Drones) Key in Fighting Largest Ever California Wildfires.

All Available Airborne Fire Fighting Assets Pressed into Service, Fires Continue.

A massive combined military and contract air operation has been flying over the U.S. state of California this week in attempts to contain and put out wildfires raging across the entire state. Earlier in the week, U.S. President Donald Trump’s declared the California wildfires as an official Federal Emergency Management Act (FEMA) National Disaster.

Military and contract fixed wing aircraft and helicopters have been launching a constant stream of fire-retardant strikes since the fires began over a week ago. A massive air armada has also been conducting rescues, inserting firefighters into remote areas and conducting fire surveillance since the fires began. This is likely the greatest combined military and contract air fire suppression operation in history, and one of the first to employ military remotely piloted vehicles (RPVs).

California Governor Jerry Brown told media in a press conference earlier this week that, “We have had big fires in the past. This is one of the biggest, most serious, and it’s not over.”

In all, Governor Brown’s office reported that 22 major fires are still burning across the state, an increase over the 17 fires earlier this week. As of late Friday, October 19, some of the fires have finally been declared as “contained”, but not extinguished. The death toll has climbed to 42 people with many more still missing. Over 3,500 homes have been destroyed by the fires, but many more people have been displaced due to preemptive evacuations.

The State of California reports that a massive military and private air force of 73 helicopters and at least 30 fixed-wing aerial tankers are fighting the fires, conducting rescues and performing reconnaissance of the affected areas. The Governor’s office also mentioned that two MQ-9 Reaper drones are performing the reconnaissance role over fire areas.

Global SuperTanker Service President and CEO Jim Wheeler told CBS News correspondent Mark Strassmann during an interview in July that, “We can drop a line of retardant about three kilometers long or, if you will, about a mile-and-a-half.”

The California Air National Guard’s 163rd Attack Wing from March Joint Air Reserve Base, that operates the MQ-9 Reaper remotely piloted aircraft (RPA), is flying active sorties in support of the firefighting effort. The operation of the MQ-9s over this U.S. air space required special authorization from the FAA. Two MQ-9 Reapers have been rotating continuous 12-hour sorties over critical fire areas, aiding in the direction of firefighters on the ground and with aerial fire suppression strikes.

Commander of the 163rd Attack Wing, Air Force Maj. Jason Flowers, told reporters, “Firefighters want to know the perimeter of the fire so they could compare how it’s spread since the last time they checked and where it spreading.” The fire reconnaissance missions also make use of the MQ-9 Reapers’ Synthetic Aperture Radar, an aerial sensor never before used in firefighting efforts in the U.S. Major Flowers went on to suggest that fighting the fires at home with the MQ-9s will help the wing fight future wars abroad, by increasing operators’ expertise at employing these sensors effectively.


An MQ-9 Reaper remotely piloted aircraft assigned to the 163d Attack Wing soars over Southern California skies on a training flight to March Air Reserve Base, California, in this Sept. 15, 2016, file photo. The wing is flying MQ-9s in support of civil authorities battling deadly wildfires in Northern California. (Air National Guard Photo by Tech. Sgt. Neil Ballecer)

More than 700 members of the California National Guard have been deployed in the firefighting mission with an additional 1,800 soldiers tasked with the mission on Wednesday. These units include the state’s 49th Military Police Brigade, California’s only Army National Guard military police brigade based in Fairfield, California. Even prisoners have been pressed into firefighting service.

Staff Sgt. Richard Glover, 163d Attack Wing IT Specialist, shows burn areas to Staff Sgt. Jamel Seales (sitting) and Staff Sgt. Shawn Blue (background) on Saturday, Oct. 14, 2017, at the wing’s Hap Arnold Center at March Air Reserve Base, California. The center is one of several wing assets activated to support the ongoing wildland firefighting effort in Northern California. Airmen have been working at the center around the clock since Tuesday to support CAL FIRE and other agencies. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Airman Crystal Housman)

The aerial firefighting mission is extremely dangerous due to dense smoke, powerful, rapidly shifting winds from rising heat, debris being floated into the air by the flames and the extreme low altitude that firefighting aircraft must fly over rolling terrain to accurately deliver their large payloads of fire-retardant. Additionally, the handling characteristics of the tanker aircraft change dramatically as they drop the heavy liquid fire-retardant.

Among the 30 fixed-wing aircraft fighting the fires are modified DC-10s, S-2 Trackers, P-3s and the largest-ever aerial firefighting aircraft, the Global Supertanker Services Boeing 747-446, N744ST. The enormous 747 firefighter was at McClellan AFB near Sacramento, California early in September on deployment from its home in Colorado Springs, Colorado. During the aircraft’s first operational mission in the U.S. at the beginning of September it made two massive drops of 8,500 gallons each of fire-retardant on the leading edge of wildfires.

Global Supertanker Services 747-446 registration N744ST is performing fire retardant drops over California.

As firefighting efforts continue on Thursday, October 19, the fires have been contained in several locations. Weather forecasts for Northern California are for cooler, more humid conditions and will likely assist in firefighting efforts going into the weekend as the combined air operations continue. No official announcements have been made about when they may be brought under control.

Google Earth provided maps showing location and progress of California fires. (Photo: Google)

Top oimage credit: Global Supertanker

Israeli Air Force F-35I “Adir” Involved In A Bird Strike Incident Gets Grounded

An Israeli Air Force F-35 has been involved in a bird strike during a training sortie. And the incident has fueled some weird speculations…

An Israeli Air Force F-35I “Adir” (Mighty) was involved in a bird strike incident during a training sortie two weeks ago, the Israeli Defense Forces said on Oct. 16. The pilot managed to land the plane safely back at Nevatim Air Force Base in the Negev Desert and no casualties were reported.

This is the first incident to an F-35 in IAF service since the first two aircraft have been taken on charge by the 140 “Golden Eagle” squadron in December last year.

The IDF confirmed those details to Israeli media outlets: “During a training sortie two hits were found on the plane, following to a collision with a bird. After an evaluation and assessment of the damage conducted together with the manufacturer – Lockheed Martin, the plane was sent to a normal maintenance and repair. It will return to full service in the next few days.”

Seven “Adir” aircraft have been delivered to the Israeli Air Force since December 2016. In August, a deal was completed for the purchase of another 17 such aircraft: therefore 50 such aircraft will be operated by the IAF equipping two squadrons. The total amount of the deal to purchase the 50 aircraft is estimated at 6B USD.

Meanwhile, the Golden Eagle Squadron continues to perform a wide array of flight tests to verify the 5th generation aircraft capabilities. The Squadron is scheduled to become operational by the end of this year.

The news of the birdstrike incident was released on the very same day the Israeli targeted a Syrian SAM battery that had attacked IDF aircraft during a routine flight over Lebanon fueling speculations that the F-35 was not grounded by a birdstrike but because it was hit by the Syrian air defenses. In fact, the Syrian Defense Ministry said in its statement that government forces responded to the violation of the airspace and “directly hit one of the jets, forcing [Israeli aircraft] to retreat.” On the other side the Israeli denied any aircraft was hit by the Syrian air defenses (S-200 battery) and this sounds quite reasonable considered that the Israeli have often shown their ability to operate freely in the Syrian airspace and there would have been no reason to disclose a fake birdstrike at all to cover a Syrian hit.

Image credit: Author

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Japanese F-4EJ Kai Phantom II Heavily Damaged in Runway Accident, Crew Escapes Fire

Hyakuri Phantom Burns on Ground, Reports Suggest Aircraft Written Off.

A McDonnell-Douglas F-4EJ “Kai” Phantom II attached to either the 301st or 302nd Tactical Fighter Squadron of the 7th Air Wing of the Japanese Air Self-Defense Force has burned on the ground at Hyakuri Air Base in the Ibaraki Prefecture of Japan. Both crew members escaped from the burning aircraft by climbing out as the fire spread.

The aircraft was taxing at the time of the accident. Press reports suggest the aircraft will be written off as a total loss. The accident happened at 11:45 AM local time in Japan on Oct. 17, 2017.

According to Japanese media and official Japanese Air Self-Defense Force reports the aircraft was participating in a training exercise in the northeastern part of Kanto, on Japan’s main island of Honshu.

The aircraft has been reported as written-off. (Photo: World Military News)

Civilian flight operations at the attached Ibaraki Airport, which shares a runway with the Hyakuri Air Base where the accident occurred, were unaffected by the fire according to reports. Ibaraki and the attached Hyakuri Air Base are 53 miles north of the Japanese capital, Tokyo. The facility operates two parallel runways, both 2,700 meters in length.

The Japanese Air Self-Defense Force is one of the few remaining users of the legacy McDonnell-Douglas F-4 Phantom II. The aircraft, built under license and serviced by Mitsubishi in Japanese service, performs a multi-role mission that includes tactical reconnaissance in the RF-4EJ version and attack roles in the F-4EJ configuration.

Video and still photos of the accident showed the two-person aircrew escaping from the aircraft by climbing out of the cockpit close to flames and heavy smoke.

The Japanese Air Self-Defense Force (JASDF) once operated 138 F-4 Phantom II’s as one of the largest international users of the prolific multi-role combat aircraft. The first Japanese F-4’s joined the 301st Hikotai Squadron in August of 1972 and have been operational ever since. There are a reported 71 Mitsubishi/McDonnell-Douglas F-4 Phantom II’s of two versions remaining in JASDF service as of April, 2017 according to Flightglobal Insight.

The Japanese F-4 Phantoms are revered among aircraft spotters worldwide as being among the last of the operational F-4 Phantoms still flying and also because of their colorful paint liveries in Japanese service that include a variety of camouflage schemes as well as solid grey aircraft like aircraft 87-8408 that was destroyed in this accident.

Top Image: A crewman escapes from burning JASDF F-4EJ Phantom II yesterday at Hyakuri Air Base. (Photo: World Military News)

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