Category Archives: Military Aviation

Spectacular Flyover in Paris Overshadows French Formation Smoke Color Faux Pas

Sacré Bleu! French Aerobatic Team Admits Color Blunder in Amazing Bastille Flyover.

Following a week of spectacular flyovers beginning with the 100th Anniversary of the Royal Air Force in London last week, the French were not to be outdone on the weekend of their annual national celebration of Bastille Day over Paris on Saturday, July 14, 2018.

On Saturday, formations of France’s most impressive aircraft overflew Paris and the picturesque Avenue des Champs-Élysées in an impressive review that accompanied a large military parade up the Avenue.

The French flyover and military parade, an annual spectacle in celebration of France’s independence, adds to the discussion of a proposed similar display in the U.S. that has largely been shouted down by opponents. Russia, North Korea, China, UK and France among other smaller nations stage conspicuous military parades with flyovers as a means of memorializing their armed forces, paying homage to their history and as a show of military might.

A new French Airbus Defense Industries A330 MRTT Multi Role Tanker Transport escorts delta-wing Mirage 2000 attack aircraft over Paris on Bastille Day. (Photo: Armee de l’Air)

The French flyover on the anniversary of the Bastille Day, the anniversary of the French uprising and storming of the Bastille prison in 1789 during the French Revolution, featured an impressive 64 aircraft. The display included the Dassault Rafale, Airbus Military A400M Atlas, the Boeing E-3F Sentry AWACS aircraft, the C-135FR tanker variant, and the beautiful delta-wing Dassault Mirage 2000s.

A formation of pretty Dassault Rafales over Paris on Bastille Day. (Photo: Armee de l’Air)

The French Armée de l’Air also produced a nice video short of the flyover from a CASA CN-235M light tactical transport.

There was a minor, widely publisized embarrassing moment for the normally outstanding French Patrouille Acrobatique de France flight demonstration team.

During the July 14, 2018 Fête Nationale or Bastille Day flyover in Paris the team added a ninth aircraft to the normal eight-plane formation. The additional aircraft, normally not a part of this wedge formation, flew in the right-wing position. As the team began their dedication flyover of the Avenue des Champs-Élysées and the picturesque Arc de Triomphe de l’Étoile they actuated their traditional colored smoke trails. Normally the tricolor smoke trailing the aircraft mimics the blue, white, red pattern of the French national flag from the right of the formation to the left as viewed from the pilots’ perspective. But in this instance the extra ninth aircraft on the pilots’ right side of the formation mistakenly trailed red smoke instead of the correct blue smoke.

Some social media observers thought this may have been a purposeful modification to the display because the aircraft were carrying three members of France’s special forces on board for the celebration. But on Sunday following the flyover, French Air Force Spokesman Colonel Cyrille Duvivier, told news media, “It was not planned. It was an error.”

Colonel Duvivier went on to tell France’s Le Connexion news media that, “La Patrouille de France is normally eight planes, and on July 14, it presents as nine. The ninth plane is the ‘extra’…and it can take any position. It is the only one to have all three colors. We must ascertain why, precisely, this color was not correct.”

As it stands the color mismatch by the normally fashion conscious French was not the day’s only faux pas. Two motorcycle gendarmes collided and toppled over during an attempted impressive display of precision low-speed motorcycle handling along the same parade route. The two Gendarmes were seen scrambling on French television like keystone cops to get their heavy motorcycles upright. This is not typical of the French special police motorcycle forces, many of whom are working as anti-terrorist security forces during the Tour de France bicycle race being held across France during the month of July. For the second year, the forces at the tour de France include both the Garde Républicaine motorcycle unit and the elite French anti-terrorist police unit, the GIGN (Groupe d’intervention de la Gendarmerie Nationale).

France’s Patrouille de France flight demonstration team flies the Dassault/Dornier Alpha Jet light, twin-engine, two-seat jet trainer. The team has an illustrious record and flew a first-ever month and half demonstration tour at airshows in the United States and Canada in 2017. Interestingly, the USAF Thunderbirds participated in an exchange flyover in Paris in 2017 also as a salute to France on Bastille Day.

Top image: the French aerobatic team normally flies with blue, white and red smoke to mimic the French flag. (Photo: Twitter/Pandov Strochnis)

Let’s Have A Look At The “Tempest” UK’s 6th Generation Combat Aircraft Mock-Up Unveiled At The Farnborough Air Show

A concept model of the Tempest was unveiled yesterday. And here’s a first analysis.

On Jul. 16, UK Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson announced the development of a new combat aircraft that has been designed Tempest.

Announcing the publication of the new Combat Air Strategy at the Farnborough International Airshow 2018 (FIA 18), Williamson said he had taken action to strengthen the UK’s role as a global leader in the sector.

He outlined the Strategy in front of a mock-up of the Tempest, a next (6th) generation combat aircraft developed by Team Tempest, a consortium including BAE Systems, Rolls-Royce, Leonardo and MBDA, in collaboration with the Ministry of Defence.

“We have been a world leader in the combat air sector for a century, with an enviable array of skills and technology, and this Strategy makes clear that we are determined to make sure it stays that way. It shows our allies that we are open to working together to protect the skies in an increasingly threatening future – and this concept model is just a glimpse into what the future could look like,” Williamson said.

According to the first details unveiled so far the Tempest will feature all the most interesting (and cool) technologies currently being developed (and in some case already fielded): Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning, Drone “Swarming”, Direct Energy Weapons, etc.

Some of the features of the Tempest. (Image credit: BAe Systems).

The UK plans to invest 2 billion GBP in Combat Air Strategy and the Tempest. “Early decisions around how to acquire the capability will be confirmed by the end of 2020, before final investment decisions are made by 2025. The aim is then for a next generation platform to have operational capability by 2035,” says the British MoD in the official press release following the announcement. Considered the time required to develop 4th and 5th generation aircraft (and in particular the controversial F-35) an (initial) operational capability in “just” 17 years from now seems a quite optimistic (or “aggressive”) deadline. For sure the Tempest is intended to eventually replace the Eurofighter Typhoon by the late 2030s or early 2040s. Moreover, the current plan does not include the possible delays induced by negotiations and onboarding of other European partners: it’s not clear what France and Germany will do with their own 6th generation aircraft announced last April at ILA18, but Italy (already supporting the new UK’s aircraft by means of Leonardo, that will be responsible for avionics and EW suite), among the others, is a natural candidate to join the project and invest money and skills in the Tempest rather than the “système de combat aérien du futur,” or SCAF, that appears to be a more “closed” joint venture at the moment.

The artwork included in the Combat Air Strategy document. (Image credit: Crown Copyright).

Dealing with the shape of the Tempest concept model, it bears some resemblance with current stealth fighters, especially the American F-22 (the front section) and F-35: the aircraft features a cranked kite design similar to the one used by most of the UCAV (Unmanned Combat Aerial Vehicle) demonstrators such as the X-47B or the nEUROn, but the presence of the canted vertical stabilizers indicate “a preference for fighter-like agility since they aid horizontal stability during manoeuvres, especially in extreme flight regimes. However, they also limit the extent to which an aircraft’s radar signature can be reduced, especially against low-frequency ‘anti-stealth’ type radars,” commented Aerospace and defence analyst Justin Bronk from the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI). In other words, the Team Tempest seems to prefer agility against low-observability, as if stealthiness will become less important than ability to maneuver against future missiles and enemy aircraft in the future scenarios.

Generally speaking, the Tempest’s shape clearly reminds the BAe Replica, a British stealth aircraft model developed by BAe in the 1990s and used for radar testing for the FOAS (Future Offensive Air System) a study aimed at finding a replacement for the RAF Tornado GR4. After the program was scrapped in 2005, it was replaced by the Deep and Persistent Offensive Capability (DPOC) program that was itself cancelled in 2010, following the UK military’s spending review. The Taranis UCAV (Unmanned Combat Air Vehicle) a semi-autonomous pilotless system able to carry a wide variety of weapons, including PGMs (Precision Guided Munitions) and air-to-air missiles, emerged as the eventual successor of the FOAS.

A full-scale model of the BAe Replica became somehow famous when it was spotted being moved to be installed, inverted, on a pole (the typical configuration used for testing the radar signature of a plane) was filmed at BAE Systems facilities at Warton, in Lancashire, UK, in 2014.

BAe Replica on a pole at Warton, UK, in 2014.

Although the wings appear to be different, the BAe Replica model features twin engines, diverterless supersonic intakes and canted fins that can be found in the Tempest. Compared to the BAe Replica the Tempest appears to have a larger fuselage (along with the larger wing) that would allow for increased fuel and payload.

Noteworthy on the Tempest is also the presence of a cockpit to accommodate a pilot: the 6th generation aircraft will be “optionally manned”. Although next generation aircraft will be able to fly as drones, there is still a future for combat pilots as well.

Top image: composite using Reuters/Crown Copyright images

The Stunning Aerial Cinematography of JET PILOT

More than 65 years after it was filmed, Jet Pilot movie features some of the most spectacular aerial photography in film history.

Jet Pilot is a 1957 film directed by Josef von Sternberg and starring John Wayne and Janet Leigh. Written and produced by Jules Furthman and presented by Howard Hughes, the movie was filmed in more than eighteen months, from 1949 to 1953 and released, after post-production, 4 years later.

Although Jet Pilot was publicized as showcasing the U.S. Air Force’s latest jets, by the time it was finally released most of the USAF aircraft in the film were obsolescent or obsolete, being supplanted by more modern aircraft.

Jet Pilot movie posters (left: French version).

Hollywood film editor Vashi Nedomansky has recently edited 8 minutes of aerial footage from the film that he’s posted along with a blog article where he provides some background details about the movie. According to Nedomansky, Director of Photography Winton C. Hoch used Eastman Kodak’s brand new color negative 5247 film to capture the stunning aerial vistas. Moreover, Gen. Chuck Yeager anonymously flew most of the aerobatics in the movie that features several interesting aircraft: the Lockheed F-94 Starfire, the Convair B-36B Peacemaker, the Lockheed T-33 Shooting Star, the North American B-45 Tornado, the F-86A Sabre, the Northrop F-89 Scorpion, the Boeing B-50 as well as the famous Bell X-1 which Chuck Yeager.

Here’s the amazing footage that includes also some interesting barrel rolls and aerobatics around the X-1:

JET PILOT (1957) – Aerial Cinematography from Vashi Nedomansky on Vimeo.

The quality of the video is simply unbelievable if you consider that it was filmed more than 65 years ago!

Colombian Kfir Delta-Wing Aircraft Return to the U.S. to take Part in Red Flag 18-3 at Nellis.

Beautiful Aircraft are going to be a Treat for U.S. Spotters and Photographers Along Las Vegas Blvd.

The crowd of aviation spotters and photographers that forms as a daily ritual during any Red Flag air combat simulation exercise along highway 604/North Las Vegas Boulevard just north of Nellis are being treated to some unusual and exotic aircraft during the Red Flag 18-3 exercise at Nellis AFB outside Las Vegas, Nevada this month.

Six rare, attractive delta-wing Israeli Aircraft Industry (IAI) Kfir single seat, single engine, delta wing jet fighters from the Fuerza Aérea Colombiana (Colombian Air Force) will be in attendance at Red Flag 18-3 along with a contingent supporting their operations from Colombia. There are only 21 of the aircraft in service with Colombia according to the Flight International Global Air Forces 2018 database. This is only the second time the aircraft have visited Nellis AFB for a Red Flag exercise. The last time the Kfirs participated in Red Flag was 2012 (as we reported here). At that time, this writer spotted for the first time the delta-winged jets staging out of Davis-Monthan AFB in Tucson, Arizona.

Colombian Kfir landing at DMAFB (USAF).

Red Flag 18-3 is a highly realistic combat exercise over the vast Las Vegas training ranges mostly to the north of Nellis AFB in the Nevada desert. The huge area comprises bombing ranges, large low-flying training areas and the secret “Area 51” test ranges and flight facilities. It is adjacent to the famous Jedi Transition or “Star Wars Canyon” low flying training area just inside California. Photographers in the right place at the right time could catch glimpses and hopefully shots of the Colombian Kfirs if they decide to fly through the low flying training area.

Colombian Kfir refuels during RF 12-4. (Image credit: Tony Lovelock)

Colombian Air Force Combat Squadron 111 has spent more than a year in preparation and training for the Red Flag 18-3 combat exercise. The contingent will be supported by a Colombian KC-767 aerial tanker from 811 Squadron. Approximately 130 Colombian officers and an unspecified number of enlisted personnel will support the exercise deployment.

The group of aircraft left Colombia on July 2, 2018 to join Red Flag at Nellis following a 2,015-mile ferry flight from Malambo, Atlantico in northeastern Colombia. As with their visit back in 2012 when we first spotted the aircraft, they have stopped at Davis-Monthan AFB in Tucson, Arizona, before continuing to Nellis.

We first saw the Colombian Kfirs on their way through Davis-Monthan AFB back in 2012 when we shot these photos through the fence. The red arrows were applied to confirm ID (Photo: Tom Demerly/TheAviationist.com)

According to several sources, The Fuerza Aérea Colombiana (Colombian Air Force) recently updated their unique Kfir combat aircraft to the latest C-60 avionics and capability standard provided by Israel Aerospace Industries. This recent update to the older Kfir aircraft, first acquired by Colombia back in 1989-1990, greatly expand the Kfir’s range of weapons and sensors. Sources suggest these upgrades may place the Colombian Kfirs on par with the F-16 Block 52 upgrades.

A Colombian Air Force Kfir fighter jet taxis after landing at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz., July 5, 2018. Six Colombian Kfirs from the Combat Squadron No. 111, arrived to train with the 162nd Wing’s F-16s in preparation for Red Flag 18-3. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Angela Ruiz)

Along with flying real antinarcotics and counterinsurgency missions, Colombian Kfirs were involved in the interception of two Russian Tu-160 “White Swan” (NATO reporting name “Blackjack”) heavy bombers flying out of Venezuela in early November, 2013. The giant Russian Tu-160s did not have diplomatic clearance to enter Colombian airspace and were intercepted and briefly escorted by the Fuerza Aérea Colombiana Kfirs before they left the area.

Top image: Tony Lovelock

U.S. Military Is On A Roll With Dramatic International Rescue Missions At Sea.

U.S. Navy P-8A Poseidon Locates Missing Fishing Vessel in Search Off Sri Lanka. Dramatic Rescue Adds to List of Recent Humanitarian Successes by U.S. Aircraft.

A U.S. Navy Boeing P-8A Poseidon has located a missing civilian fishing boat and its six-man crew in the vast open ocean south of the island of Sri Lanka in the Luccadive Sea north of the Indian Ocean. The long-range multi-mission maritime patrol and anti-submarine aircraft was from Patrol Squadron 45 (VP-45) the “Pelicans” originally from Naval Air Station Jacksonville, Florida and flying out of Naval Support Facility Diego Garcia.

The U.S. Navy P-8A joined the search at the request of the Sri Lankan Navy after the fishing vessel went missing on Sunday, July 8, 2018.

Photos released by the U.S. Navy taken from the P-8A Poseidon show the fishing vessel after it was located with no engine wake and what may be a series of improvised sails rigged on its bow, suggesting the vessel may have lost steerage and power possibly resulting in it drifting south into the open ocean.

Photos taken from the U.S. Navy P-8A show improvised sails rigged on the bow of the fishing vessel and no wake at the stern, suggesting it may have lost power. (Photo: US Navy)

The region is known as dangerous for sailors and aircraft due to severe weather, the threat of piracy and other hazards to navigation in the remote maritime environment. Part of the unsuccessful search for the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 that disappeared without a trace in March, 2014 was in this region.
A Sri Lankan Navy vessel is underway to the location of the lost fishing boat as directed by the U.S. Navy P-8A that located it hours after joining the three-day search.

Photo of one of the drifting crew members on the lost fishing boat taken from the U.S. Navy P-8A after the boat was located. (Photo: US Navy)

This successful search is the second victory for U.S. long range search and rescue efforts requested by a foreign nation following a similar incident on June 25, 2018 when a U.S. Air Force B-52H crew flying out of Andersen AFB, Guam and originally from Barksdale, Louisiana located a missing indigenous Polynesian canoe that was lost for six days near Guam in the Pacific. The crew of that B-52H were also able to direct rescue efforts to the location of the lost ocean canoe.

In an official U.S. Navy statement about the rescue operation, Navy Commander Mark E. Zematis, commanding officer of the 45th Patrol Squadron, said, “As we continue to explore the operational reach and agility of the P-8A Poseidon, the trust and relationships we build with our multi-national partners becomes more and more apparent in such a complex and broad Indo-Pacific region. The positive relationship between Sri Lanka and the United States is what allowed our aircrew and maintenance team to effectively launch and assist with the recovery of their countryman.”

Illustration of P-8A from Patrol Squadron 45 by Ugo Crisponi. (Image: AviationGraphics/Ugo Crisponi)

The Boeing P-8A Poseidon is a new long-range patrol, surveillance and anti-submarine warfare aircraft that is based on the highly successful civilian Boeing 737-800ERX long range, twin-engine jet airliner. It first flew in April, 2009. The P-8A is the U.S. Navy’s replacement for the aging Lockheed P-3 Orion turboprop aircraft that performed the same mission. It is also in service with the Australian Air Force and the Indian Navy where it is known as the P-8I Neptune. England, Norway and New Zealand have also ordered versions of the highly successful P-8 Poseidon.

A new Boeing P-8A Poseidon long-range maritime surveillance aircraft. (Photo: Lance Riegle)

An interesting feature of the P-8A is its planned integration with the Northrop Grumman MQ-4C Triton ultra-long range remotely piloted unmanned aerial vehicle. This capability will enable the P-8 and MQ-4C to combine their surveillance areas significantly.