Category Archives: Military Aviation

Check Out This Amazing Photo of America’s Air Force Fighter Arsenal Flying Formation!

Incredible Group of Aircraft from the U.S. Air Force’s Elite Nellis AFB Test and Evaluation Squadron.

There are good aviation photos, great aviation photos and exceptional aviation photos we may never see again. This photo from the 422nd Test and Evaluation Squadron at Nellis AFB outside Las Vegas, Nevada is definitely in the last category.

The photo, shared on the official Nellis AFB Facebook page and credited to the USAF, shows a unique formation of today’s most advanced tactical combat aircraft in a rare formation flight. A formation like this has not even been seen during the last two Nellis AFB Aviation Nation Air and Space Expos in 2016 and 2017.

The formation includes, as you can see, an F-16C Fighting Falcon, an F-22 Raptor, an F-35A Lighting II, an F-15C Eagle and a two-seat F-15E Strike Eagle, an A-10 Thunderbolt II. Each of the aircraft (not all fighters but mostly multi-role warplanes) wears the distinctive “OT” tail code for the “Operational Test” squadron that is part of the 53rd Test and Evaluation Group.

The 422nd Test and Evaluation Squadron, or “TES”, operates this cross-section of Air Force combat aircraft not only for testing and evaluation of existing and developmental hardware on the aircraft such as new weapons, avionics, software and communications systems but perhaps more interestingly, new tactics for the aircraft to be used singly and in conjunction with each other and the rest of the Air Force.

One fascinating recent observation that may be (and may not be) related to 422nd TES expansion of combat tactics was the appearance of F-22 Raptor air superiority fighters flying low level, terrain masking flights through the nearby Rainbow Canyon low flying area in Death Valley, California. The F-22 was originally intended as an air superiority fighter and would, as such, have little need to fly low-level terrain masking infiltration flights. But as F-22s have been used in the strike role in Syria already, perhaps the appearance of the “OT” tail code Raptors in the Canyon suggests an expansion in the F-22’s role in the future.

This Dafydd RJ Phillips photo shows a 422nd TES F-22 Raptor in Star Wars Canyon earlier this year. (Photo: Dafydd RJ Phillips)

The incredible photo was shot by Jake Melampy who manages Reid Air Publications in Trenton, Ohio, a publisher of an impressive assortment of aircraft reference books detailing markings and technical information for everyone from intelligence analysts to plastic scale modelers. Jake is a highly accomplished photographer with significant experience in air-to-air photoshoots which are deceivingly difficult to do well.

Top image: unique formation including each of the aircraft currently flown by the 422nd Test and Evaluation Squadron at Nellis AFB. (Photo: USAF by Jake Melampy)

 

Take A Look At These Photos Of Luke Air Force Base F-35s Engulfed By Sand Storm

A monsoon hit Luke AFB, Arizona, yesterday. These shots show F-35s being moved to shelters.

Not only are airfields in Afghanistan (such as the former UK’s main strategic base in the southwest Camp Bastion, Helmand) or Niger affected by sandstorms. For instance, fast moving dust storms, able to darken large areas in a very short time, regularly hit Arizona quite regularly. As happened yesterday, when a monsoon hit Luke AFB, about 15 miles west of Phoenix, Arizona, home of the 56th Fighter Wing, the largest fighter wing in the U.S. Air Force.

A thunderstorm collapses and causes air and dust to move through the atmosphere and transform into a sand storm at Nigerien Air Base 201, Niger, June 24, 2018. Air Base 201 was hit by four sandstorms throughout the last two weeks. (U.S. Air Force courtesy photo by Airman 1st Class Thomas Jamison)

Besides some 77 F-16s, Luke is home to 68 F-35s: the base is the training hub for Lightning II’s pilot and maintainers from Australia, Norway, Italy, the Netherlands, Japan and Israel. F-35 pilot training began at Luke just over a year after the 56th Fighter Wing received its first F-35A in 2014 and, according to LM, eventually, the 56th Fighter Wing will be home to 144 F-35s in the future!

The images in this post, first published by the 56th FW on their FB page, show Luke and its F-35s engulfed in dust: a pretty unique sight.

Personnel moved the F-35 to shelter.

An F-35 is secured by personnel at Luke AFB.

The sand storm provided an opportunity for 56th FW’s maintainers, airmen and partners from LM and partner nations to cope with a phenomena the 5th generation aircraft might find one day in theater.

5th generation aircraft engulfed in dust.

It would be interesting to understand the extent of damage (if any!) to the stealth aircraft’s coating, engines, avionics, etc. caused by sand.

BTW If you want to see what a similar scene looks like from inside a C-130J click here.

All images: U.S. Air Force

Italian Navy AV-8B+ Harrier Jet Deploys Aboard Wasp-class amphibious assault ship USS Iwo Jima

An Italian Navy “Jump Jet” landed aboard the Wasp-class amphibious assault ship USS Iwo Jima (LHD 7) in the Med Sea.

On Jul. 18, 2018, an AV-8B+ Harrier II belonging to the I GRUPAER (Gruppo Aerei Imbarcati) of the Marina Militare (Italian Navy), from Grottaglie, landed aboard USS Iwo Jima as the amphibious assault ship and its embarked 26th MEU (Marine Expeditionary Unit) transited through the Mediterranean Sea on their way back home from their deployment “in support of maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts in the U.S. 6th Fleet.”

The Italian Navy Harrier will remain with the Iwo Jima Amphibious Ready Group until it arrives in the U.S., then, the “Jump Jet” will head to MCAS (Marine Corps Air Station) Cherry Point, NC, for a scheduled PMI (Preventative Maintenance Inspection) that will take up to six months.

“Italy and America have an agreement where we will bring over our planes for maintenance,” said Italian pilot, Lt. Domenico Iovino, in a public statement released by the U.S. DoD. “After the maintenance is performed, we will come back to the U.S. and take the plane back to Italy.”

MEDITERRANEAN SEA (July 18, 2018) An Italian AV-8B Harrier lands aboard the Wasp-class amphibious assault ship USS Iwo Jima (LHD 7), in the Mediterranean Sea, July 18, 2018. The Harrier and its crew will return to the United States for scheduled maintenance at Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, North Carolina. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Jon Sosner/ Released)

This is not the first time the Italian Harriers operate from a U.S. unit: since many deployments pass through the Med Sea, the Italian Navy pilots have the opportunity to operate from the flight deck of Wasp-class amphibious assault ships every now and then.

“We have done this several times in the last few years,” said Italian Lt. Cosimo Manica, also a Harrier pilot. “We have taken approximately 10 planes from Italy to the United States for PMI, which can only be done in America.” Indeed, the deployment of Italian AV-8Bs has already happened with USS Bataan in 2017 and 2014 and USS Kearsarge in 2015.

Operating from a U.S. ship is not too different from operating aboard an Italian aircraft carrier, such as the ITS Cavour or Garibaldi. Whilst landing procedures are almost identical, what is probably different is the amount of traffic the units manage both in the air and on the apron, making the opportunity to operate on a U.S. amphibious assault ship relatively “low-stress” but also formative.

“The program that we go through to become a Harrier pilot is taught the exact same way as it is to Americans, and the planes are the same, so there is not much difference when landing on the American ships,” Manica said in the public release. “Our landing procedures are almost exactly the same as well, so there are no problems when we come in to land on U.S. Navy ships.”

MEDITERRANEAN SEA (July 18, 2018) A U.S. Marine assigned to Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron (VMM) 162 completes post flight maintenance on an Italian AV-8B Harrier aboard the Wasp-class amphibious assault ship USS Iwo Jima (LHD 7), in the Mediterranean Sea, July 18, 2018. The Harrier and its crew will return to the United States for scheduled maintenance at Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, North Carolina. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Jon Sosner/ Released)

The Italian Navy operates little more than a dozen Harriers that are planned to be replaced by the F-35B (probably 15, according to most sources). Italy’s first-built F-35B, aircraft BL-1, was delivered to the Italian Ministry of Defense and assigned to the Italian Navy at the Cameri, Italy, Final Assembly & Check-Out (FACO) facility, on Jan. 25, 2018. It completed its transatlantic crossing landing at Naval Air Station Patuxent River in Maryland on Jan. 31. At Pax River, the aircraft, serialled MM7451/4-01 will obtain the Electromagnetic Environmental Effects certification, before moving to MCAS Beaufort, South Carolina home of U.S. Marine Corps F-35B pilot training.

RAF Scampton, Home of The Dambusters and the Red Arrows, To Be Closed and Sold.

Famous RAF Base Has Illustrious History Dating Back to WWI as One of Oldest Air Bases.

The British Ministry of Defense (MoD) has announced the upcoming closure of the famous RAF Scampton air base outside the village of Scampton, Lincolnshire, UK. The base is among the oldest military air facilities in the world, having commenced operations in 1916 as Home Defense Flight Station Brattleby, or Brattleby Cliff to some. Reports in the local Lincolnite news outlet say the base will close by 2022.

RAF Scampton is currently home the Royal Air Force Aerobatic Team, the famous Red Arrows. The world-renowned flight demonstration was first based at RAF Scampton in 1983, but was relocated to other airfields until they returned to Scampton in late 2000 where they reside today.

The closure of RAF Scampton joins the additional closure of RAF Linton-on-Ouse as a cost cutting measure estimated to save the British MoD as much as £3bn (nearly $4 billion U.S. dollars) by 2040 according to a report in the BBC World News. The report went on to say the two bases currently employ a combined total of approximately 900 people. There was no information on how those jobs may be affected by the two base closures.

The pastoral setting of RAF Scampton conjures iconic images of the RAF’s illustrious history. This year marks the 100th Anniversary of the Royal Air Force as one of the world’s oldest independent military air force. Celebrations and events commemorating the RAF’s history have been taking place all summer in the U.K. and will continue throughout the year.

RAF Scampton was home to the famous 617 Squadron in 1943. Known most famously as “The Dambusters” for their unique and daring raid, “Operation Chastise” on the large industrial dams of Ruhr Valley using early, rudimentary precision bombs designed by Barnes Wallis. The operation to strike the dams has been celebrated in books and film and even commemorated by flyovers of Lancaster bombers today.

The famous “Dambusters” raid by 617 Squadron originated from RAF Scampton in 1943. (Photo: Royal Air Force Benevolent Fund/MoD)

In 1956, RAF Scampton underwent major renovation as the Cold War reached its most threatening era. A runway was lengthened to 10,000 feet to accommodate the majestic Avro Vulcan delta-wing heavy bomber made famous during the “Black Buck” air raids on the Falkland Islands from Ascension Island in the Atlantic.

The iconic Avro Vulcan bomber was based at RAF Scampton during the Cold War. (Photo: MoD, Crown Copyright)

BBC Defense correspondent Jonathan Beale wrote that, “This will not be a popular decision, but defense sources say the base is looking tired and in need of investment. The RAF has assessed money would be better placed on improving its existing core sites.”

While fans of the RAF and British military history will lament the base closure, they also have plenty to celebrate as the country welcomes the arrival of its new F-35B Lightning (in British service, the F-35 is known as the “Lightning”, not the “Lightning II” according the MoD website). Also worthy of celebration is the ongoing testing of the new HMS Queen Elizabeth toward the goal of full F-35 strike capability by the F-35 from the ship in 2020.

Top image: RAF Scampton has most recently been known as the home the RAF Red Arrows aerobatic team. (Photo: UK MoD, Crown Copyright)

Take A Look At This Amazing Video Of a B-1B Lancer Night Afterburner Takeoff and Spiral Climb

A “Bone” taking off at night it’s always an impressive sight.

The US Air Force B-1B Lancer (Bone from B-One within the pilot community) was once again one of the highlights of EAA AirVenture 2018 airshow in Oshkosh, Winsconsin. This year, during the Wednesday night airshow, the heavy bomber performed its usually noisy takeoff, kept the burners lit and performed an impressive spiral climb into the clouds before heading home!

Besides attending summer airshows, the B-1B Lancer, from the 34th Expeditionary Bomb Squadron, assigned to the 379th Air Expeditionary Wing, are supporting the air war on ISIS from the U.S. Air Force Central Command’s area of operations. The Bones have replaced the B-52s of the 69th Expeditionary Bomb Squadron, that returned home last April, after a two-year assignment. The first combat mission in support of Operation Inherent Resolve was launched from Al Udeid, Qatar, on Apr. 8, 2018.

In the last couple of years, the B-1s have been upgraded: cockpit modifications provide enhanced situational awareness to the aircrew and enable incorporation into the Link 16 network. This allows them to digitally communicate with the Combined Air Operations Center and other airborne and ground based weapons systems, the U.S. Air Force says.

“This B-1 that we’re bringing back to the fight is different than any other B-1 that has deployed here before,” Lt. Col. Timothy Griffith, 34th EBS commander, said whent he aircraft returned to the theater. “It’s the first time this upgraded aircraft is going to be employed in combat and we’re honored and humbled to lead the B-1 community back into the AOR. We have had an extremely focused and disciplined training program designed to ensure all our Airmen are trained and ready to employ the upgraded B-1 in combat.”

Top image: screenshot from AirshowStuff video. H/T to our friend Ashley Wallace for sharing this cool video on FB.