Category Archives: Military Aviation

Footage Of Japan’s New Kawasaki C-2 ELINT Variant Operating From Iruma Air Base Emerges

New footage shows the intelligence gathering aircraft at Iruma Air Base.

Footage and photographs have emerged of the Japanese Kawasaki C-2 Electronic Intelligence variant (also dubbed “RC-2”) operating at Iruma Air Base, north of western Tokyo, Japan.

The aircraft, a heavily modified baseline C-2 tactical transport aircraft with a modified nose section and large fairings top of the tail, fuselage and sides of it, as well as several antennas underneath the fuselage, is serialled 18-1202 and was first spotted undergoing taxi tests and first flights at Japan Air Self-Defense Force base at Gifu, home of JASDF’s Air Development and Test Command and Kawasaki Heavy Industries facility, at the beginning of February 2018. The C-2 ELINT is going to replace the obsolete JASDF’s YS-11EB ELINT aircraft.

All the enlarged fairings on the C-2 ELINT testbed 18-1202. Not visible in this screenshot are the antennas located underneath the fuselage. (Modified screenshot from video below).

Interestingly, on Jun. 26, the “RC-2” visited Iruma, where the NAMC YS-11EB of the Electronic Intelligence Squadron are based:

The following video shows the C-2 ELINT taxiing and taking off from Iruma Air Base:

Little is known about the intelligence gathering variant of the C-2: considered that it will be an ELINT/COMINT (Electronic Intelligence/Communication Intelligence) platform, it’s safe to assume will be equipped with sensors and antennas required to collect signals from distance, process the data to classify and geo-locate it and then store or share the information to other aerial, naval or ground assets. More or less what other modern (or ageingspyplanes do.

The NAMC YS-11EB is the aircraft the C-2 ELINT will replace. (Credit: Toshi Aoki – JP Spotters)

Noteworthy, the first trip to Iruma made the C-2 ELINT aircraft trackable by means of ADS-B/Mode-S transponder. The track collected by our friend @CivMilAir shows the aircraft arriving from Gifu to Iruma on Jun. 26:

The part of track showing the C-2 ELINT on its way to Iruma Air Base. (Credit: @CivMilAir)

Top image: screenshot from @amuro1415 video on Twitter.

Behind The Scenes Of An Amazing Air-To-Air Photoshoot With Two F-16C Block 52+ Jets

Ever wondered how some of the air-to-air photos which appear in aviation magazines are taken? This video will give you an answer…

The following clip was filmed by world famous photographer Sławek Krajniewski, best known as “Hesja“, from a Polish Air Force CASA C-295 during NATO Tiger Meet 2018, that took place at the 31st Tactical Air Base in Poznan-Krzesiny, Poland, between May 14 and May 25.

The air-to-air photo shooting involved two Polish Air Force F-16C Block 52+ Fighting Falcon jets from 6th Tiger’s Fighter Squadron somewhere over Kołobrzeg and Bagicz airfield.

As you can see, the two “Vipers” flew extremely close to the photo-ship, so much so it seems the photographers could almost touch the F-16s. The video is also interesting because it shows the maneuvering and work required from both sides (pilots and photographers) to get the cool shots you can find on aircraft magazines and websites all around the world.

In case you were wondering what kind of lens Hesja used during the shooting, here they are: 70-200mm and 24-120mm. One of the shots resulting from the multiple “breaks” that you can see in the last part of the clip can be found here below:

Make sure you visit Hesja website and like his Facebook page here for more amazing photographs!

That Time An Alitalia B747 (Escorted By Italian Air Force Tornado and AMX) Wowed The Crowd At An Air Show Near Rome

In 1996, an Alitalia B747-200 Jumbo Jet accompanied by two ItAF combat aircraft performed a remarkable display during Ostia Air Show.

Ostia, on the Tyrrhenian coast, few kilometers to the west of Rome, has hosted 13 editions of the Ostia then Rome International Air Show: the first one in 1988 and the last in 2014.

Located between an international airport (Rome-Fiumicino) airport and a military airfield (Pratica di Mare airbase), the air show has often attracted interesting aircraft, including large airliners and fast jets. As happened in 1996. On Jun. 2, 1996, the Ostia Air Show included a really unique display: an Alitalia B747-200 performed some flybys escorted by an Italian Air Force Tornado IDS and an AMX belonging to the 311° Gruppo of the Reparto Sperimentale Volo (ItAF’s Test Wing) from “Pratica”.

The B747 trailed by an AMX and a Tornado. (All photos: Author)

Unfortunately all I could find about that airshow (that I attended) are the three photographs (hence the poor quality) that you can find in this post. You can still get an idea of the sight (by the way if some of our readers have better photographs or a video, please let us know).

The somehow crappy photos taken from the beach by this author show the Alitalia Jumbo (a type that had already taken part, alone, to the 1991 edition of the airshow) flying alongside the Italian combat jets (noteworthy, the Tornado IDS was still wearing the Desert livery applied to the fleet that took part in Operation Locusta – the Italian contribution to Desert Storm in 1991 – from Al Dhafra, in UAE).

By the way, between 1970 and 2004, Alitalia operated a fleet of 21 B747s: 2x -100 and 19x -200 examples.

The B747 turning over the sea while performing a gear-down passage.

As already said, the airshow often featured airliners along with combat aircraft. Watch what this ATI MD-82 did in 1992 (I was there as well):

All photos: Author

 

Operation “Lightning”: Four Italian F-35A Stealth Jets Deploy to Rivolto And Engage “Polygone” range in Germany

The Italian 5th generation jets have made another step to declare IOC (Initial Operational Capability).

On Jun. 8, for Italian Air Force F-35s, belonging to the 13° Gruppo (Squadron) of the 32° Stormo (Wing) from Amendola airbase, landed at Rivolto, headquarters of the 2° Stormo, for their first operational deployment to another Italian airbase dubbed “Operation Lightning” (actually, the Italian Lightnings had already deployed to Decimomannu but as part of their first firing campaign in the Sardinian ranges).

During the subsequent week, the Italian stealth jets carried out a wide variety of activities including training operations with the SPADA missile systems Missile Group of the 2° Stormo. Interestingly, taking off from Rivolto and flying over Austria and Germany, the Italian F-35s also flew over “Polygone”, in Bann, Germany: the 5th generation aircraft performed an average of six sorties each day.

The activity was aimed at assessing and enhancing the skills required to conduct complex deployments far from the F-35’s main operating base and a step required to achieve the type’s Initial Operational Capability in the air-to-ground role (the IOC in the air-to-air role has already been achieved).

“Operation Lightning” came to an end on Friday Jun. 15, when the aircraft returned back to Amendola, along with the supporting personnel.

F-35 during ground refueling operations at Rivolto.

Image credit: ItAF

Why the New U.S. Space Force Isn’t as Whacky as The Internet Suggests

Space May Be the “Final Frontier” Of a New Global Conflict Among Superpowers.

U.S. President Donald Trump launched a thousand memes when he announced the creation of a new military branch, a “U.S. Space Force” during a meeting of the National Space Council at the White House on Monday, June 18, 2018. The President told reporters that the new U.S. Space Force would become the sixth branch of the military to exist alongside but separately from the Air Force, Army, Marines, Navy and Coast Guard.

While President Trump’s announcement was received with humor and cynicism across social media, the formation of a U.S. military space force separate from and in addition to the existing five military branches is a credible and potentially overdue evolution for the U.S. military.

Since the first satellite, Sputnik 1, was placed in orbit by the former Soviet Union on October 4, 1957 over 8,000 objects have been launched into space. According to the Union of Concerned Scientists in a 2017 report, there were 1,738 operational satellites orbiting the earth at various altitudes broken into four categories; Low Earth Orbit, Medium Earth Orbit, Elliptical and Geosynchronous. Of those satellites, 159 are registered as “military” while an additional 150 are “government”. There are over 470 civilian satellites in orbit that provide everything from weather reconnaissance to communications.

Any disruption in vital space capabilities such as the six different national GPS constellations in orbit would have vast security and economic implications and present a significant vulnerability. Currently the U.S., Japan, Russia, China, the E.U. and India have GPS satellite constellations in orbit. These satellite constellations provide both vital commercial and military services ranging from civilian air transport to banking.

GPS jamming and denial is one example of potential threats in the outer space battle space. (Photo: Tom Demerly/TheAviationist.com)

Since the Army launched the first successful U.S. satellite, Explorer 1, on January 31, 1958 it is as if the United States has built a new colony in space with limited or no provision for security. This has created a significant and expanding vulnerability given our increasing reliance on space-based assets both commercial and military.

Since the late 1950’s the responsibility for space defense operations, including reconnaissance and signals intelligence, missile defense, treaty compliance verification and other defense oriented space operations has largely been on the U.S. Air Force. But as the Air Force confronts its own challenges with pilot shortages and fiscal concerns attendant to an increasingly complex and evolving mission, asking them to secure outer space in addition to inner space would necessitate a massive expansion in both budget and capabilities.

The current U.S. government space agency, NASA, is now operating on about the same budget as they had in 1960, with consistent declines in NASA funding since its peak in 1966 when NASA accounted for nearly 5% of the U.S. federal budget. Today NASA uses less than 1% of the federal budget as reliance on private commercial and military space operations has expanded. Despite this drastic reduction in government spending in space set against the backdrop of expanding reliance on space assets there remains no exclusive force to secure the outer space theater of operations.

Historically, the precedent for the formation of a U.S. Space Force is analogous to how the U.S. Air Force was started. Formed after WWII as a result of the 1947 National Security Act, the Air Force was previously a part of the U.S. Army. But as reliance on air power expanded, the missions became more complex and other nations developed an increasing level of commensurate air power the necessity for a separate force dedicated to air power became significant. It’s also important to acknowledge that despite the formation of a dedicated sir force separate from other branches, the Army, Navy, Marines and Coast Guard each retained their own indigenous air component exclusive to themselves. It’s likely the evolution of the U.S. Space Force will have a similar relationship with the other forces.

In the current battlespace, countries like China have developed anti-satellite weapons that could threaten international and U.S. space assets. In January 2007, the Chinese conducted an anti-satellite weapons test that successfully destroyed one of their own target satellites in orbit. The U.S. and Russia has demonstrated a similar capability as early as the 1980’s.

Since the first flight of the secretive X-37B on April 22, 2010, there have been many theories about what the role of the spacecraft may be. The first is that the X-37B is a space-based weapons platform: the spacecraft is pre-deployed into orbit armed with some type of weaponized re-entry vehicle that could be released over or near a specific target. It may also be a weapons delivery vehicle deployed in defense of space-based commercial assets such as the GPS satellite constellation. Although this theory is debunked by most analysts since, most likely, the platform is just a test bed for deploying satellites and servicing them robotically in space or a new intelligence gathering asset, the project itself reaffirms the interest of the U.S. military for space.

While the social media space received the announcement of a new U.S. Space Force with pointed humor and cynicism the reality is that a dedicated U.S. Space Force is likely overdue. There is an expanding need for a dedicated security asset in this rapidly expanding and largely unsecured environment. Hopefully this new U.S. Space Force can address that evolving need.

Top image: composition created with Wiki/U.S. Air Force photos