Category Archives: Military Aviation

Polish Air Force MiG-29 Fulcrum Jets Return To Flight

Polish Air Force MiG-29 Fulcrums back in the air.

On Nov. 5, 2018, at 2:36PM, MiG-29UBM ’28’ of the Polish Air Force took off for a mission which marked the end the suspension of the Polish Fulcrum operations. The operations of the jets were suspended due to the crash on Jul. 6. 2018, that turned out to be fatal for the pilot, Lt. Krzysztof Sobański (posthumously promoted to the rank of a Captain) belonging to the 22nd Tactical Air Base in Malbork.

Only one jet got back to flying after practical implementation of the recommendations made by the Polish military aircraft accident investigation authority, the KBWLLP body (Komisja Badania Wypadków Lotniczych Lotnictwa Państwowego – Commission For Aircraft Accidents Investigation in State Aviation).

The KBWLLP has not disclosed its findings to the public. The timeline related to suspension involves two crashes, one that happened on Dec. 17. 2017 and the other one, fatal, mentioned above. Some rumors suggest that one of the main issues that led to the death of the pilot relates to the ejection seat, while the aircraft also had problems with its fuel system.

Our photo-correspondent, Wojciech Mazurkiewicz, was at the Minsk Mazowiecki Airbase on Nov. 5., providing us with imagery related to the MiG’s return to the sky.

MiG-29UBM ’28’ of the Polish Air Force took returning from its first mission after the stand down on Nov. 5. (Image credit: Wojciech Mazurkiewicz).

Notably, the Polish Air Force is looking forward to replace the Fulcrums and the Fitters, with the latter type operated by the 21st Tactical Air Base in Świdwin, through the Harpia program. The potential replacements include designs such as Gripen, F-16V, or F-35.

Image credit: Wojciech Mazurkiewicz

RAF Tornado GR4 In Special Color Scheme Celebrates +36 Years Of Tonka Operations (Ahead Of Retirement in 2019)

Amazing color scheme for this IX(B) Sqn “Tonka” at RAF Marham.

With the arrival of the first F-35B Lightning 5th generation aircraft, the Royal Air Force prepares to retire one of its most important and famous types: the Tornado GR4.

The last aircraft will be retired from active service next year. In order to celebrate +36 years of Tornado operations, the IX(B) Squadron, based at RAF Marham, pained the Tornado GR4 ZG775/AF in a special color scheme.

IX(B) Sqn moved to its current home base after the closure of RAF Brüggen, Germany, on July 17 2001. According to the RAF website “the Squadron deployed to Kuwait in February 2003 and was heavily involved in the second Gulf War as part of the Ali-Al Salem Combat Air Wing. From 2004 to 2010, IX (B) Squadron deployed annually to support Operation TELIC, in support of Allied troops on the ground in Iraq. The Squadron was also involved in Operation HERRICK, from 2008 to 2014, delivering Close Air Support over Afghanistan. In March 2011 the Squadron led the first long-range Storm Shadow mission in Libya on Operation ELLAMY, and deployed to Gioia del Colle, Italy, at the end of that year. In 2015, the Squadron deployed on Operation SHADER, and was the first to attack Syrian oilfields after Parliament’s vote on Dec. 2, 2015 to widen the air operation against D’aesh. That very night 16 targets were struck, 2 hours and 51 minutes after the vote returned overwhelming support.”

By the way, British Tornado attack planes are dubbed “Tonka”, an unofficial nickname that dates back to the early days of service. Here’s what a former RAF service member wrote on a modellers forum years ago about this nick:

“I joined the RAF in 1983, I did my training alongside ex-Tonka linies, they called them Tonkas so it pre-dates 1983, we all called them Tonka’s, everybody in the RAF called them Tonka’s, I’m always gonna call them Tonka’s – I ain’t never gonna call them by their proper name.”

Top image: Crown Copyright/RAF

Russian Navy Tu-142 Flies “Over” USS Mount Whitney involved in Ex. Trident Juncture in the Norwegian Sea

A Russian Navy Tu-142 Bear-F long-range maritime patrol reconnaissance and anti-submarine warfare aircraft made a “surprise visit” to the USS Mount Whitney, off the Norwegian coast.

Sailors aboard the Blue Ridge-class command ship of the U.S. Navy USS Mount Whitney had gathered for a group photo on deck, when a Tupolev TU-142, RF-34063 / 56 RED based on AFP photographs, flying in international airspace, soared more or less overhead, on Nov. 2, 2018.

USS Mount Whitney is involved in Exercise Trident Juncture, NATO’s largest such drills in 20 years which runs through Nov. 7 and simulate an Art. 5 response to an armed attack against one ally. Needless to say, Russia has already made public its displeasure over the exercise that is considers an anti-Russian show of force. Consequently, Moscow announced plans to perform rocket test firings in the basin of the Norwegian Sea, from Nov. 1-3.

Along with the missile tests in an area close to TJ exercise, on Oct. 31, Russia said two of its Tu-160 strategic bombers carried out a 10-hour routine mission over the Barents and Norwegian seas. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said NATO drills would continue as planned. “I don’t expect that that will cause any serious problems, but as I said we will follow the movement of the Russian maritime capabilities closely, and they are informed about our exercise, so we do whatever we can to avoid any dangerous situation.”

Nothing dramatic then, if it wasn’t for the type of the Russian aircraft involved in the latest close encounter: a Tu-142MZ (based on the presence of the chin fairings) the last production variant of the “Bear F”, with new NK-12MP engines and a new avionics suite, a variant dubbed Bear-F Mod. 4 rarely spotted in that area. Last year we posted a video of a Tu-142MK filmed by a Royal Danish Air Force F-16. According to the RDAF the Russian Navy aircraft had only been seen in the area a few times earlier. In fact, the majority of the missions flown by the Russians over the Baltic Sea or around northern Europe involve long-range strategic bombers, such as the Tu-95 Bear and the Tu-22M Backfire.

According to “Russia’s Warplanes, Volume 2” by Piotr Butowski published by Harpia Publishing, one of the most authoritative sources on Russian-made military aircraft and helicopters today, the Russia’s Naval Aviation has two Tu-142 squadrons, one with Tu-142MK (NATO reporting name Bear-F Mod. 3) aircraft at Kipelovo-Fedotovo and one with Tu-142MZ (Bear-F Mod. 4) at Mongoktho.

The Tu-142MK and MZ are both able to carry a maximum of 9,000 kg (19,842lb) weapons load inside two fuselage weapons bays, with options including three torpedoes (the rocket-propelled APR-2/APR-3, or the electric AT-2M or UMGT-1) or depth charges (such as the Zagon/Zagon-2 guided charges and nuclear depth charges), mines and sonobuoys. The typical loadout of a Tu-142MK comprises 3x torpedoes and 66x RGB-75, 44x RGB-15, 10x RGB-25 and 15 RGB-55 sonobuoys.

By the way, the presence of the Russian Navy aircraft off Norway was the reason for the scramble of Royal Air Force QRA Typhoons from RAF Lossiemouth as well as Royal Norwegian Air Force F-16s from Bodo:

Top image: AFP photo/Jonathan Nackstrand

Israeli F-16I Sufa Loses Braking Action During Taxi. Pilot Forced To Veer Into A Ditch.

An unusual incident occurred to an F-16I Sufa at Ramon air base.

An Israeli Air Force F-16I Sufa belonging to the 119 Squadron, also known as “The Bat” Squadron, was damaged at Ramon air base, Israel, on Oct. 31.

According to the reports, the aircraft was taxiing after landing when the pilot lost braking action: the pilot deliberately forced the Sufa into a ditch in order to stop it. The emergency maneuver prevented the aircraft from harming ground crews. The aircrew managed to escape the aircraft safely.

The incident is being investigated; the extent of the damage suffered by the aircraft is unknown.

As a side note, the F-16I Sufa was reportedly returning from a training mission. However, based on the only available image, the aircraft seem to carry at least a live GBU-38 JDAM (Joint Direct Attack Munition).

Image credit: Israeli Defense Force via @yoavzitun

T-6 Texan II Aircraft (Including One In B-25 Colors) Take Part In A Rather Unusual “Elephant Walk” at Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph, Texas

T-6 Texan IIs from the 559th Flying Training Squadron and the 39th FTS participated in an “Elephant Walk” at Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph, Texas. One, painted in the colors of the B-25s that flew in World War II.

“Elephant walk” exercises are conducted quite regularly at airbases all around the world to test the squadrons ability to launch large formations of aircraft at short notice.

During this kind of drills, combat planes (including tankers) taxi in close formation in the same way they would do in case of a minimum interval takeoff; still, depending on the purpose of the training event, the aircraft can either take off or return back to their parking slots.

“Elephant Walks” have always been particularly frequent in South Korea where local-based U.S. Air Force jets (often alongside Republic of Korea Air Force planes) often stage such “collective shows of force” in response to North Korea’s aggressive posture and threats: tens of U.S. F-16s, A-10s and South Korea’s ROKAF KF-16s regularly taxi down the runway at Kunsan or Osan airbases, in collective “shows of force” whose primary aim is to test squadrons’ readiness to war time operations. However, similar exercises are also conducted at airbases in Continental U.S. as happened, for instance, in April 2012, when nearly 70 F-15E Strike Eagles took part to one of the largest Elephant Walk to date at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, N.C.

The latest Elephant Walk on the U.S. soil took place on Oct. 26, 2018, when T-6 Texan II single-engine, two-seat turboprop primary trainer aircraft from the 559th Flying Training Squadron and the 39th FTS participated in an “Elephant Walk” at Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph, Texas. Although Elephant Walks are commonly performed as a “show of force,” the Squadron at Randolph conducted one to get in touch with their heritage: both were formed and operated during WWII. The exercise was called a “Goat Trot/Snake Slither” as the 559th are the fighting Billy Goats and the 39th are the Cobras.

The 559th Flying Training Squadron provides T-6A Pilot Instructor Training for Joint Primary Pilot Training and CSO training at Naval Air Station Pensacola, Fla. The squadron flies more than 16,000 hours annually in a fleet of 38 T-6A aircraft and qualifies more than 200 U.S. Air Force, Navy, Marine and allied pilots annually.

The 39th FTS is part of the 340th Flying Training Group and is the reserve associate to the 12th Flying Training Wing based at Randolph Air Force Base, Texas.

T-6 Texan IIs from the 559th Flying Training Squadron and the 39th FTS participated in an “Elephant Walk” Oct. 26, 2018, at Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph, Texas. Image credit: Airman Shelby Pruitt

Noteworthy, since the 559th FTS traces its lineage back to the 81st Bombardment Squadron, the lead aircraft was painted in the colors of the B-25s they flew in World War II.

T-6 Texan IIs from the 559th Flying Training Squadron and the 39th FTS participated in an “Elephant Walk” Oct. 26, 2018, at Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph, Texas. Image credit: Airman Shelby Pruitt.

Based on the photographs, 23 T-6 aircraft took part in the Elephant Walk.