Category Archives: War on ISIS

The U.S. Air Force Wants To Use The B-52 Strategic Bomber For Leaflet Drops During PSYOPS Missions

Testers from the 419th Flight Test Squadron are looking to see if B-52 Stratofortress bombers can undertake psychological operations dropping leaflets with messages.

Along with nuclear bombs and several other weapons, the U.S. Air Force B-52 Stratofortress strategic bombers may one day be used to drop leaflets.

Indeed, the Air Force has recently completed two successful sorties, where testers from the 419th Flight Test Squadron, from Edwards Air Force Base, California, released eight PDU-5/B leaflet bombs over the Point Mugu Sea Test Range and eight more over the Precision Impact Range Area on Edwards.

“We are primarily looking to see safe separation from the external Heavy Stores Adapter Beam,” said Kevin Thorn, 419th FLTS B-52 air vehicle manager in a USAF public release. “We are ensuring that the bombs do not contact the aircraft, and/or each other, creating an unsafe condition. Additionally we are tracking the reliability of the bomb functioning.”

Leaflets with messages used to communicate with the locals or with the enemy troops (persuading them to surrender) have been part of the PSYOPS for decades. Such leaflets can be distributed in several different ways, including drops from a vast variety of aircraft, in order to reach a wide area.

For instance, in 2015, U.S. F-15E Strike Eagles dropped leaflets over Islamic State insurgents in Syria using PDU-5B leaflet canisters; in 2012, air drop of leaflets in support of Information Operations were conducted by the U.S. Army above Helmand province, Afghanistan, using U.S. Marine Corps MV-22B Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft in areas of the Helmand province unreachable by conventional communication. During the Air War in Libya, in 2011, U.S. Air Force EC-130s broadcast radio messages to the Libyan military to persuade them to return to their families before it was too late, whereas Italian C-130J aircraft dropped leaflets over Tripoli to counter Gaddafi’s regime propaganda in Libya’s capital city.

Leaflets have been also air dropped by Syrian Arab Air Force Mil Mi-8 helicopters over Aleppo in August 2012 to urge rebels to surrender to the Syrian Army and even Israeli A-4 dropped leaflets over the northern Gaza Strip in November 2012, to call for civilians to stay away from terrorist target areas and emphasize that Hamas was responsible for the situation in the Strip.

Today, testers from the 419th Flight Test Squadron are looking to see if the world’s most iconic strategic bomber can accomplish this task.

The B-52 used a PDU-5/B, a new-use or variant of an older Cluster Bomb Uni designated MK 20 Rockeye II, SUU-76B/B, and/or CBU-99/100 depending on the type of filler used in the bomb.

The PDU-5/B (the same used by the F-15E mentioned above), can deliver about 60,000 leaflets; it was first deployed in Operation Iraqi Freedom before any Air Force munitions began hitting targets in Baghdad, Iraq.

“Without the capability to carry PDU-5s on the B-52 aircraft, the impending shortfall on leaflet dispersal capability will jeopardize Air Force Central Command information operations,” said Earl Johnson, B-52 PDU-5/B project manager. The “Buff” can carry 16 PDU-5s under the wings, making it able to distribute 900,000 leaflets in a single sortie.

The testing the PDU-5/B on the B-52 is complete for now even though the program is forecasted to return at a future date to test PDU-5/B releases from the B-52’s internal weapons bay.

A B-52 Stratofortress assigned to the 419th Flight Test Squadron with eight PDU-5/B leaflet bombs underneath the left wing. The PDU-5/B is a repurposed Cluster Bomb Unit used to release leaflets (paper cut into a specific size). Leaflets are generally dropped during U.S. military psychological operations overseas. When released from the aircraft, a fuse is set to a certain time to tell the bomb to detonate and release the leaflets. (U.S. Air Force photo by Christopher Okula)

 

Russian Tu-95 Bear Bombers Escorted By Su-30SM Jets Carry Out Air Strike In Syria Using Kh-101 Strategic Cruise Missiles

Russian Global Strike show of force in Syria.

On Jul. 5, Tu-95MS Bear strategic missile platforms conducted an air strike on ISIS targets the Russian MoD reported.

The Russia Air Force bombers, launched from Engels, near Saratov in the southwestern part of Russia and the base hosting Russian Long Range Aviation strategic bombers, and supported by Il-76/78 tankers and Su-30SM fighters, that provided air cover, attacked targets located on the border of the provinces of Hama and Homs, in Syria.

“As a result of the missile strike 3 large warehouses of weapons and ammunition, as well as a command post of terrorists near the town of Akerbat were destroyed. This was confirmed by data of objective control,” says the Russian MoD release, that also highlights the use, from 1,000 km, of the Kh-101 strategic air-launched LO (Low Observable) cruise missile.

The Raduga Kh-101 missile is believed to use a combination of inertial guidance and satellite navigation using the Russian GLONASS system, with opto-electronic flight correction system;  it features a CEP (Circular Error Probable) of less than 30 feet.

This is not the first time the Russian bombers use the cruise missile (with a maximum range of 4,500 km) that can also be equipped with a nuclear warhead. On Nov. 17, 2015 the Russian Air Force launched 25 heavy bombers against ISIS ground targets in Syria, including 5 x Tu-160 Blackjack, carrying the then new Kh-101 cruise missiles. It was the combat debut for the Russian stealthy cruise missile.

Between Nov. 19 and 20, 2015 the Russian Air Force conducted a very long-range strike mission against IS targets in Syria that saw two Tu-160 Blackjack strategic bombers depart from the Kola Peninsula, skirt the airspace of Norway and the UK, fly over the Atlantic until Gibraltar, enter the Mediterranean sea and then eastbound towards Syria to launch the stealthy KH-101 cruise missiles. More recently, both on Nov. 17, 2016, and Feb. 17, 2017, Tu-95s (able to carry 8 Kh-101s) fired the LO cruise missiles against targets in Syria.

Interestingly, although not trackable online, the radio activity listened by radio hams and aviation enthusiasts on the HF frequencies used by the Russian strategic bombers could be a hint that some Bears (or Blackjacks) were airborne:

 

Image credit: Russia MoD

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Urban Counter-Insurgency Airstrikes On ISIS Targets In The Philippines Suited to Legacy OV-10 Bronco

Philippine OV-10 Broncos Attack ISIL Targets in Marawi. Two OV-10 aircraft were flown in an experiment supporting Operation Inherent Resolve against ISIL in Iraq and Syria.

The Philippine Air Force has revived the legacy Rockwell OV-10 Bronco light attack aircraft in recent airstrikes on Maute and Abu Sayyaf insurgents associated with ISIL in the city of Marawi in the Philippines.

Beginning with the capture of the central section of Marawi on May 23, Philippine special operations units have fought a difficult house-to-house urban battle to reclaim territory lost to the terrorists. The OV-10 Broncos have supported the operation with mostly unguided bombs, a dangerous mission in close proximity to friendly forces.

The ten remaining OV-10 Broncos in Philippine inventory, including eight upgraded to deliver precision guided weapons, have been used for airstrikes in the densely populated urban area of Marawi in the Philippines. A shortage of guided weapons in Philippine military inventory has caused the aircraft to rely on predominantly unguided weapons.

A Philippine Air Force OV-10 Bronco. (Samuel Forston)

The North American Rockwell OV-10 Bronco was developed as a forward air control/counter insurgency aircraft during the Vietnam War. It first flew in July of 1965.

In recent U.S./coalition testing the legacy OV-10 Bronco distinguished itself as a highly effective and reliable urban counter-insurgency asset.

Two of the OV-10 aircraft were flown in an experiment supporting Operation Inherent Resolve, the U.S.-led international campaign against ISIL in Iraq and Syria. While the specific locations and objectives of the experimental U.S. OV-10 strikes were not disclosed U.S. Central Command did confirm that the OV-10 Broncos flew 134 sorties, including 120 combat missions, over a span of 82 days beginning in May 2015. Interestingly, a U.S. Navy crew was reported to be flying these strikes.

As of Monday, Jun. 12, 2017 local reports in the Philippines claim that approximately 200 remaining terrorists have been contained to a roughly three-block area in downtown Marawi. Airstrikes by the OV-10’s are centered in that area. There have also been strikes flown by the South Korean built FA-50PH “Fighting Eagle” light jet aircraft.

The United States is providing surveillance and other unspecified support of the operation with a P-3 Orion surveillance and control aircraft. Additionally, U.S. special operations forces have been seen on the ground during the campaign. The U.S. special operations personnel were photographed with control equipment for flying the AeroVironment RQ-20 Puma light surveillance drone. The RQ-20 is a battery-powered, nearly silent hand-launched surveillance drone that carries small cameras with regular and infrared imaging. It can send the live video images back to ground forces for use in targeting and surveillance.

U.S. special operations operators control a light drone in Marawi, Philippines. (Twitter via Abraxas Spa)

The anti-ISIL campaign in the Philippines continues the discussion about the increased role of light attack aircraft in the Global War on Terror. Many new entries into the light attack turboprop category have been introduced during the last decade including the Embraer A-29 Super Tucano, Beechcraft AT-6 and the agriculture based Air Tractor AT-802U. Proponents of these aircraft argue they are more capable of prosecuting targets with high precision, smaller weapons with less risk of collateral damage and for lower cost than larger jet-powered aircraft programs.

Top image credit: Samuel Forston

 

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Take A Seat In the Cockpit Of A U.S. B-52 Bomber As It Drops GBU-31 “Bunker Buster” Bombs On ISIS Targets In Mosul

Rare Insight Into The Operations Of The B-52s.

The venerable U.S. Air Force B-52 Buffs have been supporting the air war on ISIS since April 2016. They Stratofortress strategic bombers, based at Al Udeid, Qatar, launched their first air strike against a Daesh weapons storage facility in Iraq on Apr. 18, 2016.

As already highlighted in a previous article, the USAF B-52s have mainly flown Close Air Support and Air Interdiction mainly delivering two types of JDAMs (Joint Direct Attack Munitions): the 500-lb laser-guided GBU-54s and the 2,000-lb GPS-guided GBU-31V3 “bunker busters” loaded onto the Heavy Stores Adaptor Beam pylons.

The typical loadout includes 3x GBU-31s and 8x GBU-54s along with PGMs carried inside the bomb bay of the B-52H Stratofortress. With the 1760 Internal Weapons Bay Upgrade the Buffs can carry up to 16 external laser JDAMs (8 per pylon) as well as 8 internal J-series weapons mounted on a conventional rotary launcher: a mix of PGMs that gives the Buffs the ability to deliver attack both stationary and moving ground targets. In particular, the GBU-54s, that combines 500-lb Mk-82 warhead and the precision strike capability delivered by its dual Laser/GPS mode guidance system can be used against targets with reduced collateral damage.

For hardened targets or concrete shelters, the weapons of choice is the GBU-31s.The JDAM is a GPS aided inertially guided bomb. The Guidance and Control Unit (GCU) containing a HG1700 RLG, GEM-III GPS receiver and computer package is installed inside the bomb tailkit. The GCU is used on the bunker busting 2,000-lb class BLU-109/B forged steel penetrator warhead.

The GBU-31s are assembled at Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar, by airmen from the 379th Expeditionary Maintenance Squadron’s Munitions Flight. Considered that the base

The following video provides a really interesting point of view: it shows a high-altitude attack on a target in western Mosul (according to @obretix), as seen from the cockpit of a B-52 of the 23rd Expeditionary Bomb Squadron on May 23, 2017. The detonation of the bombs as they hit the ground appears to be pretty huge.

H/T @obretix for the heads-up

 

Here Are Some Details And Photographs About The Polish F-16s Involved In The Air War Against The Islamic State

Polish Air Force F-16 Jets Log More than 1,500 Hours in Support Of Operation Inherent Resolve Against Daesh.

Little is known about the missions carried out by the Polish Air Force F-16 Block 52+ combat aircraft deployed to the Middle East in support of the U.S.-led coalition fighting ISIS in Iraq and Syria.

According to the report issued by the Polish Altair.com.pl media outlet, the four Polish F-16s, that are restricted to the reconnaissance role using the DB110 recce pod, have logged more than 1,500 hours of flight time.

The F-16 operations in Kuwait, carried out by the Polish Air Force within the framework of Operation Inherent Resolve (OIR), are supported by 150 military.

Interestingly, according to the Polish officers deployed in theater, quoted by Altair, while conducting their sorties, the Polish F-16 pilot also got a chance to encounter some non-coalition aircraft: this, undoubtedly, contributes to the amount of combat experience gained during the Kuwaiti deployment, even though, at least officially, the Polish fighter aircraft do not carry ordnance other than the air-to-air weaponry required for self-defense purposes. Indeed, at least according to the few photos recently released by the U.S. Air Force, the Polish F-16s carry 2x AIM-120 AMRAAM and 2x AIM-9X Sidewinder air-to-air missiles, two drop tanks along with the DB110 recce pod and the Sniper XR targeting pod.

A Polish air force maintainer looks on as an F-16 Fighting Falcon prepares to taxi for a mission at the 407th Air Expeditionary Group, April 24, 2017. The Polish Airmen are part of the 60-nation coalition force supporting Operation Inherent Resolve in the fight against ISIS. (U.S. Air Force photo/Master Sgt. Benjamin Wilson)(Released)

Notably, throughout the recent period we have observed a major spike in activities undertaken by the Polish Air Force, with the F-16 platform. Not only were the Łask Air Base pilots deployed to Kuwait in a reconnaissance role, but beginning on May this year, a detachment of Polish F-16 jets from the Poznan-Krzesiny Air Base deployed to the Baltic to take over the NATO’s Baltic Air Policing duties so far usually assigned to the Polish MiG-29 aircraft from either the Malbork, or the Minsk Mazowiecki Airbase.

A Polish air force pilot performs preflight checks in an F-16 Fighting Falcon before taxiing for a mission at the 407th Air Expeditionary Group, April 24, 2017. The Polish Airmen are part of the 60-nation coalition force supporting Operation Inherent Resolve in the fight against ISIS. (U.S. Air Force photo/Master Sgt. Benjamin Wilson)(Released)

This may be due to different reasons.: maybe the Polish Air Force looks to transition most of the combat duties to its modern assets, or this is a mere political gesture, showcasing the involvement of the most modern Polish aircraft abroad, in order to flex some muscles.

Last but not least, it is worth mentioning that the Polish, domestically based, F-16s are currently stationed at the Krzesiny AB, while Łask Air Base undergoes runway maintenance works, with the strip being extended to accommodate a C-5 Galaxy aircraft: according to the rumors, Łask is going to become a major NATO hub on the Eastern Flank.

A Polish air force maintainer looks on as an F-16 Fighting Falcon prepares to taxi for a mission at the 407th Air Expeditionary Group, April 24, 2017. The Polish Airmen are part of the 60-nation coalition force supporting Operation Inherent Resolve in the fight against ISIS. (U.S. Air Force photo/Master Sgt. Benjamin Wilson)(Released)(U.S. Air Force photo/Master Sgt. Benjamin Wilson)(Released)