Category Archives: Weapons

Spanish Eurofighter Typhoon Accidentally Fires Live Air-to-Air Missile Over Estonia, 25 miles west of the Russian border.

Live AIM-120 AMRAAM Missile Still Missing with Search Underway.

A Spanish Air Force Eurofighter Typhoon combat aircraft accidently fired an AIM-120 Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missile (AMRAAM) while flying near Otepää in Estonia, less than 50 km west of the Russian border. The missile has not been recovered. The last assumed location of the missile is roughly 40 km to the north of the city of Tartu, and its direction was northbound.  The incident took place on Tuesday, August 7, 2018 sometime around 3:45 PM local.

A search is currently underway for the wreckage of the missile. According to a statement by Estonian Defense Forces, the AIM-120 AMRAAM was equipped with an automatic destruct mechanism intended to destroy the missile if it were accidentally discharged, but officials could not confirm if the missile had been destroyed. They have issued an official hotline phone number in Estonia to call immediately if parts of the missile are found, and the public is cautioned not to touch or approach suspected missile debris. The phone number to report suspected missile fragments in Estonia is: +372 717 1900.

AIM-120 AMRAAM on an Italian F-16 back in 2007. (Image credit: SCDBob via Wiki)

The Eurofighter Typhoon that accidentally fired the missile was based at Šiauliai, Lithuania, where it returned following the incident. Conflicting reports say the aircraft had either been participating in a training exercise or a QRA (quick reaction alert) drill: considered that alert aircraft carry live missiles, the latter seems more likely, even though aerial exercises in the context of enhanced air policing operations may involve armed aircraft.

The aircraft that accidentally discharged the missile was accompanied by another Spanish Typhoon and two French Mirage 2000 according to Estonia’s Ministry of Defense. This means the Eurofighter Typhoon C.16 was one of the six aircraft contingent from the Spanish military that assists with the NATO enhanced air policing mission in the region along with other aircraft. The air policing mission has received significant notoriety over the last years because of increased Russian air activity in the region, with the NATO air policing patrols frequently tasked with interception and escort of Russian aircraft.

Estonia’s Prime Minister Juri Ratas posted on Facebook that there were “No human casualties,” and characterized the incident as “extremely regrettable.”

He went on to say, “I am sure that the Estonian defense forces will, in cooperation with our allies, identify all the circumstances of the case and make every effort to make sure that nothing like this happens again.”

The incident calls into question the protocols associated with using live weapons in close proximity to civilian areas, and also raises concerns about the safety of the NATO air policing mission. What are the procedures for firing a live missile? How can a missile be fired by “accident”? Isn’t there a sort of Master Armament Switch that prevents arming the missiles?

This incident does appear to be unique however, with other accidental discharges of air-to-air missiles, especially in areas proximate to NATO patrol areas, being non-existent. In general, these patrol flights have historically exhibited a good safety record, free from accidental weapons releases.

H/T @juanmab for the heads-up!

Check Out This Interesting Video Showing Finnish Air Force F/A-18C/D Hornet MLU 2 Jets Carrying JASSM, JSOW and JDAM air-to-ground weapons

Here’s a somehow rare video showing Finland’s Boeing F/A-18C/D Hornet fighters, upgraded to the MLU 2 configuration, carrying JSOW (Joint Standoff Weapon), JASSM (Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile), and GBU-31 JDAM (Joint Direct Attack Munitions) bombs.

All the 62 Finnish Air Force’s Boeing F/A-18C and F/A-18D Hornet multi-role fighters have been upgraded to the MLU 2 configuration. Completed between 2012 and 2016, Mid-Life Upgrade 2 has introduced the ability to employ medium and long-range (standoff) air-to-ground weapons. The Finnish Hornet’s air-to-ground weaponry now includes short-range precision-guided bomb (Joint Direct Attack Munition, JDAM), medium-range glide bomb (Joint Standoff Weapon, JSOW) and long-range standoff missile (Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile, JASSM).

“The Hornet’s air-to-ground weapons as a new option in the Defence Forces range of capabilities enables to employ effective precision-guided weapons for expeditious and flexible support of joint operations in various locations,” says the Finnish Air Force website. “Thus, the Air Force is capable of supporting joint combat not only by repelling airborne attacks but also employing weapons against fixed targets where instantly required.”

The Finnish Air Force’s fleet of “legacy Hornet” dates back to 1995, when the first examples were introduced into service. In order to keep them in service till 2025–2030, the Finnish Hornets have undergone two mid-life upgrades. The Mid-Life Upgrade 1 (MLU 1) was completed between 2006 and 2010 and was aimed at maintaining and improving the aircraft’s air-to-air capability. As part of MLU 1, Finland F/A-18s got the AIM-9X Sidewinder IR-guided AAM (Air-to-Air Missile), the Joint Helmet-Mounted Cueing System, the Moving tactical map display (Tactical Aircraft Moving Map Capability, TAMMAC) as well as new radios. The Mid-Life Upgrade 2 (MLU 2) in 2012–16 focused on providing air-to-ground capability as well as some other interesting add-ons, such the Link 16 and the Litening targeting pod.

The following video shows the Hornets carrying GBU-31 JDAMs, JSOW and JASSM (as well as the Litening pod) during flight testing conducted both at NAS Patuxent River, in the U.S. and at home. You won’t find many videos showing the Finnish Hornets with some heavy weaponry, that’s why the following footage is particularly interesting.

Russia Shows New Hypersonic Missile on Two MiG-31 Aircraft in Victory Day Rehearsals.

New Photos Reveal Two MiG-31K “Foxhound” Flying Over Moscow Ahead of Parade.

Exciting photos emerged Friday on social media of the unique Russian Aerospace Forces long range interceptor, the MiG-31K (NATO codename “Foxhound”) carrying the new long range, hypersonic Kh-47M2 “Kinzhal” missile.

In a story on the Russian news agency TASS website it was reported that, “Upgraded MiG-31K fighter jets armed with the Kinzhal hypersonic missile system will take part in the Victory Day parade in Moscow on May 9.” Defense Minister Army General Sergei Shoigu was reported as making the announcement on Thursday, May 3.

“Apart from advanced Su-57, Su-30SM and MiG-29SMT aircraft, upgraded MiG-31K fighters armed with the cutting-edge Kinzhal hypersonic missile systems will take part in the parade’s air component,” General Sergei Shoigu said.

Two MiG-31 Foxhounds were with Kinzhals were photographed over Moscow on Thursday. (Photo: ВКС России/Facebook)

The Kh-47M2 is a much-hyped long range missile claimed by Russia to be capable of speeds up to Mach 10 with a range of 1,200 miles (approximately 2,000 kilometers). The Russians further claim the weapon has maneuver capability even in part of the hypersonic performance envelope. While western analysts remain skeptical about the Kinzhal’s claimed capabilities, the missile has garnered significant attention in aviation media and intelligence communities.

The missile, is actually not a “hypersonic weapon” in the sense that it is an air-breathing cruise missile based on scramjet technology: it appears to be an adaptation of the Iskander missile and, as a ballistic missile, it flies at hypersonic speed with a reported cruise missile-like flat flight profile.

There was speculation about the MiG-31 in a modified variant called the MiG-31K being shown in flyovers with the Kh-47M2 Kinzhal during the sensational Victory Day Parade on Wednesday, May 9 beginning at 1000 Hrs. local Moscow time. Rehearsals for the parade confirm that two aircraft with Kinzhals may be seen in the flyover. Some reports earlier this year suggest that only six initial MiG-31s were modified to carry the Kinzhal.

The MiG-31 Foxhound is a bit of a plane-spotters’ prize itself since Russia is now the only user of the type and they are mostly deployed along the vast expanse of Russia’s eastern border. Their very high speed well in excess of Mach 2 and long range coupled with powerful intercept radar make them a highly capable (if not very stealthy) interceptor. The combination of the MiG-31K with the Kh-47M2 Kinzhal nuclear capable, hypersonic missile could give the aging MiG-31 Foxhound, formerly only an interceptor, a new attack capability.

Top image credit: Alex S vis RussianPlanes.net

Italian Air Force Tornado ECR Jets Are Deployed To California To Test Their New AGM-88E Advanced Anti Radiation Guided Missile

The Italian “Tonkas” are currently deployed to Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake along with four Eurofighter Typhoons and a C-27J Spartan.

A small contingent of nine Italian Air Force aircraft is currently deployed to California. Four Tornado ECR (EA-200B in accordance with the Italian MoD Mission Design Series), belonging to the 6° Stormo (Wing) from Ghedi; four Eurofighter Typhoon jets (F-2000A), belonging to the 4°, 36° and 37° Stormo respectively from Grosseto, Gioia del Colle and Trapani; and one C-27J Spartan with the 46^ Brigata Aerea (Air Brigate) from Pisa, have been operating out of NAWS China Lake, California, since the end of February as part of an operation dubbed “Blazing Shield” that saw the aircraft cross the Pond via Lajes, Azores, and Portsmouth, New Hampshire, accompanied by two KC-767A tankers of the 14° Stormo and a C-130J of the 46th Air Brigade that provided oceanic SAR support along the route.

The Tornado ECR jets of the 155° Gruppo (Squadron) at China Lake. The aircraft are ECR RET8 “IT Full MLU” (Credit: ItAF)

The main goal of “Blazing Shield” is the Operational Test & Evaluation (OT&E) of the Tornado ECR (a variant specialized in Suppression of Enemy Air Defenses missions) with the new AGM-88E AARGM (Advanced Anti Radiation Guided Missile) the a follow-on variant of the HARM (High Speed Anti Radiation Missile), the missile used for SEAD missions, developed under a US and Italian joint acquisition programme led by the US Navy. The AARGM features new software, improved ability to geo-locate and neutralize the threats thanks to a multi-mode seeker that embeds a passive radar and an active millimeter wave seekers.

The OE&T involves a joint team led by the Reparto Sperimentale Volo (RSV – Italian Air Force Test Wing) and includes two live fire events in the China Lake ranges.

As a side note, along with the AGM-88B and E, the Italian Tornado ECR can carry JDAMs (Joint Direct Attack Munitions)as part of the Tornado ECR RET8 “IT Full MLU” retrofit program. The 155° Gruppo (Squadron) has achieved the mission capability qualification with the new GBU-32 JDAMs (the same carried by the Tornado IDS), with a DEAD (Destruction of Enemy Air Defenses) mission in 2016.

It’s the first time the Italian Typhoons deploy to China Lake. The Tornado ECR have been already deployed there during the first firing campaign with the AGM-88 HARM in 2002.

In addition to the activity with the “Echo”, the deployment provides an opportunity to validate and improve the self-protection capabilities of the Eurofighter, Tornado and C-27J platforms, in order to expand their ability to operate in all the theaters. During their stay in the U.S. the aircraft have also had an opportunity to perform low level sorties paying visit to the famous Jedi Transition (also known as the Star Wars canyon).

The Italian Spartan on the ramp at NAWS China Lake.

The aircraft are due to return to Italy towards the end of April.

Top image: file photo of a Tornado ECR (credit: Giovanni Maduli / The Aviationist)

Houthi Rebels Released FLIR Video Of Attempted Shoot Down Of UAE Air Force F-16E/F Block 60 Jets Over Yemen

Video allegedly shows two UAE Air Force F-16s targeted by Houthi Surface to Air Missiles.

A composite video that includes FLIR footage allegedly showing the attempted shoot down of what should be (based on claims) a flight of two F-16E/F Block 60 of the UAE Air Force flying over Yemen’s capital city of Sanaa has emerged on Mar. 27.

The video shows unidentified missiles being fired at night, whereas the FLIR footage shows the F-16s releasing flares to evade the incoming missile(s). The second part of the clip (with a timestamp dating the incident to Mar. 26 around 21.27 LT) is quite similar to the one released at the beginning of January, when a RSAF F-15 Eagle was targeted (by a modified R-27T based on claims that Houthis have modified a number air-to-air missiles to be launched from pick-ups) and allegedly shot down. At that time the video was alleged to have been obtained using a ground-mounted forward-looking infra-red sensor usually mounted on helicopters for surveillance and targeting: most probably a Flir Systems ULTRA 8500.

The clip released yesterday is also filmed from the right side of the aircraft and shows the aircraft maneuvering (note: 4 minutes before the missiles approaches the alleged UAE Viper), releasing flares and flying through or close to clouds of debris or extinguished decoys. Then you can clearly see the missile narrowly miss the F-16.

The attempted shoot down comes one week after another video showed a modified Russian-made R-27 air-to-air missile allegedly being fired at a Saudi F-15 Eagle (or UAV, according to some sources)  has been public.

Noteworthy, along with the modified Vympel R-27T air-to-air missiles, the Houthi rebels may have been delivered some Sayyad 2C Surface to Air Missiles from Iran.

The Sayyad-2 is an improved version of the Sayyad-1 missile, an Iranian indigenized system of a Chinese development of the Russian S-75 (SA-2 “Guideline” in NATO designation – yes, the SAM system that brought down Francis Gary Powers and his U-2 in 1960). It’s a two-staged air defense missile capable to destroy targets with a low Radar Cross Section (RCS) flying at low, medium and very high altitude (with a claimed ceiling of 80,000 feet). According to unverified data contained in articles published by Iranian media outlets in the past, the Sayyad-2 travels at 3,600 km/h (2,500 mph), has a range of 80-100 km (some sources say just 60 km), includes ECCM (Electronic Counter-Counter Measures) equipment and carries a 200-kilogram warhead.

The existence of this surface-to-air missile system, that should also integrate North Korean technology, was made public in April 2011 but the first photographs of the SAM system at work emerged during “Great Prophet 6” drills in 2012.

If confirmed, the presence of the Sayyad-2 batteries would pose a significant threat to the Saudi-led coalition aircraft supporting Operation Decisive Storm over Yemen.

Interesting comment by one of our readers on Twitter who has noticed what looks like a booster detachment:

A UAE AF F-16E Block 60 (Image credit: U.S. Air Force).