Tag Archives: A-4 Skyhawk

Watch An F-22 Spot And Engage An A-4 Skyhawk In A Low Dogfight In A Valley

Top Gun Reloaded featuring F-22 Raptor and A-4 Skyhawk.

I’m pretty sure most of you remember the Top Gun movie scenes with the F-14 Tomcats dogfighting with A-4 Skyhawks around mountains. Those scenes were shot around NAS Fallon, Nevada, not too far from where the footage below has been filmed some 30 years later.

The footage shows a U.S. Air Force F-22 Raptor engaging with an A-4K Skyhawk in the Nellis Test and Training Range. The Skyhawk is one of the jets belonging to Draken International, a  company that supports military training around the globe with a fleet of 80 tactical fighter aircraft. The extensively upgraded in the early 1990s to a standard similar to the F-16 Mid-Life-Update with a 1553 digital bus, APG-66v7 radar, RWR (Radar Warning Receiver), HOTAS (Hands On Throttle And Stick) controls, HUD (Head Up Display) and MFDs (Multi-Function Displays). In other words, although not the most advanced Aggressors around, at least what’s needed to perform the adversary role against 4th and 5th generation combat planes.

As explained by an F-35 pilot last year, dogfighting against the A-4 is still relevant today for several reasons:

  • The F-35’s sensors and “fusion” provides me as a pilot with good situational awareness. For an F-35 to simulate an opponent against another F-35, it has to restrict the effects of fusion and the various sensors. Even then it is difficult to “dumb down” the aircraft enough. It requires discipline to not be tempted to using information that an opponent in reality would not have access to.
  • The A-4s we faced in these exercises had sensor performance along the lines of our own upgraded F-16s. They also carried jammers intended to disturb our radar.
  • The pilots we faced were very experienced. We are talking 2000 hours plus in aircraft like the F-16, F-15E, F-15C and the F-22, with detailed knowledge of “fifth generation” tactics and weapons. When also cooperating closely with intercept controllers on the ground (GCI) they could adapt the training and offer us a reactive and challenging opponent. Note the word “reactive.”
  • The A-4 is a small aircraft with a corresponding signature. Many potential opponents in the air are bigger and easier to find than the tiny A-4.

Anyway, dealing with the video, as our friend Tyler Rogoway suggested when commenting the very same video in his article at The War Zone: “It’s not entirely clear if one Raptor was orbiting waiting as another F-22 drove the fleeing A-4 towards his wingman—a classic predatory trap—or just one F-22 was present and it waited for the Skyhawk to come into range before dropping behind him and killing him.”

Update: we have collected more details about the sortie. First of all, it was a WSI (Weapons School Integration) mission. The F-22 was part of a package made by 4x F-22s and 4x F-15s doing CAP (Combat Air Patrol) and clearing the airspace for the strikers to enter. There were 2x A-4s (one not in the frame)  and the F-22 descended all the way from 40,000 feet to engage the 2 low A-4s!

If you look closely at around 00:27 seconds, you can see the F-22 side weapons bay briefly opening and closing: the Raptor’s side bay door houses the canted trapeze that the F-22 Raptors use to eject the missile into the airstream. Not sure the reason why they were opened during this engagement.

The Raptor’s side weapons bay is used to carry the AIM-9X, the Sidewinder variant integrated on Mar. 1, 2016, when the 90th Fighter Squadron (FS) belonging to the 3rd Wing stationed at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska officially became the first combat-operational Raptor unit to equip an F-22 with the latest variant of the IR-guided missile.

As explained several times here, most of the modern US combat planes use the AIM-9X along with a Helmet Mounted Display since 2003: with a HMD (like the American Joint Helmet Mounted Cueing System – JHMCS), information imagery (including aircraft’s airspeed, altitude, weapons status, aiming etc) are projected on the visor enabling the pilot to look out in any direction with all the required data always in his field of vision. The HMD enables the pilot to exploit the full HOBS (High Off-Boresight) capabilities of the AIM-9X and engage a target by simply looking at it.

However the AIM-9X will not be coupled to a HMD as the Raptor is not equipped with such kind of helmet that provides the essential flight and weapon aiming information through line of sight imagery. In 2019, the Air Force plans to equip the F-22 with the AIM-9X Block II, the F-22 will probably fill the gap as the most advanced variant of the Sidewinder is expected to feature a Lock-on After Launch capability with a datalink, for Helmetless High Off-Boresight (HHOBS) at intermediate range: the air-to-air missile will be launched first and then directed to its target afterwards even though it is behind the launching aircraft.

Top image: screenshot from the video by 8081rt

Here's the M-346 in Israeli Air Force colors

As reported in a previous post, Israel has selected the Alenia Aermacchi M-346 as the advaced trainer for combat pilots designated for front line fighter jets.

Since the Italian plane will replace the aging Israeli Air Force A-4s, based on the camouflage color scheme used on the Skyhawk, Al Clark has drawn a digital mock-up of how the M346 in Heyl Ha’ Havir colors could look like.

Italy to provide Israeli Air Force with the M-346, an advanced training plane that "already looks on to the F-35".

On Feb. 16, Israel’s Ministry of Defense has announced the selection of the Italian M-346 Master as replacement of the aging Air Force’s fleet of A-4 Skyhawks, used as advanced trainers for combat pilots designated for fighter jets.

A deal worth 1 billion USD for 30 M-346s to be delivered from 2014.

As pointed out by the Jerusalem Post the deal is much more complex as, in return, Italy will commit to purchase just over $1 billion of military platforms from Israeli defense companies, including those airborne warning and control system (AWACS) G550 Eitam that took part to the 2010 and 2011 edition of the Vega multinational exercise in Decimomannu, in Sardinia.

The selection of the M-346 could jeopardise Israel and South Korea defense deals with Seoul (which offered the T-50 trainer along with a package of reciprocal acquisition) complaining that the A-4 replacement tender was not conducted in compliance with the international standards.

However, the Head of the Instructional Division, Colonel C’, has explained on the IAF on the official website the reason of the choice (highlight mine):

“I flew the Korean plane and it’s a lot like the F-16. In that aspect it has many advantages, seeing as it is easy to get used to the plane and continue from it directly to the F-16. Of course, it is a little smaller and less powerful, but it is similar to the F-16 in its operation.
The Italian plane is a combination. It integrates the F-16, the F-15 and the Eurofighter. It’s a dual-engine aircraft while the Korean plane has one engine, which is an important security aspect, but has less experience than the Korean aircraft which is already serving as an instructional plane.

We weighed each pro and con: in suitability, capabilities, security, instruction and readiness and arrived at the conclusion that in spite of the lack of experience, the Italian plane is preferable. It already looks on to the F-35 and can be compatible with training for it. It prepares us better for the future, and that was also a consideration”.

The M-346, is one of the most advanced trainer aircraft available on the market today with an avionics system modelled on those
used in new-generation fighter aircraft, such as Eurofighter, Gripen, Rafale, F-16, F-18, F-22 and the F-35.

In 2010, 12 M-346s were also purchased by the Republic of Singapore Air Force, once again to replace ageing A-4 Skyhawks.

On Nov. 18, 2011, the Alenia Aermacchi M-346 CP-X615 crashed in Dubai shorthly after take off. The captain and the passenger successfully ejected and were recovered with minor injuries. The aircraft was returning in Italy after attending the local air show.

On Feb. 6 the Italian Air Force has received its second M-346, designed T-346, that flew from Venegono to Pratica di Mare, where the Experimental Flying Wing (RSV – Reparto Sperimentale Volo) will conduct a test campaign prior to its operational deployment. Once the evaluation is complete, the first two T-346As will be taken on charge by the 61° Stormo at Lecce which will also take delivery of the other four aircraft purchased by the ItAF.

Image credit: Alenia Aermacchi

Ciao German Phantoms!

Even if it was initially expected to come to an end on Sept. 16, the German F-4 Phantoms of the JG71 detached to Decimomannu airbase, home of the ItAF AWTI (Air Weapons Training Installation) since Aug.2 headed back to Wittmund earlier, in the morning of Sept. 15 (although four examples remained in Sardinia for a few more days along with 2 A-4s of the BAe Systems). Giovanni Maduli was there once again on Sept. 15 to witness the departure of the (maybe) last German Phantoms deployment in Deci. Noteworthy, among the departing F-4s, the 38+46, wearing the special “swallows” markings on both sides of the fuselage (to “celebrate” the successful survival of the mighty “Rhino” to multiple bird strikes during a recent exercise) returned to landing for an unknown emergency shortly after departure.


German Phantoms (and Italian Typhoons) in Decimomannu

A few weeks ago, in a previous post I reported about the last GAF F-4s detachment in Decimomannu airbase, Italy. Between Aug. 31 and Sept. 2, the photoreporter Giovanni Maduli went again
in Sardinia, to take some pictures of both the JG71 Phantoms and ItAF Eurofighter Typhoon deployed over there to undertake air-to-air training activities.
Noteworthy, among the Italian F-2000s there were also some examples sporting the new 10° Gruppo markings. On Jul. 1, the 10° Gruppo, equipped with the leased F-16 ADF, moved from the Trapani-based 37° Stormo, to Gioia del Colle, joining the 12° Gruppo, within the 36° Stormo.
Below, just a small selection of pictures taken in Decimomannu by Giovanni Maduli. The full selection is available at the following address: http://lowpassage.com/2010/09/07/german-phantoms-and-italian-typhoons-in-decimo/