Tag Archives: Afghanistan

Belgian Air Force F-16s refueling from U.S. tanker over Afghanistan. With boom operator's audio (and some wasted fuel…)

After publishing the previous article about the aerial tanker’s “flying boom” here’s another video taken during the same sortie, showing a U.S. KC-10 refueling a flight of two Belgian Air Force F-16s over Afghanistan. This time, the footage contains some audio that let you listen the boom operator talking with the two Viper pilots.

After completing the refueling operations, the two F-16s perform some tactical breaks from the country to give the opportunity to someone inside the boom operator’s station to film the stunts.


More about the NASA's WB-57F activity at Nellis AFB. Testing new BACN equipment prior to the next deployment to Afghanistan?

Following on the article published yesterday about the NASA’s (mysterious) WB-57F testing new sensors at Nellis AFB here below you can find a new picture, taken at Nellis on Feb. 1, 2012. According to Flightaware history page for NASA926 flight, on that date the WB-57 flew from Nellis to Ellington Field: a “straight” flight that brought the plane back to his homebase in Texas.

Indeed, the aircraft seems to sport a different pallet system than that carried on the pictures taken on Jan. 25: since the testing activity had finished the “new” payload was removed for the return flight to Ellington Field.

NASA 926 over Nellis on Feb. 1, 2012 (Photo by T. Lovelock)

On Jan. 25, the aircraft flew a local sortie in the Nellis restricted areas located to the northwest of Creech AFB, at FL490, that included several racetracks over a terrain that is probably much similar to that of certain areas of Afghanistan. Many sorties from Nellis featured more or less the same route.

Here’s the pallet carried during that mission:

Since the WB-57s have carried BACN – Battlefield Airborne Communications Node payloads in Afghanistan, it is possible (speculation) that the Canberra was testing new sensors and antennas used by the BACN to relay comms between command and control centers and ground troops located within valleys and ridges in the Afghanistan mountains.

Screen dump from Flightaware history of NASA 926 flight on Jan. 25

NASA's (mysterious) WB-57F testing new sensors at Nellis AFB?

NASA still operates the last two flying WB-57Fs, NASA 926 and 928 one configured for air sampling and the other for photography, radar and thermal recce. Both have been flying research missions since the early ’60s.

Although they are based at Ellington Field, Texas, they are often deployed to different bases, both at home and abroad; for this reason, scientific projects (focusing on hurricanes, radiation impact on clouds, atmospheric data gathering, tropical storm generation analysis, and so on) aside, NASA’s Canberras are believed to be involved in some “special operations”.

For instance, in 2007 there were speculations and theories about the type of mission flown by the WB-57 in war zones fueled by pictures of the aircraft operating from Kandahar airfield in Afghanistan without the standard NASA logo and markings.

Officially, the aircraft performed geophysical and remote sensing surveys as part of the U.S. aid to the Afghan reconstruction effort. The WB-57 collected  AVIRIS (Airborne Visible Infra Red Imaging Spectrometer) data that could be analyzed to provide information on mineral assemblages that could aid in resource and hazards assessments.

Surely, with up to 60,000-lb payload carried and a pallet system under the main fuselage area, this aircraft can fulfil a wide variety of special data gathering missions.

The N926NA depicted in the following pictures was operating from Nellis AFB, during the recent Red Flag, where The Aviationist’s contributor Tony Lovelock, photographed it. The aircraft has operated in the Nellis Test Ranges from Nov. 15, 2011 to Feb. 1, 2012, when it returned to Ellington Field.

Although the reason of the deployment to Nellis is unknown, it is probably linked to the need to test some sensors within the local ranges, using base’s facilities; sensor or collection equipment carried by the pallet system that consists of interchangeable (pressurized and unpressurized) pallet modules and capable to carry a total of 4,000 lbs. Lighter payloads can be carried in the nose cone, wing hatches, wing pods, tail cone and aft fuselage.

Even if the “mission page” on the NASA WB-57 webpage does not mention the missions flown from Nellis (nor the Afghanistan deployment) suggesting the one in Nevada was not a scientific campaign, the aircraft can be tracked on Flightaware: if you check the history of NASA 926, you can see all the flights the aircraft launched from Nellis and you’ll discover that the Canberra has recently crossed the Pond flying to Lajes on Mar. 5, 2012.

Here’s an example of what can be seen on Flightaware (route the N926NA flew from Nellis on Dec. 16):

Where it is going (carrying payload just tested at Nellis) and what kind of mission it will launch once it arrives at destination is a mystery. For the moment.

NASA 926 at Nellis on Jan. 25, 2012 (Photo by T. Lovelock)

N926NA (with NASA logo on tail) at RAF Mildenhall in 2008 (Photo by T. Lovelock)

C-27J slippery runway surface landing and take off training in Norway

The Italian Air Force has recently conducted training activity on frozen runway at Bardufoss, Norway, with a C-27J, pilots and crews belonging to the 98° Gruppo (Squadron) of the 46^ Brigata Aerea (Air Brigade).

It was the first time that the Spartan was involved in this kind of training, previously undertaken by the Italian C-130Js and G-222s, whose purpose is to acquire or keep cold weather environment ops as well as “slippery runway surface landing and take off” currencies required to operate in the current out-of-area scenarios as Afghanistan and Kosovo.

Actually, the capability to operate on frozen runways can be important during domestic activities as well: when snow storms and icing conditions prevent normal flight operations, the ability to reach certain remote airfields can allow the supply of relief goods such as food, water and medicines.

Image credit: 46^ Brigata Aerea

F-15E Strike Eagle that destroyed a flying Iraqi Mi-24 reaches 10,000 logged flying hours. Over Afghanistan.

On Jan. 13, 2012, at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, the F-15E Strike Eagle #89-0487 became the only Strike Eagle to have had a successful air-to-air kill and the only F-15 to have logged more than 10,000 hours of flying time.

In fact, in Jan. 1991, the same plane piloted by Capt. Tim Bennet and WSO Capt. Dan Bakke, destroyed a flying Iraqi Mi-24 helicopter with a 2,000-lb GBU-10 Laser Guided Bomb in the only credited F-15E air-to-air kill recorded so far.

Capt. Ryan Bodenheimer and Capt. Erin Short of the 445th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron deployed from Seymour-Johnson Air Force Base, N.C. flew the F-15E during the historical mission that brought the logged flying hours of #89-0487 up to 10,000, an event that was celebrated by applying special markings to the lucky plane.

Image credit: Air Force