Tag Archives: Air Force Global Strike Command

U.S. Tests Minuteman Missile Amid North Korean Tension and Proposed ICBM Upgrade

Latest Pacific ICBM Test Proves U.S. Readiness in Turbulent Region as Tensions Rise.

The U.S. Air Force has conducted an operational test of its LGM-30 Minuteman III Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. The missile was unarmed, carrying a single test reentry vehicle according to the Global Strike Command.

Members of the 90th Missile Wing based at Warren Air Force Base, Wyoming conducted the test launch from California. The missile was launched yesterday morning, August 2, at 2:10 California time.

The single simulated reentry vehicle covered 4,200 miles on its way to the Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands. It landed in a missile test range used by the U.S.

In an operational attack the LGM-30 would be armed with a Multiple Independent Reentry Vehicle or “MIRV”. The MIRV payload on a Minuteman III includes three separate 300-500 kiloton nuclear warheads with independent targets. The warheads separate upon reentry into earth’s atmosphere above their predetermined targets and strike over a wide area. The use of multiple reentry vehicles for large warheads makes intercepting them over a large target area nearly impossible. The missile’s NS-50 inertial navigation system is largely immune to countermeasures once launched and is accurate to within 200 meters according to the Minuteman III’s builder, Boeing.

The operational LGM-30 Minuteman III is armed with multiple reentry vehicle warheads to strike several targets simultaneously. (Graphic: Wiki)

The U.S. currently fields 450 nuclear-armed operational LGM-30 Minuteman III missiles.

Set against the backdrop of this week’s missile launch, Boeing strategic deterrence chief Frank McCall told reporters the Minuteman III is an aging legacy ICBM platform from the 1950’s. According to McCall, the Minuteman ICBM platform was only intended to “Last a decade”.

During the late 1980’s the U.S. fielded the LGM-118 Peacekeeper ICBM. The LGM-118, popularly known as the “MX missile” was intended to be a survivable solution to a Soviet nuclear first strike on the continental U.S. Controversy over weapons treaties and basing for the MX missile limited its deployment to only 50 missiles using existing Minuteman missile silos until the program was cancelled entirely in September 2005.

An operational Boeing LGM-30 Minuteman III ICBM in its underground launch silo. (Photo: Boeing)

The U.S. Air Force has proposed the need for an all-new ICBM design concept to replace the aging Minuteman platform called the Ground Based Strategic Deterrent or “GBSD” missile program. Boeing, Lockheed and Northrop are each competing for the new GBSD contract.

The proposed new GBSD concept is intended to be an “open-architecture, modular” design that is highly adaptive to mission requirements and can be readily updated to maintain technical superiority and strategic relevance.

As with all major defense programs, costs for the proposed GBSD program have been criticized. Several media outlets have published estimates of $85 billion spread over a 20-year program for a force of 400 missiles.

While North Korea has made rapid and significant progress in their long-range missile program and nuclear program to include weapons research the strategic balance still tips very heavily in favor of the United States. The U.S. remains the only country to employ nuclear weapons operationally when it launched manned nuclear strikes from strategic bombers on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945.

Since the operational nuclear strikes at the end of WWII and throughout the Cold War the U.S. has relied on a “nuclear triad” of three different strategic nuclear launch platforms that include Submarine Launched Ballistic Missiles (SLBMs), land-based Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles (ICBMs) and a variety of air-delivered nuclear weapons that include air-launched cruise missiles (ALCMs), Short Range Attack Missiles (SRAMs) and the now antiquated but still operational air-dropped nuclear bombs.

Time to strike targets in North Korea from missile bases in the U.S. Midwest and West coast may be less than 40 minutes from launch to impact, but submarine launched ballistic missiles deployed closer to the Korean peninsula would likely have weapons on target in much less time.

This most recent missile test was planned in advance of Korean tests according to the Pentagon, but it is reasonable to suggest it transmits a clear message that the U.S. nuclear deterrent is current and capable.

 

 

Take A Look At This Epic Video Of A B-1 Bomber Performing A High-Speed Flyby At Oshkosh

This is one of the coolest B-1 footages ever!

Filmed on Jul. 26, the video below shows a B-1 Lancer bomber performing multiple high-speed passes in full afterburner and swept wings at dusk, during EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2017 airshow, the World’s Greatest Aviation Celebration, running from Jul. 24 to 30 in Wisconsin.

Note the “condensation clouds” generated by the aircraft during the flybys: these are a quite common phenomenon during turns and high-G maneuvers when the angle of attack reduced the pressure on the wing’s upper surface bringing the water vapour contained in the air to the condensation temperature.

The footage, taken by Airailimages is truly epic as it lets you watch the high-speed in slow motion.

H/T Ashley Wallace for the heads-up!

B-52, B-1, Typhoon and V-22 Among The assets Supporting A Spectacular Beach Landing Operation During BALTOPS 2017

This Is What A Modern Beach Landing Operation In The Baltic Region Would Look Like.

BALTOPS 2017 is the largest military exercise organized in the Baltic region this year.

The operation was held by the STRIKFORNATO (SFN) command, with Poland acting as the host nation. More than 40 vessels have entered the ports of Stettin and Świnoujście on Jun. 1, with some of them being accessible to the visitors.

Three days later, the aforesaid units sailed out, where the sailors perfected their interoperational abilities. The whole operation ended up on Jun. 18, in Germany.

The BALTOPS has taken place regularly, in the Baltic Sea region, since 1972. Initially, the operation only involved the NATO forces; beginning in 1993, members of the former Warsaw Pact were also invited to participate, Poland being no exception in that regard.

Since 1993 BALTOPS has become a part of the Partnership for Peace program. Currently the operation has a multinational profile and places a particular emphasis on training in the areas of gunnery, replenishment at sea, anti-submarine warfare (ASW), radar tracking & interception, mine countermeasures, seamanship, search and rescue, maritime interdiction operations and scenarios dealing with potential real world crises and maritime security.

AAV-7 amphibious carriers and LCAC hovercraft supporting the Beach Landing Ops

A USMC vehicle during the landing operation.

This year, the operation involved forces from Belgium, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Lithuania, Latvia, Norway, Poland, Sweden, the UK and the United States (here we are also referring to the vessels of the Standing NATO Mine Countermeasures Group 1).

The Polish Navy was involved in the BALTOPS operation for the 27th time this year. The main naval component of the Polish Navy detached to take part in the operation included five minesweepers (ORP Dąbie, ORP Mielno, ORP Wicko, ORP Mamry, ORP Wdzydze), Lublin-class minelayer-landing ships: ORP Gniezno and ORP Kraków; and a submarine, ORP Bielik.

A B-52 approaching the naval range.

The whole operation was staged in the Baltic Sea area, within the naval training ranges of the Polish Navy, as well as within the naval and land portion of the Central Air Force Training Range, also located in the coastal region of Ustka.

On Wednesday, Jun. 14 the beach in Ustka became an arena, within which one of the most important portions of the exercise took place – a landing operation carried out by the task force group involved in the event. The main forces landing on the Polish beach included the 1st Battalion of the 23rd US Marines regiment, utilizing AAV-7 amphibious carriers and LCAC hovercraft. The whole operation was supported by 8 vessels, including two Polish minelayer-landing ships hailing from the 8th Coastal Defense Flotilla.

One of the APCs involved in the BALTOPS beach landing event.

Nonetheless, the landing operation would not have been complete without involvement of the coalition’s air assets. The landing was preceded by a CAS (Close Air Support) simulation involving the USAF B-52 and B-1B bombers, two Polish F-16 jets, German Eurofighter Typhoons, as well as V-22 Osprey. Notably, due to the humid air over the Polish coast, clouds of condensation and vapor cones have been clearly visible on the surfaces of the participating aircraft.

A German Typhoon “sweeps” the beach landing area

A B-1B deployed to RAF Fairford during its attack run.

The B-1 overflies the beach landing area.

The red force simulation has been provided by a mechanized company of the Polish 7th Coastal Defense Brigade.

The whole operation was supervised by the commander of the 6th Fleet and STRIKFORNATO, Vice-Admiral Christopher Grady, along with Deputy Commander, Rear Admiral P. A. McAlpine. Poland was represented by the Deputy General Commander of the Armed Forces, Division General Jan Śliwka, and by Rear Admiral Jarosław Ziemiański – Deputy Inspector of the Navy, along with Brig. General Wojciech Grabowski.

A CV-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft was among the assets that supported BALTOPS 2017.

Image credit: Wojciech Mazurkiewicz

 

Salva

Cockpit Video From Inside A U.S. Air Force B-1B Lancer As The bomber Is intercepted Over The Baltic By A Russian Su-27 Flanker

The Su-27 intercept as seen from the cockpit of the B-1B bomber over the Baltic Sea.

Our friends at Air Forces Monthly have obtained a pretty interesting footage: filmed from inside the cockpit of a “Bone” temporarily deployed to RAF Fairford, UK, to take part in BALTOPS exercise, the short clipo shows a Russian Naval Aviation’s Su-27 Flanker approaching the B-1B’s starboard wing, then banking to pass below the nose of the Lancer.

“AFM was told the Russian pilot acted in a non-aggressive manner throughout the manoeuvre, which saw the fighter assume position off the starboard side before banking and descending below the B-1,” says the story published on AFM’s website.

It’s not clear whether the clip was filmed on the very same day these fantastic shots were taken by U.S. Air Force photographer Staff Sgt. Jonathan Snyder from the boom position of a KC-135 tanker as a really unusual “formation” consisting of 2x B-1s, 1x B-52 and 1x KC-135 were involved in a photo hop in international airspace over the Baltic Sea when they were joined by a Su-27 Flanker on Friday Jun. 9.  In that case the U.S. Air Force stated that the intercept was conducted in a safe and professional way, in contrast with what happened after several previous incidents that the U.S. DoD defined “unsafe” or “unprofessional” with the Russian interceptors maneuvering aggressively in proximity of the American aircraft (read here or here for a couple of examples.)

Indeed, to be honest, the above clip seems to show the Su-27 dangerously close to the U.S. bomber, much more than one would expect from a “safe” maneuver: however, it might be a matter of perspective…

According to AFM, the Flanker in the intercept footage is a Su-27P interceptor belonging to the Fighter Aviation Squadron of the 72 Aviatsionnaya Baza (AvB, Aviation Base) of the Morskaya Aviatsiya Baltiyskogo Flota (MA BF, Naval Aviation of the Baltic Fleet), based at Chkalovsk air base in Kaliningrad Oblast.

H/T Thomas Newdick (@CombatAir) for posting the video.

Watch Two B-2 Stealth Bombers Recover Into RAF Fairford (With Radio Comms)

Take a look at this cool clip of two Spirit bombers arriving in the UK.

On Jun. 9, 2017, two B-2s deployed to RAF Fairford, UK.

Interestingly, the two aircraft, 82-1068 Spirit Of New York (using radio callsign “Mytee 21”) and 88-0329 Spirit Of Missouri (“Mytee 22), launched from their homebase at Whiteman AFB, Missouri, visited a bombing range in the UK before recovering into RAF Fairford.

The following video, filmed by our friend Ben Ramsay, shows the two stealth bombers approaching runway 27 at Fairford, where the Spirits joined the three B-52 Stratofortress and three B-1 Lancer bombers already deployed there to take part in exercise BALTOPS.

Although the U.S. Air Force deploys its bombers to RAF Fairford regularly, it’s quite rare to have the three types on the British base at the same time.

Indeed B-2s don’t move from Whiteman AFB, in Missouri, too often: they are able to hit their target with very long round-trip missions from their homebase in CONUS (Continental U.S.), as happened during recent training missions, extended nuclear deterrence sorties in the Korean Peninsula, as well as during real conflicts, such as the Libya Air War in 2011, Allied Force in Serbia in 1999 or the more recent air strike on ISIS in Libya. A capability that is common to both the B-52s and the B-1s that, unlike the stealth bombers, are more frequently deployed abroad.

However, the deployment of the “bomber trio” has already taken place last year at Andersen Air Force Base when the three different platforms simultaneously launched from Guam for their first integrated bomber operation in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region. Is the current deployment to the UK a sign that the trio-bomber force is becoming a routine in the way the strategic assets are operated by USAF?

H/T UK Aviation Movies

Salva

Salva