Tag Archives: Airborne early warning and control

NATO Unveils New Special Livery E-3A AWACS for 35th Anniversary

Special Color Scheme Showcases Multinational AWACS Operations for NATO.

Special paint scheme aircraft are always interesting news but even more so when they are large ones. A newly painted NATO E-3A Sentry Airborne Warning and Control (AWACS) aircraft was unveiled in Geilenkirchen, Germany, yesterday Jun. 12, to celebrate 35 years of Boeing E-3A Sentry operation for NATO. Noteworthy, another E-3 was painted in special color scheme recently, in anticipation of NATO Tiger Meet 2017.

The newly painted aircraft features a clean-looking coat of the standard grey color with the large distinctive NATO blue stripe wrapping under the fuselage and continuing up onto the tail of the aircraft. Flags of NATO member nations are included on the large fuselage stripe while the tail wears a large NATO compass rose logo against the blue background.

“The special painted AWACS gives great exposure to the task and mission of the NATO Airborne Early Warning and Control Force,” said Lieutenant Colonel Raimon Schulz, Chairman of the 35th Anniversary Committee.  “The anniversary aircraft will be flown for the upcoming 6 years and the decals can be adjusted to other special events like the celebration of 70 years NATO in 2019. The flags on the sides of the aircraft symbolize the multinational character of this unique unit within NATO,” Schulz told media in a press release on the NATO AWACS website.

For those who may be unfamiliar with AWACS operations, these Airborne Warning And Control aircraft use a large, distinctive hydraulically rotated saucer-shaped antenna on top of an updated Boeing 707 airframe. The large, rotating housing holds various versions of the Westinghouse Corporation’s AN/APY-1 and AN/APY-2 passive electronically scanned array radar system. The radars housed inside the saucer provide detailed radar imagery of the airspace from the ground up to high altitude. Radar monitoring and air control operators on board the E-3A AWACS aircraft communicate with aircraft in a crowded conflict zone to provide communication and datalinks, provide vectoring of air assets and traffic control into and out of target and patrol areas and assist with intercepts of aerial targets.

The NATO E-3A component has been deployed to nearly every air combat operation in the last three decades in the region and has been especially active in the Mediterranean and Middle East where the tempo of tactical air operations often requires a highly capable airborne traffic control, communications hub and surveillance asset.

 

Amid raising tension with Russia NATO E-3A AWACS aircraft visit eastern Europe

After Russia moved nuclear-capable missiles to NATO’s doorstep, NATO surveillance planes make cameo visit to Eastern Europe. And celebrate 1,000 missions.

On Oct. 11, a NATO E-3A AWACS visited Amari airbase, Estonia. Two days later another E-3 flew to  Siauliai, Lithuania: symbolic moves, that shows the alliance’s commitment to maintaining a persistent presence in Eastern Europe, where Russia has recently deployed nuclear-capable missiles.

The visit to Siauliai airbase, in Lithuania, main operating base of NATO’s BAP (Baltic Air Patrol) mission was preceded by a presentation of the NATO E-3 AWACS component E-3A at the 1st Airlift Base of the Polish Air Force in Warsaw. A visit that marked the surveillance plane’s 1,000th operational flight at NATO’s eastern flank since the beginning of Ukraine crisis.

The Boeing surveillance aircraft, one of the 16 E-3A AWACS planes based at Geilenkirchen, in Germany, was welcome to Warsaw by F-16 and MiG-29 jet fighters from the 31 and 23 Airbases of the Polish Air Force.

nato-e-3-top

Besides the Director of the Arms Policy Department, Col. Karol Dymanowski, the E-3 visit to Poland was the opportunity to celebrate the 1,000 sorties of the NATO’s primary Airborne Early Warning & Control platform in eastern Europe with a meeting attended by Deputy Commander of the Polish Armed Forces, Div. Gen. Jan Śliwka, commander of the Geilenkirchen NATO E-3A Component Brig. Gen. Karsten Stoye, along with the crew of the AWACS aircraft.

Interestingly, 5 members of the multinational aircrew were Polish.

E-3A Sentry aircraft have been operating inside the Polish airspace since the 2000. Once Poland joined the NAPMO (NATO Early Warning and Control Program Management Organization) program, along with 15 other countries, Warsaw acquired a right to use the fleet of the 17 AWACS platforms that remain at the NATO’s disposal. Besides Geilenkirchen, the jets are also authorized to use the Polish airbases, such as the Powidz 33rd Airlift Base which is visited by them quite frequently.

nato-e-3-side

AWACS airframes were involved in operations over Poland for the first time during the Fruit Fly/Eagle Talon exercise back in 2006, which was the first exercise with the participation of Sentry, following the acquisition of the F-16 Block 52+ jets, ten years ago On the other hand, the Geilenkirchen-based aircraft also provide support in organization of mass events, such as the Euro Football Cup organized back in 2012, or the visit of Pope Benedict XVI.

This year, E-3A component participated in and supported the ANAKONDA-16 exercise, NATO Summit in Warsaw and the World Youth Day, as well as the Baltic Air Policing operation. According to the release issued by the Polish MoD, the Geilenkirchen component has also been closely cooperating with the Polish fighter pilots of the 1st and 2nd Tactical Aviation Wings, since 2015.

The operations undertaken by the airborne radar are also tied to a number of NATO initiatives, including the aforementioned BAP mission as well as the rotational presence of the NATO forces in the region, within the framework of the Operation Atlantic Resolve.

The E-3A airborne radar is available to the member states during the crisis, as well as during the exercises concerning the IADS (Integrated Air Defense System) or other significant allied training initiatives.

nato-e-3-takeoff

Image credit: Foto Poork’s Wojciech Mazurkiewicz

 

Here’s how the Russian Air Force moved 28 aircraft to Syria (almost) undetected

It’s not easy to move 28 aircraft and keep the deployment confidential.

Satellite imagery released in the last couple of days has exposed the presence of 28 Russian aircraft at al-Assad airfield, near Latakia, in western Syria.

The photographs taken from space gave us the possibility to identify the combat planes as 4x Su-30SMs, 12x Su-25s (based on their color scheme, these are Su-25SMs belonging to the 368th Assault Aviation Regiment from Budyonnovsk) and 12 Su-24M2s along with about a dozen helicopters, including 10 Mi-24PN, Mi-35M and a couple of Mi-8AMTSh choppers, from the 387th Army Aviation Air Base Budyonnovsk.

One of our sources with IMINT Imagery Intel experience, who has had access to the imagery in the public domain, noticed something interesting on one of the Su-30SM: the first on the left (the one closer to the runway threshold) should be equipped with a KNIRTI SPS-171 / L005S Sorbtsiya-S mid/high band defensive jammer (ECM) at the wing tips. To be honest this is almost impossible to verify unless more high-resolution images become available.

Whilst satellite shots provided much details about the deployed assets, they obviously didn’t help answer the basic question: how did they manage to reach Syria undetected?

According to one source close who wishes to remain anonymous, the Russian combat planes have probably deployed to Latakia trailing the cargo planes that were tracked flying to Syria and back on Flightradar24.com, something that other analysts have also suggested.

There is someone who believes that during their ferry flight, some if not all the formation (each made of a cargo plane and four accompanying fast jets), may have made a stopover in Iran before flying the last leg to Latakia. This would also explain why some Il-76s (with an endurance that would allow a non-stop fly from Russia to Latakia) were observed stopping at Hamadan on Sept. 18-19, just before the Sukhois started appearing on the tarmac at Latakia.

Also interesting is the activity of several Israeli aircraft, including a G550 “Nachshon Aitam,” a sort of mini-AWACS equipped with 2 L-band antennas, on both sides of the fuselage, and 2 S-band antennas, on the nose and tail of the aircraft.

The G550, a so-called CAEW (Conformal Airborne Early Warning) asset, flew a mission over the eastern Mediterranean Sea off Lebanon on Sept. 20 (and could be tracked online on Flightradar24.com…).  Just a coincidence?

IAF-G550-961-2015-09-20_09_27

Top image credit: Sergey Kustov via Wiki. Bottom image credit: Flightradar24.com

 

U.S. F-22 Raptor stealth jets provide kinetic situational awareness over Syria

Although they were not conceived to play this kind of role, F-22 Raptors have emerged as some of the U.S.-led Coalition’s most reliable combat assets in supporting coalition planes during air strikes in Syria and Iraq.

At the beginning of July, U.S. Air Force F-22 Raptor jets had flown only 204 sorties out of 44,000 launched by the U.S.-lead coalition against ISIS in Syria and Iraq. Little more than a month ago, the multirole stealth combat planes deployed to Al Dhafra airbase in the UAE had dropped 270 bombs on targets located in 60 of the 7,900 locations hit by the other aircraft supporting Operation Inherent Resolve.

Even though the largest number of air strikes is carried out by other assets, it looks like the role played by the (once troubled) F-22 is pivotal to ensure the safety of the other aircraft involved in the air campaign: the Raptors act as “electronic warfare enabled sensor-rich multi-role aircraft” escorting strike packages into and out of the target area while gathering details about the enemy systems and spreading intelligence to other “networked” assets supporting the mission to improve the overall situational awareness.

“We are operating regularly in Iraq and Syria. The F-22’s advanced sensors and low-observable characteristics enable us to operate much closer to non-coalition surface-to-air missiles and fighter aircraft with little risk of detection,” said Lt. Col. J. (name withheld for security reasons) in a recent 380th Air Expeditionary Wing release. “We provide increased situational awareness for other coalition aircraft while simultaneously delivering precision air-to-ground weapons. This allows us to reduce the risk to our forces while mitigating the risk to civilian casualties, one of our highest priorities in this conflict. It is a true multirole aircraft.”

In simple words, the F-22 pilot leverage advanced onboard sensors, as the AESA (Active Electronically Scanned Array) radar, to collect valuable details about the enemy Order of Battle, then they share the “picture” with attack planes, command and control assets, as well as Airborne Early Warning aircraft, while escorting other manned or unmanned aircraft towards the targets. As happened when they facilitated the retaliatory air strikes conducted by the Royal Jordanian Air Force F-16s after the burning alive of the pilot Maaz al-Kassasbeh captured on Dec. 24, 2014.

Needless to say, every now and then they can also attack their own targets using Precision Guided Munitions: two 1,000-lb GBU-32 JDAMs (Joint Direct Attack Munitions) or 8 GBU-39 small diameter bombs, “which have been successfully employed against key ISIL targets. [The SDB] is extremely accurate from very long distances and has the lowest collateral damage potential of any weapon in our inventory.”

Therefore, although this may not be what the F-22 was conceived for, the U.S.’s premier air superiority fighter is excelling in a new role: making other aircraft more survivable in contested airspaces like Syria and Iraq.

 Top image credit: U.S. Air Force

 

Chinese and Japanese jets fly into China’s controversial Air Defense Identification Zone

Tension in growing in the East China Sea where China established an Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ).

First, the ADIZ was “violated” by two U.S. B-52 strategic bombers that did not to comply with any of the rules set by Beijing for foreign aircraft entering the new airspace: they simply crossed the airspace, flying in international airspace without prior notification of their arrival.

Japanese military aircraft, including a P-3C maritime surveillance plane, that is supporting Japanese warships in the area, have carried out routine surveillance missions over the Senkaku islands (known as Diaoyu in China).

Some Japan Air Self Defense Force fighter jets carried out the first interceptions of China’s AEW aircraft patrolling the area few hours after the controversial ADIZ was established but more close encounters are to be expected: on Nov. 28, talking to state news agency Xinhua, People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) spokesman Shen Jinke said more fighter jets and an early warning aircraft were launched into the newly declared air defence zone.

The iarcraft conducted normal air patrols: “a defensive measure and in line with international common practices.”

So, what’s next?

Anything may happen, even if most probably Chinese jets will remain far away from Japanese or South Korean ones, that will continue to operate undistubed.

And, sooner or later, U.S. B-2s will be sent to fly an extended deterrence mission through the Chinese ADIZ.

Image credit: PLAAF

 

Enhanced by Zemanta