Tag Archives: Al Dhafra

EQ-4 Global Hawk Drone Deployed to UAE with a Battlefield Airborne Communications Node Payload Reaches 20K Flight Hours

One of the RQ-4B Global Hawk drone converted into EQ-4 has logged 20,000 flight hours operating as a “flying gateway” for other aircraft involved in the air war on ISIS.

On Feb. 13, one of the U.S. Air Force RQ-4 Global Hawk drones reached 20,000 flight hours. The UAV (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle) is one of the three RQ-4Bs converted into EQ-4 and carry the BACN payload instead of the imagery intelligence (IMINT) sensors: it’s primarily a data and communications bridging node that supports multiple bridges simultaneously across multiple radio types. The crews who operate these particular flying gateways call them: “Wi-fi in the sky.”

“This milestone was the original lifespan of the aircraft,” said Senior Master Sgt. Matthew Pipes, Hawk Aircraft Maintenance Superintendent deployed to the 380th Air Expeditionary Wing, in a public release. “It’s exciting to see where this technology and this aircraft can take off too and how it can help those who are downrange.”

The aircraft (based on the photo the example “A2019”, an RQ-4 Block 20 converted into EQ-4), reached this milestone at its deployment base of Al Dhafra, UAE, from where the Global Hawks equipped with a Battlefield Communications Airfield Node payload are regularly launched for missions that can last 24 hours, or more. For instance, the very same aircraft surpassed the 10,000 flying hours in March 2015 during a 30.5-hour mission.

“From being a manned aircraft pilot, getting 12-hours in the air was a long day…you needed a day or so to recover before going up on your next mission,” said Major Manuel Ochoa, U.S. Air Force RQ-4 Global Hawk pilot from the 99th Air Expeditionary Recon Squadron stationed at Al Dhafra Air Base. “When it comes to this plane, you can cycle pilots without having to land and that is a great benefit.”

Missions flown by the BACN platforms are extremely important. As explained several times here at The Aviationist, BACN is a technological “gateway” system that allows aircraft with incompatible radio systems and datalinks to transfer information and communicate.

The U.S. military uses various datalink systems to exchange tactical information, and many are not capable of working together.  For example, a U.S. Air Force F-15 can use its Link-16 system to exchange target information with a U.S. Navy F/A-18.  However, the F/A-18 could not exchange information with a USAF B-52 or B-1 bomber.  The advanced F-22 can connect with other Raptors via datalink but can only receive over the standard, legacy Link-16 datalink used by most allied aircraft.

This lack of compatibility between different platforms is a major obstacle in all those theaters where air assets from many services are called upon to provide support for ground troops of different nations.  Additionally, the complicated joint operations required to engage a modern integrated air defense system are greatly simplified by exchanging target information via datalinks.

Hence the need for a “flying gateway” as the EQ-4s, all assigned to 380th Air Expeditionary Wing based at Al Dhafra Air Base to support OIR (Operation Inherent Resolve).

An U.S. Air Force RQ-4 Global Hawk logs over 20,000 flight hours Feb. 13, 2018 at Al Dhafra Air Base, United Arab Emirates. The Global Hawk’s mission is to provide a broad spectrum of ISR collection capability to support joint combatant forces in worldwide peacetime, contingency and wartime operations. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Colton Elliott)

 

The BACN system is also used to link ground troops and Forward Air Controllers (FACs)/Joint Terminal Attack Controllers in a non-line-of-sight (LOS) environment.  For instance, in the rugged, mountainous terrain of Afghanistan, troops are not always able to establish LOS communications with close support aircraft overhead.  Moving position or relocating to higher ground could be fatal in a combat situation.

E-11A aircraft (Bombardier Global 6000 advanced ultra long-range business jets that have been modified by the U.S. Air Force to accomodate Battlefield Airborne Communications Node payload) with 430th Expeditionary Electronic Squadron deployed to Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan have been involved in this kind of missions (some of those trackable on the Internet as highlighted several times) since they arrived in theater for the first time 9 years ago.

By orbiting at high-altitude for long times, BACN equipped air assets can provide a communications link from ground commanders to their allies in the sky.  For example, a legacy USAF A-10 attack aircraft could loiter away from a battle area while using the BACN link to communicate with a special-forces FAC on the ground.  The A-10 pilot could wait until all targeting information is ready before “un-masking” and beginning an attack run.

By the way, it’s interesting to note that the original story refers to BACN as “Battlefield Communication Airfield Node”.

Jaw-dropping NVG video of F-22 Raptors refueling at night during air strikes on Daesh

Here’s how the F-22s that take part in the air war on ISIS look at night through the Night Vision Goggles.

The clip in this post shows airmen assigned to the 908th Expeditionary Air Refueling Squadron prepare their aircraft and refuel U.S. F-22 Raptors using a KC-10 Extender tanker during an aerial refueling mission in support of Operation Inherent Resolve on Jul. 13, 2016.

The above image was posted by the  helicopter serving the South West of England.

Although we have recently posted an image taken from the thermal camera used by the EC-135 of the British National Police Air Service, based at Filton Aerodrome, of one of the U.S. Air Force F-22 Raptor jets that deployed to RAF Fairford to take part in the Royal International Air Tattoo airshow, you don’t happen to see this kind of footage too often.

You can even spot the vapors of the fuel coming out of the dorsal refueling receptacle used by the Raptor multirole jet after the AAR (Air to Air Refueling) operation.

The F-22 refueled in the video are the most up-to-date Raptors in service with the U.S. Air Force. Assigned to the 90th Fighter Squadron from Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, the modernized Raptors brought extended capabilities in the fight against Daesh since their arrival in theater back in April: the Alaskan Raptors can now drop 8 GBU-39 small diameter bombs while previously they were limited to carry two 1,000-lb GBU-32 JDAMs (Joint Direct Attack Munitions) in the internal weapon bay.

Furthermore, among the other things, the aircraft were also given a radar upgrade that enhanced the capabilities of the aircraft in the realm of the so-called “kinetic situational awareness”: whilst they are rarely requested to attack ground targets, the Raptors use advanced onboard sensors, such as the AESA (Active Electronically Scanned Array) radar, to gather valuable details about the enemy targets, then share the “picture” with attack planes as the F-15E Strike Eagles.

Salva

Check out these amazing photos of F-22 Raptors departing Alaska to fight ISIL

Alaskan Raptors depicted as they deploy to fight Daesh.

The following images show U.S. Air Force F-22 Raptor assigned to the 90th Fighter Squadron taking off from Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, on Mar. 28, 2016 to deploy to the UAE.

Supported by Air Mobility Command KC-10s tanker aircraft and accompanied by personnel and cargo  flew to Al Dhafra airbase to replace the Hawaiian Raptors returning home after their tour of duty in support of Operation Inherent Resolve within the United States Air Forces Central Command AOR (Area or Responsibility).

Noteworthy, the Raptor flies seldom in comparison to the rest of the manned and unmanned aircraft involved against the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq. According to the information released by AFCENT, the F-22 accounts for only 2% of the sorties and 2% of the overall weapons released.

Still, it looks like they are vital in the fight against ISIS: the Raptors leverage advanced onboard sensors, as the AESA (Active Electronically Scanned Array) radar, to gather valuable details about the enemy targets, 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.

“Kinetic situational awareness” as the missions that 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.

Rarely 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.

Image credit: U.S. Air Force photo by Alejandro Pena/Released

[Photo] Rafale jets refuel over Baghdad during first French night air strikes in Iraq

This photo proves air-to-air refueling of armed planes involved in the air strikes in Syria and Iraq may also take place over large cities.

On the night of Oct. 2, the French Air Force Rafale multirole jets deployed to Al Dhafra, UAE, conducted an air strike in the area of Mosul, in Iraq.

It was the first night mission of the Rafales since the beginning of Operation Chammal (as the French have dubbed their participation to the air campaign against ISIS), another 7 hour mission which required several aerial refuelings from both FAF C-135FR and U.S. KC-10 Extender.

Whilst it was impossible to determine the town that was barely visible below the F-22 Raptor stealth fighter jets in the images and video we posted last week, in this case, the French Air Force not only posted the photographs, but also said that the city in the background is Iraq capitcal town Baghdad.

Rafale refuel Baghdad

Image credit: French Air Force / Armée de l’Air

 

 

Video shows what an F-22 Night Refueling during Syria air strikes looks like

A U.S. Air Force F-22 Raptor takes gas from a KC-135 tanker enroute to Syria.

Although the F-22 Raptor can carry its air-to-air and air-to-ground weaponry in its internal weapons bays, it relies on rather unstealthy fuel tanks when it needs to increase its range.

External fuel tanks are carried during peacetime operations (including QRA – Quick Reaction Alert service) but in a real conflict like the one in Syria and Iraq, when invisibility is a must (at least for the F-22), stealth planes fly with no external loads.

That’s why aircraft must be refueled mid-air by tankers several times, to be able to remain in the air for the 6 – 7 (or more) hours required to reach northern Syria and return to Al Dhafra in the UAE after dropping ordnance.

Here’s an interesting video showing the stealth multi-role fighter jets take fuel from a KC-10 Extender tanker during on Sept. 27, 2014.