Tag Archives: B-2

Here Are Some Interesting Details About The Way U.S. B-2 Bombers Trained Over The U.S. To Strike North Korea

Some unusual activity took place in the skies over Missouri a couple of weeks ago. Including B-2s referring to air strikes on DPKR target on the radio. Just routine stuff or a message to Pyongyang?

What appears to be a medium size exercise, involving several different assets, took place over CONUS (Continental U.S.) in the night on Oct. 19 and Oct. 18, 2017.

Tons of military traffic, including B-2s and B-52s bombers, E-3 Sentry AEW (Airborne Early Warning) aircraft supported by KC-10 and KC-135 tankers were involved in a series of simulated air strikes on little airports all over Missouri. Radio comms over unencrypted UHF frequencies as well as the use of Mode-S and ADS-B transponders allowed milair airband listeners in the area to monitor the operations and to catch some interesting details. Besides the rather unusual amount of traffic (at least according to people who have been monitoring military air traffic through radio scanner for the last 15 years), what is really interesting is the fact that, during one night, one of the aircraft radioed a message about a “possible DPRK leadership relocation site” whose coordinates pointed to a hangar located at the Jefferson City airport.

This is what one of our readers wrote to us:

On the evening of Oct. 17, my wife and I where sitting outside by a fire enjoying the evening.

Around 8pm we saw three B-2s and what appeared to be a KC-135 fly over on a heading of roughly 080 and an altitude of 25,000 or below. It was after dark but at that altitude B-2s are easily identifiable if they have navigation lights and strobes on from directly underneath. We get quite a few military aircraft in eastern Kansas and this was nothing unusual.

I have been monitoring military air-air communications as a side hobby for a number of years so B-2s as well so the overflight prompted me to run and grab a handheld scanner. Shortly after turning on the scanner I heard the B-2s working Kansas City center using “BATT” [a previous version of this article referred to the c/s as “Bat”, however, Spirit pilots pointed out the right c/s is “Batt”] callsigns (most of the time they tend to use REAPER or DEATH).

After about 30min had passed, I picked up the B-2s and other aircraft on another frequency where they where using military brevity. It was clear they where simulating some kind of battle. They where talking to another callsign MOJO getting tasking to drop GBUs on different targets. They read some target Lat/Lon over the radio: quickly plugging one into Google Maps I found they where dropping bombs on a hanger at Jefferson City, MO, airport going as far as discussing the fusing time for best effect on target.

The next evening I was ready if the exercise continued with more receivers in place and proper recording software. About the same time (roughly 8pm) they started up dropping bombs on targets with tasking from MOJO and WOLVERINE. One of the targets, consisting of several Lat/Lon sets, was the runway and hangers at Osage Beach, MO airport. At one point they called friendlies in contact and proceeded with a danger close 150m airdrop at the same hangar at Jefferson City airport as the night before.

This is the first time I have heard a exercise of this magnitude over this area.

The first night they tried to use HAVE QUICK frequency hopping and I heard several timing pulses but they couldn’t seem to get all of the members of the net setup properly (that could have been planed to practice contingency plans). They also didn’t employ any encryption that I could hear so the whole exercise was broadcast for the world to hear in plain old analog UHF AM. The most interesting part was when they radioed “a command post possible DPRK leadership relocation site” but when this was said I had not started recording it yet.

My opinion is that the Missouri Ozarks look a lot like North Korea, but we have no way of telling if something is planend or they are just preparing in case things go south.

The amount of money spent and the number of national assets involved sets this far above anything I have heard around here.”

Here below you can hear what this reader has recorded during the above drills. It’s just a 5-min audio file cut from a longer +30min version. However it gives pretty much an idea of what was happening on Oct. 18.

Was the exercise aimed at simulating a raid on a North Korean “VIP”?

Most probably yes. This is something that is being planned for months. Night missions of three-ship B-2 flights (using the very same callsign “Batt”) are standard practice as our recent story of three Spirit stealth bombers refueling over southwest Missouri few days before the above exercise was monitored proves.

What is weird is the fact that radio comms included a clear reference to a DPKR target. Indeed, it’s no secret that thousand radiohams, aviation geeks, aircraft spotters etc. use radio transmission to track military air traffic. For this reason, real ops are always conducted with a strict radio discipline, so that no detail is leaked to the “enemy” (or anyone who should not have the right to listen) and encrypted radio frequencies or frequency hopping techniques are used. However, the whole exercise was carried out on very well known unencrypted frequencies. This could have happened because of a mistake (usually names of enemy nations are never specified during radio comms) or on purpose, to let the word spread that the B-2 are preparing to attack North Korean targets. A sort of subliminal message such as the one sent with a video that showed, for the very first time, a Spirit bomber drop a 30,000-pound MOP (Massive Ordnance Penetrator) “Bunker Buster” bomb or one of the various show of force missions flown from the U.S. (or Guam) to the Korean peninsula.

Dealing with Mode-S transponders, these made some of the aircraft involved in the ops, visibile on flight tracking websites. However, this is far from being unusual: despite the risk of breaking OPSEC with an inaccurate use of ADS-B transponders many aircraft, including RC-135s, Global Hawks and other strategic ISR platforms operate over highly sensitive regions, such as Ukraine or the Korean Peninsula, with the ADS-B and Mode-S turned on, so that even commercial off the shelf receivers (or public tracking websites) can monitor them.

Okie 33 was a KC-135 supporting the B-2s during their simulated air strikes.

An E-3 Sentry also supported the Spirit bombers during their simulated air strikes.


Top image: Todd Miller

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We Have Found Ultra Rare Footage Showing A B-2 Spirit Stealth Bomber Dropping A 30,000-Pound Bunker Buster Bomb

This Is Probably The First Clip Showing The B-2 As It Drops The GBU-57 Massive Ordnance Penetrator.

The B-2 Spirit stealth bomber is the only aircraft in the U.S. Air Force inventory currently capable to operationally drop the massive 30,000-lb (14,000 kg) GBU-57 Massive Ordnance Penetrator (even though the testing of the MOP involved a B-52 back in 2009, the weapon’s intended platform is only the B-2).

The 14-ton GBU-57 is a 20-foot long GPS-guided bomb said to be able to penetrate 200 feet of concrete before exploding: for this reason it is considered the weapon of choice in case of attack on buried targets (such as the North Korean bunkers).

Whilst there are just a few images showing the GBU-57 carried by or next to a B-2 (we published one of these in 2013, here) you will hardly find any video of the B-2 dropping one of the two MOPs the stealth bomber can carry in its internal bomb bay.

However, we have spotted a clip of a MOP released from the B-2’s bomb bay in a recently published video from the 393rd Bomb Squadron, one of the units that operate the Spirit stealth bomber as part of the 509th Bomb Wing at Whiteman Air Force Base Missouri.

The impressive size of the MOP is pretty evident in the footage (skip towards the end of the video).

The MOP is sometimes mistaken with the 11-ton, parachute deployed, GBU-43B MOAB (Massive Ordnance Air Blast) also known as “Mother Of All Bombs”. The MOAB is the largest conventional air dropped weapon ever employed by the U.S. military: a U.S. Air Force Special Operations MC-130 Combat Talon II dropped the GBU-43B on an ISIS cave complex target in Afghanistan, for the very first time on Apr. 13, 2017.

 

Two U.S. B-52 skirt Chinese-controlled man-made island in the South China Sea sparking Chinese protest

Two American Stratofortress bombers flew within 12 miles of the disputed islands.

On Dec. 10, two U.S. Air Force B-52 strategic bombers on a routine long-range mission flew within 12 nautical miles (the standard boundary of the territorial waters) of one of the seven Chinese man-made islands in the South China Sea, sparking China’s protests.

Although Washington has not taken an official stance on sovereignty claims surrounding the islands it does maintain that China’s new islands do not enjoy the traditional 12NM territorial limit. However, according to the Pentagon, the aircraft were not flying a so-called “freedom of navigation” mission (a pre-planned navigation used to assert U.S. rights to “innocent passage” in or close to other nation’s territorial waters): one of the aircraft flew within 2 miles of an artificial island along unintentional route. Interesting, since “navigation errors” are a bit surprising on long-range bombers equipped with redundant GPS, INS systems that should make their navigation quite accurate.

Noteworthy, according to the Associated Press, the B-52 strategic bombers and that they issued radio warnings demanding the aircraft leave the area after the intrusion: last month, a Russian Su-24 bomber that allegedly ignored the radio warnings issued by a Turkish Air Force radar station was shot down by a TuAF F-16 after violating the Turkish airspace near the border with Syria.

China’s Defense Ministry considers the U.S. mission in the vicinity of the islands a serious military provocation and a deliberate attempt at raising tensions in the region.

U.S. B-52 and B-2 bombers routinely fly nuclear deterrence missions in the Asia-Pacific theater. In November 2013, a flight of two U.S. B-52 bombers departed from Guam airbase entered the new Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) over East China Sea close to the disputed islands without complying with any of the rules set by Beijing for the ADIZ. In that case, the mission intentionally skirted the disputed Diaoyu Islands (known as Senkaku islands in Japan).

Image credit: U.S. Air Force

 

The U.S. forces that could be used to strike ISIS in Iraq and Syria

It won’t be easy to strike all ISIS positions in Syria and Iraq. But the U.S. has already amassed several “useful” weapons systems in the region.

Last year, when the U.S. (and France) seemed to be about to launch air strikes on Syria and its chemical weapons, we explained that the air campaign would probably be a limited air war, opened by the usual rain of cruise missiles shot by warships, submarines and bombers with little to no involvement of the so-called “tacair”, the tactical airplanes.

13 months later, the scenario has changed a bit.

Several F-15E Strike Eagles and F/A-18E/F Super Hornets carrying their PGMs (Precision Guided Munitions), are already flying over Iraq hitting ISIS targets five times a day, and they prepare to expand their mission to attack terrorist targets located in Syria.

Whilst last year there was no sign of imminent deployment of F-15s, F-16s or F-18s squadrons to airfields across the region, several warplanes, along with support assets (including tankers and ISR – Intelligence Surveillance and Reconnaissance – platforms) are not only in place, but they are also flying daily missions over Iraq since July.

And, above all, there’s a supercarrier and its powerful Strike Group sailing in the Persian Gulf and pounding militants.

Stand-off weapons, cruise missiles and….stealth bombers?

Since U.S. planes are already freely flying inside Iraqi airspace, it is quite likely they will continue to do so to perform surgical attacks on ISIS targets in Iraq. The aircraft are deployed to Al Udeid, Qatar, and Al Dhafra, UAE, but they could also count of Jordan airbases, some of which already host some U.S. Marine Corps F/A-18 Hornets and Air Force F-16s.

On the other side, Syrian targets will be more difficult to hit: unless Washington will be allowed to use Syria’s airspace any incursion could theoretically require plenty of Electronic Warfare cover and SEAD (Suppression of Enemy Air Defense) support to make Syrian Air Defense harmless. In other words, the unathorized use of Damascus airspace would not be cost-effective along with causing diplomatic issues, as it would require the U.S. to fight a war against Syria (by blinding or destroying Syrian radars and SAM – Surface to Air Missile – batteries) and against ISIS in Syria. And don’t forget that some Syrian Arab Air Air Force planes are fighting their war against local rebels and this raises two issues: deconfliction with SyAAF planes and the risk of being shot down by MANPADS (Man Portable Air Defense Systems) or other Anti-Aircraft weaponry in the hands of the Free Syrian Army.

A more clandestine approach is probably ahead, with a war made of drone strikes, stand-off weapons, and some limited stealth air strikes.

Dealing with drones, as said, they are already operating in Iraq, hence, they could extend their current mission to perform Strike Coordination And Reconnaissance missions in or close to Syria from Incirlik, in Turkey, that has been used as a drone forward operating base, for several years.

Cruise missiles could be fired U.S. destroyers theoretically capable to launch up to 90 Tomahawks Tactical Cruise Missiles as the USS Cole, currently in the Sixth fleet area of operations.

Some more cruise missiles could be fired by U.S. strategic bombers that would perform some global reach, round trip missions from the US (as well as from Diego Garcia): for sure, B-2 Spirit stealth bombers‘ r/t sorties from Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri, to be followed by some more B-1 air strikes  as done during the Libya Air War in 2011, and possibly B-52 ones.

Wars are always an opportunity to test new weapons systems so we can’t rule out an extended campaign in Iraq and Syria will eventually see the baptism of fire of the F-22 Raptor as a multi-role jet or even the mysterious triangle-shaped bomber spotted over the U.S. few months ago. Six F-22s are already stationed at Al Dhafra, in the Gulf area.

High flying U-2 Dragon Lady aircraft and Global Hawk drones flying from Incirlik, Sigonella or Al Dhafra are already getting the required imagery and will perform the post-strike BDA (Battle Damage Assessment) should the need arise.

Even if it will be an American air war, allied air arms will take part in the strike. France was about to fire some Scalp missiles from a handful of Rafale jets in 2013; they will probably ready their “omnirole” fighter jets this time. The UK has already committed some Tornado GR4s to perform reconnaissace and air-to-surface missions, whereas the Italian MoD has affirmed Rome is ready to offer its tanker aircraft (most probably the advanced KC-767 aerial refuelers).

Image credit: U.S. Air Force

 

Is this the shape of the new mysterious stealth jet spotted over Texas?

Some blurry pictures taken from the ground are all we know about a possibly new, unknown, U.S. stealth jet. Based on those images we have tried to figure out the shape of the mysterious plane.

On Mar. 10, 2014, three mysterious planes were spotted over Amarillo, Texas, by Steve Douglass, Dean Muskett and few fellow photographers.

The analysis of the photos shot by Douglass and Muskett showed something interesting: the aircraft was almost boomerang shaped and, based on the contrails, it was equipped with two engines (or at least two exhaust nozzles).

One of the images, seemed to show a loose resemblance with the B-2 “batwing” bomber, whereas another one, highlighted a shape reminiscent of an X-47B UCAV (Unmanned Combat Air Vehicle) killer drone.

As done years ago with the famous Stealth Black Hawk exposed by the Osama Bin Laden raid at Abbottabad, based on the grainy images available, I worked with artist Ugo Crisponi to create an image that melted the various details that could be guessed by the shots taken by Douglass and Muskett.

Therefore, the one you can see in this post is a possible shape of a large 6th Generation (probably manned) aircraft, seen over Amarillo; a Black Project, inspired by the B-2 Spirit and F-117 Nighthawk, with inputs from more recent UCAVs designs.

What do you think?

 

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