Tag Archives: Barack Obama

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


Air Force One for sale!

Unfortunately, the title does not refer to the famous highly modified Boeing 747s (designated VC-25 by the U.S. Air Force) that is used by President Obama as these planes have undergone many upgrades, and will probably serve the U.S. Administration for a long time before being retired and replaced.

Nevertheless, if you have 50,000 USD in your pocket you may buy a plane, that used Air Force One and Air Force Two callsigns.

The auction is to start on May 15.

Image Credit: aviationlive.org

What plane are we talking about?

The VC-9C with N681AL registration, flying in the 89th Airlift Wing from February 1975 until September 2005.

Why use DC-9 when you have the 747? Well it was the short runways that 747 could not land on that were the reason for using the former.

When it comes to the Air Force One callsign, in fact any airplane the president is aboard takes over this name.

The media professionals did not like the DC-9 at all, due to the uncomfortable seats. They were nowhere near as comfortable, and the journalist cabin was not as spacious as in the original 747.

If you plan to buy a plane and inspect it before bidding you can leave 50,000 USD deposit and go to the Phoenix/Mesa Gateway.

If you do not have sufficient funds, you may buy something cheaper, e.g. 1983 Cessna 182 Skylane, with an entry price of $100. All auctions are available at the General Services Administration website.

Jacek Siminski for TheAviationist

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U.S. Air Force Academy graduation ceremony. In two interesting pictures.

On May 23, 2012,  Falcon Stadium in Colorado Springs, Colorado, hosted the graduation ceremony of the U.S. Air Force Academy class of 2012.

The event had a certain media coverage because, 8 months since the repeal of the famous “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, the U.S. Air Force Academy graduated its first group of openly gay cadets.

The repeal of DADT only took effect last September, meaning that for the first time any class 2012 cadet could have come out while enrolled in the academy without fear of discharge.

Anyway, everything went smoothly and the following interesting images depict two different phases of the ceremony.

The first one depicts the class 2012 throwing their hats in the air at the end of the ceremony as the F-16s of the Thunderbirds U.S. Air Force aerial demonstration team fly overhead.

Image credit: Jewel Samad/AFP/GettyImages

U.S. President Barack Obama delivered the commencement address for this year’s graduation ceremony but, when I first saw the image below, I thought it was a fake.

However, it is genuine. It simply shows a seeminlgy proud and happy Barack Obama (hence his weird expression) as he receives a painting of Air Force One from the cadets of USAF class of 2012

Image credit: Jewel Samad/AFP/GettyImages

[Infographic] U.S. new raids, drone attacks target review process

The Associated Press has recently published the first detailed description of the once classified military’s review process for choosing terror leaders to be added to the capture or kill list.

Two current and three former officials U.S. officials spoke on condition of anonymity to the AP and described the current targeting procedure, developed by the Assistant to the President of the U.S. for Homeland Security John Brennan, that concentrates power over the use of both drones and special forces outside war zones, withinin a small White House’s team.

According to the U.S. officials, the Pentagon’s role in targeting process has been minimized: it can still carry out its own procedures to make recommendations to the Secretary of Defense, but the Brennan’s team would be in charge of approving the final recommendation to Obama.

[Read also: The mysterious U.S. F-15E Strike Eagle detachment in Djibouti. Are they conducting covert air strikes in Yemen?]

Previously, targets were reviewed within a military-run procedure that saw Brennan as just one of the voices in the debate. Under the new plan, Brennan’s staff leads the debate on which targets must be put on the list and runs the names past agencies such as the State Department at a weekly White House meeting.

Since Brennan is still the one to approve the final recommendation to President Barack Obama, there’s a widespread concern that bringing more power to his team could turn it into a sort of military headquarters, entrusting the fate of terrorist targets all around the world to a small number of senior officials.

[Read also: Covert US drone operations tracked in real time, via Twitter. Exposing tactics too.]

Several human rights groups have requested the White House to make public the process by which individuals end up on the targeting lists and the revelation by the officials who have spoken to the AP could help showing the American public that terrorist targets are chosen only after painstaking and exhaustive debate.

This could be particularly useful in an election year, when drone strikes across the globe can be a quite sensitive debating point.

The above image is a modified version of an AP infographic released on May 21

Here’s what the future Air Force One replacement will look like

Within the end of the decade, the U.S. Air Force will have to replace its most famous and representative plane, the same that has brought President Obama on his surprise trip to Afghanistan at the beginning of the month: the Air Force One.

What is commonly known as “Air Force One” by the radio callsign used when the President of the U.S. is on board is actually a pair of highly modified Boeing 747 aircraft, designated VC-25A.
Since Airbus has already said it will not pursue the replacement program, there is only one aircraft manufacturer interested in the bid: Boeing.

Although the new B787 dreamliner has been reported as one of the candidates, the most likely VC-25 replacement is the Boeing 747-8.

In order to see what a future Presidential 747-8 could look like Al Clark has prepared a digital mock-up of the new plane sporting the plane’s traditional light-blue and sky-blue color scheme, with the Seal of the President of the United States just above front gear and the flag of the United States on the tailfin.

Digital mock-up by Al Clark