Tag Archives: Boeing KC-135 Stratotanker

GoPro footage of a dogfight between Dutch F-16 and U.S. F-15 over the North Sea

Join a Royal Netherlands Air Force F-16 during aerial combat against a U.S. F-15.

At the end of March 2015, 125th Fighter Wing, Florida Air National Guard, from Jacksonsville, Florida, deployed to Leewuwarden air base with 12 F-15C Eagle as part of the first Air National Guard TSP (Theater Security Package) in support of Operation Atlantic Resolve.

From Apr. 13 to 24, the F-15s and supporting personnel (belonging to units from Florida, Oregon, California, Massachusetts and various bases throughout Europe grouped, regardless of their origin, in the 159th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron) took part in Frisian Flag 2015 one of the largest exercises in central Europe.

The footage in this post was filmed from the cockpit of a Dutch F-16 during a FF 2015 mission.

It shows the RNlAF “Viper” depart from Leeuwarden, join and refuel from an American KC-135 tanker launched from RAF Mildenhall, UK, over the North Sea, and engage a U.S. F-15 in a 1 vs 1 dogfight.

Watch the F-16’s pilot, wearing a JHMCS (Joint Helmet Mounted Cueing System) maneuver under high g-loads to try to get a shot on the Eagle. The JHMCS, used also by the American F-15 pilots, is a multi-role system that enhances pilot situational awareness and provides head-out control of aircraft targeting systems and sensors. It can be used in an air-to-air role, combined with the AIM-9X missile, as High-Off-BoreSight (HOBS) system, to cue onboard weapons against enemy aircraft merely by pointing their heads at the targets to guide the weapons.

H/T to Giuliano Ranieri for the heads-up

 

The amazing story of Bill Weaver: the Blackbird pilot who survived his SR-71 disintegration

The incredible story of a lucky SR-71 pilot who survived to a Blackbird disintegration at Mach 3+

Built as a strategic reconnaissance aircraft able to fly at 88,000 feet and Mach 3, the iconic Lockheed SR-71 required aircrews to wear a special silver pressure suit to ensure their safety. This proved to be much useful during the time, as the aircraft experienced several accidents at very high speeds and altitudes during its test flights.

The protection provided by these suits was put to test on Jan. 25, 1966 when Blackbird tail number 952 disintegrated mid-air during a systems evaluation flight. The mission was intended to investigate procedures designed to reduce trim drag and improve high Mach cruise performance while the center of gravity (CG) was located further aft than normal, reducing the Blackbird’s longitudinal stability.

The SR-71 was driven by Bill Weaver with a Lockheed flight test specialist, Jim Zwayer in the back seat and it took off from Edwards AFB at 11:20 am . They refueled from a KC-135, accelerated to Mach 3.2 and climbed to 78,000 feet, which was their initial cruise altitude.

During a programmed thirty-five-degree bank right turn they experienced an “inlet unstart” that caused the immediate unstart on the right J-58 engine, forcing the aircraft to roll further right and start to pitch up. An inlet unstart happened when a shock wave was rapidly ejected back outside the inlet. When an inlet unstart occurred a device called the cross-tie system was enabled to minimize the extreme rolling and yaw of the aircraft and to prevent the good inlet from unstarting. At the same time the cross-tie system also restarted the good engine. As Weaver himself told to former Blackbird pilot Col. Richard H. Graham in his book, “SR-71 The Complete Illustrated History of THE BLACKBIRD The World’s Highest, Fastest Plane”: “I jammed the control stick as far left and forward as it would go. No response. I instantly knew we were in for a wild ride.”

Since the chances to survive an ejection at Mach 3.18 and 78,000 feet weren’t very good, Weaver and Zwayer decided to stay with the aircraft to restore control until they reached a lower speed and altitude, but the cumulative effects of system malfunctions exceeded flight control authority. Everything seemed to unfold in slow motion, even if the time from event onset to catastrophic departure from controlled flight was only two to three seconds.

Weaver recalls that he was “still trying to communicate with Jim, I blacked out, succumbing to extremely high g-forces. Then the SR-71 literally disintegrated around us.”

Weaver struggled to realize what was really happening. “I could not have survived what had just happened. I must be dead. As full awareness took hold, I realized I was not dead. But somehow I had separated from the airplane. I had no idea how this could have happened; I hadn’t initiated an ejection. The sound of rushing air and what sounded like straps flapping in the wind confirmed I was falling, but I couldn’t see anything. My pressure suit’s face plate had frozen over and I was staring at a layer of ice.”

It was at that point that the pressure suit proved to be very effective protection for Weaver. In fact, once it was inflated, an emergency oxygen cylinder in the seat kit attached to the parachute harness was functioning. It not only supplied breathing oxygen, but also pressurized the suit, preventing Weaver’s blood from boiling at the extremely high altitude. In this way the suit’s pressurization had also provided physical protection from intense buffeting and g-forces. That inflated suit had become like a tiny escape capsule.

Another system conceived to safeguard the Blackbird aircrew during the bailout procedure was the SR-71’s parachute system. To prevent body tumbling motions and physical injury due to the centrifugal forces it was designed to automatically deploy a small-diameter stabilizing parachute shortly after ejection and seat separation.

Since Weaver had not intentionally activated the ejection sequence, he thought that stabilizing chute might not have deployed. But he quickly determined he was falling vertically and not tumbling, meaning that the little parachute had deployed and was doing its job. The next concern was for the main parachute, which was designed to open automatically at 15,000 feet, but again he had no assurance the automatic-opening function would work. So Weaver decided to open the faceplate, to estimate his height above the ground but as he reached for the faceplate, he felt the reassuring sudden deceleration of main parachute deployment.

After landing, Weaver was rescued by Albert Mitchell Sr., owner of a ranch in northeastern New Mexico, who helped him with the chute, then reached Zwayer who had landed not far away, with his own Hughes helicopter. Mitchell returned few minutes later reporting that Zwayer was dead: in fact he had suffered a broken neck during the aircraft’s disintegration and was killed almost instantly. Moreover Mitchell said that his ranch foreman would watch over Zwayer’s body until the arrival of the authorities and he flew Weaver to the Tucumcari hospital.

Investigation of the incident determined that the nose section of the Blackbird had broken off aft of the rear cockpit and crashed ten miles from the main wreckage. The resultant very high g-forces had literally ripped Weaver and Zwayer from the airplane. After this crash, testing with the CG aft of normal limits was discontinued, and trim-drag issues were resolved via aerodynamic means. Moreover the inlet control system was improved and the inlet unstarts almost stopped with the development of the Digital Automatic Flight and Inlet Control System.

Two weeks after the accident Weaver was back in a Blackbird. As he recalls: “It was my first flight since the accident, so a flight test engineer in the back seat was probably a little apprehensive about my state of mind and confidence. As we roared down the runway and lifted off, I heard an anxious voice over the intercom. “Bill! Bill! Are you there?” “Yeah George. What’s the matter?” “Thank God! I thought you might have left.” The rear cockpit of the SR-71 has no forward visibility – only a small window on each side – and George couldn’t see me. A big red light on the master-warning panel in the rear seat had illuminated just as we rotated, stating: “Pilot Ejected”. Fortunately, the cause was a misadjusted micro switch, not my departure.”

DF-ST-89-06278

Image credit: U.S. Air Force

 

What’s this new sensor exposed by video of a B-1 bomber refueling over Iraq?

Although it may seem just another B-1 refueling video, this footage shows something different.

The following footage was shot on Feb. 12, over Iraq.

It shows a B-1B “Lancer” (or “Bone”) taking fuel from a U.S. Air Force KC-135 Stratotanker during a mission in support of Operation Inherent Resolve.

There are several such videos available online but this one caught our attention as it seems to show something different: the B-1, operating from Al Udeid airbase, in Qatar, has at least one new circle-shaped dorsal sensor (most probably an antenna) on the upper fuselage past of the cockpit area.

The same sensor doesn’t seem to be present on B-1s featured by similar footage, perhaps a sign that 34th Expeditionary Bomb Squadron Bones currently deployed in theater have received some kind of upgrade including the new antenna.

Does anyone have a clue when was the new sensor was installed and, above all, what it is?

Here’s the image that clearly shows the antenna (highlight mine, credit: U.S. Air Force):

34th EBS B-1B refuels over Syria

 

Watch a B-2 Spirit bomber refuel and then rotate dorsal fuel receptacle to achieve full stealthiness

Interesting video shows B-2 stealth bombers refuel over Montana

Usually, videos of U.S. Air Force B-2 stealth bombers getting fuel from KC-135 Stratotanker aerial refuelers are interesting for showing the plane’s inboard elevons continuously moving to keep the aircraft in the proper position for refueling.

These are just two of the Spirit’s control surfaces which include a two sets of drag rudders and speed brakes on both wings, near the wingtips, and the Gust Load Alleviation System on the plane’s “beaver tail” assembly.

In this case, the clip is particularly interesting as it clearly shows the Spirit’s rotating dorsal receptacle: once the refueling has finished the fuel intake required to connect with the tanker’s flying boom can’t remain exposed as it would become RCS “hotspot” rendering the B-2 less than completely stealthy.

For this reason the aircraft has an internal system which rotates the receptacle and hides it in such a way the aircraft is once again completely stealth.

By the way, footage was filmed over Montana from a 151st ARW KC-135 from Salt Lake City, Utah, during aerial refueling mission of three B-2s, on Feb. 18, 2015.

 

[Photo] U.S. Marines EA-6B Prowlers refuel during mission over Afghanistan

U.S. Marine Corps EA-6Bs are taking part in missions in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan.

Some of the 27 remaining U.S. Marine Corps EA-6B Prowler jets are currently deployed to conducts electronic air defense over Afghanistan.

Close up cockpit AAR EA-6B

The EA-6Bs belong to the VMAQ-4, that deployed to Al Udeid, in Qatar, in August 2014.

Since they arrived in Qatar, the Prowlers have launched missions to Syria and Iraq, as well as Afghanistan.

EA-6B refuel boomer view

In spite of their age, the aircraft are still valuable platforms capable to support any contingencies or operations which may need kinetic electronic attack:  they can spot and identify enemy signals, jam radar emissions and radio communications as well as gather intelligence and pin-point enemy forces on the ground.

EA-6B refuel boom view

Still, the Prowler will probably be the last EW (Electronic Warfare) dedicated aircraft in USMC inventory: the Marines plan to retire the Prowler and replace it with the radar-evading F-35B which will be able to perform some EW roles by means of its AESA (Active Electronic Scanner Array) radar, used as a directional jammer.

Prowler over Afghanistan

In the meanwhile, the images in this post show some the Marine Corps Prowlers being refueled by a U.S. Air Force KC-135 on their way to one of the daily missions over Afghanistan.

EA-6B flares

Image credit: U.S. Air Force