Tag Archives: Cold War

U.S. Air Force A-10 pilot who took part in a famous mission that knocked out 23 Iraqi tanks logs 6,000 hours in the Warthog

Whiteman Thunderbolt pilot has spent the equivalent of 250 days flying the A-10 “tankbuster” across the world (including 11 combat deployments.)

On Nov. 14, 2016, Lt. Col. John Marks, a pilot with the 303rd Fighter Squadron, logged his 6,000th hour in the A-10 Thunderbolt II at Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri, becoming one of the highest time fighter pilots in the U.S. Air Force.

Marks has started flying the “Hawg” little less than 30 years ago. During the last three decades, he has flown the A-10 in theater during 11 combat deployments with the mission to support and protect forces on the ground.

“Six thousand hours is about 3,500 sorties with a takeoff and landing, often in lousy weather and inhospitable terrain,” said Col. Jim Macaulay, the 442d Operations Group commander in an Air Force release about the incredible milestone. “It’s solving the tactical problem on the ground hundreds of times and getting it right every time, keeping the friendlies safe. This includes being targeted and engaged hundreds of times by enemy fire.”

Lt. Col. Marks has started flying the Thunderbolt at low-altitude, in Europe, during the Cold War, when the A-10 focused on developing tactics to attack Soviet tanks in the battlefield.

During the years, the mission has evolved.

A-10s have become more sophisticated, new sensors and weapons have become available and these have made the “Warthog” even more lethal. Flying at higher altitudes above Afghanistan, Iraq or Syria, the Thunderbolts remain the most efficient CAS (Close Air Support) platforms available.

“In the end, we can cover the ground forces with everything from a very low-altitude strafe pass only meters away from their position, to a long-range precision weapon delivered from outside threat ranges, and everything in between,” said Marks.

Noteworthy, Marks was part of an epic mission during the Gulf War, when two A-10s wiped out 23 Iraqi tanks (a story that we described in detail here.)

“The trio of missions I flew on February 25, 1991, with Eric Salomonson on which we destroyed or damaged 23 Iraqi tanks with oil fires raging all over Kuwait certainly stands out,” he expressed. “The sky was black from oil fires and smoke and burning targets, lending to an almost apocalyptic feel.”

Indeed, during the same mission, the A-10s landed twice at a FOL (Forward Operating Location), were refueled and re-armed to return over the battlefield and help the Marines near Kuwait City.

“Recently, a mission I flew on our most recent trip to Afghanistan, relieving a ground force pinned down by Taliban on 3 sides and in danger of being surrounded, using our own weapons while also coordinating strikes by an AC-130 gunship, 2 flights of F-16s, Apaches, and AH-6 Little Birds, stands out as a mission I’m proud of,” continued Marks about one of the most rewarding missions of his career, which earned him the President’s Award for the Air Force Reserve Command in 2015.

With such an experience, Marks serves as a mentor for younger pilots in training.

“I’ve watched him mentor young pilots in the briefing room then teach them in the air,” said Macaulay. “Every sortie, he brings it strong, which infects our young pilots that seek to emulate him.”

“I like to think we can show them a good work ethic as well,” Marks added. “You always have to be up on the newest weapons, the newest threats, the newest systems. You can never sit still.”

Marks has plans on flying the A-10 until he cans: his next goal is to reach 7,000 hours.

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Image credit: U.S. Air Force

 

Salva

The most interesting close encounters between NATO and Russian planes since 2013 in one infographic

Mapped, all the most interesting close encounters between NATO and Russian warplanes all around the world since 2013.

Last week, all those readers who completed a quick survey on The Aviationist were given the possibility to download an exclusive ebook: “Cold War 2.0: All the most significant close encounters between NATO and Russian warplanes since 2013”

The ebook is a collection of posts we have published on this site between 2013 and 2015, and helps you understand how routine interceptions have become recurrent, tenser and more dangerous; the proof that we live in a new Cold War, or a “Cold War 2.0”, as we dubbed it.

Based on our ebook, Willum Morsch, Graphics editor at The Volkskrant prepared an interesting infographic that maps all the events we have reported about in our 70-page report.

Click below for a larger version of the infographic; by the way, you can still download the ebook after taking the survey here.

Image credit: de Volkskrant/The Aviationist

 

Surreal aerial footage of old Soviet warbirds in the east of Germany (filmed by drone)

Extremely cool footage of some old Soviet combat planes in a Cold War atmosphere.

Here’s a really interesting footage filmed by a quadcopter drone with some surreal close ups of MiG-15, MiG-17, MiG-21, MiG-23, Su-22, MI-8, L-29 Delfin and a Ilyuschin plane at the Aviation Museum in Finowfurt, near Berlin, Germany.

Finowfurt is an old Soviet military airbase that nowadays is being used as a museum where planes on display are being restaurated one by one.

 

This photo shows how Polish used Mig-15 combat planes to de-ice railroad tracks in the 1960s

A snapshot from the Cold War: Polish used Mig-15s to clear snow off railroad tracks 50 years ago.

In the 1960s, PKP, the Polish State Railways, used Polish Air Force MiG-15s to clear snow off of railroad tracks. As the top image shows, the Polish not only used the engine, but the entire FRONT section of the Fagot (including the cockpit).

Image via @HistoricalPics

 

How the U.S. F-15s intercepted Russian Bear bombers in the GIUK Gap: tensions and hilarious moments above Iceland

The tight gap between Greenland Iceland and the UK (“GIUK Gap”) was once the main “highway” used by Soviet bombers and maritime reconnaissance aircraft flying to Cuba, monitoring NATO maritime activities or simply probing local air defenses.

The mission to intercept the Soviet Tu-95/Tu-142 was assigned to the 57th FIS (Fighter Interceptor Squadron) “Black Knights”, ldeployed to Keflavik air base, in Iceland, since November 1954. The 57th FIS flew several types of aircraft such as the F-102, the F-106 and the F-4E, before receiving the F-15C/Ds  in November 1985.

The Eagles belonging to the 57th FIS were fitted with CFTs (Conformal Fuel Tanks) which boosted their range allowing the F-15s to intercept and shadow the Bears much further out and for longer time.

A former Black Knights pilot, Lt. Col. Tim “Sweet Lou” Kline described to Steve Davies for his book F-15 Eagle Engaged how an intercept against the Bears took place:

“They were long intercepts. […] we’d be sitting there waiting, looking down at the water-the icebergs in the cold water-and getting our gas from the tanker while we waited, hoping our refueling equipment worked because we were away from Keflavik. Sometimes we could be out there six hours.”

Thanks to the standard CFTs, the F-15 demonstrated to be the perfect aircraft to intercept the Bears in the GIUK Gap.

“When they did show up, they’d still at altitude. Oftentimes we would simply go ‘pure pursuit’ on the raw return because to obtain a lock on would not only give away our presence but also allow the ‘Bear’s’ EWO (Electronic Warfare Operator) to begin tuning in his EW gear and start ‘dueling electrons’ with the APG-63 (the F-15 doppler radar). It was important to not let them know what range we could actually get a lock on at and other information that would prove valuable intelligence to them,” Kline explained.

If the aircraft were Soviet Navy maritime reconnaissance aircraft, instead of flying at cruising level “they’d ramp down to about 300-500ft altitude and slow down to about 230 knots to start dropping the sonobuoys and we would ‘call the drops’ so AWACS could plot their locations for Intel. When they were done they would turn around and go back northeast to Russia.”

Sometimes, during bad weather interceptions, the Soviets turned into the F-15 trying force the fully loaded and bit less responsive Eagle into a dangerous attitude.

Interestingly, at the apex of the Cold War tension, the 57th FIS mechanics fabricated a fictitious EW (Electronic Warfare) pod from a normal baggage pod. To make it more realistic, the fake pod was fitted with various unused UHF, automobile and other types of antennas and was mounted beneath one of the underwing pylons of one of the local F-15s. When the Eagle carrying the faux EW pod intercepted the Bear, the pilot rolled out alongside the Soviet aircraft with the pod fully visible to the Russian aircrew which took a lot of pictures of the previously unseen pod: how much time that Soviet intelligence officer had to waste in trying to identify the new “EW pod” remains a mystery.

Another hilarious moment dates back to the time when one F-15 pilot showed off a Playboy nude centerfold across the expansive side of the Eagle’s canopy, for the Soviet aviators entertainment. Once they saw it, they responded by running the Bear air to air refueling probe (which was encased in a long cylindrical tube extending above the nose and would be run out to clog up into the drogue basket) in and out, and in and out of its protective sleeve.

The Black Knights did not survive too long after the end of the Cold War: in fact the F-15s of the 57th FIS ensured the QRA service at Keflavik until Mar. 1, 1995 when they were eventually disbanded.

Image credit: U.S. Air Force via 318fis.com