Tag Archives: Draken International

Watch An F-22 Spot And Engage An A-4 Skyhawk In A Low Dogfight In A Valley

Top Gun Reloaded featuring F-22 Raptor and A-4 Skyhawk.

I’m pretty sure most of you remember the Top Gun movie scenes with the F-14 Tomcats dogfighting with A-4 Skyhawks around mountains. Those scenes were shot around NAS Fallon, Nevada, not too far from where the footage below has been filmed some 30 years later.

The footage shows a U.S. Air Force F-22 Raptor engaging with an A-4K Skyhawk in the Nellis Test and Training Range. The Skyhawk is one of the jets belonging to Draken International, a  company that supports military training around the globe with a fleet of 80 tactical fighter aircraft. The extensively upgraded in the early 1990s to a standard similar to the F-16 Mid-Life-Update with a 1553 digital bus, APG-66v7 radar, RWR (Radar Warning Receiver), HOTAS (Hands On Throttle And Stick) controls, HUD (Head Up Display) and MFDs (Multi-Function Displays). In other words, although not the most advanced Aggressors around, at least what’s needed to perform the adversary role against 4th and 5th generation combat planes.

As explained by an F-35 pilot last year, dogfighting against the A-4 is still relevant today for several reasons:

  • The F-35’s sensors and “fusion” provides me as a pilot with good situational awareness. For an F-35 to simulate an opponent against another F-35, it has to restrict the effects of fusion and the various sensors. Even then it is difficult to “dumb down” the aircraft enough. It requires discipline to not be tempted to using information that an opponent in reality would not have access to.
  • The A-4s we faced in these exercises had sensor performance along the lines of our own upgraded F-16s. They also carried jammers intended to disturb our radar.
  • The pilots we faced were very experienced. We are talking 2000 hours plus in aircraft like the F-16, F-15E, F-15C and the F-22, with detailed knowledge of “fifth generation” tactics and weapons. When also cooperating closely with intercept controllers on the ground (GCI) they could adapt the training and offer us a reactive and challenging opponent. Note the word “reactive.”
  • The A-4 is a small aircraft with a corresponding signature. Many potential opponents in the air are bigger and easier to find than the tiny A-4.

Anyway, dealing with the video, as our friend Tyler Rogoway suggested when commenting the very same video in his article at The War Zone: “It’s not entirely clear if one Raptor was orbiting waiting as another F-22 drove the fleeing A-4 towards his wingman—a classic predatory trap—or just one F-22 was present and it waited for the Skyhawk to come into range before dropping behind him and killing him.”

Update: we have collected more details about the sortie. First of all, it was a WSI (Weapons School Integration) mission. The F-22 was part of a package made by 4x F-22s and 4x F-15s doing CAP (Combat Air Patrol) and clearing the airspace for the strikers to enter. There were 2x A-4s (one not in the frame)  and the F-22 descended all the way from 40,000 feet to engage the 2 low A-4s!

If you look closely at around 00:27 seconds, you can see the F-22 side weapons bay briefly opening and closing: the Raptor’s side bay door houses the canted trapeze that the F-22 Raptors use to eject the missile into the airstream. Not sure the reason why they were opened during this engagement.

The Raptor’s side weapons bay is used to carry the AIM-9X, the Sidewinder variant integrated on Mar. 1, 2016, when the 90th Fighter Squadron (FS) belonging to the 3rd Wing stationed at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska officially became the first combat-operational Raptor unit to equip an F-22 with the latest variant of the IR-guided missile.

As explained several times here, most of the modern US combat planes use the AIM-9X along with a Helmet Mounted Display since 2003: with a HMD (like the American Joint Helmet Mounted Cueing System – JHMCS), information imagery (including aircraft’s airspeed, altitude, weapons status, aiming etc) are projected on the visor enabling the pilot to look out in any direction with all the required data always in his field of vision. The HMD enables the pilot to exploit the full HOBS (High Off-Boresight) capabilities of the AIM-9X and engage a target by simply looking at it.

However the AIM-9X will not be coupled to a HMD as the Raptor is not equipped with such kind of helmet that provides the essential flight and weapon aiming information through line of sight imagery. In 2019, the Air Force plans to equip the F-22 with the AIM-9X Block II, the F-22 will probably fill the gap as the most advanced variant of the Sidewinder is expected to feature a Lock-on After Launch capability with a datalink, for Helmetless High Off-Boresight (HHOBS) at intermediate range: the air-to-air missile will be launched first and then directed to its target afterwards even though it is behind the launching aircraft.

Top image: screenshot from the video by 8081rt

[Photo] An unusual paint scheme on an ex-Polish Fishbed: Adversary Mig-21s have reached Florida

The Polish MiG-21s we have written about a few days ago seem to have already reached Florida to provide threat simulation services from Eglin Air Force Base.

A photo shows one of the 25 MiGs bought back in September, that looks nothing like any other aggressor jet: the paint scheme is surely not based on the ex-Soviet Su-27s nor Iranian F-14s.

The MiGs have served with the Polish Air Force for nearly half the century; they are now going to be flown against U.S. top fighter jocks during simulated Top Gun-like air-to-air engagements.

Jacek Siminski for TheAviationist

Image Credit: Draken International

Enhanced by Zemanta

Ex-Warsaw Pact MiG-21 Fishbeds provide threat simulation services over North America

According to Draken International the supply of MiG-21s from Poland has already started.

The 25 aircraft will be refurbished and then will be used to extend the offer of Draken International, a company which offers threat simulation during various exercises in North America, both in the U.S. and Canada, as well as research and development and adversary support to various entities within the U.S. Military and defense industry.

Draken International “owns and operates a fleet of more than 50 tactical jet aircraft. This includes the multi-role APG-66 radar
equipped A-4K Skyhawks, the CAS/JTAC optimized AerMacchi MB-339CB and the supersonic and Jaybird radar-equipped
Mikoyan Mig-21BIS.”

Indeed, the company has bought MiG-21 Bis and MiG-21UM trainer versions of the Fishbeds that once served in the Polish Air Force.

The interesting thing is that the ex-Polish MiGs will be flying over Florida, not far from the F-35s based at the international training center for the Lightning II at Eglin Air Force Base.

Since 1961 and throughout the Cold War, MiG-21 was the main Polish interceptor. The aircraft’s nickname was “pencil“, because of its distinctive shape and short wings.

The first “21s” with the Polish Air Force were the MiG-21 F-13 with a single cannon and ability to carry air-to-air guided missiles. Then the PF version came into service, with a better engine and a radar. The RP-21 Sapfir radar allowed the PF to operate in an adverse weather conditions and at night.

Later, in the 1970s, Poland received MiG-21PFMs that featured a better radar that allowed the aircraft to act more autonomously. This version also featured a new engine and KM-1 ejection seat.

What is more, the new engine allowed bleeding air over the trailing-edge flaps to energize airflow over the flaps and thus improve lift. This allowed for lowering of the high landing speed of the Fishbed. Short wings made its aerodynamics similar to the F-104, that required high speeds during the landing approach. The PFM also could carry a greater variety of armament.

The modifications of PFM made it able to serve until late 90s / early 2000s. The mods included a new engine – R-25-300 and new radar, along with new navigation and aiming systems. Additionaly the jettisoned fuel tanks were elarged, extending the fighter’s (limited) range. The MiG in the first decade of the 2000s became a sort-of multirole jet, able to attack ground targets as well.

Nevertheless in December 2003 the Polish Fishbeds were withdrawn from active service.

Some of them can be seen in museums all around Poland with the Cracow Polish Aviation Museum holding the most impressive collection. The Polish MiG-21 can also be spotted on the Interpid Sea, Air and Space Museum in New York City aboard an USS Interpid aircraft carrier.

The MiG-21 has been replaced in the Polish Air Force during the first decade of the 21st century by the F-16 Block 52+.

Jacek Siminski for TheAviationist

Image credit: Polish Air Force

Enhanced by Zemanta