Tag Archives: Eurofighter Typhoon

More than 60 combat aircraft from eight NATO nations take part in Exercise Frisian Flag in the Netherlands

Frisian Flag 2017 was a large scale exercise organised by the Royal Netherlands Air Force.

From Mar. 27 to Apr. 7, Leeuwarden Air Base in the Netherlands hosted the tactical aircraft taking part in Ex. Frisian Flag 2017.

The purpose of the drills was preparing the participating units for a modern conflict or crisis support operation by strengthening cooperation between air arms of multiple NATO countries called to undertake joint training missions twice a day.

Whilst Leeuwarden in the north of the Netherlands, hosted the “tacair”, the supporting tankers (French Air Force C-135FR, Italian Air Force KC-767A, German Air Force A-310MRTT and RNlAF KDC-10) were based at Eindhoven airport in the south, with a NATO E-3 AWACS flying from Geilenkirchen, Germany, and a French AF E-3D from Avord, France.

Special Viper BAF

Portuguese F-16 about to land

The two-week long drills saw the assets split into two teams: the “Red Force”, that included the RAF Tornado GR4s and the French Mirage 2000s, and the “Blue Force” made of the Florida ANG F-15s, the Eurofighter Typhoons, as well as F-16s from Portugal, Belgium and the Netherlands.

RNlAF F-16 on final

A 31 Sqn Tornado GR4

FAF Mirage 2000

According to the RAF 31 Sqn that posted a short debrief after returning from the drills, missions flown during Frisian Flag included air defense, protection of other aircraft and attacking of ground targets on land and sea in a high threat environment, which included opposing fighter aircraft and ground based Patriot and SA-6 missile batteries.

Four ship about to break for the downwind leg

GAF Typhoon special tail

Photographers at work at Leeuwarden

All the images in this post were taken at Leeuwarden airbase by photographer Estelle Calleja.

A Dutch Viper in final

RNlAF F-16 during the base turn

Image credit: Estelle Calleja

Red Flag’s air combat maneuvering as seen from the Nevada Desert

Climb with us to the top of Coyote Summit to see some real Red Flag 17-2 action!

Red Flag is a major event in the military aviation community, known by both pilots, spotters and other fans. In a nutshell, it is the most important exercise in the world, both in terms of realistic training and participating units, and it’s held 4 times a year. It is staged from one of the world’s biggest and most famous airbases: Nellis Air Force Base, north of Las Vegas, Nevada.

Much has already been written about Red Flag so I won’t come back to the origins, dating back to the Vietnam War; nor will I describe the Nellis Test and Training Range (NTTR), where the wargame takes place, nor the 64th Aggressor Squadron whose involvement as a realistic opposition makes Red Flag what it is.

Aircraft parked on the apron at Nellis AFB during RF 17-2

Recently, I had the opportunity to spend a few days in Nevada, during Red Flag 17-2, and watch these machines around the base. The unit panel consisted mainly of F-16C squadrons :

  • the 55th FS from Shaw AFB with few jets from 77th and 79th FS;
  • the Alabama ANG 100th FS with two jets decorated with beautiful red Tuskegee tails;
  • the Colorado ANG 120th FS;
  • RNLAF 322nd sqn F-16s based in Leeuwarden, with some jets from Tucson (with mixed Arizona ANG and dutch markings).

The only other jet players were Spanish Ala 111 with their Eurofighters, supported by KC-130H from Ala 312, and 493rd FS Eagles from Lakenheath.

An Aggressor F-16 about to start “flexing” after take off

After two days of shooting tons of pictures (you can have a glimpse here), and wanting more than take-offs and landings at the base, I was looking for some more action. My plan was to go and see and hear the aerial war in the high desert of Nevada, the natural habitat of these metal birds.

The place is known as Coyote Summit and is a two hours drive from Sin City, heading north. Passing Hancok Summit on the E.T. Highway (also known as US 375), one can see the vastness of the USAF playground. On the left, there’s a trail leading to Area 51, invisible behind a small ridge. Thirty miles ahead is Rachel, and my plan is to stop at a small gap, up the road where most of the Blue players (Blue air are the participant units of Red Flag, while Red air with their Aggressor F-16s simulate the enemy) should fly by, low or high.

Around Coyote Summit

So here I am, on this clear Nevada weather morning, sitting on top of Coyote Summit, a 200 ft hill at the “gate” of the Range (aka the NTTR), and waiting.

This particular place is very well-known among spotters and by noon, we’re 5 people there, chatting about aviation, and catching in a hurry our cameras at every engine sound we hear above the wind.

At around 1PM, things start moving with 2 white pickups driving fast accross the desert south of our vantage point. They’re not going to set up a simulated Roland SAM as we initially believe. They just drop a guy alone in the bushes and carry on their drive and stay in a deep creek 2 miles away. Radio chatter begins, after a long silent morning, between the pickups and some range controller. We understand that they should have gone to “Red gate”, instead of “Blue gate”, but it seems to be a bit late to fix so the guy on the ground will stay there.

At 2:20PM, we hear some tactical comms on the radio: U.S. F-15Cs and Spanish Typhoons are setting up their Combat Air Patrol (CAP), well east of our position. Cylon flight will take New York CAP (should be above Hiko as we see the contrails) and Pulsar flight will go to Alaska CAP, above Worthington Peak.

F-15s contrailing above Coyote Summit

“Vul time” has been delayed because some players are still on the tarmac at Nellis, and now, according to “Words Bravo,” this Vul time is 2245Z (or 2:45PM). And that’s precisely then that we see “the Wall”, formed by 4 F-15Cs and their contrails, pushing west towards the Red players. The opposition is now just a pair of F-16Cs Aggressors. But soon, as the fight develops, more aircrafts from both sides will converge above Rachel and fight at high altitude.

To the merge!

An F-15 during the engagement

Shots are called on the radio, e.g. “Pulsar 1, Fox 3, bullseye 080 10 23 thousand!”
“Copy shot” says a controller, and a few seconds later some voice confirms the shots as kills (“Mig 3 dead”), or misses (“Pulsar 1, shot trashed).

A Spanish Typhoon contrailing at high altitude

The action never stops, some Aggressors come back (“Cylon 3, pop-up single, BRA 250, 15 miles, 26 thousand, regen”), some Blue players get shot, but mostly Red Air gets hurt and regens regularly. Spanish Typhoons and Dutch Vipers drop flares every now and then, calling out “Spike” or “SAM” based on what their RWR gear tells them.

Spanish Typhoons flaring

Plenty of flares were used during the mock air combat training we observed from Coyote Summit.

While these jets fight overhead, sometimes with an impressive double sonic boom, we can hear some choppers approaching low from the southeast.

MH-60 approaching

Two Navy MH-60S from HSC-21 turn for a few minutes before converging toward our lonely guy, not far from us.

I’m as close to the action as I’ll ever be and soon, we hear jets coming for help as the Sandy fighters used to fly in Vietnam. These are 2 F-16Cs from the 120th FS, with their Colorado ANG tails, circling about 1,000 feet above us and protecting what is now clearly a “downed pilot extraction.”

One of the choppers involved in the CSAR mission

Two F-16s circling above provided cover to the downed personnel extraction operation.

F-16 “Sandy”

This lasts for 10 minutes and the Vipers even simulate an attack on the hidden white pickups. The choppers take off with their precious cargo in and head to the southeast.

MH-60s egressing

The fighter jets activity now seems to subside a bit.

Some are already calling “RTB” (meaning Return to Base) and some sanitize the area while the strikers egress. I haven’t seen any striker as they must have flown through a route north of Rachel. It is also interesting to add that all the air combat seen today, at least the kills, were BVR (Beyond Visual Range) or nearly – no WVR (Within Visual Range) dogfights were spotted.

At about 4:15, two hours after the first thunderous noises, we hear on the frequency “All players, all players, knock it off, knock it off”: this is the end sign and everybody now RTB.

This was a long day and pretty intense afternoon which I’ll never forget. Hundreds of photos were taken. But what’s most important when coming here, is the possibility to listen to the air-to-air communications with a UHF scanner: the best way to be immersed into the action.

Thanks to Aviationist Todd Miller for all the precious info about aviation photography and Coyote Summit area.

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Royal Saudi Air Force F-15s and Typhoons fly to Sudan to train with the Sudanese MIGs and Sukhois for the very first time

Blue Shield-1 exercise underway in Sudan. An interesting opportunity for the Saudi pilots to train with Russian-built combat planes.

The Royal Saudi Air Force has deployed 4 F-15C Eagles and 4 Eurofighter Typhoons, from the 2nd Wing based at King Fahd Air Base, to Sudan for the first time.

The Saudi combat planes have arrived at Merowe Air Base, located about 330 km to the north of Khartoum, to take part in Ex. Blue Shield-1, a joint aerial exercise with the Sudanese Air Force, until Apr. 12.

The Saudi Eagles arrive in Sudan

A Eurofighter Typhoon after landing at Merowe Air Base, Sudan.

Two RSAF Eurofighter jets taxi after arriving in Sudan.

The Sudanese Air Force is taking part in the drills with 24 aircraft including MiG-29 Fulcrum, Su-25 Frogfoot and Su-24 Fencer jets as well as Mi-17 Hip helicopters.

Taking part in Blue Shield-1 exercise are also 24 Sudanese aircraft, including these Su-25 Frogfoots.

Sudan’s Air Force Su-25s and MiG-29s based at Merowe Air Base.

Blue Shield -1 exercise is the very first aerial exercise between the two nations therefore it represents an interesting opportunity for the RSAF pilots to train flying with and aganist Russian “hardware.”

Interestingly, the RSAF hasn’t deployed any twin seaters to Sudan, which will not give the Sudanese any chance for orientation rides aboard the Saudi “western” aircraft.

A RSAF F-15C depicted taxing at Merowe Air Base.

The Saudi F-15S and Typhoons have taken part in the air strikes in Yemen, as part of Operation Decisive Storm, the Saudi Arabian-led intervention in Yemen, since Mar. 26 2015. A RSAF F-15S crashed in the Gulf of Aden during the opening day of the air war; its two pilots ejected safely and were recovered from the sea by a USAF HH-60G rescue helicopter. Although Houthi and Iranian sources stated that the Eagle was shot down, Saudi and Arab coalition authorities denied such reports.

Those deployed to Sudan are the “legacy” Eagle, less advanced than the “S” and F-15SA, derived from the F-15E Strike Eagle, and the most modern Eagle variant ever produced: they are equipped with the APG-63V3 Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radar, a digital glass cockpit, JHMCS (Joint Helmet Mouted Cueing System), Digital Electronic Warfare System/Common Missile Warning System (DEWS/CMWS), IRST (Infra Red Search and Track) system, and able to carry a wide array of air-to-air and air-to-surface weaponry, including the AIM-120C7 AMRAAM (Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missile) and the AIM-9X Sidewinder air-to-air missiles, the AGM-84 SLAM-ERs, the AGM-88 HARM (High-speed Anti-Radiation Missile) and the GBU-39 SDBs (Small Diameter Bombs) on 11 external hardpoints.

The RSAF has received its first of 84 F-15SA at King Khalid Air Base (KKAB) in Saudi Arabia via RAF Lakenheath, on Dec. 13, 2016 (the day after the Israeli received their first 5th generation F-35I).

The Saudi flight line in Sudan.

The RSAF EF-2000s on a taxiway at Merowe Air Base, Sudan.

Saudi Eagle and Typhoons at their parking slots at Merowe Air Base, north of Khartoum.

In 2015 Sudan moved away from its longstanding alliance with Iran and joined the Saudi-led air coalition against Yemen’s Shia Houthi militia group.

H/T to Mohamed Khaled (@MbKS15) for providing additional information about the exercise. Image credit: Fahad Rihan

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RAF Typhoons to deploy to Romania to provide Air Policing in the Black Sea region

British Typhoons heading to southeastern Europe to provide QRA (Quick Reaction Alert) from Romania.

On Mar. 27, the UK MoD (Ministry of Defence) has announced that four Typhoon combat planes, belonging to the 3 (Fighter) Squadron will fly from RAF Coningsby to Mihail Kogalniceanu Airbase in southeast Romania, to support NATO’s Southern Air Policing mission from May to September 2017.

During QRA tasks Typhoons typically fly with two 2,000-lt drop-tanks (although this option will likely not be needed for Romania, as noted by IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly), four Advanced Short Range Air-to-Air Missiles (ASRAAMs), four AIM-120 Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missiles (AMRAAMs), along with the internal Mauser 27 mm cannon.

With the deployment to Mihail Kogalniceanu Airbase, the Royal Air Force will become the first air arm to support NATO air policing mission to reassure local allies in the Black Sea region that is frequently “visited” by NATO  intelligence gathering and maritime patrol aircraft as well as Russian combat planes, some of those buzz U.S. warships and spyplanes operating in the area.

Some NATO members provide air policing tasks for allies that lack aircraft and radars to do so autonomously (Albania, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Slovenia).

NATO has been protecting the Baltic skies since 2004, when Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania joined the Alliance. The Baltic air policing mission started in April 2004 and has been executed continuously ever since. Slovenia’s airspace is covered by Hungary and Italy. Albania is covered by Greece and Italy.

The Italian Air Force covers Albania (sharing the task with the Hellenic Air Force) and Slovenia (with the Hungarian Air Force) and is currently supporting Icelandic Air Policing mission in Iceland; NATO’s BAP (Baltic Air Patrol) mission started in April 2004 and has been executed continuously ever since. It is supported by various air forces on a rotational basis and covers Lithuania, Estonia and Latvia.

Allied Air Command (AIRCOM) headquartered at Ramstein, Germany oversees the NATO Air Policing mission with 24/7 command and control from two Combined Air Operations Centres (CAOCs); one in Torrejon, Spain, and one in Uedem, Germany. CAOC Uedem is responsible for NATO Air Policing north of the Alps and CAOC Torrejon for the south. The CAOC decides which interceptors will be scrambled according to the location of the incident.

The mission of patrolling the skies along NATO’s eastern border was intensified following the Russia-Ukraine crisis. The arrival of the British Typhoons is the last of a series of measures “to deter a Russian aggression over the Black Sea.

Image credit: Eurofighter / Geoffrey Lee, Planefocus Ltd

Here are the first photographs of the Italian Typhoons arriving in Iceland to provide NATO Air Policing duties

The Italian Typhoons have arrived in Keflavik.

On Mar. 17, supported by two KC-767A tanker of the 14° Stormo (Wing) from Pratica di Mare airbase, six Italian Air Force Typhoons have arrived in Iceland to undertake QRA (Quick Reaction Alert) and NATO Air Policing duties.

The Eurofighter F-2000A jets (this is the designation of the single-seaters in accordance with the Italian Mission Design Seies) belong to the three units that operate the Typhoon: the 4° Stormo, from Grosseto; the 36° Stormo, from Gioia del Colle; and the 37° Stormo, from Trapani.

A Typhoon of the 18° Gruppo sporting the typical checkered tail.

An F-2000A from the Gioia del Colle-based 36° Stormo. Two Gruppi depend from this Wing: the 10 and 12° Gruppo.

The aircraft will operate until mid-April as part of a Task Force where personnel and equipment are completely integrated and interchangeable thanks to fully standardized procedures and training.

The images in this post were taken by photographer Eggert Norðdahl as the Typhoons arrived at Keflavik airbase for their second tour of duty in Iceland: in June 2013, as part of Operation “Icy Skies”, six Italian Eurofighters securing the airspace on the ally in the “High North.”

One of the Typhoons of the 4° Stormo. The Italians deployed to Iceland with three drop tanks, one AIM-120 AMRAAM and one IRIS-T air-to-air missile.

Image credit: Eggert Norðdahl

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