Huge Variety of International Tactical and Support Aircraft Invade Nellis AFB for Realistic Exercise
The ramp at Nellis AFB outside Las Vegas, Nevada has been a paradise for aircraft spotters since the beginning of the Red Flag 17-1 large-scale training exercise last week.
The Red Flag exercises at Nellis are planned and executed by the U.S. Air Force Warfare Center. The exercises simulate actual combat scenarios in regions around the world. A key component of the Red Flag training exercises are practice in integrating air assets from international air forces so they can accomplish a high degree of interoperability in an actual combat situation, wherever it may happen around the world.
Red Flag training scenarios frequently involve the delivery of live, full-scale air to ground weaponry on secure ranges in Nevada. The participants must “fight” their way into the target area, execute the planned strike, and egress the contested airspace.
While air-to-air engagements are fought using a variety of simulation technologies some air-to-ground exercises use live weapons such as bombs and air to ground missiles. At least one aircraft in videos emerged so far was carrying live anti-radiation air-to-ground missiles used for engaging surface-to-air missile (SAM) threats.
A maintainer assigned to the 388th Fighter Wing conducts preflight checks on an F-35A Lightning II from Hill Air Force Base, Utah, during Red Flag 17-1 at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., Jan. 24, 2017. The F-35A is one of two U.S. Air Force fifth generation multi-role fighter aircraft participating in 17-1. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Natasha Stannard)
The list of aircraft at this Red Flag exercise, named “Red Flag 17-1” as the number “1” Red Flag of the year 20”17”, hence “17-1”, is truly remarkable: USAF B-1 Lancer heavy bombers, EC-130 Compass Call electronic warfare aircraft, U.S. Navy EA-18G Growler electronic warfare aircraft, E-8 Joint STARs surveillance aircraft, F-16 Fighting Falcon, F-22 Raptor, F-35 Lightning II and F-15 Eagle fighters from the USAF, KC-135 Stratotanker refueling aircraft, E-7 aircraft from the Royal Australian Air Force, Typhoon FGR4 aircraft from the RAF among others.
U.S. Air Force Colonel Dave Smith, commander of the 419th Fighter Wing, the F-35 wing deployed to Red Flag 17-1, told media, “Red Flag is hands-down the best training in the world to ensure our Airmen are fully mission ready. It’s as close to combat operations as you can get.”
There are four Red Flag exercises at Nellis AFB each year with each one providing different combat simulation exercises as well as a unique opportunity for aviation enthusiasts to catch some incredible photos and videos of the aircraft launching and recovering at the airbase off Las Vegas.
Enjoy this cool video of the air ops at Nellis during a Red Flag.
The U.S. Air Force has revealed that the A-10 retirement will begin in fiscal year 2018.
Taken on Feb. 26, the picture in this post shows an A-10 Warthog in action during a joint air attack team exercise at Yakima Training Center, Washington, where the “Hogs” trained alongside the AH-64 Apache helicopters deployed at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., providing Close Air Support (CAS) to Soldiers with 1-2 Stryker Brigade Combat Team.
Still, this kind of training will come to an end in the near future. In fact, in spite of its unmatched capabilities in the CAS role, the U.S. Air Force will soon retire its A-10 fleet.
As reported by DefenseNews.com, the service has recently revealed the number of A-10s that will be retired each year before the type is completely withdrawn from service in 2022.
The plan call for the retirement of 49 planes or 2 squadrons in fiscal year (FY) 2018. This will be followed by 49 aircraft in FY2019, 64 in FY2020, and 96 in FY2021.
During a hearing held at the House Armed Services Committee on Mar. 16 Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh said that accelerating the retirement of the A-10 will help to better support the stand up of F-35 squadrons. “If we keep the A-10, by FY21 — the scheduled FOC (Final Operational Capability) date for the F-35 — we will be about 50 percent short of the maintenance manpower we need to field the F-35. So it’s a manpower problem.”
Turkish air-launched cruise missile is being tested for integration on the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.
SOM (Stand-Off Missile) is a high precision cruise missile, developed since 2006 and unveiled for the first time during the 100th anniversary celebrations of the Turkish Air Force at Izmir, in June 2011.
The SOM can be used against stationary and moving targets at a distance of over 180 kilometers.
Another major difference is the warhead of SOM-J which is anti-ship and semi-armour piercing type with blast/fragmentation effects on soft targets (i.e. personnel, unarmoured military vehicles, radars, buildings, etc.).
The development activities have been initiated under the contract between Undersecretariat for Defence Industries (SSM) and ROKETSAN Inc. According to this contract, TÜBİTAK SAGE has been subcontracted to perform development activities.
Based on the material provided by Arda Mevlutoglu, owner of siyahgribeyaz.com, who sent us the press releases distributed by ROKETSAN during the meeting, the platform integration activities for the F-35 have started. Among the activities that have already conducted successfully, there are the wind tunnel tests.
Finalization of complete product is planned in 2018, when SOM-J will be available to all F-35 users.
Lockheed Martin’s Fort Worth facility has been deafened by the first non-U.S customers F-35 taking to the skies for the first time.
BK1, the UK’s first of three development aircraft which rolled off the production line during November 2011 and will fly with the RAF serial ZM135, made its inaugural test flight on Apr. 13 with Lockheed’s pilot Bill Gigliotti at the controls.
The “B” model flight announces a milestone in the F-35 story, but also the beginning of the UK’s involvement which is proving to be a story in itself.
Originally, the first three test planes for the UK had to be “B” ones in the STOVL (short take off vertical landing) version, but in 2010 as consequence of the Defence Spending Review, decided to go with the C model with the arrestor hook. Following the decision, the UK worked out a deal with the US to swap BK3 (the third plane) to a C model (CK-1).
However after looking more closely at how much the change to the C model (that in the meanwhile experienced some problems with its arrestor hook to such an extent a new one had to be re-designed) will cost over the lifetime of the carriers the UK is currently building, the Ministry of Defense is thinking about reverting to the B model once again.
The two Queen Elizabeth Class Carriers (HMS Queen Elizabeth & HMS Prince of Wales) were originally designed with the STOVL version of the F-35 in mind, therefore were not designed with a cat and trap launch and recovery system similar to the one used by the American flattops. Hence, the cost of refitting one of the two carriers, only slightly smaller than a Nimitz class supercarrier, with a brand new catapult system, could be greater than anticipated.
Noteworthy, the new British JSF (Joint Strike Fighter) wears interesting low visibility national markings (roundel and tail flash). By the way, it’s not going to be easy to distinguish the UK’s roundel from that of Italy.
Written with The Aviationist’s Editor David Cenciotti
2011 has been an annus horribilis for information security, and aviation has not been an exception to this rule: not only in 2011 the corporate networks of several aviation and aerospace industries have been targeted by digital storms (not a surprise in the so-called hackmageddon) but, above all, last year will be probably remembered for the unwelcome record of two alleged hacking events targeting drones (“alleged” because in the RQ-170 Sentinel downed in Iran episode, several doubts surround the theory according to which GPS hacking could have been the real cause of the crash landing).
But, if Information Security professionals are quite familiar with the idea that military contractors are primary and preferred targets of the current Cyberwar as the following infographic shows, realizing that malware can be used to target a drone is still considered an isolated episode, and even worse, the idea of a malware targeting the multirole Joint Strike Fighter is still something hard to accept.
However, things are about change dramatically. And quickly.
The reason is simple: the latest military and civil airplanes are literally full of electronics, which play a primary role in managing avionics, onboard systems, flight surfaces, communcation equipment and armament.
For instance an F-22 Raptor owns about 1.7 millions od line of codes , an F-35 Joint Strike Fighter about 5.7 millions and a Boeing 787 Dreamliner about 6.5 millions. Everything with some built in code may be exploited, therefore, with plenty of code and much current and future vulnerabilities, one may not rule out a priori that these systems will be targeted with specific tailored or generic malware for Cyberwar, Cybercrime, or even hacktivism purposes.
Unfortunately it looks like the latter hypothesis is closer to reality since too often these systems are managed by standard Windows operating systems, and as a matter of fact a generic malware has proven to be capable to infect the most important U.S. robots flying in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Libya, and Indian Ocean: Predator and Reaper Drones.
As a consequence, it should not be surprising, nor it is a coincidence, that McAfee, Sophos and Trend Micro, three leading players for Endpoint Security, consider the embedded systems as one of the main security concerns for 2012.
Making networks more secure (and personnel more educated) to prevent the leak of mission critical documents and costly project plans (as happened in at least a couple of circumstances) will not be aviation and aerospace industry’s information security challenge; the real challenge will be to embrace the security-by-design paradigm and make secure and malware-proof products ab initio.
While you wait to see if an endpoint security solution becomes available for an F-35, scroll down the image below and enjoy the list of aviation and aerospace related cyber attacks occurred since the very first hack targeting the F-35 Lightning II in 2009.
Of course aviation and aerospace industries are not the only targets for hackers and cybercriminals. So, if you want to have an idea of how fragile our data are inside the cyberspace, have a look at the timelines of the main Cyber Attacks in 2011 and 2012 (regularly updated) at hackmageddon.com. And follow @pausparrows on Twitter for the latest updates.