Tag Archives: F/A-18 Hornet

U.S. Marines Demonstrate Air-Ground Task Force Capabilities in Detroit, Michigan.

USMC Air Assets and 1st Reconnaissance Battalion Stage Visit, Board, Search and Seizure Operation.

Marine Corps units from across the United States performed an exciting demonstration of air combat and maritime special operations capabilities on Friday, Sept. 8, and Sunday, Sept. 10, in downtown Detroit, Michigan as part of Marine Week 2017 in Detroit. Marine Week is a USMC showcase of capabilities to acknowledge the role of the U.S. Marine Corps.

The Marine Week demos have taken place since 2009 in U.S. cities without a significant Marine Corps presence. Marine Week has already been celebrated in Cleveland, Ohio; Chicago, Illinois; Nashville, Tennessee and Seattle, Washington. This is the first year for a Marine Week demonstration in Detroit.

USMC Capt. Jeff Smith of Florida, told TheAviationist.com that Marine Week was originated “To build awareness and interactions with the public. We’re your Marines and this gives people around the country a chance to see what we do.”

Marine Week Detroit included commemoration of the U.S. Marines’ history, acknowledgement of local Marine veterans and static displays of a wide range of U.S. Marine equipment, vehicles and aircraft.

One of several highlights of Detroit Marine Week was a combined arms Visit, Board Search and Seizure (VBSS) demonstration by Special Operations Marines from the elite 1st Reconnaissance Battalion of the 1st Marine Division at Camp Pendleton, California. The demonstration showcased the integrated capability of the U.S. Marines to provide their own indigenous air, ground and maritime special operations capabilities in an anti-piracy/anti-insurgent role.

A boarding team of 1st Recon Marines assaults the simulated target barge during the boarding operation demo. (All images Author/The Aviationist.com)

1st Recon Marines extract from their objective using the Special Patrol Insertion/Extraction (SPIE) rig.

The famous 1st Reconnaissance Battalion won praise from now U.S. Secretary of Defense, former General James Mattis, when the unit was deployed to Helmand Province, Afghanistan in 2010. The unit performed a month-long insertion into the region, during which time they sustained no losses but were highly effective in routing insurgent forces and gained a reputation as fierce, effective combatants. One radio intercept between insurgent forces was quoted as saying, “We will not fight them, they are not normal Marines, they run at us when we shoot at them. If we fight them we die…”

The demonstration began with announcers providing background on a fictitious “ongoing intelligence operation” in the region. They had discovered a group of pirate/terrorists who stole the game ball from the local NFL Team, the Detroit Lions, that was to be used in their first game of the season. Without the precious ball, the game could not proceed as planned.

Marine intelligence assets tracked the mock terrorist/pirates who hijacked the game ball to a barge anchored in the Detroit River just inside the U.S/Canadian border. Once reconnaissance assets fixed the position of the perpetrators on the demonstration barge anchored in front of Detroit’s Renaissance Center they handed the intel over to a combined Marine Task Force for the recovery mission.

The first part of the demonstration in the Detroit River was a simulated artillery strike on the barge where the “pirates” were located. Following the mock artillery strike that featured a live “call for fire” radio transmission over the P.A. for spectators, two U.S. Marine F/A-18 Hornets of Marine Fighter Attack Squadron (All-Weather) 225 (VMFA(AW)-225) from Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) Miramar, home of the famous “Top Gun” school, made a pass over the barge in the river while pyrotechnics were detonated on the barge to simulate an air strike. VMFA (AW)-225, the “Vikings” were the first Marine Air unit deployed to Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003.

Following the simulated artillery and air strikes on the objective a Marine Special Operations boarding team from the 1st Reconnaissance Battalion used a pair of F470 Combat Rubber Raiding Craft (CRRC) with a five-man boarding team on each boat to assault the objective. The teams approached the simulated target barge from opposite sides of the vessel and made their boarding in only seconds.

During the small boat assault a pair of helicopters from Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 267 (HMLA-267) based at Camp Pendleton, California flew up the Detroit River to perform a fast-rope insertion of additional Marine Recon special operators onto the target barge. The pair of helicopters included the newest version of the AH-1Z Viper attack helicopter based on the legacy Cobra attack helicopter and the UH-1Y Venom utility/attack helicopter based on the venerable “Huey” platform. The U.S. Marines are the only air arm in the U.S. military using these variants. The UH-1Y Venom helicopter wore a special paint livery for HMLA-267.

A team made up of a USMC UH-1Y Venom and a AH-1Z Viper helicopter inserted the assault team onto the target barge in the Detroit River for the demo.

Among the Marine special operations team members who staged the mock assault on the barge were Sgt. Steven Echevaria and Sgt. Cody Cunningham from Twin Falls, Idaho. “This is what we do, thank you for having us here. It’s an honor to be able to come here and demonstrate our mission” Cunningham told us after the team returned to the Detroit Riverfront Walk to meet spectators following their assault demonstration.

Following the seaborne and air assault boarding of the simulated target the Marine Recon operators seized their objective, the football for use in the upcoming Detroit Lions football game, and began their extraction.

Prior to the extraction of the boarding team a pair of beautiful MV-22 Osprey tiltrotor aircraft from the famous Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 166 (VMM-166) “Sea Elks” of Miramar Naval Air Station made a flyover while transitioning their proprotors from the vertical, hover orientation to the horizontal flight attitude as they accelerated away from show center.

A pair of USMC MV-22 Ospreys demonstrate their tiltrotor capability.

Another flyover featured the largest helicopter in U.S service, a CH-53E Super Stallion from Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 772 (HMH-772) the “Hustlers” from MacGuire AFB in New Jersey. Considering the age of the CH-53E Super Stallion this aircraft was in excellent condition and appeared to be meticulously maintained.

The USMC CH-53E Super Stallion is the largest helicopter in U.S. service.

The final flyover featured two F/A-18 Hornets of Marine Fighter Attack Squadron (All-Weather) 225 (VMFA(AW)-225) and a KC-130J Hercules of Marine Aerial Refueler Transport Squadron 352 (VMGR-352), the “Raiders” from MCAS Miramar in California. The trio of aircraft flew in a simulated midair refueling formation over the show venue.

A KC-130J tanker and a pair of USMC F/A-18s perform simulated midair refueling.

The Marine Week demos in Detroit were a unique new way to provide an up-close insight into U.S. Marine capabilities in a setting where they otherwise would not be exposed to them. It brings awareness of the Marine mission and showcases the Marines’ advances in equipment, tactics and capabilities while honoring the Marine legacy both nationally and locally. Much of the promotion of the event was done through social media along with broadcast media, an interesting insight into how the Marines have been progressive and effective with their media management and public relations mission.

All U.S. F/A-18 Hornet models affected by oxygen deprivation and cabin decompression issues

Legacy and Super Hornet showing a concerning steady increase in “physiological episodes” that U.S. Navy calls “No.1 safety issue.”

The F/A-18 Hornets of all variants seems to be affected by a serious issue: oxygen shortage, or hypoxia, is plaguing the fleet of Legacy (A/B/C/D), Super Hornet (E/F) and Growler (EA-18G).

As reported by Bloomberg News, the F/A-18 of all models have shown a steady yearly increases of what the Navy calls “physiological episodes” due to oxygen deprivation and cabin decompression since May 1, 2010.

Navy officials testifying before the House Armed Services subcommittee called the problem the “No.1 safety issue.”

And what is even more concerning is the fact that there seem to be little clue as to what is causing the issue.

The “lack of overall progress” is “of great concern,” said Representative Niki Tsongas, the top Democrat in the panel.

While investigating the issue (with a task force of 62 people), the U.S. Navy has also enhanced “reduced-oxygen training” so that pilots can quickly identify the symptoms of hypoxia. Two aircraft carriers have installed chambers for aircrews exposed to decompression.

According to Bloomberg News, 130 out of 383 episodes “have involved some form of contamination,” according to a Navy and U.S. Marine Corps official statement. 114 involved an environmental control system component failure, 91 involved “human factors” and 50 concerned a component failure with the on-board oxygen generating system.

Older versions of the plane, the A through D models, have problems with cabin pressure whereas the Super Hornet and Growler issues “would appear to point to the onboard oxygen generating” system to which the Navy’ has already made changes.

It’s not clear whether the issue affects also other international Hornet operators.

Not the first time

This is not the first time the U.S. forces face the oxygen deprivation issue.

A similar problem plagued the F-22 Raptor fleet to such an extent the radar-evading aircraft were grounded back in 2011 following a deadly incident involving an Alaska-based stealth jets.

In that period, the F-22 were experiencing 26.43 instances of hypoxia or “hypoxia-like” problems for every 100,000 flight hours, compared to 2.34 instances per 100,000 hours for the F-15E and 2.96 for the latest version of the F-16 (the Hornet was not part of the data set released back then.)

After lifting the flight ban, the Pentagon restricted Air Force Raptors to fly near a “proximate landing location” in order to give pilots the possibility to land quickly if their planes’ On Board Oxygen Generating System (OBOGS) failed.

In May 2012, two 1st Fighter Wing “whistleblowers” appeared on CBS 60 minutes to explain why they were “uncomfortable” flying the Raptor (before changing idea few days later).

The flying branch eventually determined a valve that regulated oxygen flow into the Raptor pilot’s pressure vest was too weak and F-22s were given a new backup oxygen system as part of multiple contracts awarded to Lockheed Martin (worth 30 Million USD) that automatically dispenses oxygen when OBOGS is not providing enough. 

Various problems

The news that all the kind of Hornets might be choking their pilots comes in the wake of a Super Hornet and Growler fleet-wide grounding and (concerning but for the moment totally unrelated) increase in crash rate, especially among the oldest models.

Nine incidents involved “Legacy Hornets” (including the Canadian CF-18 lost on Nov. 28, 2016) in the second half of last year, with the latest loss on Dec. 6, 2016, when a USMC F/A-18C crashed off Kochi causing the loss of its pilot.

In the wake of the Hornet crashes from June through October, the U.S. Marine Corps temporarily grounded its non-deployed Hornets. Unfortunately, few days after the ban was lifted, two more F/A-18Cs were lost.

The crash rate has affected the ability of the USMC to perform training activities while committing to support real operations: out of a requirement for 171 aircraft, the service had only 85 Hornets available for training according to a report emerged last year.

In order to address the shortage of operational fighters the Marine Corps has launched a plan to upgrade 30 retired legacy Hornets (currently stored at the 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group at Davis-Monthan AFB, Arizona) to a standard dubbed F/A-18C+: once upgraded these “gap fillers” should be more than enough to conduct combat operations in low-lethality scenarios like those that see the USMC at work lately. Still, they might not have a fix for the hypoxia issue.

“Trump’s favorite jet”

As a side note, in their story on Bloomberg News, Roxana Tiron and Anthony Capaccio call the Hornet “Trump’s favorite fighter jet.”

This is due to the fact that Trump has been advocating the Super Hornet since December 2016, when the then president-elect posted a pretty famous tweet that favored the Boeing combat plane over the Lockheed Martin F-35C.






These are some of the greatest Spanish Air Force F/A-18 Hornet shots we have ever seen

Here are some really crazy cool shots of the Spanish “Legacy” Hornets.

As already reported, Dissimilar Air Combat Training 2017, the most important Air Defense drills organized by the Ejercito del Aire (Spanish Air Force), at Gando Air Base, in Gran Canaria, Canary Islands, gathered some Italian and Spanish Typhoon jets, along with several F/A-18 Hornets of the SpAF.

During the drills, some aviation photographers, including our contributor and friend Remo Guidi, had the opportunity to board a Spanish KC-130H for an air-to-air photo session with some of the aircraft taking part in the exercise.

In this post you can find some of the shot taken by Guidi from aboard the Hercules as well as on the ground at Gando.

The Spanish Hornets attending DACT belonged to various variants and units: the local-based ALA 46/Esc. 462 flies the surplus U.S. Navy delivered to the SpAF between 1995 and 2000 whereas the ALA  12 from Torrejon and the ALA 15 from Zaragoza operate the EF-18A and EF-18B model Hornets (the “E” standing for “España”, Spain), named respectively as C.15 and CE.15 by Spanish AF, along with the upgraded EF-18A(M) (C.15-33) and EF-18B(M) (C.15-36).

Image credit: Remo Guidi

The Blue Angels Rehearsing For New Airshow Season Now. Here is an Insider’s Look at Practice.

U.S. Navy Blue Angels Train for Upcoming 2017 Show Season: Integrate New Members

One of the world’s oldest and most famous flight demonstration teams, the U.S. Navy Blue Angels, are preparing for a busy airshow flight demonstration season in 2017 at their winter practice airfield at Naval Air Station El Centro, California.

The Blue Angels were formed in 1946 following WWII as a public relations and recruiting tool to inspire airshow crowds to pursue excellence in all of their endeavors and as a recruiting asset to attract potential candidates to join the U.S. Navy. They are the second oldest flight demonstration team in the world behind the French team Patrouille de France that began flying demonstrations in 1931.

The Blue Angels are largely responsible for the format of the modern airshow with a large demonstration team headlining a supporting cast of aerial demonstrations and on-the-ground static displays of aircraft. Their shows have helped create a culture of airshow fans, aviation enthusiasts and aircraft spotters as well as being a recruiting asset.

For the upcoming 2017 flight demonstration season the Blue Angels will perform at an impressive 35 airshows including one flyover for the U.S. Naval Academy graduation at Annapolis, Maryland and one show weekend still to be determined. Their schedule includes approximately 64 total flight demonstrations, usually at least two per weekend in addition to practices and public appearances.

Blue Angels taxiing in front of photographers (image credit: Author).

The Blue Angels fly an older version of the Boeing F/A-18 Hornet. They are scheduled to move to the newer Super Hornet in 2018. Their current F/A-18’s are legacy aircraft, among the oldest flying. They are modified for airshow performances with a second jet fuel pump mounted upside down in the aircraft for extended flying inverted in formation and during solo maneuvers. A normally equipped FA-18 Hornet could not maintain inverted flight as long as the modified Blue Angels’ aircraft.

The team’s trademark high-gloss dark blue and gold paint reduces aerodynamic drag since it has lower friction than the matt low-visibility paint schemes used in combat aircraft. This gloss paint produces better performance, especially at low altitude. The high contrast graphics on the aircraft are arranged to improve visibility in all-weather conditions for spectators and photographers and to enable people to tell the bottom of the aircraft from the top easily during rolling maneuvers.

The demonstration aircraft carry no armament. Their cannons have been removed and replaced with a reservoir containing bio-degradable paraffin fluid that is released into the aircraft’s exhaust plume to produce the smoke trail you see behind the aircraft. The smoke is not only important to enable spectators to follow the aircraft during an airshow, it also allows the pilots to see each other during re-joining maneuvers when the two solo aircraft rejoin the four aircraft diamond formation toward the end of their flight demonstration routine.

Flight controls on the Blue Angels’ F/A-18’s have been modified to make formation and inverted flight easier. The flight control stick between the pilots’ legs uses a spring to exert 40-pounds of forward bias force meaning the pilot constantly exerts slight rearward pressure compared to a normal Hornet to maintain level flight. While this unusual modification makes the aircraft physically more work to keep in a level flight attitude it makes the flight controls feel more “positive” throughout the control envelope.

Finally, unlike the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds, the Blue Angels do not wear G-suits in their cockpits. The pilots are conditioned to perform the “AGSM” or anti-G straining maneuver to resist g-forces during high performance maneuvers such as the maximum performance turn performed at low altitude.

Video and photos of the Blue Angels latest practice sessions at NAS El Centro provide a fascinating insight into the team’s preparation for the 2017 show season.

The early season practices are sometimes being flown with a unique configuration of Blue Angels’ aircraft, different from the show formation. This video shows two of the two-seat F/A-18D aircraft both carrying the #7 Opposing Solo aircraft markings.

During an operational show the #7 Opposing Solo markings are worn by a single- seat F/A-18C. The appearance of two #7’s during rehearsal may be due to maintenance availability of the aircraft or for training reasons.

t is unusual to see two #7 aircraft flying formation with the Blue Angels. This configuration is likely for crew orientation and practice (screenshot from spencerhughes2255’s YT video)

Another interesting insight with the practice sessions is the somewhat greater interval between aircraft flying formation during the pre-season. The incredibly close overlapping diamond formation is a spectacular trademark of the Blue Angels. Presumably demonstration pilots begin show practice at slightly wider flying intervals to familiarize themselves with the visual cues needed to maintain close demonstration formation flying.

In mid-July 2016 The Blue Angels announced the addition of several new members to the team. Three of the new team members are demonstration pilots. The new Blue Angel demo pilots are:

Navy Lt. Brandon Hempler, 32, of Wamego, Kansas.
Lt. Hempler is an F/A-18 Super Hornet pilot formerly assigned to Training Squadron (VT) 22, the “Golden Eagles,” at NAS Kingsville, Texas. He is a 2007 graduate of Kansas State University, Salina, Kansas.

Navy Lt. Damon Kroes, 34, of Fremont, California.
Lt. Kroes is an F/A-18 Hornet instructor pilot formerly assigned to Marine Fighter Attack Training Squadron (VMFAT) 101, the “Sharpshooters,” at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, California. He is a 2006 graduate of San Diego State University, San Diego.

Navy Lt. Nate Scott, 31, of Danville, California.
Lt. Scott is an F/A-18 Hornet instructor pilot currently assigned to Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 106, the “Gladiators,” at NAS Oceana, Virginia. He is a 2007 graduate of the University of Southern California, Los Angeles.

The integration of these new members into the team continues into the 2017 season. Navy Lt. Lance Benson, 33, of McPherson, Kansas; Navy Lt. Tyler Davies, 34, of Kennesaw, Georgia and Navy Cmdr. Frank Weisser, 38, of Atlanta, Georgia continue as Blue Angel demonstration pilots for 2017 from the 2016 season.

The Blue Angels 2016 season was marred early on when Capt. Jeff Kuss of Durango, Colorado, Blue Angel #6, Opposing Solo, died in an accident on June 2, 2016 in Smyrna, Tennessee during Friday airshow practice. He had been a member of the team since September 2014 and had over 1400 flight hours and 175 arrested landings on an aircraft carrier. The accident occurred during a low-altitude “Split S” maneuver that was subsequently removed from the Blue Angels flight demonstration routine. The maneuver may return for the 2017 season pending review.

For information about Blue Angel flight demonstrations, their locations and dates please visit: https://www.blueangels.navy.mil


Swiss Hornets and Austrian Typhoons provide Davos World Economic Forum 2017 Air Cover

Swiss F-18 Hornets and Austrian Eurofighters provided Davos World Economic Forum 2017 Air Defense.

From Jan. 16 to 20, Swiss and Austrian Air Force jets contributed to the security of the WEF international conference at Davos, Switzerland.

This year’s Swiss Air Force MOB (Main Operating Base) was Sion airbase, in southwestern Switzerland, with Meiringen airfield being its alternate.

The Aviationist’s contributor Alessandro Fucito went to Sion and took the stunning photographs in this post.

The Hornet jets taking part in the air policing missions to enforce the NFZ (No Fly Zone) over Davos carried 2 live AIM-9X Sidewinders at the wingtips and either two live AIM-120 AMRAAM (Advanced Medium Range Air to Air Missiles) or one AIM-120 and the ATFLIR (Advanced Targeting Forward Looking Infra Red) pod, particularly useful to perform long-range visual IDs (as shown by the U.S. Navy in Syria…)

All the Hornets had the text “STBY 121.5” message on their 1,200 lt centerline external fuel tank: a message to any intercepted aircraft to switch their radio to the international VHF emergency frequency 121.5 MHz to get instructions from the interceptor and the air defense radar.

Although several F-5E Tigers from Fliegerstaffel 19 operated from Sion during WEF, unlike the past years, neither of these seemed to carry live AIM-9P Sidewinder IR-guided AAMs (Air-to-Air Missiles) at the wingtips meaning that they were either flying with their 20mm gun only or were not actively taking part in the air cover of the Davos conference.

Dealing with the Austrian Air Force, the Eurofighter Typhoons based at Zeltweg (and usually deployed to Innsbruck to fly air policing missions with a single IRIS-T missile and two fuel tanks), supported the WEF 2017 air cover as part of this year’s airspace security operation dubbed “Daedalus 17.”

Image credit: Alessandro Fucito