Tag Archives: Global Hawk

U.S. Global Hawk UAS flew from Italy to Norway during largest ever test of NATO’s intelligence capabilities

Huge Global Hawk Remotely Piloted Vehicle (RPV) flew from Italy to Norway, during NATO trial dubbed Unified Vision 2014.

A U.S. Air Force RQ-4 Global Hawk, flew from its base at Sigonella, Italy, to Norway, as part of Exercise Unified Vision 2014.

The RPV, flew from the airbase in southeastern Sicily, in the Mediterranean (from where the huge drone conduct daily missions over Africa), to Northern European countries, including Norway, to showcase the capability of the NATO Alliance Ground Surveillance (AGS) system to route one of its planned five Global Hawks across the busy European airspace.

Indeed, one of the goals of UV 2014 was to prepare the introduction of the AGS capability and to improve data sharing with other ISR (Intelligence Surveillance Reconnaissance) systems provided by various NATO and partner nations.

The Global Hawk flew to Norway, cruising at more than 50,000 feet, well above commercial airliners testing the effectiveness of existing ATC procedures to ensure seamless integration of High Altitude Long Endurance UAS (Unmanned Aerial Systems) within the existing aviation framework.

During the drills, the RQ-4 crossed UK airspace for the first time.

Taking place from May 19 to 29, UV14 saw the participation personnel from 18 NATO nations and three partner nations; 2,000 people attended the exercise that tripled its size since the edition held in 2012.

The drills gave participating arms the opportunity to test their latest ISR equipment and enhance their ability to use, fuse and share data gathered by national and allied assets in a scenario tailored on most recent operational experiences (especially ISAF operation in Afghanistan).

What makes this kind of exercise particularly useful is the fact that they are quite realistic: surface-to-air missile systems are turned on and active GPS jamming is admitted; something almost impossible to do in most parts of the world, because of the interferences with commercial aviation.

Image credit: U.S. Air Force



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“If we don’t keep F-22 Raptor viable, the F-35 fleet will be irrelevant” Air Combat Command says

The present and future of the F-35, A-10 and other platforms in the vision of the U.S. Air Force Air Command Command Chief.

In an interesting, open and somehow surprising interview given to Air Force Times, Chief of U.S. Air Force Air Combat Command Gen. Michael Hostage, explained the hard choices made by the Air Force as a consequence of the budget cuts and highlighted the position of the service for what concerns the F-35.

First of all, forget any chance the A-10 will survive. According to Hostage, one of the few ways to save some money cut from the budget is to retire an entire weapon system. And, even though the Warthog “can still get the job done”, the plane does not seem to be the weapon of choice in future conflicts, in which “the A-10 is totally useless“.
Obviously, a less drastic solution, as keeping half of the A-10 fleet in active service, is not viable as it would still require much of the costly support infrastructures the whole fleet need.

Another problem is in the ISR (Intelligence Surveillance Reconnaissance) domain. Politics urge the Air Force to keep buying Global Hawks, hence, given the current budget picture, the Air Force can’t afford both the U-2 Dragon Lady and the Global Hawk. That’s why the ACC Commander “will likely have to give up the U-2” and spend much money to try to get the large Northrop Grumman drone do the same things the U-2 has done for decades.

Dealing with the Joint Strike Fighter, Hostage says he is “going to fight to the death to protect the F-35” since the only way to keep up with the adversaries, which “are building fleets that will overmatch our legacy fleet”, is by employing a sufficient fleet of 1,763 (“not one less”) F-35s. You can update and upgrade the F-15 and F-16 fleets, but they would still become obsolete in the next decade.

But, the F-22 Raptor will have to support the F-35. And here comes another problem. When the Raptor was produced it was flying “with computers that were already so out of date you would not find them in a kid’s game console in somebody’s home gaming system.” Still, the U.S. Air Force was forced to use the stealth fighter plane as it was, because that was the way the spec was written. But now, the F-22 must be upgraded through a costly service life extension plan and modernisation program because, “If I do not keep that F-22 fleet viable, the F-35 fleet frankly will be irrelevant. The F-35 is not built as an air superiority platform. It needs the F-22,” says Hostage to Air Force Times.

Something that seem to confirm what we have written some time ago….

Image credit: Lockheed Martin


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U-2 spyplane pilot wannabe? Be prepared to drive sport cars at top speeds

The TU-2S is the two-seater version of the legendary U-2 Dragon Lady used to train pilots destined to fly the legendary spyplane.

The U.S. Air Force operates five such planes, based at Beale Air Force Base, California, home of the 9th Reconnaissance Wing.

These trainers, can be often seen performing touch and gos on the local runway, a procedure that is particularly tricky, requiring some special assistance: a chase car.

Experienced pilots driving chase cars talk their colleagues aboard the U-2s during take off or landing. Indeed, the pilot’s view on a Dragon Lady is obstructed by the airframe and, for instance, there’s a risk of hitting any ground obstacle with a wingtip during taxi.

Actually, not only U-2s need chase cars. The U.S. Air Force’s fleet of cars is used to chase U-2 and RQ-4 Global Hawks spyplanes both at Beale and abroad: 20 automobiles used to support U.S. planes each time they launch and recover on any anywhere across the globe.

Pontiac G8 GTs, modified with U/VHF radios to communicate with both the aircraft and the Tower Control, are among those used as chase cars at Beale.

But the Australian cars are being replaced by new 400 HP V-8 Chevrolet Camaro SS cars. Since pilot chasing landing U-2s or Global Hawk may need to scramble to meet the plane as it overflies the runway threshold on landing, the training required to become a U-2 pilot, among all the other things, also include a course to maintain spot cars at high speeds!


Image credit: U.S. Air Force


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[Image] Drone Survival Guide

If you are a terrorist or live next to some suspect one and are worried about drone strikes, this guide may be useful.

Available in several formats and languages the Drone Survival Guide contains tactics and hints for hiding from drones and it is based on open source materials and “it is collected and translated as a form of civil initiative, not for profit and without government or commercial funding and/or support.”

If you are not trying to hide from a drone strike but you are an aircraft spotter, you’ll find the accompanying image even more interesting.

It features the silhouettes of the most famous or common UAV (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles) used today or in the near future around the world, from the smallest ones (including the easily hackable Parrot) to the gigantic Global Hawk.

H/T to Sobchak Security Blog for finding it


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Syrian drones spying on rebels: made in Iran UAVs or amateur radio controlled models?

One of the most interesting things of the Syrian uprising, from the military analyst perspective, is the use of drones by the Syrian regime.

Syria had its drone fleet when the uprising started. According to some sources they are manufactured domestically, at the Syria’s Scientific Research Center, even if, according to the images surfaced so far, all of them are a copy of those produced by Iran.

Among the types believed to be operated by Bashar al-Assad forces: the Mohajer 4, the Ababil, (most probably) the Mirsad-1 that Hezbollah terror group has used to violate the Israeli airspace in the past, and, the only one filmed over Homs that could be clearly identified as the “Pahpad”  (that is not the actual name of the robot but the short form in Persian for “remotely piloted aircraft”).

There’s another interesting drone that was spotted recently and still has to be identified. It is particularly interesting because it does not look like any of the above mentioned drones (even if a correct identification is impossible because of the extremely low quality of the footage). At first glance, its shape, color etc, recalls those of Israeli or U.S. drones. However, it is quite unlikely that it was not Syrian considered the amount of air defense and anti-aircraft systems believed to be active in Syria: U.S Joint Chief Dempsey recently said that Syrian air defense is 5 times more sophisticated than Libya, 10 times more than in former Jugoslavia (1999) and covers one fifth of the terrain.

Actually there’s also a video of seemingly solid flying object orbiting into a smoke cloud of a burning oil pipe, that someone still considers a drone.

What are these drones doing over Homs?

Depending on the payload they are carrying they can could be eavesdropping into “enemy” communications or helping ground forces to pinpoint rebels by locating the oppositors’ firing positions and directing the shelling accordingly. Noteworthy, such furing support flights do not take place at night suggesting that the loyalist robots can only carry a color/monochrome daylight TV camera.

Rebels have affirmed that they were able to shot down and recover some of these Syria’s made-in-Iran drones. However, even if the shape of the recovered drone recall that of the “Pahpad” or “Mohajer 4”, based on the below video, the downed robot seem to be much smaller that the typical UAVs (whose wingspan exceeds 5 mt).

Here below you can find a screen dump, published by Ynet of another drone recovered by rebels.

Image credit: Ynet