Tag Archives: Groom Lake

Triangular Object Spotted “Dogfighting” With Two F-16s Inside Area 51

Photos shot from UFO Seekers allegedly show unknown, triangular object interacting with two U.S. Air Force F-16s. But it’s probably a bird.

On Feb. 15, 2017, UFO seekers Tim Doyle and Tracey Su were camping near Groom Lake to take pictures and film videos of activity in the skies inside Area 51. During their stay, they spotted a couple of F-16s dogfighting and snapped some shots at the jets. It wasn’t until they got back home, when they started reviewing the pictures, that they noticed a third unidentified aircraft that they described as a “triangular” object which appeared to be dogfighting the “Vipers” (as the F-16s are dubbed within the fighter pilots community).

The video below includes the pictures shot by Tracey (go to 19:45).

“We try to be a medium between the UFO Community and the Aviation Community. My dad worked at Plant 42 and other family had similar jobs. So people shouldn’t believe we would ever jump to advocating the existence of aliens or an alien craft at AREA 51. But that day we did catch a third craft, unfortunately we only used the photos in the video. All media from that trip was lost in a hard drive failure. In fact UFO Seekers lost over 5 months worth of media (6TB). It may have been a foreign aircraft as that is the primary purpose of the airspace at Groom Lake. Also I know the Air Force tests craft like the Polecat at the NTTR so it may have been an unmanned drone. But maybe, just maybe, it was something more,” said Tim in a message to The Aviationist.

The two F-16s flying close to the mysterious object (highlighted). This is a screen grab from UFO Seekers video filmed close to Area 51.

Here’s the mysterious object. Aircraft, drone or bird? (Screenshot from the UFO Seekers video).

The resolution of images in the video does not allow a proper identification of the object which might well be a drone (or a distant manned aircraft…such as an F-117 that was spotted flying over Nevada with accompanying F-16, in the recent past), still the story of the alleged interaction has had some exposure.

Assessing the size is difficult: even though the perspective might be a factor here, the object seems to be smaller than the F-16s, but probably much larger than a micro-drone as the bird-sized Perdix drones, 103 of those, launched from three F/A-18F Super Hornets, took part in one of the world’s largest micro-drone swarms over the skies of Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake, California on Oct. 25, 2016. That said, the aircraft could be a prototype of some new UAV (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle), maybe a UCAV (Unmanned Combat Aerial Vehicle), a weaponized drone.

Considered the position of the two fighters, rather than a dogfight, it seems that the jets were chasing the mysterious object rather than engaging it. Maybe they had just intercepted it in a simulated VID mission, or they were simply shadowing or filming a test flight. However, unlike what happened last year with the shots of the Su-27P dofighting with an F-16 inside Area 51, these new photos embedded in a YT video can’t provide a clear picture of the interaction.

Update: According to our friend Tyler Rogoway at The War Zone, the object is clearly a bird. “I literally see this all the time in frames. Birds catching thermals,” he says. “Viewing a bird somewhat edge on while soaring, that is exactly what they look like,” he said in a tweet to The Aviationist. To be honest I don’t see a bird here, but I may be wrong.

Update 2: Mick West, creator of Metabunk and famous debunker, has done an interesting analysis coming to the conclusion it was a bird. Here it is:

More or less the same analysis done by @AircraftSpots

Case closed? It seems so.

What’s your opinion? Let us know.

H/T @ufo_seekers

Are We Seeing B-21 Raider Development and Testing Activity at Area 51?

With New Projects in Development, and New Construction, The Area is Ramping Up.

We’re not sure what is happening inside (and close to) the restricted Nevada Test and Training Range (NTTR), but after visiting the area earlier this month, we are reasonably certain something significant is taking place right now. The massive area, reported to be 4,531 square miles, is one of the most secure national security sites and is closed to the public.

Earlier this month we drove the remote roads along the perimeter of the NTTR between Las Vegas, Nevada and Beatty, Nevada on the way to and from the Jedi Transition low-level flying area in Death Valley National Park. While this is one of the emptiest, most barren stretches of paved highway in the U.S. in just a few hours we made a number of interesting observations.

Sometime after 3:00 AM across from Creech AFB we saw a military-aged male with a beard in civilian clothes and a medium-sized piece of luggage or large lunch box board an airport-style shuttle bus and drive away on Highway 95 west of Creech. The vehicle drove a significant distance west and north on the highway before we lost sight of it. There is almost nothing out there. On the trip back that night we saw an F-117 fuselage covered by a tarp being transported on a flatbed truck in the dark west-bound on Highway 95. Earlier in the day someone had gotten photos of it by the side of the road.

In less than 24 hours, on one stretch of road at the outskirts of a massive 4,000+ mile testing range, we saw that much activity.

Moreover, the following day, on Nov. 14, an authority on the area referred to only as “G” of lazygranch.com, shot photos of an F-117 flying with a two-seat F-16. The very same day, in the afternoon a similar (or maybe the same with a diffirent configuration) two-seat F-16, carrying the Lockheed Martin’s AN/AAS-42, an IRST (Infra Red Search and Track) pod (theoretically capable to detect stealth aircraft by their IR signature), with sparse markings was photographed flying through the Jedi Transition. The photo was good enough that we could identify a patch worn on the right shoulder of each of the aircraft’s flight suits. The patches suggest the crew are associated with the famous “Red Hats” opposing forces test unit and the 53rd TEG Det 3, the unit thought to have replaced the 4477th “Red Eagles”, another opposing force simulation and testing unit.

Separate and additionally from those sightings near or around Tonopah Test Range, journalist Tyler Rogoway at The War Zone, has been a keen observer of the Nevada Test and Training Range. Rogoway reported on the appearance of several new construction projects at Area 51, notably, a new “U” shaped taxiway, vehicle roadway and most interestingly, a large aircraft hangar.

The new, large finished hangar within the square taxiway. (Photo: Ufo Seekers)

If you compare satellite imagery of Area 51 beginning in 1984 you see a progression of small changes followed by the significant addition of a long, second, parallel runway. Work on the second runway began in 1990 and seemed complete in about 1992. From 1999-2000 several new buildings appeared in satellite photos. In 2001-2002 an intermediate vehicle road connecting taxiways and runways was built. And most recently, in 2013, a major new construction project began at the southwest corner of the area. Soon after, in July 2014, the U.S. Air Force issued a request for proposal for a new, long range, low-observable strike aircraft. The project became the LRS-B. From 2014 to 2016 a large, new hangar was built at the southwestern corner of the facility. The structure appears to be nearly large enough to house an aircraft the size of the current B-1B Lancer bomber.

The latest satellite photos show what appears to be new engine test facilities, and most significantly, the southern taxiways and hangar in new-looking condition. Comparing the satellite photos of the facility going back to 1984, the two most significant, visible expansions are the second runway in 1990 and the new southwest square taxiway and hangar building beginning in 2014.

An analysis of satellite images over time reveal the major construction projects at Area 51/Groom Lake since 1984 including the most recent hangar and taxiways. (Photo: GoogleEarth)

The following video takes you on a “sightseeing tour” of Groom Lake from Tikaboo Peak:

Noted aerospace imaging expert Al Clark told TheAviationist.com, “In the general Groom Lake image our best reference is one of the F-16s parked on the west side of the base. The F-16 length is approximately 50-feet. Building number one, which is almost directly west of the F-16s is approximately 120’x120’. It looks to be an engine test/run-up hangar. The building that is more interesting is approximately 250-feet wide by a length of 275-feet. This is interesting because the B-2 wingspan is only 172-feet, so this is [possibly] designed to house large aircraft, in my opinion possibly the B-21 Raider. To the southwest of that structure it looks like what could be a weapons storage facility. The smaller bunker is approximately 75-feet long by 30-feet wide, and the larger bunker is approximately 75-feet wide and 100-feet long. Those are fairly large weapons bunkers. The general placement of the munitions depot tells me that there is something pretty volatile in it because they are keeping it away from the main base at Groom Lake.”

Is what we are seeing evidence of the LRS-B program development and the B-21 Raider? While there are likely several other major developmental programs underway including a new manned or unmanned reconnaissance and strike platform (the RQ-180 spy drone is one of them), LRS-B and B-21 are the most mature and most talked about in official channels and, as a result, most conclusions point to something related to their development out at Area 51 in the new hangar.

Prior to her departure from the office, former Air Force Secretary Deborah James told media, “Our 5th generation global precision attack platform will give our country a networked sensor shooter capability enabling us to hold targets at risk anywhere in the world in a way that our adversaries have never seen.” Her comments about the LRS-B program and B-21 acknowledge both the capability and necessity of the program, and may suggest the urgency of it as the Air Force maintains its small fleet of B-2 Spirit low-observable long range strike aircraft against a growing demand for its unique capability.

That might mean we are seeing the B-21 Raider development program take shape right under our noses at Area 51. Or this is what they want us to believe.

Area 51-based F-16D Performs Rare Pass Through The Star Wars Canyons Hours After F-117 Is Spotted Chased By Two Seater F-16

This was probably the very same F-16 flying alongside an F-117 on Nov. 14, 2017.

On Nov. 14 (the day after an F-117 was photographed on a trailer south of Creech AFB) at 09.20AM LT, another F-117 was spotted flying north of Rachel,  Nevada.

The Stealth Jet was not flying alone (or close to another F-117, as happened, for instance, in 2016) but it was chased by a two-seater F-16. Noteworthy, few hours later on the very same day (Nov. 14), at about 1:15PM – 1:45PM, photographer David Atkinson took some shots of an F-16D performing two passes through the famous Star Wars Canyon.

At a close look the photographs of the two-seater F-16D Block 30, serial number 86-0052, show two interesting details. First of all the aircraft was carrying Lockheed Martin’s AN/AAS-42, an IRST (Infra Red Search and Track) pod carried by various aircraft (including the Aggressors’ Vipers out of Nellis Air Force Base).

The AN/AAS-42 on an Aggressors F-16 about to land in Nellis in 2013.

Second, and probably even more interesting, the both pilots of the F-16D seem to wear a Red Hats patch! The Red Hats was the nickname of a group of pilots and engineers of the 4477th Test and Evaluation Squadron (4477 TES), a USAF squadron whose nickname was “Red Eagles” equipped with MiG-17s, MiG-21s and MiG-23s and created to expose the tactical air forces to the flight characteristics of fighter aircraft used by Soviet Union during the Cold War under project Constant Peg. Today the Red Hats have become an unnumbered unit within the Detachment 3, AFTC test wing. The unit, operating from Groom Lake, operates a variety of Russian-developed aircraft, including the MiG-29 and the Su-27P, one of which was observed dogfighting with an F-16 inside Area 51 back in 2016.

The F-16D serial number 86-0052 during the second pass. Note the AN/AAS-42 pod. (David Atkinson)

Take a look at the patch worn by the aircrew in the following image (H/T Rick Ingham). The backseater has a Red Hats patch, whereas the one in the front seat probably sports a 53rd TEG Det 3 patch, the patch of the unit believed to have taken over much of the 4477th “Red Eagles” activities. 

Red Hats and Red Eagles patches in this close up view (H/T Rick Ingham)

So, few hours after an F-117 was spotted flying near Rachel with a two seater F-16, this aircraft most probably based at Groom Lake in Area 51 flew through the Jedi Transition. Just a coincidence? Maybe.

However, considered the fact that this particular F-16 also carried an IRST pod seems to suggest the venerable F-117s are still being used for some kind of anti-stealth technology. This system, also carried by F-15E Strike Eagles, and equipping some other non-US combat planes as the Eurofighter Typhoon, lets the platform passively look for the emissions of the enemy fighter. F-22s and other stealth planes have a little radar cross section – RCS – but they do have an IR signature. This means that they can be vulnerable to small, fast non-stealthy planes that leverage low observable coatings, no radio comms, no radar (hence with a limited RCS and with almost zero electromagnetic emissions) and use their IRST sensors, hi-speed computers and interferometry, to geo-locate enemy radar evading aircraft.

In other words, there are certain scenarios in which IRST and other tactics could eliminate the advantage provided by radar invisibility.

As a side note, on Sept. 5, 2017, Lt. Col. Eric Schultz was killed in an a mysterious crash 100 miles Northwest of Nellis AFB in the Nevada Test and Training Range, midway between Tonopah Test Range and Groom Lake.

Speculation about the crash was fueled by Air Force media releases that did not indicate the type of aircraft that was being flown by Lt. Col. Schultz on Tuesday, September 5, 2017 when the accident occurred. There was also a delay in the story reaching news media that raised further questions since the accident was reported after another, unrelated accident involving two A-10s, was reported sooner. But AviationWeek.com correspondent Guy Norris wrote late Monday, September 11, that, “Sources indicate Schultz was the Red Hats squadron commander at the time of his death. The Red Hats became an unnumbered unit within the Detachment 3, AFTC test wing after the 413th flight test squadron (formerly 6513th test squadron) was deactivated in 2004.”

Image credit: David Atkinson

We Have Rented A Cessna 172 And Skirted Area 51 and Nevada Test and Training Range. Here Is How It Went.

We undertook a very unusual trip over Nevada desert.

Area 51, a myth in the underworld of conspiracy theories, especially for those who believe in alien spacecrafts, flying saucers, UFOs etc, is a highly classified installation in the Nevada desert.

Since the 1950s, the remote site, located south of the dry Groom Lake, has been used to support the development and testing of several aircraft and weapons systems including the famous U-2 Dragon Lady, the Mach 3+ SR-71 Blackbird, or the later F-117 stealth fighter (more precisely its Have Blue prototype).

Its involvement in Black Projects and the secrecy surrounding the operations conducted over there has made Area 51 the most interesting secret airbase in the world for aviation enthusiasts.

Groom Lake airbase is located inside the Nellis Test and Training Range, 200 miles north of Las Vegas, under a dedicated and forbidden airspace identified as R4808N in the aeronautical charts. This place is well protected from prying eyes as the ground perimeter extend to 10 miles from the runways, and a small ridge inside the Area prevent anyone on the Tikaboo valley to see anything.

Most enthusiasts and photographers climb Tikaboo peak. This vantage point is difficult to access, is almost 8,000 feet high which puts it 3,000 feet over the airbase but 26 miles away. You need a powerful telelens to see anything from there.

Being a very long time military aviation fan, both interested in the secret life of Groom Lake and in the larger Nellis Test and Training Range (NTTR) where every Red Flag exercise happen since the 70s, I wanted to see it in real. What made it possible is that I’m a private pilot, and the airspace east of R4808N is “just” classified as a Military Operating Area (MOA). It’s a danger area when it’s active or “hot” (meaning some military activity is scheduled or in progress), but still accessible for anyone at their own risk.

While on vacation in the area, I decided to attempt a flight there, during the weekend to lessen any risk, particularly with the Air Traffic Control (ATC) in the area. I booked a rental Cessna 172 Skyhawk at West Air Aviation in North Las Vegas airport (KVGT) and had an appointment with an instructor for a check ride.

KVGT from above.

On a Friday late afternoon, after having spent the day around Nellis AFB, taking pictures of military jets of all sorts involved in their last day of Red Flag simulated war, I met Jacob for my “flight review”. After one hour of questions/answers about air traffic rules in the US and flight safety, I climbed in the small Cessna 172 cockpit for a short flight.

The sun was really low and it was time for me to prove Jacob that I knew how to handle this wingy thing. Fortunately, I use to fly a Skyhawk at home so I behaved myself at the controls. Slow flight, steep turns and simulated loss of engine: I went through all before heading back to the airfield for pattern work.

After a couple of touch and goes, and the radio work with the tower, Jacob asked me to perform a full stop landing on runway 30L. Back to earth, I was now ready to take to the sky as Pilot in Command. The only unknown thing was how would I handle the Bravo airspace controllers of Las Vegas, as KVGT lays in an easier Delta airspace.

Next morning, I was on the tarmac for the walkaround of N9572H, my 42 years old Skyhawk for the day. No glass cockpit here, just the typical six-pack instruments with a trusty Garmin GNS430 GPS. I also had my iPad with a GPS antenna and a good nav app with all the latest charts in it.

At the commands of N9572H, waiting for departure

After a thorough preflight, I started up, listened to the ATIS and talked to Ground with a request to taxi for a VFR flight to Rachel and Lincoln airfield (1L1), with Mike information. No more info given to the controller about my intended and legal visit close to Area 51. Both 30L and 30R runways were in use and I soon taxied to the runup area. Radio was clear and I was now confident that I could handle the communications with McCarran or Nellis AFB controllers. After my routine tests, dutifully performed in accordance with the checklist, I switched to the Tower and requested take-off. Then again, directions were very concise but clear, and my radio ability reinforced my confidence.

Moments later, I’m lining up for a “rolling take-off” on 30L runway, an expedited departure. Full power, no flaps, 55 knots indicated, no alarm, 2300+ rpm checked, I’m rotating and the wheels leave the ground. I’m very concentrated as I inform the tower that I prefer a 350 heading rather than the proposed 280 heading (where do they want to send me ?). My right turn is approved and I’m soon handed over to Nellis Approach. I’m still below their airspace but I need to request a clearance before entering Bravo airspace. I quickly request it and I hear a fast “72H is cleared thru Bravo airspace” ; this is my passport for a further climb north of Las Vegas.

With the hot weather, the climb is slow and I’m passing Gass peak. Again, as I climb to 8,500 feet, I have no problem understanding the instructions from Nellis and I can copy the traffic information when they tell me that I’ll be overtaken by four F/A-18 Navy jets, 2,000 feet above. I will never see them, even with my cranium turning everywhere inside the Cessna cockpit. Shortly after that, I hear a “resume own navigation” and I settled onto a 8,500 feet cruise, still heading to 350, the direction of my first waypoint, Alamo.

After 10 minutes, Nellis Approach wants me to leave their frequency as I’m reaching the virtual fence of their airspace and I’m left with Los Angeles Center on 134.65. This will be a frequency on which no communication will ever be made with my small Cessna, as it’s overloaded with static. I hear some voices, request “flight following” 5 times and I’ll never get a clear reply.

After a while, I decide to climb a thousand feet more. This may improve radio reception and also give me a better view of the area beyond the long north-south Sheep Range to my left. 5 minutes later, I’m stable at 9,500 feet with, still, no radio contact with LA Center, but with a good view. I know that Blackjack control is the ATC facility managing the whole NTTR

As I’m overhead the Pahranagat lakes, I can see a big dry lake on my right, “Texas Lake” (Delamar), sometimes used as a staging area for aircraft forward operations from unprepared runways.

Texas Lake, named as such due to its shape.

A few minutes later, approaching Alamo I get my first good glimpse at Groom Lake and its buildings. With the naked eye, it’s impossible to distinguish anything other than these big hangars, small metallic dots reflecting the sun. I’ve got my camera on the passenger seat and I take some pictures with my 55mm, an easy lens for photographing while handling the yoke, but not big enough for the distance.

Groom Lake from Tikaboo Peak

I decide to turn left as soon as possible to get closer, while staying well out of the restricted area. I take a 270 heading, not directly towards the airbase as I don’t want to alarm the Blackjack air traffic controllers.

The flight track beside the restricted areas (blue track)

As I enter Tikaboo valley, with the straight ET highway (US 375) going north-west to Rachel and the Black Mailbox trail leading to the Area 51, I get a clearer view of the dry lake, the long runway and the various buildings.

Area 51, aka Groom Lake, as seen from over Tikaboo valley, 9500 feet AMSL

I’m elated as this is something I wanted to see by myself, somewhere I wanted to come to for the last 15 years. And being there in this little Cessna, flying alone and wherever I may think of, it’s a dream come true.

Same view as the previous one, cropped and postprocessed.

It’s now time to turn a bit right to skirt the north-east corner of R4808. Bald mountain to my left hides the dry lakebed, then the main airbase. These are the last seconds for me to have a look at this most secret airbase. I don’t circle in the area because I don’t want to draw more attention. Having an F-16 escorting me away may be great for pictures, but this could be a sign that the sheriff is waiting for me on the ground, so that’s the last thing I want for now.

Approaching Rachel, I recognize Coyote Summit where I spent two long days this same week. And I’m now eager to discover from the air all the geographical report points the military pilots use during their Red Flag sorties. Over Rachel, I’ve got now a good view of No Name mountain, west of Bald Mountain. This lone butte is a good mark showing the northern frontier of Area 51, or the Container as the military pilots call it. They also have no right to penetrate that area and if they do, they’re sent back to their home airbase the next day with a bad grade for their career.

North Groom range with Rachel and No name.

Farther west from No Name is Belted Peak, from where all the air-to-ground activity starts at Red Flag, and beyond it I can distinguish Quartzite Mountain, between the 74 ranges and the 75 ranges. I spent a lot of time studying the NTTR chart and reading about it ; that helps me identifying all these now.

Belted peak with Quartzite mountain behind it.

I now turn east to my destination for the morning, Lincoln Co airport (Panaca town). This brings me just south of that long north-south Worthington range.

Worthington mountains.

After a few minutes and an overhead of the Timpahute range mines, I overfly Irish mountain. This peak is used also by Blue Force pilots during Red Flag to report and prepare their collective and structures ingress towards the FEBA (or Forward Edge of the Battle Area).

Heading east, Approaching Irish peak, with its snowy summit.

I fly east over Hiko, hoping for a good tailwind on the return trip to Las Vegas. I’ve been having a headwind for the main 1.5 hours and the gas supply on the few Nevada airfields is scarce (Alamo and Lincoln has none for example). I now can see without any mistake a large gap in between two ridges : Pahroc Summit Pass, also  known as Student Gap among Red Flag pilots. This is the main passage point for Blue Force pilots when it’s “push time”. It’s a lot better to be here in my Cessna during the weekend than during a Red Flag weekday.

Heading east in view of Student Gap with US93 crossing it. Red Flag pilots usually fly it in the opposite direction, towards the main ranges.

After ten minutes, I see the small Lincoln Co airfield where I’ll have my lunch break, under the wing and in a 10 kts wind. The landing is uneventful and I find myself really alone on that parking. I’m amazed that nobody other than me, seems to enjoy the Nevada desert by plane, specially when you can be so close to where the most secret planes get tested.

The return trip is straight as gas is a bit of a concern for me, having already burnt 1.7 hours, with a total endurance of 4 hrs. 80 miles out of Las Vegas, I get my clearance for the Bravo airspace and after passing the mines and plants of Apex, north of Sin City, I request to overfly Nellis AFB. Nellis Approach grants it and I can approach the base at 6,500 feet. After some pictures, I’m asked to take a westerly heading to North Las Vegas and I comply.

These few seconds allowed me to get a good souvenir of the big military airbase: the cherry on the cake.

Still dozens of airplanes on the tarmac of Nellis, while Red Flag 17-2 is now just over.

Las Vegas as seen from the downwind leg of runway 30L at KVGT.

Salva

Salva

Salva

Salva

Red Force exposed: Rare insight into Nellis Aggressors and their hunt for stealth planes

64th and 65th Aggressors Squadrons challenge allied aircrews in the same way enemies would do in a real war.

The Aggressors have always been one of the highlights of the Red Flag exercises. Their presence and their way to play the adversary role to train coalition combat planes to deal with tomorrow’s air threats is one of the factors that make the drills held at Nellis Air Force Base, near Las Vegas, so realistic and useful.

The Aggressors were created to improve the proficiency of the U.S. fighter pilots following the high combat losses recorded during the Vietnam War.

The Aggressors’ F-15s and F-16s operate with the 64th and 65th AGRS (Aggressor Squadron) belonging Nellis’ 57th Wing.

Their role is quite simple: they have to threaten strike packages in the same way a modern enemy would do in a real war in order to train pilot react to their attacks and improve survivability during the first 10 missions at war (those when the risk to be downed is higher).

Noteworhty, the F-16s and F-15s of the Aggressors Squadrons replicate the paint schemes, markings and insignas of their near peer adversaries. Even if according to Lt. Col. Kevin Gordon, 64th AGRS commander, they don’t replicate a certain country’s adversary; rather, they “replicate a capability of various aircraft platforms to train our blue forces on how adversaries will employ them in combat.”

Still, taking to DVIDS website Gordon mentions the Su-27 Flanker (an aircraft spotted flying over Groom Lake) as the type of aircraft they replicate when attacking a Blue Forces F-15; as suggested by Lazygranch this may be the first time the Flanker is mentioned as an enemy aircraft.

“The exercise always starts out as a sparring partner, and [blue forces] don’t know what to expect,” says Major Eric Flattern, 57th Adversary Tactics Support Squadron and red force chief of adversary weapons, on DVIDS website. “We put one arm behind our backs and try to bloody their noses a little bit. It turns out blue forces are resilient because no one likes blood on their face. The good news is they are stepping up to the plate and actually moving forward throughout the week. Ultimately, it would be fantastic if they completely crushed us, but at the same time, it wouldn’t be fair if we went out there and made it easy for them every day.”

One of the things that the recent article on the U.S. Air Force website doesn’t highlight is the use of infra-red search and track (IRST) systems to perform passive detection of radar evading planes.

During Red Flag 13-3 this Author took the picture below showing an F-16 carrying a Lockheed Martin’s AN/AAS-42 targeting pod. This system, also carried by F-15E Strike Eagles, and equipping some other non-US combat planes as the Eurofighter Typhoon, lets the aggressor passively look for the emissions of the enemy fighter.

Aggressors highlight

F-22s and other stealth planes have no (or extremely little) radar cross section – RCS – but they do have an IR signature. This means that they can be vulnerable to small, fast non-stealthy planes that leverage low observable coatings, no radio comms, no radar (hence with a limited RCS and with almost zero electromagnetic emissions) and use their IRST sensors, hi-speed computers and interferometry, to geo-locate enemy radar evading aircraft.

In other words, there are certain scenarios in which IRST and other tactics could eliminate the advantage provided by radar invisibility. Most probably the need to face this threat as well has been the reason why USAF has fielded IRST pods to Aggressors F-16s in latest Red Flags.

Top image credit: U.S. Air Force

 

Enhanced by Zemanta