Tag Archives: Kadena Air Base

USAF F-15C Eagle Down Off Kadena, Japan: Pilot Rescued.

Condition of Pilot Unknown Following Rescue. It’s the sixth USAF crash since the beginning of 2018.

A USAF F-15C Eagle belonging to the 18th Wing at Kadena AB, Okinawa has crashed into the ocean off Okinawa, Japan, at approximately 0640 Hrs. Monday morning, June 11, 2018 Okinawa local time. According to the Japan Times the aircraft went down about 80 km south of Naha, capital of the Okinawa prefecture.

Reports indicate the pilot ejected from the aircraft prior to impact. The pilot was rescued at sea following his ejection by a Japanese Self-Defense Force helicopter. The condition of the single aircrew onboard the F-15C Eagle has not been released.

The 18th Wing at Kadena AFB is home to two F-15C/D Eagle fighter squadrons, the 44th Fighter Squadron, the “Vampire Bats” and the 67th Fighter Squadron, the “Fighting Cocks”. It is unclear which squadron the F-15C involved in Monday’s crash came from.

In an earlier incident five years ago on May 28, 2013, another USAF F-15C Eagle crashed off Kadena. In that crash, an investigation revealed that;

“The cause of the accident was the aircraft failing to respond to the pilot’s flight control inputs due to a failure in the aircraft’s hydro-mechanical flight control system. Additionally, the Pitch Roll Channel Assembly provided inputs to the flight control surfaces not commanded by the aircraft pilot. The investigation also found by a preponderance of evidence that the pilot had limited time for malfunction analysis and a lack of simulator emergency procedure training for the malfunction in the hydro-mechanical flight control system also substantially contributed to the accident.”

In the 2013 accident the pilot also ejected from the aircraft and survived. Obviously there is currently no evidence that the two crashes are related. The cause of the accident Monday morning in Okinawa is unknown pending an official USAF investigation.

In November of 2007, all USAF F-15 aircraft were grounded after a Missouri Air National Guard F-15C came apart in flight and crashed on November 2, 2007. The 2007 accident was found to be a result of a defect in the aircraft’s upper right longeron. The upper right longeron is a structural component in the fuselage that provides strength to the area where the cockpit and the fuselage meet. Following the November, 2007 crash, a January 10, 2008 report indicated that nine additional F-15s were found to have similar structural problems. The failure of the upper right fuselage longeron originated from a defect in manufacturing according to the official report.

At the time of the 2007 incident, a story filed by USAF Staff Sgt. J.G. Buzanowski quoted USAF (then) Col. William Wignall, head of the accident investigation as saying that, “We’ve had great involvement from Boeing during the investigation. In fact, they’re the ones who determined the longeron was the problem. This was then confirmed by the Air Force Research Laboratory.”

But USAF General John D.W. Corley, then-commander of Air Combat Command, went on to report in 2007 that, “The difficulty is that issues have been found with F-15s built between 1978 and 1985, across A through D models at several bases, so no one source of the problem can be isolated. This isn’t just about one pilot in one aircraft with one bad part. I have a fleet that is 100 percent fatigued, and 40 percent of that has bad parts. The long-term future of the F-15 is in question.”

In April of 2018, Boeing was awarded a modification to an existing contract for F-15 modernization that includes an upgrade to the Raytheon AN/APG-82(V) radar. According to a Defense Industry Daily report the contract called for, “Work on 29 Group A and Group B kits, spares, fuel tanks and other equipment and services.” The upgrade contract was valued at $187M USD. It is unclear if any part of the new contract applies to structural elements of the F-15 Eagle.

The McDonnell-Douglas/Boeing F-15C Eagle is a twin-engine, single seat air superiority fighter first flown in 1972. The aircraft is in service with several air forces including the U.S., Japan, Saudi Arabia and Israel. The F-15C Eagle and the two-seat variants including the F-15E Strike Eagle, have been extremely successful combat aircraft with an impressive record in operational use.

The F-15C crash on Jun. 11 is the sixth U.S. Air Force (eleventh U.S. military aviation) since the beginning of the year. The most recent ones involved a WC-130H from the 156th Airlift Wing from Puerto Rico ANG that crashed near Chatham City, Georgia on May 2, 2018, causing 9 deaths and a T-38 that crashed 9 miles north of the city of Columbus on May 23, 2018. In the latter event, the pilots managed to eject.

Top image: File Photo of an F-15C Eagle as it releases flares. (Credit: Tom Demerly/TheAviationist)

 

Interesting Photos Show U.S. Air Force F-35A Stealth Jets Deployed To Japan About To Launch Without Radar Reflectors

Some recent photos of the Hill AFB F-35s deployed to Kadena Okinawa, seem to suggest the 5th Generation fighters have started operating in “stealth mode”.

Stealth aircraft, such as the F-22 Raptor or the F-35 Lightning II 5th generation jets are equipped with Luneburg (or Luneberg) lenses: radar reflectors used to make the LO (Low Observable) aircraft (consciously) visible to radars. These devices are installed on the aircraft on the ground are used whenever the aircraft don’t need to evade the radars: during ferry flights when the aircraft use also the transponder in a cooperative way with the ATC (Air Traffic Control) agencies; during training or operative missions that do not require stealthiness; or, more importantly, when the aircraft operate close to the enemy whose ground or flying radars, intelligence gathering sensors.

This is what we explained explaining how the Israeli the heavy presence of Russian radars and ELINT platforms in Syria cause some concern to the Israeli F-35 Adir recently declared IOC:

[…] the Russians are currently able to identify takeoffs from Israeli bases in real-time and might use collected data to “characterize” the F-35’s signature at specific wavelengths as reportedly done with the U.S. F-22s.

In fact, tactical fighter-sized stealth aircraft are built to defeat radar operating at specific frequencies; usually high-frequency bands as C, X, Ku and S band where the radar accuracy is higher (in fact, the higher the frequency, the better is the accuracy of the radar system).

However, once the frequency wavelength exceeds a certain threshold and causes a resonant effect, LO aircraft become increasingly detectable. For instance, ATC radars, that operate at lower-frequency bands are theoretically able to detect a tactical fighter-sized stealth plane whose shape features parts that can cause resonance. Radars that operate at bands below 300 MHz (lower UHF, VHF and HF radars), such as the so-called Over The Horizon (OTH) radars, are believed to be particularly dangerous for stealth planes: although they are not much accurate (because lower frequency implies very large antenna and lower angle accuracy and angle resolution) they can spot stealth planes and be used to guide fighters equipped with IRST towards the direction the LO planes might be.

F-35s deployed abroad usually feature their typical four radar reflectors: to exaggerate their real RCS (Radar Cross Section) and negate the enemy the ability to collect any detail about their LO “signature”. As happened during the short mission to Estonia and then Bulgaria, carried out by the USAF F-35As involved in the type’s first overseas training deployment to Europe or when, on Aug. 30, 2017, four U.S. Marine Corps F-35B Lightning II joined two USAF B-1B Lancers for the JSF’s first show of force against North Korea: the F-35Bs flew with the radar reflectors, a sign they didn’t want their actual radar signature to be exposed to any intelligence gathering sensor in the area.

The two radar reflectors on the right side of the F-35A (the remaining two are located in the same positions on the left side). Image credit: LM (hightlight by Author)

Since they almost always fly with the radar reflectors, photographs of the aircraft without the four notches (two on the upper side and two on the lower side of the fuselage) are particularly interesting: for instance, some shots taken on Jan. 24, 2018 and just released by the U.S. Air Force show F-35As deployed to Kadena AB, Japan, in October as a part of the U.S. Pacific Command’s Theater Security Package program, preparing to launch without their Luneberg reflectors.

The lack of reflector on the top left position of this F-35 is pretty evident in the following photographs:

A U.S. Air Force F-35A Lightning II from Hill Air Force Base, Utah, goes through pre-flight checks prior to taxiing Jan. 25, 2018, at Kadena Air Base, Japan. The F-35A is a 5th-generation stealth fighter developed to safely penetrate areas while avoiding radar detection. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Quay Drawdy)

 

U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Jacob Valdez, 34th Aircraft Maintenance unit crew chief, performs pre-flight checks prior to a training flight Jan. 25, 2018, at Kadena Air Base, Japan. The F-35A is a 5th-generation stealth fighter developed to safely penetrate areas while avoiding radar detection. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Quay Drawdy)

U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Jacob Valdez, 34th Aircraft Maintenance unit crew chief, communicates with Maj. Matthew Olson, F-35A Lightning II pilot from Hill Air Force Base, Utah, before a training flight Jan. 25, 2018, at Kadena Air Base, Japan. The F-35A is deployed under U.S. Pacific Command’s theater security package program, which has been in operation since 2004. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Quay Drawdy)

For comparison, the following photo shows one of the 388FW F-35A jets on the ground at Kadena in November 2017 with the radar reflector.

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Patrick Charles, 34th Aircraft Maintenance Unit crew chief, goes through pre-flight procedures Nov. 16, 2017, at Kadena Air Base, Japan. Rotational forces are integral to increasing our military combat capabilities, which are essential to U.S. power projection and security obligations. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Greg Erwin)

Obviously the lack of radar reflectors is not a big deal: during their deployment to RAF Lakenheath last year, F-35As of the 388th FW have flown without reflectors some local sorties with the 48th FW F-15E Strike Eagles (for example on Apr. 26, 2017). However, photographs of deployed F-35s without Luneburg Lenses are pretty rare and, for this reason, interesting and newsworthy.

 

 

USAF F-35As Deploy to Japan For Pacific Command Theater Security Program Ahead Of Trump’s Asia Trip

Air Force F-35A Deployment Joins U.S. Marine F-35Bs to Add Capability Near Korea.

In what appears to be a continuation of U.S. preparedness in the Asian theater amidst tensions with North Korea, the U.S. Air Force has deployed the first two of twelve F-35A Lightning II joint strike fighters to Kadena Air Base in the Okinawa prefecture of Japan.

The F-35As deployed to Kadena are from the 34th Fighter Squadron, the “Rude Rams” of the 388th Fighter Wing at Hill AFB, Utah. The twelve F-35As will be supported by 300 Airmen from Hill AFB also deployed to Kadena. They are currently scheduled to remain in the region for six months according to the USAF.

USAF General Terrence J. O’Shaughnessy, Pacific Air Forces commander, said in an official statement that, “The F-35A gives the joint warfighter unprecedented global precision attack capability against current and emerging threats while complementing our air superiority fleet.” Gen. O’Shaughnessy went on to say, “The airframe is ideally suited to meet our command’s obligations, and we look forward to integrating it into our training and operations.”

An F-35 Lightning II, from Hill Air Force Base Utah, prepares for take-off at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Oct. 13, 2017. The aircraft was on its way to the 2017 Seoul International Aerospace & Defense Exhibition in South Korea. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Heather Redman)

The move of a significant number of combat-ready F-35As to Kadena, the largest and busiest U.S. air base in the far east, follows the August 9 deployment of three B-2 Spirit strategic bombers from the 509th Bomb Wing in Missouri to Anderson AFB in Guam (even though it must be noticed B-2s can perform round-trip missions from their homebase in CONUS as proved recently). This build-up of the most advanced U.S. air combat assets is significant. It reinforces the ongoing military pressure being applied in the region largely as a result of escalating weapons testing by North Korea.

The U.S. has also positioned the Ohio-class nuclear submarine, the USS Michigan (SSGN-727) for operations from Busan Naval base in Yongho-dong, South Korea beginning on October 13, 2017. The arrival of this submarine is significant since it is currently configured to deploy U.S. Navy SEAL special operations teams using miniature submarines from special well-decks mounted on top of its hull.

The USS Michigan (SSGN-727) with well decks mounted on top of its hull to support the deployment of SEAL delivery vehicles. (Photo:Jeon Heon-Kyun/EPA)

Navy SEAL special operations teams are trained to provide a number of roles in support of any potential air campaign in the region, including reconnaissance, target designation and search and rescue of downed air crews in denied areas.

The beginning of the naval exercises with the USS Michigan and other ships in the region took place between Oct. 16 – 26. An official U.S. Navy statement saying the operations would promote “Communications, interoperability and partnership” reinforces speculation that the submarine may be preparing to support larger potential combined air operations with the U.S. Navy, Marines and the Air Force.

Earlier this year we spoke with an F-35A pilot from Hill AFB after his unit made Initial Operational Capability (IOC) in August of 2016 and then deployed to Lakenheath, England, Bulgaria and Estonia in 2017. Since then the tempo of operations for the Hill AFB F-35As has been especially busy.

The U.S. Marines have already operated their F-35B STOVL (Short Take Off Vertical Landing) variant of the joint strike fighter from Okinawa, Japan when they deployed two aircraft from Marine Attack Squadron 121 (VMFA-121) of Marine Aircraft Group 12 at Iwakuni, Japan to Kadena back on June 26, 2017. The Marine Corps mission was to familiarize the F-35B operations team with the airfield at Okinawa. VMFA-121, an F-35B squadron with 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, relocated to MCAS Iwakuni, Japan, from MCAS (Marine Corps Air Station) Yuma, Arizona, on Jan. 9, 2017.

The deployment of 5th Gen. aircraft to Japan comes as President Trump prepares for his first official visit to Asia (and Japan), amid growing nuclear tensions with North Korea.

U.S. Air Force Stages Epic Elephant Walk at Kadena Air Base Japan Amid Growing Tension With North Korea

How many aircraft can you count in this picture? Will they persuade Kim Jong Un to give up his nuclear plans?

The images in this post show an impressive Elephant Walk carried out by fully armed U.S. Air Force aircraft belonging to the 18th Wing, at Kadena Air Base, Japan.

During Elephant Walks military aircraft taxi in close formation right before a minimum interval takeoff.

This kind of exercise is often performed at airbases all around the world (including South Korea), to prepare squadrons for wartime operations: what’s important is to test crews capability to quickly and safely prepare fully armed aircraft for a mass launch.

U.S. Air Force 44th and 67th Fighter Squadron F-15 Eagles and 961st Airborne Air Control Squadron E-3 Sentries taxi down the runway during a no-notice exercise April 12, 2017, at Kadena Air Base, Japan.  (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman John Linzmeier)

In this case the Elephant Walk was carried out during a “no-notice” exercise on Apr. 12.

The 18th Wing operates combat ready fleets of HH-60 Pave Hawks, F-15 Eagles, E-3 Sentries and KC-135 Stratotankers, making it the largest combat-ready wing in the U.S. Air Force capable to provide a wide array of missions: counter air, command and control, air refueling and combat search and rescue operations. Not bad for a single unit!

“Elephant Walks” are particularly frequent in South Korea where local-based U.S. Air Force jets (often alongside Republic of Korea Air Force planes) frequently stage such “collective shows of force” in response to North Korea’s aggressive posture and threats. Considered the current state of the relations between Washington and Pyongyang, with a U.S. Navy Carrier Strike Group heading to the Korean Peninsula, and several aircraft (including the WC-135 “nuclear sniffer”) amassing not far from North Korea, it seems to be quite likely that the Elephant Walk at Kadena Air Base was just a way to showcase U.S. Air Force 18th Wing’s ability to quickly generate combat air power in the event of an attack on Kadena, the largest U.S. military installation in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region, and flex the muscles against Kim Jong Un and his nuclear plans.

H/T @aviationcommons for the heads up!

 

Kadena’s MC-130J Commando II Special OPS planes conduct the type’s first five-ship formation flight in PACAF

Five MC-130J Commando IIs recently took to the skies for an unprececedented formation flight in Pacific region.

On Feb. 17, 2016 the 17th Special Operations Squadron (SOS) of the 353rd Special Operations Group (SOG) from Kadena Air Base, conducted a unit-wide training exercise during which its aircrews performed the first five-ship MC-130J Commando II formation flight in Pacific region.

The interesting pictures in this post were taken during that historic flight from the MC-130J flying in the lead position of the formation and show four of the 17th SOS Commando IIs flying off the coast of Okinawa, Japan.

“We routinely fly two ships, but we mobilized five ships to test our ability to generate aircraft in full force, to make sure our maintenance can support that, and to make sure we can do the planning in case we are ever asked to fly a large formation” said Maj. Brad Talley, the 17th SOS assistant director of operations.

Noteworthy the formation was part of the 353rd SOG training exercise which tested not only the 17th SOS and the 353rd Special Operations Maintenance Squadron ability to launch a short-notice, large-scale tasking but also that of MC-130J’s aircrews to perform cargo drops, short runway landings and takeoff, and helicopter air-to-air refueling.

According to Senior Airman Zach Harmon, a 17th SOS MC-130J Commando II loadmaster, even if the unit achieved the exercise objectives the team members had to overcome several challenges to complete the drill. “The most difficult portion was the planning and safe execution of the mission, since most of our squadron isn’t used to that level of de-confliction complexity,” he explained.

The 17th SOS completed the transition from the MC-130P Combat Shadows to the MC-130J Commando IIs in Oct. 2015 and thanks to the technological advances introduced by the Commando II the unit has set new standards for safety and accuracy in executing clandestine missions.

MC-130J formation flying

Image credit: Senior Airman Peter Reft / U.S. Air Force

 

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