Tag Archives: Kandahar

Photo: RQ-7 Bravo drone launched at night from Kandahar (as it can't fly much on hot days).

The following AP photo shows an RQ-7 Bravo UAV (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle) being prepared for launch at Forward Operating Base Pasab, in Kandahar province, Afghanistan.

It is particularly interesting because it was taken with a long exposure: the headlamps and bodies of a crew from the 508th Special Troops Battalion, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division of the US Army are blurred as they prepare the drone for a night mission.

AP Photo/The Fayetteville Observer, James Robinson

Night flying will be routinely performed during the summer months, not only for tactical purposes, but also because of fuel-leak problems caused by extreme heat: an internal US Marine Corps review of air operations in combat, released in October and available here, raised some questions about the possibility to employ the Shadow for daytime missions.

(U//FOUO) VMU-1 established a “hot weather schedule” during the summer months due to
temperatures that could reach as high as 135 degrees Fahrenheit on the runway.  This
extreme heat could cause the Shadow’s wings to swell and vent fuel.

Obviously, April temperatures are not even comparable to the Afghanistan’s intense summer heat that, according to a Marine Corps Time article, forced the service to fly daytime missions with smaller drones.

A Shadow drone collided midair with an Air Force C-130 in Afghanistan on Aug. 15, 2011. The robot struck the Hercules’s left wing between the engines: although damaged, the aircraft managed to land safely, whereas the RQ-7 crashed.

Looks like summer is not a lucky season for the drone that the USMC wants to “weaponize” as soon as possible.


Iran claims it has decoded the U.S. stealthy RQ-170 Drone Intel but provides unsubstantiated evidence to prove it.

Iran has decoded the U.S. stealthy drone intel?
What? oh, umm…yeah…sure

According to a FARS News Agency article published on Apr. 22, Iran has just finished deconding the intelligence gathering sensors and the internal hard disks of the U.S. stealthy RQ-170 Sentinel drone that was captured by Iran in December 2011.

Speaking to FNA, Commander of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) Aerospace Forces Brigadier General Amir Ali Hajizadeh revealed some data taken from the aircraft’s intelligence system to deny claims by the Pentagon according to which the Iranians would not succeed in decoding the spy drone’s memory and intelligence devices.

To provide four cues to let the US know how deep Iranian engineers could penetrate into the secrets of the drone Hajizadeh stated that

The drone parts had been transferred to California for technical works in October 2010, adding that the drone was later transferred to Kandahar, Afghanistan in November 2010 and had a flight in there.

The commander said that the drone had experienced some technical flaws in its Kandahar flight in November, but the US experts failed resolve the problems at the time.

Hajizadeh added that the RQ-170 was then sent back to an airfield near Los Angeles in December 2010 for tests on its censors and parts, adding that the drone had a number of test flights in there.

As a forth cue to prove Iran’s access to the drone’s hidden memory, the commander mentioned that the spy drone’s memory device has revealed that it had flown over Al-Qaeda Leader Osama bin Laden’s hideout in Pakistan two weeks before his death.

According to Haiizadeh,  “Had we not accessed the plane’s soft wares and hard discs, we wouldn’t have been able to achieve these facts”.

Although it is possible that the RQ-170’s internal memories were not successfully wiped out following the loss of satellite link with the drone giving the Iranians the chance to decypher some of the data collected by the drone the four “cues” provided by the Iranian General are not solid.

The same information could be retrieved, if not on the Internet (the fact that the “Beast of Kandahar” has tanken part to the Operation Neptune’s Spear to kill Osama Bin Laden was very well known since May 2011) with a little of OSINT (Open Source INTelligence) and some spying.

Aviation magazines have published pictures of the RQ-170 at Kandahar showing some modifications (obviously applied in the US) and by simply observing the drone at Kandahar before and after the new equipment was installed could be a sign of stateside work.

Hence, unless something more solid emerges, I think it’s quite unlikely that the internal memory contained useful information:  they were (probably) automatically erased as a consequence of the loss of control procedure and data will never been recovered. However, the circuitry, lenses, memories and sensors are still there and can be evaluated, tested and copied. And, maybe, improved, with the help of some interested third parties (Russia and China).

RAF Tornados involved in "marathon" seven-hour mission to defend US and Afghan forces in Afghanistan

RAF Tornado GR4s from 617 “The Dambusters” Squadron, belonging to the 904 Expeditionary Air Wing at Kandahar, have helped to defend US and Afghan forces from an insurgent attack in Helmand province, as part of a marathon mission lasting over seven hours.

Two of the RAF Lossiemouth-based “Tonkas”, had already spent 3 hours providing armed overwatch for British and American troops when the emergency call came in. The bombers, flying a CAS (Close Air Support) mission, were requested to fly 300 nautical miles north west, near the Turkmenistan border to provide support to a joint United States and Afghan National Security Forces patrol  under repeated small arms fire (a condition known as TIC – Troops in Contact).

The British bombers conducted a typical high speed – low altitude passage over the insurgents: a show of force at 100 feet and 500 knots  that persuaded the Taliban to retire to the cover allowing the ground patrol to withdraw to safety.

Tornado GR4

Image credit: Jez B/Flickr

The 617 Squadron Tornados were airborne for three hours prior to the call for assistance and the entire marathon seven-hour 45-minute flight required four aerial refuelings worth 20,000 litres of fuel each.

According to the UK’s MoD, in the same week, the squadron also conducted one “show of presence” (a higher-level flypast designed to indicate the presence of a supporting combat plane) and four lower-level shows of force.

617 Sqn’s crews are currently flying in Afghanistan with the  new Helmet Mounted Cueing System (HMCS), a system that projects symbology on the helmet’s visor so the pilot can read the flight parameters and other information of interest, regardless where he is looking.

Image credit: U.S. Air Force

C-17 Gear up landing in Bagram: the aircraft accident investigation board report

On Jan. 30, 2009, a C-17A tail number 60002 landed at Bagram air base in Afghanistan with the landing gear retracted. A few days after the mishap I published some interesting pictures showing the damaged aircraft on the runway at Bagram and that post is not only one of the most read of this website, but it is also one of the most commented by visitors (especially from the US). Even if the aircraft accident investigation board issued its final report in May 2009 (as I wrote in a previous post) there is still people providing different versions and explainations of the accident without any knowledge of the evidences collected by the investigation board. For this reason I think that it could be interesting for someone to read at least the executive summary of the above mentioned report (that is available in full version here) by clicking on the thumbnail below.

C-17 gear up landing: investigation results

After publishing the pictures of the famous C-17 gear up landing in Bagram there was much discussion among the visitors of this site about the root cause of the accident, the responsibilities etc. (you can see the pictures and read the comments that follow the article here: C-17 gear up landing in Bagram: images) the Air Mobility Command has finally released the result of its investigation according to which the accident was primarily caused by the failure of the pilots to extract the landing gear.

Bagram C-17 Accident Investigation Board complete

Headquarters AMC Public Affairs

5/7/2009 – SCOTT AIR FORCE BASE, Ill. — Air Mobility Command today released
the results of its investigation into the Jan. 30, 2009, mishap involving a
C-17 Globemaster III that landed with retracted gear at Bagram Air Base,

The Accident Investigation Board, convened by AMC, concluded the primary
cause of the mishap was the failure of the pilots to lower the landing gear
and confirm proper aircraft landing configuration in accordance with the
Before Landing checklist.

The AIB president also found that aircrew distractions, task saturation,
reduced cockpit visual cues, failure of the flight crew to cross- monitor
each other’s performance, the tower’s failure to transmit a required
reminder, and the crew’s inadvertent disabling of Ground Proximity Warning
System alerts contributed to the mishap.

The mishap occurred as the C-17 was landing at Bagram AB during a combat
airlift mission in support of Operations Enduring and Iraqi Freedom and
Joint Task Force Horn of Africa operations.

The aircraft landed on the runway centerline with the landing gear retracted
and slid approximately 4,500 feet before coming to rest on the runway.
Crash, fire and rescue response was immediate, and there were no fatalities,
injuries or damage to other property. However, damage to the aircraft’s main
landing gear and fuselage underbelly was significant.