Tag Archives: Libya

The very best “seat” you can find on a C-130 airlifter

As the image below proves, the observation window on a Royal Air Force C-130K (that reminds a WWII gunner’s ball turret) may be the best seat you will ever find on board an Hercules cargo.

Especially if the plane is flying a low level training sortie in the famous Mach Loop.


Image credit: Rob Birmingham

Low flying training is a crucial part in both jets and airlifters pilot training. Aircraft involved in special operations, reconnaissance, Search And Rescue, troops or humanitarian airdrops in trouble spots around the world may have to fly at low altitudes.

RAF C-130 Hercules pilots relied on their low level training when they flew over the desert and in hostile airspace to rescue oil workers trapped in Libya in 2011, when the country was evacuated.

The RAF Hercules C-130K fleet will soon be retired, the specialist operations role will be transferred to the newer C-130J Super Hercules fleet.

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French helicopters struck Islamist Rebels in Mali. “One of them apparently downed” according to U.S. AFRICOM Commander

On Jan. 11, France’s President François Holland, confirmed that French troops intervened alongside some unspecified Western African countries forces to help the local army stop the advance of rebel groups towards southern Mali.

News portal Koaci.com has learned from Malian military sources that two French helicopter, previously based in Burkina Faso, have already take action in the area, striking rebels positions in Konna and Douentza, in the night between Jan. 10 and 11.

Update Jan. 13, 2012 02.18 GMT

According to the NYT one of the French helicopters involved in the military action might have been downed: “Responding to an urgent plea for help from the Malian government, French troops carried out airstrikes against Islamist fighters, blunting an advance by hundreds of heavily armed extremists, according to French officials and Gen. Carter F. Ham, the top American military commander in Africa. One French helicopter had apparently been downed in the fighting, he said.” Other media outlets gave the news that has yet to be confirmed.

Even if an Eurocopter Tigre attack chopper is used to illustrates the article on the Koaci.com website, the type of helicopter involved in this first strike has not been disclosed yet.

French military expert Jean-Marc Liotier says “there is no reason to believe that Tigres are currently deployed around Mali.”


A Tigre helicopter

In an extremely interesting article posted on his blog, Liotier explains: “Algérie1.com mentioned last September that two Gazelles, arrived in a military base near Ouagadougou last September, to be assembled on site after shipping disassembled for more discretion. In October, Le Parisien confirmed the presence of two French Gazelles in Burkina. So odds are that those are the two that struck last night.”

Provided the helicopters attacking the Islamist camps in Mali were Gazelles, which specific variant of the French helicopter Paris decided to dispatch remains an open question.

In Libya, even with NVG, Gazelles with a 20mm gun have soon been sidelined in reserve aboard Tonnerre and Mistral : most of the Gazelle missions have been performed by the HOT variant with the Viviane infrared sights – 425 HOT missiles have been shot in Libya. I would guess that given a similar environment, the same mode of operation has been adopted in Mali – so let’s say that at least one of the two is a Gazelle Viviane,” says Liotier.

In Libya (a completely different scenario), the French choppers flew within strike packages that consisted of 2-6 Gazelles armed with HOT-ATGMs, 2 Tigers and 2 Pumas (flying Command Posts and CSAR – Combat Search And Rescue platforms), in cooperation with maritime gunfire support.

Even if the Libya-veteran Gazelles are both basic and mature thus perfectly suited for the kind of logistical support they could get “on site”, and can carry enough weaponry to harm the rebels, it is still impossible to rule out the possibility that the most advanced Tigres were deployed as well.

For several reasons.

One of them is that , even if this might not be the case, modern wars  in a low-risk scenario are always an opportunity for air forces to show their capabilities, to test their most modern equipment in a real environment and to fire live ordnance.

For instance, successful results during the Libya Air War have given them the opportunity to request the budget needed to save some planes from defense cuts and the RAF Sentinel R1 saga’s happy ending can be considered a confirmation of this.

However, some war mission during the 2011’s Operation Unified Protector led to some curious or rather embarrassing episodes, like the alleged air-to-air kill of Libyan combat planes that were grounded and unserviceable, or the very difficult to explain RAF Tornado’s Storm Shadow missions from the UK.

Anyway, it does not look like the French will be the only ones to operate in the region. According to the NYT, the U.S. is exploring the possibility to focus its satellites on the area.

And, obviously, send some drones….

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Renascent Libyan Air Force strikes smuggler camps near the border with Chad and Sudan

According to the Libyan Herald, on Dec. 18,  Libyan airforce jets hit a camp possibly used by suspected smugglers located close to the border with Chad and Sudan, not far from Kufra.

The strike took place two days after the National Congress had passed a resolution to declare the temporary closure of the borders with Niger, Chad, Sudan and Algeria would be temporarily closed to improve security in the southern Libya.

The remote south has become a Libyan government’s concern because of illegal traffic, smuggling and mass jail breakouts.

Even if the type of aircraft used to perform the air-to-surface activity in unknown, the Free Libyan Air Force (FLAF) planes most frequently appearing in updatesposted on open Facebook groups/pages are the Mig-21 and Mig-23 bombers.

Image credit: klna.libya

Noteworthy, a slightly different kind of FLAF roundel seems to have been applied to Libyan planes as the image posted above (taken on a FB page) shows.

Compare the roundel with the one in the photo below on the Mirage F1s returning home after defecting to Malta at the beginning of the uprising.

H/T to Marguerite Dehler for the heads-up

Image credit: Brendon Attard

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Illustrious-based Apache gunship helicopters in live fire exercise off Gibraltar

HMS Illustrious (“Lusty”) has just finished its part of Cougar 12 deployment to the Mediterranean that saw its Apache attack helicopters firing live Hellfire missiles on ranges off Gibraltar.

Two Apaches from 656 Squadron Army Air Corp launched from Lusty’s deck and successfully attacked some specially made targets which were made from aluminum sheeting that can be picked up by the AH-64’s fire control radar as well as the Hellfire itself.

The live fire exercise provided a good training opportunity for the Apache pilots and it also proved good practice for the ships specialist air engineer weapons supply team whose responsibility is to move the missile from the ships’s magazine to the deck, where armourers load the weapons onto the Apache.

Captain MartinConnell, Ilustrious Commanding Officer said: “Just as we successfully proved earlier this year, the latest Hellfire firings conducted from Illustrious have once again demonstrated the combination of Army Apache helicopters launched from the deck of Illustrious are a potent mix, capable of combat against targets on land and at sea anywhere in the world.”

Army Air Corp Apaches were used effectively during operations over Libya and proved to be the first time the type had entered combat whilst based at sea.

Having completed its part in Cougar 12 HMS Illutrious is due back in its home port of Portsmouth on Dec. 30, 2012.

Richard Clements for TheAviationist.com

Image credit: MoD/Crown Copyright

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Special Operations planes used to carry investigative teams to Benghazi as the U.S. prepares to strike. Maybe.

In the last weeks, an unsual, covert, constant activity of U.S. Special Operations planes has been recorded in the Mediterranean Sea. Quite regularly, taking off from Souda Bay, in Crete, various types of “Special Hercules”, including  MC-130Ps, MC-130Hs, HC-130P, and AC-130U gunships, performed day and night missions in the Libyan airspace whose purpose has yet to be fully unveiled.

In the days following the attack on Benghazi diplomatic mission that cost the life of Amb. Stevens, while American Global Hawk and Predator drones tried to pin point the insurgents who attacked the Benghazi consulate, several Special Operations and support planes deployed to the American bases in the area: a move that might be related to an imminent NEO (Non combatant Evacuation Operation) or strike against terrorist camps in North Africa.

The quick response to the emergency situation, that included the positioning of two Tomahawk equipped destroyers off the Libyan coasts, was aimed at ensuring the safe evacuation of the Americans in Libya, that eventually left the country using commercial/chartered planes.

Image credit: Richard Clements

Even if the evacuation was successfully completed without any military action, several of the prepositioned aircraft have remained in theater to carry FBI agents investigating the Sept. 11’s terrorist attack to Benghazi and back (providing security to the teams) and to keep gathering intelligence.

According to the an official who has talked to CNN Security Clearance blog, the Special Ops, drones, and warships deployed in the Mediterranean area “is just part of an undisclosed, multifaceted effort by the Pentagon to position assets off Libya to protect Americans until they could leave Libya, be in position to conduct a military strike if ordered by the president, and collect constant intelligence on possible perpetrators of the attack and the militia movements they may have belonged to.”

This means that security is still a concern in Libya (to such an extent Special Ops planes are used to fly into Benghazi) and that the Joint Special Ops Command is still compiling target packages for military options that could assume the form of Special Operations raids like the one that killed Osama bin Laden or joint missions with Libyan authorities.

Or, even more likely, drone strikes.

But the use of Obama’s weapon of choice could be seen as a violation of the Libyan sovereignty, as in Yemen or Pakistan, and cost a lot in the President’s re-election run.