Tag Archives: RAF Mildenhall

U.S. WC-135 nuclear sniffer airplane has left the UK heading towards Norway and the Barents Sea

The WC-135 Constant Phoenix has launched from RAF Mildenhall earlier today for a mission towards northern Europe and the Barents Sea. Interestingly, an RC-135W spyplane has launched from the same base on the same route. What’s their mission?

As you probably already know, on Feb. 17, 2017, U.S. Air Force WC-135C Constant Phoenix Nuclear explosion “sniffer,” serial number 62-3582, deployed to RAF Mildenhall, UK, using radio callsign “Cobra 55.”

Whereas it was not the first time the Constant Phoenix visited the British airbase, the deployment to the UK amidst growing concern about an alleged spike in iodine levels recorded in northern Europe fueled speculations that the WC-135 might be tasked with investigating the reason behind the released Iodine-131.

In fact, along with monitoring nuclear weapons testing, the WC-135 can be used to track radioactive activity, as happened after the Chernobyl nuclear plant disaster in the Soviet Union in 1986 and Fukushima incident back in 2011, by collecting particles and chemical substances in the atmosphere, days, weeks, or sometimes even month after they were dispersed.

Whilst the reason of the deployment has yet to be confirmed (actually, there are still contradictory reports about the spike in Iodine-131) the WC-135 has departed for its first mission since it arrived at Mildenhall: on Feb. 22, at around 11.50LT, the nuclear “sniffer” aircraft has departed for a mission towards Norway and the Barents Sea.

The WC-135C (radio callsign “Flory 58”) was supported by two KC-135 tankers (“Quid 524” and “525”)suggesting it had just started a very long mission and somehow accompanied, along the same route, by an RC-135W (“Pulpy 81”) and another Stratotanker (“Quid 513”).

It’s hard to guess the type of mission this quite unusual “package” has embarked on: investigating the alleged iodine spike? Collecting intelligence on some Russian nuclear activity? Something else?

Hard to say.

For sure, once the aircraft reached Aberdeen, eastern Scotland, they turned off their transponder becoming invisible to the flight tracking websites such as Flightradar24.com or Global.adsbexchange.com that use ADS-B, Mode S and MLAT technologies to monitor flights: a sign they were going operational and didn’t want to be tracked online.

H/T to @CivMilAir for the heads up and details

 

U.S. Air Force deploys WC-135 nuclear sniffer aircraft to UK as spike of radioactive Iodine levels is detected in Europe

The USAF WC-135C Constant Phoenix might be investigating a spike in radioactive levels in Norway. Someone speculates the release of this radionuclide could be the effect of a Russian nuclear test.

On Feb. 17, 2017, U.S. Air Force WC-135C Constant Phoenix Nuclear explosion “sniffer,” serial number 62-3582, using radio callsign “Cobra 55” deployed to RAF Mildenhall, UK.

As we have already reported the WC-135 is a derivative of the Boeing C-135 transport and support plane. Two of these aircraft are in service today out of the ten examples operated since 1963. The aircraft are flown by flight crews from the 45th Reconnaissance Squadron from Offutt Air Force Base while mission crews are staffed by Detachment 1 from the Air Force Technical Applications Center.

The WC-135, known as the “sniffer” or “weather bird” by its crews, can carry up to 33 personnel. However, crew compliments are kept to a minimum during mission flights in order to lessen levels of radioactive exposure.

Effluent gasses are gathered by two scoops on the sides of the fuselage, which in turn trap fallout particles on filters. The mission crews have the ability to analyze the fallout residue in real-time, helping to confirm the presence of nuclear fallout and possibly determine the characteristics of the warhead involved.

Along with monitoring nuke testing, the WC-135 is used to track radioactive activity as happened after the Chernobyl nuclear plant disaster in the Soviet Union in 1986 and Fukushima incident back in 2011.

One of these aircraft was deployed near North Korea in anticipation of Kim Jong Un rocket launches then was spotted transiting the UK airspace in August 2013 raising speculations it was used in Syria thanks to the ability to detect chemical substances down wind from the attack area days, or weeks after they were dispersed.

Although they cross the European airspace every now and then, their deployment in the Old Continent is somehow rare. As of yet, there has been no official statement from the U.S. military about the reasons why such nuclear research aircraft was deployed there. However, many sources suggest the aircraft was tasked with investigating the spike in Iodine levels detected in northern Europe since the beginning of January.

Iodine-131 (131I), a radionuclide of anthropogenic origin, has recently been detected in tiny amounts in the ground-level atmosphere in Europe. The preliminary report states it was first found during week 2 of January 2017 in northern Norway. Iodine-131 was also detected in Finland, Poland, Czech Republic, Germany, France and Spain, until the end of January.

However, no one seems to know the reason behind the released Iodine-131. Along with nuclear power plants, the isotope is also widely used in medicine and its presence in the air could be the effect of several different incidents.

Or, as someone speculates, it could have been the side effect of a test of a new nuclear warhead in Russia: an unlikely (considered the ability to detect nuke tests through satellites and seismic detectors) violation of Nuclear Test Ban Treaty.

Maybe the WC-135 will help authorities find out the origin of the Iodine-131.

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Watch some superb footage of the MC-130J of the 67th Special Operations Squadron at work

A clip with stunning footage showing U.S. Air Force MC-130J Commando II Special Operations performing aerial refueling of SOF helicopter/tilt rotor aircraft, infiltration, exfiltration and resupply of SOF by airdrop and land.

Based at RAF Mildenhall, UK, the 67th Special Operations Squadron’s primary roles are HAAR (Helicopter Air-to-Air Refueling) of SOF helicopter/tilt rotor aircraft, infiltration, exfiltration and resupply of SOF by airdrop and land.

The unit flies the MC-130J Commando II, mainly at low-altitude and at night, conducting clandestine missions with reduced probability of visual acquisition and intercept by airborne threats; the following video sumarizes all the activities carried out by the “Night Owls” during single and multi-ship sorties across Europe.

From various points of view, you can see the MC-130J airdropping a Rigid Inflatable Boat (RIB) Maritime Craft Aerial Delivery System; Special Forces parachuting from the aircraft following the load; HAAR with MV-22s and MH-60s; low-level flying in the famous Mach Loop; desert landings; and also the formation flying of the Commando II with the French Air Force Airbus Helicopters H225M Caracals during a flypast over Paris.

Enjoy!

H/T to our friend Ashley Wallace for posting this cool video on his FB timeline!

 

Three Kazakhstan Air Force aircraft visit RAF Mildenhall

Some rather exotic visitors.

Three interesting aircraft arrived at RAF Mildenhall airbase, UK, on the afternoon of Jul. 13.

Two C-295M and one An-72 cargo aircraft, flying from Kazakhstan via Poland brought to the UK a detachment from the Kazakhstan Army for participation in a joint exercise with the British Military held in the Stanta Battle Area, of Thetford Forest.

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Photographer Tony Lovelock took the photographs in this post of the An-72 arriving on the 13th and of the two Casa C-295s departing on Jul. 14th for the return flight to Kazakhstan.

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Image credit: Tony Lovelock

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Awesome Air-to-Air Shots of Air Refueling Operations During Anakonda-16 Exercise in Poland

U.S. tankers refuel Polish F-16s.

Anakonda-16 and Baltops-16 exercises are currently underway in Poland, involving numerous air assets.

Several combat planes operating within a realistic modern air combat scenario over the Polish territory must be supported by AAR (Air-to-Air Refueling) operations.

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During the last week, Filip Modrzejewski visited the Powidz Air Base, near Gniezno, where 4 U.S. Air Force KC-135 tankers from the 434th Air Refueling Wing and 100th Air Refueling Wing are stationed.

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Cooperation between Foto Poork and USAF made it possible for Filip to obtain the unique shots, including photographs that depict the thirsty Polish Air Force F-16 jets getting refueled during the training operations.

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The task is not easy, since the photographer needs to take a laying position, in limited space and very limited visibility.

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The Polish F-16 jets are being refueled from both the 100th ARW and the 434th ARW tankers, while the presented shots have been taken from the tanker belonging to 100th ARW, operating from RAF Mildenhall.

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Besides the AAR operation, Anakonda-16 exercise also featured massive airdrop, near the Torun military training range. The airborne units were tasked with taking over a bridge. The operation is still in progress and we may see more unique material coming up in the next few days.

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Image Credit: Filip Modrzejewski/Foto Poork

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