Tag Archives: RAF

The Royal Air Force completes F-35B Tanker Trials a Week Early

….and here are some stunning air-to-air shots!

During a seven week detachment to Naval Air Station Patuxent River, a Royal Air Force (RAF) A330 Voyager tanker conducted 18 air-to-air refueling (AAR) test trials with an F-35B Lightning II Short Takeoff and Vertical Landing (STOVL) aircraft from the F-35 Pax River Integrated Test Force (ITF).

According to the ITF, the testing campaign carried out by joint RAF – Pax River ITF test team was completed one week early, demonstrating the team’s efficiency by accomplishing its test plan in 18 flights rather than the scheduled 20 flights.

The trials included day, twilight, and evening plugs between the F-35’s IFR (In-Flight Refueling) probe and the tanker’s hose (indeed RAF’s A330 Voyager tankers are only equipped with the U.S. Navy’s standard “hose and drogue” system).

The test trials generated data for the assessment of the wing pods and the fuselage refueling unit in anticipation of a flight clearance that will support the U.K.’s F-35B Lightning II Initial Operating Capability (IOC) in 2018.

BF-04 Flt 363. RAF Voyager (KC-30) air refueling testing on 26 April 2016 piloted by RAF Squadron Leader Andy Edgell.

BF-04 Flt 363. RAF Voyager (KC-30) air refueling testing on 26 April 2016 piloted by RAF Squadron Leader Andy Edgell.

The U.K. has 19 RAF and Royal Navy personnel embedded within the F-35 Pax River ITF. Many of these British military participate in the shipboard developmental test (DT) phases for both the F-35B and F-35C.

BF-04 Flt 364 piloted by Mr. Billie Flynn tanks off an RAF KC-30 (Voyager) tanker on 2 May 2016 from NAS Patuxent River, MD

BF-04 Flt 364 piloted by Mr. Billie Flynn tanks off an RAF KC-30 (Voyager) tanker on 2 May 2016 from NAS Patuxent River, MD

U.K. personnel supported the first two phases of F-35B testing aboard USS Wasp (LHD 1) and the first two phases of F-35C testing aboard USS Nimitz (CVN 68) and USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69), respectively. They are set to embark on the third and final phases of testing at sea for the two F-35 variants, ahead of the U.K.’s own F-35B Ship Integration trials scheduled to take place aboard UK’s new Queen Elizabeth aircraft carrier in 2018.

BF-04 Flt 366. KC-30 Voyager AR Tanker Testing on 09 May 2016 with LCDR Ted Dyckman as the pilot.

BF-04 Flt 366. KC-30 Voyager AR Tanker Testing on 09 May 2016 with LCDR Ted Dyckman as the pilot.

HMS Queen Elizabeth will use a ski-jump ramp to help the launching plane take off with an upward flight path and a BAE Systems Test Pilot launched the F-35B from a land-based ski-jump for the very first time at Pax River in June last year.

BF-04 Flt 371 piloted by Lt Col Tom "Sally" Fields performs aerial refueling tests with a KC-30 Voyager tanker on 16 May 2016 from NAS Patuxent River, MD

BF-04 Flt 371 piloted by Lt Col Tom “Sally” Fields performs aerial refueling tests with a KC-30 Voyager tanker on 16 May 2016 from NAS Patuxent River, MD

Special thanks to Sylvia Pierson, F-35 Lightning II Naval Variants Public Affairs Officer (PAO). Photo Credits Lockheed Martin.

The brand new RAF Rivet Joint aircraft “fried” Daesh communications with massive jamming attack in Libya

A British Special Operation led by a “brand new” RC-135 Rivet Joint aircraft of the Royal Air Force has shut down ISIS comms in Libya recently.

UK special forces have recently carried out “black ops” attacks against Daesh stronghold of Sirte, on the Mediterranean coast, using Electronic Warfare to shut down ISIS communication network in Libya.

The “highly sophisticated” jamming strikes were led by a RAF RC-135W “Airseeker,” one of the three ex-USAF KC-135 tanker converted starting back in 2011 by L-3IS in Greenville, Texas, at a cost of around 650 million GBP (950M USD).

Indeed, the operators aboard the British Rivet Joint first tuned into the militants preferred frequencies and then used the high-powered transmitters to broadcast interference on the same wavelengths, drowning out the enemy’s conversations on the battlefield, according to a source who talked to the Daily Mail.

Whilst the RC-135 jammed the Daesh frequencies from off the Libyan coasts, aboard HMS Enterprise, a GCHQ (Government Communications Headquarters which is the centre for UK’s Signal Intelligence – SIGINT – activities) cyber-warfare team gauged the response to last week’s jamming strike by monitoring exchanges online between IS leaders – who are believed to be in command of up to 6,000 jihadists in Libya.

The defense source told the Daily Mail that the IS fighters “were very angry and couldn’t understand what had gone wrong. We jammed the frequencies for 40 minutes – long enough to prove the capability, but not so long that IS realized what was happening.”

The RC-135W is an intelligence gathering plane that usually monitors communications: the aircraft is equipped with all sorts of antennae and sensors, to eavesdrop enemy signals, transmissions, detect frequencies used by radio and radars and pinpoint sites of interest, mobile stations, SAM batteries, etc.

But, according to the source it also features active EW capabilities and the aircrews “occasionally use jamming strikes to spread confusion among their ranks at vital times.”

ZZ664_RC-135W_RAF_Mildenhall_2016_1

The United Kingdom are the only Rivet Joint operator in the world outside the United States.

The first of three Boeing KC-135R Stratotankers (64-14833) scheduled to be converted to RC-135W configuration for the Royal Air Force arrived at prime contractor L-3 Communications’ facility at Majors Field, Greenville, Texas in December 2010.

British pilots, navigators, electronic warfare officers, intelligence operators and airborne maintenance technicians from No. 51 Squadron all began training at Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska, in January 2011 undertaking around 2000 sorties and around 35,000 flying hours.

In March 2011 the remaining two Nimrod R.1s that provided electronic intelligence with No.51 Squadron at RAF Waddington were retired from service leaving a three-year gap of having nothing in the UK’s ISR mission until the UK received their first RC-135W ZZ664 in December 2013. ZZ664 was deployed to the middle East in April 2015 and it was expected it would be deployed for around 6 months.

The Second RC-135W Airseeker ZZ665 (ex-USAF/64-14838) was delivered direct from L-3 Communications’ facility in Texas to RAF Mildenhall as ‘SAME 40’ on September 13th 2015. Both RC-135Ws would normally be based at RAF Waddington, Lincolnshire but due to continued runway work there the unit is currently flying from RAF Mildenhall when not deployed on operations.

The third and final RC-135W Airseeker (ZZ666) is currently being converted from KC-135R (64-14840) to RC-135W configuration and is due to be delivered to the RAF by 2018.”

The images in this post were taken by photographer Ashley Wallace. They depict RC-135W ZZ664 from No.51 Squadron taxiing to runway 29 at RAF Mildenhall for departure using the callsign ‘DRAGNET 41” on a training mission on Feb. 19, 2016, wearing special tail markings to celebrate the 100th anniversary of No. 51 Squadron.

ZZ664_RC-135W_RAF_Mildenhall_2016

All images by Ashley Wallace (who has also contributed to this post)

Update: we investigated the Rivet Joint (RJ) jamming capability claimed by the English tabloid’s source with the help of Robert Hopkins, III, a former RC-135 aircraft commander who flew the S, U, V, W, and X models in the 1980s and 1990s, and author of a book on the type.

Here’s his answer:

“After speaking with several of my contacts in the RC community, I think you may wish to consider the story of the Airseeker as a jammer to be, as the TV show Mythbusters says: BUSTED.

Jamming requires massive amounts of power and power requires massive amounts space and weight, which is just not available on the RJ. Buzzing the spectrum hinders simultaneous collection, even on adjacent frequencies, so it doesn’t make sense for both the target and the buzzer to be blind during the process. Part of the reason the RCs have operated with minimal fuss in airspace adjacent to Russia and China is that they are only receiving, not broadcasting. Remember the canard they were equipped with SLAR in the cheeks? Yeah, never happened but every magazine reported it as such for years—was the ASD-1 and later AEELS. If the RJ had a jamming feature the Russians and Chinese would be all over that and they would go public and ugly early.
My best guess, in the absence of the MoD official owning up, is that the Airseeker located the desired frequencies and some other source (air, ground, no matter) did the jamming while the Airseeker listened to the chaos.”

Salva

Cool video shows five RAF special painted Tornados flying together

Tonka Special Tails.

This video shows a historic event: a unique formation of four special colored Tornado GR4s from RAF Marham alongside a fifth machine from RAF Lossiemouth, flew in the skies over Great Britain, last week.

Four aircraft were adorned with a special centenary painted tail fin commemorating the 100th anniversary of each individual squadron with the fifth jet’s tail fin celebrating 40 years of the Tornado.

Established at St. Omer on Dec. 8, 1914 Number IX (B) Squadron has been the first unit to pass the 100-year mark. Being one of the pioneers of the night flying, hence their motto “Through the Night We Fly,” the unit’s special painted Tonka sported the famous green bat, which represented the night camo colour, on the tail fin.

The second Tornado was from Number 12 (B) Squadron that celebrated their centenary on Valentine’s Day this year. Made up at Netheravon on Feb. 14, 1915 the unit contributed in developing daylight bombing tactics (their motto “Lead the Field” reflects this expertise) and the fin of their jet was painted with the emblem of the fox, received from Fairey Fox aircraft that the squadron flew in 1926.

The third jet was from 31 Squadron, whose anniversary will be celebrated  on Oct. 11, 2015. Known as the Goldstars, their Tonka’s tail fin was painted with the Gold Star of India, in recognition of them being the first operational military unit in Indian skies supporting the army in dealing with tribal unrest, hence their motto “First in Indian Skies.”

The fourth Tornado from Marham was the one wearing the 40th Anniversary tail fin, commissioned in 2014 to mark 40 years of the European bomber.

The four Tonkas joined with a fifth special color from  XV Squadron, the Tornado operational conversion unit based at RAF Lossiemouth. XV Squadron was born in Farnborough on Mar. 1, 1915 and their tail fin features the Hind’s Head from their squadron emblem. The original emblem of a Hart’s head was changed to the Hind’s head in 1927 to represent the aircraft that was in service at that time.

RAF Tornados are actually taking part to Operation Shader against ISIS flying from Akrotiri airbase in Cyprus.

Image credit: RAF/Crown Copyright

 

Air-to-Air image of RAF Typhoon Display Jet’s first flight with newly painted tail

The newly painted tail of the RAF Typhoon Display jet, from 29 Reserve (R) Squadron (Sqn) flew for the first time and accompanied by a Typhoon in the original design.

Royal Air Force (RAF) Coningsby in Lincolnshire is the homebase of 29(R) Sqn, whose role is to train new pilots destinated to the Typhoon.

Also belonging to the Sqn is Eurofighter Typhoon Display Team and Flight Lieutenant (Flt Lt) Noel Rees, 2014 display pilot. This year the aircraft sports a special tail designed by Adam Johnson of Adam Johnson Concepts and painted by Serco contractors based at RAF Coningsby.

The special tail was completed in four days and contains the squadrons eblem, the buzzard and its famous XXX.

Image credit: Crown Copyright

 

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More airpower to surround Iran: UK ready to deploy Typhoons to the Persian Gulf

Several news agencies are reporting that the British Ministry of Defense is considering deploying Eurofighter Typhoons to Al Dhafra airbase, in the United Arab Emirates, on a long term basis.

The British Newspaper The Independent ran an article quoting MOD sources as saying that the aircraft not only are to deploy to the region, but could be part funded by the UAE themselves.

The French Air Force already have a presence at the base and that presence is funded by the UAE and is also home to the 380th Air Expeditionary Wing of the U.S. Air Force with jets (including the stealthy F-22 Raptor) and Patriot missile batteries.

The Typhoons could be used to protect the Strait of Hormuz, should the Iranians decide to blockade the strategically important bottle neck for 40% of the worlds oil, should they come under attack.

However the official line from the Ministry of Defense in London came in the form of a press release which said: “The UK regularly deploys Typhoon to UAE as part of our routine exercise programme and to demonstrate our military commitment to UAE and the security of the wider region. We have a mutual interest with our GCC [Gulf] partners in ensuring peace and stability in the region, and exercises such as this allow us to practice working together.”

The MoD added: “These deployments are not due to our concerns over Iran’s nuclear programme. As we continue to make clear, the Government does not believe military action against Iran is the right course of action at this time, although no option is off the table.”

Image credit: Nicola Ruffino

Although its clear the decision hasn’t been made, in public at least, it does look with the funding possibly sorted that this will come about.

It may just be a case of timing the announcement, as it happens British Prime Minsiter David Cameron is currently in Dubai trying to drum up trade for British defense contractors and Eurofighter; it could be announced whilst Cameron is in the area and be a bit of a deal sweetener for sales of Eurofighter jets to UAE.

Richard Clements for TheAviationist.com