Tag Archives: RAF

Airbus A400M Atlas Tactical Transport Completes Beach Landing Trials.

Interesting Exercise Demonstrates A400M Unimproved Takeoff/Landing Capabilities.

The new Royal Air Force Airbus A400M tactical transport, aircraft ZM414, recently conducted a fascinating tactical capability trial at the Pembrey Sands Air Weapons Range in South Wales, U.K.

The Airbus A400M demonstrated its capability to insert into and deploy from unimproved sand airstrips while loaded. This is a critical mission set for tactical transports, especially in support of special operations in forward areas in austere conditions.

While landing and take-off operations from unimproved airstrips have been previously proven with the A400M this test confirmed the aircraft’s capabilities with a heavy load. Close examination of the aircraft’s performance, especially on landing, suggest it was heavily laden during the Pembrey Sands tests.

The testing and verification flights were organized by the DE&S (Defense Equipment & Support) A400M Project Team, based at MOD Abbey Wood in Bristol, working with the Airbus A400M development team and the Royal Air Force.

In a statement released by the MoD (Ministry of Defense) local Wing Commander Simon Boyle told media that the “Indication is that the aircraft will perform very well in the tactical role and on unprepared runways. We’re starting to understand how good the aircraft could be in the tactical environment.”

The Pembrey Sands Air Weapons Range is a fascinating test and training range that is effectively an island separated from the mainland on the West and North by an estuary and Carmarthen Bay, then to the East by a shallow, marshy inlet. The southern border is virtually impenetrable thick forest of the Pembrey Country Park.

A RAF Airbus A400M Atlas conducts testing of unimproved forward airfield operations at Pembrey Sands Air Weapons Range in South Wales, U.K. (Crown Copyright)

Pembrey Sands is an active live weapons deployment range used by a wide variety of tactical combat aircraft from many countries. Hulks of derelict vehicles and even old Jaguar combat aircraft are strewn around the island for use as targets. It is a unique facility for training and testing of the RAF and other air arms.

Other tactical transports have conducted beach and grass landing exercises at Pembrey Sands prior to the A400M trials including C-130s and C-160 Transalls.

Mission sets that may include the capability to land on unimproved or dirt/sand airstrips could include the insertion of special operations light vehicles for strike and/or reconnaissance missions in denied areas and support of airborne assault operations. The ability to take-off from sand landing areas is especially important for the evacuation of casualties from forward areas. In general a team of pathfinder personnel is inserted into an unimproved, austere landing area to inspect and prepare the landing area and then to act as air and ground traffic controllers once aircraft begin to use the area.

Perhaps one of the most infamous examples of air forces using tactical transports in the special operations role from unimproved airstrips is the April 1980 U.S. Operation Eagle Claw, the failed attempt to rescue hostages in Iran. The mission ended in disaster. A U.S. heavy helicopter and C-130 transport collided in the dark on the ground while forward refueling resulting in a fire and the operation being abandoned. Testing and qualification of the A400M Atlas in sandy, unimproved conditions is a direct effort to avoid similar outcomes in the future.

A significant amount of preparation of the landing/takeoff area at Pembrey Sands was done before for the trials by the 23 Parachute Engineer Regiment, based at the neighboring Rock Barracks.

Despite some early concerns the A400M Atlas development program has gained momentum with several countries including the U.K. and Germany over the past year. This RAF exercise is an example of the program’s continued success.

Watch An A400M Atlas Tactical Airlifter Fly Through The Mach Loop Low Level Training Area

It’s always nice to see a large airlifter maneuver at low level.

Since they made their first appearance in the famous “Mach Loop” earlier this year, Royal Air Force A400M Atlas tactical airlifters are becoming a frequent sight in the valleys of the low level training area in Wales, UK.

Here’s a pass by one of the A400Ms from RAF Brize Norton on Apr. 10, 2017.

The RAF has received its first of 22 Atlas on Nov. 14, 2014 to replace the aging fleet of C-130 aircraft. The Atlas aircraft are assigned to the RAF 70 Sqn and the 24 Sqn, that is Air Mobility Operational Conversion Unit. The 206(R) Sqn, acting as the Heavy Aircraft Test and Evaluation Unit, based at MoD Boscombe Down but with a flight detachment at RAF Brize Norton flies the A400M on loan from other squadrons when required to undertake specific testing activities.

The A400M is capable of carrying a load of 25 tonnes over a range of 2,000NM at speeds comparable with pure-jet military transports. The aircraft is able to fly at high-level altitudes (up to 40,000ft) and at low-level (down to 150ft agl) and this the reason why the Atlas will often pay a visit to the Mach Loop.

Aircraft involved in special operations, reconnaissance, Search And Rescue, troops or humanitarian airdrops in troubled spots around the world may have to fly at low altitudes.

For this reason, in the age of stealth bombers, standoff weapons, drones, cyberwar, electronic warfare, etc. low-level high-speed flying is still important in both planes and helicopters’ combat pilot training.

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Italian Air Force T-346A and RAF Hawk T2 jet trainers conduct joint training at Decimomannu airbase

The Italian and British most advanced jets conducted some Air-to-Air sortie in 1vs1 and 2vs1 scenarios combined with rear seat exchange for a cross training and experience sharing during their firing campaigns in Italy.

On Mar. 31, the 212° Gruppo (Squadron) of the 61° Stormo (Wing) from Lecce Galatina airbase, has completed the first Air-to-Air and Air-to-Ground training campaign of the year at Decimomannu airbase in Sardinia.

The deployment lasted two weeks and involved six examples of the most advanced jet trainer in the world, the T-346A (as the M-346 is designated in Italy) “Master” operated by the ItAF as well as the Israeli, Polish and Republic of Singapore Air Force.

The pictures in this post, taken by Gian Luca Onnis (one of the most active aviation photographers in Sardinia), show the T-346As carrying two BRD 4-250 (Bomb and Rockets Training Dispenser) loaded with four Low-drag BDU-33D/B bombs for use in the ranges.

3-ship formation departs the range

The image at the top of the article shows the Master at the Apex of a PUP attack (is the top point of the Pull Up Attack).

The 212° Gruppo is responsible for Phase IV pilot jet training and this deployment represents the last part of the LIFT (Lead In Fighter Training) track, the most advanced and challenging segment of the fighter jock training during which trainees are called to perform air-to-air as well as air-to-ground sorties with multiple threats and complex set ups, to deliver state-of-the-art multirole training.

Every scenario can be used thanks to the advanced ETTS (Embedded Tactical Training Simulation) which simulates air-to-air and ground-to-air threats and moving targets, and it is also capable to generate synthetic targets overlapped with real features on the ground allowing a realist Targeting Pod usage.

Drop of a practice bomb

The 212° Gruppo is also involved in the Aggressor role, taking part in the TLP (Tactical Leadership Programme) at Albacete, Spain, with a state-of-the-art trainer and its accompanying simulation system to deliver the perfect “Bandit”: fast, maneuverable and very well equipped.

The Aggressor also dubbed “Red Baron” is part of the TLP’s “Game plan” and together with the Red Forces is also one of the most important “training tool” in the exercise.

In my experience as Instructor Pilot of 212° Gruppo in charge of advanced tactics and combat of the LIFT course, I have taken part in TLP exercise as part of Red Forces. The Aggressor role isn’t easy: pilots need to use all their experience to adhere as much as possible to the requested threat profile in order to make the scenario as realistic as possible and be useful to the Blue Forces training. Many time people think to the Aggressor as a fighter pilot tasked to engage all aircraft and shot them down; in reality, with new scenarios, sometimes border line and not well-defined, the Aggressor’s task is to “incite or harass” the Blue Forces in the right place, in the right moment, with the correct “numbers” (speed, Aspect Angle – AA – etc). In order to do that, the Aggressor is requested to know in-depth the Blue plan, how and where the “package” is flying second by second.

Among all the missions that I’ve flown I’ve had the possibility to face several different scenarios: for instance, one of my task has been to “POP UP”, undetected, just before the attack to disrupt the strike package’s plans and force the attackers to look after me.

Hawk formation take-off

Decimomannu AWTI (Air Weapons Training Installation) provides a full integrated training installation with air-to-air and air-to-ground as well as an EW (Electronic Warfare) range. For this reason, is one of the best places for trainees who need to gain experience at planning and executing missions tactically.

As the Italians carried out their missions with the T-346s, the Royal Air Force’s No. 4 (Reserve) Sqn from RAF Valley was also deployed to Decimomannu for the first time.

Part of the 4 Flying Training School (4 FTS) also known as the fast-jet ATTU (Advanced Training and Tactics Unit), No. 4 (R) Sqn is responsible for tactical weapons training, a role carried out with the Hawk T2.

Whilst advanced flying training is assigned to the 208 (Reserve) Sqn, flying the Hawk T1, RAF students assigned to the 4(R) Sqn will learn how to use the Hawk as a weapons platform, flying in tactical formations at low level to attack targets. Students will basically learn how to drop bombs, strafe targets and the basics of air-to-air combat. Indeed, the Sardinian deployment was part of the A/A training.

The 4(R) Squadron chose Decimomannu for the deployment mainly for the presence of the ACMI (Air Combat Maneuvering Instrumentation) range availability and the permissive weather conditions allowing simulation of “full war” scenarios.

The ItAF and RAF training squadrons also conducted some joint training sessions: air-to-air sorties in 1vs1 and 2vs1 scenarios combined with rear seat exchange for a cross training and experience sharing. The cross-training was absolutely exciting and an important opportunity to share different aircraft performance. According to the Italian pilots, their British colleagues were extremely impressed by the T-346A’s superior thrust and agility during the fight.

RAF Hawk T2 on the ground at “Deci”

All images: Gian Luca Onnis

Video shows British Typhoon combat plane performing a tailhook landing at RAF Coningsby following an emergency

Tailhook landings by land-based aircraft are used in emergency situations to arrest planes experiencing failures that could imply a braking or steering malfunction. Like the one shown in the video.

The following clip shows something quite unusual: a RAF Typhoon jet belonging to the 29 Sqn making an emergency landing and using the tailhook system to come to a very quick halt on Mar. 9, 2017.

According to Airshowvision, the popular channel that posted the interesting footage to Youtube, the procedure was required by a nosewheel problem: “A chap with a scanner informed me a few mins before this that a pilot 10 miles out had reported a “nosewheel issue” and requested an emergency landing with the arrester mechanism.”

The Author adds an interesting comment to the video description, speculating a bit as to which could have been the root cause of the issue: “Just a theory here but a Typhoon took off a few mins before that in a performance take-off which could have been this one, and it is possible that he over stressed the landing gear by not retracting the wheels quickly enough. Also could have just been a random fault?”

Land-based military airfields operating combat jets use arresting gear systems to slow the aircraft down in case of emergency: such systems feature arresting cables spanning the width of the runway. Cables are typically 1 to 1.25 inches (2.5 to 3.2 centimeters) in diameter and suspended 1.5 to 3 inches (3.8 to 7.6 centimeters) above the pavement surface by rubber donuts 6 inches (15.2 centimeters) in diameter. Overrun arresting gear consisting of hook cables and/or elastic nets known as barriers (or Safeland) are used as a backup system: they are raised by pilot’s request if needed to catch the planes before they reach the overrun area.

Temporary or deployment airbases may use expeditionary systems similar to the permanent ones; unlike the fixed systems these can be installed and removed in a matter of a few hours.

H/T Giulio Cristante for the heads-up

 

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Here are the shots of the two Russian Tu-160 bombers intercepted by RAF Typhoon near UK

Some glorious photos of two nuclear-capable Blackjacks flying off Scotland.

Russian Air Force Tu-160 Blackjack bombers are continuing flying long-range missions (for training or operative purposes) along the Atlantic route becoming more frequent visitors of airspaces near NATO countries in northern Europe than they were in the recent past.

Two such nuclear-capable bombers, flying in international airspace, were intercepted and escorted by RAF Typhoons  in QRA (Quick Reaction Alert) during a long-range sortie on Sept. 22.

Two RAF Typhoons at RAF Lossiemouth (callsign Y5R11 and Y5R12) were launched to intercept and escort the Blackjacks as they “skirted” the British Isles heading southwest. The interceptors were supported by a Voyager tanker launched from RAF Brize Norton and E-3D AWACS from RAF Waddington. The “Lossie” Typhoons handed over the two “zombies” to the southern QRA from RAF Coningsby.

It’s not clear where the Tu-160s flew after they flew close to the British Isles but they were probably taken on charge by other interceptors scrambled from nearby NATO countries.

tu-160-intercepted-2

On Nov. 19 and 20, 2015, two Tu-160 Blackjack strategic bombers from Olenegorsk airbase skirted the airspaces of Norway and the UK (being escorted by several fighter aircraft along the route) flew over the Atlantic until Gibraltair, entered the Mediterranean sea, attacked targets in Syria with cruise missiles, and returned to Russia flying along the eastern corridor (over Iraq, Iran, Caspian Sea).

Image credit: Crown Copyright

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