Tag Archives: RNoAF

Lockheed Martin unveils first Royal Norwegian Air Force F-35A

Lockheed Martin rolled out the first F-35A for Norway at its JSF production facility in Fort Worth, Texas.

On Sept. 22, Lockheed Martin rolled out the first Norwegian F-35.

The aircraft, designated AM-1, represents an important production milestone for both the F-35 program and the Norwegian Armed Forces, where 52 Lightning IIs are expected to replace the Royal Norwegian Air Force ageing F-16s, bringing the country national defense into a new era.

Norwegian Minister of Defense, Her Excellency Ine Eriksen Søreide, who was the guest of honor at the event, remarked the importance of the Lightning II for the future of Norwegian Armed Forces. She pointed out in fact that, being a 5th generation aircraft, the F-35 is the only platform able to give Norway the capabilities to face future surface and airborne threats.

Furthermore, the partnership to the F-35 program will also provide the country with high technology work, ensuring the future health, competitiveness and viability of the defense industry in Norway.

AM-1 will be joined soon by Norway’s second jet, known as AM-2, which is scheduled to be delivered to the Royal Norwegian Air Force later this year.

The two F-35s will be based at Luke Air Force Base, Arizona, where they will be used for Norwegian and partner country pilot training.

Few weeks ago, another European partner, Italy, achieved a major milestone when the first F-35A destined to the Italian Air Force made its first flight.

F-35 RNoAF roll out front

Image credit: LM, RNoAF

Video allegedly shows Norwegian F-16 almost collide with Russian Mig-31 during Su-34 intercept mission

The Royal Norwegian Air Force has released an HUD (Head Up Display) video that would show Russian aggressive flying.

The RNoAF has released HUD (Head Up Display) footage, filmed by an F-16 of the 331 Sqn, based at Bodo, during the escort of a Russian Su-34 Fullback long-range strike planes on armed patrol off Finmark on Oct. 29.

This was the first time the Su-34s were observed and identified while flying in international airspace off Norway.

Although the video does not show it very clearly, according to Norway’s military as the F-16 was getting closer to the Su-34’s left wing, a Mig-31 that was escorting the Foxhound initiated a sudden maneuver, forcing the Norwegian interceptor to perform an evasive left turn to avoid a mid-air collision.

As said, the footage does not show the close call: all we can see is the F-16 roll to the left while approaching the Mig-31 (that appears to be flying more or less straight when it enters the HUD field of view). Nevertheless, Nowegian authorities said the video prove how dangerous and aggressive Russian pilots are during such close encounters that have become quite frequent in the Nordic region of Europe.

Photographs taken by RNoAF F-16s on QRA (Quick Reaction Alert) at Bodo airbase were released last month: they depict a Su-34 Russian aircraft carrying what looks like a single external fuel tank and two Vympel R-73 air-to-air missiles, shadowed by another F-16 carrying two drop tanks and two AIM-120 AMRAAM (Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missiles).

H/T Lars Westholm for the heads-up

 

Norwegian F-16s took some stunning pictures of Russian Su-34 fighter bombers flying off Norway

At the end of October Royal Norwegian Air Force F-16s intercepted Russian Air Force Su-34 Fullback long-range strike fighters off the northeastern coast of Norway.

On Oct. 29, the Royal Norwegian Air Force had an interesting close encounter with Russian Su-34 Fullback jets on long-range armed patrol off Norway.

According to the Norwegian newspaper VG, that got access to the images taken by the RoNAF during the intercept mission off Finmark, this was the first time the Su-34s were observed and identified while flying in international airspace off Norway.

The photographs released by the RNoAF was taken by one of the F-16s in QRA (Quick Reaction Alert) at Bodo airbase and depict a Su-34 Russian aircraft carrying what looks like a single external fuel tank and two Vympel R-73 air-to-air missiles, shadowed by another F-16 carrying two drop tanks and two AIM-120 AMRAAM (Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missiles).

According to Norway’s Joint Chief of Staff spokesperson, although the Russian air traffic in the Nordic region of Europe has been relatively stable for several years, the Russian planes are becoming newer and more advanced.

Indeed, even if it made its maiden flight in 1990, the Su-34 has been inducted into active service by the Russian Air Force beginning in 2012.

Noteworthy, the Su-34s were part of a large formation of 10 Russian planes which included Tu-95 Bear H bombers and Il-78 tanker aircraft launched from the Kola Peninsula: two Tu-95s skirted the British Isles and reached the Atlantic off Portugal, where they were intercepted by the Portuguese F-16s.

F-16 escorts Su-34

Image credit: RNoAF via VG.no

H/T Lasse Holmstrom and @geirfl for the heads-up

 

Operation Unified Protector (was Odyssey Dawn) explained (Day 105 – 137)

Previous debriefings: Archive

Latest update: on Aug. 3, at 10.40LT, a missile exploded 2 km from the Italian frigate Bersagliere, that was patrolling the sea some 15 miles off Libya. According to the Italian MoD, it could be either a missile launched from the coast towards the ship or, more likely, a ballistic fired SAM missile that fell into the sea after missing any target. In both cases, the episode shows that Gaddafi forces still have weaponry to threaten NATO units.

More than one month has passed since my last Debrief on Unified Protector. I’ve already posted a couple of Libya-related articles since then, but here’s a quick recap of the most interesting things.

On Jul. 28, Abdel Fattah Younes, the rebel military chief who had defected from Gaddafi’s inner circle to the opposition, joining the “revolution” on Feb. 22, was shot dead in mysterious circumstances.

Rebel sources said that Younes had been recalled from the front line and placed under arrest to face questioning in Benghazi on suspicious that his family had contacts with the regime (even if there were also rumors that he was suspected of having held secret talks with Gaddafi’s government).  However, he never made it to the meeting and his body and those of two of his officers were found on the outskirts of Benghazi: they had been shot and their bodies burnt.

Younes, who had been a close associate of Gaddafi for more than 40 years after playing an active role in the 1969 coup that brought the raìs to the power, had clearly emerged as the rebel military chief, in spite of his close links to Gaddafi, in April, when he had also criticized NATO for being too slow against loyal forces and for attacking a rebel tank column near the eastern town of Brega where five people died and 14 were wounded.

Although, what really happened is still not clear, rebels have said that Gen. Younes was shot dead by militiamen allied in their war, raising questions about divisions and lawlessness within anti-Gaddafi ranks.

On the battlefield, fighting is still taking place close to the coastal town of Zlintan, in the Western Mountains, where rebels seized the town of Ghazaia . In the east, rebel forces fought loyalist in clashes against gunmen loyal to Gaddafi and agents who have infiltrated the rebel-held area.

Misratah is now enjoying relative security even if NATO has reported occasional shelling by pro-Gaddafi forces operating out of Tawurga, which is south of the town.

The shelling has focused on the port facilities and the airport, as well as the LISCO fuel storage facility.

The following Reuters map gives an idea of the fighting around Tripoli.

In the meanwhile, NATO air campaign continues with improving concerns of partner sides, some of which have already reduced, if not withdrawn, their contingents. For instance, the Charles De Gaulle and Garibaldi aircraft carriers returned home and, on Aug. 1, the RNoAF has in fact completed its mission. The problem is the sustainibility of an air campaign whose length is still unclear.

On Aug. 2 Press Briefing, Carmen Romero (NATO Deputy Spokesperson) said:

But we have always said that a military solution is not enough in Libya: there has to be a political solution to the crisis. Our military pressure is helping to set the conditions for a political solution. Meanwhile, the Qadhafi regime is increasingly isolated. The question is not if Qadhafi will have to step down, but when.

Since the beginning of the NATO operation (Mar. 31, 2011, 06.00GMT) a total of 17,443 sorties, including
6,590 strike sorties, have been conducted.

In the last few days, the air strike on three critical satellite dishes of the Libyan State TV made the news. According to NATO, the attack was aimed at reducing the regime’s ability to broadcast messages inciting attack on civilians. However, the Libyan State TV continued to broadcast and condemned the air strike saying that it caused three employees were killed and 15 were wounded.

Not only the Libyan TV has been attacked, but also the Tripoli airport’s radar that was used by Gaddafi forces to get early warning of allied air strikes.

We have entered the period of Ramadan and NATO has declared it will continue its air strike, as Colonel Roland Lavoie Operation, ‘’Unified Protector’’ military spokesperson, said.

NATO and partnering nations have a profound and sincere respect for Muslims and their faith. As we enter the holy month of Ramadan we are all reminded that we share a common respect for human life.

There’s never a wrong time to protect human life.

Other interesting information, things and thoughts:

1) As said, since Aug. 1, Norway has withdrawn its F-16s from Unified Protector. The decision has nothing to do with the Oslo and Utøya attacks, as it was taken on Jun. 10. RNoAF flew 596 missions with 6 F-16s deployed to Souda Bay.

2) Since Jul. 10, French Rafales were moved from Solenzara to Sigonella. Official explaination is that they are nearer to Libya, hence they can reduce transit time to the operative area. According to speculation the move was made to operate the French fighters next to the UAE contingent (flying from Sigonella with the F-16 and Mirage 2000), since UAE could be interested in the Rafale. Mirage 2000s deployed to Souda Bay returned home since they are no longer needed to enforce the NFZ (due to the lack of air threats).

3) The RAF has deployed 4 more Tornado GR4s to Gioia del Colle, bringing the total to 22 aiplanes: 16 Tornado GR4s and 6 Typhoons. The four additional “Tonkas” are mainly used for reconnaissance purposes using the Goodrich Raptor pod.

According to Air Vice Marshal Greg Bagwell, who spoke at the RIAT at RAF Fairford in mid July, the RAF contingent has performed 15% of all allied air strikes. However, he underlined that the 90% of RAF strike missions have been conducted against targets of opportunity, often located in urban areas, while other partners, like Italy and UAE have flown 100% of their attack sorties against pre-planned/fixed targets. Dealing with Italy, the decision to attack only fixed targets away from populated areas was taken at political level to prevent collateral damages.

4) After reporting many fuel diversions to Malta International Airport by the French fighters of all types (Rafale, Mirage 2000, Super Etendard, Mirage F1), during the last month, Luqa airfield was visited twice by RAF Tornados (one of which had to perform an emergency landing for a hydraulic failure) and once by a Danish F-16 on Jul. 29.

5) On Jul. 29 the Associated Press that on Jun. 29 published an article that disclosed that the Canadian CP-140 Aurora, a multi-purpose plane mostly used as an anti-submarine warfare platform has been employed, in combat, to perform PSYOPS: Interactive PSYOPS in Libya: the Canadian live benign propaganda messages prompt the listener to reply to the broadcaster.

6) Picture of two Mig-21bis and one double seat Mig-21UM flying over Benina airbase clearly showed a violation of the No-Fly Zone (NFZ) over Libya. In fact, the UNSCR established a ban on all flights in the airspace of the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, rebel ones comprised.

Many fighters are still enforcing the NFZ while E-3 AWACS are still patrolling the Libyan airspace so, unless common procedures are used and prior coordination is made to establish routes, control agencies, IFF squawks, etc, flying within the NFZ could be a risk for Free Libya Air Force fighters.

However, Reuters images taken on Jul.12 show an Air Libya BAe 146 used to link Benghazi with Rhebat, in the Nafusa region, a new airfield opened in the remote Western Mountain region.

Since it is impossible to operate those flights without NATO’s approval, these photos explain the reason why the Mig-21s were flying over Benina on Jun. 27: a limited rebel flight activity must have been granted to the rebels (probably in the form of a transit corridor between Benina and Rhebat).

7) Misratah airport opened again on Jul. 19 with a humanitarian flight flown by an AN-26 with registration 5A-DOG.

At this link, you can find a video of the Antonov 26 landing at Misratah airfield. The above screenshot was taken from that video.

8) Italy has initially withdrawn the Garibaldi, that returned to Taranto from where it managed the Italian ships involved in the Mediterranean Sea, then has deployed the AMX ACOL, a combat proven aircraft that has been operating in Afghanistan (although only for reconnaissance purposes) and has had its combat debut in 1999, in Serbia.

According to the official MoD press release, the AMXs belong to the 32° Stormo, based at Amendola. Since the same press release doesn’t mention the F-2000 Typhoons, most probably, these were replaced by the AMXs due to the total lack of air threats in the NFZ (as France did with its Mirages).

The Sole 24 ore financial newspaper published on Aug. 2 some previously unreleased figures about the Italian involvement in Unified Protector: with 1.700 sorties conducted to the date, Italy has flown the 10% of all the combat sorties in Libya, with an effort that is second only to UK and France.

9) With the AMX taking part to the air campaign, a new patch was designed by the air crews at Trapani, home of the Task Group Air, that includes all the ItAF assets assigned to Unified Protector. That’s actually a limited edition patch sold by the 18° Gruppo to raise funds for a Hospital in Africa. For more information, send an email to this address.

10) The Malta LiveATC.net feed was shut off towards the end of June. Officially, it was a computer problem, however, since the LMML airport was immediately removed from the list of airfields covered by the service, there are rumours that the local feeder was asked to cease “relaying” Malta ACC and TWR comms to the rest of the world using the web. OPSEC or INFOSEC concern?

Utøya island attack: the only police helicopter grounded by budget constraints

After reading my last post about Utøya island attack a friend of mine sent me a detailed description of the exact chronology of the events in Norway, with some more information that I’ll try to summarize to help readers understand  when and how the Norwegian police and special forces reacted.

1522 bomb explodes in Oslo

1727 local police receives first call about shooting at Utøya

1730 informal note from the local to the Oslo police about this call

1738 local police requests police “Delta” unit, SWAT-alike unit

1752 local police arrives at shore close to the island (25 mins is a while, that’s Norway with distances etc)

1809 Delta arrives mainland by Utøya

1825 Delta lands at Utøya by Rigid Inflatable Boat (this is the same time as the helicopter that filmed)

1827 Delta arrests Anders Behring Breivik with no resistance, he still had ammo left

=one hour from first call till arrest, not too bad considering it is an island and they had to wait for the Delta unit.

Furthermore:

  • Norwegian police doesn’t have personnel transport helicopters. According to the reports, there should be only one police helicopter with observation equipment. So Special Forces (Delta) have to rely on support from RNoAF (Royal Norwegian Air Force) helicopters.
  • From the latest news it’s not clear whether the Police helicopter ever reached the scene or not.
  • Another point is a quite limited reach from the police helicopter due to the heavy weight of its equipment; from 3 hours to 1 hour and 30 minutes.
  • The helicopter is often grounded due to budget constraints for the police force. It became clear today that due to budget cuts the helicopter was grounded in the “common summer holiday” of 3-4 wks June-July every year in Norway, as well as other holidays. Due to the helicopter being shut down (crew or technical, I don’t know) for the holidays, it took quite some time to get it in the air in this instance, but it was used later in the operation (unknown
    when or how).
  • There should be an interview with the photographer Marius Arnesen who said that they only had fuel for 10 minutes (probably at site); they were originally going to Oslo city to film the damage there.
  • Maybe, if the police helicopter had been able to reach the island earlier, it could have shot Anders Behring Breivik  before he executed one of the youths or helped on situational awareness for the Deltas – revealing that there was only one guy and this could make the search quicker.
  • Most probably, given the complex situation with a coordinated terror attack no one knew the limits of, after the arrest it took the police quite some time to secure the island for possible other terrorists and bomb traps – which of course wasn’t good for the many people with severe gunshot wounds.
  • Someone think that the murderer had brought explosives to the island and planned to gather everyone in the main building for an information meeting and blow it up (although there are conflicting info on the explosives). Perhaps, the leaders and one guard got suspicious and he shot them on arrival to the island, alerting everyone. Given Anders Behring Breivik purchase of 6 tons fertilizer, the assumed 5-600 kgs in the Oslo bomb and the 3 tons left at his farm, there is still quite a bit unaccounted for, that is obviously a priority for the police (the media aren’t really on to that yet).
  • Apparently there were difficult flying conditions, the three ambulance helicopters stopped half way due to the fog+wind (and probably also the unclear situation….).

Above, the Norwegian Police helicopter LN-OCP (source: Wikipedia).