Tag Archives: ROKAF

Here’s South Korea’s First F-35A Lightning II Stealth Aircraft During Its Maiden Flight

The first F-35 destined to the ROKAF (Republic Of Korea Air Force) has successfully completed its first flight.

On Mar. 19, 2018, the first F-35A destined to the ROKAF performed its maiden flight at Lockheed Martin Ft. Worth facility, Texas. Piloted by LM F-35 Chief Test Pilot and Test Flight Director Alan Norman, the aircraft flew as “Lightning 41”, taking off at 14.48LT and landing at 16.40LT. The photo in this post was taken by Highbrass Photography’s Clinton White during South Korea’s F-35’s first sortie (designated C01).

Known as AW-1, the aircraft is the first South Korean 5th generation combat aircraft out of 40 F-35A Conventional Take Off and Landing (CTOL) variant jets that the ROKAF with all aircraft slated for delivery by 2021.

The Republic of Korea concluded its F-X III fighter acquisition program with the signing of a Letter of Offer and Acceptance (LOA) between the U.S. and Korean governments on Sept. 30, 2014. In December 2017, South Korea’s Defence Acquisition Program Administration established a process for procuring the 20 additional aircraft, the Joongang Ilbo newspaper reported, citing multiple government sources.

Make sure to visit Clinton White’s Flickr photostream for more cool shots (including many F-35s)!

H/T to Emiliano Guerra for the heads up.

 

Chinese Aircraft Enters South Korean Identification Zone, Seoul Scrambles ROKAF Fighters

South Korean F-15K Slam Eagles and KF-16s Reported to Have Responded.

It hasn’t taken long for things on the Korean peninsula to get interesting again following the brief lull in military drama during the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea.

News outlets from around Asia have reported an incident between Republic of Korea (ROK) aircraft and Chinese People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) aircraft. According to the Korea Herald, “On Tuesday [Feb. 27] a Chinese People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) fighter entered South Korea’s air defense identification zone (Korea-ADIZ, or KADIZ) for more than four hours without notifying South Korean authorities.”

The Korea Herald story went on to quote the South Korean Joint Chiefs of Staff as saying the Chinese aircraft, “…came close to South Korean territory, prompting the [Republic of Korea] Air Force to scramble fighter jets to monitor its activity.”

Additional reports from several Asian news outlets say that the Republic of Korea Air Force (ROKAF) responded by scrambling “more than 10 aircraft” (source: Korea Herald) that included South Korean F-15K Slam Eagles and KF-16 Fighting Falcons.

The type of Chinese “fighter” intercepted was not identified in reports we were able to access.

According to the South Korean Joint Chiefs, the Chinese fighter entered South Korea’s ADIZ at 9:34 am local time on Tuesday and approached South Korean territory northwest of Ulleungdo in the Sea of Japan, coming as close as 55.5 kilometers to South Korean territory. According to the report published in The Diplomat, after receiving warnings from the South Korean Air Force the Chinese fighter left the area at 2:01 pm. The Chinese fighter’s flight path required it to transit the Tsushima strait, between Japan and the Korean Peninsula. The report in The Diplomat went on to quote South Korean Joint Chiefs as saying, “Our military warned it [the Chinese aircraft] to stop the act of raising tensions that can trigger an accidental conflict through the South Korea-China [military] hotline and [pilot’s] radio communication”. The South Korean Joint Chiefs went on to describe the Chinese fighter’s flight path as “unusual” according to the report.

Chinese aircraft have previously violated South Korea’s ADIZ, but have usually done so on the western side of the Korean Peninsula or in the northern reaches of the East China Sea.

While various news outlets reported the Chinese aircraft in the most recent incident as being a “fighter”, one source, the South China Morning Post, published an article earlier this year on Tuesday, January 30, 2018 by reporter Kinling Lo that cited another incident of Chinese aircraft flying into the South Korean air defense identification zone (Korea-ADIZ or KADIZ) that identified that aircraft as a Chinese PLAAF Y-8 transport.

Kinling Lo’s report in the South China Morning Post is interesting because there are a number of electronic surveillance variants of the Shaanxi Y-8 also referred to regionally as the “Yunshuji-8”.

If reports of the type of aircraft detected in the late January incidents are accurate it is possible what the South Koreans may be seeing (but this is not verified) is an intelligence gathering variant of the Y-8 such as the Y-8J Mask, Y-8CB Cub/High New 1, Y-8JB Mace/High New 2 or Y-8G Cub/High New 3, although this latest variant is reported to be in use mostly along the Chinese/Indian border. According to several sources including the Modern Chinese Warplanes page on Facebook, one of these Y-8G aircraft, Y-8GX-3 (no. 30513) assigned to the 20th Division was reported as lost on Jan. 29, 2018.

One of the things we’ve learned from these incidents around the world along areas of controlled national airspace is that nations will try to construct an electronic order of battle by using flights in close proximity to a border. When their aircraft approach the border and the detecting country begins to interrogate the approaching aircraft a significant amount of intelligence about response times, tactics, electronic order of battle and other information can be collected. This is sometimes done by a surveillance aircraft itself making the flight or by sending another aircraft, such as a tactical aircraft as this most recent report suggests, to the border in question and then collecting data about the opposing country’s response by using some type of airborne surveillance platform such as the Chinese Y-8 ELINT aircraft previously mentioned.

Previous intercepts by South Korea of Chinese aircraft have included ELINT platforms such as the Shaanxi Y-8 family of aircraft. (Photo: Modern Chinese Warplanes/Facebook)

While these incidents are certainly noteworthy and interesting, an incursion into an Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) is not excessively ominous since these zones are considered sovereign or territorial air space and are unilaterally declared by states to monitor activity by foreign aircraft during an approach toward their own territorial airspace. It is worth noting these incidents since they often provide a fascinating insight into the air-to-air, air defense and electronic order of battle of both nations involved.

Top image credit: ROKAF

Video Shows South Korean Black Eagles T-50 Accident at Changi Airport

A Republic of Korea Air Force T-50 trainer belonging to the Black Eagle aerobatic team suffered a burst tyre and flipped over, resulting in a fire. Here’s the video.

A ROKAF T-50 jet with the Black Eagles team caught fire on the runway at Changi Airport, Singapore, at 1.24PM LT on Feb. 6, 2017.

The aircraft was taking off within a 3-ship section in preparation for a display at the Singapore Airshow when it reportedly suffered a burst tyre, skidded into the grass close to the runway 02L/20R, flipped over and caught fire. According to the first reports, the pilot escaped the aircraft with minor injuries.

Here’s the video of the accident.

Nicknamed “Black Eagles”, the 53rd Air Demonstration Group is the official aerobatic display team of the ROKAF since Dec. 12, 1994. Back then they flew the Cessna A-37B Dragonfly aircraft. The team is based at Wonju airbase and is equipped with the T-50 Golden Eagle since 2010, when the team was reactivated after a being temporarily disbanded in 2007.

H/T Shawn Chung for the heads-up

What We’ve Learned About North Korea’s New Hwasong-15 Long Range ICBM.

This Week’s DPRK Launch Test Opens New Tensions with Sophisticated Missile.

On Nov. 29, 2017, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) tested a new, claimed-longer range ICBM called the Hwasong-15. It was launched from a ballistic missile test facility in South Pyongan Province, North Korea.

The launch test was significant for two reasons.

This Wednesday’s test followed over two months without any North Korean ICBM launch tests and was punctuated by a U.S. Presidential visit to neighboring China and Asia. Some analysts suggested the two events may have signaled the beginning of moderation in the ongoing North Korean crisis.

In opposition to the theory of impending détente, this week’s North Korean missile test proved to be a continued escalation of tensions. The missile launched for the first time this week was an ICBM not previously reported by the U.S. The new missile, the Hwasong-15, has longer claimed range than any prior North Korean ICBM. Hours after the test North Korea’s official news agency claimed the Hwasong-15, “could strike anywhere in the U.S.”

Official North Korean news sources claimed the Hwasong-15 reached an altitude of approximately 2,700 miles – well above the orbital altitude for the International Space Station – and covered nearly 600 miles in horizontal distance moving east toward Japan during its 53-minute flight. This launch test was predominantly vertical in trajectory. North Korea claimed the missile, “hit its intended target” in the Pacific near Japan. If the trajectory of the Hwasong-15 were altered to a more horizontal geometry the missile could theoretically cover substantial distance. In a statement following the launch test the Union of Concerned Scientists, a non-profit think tank headquartered in Massachusetts, voiced concern that the missile’s range was, “more than enough to reach Washington D.C., albeit with a reduced payload.”

In typically theatric tone, a North Korean newscaster proclaimed, “After watching the successful launch of the new type ICBM Hwasong-15, Kim Jong Un declared with pride that now we have finally realized the great historic cause of completing the state nuclear force, the cause of building a rocket power!”

In what appears to be a staged photo (there is no missile track on the monitors) North Korean leader Kim Jong-un reacts to eat Hwasong-15 missile test. (Photo: North Korean Media)

This Wednesday’s North Korean missile launch test of the new Hwasong-15 was first detected by one of only four South Korean Air Force 737 AEW&C (Airborne Early Warning & Control) aircraft, called “Peace Eye”. The surveillance aircraft (based on the Boeing 737 airliner) were delivered to South Korea between May and October of 2012. They are based at Gimhae Air Base. South Korea claims the missile was detected, “within one minute of launch”. The missile was soon also observed on radar by at least one South Korean Navy Sejong-the-Great class destroyer at sea using their AN/SPY-1D antennae and Aegis Combat System.

A South Korean Air Force 737 AEWC “Peace Eye” surveillance aircraft detected the missile launch. (Photo: Boeing)

Along with the E7, several other aircraft were monitoring the launch, including a U.S. Air Force RC-135S Cobra Ball aircraft from Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska, deployed to Kadena, Okinawa, Japan, able to track ballistic missiles reentry vehicles and warheads during the final phase of flight; and a USAF E-8C JSTARS.

According to media reports in Asia, “Two minutes after the North Korean missile launch at 3:17 AM local time Wednesday morning, South Korean President Moon Jae-in was briefed about the provocation by his top security adviser. Six minutes after the launch, the South Korean military staged a live-fire missile exercise, in an apparent display of its response capabilities to strike the North Korean origin of provocations. At 6 a.m., the South Korean president held a meeting with the National Security Council at the Blue House bunker.”

Noteworthy observations about the newly observed Hwasong-15 include a new mobile launch platform. The wheeled platform shown in a photo released by North Korean media is larger than previously observed versions. Launching the missile from a mobile platform makes locating it prior to launch more difficult, a problem that was underscored during the first U.S./Iraq war when a significant amount of resources were devoted to finding the mobile Scud missile launchers in the Iraqi desert that were targeting Israel and Saudi Arabia.

North Korean Hwasong-15 in launch position of mobile launcher. (Photo: North Korean Media)

Military intelligence source Global Security.org reported that South Korean military officials said the maximum range projections for the Hwasong-15 could only be achieved if two key technologies of a nuclear-armed ICBM have been secured: the technology for the warhead and guidance system to survive an atmospheric re-entry and the technology to miniaturize the warhead and guidance payload. It has not been confirmed if North Korea has achieved those technological milestones.

Carnegie Endowment for International Peace fellow Zhao Tong, an expert in the Nuclear Policy Program at Carnegie’s Tsinghua Center for Global Policy in Beijing, China, told Global Security.org that this latest successful launch test of North Korea’s Hwasong-15, “could mean that the DPRK thinks it has achieved all the basic technical capabilities of a credible nuclear force and therefore no major missile tests are needed anymore. If this is the case, this could potentially open a window to de-escalate tension in the near-term future and may increase the chances of diplomatic engagement with North Korea.”

Claimed range of the new North Korean Hwasong-15 ICBM. (Photo: Union of Concerned Scientists)

 

U.S. Consindering Sale Of E-8C JSTARS Surveillance Aircraft To South Korea

According to a South Korean newspaper, Washington might sell the E-8 aircraft to Seoul. Meanwhile, a JSTARS frequently operates south of the DMZ.

The E-8C Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System is a joint U.S. Air Force – Army program.

The JSTARS is an airborne battle management, command and control, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance platform. It uses a multi-mode side looking radar to detect, track, and classify moving ground vehicles deep behind enemy lines. Its primary mission is to provide theater ground and air commanders with ground surveillance to support attack operations and targeting: through an antenna that can be tilted to either side of the aircraft to develop a 120-degree field of view, the JSTARS can cover nearly 19,305 square miles (50,000 square kilometers) and detect targets from a distance of 250 kilometers. Although the E-8C’s role is to build and update the picture of the battlefield, focusing on ground and moving targets, the the radar has also limited AEW-like capabilities: it can also detect helicopters, rotating antennas and low, slow-moving fixed wing aircraft even though these are partially hidden in the ground clutter. Surveillance data can be relayed in near-real time to the Army and Marine Corps common ground stations and to other ground command, control, communications, computers and intelligence, or C4I, nodes.

In other words, the E-8C, currently operated by the U.S. Air Force through the 116th ACW, is a key asset, that has not been exported outside the US. However, South Korea officially requested the JSTARS system during a Security Consultative Meeting with the United States late last month, The Dong-A Ilbo, a South Korean newspaper, reported on Nov. 3.

South Korean defense officials, including Defense Minister Song Young-moo, cited the JSTARS as a top priority system with which to cope with North Korea’s nuclear and missile threats. […] Washington responded by expressing it will to positively consider the request. In a joint statement after the security meeting, the two allies agreed to strengthen cooperation in the South Korean military’s acquisition of state-of-the-art U.S. weapons systems.

The JSTARS, which played key roles in the Gulf War and Iraq War, was deployed to South Korea in November 2010 for the first time to closely monitor the North Korean military’s movement immediately after the North’s artillery attack on South Korea’s frontline island of Yeonpyeong Island. It was also deployed to South Korea during last month’s joint naval exercise on the South Korean waters, along with a U.S. nuclear powered aircraft carrier battle group.”

Actually, a U.S. E-8C has been operating over South Korea, not far from the DMZ, for a few weeks. In fact, even though the presence of the JSTARS not far from North Korea is not a surprise, since the aircraft is probably constantly updating the position and monitoring the movement of the North Korean forces along the border and across the peninsula, it’s at least worth of note that an aircraft has frequently showed up on flight tracking websites since Oct. 21, more or less when Seoul voiced its interest in the asset.

Once again, the aircraft could be tracked online because of its Mode-S transponder.

Oct. 31:

Nov. 2:

As said, the presence of an E-8 (99-0006) in the skies over South Korea is pretty normal. We don’t know whether the aircraft had South Korean observers on board or was involved in a sort-of demo but what’s really unusual is the fact that such a “strategic surveillance aircraft” could be tracked online. However, as we have already reported several times, many millitary aircraft, including spyplanes and drones remain visible on flight tracking websites regardless to whether they are involved in an operative mission or a ferry flight and years after we started highlighting the risk of breaking OPSEC with an inaccurate use of ADS-B transponders. So much so this author tends to believe those aircraft purposely broadcast their positions for everyone to see, to let everyone know it was there. A new way to wage Psychological Warfare and deter Pyongyang.

H/T Patrick Casey for the heads up and thank you again to our friend @CivMilAir for the outstanding coverage of milair traffic around the world.

 

Salva