Tag Archives: Royal Air Force

Photographers capture Airbus A400M at low level through the Mach Loop for First Time

An Airbus A400M tactical airlifter training low level flying is a pretty cool sight!

Aviation enthusiasts at the famous “Mach Loop” low level training area in West Central Wales on the west coast of UK got a treat early this week when an Airbus A400M Atlas made two low-level passes through the valley area.

It was the first appearance by the A400M in the area also known as the Machynlleth Loop or CAD West. These photos and video were captured at the “CAD East” viewing area across from CAD West.

Many local aviation photographers captured photos and video of the two passes. Among the best were shot by photographer Ben Collins of Llandudno, North Wales, UK.

Collins shot his photos using a Nikon D750 camera with an image-stabilized Sigma 150-600mm f5-6.3 DG OS HSM ‘S’ Sport zoom lens, a popular lens for aviation photographers used widely on the airshow circuit.

His original images were captured as RAW files. Collins is a regular at the famous Mach Loop, visiting the area between two and four times weekly when there is flying weather.

Aviation photographer Ben Collins shot his photos of the A400M from the popular vantage point called “Cad East”, a part of the Cad West lowing flying area loop.

Videographer Paul Williams shot a short YouTube video posted yesterday of the A400M’s transit through the area in perfect viewing conditions.

And here’s a cool video filmed by Ben Ramsey who got a great close-up footage!

The RAF A400M’s are relatively new aircraft in British service, with the first being delivered on November 14, 2014. The service will eventually employ 22 total A400M’s according to the RAF’s official website. The new Airbus A400M’s are staged replacements for the aging fleet of RAF C-130 aircraft.

The aircraft that flew through the Mach Loop today was likely aircraft number ZM411, an A400M-180 manufactured just before Aug. 26, 2016, and delivered to the Royal Air Force on Oct. 28, 2016.

There are three RAF squadrons operating A400M Atlas aircraft now, Squadron Number LXX, the first operational A400M squadron in the RAF that began operations on October 1, 2014. RAF Number XXIV Squadron flies the A400M from RAF Brize Norton in Oxfordshire, England. The Number 24 Squadron is the Fixed Wing Air Mobility Operation Conversion Unit and trains Atlas crews for the RAF. Finally the Number 206(R) Squadron fly the A400M as a test and evaluation unit.

The famous Mach Loop is a destination for aviation photographers and spotters from around the world since it provides a unique opportunity to photograph and observe many different aircraft types from several countries in an operational training setting that is very different from an airshow.

Image credit: Ben Collins

 

In 1986 U.S. President Ronald Reagan offered Britain the F-117 stealth jet

Recently declassified documents show that U.S. President Ronald Reagan offered UK Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher access to the American stealth technology.

Recently declassified documents from the British National Archives have exposed something interesting: back in 1986, the then President of the United States Ronald Reagan offered British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher a chance for transatlantic cooperation on Stealth technology.

As reported by the Guardian, under the name “Project Moonflower,” the former POTUS offered Downing Street a briefing on the Black Project and the opportunity for the U.S. and the UK to work together on it.

“Dear Margaret,” a 1986 US telegram obtained by the Guardian recorded, “I am delighted to hear that you will be able to see Cap [Casapar Weinberger, the US defence secretary] to discuss the special program I wrote you about … I look forward to receiving your reaction. Sincerely, Ron.”

But the UK turned down the chance to work with the U.S. stealth technology and acquire F-117 stealth jets, that had made their first flight in 1981 and would continue to secretly operate until they were revealed to the public in 1988, a couple of years before becoming famous during Desert Storm in Iraq.

Indeed, an MoD letter in December 1986 to Charles Powell, the prime minister’s foreign affairs adviser, informed him that “Mr Weinberger has offered us a chance to purchase the current US aircraft but we have replied that we would not wish to actually buy hardware while the programme remains strictly black [secret].

After the first offer was rejected a modified version of the baseline F-117 was reportedly offered to the UK’s Royal Air Force in 1995.

Believed to be dubbed F-117C, the British variant, was planned to be equipped with “B-2 type intakes, a F-22 type clear-view canopy, British avionics, F414 or EJ200 engines, plus a number of BAE structural components or sub-assemblies.

The aircraft, also referred to as the F-117A+ or F-117B (B for “British”) was being offered as a replacement for the Tornado GR4 and it is believed that this was the reason why some RAF pilots eventually flew the Nighthawk stealth jet before it was (somehow) retired in 2008.

Even though the stealth technology that made the F-117 invisible to radars was cutting edge back in the mid-80s, the Tornado GR4 has been a pretty successful weapon system that the Royal Air Force has extensively used in combat in all the conflicts and crisis support operations it has taken part in the last 20 years.

Meanwhile the first UK’s stealth has eventually arrived in the form of a much controversial Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II.

 

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Outstanding low-pass departure of a special colored Royal Air Force Tornado from RAF Northolt

Watch this Tornado perform a deafening low take-off instead of the usual noise abatement departure.

RAF Northolt is a Royal Air Force airport located in west London, 10 km to the north of London Heathrow airport.

The airport is the homebase of No. 32 (The Royal) Squadron of the Royal Air Force that operates VIP and general air transport roles and also handle a large number of general aviation flights.

According to aircraft spotters, fast jets visit the airport every now and then (unless they are deployed there as happened during the Olympic Games in 2012), usually adhering to strict noise abatement procedures that foresee a quick climb and are aimed to cause the least disturbance in the areas surrounding the airport in Greater London as well as proper deconfliction with the rest of air traffic.

But, there are some interesting exceptions, as happened on Oct. 7 when Royal Air Force Tornado GR4 ZG750 “Desert Pink”, the special colored “Tonka” that celebrated the 25th Operation Granby Anniversary, performed a pretty unusual and awesome low take off on departure from RAF Northolt after a night photoshoot organized there.

Here’s a cool video, published by BluelightTV YT channel, showing the low take off (much lower than usual according to the locals) from a head-on point of view!

Check out this funny video of a Harrier Jump Jeat destroying part of a (grass) runway on take-off

35 years ago a RAF Harrier destroyed part of a grass strip by simply applying full throttle on take off.

The following video has been around for some time now. Still,  it’s quite funny and interesting as it shows what happened in 1980 to a RAF Harrier GR.3 that was taking part in an airshow at Bex, Switzerland.

The small airport, located in southwestern Switzerland, west of Sion, didn’t have a paved runway (nor does it have it today) but just a small taxiway leading from the main apron to the threshold of the grass strip.

Not a big deal for the Jump Jet, designed to operate from grass, unprepared runways and artificial surfaces.

However, when the Harrier pilot pushed the throttle forward to accelerate the aircraft down the runway something unexpected happened: the Rolls Royce Pegasus thrust-vectored turbofan engine unleashed some 21,500 lbf of thrust backwards, tearing up the upper layer of the runway including the RWY33 threshold and part of the taxiway.

Have a look:

Interestingly, it was not the first time the RAF Jump Jet took off from the grass strip at Bex: the following video shows the British Harrier GR.3 taking off from the same airport in 1978, without causing too much damage.

Now, as suggested by our friends at Tacairnet, just think to what would happen today if much more powerful F-35B were to perform a short take off run using Bex’s grass strip.

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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.

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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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