Tag Archives: Royal Air Force

Watch the F-35B Lightning II fly, hover and perform vertical landing in this cool 4K video

Some cool F-35B footage in 4K

As the aircraft performs its British debut at the RIAT (Royal International Air Tattoo) at RAF Fairford here’s an interesting video filmed in 4K that was released by the British MoD.

It shows the first British F-35B Lightning II, flying along with one of the two U.S. Marine Corps airframes that also flew from MCAS Beaufort, South Carolina, to RAF Fairford airbase, UK, during the type’s first transatlantic flight, and performing the peculiar Vertical Landing of the STOVL (Short Take Off Vertical Landing) variant.

The participation of the controversial 5th Gen. stealth aircraft to an airshow in the UK was planned to take place in 2014 but it was cancelled shortly before the four USMC F-35Bs started their transatlantic trip after a runway fire incident involving an F-35A at Eglin Air Force Base, on Jun. 23, 2014, caused a temporary fleet-wide grounding.

Two years later the F-35B is the highlight of the RIAT.

The image below, taken by Tony Lovelock, shows the USMC F-35B 168727/VM-19 VFMAT-501, seen here going into Hover mode during a short display at RAF Marham ahead of the display at RAF Fairford.

This aircraft accompanied by Tornado ZG777, and ZM137 F-35B Lightning II of the RAF had previously overflown Rosyth where the new British Carrier is being built for the Royal Navy.

USMC F-35B 168727

Top Image credit: Lockeed Martin

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[Photos] Eurofighter Typhoons escort three British and American F-35Bs arriving in the UK for the first time

Here are some cool photographs of the first British F-35B welcomed by the RAF Typhoons and escorted to the first landing in UK.

On Jun. 29, the first British F-35B Lightning II, piloted by RAF pilot Squadron Leader Hugh Nichols and accompanied by two U.S. Marine Corps airframes and by a pair of U.S. Air Force KC-10 tankers and USMC KC-130Js, landed at RAF Fairford airbase, UK, at the end of the STOVL (Short Take Off Vertical Landing) variant’s first transatlantic crossing that marked the first landing of an F-35 in the UK.

An event that was broadcast live by the U.S. Marine Corps on their Facebook page.

F-35B arrives with escort

Using callsign “Tabor 01,” the flight flew to the UK from MCAS Beaufort, South Carolina, to attend the Royal International Air Tattoo 2016 and Farnborough International Airshow in the next few weeks.

The first UK appearance of the controversial 5th Gen. stealth aircraft was initially planned to take place in 2014 but it was cancelled shortly before the four USMC F-35Bs started their transatlantic trip after a runway fire incident involving an F-35A at Eglin Air Force Base, on Jun. 23, 2014, caused a temporary fleet-wide grounding.

F-35B arrives with escort 2

Interestingly, the formation was welcomed into the British airspace by three RAF Typhoons.In this post, some cool photographs released by the British MoD of the formation heading to Fairford along with the escort fighters.

F-35B arrives with escort 3

Image credit: Crown Copyright. H/T UK Defence Journal

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.”

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The story of the SEAD Black Buck missions flown by Royal Air Force Vulcan bombers during the Falklands War

SEAD missions, Vulcan style.

The RAF Avro Vulcan was initially planned to be retired in early 1982 but the outbreak of the Falklands War, in April that year, postponed the withdrawal of the most distinctive among the bombers that (along with Vickers Valiant and Handley Page Victor) formed the Britain’s nuclear deterrent V-force.

Most important, the Falklands conflict has been the only time the Vulcan was used in anger: in fact, seven very long-range “Black Buck” missions were performed against Port Stanley, with three of these sorties flown by the bombers in the SEAD (Suppression of Enemy Air Defenses) role, using AGM-45 Shrike missiles mounted on makeshift underwing pylons.

Two surveillance radars threatened British air operations against the Islands: an Argentine Air Force Westinghouse AN/TPS-43F placed near Stanley Airport on Apr. 6 (later moved into the town itself for protection), and an Argentine Army Cardion TPS-44 positioned close to Stanley on the Airport road.

To destroy the Argentine radars the RAF considered to use the Martel missile, but since the U.S. Air Force provided the AGM-45 it was decided to arm the Vulcans with the Shrike.

As explained by R. Burden, M Draper, D. Rough, C. Smith, D. Wilton in their book Falklands The Air War, the first anti-radar Vulcan mission (“Black Buck 4”) was launched from RAF Wideawake Airfield at Acension Island on May 28, using the Vulcan XM597 crewed by Sqdn. Ldr. C.N. McDougall (Pilot), Fg. Off. C. Lackman (Co-pilot) plus Flt. Lts. D. Castle (Nav-Radar), B. Smith (Nav-Plotter), R. Trevaskus (Air Engineering Officer) and B. Gardner (another Vulcan Pilot).

Unfortunately the aircraft was forced to abandon the mission after the Victor tanker aircraft supporting it experienced the failure of the hose drum unit (HDU). “Black Buck 5” was launched on May 30 shortly after midnight, using the same aircraft and crew and this time both the Shrikes carried by the bomber were launched, but they only slightly damaged the AN/TPS-43F that returned operational again 24 hours after the attack.

Avro Vulcan

The same aircraft and crew took off again from Wideawake for “Black Buck 6” on Jun. 2, this time armed with four Shrikes instead of two, for another raid against the same radar.

The AN/ATPS-43F radar was switched off as the Vulcan approached the target during the early hours on Jun. 3.

After the aircraft spent 40 minutes overhead waiting for this or any other radar to be switched on, its radar warning receiver (RWR) picked up an Argentine Army Skyguard radar which was acting as a fire control unit for one of the 601st Anti-Aircraft Artillery Group (GADA 601) anti-aircraft batteries close to Port Stanley.

Immediately the Vulcan launched two Shrikes that destroyed it.

After having loitered on station for few more minutes hoping that the AN/TPS-43F radar might be switched on again, the bomber reached its Victor tanker for an air-to-air refuelling (AAR) half way back to Wideawake.

Noteworthy the Vulcan was forced to interrupt the AAR, given the break of the tip of its refuelling probe and the crew had to divert to Rio de Janeiro airport in Brazil.

Due to its very low fuel state, the bomber climbed to 40,000ft, where it burned less fuel and where its aircrew tried to release the two unfired Shrikes. Eventually one of them failed to fire and remained attached to the pylon because there was no other system for releasing it.

The aircrew collected all the classified documents together, placed them inside a hold-all and jettisoned them through the crew entry door after the cockpit had been de-pressurised and the crew had put on oxygen masks. Then, after diplomatic channels contacted Embassy staff at Rio de Janeiro, arrangements were made with Brazilian ATC and the Vulcan performed an emergency landing at Rio’s Galeao Airport.

After the aircraft engines were shut down 2,000 lbs of fuel remained, less than what would have been required for an overshoot and one circuit.

The Brazilian authorities impounded the aircraft and the unfired missile and the Vulcan aircrew was very well treated during their stay at Rio’s Galeao Airport. The chance to return home was soon offered to them but they decided to remain with their bomber until it was released on Jun. 10, when the aircraft returned to Ascension Island.

Wild Weasel Vulcan

Image credit: Crown Copyright