Tag Archives: Royal Air Force

Fantastic photos of the Russian Tu-160 Blackjack bombers intercepted by RAF Typhoons yesterday

Two Tu-160s met the British QRA yesterday.

On Sept. 10, RAF Quick Reaction Alert (QRA) Typhoon aircraft were scrambled from RAF Lossiemouth in Scotland (along with a supporting Voyager tanker from RAF Brize Norton) to intercept two Russian aircraft flying in international airspace.

The two Typhoon pilots visually identified the two Russian Tu-160 Blackjack bombers and escorted them as they flew close to the British airspace.

It’s the very first time in several years that the white-colored supersonic, variable-sweep wing heavy strategic bomber appears in photographs taken by RAF QRA pilots: indeed, according to recent reports, there only 5 combat capable Tu-160 in service and this means the Tu-160 are rarely launched on very long missions.

Tu-160 intercepted Typhoons

However, with the Tu-95s only slowly returning to normal operations after the grounding that followed a series of crashes, there is some chance Tu-160s may pay visit to the international airspace off some NATO member state.

Tu-160 intercepted

In 2013, two Tu-160s deployed to Venezuela and Nicaragua after a 13-hour flight across the Pacific. On their 15-hour return flight to Engels airbase, in Russia, that included aerial refueling by Il-78 tankers over the Norwegian Sea, the two Blackjacks entered Colombian airspace and were intercepted and escorted by Colombian Air Force Kfir fighter planes for 5 minutes.

Image credit: Crown Copyright / UK MoD

 

This epic video shows a WWII Spitfire helping out a Cold War Vulcan bomber during nose wheel emergency

One British classic aircraft from WW2 helping out its Cold War compatriot at Scottish airshow.

This video was filmed on Sept. 5, at Prestwick airport, during the Scottish Airshow 2015 and it shows the last flying Vulcan bomber experiencing a nose wheel failure before landing.

As you can see in the interesting footage (that includes also radio comms on the Tower frequency) the Vulcan performed a flyover then initiated a right hand turn to land on runway 30. However, the nose gear did not extend fully and the V-bomber performed a second flyover before starting orbiting to the north of the airfield.

That’s when a Spitfire of the BBMF (Battle of Britain Memorial Flight) came to help: the WWII plane called up on the radio and asked if there was anyway he could help by giving the Vulcan a closer look from underneath the aircraft.

As the bomber slowed down to below 170 knots, the Spitfire formed up on its right wing and confirmed that the nose wheel was not properly extended.

In an attempt to unblock the gear the Vulcan performed some aggressive turns that eventually freed whatever was holding the nose wheel from extending allowing the Vulcan (preceded by the Spitfire) to perform a safe landing.

Well done to everyone involved in the emergency!

H/T to Alistair Moir for the heads-up!

 

While its aircraft can be tracked online, the U.S. Air Force only worries about Tweets….

Bad OPSEC (Operations Security) exposed by Air War on ISIS?

“Loose Tweets Destroy Fleets” is the slogan (based on the U.S. Navy’s WWII slogan “Loose Lips Sink Ships”) that the U.S. Air Force Central Command used a couple of weeks ago for an article aimed at raising airmen awareness about the risk of sharing sensitive information on social media.

Indeed, the AFCENT article speaks directly to the threat posed by Islamic State supporters who, according to Stripes, on at least two occasions have acquired and posted online personal data of military personnel, urging sympathizers, “lone wolves,” to attack Americans in the States and overseas in retaliation for the air strikes.

The article highlights the importance of proper OPSEC to keep sensitive information away from the enemy and to prevent leakage of information that could put missions, resources and members at risk,  “and be detrimental to national strategic and foreign policies.”

Interestingly, the article only focuses on the smart use of social media. Ok, however, there are other possible OPSEC violations that the U.S. Air Force (as well as many other air arms currently supporting Operation Inherent Resolve, in Iraq and Syria, or Enduring Freedom, in Afghanistan) should be concerned of.

In October 2014 we highlighted the risk of Internet-based flight tracking of aircraft flying war missions after we discovered that a U.S. plane possibly supporting ground troops in Afghanistan acting as an advanced communication relay can be regularly tracked as it circles over the Ghazni Province.

The only presence of the aircraft over a sensitive target could expose an imminent air strike, jeopardizing an entire operations.

Although such risk was already exposed during opening stages of the Libya Air War, when some of the aircraft involved in the air campaign forgot/failed to switch off their mode-S or ADS-B transponder, and were clearly trackable on FR.24 or PF.net and despite pilots all around the world know the above mentioned websites very well, transponders remain turned on during real operations making the aircraft clearly visible to anyone with a browser and an Internet connection.

Magma 13

USAF C-146A Wolfhound of the 524th Special Operations Squadron

During the last few months many readers have sent us screenshots they took on FR24.com or PF.net (that only collect ADS-B broadcast by aircraft in the clear) showing military planes belonging to different air forces over Iraq or Afghanistan: mainly tankers and some special operations planes.

Hoser 15

Canadian tanker

We have informed the U.S. Air Force and other air forces that their planes could be tracked online, live, several times, but our Tweets (and those of our Tweeps who retweeted us) or emails have not had any effect as little has changed. Maybe they don’t consider their tankers’ racetrack position or the area of operations of an MC-12 ISR (Intelligence Surveillance Reconnaissance) aircraft a sensitive information…

A330 over Iraq

RAF A330 tanker over Iraq

Image credit: screenshots from Flightradar24.com

 

Stunning aerial photos show Textron Scorpion tactical jet in Royal Navy demonstrations

The prototype of Textron AirLand’s ISR/Strike aircraft teamed up with Vortex Aeromedia to show off its maritime capability.

The Scorpion is an Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR)/Strike aircraft with twin canted tails, two 8,000-lb turbofan engines, straight wings with internal weapons bay and  external hardpoints to accommodate precision guided munitions that made its first flight from McConnell Air Force Base in Wichita, Kansas, in December 2013.

Scorpion_1

Developed in about 2 years and featuring a ferry range of 2,400 NM (nautical miles) and a payload of 3,000 lbs internal stores as well as underwing PGMs (Precision Guided Munitions), the two-seater is the “affordable warplane for low-threat missions,” including COIN (Counter Insurgency) and SMI (Slow Mover Interceptor).

Scorpion_3

During the Scorpion’s 2015 European Tour which brought the plane to both Paris Le Bourget Airshow and the Royal International Air Tattoo at RAF Fairford, UK, Textron AirLand also found the time to conduct demonstration flights with the British Royal Navy and RAF.

Working with 849 Naval Air Squadron, operators of the specialist ASaC7 variant of the Sea King in the AEW (Airborne Early Warning) and ISR roles, the Scorpion tactical jet provided valuable fighter-control experience to the Navy aircrews.

Scorpion_4

In addition, Textron AirLand tested the integration of their Thales I-Master radar and L-3 Systems Wescam MX-15 DI sensor by tracking and identifying targets up to 100 miles off the British coast.

During the demonstrations, Textron AirLand said that their $20M jet operated at less than $3,000 per hour, even with engine overhaul costs accounted for: more evidence that the aircraft is perfect match for the “low-cost combat plane to contain the cost of prolonged operations,” whose need emerged during Libya Air War 2011.

Scorpion_6

After the joint operations with Royal Navy the jet returned to the US in mid-July and is scheduled to begin weapons trials in 2016.

Scorpion_8

Image credit: © Textron AirLand/Vortex Aeromedia 2015

 

Fantastic Video of the Last Flying Vulcan Bomber during a stunning performance at the Beachy Head white cliffs

Avro Vulcan Bomber XH558 made a stunning performance at the Beachy Head Cliffs, Eastbourne Airshow 2015.

Avro Vulcan XH558 (carrying civil registration G-VLCN), is the only airworthy bomber of a fleet of 134 Vulcan V bombers operated by the Royal Air Force from 1953 until 1984.

The aircraft, made its maiden flight in 1960, was converted in maritime recce role in 1973 and then flew as an aerial refueler from 1982 until 1984, when it was retired from active service.

It continued to fly with the RAF’s Vulcan Display Flight, performing until 1992.

It was brought back to airworthy condition by the Vulcan To The Sky Trust, through a combination of public donations and lottery funding, in 2007 and returned to flight on Oct. 18 of the same year.

Its display career restarted in 2008, funded by continuing donations and after attending several airshows in the past years, that gained the plane two extra years of flying; however, on May 15 2015 it was announced that 2015 would be the Vulcan XH558 last flying season.

Before being retired, the aircraft performed a stunning display at the 500ft Beachy Head white cliffs, a really great place to see one of the last flypasts of the legendary plane.