Tag Archives: Royal Air Force

RAF Reaper Drone Footage Shows The Moment A Hellfire Missile Stops A Public Execution By Targeting An ISIS Sniper

Here’s the footage of a RAF Reaper drone unleashing Hellfire missile to stop a public execution in Syria.

The news of a successful RAF MQ-9 Reaper air strike on Islamic State militants to stop a public execution in Abu Kamal, Syria, was made public in May this year; yesterday, the UK MoD released the actual footage of the drone attack.

The clip show two handcuffed prisoners being unloaded from a van in front of a large group of spectators. Instead of targeting the militants on the ground, because that would have also killed civilians, the drone targeted a sniper standing guard on a nearby roof.

The explosion sent the crowd fleeing and the civilians and fighters scatter before the killing can be carried out.

Although the MoD refused to say whether the drone was remotely piloted from RAF Waddington or from Creech Air Force Base in Nevada the mission was overseen from the combined air operations centre (Caoc) based at al-Udeid airbase, in Qatar.

The RAF Reapers are employed in accordance with the so-called Remote Split Operations (RSO): the aircraft is launched from an airbase in theater under direct line-of-sight control of the local ground control station. Then, by means of satellite data link, it is taken on charge and guided from either Creech AFB or Waddington. When the assigned mission is completed, it is once again handed over to a pilot in Afghanistan, who lands it back to the forward deployment airfield. The 1-second delay introduced by the satellite link is not compatible with the most delicate phases of flight; hence, aircraft are launched and recovered in line-of-sight by the deployed ground control station.

The Royal Air Force 39 Sqn operates a fleet of five Reaper Remotely Piloted Air System (RPAS) whose main mission in ISR (Intelligence Surveillance Reconnaissance) along with the task of providing armed support to forces on the ground, engaging, if required, “emerging targets in accordance with extant UK Rules of Engagement and the UK Targeting Directive.”

The Reaper drone is armed with GBU-12 500lb laser guided bombs and Hellfire missiles. “The Rules of Engagement (ROE) used for Reaper weapon releases are no different to those used for manned combat aircraft;the weapons are all precision guided, and every effort is made to ensure the risk of collateral damage and civilian casualties is minimised, this may include deciding not to release a weapon. Reaper is not an autonomous system and does not have the capability to employ weapons unless it is commanded to do so by the flight crew. The majority of the weapons employed from reaper have been Hellfire missiles. Hellfire has a relatively small warhead which helps minimise any risk of collateral damage. Regardless of the type of weapon system employed, a full collateral damage assessment is conducted before any weapon release; this is irrespective of whether that weapon is released by a manned or remotely piloted aircraft,” says the RAF website.

Each Reaper aircraft can be disassembled into main components and loaded into a container for air deployment worldwide.

Airbus A400M Atlas Tactical Transport Completes Beach Landing Trials.

Interesting Exercise Demonstrates A400M Unimproved Takeoff/Landing Capabilities.

The new Royal Air Force Airbus A400M tactical transport, aircraft ZM414, recently conducted a fascinating tactical capability trial at the Pembrey Sands Air Weapons Range in South Wales, U.K.

The Airbus A400M demonstrated its capability to insert into and deploy from unimproved sand airstrips while loaded. This is a critical mission set for tactical transports, especially in support of special operations in forward areas in austere conditions.

While landing and take-off operations from unimproved airstrips have been previously proven with the A400M this test confirmed the aircraft’s capabilities with a heavy load. Close examination of the aircraft’s performance, especially on landing, suggest it was heavily laden during the Pembrey Sands tests.

The testing and verification flights were organized by the DE&S (Defense Equipment & Support) A400M Project Team, based at MOD Abbey Wood in Bristol, working with the Airbus A400M development team and the Royal Air Force.

In a statement released by the MoD (Ministry of Defense) local Wing Commander Simon Boyle told media that the “Indication is that the aircraft will perform very well in the tactical role and on unprepared runways. We’re starting to understand how good the aircraft could be in the tactical environment.”

The Pembrey Sands Air Weapons Range is a fascinating test and training range that is effectively an island separated from the mainland on the West and North by an estuary and Carmarthen Bay, then to the East by a shallow, marshy inlet. The southern border is virtually impenetrable thick forest of the Pembrey Country Park.

A RAF Airbus A400M Atlas conducts testing of unimproved forward airfield operations at Pembrey Sands Air Weapons Range in South Wales, U.K. (Crown Copyright)

Pembrey Sands is an active live weapons deployment range used by a wide variety of tactical combat aircraft from many countries. Hulks of derelict vehicles and even old Jaguar combat aircraft are strewn around the island for use as targets. It is a unique facility for training and testing of the RAF and other air arms.

Other tactical transports have conducted beach and grass landing exercises at Pembrey Sands prior to the A400M trials including C-130s and C-160 Transalls.

Mission sets that may include the capability to land on unimproved or dirt/sand airstrips could include the insertion of special operations light vehicles for strike and/or reconnaissance missions in denied areas and support of airborne assault operations. The ability to take-off from sand landing areas is especially important for the evacuation of casualties from forward areas. In general a team of pathfinder personnel is inserted into an unimproved, austere landing area to inspect and prepare the landing area and then to act as air and ground traffic controllers once aircraft begin to use the area.

Perhaps one of the most infamous examples of air forces using tactical transports in the special operations role from unimproved airstrips is the April 1980 U.S. Operation Eagle Claw, the failed attempt to rescue hostages in Iran. The mission ended in disaster. A U.S. heavy helicopter and C-130 transport collided in the dark on the ground while forward refueling resulting in a fire and the operation being abandoned. Testing and qualification of the A400M Atlas in sandy, unimproved conditions is a direct effort to avoid similar outcomes in the future.

A significant amount of preparation of the landing/takeoff area at Pembrey Sands was done before for the trials by the 23 Parachute Engineer Regiment, based at the neighboring Rock Barracks.

Despite some early concerns the A400M Atlas development program has gained momentum with several countries including the U.K. and Germany over the past year. This RAF exercise is an example of the program’s continued success.

Video Shows Spitfire Crashing While Taking Off During Airshow In Northeastern France

Spitfire Ground Rolls on Takeoff.

Spitfire XIX PS890 was involved in a serious accident at the L’aérodrome de Longuyon – Villette in northeastern France on Sunday, June 11. According to reports from witnesses on the scene, pilot Cédric Ruet escaped the frightening accident without serious injuries. Additional reports suggest flying debris from the accident may have injured one member of the crowd.

In videos taken at the crash scene the pilot, Ruet, appears to be approaching V2 take-off velocity when the Spitfire pitches into a nose-down attitude, its propeller impacted the ground the aircraft performing an end-over. While no official news has been released about the factors contributing to the accident the grass field surface and potentially an irregularity in the field may have contributed to accident.

According to Touchdown Aviation, Spitfire XIX PS890 was delivered to RAF Benson in 1945. The aircraft then went to the Royal Thai Air Force as aircraft number U14-26/97 and flew there until 1952 for Thailand. In 1962 the aircraft was donated to Ed Maloney by the King of Siam (Thailand) and transported to Claremont, California in the U.S. Private owner Steve Hilton acquired PS890 and restored her to flying condition then.

Remarkably, the aircraft was retrofitted with an Avro Shackleton engine including its contra-rotating propellers in an attempt to beat the piston engine time-to-climb record. The aircraft flew again in 2002 as part of the California-based Planes of Fame collection.

Christophe Jacquard of France purchased the aircraft in 2005 and restored its engine and propeller to the original configuration. She was most recently painted in the RAF 152 Squadron livery as flown in Thailand prior to yesteday’s accident.

 

Salva

Special Colored RAF Typhoon FGR4 “GiNA” Returned to Operational Paint Scheme

Aviation Fans and Spotters Sad About Memorial Aircraft Being Repainted.

One of the most recognizable and popular demonstration aircraft in the world, a Royal Air Force Typhoon FGR4 registration ZK349 of the 29(R) Squadron, painted in a striking Battle of Britain commemorative camouflage paint scheme, has been returned to its original operational low-visibility tactical paint scheme.

The aircraft memorialized the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Britain celebrated in 2015. It has flown numerous airshow flight demonstrations around Europe since then.

Royal Air Force Typhoon FGR4 registration ZK349 of the 29(R) Squadron in its distinctive markings memorializing the WWII Hurricane of 249 Squadron’s Flt. Lt.James Brindley Nicolson. (Image credit: Paul Smith)

Typhoon ZK349, “GiNA” (from the G/NA designation around its roundel), was so popular she was voted the “Favourite Special Scheme” among airshow fans on the popular airshow forum “UK Airshow Review”. It won the vote by a large margin over other airshow performers. Fans of the aircraft started a “Save GiNA” campaign on Twitter with the hashtag “#SaveGina”.

News of the GiNA’s repainting was first seen in the Aviation Photographers closed group on Facebook.

A statement on the “Save GiNA” page read: “The campaign has been started with the intent of showing the RAF the weight of public opinion, so they can take that in to account when making any decisions to return the colour back to Grey or when deciding which aircraft to use. First and foremost the Typhoons are the UK’s most advanced fully operational Fighter Jets so we appreciate that priority must be given to their operational requirements which include defence of the Falkland Islands, their Quick Reaction Alert roles and current operations in the Middle East. However if the specific aircraft is available for the 2016 Display Season it is easy to see why the public would like to keep it in the unique colour scheme that little bit longer.”

News of GiNA’s repainting spread on Thursday around the world and was first seen in a post by Mr. Mike Grundy, a contributor in the closed Facebook group “Aviation Photographers”, a large international group of over 7,500 aviation photography fans.

The special colored Typhoon at RIAT 2015. (Paul Smith)

Royal Air Force Eurofighter Typhoon ZK349 was originally repainted in 2015 to match the markings of a RAF WWII Hawker Hurricane belonging to 249 Squadron’s Flight Lieutenant James Brindley Nicolson. Nicolson was the winner of the Victoria Cross and the Distinguished Flying Cross. This was the only Victoria Cross awarded to Fighter Command on Aug. 16, 1940.

Flight Lieutenant Nicolson was shot down in August 1940 by German aircraft over Southampton. He was seriously wounded when his Hurricane fighter was hit by enemy aircraft fire. He was about to bail out of his damaged, burning aircraft, but just before jumping he saw another German aircraft. Choosing to remain inside his burning plane and ignoring his grievous wounds, Flt. Lt. Nicolson aggressively pressed home a new attack and shot the additional enemy plane down. He received more serious burns over much of his body. When he did finally parachute to the ground, now even more gravely wounded, Home Guard volunteers who mistook him for a German pilot under his parachute mistakenly shot him in the legs.

In recognition of this heroic action and to commemorate the Battle of Britain, the Royal Air Force Battle of Britain Memorial Flight (RAFBBMF) was formed. The flight is based at RAF Coningsby, a very busy Typhoon and fighter base in Lincolnshire. RAF Coningsby is also a very popular location for aircraft spotters and photographers from around the world. The fans and historians have grown a unique and constructive relationship with the base.

Night shot of “GiNA” on the ground at RAF Coningsby. (Paul Smith).

Mr. Paul Smith, 43, of Stourpaine was kind enough to share some of his excellent photos of the Typhoon affectionately known as “Gina” from her markings commemorating Flt. Lt. Nicolson’s Hurricane that wore the same G/NA designation around its roundel.

Paul Smith has traveled to airshows around the world, and we met him in person last year at Nellis AFB in the U.S. He told us this about Typhoon ZK349’s significance:

“In the run up to the 2015 airshow season there was a lot of speculation around what the RAF would do to commemorate the 75th anniversary of Britain’s finest hour. When I saw the first pictures of the aircraft rolled out of the paint shop I wasn’t disappointed! The Typhoon looks magnificent in the classic early wartime scheme of dark earth and green and I was particularly happy that they had chosen to represent the markings of a hurricane; the backbone of fighter command during the battle. We will remember all of ‘The Few’ and their extraordinary effort during the battle, but Flt Lt James Nicolson VC DFC is a fine representative of the many aircrews from all over the world who bravely took on the Luftwaffe in the battle for freedom from tyranny. Seeing the Typhoon put on such an excellent display with the iconic Spitfire was an incredible experience and the obvious difficulty of the routine with two such dissimilar aircraft was made to look effortless. (Editor’s note: Airshow demonstrations with the Typhoon were flown with a Spitfire, not a Hurricane, as Paul correctly notes here) I hope this project bodes well for the centenary of the RAF in 2018.”

Thanks to Mr. Paul Smith for his excellent photos and to our friends in the Facebook group Aviation Photographers for their assistance with this feature.

 

We Flew Red Air against F-22 Raptors, F-35 Lightning IIs, Rafales and Typhoons in Atlantic Trident ’17. Here’s How It Went.

Flying adversary air in a 71st Fighter Training Squadron (FTS) T-38A Talon during Atlantic Trident 17.

At 21,000 ft “Code” rolls the Talon inverted.  I have just enough time to realize we are inverted – before the Gs started building and we are pointed… down. Straight down.    We are flying adversary air in a 71st Fighter Training Squadron (FTS) T-38A Talon during Atlantic Trident ’17.  Not your normal Red Air vul, today we are facing off against a historic gathering of the most formidable fighter aircraft in the western world.

The United States Air Force (USAF) 1st Fighter Wing located at Joint Base Langley-Eustis (JBLE) hosted the event.  1st FW is responsible for 30% of the USAF Raptor fleet.  Described as “America’s premier Air Dominance wing,” the 1st FW is elite company.  This group (with the help of the 71st FTS) ensures the Raptors under their command are maintained, manned by skilled pilots, and ready to go when and where needed worldwide, at a moment’s notice.

After two days of rain and scrubbed vuls the clouds began to lift.  Didn’t matter, even with clear skies a nasty storm was brewing over the Atlantic, Typhoons, Lightning strikes, with the “gusts of wind / bursts of fire” (Rafale), and the “Bird of Prey” (Raptor) circling over it all.  Not a Hollywood script, this is what awaits the Strike Eagles and Talons of Red Air posing as a variety of MIG threats with specific missile emulations.

The Platforms & Players:

Blue Air: 1st FW F-22A Raptors; Eglin AFB F-35A Lightning IIs; Royal Air Force (RAF) Eurofighter Typhoons; French Air Force/Armée de l’air Dassault Rafales.

Red Air: 71st FTS “Ironmen” T-38A Talons; 391st FS “Bold Tigers” F-15E Strike Eagles from Mountain Home AFB, ID.

Given operational security, some of the following flight details are principally correct.

The six participating Talons flew in two flights of three, “Vodka” and “MIG”.  The Strike Eagle flights “Marlin” and “Dagger” combined to form another 6 aircraft.  12 Red Air with E-3A Sentry support, against 16 Blue Air.  Given Blue Air was farthest from JBLE and launched first, they enjoyed tanker support from the Armée de l’air KC-135, as well as US tanker units (including at one point a KC-10 from the 305th AMW Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst).

What could we expect of the vul?

Red Air understood that Blue Air was tasked with a strike mission (target location unknown to Red Air) using the Rafale and Raptor as strikers.  While some might think the F-35As should have been the strikers, Raptor was the word and Raptors do have a very effective strike capability. The rest of Blue Air, Typhoons and Lightning IIs (and perhaps a mix of Raptors) were flying escort protecting the strikers.

Blue Air was challenged to employ “total force integration” across nationalities and platforms to form a multilayered, overlapping sphere of impenetrable “armor.”  Certainly, Blue Air would utilize their superior sensors to create a 3D picture of the battle space and their state of the art weapons to “destroy” Red Air well beyond visual range (BVR).

Red Air would utilize dissimilar threats against Blue Air coming from a multitude of directions and altitudes.  The Talons and Strike Eagles primary goal: to find the Blue Air strikers (call sign “Rogue”), fight through the escorts to get within an effective (emulated) missile envelope and realize a kill.  However, even if a visual on a Raptor or Lightning II was realized (and Red Air had the radar capability) they would still be “chasing a mirage” and could not expect to get a lock. Great.

Total force integration of the Gen 5 and 4.5 platforms creates a nasty dilemma for a real adversary.  At the best of times target fixation is deadly, add 5th Gen assets in the mix – fatal.

While the scenario sounds like a futile effort for Red Air, it is key to understand that this exercise is not a game where the highest kills wins.  Rather, the primary purpose of the exercise is to ensure Blue Air (our collective nations fighting edge) refine Tactics, Techniques and Procedures (TTPs).  With common, familiar TTPs, the coalition will quickly come together in the face of a future conflict and be effective, day one.

The coalition of Blue Air was challenged to maximize their mix to most efficiently use each aircraft’s exceptional capabilities, weapons loads and available fuel.  The best efforts of Red Air would test the tactics of Blue Air, to ensure they overlook nothing, and responded correctly to the dynamic of the fight.  If a Blue Air participant required a learning lesson – it was up to Red Air to provide it, and this is the right time and place to do so.  Perhaps in the “fog of war” an area of the formation would be left uncovered, and Red Air would get a leaker through to do some damage.

The 71st FTS “Langley Adversaries” fields young pilots preparing for the Raptor as well as seasoned Raptor pilots and pilots with plenty of experience in alternate platforms.  One look at the markings on the F-15E Strike Eagles of the “Bold Tigers” and it was clear there is plenty of combat experience in those cockpits.  No question, this group of pilots had the ability to take down a Blue Air player.  In a previous visit to the 71st FTS I met one of the T-38 pilots who had done that very thing.  I expect it was a lesson that resonated with the Raptor pilot.

Waiting in open cockpit at the end of runway (EOR) Blue Air completes their launches, and our teammates in F-15Es thunder down the runway in glorious afterburner.  Following MIG flight, Vodka flight of Talons launches last, one at a time in rapid succession.

We form up at 2,000 ft before punching through the clouds in formation.  I’m back seat of Vodka #3 flown by “Code,” (1st Lt.) in tight our flight lead #1 “Shim” (Maj.) and #2 “HOTAS” (Maj).  Within seconds we break through the clouds and the Talons look like beautiful black darts in the blue sky.  The SR-71 Blackbird clearly established that “black jets” are the coolest, so we are in good company.  The aircraft are stable and the pilots smooth. We stay in formation as we climb to altitude on the way to the fight.

T-38As of Langley Adversaries, 71st FTS “Ironmen” Vodka 1 & Vodka 2 during Atlantic Trident ’17 range bound. Flying out of Joint Base Langley-Eustis.

MIG flight is now far to the southeast working the opposite flank.  Marlin and Dagger are well above us in their own airspace blocks working the higher altitudes.  Red Air is tightening the noose. At altitude and nearing our block, Vodka 1 indicates he will run in on Blue Air from 10,000 ft below us.  The Talon drops away so fast my perspective is forever altered.  A high-performance aircraft allows the pilot to carve the sky at will shrinking time and space in ways grounded mortals cannot know.

Atlantic Trident 17 Red Air, 71st FTS Ironmen (T-38 Talon – Vodka Flight) and the 391st Bold Tigers (F-15E Strike Eagles – Marlin & Dagger Flights) RTB after DCA iwth a Blue Air Strike package of 1st FW F-22 Raptors, Eglin AFB F-35 Lightinging II’s, French Rafale’s and UK Typhoons.

With “go time” quickly closing in, Vodka 2 moves some distance from us.  Flying almost parallel we form a wall approaching Blue Air.  Red Air is attacking in numbers from many different directions and altitudes.  Perhaps Blue Air will miss one of us as we close rapidly and a striker will fall!

We now appear to be alone in the sky, a single gunslinger in the expanse with weapons armed and ready against impossible odds.  Focus and activity keep the thought at bay, the controllers voice a clear reminder that we are part of a much greater force and we do not fight alone.

“Fights On!” and we fly our vector like an adversary, oblivious to the invisible danger that lurks unseen in the distant (or near) sky. The next 45 minutes is something of a blur.  The controller calls a heading, we turn – someone turns, there is a lot going on in the skies.  The tempo increases, the radio crackling with voices.  Controllers in the E-3A are busy directing and working what sounds like play by play of an intense play-off game.  An intense play-off between warfighters.

Through the intercom, Code warns “G’s!”  I have split second to prepare for a snap turn and the onset of G’s.  Code is kind, the G’s are short-lived and light – well under 3.  Within moments I hear the radio crackle, “Vodka 1 you’re dead,” followed by “Vodka 2 you’re dead.”  Our flight is being picked off like tin cans on fenceposts.   I wait to hear Vodka 3 you’re dead – but silence.  I’m thinking, c’mom Code, this is our chance let’s press, I could use a kill on my resume.  Marlin 1, Dagger 2 No, No – not the Strike Eagles!  The comms crackle in warfighter shorthand, best deciphered by those who speak in this language.   With a sense of the inevitable, I hear it “Vodka 3 you’re dead.”  No sympathy, just cold, matter of fact.  It is done.  I don’t know what killed us, but we were shadow boxing with a lethal foe.

As we turn to regenerate it is clear this is not a fair fight. But that is the point, and why the tremendous investment in the 5th Gen aircraft.  The USAF has no intention to fight fair, they have built their force to dominate the air.  They who own the air will find it much easier to own the ground and sea.  Looking straight up far above us I see a silver spec blazing across the sky contrail in tow at what appears to be supersonic speeds.  A Raptor? It flies with impunity, we are mere spectators.  If this was a real fight, seeing such a sight would be a great signal to RTB (return to base).  Quickly.

After regen we return to the fight flying a designated vector.  Code rolls the Talon inverted, and pulls briefly into a vertical descent and then a great diving arc.  I had about as much as 1/10th a second to prepare for that, and 1/5 a second to enjoy it. Thank-you very much.

The fight is on! Red Air inverted and going for a 10,000 ft drop with the 71st FTS “Ironmen” T-38 Talon flown by Lt. S. Harlow, “Code.”

At some point, we pull near 4G, and the prospects have my undivided attention; will I weight 1,000 lbs today, or just 750?  I am told the pilots generally do not notice the physical, it is muscle memory that kicks in while their mind is focused on the battle.  I am glad to hear that, I’d certainly hate to lose my train of thought in such a time and place.  The Talon bottoms out 10,000 ft below where the maneuver started, and we climb all the way back to 20,000 ft.  It takes a minute to perform the massive maneuver.  And then I believe I hear music – “Rogue 1” you’re dead.  Did we get a Blue Air Striker?  Perhaps for all the Red Air jets that fell – perhaps we got one…

45 minutes’ pass in the vul, and we break for RTB.  Code directs me to the right, where descending from much higher airspace, four F-15Es of the 391st FS.  In tight formation, the Strike Eagles of Marlin and Dagger flights bob up and down like joined parts of a living being.  Magic.  Magic always ends leaving you wanting more, that’s how you know it is magic.

Some Atlantic Trident ’17 Red Air – F-15Es of the 391st FS “Bold Tigers” (Marlin & Dagger Flights) and T-38A of the 71st FTS “Ironmen” (Vodka Flight) RTB after vul.

Atlantic Trident 17 Red Air, 71st FTS Ironmen (T-38 Talon – Vodka Flight) and the 391st Bold Tigers (F-15E Strike Eagles – Marlin & Dagger Flights) RTB after DCA iwth a Blue Air Strike package of 1st FW F-22 Raptors, Eglin AFB F-35 Lightinging II’s, French Rafale’s and UK Typhoons.

Some may ask, “What is it like to fly adversary against the most lethal integrated fighter force on the planet?” My answer, “You just die. Sight unseen. You just die.”

Bury your pride, and get used to dying.  But do not forget, your “death” serves a greater purpose. 

The seemingly futile fight and subsequent “deaths” are critical to ensure the readiness of the cutting edge of our warfighters, and “Total Air Dominance.”

For Previous Report on Atlantic Trident ’17 including compelling comments by 1st FW Commander Peter “Coach” Fesler Click Here.

The Aviationist expresses gratitude to Jeffrey Hood 633 ABW PA and the entire 633 ABW Public Affairs Team who were instrumental and exceptional with their support; Col. Pete “Coach” Fesler, 1 Fighter Wing Commanding Officer, and the 71st FTS, pilots, support, medical and others were beyond exceptional hosts. The entire team at Joint Base Langley-Eustis, professional and gracious throughout the visit.  You set the bar, we can but hope to capture and share a small reflection.