Tag Archives: Royal Air Force

Royal Air Force fast jet and spyplane support UK’s Flood Relief Efforts

One Tornado and one Sentinel R1 provided valuable support to the flood relief operations across UK

Hi-tech equipment carried by two Royal Air Force aircraft was used in the last few days to provide detailed aerial imagery of the areas affected by the floods in the Thames Valley, UK.

A 31 Squadron Tornado GR4 from RAF Marham carrying the RAPTOR (Reconnaissance Air Pod for Tornado) gathered high-resolution imagery that was brought back to the base to be processed and assessed by RAF analysts before being passed to civilian authorities.

RAF Tornado

The optical imagery provided by the Tornado’s reconnaissance pod was complemented by the radar pictures taken by  a Sentinel R1 aircraft operated by the 5 (Army Cooperation) Squadron from RAF Waddington airbase, which was launched on Feb 13 following the Tornado’s sortie.

Flood imagery

The Sentinel is a long-range ISR (Intelligence Surveillance Reconnaissance) platform with extensive combat experience in Libya and Mali, equipped with an all-weather radar system and electro optical sensors that is capable to produce photo-like imagery of a large parts of the ground: these images are then used to map the areas hit by the devastating flooding and assist in the identification of those at a higher risk of further flooding.

Sentinel R1

Image credit: RAF / Crown Copyright


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UK’s new Aerial Refueler grounded after Voyager plane plummets 2,000 feet

The incident involved one Royal Air Force’s Airbus 330 tanker returning from Afghanistan.

The UK’s fleet of brand new “Voyager” aerial refuelers has been grounded after a tanker, bringing 181 military to Afghanistan, suffered an incident in Turkey’s airspace.

Based on the first reports, the Royal Air Force’s modified Airbus 330 MRTT (Multi Role Tanker Transport) was overflying Turkey on Sunday night, when it suddenly plummeted 2,000 feet.

A few passengers received minor injuries hence the aircraft performed an emergency landing at an unspecified divert field in Turkey.

The UK’s MoD decided to suspend the flying activitiy of all its Voyager aircraft until the incident is investigated.

Considered that the VC-10 tanker was retired in September 2013, the only remaining tanker aircraft in RAF service is the venerable Lockheed Tristar used for dual transport/tanker role; the type of aircraft that the Voyager was due to replace.

In March 2013, four RAF Eurofighter Typhoons deployed to Malaysia to take part to LIMA – Langkawi International Maritime & Aerospace Exhibition with the support provided by the Italian Air Force Boeing KC-767A: the Italian tanker has been involved in a “collective” aerial refueling certification activity, whose aim was develop common operational capacities that will enable “pooling and sharing” of important assets, including tankers.
This is not the first time an Airbus 330 (the Voyager is a military variant of the civilian plane) plummets some thousand feets while cruising at high altitude: for instance, in 2008, a Qantas A330 pitched nose-down and plunged about 650 feet in about 20 seconds (after a short climb) because of a failure in one of the ADIRUs (Air Data Inertial Reference Units) and a previously unknown software design limitation of aircraft’s fly-by-wire flight control primary computer (FCPC).
Image credit: UK MoD / Crown Copyright
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[Video] What an ordinary day at Nellis Air Force Base during a Red Flag looks like

Wanna know what a Red Flag launches and recoveries look like? Take a look.

“Sharpening the ability to thrive and survive in a high-threat environment during Red Flag’s premier, realistic live-fly exercise, translates into air power success on the battlefield,” Nellis Air Force Base says.

Indeed, a Red Flag participation is often a requirement to be employed in combat (the real one).


Here are some videos that will give you an idea of how busy Nellis aprons, taxiways and runways can be during an ordinary day at Red Flag 14-1 which marks the return of Air Combat Command’s flagship exercise after sequestration.


More than 125 aircraft from the U.S. Air Force, U.S. Navy, U.S. Marine Corps, Royal Australian Air Force, and Royal Air Force of the United Kingdom are taking part in RF 14-1.


Image credit: U.S. Air Force


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These are the first images of UK’s classified unmanned stealth “superdrone”

Although the footage was shot in August 2013, today BAE Systems released it for the first time.

Taranis“, the technological demonstrator of UK’s stealthy unmanned combat vehicle made its first flight on Aug. 10, 2013. Where the maiden sortie took place remains a secret.

The aircraft flew at the old British Nuclear test range at Woomera, Australia.

The only thing we know is that the “superdrone” flew under the command of BAE Systems’ test pilot Bob Fraser and “made a perfect take off, rotation, ‘climb out’ and landing.”

Since then, a number of other test flights have taken place in much secrecy.

“Taranis” is an Unmanned Combat Air Vehicle (UCAV), described as “the most advanced aircraft ever built by British engineers”.

It’s a semi-autonomous pilotless system that will feature an intercontinental range and will be able to carry a wide variety of weapons, including PGMs (Precision Guided Munitions) and air-to-air missiles.

The Royal Air Force already operates a fleet of Reaper drones from RAF Waddington airbase.

Image credit: BAE Systems


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“Dambusters” Squadron’s final mission. Will reform and get F-35B in 2018.

RAF’s legendary Squadron disbanded 71 years after famous raid over Germany. Will reform and get F-35s in a few years.

Royal Air Force’s 617 Squadron known as the “Dambusters”, from the daring night missions against the Mohne, Eder and Sorpe dams, pivotal to Hitler’s industrial heartland in the Ruhr Valley, back in 1943, completed their last operational mission (over Afghanistan) with the Tornado GR4.

It will be a temporary disbandment though: the unit will reform in 2018, with both Royal Air Force and Navy personnel and it will be equipped with the F-35B Lightning II joint strike fighter.

This last flight was a Close Air Support (CAS) mission, which aimed at helping the coalition troops and was made by Squadron Leader, Mark Jackson.

The Dambuster played recce and CAS roles during their stay in Afghanistan, tasks that were handed over to No II (Army Co-operation) Squadron from RAF Marham.

The statistics of Dambusters’ last tour in  Afghanistan are astounding: the Squadron accumulated 188 missions and logged more than 1500 flying hours.

In the article published on the RAF website Mark Jackson said:

As I stepped down from the aircraft for the last time, my emotions were mixed. Tinged with sadness is an overwhelming sense of achievement for what the Squadron have accomplished. I am sure that the original Dambusters felt a similar poignancy at the end of their iconic raid and would echo how very proud I am of those that serve today.

One of a few interesting tasks the Dambusters performed was the show of force; 14 ones were conducted on their stay in Afghanistan.

What is it? It is basically flying fast and low to deter enemy forces from attacking coalition ground troops. In this way the Squadron paid tribute to its early days, when low level flying was needed to sneak close to the German dams.

Jackson reminisces, that it is nothing compared to the raids back in 1943, since then, the bomber pilots “came back from their mission pulling out bits of trees and twigs from the aircraft, they were literally skimming the trees to get there.”

The Dambusters are to be officially disbanded in March, but then there is a plan to reform the unit as the the RAF’s first Lightning II Squadron in 2018, provided all the problems with the American STOVL (Short Take Off Veritical Landing) stealth jet will be solved by then.

In this way the legacy will be maintained. Wing Commander Arthurton is waiting for the Dambusters to come back, as he says: “the spirit and ethos of this famous Squadron will no doubt endure as it embarks on the next chapter of its illustrious history.”

Written with David Cenciotti

617 Sqn final flight

Image Credit: Crown Copyright



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