Tag Archives: Royal Air Force

RAF Typhoons to deploy to Romania to provide Air Policing in the Black Sea region

British Typhoons heading to southeastern Europe to provide QRA (Quick Reaction Alert) from Romania.

On Mar. 27, the UK MoD (Ministry of Defence) has announced that four Typhoon combat planes, belonging to the 3 (Fighter) Squadron will fly from RAF Coningsby to Mihail Kogalniceanu Airbase in southeast Romania, to support NATO’s Southern Air Policing mission from May to September 2017.

During QRA tasks Typhoons typically fly with two 2,000-lt drop-tanks (although this option will likely not be needed for Romania, as noted by IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly), four Advanced Short Range Air-to-Air Missiles (ASRAAMs), four AIM-120 Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missiles (AMRAAMs), along with the internal Mauser 27 mm cannon.

With the deployment to Mihail Kogalniceanu Airbase, the Royal Air Force will become the first air arm to support NATO air policing mission to reassure local allies in the Black Sea region that is frequently “visited” by NATO  intelligence gathering and maritime patrol aircraft as well as Russian combat planes, some of those buzz U.S. warships and spyplanes operating in the area.

Some NATO members provide air policing tasks for allies that lack aircraft and radars to do so autonomously (Albania, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Slovenia).

NATO has been protecting the Baltic skies since 2004, when Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania joined the Alliance. The Baltic air policing mission started in April 2004 and has been executed continuously ever since. Slovenia’s airspace is covered by Hungary and Italy. Albania is covered by Greece and Italy.

The Italian Air Force covers Albania (sharing the task with the Hellenic Air Force) and Slovenia (with the Hungarian Air Force) and is currently supporting Icelandic Air Policing mission in Iceland; NATO’s BAP (Baltic Air Patrol) mission started in April 2004 and has been executed continuously ever since. It is supported by various air forces on a rotational basis and covers Lithuania, Estonia and Latvia.

Allied Air Command (AIRCOM) headquartered at Ramstein, Germany oversees the NATO Air Policing mission with 24/7 command and control from two Combined Air Operations Centres (CAOCs); one in Torrejon, Spain, and one in Uedem, Germany. CAOC Uedem is responsible for NATO Air Policing north of the Alps and CAOC Torrejon for the south. The CAOC decides which interceptors will be scrambled according to the location of the incident.

The mission of patrolling the skies along NATO’s eastern border was intensified following the Russia-Ukraine crisis. The arrival of the British Typhoons is the last of a series of measures “to deter a Russian aggression over the Black Sea.

Image credit: Eurofighter / Geoffrey Lee, Planefocus Ltd

Watch RAF Typhoons fly close to Russian aircraft carrier group sailing past the UK

RAF Typhoons flew near Admiral Kuznetsov aircraft carrier sailing through the English Channel on the way home after taking part in the Syria air war. Just a “useless” show of force?

A British warship, Royal Navy frigate HMS St Albans, along with 3 RAF Typhoons have shadowed the Admiral Kuznetsov aircraft carrier and its battle group as they passed by the UK on Jan. 24.

The Russian carrier and her battle group (the Pyotr Velikiy, a nuclear-powered Kirov-class battlecruiser and a salvage tug) are returning home after completing their first combat deployment to the eastern Mediterranean to take part in the air war in Syria, a cruise that was plagued by two crashes (a MiG-29K and a Su-33).

The three Eurofighters, two single-seaters and a two-seater (along with a photo-ship, perhaps another Typhoon) flew near the Admiral Kuznetsov in what was just a show of force: the British multirole aircraft have no real anti-ship capability nor carried any armament.

Based on the photographs, only one Typhoon FGR4 ZJ927 had at least one (dummy) ASRAAM (Advanced Short-Range Air-to-Air Missile) on the outer port pylon.

Here’s an interesting clip filmed by the RAF jets during their flying activity in the vicinity of the Russian carrier.

Image credit: Crown Copyright

Russia’s MoD claimed the British performed a useless escort. Here’s Russian Defence Ministry comment  on the statement of the British Secretary of State for Defence Michael Fallon concerning the escort of the Russian carrier group by the British ships off the coast of Great Britain:

We have paid attention to the statement of the British Secretary of State for Defence Michael Fallon concerning the Russian carrier group which is passing the English Channel on its way home after combat task performance.

The goal of such statements and show concerning the escort of the Russian ships is to draw the attention of the British taxpayers away from the real state of affairs in the British Navy.

First, the Russian combat ships do not need escort services; they know the fairway and the course.

Second, Mr. Fallon is recommended paying more attention to the British fleet all the more there is every reason for it according to the same British press.

The Russian MoD also highlighted that the British newspaper Sunday Times reported about a failed launch of a ballistic missile from submarines of the British Navy recently.

According to a Royal Navy spokesperson “Remaining at a respectful distance, but keeping the Russian warships clearly visible, Royal Navy sailors keep watch on every movement through their binoculars and use state-of-the-art radars to track the course and speed of the ships as they pass close to the UK.”

BBC defence correspondent Jonathan Beale says Typhoons may have used their sensors to try to detect the Russian’s air defence systems but the Eurofighter ESM (Electronic Support Measures) capabilities are quite limited if compared to other specialized aircraft (including the RAF E-3D or the Sentinel R1, whose presence in the same “surveillance operation” can’t be ruled out) that could gather much more significant data (if any, considered that the Russian aircraft carrier has been closely monitored while operating in the Med Sea with all its systems turned on….) from (safe) distance.

Image credit: Crown Copyright

 

Salva

Salva

Salva

Salva

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.

 

Salva

Salva

Salva

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!