Tag Archives: RSAF

Yemen’s Houthis Claim Saudi F-15 Kill with SAM Over Capital City of Santis

FLIR Images Show F-15 Shoot-Down, Weapon Used May Have Been Repurposed AAM.

Images and video have surfaced of what is claimed to be a Royal Saudi Air Force F-15 Eagle being shot down by an unspecified surface to air (SAM) missile over Yemen’s capital city of Sanaa. The video is alleged to have been obtained using a ground-mounted forward-looking infra-red sensor usually mounted on helicopters for surveillance and targeting: most probably a Flir Systems ULTRA 8500.

The clip appears to show an F-15 Eagle, version unknown.

The video is shot from the right side of the aircraft, and as the aircraft rolls right, the height of the starboard (right) vertical stabilizer/rudder appears to be shorter than normal on an F-15, as though part of it is already missing: someone suggested that may have already sustained damaged to at least one of its vertical stabilizers even though this seems to be a bit far-fetched based on the available clip.

The F-15 as seen from the FLIR Systems camera (the presence of the logo is weird/unusual).

Immediately after this right rolling maneuver two bright objects, glowing from their heat signature in the infra-red video, are separated from the aircraft that lit the afterburners (based on the glowing . These seem to be flares, countermeasures ejected against heat-seeking surface-to-air missiles.

The missile nears the F-15 seemingly flying with afterburners (YT screenshot)

The aircraft then rolls right again and the profile of the F-15’s canopy can be seen, appearing to be a single-seat version, but difficult to confirm from the poor quality infra-red video.

A large object enters the frame from below, presumably a surface-to-air missile, either impacts the F-15 (whose engine heat signature has increased, suggesting the use of afterburner) or possibly detonates a proximity warhead near it or against a flare. The video ends without showing what happened to the F-15 following the apparent missile hit. The aircraft seems to continue flying more or less unscathed.

The F-15 is hit by the missile (YT screenshot)

Text in the YouTube video caption reads in Arabic, “The first sight of the moment hit and shot down a Saudi F-15 aircraft in the atmosphere of the Yemeni capital Sanaa” (the image used as preview in the video below does not show the RSAF F-15 but the Russian Air Force Su-24 hit by a Turkish AF F-16 in November 2015..).

Information that surfaced on Twitter shortly after the video released suggested the aircraft may have been shot down by a S-75 Dvina surface-to-air missile, a version of the venerable SA-2 Guideline SAM missile. However several sources are increasingly suggesting the F-15 was targeted by a modified R-27T based on claims that Houthis have modified a number AAMs (air-to-air missiles) to be launched from pick-ups.

The R-27 (AA-10 Alamo-B), is an IR-homing, missile with a maximum range of 63 km and a theoretical maximum allowed vertical separation of 10 km meters altitude.

If the claim of the F-15 aircraft being shot down by Houthis is confirmed, this may be one of the few instances any version of the F-15 Eagle has been shot down. The U.S. suffered the loss of F-15E Strike Eagles to anti-aircraft fire during the Gulf War back in 1991.

The Royal Saudi Air Force is believed to have a fleet of 129 active single-seat F-15C Eagles and F-15S ground attack/multi-role aircraft along with the first 13 (of 84 ordered) new F-15SA attack aircraft,

File photo of Saudi F-15 Eagle. (Photo: via Yemeni Observer)

In October 2017, the Houthi rebels claimed to have shot down a Saudi Typhoon involved in a mission supporting Operation Decisive Storm, the Saudi-led air war on the Houthi rebels in the southern end of the Arabian Peninsula.

H/T @phxasc for providing many details about the alleged downing.

We Have Flown in Textron’s Scorpion Jet. Here’s What We Have Learned.

The Scorpion is the iPhone X of Military Aviation.

To many, the Textron Aviation Defense LLC Scorpion is an enigma.

Though it has capability overlap, the Scorpion is not a traditional Fighter, Attack, Reconnaissance, Observation, or Trainer, nor is it designed to replace any existing platform. To understand it, one must look to the Scorpion as a ISR/Strike platform developed in the context of the smartphone business model.

The hardware platform – the Scorpion, could be likened to the 256 GB iPhone X (or equivalent Pixel 2/Samsung Note 8 if you prefer). The aircraft features a truly open mission architecture, with extraordinary internal/external payload capability. An Interface Control Document [ICD] is made available to payload suppliers who program their payloads to interface with the Scorpion mission system. The result is a very efficient hardware platform with a “sky’s the limit” applications/payloads store!

Textron focuses on providing the very low operating cost, flexible, and modular “flying platform” to readily host today and tomorrow’s most capable payloads. The approach is a complete break from the proprietary systems utilized by the prime contractors of current high-end fighters; controlled, slowed and priced by the prime.

Textron Scorpion with HMP-400 gun pods overflies NAS Patuxent River during recent weapons trials. The TEXTRON team achieved 100% mission completion rate during weapons system testing. 5 different configurations (LAU-131, HMP-400 Gun pods, GBU-12) were tested over 5 days, with the tests concluding 4 days early. (Photo: Erik Hildebrandt)

I recently flew in one of the three production Scorpions, “P2” fresh off the USAF OA-X Experiment.

Textron Aviation Defense Flight Test and Demonstration Pilot Matt “Tajma” Hall (current Air National Guard C-130 Aircraft Commander; experienced pilot in the F-15E and T-6) provided flight briefing, and Chief Test Pilot Dan “Shaka” Hinson (Ret. USN F/A-18 Pilot, former Commanding Officer of the U.S. Naval Strike Fighter Weapons School, and Graduate of U.S. Naval Test Pilot School) piloted the aircraft. One cannot help but note the tremendous quality and experience in the team that Textron has assembled to not only fly and prove the aircraft, but to provide the intellectual capital behind design and capability.

Testron Scorpion “P2” just off the USAF OA-X Experiment readies for flight from Manassas, VA. (All photos: Author unless otherwise stated).

Departing on an IFR flight plan in low overcast from the Manassas Regional Airport, Virginia, we quickly climbed to 5,000 ft and headed southwest where the skies were clearing. The rapid departure and climb made it clear we were under jet power. Within minutes we were in suitable VFR conditions over Charlottesville, Virginia and ATC provided a block of airspace for maneuvering. Over the next 60 minutes, Hinson demonstrated the flight characteristics, sensors and weapons systems.

Under his watchful eye, Hinson had me take control of the aircraft executing turns, pulling Gs, evaluating high speed handling, speed brake deployment, an aileron roll, multiple stalls and stall recoveries. The Scorpion is an incredibly stable and “pilot friendly” aircraft. Engines at idle, flaps up, stick back, and nose high – and the aircraft would not stall. When parameters were established to create a stall, recovery was straightforward. The aircraft is slippery and a slight drop in the nose leads to a “with this kind of nose attitude the aircraft really accelerates a lot…” from Hinson. The man is a real professional, a gentleman’s way of saying, “pull the nose up.” I did.

The author, Todd Miller taking a selfie in the Textron Aviation Defense Scorpion Jet over Virgina, USA. Capable, scalable ISR/Light Attack for the uncontested space.

The wing provides a tremendous glide ratio, ideal for the aircraft’s purpose – ISR in a permissive environment. On station at about 12,000 ft the total fuel burn was only 500 – 600 lbs per engine, per hour. This enables tremendous time on station with a variety of weapons at the ready to neutralize a target of opportunity. For comparison sake, the fuel burn per hour on station is about 10 – 12% of the F-15E Strike Eagle and less than 20% of an F-16 in the same role. While no replacement for these fighter aircraft, this mission utilization is precisely how scores of hours have been accumulated by the F-15E, F-16, A-10, and F/A-18s over the past 30 years. The Scorpion delivers exceptional economy while enabling operations from austere environments with significantly more capable ISR payloads.

A veritable set of airborne eyes and ears, the Scorpion supports payloads that facilitate both kinetic and non-kinetic effects across all operational domains. With tremendous internal space for payloads, the Scorpion offers an excess of electrical power to support anticipated and unforeseen demands. A nose bay is available for configuration with electro-optical/infrared (EO-IR) sensors such as the L3 Wescam MX series, or an active electronically scanned array radar (AESA). Three large internal payload bays can be configured for use with sensors/payloads to support Signals Intelligence (SIGINT), Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR), Hyperspectral Analysis, Electronic Warfare or other. Additional payloads such as a 4G LTE Hotspot could be very helpful in a humanitarian crisis. Like a smartphone, the Scorpion’s capabilities are limited only by the ingenuity of providers to fill the space and power available.

The Textron Scorpion demonstrates the ability to carry the L-3 Wescam MX-15 (nose bay) or the powerful MX-25 (payload bay 3). In both instances the EO IR sensor is fully retractable, and is stowed for flight operations until on station.

Permissive environments that utilize significant ISR assets such as the RC-135 Rivet Joint [SIGINT], E-8 JSTARS [Surveillance and Reconnaissance] and others may find more than adequate capability in a rightly configured Scorpion. Such downsizing of ISR packages would increase savings exponentially and free the most capable USAF assets for demanding mission sets.

Orbiting on station I found operating the sensor package while flying the aircraft via the Hands-on Throttle and Stick [HOTAS] intuitive and straightforward. Up front, Hinson utilized the Helmet Mounted Cueing System (HMCS) to demonstrate operational capabilities. Specific sensor packages overlay data from multiple payloads and create a single situational picture captured by time and geolocation. The data could be processed by a powerful computer package onboard, or streamed by secure network to other assets in space, the air or ground. As Textron Aviation Defense Senior Advisor Stephen Burke indicated, “We can pull out of the noise a target that is very difficult to see. A low contrast, short dwell target in a chaotic urban environment.” The kind of environment that the USAF has been operating in for years – with no end in sight.

View from the rear office of the Textron Scorpion while flying over Virginia, USA. The photo is distorted (canopy etc) due to the panorama function of the camera. The dots visible on canopy provide “calibration” for the Helmet Mounted Cueing System.

The massive increase in data generated by ISR platforms has created very real manpower challenges for Processing, Exploitation and Dissemination (PED). An onboard, algorithm-driven computer system would provide a tremendous leap in PED capability. That kind of computer driven analysis of data is a capability USAF thought leaders have indicated is imperative.

The open architecture the Scorpion features for payloads is entirely separated from the aircrafts flight controls. Each system/sensor simply runs as a unique application within the main mission systems computer. This “non-proprietary” approach opens scores of possibilities for the user and their related contract negotiations. While speaking at the OA-X experiment at Holloman AFB, Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson specified this approach (open architecture/non-proprietary) as a requirement to do business with the USAF moving forward. When Scorpion payload providers update their sensors with additional capabilities scores of hours of regression testing can be avoided – reference the ICD, plug, play and deploy. Rather than take years to upgrade sensors, it can be achieved in weeks.

The excellent flight characteristics I experienced are complemented by tremendous reliability and ease of operations. Whether in weapons testing, flight testing or international travel – the Scorpion has demonstrated exceptional readiness rates. Most recently flying from Wichita, Kansas to the Dubai Air Show, “P2” visited nine countries in six days with 100 percent mission readiness. 100 percent readiness sounds fictitious. However, it is not all that surprising given the aircraft utilizes proven and widely deployed commercial systems.

While visiting Saudi Arabia, Royal Saudi Air Force pilots quickly qualified in the Scorpion and scored multiple direct hits with inert GBU-12s. At the Dubai Air Show the Textron team continued flight operations with multiple demonstrations showcasing Scorpion’s capabilities to an array of international prospective customers.

Unlike the USAF during the O-AX experiment, or the Saudi Arabian Air Force pilots, my flight demonstration carried no ordnance. However, a target below was designated and Hinson demonstrated an attack profile with a precision guided munition. The Scorpion features a proven Stores Management System [SMS] that will continue to grow as more ordnance is qualified for the aircraft.

Textron Scorpion fires 2.75″ Hydra-70 rocket during recent weapons trials at NAS Patuxent River, MD. The Textron team achieved 100% mission completion rate during weapons system testing. 5 different configurations (LAU-131, HMP-440 Gun pods, GBU-12) were tested over 5 days (Photo: Erik Hildebrandt)

Returning to the airfield, I had the time to appreciate the exceptional view, and the potential value the aircraft could bring to the growing USAF pilot shortage. During the OA-X experiment, it was noted by USAF leadership that procurement of additional low-cost airframes would be required to surge pilot training/skills development to address the pilot shortage.

Textron strongly believes Scorpion is a compelling fit for USAF pilots — and for USN pilots who graduate out of flight school. Their first assignment in a Scorpion would expose them to a low-cost but very capable platform that brings forward the future of the DoD operations. Scorpion pilots will be immersed in the combat cloud, secure communications, fusion warfare, sensor operation and management. I can think of no better platform for pilots to learn relevant systems and build hours while preparing for the power of the DoD’s upgraded Gen 4 and Gen 5 aircraft and the high intensity fight.

Regardless the virtues of the platform, Textron’s approach to build an aircraft tailored to military operations where no stated requirement exists is rare and risky. However, it is not risk taken in a vacuum, but rather a bold example of entrepreneurship that was inspired by the thought leadership of the USAF and military aviators. Aside the absence of an official requirement, reviews of articles penned and speeches made by the thought leaders of the USAF reveal the basis for design of the Scorpion and the Textron model.

USAF thought leadership defines an Air Force that utilizes Fusion Warfare; the Combat Cloud; Open Architecture; Non-proprietary system contracts; the Information Battlespace; addresses the pilot shortage; operates much more cost effectively with a high/low platform mix that generates airframe and fuel savings (see Logistical Fratricide); and empowers Decision Superiority. Well, it looks like the Scorpion addresses each of these operational concepts/issues and brings additional capabilities to the deploying Air Force (the USAF or any number of its allies). As such, the platform may not only serve an immediate need, it can also define a model approach for future weapons systems development.

Air Force thought leaders have been speaking. It appears Textron was listening closely and, as a result, the Scorpion presents a compelling opportunity. The airframe and flying qualities speak for themselves. Simplicity with riveting capability. The design philosophy of modularity and open architecture find me reflecting on my first encounter with something called an iPhone. At the time, I was using another device for phone and email communications and some of my colleagues bucked our corporate IT department, so they could utilize an iPhone.

At first, I didn’t get it. Today, the device I was using is all but forgotten and the smartphone and application stores rule. Perhaps the Scorpion and the model it presents will find similar success in changing the way forward for military airpower.

The Aviationist expresses gratitude to the team at Textron Aviation Defense, specifically to the patient and gracious Chief Test Pilot Dan “Shaka” Hinson and Pilot Matt “Tajma” Hall. An exceptional team of professionals across the board.

Third batch of F-15SA Advanced Eagles delivered to Saudi Arabia via RAF Lakenheath

Delivery of the most advanced production Eagles ever to Saudi Arabia continue.

The first four of 84 new F-15SA aircraft ordered by the Royal Saudi Air Force along with an upgrade package for 68 existing RSAF F-15S jets, arrived at King Khalid Air Base (KKAB) in Saudi Arabia via RAF Lakenheath, on Dec. 13, 2016.

The aircraft, taken on charge by the 55th Sqn, were followed by a second batch of four F-15SAs that arrived at KKAB via Lakenheath in February, and by a third batch of five advanced Eagles that made the usual stopover in UK late on Saturday Mar. 28.

The third batch included: 12-1005/Retro 61, 12-1008/Retro 62, 12-1932/Retro 63, 12-1039/Retro 64 and 12-1047/Retro 65.

The Aviationist’s Tony Lovelock was at RAF Lakenheath and shot the photographs you can find in this post.

Note the tiny U.S. Air Force roundel clearly visible just below the cockpit area.

Derived from the F-15E Strike Eagle, the F-15SA is the most advanced production Eagle ever produced. It is equipped with the APG-63V3 Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radar, a digital glass cockpit, JHMCS (Joint Helmet Mouted Cueing System), Digital Electronic Warfare System/Common Missile Warning System (DEWS/CMWS) and IRST (Infra Red Search and Track) system.
Moreover, the “SA” jet is able to carry several air-to-air and air-to-surface weapons, including the AIM-120C7 AMRAAM (Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missile) and the AIM-9X Sidewinder air-to-air missiles, the AGM-84 SLAM-ERs, the AGM-88 HARM (High-speed Anti-Radiation Missile) and the GBU-39 SDBs (Small Diameter Bombs) on 11 external hardpoints.

Image credit: Tony Lovelock

 

Up close and personal with the first Saudi F-15SA, the most advanced Eagle ever built

This stunning air-to-air video shows the most advanced variant of the Eagle recently delivered to the Royal Saudi Air Force (RSAF).

The Royal Saudi Air Force (RSAF) has officially received its first Boeing F-15SA multirole jets in a ceremony celebrating the 50th anniversary of the King Faisal Air College in Riyadh on Jan. 25, 2017.

Equipped with the APG-63V3 Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radar, a digital glass cockpit, JHMCS (Joint Helmet Mouted Cueing System), Digital Electronic Warfare System/Common Missile Warning System (DEWS/CMWS), IRST (Infra Red Search and Track) system, and able to carry a wide array of air-to-air and air-to-surface weaponry, including the AIM-120C7 AMRAAM (Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missile) and the AIM-9X Sidewinder air-to-air missiles, the AGM-84 SLAM-ERs, the AGM-88 HARM (High-speed Anti-Radiation Missile) and the GBU-39 SDBs (Small Diameter Bombs) on 11 external hardpoints, the F-15SA, derived from the F-15E Strike Eagle, is the most advanced Eagle variant ever produced.

Back in 2010, the RSAF requested 84 new-built F-15SA jets and upgrade package for 68 existing Saudi F-15S fighters for a total of 152 multirole advanced Eagles through a Foreign Military Sale: a contract worth 29.4 billion USD that included logistics, spares, maintenance support and weapons was eventually signed on Dec. 29, 2011.

Therefore, instead of the 5th gen. F-35 Lightning II, Saudis (that already operate the 4th gen. Eurofighter Typhoon) opted for a 4.5th generation jet able to perform several missions, including SEAD/DEAD (Suppression/Destruction of Enemy Air Defenses), OCA (Offensive Counter Air) and Air Interdiction with precision guided munitions from stand-off distance.

The newest aircraft’s predecessor, the Saudi F-15S, have taken part in the air strikes in Yemen, as part of Operation Decisive Storm, the Saudi Arabian-led intervention in Yemen, since Mar. 26 2015. A RSAF F-15S crashed in the Gulf of Aden during the opening day of the air war; its two pilots ejected safely and were recovered from the sea by a USAF HH-60G rescue helicopter. Although Houthi and Iranian sources stated that the Eagle was shot down, Saudi and Arab coalition authorities denied such reports.

The first F-15SAs arrived at King Khalid Air Base (KKAB) in Saudi Arabia via RAF Lakenheath, on Dec. 13, 2016, the day after the Israeli received their first 5th generation F-35I.

The first aircraft were assigned to the 55th Sqn at KKAB.

The following epic footage (produced by Combat Aircraft’s editor Jamie Hunter and Bob Hayes) shows the first F-15SAs, flying in Saudi Arabia.

Enjoy.

 

Saudi Arabia is deploying combat planes to Turkey to fight ISIS

Royal Saudi Air Force aircraft will launch air strikes against Daesh from Turkey.

RSAF aircraft are being deployed to Incirlik airbase, Turkey, from where they will launch air strikes against ISIS, Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğluy said on Feb. 13.

Saudi Arabia has been part of the US-led coalition fighting Daesh since 2014; by moving its combat planes closer to the area of operations it will be able to increase the ops tempo.

F-15RSAF

Image credit: Antonio Muñiz Zaragüeta

It’s not clear how many RSAF aircraft will be deployed, what type of aircraft the Saudi will deploy nor when these will arrive. So far, Saudi officials have performed a site survey, the Turkish foreign minister siad.

Saudi Arabia is not the only country moving its aircraft to Turkey: according to some media reports, Qatar and UAE (both already belonging to the anti-ISIS coalition and launching their sorties from Jordan) will station their warplanes in Turkish airbases, including Diyarbakir, in the southeastern region of the country.

RSAF-Typhoon-top

Image credit: Alessandro Fucito