Close encounters in the skies over Syria between Russian and German fighters.
As reported by several media outlets on Feb. 16, Russian Air Force (RuAF) fighter jets often shadow German Air Force (GAF) Tornados performing reconnaissance missions in Syrian airspace.
Although shadowing a foreign combat plane in Syria’s skies filled with jets and UAVs may lead to some tense situations, as explained by RT.com, both sides act professionally and prevent incidents.
A claim that was also confirmed by Lt. Gen. Joachim Wundrak, a Luftwaffe official recently returned from anti-ISIS coordination center in Qatar, who told to Rheinische Post daily that RuAF pilots take no aggressive actions against their German colleagues and that no incidents have been registered because “those encounters go on professionally.”
In his opinion RuAF performs this kind of sorties to make clear that “unlike the international (US-led) anti-IS coalition, they operate at the invitation of the legitimate Syrian government.”
Nevertheless according to Wundrak these encounters are carried out safely also because Luftwaffe pilots know how to interact with their Russian colleagues thanks to the experience they gained during the Baltic Air Policing mission, where Germany regularly provides fighter jets for patrolling airspace of NATO member states of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, countries that do not have interceptor jets to secure their own airspace.
An incredible rescue mission recently took place at RAF Leeming during a training sortie in a Hawk jet.
On Jan. 28, 2016 an unnamed Royal Air Force Hawk pilot that lost his sight due to an eye infection while in a routine training sortie, was able to make a safe landing thanks to the help received from another pilot who flew alongside his plane to talk him down.
But because of the ejection injuries he could have suffered, the commander decided to dispatch another pilot, Flt. Lt. Paul Durban, an experienced Tornado driver now assigned to RAF Leeming, who talked him down.
According to a RAF spokesman, the pilot that suffered the partial loss of vision was flanked by Durban and then they flew in formation back to RAF Leeming “where the pilot landed the aircraft uneventfully. Flying in formation, and conducting an approach to land as a formation, is a skill practised daily by RAF fast jet pilots.”
The BAe Hawks belonged to the RAF’s 100 Sqn which uses this aircraft to train forward air controllers and to act as enemy jets in training missions.
RAF Tornados, supported by Voyager tanker and a Reaper UAV, have extended the UK’s airstrikes to Syria.
Hours after the UK parliament approved to extend the airstrikes to include Syria, Royal Air Force Tornado attack planes, deployed to Akrotiri, Cyprus, flew their first raid on terrorist targets inside Syria, early in the morning on Dec. 3.
The Tornados, supported by a Voyager tanker and a Reaper drone, dropped their Paveway IV guided bombs against six targets on an oilfield at Omar, “one of the ISIS’s largest and most important oilfields,” according to the MoD.
The six British “Tonkas” committed to Operation Shader flew their first mission against ISIS on Sept. 27, 2014 destroying the first ISIS target, a “technical” (an armed pick-up truck), in Iraq, on Sept. 30. Since then the RAF Tornado jets, have carried out hundreds of strike (and armed reconnaissance) missions against Daesh targets.
Although the payload may vary according to the type of mission the RAF Tornado GR4s have often carried a mixed load out with a single rack of three Brimstones and two Paveway IV 226kg bombs along with the Rafael Litening III targeting pod.
The Brimstone, is a fire-and-forget anti-armour missile, optimized for use against fast-moving platforms, first fielded during 2008 after an urgent operational requirement and used on the RAF Harriers during operations over Afghanistan.
With a warhead of 9 kg and a range of 7.5 miles, the Brimstones are an extensive redevelopment of the AGM-114 Hellfire and can be used on fast jets, helicopters and UAVs. They use a millimeter wave (mmW) radar seeker with a semi-active laser (SAL) that enables final guidance to the target by either the launching platform or another plane, and are perfect to destroy a vehicle with very low collateral damage risk, and an accuracy of about 1 – 2 meters. That’s why these small guided missiles have become the RAF weapons of choice since the Air War over Libya back in 2011.
Interestingly, one of the 8 RAF Tornados deployed at Akrotiri could be regularly tracked online during its transit from Cyprus to Iraq via Israel, Jordan, accompanied by a Voyager tanker: the example #ZA556 (the only “visible” aircraft in a formation of at least two planes) can be often spotted on Flightardar24.com as it flies into Israel, then into the Jordanian airspace before turning its transponder off to enter the Iraqi airspace.
This video shows a historic event: a unique formation of four special colored Tornado GR4s from RAF Marham alongside a fifth machine from RAF Lossiemouth, flew in the skies over Great Britain, last week.
Four aircraft were adorned with a special centenary painted tail fin commemorating the 100th anniversary of each individual squadron with the fifth jet’s tail fin celebrating 40 years of the Tornado.
Established at St. Omer on Dec. 8, 1914 Number IX (B) Squadron has been the first unit to pass the 100-year mark. Being one of the pioneers of the night flying, hence their motto “Through the Night We Fly,” the unit’s special painted Tonka sported the famous green bat, which represented the night camo colour, on the tail fin.
The second Tornado was from Number 12 (B) Squadron that celebrated their centenary on Valentine’s Day this year. Made up at Netheravon on Feb. 14, 1915 the unit contributed in developing daylight bombing tactics (their motto “Lead the Field” reflects this expertise) and the fin of their jet was painted with the emblem of the fox, received from Fairey Fox aircraft that the squadron flew in 1926.
The third jet was from 31 Squadron, whose anniversary will be celebrated on Oct. 11, 2015. Known as the Goldstars, their Tonka’s tail fin was painted with the Gold Star of India, in recognition of them being the first operational military unit in Indian skies supporting the army in dealing with tribal unrest, hence their motto “First in Indian Skies.”
The fourth Tornado from Marham was the one wearing the 40th Anniversary tail fin, commissioned in 2014 to mark 40 years of the European bomber.
The four Tonkas joined with a fifth special color from XV Squadron, the Tornado operational conversion unit based at RAF Lossiemouth. XV Squadron was born in Farnborough on Mar. 1, 1915 and their tail fin features the Hind’s Head from their squadron emblem. The original emblem of a Hart’s head was changed to the Hind’s head in 1927 to represent the aircraft that was in service at that time.
Here are some images of Steadfast Noon 2014, a NATO Nuclear exercise.
With news, AIP supplements, comments all over the Internet, and photographs published on aviation websites and spotters forums across Europe, it’s not a secret that, at the end of October, Ghedi airbase, in northern Italy, hosted Steadfast Noon 2014, a yearly exercise whose aim was to train NATO units employing “special weapons” (i.e. nuclear bombs).
Needless to say, such exercises are routinely conducted without the aircraft carrying any bomb, since their purpose is to train the crews to load and unload nukes and to assess the participating units’ ability to safely deal with this kind of ordnance.
In other words, Steadfast Noon exercises and Strikeval (Strike Evaluation) inspections and certifications are extremely important to ensure nuclear weapons can be properly managed should the need arise.
Anyway, in this post you can find some interesting photographs depicting the Steadfast Noon participants, from Poland, Belgium, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Turkey, and United States, taken by photographer Fabrizio Berni.