Tag Archives: U.S. Air Force

Heroism: How a Young U.S. Air Force B-1B Bomber Crew Saved an Aircraft and Crew Lives

New Bomber Crew Stayed with Aircraft After Ejection Seat Failed.

In a stunning story of split-second decision-making under pressure, heroic, selfless action and remarkable airmanship, the drama of what really happened in a burning B-1B bomber over Texas on May 1, 2018 has finally been revealed.

Earlier this week in Washington, Secretary of the Air Force Dr. Heather Wilson finally told reporters and Air Force personnel what has been secretly talked about on back-channels since the incident occurred, Air Force Times Tara Copp reported.

A B-1B supersonic heavy bomber from the 7th Bomb Wing at Dyess Air Force Base in Texas was returning from a routine training sortie on May 1. The aircraft’s young crew of four, the senior aircraft commander- likely the instructor, the copilot, an offensive systems operator, and the defensive systems operator are on board. The names of the crew have not yet been released.

A fire warning light illuminated in the cockpit. According to credible reports, it was likely the number three engine on the aircraft’s right wing located closest to the fuselage. The number two and number three engines are the closest to the complex apparatus that moves the B-1B’s variable geometry swept wings. They are also close to the aircraft fuel tanks.

The crew initiated the emergency checklist procedures for extinguishing a fire in an engine. It was likely calm but businesslike in the cockpit.

The fire continued. The final item on the emergency checklist is: “Eject”.

The early B-1A prototypes were originally designed with a crew escape capsule that rocketed off the fuselage as one unit. The escape capsule was not engineered into production B-1B bombers when the program was renewed in 1982 by the Reagan administration. As a result, four lighter weight individual Weber Aircraft ACES II (Advanced Crew Ejection Seat II) ejection seats were installed in production B-1Bs. The ACES II is a proven and effective ejection seat with well over 600 successful crew escapes and the lowest frequency of user injuries of any ejection seat in history.

Original test B-1As were equipped with a crew escape capsule. Individual ejection seats were used on the operational B-1B. (Photos: The Ejection Site)

When the aircraft commander ordered the ejection of the crew from the burning aircraft over Texas the first crewmember to actuate their ejection seat was the right/rear seat on the aircraft, the Offensive Systems Operator.

When the crewmember pulled the ejection seat handles the hatch above the OSO’s ejection seat exploded off the aircraft. But the Offensive Systems Operator ejection seat did not fire. The Offensive Systems Operator was trapped under an open hatch on an armed ejection seat in a burning aircraft. Other than having a fire in the cockpit, this was a worse-case scenario.

Dr. Wilson told reporters that, “Within two seconds of knowing that had happened the aircraft commander says, ‘Cease ejection. We’ll try to land.”

Secretary Wilson told reporters on Monday that after the ejection sequence was initiated in the B-1B, “That did two things. First the airman who’s sitting on an ejection seat where he’s pulled the fire pins ― and sits there for the next 25 minutes. Wondering whether ― it’s like pulling out the pin on a grenade and holding it as you come in to land. And not knowing whether the next piece of turbulence is going to cause you to launch.”

Having cancelled the ejection of the crew from the burning bomber, the aircraft commander declared an emergency and diverted to Midland International Air and Space Port between Midland and Odessa, Texas, over 150 miles from their original base at Dyess AFB.

The pilot and flight crew flew the B-1B the entire way to Midland while it was on fire with a missing hatch, had no cockpit pressurization and an armed ejection seat that could fire at any moment without warning. Even the impact of a normal landing could have triggered the ejection seat to ignite its rockets and leave the aircraft.

The crew recovered the aircraft to Midland without injury or further damage to the aircraft, saving every member on board and the 400 million-dollar B-1B.

Composite image made from FB/Time Fischer/Midland Reporter photographs that show the missing hatch.

Dr. Heather Wilson concluded her recounting of the heroic B-1B crew’s actions by acknowledging, “The courage it took and the valor represented by that aircraft commander who decided, ‘We are going to try for all of us to make it, rather than sacrifice the one guy who can’t get out.’ Those are the men and women who choose to wear the uniform of the United States Air Force.”

The B-1 incident led to a temporary stand-down of the whole B-1 fleet as all ejection seats were inspected. The grounding was lifted on Jun. 19.

Top image: the B-1B from Dyess AFB after the May 1, 2018 emergency landing in Texas. Notice the missing hatch on top of the aircraft. (Photo: Time Fischer/Midland Reporter-Telegram)

 

Why the New U.S. Space Force Isn’t as Whacky as The Internet Suggests

Space May Be the “Final Frontier” Of a New Global Conflict Among Superpowers.

U.S. President Donald Trump launched a thousand memes when he announced the creation of a new military branch, a “U.S. Space Force” during a meeting of the National Space Council at the White House on Monday, June 18, 2018. The President told reporters that the new U.S. Space Force would become the sixth branch of the military to exist alongside but separately from the Air Force, Army, Marines, Navy and Coast Guard.

While President Trump’s announcement was received with humor and cynicism across social media, the formation of a U.S. military space force separate from and in addition to the existing five military branches is a credible and potentially overdue evolution for the U.S. military.

Since the first satellite, Sputnik 1, was placed in orbit by the former Soviet Union on October 4, 1957 over 8,000 objects have been launched into space. According to the Union of Concerned Scientists in a 2017 report, there were 1,738 operational satellites orbiting the earth at various altitudes broken into four categories; Low Earth Orbit, Medium Earth Orbit, Elliptical and Geosynchronous. Of those satellites, 159 are registered as “military” while an additional 150 are “government”. There are over 470 civilian satellites in orbit that provide everything from weather reconnaissance to communications.

Any disruption in vital space capabilities such as the six different national GPS constellations in orbit would have vast security and economic implications and present a significant vulnerability. Currently the U.S., Japan, Russia, China, the E.U. and India have GPS satellite constellations in orbit. These satellite constellations provide both vital commercial and military services ranging from civilian air transport to banking.

GPS jamming and denial is one example of potential threats in the outer space battle space. (Photo: Tom Demerly/TheAviationist.com)

Since the Army launched the first successful U.S. satellite, Explorer 1, on January 31, 1958 it is as if the United States has built a new colony in space with limited or no provision for security. This has created a significant and expanding vulnerability given our increasing reliance on space-based assets both commercial and military.

Since the late 1950’s the responsibility for space defense operations, including reconnaissance and signals intelligence, missile defense, treaty compliance verification and other defense oriented space operations has largely been on the U.S. Air Force. But as the Air Force confronts its own challenges with pilot shortages and fiscal concerns attendant to an increasingly complex and evolving mission, asking them to secure outer space in addition to inner space would necessitate a massive expansion in both budget and capabilities.

The current U.S. government space agency, NASA, is now operating on about the same budget as they had in 1960, with consistent declines in NASA funding since its peak in 1966 when NASA accounted for nearly 5% of the U.S. federal budget. Today NASA uses less than 1% of the federal budget as reliance on private commercial and military space operations has expanded. Despite this drastic reduction in government spending in space set against the backdrop of expanding reliance on space assets there remains no exclusive force to secure the outer space theater of operations.

Historically, the precedent for the formation of a U.S. Space Force is analogous to how the U.S. Air Force was started. Formed after WWII as a result of the 1947 National Security Act, the Air Force was previously a part of the U.S. Army. But as reliance on air power expanded, the missions became more complex and other nations developed an increasing level of commensurate air power the necessity for a separate force dedicated to air power became significant. It’s also important to acknowledge that despite the formation of a dedicated sir force separate from other branches, the Army, Navy, Marines and Coast Guard each retained their own indigenous air component exclusive to themselves. It’s likely the evolution of the U.S. Space Force will have a similar relationship with the other forces.

In the current battlespace, countries like China have developed anti-satellite weapons that could threaten international and U.S. space assets. In January 2007, the Chinese conducted an anti-satellite weapons test that successfully destroyed one of their own target satellites in orbit. The U.S. and Russia has demonstrated a similar capability as early as the 1980’s.

Since the first flight of the secretive X-37B on April 22, 2010, there have been many theories about what the role of the spacecraft may be. The first is that the X-37B is a space-based weapons platform: the spacecraft is pre-deployed into orbit armed with some type of weaponized re-entry vehicle that could be released over or near a specific target. It may also be a weapons delivery vehicle deployed in defense of space-based commercial assets such as the GPS satellite constellation. Although this theory is debunked by most analysts since, most likely, the platform is just a test bed for deploying satellites and servicing them robotically in space or a new intelligence gathering asset, the project itself reaffirms the interest of the U.S. military for space.

While the social media space received the announcement of a new U.S. Space Force with pointed humor and cynicism the reality is that a dedicated U.S. Space Force is likely overdue. There is an expanding need for a dedicated security asset in this rapidly expanding and largely unsecured environment. Hopefully this new U.S. Space Force can address that evolving need.

Top image: composition created with Wiki/U.S. Air Force photos

Enjoy These Amazing Videos Of The F-16 Viper Demo Team Low Take Off At The Chippewa Valley Air Show Yesterday

Here are a couple of cool clips filmed from a privileged point of view.

On Jun. 17, Chippewa Valley Regional Airport in Eau Claire, WI hosted an airshow that included the display of the Air Combat Command’s F-16 Viper Demo Team.

Piloted by Maj. John “Rain” Waters, an operational F-16 pilot assigned to the 20th Operations Group, Shaw Air Force Base, South Carolina and the United States Air Force F-16 Viper Demonstration Team commander, the F-16 performs an aerobatic display whose aim is to demonstrate demonstrate the unique capabilities by one of the Air Force’s premier multi-role fighters, the F-16 Fighting Falcon, better known as “Viper” in the pilot community.

The F-16 Viper Demo always starts with a take-off followed by a low, high-g turn. Yesterday, the maneuver was filmed from a privileged position (the slow motion effect contributes to the stunning results):

Below you can find another clip that shows the same maneuver:

Here’s the High Speed Test Track The U.S. Air Force Uses To Perform Simulated Ejections Of Anthropomorphic Test Devices

The 10-mile long Holloman High Speed Test Track (HHSTT) is a United States Air Force aerospace ground test facility used to perform a various variety of tests, including simulated ejections.

Located at Holloman Air Force Base, New Mexico, and operated by the 846th Test Squadron, the HHSTT is one of the world’s longest tracks, used to perfom tests in a realistic scenario, where a special sled can be launched at speeds in excess of 9,000 feet per second, that is around Mach 8.6 calculating for altitude!

A recent article published by Airman, the official magazine of the United States Air Force, shed some light on the activities carried out at the HHSTT whose mission is “to provide a cost-effective, realistic, dynamic test environment for the entire acquisition community, including the DoD, and contractors. As a ground-based test facility, the HHSTT provides a cost-effective, controlled test environment for high-speed weapons, systems, and components.”

Ejection seat tests are no longer carried out with humans. The last pilot to ride a rocket-propelled sled was Col. John Paul Stapp, who earned the title “the fastest man on Earth” at Holloman on December 10, 1954, to a land speed record of 632 mph in five seconds: during the test, Stapp decelerated in 1.4 seconds, which equaled 46.2 Gs, the greatest g-load ever sustained by a man. His eyes were flooded with blood and although he ragained most of his normal vision on the next day, he lost his eyesight forever.

Nowadays, tests are carried out with full-scale hi-tech mannequins, dubbed ATDs (Anthropomorphic Test Devices) that simulate the dimensions, weight proportions and articulation of the human body, and embed sensors that record data about the dynamic behavior of the ATD in simulated ejections. The collected data is then analysed and complemented with high-speed imagery and footage (like the one below) so that scientists can assess the outcome of the test.

“With a human you’re going to have to conduct a post-testing examination and then look at variables from human to human, where if you can put all the instrumentation on board a mannequin you can get all that data,” said. Lt. Col. Jason Vap, commander of the 846th Test Squadron at Holloman AFB, to Airman’s Master Sgt. Brian Ferguson for the article titled “Staying on track“. “You can take that one step further and figure out what you need to do to your seat design, or perhaps a helmet design, or your flight gear to mitigate problems. Those are things that you are only going to get from a highly instrumented mannequin. Not from post-test examination of an individual or examining what kind of pains that they suffered from that.”

Take some time to watch the following video for more details on the activities at HHSTT. By the way, the goal speed is Mach 10, not surprising, considered the U.S. Air Force is working on hypersonic missiles and aircraft

U.S. Air Force A-10 Attack Aircraft Practice Landings And Take Offs From Rural Highway And Austere Runway In Estonia

U.S. A-10s Thunderbolt II aircraft deployed to Europe to take part in Sabre Strike 18 have conducted “rough field training” in Estonia.

Thanks to its engines mounted far from the surface of the runway, the A-10 attack aircraft is practically immune to FOD (Foreign Object Damage) caused by debris flying up from unprepared runways. For this reason, the Warthog (one of the most popular A-10 nicknames) often practice austere landing and take off operations, especially when they are deployed to eastern Europe, a theater that is scattered with highway strips as well as abandoned Warsaw Pact military airfields, which have not been in use since the Cold War, that are perfectly suited for such kind of training.

Since the beginning of the month, eight A-10C from the 107th Fighter Squadron, from Selfridge ANGB Michigan, have deployed to Lielvarde Air Base, Latvia, to take part in Exercise Saber Strike 18, “a longstanding U.S. Army Europe-led cooperative training, designed to enhance readiness and interoperability among allies and regional partners.”

On a rural highway in northern Estonia, a pilot flies an A-10 Thunderbolt II attached to the 107th Fighter Squadron, Selfridge Air National Guard Base, Mich., from Lielvarde Air Base, Latvia, to practice landings and take offs, during the Exercise Saber Strike 18 on June 7, 2018. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. David Kujawa)

In order to test and train unimproved surface operations while training with NATO’s enhanced Forward Presence (eFP) battlegroups, on Jun. 7, the A-10’s have practiced operations on Jägala-Käravete Highway in Jägala, a rural highway in northern Estonia. That is the very same unprepared landing strip where, on Aug. 10, 2017, one of the A-10C (assigned to the 104th Fighter Squadron, Maryland Air National Guard) hit and damaged a road sign while performing landing and take off training.

U.S. Air Force A-10 Thunderbolt II, assigned to 107th Fighter Squadron, Selfridge, Mich., practice landing at Haapsalu, Estonia, during Saber Strike 18 June 7, 2018. The aircraft is loaded with dummy bomblets and a Litening targeting pod (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Bobbie Reynolds)

The training also involved practice landing on a un-operational, austere runway in Haapsalu, Estonia.

Two U.S. Air Force A-10 Thunderbolt II assigned to 107th Fighter Squadron, Selfridge, Mich., practice landing on a un-operational, austere runway in Haapsalu, Estonia (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Bobbie Reynolds)

Interestingly, among the aircraft conducting the austere landing operations in Estonia there as also the special-colored A-10C 81-0994/MI, that commemorates the 100th Anniversary of the Red Devils of the 107th Fighter Squadron, with a livery inspired to the P-51 (F-6A) of the 107th TRS, that flew the Mustang over Normandy during WWII. Before deploying to Latvia, this aircraft, from RAF Mildenhall, flew over the beaches of Normandy, France, as part of the commemoration ceremonies for D-Day 74.

The special colored A-10C Thunderbolt II #81-0994 practice landing on a un-operational, austere runway in Haapsalu, Estonia, during Saber Strike 18 June 7, 2018. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Bobbie Reynolds)