Tag Archives: U.S. Air Force

All we know about the U.S. B-2 bombers 30-hour round trip mission to pound Daesh in Libya

In a massive two-aircraft nighttime precision strike supported by at least one armed drone U.S. Air Force stealth bombers have killed over 80 ISIL insurgents south of the coastal city of Sirte, Libya.

As already reported, two U.S. Air Force B-2 Spirit bombers from the 509th Bomb Wing at Whiteman Air Force Base carried out a precision air strike on Daesh training camps in Libya on Jan. 18, 2017.

DoD officials characterized the strike as a “huge success” in a statement issued on Jan. 19.

The multiple terrorist camps struck on Wednesday were once an ISIL stronghold in Libya. The targets were hit with 108 precision-targeted, air-delivered weapons. There was no indication of how the targeting data was provided. Following the airstrike by B-2s at least one remotely piloted vehicle (MQ-9 Reaper according to some sources, MQ-1 Predator according to others) launched supporting strikes using AGM-114 Hellfire missiles against ISIS fighters trying to run to safety.

“In conjunction with the Libyan Government, the U.S. military conducted precision airstrikes Wednesday night destroying two ISIL camps 45 kilometers southwest of Sirtem,” Pentagon press secretary Peter Cook told reporters.

This continuation of U.S. air action over Libya further extends U.S. combat operations in the region bringing the number of airstrikes by U.S. forces to nearly 500.

This latest round of heavy strikes was authorized by outgoing U.S. President Barack Obama, indicating that the targets were of significant strategic value to the conflict. The camps were established by ISIL insurgents following a protracted combined ground and air campaign by a coalition of nations including Libya to eliminate the terrorist influence in the region.

The strikes were flown from the continental United States directly to Libya and back but, unlike what happened in 2011, during the opening phases of Operation Odyssey Dawn, the raid was far from being unnoticed: the aircraft flew under radio callsign CLIP11 (93-1087) CLIP12 (89-0129) and CLIP13 (82-1068) with the latter one being the spare aircraft.

According to some sources, a fourth B-2 was involved in the raid but only three were monitored by airband listeners and this would be coherent with the standard Spirit procedures that usually involve a single spare aircraft.

A total of 15 tankers (KC-135 and KC-10) participated in the operation, enabling the B-2s to fly the more than 30 hours round-trip to the target from their home base in Missouri.

According to the U.S. Air Force, planners at 18th Air Force and the 618th Air Operations Center at Scott AFB coordinated the tanker mission.

The 305th Air Mobility Wing at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, New Jersey, was one of the units that contributed tankers to the refueling mission. Then, after crossing the Pond, the B-2s were refueled off Gibraltair by KC-135s belonging to the 100th ARW launched from RAF Mildenhall, UK, whose racetracks could be tracked online by means of ADS-B.

The USS Donald Cook (DDG-75) and USS Porter (DDG-78), both Arleigh-Burke class guided missile destroyers, supported the operation as they steamed north of Libya on station in the Mediterranean.

According to Defense journalist Babak Taghvaee, ISR (Intelligence Surveillance Reconnaissance) and post-strike BDA (Battle Damage Assessment) were conducted by U-28A aircraft from 319th SOS even though the participation of USAF RQ-4 Global Hawk drones, that have often conducted missions over North Africa and Syria seems to be quite likely.

Airmen from the 509th Bomb Wing at Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri prepare B-2 Spirit stealth bombers for operations near Sirte, Libya. In conjunction with the Libyan Government of National Accord, the U.S. military conducted precision airstrikes Jan. 18, 2017 destroying two Daesh camps 45 kilometers southwest of Sirte. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Joel Pfiester)

The B-2 Spirit is a unique asset to the American military, with no comparable low-observable, heavy precision strike asset being fielded by any other nation. The aircraft became operational in early 1997 and launched its first combat strike soon after in KosTwo B-2 Spirit stealth bombers from the 509th Bomb Wing at Whiteman Air Force Base carried out a precision air strike in Libya on Jan. 18, 2017.ovo in 1999. There are fewer than twenty of the aircraft in Air Force inventory.

A B-2 Spirit stealth bomber lands at Whiteman Air Force Base, Mo., Jan. 19, 2017. Two B-2s returned after an approximate 30-hour sortie in support of operations near Sirte, Libya. In conjunction with the Libyan Government of National Accord, the U.S. military conducted precision airstrikes Jan. 18, 2017, destroying two Daesh camps 45 kilometers southwest of Sirte. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Joel Pfiester)

The B-2 Spirit is operated by the legacy 509th Bomb Wing at Whiteman AFB in Knob Noster, Missouri. The 509th Bomb Wing was originally formed in late WWII expressly to conduct the first operational nuclear strikes on Japan in 1945. The unit operated a modified version of the Boeing B-29 Superfortress and launched two operational nuclear strikes on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the only active use of nuclear weapons by a nation in warfare.

Written with David Cenciotti

 

U.S. B-2 Spirit Stealth Bombers from Whiteman AFB conduct precision airstrike in Libya. Drones perform scene “cleanup”

Two B-2 stealth bombers performed a round-trip mission from CONUS (Continental US) to perform airstrikes on Daesh training camps in Libya. Drones “cleaned-up” the operation firing Hellfires at fighters trying to run to safety.

Two B-2 Spirit stealth bombers from the 509th Bomb Wing at Whiteman Air Force Base carried out a precision air strike in Libya on Jan. 18, 2017.

According to the information released by the U.S. DoD, the raid was conducted in conjunction with the Libyan Government of National Accord, to wipe out four Daesh camps 45 kilometers southwest of Sirte.

The Spirit dropped 108 precision-guided bombs on the ISIS training camps: along with the Hellfires fired by U.S. drones (most probably MQ-9 Reapers or MQ-1 Predators often reported flying over northern Africa) immediately thereafter to “clean up” the operation, the air strike killed an estimated 85 terrorists according to Fox News who spoke with U.S. defense officials.

This is not the first time the B-2s conduct a Global Strike mission around the globe to attack ground targets in Libya: in March 2011, as happened during Operation Allied Force in 1999, the stealth bombers launched from Whiteman AFB, Missouri and with the support of many tankers along the route dropped 40 conventional bombs on the aircraft shelters at Ghardabiya airbase where no less of 7 LARAF units equipped with Mig-21s, Su-22s, Su-24s, J-21s, Mi-8s and Mi-24s were based.

A B-2 spirit stealth bomber from the 509th Bomb Wing at Whiteman Air Force Base takes off in support of operations In conjunction with the Libyan Government of National Accord, the U.S. military conducted precision airstrikes Jan. 18, 2017 destroying four Daesh camps 45 kilometers southwest of Sirte. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Jovan Banks)

These crazy photos show a Russian Su-27 Flanker dogfighting with a U.S. Air Force F-16 inside Area 51

You don’t happen to see a Su-27 Flanker dogfighting with a F-16 unless you visit Area 51. Here are the amazing photographs taken near Groom Lake, on Nov. 8, 2016, U.S. election day.

The photographs in this post were taken from Tikaboo Valley, near Groom Lake, Nevada, by Phil Drake, who was lucky enough to observe a Su-27P Flanker-B dogfighting with an F-16, presumably one of the four Groom Lake based -D models in the skies of the famous Area 51.

Although the quality of the pictures is low (the aircraft were flying between 20K and 30K feet) they are extremely interesting since Flankers operating from Groom are not a secret (they have been documented in 2003 – 2004 and more recently between 2012 and 2014) but have rarely been photographed.

The F-16 (bottom – highlighted) and the Su-27 are flying against each other. Both are on a left hand turn.

The two aircraft get closer in the merge.

The two jets almost overlap: the Su-27 is farther, the F-16 is closer to the camera.

The two jets continue to turn as they try to reach the “enemy” 6 o’clock

Here’s Phil’s report of the rare sighting:

“The date was November 8th, US election day, and the sighting was between 1500 and 1525.

I was visiting Nevada hoping to catch a glimpse of some of the latest defense programmes being tested.

On the Monday and Wednesday, Nellis Aggressor F-15s and F-16s were regularly overhead, dropping flares and sonic booms.  It was Tuesday afternoon when the skies went quiet for a couple of hours, and I hoped this may be a sign of something unusual being flown.

Eventually the sound of jet noise caught my attention, and I scanned the clear blue skies ’til I saw the tiny speck of an approaching military jet at high altitude, leaving an intermittent contrail.

It was instantly recognisable as a Russian built Sukhoi 27 Flanker, and carried no national insignia or identifying marks.

I took my camera out and photographed the ensuing dogfight between the Flanker and a F-16.  The sortie seemed to consist of a head on intercept, conducted at descending altitudes from 30 down to 20 thousand feet, and after each intercept a turning dogfight ensued after they had flashed past each other.

The highly manoeuvrable Flanker was a single seat version, a Su-27P, and it pulled out all of its best moves to get behind the F-16.

I watched in awe as the pair fought it out for 25 minutes before they both climbed to altitude and flew back into Groom Lake restricted airspace.

My scanner remained silent throughout the whole encounter.”

What they were testing is difficult to say. We can’t even be sure the Flanker was one of those reportedly flown from Groom or a privately owned one rented to perform some sort of testing. So all we can say is pure speculation.

Su-27 turning left

Bottom view of the Su-27

It was a daylight operation therefore, unless they were trying to assess the visual appearance of a Su-27 in standard Russian Air Force scheme under a specific angle at a certain altitude and so on, it was, most probably, something not related to a “black project” that would be carried out at night, when spotters (that have become a common presence around Area 51 and Tonopah Test Range) would find it hard to ID the types involved and understand what’s happening.

Su-27 turning towards the camera.

Can you ID what pod is this Su-27 carrying?

The daylight dogfight could be related to testing of a specific pod and sensor against a type of aircraft usually replicated by the Aggressors when involved in Red Flag exercises: the F-16s of the Aggressors Squadrons replicate the paint schemes, markings and insignas of their near peer adversaries. In 2014, Lt. Col. Kevin Gordon, 64th AGRS commander, explained the Su-27 Flanker was the type of aircraft they replicated when attacking a Blue Forces F-15 in what was the first time the Flanker was mentioned as an enemy aircraft.

Anyway, the U.S. armed forces have been operating MiG and Sukhoi jets for decades.

In the late 1960s, CIA, U.S. Air Force, Navy and several other agencies were involved in highly classified programs whose purpose was to evaluate MiG fighter jets and study the best ways to face them in air-to-air combat.

Among these programs, “Have Doughnut” was aimed at exploiting a MiG-21 Fishbed-E that the U.S. acquired in 1967 from Israel that had obtained it in Aug. 1966, when an Iraqi Air Force pilot flew it in Israel during a training sortie that was actually a pre-arranged defection.

Have Doughnut saw the MiG-21, using cover designation YF-110, fly over Groom Lake against F-4, F-105, F-111, F-100, F-104, B-66, RF-101, RF-4 and F-5 during offensive and defensive missions that gave the evaluation team the opportunity to assess the effectiveness of the U.S. air combat tactics.

Half a century after “Have Doughnut” some Russian planes, in this case a camo Su-27, are still used for some sort of testing and training in the U.S.

Su-27 side view.

By the way be sure to visit Phil Drake’s blog at http://area51trips.blogspot.co.uk.

It has some of the Sukhoi pictures, and also some of a Groom Lake MiG-29 taken in 2009!

Su-27 and the Moon

 

Image credit: Phil Drake

 

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U.S. Air Force B-52 strategic bomber loses one engine over North Dakota

A USAF Stratofortress bomber lost one of its 8 engines 25 miles to the northeast of Minot AFB, North Dakota. Type to re-engine the Buff?

On Jan. 4, 2017, in a quite unusual incident, a B-52H belonging to the 5th Bomb Wing lost one Pratt & Whitney TF33 turbofan engine shortly after take off from Minot AFB, North Dakota.

According to DefenseNews, that broke the news, the aircraft, one of the 76 “Buffs” still in service with the U.S. Air Force, was flying a training mission with 5 crew members; the engine fell in an unpopulated area without causing damage on the ground and a UH-1N Huey helicopter was dispatched to the site for a survey.

Few details are available at the moment as the U.S. Air Force investigates the root cause of the issue.

For instance, it’s still not clear whether a single engine or an entire nacelle pod (housing two TF-33 engines) attached to one of the four underwing pylons detached from the plane. Anyway, the aircraft managed to return safely to Minot: the loss of one (or even two on the same pod) is not a big deal for an aircraft powered by 8 engines.

Nevertheless, the incident is likely to fuel debate about the B-52’s engine program. With a +60 year-long career, the B-52 is a still quite advanced and heavily weaponized “dinosaur” expected to remain in service until something around 2040, when it will be fully replaced by the Northrop Grumman B-21 Raider.

Various options are known to have been considered so far, including an upgrade for the current TF-33 engines or their replacement with a different type: the Pratt PW2000 or other potential substitutes pitched by General Electric and Rolls-Royce that are likely to respond an eventual flying branch’s RFP.

Anyway it’s not the first time some part detaches from a U.S. Air Force aircraft mid-air: on Nov. 1, 2016, a U.S. Air Force KC-10 Extender aerial refueler belonging to the 60th Air Mobility Wing was forced to perform an emergency landing at Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho, after losing its flying boom that fell in a hay-field.

 

Watch the B-2 Spirit Bomber’s Rose Bowl Flyover from two spectacular view points

A B-2 Stealth Bomber performing a flyover as seen from two unusual points of view. Way cool!

On Jan. 2, 2017, B-2 Spirit “Spirit of Kitty Hawk” with 509th Bomb Wing from Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri, opened the 103rd Rose Bowl Game game, between the Big Ten Conference Champion Penn State Nittany Lions and the Pac-12 Conference Champions the University of Washington Huskies, at the Rose Bowl stadium in Pasadena, California with the traditional flyover.

The top air-to-air image showing the Stealth Bomber during the flyover (from above) was taken by Mark Holtzman, a photographer and pilot, founder of West Coast Aerial Photography, a company specialising in aerial photography based in Los Angeles.

Mark has been able to take some fantastic shots of the Rose Bowl flyovers from a plane: here are 2011 Rose Bowl flyover performed by U.S. Navy F/A-18s out of Lemoore; here’s 2009 Rose Bowl flyover by another B-2 and here you can see the 2016 flyover.

This year was much more difficult because of the clouds.

“If the B-2 had been 5 minutes earlier we would’ve been able to get it over the stadium, but the clouds came in right before,” Holtzman explained The Aviationist in an email.

Even though this year’s shot is not as crazy as those taken in the previous flyovers, it is still a cool photograph as you don’t happen to see a B-2 from above while flying over a city in L.A. county too often.

Here below you can watch the awesome footage filmed by Shorealone Films photographer Matt Hartman as the stealth bomber, serial 93-1086, radio callsign “Reaper 11” approached the Rose Bowl stadium through a pretty cloudy sky.

What makes the clip stunning, is that the flyover occurs at just about eye level (2,300 – 2,500 feet.)

By the way, it’s the same spot just off a small hiking trail in the hills above Pasadena, some 1.13 miles from the Rose Bowl, from where Matt took some incredible shots of the B-2 doing the 2015 Rose Bowl Game’s flyover we posted two years ago.

 

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