Tag Archives: U.S. Air Force

U.S. Air Force C-5 Galaxy Performs Nose Gear Up Landing At Rota Air Base in Spain

A USAF C-5 Galaxy airlifter has made a successful emergency landing in Spain.

The top image was reportedly taken yesterday at Rota Air Base, Spain.

Sent us by one of our Twitter followers (thank you @asetanton), it shows a U.S. Air Force C-5B Galaxy cargo aircraft, registration 86-0020, that was forced to perform a nose gear up landing at the Spanish airbase after experiencing an unknown failure that made it unable to extend its nose landing gear.

Here’s a clip showing the Galaxy as it approaches Rota for the gear up landing:

The C-5 Galaxy’s nose gear is part of a unique tricycle-type landing gear system consisting of a total of 28 wheels.

It is a fine piece of machinery made of four main units fitted in tandem pairs, each with a six-wheel bogie with two forward and four rear wheels: the MLG (Main Landing Gear) rotates 90 degrees horizontally to be accommodated inside the gear bays when retracted after take off; furthermore, it is steerable for a 20 degrees left or right for crosswind landings.

Anyway, this was not the first time a Galaxy performed an emergency landing without an extended nose gear. You can find in the Internet at least a couple of videos of such gear up incidents.

The first dates back to August 1986, when a C-5A performed a nose gear up landing at Rhein Main Air Base, Germany:

According to the user who posted it on Vimeo, since Rhein Main shared the runway with the Frankfurt airport, and this gear up landing shut down the airport for at least a couple of hours.

The second incident occurred in May 2001 (we already posted a short story about it here), when a C-5 from Travis Air Force Base diverted to Rogers Dry Lake to perform a successful landing after the nose gear failed.

Top image via @asetanton

Chinese Su-30 Flanker Jet Flies Inverted Over U.S. Nuclear Sniffer Plane Over The East China Sea

A Chinese fighter pilot performed a Top Gun stunt over a U.S. Air Force WC-135.

On May 17, a Chinese Su-30 Flanker rolled over the top of a U.S. Air Force WC-135C Constant Phoenix aircraft which was flying in international airspace above the East China Sea.

According to the CNN the Flanker belonged to a formation of two Chinese Su-30s that intercepted the WC-135 nuclear sniffer aircraft involved in a a routine mission in Northeast Asia.

The aircraft came within 150 feet of the WC-135 with one of the Su-30s flying inverted, directly above the American “nuke hunter” plane, in a stunt that was made famous by Top Gun movie.

“While we are still investigating the incident, initial reports from the U.S. aircrew characterized the intercept as unprofessional, ” said Air Force Lt. Col. Hodge in a statement.

The WC-135 Constant Phoenix aircraft is a Boeing C-135 transport and support plane derivative belonging to the 45th Reconnaissance Squadron from Offutt Air Force Base (with mission crews staffed by Detachment 1 from the Air Force Technical Applications Center) that is able to collect and analyze the fallout residue in real-time, helping to confirm the presence of nuclear fallout and possibly determine the characteristics of the warhead involved.

The aircraft has recently deployed to Kadena Air Base, Okinawa, Japan, close to the Korean peninsula, to monitor North Korea’s nuke weapons tests.

Throughout the afternoon, an WC-135W Constant Phoenix aircraft performs touch ‘n go landing exercises Feb. 12 at Offutt Air Force Base, Neb. (U.S. Air Force photo/Josh Plueger)

Not the first time

This is not the first time a Chinese or Russian fighter pilot performs a Top Gun-like stunt or aggressively maneuvers close to a U.S. aircraft.

In February 2017, a People’s Liberation Army Air Force KJ-200 and a U.S. Navy P-3 Orion aircraft were involved in what was defined by U.S. officials as an “unsafe” close encounter over the South China Sea.

Last year, on Apr. 29, 2016, a Russian Su-27 Flanker barrel rolled over the top of a U.S. Air Force RC-135 aircraft operating in the Baltic Sea. The Russian jet came within 25 feet of the U.S. intelligence gathering aircraft.

Another Su-27 had carried out the same dangerous maneuver on another US Rivet Joint over the Baltic on Apr. 14, 2016.

Previously, on Jan. 25, 2016 another U.S. RC-135 intelligence gathering jet was intercepted over the Black Sea by a Russian Su-27 Flanker that made an aggressive turn that disturbed the controllability of the RC-135.

On Apr. 7, 2015 another Su-27 flew within 20 feet of an RC-135U over the Baltic Sea.

On Apr. 23, 2015 a U.S. Air Force RC-135U Combat Sent performing a routine surveillance mission in international airspace over the Sea of Okhotsk, north of Japan, some 60 miles off eastern Russia was intercepted by a Russian Su-27 Flanker that crossed the route of the U.S. aircraft putting itself within 100 feet of the Combat Sent.

In 2014, a Chinese Flanker made a barrel roll over a U.S. Navy P-8 maritime surveillance plane 135 miles east of Hainan Island, a spot where a dangerous close encounter of another U.S. electronic surveillance plane with the Chinese Navy took place back in 2001: on Apr. 1, 2001, a U.S. Navy EP-3E with the VQ-1, flying an ELINT (Electronic Intelligence) mission in international airspace 64 miles southeast of the island of Hainan was intercepted by two PLAN (People’s Liberation Army Navy) J-8 fighters. One of the J-8s piloted by Lt. Cdr. Wang Wei, made two close passes to the EP-3 before colliding with the spyplane on the third pass. As a consequence, the J-8 broke into two pieces and crashed into the sea causing the death of the pilot, whereas the EP-3, severely damaged, performed an unauthorized landing at China’s Lingshui airfield.

The 24 crew members (21 men and three women), that destroyed all (or at least most of ) the sensitive items and data on board the aircraft, were detained by Chinese authorities until Apr. 11.

PLAAF Sukhoi Su-30MKK at Lipetsk-2 on Jul. 27, 2014 (Image credit: Dmitriy Pichugin)

 

Dissecting The Latest Close Encounter Between U.S. F-22 Raptors And Russian Su-35S Flankers Off Alaska

Let’s have a look at what happened in the airspace off Alaska a couple of weeks ago.

On the night of May 3, 2017, two Russian nuclear-capable Tu-95MS Bear bombers, this time escorted by two Su-35S Flanker-E jets, flew again inside the Alaskan ADIZ (Air Defense Identification Zone).

The “mini” package was intercepted by two U.S. Air Force F-22 Raptors some 50 NM to the south of Chariot, Alaska.

The Su-35 is a 4++ generation aircraft characterized by supermaneuverability. Although it’s not stealth, it is equipped with a Irbis-E PESA (Passive Electronically-Scanned Array) and a long-range IRST – Infrared Search and Tracking – system capable, (according to Russian sources…) to detect stealth planes like the F-35 at a distance of over 90 kilometers.

The Su-35S was deployed at Hmeymim airbase, near Latakia in Syria at the beginning of 2016, to provide cover to the Russian warplanes conducting raids in Syria in the aftermath of the downing of a Su-24 Fencer by a Turkish Air Force F-16. During the Syrian air war the aircraft carried Vympel R-77 medium range, active radar homing air-to-air missile system (a weapon that can be considered the Russian counterpart of the American AIM-120 AMRAAM) along with R-27T (AA-10 Alamo-B), IR-guided air-to-air missiles (however, the Flanker E jets escorting the Tu-95s off Alaska, did not carry any weapon.)

Shortly after being deployed to Syria the Su-35S started shadowing US-led coalition aircraft: a German Air Force spokesperson explained that the Russian Flankers were among the aircraft used by the Russian Air Force to shadow the GAF Tornado jets carrying out reconnaissance missions against ISIS; a VFA-131 video that included footage from the cruise aboard USS Eisenhower in support of Operation Inherent Resolve, in Syria and Iraq showed a close encounter with what looked like a Su-35S Flanker-E filmed by the Hornet’s AN/ASQ-228 Advanced Targeting Forward-Looking Infrared (ATFLIR) pod.

Although we have no confirmed reports of “close encounters” between the F-22 and the Flanker in the skies over Syria, what makes May 3 episode particularly interesting is the fact that this was the first time the U.S. Air force Raptors saw the Su-35S near the U.S. coasts.

Moreover, it’s worth noticing the “readiness in flight” posture of the stealth fighters.

Indeed, according to USAF, the Raptors were “committed” by North American Aerospace Defense Command to intercept the Russian aircraft while already in air patrol not too far away. It’s not clear whether the F-22s were already flying because involved in “Northern Edge”, Alaska’s largest and premier joint training exercise with MOB (Main Operating Base) at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, or the CAP (Combat Air Patrol) was one of the measures introduced to enhance the readiness of the U.S. Air Force Air Defense assets as a consequence of the “unprecedented level activity of Russian bombers” recorded in the last months.

Anyway, the American premiere stealth fighters were already flying and thus could be quickly diverted by NORAD to “greet” the Russian package, this time supported by an A-50 Mainstay surveillance plane from distance.

The presence of Mainstay and Flanker confirms what this Author has already explained in the previous report about the key factors to take in consideration when planning a long-range strike sortie.

In my opinion the “mini package” was launched as a consequence of the increased flight activity in Alaska related to the Northern Edge exercise, confirming that the Russians closely observe what happens in the Alaskan area.

This time, they wanted to showcase their ability to plan a complex long-range sortie as well as the Flanker’s readiness to escort its own HVA (high value asset), the Bear, during operations at strategic distance.

The composition of this package is also worth a comment.

The presence of the Mainstay should not be underestimated. It was flying well behind the Flanker and Bear aircraft with a specific purpose. As an AEW (Airborne Early Warning) platform the A-50 is believed to embed some ESM (Electronic Support Measures): in other words, it is able to detect far away targets as well as able to sniff radar, radio and data link emissions. Furthermore, Raptors in QRA (Quick Reaction Alert) *usually* fly with external fuel tanks and Lunenburg lenses: this means that they are (consciously) visible to radars. In such conditions, although it can’t “characterize” the clean F-22’s signature, the Mainstay can at least gather some data about the interceptors’ radar emissions (if any) and observe and study their tactics.

Therefore, as frequently happens on both sides since the Cold War, on May 3, the Russians most probably carried out another simulated long-range strike mission but with a precise ELINT (ELectronics INTelligence) objective: the Flankers and Bears were acting as a “decoy” package to test the American scramble tactics and reaction times, whereas the Mainstay, in a back position, tried to collect as much signals and data as possible about the US fighters launched to intercept them.

 

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This Photo Shows The Damage Caused By A Tanker’s Refueling Boom To The Nose Of An A-10 “Warthog” Aircraft

No, that’s not a bullet hole.

Taken at Moody Air Force Base, Georgia, by U.S. Air Force’s Staff Sgt. Ryan Callaghan, this photo features the A-10C Thunderbolt II aircraft 81-0995 from the 75th Fighter Squadron taxiing down the runway prior to take off on Apr. 28, 2017, during Exercise Combat Hammer, an air-to-ground exercise hosted at Hill Air Force Base, Utah, designed to collect and analyze data on the performance of precision weapons and measure their suitability for use in combat.

The image is particularly interesting as it shows what looks like a large hole in the nose of the Warthog (as the A-10 is nicknamed in the pilots community). However, that is not a bullet hole but the damage caused by a tanker’s boom during AAR (Air to Air Refueling) operations.

Most of the A-10s have their noses more or less damaged by the flying boom that is inserted by the tanker’s “boomer” into the Warthog’s receptacle, in the nose of the aircraft in front of the cockpit. Usually, such dents don’t affect the aircraft’s ability to fly hence they are left there until the next major maintenance work.

By the way, a Moody pilot confirmed us that the one in the photo is a nose significantly damaged by a KC-135’s boom.

Click below for the full resolution version of the photo.

81-0995 is a 1981 A-10C Thunderbolt II C/N A10-0690 assigned to the 75th FS “Tiger Sharks”

 

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We Have Rented A Cessna 172 And Skirted Area 51 and Nevada Test and Training Range. Here Is How It Went.

We undertook a very unusual trip over Nevada desert.

Area 51, a myth in the underworld of conspiracy theories, especially for those who believe in alien spacecrafts, flying saucers, UFOs etc, is a highly classified installation in the Nevada desert.

Since the 1950s, the remote site, located south of the dry Groom Lake, has been used to support the development and testing of several aircraft and weapons systems including the famous U-2 Dragon Lady, the Mach 3+ SR-71 Blackbird, or the later F-117 stealth fighter (more precisely its Have Blue prototype).

Its involvement in Black Projects and the secrecy surrounding the operations conducted over there has made Area 51 the most interesting secret airbase in the world for aviation enthusiasts.

Groom Lake airbase is located inside the Nellis Test and Training Range, 200 miles north of Las Vegas, under a dedicated and forbidden airspace identified as R4808N in the aeronautical charts. This place is well protected from prying eyes as the ground perimeter extend to 10 miles from the runways, and a small ridge inside the Area prevent anyone on the Tikaboo valley to see anything.

Most enthusiasts and photographers climb Tikaboo peak. This vantage point is difficult to access, is almost 8,000 feet high which puts it 3,000 feet over the airbase but 26 miles away. You need a powerful telelens to see anything from there.

Being a very long time military aviation fan, both interested in the secret life of Groom Lake and in the larger Nellis Test and Training Range (NTTR) where every Red Flag exercise happen since the 70s, I wanted to see it in real. What made it possible is that I’m a private pilot, and the airspace east of R4808N is “just” classified as a Military Operating Area (MOA). It’s a danger area when it’s active or “hot” (meaning some military activity is scheduled or in progress), but still accessible for anyone at their own risk.

While on vacation in the area, I decided to attempt a flight there, during the weekend to lessen any risk, particularly with the Air Traffic Control (ATC) in the area. I booked a rental Cessna 172 Skyhawk at West Air Aviation in North Las Vegas airport (KVGT) and had an appointment with an instructor for a check ride.

KVGT from above.

On a Friday late afternoon, after having spent the day around Nellis AFB, taking pictures of military jets of all sorts involved in their last day of Red Flag simulated war, I met Jacob for my “flight review”. After one hour of questions/answers about air traffic rules in the US and flight safety, I climbed in the small Cessna 172 cockpit for a short flight.

The sun was really low and it was time for me to prove Jacob that I knew how to handle this wingy thing. Fortunately, I use to fly a Skyhawk at home so I behaved myself at the controls. Slow flight, steep turns and simulated loss of engine: I went through all before heading back to the airfield for pattern work.

After a couple of touch and goes, and the radio work with the tower, Jacob asked me to perform a full stop landing on runway 30L. Back to earth, I was now ready to take to the sky as Pilot in Command. The only unknown thing was how would I handle the Bravo airspace controllers of Las Vegas, as KVGT lays in an easier Delta airspace.

Next morning, I was on the tarmac for the walkaround of N9572H, my 42 years old Skyhawk for the day. No glass cockpit here, just the typical six-pack instruments with a trusty Garmin GNS430 GPS. I also had my iPad with a GPS antenna and a good nav app with all the latest charts in it.

At the commands of N9572H, waiting for departure

After a thorough preflight, I started up, listened to the ATIS and talked to Ground with a request to taxi for a VFR flight to Rachel and Lincoln airfield (1L1), with Mike information. No more info given to the controller about my intended and legal visit close to Area 51. Both 30L and 30R runways were in use and I soon taxied to the runup area. Radio was clear and I was now confident that I could handle the communications with McCarran or Nellis AFB controllers. After my routine tests, dutifully performed in accordance with the checklist, I switched to the Tower and requested take-off. Then again, directions were very concise but clear, and my radio ability reinforced my confidence.

Moments later, I’m lining up for a “rolling take-off” on 30L runway, an expedited departure. Full power, no flaps, 55 knots indicated, no alarm, 2300+ rpm checked, I’m rotating and the wheels leave the ground. I’m very concentrated as I inform the tower that I prefer a 350 heading rather than the proposed 280 heading (where do they want to send me ?). My right turn is approved and I’m soon handed over to Nellis Approach. I’m still below their airspace but I need to request a clearance before entering Bravo airspace. I quickly request it and I hear a fast “72H is cleared thru Bravo airspace” ; this is my passport for a further climb north of Las Vegas.

With the hot weather, the climb is slow and I’m passing Gass peak. Again, as I climb to 8,500 feet, I have no problem understanding the instructions from Nellis and I can copy the traffic information when they tell me that I’ll be overtaken by four F/A-18 Navy jets, 2,000 feet above. I will never see them, even with my cranium turning everywhere inside the Cessna cockpit. Shortly after that, I hear a “resume own navigation” and I settled onto a 8,500 feet cruise, still heading to 350, the direction of my first waypoint, Alamo.

After 10 minutes, Nellis Approach wants me to leave their frequency as I’m reaching the virtual fence of their airspace and I’m left with Los Angeles Center on 134.65. This will be a frequency on which no communication will ever be made with my small Cessna, as it’s overloaded with static. I hear some voices, request “flight following” 5 times and I’ll never get a clear reply.

After a while, I decide to climb a thousand feet more. This may improve radio reception and also give me a better view of the area beyond the long north-south Sheep Range to my left. 5 minutes later, I’m stable at 9,500 feet with, still, no radio contact with LA Center, but with a good view. I know that Blackjack control is the ATC facility managing the whole NTTR

As I’m overhead the Pahranagat lakes, I can see a big dry lake on my right, “Texas Lake” (Delamar), sometimes used as a staging area for aircraft forward operations from unprepared runways.

Texas Lake, named as such due to its shape.

A few minutes later, approaching Alamo I get my first good glimpse at Groom Lake and its buildings. With the naked eye, it’s impossible to distinguish anything other than these big hangars, small metallic dots reflecting the sun. I’ve got my camera on the passenger seat and I take some pictures with my 55mm, an easy lens for photographing while handling the yoke, but not big enough for the distance.

Groom Lake from Tikaboo Peak

I decide to turn left as soon as possible to get closer, while staying well out of the restricted area. I take a 270 heading, not directly towards the airbase as I don’t want to alarm the Blackjack air traffic controllers.

The flight track beside the restricted areas (blue track)

As I enter Tikaboo valley, with the straight ET highway (US 375) going north-west to Rachel and the Black Mailbox trail leading to the Area 51, I get a clearer view of the dry lake, the long runway and the various buildings.

Area 51, aka Groom Lake, as seen from over Tikaboo valley, 9500 feet AMSL

I’m elated as this is something I wanted to see by myself, somewhere I wanted to come to for the last 15 years. And being there in this little Cessna, flying alone and wherever I may think of, it’s a dream come true.

Same view as the previous one, cropped and postprocessed.

It’s now time to turn a bit right to skirt the north-east corner of R4808. Bald mountain to my left hides the dry lakebed, then the main airbase. These are the last seconds for me to have a look at this most secret airbase. I don’t circle in the area because I don’t want to draw more attention. Having an F-16 escorting me away may be great for pictures, but this could be a sign that the sheriff is waiting for me on the ground, so that’s the last thing I want for now.

Approaching Rachel, I recognize Coyote Summit where I spent two long days this same week. And I’m now eager to discover from the air all the geographical report points the military pilots use during their Red Flag sorties. Over Rachel, I’ve got now a good view of No Name mountain, west of Bald Mountain. This lone butte is a good mark showing the northern frontier of Area 51, or the Container as the military pilots call it. They also have no right to penetrate that area and if they do, they’re sent back to their home airbase the next day with a bad grade for their career.

North Groom range with Rachel and No name.

Farther west from No Name is Belted Peak, from where all the air-to-ground activity starts at Red Flag, and beyond it I can distinguish Quartzite Mountain, between the 74 ranges and the 75 ranges. I spent a lot of time studying the NTTR chart and reading about it ; that helps me identifying all these now.

Belted peak with Quartzite mountain behind it.

I now turn east to my destination for the morning, Lincoln Co airport (Panaca town). This brings me just south of that long north-south Worthington range.

Worthington mountains.

After a few minutes and an overhead of the Timpahute range mines, I overfly Irish mountain. This peak is used also by Blue Force pilots during Red Flag to report and prepare their collective and structures ingress towards the FEBA (or Forward Edge of the Battle Area).

Heading east, Approaching Irish peak, with its snowy summit.

I fly east over Hiko, hoping for a good tailwind on the return trip to Las Vegas. I’ve been having a headwind for the main 1.5 hours and the gas supply on the few Nevada airfields is scarce (Alamo and Lincoln has none for example). I now can see without any mistake a large gap in between two ridges : Pahroc Summit Pass, also  known as Student Gap among Red Flag pilots. This is the main passage point for Blue Force pilots when it’s “push time”. It’s a lot better to be here in my Cessna during the weekend than during a Red Flag weekday.

Heading east in view of Student Gap with US93 crossing it. Red Flag pilots usually fly it in the opposite direction, towards the main ranges.

After ten minutes, I see the small Lincoln Co airfield where I’ll have my lunch break, under the wing and in a 10 kts wind. The landing is uneventful and I find myself really alone on that parking. I’m amazed that nobody other than me, seems to enjoy the Nevada desert by plane, specially when you can be so close to where the most secret planes get tested.

The return trip is straight as gas is a bit of a concern for me, having already burnt 1.7 hours, with a total endurance of 4 hrs. 80 miles out of Las Vegas, I get my clearance for the Bravo airspace and after passing the mines and plants of Apex, north of Sin City, I request to overfly Nellis AFB. Nellis Approach grants it and I can approach the base at 6,500 feet. After some pictures, I’m asked to take a westerly heading to North Las Vegas and I comply.

These few seconds allowed me to get a good souvenir of the big military airbase: the cherry on the cake.

Still dozens of airplanes on the tarmac of Nellis, while Red Flag 17-2 is now just over.

Las Vegas as seen from the downwind leg of runway 30L at KVGT.

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