Tag Archives: U.S. Air Force

USAF F-35A Flight Operations Halted at Luke AFB, Oxygen Supply Problems Cited

Five Pilots Report Symptoms Similar to Hypoxia.

The U.S. Air Force has reported that flight operations for F-35A Lightning II aircraft at Luke AFB near Phoenix, Arizona in the United States have been temporarily halted.

USAF Brig. Gen Brook Leonard, commanding officer of the 56th Fighter Wing that operates the F-35A, said in a press release that, “In order to synchronize operations and maintenance efforts toward safe flying operations we have cancelled local F-35A flying.”

The announcement that appeared on the official Luke AFB website via the U.S. Air Force Office of Public Affairs stopped short of calling the temporary halt to flight operations a “grounding”.

It is possible Air Force officials are using caution in references to any halt in flight operations to avoid potential associations with a series of incidents on the F-22 Raptor from early 2012 with crew life support equipment, specifically the oxygen system. The incidents from 2012 led to a sensational expose’ on the U.S. investigative reporting show “60 Minutes” in which two Virginia Air National Guard pilots said the F-22 was unsafe to fly due to problems with its crew life support system. Additionally, in March of this year U.S. Navy officials told U.S. Congress there was an increase in “physiological episodes” in the long successful Boeing FA-18 Hornet.

The official Air Force news release reads, in part, “According to base officials, since May 2, 2017, five F-35A pilots assigned to Luke AFB have reported physiological incidents while flying. In each case, the aircraft’s backup oxygen system operated as designed and the pilot followed correct procedures, landing the aircraft safely.”

The Air Force statement went on to say, “Wing officials will educate U.S. and international pilots today on the situation and increase their awareness of hypoxia symptoms. Pilots will also be briefed on all the incidents that have occurred and the successful actions taken by pilots to safely recover their aircraft.”

Capt. Mark Graff, an official U.S. Air Force spokesman, said the temporary halt of F-35A flight operations was done, “not out of fear or out of danger, but out of an abundance of caution,” Capt. Graff also told news media that the Air Force plans to resume flight operations on Saturday.

The temporary halt of flight operations includes 55 of the U.S. Air Force F-35A’s at Luke AFB. The story is contrasted by a lengthy phase of successes for the F-35 program that include successful deliveries to international F-35 users like Japan and Israel, operational deployments of the U.S. Marine F-35B V/STOL version to Japan and major deployment of Air Force F-35As to Europe.

 

U.S. F-15E Downs Iranian-Built Syrian Drone After Airstrike on U.S. Led Forces

Syrian Drone Destroyed by Strike Eagle After It Engaged Anti-Assad Coalition Ground Forces. Second air-to-air kill for the Strike Eagle since Gulf War.

U.S. Special Operations advisors leading anti-Assad Syrian forces came under fire from an Iranian built Shahed 129 drone operated by Syrian pro-government forces on Thursday according to the U.S. Army.

A U.S. Air Force F-15E Strike Eagle shot the drone down.

The incident occurred outside Al-Tanf, southern Syria close to the Jordanian border. An installation in Al –Tanf serves as a forward operating base for British and U.S. special operations teams assisting the anti-ISIL Syrian guerilla group Maghawir al-Thawra or “Commandos of the Revolution”. Maghawir al-Thawra is regarded as an indigenous special operations group who have received training and support from coalition forces to fight the Assad regime.

The U.S. reacted to the drone attack by tasking an F-15E Strike Eagle to locate and destroy the Syrian drone. It was officially the first time U.S. forces had come under air attack by a hostile nation in nearly 20 years and the second air-to-air kill for the Strike Eagle since the downing of an Iraqi Gunship helicopter in 1991.

According to U.S. Army Colonel Ryan Dillon, spokesman of the Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve (CJTF-OIR), the Assad government Syrian drone strike on U.S. advisors and Syrian revolutionary commandos “did not have an effect on coalition forces,”

“The pro-regime UAV, similar in size to the U.S. MQ-1 predator, was shot down by U.S. aircraft after it dropped one of several weapons it was carrying near a position occupied by coalition personnel who are training and advising partner ground forces in the fight against ISIL,” CJTF-OIR’s public affairs office released in a statement. “The shoot down follows an earlier engagement in the day in which Coalition forces destroyed two pro-regime armed technical vehicles that advanced inside the well established de-confliction zone threatening Coalition and partner forces.”

Pentagon Correspondent Tara Copp was among the first to release the U.S. aircraft involved in the drone shoot-down incident (Twitter)

A 34-mile region around Al-Tanf has been declared a “de-confliction zone” by coalition forces for the past several weeks. This buffer was established to safeguard U.S. and British supported anti-Assad forces. Several incidents have taken place recently inside this de-confliction zone that have prompted a U.S. response. On Tuesday, a U.S. Navy F/A-18 Hornet dropped four bombs killing an estimated 10 pro-Assad combatants and destroyed several of their vehicles.

It is also likely the pro-Assad forces controlling the Iranian made Shahed 129 drone were in close proximity to the drone itself at the time it attacked U.S. advised anti-Assad forces. The Shahed 129 can be controlled by satellite guidance from a remote ground station, but this example was almost certainly controlled by a local ground controller with line-of-sight to the Syrian Shahed 129 when it was destroyed by the U.S. F-15E Strike Eagle.

The incident is significant since U.S. ground forces in the region and, in the entire history of the Global War of Terror, have been largely immune from air attacks. The Iranian-made Shahed 129 drone was also employed by Hezbollah in a 2012 operation over Israel. The Israelis downed the Iranian-made, Hezbollah-controlled drone but the incident marked a dangerous escalation in terrorist capabilities.

The Iranian-built Shahed 129 armed drone (Iranian News Media)

 

Two U.S. Air Force B-1 Bombers Fly 10-hour Mission From Guam To Operate With U.S. Navy Guided-Missile Destroyer In South China Sea

Air Force and Navy assets train in South China Sea.

On Jun. 8, two U.S. Air Force B-1B Lancers assigned to the 9th Expeditionary Bomb Squadron, deployed from Dyess Air Force Base, Texas, flew a 10-hour mission from Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, through the South China Sea, and operated with the U.S. Navy’s Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Sterett (DDG 104) “to increase interoperability by refining joint tactics, techniques and procedures while simultaneously strengthening their ability to seamlessly integrate their operations.”

The B-1B Lancers (“Bones” in accordance with the nickname used by their aircrews) have been supporting he U.S. Pacific Command’s (USPACOM) Continuous Bomber Presence mission since Aug. 6, 2016, when the first B-1s, belonging to the 28th Bomb Wing from Ellsworth Air Force Base, South Dakota, deployed to Guam, for the first time in a decade, to replace the B-52s.

The B-1B had been taken out from the Continuous Bomber Presence (CBP) rotation at Guam’s Andersen Air Force Base because they can’t carry any kind of nuclear weapon: the Lancer deployment in the regions brings a conventional heavy bomber within striking distance of the Korean peninsula.

While deterring North Korea out of Guam, the B-1s have also been involved in several regional exercises. For instance, in November 2016, one Lancer carried out close air support training in the vicinity of Australia, a type of mission in which they cooperate with JTACs.

CAS are among the most frequent missions flown by the “Bones” against ISIS during their 6-month deployment in support of Operation Inherent Resolve last year: when they returned stateside in January 2016, the B-1s had flown 490 sorties dropping 3,800 munitions on 3,700 targets.

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A Russian Su-27 Flanker Has Intercepted A U.S. B-52 Strategic Bomber Over The Baltic Sea

An interesting close encounter has just taken place over the Baltic Sea.

A Russian Su-27 Flanker fighter jet was instructed to intercept a US B-52 Stratofortress over the Baltic Sea earlier today.

The USAF strategic bomber “was flying along the Russian border,” the Russian Defense Ministry reported according to RT.

“Russia’s air defense detected the aircraft on Tuesday morning at around 7:00 GMT, the statement said. The Su-27 of the Russian Baltic Fleet was deployed in response and shadowed the American aircraft after identifying it, as the bomber was flying in neutral airspace over the Baltic Sea along the border, the ministry said.”

Where the interception took place it’s not clear at the time of writing. Most probably, the American Buff was flying in international airspace off Kaliningrad Oblast, where most of these “close encounters” have taken place in the recent years.

Some of these have been particularly dangerous, as the Russian combat planes have aggressively maneuvered close to (or even barrel rolled over) the U.S. spyplanes (mostly RC-135s) they were shadowing. This is the first time, at least in the last few years, that a Russian plane performs a VID (Visual Identification) run on a B-52 bomber.

The Stratofortress involved in the intercept must have been one of the three B-52Hs belonging to the 2nd BW (Bomb Wing) from Barksdale AFB, Louisiana,deployed to Royal Air Force Fairford, United Kingdom, to support various exercises, including BALTOPS and Saber Strike, throughout northern Europe during the month of June.

 

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Take A Seat In the Cockpit Of A U.S. B-52 Bomber As It Drops GBU-31 “Bunker Buster” Bombs On ISIS Targets In Mosul

Rare Insight Into The Operations Of The B-52s.

The venerable U.S. Air Force B-52 Buffs have been supporting the air war on ISIS since April 2016. They Stratofortress strategic bombers, based at Al Udeid, Qatar, launched their first air strike against a Daesh weapons storage facility in Iraq on Apr. 18, 2016.

As already highlighted in a previous article, the USAF B-52s have mainly flown Close Air Support and Air Interdiction mainly delivering two types of JDAMs (Joint Direct Attack Munitions): the 500-lb laser-guided GBU-54s and the 2,000-lb GPS-guided GBU-31V3 “bunker busters” loaded onto the Heavy Stores Adaptor Beam pylons.

The typical loadout includes 3x GBU-31s and 8x GBU-54s along with PGMs carried inside the bomb bay of the B-52H Stratofortress. With the 1760 Internal Weapons Bay Upgrade the Buffs can carry up to 16 external laser JDAMs (8 per pylon) as well as 8 internal J-series weapons mounted on a conventional rotary launcher: a mix of PGMs that gives the Buffs the ability to deliver attack both stationary and moving ground targets. In particular, the GBU-54s, that combines 500-lb Mk-82 warhead and the precision strike capability delivered by its dual Laser/GPS mode guidance system can be used against targets with reduced collateral damage.

For hardened targets or concrete shelters, the weapons of choice is the GBU-31s.The JDAM is a GPS aided inertially guided bomb. The Guidance and Control Unit (GCU) containing a HG1700 RLG, GEM-III GPS receiver and computer package is installed inside the bomb tailkit. The GCU is used on the bunker busting 2,000-lb class BLU-109/B forged steel penetrator warhead.

The GBU-31s are assembled at Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar, by airmen from the 379th Expeditionary Maintenance Squadron’s Munitions Flight. Considered that the base

The following video provides a really interesting point of view: it shows a high-altitude attack on a target in western Mosul (according to @obretix), as seen from the cockpit of a B-52 of the 23rd Expeditionary Bomb Squadron on May 23, 2017. The detonation of the bombs as they hit the ground appears to be pretty huge.

H/T @obretix for the heads-up