Tag Archives: U.S. Air Force

Photo: Air Force Joint Terminal Attack Controller marks ground target for a Navy Hornet under starry sky. In Kuwait.

Taken on Sept. 11, 2012, the following picture shows U.S. Air Force 1st Lt. Drew Parks, a Joint Terminal Attack Controller, 82nd Expeditionary Air Support Operations Squadron, as he communicates with a U.S. Navy F/A-18 Super Hornet supporting Operation Spartan Shield Southwest Asia.

Although the exact location is “undisclosed”, Spartan Shield is the name of the U.S. operation in Kuwait, hence the image was taken during an exercise in the desert over there.

Role of the JTACs, previously known as FACs (Forward Air Controllers), is to provide precision terminal attack guidance of U.S. and coalition close air support platforms from a forward position.

The JTAC acts as a sort of “broker” between the commander of the troops on the ground and the pilot, working embedded on a patrol, in the vicinity of the enemy, in an armored vehicle, or from the Tactical Operations Center of a Forward Operating Base. Through the  ROVER (Remotely Operated Video Enhanced Receiver) system made available by the Advanced Targeting Forward Looking Infrared (ATFLIR) pod that the F-18s carry on the left side of the fuselage, the JTAC receives on a portable terminal similar to a Playstation, realtime footage he then uses to determine whether the pilot is cueing the weapons to the correct ground target (and avoid friendly fire or collateral damage).

Image credit: U.S. Air Force

China unveils its brand new stealth fighter: the J-31 “Falcon Eagle”. But it’s a copy of the F-22 Raptor

Pictures of a previously unknown brand new fighter jet have started to appear online over the weekend.

Built by the Shenyang company, the new aircraft, could be the answer of the aerospace firm to the Chengdu J-20, whose two prototypes have already become quite famous across the world since the first images of the large, short-take off and landing stealth plane, leaked on the Chinese defense forums about two years ago.

Image credit: Tixue.net

The new aircraft, coded 31001 (hence, believed to be designated J-31) it’s a sort of copy of the F-22 Raptor the most advanced (and troubled), (multi-role) fighter jet in the U.S. Air Force inventory: same nose section, same twin tails and trapezoidal wings along with the distinctive lines of the stealth design. Anyway, even if it has two engines, the new aircraft doesn’t seem to feature thrust vectoring capabilities. At least on this first prototype.

It has also some F-35-like features, as the air intakes and wings dimensions.

The J-31 is smaller than the J-20, from which it differs for the grey paint job and the presence of a colored emblem on the tails (in place of the typical red star) with the text 鹘鹰, Chinese for “Falcon Eagle”

Image credit: Tixue.net

Although it’s almost impossible to say whether the new aircraft will eventually reach production phase, for sure it proves that China has at least two stealth projects for future combat capable aircraft.

Considered all the cyber attacks targeting Lockheed Martin stealth projects in the last years, one could believe Chinese hackers were able to put their hands on some useful technical drawings of the Raptor. Still, it would be the avionics, radar-evading features, equipment and weapons, rather than the shape, to make the difference in a dogfight. Unless the Chinese will build some thousand examples such jets.

Pilot explains what taking off with an F-15 at night looks like: “it’s like being in a dark tunnel and going super fast”

The following video shows interesting footage of the 173rd Fighter Wing at Kingsley Field in Klamath Falls, Oregon.

The Wing has done night flight training last week and the NBC has filmed the F-15s taking off in the dark in full afterburner and talked with Lt.Col. Jeffrey Edwards, an “Eagle driver”.

Edwards said his first night flight in an F-15 was “unbelievable” because “One, the sheer power of the airplane; two, you lack some of the daytime cues that you normally see.  So, it’s kind of like being in a dark tunnel at night, and going super fast.”

Night flight training with Night Vision Goggles is a key element in fighter training, because, “many times initial combat operations happen at night.”

173rd FW Eagles perform air-to-air training activity, including weapons employment and air-to-air refuel, in the airspace in southeast Oregon.

Drones may already be flying over Libya hunting insurgents who attacked the U.S. consulate in Benghazi

Even if, citing U.S. officials, the CNN has just reported that unmanned aerial vehicles will begin flying over Benghazi in the next few days, American drones may already be flying surveillances flights over eastern Libya following the attack at the U.S. consulate where Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans were killed by anti-U.S. mob.

The U.S. Air Force drones can be particularly useful to discover jihadi encampments and targets that may be tied to the attack to the Benghazi consulate.

CNN’s Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr reported that the proposal for use of drones could be approved shortly by the DoD and the White House, however, ISR (intelligence surveillance reconnaissance) have continued to take place over Northern Africa, where U.S. spyplanes, most probably looking for terrorists camps and smuggled weapons travelling towards Egypt, have been reported (and spotted) months after Operation Unified Protector had ended.

Since the first drones to operate in the Libyan airspace during 2011’s Air War were the U.S. RQ-4Bs belonging to the 9th Operations Group/Detachment 4th of the US Air Force, based at Naval Air Station Sigonella, in Sicily, the main operating base of the NATO Air Ground Surveillance Global Hawk program, it is quite likely that, if not already flying high-altitude surveillance flights over eastern Libya, these will be the first UAS (Unmanned Aerial Systems) to seek and hunt insurgents.

Unless, the Pentagon decides to attack them once detected (instead of leaving them to the Libyan forces), as it happens in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen: in this case, the unarmed Global Hawks will have to be supported/replaced by weaponized Predator or Reaper drones like those that have already operated in Libya (taking part to the operation that led to the capture and death of Gaddafi).

Image credit: U.S. Air Force

Documentary unveils Air Force One’s 9-11 journey across the U.S., secret trip into Baghdad and Obama’s first flight

Last year, I published a series of articles about the 9-11 for the 10th anniversary of the terrorist attacks, that you can find here.

One of them was about the Air Force One and its journey across the U.S. on that day (beginning with no escort during the attacks, 11 fighters when the airspace was completely free of airliners).

Recently, I’ve found on Youtube an interesting documentary about the world’s most famous and heavily defended airplane.

The National Geographic documentary brings you on board the highly modified Boeing 747, designated VC-25 by the U.S. Air Force, showing not only the cockpit, but also the quite interesting comms bay.

Interestingly, the documentary recalls the 9-11 trip, providing some more interesting details about the flight, including some radio calls recorded on that day as the Air Force One wandered in the U.S. airspace unable to properly deal with the crisis.

“There were phones, but I couldn’t invite people. There were meetings, but it was difficult to get in. The equipment was as good as it could have been”, George W Bush says.

In other words, the AF1 was unable to interconnect its onboard systems in such a way to give the President the possibility to talk with his top councerlors.

Then the documentary explains how the POTUS’s secret flight into Baghdad was flown on the Thanksgiving Day, 2003, when the VC-25 carrying President Bush, pretending to be a Gulfstream, landed into Iraq, unannounced and unexpected.

Finally, the video also includes  footage of the eight-day tour through six countries in the Middle East in 2008 as well as President Obama’s first flight on Air Force One.