Tag Archives: U.S. Air Force

Rare video of U.S. spyplane used to track high-value and time-sensitive targets, including people

The following video shows an MC-12W Liberty of the 9th Reconnaissance Wing during a mission over Afghanistan.

Although scarcely known, the MC-12W is one of the most valuable U.S. ISR (intelligence surveillance reconnaissance) platforms: it is used to supports ground forces tracking high-value and time-sensitive targets, including people, as well as provide tactical intelligence and airborne command and control for air-to-ground operations.

Indeed, the MC-12W, that took part to the last Red Flag at Nellis Air Force Base in February 2013, is a spyplane specialized in “find, fix, and finish” bad guys.


The footage is particularly interesting as scenes not only include take off and recovery ops but also interior of aircraft, Wescam sensors, night operations, operators and tactical systems operators: a rare glimpse inside such a rare, spooky bird.

Note the HD live video provided to the sensors operators on board the Liberty by the aircraft’s Wescam camera.

The MC-12W is a military version of the Hawker Beechcraft Super King Air 350 and Super King 350ER: the U.S. Air Force plane was given a full array of sensors, a ground exploitation cell, line-of-sight and satellite communications datalinks, along with a robust voice communications suite.

The aircraft is equipped with an electro-optical infrared sensor and other sensors as the mission requires. The EO/IR sensor also includes a laser illuminator and designator in a single sensor package. The MC-12 system is capable of worldwide operations.

It lacks only weapons. At least for the moment….

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This photo shows how low a B-52 bomber can fly on a maritime attack mission

Published by the cool Team Stratofortress Facebook page, this image is one of the few showing how low the B-52 bomber can fly next to a supercarrier at sea.

B-52 low level

Image credit: via Team Stratofortress

You’ll find some other images showing this kind of flypast on the Web but, provided it was not photoshopped, this is the only I’ve seen so far taken from on board the aircraft carrier.

By the way, note the typical nose down attitude of the Stratofortress on straigh flight.

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Awesome video shows B-52 bombers during a MITO (Minimum Interval Take Off)

It must have been a smokey morning at Minot Air Force Base, North Dakota, when the following video was filmed.

Ten B-52H bombers take off during a Minimum Intervall Take Off (MITO) exercise, conducted to test the Stratofortresses’ ability to respond to threats at a moment’s notice.

During this training events, aircraft are launched by a method known “cart-starts” from cartridge starts: a small-controlled explosive is inserted into two of the eight engines of the heavy bomber. The charges jumpstart the engines (the remaining engines are started while the aircraft taxies to the runway) removing the need to use ground equipment normally used for aircraft’s startup.

Using cart-starts, startup time is cut from more than an hour to less than 10 minutes.


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Satellite image shows five F-22 near Iran (one year ago). And here is who they were.

Even if we have often reported the presence of the F-22 Raptors at Al Dhafra, satellite imagery showing five radar evading planes parked at the main airbase in the UAE has been made publicly available for the first time recently.

F-22 Al Dhafra

The aircraft, parked next to an F-15E Strike Eagle, are five of the six F-22 that had (more or less secretely) deployed in South East Asia from Holloman New Mexico, via Moron, Spain, on Apr. 20, 2012.

The image is not only interesting because it shows the main U.S. Air Force plane about 100 miles from Iran, but also because it is the first one to show fast jets on one of most important U.S. airbases in the region.

Using the time option on Google Earth, you may even observe how the airbase has grown since 2004: the large apron in front of the light hangars where the F-22 were parked in April 2012, did not exist in the satellite image taken 9 years ago.

Al Dhafra 2004

Image credit: Google Earth

Moreover, if you watch the imagery of the subsequent years you will notice that only support planes (E-3s, KC-135s etc) could be seen stationed at Al Dhafra: the presence of the F-22s beginning in 2012, is a clear sign of how the situation in the region has gradually changed with an increasing tension with Iran.

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Upgraded F-35 Block 2A Joint Strike Fighters delivered to the U.S. Air Force. Still much to do, though.

The brand new Joint Strike Fighters reached the 58th Fighter Squadron on May 6, 2013. The difference between the mentioned plane and the older ones is the fact that it already incorporates the Block 2A avionics software and will start flying in 2-3 weeks.

F-35 close up

Image Credit: Lockheed Martin

26 F-35As (including 2 spares) are going to be a part of the Squadron in Eglin by the beginning of 2014. Some of them will support a training squadron that will be stationed at Luke AFB and is scheduled to receive its first JSFs in January 2014.

The new software introduces interesting capabilities.

First of all, it allows the pilot to use all six thermal imaging cameras of the EO-DAS AN/AAQ-37 optical set.

The purpose of the device is to detect and track the enemy aircraft and provide early warning messages about the launched missiles.

Nevertheless it is not integrated with the on-helmet-sight yet even if it allows displaying weather info.

In spite of the latest upgrade, the F-35A is still restricted. It can’t conduct IMC flights, night flights, aerobatics (have you ever seen JSF on an Air Show?!) and formation take-offs and landings. Even if it is in a post-prototype stage of development the F-35 is still not a fully capable fighters, and it evokes mixed feelings among the Lockheed Martin employees, as The Aviationist reported earlier.

However, the Block 2A software extends the F-35’s capabilities, because it lets the pilot simulate the launch of AIM-120 missiles. Still, the g-limit for the airframe is 5,5 G that is quite ridiculous, taking into account the objectives the JSF is designed to face. Hopefully the g-limit will be lifted soon.

The training ground attack missions are practically the only thing JSF feels good at, as it allows for dropping laser guided GBU-12‘s and GBU-31 JDAMs.

Image Credit: USAF

The 58th Fighter Squadron already operates 9 F-35A Block 1B, which were used to train USAF instructors and test pilots. The ultimate number of trained pilots is to reach 45.

The initial problems with the Lockheed-Martin fighter jet are not an issue for some of the customers. Just recently Israel has transferred $20,1 million for the jets that they are going to buy. The money is to fund additional 2 planes to the 6 already existing in the order. They are to be a part of LRIP – Low Rate Initial Production.

Out of the remaining planes of LRIP VIII  (45 examples) 29 are to stay in the US (19 F-35A’s – for USAF and 6 VTOL F-35B’s for the Marine Corps and 4 F-35C’s for US Navy). The remaining 19 planes are to be delivered to the customers as follows: 4 F-35B’s for UK, 2 F-35A for Norway, 4 F-35A for Japan and two abovementioned examples for Israel.

Jacek Siminski for The Aviationist

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