Tag Archives: U.S. Air Force

Aggressor fighter pilot, Nellis Air Force Base and Las Vegas. In a single photo

Nellis Air Force Base, in Nevada, home of the Red Flag exercise,  is for sure one of the most famous airbases in the world.

It is located in northeast Las Vegas, and covers more than 14,000 acres (57 km2) with ranges providing 15,000 square miles (39,000 km2) of airspace for flying operations.

The following picture, taken by U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Matthew Bruch, an aerial photographer with 1st Combat Camera Squadron, was taken shortly after take off from runway 03L on an F-15D from the 65th Aggressor Squadron flying in support of the Air Force Weapons School.

Even if this kind of self-portrait is always cool, I think this photograph is particularly interesting as it not only shows the airman, but also Nellis AFB and Las Vegas behind the sand-camouflaged F-15.

Among the various units based at Nellis, the 57th Wing and its Aggressors’ F-15s and F-16s are among the most interesting guests.

Image credit: U.S. Air Force

Lockheed Martin's picture of the final F-22 Raptor. Taken with a (costly) Hasselblad H4D super-high definition camera.

Here’s a cool image of the final F-22 aircraft (Air Force serial number 10-4195) delivered to the U.S. Air Force on May 2, 2012.

The aircraft will be assigned to the 3rd Wing at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson (JEBR), Alaska, where F-22s already equip the active duty 90th and 525th Fighter Squadrons and the 302nd FS, an Air Force Reserve Associate squadron.

The photograph is particularly interesting because, according to the EXIF data shown by Flickr, it was taken with a Hasselblad H4D, a high-end professional, costly (depending on the model the price range is comprised between 27,000 and 44,000 USD), medium format DSLR camera, that is famous for its super-high resolution images.

The most expensive camera for the final most advanced (and troubled) stealth fighter plane ever built.

482 such planes have crashed in 30 years. There is someone risking a lot more than F-22 pilots.

As already explained in a previous post, there’s a very small number of U.S. combat pilots who have asked not to fly the F-22 Raptor fighter jets, or to be reassigned to other units, because of the oxygen-deprivation problems with the fifth generation stealth fighter.

However, there’s another community of aircraft pilots risking much more than the U.S. elite fighter jocks.

On May 2, India’s Defense Minister A.K. Antony said that 482 Mig-21 fighter, more than half of the India’s 873-strong Mig fleet, had met with an accident in the last three decades. Such impressive amount of mishaps caused the deaths of 171 pilots and 39 civilians.

That’s why the Indian ageing collection of Soviet-era Migs have been dubbed “widow makers” and have long been unpopular with India Air Force pilots.

I think Indian pilots deserve the right to ask to be reassigned to a safer plane too.

Image credit: Indian Air Force

Bring on some bandits! Combat pilots to fight against computer generated aggressors. During actual training flights.

Even if WVR (Within Visual Range) contests made famous by Top Gun movie, are still the most exciting (and disputed….) part of a combat pilot’s training, future wars’ most likely scenarios are those played on the long distance.

BVR (Beyond Visual Range) set ups (1 vs 2, 2vs 2, 2 vs 4, and so on) is still what pilots have to be proficient at, if they want to survive super-maneuverable stealth fighters, outnumbering friendly planes. Indeed, U.S. Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps routinely fly against “Aggressors” or “Adversaries” (this one in the naval slang), whose aim is to simulate enemy tactics as those used by the Sukhoi Su-30s in combat and play the “Red Force” during large Red Flag exercises.

However, there are not enough opponents to give pilots the opportunity to improve their ability to employ their weapons systems against multiple bandits and maximize the training return. That’s why, USAF and Lockheed Martin have developed a new training system, dubbed Live Virtual Constructive (LVC) training technology, that is going to revolutionize combat pilots training: the LVC generates adversaries on the fighter’s sensors just like real enemy fighters that behave exactly how the real enemies would.

Hence, when a Wing wants to train four pilots, it would need “only” four planes since no additional aircraft is required: in accordance with the training purposes, they will have the opportunity to fight against eight to twelve adversaries, that would be controlled by instructors who can manage their tactics or virtually fly them from one of the cockpits in a Networked Training Center. Like the one at Luke AFB, where the new mission control system for F-16 LVC training was installed.

Obviously, such virtual, aggressors will have to be kept out of visual range.

The LVC would help greatly the F-22 Raptor units who have difficult time finding high performance aggressors to fly against, as well as F-35 squadrons, that are going to face similar problems in the near future.

Richard Clements has contributed to this article.

F-16 Flying Over Arizona

Image credit: Torch Magazine/Flickr

Photo: F-35 completes first night air-to-air refueling

On Mar. 22, 2012, the F-35 completed the first night air-to-air refueling during a test mission from Edwards AFB, California.

Piloted by U.S. Air Force pilot Lt. Col. Peter Vitt, AF-4, an F-35A conventional takeoff and landing variant, met with an Air Force KC-135 tanker and successfully received fuel through the Stratotanker flying boom.

Thanks to the gas received through the JSF’s receptacle, Vitt’s sortie lasted more than three hours.

After qualifying with the KC-135, the F-35 Integrated Test Force at Edwards AFB will also conduct night refueling tests with the KC-10.

Image credit: Lockheed Martin photo by Matthew Short