Tag Archives: U.S. 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

Belgian Air Force F-16s refueling from U.S. tanker over Afghanistan. With boom operator's audio (and some wasted fuel…)

After publishing the previous article about the aerial tanker’s “flying boom” here’s another video taken during the same sortie, showing a U.S. KC-10 refueling a flight of two Belgian Air Force F-16s over Afghanistan. This time, the footage contains some audio that let you listen the boom operator talking with the two Viper pilots.

After completing the refueling operations, the two F-16s perform some tactical breaks from the country to give the opportunity to someone inside the boom operator’s station to film the stunts.

 

If you thought an aerial tanker’s "flying boom" was rigid, you better watch this video

Used as the standard aerial refueling system for U.S. Air Force fixed-wing aircraft the flying boom is a rigid, telescoping tube, maneuvered by a “boom operator” by means of a control stick.

This method has the advantage to eliminate the requirement for the receiver pilot to plug the probe into the hose’s drogue: once the aircraft has reached the refueling position the operator moves the boom to insert the tube in the receptacle of the receiver aircraft.

The following video shows the boom’s maneuverability: it can be moved quite quickly to follow the receiving plane and prevent it from disconnecting during refueling.

Both the KC-135 and the KC-10 tankers have a single boom that can be can be equipped with an adapter for probe-equipped aircraft and can refuel one receiver at a time. The KC-135 replacement plane, the future KC-46 based on the KC-767, will be fitted with a single boom and two hoses to refuel also aircraft using the probe and drogue mechanism.

Image credit: U.S. Air Force

Vipers, Growlers, Prowlers, Eagles and Hogs: U.S. combat planes at Aviano airbase during Libya air war. With heart background.

Although the U.S. involvement in Libya was scaled down few days after NATO took control over the air campaign on Mar. 31, 2011, American tactical aircraft (“tacair”) played an important role during the opening stages of the Washington-led Operation Odyssey Dawn (for more details I suggest you reading the first debriefs of my Libya Air War series).

Even if U.S. planes also operated from other deployment base (RAF Mildenhall, Moron, Souda Bay, Istres), Aviano airbase, in northeast Italy, and Sigonella, in Sicily, were the two main hubs used by the Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps assets. In particular, Aviano was mainly used by the tacair component, while “Saigon” was used by support planes (PSYOPS, tankers, etc.) and drones (both Reapers and Global Hawks).

Among the aircraft on temporary deployment to Aviano (that is the permanent base of the 31st FW’s F-16s) there were: VAQ-132 EA-18G Growlers, VAQ-140 and VMAQ-1 EA-6B Prowlers, 494FS F-15E, 81FS A-10s and 480FS F-16CJs. A Jordanian Air Force detachment operated from Aviano throughout the duration of Operation Unified Protector.

The following pictures, taken by Simone Gazzola, show some of the most interesting aircraft taking off or landing at Aviano.

Note also the “heart” shape on the background of some pictures. It’s a land-art project called Lumacuore (an Italian word formed by combining the words lumaca= snail and cuore = heart) and made between 2009 and 2010 on the side of Piancavallo mountain by the Italian artist Laura Trevisan with the aim of “spreading a cultural message on human rights, love and respect for nature as well as the environmentally friendly development of the territory.”