Tag Archives: U.S. Air Force

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.”

What a photo of two Soviet Mig-29s intercepted by four U.S. F-15s over the Bering Strait says about fighter tactics

Although it has been already published on several websites, this image suggests some interesting analysis.
It was taken on Aug. 1, 1989, and shows two Soviet Mig-29 being intercepted by four (one is the camera ship, another one is not visible in this photograph) F-15s of the 21st Composite Fighter Wing, whosee 43rd and 54th Tactical Fighter Squadrons patrolled 580,000 square miles from the North Pole to the tip of the Aleutian Islands.

The planes’ contrails give an idea of the maneuver used by the U.S. fighters to intercept the Mig-29s.

“What you can clearly see in the photograph is the wingman crossing the leader’s flight path to obtain a WEZ [Weapon Engagement Zone]-in-depth position to be ready to use the missiles as soon as the leader achieves the VID [Visual IDentification]” explains Lt.Col. Salvatore “Cheero” Ferrara, an Italian Air Force pilot assigned to the JSF program at Washington DC, formerly flying as an interceptor pilot with both the F-104 and the F-16.

“Although I think the wingman’s cross is a bit belated, the image shows a typical “deploy” maneuver of the U.S. fighters, in which the leader is “eyeball” and the wingman becomes “shooter”. All the visual interception are conducted in this way, even though, with the current “sensor fusion”, this kind of maneuver might change in the future” Ferrara says.

In simple words, the wingman, initially located on the “southern side” of the maneuver crosses the formation leader’s flight path to emerge on the other side in a defensive-spread position. From there, the wingman can almost “look through” the leader’s aircraft towards the target and continue the stern approach until it reach the Weapon Engagement Zone from which the air-to-air weapon can be fired.

Not in this case, though, since the U.S. fighters intercepted the Soviet Fulcrums on their way to Elmendorf AFB, in Alaska, where they refueled before continuing to Abbotsford, in Canada, for the International Airshow.