Tag Archives: U.S. Air Force

Check Out This Amazing Photo of America’s Air Force Fighter Arsenal Flying Formation!

Incredible Group of Aircraft from the U.S. Air Force’s Elite Nellis AFB Test and Evaluation Squadron.

There are good aviation photos, great aviation photos and exceptional aviation photos we may never see again. This photo from the 422nd Test and Evaluation Squadron at Nellis AFB outside Las Vegas, Nevada is definitely in the last category.

The photo, shared on the official Nellis AFB Facebook page and credited to the USAF, shows a unique formation of today’s most advanced tactical combat aircraft in a rare formation flight. A formation like this has not even been seen during the last two Nellis AFB Aviation Nation Air and Space Expos in 2016 and 2017.

The formation includes, as you can see, an F-16C Fighting Falcon, an F-22 Raptor, an F-35A Lighting II, an F-15C Eagle and a two-seat F-15E Strike Eagle, an A-10 Thunderbolt II. Each of the aircraft (not all fighters but mostly multi-role warplanes) wears the distinctive “OT” tail code for the “Operational Test” squadron that is part of the 53rd Test and Evaluation Group.

The 422nd Test and Evaluation Squadron, or “TES”, operates this cross-section of Air Force combat aircraft not only for testing and evaluation of existing and developmental hardware on the aircraft such as new weapons, avionics, software and communications systems but perhaps more interestingly, new tactics for the aircraft to be used singly and in conjunction with each other and the rest of the Air Force.

One fascinating recent observation that may be (and may not be) related to 422nd TES expansion of combat tactics was the appearance of F-22 Raptor air superiority fighters flying low level, terrain masking flights through the nearby Rainbow Canyon low flying area in Death Valley, California. The F-22 was originally intended as an air superiority fighter and would, as such, have little need to fly low-level terrain masking infiltration flights. But as F-22s have been used in the strike role in Syria already, perhaps the appearance of the “OT” tail code Raptors in the Canyon suggests an expansion in the F-22’s role in the future.

This Dafydd RJ Phillips photo shows a 422nd TES F-22 Raptor in Star Wars Canyon earlier this year. (Photo: Dafydd RJ Phillips)

The incredible photo was shot by Jake Melampy who manages Reid Air Publications in Trenton, Ohio, a publisher of an impressive assortment of aircraft reference books detailing markings and technical information for everyone from intelligence analysts to plastic scale modelers. Jake is a highly accomplished photographer with significant experience in air-to-air photoshoots which are deceivingly difficult to do well.

Top image: unique formation including each of the aircraft currently flown by the 422nd Test and Evaluation Squadron at Nellis AFB. (Photo: USAF by Jake Melampy)

 

Online Flight Tracking Provides Interesting Details About U.S. Spyplane and Russian Doomsday Aircraft Operating Over The Black Sea

Flight tracking websites expose a sort of “close encounter” between a U.S. Air Force RC-135 and some Russian Tu-214 special mission aircraft over the Black Sea.

The Tupolev Tu-214SR is a Special Mission Aircraft of the Russian Air Force. Actually, little details about this special plane are known: the “SR” is belived to be a communication relay aircraft, often accompanying Putin’s presidential aircraft on its travels. In other words, it is the Russian “doomsday” plane, with an airborne command and control role similar to that of the U.S. E-4B.

In spite of its role, as already reported years ago, this aircraft can be tracked online by means of the usual public domain “tools” i.e. flight tracking websites that use the famous ADS-B/Mode-S transponders and, when the aircraft is not broadcasting its GPS coordinates, or via Multilateration (MLAT) a technique that use Time Difference of Arrival (TDOA) to measure the difference in time to receive the signal from four different receivers thus geolocating the target that is not transmitting position data.

Tu-214SR (Image credit: Toshi Aoki – JP Spotters/Wiki)

Interestingly, a Tu-214SR, registration RA-64527, callsign RSD049, from Sochi International Airport, Russia, has been operating in the Black Sea since Aug. 1. “I first saw it on Aug. 1 at 21:24hrs UK time, same a/c was still on station at the same location on Aug 2, at 07:10hrs (it spent around 11hrs on that location), and it was on station again on Aug. 3”, Twitter user @Andy007_SR_A explained in a message to us.

What makes the report particularly interesting is the fact that the aircraft did not remain alone during the last mission, when it basically circled over the Kerch peninsula. In fact, on Aug. 3, the Russian “doomsday” plane was somehow “reached” by a U.S. Air Force RC-135V 64-14848 launched from Souda Bay Air Base, Crete, that flew off Crimea then headed towards Novorossiysk.

The flight path of the Rivet Joint brought the spyplane south of the Tu-214SR’s orbit. Then the RC-135 turned southeast. Interestingly, at this point another Russian special mission aircraft could be tracked online: a Tu-214SUS, registration RA-64524, callsign RSD117. The latter, airborne from Sochi, is believed to be an Airborne Communication Center, “equipped with a communication and special technical means to communicate anywhere in the world en-route and designed to carry the head of state, as well as government delegations.”

 

Although the activity of the Tu-214SUS could be completly unrelated to the Tu-214SR (as the operations in the same area for three consecutive days might suggest) it is also possible that the SR was instead supporting the Tu-214SUS, acting as a flying radio relay system between the Presidential/Government plane, ground-based receivers and satellites, as shown in the image below (taken from a ria.ru infographic on the Tu-214SR published by Sputnik news outlet):

Tu-214SR onboard relay system. (Source: ria.ru)

After reaching the west of Sochi the RC-135 turned back, following more or less the very same route for its return to Souda Bay. Was it dispatched to the Black Sea to spy on the two Tu-214s ? Most probably yes, even though we can’t be 100 percent sure considered that the Rivet Joint aircraft regularly operate in the area. Still, the fact the U.S. spyplane was there by accident seems to be hard to believe…

Whatever the reason for the concurrent presence of one American spyplane and two Russian special mission aircraft more or less in the same area of the Black Sea, once again, public domain flight tracking websites provided a privileged look at some sort of “interaction” between an RC-135V, a Tu-214SR and a Tu-214SUS. Something similar to what has happened since the Cold War but can be rarely observed using a web browser from home.

The quite rare Tupolev Tu-214SUS (Image credit: Aktug Ates/Wiki)

Take A Look At This Amazing Video Of a B-1B Lancer Night Afterburner Takeoff and Spiral Climb

A “Bone” taking off at night it’s always an impressive sight.

The US Air Force B-1B Lancer (Bone from B-One within the pilot community) was once again one of the highlights of EAA AirVenture 2018 airshow in Oshkosh, Winsconsin. This year, during the Wednesday night airshow, the heavy bomber performed its usually noisy takeoff, kept the burners lit and performed an impressive spiral climb into the clouds before heading home!

Besides attending summer airshows, the B-1B Lancer, from the 34th Expeditionary Bomb Squadron, assigned to the 379th Air Expeditionary Wing, are supporting the air war on ISIS from the U.S. Air Force Central Command’s area of operations. The Bones have replaced the B-52s of the 69th Expeditionary Bomb Squadron, that returned home last April, after a two-year assignment. The first combat mission in support of Operation Inherent Resolve was launched from Al Udeid, Qatar, on Apr. 8, 2018.

In the last couple of years, the B-1s have been upgraded: cockpit modifications provide enhanced situational awareness to the aircrew and enable incorporation into the Link 16 network. This allows them to digitally communicate with the Combined Air Operations Center and other airborne and ground based weapons systems, the U.S. Air Force says.

“This B-1 that we’re bringing back to the fight is different than any other B-1 that has deployed here before,” Lt. Col. Timothy Griffith, 34th EBS commander, said whent he aircraft returned to the theater. “It’s the first time this upgraded aircraft is going to be employed in combat and we’re honored and humbled to lead the B-1 community back into the AOR. We have had an extremely focused and disciplined training program designed to ensure all our Airmen are trained and ready to employ the upgraded B-1 in combat.”

Top image: screenshot from AirshowStuff video. H/T to our friend Ashley Wallace for sharing this cool video on FB.

USAF Identifies Heroic B-1B Bomber Crew, Awards Distinguished Flying Crosses

Crew That Saved Burning Bomber Over Texas In May Finally Named, Awarded.

After weeks of speculation about the circumstances surrounding a May 1, 2018 emergency landing in Texas by a U.S. Air Force B-1B Lancer heavy bomber from the 7th Bomb Wing, Air Force officials have identified the crew who are being hailed as heroes in the miraculous recovery of the crew and aircraft. Four crew members have been awarded the Air Force’s Distinguished Flying Cross, a high-level award for heroism or extraordinary achievement in aerial flight.

The B-1B heavy bomber was on a training mission on May 1, 2018 when a serious engine fire near the right wing root caused the crew to try to eject from their burning bomber over the Texas desert. When the first crew ejection seat failed to leave the plane successfully, the aircraft commander ordered the crew to immediately stop the escape procedure and managed to fly the damaged and burning aircraft with a crew hatch missing and the cockpit open to the surrounding wind blast to the Midland Air and Space Port near Odessa, Texas where the crew made a successful emergency landing.

Last week at Dyess Air Force Base, the Air Force Global Strike Command commander formally recognized the heroism and extraordinary aerial achievement of that B-1B Lancer aircrew. The quick-thinking actions of the aircrew resulted in the first-ever successful emergency landing of a B-1B experiencing this series of serious malfunctions.

The B-1B bomber involved in the May 1, 2018 emergency landing with the missing hatch following an ejection seat failure. (Photo: Tim Fischer/Midland Reporter-Telegram)

USAF General Robin Rand, Commander of the Air Force Global Strike Command at Barksdale AFB awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross medal to B-1B crewmembers Major Christopher N. Duhon, Air Forces Strategic – Operations Division chief of future operations at Barksdale AFB, and an instructor pilot with duties at the 28th Bomb Squadron; Captain Matthew Sutton, 28th BS weapon systems officer instructor; 1st Lieutenant Joseph Welch, 28th BS student pilot; and 1st Lieutenant Thomas C. Ahearn, then 28th BS student weapon systems officer who has since completed training and is currently assigned to the 37th BS, Ellsworth AFB, S.D.

The awards satisfy speculation on social media about the Air Force’s handling of the incident following temporary stand-down of the B-1B fleet so safety checks could be performed. Sources on social media voiced frustration after they felt the USAF had not done enough to recognize the efforts of the B-1B crew to save both the personnel on board and the aircraft itself. By early Saturday morning on July 14, it would appear the announcement of the Air Force’s awards to the crew have been met with favor on social media forums familiar with the incident.

Concern about the aging B-1B fleet continues amid speculation about the future of the aircraft set against the backdrop of the Air Force’s upcoming new B-21 Raider bomber program.

The Air Force awarded the crew of the B-1B bomber involved in the May 1, 2018 emergency landing the Distinguished Flying Cross. (Photo: USAF Official)

The Stunning Aerial Cinematography of JET PILOT

More than 65 years after it was filmed, Jet Pilot movie features some of the most spectacular aerial photography in film history.

Jet Pilot is a 1957 film directed by Josef von Sternberg and starring John Wayne and Janet Leigh. Written and produced by Jules Furthman and presented by Howard Hughes, the movie was filmed in more than eighteen months, from 1949 to 1953 and released, after post-production, 4 years later.

Although Jet Pilot was publicized as showcasing the U.S. Air Force’s latest jets, by the time it was finally released most of the USAF aircraft in the film were obsolescent or obsolete, being supplanted by more modern aircraft.

Jet Pilot movie posters (left: French version).

Hollywood film editor Vashi Nedomansky has recently edited 8 minutes of aerial footage from the film that he’s posted along with a blog article where he provides some background details about the movie. According to Nedomansky, Director of Photography Winton C. Hoch used Eastman Kodak’s brand new color negative 5247 film to capture the stunning aerial vistas. Moreover, Gen. Chuck Yeager anonymously flew most of the aerobatics in the movie that features several interesting aircraft: the Lockheed F-94 Starfire, the Convair B-36B Peacemaker, the Lockheed T-33 Shooting Star, the North American B-45 Tornado, the F-86A Sabre, the Northrop F-89 Scorpion, the Boeing B-50 as well as the famous Bell X-1 which Chuck Yeager.

Here’s the amazing footage that includes also some interesting barrel rolls and aerobatics around the X-1:

JET PILOT (1957) – Aerial Cinematography from Vashi Nedomansky on Vimeo.

The quality of the video is simply unbelievable if you consider that it was filmed more than 65 years ago!