Tag Archives: U.S. Air Force

U.S. Air Force RQ-4 Global Hawk drone flew over Ukraine with transponder turned on for everyone to see

U.S. Air Force’s gigantic Global Hawk drones have been flying over Ukraine for about two years. However, they recently let everyone  know they were there.

Reports of U.S. Air Force RQ-4 Global Hawk UASs (Unmanned Aerial Systems) flying over Ukraine are nothing new. Back in April 2015, quoting Gen. Andrei Kartapolov, Chief of the Main Department for Operations at the Russian General Staff, ITAR TASS reported that American high-altitude long-range drone were regularly spotted over the Black Sea and, beginning in March 2015, they were also monitored flying over Ukraine.

According to the Russian high-rank officer, the use of such unmanned aircraft increased the depth of data gathering on the territory of Russia by 250 kilometers to 300 kilometers.

U.S. RQ-4Bs belonging to the 9th Operations Group/Detachment 4th of the U.S. Air Force deployed to Sigonella from Beale Air Force Base, California, have been flying ISR (Intelligence Surveillance Reconnaissance) missions in support of EUCOM, AFRICOM and CENTCOM theater mission tasking since 2011.

The Global Hawks of the flying branch had their baptism of fire on Mar. 1, 2011, and were the first to fly over Libya to perform high altitude Battle Damage Assessment sorties on targets located in regions with  a residual SAM (Surface-to-Air Missiles) and MANPADS threat after Operation Odyssey Dawn was launched on Mar. 19, 2011.

Strategically based in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea, U.S. RQ-4s are regularly tasked with surveillance missions over North Africa, East Europe and Middle East. However, they usually keep a low-profile avoiding to be detected at least by commercial ADS-B receivers like those feeding online flight tracking systems such as Flightradar24.com, PlaneFinder.net or Global ADS Exchange.

rq-4-over-ukraine-top

Screenshot from Global ADSB Exchange

At least this is what has happened until Oct. 15 when a U.S. Air Force Global Hawk could be tracked online because of its Mode-S transponder while flying over southern Ukraine.

The Global Hawk (04-2021) popped up on the radars at 50,000 feet, east of Odessa, flying towards Mariupol. Then, the remotely piloted aircraft turned northwest bound before heading towards Sigonella where it arrived after overflying Moldova and Bulgaria. At a certain point the UAS was cruising at 54,000 feet.

The flight path the aircraft followed probably enabled its imagery intelligence (IMINT) sensors to take a look at Russian bases in Crimea as well as gather information about the pro-Russia forces on the ground in the Dombass region of Ukraine.

rq-4-over-ukraine-returning

Screenshot from Global ADSB Exchange

Spyplanes (and drones) usually operate in “due regard” with transponder switched off, with no radio comms with the ATC control, using the concept of “see and avoid” where the pilot flying is responsible for avoiding all traffic conflicts, much like a VFR flight plan without flight following. Even if RC-135s can be regularly tracked online, it’s at least weird that a strategic ISR platform that has remained “invisible” thus far, has operated with the transponder turned on over a highly sensitive region.

We can’t completely rule out this happened by accident but considered that the risk of breaking OPSEC with an inaccurate use of ADS-B transponders is very well known it seems quite reasonable, in a period of raising tensions with Russia, to believe that the unmanned aircraft purposely broadcast its position for everyone to see, to let everyone know it was there.

Russian spyplanes have done the some in the past: for instance the Tu-214R, Russia’s most advanced intelligence gathering aircraft deployed to Syria and flew along the border with Ukraine with its transponder turned on.

Top image: an RQ-4 deployed to Southwest Asia (U.S. Air Force)

 

32 F-22 Raptors moved to Rickenbacker Air National Guard Base to escape Hurricane Matthew

F-22 Raptors and T-38 Talons from Langley were “Hurrevaced” to Rickenbacker Air National Guard Base.

The top image is quite impressive.

It shows 32 F-22 Raptors from Joint Base Langley-Eustis on the ramp of the 121st Air Refueling Wing, at Rickenbacker ANGB, Ohio.

The stealth multirole jets have arrived at the base south of Columbus, along with 10 – 12 T-38 Talons, on Oct. 5, to escape from Hurricane Matthews.

Many airbases located on the East Coast (and in Florida) have been “Hurrevaced” (from HurrEvac – Hurricane Evacuation) with their aircraft moved across the country.

During Hurricane Hermine in late August, Rickenbacker hosted several A-10s from Moody AFB, Georgia, whereas as many as 13 F-22 Raptors from Langley were squeezed inside a giant NASA Langley Research Center hangar, rated for Cat. 2 hurricanes.

Image credit: U.S. Air Force

 

Salva

From the cockpit: F-16 flies in formation with a C-130J Super Hercules

This is something you don’t see every day: an F-16 flying alongside a C-130J Super Hercules.

In the last few days, the 148th Fighter Squadron, a unit of the Arizona Air National Guard, 162nd Fighter Wing, based at Tucson Air National Guard Base, Arizona, helped U.S. Air Force C-130 pilots train in developing self-defense tactics to avoid airborne threats by simulating enemy pilots.

Called to operate close to or inside contested airspaces, transport planes regularly train with fighter aircraft (performing HVAAE – High Value Air Asset Escort) as well as in low-level flying that can be useful to avoid interception by Red Air aircraft.

The 162nd FS is tasked with the training of F-16 pilots for the Royal Netherlands Air Force and other air arms which have purchased the Viper via the Foreign Military Sales program.

148FS training with C130s from Niki Luysterburg on Vimeo.

Salva

Watch an epic, deafening U.S. Air Force B-1B bomber’s (almost) head-on take off

A deafening late take off of a B-1B Lancer from RAF Fairford. Video is a bit shaky but cool.

The following clip was filmed a few weeks ago outside the perimeter fence at RAF Fairford, UK, where two B-1B “Bone” bombers belonging to the 7th Bomb Wing, Dyess Air Base, Texas, were deployed.

The two Lancers along with a B-52 took part in Exercise Ample Strike 2016, a yearly Czech Republic-led exercise with 300 participants from 18 countries.

The video is not very good in quality, a bit shaky, but it gives a rough idea of what a (almost) head-on take-off of a B-1 looks like.

“The heat and exhaust flow blew me off my feet. Apparently developed a hydraulic fault on take-off so required more runway than usual for a safe lift off, hence why it is SO LOW,” says the author of the clip, Jonathan Grainge, in a comment to the video on Youtube.

 

Salva

Salva

South Dakota ANG F-16C jets (including one in new F-35-like dark grey color scheme) arrive at RAF Mildenhall

Four SD ANG F-16Cs returning from Poland have arrived in the UK. One of them sports the brand new overall grey color scheme aimed at reducing the aircraft’s RCS (Radar Cross Section).

Four F-16Cs from the South Dakota ANG 175th Fighter Squadron of 114th Fighter Wing have taken part in a deployment to Lask airbase, Poland, where they arrived on Sept. 3.

The purpose of their visit was to participate in the bilateral training exercise “Aviation Detachment 16-4”. They were also accompanied by 100 associated members of unit.

On Sept. 24, the four Vipers arrived at RAF Mildenhall, UK, apparently due to problems with a KC-10 tanker. Interestingly, one of them 88-0428 sported fancy Tail Markings as the Commanders aircraft while another one (88-0422), was painted in a new F-35-like dark grey color scheme (the other two aircraft were 88-0932 and 88-0463.)

f-16-sd-ang-2

Actually, the paint job similar to the one of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter has been applied to U.S. F-16s since at least 2012 when it started to appear on the F-16CM (formerly CJ) Block 50 Fighting Falcon aircraft.

Called “Have Glass 5th generation” or “Have Glass V” the paint scheme is the evolution of the standard Have Glass applied to 1,700 “Vipers”: all the F-16s are covered with RAM (Radar Absorbent Material) paint, made of microscopic metal grains that can degrade the radar signature of the aircraft.

Image credit: Tony Lovelock