Tag Archives: U.S. Air Force

Take A Seat In the Cockpit Of A U.S. B-52 Bomber As It Drops GBU-31 “Bunker Buster” Bombs On ISIS Targets In Mosul

Rare Insight Into The Operations Of The B-52s.

The venerable U.S. Air Force B-52 Buffs have been supporting the air war on ISIS since April 2016. They Stratofortress strategic bombers, based at Al Udeid, Qatar, launched their first air strike against a Daesh weapons storage facility in Iraq on Apr. 18, 2016.

As already highlighted in a previous article, the USAF B-52s have mainly flown Close Air Support and Air Interdiction mainly delivering two types of JDAMs (Joint Direct Attack Munitions): the 500-lb laser-guided GBU-54s and the 2,000-lb GPS-guided GBU-31V3 “bunker busters” loaded onto the Heavy Stores Adaptor Beam pylons.

The typical loadout includes 3x GBU-31s and 8x GBU-54s along with PGMs carried inside the bomb bay of the B-52H Stratofortress. With the 1760 Internal Weapons Bay Upgrade the Buffs can carry up to 16 external laser JDAMs (8 per pylon) as well as 8 internal J-series weapons mounted on a conventional rotary launcher: a mix of PGMs that gives the Buffs the ability to deliver attack both stationary and moving ground targets. In particular, the GBU-54s, that combines 500-lb Mk-82 warhead and the precision strike capability delivered by its dual Laser/GPS mode guidance system can be used against targets with reduced collateral damage.

For hardened targets or concrete shelters, the weapons of choice is the GBU-31s.The JDAM is a GPS aided inertially guided bomb. The Guidance and Control Unit (GCU) containing a HG1700 RLG, GEM-III GPS receiver and computer package is installed inside the bomb tailkit. The GCU is used on the bunker busting 2,000-lb class BLU-109/B forged steel penetrator warhead.

The GBU-31s are assembled at Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar, by airmen from the 379th Expeditionary Maintenance Squadron’s Munitions Flight. Considered that the base

The following video provides a really interesting point of view: it shows a high-altitude attack on a target in western Mosul (according to @obretix), as seen from the cockpit of a B-52 of the 23rd Expeditionary Bomb Squadron on May 23, 2017. The detonation of the bombs as they hit the ground appears to be pretty huge.

H/T @obretix for the heads-up

 

Check Out This Cool Video Of Two B-52H Stratofortress Bombers Landing At RAF Fairford For Their European Deployment

B-52H Stratofortresses from Barksdale Air Force Base have touched down on the runway at RAF Fairford, UK. The bombers will participate in exercises Saber Strike, Arctic Challenge and Baltic Operations (BALTOPS), in the European theatre.

On Jun. 1, two B-52H Stratofortresses belonging to the 2nd BW (Bomb Wing) from Barksdale AFB, Louisiana, and 800 Airmen, deployed to Royal Air Force Fairford, United Kingdom, to support various exercises throughout Europe during the month of June.

Actually, the two aircraft came from different bases: whilst one of the aircraft, callsign “MYTEE 51”, made its way to the UK via Northern Europe, the other one, “MYTEE 96”, arrived from Al Udeid, Qatar, where the aircraft was based to support Operation Inherent Resolve, against ISIS in Syria and Iraq.

The long-range heavy bombers are a frequent presence in Europe:  B-52s from Barksdale or Minot AFB deploy at least once a year to Fairford or Morón Air Base, Spain, and regularly take part in the yearly Saber Strike and BALTOPS exercises in the U.S. European Command area of responsibility.

Although they mainly fly Close Air Support and Air Interdiction missions delivering a wide variety of PGMs (Precision Guided Munitions) on Daesh targets in Iraq, when deployed to Europe the Buffs conduct both land and maritime attack missions including naval mine drops during which the aircraft drops 500-pound dummy Mk-62 mines, that is to say Mk-82 500-lb general purpose bomb fitted with a Fin Mk 15, Fin BSU-86/B, or Tail Section Mk 16. Once in the water, the mine uses an MK57 Target Detection Device (TDD) to detect a ship passing above: it can detect the vessel by pressure of the ship on the water, by magnetism of the ship’s metal or vibration caused by the ship.

Generally speaking, the $84 million bombers can carry 312,197 pounds (141,610 kilograms) of fuel, a payload of 70,000 pounds (31,500 kilograms), can fly 650 miles per hour at 50,000 feet (15,151.5 meters) for more than 8,800 miles. With upgrades they over the years and future upgrades coming online the B-52H is an extremely capable platform and still a very viable asset to mission planners.

With a first flight in 1952 and an out-of-service date of 2040 it’s not inconceivable that we will see 80-year-old B-52s finally retiring to the desert.

In the meanwhile, take a look at yet another stunning video from Ben Ramsay showing the two Buffs touching down at RAF Fairford on Jun. 1, 2017.

The U.S. Air Force Has Just Released Photos That Prove The MC-130J Commando II Has Joined The Air War On ISIS

Here is the first in theater (Iraq/Syria) picture of an AFSOC MC-130J Commando II.

The top image shows a U.S. Air Force MC-130J Commando II receiving fuel from a 340th Expeditionary Air Refueling Squadron KC-135 Stratotanker during a flight in support of Operation Inherent Resolve.

The photograph was taken by Staff Sgt. Trevor T. McBride on May 29, 2017, and it is particularly interesting because, as our friends at @Airwars noticed, this is the first time the multimission combat transport/special operations tanker, assigned to the Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC), is depicted flying in support of OIR against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.

A MC-130J Commando II is refueled by a KC-135 Stratotanker during a flight in support of Operation Inherent Resolve. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Trevor T. McBride)

The MC-130J Commando II, that has replaced the MC-130N/P Combat Shadow II aircraft, is the modern special operations variant of the Hercules, whose primary roles are HAAR (Helicopter Air-to-Air Refueling) of SOF helicopters/tilt rotor aircraft, infiltration, exfiltration and resupply of SOF by airdrop or landing on remote airfields. Interestingly, the aircraft can also be used for FARP (Forward Air Refueling Point) operations to perform covert, nighttime refueling operations in deployed locations where fueling stations are not accessible or when air-to-air refueling is not possible.

The MC-130Js mainly operate at low-altitude and at night, conducting clandestine missions with reduced probability of visual acquisition and intercept by airborne threats.

According to the U.S. Air Force, the MC-130J features an advanced two-pilot flight station with fully integrated digital avionics; fully populated Combat Systems Operator (CSO) and auxiliary flight deck stations; 13 color multifunctional liquid crystal displays; head-up displays; fully integrated navigation systems with dual inertial navigation system and global positioning system; integrated defensive systems; low-power color radar; digital moving map display. The aircraft is equipped with new turboprop engines with six-bladed, all-composite propellers; digital auto pilot; improved fuel, environmental and ice-protection systems; enhanced cargo-handling system; Universal Air Refueling Receptacle Slipway Installation (UARRSI), air refueling pods, Electro Optical/Infrared (EO/IR) System; dual SATCOM for voice/data; 60/90 KVA generators; increased DC electrical output, loadmaster/scanner restraint system; and LAIRCM provisions.

The MC-130J’s primary missions are Air refueling of SOF helicopter/tilt rotor aircraft, infiltration, exfiltration and resupply of SOF by airdrop or airland (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Trevor T. McBride)

As mentioned before, this kind of asset is capable to perform many tasks, therefore it’s difficult to guess what kind of mission it was flying when it was photographed. For the moment, we can just say that the Commando II has joined the air war over Syria and Iraq bringing the ability to support a wide variety of special operations against Daesh.

H/T @Airwars for the heads-up

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Red Flag Memories: Combat Pilot Explains How RF Has Evolved And Why The F-35 Is A Real Game Changer In Future Wars

Red Flag is not a “joke” as some critics have said. It’s an exercise that continues to evolve to replicate the most modern scenarios, where 5th Gen. aircraft are pivotal to the final success.

Red Flag is one of the biggest high-intensity exercises in world. It is designed to simulate the first 10 days of a conflict with hundreds of assets involved. A friendly force (Blue Air) against an enemy force (Red Air) in a scenario designed to provide pilots with real combat experiences so that they can improve their skill set before heading into actual combat. Something evident in the Red Flag motto as well: “Train as you fight, fight as you train”.

I took part in RF twice during my career: in 2002, I was at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, for a “standard” RF, whereas in 2010 I deployed to Alaska for the so-called Red Flag-Alaska (read here about the epic transatlantic flight we undertook to take six Tornado bombers back to Italy after RF-A..).

RF has the ability to bring the pilot into a unique realistic scenario, and is also a place where new tactics are born, developed or put to test.

I remember more than 70 aircraft scheduled to depart from Nellis AFB one morning; one big COMAO per day with a scenario featuring different type of threats (Surface-to-Air and Air-to-Air), targets and ROE (Rules of engagement).

Believe me, RF is much more than a normal large-scale exercise!

Ever-changing scenarios

After attending two RFs I can assert I’ve seen scenarios changing a lot throughout the time.

In 2002 we had a well-defined set up, we knew where the enemy was, how it would react to our presence, where the threats were located etc.; in 2010, we faced a “border line” scenario with enemy elements embedded in friendly forces or civilian population, where CDE (Collateral Damage Estimation) was extremely important, where target VID (Visual IDentification) or  EOID (Electro Optical IDentification) were the main success factors in the simulated air campaign. In other words, 8 years apart, the RF scenario had evolved to adapt to the ever-changing “combat environment.”

The most recent RFs prove that the exercise continues to change.

For instance, while maintaining the standard coalitions scheme (Blue and Red forces), RF 17-1 had the two teams involved in a “crisis” instead of a war situation. On top of that, not only does the scenario has introduced the latest and most sophisticated and capable threats that require a change in tactics, but it has also moved on a higher level, focusing on the importance of  “battlefield information management,” a kind of task the much debated F-35 is going to master.

Today, taking part in a RF means joining pilots, ground forces, intelligence analysts, cyber and space operators, for testing and training operations at Nellis as well as the Nevada Test and Training Range north of Las Vegas.

All the participants have only one goal in mind: working together to FITS “Find, Identify, Track and Strike” the adversary, to attack forces in a multi-domain battlefield which is based on what we have encountered so far in theater and what we may expect to find in the future wars. This is the real core business and the big change of the most recent RFs.

A RF mission is usually made of 20-25 adversaries: not only aircraft, but also ground-to-air threats, moving and unknown threats etc. In other words, the old fixed scenario has become much more “dynamic” requiring a real-time “combat battlefield” coordinator.

Therefore, the most recent RF scenarios aim to develop the ability to fuse all the combat capabilities. In this context, the F-35 brings to the package the ability to penetrate deep into the most complex and “unknown” environments providing the “overall control” of the battlefield. The F-35, as well as any other modern aircraft with similar sensor fusing ability, can also work in a complementary fashion with the 4th generation fighters, sharing the information with all the other “players” while providing its own amount of fire power to the team.

Stealth technology (capability to survive and operate effectively where others cannot) combined with 5th generation features (i.e. superior information management), were pivotal to achieve the overall RF’s mini-campaign results.

Maintainers from the 419th and 388th Fighter Wings conduct conducts preflight checks on an F-35A Lightning II from Hill Air Force Base, Utah, during Red Flag 17-1 at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., Jan. 24, 2017. Airmen from the active duty 388th FW and Air Force Reserve 419th FW fly and maintain the Lightning II in a total force partnership, capitalizing on the strength of both components. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Natasha Stannard)

Although the reliance on a single capability or asset will not be enough to succeed in the future scenarios, the F-35, as a “combat battlefield” coordinator, is a “game changer”: it brings new flexibility, new capabilities and, above all, helps enhancing the “survivability” of the coalition packages.

In a “crisis” situation, the coalition needs to timely react to a fast evolving scenario. With the ability to collect, manage and distribute intelligence data, during RF 17-1 the F-35s were able to geo-locate the threats and target them with the required (simulated) weaponry. Even when the F-35s had expended all their ordnance they were requested to stay in the fight and assist the rest of the package by collecting live battlefield data and passing it to older 4th generation fighters via Link-16.

This is the value-add of 5th generation fighters: their ability to suppress enemy targets while contributing to dominate the air and battlespace supporting “legacy” aircraft.

Believe me, it’s not easy to be fighter, striker and tactical battlefield coordinator at same time! So whatever the ROE (Rules Of Engagement) or the role of the F-22 that teamed with the F-35 were, the 20:1 kill ratio against the aggressors is a pretty impressive achievement.

Analysing the RF 17-1, it is quite impressive (at least from an old-school fighter pilot’s standpoint) to hear that the F-35 flew right on top of the threat, did its job performing successful strikes and providing command and control tasks to other COMAO assets, before returning home unscathed.

The Red Flags I attended in the past did only feature “conventional” fight with no 5th generation asset involved. My job as wingman was to keep visual contact with my leader, follow him while he managed the air-to-air picture and, if everything went well, reach the TGT (target) area, using terrain masking, without being targeted by the red air or ground-to-air systems . Less than a decade ago, the friendly forces did not have the capability to target advanced surface-to-air missile threats with an aircraft like the F-35A and exercise planners were obliged to simulate the engagement of the most heavily defended targets with long-range “standoff” weapons – like Tomahawk cruise missiles – a kind of air strike that would require an outstanding intelligence coordination and would not fit too well in case of moving targets.

An Italian Air Force Tornado takes off at Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska on June 18, 2010 in support of training exercise Red Flag – Alaska. More than 1,300 personnel including members of the Italian Air Force and the Japanese Air Self-Defense Force have deployed to Alaska to participate in RED FLAG-Alaska 10-3. U.S. Air Force photo by Technical Sgt. James L. Harper Jr.

That changed significantly with the advent of new generation aircraft. The wingmen flying 5th gen. aircraft today, act as air battle managers who are able to “see” the battlefield in a way an F-15 or an F-16 pilot will never see, whereas their leaders can drop PGMs (Precision Guided Munitions) on ground targets or engage enemy fighters.

In 2002, everybody came in into fight, moving from BVR (Beyond Visual Range) and eventually to WVR (Within Visual Range) for a big merge; today, the adversaries roughly know where the stealth fighter *could* be, but they don’t know exactly where they are, how they will approach the target or maneuver to engage the enemy.

Summing up, the real added value of 5th Gen. aircraft (both during RFs and in case of real wars) is their ability to perform information distribution, real-time battlefield management, and dynamic FITS (Find, Identified, Track and Strike) reducing the risk of attrition or collateral damage.

 

[Updated] U.S. Air Force C-5 Galaxy Performs Nose Gear Up Landing At Rota Air Base in Spain

A USAF C-5 Galaxy airlifter has made a successful emergency landing in Spain.

The top image was reportedly taken yesterday at Rota Air Base, Spain.

Sent us by one of our Twitter followers (thank you @asetanton), it shows a U.S. Air Force C-5M Galaxy cargo aircraft, registration 86-0020, that was forced to perform a nose gear up landing at the Spanish airbase after experiencing an unknown failure that made it unable to extend its nose landing gear.

We have just received a photograph from Rota:

The C-5 after the emergency landing in Rota. (via anonymous reader)

According to a source who wishes to remain anonymous, while on approach into Rota, as well extending the gear, the nose gear showed a “red wheels” indication. This told the crew that the gear doors were open but the gear didn’t move.

One of the Engineers ran downstairs to the fiber optic scope that is used in these cases to verify the gears position. The check proved that the nose gear was still up in the gearwell.

After that the aircrew ran the emergency extension procedures. One was to use the emergency extension switch located on the flight deck, and the other was actuating the hydraulic valves on their own.

The crew members tried these procedures in holding for over an hour where they finally had to turn back for Rota as they had reached the bingo fuel. The aircrew attempted to normally cycle the gear numerous times and they eventually got the landing gear to extend roughly 6 inches.

On the way in they ran the “wheels up, crash landing” checklist which included the nose gear up provisions. The provisions have the crew keep the gear up and the doors closed to minimize damage (as seen by the other times this procedure has been run). However, with the gear stuck partially extended, this became impossible. But with luck the wheels were far enough out that the Galaxy actually only experienced visual damage equal to what a wheel on a car looks like after it scraps a curb. After the plane came to a complete stop, the aircrew evacuated the flight deck and then assisted the evacuation of the 21 passengers in the troop compartment.

The wheels were far enough out that the C-5 actually only experienced visual damage equal to what a wheel on a car looks like after it scraps a curb.

Here’s a clip showing the Galaxy as it approaches Rota for the gear up landing:

The C-5 Galaxy’s nose gear is part of a unique tricycle-type landing gear system consisting of a total of 28 wheels.

It is a fine piece of machinery made of four main units fitted in tandem pairs, each with a six-wheel bogie with two forward and four rear wheels: the MLG (Main Landing Gear) rotates 90 degrees horizontally to be accommodated inside the gear bays when retracted after take off; furthermore, it is steerable for a 20 degrees left or right for crosswind landings.

Anyway, this was not the first time a Galaxy performed an emergency landing without an extended nose gear. You can find in the Internet at least a couple of videos of such gear up incidents.

The first dates back to August 1986, when a C-5A performed a nose gear up landing at Rhein Main Air Base, Germany:

According to the user who posted it on Vimeo, since Rhein Main shared the runway with the Frankfurt airport, and this gear up landing shut down the airport for at least a couple of hours.

The second incident occurred in May 2001 (we already posted a short story about it here), when a C-5 from Travis Air Force Base diverted to Rogers Dry Lake to perform a successful landing after the nose gear failed.

Top image via @asetanton

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