Tag Archives: U.S. Air Force

F-35 and F-16 Formation Doing Arizona State Capitol Flyover As Seen From A Helicopter

Flyover filmed from from a Robinson R44 Helicopter equipped with a gyro stabilized camera system.

The footage below was filmed on Sept. 26, as a formation of four aircraft, two F-35s and two F-16s, belonging to the 56th Fighter Wing, from Luke Air Force base, Arizona, conducted the Arizona State Capitol flyover as part of the ceremony honoring the 100th Anniversary of the Final Flight of Lt. Frank Luke Jr.

What makes the flyover really interesting is once again the pretty unique viewpoint: Chopperguy helicopter flying above the formation, that used callsign “Knife 01”.

The pilots flying the 100th Anniversary flyover were “Dojo”, “Slam”, “Havoc” and “Judge”.

Lt. Frank Luke Jr. after whom Luke AFB near Phoenix is named was a pilot in WWI. He was born on May 19, 1897 and died on Sept. 29, 1918, about 100 years ago when he shot down after taking down 2 enemy aircraft and continued to fight once on the ground resisting capture. According to the 56th FW page, because of his actions he was the first aviator awarded the Medal of Honor. In all he shot down 18 aircraft in 18 days.

Besides some 77 F-16s, Luke is home to 68 F-35s: the base is the training hub for Lightning II’s pilot and maintainers from Australia, Norway, Italy, the Netherlands, Japan and Israel. F-35 pilot training began at Luke just over a year after the 56th Fighter Wing received its first F-35A in 2014 and, according to LM, eventually, the 56th Fighter Wing will be home to 144 F-35s in the future. The 62nd and 61st fighter squadrons train an international cadre of F-35 pilots from partner nations like Norway, Italy and Australia. The 63rd FS, activated in August 2016 with the first jet taken on charge in March 2017, trains F-35 Lightning II fighter pilots as a joint international effort between Turkey and the United States.

Interestingly, as part of the 100th anniversary of the death of Lt. Luke Jr. one F-35 and one F-16 were given a #Luke100 logo.

To mark the 100th Anniversary of Lt Luke’s death the Wing’s two flagship aircraft were given a Luke 100 logo. (Image credit: 56th FW).

The Chopperguy team, shooting from 8K to High Definition aerial video and photography with a gyro stabilized camera system, has already filmed some really interesting stuff from their R44 Newscopter. Take a look at the following clip showing aerial footage of F-35 Lightning II Strike Fighter jets taking off from Luke Air Force Base and flying over the Fiesta Bowl Parade near Phoenix, Arizona. It includes a radio interview of General Brook “Tank” Leonard as he and Major Aaron ‘Gambit’ Stevens took off in their F-35s.

Top image: screenshot from Chopperguy video

B-2 Spirit Stealth Bombers Conducted Hot-Pit Refueling at Wake Island

Hot-pit refueling is required to operate out of locations with limited support and infrastructures.

On Sept. 14, two U.S. Air Force B-2 Spirit bombers forward deployed to Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam (JBPH-H), Hawaii, conducted a routine training over the Pacific in the vicinity of Hawaii. The B-2s are deployed at JBPH-H from Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri, in support of the U.S. Strategic Command’s Bomber Task Force. It’s the first deployment of B-2s to JBPH-H, although the aircraft are regularly rotated to the Indo-Pacific region.

During the mission, one of the the B-2s flew to Wake Island, a coral limestone atoll in the mid-pacific, east of Guam, where it conducted hot-pit refueling, a technique in which the aircraft land and refuel, without shutting down the engines.

“Hot-pit refueling allows us to maximize time in the air verses on the ground,” said Lt. Col. Nicholas Adcock, Air Force Global Strike 393rd Bomber Squadron commander in public release. “It saves turnaround time. Practicing this technique helps us ensure our effectiveness as a force and keeps us ready, capable and lethal.”

Hot-pit in progress (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Danielle Quilla)

Hot-pit refueling operations are quite routine for the stealth bat-wing bombers: during long-range missions launched from Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri, home of the 509th Bomb Wing, hot-pit refueling is also used to perform engine-running crew change activity. In the past, stealth bombers travelling to the UK (for operational purposes or to attend the airshows) have often conducted hot-pit activities on the ground, as happened during a mission to RAF Fairford in June 2015 or in July 2012 during RIAT (Royal International Air Tattoo) airshow.

A U.S. Air Force B-2 Spirit, deployed from Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri, connects to a fuels truck during a hot-pit refueling at Wake Island Airfield Sept. 14, 2018. Hot-pit refueling is a technique where an aircraft lands and is refueled without shutting down its engines. These missions showcase the U.S. forces’ ability to address a global security environment and demonstrates U.S. commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Danielle Quilla)

Needless to say, other aircraft perform hot-pit refueling training. Among them, the U.S. Marine Corps F-35B Lightning II. For instance, F-35B STOVL belonging to Marine Fighter Attack Squadron (VMFA) 121 conducted hot pits at Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Japan, in June 2017. The same squadron had started training for this kind of operation at a deployment airbase years before: on Aug. 7, 2013, two F-35B from VMFA-121 (based at MCAS Yuma back then) flew to MCAS Miramar to perform the first F-35B hot pit refuel at the airbase near San Diego, California.

U.S. Marines, Sailors, and Master Labor Contractors with Headquarters and Headquarters Squadron Fuels Division conduct hot refueling on a U.S. Marine Corps F-35B Lightning II with Marine Fighter Attack Squadron (VMFA) 121 at Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Japan, June 13, 2017. The hot pits allow aircraft to rapidly refuel without powering down their engines, which increases operational readiness and reduces the amount of time needed to get the aircraft back into action. The F-35B brings strategic agility, operational flexibility and tactical supremacy to the Indo-Asia Pacific region. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Mason Roy)

 

USAF T-6A Texan II Trainer Crashes Near Randolph AFB, Texas: Crew Ejects Safely.

Accident is Eighth USAF Loss This Year, Second Trainer Crash in a Week.

A U.S. Air Force T-6A Texan II single-engine, two-seat turboprop primary trainer aircraft crashed on Tuesday afternoon, Sept. 18 outside Randolph Air Force Base in Texas near the town of San Antonio Texas. The two crew members on board ejected from the aircraft and survived. The aircraft was from the 12th Flying Training Wing as confirmed by a USAF statement released on social media. There were no injuries on the ground from the accident and an investigation is under way.

According to a local news report filed by MySanAntonio.com reporters Sig Christensen and Jacob Beltran earlier today, “The plane crashed in a field near Nacogdoches Road just outside Loop 1604 in the northern suburban fringe, where such wide-open acreage is rapidly shrinking.”

Photos of the crew from the crashed T-6A Texan II appeared on Twitter minutes after the crash. (Photo: Luke Simons/kens5eyewitness via Twitter)

The crash brings the number of USAF aircraft destroyed in accidents this year to 8, and is the second loss of a training aircraft for the Air Force in 7 days.

On Monday, Sept. 11, 2018, a USAF T-38C advanced twin-engine, two-seat, jet trainer from the 80th Flying Training Wing at Sheppard Air Force Base in Texas departed the runway prior to takeoff. Both crewmembers ejected. One of them, Major Christian Hartmann of the German Air Force, was treated for minor injuries according to the Sheppard Air Force Base Facebook page. Luftwaffe (German Air Force) Maj. Hartmann is part of the Euro-NATO Joint Jet Pilot Training Program at Sheppard AFB. Last week’s T-38 accident was the fourth involving a T-38 advanced jet trainer in 11 months.

In response to the number of aviation accidents during the 24 months prior to May, 2018, U.S. Air Force Chief of Staff General David L. Goldfein directed a single-day safety stand-down for an operational safety review earlier this year.

The single-day safety stand-down directed by General Goldfein earlier this year does not appear to have exerted an effect on the frequency of incidents and accidents for the U.S. Air Force in the four months since it was directed.

Earlier this year on April 8, Air Force Times reporter Stephen Losey wrote that, “The Air Force’s overall aviation mishap rate has hit a seven-year high, fueled by a growing number of non-fatal “Class C” mishaps, which experts say is an ominous warning sign. While the major mishaps that result in deaths and cost millions in damages, known as “Class A” mishaps, are ticking downward for the Air Force, the fleet is reporting a rise in the less-severe accidents that cause more modest damage and injuries.”

No single, specific reason for USAF accidents has been identified. Some observers suggest the number of military aviation accidents is related to a pilot shortage across all U.S. military branches. The pilot shortage may be compounded by an increasing training and operational tempo as the demand for military aviation assets increases.

The T-6A training aircraft involved in Tuesday’s crash has a proven record of airworthiness. The Beechcraft T-6A first flew in 2000 and replaced the previous Cessna T-37B twin-engine, two-seat light jet trainer for the Air Force. The T-6A was also adopted by the U.S. Navy as a replacement for its aging Beechcraft T-34C Turbo Mentor primary trainer.

Top: USAF file photo of a Beechcraft T-6A Texan II

NORAD Released A Photo Of A U.S. Air Force F-22 Raptor Shadowing A Russian Tu-95MS Bear Bomber During Intercept Off Alaska

This time the Bear bombers were escorted by Su-35 jets.

On Sept. 11, at approximately 10 PM EDT, two U.S. Air Force F-22 Raptor fighter jets “positively identified and intercepted two Russian Tu-95MS A“Bear-H” bombers west of Alaska.

Nothing special then, considered that a similar intercept had occurred on Sept. 1. However, this time the Russian bombers, flying in international airspace but inside the Alaskan ADIZ (Air Defense Identification Zone) – a special zone, that can extend well beyond a country’s territory where aircraft without authorization may be identified as a threat and treated as an enemy aircraft, leading to an interception and VID (Visual Identification) by fighter aircraft – were accompanied by two Russian Su-35 “Flanker” fighter jets.

F-22s are among the aircraft in QRA (Quick Reaction Alert) scrambled by NORAD in support of Operation Noble Eagle, launched in the aftermath of 9/11 to prevent a recurrence of Sept. 11, 2001-style air attacks in U.S. and Canada.

This is not the first time some Flanker jets operate alongside the Russian bombers on their long range sorties. Indeed, this is what this Author wrote commenting the previous intercept earlier this month:

Such close encounters are quite frequent and may also involve fighters, as happened in 2017, when the Bears were escorted by two Su-35S Flanker-E jets, and an A-50 AEW (Airborne Early Warning) aircraft. Anyway, this is the second time that Russian Bears pay a visit to the Alaskan ADIZ: on May 12, 2018, two F-22s were launched to perform a VID and escort two Tu-95 on a similar mission in the Northern Pacific.

In fact, in May 2017, a “mini-package” of two Russian nuclear-capable Tu-95MS Bear bombers escorted by two Su-35S Flanker-E jets and supported by an A-50 Mainstay flew inside the Alaskan ADIZ (Air Defense Identification Zone), and was intercepted by two U.S. Air Force F-22 Raptors some 50 NM to the south of Chariot, Alaska.

Here’s what we wrote back then:

The Su-35 is a 4++ generation aircraft characterized by supermaneuverability. Although it’s not stealth, it is equipped with a Irbis-E PESA (Passive Electronically-Scanned Array) and a long-range IRST – Infrared Search and Tracking – system capable, (according to Russian sources…) to detect stealth planes like the F-35 at a distance of over 90 kilometers.

[…]

In my opinion the “mini package” was launched as a consequence of the increased flight activity in Alaska related to the Northern Edge exercise, confirming that the Russians closely observe what happens in the Alaskan area.

This time, they wanted to showcase their ability to plan a complex long-range sortie as well as the Flanker’s readiness to escort its own HVA (high value asset), the Bear, during operations at strategic distance.

The composition of this package is also worth a comment.

The presence of the Mainstay should not be underestimated. It was flying well behind the Flanker and Bear aircraft with a specific purpose. As an AEW (Airborne Early Warning) platform the A-50 is believed to embed some ESM (Electronic Support Measures): in other words, it is able to detect far away targets as well as able to sniff radar, radio and data link emissions. Furthermore, Raptors in QRA (Quick Reaction Alert) *usually* fly with external fuel tanks and Luneburg lenses: this means that they are (consciously) visible to radars. In such conditions, although it can’t “characterize” the clean F-22’s signature, the Mainstay can at least gather some data about the interceptors’ radar emissions (if any) and observe and study their tactics.

Therefore, as frequently happens on both sides since the Cold War, on May 3, the Russians most probably carried out another simulated long-range strike mission but with a precise ELINT (ELectronics INTelligence) objective: the Flankers and Bears were acting as a “decoy” package to test the American scramble tactics and reaction times, whereas the Mainstay, in a back position, tried to collect as much signals and data as possible about the US fighters launched to intercept them.

General Terrence J. O’Shaughnessy, the NORAD Commander, commented the latest event in a public release as follows: “The homeland is no longer a sanctuary and the ability to deter and defeat threats to our citizens, vital infrastructure, and national institutions starts with successfully detecting, tracking, and positively identifying aircraft of interest approaching U.S. and Canadian airspace. NORAD employs a layered defense network of radars, satellites, as well as fighters to identify aircraft and determine the appropriate response.”

Top image credit: U.S. Air Force

Let’s Have A Look At The Loadout Of The Two U.S. Air Force F-16s That Reportedly Operated Off Libya Last Saturday

Looks like two F-16s from Aviano were involved in a somehow “mysterious” mission over the Mediterranean Sea during last weekend.

As the overnight trilateral strike on Syria on Apr. 13 and 14 has proved, an OSINT (Open Sources Intelligence) analysis based on flight tracking websites ADS-B, Mode-S and MLAT and other information shared via social media, may provide a clear “picture” of the air asset involved in a raid as the operation unfolds and well before the involvement of this or that asset is officially confirmed.

Every day, aviation enthusiasts,  journalists and, generally speaking, anyone who has an Internet connection a computer, laptop or smartphone, can track flights in real-time via information in the public domain.

As happened on Saturday Sept. 8, 2018 when most of the flight tracking experts noticed something weird off the coasts of Northern Africa: an “eye catching” gathering of aircraft.

If the constant presence of an RQ-4 Global Hawk, an EP-3E ARIES II or another spyplane in the southern or eastern Med Sea is something normal considered the ISR (Intelligence Surveillance Reconnaissance) missions flown in the region since 2011, the presence of a pair of F-16s from Aviano Air Base (supported by one or two KC-135 tankers) off Libya (at least based on the position of the accompanying aerial refueler) is something really unusual. Moreover, the 31st FW’s jets rarely fly on weekends if they are not deploying somewhere or returning from a deployment. And, above all, they don’t carry Live armament, unless they are involved in real combat operations.

KC-135 QID564 on final for landing at Aviano.

On Sept. 8, two F-16s belonging to the 555th Fighter Squadron/31st FW launched from Aviano, reportedly operated off Libya, where they were supported by KC-135R tankers with the 100th ARW from RAF Mildenhall, and then returned home.

As the photographs in this post (taken outside Aviano on that day by photographer Claudio Tramontin) show, the Vipers carried 3x AIM-120C AMRAAM and 1x AIM-9X air-to-air missiles (AAMs), 2x GBU-54 500-lb laser-guided JDAMs (Joint Direct Attack Munitions along with external fuel tanks, a AN/ALQ-131 ECM pod as well as the Sniper ATP (Advanced Targeting Pod): a configuration that gave the F-16s the ability to perform DCA (Defensive Counter Air) with AAMs as well as engage (moving) ground targets with precision and minimal collateral damage. Pilots worn the JHMCS (Joint Helmet Mounted Cueing Sight).

The two F-16s returning to Aviano AB with their load of aam and JDAMs.

While the purpose of their mission is unknown (we can speculate they were “on call” or supporting other assets or after a target that eventually did not show up or could not be attacked, etc) what is sure is that they did not use any of their ordnance: the aircraft returned to Aviano with all the weapons they had on departure.

One of the two F-16s involved in the rather unusual mission on Sat. 8, 2018. All images credit: Claudio Tramontin.

The situation in Libya has dramatically deteriorated in recent weeks, due to heavy clashes in Tripoli. A rocket attack on Mitiga International Airport (reopened on Friday Sept. 7, following clashes between rival militias caused, flights to the Libya capital to be diverted on Tuesday.