Tag Archives: U.S. Air Force

USAF T-38C Talon Crew Eject in Texas After Their Jet Departs The Runway. Both Pilots Safe.

Fourth T-38 Trainer Accident in Eleven Months for USAF Talon Crews.

A U.S. Air Force T-38C Talon two-seat, twin engine advanced jet trainer from the 80th Flying Training Wing at Sheppard Air Force Base in Texas departed the runway prior to takeoff this morning at approximately 10:13 a.m.

Both crew members ejected from the aircraft after the runway overrun. One crew member, 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. The exchange training program instructs combat pilots for 14 partner nations including Germany, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Greece, Italy, The Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Romania, Spain, Turkey, the United Kingdom and the United States.

The second crewmember, U.S. Air Force pilot 1st Lt. Charles Walet, was also transported to United Regional Medical for medical evaluation following the accident. Lt. Walet was reported to be in stable condition. The statement released on the official Sheppard Air Force Base Facebook page went on to say that Lt. Walet is assigned to Vance AFB in Oklahoma and was on temporary duty at Sheppard AFB.

In a statement released soon after the accident USAF Colonel Lendy Renegar, Vice Commander of the 80th Flying Training Wing, said on Facebook that, “We are grateful both aircrew members are safe, and for the outstanding response from our fire, security and medical personnel. We also greatly appreciate the any expressions of support from leaders and members in our local community.”
Issuing a similar statement from Vance AFB in Enid, Oklahoma, USAF Colonel Corey Simmons said on Facebook, “We’re relieved both pilots successfully ejected from the aircraft and stand ready to assist Sheppard in any way we can.” Col. Simmons is commander of the 71st Flying Training Wing at Vance AFB.

The two T-38 crewmembers escaped in ejection seats that were recently upgraded as part of a $185 million improvement program. The new MK US16T ejection seats were installed in the T-38 in 2013. The “zero/zero” ejection seats manufactured by Martin Baker are also used in the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, the Eurofighter Typhoon and the T-6A Texan II trainer.

The statement posted on the Sheppard AFB Facebook page went on to say, “Emergency crews responded to the scene immediately to provide medical support to the aircrew and also extinguished a small fire in and around the aircraft. An explosive ordnance disposal team from Fort Sill also responded as a precaution, to ensure all the explosive material associated with the ejection seats was safely expended. The scene was declared safe for recovery operations at about 12:45 p.m.”

There has been no speculation or statements about the cause of the accident by the U.S. Air Force. As with all Air Force aviation accidents, the official cause will be determined by an investigation.

It is noteworthy that this is the fourth accident involving T-38 trainers in 11 months for the U.S. Air Force. There have now been nine U.S. Air Force crashes in the continuing tally of accidents since the beginning of 2018. These include the loss of an F-15C Eagle that crashed near Japan on June 11, 2018 and the fatal June 22, 2018 crash of an Embraer A-29 Super Tucano participating the Light Attack Experiment near Holloman AFB. This latest Air Force accident increases the total number of U.S. military aviation accidents in 2018 to at least 14.

The frequency of aviation accidents in the U.S. Air Force prompted U.S. Air Force Chief of Staff, General David L. Goldfein, to direct a one-day safety stand-down for an operational review earlier this year. Following the review, no single reason has been officially cited by the U.S. Air Force as a contributing factor to the number of accidents that have occurred in recent years and especially during 2017 and 2018.

Top image: stock photo of a T-38 Talon trainer like the one involved in today’s accident at Sheppard AFB. (Photo: USAF Official/Danny Webb)

Are We Safer Now? U.S. Homeland Security 17 Years After the 9/11 Terror Attacks.

The Air Policing Mission and Homeland Security Since 9/11 Face Adaptive Threat.

“Kill one, terrorize a thousand.” Sun Tzu’s quote from “The Art of War” defines the basis for asymmetrical warfare, a conflict where one side uses traditional military doctrine while the other side exploits the vulnerabilities of its adversary in any way available, including attacks on civilians. In asymmetrical warfare, the rules are, there are no rules.

The 9/11 terror attacks on the United States typify asymmetrical warfare. In contrast to the December 7, 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor, where a large, organized military force launched a seaborne air strike on a U.S. military target taking approximately 2,600 American lives, the 9/11 terror attacks were executed by a small, subversive group of non-uniformed insurgents who leveraged U.S. airline infrastructure against the country with horrific effectiveness to exact a death toll even greater than Pearl Harbor in 1941.

While the U.S. spent billions on stealth bombers the terrorists bought box cutters.

In the seventeen years since the 9/11 terror attacks the U.S. has been highly effective in preventing another aerial terror attack on its homeland using increased security measures at airports and inside aircraft and a greatly enhanced air policing capability.

Vulnerabilities to aircraft terrorism do remain as showcased by the August 11, 2018 theft of an Alaska Airlines/Horizon Air Bombardier Dash 8 twin-engine turboprop commuter airliner by an airline employee who was able to subvert some passenger level security to gain access to an aircraft. That same incident demonstrated the improvements in U.S. homeland security response when a pair of F-15C Eagles from the 142nd Fighter Wing of the Oregon Air National Guard responded quickly.

In addition to the fast response times and improved protocols for launching armed aircraft to intercept an unresponsive or non-compliant aircraft, the key infrastructure and procedures for communication between airline pilots, air traffic controllers and the Homeland Security response has been streamlined and practiced so that it is procedural and expedient now.

On 9/11/2001, while there were security protocols in place for response to a hijacking the 9/11 Commission Report found that the FAA did not adequately follow them in alerting the North American Air Defense Command (NORAD). The delay in alerting NORAD to the hijacking threat, and gaining a clear understanding of the multiple threats, cost valuable response time that could have altered the outcome of the attacks.

Flight paths of the hijacked aircraft (Wikipedia).

Once military aircraft did respond, they may have exerted an effect on the attack in Washington D.C. where information suggests the hijackers’ original target was the U.S. capital building or the White House.

Most remarkably, the response of U.S. civilians on board United Airlines flight 93 from Newark International Airport to San Francisco prevented the aircraft from reaching its target at the cost of all lives on board. This response would galvanize the nation in defiance of the terrorist threat, establish the passengers as heroes and calibrate the tenor of the entire U.S. response to the attacks.

A fire truck destroyed during the 9/11 terror attack on exhibit in the National September 11 Memorial and Museum in New York. (Photo: Tom Demerly/TheAviationist)

While the U.S. has been effective in adapting to the airline terrorist threat and interdicted several attempted terrorist attacks on airliners since 9/11 including the “underwear bomber” and the “shoe bomber” the threat remains. And the threat is adaptive. Vehicle borne attacks have become common in Europe and splinter groups inspired by insurgencies related to Al Qaeda and ISIS have used vehicles as weapons in the U.S. Another emerging terrorist threat in the U.S. is mass shootings, a threat that has ignited divisive response in U.S. culture.

The primary passive security asset to the United States has always been its geographical distance from threat nations. The U.S. shares borders with Canada, a strong ally, and with Mexico, where immigration policies and narco-terrorism threats have significantly degraded the relationship between the two countries. But vast oceans insulate the U.S. border with threat nations in Asia and the Middle East, making access to the country more difficult than in Mediterranean, Asian, African and European nations. As the U.S. learned the hard way seventeen years ago today on 9/11/2001, it is never safe to assume that geographical insulation from terrorist motives is enough to keep its population safe. As a result, the homeland security mission is ongoing.

Top image: an airliner hits the World Trade Center during the 9/11 terror attack. (Photo: via AP/US News and World Report)

Meet the U.S. Air Force Reserve’s First Female F-35A Lightning II Pilot

USAF Reserve Col. Regina Sabric Is Also Commander of 419th Fighter Wing.

Colonel Regina Sabric, callsign “Torch”, of Tobyhanna, Pennsylvania has become the first female Lockheed Martin F-35A Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter pilot in the U.S. Air Force Reserve.

Col. Sabric is also commander of the 419th Fighter Wing at Hill AFB in Utah, a unit she assumed command of in April of 2018.

Col. Sabric brings extensive tactical, combat and even special operations aviation experience to the F-35A and the 419th Wing having well over 2,500 hours flying experience across 10 different aircraft in 22 years. Sabric has flown the T-34, T-39, T-1 and T-37 trainers. She also flew the T-38 Talon in an aggressor simulation role and the AT-38. She has experience in the F-15 and F-16 fighter aircraft, including as an instructor in the F-16. Her perspective as a tactical combat pilot in the evolving aerial battlefield includes time flying the MQ-9 Predator remotely piloted aircraft and the secretive C-146 special operations transport when she served as commander of the 919th Special Operations Group. Sabric also served as Chief, Combat Air Forces Requirements for the Air Force Reserve at the Pentagon in Washington D.C.

Her operational experience includes Operations Allied Force and Enduring Freedom, and several deployments for Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Noble Eagle, the combined U.S. and Canadian homeland security mission flown over the continental U.S. to provide security against terrorist threats to key infrastructure targets.

Sabric is a 1995 graduate of Pennsylvania State University with a Bachelor of Science degree in Aerospace Engineering. She also earned a Master’s Degree in National Security Studies from American Military University.

tps://theaviationist.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/First_Female_Reserve_F35_10.jpg”> Col. Regina Sabric with an F-35A Lighting II of the 419th Fighter Wing at Hill AFB, Utah. (Photo: USAF Photo by Todd Cromar.)

[/caption]In her role as commander of the 419th Fighter Wing at Hill AFB she is in command of 1,200 Reserve Citizen Airmen who train in F-35A Joint Strike Fighter operations, maintenance and mission support in addition to a medical squadron that supports the unit. The 419th Fighter Wing at Hill AFB is the only U.S. Air Force Reserve F-35A unit.

“My family can tell you I wanted to be a fighter pilot forever. I’ve always been fascinated by air and space.” Sabric told the Air Force Reserve Command media. “My dad was a private pilot, so he took me to an airshow when I was a little girl, and I remember looking up at those planes and being amazed. Ever since then I knew I was going to be a pilot.”

As a teenager, Regina Sabric went to U.S. Space Camp in Huntsville, Alabama, an immersive educational experience for aspiring young women and men. She went on to earn a private pilot’s license during college.

Sabric regards her extensive education, career and experience in aviation as an advantage, “I don’t have a typical flying career. I’ve had the opportunity to bounce around with different aircraft and mission sets. I think it’s made me a better pilot because I’ve had the opportunity to experience so much outside the fighter world.”

Given Col. Sabric’s eclectic background in aviation and her command of the 419th Wing along with her qualification in the F-35A, she joins the most elite level of combat pilots in the world. There are only three women flying the F-35A Lightning II in the active duty Air Force. Col. Sabric is the first and only woman currently in the Air Force Reserve flying the F-35A. She is reserved about her experience though, especially in the F-35A.

“I’m still new in the airplane. Every sortie you learn something new, so as I continue to fly I’ll continue to learn. What the F-35A brings to the fight now, it’s lightyears beyond fourth-generation aircraft.”

Two U.S. F-22 Raptor Jets Escorted Two Russian Tu-95MS Strategic Bombers Off Alaska

A routine close encounter between Russian bombers and American stealth interceptors in the Northern Pacific Ocean.

On Sept. 1, two Russian Tu-95MS strategic bombers involved in “scheduled flights over the waters of the Arctic Ocean, the Bering and Okhotsk seas” and supported by at least one Il-78 Midas tanker were, at some stages, accompanied by U.S. Air Force F-22 fighters, Russian Defense Ministry told to journalists on Friday according to TASS news agency.

The two U.S. Air Force F-22 Raptor jets were scrambled from Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska to intercept and visually identify the two Bear bombers flying off Alaska, south of the Aleutian Islands and inside the ADIZ (Air Defense Identification Zone).

According to NORAD (that used a standard phrase to describe the episode), the Russians were “intercepted and monitored by the F-22s until the bombers left the ADIZ along the Aleutian Island chain heading west,” and, as usual, remained in international airspace.

The ADIZ, is 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.

Alaska ADIZ detail

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.

It’s worth noticing that Raptors in peacetime QRA (Quick Reaction Alert) *usually* fly with external fuel tanks and Luneburg lenses/radar reflectors (clearly visible in the top image): this means that they are (consciously) visible to radars, exactly as any other QRA aircraft.

Top image: file photo an F-22 Raptor from Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska takes off at Yokota Air Base, Japan, Aug. 3, 2018. (U.S. Air Force photo by Yasuo Osakabe)

F-35 Achieves Milestones Amid Setbacks And Criticism

Joint Strike Fighter is Still a Lightning Rod of Criticism, But Progress Continues.

Photos and Video by Lance Riegle unless otherwise stated. Story by Tom Demerly and David Cenciotti.

The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program reached several developmental milestones in August 2018 despite ongoing criticism of the program’s costs and reported technical concerns. As the effort to integrate the weapons system into participating air forces accelerates, the obstacles and challenges faced by the F-35 begin to appear more economic and political, and less practical and technical.

The airplane is beginning to work mostly as advertised, with the U.S. Air Force leading the integration into the force structure within the United States. The Navy and Marines continue to resolve technical challenges as their F-35 integration progresses, even though a recent POGO investigation has exposed that “program officials are recategorizing – rather than fixing – some of the aircraft’s design flaws, likely in an attempt to keep the from blowing through another deadline and budget cap.”

The U.S. Air Force is currently investigating the cause of last week’s nose gear collapse at Eglin Air Foce Base, while the Navy has begun to moderate the causes of the nose wheel oscillating vertically during catapult launches at some aircraft weights. The Navy is also working to resolve a helmet visibility problem that compromises the pilot’s view of aircraft carrier’s landing light systems at night. Until the solution is achieved for the F-35C, night landings at sea are restricted to experienced pilots. The Marines have asked for special lightning rods to prevent their recently deployed aircraft from being struck by lightning on the ground, a problem that could damage aircraft electronics. Some foreign F-35 operators will have the ability to block the F-35’s systems from sending data back to the U.S. through the Sovereign Data Management (SDM) system. This will create a sort-of operational security firewall for the much criticised Autonomic Logistics Information System (ALIS).

Perhaps the most adversarial environment for the F-35 is not denied airspace over Syria or Iran. The real high-threat environment for F-35 seems to be the no-rules, asymmetrical battlespace of social media.

In the late 1950s and ‘60s when the North American F-100 Super Sabre and Republic F-105 Thunderchief multi-role combat aircraft were in development major accidents were frequent. During the early testing and integration of the first production supersonic fighter, the F-100 Super Sabre, one aircraft was lost or damaged nearly every three days. The F-100’s own chief test pilot, North American’s George Welch, died in a 1954 crash.

Nearly half of the Republic F-105s were lost by the end of the Vietnam conflict, most to enemy action, but some in accidents before the aircraft ever deployed. Some of the F-105 accidents were high profile even before social media. One F-105 broke in two during use by the Air Force Thunderbirds. Another F-105 crashed in a Las Vegas neighborhood on May 13, 1964, killing three children and a woman on the ground along with the pilot. Eight houses burned in the crash. The F-105 was grounded pending safety investigations that revealed several dangerous problems that were subsequently repaired.

Acknowledging that the F-100 and F-105, along with the F-104 Starfighter, were among the first to fly at supersonic speeds, their technological progression from the previous generation aircraft, the P-80 Shooting Star and F-86 Sabre, could be regarded as similar to the differences between modern F-15s and F-16s and the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.

While there are ongoing problems with the F-35, these could be characterized as lesser than the potential context of the entire program and the arc of advancement in its key technologies. A primary challenge facing the overall F-35 program is not the technology of the aircraft itself, but the inability of the public to grasp what the F-35 actually will do. It is like trying to convince the owner of a $40 rotary telephone that a $700 iPhone is worth the upgrade, especially when they learn the battery can die and render the phone inoperable.

Integrating the F-35 into a modern and evolving battlespace has been as much a public affairs and perception challenge in the social media age as the technical challenges the program faces.

The debate between F-35 supporters and critics escalated in July 2015, when War Is Boring obtained a brief that claimed the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter was outclassed by a two-seat F-16D Block 40 (one of the aircraft the U.S. Air Force intends to replace with the Lightning II) in mock aerial combat.

TheAviationist.com researched and debunked some theories about the alleged capabilities of each F-35 variant to match or considerably exceed the maneuvering performance of some of the most famous fourth-generation fighters. Our analysis also also made a strong case that there is probably no way a JSF will ever match a Eurofighter Typhoon in aerial combat. Our editors also highlighted that the simulated dogfight mentioned in the unclassified report obtained by War Is Boring involved one of the very first F-35 test aircraft that lacked more recent upgrades in currently fielded F-35s.

In March 2016, we published an article written by Major Morten “Dolby” Hanche, an experienced Royal Norwegian Air Force tactical pilot with more than 2,200 hours in the F-16. Major Dolby is also a U.S. Navy Test Pilot School graduate and the first Norwegian pilot to fly the F-35. In that post “Dolby” provided a first-hand account of what dogfighting in the controversial F-35 looked like to a pilot who had a significant experience in the F-16 along with formal experience as a flight test and analysis pilot.

A 33rd Fighter Wing F-35A Lightning II is towed to its airshow display location. (Photo: Lance Riegle)

At the first Red Flag combat simulation exercise the F-35 participated in during early 2017 reports claimed the aircraft achieved a “15 to 1” kill ratio. But one noted journalist, Tyler Rogoway of “The Warzone”, wrote:

“The 15:1 kill ratio in particular is nebulous, because it seems this may be skewed in terms of what data it actually includes. Kill ratios attributed to a platform naturally make us think of direct engagements with enemy aircraft, but Red Flag is a highly integrated air battle, one that always uses the latest data-link fusing gateways and other force-multipliers. It remains unclear whether the stated kill ratio is strictly attributable to the F-35, or if it includes the actions of other coalition aircraft, particularly F-22s, while the F-35 is merely present.”

Rogoway’s insight into the “15 to 1 kill ratio” highlights the traditional air combat paradigm that, if a missile didn’t fly off an aircraft’s wing, that aircraft didn’t score the kill. But the F-35 doesn’t work that way. A key F-35 technology is sensor fusion. Sensor fusion is pulling in targeting data from sensors on other platforms such as surveillance aircraft or shipborne surface radars. The F-35 can then “hand-off” targets to other weapons platforms, effectively scoring a kill that would not have otherwise happened, but without firing a shot itself.

This is what TheAviationist.com’s Chief Editor David Cenciotti wrote back then:

Well, after eight days “at war”, in spite of being “just” IOC (Initial Operational Capable – the FOC is expected next year with Block 3F) the F-35A Lightning II is proving to be an “invaluable asset” during Red Flag 17-01, the Air Force’s premier air combat exercise held at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada: its ability to gather, fuse, and distribute more information than any other fighter in history provide the pilot with vital situational awareness that can be exploited to escape (and engage?) highly sophisticated and lethal enemy ground threats and interceptors.

Actually, the extent of the F-22 Raptors contribution to the above mentioned kill ratio is not clear: the F-35s are flying alongside Raptors and, as one might expect, the F-22s take care of the aggressors whilst the F-35s slip undetected through the surface-to-air defenses until it reaches the position to drop munitions at the target.

Considered that the F-22s are providing air cover to the Lightning IIs, is the 15:1 score a team result or the actual kill ratio of the F-35A?

There’s been much debate about the kill ratio of the F-35 made public after air-to-air engagements against other aircraft (namely the F-15E during a similated deployment last year).

In other (F-35) news…

Diplomatic wrangling surrounding the program has created the most sensational turbulence, and one significant stall in the case of the delayed Turkish program deliveries. The first Turkish pilot to fly an F-35A Lightning II, Major Halit Oktay, flew the aircraft at Luke AFB near Phoenix, Arizona on August 28, 2018. The Turkish news outlet “Daily Sabah” reported the flight on Wednesday.

A report also surfaced this week that the U.S. was trying to convince Turkey to “Give Up S-400s and Get F-35s” according to a headline on the HurriyetDailyNews.com Turkish news outlet. The U.S. has voiced security concerns about Turkey employing both Russian designed S-400 surface-to-air missile systems and the F-35A Joint Strike Fighter. The concerns have resulted in a delay in providing F-35As to Turkey even as the U.S. continues to train Turkish F-35 pilots at Luke AFB. The S-400 missile system is claimed to have “anti-stealth” capabilities that could pose a threat to the F-35. U.S. lawmakers are concerned that one country using both weapons systems may compromise the security of some aspects of the F-35 program.

The U.S. Navy also achieved an F-35 milestone this week when the first F-35C integrated flight operations were conducted from the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN-72). It was the first time U.S. Navy F-35C Lightning IIs operated as an integrated part of a carrier-launched strike package. F-35Cs from Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 125, the “Rough Raiders”, from Naval Air Station Lemoore conducted their Operational Test-1 (OT-1) with Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 7 and Carrier Strike Group 12 aboard the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln. The unique, wide-winged Navy F-35Cs flew in coordination with F/A-18s and other aircraft while integrating with a navy air wing conducting cyclic missions.

180820-N-FK070-2050
ATLANTIC OCEAN (Aug. 20, 2018) An F-35C Lightning II from the Rough Raiders of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 125 prepares to launch from the flight deck of the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72). (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Brian M. Wilbur/Released)

The Italian Air Force, quite “shy” about its most advanced aircraft, is sending one of their F-35As to take part in the first European airshow at Belgian Kleine-Brogel Air Base on Sept. 8-9.

Other upcoming milestones in the F-35 program will include the first flights of the British F-35s from their new aircraft carrier, the HMS Queen Elizabeth, scheduled for early next year off the U.S. coast. The tests will initially use U.S. aircraft but likely be flown by British pilots. Meanwhile, the British have carried out the first trials out of Edwards Air Force Base, California, carrying UK-built ASRAAM missiles.

On the other side, it’s a bit of a mystery why the F-35 that have arrived to the UK haven’t flown in over a month as reported by Aviation Week. According to the MoD this was caused by maintenance checks as well as personnel leave and will have no impact on achieving the IOC (Initial Operational Capability) in December…

While the F-35 program has received valid criticism over its cost the program is showing signs of providing economic returns. Lockheed Martin stock has climbed from $122.42 per share five years ago to its Wednesday close of $321.29. The stock has lead the defense financial sector with a five year increase of 89.63% while returning a dividend yield of 2.5%. Lockheed Martin also honored a commitment to hire 1,800 new employees for the F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter program.

The recent milestones in the overall F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program are important to consider set the against the backdrop of publicized problems within the program. While many of the concerns facing the F-35 development are valid and significant, according to all the analysts and pilots we have talked to, they could be characterized as “the new normal” for a program as vast as the Joint Strike Fighter. For this reason, as long as the current trend of developmental advances in the program begin to outpace the ongoing concerns over costs and technical evolution, the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program will likely emerge as a net gain in a technical space where there is no second place.