Tag Archives: U.S. Air Force

A bear named “Yogi” was ejected from a USAF B-58 to test the Hustler’s escape capsule 54 years ago today

“Yogi” was ejected at 35,000 feet, 870 mph.

On Mar. 21, a 2-year old black bear named “Yogi” was ejected from a U.S. Air Force B-58 during tests of the Hustler’s escape capsule.

The bear was ejected at 35,000 feet from the USAF bomber flying at supersonic speed (870 mph): “Yogi” survived the test and landed unharmed 7 minutes, 49 seconds later.

Although the Air Force celebrates the test conducted 54 years ago today as the first ejection of a living creature from a supersonic aircraft, the first live creature to eject from a supersonic jet was George F. Smith, a test pilot of North American Aviation.

Smith ejected at Mach 1.05 from an F-100 Super Sabre off Laguna Beach, California, on Feb. 26, 1955 after experiencing a flight control failure. He spent 5 days in coma and eventually recovered in spite of various injuries.

Image credit: U.S. Air Force

A quick look at why the HH-60G Pave Hawk is the perfect CSAR helicopter

U.S. Air Force HH-60H Pave Hawk helicopters at exercise Voijek Valour.

Taken on Mar. 3, the following cool pictures show HH-60G Pave Hawks belonging to the U.S. Air Force 56th Rescue Squadron (RQS) based at Royal Air Force Lakenheath operating out at Hullavington Airfield, England, during exercise Voijek Valour.

During the drills, the 56th RQS aircrews trained alongside USAF CV-22 Osprey Tiltrotors of the 7th Special Operations Squadron from RAF Mildenhall as well as with Chinook and Apache helicopters from RAF and Army Air Corps respectively.

56th RQS HH-60Gs

Voijek Valour, that saw the planning and execution of air assault missions onto Salisbury Plain, represented a unique training opportunity for the 56th RQS personnel who ensured the Combat Search And Rescue (CSAR) duties during the exercise. “Because of the nature of our primary mission, we train a lot and take everything very seriously,” said Staff Sgt. Joseph Bland, 56th RQS special missions aviator.

The unit’s tool to perform the mission is the HH-60G Pave Hawk, which is the dedicated USAF CSAR platform since Operation Desert Storm.

Pave Hawk

With more than 20 years of service the Pave Hawk has proved to be the ideal CSAR helicopter. “Search and rescue adopted the Black Hawk and threw everything on it that could make it the best search and rescue platform,” explained 1st Lt. Andrej Pulver, 56th RQS co-pilot. “The Pave Hawk is a really capable aircraft, to begin with, and has been designed, from the ground up, to find someone who is in danger and save their life.”

To perform its CSAR duties the HH-60G is fitted with an automatic flight control system, forward-looking infrared system, color weather radar and an engine/rotor blade anti-ice system that assists with finding and rescuing personnel anytime during the day or night.

CSAR Duties

Moreover for a combat rescue conducted behind enemy lines the defense for the helicopter is provided by two crew-served 7.62mm or .50-caliber machineguns.

The HH-60G is also equipped with a retractable, in-flight refueling probe and with internal auxiliary fuel tanks that, as explained by Bland, enable the Pave Hawk to fly longer distances “the best feature of the ‘60, which makes it as versatile as it is, is the fact that it has a refueling probe. We can extend our flight duty day all the way up to crew fatigue, if necessary, because of it.”

56th RQS Pave Hawk

Given the versatility of its machines the 56th Rescue Squadron can perform a wide variety of missions: the unit in fact provides rapid, deployable, worldwide combat search and rescue in support of humanitarian assistance, non-combatant evacuation and disaster relief capability for the U.S. European Command combatant commander and the Joint Chiefs of Staff in peacetime.

HH-60G

Image credit: Staff Sgt. Emerson Nuñez / U.S. Air Force

These photos show two U.S. B-52 bombers performing a surprise low flyby over Gran Canaria island

Two U.S. Stratofortress bombers caught during a low passage at Gando airbase.

On Mar. 4, two of the U.S. Air Force B-52 bombers deployed to Spain performed a low flyby over Gran Canaria island, in the Atlantic Ocean off Western Sahara, during one of their missions out of Moron Air Base where they deployed at the end of February to take part in Ex. Cold Response and Serpentex.

B-52 low over Gando 3

The two B-52Hs, 60-0022/LA and 60-0062/LA “CAJUN FEAR” arrived over Gando airbase, at 17.15 where The Aviationist’s contributor Tony Lovelock was shooting aircraft taking part in DACT 2016, the annual air combat training exercise of the Spanish Air Force.

B-52 low over Gando 4

Here’s how Tony recalled the low passage in an email he sent us:

Word had it earlier in the afternoon that a B-52 was to overfly at 17:00. “Yeah, yeah, pigs might fly if they had wings”. 17:00 came and went, no B-52. “see what I mean”. 17:15. a great shout went up (in Spanish) not ONE, but TWO. !!!!!!!!!!!!!! The noise of the Shutters , click, click, click, became a crescendo as the Spanish spotters went wild with delight. They had of course, also been proved correct, it was not a rumour after all.

As the photos in this post show, the aircraft flew in loose formation, at low altitude, over the Spanish island in the Atlantic: a rather unusual sight!

B-52 low over Gando

Image credit: Tony Lovelock

Here are the aircraft that could replace the A-10 Warthog in the CAS mission

The U.S. Air Force has launched a study to find the A-10 Thunderbolt II replacement.

Given the U.S. Air Force plan to retire its A-10 fleet in 2022, the service has recently announced that has launched a study aimed to find a Hog replacement in the close air support (CAS) role.

Finding a replacement for the Warthog will be indeed a difficult task: in fact even if the CAS mission has been handled by several other tactical aircraft (such the F-16) in the recent years, the A-10 ability to loiter over the battlefield remains unrivaled.

But since the USAF is looking for an aircraft able to perform counterterrorism operations rather than one able to destroy tanks and armoured vehicles, as explained by Flight Global, several platforms might be up for the role.

Super Tucano

One aircraft that could fulfill the mission is the Embraer A-29 Super Tucano. Recently delivered to the reborn Afghan Air Force and already in service with other ten air arms around the world, this propeller-driven aeroplane is a valuable close air support platform thanks to the chance to outfit its airframe with a wide variety of bombs and machine guns.

Another turboprop plane that could be chosen to replace the A-10 is the Beechcraft AT-6.

This aircraft is a derivative of the USAF T-6 Texan II trainer tailored for the CAS role: in fact, like the Super Tucano, the AT-6 can carry a wide variety of weapons under its wings.

Moreover both the aircraft can be armed with the Raytheon AGM-176 Griffin missile. Designed around a small warhead, this weapon is a precision low-collateral damage missile that makes the A-29 and the AT-6 very effective also in irregular warfare scenarios.

The Textron AirLand Scorpion could perform the CAS mission too. The Scorpion as A-10 replacement would offer high-end capabilities: in fact this plane is not only a tactical strike aircraft for irregular warfare, border and maritime patrol but also an ISR (intelligence surveillance and reconnaissance) platform able to perform air defense operations.

Scorpion Jet

However, although these aircraft are highly maneuverable weapon systems capable of delivering precision guided munitions in a low intensity conflict, none of them could survive in a less permissive environment, USAF deputy chief of staff for strategic plans and requirements Lt Gen James Holmes explained on Mar. 8, 2016.

Holmes said that the T-X advanced trainer program contenders will not be suitable since they will not be ready until 2024.

Holmes also explained that using the F-35 in the A-10 role would be too expensive.

Nevertheless replacing the A-10 with the JSF seems being the answer to the problem for Secretary of Defense Ash Carter who, on Feb. 2 announced: “The budget defers the A-10’s final retirement until 2022, replacing it with the F-35 Joint Strike Fighters on a squadron-by-squadron basis, so we’ll always have enough aircraft for today conflicts.”

Eventually, given the F-35 vulnerability over the battlefield in the CAS role in addition to its high operating costs, the best solution could be to postpone again the retirement of the A-10 fleet and beginning the process of developing a dedicated CAS platform to replace the Hog.

An opinion shared also by the former A-10 squadron commander and current U.S. Congresswoman Martha McSally who told to NationalInterest.com: “The U.S. Air Force needs a next-generation A-10 before attempting to mothball any further A-10s. The specific mission set for CAS/FAC-A/CSAR requires a specific aircraft, not one that is a jack-of-all-trades but a master of none.”

F-35 CAS

Image credit: Airman 1st Class Chris Massey / U.S. Air Force and Textron AirLand

While B-2s deploy to the Asia-Pacific region, the U.S. is considering moving B-1 bombers to Australian soil

U.S. presence in the Asia-Pacific theatre grows.

On Mar. 10, the U.S. announced the deployment of three Air Force B-2 stealth bombers from the 509th Bomb Wing, from Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri, to the Asia-Pacific region amid growing tensions with North Korea.

Although the U.S. Air Force has not disclosed where the aircraft will be based, it is quite likely that the aircraft will operate out of Andersen Air Force Base, in Guam, strategically located in the Pacific, that has already hosted U.S. bombers involved in extended deterrence missions in the region.

On the previous day, Lt. Col. Damien Pickart, a spokesman for the U.S. Air Force, told to Reuters that the U.S. could deploy long-range bombers to Australia as concerns over China’s military expansion in the Asia-Pacific area continue to grow.

In fact, as reported by FoxNews.com, high-level discussions are in progress to deploy B-1 bombers in northern Australia and to expand B-52 bomber missions in the region, even if details such as the duration of the rotations and the number of personnel involved are still being hammered out.

Pickart added that these deployments would not only provide training opportunities for U.S. airmen but they would also deliver Pacific Air Forces and U.S. Pacific Command leaders “a credible global strike and deterrence capability to help maintain peace and security in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region.”

The talks about the chance to rotate bombers through northern Australia come in the wake of a freedom of navigation exercise conducted by the aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis (CVN-74) and its Carrier Strike Group (CSG) in the South China Sea, where China is militarizing the region to guard its excessive territorial claims.

However an agreement between the two nations about bomber rotations in Australia would put USAF B-1B Lancers within striking distance of the South China Sea, most likely a move that would add more pressure on China, as already highlighted by Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei “Cooperation among relevant countries should protect regional peace and stability, and not target the interests of third parties.”

Noteworthy while the U.S. Air Force conducts B-52 missions from Australia periodically, doesn’t fly any B-1s from there.

Moreover, as we have explained, this is not the first time that U.S. take in consideration the chance to base the Lancers on the Australian continent, but any previous rumour about this possibility never turned into the real thing.

Nevertheless an eventual deployment of the B-1B in Australia could finally bring back the Lancer in the Pacific Region.

In fact, unlike the B-52 and the B-2, the B-1B has been taken out from the Continuous Bomber Presence (CBP) rotation at Guam’s Andersen Air Force Base because it can’t carry any kind of nuclear weapon.

On the contrary giving its conventional bombing role the Bone has been heavy tasked in Iraq and in Afghanistan.

B-1B Australian soil

Image credit: Senior Airman Kate Maure and Airman 1st Class Peter Thompson / U.S. Air Force