Tag Archives: U.S. Air Force

Take A Look At This Epic Video Of A B-1 Bomber Performing A High-Speed Flyby At Oshkosh

This is one of the coolest B-1 footages ever!

Filmed on Jul. 26, the video below shows a B-1 Lancer bomber performing multiple high-speed passes in full afterburner and swept wings at dusk, during EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2017 airshow, the World’s Greatest Aviation Celebration, running from Jul. 24 to 30 in Wisconsin.

Note the “condensation clouds” generated by the aircraft during the flybys: these are a quite common phenomenon during turns and high-G maneuvers when the angle of attack reduced the pressure on the wing’s upper surface bringing the water vapour contained in the air to the condensation temperature.

The footage, taken by Airailimages is truly epic as it lets you watch the high-speed in slow motion.

H/T Ashley Wallace for the heads-up!

Marine Corps, Air Force F-35 Jets Take Part In Red Flag Exercise Together For The First Time

Red Flag 17-3 underway at Nellis Air Force Base features both U.S. Marine Corps and U.S. Air Force F-35s, for the first time together.

Red Flag is simply one of the largest and more realistic exercises in world, designed to simulate the first 10 days of a modern conflict.

Hundred of combat aircraft along with pilots, ground forces, intelligence analysts, cyber and space operators take regularly part in RF exercises at Nellis AFB, just outside of Las Vegas, Nevada, to validate tactics and weapon systems employment within the context of the Nevada Test and Training Range.

As already explained the RF scenario continuously changes in order to adapt to the real world threats: the old “fixed” battlefields, where the location of the enemy was known and remained pretty much unchanged until the aircraft reached the target area, have evolved in a more dynamic and unknown battlespace that requires real-time data coordinators able to disseminate information on the threats and targets gathered from a variety of assets and sensors. In such new “networked” scenarios, stealth technology (capability to survive and operate effectively where others cannot) combined with 5th Generation features (sensor fusing), are extremely important to achieve the “Information Superiority” required to geo-locate the threats and target them effectively.

That’s why the presence of 5th Gen. aircraft teaming with and “orchestrating” 4th Gen. combat planes (lacking the Low Observability feature but able to carry more ordnance) will become the leit motiv of the future Red Flags.

For instance, Red Flag 17-3, underway at Nellis from Jul. 10 to 28, sees two F-35 Lightning II squadrons (and as many JSF variants) participating in the drills together for the very first time: the Marine Corps’ F-35B STOVL (Short Take Off Vertical Landing) aircraft from VMFA-211 based at MCAS Yuma and the Air Force’s F-35A CTOL (Conventional Take Off and Landing) from 33rd Wing from Eglin AFB, Fla. Furthermore, during RF 17-3, the two different variants of the JSF (Joint Strike Fighter) operate alongside the F-22 Raptors from Tyndall AFB, also taking part in the exercise.

The cooperation of the three radar-evading aircraft, including the controversial F-35s, is going to be particularly interesting.

According to the USMC, VMFA-211 will conduct defensive counter air (DCA); offensive counter air (OCA); suppression of enemy air defense (SEAD); destruction of enemy air defense; dynamic taskings, which involve finding a time-sensitive target or series of targets and eliminating them; electronic warfare (EW); preplanned strikes; and combat search and rescue (CSAR).

Whereas U.S. Air Force F-35s (from a different unit) have already taken part in RF, the missions they flew during RF 17-1, at least based on reports and official statements, focused on OCA and air interdiction in a highly contested/denied aerial environment: Air Force F-35As penetrated denied airspace and directed standoff weapons from B-1B heavy bombers flying outside the denied airspace. During these missions, the F-35As with IOC (Initial Operational Capability – the FOC is expected next year with Block 3F) entered the denied airspace and engaged both aerial and ground targets, not only with weapons they carried but also with weapons launched from other platforms such as the B-1Bs as they loitered just outside the threat environment acting as “bomb trucks.” Moreover, during the RF 17-1 sorties, flying alongside the F-22 Raptors, the F-35s achieved the pretty famous kill ratio of “20-1.

Interestingly, even though it will probably not embed simulated shipborne or remote base operations (that are what the F-35Bs, in spite of the limited range and internal weapons capacity, was somehow designed to conduct) the Marine Corps will expand the role of the 5th Gen. aircraft in RF, covering also EW and CSAR support tasks.

“It’s … important to practice integrating assets from all across the [Armed Forces’] inventory because if we go to conflict, we don’t want that to be the first time we all integrate with each other,” said Maj. Paul Holst, VMFA-211’s executive officer, in a public release.

“This is the first time we [VMFA-211] have deployed on this scale … we brought 10 F-35s here with all of our maintenance equipment, all of our support equipment and personnel,” said Holst. “For the pilots, the opportunity to participate in these exercises prepares us for combat … and the opportunity to integrate and plan with the rest of the force is something you just don’t get anywhere else.”

“A lot of times at home station, we’re basically working just with each other or we’re doing things that are [smaller in] scale and only focusing on our specific mission sets that we do,” said Maj. Chris Brandt, a pilot and administration and logistics officer in charge with VMFA-211. “When we actually deploy, we’re most likely going to be part of a joint force so coming here you get that experience. It’s not until you come to exercises like these that you get to train across services and [train] with platforms that you typically would not work with at your home station.”

According to Holst, Red Flag allows each service and subordinate unit to understand the capabilities of other services, units and their equipment.

“For example, the E/A-18G exists in the Navy and the Air Force doesn’t really have a comparable asset to that. There may be situations where the only F-35s in theater are Marine Corps F-35s … and you have to integrate the F-35s into the entire package,” said Holst. “It’s always going to be necessary to bring everyone’s assets together and practicing that is really important.”

The F-35s of both variants should play a dual role: “combat battlefield coordinators,” collecting, managing and distributing intelligence data while also acting as “kinetic attack platforms,” able to drop their ordnance on the targets and pass targeting data to older 4th Gen. aircraft via Link-16, if needed. More or less what done by the USMC F-35B in exercises against high-end threats carried out last year with some jets configured as “bomb trucks” and others carrying only internal weapons.

As a side note it’s worth mentioning that the integration of the F-35A and B variants is something another partner nation is going to explore in the future. In fact, Italy will have both A and B variants, with the STOVL (Short Take Off Vertical Landing) ones serving both the Air Force (that has already taken on charge its first 7 F-35As with the eight example that has recently performed its maiden flight at Cameri FACO) and the Italian Navy, that will use them on the Cavour aircraft carrier. One day we will analyse (again) whether the F-35B was really needed by the ItAF, but this is going to be another story.

 

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Wanna Know If A New North Korean Missile Test Is About To Take Place? Look For This U.S. Aircraft Online…

You can monitor online the U.S. RC-135S Cobra Ball aircraft used to track ballistic missiles reentry vehicles and warheads during the final phase of flight.

Early in the morning on Jul. 4, North Korea successfully tested an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) for the first time.

The ICBM, referred to as Hwasong-14, reached a height of 2,802 kilometers, according to the state-run Korea Central Television (KCTV). The missile was launched from Panghyon, in North Pyongan province, and flew into waters east of the Korean Peninsula after traveling for about 930 kilometers.

The latest missile launch, as well as the previous ones, was almost certainly monitored by the U.S. Forces deployed to the region, using a variety of aerial, ground-based, sea-going assets.

The U.S. Air Force relies on its small contingent of RC-135S Cobra Ball missile tracking aircraft. Based at Offutt Air Force Base, outside Omaha, Nebraska, and  flown by the 45th Reconnaissance Squadron, these intelligence gathering aircraft are often deployed where needed to track ballistic missiles reentry vehicles and warheads during the final phase of flight. The aircraft is equipped with a powerful radar array on the starboard side of the fuselage, just aft of the cockpit. Several optical quality windows are mounted on the starboard side as well, allowing infrared and visible spectrum cameras to record the warheads during their final moments of flight. A distinctive feature of the Cobra Ball is the black low-glare paint used on the starboard wing, to improve image quality and prevent glare during photography.

A Cobra Ball taking off from Kadena on May 31, 2016 (screengrab from YT video by okuchan2006)

Unsurprisingly, two Cobra Ball aircraft  (61-2662 and 61-2663) are currently deployed to Yokota Air Base, Japan, from where it is launched when there are signs of an imminent North Korean test. What is far more surprising is the fact that, in spite of their important role, RC-135S aircraft are among the military planes that can be tracked online by exploiting the signals broadcast by their Mode S/ADS-B transponders.

By observing the activities of the RC-135S in Japan you may have a pretty clear idea of what is happening or about to happen in North Korea. For instance, last night, the fact that the Cobra Ball was airborne from Yokota might suggest that the U.S. intelligence had detected activities at the launch site and was preparing to monitor the test. This is the reason why I tweeted the following (later confirmed by the news of the ICBM test):

And that was not the first time. Just a coincidence? Most probably not, considered that the Cobra Ball does not fly that much and almost all sorties tracked online in Japan coincided with North Korea’s tests.

Here are some examples:

On Apr. 15, North Korea test-fired an unidentified land-based missile from the naval base in Sinpo. An RC-135S was flying over Japan:

On May 13, North Korea test-fired an intermediate range ballistic missile, from a test site on the country’s West Coast. That launch reached a then-record altitude of around 2,100 kilometers (1,300 miles) and a Cobra Ball was airborne to watch and collect data:

On Jun. 20, a Cobra Ball and WC-135 Constant Phoenix “nuclear sniffer” flew over Japan. It was later unveiled that the spy satellites had detected new activity at the North Korean nuclear test site.

So, if you want to know when Kim Jong Un is preparing for a new test, you may try to look for a Cobra Ball or Constant Phoenix airborne over Japan on ADSBexchange or simply follow some of the Twitter accounts who constantly track such aircraft, such as our friend @CivMilAir who provided us with most of the updates on the RC-135 and WC-135 flights in the area.

 

KC-135R In Special Tiger Color Scheme Commemorates The 100th Anniversary Of 141st Air Refueling Squadron

KC-135R with tiger motif.

The photographs in this post were taken on Jun. 22 at McGuire Air Force Base, NJ, by Richard Porcelli.

They show a special 141st Air Refueling Squadron (108th Wing, NJ ANG) KC-135R that commemorates the 100th Anniversary of the organization of the then 141st Aero Squadron. The tiger motif was applied to the tanker in honor of the squadron commander, Capt. Hobart “Hobey” Baker.

141st ARS Special Color

The paint job applied to the KC-135R 62-3508 is quite similar to the one sported by another Stratotanker of the 141st ARS: the KC-135E 59-1456 that took part in Tiger Meet RIAT Fairford in 1997.

Formed in October 1917, the 141st AS was sent to Europe in December 1917 and finally entered combat from Tour Airfield, France, in April 1918.

The squadron commander, Capt Hobey Baker, was a star Princeton University athlete, especially in ice hockey and also football. Some of the records he set at Princeton still stand. He then joined the Army reserves and volunteered to go to Europe in early 1917.

After advanced training in France, he joined the 103rd Aero Squadron (formed from the Lafayette Escadrille) where he was credited with 0.25 victories (a Fokker DVII shot down on May 18, 1918). He then transferred to the 141st Aero Squadron, becoming commander, and got credit for a further 1.2 victories, also Fokker DVIIs (1.0 on Oct 20th and 0.2 on Nov 5). Baker was killed on December 21, 1918 (the day he was to return to the US) while taking a final flight on a recently repaired SPAD XIII.

100th anniversary nose art

The 141st AS was deactivated in 1920, then reactivated as the 341st Fighter Squadron/348th Fighter Group, the leading P-47 outfit in the Pacific War. They fought in New Guinea, the Philippines, and ended up in the Japanese occupation force. They were disbanded in 1945 while in Japan. After WWII, the 141st Fighter Squadron was reformed as part of the 108th Fighter Group, New Jersey ANG. It flew fighters (F-47D, F-51D/H; F-86E, F-84F, F-86H, F-4D/E) until conversion to the tanker role in 1991.

The unit emblem is still today the Bengal tiger (a Princeton Tiger in honor of Capt. Baker) with orange and black markings playing with a German helmet and Iron Cross.

The engine cover of the aircraft 62-3508

H/T Richard Porcelli

 

F-16 Special Paint Scheme Commemorates D-Day Invasion and P-47 Thunderbolts.

Look at this Beautiful 70th Anniversary USAF F-16 from the Texas Air National Guard.

Special paint schemes on combat aircraft are common enough now that it is impossible to report on them all, but this beautiful F-16C (Block 30) from the 149th Fighter Wing of the Texas Air National Guard stands out for a few reasons.

This single seat F-16C, flown by USAF Colonel Timothy J. Madden, Commanding Officer of the 149th Fighter Wing, Texas Air National Guard, wears a new paint scheme for the upcoming 70th anniversary of the U.S. Air Force later this year on Sept. 18. The aircraft was first photographed at the U.S. Air National Guard Aircraft Paint Facility in Sioux City, Iowa on May 26, 2017.

Nose of the new special color.

The tail of the 149th FW “special”

The aircraft is painted to mimic the livery of a Republic P-47D Thunderbolt from 1944. Interestingly, this is well before the U.S. Air Force was started and U.S. combat aircraft flew under the Army Air Corps, then a part of the U.S. Army.

The 149th Fighter Wing holds a number of significant firsts in Air Force history including the first unit to perform midair refueling during a combat mission and the first Air National Guard unit to shoot down a MiG in combat. Both of these firsts happened during the Korean conflict.

The original P-47D’s that provided inspiration for the new heritage markings on the 149th FW F-16C. (Photo: US Army)

As with the P-47D Thunderbolt from 1944 it is patterned after, not only does this F-16C wear the bright yellow markings but also the striking black and white “invasion stripes” painted on all allied aircraft in the days just prior to the D-Day invasion of Europe on June 6, 1944. The black and white invasion stripes were a way for gunners both in the air and on the ground to avoid friendly fire incidents. In 2015 the Royal Air Force painted invasion stripes on a Typhoon based at RAF Coningsby to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the D-Day landings.

The special livery on this F-16C is likely to become popular with aviation photographers since it is highly visible in most lighting conditions, even overcast, and the distinctive mix of invasion stripes and yellow squadron regalia can be seen from any angle. No matter which flight attitude the aircraft is in, it remains highly recognizable.

This is not the first time a USAF F-16 has worn invasion stripes to commemorate a P-47 unit from WWII. Back in 2014, F-16 aircraft number 84-1264 was given an orange tail and invasion stripe heritage paint scheme to honor the 358th Fighter Group of WWII. The F-16’s modern unit, the 122nd Fighter Wing, traces its back to this unit in WWII. The original 358th FG flew P-47s and operated in Europe before and after D-Day.

GRISSOM AIR RESERVE BASE, Ind., — A specially painted F-16 from the 122nd Fighter Wing from the Indiana Air National Guard based out of Fort Wayne, Ind., pulls away from the boom following an aerial refueling with a Grissom KC-135R Stratotanker. The F-16 is designated as a ‘Heritage Bird’ and is painted to pay homage to the 122nd FW’s history. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Doug Hays)

While no official word has been seen about airshow appearances by this aircraft, it will hopefully be seen at airshows throughout the summer in Texas and around the region in celebration of the 70th anniversary of the U.S. Air Force.