Tag Archives: U.S. Air Force

Mysterious Crash Of A USAF Classified Jet Near Nellis AFB Fuels Speculations Of F-35 Involved

A Second Pilot Was Killed Last Week, The Air Force Isn’t Saying Which Type (Then Says “Definitely not an F-35”). He Was An F-35 Pilot.

Following the release of information about two A-10C Thunderbolt II attack aircraft crashing over the Nevada Test and Training Range near Nellis AFB outside Las Vegas last Wednesday (after an F-16 from 162FW had crashed killing an Iraqi student pilot) there are media reports of an additional, third aircraft that also crashed, but the aircraft type and mission have not been released. Reports indicate this third crash reported happened on Tuesday, September 5, the day before the two A-10s crashed.

Reports of this earlier, third crash from this week began surfacing in local Nevada media late on Friday, September 8, two days after the reports of the two A-10s crashing.

Reports do not indicate the type aircraft that pilot Lt. Col. Eric Schultz was flying, but a short story published on the Capital Gazette by writer Rick Hutzell said, “The aircraft was assigned to Air Force Materiel Command, which leads development of new combat technologies for the service.”

The stated mission of the Air Force Materiel Command (AFMC) is, “To conduct research, development, testing and evaluation, and provide acquisition and life cycle management services and logistics support.” This mission set is congruent with new aircraft development.

USAF Major Christina Sukach, a spokeswoman for the 99th Air Base Wing, was reported as telling media that, “Lt. Col. Schultz died as a result of injuries sustained in the accident. The crash remains under investigation, and additional details were not immediately available.”

“These are separate incidents and both are currently under investigation to determine their causes,” Nellis Public Affairs told Oriana Pawlyk and Brendan McGarry, reporters for Military.com.

“Information about the type of aircraft involved is classified and not releasable,” Maj. Christina Sukach, chief of public affairs for the 99 Air Base Wing at Nellis, said in an email to Military.com.

Reports also suggest that Lt. Col. Schultz may have initially survived the mishap, and died from injuries sustained in the classified crash.

While there is no official information reporting what aircraft Lt. Col. Schultz was flying at the time of Tuesday’s crash, the only available photos of Lt. Col. Schultz show him in the cockpit of an F-35A (needless to say, meanwhile he may have moved to another program..)

USAF Lt. Col. Eric “Doc” Schultz, flying F-35A number AF-1, releases the first-ever 2,000 pound GBU-31 Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM) in tests over the China Lake Test Range on October 16, 2012 (Photo: Lockheed Martin)

According to sources, Capt. Eric Schultz became the 28th pilot to fly the F-35 when he took off from Edwards AFB, California, in F-35A AF-1 for a 1.3-hour test mission on September 15, 2011.

Additionally, the AFMC, to which the crashed aircraft belonged, is a parent unit of the 412th Test Wing, based at Edwards Air Force Base, whose 416 FLTS (Flight Test Squadron) flies the F-35 Lightning II.

For these reasons, there are growing speculations that the aircraft involved in the crash is an F-35 working inside the Nellis Test and Training Range. Still, the aircraft could also be some Black Project jet that the U.S. Air Force wants to remain secret for some more time.

An official Air Force media release on the Mountain Home AFB website from September 28, 2006 said, “As a young boy, Capt. Eric Schultz, dreamed of being an astronaut. As a young man, he couldn’t become a military pilot because of his poor eyesight. For 10 years, during which the military denied him entrance three times, he did the next best thing: earning a doctorate in aerospace engineering. But his dream of flight took off again when Schultz underwent laser eye surgery and the Air Force accepted him as a pilot.”

We will update the story as soon as new details emerge.

Update on Sept. 9, 15.14 UTC:

Looks like the F-35 theory has been debunked:

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SpaceX Successfully Launches The U.S. Air Force’s Secretive X-37B Unmanned Spacecraft Just Before Hurricane Irma Reaches Florida

SpaceX launched the Pentagon’s mysterious X-37B orbital space drone just before the Hurricane Irma hit Florida.

While people prepared for Hurricane Irma, the 45th Space Wing successfully launched a SpaceX Falcon 9 launch vehicle from Kennedy Space Center’s Launch Complex 39A at 10 a.m. on Sept. 7.

The Falcon 9, a two-stage rocket designed by SpaceX for reliable and cost-efficient transport of satellites and SpaceX’s Dragon spacecraft, carried into orbit a U.S. Air Force X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle (OTV), marking the fifth space flight for the unmanned orbital vehicle program and its first onboard a Falcon 9.

The X-37B program completed its fourth classified mission on May 7, 2017, landing after 718 days in orbit and extending the total number of days spent in orbit to 2,085.

Approximately eight minutes after the launch, SpaceX successfully landed the Falcon 9 first-stage booster back at Landing Zone 1 on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

“I’m incredibly proud of the 45th Space Wing’s contributions to the X-37B program,” Brig. Gen. Wayne Monteith, 45th Space Wing commander, said in a public release. “This marks the fifth successful launch of the OTV and its first onboard a Falcon 9. A strong relationship with our mission partners, such as the Air Force Rapid Capabilities Office, is vital toward maintaining the Eastern Range as the World’s Premiere Gateway to Space.”

Whilst the “OTV is designed to demonstrate reusable spacecraft technologies for America’s future in space and operate experiments, which can be returned to and examined on Earth,” the details of its mission remain classified.

Since its first flight in 2010, several theories about the role of the X-37B have emerged: according to someone, the orbital drone is a space-based weapons platform carrying a weaponized re-entry vehicle that could be released over or near a specific target; others believe the OTV is a space ISR (Intelligence Surveillance Reconnaissance) platform able to carry a wide variety of sensor packages in its internal cargo bay; some analysts believe that the X-37B is *simply* a research platform used to perform tests in space environment.

OTV-5 was launched by Launch Complex 39A (LC-39A) at Kennedy Space Center, a historic pad that has been used to support U.S. space programs since the early 1960s: originally built to support the Apollo program, LC-39A supported the first Saturn V launch (Apollo 4), and many subsequent Apollo missions, including Apollo 11 in July 1969. Beginning in the late 1970s, LC-39A was modified to support space shuttle launches, hosting the first and last shuttle missions to orbit in 1981 and 2011, respectively.
In 2014, SpaceX signed a 20-year lease with NASA for the use of Launch Complex 39A. Extensive modifications to LC-39A have been made to support launches of both the Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy launch vehicles.

LC-39 along with the rest of KSC facility’s buildings built after Hurricane Andrew in 1992 are supposed to withstand winds between 130 and 135 miles per hour.

 

Two A-10 Thunderbolt II Jets Crash Near Nellis AFB, Nevada; Both Pilots Eject Safely.

The Two Aircraft of the 57th Wing Were On Routine Training Mission.

Early reports and a release from Nellis AFB say two Fairchild Republic A-10C Thunderbolt II attack aircraft, referred to as the “Warthog”, have crashed northwest of Las Vegas in the Nevada Test and Training Range.

Both pilots of the single-seat ground attack aircraft ejected safely and were transported to the Mike O’Callaghan Military Medical Center at Nellis for evaluation.

The accident occurred at approximately 8:00 PM local time in Nevada on Wed. Sept. 6. Sunset in the region was reported as 6:58 PM. Weather in the region was reported as cloudy with light winds. No cause of the crash has been released.

The two A-10s belonged to the 57th Wing (57 WG) of the United States Air Force Warfare Center at Nellis. The unit provides realistic tactical air combat training for all units visiting Nellis including those participating in routine training and the Red Flag combat simulation exercises.

The Massive U.S. Military Response to Hurricane Harvey in Texas; On Alert For Irma In Florida.

Aircraft, Rescue Personnel and Ships Respond to U.S. National Emergency.

The U.S. military has fielded a massive rescue and relief operation in the wake of Hurricane Harvey along the Texas coast. News media and military sources report “more than 1,000 active-duty troops” will provide rescue and relief operations to the region, with an additional 1,100 prepared to deploy, according to the Department of Defense.

The initial U.S. military response to Hurricane Harvey included the Coast Guard and Texas National Guard. As the scope of the storm grew additional active-duty units, including significant air assets, from across the U.S. were put on alert and then tasked with rescue and support operations in the storm-stricken region.

“Approximately 1,600 active-duty military personnel are deployed to the affected area,” US Northern Command, who controls active duty U.S. military personnel in North America, said in a statement to media on Thursday, August 31.

The U.S. military’s Northern Command located at Peterson AFB in Colorado Springs, Colorado has directed the deployment of 73 helicopters, mostly various versions of Blackhawks, 4 Lockheed C-130 cargo aircraft and 8 elite Air Force Para-Rescue units to support aid and rescue operations in the region. The units come from locations around the United States.

Media outlets including CNN have reported that the Air Force has flown rescue/relief missions using “Seven HC-130 Combat King IIs, four C-130 Hercules, 11 HH-60 Pavehawks, five C-17 Globemaster IIIs, one E-3 Sentry AWACS, one E-8 JSTARS and one KC-10 Extender.” Additional reports have indicated at least one U.S. Navy P-8A Poseidon surveillance aircraft has joined the operation.

USAF Pararescue operators, special operations aviators and crewman return from a rescue mission on August 29, 2017 to Easterwood Airport in College Station, Texas. The mission rescued 11 people from the flooded area in a single sortie. The aircraft from the 347th Rescue Group of Moody AFB, Georgia were deployed in support of FEMA during Hurricane Harvey. (USAF Photo by SSG. Ryan Callaghan)

As of yesterday there have been a reported “4,700” aerial rescues conducted by military assets in the region. Because of the size of the military air relief effort, airports in the region are filled to capacity with aircraft assisting in the search and rescues.

The U.S. Navy dispatched the vessels USS Oak Hill (LSD-51), a Harpers Ferry-class dock landing ship and the Wasp-class amphibious assault ship USS Kearsarge (LHD-3) to the Gulf region in support of humanitarian aid and rescue operations. The USS Kearsarge is equipped with a flight deck to support helicopter and tilt-rotor flight operations and has a waterline level stern well deck for deploying surface craft including large assault landing hovercraft.

The USS Kearsarge (LHD-3) has been deployed to the Texas gulf coast in support of humanitarian aid operations in the region. (USN Photo)

Depending on the source, approximately 66 people have reportedly lost their lives so far in Hurricane Harvey, a relatively low number in part due to effective early warning and evacuation but also partially because of a very large U.S. military response to the crisis. This casualty figure, while very significant, contrasts with the approximately 8,000 lives lost in the Galveston, Texas hurricane at the turn of the century in 1900. That hurricane happened before accurate weather prediction, advanced communication and rescue resources existed.

The gigantic tropical storm, that began on August 17 and continued until September 2, was the first storm of its type to hit the U.S. mainland since 2005 when Hurricane Wilma landed. Sustained winds in excess of 100 MPH and the worst flooding ever recorded in the history of the region caused widespread destruction. The city of Port Arthur, Texas is one of several cities that remain completely submerged following the storm, with even their evacuation centers becoming flooded necessitating the relocation of rescued people initially placed there by aid workers. In some areas floodwaters, the worst ever, did not reach their highest point until days after the storm.

Another tropical storm in the region, Hurricane Irma, is forecasted to make landfall in Florida this Saturday. Satellite surveillance on Wednesday measured the storm as over twice the width of Florida. Airborne weather reconnaissance and sea-based data collection have measured sustained wind speeds of 195 MPH in the approaching storm as the U.S. hurricane season continues.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, NOAA, has flown weather reconnaissance missions into the rapidly approaching Hurricane Irma off the Florida coast using their newly upgraded and repainted Lockheed WP-3D Orion N42RF, named “Kermit”. The aircraft has operated from Tampa, Florida. The crew captured dramatic video of one of their weather reconnaissance missions. During the flight the aircraft dropped a series of parachute-deployed NCAR GPS Dropsonde airborne sensors. The small sensors fall gradually through the hurricane suspended by their parachute and collect wind velocity and directional data. Once a pattern of dropsonde sensors are released into the storm by the WP-3D aircraft they transmit data from their wild ride through the storm back to monitoring stations to provide intelligence about the storm’s direction, strength and speed.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration operates two hurricane surveillance Lockheed WP-3D Orions from Florida to gather weather intelligence from upcoming storms like Hurricane Irma scheduled to land in Florida this weekend. (NOAA Photo)

At this link you can find the daily schedule of the NOAA aircraft activity for today.

The NOAA aircraft mission plan for Sept. 7, 2017.

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Up Close And Personal With Textron’s Scorpion Light Attack Jet During Weapons Separation Testing

Textron’s Scorpion Aces Weapons Separation Testing.

Going five for five in the complex, methodical and engineering-driven military aircraft test regimes is rare. Weather, range logistics, recording equipment, aircraft readiness or one of any other number of details typically conspire to scrub a test flight.

This past July the Textron Aviation Defense Team of two Scorpion jets (production airframes P2 and P3), three Test Pilots, two Flight Test Engineers and 12 support staff (ground, weapons, maintenance, program) descended on NAS Patuxent River, Maryland for weapons separation testing. Five scheduled flight tests in five different configurations over five flight days with 100% completion on time and target enabled the team to achieve “Ace” status, of sorts.

The test plan was aggressive and put the credibility of the three Textron test pilots at risk – all graduates of the US Navy Test Pilot School at Pax River.

Textron Aviation’s Scorpion Jets form up in the skies over Wichita, Kansas. The four Scorpions (developmental aircraft in the foreground with production aircraft 1-3 ) are maintaining heavy utilization rates expanding the flight envelope, performing weapons testing, making demonstration flights to a variety of interested customers and participating in the USAF light attack experiment.

Textron Chief Test Pilot Dan Hinson (23 years in the F/A-18) was humbled to be back among the professionals where he had served and honed his skills. Hinson noted the tremendous respect for both NAVAIR and the Navy’s VX-23 developmental flight test organization, the Air Test and Evaluation Squadron affectionately known as the “Salty Dogs.” The entire test regime was carefully coordinated with NAVAIR, the Naval Test Wing Atlantic (NTWL) and VX-23 with protocols followed in the same fashion as is done for military aircraft tests.

Textron Scorpion fires 2.75″ Hydra-70 rockets during recent weapons trials at NAS Patuxent River, MD. The Textron team achieved 100% mission completion rate during weapons system testing. 5 different configurations (LAU-131, HMP-440 Gun pods, GBU-12) were tested over 5 days, with the tests concluding 4 days early.

Weapons separation may appear simple; however, it is complex testing that is rigorously documented. One Scorpion functioned as “chase“ aircraft while the “tester” was outfitted with high speed cameras on the nose, wing and tail. Every aspect of the release was closely monitored with scores of data points captured.
This was the first time the Scorpion had achieved rack separation. Weapons such as the HMP-400 .50 Cal guns and LAU-131A/A rocket launcher were monitored for hot gas ingestion into the intakes. Operational modes were tested and wiring configurations were evaluated.
Weapons tested included:

  • LAU-131A/A 2.75” unguided/guided rocket launcher
  • HMP-400 .50 Cal machine gun pods, (two flights with single and simultaneous firing)
  • GBU-12 Paveway II 500 lb. bombs
  • BDU-50 (500 lb. practice bomb)

As aggressive as the schedule for the weapons testing was, it was completed four days early. Hinson and team relished the tremendous professional support of NAVAIR, NTWL and VX-23 and departed with the Navy’s great respect for their test efficiency and rigor, fortified. The completed tests took place just in time to open the weapons delivery envelope in support of the USAF OA-X Light Attack Experiment taking place at Holloman AFB, New Mexico.

Textron Scorpion drops a 500 lb GBU-12 Paveway II during recent weapons trials at NAS Patuxent River, MD. The Textron team achieved 100% mission completion rate during weapons system testing. 5 different configurations (LAU-131, HMP-400 Gun pods, GBU-12) were tested over 5 days, with the tests concluding 4 days early.

The aircraft utilized for testing were of the production standard (P1-P3) differing from the original developmental aircraft (D1) in the following ways;

  • P1-P3 all feature an all trimmable tail – enabling improved flight performance.
  • The large internal payload bay has been reconfigured to house deeper payloads.
  • The landing gear has been updated to a trailing link gear configuration with larger brakes.
  • P1-P3 utilize a full Garmin G3000 Avionics suite.

Given all the attention the attack component of the Scorpion has received in the press, it is often overlooked that the aircraft is built around a payload bay. The modular payload bay is impressive with great volume, electrical and cooling capacity for a wide variety of payloads/sensors. One example is the L-3 Wescam MX-25 – now capable of full retraction into the payload bay. The MX-25 is L-3 Wescam’s largest electro-optical/infrared camera. For comparison purposes, the US Navy P-8 Poseidon utilizes the slightly smaller L-3 Wescam MX-20.

Textron Scorpion with HMP-400 gun pods overflies NAS Patuxent River during recent weapons trials. The TEXTRON team achieved 100% mission completion rate during weapons system testing. 5 different configurations (LAU-131, HMP-400 Gun pods, GBU-12) were tested over 5 days, with the tests concluding 4 days early.

Aside from great payload flexibility, the Scorpion is night vision capable and both the front and rear cockpits are prepared for use with the Thales Visionix Scorpion Helmet Mounted Cueing System.

Textron’s Scorpion summer of 2017 has been a resounding success. The 4 aircraft (D1, P1, P2, P3) were simultaneously tasked at multiple locations (Paris International Airshow, Royal International Air Tattoo (RIAT – RAF Fairford), Pax River, MD [weapons testing] and the ongoing USAF OA-X Light attack experiment. All while a production airframe (at times two) continued with envelope expansion testing at Textron’s base in Wichita, Kansas.

Textron Scorpion fires 2.75″ Hydra-70 rocket during recent weapons trials at NAS Patuxent River, MD. The Textron team achieved 100% mission completion rate during weapons system testing. 5 different configurations (LAU-131, HMP-440 Gun pods, GBU-12) were tested over 5 days, with the tests concluding 4 days early.

In a class by itself, the Scorpion offers unique capability to carry the latest ISR sensors, loiter for extended periods of time and prosecute targets at will. Given the aircraft’s sound performance to date, the Scorpion appears well on the way to becoming the solution of choice for economical, intelligent and lethal airpower in the permissive environment or as a component of a large force projection.

Textron Scorpion fires 2.75″ Hydra-70 rocket during recent weapons trials at NAS Patuxent River, MD. The Textron team achieved 100% mission completion rate during weapons system testing. 5 different configurations (LAU-131, HMP-440 Gun pods, GBU-12) were tested over 5 days, with the tests

The Author expresses special thanks to Dan Hinson – Textron Aviation Defense Chief Test Pilot and former NAVAIR PMA-265 F/A-18 & EA-18G Integrated Product Team Lead, Commanding Officer of the U.S. Naval Strike Fighter Weapons School, and graduate of U.S. Naval Test Pilot School Class 103.

Photo Credits, as indicated US Navy by Erik Hildebrandt / Released and Jim Haseltine / Released