Tag Archives: U.S. Navy

U.S. Commissioning New Class of Supercarrier, USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78) Tomorrow

UK, China and U.S. Launch New Carrier Classes in 2017, Russia Lags Behind.

The U.S Navy and Newport News Ship Building Company officially commissioned a new class of “supercarrier” advanced nuclear-powered aircraft carrier tomorrow at the Norfolk Naval Station in Norfolk, Virginia.

The USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78) is the first ship in this new class of nuclear-powered aircraft carriers for the U.S. Navy. It is the first major redesign of U.S. aircraft carriers in 42 years.

Among a long list of new engineering features on board USS Gerald R. Ford are the controversial electromagnetic catapults and arresting gear, a new, smaller, lower radar cross section island structure, larger and more efficient flight deck facilitating faster aircraft launching, more than twice the electrical power of previous carrier classes and a more efficient crew compliment with 500 fewer personnel on board. The massive 1,106-foot-long carrier displaces a staggering 100,000 tons fully loaded and is powered by two new generation nuclear reactors.

U.S. President Donald Trump has been critical of the costs of the program, especially the new electro-magnetic catapult and arrestor take-off and landing systems. The benefits of the new systems are claimed to be less buffeting of aircraft upon launch resulting in better control and less airframe fatigue per launch and recovery. The electromagnetic catapults are also lighter in weight than steam catapults in use on current U.S. carriers and are claimed to require less maintenance than steam-powered launch and recovery systems.

It’s worth noting that some problems have already occurred in launch testing on other carriers with the U.S. Navy’s version of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, the larger wingspan, folding wing F-35C. The problems may have been limited to test launches with no weapons loads and required modifications to F-35C landing gear. Depending on the status of these issues the Navy’s F-35C may benefit in particular from electromagnetic catapults.

CF-03 FLT 182/CF-05 FLT 91 First Arrestment aboard USS Nimitz on 03 November 2014. CDR Tony Wilson was flying CF-03 and LCDR Ted Dyckman was flying CF-05.

This year has been noteworthy for new international aircraft carrier operations.

On Jul. 17, 2017, the Royal Navy launched the first of its new Queen Elizabeth Class of aircraft carrier. The HMS Queen Elizabeth (RO8) is the first of two carriers in this new class that will include the second vessel, the HMS Prince of Wales (RO9) when it is launched in 2020.

HMS Queen Elizabeth uses non-nuclear electric propulsion that burns primarily diesel fuel. This is a lower cost alternative to the U.S. nuclear powered carrier. HMS Queen Elizabeth is a smaller carrier than its new U.S. counterpart, and intended to operate with a compliment of thirty-six F-35B V/STOL aircraft and four helicopters. The vessel is currently configured without launch catapults, but is engineered to be “backwards and forwards compatible” for retrofitting of a catapult launch system. The vessel is also smaller than its U.S. counterpart, the new USS Gerald R. Ford. The HMS Queen Elizabeth is 920 feet long compared to the USS Gerald R. Ford’s 1,106 foot length. It also displaces “only” 70,600 tons compared to the Ford’s 100,000+ tons of displacement.

A Royal Navy Merlin helicopter was the first aircraft to fly from the deck of the England’s new HMS Queen Elizabeth. (Photo: Daily Telegraph)

The Chinese have also been vigorous in their carrier development program with the recent launch of the impressive Type 001A, their first indigenous construction carrier. Previous Chinese aircraft carriers were purchased second-hand, mostly from Russia, and served primarily as development testbeds for aircraft, crews and likely doctrine.

This first domestically built Chinese carrier, likely to be named “Shandong”, was officially launched in Dalian, Liaoning province, on Apr. 26, 2017. The Type 001A “Shandong” uses a ski-jump style launch system and an arrestor cable recovery.

A Chinese J-15 makes an arrested landing on the carrier Liaoning. (Photo:USNI)

There have been recent photos of Chinese J-15 aircraft with updated landing gear that is both reinforced for carrier landings and, most interestingly, a catapult bar on the nose wheel. The new version of the J-15, referred to frequently as the “J-15A”, is considerably reworked to include not only the landing gear modifications but new engines and avionics.

A new version Chinese J-15A appeared with catapult launch capable landing gear. (Photo: Chinese Media)

A Jul. 6, 2017 report filed on Chinese media reported that the Chinese People’s Liberation Army Navy, or “PLAN”, is conducting land-based testing on a new electromagnetic catapult similar to the one already installed on the new U.S carrier Gerald R. Ford.

Satellite images showing a land-based catapult launch test facility at Huangdicun Airbase in Liaoning Province, China. The U.S. Naval Institute, an intelligence publications resource, reported that satellite imagery showed two types of catapults located at the Huangdicun facility beginning in late 2014, one steam and one electromagnetic. This base also houses China’s J-15 aircraft on land.

Finally, with news of new aircraft carriers from the United States, China and England an assessment of Russia’s current aircraft carrier capabilities suggests they are lagging behind.

Russia deployed its only carrier, the Admiral Kuznetsov, to the eastern Mediterranean in fall of 2016 in support of operations in Syria. The results could accurately be described as “mixed”.

Kuznetsov, an old ship originally launched in 1985, lost two if its only fifteen aircraft to accidents including an embarrassing one when one of Russia’s most experienced pilots was forced to ditch his aircraft next to the carrier due to problems onboard that prevented him from landing. He was ordered to hold in the landing pattern so long while addressing the onboard recovery problem that his aircraft eventually ran out of fuel. The pilot ejected next to the carrier and was recovered. The aircraft was one of two lost on the Russian adventure to the Mediterranean in support of the President Bashar al-Assad regime in Syria.

The Admiral Kuznetsov has had previous problems on its only seven deployments since 1990.

In 1996, the ship’s potable water distillation system failed and, embarrassingly for the Russians, the U.S. Navy came to the aid of the vessel, supplying fresh drinking water to the crew.

Back in 2015 Russia announced insights into a proposed new, very large aircraft carrier class in the 100,000 ton “supercarrier” range. Russian Deputy-Director of the Krylov State Research Center told IHS Jane’s that the project was being called “Project 23000E” or “Storm”. Budget constraints, Russia’s support of the war in Syria and economic concerns have all but cancelled progress on the project. The most recent intelligence suggests Russia was attempting to partner with India to share development costs in the hopes of India eventually acquiring one of the new class of proposed Russian supercarriers for its own navy.

Russia’s carrier Admiral Kuznetsov is beginning to show its age. (Photo: RT)

 

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This Footage *Allegedly* Shows A Russian MiG-31 Shooting Down A Cruise Missile In The Stratosphere.

According to the Russian MoD this video shows a Russian MiG-31 Foxhound taking down a cruise missile.

According to the press center of the Pacific Fleet of Russia, a Russian Navy MiG-31 Foxhound interceptor launched from the Kamchatka Peninsula, intercepted a supersonic cruise missile in the stratosphere during exercises that were conducted on the eve of the celebration of the Day of Naval Aviation.

The missile was launched from the water area of the Sea of Okhotsk at an altitude of more than 12 kilometers at a speed three times the speed of sound, Pravda new outlet reported.

The Mig-31 Foxhound is a two-seat Mig-25 Foxbat derivative in service since 1983.

Whilst the MiG-25 was built as a high-speed, high-altitude interceptor, capable of reaching the speed of Mach 3.2 to intercept American B-58 and B-70 bombers, the MiG-31 was designed to intercept the B-1B bomber, which was designed to operate at low-level, below the radar coverage.

The MiG-31 has quite good low-level capabilities (which MiG-25 does not) and is equipped with an advanced radar with look-down-shoot-down capability (needed to detect low-flying bombers), and data bus, allowing for coordinated attack with other fighters.

The production of the Mig-31, one of the world’s fastest tactical fighter in active service with top speed of Mach 2.83 and a range of 1,450 km, ended in the early 1990s, but the interceptor is being upgraded to extend its operative life up to the 2028 – 2030.

The Russian MiG-31BM jet, capable to carry up to four long-range R-33 missiles and four short-range R-77 missiles, was expected to carry a weapon able to shoot down space satellites; according to some sources, the ability to intercept a cruise missile, previously Kh-55 and now Kh-101, is something practiced by the Russian Foxhounds for years.

The video below, released by the Russian MoD, is said to show the test conducted on Jul. 17 (even though the actual interception of the cruise missile can’t be seen.)

Generally speaking, combat aircraft can intercept cruise missiles and engage them. However, such missiles are quite difficult to detect: they are optimised for low level flying through the Terrain Following capability, have a low radar cross-section and heat signature and, they are small.

This means that an inteceptor using a long-range missile from the right position and altitude might be able to do the job. But it shouldn’t be something too easy.

Testing conducted by the U.S. Navy has shown that shooting down cruise missiles, flying at low-level and high-speed is actually a pretty difficult task: on Sept. 12, 2016, a live test fire demonstration involved the integration of U.S. Marine Corps F-35B from the Marine Operational Test and Evaluation Squadron (VMX 1), based in Edwards Air Force Base, with existing Naval Integrated Fire Control-Counter Air (NIFC-CA) architecture.

F-35 and Aegis Combat System Successfully Demonstrated Integration Potential in First Live Missile Test (Lockheed Martin)

The F-35B acted as an elevated sensor (to detect an over-the-horizon threat as envisaged for the F-22) that sent data through its Multi-Function Advanced Data Link to a ground station connected to USS Desert Ship (LLS-1), a land-based launch facility designed to simulate a ship at sea. Using the latest Aegis Weapon System Baseline 9.C1 and a Standard Missile 6, the system successfully detected and engaged the target: a test that proved how detecting, tracking and engaging cruise missiles requires cutting edge anti-surface and anti-air weapons.

On the other side it is somehow interesting to note that a rather old weapons system, the MiG-31, albeit operating a Passive Electronically Scanned Array (PESA) radar, can be able to intercept stealthy cruise missiles (like the Kh-101 reportedly used in some tests), with the support of an AWACS plane.

We don’t actually know the exact type of test the Russians conducted. For sure it wasn’t a low flying cruise missile like a Tomahawk, since this was reportedly flying in the “near space.”

The video below shows a past test when four MiG-31s, supported by an A-50 Mainstay, reportedly fired and hit a Kh-55 launched by a Tu-95 Bear.

“The cruise missile was destroyed at an altitude of 300 meters above the ground from a distance of 10 kilometers (6.2 miles) from the target,” the Russian MoD said in a statement, quoted by Russian-owned outlet Sputnik News, back in 2015.

Anyway, Russia has other weapons systems nominally capable of repelling cruise missile attacks, as well as jets and drones: the S-400 anti-aircraft defense is able to engage all types of aerial targets including aircraft (someone says even VLO – Very Low Observable ones), drones and ballistic and cruise missiles within the range of 250 miles at an altitude of nearly 19 miles.

Let us know what you think and know about the MiG-31 ability to intercept waves of cruise missiles.

Top image: file artwork by Pravda.ru

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VAW-113 Homecoming And VAW-115 Re-location Brings A Formation Of Six E-2C Hawkeyes Over Naval Base Ventura County Point Mugu

Black Eagles return home from WESTPAC and Liberty Bells relocate to new home at Point Mugu. With some cool special markings.

On Jun. 21, 2017, NBVC Point Mugu saw the homecoming of the VAW-113 “Black Eagles” from a six month deployment from USS Carl Vinson and the re-location of the VAW-115 “Liberty Bells” from MCAS Iwakuni, Japan, to their new home in California.

Both squadrons flew off the USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70) with their E-2Cs acting as airborne command and control platforms, positioning themselves between the ship and other aircraft to relay communications, identify and track air traffic and surface traffic, coordinate air-to-air refueling, handle aircraft emergencies, and provide information from the battlefield to warfare commanders through data-link and satellite radio communications.

The Black Eagles returned with 2 E-2C Hawkeye aircraft and their 19 military crewmembers from a six month deployment to the Western Pacific and South China Sea in support of 7th fleet operations. The remainder of the 150 person, along with two more E-2Cs arrived later, as USS Carl Vinson sailed into San Diego.

The 6-ship formation flies over NBVC Point Mugu

The “Liberty Bells” arrived in California with four aircraft and 19 crew members after being forward deployed to Japan for 44 years.

Shorealone Films photographer Matt Hartman went to NBVC Point Mugu to meet the “Black Eagles” and “Liberty Bells” as they were welcomed home by family, friends and co-workers.

Breaking the visual pattern to report downwind.

Liberty Bells Flagship breaking for landing

VAW-113 NE-602 taxies after landing at NBVC Point Mugu.

 

The artwork on the tail and wing tips of the VAW-115 Modex 600.

The stunning artwork applied to the VAW-115 flagship

VAW-115 Modex 602 on the apron.

Black Eagles “NE-602” about to park.

The Hawkeyes parked on the apron right after landing at NBVC Point Mugu.

Liberty Bells 600-5812

Families greeted the VAW-113 aircrews returning from a 6-month WESTPAC cruise.

Aircrews got the warm welcome of their family members upon disembarking the aircraft.

All images credit: Matt Hartman

 

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U.S. Intelligence Gathering Aircraft Amass Off Syria As Assad Visits Russian Detachment Near Latakia

U.S. RC-135 Rivet Joint and other spyplanes operating in international airspace off Syria. While a WC-135 “nuke sniffer” flew towards the Black Sea.

The White House’s warning about an imminent chemical attack and the visit Assad paid to Hmeymim airbase, near Latakia, today are among the most likely reasons for a rather unusual presence of U.S. spyplanes off Syria in the last couple of days.

Once again, the hint of a busy intelligence gathering operation underway along the coasts of western Syria comes from the signals collected by aircraft spotters, airband listeners and ADS-B monitors, who have reported the movements of U.S. Air Force RC-135s along with a U.S. Navy P-8 Poseidon aircraft.

Among those who have tracked the flights, the famous ADS-B / ModeS tracking enthusiast running the popular @CivMilAir and @ADSBTweetBot Twitter feeds, who has traced the missions of one RC-135U Combat Sent (that had already operated in the same area yesterday), one RC-135V Rivet Joint and one P-8 Poseidon on Jun. 27, more or less as Assad posed for some photos inside the cockpit of a Russian Sukhoi deployed to Syria.

The Rivet Joint is the USAF’s standard (SIGINT) gathering platform, meaning that it can eavesdrop and pinpoint “enemy” radio signals, and disseminate the details about these targets via tactical data-link to other aircraft, while the Combat Sent is designed to collect technical intelligence on adversary radar emitter systems. The P-8 is the U.S. Navy’s multi-role surveillance platform with the ability to snoop enemy communications and signals. In other words, three of the most important ISR (Intelligence Surveillance Reconnaissance) assets in the U.S. inventory were flying in the airspace off Lebanon and Syria earlier today: were they flying there at the same time by accident? Or, as it seems more likely, they were looking for something specific?

Another interesting movement that might be related to the situation in Syria was the WC-135 Constant Phoenix “nuke sniffer” that, using the radio callsign “Lando 90” flew from RAF Mildenhall, where it deployed on Jun. 22, towards the Black Sea on Jun. 26. Although the atmospheric collections aircraft used to detect the radioactive particles that result from a nuclear detonation, could be on a “pre-planned deployment” (as the official press release usually state regardless of the actual reason behind the presence of the WC-135 around the world…) it has long been speculated that it can carry sensors even capable to detect chemical substances down wind from the attack area days, or week after they were dispersed.

Once again, it might be a coincidence. Or not.

H/T @avischarf. Image credit: @CivMilAir

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U.S. Navy F/A-18E Super Hornet Downs Syrian Su-22 Near Raqqa, Syria. And Here Is Everything We Know.

Navy Super Hornet from Carrier Air Wing 8 Scores Victory over Syrian Su-22.

Updated with the statement from the Russian MoD.

A U.S. Navy F/A-18E Super Hornet from Carrier Air Wing 8 on board the USS George Bush shot down a Syrian Air Force Su-22 ground attack aircraft near Raqqa, Syria after the aircraft struck ground troops in Ja-Din, south of Tabqah, near Raqqa.

According to most sources it is the first time a U.S. combat aircraft has shot down a manned enemy aircraft in aerial combat in nine years.

The pro-Assad regime Syrian Su-22 that was downed had attacked Syrian Democratic Forces aligned with the U.S. led coalition and inflicted casualties on the friendly forces as they were driving south of Tabqah before it was intercepted.

The action began at approximately 4:30 PM local time on Sunday, Jun. 18 when Syrian forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad launched a ground attack on anti-regime Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) aligned with the U.S. led Coalition and inflicted casualties on the anti-Assad fighters.

Coalition combat aircraft immediately conducted a low-altitude “show of force” pass on the pro-Assad attackers and were successful in de-conflicting the two sides and halting the advance of pro-Assad forces on Coalition-friendly SDF positions.

As a result of the contact unspecified Coalition assets utilized a secure communication “de-confliction line” to contact Russian assets with communications to both sides in an effort to compel a cease-fire for both sides.

The Russian attempt at de-confliction failed at 6:43 PM local time when a pro-Assad Syrian Air Force Su-22 ground attack aircraft appeared on scene and bombed Coalition-friendly SDF positions. The attacking Syrian Su-22 was “Immediately shot down by a U.S. F/A-18E Super Hornet” according to an official statement issued by the Combined Joint Task Force, Operation Inherent Resolve. The U.S. Navy F/A-18E was launched from the aircraft carrier USS George Bush (CVN-77) as it maintains patrol in the Mediterranean in support of Operation Inherent Resolve.

U.S. Navy F/A-18E Super Hornet aboard the USS George Bush (CVN-77). (Photo: US Navy)

In the official statement released from the Coalition about the incident the Combined Joint Task Force stated, “The Coalition’s mission is to defeat ISIS in Iraq and Syria. The Coalition does not seek to fight the Syrian regime, Russian, or pro-regime forces partnered with them, but will not hesitate to defend Coalition partner forces from any threat.”

Even though the air-to-air victory would be the first for the U.S. on a manned enemy combat aircraft since February 2008 according to some sources, the last confirmed U.S. kill dates back to 1999, during Operation Allied Force, when a U.S. Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcon shot down a Serbian MiG-29 Fulcrum. A U.S. Air Force F-15 Eagle shot down an unmanned Iranian-made Shahed-129 armed drone on Thursday, June 8 this year.

The U.S. destroyed nine Syrian Air Force aircraft in a large Tomahawk cruise missile strike on the Shayrat Air Base earlier this year on April 7, 2017. Among the Syrian Air Force air craft destroyed by the cruise missile attack were five Su-22M3s, one Su-22M4, and three MiG-23ML aircraft. The attack was a Coalition response to the alleged Syrian chemical weapons strike on Khan Shaykhun on April 4. At least 74 people died in the chemical attack with hundreds more wounded, including children.

A fully armed Syrian Air Force SU-22 in a bombproof revetment. (Photo: RT)

A Syrian Air Force SU-22 taxis outside its bombproof revetment. (Photo: RT)

The action over Syria marks a significant escalation in the conflict and establishes the resolve of the Coalition to achieve its goals in the region in addition to sending a clear message that the control of the airspace rests with the Coalition and not with Assad’s remaining forces.

A Syrian Air Force SU-22. (Photo: RT)

And here’s the response to the downing from the Russian MoD:

Statement of the Russian Defence Ministry concerning downing of the Syrian Su-22 near the town of Resafa

On June 18, 2017 the American fighter F-18A belonging to the international coalition shot down the Su-22 aircraft of the Syrian Air Force, which was performing a combat mission supporting the government troops, which were conducting the offensive against the ISIS terrorists near the town of Resafa (40 km to the south-west of the city of Raqqa).

As a result of the attack, the Syrian aircraft was destroyed. The pilot baled out over an ISIS-controlled area, his status is unknown.

The destruction of the aircraft of the Syrian Air Force by the American aviation in the air space of Syria – is a cynical violation of the sovereignty of the Syrian Arab Republic.

Numerous combat activities of the US aviation carried out under the cover of “fight against terrorism” aimed against the legitimate Armed Forces of a UN-member is a blatant breach of the international law and is in fact an act of military aggression against the Syrian Arab Republic.

Moreover, at that time the aircraft of the Russian Aerospace Forces were also performing combat missions in the air space of Syria. However, the Command of the coalition forces did not use the existing channels of communication between the Command of the Al Udeid Air Base (Qatar) and the Hmeymim Air Base Command to prevent air incidents in the air space of Syria.

The Russian party considers those actions of the US Command as an intentional failure to fulfill its obligations within the Memorandum on prevention of incidents and providing of flight security during the operations in Syria dated October 20, 2015.

Since June 19, 2017, the Russian Defence Ministry has stopped the cooperation with the American party within the Memorandum on prevention of incidents and providing of flight security during the operations in Syria and demands a thorough investigation of the incident by the US Command with further providing of information on its results and the taken measures.

In the combat mission zones of the Russian aviation in the air space of Syria, all kinds of airborne vehicles, including aircraft and UAVs of the international coalition detected to the west of the Euphrates River will be tracked by the Russian SAM systems as air targets.

Therefore, the Russians will “track” as air targets the US-led coalition aircraft of all types: although this seems to suggest a unilateral NFZ established over Syria, the public release does not say they will “engage” the coaltion planes.

Let’s see what happens next.

 

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