Tag Archives: U.S. Navy

VAW-112 Golden Hawks E-2Cs Return Home to NBVC Point Mugu after 7-month deployment

The “Golden Hawks” of VAW-112 returned to Naval Base Ventura County Point Mugu following a seven month deployment to the Western Pacific and South China Sea.

On Aug. 9 four E-2C Hawkeye aircraft and their 19 aircrew members,belonging to the VAW-112 “Golden Hawks,” returned to NBVC Point Mugu on Aug. 9.

VAW-112 Golden Hawk 1

Launching from USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74), the squadron flew 428 missions in support of Freedom of Navigation Operations in the South China Sea, the Foal Eagle, Balikatan and RIMPAC Exercises during which its Hawkeyes acted as airborne command and control platforms, positioning themselves between the ship and the 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.

Total flight hours for the deployment were 1,618.

VAW-112 Golden Hawk 2

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

VAW-112 Golden Hawk 3

VAW-112 Golden Hawk 4

VAW-112 Golden Hawk 5

All images: Matt Hartman

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Take a ride in an EA-18G Growler with the awesome VAQ-140 cruise video

Footage is from deployment in 2015-2016 to the Arabian Gulf and the Eastern Mediterranean.

The video in this post comes from U.S. Navy’s Electronic Attack Squadron 140 (VAQ-140).

Based at NAS Whidbey Island, Washington, the squadron’s last deployment took the “Patriots” to the east coast on the USS Harry S Truman (CVN-75). This was the ship’s and Airwing 7’s first deployment supporting Operation Inherent Resolve (OIR), with targeted airstrikes in Iraq and Syria as part of a comprehensive strategy to defeat the so-called Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).

The VAQ-140 “Patriots” fly the EA-18G Growler. Based off of the F/A-18F, the most noticeable difference with the Super Hornet are the wingtip pods housing the ALQ-218 signals receiver suite, which helps to detect and geolocate emitters and signals.

The aircraft carry the ALQ-99 Tactical Jamming System underneath the wings instead of bombs carried by conventional fighters. These jamming pods delay, degrade and deny the enemy’s use of the electromagnetic spectrum. Controlling what information and communication is available provides an immense tactical advantage on the battlefield and enables Coalition forces to carry out their missions with impunity.

The Growler is also capable of carrying the HARM (High speed Anti-Radiation Missile) and AARGM (Advanced Anti-Radiation Guided Missile); these weapons are designed to seek out threat weapons systems and emitters, guiding on their energy, and destroy them.

Many thanks to Christian Long and the “Patriots” for sending this over to us!

 

Epic selfie catches moment EA-18G Growler pilot fires an AGM-88 HARM missile

Flight Lieutenant Todd ‘Woody’ Woodford, an Australian officer assigned to VAQ-135, launches an AGM-88 HARM All-Up-Round from a Growler.

The above selfie was taken by a Royal Australian Air Force pilot, FLTLT Todd Woodford, assigned to VAQ-135, a U.S. Navy Squadron that operates the EA-18G Growler, during a live fire exercise off the coast of Pt. Mugu, CA.

The Boeing EA-18G Growler is an Electronic Warfare/Attack variant of the two-seat F/A-18F Super Hornet that replaced the EA-6B Prowlers in U.S. Navy service.

Along with actively jamming enemy communications, the Growler, operating in a networked environment along with other two aircraft of the same type can use its EW pods to geo-locate a signal source and target it from stand-off distance with air-to-surface missiles.

According to the Tailhook Association, Woody, leading a division of three EA-18G aircraft during the live-fire portion of the US Navy’s graduate electronic warfare tactics course, HAVOC, became the first Aussie pilot to launch a HARM missile.

The RAAF officer is one of six Australian aircrew serving in US Navy expeditionary EA-18G squadrons as part of a bilateral Personnel Exchange Program, and is the first international partner to complete the HAVOC course. Woody will rejoin the VAQ-135 Black Ravens following HAVOC for his second deployment to the U.S. Pacific Command area in the EA-18G this fall.

In 2013, Australia committed to purchasing 12 EA-18G, 30+ ALQ-99 Tactical Jamming Pods, associated AEA equipment, and AGM-88 HARM and AARGM weapons. The integration of RAAF aircrew into US Navy operational squadrons has been on-going since the fall of 2014. Integrating, training and developing deployed experience in the EA-18G is a critical component to the Australia-US strategy for partnership in Airborne Electronic Attack.

Australia will take delivery of their first EA-18G at NAS Whidbey Island, WA in January 2017.

Photo credit: FLTLT Tood Woodford, VAQ-135. A big thank you to the Tailhook Association for allowing us to post this fantastic shot along with the caption.

U.S. F/A-18 Hornets almost clashed with Russian fighter bombers over Syria

According to the Pentagon, U.S. and Russian combat planes have had some tense moments over Syria.

There have been several close encounters between Russian and U.S. and allied manned and unmanned aircraft over Syria since Moscow deployed a contingent of combat planes to Latakia, in northwestern Syria, at the end of September 2015.

On Oct. 10, 2015, a Russian Su-30SM had close encounter with an unspecified U.S. combat plane supporting Operation Inherent Resolve.

According to Russia’s Ministry of Defense, the Flanker-derivative 4++ Gen aircraft was providing air escort for a package of attack planes in Syria when it approached the American plane, to perform a VID (Visual Identification) even though some sources suggested it was the Russian aircraft to be intercepted by a U.S. plane.

Anyway, even before Oct. 10, Russian warplanes tailed U.S. Predator drones on at least three separate occasions and at least a couple of times American aircraft reportedly changed their routing to deconflict with Russian aircraft.

One of those incidents saw the involvement of U.S. F-16s from Incirlik, Turkey, and some RuAF Su-34s.

After the first incidents, Russia and the US agreed on coordinating their air activity in the skies over Syria. More or less.

Close encounters and provocations were still reported quite frequently even after Nov. 24, 2015 when a Turkish Air Force (TuAF) F-16 shot down a Russian Air Force (RuAF) Su-24 that had allegedly violated the Turkish airspace.

In February 2016 the German Air Force said that Russian Air Force (RuAF) jets, including the the 4++ generation Su-35S Flanker air superiority fighters, often shadowed their Tornados during reconnaissance missions in Syrian airspace out carried out from Incirlik airbase, Turkey.

A “near clash” between four Israeli F-15s and two Russian Su-30SMs allegedly occurred on Apr. 20, more than one month after Putin had ordered the withdrawal of part of the Russian combat planes from Hmeymim airbase: flying over the Mediterranean Sea, the Israeli jets approached Latakia forcing the Russians to scramble two of their Sukhoi jets. Several Israeli media outlets even said that Russians fired at least twice on Israeli military aircraft but no incident has ever been confirmed.

Another “near clash” occurred last week, on Jun. 16.

Indeed, as reported by the CNN, U.S. F/A-18s were somehow close to engage Russian Sukhois (still not clear whether Su-34s or Su-24s as there are conflicting reports on the type of aircraft involved) that bombed U.S.-backed Syrian rebels near the Jordan border.

Here’s what happened according to Theodore Schleifer and Barbara Starr:

“The strikes, which the U.S. says killed some New Syrian Army troops, occurred about six miles from the Jordanian border, according to a U.S. defense official.

The U.S. diverted armed FA-18s to the area after the first round of two strikes, and the pilots then tried to call the Russians on a previously agreed-upon pilot-to-pilot communications channel but did not receive an answer.

As soon as the U.S. jets left the area to refuel, the Russians came back for another round of bombing, the defense official said.

“Russian aircraft conducted a series of airstrikes near al-Tanf against Syrian counter-ISIL forces that included individuals who have received U.S. support. Russian aircraft have not been active in this area of Southern Syria for some time, and there were no Syrian regime or Russian ground forces in the vicinity,” a senior defense official said. “Russia’s latest actions raise serious concern about Russian intentions. We will seek an explanation from Russia on why it took this action and assurances this will not happen again.”

The first two bombing runs by the Russians were carried out by two SU-24 Russian jets coming out of their base near Latakia. The jets dropped what is believed to be the equivalent of U.S. 500-pound bombs and possibly cluster munitions, according to the U.S. defense official.”

So, it looks like the American Hornets were pretty close to intercepting the Sukhois (in other reports they were able to visually ID the Russians), tried to contact the Russian planes as these carried out an air strike, but these simply ignored the calls on a previously agreed radio frequency.

The question is what are the ROE (Rules Of Engagement) in place over Syria? Most probably there are strict ROE to prevent escalation and avoid direct confrontation but what would have happened if the U.S. F/A-18 had intercepted the Russian warplanes attacking the US-backed rebels ignoring the American calls?

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Things heat up near South China Sea: two U.S. aircraft carriers, B-52s and EA-18G Growler detachment

The U.S. build-up in the disputed waters of South China Sea continues with bombers, carriers and Electronic Attack planes.

Some interesting photographs have been arriving from the troubled waters of Indo-Asia-Pacific region.

The most recent ones, released on Jun. 18, show the USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74) and USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76) carrier strike groups (CSG 3 and CSG 5) crusing close each other during dual carrier flight operations in the Philippine Sea.

Such operations included air combat training, long-range strike training, air defense drills as well as sea surveillance.

The CSG 3, that started operations in the Western Pacific on Feb. 4, consists of the aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74), guided-missile cruiser USS Mobile Bay (CG 53) and guided-missile destroyers of Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) 21, USS Stockdale (DDG 106), USS Chung-Hoon (DDG 93) and USS William P. Lawrence (DDG 110), and the aircraft of Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 9.

CSG 5, begun its summer patrol of the Indo-Asia Pacific, on Jun. 4, and consists of the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76), guided-missile cruisers USS Shiloh (CG 67) and USS Chancellorsville (CG 62) and guided-missile destroyers from Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) 15, USS Curtis Wilbur (DDG 54), USS McCampbell (DDG 85), USS Benfold (DDG 65); the aircraft of Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 5, is forward-deployed to Yokosuka, Japan and routinely, patrols the Western Pacific.

According to the U.S. Navy, the CSGs (Carrier Strike Groups) began coordinated operations in international waters to demonstrate “the United States unique capability to operate multiple carrier strike groups in close proximity.”

U.S. Navy aircraft carriers regularly conduct dual carrier strike group operations in the Western Pacific and sometimes also in the South China Sea, East China Sea and Philippine Sea: this occurs when carriers deployed to the 7th Fleet area of operations from the U.S. West Coast are joined with the forward deployed carrier strike group from Japan. When it happens a force of 12,000 sailors, 140 aircraft, six combatants and two carriers operates in the same sea: an impressive “show of force.”

Two carriers in South China Sea

Previously, in Sept. 2012, USS George Washington (CVN 73) and USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70) strike groups conducted combined operation in the South China Sea and East China Sea. In 2001, USS Constellation (CV 64) and Carl Vinson operated together in the South China Sea.

A few days before the two carriers started combined operations, a joint service bombing exercise at the targeting island Farallon de Medinilla, an uninhabited small island in the Northern Mariana Islands in the Pacific Ocean located 45 nautical miles north of Saipan, saw two U.S. Air Force B-52 Stratofortress bombers launched from Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, fly over USS Spruance (DDG 111) in a maritime attack training sortie.

Along with the two carrier strike groups and the B-52 providing extended deterrence, Washington has also deployed to the Philippines the first temporary detachment of Navy EA-18G Growlers.

The electronic attack aircraft have arrived at Clark Air Base, on Jun. 15. Even though they are officially there to train with the local FA-50, the detachment, made of 4 aircraft and 120 personnel with the Electronic Attack Squadron (VAQ) 138, “will support routine operations that enhance regional maritime domain awareness and assure access to the air and maritime domains in accordance with international law.”

Therefore, the strategical deployment brought not far from the disputed waters in the South China Sea some cutting-edge aircraft capable to perform electronic escort missions on both U.S. ships and spyplanes that are frequently shadowed by Chinese spyplanes or intelligence gathering ships. Furthermore, the Growlers could jam, if needed, the Chinese radars on the Spratly, Paracel, Pratas and the rest of the islands, including those that have been artificially created, decreasing Beijing ability to establish an ADIZ (Air Defense Identification Zone) similar to that in the East China Sea and to support its warplanes in the area.

The presence of (some more…) EA-18Gs could theoretically limit the operations of the Chinese Air Force (PLAAF) and Navy (PLANAF) that, according to “Flashpoint China: Chinese air power and regional security” published by Harpia Publishing and written by Andreas Rupprecht, one of the most authoritative sources on Chinese Air Power, “are able to ensure virtually continuos, round-the-clock aerial coverage and combat air patrols over the area during a crisis or a conflict.”

In particular, the PLANAF is pretty active in the area with a regiment each of H-6 bombers and JH-7 fighter-bombers and no fewer than three regiments of J-11 interceptors covering the South China Sea . “The availability of long-range J-11s and aerial refueling assets implies that much of the SCS [South China Sea] is now de-facto Chinese airspace,” says Rupprecht.

It’s not a coincidence that a recent close encounter in the area involved few weeks ago two Chinese J-11 tactical aircraft that carried out an “unsafe” intercept of a U.S. EP-3E reconnaissance aircraft on a routine mission in international airspace over the South China Sea.

VAQ-138 Clark AFB refuel

The Electronic Attack Squadron (VAQ) 138 is an expeditionary squadron based at Naval Air Station Whidbey Island, Washington, that has previously taken part in deployments across the region. The Growler detachment comes after a first temporary Air Contingent made of five A-10C Thunderbolt aircraft, three HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopters and approximately 200 personnel deployed from multiple Pacific Air Forces units that took part in exercise Balikatan and completed their final mission on April 28, 2016.

Image credit: U.S. Navy

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