Tag Archives: U.S. Navy

U.S. Navy Aircraft Carrying 11 Crew And Passengers Crashed In The Ocean Southeast Of Okinawa

Although the type of aircraft has not been released yet, the details unveiled so far suggest a C-2 Greyhound COD may be involved.

According to the U.S. Navy 7th Fleet, a United States Navy aircraft carrying 11 crew and passengers crashed into the ocean southeast of Okinawa at approximately 2:45 p.m. local time on Nov. 22.

“Personnel recovery is underway and their condition will be evaluated by USS Ronald Reagan medical staff. The aircraft was en-route to the U.S. Navy aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76), which is currently operating in the Philippine Sea. USS Ronald Reagan is conducting search and rescue operations. The cause of the crash is not known at this time.”

The official release does not specify the type nor the unit of the aircraft involved in the crash. However, it seems quite reasonable to believe it is a C-2 Greyhound involved in a COD (Carrier Onboard Delivery) mission. Indeed, the Grumman C-2A Greyhound is a twin-engine, high-wing cargo aircraft, designed perform the COD mission to carry equipment, passengers (including occasional distinguished visitors) supplies and mail to and from U.S. Navy aircraft carriers, “ensuring victory at sea through logistics.”

We will update this story as new details are made available.

Top image: file photo of a C-2 Greyhound

 

Everything We Know About The Hunt for Missing Argentine Submarine

U.S. Navy Maritime Patrol Aircraft along with several other assets race against time in dramatic search.

The U.S. Air Force and the U.S. Navy have dispatched a large number of transport and maritime surveillance aircraft along with specialized personnel and submarine rescue equipment in an attempt to help locate the missing Argentine submarine A.R.A. San Juan (S-42) off the southeastern coast of South America.

The submarine disappeared on Wednesday, November 15, 2017 when last communication was received. The first problems were reported that morning around 7:30 AM when the captain radioed that the submarine was having “battery problems” in heavy seas. Following the report, the submarine was ordered back to port. Communications were lost shortly after. The submarine was last seen over 200 kilometers off the Patagonian coast of Argentina. Bad weather with waves of 26 feet and 45 MPH winds initially hampered search efforts both on the surface and with sensors searching underwater for the submarine.

The missing A.R.A. San Juan in an official Argentine photo. (Photo: Argentine Navy)

The A.R.A. San Juan (S-42) was on an ecological surveillance mission to interdict illegal fishing boats off the coast of Patagonia. She was patrolling from a naval base in Ushuaia, Argentina, the southernmost point of South America and the gateway to the Straits of Magellan. The area is considered among the most dangerous seas in the world. Its destination was Mar Del Plata, 2,800 kilometers farther north along the Argentine coast.

The A.R.A. San Juan is a TR-1700 class diesel-electric submarine with a crew of 44. Her crew includes the first-ever female naval officer on board a submarine in the Argentine navy. She was manufactured by Thyssen Nordseewerke of Emden, Germany and commissioned in November, 1985. The TR-1700 is a proven undersea warfare platform operated by Israel, South Africa and Argentina. It is among the fastest diesel-electric submarines in the world and boasts a strong safety record.

Among the U.S. Navy’s search assets dispatched to the area in the increasingly urgent search are two Boeing P-8A Poseidon maritime surveillance aircraft from Maritime Patrol Squadron 45 (VP-45), “The Pelicans”. Their home base when not deployed to the region is Naval Air Station Jacksonville, Florida. The Boeing P-8A Poseidon is the U.S. Navy’s newest and most advanced anti-submarine surveillance and attack aircraft. It contains sensors that can detect magnetic anomalies in the ocean, monitor undersea communications and deploy specially equipped sonobuoys by parachute that sink into the ocean and send sonar signals into surrounding seawater then transmit findings back to the aircraft.

Two U.S. Navy P-8A Poseidon Anti-Submarine Warfare aircraft from Maritime Patrol Squadron 45 (VP-45), “The Pelicans” have joined the search for the A.R.A. San Juan. (Photo: US Navy)

The first U.S. Navy P-8A was dispatched on Saturday as part of the U.S. Navy’s Southern Command. The U.S. military’s Southern Command (SOUTHCOM) conducts combined U.S. military operations in the Caribbean, Central American and South American theatre.

A second P-8A aircraft was added to the search on Sunday. The two U.S. Navy P-8As join a large number of search aircraft and ships from several nations already on station in the southern Atlantic conducting the urgent search. The two P-8A Poseidons flew from a deployment at El Salvador’s Comalapa Air Base to Bahia Blanca, Argentina to support the search and rescue effort. The aircraft are temporarily based in El Salvador in support of ongoing anti-narcotics operations.

On Nov. 19, the Argentine Navy released details about the rescue efforts and search area.

The U.S. Navy also announced on Sunday that it has deployed unmanned underwater vehicles (UUV) to join in the search for the A.R.A. San Juan. The additional search equipment includes one Bluefin 12D (Deep) Unmanned Underwater Vehicle (UUV) and three Iver 580 UUVs. These remotely-operated mini-subs are operated by the U.S. Navy’s recently-established Unmanned Undersea Vehicle Squadron 1, based in Keyport, Washington.

Both types of UUVs are capable of deploying quickly and searching wide areas using Side-Scan Sonar, a system that is used to efficiently create an image of large areas of the sea floor. The Bluefin 12D is capable of conducting search operations at 3 knots (3.5 mph) at a maximum operating depth of almost 1,500 feet for up to 15 hours, while the Iver 580s can operate at a depth of up to 325 feet, traveling at 2.5 knots (2.8 mph) for up to 5 hours.

U.S. Air Force C-17s and C-5s from Travis Air Force Base, Calif. and Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, airlift equipment from Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, Calif. to Comodoro Rivadavia, Argentina. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Ronald Gutridge)

There is also a NASA P-3 research aircraft currently supporting the ongoing search efforts over the submarine’s last known location.

A NASA P-3 Orion was diverted north from Antarctica to help coordinate the search for A.R.A. San Juan. (Photo: NASA)

Radar tracks show the NASA P-3 (N426NA) aircraft was diverted north from Antarctica to join the search on Nov. 19. At the time of writing the aircraft has returned to its usual task and is no longer involved in the search.

NASA P-3 supported the search and rescue efforts on Nov. 19.

Also on Sunday, the Royal Navy told England’s Daily Telegraph that the elite Submarine Parachute Assistance Group (SPAG) was flying to the region to join the hunt. The specialized rescue team is famous for their capability to parachute into the sea from search aircraft to join a submarine search and rescue, although that capability is unlikely to be employed during this search and rescue mission. Members of the team include specially trained medics, engineers and undersea escape specialists. The team is on notice to respond to a submarine emergency anywhere in the world in hours. For this operation, the SPAG team will operate from the Royal Navy’s HMS Protector (A163), a modern, specially designed ice patrol ship built in 2001 and already on station in search area.

A member of the Royal Navy’s Submarine Parachute Assistance Group (SPAG) in a demonstration. (Photo: Royal Navy)

On Sunday, additional assets from California and Hawaii, as well as other local nations, have been dispatched to scan the sea floor for in the search and rescue effort.

As hours tick by the search effort becomes increasingly urgent. Dr. Robert Farley, a lecturer at the University of Kentucky was quoted by the BBC World News as saying, “The outer range [of survival] appears to be ten days if they were well prepared.” On Wednesday, the search effort enters its seventh day. At least the weather is better than before and it should help a bit in the hunt.

During the last few days there have been several false alarms:

  • Seven failed satellite calls made to naval bases on Saturday turned out to come from another phone
  • Noise (resembling bangs on the sub’s wall in Morse code) picked up by a sonar was found not to have come from the missing vessel
  • White flares reported on Tuesday, were most probably not fired by the missing submarine

 

Ironically, the very same characteristics that make the submarine A.R.A. San Juan (S-42) so effective also make it difficult to find in a search effort. The San Juan is a stealthy diesel-electric submarine that is extremely quiet underwater and gives off few detectable emissions, especially if some of its systems may be disabled.

An anti-submarine warfare expert and former U.S. Navy submariner told TheAviationist.com that it is “Like trying to find a hole in the water”.

The current search area for the missing A.R.A. San Juan. (Argentine Navy)

Is Star Wars Canyon, America’s Plane Spotting Jewel, At Risk Of Overuse?

We Visited “Jedi Transition” to Learn If the Best Low-Flying Area in the U.S. Is in Danger.

It is the African big game safari, the Mt. Everest and the Louvre of plane spotting: the “Jedi Transition.” Located in the western United States on the edge of Death Valley and the southern outskirts of the Nellis Range, home of Area 51. It is America’s best place to see combat aircraft training for their dangerous low-level infiltration role.

But is the Jedi Transition at risk of overuse and even possible closure?

The Aviationist.com visited the Jedi Transition this week to find out.

“Approaching Star Wars Canyon. West to East. Cleared hot…” crackles over our scanner from a fighter pilot dropping into the canyon as jet noise echoes up the rock walls like a speaker system announcing the arrival of our first aircraft. My skin goosebumps. The hair on my neck straightens. This is it… our first pass.

“Cleared hot…”

Today there are at least seven countries represented by at least thirty aircraft spotters from around the world in Jedi Transition. We are from England, Japan, Netherlands, Wales, Italy, the U.S. and Switzerland.

The name “Star Wars Canyon”, used interchangeably with Jedi Transition, came from the scene in the movie “Star Wars” where a flight of X-wing fighters led by Luke Skywalker negotiate an artificial canyon on the Death Star to deliver a lethal precision strike.

But Jedi Transition is not an air show. This is realistic training for combat flying. Although many current scenarios involve higher altitudes, fighter pilots still practice here to infiltrate heavily defended targets and to evade from areas protected by sophisticated air defense networks as those employed in Iran, Syria or North Korea. While electronic countermeasures help, the ability to get bombs on target and live to fight again may also depend on the white scarf, stick and rudder flying skills practiced by pilots in the Jedi Transition. This is where pilots learn to “use the force” and escape safely if needed.

Jedi Transition is also one of the few places on earth where you point your camera down to shoot combat aircraft photos (the other famous one being the Mach Loop). The aircraft actually fly beneath you through the canyon. And to say it is breathtaking is an understatement.

I have been on all seven continents, served in the military, seen flight demonstrations, training operations, exercises and simulations of every kind. I have never, ever seen anything as spectacular as aircraft transiting the Jedi Transition. It is so incredibly spectacular it is often difficult to concentrate on photography. After each pass, photographers up and down the canyon vary between excited hoots to hushed amazement as they paw the playback buttons on their Nikons and Canons then gawk in amazement at what they got.

But as spectacular as Jedi Transition is, it is also fragile. Media coverage like this article and hundreds of others along with videos on YouTube bring increasing numbers of people to the canyon in hopes of seeing fighters on combat training missions. Flying schedules in the canyon are closely guarded secrets, and there are no guarantees. Photographers and plane spotters talk of “rolling a donut” on days when the wind and huge black ravens are the only things to move through the canyon.

And then there is the threat of overuse. In one Facebook group devoted to the low-level flying areas around the world, members warn about responsible use of the area. Regulars at the Jedi Transition note that only a few months ago there were no visible trails connecting the best shooting spots along the canyon rim, but now there are visible foot paths worn into the desert cliff edge by hundreds of photographers who make the long, hot, dangerous drive every week in the hopes of catching something special.

Irresponsible visitors to the area leave trash, human waste, used toilet paper and garbage in the rocks along the canyon rim. And those people, still the minority among the primarily responsible and respectful photographers who visit the canyon, threaten the area for everyone.

But on a good day the Jedi Transition is maybe the best aircraft spotting and photography location on earth, and that is what keeps the crowds coming.

A classic Jedi Transition capture of a Navy EA-18G Growler banking hard the canyon exit. (Photo: Tom Demerly/TheAviationist)

My co-reporter Jan Mack and I made the drive to the Jedi Transition in eastern California from Nellis AFB where after covering the Aviation Nation Air and Space Expo at Nellis AFB. It was a tough, dark, 187-mile trip on empty roads with few gas stations and long waits for emergency services if anything went wrong. This is one of the most remote areas in the United States. Jedi Transition is just along the southern border of the Nellis Range, a secretive, restricted military operational area where live weapons testing is done and opposing forces aircraft are secretly flown. This is the home of the nation’s biggest secrets.

Leaving Las Vegas at 3:00 AM, we took the advice of ace aviation journalists and photographers Mr. Julian Shen, Carl Wrightson and many others. We met Mr. Shen on top of the Budweiser photo platform at Aviation Nation, where he and his associates gave us important intel on how to get to the Jedi Transition, how to find it in the remote desert (there are no signs) and how to get the best photos. When we asked them about the chances of getting some good fly-throughs of the area the answer was universal, “Nothing is guaranteed”. We could spend a total of ten hours driving through dangerous, remote areas, sit in the desert for hours more and see nothing at all.

Or we could see something incredible. And that is the draw. As it turned out, we were luckier than we ever imagined possible.

To make the drive from Las Vegas to Jedi Transition you need a paper map of the area since most GPS systems on cell phones, including ours, do not work in Death Valley. There is no cell phone service whatsoever in the area. We prepared a paper map with checkpoints drawn onto it in advance. Remember, you will be reading the map in the dark- and it is very, very dark in Death Valley. We used red-light headlights to preserve our night vision both on the long drive in from Las Vegas and to orient ourselves once we arrived as the sun came up.

Jedi Transition is in a National Park, so be alert for animal crossings. We spotted these friendly donkeys just before sunrise.

Buy fuel on the drive from Las Vegas at every opportunity. Consider a half tank as “bingo fuel” during the trip since a road closure, accident or emergency could force a detour of over a hundred miles. There is gas at the base of the climb into the canyon area at Panamint Springs. Keep an eye on your temperature gauge during the summer as this is one of the hottest places in the world and you will be driving up steep gradients. Be sure your brakes are functional too, descents are fast and twisting with steep drop-offs. Keep an eye open for herds of wild donkeys crossing the road as you leave the remote block-long town of Beatty at the southeastern edge of the Nevada National Security Site Nuclear Waste Repository.

Carry a paper map in the Jedi Transition since GPS on cell phones is not available most times.

Bring at least two liters of water per person to the canyon for the day. The closest store is at the base of the canyon, the Panamint Springs Resort, along Highway 190, the only road there is. The diner is excellent, the pizza is great. Ask for Morgan, the waitress, but hurry. She is leaving soon for a trip to Antarctica. There is a convenience store in the gas station next door for replenishing drinks and snacks.

Use sunscreen and a hat. Since the terrain is rocky and there are snakes and scorpions, especially during the summer, long pants and long sleeves are recommended. Remember that there are wild temperatures swings in the desert, from the 20’s at night to among the hottest places on earth, regularly over 105-degrees Fahrenheit, during the day.

Many photographers wait for the next fast jet pass.

We brought two camera bodies each, a 150-600mm zoom lens and several wide-angle lenses for landscapes. The aircraft in the canyon are close, so you are often shooting between 150mm and 250mm in focal length with the aircraft filling your screen. Planes move through canyon quickly, and you generally get one pass per aircraft, so practice your panning, double check your settings and be ready.

Arriving at Jedi Transition you quickly begin to understand the concerns surrounding preservation of the area. The parking areas are small and fill early. There is a larger parking area at the west end of the area called Father Crowley Vista. This is near the entrance for tactical aircraft to the training area as they fly west to east. There are additional turn-offs along the road shoulder for parking a few vehicles before you reach Father Crowley Vista to the east, but these fill early. Nearly the entire parking area was filled shortly after sunrise. We parked in one of these easterly areas at the road shoulder as the sun came up.

To get to the photo locations you will have to carefully cross the road. There are no marked pedestrian crossings. The road is winding here and sight distance is limited. Traffic coming through the area, especially after sunrise, will not expect to see people crossing the road, so use caution.

There are now distinct trails worn into the rocky terrain adjacent to each parking pull-off. Use the trails to minimize impact on the area and avoid getting lost, which would be difficult since it’s a short walk. You walk nearly due north about two-tenths of a mile to the canyon rim. From there the canyon drops off steeply into the ravine below. The most commonly used photo locations are along this ridge.

Perhaps the only problem with the most frequently used locations on the south rim is that everyone’s photos look the same. That said, having your own shots from the Jedi Transition is a trophy on any day, even if they do look similar to what the other photographers got spread out along the canyon rim from the same day.

A guide to the lower section of the canyon. A through F are the most used photography spots.

Use caution at the edge of the canyon rim. Rain and wind loosen even large boulders. The one you choose to lean against, stand or sit on could dislodge and roll into the canyon below. That we know of, there has never been a photographer rescued from the canyon. It is critical we all work to maintain that safety record. If there is an increase in injuries to photographers in the area from falls, rock slides, snake bites or exposure, the U.S. Park Service will likely restrict access to the canyon rim for photographers, or at least regulate and patrol it more strictly.

Aircraft often make a high pass over the canyon to orient themselves and conduct a visual confirmation of conditions and traffic before transitioning to low altitude for entry into the training area.

Observers and photographers with a scanner can set their frequencies to 315.9 for the R-2508 Low Level Training Area, the Jedi Transition, according to the official Air Force briefing from 31 March, 2016 published on the edwards.af.mil website in .pdf format. You will hear radio traffic as the pilots check into the area. Pilots often refer to “entering point Juliet” as the initiation of their run through the canyon.

The official U.S. Air Force guide to the Jedi Transition.

We also had one aircraft, a Navy F/A-18, make repeated passes over the canyon, but not drop into the canyon. He performed an impressive “show of force” pass over us and a roll pulling up, off the canyon rim, before departing.

On the day we visited, aircraft began flying over the canyon at 10:35AM local. We saw an F/A-18 and two A-10s transit the area from east to west at approximately 7,000 feet. At 10:56 AM we picked up radio traffic announcing their drop into the canyon. Pilot transmissions were brief and business-like. The aircraft were visible making the turn to the west of our locations and were easy to hear in advance coming up the canyon. The jet noise changes distinctly once the planes drop down into the canyon, echoing off the canyon walls.

The A-10s from Davis-Monthan AFB passed through the canyon stunningly low. It was easy to see the pilots looking at us as we stood on the rim, in some cases waving as we shot photos of them. Their pass was spectacular.

A navy F/A-18 followed them. Then, throughout the day, we had a succession of EA-18G Growlers, F/A-18s and the A-10s from the first fly through as our first opportunity. The A-10s only made one transit.

An F/A-18F exiting the canyon.

Jedi Transition is not an air show. It is something far better. Rarer, more exclusive, more fleeting and exotic. This is big game hunting for aviation photographers. There is risk, and there are no guarantees. It is also a potentially endangered resource that needs to be preserved and respected by the photographers who visit it. But on a good day, Jedi is incredible.

The authors Tom Demerly and Jan Mack at Panamint Spring Resort at the bottom of Jedi Transition.

The canyon settles thick with sprawling silence in the long wait between aircraft. Photographers whisper about rumors of aircraft departures at Nellis, China Lake, Creech, Miramar and others. Frequencies on scanners are checked, and nervous photographers stand up from their folding camp chairs to stretch, set their cameras and practice panning along the canyon wall one more time. Hours pass.

Then that one radio call:

“Point Juliet, Jedi Transition. One pass. West to east…”

Here’s 2017 West Coast Strike Fighter Ball Video: No ATFLIR and No Gun Camera Footage. And It’s Probably Not By Accident.

This year’s West Coast Strike Fighter Ball Video does not feature the “real ops” stuff: bombs, ATFLIR footage, and aerial “gun camera” clips. It seems that someone was not happy when a recent cruise video included footage of a Syrian Su-22 being shot down by a Hornet….

“Hornet Ball” and “Rhino Ball” are the names of a famous yearly compilation of videos produced by LT Joseph “C-Rock” Stephens, an Instructor WSO with the VFA-122 Flying Eagles.

The “Ball” series is made of clips from squadrons based on the West Coast (as well as the 4 forward deployed squadrons in Japan) during their daily activities at home or deployed in support of real operations, such as Operation Inherent Resolve (OIR) against ISIS in Syria and Iraq. Here you have the links to the previous editions: Rhino Ball 2016; Hornet Ball 2015; Hornet Ball 2014; Hornet Ball 2013.

This year’s edition has been dubbed “Strike Fighter Ball” as NAS Lemoore, along with the “legacy” F/A-18A-D Hornets and F/A-18E/F Super Hornets,  has started operating the F-35C Lightning II “Joint Strike Fighter” with the VFA-125 Rough Riders since Jan. 25, 2017.

Whilst the 2017 video remains extremely cool (and funny, considered the arcade game theme) with cats/traps, air-to-air merges, low levels, fly-bys, aerial refueling etc., it appears to be a bit watered-down: whereas previous years videos featured plenty of bomb, ATFLIR (Advanced Targeting Forward Looking Infra Red) pod, HUD (Head Up Display) and Gun Camera footage, this year’s compilation has just some AIM-9X Sidewinder and AGM-88 HARM (High-speed Anti-Radiation Missile) shots.

Indeed, according to multiple sources, the U.S. Navy was not too happy when the VFA-31 Tomcatters release their 2017 OIR cruise video that included footage of the aerial engagement between an F/A-18E Super Hornet belonging to the VFA-87 “Golden Warriors” and a Syrian Su-22 (that ended with the Fitter being shot down by an AIM-120 AMRAAM missile near Raqqa, Syria), filmed with an ATFLIR pod.

In order to prevent some sensitive footage from leaking to the public, the Navy has probably decided to put the kibosh on all footage taken on theater…

Anyway, enjoy!

Watch An Iranian F-4E Phantom Do A Roll Near A U.S. Navy F/A-18E Super Hornet During A Close Encounter

An Iranian Phantom performs what loosely reminds a Top Gun stunt while “intercepting” an American Super Hornet.

We don’t know when nor where this was filmed, still the footage, reportedly shot from an Iranian Phantom’s WSO (Weapons Systems Officer) seems genuine. It allegedly shows a U.S. Navy F/A-18E Super Hornet shadowed by an IRIAF (Islamic Republic of Iran Air Force) F-4E Phantom during a close encounter occurred somewhere over the Middle East.

The clip shows the American multirole aircraft starting a left turn and the Iranian F-4 performing a displacement roll most probably to keep the Super Hornet in sight: a maneuver that vaguely reminds the one performed in a famous scene of Top Gun.

According to some sources, the rear cockpit of the aircraft filming the “Rhino” (as the Super Hornet is dubbed in the U.S. Navy – yes, the F-4 was nicknamed Rhino because of its aggressive look but the Super Bug community “stole” it) appears to be too large for a Phantom suggesting it might be an F-14 Tomcat…

Close encounters in international airspace off Iran as well as over Iraq and Syria (where the Iranian F-4s have operated) occur quite frequently. Some funny anecdotes have emerged following these intercepts.

In 2012, two Sukhoi Su-25 jets of the IRGC (the Army of the Guardians of the Islamic Revolution) attempted to shoot down an American MQ-1 flying a routine surveillance flight in international airspace some 16 miles off Iran. Although the interception of the unmanned aircraft failed, the Pentagon decided to escort the drones involved in ISR (intelligence surveillance reconnaissance) missions with fighter jets (F-18 Hornets from aircraft carriers operating in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility or F-22 Raptors deployed to Al Dhafra in the UAE). Few months later, in March 2013, a flight of two IRIAF F-4s attempted to intercept a U.S. MQ-1 drone flying in international airspace off Iran: one of the two Phantom jets came within about 16 miles from the UAV but broke off pursuit after an F-22 Raptor providing HVAAE (High Value Air Asset Escort) flew under their the F-4 “to check out their weapons load without them knowing that he was there, and then pulled up on their left wing and then called them and said “you really ought to go home.”

Most of times, such close encounters are uneventful; however, earlier this year, a Syrian Su-22 Fitter was shot down by a U.S. Navy F/A-18E belonging to the VFA-87 “Golden Warriors” and piloted by Lt. Cmdr. Michael “Mob” Tremel,” 40 km to the southwest of Raqqa, Syria. The Syrian jet had just conducted an air strike on the anti-regime Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) aligned with the U.S. led Coalition.

Anyway, take a look at the clip. Provided the video is not doctored, where did this close encounter took place?

Let us know.



H/T our friend @winstoncdn for the heads-up

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