Tag Archives: United States Air Force

Chemtrails, missiles, meteorites or falling stars? None of them. Simply some F-15s trailing a tanker during a Coronet East mission

Next time you see a scene like that depicted in the following images please don’t be scared. It’s neither chemtrails, nor missiles, nor meteorites or something like that.

Most probably, it’s just a flight of combat planes trailing a tanker during a Coronet mission.

Usually, Coronet East or West missions are ferry flights across the Atlantic or Pacific Ocean of aircraft, either deploying to a forward operating base or returning home at the end of a tour of duty, or on delivery to a customer (a non-US air force).

These missions are supported by one or more tankers (flying along with the receivers or launched from overseas bases) that provide the fuel the fighters need to reach their final destination. Large formations are always split into two or more section (of 5 – 6 elements), with a supporting tanker each.

The pictures in this article, taken by Gian Luca Onnis, depict a KC-10 accompanying a flight of six F-15s over Sardinia island in the Mediterranean Sea on Mar. 21, 2012.

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Photo: MC-12W spyplane specialized in "find, fix, and finish" bad guys at its Red Flag debut

Red Flag 12-3, that took place at Nellis AFB, Nevada, from Feb. 27 to Mar. 16 saw the first ever use of the MC-12W ISR (Intelligence Surveillance Reconnaissance) plane in the exercise.

Belonging to the 489th Reconnaissance Squadron of Beale AFB, California, (activated on Aug. 26, 2011) the MC-12s took part to the Red Flag supporting ground forces in simulated “permissive ops” scenarios, in which air threats were limited, according to the information officially released by the U.S. Air Force.

The MC-12, first fielded in 2009, is a highly modified Hawker Beechcraft 350 and 350ER with a SIGINT (SIGnal INTelligence) console and sensors capable to intercept enemy communication, fuselage bulges containing beyond the line of sight comms equipment, and a Wescam MX-15 camera that can supply live video feeds to troops on the ground. The crew includes two pilots, a sensors operator and a cryptologist who analyzes the data collected by the plane during its 6-hr missions.

Even if this was their first Red Flag, MC-12 crews have already flown several thousand missions in Iraq and Afghanistan, where their main purpose has been tracking high-value and time-sensitive targets, including people (Taliban leaders and commanders, insurgents, terrorists and other bad guys), as well as provide tactical intelligence and airborne command and control for air-to-ground operations.

Although they can stay airborne as long as drones, these planes are considered extremely valuable because, being manned, they can be flown more effectively and safely than robots in bad weather conditions.

The following pictures were taken at Nellis by The Aviationist’s contributor Tony Lovelock.


KC-767 boom operator’s stereoscopic vision goggles: introducing the Remote Vision System

As already explained in the previous post about the KC-767, unlike all the previous boom-equipped tankers, the NextGen Tanker uses an adveniristic remote boom operator’s station located behind the cockpit.

Whereas, in the KC-135, the “boomer” (as the operator is nicknamed) is prone and moves the flying boom in the receptacle watching the receiver through a rear observation window, in the KC-767 and future KC-46 that will replace the KC-135E in the U.S. Air Force, the operators, move the boom using a joystick and watching the video from a series of cameras mounted on the tanker’s fuselage.

The advanced camera system feeds a Remote Vision System (RVS) that provides high-definition stereoscopic imagery to the vision goggles attached to a sort-of flight helmet worn by the boomer during the air-to-air refueling.

Below, the images taken on board the Italian Air Force KC-767 belonging to the 14° Stormo, based at Pratica di Mare, during an aerial refueling mission on Mar. 16, 2012.


A brand new, combat-proven, next generation tanker: on board Italy’s Boeing KC-767A

Although based on a quite mature civil airliner, the brand new KC-767 is a revolutionary type of aerial refueler. Indeed, in the KC-46 variant, it will be used by the U.S. Air Force as the NextGen Tanker to replace the KC-135E Stratotanker.

The aircraft, equipped with both the sixth generation flying boom (based on the one of the American KC-10), and three hose and drogue stations, is be able to refuel both aircraft equipped with onboard receptacle and those with a refueling probe.

The Italian Air Force, that presented the new aircraft to the media on Mar. 16, has received 4 such (long awaited) planes, used for strategic transportation (of both materials and weapons) and air-to-air refueling (AAR), whereas a MEDEVAC (Medical Evacuation) capability will be developed in the future.

The aircraft is operated by the 14° Stormo (Wing) based at Pratica di Mare airbase, near Rome, and has already achieved the IOC (Initial Operational Capability) in both the Full Cargo, Combi and Full Pax configurations, with the FOC (Final Operational Capability) in all the current roles expected by the end of the year.

However, in May 2011, few weeks after being delivered, the KC-767 had its “baptism of fire” in Libya, boosting NATO’s AAR capability by supporting Italian Eurofighter, Tornado IDS and ECR, and AMX involved in Operation Unified Protector.

left observation

With the help of the RSV (Reparto Sperimentale Volo – Italian Test Wing), the new tanker has already been qualified with all the tactical airplanes (“tacair”) of the Italian Air Force that use the hose and drogue system, and it has also conducted “buddy operations” using the flying boom to refuel another KC-767A. Qualification with foreign planes will be conducted in the near future, even if no roadmap has been defined yet.

Unlike all the previous boom-equipped tankers, the KC-767 uses an adveniristic remote boom operator’s station located behind the cockpit where boom operators, operate both the hoses and the flying boom by means of joysticks and images from a series of cameras mounted on the aircraft’s fuselage.

“With the KC-767, the Italian Air Force has acquired new capabilities that bring the service to the same level as the most advanced air forces of the world” Gen. Tiziano Tosi, chief of the Comando Squadra Aerea (Operational Forces Command), said.

“The new tanker integrates all the other solutions adopted by the Air Force to give all the Defense assets a high degree of mobility, needed to cope with the tasks undertaken by the country as part of coalitions within international scenarios” Tosi said, who explained that “the new fleet is an effective strategic solution to ensure quick and frequent movement of forces over long distances with significant payloads.”

In order to train in the same way it operates “in theatre”, the Italian Air Force is studying the possibility to keep one of its KC-767 in flight for several hours each day (or at least whenever some training flight is in progress) to give all the tacair planes involved in the daily sorties the opportunity to refuel as they would if they were involved in a real operation.

“Train as you fight, fight as you train”.

All the pictures in this article were taken by the author during the media presentation at Pratica di Mare and the AAR sortie inside the D-84 area, in the southern Tyrrhenian sea to refuel two Tornado IDSs, two AMXs and two Eurofighter Typhoons.


For the real aviation geek: F-22s, F-15s and B-2s filmed "in action" during Red Flag. From the ground. With audio.

Clear skies, contrails, a radio receiver tuned on the boomfreq, three KC-135 tankers and a lot of thisty receivers taking part to the Red Flag exercise. These are the things that make the following one of the geekiest videos I’ve seen recently.

Filmed from the ground by Paul Raguse from a spot located about 11 miles West of Caliente, Nevada, along Highway 93 on Mar. 9, 2012, the video shows two tankers equipped with the flying boom and one with the hose and drogue system refueling F-22s, F-15s, F-18s.

With a nice finale: the transit of a high flying B-2 stealth bomber.