Tag Archives: United States Air Force

Final Special Operations MC-130P Combat Shadow leaves European theater

Special Operation Command Europe’s transitioning from the Combat Shadow to the MC-130J Commando II.

The departure of the last MC-130P Combat Shadow, tail number 66-0215, from its home base at RAF Mildenhall,  UK, on Feb. 3, marked the final step of the convertion of the 352nd Special Operations Group to the new MC-130J Commando II.

While flown as a routine training mission, the last sortie brought the plane on a final farewell flight to all those fields that the 67th SOS was stationed at in the UK including RAF Sculthorpe, RAF Prestwick, RAF Woodbridge and RAF Alconbury.

Noteworthy, during the farewell flight the MC-130P performed an aerial refueling (AAR) with one of the 352nd SOG’s newest aircraft, a CV-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft from the 7th Special Operations Squadron.

Since the mid-1980s, the Combat Shadow took part on a wide variety of special operations across the world, including AAR, precision airdrop of personnel and equipment; and the execution of night, long-range, transportation and resupply of military forces.

Since Vietnam, the Combat Shadow has deployed for Operation Just Cause in Panama, Operation Desert Storm in Saudi Arabia and Turkey, Operation Deny Flight in Yugoslavia, Operations Restore Democracy and Uphold Democracy in Haiti, Operations Deliberate Force and Joint Endeavor in Bosnia, Operation Assured Response in Liberia, Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan, Operations Iraqi Freedom and New Dawn in Iraq and Operation Odyssey Dawn in Libya.

The first of a reported 12 MC-130J’s arrived on Jun. 7, 2013 to replace the 67th SOS (Special Operations Squadron) aging fleets of MC-130E and P tankers.

The 67th SOS primary roles are Air refuelling of SOF helicopter/tilt rotor aircraft, infiltration, exfiltration and resupply of SOF by airdrop and land.

Image credit: U.S. Air Force


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US F-16 to deploy to Poland for the next two weeks

About 150 men and 6 F-16 Viper fighter jets are going to be flying over the Polish territory for the next two weeks. The supporting C-17 transport planes and the ground crews have already arrived on Thursday, while the F-16’s are going to arrive in 32. AFB in Łask today (May 11, 2013).

As the Polish Air Force Commander, General Majewski, said, the planes from the Air National Guard 176th Tactical Fighter Squadron originating from Truax AFB in Wisconsin are going to train integration and interoperability with the Polish Jastrząb (Polish name for the F-16) planes. Additionaly the exercise will involve Su-22‘s from 21 AFB in Świdwin and MiG-29‘s from 23 AFB in Minsk Mazowiecki.

Sentry Eagle 2007

Image Credit: USAF

The aim of the exercise is to facilitate integration of pilots, ground and logistics crews. What’s more, the exercise also aims at improving the English linguistic proficiency of the Polish aviators.

On May 17, the American aviators are to be visited by the US Ambassador in Poland, Stephen Mull and by general Majewski.

Integration between PAF and USAF has already begun: a regular rotation of USAF detatchments in Poland has started this year (with Nellis AFB detatchment in Łask being the first one).

Jacek Siminski for TheAviationist

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(Finally) U.S. Air Force to add a new Helmet Mounted Cueing system to the Raptor stealth fighter

Although it is integrated in U.S. F-15C/D, F-16  Block 40 and 50 and F-18C/D/E/F, on the Eurofighter Typhoon and on several other modern planes (including the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter – with some difficulties), a modern Helmet-mounted cueing system is a feature that the F-22 Raptor lacks.

F-22 FF Nellis

There are various reasons why the pilots of the most advanced (and much troubled) air superiority fighter were not given a helmet that, by projecting aircraft’s airspeed, altitude, weapons status, aiming and symbology, provides the essential flight and weapon aiming information through line of sight imagery, enabling the aircrew to look out in any direction with all the required data always in their field of vision: (too much) confidence that capability was not needed since no opponents would get close enough to be engaged with an AIM-9X in a cone more than 80 degrees to either side of the nose of the aircraft; limited head space below the canopy; the use of missiles carried inside ventral bays whose sensor can’t provide aiming to the system until they are ejected.

And also various integration problems that brought the Air Force to cancel funding…

However, even the (almost) invincible F-22 eventually needed an advanced helmet that could make the HOBS (High Off Bore Sight) possible.

The U.S. Air Force is preparing to evaluate the Visionix Scorpion helmet-mounted cueing system (HMCS) on the F-22 Raptor.

“We absolutely hope to have the Scorpion helmet [on the Raptor],We think we’ll get into that business this summer,” said to Flight Global Col. Robert Novotny, commander of the 53rd Test and Evaluation Group (TEG), who looks into new technologies for the Air Force from Nellis Air Force Base.

The Scorpion HMCS is a paddle shaped full colour display and will give the Raptor a high off-boresight (HOBS) capability ahead of the initial installation of the AIM-9X planned for 2015 with a full upgrade to the missile in the 2017 time frame, when the fighters increment 3.2B upgrade program comes into play.


Image credit: Gentex

Novotny went on to add: “If we can get that [HMCS] in the jet, then we can get them an off-boresight heat-seeking missile like the AIM-9X.We want to get this done because we’ll bring some great capability to the pilot, as all helmets do, and give them the off-boresight later.”

The addition of the HMCS and the AIM-9X on the F-22 shows that, in the foreseeable future, the Within Visual Range scenario can be more likely and worriesome for the best American fighter plane than some Raptor fans are willing to admit.

Written with Richard Clements

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Here is why U.S. Air Force real Flying Saucer never did make it to operational service

Even if newly declassified documents concerning the U.S. flying saucer projects already made the news when they were released by the U.S. National Archives on Oct. 8, new details about round experimental aircraft were recently published by the U.S. Air Force.

Information about these Government’s UFOs were available for several years but diagrams included in the most recently disclosed documents relighted general interest in such weird flying machines whose prototypes can be found on display at the National U.S. Air Force Museum at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, and at U.S. Army Transportation Museum at Fort Eustis, Virginia.

The Avro Canada VZ-9AV Avrocar was a 5-foot tall and 18-foot wide flying saucer of the early ’50s when Canada was studying a way to develop a supersonic bomber capable of vertical take off and landing (VTOL). It was a Canadian project owned and controlled by Washington.

Although it was never implemented (because of its costs) the design concept of the prototype featuring exhaust from turbojet engines to drive a circular rotor to create a cushion of air under the aircraft, served as a testing and teaching tool.

According the Air Force the service was interested in the Avrocar for its VTOL capabilities: it could potentially hover below enemy radars and accelerate to supersonic speed to strike ground targets. The U.S. Army needed a durable and adaptable, all-terrain transport and reconnaissance aircraft to replace their light observation craft and helicopters.

Even if the circular design was believed to satisfy both service’s requirements, it was soon discovered that the flying saucer was unable to perform as predicted.

Here’s why the project was dropped:

Tests with scale models at Wright-Patterson AFB indicated the cushion of air under the Avrocar would become unstable when the aircraft passed roughly three feet off the ground. It was determined the aircraft was not incapable of reaching supersonic speeds, nor would the circular shape of the craft allow the Avrocar to have stealth capabilities. Although the aircraft did not meet the expectations of the Air Force, testing was continued to examine if a suitable model could be developed to fit the Army’s needs.

The first prototype was sent to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s Ames Research Center at Moffett Field, Calif. Wind-tunnel tests proved the aircraft had insufficient control for high speed flight and was aerodynamically unstable. Although engineers attempted to perfect the design, the project was marred with problems.


The second Avrocar prototype underwent flight tests. Project engineers discovered once the craft rose beyond three feet above the ground, it displayed uncontrollable pitch and roll motions. The lack of computer technology and design flaws required pilots to control each engine separately, making it very difficult even for two pilots to properly control.

In December 1961, project leaders discovered the Avrocar could not reach a maximum speed higher than 35 mph. This, along with the crafts other shortcomings, led them to cancel testing permanently.

Meant to operate at supersonic speed, the flying saucer could not fly as fast as a car.

Still, it’s considered a perfect concept, ahead of time. But the technology of that era wasn’t advanced enough for it.

However, research made in the ’50 can be found in many current aircraft, like the AV-8B Harrier, V-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft, F-22 Raptor and the F-35B, the first combat plane to combine STOVL (Short Take Off Vertical Landing) and stealth capabilities.

All images: U.S. Air Force

U.S. bombers to get an improved stealth weapon. Capable to destroy targets 600 miles away. Useful for Syria, North Korea, Iran or China.

The B-1B “Lancer”, known as “Bone” within the pilot community, is a multi-mission bomber, capable of carrying the largest payload of both guided and unguided weapons in the U.S. Air Force inventory.

It can accommodate up to 24 radar-evading AGM-158 Joint Air-Surface Stanfoff Missile (JASSM) in its bomb bays, twice as many as the B-52. . This GPS-guided cruise missiles with 2,250-lbs warhead, can be fired from more than 200 miles. However, the JASSM is about to be replaced, beginning next year, by a AGM-158B JASSM-ER (extended-range) that can reach a target 600 miles away.

Indeed, later this month, the 337th Test and Evaluation Squadron is scheduled to complete the final-phase of operational testing  on the  autonomous, air-to-ground, precision-guided standoff missile which shares the same stealthy characteristics of the baseline JASSM, but with an improved range.

The additional reach allows the B-1 (that are being upgraded too) to employ JASSM-ER missiles against fortified, fixed and relocateable high-valuable targets, while remaining well clear of long-range surface-to-air missiles guarding well defended airspace. As those of Syria, Iran, North Korea, China.

The new missile uses its inertial navigation and GPS (global positioning systems) to find its target, and an infrared seeker for pinpoint accuracy right before impact. Noteworthy, the weapon is reported to be extremely jamming resistant and able to operate in “contested and degraded environments”.

[Read also: Upgraded 30,000-lb Massive Ordnance Penetrator bomb ready to destroy deeply buried bunkers in Iran, Syria etc.]

Although the final live flight test will be conducted on Aug. 30 with the B-1 (that is the premier aircraft to employ the new weapon), the JASSM-ER will be capable of employment on the B-2, B-52, F-15 and F-16.

Validation of the Bones capability to successfully perform long range strike missions using the AGM-158 JASSM was tested during Exercise “Chimichanga” in April, that included missions similar to one conducted in Libya in the early stages of Operation Odyssey Dawn.

Image credit: U.S. Air Force