Archive for the ‘Air’ Category

Tanker wars – finally over?

With last week’s announcement that Boeing has won the latest round of the KC-X tanker contract – the Air Force may finally be on its way to replacing the aging and overworked KC-135 fleet.

This contract has been up for debate for almost 10 years, when Boeing originally proposed to lease new 767-based tankers to the Air Force at what would be a dramatic markup over buying the aircraft outright. When the Congressional outrage and indictments died down, the Air Force had to start over, and the competition was between Boeing (US) and Airbus (Europe).

The original contract was awarded to a partnership of Northrup-Grumman and Airbus in 2008, but Boeing challenged that award and the GAO forced the bidding to be restarted in 2009.

Airbus said all of the right things. Their plan was to build their existing A330 Multi Role Tanker at a new plant outside of Mobile, AL. They were already building this same aircraft for Australia (even though there have been some hiccups in the testing – notably part of the refueling boom falling off during testing in Europe). But when the decision was announced, it turned out that Boeing had beat Airbus’ price by 10%. Which in today’s tough economic times, may have been the only thing considered.

The Air Force – in an attempt to derail any possible challenges to this latest ruling, spent an extra day debriefing Airbus on why the decision went the way it did. And so on Saturday, the word has come out that EADS (Airbus parent company) will not challenge the latest result in this contract battle.

[It should be noted, that the Boeing offering changed from what had originally been proposed back in 2001/2002, so the prototype that Boeing modified – dubbed the Frankentanker – will not be resurrected for use under the latest contract award]

 

Lockheed Martin Jet Month Sale

Its a Friday in the dog days of summer – so sit back and view this YouTube ad for Lockheed Martin’s Jet Month sale.

 

Israel has permission to overfly Saudi Arabia

It is always fun to see what stories are published on a slow summer Friday – that fly completely under the radar.

Take for example this story published by The Times on Saturday – that claims the Israeli’s have Saudi permission to overfly Saudi airspace on the way to attack Iran.

The fact that the story appears no where else – makes you wonder if it was just an early ‘test leak’ to gauge public opinion, or else just put pressure on the Iranian government to comply w/ UN Arms control directives.

 

Mig-17 Fresco blasting off




Mig-17_Fresco-7725

Originally uploaded by rob-the-org

As fewer and fewer World War 2 era airplanes are still flying – it is good to see that some ‘newer’ planes are being restored and flown on a regular basis (more than just at airshows).

This Mig is owned by a pilot in the Tucson (AZ) area and was leaving an area airport (where the Collings Foundation was visiting w/ their B-17, B-24 and P-51) under full afterburner.

(to see the other pictures of its departure – click here)

 

Quick Pima update

When I went down to Tucson last month to see the Heritage Flight rehearsal – I got down there before any flying started. So I headed over to the Pima Air & Space Museum to see what was new in the last year.

I quickly walked through the hangers and around the grounds, keeping half an eye on the air over Davis-Monthan across the street (so I wouldn’t miss too much of the Heritage flights.

If it was something that had changed since January 2009, the new picture appears on the left – and the old picture on the right. If it was something brand new, there will only be a single picture on the left. Click on any picture to go to my Flickr account for more detail on these and other pictures of these aircraft.

Convair B-36 Peacemaker (head on) B-36 Peacemaker - stripped of paint
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US Navy Leap Frogs – parachute demo team


Leap-Frogs-6432

Originally uploaded by rob-the-org

While the Thunderbirds and the Blue Angels are two of the best known Military demonstration teams, there are others teams that travel the country and show off their skills as well.

During this past weekend – the US Navy Leap Frogs parachute demonstration team jumped into selected Major League Baseball Spring Training games in the Phoenix Metro area.

The Leap Frogs are made up of SEAL’s and other Naval Special Warfare operators, and this is just another assignment/normal tour of duty.

Click here to view selected pictures from their demonstration at the Cleveland Indians game in Goodyear, AZ.

 

Answer – Name this missile


Douglas AIR-2 Genie

Originally uploaded by rob-the-org

a. Douglas AIR-2 Genie (its an unguided rocket, not a missile)
b. Air to Air, designed to shoot down incoming bomber formations
c. 1.5 kiloton nuclear warhead (how else were you expecting one rocket to take out multiple bombers)

The blue body denotes an inert/training body.

 

Air Show Rehearsal

Last year I blogged about going to an US Air Force air show. This year – as Air Show season is about to start – I was able to spend a day watching the US Air Force demo teams practice not only their routines, but also for the Heritage Flights.

Early each Spring – the US Air Force demo teams gather at Davis-Monthan AFB in Tucson, AZ to plan out how the flights will be flown, then rehearsal their routines and to actually practice the Heritage Flight formations. Heritage Flights are where front line Air Force fighters (F-15, F-16, F-22 and A-10’s) will fly formation with historic aircraft (P-51 Mustangs, P-40 Warhawk, A-1 Skyraider, F-4 Phantom).

The advantage to being at this event – is you get to see more than just one Heritage Flight formation.  I saw a P-51 Mustang, flying with two F-4 Phantom’s, and a F-16 Viper.  And then later on – it was a P-51, a F-4, a F-16 and a F-22 Raptor.

All of the pictures are available through the link to the Slideshow below.

 

Name this missile




IMG_5098

Originally uploaded by rob-the-org

I love wandering the aircraft museum’s to see where some curator has stashed a hidden gem. Walking along the rows of fighters on Saturday morning – I came across this one sitting on its trailer – already to be mounted to an aircraft.

Can you tell me;

a) Name/Designation?
b) What was it used for?
c) What was its payload/warhead?

 

E-6B TACAMO




E-6B TACAMO

Originally uploaded by Code20photog

I *think* I saw one of these yesterday afternoon.

I was waiting to board my return flight to Phoenix at Orlando (MCO), and I thought I saw one of these parked on the cargo ramp (the satcom hump on the top of the fuselage is the giveaway). Since boarding was about to start – and it was a full flight – I didn’t stop and get my camera out to snap even a crappy picture of it.

I actually had a window seat – so once I got seated I got my camera out and waiting for the plane to push back. Once we did – and I got a view of the cargo ramp – it was gone.

Let me explain a little about the E-6 Mercury. This is considered a strategic asset – in that it is responsible for relaying orders to the US Ballistic Missile Submarine fleet. Even though it is Boeing 707 airframe – it has a modern glass cockpit from the 737 next generation, and was only delivered to the Navy between 1989 and 1992.

There are 16 of these aircraft total – and at least one (and more likely two) are airborne at any time. So if you happen to see one of these outside of Offutt Air Force Base (in NE), stop what you are doing and take a picture of it.

 

Airborne Laser shoots and scores!

Last night – the US Air Force’s much maligned Airborne Laser project hit the jackpot with a successful in-flight engagement and destruction of a Scud-like ballistic missile shortly after it was launched.

In the video below, a timecode that could be used to evaluate how long the laser was on target before its destruction – is noticeably missing.

The Airborne Laser is a chemically charged laser mounted in a modified Boeing 747-400 Freighter. This was originally planned to go into Operational use, but due to cost and schedule overruns, (Defense) Secretary Gates decided last year to downgrade the project to a R&D project. Whether this successful test will change the Pentagon’s plans for this system – has yet to be seen.

It is unknown how long this test has been planned, but what is interesting is that the results of this test were publicized, while another successful test earlier this month was not (last sentence in press release). It is possible that publicizing this test was meant to show an uncooperative Middle East state that continued nuclear enrichment is not a good idea.

 

The SR-71 Blackbird




PC023-068

Originally uploaded by Lockheed Martin

I have been trying for it seems weeks to write a post to do this picture (and the Blackbird) justice, but I just haven’t had the time.

The picture dates from 1990 just after the Air Force had decided to retire the Blackbird from active service.

The current Air & Space/Smithsonian magazine included this same picture in their article about Lockheed’s famed designer Kelly Johnson where they also discussed the development of the Blackbird (but if you are a fan of the Blackbird, then you know that lots of books have already been written about its development and past glories).

 

Inside Whiteman AFB, home of the B-2


Northrup B-2 Stealth Bomber

Originally uploaded by rob-the-org

I came across two articles on-line from the week before last this morning. Both were written by a British journalist who got permission to visit Whiteman AFB – the home of the B-2 ‘Spirit’ Stealth Bomber.

Here is the article that got published – Daily Mail [http://www.mailonsunday.co.uk/home/moslive/article-1241116/Britains-new-bomber-command-The-2bn-aircraft-aiming-world-peace.html] and the overflow material that was published in the journalist’s blog [http://www.angusbatey.com/index.html?id=578&category=blog].

Both articles are worth reading. One of the highlights of the Daily Mail article was the too small picture of the cockpit (which basically looks like the glass cockpit in any modern airliner). The 2nd story was a closer look at the people who are involved with the B-2, including two RAF exchange pilots (one who is just joining the squadron, and one about to rotate out – and the justification for allowing a British journalist to come onto the base).

 

UAV’s in the news

Several interesting stories have been published in the last week about UAV’s (Unmanned Air Vehicles).

MSN/New York Times – Military is deluged in intelligence from drones Duh – I think the NSA has suffered from this for years.

AviationWeek/Ares – Caught on Film: UCAS Taxi Test (UCAS is Northrup-Grumman’s X-47 which is being designed to work from the Navy’s Carrier’s)

Combat Aircraft/MilitaryPhotos.net – RQ-170 Clear Daylight Photo (the RQ-170 is the UAV that was nicknamed ‘the Beast of Khandhar’)

If all of this doesn’t show that we are inevitably moving towards the an unmanned air force – I don’t know what will.

 

NAF El Centro

Last month I was part of a photography group trip to the Naval Air Facility in El Centro, California. NAF El Centro is a training field – and doesn’t have any aircraft or squadron’s based at it. It provides someplace for other Navy squadron’s (or even Allied countries) to send their aircraft for training in a different environment.

We were allowed access to the LSO shack area – right on the edge of the runway (not your normal distant airport vantage point).

The slideshow link below goes to the highlights of the trip. Mainly F/A-18 Hornets (from the East and West Coast Fleet Replacement squadron’s) practicing air to ground on the ranges, but also some T-45 Goshawk’s practicing their landings.

[There were no incidents (i.e. we didn’t do anything we shouldn’t) so maybe they will let us go back again in the future]

 

Der Spiegel article on Israeli raid on Syrian “site”

A little over two years ago – Israeli jets destroyed a suspicious complex in eastern Syria, that was thought to have ties to a possible nuclear weapons program.

With all of the attention on Iran’s nuclear program – the details of this raid are still few and far between (unlike the Israeli 1981 raid on Iraq’s nuclear reactor).

The German magazine “Der Spiegel” published an article earlier this week attempting to pull together more of the details on the raid, as well as the aftermath. At first glance – it appears to be worth the time to read it.

 

Luke (AFB) – not dead … yet

Big news out of Washington at the end of last week – at least as far as Arizona is concerned. Luke AFB made the first cut – and is still in the running to be considered as the primary training base for the F-35 (Joint Strike Fighter).

Read the rest of this entry »

 

Somali Islamists claim to have shot down US drone

According to the BBC – the Somali Islamist’s have shot down a US drone of the Somali coast.

And this is exactly why a drone is supposed to go into area’s that would normally be questionable for a manned aircraft. Without a crew being killled or captured – there is little chance for a politically minded escalation.

[this story might not make CNN – because no one in the US seems to care about Somalia any more. Which will just about guarantee that this is the next global hotspot.]

 

AWACS – key to the modern Air War

Every modern airforce has Airborne Radar and Command & Control aircraft to not only direct offensive operations – but to also control their air defenses. But these aircraft are not cheap. Up until recently – only the major powers (US, NATO & Russia) could afford a fleet of these highly specialized aircraft.

The Western powers have standardized on the US Boeing E-3 Sentry (based on the Boeing 707 airliner), while the Russian’s based their AWACS on the Ilyusin IL-76 transport, refered to as the Beriev A-50 ‘Mainstay’.

RAAF 737 Wedgetail

[As technology has advanced and electronics have shrunk – Air Forces have no longer needed the size and capacity of a four engined aircraft. Newer AWACS-type aircraft are based on smaller aircraft – like the Boeing 737 pictured above undergoing shakedown tests before being delivered to the Royal Australian Air Force.]

One of the side affects of the Gulf War (I and II) was that the world saw the effect of a quality command and control system (and what happens when you don’t have one), so many countries have tried to add this capability to their own armed forces.

One of the most watched countries in the world – Iran – had recently upgraded its sole large AWACS aircraft. It was a hand me down IL-76 that originally came from Iraq (before the first Gulf War kicked off several Iraqi Air Force aircraft were ‘evacuated’ to Iran, rather than being shot down by Coalition forces), and was upgraded by the Russian’s last year.

Il-76/A-50 Mainstay

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Air Force shoots down its own Reaper

According to reports over on Ares (Aviation Week’s blog site) – the US Air Force had to shoot down one of their own Reaper’s – after communication/control over the UAV was lost and it was about to leave Afghan airspace.

I wonder whose airspace it was about to violate – when they took it out?