Posts filed under ‘Air Force’

FRIDAY FOTO (NOVEMBER 18, 2022)

BEGINNING THE NIGHT SHIFT.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Technical Sergeant Dhruv Gopinath) 

A U.S. Air Force pilot  performs preflight checks on an F-15E Strike Eagle prior to night flying exercises at Royal Air Force Lakenheath, England on November 9, 2022.

An array of avionics and electronics systems gives the  F-15E has the capability to fight at low altitude, day or night and in all weather.

The pilot is assigned to the 492nd Fighter Squadron, nicknamed “the Bolars” and “the Madhatters”, is part of the 48th Fighter Wing at RAF Lakenheath.

November 17, 2022 at 11:53 pm Leave a comment

VETERANS DAY/ARMISTICE DAY (November 11, 2022)

BIG FLAG, BIG CROWD, BIG DAY.

A previous Veteran’s Day Parade in New York City (Defense Department photo) Click on all of the photos to enlarge the images.

In late May, on Memorial Day, America remembers the honored dead, those who gave their lives in this country’s wars since 1775.

On Veteran’s Day every November, Americans honor the living who served or continue to serve in uniform. November 11 is the anniversary of the armistice that ended World War I – the “War to End All Wars” in 1918. Unfortunately, history has proven that was an overly optimistic term for what turned out to be just the First World War.

Crowd in Philadelphia celebrates first word of peace on November 11, 1918. (Photo: Library of Philadelphia via Wikipedia)

In November 1919, President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed November 11 as the first commemoration of Armistice Day with the following words: “To us in America, the reflections of Armistice Day will be filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country’s service and with gratitude for the victory, both because of the thing from which it has freed us and because of the opportunity it has given America to show her sympathy with peace and justice in the councils of the nations…”

The original concept for the celebration was for a day observed with parades and public meetings and a brief suspension of business beginning at 11:00 a.m.

On May 13, 1938, Congress made the 11th of November in each year a legal holiday—a day to be dedicated to the cause of world peace and to be thereafter celebrated and known as “Armistice Day,” primarily a day set aside to honor veterans of World War I. But veterans of World War II and the Korean War urged Congress to change the holiday’s name to recognize their service. And on June, 1954 Congress amended the 1938 law, replacing “Armistice” with “Veterans” and making November 11th a day to honor American veterans of all wars, according to the U.S. Veterans Administration.

After years of bloodshed in the 20th and early 21st centuries, we’d like to pause and remember the sacrifice of all those who serve their country in both war and peace. Even far from a combat zone, many of them have risky jobs on aircraft carrier decks, in fast moving Humvees and high flying aircraft. There is hard work, as well as danger, in airplane hangars and ships at sea. Depots and warehouses are stuffed with equipment and supplies that, improperly stored or transported, can blow up, burn, sicken or maim the humans working nearby.

It’s also a time to reflect on the sacrifices of veterans’ families who, like the people in the photos below, suffer the absence of a loved one for months — or longer.

Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Yvette Knoepke is greeted by family members at Naval Air Station Whidbey Island, Washington, after returning from a six-month deployment, October 2, 2022. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Jacquelin Frost)

 

An Air Force captain reunites with his family at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, North Carolina on October 15, 2022, after an overseas deployment (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Kevin Holloway)

 

A sailor assigned to the USS Harry S. Truman greets family upon returning to Naval Station Norfolk, Virginia September 12, 2022 from deployment overseas with the U.S. 5th and  6th Fleets. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Nathan T. Beard)

November 11, 2022 at 6:19 pm 1 comment

FRIDAY FOTO (October 28, 2022)

OUT OF THE PAST.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Adam Bowles) Click on photo to enlarge image.

A World War II-era P-51D Mustang and an Air Force F-22 Raptor participate in a traditional “Heritage Flight” during the 2022 Marine Corps Air Station Miramar Air Show over San Diego, California on September 24, 2022.

Manufactured by North American Aviation, the Mustang was among the best and most well-known fighter aircraft flown by the U.S. Army Air Forces during World War II. The P-51 operated primarily as a long-range escort fighter and also as a ground attack fighter-bomber. Mustangs served in nearly every combat zone during WWII, and later fought in the Korean War.

In December 1943 the first P-51B/C Mustangs entered combat in Europe with the 354th Fighter Group. By the time of the first U.S. heavy bomber strike against Berlin in March 1944, the USAAF was fielding about 175 P-51B/C Mustangs, according to the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force.

The new P-51D incorporated several improvements, including a new “bubble-top” canopy to improved the pilot’s vision. It had a top speed of  437 miles per hour — thanks to a 1,95-horsepower, Packard Rolls Royce Merlin V-1650-7 engine, according to the National World War II Museum. Nearly 8,000 P-51Ds were built, making it the most numerous variant. The P-51D arrived in quantity in Europe in the spring of 1944, becoming the USAAF’s primary long range escort fighter. By the end of the war, Mustangs had destroyed 4,950 enemy aircraft in the air, more than any other USAAF fighter in Europe.

P-51Ds arrived in the Pacific and China-Burma-India theaters by the end of 1944.  Iwo Jima-based P-51Ds started flying long-range B-29 escort and low-level fighter-bomber missions against Japan in the spring of 1945. Mustangs also saw service in the Korean War until they were replaced by jet aircraft.  Production of the last variant, the P-51H, ended in 1946. More than 15,000 Mustangs of all types were built.

Lockheed Martin’s F-22 Raptor, a stealthy air supremacy aircraft, is considered the first 5th-generation fighter in the U.S. Air Force inventory, The F-22 Raptor possesses a sophisticated sensor suite allowing the pilot to track, identify, shoot and kill air-to-air threats before being detected, according to the Military.com website.

Powered by two Pratt & Whitney F119-PW-100 turbofan engines, the Raptor can reach speeds twice the speed of sound (Mach 2), says an Air Force fact sheet. Lockheed Martin built most of the F-22’s airframe and weapons systems and conducted final assembly, while Boeing provided the wings, avionics integration and training systems. The Raptor formally entered service in December 2005 as the F-22A.

The Air Force originally planned to buy more than 700 of the Raptors, but with the cost per plane reaching $143 million, the program was cut to 187 operational aircraft in 2009. Another factor cited for the shift was a lack of air-to-air missions for the F-22 due to the focus on counterinsurgency operations. The last F-22 was delivered in 2012. Congress banned foreign sales to protect stealth and other classified technologies.

The newest U.S. 5th generation fighter is the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II. There are now more than 400 flying in three variants with the U.S. Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps. The total fleet will number more than 1,000. Fifteen U.S. allies and partners, including Australia, Britain, Finland, Israel, Japan Norway, Poland and South Korea, have purchased or plan to buy F-35s.

October 28, 2022 at 12:28 am Leave a comment

FRIDAY FOTO (October 7, 2022)

MEET “VENOM”

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Kayla Christenson) Click on photo to enlarge image.

An F-16 Fighting Falcon — part of the Viper Demonstration Team from Shaw Air Force Base in South Carolina — lines up with a KC-135 Stratotanker for aerial refueling 0n September 29, 2022.

Air Combat Command’s Viper Demonstration Team (VDT) performs precision aerial maneuvers to demonstrate the unique capabilities of the F-16 multi-role fighter at about 20 air shows annually.

One of the most versatile aircraft in the U.S. Air Force inventory, the F-16 Fighting Falcon has been the mainstay of the Air Force aerial combat fleet. With over 1,000 F-16s in service, the platform has been adapted to complete a number of missions, including air-to-air fighting, ground attack and electronic warfare, according to Military.com.

Introduced in 2020 with its unique snake scales livery across the body of the aircraft  the F-16 in this photo, named “Venom” carries the VDT’s signature black and yellow colors — including yellow snake eyes — from nose to tail.

October 7, 2022 at 3:15 pm Leave a comment

WORLD WAR CV: COVID-19 Vaccination Remains a Difficult Issue for the Sea Services

GETTING TO THE JAB.

On August 24th 2021, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin determined that requiring COVID-19 vaccination for all members of the military was necessary to protect the force and maintain readiness to defend the American people.

In the year since Austin made vaccination mandatory with President Joe Biden’s approval, the vast majority of people in uniform — nearly 2 million — have gotten fully vaccinated. As of September 7, the latest Defense Department COVID-19 statistics, 1 million, 996 thousand service members have been fully vaccinated, including 909, 699 in r the Army, 387,535 in the Navy, 200,532 in the Marine Corps and 498,541 for the Air Force and Space Force combined. More than 28,000 are considered partially vaccinated — meaning those who have received at least one dose of a two-dose COVID-19 vaccine series.

Hospital Corpsman 3rd Class Henry Beaty administers a COVID-19 booster shot aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Kearsarge on March 23, 2022. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Jesse Schwab)

However, thousands more either refused to get the jab or sought administrative or religious exemption to the vaccination requirement. While hundreds have been granted administrative exemption from vaccination, but just a few have received religious accommodation. That has led led to several lawsuits.

Almost 5,000 Sailors and Marines have been separated from the sea services since late 2021 for vaccination refusal. The Navy has received 4,251 requests for religious accommodation, the Marines 3,733. Less than 100 have been approved. However, a federal judge in Texas certified a class action by Sailors, mostly Navy SEALS, seeking a religious exemption and issued a preliminary injunction March 30, halting separation for members of the class. A similar injunction was issued against the Marine Corps on August 18 by a federal judge in Florida.

Meanwhile, seven cadets at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy who refused to comply with the military’s COVID-19 vaccination mandate were dis-enrolled and ordered off the school’s New London, Connecticut campus in late August, SEAPOWER reported. Although a part of the Department of Homeland Security, the Coast Guard announced a vaccination mandate for service members on August 26th, 2021. By law, the Coast Guard operates under the Defense Department as part of the Department of the Navy when war is declared and Congress directs the shift, or when the President directs the Coast Guard to switch from Homeland Security to Defense.

Fifteen cadets filed medical exemption or religious accommodation requests in September 2021. They were evaluated on a case-by-case basis by the Coast Guard’s Office of Military Personnel Policy and denied. After a series of appeals and further denials, four cadets chose vaccination. Four others resigned from the Academy and the remaining seven were removed from the school for “violation of the Uniform Code of Military Justice” for not obeying orders. For more details click here to see the SEAPOWER report by your 4GWAR editor, who is also a correspondent for the magazine and its website.

On a final note, the Defense Department announced Aug. 29 a new COVID-19 vaccine, Novavax, will be available as an option at military clinics. Officials hope Novavax, which is approved by the Food and Drug Administration under an emergency use authorization (EUA) for individuals 12 years of age and older, may be more acceptable to the thousands of troops who have refused the Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines for religious or moral reasons.

Novavax uses technology that has been used in other vaccines required by the military, like hepatitis B vaccine. Novavax is not made with, or tested on, cells from fetal tissue. It does not use mRNA or DNA technology and does not enter the nucleus of cells, Pentagon officials said.

September 13, 2022 at 1:03 am Leave a comment

FRIDAY FOTO (September 9, 2022)

BOUND FOR UKRAINE.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Matt Porter)

Senior Airman Natasha Mundt, 14th Airlift Squadron loadmaster, and other airmen assigned to the 305th Aerial Port squadron, load Guided Multiple Launch Rocket System munitions to a C-17 Globemaster III cargo aircraft at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst in New Jersey on  August 13, 2022.

The munitions cargo is part of an additional security assistance package for Ukraine. The security assistance the U.S. is providing to Ukraine is enabling critical success on the battlefield against the Russian invading force.

On Thursday, September 8, the Pentagon announced another authorization of security assistance valued at up to $675 million to meet Ukraine’s critical security and defense needs. This authorization is the Biden Administration’s twentieth drawdown of equipment from Defense Department inventories for Ukraine since August 2021.

Weaponry and other equipment includes more ammunition for the High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS) that have been playing havoc with Russian facilities — including ammo dumps and command centers — behind the front lines, as this CBS News piece illustrates.

Also going to Ukraine will be: Four 105mm Howitzers and 36,000 105mm artillery rounds; additional High-speed Anti-radiation missiles (HARM) that destroy enemy radar-equipped air defense systems; 100 Armored High-Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicles (HMMWV); 1.5 million rounds of small arms ammunition; more than 5,000 anti-armor systems; 1,000 155mm rounds of Remote Anti-Armor Mine (RAAM) Systems; 50 armored medical treatment vehicles; plus additional grenade launchers, small arms, night vision devices and other field equipment.

Additionally, the U.S. State Department notified Congress it intends to make $2 billion available in long-term investments in Foreign Military Financing. One billion to bolster Ukraine’s security and the other $1 billion for 18 of Ukraine’s regional neighbors.

To date, the United States has committed approximately $15.2 billion in security assistance to Ukraine since January 2021. Since 2014, when Russia illegally annexed Ukrainian territory in Crimea and eastern Ukraine, the United States has committed more than $17.2 billion in security assistance — and more than $14.5 billion since the beginning of Russia’s unprovoked and brutal invasion on February 24.

September 8, 2022 at 11:57 pm 2 comments

FRIDAY FOTO (August 19, 2022)

OUT OF THE DARK.

(U.S. Air National Guard photo by Technical Sergeant Brigette Waltermire) Click on the photo to enlarge image.

U.S. Air Force pilots conduct nighttime training operations aboard an MC-130J Commando II aircraft, flying over the United Kingdom (Britain) on August 3, 2022.

As you might surmise from its name, the Commando II flies clandestine, or low visibility missions that include low-level flights to infiltrate special operators/commandos in, or out (exfiltrate) of politically sensitive or hostile territories. Other MC-130J capabilities include resupplying special operations forces by airdrop or air landing, and air refueling of special ops helicopters and tiltrotor aircraft.

The aircraft shown above is part of the 352d Special Operations Wing. Based at RAF Mildenhall, England,  the 352nd SOW includes — not only special aircraft like the MC-130Js and pilots — but special operators with tasks like Pararescue, Special Reconnaissance and Tactical Air Control. They have can-do mottoes like “Any sky, any field, anywhere” and “Day or night – we take flight.”

The Commando II primarily flies missions at night to reduce the probability of being spotted and intercepted. The nighttime training mission shown in the photo included three airdrops, an emergency recovery simulation, air-to-air refueling and low-visibility special tactics.

August 19, 2022 at 5:07 pm Leave a comment

FRIDAY FOTO (July 15, 2022)

BIG NEW DRONE.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Samuel King Jr.) Click on the photo to enlarge image.

Team members secure batteries to the LIFT Hexa aircraft’s motors before its first flight at Duke auxiliary airfield near Eglin Air Force Base in Florida, the U.S. Air Force announced July 14, 2022.

The LIFT Hexa, an electric, vertical takeoff and landing aircraft, or eVTOL, completed its flight test via remote control. The aircraft, which used 18 motors and propellers, flew for approximately 10 minutes and reached a height of about 50 feet.

The test was an important first step toward the incorporating the Hexa into operations at a controlled military airfield.  Duke Field is located North of Eglin’s main base. This flight was completed by Hexa 09, one of two aircraft stationed at Duke Field. Hexa 05 was used for the first test flight at Eglin in April.

The 413th Flight Test Squadron, the Air Force’s rotary wing developmental test experts, has partnered with AFWERX, the innovation arm of the Air Force and its Agility Prime program, to advance eVTOL test and experimentation.

July 14, 2022 at 11:30 pm Leave a comment

ROBOTS, DROIDS & DRONES: Navy Unmanned/Autonomy Competition; France Wants Switchblade

DEFENSE.

Navy Readying Unmanned/Autonomy Competition

The U.S. Navy plans an industry competition for a key contract related to its autonomy software development efforts,the  Breaking Defense reports, adding that the anticipated contract will secure a vital iole for the winning company in many of the Navy’s upcoming unmanned vehicle programs.

The Navy is developing “a myriad of unmanned vessels and needs to streamline the process of making sure each drone will be capable of working in conjunction with one another. To do this, the unmanned systems office, known internally in the Navy as PMS 406, has been spearheading several projects that collectively aim to unify different software delivered by any given company,” according to Breaking Defense’s Justin Katz.

The Sea Hunter medium displacement unmanned surface vessel launches from Naval Base Point Loma for the U.S. Pacific Fleet’s Unmanned Systems Integrated Battle Problem 21 (UxS IBP 21) on April 20, 2021. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Thomas Gooley)

The contract has been dubbed the Autonomy Baseline Manager, and the service’s unmanned systems program office expects to publish a solicitation for the role in the coming months, according to Navy spokesman Alan Baribeau. A five year-contract for the selected company is scheduled to be awarded in summer 2023.

*** *** **

Large U.S. Navy Drones.

The U.S. Navy’s last deployed RQ-4A Global Hawk Broad-Area Maritime Surveillance – Demonstrator (BAMS-D) unmanned aerial vehicle, has returned from the Middle East, culminating a 13-year span of operations that began as a six-month experiment.

BAMS-D, which has been operational since 2009, (NORTHROP GRUMMAN photo)

According to Naval Air Systems Command, the RQ-4A returned to its home base, Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Maryland, from the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility on June 17.

The Navy had deployed the RQ-4A to Southwest Asia since 2009 as a component of the BAMS-D program, SEAPOWER magazine reported. Five Block 10 RQ-4As were acquired from the U.S. Air Force and were based at Patuxent River Naval Air Station and operated in sequence over the years by detachments of Patrol Reconnaissance Wings 5, 2, and 11. The detachment kept at least one RQ-4A in the rotation to a base in the Persian Gulf region. One was lost in a mishap in Maryland in June 2012. Another was shot down June 19, 2019, in an unprovoked attack in international airspace over the Strait of Hormuz by an Iranian surface-to-air missile.

BAMS-D provided more than 50% of maritime intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance in theater accruing over 42,500 flight hours in 2,069 overseas missions, the Navy said.

Meanwhile, the Navy has ordered two more MQ-4C Triton high-altitude, long-endurance unmanned aerial vehicles from Northrop Grumman.

The Naval Air Systems Command, Patuxent River, Maryland, awarded Northrop Grumman Systems a $248.2 million contract modification to procure two MQ-4Cs as an addition to Lot 5 low-rate initial production. The contract modification follows two other contracts awarded in June to Northrop Grumman for the Triton program, SEAPOWER reported.

The MQ-4C’s IFC-4 is designed to bring an enhanced multi-mission sensor capability as part of the Navy’s Maritime Intelligence, Surveillance, Reconnaissance and Targeting transition plan. The Triton in the IFC-4 configuration is designed to complement the Navy’s P-8A Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft and eventually will enable the Navy to retire its EP-3E Orion electronic reconnaissance aircraft. The initial operational capability for the Triton will be declared in 2023 when IFC-4-configured Tritons are deployed in enough quantity to field one complete orbit.

*** *** ***

Tax-Free Pay for Drone Operators?

U.S. service members who fly remotely piloted aircraft or operate their surveillance and targeting sensors don’t qualify for untaxed income because they largely wage war from installations in the continental U.S. rather than in combat zones like Iraq or Somalia.

But Senators Jacky Rosen of Nevada,  Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee and Representative Steven Horsford, also of Nevada want to fix that, according to Military Times. Legislation proposed by the trio would give military drone crews the same tax-free combat pay as deployed troops.

Drone crews would be eligible for untaxed income if they fly missions anywhere within a combat zone approved by the Pentagon, from the Sinai Peninsula to Kosovo to the Arabian Peninsula, according to the Internal Revenue Service. Their annual salaries, and how much they are taxed, vary by state and federal tax brackets, grade and training.

On top of their monthly income and housing and subsistence allowances, these troops already receive an untaxed flight stipend that is separate from combat pay. That monthly combat stipend would become available, tax-free, to the RPA community if the legislation is signed into law.

*** *** ***

INDUSTRY.

General Atomics’ Maritime Drone Tests for RIMPAC

General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. completed a series of flight tests of an MQ-9B Sea Guardian unmanned aircraft system equipped with electronic intelligence, communications intelligence and Link 16 payloads in preparation for the Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) 2022 exercise.

GA-ASI_MQ-9B_SeaGuardian, (General Atomics photo)

The sensors were integrated onto GA-ASI’s maritime version of the MQ-9B SkyGuardian Unmanned Aircraft System, which will be featured at RIMPAC, the world’s largest international maritime exercise involving more than 40 ships and 150 aircraft from 27 partner nations. The 2022 exercise will take place from late June to early August in Hawaii and Southern California.

The Electronic Intelligence (ELINT) payload on SeaGuardian is supplied by Sierra Nevada Corporation and the Communications Intelligence (COMINT) payload is made by L3Harris Technologies.

The MQ-9B line of unmanned air systems has advanced maritime Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) capability, featuring a multi-mode maritime surface-search radar with Inverse Synthetic Aperture Radar imaging mode, an Automatic Identification System (AIS) receiver, Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) capabilities, and a High-Definition, Full-Motion Video sensor equipped with optical and infrared cameras.

*** *** ***

France Wants U.S. Kamikaze Drone.

The French Army has started the process of quickly procuring American-made loitering munitions as part of a longer-term effort to field remotely operated weapon systems, Defense News reported from Paris.

The service is looking to add AeroVironment’s Switchblade to its inventory within the next six months, Colonel Arnaud Goujon, the Army’s chief of plans, told reporters at the Eurosatory defense expo, which was held last week outside Paris.

Launching a Switchblade UAV. (Photo courtesy of AeroVironment )

In a Tuesday email to Defense News, the French Armed Forces Ministry confirmed the country is in the process of launching a Foreign Military Sales request “for the acquisition of Switchblade remote-operated ammunition.”

The Pentagon in April announced plans to supply the Switchblade munition to Ukraine as part of military aid provided to the European country since Russian invaded it in late February.

June 23, 2022 at 11:59 pm Leave a comment

FRIDAY FOTO (June 17, 2022)

LET IT SNOW — INDOORS.

(U.S. Air Force photo by William Higdon)

The U.S. Air Force can make it snow, indoors, in May — in Florida!

Team members at the McKinley Climatic Laboratory (MCL) at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, use machines to create snow in the MCL Main Chamber on May 26, 2022 to prepare for environmental testing. The MCL recently celebrated its 75th anniversary.

The first tests at the MCL occurred in May 1947. In the 75 years since, the unique capabilities available at the MCL have allowed a variety of climatic testing for the Defense Department, other government agencies and private industry. From arctic freeze to blazing heat and desert sand to jungle humidity, any climatic environment in the world can be simulated in the facility.

When it first began operations, the MCL was part of the U.S. Army Air Forces. This component was soon separated from the Army and became its own military branch when the Air Force was founded on September 18, 1947.

Before the MCL was created, there was the Cold Weather Test Detachment stationed at Ladd Field in Fairbanks, Alaska. The Army Air Force designated that site as a cold-weather testing facility in 1940.

The MCL is operated by the 717th Test Squadron, 804th Test Group, Arnold Engineering Development Complex.

June 16, 2022 at 11:52 pm Leave a comment

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