Posts tagged ‘aerospace’

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

FRIDAY FOTO (November 11, 2022)

INTO THE STORM.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Nolan Pennington) Click on the photo to enlarge the image.

Sailors assigned to the newest U.S. aircraft carrier, the USS Gerald R. Ford, prepare for flight operations while transiting through a storm on October 18, 2022.

The Gerald R. Ford Carrier Strike Group (CSG) joined six NATO allies for exercise Silent Wolverine in the Eastern Atlantic Ocean on November 8, 2022. Exercise participants include Canada, Denmark, Germany, France, the Netherlands, Spain, as well as the United States.

“Silent Wolverine demonstrates our commitment to deepening interoperability with our allies and partners, while testing the advanced, cutting-edge warfighting capabilities of the Ford-class aircraft carrier in a highly relevant operational environment,” says Admiral Stuart Munsch, the commander of U.S. Naval Forces Europe and Africa. Munsch also heads Allied Joint Force Command Naples.

The Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78), the first of the eponymous Ford-class, is an advanced carrier incorporating 23 new technologies demonstrating significant advances in propulsion, power generation, ordnance handling, and aircraft launch systems. The Ford-class aircraft carrier generates an increased aircraft launch and recovery capability with a 20 percent smaller crew than the 10 Nimitz-class aircraft carriers. The Silent Wolverine deployment will test Ford’s operational readiness and future ability to support the requirements of combatant commands, like European Command (EUCOM) and Africa Command (AFRICOM).

The Ford strike group includes the Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Normandy (CG 60), and Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyers USS McFaul (DDG 74), and USS Thomas Hudner (DDG 116). The Ford strike group is conducting its first deployment to the U.S. European Command area of responsibility.

The U.S. Navy increased its presence in European waters late last year when Russia began massing troops on Ukraine’s border, even before the February 24 invasion of Ukraine.

November 11, 2022 at 9:52 pm Leave a comment

FRIDAY FOTO (November 4, 2022)

Rocky Mountain High.

(U.S. Army National Guard photo by Sergeant 1st Class Zach Sheely) Click on photo to enlarge the image.

An LUH-72 Lakota helicopter flies above mountainous terrain near Gypsum, Colorado on October 16, 2022. Gypsum is home of the Colorado National Guard’s High-altitude Army National Guard Aviation Training Site, or HAATS.

Run by full-time Colorado Army National Guard pilots, HAATS caters to rotory-wing military pilots from all over the world, including Slovenia, Norway, Denmark, the Netherlands, Germany and the Republic of Georgia.

During the week-long course, pilots spend one day training in the classroom — learning the intricacies of power management in high-altitude mountainous terrain. On the other four days, they fly in and around the jagged peaks of the Rocky Mountains, at altitudes ranging from 6,500 feet at the airport to 14,000 feet.

“They teach hoist operations, how to land in small areas, how to operate at altitude, and how to take advantage of the winds and terrain to get more performance out of your helicopter than you might normally be able to,” said Army General Daniel Hokanson, chief of the National Guard Bureau, during a recent visit to the school. Hokanson is also the Army Guard’s senior aviator.

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November being National American Indian Heritage Month, it’s worth noting that since the late 1940s, many U.S. Army helicopter models have been named for Native American tribes or nations. They range from the very large Boeing CH-47 Chinook heavy-lift transport helicopter to the smaller Bell OH-58 Kiowa armed reconnaissance helicopter.

Other helos carrying Native American names include the Boeing AH-64 Apache attack helicopter, the Hughes OH-6 Cayuse light observation/utility helicopter and the  Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawk medium-lift utility helicopter, named for a Sauk war leader who resisted the forced removal of Midwest Indian tribes to lands across the Mississippi River.

Even the venerable Bell UH-1 utility chopper of Vietnam War fame — nicknamed the “Huey” because its original Army designation was HU-1 — was officially known as the Iroquois.

November 3, 2022 at 11:58 pm Leave a 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

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

ROBOTS, DROIDS & DRONES: Taiwan Military Shoots Down Drone; U.S. Navy Thwarts Iran Seagoing Drone Capture; Micro Drones for Ukraine

UPDATE: Updates with Taiwan shooting drone

DEFENSE

Taiwan Shoots Down Unidentified Drone

Taiwan says it shot down an unidentified civilian drone Thursday (September 1) in restricted airspace over one of its islands just a few kilometers from mainland China.

The drone was spotted above Lion Islet in the Kinmen County grouping of islands controlled by Taiwan about two and half miles (4 kilometers) from the city of Xiamen, China. Taiwan’s Ministry of National Defense said the drone was shot down after warning flares failed to drive it away, CNN reported.

Unidentified drones have been reported in the area for four days in a row but Thursday’s incident was the first time one was shot down by Taiwan. Two days earlier, (Tuesday, August 30), Taiwanese soldiers shot flares at three unidentified drones that flew near Kinmen and fired warning shots at one that re-entered the area.

It is not clear who was flying the drones. China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said it was “not aware of the situation” and that it was “pointless for (Taiwan) to exaggerate the tension.”

On Friday (September 2), Taiwan Premier Su Tseng-chang said the drone shoot-down was the most “appropriate” thing to do after repeated warnings. Su added that China should exercise restraint, Reuters reported.

Speaking to reporters, Su said Taiwan had repeatedly issued warnings and “asked them not to encroach on our doorstep.”

Chinese forces have been exercising near Taiwan since early August, following the visit to Taipei, Taiwan’s capital by U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi — which infuriated Beijing. China views democratically-governed Taiwan as its own territory, despite the strong objections of the government in Taipei.

At least two videos of recent drone trips have circulated widely on Chinese social media, in one of which Taiwanese soldiers were seen throwing stones at the craft.

Su said the videos were made for China’s “propaganda at home,” adding to the anger of Taiwan’s people. China’s foreign ministry dismissed Taiwan’s complaints about drones as nothing “to make a fuss about.”

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Iranian Attempt to Grab U.S. Seagoing Drone Foiled

The U.S. Navy says it prevented an Iranian ship from capturing one of the 5th Fleet’s unmanned surface vessels in international waters of the Arabian Gulf on the night of August 29-30.

U.S. sailors observed an Iranian vessel, identified as the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy (IRGCN) support ship Shahid Baziar towing a Saildrone Explorer unmanned surface vessel (USV) in an attempt to detain it. The Navy patrol coastal ship USS Thunderbolt and MH-60S Sea Hawk launched from Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 26 in Bahrain responded.

Screenshot of a video showing support ship Shahid Baziar, left, from Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy unlawfully towing a  small Saildrone Explorer unmanned surface vessel (USV) in international waters of the Arabian Gulf as U.S. Navy patrol coastal ship USS Thunderbolt approaches in response, August 30, 2022.  (U.S. Navy photo) Note: Sensitive data on the video are blacked out.

The Iranian vessel disconnecting the towing line, releasing the seagoing drone, and departed the area approximately four hours later, without further incident.

“IRGCN’s actions were flagrant, unwarranted and inconsistent with the behavior of a professional maritime force,” said Vice Admiral Brad Cooper, commander of U.S. Naval Forces Central Command, U.S. 5th Fleet and Combined Maritime Forces. “U.S. naval forces remain vigilant and will continue to fly, sail and operate anywhere international law allows while promoting rules-based international order throughout the region.”

Nournews, an Iranian media outlet close to the country’s Supreme National Security Council, reported that the IRGC Navy “impounded” the U.S. vessel to secure safe shipping lanes and decided on its own to release it after briefing the American patrol ship about security and safe navigation, according to the Wall Street Journal, which noted more violent confrontations have recently occurred in recent weeks between U.S. forces and Iranian-backed militias. On August 15, an Iranian-backed militia in central Iraq attacked the U.S. base at al-Tanf, Syria, with two drones that were supplied by Tehran, U.S. officials say. No U.S. soldiers were hurt.

The Saildrone Explorer USV is equipped with sensors, radars and cameras for navigation and data collection. However, this technology is available commercially and does not store sensitive or classified information, the U.S. Navy said.

(U.S. Army photo by Corporal DeAndre Dawkins) Click photo to enlarge image.

Naval Forces Central Command launched the Saildrone Explorer in the Persian Gulf on January 27, following a month-long test period in the Gulf of Aqaba,. The USV is part of Task Force 59, headquartered in Bahrain, which stood up nearly a year ago to test unmanned and contractor-owned vessels in the Middle East. The goal of the task force is to have 100 unmanned platforms, belonging to the U.S. and allies, operating together by the end of 2023, USNI News reported.

Meanwhile, Austal USA and Saildrone Inc. have announced a strategic partnership to build cutting-edge, autonomous uncrewed (unmanned) surface vehicles. See story below in INDUSTRY section.

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Britain Supplying Micro Drones to Ukraine.

Target-spotting micro-drones, will be included in the next weapons package Britain will supply Unkraine, departing UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced during a surprise visit to Kyiv.

Black Hornet micro drone. (U.S. Army photo)

 

The British announcement was light on details, except for saying 850 hand-launched Black Hornet micro-drones, primarily used in urban warfare, are included in the package, Defense News reported August 24. . The micro-drones, made in Norway by American firm Teledyne FLIR, were originally developed by Norwegian company Prox Dynamics, now part of the U.S.-based sensor specialist. The company advertises the drone, which resembles a thin helicopter that can fit in the palm of a hand, for its stealthy operations as it scouts for nearby threats.

Johnson made the announcement on his third visit to Ukraine since the Russian invasion began Feb. 24. Johnson, who was forced from office in July, is effectively a caretaker prime minister while the ruling Conservative Party prepares to elect a new leader in early September.

London’s latest commitment brings the amount given in military and financial aid to more than £2.3 billion since the war began in February.

The Norwegian Defence Ministry, which partnered with Britain on the Black Hornet deal, said Oslo contributed upward of $9 million to the transaction. According to a ministry statement, Norway’s contributions to the British-led fund in support of Ukraine total roughly $41 million.

 

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INDUSTRY.

Saildrone Partners with Austal USA

Alabama-based shipbuilder Austal USA and Saildrone Inc. announced they are forming a strategic partnership to build cutting-edge, autonomous uncrewed surface vehicles.

The new partnership combines Saildrone’s uncrewed surface vehicle technology with Austal USA’s advanced manufacturing capabilities. The partnership provides the U.S. Navy and other government customers a cutting-edge solution for maritime domain awareness, hydrographic survey, and other missions requiring persistent wide area coverage, the partners said in an August 30 statement.

The partnership ensures that production of the Saildrone Surveyor will accelerate to meet the rapidly growing demand for the ground-breaking technology. The Surveyor was developed and designed by Saildrone and will be manufactured exclusively by Austal USA in Mobile, Alabama.

The Saildrone Surveyor, at 65 feet (20 meters) in length, is designed specifically for deep ocean mapping and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance applications, both above and below the surface. As with all Saildrone vehicles, the Surveyor is autonomous and uncrewed, offering extreme endurance, reliability and cost-effective operations. With its industry-leading expertise in aluminum shipbuilding, Austal USA is uniquely equipped to fabricate the Surveyor’s aluminum hulls and ensure rapid delivery to the fleet.

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Airbus Zephyr Tests Halted

Testing of Airbus’ long endurance Zephyr drone have been halted suddenly and further flight demonstrations of the solar-powered, uncrewed aircraft have been postponed until 2023, Defense News reports.

Flight tests unexpectedly concluded after completing a record 64 days aloft following an incident at Yuma Proving Ground in Arizona, according to U.S. Army Futures Command.

“Our team is working hard to gather and analyze important data following the unexpected termination of this flight,” Michael Monteleone, the director of the command’s Assured Positioning, Navigation and Timing/Space Cross-Functional Team, said in a statement.

The team launched the aircraft June 15 and it remained flying until August 18 when it “encountered events that led to its unexpected termination,” according to the command. With a wingspan of just over 82 feet and weiging less than 166 pounds, the Zephyr drone shattered its own longevity record for time spent aloft as an uncrewed aircraft system in the process.  No injuries or risk to personnel or other aircraft resulted from the incident.

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Aerovironment Acquires Planck Aerosystems

AeroVironment announced August 13 it has acquired Planck Aerosystems, a small company that develops and supplies technology enabling autonomous operations by aircraft, ground and marine vehicles and vessels.

The transaction “significantly accelerates AeroVironment’s development of advanced autonomy capabilities for the company’s unmanned aircraft systems,” the Virginia-headquartred small and medium-sized drone maker said in a statement.

Planck is a small technology company based in San Diego, California and will be acquired by AeroVironment’s Petaluma-based medium unmanned aircraft systems (MUAS) business segment to focus on integrating its flight autonomy solutions, such as ACE™ (Autonomous Control Engine), into AeroVironment’s offerings to enable safe, autonomous takeoff and landing from moving platforms on land or at sea in GPS-denied environments.

Founded in 2014, Planck has worked closely with customers from the U.S. Department of Defense, security agencies, allied governments and offshore industrials to develop customer-centric unmanned aircraft solutions. Planck’s products include embedded technologies and fully integrated unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) and leverage their deep technical expertise in UAS guidance and navigation, autonomy and artificial intelligence.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

August 31, 2022 at 11:38 pm Leave a comment

BALTIC-2-BLACK: Sweden, Finland Closer to Joining NATO; Did Russian MiGs Violate Finnish Airspace — Again?

BALTIC SEA REGION UPDATE

Updates with new link to 1949 NATO Treaty and photo of U.S. Marines training with Finnish forces recently.

Sweden, Finland and NATO

The chances of Sweden and Finland joining the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), have grown stronger with the United States becoming the 23rd member of the 30-nation defense alliance to approve the admission of the two historically non-aligned Nordic states.

In an unusual bi-partisan 95-to-1 vote on August 3, the U.S. Senate approved accession protocols to the 1949 treaty that created NATO, to admit Sweden and Finland as full members of the defense pact. Approval by all 30 current members of NATO is required for any new states to be admitted to the western defensive bloc created to counter the Soviet Union’s expansion, replacing democratic governments with totalitarian puppet regimes after World War II.

President Joe Biden signed the instruments of ratification bringing Finland and Sweden one step closer to joining the NATO alliance.

The Baltic Region. (Map: CIA World Factbook)

During the signing ceremony at the White House, Biden said Russian President Vladimir Putin “thought he could break us apart,” but “Our alliance is closer than ever, it is more united than ever, and after Finland and Sweden join we will be stronger than ever.”

The candidacies of the two prosperous Northern European nations have won ratification from more than half of the NATO member nations in the roughly three months since the two applied. It’s a purposely rapid pace meant to send a message to Russia over its six-month-old war against Ukraine’s West-looking government, according to The Associated Press (via NPR).

Finland and Sweden — increasingly disturbed by their Baltic Sea neighbor’s aggressive behavior in the region — simultaneously handed their official letters of application to join NATO on May 2022. NATO heads of state and government extended an invitation to both countries to join the Alliance at the Madrid Summit on June 29. The accession protocols for both countries were signed on July 5. The protocols must now be ratified by all Allies, according to their national procedures, according to NATO.

Seven member countries have to sign the treaty change: the Czech Republic, Greece, Hungary, Portugal, Slovakia, Spain and Turkey. For some of them, like Slovakia and Greece, ratification is only a mater of when the legislature returns to work after the summer, according to analysts at the Atlantic Council think tank. One of the last holdouts is expected to be Turkey, which accuses the two countries of being too lenient toward Kurdish rebel groups it considers to be national security threats. Turkey’s justice minister said in July month that the government had renewed requests for the extradition of terror suspects wanted by his country.

On June 28, Turkey, Sweden and Finland signed a trilateral memorandum of understanding to address security concerns raised by Turkey and lift Turkey’s veto on Finland’s and Sweden’s membership of NATO. However, in mid-July, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Turkey can still “freeze” Sweden and Finland’s NATO membership bid unless the two countries take steps that meet Ankara’s security demands. While lifting its objection to Sweden and Finland joining the alliance, Turkey warned that it would block the process if they fail to extradite suspects with links to outlawed Kurdish groups or the network of an exiled cleric accused of orchestrating a failed coup in 2016, according to The Associated Press (via the PBS News Hour).

Based on those considerations, plus how long it took recent new members like North Macedonia (21 months); Greece (8 months); and Spain (also 21 months), “we can expect something like a yearlong process (somewhere between eight and twenty months),” said Rich Outzen, a former State Department official and nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council in Turkey. He added it could be delayed until “shortly after Turkish national elections in June 2023.”

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Did Russian fighter jets violate Finnish airspace?

While Finland waits to join NATO it reported that two Russian MiG-31 fighter jets are suspected of violating Finnish airspace near the coastal city of Porvoo on the Gulf of Finland.

The jets were westbound, the defence ministry’s communications chief Kristian Vakkuri said, adding the aircraft were in Finnish airspace for two minutes.

A MiG-31 in flight over Russia, 2012 (Photo copyright by Dmitriy Pichugin via wikipedia) Please click on the photo to enlarge image.

The Finnish air force sent up “an operational flight mission” and identified the MiG-31 jets and the Border Guard launched an investigation into the violation, Aljazeera reported.

Finland, which shares a 1,300-kilometer (800-mile) eastern border with Russia, reversed decades of military non-alignment by seeking membership in the North Atlantic alliance in May, after being rattled by Moscow’s attack on Ukraine, according to Aljazeera, which has a very good map of NATO countries, Sweden, Finland and Ukraine at this link.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Defense Department has for years considered Finland to be — if not an ally, a partner nation — and conducted joint and multilateral training exercises with Finnish military units. Recently an element of the U.S. 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) conducted bilateral training with the Finnish Navy High Readiness Unit on Finland’s Russaro Island.

A member of the Finnish Navy High Readiness Unit directs his fire team during a patrol with U.S. Marines in bilateral training on Russaro Island, August 11, 2022. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Corporal Yvonna Guyette) Click on photo to enlarge.

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BALTIC-2-BLACK is an occasional 4GWAR posting on the rising tensions between Russia and the West in the regions of the Baltic Sea and the Black Sea, where former Russian satellite nations — now members of NATO — border Russian territory. Both NATO, and the United States in particular, have stepped up their presence in the region since Russia began throwing its weight around after annexing Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula in 2014. Since then, some Nordic countries have been boosting defense budgets even restoring a military draft as Russian aircraft and naval vessels have acted more aggressively in the region.

August 18, 2022 at 11:58 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

FRIDAY FOTO (June 24, 2022)

21st CENTURY GUNSLINGER.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Corporal David Intriago) Click on photo to enlarge image.

Corporal Monica Pomales, a crew chief with Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 773’s Detachment A, conducts live fire shooting drills in a UH-1Y Venom utility helicopter during exercise Gunslinger 22 at Smoky Hill Range, Kansas on June 17, 2022.

Gunslinger 22 is a joint Marine Corps exercise with the Kansas Air National Guard designed to increase aircraft control and training for potential real world contingencies. Pomales’ Venom was accompanied by an AH-1Z Viper attack helicopter and both provided close air support and deep air support to the Ground Combat Element at Smoky Hill Range.

HMLA 773 Detachment A, based in New Orleans, is part of the 4th Marine Aircraft Wing, located at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, New Jersey — a 2009 amalgamation of three military facilities in the Garden State: McGuire Air Force Base, the Army’s Fort Dix and Naval Air Engineering Station Lakehurst, once the home of the Navy’s rigid airships and non-rigid blimps.

To see more photos of this helicopter live fire drill, click here.

June 24, 2022 at 8:25 pm Leave a comment

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