Friday, July 4, 2014

BREAKING: US DoD announces entire F-35 fleet grounded

Photo © Tom Harvey/Lockheed Martin

After two weeks of dancing around the G-word, the United States Department of Defense has announced the that entire fleet of Lockheed-Martin F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighters have been grounded based on initial findings from the runway fire incident involving an F-35A Conventional Take Off and Landing aircraft that occurred at Eglin Air Force Base June 23. The root cause of the incident remains under investigation, with additional inspections of F-35 engines already ordered as part of the investigation.

This latest development puts at risk preparations for the F-35's participation in international air shows in the United Kingdom, however a final decision will come early next week.

It is worth noting that the DoD news release for this was issued at 9pm U.S. Eastern Time, the evening before U.S Independence Day and subsequent long weekend.

Thanks to Aaron Mehta for the tip

Thursday, June 19, 2014

PHOTOS: USAF-RMAF mixed formation air-to-air photos at Cope Taufan

Now this is something you don't see every day. A mixed formation air-to-air photo shoot comprising of United States Air Force F-15C Eagle and F-22A Raptor alongside Royal Malaysian Air Force (RMAF) Su-30MKM Flanker, MiG-29NUB Fulcrum, F/A-18D Hornet and BAe Hawk 108 over Georgetown, Malaysia, on June 18, 2014. USAF F-15s from the 131st Fighter Squadron, 104th Fighter Wing, Barnes Air National Guard Base, Mass and F-22s from the 154th Wing, Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii sre currently in Malaysia for Exercise Cope Taufan 14, a biennial large force employment exercise taking place June 9 to 20 designed to improve U.S. and Malaysian combined readiness. (All photos U.S. Air Force by Tech. Sgt. Jason Robertson/Released)

Click on thumbnails to view high-resolution imagery

More images at DVIDS

Thursday, May 15, 2014

VIDEO: N Korean MiG-21s, MiG-23s, MiG-29s, Su-25s & Il-28 Beagles

Oh, what would I have given to be at this event with my cameras?!

This 21 minute video is more comprehensive coverage of the Korean People's Air Force (KPAF) air-to-ground inter-unit competition I blogged about a couple of days back. It has more footage of the rarely seen KPAF, including good views of North Korea's MiG-29s taxying on the ground, takeoff footage of Su-25s, MiG-21s, An-2s, MiG-23s and even the ancient Il-28/H-5 Beagle bomber (which I also covered a while back), plus helicopters such as the Mi-2 Hoplite, a quick glimpse of a Mi-4/Z-5 Hound as well as an aerial display by a Hughes 500.

There is a lot of typical North Korean propaganda footage of Kim Jong Un and KPAF personnel cheering him on etc., so if that's not your thing, be prepared to skip fairly large bits of the video. But if you like to see more of the KPAF's hardware, this video is worth it. Pity it only goes up to 480p!

Thanks to Benedict for spotting this

Monday, May 12, 2014

North Korea's VVIP Il-62, camo MiG-21bis, rocket-firing An-2s & more

North Korea's state media agency KCNA has reported that leader Kim Jong-Un has visited a Korean People's Air Force (KPAF) airbase in North Korea's Western Region to observe a KPAF inter-unit air-to-ground attack competition. Several photos were also published of the exercise, giving a rare insight into the KPAF's equipment.

Kim arrived in a specially marked Ilyushin Il-62, specially marked up for VVIP transport duties a la Air Force One.

Also shown was this KPAF MiG-23ML "Flogger-G" interceptor carrying a pair of UB-16-57UMP rocket pods capable of carrying 16 S-5 57mm unguided rockets. Note the lineup of green An-2s in the background.

And this is a rarity: A camouflaged KPAF MiG-21bis. Most of North Korea's MiG-21s are earlier generation aircraft, and left unpainted. This would presumably be one of around 30 MiG-21MF/bis surreptitiously acquired from Kazakhstan in the late 1990s.

Both the MiG-21 and MiG-23 appear to carry a marking of some sort on their starboard nose. I wish the photos were more side-on, and clearer! These, and more photos can be found at this blog (in Russian).

And a video of the event was released by KCNA (via SkyNews) as well. Included are scenes of KPAF An-2 Colts firing rockets. North Korea operates several hundred An-2s and their Chinese-built equivalent, the Y-5. In the event of war it is believed they will be tasked with special operations, inserting North Korean commandos deep inside South Korea, using their slow-speed and handling qualities to evade radar by flying at extremely low level.

Spotters badge to @combatair

Friday, May 2, 2014

PHOTO: Ukrainian Mi-24 Hind gunship with seldom-seen 23mm cannons

Associated Press/Manu Brabo. Click on thumbnail to view high-res image.

An excellent study of a Ukrainian Army Aviation Mil Mi-24 Hind helicopter gunship as it overflies a Ukrainian army column near the town of Slovyansk, eastern Ukraine, Thursday, April 24, 2014. Interestingly this Hind carries a rarely-seen flexible twin-barrel 23mm cannon in the nose of the Mi-24VP which was built in very small numbers in the late 1980s and the Mi-35M export version, as opposed to the more common four-barrel 12.7mm machine-gun or the fixed twin 30mm cannon on the starboard side of the nose.

A pair of B-8 rocket pods carrying 20 S-8 80mm unguided rockets and four tubes of the 9K114 Shturm (AT-6 Spiral) anti-tank missiles complete this helicopter's offensive loadout, while a pair of external fuel tanks are carried to increase endurance. It's not clear if this Hind is an exception, but most of the photos I've seen of Ukrainian Hinds during the current crisis lack the Artem ASO-2V-02 decoy dispensers fitted (although I've seen Ukrainian Mi-8 Hip transport helicopters carry it on their tailboom).

Two Ukrainian Hinds were shot down near the town on the morning of Friday, 2nd of May, when the Ukrainian Army attempted to dislodge pro-Russian Ukrainian rebels and Russian agitators from Slovyansk. Two pilots were killed and another captured as a result of the shootdowns, with the fate of the other crew unknown. A Ukrainian Hip helicopter was also damaged by small arms fire in today's clashes.

It is not known what weapon(s) were used to down the Hinds, but it is suspected to be shoulder-fired surface-to-air missiles such as the Russian Igla-series MANPADS (Man Portable Air Defence Systems). There have been no previous sightings of MANPADS in eastern Ukraine, but apparently the "concerned citizens" of eastern Ukraine are concerned enough to somehow acquire weapons to down helicopters with such seeming ease.

Ukraine's defence ministry has issued a news release saying both helicopters were "shot down by unknown persons" using PZRK (Perenosnoj Zenitno-Raketnyj Kompleks or literally translated from Russian, Mobile Anti-Aircraft Missile Complex) An alleged video of one of the Hind shootdowns has been uploaded onto Youtube:

Friday, April 25, 2014

Brand new Taiwanese AH-64E helicopter gunship crashes; crew injured

This photo, posted by Weibo user @YaoChyi-Tsai, shows the scene of a Republic of China (Taiwan) Army Boeing AH-64E Apache crash on the morning of 25th April. The helicopter, which was only delivered to Taiwan in December last year, crashed onto the roof of a residential building in Taoyuan county at approximately 1027 local time during a training flight, according to Taiwanese news reports.

Both crew were injured but were said to be in stable condition, and there were no immediate reports of other injuries. The Taiwanese army has said the cause of the crash is being investigated.

All I can say is: Ouch!

UPDATE (0530 GMT): The serial number of the crashed AH-64E is 808. Preliminary reports indicate the aircraft was returning to base following a training flight when it crashed following "loss of power". Taiwan's remaining 17 Apaches have been grounded as a precautionary measure. Taiwan has ordered 30 AH-64Es, with twelve of the aircraft yet to be delivered.

The photo below shows the serial of the crashed Apache and a photo of the same aircraft with Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou during the handover ceremony.

UPDATE (1130 GMT): The pilots of board have been named as Captain Chen Lung-chien and trainee pilot Liu Ming-hui. Captain Chen has been quoted as saying the crash happened during poor visibility. Vehicle dash-cam footage of the crash has also appeared on Youtube. Right place, right time.

© AFP/Sam Yeh

© AFP/Sam Yeh

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

VIDEO: VFA-27 Royal Maces F/A-18Es; China's J-15 Flying Shark

A couple of military aviation videos that have been making the rounds the past couple of days:

The Royal Maces of Naval Fighter Attack Squadron (VFA) 27 present the teaser to their full-length 2013-2014 cruise video: "Shoot 'Em If You Got 'Em" - which is packed with more than 27 minutes of high-flying and fast-action. It will be made available at the NAF Atsugi Spring Festival, May 3rd. VFA-27 are one of four F/A-18E/F Super Hornet squadron forward deployed to Naval Air Facility Atsugi, Japan with Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 5 on board the USS George Washington (CVN-73).

Meanwhile, China's state-owned military aircraft manufacturer Aviation Industry Corporation of China (AVIC) has also released a promotional video called “Flying Sharks,” featuring the Shenyang J-15 aircraft, China's own carrierborne multirole fighter. Not as slick as the VFA-27 video, but it does give an insight on how far Chinese naval aviation has come. I do wish they'd cut out the (very) fake looking CGI bits though.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Republic of Singapore Air Force unveils Exercise Hot Shot unit flagships

The Republic of Singapore Air Force has unveiled specially marked flagships for each of its five fighter fighter squadrons taking part in the RSAF's exercise Hot Shot 2014. Ex Hot Shot is a competition held by the RSAF's Air Combat Command for its fighter Squadrons to go head to head with one another to bag the title of Best Overall Squadron.

Over the week, the RSAF's will aircrew put their capabilities to the test through a series of challenging air-to-air and air-to-ground tasks. Flight line crew also competed in precision marshalling, aircraft generation and weapons loading.

This year's Hot Shot is held, as usual, at Tengah Airbase in Singapore's west. Detachments of the RSAF's F-16D+, F-15SG and F-5S/T taking part in the exercise will join the two resident F-16C/D units at Tengah to take part in the exercise. If previous years exercises are a guide, the rest of the aircraft at Hot Shot will also carry special markings for the exercise, albeit more subdued compared to that carried by the respective squadron flagships.

The markings look really good, and here's hoping the RSAF squadrons heading Down Under for Exercise Pitch Black and/or Wallaby this year will bring along their Hot Shot flagship. Please?

From left to right, top to bottom: F-16C, 140 Sqn. F-16D, 143 Sqn. F-5S, 144 Sqn. F-16D+, 145 Sqn. F-15SG, 149 Sqn (All photos © Singapore Ministry of Defence/Republic of Singapore Air Force)

Click on thumbnails for higher-res imagery

Friday, March 28, 2014

PHOTO: Republic Of Korea AF C-130J-30 Super Hercules inflight

Lockheed-Martin photo. Click on thumbnail for hi-res image

A photo released by Lockheed-Martin shows a C-130J-30 Super Hercules of the Republic of Korea Air Force (RoKAF) in flight. The first two RoKAF C-130J-30s have been delivered, making the Republic of Korea the 14th country to fly the C-130J. The ROKAF has ordered four C-130J-30s, which are the longer fuselage or “stretched” combat delivery variant, and all aircraft are expected to be delivered this year.

The RoKAF currently flies a dozen C-130H/H-30s, some of which have been assisting with the ongoing search for missing Malaysian Airlines flight MH370.

The full Lockheed-Martin press release can be found here.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Australia to search ocean the size of Ukraine for missing Malaysian 777

Royal Australian Air Force AP-3C Orion

The Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) has released details of its operation to search for missing Malaysian Airlines flight MH370, a Boeing 777 jetliner with 239 passengers and crew on board which mysteriously vanished about an hour into a Kuala Lumpur-Beijing flight on the 8th of March. Satellite data has indicated there was a possibility that MH370's last contact could be in the southern Indian Ocean in what is known as the "southern corridor". An area totalling 600,000 square kilometres (see image below provided by AMSA), or roughly the size of Ukraine - inclusive of Crimea - located 3,200 kilometres (2,000 miles) from Perth has been designated as the search zone. The search area was developed based on information made available to AMSA on Monday, and being will be refined in conjunction with other agencies.

Six aircraft have been allocated to the search; four Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) AP-3C Orion maritime patrol/anti-submarine aircraft, a Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF) P-3K2 Orion and a United States Navy (USN) P-8 Poseidon. All six aircraft are expected to reach Perth tomorrow (19th March) and it is expected that five daylight sorties will be flown on the 19th. One AP-3C has already redeployed to RAAF Base Pearce, north of Perth from the Cocos (Keeling) Island and has already flown a search sortie today with more AP-3Cs being deployed from RAAF Edinburgh in South Australia.

Back-of-envelope calculations show that the Orions will probably take about five hours to transit to/from the search area from Western Australia, which will leave them with at least two hours of fuel available to search the area. By shutting down up to two engines (see photo above of a RAAF AP-3C flying with one engine shut down), the Orions will be able to conserve fuel and extend loiter time over the search zone.

More from Greg Waldron over at Flightglobal

Friday, March 7, 2014

USAF Aggressors at Amberley for exercise with RAAF

U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Kevin J. Gruenwald

The USAF's colourful, Eielson AFB, Alaska-based Aggressors are back in Australia! Ten F-16s from the 18th Aggressor Squadron are currently at RAAF Base Amberley, Queensland for Exercise Viper Lightning till March 24th. The Aggressors will be training with the RAAF's F/A-18F Super Hornets and the Williamtown-based E-7A Wedgetail off the coast of New South Wales.

The 18th AGRS have come in from Guam earlier this week following Exercise Cope North, a multilateral exercise involving the United States, Japan and Australia.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

USMC Cobra landing accident on board USS Denver in Okinawa

The damaged Cobra on the USS Denver. Photo © The Okinawa Times

Japanese press are reporting that a U.S. Marine AH-1W Cobra helicopter gunship has been involved in a landing accident on board the Landing Platform Dock USS Denver (LPD-9) at White Beach, Okinawa. According to the Okinawa Times, the aircraft damaged its skids upon landing but fortunately settled upright on the deck of the LPD. The above photo shows the damaged helicopter in the background. The Marines have not issued a statement about the incident, and it is not known if there are any injuries.

NOTE: The aircraft would be an AH-1W from HMLA-469, a detachment which is currently rotation to Okinawa as part of the Unit Deployment Program (UDP)

h/t Yutaka

Singapore confirms A330 MRTT order; additional two S-70 Seahawks

Airbus A330 with a Portugese Air Force F-16. © Airbus

Singapore's Ministry of Defence, via it's Cyberpioneer Facebook/Twitter account, has confirmed that Singapore will acquire the Airbus A330 Multi-Role Tanker Transport and the two more S-70 Seahawks. No timeframe for delivery has been revealed, nor has the number of MRTTs being acquired been stated, but it has been reported earlier that it will be six MRTTs, while Flightglobal has reported on the additional Seahawks (reportedly fitted for Littoral missions) as far back as February last year.

Friday, February 21, 2014

VIDEO: RAAF C-130J media flight over Melbourne

The guys from Plane Crazy Down Under recently flew on board one of a pair of Royal Australian Air Force C-130J Hercules transports on a media flight over Melbourne as part of the lead up to the Centenary of Military Aviation Airshow to be held at Point Cook, Victoria in early March. This is a video report of that flight.

External Link:

Thursday, February 20, 2014

USN, JMSDF P-3 Orions damaged in hangar collapse at Atsugi

A P-3C Orion from the Japan Maritime Self Defense Force alongside a U.S Navy P-3C (US DoD Photo)

It appears Nature is on the warpath against military aircraft. A hangar roof has collapsed at a facility near Naval Air Facility Atsugi where a local contractor carries out maintenance work on P-3 Orions in Japan. It was believed that the collapse was due to the weight from snow which had fallen on it. No one was injured, but the aircraft in the hangar will have suffered varying degrees of damage.

At the time of the collapse there were 10 P-3 (and various sub-types) in the hangar. Four of the P-3s were U.S. Navy aircraft, while Japanese sources have said that the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) had 3 P-3Cs, 1 OP-3C, 1 EP-3 and 1 UP-3D inside the hangar at the time of the incident.

Japanese media have released several photos (and videos) of the collapsed hangar roof, including this one of a P-3 which shows the fin tip and rudder have sustained significant damage:

A quick cross-reference with Google Earth indicates that the hangar pictured below (indicated with the yellow placemark) is the hangar in question. Located at the northeast corner of Atsugi, it is possible to see the contractor's (NIPPI) company logo painted clearly on the hangar roof when zooming in using Google Earth. Click on the thumbnail below for full-sized image.