A decorated former US F-16 pilot says he would fly fighter jets for Ukraine: "You can count on me," he told a VoA interview.

Retired Lt. Col. Dan "Two Dogs" Hampton discussed whether the Ukraine military should hire private pilots to help defeat Russia in a VoA interview. Photograph of former US Air Force pilot Dan Hampton.Dan Hampton Facebook page A decorated former US Air Force pilot said he would fly fighter jets for Ukraine if necessary. Retired Lt. Col. Dan "Two Dogs" Hampton discussed the potential of the US F-16 in the war over Ukraine. "I'll even go myself, you can count on me,"  the retired lieutenant colonel told a VoA interview. Dan Hampton, a retired lieutenant colonel known as the US Air Force's "deadliest F-16 pilot," said he was ready to fly planes for the Ukraine military himself if necessary in an interview with Voices of America.The highly decorated pilot, known as "Two Dogs," spent 20 years in the Air Force, fought in the Persian Gulf, Kosovo, and Iraq wars, and is a New York Times bestselling author for his memoirs from his time in the military. Speaking from a base in Arizona, Hampton discussed his thoughts in the long-form interview on training F-16 pilots to fight in the Ukraine war, the advantages of using the jets, and whether the Ukraine government should hire private pilots as the war continues into its second year. —Anton Gerashchenko (@Gerashchenko_en) March 16, 2023 The F-16, a US single-seat fighter jet, is in the news after President Joe Biden recently said he would not supply the planes to Ukraine for the time being. Both Democratic and Republican Senators, however, have pushed the Pentagon to send the jets that "could prove to be a game changer on the battlefield," per Politico. Earlier this week, Poland became the first NATO country to confirm it would send MiG-29 fighters to Ukraine."No one has ever won a war from the air," Hampton asserted, "You can't win a war from the air, but you can lose a war if you don't control the airspace," he told VoA, which the US government helps fund. A US Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcon aircraftUS Air Force photo by Senior Airman Taylor CrulHampton told the interviewer the Ukrainian government could hire private contractors who already know how to fly F-16s, which "buys you time" and "helps you win the war.""I'll even go myself. You can count on me," Hampton said.Retired Lt. Col. Hampton, 58, flew 151 sorties in his distinguished career between 1986-2006. He is the most decorated flyer since the Vietnam War, according to VoA, winning the Purple Heart, four Distinguished Flying Crosses for extraordinary heroism, and eight " Air Medals" of the US Air Force for valor during combat operations in the air.The retired lieutenant colonel reiterated his commitment to the Ukrainian cause after explaining he thought it would be faster to send pilots who know how to fly rather than "sending Ukrainian pilots to the US and sending them to a training program." Russia's Su-35 fighter is "junk," says the former pilotTwo Ukrainian pilots were recently sent to Arizona, according to NBC News, for US authorities to determine how long it would take to train them to fly the jets, as well as to improve their skills. Calling Russia's invasion of Ukraine a "black and white" issue of "good versus evil," Hampton said he hoped that "governments that can provide these services should.""I will even go myself," he repeated, "I will be number one. You can count on me."A Russian Su-35 downed by Ukrainian forces in the Kharkiv region, April 3, 2022.Press service of the Ukrainian Armed Forces General Staff/Handout via REUTERSHampton also compared F-16 planes – a multirole fighter that can attack air-to-ground and air-to-air –  to the Russian Su-35 jets, saying the Russian model being used in the war "looks good at air shows" but that they are, in his opinion, "junk."Meanwhile, a US Air Force official said that fighter jets were "worthless" over Ukraine earlier this week because both sides of the conflict have mastered long-range missile defense, Insider previously reported.Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: topSource: businessinsiderMar 18th, 2023

Ukraine"s air force is now allowing foreigners to sign up as pilots as it pushes for Western fighter jets

Ukraine's air force said it will likely need international specialists if shipments of new Western combat aircraft start to arrive. This photograph taken on February 24, 2023, shows inside the cabin of a Ukrainian Mi-17 helicopter in Eastern Ukraine.ANATOLII STEPANOV/AFP via Getty Images Ukraine's Air Force will now allow foreigners to serve as pilots, engineers, and specialists. Ukraine said that its air force has been inundated with offers from people willing to fight Russia. It said it has enough pilots for now but will need specialists if Western combat aircraft arrive. Ukraine's Air Force said it will now allow foreigners to serve as pilots and engineering specialists, with a spokesperson stressing the fact that Ukraine will likely need international recruits if and when it starts to receive Western combat aircraft.Yurii Ihnat, a spokesperson for the commander of Ukraine's air force, said in a statement Thursday that foreign citizens will be able to join if they have suitable military training."If they have a military occupation such as a pilot or aviation engineer, then these people can legally become servicemen of the Armed Forces of Ukraine," he said.The spokesperson said that Ukraine is not currently lacking pilots because it is operating Soviet-era aviation equipment, but added that a need for specialists might increase if it receives the new combat aircraft it desires."If we have F-16 or other types of equipment, then maybe [foreigners] will appear," Ihnat said. "Because the experience of people who have long been working with this equipment will be needed even for briefings."Ihnat said that the air force had been inundated with offers from people willing to help since Russia's invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, with some of these volunteers being from other countries.He noted that the Ukrainian army already has foreigners serving in certain military units, including an International Legion of foreign soldiers.Ukraine has been pushing its allies to send it advanced military aircraft.NATO members Poland and Slovakia have already begun sending Ukraine MiG-29 jets, which are Soviet-era designs, but Ukraine is seeking modern Western jets such as the US-made F-16s.Despite bipartisan calls in the US for President Joe Biden's administration to send F-16s, Biden himself said on February 24 that Ukraine "doesn't need F-16s now."Insider's Christopher Woody reported on March 22 that using F-16s has certain requirements which could prove challenging for Ukraine to meet. He also wrote that acquiring the jets, training the pilots and engineers to use and maintain them, and transferring them to Ukraine could take up to two years.Serhii Holubtsov, chief of aviation of Ukraine's Air Force, however, told The Times of London that Ukrainian fighter pilots would be ready to fly F-16 jets after fewer than six months of training.Retired Lt. Col. Dan "Two Dogs" Hampton, speaking to Voice of America, said it would be faster to send pilots who know how to fly F-16s than to send Ukrainians to a US training program — a more plausible option now that foreigners can serve.Insider's Isobel van Hagen previously reported that Hampton, who is a decorated former US F-16 pilot, said he would volunteer himself to fly F-16s for Ukraine if the US eventually decides to send them."I'll even go myself. You can count on me," Hampton said, per Voice of America.Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: topSource: businessinsiderMar 24th, 2023

Why China"s and Russia"s 5th-generation stealth jets don"t quite live up to the hype, according to a former US Navy pilot

The J-20 and Su-57 are advances for China and Russia, but they don't appear to be in "the same league" as US stealth jets, the former pilot said. A Chinese air force J-20 fighter jet at the Changchun Air Show in Jilin Province in August 2022.Fu Tian/China News Service via Getty Images Russia and China have both recently debuted new jets they say are fifth-generation fighters. Those jets have advanced features but aren't quite as advanced as US stealth jets, a former Navy pilot says. "I have too many questions on their stealth capabilities," the former pilot said in a Quora post. J-20 and Su-57: not really 5th-generation?Beijing and Moscow have increasingly close military ties, sharing hardware and technology. Each has also touted the capabilities of their respective latest jet fighters — even as some experts have continued to downplay the purported attributes.China's Chengdu J-20 'Mighty Dragon'A Chinese J-20.ReutersThe Chengdu J-20 Mighty Dragon can trace its origins back to the J-XX program of the late 1990s, which was actually a series of efforts initiated by Beijing to develop an indigenous fifth-generation fighter.It resulted in the Shenyang FC-31 and later the J-20 Mighty Dragon, but it can be questioned how original the latter aircraft actually is given that it borrowed liberally from other warbirds. This included the double-canard design from China's own J-10, an aircraft in service in China since 2005.It has been further suggested that the development of the J-20 was only made possible due to efforts by Chinese hackers to steal critical details regarding the Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor and, later, the F-35 Lightning II. The appearance and profile of the aircraft is far from the only similarities between the two fifth-generation fighters.In fact, the development of the J-20 only really began in earnest after the F-22 was unveiled. However, a copy of a fifth-generation fighter does not actually make it one.Russia's Sukhoi Su-57Russian Su-57 fighter jets.Sergei BobylevbackslashTASS via Getty ImagesMoscow has also flaunted the capabilities of its Sukhoi Su-57 (NATO reporting name "Felon") in recent years, so much so that some Russian aviation experts have suggested its capabilities exceed those of even the United State Air Force's F-22 Raptor and F-35 Lightning II.Mikhail Strelets, the chief designer and director of the Sukhoi Design Bureau, said in a 2018 interview that the Su-57 incorporates the functions of the US F-22 and F-35 fighter planes but outperforms them.The Su-57 is capable of effectively accomplishing missions to destroy both air and ground targets as compared to the US aircraft that are focused only on specific tasks, the Sukhoi chief designer added.Those sentiments were shared by Russian military expert Alexei Leonkov, who told Tass, "The Su-57 outshines them by now in terms of the amount and diversity of armament. On top of that, the latest solutions, such as the second pilot as a system that facilitates aircraft control and combat operations, a spherical all-around radar that 'sees' everything and cutting-edge electronic warfare systems aboard the Su-57 leave the U.S. rival far behind."Actually fifth-generation?A Russian Su-57 fighter jet.Associated PressThough the Chinese and Russian aircraft are likely highly capable warbirds, some US aviation experts have suggested they shouldn't rightfully be considered "fifth-generation."Of course, this does require noting that the fifth-generation label was only adopted by Lockheed Martin as a marketing term, aimed at differentiating its new stealthy F-22 and F-35 fighters from competitors including those produced by NATO allies.As reported this week, the Chinese and Russian planes fall even short of some of the capabilities that are expected with a true fifth-generation fighter. Author Dario Leone cited the insight of Adam Daymude, a former US Navy aviator."Both are twin-engined, twin-tailed. Good start. Both have canted vertical stabilizers, though the J-20 is more so. Most likely a point to the J-20. They both have blended fuselages, point to both. Now let's look at angles. On the J-20, I count at least 7. The Su-57 has at least 8 I can see. And we won't even address the front of the fuselage where the cockpit is because you'd need a supercomputer to figure out that part's stealth features. And those canards on the J-20 are a problem," Daymude wrote in a Quora thread discussing the fighters.Daymude noted that while the J-20 and Su-57 have a reduced RCS it likely isn't in "the same league as a Raptor or Battle Penguin," while he added that the engines in the respective jets fall even shorter. But he also suggested that the J-20 and Su-57 are still a big step forward — just not to the true fifth-generation."I'd put them in the gen 4.5, or maybe 5-, series of aircraft. I can't place them in 5 because I have too many questions on their stealth capabilities," Daymude concluded.A senior editor for 19FortyFive, Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer. He has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers, and websites with over 3,200 published pieces over a 20-year career in journalism. He regularly writes about military hardware, firearms history, cybersecurity, politics, and international affairs. Peter is also a contributing writer for Forbes and Clearance Jobs. You can follow him on Twitter: @PeterSuciu.Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: topSource: businessinsiderFeb 10th, 2023

The US has shot down 3 suspicious flying objects in 3 days. Here"s what we know about the UAP floating over North America.

Unidentified Anomalous Phenomena shot down over Alaska and Canada this weekend have not been officially linked to the Chinese spy balloon. Map showing the approximate locations of UAP across North America in Jan/Feb 2023Insider US fighter aircraft shot down an object threatening airspace over Alaska on Friday. F-22 pilots who saw the object said it "interfered with their sensors" and had no propulsion system. On Saturday and Sunday, additional objects were shot down over Canada and near the US border. A week after shooting down a suspected Chinese spy balloon that floated over the country, F-22 jets shot down an unidentified object threatening flights over Alaska on Friday. Reports offer conflicting details about the object's capabilities and origin, and US intelligence officials have released limited information about its design or intended purpose.Recently, Unidentified Anomalous Phenomena have been observed not just over the United States, but floating above Canada, Colombia, and Costa Rica. It's been an extraordinary week for UAPs in North AmericaIn addition to the first surveillance balloon seen over the country beginning January 31, a second balloon was spotted floating over Latin America on February 4, and two unidentified objects were shot down over Alaska and Canada on Friday and Saturday.An additional object was shot down on Sunday over Lake Huron, near the US-Canadian border, prompting a brief closure of the airspace around Michigan to "support Department of Defense activities." The Wall Street Journal reported the object, the third shot down in three days, was shaped like an octagon and hovered at an altitude of 20,000 feet.Airspace over Montana was also briefly restricted on Saturday after reports of radar anomalies in the region, the North American Aerospace Defense Command said in a statement posted to Twitter, but after an investigation, no additional object was found.US officials say China has a global operation of surveillance balloons collecting data on military bases, including the balloon downed last week, but the object shot down Friday has not been confirmed to be linked to Chinese officials — or anyone else. Here is what we know about the object shots down over the weekend.3 UAP were at an altitude that conflicted with commercial flights"I can confirm that the Department of Defense was tracking a high-altitude object over Alaska airspace in the last 24 hours," White House National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby told reporters at a Friday briefing. "The object was flying at an altitude of 40,000 feet and posed a reasonable threat to the safety of civilian flight."The balloon seen floating above the country last week hovered at around 60,000 feet, according to the Pentagon — which is well out of the general cruising altitude of commercial aircraft, which normally operate between 33,000 and 42,000 feet. Officials haven't confirmed the origin of the objectsKirby said officials first became aware of the item on Thursday night, but even after shooting it down could not confirm its origin, saying: "We do not know who owns it, whether it's state-owned or corporate-owned or privately owned. We just don't know.""If it was another Chinese spy balloon, that indicates that China is either incompetent in operating these platforms or potentially deliberately provoking the US," Michael P. Mulroy, a former Pentagon official, told The New York Times. "It is also important for the US and China to maintain direct communications during times like this. Especially between the militaries."Officials confirmed the origin of last week's Chinese surveillance balloon two days after it was first sighted. Chinese officials have acknowledged the first balloon came from their country, but maintain it was a civilian airship used mainly for "meteorological research." "We're calling this an object because that's the best description we have right now," Kirby said Friday. China has not made any claims regarding the objects shot down in Canada and Alaska, but authorities in the eastern Shandong province said Sunday they had also seen an "unidentified flying object" near the Yellow Sea and planned to shoot it down, according to China's state-affiliated tabloid, The Global Times.During a Sunday interview with ABC News, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said he had been briefed on the objects shot down on Friday and Saturday and had been told they were likely balloons."But much smaller than the first one," Schumer said, reiterating that the object's altitude could have interfered with commercial airspace, prompting the decision to bring it down immediately. "The first balloon, there was a much different rationale, which I think was the appropriate rationale. We got enormous intelligence information from surveilling the balloon as it went over the United States."Schumer did not confirm whether the objects shot down Friday or Saturday had come from China.Sailors assigned to Explosive Ordnance Disposal Group 2 recover a high-altitude surveillance balloon off the coast of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, Feb. 5, 2023.Petty Officer 1st Class Tyler ThompsonThere may be surviving evidence in the debrisOfficials are working to recover the debris from the object shot down on Friday, which landed on frozen water off the Alaskan coast near the Canadian border. CBS News reported the object was downed near Prudhoe Bay.The object shot down on Saturday was spotted in the Northern Canadian territory of Yukon. Reuters reported Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Canadian officials would recover and analyze the debris.The Yukon high-altitude object was described by Canadian Defence Minister Anita Anand as cylindrical in shape, Reuters reported, though no other details have yet been released. It is unclear if the object shot down off the Alaskan coast was of similar size or shape.The debris field in the Atlantic Ocean after the first balloon was shot down measured "15 football fields by 15 football fields," with a depth of around 50 feet, General Glen VanHerck, commander of NORAD and US Northern Command, told reporters on Monday. He added that the balloon was about 200 feet tall with a payload the size of a "jet airliner" and estimated it weighed a few thousand pounds. Schumer told ABC News on Sunday it remains unclear what intelligence China was able to gather from the balloon shot down on February 4, but the debris would be pieced back together to determine what information may have been collected."So that's a huge coup for the United States," Schumer said.Conflicting reports from pilotsPrior to shooting down the object, Kirby told reporters, the pilots of the F-22 jets that took it down circled it and determined it was unmanned and lacked the ability to maneuver midair and change its speed like previous balloons have been seen doing.He did not share additional details about the object.While official government sources are quiet on the object, others are sharing reports from the pilots who tracked it."Some of the F-22 Pilots who Tracked the Aircraft that was downed over Alaska yesterday said that it 'Interfered with their Sensors' and that 'They could see No Propulsion Systems on the Aircraft not knowing how it could possibly be staying in the Air,'" according to the public military and intelligence scanner, Open Source Intelligence Monitor.Some of the pilots, OSIM reported, did not experience interference with their systems and could not agree on a description of the object.Open Source Intelligence Monitor did not immediately respond to Insider's request for comment.CNN reported an anonymous source with knowledge of the briefing said the pilots shared conflicting observations about the object, including that it had interfered with their systems and that they could not explain how it stayed in the air.An F-22 Raptor from Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., flies over Nellis AFB, Nev., during Red Flag 16-1, Feb. 5, 2016. Twelve Tyndall F-22s participated in Red Flag 16-1, a joint-training, full-spectrum readiness exercise designed to provide the most realistic combat training possible.US Air ForceUnidentified Anomalous Phenomena are showing up in more places than the skyIn December, the Department of Defense established the All-domain Anomaly Resolution Office to identify "unidentified anomalous phenomena" — in space, in the air, on land, or in the sea — that may threaten national security. The term UAP replaces the traditional "unidentified flying object" or UFO designation, as officials expect to evaluate anomalies "across all domains."While it is unclear if unknown terrestrial objects have been seen recently, former Navy pilots David Fravor and Alex Dietrich told CBS News in 2021 about an encounter with an unknown object while conducting pre-deployment training in 2004.The pair described flying their aircraft over the ocean, and seeing an area of roiling whitewater on the surface below. Just above the whitewater was a "white Tic Tac looking" object with "no predictable trajectory." "It was unidentified," Dietrich said. "And that's why it was so unsettling to us. Because we weren't expecting it. We couldn't classify it."Footage released by the Pentagon in 2020 also revealed unknown objects speeding across the ocean surface that had been spotted by Navy pilots. "Dude, this is a f--king drone, bro," CBS News reported one of the pilots exclaims in the video. Another person says "there's a whole fleet of them.""They're all going against the wind," the first pilot said. "The wind's 120 knots to the west. Look at that thing, dude! It's rotating!"A 2021 report from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, said "in 18 incidents, described in 21 reports, observers reported unusual UAP movement patterns or flight characteristics. Some UAP appeared to remain stationary in winds aloft, move against the wind, maneuver abruptly, or move at considerable speed, without discernable means of propulsion. In a small number of cases, military aircraft systems processed radio frequency (RF) energy associated with UAP sightings."The 2022 report noted that, among the 171 uncharacterized incidents, "some of these uncharacterized UAP appear to have demonstrated unusual flight characteristics or performance capabilities, and require further analysis."Representatives for the Pentagon and US Northern Command did not immediately respond to Insider's request for comment.Officials have acknowledged surveillance balloons have been seen floating in US airspace several times over the last few years, though they have not always been immediately identified — three devices spotted during the Trump administration were initially classified as UFOs.This story has been updated.Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: topSource: businessinsiderFeb 12th, 2023

Macron Says Russia Cannot Win Against Ukraine

Macron Says Russia Cannot Win Against Ukraine After a surprise UK visit, Ukraine's President Zelensky went to Paris immediately afterward in a whirlwind European tour to meet with Western leaders. In Paris he held talks with French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz Macron asserted during the visit that Russia cannot win the war against Ukraine. "Ukraine can count on France, its European partners and allies to win the war. Russia cannot and must not win," Macron said before a working dinner among the three leaders at the Elysee Palace. Via Reuters Just ahead of the meeting, Zelensky in an interview with Le Figaro hailed a change of heart in Macron. "I think he has changed, and changed for real this time," Zelensky said. "After all, it is he who paved the way for the delivery of tanks. And he has also supported Ukraine's membership to the EU. I think that was a real signal." Macron had angered Kiev when in June he said the West must not "humiliate Russia, so that when the fighting stops we can build an exit ramp through diplomatic means."  Macron has also come under fire for being among the only Western leaders to hold frequent phone conversations with President Vladimir Putin, in order to attempt a diplomatic breakthrough towards ending the war. But Ukrainian leaders have suggested such diplomatic efforts are a form of 'capitulation'. As for Macron's slow pivot away from pursuing a diplomatic offramp, the Associated Press now describes:  Macron has said France hasn’t ruled out sending fighter jets but set conditions, including not leading to an escalation of tensions or using the aircraft "to touch Russian soil," and not resulting in weakening "the capacities of the French army." As for Scholz, he was cited in the following on Wednesday: He added that Paris would "continue the efforts" to deliver arms to Kyiv. Mr Scholz also assured the Ukrainian president of enduring allied support. "We will continue to do so as long as necessary," he told reporters, noting Germany and its partners had backed Ukraine "financially, with humanitarian aid and with weapons". He added that Ukraine belongs to the European family. ⚡️Video showing Zelensky meeting Macron and Scholz a few moments ago. — War Monitor (@WarMonitors) February 8, 2023 The US and UK too have lately signaled no options are off the table at this point. UK leaders took it further on Wednesday in saying Ukraine might expect Typhoon fighter jets in the longer-term. After Paris, Zelensky is expected in Brussels on Thursday, where he will continue pushing for Ukraine to be fast-tracked into EU membership. Tyler Durden Wed, 02/08/2023 - 22:50.....»»

Category: smallbizSource: nytFeb 9th, 2023

Here"s how a wildly outgunned US Navy pilot outfoxed one of the Soviet Union"s best jets, scoring a string of kills in a legendary dogfight

Royce Williams was recently awarded the Navy Cross for his display of "extraordinary heroism" during the Korean War air battle. Close view of an F9F Panther jet touching down on the deck of the USS Oriskany, tail hook engaging the arresting wire, smoke coming from impact of tires. Nov. 1952.CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images An outgunned US Navy pilot downed four Soviet MiG-15 jets in a legendary dogfight over 70 years ago. Royce Williams was flying an inferior F9F Panther. Military aviation experts say that Williams' success that day was a result of his training and readiness. More than 70 years ago, a US Navy pilot took on seven Soviet aircraft then among the world's best interceptor fighters and shot down four of them in a legendary dogfight that was classified for decades.The Korean War air battle is no longer a secret, and the pilot, Royce Williams, was recently awarded the Navy Cross for his display of "extraordinary heroism."Williams was outmatched that day, fighting in an inferior plane with the numbers clearly on the enemy's side. Insider asked naval aviation experts how he pulled off a win with the odds stacked against him. They said it was his training and readiness that saw him through that.On Nov. 18, 1952, the day of the battle, Williams was flying a F9F Panther, the Navy's first carrier-based jet fighter, as part of a team of three planes from fighter squadron VF-781 during a combat patrol mission over the Sea of Japan when they encountered seven Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-15 jet fighters. This swept-wing Soviet aircraft was considered to be superior to the straight-wing American Panther in terms of overall performance.The Soviet jets engaged the American team, and it wasn't long before Williams found himself fighting alone. An unexpected fuel pump issue forced the team's flight leader to return to the aircraft carrier USS Oriskany, leaving just the young lieutenant and his wingman. Then when Williams shot down one of the enemy planes, his wingman pursued it, and Williams was left to take on the six remaining Soviet aircraft on his own. Williams was outgunned and outnumbered as he took on the Soviet jets in what became the longest dogfight in US military history, but he held his own. According to Pacific Fleet, during the 35-minute battle, he shot down four MiG-15s in a single fight, something no American pilot had ever done before. But as the US and Soviet Union were not engaged in open conflict, his exploits were kept secret.According to his Navy Cross citation, Williams' plane was "severely damaged" by a direct hit from one of the Soviet MiG-15s, but he continued to engage the Soviets until he managed to escape through the clouds and land a "nearly uncontrollable" plane back on the USS Oriskany. A Grumman F9F Panther fighter jet fires its guns during an attack on the North Korean port of Hungnam.CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images'The only thing I could do was out-turn them'Manufactured by Grumman, the F9F Panther first flew in 1947 and became the backbone of US Navy and Marine Corps air fleets during the Korean War, according to the National Museum of the US Navy. They were armed with four 20 mm cannons and also carried air-to-ground munitions. Hill Goodspeed, the deputy director at the National Naval Aviation Museum, told Insider that during the Korean War, the Panther primarily conducted ground strike missions as opposed to engaging in air-to-air fighting. The MiG-15, meanwhile, first entered service in 1949 and operated against United Nations forces during the Korean War, according to the National Museum of the US Air Force. This aircraft was armed with 23 mm cannons and a 37 mm cannon.A Soviet Union MiG-15.Photo by: Images Group via Getty ImagesAlthough the MiG-15 could fly faster and climb to a higher altitude, the Panther had the advantage in turning ability. When an aircraft is able to out-turn another, it can prevent an enemy from getting a good shot. The Panther also had certain firepower advantages with a more stable firing platform than the MiG-15, Goodspeed said.Williams told the American Veterans Center in a 2021 video interview that the MiG-15 was the "best fighter airplane in the world" at the time and that "plane on plane," he was at a clear disadvantage."In the moment I was a fighter pilot doing my job," Williams said in an account of the fight, according to Pacific Fleet. "I was only shooting what I had," he recalled. "They had me cold on maneuverability and acceleration — the MiG was vastly superior on those counts to the F9F. The only thing I could do was out-turn them." Goodspeed said human factors and the ability to understand the enemy are critical in a fight like this, explaining "it all comes down — first and foremost — to the person in the cockpit and the training they've received."During the Korean War, two United States Grumman F9F Panther jet fighters are refueling after having been armed with rockets under their wings in 1951.Photo by Interim Archives/Getty ImagesThis dogfight was 'a very rare feat'Williams' engagement "justifies" the role of institutions like the US Navy Strike Fighter Tactics Instructor program — also known as TOPGUN, Guy Snodgrass, a career Navy fighter pilot and former US defense official, told Insider. It's not always possible to change the equipment that the US has in its arsenal, but military institutions can help shape training and readiness levels.  "Having a better piece of equipment can lull you into a false sense of security that your equipment is going to take care of the engagement for you. And that's not the case," said Snodgrass, a former TOPGUN instructor. "Once you get inside that visual arena, then you're in a position where your skills, your dedication, your hard work, staying in the fight — all those things become outsized factors that can really turn the tide of the conflict."Snodgrass said one element of the TOPGUN training is studying "adversarial" aircraft made by countries that the US might have a greater chance of going up against in the future — like Russia or China. These are then compared with the strengths and weaknesses of US aircraft.Williams' dogfight isn't the only example of US planes battling enemy aircraft that are superior on paper. During World War II, for example, the Navy's F4F Wildcat went up against Japan's Mitsubishi A6M Zero, which was considered to be the more capable plane in part because of its maneuverability, Goodspeed said.  That said, "in the jet age, to shoot down multiple jets in air-to-air combat was a very rare feat," Goodspeed explained, comparing later fights to those during World War II, when an aviator might shoot down several planes in one day. Snodgrass said there's lots of big picture lessons to extract from large-scale wars like Korea or Vietnam, and specific engagements — like Williams' dogfight — demonstrate how a pilot can use their strengths in a situation where they may be outmatched. "The machines have advanced. The tactics have advanced," the former aviator said. "So it's really more the principle that you're going after rather than the specifics of this case." Williams receiving the Navy Cross at the age of 97.US Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Daniel ChildsThe US government classified the legendary 1952 dogfight, and Williams, who was awarded the Silver Star in May 1953 and retired from the Navy in 1980, was sworn to secrecy about what happened until his story was finally declassified about 20 years ago. Because Secretary of the Navy Carlos Del Toro has the authority to upgrade awards, he decided to review Williams' case and said that it stood out among the rest. On January 20, he presented Williams with Navy Cross, which is the service's second-highest military honor. "It was very clear to me that his actions were extraordinary, and more closely aligned with the criteria describing a higher award," Del Toro said of Williams during a ceremony in San Diego. "And sir, what a tremendous honor it was to tell you in person, that after all these years, your courageous actions would finally get the recognition they deserve."Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: topSource: businessinsiderJan 31st, 2023

NATO member Poland is going to Asian powerhouse to find a replacement for its aging Soviet-era fighter jets

A $14.5 billion deal with South Korea will help Poland replace its Soviet-era jets, which "are obsolete already," Poland's defense minister says. A South Korean Air Force FA-50 at the 2021 Seoul International Aerospace and Defense Exhibition on October 18, 2021.Chris Jung/NurPhoto via Getty Images Poland recently signed a $14.5 billion deal with South Korea to buy artillery, tanks, and aircraft. It is one of Poland's largest arms deals ever and the biggest so far for South Korea's growing defense sector. The deal also comes as tensions in Europe add urgency to Poland's military modernization plans. On July 27, Poland signed one of its largest arms deals ever for more artillery, tanks, and aircraft to modernize its military amid heightened tensions in Europe.Warsaw's $14.5 billion deal with South Korea — the largest ever for South Korea's defense industry — includes 1,000 K2 Black Panther tanks, nearly 700 K9 self-propelled howitzers, and 48 FA-50 light combat aircraft.The size of the contract and Warsaw's decision to buy from an emerging military exporter also reflects thinking influenced by the fraught state of European geopolitics."The criminal assault carried out by the Russian Federation, targeting Ukraine, and the unpredictable nature of Putin means that we need to accelerate the equipment modernization even further," Polish Defense Minister Mariusz Błaszczak said in an interview with Polish outlet Defense 24.Faster, better, more secureAn FA-50 over Clark Air Base in the Philippines on November 28, 2015.TED ALJIBE/AFP via Getty ImagesQuickly modernizing the Polish air force is a priority for Warsaw, which is seeking to replace its 23 MiG-29s and 18 Su-22s — aging Soviet-designed multirole aircraft that are increasingly hard to maintain.Poland already fields 36 US-made F-16s and it ordered 32 F-35A stealth jets from the US in 2020, but it is one of only three NATO countries with MiG-29s and the only European country that still flies the Su-22.The 48 FA-50s from South Korea will help Warsaw advance that modernization effort.The FA-50 is a capable light combat aircraft. It can reach supersonic speeds of Mach 1.5 and carry a variety of bombs and air-to-air and air-to-ground missiles. Poland will receive the enhanced Block 20 model that is compatible with NATO systems, according to Błaszczak.However, Poland chose the FA-50s for not only its combat capability but also the speed with which it could be acquired. Warsaw also looked at other aircraft, including F-16s, but none could be delivered fast enough."It is of key importance to increase the levels of security as fast as possible for Poland," the Polish defense minister said. The Polish Air Force is set to receive the first 12 FA-50s by mid-2023.Polish MiG-29s and a US Air Force F-15 alongside a US B-52H bomber on February 24, 2022.US Air Force/Airman 1st Class Zachary WrightFurther, the FA-50 is based on South Korea's T-50 trainer and light combat aircraft, which Korea Aerospace Industries developed in collaboration with Lockheed Martin, which builds the F-16.Therefore, the FA-50 shares design elements and components with the F-16, simplifying maintenance and pilot training."A pilot who has been trained on FA-50 only needs a few hours to start flying the F-16 on his own," Błaszczak told Defense 24. "The cost of training as such is much lower, and thus we would be able to train more pilots."According to the contract with South Korea, an FA-50 maintenance and service facility will also be established in Poland by 2026. With this arrangement, Warsaw hopes to avoid the supply-chain and maintenance issues plaguing its MiG-29s and Su-22s."Thanks to that procurement, we gain a new direction for spares, which is especially important for high-intensity conflicts, when one of the supply chains could be disrupted," Błaszczak said. "This would make it possible to maintain the operational availability of combat aircraft in Poland at a top level."Time for a renewalAn FA-50 at Clark Air Base, north of Manila, on July 4, 2017.REUTERS/Romeo RanocoPoland has upgraded its aging Soviet-era jets a number of times to keep their systems NATO-compatible, but keeping them combat-worthy is a challenge — especially as a shrinking user base and sanctions on Russia limit the availability of spare parts."We would need to procure [spares] in Russia, and this, for reasons that remain obvious, needs to be ruled out," Błaszczak said, alluding to tensions with Moscow.Polska Grupa Zbrojeniowa manufactures MiG-29 components domestically and maintains Poland's MiG-20s and Su-22s. However, the firm cannot manufacture MiG-29 engines. Further, domestically made components were linked to a fatal MiG-29 crash in 2018 — which led to the temporary grounding of Poland's MiG-29 fleet — according to Błaszczak."This situation cannot happen again," the minister told Defense 24.Polish Su-22s on September 21, 2017.Agencja Gazeta/Cezary Aszkielowicz via REUTERSPoland's Su-22s have also been in service for nearly 35 years and their role is limited.The two Soviet-era jets "are obsolete already," Błaszczak said.The FA-50s will further modernize the Polish Air Force, but they will not be the "last move," the defense minister said."We have accelerated the delivery of the F-35s. In the long run, we are planning to procure extra F-35s or F-15s, and we are watching closely the progress made by our South Korean partners when working on the KF-21 Boramae," Błaszczak said, referring to the new 4.5-generation multirole fighter that South Korea hopes to market as a cheaper alternative to the F-35.Constantine Atlamazoglou works on transatlantic and European security. He holds a master's degree in security studies and European affairs from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy. You can contact him on LinkedIn.Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: smallbizSource: nytAug 15th, 2022

Ukrainians are still trying to buy fighter jets, but a Ukrainian pilot says the changing air war requires different weapons

As of May 12, the "Buy me a fighter jet" campaign had raised only $221,600 for what would likely be a multimillion-dollar fighter jet purchase. Ukrainian and US fighter jets during a military exercise in Ukraine, July 22, 2011.US Air National Guard/Tech. Sgt. Charles Vaughn Since Russia attacked Ukraine in February, Ukrainians have asked Western countries for fighter jets. The "Buy Me a Fighter Jet" campaign is raising private donations to buy jets for Ukrainian forces. The campaign is ongoing, but a Ukrainian pilot says missiles would now be more useful against Russia. Since Russia attacked Ukraine in late February, Ukrainians — from the general public to top officials, including President Volodymyr Zelenskyy — have urged the US and its allies to provide fighter jets so Ukraine's air force can fight off Russia's larger, better-equipped military.The US has provided spare parts that have allowed Ukraine to put more jets into service, but so far no one has delivered jets to Kyiv. Now a group of Ukrainian volunteers is taking that search into their own hands, creating a crowdfunding campaign called "Buy Me a Fighter Jet" to raise money for the jets.It's not the first crowdfunding effort to support Ukraine's military. Initiatives by private individuals and governments have procured smaller items for military use, like drones and satellite phones, but "Buy Me a Fighter Jet" is an effort to purchase the big-ticket military hardware that Ukraine's Western partners have been reluctant to provide.The hashtag appeared online in April alongside a rousing video that called on celebrities and philanthropists to buy fighter jets for Ukrainian forces. An early iteration of the campaign's website featured a menu-like list of countries and the military aircraft they operate.While "Buy Me a Fighter Jet" has targeted wealthy benefactors, it seeks to be cost effective, Taras Meselko, the campaign's spokesperson, told Insider."For $7 or $8 million — we already saw some proposals — you can buy two or three of the [Sukhoi] or MiG jets," he said. "They can sell them cheaper."A Ukrainian Air Force MiG-29 at an airbase in Ukraine, November 23, 2016.Danil Shamkin/NurPhoto via Getty ImagesUkrainian pilots are trained to fly the MiG-29, a "quite old" Soviet-era model, Meselko said. In March, Poland offered to turn its MiG-29s over to the US so the US could deliver them to Ukraine, but the US declined that proposal.Despite the interest, "Buy Me a Fighter Jet" is quite far from its financial goals. As of May 12, only $221,600 had been raised, much of it from Ukrainians, according to Maselko, and not billionaires like Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos whom the campaign has targeted on Twitter.Some wealthy individuals with Ukrainian ties have expressed interest, however. In mid-May, Ukrainian singer Kamaliya Zahoor, known as Kamaliya, said her husband, British-Pakistani multimillionaire Mohammad Zahoor, and other philanthropists had collected the money to purchase two aircraft, according to the Kyiv Post, an English-language outlet that Zahoor owned from 2009 to 2018.Kamaliya was more circumspect in a later interview, and Mohammad Zahoor did not respond to multiple requests for comment from Insider on his role in a potential purchase.Maselko said in a WhatsApp message that while the campaign has been in discussions with the Zahoors, "they were not buying jets" but "just pushing Pakistan['s] government to provide fighter jets to Ukraine.""I asked if they can help, but no. They are helping Ukrainian refugees in Europe, so [they are] involved in that," Maselko said, attributing reports of the Zahoors actually buying fighter jets to mistranslations by "some media."Yuriy Ignat, a spokesperson for the General Staff of the Ukrainian Air Force, told Insider via WhatsApp that the service "knows nothing about this," followed by a laughing emoji. "It is impossible to buy a fighter in the store," Ignat added.'Not just crazy stuff'A Ukrainian MIG-29 fighter jet at the Vasilkov air base outside of Kyiv, November 23, 2016.AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky"Buy Me a Fighter Jet" is now promising that all funds raised will go to the Ukrainian military for it to purchase fighter jets and other equipment. Maselko said the campaign, working through the Galician Aviation Charitable Foundation, in late April signed an agreement with state defense firm Ukroboronprom to handle any purchases.The agreement provides the bureaucracy that typically handles such transactions, giving the campaign legitimacy and backing up its charitable intentions, Maselko said. "Now we have the argument to show that it's not just crazy stuff. It's not a campaign of just publicity."Maselko also said that Ukroboronprom would handle the equipping and maintenance of the fighter jets. "We are not the experts in the jet equipment," Maselko told Insider."The crucial thing," Maselko added, is "you have to sign all the documents to pass it to the Ukrainian Air Forces, and that's what we are bringing here with this memorandum, that we have an agreement with the company which has the license to do that. So now, the only thing we need is just to get this money, to raise this money to buy the fighter jets."Ukroboronprom and its chief executive, Yuriy Husyev, did not respond when asked to confirm the deal.Even if the campaign raises enough money, it's not clear where the jets would come from.Private citizens in the US own some MiG-29s, which could be flyable and outfitted for combat. The US government also has a small clandestine fleet of MiG-29s and Su-27s that it uses for testing and training US aircraft, but transferring those to Ukraine could raise unwanted questions about what the US has been doing with them. Those jets would also be quite difficult for the US to replace.A fragment of a Tochka-U missile on the ground following an attack at the railway station in Kramatorsk, Ukraine, April 8, 2022.Andriy Andriyenko/APWherever the jets come from, keeping them flying would also be a challenge. Spare parts and expertise for the Soviet-era aircraft are both dwindling. The few NATO militaries that use them are phasing them out in favor of US- and European-designed aircraft.Even though the US and other countries have completed arms transfers to Ukraine with alacrity in recent months, there are still plenty of bureaucratic hurdles involved in weapons transfers. Reducing the red tape will be critical to getting more weapons to Ukraine faster, said a Ukrainian pilot who asked Insider not to use his name for security reasons.While "Buy Me a Fighter Jet" and others have focused on aircraft, those don't top the pilot's list of urgent needs.Jets will be necessary "in order to get our territories back and have that other line of air defense," the pilot said, but buying and transferring them and then training crews and building infrastructure for them — especially newer aircraft like F-16s — would take months."Now, looking back, we learned how to protect ourselves — our jets, our assets, at the airfields — and week after week, [Russian] airstrikes were less and less precise," the pilot said.Russia has backed off of its attacks on Ukrainian aircraft and air assets since the start of the war, the pilot said. "What we're seeing now, they've learned that they can't destroy our assets using those cruise-missile strikes, so they are simply hitting civilian objects.""I think, at this moment, for Ukraine the number-one priority to get from the Western countries, from NATO, would be surface-to-air missiles," he said, "because now [Russian aircraft] are not really flying deeply into our airspace but they're still using those cruise missiles to hit targets all over Ukraine."Surface-to-air missiles have "been proven to be more effective against" those cruise missiles, the pilot said.Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: topSource: businessinsiderJun 1st, 2022

F-35s will have to learn to do the risky mission that made the A-10 famous, former F-35 test pilot says

The A-10 is the only US jet designed specifically to do close air support, and when it's gone the Air Force's other jets will have to take its place. DVIDS The US Air Force plans to begin getting rid of its A-10s over the next five or six years. The service has tried for years to shed the A-10 to focus on high-end jets, but Congress has blocked it. With the A-10's exit looming, other jets could soon have to fill its main role: close air support. One of the world's most unique aircraft could soon be decommissioned for good.The US Air Force now plans to retire its entire A-10 Thunderbolt II fleet of 286 aircraft over the next five to six years, Michael McCord, the Pentagon's top civilian budget official, said during the March rollout of the 2023 defense budget.Introduced in 1972, the A-10 is a twin-engine, subsonic attack aircraft designed to provide close air support to ground forces.Known affectionately as the Warthog, it's the only operational US aircraft built from the ground up for that mission, and it has never been flown by any other country.For years, the Air Force has sought to shed its A-10s and focus on developing high-end aircraft. That effort has been blocked, largely by opposition from Congress, but with the Warthog's looming departure, other aircraft may have to fill that role.One of a kindUSAFThe A-10 was developed largely in response to the Soviet military's size advantage, particularly in its tank force, in Europe during the Cold War.The A-10 was designed to take out Soviet armor, and the aircraft itself was built around the formidable 30mm GAU-8 Avenger rotary automatic cannon.The Avenger uses both high-explosive incendiary and armor-piercing incendiary rounds and can fire 3,900 of them a minute. Its armor-piercing rounds contain depleted uranium to make them more effective against armor. The A-10 can also carry externally mounted missiles and smart munitions, such as anti-tank guided missiles.An A-10 on the runway after an emergency landing at Edwards Air Force Base in 2008.US Air Force photo/Brad WhiteSince its close-air-support mission requires it to fly at low altitude and at relatively slow speeds — often in high-threat environments — the Warthog is built to take punishment: It can fly with half its tail, half a wing, and one engine and elevator.It has a titanium hull and can sustain direct fire damage from rounds up to 23mm in size and indirect fire damage from rounds up to 57mm.Thanks to its large wing surface, the A-10 it is extremely maneuverable at low altitudes and speeds.It is also designed to be easily maintained and to be operated from short or improvised airstrips — its engines are mounted high on the fuselage, keeping them farther the ground during rough landings.All things must goUS Air ForceIn addition to the A-10's increasing age, performing close-air support missions is expected to become harder as the US shifts its focus to the Pacific, where China's anti-aircraft weapons could quickly bring down the Warthog. (Even against Soviet defenses, the A-10 was expected to take heavy losses.)Speaking to the press on March 28, Under Secretary of the Air Force Gina Ortiz Jones said the A-10 is "limited in its ability to contribute" effectively to the mission of US Indo-Pacific Command.The Air Force wants to ensure that it has the right mix of aircraft "that are survivable, effective, and can provide" the best chance of winning in that region, Jones said.Additionally, as the legendary aircraft reaches its 50th year, maintaining it becomes harder and costlier. The ongoing replacement of the wings on many remaining A-10s has been particularly expensive, running about $10 million a set.The Air Force had tried to reduce its A-10 fleet and start replacing it with F-35s, but Congress has prevented it from doing so. The Air Force's continued deployment of the A-10 while reducing or canceling investments and upgrades for it has led to accusations that the service is "sabotaging" the fleet.As part of the Pentagon's annual budgets in 2016 and 2017, Congress required the Air Force to compare the close-air-support capabilities of the A-10 and the F-35 before the A-10 fleet could be reduced. The Air Force completed that evaluation in 2019.The service now plans to gradually decommission A-10s beginning in fiscal year 2023, which starts on October 1, 2022. The process will begin with the divestment of 21 A-10s that will temporarily be replaced by F-16s before the F-35 takes over the Warthog's mission.New kid in townCapt. Cody Wilton, an A-10 Demonstration Team pilot, prepares for takeoff at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, March 4, 2018.US Air Force/Senior Airman Mya M. CrosbyEffectively filling the A-10's shoes in conducting close air support, or CAS, at low altitudes will not be easy.US pilots learned to conduct CAS at medium altitudes in Afghanistan and Iraq, and "there is a place" for that version of it, Billie Flynn, a former Canadian air force lieutenant colonel and senior F-35 test pilot, said in an April interview with The Aviationist.The F-35's modern sensors could help pilots use bombs more effectively in medium-altitude CAS. If friendly troops are in close contact with the enemy, however, the F-35 will have to fly lower and use its cannon, as the US Marine Corps has learned to do with its F-35B, Flynn said.The "reality" is that medium-altitude CAS "does not work when the enemy is close," Flynn said. "In an Iraq or Afghanistan type scenario, when you need bullets or weapons close to friendly troops, dropping weapons from 25,000 feet will not be acceptable."An F-35A fires its 25mm cannon at the Utah Test and Training range, August 13, 2018.US Air Force/Todd CromarThe F-35 uses a 25mm GAU-22/A rotary cannon, which is stronger than the 20mm cannon on other US aircraft, including the F-16, but not as strong as the A-10's Avenger.The F-35's high maneuverability and speed mean it won't be a sitting duck, but the fifth-generation fighter is not as durable as the A-10.There is a "lot of risk" in flying the $80 million stealth fighter at low altitudes in contested environments but "our job is to protect the troops on the ground," Flynn said.When it comes to the Warthog's specialty — supporting troops in close contact while taking withering fire — "there is no conversation ever that any aircraft can truly and effectively replace the A-10, even after all these years," Flynn told The Aviationist. "Everyone on the ground will tell you that it has proven itself to be invaluable."Constantine Atlamazoglou works on transatlantic and European security. He holds a master's degree in security studies and European affairs from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy.Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: topSource: businessinsiderMay 3rd, 2022

For NATO pilots trained to fly MiGs, learning to fly the F-35 "is far too much to grasp," former F-35 test pilot says

Transitioning to the "cosmic spaceship" that is the F-35 is too much to ask of MiG pilots, former F-35 test pilot Billie Flynn told The Aviationist. US and Dutch F-35As during an exercise over the Netherlands, February 22, 2022US Air Force/Tech. Sgt. Rachel Maxwell More and more European militaries are buying the F-35 to update their air forces. The arrival of the F-35 means pilots in those air forces have to learn to fly a more advanced jet. That isn't an easy change for pilots used to Soviet-made jets, says former F-35 test pilot Billie Flynn. The F-35 is fast becoming the fighter jet of choice for many European air forces due to its technological and operational advantages over other available airframes.Eight European countries either operate the fifth-generation fighter jet or have placed orders for it. More countries are in discussions to acquire the jet in the near future.The increasing number of F-35s in Europe means more pilots will have to learn to fly the jet, but the F-35's technological superiority means some pilots, especially those trained to operate Soviet-made aircraft, likely won't be able to make the change.A generational jumpUS Air Force F-16s, left, with a Bulgarian air force MiG-29 and MiG-21 during an exercise over Bulgaria, July 20, 2015.US Air National Guard/Master Sgt. Andrew J. MoseleyAmong NATO's 30 members, only Bulgaria, Poland, and Slovakia still operate Soviet-era aircraft.Of those three, Poland has the most, with 23 operational MiG-29s and 12 operational but obsolescent Su-22s. The rest of Poland's combat fleet is made up of 36 US-made F-16s. In 2020, in an effort to modernize its air force, Warsaw ordered 32 F-35As, and it has an option to buy 16 more.The mix of Western-made and Soviet-origin aircraft reflects Poland's political history as a member of the Warsaw Pact during the Cold War and now as a member of NATO and the EU.Yet that mix will also make it harder for Poland to integrate the F-35 into its fleet, according to Billie Flynn, a former Canadian air force lieutenant colonel and senior F-35 test pilot.US Air Force F-35s at Ämari airbase in Estonia, February 24, 2022.US Air ForceIn an interview with the Aviationist, Flynn explained how Polish pilots will struggled to move between those different aircraft."There's very much the Russian, Eastern Bloc mentality [vs.] the Western F-16 cadre" in the Polish Air Force, and the pilots in each cadre do not cross between them, Flynn said.Flynn said any pilot would face a "leap" in transitioning to the F-35, one of only four fifth-generation jets in operation around the world.F-16 pilots, or the Western cadre, in the Polish Air Force would be able to transition to the newer jet, as many pilots in other air forces with the F-35 have done, but the Polish Air Force's "Eastern Bloc" of pilots won't be as fortunate, Flynn added.Asking even a very capable MiG-29 pilot "to transition to this cosmic spaceship is far too much to grasp," Flynn said, referring to the F-35.Differences in mentalityA pilot exits a Polish Air Force F-16 at Krzesiny Military Airbase in Poznan, November 9, 2006.WOJTEK RADWANSKI/AFP via Getty ImagesThe F-16 and the MiG-29 are comparable in terms of capabilities.Although the MiG-29 is primarily an air-superiority fighter and the F-16 a multi-role aircraft, both are fourth-generation fighters. The Soviet jet was in fact built as a response to the American F-16 and F-15.But transitioning from that Soviet-made jet to modern US fighters requires more than learning new capabilities. It also requires adjusting to a totally different design philosophy, which makes such a transition practically impossible, according to Flynn."Every part of how we mechanize the aircraft in the West is different from how Russians design their aircraft, every part of philosophy of how you fly an airplane, how you design cockpits, how you process information is different," Flynn told the Aviationist.In contrast, it's easier for an F-16 pilot to switch to the F-35 — both of which are designed and built by Lockheed Martin — as the stealth fighter is a "logical step forward," Flynn said."To say to an F-16 pilot, hey, we're Lockheed Martin, and we build the aircraft [a] certain way, and switches [a] certain way, and now we're going to give you the next generation of that, there's a logic flow of our design, of the F-16, as the baseline, that kind of looks like what the F-35 is," Flynn said. "That does not exist for the MiG cadre."The last of their kindTwo Polish MiG-29s and a US F-15E fly alongside a US Air Force B-52H, February 24, 2022.US Air Force/Airman 1st Class Zachary WrightThe inability of MiG-29 pilots to make the jump to the new era is a sign of their aircraft's approaching obsolescence.Poland, Bulgaria, and Slovakia already struggle to keep their MiG-29s up to date. Poland has maintained its MiG-29 contingent on par with its F-16, but as time and worsening relations with Russia make replacement airframes and machine parts harder to find, the last three NATO MiG-29 operators are slowly phasing out the aircraft."I think the [Polish] MiG cadre will end up atrophying, spending their time in that jet until the MiG-29 phases out," Flynn said.With militaries embracing of the F-35 and other advanced jets, "there is no place for the MiG-29 pilots in the sophisticated world of" fifth-generation aircraft, he added.Constantine Atlamazoglou works on transatlantic and European security. He holds a master's degree in security studies and European affairs from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy.Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: personnelSource: nytApr 25th, 2022

The F-35 was "designed precisely" to fight and win in the kind of war happening in Ukraine, former test pilot says

The F-35's "capacity to neutralize the enemy cannot be matched by any other airplane," former test pilot Billie Flynn told The Aviationist. A US Air Force F-35 over Poland, February 24, 2022.US Air Force/Senior Airman Joseph Barron Russia's war on Ukraine has shown what air warfare over a modern battlefield looks like. Neither side has the F-35, but it is designed for this environment, former test pilot Billie Flynn said. F-35s have "capabilities precisely focused on what we have been seeing in Ukraine," Flynn said. As the war in Ukraine approaches its third month, neither Russia nor Ukraine have been able to dominate the air, as both still have operational surface-to-air missile batteries and aircraft.This makes the war in Ukraine unique among recent conflicts, and it provides useful lessons about how modern airframes would operate in contested airspace.In an interview with The Aviationist on April 7, Billie Flynn, a former Canadian lieutenant colonel and senior F-35 test pilot for Lockheed Martin, highlighted the role that the F-35 could play in similar conditions."The F-35 was designed precisely for an environment that we are seeing in Ukraine now," Flynn said.The new generationA US Air Force F-35A over RAF Lakenheath, March 22, 2022.US Air Force/Staff Sgt. Dhruv GopinathThe F-35, built by Lockheed Martin, is one of two fifth-generation fighter jets used by the US, alongside the F-22 Raptor, and one of four in use around the world. China's J-20 entered mass production in late 2021 and hasn't seen combat. Russia's Su-57 hasn't entered mass production and has only deployed in a few limited missions in Syria.A multirole stealth aircraft, the F-35 is intended for air-superiority and strike missions.It is equipped with a powerful electronic-warfare and intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance suite. Those capabilities, which allow the F-35 to gather and distribute real-time battlefield information to friendly forces, have earned it the nickname "the quarterback of the skies."The weaponry it carries varies. In a configuration known as "beast mode" it carries four 500-pound GBU-12 laser-guided bombs on its wings, two GBU-12 in its internal weapons bay, and an AIM-9 air-to-air heat-seeking missile. That configuration sacrifices stealth for firepower.When in stealth mode, the jet foregoes externally mounted weapons to preserve its low-observable profile.There are three variants of the F-35. The F-35A is designed for conventional takeoffs and landings, the F-35B for short takeoffs and vertical landings, and the F-35C for aircraft-carrier operations.A buffed-up teamA US Air Force B-52H bomber and Italian Air Force F-35s on a training flight, March 7, 2022US Air Force/Tech. Sgt. Corban LundborgIn a contested airspace, the survivability of older fourth-generation fighter aircraft, like the ubiquitous F-16, will be limited, Flynn told The Aviationist.F-16s are "not survivable in the very highly contested world," like in Ukraine, where there are "significant numbers of sophisticated surface-to-air threats," Flynn said.However, the F-35's ability to enhance the capabilities of friendly aircraft is exactly what would make it invaluable in a similar conflict, Flynn said."The F-35 was designed to operate in highly contested airspace, with capabilities precisely focused on what we have been seeing in Ukraine today. If you have F-35s, you do not necessarily need F-16s to do the damage that the F-35 would bring," according to the former F-35 test pilot.The F-35 would be particularly effective against surface-to-air missile systems and other ground defenses, neutralizing them and enemy aircraft to achieve air dominance.US Air Force F-35s at Ämari airbase in Estonia, February 24, 2022.US Air ForceThe aircraft's stealth profile will be one of its main advantages in doing so."Remember," Flynn said, "we see them, they don't see us. It's like playing football, when one team's invisible and the other team is not with a gross advantage on behalf of the F-35. F-35 would see all the enemy air-to-air threats and kill them all, plus completely neutralizing the surface-to-air missile threat to achieve air dominance."Once air dominance is achieved, aircraft like the F-16 can provide additional firepower against enemy ground forces, but even then the F-35 will be needed to protect them, according to Flynn.The F-35 could also conduct close-air-support missions for troops on the ground. When friendly ground troops are in close contact with the enemy, however, the F-35 may have to use its less advanced armaments and accept more risk to do so."There may be a time when the troops are in contact and you're going to come down and use the gun in the F-35," Flynn said. "That's a lot of risk for an $80 million F-35, but our job is to protect the troops on the ground."Flying soloA US Air force F-35A without radar reflectors over Eastern Europe, February 28, 2022.US Air Force/Airman 1st Class Edgar GrimaldoThe US has repeatedly said that it will not become a combatant in Ukraine.F-35s have been flying missions in stealth mode near Ukraine's borders, though it's not clear if they were conducting regular patrols to deter Russia or using their electronic capabilities to monitor forces in and around Ukraine.Nevertheless, their presence so close to the conflict zone has had an impact, according to Flynn.Having that jet flying along NATO's eastern flank "is a significant deterrent" against Russian forces "continuing their ambitions to push further eastward. Because the F-35 represent an extraordinary lethal threat," Flynn said.The F-35's "capacity to neutralize the enemy cannot be matched by any other airplane that flies in anybody else's air force," Flynn said. "So just the fact that the F-35s are there scares everybody on the other side."Constantine Atlamazoglou works on transatlantic and European security. He holds a master's degree in security studies and European affairs from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy.Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: dealsSource: nytApr 17th, 2022

Milestones with 2 new planes show the US and China trying to improve on the same important mission

The Y-20 and MQ-25 are radically different aircraft, but both will allow US and Chinese military aircraft to stretch out across the Pacific. An MQ-25 Stingray refuels an F/A-18 Super Hornet.Courtesy photo/Boeing The US and Chinese militaries recently hit milestones with tanker aircraft both are developing. The aircraft are radically different — one an cargo plane and the other an unmanned aircraft. But both will refuel aircraft and extend their range, a crucial asset for operations in the Pacific. New refueling aircraft in development with the US and Chinese militaries hit important milestones in recent weeks, demonstrating both militaries' focus on long-range operations, a vital capability in the vast Pacific.On November 28, a Y-20 aerial-refueling plane was one of 27 Chinese military aircraft to fly into Taiwan's air-defense identification zone, a security zone declared by Taiwan that is not territorial airspace.Mass flights of Chinese aircraft around Taiwan are common, but the November 28 flight was a first for the tanker version of the Y-20, a strategic airlifter operated by China's military.A Chinese Y-20 aerial-refueling variant.Taiwan Ministry of DefenseThe Y-20 tanker can refuel fighter jets, like the stealthy J-20, and larger aircraft like the H-6 bomber, five of which took part in the November 28 flight.Days later, the US Navy said its newest refueling aircraft, the MQ-25 Stingray, had arrived aboard the USS George H.W. Bush for "its first test period aboard the aircraft carrier."The Navy issued an $800 million contract for the MQ-25 in August 2018, and the unmanned aircraft took its first flight a year later.During June 2021 test flight with a Navy F/A-18 Super Hornet, it became the first unmanned aircraft to conduct aerial refueling with another aircraft.An MQ-25 test aircraft is loaded onto USS George H.W. Bush, December 2021.US NavyMultiple days of testing aboard the carrier "will provide an early evaluation of MQ-25 operations in a shipboard environment," said Jamie Cosgrove, a spokeswoman for the Navy's program executive office for unmanned aviation.The non-flight testing will involve the MQ-25 "being driven around the flight deck while at sea to check its handling qualities, and the functionality and capabilities of the deck handling system," Cosgrave told Insider. "This will include taxiing into and connecting to the catapult, clearing the landing area, and various other maneuvers."The Navy plans to acquire 72 MQ-25s, each able to offload 15,000 pounds of fuel — enough for two aircraft — at a range of 500 nautical miles from a carrier, adding roughly 300 nautical miles to the Super Hornet's range.Different aircraft, same missionA Y-20 at Airshow China 2018 in China's Guangdong province, November 7, 2018.AP Photo/Kin CheungChina currently has roughly 30 aircraft — older Soviet-designed Il-78s and HU-6 variants of the H-6 — for refueling. According to Chinese state media, the Y-20 tanker can carry about 90 tons of fuel, similar to the capacity of the Il-78 but greater than that of the HU-6, which carries less than 30 tons of fuel.The "main significance" of the tanker "is that it can extend the operational range of the H-6K bomber, which could threaten US warships even further east of Taiwan," said Timothy Heath, a senior international defense researcher at the RAND Corporation.In its most recent report on China's military, the US Defense Department said the Y-20 tanker will improve the Chinese air force's ability to "operate beyond the First Island Chain from bases in mainland China," referring to the island chain that includes Japan, Taiwan, and the Philippines.The Y-20 tanker still needs work, including the replacement of Soviet-designed engines with Chinese-made engines that will improve its lift and range.China's military has aerial-refueling experience, but the Y-20 tanker is "a new capability," Heath told Insider. "It will take the PLA some time to become proficient operating with the new platform."An MQ-25 Stingray during ground testing at Naval Station Norfolk in Virginia, November 10, 2021.US Navy/MCS2 Sam JenkinsThe MQ-25 will extend the range of the US Navy's carrier air wing, and while it's focused on refueling, Navy leaders have ambitions to give it more missions, such as intelligence-gathering and airstrikes.The Navy has said it intends to have the MQ-25 operational around 2025, and the aircraft will go through additional testing on land and on carriers, including with carrier launch and arresting systems.While the MQ-25 will increase the range of carrier aircraft, the opportunities it provides to the air wing may be limited if carriers have to operate farther from targets because of the threat posed by adversaries' long-range weapons, such as China's anti-ship missiles, according to a Hudson Institute report.The report noted that only acquiring 72 MQ-25s may not give the Navy enough for them to accompany other aircraft on missions far from the carrier.But a dedicated refueling asset would still be a relief for F/A-18s that for years have had to double as tankers, Kevin Chlan, a Super Hornet pilot, said in a December 2019 interview.Tanker duties burden pilots and aircraft and are something the F/A-18 is not well suited for, said Chlan, then a fellow at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments."I think it's a great implementation to kind of ease unmanned platforms onto the flight deck in a mission-set that otherwise just takes up a ton of overhead from your fighters," Chlan said.Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: topSource: businessinsiderDec 8th, 2021

Why the F-14 Tomcat didn"t survive the Cold War

The F-14 Tomcat was highly advanced, but without the Soviet threat, it didn't make much sense to keep it. A specially painted F-14D Tomcat over the Persian Gulf, October 10, 2005.US Navy/Lt. j.g. Scott Timmester In the 1970s, the US had three revolutionary fighters enter service: the F-14, F-15, and F-16. The F-15 and F-16 remain in service and in production, but the F-14 has long since retired. The F-14 Tomcat was highly advanced, but without the Soviet threat, it didn't make much sense to keep it. In the 1970s, the United States had three revolutionary fighters enter service in the F-14 Tomcat, F-15 Eagle, and F-16 Fighting Falcon.Today, two of these platforms remain not only in service, but in production, with only the Top Gun F-14 relegated to museum duty.Today, plenty of airplane nerds (like this author) still count the F-14 Tomcat among their favorite aircraft of all time … so what gives? Why was Maverick's ride not only retired early by very literally being fed into the industrial shredder while the Eagle and Viper continue to roll off assembly lines to this day?The truth is, the F-14 Tomcat was a highly advanced fighter that was really purpose-built for a world-ending nuclear conflict. When you look back on the program, its challenges, and subsequent solutions, the image becomes a bit clearer.The F-14 made sense when we were on the verge of World War III … but without a Soviet boogeyman to keep Uncle Sam's pocketbook upturned and shaking, it became an incredibly expensive and sometimes problematic solution to a problem nobody had anymore. And to make matters worse, only a portion of the F-14 fleet was ever as capable as most of the world believed.But to be completely clear, it was still one hell of a jet.The F-14 Tomcat's target was Soviet bombersAnF-14D, armed with two AIM-9 Sidewinder missiles, a GBU-10 Paveway II laser-guided bomb, and a LANTIRN Pod, over Afghanistan, November 7, 2001.US Air Force/SSgt. Michael D. GaddisThe Grumman F-14 Tomcat was an incredibly capable aircraft, and with good reason. In an era before Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles (ICBMs) had matured into the go-to nuclear weapon delivery vehicle they would become, the Tomcat was designed in large part to neuter the Soviet Union's most potent means of putting nukes on American soil: their fleet of strategic bombers.In the present tense, the idea of a foreign power flying bombers over the continental United States seems practically impossible, thanks is no small part to America's broad military footprint, advanced detection technology, and today's geopolitical climate. That wasn't the case at the peak of the Cold War.The threat posed by Soviet long-range bombers was so dire, in fact, that before air-to-air missiles had become prevalent in the 1960s, the US actually developed a rocket-propelled air-to-air nuclear weapon that would wipe out entire formations with a single launch.With the threat of Soviet bombers armed with nuclear weapons or anti-ship missiles at the forefront of their minds, Grumman designed the largest and heaviest carrier fighter in history, with a fair amount of that weight dedicated to the new Phoenix missile and the onboard systems required to leverage it.When fueled up and ready to go, the F-14 weighed in at 61,000 pounds, which is almost twice that of the future F/A-18 and quite a bit more than twice the weight of a fully-fueled F-16 Fighting Falcon.Despite all of that heft, the Tomcat still needed to be fast, so Grumman paired the F-14 with Pratt & Whitney's TF30 engines originally fitted to the F-111B they had failed to sell the Navy on. Each engine could produce 14,560 pounds of thrust under military power, with the afterburner kicking output up to 25,100 pounds.All told, the F-14 could use that combined 50,000+ pounds of thrust to push the aircraft to an astonishing Mach 2.3, and its variable-sweep wing design gave it excellent handling at both the low speeds required for carrier landings and the high speeds needed to intercept Ivan before he could deploy his anti-ship missiles toward an American carrier.Thanks to that variable-sweep wing design, the F-14 could turn tighter than most of its capable 4th-generation competition, including the small and nimble F-16 under the right circumstances. That meant it could not only cover ground quickly to engage Soviet bombers, the Tomcat really could dogfight and win if called upon to do so.'A nice aircraft powered by two pieces of junk'Sailors aboard USS Abraham Lincoln prepare an F-14D for flight operations during Operation Iraqi Freedom, March 24, 2003.US Navy/Photographer's Mate 3rd Class Michael S. KellyFor all its capability, the Tomcat could also be troublesome. The TF30 engines were indeed powerful, but they were also arguably too sensitive for the job.They'd been designed for an even heavier application in the 80,000 pound F-111B, but that platform was more bomber than fighter. Bombers need powerful engines to carry their payloads at combat speeds, but they also have very different flight envelopes than fighters.When operated at high angles of attack, or when the pilot adjusted the throttle position quickly (both common facets of the air combat the jet was built for but uncommon in bomber missions), the engines were prone to compressor stalls. This issue led some to call the Tomcat, "a nice aircraft powered by two pieces of junk.""From the very start you essentially teach the pilots to fly the engine as a priority over flying the airplane," Capt. Lee Tillotson, the Navy's F14 program coordinator, told The Washington Post in 1984."The pilot has to be very aware of what he does with the throttle at all times."More troubling still, with the engines mounted a vast 9 feet apart to allow for greater lift and more weapons carriage space, a stall in one engine could throw the aircraft into an often unrecoverable flat spin. These issues led to the loss of a whopping 40 F-14s in all.But it wasn't just the stall issue plaguing the engine's in Maverick's ride. The turbine blades inside the engine were also prone to failure long before their anticipated service life expired, causing catastrophic damage to the engine and putting pilots' lives at risk.Navy Secretary John F. Lehman Jr. went on to say the TF30 engine "in the F-14 is probably the worst engine-airplane mismatch we have had in many years. The TF30 engine is just a terrible engine and has accounted for 28.2 percent of all F14 crashes."Today, we may look back on the F-14 with wistful awe, remembering how it was the only fighter that could stand toe-to-toe with the (fictional) MiG-28. But when it was in service, not everybody loved the Tomcat."The sooner we are out of it, the happier I will be," Lehman told Congress in 1984. "I guess the good news is that all the Iranian F-14s have the TF30, too."In 1987, F-14s began receiving new engines in the General Electric F110, which offered more thrust and eliminated many of the reliability problems associated with the TF30.These improved F-14Bs and the subsequent F-14Ds were very much the Tomcat of "Top Gun" fame, and as a result, you'll often find Tomcat fans dismissing the TF30's woes as a problem specific to the F-14A in the early days of operation.The truth is, a yoyoing budget made the transition from the TF30 to the F110 slow going.By 1996, nine years after the F110 entered service in the F-14, the Navy F-14 fleet included just 126 Tomcats with the new GE engines, while the other 212 were still flying on the troublesome TF30. In fact, F-14A's running the TF30 were still flying for the Navy until as late as 2004.The problem with a variable-sweep wing designA F-14 during flight testing.US Navy/San Diego Air and Space MuseumThe F-14's variable-sweep wing design is one of the aircraft's most striking visual characteristics, and there's no denying that the premise behind it makes sense. The wings could vary from 20 degrees to 68 degrees while airborne to allow for the best possible flight characteristics at both low and high speeds.Wing positioning was controlled automatically by the Central Air Data Computer onboard, ensuring the wings were positioned for the best possible lift-to-drag ratio for each situation, but they could also be controlled manually by the pilot.As you can imagine, a system that capable and advanced was not only complicated and heavy, it also required quite a bit of upkeep. Depending on the Navy estimate, the F-14 Tomcat required between 30 hours and 60 hours of maintenance for every one hour it spent in the air.The high prices associated with maintaining the complicated sweep-wing systems is often cited as one of the most pressing reasons for the Tomcat's early retirement when compared to its American fighter peers.But while maintenance costs may have been the biggest issue with the F-14's wings, price wasn't the only thing people complained about.While adjustments to wing position were rapid and automatic, pilots training against Tomcats in F-15s and F-16s soon began reporting that the shifts in wing position helped them quickly assess the F-14's energy state and momentum during maneuvers.Like a boxer telegraphing his punch, the F-14 Tomcat telegraphed its maneuvers, making them easier for skilled and experienced opponents to read and predict.The Phoenix missile wasn't much use against fightersAnF-14A launching an AIM-54 Phoenix missile in 1991.US NavyHad the Navy been forced to put their F-14s in to combat, it's likely the branch would have lost more aircraft to engine failures than it would have to enemy fire, and even its incredible Phoenix missile was unlikely to change that fact.While later F-14 iterations like the F-14B and F-14D came with better engines, a digital cockpit, and improved avionics, a good portion of the fleet operated sub-standard TF30 engines for the majority of the fighter's service life.These jets were limited to just 6.5G maneuvers in order to alleviate concerns about the compressor stalls in the engines, but that put the Tomcat at a distinct disadvantage against modern fighters like the F-15, which were rated to exceed 9 Gs.Some, however, still contended that the F-14 Tomcat didn't need to be acrobatic thanks to its amazing new weapon system: the Phoenix missile.The famed AIM-54 Phoenix missile and AN/AWG-9 radar developed specifically to leverage it really does deserve the respect its gained over the years.The AN/AWG-9 radar could identify and track up to six targets from 100 miles out, and when armed with six AIM-54 Pheonix missiles, the F-14 could deploy all of its weapons in just 38 seconds. It was an air-to-air weapon without equal in its day, but it just wasn't really intended for use against enemy fighters.The AIM-54 Phoenix was 13 feet long, 15 inches in diameter, and technically had a maximum range of 125 miles (though targeting was limited to 100). It was dropped like a bomb before igniting its massive engine, which would immediately propel the missile up to 80,000 feet where it would close with its target and use its kinetic energy to guide it down into its intended target.This approach to long-range engagements would work against large, slow moving, prop-driven bombers like those employed by the Soviet Union but weren't much use against faster and more nimble fighters. Covering such long distances just gave enemy fighters too much opportunity to recognize that they were targeted and take sufficient evasive action.In January 1999, two F-14s each fired one Phoenix missile at two Iraqi MiG-25s, only to have both miss. Later that same year, another F-14 fired a Phoenix at a MiG-23, only to miss once again. No F-14 ever shot down an enemy aircraft with the missile it was designed to carry.The F-14 made the F-35 seem like a bargainAn F-14D performs a fly-by past USS Dwight D. Eisenhower in the Atlantic Ocean, June 19, 2006.US Navy/Photographer's Mate Airman Dale MillerWhen we hear discussion about the F-14 being an expensive aircraft, it almost rings hallow in this era of trillion-dollar fighter programs like Lockheed Martin's F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, but just like it's hard to compare box office returns for movies released decades apart, inflation has a way of robbing the shock value from dated figures.So in the interest of context, let's convert these F-14 price points to 2021 figures.The Navy's first batch of F-14As rang in at $38 million per aircraft in 1973. That sounds pretty cheap compared to around $88 million for a new F-15EX these days, but when you adjust that number to reflect nearly five decades of inflation, you get a downright shocking figure of more than $234 million per F-14 Tomcat.The F-35's initial production run per-unit cost was also quite high, but still more than $10 million less than the Tomcat, at $221 million per fighter. By 1988, 13 years later, the F-14D cost $74 million per airframe, which adjusted for inflation brings the Tomcat's price down to $171 million per aircraft in today's dollars.Last year marked 13 years since the F-35's first production batch, with per-unit prices of the F-35A now at around $78 million per airframe — $93 million less than the F-14 per jet.When you see these numbers for what they really are, you begin to appreciate just how potent a threat the United States saw Soviet bombers to be. These prices were considered justifiable as a means of staving off the end of the world, but after the fall of the Soviet Union, the apocalypse seemed to be on hold for the foreseeable future.The F-14 Tomcat was anything but junkAn F-14D aboard USS Theodore Roosevelt completes the final catapult launch of an F-14, July 28, 2006.US Navy/MCS3 Nathan LairdIf you started reading this article with a special place in your heart reserved for the F-14, you may be grinding your teeth by now — but it's important to remember that being expensive and problematic doesn't mean the Tomcat wasn't also a mind-boggling performer with no real peer in its era. Again, it pays to draw comparisons between Maverick's fighter and the modern F-35.Today, you don't have to go far to find people calling the F-35 a failure because of cost over-runs, production delays, and some early reports of the fighter's poor performance against older jets. The people you won't find calling the F-35 a failure, however, are the men and women who fly the 5th-generation powerhouse in combat.The F-35 is just too different to grade using the same metrics we use for fighters like the F-15. It relies on technology, not brute force, to win fights — and effective as that approach may be, it doesn't make for exciting press releases.The F-14 Tomcat also had a troubled development run and sometimes got beat up by America's other fighters in wargames, but like the F-35 … it was built to do things no other fighter was capable of doing at the time.When the F-14 first took to the skies, it was bigger, heavier, and could carry more ordnance than any carrier fighter in history. It could track and engage enemy bombers from triple-digit ranges in a time when many national Air Forces were still focused on guns and cannons for air-to-air fighting. Through subsequent upgrades, it was on the cutting edge of avionic systems and eventually even picked up respectable air-to-ground capabilities like its multi-role peers.But reaching so far ahead is expensive … and ultimately, it's dollars and cents that dictate the makeup of America's fighter fleets. Could the F-14 have been modernized, upgraded, and improved to still be flying today? Of course it could. But like the bringing the F-22 Raptor back from the dead … sometimes it would cost more to keep a really good older fighter than it would cost to design and build a great new one.The F-14 may have had a short shelf-life compared to some of its sister jets of the 70s, but there's no denying … the mighty Tomcat's presence had lasting effects on naval aviation and even on foreign relations around the world.The F-15 and F-16 may have gotten to stick around longer, but the F-14 will always be the Top Gun for some of us.Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: topSource: businessinsiderNov 17th, 2021

Even with F-16s, Ukraine"s pilots still wouldn"t be "out of the woods" against Russia"s air force, US officials say

To operate F-16s, Ukraine would need long-term training and supplies, and those jets would still be facing off against Russia's capable air force. US Air Force F-16.US Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Matthew Lotz NATO members Poland and Slovakia have pledged to send Ukraine more MiG-29 jets. Ukraine is still seeking to get Western-designed jets, particularly the US-made F-16. F-16s have specific needs, and Russia could still bring them down, officials and experts say. Poland and Slovakia are sending their Soviet-designed MiG-29 fighter jets to Ukraine, promising to give Kyiv a bit of the airpower boost it has long sought. Ukrainian leaders are still seeking Western-made jets, but delivering those aircraft and preparing Ukraine to use them would require considerable training and maintenance — and they wouldn't overcome the challenge posed by Russia's aircraft and air defenses, officials and experts say.Polish President Andrzej Duda said on March 16 that Warsaw would send roughly a dozen of its MiG-29s to Ukraine, with the first four arriving "within the next few days." A day later, Slovakia announced it would send 11 MiG-29 jets, all of which are retired and some of which will be used only for spare parts.Polish and Slovakian MiG-29s would add to Ukraine's fleet and be familiar to Ukrainian pilots but won't bring much more capability than Ukraine's current MiG-29s. Kyiv continues to push Western countries to provide their jets, with Ukrainian officials often singling out the F-16 — a call echoed by some US lawmakers."The Ukrainians have at times asked us for as many as 128 fourth-generation aircraft, a mix of F-15s, F-18s, and F-16s," Colin Kahl, the undersecretary of defense for policy, told lawmakers on February 28, adding that President Joe Biden and President Volodymyr Zelenskyy discussed jets during Biden's visit to Kyiv on February 20.A Ukrainian pilot exits a MiG-29 fighter jet at an airbase outside of Kyiv in November 2016.Danil Shamkin/NurPhoto via Getty ImagesThe Biden administration has said repeatedly that it isn't planning to provide jets. Biden himself said on February 24 that Ukraine "doesn't need F-16s now," and the White House said Poland's announcement "doesn't change our calculus."Other moves suggest the US is thinking about what it would take to send aircraft to Ukraine. As of early March, two Ukrainian pilots were at a base in Tucson for what a US defense official described as "familiarization event" that involved an assessment of their ability to fly US aircraft, according to NBC News.But actually sending F-16s or other Western-designed jets to Ukraine will take much more than pilot evaluations, according to Gen. Mark Kelly, the head of Air Combat Command, which organizes and trains combat-ready forces for the US Air Force."The real interest I would have is if you see big efforts of not two aviators doing some simulator training and academics in Tucson. If you see 102 young airmen learning the sustainment business of a French Rafale, a Eurofighter Typhoon, any other Western airplane, that's when things get serious," Kelly told reporters at the Air and Space Forces warfare symposium on March 7.'The hard work'A pilot exits a Polish Air Force F-16 at an airbase in Poznan in November 2006.WOJTEK RADWANSKI/AFP via Getty ImagesF-16s would allow Ukrainian pilots to fly more often and to do so with a broader range of weapons and sensors, Kelly said."So you have increased sortie rates, increased compatibility with Western weapons," including anti-radar missiles that US engineers scrambled to equip Ukraine's Soviet-designed jets with, Kelly said. "You would have better sensors, better processing power, better aviator awareness, which means you have better aviator survivability."But maintaining those advantages would require not only extensive training for Ukrainian airmen but also consistent access to resources, from spare parts to hangar space.If the US or another NATO country elected to supply Ukraine with F-16s, Kelly said his first question would be "what sustainment depot are they going to use? That's hard work. There's a depot in Belgium. There's a depot in Poland, and they must have slots — like hotel rooms, you've got to have reservations to go in there."Supplies would also have to be tailored to the model, or block, of F-16 being provided. "Is it Block 15? Is it a Block 25? Is it a Block 30? Is Block 40? What is it?" Kelly said. "All that supply chain is really, really the hard work."US airmen from the 56th Equipment Maintenance Squadron phase shop inspect an F-16 in November 2016.US Air Force/Airman 1st Class Pedro MotaJohn Baum, a senior resident fellow for the Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies, said that Ukrainian airfields would also need to be outfitted for the F-16."A US-manufactured aircraft, compared to a Russian aircraft, would have very specific ground support equipment needs," Baum, a former F-16 pilot, told Insider. "From a ground personnel training perspective, launch and recovery is just a little bit more complex, but the ground support equipment would be the key. You just need specific equipment to get the airplane off the ground."Meeting the F-16's airfield needs, including runway length, could be a challenge for Ukraine, which has had to operate its aircraft in a more dispersed manner, often at more austere bases and airstrips, to avoid Russian airstrikes. Those conditions lead some experts to advocate providing more rugged aircraft, like the Swedish-made Gripen.Ukraine's F-16s would also need periodic phase inspections, usually after several hundred flight hours, which require taking the jet apart and examining or replacing its components. "I don't know where those inventories would exist to where they would have a turnkey solution to have everything that they would need from nose to tail," Baum said.An F-16C during a 300-flight-hour inspection at Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan in August 2016.US Air Force/Senior Airman Justyn Freeman"There are established countries that have been operating the F-16, including the United States Air Force, for decades that have their own maintenance timeline and supply-chain issues," Baum added.Conducting extensive inspections and repairs would be challenging because of Russia's ability to attack Ukrainian airfields. "Just think of physical hangar space to be able to take apart an airplane. For some of these phase inspections within the United States that have all the access to all the equipment, they still take six months," Baum said. "I cannot imagine trying to do this within the borders of a war-fighting nation the size of Ukraine."Support and supplies from the jet's manufacturer, Lockheed Martin, would also be "critical," Baum said, but the company already devotes time and resources to supporting the two dozen other countries that operate the F-16."There are those logistical challenges of being the newest customer on the block," Baum said. "In this case, you're in an active war zone, and obviously I would assume that they would have some priority, but it isn't going to be an overnight turn-the-switch-on and they'll have access to everything that they need."'Not out of the woods'A Ukrainian Su-27 takes off at Mirgorod Air Base in July 2011. Two US Air National Guard F-16Cs are parked in the foreground.US Air National Guard/Tech. Sgt. Charles VaughnKahl, the Pentagon official, told lawmakers in February that even "the most expeditious timeline" for delivering F-16s would be the same as the training timeline for that jet: 18 months.Baum — who was vice president at Draken International, a contractor that provides military aircraft services, including adversary support — said that acquiring the jets, training Ukrainian pilots and maintainers on them, and then transferring them to Ukraine would likely be an 18- to 24-month process.That process could be altered to get jets to Ukraine for near-term use, but long-term operations would still require extensive training and ongoing provision of supplies.Baum said experienced pilots would need at least a four-month training cycle to get up to speed on the F-16. Experienced maintainers would likely need a similar amount of time to get familiar with the F-16's distinct hardware and more advanced electronics. "Again, that's just for the short-term of being able to launch or recover aircraft," Baum said.The wreckage of a Ukrainian fighter jet in a field in Kherson on January 7.Pierre Crom/Getty ImagesF-16s could also operate "from more austere locations," Baum added, "but I would say that that would be more of a contingency vs. a norm."Even if Ukraine received F-16s in the short-term, those jets would still square off against a Russian air force that is not only larger but has more modern aircraft with advanced sensors and weapons."It doesn't matter if it's a French Rafale, Eurofighter, F-16, any fourth-gen airplane, the Russian Air Force is still very, very credible in that head-on-head realm," Kelly, the Air Combat Command leader, said on March 7.Ukraine's new jets would also be flying against Russian air-defense weapons that have claimed dozens of Ukrainian aircraft and continue to contest the airspace around the front lines."They're not out of the woods," Kelly said of the Ukrainians. "Just because there's something that was produced in Fort Worth or St. Louis or in France or in Europe doesn't mean they're out of the woods with respect to the lethality of the air-defense systems they face."Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: personnelSource: nytMar 22nd, 2023

Mistakes by the US"s top spies allowed China to turn a deadly mid-air collision into an intelligence coup

In April 2001, a US spy plane and a Chinese jet collided over the South China Sea. Author James Bamford details the incident's lasting consequences. The crew of a US Navy EP-3 detained in China board a flight to Guam on April 12, 2001.US Marine Corps/Staff Sgt. John Giles On April 1, 2001, a US EP-3 spy plane collided with a Chinese fighter jet over the South China Sea. The US plane was forced to land at a Chinese base, giving China access to its sensitive hardware. Author James Bamford details US missteps throughout the incident and their lasting consequences. The following is an excerpt from James Bamford's new book, "Spyfail: Foreign Spies, Moles, Saboteurs, and the Collapse of America's Counterintelligence.""Spy Fail" by James Bamford.Twelve BooksSunrise was still a half-hour away and the temperature was just at the freezing mark when the lineman removed the blocks from the worn tires of the EP-3E ARIES II, a gray-and-white four-engine propjet with a donut-shaped "Big Look" radar attached to its lower belly. It was Sunday, April 1, 2001."Kilo Romeo 919," said a voice in the tower, "clear to taxi." Moments later the pilot, Navy lieutenant Shane Osborn, released the parking brake and eased the four power levers forward, his knuckles white. As the engines coughed blue-black exhaust fumes like a heavy smoker, the aircraft crawled slowly toward the runway on Okinawa's Kadena Air Base.One of eleven left in the fleet, the tired 1960s-era spy plane bristled with porcupine-like antennas. It would be a risky mission. Assigned to the NSA's Sensitive Reconnaissance Operations Program (SRO), the crew was scheduled to once again fly along the Chinese coast to update lists of signals, pick up a few conversations, and see if some ships or subs had moved from point A to point B or point C.It was intelligence overkill. In addition to its vast number of cyber spies at Fort Meade focused on China, the NSA also had the world's largest and most expensive fleet of spy satellites orbiting over the country every ninety minutes, as well as half a dozen expansive and costly listening posts stretching from northern Japan to South Korea to Okinawa. There, hundreds of agency operators sat with their ears constantly tuned to Chinese frequencies and their eyes scanning Chinese intercepts 24/7. And then just two miles from Kadena was the NSA's Hanza Remote Collection Facility, a massive electronic ear facing China, and scores of additional intercept operators. But within the intelligence bureaucracy, more spies mean more power for those in charge, whether they are needed or not. Hence the daily EP-3E patrols.At 4:47 a.m., the word came from the tower. "Wind 010 at eight [knots]. Cleared for takeoff." Osborn, a native Nebraskan with a dark receding hair-line and heavy caterpillar brows, moved the power levers forward again and placed his feet on the rudder pedals. Loaded with twenty-nine tons of jet fuel, the plane lumbered forward. Then as the airspeed indicators hit 133 knots, Osborn pulled back on the yoke and the aircraft's nose wheel lifted gently from Runway 4 Left.In addition to Osborn, there were five other members of the flight crew, including two more pilots; the three would take turns resting and flying. Behind them, in the near-windowless tubelike fuselage, eighteen analysts, eavesdroppers, and linguists hunched over racks of gray machines with blinking scopes and black dials that lined the long bulkhead on either side of the cabin. The mission was to monitor China's signals environment, especially their South Sea Fleet's tactical communications, radars, and weapon systems.Just aft of the door on the left side of the fuselage sat the Science and Technology (S&T) operator. His assignment that day was to collect and pro-cess signals associated with China's SA-10 surface-to-air missiles. According to top secret documents, this was done with one of the most highly classified computers on the plane, the SCARAB. Tall and boxy with a handle on top, it contained a unique processor code-named LUNCHBOX that was able to search and identify forty different worldwide weapons-related signals, code-named PROFORMA.A few seats away, another operator studied the screen of a black Tadpole Ultrabook IIi laptop. On it were some of the NSA's most highly secret pro-grams, including the RASIN (short for Radio Signals Notation) manual, the agency's bible. Listed inside were critical details about every signal in the world that NSA was intercepting. The laptop also contained MARTES, an ultrasensitive codebreaking program that deciphered enciphered Chinese voice communications.A US Navy EP-3E, assigned to Fleet Air Reconnaissance Squadron One, in an undated photo.ReutersShortly after takeoff, Osborn left the cockpit and entered the ops area. "It looks like good weather en route to the track orbit and back to Kadena," he told the crew. "Mission time is just over nine hours today." Back on the flight deck, he proceeded southwest, flying at 21,500 feet between Taiwan and the Philippines before following China's coastline on his SRO track past Hong Kong. A short time later he began approaching China's Hainan Island, home to the military's Lingshui Airfield, remaining about sixty miles off the coast.For almost a year, tensions over the US spy flights, about two hundred a year, had been building on the island, as well as in Beijing. In May 2000, Chinese military officers aired their complaints during a conference with their American counterparts in Honolulu. The annual meetings were established to discuss ways to avoid accidents at sea and in the air, and at the May meeting the Chinese officials made it very clear that the flights had become a growing problem.It was "the most important topic" at the meeting, one Chinese officer told the Washington Post at the time. The flights were approaching "too close to the coast, and it might cause trouble," he said, adding, "The atmosphere wasn't good." But the Americans paid little attention.It was an arrogant and belligerent stance for the United States to take since no American president would ever tolerate near-daily spy flights fifty miles off America's coasts by China, Russia, or any other country. Such flights are often viewed as a preparation for war. But rather than reduce the provocative flights, the NSA instead increased them from about two hundred a year to five days a week, even on Christmas Day. It was therefore less about collecting intelligence and more about flaunting power and flexing muscles.In response, on about every third mission Chinese fighters would conduct inspection flights, pulling up close and parallel with the American pilots and sometimes gesturing from the cockpit. The United States did basically the same thing on the very infrequent occasions that Russian aircraft flew near the US mainland. As the NSA's spy flights close to China increased, the Chinese fighter pilots became more aggressive, and the situation was becoming more and more dangerous.Nearly a half-century earlier, in 1956, another Navy reconnaissance aircraft was flying off China's coast when it suddenly had a confrontation with Chinese fighters. As a result, the plane crashed into the sea, killing all sixteen crew members on board. The incident shocked President Dwight Eisenhower. "We seem to be conducting something that we cannot control very well," he told Admiral Arthur M. Radford, then chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, in a secret meeting. "If planes were flying 20 to 50 miles from our shores," Eisenhower continued, "we would be very likely to shoot them down if they came in closer, whether through error or not." Close-in airborne eavesdropping was dangerous business.As Osborn continued his mission off Hainan Island, the plane was on autopilot as it cruised over the South China Sea at 22,500 feet and about 180 knots. Outside the weather was clear, with seven-mile visibility and a broken cloud layer below at 15,000 feet. And in the operational spaces, the eavesdropping activity was light, with the interception of an occasional early warning radar and routine military communications. It was, after all, a Sunday, raising even more questions about the reasons for the costly and hazardous mission.But the morning quiet would soon be shattered. On Hainan Island at 8:48 a.m., technicians manning the regional air defense network spotted the aircraft and flashed the details to Lingshui Airfield, which sounded an alarm. Standing by in ready status in their dark blue aviator's uniforms, fighter pilots Wang Wei and Zhao Yu raced for their aircraft, single-seat J-8II Finback interceptors armed with Israeli Python air-to-air missiles. At Mach 2.2 and with a ceiling of almost 60,000 feet, they flew fast and high with improved avionics supplied by the United States in the late 1980s.A Chinese J-8 Finback flies near a US Navy aircraft on January 24, 2001.US Defense DepartmentWith the increase in spy flights came an increase in aggressive inspections. Since December there had been forty-four interceptions, with six coming within thirty feet, and two within ten feet. Wang Wei, a thirty-three-year-old PLAN (People's Liberation Army Navy) lieutenant commander from the silk city of Huzhou near Shanghai, had eleven hundred hours of flight time under his belt. He was also a veteran of another EP-3E inspection the previous January.As the alarm sounded at Lingshui Airfield, followed by the scramble for the jets, Chinese linguists in the EP-3E's ops spaces immediately picked up the activity. Through their earphones they could hear the ground controller, the pilot communication checks, the fighter pre-flight activities, and a takeoff sequence.Across the Pacific, in a World War II-era bombproof bunker beneath a pineapple field in Hawaii, NSA linguists and intercept operators were also listening intently to the activity at Lingshui. Part of an alert system for spy planes, code-named KNICKELBACK, analysts quickly sent out a warning to the reconnaissance plane. The expansive bunker, known as the Kunia Regional Sigint Operations Center, was the NSA's major Pacific listening post.At 8:51 the EP-3E acknowledged the warning via secure satellite communications, and four minutes later Osborn spotted the jets approaching about a half-mile out and climbing rapidly to his altitude. At the time, he was about seventy miles from Hainan Island, and with the mission coming to an end, he was preparing to return to Okinawa. Within minutes, however, the fighters had reached the lumbering spy plane, and while Zhao Yu hung back about a half-mile, Wang Wei rapidly closed in. "Hey, he's right off our wing," someone from the back end reported to Osborn. "He's tight, that's the closest I've seen!"In the ops spaces, Marcia Sonon was in an awkward crouched position. Searching for the Chinese fighters, she was looking out a small round window on the left side over the wing. A Navy lieutenant with bright red hair, she was the plane's COMEVAL, the communications intelligence (COMINT) evaluator. Reporting to her were the six COMINT operators on the right side of the aircraft. They focused on intercepting Chinese voice communications and the PROFORMA weapons-related signals."He's closing to three o'clock," she told Osborn. "He's definitely armed. I can see missiles on his wing. He's got his oxygen mask on." A moment later her calm tone turned tense and stressed. "He's getting really close! Fifty feet. Now he's about forty feet," she said, her voice rising. "Oh my God, he's coming closer! Right now he's about ten feet off our wing." Wang Wei rendered a salute, but Sonon couldn't make out what he meant. In the cockpit, Osborne looked right in his face. "This isn't good," he said. Then Wang Wei fell back about a hundred feet off the left wing.A minute later, Wang Wei had returned, this time closing to just five feet before making another gesture and dropping back again. Then a third approach, but this time he had difficulty slowing his fast interceptor to match the propjet's slow speed and suddenly he was directly below the EP-3E's left wing. In severe trouble, he immediately radioed the base, telling them he was unable to maneuver and being sucked in by the spy plane. Seconds later, his jet impacted the plane's left outboard propeller just forward of the J-8II's vertical stabilizer, tearing the tail off the Chinese aircraft and sending its nose crashing into the front of the EP-3E, which was then still on autopilot.Instantly Osborn felt the bang as a cloud of glittering debris exploded in front of the left wing and he heard what sounded like a monster chainsaw hacking through metal. Then, a fraction of a second later, as the jet hit the front of his plane, the EP-3E's fiberglass nosecone flew over the windscreen and metal fragments punctured the fuselage like machine-gun fire. Immediately there was an explosive decompression as screams filled the cockpit and the cabin."I was pretty certain we were dead at that point," said Osborn. "We were upside down in a large reconnaissance aircraft. I had lost my nose. I could hear the wind screaming through the plane, and I knew that number one prop was violently shaking. We were pretty much inverted. I was looking up at the ocean, so it was not a good feeling ... I thought twenty- four people were going to die in the middle of the ocean, and I wondered if anyone would know why."Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld briefs reporters on the collision at the Pentagon on April 12, 2001.Mai/Getty ImagesAt that same moment, twenty-six-year-old Navy lieutenant junior grade John Comerford felt a shock wave rip down his spine. "I was scared," he later said. Tall, with a thick patch of carrot-colored hair, the 1997 Annapolis grad had been nicknamed by Osborn "Johnny Ballgame" because the two would have a good time on the weekends together. As the senior evaluator (SEVAL), he had overall responsibility for the reconnaissance personnel. "Honestly, based on how things felt—I didn't have a whole lot of visual reference—but based on how things felt, and the shaking of the plane, yeah, there was a time there that I really thought to myself, 'Wow, this guy—this guy just killed us.' "Flying behind the two planes in his J-8II, Zhao Yu witnessed the collision and frantically radioed Wang Wei. "Your plane's vertical tail has been struck off !" he yelled. "Remain stable, remain stable!" "Roger," Wang Wei replied, but about thirty seconds later Zhao Yu saw his partner's jet roll to the right side and plunge toward the South China Sea. Although Wang Wei managed to bail out, his parachute did not open in time and his body would never be found.By now the spy plane was out of control, gear crashing all around, a disintegrating number one engine hurling shrapnel, and horrified screams in the cockpit and the ops area as it began an inverted dive. Osborn instinctively swung the yoke hard right and jammed his foot on the right rudder pedal to regain control. But the dive angle steepened, and he was looking up at the sky instead of down at the choppy blue-black waves of the sea below.After the plane tumbled for about a mile and a half, Osborn shouted into the PA system, "Prepare to bail out!" In the ops area, the crew scrambled for their parachutes, survival vests, and helmets. But then he managed to bring the aircraft under partial control, and after falling another mile, he was able to regain full control, leveling off at 8,000 feet. Minutes later Osborn changed the order to prepare to ditch.At 9:13, eight minutes after the collision, copilot Jeff Vignery, a redheaded Kansan, put out an emergency call over the international distress frequency, 243.0 MHz. "Mayday! Mayday!" he shouted. "Kilo Romeo 919! We are going down!" It was then 8:13 p.m. in Washington, but despite all of its eavesdropping assets, the NSA never received the emergency call because even during sensitive reconnaissance missions it never bothered to monitor the international distress frequencies. Nor were the communications in the ops spaces any better. Moments after the collision, the secure communications operator attempted repeatedly to transmit the two-word message "GOING DOWN" on a secure network for reconnaissance operations. Code-named Sensor Pace, it was a low-data-rate digital satellite network, but the message was never received.Finally, the navigator began repeatedly transmitting Mayday calls on another secure satellite system, the Pacific Tributary Network, and at least one transmission was eventually received by both the NSA's Kunia bunker in Hawaii and the agency's Special Support Activity at Fort Meade. Part of the agency's National Security Operations Center, the SSA instantly sent out a top secret CRITIC message. Reserved for the highest emergencies, or indications of war, CRITICs (for Critical Intelligence) are designed to immediately alert the president and top government officials to a major event.Within minutes, the SSA watch commander set up a special high-level conferencing system known as a NOIWON (National Operational Intelligence Watch Officer's Network) bringing together the crisis centers at the White House, CIA, Pentagon, State Department, and NSA. Other discussions were conducted over a watch officers' secure chat room known as ZIRCON chat. In concert with the National Reconnaissance Office, eavesdropping and imaging satellites were steered toward the crisis area.On board the aircraft, there were only bad and worse choices. No one had ever bailed out of an EP-3E, and because of the damage there was a good possibility of the jumpers smashing into the tail. And even if they made it to the sea beneath their parachutes, the twenty-four crew members would be scattered over a wide distance in shark-infested waters. There was a life raft, but because of the airspeed, it would land far from the survivors. Ditching into the sea, however, was an even worse idea. Because of the lack of control, and the bulbous doughnut- shaped Big Look radar on the bottom, the plane would likely flip nose down and immediately sink.A Lockheed Martin team prepares the damaged EP-3E for return to the US at China's Lingshui Airfield on June 18, 2001.Mai/Getty ImagesFinally, Osborn gained partial control of the aircraft, which gave him a third choice: Make for the nearest land. But that was Hainan Island, their eavesdropping target. Thus they would be handing Chinese intelligence an entire NSA spy plane filled bulkhead to bulkhead with top secret coding and crypto equipment, intercept gear, and a library of highly sensitive documents, most classified above top secret. Nevertheless, between losing secrets or lives, Osborn chose in favor of saving the crew and turned toward Hainan's Lingshui Airfield. "Activate the emergency destruction plan," he yelled over the PA, assuming there was such a plan.In the ops spaces, it was chaos, with no one in charge and no coherent method to the destruction. Despite the fact that NSA spy planes flew almost daily missions along hostile borders, there was no guidance or procedures on what to do in an emergency if it was necessary to divert to the target country. Nor had there ever been training on how to destroy a planeload of NSA secrets in flight. These were just further blunders by NSA director Michael Hayden, who was in charge of the airborne missions under his dual role as chief of the Central Security Service, the military side of NSA. He was about to hand the Chinese an entire flying listening post packed with the nation's highest secrets.Much of the blame for the chaos, compromise of material, and lack of training also fell on Osborn and the plane's signals intelligence officers, according to a top secret NSA damage assessment. "The aircrew's overall performance in safeguarding classified materials under their charge was poor," it said, citing "a general lack of training, practice in emergency destruction, capabilities, and sound policy."LTJG John Comerford, the senior evaluator, was in charge of the NSA's signals intelligence personnel in the back end and therefore responsible for overseeing the emergency destruction of the critical documents and equipment. But according to the NSA report, rather than supervise the destruction, he instead "isolated himself from knowledge of actions taking place in the rest of the cabin. As a result, he had no situational awareness of the status and scope of emergency destruction and was unable to effectively monitor and direct the actions of the crew." Wielding a fire ax, he began smashing equipment and dumping material out a hatch, but paid little attention to directing an organized destruction effort.Also, inexplicably, he never bothered to tell the crew that rather than ditching in the South China Sea they were going to land on Hainan Island. Therefore, many crew members simply stood by the door preparing to exit rather than taking part in the emergency destruction. Others found the task overwhelming due to the lack of direction and the fact that the plane was overstuffed with reams and reams of top secret documents. Many of the documents were useless, unnecessary, and never should have been brought aboard. And while the ax was used to damage some laptop computers, left unharmed were the internal hard drives containing the sensitive data. Similarly, with the racks of highly sensitive intercept equipment along the aircraft's bulkheads, crew members smashed the keyboards and display screens but left such critical system components as tuners and signal processors unscathed.Among those Comerford failed to inform about the landing in China was Lieutenant Marcia Sonon, the COMINT evaluator in charge of the voice intercept crew. Assuming the plane was going to ditch, instead of destroying or jettisoning all the highly sensitive COMINT materials, the crew simply packed them in locking leather satchels and, along with the highly sensitive MARTES laptop computer, stored them in a cabinet.US Navy EP-3E crew members wait to depart China on April 12, 2001.Mai/Getty ImagesIt was a short flight to Lingshui, but despite numerous Mayday calls and requests for assistance on an international distress frequency (243.0 MHz), there was no response from the Chinese airfield's controllers. No one, however, bothered to contact the airfield on its own frequency even though members of the crew had that information.Nevertheless, after a pass over the runway, flying low over orange roofs, swaying palm trees, rice fields, and an operations tower blackened with mildew, Osborn touched down. It was 9:34 in the morning, twenty-nine minutes after the collision. As he tapped the brakes with his flight boots to slow the aircraft down, ahead of him on the runway he saw a thin lineman in sandals directing the aircraft to the edge of the runway. Once the plane came to a stop, it was surrounded by about two dozen military personnel, six to eight of them armed with AK-47 assault rifles, though none were pointed at the aircraft.At 9:41, over secure satellite communications, Comerford reported to the NSA's SSA, the Kunia bunker, and the Pacific Reconnaissance Operations Center in Hawaii. "On deck at Lingshui," he said. He then told Osborn his orders were to stay put as they evaluated the situation. "They want us to hold on a few minutes," Comerford said. Instead, before awaiting instructions or passing on any information about the collision, the status of the classified information, or their situation, Osborn ordered the plane's power turned off, thereby eliminating any chance of further communications with NSA or the outside world.Moments later, in the ultimate absurdity, the first thing Osborn did was to ask a PLA officer for his cell phone to call NSA headquarters. "Can I use your phone to make a call?" he said, standing in the doorway. "I have to tell my command that we are safe.""That is not possible," the officer said. "We will take care of that. Do not worry."Ordered off the plane, Osborn at first resisted and then turned to Comerford. "Hey, Ballgame. It's time to get off.""Okay, you're right," said Comerford, and he lowered the door's folded ladder.Once everyone was off the plane, the PLA officer headed for the ladder."You are not allowed aboard the aircraft," Osborn said. "It's American property.""It's okay, we'll guard it for you," said the officer, no doubt laughing to himself.From the plane, the crew was escorted to a bus where they waited, drinking bottled water and smoking packs of Bao Dao cigarettes, filling the air with thick gray smoke."Everything did go alright in the backend, right?" Osborn asked Comerford."Everything's good back there," he replied, seemingly oblivious to the inadequate emergency destruction that had taken place. Although the plane had an emergency action plan, neither Comerford nor anyone else ever consulted it."Notwithstanding the chaotic circumstances on the aircraft following the collision," the top secret NSA damage assessment noted, "we conclude that the crew had sufficient time to jettison all sensitive materials ... The incident revealed a systemic complacency regarding policy, planning, and training support to EP-3E SRO missions."A satellite photo the US Navy EP-3 at Lingshui Airfield on Hainan Island on April 4, 2001.Getty ImagesThe report also pointed a finger directly at the NSA's leadership, including Director Hayden. "No specific guidance existed regarding Mission Commander or aircrew actions should an SRO aircraft be forced or, through emergency, be required to land in the PRC," it said. It added, "Crew training for emergency destruction was minimal and did not meet squadron requirements; this deficiency was the primary cause of the compromise of classified material."For the next eleven days, until their release, the crew was treated well, housed first in a military barracks and then in a simple hotel. They were questioned about the cause of the midair collision while Washington and Beijing worked out agreements for their return. But while the crew was eating rice, seaweed, and chicken feet, Chinese signals intelligence specialists were studying the top secret documents and dissecting the equipment on the spy plane as if it were an alien spacecraft. It was an enormous intelligence windfall.Because Lieutenant Marcia Sonon, the COMINT evaluator, was never informed by Comerford of the plan to land in China, all of the highly secret communications interception computers, equipment, and documents were neatly stowed in cabinets rather than destroyed or thrown into the sea. This gave Chinese intelligence an incredible insight into the NSA capabilities against their country.Among the undamaged computers were the two most sensitive on the aircraft, according to the NSA's report. "The most potentially damaging compromised items were the carry-on LUNCHBOX PROFORMA processor," it said, "and a laptop computer with MARTES software tools for collecting, analyzing, and processing signals. The aircraft also had an extensive inventory of SIGINT documentation in both hardcopy and electronic media."What most concerned NSA on the MARTES computer was the RASIN manual, RASIN Working Aid, and associated material. This was the agency's index of every signal they were targeting in China, Russia, and everywhere else in the world. "Together, the RASIN manual and aforementioned files provided a comprehensive overview of how the U.S. Cryptologic System exploits an adversary's signal environment," said the report.Ultimately, the damage went well beyond China itself to other adversaries. "The aircraft carried significant technical data on target nations such as Russia, North Korea, and Vietnam," the report said. This included "Russian-designed PROFORMA [weapons-related] signals used by North Korea, Russia, Vietnam, and possibly the PRC," as well as "PROFORMA data for nearly 50 nations." It added, "The Electronic Order of Battle (EOB) database car-ried on the EP-3E provided information on the location, number, and type of radars worldwide."Still other documents revealed the fact that the NSA was able to spy on the PLA Navy's Submarine Launched Ballistic Missile program, locate its submarines, and eavesdrop on their communications. They could now change their communication methods and develop better ways to successfully hide.A magazine cover featuring pilot Wang Wei at a newsstand in Beijing on April 17, 2001.ReutersCompromises also included the Intercept Tasking Database and Collection Requirements. It outlined all the key targets in China the agency was interested in, and even details on a new communications system the PLA had yet to deploy. The PLA also got near-complete access to the plane's electronic intelligence systems. "Emergency destruction of the installed ELINT equip-ment by the crew was largely ineffective," said the report. A further problem for the NSA was the fact that the inventory of classified materials aboard, left by the EP-3E crew in Kadena before they departed "was not accurate, detailed, or verified." Therefore, no one knew just what was on the plane and what might have been compromised.The aircraft was also loaded down with encryption devices, cryptographic keys, and entire codebooks, some for a month in advance. Much of it, said the report, was "in excess of what was needed for the mission." Sixteen cryptographic keys and codebooks as well as sixteen cryptographic devices were left on board undamaged. Other keying materials were simply torn and left in the plane. "The PRC would probably be able to reconstruct the key tape," it said.With keys and devices in hand, and the right technical ability, the Chinese had fifteen hours to decipher highly secret communications across the Pacific before the NSA was able to distribute new keys worldwide, an enormous intelligence coup. The compromised materials also "might enable PRC SIGINT units to decrypt limited U.S. Pacific area encrypted transmissions for 31 March and 1 April," said the report. The crypto devices proved unique prizes. "There is strong evidence that the PRC has aggressively sought to obtain these equipments," said the report. One reason might be that they already had a source who could supply them with keying materials on a regular basis.The ramifications of the EP-3E disaster would be enormous and have a long- range and very detrimental legacy for the United States. In 2019, the Chinese government credited the incident that took Wang Wei's life with being the catalyst to spur the country's military modernization."His death was an accident, but it set off many changes," said Beijing- based military expert Zhou Chenming. "What happened 18 years ago spurred China to step up the modernization of its military, especially aircraft development for the air force and navy." Beijing-based naval expert Li Jie agreed. "The 2001 crash taught China a lesson—that a strong country cannot rely on a vibrant economy alone but also needs a strong military. That's what they refer to as 'comprehensive national strength.'"Equally serious, the EP-3E incident provided China with an enormous capability to discover exactly what successes the NSA had been able achieve over the years and decades. Now they knew which codes they had broken and which targets they were intercepting, giving Chinese intelligence the ability to modify the systems and plug the NSA's ears for years or decades to come.Next, they were determined to do the same with the CIA's human spies, to find them and eliminate them with a bullet or a jail cell. And following a secret meeting in Hong Kong a week before the crash, they were off to a very good start.READ NEXT: How China planted an FBI mole who was discovered only after gutting the CIA's vast spy networkJames Bamford, a winner of the National Magazine Award for reporting, is the best-selling author of "The Puzzle Palace," "Body of Secrets," and other books on intelligence. His most recent book, from which this excerpt was taken, is "Spyfail: Foreign Spies, Moles, Saboteurs, and the Collapse of America's Counterintelligence," released on January 17.Excerpted from "Spyfail: Foreign Spies, Moles, Saboteurs, and the Collapse of America's Counterintelligence." ©2022 James Bamford and reprinted by permission from Twelve Books/Hachette Book Group.Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: personnelSource: nytMar 22nd, 2023

The US is flying drones farther from Russia to be less "provocative" after a Russian jet harassed and smashed into one, making it crash: report

A Pentagon spokesperson told reporters that the US will continue to operate its surveillance drones in international airspace over the Black Sea. A U.S. airman guides a U.S. Air Force MQ-9 Reaper drone as it taxis to the runway at Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan.Reuters/Reuters Staff A Russian fighter jet clipped a US military drone operating above the Black Sea last week.  The Pentagon said despite the incident, Washington will continue flying its aircraft in the region.  US officials say drones are flying farther south and away from Russia, according to a report. One week after a Russian fighter jet harassed and crashed into a US military surveillance drone over the Black Sea, Washington is still signaling that it'll continue to fly its aircraft in the area — just farther away from Russia and Russian-occupied territories. During a Tuesday briefing, Pentagon Press Secretary Air Force Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder told reporters that the US will continue to operate its surveillance drones in international airspace over the Black Sea, "in accordance with international law." For "operation security reasons," Ryder declined to detail specific routes, missions, and timelines.US officials, however, told CNN that the drones are now flying farther south over the Black Sea and moving away from Russia and occupied Crimea. One official said the decision was made "to avoid being too provocative" and will remain in place "for the time being," but they noted that there's a desire to revert back to operations closer to territory controlled by Russia.   When asked about the unnamed official's comments, a Pentagon spokesperson referred Insider to remarks made by Ryder last week, which are similar to what he said during Tuesday's briefing.  "I'm not going to get into talking about specific missions, routes, timelines of operations," Ryder said on March 16. "I think Secretary Austin was pretty clear that we're going to continue to fly and operate in international airspace where international law allows, and that includes the Black Sea region."A Russian Su-27 fighter jet approaches a US military MQ-9 Reaper drone operating above the Black Sea on March 14, 2023.Screengrab/US Air Force videoTwo Russian Su-27 fighter jets intercepted the US military MQ-9 Reaper drone as it was operating in international airspace above the Black Sea on March 14. The fighter jets dumped fuel on and flew in front of the drone several times before one of the Su-27s clipped the Reaper's propeller, forcing the US military to bring the drone down into international waters.  The incident, which marked the most direct confrontation between Russia and the US since the start of Moscow's full-scale war in Ukraine, sent already strained tensions between the two countries soaring. US officials criticized the Russians for acting unprofessional and performing unsafe maneuvers, accusing the pilot who hit the drone of being bad at flying and acting "with a lack of competence." Moscow deflected blame on the US, with its ambassador to Washington accusing the Reaper of traveling "deliberately and provocatively" toward Russian-controlled territory. A view of the rear of a US MQ-9 Reaper drone after a close pass by a Russian Su-27 fighter jet, in footage released by the US military. The propeller, on the rear of the drone, is at this point intact.US European CommandBlack Sea intercepts are not uncommon, and Russian aircraft have engaged in numerous aggressive actions and close encounters against NATO militaries in recent years. But last week's crash raised questions about how operations by the US military and its surveillance activities in the Black Sea might be affected.Guy Snodgrass, a former naval aviator and TOPGUN instructor who talked with Insider about the collision and what it said about Russian pilots, said there were realistically only two ways that Washington could react to the incident — which experts have characterized as an effort by Russia to send a message to the US. "You either pull back, meaning you give ground to the Russians, you don't conduct surveillance over international waters in the places you're used to, so basically the de-facto result is that you're giving the Russians what they want," Snodgrass told Insider. "The really only other pathway is to be more aggressive. And certainly in this case, and with everything going on around the world, it doesn't make sense to be more aggressive and it doesn't play to the United States brand.""We are the adults in the room when it comes to international military forces," the former defense official continued. "And so to become more aggressive, you would cede the high ground and put yourself in a position where they can argue that we're no better than they are."He said the best course of action is "we just continue conducting operations like normal," but it seems the US, at least for the time being, is opting for pulling back.Ryan Pickrell contributed to this report.Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: personnelSource: nytMar 22nd, 2023

Sen. Mark Kelly flew with Russian pilots in the Navy and with NASA, and he said the Russian fighter jet running into a US drone shows "how incompetent they are"

Sen. Mark Kelly, a former Navy combat pilot, compared the drone incident to the "incompetence that we see on the battle field every day in Ukraine." Sen. Mark Kelly, D-Ariz., waits to speak during a news conference at the Arizona Capitol in Phoenix, on Nov. 7, 2022.AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin, File A US drone crashed after a Russian fighter jet clipped its propeller over the Black Sea last week. A think tank suggested the move was "aggressive messaging" by Russia. Sen. Mark Kelly, a former Navy combat pilot, said it was an example of Russia's incompetence. Sen. Mark Kelly flew with Russian pilots as a US Navy combat pilot and as a NASA astronaut.He said the incident last week where a Russian fighter jet dumped fuel on and then clipped the propeller of a US military drone shows how "reckless" and "incompetent" they are."I'm not surprised by this. I mean, I flew with Russian pilots, fighter pilots who couldn't fly formation. And I watched this video, and it's pretty obvious what happened. He lost sight of it, and he crashed into it," Kelly told CNN's Jake Tapper on "State of the Union" Sunday.—CNN (@CNN) March 19, 2023On Tuesday, two Russian Su-27 fighter jets intercepted a US military MQ-9 Reaper drone that was flying over international waters above the Black Sea. The jets dumped fuel on the drone, and one jet eventually clipped the drone's propeller. The drone eventually crashed into the water.Insider previously reported that while one think tank analysis suggested this was aggressive messaging by Russia, US officials have said the incident was most likely due to Russians not knowing how to fly.The incident further soured the tense relationship between Washington and the Kremlin since Russia invaded Ukraine last February.Kelly compared the fighter jet incident to the "incompetence that we see on the battle field every day in Ukraine.""That's why the losses that the Russians are suffering right now are really high. At this point I mean, the best choice for Vladimir Putin would be to say: 'Hey, this isn't working,' and he's got to stop this illegal invasion," Kelly said.Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: dealsSource: nytMar 19th, 2023

Russian jet"s collision with a US drone shows Russia may have a fighter pilot "problem," former US aviators say

"It was a bad decision," an ex-US Navy pilot said of the Russian's maneuver. "And then, obviously, the act of actually pulling it off was horrendous." 'Russian Knights' air force group member flies over Monino airfield on his jet SU-27 during an aerial show to commemorate the 95th anniversary of Russian Air Forces outside Moscow, August 11, 2007REUTERS/Denis Sinyakov A Russian fighter jet collided with an American drone this week after harassing it. The drone crashed, and the Russian aircraft was damaged. The collision was likely unintentional, and former US naval aviators say that it could point to problems with Russian fighter pilots. A Russian fighter aircraft ran into a US Reaper drone over the Black Sea this week after executing a series of "reckless" maneuvers around the aircraft, and it may be a sign Russia "has a problem with its fighter pilots," two former US Navy aviators told Insider.A pair of Russian Su-27 fighters carried out what the US military called an "unsafe and unprofessional" intercept of a US MQ-9 drone on Tuesday, flying in front of the unmanned aircraft and dumping fuel on it before one of the Russian jets clipped the drone's propeller, causing a "crash and complete loss" of the US aircraft.The US military said that the Russian jet was damaged in the incident, but Russia has denied that its plane ever made contact with the US drone. The military released a video of the incident on Thursday, clearly showing damage to the drone as it operated in international airspace.Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley said there's "no question" the harassment was intentional, but it is unclear if the collision was. A State Department official said it "probably was the result of profound incompetence on the part of one of these Russian pilots."One of the aviators who spoke to Insider called the move a "weird" maneuver that the Russian flier failed to pull off.'Egg on the face for Russia'Former Navy pilot and host of the Fighter Pilot Podcast Vincent "Jell-O" Aiello said the engagement was "extremely reckless as well as illegal," adding that either the collision was intentional and "America has a problem with Russia" or "Russia has a problem with its fighter pilots," who he said may have been flat-hatting or showboating.Either way, the "close proximity, dumping fuel, and approaching and overtaking from the rear" the way the fighter did in the video released by the US military is dangerous, he said.Another former naval aviator and TOPGUN instructor, Guy "Bus" Snodgrass agreed that if the collision was unintentional, it looks bad for Russia."This is just egg on the face for Russia," he said. "There's no doubt about it.""For years, especially during my two decades of military service as a fighter pilot, we always kind of thought Russia was a little bit of a ten-foot-tall giant," Snodgrass told Insider. Russian military failures in Ukraine have altered this view, he continued, "and now, you've got something like this."An MQ-9 ReaperUS Air Force photo by Senior Airman Haley Stevens"We've known they were unprofessional," he said, as Russia has conducted many unsafe intercepts over the years, but "it's like their training is bad."He said the collision with the US drone, assuming it was an accident, "demonstrates how poorly trained" the Su-27 pilots are and highlights the "poor decision making."A report from the Royal United Services Institute's Justin Bronk noted last year that Russian fighter pilots receive less training than their Western counterparts with far fewer flight hours overall.And the war in Ukraine may result in further deficiencies, the London-based think tank said in a separate report. RUSI pointed out last fall that not only does Russia lack well-trained pilots, but it has committed its instructor pilots to the fight, which has "hampered the ability to generate new pilots."It's unclear what kind of pilot was flying Tuesday, but US European Command's statement on the incident involving the Russian Su-27s and the American MQ-9 Reaper said it demonstrated "a lack of competence" on the part of the Russians."The maneuver that the pilot used was reckless and just ill-informed," Snodgrass said. "I can't fathom anybody I've ever flown with taking an approach like that.""They're doing this weird maneuver where it's almost like they are trying to fly right at it and at the last second pull up so that their fuel will splash on the drone," he said, adding that "it just highlights they're unprofessional and their lack of capability, lack of ability as pilots.""It was a bad decision to do it that way," the former pilot said, noting there were other ways to go about it that would have been far less risky. "And then, obviously, the act of actually pulling it off was horrendous."'An aggressive maneuver by the Russians to force a reaction'Tuesday's incident raises questions about US operations in challenging environments.Russian jets routinely conduct unsafe intercepts of American aircraft, but the collision this week calls into focus the risks, especially in situations where the aircraft are all manned, such as when Russian planes have harassed US maritime surveillance aircraft.A US Air Force RC-135U in international airspace over the Baltic Sea is intercepted by a Russian Su-27 Flanker fighter, June 19, 2017.Master Sgt. Charles Larkin Sr./US Air Force via AP"The tactical portion here is that poor training or poor decision making by a Russian pilot caused a collision," Snodgrass said. "The strategic implications here is that it was an aggressive maneuver by the Russians to force a reaction."Aiello suggested that perhaps the US should consider "whether it is worth flying in those areas" or consider flying "with self-defense weapons or escorts," though Snodgrass suggested it would be undesirable to give way to Russia or escalate, arguing the US should continue to operate as it has.The US secretary of defense signaled its not the US that needs to change, but Russia, though that may prove a challenge."Make no mistake, the United States will continue to fly and to operate wherever international law allows," Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said after the crash this week, adding that "it is incumbent upon Russia to operate its military aircraft in a safe and professional manner."Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: topSource: businessinsiderMar 16th, 2023

Fighter jets are "worthless" over Ukraine, and it"s a sign of what US pilots and troops may face in future battles

In "a contested environment" like Ukraine, "it's going to be tough to execute the close air support," the top US Air Force general said this month. A Ukrainian Su-25 close air support jet flies low over the Donetsk region in June 2022.Scott Olson/Getty Images Neither Russian nor Ukrainian aircraft have been able to establish air superiority over Ukraine. As a result, neither side is able to provide close air support to its troops on the front line. US pilots and ground troops may face a similar situation in future wars, US Air Force leaders say. After a year of fighting, neither the Russian nor Ukrainian air forces have been able to take control of the skies over Ukraine. That has severely limited the role of their fighter jets, and it's a preview of what US troops could face in the future, US Air Force officials say.While Russian and Ukrainian aircraft are still active, each side's air-defense weapons — such as major Soviet-era anti-aircraft systems like the S-300 or newer shoulder-fired missiles like the US-made Stinger — have forced the other to make tactical adaptations, such as launching less accurate rocket attacks from longer ranges rather than sending aircraft to provide close air support over the front lines.Ukraine is estimated to have lost more than 60 aircraft and Russia more than 70, according to Gen. James Hecker, commander of US Air Forces in Europe. Russia's larger air force still has jets to devote to the war, as does Ukraine, Hecker told reporters at the Air and Space Forces Association symposium on March 6, but there is an issue."The problem is both of the Russian as well as the Ukrainian success in integrated air and missile defense have made much of those aircraft worthless. They're not doing a whole lot because they can't go over and do close air support," Hecker said.Long-range sensors and missiles allow Russian aircraft to target Ukrainian aircraft behind the front lines, further limiting Ukrainian operations, but Kyiv's jets continue to launch strikes on Russian forces, often relying on US weaponry to do so.A Russian Su-35 downed by Ukrainian forces in the Kharkiv region in April 2022.Press service of the Ukrainian Armed Forces General Staff/Handout via REUTERSUS-supplied anti-radiation missiles, which US engineers jury-rigged to operate with Ukraine's Soviet-designed jets, allow Ukrainian pilots to target Russian radars and anti-aircraft batteries and recently delivered US-made kits allow Ukrainian jets to launch gravity bombs farther.Using those weapons and other assets, Ukraine's air force is able to do "a couple of strikes a day" at ranges "a little bit farther than HIMARS can get right now, but not real far out at all," Hecker said.The lack of close air support for Russian and Ukrainian troops and the thicket of air-defense weaponry preventing it is a departure from what US troops have faced in recent wars, according to Gen. Charles Brown, the US Air Force chief of staff."We cannot predict the future of what kind of environment we're going to fight in, for one, but I fully expect it'll be much more contested," Brown said at the symposium on March 7. "The amount of close air support we will do will probably be less than we've done in the past, typically in the Middle East, because that environment was that we didn't have an air threat or a surface-to-air threat."Asked about Hecker's comments, Brown said it was "spot on" to say that "in a contested environment it's going to be tough to execute the close air support.""Close air support in a contested environment, that's not what we do, no matter who you are," Brown added.'More contested environments'An A-10 over Afghanistan in February 2011.Air Force photo/Master Sgt. William GreerSince taking over as the top Air Force officer in August 2020, Brown has stressed that future battlefields will be more complex and deadly for the Air Force.Brown's signature initiative, "Accelerate Change or Lose," has sought to replace the aircraft and other aspects of the force that are ill-suited for that environment — including the A-10 Thunderbolt, a ground-attack jet designed in the 1970s specifically for close-air-support missions.Congress has long opposed retiring the A-10, objecting to its loss without a dedicated replacement, but lawmakers relented in December, allowing the Air Force to retire 21 of the jets in 2023. The service had planned to retire the remaining 260 by the early 2030s, but Brown suggested it may happen faster, saying the jets will "probably" be "out of our inventory" over the next five to six years."The A-10 is great airplane. It's a great airplane in an uncontested environment. The challenge is we're going to be in more contested environments in the future," Brown said, adding that combatant commanders around the world have little interest in it because it's "a single-mission airplane."Other aircraft can fill that role, Brown said. "I've flown F-16s doing close air support. I've flown our bombers in combat doing close air support. We are very capable of doing close air support, the F-35 and all the other platforms."While the low- and slow-flying A-10 is generally acknowledged to be more vulnerable to modern anti-aircraft weapons, experts and observers have expressed doubt that other jets can conduct the same kind of close-air-support missions as the Thunderbolt. An apparent reduction in training requirements has also raised concern about the close-air-support skill set atrophying among US pilots.US and Estonian troops gesture to an A-10 after close-air-support training in Kansas in December 2017.US Air National GuardGen. Mark Kelly, who oversees US fighter pilot training as head of Air Combat Command, said the way the Air Force conducts close air support, or CAS, is likely to change but the fact that A-10 pilots have filtered through the force means they will still influence how the service approaches the mission.As a pilot who has been assigned to different aircraft, "one of the best things I saw was the influence of, say, an A-10 aviator in a Strike Eagle, of an A-10 aviator in an F-35, because they bring not only a mindset but a skillset that we need to keep doing that mission," Kelly said at the symposium on March 7."We have to do it a little bit different," Kelly said of future CAS operations, "so we're going to have to get our sensors in there and we're going to have to get our weapons in there" to support troops in combat.Kelly contrasted Operation Desert Storm in 1991, which was proceeded by a six-week US-led air campaign to destroy Iraqi aircraft and air defenses, with the fighting in Ukraine, which in recent months has settled into an artillery battle with heavy casualties on both sides — losses that Kelly said are high "because no one has established air superiority and no one has been able to execute air-defense takedown."The US Air Force needs to be able to do those missions "at the time and place" of its choosing to prevent US ground troops from experiencing those kinds of losses, Kelly said."I still think there's going to be some CAS. I think it's going to be very different," Kelly added. "We've got to make sure we understand that we owe them, first and foremost, [that] any weapon coming off an airplane that they see comes off of a US airplane hitting someone across them, not the other way around."Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: topSource: businessinsiderMar 16th, 2023

Moscow was likely trying to send a message by harassing a US drone, but officials say the Russian pilot ran into it because they"re bad at flying

US European Command said a Russian Su-27 that clipped a US military MQ-9 Reaper drone demonstrated a "a lack of competence." A Russian Su-27 fighter jet approaches a US military MQ-9 Reaper drone operating above the Black Sea on March 14, 2023.Screengrab/US Air Force video A Russian fighter jet harassed a US military MQ-9 Reaper drone over the Black Sea this week. Engagements like these are likely part of what one think tank says are calculated Russian tactics. But US officials said the fighter pilot demonstrated a "lack of competence" by clipping the drone.  A Russian fighter jet dumped fuel on and then clipped a US military drone operating over the Black Sea this week in what looks like a botched attempt at aggressive messaging. The American aircraft ultimately crashed into the waters below as a damaged Russian plane landed elsewhere.The incident delivered another blow to the relationship between the two countries, which was already at rock bottom after Russia's invasion of Ukraine over a year ago. Moscow was likely trying to send a message to Washington by harassing the drone, as this sort of aggressive signaling has been seen repeatedly, according to a think tank analysis on coercive Russian military action, but US officials say the pilot probably struck the aircraft simply because they are bad at flying. "What happened was an unsafe and unprofessional maneuver on the part of a Russian aircraft, a maneuver that was also tinged with a lack of competence," State Department spokesperson Ned Price said after the incident. He later told MSNBC that the "best assessment" is the collision was probably unintentional.On Tuesday, two Russian Su-27 fighter jets intercepted a US military MQ-9 Reaper drone that was flying in international airspace above the Black Sea. The two warplanes dumped fuel on and flew in front of the drone several times before one of the jets clipped the Reaper's propeller on a reckless pass just after 7 am local time, forcing the US military to bring the damaged drone down into the water below. —USAFE-AFAFRICA (@HQUSAFEAFAF) March 16, 2023US Air Force Gen. James B. Hecker, commander of US Air Forces Europe and Air Forces Africa, said the MQ-9 was engaging in routine operations when the incident happened and that the crash caused the "complete loss" of the drone. Moscow deflected blame for the crash on the US, with its ambassador to Washington claiming the drone was moving "deliberately and provocatively" toward Russian territory. A top White House official said on Wednesday that its unclear whether the US will launch a recovery effort, something it has done with more sensitive military equipment that's been lost. Russia, on the other hand, has said it may try and recover the aircraft.  The US aircraft is resting at a depth of between 4,000 and 5,000 feet, making any recovery operation "very difficult" by any party, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley told reporters on Wednesday.Moscow uses 'coercive signals' to send messagesTuesday's incident marked the most direct confrontation between Russia and the US since the former attacked Ukraine in February 2022. It is also the latest of many provocative actions by Moscow against NATO militaries around the Black Sea, where intercepts are not uncommon. Russia has carried out aggressive maneuvers and close engagements against Western forces on a number of occasions in recent years.  But Russia has a long history of performing dangerous intercepts as a means of intimidation, a former US Navy pilot and TOPGUN instructor previously told Insider.A composite image showing the rear of a US MQ-9 Reaper drone before and after the US military says a Russian Su-27 fighter jet collided with it. Insider highlighted apparent damage to one propeller blade for emphasis.US European Command/InsiderThese close encounters and aggressive maneuvers by Russian aircraft are part of a coordinated messaging campaign by Russia, according to a recent report by the RAND Corporation, a global policy think tank based in California. The report consists of empirical research completed in 2020 that analyzes years of Russian military activity like intercepts and other engagements. "Moscow regularly uses limited military actions — far short of direct aggression but often creating escalatory risks —that have caused concern and consternation in Western capitals," RAND writes in its report.   "Much of the assertive, dangerous, or unsafe Russian activity appears directed at shaping patterns of ongoing US or allied behavior," the report says. "Moscow appears to be using coercive signals to send targeted compellent messages regarding activities that it finds problematic," and "these compellent signals are often linked to particular US and allied activities."In other words, RAND assesses that these Russian behaviors are strategic and intentional.MQ-9 ReaperUS Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class William Rio RosadoMilley, the top US general, said Wednesday there's "no question" that the Russian harassment preceding the crash was intentional. Although the intentions behind the actual physical contact between the jet and drone, he noted, remains more of a mystery. While this harassment appears to be a calculated part of a Russian playbook, several top US officials and the military blamed the pilot's incompetence for crashing into the drone.One official said the Su-27 was out of control and flying like "it was amateur hour," adding that the incident did not portray the skillset of a professional pilot. US European Command (EUCOM) wrote that the engagement demonstrated a "a lack of competence," while also being unprofessional, unsafe, reckless, and "environmentally unsound." Pentagon Press Secretary Brigadier General Pat Ryder echoed what EUCOM and State Department spokesperson Ned Price said, arguing in that the pilots didn't show any competence during the intercept. Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: topSource: businessinsiderMar 16th, 2023

Russian plane that took out US drone was "out of control" and flying like it"s "amateur hour," US official tells PBS

The US said Russia forced down the MQ-9 drone over international waters. PBS reported a US official saying the Russian jet was flying recklessly. An MQ-9 Reaper remotely piloted drone aircraft performs aerial maneuvers over Creech Air Force Base, Nevada, in June 2015.Air Force/Senior Airman Cory D. Payne/Handout via REUTERS The US says a Russian jet clipped a US drone over the Black Sea, forcing it to crash. A US official told PBS the Russian pilot seemed out of control, calling their actions "amateur hour." Russia denied that its jet made physical contact with the drone. The US says it has video. The Russian fighter jet that forced down a US MQ-9 Reaper drone on Tuesday was out of control and flying like it was "amateur hour," a US official said.The official, who watched video footage of the incident, told PBS correspondent Nick Schifrin that the pilot was out of control when moving flying towards the drone and tried to pull away from it.The official said that "This was not something you would see a professional pilot do."Schifrin further described what the official told him on "PBS NewsHour," saying "this was not a controlled tap. The Russian pilot was barreling toward the drone, out of control, tried to pull away from the from the drone, and that's when the Russian jet actually hit the back of it."Schifrin said the official "called it amateur hour."The US says a Russian jet clipped the US Air Force MQ-9 Reaper drone when it was over the Black Sea, the strategic body of water south of Ukraine.Per the US, the collision forced the drone to crash into the sea.US European Command said two Russian Su-27 jets carried out an "unsafe and unprofessional intercept" of the US drone, which was in international airspace.It said the two jets dumped fuel on and flew in front of the drone, and then one of them hit the drone's propeller, which is at the rear of the aircraft.State Department Spokesperson Ned Price said that the drone was "forced to go down."The drone was conducting routine operations, the US said.Russia alleged that the drone was moving towards to its airspace. (Russia claims ownership of Ukraine's Crimea peninsula and its airspace, which the US, Ukraine, and Western nations reject.)Russia also denied that any contact was made between the jet and the drone, saying the drone crashed after "sharp maneuvering".Russia's ambassador to the US, Anatoly Antonov, said in a statement on Wednesday that Russia sees "this incident as a provocation" and that the drone "deliberately and provocatively was moving towards Russian territory with transponders turned off."Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: topSource: businessinsiderMar 15th, 2023