Category: Commercial Pilot Maneuvers Requirements


U.S. Navy’s Adversary F/A-18E Super Hornet Has Been Given A Su-57 Felon Color Scheme

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VFC-12 F/A-18E Su-57
The F/A-18E of VFC-12 in Su-57 color scheme. (All images: VFC-12)

One F/A-18E Super Hornet of VFC-12 now sports a paint scheme inspired by the Russian Su-57 Felon.

A U.S. Navy F/A-18E Super Hornet “Red 12”, belonging to Fighter Squadron Composite Twelve (VFC-12), the “Fighting Omars”, based at Naval Air Station Oceana in Virginia Beach, Virginia, has been given a paint scheme with a paint scheme that features the profile of a Russian Air Force Su-57 Felon.

The aircraft has made its first public appearance on Jun. 18, 2021, in a FB post about the retirement ceremony of VFC-12’s Commanding Officer CDR Runzel. Interestingly, the F/A-18E sports the name of VFC-12’s new Commanding Officer, CDR Scott “CAWK” Golich on the canopy rail.

VFC-12 F/A-18E Su-57
VFC-12’s new commander officer name appears on the canopy rail of “Red 12”.

VFC-12 is the U.S. Navy adversary squadron. The unit has started the “migration” from  “Legacy” Hornets to Block I F/A-18E/F Super Hornet. Along with “Red 12” at least another Super Hornet, an F model, “Red 22” appears to have been delivered to the squadron.

The “Flying Omars” of Fighter Squadron Composite VFC-12, have always operated Hornets in camouflage schemes which mimic the patterns used by some Russian Air Force fighters, like Su-27 Flankers, Su-30SMs, Su-34 Fullbacks and Su-57 Felons. In 2019, we reported about an F/A-18D Hornet two-seat aggressor aircraft painted in a unique pixelated aggressor color scheme similar to the one shown by the Sukhoi Su-57 fighter.

Paint schemes similar to their Russian counterparts are a distinguishing feature of U.S. Aggressors and Adversary jets whose liveries replicate the paint schemes, markings and insignas of their near peer adversaries, so that pilots in training who come within visual range of these adversary jets get the same sight they would see if they were engaging an actual threat.

The new F/A-18E “Red 12” of VFC-12 shows a color scheme sported by the Su-57 prototype nicknamed “White Shark”: it appears to be painted in such a way the silhouette of a Su-57 is seen from distance, a scheme referred to as “Mako”. This reminds what the Russians did on the Su-57 with bort number 053 that, wearing a a special pixelated camouflage on the underside of the aircraft that mimics the plan view shape of the Hunter remotely piloted aircraft, was seen at MAKS 2019.

Some other interesting color schemes should be applied to the Adversary Super Hornets in the coming months, some of those can be found in this article published at The War Zone last year.

Another image of the new adversary F/A-18E Super Hornet.

H/T Steve Fortson for the heads-up!

David Cenciotti is a freelance journalist based in Rome, Italy. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviationist”, one of the world’s most famous and read military aviation blogs. Since 1996, he has written for major worldwide magazines, including Air Forces Monthly, Combat Aircraft, and many others, covering aviation, defense, war, industry, intelligence, crime and cyberwar. He has reported from the U.S., Europe, Australia and Syria, and flown several combat planes with different air forces. He is a former 2nd Lt. of the Italian Air Force, a private pilot and a graduate in Computer Engineering. He has written four books.

Two Russian Tu-160s And Four Flankers Intercepted By Italian F-35s, Danish F-16s and Swedish Gripens Over The Baltic

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Tu-160 F-35
One of the two Tu-160s involved in the June 15, 2021 mission over the Baltic. (Image credit: Russian MOD)

Two Russian Tu-160s, two Su-27s and two Su-35s were escorted at various stages by NATO and Swedish fighters in the Baltic region.

Two Russian Tu-160 (NATO reporting name “Blackjack”) bombers carried out an 8-hour mission over the neutral waters of the Baltic Sea on Jun. 15, 2021. Interestingly, the two “White Swan” missile-carrier bombers were escorted by two Su-35S aircraft of the Aerospace Force and two Su-27 fighters of the Baltic Fleet’s naval aviation during their trip.

The Tu-160s belong to the 121st Guards Heavy Bomber Aviation Regiment stationed at Engels-2 Air Base in Saratov, Oblast, southwestern Russia, the only unit to fly the 14-16 Blackjack bombers believed to be operational with the Russian Aerospace Forces.

The Russian Long Range Aviation (LRA) mission in the Baltic region caused several NATO aircraft in QRA (Quick Reaction Alert) duty to scramble: Italian Air Force F-35As, Royal Danish Air Force F-16s and Swedish Air Force JAS 39 Gripens were scrambled to identify and shadow the Russian “package” as it progressed across the region.

The crews of Russian long-range aircraft regularly perform flights over the neutral waters of the Arctic, the North Atlantic, the Black and Baltic Seas and the Pacific Ocean, Russia’s Defense Ministry said.

Today’s intercept comes less than a week after the first close encounter between an Italian F-35 and a Russian Su-30SM escorting an An-12 transport aircraft flying to/from Kaliningrad oblast, off Estonia.

As already explained, the Italian F-35A involved in the intercept are two of the four Lightning II aircraft, belonging to the 13° Gruppo (Squadron) of the 32° Stormo (Wing), from Amendola Air Base, in southeastern Italy, that are currently stationed at Amari, in Estonia, where they arrived on Apr. 30, 2021, to carry out the augmenting role in NATO’s Baltic Air Policing mission. The Italian F-35s, operating within the Task Group Falco of the Task Force Air Estonia, in support of “Baltic Eagle II” (as the mission has been dubbed at national level), will remain in Estonia for the BAP mission until August.

As a matter of fact, no photographs nor videos of the most recent intercepts were released by NATO and Italian Air Force. However, it is possible that some images will be made available in the next few days (as happened for the F-35’s first intercept in support of BAP on May 14, whose photos were cleared many days after the event), as the number of intercepts increases.

David Cenciotti is a freelance journalist based in Rome, Italy. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviationist”, one of the world’s most famous and read military aviation blogs. Since 1996, he has written for major worldwide magazines, including Air Forces Monthly, Combat Aircraft, and many others, covering aviation, defense, war, industry, intelligence, crime and cyberwar. He has reported from the U.S., Europe, Australia and Syria, and flown several combat planes with different air forces. He is a former 2nd Lt. of the Italian Air Force, a private pilot and a graduate in Computer Engineering. He has written four books.

One Giant Sale for Mankind: Armstrong’s Moon Mission Companions Auctioned

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The Gold Medal that was taken to the moon by Neil Armstrong, that eventually sold at auction for $2,055,000. (Photo credit: CCG)

From the First Walk on the Moon to the Auction Block.

In a little over a month, humanity will mark the 52nd anniversary of man’s, Neil Armstrong’s, first steps on the moon. On Jul. 20, 1969, at 10:56 p.m. EDT, Neil Armstrong plants the first human foot on another world. The situation was a little scarier than NASA had planned for. On approach to landing on the lunar surface, Commander Buzz Aldrin had to make some unexpected landing adjustments because of a computer error, and the lunar lander “Eagle” successfully landed on The Sea of Tranquility with only 30 seconds of fuel remaining. Fuel that the crew needed for their return to the orbiting command module Columbia which was being piloted by astronaut Michael Collins. Michael Collins eventually wrote an award-winning autobiography Carrying the Fire. A book I’ve read and consider one of my personal top 5 reads.

At 9:32 a.m. EDT on July 16, 1969, the Apollo 11 mission launched via a Saturn V rocket with Commander Neil Armstrong, command module pilot Michael Collins and lunar module
pilot Buzz Aldrin from Kennedy Space Center’s Launch Complex Pad 39A. Photo credit: NASA

As history has recorded, Aldrin and Armstrong did successfully make it back to Collins and the Columbia. After the Eagle successfully docked with Columbia, Collins, “for the first time,” “really felt that we were going to carry this thing off.” The crew successfully splashed down off the coast of Hawaii on July 24 which check-marked the bottom line of Apollo 11’s remarkable and historic lunar mission, arguably one of the single most historic events in modern human time.

In doing my research for this article, one word describing Neil Armstrong’s demeanor kept surfacing: modesty. Neil Armstrong, one of the more historically significant people in human history, was a very modest man who never sought fame, nor fortune, from his lifetime of hallmark accomplishments – and there were many. From piloting the record-breaking North American X-15 rocket plane, to walking on the moon, to serving as NASA’s Deputy Associate Administrator for aeronautics, Neil Armstrong did not waste his time here on terra firma (or luna firma).

Armstrong descends to the ground on a parachute after ejecting from Lunar Landing Research Vehicle 1. Photo credit: NASA

Fast forward to Aug. 7, 2012.

Neil Armstrong was admitted to Mercy Health Fairfield Hospital in Fairfield, OH for severe chest pains. On August 25 Armstrong died from complications resulting from “routine” coronary bypass surgery after a nurse removed two electrical connections to his artificial pace maker a week prior. He bled profusely into the membrane surrounding his heart. A lawsuit ensued and there was a $6 million settlement to the family. The end of a hero, the launch of a valuable legacy. Five years later, the auctions began.

Michael Riley is the Director of Space Exploration for Heritage Auctions in Dallas, Texas. Heritage Auctions was given the sole right to the Neil Armstrong estate artifacts (officially called The Armstrong Family Collection). Heritage Auctions, established in 1976, is one of the most formidable auction houses in the world. Out of curiosity, I did a Google Earth search on Heritage Auctions in Dallas, and their facility is massive. When speaking with Michael it was very obvious how proud he was that Neil Armstrong’s family had entrusted his company to disseminate these national treasures. Heritage began the Space Exploration division of their company in September, 2007. Joe Garino, who was a physical trainer for the astronauts at NASA, was the subject of their first Space Exploration auction. Many of the astronauts befriended Joe and they would bring him collectibles from their flights. The auctioning of Joe’s artifacts was the beginning of something big at Heritage Auctions.

The front of the Heritage Auctions complex in Dallas, TX Photo credit: Heritage Auctions

To date, the Armstrong Family Collection artifacts have netted the family more than $10,000,000 USD. There have been a total of six auctions with two more planned. I am truly impressed that Neil Armstrong had the foresight to bring with him on the Apollo 11 mission what he did. Fabric from the original Wright Flyer. Pieces of the original Wright Flyer’s propellers. A one-of-a-kind commemorative gold medal that ended-up selling for $2,055,000 USD. Michael provided me with these four links for the four top auctions for The Armstrong Family Collection™: link 1, link 2, link 3, link 4.

A certified piece of the fabric from the original Wright Flyer, and on the right is a silver Robbins Medal, both taken on the Apollo 11 trip by Neil Armstrong.Photo credit: CCG

So, if you have an extra two million dollars taking-up space as dead weight, and you want to buy a one-of-a-kind truly historic NASA artifact, Heritage Auctions just, so happens, has one on the auction block. I can’t speak for my readers, but $2,000,000 is an unimaginable amount of money to me. I could buy a really nice P-51 with that kind of money. Instead, I decide to buy a gold medal that’s been to the moon on the mission that enabled man, humanity, to place a footprint on our first other world. That kind of decision is subjective, even questionable. You wrestle with it in your mind, but passion supersedes logical cognitive thought and you hit that “bid” button. You’re probably going through a whole gambit of emotions not unlike many of us have when we bid for something on eBay. How do you know what your bidding on is a safe bet for that spare change of yours?

The Gold Medal. Photo credit: CCG

This is how we – and the world – know it’s real and your $2,000,000 investment is truly an investment. For the sake of documentation, I’m going to run through the acronyms: First, there’s the parent (company) acronym, CCG (Certified Collectibles Group). CCG is one of the world’s largest providers of expert, impartial and tech-enabled services that add value and liquidity to collectibles. The CCG companies include Numismatic Guaranty Corporation (NGC), Paper Money Guaranty (PMG), Certified Guaranty Company (CGC), Classic Collectible Services (CCS), Certified Sports Guaranty (CSG), Authenticated Stamp Guaranty (ASG) and Collectibles Authentication Guaranty (CAG). CAG is the company that certified the provenance of the Armstrong Family Collection artifacts. Since 1987, the CCG companies have certified more than 60 million coins, banknotes, comic books, trading cards, stamps, estate items and related collectibles totaling more than $40 billion (yes, that’s with a “b”). CCG has offices in the United States, United Kingdom, Germany and China.

The Gold Medal that was taken to the moon by Neil Armstrong, that eventually sold at auction for $2,055,000. Photo credit: CCG

As life, and luck, would have it, my office is only about an hour’s drive away from CCG’s home office in Sarasota, FL. I sometimes get jealous of some of my colleagues like expert photographer Jim Mumaw and the extraordinarily talented Tom Demerly and their exposure to some amazing aviationry, because they are fortunate to be where really cool things fly over their heads. Me? Not so much (ordinarily). But I have a trump card on this one. I, figuratively, live a stone’s throw away from the single largest grading company in the world and I took advantage of it.

It was a sweltering day in South-Central Florida. My contact at CCG is Janell Armstrong who is their Marketing Coordinator. I can only describe my communications with this company as awesome. It’s a very serious company, with very serious (friendly) people doing very serious (but really fun) business. Back to the sweltering part. Janell arranged a visit to CCG at 3:00 PM on an exceptionally steamy Sarasota day. We arrived at a very professional-looking office complex guarded by a serious gate. Speaking as somebody with a significant law enforcement and security background, and as somebody who has visited some of the most secure installations in this country (both invited and…), I’ve got to say, those with ill intentions should pick another target.

Once we were on “the other side” of the security gauntlet we were met by Paul Sandler who is Director of Product Development for CCG. In an effort to avoid stereotyping somebody, I still have to acknowledge that Paul looks the part. Very intelligent, very enthused, and very excited about his company. He struck me as somebody with so much to say and so little time to say it. Paul gave us the tour of CCG and what a tour it was. Room after room (most very dimly lit) of machines, pallets of treasures beyond comprehension, and very determined and very dedicated workers. This place was surgically clean with an air of collector’s geekiness that I’ve never seen before. They have comic book artists actually physically go there to sign customers’ books to be graded.

There was an artist there while we were there but we never found out who it was. And there was a secret room. A room whose door would open quietly while the workers entered and exited. A room I didn’t even feel comfortable looking at. This was the room with the ancient artifacts. We were quickly hurried past this room. There were two white boards in the hallways where visiting comic book artists would draw their respective characters and sign the drawings. Paul stopped and looked at one of the boards, and shook his head like it was the first time he contemplated the actual collective value of the board. I think it overwhelmed him a little and he shook it off. We proceeded to the conference room.

The CCG conference room. Not a really big conference room, no windows. I think there might have even been a refrigerator in there. The conference table was a medium to dark colored wood, and was beautiful. The only thing prettier than the table were the very plush, butt-sinking-to-the-floor brown leather chairs that surrounded it. Those chairs were the perfect accompaniment to the comfort level I grew to feel during my visit. I was sitting at the helm of the company that certified, and gave credibility to, the two million dollar Neil Armstrong gold medal that went to the moon during humanity’s first physical visit there. These are the guys and gals who manifest credibility, and I was there.

Certified Collectibles Group (CCG) headquarters in Sarasota, FL Photo credit: CCG

Max Spiegel is the President of CCG. In my life I’ve tried to picture myself doing different things. I’ve got a pretty decent imagination and picturing myself as a jet fighter pilot, or a state senator, or a bartender at a swanky bar doesn’t seem too far of a stretch. I can’t even logically tap into what it must be like to be president of a company who handles the world’s most valued artifacts. Max Spiegel struck me as being really young. Maybe I’m just really old, I don’t know. He came across as being very squared away, very hospitable, and super on top of things. Paul joined us in our meeting and, between the two of them, it was impossible to avoid their enthusiasm and love for their company. These were the men whose company single-handedly certified national treasures the likes of which will never be seen again. There may be a valid argument as to the commercialization of the Neil Armstrong artifacts. There is one indisputable fact: The physical evaluation and documentation of these precious national treasures, in itself, provided an invaluable service to this country, and to history itself.

Al has been a licensed pilot for more than 38 years, enjoying both aircraft and airport ownership. He has been a published digital artist, photographer, and writer for almost 40 years. Al is currently an internationally published military aviation illustrator, writer, and photographer. He is also a web developer and currently maintain 72 websites, including his own hosting company, Blue Lion Solutions LLC. His artwork is available here:

The World War II Weekend Air Show Is BACK! And Here’s Our Report.

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World War II Weekend Air Show
B-17G “Yankee Lady” coming in for a landing. (All images credit: Author)

The World War II Weekend is one of the best air shows on the American East Coast.

Organized by the Mid-Atlantic Air Museum, the 30th annual World War II Weekend air show was a stunning success. After being cancelled last year, due to COVID, the June 4-5-6, 2021 show was a sign of normalcy returning. Held on the East Coast of the United States in Reading, Pennsylvania, this air show consists solely of warbirds from the Second World War, as well as a large contingent of WWII reenactors on the ground.

The show is rather unique, in that it is solely composed of warbirds from the Second World War. No fast movers, no helicopters. The only comparable shows, that I know of, would be: the Planes of Fame Air Show in Chino, California and shows held at the Imperial War Museum Duxford in the United Kingdom.

World War II Weekend Air Show
Sherman tank with supporting infantry makes its way through the crowd.

Not only is the show visually stimulating, but also the sounds of various aircraft are music to one’s ears. The deep throated roar of radial engines was contrasted by the ripping/tearing sound of inline Merlin powered aircraft.

SBD Dauntless and TBM Avenger wait out the storm.

The weather cooperated for the most part with blue skies during the show’s busiest days on Saturday and Sunday. On Friday there was an intense and localized downpour which brought the show to a halt and sent people running for cover. Still, once the rain cleared, it provided for some nice photography.

Nakajima A6M2 Model 21 Zero makes a photo pass.

It was a thrill seeing a Japanese Zero, in this case a Nakajima A6M2 Model 21 Zero, for the first time. Owned by Ellenville LLC, this rare Zero is powered by a Pratt & Whitney R-1830 engine. The company also flew their FG-1D Corsair as well as a P-51D Mustang.

Member of the WWII Airborne Demonstration Team prepares for the day’s jump.

The WWII Airborne Demonstration Team drops on Saturday and Sunday gave the public a small glimpse of what our airborne troops experienced. The Team is part of The Parachute School, which trains individuals in WWII military style static line parachuting. Both days the Team jumped from a C-46 Commando in two sticks of six men and women. Their authentic attention to detail in their uniforms and parachuting skills were most impressive.

Seeing and hearing heavy four engine bombers is always stunning to experience. The Yankee Air Museum brought their B-17G Flying Fortress “Yankee Lady”. Plus, the Commemorative Air Force (CAF) flew in their star attraction, the B-29 Superfortress “Fifi”. Both bombers performed during the show as well as flew rides for lucky passengers.

World War II Weekend Air Show
SBD Dauntless dive bomber shows off her bomb load.

The CAF always provides numerous warbirds from various units for the World War II Weekend Airshow. Airbase Georgia, the CAF unit based near Atlanta, contributed their P-51D Mustang, SBD-5 Dauntless, FG-1D Corsair, and a very rare P-63A-6 Kingcobra. The TBM-3E Avenger “Doris Mae”, from the CAF Capital Wing, conducted rides and took part in the missing man formation.

Even though the show had fewer warbirds, as compared to past years, it was an impressive event with mostly good weather. World War II Weekend Airshow is definitely a bucket list air show for aviation aficionados. It normally takes place on or around the anniversary of the D-Day, in early June. I recommend you place it on your air show calendar for 2022.

World War II Weekend Air Show
Weather begins to clear after drenching the B-25 Mitchell “Panchito”.

Randy Jennings is the proud son of combat WWII Mustang pilot, Warner Jennings. From birth, he has been obsessed by all things aviation; past, present and future. As a photojournalist, he has covered aviation events in the United States and Europe. He lives in the Washington DC region with his beautiful wife and rambunctious daughter.

The AH-1Z Viper Performed The First Link 16 Test Flight As The H-1 Mixed Fleet Surpassed 400,000 Flight Hours

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File photo of an AH-1Z Viper of the U.S. Marine Corps (Image credit: USMC)

The upgrade is part of the new Digital Interoperability suite that will be later extended also to the UH-1Y Venom.

An AH-1Z Viper of the Air Test and Evaluation Squadron (HX) 21 demonstrated for the first time the Link 16 to establish a two-way connection between a ground station and the helicopter during a test flight at Naval Air Station Patuxent River. The new capability is part of the digital interoperability (DI) suite, which includes Link 16 and Advanced Networking Wideband Waveform (ANW2) data links used to share information across various networks. Another novelty of the DI suite is the new digital moving map which can integrate all the info shared by other assets through the datalink for a better Situational Awareness (SA).

“The H-1 has decades of battlefield experience, it has evolved to fight in numerous environments,” said Col. Vasilios Pappas, USMC H-1 Light/Attack Helicopters program office (PMA-276) program manager. “The integration of these data links aligns with this platforms’ ability to adapt to the ever-changing threat and meet the needs of current and future warfighters.”

An AH-1Z Viper assigned to Air Test and Evaluation Squadron (HX) 21 takes off from Naval Air Station Patuxent River. During the test flight, the AH-1Z established a two way connection between a ground station and the aircraft’s Link 16 and Advanced Networking Wideband Waveform (ANW2) systems for the first time. (Photo by: Joy Shrum via NAVAIR)

The Link 16 system, which was provided by Northrop Grumman, is part of a defined road map of planned improvements designed to ensure the AH-1Z Viper maintains its technological edge and combat capability throughout its service life. Thanks to the datalinks, the helicopter can now rapidly share information with other weapon systems, provide greater situational awareness, accelerate the kill chain, and enhance survivability to outmaneuver and defeat the threat across a range of military operations.

“Northrop Grumman’s Link-16 system will help U.S. Marines today, and well into the future, with critical technology that facilitates coordination, collaboration, and interoperability. By enabling the display and integration of Link-16 data with the H-1 system, pilots of the AH-1Z have greater situational awareness and enhanced survivability,” said James Conroy, vice president, navigation, targeting and survivability, Northrop Grumman. “This milestone also highlights our focus on “speed to fleet,” due to the unprecedented time between demonstrating the concept and getting to first flight. Flexibility and adaptability, using next generation agile development practices, are the only ways to innovate and keep pace with changing mission needs.”

The integration effort, supported by both Bell (the helicopter’s manufacturer) and Northrop Grumman, culminated in this first one-hour test flight, during which the pilots successfully communicated with a PRC-117G Multiband Networking Manpack Radio, one of the standard medium-range encrypted radios used by ground troops to communicate with air assets and share data and images, and the Mobile Systems Integration Lab, a ground station designed by the Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division (NAWCAD) to validate the suite’s connection with the aircraft.

“The flight was a success and went exactly as expected,” said USMC Capt. Jason Grimes, the first flight pilot and H-1 project officer with HX-21. “There is still work to be done before fleet integration, but it was a step in the right direction in getting a much needed capability to the HMLA [Marine Light Attack Helicopter] squadrons.”

A UH-1Y Venom, left, and AH-1Z Viper fly alongside the Wasp-class amphibious assault ship USS Iwo Jima (LHD 7) during a photo exercise, May 17, 2021. Iwo Jima is underway in the Atlantic Ocean with Amphibious Squadron 4 and the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) as part of the Iwo Jima Amphibious Ready Group. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Jessica Kibena)

According to the press release, the joint team composed by the U.S. Marine Corps H-1 Light/Attack Helicopter program (PMA-276), Bell and Northrop Grumman leveraged the best practices of Agile Development methodologies to get the DI suite from concept to vehicle design testing in 12 months. Specifically, Northrop Grumman architected and integrated a mission package for Link 16 while Bell provided all of the necessary vehicle analysis and modifications to incorporate the new mission equipment on the AH-1Z.

The complete DI suite includes a new radio, processor, and mission computer software to integrate the information from this new data link onto a new digital map interface. The flight test campaign will continue throughout the summer, with the initial AH-1Z fleet integration expected in 2022. Following the completion of the AH-1Z testing, the USMC will begin the integration of the DI suite also on the UH-1Y Venom.

The news about the first test of the new capabilities arrived just a few days after the USMC announced that the H-1 mixed fleet, composed by both the AH-1Z Viper and UH-1Y Venom, surpassed the 400,000 flight hours milestone in April. The two helicopters, which are the latest variants of the AH-1 Huey Cobra and the UH-1 Huey, have been deployed around the globe since 2010. With the last UH-1Y delivered in 2018 and the last AH-1Z to be delivered in 2022, the H-1 fleet is expected to stay in service through the 2040s.

However, some of these helicopters are already headed to long-term storage at the Davis-Monthan Air Force Base’s “boneyard”, as Captain Andrew Wood, a USMC spokesperson, confirmed to our friends at The War Zone: “As a result of Force Design 2030 squadron divestments, and pending final disposition, the Marine Corps expects to induct 53 H-1s (27 AH-1Zs and 26 UH-1Ys) into long-term preservation and storage”.

Force Design 2030 is a radical restructuring effort initiated with the goal of creating a more flexible U.S. Marine Corps with new capabilities, even if this will be at the expense of other traditional capabilities which are being downsized or totally eliminated. One of the capabilities that have been eliminated quite unexpectedly, generating some controversies, is the Main Battle Tank specialty, resulting in the almost immediate divestment of the M1 Abrams tank fleet.

Back in 2019, the Marine Aviation Plan foresaw a total of 145 Vipers and 116 Venoms in service by the end of 2022. With the confirmed retirement of 53 H-1s, which already started as the 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group (AMARG) published the photos of the first AH-1Z being cocooned last month, the two fleets will lose about 20% of their strength.

However, there is an interesting detail. Some of the first helicopters to be retired come from the recently inactivated Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 367 (HMLA-367) at Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) Kaneohe Bay (Hawaii). The III Marine Expeditionary Force (MEF) confirmed that two of HMLA-367’s AH-1Zs were sent to the boneyard, while others are being sent to other units, and both of them are remanufactured AH-1Ws.

As you may know already, a small number of AH-1W Super Cobras and UH-1N Hueys were remanufactured in the newer AH-1Z Vipers and UH-1Y Venoms, before the USMC decided to continue the program with only newly built helicopters. This might just be speculation, but with the detail confirmed by the III MEF, we might assume that the USMC is retiring only the remanufactured helicopters to employ its resources on the newly built ones.

Stefano D’Urso is a contributor for TheAviationist based in Lecce, Italy. He’s a full-time engineering student and aspiring pilot. In his spare time he’s also an amateur aviation photographer and flight simulation enthusiast.

Who Says the F-35 Can’t Dogfight? You Just Gotta Jump Out of It for the Best Shot!

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F-35 Battlefield
A screenshot of the BF trailer. (All images credit: EA DICE)

BattleField 2042 debuts with wild trailer showing pilot ejecting from F-35 to shoot down a Su-57 Felon with a shoulder-fired anti-tank weapon. And gaming fans are loving it!

Well, if you still have your doubts about the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter’s ability to dogfight, the newly released BattleField 2042 should put those concerns to rest.

The new game reveal video (a big thank you to @malgordon for the heads-up!) shows us what the Air Force can’t, the real way to dogfight in an F-35: you just have to jump out and use your shoulder-fired anti-tank weapon against the enemy Su-57 Felon, then, climb right back in and hit the afterburner!

We’re not quite sure where you put an anti-tank missile in the cockpit of an F-35, why the throttle on this F-35 suddenly appears on the right side of the cockpit, or why the pilot isn’t wearing an F-35 helmet, but hey, this is gaming. We don’t sweat the details. It’s all about the action! Besides, with a soundtrack from L.A. bad boy rockers Motley Crüe, what’s not to love?

F-35 Battlefield
The sequence of the Su-57 downing.

And speaking of action, the new game play video shows plenty of cool new weapons systems, real and imagined, some super tacti-cool uniforms and gear, and a pretty crazy face-off between some Ka-50 Hokum gunships and a souped-up Little Bird that eventually gets creamed by a guy who does an XGames ghost ride big-air off a skyscraper into the chopper. They teach this stuff at Ft. Benning now, don’t they?

The latest installment in the popular BattleField gaming series, the 2042 edition was revealed in a new game play trailer on June 9, 2021. Over 2.2 million viewers, and counting, have watched the bizarre mix of X-Games extreme sports, fantasy special operations and apocalyptic, all-out global war so far.

In a particularly weird twist, the game also gives players control over the weather. So, if you ever wondered what it would be like to wage an all-out, close quarters battle in urban terrain in the middle of a tornado, well, now you can get your answer.

In a June 11, 2021 article by gaming columnist Vic Hood, game developer EA DICE’s chief studios officer Laura Miele told that, “We are creating epic battles at a scale and fidelity unlike anything you’ve experienced before”. The visuals in this new trailer confirm what Miele says. As outlandish as the action is, the appearance of the game is stunning.

This is the 17th edition of the Battlefield series, and the new game releases on October 22, 2021, for the PS4, PS5, Xbox Series X, Xbox Series S, Xbox One and good ‘ole PC platforms according to Pre-orders are live now. There’s no word yet if the Air Force, Marines or Navy will use the F-35 dogfight scenes to develop new outside-the-cockpit close-quarter combat tactics though..

Tom Demerly is a feature writer, journalist, photographer and editorialist who has written articles that are published around the world on,, Outside magazine, Business Insider, We Are The Mighty, The Dearborn Press & Guide, National Interest, Russia’s government media outlet Sputnik, and many other publications. Demerly studied journalism at Henry Ford College in Dearborn, Michigan. Tom Demerly served in an intelligence gathering unit as a member of the U.S. Army and Michigan National Guard. His military experience includes being Honor Graduate from the U.S. Army Infantry School at Ft. Benning, Georgia (Cycle C-6-1) and as a Scout Observer in a reconnaissance unit, Company “F”, 425th INF (RANGER/AIRBORNE), Long Range Surveillance Unit (LRSU). Demerly is an experienced parachutist, holds advanced SCUBA certifications, has climbed the highest mountains on three continents and visited all seven continents and has flown several types of light aircraft.

First Leonardo TH-73A Training Helicopter Delivered To The U.S. Navy

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TH-73A delivery
A TH-73A in the U.S. Navy livery flying over Leonardo’s facility in Philadelphia. (Photo: Leonardo)

The new helicopter will replace the TH-57 Sea Ranger, allowing the introduction of a modernized training curriculum for the highest quality of training.

The U.S. Navy took delivery of the first new TH-73A training helicopter during a ceremony at Leonardo’s facilities in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on June 10, 2021. The helicopter is the first of the 32 acquired through the initial 177 million USD firm-fixed-price contract awarded last year, out of a total requirement of 130 aircraft that will be delivered through 2024 to replace the ageing TH-57 Sea Ranger a military derivative of the famous Bell 206 Jet Ranger, after 35 years of service. Towards the end of 2020, the U.S. Department of Defense exercised options for an additional 36 aircraft in a $171 million fixed-price-contract.

“The TH-73A will be instrumental in providing higher fidelity training to our future rotary-wing and tilt-rotor aviators for the Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard,” said Vice Adm. Kenneth Whitesell, Commander, Naval Air Forces. “The cutting-edge technology and advanced avionics within the Advanced Helicopter Training System (AHTS) will enable a more seamless transition from the training aircraft to fleet aircraft, this in turn allows more focus on high end warfighting development and training.”

The new Advanced Helicopter Training System (AHTS) of the U.S. Navy includes not only TH-73A helicopters, but also new simulators and aircrew training services, a modernized curriculum and a new contractor logistics support contract for the maintenance and flight line support requirements of the new helicopter. The TH-73A, based on the Instrument Flight Rules (IFR) certified variant of the popular commercial AW119Kx,  has been fully certified  by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) prior to delivery, thus bringing a ready-made solution that will transition the TH-57 platforms out of service by 2025, with the first helicopters expected to be retired during fiscal year 2022.

“This delivery signifies a new era for Naval Aviation training,” said Rear Adm. Robert Westendorff, Chief of Naval Aviation Training. “By using current cockpit technologies and a new training curriculum, the TH-73A will improve pilot training and skills, and ensure rotary wing aviators are produced more efficiently at a higher quality and are ready to meet the fleet’s challenges.”

The first TH-73A will be used to train the cadre of instructor pilots and validate the modernized curriculum efforts, which is a requirement prior to begin the training of Student Naval Aviators with the new curriculum in the new system. The AHTS has capacity to train several hundred aviation students per year at Naval Air Station Whiting Field-South (Florida), where all student helicopter pilots for the Navy, Marines and Coast Guard train along with several NATO-allied nations, accounting for the training needs of all of the Fleet Replacement Squadrons and setting up for success the students in any platform they select after the TH-73A.

The delivery ceremony of the first TH-73A, which can be seen in the background. (Photo: Leonardo)

“The U.S. Navy expects the highest quality of training for its future aviators,” said Gian Piero Cutillo, Leonardo Helicopters Managing Director in the press release. “We are honored to start delivery of the product chosen for this critical task. Today is just the beginning of a journey we have undertaken to support the Navy as it shapes the capabilities of future generations of aviation students.”

To support the new TH-73A fleet, Leonardo has announced the construction of a new comprehensive 100,000 sq. ft. helicopter support center at Whiting Aviation Park, located directly across the runway from NAS Whiting Field for seamless and immediate maintenance and repair support, with groundbreaking expected in December 2021. This way the company will be able to efficiently support the U.S. Navy throughout the entire service life of the TH-73A until 2050 or longer.

“The combined government and contractor team set new standards to meet much needed requirements in the fleet,” said Capt. Holly Shoger, Undergraduate Flight Training Systems Program (PMA-273) program manager. “We are proud to develop and provide these new capabilities that will improve pilot training for many years to come.”

Following the delivery, the first TH-73A will undergo the final DoD inspections before its arrival at NAS Whiting Field. According to the Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) press release, all the first 32 TH-73As are scheduled for delivery to the U.S. Navy this calendar year. The new helicopters will be housed in a temporary hangar until a new dedicated helicopter maintenance hangar is built, with construction to begin in 2023.

The TH-73A, initially proposed as TH-119 to the US Navy, is based on the commercial AW119 “Koala” and is powered by a Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6B-37A engine, with a takeoff power rating of 1,002 hp and a maximum take-off weight of 6,283 lb (2,850 kg). In terms of flight performance, the TH-73 will be similar to the commercial AW119, with a cruise speed of 130 kt, 1,800 ft/min sea level rate of climb, hover in-ground-effect of 11,000 ft, service ceiling of 15,000 ft and a range of 515 NM. With these characteristics, the TH-73A will be able to be employed for both initial training flights and advanced training, as it can perform every maneuver in the U.S. Navy’s training syllabus for a seamless transition from basic maneuvers to advanced operational training.

The cockpit features an avionic suite made by Genesys Aerosystems, with four 6- by 8-inch displays, instrument-certified dual GPS/WAAS navigation system, synthetic vision system, Helicopter Terrain Avoidance Warning System (HTAWS), moving map and integrated communication and navigation systems. As already mentioned, the helicopter was also certified for IFR (Instrument Flight Rules) flight by the FAA. An increased level of security is provided by dual safety and hydraulic system.

Stefano D’Urso is a contributor for TheAviationist based in Lecce, Italy. He’s a full-time engineering student and aspiring pilot. In his spare time he’s also an amateur aviation photographer and flight simulation enthusiast.

Check Out These Shots Of Air Force One and SAM46 At RAF Mildenhall For Biden’s Trip To G7 Summit

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Air Force One Mildenhall
Air Force One on the ground at RAF Mildenhall on Jun. 9, 2021. (All images: Stewart Jack)

Both the Air Force One and its back up made a stopover in the UK on their way to the G7 summit in Cornwall.

U.S. President Joe Biden is currently in the UK to attend the G7 summit, that will take place from June 11 to 13 in Carbis Bay, Cornwall. Biden arrived in Europe aboard VC-25A serial number 82-8000, using callsign “Air Force One”, on Wednesday June 9 at 19.37LT.

“Air Force One” is the radio callsign for any Air Force aircraft with POTUS (President of the US) aboard. During the years the term has been used to refer to the two heavily-modified Boeing 747-200s (serial numbers 82-8000 and 92-9000), designated VC-25A, that have carried the president all around the world since 1990.

President Biden met with US personnel stationed at the RAF base and their families before heading to Cornwall.

Final approach to RAF Mildenhall.
Air Force One Mildenhall
The VC-25A after landing.

Air Force One departed the base in Suffolk at 21.54 LT.

Air Force One Mildenhall
Air Force One departs for Cornwall.

Flying into RAF Mildenhall as the AF1 back up was a C-32A (a military version of the Boeing 757-200), serial number 99-0016, that arrived as SAM46. The aircraft landed at 19.11 and departed at 21.56LT.

The C-32 flying as SAM46.

Both aircraft found some bad weather around destination and were forced to hold before landing.

In this post you can find some photographs taken by our contributor Stewart Jack as the VC-25A and C-32A arrived and departed RAF Mildenhall. Both aircraft are operated by the 89th Airlift Wing, 99th Airlift Squadron at Joint Base Andrews.

For a detailed look at the Air Force One and the Presidential motorcade, you can read the story we have published to cover Biden’s visit to Detroit, last month; for breakdown of the VC-25’s anti-missile countermeasures, you can read the detailed article we published in 2018 here.

Air Force One Mildenhall
A side view of Air Force One.

David Cenciotti is a freelance journalist based in Rome, Italy. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviationist”, one of the world’s most famous and read military aviation blogs. Since 1996, he has written for major worldwide magazines, including Air Forces Monthly, Combat Aircraft, and many others, covering aviation, defense, war, industry, intelligence, crime and cyberwar. He has reported from the U.S., Europe, Australia and Syria, and flown several combat planes with different air forces. He is a former 2nd Lt. of the Italian Air Force, a private pilot and a graduate in Computer Engineering. He has written four books.

Enjoy This Walkaround Of The TF-104G-M “Black Beauty” at Kennedy Space Center

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Black Beauty TF-104G-M walkaround
Piercarlo Ciacchi, Starfighters’ Director of Flight Operations, explains some of the details of the TF-104’s ejection seat. The NASA Kennedy Space Center’s Vehicle Assembly Building can be seen in the background. (Screenshot from the YouTube video below)

Piercarlo Ciacchi, Starfighters’ Director of Flight Operations and former Italian Air Force F-104 pilot, introduces us to the two-seater TF-104 (with many interesting, little-known details).

Back in January, we reported about the stunning black paintjob of one of the TF-104 (actually, a TF-104G-M) aircraft of Starfighters Aerospace. The jet, dubbed “Black Beauty”, is one of the seven F-104s owned by the company, of which four are currently airworthy, and based at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center to be used for research and development flights.

“Black Beauty”, which now sports the civilian registration N991SF, is one of the five former Italian Air Force F-104s that were purchased after the service retired the type from operational service in 2004. Before being retired, this two-seater TF-104 operated for more than 30 years as MM54258 with the 20° Gruppo (Squadron), the Italian F-104 OCU (Operational Conversion Unit) based at Grosseto.

Actually, the original “Black Beauty” was another F-104 based at Grosseto, the F-104S ASA-M (Aggiornamento Sistemi d’Arma – Modificato / Weapon System Upgrade – Modified) MM6873/4-9 of the 9th Gruppo Caccia (Fighter Squadron). The latter, which is now a gate guardian, was of the latest and most upgraded Starfighters operated by an Air Force and received a black paintjob to celebrate 40 years of service of the F-104 with the 9° Gruppo.

Anyway, back to today’s “Black Beauty”, Starfighters’ Director of Flight Operations and former Italian Air Force F-104 and Frecce Tricolori pilot, Piercarlo Ciacchi, provided a detailed walkaround of the TF-104G-M. Ciacchi was one of the last pilots to fly the F-104 before it was retired from service and even broke the F-104’s unrefueled flight duration record during its final flight before moving to the F-16ADF, landing after two hours and 50 minutes of flight in the special-colored F-104S ASA-M MM6930/9-99.

Ciacchi provided many interesting and little-known details worth a note during his walkaround, beginning from the 3:00 mark, where he showed two hatches on the bottom of the fuselage of the Starfighters TF-104. These hatches were inherited from the first F-104s which had downward ejection seats, as technology at the time did not allow to have ejection seats efficient enough to clear the Starfighter’s T-tail during an ejection. An even more curious fact is that the flight manual mentioned that, in the event of a low altitude ejection, the pilot had to roll the aircraft upside down before pulling the seat’s handles, so he would be ejected away from the ground.

Another interesting detail is the air intake of the TF-104G-M at the 9:40 mark. At the beginning of the F-104 program, the intake was considered a secret and kept under covers when on the ground. This split, three-dimensional air intake uses a design similar to the one of the SR-71’s air intakes. The cone in front of the air intake is fixed, instead of the moving one used by the Blackbird, in a position that is optimized for a certain range of speeds. The cone generates two shockwaves that help to slow down the supersonic airflow to subsonic speed inside the air intake. In addition to that, a slot behind the cone bleeds the boundary layer to obtain a more efficient airflow for the engine.

Another function of this air intake design is to act as a pre-heater and pre-compressor before the airflow reaches the engine. When we consider the fluid dynamics involved in a variable cross-section duct like an air intake, the variation of air pressure, air speed and cross-section are linked together thanks to the Mach number. This way, the air intake duct can increase the air pressure at the expense of the kinetic energy of the ingested airflow (and vice versa) just by varying the cross-section, without the need of mechanical work.

Also, since the air temperature and density are subject to variations concordant with the variations of the pressure, at the end of the air intake duct the airflow will have also an increased temperature. A practical example mentioned by Ciacchi is an F-104 flying at Mach 2 at 50,000 ft (with some modifications, the Starfighter could even reach 100,000 ft) , where the air intake is able to generate an increase of the temperature of about 200° C before the airflow reaches the first stage of the engine’s compressor.

Moving on, at the 20:30 mark, Ciacchi explained the origin of the unique design of the Starfighter. The design came from the famous Skunk Works, with Clarence “Kelly” Johnson mentioned saying “I want the most powerful and biggest engine available and I want to wrap around it the minimum quantity of airplane”. This left very little room to house systems and accessories needed by the aircraft, requiring a swiveling design for the landing gear to retract inside the fuselage. With this special design, the landing gear fits so tight inside the fuselage that a later modification, which increased the safety by using a little wider tire, required a new landing gear door with a “bubble” that allowed to obtain the minimum required space for the new tire.

Finally, at the 47:00 mark, the tour continues inside the cockpit, which has been heavily upgraded.

While much of the original side consoles and some of the instruments have been kept, many have been replaced by more modern commercial avionics, like the two Garmin G5 Electronic Flight Instruments and the GTN 650 Touchscreen Flight Navigator, new UHF and VHF radios and an iPad connected to the GTN 650’s GPS (Global Positioning System) and WAAS (Wide Area Augmentation System). An interesting note is that the radar is still installed on the aircraft, but its controls have been removed.

In the video, Ciacchi mentioned that a new walkaround is in the works and it will feature one of the Starfighters Aerospace’s single-seater F-104s. There are some differences in the two airframes that were already introduced in this video, but we will patiently wait for the new detailed video that will explain all the extra features of the single-seater F-104, together with new in-flight videos of this legendary aircraft.

Stefano D’Urso is a contributor for TheAviationist based in Lecce, Italy. He’s a full-time engineering student and aspiring pilot. In his spare time he’s also an amateur aviation photographer and flight simulation enthusiast.

Russian Su-30SM and Italian F-35As Had Their First Close Encounter Over The Baltic Sea

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Russian Su-30SM Italian F-35A
A screenshot of the video released by the Fighter Bomber instagram account showing the Russian Su-30SM and the Italian F-35A.

A video shows an interesting intercept that occurred in international airspace off Estonia.

It was just a matter of time but, in the end, a pretty interesting (and quite relaxed) close encounter between a Russian Sukhoi Su-30SM two-seat multirole aircraft and two Italian Air Force F-35A Lightning II aircraft, took place in the Baltic Region.

One video and two shots, released today by the popular “Fighter Bomber” (@fighter_bomber_) Instagram account, show a Russian Su-30SM Flanker derivative flying alongside two F-35As over the Baltic Sea, somewhere off Estonia, where the Italian stealth jets are deployed to carry out QRA (Quick Reaction Alert) task in support of NATO Baltic Air Policing mission.

The short clip shows the two F-35s approaching what seems to be a An-12 (like the one already intercepted by the Italians in that scenario on May 14) aircraft that is probably flying to/from Kaliningrad oblast escorted by at least one Su-30SM.

The Italian F-35A involved in the intercept belong to the 13° Gruppo (Squadron) of the 32° Stormo (Wing), from Amendola Air Base, in southeastern Italy, the first unit of the Aeronautica Militare to receive the Lightning in 2016 and the first in Europe to achieve IOC (Initial Operational Capability) in November 2018. As explained in details in a few recent articles, the Italian jets have arrived in Estonia, on Apr. 30, 2021, marking both the first time the Italian stealth jets deploy to the Baltic and the first time 5th generation aircraft support NATO’s mission in the Baltic States. On May 3, the Italian detachment officially took over the augmenting role in NATO’s Baltic Air Policing mission from the German Air Force Eurofighter detachment, starting providing QRA duties.

The Italian F-35A jets carry out the QRA (Quick Reaction Alert) service in the same configuration used to support the domestic SSSA (Servizio Sorveglianza Spazio Aereo – Air Space Surveillance Service) on a rotational basis, where the SCL (Standard Conventional Load) includes two AIM-120C AMRAAM (Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missile) missiles in the internal weapons bay. They also carry RCS (Radar Cross Section) enhancers (so they don’t fly in stealth mode).

Interestingly, the Su-30SM in the video appears to carry an IR-guided R-27T/ET (NATO reporting name AA-10 Alamo) air-to-air missile. Even more worth of remark is the fact that the Flanker was escorting an An-12: unless this was some special mission variant of the “Cub”, it seems quite weird that the Russian Su-30SM was escorting a simple transport aircraft. Unless, they knew NATO would scramble the F-35s and wanted the close encounter to take place.  Anyway, let’s also wait for NATO to release some details (and possibly photo) of the intercept.

David Cenciotti is a freelance journalist based in Rome, Italy. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviationist”, one of the world’s most famous and read military aviation blogs. Since 1996, he has written for major worldwide magazines, including Air Forces Monthly, Combat Aircraft, and many others, covering aviation, defense, war, industry, intelligence, crime and cyberwar. He has reported from the U.S., Europe, Australia and Syria, and flown several combat planes with different air forces. He is a former 2nd Lt. of the Italian Air Force, a private pilot and a graduate in Computer Engineering. He has written four books.
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