Tag: Military – Aviation

From Ovda With Love: Here Are The Israeli And Foreign Combat Aircraft Taking Part in Blue Flag Exercise

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F-16 Barak of the 115th Squadron “Flying Dragon”, the IAF aggressor squadron. (All images credit: Avi Scharf)

Take a look at these shots of the aircraft, from 8 nations, taking part in .

is the fifth iteration of Israel’s main aerial exercise, organized every two years at Ovda Air Base, in the southern Negev desert, Israel. As already reported in detail here, this year’s edition, attended by dozens aircraft, hundreds of pilots and over 1,000 ground personnel from 8 nations, is the largest international air exercise Israel has ever hosted.

Along with the Israeli aircraft, including the F-35I Adir of the 116th “Lions Of The South” squadron, the second IAF unit (after the 140th “Golden Eagle” squadron) to operate the 5th generation aircraft; the F-15D Baz of the 106th “Spearhead” squadron and the F-16Cs “Barak” of the 115th Squadron “Flying Dragon”, the aggressor squadron of the Israeli Air Force; Blue Flag 2011 sees the participation of the RAF Typhoon FGR4 and German Air Force Eurofighters; the Hellenic Air Force F-16s; the Indian Air Force Mirage 2000I; the French Air Force Rafales; the U.S. Air Force F-16CMs of the 480th Fighter Squadron from Spangdahlem as well as the Italian Air Force F-35As and G.550 CAEW (Conformal Airborne Early Warning), that also took part in Blue Flag 2019.

Blue Flag always provides a great opportunity for journalists and photographers to observe some pretty intense flying activity. Our friend Avi Scharf had the opportunity to attend the Media Day of exercise on Sunday Oct. 24, 2021 and take the shots of the participating aircraft you can find in this post.

Blue Flag 2021 is underway until Thursday Oct. 28, 2021.

- From Ovda With Love: Here Are The Israeli And Foreign Combat Aircraft Taking Part in Blue Flag ExerciseGerman Air Force Eurofighter “Eagle Star”, a special colored jet sporting the Israeli and German flags.
- From Ovda With Love: Here Are The Israeli And Foreign Combat Aircraft Taking Part in Blue Flag ExerciseTwo F-15s right after take off from Ovda AB.
- From Ovda With Love: Here Are The Israeli And Foreign Combat Aircraft Taking Part in Blue Flag ExerciseF-15D Baz
- From Ovda With Love: Here Are The Israeli And Foreign Combat Aircraft Taking Part in Blue Flag ExerciseIndian Mirage 2000
- From Ovda With Love: Here Are The Israeli And Foreign Combat Aircraft Taking Part in Blue Flag ExerciseAn F-35I takes off. Two G550 can be seen in the background.
- From Ovda With Love: Here Are The Israeli And Foreign Combat Aircraft Taking Part in Blue Flag ExerciseIsraeli Air Force F-35I Adir.
- From Ovda With Love: Here Are The Israeli And Foreign Combat Aircraft Taking Part in Blue Flag ExerciseTwo F-35s during taxi
- From Ovda With Love: Here Are The Israeli And Foreign Combat Aircraft Taking Part in Blue Flag ExerciseIAF F-35I landing
- From Ovda With Love: Here Are The Israeli And Foreign Combat Aircraft Taking Part in Blue Flag ExerciseF-16 Barak
- From Ovda With Love: Here Are The Israeli And Foreign Combat Aircraft Taking Part in Blue Flag ExerciseIAF Aggressor pilot
- From Ovda With Love: Here Are The Israeli And Foreign Combat Aircraft Taking Part in Blue Flag ExerciseIndian Air Force Mirage 2000I
- From Ovda With Love: Here Are The Israeli And Foreign Combat Aircraft Taking Part in Blue Flag ExerciseFrench Air Force Rafale
- From Ovda With Love: Here Are The Israeli And Foreign Combat Aircraft Taking Part in Blue Flag ExerciseItalian Air Force F-35A
- From Ovda With Love: Here Are The Israeli And Foreign Combat Aircraft Taking Part in Blue Flag ExerciseClose up on the nose of an F-35I Adir.
- From Ovda With Love: Here Are The Israeli And Foreign Combat Aircraft Taking Part in Blue Flag ExerciseGerman Eurofighter.
- From Ovda With Love: Here Are The Israeli And Foreign Combat Aircraft Taking Part in Blue Flag ExerciseRAF Typhoon FGR4
- From Ovda With Love: Here Are The Israeli And Foreign Combat Aircraft Taking Part in Blue Flag ExerciseU.S. F-16CM of the 480th FS taking off.
- From Ovda With Love: Here Are The Israeli And Foreign Combat Aircraft Taking Part in Blue Flag Exercise480th FS F-16CM landing at Ovda
- From Ovda With Love: Here Are The Israeli And Foreign Combat Aircraft Taking Part in Blue Flag Exercise480th FS pilot
- From Ovda With Love: Here Are The Israeli And Foreign Combat Aircraft Taking Part in Blue Flag ExerciseTwo Eurofighters right after take off from Ovda

f5260c1a4f5417527329915544c2932f?s=125&d=mm&r=g - From Ovda With Love: Here Are The Israeli And Foreign Combat Aircraft Taking Part in Blue Flag Exercise
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.

Listen To The Russian Su-57 Felon’s Distinctive ‘Creepy’ Sound

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gif;base64,R0lGODlhAQABAAAAACH5BAEKAAEALAAAAAABAAEAAAICTAEAOw== - Listen To The Russian Su-57 Felon’s Distinctive ‘Creepy’ Sound
Su-57 flyby (Screenshot from the video embedded in the article)

The Sukhoi Su-57’s engines generate a peculiar noise; a sort of “howl”.

We have already talked about the peculiar engine sound of the Su-57 Felon, Russia’s 5th generation aircraft earlier this year, commenting a video of a low level flyby of four jets.

The engine that generates that creepy high-pitched ringing noise is the NPO Saturn AL-41F-1, derived from the one used by the Su-35. It’s an interim variable-bypass ratio turbofan engine rated at approximately 88.3KN (19,842 lb st) of dry thrust and 142.2kN (31,967 lb st) with afterburning.

A few more videos filmed during the 2021 Victory Parade over Moscow have circulated online. You’ll probably find a few more ones around, but the following two are extremely cool and worth being posted.

Here’s what we wrote about the current engine and the program to replace it:

As reported in detail in a previous article, the current AL-41F-1 engine, considered underpowered for the aircraft, is only an interim power plant until the final engine is ready. The latter, known as Izdeliye 30 (literally Product 30) will be supposedly more efficient than previous designs, giving to the jet a top speed in excess of Mach 2 and a supercruise capability at Mach 1.3, and features 3d thrust vectoring. The Izdeliye 30 begun flight testing in 2017 and is expected to be ready by 2025. This means that serial production of the Su-57 may have to keep using the AL-51F-1 for the first examples and retrofit them when the new engine becomes available. The S-duct air inlet doesn’t cover the entire engine face, as done for the F-22 and F-35; the problem is mitigated by the air intake screen (which then have a double function other than FOD prevention) and a radar blocker in front of the engine fan, similar to the one used by the F/A-18 Super Hornet.

A new engine was specifically developed for the Su-57, known as Izdeliye 30 (literally Product 30), but, since the engine is not yet ready for production and tested only on an earlier prototype, T-50S-2 is still using the Saturn AL-41F-1. Production of the Product 30 engine should begin in 2022, with the first serial deliveries of the Product 30-equipped Su-57 in 2023. Dealing with the engine, the Felon was recently showcased in a video for the 100th anniversary of the Chkalov State Flight Test Center, where the radar blockers in the engines’ air intakes were allegedly exposed for the first time.  The Su-57 uses a S-duct air inlet which does not cover the entire engine faces, as done for the F-22 Raptor and the F-35 Lightning II, leaving it exposed to radar signal reflection. The problem was said to be mitigated by a radar blocker that, however, was never clearly seen on any of the 11 prototypes or the first two serial aircraft.

More recently, Russian State Agency TASS reported that an upgraded and modernized version of the Su-57 is to begin serial production as of 2025 and among the improvements, there will be the incorporation of the Izdeliye 30 engine along with the upgrade of the cockpit, to unify the production of the Su-57 and the Su-75 Checkmate that, along with the same engine, will have an identical cockpit layout as the one of the Felon.

f5260c1a4f5417527329915544c2932f?s=125&d=mm&r=g - Listen To The Russian Su-57 Felon’s Distinctive ‘Creepy’ Sound
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.

NATO’s Annual Nuclear Strike Exercise Underway In Southern Europe

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One of the F-15E Strike Eagles deployed to Aviano AB for Steadfast Noon 2021. (All images: Claudio Tramontin)

“Steadfast Noon” gathers aircraft and personnel from 14 NATO countries. The bases used for the drills are Aviano AB and Ghedi, in Italy.

NATO’s yearly “deterrence” exercise, codenamed “Steadfast Noon”, kicked off on Oct. 18, 2021. Dozens of aircraft from across the alliance are currently deployed to Italy and will carry out joint training during the 1-week drills.

As already happened in the past, this year’s Steadfast Noon takes place alongside another exercise, dubbed “Cross Servicing” or “X-Servicing”, whose goal is to test the ability of each partner to service other nation’s aircraft at NATO airfield operating on their territory. Actually, it looks like that X-Servicing or any other exercises preceding or coinciding with the Steadfast Noons are somehow used to disguise the main one considered the political sensitivity of the nuclear mission in many NATO countries.

Anyway, the routine Steadfast Noon strike exercise is hosted by a different NATO country (or two) each year usually at two air bases where U.S. tactical B61 nuclear bombs are stored. This year, the two Italian air bases involved in the exercise are Ghedi AB and Aviano AB, in the northeastern part of the country. According to the Federation of American Scientists, 35 B-61s are stored at the two bases in Italy.

The flying activity (that needless to say does not involve any “live” armament), is carried out (in specific days made public by AIP Supplement) inside restricted airspace in central and northeastern Italy and the Adriatic Sea.

Since they are sort of back-to-back exercises, both X-Servicing and Steadfast Noon involve the same aircraft on the same bases: the missions are flown by DCA (Dual Capable Aircraft) –  aircraft from Belgium, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Turkey and the U.S. that are able to perform either conventional or theater nuclear missions carrying the B61 bomb – along with non-nuclear aircraft that support the mission under the SNOWCAT (Support of Nuclear Operations With Conventional Air Tactics) program, which is used to enable military assets from non-nuclear countries to support the nuclear strike mission without being formally part of it.

- NATO’s Annual Nuclear Strike Exercise Underway In Southern Europe48th FW F-15E Strike Eagle.

The DCA aircraft committed by the nuclear capable European air forces are always the same, since they are the only ones configured to carry the B61: German and Italian Air Force Tornado IDS; Belgian, Dutch and Turkish F-16s. The American participation involves the tactical assets based in Europe: F-16s and F-15Es.

- NATO’s Annual Nuclear Strike Exercise Underway In Southern EuropeBelgian F-16

For what concerns the non-nuclear and support assets, the 2021 iteration of Steadfast Noon/X-Servicing drills see the participation of five Czech Air Force JAS 39 Gripens and three Polish Air Force F-16s, along with NATO E-3A AWACS and Italian Air Force G550 CAEW (Conformal Airborne Early Warning).

- NATO’s Annual Nuclear Strike Exercise Underway In Southern EuropeCzech Air Force JAS 39 Gripen.

In particular, the Belgian, Turkish and Polish F-16s, along with the Czech Gripens and U.S. F-15E are deployed to Aviano AB, while Ghedi AB, home of the Italian Tornado fleet, hosts the Dutch F-16s and German Tornados.

- NATO’s Annual Nuclear Strike Exercise Underway In Southern EuropeTurkish Air Force F-16.St
- NATO’s Annual Nuclear Strike Exercise Underway In Southern EuropePolish Air Force F-16 landing at Aviano on Oct. 18, 2021.

Even though, NATO is usually quite tight-lipped when it deals with this kind of exercise, you can get an idea of the flying activity thanks to some OSINT: flight tracking websites show some of the assets taking part in the drills as they operate inside the restricted airspaces announced by relevant NOTAMs (Notice To Airmen). Then, you can also get some interesting photographs to cross correlate the rest of the information, thanks to the aircraft spotters taking shots outside the main operating bases.

- NATO’s Annual Nuclear Strike Exercise Underway In Southern EuropeThe airspace over Italy during Steadfast Noon with an E-3 AWACS and a G550 CAEW providing AEW to the rest of the aircraft. (Image credit: ADSBExchange.org)

f5260c1a4f5417527329915544c2932f?s=125&d=mm&r=g - NATO’s Annual Nuclear Strike Exercise Underway In Southern Europe
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.

The Air Strike That Led To The Capture (And Subsequent Killing) Of Muammar Gaddafi 10 Years Ago Today

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An image of Muammar Muhammad Abu Minyar al-Gaddafi, commonly known as Colonel Gaddafi. In boxes, a FAF Mirage 2000D and an MQ-1 Predator, two aircraft that took part in the raid that contributed to his capture.

On this day in 2011, an air strike by NATO aircraft contributed to the capture of Col. Gaddafi. Here’s how it went.

Although NATO’s Operation Unified Protector, as the multinational air campaign in Libya was officially named, ended on Oct. 31, 2011, the Air War in northern Africa came to a virtual end a couple of weeks earlier, on Oct. 20, when the killing of Muammar Gaddafi marked the completion of the air campaign that had started on Mar. 19, 2011.

Gaddafi and his family had escaped Tripoli when Libyan capital had fallen to forces of the opposition NTC (National Transitional Council) in August 2011. Since then, Libya’s formed leader was believed to be hidden and protected by several heavily armed loyalists in Sirte, east of Tripoli. Since attempts to convince him to flee the country and give up power were ignored, when the last loyalist district fell to the NTC forces, Gaddafi, his family and inner circle members attempted to flee Sirte on a large convoy made of around 75 vehicles.

The convoy was attacked at 08.30AM LT on Oct. 20, 2011, by a French Mirage 2000D that was called into action by an RAF E-3D AWACS. Gaddafi’s vehicle was intercepted by rebel fighters on the ground and he was killed (after being wounded) as he was being transferred.

- The Air Strike That Led To The Capture (And Subsequent Killing) Of Muammar Gaddafi 10 Years Ago TodayFile photo of a Mirage 2000D (Image credit: Rob Schleiffert via Wiki)

Most probably, his decision to escape using such a large convoy was his last mistake. It’s hard to understand how a convoy made of so many vehicles could move unnoticed from the many reconnaissance and intelligence gathering platforms still flying over Libya. Even if almost all the NATO and non-NATO contingents taking part to Unified Protector had been reduced the number of SIGINT (Signal Intelligence) assets had remained almost the same.

It was one of these extremely important platforms, for instance, to intercept a phone call made by Gaddafi in the days preceding the air strike on Sirte.

Even though the bombs dropped by the French combat jet didn’t destroy the whole convoy (as just two armed vehicles and several accompanying cars were damaged or destroyed), they were decisive to halt it.

Later on Oct. 20, the Pentagon disclosed that a US Predator took part in the attack, firing its Hellfire missiles. Here’s how the operation unfolded.

The air strike on the convoy

A Predator (Note: according to other sources it was an RAF Tornado GR4 on a recce mission) monitoring Sirte movements spotted a convoy fleeing the city.  The convoy, identified as being pro-Gaddafi, was attempting to force its way around the outskirts of the city. Since the vehicles had some mounted weapons and ammunitions, the US drone attacked it with Hellfire missiles.

- The Air Strike That Led To The Capture (And Subsequent Killing) Of Muammar Gaddafi 10 Years Ago TodayFile photo of an MQ-1 Predator (Image credit: U.S. Air Force)

As a result of the first attack, only one vehicle was destroyed but many others dispersed in different directions. Shortly after the disruption, about 20 vehicles regrouped and tried to proceed in a southerly direction. NATO again decided to engage these vehicles. Orbiting nearby there was a mixed flight of a Mirage F1CR and a Mirage 2000D that were immediately directed to strike the target. The Mirage 2000D dropped a GBU-12 on the convoy, destroying 11 vehicles.

According to the official statement issued by NATO, at the time of the strike, NATO did not know that Gaddafi was in the convoy and “NATO’s intervention was conducted solely to reduce the threat towards the civilian population, as required to do under our UN mandate. As a matter of policy, NATO does not target individuals.”

As a policy NATO does not divulge specific information on national assets involved in operations. However, as the above text shows, some commanders were more than happy to let the details about their service’s involvement in the “decisive strike” leak.

What happened after the air strike strike has never been completely clarified and there are several different versions. What is certain is that Gaddafi was captured along with some of his guardsmen and shot in his head and abdomen.

Several videos related to the assassination were broadcast by news channels and circulated via the Internet.

- The Air Strike That Led To The Capture (And Subsequent Killing) Of Muammar Gaddafi 10 Years Ago TodayA map of Gaddafi’s final movements on Oct. 20, 2011, was published by BBC (link no longer available).

By the way, as some of you will probably remember since we have published an article on this earlier this yearThe Aviationist, provided a constant coverage of the crisis that led to launch of the air campaign. From Mar. 19, 2011 to the end of the war, this site provided daily reports that not only were a reference for aviation enthusiasts and other journalists, but also for the officers involved in the air campaign. “For a daily account of operations, one of the best open sources throughout the war was Italian journalist David Cenciotti’s weblog The Aviationist”, said the Rand Corporation’s report “Precision and purpose: airpower in the Libyan Civil War” published in 2015. The whole archive of daily debriefs, you can click here. For the final report, you can read here

f5260c1a4f5417527329915544c2932f?s=125&d=mm&r=g - The Air Strike That Led To The Capture (And Subsequent Killing) Of Muammar Gaddafi 10 Years Ago Today
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.

Everything You Need To Know About ‘Blue Flag 2021, The Largest And Most Advanced Air Exercise Ever Held in Israel

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gif;base64,R0lGODlhAQABAAAAACH5BAEKAAEALAAAAAABAAEAAAICTAEAOw== - Everything You Need To Know About ‘Blue Flag 2021, The Largest And Most Advanced Air Exercise Ever Held in Israel
Elephant Walk for Blue Flag 2021 at Ovda AB. (Image credit: IAF)

4th and 5th generation aircraft from Israel, France, Germany, Greece, India, Italy, UK and US are taking part in Blue Flag 2021. Here’s everything you need to know.

Ovda (or Uvda) Air Base, north of Eilat, Israel, is once again the main operating base of “Blue Flag” an international training exercise organized by the Israeli Air Force and attended by air forces from around the world “to strengthen cooperation between the nations.”

The previous edition, in 2019, attended by “just” four guest nations was referred as the most advanced international Air Force exercise in Israel’s history. Blue Flag 2021 is going to be even largest: with 8 participating nations, the drills will be the largest and most advanced aerial exercise ever held in Israel.

This is how the IAF presented the exercise on their official website (highlight mine): “Holding an international exercise in this current reality, while continuing our public and covert operational activities on all fronts, is of utmost strategic importance and has extensive impact over the Israeli Air Force, the IDF, and the State of Israel”.

The 2-week exercise currently underway and ending on Thursday Oct. 28, 2021, marks several “firsts”: it’s the first time a British fighter squadron deploys to Israel since the establishment of the country; it’s the first time an Indian “Mirage” fighter squadron deploys to Israel as well as the the first time a French “Rafale” fighter squadron deploys to Israel.

In terms of participating types, “Blue Flag 2021” sees the return to Ovda of the Italian Air Force F-35A and G.550 CAEW (Conformal Airborne Early Warning), that took part in the latest iteration of the drills in 2019. The Indian Air Force has deployed the Mirage 2000I.

The German Air Force has deployed six Eurofighters, including the one dubbed “Eagle Star”, a special colored jet sporting the Israeli and German flags that took part in a joint honorary flyover in Israeli skies: Maj. Gen. Amikam Norkin, commander of the Israeli Air Force, led the flyover in a F-15 “Baz” with Lieutenant General Ingo Gerhartz, Commander of the German Air Force, piloting the “Eagle Star” Eurofighter.

In 2019, the Red forces’ role was flown by the F-16Cs “Barak” of the 115th Squadron “Flying Dragon”, the aggressor squadron of the Israeli Air Force, supported by the Air Defense Array’s “Yahalom” (Patriot) batteries that simulated enemy SAM (Surface-to-Air Missile) systems. The F-35I Adir, at their first Blue Flag, also flew in the aggressor role. This year, the Red Air can count on the IAF’s “Sufa” (F-16I) squadrons, led by the 115th Squadron playing the aggressor role. It’s not clear whether the F-35I will also fly the adversary mission or will integrate with the U.S. and Italian Lightnings.

“We are living in a very complicated region, and the threats to the State of Israel from Gaza, Lebanon, Syria, and Iran are only increasing. Holding an international exercise in this current reality, while continuing our public and covert operational activities on all fronts, is of utmost strategic importance and has extensive impact over the Israeli Air Force, the IDF, and the State of Israel”, said Maj. Gen. Amikam Norkin, Commander of the IAF in a public release.

An interesting Elephant Walk (that included some support assets, like the G.550) was arranged for Blue Flag 2021, along with a large dissimilar formation with aircraft from all the 8 participating nations.

Two years, Flightradar24.com, ADSBExchange.org or Planeradar.ru proved that the Royal Jordanian Air Force had also taken part in the exercise with its F-16s although Jordan was never officially listed as an international participant to Blue Flag 2019. As explained back then, not only were RJAF F-16s spotted flying over Israel, but Israeli and other participating nations aircraft operated over Jordan during Blue Flag. While most of the activity will not be visible on flight tracking websites, some aircraft can be tracked online:

Let’s see if something interesting emerges in the next few days.

f5260c1a4f5417527329915544c2932f?s=125&d=mm&r=g - Everything You Need To Know About ‘Blue Flag 2021, The Largest And Most Advanced Air Exercise Ever Held in Israel
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.

Check Out This Insane Footage Of An SR-71 Blackbird Flying In Formation With A Hornet Filmed From An F-16’s FLIR

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gif;base64,R0lGODlhAQABAAAAACH5BAEKAAEALAAAAAABAAEAAAICTAEAOw== - Check Out This Insane Footage Of An SR-71 Blackbird Flying In Formation With A Hornet Filmed From An F-16’s FLIR
FLIR image of an SR-71 flying in formation with an F/A-18

Amazing clip filmed through a FLIR (Forward Looking Infra Red) of an F-16 shows a Blackbird and an F/A-18 Hornet flying together.

Have you ever seen a FLIR video of an SR-71? Well, there’s a really interesting clip showing a Blackbird in formation with an F/A-18 included in a 48-min video that was posted 4 years ago on YouTube but is doing the rounds on social media these days.

The full video whows the “highlights” of Maj. Russell “Crancky” Prechtl who graduated from the U.S. Air Force Test Pilot School in 1993 and went to work at the F-16 Combined Test Force at Edwards AFB, California, until 1996. For three years, he got to fly all blocks of the F-16 (USAF and Foreign Military Sales), all 5 engines, and new software and hardware for the F-16, was a Viper demo pilot for two seasons and also achieved the 3,000 Flying Hours mark on the Fighting Falcon.

According to the description he added to YouTube, the full video “covers the 1% of the nailbiters, High Angle of Attack Flight testing, to include the spin chute deployment, engine failure with the Japanese pilot in the front seat, high speed (1.93 Mach) run, engine restart testing, and some avionics testing. It ends up with the Live HARM missile launch.”

Indeed, the video is pretty cool and shows the variety of tests Prechtl was involved into.

But the really insane part comes at the 24:00 mark when you can see “Crancky” working on the FLIR (most probably of a LANTIRN pod) to track an SR-71 Blackbird flying in formation with an F/A-18 Hornet. Considered the airspace (near Edwards AFB, where F-16s of the CTF normally operated), it is also possible that the dissimilar formation was made of NASA aircraft: at that time the agency flew both the SR-71 and the F/A-18 out of Dryden Flight Research Center, at Edwards AFB.

The last SR-71 flight was made on Oct. 9, 1999, at the Edwards AFB air show. The aircraft used was NASA 844 that flew to 80,100 feet and Mach 3.21 in the very last flight of any Blackbird. Actually, the aircraft was also scheduled to make a flight the following day, but a fuel leak grounded the aircraft and prevented it from flying again. The NASA SR-71s were then put in flyable storage, where they remained until 2002. Then, they were sent to museums.

Back in the 1990s, an F/A-18B was often used by NASA as a chase plane during many mission out of Edwards. Interestingly, in 1996 was still flying the F/A-18 High Alpha Research Vehicle (HARV) that flew its final mission at NASA Dryden Flight Research Center on May 29, 1996, piloted by NASA pilot Ed Schneider. The highly modified F/A-18 airplane flew 383 flights over a nine-year period and demonstrated concepts that greatly increase fighter maneuverability.

Anyway, enjoy the clip!

f5260c1a4f5417527329915544c2932f?s=125&d=mm&r=g - Check Out This Insane Footage Of An SR-71 Blackbird Flying In Formation With A Hornet Filmed From An F-16’s FLIR
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.

Italian Air Force, Army and Armed Corps Helicopters Take Part In SAR Exercise ‘Grifone 2021’

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gif;base64,R0lGODlhAQABAAAAACH5BAEKAAEALAAAAAABAAEAAAICTAEAOw== - Italian Air Force, Army and Armed Corps Helicopters Take Part In SAR Exercise ‘Grifone 2021’
An Italian Air Force HH-139A and a TH-500 during Ex. Grifone 2021. (Image credit: Alessandro Caglieri)

A wide variety of assets were involved in the annual Search And Rescue Exercise in Sardinia.

Organized and managed by the Aeronautica Militare (Italian Air Force) through the RCC (Rescue Coordination Center) of the COA (Comando Operazioni Aerospaziali – Aerospace Operations Command) “Grifone 2021” exercise was held in Sardinia island, Italy, between Sept. 20 – 24, 2021.

The “Grifone” (Italian for Griffin) is an international and interdepartmental exercise planned and conducted on an yearly basis by the Italian air Force under the SAR.MED.OCC (SAR Western Mediterranean) international agreement, with the aim to develop synergies between the service and other public departments, and to constantly improve techniques and procedures to carry out Search and Rescue missions.

The SAR mission is one of the institutional tasks of the Italian Air Force; a task that can be carried out, if needed, with the contribution of inter-agency, inter-ministerial or inter-agency units. For this reason, Ex. “Grifone” represents a collective and coordinated effort of resources, personnel and assets that has as its ultimate goal the training of crews and rescuers from the many realities of the SAR “chain”, in order to cooperate synergistically for the protection of human life.

- Italian Air Force, Army and Armed Corps Helicopters Take Part In SAR Exercise ‘Grifone 2021’Italian Air Force HH-139A during a night mission with NVGs.

The drills saw the involvement of over 430 people belonging to the National Alpine and Speleological Rescue Corps (CNSAS) of Sardinia, the Italian Army, Police, Carabinieri (Military Police), Guardia di Finanza (Customs Police), Vigili del Fuoco (Firefighters), Guardia Costiera (Coast Guard), Protezione Civile (Civil Protection), Forestry and Environmental Surveillance Corps of the Region of Sardinia, Regional Agency of Urgency of Sardinia (AREUS) and the Italian Red Cross.

Decimomannu Air Base was the DOB (Deployed Operating Base) of the exercise, while the “XPTZ” airfield at Decimoputzu played the role of the PBA (Posto Base Avanzato – Advanced Base), a real field heliport suitable for projecting the capabilities of personnel and aircraft as close as possible to the exercise area in the southwestern mountainous area of the island, including Mount Linas and the area of the Parco Perd’e Pibera.

The importance and organizational effort of the Grifone are also revealed in the number of aircraft involved:  1x HH-139A of the 80° CSAR Center of Decimomannu; 1x TH-500 of the 72° Stormo from Frosinone; 1x TH-500B and 1x SIAI U-208 of the Squadriglia Collegamenti (Liaison Flight) from Linate; 1x BH-412 of the 21st Orsa Maggiore Group of Elmas of the Italian Army; 1 AW-109 Nexus of the 11th Nucleo Elicotteri (Helicopter Nucleus) C.C. of Cagliari of the Carabinieri; 1 PH-139D of the Guardia di Finanza of Elmas and 1x UH-169A of the Guardia di Finanza from Pratica di Mare; 1 UH-139C of the 7° Reparto Volo of the Polizia from Fenosu; 1x AW-139 of the Nucleo Elicotteri of the Vigili del Fuoco from Sassari; 1x HH-139A of the 4^ Sezione della Capitaneria di Porto from Cagliari and the support of 1x EC-145 of AREUS (Azienda Regionale Urgenza Sardegna).

- Italian Air Force, Army and Armed Corps Helicopters Take Part In SAR Exercise ‘Grifone 2021’AW-109 Nexus of the Carabinieri (Image credit: Alessandro Caglieri)

The level of realism of the scenarios and the intensity of the flying activity were such as to make the training part indistinguishable from the operational one: for instance, during the exercise, the AREUS EC-145 was called to operate a real mission in the island area.

- Italian Air Force, Army and Armed Corps Helicopters Take Part In SAR Exercise ‘Grifone 2021’AREUS EC-145 (Image credit: Alessandro Caglieri)

Particularly numerous was the component of the research teams made up of the personnel of the National Alpine and Speleological Rescue Corps (CNSAS), Air Riflemen of the 16° Stormo of the Italian Air Force, the Taurinense Alpine Brigade and the Army Alpine Training Center, Alpine Rescue of the Guardia di Finanza, Civil Protection Volunteers and Forestry Corps and Environmental Surveillance of the Sardinia Region.

- Italian Air Force, Army and Armed Corps Helicopters Take Part In SAR Exercise ‘Grifone 2021’Italian Army BH-412. (Image credit: Gian Luca Onnis)

As reported by the Ex. Director Col. Cipriano during the media day held on Sept. 24, at the end of the exercise: “The Grifone is an extraordinary opportunity for professional growth for all participants who have the opportunity to improve their skills to collaborate in complex scenarios, regardless of the units to which they belongs, be it military or civilian. The high value of the objectives achieved in just two days of activity is in the numbers: 47:46 flight hours 3:33 of which at night with the help of NVGs, 100 sorties with the transportation of 55 ground crews.”

- Italian Air Force, Army and Armed Corps Helicopters Take Part In SAR Exercise ‘Grifone 2021’Italian Air Force HH-139A during the boarding a rescue team. (Image credit: Gian Luca Onnis)

f5260c1a4f5417527329915544c2932f?s=125&d=mm&r=g - Italian Air Force, Army and Armed Corps Helicopters Take Part In SAR Exercise ‘Grifone 2021’
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.

Kuwait’s First Two Eurofighter Typhoons Break Cover, Perform First Flight

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gif;base64,R0lGODlhAQABAAAAACH5BAEKAAEALAAAAAABAAEAAAICTAEAOw== - Kuwait’s First Two Eurofighter Typhoons Break Cover, Perform First Flight
One of the two Typhoons destined to Kuwait during taxi on Oct. 15, 2021. (All images: Alessandro Maggia)

Kuwaiti Air Force Typhoons are going to be the most advanced in service among the eight Eurofighter operators.

On Oct. 15, 2021, the first two Eurofighter Typhoon jets destined to Kuwait made their first flight at Leonardo’s Caselle plant near Turin, northwestern Italy.

The two aircraft were given the Italian experimental serials CSX55243 and CSX55244 but they will become KT001 and KT002 once in service with the Kuwaiti Air Force. The aircraft currently sport the flag of Kuwait, the Kuwaiti Air Force insignia and a medium grey paint scheme that, under certain lighting conditions, seems quite similar to the one of the German Air Force Typhoons.

Ace aviation photographer Alessandro Maggia took the shots of the new aircraft as they taxied and took off for their first local test sortie inside the R64 and R64bis restricted airspaces.

- Kuwait’s First Two Eurofighter Typhoons Break Cover, Perform First FlightTake off

Kuwait is set to receive 28 Typhoons: 22 single-seater and 6 twin-seats. The Typhoons will be equipped with the first variant of the Captor E AESA radar, the ECRS Mk 0, together with P3Eb (Phase 3 Enhancements Package b) multi-role features and the Sniper Advanced Targeting Pod, in what is considered the most advanced Typhoon ever produced. This specific configuration was developed and tested in Italy using the Typhoon ISPA 6 (Instrumented Series Production Aircraft).

Eurofighter Kuwait 2 - Kuwait’s First Two Eurofighter Typhoons Break Cover, Perform First Flight
Steep climb

The contract for 28 aircraft was inked in April 2016 after a first MoU had been signed in September 2015. Deliveries were initially set to be completed in 2023 but it’s not clear whether the plan is still the initial one. Kuwait will be the eight Eurofighter operator, after Austria, Italy, Germany, Spain, Oman, Saudi Arabia and the UK.

- Kuwait’s First Two Eurofighter Typhoons Break Cover, Perform First FlightFinal approach.

The Kuwaiti Air Force has been flying with an F/A-18C/D single-type frontline since the retirement of Mirage F1Ks and A-4KUs Skyhawks after the Gulf War. However it will soon return to a two-type frontline with an order also for 28 Super Hornets, order in 2018, with the same mix of single and two-seaters: 22 F/A-18Es and 6 F/A-18Fs.

- Kuwait’s First Two Eurofighter Typhoons Break Cover, Perform First FlightA side view of one of the first two Kuwaiti Air Force Typhoons.

H/T to our friend Matteo Buono for the heads-up and a big thank you to Alessandro Maggia for the shots. Make sure to visit his Instagram account for more amazing photographs here: @alessandro_maggia_avphotos

f5260c1a4f5417527329915544c2932f?s=125&d=mm&r=g - Kuwait’s First Two Eurofighter Typhoons Break Cover, Perform First Flight
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.

We Have A New Logo And Here’s The Full Story Behind It

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gif;base64,R0lGODlhAQABAAAAACH5BAEKAAEALAAAAAABAAEAAAICTAEAOw== - We Have A New Logo And Here’s The Full Story Behind It
Our new logo, from the sketch to the upcoming patch!

Our new logo features an F-117. But it’s not because the Nighthawk is cool. There’s a whole story behind it and here it is, from Mauro Roder, who designed the new logo, polo shirts, patches and more…

As you may have already noticed, The Aviationist has a brand new logo.

It’s, basically, an F-117 Nighthawk planform with an embedded “A” (the “A” of The Aviationist). As opposed to the previous one, which was difficult to “see”, this one is clear at first glance and quite distinctive. We have started to use the new logo all around our website: the header has changed so as the headline images in our social networks channels. It already appears as a watermark in our video and photos too and will be featured on everything we produce. Gradually, you’ll get more used to our logo and the related branding but it’s nice to notice that the wide majority of our readers and followers (I’d say nearly 100 percent) have said they like the new logo because it’s  “simple”, “effective” and “goes straight to the point”.

The timing for the unveiling of the new logo was only by accident coordinated with the F-117’s first “public appearance” at Fresno Yosemite International Airport last month. The fact that the U.S. Air Force is still flying the type out of Tonopah Test Range despite the F-117 has been officially retired in 2008 (!) is far from being a secret. But the U.S. Air Force has officially acknowledged the new aggressor role of the Nighthawk only after the Stealth Jet deployed to Fresno to undertake dissimilar air combat training with the local based F-15s in September. Just a few days before we unveiled the new F-117-themed logo.

However, the logo has been in the works for a long time. And the F-117 was chosen for very specific reasons that have just little to do with the Nighthawk sightings of the last years. Here’s the full story, told by Mauro Roder, the owner and product designer at OKB01, an Italian creative studio for military graphics and communications that, among the other things, has produced thousands patches and memorabilia for military units from all around the world.

“The need for a restyling of the image of The Aviationist was communicated to me by David at the end of winter 2019,” Mauro explains. “A qualitative leap was necessary to adequately present the site in a better way and in a short time we focused on the main problem: the name was not linked to any logo or symbol. Over the years it looked like it was the logo itself. We were in a situation of “target fixation”: we did not know what we should change or even “how” without upsetting the identity of TheAviationist.”

“In April 2019 I began to focus attention on the “A” inscribed in a square: squat, with no ties to the aeronautical world. But this “A” was the must. Gradually the square disappeared but the ‘A’ remained “squat” despite some graphic changes aimed at representing the wakes of two aircraft. Useless effort. We froze this form conscious of not having reached a solution. COVID put the project on standby,” Roder says.

“At the end of December 2020 I reopened the file but I was dubious. It did not communicate. It was not part of the aviation world. However, I realized that the “squat” A could have been inscribed in the form of the mythical ‘Aurora’. But something wasn’t right. In fact talking to David we discarded the idea because “TheAviationist is not gossip…” and we couldn’t base the new image on something that is not certain. Therefore, I abandoned the TR-3 but not the “stealth” idea: extreme confidentiality and effectiveness inscribed in mythical and basic forms. The way was set: I started scribbling the “A” with a greater inclination of both legs and … The A became the Have Blue. But the Have Blue does not convey the successful idea of ​​an operational and technological concept. The F-117 does. The step was immediate and the “A” adapted perfectly to the shape which, for David’s and my generation, meant an aeronautical and “emotional” culture shock. That aircraft was the champion: the others came later. Furthermore, from the point of view of visual communication – therefore speed of memorization – the merging between the letter and the stealth is an isosceles triangle: the simplest flat figure which transmits harmony and proportion. We obtained a logo which, by its nature, could not be more effective due to the extreme simplicity conjugated to the meanings of the aeronautical world.”

“These characteristics matched those of TheAviationist and David became enthusiastic about both the logo and the concept but it had to come full circle: merge the new logo with the name making it “aeronautically coherent”. And I did it by replacing the “A” in “TheAviationist” with the logo and changing the font aspect ratio of some letters. The rest has necessarily remained the same in order not to create disorientation in the eye of the reader. The cherry on the cake is represented by the yellow / green checkerboard (and the “discreet” version in gray tones), an aesthetic feature present on the flight helmet that David wears on his flights and which also represents TheAviationist’s ability to collaborate with multiple subjects: each gray square is a discrete source which then makes the information (the colored squares) public and complete. With these measures we have thus obtained a “revolution in tradition” through a continuum that is recognizable even after a very important restyling intervention also in the colors: yellow (attention / activity but also the color of David’s checkerboard) with black representing “the information still unknown” and the stealth world.”

- We Have A New Logo And Here’s The Full Story Behind ItThe grey and yellow checkerboard on the flight helmet was included in the restyling of the brand image.

As you know the new logo made its public appearance at the 60th Anniversary of the Frecce Tricolori airshow, where I wore a polo shirt with the new logo during the live TV show from Rivolto. But that was just the beginning.

“The live commentary from Rivolto was a “first” of the prototype of the new logo in front of an audience on millions people. As for the F-117, the “first” was preceded by a very long period of study, development and testing. We have much more surprises in pipeline featuring the new logo: beginning with polos, t-shirts, patches and more. So stay tuned!”

Indeed, watch this space for more announcements.

f5260c1a4f5417527329915544c2932f?s=125&d=mm&r=g - We Have A New Logo And Here’s The Full Story Behind It
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.

15 U.S. F-15E Strike Eagles Have Deployed To Greece For Operation Castle Forge

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gif;base64,R0lGODlhAQABAAAAACH5BAEKAAEALAAAAAABAAEAAAICTAEAOw== - 15 U.S. F-15E Strike Eagles Have Deployed To Greece For Operation Castle Forge
One of the 15 F-15E Strike Eagles takes off from RAF Lakenheath to Larissa AB, Greece, on Oct. 6, 2021. (All images: Stewart Jack)

F-15Es from the 336th Fighter Squadron “Rocketeers” are currently stationed at Larissa Air Base.

Split in three cells of 5 aircraft, 15 F-15E Strike Eagles belonging to the 4th Fighter Wing from Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, North Carolina, arrived at Larissa Air Base, Greece, in support of operation Castle Forge, a U.S. Air Forces Europe-Air Forces Africa-led joint, multi-national training event.

Flying as TABOR51-55, TABOR61-65 and TABOR71-75, the Strike Eagles made a stopover at RAF Lakenheath in the afternoon on Monday Oct. 4 and departed to Larissa on Wednesday Oct. 6, 2021 using the same callsigns. Our contributor Stewart Jack took the photos of the F-15Es at RAF Lakenheath that you can find in this post.

The 15 F-15E jets will support Operation Castle Forge in the Black Sea region.

- 15 U.S. F-15E Strike Eagles Have Deployed To Greece For Operation Castle ForgeOne of the F-15Es about to land at RAF Lakenheath on Oct. 4, 2021.

“Castle Forge is designed to provide a dynamic, partnership-focused environment that raises the U.S. commitment to collective defense in the Black Sea region while enhancing interoperability alongside NATO allies. Additionally, Castle Forge demonstrates the joint force’s combined ability to respond in times of crisis with a flexible, reassuring presence,” says the official press release.

“This is an exciting time across the theater as we host the Strike Eagles for some vital training,” said Gen. Jeff Harrigian, commander of USAFE-AFAFRICA and NATO Allied Air Command. “Castle Forge will provide a number of opportunities to hone our capabilities alongside our allies in an absolutely critical region.”

Alongside the F-15 operations, Castle Forge encompasses the USAFE MAJCOM-wide Agile Combat Employment Initial Operating Capability capstone event.

Training for ACE operations has become routine for units operating in Europe. The goal is of being strategically predictable but operationally unpredictable, as it was originally mentioned in the 2018 National Defense Strategy, and capable of operating everywhere with minimal support.

- 15 U.S. F-15E Strike Eagles Have Deployed To Greece For Operation Castle ForgeTouchdown!

Here’s how we described the ACE initiative in a previous article: “ACE is a concept that envisions the use of agile operations to generate resilient airpower in a contested environment. This means dispersing forces across different or remote airports and support their operations with fewer specialists, to ensure that the U.S Air Forces in Europe are ready for potential contingencies by allowing forces to operate from locations with varying levels of capacity and support. The purpose is “to become more agile in our execution, more strategic in our deterrence, and more resilient in our capability. Agility, Deterrence, and Resiliency are essential to defense and operational capability in a contested environment,” the U.S. Air Force in Europe website says when explaining the ACE Concept of Operations.”

After supporting Castle Forge, the Seymour Johnson AFB’s F-15Es of the 336th FS “Rocketeers” will reportedly deploy to the Middle East for a total 6-month tour in the “sand pit”.

- 15 U.S. F-15E Strike Eagles Have Deployed To Greece For Operation Castle ForgeStrike Eagle departs for Larissa AB.

f5260c1a4f5417527329915544c2932f?s=125&d=mm&r=g - 15 U.S. F-15E Strike Eagles Have Deployed To Greece For Operation Castle Forge
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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