Tag: Syria

United State Forces Have Captured Another Daesh Senior Leader During Night Helicopter Raid

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United State Forces Have Captured Another Daesh Senior Leader During Night Helicopter Raid
< img src="https://getyourpilotslicense.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/06/u-s-forces-have-captured-another-daesh-senior-leader-during-night-helicopter-raid-1.jpg"alt ="Syria raid"title=

“Syria_raid_Night_Stalkers_1b”> A screenshot from the video clip listed below revealing the Chinook in trip at extremely reduced elevation. In package a data picture of a MH-47G of the 160th SOAR.( Photo: Boeing/U. S. Army)The raid occurred in northeast Syria, near the Turkish boundary. Among the leading leaders of Daesh’s Syrian branch was recorded throughout an evening raid in northeast Syria on June 15, 2022.

The caught person is a seasoned bomb manufacturer and also functional facilitator, which U.S. authorities determined as Hani Ahmed Al-Kurdi, additionally referred to as the “Wali of Raqqa “(Governor of Raqqa).”The objective was carefully prepared to reduce the threat of civilian casualties or private injury. The procedure succeeded; no private citizens were damaged neither existed injuries to Coalition pressures or damages to Coalition airplane or properties”, stated the news release from the Combined Joint Task Force– Operation Inherent Resolve (CJTF-OIR).

6 helicopters were apparently associated with the procedure, with video clips arised on social media sites revealing CH-47 Chinook as well as UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters in the Aleppo countryside. Offered the sort of goal as well as the truth that they were flying really reduced as well as quickly, it is nearly specific those helicopters were certainly MH-47Gs and also MH-60Ms of the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (SOAR), much better referred to as the Night Stalkers.

Information regarding the raid are questionable, with battle surveillance teams claiming that the target was a residence on the side of the town of al-Humayra. Some resources state that the town is inhabited by Turkish-backed militants, which supposedly likewise opened up fire versus the helicopters, while boxer jets as well as UAVs slackened over the location.

The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reports that below were 7 mins of armed clashes in between the soldiers as well as individuals inside the town prior to the helicopters flew off. They likewise reported that the helicopters later on landed at a base in the Kobane area in eastern Aleppo district, complying with the effective raid.

Previously this year, one more raid in north Syria caused the fatality of Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Qurayshi, the leader of the Islamic State militant team. Because celebration, among the helicopters was deserted and also ruined far from the target substance, while the hefty clashed in between United States pressures as well as the militants resulted additionally in the fatality of a variety of private citizens inhabiting the target structure.

About Stefano D’Urso Stefano D’Urso is an independent reporter and also factor to TheAviationist based in Lecce, Italy. A grad in Industral Engineering he’s additionally examining to accomplish a Master Degree in Aerospace Engineering. Digital Warfare, Loitering Munitions as well as OSINT strategies related to the globe of existing problems as well as armed forces procedures are amongst his locations of experience.

U.S. MH-60M Helicopter Used In Raid To Kill ISIS Leader in Syria Blown Up On The Ground By U.S. Forces

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The aftermath of the destruction of a MH-60M that suffered mechanical problems during the raid. (Photo: Anadolu Agency) In the box: UAV view of the target compound. (Photo: DoD)

What we know about the U.S. Special Forces raid on al-Qurayshi in Syria and the MH-60M helicopter destroyed on the ground because it was “not going to be usable” for the return flight.

U.S. President Joe Biden announced today the death of Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Qurayshi, the leader of the Islamic State militant group, happened during a Special Forces raid last night in Syria. The raid to take down al-Qurayshi, successor of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi (killed during a raid in 2019), was being planned for months, with President Biden giving the final approval for the assault on February 1, 2022.

“Thanks to the bravery of our troops, this horrible terrorist leader is no more,” Biden said during an address to the nation this morning. “I’m grateful for the immense courage and skill and determination of our U.S. forces who skillfully executed this incredibly challenging mission. The members of our military are the solid steel backbone of this nation, ready to fly into danger at a moment’s notice to keep our country and the American people safe.”

A Defense Department official said that an air strike on the target was ruled out early in the planning because of the potential civilian casualties involved, as intelligence showed that the terrorist leader was living in a three-story building with an unrelated civilian family on the first floor. That, however, was not enough to prevent collateral damage, as al-Qurayshi detonated an explosive belt, destroying the building’s third floor and killing his family.

Following the explosion, the Special Forces were engaged in a gunfight with a ISIS top lieutenant who lived on the second floor with his family. The explosion and gunfight contributed to the number of women and children among the 13 reported casualties, which official said were not due to U.S. weaponry. Several children were evacuated from the second floor, along with the other civilian family on the first floor that was successfully evacuated at the beginning of the raid.

“I directed the Department of Defense to take every precaution possible to minimize civilian casualties, knowing that this terrorist had chosen to surround himself with families, including children,” Biden said in his remarks. “We made a choice to pursue a Special Forces raid at a much greater risk to our own people rather than targeting him with an airstrike. We made this choice to minimize civilian casualties.”

The operators were able to confirm the death of al-Qurayshi through fingerprints identified on-site, as well as DNA analysis from recovered remains, Pentagon spokesman John Kirby told reporters. Officials said they have been tracking al-Qurayshi for months, as he was linked to numerous terrorist attacks, including the one at Kabul airport that resulted in the death of 13 U.S. servicemembers during last summer’s evacuation. According to the intelligence, he rarely left the compound in Syria’s northwestern Idlib province and used couriers to communicate with ISIS militants.

The counterterrorism operation happened after midnight and lasted more than two hours, according to the details released so far. A civilian who lives nearby the target compound, interviewed by the Washington Post, said that he heard helicopters arriving at around 1 am, followed by heavy gunfire and clashes that went on until around 4 am. Unconfirmed reports mentioned the presence of multiple AH-64E Apache, MH-47G Chinook and MH-60M Black Hawk helicopters. At least one unspecified Unmanned Aerial Vehicle was monitoring the area from above during the raid.

No details were released about which unit was involved in the raid, even if some unconfirmed sources suggested the raid was executed by the 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta (SFOD-D) commonly referred to as “Delta” in popular media. The U.S. forces did not report casualties, however, at the beginning of the operation, one of the helicopters was abandoned and destroyed away from the target compound.

Images and videos circulating online show the remains of a MH-60M of the 160th Special Operation Aviation Regiment (SOAR) “Night Stalkers”, recognizable from its heavily modified nose which was less damaged in the explosion. There are conflicting reports about the destruction being carried out by troops on the ground with explosives or an air strike being ordered after the helicopter was abandoned, while some other reports mentions the initial destruction by ground forces and then a follow-on air strike.

Senior administration officials confirmed that the helicopter suffered a mechanical issue as it arrived near the target compound. After the insertion of the Special Forces, it was assessed that the specially modified MH-60 was “not going to be usable” for the return flight and the decision was made to fly it “well beyond any kind of visual range” and then detonate it. The helicopter did not suffer a crash of any kind and there aren’t reports about crew’s injuries, while sensitive items were removed before the destruction.

The number and helicopters and operators involved has not been disclosed. The raid, however, presents many similarities with the one in 2019 that resulted in the death of al-Baghdadi. In that occasion, about eight helicopters and between 50 to 100 operators were reported to be on target during the operation, assisted by fighter jets providing Close Air Support. It is possible that a similarly sized assault force was employed also on this raid, providing enough margin to evacuate the “grounded” crew and the operators that were on the doomed helicopter without substantial problems.

Actually, there are also some similarities with the 2011 raid that killed Osama Bin Laden. As you will probably remember, one of the helicopters supporting the raid skittered around uncontrollably in the heat-thinned air as the package prepared to land near OBL’s compound forcing the pilot to crash-land. As it did, the tail and rotor hit on one of the OBL’s compound’s 12-foot walls. The helicopter was blown up but its tail rotor and other parts survived.

As the first images of the remains of one of the helicopters used by the U.S. Navy SEALs in the raid that killed Osama Bin Laden, started to spread through the social media on May 2, 2011, aviation experts and enthusiasts around the world immediately noticed something pretty weird: those parts, didn’t seem to belong to any known type of chopper. Few hours later, on May 3, 2011, we posted an article to explain that the helicopter that had crashed in Pakistan had some stealthy features.

Indeed, the tail rotor had an unusual cover that could be anything from an armor plate to a noise reduction cover sheltering the motion-control technology used to input low-frequency variations of rotor blade pitch-angle, as tested by NASA; the blades were flatter, and not wing-shaped, whereas the paint job was extremely similar to the kind of anti-radar paint and Radar-Absorbing Material coating used by the most modern stealth fighters: nothing common to either Black Hawks, Chinooks or Apaches helicopters.

The saga of the “Stealth Black Hawk” had just begun, but that’s another story…

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.
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 five books and contributed to many more ones.

RAF Typhoon’s First Air-To-Air Kill: Terrorist Drone Shot Down In Syria

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A Typhoon FGR4 (Image credit: UK MOD/Crown Copyright)

A Royal Air Force Typhoon FGR4 has shot down a “small hostile drone” in Syria.

In what the UK Ministry of Defence called an “unprecedented event”, an RAF Typhoon conducted the type’s first ever operational air-to-air engagement in Syria on Dec. 14, 2021. The event marked also the first RAF air-to-air missile firing during Operation SHADER, the UK’s contribution to the military campaign against ISIL (Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant),

The kill was carried out using an Advanced Short Range Air to Air Missile (ASRAAM) that successfully hit and destroyed a small-sized drone.

“This strike is an impressive demonstration of the RAF’s ability to take out hostile targets in the air which pose a threat to our forces. We continue to do everything we can alongside our Coalition partners to stamp out the terrorist threat and protect our personnel and our partners,” Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said.

According to the few details released so far, the drone activity was detected above the Al Tanf Coalition base in Syria (note, the official UK MOD release referred to the base as “At Tanf” but it was probably Al-Tanf, also known as the Al-Tanf garrison, a United States military base within territory controlled by the Syrian opposition in Homs Governorate located 24 km west of the al-Tanf border crossing in the Syrian Desert). As the drone continued on its track, it became clear it posed a threat to Coalition forces.

RAF Typhoons conducting routine patrols (in swing role – carrying both air-to-ground and air-to-air weapons) in the area were tasked to investigate and, in the end, shot down the drone

Small (and larger) drones pose a constant threat to Al Tanf air base in southern Syria close to the Jordanian border that has served as a forward operating base for British and U.S. special operations teams in the region.

We will update this story as additional details emerge.

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.

F-35B From British Aircraft Carrier Had A Close Encounter With A Russian Navy Warship In The Eastern Med Sea

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The NOTAM that announced the Russian naval activity in the eastern Med. In the screenshots, the F-35B that flew close to the Russian group and two Tu-22M3 bombers (via Russian MOD).

A Russian exercise in the Eastern Mediterranean Sea, involving five warships as well as Tu- 142MK, Il-38, Tu-22M3 and MiG-31K aircraft, provided an opportunity for a close encounter with at least one F-35B operating from HMS Queen Elizabeth.

The Russian Aerospace Forces have kicked off an exercise in the eastern Mediterranean Sea on Jun. 25, 2021. As the Russian MOD announced in a public statement, five ships of the Russian Navy (the Moskva missile cruiser; the Admiral Essen and Admiral Makarov frigates, as well as two submarines, the Stary Oskol and Rostov-on-Don), together with Tu-142MK and Il-38 anti-submarine aircraft, Tu-22M3 Backfire bombers and MiG-31K aircraft are involved in the exercise, whose goal is to train combat forces to ensure the security of two key Russian bases in Syria: Khmeimim airbase and Tartus.

At least two MiG-31K, an Il-38 ASW aircraft, and three Tu-22M3 bombers have arrived at Kheimim airfield in Syria, whose capabilities have been expanded with the extension of the runway and the completion of a second runway. These works, completed in May, have allowed Moscow to deploy its LRA (Long Range Aviation) bombers along with the missile-carrier aircraft to the airbase on the Mediterranean Sea and launch missions from there.

The Russian MOD told reporters on Jun. 28 that the MiG-31K armed with the air-launched Kinzhal (Dagger) hypersonic missile and Tu-22M3 bombers performed training flights escorted by Su-35 and Su-34 aircraft during the eastern Med drills.

“As part of the joint exercise, the crews of MiG-31K aircraft, capable of using the latest hypersonic missiles from the Kinzhal missile, and long-range Tu-22M3 bombers made regular training flights in the eastern Mediterranean Sea, during which they completed the tasks of mastering the air space in maritime zone”, said the Defense Ministry. Some simulated missile launches were carried out by the MiG-31s using the Kinzhal missile during exercises in the Mediterranean Sea, according to Interfax.

For some context, here’s what we wrote when the Russian Aerospace Forces conducted the first successful test firing of the Kinzhal in 2018:

Kinzhal is claimed to be a strategic air-to-surface strike missile. The missile is claimed to have maneuverable flight characteristics not typically seen in hypersonic, solid fuel missiles. Observers of Russian missile programs have voiced skepticism about Russia’ performance claims however. According to Russians and reference sources the Kinzhal missile has a top speed of Mach 10 and maintains some ability to maneuver throughout its performance envelope including at hypersonic speed. If accurate, these capabilities could make the Kinzhal difficult to intercept by anti-missile systems. The missile is reported to have a range of 1,200 miles (approximately 2,000 kilometers). This, added to the reported 1,860-mile unrefueled range of the MiG-31BM long range, supersonic interceptor, gives the Kinzhal potentially intercontinental strike capability. The missile is also reported to be nuclear-capable and able to hit ground as well as naval targets.

Footage released by the Russian MOD provides also some additional details. First of all, the Tu-22M3 flew with Kh-22 anti-ship cruise missiles in the video. Indeed, the Backfire was primarily developed as an anti-ship missile carrier for the Soviet/Russian supersonic Kh-22/32 anti-ship missiles with range of up to 1,000 km (621 miles) as well as for smaller Kh-15 missiles with range of up to 300 km (160 miles).

Interestingly, the HMS Queen Elizabeth is currently reportedly operating in the Med Sea, south of Cyprus. It seems quite likely that the Russian aircraft have carried out already (or will, in the next days) perform some simulated attack on the British aircraft carrier and her strike group. For sure, the proximity between the has already provided an opportunity for a close encounter, as proved by a video, also released on Jun. 28, showing an F-35B from HMS QE flying near Russian Admiral Makarov frigate.

As already explained, on her maiden operational deployment (dubbed CSG-21), HMS Queen Elizabeth, with F-35B jets belonging to both the Royal Air Force and the U.S. Marine Corps VMFA-211 Wake Island Avengers, based at MCAS (Marine Corps Air Station) Yuma, Arizona, is heading to the Indo-Pacific region as the flagship of the largest naval and air task force under British command since the Falklands war. However, as planned, before reaching the troubled waters of the South China Sea, the British aircraft carrier will supporting counter-Daesh operations in Iraq and Syria. During her stay in the Med, it’s quite likely the Russians will keep an eye on the British aircraft carrier group and viceversa.

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.

F-35B Jets From HMS Queen Elizabeth Have Joined The Fight Against Daesh

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One of the F-35B embarked aboard HMS Queen Elizabeth. (Image credit: Crown Copyright)

UK Carrier Strike Group launching F-35B missions in support of Operation Shader from the eastern Mediterranean Sea.

On her maiden operational deployment, HMS Queen Elizabeth, with F-35B jets belonging to both the Royal Air Force and the U.S. Marine Corps VMFA-211 Wake Island Avengers, based at MCAS (Marine Corps Air Station) Yuma, Arizona, is heading to the Indo-Pacific region as the flagship of the largest naval and air task force under British command since the Falklands war.

“This will be the first time UK fighter aircraft are embarked on an operational aircraft carrier deployment since 2010, and will be the largest number of F-35Bs ever to sail the seas,” says the UK MOD in a public statement, referring to the fact that during the 28-week deployment – dubbed CSG21 (Carrier Strike Group 2021), 10x VMFA-211 F-35Bs and 8x RAF 617 Sqn F-35Bs will operate from the flight deck of HMS Queen Elizabeth.

The naval line-up includes Type 45 destroyers, HMS Defender and HMS Diamond; Type 23 anti-submarine frigates, HMS Kent and HMS Richmond; and the Royal Fleet Auxiliary’s logistics ships Fort Victoria and Tidespring; along with an Astute-class nuclear submarine will accompany the British aircraft carrier along with U.S. Navy Arleigh Burke-class destroyer USS The Sullivans and a Dutch frigate, HNLMS Evertse.

F-35B Shader
RAF F-35B.

As planned, before reaching the troubled waters of the South China Sea, the British aircraft carrier will be quite busy: it has already taken part in Exercise Joint Warrior/Strike Warrior off Scotland; then have joined drills with NATO partners, including Falcon Strike 2021 in the Mediterranean Sea; and is now about to support counter-Daesh operations in Iraq and Syria.

“F-35B Lightning fast jets will be the cutting edge of the Carrier Strike Group’s (CSG21) formidable power in the air.

These are next generation multi-role combat aircraft equipped with advanced sensors, mission systems and stealth technology, enabling them to carry out intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance tasks.

The renowned 617 Squadron RAF (‘The Dambusters’) will operate the jets to provide tangible and impactful support to counter-Daesh operations in Iraq and Syria.”

Although this will be the first time they launch from a British aircraft carrier, RAF F-35Bs have already grown experience in the air war against Daesh: 617 Sqn’s Lightning, deployed to RAF Akrotiri, Cyprus, as part of Operation Lightning Dawn, flew their first operational sorties in support of Operation Shader on Sunday Jun. 16, 2019.

F-35B Pantelleria
British F-35B performing a short landing at Pantelleria AB during Falcon Strike 2021 exercise (Author).

Photos of the aircraft released by the UK MOD after the first F-35B returned from the armed patrol over Syria showed Paveway IV bombs being loaded and the AIM-120 AMRAAM carried inside the internal weapons bay. Moreover, the aircraft featured their RCS (Radar Cross Section) enhancers (also known as radar reflectors/Luneberg lenses).

“Lightning Dawn was our first Proof of Concept deployment away from the UK. We had lots of different objectives we wanted to achieve and we met all of them,” told us RAF 617 Squadron Wing Commander John Butcher at the end of the deployment. “We performed armed overwatch of our forces on the ground in support of Operation Shader. We flew just with F-35s. We worked alongside the Typhoon detachment, they gave a lot of briefs on the airspace, issues they had seen in operating in those airspaces. So we took their lessons, applied them to ourselves and then we went off”.

The type of missions the F-35B are going to fly in the next weeks is probably quite similar. It’s still not clear whether the USMC F-35Bs will support OIR (Operation Inherent Resolve) too, although it seems quite likely. VMFA-211 is a Marine squadron with significant combat experience with the STOVL (Short Take Off Vertical Landing) variant of the F-35: on September 27, 2018, U.S. Marine Corps F-35B with VMFA-211, launched the first-ever combat mission by a U.S. military F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter. The long-range strikes that struck insurgent targets in Kandahar Province, Afghanistan, took off from the U.S. Navy Wasp-class amphibious assault ship USS Essex (LHD-2) on station in the Persian Gulf. The aircraft flew that first raid with the gun pod and GBU-32 JDAMs (Joint Direct Attack Munitions) in the internal weapon bays but bomb markings applied to some of the aircraft’s front landing gear door showed two different types of PGMs (Precision Guided Munitions): the GBU-12 500-lb LGBs (Laser Guided Bombs) and GBU-32 JDAMs.

According to our sources, the F-35Bs have already started flying sorties in support of Shader flying from HMS Queen Elizabeth on Jun. 20, 2021. Some interesting flying activity, likely related to the Lightning sorties, was tracked online on Jun. 21, when both a British E-3D AEW (Airborne Early Warning) aircraft and an RC-135W Airseeker operated off Syria.

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.

Nine U.S. Marine Corps And Eight RAF F-35Bs Have Embarked On HMS Queen Elizabeth

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One of the USMC F-35Bs launches from RAF Lakenheath to embark on HMS QE. (All images: Stewart Jack).

17 F-35Bs have already landed aboard British aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth ahead of CSG21 deployment.

As already reported 10 USMC F-35Bs aircraft, belonging to the VMFA-211 Wake Island Avengers, based at MCAS (Marine Corps Air Station) Yuma, Arizona, have arrived at RAF Lakenheath, UK between Apr. 26 and 28, 2021 to embark on HMS Queen Elizabeth, for UK’s new aircraft carrier’s first operational cruise, named CSG21.

On her maiden operational deployment, HMS QE will travel to the Indo-Pacific region leading the largest naval and air task force under British command since the Falklands war. However, before reaching the troubled waters of the South China Sea, the F-35Bs will be quite busy: they will take part in Exercise Joint Warrior/Strike Warrior off Scotland; then in drills with NATO partners in the northern Atlantic and Mediterranean Sea; and will also support counter-Daesh operations in Iraq and Syria.

The deployment represents “the first time UK fighter aircraft are embarked on an operational aircraft carrier deployment since 2010, and will be the largest number of F-35Bs ever to sail the seas,” said the UK MOD in a news release. “The renowned 617 Squadron RAF (‘The Dambusters’) will operate the jets to provide tangible and impactful support to counter-Daesh operations in Iraq and Syria.”

Minister for the Armed Forces, James Heappey MP said: “The F-35B Lightning jets will pack a potent punch against Daesh and help prevent them from regaining a foothold in Iraq. This is a prime example of the UK Armed Forces stepping forward with our allies to confront persistent threats around the world. It is Global Britain in action.”

The British F-35Bs have already grown experience in the air war against Daesh: 617 Sqn’s Lightning flew their first operational sorties over Syria launching from RAF Akrotiri, Cyprus, on Sunday Jun. 16, 2019, supporting of Operation Shader, the UK contribution to the Global Coalition’s counter Daesh mission in Iraq and Syria.

It’s still not clear whether the USMC F-35Bs will support OIR (Operation Inherent Resolve) too, although it seems quite likely. VMFA-211 is a Marine squadron with significant combat experience with the STOVL (Short Take Off Vertical Landing) variant of the F-35: on September 27, 2018, U.S. Marine Corps F-35B with VMFA-211, launched the first-ever combat mission by a U.S. military F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter. The long-range strikes that struck insurgent targets in Kandahar Province, Afghanistan, took off from the U.S. Navy Wasp-class amphibious assault ship USS Essex (LHD-2) on station in the Persian Gulf. The aircraft flew that first raid with the gun pod and GBU-32 JDAMs (Joint Direct Attack Munitions) in the internal weapon bays but bomb markings applied to some of the aircraft’s front landing gear door showed two different types of PGMs (Precision Guided Munitions): the GBU-12 500-lb LGBs (Laser Guided Bombs) and GBU-32 JDAMs.

F-35Bs start embarking on HMS QE

In anticipation of the upcoming deployment, the U.S. Marine Corps and RAF F-35Bs have started, on Sunday May 2, 2021, to launch respectively from RAF Lakenheath and RAF Marham to embark on HMS Queen Elizabeth.

USMC F-35B embark HMS Queen Elizabeth
VMFA-211 F-35B takes off for HMS Queen Elizabeth.

The Marines F-35Bs took off in three sections, flying as “WAKE 11-12”, “WAKE 21-22” and “WAKE 31-32”. 617 Squadron also launched four aircraft from RAF Marham as “GHOST 11-12” (ZM150/016 and ZM154/020) and “GHOST 21-22” (ZM152 and ZM151).

The Aviationist‘s contributor Stewart Jack was at RAF Lakenheath and took the photographs of the USMC F-35Bs taking off from there on Sunday.

USMC F-35B embark HMS Queen Elizabeth
Close up on the cockpit of one of the USMC F-35Bs.

In the morning on Monday May 3, another four 617 Squadron jets went to the carrier: F-35B Lightning “Ghost 31-32” (ZM147/013 and ZM153/019) and “Ghost 41-42” (ZM155/021 and ZM148/014). Only three USMC Lightnings launched for the carrier as one went tech. Here are the serials: “WAKE41-42” (169608/CF07 and 169610/CF08) and “WAKE51” (169614/CF09). “WAKE52” (169416/CF03) aborted take-off at 10.20LT returned to parking.

The U.S. Navy has also shared some interesting images of the USMC F-35Bs aboard HMS Queen Elizabeth.

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.

U.S. F-15 Performs “Visual Inspection” of Iranian Airliner Flying Near U.S. Base in Syria.

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A screenshot from a video posted by @iribnews showing the US F-15 during the intercept.

U.S. Central Command has confirmed that a U.S. Air Force F-15C Eagle performed a visual daytime intercept and inspection of an Iranian Mahan Air A310 passenger airliner flying as IRM1152 from Tehran, Iran, to Beirut, Lebanon, over Syrian airspace in fair weather conditions. The F-15 maintained a horizontal separation of over 3,000 feet (about 1,000 meters) during the intercept according to statements from U.S. Central Command. Video taken from the Iranian airliner later released by the Iranian State TV shows the moment the two jets approached the A310. Initially, the two F-15s were mistakely reported as being Israeli Air Force fighters.

While standards for minimum separation distance of aircraft in flight vary with altitude, weather and regional air traffic requirements, the distance maintained by the U.S. F-15 is generally within accepted safety standards for military aircraft performing a visual security intercept in fair weather.

File photo of Iranian Mahan Air airliner. (Photo: Paul Spijkers via Wiki)

Iranian news media did show passenger video of what appeared to be the airliner maneuvering during the encounter as passengers screamed. Additional video showed one man with bleeding injuries to his nose and forehead. A report from Beirut, Lebanon, where the Iranian airliner landed, said that injuries sustained by passengers were minor.

The route of IRM 1152 (Image credit: Flightradar24.com).

According to Flightradar24.com data, the A310 made a climb followed by a quick descent: that must be the moment when the F-15s approached the airliner to perform their VID (Visual Identification). Based on the video and reports, it looks like the Iranian Mahan Air pilot performed a sort of avoidance maneuver when he saw the fighters or had a warning from the TCAS (Traffic Collidance Avoidance System).

Generally speaking, the interception of a civil aircraft is performed in accordance with the special recommendations of ICAO (International Civil Aviation Organization) RAC (Rules of the Air) Appendix 2 and subsequent Attachments. ICAO recommends all the parties (ATC, pilots of both the interceptor and civilian aircraft) to be made aware of the actions that are being undertaken. In the case of IRM1152 flight, it’s not clear whether the civialin ATC control was informed of the intercept (depending on the airspace where the VID takes place, the civilian ATC agency is informed by its military counterpart – where direct communication links exist – of the intercept so that the civilian pilot is warned and prepared to the sight of two combat aircraft approaching it) or the Eagle pilots made an attempt to contact the airliner on the international emergency VHF frequency 121.500 Mhz.

Anyway, here are some other interesting guidelines provided by ICAO to keep in mind when analysing such intercepts:

A standard method should be established for the manoeuvring of aircraft intercepting a civil aircraft in order to avoid any hazard for the intercepted aircraft. Such method should take due account of the performance limitations of civil aircraft, the need to avoid flying in such proximity to the intercepted aircraft that a collision hazard may be created and the need to avoid crossing the aircraft’s flight path or to perform any other manoeuvre in such a manner that the wake turbulence may be hazardous, particularly if the intercepted aircraft is a light aircraft

An aircraft equipped with an airborne collision avoidance system (ACAS), which is being intercepted, may perceive the interceptor as a collision threat and thus initiate an avoidance manoeuvre in response to an ACAS resolution advisory. Such a manoeuvre might be misinterpreted by the interceptor as an indication of unfriendly intentions. It is important,therefore, that pilots of intercepting aircraft equipped with asecondary surveillance radar (SSR) transponder suppress the transmission of pressure-altitude information (in Mode C replies or in the AC field of Mode S replies) within a range ofat least 37 km (20 NM) of the aircraft being intercepted. This prevents the ACAS in the intercepted aircraft from using resolution advisories in respect of the interceptor, while the ACAS traffic advisory information will remain available

Dealing with the intercept procedure:

Phase I

The intercepting aircraft should approach the intercepted aircraft from astern. The element leader, or the single intercepting aircraft, should normally take up a position on the left (port)side, slightly above and ahead of the intercepted aircraft, within the field of view of the pilot of the intercepted aircraft, and initially not closer to the aircraft than 300 m. Any other participating aircraft should stay well clear of the intercepted aircraft, preferably above and behind. After speed and position have been established, the aircraft should, if necessary, proceed with Phase II of the procedure.

Phase II

The element leader, or the single intercepting aircraft, should begin closing in gently on the intercepted aircraft, at the same level, until no closer than absolutely necessary to obtain the information needed. The element leader, or the single intercepting aircraft, should use caution to avoid startling the flightcrew or the passengers of the intercepted aircraft, keeping constantly in mind the fact that manoeuvres considered normal to an intercepting aircraft may be considered hazardous to passengers and crews of civil aircraft. Any other participating aircraft should continue to stay well clear of the intercepted aircraft. Upon completion of identification, the intercepting aircraft should withdraw from the vicinity of the intercepted aircraft as outlined in Phase III.

Phase III

The element leader, or the single intercepting aircraft, should break gently away from the intercepted aircraft in a shallowdive. Any other participating aircraft should stay well clear ofthe intercepted aircraft and rejoin their leader.

U.S. Central Command spokesman Capt. Bill Urban said that the U.S. F-15 performed a visual inspection of the Iranian airliner as it passed within the vicinity of a U.S. air base in Syria. Capt. Urban said that the F-15 was on a “routine air mission” near an American military base in the region and that the aircraft had flown a, “Standard visual inspection of a Mahan Air passenger airliner to ensure the safety of coalition personnel at al-Tanf garrison”. Capt. Urban went on to say that, when the F-15 Eagle made positive identification of the Mahan Air airliner, the USAF pilot responding, “safely opened distance” between his aircraft and the airliner. Capt. Urban also said, “The professional intercept was conducted in accordance with international standards”.

As for the reasons for the intercept, it would be interesting to know if something suspect was reported (maybe based on U.S. intelligence) or if the route the aircraft followed brought it closer to al-Tanf base than expected.

Tensions between U.S. forces and Iran in the region have remained high since Iranian Gen. Qassim Soleimani was killed in a U.S. remotely piloted aircraft strike in Iraq on January 3, 2020. During a subsequent incident on January 7 in Kerman, Iran, 56 mourners of Gen. Qassim Soleimani were trampled to death and 212 more were injured at a memorial service.

On Jan. 8, 2020, Iranian forces launched a retaliatory missile strike at two U.S. bases in Iraq. No U.S. personnel died in the attacks but nearly 100 persons were reported as having head injuries, possibly from the concussion of missile warheads on impact.

Iran and the U.S. have since maintained rhetoric condemning the actions of the other as tensions in the region remain high.

Let’s Talk About the Vitebsk L370, the Russian New Generation Directional IR Countermeasure (DIRCM) System

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Mi-8AMTSh of the Russian Air Force equipped with the Vitebsk system. In the photo are visible the three L370-5 IR jammers, one of the L370-2 UV sensors on the wingtip and a group of UV-26 countermeasures dispensers on the rear fuselage. (Photo: Alex Snow)

Since the beginning of the 2000s, we have observed an increasing usage of Missile Warning Systems (MWS) aboard air assets. The lessons learned from recent conflicts, like Afghanistan and Iraq, underlined the need to protect low flying aircraft, and especially helicopters, also from MAN-Portable Air-Defense Systems (MANPADS) threats, other than direct fire that is contrasted with the use of armor. During the last 10-15 years, almost all western aircraft deployed for combat operations had at least ultraviolet-based MWS (Missile Warning Systems) to detect incoming missiles. That was not the case for eastern armed forces, and especially Russian forces which are deployed in Syria since 2015 with their air assets.

The general lack of infrared countermeasures against MANPADS aboard Russian aircraft was remarkably demonstrated when in 2017 President Vladimir Putin visited Hmeimim Air Base, the Russian permanent base near the Syrian port city of Latakia. In that occasion, Putin’s Tupolev Tu-214PU (RA-64517) was escorted by two Su-30SM fighter jets that acted as “heat traps” to attract possible MANPADS and deploy flares to foil them, making up this way to the lack of protections of the presidential aircraft. This need was dictated by the reported presence of at least three different types of MANPADS in Syria: the Soviet-era 9K32 Strela-2 (SA-7 “Grail”) and 9K310 Igla-1 (SA-16 “Gimlet”), and the Chinese FN-6 Hongying-6.

American aircraft are using a combination of UV MWS, flares and Directional InfraRed Counter Measures (DIRCM) to defend themselves. Russian armed forces are seemingly following the same approach. The system that is being increasingly installed on all Russian helicopters, and also on some fixed wing aircraft, is the Vitebsk BKO L370, more commonly known with its export designation President-S, first appeared in 2015/2016. The system was reportedly in development at least since the first 2010s but was never installed on operational aircraft.

Ka-52K of the Russian Air Force equipped with the Vitebsk system. In the photo are visible one of the L370-2 U sensors, the two L418-5 IR jammers (just in front of the main landing gear) and the UV-26 countermeasures dispensers on the wingtip. (Photo: Oleg Podkladov via RussianPlanes.net)

According to the Russians, the Vitebsk L370 in its complete configuration is designed to protect an aircraft from both IR and radar-guided missiles, which “can be tracked within a radius of several hundred kilometers”. The Vitebsk is actually a modular system with components installed both inside the aircraft or on external attachment points.

The main components of the Vitebsk system are (disclaimer: all data presented here are public and not classified):

  • L370-1 control unit, processes the information received from the radar, laser and infrared warning sensors to activate automatically the jamming system and countermeasures, while alerting the pilot and providing information about the threat;
  • L150 “Pastel” Digital Radar Warning Receiver, with sensors mounted in the tail, wingtips and nose, works in the 1.2- to 18-GHz range frequencies and covers 360° horizontally and 60° vertically around the aircraft;
  • L370-2 UV warning sensors and L140 Otklik laser warning sensors, detect IR signature from incoming missiles and laser designators, respectively;
  • L370-3S digital active jamming station (currently not installed on operational aircraft), can locate the hostile emission’s azimuth with a 5°-10° accuracy and jam the signal in two sectors (front and rear) 120° wide horizontally and 60° vertically;
  • L370-5 IR jammer (replaced by L370-5L or L418-5 in some configurations), a laser-based Directional IR Countermeasure (DIRCM), externally similar to a normal EO/IR sensor turret, which can “blind” the missile at a range from 500 to 5000 meters, covering 360° degrees around the aircraft and 90° vertically;
  • UV-26 countermeasures dispensers, each module can house 32 rounds of 26mm flares/chaffs;
  • Active Towable Radio-location Trap (ATRT), planned only for heavy fixed-wing aircraft, is an expendable towed radar decoy attached to a 150 meters long cable that lures radar-guided missiles away from the aircraft.

The known specific configurations are L370E31 (Ka-31), L370V50 (Ka-50), L370V52 (Ka-52), L370E8 (Mi-8MT), L370E26L (Mi-26), L370V24 (Mi-24), L370V28 (Mi-28), L370K25 (Su-25).

The Ka-31 AEW helicopter features L150 sensors in the tail and four L370-2 sensors coupled with two L370-5 jammers under the front and rear fuselage. The Ka-50’s and Ka-52’s versions feature L150 sensors in the tail, L140 and L370-2 sensors in both the nose and tail, two L370-5 jammers just in front of the main landing gear and UV-26 dispensers in the wingtips. The L370-5 jammers are being replaced on new aircraft by the L418-5 jammer, the main visible difference is a round vs square sensor in the turret.

Mi-28NE prototype equipped with the Vitebsk system. In the photo are visible the wingtip, with UV-26 countermeasures dispensers and sensors, and the dome of the L370-5L IR jammer under the rear fuselage. (Photo: Oleg Podkladov via RussianPlanes.net)

The Mi-28’s version is identical, except for the two L370-5 jammers replaced by a single L370-5L jammer housed in a transparent dome. The Mi-8’s and Mi-24’s versions seem to lack the L140 and L150, featuring only four L370-2 sensors, on the Mi-8’s wingtips and on some custom bulges behind the cockpit and on the tail on the Mi-24, and three L370-5 jammers, one under the tail and the others on the Mi-8’s wingtips and behind the Mi-24’s main landing gear. Both helicopters have also UV-26 dispenser on the rear fuselage. The Mi-26 uses two external pods to house the L370-2 sensors and the L370-5L jammer, one for each side, while the UV-26 dispensers are mounted on the lower fuselage.

The only tactical fixed wing aircraft to use Vitebsk is the upgraded Su-25SM3, latest version of the Su-25 “Grach” (NATO designation “Frogfoot”) which features the L-150, three L370-2 sensors, two in the tail and one below the nose, UV-26 dispensers and two L370-3S jammers mounted under the outer wing pilons, previously used for the R-60 IR-guided air-to-air missile. According to the Russians, the Vitebsk computer can also provide to the Su-25SM3 targeting data for the Kh-58USh (AS-11 ‘Kilter’) anti-radiation missiles.

While the system is being upgraded based on the experience from combat operations in Syria, new configurations are being developed for the Il-76 “Candid” and derivatives, the Il-96s and Tu-204s used by the presidential fleet (Rossiya Special Flight Detachment) and even civilian airliners. The new Mi-38T is also reportedly receiving the Vitebsk system, with a configuration called L370V38S that should be similar to the one used by the Mi-8 and Mi-24.

Two Su-25SM3 of the Russian Air Force equipped with the Vitebsk system. In the photo are visible the L370-3S jammers mounted under the outer wing pilons. (Photo: Alex Snow)

Vitebsk currently equips almost all the helicopters in the Russian Air Force, according to the MoD, while the export variant, President-S, has been delivered to Egypt for their Ka-52s and Mi-17s, Algeria for their Mi-17s, Mi-26s and Mi-28s, Belarus for their Mi-8s.

The Russians refer to the system as invincible, after full-scale live fire test were performed with a real Mi-8 on an elevated platform, with its engines running and no crew, at which “20 Igla-type missiles were fired and not one of them hit the target”, as they were reportedly blinded by the jammers and flares. We don’t know how accurate are those reports as some of the Russian helicopters equipped with Vitebsk were lost in Syria, even if officially those crashed were not due to hostile fire.

The new Su-57 “Felon” supposedly features a DIRCM system too, even if not related to Vitebsk, called 101KS-O and part of the 101KS Atoll Electro-Optical System, which is a novelty for a tactical jet. Similarly to the Mi-28’s L370-5L jammer, the system is housed in a transparent dome and mounted on the dorsal spine and under the fuselage of the aircraft.

Let’s Have a Look at the Recent U.S. Navy P-8 Poseidon Mission To Watch A Russian Navy Firing Exercise Off Syria

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The track off Syria of the USN P-8A Poseidon on Jun. 19. The red square is the area of the exercise covered by NOTAM. (Image composition based on track provided by Arjen Peters and USN photo).

An interesting event took place on Jun. 19, 2020, near Syria.

On that day, Cyprus had a NOTAM (Notice To AirMen) up for Russian Navy missile firing exercise off the coast of Tartus, in Syria.

According to the published schedule, firing would take place on multiple days, including Jun. 19, until 1500Z (GMT).

The NOTAM issued for the Russian Navy firing exercise.

Around 1200Z, a P-8A launched from NAS Sigonella, Sicily, under radio callsign “PS191” (registration unknown) entered the area from the west. Aircraft was on tactical hex AE6840:

The  U.S. Navy P-8A Maritime Patrol and Reconnaissance Aircraft was in contact with Nicosia ATC. At some point in time, primary targets were observed by Nicosia within the danger area. Most likely, rockets fired from navy vessels. Russia has a heavy presence in naval base Tartus and also recently “bolstered the base’s capability”.

Several military drills take place in the waters off Tartus, as reported by TASS News Agency recently.

Moreover, during the time the P-8 was “on station”, the Israeli activated danger area LCD46, most probably to have a look themselves at the Russian firing activity.

Full recording can be listened here:

Track data has them on the east side of the danger area, flying up and down the coast. From that position, they were front row witnesses of what the Russian Navy was firing. Around 1500Z they left the area to the southwest.

Dealing with the P-8A, these aircraft regularly fly ISR (Intelligence Surveillance Reconnaissance) missions across the Med. As explained in a previous post: “These assets are much more than MPA (Maritime Patrol Aircraft): they are multi-mission platforms that can gather valuable intelligence using a wide array of sensors. Among these, an Advanced Airborne Sensor (a dual-sided AESA radar that can offer 360-degree scanning on targets on land or coastal areas, and which has potential applications as a jamming or even cyberwarfare platform according to Northrop Grumman); an APY-10 multi-mode synthetic aperture radar; an MX-20 electro-optical/infrared turret for shorter-range search; and an ALQ-240 Electronic Support Measure (ESM) suite, able to geo-locate and track enemy radar emitters. Moreover, all sensors contribute to a single fused tactical situation display, which is then shared over both military standard and internet protocol data links, allowing for seamless delivery of information amongst U.S. and coalition forces.”

With that in mind, the U.S. Navy P-8s operating out of Sigonalla can be regularly tracked online by means of their ADS-B/Mode-S transponders orbiting off Syria (where a tense close encounter with two Su-35s took place), flying over the Black Sea near Crimea or hunting Russian Navy subs and warships in the western Mediterranean Sea around Gibraltair. They have also been spotted off Libya recently. OSINT analysis on their routes always provides interesting insights into their missions.

A big “Thank you” to our friend Arjen Peters for providing all the details about the interesting mission. Make sure you follow him on Twitter here.