Monday, December 27, 2010

Da' Blues

Thought I'd share a few shots I took at a recent Blue Angels performance. This was actually a practice show. If you look closely, you'll see two dual-seat #7s in the formation. I've seen them fly with a two seater before during practice, but this is the first time I've seen two of them at once.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Alaska C-17 Lost, Updated

The Air Force has released its report on the loss of C-17A 00-0173, back on June 28. They determined that pilot error was the prime cause, with contributing factors of a lack of oversight and leadership.

They have also released a video shot of the aircraft while it was doing its practice routine for the airshow. It cuts off just before the moment of impact. One has a morbid thought ... when did they realize they were going to go in?

This video looks pretty much like the official C-17 demos I have seen at airshows. Unless the pilot did something I'm not seeing, this is pretty much an indictment of the official USAF demo of that aircraft.
Document, Photo, and video via US Air Force

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

New Iranian Super Fighter Spotted

A clandestine, long range spy photo of the new Iranian Super Fighter, the T-URd, seen practicing an intercept of a USAF F-22 Raptor.

You can see how the Iranian President is correct when he states that arms produced by his country are superior to anything the Great Satan can come up with. This jet powered, afterburning monster can run circles around the inferior F-22.
Update - OK, from the underwhelming response, I guess the photo is not clear in what it shows. Here's something that might explain it a bit more .... (is that jet exhaust, or results of a bad burrito?)

Thursday, December 2, 2010

The USS Ft. Worth

The USS Ft. Worth, LCS-3, will be christened this weekend by Rep. Kay Grainger (R-TX). Ms. Grainger's district includes Ft. Worth, a city she used to be mayor of. This is the first Navy ship to bear the name of the city, which is the 17th largest in the US. Ft. Worth has a long history of supporting the military (Bell Helicopter is located in the county, AF Plant 4 (Consolidated/General Dynamics/Lockheed Martin is a major defense production facility on the west side of the city, co-located with Carswell AFB/NAS Ft. Worth.)

The Ft. Worth is the third ship of the Littoral Combat Ship class. These ships are designed for close in fighting in coastal waters, closer to land than traditional Navy ships. The ships are modular, being able to switch mission specific equipment in and out depending upon its tasking.

The vessel is being constructed at Marionette Marine shipyard in Wisconsin. It was designed by Lockheed-Martin. In an odd twist, one of her first commanding officers will be a man who was born at Carswell AFB in Ft. Worth, and grew up near the city. The ship will be homeported in San Diego after is is completed in early 2012.

The LCS series of ships actually contains two very different platforms. LCS-1 and LCS-3 look like conventional ships, while LCS-2 is a tri-maran platform.

Photos credit US Navy
Here is some video of the sea trials for LCS-2, the USS Independence. She is the Ft. Worth's predecessor. Wild looking ship!

Update - Lockheed-Martin announced it has received a $3.6 billion contract form the US Navy to build 10 more LCS class ships over the next 5 years. The will be built inthe same Wisconsin shipyard the USS Ft. Worth is currently being finished at. I did not see a breakdown on how many would be LCS-2 type vs. how many LCS-3 type.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Raptor's Claws

I recently had the opportunity to view a F-22 demo. This was the fourth time I've seen one, and it is always a thrill. This is one incredible aircraft, a huge fighter with unbelievable raw power. If you ever have the chance to go to an airshow that is featuring a F-22 demo, please go. You will not be sorry! (Don't cheat and go Youtube ... there is no way a small screen can do it justice!)

I have seen purpose built aerobatic aircraft do somersaults in mid air. I have seen them float down like a leaf. I have seen them hover in mid air, held up by the skill of the pilot and the thrust of the engine.

To see a 22 ton fighter aircraft do these things is, well, unreal.

The F-22's weight is listed at a bit more than 43,000lb. The combined thrust of the two engines is over 70,000 lb. This, plus the thrust vectoring nozzles, equals some serious go power and incredible turn capabilities. While in afterburner, the engines put out a long, beautiful shock diamond pattern, and looking into the engine exhausts while in burner is like looking at the proverbial gates of hell. I've seen a lot of military aircraft, and I can say without a doubt that no other aircraft has ever had an afterburner that was so bright, so vibrant, so angry looking as the Raptor's.

The F-22 is a stealth aircraft, at least to radar and other sensor technologies. It stands out a lot visibly, at least in comparison to something small like a F-16. It is also VERY LOUD.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Alaska F-22 Lost

A F-22A Raptor assigned to the 525th Fighter Squadron, 3rd Wing crashed about 100 miles north of Elmendorf AFB Tuesday evening. The aircraft, one of two out on a routine training mission, dropped off the radar screen at 7:40pm local time while returning to the base. There was no communication from the pilot indicating trouble.

Some of the wreckage was found on Wednesday morning. The rescue helo was not able to immediately land because the crash site was deemed to be a hazardous material area, requiring proper HAZMAT equipped personnel to secure the site.

The pilot has not been found. The ejection seat has so far not been found, so it is not known if he was able to eject or went down with the aircraft. The area is very rough terrain, difficult to get into, and the search efforts have been hampered by bad weather.

The pilot has been identified by the USAF, but I will not publish it here out of respect for him and his family.

This has been a tough year for the Alaska based 3rd Wing - they lost a C-17 near the base back in July, with four fatalities.

This is the second crash of an operational F-22. With production curtailed at 187 units by Obama, Gates, and the Democrat controlled Congress, that means that 1.07% of the Raptor fleet has been lost in two incidents.

Update - portions of the ejection seat and scraps of the pilot's flight suit were found at the crash site, indicating he did not eject and died in the crash. The site is in a marshy area, and the majority of the wreckage is submerged. It will take some time to get definitive confirmation, but it is pretty certain that the incident was fatal. The pilot left behind a wife and two young children.

Update II - Air Force officials confirmed that the pilot has been prounced dead. Evidence recovered at the crash site confirms that he did not eject prior to impact, and the crash was not survivable. The investigation and recovery efforts will continue for several weeks. The crash site is in a marshy area that reaches up to 20 below zero at night. The plane's impact created a large crater, which has swallowed up the wreckage and then filled in over it.

Update III - The aircraft involved was identified as 06-4125, assigned to the 525th Fighter Squadron. It was painted as the Squadron Commander's aircraft at the time of the accident.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Navy Colors, Part IV

Last group for now ...

Beautifully marked VMFA-312 F-18C Hornet launching off a waist catapult on board the USS Harry S. Truman. Note the live bomb under the right wing.

VMFA-232's CAG bird passing over the USS after a missed approach. The squadron was deployed aboard the USS Nimitz.

A VRC-30 C-2A Greyhound catching a wire about the USS Eisenhower. C-2s provide transporation to and from the ship for personnel and material while a carrier is deployed.

This incredible paint job was applied to a VRC-30 C-2 to commemorate the squadron's 50th Anniversary. The aircraft is hooked up to a forward catapult on the USS George H W Bush.

VFA-143's CAG F-18E launching from the waist catapult off the USS Eisenhower. Markings are in dark blue, as is the 'Pukin Dogs' squadron insignia on the tail. Officially a winged griffon, the motif looks like a dog with a hangover - hence the nickname.

This wildly painted VFA-137 bird is a tribute to the Navy's new Digi-blue BDUs. The odd blotches you see are actually representations of the block shaped camo patterns seen on the Navy's new working uniforms. Pretty cool. Aircraft is seen launching off the outer waist catapult on the USS Lincoln.

VFA-97 's CAG F-18C, NH-300 is seen here about to catch the 3 wire on the USS Nimitz.

VFA-94's F-18C 164227 , seen over Mt. Fuji. The Mighty Shrikes squadron was forward deployed to MCAS Iwakuni, Japan.

Two views of F-18F 166842. VFA-41 Black Aces' CAG bird, assigned to the USS Nimitz.

All Photos Credit US Navy

Navy Colors, Part III

And another dose ... you just can't get enough of this stuff.

Three shots showing VFA-32's CAG (AC-200) and Squadron Commander's (AC-201) F-18Fs.

VFA-31's CAG F-18E coming aboard the USS Roosevelt. The Felix the Cat mascot toting a bomb is one of the oldest flying squadron insignia in the US Navy.

Two shots of the VFA-14 Tophatter's CAG bird. Top shot is just after launch from a waist catapult, bottom is taking tension on the catapult just prior to being flung off the front end of the carrier. USS Nimitz.

Two CAG birds from the USS Lincoln. A two seat F-18F from VFA-2 leads a single seat F-18E from VFA-137.

VFA-2's CAG bird demonstrating a high performance climb out after takeoff. F-18F 165916, NE-200, flying off the USS Lincoln.

An E-2C of the VAW-120 Greywolves, landing on a carrier deck. Note the grey painted forward part of the fuselage, and the grey/black tail markings and engine nacelles. Definitely non-standard markings!

VAW-117's CAG bird pulling into its parking spot at NAS Pt. Mugu, returing from a shipboard deployment. BuNo 165649, NH-600, had just spent the previous 6 months on the USS Nimitz as part of CVW-1.

Aircraft of CVW-5 never pass up a photo chance over Mt. Fuji, near their forward deployed base of NAF Atsugi, Japan. This VAW-115 CAG bird is seen in formation with one of its more sedately painted squadron mates over said Mt. Fuji, while the Air Wing was still assigned to the USS Kittyhawk (recently retired from active duty service). Tail markings consist of the Rising Sun, with the NF air wing indicator being in pseud'Japanese letters.

All photos credit US Navy

Navy Colors, Part II

Part II - more gloriously colored aircraft from the present day Navy and Marines ...

VAQ-129's first F-18G Growler. This two seat Hornet model is the replacement for the EA-6B Prowler, and is starting to enter front line squadron service.

An SH-60B of HSL-51. Tail markings are red, with a Rising Sun motif.

MH-60S of HS-8, the "8 Ballers", attaching to a slingload on board the USS Stennis. Tail markings are black/gold/green, front of the aircraft is black with an "8 Ball' - appropriate!.

CAG Hornets from Air Wing Five. These spectacularly marked aircraft are forward deployed to Japan with the rest of CVW-5, the only Air Wing based outside of the United States.

F-18F 166805, CAG bird of VFA-211, catching a 3 wire onboard the USS Enterprise.

VFA-32 Swordsmen CAG bird, F-18F 166661, flying off the USS Hary S. Truman.

VFA-103's BuNo 166620, serving as its CAG bird, pulling some Gs in a high AofA. The Jolly Rogers were flying off the Eisenhower at the time.

MH-60S 166356 of HCS-25, preparing to pick up a load off the stern of the USS Washngton. The Squadron's nickname is 'The Knights'. Tail art consits of a couple of palm trees, with a couple of mounted crusading Knights - not exactly poilitically correct these days .....

HSC-26's MH-60S Seahawk CAG helo, BuNo 166295. Seen here after dropping a sling load of bombs onto a carrier deck during UnRep. Tail markings are dark blue with yellow/gold markings.

A couple of shots of the VFA-102 Diamondbacks F-18F CAG bird, BuNo 165894, Top shot shows it launghing from the waist catapult, bottom shows hook down in the approach pattern for landing.

All photos credit US Navy.

Navy Colors, Part I

Back in the 60s and 70s, US Navy and Marine Corps aircraft wore some of the most colorful markings ever seen on flying machines. The base camoflage scheme was gloss gull grey top and side surfaces, with a white bottom. It was definitely not a low visibility type of camoflage, and the wildly colorful individual unit markings made the aircraft stick out even more.

A-7E 158021 of VA-195, seen at NAS Lemoore in 1978, is representative of the colorful markings carried in the late 60s and 70s.

In the late and early '80s, the brass decided to tone down the color quite a bit. Studies had indicated that the grey/white/color paint made the aircraft easy to see at long distances, a decided disadvantage in aerial combat. The first move was to overall gull grey, with toned down unit markings. Then, the advent of TPS (Tactical Paint Scheme) ushered in a new era in NAVAIR - dull grey.

TPS consisted of 2 or 3 shades of matte grey, applied in specific patterns to each individual aircraft type. The camoflage was very effective in cutting down the aircraft's visual signatures. In practice, the greys were very hard to maintain, and due to the dull finish, stained very easily. Unit markings were mandated to be painted in one of the 3 TPS greys, whichever contrasted with the base color under the squadron markings. While the camo worked tactically, it resulted in aircraft that pretty much looked like refugees from a junkyard.

By contrast, here is an A-7E from VA-205, seen in 1988. The mottled appearance of the TPS camoflage is just normal wear and tear, but see how badly it shows up? Much more effective as a camoflage, but not exactly pleasing to the eye - or the camera.

Fortunately, a few years after the advent of TPS, complaints from the squadrons about the dull nature of the aircraft led to the Navy allowing one aircraft per squadron to receive some limited colored markings. This aircraft was typically called the 'CAG Bird' - referring to the aircraft as one marked in tribute to the Commander of the Air Wing.

As the 90s ended and the 00s came upon us, the Navy relaxed the policy even further, and more colorful CAG birds surfaced. Since the threat of air to air combat has been greatly minimized, the Esprit de Corps experienced with a colored up CAG bird far outweighs any tactical risk.

This relaxation has been a wonderful change for those of us who follow military aviation, particularly if we photograph the aircraft. Though grey is still the norm, seeing a colored up aircraft now and then puts a thrill into aviation enthusiasts.

Here are some recent 'CAG' birds and other examples of colorful markings fielded by US Navy and Marine squadrons. There are others, and I'll post some more from time to time.

The Strike Directorate based at NAS Pax River has this F-18F, BuNo 165875, undergoing tests of alternative fuels. The aircraft has been unofficially dubbed 'The Green Hornet'.

Though not a CAG bird, this VAW-126 E-2C Hawkeye carries eye catching black and blue Seahawk markings. Seen launching from the USS Truman is AC-603, BuNo 165648.

The Stingers of VFA-113 have had some spectacular CAG birds over the years. This one is rather mundane, but still qualifies as a colored up CAG bird. BuNo 164668 is a late build F-18C, and was flying off the USS Ronald Reagan.

This EA-6B Prowler of VAQ-139 is seen launching off the USS Reagan. NK-500 was BuNo 163527. The Cougars are based at NAS Whidbey Island while not on cruise.

The patriotic Prowler belongs to VAQ-141, flying off the USS Eisenhower at the time. The flag markings leave no doubt as to who owns BuNo 163521.

Test and Development unit VX-23 used this F-18C, 163476, during flight deck certification tests on the USS George H W Bush.

The rotor heads are also into the CAG thing. SH-60B 163294 belongs to HS-2, and is seen approaching the USS Lincoln.

Photo Credits - top two A-7 photos - yours truly. All others are official US Navy images.