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Archive for October, 2007

Rebuilding the Iraqi Air Force

Wednesday, October 31st, 2007

Yesterday I had the opportunity to participate in a DoD-sponsored Blogger’s Roundtable with U.S. Air Force Col. Michael Wobbema, Chief of Staff for the Coalition Air Force Transition Team. His job? Help rebuild the Iraqi Air Force.
With the recent MQ-9 Reaper kill that we talked about here on DT, my first question was if UAVs were going to be included in the the future Iraqi Air Force. With ISR assets (intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance) such a large part of any operation, I was curious if the success of any Coalition UAV ISR program is in the cards. COL Wobbema’s reply:

I do not think that we have any kind of unmanned vehicle program established in the long-term planning. Basically what we’re Iraqi Air Force.jpgdoing is we’re using a manned form of the same type of intelligence-gathering equipment in the form of a Caravan, a Cessna Caravan, that we’ve put an ISR suite on, which is operated by a sensor operator that’s actually flying in the aircraft.

My next question centered around what sort of aircraft the Iraqi Air Force can be expected to be flying in the near future:

Well, in the future, of course, you know, I’ve been a fighter guy my whole career, and a lot of the Iraqi air force pilots are all former fighter pilots. And, of course, if they had an unlimited budget and didn’t want to worry about anything else, we’d be buying F-16s, F-18s for them. Or they would be buying them for themselves. That’s what they’d be wanting to do.
But we have to walk before we can run, and right now we’ve got some C-130 aircraft on the ground that they’re operating. There are some MI-17 for the rotary-wing side. They’ve got a few Hueys. And then we’ve got this Cessna Caravan. The Cessna Caravan will also become — there will be an armed variant of that that will come online. And then they’ll move into — the next iteration will be a light– attack aircraft of some sort, probably a propeller-driven kind of light-attack aircraft that can take care of their most immediate need, and that is to deal with the insurgency that’s taking place inside their own borders.
From there, then, it will migrate to being able to develop an air defense capability to protect their borders from outside influence. And then, from there, you know, who knows? At some point in time I suspect that they will ultimately migrate to becoming a fully integrated part of the world community.

Thinking back to the air order of battle that existed in Iraq 17 years ago, those days are far in the future. Currently any external threat that may require a robust air defense capability can and will be handled by coalition aircraft that remain in theater or are operating offshore from carrier strike groups. Same goes for Close Air Support (CAS), either on-call from a CAS-stack or some form of alert launch, in support of ground operations. Self-determination from a military aviation perspective is in in the cards, but not for a while.
COL Wobbema has a number of other fascinating things to pass on in this interview and you can read the article from DefenseLink News here or read the transcript of the roundtable here.
Above photo shows members of 52nd Flying Training Squadron standing in formation as the first students arrive to the Iraqi air force flying training school at Kirkuk Air Base, Iraq. This flight was officially the first sortie flown by the school as the four Iraqi air force students took control of the aircraft for a few minutes in transit to see what it is they are working toward. The school will instruct the students in both fixed– and rotary-wing piloting. Photo by Senior Airman Jeremy McGuffin, USAF
–Pinch Paisley

Getting Afghans Into the Air

Wednesday, October 31st, 2007


About two months ago, the American military went into high gear to create an air corps for Afghanistans military. Of course, that seems like a long time in coming, but commanders there wanted to set their priorities on building a robust ground force before switching to the more complicated task of forming an aviation force.

According to the general in charge of establishing the new Afghan air corps which will be the aviation wing of the Afghan National Army the coalition is building the fledgling fleet at a fever pace. In an interview with military bloggers Wednesday, Air Force Brig. Gen. Jay Lindell said his 130 member team got started in earnest to build an air corps for the Afghan military on a pretty tight schedule. Luckily, its not as if the team is building the Afghan air corps from the ground up. Currently, the Afghan air corps has seven Mi-17 Hip transport helicopters; six Mi-35 Hind attack helos; two An-32 Cline and two An-26 Curl fixed-wing transport aircraft and two Czech-made L-39 Albatross training aircraft — used primarily for flight demonstration shows.

But the coalition isnt stopping there. The air corps is in the process of receiving several Russian-made troop-carrying helicopters from allies. The list includes: six Mi-17s and six Mi-35s from the Czech Republic; one Mi-17 from Slovakia; 10 Mi-17s from the United Arab Emirates and four An-32s from the Ukraine. All of these aircraft should be here in Kabul in the next six months, Lindell said.

The coalition trainers are also checking out whats available to boost the Afghans medium lift transport inventory. That procurement will be handled through the U.S. foreign military sales accounts, but Lindell said he likes the looks of the C-27A Spartan, though Lindell is looking at refurbished versions of this Italian-made transport.

So who exactly is going to fly these birds, you ask? Well, Lindell said there are 165 Afghan pilots currently in the Afghan air corps. Theyre Soviet trained, run about 2,500 flight hours each, but theyre on average about 43 years old. Theyre actually very capable pilots. Theyre not too current. Thats why we need to get them the aircraft to fly in, Lindell said.

The air corps has its own crew of instructors and they have a Soviet-era flight training syllabus theyre already familiar with, so getting them up to speed wont be too difficult. Its the night and foul-weather operations that are going to be the toughest to train. The plan is to establish mobile training teams manned by Eastern European NATO pilots who fly the same types of aircraft to mentor the Afghan pilots on all-weather, day-night tactical flying.

Lindell hopes to set up a training program for new pilots to ascend through the ranks from the Afghan National Military Training Academy in Kabul, so a fresh generation of Afghan air corps pilots can take over for the vets.

Of course, logistics is what makes a functioning air corps and Lindell is bullish on the Afghans capabilities there. Hes seen a knack for keeping aircraft aloft with even the most rudimentary resources (just ask the spooks who flew into Afghanistan in 2001), but a good inventory of spare parts and modern maintenance equipment will also be needed.

The Afghan air corps has ability and desire. They need resources to give them capability, Lindell said.

– Christian

Aberdeen Outtakes: M26 Modular Accessory Shotgun System

Wednesday, October 31st, 2007

Here’s another clip from Military.com’s day at the Aberdeen range. As you can see, I’m getting a little better at this video thing, but there are still some hiccups, I know. I’ve got a few more on the editing deck, so stay tuned.

Also, be sure to refer back to our first-person story on the shoot at Military.com’s Warfighter’s Forum.


Israel Looks East for Navy Commander

Wednesday, October 31st, 2007


The Israeli Navy, still recovering from the image of one of its missile ships struck by a land-launched missile during the summer 2006 Israeli assault on the Hezbollah forces in Lebanon, has received a new commander — of Chinese descent.

The Israeli minister of defense and other senior military officials had earlier stepped down following recriminations and investigations of the ill-fought conflict. Rear Admiral Eli Marom — with the nickname “Chiney” — took command of the navy in October after his predecessor, David Ben-Bassat, retired amidst the continuing criticism of his conduct during the Lebanon war.

Marom’s mother was a member of the Chinese Jewish community, born to an Israeli and a Russian migra woman. She married Marom’s father after he had fled his native Germany for China during World War II. In 1955, the couple moved to Israel, where Marom was born.

Because he looked different, it “forced him constantly to show that he was better. He became one of the very best very quickly,” one former comrade told the weekend newspaper Yediot Acharonot, which published a profile of the new admiral.

Marom, age 52, trained as an engineer and ascended through the ranks, overseeing major naval operations such as the 2002 capture of an Iranian-supplied weapons ship en route to Gaza.

The Israeli Navy is currently undergoing a major expansion, with additional German-built Dolphin-class submarines and American-built Sa’ar V-class missile corvettes as well as lesser craft under construction. These new ships will lead to an expansion of the active Israeli Navy, which currently has some 5,500 active duty personnel and about 3,500 reservists.

One of three earlier Sa’ar V corvettes delivered in 1994–1995 was struck by the cruise missile on 21 July 2006. The Hanit was part of the force blockading the Lebanese coast to prevent additional weapons from reaching the terrorists by sea from nearby Syria. At 8:45 P.M. a C-802 cruise missile struck the ship some ten miles offshore. Indications are that one missile was fired “high” to distract the ship’s defensive systems and the second was aimed at the Hanit (spear).

The first missile struck a small merchant ship, reported to be a Cambodian-flag cargo ship with an Egyptian crew, steaming about 35 miles offshore. The second missile struck the stern of the 1,275-ton Hanit. The Israeli ship, fitted with a massive array of anti-missile systems, was apparently taken by complete surprise by the missile attack.

– Norman Polmar

Bad Days for Pirates

Wednesday, October 31st, 2007


Events like this sort of validate parts of the CNO’s new maritime strategy, don’t they? This from Military​.com

Sailors from the Norfolk-based destroyer James E. Williams boarded a North Korean merchant ship that had been hijacked by pirates off the coast of Somalia, while two other Navy vessels tailed a pirated Japanese ship in the same region.
The Williams, which left Norfolk in July , was about 50 nautical miles from the ship Dai Hong Dan in the Arabian Sea when it received word of the pirate attack, said Lt. John Gay , a spokesman for the Navy’s Central Command in Manama, Bahrain.
The Williams dispatched a helicopter and ordered the pirates to give up their weapons via a bridge-to-bridge radio. The North Korean crew, which had retained control of the steering and engineering spaces, then confronted the pirates and gained back control of the bridge, according to a Navy news release.
Initial reports from the North Korean crew said two pirates were killed and five others captured, the release said.
Soon afterward, the North Korean crew permitted a small party from the Williams to come aboard, Gay said.
Three corpsman, accompanied by armed Sailors and a Williams crew member who spoke Korean, boarded the Dai Hong Dan from a rigid hull inflatable boat. The corpsman assisted wounded crew members and attackers.
Three Koreans were transported to the Williams for medical attention before being returned to their ship, Gay said. The pirates were being held on the Dai Hong Dan.
Hundreds of miles away in the same region, two other Navy ships were tracking a Japanese-owned ship seized by pirates over the weekend, Gay said.
The spokesman said that two “coalition” ships from Combined Task Force 150 had responded to the hijacking of the Golden Mori , a Japanese-owned ship registered in Panama.
Combined Task Force 150, which conducts maritime security operations in the Arabian Sea and Gulf of Aden, includes vessels from the Pakistani, British, French, German and U.S. navies.
Navy officials with knowledge of the incident confirmed that the U.S. destroyers Porter and Arleigh Burke, both based in Norfolk, responded to the Golden Mori’s distress call.
One of the responding ships fired warning shots in front of the Golden Mori.
It also aimed disabling shots at two skiffs — the boats the pirates used to approach the ship — towed behind the Golden Mori. The skiffs caught fire and sank, Gay said.
Gay said coalition crew members have observed men carrying small arms aboard the bridge of the ship, which was hijacked in the Gulf of Aden, a critical body of water between Yemen, Djibouti and Somalia that links the Red and Arabian seas.
After the hijacking, the Golden Mori sailed 380 miles south and remained off Somalia’s coast, Gay said

The article also rolls out the duty critic (it wasn’t my turn):

“Essentially, you don’t want to use a billion dollar DDG [guided missile destroyer] to suppress pirates,” [Robert Work, a retired Marine officer and analyst at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments in Washington] said. “That’s a mission for a much smaller ship. But we have a lot of ships in that area because of ongoing operations in the Horn of Africa. These are ships designed for high-end war fighting, not chasing pirates.”

Hey, not every day’s a missile day. Plus, as we say in the fighter business, a kill’s a kill, right?

Kudos to our blackshoe brethren here.

(Official U.S. Navy photo showing a pirate ship headed for Davy Jones’ locker.)

– Ward

Aberdeen Outtakes: The M110 Sniper Rifle

Tuesday, October 30th, 2007

Here’s a video I put together showing the Army’s new M110 sniper rifle in action out at that test shoot at Aberdeen. I have several others I’ll post as I edit them, so stay tuned.

And please excuse the rough-and-ready quality of the clip. I’m just getting used to this whole video editing and I promise each one will be better…as will my videography.


Secret Russian Aircraft Designs Revealed

Tuesday, October 30th, 2007


Heres another interesting article from our friends at Aviation Week that I thought was worthy of a comment or two. Its a great example of how internet journalism/blogging can bring some value added to readers interested in defense issues and technology.

Bill Sweetman ran across a series of entries at the Secret Projects blog, which yours truly occasionally takes a look at, and found some really cool pictures clicked at a Russian aeronautics lab that shows some intriguing technology being developed there.

Aside from the whiz bang of it all, this sort of post tugs at my Cold War heart strings being a student of Soviet foreign policy and Cold War diplomacy, theres still a part of me that looks at Russia as this dark, closed place where crazy science experiments are allowed to run amok. Revelations of a variety of weapons development programs that went on behind the iron curtain revealed only as the wall fell have kept those embers smoldering.

This post comes a day after an equally interesting show was broadcast on the History International Channel titled Secret Superpower Aircraft. This series was like manna from heaven for someone like me who still yearns for the kind of Cold War rivalry that drove aerospace technology to its limits. The Avro Arrow? The F-103 Thunder Warrior? Hmmmm, yummie.

Well, enough about my addiction, feed yours with Bill Sweetmans article at Military​.com. Heres an excerpt:

The invaluable Secret Projects website carries frame grabs from an early-2000s Russian TV documentary, filmed at the vast TsAGI wind-tunnel complex at Zhukovsky. While wind-tunnel models are not equivalent to real hardware, and while known sensitive material wouldn’t have been shown, the models are a real indication of Russian industry and government thinking.

First is a flying-wing aircraft, looking (from the inlet and exhaust shape) like a four-engine bomber.

There is also a stealth fighter design that superficially resembles the Lockheed YF-22.

Significant differences from the US fighter include prominent leading-edge root extensions and a different wing and tail planform. This may be the rumored Sukhoi design nicknamed Big Ears, a precursor to the T-50 PAK-FA.


Boola Boola, Reaper

Tuesday, October 30th, 2007

Anytime you can combine stealth and standoff and loiter and lethality in the same platform, you’ve got a significant winner. Kudos to the MQ-9 Reaper. Looking like a big brother‘ to the MQ-1 Predator, the MQ-9 has three times the speed of the MQ-1, with a 900hp turboprop engine in place of the Predators 119hp Rotax 914. Nice job, Zoomies!mq-9.jpg

Reaper scores insurgent kill in Afghanistan
Air Force Times Staff report
Posted : Monday Oct 29, 2007 18:59:06 EDT
The Air Forces use of remote-controlled aircraft passed another milestone Saturday with the first air strike flown by an MQ-9 Reaper, the services newest unmanned plane.
According to Central Air Forces, an MQ-9 fired a Hellfire missile at Afghanistan insurgents in the Deh Rawood region of the mountainous Oruzgan province. The strike was successful, CentAF said.
Based at Kandahar Air Field, Reapers have been flying over Afghanistan since Sept. 25. Like the smaller MQ-1 Predator, pilots and sensor operators in Nevada use satellite links to guide the planes on attack and reconnaissance sorties. A second set of deployed aviators control the planes take offs and landings.
The Reaper can carry up to 3,000 pounds of weapons while the MQ-1 is limited to 500 pounds of munitions.

–Pinch Paisley

Dogfight Over C-17s and Raptors

Monday, October 29th, 2007


The top two U.S Air Force leaders lobbied Capitol Hill for their service Oct. 24, suggesting lawmakers help extend the F-22 Raptor production line with 20 more of the Lockheed Martin fighters than currently budgeted.

Seeking to bolster the Air Force as lawmakers hammer out fiscal 2008 defense legislation and the Bush administration mulls its FY ’09 request, Air Force Secretary Michael Wynne and Gen. T. Michael Moseley, Air Force chief of staff, further indicated their desire for more Boeing C-17s, retirement of Lockheed C-5As and for the service’s ability to take over the Joint Cargo Aircraft (JCA) program from the Army.

Wynne and Moseley told the House Armed Services Committee (HASC) that they do not want any ongoing production lines to close, and in fact they hope to increase the number of F-22s until the Lockheed-led F-35 Joint Strike Fighter is well into production. They acknowledged their proposal was deemed unfeasible by the Office of Secretary of Defense, which apparently said it could “break the bank.”

Alluding to concerns with slower rollout of the two fighters under current plans, Wynne noted that Air Combat Command’s requirement for 381 F-22s is unchanged despite plans for only 183 now. Meanwhile, requirements for 1,763 JSFs would be met only incrementally until 2025.

Read the rest of this Aviation Week story HERE.

– Christian

Thor’s Flight Route Mod

Monday, October 29th, 2007


During my Navy flying career I flew through my fair share of thunderstorms (and not because I wanted to). In fact, in my sixteen years in the tactical jet business, three of the Tomcats I was riding around in were hit by lightning, most memorably while climbing out of Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in section where the bolt jumped from our jet to the wingman’s. While both jets continued to work normally and we pushed on for NAS Oceana, the strike definitely got the attention of all four of us. When we got on the ground our maintainers pointed out where the bolt had exited our jet, evinced by a charred quarter-sized hole in the trailing edge of the left horizontal stab.

This cool shot was just forwarded to us showing an All Nippon 747 hit while launching out of Osaka. What I can gather from surfing around the Internet is the jet came back around and landed safely.

And here’s a quick video of the same strike.

(Gouge: FG)

– Ward