Boeing Delivers Last Saudi AWACS With RSIP Upgrades. Analysis

Boeing-provided picture of a Kingdom Of Saudi Arabia E-3 AWACS

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s Air Force has become the latest air arm to see its entire fleet of Boeing E-3 AWACS (Airborne Warning And Control System) aircraft undergo Boeing’s Radar System Improvement Program (RSIP) upgrade. This follows in the footsteps of the AWACS fleets operated by the United States, NATO, the United Kingdom and France. According to Keith Burns, who manages the Saudi Arabia AWACS fleet upgrade program for main contractor Boeing, the technological effort provides a leap in detection range and sensitivity capabilities for the massive rotodome-mounted AN/APY-2 radar antenna, only made possible after the installation of a “new radar computer” along with an accompanying suite of “modernized software”.

The upgrade program also greatly enhances maintainability via the installment of more robust hardware components in a radar control maintenance panel.

The completion of the upgrade work on the last of five Saudi Arabia AWACS announced on May 23rd 2017 follows that already applied to the US Air Force 32 remaining AWACS retro-fitted from January 13,1997 to April 5th 2005, to NATO’s 17 AWACS undertaken from 1997 to February 3rd 2000, to the United Kingdom’s 8 AWACS upgraded between 1997 and December 18th 2000 and to the 4 AWACS aircraft belonging to the French Air Force brought up to standard between 2002 and June 28th 2006.

The initial deal involving Saudi Arabia’s AWACS was inked on August 7th 2008 with $42 million covering the Phase I scope of engineering works as well as the purchase of the RSIP kits from manufacturer Northrop Grumman Electronic Systems.

The subsequent Phase II-A $73 million contract was followed by another $20 million award on September 16th 2010. However the overall contracts did require that actual work of only the first of Saudi Arabia 5 AWACS would place at Boeing Field in Seattle as the remaining 4 aircraft would be modified at Alsalam Aerospace Industries in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, “with support of Boeing engineers, technicians and a test and evaluation team” according to Boeing.


Boeing delivered Saudi Arabia’s 5 AWACS aircraft between June 1986 and September1987. The aircraft are derivatives of Boeing’s legendary 707-320B mounting atop their fuselage the powerful 1970’s era Westinghouse AN/APY-1 radar and its more modern successor the Northrop Grumman AN/APY-2 (Northrop Grumman succeeded Westinghouse Electronics Systems). These large radar ‘complexes’ have given the AWACS also known as “E-3 Sentry” advanced surveillance capabilities at ranges in excess of 200 miles (320 kilometers) for low flying targets and out to 250 miles (400 kilometers) for higher altitude targets.

The Royal Saudi Air Force has acquired the 5 Boeing E-3 Sentry AWACS thanks to the 1981 Peace Sentinel Foreign Military Sales program (which also made provision for up to 8 KE-3 refueling tankers; identifiable as KC-135 Tanker ‘clone’). Deliveries took place from 1986 to 1987. Like those operated by United Kingdom and France, Saudi Arabia’s AWACS models are powered by 4 fuel efficient CFM-56-2 high bypass ratio turbofan instead of the 4 Pratt & Whitney TF33 turbojets powering the US Air Force and NATO AWACS fleets.

Current context

With the highly publicized employment of the Saudi Arabia fighter aircraft fleet in full scale offensive operations in neighboring Yemen’s civil war, the RSIP capabilities follow previous upgrades done on the AWACS. In 1997 the Block 35.3 software upgrade was completed by increasing the memory on the IBM CC-2Er main mission computer system, itself designated Block 0. By 2003, capabilities were expanded further by the improvement of tactical data communication systems with the installation of Link 16 secure jam resistant terminals.

The AN/APY-1/-2 and AWACS Operation

With its normal crew complement of 18 an E-3 Sentry AWACS requires a four-members flight-deck crew, three technicians and 11 people assigned to core AWACS mission. For instance in the UK Royal Air Force, the mission crew itself comprises a tactical director (mission crew commander), a fighter allocator, three weapons controllers, a surveillance controller, two surveillance operators, a data-link manager, a communications operator and an electronic-support-measures operator. On NATO missions, crews consist of 12 members; a tactical director, a fighter allocator, two weapons controllers, a surveillance controller, three surveillance operators, a passive controller, a communications technician, a radar technician, a system technician depending on the mission.

The AN/APY-2 radar at the heart of the AWACS operation provides multi-mode operational flexibility split between air, maritime and electronic emitters surveillance (Electronic Support Measures). Contrasting key AWACS sub systems capabilities and their interfacing we have described on a previous post the six main Radar tactical modes as Pulse Doppler Non Elevation Scan (PDNES) mode, Pulse Doppler Elevation Scan (PDES) mode, Beyond-The-Horizon (BTH) mode, Maritime mode, Interleaved mode and Passive mode.

With full production status reached in 1997, the RSIP upgrade was, according to Northrop Grumman the most significant effort to improve the performance of the AN/APY-1/-2 radar delivering greater radar range resolution (augmented six-fold) with azimuth and elevation accuracy doubling. Overall capabilities were enhanced in keeping with modern aerial threats requirements such as small cruise missiles and reduced Radar Cross Section (stealth) aircraft. The implementation of new signal processing facilities (advanced Pulse Doppler waveforms, pulse compression) supported by the main computer hardware upgrades and installation of modern Graphical User Interface-based operator display promised overall mission efficiency increase by a factor of 1.5.

In the current context Saudi Arabia AWACS upgrade can only fully be justified within the realms of the bitter rivalry with Islamic Republic of Iran whose air force TO&E has retained lasting features (and equipment) from its 1970’s intimate collaboration with the United States. Furthermore, the IRIAF is now very likely to be sooner than later dramatically reinforced when acquisition of the powerful long range multirole Sukhoi Su-30 fighters aircraft will be enacted.

For more details on the RSIP application and AWACS evolving capabilities see our previous analysis:

Iraq Air Force Sukhoi 25 Accidentally Drops Bomb Over Baghdad Neighborhood Killing 12

Iraqi Air Force Su-25 on patrol over Iraq
Iraqi Air Force Su-25 on patrol over Iraq

An Iraqi Air Force Sukhoi Su-25 ‘frogfoot’ attack plane returning from a bombing mission against ISIS targets on Monday July 7th 2015 accidentally dropped a bomb while overflying Baghdad.  The bomb fell on inhabited properties causing the death of 12 residents among which at least three were children and two women. Another 25 people were also wounded. An Iraqi official General Saad Maan Ibrahim speaking to the Associated Press evoked the possibility of a technical malfunction as the cause of the accidental ordnance release.   The Iraqi Air Force first received a batch of ex-Russian Air Force Sukhoi Su-25 on June 28th 2014. By July 1st another 7 Su-25 had been transferred from Iran to help Iraq’s defense against the Islamic State. The 7 aircraft sent from Iran were reportedly from dozens of Saddam Hussein’s era Iraqi Air Force jets flown to Iran during the 1991 Gulf War in an attempt to escape destruction from US bombardments.

Indonesia Air Force C-130 That Crashed Into Neighborhood With 135 On Board Was Built 54 Years Ago

Officials and rescue personnel work at the scene where an Indonesian military C-130 Hercules crashed into a residential area in Medan on June 30, 2015. An Indonesian military transport plane crashed on June 30 shortly after take-off in a city on Sumatra island, exploding in a ball of flames in a residential area. AFP PHOTO / Kharisma TARIGAN
Officials and rescue personnel work at the scene where an Indonesian military C-130 Hercules crashed into a residential area in Medan on June 30, 2015. An Indonesian military transport plane crashed on June 30 shortly after take-off in a city on Sumatra island, exploding in a ball of flames in a residential area. AFP PHOTO / Kharisma TARIGAN

The Indonesian Air Force Lockheed C-130B aircraft that crashed into a neighborhood on Tuesday June 30th 2015 and was carrying near maximum payload had been built in 1951. While no one from amongst the 122 passengers nor 12 crew members survived the air disaster, another 7 people on the ground had also reportedly been killed. The Lockheed C-130B carried the registration number A-1310 with construction number 3616 and had just taken off from Soewondo Air Force Base bound for a set of remote Indonesian islands at a 7 hours flight distance. The aircraft did not stay airborne more than 2 minutes following its take-off. Onlookers observed that one of the aircraft propeller was not rotating properly when the airplane started veering to its right, plunging towards a neighborhood in the town of Medan.

The Indonesia Air Force had operated anywhere between 16 and 24 C-130 types of aircraft from the early 1960’s onwards. The aircraft that crashed on Tuesday was a early variant -B model operated by 32 Squadron. Already in 2009 another C-130 had crashed killing more than 100. With a nation consisting of thousands of islands spanning 3 time zones, the C-130 seems to have been a perfect fit for supplying remote bases while also ferrying civilians. The later case would explain the high number of passengers on board that aircraft.

In the previous decades numerous embargoes on military equipment imposed by the US (on account of Indonesia human rights abuse in East Timor and other places) did impact the readiness of the already aging fleet of C-130B and C-130H all Vietnam era airframes. By 2009 various contracts had been authorized by the US aiming at re-conditioning particularly the C-130B fleet consisting of 5 aircraft.

While the large number of passengers on board the aircraft (135) indicates the aircraft may have been operating beyond its maximum payload limit. In such case the unavailability of one of four engines would most likely prevent the aircraft from remaining air borne. Most C-130 versions would accept a maximum of 92 troops or 64 paratroopers with their gears but special scenario envision a maximum load not to exceed 124.  The investigation is ongoing.


Tragic Death Of Iraqi Air Force General While Training In F-16 In Arizona Signals Program Setback

On August 30th 2012 Col. Andrew MacDonald the 162nd Operations Group commander takes visiting Iraqi air force Brig. Gen. Abdulhussein Lafta Ali Ali in an F-16D Fighting Falcon for an orientation flight at Tucson International Airport as the program gathers momentum.

by Karim Toure

The crash of a lone F-16 flying a night training mission over the Arizona desert  Wednesday June 24th 2015 did not initially hint of a setback for a major security program between the US and Iraq. The following day, a Iraq Defence Ministry spokesperson Brigadier General Tahseen Ibrahim revealed that Iraqi Air Force Brigadier General Rafid Mohammed Hassan was at the control of an Iraqi Air Force-owned F-16 Fighting Falcon that had crashed the previous evening a few miles from the town of Douglas, Arizona. Confirmation of the death of Brigadier general Rafid Mohammed Hassan came on June 26th when after battling an intense fire ignited following the accident, rescue teams recovered his body from the crash site.

Iraq Air Force general demise over the Arizona desert

The tragic and highly published death of such high ranking Iraqi Air Force officer had occurred at the most unlikely of places and circumstance. News of the downed F-16 had almost immediately evoked the certainty that an American pilot was at the control of an Arizona Air National Guard 162 Fighter Wing own F-16, the large F-16 unit based 120 miles away in Tucson. In fact death of an Iraqi Air Force general piloting a fighter plane over desert terrain could only logically occur in Iraqi territory where it is most currently needed to carry out combat missions notably against ISIS.

FORT WORTH, Texas, June 5, 2014 — Lockheed Martin (NYSE:LMT) delivered the first of 36 F-16 Block 52 aircraft to the Iraqi Air Force during a ceremony
A brand new F-16 Block 52 part of 8 F-16 recently delivered to the Iraqi Air Force but based in Tucson National Guard Air Base training alongside the 162 Fighter Wing

Instead the high ranking pilot had been flying alone in what has been reported to be a brand new Iraqi-owned twin seat F-16D Block 52 factory #1601, the very same aircraft paraded as the IrAF own first-of-the-kind on June 5th 2014 at Lockheed Martin’s main facility in Fort Worth Texas. That aircraft had first flown on May 2nd 2014 according to database.

A unit awaiting being re-located to Balad Air Base, Iraq
Brigadier General Rafid Mohammed Hassan had belonged to an aerial outfit consisting of 8 brand new F-16 Block 52 aircraft delivered from June 2014 onwards. This was part of the 36 aircraft order made by Iraq to Lockheed Martin, a deliberate effort sanctioned by American defense administration planners to re-arm the nation air arm post Saddam Hussein regime. With the tense security situation prevailing in Iraq and the perceived vulnerability of Balad Air Base complex where the aircraft were due to be stationed, decision had been made to deliver the aircraft directly to the group of Iraq pilots in-training with the 162 Fighter Wing at Tucson International airport. Delivery scheduling probably saw the first three of the new fighter planes arrive at Tucson by December 2014, subsequent to which one aircraft was added every month from January 2015 to May 2015 bringing the outfit to a total of eight aircraft. Iraq’s Defence Ministry recently indicated that with the fight against ISIS raging, the unit was expected to re-locate to its Balad home base, Iraq on July 12th before immediately starting full combat operations.

Life in the US with the 162 Fighter Wing

At the time of his death, General Rafid Hassan had been living in the US taking part in the program for 4 years. The group of Iraqi pilots had increased in size initially from 2 to 16 in 2012 and 26 currently. The 162 Arizona Air National Guard Fighter Wing based in Tucson International Airport had long housed the International Training Program for F-16 client nations pilots. The unit has relied on a core of 80 F-16 instructor pilots to work with 70 international trainee pilots each year getting them familiarized with operating the sophisticated combat jet. As early as April 1992, the program began training F-16 fighter pilots for the Republic of Singapore, followed in 1993 by Bahrain, Portugal in 1994 and Thailand, Indonesia and Turkey in 1995. By 1996 Belgium also joined followed in 1997 by Jordan and Norway, Denmark in June 1998, and Japan in late 1998. Italy was added to the program in October 2000 and Greece joined in January 2001. The United Arab Emirates gained access to the program in August 2001. By 2004 Oman and Poland had also joined. Other nations such as Israel, Chile and Taiwan have also participated either receiving initial F-16 pilot training or gaining advanced F-16 handling experience on specific weapons or qualifying F-16 instructor pilots. A six-to-eight month basic course is normally dispensed until flight lead upgrade training thus paving the way for the famed instructor pilot certification.
At one point the base’s own 162nd Fighter Wing Resident unit has also served host to foreign units such as the 148th Fighter Squadron, a United Arab Emirates outfit equipped with 13 F-16E/F (Block 60) aircraft instituted from June 27th 2004 until October 20th 2010.

Uncertainty lingers for the Iraqi F-16

With the Iraqi core F-16 pilot cadres having lost what is likely to have been their most senior member, the unit seems to have a long road to travel before becoming the combat ready outfit that Iraq so badly needs in the face of lingering adverse security issues. The pressing schedule motivated by a showdown with ISIS may adversely affect the morale and maturity of the entire unit compounding the risks for the entire program and especially Iraq.



Egypt Air Force Acquires 24 Rafale Fighter Jets, The Aircraft’s First Export Client

Rafale_-_RIAT_2009_(3751416421)In a surprise move, the Egyptian government has announced it had agreed with French aircraft maker Dassault on the purchase of 24 sleek Rafale fighter jets. The announcement on February 13th 2015 triggered acclamations from French quarters over the aircraft long awaited first foreign sale.

The deal worth Euros 5.2 billion consists of 24 aircraft part of weapons package also including a frigate along with “associated related equipment”. The deal which is rumored to have taken less than 3 months to close will be executed in a similarly remarkably short amount of time with 3 aircraft being delivered before the end of the year and another 3 next year 2016. Credit financing on at least half of the purchase contract has been enacted via Coface, France main credit-risk assessment house, and will involve some of France’s largest banks taking portions of the facility. As well an unnamed Gulf nation is said to have contributed financially on the deal.


The aircraft which has equipped France Air Force and Naval Aviation beginning in 2001 has struggled to acquire a single foreign client. In 2013 a $5 billion deal with Brazil for 36 aircraft fell through in favor of the Swedish Gripen NG fighter jet. An outstanding order with India for 126 aircraft worth 11 billion Euros has yet to fully materialize while rumors that the deal will is being jeopardized on account of France’s unwillingness to unlock its most prized technology on the aircraft. Again the Sukhoi Su-30MKI, Russia’s big, super maneuverable fighter / interceptor which is already operated by India’s Air Force stands ready to fill that void.

Egyptian President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi first mentioned the need for the aircraft during a September visit by French Defence Minister Jean Yves Le Drian who had come to offer upgrades for the 19 Dassault Mirage 2000 aircraft that Egypt, at the time first export customer for the type, acquired in 1981. By December, Dassault top executives had secured an agreement. This direct and expedited sale process may highlights Egypt pressing security priorities. And there may be many.


The Sinai Islamist insurgency which has escalated following the bloody crack down against the Muslim Brotherhood by the Army and the rapidly worsening civil war in neighboring Lybia have now seemingly taken front stage, relegating the regions traditional military power struggle involving Egypt, Israel, Saudi Arabia and Iran to a second role. However this may not be entirely so. Egypt’s Air Force, the world’s largest operator of F-16 (with 220 aircraft following the US, Israel and Turkey) evidently does not need another sophisticated, very expensive jet for counterinsurgency operations. That job is best left to US made AH-64 Apache gunship helicopters of which Egypt operates more than 30 and to some extent, to French-built SA-342 Gazelle light attack helicopters. To some degrees Russian-made Armed/Assault Troops Mi-8/Mi-17 helicopters will also give valuable operational assistance in those missions.


The Rafale on the other end is a vary capable 4th generation multirole fighter aircraft, maybe the West’s most capable, along with its Euro-cousin Typhoon both originating from a similar requirement issued in the 80’s.


Its air-to-air capabilities when armed with MICA or MAGIC II missiles Infra Red homed or guided by RBE2 electronically scanned array radar gives it tremendous effectiveness. With the canard foreplane configuration mated to a twin-engine powered airframe, the design is simply the most capable dog-fighter currently available in the world along with the super maneuverable Flanker Su-27/30/35 family of fighter aircraft.

This aircraft uses the SPECTRA self protection system, an integrated and programmable sensor-enabled suite in order to operate in the most hostile, highly defended environments. In an air to ground offensive scenario, the Damocles Electro Optical/Laser targeting pod, the aircraft long range of 3,700+ km (2,000+ nmi) with 3 drop tanks, and a payload of precision air to ground armament including MBDA Apache & Storm Shadow / Scalp EG stand-off cruise missiles attached to some of the aircraft’s 14 hard points compound highly improved capabilities for Egypt.

In comparison the venerable Mirage 2000 has 9 hard points and a combat range of 1,550 km (837 nmi, 963 mi) with drop tanks.

In all, Egypt new ‘civilian vested’ military government showed its true virtue of continuously expending conventional military capabilities at a strategic level since the Rafale is well fitted to penetrate deep into any highly defended air space and employ precision weapons in order to take out high value target. This acquisition has the potential for seriously re-igniting a new regional arms race. Some of the aircraft’s acquisition financing it may turn out, was generously contributed via petro-dollars originating from a small Gulf state who (coincidentally) is also probably bent on keeping Israel strategic planners awake while at the same token challenging Saudi Arabia influence. All in one shot, this would also permits serving notice to Iran that the preeminent military Arab nation has now acquired even more capabilities.

NATO Air Exercise In Spain: Greek F-16D Crashes Onto Parked Aircraft Killing 10 & Injuring 21

A French Rafale seen partially damaged after a Greek F-16 crashed at a Spanish Air Base on Monday During a NATO training exercise.
A French Rafale seen partially damaged after a Greek F-16 crashed at a Spanish Air Base on Monday During a NATO training exercise.

Karim Toure

Ten people were killed and twenty one were injured Monday January 26th 2015 when a Greek Air Force F-16D crashed at a Spanish Air Force Base. The Los Llano Air Base located at Albacete in Central Spain was hosting NATO’s Tactical Leadership Program, a top training exercise attended by the Air Forces of 10 NATO member nations. The aircraft which reportedly was in its take off phase crashed onto other military jets parked at an adjoining section of the base. Picture of the accident showed a plume of smoke rising near parked fighter jets including a Tornado, a F-15 , Rafale and a F-16.

The fatalities consisted of the 2 Greek personnel operating the destroyed F-16 in addition to 8 ground personnel at the base.

The French newspaper Le Monde quoting one of its journalist Nathalie Guibert indicated that of the 10 people killed,  8 were French including one pilot, a first officer along with six mechanics most of whom were probably attached to Nancy Air Force Base. Also confirming Spain’s Defense Ministry reports, the French presidency announced that among the 21 injured, 6 were French while initial reports mentioned 10 French injured in addition to 11 Italian. While the French Defense minister Jean Yves Le Drian was planning to arrive at the Los Llano air base, Le Monde’s account of the fiery accident seem to point to the Greek F-16 striking parked French fighter jets, themselves being attended by ground crews prior to departure. In all, 2 Rafale, 2 Mirage 2000D and 2 Alpha Jets were said to have been struck by the Hellenic Air Force F-16.

The Air Force Times web site identified “10 NATO countries participating in the program (…) Belgium, Britain, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain and the United States”.

In fact NATO’s Tactical Leadership Program allowed participants to hone in on a variety of tactical skills critical to the implementation of  Air Combat doctrine. The two-weeks event which was first held in 1978 found a new home in Albacete Lo Llanos Air Base in 2009. The area provided adequate weather, air traffic clearance and practice area for a major multi national training exercise.

French Air Force Rafale First Strikes On Islamic States Targets In Iraq (pictures)

The two French Air Force Rafale B and C on their way to strike ISIL targets in Iraq with heavy fuel tanks and GBU-12 bombs

Two Rafale fighter jets of the French Air Force conducted the first French air strikes in Iraq against ISIS on September 19th 2014. The target was identified by the French Defense Ministry as a logistical depot located at Daech in Iraq’s north east. The two rafale from the 3/30 “Lorraine” Fighter Squadron were in fact operating from Al Dhafra Air Base in United Arab Emirates. There, the French Air Force maintains 4 additional Rafale fighter jets as well as supporting aircraft.

The strike package consisted of the 2 Rafale, one single seat C-model and one two-seat B-model each equipped with the Damocles laser designator/ targeting pod attached to the right of the aircraft’s centerline. The armament on each aircraft consisted of 4 GBU-12 Paveway II (500 lbs) Laser Guided Bomb, with a pair of bombs mated to a single dual bomb rack underneath each wing. Each aircraft was also fitted with a single MICA short/medium range air-to-air missile attached to the left wing’s tip.

George Seguin picture of the Damocles targeting pod at LeBourget Paris 2009 air show

The wing-tip attached MICA short/medium range air-to-air missile on a rafale jet (David Monniaux)

 According to the French Defense Ministry, the strikes took place on Friday morning between 9h40 and 9h58 with each aircraft releasing two GBU-12 bombs. Pictures of the two returning Rafale showed a single GBU-12 remaining on each of the aircraft’s wings.

The strike package consisted of a French Navy Breguet Atlantique 2 Combat Intelligence platform that conducted Battle Assessment Damage (see pictures), a French Air Force C-135-FR tanker along with unspecified US Air Force CSAR assets in support.

French Defense Ministry released photos of the target pre and post strikes.

Total mission flight duration to and from the target zone was approximately 5 hours requiring 3 in-flight refuels. Both aircraft showed a “Heavy” fuel load configuration consisting of three externally attached 2,000-Litre (528 US Gallon), one centerline and two on wings.

The French Navy Breguet Atlantique 2 Intelligence, Reconnaissance and Maritime Strike aircraft (French Defense Ministry)

L3 Communications Corp. Awarded $61 Million For Systems Integration on 2 MC-12W ISR Aircraft For Saudi Arabia

USAF photo of the first MC-12 Aircraft Landing At Balad Joint Base, Iraq
USAF photo of the first MC-12 Aircraft Landing At Balad Joint Base, Iraq

The $61 million contract awarded to L3 Communications Corporation, Integrated Systems Group of Greenville, Texas on August 22nd 2014 will see 2 Hawker Beechcraft Super King Air 350 aircraft be modified with the addition of “… sensors, a ground exploitation cell, line-of-sight and satellite communications datalinks, along with a robust voice communications suite”, according to the US Air Force MC-12W description. The system integration project, part of Foreign Military Sales contract with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is stated to conclude by December 31st 2015.

The ISR adaptation of the C-12 cargo aircraft (military designation for the Hawker Beechcraft Super King Air 350 and the -ER Extended Range version) has a range of 1,500 nautical miles (2,00 nm for the ER version), cruising at 312 knots at an altitude of 35,000 feet. It is flown by two pilots and staffed by another 2 sensor operators. The aircraft employment as a real time Intelligence Surveillance and Reconnaissance platform gained popularity complementing unmanned aircraft systems in counter-insurgency campaign in Iraq from June 10, 2009 when first delivered to the 362nd Expeditionary Reconnaissance Squadron, 332nd Air Expeditionary Wing, according to defense-update web site. That article went on to describe some of the aircraft systems and capabilities further:

“..a Wescam MX-15D EO multisensor payload providing full-motion video in day and night, through the color zoom video camera, high magnification camera and thermal imaging system, the payload also accommodates a laser rangefinder, laser target designator and laser illuminator. The electronic warfare segment on the aircraft comprises SIGINT and jamming system, enabling the operator to intercept and combat adversary communications.”



Crash Of Indian Air Force Lockheed C-130J-30: 5 Airmen On Board Killed.

The empennage of the destroyed IAF C130j-30
The empennage of the destroyed IAF C130j-30

A Lockheed C-130J-30 belonging to the Indian Air Force crashed Friday morning about 72 miles from Gwalior Airbase while on a routine flight, causing the death of the 5 IAF personnel on board. The Air Force it seems had no initial explanation regarding the cause crash of the aircraft whose flight to Gwalior had originated at Agra Airbase. A Court of Inquiry has been set up to help determine what may have caused the brand new ‘Super Hercules’ C-130J-30, one of six aircraft delivered brand new throughout 2011, to crash.

One of IAF C-130J-30
One of IAF C-130J-30

Following its induction into Indian Air Force service on February 5th 2011, the Lockheed Martin C-130J-30 has earned notoriety by being involved in events of national significance, cementing both an endearing and enduring presence in the nation’s service, to a point where early reports of today’s accident actually caused widespread shock and bewilderment.

The six airframes received as part of a 2008 $1.1 Billion Foreign Military Sales contract involving the US Air Force and manufacturer Lockheed Martin saw the Indian Air Force receive the 6 C-130J-30 newly registered as KC-3801, KC-3802, KC-3803, KC-3804, KC-3805, KC-3806. These 15-foot stretched variants (designated -30) of the standard late 50’s C130 vintage Hercules fuselage represent the latest iteration of the type; employing a modern glass cockpit reducing the flight crew to 2, assisted by a load master and a combat system operator. In order to meet India’s military airlift requirement, the aircraft was not only to fill a gap between the cavernous Boeing C-17 Globemaster III and Antonov An-32,  but at the same time being the work horse of special operations forces. The aircraft with its natural pre-disposition for transporting 64 armed paratroopers or 92 assault troops or altogether 22 Tonnes of cargo secured additional flexibility thanks to the enhanced performance delivered by the 4 Rolls-Royce AE2100D3 turboprop engines to which are attached the 6-blades ‘scimitar’ composite propellers, characteristic of the J models. Despite the lack of sensitive on board high precision navigation/communication systems (not made available through the FMS due to India’s non-adherence to the US-sponsored Communications Interoperability and Security Memorandum of Agreement CISMOA), the 6 aircraft were rumored to have received third-party supplied Global Positioning System (and Inertial Navigation System) as well as the low level night navigation & landing suite that can better exploit the aircraft in-flight refueling capabilities in special operations missions.

Flown by then-formed 77th ‘Veiled Vipers’ Squadron based at Hardon Airbase near New Delhi, the aircraft quickly established itself as the workhorse of rescue airlift operations particularly during the flash floods of Uttarakhand. But it took the April 2013 alleged attempt by neighboring China to lay claim on some remote mountainous located it appeared on Indian territory. At that junction, C-130J-30 made history by landing on the most elevated airstrip in the world at Daulat Beg Oldie (DBO). The capability to conduct military airlift operation at a 16614 feet (5065 meters) airfield convinced the whole world that India could in fact ferry sufficient amount of men and materiel in order to face any military contingency. This show of force greatly enhanced India military posture and national prestige, was only made possible by the C-130J-30. Some of these episodes so positively highlighted the C-130J-30 potential that, by December 2013, India had firmed up on its follow up order for six additional aircraft.

The 5 airmen killed during Friday's crash
The 5 airmen killed during Friday’s crash

The tragic episode confronting a still nascent and highly promising program is not likely to derail India’s drive for deepening its experience operating the type. On a very short span of time, this aircraft has enriched the IAF experience by a significant margin. To date, the aircraft has sold around 300 units to 15 air arms world wide.



US Marines Aviator Killed As F-18 Crashes During Training Mission At NAS Fallon

A US Navy F/A-18A painted in aggressor scheme at NAS Fallon
A US Navy F/A-18A painted in aggressor scheme at NAS Fallon

A U.S. Marine Corps F/A-18C attached to the Naval Strike and Air Warfare Center crashed on Saturday while conducting a training flight about 70 miles east of Naval Air Station Fallon in Nevada. The death of the single pilot on board the aircraft was only confirmed by the US Navy Sunday night after rescue crews finally gained access to the wreckage following a snow storm in a mountainous remote area, the Navy announced.

The Largest Training Complex For Aerial Combat

NAS Fallon presents the US Navy with the largest most comprehensive tactical air warfare training facility in the nation known as the Fallon Range Training Complex (FRTC), permitting the employment of a full carrier air wing thanks to the presence of the US Navy’s longest active runway at 14,000 ft, and access to more than 10,200 square miles of airspace east of NAS Fallon. This area hosts 4 bombing ranges and one electronic warfare range complete with a vast array of electronic support equipment. On July 11th 1996, the Naval Strike and Air Warfare Center (NSAWC) that had been brought to Fallon NAS in 1984 was augmented with the Navy Fighter Weapons School most famously known as TOPGUN, and the Carrier Airborne Early Warning Weapons School known as TOPDOME both formerly operating at NAS Miramar and now falling under the unified command of a two-star admiral. This consolidation effort allowed the NSAWC to become THE preeminent establishment for providing aerial warfare combat tactics expert training and development to naval aviators.

According to its web site, NSAWC activities encompass integrated strike warfare, maritime and overland air superiority, strike fighter employment, airborne battle management, Combat Search and Rescue, Close Air Support, and associated planning support systems.

Typically “TOPGUN” would pace naval aviators through the highly sought after Strike Fighter Tactics Instructor (SFTI) course, the SEAHAWKS Rotary Wing Weapons School would focus on providing advanced helicopter employment education, the Growler Weapons School ensuring graduate level training for the EA-18G Growler aircraft, the Tomahawk Land-Attack Missile department dedicated to that weapon system and also the critical Advanced Mission Commander’s Course (AMCC) which enhances the airborne battle management skills required for E-2C Hawkeye Airborne Early Warning And Control Systems crews.

Aggressor and Bandits Units At NAS Fallon

The flight line at NAS Fallon showing aggressor NSAWC F/A-18 and VFC-13s F-5E Tiger II aircraft
The flight line at NAS Fallon showing aggressor NSAWC F/A-18 and VFC-13s F-5E Tiger II aircraft

The aerial portion of the adversary Dissimilar air combat training (DACT) conducted there is generally provided by the resident unit Fighter Composite Squadron VFC-13 Flying Saints (callsign “Bogeys”) which has relied on highly maneuverable F-5Es Tiger II aircraft since 1996 against visiting carrier-assigned units.  Together with the Flying Saints, NSAWS attached aircraft consisting of F/A-18A/B/C/D/E/F Hornets and Super Hornets and F-16s aircraft flown by US Navy “TOPGUN instructors” participate in providing realistic aggressors and bandits air combat scenarios. The Navy said it was investigating the cause of the accident.

A formation of NSAWC F-16s and F-18s fying over Nevada
A formation of NSAWC F-16s and F-18s fying over Nevada