The third edition of Czech-led international Joint Terminal Attack Controller (JTAC) exercise Ample Strike kicked off in the Czech Republic this week. For the next three week, no less than seventeen Allied and Partnership for Peace nations train their JTACs, aircrew and ground units in realistic, complex and demanding scenarios.
Ample Strike is aimed at providing realistic training for controllers on the ground in a combat environment. “It offers the perfect venue for effective collaboration between air and ground, forces preparing them to respond to joint missions whenever needed,” said Czech Air Force Commander Jaromir Sebesta. The exercise continues the tradition of similar exercise Ramstein Rover in Germany.
Taking part are a total of 34 aircraft from Lithuania, Slovenia, Germany, Poland, Hungary and the US, plus troops from even more countries. The US sends B-1B and B-52H long range bombers, operating from Fairford airbase in the UK. Most aircraft operate from airbases within the Czech Republic.
Novelty Adding to exercise complexity and a novelty for Ample Strike, are air-to-air refuelling missions during tactical strike and bomber missions. US Air Force KC-135R tankers will refuel
not only the German Tornado jets, Czech and Hungarian Gripen aircraft, but also the US strategic bombers.
Last year, Ample Strike achieved a record 1600 control runs, allowing JTACs to keep up their skills of controlling aircraft in support forces on the ground. In 2016, Ample Strike is not about exceeding this number, but about providing even more complex and challenging integrated scenarios.
The Pentagon is to select the winning team to develop and build the new US Air Force Long Range Strike Bomber on Tuesday 27 October, sources say. The LRS-B program is thought to be one of the biggest defense programs over the next decades, with value estimates over 80 billion USD.
UPDATE 27 October | Northrop Grumman has been selected as the winner. More is here at Airheadsfly.com
The decision will be between Northrop Grumman on one side and Boeing and Lockheed Martin jointly on the other. The former can say it was behind the B-2 Stealth bomber, while the latter can say it has gathered valuable experience and data – along with cost overruns – with the F-35 program.
The US Air Force is said to need close to 100 new longe range bombers to replace B-1s and B-2s. The first contract should be for 21 aircraft.
Over the weekend, coalition air forces once against struck Islamic State (ISIS) targets. One mission, consisting of 15 combat aircraft, was led by a Royal Netherlands Air Force (RNLAF) F-16 pilot, marking the first time in twenty years a Dutch pilot was in charge of a large strike formation.
The strike was carried out in the vicinity of Mosul in northern Iraq, targeting munition depots and a command center, say Dutch authorities. Aircraft involved were four Dutch F-16, a US Air Force Rockwell B-1B bomber and a Royal Air Force E-3 AWACS.
A Dutch commander was apparently chosen because the Dutch performed well since the beginning of Operation Inherent Resolve, the name given to the operation that is meant to drive ISIS force out of Iraq and Syria, although Dutch pilots are only allowed to operate over the former.
The last time a Dutch Viper driver led a large bomber package was on 21 November 1994 during the war in former Yugoslavia. On that day, a formation of close to 40 NATO aircraft short of obliterated Udbina Airbase in Croatia, used by Bosnian Serb aircraft.
The Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor has made its combat debut during air strikes over Syria against the forces of the so-called Islamic State (named ISIS or ISIL), according to news reports and a Pentagon briefing on Tuesday 23 September. The stealthy fighter was used next to Lockheed Martin F-16s, Boeing F/A-18 Hornets and Rockwell B-1B bombers. Also, the air forces of Jordan, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates joined in the raids, say sources.
The F-22s very likely operate from the United Arab Emirates, that saw deployment of the type earlier. The operational debut in the skies over Syria may come as a surprise, as the F-22 was initially designed to be an air-superiority fighter. However, the use of the F-22 sends a strong message to Syrian president Assad to not use his still quite potent air force to interfere with operations. Syria has MiG-25 Foxbat and MiG-29 Fulcrum air-to-air capable fighters at its disposal, among others.
The debut – during which the F-22 according to the Pentagon “delivered GPS-guided munitions targeted at a command-and-control centre in a building” – also gives the US Air Force the chance the see how the Raptor handles the Russia-supplied radar installations in Syria. This information may come in handy in light of growing tensions elsewhere in the world. It is the most realistic test scenario imaginable.
The F-22 Raptor prototype first flew in 1990, followed by the first production aircraft in 1997. The type reached Initial Operational Capability (IOC) in 2005. The US originally set eyes on hundreds of F-22 Raptors, but finally settled for 187 aircraft, as the price tag of about 400 million USD per aircraft was deemed too steep.
The combat debut of the Raptor is reminiscent of the debut of the F-117A Nighthawk in 1989 in operation Just Cause over Panama. That debut also served one true purpose: here I am. Be aware.
(According to the US Pentagon, US Navy, released US DoD imagery and sources in the Persian Gulf countries, including the Bahraini government)
LATEST UPDATE 26 SEPTEMBER 2014
01:30 UTC: 1st wave of attack by US Navy guided-missile cruiser CG-58 USS Philippine Sea and guided-missile destroyer DDG-51 USS Arleigh Burke, cruising in the northern Arabian Gulf, launch 47 Tomahawk cruise missiles against targets in eastern and northern Syria. Targets around Aleppo and Ar-Raqqah, mostly at Khorasan Group compounds
02:00 UTC: 2nd wave of attack executed from several air bases (which ones were not disclosed) by US Air Force F-22s, F-15Es, F-16s, B-1Bs and drones against targets in Northern Syria. Some of the F-16s were equipped in a standard SEAD lay-out: sporting AGM-88 HARM missiles to kill any Syrian air defence radar that might be turned on, and AIM-120s plus AIM-9s to aim at any Syrian aircraft approaching
05:00 UTC: 3rd wave of attack by F/A-18s that launched from the aircraft carrier CVN 77 USS George H.W. Bush in the northern Arabian Gulf (aka Persian Gulf), accompanied by one or more EA-6B Prowlers to suppress and counter Syrian radar guided defences in case they would be turned on, regionally based USAF F-16s and a big number of undisclosed aircraft from “coalition partners” (the Arabian countries) against targets in eastern Syria, including ISIS training camps and vehicles near Dayr az-Zawr. According to sources within the Middle East amongst the aircraft involved were at least 4 Royal Saudi Air Force Tornado IDS fighter-bombers and/or F-15S Strike Eagles, at least 4 United Arab Emirates F-16s and/or Mirage 2000s, at least 3 Royal Bahraini Air Force F-16C/Ds and some Royal Jordanian Air Force F-16AM/BMs.
Sometimes we at AIRheads↑Fly like to cherish the little things in life. Take the Rockwell B-1B Lancer bomber. And yes, there is something little to that big beast as well.
Because the US Air Force received its first B-1 with something totally new with a chique name: the Boeing Integrated Battle Station. Now that sounds like reason to dive for cover, doesn’t it? Confirmed by Boeing: “This BIBS essentially turns the B-1 into a new aircraft; it is the most extensive modification program in B-1 history.”
We already thought pretty high of “the Bone” – as the nickname goes – but instead of expecting shock and awe weaponry we got some fancy windows. The Boeing Integrated Battle Station means the fast interdictor is now equipped with what (almost) everybody has at home, in their cars and even inside the pockets of their jeans: full colour displays and moving maps!
“It will be giving crews greater situational awareness of what is happening in the battlespace around them, in addition to faster and more secure communication capabilities that improve crews’ ability to engage enemy targets”, writes Boeing.
And that – ladies and gentlemen – is still something to be counted in to report about. Making a very lethal and cool looking aircraft even more capable with a navkit and boxed-in liquid crystals behind a thin glass front is, no matter how small it seems, a big thing for the generals that want to wage war with it. Because honestly, when was the last time you’ve reached your destination most quick and sure with the paper map ‘plastered’ across your windshield.