Tag Archives: Libya

‘Cool stuff I’ve seen’

In social circles, I find that my profession is an unusual one about which I get asked some pretty standard questions: “how fast have you been? How high have you been? Do you ever get scared?” Luckily, pilots love to talk about themselves and flying in general. The chats I like are those which ask questions I haven’t even thought about. Some of these were “what’s the coolest thing you’ve seen?” and “what are your most memorable flights?”

Nick Graham is a former Royal Air Force Tornado and Typhoon pilot who also flew F-16s with the Royal Danish Air Force. He’s is currently an instructor pilot, training future jet pilots in the United Arab Emirates. This is his second blog on Airheadsfly.com. Interested in reading Nick's first? Find it here.
Nick Graham is a former Royal Air Force Tornado and Typhoon pilot who also flew F-16s with the Royal Danish Air Force. He’s is currently an instructor pilot, training future jet pilots in the United Arab Emirates.

So, the coolest thing I’ve seen? I can’t choose one thing, but I can probably make a shortlist.

1.    Watching the Northern Lights on NVGs while I was flying from Scotland.
2.    Watching my wingman trail a shockwave behind him with the sun setting behind him at low level over the North Sea
3.    Watching mount Etna erupt with massive thunderstorms all around me while I flew on NVGs on my way to Libya
4.    Landing on a compacted snow runway at Bodo in Norway
5.    Looking in my mirrors as I left contrails behind me flying a barrel roll at 38,000’ in a Typhoon for the first time
6.    Looking at the curvature of the earth from 50,000 over the Falkland Islands flying at Mach 2
7.    The view on top of the clouds on a rainy day
8.    Scotland

RAF Voyager aircraft support Quick Reaction Alert duties 24/7. (Image © AirTanker)
RAF Voyager aircraft support Quick Reaction Alert duties 24/7. (Image © AirTanker)

My most memorable flights?

1.    First solo in every aeroplane I’ve flown
2.    First flight in every aeroplane I’ve flown
3.    My “wings trip” when I passed my advanced flight course on the hawk
4.    Passenger flights when I took ground crew flying as passengers
5.    The first time I went air to air refuelling
6.    My first war time flight
7.    The first time I dropped a bomb in anger
8.    My third trip on the Typhoon OCU where students are introduced the high performance capability of the jet

As for the standard questions?

Twice the speed of sound, 55,000’ and yes. We can chat in more detail about some of these flights another time, unless you can think of a different question you would ask?

© 2016 Airheadsfly.com contributor Nick Graham
Featured image: Nick at work in the Typhoon’s cockpit. (Image © Nick Graham.


Italian worries about Libya, AMX jets to Sicily

The Italian government’s worries about the deteriorating political and military situation in Libya, a sort of neighbour just across the Mediterranean, has become that strong, that the Rome’s Ministry of Defence has ordered a quartet of AMX light combat jets and a Predator on forward operational deployment to Sicily.

The Italian Air Force aircraft landed at Trapani Airbase, which will be their home for the time being, local media report. For now the AMXs are tasked with reconnaissance only, although arming them with ground-attack weapons could be easily carried out. The Aeronautica Militare jets flew in from their homebase Istrana, and are part of the 51 Wing (51 Stormo).


In 2011 the Italian Air Force was actively involved in NATO-led bombing operations against the military of the regime led by the then Libyan leader Muammar al-Gaddafi, who was subsequently killed by a Libyan rebel on the ground at close range after two months of NATO airstrikes in a rare cooperation with local rebel forces / Mujaheddin.

Egyptian F-16s

Since then Libya has not been stable at all, with the so-called Islamic State forces that control large parts of Syria and Iraq trying to get a third stronghold in the North African country as well. Several nations – including the US and France – are already monitoring the situation. US forces have executed pin-point airstrikes, including in November 2015 by a pair of McDonnell Douglas/Boeing F-15s, while Egyptian Air Force F-16s have carried out attacks against ISIS in Libya in February last year.

The length of the AMX deployment to Trapani is not known, but that the dispatch to Sicily is an illustration of raised concerns about how things are going in Libya is certain.

© 2016 Airheadsfly.com editor Marcel Burger
Featured image: An Italian Air Force AMX light fighter / attack aircraft landing at Nellis AFB in 2009, for Red Flag (Image © Michael R. Holzwort / US Air Force)

Egyptian F-16s called into action

Egyptian F-16s were called into action against Islamic State forces in Libya, striking weapons depots and training locations near the city of Darna. The ministry of Defense released a video of F-16s taking off from an unknown airbase. More strikes took place on Monday.

The strikes are a direct response to the apparent murder of 21 Egyptians by ISIS / ISIL / Daech. Egypt has a substantial F-16 fleet, consisting of 228 aircraft Block 42 standard or higher. Older A and B models have been upgraded. Newer C and D versions are the most numerous. The aircraft in the video below is a D model, although the aircraft does not seem to be armed with bombs. Another version of the same clip however shows armed F-16s.

Egypt has the 4th largest Lockheed Martin (General Dynamics) F-16 fleet of the world, after the United States (about 1,200), Israel (287-319 operational) and Turkey (236). ISIS is strong in Syria and Iraq, but its affiliated armed groups in Libya are less known.

© 2015 Airheadsfly.com editors Elmer van Hest and Marcel Burger
Featured image (top): An Egyptian Air Force F-16D like this one was sent into Libya to bomb ISIS
(Image © Egyptian Ministry of Defence)

The SLUFF snuffs it

The Short Little Ugly Fat Fellow (SLUFF) has finally had it, bought the farm, bitten the dust, slipped to the other side, snuffed it  – but not silently and not without a surprise. In Greece these days, the Ling-Temco-Vought (LTV) A-7 Corsair II is heading into retirement, its career to be celebrated on Friday 17 October 2014 with an airshow at Araxos airbase, the final home of A-7 Corsairs anywhere in the world. A classic carrier aircraft, albeit one that saw service with just four countries since its first flight on 27 September 1965.

Vietnam never was one of those countries, but it was over this country that early in its career the Corsair had its baptism of fire in the hands of US Navy pilots. Less than two years after the first flight, the subsonic A-7A Corsair entered the skies over Vietnam, serving as a bomb truck and operating from US aircraft carriers. The aircraft was still in its early stages. Later US Navy Corsair versions saw improvements in flight characteristics and engine thrust, but when the Vietnam war ended close to a hundred US Navy Corsairs had been lost in action.

(Image © Elmer van Hest)
US Navy Corsairs were a colourful bunch for most of their career. This A-7E carries the markings of VA-105 ‘Gunslingers’. It is part of the collection of the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum in New York.
(Image © Elmer van Hest)

The US Air Force came up with the land based A-7D, a version that had yet more engine thrust (14,500 pounds over 11,345 pounds for the A-7A) and was one of the first aircraft ever to feature a head-up display (HUD). The type also served in Vietnam, flying Combat Search and Rescue (CSAR) missions under the famous ‘Sandy’ call sign. In later days, the US Air Force A-7Ds transferred to the Air National Guard. The A-7D was only used in anger again during operation Just Cause in Panama in 1989.

(Image © Dennis Spronk)
US Air National Guard A-7Ds deployed to Europe on a regular basis. This 174th Tactical Fighter Squadron Corsair was seen in 1990 at Leeuwarden airbase, the Netherlands, far from its home base of Sioux City. (Image © Dennis Spronk)

Middle east
Not so for the US Navy A-7E. Lesser known is the deployment of the A-7 during US actions in the Middle East during the early 80s, for example over Lebanon in 1983. A Syrian ground-to-air missile downed one Corsair during that operation. In March 1986, US Navy Corsair took part in strikes against Libya, using anti-radar missiles mostly. US pilots took the Corsair to war for the last time during the 1991 Gulf War, again firing missiles at Iraqi radar sites, but also delivering guided munitions.

After returning from the Gulf, the final US Navy Corsairs were replaced with F/A-18 Hornets. The Air National Guard said its goodbye to the A-7D in 1993, replacing the majority with F-16 Fighting Falcons.

(Image © Elmer van Hest)
Also seen regularly all over western Europe, were Portuguese Air Force A-7Ps. (Image © Elmer van Hest)

Second hand
Most of the US A-7s ended up in storage, but not all. Portugal already got its hand on a batch of second hand US Navy A-7s in 1980, receiving 44 in the end and retiring the last aircraft on 10 June 1999. The type flew a total of 64,000 flight hours in Força Aérea Portuguesa service.

Thai Corsairs were a rare breed: 18 – among which four two seaters – were taken from US surplus in the 90s and based at U-Tapao, to be used by 104 squadron of the Royal Thai Navy Air Arm. The Corsair’s career in Thailand only lasted just over a decade.

The curtain is about to fall for the A-7 Corsair. (Image © Elmer van Hest)

In Greece, it lasted close to four decades. Other than Portugal and Thailand, Greece ordered factory fresh A-7Hs back in 1975, the specifications based on those of the A-7D. The Hellenics liked the Corsair so much, they ordered a batch of former US Navy A-7Es and TA-7C two seaters in the 90s. It are these aircraft that are the world’s last flying Vought A-7 Corsairs, although that distinction will be over and done with by the end of October 2014.

The squadron flying the final aircraft is 336 Mira at Araxos airbase, and over the last few months the pilots took real pride in their mounts. The squadron is well known for painting up aircraft for special occasions, such as the NATO Tiger Meet. The unit also made an effort of proper training up until the very last moments; only last August, an A-7E was lost during a training flight, with the pilot safely using his ejection seat. Going out with a bang, not silently – like we said.

© 2014 Airheadsfly.com editor Elmer van Hest

(Image © Elmer van Hest)
Hellenic Tiger Spirit! (Image © Elmer van Hest)
Special coloured A-7E of 336Mira on approach at Volkel airbase for the Royal Netherlands Air Force days on 13 June 2013 (Image © Dennis Spronk)
Dark matter: a special coloured A-7E of 336 Mira on approach. (Image © Dennis Spronk)
No prizes for guessing which country this A-7 Corsair comes from.  (Image © Elmer van Hest)
No prizes for guessing which country this A-7 Corsair comes from. (Image © Elmer van Hest)
(Image © Dennis Spronk)
Air National Guard A-7Ds wore a dark green camouflage early on, but this was changed for light grey near the end of their flying career. (Image © Dennis Spronk)
(Image © Elmer van Hest)
End of the line! (Image © Elmer van Hest)
This is what a real TA-7C should look like! This 336Mira Corsair is on approach at Volkel airbase for the Royal Netherlands Air Force days on 13 June 2013 (Image © Dennis Spronk)
The real deal, in terms of what a military aircraft should look like: a Hellenic Air Force TA-7C, seen here in 2013. (Image © Dennis Spronk)

WITH VIDEO: US Navy tries to keep Growler going

A pair of US Navy EA-18G Growlers over the American dessert (Image © Boeing)
A pair of US Navy EA-18G Growlers over the American dessert (Image © Boeing)

The United States Navy is seeking possibilities to acquire 22 additional Boeing (McDonnell Douglas) EA-18G Growler electronic attack aircraft and thus keeping the Super Hornet production line open for additional years.

According to international press agency Reuters on 7 March 2014 the US Navy aims to put 22 of the jets on the list of “unfunded” priorities requested by Congress. According to the Reuters source the US Navy hopes to let the 11 Growler squadrons grow from five to seven operational aircraft, at an estimated costs of US$2.14 billion. At the moment there is no money for that plan, nor is it budgeted in financial proposals.

By adding additional electronic warfare aircraft to the existing squadron the Navy tucks itself in for possible attrition losses or future demands. With the current Super Hornet / Growler production line under threat of closing down, it might be a way to either keep the line open and/or to build up margins – in other words: to prevent a lack of assets in the future.

The first operational EA-18G Growler, a derivative of the F/A-18E/F SuperHornet, was delivered to the the US Navy’s Electronic Attack Squadron (VAQ) 129 at NAS Whidbey Island in Washington state on 4 June 2008. At that time five EA-18Gs were already flying as test aircraft within the Navy. The Growlers are the successor of the EA-6B Prowler, which has been in service since 1971. The EA-18G combat debut was in 2011, enforcing a UN mandated no-fly zone over Libya dubbed Operation Odyssey Dawn.

The Royal Australian Air Force is working up to introduce the 12 Growlers it ordered into service the coming years.

© 2014 AIRheads’ editor Marcel Burger