Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Well here we are again; I guess it must be fate. NO FLY ZONES

 Sorry for quoting Peter Cetera but it works.

It’s been 25 years since the US retaliated for Terrorists bombings in Germany. The strike, authorized by then President Ronald Regan in 1986, became one the longest missions in US Air Force history. The reason for the length was France feared retaliation by Libya. (Ironically as I started to write this another attack occurred on US Airmen in Germany)
Five targets were attacked during that raid, one being President Muammar Qaddafi’s residence. Unfortunately he escaped. He was forewarned by an ally.
So now its 25 years later the US has restored diplomatic ties. Again we are at a turning point. Qadaffi is not causing terror against other foreign nations but against his own people. Two Mirage F1BD defected to Malta. Another SU-22 was purposely crashed. Another was crashed on purpose in the Med. So five pilots have refused to take action against Libya’s people. They should be cheered for their heroism.

That is not to say the Libyan Air Force is completely pro revolt. There have been reports of Strafing civilians by the Libyan Air Force. The bombing has gotten intense. They are trying to squash their rebellion from the air. Strikes are ramping up and occurring on a daily basis. The rebels have begged for a No Fly Zone and a No Drive Zone. Police enforcement from the air.
So when country starts using its air force against its people immediately the cry is for a NATO or the U.N. to set up a No Fly Zone. What is a NO FLY ZONE? In simplest terms it when a foreign country has decided it’s in your country’s best interest to keep your sovereign aircraft on the ground because you are causing harm with them. They do this by shooting you down the moment you take off. Hopefully you will learn by the third of fourth aircraft that it’s not in your best interest to launch any more aircraft.
No Fly Zones have become common place since the 90’s OPERATIONS NORTHERN & SOUTHERN WATCH over Iraq after GULF WAR I were designed to prevent Saddam Hussein’s Air Force from attacking Kurds and other minorities in Iraq with air power. OPERATION DENY FLIGHT was NATO’s answer to attacks in Bosnia Herzegovina. Both NO Fly missions eventually escalated to ground support missions.
Logistically both NO FLY Zones were far easier to enforce than a No Fly Zone over Libya. DENY FLIGHT was primarily flown out of Aviano Air Base Italy. The two Iraqi NFZs were supported from Inkrik Turkey for the North and various bases in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for the South.
What makes Libya different? Well we don’t have any bases conveniently located to the country. NFZs are long term commitments. They are not a couple of weeks and over. While Egypt would be the most likely base of operations for the USAF, with their current climate it is not realistic. It would not be the first time the US Navy would sail through the “Line of Death” into the Gulf of Sidra. But with two wars going on we are not in a position to park a Nimitz class aircraft carrier in the gulf.
Tunis is in revolt, and the remainder of the nations who surround Libya do not have the infrastructure or would be willing to support such a long term US/NATO presence to enforce a UN sanctioned NFZ.
Politically getting a NFZ will be extremely hard. The Chinese and Russian contingents will not go along. Russia for the money China, cause they understand a nations right to fight dissidence. That hurdle will most likely never be overcome. But for the sake of the current situation let’s say the military option was implemented. Now what.
I will war game out how NATO will enforce a NFZ over Tripoli. This is speculation for the start of discussion.
As the political arguments go on the US will preposition war ships this has already happened
The Kearsarge and Ponce are within hours of Libya waters. The Kearsarge is an amphibious assault ship equipped with Helicopters and Harrier Jump Jets. The Helicopters include AH-1s and UH-1s CH-53s CH-46s and possibly CV-22s. The USS Enterprise will also be moving across the Med. Aboard her is Carrier Air Wing One (CVW1). Super hornets of VFA-41 and VFA-136. VFA-211 and VMFA-251 flying Legacy hornets. VAQ-137 will be flying EA-6Bs. Rounding out the group is VAW-123 flying the E-2 Hawkeye. The Enterprise’s battle group consists of three cruisers and one destroyer. So that completed the US Naval assets in the area. http://www.wavy.com/dpp/news/local_news/enterprise-strike-group-deploys
The nearest Air force Base is Aviano in Northern Italy, not really a great option. We are going to have to let the allies of NATO who are part of the MED Basin to take the lead on this mission. Let’s call it OPERATION FITTER SPLASH.
NATO also has been moving a prepping. One of the most important assets for a NFZ happens to be command and control. This is where the E-2s, E-3s and E-8s come in. NATO can preposition AWACS from Great Britain, possibly France or NATO’s own out of Germany. Let’s move them to NAS Signorelli on the island of Sicily. AWACS would then begin scanning the skies over Libya from international waters over the Med.
Officially The UN would give an ultimatum and a deadline. The deadline has come and gone. Special Operations aircraft from various allies would begin to operate from the Eastern Desert. Operators would begin to work with the Rebels to obtain information about Surface to Air sights. Targeting information would be relayed back to headquarters. At the same time a RQ-4 Global Hawk begins to fly clandestinely over the Deserts. These efforts are to get the necessary information to launch a precision strike.
D+2 Again SU-22s are used again the rebels with success. One gets shutdown. It will be years later that we learned it was a pair of NATO Operators who in support of the Rebels took out the aircraft with an anti aircraft missile. Back in Missouri pair of B-2A at Whitman Air Force Base is prepped with the maximum amount of precision guided bombs they can carry. They quietly go about their business in Middle America and take off for a destination only the crews and command know.
Back on Enterprise they have been prepping for their mission SEAD Suppression of Enemy Air Defenses. This is has been the stopping point. Before you can dominate the skies you have to make sure the ground can’t get to you. JSTARS, Global Hawk and our Operators inserted into the rebels are going to make sure that when the attacks will come the sites will be taken out and there will be as little collateral damage as possible.
D+3 Today has been quiet the Libyan Air Forces have been grounded cause of poor weather. Their fleet of aircraft is of early 80’s vintage and like a bad hair band song of that vintage isn’t holding up well. It becomes dark. Tankers, Ol’ 135s take to the Skies from Aviano air base. They are meeting up with F-16 from the Greek Air Force. Their bulky Block 52s with their conformal fuel tanks are carrying laser guided bombs. OPERATION ATHENA has begun. They reach the US Tankers and Fill up. Tornados from Italy both F3 and IDS also fly into the race track of Tankers orbiting over the Med. A RAF E-3D call sign EMPEROR is controlling the whirlpool of aircraft while keeping a watch on the skies over Tripoli. The Enterprise has steamed right by Libya and is sitting off the coast of Tunis. Kearsarge has been providing humanitarian support. It’s providing water and medical relief to the refugees who have fled the civil war now occurring in Libya.
With the wind over her deck a Screw tops E-2C launches. A pair of Rhinos heavily loaded, not with bombs but with four Fuel Tanks and one Buddy pod launch into the night. So the traffic cop and the Gas Pumps take their position. Prowlers quipped with HARMS. The Tomcaters of VFA-41 are got the boring mission of the night SCAP Strike Combat Air Patrol. The remainder of the squadrons is all bombed up the Marines of VMFA-251 are getting ready for their Legacy hornets to show the Super guys what the Marines will do. They will work closely with ground special operators already in the region to take out some of Libya crack troops. US SEALS will paint the town red for the Jarheads bombs.
The challenge for the remainder Tripoli airfield Take out the bad guys without taking out the Civilians.
It’s Oh two hundred local time and all is quiet. Do you think the bad guys will ever learn that bad things happen to bad people at night? Nope! Global Hawk now data links coordinates to EMPEROR. Also Intelligence has reported that a high value target is sleeping in the western suburbs of Tripoli. That information is forwarded to NATO HQ and the Pentagon. In the Sit room in the White House an image of a building is put up on the wall. “Sir Do we execute?” A quiet “Yes” is uttered “Enola Flight you may engage!” On the Eastern side of town a series of explosions are heard. The Marines have returned to the Shores of Tripoli to take out various anti-aircraft sites. The City of Tripoli begins to go dark at the same time the Sky becomes alight with anti aircraft tracer fire. A lone two woman bat shape quickly drops not one but five precision guided JDAMS all of which target various buildings downtown including one on where the high value target is. The other aircraft in ENOLA Flight also uses its JDAMS to take out other high priority targets. It’s time for them to head home. ENOLA flight begins the trip back to the security of the heartland of America.
Meanwhile back in the east NATO Special Forces have successfully taken out the remainder of the airfields with the exception of Benghazi. There were too many rebels there to execute the strike without serious collateral damage. A lone SU-22 got airborne, but at the end of the runway waiting for him was an Italian Typhoon who had a missile with his name on it. The Greeks got one also, though not as glamorous A Bell 406 took off only to have the M61 of a Greek 16 take off its main rotor.
The attack on Tripoli international airport was a success. The military portion of the field was smoking. Yet there were Airbuses on the side ready to return to service. The Boeing Tech rep with the hornets quipped on the success of the mission and that none of the airbuses were damaged “couldn’t have taken out just one for the team?”
As with all missions there were issues. A VFA-136 F-18E took Flak and lost an engine. The Pilot ejected over the western desert. The Kearsarge immediately launched an armed recovery of the pilot. After 48 hours of using his Desert survival skills, the ones he hoped he would never use, he was picked up by a CV-22 and returned to Enterprise.
By 07:00 it was over OPERATION FITTER SPLASH was beginning to convert to a new mission OPERATION CALM SKIES was beginning. The high value target awoke. Again the Intel was wrong so he dodged another bomb, but he did awake to the Sounds of a Pair of Italian Air Force F-16 ADF making their presence known. His end had come. Soon the Rebels would be knocking at his door. Within weeks supplies will be flowing into the various airports to support the refugee problems. CALM SKIES had returned to the North African Continent.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

A Pair of Air to Air Firsts: Part One Spark Vark 1, Mirage F.1EQ 0

Photo U.S. Air Force Museum

The F-15C was the “premier” air to air fighter in OPERATION DESERT STORM.  Actually both the U.S.A.F and the Royal Saudi Air Force scored kills in the conflict. While the F-15s were not new to combat, the first F-15 kill occurred 1979 by the IDFAF,  33 of 36 U.S.A.F.  air to air victories were by the F-15C.  However they weren’t the only aircraft to score a shoot down on day one.

The first kill of that January 17th morning was by the most unlikely of aircraft an unarmed EF-111A Raven!   Yes, the Spark Vark was the first aircraft to be engaged by  a Dassault  Mirage F.1EQ.  The F.1 was configured for air to air with two Matra R.550 Magic air to air missiles, a French short range AAM, similar to AIM-9 Sidewinders. 

The Spark Vark was over the western desert of Iraq orbiting. Its mission was to create a corridor for the air armada streaking overhead into Iraq, by jamming the Iraqi radars.   The Vark was crewed by Pilot Capt. Jim Denton with Electronic Weapons Officer Capt Brent Brandon.  The Mirage broke out of a flight of four after being engaged by F-15C vectored by an AWACS.  The Mirage broke, popped flares and the F-15Cs missile missed. 

The Iraqi pilot then saw the unarmed aircraft and engaged.   The Magic came off the wingtip rail and headed directly at Denton and Brandon in AF 66-0016.   Denton began evasive action and Brandon popped flares in defense.   The Magic missed.   Denton decided to use the Vark’s advantage and dove the beast to the deck.

 The Iraqi pilot decided to follow.  He was going to take out that aircraft.   Denton began using his Terrain Following Radar to evade the hostile behind him.   Screaming across the desert he finally jinked right and pulled up, pushing the throttles. The TF-30s pushed the craft to over Mach 1.   Behind them the Mirage pilot, wasn’t so lucky he did not make the pull out in time, plowing his aircraft into the desert sand.  

Though there is much documentation about the incident Denton and Brandon were not given credit officially by the U.S.A.F.  I think the idea that an unarmed mudmover was the first kill of the war did not sit well with the Fighter Mafia.

AF 66-0016 survived and is serving gate guard duty at Cannon Air Force Base, in New Mexico.  It carries the names of Capt Douglas L. Bradt and EWO Capt Paul R. Eichenlaub, who were the only combat casualties in the EF-111.  Bradt and Eichenlaub lost their lives on February 14, 1991, when their Spark Vark, AF 66-0023, took evasive action and flew into the ground.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

TASK FORCE NORMANDY 20 Years Ago today

The desert is dark, cold, and flat on moonless nights. There are no landmarks for navigation. The sand rises and falls and there is no real way to tell how high or low you are. You have no depth perception. Just vast amounts of nothing. On January 17th 1991 it was no different. In the western desert of Iraq there were some important targets; these targets did “light” the skies with RADAR. The Soviet designed RADARs were scanning the skies over the border with Saudi Arabia. These RADARS were constantly tested over the previous weeks. Allied forces would do what was called a “Fence Check” in the Cold War. They would streak towards the border, heading for Baghdad then, just before crossing into Iraq and would break off the attack. This happened so frequently that the Iraq RADAR operators got lulled into a sense of security. However these RADARs needed to be taken out.
Originally, the plan was to insert special operations forces to take over the RADAR sites. That was overruled by General H. Norman Schwarzkopf in November of 1990. The replacement mission became known as TASK FORCE NORMANDY. It was a joint service operation. In 1991, the AH-64As did not have the sophisticated navigation the current generation has. They could not find their targets easily in the dark nothingness of the Western Iraqi Desert. It was decided that USAF MH-53J PAVE LOW IIIs could act as navigators with their large all weather RADARs, and new-fangled Global Positioning System.
After practicing for three months, 12 aircraft, 10 United States Army and 2 United States Air Force, were prepositioned at Al Jouf Airport on January 14 from King Fahd International Airport. The MH-53s were from the 1st SOW 20th SOS; the 9 Apaches and 1 UH-60H were from the 1-101st Airborne.
The team did not wait too long. A day and a half later, they would be taking off in two groups. The AH-64s were given asymmetric load on their stub wings—with a rack of 4 AGM-114 HELLFIRE on each rack. On the left wing, a Fuel Tank; the right, a 70 mm HYDRA unguided rockets. The 30 MM chain gun was loaded with its full 1,200 rounds of ammo. One AH-64 would be a spare. The UH-60H would be set up, should there be a loss and a need to recover the crews. CH-47 Chinooks would take off and act as “Fat Cows;” they would be loaded with fuel to gas up the teams on the return, hot fueling the ships in the middle of the dark Iraqi desert.
Since there were two targets the team was divided into two flights, Red Flight and White Flight. Four AH-64s with its shepard MH-53 took off and headed northwest; 12 minutes later, the process was replicated but headed southwest.
The Flights were done with little to no communications. When there was a waypoint change, the MH-53 Crews came up with a novel way to point it out to the other Helos. They would drop out chemical lights (large light sticks) onto the desert floor.
Anyone who has ever heard a 53 will know the big Sikorsky isn’t quiet. They would not go all the way to prevent detection. So thirty nautical miles from the targets, the AH-64s surpassed the 53s and proceeded to approximately 2 miles from the RADAR sites; H HOUR was 3 AM local time. The Two flights of 64s split again into 4 flights with a mile separation, settled into a hover, and waited.
What the Army didn’t know was 37th TFW F-117s, lead by Col. Alton “Al” Whitley, had already snuck by the RADARS and were well on their way “Downtown.”
At precisely 2:38 AM Local time TASK FORCE NORMANDY released HELL FIRE on some poor unassuming Iraqi RADAR operators.
The Attacks lasted approximately 2 minutes. The Electrical generations were destroyed first. The RADARs went dark; next were the manned communications buildings and lastly were the RADARs themselves. In two minutes, 27 HELLFIRES, 100 HYDRAs and 4000 rounds of 30 Mike Mike were expended. The Iraqis had two new smoking ruins added to the landscape. The Corridor for the largest Air Armada in modern history had been opened. The Army had been the battering ram on Saddam’s Fortress Iraq. The door was down and now the troops were flooding through the door.
The Apaches headed back to friendly territory; however, even with the extra tank of gas, they were low on fuel. They needed to rendezvous with a Fat Cow; CH-47 had been prepositioned in the desert. It was loaded with precious gas. After the bloodied helos tanked up, they flew back to Al Jouf untouched.
As a side note, the Cow wasn’t so lucky. It took ground fire on its return home and lost its aft landing gear, from a shoulder launched surface-to-air missile. It did return safely and no crew was lost. A testament to the quality built in Ridley, PA!
It was only the beginning of the Apache in Iraq—a mission that still exists today.

Also check the posting time!

Works Cited
"1st Battalion, 101st Aviation Regiment." GlobalSecurity.org - Reliable Security Information. Web. 16 Jan. 2011. .
"A Legacy of Heroes, Part 3 1975-1991 « Threedonia.com." Threedonia.com. Web. 16 Jan. 2011. .
Morse, Stan Ed. "DESERT STORM." Gulf Air War Debrief. Westport, CT: Airtime Pub., 1991. 49-52. Print.
"Task Force Normandy Fired the Opening Shots of Desert Storm." Defense Media Network. Web. 16 Jan. 2011. .
"Task Force Normandy: Iraq Veteran Recounts Desert Storm." Hurlburt Field - Home. 03 Feb. 2006. Web. 16 Jan. 2011. .

Saturday, December 4, 2010

The Flight of the Lightnings!!

This is awesome!!   I have been to a lot of airshows yet  I have never seen a P-38 fly in person.   I have only seen Glacier Girl once. .  it was right after she was recovered from the ice. .  in lots of parts.  So seeing a P-38 still is on the Bucket List!

Thanks  Jason for finding this one!!