Friday 9 February 2024

E-6 Mercury airborne command post by Michael Ganoe


Recent photo taken by Michael Ganoe and posted on social media shows an E-6 Mercury photographed at Chambers, the airfield behind Naval Station Norfolk, Virginia. 

Adam Dowdell on FB; "..when I was stationed there the E-6’s with VQ 4 were considered vital to national defense and deadly force was authorized. They carried crypto gear for communications with our nuclear arsenal on subs. I know the E6A’s were updated in the late 90’s to the E6B and absorbed the looking glass missions. Not sure of their roll now. That aircraft has no tail numbers so. We used to confiscate people’s cameras at Pax for taking pictures of the E-6’s that were on alert. If you got close enough to read the number on the tail you were more likely about to have a very bad day. But in the end there is just something special about a 707 airframe capable of supersonic and inverted flight.."

Stu Ben; "..They fly every single day. I have seen at most 5 up at one time. . They come out of various locations with Pax on the East coast. They have a reel with a wire they trail out of the back with a drogue chute to pull it out and then they are able to talk on VLF (Very low frequency) thru the water to the submarines. Another nick name is TACAMO ('Take charge and move out').."

The first E-6 to deploy to Europe arrived at RAF mildenhall in June 2022. Note the two oval-shaped antennae coverings located on the forward and rear fuselage, respectively. These are also a fairly recent addition and comprise downlink antennae to connect with ground stations. Fleet Air Reconnaissance Squadron 4 (VQ-4)‘Shadows’, is stationed at Tinker Air Force Base (AFB), Oklahoma, and on June 28, 2022 flew a seven-hour mission from Mildenhall, flying at 26,000ft above the eastern Atlantic Ocean, off the coast of Ireland. The altitude permitted the vertical trailing wire to be almost fully extended to its maximum length of almost five miles.

Wednesday 17 January 2024

Russian A-50 AWACS downed over the Sea of Azov, January 14


" ..a couple of days ago Russia lost an A-50 and suffered damage to an Il-22 as widely reported on all news outlets (during the evening of January 14). Both of these aircraft are very valuable for the Russian Aerospace forces (the VKS) and there is some debate as to what exactly happened. ( Both Ukrainians and Russians claim to have downed the aircraft, although social media seems to be giving preference to the Russian story that this was a case of 'friendly fire'!) There are apparently some intercepted radio coms that allegedly originate from the Il-22 that specify that it is asking for assistance and that is is coming in for an emergency landing with photographs showing considerable shrapnel damage to the tail fin and tail plane. These aircraft are exceptionally valuable to a force and that's why usually there's only a few of those available and that's the case here as well with the A-50. Around 40 were built but Russia operates less than 10..While there is little hard evidence it would appear that these machines were targeted by Ukrainian Patriot missiles..."  Military Aviation History channel on youtube

Sunday 5 November 2023

Ltn Roth Jasta 12 photo album - Paul von Osterroht, Manfred von Richthofen, ebay photo find #121


This very interesting album currently on offer for 10,000 euros from the estate of the former Feld. Fliegerabteilung 52 and Jasta 12 pilot Ltn Roth. The approx. 290 photos in the two albums include views of a number of well-known airmen and their machines including Osterroht, Tutschek, MvR etc. The Richthofen images are labelled " April 1917, Epinoy ". Here he is seen with Paul von Osterroht, MvR's first pilot. Von Osterroht was shot down and killed in this month in 1917. Also included are a range of captured British aviators and machines. Includes many views of Albatros fighters (without Bestellnr visible) Of interest are the views of D.II, D.III and D.V so close together, timewise.


Paul von Osterroht was serving in FFA 18 when World War I began. He was one of the first German airmen to be awarded the Iron Cross First Class, received on 7 October 1914. After FFA 18, he served with Brieftauben-Abteilung Ostende in 1914 and 1915; one of his aerial observers was Manfred von Richthofen. Together they downed a French airplane so far behind French lines the victory could not be verified.

On 30 January 1915, Osterroht was promoted to Oberleutnant. In May 1916, he transferred to Kampfstaffel (Tactical Bomber Squadron) 1 of Kampfgeschwader (Tactical Bomber Wing) 1. He was soon given command of the squadron. His service with them ended when he was appointed to command one of Germany's original fighter squadrons, Jagdstaffel 12, as it was being founded.The unit was founded with over-age Fokker D.Is; however, by March 1917, they had been re-equipped with newer Albatros D.III fighters. 

Osterroht claimed serial number 1958/16 for his own, and had it marked with a four square checkerboard in black and white. On 24 March, the Jasta received a telegram from their higher command congratulating the unit on its performance in downing 14 enemy aircraft.
Osterroht scored his first aerial victory on 19 March 1917; at noon of 23 April he scored his seventh. Later on the 23rd, he flew an evening patrol to Cambrai. There he engaged Sopwith Pups of 3 Naval Squadron, and fell to his death at about 1800 hours.

Saturday 9 September 2023

Harrier T4 N 899 Sqd

ZB 605 (721) Harrier T4 N 899 Sqd FAA Yeovilton @ Biggin Hill Jun 1988.

Kawasaki Ki-102 “Randy” - late-war Japanese heavy fighter


A development of the Ki-45 'Toryu', the Ki-102 was the ultimate incarnation of the Japanese heavy fighter doctrine and itself a development of the rejected IJA single-seat heavy fighter, the Ki 96. The Ki-102 first flew in early 1944, and three main variants - a day fighter, attacker, and night fighter - were ordered into production. While the type entered service by mid 1944, it never replaced the Ki-45, partly due to the aircraft being reserved for the defence of Japan. Several Ki-102 Bs (attackers) made an appearance at Okinawa, but the majority remained in Japan. Even the day fighters saw little service, as the Japanese hoped to use them as carriers of primitive guided missiles in the event of an invasion of the mainland. Perhaps the most promising variant, the Ki-102 C night fighter, took until July 1945 to fly, and the war ended before it could complete flight trials. 

In total some 200 examples were constructed.

The type scored just a handful of 'kills'.

Saturday 2 September 2023

Ukranian AF 'drone-killer' Maj. Vadym Vorochylov, call sign 'Karaya 1'


Ukranian fighter pilot Vadym Oleksandrovych Vorochylov - call sign 'Karaya' - in front of his 204th BrTA MiG 29 'blue 47' armed with R-73 and R-27R air-to-air missiles. 

 A 'star' of Western media outlets Vadym Oleksandrovych Vorochylov was born on 2 February 1994 at Kremenchuk, south-west of Poltava. A graduate of the Ukranian air force national academy 'Ivan Kojedub' in 2016 he was assigned to the 204th Tactical Brigade (204 brihada taktichnoyi aviatsiyi or BrTA, tactical aviation brigade) in Kulbakino and from 2018 in Lutsk flying the MiG 29. In 2020 he earned the homour of 'best Ukranian fighter pilot' but in June 2021 he resigned after his short service commission of five years, citing as one of his principal reasons in an article in the Kyiv Post newspaper the lack of flying hours in the UkAF - between 35-80 per year- as compared to the NATO standard of around 180 hours (including 40 on simulator) and his low salary (the equivalent of around 750 euros/month)

With the launch of Putin's 'special military operation' on 24 February 2022 Vorochylov immediately rejoined the 204 BrTA with the rank of Major. According to various internet sources his unit comprised just 22 aircraft - 16 single-seat MiG 29s, including 'blue 07' and 'blue 08' (MiG 29 MU 1 'modernised'), four twin-seat MiG 29 UBs and two training Aero L-39s.

After sustaining heavy losses - including that of Maj. Yevgeny Lysenko on 9 March - the MiG 29s were removed from operations over the front lines and tasked with defending Ukranian territory from Russian cruise missile and drone attacks which became a virtually nightly feature of the war. The Iranian Shahed-136 drones in particular were almost impossible to bring down for Ukranian anti-aircraft defences, being too small and too slow with their low 'thermal' signature and small radar cross section - explosive charge 35kg, range 1000 kms, speed 185 km/h. At night the drones were impossible to detect visually, especially from the cockpit of a MiG 29. On 5 October 2022 the MiGs of the 204th brought down their first three Shahed drones.

On 11 October Vorochylov downed his first two drones and a further three on the following morning. That evening Vorochylov was again airborne and brought down his fourth and fifth drones. However his MiG was hit by the debris of his last target. He managed to turn his machine away from a built-up area before ejecting as fire erupted in the cockpit. Hanging in his parachute straps and with bloodied features after his windshield shattered wounding his cheek, Vorochylov had the presence of mind to take the 'selfie' for which he is 'famous' across the internet!

 " The pilot’s skillful defense of the sky over the Vinnytsia region brought him the fame as the “Shahed killer": Vadym managed to hit five enemy drones and two missiles in a week. When the fighter’s plane got damaged by the debris, Vadym led it away from a populated area and only then ejected from the aircraft. The feat brought him a head and а neck injury, and the Order for Courage of the third class" 

In December Zelensky awarded him the title of 'Hero of Ukraine' for his feats.

Friday 1 September 2023

Best (re)posts from TJ's Hangar - Iraqi Tu 22 and MiG 21


One of my favourite blogs is/was TJ's Hangar. While technically not defunct, it hasn't been updated for years, so - with apologies to TJ if he's still stalking the internet - I've decided to repost some of 'his' old posts, newly translated by myself! Starting with this one featuring Iraqi Tu 22 Blinders and a rare MiG 21 'TJ' explains how he went about locating some of 'his' rare images on the net...

" ..The last few weeks have seen the 40th anniversary of the start of the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s. For this reason, I think it is a good occasion to share some of the various photos I have been finding in recent months on the subject, after many hours of research, often tedious and boring research, until something worthy of interest appears. As in this case, it makes the effort expended worthwhile. This is a new image, at least for me, of an Iraqi Tupolev Tu-22 Blinder, probably photographed at the Al Takkadum base. It is taken from one of the many personal profiles or Arabic Facebook pages I have visited that were open to the public..."

From a different angle, another image of another Iraqi Tu-22, apparently in an operational state, judging by the tyres and attire of the posing pilots. Unfortunately the serial that should be seen on the front door of the front landing gear leg is either blurred or has been censored out. Once gain this is probably Al Takkadum base.

Below, Iraqi Mig 21 showing two Iranian 'kill' markings

" ...The story of how I found this photo is curious, because I almost lost it. I was surfing Facebook looking at dozens of profiles of Iraqi and Syrian soldiers and I hadn't found anything interesting for a while. Suddenly, in one of the profiles, a picture of a Mig-21 appeared, small and of poor quality. I don't usually copy such pictures. But it had a lot of comments, so that caught my attention and I decided to scroll through the comments, all in Arabic so I didn't know what they were saying, until, scrolling down, scrolling down, in one of them, Bingo! this picture appeared. But it was late and I was already tired, so after checking that there were no more photos in the thread, I copied it, closed it and went to bed. It is a very tedious and tiring task, opening one by one public Facebook profiles, looking at the photos one by one when there are hundreds of them and then stopping to read all the comments on each photo. If you do the latter, you may never finish and you don't make any progress. It is really tiring. So in these cases of "exotic" profiles, it's often a matter of luck to find something interesting, as you can say that I'm going blind, as I don't know the language in this particular case. I know that there is a translator incorporated into the Facebook answers, but its usefulness is sometimes limited, and there is a risk of crashes or loss of access to the original links, which has happened to me, so I don't usually use it, unless I see something worthwhile..."

"...Once I found the photo, we moved on to another phase, the identification phase. What do we have? Well, we have nothing more and nothing less than a MiG-21MF or maybe a Bis, with two Iranian "kills" painted on the nose of the fuselage. So this pilot is not just anyone. I then started looking for information on Iraqi "Aces" in the war against Iran, both on the net and in books I have at home. In the latter respect, among others, I have the fabulous "Iran-Iraq War in the Air" by Tom Cooper and Farzah Bishop, published by Shiffer in the 1990s, which is the best thing I have read to date on this conflict. On the other hand, when looking for Iraqi aces on the web, Mohommed (curious about the O, it's not Mohammed) Rayyan appeared among others, and consulting several pages, I found that he shot down two Iranian planes with a Mig-21 on 23 October 1980, before becoming a MiG-25 pilot. With this information I went to Tom Cooper's book, who confirmed the date of the shoot-downs, adding that they were Iranian F-5 fighters, which probably means that the plane in the picture is none other than the one involved in those two shoot-downs. The photo is simply very interesting because it allows us to identify the serial number of the plane with the two victories, which is 2092, a detail that I have not seen published anywhere until now, so perhaps, just perhaps, we have an unpublished piece of information, and we also have a pilot posing for the camera, perhaps Mohommed Rayyan himself? Probably, I suppose. The photo of the year so far without a doubt.... :) Photos like this and the previous ones make the searches and the time spent on them worthwhile..."

And subsequently on the cover of Tom Cooper's "Wings of Iraq", published in 2022

also on this blog

Phantom Phinale 74 Sqd 1992 display routine

Further to a previous post featuring a Phantom Phinale (1992) scrapbook, here is a look at the 1992 display routine, posted by Stuart Parish on FB from an old 'Aircraft Illustrated' feature (?) 

 Pic below shows the Leggat/Manwaring 74 Sqd display F-4 in a 'Dirty Barrel Roll' with gear and hook down, slats out and probe out etc seen over Wattisham.

also on this blog;

Phantom Phinale scrapbook 1992

Thursday 3 August 2023

Mirage IV personal accounts

Ian Powell photos

If you can read French, former Armée de l'Air aviator Jean Houben has put together a site full of first person accounts from French airmen. The Mirage IV was an aircraft capable of staying in the air for up to 15 hours at a time but which had a number of shortcomings. In "pipi room du Mirage IV" a former Mirage IV pilot describes the battle its pilots had with Dassault engineers to get some form of (necessarily) heated relief tube installed into the aircraft - pee freezes at -56° at subsonic speeds. Dassault said the equipment for this one function was far too costly and given the proximity of the radar and the radio altimeter to the 'outlet' were reluctant to incorporate one in the aircraft. Although a solution was eventually found there was no provision for the Mirage IV to be piloted by a lady pilot.

Monday 24 April 2023

RAF Manston History Museum - Open cockpit Day April 16, 2023


..another gorgeous sunny day and a brilliant turnout as visitors flocked (yes, flocked!) to clamber on over, in and through some of the neat airframes exhibited at the RAF History Museum at Manston, Kent, England on one of the museum's regular open cockpit days. Where else in the UK can you sit in a Lightning, Buccaneer, Canberra and Victor, to name just four types? And everything in the Buccaneer works too. Heck, even the Auster is fun - pedals and stick work just as they should !  Thanks to 'johnboygtv' for the great drone shots of the museum. Not often you get to see a Lightning from this angle. 

Tuesday 18 April 2023

Are the Russians using their so-called 5th Gen Su-57 (Frelon) in the Ukraine war ? latest UK MoD defence Intelligence report

According to the UK MoD Russia has been flying its new Su-57 jets against, but not over, Ukraine. According to the latest Defence Intelligence update on the situation in Ukraine the Russians have almost certainly used Su-57 FELON to conduct missions against Ukraine. To quote the UK Defence journal web site, 

"The Su-57 is equipped with advanced avionics and a range of modern weapons, including long-range air-to-air and air-to-surface missiles. It is also designed to have stealth capabilities, which makes it difficult to detect on radar. The missions have likely been limited to flying over Russian territory, launching long range air-to-surface or air-to-air missiles into Ukraine..."

“Since at least June 2022, Russian Aerospace Forces have almost certainly used Su-57 FELON to conduct missions against Ukraine. FELON is Russia’s most advanced fifth-generation supersonic combat jet, employing stealth technologies and highly advanced avionics. These missions have likely been limited to flying over Russian territory, launching long range air-to-surface or air-to-air missiles into Ukraine.

Recent commercially available imagery shows five FELON parked at Akhtubinsk Air Base, which hosts the 929th Flight Test Centre. As this is the only known FELON base, these aircraft have likely been involved in operations against Ukraine.

Russia is highly likely prioritising avoiding the reputational damage, reduced export prospects, and the compromise of sensitive technology which would come from any loss of FELON over Ukraine. This is symptomatic of Russia’s continued risk-averse approach to employing its air force in the war.”

".. The SU-57 does look very cool, but looking cool isn’t the same as being effective...Using this aircraft in effect as a bomb truck does not make any real sense outside of the political and military sales arenas. I also wonder if the real reason is for such a low level of particiation by the Russian air force is more fundemental and deep seated than the quoted reason of not wanting to risk compromising their latest tech.

It has been discussed in the past that the Russians may lack the skills and comprehensive support structure necessary to mount large coordinated air operations. Most of their operations over Syria were reportedly small scale, rarely if ever more than 3 or 4 aircraft over the target area. This could well point to a lack of training for large scale coordinated operations involving dozens of aircraft of different types each conducting different roles within the mission profile, e.g surpression of enemy air defences, re-fueling, airborne command and control, escort and finally attack… All of this is required if you are operating in a contested environment and thanks to the Russians own lack of aggression against the Ukrainian air defences I suspect the the latter have only improved since the start of the war.

'Stealth' probably isn’t really the right word to describe the Su 57 -  low observable (L/O) is the better description so it is likely that the SU-57 would be vulnerable to the Ukrainian air defences if the type did venture into Ukrainian airspace. ."