Friday, 31 December 2010

China's first stealth fighter - the J-20 ?

Is This China’s First Stealth Fighter?

By David Axe December 27, 2010
12:01 am
Categories: China

They could be the products of a Chinese government misinformation campaign. They could be clever Photoshop jobs by Chinese aviation fanboys. Or they could be the real thing: the first hard evidence of the long-rumored Chengdu J-20, China’s first stealth-fighter prototype.

The above photo and several others surfaced over the Christmas weekend on Chinese Internet forums, catching the eye of Aviation Week fighter guru Bill Sweetman. Sweetman, a noted skeptic in the sometimes enthusiastic world of fast-jet journalism, stressed that the pics might be fakes. Fantastical Photoshop art is a hallmark of Chinese military-themed Websites. See the giant, flying “heli-carrier,” or the submarine flattop — both creations of over-excited Chinese Photoshoppers. But there are hints that the J-20 photos are for real — and that much clearer shots exist, somewhere.
“Rumor has it that better shots have put in transient appearances on Chinese Websites before being zapped by the censor,” Sweetman wrote. That those rumored photos were yanked is itself perhaps proof that Beijing really does have a new fighter.

“In China’s military fan Web culture, the rapid intervention of the censors is always a boost for the credibility of the poster,” aviation journalist Rick Fisher told Sweetman.

Most convincingly, the airplane depicted in the snapshots apparently has many of the right characteristics for a fifth-generation stealth-fighter prototype: a chiseled front-section, triangular wings, all-moving tailplanes. In fact, the supposed J-20 seems to combine the front fuselage of the U.S. Air Force’s F-22 with the back half of Russia’s T-50 stealth prototype, which appeared a little less than a year ago. If it’s real — and that’s a big if — the J-20’s appearance could signal a big step forward for the Chinese air force, which to date relies mostly on airplanes bought from Russia or reverse-engineered from Russian or Israeli designs.
Panicky Western air-power advocates, who a year ago claimed America would be “less safe” if the Pentagon pressed forward with plans to end production of the F-22 stealth fighter at 187 copies, might just announce the end of America’s 50-year dominance of the skies. Alarmists made similar claims when the Russia’s new T-50 fighter first flew, despite that plane’s many non-stealthy attributes and dubious production prospects. The Pentagon hasn’t had a chance to comment on the J-20 photos, but is likely to remain sanguine. In deliberations over the F-22, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates acknowledged that the Chinese were working on a stealth fighter, but insisted the Communist country would have “no fifth-generation aircraft by 2020,” while the U.S. would have more than a thousand F-22s and F-35s.

In the year-and-a-half since Gates made that claim, the Pentagon has delayed F-35 production and China has apparently accelerated its own stealth development — alleged J-20 photos aside — but the spirit of Gates’ assertion remains valid. Even if the photos are real and the J-20 exists as more than blueprints, there’s probably no cause for alarm. The U.S. flew its first stealth prototypes — the YF-22 and rival YF-23 — in 1990; the J-20 hasn’t even flown yet. It took 15 years for the F-22 to enter front-line service; considering China’s quality-control problems with high technology, it could take a decade or more for the J-20 to appear in numbers that make any difference in the Pacific balance of power. Gates might have been slightly off in his assessment of the Chinese air force, but probably not by much. And that’s all assuming Beijing’s Christmas stealth-fighter surprise isn’t all just Photoshop magic. With so little good information on military hardware coming out of China, fighter fakery is a real prospect. In which case, we’ll keep waiting for China’s first stealth fighter to make its true debut.

Monday, 13 December 2010

Fairy Gannet

"..given that it was by no means an aerobatic aircraft it was fairly sturdy, it has to be said. One of the first CA's I had during a rocket attack, managed to pull too many G's and tore off both outer wing sections, yet still manage to fly the thing back to base.

Thursday, 9 December 2010

San Diego Air and Space museum archive photo collection

The San Diego Air & Space Museum (SDASM) is proud to announce the launch of possibly the largest online collection of aviation images in the world.

By using, the entire SDASM Library & Archives digitized photo collection will eventually be viewable via the internet anywhere in the world. To date, 64,000 images have been uploaded, and more than 100,000 digitized images should be online before the end of the year. The aviation-related subjects include foreign and domestic military and civilian aircraft, the Flying Tigers, aviation-related biographic photos, the Ryan Aeronautical Archive, and the Pacific Southwest Airlines (PSA) archive. The project, with assistance from the Balboa Park Online Collaborative, has been made possible by a generous grant from the Legler Benbough Foundation.

Jim Kidrick, President & CEO of the San Diego Air & Space Museum said, "We are very excited about getting our special collection online. This has been a goal of ours for a long time, and it is wonderful to finally see it come to fruition. Sharing this incredibly unique image archive with the world is one of our key missions."

The images can be tagged or commented upon by the viewing public to add information to the data on each image. All of the images on the site are available for purchase in high resolution for publication or personal use. By digitizing the photos, SDASM makes the images more accessible and preserves them for future generations. View the SDASM photo collection at  San Diego Air and Space museum archive

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Eagles and Hawks through the 'Mach loop' low flying jet site Wales

The Mach Loop is a series of valleys in West Wales (around the Macynlleth / Dinas Mawddwy / Dolgellau area) which are part of the RAF Low Flying Area 7 (LFA 7), where the RAF and USAF practice low level flying.

Sunday, 21 November 2010

Ark Royal Harriers - Farewell tour (pictures courtesy Graham James)

RN aircraft carrier HMS Ark Royal is currently on her farewell tour of the country prior to being decomissioned. Graham James ('chocksaway' on britmodeller) braved the Tyneside weather to capture theses super images of the Harriers of 1(F) Squadron in their special farewell liveries - farewell tour pictures courtesy Graham James. Click on the images for a closer view..

Harriers take off from Ark Royal for last time (from the Portsmouth News)

Date: 24 November 2010

A Harrier jump jet took off today for the last time from a British aircraft carrier, bringing an end to a proud history of naval and aviation endeavour.
Flight Commander James Blackmore was the last of four Harrier GR9 pilots to roar off the deck of HMS Ark Royal which was sailing from North Shields, North Tyneside, across the North Sea, to Hamburg, Germany.
The Harriers were heading 150 miles back to RAF Cottesmore, Lincolnshire, ahead of decommissioning next year. The Ark Royal, the Navy's Fleet Flagship, will eventually head back to her Portsmouth base on December 3, where she will end her active life three years before it was planned and 25 years after she was built on Tyneside. The decision to scrap both was described by one senior officer on board as "madness".
So the last meeting of both famous names was a poignant moment for the crew, who lined the decks to watch the historic departure.
As the Harriers warmed their engines, squally showers washed across the flight deck. But the sun came out shortly after 9am when the planes punched through a chilly northerly wind and hurtled off the desk in a cloud of spray. In an ironic twist a cargo vessel called Happy Harrier had a great view of the display.
Before the flight, Fl Com Blackmore, 35, said: "I am immensely proud and it is a real privilege to be the last pilot to fly off Ark Royal. It is amazing; I watched a Harrier hovering over Chatham dockyard when I was eight years old and I am now fortunate enough to be flying the Harrier today. It's an amazing aircraft, superb to fly and just very enjoyable."

The cost-cutting decision to scrap Britain's fixed-wing capability from aircraft carriers caused consternation and puzzlement on board the ship, which some say carries the most famous name in naval history.
This version is the fifth Ark Royal. The first saw battle in 1588 and smashed the Spanish Armada. The latest, and possibly last, saw active service in the Balkans and the second Gulf War. It will be replaced by the Queen Elizabeth class of aircraft carrier, which will not come into service until the end of the decade. They will carry F35 Joint Strike Fighter aircraft. Captain Jerry Kyd, who only took command of Ark Royal in September, took the 22,000-tonne vessel to Scotland to have its major weaponry removed. He said: "It was a sad time because, for a ship like this, it is like taking the teeth from a tiger."
 There was a tear in his eye when the last Harrier took off, he admitted. "It was an emotional moment and also one of real pride as we look back over 25 years service to Queen and country.
 "No naval officer wants to see any ship decommissioned early and she is a fine vessel and she has a fine history. She is at the peak of her efficiency but one understands that very difficult decisions have to be made across Government. We have flown off four aircraft and it marks the end of an era. I think the whole ship's company feel bittersweet about it. We understand some tough decisions have had to be made."
It is believed one of the new Queen Elizabeth-class carriers, which is due to be named Prince Charles, could be passed on the Ark Royal name. Capt Kyd hoped there would be a sixth Ark Royal in the future.
"It's an iconic name that has real resonance with the British people, with the Royal Navy and around the world." Petty Officer David Terracciano, a 31-year-old engineering technician from Portsmouth, was "gutted" about Ark Royal being decommissioned.
"We were shocked when we heard the news on the television and I came into work not knowing if it was true. It got confirmed later that day and it was a strange way to find out.
"Morale is good. It's only iron and steel at the end of the day. It's the name that's famous, it's a shame they're not making another one."
Petty Officer aircraft controller Andrew Collins, 26, from Glasgow, said: "HMS Ark Royal is like the girlfriend you hate and you only realise you loved her when she has binned you.
"Life at sea is a harsh reality and you spend an awful lot of time away from friends and family. There's a lot of pride on board that we serve on the Fleet Flagship. It's the most famous warship in the world."

Saturday, 20 November 2010

RAF Jets - the Fairey Delta 2 supersonic research aircraft

Peter Twiss and the world speed record holder Fairey Delta 2. The Fairey Delta 2 or FD2 (internal designation Type V within Fairey) was a British supersonic research aircraft produced by the Fairey Aviation Company in response to a specification from the Ministry of Supply for investigation into flight and control at transonic and supersonic speeds.

RAF Early Jets - EE Canberra

English Electric's Canberra was a first-generation jet-powered light bomber manufactured in large numbers through the 1950s. It proved to be highly adaptable, serving in such varied roles for tactical bombing, photographic, electronic, and meteorological reconnaissance. The Canberra remained in service with the Royal Air Force until 23 June 2006, 57 years after its first flight. The Canberra could fly at a higher altitude than any other bomber through the 1950s and set a world altitude record of 70,310 ft (21,430m) in 1957. The Canberra had its origins in a 1944 Air Ministry requirement for a successor to the de Havilland Mosquito - that is, a high altitude, high speed bomber with no defensive armament. Several British aircraft manufacturers submitted proposals. Among the companies shortlisted to proceed with development studies was English Electric, a well-established industrial manufacturer with very little aircraft experience. A desperate need for bombers arose during the early years of World War II, when English Electric began to build the Hampden under licence. The new English Electric design team was headed by former Westland chief designer W. E. W. Petter. The aircraft was named Canberra after the capital of Australia by Sir George Nelson, chairman of English Electric, as Australia was the first export customer for the aircraft.In May 1945 a contract was signed, but with the post-war military reductions, the prototype did not fly until May 1949. It was a simple design, looking like a scaled-up Gloster Meteor with a shoulder wing. The fuselage was circular in cross section, tapered at both ends and, cockpit aside, entirely without protrusions; the line of the large, low aspect ratio wings was broken only by the tubular engine nacelles. Although jet-powered, the Canberra design philosophy was very much in the Mosquito mould, i.e. provide room for a substantial bomb load, fit two of the most powerful engines available, and wrap it in the smallest, most aerodynamic package possible. Rather than devote space and weight to defensive armament — which historically could not overcome purpose-designed fighter aircraft — the Canberra was designed to fly fast and high enough to avoid air-to-air combat entirely.

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

RAF Tornado in Afghanistan

Royal Air Force pilots continue to scramble into action in Afghanistan in the same way they did 70 years ago during the Battle of Britain. Tornado GR4 pilots and their navigators from XIII Squadron based in Kandahar are currently on daily standby to provide Ground Close Air Support (GCAS) to UK troops across Helmand province.

Thursday, 26 August 2010

Euro Hawk drone first flight video

A single click to view here

The future of flight is unmanned. These 'predator'-type UAVs (or RPVs - remotely piloted vehicles) are both awesome and sinister at the same time and eerily fascinating. I only recently realised that US drones over Iraq and Afghanistan are being flown from 'home' ie the 'pilots' are back in the US ! At any one time there can be up to three dozen in the skies over these countries. Amazingly they don't fly into each other and if the 'signal' is lost they can either return to base apparently or orbit untill such time as the 'signal' is regained. Apparently more drone pilots are being trained currently than 'real' pilots and the USAF is now training the first group of 'non-pilots' to fly these things.

Lakenheath F 22 Raptors

pics courtesy Graham Haynes and first posted at

Wednesday, 28 July 2010

CF-18 Hornet crash

Pilot Capt. Brian Bews ejects as his a CF-18 fighter jet plummets to the ground during a practice flight at the Lethbridge County Airport on Friday, July 23 2010 for the weekend airshow in Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada. "He is alive and we believe right now that his injuries are non-life-threatening," Canadian Forces Capt. Nicole Meszaros told CBC News.

Tuesday, 27 July 2010

RIAT Air Tattoo 2010 pics ( F-22 Raptor, Typhoon plus Flying Legends, Cambrai and more to come ..!!)

Bought my ticket, booked my campsite berth ..and then got ill in the week prior to the show and didn't go. Luckily friend and colleague Nico Charpentier got there as usual and as he doesn't post his pics anywhere, he has graciously allowed me to use them here. I've cropped them and posted them as low-res pics but if you want to use any just drop us a mail. Strap in and enjoy..cos these are as good as any you'll see anywhere on the net ! Click on the image for a full screen view. Plenty more updates to come...

Wednesday, 7 July 2010

Argentine Walrus

The Argentines purchased a number of 'Shagbats' pre- and post-WWII.

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Victor B.2 XL513 & XL 512 carrying Blue Steel - ebay photo find #57

An original Ministry of Defence photograph of Handley Page Victor B.2 XL513 equipped with a Blue Steel Missile. Note the four Vulcans on...