Posts Tagged ‘F-18’

Australia Suspends Air Strikes in Syria: Government — Escalation of Hostilities — Russia and U.S. in Ugly Debate Over Airspace Management

June 20, 2017

SYDNEY — Australia said on Tuesday it was suspending air strikes into Syria following the U.S. downing of a Syrian military jet on Sunday and Russia’s subsequent threat against U.S.-led coalition aircraft.

“As a precautionary measure, Australian Defence Force (ADF) strike operations into Syria have temporarily ceased,” Australia’s Department of Defence said in a statement.

Russia said on Monday it would treat U.S.-led coalition aircraft flying west of the River Euphrates in Syria as potential targets and track them with missile systems and military aircraft, but stopped short of saying it would shoot them down.

Russia made clear it was changing its military posture in response to the U.S. downing of a Syrian military jet on Sunday, something Damascus said was the first such incident since the start of the country’s conflict in 2011.

(Reporting by James Regan; Editing by Nick Macfie)


© ROYAL AUSTRALIAN AIR FORCE/AFP/File | Royal Australian Air Force F/A-18A Hornets fly in formation after refuelling from a KC-30A on a mission over Syria. Australia has temporarily halted air missions following the shooting down of a Syrian jet by US forces


Credit Vadim Savitsky/Russian Defence, via European Pressphoto Agency

WASHINGTON — Long-running tensions between the United States and Russia erupted publicly on Monday as Moscow condemned the American military’s downing of a Syrian warplane and threatened to target aircraft flown by the United States and its allies west of the Euphrates.

The Russians also said they had suspended their use of a hotline that the American and Russian militaries used to avoid collisions of their aircraft in Syrian airspace.

The episode was the first time the United States downed a Syrian plane since the civil war began there in 2011 and came after the SU-22 jet dropped bombs on Sunday near American-backed fighters combating the Islamic State. It followed another major American military action against the Syrian government: a cruise missile strike to punish a nerve gas attack that killed civilians in April.

The latest escalation comes as competing forces converge on ungoverned swaths of Syria amid the country’s six-year civil war. Syrian forces and Iranian-backed militias that support them are extending their reach east closer to American-backed fighters, including forces that the Pentagon hopes will pursue the militants into the Euphrates River valley after they take the Islamic State’s self-declared capital of Raqqa. The collision of the disparate forces has, in effect, created a war within a war.

 Image may contain: airplane


“The escalation of hostilities among the many factions that are operating in this region doesn’t help anybody,” Sean Spicer, the White House press secretary, told reporters on Monday. President Trump has allowed military commanders more say in conducting operations against the Islamic State, urging them to surround the militants in their strongholds and “annihilate” them.

Russia’s warnings could turn out to be posturing. The Russian military has threatened to halt its use of the hotline in the past — notably after Mr. Trump ordered April’s missile launch — only to continue and even expand its contacts with the United States military. But in the complicated and quickly unfolding situation in Syria, even bluster can risk an unintended showdown.

“Anytime we have multiple armed forces working in the same battle space without de-confliction, there is a dangerous risk of things spinning out of control,” said Douglas E. Lute, a retired three-star Army general who was the United States representative to NATO until January. “Tactical incidents on the ground or in the air over Syria can be misunderstood and lead to miscalculation.”

American military officials rushed to de-escalate the situation, saying they hoped Russia could be persuaded to keep using the hotline.

“This is a delicate couple of hours,” Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said Monday afternoon. He added that the United States would work both diplomatically and militarily “to re-establish de-confliction.”

But the latest statement from Russia’s Defense Ministry was particularly stark. “All flying objects, including planes and drones of the international coalition, detected west of the Euphrates, will be followed by Russian air defense systems as targets,” said the Defense Ministry statement, which stopped short of declaring that the targets would be shot down.

The Pentagon also vowed to continue airstrikes against the Islamic State in Syria.

The downing of the Syrian SU-22 on Sunday, the first time the American military had shot down an enemy plane since an F-16 took down a Soviet-era MIG-29 during the 1999 conflict over Kosovo, was the latest in a series of confrontations between the United States and forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad of Syria.

One previously undisclosed confrontation followed a drone attack on June 8 on American-supported Syrians patrolling alongside their coalition advisers. The weapon was a Shahed 129 drone made by Iran, though American officials said they do not know who directed it.

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Russia To Target U.S. and Coalition Aircraft Over Syria

June 19, 2017

Russia steps up rhetoric after U.S. fighter shoots down Syrian government jet


June 19, 2017 10:33 a.m. ET

MOSCOW—Russia escalated tensions with the United States Monday, promising to actively track U.S. and coalition aircraft over Syria with air defense systems and warplanes, the country’s defense ministry said.

In a statement released Monday, the Russian military said it would treat U.S. and coalition operating west of the Euphrates Rivers as “aerial targets,” but stopped short of threatening a shootdown.

“In regions where the…



Russia warns US-led coalition over downing of Syrian jet


Defence ministry says planes flying west of Euphrates will be treated as targets and that it has suspended safety agreement with US

A US navy F/A-18 Super Hornet
The Pentagon confirmed that a US Navy F/A-18 Super Hornet had shot down a Syrian warplane on Sunday. Photograph: US DoD handout/EPA

Russia’s defence ministry has said it will treat any plane from the US-led coalition flying west of the Euphrates river in Syria as a potential target, after the US military shot down a Syrian air force jet on Sunday.

The ministry also said it was suspending a safety agreement with Washington designed to prevent collisions and dangerous incidents in Syrian airspace.

According to the Pentagon the Syrian jet in question had dropped bombs near US partner forces involved in the fight to wrest Raqqa from Islamic State (Isis) control. It was the first such US attack on a Syrian air force plane since the start of the country’s civil war six years ago.

In an apparent attempt at deescalation, Viktor Ozerov, the chairman of the defence and security committee at the upper chamber of Russian parliament, described the defence ministry’s statement as a warning. “I’m sure that because of this neither the US nor anyone else will take any actions to threaten our aircraft,” he told the state-owned RIA Novosti news agency. “That’s why there’s no threat of direct confrontation between Russia and American aircraft.”

Ozerov said Russia will be tracking the coalition’s jets, not shooting them down, but he added that “a threat for those jets may appear only if they take action that pose a threat to Russian aircraft”.

The deputy foreign minister, Sergei Ryabkov, said the US strike “has to be seen as a continuation of America’s line to disregard the norms of international law.

“What is this if not an act of aggression? It is, if you like, help to those terrorists that the US is fighting against, declaring they are carrying out an anti-terrorism policy.”

The Russian response increases the risk of an inadvertent air fight breaking out between US and Russian warplanes in the skies above Syria.

The US military confirmed that a US Navy F/A-18 Super Hornet had shot down a Syrian SU-22 on Sunday. The US said the Syrian jet had dropped bombs near Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) fighters who are aligned with US forces in the fight against Isis. Damascus said its plane had been on anti-Isis mission.

Col John Thomas, a spokesman for US Central Command, said there were no US forces in the immediate vicinity of the Syrian attack but that the SDF was under threat for more than two hours.

The growing risk of a direct confrontation between the US and Russia follows a decision by Donald Trump to grant his military chiefs untrammelled control of US military strategy in Syria.

Tensions have also been bubbling between Washington and Moscow over efforts to dislodge Isis from its Raqqa stronghold.

Russia, a staunch supporter of Syria’s president, Bashar al-Assad, has been pressing the US to make the removal of Isis a joint land and air operation, but discussions over Syria’s long-term political future appear to have ground to a halt, leaving the US military to operate in a political vacuum.

The SDF, an alliance of Kurdish and Arab fighters working alongside western special forces, said it would take action to defend itself from Syrian warplanes if attacks continued.

The Trump administration has promised to improve arms supplies to the SDF after it concluded that it was the force most capable of freeing Raqqa from Isis.

In a sign of how complex the Syrian peace process has become, Russian-sponsored peace talks in Astana, Kazakhstan, are scheduled to resume on the same day – 10 July – as talks convened by the UN in Geneva.

The Russian foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, announced the date on Monday in the knowledge that it would coincide with the UN schedule. He also said that the UN’s Syria envoy, Staffan de Mistura, would take part.

A spokesman for de Mistura said “the subject is currently being discussed”.

Russia halts US aviation cooperation over downing of Syrian jet

June 19, 2017

AFP, Reuters and The Associated Press

© Omar haj kadour, AFP | A Syrian army jet fires rockets over the village of Rahbet Khattab in Hama province on March 23, 2017.

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2017-06-19

The Russian defence ministry said Monday that it was halting aviation cooperation with the United States after the US downed a Syrian government warplane on Sunday, a move one Russian official described as a clear “act of aggression”.

The Russian defence ministry said it was halting cooperation with Washington within the framework of the Memorandum on the Prevention of Incidents and Ensuring Air Safety in Syria, effective immediately. It also accused the United States of not using the proper communication channels before shooting down the Syrian army jet.

“The command of the coalition forces did not use the established communication channel for preventing incidents in Syrian airspace,” the ministry said, adding that Moscow “ends cooperation with the American side from June 19”.

Moreover, any coalition aircraft flying to the west of the Euphrates will be treated as targets, the defence ministry said.

“Any flying objects, including planes and drones of the international coalition, discovered west of the Euphrates river will be tracked as aerial targets by Russia’s air defences on and above ground.”

URGENT: Russian military halts Syria sky incident prevention interactions with US as of June 19 – Moscow


@RT_comCoalition’s airborne objects in Russian Air Force’s Syria missions areas to be tracked as targets – Moscow

Voir l'image sur Twitter

Russia previously suspended the memorandum of understanding on air safety in April to protest against US airstrikes launched in response to a suspected chemical attack.

Russia’s deputy foreign minister, Sergei Ryabkov, on Monday firmly condemned the United States for shooting down the Syrian plane, calling it an “act of aggression”.

“This strike has to be seen as a continuation of America’s line to disregard the norms of international law,” Ryabkov told journalists in Moscow on Monday, the TASS news agency reported. “What is this if not an act of aggression?”

Ryabkov said the Kremlin had also warned the United States not to use force against the forces of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, a longtime Moscow ally.

A Syrian jet plane

The incident marked the first time an American fighter jet had taken down a Syrian warplane, which Washington accused of attacking US-backed fighters.

The tensions come as the US-led coalition and allied fighters battle to evict the Islamic State (IS) group from its Syrian stronghold of Raqqa.

>> Read more: MSF says 10,000 Syrians flee Raqqa as battle for the city nears

The Syrian jet was shot down after regime forces engaged fighters from the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), an alliance battling IS jihadists with US support, in an area close to Raqqa. The American F/A-18E Super Hornet shot down the Syrian SU-22 around 7pm as it “dropped bombs near SDF fighters” south of the town of Tabqa, the coalition said in a statement.

It said that several hours earlier, regime forces had attacked the SDF in another town near Tabqa, wounding several and driving the SDF from the town.

The coalition said the Syrian warplane had been shot down “in accordance with rules of engagement and in collective self-defence of Coalition partnered forces”.

Syria’s army disputed the account, saying its plane was hit while “conducting a mission against the terrorist Islamic State group”.

It warned of “the grave consequences of this flagrant aggression”.

International imbroglio

The SDF entered Raqqa for the first time earlier this month and now holds four neighbourhoods in the east and west of the city.

In a further escalation of military action in Syria, Iran’s Revolutionary Guard said it launched a series of missiles into Syria on Sunday in revenge for deadly attacks on its capital that were claimed by the Islamic State group. It said the missiles were “in retaliation” for a June 7 attack on the parliament complex and the shrine of revolutionary leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini that killed 17 people.

Assad has focused his forces further east, to the oil-rich province of Deir Ezzor, which is largely under IS group control and where government forces are besieged in part of the provincial capital.

Outside of coalition operations, US forces have only once directly targeted the regime – when Washington launched air strikes against an airbase it said was the launchpad for an alleged chemical attack that killed more than 80 civilians in April.

The Kremlin denounced those US strikes as an “aggression against a sovereign state in violation of international law”.

Syria’s war began in March 2011 with anti-government protests but has since spiralled into a complex and bloody conflict that has killed more than 320,000 people and become a proxy war for regional powers as well as ensnaring the United States and Russia.

Interfax reported that Ryabkov and the US under secretary of state, Thomas Shannon, would meet in St Petersburg on June 23 to discuss persistent tensions in bilateral ties.

(FRANCE 24 with AP, AFP and REUTERS)


The Syrian SU-22 fighter bomber was shot down by an American F18 Super Hornet after it had dropped bombs near the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces north of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil)-held city of Raqqa in northern Syria.

The US, which has special forces troops in the area, had earlier sent a warning to the Syrian military to stop targeting the forces and called on Russia to rein in its ally, but they were ignored.

Russia, which intervened militarily to back the Syrian regime in 2015,on Monday condemned the US action, saying it flouted international law.

“It is, if you like, help to those terrorists that the US is fighting against, declaring they are carrying out an anti-terrorism policy,” Sergei Ryabkov, Russia’s deputy foreign minister, said, adding it was a “dangerous escalation”.

 Image may contain: airplane

Konstantin Kosachev, chairman of the international affairs committee in Russia’s upper house of parliament, said: “It is hard for me to choose any other words but these: if you [the US] can’t help you should at least not interfere. As your ‘efforts’ once again do nothing but help the militants.

“You are fighting the wrong party: it is not the Syrian army that perpetrates terror attacks in European capital cities.”

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The U.S. Navy Must Be Everywhere at Once

April 28, 2017

A recent mishap with the USS Carl Vinson is a case study for rebuilding the fleet to about 350 ships.

The USS Bataan fires a missile during exercises in the Atlantic Ocean, Jan. 11.

The USS Bataan fires a missile during exercises in the Atlantic Ocean, Jan. 11. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE/GETTY IMAGES

The aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson was steaming toward North Korea, the Trump administration insisted two weeks ago. Except that it wasn’t. A Navy press photo showed it thousands of miles away, near Indonesia, and heading south. The official explanation was that the Carl Vinson had to complete a scheduled joint exercise with Australia before turning back to deal with the imminent threat to world peace. The error was compounded by President Trump’s statement that he would be sending submarines “far more powerful than an aircraft carrier”—which is of course absurd.

This episode is a small symptom of America’s weakened Navy. Today, as in the 1920s and ’30s, Washington has forgotten Teddy Roosevelt’s advice to speak softly and carry a big stick. Instead the U.S. lashes out at adversaries with ultimatums, sanctions and embargoes while disarming. Although all branches of the military went through budget and personnel cuts under the Obama administration, the Navy fared the worst. Today the American fleet is less than half the size it was under President Reagan.

Two independent bipartisan commissions have called for the fleet to be increased from its roughly 270 ships to 350, a number President Trump has said he supports. The Navy’s 2016 Force Structure Assessment calls for 355 ships. These proposals weigh budget constraints; otherwise the target would be higher.

During the 1960s the fleet numbered above 800. But after the Vietnam War, the U.S. sought a “peace dividend” and ordered the Navy to do more with less. Historically, a sailor’s maximum deployment was six months away from family in any 18-month period. Today deployments stretch to nine months or longer. Skilled sailors are being worn out, and many of the best are leaving. We have too few ships on too many crucial missions. Without the funding to keep them in repair, they deploy without being combat-ready and are eventually forced into early retirement. Many of the Navy’s combat aircraft are unable to fly without awaiting parts and repair.

Thankfully, Mr. Trump has promised to bolster America’s defenses as Reagan did in the 1980s. Let us hope for a bipartisan defense recovery. The first priority must be for the White House to settle on a national strategy to replace the ad hoc decision-making of the past 20 years. Then the new Navy secretary and the chief of naval operations can create a comprehensive naval strategy to match. This process will provide a framework to prioritize Navy and Marine programs.

As in the Reagan years, there are opportunities to rebuild rapidly. At least eight Perry-class frigates could be reactivated, along with a similar number of Aegis cruisers and a half-dozen supply ships. These combat craft were retired early, some at only half their service life. Outfitting them with updated weapons could create immediate work at ports on all three coasts.

The next step is to reform the overgrown defense bureaucracy and overhaul the Pentagon’s dysfunctional procurement process. According to the Government Accountability Office, cost overruns have ballooned to more than $450 billion over the past two decades. The Navy needs to take authority back from the bureaucracy, end the culture of constant design changes and gold-plating, and bring back fixed-price competition.

Recall the development of the Polaris nuclear-missile system in the late 1950s. The whole package—a nuclear submarine, a solid-fuel missile, an underwater launch system, a nuclear warhead and a guidance system—went from the drawing board to deployment in four years (and using slide rules). Today, according to the Defense Business Board, the average development timeline for much less complex weapons is 22.5 years.

A case in point is the Ford-class aircraft carrier. The program is two years delayed and $2.4 billion over budget. The ship was designed to include 12 new technologies, such as electric instead of steam catapults that had not yet been developed. Many of these systems don’t work after 10 years of trying, and the ship will be delivered to the Navy without fully functional radar and unable to launch or recover aircraft. Yet the defense firms involved still profit under cost-plus contracts.

The three stealthy Zumwalt-class destroyers—they are really heavy cruisers—are another example. The defense bureaucracy produced a seagoing camel costing three times its original estimate and delivered with questionable seaworthiness and without functional radar or a reliable propulsion system. The program should be terminated and the three contracted ships kept purely for special operations.

The Navy urgently needs to replace the Perry-class frigates, built in the 1980s and now all retired. Instead of designing a ship from scratch, the Navy could update the Perry plans to include modern sonar, radar and missiles. Or it could adapt one of two European frigates for American construction. The 26 small coastal LCS ships now under contract are enough. That design cannot be modified into a frigate, so the program should be terminated.

The Navy is also short on aircraft, with roughly half the number needed to maintain even the current force structure. The Pentagon should make the F-35 compete against the F-18 to establish the optimum—and lowest-cost—mix of both aircraft. In the future, drones will play an important role on carriers and may evolve into the dominant system. But that day is not yet here.

President Reagan showed that 90% of the benefits from restoring American command of the seas are reaped immediately. President Trump will learn the same. Russia, with its professional but small one-carrier navy, cannot challenge a rebuilt U.S. Navy. The Chinese are at least two decades away from matching American capabilities. With renewed commitment to naval and military superiority, American diplomacy will instantly regain credibility.

Mr. Lehman, secretary of the Navy under President Reagan, is the author of the forthcoming “Oceans Ventured, Oceans Gained” (W.W. Norton).

Appeared in the Apr. 28, 2017, print edition.

Germany says new fault in problem-plagued Eurofighter

October 14, 2015


A German eurofighter prepares for take off at the Amari Air Base in Harjumaa, Estonia on September 9, 2015

BERLIN (AFP) –  Germany’s army on Wednesday confirmed yet another problem with Eurofighter combat planes, a day after it said it was suspending deliveries of the aircraft over a technical flaw.An army spokesman said the external fuel tank of one of the jets fell off as it was preparing for takeoff last week.

“The aircraft was immobilised and tests are under way,” the spokesman, Roman Ladenko, told AFP, confirming a report in the daily Sueddeutsche Zeitung.

As a result of the incident, which occurred at an air base in Estonia, the army had stopped Eurofighters from flying unless their external fuel tanks were removed.

“That’s a problem because without these external tanks, our fighter planes do not have sufficient autonomy to fly over the Baltic Sea,” Ladenko said.

On Tuesday the army said it was halting Eurofighter deliveries over a technical fault in the fuselage.

The Eurofighter consortium on Wednesday told AFP that there was indeed a “non-conformity” issue with four drill holes on the back of the fuselage.

Nevertheless, the group’s spokesman Theodor Benien said the issue had “not affected the safety of aircraft delivered to our customers”.

The Eurofighter Typhoon is Europe’s largest collaborative defence programme — a partnership between Italy’s Finmeccanica, Britain’s BAE Systems and European aerospace group Airbus.

But its woes have allowed its competitors — Boeing’s Super Hornet F18 and France’s Dassault Rafale — to pick up several major orders.

In what might be another blow for the European consortium, the newspaper Die Welt reported on Wednesday that the group’s plans to develop a new radar for the plane were facing several months of delay.

The plan for a new radar was announced officially only in November 2014, but it is already running “five months late” with a budget overrun of about 80 million euros, the newspaper reported, quoting a confidential report of the German defence ministry.

Germany’s defence minister, Ursula von der Leyen, has declined comment on the report.

Putin orders ‘mass surprise drill’ of 12,000 soldiers in response to Nato’s two-week ‘Arctic Challenge’ as tensions over Ukraine increase

May 26, 2015
  • Moscow launched a four-day drill featuring 12,000 soldiers and 250 aircraft
  • Just the latest huge show of Russian military strength over the past year
  • Drill began on the same day as Nato and its allies launched a massive ‘reassurance’ operation in the Arctic 
  • West sent 100 aircraft and 4,000 servicemen to join in aviation exercises

Russia has launched a massive ‘surprise’ military drill featuring 12,000 soldiers and 250 aircraft in response to two weeks of Nato exercises in the Arctic, as tensions in Europe continue to escalate.

The Russian manoeuvres – which began in the Ural mountains and western Siberia yesterday – are intended to help the military prepare for an even larger drill in September, called Tsentr-2015.

This week’s drills began on the same day as Nato launched its own long-planned military exercises in the Arctic, where 100 aircraft and 4,000 servicemen from Germany, Britain, France, Netherlands and the U.S., are taking part in a Norway-led aviation exercise described as the ‘largest of its kind’.

Non-Nato allies Finland, Sweden and Switzerland have also joined the so-called ‘Arctic Challenge’.

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Patrol: Norwegian Air Force F-16 fighter jets flies over Lithuania during exercises last week. Moscow responded to Nato's actions with a a massive 'surprise' military drill featuring 12,000 soldiers and 250 aircraft

Patrol: Norwegian Air Force F-16 fighter jets flies over Lithuania during exercises last week. Moscow responded to Nato’s actions with a a massive ‘surprise’ military drill featuring 12,000 soldiers and 250 aircraft

Protection: An Italian Air Force Eurofighter Typhoon fighter flies over Zokniai air base near Siauliai, Lithuania earlier this week as part of a Nato air policing mission in the Baltics

Protection: An Italian Air Force Eurofighter Typhoon fighter flies over Zokniai air base near Siauliai, Lithuania earlier this week as part of a Nato air policing mission in the Baltics

Concern: Nato officials meet in Brussels to discuss military policy, including growing tensions with Russia

Concern: Nato officials meet in Brussels to discuss military policy, including growing tensions with Russia

The Russian military (red) is slightly smaller  the United States (blue) but still dwarfs that of the UK (green)

The Russian military (red) is slightly smaller the United States (blue) but still dwarfs that of the UK (green)

After its annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea region in March 2014, Russia has held numerous large-scale military drills checking combat readiness.

The focus of the drills is on developing a command system in field conditions as well as setting up all-round aviation security measures in new base areas.

The drills in the Central Military District have been reinforced by units from the Western and Southern military districts, the ministry added, as well as long-range aircraft.

However this week’s huge show of strength has been widely interpreted as a direct response to Nato’s exercises in the Arctic, which Moscow has roundly condemned as antagonistic.

For its part, Nato has insisted its own exercises do nothing more than provide reassurance to its eastern member states and non-Nato allies – including several former Soviet republics who have expressed fears that Russia may attempt to invade their territory.

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Not happy: This week's huge show of strength has been widely interpreted as a direct response to Nato's exercises in the Arctic, which Vladimir Putin (pictured this morning) has condemned as antagonistic

Not happy: This week’s huge show of strength has been widely interpreted as a direct response to Nato’s exercises in the Arctic, which Vladimir Putin (pictured this morning) has condemned as antagonistic

Russian serviceman march during the Victory Day parade, on a day when Russia showcased its new military hardware

Show of strength: Russian servicemen march during the Victory Day parade in Moscow earlier this month. Russian used the day as an excuse to showcase its new military hardware

Soviet SU-100 tank destroyers drive during the Victory Day parade - Russia used the event to highlight its formidable military defence

Powerful: Soviet SU-100 tank destroyers drive through central Moscow during the Victory Day parade earlier this month. Russia used the event to highlight its formidable military defence

A Russian strategic ballistic missile RS-24 Yars launching vehicle is watched on by serviceman as it moves through Red Square

A Russian strategic ballistic missile RS-24 Yars launching vehicle is watched on by serviceman as it moves through Red Square during the Victory Day anniversary celebrations earlier this month

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About 100 U.S., European jets join Arctic exercise near Russia

May 25, 2015



About 100 fighter jets from the United States and eight European nations began an Arctic training exercise in the Nordic nations on Monday, a region worried by increased Russian military activity.

The exercise, based in the north of Norway, Sweden and Finland with 4,000 personnel, is meant to test cooperation among Arctic nations near Russia. It was planned before Moscow’s annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea region last year raised regional tensions.

“The aim is to exercise and train units in the orchestration and conduct of complex air operations, in close relations to NATO partners,” Norwegian brigadier general Jan Ove Rygg, heading the exercise, said in a statement.

The exercise, lasting from May 25 to June 5, is one of the biggest fighter jet exercises in Europe this year and the second of its type after one in 2013. Plans are for exercises every second year, testing everything from shooting down airborne targets to mid-air refueling.

NATO members involved were the United States, Germany, Britain, France, the Netherlands and Norway, as well as non-members Sweden, Finland and Switzerland, which are linked to the alliance via NATO’s partnership for peace.

Russia has stepped up military activity around the Nordic and Baltic region. Incursions into airspace have especially rattled the Baltic states and Sweden last year hunted in vain for a suspected submarine in its waters.

(Reporting by Alister Doyle; Editing by Andrew Heavens)


Arctic Challenge Exercise 2015

In 2015 one of Europe’s largest fighter jet exercise is to take place in the Nordic countries, more than 4000 persons participating, with Norway as lead nation.

​Norway is lead nation as nearly a hundred fighter jets from nine nations gather for ajoint training exercise from 25 May to 5 June.

Arctic Challenge Exercise 2015 (ACE 2015) evolved from a Swedish exercise, Nordic Air Meet, and cross border training between the Nordic neighbours Sweden and Finland, back in 2009. The training exercise will take place in the High North, with the activity being divided between Bodø in Norway, Rovaniemi in Finland, and Kallax in Sweden.

One of the largest of its k​ind

“This is the second time the multinational training exercise is carried out, the first being in 2013. The plan forward is to continue every other year. Even though Norway, Sweden and Finland are the host nations, all of the participating countries contribute to the planning, which helps build our national and allied capability to lead air operations,” says Brigadier General Jan Ove Rygg, head of RNoAF’s National Air Operations Center (NAOC), and ACE 2015 exercise director.

He continues, “The aim is to exercise and train units in the orchestration and conduct of complex air operations, in close relations to NATO partners. The unique cross border air space makes ACE 2015 a one of a kind training ground for increasing interoperability and skills in all parts of the chain.”


Colorful Jet Stream

“We are getting great operational take-backs with such large scenarios and tactical training,” says Major Trond Ertsgaard at Bodø Main Air Station.

Together with neighbors, allies and NAOC, he is now fully focused on planning the substantial exercise.

In addition to the well-known F-16, Nordic air space will be filled with F-18, Hawk T1, Tornado GR4, Mirage 2000, Eurofighter Typhoon, and Jas 39 Gripen, among others. Furthermore, a number of NATO AWACS jets, transportation jets and tankers, and DA-20 Jet Falcons will all have supporting roles.

Large Operational Are​as

The exercise consists of a wide range of scenario drills and cooperation between the three host bases, with large operational areas available both in Norway and surrounding the other main bases.

“There is going to be two flight periods per day. The first one will focus on training with units stationed at the same base, with flights taking place in the surrounding air space,” Ertsgaard explains.

This includes everything from weapon delivery, both against grounded and airborne targets, and combating simulated anti-air artillery, to low-level flying and mid-air refueling.

“The second period comprises of composite air operations where all aircraft meet, mainly in Swedish air space, for a vast setup.”​​​

Air Strikes Targeted Khorasan Group — Plotting attacks on West

September 24, 2014


Islamic State damage after air strikes, September 23, 2014.  (AP Photo/Edlib News Network ENN)

By Geoff Earle and Kate Sheehy
The New York Post

The first punishing wave of US missiles in Syria targeted an al-Qaeda terror cell that was “nearing the execution phase’’ of a plot to sneak explosives onto a plane in America or Europe, officials said Tuesday.

The mysterious Khorasan Group is believed to have been devising a nonmetallic bomb that could get past airport metal detectors by being hidden in a toothpaste container or in clothes dipped in explosives, sources told CNN.

The plot was only discovered in the past week, the sources said.

“Once again, it must be clear to anyone who would plot against America and try to do Americans harm that we will not tolerate safe havens for terrorists who threaten our people,’’ President Obama said at the White House before heading to the United Nations, where he is expected to address the war on ISIS Wednesday.

This still image made from video released by the U.S. Central Command on Tuesday, Sept. 23, 2014, shows a structure in Tall Al Qitar, Syria moments after a U.S. airstrike. In three waves of nighttime attacks launched over four hours early on Tuesday, the U.S. and its Arab partners made more than 200 airstrikes against roughly a dozen militant targets in Syria. (AP Photo/US Central Command) AP

Arab support for the airstrikes “makes it clear to the world this is not America’s fight alone,” Obama said, referring to the five Arab countries that participated in the attack.

US officials said the military campaign will be long and relentless.

“I can tell you that last night’s strikes were only the beginning,’’ Rear Adm. John Kirby said.

The Pentagon released video and photos of targeted sites before and after the attacks — showing many reduced to rubble.

There were three waves of airstrikes Monday — the first involving only US warplanes and mainly targeting training camps of the Khorasan Group, explosives warehouses and communications and other control centers in eastern and northern Syria.

In total, U.S. Central Command conducted eight strikes against Khorasan Group targets west of Aleppo to include training camps, an explosives and munitions production facility, a communication building and command and control facilities.

The Khorasan Group had been focused on recruiting and training American and European extremists with passports for its bomb plots, authorities said. It had recently been testing bombs in Syria.

“The Khorasan Group is clearly not focused on either the Assad regime or the Syrian people,” said Lt. Gen. William Mayville, director of operations for the Joint Chiefs of Staff. “They are establishing roots in Syria in order to advance attacks against the West and the homeland.”

Two more strikes — this time with the help of aircraft from the Arab allies — targeted ISIS’s headquarters, training camps and combat vehicles, officials said.

ISIS has executed two US journalists and a British aid worker in horrific beheadings it claimed were payback for US airstrikes against it in Iraq.

In response to Monday’s attack against them in Syria, ISIS thugs released a new online video in which British hostage John Cantlie was forced — for the second time in less than a week — to act as their mouthpiece.

The coerced, haggard-looking Cantlie said the US had just started “Gulf War III,’’ adding, “Not since Vietnam have we witnessed such a potential mess in the making.”

Outside Baghdad on Tuesday, ISIS members also paraded exhausted-looking captured Iraqi soldiers through the streets.

“It is not just about warheads on foreheads,” Kirby said of the United States’ attempt to bring both terror groups to their knees. “It is about degrading the capability to operate, command and control.”

B-1 bombers, F-16, F-18 and F-22 Raptor stealth fighters and drones were among the warplanes deployed to nail 22 sites, firing off a total of 200 missiles.

Flight deck of USS George H.W. Bush prepares to aunch

Among the areas targeted were Raqqa, an ISIS stronghold, and around Syria’s largest city, Aleppo.

Some missiles were fired from the USS Arleigh Burke in the Red Sea, as well as from the USS Philippine Sea and the USS George H.W. Bush in the northern Persian Gulf, authorities said. Others came from aircraft that took off from undisclosed bases in the area.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the president of Turkey, a NATO member, suggested on Tuesday that his country would soon participate, too.

“We will give the necessary support to the operation. The support could be military or logistics,’’ he said.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported up to 70 militants dead and another 300 wounded in the attacks.

The al-Qaeda offshoot al-Nusra Front said its leader, Abu Yousef al-Turki, was among those killed.

The Syrian human-rights group said at least eight civilians, including three children, also died in the assault. None of those figures could be immediately confirmed.

“We warned Syria not to engage US aircraft. We did not request the [Syrian] regime’s permission,’’ said State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki.

In a related development, the wife of British hostage Alan Henning said she received an audio recording of her husband being held by ISIS and pleading for his life.

ISIS previously posted photos of Alan Henning dressed in orange clothes and kneeling before a black-clad fiend holding a knife.

Russian fighters intercepted by U.S. near Alaska

September 20, 2014

Washington (AFP) – Two Russian fighters entered a US “air defense identification zone” two days ago and were intercepted by American F-22 jets near Alaska, military officers said.

The incursion on Wednesday was followed by a second incident on Thursday involving two Russian long-range bombers, which flew into Canada’s air defense identification zone (ADIZ) and were intercepted by two Canadian F-18 jets, officers said.

In this photo released by the U.S. Navy, an F/A-18 Hornet from aboard the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz, escorts a Russian Tupolev 95 Bear long rang bomber aircraft on Feb. 9, 2008

In this photo released by the U.S. Navy, an F/A-18 Hornet from aboard the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz, escorts a Russian Tupolev 95 Bear long rang bomber aircraft on Feb. 9, 2008 / AP

In both cases the Russian aircraft flew out of the area without incident.

The Russian warplanes “never entered US sovereign air space” or Canadian air space, said Major Jamie Humphries, a spokesman for the North American Aerospace Defense Command.

In Wednesday’s encounter near Alaska, the Russian fighters were accompanied by two refueling tankers and two long-range bombers, he said.

Although Russian aircraft have entered the zone previously it was “the first time in a long time” that fighter jets passed through the area, said a US defense official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

To safeguard a country’s air space, air defense identification zones extend beyond territorial air space and are designed as a buffer to give a government more time to respond to potentially hostile aircraft. But the zones do not fall under international treaties and are not regulated under international law.

The Russian aircraft flights coincided with a visit by Ukraine’s President Petro Poroshenko to Washington, where he made an impassioned address Thursday before a joint session of the US Congress, denouncing Russia’s military intervention in his country.

But Pentagon spokesman Rear Admiral John Kirby said there was no indication of a link between Poroshenko’s visit to Washington and the air incidents.

“We’ve faced these kinds of incidents before. We take them very, very seriously. And we routinely intercept them,” Kirby told CNN.

“We’ll make our intentions known to Russia as we always do and we’ll certainly discuss our concerns with them at the appropriate time and in the appropriate venue.”

It was unclear if the Russian aircraft were in the area due to exercises announced by Moscow in far-eastern regions, including the off-shore naval training grounds of the Kamchatka region.

The Vostok-2014 exercise started on Friday and was scheduled to last through September 25 and included 100,000 troops and 120 aircraft, according to the Russian defense ministry.

In Wednesday’s encounter near Alaska, the Russian aircraft veered into the air defense zone at about 7 pm local time (0200 GMT). In Thursday’s episode near Canada, the Russian bombers flew into the area at about 1:30 am local time (0830 GMT).



An American F-22 jet fighter

An American F-22 jet fighter Photo: Time Life Pictures/Getty Images

Iraq: U.S. Flying Armed Combat Surveillance Flights

June 19, 2014


  • US is describing the sorties as surveillance flights
  • The aircraft are heavily armed fighter jets, however
  • Iraq’s prime minister has asked President Obama for air strikes to combat ISIS

By David Martosko, U.S. Political Editor

The United States began flying surveillance missions over Iraq in F-18 Super Hornet fighter jets on Wednesday, it emerged late in the afternoon.

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has asked President Obama for air strikes against the Islamist offshoots of al-Qaeda who have been carving a wide swath through his country.

So far the White House has been unwilling to agree, but the surveillance missions mark the first declared U.S. flyovers since American troops left Iraq at the end of 2011.

Deployment: F-18 launches off the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush during flight operations in the Arabian Gulf after the ship was deployed into the Gulf in response to the crisis in Iraq

MH-60R Sea Hawk helicopter lands on the aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush during flight operations in the Arabian Gulf on June 17, 2014

MH-60R Sea Hawk helicopter lands on the aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush during flight operations in the Arabian Gulf on June 17, 20

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Reports first surfaced on Twitter from ABC, NBC and Fox News about the sorties, which are taking off and landing on the USS George H.W. Bush, an aircraft carrier in the Persian Gulf.

The Obama administration had already authorized ‘manned and unmanned’ surveillance flights, Fox News reported. But F-18s are not surveillance aircraft.

They are attack planes.

A U.S. official hinted to Fox that part of the strategy is to project strength by rolling out the big guns even on routine video and photo missions.

‘It’s not so much about looking as it is being seen,’ the official said.

The White House told reporters on Wednesday afternoon that the president is still undecided about whether to commit military force to the country that once hosted 143,000 American servicemen and women.

Obama met with senior leaders of Congress from both major political parties at 3:00 p.m. Wednesday. A White House statement following that meeting said he emphasized his position that Iraq’s leaders should ‘set aside sectarian agendas and to come together with a sense of national unity’ in order to quell Shia-on-Sunni armed conflicts.

Obama, the statement said, also reviewed his ‘options for increased security assistance’ to Iraq.

The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), which until recently was known as ‘Al-Qaeda in Iraq,’ has captured Mosul, Tikrit, Tal Afar and parts of Iraq near the capital city of Baghdad.


US President Barack Obama meets with Congressional leadership including Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (2nd R), Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (L), House Speaker John Boehner (2nd L), and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (R), in the Oval Office of the White House on June 18, 2014 in Washington, DC. The leaders met to discuss strategy on Iraq

The big picture: ISIS has taken the red-shaded areas in this map and are making progress in their advance toward Baghdad