416th Flight Test Squadron at Red Flag 2-12

Air Force pilots during the Vietnam War normally had a tour of 100 missions over North Vietnam. A disproportionate number of losses occurred during the first 10 missions of a tour. Pilots were simply overwhelmed by the requirements of flying combat in an incredibly dense air defense environment, in larger strike packages than they had ever practiced before.

Accordingly, the Air Force instituted Red Flag, an ongoing series of massive mock air battles over the Southwestern United States, with the goal of giving each aircrew its “first 10” in peacetime, rather than actual war. Large numbers of squadrons accross the entire spectrum of airpower would deploy to Nellis AFB just outside of Las Vegas. This package would closely resemble the actual force composition of a real air campaign, if on a somewhat smaller scale. Dedicated adversary fighter squadrons would play the role of an opposing air force. Complex, realistic ground based air defense threats were seeded throughout the training area, all in an attempt to provide a scenario that was “more real” than the real thing.

To this day, Red Flag is the capstone training exercise for Air Force units.

Friend of the blog ORPO1, a retired Navy Petty Officer, currently makes his living working as a contractor for the US Air Force, supporting the 416th Flight Test Squadron, responsible for ongoing engineering development for the F-16 Fighting Falcon. As as ED effort, the 416th, despite flying fighters, is an asset of Air Force Material Command.

In an unusual effort to provide a more realistic test environment, and validate the skills of the test pilots, the 416th deployed to Red Flag 2-12. And ORPO1 was right there with them. If you watch closely, you might even see his bald head a time or two.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mZVz0gOxmJo]

A bit more on Swamp Heathen 1

If you don’t mind indulging me.  His daughters had printed out my post and displayed it at the funeral service.  Also on display was this shadowbox Don had put together years ago (as well as one with his NASA pins for various missions).

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I had not recognized the award between Don’s Silver Star and Bronze Star. When I told XBrad it looked like a Legion of Merit, he said that was usually for generals and colonels as a farewell gesture, that it was unusual for an enlisted man to get one. See for yourself, and believe me, no Stolen Valor here. The part I messed up was thinking he was E-8 and not E-7, and that was entirely my presumption that anyone who made sergeant at 19 would have been promoted more than twice in 18 years.

The Headline Tells You All You Need to Know, Part 3

We have had a bear eating a chimp at a Chinese circus…  and a taxpayer-funded researcher doing who-knows-what to some monkeys in a university lab.

Now, the tell-all headline comes to us from The Oregonian.

Alleged masturbating man in Salem bar arrested after Taser proves ineffective, officials say

There isn’t much to add, except maybe this:

A bartender told authorities that Frey exposed his genitals and started masturbating at the bar, officials said. By the time a Marion County deputy arrived on scene, Frey had moved from the bar to the bathroom, but reportedly had not stopped pleasuring himself.

So what’s the guy say when someone asks “How was your weekend?”

MIRV’d

When I saw Dave Cenciotti’s post on this clip of Russian ICBM reentry vehicles impacting the Kura Range, I was planning on sharing a wealth of information on the engineering of a warhead bus in deploying warheads to independent targets, as well as decoys and other penetration aids.

But life got in the way, so all you get is the clip, and just a bit of commentary.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1WagAKBuc_o&w=448&h=252&hd=1]

ICBM warheads reach a top velocity of around Mach 25, but they also decelerate as they return from space. The earliest US reentry vehicle, the Mk4, used a blunt body for best heat disipation and to fit the relatively large physics package. That blunt shape meant the Mk4 was actually subsonic by the time it reached the surface.

No Pull-Up Requirement for Female Marines

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Well, it appears that the requirement for ALL Marines to do pull-ups as a part of the USMC Physical Fitness Test has been postponed.  No word on when such a requirement would be implemented.   The reason?   Female Marines could not do pull-ups.  The story was covered by NPR.  More than half the female Marines, fifty-five percent, were reportedly unable to complete the three pull-up minimum the new standard would call for.  Ann Althouse, in the last line of her blog post on the subject, tries to strike a hopeful tone by asserting that a 45% passing rate of the minimum standard is a a surprisingly high number.   On this, at least, I agree with her.  But I am quite skeptical of that 45% figure.

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My guess with this latest instance is that the sample was quite carefully chosen, and a fair number of that supposed 45% did ALMOST three pull-ups, but were gun-decked into being counted as three.   Evolution probably hasn’t had much effect in the two decades since I was at Parris Island.  You see, women trying pull-ups not a new topic, nor is trying to train women to male standards a new line of thinking.  When I was in the Recruit Training Regiment at Parris Island in the late 80s and early 90s, various attempts were made to see if women could do pull-ups.   The answer, largely, was a negative.  Even among female Drill Instructors, the numbers who could do a single pull-up were quite low.  I had a number of female DIs work for me in the medical rehab platoon, and they volunteered to try.  Most couldn’t do any pull-ups.  Only two could do more than one pull-up, and just one, a gymnast and 300-PFT Marine who was also a body builder, did more than 3.  She managed eleven, if I recall correctly, and that was the talk of the DI circles for weeks.   Other attempts to increase upper-body and running requirements in the female curriculum in order to get closer to male standards resulted invariably in an injury rate that was unacceptably high.

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Which brings us to the minimum standard of three pull-ups.   I don’t ever remember a single male Marine in the fleet or support unit who could only do three pull-ups.  I dug through my old Recruit Series records from 1991 and 1992, and the average number of pull-ups by a male recruit for two series on the final PFT were 18.7 and 18.1 pull-ups, respectively.   One platoon, Platoon 3088, had every recruit do 20 pull-ups.    The physical disparity between an average male Marine and female Marine is gigantic.  When one examines the Marines in Combat Arms MOSs, infantry and artillery and armor, the disparity is even more pronounced.   Because ground combat requires every last bit of strength and physical conditioning and endurance that can be mustered.   It is, even before introducing all the other very significant problems with females in ground combat units, a matter of life or death for the unit and the individuals in it.  Whether DACOWITS or women’s advocates and activists like it or not.

Just to be clear in my assertions, I am not questioning the courage or patriotism of female Marines.  Nor am I saying they should not be trained in combat skills.   Nor will I assert they will not see some combat.  We already to train them to fight, and I have served in combat alongside a few, and for the most part, they did just fine.  But there is a wide chasm between the incidental combat we were engaged in, even if it was a frequent occurrence, and being in the sustained ground combat of the type an infantry, artillery, or armored unit is expected to face.  (Those projectiles being unloaded weigh 95 pounds each, by the way.  Ammo trucks often have to be unloaded several times a day, in all weather, with projectiles being carried for several hundred yards each trip.)

While there are a small handful of females who could pass basic infantry training, the effect of sustained physical hardship, heat, cold, lack of sleep, carrying heavy loads day after day for weeks, requirements for exhausting physical labor, challenges of hygiene and diet, are sure to physically break those females.  And long before it breaks them, it renders them combat ineffective, with the concomitant loss of unit cohesion and effectiveness.  Captain Kate Petronio was not whistling dixie.  And, it seems, the Marine Corps is forced to admit she was right.

Who is driving this agenda? I am not personally hearing female Marines, enlisted or officer, pounding on the doors of Congress claiming that their inability to serve in the infantry violates their right to equality. Shockingly, this isn’t even a congressional agenda. This issue is being pushed by several groups, one of which is a small committee of civilians appointed by the Secretary of Defense called the Defense Advisory Committee on Women in the Service (DACOWITS).
Captain Petronio could well have mentioned NPR and feminist activists like Ms. Althouse.   But facts and experience continue to bear out the sheer stupidity of women in combat arms.  Don’t take my word for it.
[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fy–whDNNKk]
H/t: xbrad

LASD Super Puma

So I flipped on KCAL 9’s news to see the familiar green/gold paint job of a Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department helicopter conducting a SAR mission near Pasadena. But instead of the familiar surplus SH-3H Sea King, I was surprised to see an AS332 Super Puma.

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As it turns out, LASD’s Aero Division just bought three used Super Pumas to replace the SH-3H fleet.

On Wednesday, October 3, 2012 in Long Beach the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department Aero Bureau held a press conference to unveil the new Super Puma Helicopters.
The County of Los Angeles recently approved the acquisition of three previously owned Eurocopter AS 332L1 Super Puma helicopters by the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department (LASD) Aero Bureau. These ships will replace the aging former United States Navy Sikorsky SH-3H Sea Kings currently operated by Sheriff’s Aero Bureau.
With parts and support for the three H-3’s becoming more expensive and difficult to obtain, the decision was made to replace them. The three AS 332L1’s that LASD is obtaining will continue the long tradition of the Department’s Air Rescue-5 program.

Anybody know who the original operator was?

By the way, the US Navy has a couple Pumas under contract to conduct Vertical Replenishment from some of its logistics ships.

And the hikers the LASD picked up today? Looks like they’re safe and sound.

The PLAAF Aggressor Program

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The unit insignia for PLAAF’s FTTC.

While there isn’t a lot of information in the public domain regarding what we term in the West as “aggressor squadrons” in China, there is some out there in books and various online sources.

What we do know is that the main unit for the PLAAF (China’s People’s Liberation Army Air Force) to simulate what they call “Blue-Force (the OPFOR in the West is usually called “Red Force”)” combat simulation operations is called the Flight Test and Training Centre (FTTC). The FTTC traces it’s lineage to the 11th Aviation School that was established in 1953 in Huxian, Shaanxi Province. FTTC was established in 1987 and is located at Cangzhou, (the airfield is located about 10 miles northeast of the center of the city) in the Hebei Province, located in the Beijing Military Region (an FTTC detachment of J-10s is also located at Juicheng).

The FTTC is organized into 3 regiments which simulate enemy (mainly Western) aircraft. The 1st FTTC Regiment operates the J-10A/AS (these are mostly pre-production machines) and the JL-9. The 2nd FTTC Regiment operates the J-7E,J-8D/F, and JL-9. The 3rd Regiment operates the Su-30MKK. The J-10 probably simulates the F-16F/A-18MiG-29F-CK-1F-2Mirage 2000RafaleTyphoon and other similar types operated by potential enemies. The J-7, J-8, and JL-9 probably simulate older former Soviet types (MiG-1517,192123s) and American built F-5s and F-4s still operated by China’s potential enemies. The Su-30MKK probably simulates primarily the F-15 and F/A-18E/F but also the F-14 and SU-27 series (they use to simulate F-16s before the arrival of the J-10).

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PLAAF SU-30MKK from the FTTC’s 3rd Regiment.
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PLAAF J-7E from the FTTC’s 2nd Regiment.
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A division of PLAAF J-7Es from the FTTC’s 2nd Regiment.
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A PLAAF J-10A from the FTTCs 1st Regiment. Note the “Aggressor” color scheme.
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A PLAAF J-10As from the FTTCs 1st Regiment. Note the “Aggressor” color scheme.

Operationally, not much is known about the syllabus of the FTTC. We do know that the FTTC maintains a personnel exchange agreement with the Russian Airforce Lipetsk training school to improve tactics and training. As with other “post-graduate” fighter training schools, they the crews are highly regarded within the PLAAF fighter community.

In 2011, the 3rd Regiment of the FTTC traveled to Pakistan to excerise with the Pakistani Air Force. 2 SU-30MKKs and a 12 member ground crew deployed to PAF Bases Chaklala, Minhas, and Mushaf. They contact DACT (dissimilar air combat training) against the PAF’s Mirage IIIMirage 5P, and the JF-17. IL-78 tankers and Saab 340 AEW&C aircraft were also involved in these excerises called “Shaheen-1.”

Shaheen-1 is recalled here. Another interesting anecdote in the article is the development of a TACTS system for the PLAAF:

The PAF and PLAAF, along with companies like China’s CETC International and Pakistan’s Wah cantonment-based Advanced Engineering Research Organization (AERO), have, since 2008, been also working together on developing a rangeless dissimilar air combat training system (DACTS) and an air combat manoeuvring instrumentation (ACMI) system, both of which, by using GPS technology, allow pilots to train in any available airspace without reliance on a ground-based, tethered range. A rangeless ACMI system can support up to 100 high-activity aircraft and up to 100 simultaneous weapons-launch simulations in a single training exercise. While the IAF had acquired two sets of ‘EHUD’ rangeless DACTS/ACMI training aids worth US$42 million from Israel Aircraft Industries’ (IAI) MLM Division in the late 1990s, and followed it by acquiring a supplementary system—comprising digital video-cum-data recorders (DVDR) and ground debriefing systems (GDS)—for its Su-30MKIs from Israel’s RADA Electronic Industries Ltd, such training aids have, to date, remained elusive for both the PAF and PLAAF due to US and EU export control regulations imposed since the late 1980s. The kind of DACTS/ACMI systems now sought by China and Pakistan are presently made by companies such as DIEHL/BGT Defence GmbH of Germany (maker of the Flight Profile Recorder system), US-based DRS Defense Solutions Inc and Cubic Defense Systems, Israel’s IAI/MLM Division RADA Electronic Industries Ltd, Singapore’s Prescient Systems & Technologies (a subsidiary of Singapore’s ST Electronics), and Dong Ji Inter-Tech of South Korea. Given the unavailability of DACTS/ACMI systems being made available for export from Europe, Israel and the US, it appears highly likely that the PAF and PLAAF will eventually procure such systems from the Far East.

The rangeless DACTS/ACMI system being sought by the PAF and PLAAF will have four main elements: the ACMI pod, DVDR, real-time monitoring station (RTMS), and GDS. Designed with the same aerodynamics performance of an actual air combat missile, the ACMI pod is an exact replica of the air combat missile whose performance needs to be simulated. The homogeny includes its physical dimensions, weight, mechanical and, electrical and electromagnetic interference characteristics. The pod allows for real-time data transmission, reception and relay between the aircraft and a ground-based RTMS, as well as a GDS for combat outcome assessment and debriefing. The ACMI pod, incorporated with GPS technology, is retrofitted on to the aircraft. The flight data is captured and recorded in data cartridges that can be easily removed for after-action review at the RTMS or GDS. The combat and flight data of the air crew is relayed by the pod to the RTMS. This data is then used to monitor the training scenarios in real-time as well as to conduct post-flight debrief during the after-action reviews. Data recorded and stored by the DVDR is used to reconstruct the spatial flight patterns of all participating aircraft, superimposed on a three-dimensional representation of the mission terrain. Data among all aircraft is automatically synchronised by the GDS. When two screens are used (one for three-dimensional imagery, the other for video), both displays are synchronised as well with no user intervention. All viewing angles and directions, whether from within the cockpits or outside, are user-selectable and adjustable. The GDS is capable of conducting simultaneous, synchronised recording and playback of numerous digital channels, carrying audio and video from multiple sources. The system supports specialty features such as simulation and analysis tools for mission debriefing, and military unit data management. Utilising COTS-based PC technology, the GDS is designed for advanced squadron-level post-flight debriefing.

Note that this article makes reference to a unit called “8th PLAAF Flight Academy.” At the time of writing, this unit no longer exists and was absorbed in into the 13th PLAAF Flight Academy which itself became the PLAAF’s “Aviation University Instructor Training Base.”

Since 2011 there’s no further update about the system but since it’s based on Commercial Off-The-Shelf technology I would image that it’s already deployed for use by the PLAAF.

There also isn’t further information on any other deployments that the FTTC may have made to foreign countries.

Sources:

Respective aircraft Wikipedia pages.

Modern Chinese Warplanes.

International Air Power Review Volume 22.

China Defense Blog.

Information Dissemination.

FJ-2 Fury

Around 1944, the Navy started to get interesting in a jet powered, carrier capable fighter. The advent of jets in the European theater, coupled with the diminishing  returns of increased horsepower of piston engines meant sooner or later then Navy would have to operate jet powered fighters simply to keep up.

North American Aviation (NAA), with little experience working on Navy products, put forward a proposal for what was essentially a jet powered P-51 Mustang. The Wings and empennage were very similar to its piston engined predecessor.

Designated the FJ-1 (Fighter, first type built by NAA, first model) and name Fury, it first flew in September of 1946. It was not a resounding success, and only 31 were built.

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FJ-1 Fury

But while the FJ-1 wasn’t terribly successful as a carrier borne aircraft, there was nothing fundamentally wrong with it structurally, and most of the basic design concept was quite sound.

So when the Air Force started to look for replacements for its first generation F-80 and F-84 jets, NAA took their experience with the FJ, and melded it with German World War II research in swept wings to provide higher speeds. The result was the legendary F-86 Sabre. Beyond the swept wing, the F-86 was pretty much an entirely new design, though the basic layout was similar, and the FJ experience also provided a great deal of experience in designing a jet fighter.

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F-86 Sabre.

The success of the F-86 prompted the Navy to take another stab at an NAA product, this time a virtual clone of the F-86 modified for carrier operations.

In spite of being a completely new design, this second attempt was still designated in the FJ series, being the FJ-2 Fury (being a completely new design, it more properly should have been designated the F2J-1).

This new Fury first flew 62 years ago today, on December 27, 1951. Low speed handling around the carrier was still less than wholly satisfactory. Additionally, production of the FJ-2 competed with the Air Force’s need for F-86s. Eventually, 200 FJ-2s would be built, with most serving with Marine Corps land based squadrons.

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FJ-2 Fury. It’s similarity to the Air Force F-86 is obvious in this pose.

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FJ-1 (Left), FJ-2 (Right)

The re-engined FJ-3 was externally very similar, but replaced the FJ-2’s J47 engine with the more powerful J65.  While the FJ-3 was still not a particularly good carrier aircraft, it was a significant improvement over the FJ-2, and eventually over 500 would be built, operated by both Navy and Marine fighter squadrons.

FJ-3s would eventually be equipped with the AIM-9/GAR-8 Sidewinder missile, and a fixed air-to-air refueling probe, in both cases, among the first Navy aircraft to be so equipped.

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FJ-3 Fury equipped with Sidewinder missiles.

Even as the FJ-2/3 series was in testing, the Navy sought a further improved variant. With a completely redesigned wing, and a new internal arrangement that shared only the basic configuration, this final Navy version, the FJ-4 Fury, was really a new plane, and more properly should have been designated the F3J. Even so, the FJ-4 Fury clearly shared some of the DNA of its predecessors.

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FJ-4 armed with 2.75” rocket pods. Note the refueling probe on the port wing.

The FJ-4B would introduce a new, critical capability to Navy carriers. Mated with the new, second generation of “small” tactical nuclear weapons, the FJ-4B introduced an ability for the Navy to perform nuclear strikes that didn’t require huge bombers such as the AJ Savage or the A3D Skywarrior.

The FJ-3 and FJ-4 would serve into the 1960s, though mostly replaced in frontline service by F-8 Crusaders and A-4 Skyhawks. After the 1962 Tri-Service designation system was adopted, the FJ series became the F-1.

The introduction of the FJ-2 with its swept wing and near transonic speeds meant Naval Aviators would have to learn some new concepts about flying, particularly about critical Mach numbers. And so the Navy helpfully produced a video for the fledgling Fury flyer.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JoB3ViKhCs8&w=448&h=252&hd=1]
Incidentally, given the shennanigans with the FJ designation, you should know there was yet another FJ fighter. Back in 1944, there was interest in a “navalized” carrier capable version of the P-51.  A Mustang was modified and carrier trials were conducted but it was not adopted for production or use. The modified Mustang was designated the FJ-1 Seahorse, and so the FJ-1 Fury really should have been the F2J.  The Seahorse is a story for another day.