United States Military Aviation

RISING SUN

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Let's Talk About The Air Force Potentially Replacing The F-15E With The F-15EX
The U.S. Air Force could expand its current F-15EX procurement plans in order to replace its F-15E Strike Eagles, according to official documentation. The service currently aims to recapitalize its aging F-15C/D air superiority fighters with the new F-15EX as a priority, but it has also left the door open to replacing its Strike Eagles with the type. Such an initiative wouldn't come without controversy though, especially in terms of threatening the Air Force's long-held, but often questioned F-35A procurement number goal of 1,763 airframes.

The Justification and Approval (J&A) document lays out the USAF’s case for buying the F-15EX. It says: “The objective of this program is to rapidly develop, integrate, and field the F-15EX weapon system to refresh/replace aging F-15C/D aircraft. A decision to also refresh F-15E aircraft has not yet been made, but remains an option.”

The report sets out the Air Force's reasoning for the sole-source contract being awarded to Boeing for F-15EX, and it was signed off by USAF acquisition chief Dr. William Roper in August 2019. It carefully lays out the urgent plans to replace an F-15C fleet that it is running out of airframe hours. It adds: “The F-15 fleet is in dire need of a refresh, in particular the F-15C/D fleet, which without an expensive service life extension, will run out of airframe flying hours in [redacted}.” In keeping with major recapitalization projects, the timing would suggest that, when it comes, the need to replace the Strike Eagle will be just as urgent as it is currently for the F-15C/D.

You can check out the document for yourself here:

The first production-standard F-15E Strike Eagle made its maiden flight on December 11, 1986, from McDonnell Douglas’ St Louis, Missouri, plant. The first of 236 production Strike Eagles was handed over to the 461st Tactical Fighter Training Squadron “Deadly Jesters” on April 12, 1988. The first operational unit — the 336th Tactical Fighter Squadron (TFS) “Rocketeers” —started to receive Strike Eagles at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, North Carolina, in December 1988. The type was famously thrust into combat for Operation Desert Storm in 1991.


National Museum of the United States Air Force

Prior to the first true F-15E's first flight, a TF-15A (F-15B) was used to prove the Strike Eagle concept, acting as a prototype and capabilities demonstrator.

Strike Eagle serial 89-0487 from Seymour Johnson became the first example to reach 12,000 flight hours on August 16, 2016. The F-15E was beefed-up in comparison to the F-15C in order to carry a heavy weapons loads, however, like the Eagle, the youngest of which is 35 years old, the Strike Eagles are aging airframes.

The small 219-strong Strike Eagle fleet remains in high demand with an enduring commitment in the U.S. Central Command region that leverages many impressive niche capabilities. With just six front line Strike Eagle squadrons, at least one is always deployed. The F-15E is also capable of delivering nuclear weapons and is the first jet certified to employ the newest variant of the B61 tactical nuclear bomb.

The current F-15E fleet features two different engine classes. The oldest jets feature the Pratt & Whitney F100-PW-220E with roughly 23,500lbs of thrust. The younger models feature the P100-PW-229 engines with around 29,000lbs of thrust, making them the most capable of the lot by a serious margin. They are also the most numerous. The F-15EX is set to receive the F110-GE-129 engine that also has 29,000lbs of thrust.


USAF

Buying more F-15EXs to replace the current F-15E would be hugely significant. USAF Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldfein has made regular assertions that the F-15EX will not impact the F-35 Lightning II program, but switching later F-35 procurement targeted at replacing the F-15E to the F-15EX could impact the overall F-35A projected inventory requirement. Moreover, the Boeing fighter has been used as a means to pile competitive pressure on Lockheed Martin to reduce F-35 procurement and through-life costs.

The J&A report underscores the reasoning behind purchasing the F-15EX in terms of ease of transition: “Refreshing the existing F-15 fleet (versus transitioning to a new advanced fighter aircraft) with F-15EX will dramatically reduce disruption to the logistics and sustainment infrastructure, as well as operational training and Mission Ready status of current F-15 units, by taking advantage of inherent familiarity with the existing aircraft, which will allow focus on the new and improved systems.”


Boeing
F-15EX.

The case for the urgent replacement of the F-15C/D includes reasons regarding safety. “The schedule impact if there is no refresh is exacerbated by the fact that the average age of the F-15C/D fleet is 35 years. The fleet’s structural integrity is rapidly degrading due to the high-g flight profile used during training and operations. One wing commander imposed a G restriction due to a loss of confidence in the safety of the fleet.”

The USAF examined a service life extension for the F-15C but this was ruled out as not being cost-effective. The speed with which Boeing can build the F-15EX is cited as another key differentiator. Based on the foreign investment in the Saudi Arabian F-15SA and Qatari F-15QA projects, the USAF’s F-15EX will share “90-95 percent commonality” with the Qatari jets, but it will receive some USAF-specific additions such as Eagle Passive/Active Warning and Survivability System (EPAWSS).


USAF

The report adds that buying the F-15EX “will save the USAF $3 billion over the Future Years Defense Program compared to replacing that fleet with F-35s by avoiding significant transition costs required for a new aircraft.” It adds: “The USAF estimates that it will take six months or less to transition from the F-15C/D to the F-15EX given the significant commonality between the F-15C/D and F-15EX aircraft components and ground support equipment, while the transition time from F-15s to the F-35 (or any other airframe) will take approximately 18 months for an Active Duty squadron and 36 months for an Air National Guard squadron. Accordingly, from both an economic and readiness perspective, no other aircraft will satisfy the USAF requirement to refresh the F-15C/D fleet.”

In addition, the document makes it clear that the premium once placed on an all stealth tactical fighter fleet has eroded: “The USAF has determined that a mix of 4th generation capacity and 5th generation capability is necessary in balancing near and mid-term readiness with future needs.”

These were all reasons we discussed as per the justification for the 'F-15X' when The War Zone broke the story of its existence two years ago.


USAF
F-15E.

There are no official plans to replace the F-15E when it is retired from service, and officially it could remain in service through life-extension programs. Yet, based on the situation facing the F-15C/D, it could be up for replacement as early as the end of the decade. Previously, the War Zone was told that the F-15EX “is intended to directly replace the USAF's entire F-15C/D fleet. It would have no impact on the existing F-15E Strike Eagle fleet or its planned upgrade pathway that is underway now.”

The F-15E shares similar cutting-edge technology as is being fielded in the F-15EX. It has been upgraded with the Raytheon AN/APG-82(v)1 Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radar, the new Advanced Display Core Processor (ADCP) II, and it too is receiving the new EPAWSS self-protection system.

The current F-15EX procurement plan as set out earlier this month could be worth up to $22.9 billion over 10 years. This cost ceiling is based on a March 2019 F-15 SPO Rough Order of Magnitude (ROM) estimate for the maximum quantity of 200 aircraft. However, the report says procurement quantities will be established at a Most Probably Quantity (MPQ) of 144 aircraft. Still, this is seen as minimum fleet size, and it is likely to reach near or at the 200 level just in regards to replacing the F-15C/D fully.


USAF

The youngest F-15C/D in the USAF's fleet is 35 years old. The current F-15C/D fleet of approximately 245 aircraft would be replaced on what would be close to a one-for-one basis if all options are exercised. While the report doesn't discuss actual numbers, it would suggest the similarly sized F-15E fleet could be recapitalized under a very similar model, which would take F-15EX procurement out to roughly 400 aircraft.

A USAF spokesman told Air Force Magazine “That decision has not been made,” regarding the F-15E. A common F-15EX fleet in a merged Eagle community would have its benefits both logistically and operationally. There is also bound to be some tension between the F-15C/D units, the vast majority of which are Air National Guard, and the active-duty F-15E community under the current procurement plan for the F-15EX.

As the plan sits, the F-15EX would equip squadrons whose only missions have been air-to-air combat and air sovereignty with the most advanced and reliable multi-role F-15s in the entire force. In other words, the F-15E community, which is tasked with some of the most complex combat operations abroad, would be flying aging, partially upgraded jets while the Guard has brand new F-15EX with excess capabilities. This has raised the question of why doesn't the F-15E get replaced with the F-15EX and the current F-15C/D community receive surplus F-15Es?


USAF
F-35As and F-15Es in formation.

With over 50 years of production, the F-15 is entering into uncharted territory for fighter aircraft manufacturing. Boeing has cleverly retained credibility through reinventing the F-15 via foreign investment. With at least 144 new F-15s entering the Air Force's fleet in the near term, some 16 years after its last new Eagle was delivered, the prospects for follow-on orders are certainly there. This doesn't mean that recapitalizing the Strike Eagle fleet with F-15EX is anywhere near a done deal, but the door is open and it might just prove to be another case of the swiftest, cheapest, and most sensible way to keep some of the Air Force's most important fighter squadrons in business.

Regardless, with the F-15EX's stated service life of a whopping 20,000 hours, the Eagle will be gracing American fighter wing ramps well into the second half the century.
 
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RISING SUN

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Could U.S. B-2 Stealth Bombers Take on Chinese Air Defenses?
U.S. Air Force B-2 stealth bombers may soon be conducting fly-over missions, combat preparation drills and interoperability exercises near the Indian-Chinese border in coming days, raising interesting questions about the extent to which current variants of the thirty-year-old bomber could elude Chinese air defenses.The mission, as a routine deployment of the 509th Bomb Wing at Whiteman Air Force Base, Miss., is not a combat mission but rather a readiness and training effort to forward position the bombers in the highly sensitive Pacific theater.

The B-2s are supporting the well-known Naval Support Facility in Diego Garcia, an island off the Eastern coast of India. Interestingly, B-2 pilots made the 30-hour trip directly from Whilteman in Missouri to Diego Garcia to attack Taliban targets in the opening days of Operation Enduring Freedom over Afghanistan. The Bomber Task Force mission, according to an Air Force report, is to “deliver lethal, ready, long-range strike options to geographic combatant commanders anytime, anywhere.”

The deployment is multi-purpose in the sense that these kinds of missions are regular occurrences, yet this one is transpiring in a manner that could be interpreted as sending reinforced support to India and other U.S. allies in the Pacific.

The B-2, often described by an Air Force Magazine headline as “improving with age,” has existed for three decades, yet emerging variants are expected to be radically different from the initial stealth bomber which flew in the early 1990s.

While the external configuration does indeed appear quite similar, the stealth bomber is now in the process of being equipped with new computers, sensors, weapons and electronics. The Air Force is progressing quickly with a new B-2 sensor known as the Defense Management System engineered to locate and therefore avoid threatening enemy air defenses. The Chinese, for instance, continue to modernize their air defenses which, in a manner similar to Russian-built systems, are now reported to have an ability to detect or counter various kinds of “stealth” aircraft.

The B-2 is also being configured with a 1,000-fold faster computer processor which, among other things, will help expedite the integration of advanced technologies, such as AI-enabled algorithms and massively improved sensor-to-shooter time.

While such a prospect is of course still a matter of debate, concerns about modern adversary air defenses have inspired the Pentagon to accelerate the preparation of a new generation of stealth fighter with the emerging B-21 bomber and invest in a series of performance-enhancing upgrades to the B-2. The U.S. plan is to operate the B-2, quite possibly, for more than a decade into the future to support and fly alongside the B-21 until larger numbers of B-21s are produced.
 

RISING SUN

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The Bizarre Mystery Of Unexplained Aerial Incursions Over Loring Air Force Base
Despite the newfound attention the topic of unexplained incursions into airspace over sensitive locales across the United States is receiving, these types of bizarre incidents are not necessarily new. One of the most puzzling accounts of such an event, or series of events, occurred during the depths of the Cold War.

Over a series of nights in 1975, Loring Air Force Base in Maine was invaded by mysterious craft originating from Canadian airspace. At the time, the base was home to B-52 bombers and KC-135 tankers and was tasked with the nuclear alert mission. The Loring AFB incidents are extremely well documented, both in terms of personal testimonials and declassified CIA and National Military Command Center (NMCC) documents. What also made the events so interesting was just how many people were involved or knew about the potential threat and the reaction to it. It was truly a community-scale ordeal that even made its way into the national press. Considering we are talking about a base that housed nuclear weapons and a delivery system for those weapons, the bombers and tankers they rely on, the concern regarding the strange incursions was extreme, to say the least.

What is also interesting about the bizarre events at Loring Air Force Base in the fall of 1975 was what was going on elsewhere, as well. Based on additional official documentation and reports, similar occurrences were remarkably widespread during this time period, albeit few, if any, were as widely experienced or as public in nature.

Unidentified 'Helicopters' Appear Over Loring Air Force Base
It was October of 1975. At the time, Loring Air Force Base was a Strategic Air Command (SAC) base that housed two KC-135 tanker squadrons and a B-52 bomber squadron, which had the alert nuclear weapons delivery mission. It was SAC's easternmost base in the continental United States, putting it in a unique position to quickly respond to a crisis.

The strange affair began on the evening on October 27 when security personnel at the base observed what was described officially as “an unidentified helicopter” that appeared near the northern perimeter of the installation. The aircraft was said to be flying at a low altitude, estimated to be around 150 feet, and appeared to feature a red navigational light and a white strobe. The helicopter seemed to be particularly interested in the highly-secure nuclear weapons storage area at Loring. Army National Guard helicopters were dispatched in an attempt to contact and identify the aircraft, but those attempts proved unsuccessful. The base was immediately put on high alert.


Wikimedia Commons
Loring AFB in 1970.

Shortly after the craft appeared, radar operators in the control tower at Loring observed another unknown aircraft circling between 10 and 13 miles northeast of the base. Once again, that aircraft could not be identified despite numerous attempts to make contact by radio on both civilian and military channels. The first unknown aircraft eventually turned north and flew into Canada near Grand Falls, New Brunswick, and the second unknown craft vanished from radar, possibly landing or descending below radar coverage.


Library of Congress
Loring's nuclear weapons storage area, also known as Caribou Air Force Station.
The next night, on October 28, another unknown aircraft appeared over Loring, this time without lights. Once again, National Guard helicopters were sent to investigate, but were unable to establish visual confirmation of the aircraft. In an Operation Report (OPREP) issued after the incident, officials wrote that “It is our opinion that the unknown helicopter has demonstrated a clear intent in the weapons storage area, is smart and a most capable aviator.” The incidents continued through at least October 30th.


NMCC via FOIA
In response to the incursion, Loring increased its local security presence and coordinated with Canadian authorities to allow U.S. aircraft to pursue the offending aircraft into Canadian airspace should the unknown aircraft return.
The New York Times reported on the incursions in the 1979 article "U.F.O. Files: The Untold Story," adding that despite the fact the Joint Chiefs of Staff received multiple briefings on the incursions, "Subsequent investigations by the Air Force into the sightings at Loring Air Force Base, Maine, where the remarkable series of events began, did not reveal a cause for the sightings."


CIA via FOIA
Eyewitness Accounts Complicate The Helicopter Narrative
One account of the aerial intrusions at Loring comes from Arthur Beers, who served at the base from 1970 to 1976. In an account posted to LoringRemembers.com, a site dedicated to chronicling the experiences of the many men and women who served at Loring, Beers described his “most memorable experience” at Loring:

Probably my favorite story was when I was in the Rated Supplement as a Security Police Shift Commander. I was on duty one evening when the Nuclear Weapons Storage Area was buzzed by a unknown helicopter. Obviously we reported this up channel and I raced out to the storage area. When I arrived, I was told that the National Emergency Command Post was on the line for me. When I talked to the Colonel at the National Command Post and explained what had been reported by my team at the storage area, he gave me orders to shoot down the helicopter if it tried to buzz the area again.
I immediately went out to the brief my SAT Teams on these orders but before I could complete that briefing I was called back to the entry point where I talked with a General Officer who said that the President had been briefed and that my new orders were to shoot only if the helicopter tried to land (ah, heck!). I went out and rebriefed my teams in just the nick of time as the unknown pilot in an unlighted Huey type helicopter came back again and then two more times during my shift. He came back three other nights and then just disappeared. To my knowledge the identity was never discovered.
A interesting side note to this, once the information got up to NORAD that we had this unauthorized flying over the storage area, NORAD launched the F-106 that was on alert at Loring. Not exactly sure how that jet jockey was going to see or shoot at a helicopter, 50 feet off the ground in the Northern Maine woods at night running with no lights, but I guess NORAD had to do something. Never saw the F-106, did see the helicopter.

Other personal testimony complicates the claims that the intruder was actually helicopter. Michael Wallace, a former KC-135 tanker pilot who was stationed at Loring in 1975, shared his own bizarre Loring incursion experience on YouTube:




Wallace states that he was briefed on an incursion over the nuclear-armed B-52s and weapons storage facilities at Loring. Wallace and a few hundred other personnel were informed of a silent, luminous object hovering over the base which could move "very quickly" and "unconventionally" in "rapid, straight-line movements, with straight vertical movements, can turn without any apparent radius in the turn. It's pretty incredible technology." The object was openly referred to as a UFO by base personnel.

Wallace goes on to claim that Loring personnel were briefed only to speak to SAC officers about the incursion, not to speak to the press, and that they were "going to tell the press that there was a Canadian helicopter crossing the border and harassing us." He also notes that interceptors were going to be brought in to assist in the efforts to protect the base and investigate what was going on.
Wallace was eventually sent on a refueling mission in his KC-135 to support F-4 Phantoms for unrelated training when his flight was notified by the base's command post to switch radio frequencies. The lead KC-135 in the flight was instructed to depart the formation, turn off its lights, go radio silent, and proceed to Loring under its own discretion, something Wallace describes as a highly unusual order.
Wallace remembers hearing "stressed voices" over the radio as the pilots and tower personnel attempted to track the object as it seemed to fly back and forth over the base at incredible speeds. As quickly as the transmissions began, they ended as tower personnel stated simply "We've lost it." When Wallace later saw the pilot of the lead aircraft who was sent to intercept the object, he told Wallace "I can't talk about it, and you wouldn't believe me if I could talk about it."


Nick Redfern via FOIA
A NORAD document states "Information indicates that the A/C [aircraft] is a helicopter. However, the A/C remains unidentified. Descriptions of the observed A/C lighting have varied somewhat but not in such a way that there is any indication there is more than one A/C involved."

LoringRemembers.com contains numerous other references to the 1975 incursions, with many former Loring personnel calling the incident their most memorable experience. One former Field Maintenance Squadron member remembers "the activity on the flight-line was a frenzy" the night of the incursion.
John E. Morkavich, who served at Loring from 1972 to 1975, recounted the following to LoringRemembers.com:

I was a Hospital Corpsman OR Tech 72-75 and one night in the fall of 73 (I will stand corrected if someone else recalls and has better time line [sic]) the base sirens went off and they said thats [sic] the big one thats [sic] gonna scramble the jets and bombers. About 6 of us got on the roof of the medical barracks and waited for whatever. The base went nuts, claxons, sirens, security police vehicles speeding around lots of flashing lights. Lots of flight line roaring of engines. Well about 3 weeeks [sic] later I was in the Officers Club with Dr John P Sheppard and a couple of pilots were sitting with us. We talked sports and politics then Doc Sheppard asked what the hell happened the other night. They replied with the ubiquitous "Do You Have a Need To Know?" Sheppard said hell yes, so I heard this explanation and both pilots were dead serious.
There was a UFO that came up on radar out of nowhere and was hovering over East Loring near the weapons storage facility. Aircraft was scrambled to intercept, it was seen visually and tracked on radar. Then the Lt Colonel said. "This damn thing was there one second and gone the next, vanished....then radar analysis showed this bogey was so far away and at such a high altitude.....let me tell you this -"... there is NOTHING on THIS PLANET that can do the things this aircraft or damn UFO did...." Then they got up and walked away from the table. Sheppard and I were stunned and we did not talk about it again. This is no BS and I welcome those who were there and remember.

LoringRemembers.com even contains a section called "the official UFO story" which states simply "In 1975, a 'UFO' buzzed the WSA over a few nights. Internet lore has stamped this as a true UFO conspiracy involving numerous other bases. The DOD released a declassified report on the incident."


CIA via FOIA
A 1975 CIA memo noting the Loring AFB incursion.
One of the most thorough investigations of the Loring incidents was conducted by Barry Greenwood and Lawrence Fawcett and included in their 1984 book Clear Intent: The Government Coverup of the UFO Experience. An excerpt from that book containing sections on Loring can be found online here. It goes into great detail as to what the narrative of events was, at least according to their research. We will pick it up on the second night, but we encourage you to read the whole excerpt.

On October 28, 1975, at 7:45 P.M., Sgt. Clifton W. Blakeslee and Staff Sgt. William J. Long, both assigned to the 42nd Security Police Squadron, were on duty at the munitions storage area. Along with Sgt. Danny Lewis, both Sgts. Blakeslee and Long spotted what appeared to be the running lights of an aircraft approaching Loring Air Force Base from the north at 3,000 feet. The aircraft did not come closer to Loring than about three miles at this time, and it was observed intermittently for the next hour.
On first spotting the craft, Sgt. Lewis called the Command Post and advised it that the unknown craft had returned to Loring. Lewis reported that he could see a white flashing light and an amber or orange light. Once again, the Commander, 42nd Bomb Wing responded. Rushing to the area of the storage dump, he observed the unknown craft. He reported seeing a flashing white light and an amber-colored light on the object also. The speed and movement in the air suggested that the craft was a helicopter. From 7:45 P.M. to 8:20 P.M., it was under constant observation, both visually by the personnel in the storage area and electronically by the control tower radar, which showed the craft at a position three miles north of the Loring perimeter.
The unknown craft would appear and disappear from view, and, at one point, appeared over the end of the runway at an altitude of 150 feet. The object subsequently shut off its lights and reappeared over the weapons storage area, maintaining an altitude of 150 feet.
At this time, Sgt. Steven Eichner, a crew chief on a B-52 bomber, was working out of a launch truck along with Sgt. R. Jones and other members of the crew. Jones spotted a red and orange object over the flight line. It seemed to be on the other side of the flight line from where the weapons storage area was located. To Eichner and Jones, the object looked like a stretched-out football. It hovered in midair as everyone in the crew stared in awe. As they watched, the object put out its lights and disappeared, but it soon reappeared again over the north end of the runway, moving in jerky motions. It stopped and hovered. Eichner and the rest of the crew jumped into the truck and started to drive toward the object.
Proceeding down Oklahoma Avenue (which borders the runway), they turned left onto the road that led to the weapons storage area. As they made the turn, they spotted the object about 300 feet in front of them. It seemed to be about five feet in the air and hovered without movement or noise. Exhibiting a reddish-orange color, the object was about four car lengths long. Eichner described what he saw next:
"The object looked like all the colors were blending together, as if you were looking at a desert scene. You see waves of heat rising off the desert floor. This is what I saw. There were these waves in front of the object and all the colors were blending together. The object was solid and we could not hear any noise coming from it."
They could not see any doors or windows on the object nor any propellers or engines which would keep the object in the air. Suddenly, the base came alive. Sirens began screaming. Eichner could see numerous blue lights on police vehicles coming down the flight line and runway toward the weapons storage area at high speed. Jones turned and said to the crew, "We better get out of here!" They immediately did. The Security Police did not try to stop them. Their interest was in the object over the storage dump, not in the truck which was in a restricted area. The crew drove the truck back to its original location and watched from there. The scene at the weapons storage area was chaotic, with blue lights rotating around, and the vehicles' searchlight beams shining in all directions.
The men in the crew decided not to report what they had seen, because they had entered a restricted area and could have been arrested for the violation.
The object shut off its lights and disappeared, not to be seen again that night. The 42nd Police conducted a security sweep of the weapons storage area inside and out, with no results. Radar had once again briefly tracked the object heading for Grand Falls, New Brunswick, finally losing the unknown at Grand Falls itself.
Priority messages were sent to the National Military Command Center in Washington, the Chief of Staff of the Air Force, the Air Force Forward Operations Division at Fort Ritchie, Maryland, SAC Headquarters, and the 9th Air Force, 45th Division, advising them that an unknown object had penetrated the base and had been in the nuclear storage area.

The writers interviewed Chief Warrant Officer Bernard Poulin of the Maine Army National Guard's 112th Medical Company (Air Ambulance), who was tasked with tracking down and identifying the unknown aircraft in a UH-1 as the nightly occurrences wore on in late October. Poulin told Fawcett that despite numerous witnesses seeing and hearing the intruder, his helicopter crew could not get visual confirmation on the aircraft, but gives additional details of his experiencing of walking into the SAC base on high alert for a mysterious intruder:

"Well, we were launched on the first search mission after ground personnel started to see or hear the, quote, if you will, "UFO" go by. So, we would launch, and I believe that we were in the air for around 40 minutes looking for this thing, with the idea that it was a rotary-type craft we were searching for. We were vectored in by ground personnel to different spots on the base where the ground personnel were seeing or hearing it. All this time we were being tracked by base radar [traffic control radar which is designed to pick up aircraft], and radar was not painting the object that was being reported. Ground personnel would call and say the object is at this location, but radar would not pick it up.
Well, anyway, we hunted around, and we didn't see anything. Again they would call and say they could hear it at a location, and we would go there, but could not see it. We would then shut down and wait for the next call. And that went on for a couple of nights. This, again, was early evening or early in the morning. I can recall on the second night of the mission radar picked up a return, but it turned out to be a KC-135 tanker returning from overseas."

Poulin was asked: "According to some of the documents, personnel on the ground were reporting that at times you would bring your craft within 100 feet of the intruder, yet you could not see it?" He answered:

"Yes, well, we could go real low to where they said it was and would turn on our search light and sweep the area with the light, but we never saw the craft. After it was over, we discussed our mission. The powers to be were quite concerned about what was going on and if we were able to see anything. They maintained all along up there, you know, those are pretty sensitive places and they have to know what the hell was going on."
When they arrived at the base, the security lid was on so tightly that both pilots were permitted to call their wives only once to say that they were on a mission. In a meeting with Chapman, Poulin recalled the Commander saying, "We've got to keep the lid on the fact that someone has been able to penetrate in and around the bomb dump, and we don't know what's going on. We've got to find out what is going on and prevent it from happening again."

Greenwood and Fawcett continue:

At Loring, additional manpower was armed and ready for deployment. The Security Police Battle Staff was to be manned at Central Security Control. An additional two-man mobile patrol was assigned to the weapons storage area during the hours of darkness, while a ten-man reserve force was standing by, ready for deployment. A two-man patrol would be positioned at key vantage points about one mile north of the base for added surveillance. An SAC/SP message informed northern tier bases of the situation and recommended a "Security Option Three" alert all along the U.S.-Canadian border.
The message went to Pease AFB in New Hampshire, Plattsburgh AFB in New York, Wurtsmith AFB in Michigan, Kinchloe AFB in Michigan, Sawyer AFB in Michigan, Grand Forks AFB in North Dakota, Minot AFB in North Dakota, Malmstrom AFB in Montana, Fairchild AFB in Washington, and Barksdale AFB in Iowa. The subject-identifying line of the message was "Defense Against Helicopter Assault," and it read:
The past two evenings at one of our northern tier bases, an unidentified helicopter has been observed hovering over and in the near vicinity of the weapons storage area. Attempts to identify this aircraft have so far met with negative results. In the interest of nuclear weapons security, the action addresses will assume Security Option 3 during hours of darkness until further notice. Actions also should be taken to re-establish liaison with local law enforcement agencies that could assist your base in the event of a similar incident. Bases should thoroughly review and insure [sic] all personnel are familiar with actions to take in association with the helicopter denial portion of your 207-xx plan.
On October 30, the Maine National Guard helicopter was replaced by a USAF helicopter and crew from Plattsburgh Air Force Base. The following evening there were several reports of unknown objects suspected to be helicopters, at distances varying from directly over the base to 10 nautical miles northeast of the base. Some reports were confirmed on RAPCON radar with altitudes between 300 and 5,000 feet.

Additional, sporadic reports of helicopters continued well into December, though many of these were subsequently identified as normal helicopter traffic. In these reports, however, a distinction was drawn between the October sightings and later reports: Robert Fauk, Deputy Chief Patrol Agent with the U.S. Border Patrol, said he felt that an alleged helicopter report of November 18 was not the "Midnight Skulker of Loring."
He added, "This craft was too slow and too small to be the craft they had problems with at Loring."

Strangely enough, the Lewiston Daily Sun newspaper in Maine reported two eyewitnesses encountering a curiously lit aircraft on the morning of October 27, 1975 near the town of Poland. Poland is in the southwest corner of Maine, while Loring was in the northeast, so the two events may be unrelated. Still, it's curious that two eyewitnesses far from the Air Force Base would describe seeing such a similar aircraft on the same night that the Loring encounters began. Greenwood and Fawcett's book also claims a rash of civilian sighting occurred around the same time throughout the area.


Lewiston Daily Sun
Similar Incursions Continued At Other Military Installations
Eerily similar events occurred at other U.S. Air Force Bases in the months following the incident at Loring AFB, although there is no definitive evidence that any of them were linked. On October 30, just days after the Loring incursion, the now-decommissioned Wurtsmith AFB in eastern Michigan had its own encounter detailed in the missive below.


NMCC via FOIA
In November 1975, personnel at Malmstrom AFB in Montana, another Strategic Air Command site, encountered bright lights that seemed to be accompanied by jet engine noises. NORAD scrambled two interceptors in an attempt to locate and identify the aircraft, but was unsuccessful in their attempts to do so.


NMCC via FOIA
In January of 1976, Cannon AFB in eastern New Mexico reported two unidentified flying objects described as “25 yards in diameter, gold or silver in color with blue light on top, hole in the middle and red light on bottom.”


NMCC via FOIA
On January 31, 1976, security personnel at Eglin AFB in Florida spotted lights near one of their radar sites, and later issued a press release announcing the incident.


NMCC via FOIA
Later that year, on July 30, 1976, security patrols at Fort Richie in Maryland spotted “3 oblong objects with a reddish tint” near ammunition storage areas, although a National Military Command Center memo issued after the incident cites temperature inversions in the area as a possible cause for the unexplained sightings.


NMCC via FOIA
Reporters Ward Sinclair and Art Harris referenced several of these events in a 1979 article in The Washington Post, and wrote that “a Nov. 11, 1975, directive from the office of the secretary of the Air Force instructed public information staffers to avoid linking the scattered sightings unless specifically asked.”
Numerous documents have been declassified via the Freedom of Information Act which shed light on the Department of Defense's response to the mysterious incidents at Loring and at other bases, some of which are mentioned above. You can read these documents for yourself at the PDF link below.
Loring And Other Base Incursion Incident Files From The Mid 1970s.

An Unsolved Mystery
The 1975 incident at Loring Air Force Base shows that even nearly 50 years ago, some of America’s most strategically sensitive sites were vulnerable to intrusion from mysterious craft. While some reports cite the objects as "helicopters," multiple eyewitness accounts complicate this characterization by describing jet engine noises, incredible feats of speed and maneuverability, bizarre descriptions of physical craft, and a seeming inability for pilots to get visual confirmation of them.

Whether the multi-day string of aerial intrusion incidents over Loring AFB was perpetrated by a wily helicopter pilot with still unknown motivations, some type of bizarre Cold War strategic gamesmanship, or something even more exotic, remains unclear. The reality is that any of those possibilities are fascinating in their own right.
What is clear is that something extremely strange did happen over the span of at least four nights at Loring in the fall of 1975, incidents that had hundreds of witnesses, some of which have provided direct testimonial as to their experiences. Although personal observations can vary in accuracy greatly, the core aspects of these events are backed up by numerous official documents that reach up to the highest levels of the U.S. military's command structure. According to other documents from the time period, Loring wasn't alone in enduring bizarre visits by unidentified aircraft, although in terms of the scope and detail of such incidents, the Loring AFB case seems to have few parallels.
For more information and documentation about the Loring incident and other incursions throughout the 1970s, check out researcher Paul Dean's extensive nine-part series, at his site, Documenting the Evidence.
 
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Picdelamirand-oil

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Turkey tested S-400 on American fighters

(ORDO NEWS) — It is reported that US Congressmen were “very angry” that Turkey was testing its S-400 systems on US F-16 and F-4 aircraft. Particular attention was paid to the fact that these tests took place the day after the talks between President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and the White House.

According to Defense News, citing its sources, American lawmakers were very angry at the situation when the Turkish military, during a training exercise held in July this year, aimed at the F-16 with the help of the S-400, and the Congressmen regarded this as a “latent threat” to other countries using the F-16, including the United States.

“The day after negotiations with Erdogan”

“It was not only a deliberate provocation, but also happened the day after Erdogan had a telephone conversation with the Oval Office,” the source said.

“Turkey’s purchase of S-400 is beneficial to Putin”

Chairman of the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee Jim Risch said in an interview with Defense News:

“Turkey is a longtime strategic ally of the United States, but our relationship has deteriorated in recent years and continues to deteriorate. The purchase by President Erdogan of the Russian S-400 systems significantly changed the nature of our relationship. This purchase is beneficial to our adversary Putin and threatens the integrity of NATO.”

Information about the “tests of the S-400”

On July 7, 2020, the Fighter Jets World portal wrote that the Turkish army tested the S-400 air defense system deployed at the Mürted air base near Ankara on American F-16 and F-4 fighters.

The crisis around the S-400

The contract for the supply of Russian-made S-400 air defense systems to Turkey, which caused a crisis in relations between Turkey and the United States, was signed in September 2017. In July 2019, Moscow began delivering the first batch.

Despite various sanctions threats from the United States, Ankara flatly refused to make concessions on this issue and continued negotiations on the acquisition of an additional batch of S-400. After Turkey bought the S-400 from Russia, the United States announced the exclusion of Turkey from the F-35 program.
 

Ginvincible

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The U.S. Air Force Has 'Built' and 'Flown' Potential 6th Generation Fighter
September 16, 2020​

While the U.S. military is still "addressing" a few problems with its Lockheed Martin F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, efforts are apparently well underway to develop the next-generation fighter jet. The U.S. Air Force secretly designed, built and even flew a prototype of the fighter of the future.


"We've already built and flown a full-scale flight demonstrator in the real world, and we broke records in doing it," Dr. Will Roper, assistant secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition, Technology and Logisitics told Defense News in an interview ahead of this week's Air Force Association's Air, Space and Cyber Conference. "We are ready to go and build the next-generation aircraft in a way that has never happened before."


Few details were shared about the jet, which is part of the Next Generation Air Dominance (NGAD) program, the Air Force's effort to develop a family of connected air warfare systems. This group of systems won't be just piloted aircraft, but will include unmanned drones and other platforms that could operate in the air, space and even in cyberspace.


Details of this sixth-generation aircraft were in a word: sparse.


Roper didn't disclose how many prototype aircraft have flown or even which defense contractors were involved in their/its manufacture. Nor did he disclose when or where the mystery flight even occurred. No details on whether it was crewed, optionally crewed or even unmanned, or whether it has stealth capabilities.


What Roper did say was cryptic.


"We're going after the most complicated systems that have ever been built, and checked all the boxes with this digital technology. In fact, [we've] not just checked the boxes, [we've] demonstrated something that's truly magical," he added.


Next Generation Air Dominance Program Moving Forward


The NGAD program was first initiated in 2017, but it has largely been conceptual. It was only in June that Air Force officials even said they were "prototyping" the technology. Work has included modeling and efforts to explore crucial hardware and software technologies.


The current prototype may thus be a technology demonstration that could be used for risk-reduction efforts or to prove major concepts, The Drive.com suggested.


According to service budget documents, the NGAD's key attributes include enhancements in "survivability, lethality and persistence across a range of military operations." The Air Force's fiscal year 2021 budget request called for about $1 billion in funding, Task and Purpose reported. That was up from $905 million in 2020 and $413 million in 2019. The program is expected to cost an additional $6.5 billion through 2025.


Beyond the F-35


As the Air Force moves forward with the NGAD it could be another challenger to the F-35 and F-15EX programs, especially as this comes after the U.S. Navy has already sought to acquire a sixth-generation warplane to follow the F-35C.


The Navy effort – tentatively called the F/A-XX – has also been largely cloaked in mystery, though it would replace their F/A-18E/F Super Hornets.


Given those ongoing issues with the $1.5 trillion F-35 perhaps the Air Force and Navy are wise to be exploring other options.


Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer who has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers and websites.

======================================================
Source: The National Interest
======================================================

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Binkov video on the news:
 
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RISING SUN

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The Full Story On That Oregon F-15 That Fired Its Missiles Into The Sea Before Landing
Last year, The War Zone was first to report that an F-15C Eagle from the Oregon Air National Guard's 142nd Fighter Wing had fired its live AIM-120C AMRAAM and AIM-9X Sidewinder missiles into the Pacific Ocean before making an emergency landing at Portland International Airport. At the time, details about the mishap were limited, but now we have obtained a copy of the official Air Force accident report that describes exactly what happened.
The F-15C in question, known by its serial number 78-0473 and going by the callsign "ROCK 42" at the time, was sitting alert at Portland International Airport on Feb. 20, 2019. That day, it and another alert jet were scheduled to conduct a mock scramble and then train with two additional flights of four F-15Cs each.

Despite the planned training mission, since the 78-0473 was designated to be on alert that day, it was still armed with four AIM-120Cs and two AIM-9X missiles, all of which were live, as well as 940 rounds of 20mm ammunition for its M61 Vulcan cannon. It also carried 48 MJU-10/B decoy flares and two external fuel tanks.

"The mission briefing and scramble ground operations were unremarkable," the official accident report says, which The War Zone obtained in a redacted form via the Freedom of Information Act. Rock 42, the second in the two-ship alert flight, conducted an afterburner takeoff as part of the scramble drill at approximately 8:28 AM local time.


Tyler Rogoway
142nd Fighter Wing alert bird blasts out of PDX in full afterburner.

Shortly after the takeoff, the F-15C's pilot, whose name and rank is not present in the unredacted portions of the accident report, noticed a warning light indicating that the jet's left main landing gear had not retracted properly. Rock 42 alerted their wingman and local air traffic controllers and requested a clear block of airspace in which to try to fix the issue.

In accordance with official Air Force procedures, the pilot lowered and then raised all of the plane's landing gear again to see if this would unstick the left main landing gear. The pilot of the other alert F-15C, flying chase for the stricken Eagle, reported that the left main landing gear appeared to be locked in the downward position and did not move during this process.

Unable to retract the left main landing gear, Rock 42 declared an inflight emergency and then began preparing for an emergency arrested landing at Portland International Airport. "The Landing Gear Emergency-Landing checklist directed the aircrew to 'Jettison armament and chaff/ flares ...' The MF [mishap flight] obtained a clearance to the overwater airspace to prepare for the armament jettison," the report says.

Rock 42 fired off all 48 its MJU-10/Bs flares in the designated airspace over the Pacific Ocean without issue, after which the pilot continued to coordinate with Air Force personnel on the ground about both the nature of the landing gear issue and what to do with its remaining ordnance. A team of off-site specialists, known as a Conference Hotel, or CH, was contacted to help with continued troubleshooting. A representative from Boeing, the present prime contractor for the F-15 series, were also consulted.


Tyler Rogoway
F-15C dumping its flares.

A second attempt to lower and raise all of the landing gear also failed, but Rock 42's wingman did observe a spurt of hydraulic fluid during the process and noted that the left main landing gear was also covered in it. However, the stricken Eagle's pilot reported there were no problems with the jet's hydraulic pressure according to their in-cockpit readouts. Based on the information available, the Boeing representative stated that they were confident that there was serious risk that the landing gear strut could collapse during any emergency landing.

At this point, Rock 42 was also running low on fuel. A KC-135R tanker, with the callsign Expo 91, which had already been operating in the area, had been redirected to provide support. However, there were concerns about whether the F-15C would be able to fly fast enough with its landing gear down to successfully refuel.

Rock 42's wingman lowered their landing gear and refueled first, at a speed of 230 knots, to make sure the maneuver was safe. After that, Rock 42 also conducted a successful aerial refueling with Expo 91. Both jets linked up with the tanker a second time.


Tyler Rogoway
142nd Fighter F-15C refuels from a KC-135R over the Oregon Coast.

During these refuelings, Air Force personnel had been working out a plan for Rock 42 to safely get rid of its four AIM-120Cs and two AIM-9Xs, through a combination of firing them off and simply jettisoning them into the Pacific. "They determined, and relayed to the MF [mishap flight], that they would need a 40 nautical mile (NM) long by 12 NM wide 'shooting lane' at the lowest possible altitude," according to the accident report.

Clouds off the Oregon coastline made it difficult for Rock 42's wingman to conduct an impromptu "range sweep" to make sure there were no civilian or commercial aircraft in the lane or ships in the water below. Air traffic and shipping lane traffic data was subsequently used to confirm that the area was clear. It took three passes to fire all of the missiles.
"On the first pass the MP [mishap pilot] selectively jettisoned the AIM-120C located on station 3 (left side of fuselage), followed by the AIM-120C on station 7 (right side of fuselage)," the report says. "The MFL [mishap flight lead] observed the missiles separate from the MA [mishap aircraft] and impact the water, marking the coordinates and observing that they appeared to break apart upon impact."

"The MP conducted two more passes firing the [remaining two] AIM-120Cs on the second pass and the AIM-9Xs on the third pass," the report continues. "After the third pass was complete the MF proceeded to the tanker for the third and final aerial refueling, receiving fuel uneventfully."


USAF
An F-15C fires an AIM-120 AMRAAM missile.

The report does not give an explanation for why it was possible to jettison the two missiles under the fuselage, but not the others. However, this would have been due to external fuel tanks, which remained attached to the aircraft throughout the mishap, presenting an obstacle to safely jettisoning the missiles on the underwing pylons. It was also determined that there was no major added risk to the aircraft or its pilot from leaving the 940 20mm cannon shells in the internal magazine.

Rock 42 then moved on to the emergency arrested landing at Portland International Airport. The F-15C successfully caught the wire on the arresting system on the approach end of the airport's runway 28L.

Unfortunately, after the pilot had put the jet's nose wheel down on the runway, it had risen up again approximately one foot off the ground. This high engagement angle led the aircraft's arresting hook to slam into the full up position after it caught the wire, bringing the cable up with it. "The [arresting] cable impacted the left horizontal stabilator, left tail cone, left engine exhaust, right engine exhaust, and the right tail internal countermeasures set (ICS) antenna," causing damage to all of those components, according to the report.

The left main landing gear, however, did not collapse as was feared might happen. Emergency crews and ground personnel met the jet on the runway, secured it and then towed the 142nd's maintenance hangar to assess the damage.

The exact cause of the landing gear malfunction and any subsequent recommendations in the report are redacted. However, the narrative and other unredacted details point to a failure in the jury link, a supporting component attached to the main landing gear strut, as a key factor. "This specific LMLG [left main landing gear assembly] was modified by Time Compliance Technical Order (TCTO) 1F-15-1680 on 07 Jul 2017, to receive a newly manufactured upper jury link, replacing the previous jury link that was prone to failure," an unredacted portion of the report notes.

The Air Force subsequently ruled this incident to be so-called Class C mishap, which covers accidents that result in between $50,000 and $500,000 worth of damage or a nonfatal injury or illness that put someone out of work for one or more days, or both. The report says that the official total cost of the damage to the Eagle was $418,280 dollars. All of the damaged components were deemed to be repairable.


Tyler Rogoway
142nd Fighter Wing F-15C in one of the barns at PDX.

However, this figure notably and curiously does not include the cost of the expended missiles or flares. As The War Zone noted at the time, this accident directly resulted in the loss of millions of dollars worth of missiles that would otherwise have remained in inventory.

Based on information from Pentagon budget documents, the estimated cost of each of the four lost AIM-120Cs was approximately $1 million, or $4 million in total. The accident report does not say that if the two expended AIM-9Xs were newer Block II models, which would have cost around $408,000, or older Block I missiles worth some $250,000. As of 2019, the unit price for the MJU-10/B was $184, meaning the Eagle expended nearly $9,000 in flares during the incident, as well. The full cost of all of the expended missiles and flares would have been more than $4.5 million, at least.

Of course, what matters most is that the pilot of Rock 42 made it back safely. That the jet sustained relatively limited damage itself, despite concerns about a possible belly-up landing, means that the outcome, in the end, was largely positive.

If nothing else, it's good to finally have a more complete description of the bizarre impromptu Oregon Coast missile shoot and emergency landing, overall. You can find a full copy of the report, as The War Zone received it, here.
 
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