“Foxy Lady’s” Wheels-Up Landing At Yeovilton

Following the Sea Vixen’s display at the Duxford Air Show yesterday, the Cold War-era naval fighter suffered an hydraulic failure which prevented the lowering of the landing gear. Skillfully piloted by Commander Simon Hargreaves RN, the aircraft performed a wheels-up landing, scraping along the runway at Yeovilton before coming to a stop. Fortunately, no one was hurt in the incident. An investigation is underway to determine the cause of the malfunction but in the meantime the Sea Vixen has understandably been withdrawn from its immediate upcoming events.

 

 

Advertisements

Bofors Anti-Aircraft Gun

A collection of images of a Bofors anti-aircraft gun taken on the grounds at Caldicot Castle.

All photos were taken on May 6th 2017
Photos: Tony Wilkins


For more images of British military equipment and museums please visit the Galleries section or follow Defence of the Realm on Instagram

If you have photographs or articles you wish to contribute to Defence of the Realm than you can email them to defencerealmyt@gmail.com. If successful you will of course be given full credit for your contribution and can even promote your own website/blog/social media account.

Typhoons deployed to Romania

RAF Typhoon no.3(f) squadronEurofighter Typhoon FGR.4s from the Royal Air Force’s No.3 (Fighter) Squadron based at RAF Coningsby have now deployed to Romania as part of the expansion of NATO’s air policing mission over Eastern Europe. Four aircraft and up to 150 personnel (air and ground crew) deployed to Mihail Kogalniceanu air base in south east Romania on Monday with the deployment expected to last up to four months. After a period of acclimation, the aircraft are reported to formally start operations by May 1st.

Images taken of the pilots taking off from Coningsby show that they are using the new £250,000 Striker II helmet which according to BAE Systems’ own website;

Striker II is a fully digital solution that provides today’s combat pilot with exceptional night vision and target tracking technology within a fully integrated visor-projected HMD system.

BAE Systems’ Striker helmet-mounted display system is based on the company’s unique two-part helmet design. It provides comfort, protection, and helmet stability for fixed- and rotary-wing platforms.

The RAF has had a long history patrolling NATO’s border with Russia having led four deployments of fighter aircraft as part of the alliance’s Baltic air policing mission since 2004. In those instances the aircraft have largely been the sole air defence asset for Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. However, Romania has its own fighter force built around the MiG-21 LanceR – an upgraded version of the legendary but increasingly ageing MiG-21 “Fishbed”. The far more modern RAF aircraft will have to integrate in to Romania’s air defence network.

The deployment is part of NATO’s expanded effort to reassure its eastern members that it remains committed to their protection. It has also been reported in the Romanian press that the deployment of NATO fighters to their country is in direct response to a dramatic increase in the number of interceptions carried out by the Romanian Air Force of Russian aircraft over the Black Sea in recent months.

Romania will also host a large scale NATO exercise in July that U.S. Ambassador Hans Klemm said in March would include up to 30,000 NATO troops.

Crashed in Iran: Final flight of Vulcan XJ781

In 1955, the UK entered in to an alliance that with the benefit of hindsight seemed doomed to failure. It was known under a few names, it initially being referred to as the Baghdad Pact or the Middle East Treaty Organisation (METO) but was most commonly referred to as the Central Treaty Organisation (CENTO). The origins of the alliance can be traced back to a year prior when Turkey and Pakistan signed a treaty of mutual cooperation on defence matters. Encouraged by the United States in 1955, a new agreement was penned that added Iraq, Iran and perhaps most significantly the United Kingdom however the US itself was held back from formal involvement until 1958.

In a nutshell, CENTO’s role was modelled along the lines of NATO in Western Europe with the goal being to establish a series of militarily powerful countries on the Soviet Union’s southern flank and to counter any communist revolutionary forces emerging in the Middle East. It was headquartered in Baghdad, Iraq until 1958 when Brigadier General Abd al-Karim Qasim of the Iraqi Army overthrew and killed the last King of Iraq, King Faisal II. Iraq then withdrew from CENTO and the headquarters was moved to Ankara in Turkey.

The 1960s were a tough time for the organisation. It’s existence was heavily criticised for its lack of action to help curb the first Indo-Pakistan War, the Six Day War, tensions between Turkey and Greece over Cyprus and it’s seeming lack of ability to prevent Communist revolutionary forces rising up across the Middle East. Even the UK and US, who should have been its biggest supporters, often bypassed it when dealing with specific issues and countries in the region. The US had to especially tread carefully when dealing with CENTO because of the strong pro-Israel lobby in Washington which viewed the alliance with suspicion.

For the UK, its military bases on Cyprus were of high importance for the alliance with the RAF’s Near East Air Force providing a nuclear strike capability with Avro Vulcan B.2s from early 1969. The aircraft were operated by Nos.9 and 35 Squadrons out of RAF Akrotiri which was by then the only RAF station left on the island after RAF Nicosia was forced to close in 1966 to become Cyprus International Airport.

One of the advantages of being a member of CENTO was that British military units could undertake deployments to member states which for RAF crews allowed them to gain invaluable experience operating over the Middle East. It was not uncommon for the long range Vulcans to fly to Iran or Turkey on goodwill flights or to train with their respective air forces and one place they would regularly visit was Shiraz Air Base in south-west Iran.

Avro Vulcan XJ781 B.2On May 23rd 1973, one such visitor to Shiraz was Avro Vulcan B.2 XJ781 operating with No.9 Squadron which, having completed a routine training mission turned towards the Iranian base for landing. In this instance, the usual crew of five were joined by a sixth man, an officer from the Imperial Iranian Air Force who was aboard acting as an observer. This was not uncommon but often proved problematic for the British crews as the observers almost never spoke any English leading to safety briefings being conducted with pointing at things hoping he understood. The observers also liked to smoke during the flight.

All had gone well until it came time to lower the undercarriage ready for landing. While the nose and starboard undercarriage legs lowered successfully, the port leg refused to budge despite the efforts of the crew. Low on fuel, the crew had no choice but to attempt an emergency landing at Shiraz. The ground personnel at Shiraz immediately went in to action and began spraying down foam across one of the two runways at the base in an attempt to cushion the port wing when it inevitably made contact with the ground and reduce the chance of fire. With the runway sufficiently doused down, the aircraft made its landing attempt.

The Vulcan touched down on its starboard undercarriage with pilot Flight Lieutenant John Derrick fighting to keep the wings level before the nosewheels made contact with the ground. The aircraft ran on just the starboard and nose wheels for a short while before the port wing was lowered as carefully as possible on to the ground. With the wing scraping along the foam-soaked runway it began pulling the aircraft to the left, sending it veering off the runway and across an adjacent gully that was not marked on any maps of the airfield. The nosewheel fell in to the gully and was sheered off followed quickly by the starboard undercarriage leaving the Vulcan to slam down on to its belly before finally sliding to a halt. As the aircraft slid across the ground, the bomb aimer’s window in the blister under the nose shattered sending clouds of dust in to the lower deck of the cockpit while the navigator’s table collapsed temporarily trapping the two navigator’s by their knees. Aside from the bruised knees, the five crew and the Iranian observer were all unhurt and with the crew hatch stuck against the ground they left the aircraft through the canopy which had been ejected after the undercarriage collapsed.

Avro Vulcan XJ781 Iran Shiraz crash

Flight Lieutenant John Derrick in front of the crashed XJ781 at Shiraz (Courtesy James Rich)

A maintenance team from Akrotiri was flown out aboard a Hercules cargo plane and immediately declared the crash as a Category 5(C) meaning it was beyond repair or salvage. The Iranians agreed to accept the airframe as scrap but insisted that British engineers familiar with the aircraft remove key military components. Thus, after twelve years of service XJ781 ended its days being broken up on a dusty Iranian airfield.

In many ways the crash of such a symbol of British military power as a V-Bomber symbolised the ailing position Britain found itself in when dealing with CENTO. A year after the crash, Turkey invaded Cyprus in defence of Turkish Cypriots following a military coup organised by the Greek Junta. This forced Britain to withdraw all military support for Turkey and consequently CENTO itself which from then on existed only on paper. In 1979, whatever remained of CENTO was dissolved in the wake of the Iranian Revolution.


Thanks to James Rich, Flight Lieutenant John Derrick’s nephew.

 

Tornado GR.4s participate in Frisian Flag 2017

Panavia Tornado GR.4 No.31 Squadron Goldstars paveway brimstone

The RAF has been putting six Tornado GR.4 aircraft and their crews from No.31 Squadron through the gruelling two-week-long exercise, Frisian Flag 2017, which was held at Leeuwarden Air Base in the Netherlands. Beginning on March 27th and culminating on April 7th, the large scale exercise saw aircraft from several NATO members get airborne twice a day for a series of mock battles which saw the RAF aircraft act as the Red Force – the bad guys.

The primary purpose of Frisian Flag 2017, as well as honing combat skills, was to provide the participating units experience in combined NATO operations within a modern threat environment. The RAF Tornado GR.4s were joined by USAF F-15 Eagles, French Mirage 2000s, German Typhoons and an assortment of F-16 variants from several NATO countries. Missions undertaken included air defence and escort missions for the fighter aircraft while strike aircraft such as the Tornados were assigned to attack high priority ground targets and conduct defence suppression operations.

Wing Commander Matt Bressani of No.31 Squadron said;

Working with NATO countries helps us to better understand our own strengths and weaknesses by testing each other’s defences. With the Tornado GR4 going out of service in a few years’ time, this is an ideal opportunity to train our crews for their future beyond this air frame.

The last Tornado GR.4 is expected to be withdrawn from frontline service in 2019 with much of its strike tasking being undertaken by upgraded Typhoons. The Ministry of Defence has also said that the acquisition of the Lockheed Martin F-35B Lightning II will be stepped up in order to create an additional frontline RAF squadron by 2023.

End of an era as Tornado OCU disbands

Panavia Tornado OCU RAF Lossiemouth disbandment ceremony

The Royal Air Force Tornado Operational Conversion Unit (OCU), XV(R) Squadron, formally disbanded yesterday in a moving ceremony at RAF Lossiemouth. Led by the Band of the Royal Air Force College, the ceremony was held inside inside a hangar in front of 750 invited guests including families and associates of the squadron.

During the ceremony, Chief of Defence Intelligence Air Marshal Phil Osborn, who himself had served as a Tornado navigator said to the attendees;

I’m honoured and privileged to be here for the disbandment of XV(R) Squadron after its 102 years of loyal service. But today, whilst our feelings obviously include sadness we know that this magnificent event is also a celebration; a celebration of history and tradition, and of service and professionalism in the service of the nation.

XV (or No.15) Squadron has a long and proud history that can be traced back to the First World War. It was formed as a training unit at Farnborough on March 1st 1915 but crossed to France in December 1915 equipped with the BE2c for corps-reconnaissance duties over the Western Front. One unusual task the unit undertook was the dropping of ammunition by parachute to troops on the front line during 1918.

During the Second World War the squadron flew a series of bomber types such as the Fairey Battle, Vickers Wellington and Avro Lancaster. After the war, the squadron became one of the handful of RAF units to fly the Boeing Washington (RAF B-29 Superfortress). On April 1st 1992, the XV (Reserve) identity was transferred to the Tornado Weapons Conversion Unit at RAF Honington before the unit moved to RAF Lossiemouth in 1993.


Below is a TV documentary recorded in the late 2000s outlining the squadron’s work in training RAF Tornado GR.4 crews.

Image: RAF via Facebook

RAF Typhoon pilots training with French and US colleagues at Langley AFB

RAF Typhoon Rafale F-22 RaptorThe United States Air Force is hosting a multi-national exercise at Joint Base Langley-Eustis in Virginia dubbed Atlantic Trident 17. The exercise will begin on April 12th and will continue until the 28th. It will be hosted by the resident 1st Fighter Wing of the USAF equipped with the F-22 Raptor air superiority fighter.

British and French combat aircraft will participate in the exercise in the form of Eurofighter Typhoon FGR.4s and Dassault Rafales respectively. The RAF have committed 175 personnel to the exercise with the first contingent having already arrived. Among the US aircraft deployed will be a number of Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning IIs which the RAF has on order in its Vertical Take-Off and Landing (VTOL) F-35B Lightning II guise along with the Royal Navy.

The exercise will be focused around combat experience the three air arms have gained over Syria and Iraq in recent years but will add an airborne threat element which the pilots will have to defeat in order to complete their strike missions.

USAF Colonel Peter Fesler, 1st Fighter Wing commander said in a press conference;

This exercise was designed to encourage the sharing and development of air combat TTPs (tactics, techniques and procedures) with our French and UK partners, against a range of potential threats leveraging US Air Force fifth-generation capabilities. This is not only an opportunity to share the capabilities of the aircraft, pilots and maintainers between our nations, but to build friendship, trust and confidence that will improve our interoperability as we go forward.