Russia threatens coalition aircraft over Syria after US Navy shoot down Syrian Su-22

Relations between the west and Russia regarding Syria has always been both problematic and risky but it threatens to become even more dangerous following the shootdown of a Syrian Air Force Sukhoi Su-22 “Fitter” on Sunday. This has prompted Russian officials to describe American, British and French aircraft operating over the war-ravaged country as potential threats. In a statement, the Russian Defence Ministry said;

All kinds of airborne vehicles, including aircraft and UAVs of the international coalition detected to the west of the Euphrates River will be tracked by the Russian SAM systems as air targets.

Syrian civil war air force sukhoi su-22 fitterThe US took the extraordinary action against the Syrian Air Force on Sunday when the Su-22 (right) reportedly carried out a strike in proximity to US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces. The Syrian jet was shot down by a US Navy F/A-18E Super Hornet and is the first such air-to-air engagement for the type. The US military’s Central Command said in a statement that the shootdown was carried out in accordance of all established rules of engagement and in accordance with terms agreed upon by coalition partners.

However, the Russian Defence Ministry disagrees saying that the US acted in violation of the agreed upon terms of the de-confliction deal both sides pledged to honour. They also claim that the US made no effort to communicate with them before taking the action against the Syrian jet, describing the shootdown as a violation of Syria’s sovereignty. The Syrian government themselves also claim that the Su-22 was bombing Islamic State forces, not Syrian Democratic Forces, and accused the US of actually helping the terrorist organisation.

The Russians have since suspended their direct line of communication with Washington over the incident leading to their stark warning to the US-led forces. In the last few hours, Downing Street has appealed to the Russians to return to the previously established de-confliction arrangement so as to avoid any future confrontation between coalition aircraft and Russian and Syrian government aircraft.

The Pentagon in Washington responded strongly to the Russian threats made against Coalition aircraft with Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Joseph Dunford telling reporters;

I’m confident that we are still communicating between our operations centre and the Russian Federation’s operations centre — and I’m also confident that our forces have the capability to take care of themselves.

Under Operation: Shader, the Royal Air Force has been engaged in gathering intelligence and conducting air strikes against Islamic State in Syria and neighbouring Iraq. Tornado GR.4 and Typhoon FGR.4 combat aircraft along with Reaper drones continue to fly operations over the region from RAF Akrotiri in Cyprus.

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US Navy release footage of Russian Su-24s making high speed passes over US warship

The vessel in question was the USS Donald Cook, an Arleigh Burke-class AEGIS destroyer.

According to Sky News the Russian aircraft did not respond to radio calls by the American vessel which the US claims breaches previous agreements between Moscow and Washington.

This is just the latest in a catalogue of encounters between Russian and western forces that have made headlines. Last month Spanish EF2000 Typhoons operating as part of NATO’s Baltic Air Policing mission intercepted the Russian defence minister’s aircraft which was being escorted by Su-27 “Flanker” fighters while in February, RAF fighters intercepted Tu-160 strategic bombers training in the UK’s area-of-interest over the North Sea.

BREAKING NEWS: 10 US sailors detained by Iran

Tuesday January 12th 2016
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In the last hour it has been revealed that Iran has detained 10 US sailors after their patrol vessels were stopped in the Persian Gulf

The BBC has reported that the Iranians have informed the US that the sailors were safe and “will promptly be allowed to continue their journey”. The BBC state that the incident happened near Farsi Island after one of the ships encountered mechanical problems.

NEWS: HMS Duncan joins Roosevelt battle group against Islamic State

HMS Duncan (nearest) with the USS Theodore Roosevelt (Forces.tv)

HMS Duncan (nearest) with the USS Theodore Roosevelt (Forces.tv)

One of the Royal Navy’s most advanced warships, the Type 45 destroyer HMS Duncan, has joined the American aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt and its supporting battlegroup currently conducting strikes against key ISIL targets in the Middle East. The MoD has said that the Duncan is operating around the clock to help provide protection for the American carrier.

The Type 45 is primarily an air defence vessel and is equipped with advanced Sea Viper surface-to-air missiles but regarding her role in the Gulf the MoD has said that the Duncan’s greatest contribution is her ability to provide air traffic and fighter control to US and coalition airstrikes. With the intensity of coalition air operations expected to rise the Duncan’s contribution will take on an even greater importance in the coming months. Earlier this week a Reaper Unmanned Combat Air Vehicle (UCAV) drone carried out the RAF’s 300th airstrike in the region when it fired a Hellfire missile at a truck being used by extremists.

HMS Duncan is expected to remain in the Gulf until the end of the year at the earliest.

McDonnell Douglas Phantom FG.1

Phantom_FG.1_of_892_NAS_launching_from_HMS_Ark_Royal_(R09)_1972

  • Crew: 2
  • Role: Fleet defence fighter
  • Length: 57 ft 7 in (17.55 m)
  • Wingspan: 38 ft 4.5 in (11.7 m)
  • Height: 16 ft 1 in (4.9 m)
  • Empty weight: 31, lb (14,061 kg)
  • Max. takeoff weight: 56,000 lb (25,402 kg)
  • Powerplant: 2 × Rolls-Royce Spey 202/204 turbofans (12,140 lbs dry thrust/20,500 lbs afterburner each)
  • Maximum speed: Mach 1.9 (1,386 mph) at 40,000 ft (12,190 m)
  • Ferry range: 1,750 mi (2,816 km)
  • Service ceiling: 60,000 ft (18,300 m)
  • Armament:
    4× AIM-7 Sparrow/4 × AIM-9 Sidewinders on wing pylons;
    1× 20 mm M61 Vulcan 6-barrel Gatling cannon in SUU-23 gun pod

The Phantom FG.1 was the last conventional fleet fighter operated by the Royal Navy’s Fleet Air Arm. It was ordered in 1964 as part of a modernization plan for the Royal Navy’s carrier force after the cancellation of the P.1154 supersonic V/STOL fighter. The initial order was for 140 aircraft to replace the De Havilland Sea Vixen FAW.2 on the Navy’s new carriers that were expected to be operational by 1970. After the order was placed however the plans for the new carriers were scrapped leaving only two operational vessels, HMS Eagle and HMS Ark Royal, large enough to handle the heavy fighter. Ultimately Eagle suffered a boiler room fire and was withdrawn before it could embark any Phantoms.

The British Phantom FG.1 differed from the US Navy F-4J Phantom II version primarily in its powerplant which consisted of a pair of Rolls-Royce Spey turbofans. This resulted in a deterioration of performance at higher altitudes but actually improved range and had slightly better acceleration at lower altitudes compared to the US version’s J79 engine. The fitting of the Spey required a redesign of engine intakes to accommodate their wider diameter. Another major difference was the fitting of an extendible nose wheel to increase the angle of attack on take off from the smaller carriers of the Fleet Air Arm (previous aircraft such as the Blackburn Buccaneer S.1 and Supermarine Scimitar F.1 actually had to launch with the tail dropped so the nose wheel dangled above the deck). Some aircraft were fitted with the sighting system from a Chieftain tank to help with long range visual identification.

With the cancellation of the new carriers such a large order of Phantoms was no longer needed and only 48 were actually delivered. Of these 48, 20 went directly to the RAF as it was announced that the Royal Navy would be suspending conventional carrier operations by 1980 after which the remaining 28 aircraft would follow suit. The first use of the Royal Navy’s Phantoms was actually aboard the US Navy carrier USS Saratoga in the Mediterranean. The following year Ark Royal embarked her first Phantoms. 767 Naval Air Squadron (NAS) acted as the training unit for the only operational frontline squadron, 892 NAS. In 1978 Ark Royal was finally withdrawn and with no carrier to operate from the remaining Navy Phantom FG.1s were transferred to the RAF.

A single example can be viewed at the Carrier Experience Exhibit at the Yeovilton Fleet Air Arm Museum.

Porpoise-class Submarine

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The Porpoise-class submarine was the first new submarine class launched by the Royal Navy after World War II with first of class HMS Porpoise being launched in 1956. In the period between 1945 and 1956 the Royal Navy’s submarine assets continued to comprise of the war-era T-class albeit it in its upgraded and smoothed off version to reduce its underwater acoustic signature. Somewhat ironically although not uncommon amongst the wartime allies the Porpoise-class was inspired by German advancements made in the closing stages of the war.

HMS Cachalot

HMS Cachalot

The Porpoise-class was one of the most capable conventional submarines available to NATO in the late 50s and early 60s. They were perhaps the quietest submarines in NATO and were far quieter than the equivalent Soviet Navy Whiskey-class. This meant they were difficult to detect; a fact dramatically proven when during exercises HMS Rorqual managed to make it all the way to the Statue of Liberty undetected by the US Navy. Top speed was 18knots submerged although a more economical (and quieter) 14knots was the norm.

ice_maiden

The Porpoise-class was the first submarine class in the Royal Navy not to be fitted with a deck gun since the R-class of World War I. This was because deck guns had become obsolete weapons due to the increasingly sophisticated detection methods employed by ASW forces that required all attacks to be made submerged. Additionally the removal of the gun reduced underwater drag and noise. The Porpoise-class was armed with eight 530mm torpedo tubes with four forward facing and two aft. A complement of 30 torpedoes could be carried or alternatively the tubes could fitted with mines.

HMS Seraph or USS Seraph – the sub with two captains and an identity crisis


The story of HMS Seraph’s war is one that certainly deserves far more attention than it has received if not for it’s contribution to the war against Nazi Germany then for the almost comical story of the events that occurred leading up to and on the night of November 5th 1942. HMS Seraph was an S-Class submarine designed for operation in the shallower and more restricted waters of the North Sea. It was this attribute that made the class ideal for insertion and extraction missions of Commandos, spies and the odd defector.

The story of Operation:Kingpin begins like many a war story with HMS Seraph being selected for a highly classified mission. In this instance it’s mission was to travel to a point 20 miles to the east of Toulon in Vichy France. There they would collect French General Henri Giraud, his son and three of his former staff officers.

Giraud’s story too is a fascinating one. Giraud was part of the French Army’s upper echelons when war broke out and was captured when the northern half of France came under German occupation while the southernmost part of the country became the often despised German collaborationist “Vichy France”. He was interned at Koenigstein Castle near Dresden only to plan a classic escape using twine and torn bedsheets to climb down the castle walls. He then spent days walking overland towards Switzerland where he revealed himself to two Swiss soldiers and soon he was transported to Vichy France where he attempted to persuade them to resist the Germans.

His efforts fell on deaf ears there for fear of the Germans abolishing their truce and invading Vichy France as well but he knew there was a chance he could convince the French forces still in North Africa to support him and the Allied cause. He therefore made secret communications with General Eisenhower as Operation:Torch, the Allied landings in North Africa, loomed on the horizon. Eisenhower needed Giraud in order to garner the support of the French in North Africa and a plan was therefore concocted to get Giraud out of Vichy France.

There was just one problem; Giraud point blank refused to have any dealings with the British.

This was more than the traditional case of Anglo-French rivalry/hostility. Many in the French government of 1940 blamed Britain for not being committed enough to defending France from the Germans and that air of blame remained after the fall of the country. Worse was to come when the Royal Navy attacked the French fleet at Mers-el-Kébir after the French armistice with Germany was signed. The attack was lead by the battleship HMS Hood and was intended to prevent the French warships from being requisitioned by the German Navy but resulted in the deaths of over 1200 Frenchmen. British submarines had also taken to sinking Vichy French merchantman that were transporting supplies to the Germans in Africa even though their crews had little choice but to obey their orders.

Giraud had every reason therefore to hate the British and Eisenhower knew that the Royal Navy submarine HMS Seraph was going to symbolize everything that the French General hated about them. Eisenhower was presented with a real headache as a result. There were no suitable US Navy submarines for nearly 3,000 miles and there wasn’t time to wait for one so it had to be a British submarine. But if Giraud saw he was being taken aboard a Royal Navy submarine he may refuse to go and as such the worst case scenario was that Allied landings in North Africa might face Vichy French opposition as well. It would be Winston Churchill himself however who would come up with a cunning plan to solve Eisenhower’s problem and appease Giraud. They would have to make Giraud believe that he was being taken aboard an American submarine and so for that His Majesty’s Submarine (HMS) Seraph became the USS Seraph by flying the US Ensign.

Of course it was going to take more than a simple flag change to make the rouse work. First efforts were made to ‘de-British’ the submarine wherever possible so things such as the picture of the King were hidden away. While the submarine may have looked less British the crew were another problem entirely. Cockneys, scowsers, toffs, Scots, etc – none of them sounded American. They were therefore ordered to watch American movies and attempt to imitate the accents. Soon the whole crew were sounding like James Cagney, Clark Gable and Humphrey Bogart. The plan was to have the crew talk as little as possible using these fake accents whilst around Giraud to reduce the chances of discovery but he was going to have to speak to someone quite often and that someone was going to have to be American.

Enter Captain Jerauld Wright of the US Navy. Wright was selected to travel aboard the Seraph posing as the “captain of the USS Seraph” and he would be Giraud’s main contact. The actual running of the ship however was left to HMS Seraph’s actual commanding officer Lieutenant Norman Jewell. Therefore HMS Seraph was not only a submarine with something of an identity crisis but it was also the only warship with two captains (although ultimately final authority fell to Jewell).

Alas the preparations made by the crew would prove to be in vain. On November 5th the “American” crew picked up Giraud, his son and his aides off the Toulon coast and when Giraud seemed suspicious Wright himself blew the whistle on the deception. Giraud must have swallowed his discontent for the greater good however for he decided to remain aboard the submarine and continue with his mission. Two days later Giraud and his entourage were transferred to a PBY Catalina flying boat for his meeting with Eisenhower.

This amazing story has largely been forgotten in the annals of naval history largely because of HMS Seraph herself and perhaps the greater contribution the vessel played in the later stages of the war. As part of Operation: Mincemeat Seraph threw the dead body of a young man in the sea off Spain dressed in a Royal Marine officer’s uniform and carrying documents that outlined a plan for the invasion of Greece and Sardinia by the allies. In reality the allies were going to invade Sicily. The man was picked up by the Spanish and the documents were handed to the Germans who believed the man had been a courier who had died in a plane crash. As a result of this they diverted forces away from Sicily thus contributing to the success of the landings there.

HMS Seraph therefore deserves to be remembered as one of the great warships but like the service it operated under its exploits remained silent.