The Saudi oil attacks – read the map

I note that Yemeni rebels have claimed responsibility for attacking Saudi Arabian oil refining facilities using (presumably) Iranian-manufactured and -supplied drones over the weekend.  I’m not so sure.  Consider this map of the region, with the area of the drone attacks highlighted by a red marker. That’s an awful long way from Yemen, where the Houthi rebels are fighting.  What’s more, the Yemeni border area is well covered by radar, with missiles and fighter aircraft on permanent standby to intercept ballistic missiles and other attacks launched from rebel territory.  To suggest that the drones flew all that way north, penetrating all those

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Combat resupply gets easier – and cheaper

The JPADS GPS-guided cargo parachute system has been in service with the US armed forces for some years.  It’s proven very useful in remote terrain in places like Afghanistan, where resupply over long distances is expensive and dangerous. Now it looks like something better – at least for smaller loads – is on the horizon. Yates Electrospace unveiled at the Defense & Security Equipment International (DSEI) show in London a larger variant of its unmanned cargo glider, the Silent Arrow GD-2000, that can fly with a gross weight of 907kg (2,000lb). The US-based company says it will start full-rate production in October and has

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Special Forces transports get down in the dirt

The USAF operates several dozen Lockheed Hercules MC-130J Commando II aircraft, to transport special forces to and from their operations, refuel associated aircraft in mid-air, and other tasks outside the normal transport function. Recently a formation of four MC-130J’s made several passes through the Mach Loop in Britain, a well-known plane-spotting area where military aircraft of all types practice low-level penetration of enemy airspace.  Courtesy of The Aviationist, here it is. The pilots were clearly enjoying themselves, but I can’t help wonder how difficult it was to fly that low.  A big transport reacts a lot more slowly than a nimble jet fighter or strike

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Interesting anti-missile tactic – sacrificial helicopters!

The Aviationist highlights a recent video from Russia, and points out that it’s a tactic they developed in Afghanistan that’s still in use. The Russian Ministry of Defense has released an interesting video of an Il-76MD cargo aircraft landing on an unpaved runway located near Sol-Iletsk, Orenburg Region, during a technical support exercise (MTO) of the Russian Federation Armed Forces in the Central Military District. . . . What makes the video particularly interesting is the fact that the Il-76 was escorted by two Mi-24 helicopters during the landing and subsequent takeoff from the dirt strip runway, a tactic reminiscent of the operations conducted by the

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A big plane for a highway to carry

Many countries practice operating military aircraft from civilian highways, often strengthening or adapting the latter during construction so that they can be used as emergency air bases in the event of hostilities.  However, most of the aircraft involved (that I’ve heard about, at least) have been standard fighter or strike aircraft;  not the largest or heaviest in a modern air force. Russia recently sent some of its Sukhoi Su-34 strike aircraft to practice operations from an improvised airstrip on a highway in Tatarstan.  The Su-34 is very large and heavy (comparable to the older US F-111), rather bigger than one would expect to operate

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Animals and war – still needed after all these years

I was interested to read that Chinese soldiers in Tibet are using an ancient means of transport to patrol their area of responsibility. Chinese media has, since the 1960s, regularly featured stories of the harsh conditions soldiers face in Tibet and Xinjiang, the two western provinces that border the Himalayan and Pamir Mountains as well as the high-altitude borders with India, Pakistan and Tajikistan. In effect China has the longest high-altitude borders in the world and uses a variety of methods to effectively patrol them and control smugglers and other illegal border crossers (like Islamic terrorists). For most of the border troops

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Close encounters of the aviation kind

Here’s a fun video of a Ukrainian Sukhoi Su-27 fighter closing in on a light cargo plane that was being used for air-to-air photography.  The big fighter simply can’t fly slowly enough to keep in formation with the slower plane, and eventually has to break away – but in the process, the photographers get some spectacular shots. I’d have been rather nervous, watching that fighter closing in on me like that! Peter

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Corruption in Afghanistan costs US taxpayers – again

The Afghan Air Force has had to acquire be given (at US expense) four used Lockheed Hercules transports – because the planes it was originally given (also at US expense), while more suitable for its needs, were sidelined by rampant corruption within its ranks, and among Afghan politicians. In 2012 Afghanistan announced that it would cancel the contract to buy and use 20 C-27A transports. The official reason was the inability of the Italian maintenance firm to keep the aircraft operational. The unofficial reason was the unwillingness of the Italians to pay as much in bribes as the Afghan officials were demanding. Over half a billion

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Did Israel bomb Iranian targets in Iraq?

News reports in Israel and from an Arab news source suggest that they did. Israel has expanded its operations against Iranian targets to Iraq, where Air Force jets have struck twice in ten days, a report said Tuesday morning. . . . Asharq Al-Awsat, an Arabic-language newspaper published in London, cited Western diplomatic sources as saying an Israeli F-35 plane was behind a July 19 strike on a rocket depot in a Shiite militia base north of Baghdad. The Saudi-based al-Arabiya network reported at the time that members of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps and Hezbollah had been killed in the strike. It said

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The devil’s in the details – naval edition

The old idiom “The devil’s in the details” has, in my experience, been proven true time and time again.  The “big picture” may look fine and dandy, but there’s always something, some little detail that’s escaped attention, that can screw it up to a fare-thee-well. The Norwegian Navy learned that the hard way last year, when its frigate Helge Ingstad collided with another vessel, and subsequently sank.   (Above image courtesy of Wikipedia)   The subsequent inquiry revealed that after the collision, the watertight compartments of the frigate functioned as intended . . . except for one crucial detail. While there was some uncertainty as to

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