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The U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory plans to flight-demonstrate a bistatic radar technique using a E-3 and a UAV.This would use a technique known as bistatic radar, where the transmitter (the AWACS) and the receiver (the UAV) are in different locations.
The future for the U.S. Air Force’s AWACS fleet might not be replacement of the E-3s, or even a new radar, but pairing of the E-3 Sentry aircraft with UAVs to extend surveillance coverage. According to a new sources-sought notice, the Air Force Research Laboratory plans to flight-demonstrate the AWACS mission performance improvements enabled by using a UAV equipped with an S-band bistatic radar receiver. This will use a conformal load-bearing antenna structure (CLAS) to enable integration of a very large receiver array on the UAV (see previous post).
Bistatic operation offers several advantages. With the smaller and more survivable UAV passively listening closer to the front line, the AWACS with its powerful active radar can be moved further back over friendly territory. This could be a major advantage in a conflict with China, as it would allow the vulnerable E-3 Sentry to stand off, making them easier to defend and to refuel.
As with everything these days, the idea is not new. U.S. and NATO E-3s have already controlled ScanEagle UAVs in exercises and a “Bistatic UAV Adjunct” was at one time proposed for the AWACS fleet.
AFRL’s test program may be a step in that direction. The Pentagon’s FY2012-2014 Aircraft Procurement Plan, meanwhile, says: “the E-3 Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS) and RC-135 Rivet Joint ISR aircraft will reach the end of their service lives prior to FY 2041. It is possible that advances in UAS designs will allow unmanned systems to replace those aircraft.”
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Nine paintings depicting the evolution of air and space, which are displayed in the Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Station technical support building lobby, will be adopted into the Air Force Art Program this year. The paintings were rescued years ago after being abandoned inside a storage closet at the Chidlaw Building, the then-headquarters building for the Aerospace Defense Command of the North American Air Defense Command.
“The big significance is that we capture some heritage, so that it doesn’t get lost,” said Col. Russell Wilson, tjhe 721st Mission Support Group commander at CMAFS.
For years, the paintings have been a source of conversation and mystery, Colonel Wilson said. The only clue about the paintings’ origins is the signature, “T. Patterson.” Beyond that, the paintings are not dated and no one knows who T. Patterson was.
“We still ask the question, where did these paintings come from?” he said.
Art Marthaller, a retired chief master sergeant and retired Department of Defense civilian, found the discarded paintings in the mid 1980s in the Chidlaw Building. The paintings were covered in dust, but he liked them, he said. Chief Marthaller asked around and no one objected, so he took them up to the mountain and put them up in the conference room.
The paintings run as a series that begin with Greek mythology and the depiction of Icarus, the Greek man who made wings of feathers and wax to escape Crete. However, he flew too close to the sun and melted his wings causing his crash to earth.
Each painting has a number of faces or images that represent different eras of flight history. The paintings depict the first manned balloon flight in France by the Montgolfier brothers in 1783 and the first successful airplane flight by the Wright brothers in 1903.
T. Patterson also paid homage to World War I German fighter pilot Manfred von Richthofen, also known as the Red Barron, and in a separate painting to Valentina Terskova, a Soviet cosmonaut who in 1963 became the first woman in space.
The paintings also treat viewers to the Flying Tiger, the P-38 Lightning, the Supermarine Spitfire and the CH-47 Chinook, which spans 1941 to the early 1960s in three paintings. The artist also paints the Apollo 11 moon landing of 1969 and then the more modern F-15 Eagle tactical fighters and the all-weather surveillance E-3 Sentry, which would indicate the paintings were done after 1977, when those aircraft were introduced.
“As you look at them, they really show the transition of air power,” Colonel Wilson said. “There are a lot of famous people in the paintings — it’s fun, a lot of folks will stop here and try to figure out who they are.”
The paintings have been examined by the 21st Space Wing and Air Force Space Command historians, but neither had ever seen the paintings or knew anything about the artist, Colonel Wilson said.
“I heard comments and rumors that the painter was a Vietnam veteran doing some art therapy,” said Jim Burghardt, 721st MSG test control operations chief. “I would like to know who he is.”
Source: U.S. Air Force
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The Pentagon is generating plans for a no-fly zone over Libya—plans that could produce the first combat assignment for the F-22 Raptor stealth fighter.
Whether the idea progresses beyond this stage is subject to United Nations and NATO support, the scale of Libyan military action against its civilians, and the reluctance of the U.S. to take on stewardship of military operations in yet another Muslim country. Nonetheless, the idea does show how the U.S. Air Force confronts the task of taking down a large air defense system.
The Lockheed Martin F-22, F-16CJ Wild Weasels and some cyberoperations would be employed in shutting down Libya’s air defense system, which consists “almost exclusively” of Russian-built SA-6 surface-to-air missile (SAM) systems. The munitions are similar to those that opposed NATO forces involved in operations in Serbia and that shot down the single F-117 fighter lost in combat, says a former Air Force chief of staff.
While the SA-6 Gainful (2K12 Kub) is the most effective SAM in the Libyan inventory, others include the SA-2 Guideline (S-75), SA-3 Goa (S-125) and SA-5 Gammon (S-200).
U.S. aircraft carriers are moving to the western Mediterranean, but operations in Afghanistan may not permit them to maintain a long-term no-fly zone over Libya. That task would likely fall to the Air Force, says a senior USAF official.
“Creating and enforcing a leak-proof no-fly zone over Libya can be done without stretching U.S. forces,” the veteran fighter pilot says. “The Air Force has the capacity to do this without seriously affecting its missions in Afghanistan. There is no air superiority problem in Iraq or Afghanistan that requires more fighters and AWACS [Airborne Warning and Control Systems], than [those] already committed [to that mission].”
“With respect to the no-fly zone specifically, it’s an extraordinarily complex operation to set up,” says Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. “We would have to work our way through doing it in a safe manner and not put ourselves in jeopardy . . . over air defenses that could actually . . . take those aviation assets out of the air. There are an awful lot of people talking about this [no-fly zone] and an increasing desire to understand it specifically.”
Basing could be an issue. “Obviously it would be desirable to operate from bases in Italy,” the former Air Force chief of staff says. “Italy would likely allow us to use its bases because of [its] vested commitment to [maintaining] access to Libyan oil and gas.”
A worst-case scenario, with NATO rejecting support of a no-fly zone, might have shorter-range U.S. fighters flying out of Egypt, using facilities like Cairo West where multi-national Bright Star exercises are conducted.
“I engaged my counterpart in Egypt a number of times,” Mullen says. “They want to sustain the relationship [with the U.S. military].”
Others with insight into the current administration in Egypt agree.
“We have a great relationship with the Egyptian air force and army and they are the ones in charge of the country,” the former Air Force chief of staff says. He notes that U.S. aircraft would not operate from bases in eastern Libya occupied by forces opposed to leader Moammar Gadhafi because of the danger of shoulder-fired missiles, anti-U.S. protests and sabotage.
“The Air Force has significant excess capacity for the Libya mission,” the veteran fighter pilot says. “It is the perfect scenario for the F-22 and F-16CJ Wild Weasels that are currently not engaged in Afghanistan. The Air Force’s bread-and-butter mission is to take down sophisticated, integrated air defense systems, attack air bases to render them unusable, destroy any radars that emit, and clear the skies of any aircraft in flight. After an intense, 24-48-hr. campaign, enforcing the no-fly zone is a routine operation.”
Larger aircraft, such as tankers, Northrop Grumman E-8 Joint Stars and Boeing E-3 AWACS could conceivably operate from Oman, Tunisia or Qatar.
The establishment of a no-fly zone would require “a massive SAM rollback effort, like that imposed on Iraq [during the Northern and Southern Watch operations after the first Iraq conflict in 1991],” the USAF official says. “Every time the Iraqis turned on a radar, we hosed them.
“Any cyberoperations would be part of the SAM rollback radar and computer-jamming program, but it would be a small part,” he says. Other targets would be communications systems. The “heavy weight of effort required” to impose a round-the-clock flight ban could require the “first actual use of the F-22.”
Defense Secretary Robert Gates confirms that discussions about the intricacies of setting up a no-fly zone were under way as part of the options and contingencies that the Pentagon is preparing for White House review.
Mullen has just returned from visiting seven countries in the region to gather the opinions of his peers.
Asked about moving additional aircraft into the region, Mullen says: “We are looking at all options and a variety of contingencies. The options beyond humanitarian assistance and evacuation are complex. If we move additional assets, what are the consequences of that for Afghanistan and the Persian Gulf, [and] are our allies prepared to work with us?