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Photo from Dave Thompson of an arrival at Leeming this week. 

The articles below are contributed by FLAG member and local journalist Philip Sedgwick

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NOT one but two men in red were spotted flying high over the skies of North Yorkshire this week.


No it wasn’t Santa making a recce, but the two of the iconic red aircraft of the RAF’s elite aerobatic team the Red Arrows making a short visit to RAF Leeming. The pair were visiting to collect one of their aircraft after it had been given a gleaming new paint job. The team use the same aircraft as the resident 100 Squadron at Leeming, who prefer to be men in black.

A spokesman for the Red Arrows said: “There were two Red Arrows in North Yorkshire as part of our on-going fleet management – collecting a freshly-painted aircraft.

December 2020


 

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Swiss Air Force Hornets return home after their Leeming deployment

A MONTH long deployment by the Swiss Air Force in North Yorkshire has concluded.
Pilots and support crews from three squadrons of the Swiss Air Force have successfully carried out their four week deployment as guests at RAF Leeming.

Codenamed Yorknite 2020, the exercise gives the Swiss pilots half the night-flying hours required for their entire year’s training. The four week long deployment was in two parts. The first was to assimilate younger less experienced pilots with the F18 Hornet fighter bomber aircraft. After two weeks a second batch of pilots replaced the original flyers for further tactical training including night flying.

Although night flying is not prohibited in Switzerland, the constant threat of avalanches means it is restricted hence they are invited to train with the RAF. The sleek aircraft have seen spotted over much of the area including across Wensleydale, the coast and as far as the Lake District. Some of the aircraft have distinctive tail art, which identifies their individual  units.

With the deployment a godsend for excitement-starved plane spotters, not all of the local populous shared their enthusiasm for the visit. There was some disgruntlement on social media at the noisy jets flying at night. The RAF would probably point out the base has been in existence since 1940 and the UK military do train overseas extensively themselves.

Lieutenant Colonel Aldo Wicki, Commander of YorkNite 2020, said: “The warmth and goodwill we experienced by the British population and the support provided by the Royal Air Force and Ministry of Defence makes us deeply indebted to the RAF and MoD.”  

December 2020

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Philip looks at who’s visiting the Dales by air during the coronavirus travel ban.

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An F-15E Strike Eagle of the 494th Fighter Squadron from RAF Lakenheath - photo by Airman !st Class Madeline Herzog


With the nationwide lockdown affecting air travel, the skies over North Yorkshire have become, at times, completely devoid of aircraft. Those distinctive vapour trails that betray the sun-seekers jetting off to warmer climes or those travelling luxury business class on their way to exotic destinations are no longer seen.

But one group of fliers who still need to hone their skills are the military aircrews as they may be called on in any emergency. This is demonstrated by the Ministry of Defence’s Aviation Task Force, some of whose members are based at RAF Leeming in North Yorkshire, which has been assisting the NHS.

 

In between this vital work they continue to train practising emergency scenarios in Wensleydale.

The picturesque scenery of the Dales is not just a working backdrop for the RAF and Army Air Corps; the most prevalent visitors of late have been the US Air Force.

 

The fast, silver arrow-like jets, often in pairs, are from US Air Force’s 48th Fighter Wing based at RAF Lakenheath in Suffolk. These gleaming F15C Eagles often work with the British forces and are directed onto targets by hidden soldiers or airmen.

A spokesperson for the 48th Fighter Wing explained: “The mission of the Liberty Wing is to provide worldwide responsive combat airpower and support, and routine training for our aircrew and support personnel is how we ensure we’re always ready to achieve that objective.

“During flying operations, which include flying over Yorkshire, our aircrew are conducting various types of training that build and further develop the skills needed for the collective defence of the US, UK and Nato alliance.

 

“We are appreciative of the community’s support, and the unique opportunity to live and work alongside long standing partners and allies.”

The beautiful nature of the area is not lost on the visiting US “Top Guns”.

 

 

Lt Dylan McKeever, a weapon systems officer with 494th Fighter Squadron, said: “We can accomplish low and medium altitude air to ground training along with air-to-air simulated combat training over Yorkshire and the 494th squadron routinely flies in the skies above that area.

“For low air to ground training, there is great terrain to navigate through for practising undetected ingress and attacks. In some cases, aircrew have trained with Joint Terminal Attack Controllers in the area, which provides additional simulated training.

“With prior planning and approval, I’ve had the opportunity to practise low altitude flying over the dales and it was a surreal experience.

“It closely resembled a trip I made to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Northern Georgia and East Tennessee. I was also able to hike Blood Mountain (4,458 feet) and the terrain, greenery, and elevation of the Dales reminded me of that hike. However, I can’t specifically compare the flying over these two areas.

“I have not made a trip on the ground to the Yorkshire area, but it is at the top of my list of places to visit once the Covid-19 travel restrictions are relaxed. My parents visited England for their honeymoon in the early 1990s and they always tell me about how much they enjoyed York.”

His colleague, Lt Jonathan Leveille, also a weapon systems officer at the 494th, said: “We use the airspace over Yorkshire for training in several of the missions carried out by the F-15E Strike Eagle, which includes basic surface attack close air support dynamic targeting and surface attack tactics.

 

“We also have the ability to practice air-to-air missions such as basic fighter manoeuvres.

“The airspace in the region also allows us to practise low altitude flying, and it is a great area for low level flying because of the rolling hills and varying terrain.

“I hope to visit the area as it reminds me of the Black Hills in South Dakota, and some of the rolling hills of the plains states in the US.”

No strangers to Yorkshire Dales, the RAF’s sinister looking black-painted Hawks from Leeming or gleaming Typhoon Eurofighters often overfly and train with troops from nearby Catterick Garrison.

Other large aircraft such as RAF’s Hercules, Atlas or Globemasters regularly overfly the dales. These aircraft are highly flexible, with the ability to move a variety of stores, paratroopers or even a Chinook helicopter. To conduct these missions it is vital that crews are highly-skilled in low-level flying, day or night. High-tech equipment enables them to remain in formation during poor weather or on search and rescue missions.

Along with Hawks, the Eurofighters regularly visit Teesside and Newcastle airports performing simulated landings, no doubt causing mild surprise among passengers – in the days when ordinary people could fly.

Two transports from the US Marine Corps made a rare appearance at the start of the lockdown flying down the River Ure valley, causing a Wensleydale police officer to comment on social media that he’d seen more aircraft than cars that day.

 

The sight of these aircraft can cause mild confusion among the uninitiated because the American V22 Osprey, which is a regular visitor, is a hybrid of aeroplane and helicopter. In the early stages of the lockdown one concerned resident asked her friend if it was a giant police drone checking the public remained inside.

Other irregular visitors are the giant red helicopters of HM Coastguard and the yellow or green and white air ambulances are also a familiar sight in our skies.

In normal times, the high level overflights are not always civilian aircraft as air forces from across the world use our air space several miles up. The Red Arrows have been known to cross Wensleydale en route to a show and the iconic Second World War aircraft of the RAF’s Battle of Britain Memorial Flight will visit when the occasion demands it, but it is unlikely that we will see any of them until the lockdown eases and the skies begin to fill up again.

 

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 Zone U S A

 

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                    Read the latest U.S. military news from Air Force Magazine              

                                                 

                                                                     airforcemag.com

 


 

A keen anglo-file, retired USAF Brig. Gen. Reg Urschler contributes to our US content on this page - 

this US webpage section is currently under development

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Brig. Gen. Urschler in 

 his P-51 Mustang

"The Gunfighter"

and as a young Lt. flying with SAC


Below is a RB-47H

Stratojet airplane of the type in which he flew elint missions during the cold war years

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Read the Daily Report - the news column on the Air Force, airpower and defense

 

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