As Popular Mechanics reporting on September 5, a U.S. Air Force aircraft crashed at the Nevada Test and Training Range (NTTR), killing the pilot. But even a week later, the Air Force has refused to reveal the type of aircraft involved in the incident. The hush-hush treatment has left many people wondering what the plane could be, and whether the Air Force is developing a new “black” aircraft that has not been declassified to the public.
The incident, which took place at a training facility in Nevada, has sparked speculation that some kind of previously unknown aircraft was involved. The pilot involved in the crash, Lt. Col. Eric Schultz, was a squadron commander of an Air Force unit that tests and evaluates foreign aircraft. If this is the case, the most likely explanation is that Schultz was piloting a foreign jet at the time of the crash.
Airmen who flight test foreign military planes, sometimes called Red Hats, are part of an unnumbered unit within Detachment 3 of the 53rd Test and Evaluation Group, stationed out of Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada. A press release from Nellis indicates that the aircraft involved in the incident belonged to Air Force Material Command, which oversees Detachment 3 of the 53rd. Flight testing foreign jets was previously conducted by the 413th Flight Test Squadron and the 4477th Test and Evaluation Squadron before that.
These units have been known to operate a variety of Russian-built fighter aircraft, including the MiG-29 and several jets built by Russian aviation contractor Sukhoi. The Su-27 air superiority fighter, for example, was spotted flying over the Nevada Test and Training Range this past January.
The exact aircraft type involved in the crash is still unknown, though it could be an Su-27 or possibly even the newer Su-30 multirole fighter, which Russia has sold to multiple U.S. allies such as Indonesia and Vietnam. Evaluating Russian aircraft has become a priority for the U.S. Air Force these days, as aerial encounters between the two militaries over Syria and the Baltics have become more common.
The mystery of the crash is compounded by the fact that Schultz was an experienced test pilot and engineer. A holder of six degrees, including a doctorate in aerospace engineering, Schultz had flown combat missions in the F-15E in Afghanistan and early flight test evaluations in the F-35, racking up more than 2,000 hours in a variety of aircraft over his career.
Sources: Aviation Week
The MiG-31 is famous, primarily, for its ability to accelerate to an incredible speed of 3000 kilometers per hour and operate at altitudes of more than 20 kilometers. Because of that, the aircraft was nicknamed Foxhound.
The MiG-31 is unique in all respects and still have no competitors in the world. They will cover Russia’s air borders in the next ten years, after which will be replaced with even more advanced long-range aircraft MiG-41 which will be able to destroy targets already outside the atmosphere, in outer space.
The issue of the resumption of production of the MiG-31 or the development of a new high-altitude interceptor was replaced by it for a long time and was so overripe that in 2013 the Duma heard hearings on this topic. They were the first in the history of the lower house of parliament devoted to the fate of a specific weapon. Parliamentarians called on the government to resume production of the MiG-31 and to extend the life of already flying cars. The deputies then talked a lot about NATO’s expansion to the East, the development of the US missile defense system and some plans of the West “for a large-scale militarization of outer space.” In this difficult situation, in their opinion, only the MiG-31 will be able to close the Russian air borders to a reliable lock.
MiG-31 is really a very interesting aircraft, although it was developed in the early 70’s. Its characteristic rapid silhouette is easy to recognize by the chopped wingtips, the rigid contours of the glider, the huge nozzles and beveled shells of the air intakes of the D-30F-6 engines. Due to their monstrous total thrust, these engines accelerate the 40-ton machine to speeds close to hypersonic. Of the weapons – six-barrel 23-millimeter gun and six points of suspension of a variety of air-to-air missiles. The maximum combat load is nine tons.
As previously reported, the PAK DP will be called the MiG-41 and is developed on the basis of the MiG-31. At the same time, the aircraft will not become a product of the profound modernization of the MiG-31, but will be a completely independent completely new car. The first deliveries to the Air and Space Forces could begin already in the mid-2020s in the event of orders from the Ministry of Defense. PAK DP will be hypersonic itself (claimed speed is 4500 km / h) and will be able to carry hypersonic missiles. The creators plan to “sharpen” it for work in the Arctic zone and eventually, perhaps, “re-qualify” in drone.
As Ilya Tarasenko, General Director of RAC MiG, said earlier on the Zvezda TV channel, the aircraft will have unique combat capabilities, in particular, it will be invisible to the enemy radars and even be able to work in outer space. Some versions of the MiG-31 can already launch small satellites into near-earth orbit.
The main qualities for a high-altitude interceptor are speed and range of action, and not maneuverability, said the Honored Test Pilot of the USSR, Hero of Russia Anatoly Kvochur. According to him, promising “high-altitude” can be used for peaceful purposes, such as, for example, combating space debris in low orbits.
It should also be noted that, apart from eliminating reconnaissance aircraft and enemy bombers, the important tasks of distant high-altitude interceptors remain the search and destruction of ballistic and cruise missiles in the air defense system. Their effectiveness in this they have already proved. In the summer, the MiG-31 successfully shot down a missile flying at an altitude of 12 kilometers at a speed three times the speed of sound.
The North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s (NATO) F-16 supersonic multirole fighter attempted to get close to Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu’s plane over neutral Baltic waters but was chased away by a Russian jet, a Sputnik correspondent reported Wednesday.
Shoigu was en route to the westernmost Russian city of Kaliningrad when the F-16 attempted to make an approach.
References: Sputnik International
The Indian Air Force aircraft was on a routine training mission, when it lost radar and radio contact with the controlling station near Arunachal Pradesh’s Doulasang area, an area adjoining China.
The wreckage of the Sukhoi-30 jet that went missing with two pilots was located on Friday on the Assam-Arunachal Pradesh border after a three-day search operation.
“Bad weather in the area is hampering the operation. The fate of the two pilots is not known yet,” said defence spokesperson Lt Col Sombit Ghosh.
He told HT that the wreckage has been located near the coordinates, about 60 km north of Tezpur town in north-central Assam, where the last contact with the fighter aircraft was made.
Meanwhile, the Indian Air Force on Friday ordered a court of inquiry into the accident.
“A court of inquiry has been ordered to investigate the cause of the accident,” IAF spokesperson Wing Commander Anupam Banerjee said here Tezpur is one of the three IAF air bases in the country that host the Sukhois.
The Su-30 jet took off from the IAF Tezpur air base, located about 172 km from the India-China border in Arunachal Pradesh around 9.30 am on a routine training mission on May 23.
The aircraft was on a routine training mission as part of a two-aircraft formation.
It lost radar and radio contact with the controlling station around 11.10 am near Arunachal Pradesh’s Doulasang area, an area adjoining China, 60 km north of Tezpur.
Returning from Duxford Air Show, pilot Cdr. Simon Hargreaves encountered hydraulic problems with XP924 and despite every effort he was unable to lower the undercarriage resulting in having to skillfully execute a wheels up landing.
Two Chinese jets fighters conducted an “unprofessional” intercept of US aircraft over the East China Sea, according to military sources.
The ‘nuclear sniffer’ plane was sent to monitor radiation levels in the area, in accordance with international law, and regularly completes missions in North East Asia, according to Air Force spokesperson Lieutenant Colonel Lori Hodge.
In the past, the planes have been used to gather evidence of possible nuclear tests by North Korea.
On Wednesday, the two Chinese jets came within 150 feet of the sniffer plane, according to US Air Force, and one flew upside down directly above the American plane.
“While we are still investigating the incident, initial reports from the US air crew characterised the intercept as unprofessional,” Lieutenant Colonel Hodge told CNN.
“The issue is being addressed with China through appropriate diplomatic and military channels,”
The incident was the second stand-off between US and Chinese military in seas surrounding China this year.
In February, a US Navy spy plane and a Chinese military aircraft came within 1,000 feet of each other over the South China Sea. At the time, US officials US officials called an “unsafe” close encounter over the South China Sea in February.
In 2001 a Chinese jet collided with a US Navy surveillance aircraft off Hainan Island, killing the Chinese pilot and leading Washington to cut military relations with China after that episode.
There are long-running territorial disputes in the East and South China Seas.
Both China and Japan claim 200 miles from their coast as an Exclusive Economic Zone (a sea zone prescribed by the United Nations), but the East China Sea is just 360 miles long.
The Russian Su-30 fighter raised on May 9 alarm over the Black Sea for the “greeting” of the American reconnaissance aircraft did not take undue risk, but acted in accordance with the established rules for such meetings.
The first to intercept an American airplane was reported by the NBC television station referring to the US Navy spokesman Capt. Pamela Kunze, who said that the Russian Su-27 fighter had become close to the P-8A Poseidon when the American aircraft was carrying out its mission in the international airspace over the Black Sea. It was noted that the Russian fighter flew on May 9 at a distance of seven meters from a reconnaissance aircraft of the US Navy.
By the US Navy encounter that occurred on Tuesday was described as “safe and professional.”
“Distance is only one of many variables considered when defining what is safe and professional,” Pentagon spokesman Navy Capt. Jeff Davis said. “For aviation interactions, distance, speed, altitude, rate of closure, visibility and other factors impact whether an event is characterized as safe or unsafe, professional or not professional.”
A US defense official told CNN that the Russian aircraft was armed with six air-to-air missiles and that the pilot took photos of the US plane during the encounter.
According to the Russian Ministry of Defense, “The Russian fighter carried out a ‘greeting’ maneuver. After that, the US surveillance aircraft changed his flying course away from the Russian border.”
The aircraft were operating 65 miles south of the Sea of Azov, which separates Russia and Russian-occupied Crimea.
“The US Navy does, on a normal and routine basis, operate ships and aircraft in the Black Sea consistent with international law,” Kunze said.
The Russian government statement described the Russian jet as an Su-30 while US officials referred to it as a Su-27.
Russia has conducted several flights off the US coast in recent months.
Last week, two Russian bombers, flanked by a pair of fighter jets, were intercepted by stealth US F-22 aircraft off the coast of Alaska.
And during a stretch in April, Russian military aircraft were spotted flying off the coast of Alaska four times in as many days.