RSAF lands fighters on highway. Are alternative Runways making a comeback?

The Lim Chu Kang Road in the northern part of Singapore has been in the news lately, as it has temporarily been shut down for Operation Torrent, 2016, an exercise conducted by the Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) which includes conducting simultaneous launch and recovery operations from Lim Chu Kang road and Tengah Air Force Base.
Exercises like these have proven to be very useful in the past, when in a state of military emergency. Air Forces around the world play a vital role in the military defence capabilities of their countries, but they are restricted to operating from strategically located air force bases, which sometimes might not be close to the location where the action would actually be needed. The Navy came up with Aircraft carriers just to solve this mobility problem, but they too are confined to the ocean and sometimes might not be very helpful in a mainland based fight, and this is where (Advanced Landing Ground) ALG’s and Highway landing strips help a lot.
C-130J DBO 3


Singapore is the first South East Asian country to perform such an exercise, but what makes this more interesting is that alongside the F-16s, the RSAF used their F-15 SG in this exercise, which is in all probability the first time an F-15 SG has been used in a road landing, though other variants of the F-15 have been used in alternate runway landings before, South Korean F-15 K’s used in road landing and take-off’s in 2008 stand as an example. The F-15, more commonly known in the aviation world as the ‘Eagle’ has been an important part of the United States Air Force  for a long time now, and the RSAF bought many variations of the F-15 from the United States of America, the best one probably being the F-15 SG. The RSAF operates a fleet of 24 F-15 SG’s which is the hottest most-equipped version in the F-15 series.

RSAF F-15 SG landing at the Lim Chu Kang Road in Northern Singapore

Take a standard F-15, add APG-63(V)3 AESA Radar, Sniper XR EO/laser targeting pod, AAS-43 Tiger Eyes IRST (Infrared search-and-track system), an ALQ-135M system, an NVG-compatible cockpit, JHMCS(Joint Helmet Mounting Cueing System) and also the ability to launch a wide array of advanced weapons like the AIM-9X Sidewinder, the AIM-120C AMRAAM, the AGM-154 JSOW(Joint Stand Off Weapon), the SDB(Small Diameter Bomb) etc. then replace the Engines in the base variant of the F-15 with General Electric F-110-GE-129 engines, and one ends up with the F-15 SG.

The RSAF F-15 SG with its wide Array of Weapons

The F-15 SG is a front-line strike fighter jet in the RSAF which makes Operation Torrent 2016 very important. Alternative Runways were first found to be very important during World War II and then now in the last decade. Finnish Air Force F/A-18 Hornets, Belarusian Yak 130s and SU-25s regularly perform alternative runway exercises and even United States Air Force A-10 Thunderbolts have performed Highway landings in the past.
The Indian Air Force is not to be left far behind in this regard, as it recently made news when they landed one of their gigantic transport aircraft, the C-17 Globemaster at the mechuka airstrip, an ALG(advanced Landing Ground) in the state of Arunachal Pradesh, just 30 kilometres from the Chinese border. This alternative runway can serve as a strategic asset, especially given that hostilities exist between the two countries. It is to be noted that this area is a two-day road journey away from the nearest commercial airport and railway station, and the landing by the largest aircraft in the Indian Air Force C-17 Globemaster, is a big boost to the troop transportation capabilities of the Indian Defence Organisations.

The IAF C-17 Globemaster landing at Mechuka ALG

In May, 2015, the Indian Air Force had performed a highway landing with a Mirage 2000 Jet fighter on the Yamuna Expressway near the National Capital Region, and said that it was on the lookout for more stretches of highways where such landings are feasible.

Image Credits : Google Images, The Aviationist


Audi Motorsport quits WEC; all set to Focus on Formula E

Think of the FIA WEC series, and it is unlikely that one would not think about Audi and its mean machines running hybrid diesel powertrains, taking on the corners of Le Mans and the like. Well, if this is what you tend to get excited about, I am afraid there is some bad news for you. Audi Motorsport has officially announced that 2016 will be their last year competing in the Endurance Championship, including the 24 hours of Le Mans.
This decision will bring an era of successful motor racing to an end for the Ingolstadt based automobile manufacturer, who has taken part in the FIA WEC (Federation Internationale de l’Automobile World Endurance Championship) for 18 years, out of which they had 13 victories, two drivers’ and two manufacturers’ titles, making it the most successful brand in terms of race wins and titles in the FIA World Endurance Championship WEC since its introduction in 2012.
This development came about after Audi Motorsport teamed up with Team ABT Schaeffler to participate in the 2016-17 season of Formula-E racing series, and quitting the World Endurance Championship would help Audi concentrate more on the all-electric formula racing series.
FIA Formula E 2016/2017

ABT Schaeffler FE02

Manufacturers are generally known to take away knowledge and experience from their motorsport ventures in order to use them in the development of their production cars, and this move by Audi can be seen as another such attempt, as Audi now wants to focus on development of zero emission electric vehicles, facing competition from the likes of Tesla. Audi had earlier revealed plans to include multiple zero-emission vehicles in their portfolio by 2025, and their Formula E venture would definitely benefit their development.
After Audi quits the WEC at the end of the year, there will be just two manufacturers left in the endurance championship – Porsche and Toyota. The Formula E series on the other hand has attracted many manufacturers like Jaguar, Renault, Mahindra, Mercedes-Benz, Audi and Citroen.
Image Courtesy : Google Images

Sebastian vettel apologises to FIA and Charlie Whiting

Formula one driver Sebastian Vettel on Sunday made news after his rant during the Mexican Grand Prix, which was laden with expletives.
Vettel swore against race director Charlie Whiting and competitor Max Verstappen in a conversation on the team radio, as he crossed the line in response to Verstappen failing to cede his third place to the Ferrari driver when he cut the T1 chicane whilst attempting to defend. Vettel’s swearing was broadcast to a worldwide audience on Sunday, with the swear words beeped out. Vettel later apologised to Charlie Whiting, hence avoiding any action from being taken against him.

But Verstappen’s cutting of the first corner was investigated by the stewards on the grounds he might have gained an advantage by leaving the track and in dramatic scenes Verstappen was given a five-second penalty immediately after the race and was demoted to fifth. Verstappen was forced to leave the pre-podium room as Vettel ran to take up his place on the podium.

However, in a further twist, Vettel then lost third place after becoming the first driver to be punished under a new dangerous driving rule for his defence against Ricciardo’s attempted pass.

Vettel was penalised 10 seconds for moving while in the braking zone and given two penalty points on his licence – ending up fifth and Ricciardo eventually being classified as third.
The Radio Conversation between Sebastian Vettel and Ferrari, his team:

“Move, move. For f*** sake. He [Verstappen]’s a f***k… that’s what he is.”

“I mean am I the only one or are you not seeing what I am seeing? He is just backing me up into Ricciardo? For f**ks sake.”

Ferrari: Charlie said [inaudible]…

“Here is a message for Charlie: F*** off! F*** off! Honestly”

“I mean honestly, I am going to hit someone. I think I have a puncture, rear left [after Turn 4 incident with Daniel Ricciardo].”

Ferrari: Tyres are fine, tyres are fine

“He has to give me the position. End of the story.”

Ferrari: Charlie say no.

“Well here’s a message for Charlie. F*** off! Honestly, f**k off.”

Maurizio Arrivabene: Sebastian, Sebastian calm down. They are under investigation. We know it is not fair, but calm down. Put your head down and we talk afterwards.

Okay, copy. Received.

Vettel in the Ferrari Trying to overtake Verstappen in the Toro Rosso

Other teams in the sport put blamed Ferrari for the built up frustration within Sebastian Vettel. Red bull team principal , Christian Horner was quoted as saying, “in any sport,  what you cannot do is, give abuse to the referee”. In a sport like Formula One, though things have calmed down in only the last decade or so. Instances like these are not totally new, as in the olden days when things were not so commercialized in the sport, usage of swear words in the pits and in the car was very normal and in some instances pure entertainment.
Sebastian Vettel was quick to point that out in an interview after the Mexican Grand Prix with Juan Pablo Montoya.  “I was using a lot of sign language and using a lot of your language I think, Probably looking back I felt like you when you got angry in the car.” Vettel told Montoya, who himself had a pretty respectable Formula 1 career in the past.
The Mexican Grand Prix ended with Lewis Hamilton Taking first place, Nico Rosberg second and Daniel Ricciardo third. After the 10 second Penalty, Sebastian Vettel was placed in the fifth position.

Iran Conducts F-14A Tomcat Training Exercise. Top Gun Re-Lived?

The Islamic Republic of Iran Air Force(IRIAF) is the only operator of the F-14A Tomcat, and they recently conducted a large exercise involving the aircraft. Air Forces conducting training exercises using their aircraft are very common, so what is the fuss about? Well, the exercise in itself is not a big deal, but it is in this case, the aircraft used in the exercise.
To Aviation Enthusiasts, the words ‘Top Gun’ immediately paint a picture within the mind, of a very young Tom Cruise Flying around in a F-14A Tomcat, manoeuvering the US Naval aircraft like a movie hero really should. The two things one can take away from the movie, to be remembered forever probably are, the realistic dogfight simulations, and of course the F-14A Tomcat itself.

Hollywood Actor Tom Cruise in a Top Gun Poster with the F-14A Tomcat in the background

The F-14A Tomcat was an Interceptor aircraft manufactured by Grumman Aerospace corporation and designed to suit the requirements of the US Navy at the time – An Interceptor and Fleet defence aircraft which could be based off an aircraft carrier and could easily take on the Soviet fighter aircraft, Mainly the MIG-21 and MIG-25, and successful it was, very successful. In the 1980’s F-14 Tomcat’s were used by the Islamic Republic of Iran Air Force in the Iran-Iraq war, in which they shot down at least 160 Iraqi aircraft, while only around 12 Tomcats were lost. The F-14 first flew at the end of 1970, and went on to become a legend, having served mainly with the US Navy, and to an extent with Iran.

A US Navy F-14A Tomcat on approach to Land on the Aircraft carrier

The last flight of this legend with the US Navy was just over a decade ago, on 22nd September of 2006, but the Tehran based engineers have managed to keep the legendary bird alive and kicking, with a few avionics and weapons upgrades developed locally in Iran, and the IRIAF plans to keep the aircraft going till 2030, which makes it seem like they are asking for a lot from the nearly half-a-century-old design, especially given that just 35 of the 62 F-14s in IRIAF possession were air worthy as per a 2013 report.

US Navy F-14A Tomcat preparing for take-off aboard USS Constellation

The 62 F-14A Tomcats are based out of TFB.8 (Tactical Fighter Base 8) near Eshahan in central Iran. Even though they have 35 airworthy aircraft, only 6 were actually used in these exercises which went on for three days. Through this exercise, pilots has a chance to renew their skills of launching the AIM-9 and AIM-7 air-to-air missiles from the aircraft – a first in nearly 10 years.
On the first night of the exercise, the F14s simulated HVACAP(High-Value Asset Combat Air Patrol), BARCAP( Barrier Combat Air Patrol) and CAP(Combat Air Patrol) and also Escorted F-4Es. On the second morning, the F-14s engaged with MIG 29s and on the third day, they fired missiles and escorted air-tankers.

IRIAF F-14A Tomcat escorting a Soviet TU-95 Bear D

Though a legend of the past decades, the effectiveness of the F-14A Tomcat in today’s age might be very questionable, with more modern aircraft in Air Forces all over the world, but it definitely is nice to see the F-14 A back in the air.
Image Credits : Google Images, The Aviationist
Info Credit : The Aviationist

‘Steel flyover Beda’ gathers steam amidst opposition.

In the aftermath of thousands of Bengaluru’s citizens protesting against the steel flyover planned by the BDA (Bangalore Development Authority), a few hundred citizens turned up at a rally organized in favor of the flyover. While the city remains divided on options over the steel flyover, the flyover seems to have hit a spot of bother, this time with the Karnataka Lake Conservation and Development Authority.
Extension of the steel flyover violates buffer zone norms of hebbal Lake, says Karnataka Lake conservation and development authority.
The authority on lakes in the state said that it is mandatory for the BDA to take permission from them before commencing work on extending the flyover.
“if the steel flyover is extended without seeking our permission, we will file a criminal case against the BDA commissioner” said a senior KLCDA official.
Since hebbal Lake is larger than 200 hectares, around 50 meters of buffer space should be maintained as a no development zone, according to KLCDA, National green tribunal and the State high court.
The group which had organized the Human Chain protests, Citizens for Bengaluru also conducted a ballot box campaign which saw 41,848 vote against the construction of the steel flyover. Even after facing opposition from thousands of people, the Government and BDA remain unfazed, as they have officially handed over the work order to the contractors – L&T, and work on the flyover is expected to begin in the first week of November.

Nico Rosberg wins Singaporean Grand Prix and takes lead in drivers standings  

German formula one driver Nico Rosberg won the Singaporean Formula one race on Sunday, which gave him the lead in the formula one championship, overtaking his team mate Lewis Hamilton in the points table. Nico Rosberg won the Singaporean Grand Prix for the first time, and notably, it has been only the world champions who have won the race at the Marina Bay circuit. 

Second position was taken by Daniel Ricciardo, finishing 0.488 seconds after Rosberg, which in itself was interesting, as Ricciardo moved up to second position only in the final 14 laps as traffic prevented Rosberg from pitting for new tyres which slowed him down, and Riccardo put in quicker times after his pitstop.

Hamilton finished third at the marina Bay street circuit, which has brought him eight points below Rosberg in the drivers championship standings.

The best drive of the race though, had to be that of Sebastian vettel, who gave an electrifying performance at the floodlit circuit, as he started last because of a suspension failure during qualifying and yet finished fifth.

The Singaporean Grand Prix was the 15th race of the 2016 F1 season, a season which has seen Mercedes teammates Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg vying for the drivers championship.

With 273 points, Nico Rosberg currently stands first in the drivers championship, closely followed by Lewis Hamilton, with 265 points and third place is taken by Daniel Riccardo with, 179 points.

Track and field meeting begins even as Usain Bolt parties non-stop in London

The first major track and field games meeting since the summer Olympic games held in Rio De Janeiro is all set to happen in Switzerland, and around 30 Olympic medalists, including nine champions are headed for the meeting. The biggest name in the business though, will be missing, as Usain Bolt is busy partying everyday in London.
Bolt has now become a star in the entertainment news section as he is being photographed by paparazzi every day, at nightclubs in London with different women, partying away to glory, after winning 3 gold medals at the recently concluded Olympic games at Rio.
The absence of Usain Bolt from the track and field meet has put fellow Jamaican sprinters, Elaine Thompson and Omar McLeod under the spotlight, who are gold medalists themselves.
The meet is to take place at the stadium in Lausanne, the home city of International Olympic Committee. The director of the meet, Jacky Delapierre was quoted as saying, “we have to be prepared for the future without Bolt, we are at the end of a cycle now.”
Delapierre though has not given up on Bolt completely, and is in talks to bring the sprinter back to Lausanne next year, which would probably be the last time he would run at an event of this scale.
The refreshing of track and field related headlines seems to be the top priority for the directors of the meet, focusing on newer athletes in the sport. ‘Athletics has a good future besides Bolt’, said Delapierre who has worked in major track related events for nearly 40 years.

Four naxals killed in chattisgarh, DRG Jawan injured

Four naxals were killed in the Dantewada District of Chattisgarh state, early in the morning on Wednesday, when an encounter took place between security personnel and the naxals. The incident left a jawan injured and four naxals dead, including a woman cadre of ‘commandant’ ranking.

According to Dantewada Superintendent of Police, Kamlochan Kashyap, The encounter happened when the joint team of CRPF, District Reserve Group and STF was out on an Anti-Maoist operation in the hilly village area of Dabba-Kunna. The operation was launched by security forces, based on specific inputs, with the motive of flushing out the ultras hiding in the dense forests around Dabba and Kunna villages in Dantewada district.


The two villages lie on top of a hill at the border of Dantewada and Sukma Districts and is surrounded by dense forests. The security personnel were yet to begin their search for the naxals, when a group of armed naxals opened fire at them after which, the gunfight started which killed the Maoists. A District Reserve Group Jawan was injured in the incident.

A search of the area after the encounter helped security forces retrieve seven firearms and a Huge cache of Naxal-related items.

India ups its defence ante at the Chinese border; deploys more aircraft and tanks

The Indian Army and Air Force has been asked to deploy more Fighter Jets and Tanks along the Indo-Chinese border as part of the measures taken by India to crank up its military deterrence against China along its land border as well the strategic defence command located at the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. Indian Army will be deploying more Tank troops near the Ladakh region.

India has resorted to this move in order to address the wide gap between the military strengths of both the nations, as Chinese defence equipment outnumbers that of India, nearly 3-to-1. The difference is huge.

The Indian Air Force will deploy additional Sukhoi-30MKI fighters, spy drones and missiles in the North-Eastern state of Arunachal Pradesh after the ALG(Advanced Landing Ground) at Pasighat, in West Siang region is activated on Friday. An ALG is a strategic asset – an air strip built with temporary buildings around it, capable of operating helicopters and aircraft. An officer was quoted as saying, “The ALG will not only improve our response time to different operational contingencies, but also the efficacy of the overall air operations on the eastern front”

C-130J DBO 3

IAF C-130J Super Hercules made history by first landing at the Daulat Beg Oldi(DBO) ALG on 20 Aug 2013

The ALG in Pasighat is the fifth such facility, after the ones at Ziro, Along, Mechuka and Walong, in the North Eastern region. There are two more such ALGs at Daulat Beg Oldi and Nyoma, in the Ladakh region. The facility will be inaugurated by Junior Home Minister, Kiran Rijiju and Eastern Air Command Chief Air Marshal, C Hari Kumar. Two more ALGs which are currently being set up at Tuting and Tawang will be operational by December 31st, 2016 and April 30th, 2017 respectively.


File Photo of IAF’s Sukhoi-30MKI Fighter Jets

The government has also approved defence infrastructure development projects in the Andaman and Nicobar islands, a territory which can prove to be a strategic position if there are chances of a war happening. India has been regularly deploying its Sukhoi-30MKI fighter jets, Poseidon-8I long range patrol and anti-submarine warfare aircraft and C-130J Super Hercules multirole transport aircraft to the Andaman and Nicobar Command, in order to counter China’s strategic moves in the Indian Ocean.

Images Source – Google Images

Unity in Diversity – The Freedom Ride, 2016

‘Freedom’. the word which is defined as, ‘the state of being free rather than in confinement or under physical restraint’, the word that was most celebrated on this day all across India 69 years ago and still continues to be celebrated by millions in this sub-continent. If there is something that has changed drastically in these 69 years, it is the way freedom is celebrated, and ‘The Freedom Ride 2016’ is probably the biggest example of the same.


The Front Page of The Times of India on August 15th, 1947.

Back in 1947, freedom was celebrated in a stately manner with happiness all across the country mostly being celebrated at home or in the neighbourhood, but over the years, people have found many ways to celebrate their freedom, and the motorcycle enthusiasts in Bangalore have found their own way of doing so. For a biker, the word freedom just means one thing – ‘Hitting the open road’ which is exactly what they have been doing for a few years now, including this year. More than 2500 people came together at dawn on August 15 2016, riding their motorcycles as a way of expressing their freedom.


Excitement in the air as the bikers gather at the start point

Bangalore has the highest number of two wheelers for any city in the world, and the ever growing number of motorcycle clubs and groups in the city is a testament to that. Some of these biker groups such as, Riders of Bangalore, Bikers of India, BEST etc. are open to riders of a variety of motorcycles while a majority of the groups are for the riders of a particular brand or model, like United KTM, Jawa Namma Jeeva, Bangalore RD 350 Club, RX owners club, Club of Pulsarians etc. There are more than 50 biker groups in Namma Bengaluru and the trend is only increasing by the day.


Bangalore KTM RC 390 Owners Club, Chicane Riders at the Independence Ride, 2015. Image Source – Google Images

The one factor commonly shared among all the groups is the love and passion for the motorcycles they ride and also for the open road, away from the hustle and bustle of the traffic in the city, which is why they often head out of Bangalore in order to find some breathing space. Bikers in Bangalore are blessed with many options for a quick getaway. Wildlife reserves, hillstations, beaches, riverside resorts, open highways etc. are all frequented by the bikers, but the most popular destination by far is, Nandi Hills.


Nandi Peak captured at dawn. Image Source – Google Images

Nandi Hills is an ancient hill fortress on the outskirts of Bangalore with great historical significance to its credit, but it is not the ‘British vs Tipu Sultan’ attack that brings the bikers here. Nandi hills, with a distance of 61 kilometers from the city centre, is the closest hillstation for Bangaloreans, and the good tarmac coupled with the steep winding curves is an absolute pleasure to ride on, making bikers love it and hence has been the obvious choice for the organisers of ‘The Freedom Ride’.


The Curvy Roads leading up to Nandi Hills peak.                                                                            Image Source – Google Images

The freedom ride started off as a few biker friends inviting a few more friends to celebrate Independence Day like bikers, by casually riding to Nandi hills, but over the last few years, the number of motorcycles taking part in the freedom ride has been multiplying, with last year’s gathering of more than 2000 bikers entering the Limca Book of World Records for the highest number of motorcyclists gathered for a common social celebration. The entry into the book of records was the upside, but the downside to it was that the place was becoming too crowded, hence the destination of this year’s ride was the ‘Tribal Café’, a popular café at the foothills of Nandi Hills with ample parking space and open area for everyone to socialise.


Tribal Cafe, the destination of The Freedom Ride, 2016


The Bikers Gathered at Town Hall before the break of dawn.


Bangalore Yamaha RD 350 Club and Bikers of India near Isckon Temple

There were three meet-up points for this year’s ride. At around 5.30am, a few bikers started gathering at the Town Hall, and at 6am, a larger group of bikers had gathered in front of the Shell Petrol station located near Isckon temple and the third meet-up point was in front of Palace Grounds’ Gate 7 where bikers had started gathering from 6am onwards though the time announced was only 7am. The happiness was clearly visible on the faces of all the people who had gathered, with the wide variety of motorcycles generating excitement. The Group which had gathered near Isckon temple would ride towards DD hills and the other two groups would ride towards The Tribal cafe.


The common meet-up point for all Clubs, at Palace Ground Gate 7

Some of the Motorcycle Clubs present at the event were, Bangalore Exotic Superbike Team(BEST), Riders of Bangalore, RX Owners Club, Club of Pulsarians, Mojo Tribe(Bangalore), Bajaj Avenger Club – Bengaluru, Bangalore Thunderbird Club, Pulsar 220 Club, Brotherhood of Bikers etc. the bikers from all these clubs attending the ride, resulted in what was probably the best display so far, of the diversity of the motorcycling fraternity in Bangalore.


Few of the Superbikes from the BEST(Bangalore Exotic Superbikes Team) Group

The BEST group brought in more than 33 exotic superbikes, which set hearts thumping and adrenaline levels soaring as they revved their motorcycles while leaving the destination at the end of the ride. The Mojo Tribe(Bangalore) has to be credited with the most disciplined group award as they were the only group which entered the starting point, left the starting point, rode to the destination and even left the destination while in Formation. These are all a testament to the unity of the biking community in Bangalore and in India.


The Mojo Tribe(Mahindra Mojo riders group) arriving at the start point.


The Mojo Tribe en route to the Tribal Cafe

IT professionals, corporate employees, doctors, engineers, lawyers, students, mechanics, Professional riders and Amateurs, young and old, male riders and female riders, crossing all boundaries of race, caste, religion etc. riding, Activas and Vespas, Pulsars and Apaches, KTM Dukes and RCs, Royal Enfields and Avengers, the legendary RD350s and the modified RX100/135s, Superbikes from Yamaha, Honda, Kawasaki, Suzuki, Benelli, Triumph and even Aprilia and Ducati, from the most common Harley Davidsons to the rarest Indian Chief Vintage.

This ride had them all – A display of the diversity that is unique to the Indian subcontinent, and proof that we can have unity in diversity. That was The Freedom Ride, 2016.


A Yamaha RD 350 with the Indian Tricolour proudly mounted on it.


A 2006 Kawasaki Ninja ZX-12R in pristine condition stands proudly in front of an all white Bajaj Pulsar 200NS


A Triumph Daytona 675R arrived at the starting point with a Honda CBR 1000RR MotoGP limited edition


The Mojo’s of the Mahindra Mojo Tibe at rest, before departure


The RX Owners Club parked on the shoulder of NH-44 before the left turn towards Nandi Hills


There were a few support cars/Team cars at the venue. Support cars usually carry parts, oil, tools etc. on longer rides


Exotics Captured : A Ducati Hypermotard at the Ride


Exotics Captured : An Aprilia RSV4 at the ride


All Images were captured by the Author, except those where attribution is given.

Author – Stephen Neil Gershom

Trainee Journalist

National School of Journalism