The F-16 Fighting Falcon was originally designed to be a daytime air superiority fighter, but over the decades of its service life it has evolved into a all-weather multi-role attack platform. The first F-16 rolled off the manufacturing line in 1976, and ultimately over 4,500 aircraft followed it.
The Fighting Falcon (a.k.a. the “Viper” in aggressor squadron circles) remains technologically advanced and lethal throughout its full range of mission areas, which is remarkable considering the legendary Col. John Boyd and his “fighter mafia” first conceived of the airplane in the late ’60s.
Here are four design features that were years ahead of their time when they first hit the fleet and remain so today:
1. Fly-by-wire flight controls and side-stick controller
Unlike every airplane built before it, the F-16 was designed to be aerodynamically unstable until it reaches supersonic airspeeds. As a result there is no mechanical linkage between the stick and the moving parts of the airplane. A computer interface is required to interpret pilot inputs and move the flight controls accordingly, technology known as “fly-by-wire.” Because the F-16 is designed for high-G loading, the stick is mounted on the side of the cockpit instead of in the center to make it easier on the pilot’s right arm. It barely moves; full throw is only one-eighth of an inch.
2. Bubble canopy
The pilot sits up very high relative to the canopy rail in the F-16, giving him superior visibility in all quadrants, including at six o’clock. The bubble canopy is designed to enhance this feature, and new pilots talk about feeling like they’re going to fall out of the airplane at first. Unlike other fighters there is no canopy bow forward of the pilot, so the forward view is completely unobstructed. The net result is a fighter that gives pilots an advantage in the dogfighting arena where “lost sight means lost fight.”
3. Reclined ejection seat
Because the F-16 is designed to pull 9 Gs or more (compared to 6.5 for most other American fighters) the ejection seat is tilted 30 degrees back (compared to around 12 degrees other ejection seat aircraft) for superior G tolerance by the pilot. Pilots sit almost like their riding a reclining bicycle, with knees up high, which makes for a very comfortable ride while killing MiGs and other bad guys.
4. Multi-function displays
The F-16 was one of the first military aircraft with a “glass” cockpit instead of the legacy “steam gauges,” which allows a pilot to tailor his displays for a particular mission as well as personal preference. MFDs also allow software upgrades with very little trouble, which has helped to keep the Fighting Falcon relevant and in the fight for decades.
Al-Qaeda’s Syrian affiliate is consolidating territory in a major clash with a rival rebel group and could make the terror group a more formidable threat in the longer term than the Islamic State, US-based intelligence advisory firm The Soufan Group warns.
The warning comes amid a major clash between al-Qaeda affiliate, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, and another Islamist rebel group in the province that the Syrian regime and its allies do not largely control. The US, by and large, is focused on defeating ISIS in other areas of Syria and has largely given over a leadership role for post-ISIS Syria to Russia, Iran, and the Syrian regime.
“The prospect of a sustained de facto governing presence by al-Qaeda in Idlib is a grave national security concern,” The Soufan Group noted. “The prospect may lead to US airstrikes, though the air space over Idlib is far more complicated and crowded than over Raqqa. Idlib is just to the east of Latakia, an Assad regime stronghold with a sizable Russian military presence,” the group added.
US-backed, anti-ISIS fighters have retaken approximately 40 percent of ISIS’s capital of Raqqa, but continue to have a long and grueling fight ahead of them. The fight consumes the majority of US resources in Syria.
HTS and the Islamist rebel group have now struck a tenuous truce giving HTS control of the city of Idlib. The terrorist group has changed its name several times and falsely declared to cut ties with the global al-Qaeda network in order to court less extreme opposition groups on the ground in Syria.
Experts fear the terrorist group will deepen its roots in Syria and may able to launch external terror plots against the West using its new sanctuary.
“The battle against the Islamic State in Raqqa is not to be the most consequential ongoing fight in Syria,” The Soufan Group lamented.
So this guy is one of my favorite people ever. His life story sounds like a Dos Equis commercial. His full name is John Malcolm Thorpe Fleming Churchill, better known as Jack Churchill or “Mad Jack”. A few of my favorite qualities and accomplishments of his up front:
Officer in the British Army from 1926-1936 and 1939-1959. During WWII, he was a Lieutenant-Colonel.
Worked as a newspaper editor and male model in Nairobi, Kenya between 1936 and 1939.
His motto was, “Any officer who goes into action without his sword is improperly dressed.”
When the war in Europe ended, he was sent to Burma to fight the Japanese but by the time he arrived, the war was over. He really, really didn’t like this because he wanted to keep fighting.
After the war he served as an instructor at the land-air warfare school in Australia, he became an avid surfer.
After retiring from the army in 1959, he regularly scared train conductors and pedestrians by throwing his briefcase from the train. Why? He threw it into his own backyard because he didn’t want to carry it home from the train station.
So now for my favorite part: he carried bagpipes, a Scottish broadsword, and a longbow with arrows into most battles. His unusual gear choices followed him into battle wherever he went, and even played a key role in the Battle of France.
When Hitler invaded Poland in September 1939, Mad Jack Churchill gave up his roles as a male model and newspaper editor in Kenya to resume his service in the British Army. As part of an expeditionary force to France, he led his unit – the Manchester Regiment – into battle in May 1940. Near the Belgian border, Churchill and his men set up an ambush on a German patrol, where he instructed his men to begin the ambush once they saw his arrow fly.
As a Nazi sergeant came into range, he fired an arrow from his traditional longbow and killed the German officer. In doing so, Churchill became the last known person to kill an enemy in battle using a longbow.
In 1941, Churchill was second in command for a raid on a German garrison on the west coast of Norway. As the landing craft hit the beaches and the ramp went down, Churchill was standing there blasting his bagpipes. When he finished his song, he launched a grenade toward the German fortifications and sprinted into battle.
Churchill’s bagpipe skills were on display again as the Allies invaded Sicily and also when they invaded the Italian peninsula near Salerno. At the latter, Churchill led an attack on a German observation post and captured 42 German soldiers with only the help of a Corporal.
In 1944, Churchill’s forces were tasked with assisting Tito’s Partisan forces in Yugoslavia. Here they were expected to retake the island of Brač. While the Partisan forces remained on the beach, Churchill and six others reached the objective alone. While he again played his bagpipes, his six fellow soldiers were killed by a mortar and he was knocked unconscious by a grenade and captured. He was then sent to Berlin for interrogation, after which he was sent to the Sachsenhausen concentration camp just north of Berlin.
You would think that was the end of his hilarious eccentricity, but it wasn’t. Being the badass he was, Churchill and another British officer escaped from the concentration camp and headed north to the Baltic coast. He was captured again just before he got to the coast and sent to an SS-guarded prison in Tyrol, Austria in April 1945. Once released, he walked over 90 miles to Verona, Italy, where he ran into an American armored group, who helped him get back to Britain.
That was the last action he’d see in World War II, as his arrival in the Pacific was too late. Churchill then went on to serve in British Palestine until 1948, after which he moved to Australia to be an instructor at the land-air warfare school. He eventually retired from the Army in 1959, and lived to the age of 89 in Surrey, England.
It’s not every day that the mild-mannered janitor at your school turns out to be a bad ass Medal of Honor recipient. But that was exactly the case for thousands of cadets at the United States Air Force Academy.
The story starts in Italy in 1943. Pvt. William Crawford was serving as a scout in I Company, 3rd Battalion, 142nd Infantry Regiment, 36th Infantry Division, as it fought its way up the Italian peninsula.
After landing at Salerno, Crawford’s unit was advancing against stiff German resistance. Just four days after the landings, I Company launched an attack against Hill 424. Once his platoon gained the crest, they became pinned down by intense German machine gun fire.
Ignoring the hail of bullets, Crawford advanced on the German position and silenced it with a hand grenade.
When his platoon was once again pinned down, Crawford didn’t hesitate to charge forward, this time to destroy two machine gun emplacements.
He first attacked the machine gun to the left and destroyed it and the crew with a hand grenade. He then worked his way to the next machine gun under intense fire. When he was in range he again tossed a hand grenade that sent the crew running.
Later during the intense fighting in Italy, the Germans captured Crawford. His status was listed as missing, presumed dead.
When his Medal of Honor was approved in 1944, it was presented to his father, posthumously.
However, Crawford had in fact survived and in 1945 was liberated from a German POW camp by advancing Allied forces.
Crawford was discharged after the war and returned home before marrying in 1946. He decided to reenlist in 1947 and served another 20 years before retiring with the rank of Master Sergeant in 1967.
His next career move would prove fateful. He took a position as a janitor at the Air Force Academy in his home state of Colorado.
Despite his courage in combat, Crawford had always been rather mild-mannered and didn’t care much to talk about himself. As such, the cadets at the Academy paid him no mind, assuming he was just any other janitor.
Crawford carried on his duties until 1976 when one cadet, James Moschgat, noticed a picture in a history book about World War II.
Moschgat couldn’t believe what he was seeing and showed the picture to his roommate saying, “I think Bill our janitor is a recipient of the Medal of Honor.”
The next day Moschgat and his roommate confronted Crawford to ask if it was truly him that was talked about in the book. According to Moschgat’s account Crawford simply looked at the picture and replied, “Yep, that’s me.”
Astonished by what they had just learned, they quickly asked why he had never mentioned it before. Crawford’s reply once again showed his humility. He simply said, “That was one day in my life and it happened a long time ago.”
Word quickly spread around campus that there was a Medal of Honor recipient in their midst.
The story could have easily ended here with a known recipient of the Medal of Honor working as a janitor at the Air Force Academy. Most people would have never heard the story.
However, the cadets weren’t done.
They eventually found out that because of the circumstances, mainly that Crawford was a POW at the time, he had never had a formal ceremony to present him with his medal.
So, when the Class of 1984 reached graduation they invited Crawford as their special guest. And they had a special surprise in store for him. President Ronald Reagan was giving the commencement speech at the Academy that year.
Canadia inventor Gerald Bull was obsessed with the idea of building a supergun that could launch satellites into space — a spacegun — circumventing the expensive and wasteful use of rockets. In the ’60s, he worked with the Canadian and U.S. governments on supergun technology, but all research was shut down once the Vietnam War began. Determined to make his vision a reality, he sold weapons in South Africa to build up some cash, but was caught and jailed for six months. In the ’80s, Bull was tapped by the Iraqi government, and began working on Project Babylon for Saddam Hussein, which included “two full-sized Big Babylon 1000mm calibre guns and a prototype 350mm calibre gun called Baby Babylon.”
“Using nine tonnes of special supergun propellant, Big Babylon would have been theoretically capable of firing a 600kg projectile across 1,000 kilometres, putting Kuwait and Iran well within striking distance from inside Iraq. Alternatively, the gun could be used to launch a 2,000kg rocket-assisted projectile carrying a 200kg satellite.”
“Bull wasn’t ignorant to the possibility that Iraq could use his supergun technology to fire missiles, but he justified his actions by pointing out that it would be an impractical weapon, says Hall. Its size meant that it would not be possible to move the gun once it was constructed; it only pointed in one direction, was slow to fire, could be easily located and easily destroyed if anyone wished to. Everyone would know where it was, and everyone would immediately know if it had been fired from the seismic tremors it caused. The recoil force from the gun would have totalled 27,000 tonnes – equivalent to a nuclear explosion – and would have registered as a major seismic event around the world.”
While tests began on Baby Babylon, Big Babylon was never completed as Bull was soon after assassinated while entering his own apartment. Shot twice in the head and three times in the back, there were no witnesses, and while the killer was never identified, Israeli intelligence agency Mossad has been linked. Head over to the BBC to read the full story.
After masterminding the attacks at Pearl Harbor, Japanese Adm. Isoroku Yamamoto knew that his country’s dominance of the Pacific Ocean would not last against the U.S.’s industrial might.
He began forming plans for a weapon that could terrify the U.S., especially eastern cities like New York and Washington D.C. He thought a campaign of vicious attacks on the east and west coasts would convince the U.S. to quickly sue for peace.
At the time, some submarines carried a reconnaissance plane. Yamamoto asked his engineers if they could devise a submarine that would instead carry three bombers each and have range to carry the bombers around South America to the east coast of the U.S.
The planes landed on the water and were recovered using a crane on the deck. The M6A1 Seiran torpedo-bombers were designed for the I-400. They had wings that rotated and folded along the fuselage and even the tail folded down to fit in its tiny hangar.
In addition to their aircraft, the subs carried a 140mm cannon, 4 anti-aircraft guns, and had 8 torpedo tubes.
To help the subs avoid U.S. Navy sonar, the subs were coated in a rubber and asphalt blend that absorbed sound waves.
By the time the first sub took to the water at the end of December 1944, Japan was in rapid retreat across the Pacific. The original I-400 mission to attack the U.S. mainland had been scrapped long before.
The idea of using the planes to deliver biological weapons was considered, and then a Kamikaze attack on the Panama Canal was planned and canceled.
Finally, the I-400 and I-401 were sent to destroy the U.S. carrier fleet at Ulithi Atoll before they could invade the Japanese mainland. The subs were to send their six bombers on Kamikaze attacks against the 15 carriers there.
To maximize the chance that the planes would reach their targets, the Japanese admiralty ordered the planes be painted silver with U.S. markings. Though the pilots protested, the illegally camouflaged planes were placed in the subs and sent to sea.
Luckily, Japan surrendered while the subs were staging for the attack. Both subs were captured by the U.S. Navy. American officers studied the ships but then sank them before Soviet officers could ask to see them. There was concern that the Soviet Union would develop its own version if it saw the I-400.
Laura Miller apologized more than once for getting emotional as she spoke at the Airborne Special Operations Museum on Monday.
But after seeing battle-hardened Special Forces soldiers dissolve into tears at the loss of their dogs, she said the love these men felt for their dogs — and of the dogs for them — can lead to tears at times.
Miller, a retired veterinarian technician who served 26 years, including 10 with caring for Special Operations Forces dogs, spoke to a crowd of several hundred about the sacrifices of military dogs — and the number of military lives they have saved.
“To see these big, strong soldiers break into tears over the loss of their dog, you realize this is a special bond,” Miller said. “There is a love that runs deeper.”
“The love for their dog and of the dog for their handler…” she paused as the emotion of the moment again caught her. “Just appreciate everything. Life is too short. The evidence of that is right here.”
She waved over to the nearby ASOM Field of honor, where more than 600 flags caught a light breeze.
In addition to the ceremony, the ASOM offered a series of concerts, exhibits, and first-person displays. Military experts offered visitors hands-on experience with military equipment from World War I through the Vietnam era.
Ron Wolfe, a retired Army sergeant, let youngsters try on his flak jacket and helmet from Vietnam, laughing when they complained about their weight and heat.
“Yeah, they can get a bit heavy,” Wolfe said. “Just wait until you had to wear them all day in the summertime.”
The ASOM K-9 Memorial honors more than 60 trained dogs who have died in service to Special Forces as well as partner groups in Great Britain and Australia. It was dedicated in 2013.
Author and historian Alex Rose knows that choosing the American Revolution as subject matter comes with a level of risk in that most people’s knowledge of that period of history begins and ends with what they were taught at a very young age.
“We generally think of George Washington as chopping down a cherry tree and not lying about it and being above it all,” Rose said. “But the truth is he was a complicated man. And he did lose a lot of battles.”
AMC adapted Rose’s book Washington’s Spies to create the series “Turn,” now in its second season. The network asked Rose to act as a historical consultant, and he was more than happy to come aboard to help the show’s writers get the details correct.
“We’re very conscious that we’re dealing with the touchstones of American history,” Rose said. “But the problem with touchstones is they can become petrified and set in stone.”
Season One of “Turn” introduced viewers to Abe, a simple man who wants any threat of war to go away so he can enjoy a simple life as a cabbage farmer. But the late 18th Century was anything but a simple time in America.
“People had to make choices,” Rose said. “And if you got caught on the wrong side you could be hanged.”
Further Rose pointed out that most American’s “default position” was that of loyalist and not rebel. “Over time loyalists have been portrayed as cowards,” he said. “There’s a lot more to it than that. We think that politics are complicated these days, but they were more so back then.”
The arc of the shows across the first season followed Abe’s transition from average American, son of a Tory loyalist, to the leader of the nation’s first spy ring.
“Season One was the genesis of the spy ring,” Rose said. “People were learning the ropes. In Season Two the ring is coming together, which brings its own challenges.”
In Season Two Abe is totally set on being a spy. “He’s going to do whatever it takes, even if it causes collateral damage,” Rose said.
Season Two also features an infamous figure: Benedict Arnold, commonly thought of as America’s greatest traitor.
“He enters the show in his prime,” Rose explained. “He was one of the great war heroes, the best generals they had. We have to see him in that light. He didn’t start off as a bad guy.”
Rose said that overall the goal of “Turn” – along with entertaining – is to show that the period of the American Revolution was a “magnificent time” and not just what he calls a “goodie versus baddie narrative.”
“Remember, they don’t know what we know,” Rose added. “They don’t know who wins in the end.”
For more about Season Two of “Turn” go to the official show site here.
The Defense Department says it’s to make the human more effective in combat. Because as anyone who’s ever lost their mobile phone knows, having all your numbers stored under names like “Josie Drunk Girl” and “Do Not Answer” makes your memory soooooooo much better.
But the list goes on. According to Deputy Defense Secretary Robert Work, the new technologies the Pentagon wants to develop will allow commanders to identify and analyze enemy defenses.
Further technological innovations would include wearable electronics, exoskeletons, greater use of drones and manned aircraft working together, and mother ships that would send out mini-drones to execute military missions, all of which could incorporate AI.
The announcement comes not just against the urging of America’s tech mogul community, but also amid skepticism from within the Defense Department’s own ranks, presumably until Deputy Secretary Work actually told a packed conference at the Center for a New American Security the DoD wants to be able to “kick the crap out of people who grew up under an authoritarian reign,” at which point, I imagine they erupted in cheers and then partied like a group of tailgating Buffalo Bills fans.
The Syrian Air Force is getting ten new Su-24M2 “Fencer D” all-weather strike aircraft, courtesy of Vladimir Putin. The regime of Bashir al-Assad received two right away, with the other eight coming soon. As a result, the Syrians gain a very capable weapon for use against ISIS or moderate rebels supported by the United States.
The Su-24M2 is the latest version of a plane that first took flight in 1967 – and it has been in service since 1974. The Fencer, comparable to the General Dynamics F-111, was designed to deliver over 17,600 pounds of bombs on target any time of day – or night – and in good weather, bad weather, or any in between. Su-24s are fast (a top speed of just over 1,000 miles per hour) and can reach deep into enemy territory (a combat radius of about 400 miles). The plane has seen action in the Soviet invasion and occupation of Afghanistan, the Iran-Iraq War, over Lebanon, Desert Storm, civil wars in Tajikistan, Libya, and Afghanistan, the South Ossetia war, and the conflict in eastern Ukraine.
The Su-24M2, which first flew in 2001, adds the capability to fire the AS-17 Krypton anti-radar missile, the AA-11 Archer, and the KAB-500Kr television-guided bombs. The plane also received a more advanced “glass cockpit” with new multi-function displays (MFD), GLONASS (Russia’s knockoff of the Global Positioning System), a new heads-up display (HUD), and a helmet-mounted sight, allowing it to use the Archer to its maximum effectiveness.
The Soviet Union built over 1,400 Su-24s from 1967 to 1993. That 26-year production run alone is quite impressive. So was its wide exportation to a number of countries in the Middle East and North Africa, including such responsible regimes like Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, Muammar Qaddafi’s Libya, Hafez al-Assad’s Syria, and the Sudan. Yes, all of them state sponsors of terrorism. A bunch of Iraq’s Su-24s made their way to Iran during Desert Storm. (Iraqi pilots preferring the Ayatollah Khameni’s hospitality to getting blown out of the sky by the allied coalition.)
The transfer comes as part of Russia’s military assistance to Assad’s regime. Syria had 22 Su-24s prior to this deal, 21 of which were bombers, one a reconnaissance plane. The Syrians had been upgrading some of their planes to the Su-24M2 standard. Now, they will be getting another ten very advanced deep-penetration bombers.
In Tom Clancy’s fictional “Rainbow Six” universe, customizable teams of special operatives use intelligence from around the world to strike at threats against NATO. Designated “Rainbow,” the team was originally 30 members and is comprised of the best Delta, SAS, and other top NATO-member special operations units have to offer.
Rainbow deploys on quick notice around the world, fulfilling both a deterrent and a direct action role, mostly against terrorists.
The real-world NATO must have seen all of this and — in light of recent Russian aggression — decided Rainbow just wasn’t big and strong enough for the real world.
Instead, NATO announced in February the planned components of their Very High Readiness Joint Task Force. As part of the overall NATO Response Force, the VJTF does have special operators from around the world supporting it and an international intelligence network.
But VJTF doesn’t end at special operations. Dubbed “Spearhead Force,” it centers on a land brigade of approximately 5,000 troops that can hit a target and begin operations within 48 hours of notification. The primary component of the Spearhead Force will change year-to-year, coming from whichever country is in primary command of the unit. Germany is taking the first turn and leading the force in 2015 and has already taken the interim VJTF out for a spin.
In addition to their special operators and land forces, the VJTF will have air assets and naval forces on the ready. Britain has volunteered four fighter jets to the air mission already, in addition to 1,000 troops for the land component.
What units will make up the rest of the air component, as well as the exact forces in the maritime and special operations components, have not been announced.
Of course, the special operations support could be coming from Rainbow — if you believe the government is hiding an international special operations force from the American public.
The “Miracle at Dunkirk,” when 338,000 troops were evacuated in Operation Dynamo where optimistic estimates topped out at 45,000 might be rescued, was a turning point for the allies, allowing them to salvage troops that would fight in North Africa, at D-Day, and beyond.
In 7 steps, here’s how the British Expeditionary Force was trapped on the beaches of France and then rescued in Operation Dynamo.
The military maneuvers and buildup between the two sides were dubbed the “Phoney War.” Belgium, the Netherlands, and other countries across Europe prepared for the likelihood of a German invasion.
2. The Germans invade
On May 10, 1940, the “Phoney War” came to a violent end as the Germans invaded the Netherlands and Belgium. The Germans quickly took ground and captured bridgeheads on the River Meuse, allowing them to invade France through the Ardennes Forest.
4. The French and British withdraw towards the beaches
As army after army and country after country surrendered to the German war machine, those still fighting were forced to withdraw further and further east and north. They were pushed against the beaches of France. Panzer forces attacked and captured the French deep-water ports at Boulogne and Calais on May 25 and 26, limiting the potential evacuation options.
5. The Panzers stop
The 48-hour timeline was agreed upon because it was the longest that forces could reliably hold out against German armor. But the German tanks had mysteriously stopped their push towards Dunkirk itself on May 23 by order of Gen. Ewald von Kleist. The next day, a full “stop order” was given by Hitler.
The Allies responded by quickly shoring up their defenses as best they could. What was a loose line of troops on May 23, likely to be brushed aside quickly, became a much more formidable line of dug in but exhausted forces.
One of the most shocking events in the evacuations began on May 27 when the Royal Navy requisitioned small vessels for use in the evacuations. Most of the ships were manned by the Royal Navy, but some ship owners insisted that they would pilot their craft to assist in the evacuation.
Today’s most sophisticated aircraft are like something out of science fiction.
In a few years, drones that can fit in the palm of a person’s hand and 117-foot-wingspan behemoths capable of launching satellites into space will both be a reality.
At the same time, drone and advanced-fighter technologies will spread beyond the US and Europe, and countries including China, Russia, and Iran will have even more highly advanced aerial capabilities.
Here’s our look at the most game-changing aircraft of the past few years — and the next few to come.
F-35 Lightning II
The F-35 program may cost as much as $1.5 trillion over its lifetime. But the fifth-generation fighter jet is also supposed to be the most fearsome military aircraft ever built, a plane that can dogfight, provide close air support, and carry out bombing runs, all with stealth capabilities, a high degree of maneuverability, and the ability to take off and land on aircraft carriers.
It hasn’t quite worked out that way so far, and problems with everything from the plane’s software system to its engines has both delayed its deployment and contributed to its astronomical price tag. And it isn’t nearly as effective in some of its roles as existing aircraft. For instance, the F-35 is notably worse at close air support than the A-10, which is slated for retirement.
The predecessor to Lockheed Martin’s F-35 Lightning II is the single-seat, twin-engine F-22 Raptor, currently the most advanced combat-ready jet on earth.
The US is the only country in the world that flies the F-22s thanks to a federal law that prohibits the jet from being exported. Lockheed Martin built 195 F-22s before the last one was delivered to the US Air Force in May 2012.
Russia’s Su-50, also known under the prototype name of the T-50 PAK-FA, is the Kremlin’s fifth-generation fighter and Russia’s response to the F-35.
Though still in prototype, Moscow thinks the Su-50 will ultimately be able to outperform the F-35 on key metrics including speed and maneuverability. The stealth capabilities of the Su-50, however, are believed to be below those of the F-22 and the F-35.
The Kremlin plans to introduce the Su-50 into service by 2016. Once the plane is combat-ready, it will serve as a base model for the construction of further variants intended for export. India is already co-designing an Su-50 variant with Russia, and Iran and South Korea are possible candidates to buy future models of the plane.
The Chengdu J-20, which is currently in development, is China’s second fifth-generation fighter and a potential strategic game changer in East Asia.
The J-20 bears striking resemblance to the F-35 because of Chinese reverse engineering and extensive theft of F-35-related data. Once completed, the J-20 will possess stealth capability along with the range needed to reach targets within Japan, the Philippines, and Vietnam after taking off from mainland China.
As of January 2015, Beijing had developed six functional prototypes of the aircraft, with new prototypes being released at an increasingly quick pace. Production of the aircraft reportedly began in late 2015, and the final iteration of the aircraft is expected to be released and combat-ready sometime around 2018.
The Eurofighter Typhoon is a twin-engine multirole fighter that was originally developed to be the Europe and NATO’s primary warplane.
The fighter jet is Europe’s largest military program and was started by Germany, Spain, Italy, and the UK.
In 2011 the Eurofighter was deployed to its first combat mission, to enforce a no-fly zone over Libya during the NATO bombing campaign in the country. There are 402 Eurofighter jets designed for the Austrian, Italian, German, Spanish, UK, Omani, and Saudi Air Forces.
The Eurofighter has been called Europe’s version of America’s most expensive weapons system, the F-35 Lightning II.
MG-X Silent Hawk
The military’s secret MH-X Silent Hawk program was publicly disclosed only after one of the helicopters crashed during the US Navy SEAL raid that killed Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad, Pakistan, on May 1, 2011.
It is unclear when the US Army Operations Security’s top-secret helicopter program began and how many of these stealthy aircraft are in service.
While the Silent Hawk appears to be a highly modified version of the widely known UH-60 Black Hawk, there are few unclassified details out there about this secret helicopter.
The Navy’s X-47B is a strike-fighter-size unmanned aircraft with the potential to change aerial warfare.
Northrop Grumman’s drone is capable of aerial refueling, 360-degree rolls, and offensive weapons deployment. It carried out the first autonomous aerial refueling in aviation history and has taken off from and landed on an aircraft carrier.
It cruises at half the speed of sound and has a wingspan of 62 feet — as well as a range of at least 2,400 miles, more than twice that of the Reaper drone.
The Stratolaunch will be one of the most astounding planes ever built.
Now in construction, the plane will serve as a midair launch platform for vehicles that is capable of carrying satellites into orbit. The aircraft, whose 117-foot wingspan will be the largest of any plane ever built, will fly to an altitude of 30,000 feet and then angle upward before blasting its payload into space.
The plane would be a relatively cheap and reusable launch vehicle for satellites and has the potential to revolutionize how hardware and possibly even human beings can access orbital space. It could fly as early as 2016, although the project has faced some setbacks over the past year.
With the X-37B, the Air Force essentially has a reusable satellite that it can control and call back to earth. The ability to re-equip an orbital platform for specific mission types gives the US military unprecedented flexibility in how it can use outer space — and its long periods in orbit and reusability are also just impressive engineering feats.
These tiny Darpa-developed surveillance drones could become future military staples. Small enough to evade enemy detection or fire, the Nano Hummingbird can fit in the palm of your hand and relay images and intelligence from the air.
Most surveillance drones, such as the RQ-4 Global Hawk, are large aircraft that fly at altitudes of 60,000 feet. Drones such as the Nano Hummingbird, which is light, stealthy, and easy to launch, could be a routine part of a future soldier’s inventory.
Watch it in action here:
Iran has been under sanctions and a Western arms embargo for much of the past 30 years, something that has denied Tehran the chance to obtain high-quality European or American arms. But it has forced Iran to build its own domestic capabilities, and in 2013 Iran debuted an armed drone eerily similar to the US’ Reaper, called the Fotros.
Iran’s drones aren’t game changers because of their high quality but because of what they represent: Even countries chafing under international sanctions can develop their own drone technology with enough patience and technological expertise. The Fotros and Ababil-3 suggest that an era of widespread drone proliferation is just around the corner.