No military aircraft – past or present – can beat the altitude and airspeed performance of the SR-71 Blackbird.
It’s design and performance evolved out of necessity: “We had a need to know what was going on in other countries,” Jeff Duford, a historian at the National Museum of the US Air Force, said. “And the way that we were going to do that was having a photographic aircraft that could fly very high and very fast. And much faster than the U2, which proceeded it. The SR-71 was that answer for the US Air Force and for the United States.”
Here’s the remarkable story of the SR-71 in a 3 minute mini-doc:
Some 50,000 troops, tens of thousands of vehicles, and all their gear and supplies have descended on Norway, where they’re taking part in Trident Juncture, NATO’s largest military exercise since the Cold War.
Marines, soldiers, sailors, and airmen are jetting around Norway and through the air over the Baltic and Norwegian seas during the exercise, which NATO says is purely to practice defending an alliance member from attack.
Also present at the exercise is one of the mainstays of US Army aviation: The CH-47 Chinook helicopter, which has ferried troops and supplies to and from battlefields since the Vietnam War.
Below, you can see what one Chinook pilot says are the most rewarding — and most demanding — parts of the job.
(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Sean P. Casey)
A US Army Reserve Chinook crew assist with preparations for Hurricane Florence at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, Sept. 18, 2018.
(US Army Reserve photo by Sgt. Stephanie Ramirez)
Kapaldo conducts maintenance on a Chinook at Rena Leir Airfield, Norway, Oct. 26, 2018.
(US Army photo by Charles Rosemond)
(US Army photo)
A South Carolina Army National Guard CH-47 Chinook heavy-lift cargo helicopter supports the South Carolina Forestry Commission to contain a remote fire near the top of Pinnacle Mountain in Pickens County, South Carolina, Nov. 17, 2016.
(US Army National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Roberto Di Giovine)
British and US soldiers are transported to a training mission in a US Army 12th Combat Aviation Brigade Chinook helicopter near Rena, Norway on Oct. 27, 2018.
(US Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class Michael O’Brien)
US soldiers conduct aft wheel pinnacle landing training in a CH-47F helicopter, June 28, 2016.
(US Army photo by Luis Viegas)
Hovering with only the rear wheels touching the edge of a cliff, US Army pilots perform a maneuver called a pinnacle in a CH-47F Chinook helicopter during a training flight, Aug. 26, 2010.
(US Army photo by Staff Sgt. Nathan Hoskins)
(Photo by Spc. Mary L. Gonzalez, CJTF-101 Public Affairs)
Soldiers prepare attach a sling load to a CH-47 Chinook Helicopter at Forward Operating Base Altimur in Logar province, Afghanistan, Sept. 9, 2009.
(US Army photo)
Engineers connect a bridging section to a CH-47 Chinook as they move their mulitrole bridging company from a secure airfield to a water obstacle in northern Michigan, Oct. 13, 2018.
(Michigan National Guard photo by Lt. Col. John Hall)
US soldiers sling load a Humvee to a Chinook at McGregor Range, New Mexico, Sept. 11, 2018.
(Fort Bliss Public Affairs photo)
(Army photo by Staff Sgt. Christopher Freeman)
A US Army Reserve CH-47 Chinook helicopter crew member scans the Registan Desert in Helmand Province, Afghanistan.
(US Army photo)
“It’s just a great feeling at the end of the day, knowing that I get to shape the battlefield from a Chinook.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The jet age ushered in an era of intense competition for military aircraft that pushed the envelope of design and pitted some of the country’s top engineers against the toughest problems the Pentagon could come up with.
In the end, only one could be chosen, which begs the question whether the fight would have been different had the losing designs won.
The YA-9, the YF-23, the YF-17, the X-32 — these are all planes that came up just short in competition for top-dollar military contracts.
But would they have been better choices, looking back over the years?
Let’s take a good look and see.
1. Northrop A-9
Beaten out by the A-10 Thunderbolt II (aka “Warthog”), the Northrop YA-9 did offer a higher top speed than the tank buster the Air Force eventually adopted.
Ultimately, that was one big factor in the A-10’s victory – Fairchild’s designers had used off-the-shelf systems and locked the design down.
The fact is you have to look at the results the aircraft that was ultimately delivered. The A-10 has been a legend in its ability to not only deliver ordnance on target, but to come back after being shot up.
In this case, the right call was the A-10.
2. Northrop YF-17
The F-16 has been one of the most-produced combat aircraft in recent years – over 4,500 have been built, and some orders are still coming in. There’s even controversy over handing the production line over to India.
Yet it could have been a different plane. Northrop’s YF-17 was the other candidate in what was becoming a big contest as NATO allies sought to replace their F-104 Starfighters, and Congress told the Navy that they’d be getting the winner as well.
But the YF-17 was not to be – as the Air Force went with the F-16. Aviation writer Joe Baugher notes that the difference-maker in the decision was the F-16’s proven engine, even though the YF-17 was better in some areas.
The Navy and Marine Corps would eventually modify the YF-17 into the F/A-18 Hornet, which has proven itself as a mainstay of carrier air wings since the 1990s.
Could the YF-17 have been the Joint Strike Fighter about 35 years ago? That is a very intriguing question. Still, you can’t argue with the F-16’s success, and so the F-16 was probably the right call to make.
3. Northrop/McDonnell-Douglas YF-23
Wow… Northrop’s being mentioned a lot in this piece, isn’t it? The YF-23 is yet another plane that came just short of the production nod.
Northrop named the plane the Black Widow II (as an interesting piece of trivia, Lockheed’s choice for the F-22’s name was Lightning II, now the namesake of the F-35).
According to an Air Force Museum fact sheet, Northrop made the decision to maximize the YF-23’s stealth capabilities and speed, figuring that making the plane harder to see would help it win fights.
Lockheed, on the other hand, chose to add thrust vectoring to make its design a better dogfighter. The Air Force chose Lockheed’s design.
We don’t have much combat experience to tell us how well the F-22 performs (they did carry out some strikes in Syria against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria), but the YF-23 might have made an excellent replacement for the F-4G Wild Weasel aircraft that retired in 1996.
4. Boeing X-32
We talked about this bird before. The fact of the matter is that the Boeing X-32 just missed out, arguably because of the Lockheed demonstrator’s lift-fan performance.
In this case, playing it safe potentially cost Boeing what could be the largest fighter contract in history.
That being said, the X-32B’s use of the more-proven thrust-vectoring to acquire its V/STOL capability might have cut down on the RD time – and costs – enough to get to the Marines sooner.
With Hornets falling out of the skies (a recent Hornet crash off Okinawa was fatal for the pilot), that may have been very important – even if the plane had the nickname “Monica.”
The C-130 has a long legacy of getting troops and cargo from point A to point B. However, while the Hercules is versatile (from a gunship to wielding the powers of the Shadow) and a legend, let’s face it, it does have limitations. Part of it is the fact it can carry 22 tons at most in the C-130J-30 version.
So, Airbus decided to try to address that shortcoming. The result is the A400M Atlas, and like Japan’s C-2 transport, it is intended to fit in the niche between the C-130 and the C-17.
The difference is that while Japan chose to build a scaled-down C-17, Airbus decided that the answer involved giving the C-130 a “steroid” boost, just as Japan did with the F-16.
The result is a plane that lists more (37 tons compared to 22), has more endurance (4,800 nautical miles to 2,100), and which can still land on rough fields like the C-130. The C-17, according to an Air Force fact sheet, needs a 3,500 foot runway.
So, what exactly does this mean? The cargo hold is 58 feet long, 13 feet high, and 13 feet wide. Airbus says the plane can carry an NH90 or CH-47 helicopter, or most infantry fighting vehicles.
And we’re not talking a Stryker — we’re talking a heavy infantry fighting vehicle like Germany’s Puma.
The A400M will also be able to haul troops, and unlike the C-2 or C-17, it is also capable of being used as a tanker. Yeah, like the C-130, the Atlas is capable of topping up fighters on a ferry run or when they are headed out to carry strikes.
Below, you can see the Atlas do a move that few transports can do. But ultimately, this transport’s going to be doing a lot of hauling. Already, 46 are in service, with a total of 174 ordered.
In 2001, Mark Giaconia was a Green Beret patrolling the border areas between Kosovo and Serbia. His counterparts were Russian troops, many of which were airborne. Their mission was to disrupt the movements of Albanian UCPMB rebels in the area. For six months, he and his Russian allies worked side-by-side, in the forests and mountains around Kosovo.
Then one day, his coworkers put on what they called a “Spetsnaz Show” – and Giaconia realized who his tactical buddies really were.
To be clear, the “Spetsnaz” aren’t any single part of the Russian military apparatus. They are any special operations unit of the Russian military, including the Russian Navy, Airborne troops, and FSB (formerly the KGB). Most often, when westerners refer to the Spetsnaz, they’re referring to the special operations section of the GRU, Russia’s military intelligence service.
Giaconia’s experience with the Russians was his first – and it was the first time American Specials Forces and Russian special operators worked together. The height of their mission in Kosovo was rolling on a rebel base that had killed one of the Russians’ soldiers. The team captured a young rebel while on a patrol and extracted the location of the rebels’ base of operations.
American and Russian Special Forces troops in Kosovo alongside Swedish Jaegers, 2001.
Giaconia describes his time in Kosovo with his ODA in his book, One Green Beret: Bosnia, Kosovo, Iraq, and beyond: 15 Extraordinary years in the life – 1996-2011. He describes the joint US-Russian Special Forces outfit arriving in an area called Velja Glava, where the rebel camp was supposed to be. After dispatching the sentries, the joint team dismounted from their armored vehicles and moved through the forest to assault the camp. The Russians deftly traversed through the vegetation while Giaconia laid the forest bare with a Mk 19 grenade launcher.
The Russians captured the Albanian rebels that were still able to be captured, and the UCPMB camp was taken out of action permanently. When it came to the performance of the Spetsnaz in combat, Giaconia says they were keen on tactics and had great intuition and instinct. They could shoot well, took care of their weapons and equipment, and were in great shape, and were very well-disciplined.
In short, he says he had a lot of respect for these “badasses in spirit.”
The TOW missile has been the go-to weapon for blowing up tanks since the Vietnam War.
The Tube-launched, Optically-tracked, Wire-guided (TOW) missile was made by Hughes Aircraft and was initially deployed in Vietnam on Huey helicopters.
Unlike the Javelin with its fire-and-forget capability, the TOW missile system uses wires to guide its payload to targets. When the missile is launched, the optical sensor on the tube continuously monitors the position of the missile during flight, correcting its trajectory with electrical signals passed through the cables. This means that the target must be kept in the shooter’s line of sight until impact. The weapon quickly evolved into a portable system that could be fired by infantry units in the field and mounted on jeeps and other vehicles.
In 1997, Raytheon purchased Hughes from General Motors and continued to improve the TOW line. Under Raytheon, the TOW missile has evolved into a wireless version that uses a one-way radio link for guidance. It’s currently used by the Army and the Marine Corps.
Of course, tankers on the other side of the missile hate it for how it cuts through their armor. Watch:
The Spanish Navy has always operated an aircraft carrier. Its most recent carrier is SNS Juan Carlos I, which is, in essence, an amphibious assault ship capable of operating Spain’s force of EAV-8B Harriers. Juan Carlos I’s predecessor, though, was Spain’s first home-built aircraft carrier.
The Principe de Asturias, named for the heir to the Spanish throne, replaced the Dedalo, which began its life as the Independence-class light carrier USS Cabot (CVL 28). The Dedalo had been modified to operate AV-8S Harriers, which were very similar to various the Harriers in service with both the United States Marine Corps and the Royal Air Force.
The fact of the matter was that Independence-class light carriers were good ships — of the nine vessels to serve in World War II, eight survived — but they were designed to launch a piston-engine fighter, like the F6F Hellcat. The Principe de Asturias was designed to be a Harrier carrier from the getgo. One of the primary features of that ship was the ski-jump ramp on the bow.
According to GlobalSecurity.org, the Principe de Asturias displaced 17,190 tons and had a top speed of 25 knots. It could operate a mix of Harriers and anti-submarine helicopter and had four Meroka 20mm close-in weapon systems.
25 knots seems quite low when compared to American Nimitz-class supercarriers. This is because the Principe de Asturias wasn’t meant to take on the Soviet Navy in the Norwegian Sea. Her mission was to help protect convoys heading across the Atlantic. The Harriers might not be able to destroy a regiment of Backfires, but they could kill the occasional Tu-95 “Bear D” search aircraft. Meanwhile, her helicopters could keep an enemy submarine at bay — or better yet, sink it.
This ship gave Spain 25 years of excellent service. Despite reports of a number of countries wanting to buy it, she was sold for scrap.
The US military is currently conducting a massive sealift stress test during which ships will flex atrophied muscles needed to fight a great power conflict.
US Transportation Command (TRANSCOM), which oversees important military logistics activities, launched the large-scale “Turbo Activiation” sealift readiness exercise on Sept. 16, 2019, the command announced in a statement Sept. 17, 2019.
While these exercises, which began in 1994, typically include only a handful of ships, the latest iteration will involve 28 vessels from the US Navy’s Military Sealift Command (MSC) and TRANSCOM’s Maritime Administration (MARAD) Ready Reserve Force.
Navy Capt. Kevin Stephens, a TRANSCOM spokesperson, told Defense News that this is the largest training activation on record.
Ships located along the East, West, and Gulf Coasts will have five days to go from reduced operating status to fully crewed and ready for action. The no-notice activations are usually followed by sea trials.
The MSC, according to The War Zone, has 15 roll-on/roll-off (RORO) cargo ships, and MARAD has another 46 ships consisting of 35 RORO ships and 11 special mission ships. The MSC, Defense News reports, also has 26 pre-positioning ships.
These vessels are “maintained in a reserve status in the event that the Department of Defense needs these ships to support the rapid, massive movement of military supplies and troops for a military exercise or large-scale conflict,” TRANSCOM explained in a statement.
There are reportedly another 60 US-flagged commercial ships in the US Maritime Security Program available to serve, but they are not part of the reserve fleets.
These sealift ships would be responsible for moving roughly 90 percent of US Army and Marine Corps equipment abroad for a fight, but this force has been languishing for years.
(US Army photo by Steven J. Mirrer)
“We are not in a good position today,” Rear Adm. Peter Clarke, the director of Strategy, Policy, Programs and Logistics at Transportation Command, said of US sealift capabilities last year, according to USNI News. “We’re on the ragged edge,” Kevin Tokarski, the associate administrator at MARAD, explained at that time. “Foreign countries [especially China] are eclipsing us.”
There are also concerns that in the event of a major great power conflict, the US Navy may not be able to provide enough escorts, given that the service is smaller than it once was.
The ongoing stress test is a critical evaluation of the sealift force’s ability to surge ships, but also the “underlying support network involved in maintaining, manning and operating the nation’s ready sealift forces,” TRANSCOM explained.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Anti-submarine warfare is something that the Royal Navy takes very seriously. Historically, there’s good reason for it: German U-boats have twice tried to blockade Great Britain and each attempt brought about great peril.
Once upon a time, anti-submarine warfare involved ships deploying depth charges but, now, the most effective weapons come from the sky – dropped by helicopters. Choppers are versatile and can be deployed on a variety of sea-faring vessels, which, in essence, makes every destroyer, frigate, and cruiser currently serving into a capable anti-submarine system. Helicopters aboard these ships can fly a fair distance and carry a couple of anti-submarine torpedoes each.
To fill this role today, the Royal Navy relies on the AgustaWestland AW159, officially designated the Wildcat HMA.2. This chopper is a highly evolved version of the Westland Lynx that has served on the Royal Navy’s ships since 1971. But today’s Wildcat has come a long way.
The Wildcat HMA.2 entered service in 2014. It has a top speed of 184 miles per hour, making it one of the fastest helicopters in the world. It has a range of 483 miles and is armed with a pair of either 7.62mm or .50-caliber machine guns.
In terms of anti-submarine armament, the Wildcat uses a pair of Stingray torpedoes. These torpedoes have been around since 1983. They travel at 45 nautical miles per hour and have a roughly five-mile range. It’s warhead packs nearly 100 pounds of high explosive, which is enough to punch a hole in most submarines.
The Wildcat, though, is not limited to carrying torpedoes. It can also carry anti-ship missiles, like the Sea Skua, which saw action in the Falklands and during Desert Storm, making it a formidable tool in nearly any naval scenario.
Learn more about this rotary-wing Wildcat that’s hotter than Sandra Bullock’s character in Speed in the video below.
Being from Texas bring a certain set of expectations. Some are good, some are funny, and some are just ridiculous.
There are many, but here are 15 clichés every recruit hears at boot camp:
1. “Only steers and queers come from Texas private cowboy, and you don’t much look like a steer to me so that kinda narrows it down” – Sergeant Hartman, “Full Metal Jacket” (1987)
You know how it goes. You get to a new unit and the first thing someone asks is what’s your name and where you’re from. You say, “my name is ____” followed by, “I’m from Texas.” The first thing you get is the Gunny Hartman quote about steers and queers. It doesn’t get more original than that (note my sarcasm).
2. The drill instructor calls you “Lone Star” to single you out.
What the hell are you doing Lone Star? Why are you out of formation!? This one is worth owning.
3. Everyone calls you “Tex” instead of your name. This usually happens for the first two weeks of boot camp while everyone is still learning names.
“There was Dallas, from Phoenix; Cleveland – he was from Detroit; and Tex… well, I don’t remember where Tex come from.” – Forrest Gump, “Forrest Gump” (1994)
4. Everyone assumes you have a horse back home.
Nope. Too expensive.
5. Everyone from Texas goes hunting.
Not really. But we do have a friend that does who’d let us tag along with if we wanted to.
6. The other recruits assume you know your way around a rifle because everyone in Texas has a gun.
… because Texas has that open carry law.
7. You eat BBQ for every meal.
We f–king love BBQ! And, we don’t settle for that nonsense other states call BBQ. Your choice of meat with pepper and salt over misquite is all you need.
8. All Texans are stupid.
They’re just mistaking our Texan drawl for being slow.
9. You grew up on a ranch.
Where do you think we do all our BBQing, shooting, and hunting? Actually, no. Cities like San Antonio, Dallas/Fort Worth, and Houston are among the largest in the country. There’s no room for a ranch in the asphalt jungle.
10. You must have an oil well in your backyard.
Who do you think we are, the Beverly Hillbillies?
11. You probably have a big truck.
If we don’t have one, we really want one. Who doesn’t?
12. People from Texas are the definition of “Murica.”
We’re very patriotic, which is why there’s always a handful of recruits from the great state in your unit.
13. Football is your religion.
Yes. We go to church every Friday (high school football), Saturday (college football), and Sunday (NFL football).
14. You have long horns over your fireplace or on your vehicle.
Nope. Not so much. It would go well with UT Longhorn gear though.
15. You’re from Texas, so therefore you’re a redneck. Nope, I’m a Texan.
“Texans tend to ride horses whereas rednecks ride their cousins.” — Chris Kyle, “American Sniper” (2014)
Russia’s new heavy combat drone has flown for the first time alongside the country’s most advanced fighter jet, giving the fighter a new edge in battle, the Russian defense ministry announced Sept. 27, 2019.
“The Okhotnik unmanned aerial vehicle has performed its first joint flight with a fifth-generation Su-57 plane,” the ministry said in a statement, according to Russia’s state-run TASS news agency.
The two Russian aircraft flew together “to broaden the fighter’s radar coverage and to provide target acquisition for employing air-launched weapons,” the ministry added.
Unmanned aerial vehicle “Okhotnik” made the first joint flight with a fifth-generation fighter Su-57
The flight involving both the Okhotnik drone and the Su-57 fighter appears to confirm what some have suspected for months — that the stealthy flying-wing drone was designed to fight alongside and provide critical battespace information to Russia’s new fifth-generation fighters.
In January 2019, shortly after photos of the Okhtonik appeared online, photos of an Su-57 with an interesting new paint job appeared. The redesign featured silhouettes of a Su-57 and a flying-wing aircraft that looked a lot like the Okhotnik.
Russia claims that the Okhotnik has stealth capabilities, a byproduct of its shape and an anti-radar coating, and is equipped with electro-optical, radar, and other types of reconnaissance equipment.
The heavy attack drone is currently controlled remotely, but in future tests, it is expected to perform in a semi-autonomous state and eventually a completely autonomous mode, TASS reports.
Testing with various armaments is expected in the next few years, and the drone will be handed over to Russian troops around 2025.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The H-60 “Jayhawk” is an incredible airframe, to say the least. Today, it’s one of the most-produced helicopters in the world and it’s in service with a vast number of countries. The United States Army alone has almost 3,000 either in service or on order. But there’s one user of the H-60 that doesn’t get much attention: The United States Coast Guard.
Currently, according to a Coast Guard representative, the USCG has 45 MH-60T Jayhawk helicopters in service. Originally, the Coast Guard got 42 HH-60Js from Sikorsky, but in the years since, three Jayhawks were operational losses and six were re-manufactured from former U.S. Navy SH-60F helicopters.
Just as the Navy replaced their SH-3 Sea Kings with SH-60/MH-60s, the Coast Guard is turning to the HH-60J to replace HH-3 Pelican search-and-rescue helicopters. According to MilitaryFactory.com, the first 42 HH-60Js were delivered between 1990 and 1996, making this one of the youngest versions of the H-60 in service.
U.S. Coast Guardsmen with Coast Guard Station San Diego participate in a search and rescue exercise (SAREX) in an HH-60J Jayhawk helicopter near Naval Auxiliary Landing Field San Clemente Island, Calif.
(DoD photo by Sgt. Keonaona C. Paulo, U.S. Marine Corps)
The original HH-60J was an unarmed helicopter, optimized for the search-and-rescue mission. It was equipped with a radar for locating ships and could also accept a forward-looking infrared camera. In 2007, the fleet was rebuilt to the MH-60T standard. This new and improved helicopter has a top speed of 204 miles per hour, a maximum range of 808 miles, and a crew of four.
The crew of an Air Station Kodiak MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter work together to carry an injured woman to emergency medical personnel at the Kodiak Municipal Airport in Kodiak, Alaska
(U.S. Coast Guard photo by Auxiliarist Tracey Mertens)
This new Jayhawk packs heat two ways: it has a M240 7.62mm machine gun and a Barrett M82A1 .50-caliber sniper rifle. This is known as the Airborne Use of Force package, and it was first installed on MH-68 Stingray helicopters used by the Coast Guard’s Helicopter Interdiciton Tactical Squadron, or HITRON.
A Coast Guard Air Station MH-60 Jayhawk rescue helicopter crew deployed in Cold Bay diverted from a training flight near Dutch Harbor to medevac a 26-year-old male who reportedly suffered head injuries aboard the 58-foot fishing vessel Cape Reliant.
(U.S. Coast Guard photo courtesy Coast Guard Cutter Alex Haley)
The Coast Guard is planning to keep the Jayhawk in service until 2035. By then, this helicopter will have enjoyed a 45-year-long service career.
Learn more about this long-lasting bird in the video below!