Okay, you’ve heard all the complaints about the F-35. It’s super-expensive. It’s got problems getting ready for combat. But in the real world, there’s no other option. And as WATM has already explained, the Marine Corps desperately needs to replace its F/A-18 Hornets.
But suppose, instead of blowing their RD money on the F-35, the Air Force, Navy, and Marines had decided to pull out File A56-7W and instead replicate Airwolf? They’d have gotten a much better deal – and it might even have helped the Army, too.
Airwolf’s specs (click here for another source) reveal this helicopter already took advantage of some stealth technology, had modern ECM systems and sensors, and very heavy armament (four 30mm cannon, two 40mm cannon, and various air-to-air and air-to-ground missiles). All in all, it’s very powerful, even if it was the brainchild of one of the big TV showrunners of the 1980s and 1990s.
So, why does it beat the F-35? Here are some of the reasons.
1. It can operate off any ship
With a top speed of over Mach 2, Airwolf may have the performance of a fighter jet, but it takes off and lands like a helicopter – without the need for the complex mechanisms used on the V-22 Osprey.
Think of it this way; with Airwolf in its hanger deck every surface combatant and amphibious ship could carry what amounts to a Generation 4.5 fighter. Even the Littoral Combat Ships could handle Airwolf, giving them a lot more punch in a fight than they currently have.
2. It would replace more airframes than the F-35 would
The F-35 is replacing the AV-8B Harrier, F/A-18 Hornet, F-16 Fighting Falcon, and A-10 Thunderbolt II in U.S. service. Airwolf not only would replace all four of those airframes, but it would also replace all of the AH-1 and AH-64 helicopters in Marine Corps and Army service. The promise of the TFX program as originally envisioned in the 1960s could be fulfilled at last!
3. Better performance
According to an Air Force fact sheet, the F-35 has a top speed of Mach 1.6, a ceiling of 50,000 feet, and a range of 1,350 miles without refueling. Airwolf hits a top speed of Mach 2, a ceiling of 100,000 feet, and a range of 1,450 miles.
In other words, Airwolf would have the F-35 beat in some crucial areas. Now, the F-35 might have an advantage in terms of payload (fixed-wing planes usually have that edge), but the fact remains, Airwolf would have been a very viable candidate for that competition – and might have had the edge, given that the Army would have bought airframes to replace the Apache.
Oh, and here’s the Season 1 opener, just for kicks:
It was tempting to make the headline for this review-interview “‘Terminal Lance’ creator Maximilian Uriarte gets dark with The White Donkey. That wouldn’t be truthful, at least not completely.
Much of Uriarte’s self-published graphic novel could be considered dark — and likely will be. But the word “dark” could also be substituted with the word real. Though the book opens with a disclaimer that it is a work of fiction, veterans of Operation Iraqi Freedom will find a lot of familiar feelings in its pages.
“It’s 90 percent true and then there’s a lot of fictional elements put into it,” Uriarte says. “I don’t like saying that it’s a true story because it’s not. It’s fictional. I feel like once you add one fictional element to anything it becomes a fictional story. The white donkey was real. I really did run into the white donkey in real life, which I write about it in the back of the book. In real life, I only saw the donkey once when we stopped for convoy and that was it. I thought about it a lot every day after that though.”
The White Donkey is a departure from his bread and butter work on Terminal Lance. But Uriarte’s graphic novel was a long time coming. He first conceived the idea in 2010, and launched the Kickstarter for the project in July 2013, a funding process Uriarte will not soon repeat.
“I don’t think I would ever do a Kickstarter again because I hated that. I still hate it,” he says. “It’s one thing to have an investor to answer to. It’s another thing to have 3,000 investors to answer to when things take too long. It’s really stressful.”
Uriarte may be producing the first graphic novel written and illustrated by an Iraq veteran about the Iraq war, but the process of telling this story far outweighed the stress of the financing, in Uriarte’s opinion.
He loves writing, even though he didn’t even know how to make a graphic novel at first. But writing is writing, except when it comes to novels. It’s important to note there’s no corporate ownership to his work. His graphic novel is an independent endeavor, the culmination of more than five years of work.
“I love writing,” he says. “I wrote this book as a screenplay first and that was how I approached it. I went through a few different processes of trying to figure out how to make this into a graphic novel because I had no idea how to make a graphic novel when I got into it. I started writing it out really novel-like, as a book. It didn’t really do me any favors because I needed a screenplay. I needed a script for the graphic novel. Waxing poetic in sentences and paragraphs didn’t really do me any favors. I thought, ‘Why write all this beautiful poetic language that no one is going to see?'”
Fans of Terminal Lance may wonder why The White Donkey seems so different from the comic strip. The reason is because that’s the reality of war, or at least Max Uriarte’s experience with war.
“I wanted it to be a grim war story,” he says. “I wanted it to be more self-aware in a way. I think the usual Hollywood narrative is always very heroic. I feel like a lot of being a Marine is not heroic in the slightest sense of it. I think I wanted to have a narrative that combats that idea of that glorified American ideology, that going to war is heroic. Even the “personal journey” aspect of it is pretty arrogant of people to think they’re going to experience some enlightenment at the expense of people dying. It’s a very sad and a very false reality I think.”
The White Donkey is a thought-provoking, poignant work, on the level of Alan Moore’s Watchmen, and is bound to raise Uriate’s profile beyond the large and loyal audience he’s already earned. Still, no matter how successful The White Donkey is, he wants fans to know Terminal Lance isn’t going anywhere.
“Terminal Lance is going to be around for a while if I can help it,” he says. “There’s going to be some changes on the site. I want to open it up more for op-eds and some other content. I want it to be a place any branch can come to for entertainment.”
The White Donkey will available on Amazon in February.
President Barack Obama will shutter an alleged Russian spy compound in Maryland Dec. 30 in retaliation for nearly a decade’s worth of cyber espionage activities.
The compound was reportedly purchased in 1972 by the then-Soviet Union as a vacation retreat. The Russian government confirmed its ownership of the compound in 1992 to The Associated Press.
Washington Life also appears to have featured some parts of the compound in a 2007 profile on one of the main houses, used by the Russian ambassador as a vacation get away.
Obama also announced he would expel 35 Russian diplomats from the U.S., mainly from Washington, D.C., and San Francisco. Another compound owned by the Russian government will also be shuttered Dec. 30.
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The United States Army is shipping M1 Abrams main battle tanks back to Europe, part of an effort to reassure NATO allies in the wake of Russian actions in Crimea and the Ukraine.
According to reports by CBSNews.com and the BBC, the first vehicles arrived in Germany on Jan. 6, and they will be deployed to Poland and other Eastern European countries that formerly were Russian allies. These vehicles will be used by Armored Brigade Combat Teams that will rotate into Europe from the United States.
The first rotation is slated to begin sometime in 2017.
The Army once had all or parts of six divisions in Europe with NATO alongside two Armored Cavalry Regiments, grouped into the V and VII Corps in 1989, according to a NATO order of battle.
After budget cuts, that force had dropped to the 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment, a Stryker Brigade Combat Team, according to a 2015 Army Times report. That unit will be equipped with the M1296 Dragoon, a Stryker equipped with a 30mm Bushmaster II chain gun.
The Abrams tanks sent to Germany are the M1A2 version. According to GlobalSecurity.org, these tanks have a 120mm main gun and 40 rounds of ammunition for that, a M2 .50-caliber heavy machine gun, and two 7.62mm medium machine guns. The tanks have a crew of four and a top speed of 42 miles per hour.
The scandal that prompted an investigation into hundreds of Marines who are accused of sharing naked photographs of their colleagues in a private Facebook group is much larger than has been reported, Business Insider has learned.
The practice of sharing such photos goes beyond the Marine Corps and one Facebook group. Hundreds of nude photos of female service members from every military branch have been posted to an image-sharing message board that dates back to at least May 2016. A source informed Business Insider of the site’s existence on Tuesday.
The site, called AnonIB, has a dedicated board for military personnel that features dozens of threaded conversations of men, many of whom ask for “wins” — naked photographs — of specific female service members, often identifying the women by name or by where they are currently stationed.
The revelation comes on the heels of an explosive story published earlier this week by journalist Thomas Brennan. He reported on a Facebook group called “Marines United,” which was home to approximately 30,000 members that were sharing nude photos of colleagues, along with personal information and even encouragement of sexual assault.
The report led the Marine Corps to open an investigation, spurred widespread outrage in the media and in Congress, and prompted sharp condemnation from the Corps’ top leaders. According to the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, investigators in that case are considering felony charges that could carry a maximum penalty of up to seven years in prison.
An official familiar with the matter told Business Insider the Marine Commandant, Gen. Robert Neller, would be briefing members of the House Armed Services Committee on the scandal some time next week.
“We’re examining some of our policies to see if we can make them punitive in nature,” the official said, adding that the Corps was taking the issue very seriously.
Facebook group exodus leads to message board’s popularity
Brennan’s story also led to an apparent exodus of members from the private Facebook group, though some appeared to have found the publicly viewable message board soon after — with the express intent of finding the cache of nude images Marines in the Facebook group were sharing.
“Come on Marines share the wealth here before that site is nuked and all is lost,” wrote one anonymous user who posted on March 6, just two days after Brennan’s story was published. Follow-up replies offered a link to a Dropbox folder named “Girls of MU” with thousands of photographs inside.
Dropbox did not respond to a request for comment.
Members on the board often posted photos — seemingly stolen from female service members’ Instagram accounts — before asking others if they had nude pictures of a female service member.
For example, after posting the first name and photograph of a female soldier in uniform on January 21, one board member asked: “Army chick went to [redacted], ig is [redacted].” Another user, apparently frustrated no pictures had yet been found, posted a few days later: “BUMP. Let’s see them t——.”
On another thread, a member posted a photograph on May 30, 2016, of a female service member with her breasts exposed, asking, “She is in the navy down in san diego, anyone have any more wins?”
One user followed up on June 13, offering another nude photo of the purported female sailor.
“Keep them coming! She’s got them floating around someone [sic] and I’ve wanted to see this for a while,” another user wrote in response.
Some requested nude photographs by unit or location.
One user in September 2016 asked for photos of women in the Massachusetts National Guard, while another requested some from the Guard in Michigan. Other requests included nude pictures of any women stationed at Fort Hood in Texas, Fort Bragg in North Carolina, McConnell Air Force Base in Kansas, or Naval Medical Center in San Diego, along with many more US military installations around the world.
In statements to Business Insider, military branches universally denounced the message board and promised discipline for any service members who engaged in activities of misconduct.
“This alleged behavior is inconsistent with our values,” Lt. Col. Myles Caggins, spokesperson for the Department of Defense, told Business Insider.
Capt. Ryan Alvis, a spokesperson for the Marine Corps, told Business Insider the service expects that the discovery of the Marines United page will motivate others to come forward to report other pages like it.
“Marines will attack this problem head-on and continue to get better,” Alvis said.
Lt. Col. Jennifer Johnson, a spokesperson for the Army, told Business Insider: “The Army is a values-based organization where everyone is expected to be treated with dignity and respect. As members of the Army team, individuals’ interaction offline and online reflect on the Army and its values. Soldiers or civilian employees who participate in or condone misconduct, whether offline or online, may be subject to criminal, disciplinary, and/or administrative action.”
Air Force spokesperson Zachary Anderson told Business Insider: “We expect our Airmen to adhere to these values at all times and to treat their fellow service members with the highest degree of dignity and respect. Any conduct or participation in activities, whether online or offline, that does not adhere to these principles will not be tolerated. Airmen or civilian employees who engage in activities of misconduct that demean or disrespect fellow service members will be appropriately disciplined.”
The Navy did not respond to a request for comment.
‘Hope we can find more on this gem’
The image board hosts disturbing conversations from what appears, in many cases, to be between active-duty personnel.
“Any wins of [redacted]?” read one request, which shared further details about a female Marine’s whereabouts, indicating the anonymous user likely worked with her in the past.
Another thread posted in November 2016, which saw dozens of follow-up comments as users acted as cyber-sleuths to track down the victim, started with a single photograph of a female Marine, fully clothed, taken from her Instagram account.
“Any wins?” that user asked, telling others the Marine’s first name and where she had been stationed.
One user hinted at her last name as others scoured her Instagram account, posting more photos that they had found. One photo of the victim and her friend prompted one user to ask for nude photos of the friend, as well: “Any of the dark haired girl in the green shirt and jeans next to her?”
The thread carried on for months.
“Amazing thread,” one user wrote. “Hope we can find more on this gem.”
In December, a nude photo was finally posted. “dudeee more,” one user wrote in response. Many others responded by “bumping” the thread to the top, so that others on the board would see it and potentially post more photos. Indeed, more photos soon appeared from the victim’s Instagram account, which was apparently made private or shut down numerous times.
On the board, users complained that her Instagram account kept disappearing, apparently due to the victim trying to thwart her harassers. But others quickly found her new accounts and told others, with the new Instagram account names being shared throughout the month of February.
“Oh god please someone have that p—-,” one user wrote.
The site that hosts the message board seems to have little moderation and few rules, though it does tell users: “Don’t be evil.” Its posting rules instruct members to not post personal details such as addresses, telephone numbers, links to social networks, or last names.
Still, large numbers of users on the board do not appear to follow those rules.
In one popular thread started on January 9, an anonymous user posted non-nude pictures of a female airman, teasing others with the caption: “Anyone know her or have anything else on her? I’ve got a lot more if there is interest. Would love for her friends and family to see these.”
The user, who suggested he was a jilted ex-boyfriend, judging by the accompanying captions, posted many more photos in the following hours and days.
“She knows how to end it all. If she does get in contact with me I won’t post anymore. So get it while it’s hot!” he wrote.
Later in the thread, the man even referred to the airman by name and told her to check her Instagram messages.
“Wow, she blocked me on Instagram!” he later wrote. “Stupid c— must want me to post her s— up. I gave her a choice, it didn’t have to be this way. I’m not a bad guy, she had a choice. Oh well, no point in holding back now. I want you all to share this everywhere you can, once I start seeing her more places I’ll post her video.”
Aside from those serving on active-duty, even some who identified themselves as cadets at some military service academies started their own threads to try to find nude photos of their female classmates.
In a thread dedicated to the US Military Academy at West Point, some purported cadets shared photos and class graduation years of their female classmates.
“What about the basketball locker room pics, I know someone has those,” one user asked, apparently in reference to photos taken surreptitiously in the women’s locker room. “I always wondered whether those made it out of the academy computer system,” another user responded.
A spokesperson for West Point did not respond to a request for comment.
“Bumping all 3 service academies’ threads to see who can post the best wins in the next 7 days. Winning school gets the [commander’s cup],” one user wrote. “Go Army, Beat Everyone.”
‘This has to be treated harshly’
The existence of a site dedicated solely to sharing nude photographs of female service members is another black mark for the Pentagon, which has been criticized in the past for failing to deal with rampant sexual harassment and abuse within the ranks.
A 2014 Rand Corporation study found that more than 20,000 service members had been sexually assaulted in the previous year. Nearly six times that number reported being sexually harassed. In some cases even, the military has pushed out victims of sexual assault who have reported it, instead of the perpetrators.
“I’m kind of surprised. I’m still naive I think, on some level,” said Kate Hendricks Thomas, a former Marine Corps officer who is now an assistant professor at Charleston Southern University. “I am really disappointed to hear that the reach is broader than 30,000 and a couple of now-defunct websites.”
Thomas criticized past responses to the problem, in which some have indicated the issue is too difficult for the military to wrap its arms around.
“This renders us less mission-effective. It’s got to be a priority,” she said.
“These websites are not boys being boys,” she added. “This is a symptom of rape culture.”
The message board also presents a challenge for military leaders, who may face an uphill battle in trying to find, and potentially prosecute, active-duty service members who share photos on the site. Unlike the Marines United Facebook group, where many users posted under their real names, the newly-revealed message board’s user base is mostly anonymous, and the site itself is registered in the Bahamas, outside the jurisdiction of US law enforcement.
Brad Moss, a lawyer who specializes in national security issues, told Business Insider the military may have a hard time convincing the internet service provider to shut down the website. Instead, he explained, the victims themselves may have more legal standing when contacting the ISP in order to get photos removed.
Still, Moss believes the military could squash the behavior if it adopted a “zero-tolerance” posture.
“I think that absolutely 100% should be the policy. If they catch the main perpetrators who are sharing these photos around and essentially engaging in revenge porn,” Moss said. “They should have a zero-tolerance policy, and boot them from the military with a dishonorable discharge.”
“If they do anything less, it’s only going to incentivize this behavior in the future,” he added. “This has to be treated harshly.”
Fifty-one years after saving a squad of U.S. Marines from walking into an ambush by Viet Cong, Don Medley walked into a surprise gathering organized to honor him.
Members of the squadron Medley saved May 12, 1966, gathered Friday at Stone Hearth restaurant in Elizabethtown, Kentucky, for a surprise dinner. Medley, a former U.S. Army Warrant Officer, had believed he and his wife, Dianne, were meeting one of the Marine veterans, Earl Davis, and his wife, Claudia, for dinner.
In reality, three other men Medley saved, along with their wives, were waiting to meet him. Those honoring him traveled from South Carolina, Missouri, Georgia and Tennessee.
“I told my wife that one day I’d like to meet some of the guys on the ground that I helped,” Medley said. “This is the day.”
Medley, of Hodgenville, appeared stunned and overwhelmed by the handshakes, hugs and greetings he received as he stood near the doorway of the room reserved for the occasion.
“Thank you, for my wife and kids,” one man said.
The words “thank you” repeatedly resounded in the room that held a dining table adorned with a centerpiece of white flowers highlighted with small U.S. flags. Placemats also were emblazoned with U.S. flags.
“This is such an honor for me,” Medley said, his voice wavering as he received gifts of gratitude. “It’s unbelievable.”
Like other members of Bravo Company of 1st Marine Battalion, 9th Marine Regiment, Earl Davis had wondered over the years who the Cessna pilot who saved them was. After an article was published in Vietnam magazine last year, Medley’s identity became known.
Davis received contact information for Medley on Dec. 26. He decided to coordinate the surprise gathering.
During the gathering, Medley recounted the day he was flying his Cessna over a rice paddy and noticed Marines advancing toward a trench line holding enemy forces. He dropped a smoke grenade on which he had scrawled a brief message warning the Marines, but they continued to advance.
He soon noticed there were more enemies in a tree line, making the number much larger. He dropped a second smoke grenade warning them and included the words, “I’m calling Arty,” referring to notifying artillery. His message saved them, the men said.
“We’ve been looking for this guy for over 50 years,” Ray Maurer said. “I just broke up when I saw him.”
Maurer and his wife, Bernadette, made the trip from Georgia.
Carl Whipple of Tennessee attended the gathering with wife, Myrtle Ruth.
“We all wanted the opportunity to meet him,” he said.
Whipple described the experience as heartfelt and said it was “a God thing” that sent Medley to fly over the squad 51 years ago.
“We’re indebted,” he said.
Dan Ferrell of Missouri said the gathering was a much-needed opportunity to express his thanks to Medley.
“I’ve never been able to put this behind me,” said Ferrell, who has post-traumatic stress disorder.
Medley was presented with a watch that was set at 10:30, the approximate time he dropped the first smoke grenade. He also was given mementos including a framed collection of items, among which was a signed letter of thanks.
Choking up in the process, Davis read the letter during the presentation. Later, he said the emotion he felt at that time summed up what he was feeling and how special the occasion was.
“It means a whole hell of a lot,” he said.
Similarly, Medley visibly was moved during the gathering and said the items he received will be displayed with honor in his den.
“It’s overwhelming,” Medley said. “This vindicates my whole year in Vietnam.”
The bodies of the missing sailors “were located in the flooded berthing compartments” after rescue workers were able to gain access to areas of the Fitzgerald that were damaged in the collision with the ACX Crystal.
The sailors’ bodies are being transferred to the Hospital in Yokosuka, Japan, where the 7th Fleet is headquartered, to proceed with the identification process, the statement added.
The Fitzgerald and ACX Crystal collided on Saturday at 2.30 am local time in Japanese waters.
Two people injured during the incident, including the destroyer’s commander Bryce Benson, were evacuated.
The US Marine Corps received its first CH-53K King Stallion on May 16, 2018, landing at Marine Corps Air Station New River in North Carolina, according to The Drive.
“[This is] the most powerful helicopter the United States has ever fielded,” CH-53 program chief Marine Col. Hank Vanderborght said in April 2018. “Not only the most powerful, the most modern and also the smartest.”
But it’s also the most expensive. With a price tag of about $144 million, it costs more than the F-35A Lightning II joint strike fighter.
Still, the King Stallion can haul three times more than the helicopter it’s replacing, the CH-53E Super Stallion.
Here’s what it can do:
Engineered by Sikorsky, the CH-53K King Stallion made its first flight in 2015.
It’s also fitted with a glass cockpit, which basically means it has digital displays, for the four-man crew, as well as fourth generation high-efficiency composite rotor blades with swept anhedral tips.
The military has very talented photographers in the ranks, and they constantly attempt to capture what life as a service member is like during training and at war. Here are the best military photos of the week:
A B-2 Spirit from the 590th Bomb Wing at Whiteman Air Force Base, Mo., prepares to take off in support of operations near Sirte, Libya. In conjunction with the Libyan Government of National Accord, the U.S. military conducted precision airstrikes Jan. 18, 2017, destroying two Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant camps, 45 kilometers southwest of Sirte.
A 380th Expeditionary Aircraft Maintenance Squadron crew repairs an E-3 Sentry (AWACS) engine at an undisclosed location in Southwest Asia, Jan. 12, 2017.
U.S. Army Soldiers, assigned to 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard), conducts ceremonial training in Arlington National Cemetery, Va., Jan. 17, 2017, to prepare for their role in the 58th Presidential Inauguration. The Presidential Salute Battery, founded in 1953, fires cannon salutes in honor of the President of the United States, visiting foreign dignitaries, and official guests of the United States and is the only unit of its kind in the Army, conducting more than 300 ceremonies every year.
Soldiers provide cover fire during an assault on a building during training at Joint Base McGuire-Dix Lakehurst, N.J., Jan. 9, 2017, part of a series of training events that will culminate this summer at an eXportable Combat Training Capability exercise at Fort Pickett, Va.
PACIFIC OCEAN (Jan. 17, 2017) Electrician’s Mate Fireman Sacy Bynoe, assigned to the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71), climbs a ladder. Theodore Roosevelt is conducting basic training off the coast of Southern Calif.
PACIFIC OCEAN (Jan. 16, 2017) Aviation Boatswains Mate (Handling) 3rd Class Dylan Mills directs the crew of a C-2A Greyhound from Fleet Logistics Support Squadron (VRC) 30 aboard the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70). The ship is on a deployment with the Carl Vinson Carrier Strike Group as part of the U.S. Pacific Fleet-led initiative to extend the command and control functions of U.S. 3rd Fleet into the Indo-Asia-Pacific region.
An MV-22 Osprey prepares to lower its ramp to debark Marines during a noncombatant evacuation training operation in Djibouti, Africa, Jan. 5, 2017. The 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit provides the U.S. with a sea-based crisis response force, which is capable of planning and commencing execution of selected tactical operations within six hours of receipt of a mission. The Osprey and crew are with Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 163 (Reinforced).
Rct. Maria Daume, Platoon 4001, drags a simulated casualty on a combat training course during the Crucible Jan. 5, 2017, on Parris Island, South Carolina. Daume was born in a Russian prison and brought to Long Island, New York, at the age of 4 when she and her twin brother were adopted.
The helo makes a landing approach. Landing on the flight deck of a 210 is an all hands evolution, requiring two firefighting teams, a first aid team, a fueling team, tie-down crew, landing signals officers, helicopter control officers, and a master helmsman in addition to filling all regular duty positions to ensure a safe evolution.
Members from CGC DAUNTLESS gather to greet students from Stephen F. Austin High School.
The U.S. Navy began taking delivery on the first Block III F/A-18 Super Hornets for testing last year, and while the jet may look strikingly similar to its predecessor on the outside, a peek inside the cockpit shows just how much this fighter has changed.
The new Block III Super Hornet promises to be as significant a jump in capability as the earlier transition from the Block I Hornet to Block II Super Hornet in the early 2000s. As a result, the new F/A-18 Super Hornet (called the Super “Duper” Hornet by some) will join the Air Force’s new F-15EX Eagle II in serving as among the world’s most advanced non-stealth fighters in operation today. In all, the U.S. Navy intends to purchase some 78 all-new Block III Super Hornets, while also upgrading its existing fleet of 550 or so jets to match.
Originally designed and built by McDonnell Douglas, the first F/A-18 Hornet took to the skies in 1978 and made its way into service as the U.S. Navy’s go-to carrier fighter in 1984. The Hornet design was intended to serve as a replacement for a variety of carrier aircraft, including the A-4 Skyhawk and F-4 Phantom IIs, while complimenting the dogfighting dynamo of the era, the famed F-14 Tomcat. The Hornet’s broad capability set and impressive performance made it a standout platform for both the Navy and Marine Corps, thanks in no small part to its multi-role focus. Indeed, it’s F/A prefix is indicative of this multi-role skillset, with F standing for Fighter and A standing for Attack.
By 1992, the U.S. Navy was ready to double down on the Hornet, but in order to keep up with the changing times, the aircraft needed a significant facelift. In truth, this new Super Hornet was a largely new aircraft that simply carried over the F/A-18 designation, in part, to convince Congress that the program was a cost-effective derivative effort, rather than a pricey clean-sheet design.
The change from Hornet to Super Hornet, which are also known as the Block I and Block II orders of this aircraft, was dramatic. The Block II Super Hornet, sometimes called the Rhino by pilots, is larger than its predecessor and has some standout design cues that you may not notice at first pass, but become hard to ignore once you’re familiar with these two fighters.
Those changes granted the Super Hornet 33% more internal fuel storage and 15,000 more pounds in maximum weight, allowing for a 41% increase in operational range. The changes inside the cockpit were dramatic too. The old physical keyboard was swapped out in favor of a touchscreen display, as well as the addition of an Engine Fuel Display (EFD) and Reference Standby Display (RSD). Those displays and others throughout the cockpit also went to full color, instead of the previous monochrome.
Other avionics tucked inside the fuselage were upgraded, including onboard radar (the Super Hornet was equipped with a APG-79 radar system that could keep track of more enemy aircraft and spot them from much further distances). In order to support this improved air-to-air capability, additional weapons stations for weapons like the AIM-120 were added, alongside improved radar warning receivers, a ALQ-214 jammer, and more chaff and flares than the Hornet could manage.
The legacy Hornet was still a capable fighter, however, and Marine Hornets remained aboard America’s flattops all the way until February of this year.
The Block III Hornet is flying straight into the 21st century
Last June, the U.S. Navy accepted delivery of its first two Block III Super Hornets for testing; a single-seat E-model and a two-seat F model. Both iterations of the new fighter have undergone significant upgrades and design changes over the Block II version of the jet, broken up into five major design features.
The Super Hornet cockpit has undergone a serious overhaul for Block III, incorporating a single touchscreen design in place of a litany of gauges and readouts.
“The advanced cockpit system (ACS) takes the legacy displays of the Block II and puts them all into one big touchscreen piece of glass that’s almost like an iPad interface for the pilot,” Jennifer Tebo, Boeing director of development for F/A-18 and EA-18G programs, explained.
The intent behind the streamlining of these screens isn’t to reduce the data available to pilots, but rather, to help manage it more effectively. Fighter pilots have to glean information from multiple screens and the world around them and then fuse it all together in their heads to develop a well-rounded concept of the battlespace they’re in. While flying supercomputers like the F-35 makes this process even easier for pilots, the Block III Super Hornet promises to bridge the gap between fourth-generation jets like the Super Hornet and computing powerhouses like the F-35.
“It’s customizable and expandable and you can set it to how you want your displays to show up every time you jump in the cockpit. I’m left-handed so I like my keypad on the left side with fuel and engine information on the right,” an unnamed Navy test pilot told Forbes last year.
Conformal Fuel Tanks
One of the most pressing issues facing the U.S. Navy in the 21st century is the lack of fuel range in its carrier-based fighters. Neither the existing Block II Super Hornet nor the advanced F-35C Joint Strike Fighter have the range they’d need to engage Chinese targets without placing their carriers in direct range of China’s hypersonic anti-ship missiles. As such, a slew of efforts are underway to pull more range out of these aircraft, including the development of the MQ-25 Stingray refueling drone for use on America’s flattops.
But in order to address this problem on the aircraft itself, the Block III Super Hornet includes the addition of conformal fuel tanks that add 3,500 pounds of fuel. These additional tanks are called “conformal” because they hug the fuselage of the fighter, limiting added drag. While this won’t be enough to offset the capability gap created by China’s anti-ship missiles, it is an important step in the right direction.
Earlier this year, Aviation Week reported that “technical, structural, and sustainment” issues had risen the anticipated cost of incorporating these conformal fuel tanks, placing their future in jeopardy. However, with the Navy concerned about the range of its existing fighters, it stands to reason that the service will find a way to work out these issues.
The Block III Super Hornet is leaning into the future of data with its Distributed Targeting Processor-Networked (DTP-N) mission computer and its Tactical Targeting Network Technology (TTNT) data link. The DTP-N is 17 times more powerful than the existing mission computer aboard the Super Hornet, but more importantly, utilizes an open architecture that will allow for software to be changed or updated without having to actually replace any of the aircraft’s hardware.
All of that computer power will support the rest of the force in the area, not unlike the “quarterback in the sky” F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, thanks to that TTNT data link.
According to Tebo, the TTNT “will allow all of the information to come into the jet from the battlespace that we need to be processed for decision making as well as pushing it back out to the rest of the air wing so that we can share common pictures of data and get better situational awareness,”
Advanced as these systems are, they are not on par with the F-35’s onboard systems, nor are they compatible, so the Block III Super Hornet will be forced to communicate with F-35s via the longstanding Link-16 tactical data link system.
Tougher to spot on radar
The F/A-18 was never designed to be a stealth fighter, and despite an improved radar cross-section, the Block III Super Hornet isn’t either. However, making it tougher to manage a weapons-grade lock on the new fighter has been a focus among Boeing designers, and although much of what has been done in this effort has been kept secret, reports indicate a serious improvement in minimizing detectability.
The Block III Super Hornet’s reduced radar cross-section won’t make it a “stealth” fighter, but like other less-than-perfect stealth jets, the intent may not be to completely evade detection, so much as delay engagement. Enemy fighters and surface-to-air missile platforms may be able to spot the Block III Super Hornet, but the goal is to impede securing a weapon’s grade lock to buy the aircraft time to escape or evade.
The Block II Super Hornets in operation for the U.S. Navy today are each rated for 6,000 flight hours, so it goes without saying that the past two straight decades of combat operations in the Middle East and elsewhere have wrought havoc on maintenance schedules and aircraft availability. In another one of those significant changes that are tough to spot with the naked eye, the Block III Super Hornet is rated for an additional 4,000 hours, bringing the total up to 10,000.
This is still a far cry from the F-15EX’s reported lifespan of 20,000 hours, but offers a significant jump over both existing F/A-18s and the F-35C, which is also rated for 6,000 hours.
This longer lifespan will make the new Block III Super Hornet a most cost-effective means of delivering air power than ever before, while also offering the Navy itself greater latitude in logistical planning.
Bonus Improvement: Infrared Search Track System
Technically not considered a “Block III” improvement, the addition of a centerline tank-mounted infrared search track system (IRST) in the Block III Super Hornet has been called “integral” for the capability of the fighter by Boeing officials.
This passive detection capability is aimed squarely at fifth-generation competitors like Russia’s Sukhoi Su-57 or China’s Chengdu J-20. The IRST can be used to scan the horizon for radar-beating fighters, picking up on the infrared heat released by their jet engines without broadcasting a signal through space to tell others you’re on the hunt. This will give the non-stealth Block III Super Hornet a real fighting chance against stealthy jets, potentially spotting them against the sky backdrop from a hundred miles away.
Despite their usefulness, however, there have still been numerous times when paratroopers were not used in which they could have had a significant impact on the battle. These are four of those battles:
1. The Battle of Bastogne
In December 1944 the Germans launched a massive offensive into the Ardennes forest that would come to be known as the Battle of the Bulge.
As the situation deteriorated, Gen. Eisenhower decided to commit his strategic reserves, primarily the 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions, in an attempt to blunt the German attack. In the ensuing melee, the 82nd helped hold back the Germans at Elsenborn Ridge while the 101st became encircled holding Bastogne.
The effort to relieve the 101st fell to Patton’s Third Army to drive through the Germans and reach Bastogne.
However, Eisenhower had one remaining airborne division in reserve in England.
On Dec. 23, the same day Pathfinders landed in Bastogne to guide in supply drops, the 17th Airborne Division flew to France in order to join Third Army in its counter-offensive.
A more decisive move would have been to have the paratroopers of the 17th jump into the perimeter of Bastogne in order to shore up the lines and bring much needed relief to the beleaguered paratroopers of the 101st. This tactic had been used to great effect during Operation Avalanche in Sicily in which 82nd paratroopers reinforced the Allied beachhead at Salerno.
This would have then allowed the defenders to affect a breakout towards friendly lines or to go on an offensive of their own to drive the Germans back and break the siege.
2. The Landing at Inchon
On Sept. 15, 1950, Gen. Douglas MacArthur’s forces as part of Operation Chromite assaulted the beaches and harbor of Inchon — then well behind enemy lines.
In a coordinated effort with the forces encircled at Pusan, the United Nations forces delivered a striking blow against the North Koreans driving them back towards the 38th Parallel and recapturing Seoul.
The attack was a textbook amphibious assault comparable to those undertaken in Europe during World War II in which paratroopers spearheaded an assault followed by seaborne infantry. However, MacArthur had been in command in the Pacific and thus had utilized airborne forces much differently. His assault plan did not include the use of paratroopers.
Though only the 187th Airborne Regimental Combat Team was available, they could have been put to good use.
Their first order of business could have been the seizure of Kimpo Airfield, a task not completed until Sept. 18 by a battalion of Marines. The early capture of the airfield would have allowed American fighters a forward base sooner and would have allowed follow-on forces to be flown in.
Other elements of the 187th could have also been used to cut off the forces retreating from Pusan. Though the UN was able to eliminate nearly half of the 70,000 North Koreans in the South, the other half was able to regroup in North Korea.
Had paratroopers been employed they could have potentially stopped more — if not all — from reaching North Korea, leaving the communists with virtually no military.
3. The Siege of Khe Sanh
Just before the launch of the Tet Offensive in January 1968, the North Vietnamese attacked and laid siege to the Khe Sanh Combat Base.
Though they held their positions in the hills around the base and the base itself, they were soon cut off from ground support and resupply when Route 9 was closed. The Marines in and around the combat base — mostly the 26th Marine Regiment as well as 1st Battalion, 9th Marines — held out against the North Vietnamese for 11 weeks before finally being relieved by elements of the 1st Cavalry Division as part of Operation Pegasus.
However, the 82nd Airborne Division’s 3rd Brigade was alerted and deployed to Vietnam in early February 1968 in order to shore up defenses against the Tet Offensive.
The brigade could have instead been dropped into the Khe Sanh Combat Base in order to strengthen the defenses there and improve the offensive capabilities of the defenders. The paratroopers could have been used to seek out the NVA artillery that continually pounded the base and silenced it. This would also have freed up other units that were instead used to break the siege.
Furthermore, the paratroopers would have brought with them valuable assets such as artillery, engineers, and intelligence that would have improved the fighting ability of the defenders.
4. Operation Iraqi Freedom
Although there was one large and several smaller airborne operations during the invasion of Iraq the role of paratroopers in the initial assault should have been much greater. Another operation, a likely jump by the 2nd Brigade, 82nd Airborne and the 3rd Ranger Battalion onto Saddam International Airport, was scrapped after an overzealous journalist revealed the plan on public television.
However, there were many other targets of opportunity and uses for the available paratroopers. Much like the Rangers’ seizure of H-1 Airbase in Western Iraq, the paratroopers of the 2nd Brigade could have opened an airhead just north of Baghdad with an airborne assault of Balad Air Base.
Reminiscent of WWII operations in Europe, they could have cleared the way for the 3rd Infantry Division and 1st Marine Division as they made their way toward Baghdad. The seizure of key infrastructure was vital to keep Saddam from repeating his scorched earth retreat from 1991.
This could have been more quickly facilitated if paratroopers had been employed. With air superiority from the beginning, the possibilities for airborne assaults were great though unfortunately under-utilized.
When the paratroopers did enter the fight they proved their mettle when they earned a Presidential Unit Citation for their actions at As Samawah.
Today, Bell is a company known for its UH-1 Iroquois and AH-1 Cobra helicopters, but Bell was once much more than a helicopter company. The corporation built front-line fighters during World War II and was also responsible for making America’s first jet fighter.
The P-59 Airacomet was never much more than a flying testbed. It had an armament that consisted of three M2 .50-caliber machine guns and a single 37mm cannon — the latter being a common feature in Bell’s primary propeller-driven fighters, the P-39 Airacobra and the P-63 Kingcobra. The P-59 was also able to haul a fair load for air-to-ground ass-kicking, in the form of either two 1,000-pound bombs or eight 60-pound rockets.
The P-59, however, would make its greatest impact without ever firing a shot at the enemy.
By the early 1940s, both the Germans and the British were pursuing jet technology, having flown experimental jets before. According to aviation historian Joe Baugher, General Henry Arnold saw England’s E-28/39 jet in 1941 and asked if the Americans could use the then-groundbreaking technology. The British gladly handed it over, and General Electric was given the task of building the engine.
While Bell is known for its helicopters today, during World War II, they built fighters.
Bell, which was located next to GE’s jet engine plant, then got the contract to build the jet fighter around the new engine. The process was kept very secret — a “black project.” The project was dubbed XP-59, a designation recycled from an older Bell design for a propeller-driven fighter that had a “pusher” arrangement. That design was modified to carry two J31 turbojet engines.
In addition to the three .50-caliber machine guns and the 37mm cannon, the Airacomet carried eight 60-pound rockets or two 1,000-pound bombs.
The Airacomet never made it to the front lines. Despite being technologically advanced, it just didn’t have the performance needed to join the fight. The two jets were heavy and while it had a top speed of 413 miles per hour, its range was very short. On internal fuel alone, the P-59 only could go 240 miles. External tanks more than doubled its range (carrying it up to 520 miles), but a P-51 Mustang could go as far as 2,300 miles.
The pilots who flew the P-59 didn’t see combat, but did learn lessons that paid off for pilots of more advanced jets down the road.
The P-59, despite never seeing combat, was very valuable for the United States. It taught pilots how to fly jets — and this experience that would pay off big time when more practical aircraft emerged for the United States Navy, Marine Corps, and Air Force.
Learn more about this jet-powered pioneer the video below!
The highest rate of fire for a machine gun in service is the M134 Minigun. The weapon was designed in the late 1960s for helicopters and armored vehicles. It fires 7.62 mm calibre rounds at a blistering rate of 6,000 rounds per minute, or 100 rounds per second — about ten times that of an ordinary machine gun, according to the Guinness World Records.
The Metal Storm gun, on the other hand, makes the M134 look like a toy. The prototype gun system was rated at 16,000 rounds per second or 1,000,000 rounds per minute. The gun system was developed by an Australian weapons company by the same name. In 2007, Metal Storm Inc. started delivering its gun systems to the US Navy for surface ships. This video shows how the Metal Storm gun achieves its head spinning firing rate.