Cessna’s are not the sexiest or most frightening aircraft, but there is a variant that could sneak towards an enemy relatively quietly and from low altitude before blowing that enemy away with two AGM-114 Hellfire missiles.
The AC-208 Combat Caravan is a modified version of the civilian C-208 that is used for everything from commercial air travel to science research to air ambulances.
The ground-attack aircraft is in service with the Iraqi Air Force. It first engaged in combat in 2014, striking ISIS targets near Ramadi and Fallujah.
The Iraqi Air Force originally purchased three of the AC-208s and three C-208s with reconnaissance capabilities but has been buying them at a decent clip since. One of the AC-208s crashed near Kirkuk, Iraq, in 2016, but the Iraqi Air Force still has eight and is asking to buy two more.
While the AC-208 is not the beefiest of ground-attack aircraft, it does give a lethal capability with relatively little training and infrastructure requirements. This allows air forces with smaller budgets to get Hellfires in the air for use against enemy forces.
When the Australian Army was looking for a new infantry fighting vehicle in the early 1990s, they were looking to address a few specific needs. One of them was that the new vehicle be able to handle the unique conditions of Australia. After looking, the Australians turned to a rugged vehicle that the United States Marine Corps had proven in combat in Desert Storm, the LAV-25.
Well, to be precise, it was the MOWAG Piranha — it’s the vehicle that was lightly modified to become the LAV-25. The Canadians also operate this vehicle as the Coyote. So, in 1995, Australia began to buy what they called the Australian Light Armored Vehicle, or ASLAV.
A look at the rear compartment of the ASLAV-25, which holds six troops. The vehicle also carries 720 rounds of ammo for the 25mm chain gun.
(Photo by Nick-D)
The baseline ASLAV packs a 25mm Bushmaster chain gun and a 7.62mm machine gun. It has a crew of three — a driver, a gunner, and a vehicle commander — and holds six grunts. The vehicle has a top speed of 75 miles per hour and can go 410 miles on a single tank of gas. In short, the ASLAV moves fast and can take out enemy armored personnel carriers, trucks, and troops, and then hold ground with the help of the embarked troops.
As was the case with the Marine Corps LAV-25s, there’s a whole family of ASLAV vehicles, each specially tuned for specific missions. Variants include an armored personnel carrier with a .50-caliber machine gun that has a crew of two and holds seven troops, an ambulance, a “battlefield surveillance” vehicle, a command vehicle, an armored recovery vehicle, and a “maintenance support” vehicle.
An Australian ASLAV-25 taking part in Operation Enduring Freedom. Its 25mm cannon is the primary armament, and the vehicle has 720 rounds.
(US Army photo by Spc. Edward A. Garibay)
The ASLAV has seen its share of combat in East Timor, Operation Iraqi Freedom, and Operation Enduring Freedom. A total of 257 vehicles of the ASLAV family were built. The vehicles will see service through 2021, by which point they’ll be replaced by the Boxer family of armored vehicles.
Learn more about this fighting vehicle from down under in the video below.
Getting supplies to Marines ashore is growing more complex as new threats reach the space between ships and the beach, so leaders are looking to high-tech self-driving ships to get the job done.
The Navy’s mysterious 132-foot-long autonomous Sea Hunter vessel could move fuel, ammunition, and other heavy supplies from large ships out to small teams of Marines, sea service leaders said May 8, 2019, at the Sea-Air-Space expo outside Washington, D.C.
“If we can do what we’ve demonstrated with Sea Hunter … with logistics, to program that connector to meet that force at a location to sustain them and provide them with what they need, that is where we’re going to have to practice, practice, practice and learn and adapt our structure to be responsive to that,” said Rear Adm. Jim Kilby, director of warfare integration.
Sea Hunter, an entirely new class of unmanned sea surface vehicle.
(US Navy photo)
Marines and sailors recently practiced sustaining ground troops operating at various points ashore during amassive amphibious exercise called Pacific Blitz. During that exercise, it became clear they must leverage the distance unmanned vessels can travel without risk to personnel, Brig. Gen. Stephen Liszewski, director of operations for Marine Corps Plans, Policies and Operations, told Military.com.
“The unmanned piece is the untapped potential,” Liszewski said. “We know that is one way we can get after this ability to operate in a more distributed and lethal environment.”
Ideally, the services would use a mix of drone aircraft and unmanned ships to get the job done, he added. There are times when they’ll need the speed and range of unmanned aircraft, he said, but they can’t carry everything.
Sea Hunter, an entirely new class of unmanned sea surface vehicle.
(US Navy photo)
“With a surface connector, you’re going to be able to move larger volumes of things, particularly if you’re talking ammunition or bulk liquids like water or fuel,” Liszewski said. “Clearly, aviation speed or range is what you get, but it’s not one or the other. You’ve got to have both [surface connectors and air assets].”
People think that the Joint Direct Attack Munition is an excellent system. Don’t get me wrong it is great when there is a point target you need to go away.
JDAMs usually land within 30 feet of their target thanks to the use of the Global Positioning System for guidance. In fact, a lot of other systems, including the Tomahawk cruise missile, use that system as their entire guidance package, or to supplement other precision systems.
But there are some things these precision-guided systems can’t do so well. In fact, the cluster bomb actually can do some things that the JDAM can’t – which is a reason why the United States has not signed the Oslo Treaty that bans cluster bombs.
Here’s a sample of situations where it proves useful.
1. Cluster bombs can hit multiple targets
This is the big thing. One JDAM can take out one target. Bridges or bunkers are the sort of thing the JDAM specialize it killing. But let’s take a look at a company of tanks. Here, we are talking anywhere from ten to fifteen vehicles.
This is the sort of target something like the CBU-87 cluster bomb was designed to handle. With 202 BLU-97 bomblets, it has a good chance of landing one or two on the thin top armor of tanks. One bomb can kill multiple tanks, or trucks, or enemy troops.
That can be very useful for an Special Forces A-Team in a fight for their lives.
2. Cluster munitions allow missiles to hit multiple locations
Next to the BGM-109B TASM Tomahawk anti-ship missile, the BGM-109D Tomahawk TLAM-D is often a forgotten missile. But the BGM-109D has the ability to hit multiple locations, something the latest Tactical Tomahawks can’t do.
This is because the BGM-109D’s BLU-97s – the same ones used on the CBU-87 – are carried in a series of packets. For instance, one missile could dump some of its bomblets on parked planes, then fly on to hit a supply base elsewhere. The BGM-109D, therefore can do the work of two TLAMs.
3. Cluster bombs provide multiple effects in one package
The JDAM has one warhead that can go off one time. But a cluster bomb can carry different kinds of submunitions in the same case. Perhaps the best example is the CBU-89 GATOR – it carried two kinds of mines – one was an anti-tank mile, the other was anti-personnel. The JP233 was another – it combined both a runway-cratering munition with area-denial munitions.
The other thing is that even when you have a bomb that is all one type of submunition, some bomblets can be set to go off immediately, while others could be set to wait for a period of time (the famous delayed-action bomb – or in this case, delayed-action bomblets).
4. Cluster bombs can provide surprises without going bang
Some cluster bombs don’t even need their submunitions to go bang. For instance, Designation-Systems.net notes that the CBU-94 and CBU-102 are “blackout bombs” that drop carbon fiber chaff over power lines. This shorts out an entire power grid.
The CBU-19, though, dispensed 528 bomblets filled with CS, better known as tear gas. If you ever saw “The Big Break” episode of the 1950s TV show “Dragnet,” you saw CS in use.
Finally, some cluster bombs can also be guided in, thanks to the Wind-Corrected Munitions Dispenser program. In essence, these systems can also be dropped within feet of their aiming point.
A senior Air Force commander revealed that airmen flying drones over ISIS-controlled areas in Syria and Iraq are directing close air support strikes supporting allied troops on the ground using unmanned aircraft.
Flying primarily out of Creech Air Force Base in Nevada, the pilots use pairs of MQ-9 Reaper drones where one designates the targets and the other drops ordnance on it, said Gen. Herbert “Hawk” Carlisle, the head of Air Combat Command — a mission he calls “urban CAS.”
“What we’re finding is some of what we can do multi-ship with the MQ-9 is really paying dividends just because of the attributes of those airplanes with the sensor suite combined with the weapons load and the ability to buddy and do things together,” Carlisle said during a Feb. 24 breakfast meeting with reporters in Washington D.C. “We’re finding that as we’re able to practice this more sometimes we can bring them together and pair them off.”
Usually, Air Force Joint Tactical Air Controllers, Combat Controllers or Tactical Control Party airmen paint targets and walk aircraft into a strike, including Reapers. But in terror battlefields like ISIS-held Syrian cities or hotbeds in Iraq, the risk to American boots on the ground is too great to deploy terminal controllers, officials say.
Carlisle added that American unmanned planes are closely linked with ground forces fighting ISIS militants in the battle for Mosul, “doing great work with that persistent attack and reconnaissance.”
“And their interaction with the land component is increasing in the Mosul fight,” he added, hinting that even attack helicopters are now able to link into feeds from Reaper drones.
And there’s more Carlisle wants to do with his MQ-9 fleet.
With recent bonuses of up to $175,000 paid to Air Force unmanned aerial vehicle pilots, the service now has the breathing room to do more with its Reaper fleet than just surveillance or precision strikes with one drone, Carlisle said.
“Some of that [growth] is bearing fruit in that we’re getting a little bit of an opportunity to do some training and get to some other missions,” Carlisle said. “So we’re learning a lot about the MQ-9 and what it can do for us.”
In this edition of The Daily Aviation, we get up close and personal with the F-15 Eagle aircraft, one of the most successful fighter aircrafts in the Air Force. The F-15 Eagle is a twin-engine, all-weather, tactical supersonic warfighting machine.
A little bit of history
Like plenty of good war stories, the F-15 Eagle’s origin story begins in Vietnam. During the Vietnam War, both the Navy and the Air Force were competing with one another over air tactical superiority. No one was clear on how aircraft would play a role in the emerging conflict.
But everyone knew we needed superior air power. The problem was we just didn’t have the right fighter aircraft to engage the enemy. So then SecDef Robert McNamara decided he had the best solution. Make the Air Force and the Navy use as many aircraft in common as possible. McNamara didn’t consider that performance compromises might need to be made.
So the Air Force and the Navy formed the TFX Program. Its main mission was to deliver long-range interdiction aircraft for the Air Force that could also be used as long-range interceptor aircraft for the Navy.
Air Interdiction aircraft uses preventive tactical bombing by combat aircraft against the enemy. In contrast, interceptor aircraft is a type of fighter aircraft designed specifically for defensive roles. Talk about a difficult project, since air interdiction and interceptor aircraft are two very different things.
It’s no surprise that it took several years until the TFX found a compromise. In April 1965, research into an “F-X” aircraft began. These early studies looked for ways to create an aircraft that focused on maneuverability over speed. DoD requirements were finalized in October 1965, and a request for proposals was sent out to 13 companies, including the McDonnell Douglas company who won the bid. McDonnell Douglass would later become part of Boeing.
The Eagle’s specs are impressive
The Eagle’s maiden flight took place in 1972, but the aircraft didn’t enter service for four years. Once it was in service, the Eagle quickly became one of the most successful fighter aircraft. To date, the F-15 has over 100 victories and no losses in aerial combat.
It has a combat range capability of 1,220 miles and can achieve top speeds of Mach 2.5, or 1,650 mph.
Turkey feathers or propelling nozzles are the moving parts at the back of the engine. They expand as the engine accelerates and help regulate pressure to control turbine speed.
There are 11 hardpoints for drop tanks and armaments on the F-15 Eagle.
Pratt and Whitney F100-PW-200 after-burn turbofans deliver the Eagle’s thrust, which helps it achieve max speeds. Each of the turbofans produces 14,590 pounds of thrust. The higher a thrust-to-weight ratio, the faster an aircraft can accelerate, and the heavier load it can carry. The Eagle can accelerate straight up into the air until it runs out of either air (from the thrusters) or fuel (for the engines). That makes it one of the most capable fighter aircraft in production today.
Recent upgrades to the F-15 include adding a second seat to allow for all-weather, air-to-air, and deep interdiction missions. The rear cockpit has recently been upgraded to include cathode ray tube displays for weapons management. Currently, the Air Force operates 212 F-15C and 23 F-15D aircraft.
Bonus fun fact: In 1988, NASA used an F-15 to test a HIDEC system at Edwards AFB.
The EC-130H Compass Call is an airborne tactical weapon system with a primary mission to disrupt enemy command and control infrastructures limiting adversary coordination and force management.
The aircraft is a heavily modified variant C-130 Hercules, one of the most important and longest flying airframes in Air Force history.
From the outside the aircraft may look like a normal Hercules, but internally the advanced electronic warfare and electronic attack computer systems enables the Air Force to locate, listen and jam enemy communications.
The effect of the non-kinetic denial is not permanent, but it provides the desired result of blocking the enemy across the electromagnetic spectrum.
The effectiveness of the Compass Call is in creating a fog of war for enemy fighters making them easier targets for U.S. ground forces.
(Photo by Evelyn Chavez)
The Air Force is the only operator of the EC-130H and the Compass Call has been providing air space superiority over its 35-year operational life. The aircraft has demonstrated a powerful effect on enemy command and control networks in multiple military operations including Kosovo, Haiti, Panama, Libya, Iraq, Serbia, and Afghanistan.
Development and design
The EC-130H had its first flight in 1981, was delivered to the Air Force in 1982 and reached initial operating capability in 1983.
The aircraft’s EC identifier stands for special electronic installation transport.
A weapon of the Cold War it was original designed to provide suppression of enemy air defenses and spent its early years monitoring integrated air defense systems under the Warsaw Pact.
The aircraft is powered by four turboprop engines and has a flight speed of 300 mph and a flight range of nearly 2,300 miles.
The airborne tactical weapon system has been modified through the years with each update providing stronger avionics systems, radars and a more powerful digital signal analysis computers and subsystems.
The EC-130H aircraft carries a combat crew of 13 people. Four members are responsible for aircraft flight and navigation, while nine members operate and employ the EA mission equipment permanently integrated in the cargo/mission compartment.
The EC-130H fleet is composed of a mix of Baseline 1 and 2 aircraft.
(Photo by Raheem Moore)
The Block 35 Baseline 1 EC-130H provides the Air Force with additional capabilities to jam communication, Early Warning/Acquisition radar and navigation systems through higher effective radiated power, extended frequency range and insertion of digital signal processing versus earlier EC-130Hs. Baseline 1 aircraft have the flexibility to keep pace with adversary use of emerging technology.
Baseline 2 has a number of upgrades to ease operator workload and improve effectiveness. Improved external communications allow Compass Call crews to maintain situational awareness and connectivity in dynamic operational and tactical environments.
Delivery of Baseline-2 provides the DoD with the equivalent of a “fifth generation electronic attack capability,” providing improved aircraft performance and survivability.
A majority of the improvements found in the EC-130H Compass Call Baseline-2 are classified modifications to the mission system that enhance precision and increase attack capabilities.
In 2017 the Air Force announced plans for a Compass Call replacement platform based off the Gulfstream 550 Airborne Early Warning aircraft. The new platform has been designated EC-X.
Operation and deployment
All 14 Compass Call aircraft are assigned to Air Combat Command. The 55th Electronic Combat Group consisting of two operational squadrons, the 41st and the 43rd Electronic Combat Squadron operates the EC-130H. The 55th ECG is a tenant unit of the 355 Fighter Wing at Davis-Monthan AFB, Arizona, which reports to the 55th Wing at Offutt AFB, Nebraska.
(Photo by Chris Massey)
The 55th ECG recently eclipsed 10,900 combat sorties and 66,500 flight hours as they provided U.S. and Coalition forces and Joint Commanders a flexible advantage across the spectrum of conflict.
Did you know
Since it’s introduction in 1954 there have been 54 modified variants of the C-130
The EC-130H was introduced in 1983 and began providing airborne attack capabilities in 1989 supporting U.S. Army Rangers during Operation Just Cause in Panama.
The EC-130H is one of four main U.S. electronic warfare aircraft, along with the EA-18G Growler, EA-6B Prowler and the F-16CJ Fighting Falcon, which form the Suppression of Enemy Air Defense (SEAD) triad.
EC-130H Compass Call fact sheet:
Primary function: electronic warfare, suppression of enemy air defenses and offensive counter information
Four Allison T56-A-15 turboprop engines
4,910 prop shaft horsepower
132 feet, 7 inches (40.4 meters)
97 feet, 9 inches (29.8 meters)
38 feet, 3 inches (11.4 meters)
300 mph (Mach .4)
25,000 feet (7,576 meters)
Maximum takeoff weight:
155,000 pounds (69,750 kilograms)
non-kinetic energy waveforms
13 (two pilots, navigator, flight engineer, two electronic warfare officers, mission crew supervisor, four cryptologic linguists, acquisition operator and an airborne maintenance technician)
Initial operation capability:
Active force, 14
This article originally appeared on Airman Magazine. Follow @AirmanMagazine on Twitter.
Among members of the Air Force, there’s a tendency to be interested in aircraft. More than just aircraft, though, aircraft in aircraft is the type of idea that has the potential to harken back to the science fiction imaginings of many early childhoods. But true to form, science fiction in the military scarcely stays fiction for long.
From Jan. 11 to 13, 2019, it was the job of the C-5M Super Galaxy aircrew and aerial port specialists at Travis Air Force, California to join in efforts with the Army to transport four UH-60 Black Hawks from California to the helicopters’ home base at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska.
“Accomplishing the feat took no small measure of cooperation between the two sister services,” said Staff Sgt. Bradley Chase, 60th Aerial Port Squadron special handling supervisor. “You figure some of the C-5M aircrew who are transporting the Black Hawks have never even seen one before,” Chase said. “It’s because of that, having the Army here and participating in this training with us is so important. Coming together with our own expertise on our respective aircraft is what’s vital to the success of a mission like this.”
Chase went on to explain that in a deployed environment, Black Hawks are usually ferried around on C-17 Globemaster IIIs because of their tactical versatility.
US Air Force C-17A Globemaster III.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Jacob N. Bailey)
Which is great, he said, but in respect to total force readiness, sometimes a C-5M is the better choice for airlift.
“Our job as a military isn’t only to practice the tried and true formula — it’s to also blaze and refine new trails in the event we ever need to,” he said. “By allowing us to train on mobilizing these Black Hawks, the Army is giving us the opportunity to utilize not only the C-17s in our fleet, but also our C-5Ms. As it pertains to our base’s mission, that difference can mean everything.”
The difference Chase speaks of is one of 18 aircraft — over five million more pounds of cargo weight in addition to the 2,221,700 afforded to Travis AFB’s mission by the C-17. In terms of “rapidly projecting American power anytime, anywhere,” those numbers are not insignificant.
The Army, likewise, used the training as an opportunity to reinforce its own mission set.
“The decision to come to Travis mostly had to do with our needing a (strategic air) asset to facilitate our own deployment readiness exercise to Elmendorf,” said Capt. Scott Amarucci, 2-158th Assault Helicopter Battalion, C Company platoon leader. “Travis was the first base to offer up their C-5M to get the job done, so that’s where we went.”
Amarucci’s seven-man team supervised the Travis AFB C-5M personnel in safe loading techniques as well as educated the aircrew on the Black Hawks’ basic functionality to ensure the load-up and transport was as seamless as possible.
Amid all the technical training and shoring up of various workplace competencies, the joint operation allowed for an unexpected, though welcomed, benefit: cross-culture interactions.
“It’s definitely been interesting being on such an aviation-centric base,” said Private 1st Class Donald Randall, 2-158th AHB, 15 T Black Hawk repair. “Experiencing the Air Force mission
Airmen and soldiers offload a UH-60 Black Hawk from a C-5 Galaxy at Bagram Air Field, Afghanistan.
(U.S. Army photo by 1st Lt. Henry Chan)
definitely lends to the understanding of what everyone’s specialties and capabilities are when we’re deployed.”
“Plus, the Air Force’s food is better,” he laughed.
Chase also acknowledged the push to bring the Air Force and Army’s similar, yet subtly different cultures to a broader mutual understanding during the times socializing was possible, an admittedly infrequent opportunity, he said.
“Outside of theater, there aren’t too many opportunities to hang out with members from other branches,” he said. “So when the chance to do so kind of falls into your lap, there’s this urge to make the most out of it. A lot of the differences between branches are very nuanced, like how the Army likes to be called by their full rank and stuff like that, but knowing them and making an effort to be sensitive to those differences can pay huge dividends when it comes time to rely on them during deployments.”
Along with finding room in our demeanors to give space for cross-cultural interactions, Chase also underscored the importance of a positive mindset to ensure successful interoperability.
“It’s the idea of taking an opportunity like this that was very sudden and probably pretty inconvenient for a few people’s weekend plans and asking, ‘Well, I’m here, so how can I help — what lessons can I learn to help benefit my team and take what I’m doing to new heights?'”
If anyone can save the planet, it’s Rudy Reyes, a specops veteran who is changing the definition of what it means to be a warrior.
Reyes served with the Marine Corps 1st Reconnaissance Battalion in both Iraq and Afghanistan before engaging in a counter-terror contract for the Department of Defense, training African wildlife preserver rangers in anti-poaching missions, and writing the book Hero Living, which chronicles his warrior philosophy and teaches others how to follow it.
Now, as the co-founder of FORCE BLUE, Reyes and his team unite the community of Special Operations veterans with the world of marine conservation for the betterment of both.
And they’ve just completed a very critical mission: the study of juvenile green sea turtles in the Florida Keys.
It might not seem like a big deal — but it is.
According to the trailer for their new documentary Resilience, “The sea turtle tells us the health of the ocean and the ocean tells us the health of the planet.”
Check out the rest of the trailer right here:
[instagram https://www.instagram.com/p/B1JZ1jNgtPu/ expand=1]FORCE BLUE on Instagram: “PLEASE REMEMBER to join us tomorrow night (Thursday) at 8:00 p.m. EST on Facebook for the world premiere of our short film RESILIENCE. And…”
On Aug. 15, at 8:00pm EDT, FORCE BLUE will premiere Resilience, the story of their recent mission. During the study period in June, FORCE BLUE veterans helped collect samples from 26 green turtles in the lower Florida Keys in order to improve green turtle conservation and recovery efforts.
“These sea turtles are the oldest living creatures on the planet, yet —through no fault of their own — they’re locked in a battle just to survive. We owe them our support. The same can be said, I think, for our FORCE BLUE veterans and the warrior community they represent,” said Jim Ritterhoff, Executive Director and Co-Founder of FORCE BLUE.
That’s the genius of FORCE BLUE, a non-profit that seeks to address two seemingly unrelated problems — the rapid declining health of our planet’s marine resources and the difficultly combat veterans have in adjusting to civilian life. Consisting of a community of veterans, volunteers, and marine scientists, the organization offers veterans the power to restore lives — and the planet.
“We were all in the hunter warrior mindset yet we were hunting to protect and to study and to treat,” said Reyes. It’s not exactly what one might expect from a community known for watering the grass with “blood blood blood.”
“It almost feels like the turtles know they are going through a crisis too, just like us. And now we have a chance to do something for them. That means everything,” shares Reyes.
Reyes is a man who has emerged from the battlefield with the desire to improve the world. The first time I met him, I said I’d heard a rumor that he could kill me with his little finger. He immediately and passionately corrected me: “I could SAVE you with my little finger!”
That told me everything I needed to know about him — because both statements are true, but what Reyes chooses to do with his power is what makes him a leader within the military community and a force for good in this world.
Before the advent of stealth aircraft, the U.S. military had a very different approach on how to operate its planes in contested airspace. That approach could be summarized in two words:
In those early years of air defense system development, the U.S. was less interested in developing sneaky aircraft and more concerned with developing untouchable ones– utilizing platforms that leveraged high altitude, high speed, or both to beat out air defenses of all sorts — whether we’re talking surface to air missiles or even air superiority fighters.
Lockheed’s legendary Kelly Johnson, designer of just about every badass aircraft you can imagine from the C-130 to the U-2 Spy Plane, was the Pentagon’s go-to guy when it came to designing platforms that could evade interception through speed and altitude. His U-2 Spy Plane, designed and built on a shoestring budget and in a span of just a few months, first proved the concept of flying above enemy defenses, but then America needed something that could also outrun anything Russia could throw its way. The result was the Blackbird family of jets, including the operational SR-71 — an aircraft that remains the fastest operational military plane ever to take to the sky.
You could make a list of 1000 amazing facts about the SR-71 without breaking a sweat — but here are three even a few aviation nerds may not have of heard before:
The Blackbird had over 4,000 missiles fired at it. None ever hit their target.
The SR-71 Blackbird remained in operational service as a high speed, high altitude surveillance platform for 34 years — flying at speeds in excess of Mach 3 at altitudes of around 80,000 feet. This combination of speed and altitude made it all but untouchable to enemy anti-air missiles, so even when a nation knew that there was an SR-71 flying in their airspace, there was next to nothing it could do about it. According to Air Force data collected through pilot reports and other intelligence sources more than 4,000 missiles were fired at the SR-71 during its operational flights, but none ever managed to actually catch the fast-moving platform.
Its windshield gets so hot it had to be made of quartz.
Flying at such high speeds and altitudes puts incredible strain on the aircraft and its occupants, which forced Lockheed to find creative solutions to problems as they arose. One such problem was the immense amount of heat — often higher than 600 degrees Fahrenheit — that the windshield of the SR-71 would experience at top speeds. Designers ultimately decided that using quartz for the windshield was the best way to prevent any blur or window distortion under these conditions, so they ultrasonically fused the quartz to the aircraft’s titanium hull.
The SR-71 was the last major military aircraft to be designed using a ‘slide rule.’
There are countless incredible facts about the SR-71 that would warrant a place on this list, but this is one of the few facts that pertains specifically to the incredible people tasked with developing it. Not long after the SR-71 took to the sky, the most difficult mathematical aspects of aircraft design were handed off to computers that could crunch the numbers more quickly and reliably — but that wasn’t the case for the Blackbird. Kelly Johnson and his team used their “slide rules,” which were basically just specialized rulers with a slide that designers could use to aid them in their calculations in designing the mighty Blackbird. Years later, the aircraft was reviewed using modern aviation design computers only to reveal that the machines would not have suggested any changes to the design.
Just for fun, here’s Major Brian Shul’s incredible “Speed Check” story about flying the Blackbird.
Major Brian Shul, USAF (Ret.) SR-71 Blackbird ‘Speed Check’
In honor of the release of Rambo: Last Blood, Lionsgate invited me out to Adam’s Forge in Los Angeles SO THAT I COULD LITERALLY BEND STEEL TO MY VERY WILL. A group of us had the chance to forge knives out of railroad spikes, much like Sylvester Stallone does in the film.
It. Was. Awesome.
If you’ve never had the chance to do something like this, then my friend I beg of you, get thee to a forge. It’ll make you feel alive.
Rambo: Last Blood (2019 Movie) New Trailer— Sylvester Stallone
Almost four decades after he drew first blood, Sylvester Stallone is back as one of the greatest action heroes of all time, John Rambo. Now, Rambo must confront his past and unearth his ruthless combat skills to exact revenge in a final mission. A deadly journey of vengeance, RAMBO: LAST BLOOD marks the last chapter of the legendary series.
“A hammer can be used to build or destroy,” observed Aram, the artist in residence at Adam’s Forge — and our lead instructor for the day.
He started out with safety information (“Assume everything is hot. The forge can be up to 2200 degrees and the steel doesn’t have to be glowing to burn you…”) and then, without any delay, he was thrusting his spike in the fire.
“I don’t want you to worry about how sexy it is until the end.” Well, I am worried about it, Aram. I want mine to be sexy.
When the steel is at critical temperature, it’s ready to be shaped and forged with the hammer. Aram demonstrated this, making it look exceptionally easy, but as you might imagine, it’s actually pretty challenging. The metal cools rather quickly, so we had about enough time to strike 16-20 times in quick succession per side, rotating the blade every 8-10 strikes.
Then there’s the issue of hitting the target, which takes practice. I found at first that I was able to strike with force OR precision — but rarely with both. Eventually I began to get the hang of it, until I learned that I was twisting my blade.
Sharpen, straighten, pound, heat.
Aram and guest instructor Al were there to supervise and teach us about the science behind the blacksmith trade.
I discovered that if my tongs were too deep in the forge, their metal began to expand, loosening the grip on my blade. A quick dip in a bucket of water helped cool them down enough to begin again.
Once we’d begun to sharpen and shape the blade, it was time to work the handle, twisting it in a vice and hammering it into a curve. Here we were able to make artistic choices, which stressed me out because, again, I wanted my blade to be sexy.
Once we were satisfied with the shape of our weapon, it was time to temper it.
First we brought the blade to critical temperature, which we were able to test not just by visually seeing that the thing was glowing hot, but by the fact that it was demagnetized. Then we removed it from the forge and let it cool until the magnetic quality returned. The molecular alignment of the metal was literally changing during this process.
Then we brought the knife to critical temperature once more before quickly “quenching” it.
According to Aram, different cultures had different recipes to quench their metal, which rapidly hardens and cools it. We could safely handle the blade after less than a minute of quenching.
From there it was time to sharpen the knife on the grindstone, shave off and smooth down excess steel, and then apply a light layer of WD-40 to prevent rust.
At the end of four hours, we’d each forged our own blade. It was seriously bad ass. I felt like Iron Man.
Tony Stark Builds Mark 1 – First Suit Up Scene – Iron Man (2008) – Movie CLIP HD
Here’s my biggest takeaway about blacksmithing: it’s got the meditative quality of crafting with your hands combined with the power that comes from working with weapons. If you like going to the gun range, grab some buddies and go forge your own freaking dagger. It’s just cool.
I’m excited to share this with other veterans because it’s been proven how therapeutic it is to work with your hands, to create. I wouldn’t exactly tell a macho guy to go take a painting class (although…maybe?) but I’d recommend this in a heartbeat.
It felt powerful. It was hot and challenging and violent and contained.
And then I walked away with a bitchin’ new blade to call my own.
HUGE SHOUTOUT to Lionsgate, who does so many cool events for veterans, for this opportunity. Don’t forget to check out Rambo: Last Blood, out on Digital and coming to 4K Ultra HD™ Combo Pack, Blu-ray™ Combo Pack, DVD on Dec. 17.
A camouflaged soldier almost invisible to the naked eye may light up like a Christmas tree on a high-end thermal imaging device, which is why advanced thermal detection capabilities are among the greatest threats to the concealed warfighter.
Thermal imaging systems have the ability to detect a soldier’s infrared heat signature, light or electromagnetic radiation outside the visible spectrum emitted by a warm body. These sensors can distinguish between a person’s body heat and the ambient temperature of their surroundings.
“Defeating a thermal signature is probably the hardest thing,” an Army sniper previously told Business Insider, adding that “emerging technology by our near-peer enemies” is making it increasingly difficult for soldiers to hide.
Thermal detection “is dangerous to a sniper because you can’t hide from that,” he explained.
Agreeing with the sniper’s assessment, two masters of modern camouflage explained to BI why this particular threat is so difficult to defeat.
How a human being appears to the naked eye vs how they appear to a thermal sensor.
“The big thing here is physics,” retired Army Lt. Col. Timothy O’Neill, a consultant for HyperStealth Biotechnology Corp. and the inventor of digital camouflage, said. “For a thermal signature, you are talking about energy at one end of the electromagnetic spectrum. It’s energy. Energy, we recall, cannot be created or destroyed.”
This principle, known as the First Law of Thermodynamics, complicates everything.
“You can put a soldier inside a suit that traps the heat inside so that he can’t be seen, but he gets roasted inside,” O’Neill, who did his doctoral dissertation on camouflage, added. “The heat’s there.” The problem is figuring out what to do with the heat energy.
“It has to go somewhere somehow,” Guy Cramer, president and CEO of HyperStealth, told BI. “You either need to vent it or convert it to a non-detectable signal.” There are certain fabrics that will actually cool the body down, but it doesn’t eliminate the person’s heat signature altogether.
“It’s not an easy thing to do,” he said.
“You get outside the visible spectrum, and you do have problems,” O’Neill added. “Right now, almost all of the threats that we face have late-generation image intensification and thermal detection. It’s not an easy fix.”
How a human being appears to the naked eye vs how they appear to a thermal sensor.
“There are things you can do, but you are still up against physics,” the father of digital camouflage said. “So, almost anything you do to reduce a thermal signature is going to be high-tech and a little difficult for the soldier.” He said that there are some strides being made in this area, but it’s difficult to know what, if anything, will be a game-changer.
US Army scientists, for example, are researching new infrared obscurants, aerosol particles that block infrared light to obscure the warfighter on the battlefield. The service also put in a multi-million dollar order for Fibrotex’s Ultra-Light Camouflage Netting System (ULCANS), a new kind of advanced camouflage specifically designed to conceal troops from night vision, thermal imaging, radar, and more.
Cramer told BI that he is currently patenting an idea known as “quantum stealth,” a light-bending camouflage material able to bend the electromagnetic spectrum around a target to achieve multi-spectral invisibility. This technology has not yet been publicly demonstrated.
How a human being appears to the naked eye vs how they appear to a thermal sensor.
The Army’s top general revealed earlier this month that the service is pursuing new camouflage systems to better protect soldiers waging war on future battlefields, and thermal is a priority.
“Advanced camouflage technologies are critical,” Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley explained to lawmakers. “We are putting a fair amount of money into advanced camouflage systems, both individual, unit, vehicle, etc.”
“We know that adversary [target] acquisition systems are very capable in that, if you can see a target, with precision munitions, you can hit a target, so camouflage systems that break up electronic signatures and break up heat signatures are critical.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
When it was first designed, the AGM-114 Hellfire missile was intended to give the AH-64 Apache attack helicopter a way to kill the Soviet tanks of World War II, replacing a combination of the AH-1 Cobra and the BGM-71 TOW missile. But the Hellfire has proven to be far more versatile.
Don’t get us wrong, the Hellfire was indeed a very capable tank killer. As many as 4,000 missiles were fired during Operation Desert Storm and as many as 90% of those hit their targets, which ranged from tanks to bunkers to radar sites.
After Desert Storm, the missile was improved. One of the biggest improvements was the addition of a new means of guidance: the Longbow radar system. The Longbow radar is able to automatically search, detect, locate, classify, and prioritize targets in the air, on land, and at sea.
The Hellfire has been added to numerous other helicopters, notably Navy MH-60R and MH-60S Seahawks. It also has been added to the Navy’s littoral combat ships, and it has been tested for launch from a variety of ground vehicles, from the M113 to the High-Mobility Multi-Purpose Wheeled Vehicle. The missile is so versatile, in fact, that they’re used for coastal defense by Norway and Sweden, and they’re also used on the Combat Boat 90, a Swedish coastal boat.
But the missile’s true versatility emerged in the War on Terror.
The United States and Israel have used the Hellfire to take out a number of high-ranking terrorists. This includes Hamas leader Ahmed Yasin, Anwar al-Awlaki, and ISIS propagandist, “Jihadi John.” The Hellfire has been exported to over two dozen countries and it will likely be in service for a long time to come, including as an option for the Stryker Mobile Short-range Air Defense vehicle.
Learn more about the highly-versatile Hellfire in the video below.