Everything you need to know about the A-10 Thunderbolt II - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TACTICAL

Everything you need to know about the A-10 Thunderbolt II

The A-10 Thunderbolt II is a single-seat, twin turbofan-powered aircraft designed specifically for close air support and ground attack missions against armored vehicles.


The aircraft’s sub-sonic speed and large straight-wing design allows for extreme maneuverability at low altitudes and extended time on target or to loiter above the battlefield.

The airframe was designed from the very start as a short takeoff and landing aerial platform for the 30mm GAU-8 Avenger rotary cannon, which can fire 3,900 depleted uranium shells per minute. When combined with the ability to carry the AGM-65 Maverick air-to-surface missile and laser-guided bombs, the A-10 can destroy enemy armor at close range or from a standoff position.

 

Everything you need to know about the A-10 Thunderbolt II

Redundant control surfaces and hydraulic systems combined with titanium armor protecting the pilot, control systems, and ammunition make the A-10 highly survivable in combat.

When performing forward air control missions, the A-10 changes its designation to OA-10, although it remains just as combat capable as the A-10.

Its lethal effect on the battlefield combined with the toughness to return its pilot to base even after suffering extensive damage has led pilots and crew to nickname the aircraft the “Warthog.”

Everything you need to know about the A-10 Thunderbolt II
The A-10 Thunderbolt II piloted by Captain Kim Campbell suffered extensive damage during Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003. Campbell flew it safely back to base on manual reversion mode after taking damage to the hydraulic system. (Photo courtesy of U.S. Air Force)

Development and Design

The A-10 was born of the Attack-Experimental (A-X) program office, which launched in 1966 to develop a ground-attack aircraft to replace the Douglas A-1 Skyraider.

In 1970, the threat posed by the Soviet Union’s overwhelming number of tanks along the borders of Western Europe led the Air Force to request contractor proposals for an airframe specifically designed to conduct the CAS mission and destroy enemy armor.

The call for designs stipulated a low-cost aerial weapons platform – less than $3 million per unit – capable of loitering above the battlefield and engaging enemy targets at low altitude and speed with a high-speed rotary cannon, while providing extreme crew and aircraft survivability.

Everything you need to know about the A-10 Thunderbolt II
A-1E Skyraider aircraft of the 34th Tactical Group, based at Bien Hoa, South Vietnam, fly in formation over South Vietnam June 25, 1965. In the 1960s, the USAF requested proposals from aviation contractors for a subsonic jet-powered aircraft designed exclusively for the a ground attack and close air support role which would replace the A-1 which served with the USAF during wars in Korea and Vietnam. The result was the Fairchild Republic A-10. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Later, the requirements would be further specified to include a maximum speed of 450 mph and a normal operating speed of 300 mph in combat to enable easier engagement of slow moving ground targets.

Furthermore, the new aircraft was required to take off in less than 4,000 feet, enabling operations from small airfields close to the front lines, carry an external load of 16,000 pounds and have a mission radius of 285 miles, all for a final cost of $1.4 million per aircraft.

Of the six proposals submitted to the Air Force, Northrop and Fairchild Republic were selected to build prototypes.

In 1973, Fairchild Republic’s YF-10 was the winner of a fly-off against Northrup’s YF-9 and full production began in 1976, with the first A-10 being delivered to Air Force Tactical Air Command that March.

Everything you need to know about the A-10 Thunderbolt II
A Northrop A-9A before touchdown on its first flight. The aircraft was one of two prototypes built to the requirements of the U.S. Air Force’s Attack-Experimental Program. Ultimately, the Fairchild Republic design for a dedicated ground attack aircraft, the YF-10, would be chosen by the Air Force over the Northrop design, leading to the production of the A-10. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Features and Deployment

Fairchild Republic’s WWII fighter, the P-47 Thunderbolt, had begun its service in Europe as fighter and bomber escort, but soon earned a reputation as a relentless and tough ground-attack aircraft that dispatched Nazi armor and artillery in close proximity to friendly troops, while creating havoc in enemy assembly areas and along rail and road supply routes. It was a natural choice for the company to name its new CAS-dedicated aircraft after its WWII-era forefather: “Thunderbolt II.”

The entire design of the aircraft revolved around the high-speed 30mm Avenger cannon. The weapon gives the A-10 its up-close tank-busting capabilities announced by the long “buuuuurp” sound that has saved and encouraged many an infantryman in dire straits on the battlefield.

Although developed initially to provide an aerial counterpunch to the mass of Soviet tanks poised along the borders of Western Europe, the A-10 did not see combat until the Gulf War in 1991.

Everything you need to know about the A-10 Thunderbolt II
The business end of the 30mm GAU-8 Avenger rotary cannon extends from the nose of an A-10. The cannon, which can fire 3,900 depleted uranium shells per minute, was the anti-armor weapon around which the A-10 platform was designed. (U.S. Air Force photo)

There the “Warthog” earned its nickname, getting pilots back to base despite heavy damage from ground fire, while destroying 900 Iraqi tanks, 2,000 armored vehicles and trucks and over 1,200 artillery pieces. Just four A-10s were lost to Iraqi surface-to-air missiles in over 8,000 sorties.

The A-10 next saw combat and search and rescue missions in the Balkans in 1994-95 and again in 1999, before being deployed to Afghanistan in 2002 and participating in the entirety of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

It still currently conducts operations against ISIS targets.

Everything you need to know about the A-10 Thunderbolt II
An A-10 launches an AGM-65 Maverick air-to-surface missile during a training mission. The missile enables the A-10 to destroy armored vehicles and other targets from a standoff position. (Photo from U.S. Air Force)

Did You Know?

  • Many of the A-10’s parts, such as engines, main landing gear and vertical stabilizers are interchangeable on both sides of the aircraft, greatly increasing ease of maintenance and decreasing operational and maintenance costs.
  • The A-10’s ailerons constitute nearly 50 percent of the total wing surface, giving it an astonishing rate of roll and maneuverability at low altitudes and speeds.
  • If the redundant hydraulic systems and backup mechanical system are all disabled, the pilot can still lock landing gear into place using a combination of gravity and aerodynamic drag. The main gear does not fully retract leaving the wheels exposed decreasing damage in an emergency belly landing.
  • The A-10 gained its first air-to-air victory during the Gulf War in 1991 when Capt. Robert Swain shot down an Iraqi helicopter with 30mm cannon fire.
  • In 2010, the A-10 was the first Air Force aircraft to fly powered by biofuels.

Everything you need to know about the A-10 Thunderbolt II
Two U.S. Air Force A-10 Thunderbolt IIs fly in a wingtip formation after refueling from a 340th Expeditionary Air Refueling Squadron KC-135 Stratotanker in support of Operation Inherent Resolve, Feb. 15, 2017. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Jordan Castelan)

 

FACT SHEET: A-10 Thunderbolt II

Primary function: close air support, airborne forward air control, combat search and rescue

Contractor: Fairchild Republic Co.

Power plant: two General Electric TF34-GE-100 turbofans

Thrust: 9,065 pounds each engine

Wingspan: 57 feet, 6 inches (17.42 meters)

Length: 53 feet, 4 inches (16.16 meters)

Height: 14 feet, 8 inches (4.42 meters)

Weight: 29,000 pounds (13,154 kilograms)

Maximum Takeoff Weight: 51,000 pounds (22,950 kilograms)

Fuel Capacity: 11,000 pounds (7,257 kilograms)

Payload: 16,000 pounds (7,257 kilograms)

Speed: 450 nautical miles per hour (Mach 0.75)

Range: 2580 miles (2240 nautical miles)

Ceiling: 45,000 feet (13,636 meters)

Armament: one 30 mm GAU-8/A seven-barrel Gatling gun; up to 16,000 pounds (7,200 kilograms) of mixed ordnance on eight under-wing and three under-fuselage pylon stations, including 500 pound (225 kilograms) Mk-82 and 2,000 pounds (900 kilograms) Mk-84 series low/high drag bombs, incendiary cluster bombs, combined effects munitions, mine dispensing munitions, AGM-65 Maverick missiles and laser-guided/electro-optically guided bombs; infrared countermeasure flares; electronic countermeasure chaff; jammer pods; 2.75-inch (6.99 centimeters) rockets; illumination flares and AIM-9 Sidewinder missiles.

Crew: one

Unit cost: $18.8 million

Originally published in Airman Magazine November 2017. Follow Airman Magazine on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

These are the contenders flying off to replace the A-10

This past summer, four planes took to the air in a fly-off run by the United States Air Force. This flyoff was part of the OA-X program, intended to provide a replacement for the Fairchild-Republic A-10 Thunderbolt II close-air support aircraft.


This program has a tall order. According to an Air Force fact sheet, the A-10 Thunderbolt packs a 30mm GAU-8 “Avenger” Gatling gun with at least 1,174 rounds of ammo. The Warthog can also carry up to 16,000 pounds of ordnance, including AGM-65 Maverick missiles, Paveway laser-guided bombs, Joint Direct Attack Munitions, dumb bombs, rocket pods, and even AIM-9 Sidewinder missiles.

Everything you need to know about the A-10 Thunderbolt II
Two U.S. Air Force A-10 Thunderbolt IIs fly in a wingtip formation after refueling from a 340th Expeditionary Air Refueling Squadron KC-135 Stratotanker in support of Operation Inherent Resolve, Feb. 15, 2017. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Jordan Castelan)

So, what are these contenders? According to an August report by Popular Mechanics, they are the Beechcraft AT-6 Wolverine, the Embraer AT-29 Super Tucano, the Textron Scorpion, and the Air Tractor AT-802U.

According to MilitaryFactory.com, the AT-6 Wolverine is a variant of the T-6 Texan II used by the United States Air Force and United States Navy. The Wolverine can carry gun pods with .50-caliber machine guns or 20mm cannon, rockets, AGM-114 Hellfire missiles, and 500-pound bombs, including JDAMs and Paveway laser-guided bombs.

Everything you need to know about the A-10 Thunderbolt II
AT-6B Wolverine. (Wikimedia Commons)

The Embraer AT-29 Super Tucano is also based on a primary trainer. Globalsecurity.org notes that the Super Tucano has wing-mounted machine guns, and can also drop 500-pound and 750-pound bombs, fire rockets, and even tow targets.

Everything you need to know about the A-10 Thunderbolt II
An Afghan air force A-29 Super Tucano aircraft flies over Afghanistan during a training mission April 6, 2016. NATO Train, Advise, Assist Command-Air worked daily with the Afghan air force to help build a professional, sustainable and capable air force. (U.S. Air Force photo by Capt. Eydie Sakura)

One late entry to the flyoff is the AT-802U Longsword. This is based not on a trainer, but a cropduster. According to MilitaryEdge.com, this cropduster carries just over 8,100 pounds of ordnance, and comes with two GAU-19 .50-caliber Gatling guns, so it can bring some BRRRRRT to the table.

Everything you need to know about the A-10 Thunderbolt II
Air Tractor AT-802U Longsword. (Wikimedia Commons)

Last, but not least, there is the Textron Scorpion. According to MilitaryFactory.com, this plane can carry 9,100 pounds of ordnance, and it is also capable of reaching a top speed of 518 miles per hour, and has a range of 2,761 miles. This plane is a bit more complex than its propeller-driven competitors, but it does offer performance.

Everything you need to know about the A-10 Thunderbolt II
A Textron Scorpion experimental aircraft sits at Holloman AFB. (U.S. Air Force photo by Christopher Okula)

In any case, though, it seems that these planes still don’t do what the A-10 can. Perhaps the only replacement for the Warthog will be… another Warthog. In the meantime, check out a video on the OA-X program below.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iSho8SgE1r8
Articles

This is how the AV-8 Harrier won dogfights by stopping in midair

Remember that scene in Top Gun when Maverick tells Goose that he’ll “hit the brakes” and the instructor pursuing him in an A-4 Skyhawk will just fly right by? Braking sharply, while in-flight, is indeed a tactic that can be utilized by fighter pilots in air-to-air combat, but no aircraft could ever do it quite as well as the venerable Harrier jumpjet. The technique was known as “VIFF”.


The Harrier, originally developed by Hawker Siddeley, and later, British Aerospace Systems (BAe), could achieve vertical flight by vectoring four large nozzles straight down towards the ground. The nozzles would vent exhaust at full thrust from the Harrier’s powerful main Pegasus engine, allowing the aircraft to hover, lift off the ground and land like a helicopter.

Related: The Marine Corps’ love-hate relationship with the AV-8 Harrier

This carved out a brand new niche for the Harrier that wasn’t really challenged at all until the recent F-35B Lightning II: it could literally fly and land anywhere and everywhere. The Harrier could be launched from highways and unimproved fields and grass strips, or could be deployed to sea aboard small aircraft carriers, or even re-purposed cargo vessels.

Everything you need to know about the A-10 Thunderbolt II
An AV-8B Harrier jet aircraft performs a vertical landing on the amphibious assault ship USS Boxer. | U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Mark El-Rayes

The Royal Navy’s Fleet Air Arm, which operated the navalized version of the jumpjet – the Sea Harrier – was enthusiastic about using the aircraft on deployments aboard light aircraft carriers, especially the HMS Invincible (R05). The problem with the Harrier/Sea Harrier was the fact that the aircraft was almost entirely geared towards the strike mission (i.e. flying air-to-ground attacks) while the air-to-air role was more of an afterthought that wasn’t really accounted for. The Royal Air Force’s land-based Harrier, the GR.3, would typically require a flight of more capable air superiority fighters to fly top cover, or to clear the airspace ahead of them, lest they be engaged and taken out of the fight. The Royal Navy, on the other hand, took a different approach.

The Sea Harrier, more commonly known as the “Shar”, was revamped to allow for it to assume both the ground attack, reconnaissance and fighter roles, giving the air wings assigned to the Invincible (and later, the HMS Hermes) a more diverse spread of available capabilities while in-theater (i.e. in the area of operation). The Shar could fly with AIM-9 Sidewiders short-range air-to-air missiles on under-wing pylons, and was equipped with ADEN 30mm cannons to be used for strafing land-based targets or attacking enemy fighters in the air. The Fleet Air Arm’s pilots needed to first develop the tactics required to help the Shar’s future pilots fight and win against enemy fighters that were likely more suited towards aerial combat than the high-wing strike jumpjet.

On the other side of the pond, the United States Marine Corps was busy beefing up its air-to-ground capabilities with the AV-8A Harrier. This new strike jet would give them a versatile fast attack option that could potentially be deployed really anywhere around the world, especially aboard aircraft carriers which would serve as forward-operating staging platforms. In 1976, Marines began taking the Harrier to sea, first aboard the USS Franklin D. Roosevelt, a Midway-class aircraft carrier. On the FDR, the Marine contingent would test out the Harrier’s ability to operate in adverse weather conditions, as well as pit it in air-to-air mock dogfights against the ship’s complement of F-4 Phantom IIs. Marine pilots quickly came to the conclusion that in a close-in fight, they could actually use the aircraft’s thrust vectoring to their advantage.

Everything you need to know about the A-10 Thunderbolt II
Capt. Jonathan Lewenthal and Capt. Eric Scheibe, AV-8B Harrier pilots with Marine Attack Squadron 231, Marine Aircraft Group 14, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing (Forward), fly over southern Helmand province, Afghanistan. | U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Gregory Moore

The Marine Corps put in a request with Rolls Royce, the designer and builder of the Harrier’s Pegasus engine, as to whether or not this technique would put unnecessary and unwanted stresses on the engine, or if it would outright spoil the engine’s functionality. They still carried on with testing before Rolls Royce got back to them with the “all-clear”! Thrust vectoring while in flight could prove to be the key maneuver they needed for closer air-to-air combat. Ultimately, what resulted was known as Vectoring in Forward Flight (VIFF for short).

Also read: F-35 versus China and Russia

VIFF basically involved pilots rotating the nozzles forward from the usual in-flight horizontal position. In doing so, pilots could quickly deplete their airspeed and bleed energy, causing their surprised pursuer(s) to overshoot, suddenly finding their windscreen devoid of any prey they might have previously been chasing. After dropping altitude as a result of VIFFing, the Harrier would now be free to turn the tables on the predator, making the hunter the hunted. In a turning fight, this was an immense advantage for the Harrier’s pilot. But as soon as the pilot VIFFed his opponent, he had to have had a plan for dealing with the bandit, or else he would be in for a world of hurt; that wasn’t a trick any combat pilot would fall for twice.

Among VIFF’s disadvantages was the fact that it could only really be used effectively in turning fights. If the pursuing aircraft was flying with a wingman, or as part of a larger attack flight, the odds would be stacked fairly high against the Harrier. Additionally, after VIFFing, any other enemy fighters that weren’t engaged in the melee between the Harrier and the first jet were placed in a prime position to take a shot at the jumpjet, which took time to rebuild energy from the very-taxing VIFF maneuver (i.e. regain airspeed).

Everything you need to know about the A-10 Thunderbolt II
An AV-8B Harrier with Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 261 (Reinforced), 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit, flies in position while conducting aerial refueling training operations. | U.S. Marine Corps photo by Gunnery Sgt. Chad R. Kiehl

During the Falklands War, in the early 1980s, British Harrier pilots might have attempted putting VIFFing to use against Argentinian Mirage fighters, which were decidedly more suited towards the air-to-air role than the Harrier. In fact, no conclusive evidence exists to prove that VIFFing was indeed the deciding factor in any engagement involving the Harrier. However, even with the Mirage being built for air combat, it still proved to be ineffective against the superior training of the Royal Navy and Royal Air Force pilots and technology (i.e. the AIM-9L Sidewinder short-range air-to-air missile), who did not lose a single Harrier or Sea Harrier in air-to-air combat during the entire conflict, while inflicting losses on the Argentinian air force. RAF and Fleet Air Arm pilots were able to employ the tactics they developed like never before, proving that a Harrier, in the right hands, is truly a deadly and highly capable machine.

A huge thanks to Art Nalls of Nalls Aviation, home of the world’s ONLY civilian-owned and operated Sea Harrier for his help and advice in writing this article! Keep an eye out for Art and his legendary Shar on the airshow circuit in North America this year! Special thanks also to Alan Kenny for his fantastic Harrier and Sea Harrier pictures

MIGHTY TACTICAL

How a bunch of slow, ugly ships helped stop global bullies

One of the less-exciting participants in Saber Strike 2018 is actually one of the most important strategic elements of the United States: the Maritime Prepositioning Force. Recently, the ships in this force helped conduct multi-national training exercises in Eastern Europe.

The ships that make up this force might not look like much. They’re devoid of firepower and they’re slow (at least when compared to littoral combat ships or destroyers). They rarely deploy from their bases and they’re certainly not winning any beauty pageants any time soon. And yet, these are some of the most vital ships when it comes to giving America a strategic position in conflict.

That’s because these ships facilitate the rapid deployment of troops.


Everything you need to know about the A-10 Thunderbolt II

USNS William B. Baugh (T-AK 3001) in 2008, the lead ship of the first class of maritime prepositioning ships purchased in the 1980s.

(Photo by Jack Workman)

The whole idea came about in the 1970s. The United States had just seen the Ayatollah Khomeni take over Iran — and needed to rapidly respond to the crisis. The British had a small territory in the Indian Ocean called Diego Garcia. It wasn’t an ideal launching point, but it had to do. So, the United States set up a squadron of these ships, loaded up with gear for a rapidly-deployable force, in response.

In the 1980s, this concept was expanded to include three Maritime Prepositioning Squadrons. One was stationed at Diego Garcia, another in the Mediterranean Sea, and a third in the Marianas. Each could support a Marine Expeditionary Brigade for 30 days. That would buy time enough for heavier forces to arrive — or for the bad guys to reconsider their position.

Everything you need to know about the A-10 Thunderbolt II

A HMMWV offloads from a maritime prepositioning ship during Saber Strike 2018. These ships carry gear and supplies to support Marine units.

(DOD photo by Cpl. Anthoney Moore)

The MPF was used in practice in 1990 after Saddam Hussein’s regime invaded Kuwait. The United States sent the Division Ready Brigade of the 82nd Airborne Division and the 7th Marine Expeditionary Brigade — backed up by two carriers — to draw the famous “line in the sand.” The US was able to deploy so quickly by using the Maritime Prepositioning Squadron based at Diego Garcia. By quickly delivering a force to the theater, Saddam was deterred from going any further as the bulk of American forces arrived.

Today, two of those squadrons remain — one in the Marianas and the other at Diego Garcia — but both remain crucial strategic elements. In essence, they serve as a deterrent — international would-be thugs know that if they misbehave, they’ll have 15,000 very angry Marines paying them a visit very promptly.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Security Airmen getting new special ops-like helmets

The Air Force has been busy this summer. From providing the latest class of recruits to Space Force to issuing better fitting body armor to women airmen, it seems like the protectors of the sky are really looking to expand and develop on its commitment to its force. This comes after the push in 2018 for Air Force defenders to get updated weapons, along with revised training and fitness standards.

Now, security airmen are next in line to receive a uniform upgrade. Soon, they’ll be issued new special ops-like helmets. This next generation of ballistic helmet is just the latest initiative that the Air Force is taking to ensure its personnel remains safe.


This new helmet is going to replace the older and far less-adaptable Advanced Combat Helmet. The ACH is what security forces currently wear, and many airmen have complained about its bulk and weight. Adding to the challenges is that the ACH is designed for ground units, so airmen have struggled with it, and in some cases, have had to outfit and modify it with bulky additions to accomplish different mission sets.

Not only will the new helmet come with better padding, built-in railings to easily attach accessories, but they’ll also be lighter and cooler. The Air Force Security Forces Center is now sending out new ballistic helmets as it phases out the ACH.

The 71st Security Forces Squadron, located at Vance Air Force Base in Oklahoma, was the first squadron to receive the helmet. Soon airmen everywhere will receive the upgrade.

An Air Force press release said that the initial response to the new helmet has been positive. Master Sgt. Darryl Wright, 71st SFS logistics and readiness superintendent, said that the new version is the “most agile helmet” he’s worn in 19 years.

The helmets are part of the Air Force Security Forces Control initiative to modernize not just weapon systems but also individual protective gear. Included in this refresh is contingency support equipment and deployable communications systems, both of which will be paramount to successfully defeating the enemy in future conflicts. In the future, the Air Force plans to roll out a newly revised M18 modular handgun system, M4A1 assault rifle, M110A1 semi-automatic precision engagement rifle, M320A1 grenade launcher, and modular, scalable bests.

“We’re identifying salient characteristics of the best individual equipment industry has to offer at the best value to achieve standardization across the force,” said Lt. Col. Barry Nichols, AFSFC director of Logistics. “This effort is instrumental in keeping Defenders throughout the security forces enterprise ready and lethal with procurement of the most cutting-edge and innovative equipment available in order to accomplish missions safely and effectively.”

These changes all come after the Air Force’s Year of the Defender 2019 exercises, where the service conducted a detailed and extensive review of all security forces. This review explored areas that could be improved upon, both in terms of equipment and gear to tactics, training, and general morale boosts. To date, the Air Force has successfully worked through over 900 specific items that needed to change and has spent almost 0 million to update their gear.

The Air Force currently field about 25,000 active-duty security forces airmen. There are an additional 13,000 in the Air National Guard and Reserve components. Of the forces 38,000 airmen, about 98 percent are enlisted. This aligns the entire branch of the Air Force with the Army’s lightest light infantry unit.

Brig. Gen. Andrea Tullos, career security forces officer, said that the Air Force has “expeditionary roots,” and that the branch is “a blend between light infantry and a military police company.”

Collectively, these big changes are helping the service gain air superiority over the peer adversary that could potentially pose a big threat to the military. As the Air Force continues to look toward the future and the likelihood of conflicts with either Russia or China, the Air Force needs to be able to pick up the slack safeguarding forward-deployed squadrons instead of relying on ground forces. This new helmet upgrade is yet another step to making sure that can happen.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Top 4, veteran-approved, year-round gift ideas

Christmas time is synonymous with giving and receiving presents. Everyone loves to receive a gift, even it means you have to awkwardly open it front of a person who’s eagerly watching your face, waiting for a reaction. That love of receiving doesn’t begin and end on Christmas morning, though — not by a long shot.

Gift buying is an art. Picking the perfect gift can be difficult, and when you’re shopping for someone close to you, the pressure is on. Now, if one or more of those someones is a veteran, well, you’ve got some thinking to do. Veterans are a special breed. We’ve got an odd sense of humor, an irregular view of ‘normal,’ and can be plain ol’ weird. Finding the right gift for your vet will likely be a mission.


We know the Christmas season is over, but the following gifts can be enjoyed by a vet on any calendar date.

Everything you need to know about the A-10 Thunderbolt II

Can’t go wrong with any of these choices

(Gadgets Magazine)

Liquor 

9 and a half out of 10 veterans love to drink and can likely throw down with the best of them. Consider buying your vet their favorite bottle of liquor. If it’s one of those gift boxes that comes with a few, nice glasses, that’s great! If not, that’s fine; glasses are optional.

Everything you need to know about the A-10 Thunderbolt II

Near the top of every Marine’s gift list

(Opting Out)

Functional clothing

Vets love clothing that makes sense. Help out your vet by getting them some clothing that can be useful. Think something somewhere between Under Armor and a ghillie suit.

5.11 Tactical is a good place to start.

Everything you need to know about the A-10 Thunderbolt II

Just what the doctor ordered… and the vet wanted.

(TheAdventurerr.com)

Trips

Two things veterans can always use more of: travel and relaxation. The type of travel will vary from vet to vet, but we all appreciate a good vacation. It could be as simple as some alone time, a day trip, or a spa day.

It doesn’t take a lot of money to please veterans — just a little attention to detail.

Everything you need to know about the A-10 Thunderbolt II

Please, check on your friends this time of year

An ear and a shoulder

Transitioning back into civilian life can be a strange experience for many vets. We might move on, find a job, and start a family, but the feeling of camaraderie will never really be quite the same.

If you’ve got a vet in your life, it might not seem like a gift to you, but give them a call every now and then to check in, see how things are going. It’s a small gesture, but a worthwhile one.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

What it’s like to be strapped into the U-2 Dragon Lady

The Air Force needs new spy pilots, especially for the Cold War-era U-2 Dragon Lady that has flown since 1955, but piloting the U-2 is different from nearly any other aircraft in the world right now. Pilots are strapped into the plane by a dedicated crew and then fly at the edge of space, capturing photographs and signals intelligence.

Here are 13 photos that show what that’s like:


Everything you need to know about the A-10 Thunderbolt II

U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Reynato Acncheta, 99th Expeditionary Reconnaissance Squadron, and Senior Airman Willy Campos help Maj. Sean Gallagher don his helmet before a mission in a U-2 Dragon Lady at an undisclosed location in Southwest Asia, November 23, 2010.

(U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Eric Harris)

First, it really is a team effort to get pilots suited up. Flying at the edge of space exposes pilots to all sorts of hazards, from extreme cold to solar radiation. The extensive gear required would be nearly impossible for the pilot to put entirely on themselves, so enlisted airmen help them get in gear.

Everything you need to know about the A-10 Thunderbolt II

U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Willy Campos, 99th Expeditionary Reconnaissance Squadron, helps Maj. Sean Gallagher don his flight suit before a mission in a U-2 Dragon Lady at an undisclosed location in Southwest Asia.

(U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Eric Harris)

The pilot’s entire body is covered by the suit, and it helps regulate their blood pressure, even at high altitudes. The pilots also have to breathe in pure oxygen for a while before the flight to get the nitrogen out of their blood. Otherwise, they would develop decompression sickness, similar to when divers get the bends.

Everything you need to know about the A-10 Thunderbolt II

U.S. Air Force Maj. Sean Gallagher, 99th Expeditionary Reconnaissance Squadron, gets in a vehicle to take him to his aircraft before a mission in a U-2 Dragon Lady.

(U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Eric Harris)

The pilots leave the prep room and ride to the plane in trucks converted for the purpose. The airmen bring the pilot’s gear along, including the hoses and pumps that feed air to the pilot. The pilot will also receive liquid food, water, Gatorade, and caffeine through hoses as missions can be very long.

Everything you need to know about the A-10 Thunderbolt II

U.S. Air Force Maj. Sean Gallagher, 99th Expeditionary Reconnaissance Squadron, greets his ground support crew before a mission in a U-2 Dragon Lady.

(U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Eric Harris)

The U-2 is an ungainly beast on the ground, necessitating a ground crew. But once pilot and plane are together, the possibilities are great.

Everything you need to know about the A-10 Thunderbolt II

U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Willy Campos, 99th Expeditionary Reconnaissance Squadron, ensures that Maj. Sean Gallagher’s flight suit is properly connected before a mission in a U-2 Dragon Lady.

(U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Eric Harris)

The crew straps the pilot into the bird and plugs them into the systems in preparation for taxiing and takeoff.

Everything you need to know about the A-10 Thunderbolt II

U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Colin Cortez, a U-2 Dragon Lady crewchief assigned to the 380th Expeditionary Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, signals a U-2 aircraft as it taxis to a parking spot after flying a mission while deployed to an undisclosed location in Southwest Asia on November 23, 2010.

(U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Andy Kin)

The jet taxis on permanent gear that sits under the fuselage as well as two sets of wheels that are placed under the plane’s wings.

Everything you need to know about the A-10 Thunderbolt II

A U-2 Dragon Lady flies over the Golden Gate Bridge near San Francisco, California, March 23, 2016.

(U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Robert M. Trujillo)

Once they’re in the air, though, they’re graceful and sleek with large wings supporting a thin fuselage. They can zip through the air at low altitudes, but they specialize at high-level flight, taking photos and collecting signal intelligence from up to 70,000 feet in the air or higher.

Everything you need to know about the A-10 Thunderbolt II

A U-2 Dragon Lady flies above the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range, California, March 23, 2016.

(U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Robert M. Trujillo)

When flying at high altitudes, the plane’s lightweight construction and powerful engines allow it to continue even when the air gets thin and oxygen is scarce. This was vital in the 1950s when satellites didn’t yet exist. The Air Force thought they could retire the plane in 1969, but the date has been continuously pushed off or canceled. Most recently, the Air Force decided to cancel a 2019 retirement.

Everything you need to know about the A-10 Thunderbolt II

Ice forms around the canopy glass of a U-2 Dragon Lady flying over California, March 23, 2016.

(U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Robert M. Trujillo)

This allows the U-2 to fly above the range of many air defenses and even the engagement altitudes of many jets. During the Cold War, some U-2s were caught in Soviet airspace and escaped simply because MiGs and Sukhois of the time couldn’t reach them. This isn’t quite immunity, though. As the war dragged on, the Soviets developed weapons that were quite capable of reaching near space, and China and Russia can both reach U-2s in flight.

Everything you need to know about the A-10 Thunderbolt II

U-2 Dragon Lady pilot lands on the runway at Al Dhafra Air Base, United Arab Emirates, Nov. 16, 2017.

(U.S. Air National Guard Staff Sgt. Colton Elliott)

When U-2s land, the pilots have a very limited visibility, so the Air Force assigns chase cars to follow the planes and radio guidance to the pilot. Sometimes the pilots can make do with very little guidance, but the chase cars are needed in case anything goes wrong. This is especially true after long missions where the pilots may be exhausted form 12 hours or more in the air.

Everything you need to know about the A-10 Thunderbolt II

A U.S. Air Force maintainer from the 380th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron runs to the wing of a U-2 Dragon Lady from the 99th Expeditionary Reconnaissance Squadron to install a pogo support at an undisclosed location.

(U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Eric Harris)

Once its back on the ground, the U-2 is again limited by its paltry two sets of wheels which are lined up like a bicycle’s. So maintainers are sent out with “pogos,” the small sets of wheels that prop up the wings and keep the plane stable on the ground.

Everything you need to know about the A-10 Thunderbolt II

A U-2, flying from the 380th Air Expeditionary Wing at an undisclosed location in Southwest Asia, approaches the maintenance hangar after the final sortie for one of its mission systems, December 15, 2016.

(U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Christopher Carwile)

If the plane is landing at a new base or has flown through possible contamination, the pilot may have to take it through a wash down. This is also traditionally done when an airframe or a mission module has flown its final mission.

Everything you need to know about the A-10 Thunderbolt II

U.S. Air Force Major Sean Gallagher, 99th Expeditionary Reconnaissance Squadron, explains the U-2 Dragon Lady’s mission after landing at an undisclosed location in Southwest Asia, November 23, 2010.

(U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Eric Harris)

Pilots then climb down from the high-flying bird, exhausted. But their missions ensure American safety and security by collecting intelligence that might otherwise be impossible to garner. Its sensors have collected data of enemy air defenses, troop deployments, and technology.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This ship from Rolls Royce could one day be a robot aircraft carrier for drones

Unmanned air vehicles, better known as drones, have been operating for a long time. And those drones have been used in some high-ranking terrorist kills, like the one that took out Anwar al-Awlaki of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula or Pakistani Taliban leader Hakimullah Mehsud.


Other unmanned vehicles are on the ground and are being tested by the Army and Marine Corps.

And the Navy’s gotten into the unmanned game as well. In 2014 the service tested small, unmanned boats as a way to prevent a repeat of the 2000 attack on the Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer USS Cole (DDG 67). But Rolls Royce is now proposing something that could put the Navy’s plans to shame.

Everything you need to know about the A-10 Thunderbolt II
A look at an artist’s impression of an unmanned ship. (Rolls Royce graphic)

According to a company release, Rolls Royce is developing a 700-ton vessel capable of operating for 100 days unmanned, and it could be a game-changer for navies around the world. This vessel would be about the size of the Nanuchka-class corvette. It would have a range of 3,500 miles and a top speed of more than 25 knots.

What might this vessel be used for? The big mission Rolls Royce is pitching is “coastal patrol and surveillance,” logistical support, or even as a means to protect other vessels. This ship would still be very capable for its size, largely because, “[m]any of the habitation systems and accommodation compartments are removed, bringing immediate cost savings and making the vessel smaller.”

Everything you need to know about the A-10 Thunderbolt II
Artist’s impression of an unmanned ship in action. (Rolls Royce graphic)

“The autonomous platforms are likely to cover a range of single role missions, e.g. patrol and surveillance, mine detection or fleet screening, while the larger manned ships will cover the multi-role missions,” Rolls Royce adds.

In addition to having on-board sensors, the unmanned vessel could also carry a number of unmanned aerial vehicles. In essence, it is a robotic aircraft carrier for drones. This could make things very interesting at sea.

Articles

Russia’s nuclear torpedo arsenal is designed to inflict maximum pain

Hypersonic missiles being developed by the Russian ministry of defense are getting most of the attention in international news media these days. This could be for a number of reasons, the first being that the United States is woefully behind in the hypersonic missile gap. The second reason might be that Russian President Vladimir Putin announced it in a grandiose speech, effectively thumbing his nose at anyone who thinks the Russian military’s best days are behind them. 

The third and most likely reason, however, is that it is all a sleight of hand trick. Russia is trying to keep the world’s attention focused on a missile whose technology is nearly untrackable and has almost no defense. Instead, we should be focused on the country’s nuclear-powered, nuclear-armed torpedo, one designed to destroy entire harbors. 

Think about it: How would the world ever know if a Russian hypersonic missile really existed or not? How would the world ever really know what the Russian technology was capable of doing? The point is that the U.S. and other powers are so focused on hypersonic technology that we seem to forget Russia’s deadly Poseidon torpedo. 

The Poseidon was first introduced to the Russian Navy in 2015 when Putin himself leaked the “top secret” torpedo’s existence during a live speech on television, as he was denouncing American military projects. The next year, a Russian nuclear submarine successfully tested one of the new torpedoes in the Arctic Ocean.

Officially called the Ocean Multipurpose System Status-6, the torpedo is actually more of a water-borne titanium drone, powered by a nuclear reactor and capable of carrying a nuclear payload. It came about as a means of getting around American nuclear and ballistic missile defense shields. 

At about 80 feet long, the nuclear reactor gives the weapon an operational range of more than 6,200 miles. This means a Poseidon torpedo fired from St. Petersburg, Russia could sail all the way to New York to deliver a nuclear blast on Manhattan. 

Everything you need to know about the A-10 Thunderbolt II
NukeMap model of Poseidon explosion near New York City.

The worst part is its rubber noise insulation and potential depth of more than 3,000 feet means it could make the trip completely undetected. It features underwater stealth technology, its nuclear reactor is low-weight and compact to reduce noise, and it’s intended to travel at a slow speed for the bulk of its journey, only picking up speed when hitting its intended target.

Even if a major city port wasn’t a potential target for this Russian doomsday weapon, the speed and depth at which it travels would make even aircraft carrier battle groups a tempting target. It could potentially destroy an entire group, with the only warning being the mushroom cloud that follows.

Any nuclear blast caused by a Poseidon torpedo won’t be the only cause for destruction, either. The fallout created by the multi-megaton cobalt nuclear bomb would create fallout that could devastate the entire U.S. Eastern seaboard. 

Everything you need to know about the A-10 Thunderbolt II
Poseidon torpedo aboard the Akademik Aleksandrov (Wikimedia Commons)

The only good luck the U.S. has in stopping the use of a Poseidon torpedo is that Russia only has two boats capable of carrying and firing the weapon. Each of the two submarines are capable of carrying up to six of the weapons, but if the U.S. can target and destroy those boats, there’s a chance of mitigating the threat. 

Feature image: Screen capture from YouTube.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Here is Boeing’s plan to get grounded jets back in the air

Boeing said on Nov. 11, 2019, that it expected to resume delivering 737 Max jets in December, before the plane is approved to fly passengers again.

Boeing is working to get a fix to the troubled plane — as well as a pilot-training requirement — certified by the Federal Aviation Administration. The plane maker is looking to have pilots start delivering jets to airline customers after the plane’s main certification is complete but before that training is finalized, The Wall Street Journal reported.

Boeing has faced increasing pressure as it halted deliveries while production continued. Though in April 2019 it cut its production rate to 42 planes per month from 52, it has had difficulty finding places to store the completed but undeliverable planes.


Resuming deliveries would also help Boeing weather mounting financial pressure. The company has sold only a handful of Max jets since Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 crashed in March 2019, and it’s concerned because of dwindling wide-body orders partly stemming from the Trump administration’s trade war with China.

Everything you need to know about the A-10 Thunderbolt II

Ethiopian Airlines.

Though Boeing has maintained since the summer that it would be able to get the Max flying again by the fourth quarter, American Airlines and Southwest Airlines recently pulled the plane from their schedules until early March 2020.

Despite several recent setbacks, including being required to resubmit documentation outlining changes to the Max’s flight computer, Boeing last week cleared a step in the certification process following a series of successful simulator tests with the FAA, The Journal reported.

However, even if the plane is certified by the end of 2019, the pilot training isn’t expected to be approved until several weeks later, following a public comment period, The Journal reported. Until the training is approved and implemented, airlines would not be allowed to use the planes to carry passengers.

Even so, airlines are anxious to resume deliveries. Operators will need to service the stored planes and inspect jets before returning them to service. By beginning deliveries before the training is approved, Boeing and airlines would have some extra time to get the planes ready.

Boeing’s stock was trading about 5% higher on Nov. 11, 2019, following the announcement.

Can passengers trust Boeing?

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Boeing has been preparing to aggressively deliver jets, recruiting recently retired aircraft technicians to help prepare stored planes for delivery flights, an initiative first reported by Business Insider.

The 737 Max, the latest version of Boeing’s best-selling plane, has been grounded since March 2019 after crashes in Indonesia and Ethiopia killed 346 people.

Investigations into the two crashes suggest that an automated system called MCAS, or the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System, erroneously engaged, forcing the planes’ noses to point down, and that pilots were unable to regain control of the aircraft.

The system could be activated by a single sensor reading. In both crashes, the sensors are thought to have failed, sending erroneous data to the flight computer and, without a redundant check in place, triggering the automated system.

MCAS was designed to compensate for the 737 Max having larger engines than previous 737 generations. The larger engines could cause the plane’s nose to tip upward, leading to a stall — in that situation, the system could automatically point the nose down to negate the effect of the engine size.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This .50 cal machine gun fires twice as fast as the legendary Ma Deuce

The M2 heavy machine gun is an iconic weapon. When it entered service over eight decades ago, the gun quickly made its mark – and a deadly reputation.


It still serves today, with some modifications to make it easier to change the barrel.

But sometimes, you need more than the 550 rounds per minute that a Ma Deuce can send downrange. The problem is, you can’t exactly put a meat chopper on a HMMWV. That said there is an option – and a cool one at that.

Everything you need to know about the A-10 Thunderbolt II
The three barrels on the GAU-19 allow it to send 1,300 rounds per minute at the enemy. (Wikimedia Commons)

According to General Dynamics, the solution lies in a three-barreled Gatling gun that fires the .50 BMG cartridge — dubbed the GAU-19/B. Let’s take a look at this major piece of machinery that is just perfect for putting bad guys down for good.

GlobalSecurity.org notes that Ma Deuce plus a tripod comes to 128 pounds, 84 of which are the gun. The GAU-19 comes in at 106 pounds – so your vehicle’s adding 22 pounds. But here is what you get for those extra 22 pounds. Nearly 1,300 rounds per minute of hate, that’s what. We’re talking 236 percent more lead down range than the Ma Deuce.

Everything you need to know about the A-10 Thunderbolt II
A Flyer 72 unleashes .50-caliber BRRRRRT from a GAU-19. (Photo by General Dynamics)

Furthermore, the GAU-19 can be used on many different platforms. Need extra firepower on your Humvees? The GAU-19’s got that. Got a ship that needs a ballistic boost? This gun works on ships, too. Even aircraft can use the GAU-19 to send hundreds of rounds of death and destruction at the enemy in a matter of seconds.

What kind of rounds? Well, if the Ma Deuce can fire it, so can the GAU-19. We’re talking incendiary, armor-piercing, armor-piercing incendiary, full metal jacket, saboted light armor penetrator, and even tracer rounds.

In short, this gun can do everything Ma Deuce can, just at a higher rate of fire. And that will ruin the day of just about any bad guy.

Intel

This is the vehicle Lamborghini designed for the military

Everything you need to know about the A-10 Thunderbolt II
Photo: Wikimedia


Dubbed the “Rambo Lambo,” the LM002 was made by Lamborghini in the 1980s to break into the military market. Lamborghini’s intentions were clear; the LM in LM002 stood for Lamborghini Military.

Also Read: This Polish-Made Tank Is The Ground Equivalent Of The F-117 Stealth Fighter

The LM002 was the third attempt by the supercar manufacturer to make an off-road vehicle. The first was the Cheetah in the 1970s with a rear-mounted Chrysler V8 engine. Next was the LM001 prototype, which also featured a rear-mounted V8 engine. However, both of these vehicles were scrapped because of weight balance problems, according to LamboCARS.

By 1982, Lamborghini finally got it right by installing the same V12 engine used in the Countach to the front of the vehicle, giving the LM002 450 horsepower and agile responsiveness. Finally the vehicle was ready for prime time, but the military never warmed up to it.

Since it couldn’t attract the military, Lamborghini did the next best thing by turning it into a luxury vehicle. The LM002 was made-to-order with fine leather, a blasting Alpine sound system, and air conditioning. Notable celebrity owners were Sylvester Stallone, Tina Turner, Eddie Van Halen, and Mike Tyson. Infamous owners included kingpin Pablo Escobar, Uday Hussein, and Muammar Gadafi, according to LamboCARS.

The LM002 was the last time Lamborghini had an SUV. Its latest concept – the URUS – was designed as a luxury SUV from inception, unlike the LM002.

Here’s a retro video showing off the LM002:

Motor Week, YouTubef

Articles

American Marines might deploy aboard Brit carrier with F-35s

When HMS Queen Elizabeth makes her maiden deployment in 2021, she will be operating the short take-off, vertical landing variant of the F-35 Lightning II.


There’s just one catch – the planes will not be owned by the United Kingdom.

According to a report by The Register, the Royal Air Force and Royal Navy won’t have enough Lightning IIs to fill out even a reduced air wing of 12 F-35s (about the size of a squadron). To put that into perspective, plans call for a Queen Elizabeth-class carrier to have as many as 36 of the multi-role V/STOL fighters. The Brits have stood up 809 Squadron in the Fleet Air Arm and 617 Squadron of the RAF (the famous Dambusters), plus the RAF’s 17 Squadron as an operational conversion unit.

Everything you need to know about the A-10 Thunderbolt II
The Royal Navy’s largest ever warship HMS Queen Elizabeth is gently floated out of her dock for the first time in Rosyth, Scotland, in July 2014. (Photo from U.K. MOD)

Fortunately for the Brits, the United States Marine Corps operates a similar version of the F-35Bs, and when the Queen Elizabeth deploys, some Marines with their new jets will be deploying on board the 70,000-ton carrier alongside their British brothers.

The deployment will come after a lengthy gap, since the British retired their force of GR-7 and GR-9 Harriers in 2010.

The two planes will carry some different missiles. British Lightning IIs will carry other weapons, like the Meteor air-to-air missile and the Brimstone air-to-ground missile. British combat aircraft are also able to carry the AIM-120 AMRAAM, AIM-9 Sidewinder, and other American-made munitions.

The Marine F-35Bs that will come to the rescue might come from one of two squadrons.

The first, Marine Fighter Attack Squadron-211, is the famous “Wake Island Avengers.” That unit, with five F4F Wildcats, held the line in December 1941 against long odds, and was credited with sinking a Japanese destroyer and three other vessels, as well as inflicting other losses on the enemy. Henry Elrod received the Medal of Honor for his actions during the siege.

Throughout its history VMFA-211 operated classic planes like the F4U Corsair, the A-1 Skyraider, the A-4 Skyhawk, and the AV-8B Harrier before transitioning to the F-35B.

The other unit that could deploy aboard the British carrier is Marine Fighter Attack Squadron-121, the “Green Knights,” saw action as part of the famous “Cactus Air Force” that flew from Henderson Field on Guadalcanal. The squadron was credited with 208 kills, and included Medal of Honor winner (and #2 Marine ace Joe Foss) among the pilots who flew with it.

The planes this squadron flew throughout its history prior to receiving the F-35B include the FU4, the F8F Bearcat, the A-1 Skyraider, the F9F Cougar, the A-4 Skyhawk, the A-6 Intruder, and the F/A-18D Hornet.

This joint air wing for HMS Queen Elizabeth’s historic deployment will harken back to World War II history as well. The Marines will be pulling from the “Cactus Air Force,” the polyglot force that held the line on Guadalcanal that included VMFA-121. The British will recall the “Eagle Squadrons” of American pilots who fought Nazi Germany before the U.S. entered World War II.

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