Before the development of the F-22 Raptor, the F-15 Eagle ruled the skies. It replaced the vaunted F-111 as the U.S. military’s primary fighter bomber and, for much of its life, it was the fast-moving air superiority fighter, king of all air superiority fighters. In much of the world, it still rules — and there are many, many reasons why.
The F-15 was designed to fly fast and deep into the heart of enemy territory to clear the skies of pesky enemy plane. After Vietnam proved the need for a maneuverable airframe that could evade surface-to-air missiles and engage enemy fighters, the F-15 was developed with radar, missiles, and – most importantly – a gun.
Those are just a few of its features. The highlights of its career are what makes the airframe a legend.
1. It is fast.
Boy, is the F-15 fast. Imagine being about 43 years old and getting laid off and replaced in favor of a younger employee who is barely of age. Welcome to the world of the F-15, whose top speed is above 1,800 mph. Its replacement, the F-22, tops out at just above 1,400. With its weight and speed, once it achieves lift in takeoff, it can shoot up at an almost 90-degree angle.
Too bad sight is the first to go. That’s the primary advantage of the F-22 and F-35, who are both slower by far. The F-15’s cruising speed is just below the speed of sound. The bird is so fast, some analysts think it’s more than a match for Russia’s fifth-generation fighters.
2. It could take out satellites in space.
When the United States wanted to include destroying Russian satellites as part of its war plans, it had to take into account the fact that the Russians could detect a ground-to-orbit missile launch. So the U.S. developed an antisatellite missile designed to be fired by an F-15.
The system was successfully tested by Air Force Maj. Wilbert D. “Doug” Pearson, who is still the only pilot with an air-to-orbit kill.
If you’re looking for an all-weather, maneuverable, super-fast airframe that can carry a LOT of missiles, ground bombs, avionics, more fuel, advanced radar, and probably more, you might want to consider the F-15 and its five variants. Though two are designed to be trainers, the others are design for air superiority and fulfillment of a dual fighter role, supporting troops on the ground.
But even the F-15E Strike Eagle can handle some air-to-air combat, as it proved during Desert Storm.
Hell, the plane is so well-built, it can even fly with significant stability after losing a wing.
4. It kills.
The F-15 was one of the first airframes that could track multiple enemy targets simultaneously from ranges of more than 100 miles away. Once closed in, the fighter can pop off enemies with its six-barrel, air-cooled, electrically fired M-61 vulcan cannon, along with its impressive array of missiles and ground munitions.
5. Its impressive kill record.
By all substantiated accounts, the F-15’s record in combat is a whopping 104 to zero. While some enemy combatants claim F-15 kills, none have ever been able to provide actual evidence. The F-15 and its variants were used to great effect by Israel against Syria and Lebanon, the United States against Iraq, and the Saudis against Iran. The F-15 was also the airframe Israel used to destroy an Iraqi nuclear facility during Operation Opera.
The Spanish Navy has always operated an aircraft carrier. Its most recent carrier is SNS Juan Carlos I, which is, in essence, an amphibious assault ship capable of operating Spain’s force of EAV-8B Harriers. Juan Carlos I’s predecessor, though, was Spain’s first home-built aircraft carrier.
The Principe de Asturias, named for the heir to the Spanish throne, replaced the Dedalo, which began its life as the Independence-class light carrier USS Cabot (CVL 28). The Dedalo had been modified to operate AV-8S Harriers, which were very similar to various the Harriers in service with both the United States Marine Corps and the Royal Air Force.
The fact of the matter was that Independence-class light carriers were good ships — of the nine vessels to serve in World War II, eight survived — but they were designed to launch a piston-engine fighter, like the F6F Hellcat. The Principe de Asturias was designed to be a Harrier carrier from the getgo. One of the primary features of that ship was the ski-jump ramp on the bow.
According to GlobalSecurity.org, the Principe de Asturias displaced 17,190 tons and had a top speed of 25 knots. It could operate a mix of Harriers and anti-submarine helicopter and had four Meroka 20mm close-in weapon systems.
25 knots seems quite low when compared to American Nimitz-class supercarriers. This is because the Principe de Asturias wasn’t meant to take on the Soviet Navy in the Norwegian Sea. Her mission was to help protect convoys heading across the Atlantic. The Harriers might not be able to destroy a regiment of Backfires, but they could kill the occasional Tu-95 “Bear D” search aircraft. Meanwhile, her helicopters could keep an enemy submarine at bay — or better yet, sink it.
This ship gave Spain 25 years of excellent service. Despite reports of a number of countries wanting to buy it, she was sold for scrap.
While the US’s new aircraft carrier, USS Gerald R. Ford, was undergoing testing off the East Coast last month, the Royal Navy’s new carrier, the HMS Queen Elizabeth, was landing and launching jets in UK waters for the first time in a decade and the venerable French carrier Charles de Gaulle was setting off on its first deployment since its 18-month-long midlife overhaul ended late last year.
That activity is a sign the French and the British “are now back in the big carrier business,” Vice Adm. Andrew Lewis, commander of the Navy’s recently reestablished 2nd Fleet, said this month in Washington, DC.
“Having that global carrier force is real beneficial. That helps our operational dilemma quite a bit,” Lewis added in response to a question about his command’s partnerships with European navies.
The Queen Elizabeth and its sister carrier, Prince of Wales, have a long life ahead of them, and France is wrapping up studies on a potential future carrier of its own. The Ford and the two carriers following it will also serve for decades, but changes could be coming for the size and role of the US carrier fleet.
Lewis deployed as an exchange pilot aboard the British carrier HMS Invincible, which was sold for scrap in 2010, and while on the USS Harry S. Truman, he sailed with the carrier HMS Illustrious, which was sold for scrap in 2016.
The Illustrious had already turned in its airplanes, “so we actually used US Marine AV-8Bs,” Lewis said, referring to the AV-8B Harrier short takeoff and vertical landing jet, which is being replaced by the F-35B.
“They used US Marine AV-8Bs on that ship then, and it’s something that’s pretty easy to do,” Lewis said. “The Queen Elizabeth is a pretty nifty ship because … it was basically designed around the F-35.”
“We’ll be sailing through the Mediterranean into the Gulf and then to the Indo-Pacific region with F-35B variants, both UK and US Marine Corps,” Edward Ferguson, minister counsellor defense at the British Embassy in Washington, DC, said this month.
“This is a really powerful, interoperable US-UK capability that has huge potential that hasn’t yet been tested in the high north, but I think we certainly see potential in the North Atlantic, up into the high north, as well as globally,” Ferguson said at an Atlantic Council event. “This is a 50-year capability. It’s been designed to be flexible.”
The first-in-class Ford finished aircraft compatibility testing at the end of January, successfully launching and landing five kinds of aircraft a total of 211 times. The second-in-class carrier, John F. Kennedy, was launched in December.
The next two Ford-class carriers have been named — Enterprise and Doris Miller, respectively — but won’t arrive for years, and it’s not certain what kind of fleet they will join.
“The big question, I think at the top of the list, is the carrier and what’s the future going to look like and what that future carrier mix is going to look like,” acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly said on January 29 at a Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments event. Modly spoke as the Navy conducted its own force structure assessment.
The carrier and its strike group are now the Navy’s centerpiece, with the carrier air wing as the main offensive force and the strike group’s destroyers and cruisers mostly in a defensive role.
The future fleet will have to be “more distributed to support distributed maritime operations,” its sensors and offensive weapons spread across different and less expensive ships, Modly said.
Modly pointed to the Indo-Pacific region as one where the Navy has to be a lot of places and do a lot of things at once, and the Navy has experimented with breaking those escort ships away from the carrier to act in a more offensive role as surface action groups.
The Ford-class carrier “is going to be an amazing piece of equipment when it’s done,” but those carriers are billion apiece, Modly added, “and that’s not including the cost of the air wing and everything else.”
“I think we agree with a lot of conclusions that [carriers are] more vulnerable,” Modly said. “Now of course we’re developing all kinds of things to make it less vulnerable, but it still is a big target, and it doesn’t give you that distribution.”
The Navy is required by law to have at least 11 carriers in service, and plans for a 355-ship fleet include 12 carriers, a number the Navy is set to reach by 2065. But Modly said the focus should be on the coming years rather than planning to 2065, when “we’ll all be dead.”
“You should think about what we can actually do,” he added, “and I think that number is going to be less” than 12.
Such a shift could spark backlash like when the Navy broached plans to cancel the Truman’s mid-life refueling, which would have cost billion and kept it in service for 25 years, in order to pay for unmanned vessels and other emerging technologies to counter the carriers’ vulnerabilities to new weapons, like long-range Chinese missiles.
The Navy relented on that, but Modly admitted the changes he mentioned would require further discussion with lawmakers.
“We’d have to talk to them about this, and I think this … can’t be a discussion that we just have inside the walls of the Pentagon,” Modly said. “I think as many people that get involved in this, the better. Congress obviously has interest. Our shipbuilding industry has interest. We all do.”
The carrier’s future will have to be considered when formulating the acquisition and building plan for the carrier after the Miller, the as-yet unnamed CVN-82, Modly said, adding that such thinking will be influenced by changes in the surface fleet and the threat environment.
But the Miller likely won’t arrive until the early 2030s.
“Thankfully, we have some time to think about that,” Modly said. “We don’t have time to think about the other things, like the unmanned systems, the smaller [amphibious ships], that amphib mix,” he added. “We’ve got to start getting answers to those now.”
According to a company release, the 30-kilowatt laser was fired against five unmanned aerial vehicles and “defeated airborne targets in flight by causing loss of control and structural failure” during the test, which was conducted in conjunction with Army Space and Missile Defense Command.
A video released by Lockheed showed that the targets, MQM-170C Outlaw drones, based on the Griffon Aerospace G2, were destroyed in crashes caused by the damage inflicted on the tail by the laser. Designation-Systems.net notes that the MQM-170A version of the Outlaw, based on Griffon’s G1 has a top speed of 120 miles per hour, can fly as high as 16,000 feet, and has as much as four hours of flight time.
The need to take down enemy drones has been acutely demonstrated in the fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. During the fighting for Mosul, the radical Islamic terrorist group made extensive use of UAVs, including spotting for mortar gunners, as well as to carry out small bomb attacks.
One particularly insidious tactic was to land a booby-trapped drone, and then to detonate it as coalition troops attempted to recover it.
The development of lasers has been advancing in recent years, and while right now they’re being used to target drones, that’s not all defense planners have planned for beam weapons.
“As we mature the technology behind laser weapon systems, we’re making the entire system more effective and moving closer to a laser weapon that will provide greater protection to our warfighters by taking on more sophisticated threats from a longer range,” Lockheed Martin’s Chief Technology Officer, Keoki Jackson, said.
You can see a video of the Outlaws being put into the ground by the laser below.
To some, the rise of India as a modern military power is a little surprising. The country that gave the world Mahatma Gandhi and his teachings of nonviolence has arguably built up the second-most-powerful military in Asia.
One of the reasons India arguably ranks so highly is the fact that they’ve developed a number of weapons, either completely on their own or in cooperation with other nations. One of India’s closest partners in development is Russia.
At the end of the Cold War, Russia’s economy was in the dumps. India, meanwhile, was looking to modernize. The two countries came up with an exchange: India would help finance development and, in return, received access to modern weapons at what turned out to be bargain-basement prices. One of those weapons was the BrahMos cruise missile.
The BrahMos is a variant of the SS-N-26 Sapless cruise missile (also known as the P-800 Oniks) used by the Russian Navy. The BrahMos, like the Sapless, can be launched from ships, submarines, or land bases. It packs a 661-pound warhead, has a maximum range of 180 miles, and is capable of operating as a “sea-skimmer,” flying within 50 feet of the surface of the ocean. It has a top speed of Mach 3.
In short, this is a missile that can go unseen until it’s very close, at which point you have very little time to react. According to an official website for the missile, the BrahMos is operated on Indian Navy ships and by three Indian Army regiments. The Indian Air Force is also testing the Brahmos for its force of Su-30 MKI Flankers, giving them more options for deploying this devastating ordnance.
Learn more about this Mach 3 missile in the video below!
While attending Sig Sauer Range Day, a camera attached to a spotting scope at the 500 yard range set aside for the Sig Cross caught our eye.
It was a Tactacam, a company who originally got involved with producing cameras and mounts for bow hunting.
Their first scope related product was the FTS, Film Through Scope for $139. This allows a Tactacam camera ($199-$429) to be attached to a scope while still being able to use the scope in a traditional fashion. Or it’s sold as a complete package with an MSRP of $569.
Now, we’ve seen and used similar products before, such as the Phone Skope Skoped Vision Pro, which uses your cellphone as a camera, as well as the Torrey Pines Eagle Eye for which you need to supply your own GoPro.
However, the star Tactacam was showing off was their new system which has an integral 4k camera system and attaches to a spotting scope.
The camera features an articulati USB-C, accepts a Micro SD card, and has a micro-HDMI out.
While there are a number of products which allow to record spotting scope footage, many of them are a pain to setup and can ultimately be kind of janky (we have several ourselves). Mounting was accomplished with a simple clamp mount and a twist; the locking turrets on the camera are integrated into the body.
Tactacam also has an app to connect your camera to your phone for hands-free viewing, but our preference would be to use the micro-HDMI out with a portable field monitor. When a camera is mounted, the less you have to touch the spotting scope, the better, as the magnification level exponential amplifies any itinerant movement.
MSRP for this setup Tactacam is not yet set, but we’re told the entire system will go for in-between 9 and 9–not too shabby for a system that includes a dedicated 4k camera. In the meantime, you can visit Tactacam online here.
After having success with unmarked trailer trucks in Ukraine, Russia is looking to exploit its incognito strategy even further. The Russians have come up with a weapons concept reminiscent of Optimus Prime from Transformers.
It’s designed to surprise the U.S. military by sneaking up under the cover of an inconspicuous semi-trailer truck. When the weapon is close enough to strike, the trailer disconnects from the truck and transforms into a nasty helicopter drone with missiles and a Gatling gun.
In keeping with Hollywood’s depiction of Russian bad guys, the trailer also includes two get-away motorcycles. Seriously, it looks like something you’d expect to see in a ‘Die Hard’ flick.
Here’s how it works:
The trailer pulls up within striking distance of its target.
One soldier in civilian clothes scopes out the area while another soldier stays behind to monitor the transformation.
Most of the transformation is self automated.
A final weapons check is done with an iPad before the nasty payload is deployed.
The drone surprises the target by rising from the tree line.
Not only do Americans love these gadgets, but gosh darn it, the little drones are cool, inexpensive tech toys that provide a platform for everything and anything the user can think up.
But they’re not always used for wholesome activities. Besides their legitimate uses (package delivery, filming, photography, and even firefighting) they’re perfect for illegal activities like spying, theft, drug distribution, prison breaks, IEDs, and even murder (a teen recently test fired a 9mm from a drone successfully and scared the beejesus out of the internet).
Adding to the problem for law enforcement is the fact that drones are practically untraceable. Tracking a signal from the device to the user is virtually impossible with the billions of signals flying around our atmosphere at any given time. So using them for crime or terrorism is a cheap, effective means with little chance of being caught (electroncs don’t talk in interrogation rooms).
Add a chem-bio weapon to the mix and things get downright scary.
The age of the drone and all the ways it can benefit or interfere with your life is upon us, so the next question is, what can we do to defeat them, both on the battlefield and on Main Street? And if you do take one out of the sky, how do you prove the it was spying on you and not the neighbors? And if you destroyed it, do you have to pay for it? What if you shoot down a police drone? Even worse — what if you shoot down one that crashed into a house, a playground, or a car and caused casualties?
Most people turn to one obvious solution for drones – guns. But besides being illegal, shooting blindly into the air can cause casualties when the rounds return to earth. Fortunately some drone-defeating technologies are making their way to the average consumer.
Geofencing programs a set of coordinates into the drone’s software that prevents it from taking off or entering restricted airspace. NoFlyZone.org allows anyone to register an address in a database so the annoying gadgets will avoid flying over it.
If done right, the drone basically refuses to fly into restricted airspace, but this service is voluntary and doesn’t do anything to block the its camera. It can still spy on you from a distance.
2. Acoustic Shields
Several companies use acoustic technology to separate the sounds of birds and other flying objects and alert the user when a drone enters the airspace. But this technology is restricted in the sense that it only detects the flying devices. It doesn’t do anything to defeat them.
Some businesses offer malware that infects approaching drones and drops them out of the air like a bag of hammers. The problem is getting the virus into the onboard computer, which is not that easy.
4. Drones to kill drones
What better way to take out a drone than with a killer drone? Fight fire with a bigger fire. Want a drone with a cattle prod attached to it to zap weaker drones? It’s coming.
On the military front, several technologies are being developed. Battelle’s Drone Defender looks like an M-16 from Flash Gordon and has the ability to disrupt the user’s control link to their drone as well as an ability to sync with a GPS network. It has been deployed in Iraq by US forces.
Openworks Engineering developed Skywall, a bazooka-like shoulder-fired weapon that casts a large net around the flying device to capture it. Airbus has developed a sophisticated jamming system to protect their customers in flight, but jamming is illegal in the U.S., so don’t hold your breath that it will be available here anytime soon.
Dutch police have developed a truly innovative (and badass) way to take out drones – trained eagles.
Obviously there are a lot of legitimate and good uses for UAVs, not just for the hobbyist or the filmmaker, but for law enforcement as well. Police could use UAVs to provide intelligence on dangerous situations, pursue felons, or disseminate riot control agents against violent crowds. Commercial companies can use them to paint houses, deliver aid to injured hikers, spray crops, wash windows on skyscrapers, deliver water or foam to high level fires, and even perform high altitude repairs. Virtually any application you can think of can be accomplished by a drone and a little creativity.
But with that ingenuity comes a price – the evildoer with an equal amount of creativity and a nefarious cause. The drone market is here; hopefully the counter-drone market will catch up soon.
This is gear porn bulletin from WATM friends The Mad Duo at Breach-Bang-Clear.
Remember. At the risk of sounding unnecessarily contumelious, we must remind you – this is just an be advised, a public service if you will, letting you know these things exist and might be of interest. If you have questions about it, you’ll need to reach out to the respective organizations.
Surfers and guns — sometimes it’s a thing, ‘specially when those surfers are former pipe-hitters who love the sea, surf, and spray.
That’s why U.S. Navy veteran Alex West launched One More Wave, a non-profit that hand builds specialized surfboards that accommodate different veterans’ injuries. They want to make it easier for those disabled veterans to get back to riding waves. It’s therapeutic.
As you can imagine, it’s hard to surf with just one leg, even if you have a badass prosthetic leg.
The new blaster is called the OMW Rifle. It’s a Noveske Gen III 300BLK with a 16 in. barrel (full specs below), and a large portion of proceeds from its sales will be donated to One More Wave.
They’ll use that money to help rehabilitate wounded vets — not just physically, but emotionally as well.
Here’s how Noveske describe their decision to help One More Wave.
“One More Wave is a non-profit charity started by US military veterans with the focus of enhancing the recovery of wounded or disabled vets via ocean therapy. They work with vets who have a wide range of disabilities, and hand craft surfboards to suit the specific injury. These surfboards are customized with graphics, and when needed, customized for performance- working with specific physical disabilities. Noveske is proud to partner with One More Wave to help raise money for the creation of these fully customized surfboards. A large portion of the profit of the One More Wave rifle will be donated to aid in offsetting the cost of building the boards, and providing each vet with a special, life changing experience.
It’s a story that moved us so much that we hit the drawing board with the One More Wave crew to cook up a new Gen III Noveske rifle, where a portion of their proceeds will go directly to aiding them in their mission of creating custom surf equipment to help veterans find that next wave and discover the therapy they need.”
About the Author: We Are The Mighty contributor Richard “Swingin’ Dick” Kilgore comes to us from our partners at BreachBangClear.com (@breachbangclear). He is one half of the most storied celebrity action figure team in the world. He believes in American Exceptionalism, holding the door for any woman and the idea that you should be held accountable for every word that comes out of your mouth. He may also be one of two nom de plumes for a veritable farrago of CAGs and FAGs (Current Action Guys and Former Action Guys). You can learn more about Swingin’ Dick right here.
Days after the first-in-class aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford sailed out of a “challenging” post-shakedown work period that was extended three months because of maintenance problems, the dry dock holding the second Ford-class carrier, the USS John F. Kennedy, was flooded, launching the carrier three months early.
The Kennedy’s builders and crew have gotten a boost from the Ford, according to the ship’s commanding officer, Capt. Todd Marzano.
“We are definitely benefiting from being the second aircraft carrier in the class,” Marzano told Business Insider last week. “We’re leveraging their lessons learned, which has helped not only from the construction side but from our sailor training.”
Capt. Todd Marzano, the Kennedy’s commanding officer.
(US Navy photo by MCS3 Class Adam Ferrero)
A graduate of Naval Fighter Weapons School, or Top Gun, Marzano has gone to sea aboard Kitty Hawk-, Nimitz-, and Ford-class carriers, serving as a fighter squadron commander as well as executive officer and commanding officer of the carrier itself.
At a ceremony in May, Marzano recalled driving past the Ford as construction began in late 2015 and thinking that “some lucky captain” would get to be its first skipper. In a mast-stepping ceremony after that speech, he put his first set of gold aviator’s wings under the 650-ton island as it was lowered onto the flight deck.
That “signified my commitment as the CO of the ship to ensure … that I’m going make sure that the crew is ready to do their job and operate the ship when we take it out to sea,” Marzano said. “So it meant a lot to me. This is definitely a pinnacle tour in my career.”
(US Navy photo by MCS3 Class Adam Ferrero)
Marzano assumed command of the Kennedy, designated CVN-79, on October 1, at a ceremony attended by the carrier’s first 43 sailors, who were handpicked for the assignment.
“We officially stood up the command on October 1, and as of today we have just over 150 crew members on board, and that number just continues to grow daily,” Marzano said on Nov. 19, 2019. “The current focus since they’ve shown up is to create a solid foundation, which means getting our programs, our procedures established. We’re also focusing on a lot of training and, most importantly, developing a healthy culture throughout all levels of the command.”
Marzano added that “some of the sailors on the Ford have now been transferred over to our ship, so we can benefit from their knowledge … gained on their tour.”
The Ford-class carriers — the Ford, the Kennedy, the Enterprise, and the unnamed CVN-81 — are or will be equipped with new technology the Navy believes will keep them effective for decades to come. The Ford’s first sailors, with months or even years of hands-on experience with that tech, were creating “basically instructions on how to operate this ship with its systems and its new design,” as one sailor put it.
“Now we’re going to benefit from that, and they can help train our new sailors,” Marzano said.
The island of the Kennedy is placed on the flight deck during a mast-stepping ceremony in Newport News, Virginia, on May 29, 2019.
In addition to changing or excluding some features, the Navy and the carrier’s builder, Huntington Ingalls Industries, have made changes to the Kennedy’s build strategy to control costs and stay on schedule.
The Ford was being built as it was being designed, according to Mike Butler, Huntington Ingalls’ program manager for the Kennedy. But the Kennedy had a complete model, saving time.
“Every piece of pipe, every cable, every other piece of equipment was loaded in a three-dimensional product model, and that gave us the ability, for example, [to do] hole cuts, where you have a bulkhead or a deck and you have to cut a hole in it for a pipe to go through or an electrical cable,” Butler told Business Insider on Nov. 29, 2019.
On Nimitz-class carriers, “prior to the product model,” Butler said, “we probably cut 75% of those holes on ship once we ran the pipe and saw where it went through the bulkhead.”
There was “much less” cutting on ship on the Ford because of the product model, Butler said. But on the Kennedy, “with the complete product model, I virtually cut 100% of all of those hole cuts in the ship.”
“While the shop was still fabricating the deck plates and bulkhead panels, they could go in and robotically locate and cut all of those holes in those structural members while it was still in the shop environment, which is a big deal because there are probably close to 100,000 holes that go through decks and bulkheads that have to be cut,” Butler added.
The upper bow unit of the Kennedy is fitted to the primary structure of the ship on July 10, 2019.
The design and planning documents for the Kennedy were updated as work continued on the Ford. But the biggest change was in how the second Ford-class carrier was actually put together, Butler said.
About 1,100 structural boxes are built to assemble the carrier, each outfitted with components like wiring. Those boxes are put together into larger sections called super lifts, which are outfitted further. The carrier is then assembled from those super lifts — “sort of like a Lego build,” Butler said.
On the Kennedy, “particularly early in the program, we did a lot more outfitting,” Butler said. “We built larger boxes in our steel fabrication division. We brought those to our final assembly plant. We built larger super lifts than we did on [the Ford] in some areas, and we put more outfitting in a lot of those super lifts, particularly early in the program.
“So we ended up with less lifts into the dock and many cases of larger super lifts that had more outfitting … which drives your cost down as well,” Butler added.
“We’re definitely aggressively seeking the lessons learned and then applying them to the Kennedy, and we’re already seeing benefits of that. Construction progress has gone much more efficiently,” Marzano said. “So both on the construction and the level-of-knowledge side for the sailors, that’s paying off. Being the second in class is definitely easier in that regard for sure.”
Secretary of the Navy Richard Spencer is briefed by the USS Gerald R. Ford’s commanding officer on Jan. 17, 2018.
(US Navy photo by Mass Comm. Specialist 2nd Class Kiana A. Raines)
The Ford’s marquee features have been among the most troublesome, particularly the advanced weapons elevators, drawing congressional scrutiny and the ire of former Navy Secretary Richard Spencer, who excoriated Huntington Ingalls, saying last month that the shipbuilder had “no idea” what it was doing.
Those electromagnetically powered elevators are supposed to carry more ordnance faster — up to 24,000 pounds at 150 feet a minute over Nimitz-class elevators’ 10,500 pounds at 100 feet a minute — from storage magazines deep in the hull. But just four of the Ford’s 11 elevators have been certified and turned over to the crew.
Those new elevators have new electrical and mechanical technology and are “a lot more complex than traditional weapons elevators,” with “a lot tighter tolerances because of that,” Butler said.
Work on the Kennedy’s elevators was delayed to incorporate lessons from the Ford, Butler added.
“A lot of the areas where they’ve had issues that they’ve had to resolve we’ve been able to hold back, get those issues resolved, change the design, change the work documents,” Butler said. “That allows us now to go in and do that work the first time with those lessons learned already.”
Sailors review safety procedures for the Upper Stage 1 advanced weapons elevator in the Ford’s weapons department on Jan. 16, 2019.
Those pauses didn’t affect work on the hull and parts of the ship exposed to seawater, allowing it to be launched ahead of schedule in October 2019, Butler said.
In addition to being ahead of schedule, the Kennedy was also 5% more complete than the Ford at the time of its launch, according to James Geurts, the Navy’s acquisitions chief.
Like Marzano’s crew, Butler’s team has also benefitted from an influx of personnel from the Ford.
Butler said that “working through all those different technical issues” on the Ford, they had “developed a set of industry experts at the shipyard, and our design, manufacturing, construction, and testing of those elevators.”
“Now that expert team is beginning to migrate to my ship, bringing those people and those lessons learned, working with my team,” Butler added, “so that we’ve got people on the deck plate who’ve been through these elevators, helping us modify our build plan to improve that process.”
Butler declined to comment on Spencer’s criticisms, saying he was “laser-focused” the Kennedy.
“Morale is great. We know we’ve worked through a lot of the first-in-class problems,” Butler added. “We are building this ship cheaper; we’re building the ship faster. And to us that is showing that first-of-class-to-second-of-class improvement is exactly what we thought it would be.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
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.
When people think hovercraft, the Landing Craft Air Cushion (also known as the LCAC) comes to mind. Understandably so — that hovercraft has been a vital piece of gear for the Navy and Marine Corps when it comes to projecting power ashore. But these are not the first hovercraft to be used in service. In fact, hovercraft saw action with both the Navy and Army during the Vietnam War.
In 1966, the Navy acquired four Patrol Air Cushion Vehicles, or PACVs (pronounced “Pack-Vees”), for test purposes and deployed them to Vietnam. The hovercraft quickly proved very potent, delivering a lot of firepower and speed and reaching areas inaccessible to traditional tracked or wheeled vehicles.
Patrol Air Cushion Vehicles packed a lot of firepower and were fast — but they never got past an operational test.
A PACV was equipped with a turret that held one or two M2 .50-caliber machine guns mounted on top of the cabin, which held a crew of four. There were also two M60 general-purpose machine guns, one mounted to port and the other to starboard. Additionally, there were two remote-controlled emplacements for either M60s or Mk 19 automatic grenade launchers.
The hovercraft could reach a top speed of 35 knots and had a maximum range of 165 nautical miles. But as maintenance and training proved problematic, especially given the trans-Pacific supply lines, the Navy decided to pull the plug. The Army, however, remained interested. The hovercraft operated primarily from a land base, but could also be deployed from amphibious ships (like today’s LCACs).
PACVs worked with the Navy’s Light Attack Helicopter Squadron Three (HAL-3), providing a fast response to enemy activity.
The Army acquired three Air-Cushion Vehicles, which operated within the 9th Infantry Division. Two were configured for attack missions and both were destroyed in 1970. The other, which was tooled as a transport, was shipped back to the United States.
Learn more about these early hovercraft that did some damage in Vietnam in the video below.
“If it’s stupid and it works, it isn’t stupid,” is how the old saying goes. Though it isn’t said much anymore, the meaning behind it still rings true – and has for generations. A tactic that seems so stupid can be useful to the right mind. It can goad an enemy into losing focus and abandoning caution. These tactics can be used to influence an enemy’s thoughts and actions. It can even change the future for millions.
So don’t be so quick to judge.
Napoleon at Austerlitz
In the beginning of the 19th Century, Napoleon was making his presence known across Europe. The end of the old order was at hand as “The Little Corporal” from Corsica took control of the French and dominated the armies and rulers of Europe. But the social order wasn’t the only thing he upended. Napoleon upended the entire doctrine warfare, how battles were fought, forever. Nothing is more obvious than his win at Austerlitz, where a seemingly rookie mistake was the key to victory.
As Napoleon fielded the French to take on a superior Russian-Austrian force outside of Vienna, things looked bleak, and the French were widely expected to lose and be forced to flee Austria. With every passing day, Napoleon’s enemies became stronger. To goad them into a fight in the place of his choosing, he occupied the heights overlooking the town of Austerlitz, basic military strategy since the days of Sun-Tzu. As the combined enemy army approached, they saw the French abandon those heights. The battle was on, and Napoleon used the heights as a psych-out. Once the French took the heights in combat, the battle was over for the Russian-Austrian allies, and Napoleon was Master of Europe.
When the state of Israel was proclaimed in 1948, it was a jubilant day for the Jewish people – and no one else in the region. The Jews of the new nation of Israel were immediately surrounded on all sides by Arab enemies with superior numbers, technology, money, and basically anything else you might need to win a protracted war for independence. What the Israelis had going for them was a ton of World War II veterans and a lot of cunning brainpower. So even when they had to make bombing runs in single-engine prop planes, they managed to win the day even if they didn’t have bombs.
As an advancing Arab army approached Tel Aviv, the Jewish forces in the area were at a loss on how to repel them. They had no bombs to support the Israeli troops in the region, and even if they did, they had no bombers to fly them. They needed an equalizer. Someone with combat experience in WWII remembered that seltzer bottles tend to whistle like bombs when dropped from a height. When full of seltzer, they also explode with a loud bang. So that’s what the nascent IAF used. The Arabs didn’t really have seltzer or those old-timey bottles used to spray it, so they really thought they were being bombed – and disbursed.
The army led by a zombie
Some people are just so necessary for success you can’t afford to let them go. Unfortunately for Rodrigo Díaz de Vivar and the people of Valencia, one such person was missing when Muslim armies from Morocco were marching their way. They must have gotten wind that Rodrigo was no longer with the army of Valencia, which was true. Rodrigo was no longer among those defenders because Rodrigo was also no longer among the living. Since the Christian knight had never lost a battle, his reputation alone was enough to keep invaders at bay.
Luckily for Rodrigo – whom you might know better as El Cid – he had a pretty cunning wife, Jimena. Jimena ordered El Cid’s dead, decomposing body be fully armored and dressed, then lashed to his horse. Jimena then told the army to make a valiant last cavalry charge to break the siege, with El Cid at the head. When the Muslims saw the Spaniards coming at them with El Cid at the head of the attack, they immediately broke ranks and tried to flee but were cut down by the Spanish defenders.
Strong men marry strong women. Remember that.
Island-hopping to fight another day
In 1942, things looked really bad for the allied naval forces in the Pacific. The December 1941 attack on the U.S. Navy at Pearl Harbor came at the same time of a half dozen other surprise Japanese attacks throughout the region. Attempts to hit the Japanese back at the Java Sea and the Sunda Straits were met with abject failure. After the Japanese Empire captured the Dutch East Indies, the Navy was limping pretty bad. Hong Kong, Malaya, Burma, and more had all fallen to the mighty Japanese initiative. As all allied ships were ordered to retreat to Australia, one was somehow left behind.
That was the HNLMS Abraham Crijnssen, a Dutch minesweeper which was separated after the attacks on the East Indies. Armed with one three-inch gun and two 20mm cannons, the minesweeper was no match for any of the Japanese warships floating around the islands. In order to stay undetected, the Dutch covered the ship in foliage and painted the hull the color of rocks. They moored the ship near islands by day and moved only by night – and it worked. She not only made it to Australia, she survived the war.
(Laughs in Mongol)
Mongols think differently
For much of the Western World in the Middle Ages, a retreat was not a good thing. If a cavalry force appears routed, it might lead to the infantry breaking ranks and running. Even the most orderly of retreats was considered as an option only at the last possible moments. That was not how the Mongols under Genghis Khan thought of a retreat. A retreat was a tactic to be used like any other tactic.
There are many examples of the use of a feigned retreat in this history of the Mongol conquests. The reason for this is because it worked. It worked really really well. Troops from China to Poland would be locked in a life-or-death struggle against the Mongol hordes when suddenly the Mongols would turn tail and run, their spirit to fight seemingly broken. As a chorus of cheers went up from the exhausted defenders, they would inevitably give chase to the invaders – only to watch as the retreating Mongols turn again, in full force, and on ground that supports them.