The Air Force's F-15E 'bomb truck' can now carry 15 JDAMs - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TACTICAL

The Air Force’s F-15E ‘bomb truck’ can now carry 15 JDAMs

The U.S. Air Force has successfully tested a new loadout for the F-15E Strike Eagle that allows the highly capable multirole fighter to carry a whopping 15 JDAMs at once, though it won’t be able to leverage them all in a single sortie.

Entering service more than a decade after the F-15 Eagle it’s based on, the F-15E is a multi-role fighter that specializes in high-speed interdiction and ground attack operations. That means the Strike Eagle uses the same brute force, high speed, and maneuverability that’s made the Eagle the world’s undisputed air-to-air champ for strike missions against targets on the ground.

The Air Force’s F-15E ‘bomb truck’ can now carry 15 JDAMs
An F-15E Strike Eagle flies a combat patrol mission over Afghanistan . The F-15E is from the 391st Expeditionary Fighter Squadron at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Aaron Allmon)

Related: HOW AN F-15E SHOT DOWN AN IRAQI GUNSHIP WITH A BOMB

In keeping with the F-15E’s ground attack specialty, Strike Eagles have come to rely on JDAMs, or Joint Direct Attack Munitions, for delivering ordnance with pinpoint accuracy during their bombing runs. JDAMs are, in their simplest form, dumb bombs with a smart guidance system added to them.

Each JDAM’s guidance system includes a GPS receiver and aerodynamic control surfaces to guide the bomb’s descent. With the guidance kit installed and GPS working properly (i.e. isn’t being jammed by the opponent), JDAMs ranging in weight from 500 to 2,000 pounds can hit their targets within less than five meters at distances as great as 15 nautical miles. Of the 400,000 or so JDAMs Boeing has built, around 30,000 have also added laser targeting capabilities, giving pilots even more options when engaging ground targets.

The Air Force’s F-15E ‘bomb truck’ can now carry 15 JDAMs
U.S. Air Force F-15E Strike Eagles, from the 335th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron, drop 2,000-pound Joint Direct Attack Munitions on a cave in eastern Afghanistan. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Michael B. Keller)

The Air Force’s inventory of F-15E Strike Eagles can be fitted with nine of these broadly capable weapons currently, but the 85th Test and Evaluation Squadron has now confirmed that F-15Es can manage a whopping six more.

“Currently the F-15E is authorized to carry a max of nine JDAMs, but the success of this test expands that to 15 JDAMs,” said Maj. Andrew Swanson, F-15E Weapons System Officer, 85th TES.

Unfortunately, as much as we here at Sandboxx News love shouting “bomb truck” into the air while we spin in our office chairs, the six additional JDAMs these Strike Eagles can carry can’t actually be leveraged in a single combat sortie. Instead, the goal is to use each F-15E to carry those additional bombs to austere landing strips where they can be used to rapidly re-arm the jet they came from, or to re-arm other fighters in the area.

“The Strike Eagle can now carry enough JDAMs for an active combat mission, land at a remote location, and reload itself and/or another aircraft – such as an F-35 or F-22 – for additional combat sorties,” said Lt. Col. Jacob Lindaman, commander, 85th TES. 

The F-15E has already been carrying up to three JDAMs beneath each of the jet’s two “Fast Pack” conformal fuel tanks, as well as two more that can be carried in place of external fuel tanks, and one more on the fighter’s centerline. The 85th Test and Evaluation Squadron was able to successfully mount three more JDAMs on upper hardpoints on each “Fast Pack,” but it doesn’t appear as though the weapons can actually be deployed from this position.

The Air Force’s F-15E ‘bomb truck’ can now carry 15 JDAMs
The 85th Test and Evaluation Squadron successfully flew an F-15E Strike Eagle carrying six JDAMs on a single side of the aircraft on Feb 22, 2021. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Related: WHY IS AMERICA BUYING THE F-15EX INSTEAD OF MORE F-35S?

Despite not being able to drop these additional bombs, this is still an important development as the U.S. military pivots back toward an era of great power competition. Right now, in order to re-arm F-15Es on austere airstrips, the U.S. Air Force has to dedicate two C-130s to the job. One would carry bombs and JDAM kits for assembly, the other would carry the personnel required for the job. By carrying that extra firepower on the F-15Es themselves, they can eliminate the need for the second C-130. Fighter aircraft are also more survivable in lightly contested airspace than the large and comparatively slow C-130, reducing the inherent risk involved in re-arming aircraft while forward deployed.

This concept isn’t unique to the F-15E. The Air Force and Marine Corps have both been experimenting with the idea of re-arming F-35s from austere airstrips with an eye toward the potential for island-hopping campaigns in the Pacific.

The Air Force’s F-15E ‘bomb truck’ can now carry 15 JDAMs
U.S. Marines with Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 121, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, conduct the first ever hot load on the F-35B Lightning II in support of Weapons and Tactics Instructor Course 1-17 at Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Ariz. (Marine Corps Photo)

China’s massive area denial bubble, created by their hypersonic anti-ship missiles, extends nearly a thousand miles from its shores, but America’s carrier-aircraft offer a combat radius of only 500-750 miles. In order to extend their range, the Navy has been exploring aerial refueling supported by drones, and both branches have tested landing F-35s on dirt airstrips as they might need to if their carriers can’t close the distance between them for fear of being sunk.

In those circumstances, heavy-lift helicopters have also been tested as a means of getting the resources to these aircraft where they need them, but F-35s could also be re-armed thanks to JDAMs flown in beneath the wings of a Strike Eagle.

Jamming 15 JDAMs under the wings of an F-15E might sound like putting a hat on a hat, but it might be the capability that gets America’s jets back into the fight faster in the event of a conflict in the Pacific. When every second counts, it never hurts to have an extra six JDAMs hanging off your belt.

This article originally appeared on Sandboxx. Follow Sandboxx on Facebook.

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These were some of the ballsiest pilots of WWII, and their planes didn’t even have engines

In World War II, airborne units were really in their infancy. The Germans pioneered their use in combat, and the United States built perhaps the largest airborne force in the world, with five airborne divisions.


But these divisions had a problem. There weren’t many planes to transport them for large-scale airborne ops. Today, most transports used in airborne operations have rear ramps for loading cargo (like, jeeps and artillery). Back then, they didn’t.

The C-47 Skytrain was based on the DC-3 airliner. The C-46 Commado was also based on an airliner.

The Air Force’s F-15E ‘bomb truck’ can now carry 15 JDAMs
A C-47 takes off, towing a Waco CG-4 glider during Operation Market Garden. (Imperial War Museum photo)

Yeah, paratroops could be dropped, but they could be scattered (thus creating the rule of the LGOPs). How would they drop the heavier equipment, and keep the crews together? The answer came with the development of gliders. Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union pioneered the use of them, but the U.S. and Great Britain built lots of them.

According to the National World War II Glider Pilots Association’s web site, the United States built over 13,000 CG-4A Waco gliders. Each of these gliders could carry 15 troops, or a Jeep and four paratroopers, a trailer, up to 5,000 pounds of supplies, an anti-tank gun plus operators, or a 75mm artillery piece and its crew.

The Air Force’s F-15E ‘bomb truck’ can now carry 15 JDAMs
Troops with the 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment load some heavy firepower onto a CG-4 glider. (US Army photo)

The U.S. also used British Horsa gliders to carry even larger groups of troops (up to 30 in a glider) or bigger amounts of supplies. Over 300 of these gliders were used on D-Day, one of those instances where the arsenal of democracy had to borrow a plane made by an ally.

About 6,500 glider pilots were trained during World War II, taking part in eight missions from Sicily to Luzon. In the 1950s, advancements in transport aircraft, both fixed-wing and rotary-wing, led to the glider units being deactivated in 1952. But the gliders helped deliver firepower, troops, and supplies during World War II – when that ability was needed.

The video below shows how gliders were used during the Normandy invasion.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The survivalist’s guide to fashioning a blade from scraps

As far as useful tools in a jam go, it’s tough to beat the general practicality of a knife. Whether it’s marking a trail, field dressing an animal, or defending yourself, a sharp piece of steel on your hip can solve a number of problems you may face in a survival situation; which is exactly why so many people maintain a good quality knife in their EDC (Everyday Carry) loadout. But what if you find yourself stuck in a long-term survival situation without ready access to a knife?


You could go on without one, or you could make one, using nothing but a few common hand tools and some scrap metal.


The Air Force’s F-15E ‘bomb truck’ can now carry 15 JDAMs

I found this scrap carbon steel in a metal recycling bin behind my neighbors shop.

Scrap metal

The first thing you need to do is find yourself a suitable piece of metal. While you can usually get a sense of the sort of metal you’re working with with a visual inspection (stainless steel holds a shine while carbon steel will brown or rust, for instance), your top priority is finding a sturdy piece of metal that’s somewhat close to the size and shape of a knife. The closer it starts in size, the easier a day you’ll have. For a good survival knife that fits well in my hand, I usually prefer a piece of metal that’s somewhere between 10 and 12 inches long, less than a half inch thick, and 1.5 to 2 inches wide, but it may take some work to cut your piece into those dimensions.

Low carbon scrap steel is soft and doesn’t make for excellent knives, but in a pinch, even a rusting blade that needs sharpening is better than no blade at all.

Tools

There’s no getting around the need to have a hack saw when working with metal. In fact, if the scrap metal you locate is too long, it’s the only tool you can’t do without. Beyond that, all you really need is a metal file or access to plenty of sidewalks or blacktop. Any of the three will do.
The Air Force’s F-15E ‘bomb truck’ can now carry 15 JDAMs

Other tools that could help are a C-clamp or vice, sharpie, clips, and sandpaper.

Cut the steel into the general shape of a blade

Use your hacksaw to cut your scrap steel until it meets your general length and width requirements. The harder the steel (based on carbon levels and if it’s been treated) the harder the cutting will be. Be patient and careful not to hurt yourself. If you need to make this knife, chances are good no ambulances will be coming if you suffer a nasty gash.

The Air Force’s F-15E ‘bomb truck’ can now carry 15 JDAMs

If you don’t have a clamp, you can step on the handle and saw near your feet for leverage.

Once you’ve got it cut somewhat to shape, saw off a corner to create what will become the point of the blade. If the steel is too wide to fit into your hand comfortably, you can keep on hacking to narrow down the handle portion as well. This is a lot more work, but can also provide a ridge if you’d like to add a handguard down the road.

The Air Force’s F-15E ‘bomb truck’ can now carry 15 JDAMs

The ridge between the handle and blade creates a stop on one side for a handguard when you’re making more elaborate knives.

Grind, grind, grind

If you have a metal file, hold the knife in one hand while carefully using the file to shape the profile of the blade. Be careful, if you have access to a vice, put the blade in it while you work. If not, finding a pair of work gloves can help keep the skin on your fingers.

The Air Force’s F-15E ‘bomb truck’ can now carry 15 JDAMs

By using the width of the metal to dictate the size of the blade, you only need to shape one corner.

Once the rough profile of the blade has been shaped, re-orient how you hold the knife to work on the blade’s edge. This will take a long time, and if you’re so inclined, you could spend a whole day or more making one very pretty, even edge. If you’re in a hurry, however, file it down until you have a reasonably fine point and a good sharp edge and leave looking pretty for the guys that aren’t making their own knives out of garbage.

The Air Force’s F-15E ‘bomb truck’ can now carry 15 JDAMs

If you don’t have a metal file, you’re not out of luck. Sidewalks and black top are very abrasive surfaces, and you can whittle away at the metal edge of your blade using either with enough patience and care. This is a great way to shave your knuckles, and you will ruin your driveway, but I’ve managed to fashion a workable blade or two using this method.

Making a handle

Depending on the tools you have on hand, there are probably rough metal splinters hanging off the edges of your knife and once your hand gets sweaty (or bloody) keeping a grip will be impossible. Fortunately, there are lots of materials that make for decent handles.

The Air Force’s F-15E ‘bomb truck’ can now carry 15 JDAMs

You can put some real time in to weave a leather strap, or just tightly wrap 550 cord around the handle.

Lots of military guys are familiar with making things out of paracord, and knife handles are no exception. Leather belts, rope, and duct tape are all excellent knife handle materials. Wrap the material around the handle of the knife as tightly as you can, overlapping it by however many layers as necessary to make the handle a comfortable girth.

Then get your ass out of dodge with your new prison-shank in hand.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The US’ most powerful helicopter ever enters service next year

The Marine Corps is nearing the end of testing for a new heavy-lift helicopter expected to be a game-changer for the service.

The CH-53K King Stallion is on track to enter service in 2019, replacing aging and worn CH-53 Echo heavy-lift helicopters.


While the aircrafts look similar, and have comparable footprints, program managers said April 9, 2018, at the annual Sea-Air-Space exposition that the new aircraft represents a leap forward in capability and intelligence.

“[This is] the most powerful helicopter the United States has ever fielded,” said Marine Col. Hank Vanderborght, the Corps’ H-53 program manager. “Not only the most powerful, the most modern and also the smartest.”

The King Stallion recently lifted an external load of 36,000 pounds into a hover and hoisted a Joint Light Tactical Vehicle into the air, expanding a capability envelope that is ultimately expected to see the new helicopter carrying three times the load that its predecessor could handle.

The Air Force’s F-15E ‘bomb truck’ can now carry 15 JDAMs
A CH-53K King Stallion aircraft prepares to land at Sikorsky Aircraft Corporation, Jupiter, Fla., March 8, 2016.
(US Marine Corps photo)

With flight tests ongoing since October 2015, the King Stallion has logged more than 800 flight hours and is headed into the final stages of testing before initial operational capability sometime in 2019

Smart controls and a fly-by-wire system make the aircraft safer to fly and decrease the workload for the pilot, Vanderborght said.

“A month ago, I got to fly the 53K for the first time,” said Vanderborght, a CH-53E pilot by trade. “It is absolutely night and day between Echo and the Kilo. I could have pretty much flown the entire flight without touching my controls.”

That matters, he said, because in “99-plus percent” of aviation mishaps, a major cause is human error.

“In degraded visual environments, we lose sight of the ground and crash the aircraft. If you’re able to take the human out of the loop, you’re going to increase that safety factor by multiple Xs,” he said. “That’s what the 53K is going to do for the Marines.”

The CH-53K is equipped to fly so the pilot “pretty much could be sipping on a martini while the aircraft does its thing,” Vanderborght said.

All that capability comes with a price tag, but it’s not as high as some feared it would be.

In 2017, Rep. Niki Tsongas, D-Mass., raised concerns that the per unit cost for the King Stallion was climbing, to $122 million apiece in development. Program officials said the aircraft was never set to cost that much in production.

Vanderborght said the unit cost of the aircraft is now set to come in at $87 million. While that means the King Stallion will still be the most expensive helo the Marine Corps has ever bought, it’s below the service’s initial cost estimate of $89 million in production.

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7 weirdest military vehicles you haven’t heard of

In the struggle of armed conflict, victory is best achieved by stacking the odds in your favor. In the effort to constantly outdo each other, militaries around the world have innovated and invented some strange contraptions. We give you seven of the strangest vehicles from seven different categories that were actually built:


The Air Force’s F-15E ‘bomb truck’ can now carry 15 JDAMs
The 150 TAP was a creative and cost-effective vehicle for a post-WWII French Army. (Photo from ridingvintage.com)

 

1. Vespa 150 TAP

Representing motorbikes, the Vespa 150 TAP was an anti-tank scooter designed for use by French paratroopers. First introduced in 1956, the scooter was built by Ateliers de Construction de Motocycles et Automobiles, the licensed assembler of Vespa scooters in France. The scooters were equipped with a U.S.-made M20 75mm recoilless rifle, capable of penetrating 100mm of armor out to its maximum range of 3.9 miles.

Designed for airborne operations, the scooters would be dropped in pairs along with a two-man team—one scooter carried the gun while the other carried the ammo. Without any sights, the gun was not designed to be fired from the scooter. Instead, it was designed to be mounted on an M1917 Browning machine gun tripod which was also carried on the scooter. In an emergency, and ideally at close range, the gun could be fired while the scooter was moving. The scooters were cheap, costing only 0 at the time. 600 150 TAP’s were built between 1956 and 1959.

The Air Force’s F-15E ‘bomb truck’ can now carry 15 JDAMs
A Mini Moke aboard H.M.S. Aurora (Photo from shipsnostalgia.com)

 

2. Mini Moke

Representing four-wheeled vehicles, the Mini Moke was a small utility and recreational vehicle. Prototyped as a lightweight military vehicle, the British Motor Company hoped to take a portion of Land Rover’s military vehicle profits. The Moke was pitched to the British Army and US Army as a parachute-droppable vehicle. However, its low ground-clearance and underpowered engine led to the Moke’s rejection. Instead, it was adopted by the British and New Zealand Royal Navies. The Moke’s small size (10 feet long and 4 ¼ feet wide) made it ideal for driving on the deck of an aircraft carrier and around crowded docks.

The Air Force’s F-15E ‘bomb truck’ can now carry 15 JDAMs
Some concepts are best left unbuilt. (Photo by Alan Wilson/Posted on worldwarwings.com)

 

3. Kugelpanzer

Representing tanks, the Kugelpanzer translates literally to “spherical tank.” A derivative of the 1917 Treffas-Wagen, the Kugelpanzer was a German solution to the problem of crossing the open killing fields of No-Man’s land. Following the adoption of Blitzkrieg and the evolution of maneuver warfare, the Germans abandoned the concept. Measuring at 5 x 5.5 ft, the tank had a top speed of 8 kph via its two hemispherical wheels and was stabilized by a single rear wheel. Having only 5mm of armor at its thickest point and carrying just one machine gun, the tank would not have fared well in WWII. The exact circumstances regarding the capture of the only surviving example remains unknown. It was captured in 1945 by the Soviets either in Manchuria after it was sent by the Germans to the Japanese, or at the Kummesdorf testing grounds where the Soviets also captured the Maus tank (ironically, the heaviest fully-enclosed armored fighting vehicle ever built). The Kugelpanzer is on display at the Kubinka Tank Museum in Russia.

The Air Force’s F-15E ‘bomb truck’ can now carry 15 JDAMs
The XCH-62 between a CH-47 Chinook (left) and Soviet Mi-24 Hind. (Photo from xenophon-mil.org)

 

4. BV XCH-62

Representing rotary-wing aircraft, the Boeing Vertol XCH-62 was an experimental aircraft built from the existing CH-47 Chinook heavy-lift helicopter. The Chinook’s lift capacity of 28,800 lbs was dwarfed by the Soviet Mi-26 and Mi-12 helicopters (44,000 lbs and 88,000 lbs respectively). In an effort to catch up to the Soviets, Boeing added a third engine to the Chinook, larger rotors, and converted its fuselage to a flying crane to create the XCH-62. These modifications allowed the helicopter to straddle heavier cargoes like armored vehicles while still carrying up to twelve troops in its slender fuselage.

One example was built in 1974, but challenges in harnessing the torque of the three engines led to delays—Congress cut the program’s funding the next year. The XCH-62 remains the largest helicopter ever built in a western country. The prototype was displayed at the U.S. Army Aviation Museum at Fort Rucker, Alabama until it was scrapped in 2005.

The Air Force’s F-15E ‘bomb truck’ can now carry 15 JDAMs
The VVA-14 used detachable, inflatable pontoons at one point. (Photo from warhistoryonline.com)

 

5. Bartini Beriev VVA-14

Representing fixed-wing aircraft, the VVA-14 was a Soviet wing-in-ground-effect aircraft built in the early 1970s. The VVA-14 was designed to take off from water and fly at high speed just above the water over long distances. Its mission was to skim the surface of the ocean in order to detect and destroy U.S. submarines. Two prototypes were built, though development was marred by flotation problems, engine issues, and the death of the aircraft’s designer. The project was scrapped after 107 flights and 103 flight hours. One example survives today in a dismantled state at the Soviet Central Air Force Museum in Moscow.

The Air Force’s F-15E ‘bomb truck’ can now carry 15 JDAMs
The last surviving example of the VVA-14. (Photos from warhistoryonline.com)
The Air Force’s F-15E ‘bomb truck’ can now carry 15 JDAMs
Sailors of the USS Supply load a camel. (Illustration by U.S. War Department)

 

6. USS Supply

Representing surface ships, the USS Supply initially appears to be an error on this list—the fully-rigged ship looked like most other warships that sailed in the latter half of the 19th century. The story that makes the Supply an oddity begins in 1855, when Secretary of War Jefferson Davis (yes, that Jefferson Davis) conceived the bright idea for the U.S. Army to use camels during operations in the Southwest. In order to bring the humped creatures to America, Supply was converted into the U.S. Navy’s first and only camel carrier. She was refitted with special hatches, stables, hoists, and a camel car in order to load and unload the dromedaries.

Supply picked up a herd of camels in North Africa, where it was discovered that she still could not accommodate the towering camel humps. In order to fit the camels in the hold, the crew had to cut away sections of the deck where the humps could stick out. Supply accomplished her mission, delivering the camels to Indianola, Texas in 1856. The camel cavalry concept was scrapped at the onset of the Civil War and Supply‘s service as a camel carrier ended.

The Air Force’s F-15E ‘bomb truck’ can now carry 15 JDAMs
Surcouf was the largest submarine in the world until the Japanese I-400 submarine in 1943. (Photo from warhistoryonline.com)

 

7. Surcouf

Representing submarines, the French cruiser submarine Surcouf was built as a loophole in the Washington Naval Treaty. Following WWI, strict limits were placed on the warships of the world’s major naval powers like displacement and gun caliber. However, these restrictions were applied to battleships and cruisers, not submarines. Intended to be the lead ship in her class, Surcouf was the only cruiser submarine built by France. Commissioned in 1934, Surcouf was equipped with ten torpedo tubes, six anti-aircraft guns, and two 8″ guns, the largest placed on any cruiser submarine. She also featured a hangar which housed an observation float plane used for gun calibration. Surcouf escaped Nazi capture, but sunk in the Caribbean Sea after a collision with an unknown ship in February 1942.

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The state of Coast Guard icebreakers

Bad news, folks. If the U.S. had to muscle its way into regions choked with ice to deal with a recalcitrant foe, it’d have hard time.


The fact of the matter is that the U.S. Coast Guard’s icebreaker capability has dwindled big time, and the Navy has no icebreakers in its fleet.

The Air Force’s F-15E ‘bomb truck’ can now carry 15 JDAMs
The Coast Guard icebreakers USCGC Polar Sea (WAGB 10) and USCGC Polar Star (WAGB 11) during a resupply mission to McMurdo Research Station. (U.S. Coast Guard photo)

At this time, the Coast Guard has one heavy icebreaker, the Polar Star (WAGB 10) and one medium icebreaker, the Healy (WAGB 20) in service. According to a 2016 Congressional Research Service report, the Polar Star’s sister ship, the Polar Sea (WAGB 11), has been inoperable since 2010 after five of its diesel engines failed.

As a result, the United States has a very big problem. The Polar Star is down at the South Pole, resupplying the McMurdo Research Station. That means that the Healy is the only icebreaker available for operations in the Arctic.

The Polar Sea? Right now, it is being cannibalized to keep the Polar Star operable, according to a report from USNI News.

The Air Force’s F-15E ‘bomb truck’ can now carry 15 JDAMs
The icebreaker USCGC Healy (WAGB 20) in the Arctic Ocean. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

According to the “16th Edition of Combat Fleets of the World,” the Polar Sea was commissioned in 1976, while the Polar Star was commissioned in 1977. USNI noted that plans do not include beginning construction of new icebreakers until 2020, with them entering service in 2024 at the earliest.

If you’ve followed ship programs like the Littoral Combat Ship, the Zumwalt-class destroyers, or the Gerald R. Ford, that date could be a best-case scenario. The Polar Sea’s operational life is expected to last until 2022, two years prior to the earliest date the new icebreakers would enter service.

Russia, on the other hand, has 41 icebreakers. In addition to maintaining a large fleet of icebreakers, Russia has been trying to winterize modern interceptors like the MiG-31 Foxhound and strike aircraft like the Su-34 Fullback, and its new icebreaker construction push includes nuclear-powered icebreakers.

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This Black Cat was bad luck for the Japanese navy

The fighting in the South Pacific during World War II was vicious. One of the big reasons was how evenly-matched the two sides were. One plane called the Black Cat, though, helped the Allies gain a big advantage – and was an omen of ill fortune for the Japanese navy.


According to the Pacific War Encyclopedia, that plane was a modified version of the Consolidated PBY-5A Catalina. This flying boat was a well-proven maritime patrol aircraft – sighting the German battleship Bismarck in time for the British aircraft carrier HMS Ark Royal to launch the strikes that crippled the Nazi vessel in May, 1941.

The PBY had also detected the Japanese fleets at the Battle of Midway.

The Air Force’s F-15E ‘bomb truck’ can now carry 15 JDAMs
PBY-5A Catalina flying over the Aleutian Islands during World War II. (US Navy photo)

The Catalina had one very big asset: long range. It could fly over 3,000 miles, and was also capable of carrying two torpedoes or up to 4,000 pounds of bombs. The PBY drew first blood at Midway, putting a torpedo in the side of the tanker Akebono Maru. But the long legs came with a price in performance. The PBYs had a top speed of just under 200 mph – making them easy prey if a Japanese A6M Zero saw them.

The planes also were lightly armed, with three .30-caliber machine guns and two .50-caliber machine guns. In “Incredible Victory,” Walter Lord related about how two PBYs were shot up in the space of an hour during the run-up to the Battle of Midway by a Japanese patrol plane. One “sea story” related by Morison had it that one PBY once radioed, “Sighted enemy carrier. Please notify next of kin.”

The Air Force’s F-15E ‘bomb truck’ can now carry 15 JDAMs
Consolidated PBY-5A Catalina on a patrol during World War II. (US Navy photo)

Planner found, however, that flying PBY missions at night helped keep them alive. During the the Guadalcanal campaign, the first PBY-5As equipped with radar arrived and the first full squadron of “Black Cats” intended for night operations arrived later that year. According to Samuel Eliot Morison’s “The Struggle For Guadalcanal,” the “Black Cats” were a game-changer.

These Black Cats did a little bit of everything. They could carry bombs – often set for a delay so as to create a “mining” effect. In essence, it would be using the shockwave of the bomb to cause flooding and to damage equipment on the enemy vessel. They also attacked airfields, carried torpedoes, spotted naval gunfire during night-time bombardment raids, and of course, searched for enemy ships.

The Air Force’s F-15E ‘bomb truck’ can now carry 15 JDAMs

Morison wrote about how the crews of the “Black Cats” would have a tradition of gradually filling out the drawing of a cat. The second mission would add eyes, then following missions would add whiskers and other features.

Japan would try to catch the Black Cats – knowing that they not only packed a punch, but could bring in other Allied planes. Often, the planes, painted black, would fly at extremely low level, thwarting the Zeros sent to find them.

The Air Force’s F-15E ‘bomb truck’ can now carry 15 JDAMs
A PBY Catalina in service with the Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

After World War II, many Catalinas were retired, but some served on. The last military unit to operate them was Brazil’s 1st Air Transport Squadron until they were retired in 1982, according to the website of the Brazilian Air Force Aerospace Museum.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The Hellfire missile’s new replacement is cleared by the Army

The Joint Air-to-Ground missile has been cleared to begin low-rate initial production, weapons maker Lockheed Martin said on June 27, 2018.

The JAGM is the successor to the vaunted Hellfire missile and is meant to provide precision standoff-strike capability against high-value fixed and moving targets, both armored and unarmored, on land and at sea, even in poor weather conditions.

The new missile combines semi-active laser guidance, like that used on the Hellfire II, and millimeter-wave radar, like that used by the Longbow Hellfire, into a single system, which is paired with the warhead, motor, and flight-control system of the Hellfire Romeo missile.


Lockheed was the sole bidder for the missile contract, taking it on in summer 2015, and the weapons maker will give the Army 2,631 missiles under the production contract, Col. David Warnick, the Army program manager for Joint Attack Munition Systems, told Defense News.

The Air Force’s F-15E ‘bomb truck’ can now carry 15 JDAMs
Sailors load an AGM-114N Hellfire missile onto an SH-60B Sea Hawk helicopter on the flight deck of the guided-missile destroyeru00a0USS Jason Dunham.
(U.S. Navy photo)

The Hellfire was originally designed to be a 100-pound armor-piercing weapon to destroy tanks, but it has seen extensive use in the war against ISIS as a precision-guided munition that can be fired from planes, helicopters and drones. The Army has had to increase production for fear of running out.

The JAGM is to replace the Hellfire on all the platforms that fire the older missile. The new missile is also expected to be used on unmanned vehicles, like the MQ-9 Reaper drone. During the engineering and manufacturing development phase, the JAGM was tested and qualified on the AH-64E Apache and AH-1Z Viper attack helicopters.

During testing, pilots spoke highly of the JAGM, particularly of the ability to toggle between semi-active-laser and radio-frequency guidance within seconds.

“Using a SAL missile, the last six seconds of the missile flight is the most critical to keep your laser sight on target,” Michael Kennedy, an experimental test pilot with the Aviation Flight Test Directorate at Redstone Test Center, said an Army release early 2018.

“If you’re getting shot at and your line of sight goes off the target, your missile misses,” Kennedy said. “JAGM can start off using the laser, then transition to the radar portion and still hit the target if the crew has to use evasive maneuvers.”

Lockheed said it had successfully carried out 10 limited-user test flights in the months leading up to approval for low-rate initial production.

The Air Force’s F-15E ‘bomb truck’ can now carry 15 JDAMs
US Army soldiers load an AGM-114 Hellfire missile on an AH-64E Apache helicopter in Kunduz, Afghanistan, May 31, 2017.
(U.S. Army photo)

A Pentagon Director of Operational Test and Evaluation report released in January 2018 said the Army carried out two successful ground launches and 20 successful air launches during fiscal year 2017.

“The test results demonstrated the system’s combat effectiveness and technical maturity,” Lockheed said in a release. “Additionally, the program successfully conducted supplier and prime contractor production readiness reviews establishing the program’s readiness to move into LRIP.”

The JAGM system has demonstrated more than 95% reliability in flight testing, Lockheed said in its release, adding that the system is being built into the production line by the same team that has churned out more than 75,000 Hellfire missiles.

JAGM’s development has not been without issues, though.

The DOTE report said several technical issues cropped up during testing and that, on several occasions during tests, the missile missed its target or failed to detonate. The Army said that the issues that appeared in earlier tests have been corrected, according to Defense News.

Warnick, of the Army’s Joint Attack Munition Systems program, said operational testing would take place in the 2019 fiscal year, which runs from October 2018 to September 2019. That will be followed by a full-rate production review between March and September 2020, he told Defense News.

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The Air Force will drop its high-energy laser weapons program

Imagine you’re in the Air Force, working the flightline during a war with China when, suddenly, a Chinese J-20 is seen nearby. It’s about to come rain death on your base and — most importantly — you. Luckily, the ground-based laser defenses zap it out of the sky before the dorm rats even get a chance to raid the Burger King.

The Air Force probably never saw its High-Energy Laser Flexible Prototype that way, but it’s definitely how it could have played out. But we’ll never know, because the lasers are gone for now.


The Air Force’s F-15E ‘bomb truck’ can now carry 15 JDAMs

Artist rendering of the High-Energy Laser Flexible Prototype in action.

The military isn’t giving up on lasers entirely, despite the recent cancellations of laser weapons systems by both the Air Force and Army. The Pentagon just isn’t sure where the focus of directed energy should be right now. The purpose of the original High-Energy Laser Flexible Prototype was to build a ground-based defense system, then scale it to individual aircraft defenses. The Air Force is no longer interested in that direction.

We’re trying to understand where we actually want to go,” Michael Jirjis, who oversees the Air Force strategic development, planning, and experimentation office’s directed-energy efforts, told Air Force magazine. “Internally to the Air Force, we’ll hold another DE summit sometime later in the spring to understand senior leader investment and where they want to go for the community at large.”
The Air Force’s F-15E ‘bomb truck’ can now carry 15 JDAMs

Firms like Lockheed-Martin are still developing laser defenses for tactical aircraft.

(Lockheed)

But developing lasers and microwave systems will continue, just not with the HEL, which would have been operational around March 2020 if everything went as planned. The scrapping of the program took little more than a month after requests for proposals were sent out.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The Soviet Union also made an airborne armored personnel carrier

The Russian BMD series of airborne infantry fighting vehicles are really quite impressive. Both the BMD-1 and BMD-2 provided Soviet airborne troops with some serious firepower — more than enough to make life miserable for opposing forces in the rear areas that airborne troops can reach. But the Soviets developed another armored vehicle to fight alongside the BMD series — one that complements the BMD’s lethality with payload.

The BTR-D is an airborne armored personnel carrier. It has a crew of three and is capable of holding up to ten troops. But it isn’t just a troop transport, the BTR-D also packs some heat in terms of armament. Its heaviest main weapon option is a 30mm automatic grenade launcher, better known as the AGS-17.


So, seeing as the Soviets had already developed the impressive BMD series, why would they need an armored personnel carrier as well? The answer is volume. The BMD-1 is only capable of carrying five troops and, according to some sources, the BMD-2 only hauls four. The 10-troop capacity of the BTR-D is a huge benefit. In rear areas with few opposing tanks or infantry fighting vehicles, ten paratroopers backed by an armored vehicle with a 30mm automatic grenade launcher and two bow-mounted 7.62x54mm PKM machine guns can bring some serious hurt to a support unit.

The Air Force’s F-15E ‘bomb truck’ can now carry 15 JDAMs

The BTR-D had an anti-aircraft variant that packed a ZU-23 twin-barrel 23mm anti-aircraft gun.

(Photo by Serge Serebro, Vitebsk Popular News)

By now, if you’re familiar with the impressive firepower of the BMD-2, you might be asking yourself, “why not just carve out some space for carrying more troops?” The simple truth is that nothing’s free. If you want to maintain airborne capabilities, you need to consider a vehicle’s weight and size (planes, even a C-5 Galaxy, have only so much volume). The design of the BTR-D prioritized troop capacity over armament, meaning there simply wasn’t room for the type of firepower found on the BMD series.

The Air Force’s F-15E ‘bomb truck’ can now carry 15 JDAMs

The BTR-D was the basis for the 2S9 self-propelled mortar.

(DOD)

There were several variants of the BTR-D created to meet the needs of a variety of missions. One of those variants is equipped with anti-aircraft guns — a nasty surprise for pilots over what they thought was friendly territory.

Learn more about this Soviet airborne APC in the video below!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jBtXkzsADFM

www.youtube.com

Articles

This is the most awesome Delta Force recruiting video we’ve ever seen

It’s an oldie but a goodie — and it’s likely the only publicly-available video showing real-deal Delta Force operators.


Leaked during the height of the Iraq war in 2008, this video crept its way onto YouTube and caused quite a splash when it hit the net. The original footage has since been taken down, but it was added to this compilation video of all Special Forces. Rumors around the original video claimed it was put together by the 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta to help recruit new members to “The Unit.”

As that Tier 1 Joint Special Operations group was tasked with fighting the top leaders of the insurgency in Iraq, veterans of the unit from the ’90s and 2000s were burning out — and suffering casualties. In fact, “No Easy Day” author and former SEAL Team 6 commando Matt Bissonnette wrote that some DEVGRU SEALS were tasked to run with Delta in Iraq because the squadrons were under manned.

So it stands to reason that Delta needed new blood. And with an assessment that matriculates only a handful who try, combined with a brutal operational tempo at the time that saw squadrons executing sometimes three raids per night for a 90 day deployment, The Unit had to get soldiers in the door.

Tactical driving? Check. Vehicle takedowns from a Little Bird? Check. Lots of breaching and A-10 CAS? Check.

There’s a lot more to the video to note (including the Delta boys tooling around Baghdad in a specially-modified Stryker vehicle Pandur 1 Armored Ground Mobility Vehicle), but this’ll just give you a taste of what’s in store.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This Bearcat has been unjustly overshadowed by history

When you think about Grumman fighters, the Wildcat, the Panther, and the Tomcat all spring to mind. And for good reason — these planes are all classics. But there is one Grumman fighter that didn’t quite get a chance to shine in World War II, but it did see some action in Southeast Asia.


The Air Force’s F-15E ‘bomb truck’ can now carry 15 JDAMs

Grumman F8F Bearcats line up on the Essex-class aircraft carrier USS Valley Forge (CV 45)

(U.S. Navy)

During World War II, the Navy was deploying the F6F Hellcat and the F4U Corsair was operated by the Marine Corps. The Hellcat was a very tame plane, but the Corsair — known as the “Ensign Eliminator” and foisted on the Marines — simply had higher performance. The Navy wanted the best of both planes. They wanted the F8F Bearcat.

The Air Force’s F-15E ‘bomb truck’ can now carry 15 JDAMs

French F8F Bearcats prepare to take off to carry out a napalm strike in Southeast Asia.

(U.S. Navy)

At the heart of the Bearcat was the Pratt and Whitney R-2800. This was the powerplant used by both the Corsair and Hellcat, but the Bearcat was much lighter, which gave it extreme performance. The Bearcat also packed a significant punch — to the tune of four M2 .50-caliber machine guns. If that wasn’t enough, the Bearcat was also able to haul five-inch rockets or a 1,000-pound bomb.

The Bearcat’s primary mission was to intercept enemy planes. The plane had a “bubble” canopy (pretty much a standard feature on today’s fighters) to improve the situational awareness of pilots. The Bearcat had a top speed of 421 miles per hour and a maximum range of 1,105 miles. It stuck around long enough to see some upgrades, but was quickly replaced by the onset of fighter jets, like the F9F Panther.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UkeN4riBy4A

www.youtube.com

The Bearcat did see some combat, though. The French acquired Bearcats from the United States and used them in Southeast Asia. Some of those same planes were later passed on to the South Vietnamese.

The Bearcat also got some time in the spotlight when it was flown by the Blue Angels, from 1946 to 1950.

Learn more about this almost forgotten Grumman cat in the video below.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This is Boeing’s new autonomous fighter

Boeing has a new plane that is sure to raise eyebrows around the world. The Boeing Airpower Teaming System is boringly named, but it’s also an autonomous fighter jet that could protect human pilots and assist on missions as early as 2020.

Yup. Robot fighter planes are in flight, and they’re about to come to market.


First, a quick look at the weapon’s missions. It’s supposed to fly in combat, perform early warning missions, and conduct reconnaissance. So, basically, it’s a jack of all trades. According to a Boeing press release, the plane will:

— Provide fighter-like performance, measuring 38 feet long (11.7 metres) and able to fly more than 2,000 nautical miles
— Integrate sensor packages onboard to support intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance missions and electronic warfare
— Use artificial intelligence to fly independently or in support of manned aircraft while maintaining safe distance between other aircraft.

Boeing hasn’t announced the plane’s exact capabilities which, since they want to eventually sell it around the world, is probably a good idea. No one who buys the plane is going to want all their adversaries to already know its limits, even if there is no pilot to kill.

But expect aviation media to keep a firm eye on the plane. One of the biggest selling points of autonomous fighters is that the planes won’t be limited to speeds, turning rates, and altitudes where humans can survive. See, the human meat sack in the middle of the plane is often the most fragile and valuable part of it. So everyone wants to know what the plane can do without a pilot.

“The Boeing Airpower Teaming System will provide a disruptive advantage for allied forces’ manned/unmanned missions,” said Kristin Robertson, vice president and general manager of Boeing Autonomous Systems. “With its ability to reconfigure quickly and perform different types of missions in tandem with other aircraft, our newest addition to Boeing’s portfolio will truly be a force multiplier as it protects and projects air power.”

The Air Force’s F-15E ‘bomb truck’ can now carry 15 JDAMs

In the ALPHA AI program, developed with a team from University of Cincinnati an artificial intelligence running on a cheap computer defeated skilled fighter pilots in simulations.

(Journal of Defense Management)

While the announcement has made a lot of waves, it’s not a huge surprise for people keeping track. Robots began beating experienced human pilots reliably in simulators a few years ago, and they’ve only gotten better since.

And the Air Force already began packing the computers into older jets to test the concept, leading to a 2017 test where an empty F-16 flew in support of human pilots. The program, Have Raider II, was ran in conjunction with Lockheed Martin and their Skunk Works program, so it wouldn’t be too surprising if Lockheed unveiled its own proposal soon.

There are legal limits on autonomous fighting systems, but the key component is that they ascribe to at least “man-in-the-loop” protocol where a human makes the final decision for any lethal engagement. But Have Raider II and the BATS envision robot fighters flying next to human-crewed planes and under the direction of the human pilots, so both will likely be accepted on the international stage. And, Boeing hasn’t said that BATS will necessarily have lethal weapons.

The Air Force’s F-15E ‘bomb truck’ can now carry 15 JDAMs

Weapons like Lockheed Martin’s F-35 are sold across national boundaries to American allies. Boeing has developed an unmanned fighter that it hopes to sell across the world as well.

(U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Joely Santiago)

BATS was developed in Australia and, as mentioned above, Boeing hopes the final iterations will have a place in the air forces of U.S. partners around the world. But there is some downside to the new robot paradigm for the U.S. and its allies.

China’s military is improving at a great rate, growing larger and more technologically advanced by the week. One factor that’s holding them back is a shortage of pilots and good candidates for the training. So if China is able to develop a similar breakthrough, they can pump new planes into the air as fast as the factories can crank them out. And they’ve already made Dark Sword, an autonomous stealth drone with some fighter characteristics.

No matter how few pilots they can train.

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