The F-22 Raptor almost had a stealth bomber sibling - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TACTICAL

The F-22 Raptor almost had a stealth bomber sibling

The night sky is an inky black and the soldiers on the ground barely give it a passing glance. Their radar scopes are clear; no enemies inbound. The first sign that they receive of the American strike is the bombs falling on key strategic targets. Precision small-diameter bombs fall within inches of substations, radar sites, bunkers and anti-aircraft batteries.

The runway is also cratered by American bombs, but a few fighter planes manage to scramble into the air. Their pilots frantically check their radar for the unseen attackers—nothing. Suddenly, a volley of radar-guided AIM-120C AMRAAMs tears through the formation of fighters and erupts in an airborne spectacle of fire and twisted metal. The light from the fireball reflects the faintest glint of light on the visors of the American pilots as they turn their F-22 Raptors and FB-22 Strike Raptors for home.


Following the success of their F-22 Raptor stealth fighter, Lockheed Martin conducted a study in 2001 to determine the feasibility of developing a bomber platform from it. While the F-22 was designed as an air superiority fighter, it still maintained a degree of ground attack ability which Lockheed Martin hoped to exploit. If they could leverage the design and capabilities of the existing airframe, the cost of developing the new bomber would be significantly reduced.

The F-22 Raptor almost had a stealth bomber sibling

The F-22 Raptor air superiority fighter (Photo by Lockheed Martin)

Lockheed Martin developed a number of bomber concepts based on the F-22. Much of the Raptor’s avionics were retained and structural redesigns were focused on the fuselage and wings. An initial concept aimed to increase payload capacity by lengthening and widening the fuselage. However, this came with a penalty of a 25-30% increase in weight, materials and development costs. Instead, further concepts retained the same fuselage as the F-22 and bore elongated delta shape wings which allowed the concept bomber to carry more fuel and wing-mounted weapons.

With the new wings, the FB-22 Strike Raptor would have been able to carry up to 30-35 250-pound GBU-39 small diameter precision-guided bombs versus the F-22 Raptor’s payload capacity of eight such bombs. Unlike the F-22, the FB-22 would also have been able to carry bombs weighing up to 5,000 pounds. With weapons stored internally, the FB-22 would have had a maximum combat load of 15,000 pounds. With additional weapons mounted on the wings, the FB-22 would have lost some of its stealth capability but carry up to 30,000 pounds of weapons.

Its increased fuel capacity gave the Strike Raptor a range of 1,600 miles, nearly triple the F-22’s range of 600 miles, and could have been extended further with the addition of external fuel tanks. With this increased range, the FB-22 would have replaced the Air Force’s F-15E Strike Eagle and taken over some of the missions of the B-1 Lancer and B-2 Spirit bombers. In October 2002, Air Force Magazine reported that the FB-22 would have a combat effectiveness comparable to a B-2 Spirit armed with 2,000-pound bombs.

In order to power this larger airframe, the F-22’s Pratt Whitney F119-PW-100 engines would have been replaced with the Pratt Whitney F135s which now power the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II. Though early concepts featured no tailplanes, later concepts incorporated twin tailplanes. Additionally, since the Strike Raptor was meant to complement the F-22 with its ground-attack capability, dogfighting capability was not a priority and the thrust vectoring technology of the F-22 was omitted from the FB-22 concept. According to Flight International magazine, the FB-22 would have had a top speed of Mach 1.92.

The F-22 Raptor almost had a stealth bomber sibling

The F-35’s F135 engine, developed from the F-22’s F119, gives it enough thrust to perform short takeoffs and vertical landings. The FB-22 would have had two of these engines. (Photo by Lockheed Martin)

In February 2003, Secretary of the Air Force James Roche reported to the House Armed Services Committee that he envisioned a strike force of 150 FB-22s, along with 60 B-1s, 21 B-2s, and 381 F-22s. Following this vision, in 2004, Lockheed Martin officially presented the FB-22 Strike Raptor concept to the Air Force. The concept met the Air Force requirement for a potential strategic bomber as an interim solution and would be operational by 2018.

Additionally, since it was developed from the existing F-22, the cost of fully developing the FB-22 was estimated to be 75% less than the cost of developing an entirely new bomber. Air Force Magazine also reported that the FB-22’s stealth capabilities had been increased, adding externally mounted detachable and faceted weapons pods that could carry weapons on the wings without sacrificing stealth.
The F-22 Raptor almost had a stealth bomber sibling

What might have been (Credit Bandai Namco Entertainment)

Unfortunately, following the 2006 Quadrennial Defense Review, the FB-22 Strike Raptor project was cancelled. The DoD wanted a bomber with greater range and the Strike Raptor would be developed no further. However, disappointed aviation fans still have the opportunity to fly the FB-22 and experience the “next-generation stealth bomber that could have been” in the popular hybrid arcade-style flight simulator Ace Combat. The FB-22 is featured as a flyable aircraft in Ace Combat 5, Ace Combat X, Ace Combat Joint Assault, and Ace Combat Infinity.

The F-22 Raptor almost had a stealth bomber sibling

An FB-22 at full afterburner in Ace Combat Infinity (Credit Bandai Namco Entertainment)

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Russia quietly admits defeat with its new ‘stealth’ F-35 killer

Russia announced in July 2018 that the Su-57, its proposed entry into the world of fifth-generation stealth-fighter aircraft, would not see mass production.

“The plane has proven to be very good, including in Syria, where it confirmed its performance and combat capabilities,” Russian Deputy Defense Minister Yuri Borisov said on Russian TV on July 2, 2018, as reported by The Diplomat.

But despite Russia’s nonstop praise for the plane and dubious claims about its abilities, Borisov said, per The Diplomat: “The Su-57 is considered to be one of the best aircrafts produced in the world. Consequently, it does not make sense to speed up work on mass-producing the fifth-generation aircraft.”


Justin Bronk, a combat-aviation expert at the Royal United Services Institute, told Business Insider that Borisov’s comments “could be charitably described as an unreasonably optimistic reason why they stopped production.”

Basically, Borisov said the plane is so much better than everything out there that Russia doesn’t need to build it — a claim Bronk finds unlikely.

Instead, Russia will stick to what it’s good at, with upgraded fourth-generation aircraft in service instead of the Su-57, which was originally meant to replace the older fighters.

The Su-57, a plane designed to function as a killer of US F-35 and F-22 stealth jets with an innovative array of radars, saw a brief period of combat over Syria, but the deployment lasted only days and didn’t pit the jet against any threats befitting a world-class fighter.

The F-22 Raptor almost had a stealth bomber sibling

F-22 Raptors

(U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Jeremy Lock)

Initially proposed as a joint project with India, the Su-57 hit trouble when neither side could agree on how to split the production and technological development. After 11 years in the program, India withdrew, leaving Russia to go it alone with a weak economy.

Now, India has been discussed as a potential buyer of the F-35 in another blow to Russia’s dream of developing its own fifth-gen fighter.

The Su-57 was never really 5th-generation — and never really stealth

A senior stealth scientist recently told Business Insider that though the jet claimed a stealthy profile, it had glaring and obvious flaws. A 2016 report from IHS Jane’s said the jet was fifth-generation “in name only.”

But the Su-57 carries a massive payload and was expected to one day carry nuclear weapons. Like the Su-35 before it, had super maneuverability beyond that of any US jet.

By all means, the Su-57 appeared a next-level dogfighting jet capable of taking out the US’s best fighters in close combat, but its failure to integrate stealth made getting in close with an F-35 or F-22 an unlikely bet.

Bronk said Russia must have looked at the program and realized that it didn’t have the potential — even with upgrades and maturation — to ever work out to be worth the price. At about million a unit, Russia’s Su-57 is less than half the price of an F-35, but considerably more expensive than its other jets.

“Russia is more or less admitting defeat in building a feasible fifth-generation fighter,” Bronk said.

For that price, according to Bronk, Russia can just put the fancy radars and missiles on its older planes in greater numbers, as the Su-57’s airframe was never really stealth in the first place.

Russia is working on new tanks, submarines, and nuclear weapons, all of which tax its already large defense budget. With other projects going forward, it appears the Su-57 has become the first casualty of a budget crunch.

As the US’s F-35 starts to come online in significant numbers and China’s J-20 stealth jet deploys in earnest, it looks as if Russia is getting left behind in the world of top-class militaries.

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

Articles

Who is ‘Roger?’ Military lingo explained

Between colloquial humor and slang, the military says some weird stuff (don’t even get me started on acronyms), but some of the lingo has origins in so-called “voice procedure” and actually kind of makes sense.


Voice procedure is a set of techniques, protocols, and phrases used in two-way radio communications to reduce confusion and maximize clarity.

Here are a few of the big ones:

1. Roger

Saying “Roger” over the radio is shorthand for “I have received your message or transmission.”

If you’ve ever tried spelling your last name over the phone with someone, you know that the English alphabet has letters that sound the same, so phonetic or spelling alphabets were created to convey letters.

I wonder why they got rid of ‘Nuts’…

In the ’50s, this alphabet was standardized to the alphabet NATO militaries use today (Alpha, Bravo, Charlie, etc), but when the radio use in the military became prevalent, the word ‘Roger’ was used for “R.”

The “R” in “received” was conveyed with “Roger” — and even though today “Romeo” stands for “R,” good ol’ “Roger” stuck.

2. Mayday

“Mayday” is a signal word used to convey distress. It was deliberately chosen for this purpose in 1923 by Frederick Stanley Mockford, a senior radio official in England.

At the time, much of the radio communication was between French and English speakers, so Mockford needed a word that would be understood in both languages and wouldn’t be commonly spoken.

“Mayday” is a rather unique phrase in English, but is also similar to the French word for “help me.”

This is an appropriate time for the use of ‘Mayday.’ (Painting by Pierre Dénys de Montfort, 1801)

To further reduce confusion, “Mayday” is used three times in the beginning of a distress call. It is reserved for incidents where loss of life or craft is imminent — misuse is considered a serious crime.

3. Copy

“Copy” has its origins in Morse Code communications. Morse Code operators would listen to transmissions and write down each letter or number immediately, a technique called “copying.”

-.– — ..- / .- .-. . / -. . .- – (Image via Public Domain)

Once voice communications became possible, ‘copy’ was used to confirm whether a transmission was received. Today it still means “I heard what you said” or “got it,” similar to “roger.”

4. 10-4

10-4″ does not actually have its roots in military-speak. Then ten-codes are used primarily by law enforcement to communicate common situations with brevity. For example:

10-4 Message Received

10-9 Repeat

10-10 Fight In Progress

10-32 Person With Gun

Be careful: ’10-4′ has…alternative meanings…according to Urban Dictionary. (Image via imgflip)

What are your favorite or most baffling military terms?

MIGHTY TRENDING

The son of ISIS leader al-Baghdadi killed in combat

A son of the Islamic State (IS) extremist group’s leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, has been killed in battle in the Syrian province of Homs, IS’s propaganda agency Amaq announced.

Hudhayfah al-Badri was killed in an “operation against the Nussayriyyah and the Russians at the thermal power station in Homs,” the group said in a statement late on July 3, 2018, showing a photo of a young man holding an assault rifle.



Nussayriyyah is IS’s term for the Alawite religious minority sect of President Bashar al-Assad.

IS maintains only a small presence in Syria after being targeted for elimination by Syrian and Russian forces as well as U.S.-backed rebel forces in the last year. It is now estimated to control no more than 3 percent of Syria’s territory.

The F-22 Raptor almost had a stealth bomber sibling

President Bashar al-Assad

U.S. and Iraqi officials have said they believe IS leader Baghdadi remains alive in Syria near the Iraqi border.

Baghdadi, who is originally from Iraq, has been dubbed the “most wanted man on the planet,” with the United States offering a million reward for his capture. He had four children with his first wife and a son with his second wife.

In September, 2017, the last voice message attributed to Baghdadi called on his followers worldwide to “resist” their enemies.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

Articles

11 fighter pilot rules that can be applied to everyday life

The F-22 Raptor almost had a stealth bomber sibling
Artist’s conception of an F-35 taking it to the Russians.


Fighter pilots have a lot of cool sayings like, “Don’t ask somebody if he’s a fighter pilot. If he is, he’ll tell you. If he’s not, why embarrass him?” and “Faster fighters, older whiskey, younger women,” but not all of these can be applied to real life.

Fortunately, they also have a few saying that can be applied to real life. Here are 11 of them:

1. Train like you fight

The F-22 Raptor almost had a stealth bomber sibling

This saying was made popular by “Duke” Cunningham, Navy Vietnam-era ace who served a stint in federal prison for misdeeds committed while serving as a congressman from California. It seems obvious, but think of how many processes your organization has that don’t really matter when it comes to executing the mission.

2. Don’t be both out of airspeed and ideas

The F-22 Raptor almost had a stealth bomber sibling

That’s a bad combo. As Dean Wormer said in the movie “Animal House,” “Fat, dumb, and stupid is no way to go through life, son.”

3. Keep your knots up

The F-22 Raptor almost had a stealth bomber sibling

Speed is life. It gives you options. In business “speed” can be resources, revenue, people. Having X+1 is a good idea.

4. Keep your scan going

The F-22 Raptor almost had a stealth bomber sibling

If you’re only focused on one thing, something else is about to jump up and bite you. While you’re staring at the bandit in the heads-up display, you’re missing the fact you’re about to run out of gas or get shot by the other bandit who just rolled in behind you.

5. Lost sight, lost fight

The F-22 Raptor almost had a stealth bomber sibling

Regardless of Gucci technology or whatever, you can’t kill what you can’t see.

6. You can only tie the record for low flight

The F-22 Raptor almost had a stealth bomber sibling

So don’t fly into the ground.

7. There’s no kill like a guns kill

The F-22 Raptor almost had a stealth bomber sibling

This is as pure as it gets for a fighter pilot. Feels. So. Good. And, remember, stealth doesn’t work against bullets.

8. Don’t turn back into a fight you’ve already won

The F-22 Raptor almost had a stealth bomber sibling

Know when to bug out and then do it. Live to fight another day.

9. You miss 100 percent of the shots you don’t take

The F-22 Raptor almost had a stealth bomber sibling
F-14 assigned to VF-1 shooting an AIM-54 Phoenix missile in the early days.

You also miss 100 percent of the shots you take out of the missile’s operating envelope . . . which gets back to No. 1: Train like you fight.

10. A letter of reprimand is better than no mail at all

The F-22 Raptor almost had a stealth bomber sibling

As John Paul Jones once said, “He who will not risk, cannot win.” Nobody ever made history or changed the world by only worrying about his or her career.

11. If you know you’re about to die, make your last transmission a good one

The F-22 Raptor almost had a stealth bomber sibling

No whining. Just key the radio and say, “Have a beer on me, boys.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

Russia claims accused spies were on a routine trip

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has rejected accusations made by the Dutch authorities against suspected Russian spies.

In early October 2018, authorities in Netherlands said that four agents of Russian GRU military intelligence tried and failed to hack into the world’s chemical-weapons watchdog, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), whose headquarters are in The Hague.

Commenting on the Dutch allegations, Lavrov said the four Russians were on a “routine” trip to The Hague in April 2018 when they were arrested and deported by Dutch authorities.


“There was nothing secret in the Russian specialists’ trip to The Hague in April,” Lavrov said at a briefing in Moscow on Oct. 8, 2018, after talks with Italian counterpart Enzo Moavero Milanesi.

The F-22 Raptor almost had a stealth bomber sibling

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.

“They weren’t hiding from anyone when they arrived at the airport, settled in a hotel and visited our embassy. They were detained without any explanations, denied a chance to contact our embassy in the Netherlands and then asked to leave. It all looked like a misunderstanding.”

Meanwhile, the Russian Foreign Ministry said it handed a note on Oct. 8, 2018, to the Netherlands’ ambassador protesting the detention and expulsion of Russian citizens, calling the incident a provocation.

Dutch defense officials released photos and a timeline of the GRU agents’ botched attempt to break into the OPCW.

The OPCW was investigating a nerve-agent attack on a former GRU spy, Sergei Skripal, and his daughter in Salisbury, England; Britain has blamed it on the Russian government. Moscow vehemently denies involvement.

Featured image: Four Russian citizens who allegedly attempted to hack the OPCW in The Hague are seen in this handout picture released on Oct. 4, 2018.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

What China’s newest jets can actually do in a war

The Chinese People’s Liberation Army Air Force has released a new video showcasing its deadliest air assets, including some newer aircraft developed as part of China’s extensive military modernization.

The nearly three-minute video is a compilation of footage from Chinese training exercises emphasizing preparation for a new era of warfare. The promotional video, titled “Safeguarding the New Era,” highlights some of the PLAAF’s newest war planes and was aired for the first time Aug. 28, 2018, at the air force’s Aviation Open Day in Jilin province in northeastern China.


MIGHTY TACTICAL

The U.S. Navy has deployed the MQ-4C Triton for the first time

The two Broad Area Maritime System aircraft arrived in Guam in January.


The U.S. Navy deployed the MQ-4C Triton Broad Area Maritime System (BAMS) to Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, for the first operational deployment. According to the official photos, the two aircraft arrived at their forward operating base on Jan. 12, 2020, even though the deployment was announced only on January 26.

The Triton is operated by Unmanned Patrol Squadron (VUP) 19, the first Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) squadron of the US Navy, in an Early Operational Capability (EOC). VUP-19 will develop the concept of operations for Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) missions with the MQ-4C in the 7th Fleet, where it will complement the P-8A Poseidon. The Initial Operational Capability (IOC), planned for 2021, will include four air vehicles with capacity to support 24/7 operations, according to the Navy.

“The introduction of MQ-4C Triton to the Seventh Fleet area of operations expands the reach of the U.S. Navy’s maritime patrol and reconnaissance force in the Western Pacific,” said Capt. Matt Rutherford, commander of Commander, Task Force (CTF) 72. “Coupling the capabilities of the MQ-4C with the proven performance of P-8, P-3 and EP-3 will enable improved maritime domain awareness in support of regional and national security objectives.”

The Triton will bring in the Pacific theater new capabilities with an increased persistence, as wrote in a previous article by our Editor David Cenciotti:

The U.S. Navy’s MQ-4C “Triton” Broad Area Maritime Surveillance (BAMS) is an ISR (Intelligence Surveillance Reconnaissance) platform that will complement the P-8A Poseidon within the Navy’s Maritime Patrol and Reconnaissance Force family of systems: for instance, testing has already proved the MQ-4C’s ability to pass FMV (Full Motion Video) to a Poseidon MPA (Maritime Patrol Aircraft). An advanced version than the first generation Global Hawk Block 10, the drone it is believed to be a sort of Block 20 and Block 30 Global Hawk hybrid, carrying Navy payload including an AN/ZPY-3 multi-function active-sensor (MFAS) radar system, that gives the Triton the ability to cover more than 2.7 million square miles in a single mission that can last as long as 24 hours at a time, at altitudes higher than 10 miles, with an operational range of 8,200 nautical miles.
The F-22 Raptor almost had a stealth bomber sibling

An MQ-4C Triton unmanned aircraft system (UAS) taxis after landing at Andersen Air Force Base for a deployment as part of an early operational capability (EOC) to further develop the concept of operations and fleet learning associated with operating a high-altitude, long-endurance system in the maritime domain. Unmanned Patrol Squadron (VUP) 19, the first Triton UAS squadron, will operate and maintain two aircraft in Guam under Commander, Task Force (CTF) 72, the U.S. Navy’s lead for patrol, reconnaissance and surveillance forces in U.S. 7th Fleet.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Ryan Brooks)

This first deployment was actually expected to happen in late 2018, after the MQ-4C was officially inducted into service on May 31, 2018. However, in September 2018, VUP-19 had to temporarily stand down its operation following a Class A mishap with the new aircraft. As stated by Cmdr. Dave Hecht, a spokesman for Naval Air Force Atlantic, to USNI News in that occasion, the Triton “had an issue during flight and the decision was made to bring it back to base. While heading in for landing, the engine was shut down but the landing gear did not extend. The aircraft landed on its belly on the runway. No one was hurt and there was no collateral damage.”

The announcement of this first deployment arrived just as Germany canceled its plans to buy four MQ-4C for signals intelligence missions (SIGINT), opting instead for the Bombardier Global 6000, as the Triton would be unable to meet the safety standards needed for flying through European airspace by 2025, as reported by DefenseNews.

This article originally appeared on The Aviationist. Follow @theaviationist on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

High-tech body armor of the future could come from spider butts

The silk spiders produce is tougher than Kevlar and more flexible than nylon, and Air Force researchers think it could be key to creating new materials that take the load and heat off troops in the field.

Scientists at the Air Force Research Lab and Purdue University have been examining natural silk to get a sense of its ability to regulate temperature — silk can drop 10 to 15 degrees Fahrenheit through passive, radiative cooling, which means radiating more heat than it absorbs, according to an Air Force news release.


The F-22 Raptor almost had a stealth bomber sibling

Spc. Arielle Mailloux gets some help adjusting her protoype Generation III Improved Outer Tactical Vest from Capt. Lindsey Pawlowski, Aug. 21, 2012, at Fort Campbell, Ky.

(US Army photo by Megan Locke Simpson)

Those researchers want to apply that property to synthetics, like artificial spider silk, which is stronger than Kevlar, the polymer typically used in body armor, and more flexible than nylon.

Enhancing body armor and adding comfort for troops is one of many improvements hoped for by a team led by Dr. Augustine Urbas, a researcher in the Functional Materials Division of the Materials and Manufacturing Directorate.

“Understanding natural silk will enable us to engineer multifunctional fibers with exponential possibilities. The ultra-strong fibers outperform the mechanical characteristics of many synthetic materials as well as steel,” Urbas said in the release. “These materials could be the future in comfort and strength in body armor and parachute material for the warfighter.”

In addition to making flexible, cooler body armor, the material could also be used to make tents that keep occupants cooler as well as parachutes that can carry heavier loads.

Artificial spider silk may initially cost double what Kevlar does, but its light weight, strength, flexibility, and potential for other uses make it more appealing, according to the release.

Air Force researchers are also looking at Fibroin, a silk protein produced by silkworms, to create materials that can reflect, absorb, focus, or split light under different circumstances.

It’s not the military’s first attempt to shake up its body armor with natural or synthetic substances.

The F-22 Raptor almost had a stealth bomber sibling

Maj. James Pelland, team lead for Marine Corps Systems Command’s Individual Armor Team, jumps over a log to demonstrate the mobility provided by a prototype Modular Scalable Vest, the next generation body armor for the Marine Corps.

(USMC photo by Monique Randolph)

Two years ago, the Army said it was looking into using genetically modified silkworms to create a tough, elastic fiber known as Dragon Silk.

Dr. James Zheng, chief scientist for project manager Soldier Protection and Individual Equipment, told Army Times at the time that while the Army is developing and testing material solutions all the time, “Mother Nature has created and optimized many extraordinary materials.”

At the end of 2016, then-Air Force Academy cadet Hayley Weir and her adviser, professor Ryan Burke, successfully tested a kind of viscous substance that could be used to enhance existing body armor. Weir did not reveal the formula for the substance, but she used plastic utensils and a KitchenAid mixer to whip up the gravy-like goo, placing it in vacuum-sealed bags and flattened into quarter-inch layers.

The material was designed to be lighter than standard Kevlar and offer more flexibility for the wearer. During tests, when struck by bullets, the gooey material absorbed the impact and stopped the bullets.

“Like Under Armour, for real,” Weir told the Colorado Springs Gazette.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

This aircraft just made history as the largest aircraft to fly

The world’s largest aircraft, the Stratolaunch Launch Systems Stratolaunch, flew for the first time on Saturday, April 13, 2019. The massive aircraft took off from the Mojave Air & Space Port’s Civilian Aerospace Test Center in California at 06:58 Pacific Daylight Time and conducted an initial test flight that lasted 2.5 hours achieving a maximum altitude of 17,000 feet and a top speed of 189 MPH before landing.

The aircraft, designed to carry spacecraft to atmospheric launch, can carry a payload of up to 500,000 pounds or 250 tons according to Stratolaunch Launch Systems. The gigantic Stratolaunch has the largest wingspan in the world at 117.3 meters (384.8 feet), significantly larger than the previous record holder, the Antonov An-225 “Mriya” heavy lift cargo aircraft. The Stratolaunch is powered by six enormous Pratt & Whitney PW4000 jet engines formerly used on the Boeing 747 that only used four engines.


April 13, 2019’s flight was a remarkable moment in aviation history, attended by aircraft enthusiasts and media from around the world. Aviation photographers ringed the outer fences of the Mojave Air Space Port to shoot photos and video of the historic event. Within minutes of Stratolaunch’s takeoff the internet came alive with photos and video of the historic event.

The F-22 Raptor almost had a stealth bomber sibling

Stratolaunch makes a low pass over the Mojave Air Space Port on Saturday during its first flight. Note the unusual near-vertical flap confirmation for landing.

(Stratolaunch)

Weather conditions for Stratolaunch’s first flight were ideal, with early morning temperatures in the 40’s to 50’s, light winds, minimum visibility of 10 miles reported by aviation weather surfaces and temperatures rising to 62 degrees Fahrenheit by 1030 local time.

Stratolaunch CEO Jean Floyd, who watched the aircraft takeoff for the first time Saturday morning, told reporters, “What a fantastic first flight”. Floyd went on to remark, “Today’s flight furthers our mission to provide a flexible alternative to ground launched systems. We are incredibly proud of the Stratolaunch team, today’s flight crew, our partners at Northup Grumman’s Scaled Composites and the Mojave Air and Space Port.”

Stratolaunch First Flight

www.youtube.com

April 13, 2019’s first-ever test flight of Stratolaunch was flown by experimental test pilot Evan Thomas. Thomas is a 28-year veteran of the U.S. Air Force, F-16 pilot and former Vice Wing Commander of the 46th Test Wing and former Director of NATO Combined Air Operations Center 5. Evan Thomas has also been senior test pilot for Calspan Corporation and has been a test pilot at Scaled Composites for over a year. His specialties in test flight include aviation and test safety, aircraft stability and control testing and operational leadership of flight test teams.

The F-22 Raptor almost had a stealth bomber sibling

Stratolaunch Chief Test Pilot Evan Thomas, who flew the aircraft on its historic first flight.

(Stratolaunch)

Test Pilot Evan Thomas told reporters after the first flight that, “The flight itself was smooth, which is exactly what you want the first flight to be, and for the most part, the airplane flew as predicted, which is again exactly what we want.”

The F-22 Raptor almost had a stealth bomber sibling

Stratolaunch touches down after a successful first test flight.

(Stratolaunch)

This article originally appeared on The Aviationist. Follow @theaviationist on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

US Navy’s carrier-based F-35s may not be ready for combat after all

The US Navy has declared its F-35Cs ready for combat, but the service’s own testing data says the stealth fighters designed to take off and land on aircraft carriers are nowhere close to ready, an independent nonpartisan watchdog reports.

“The F-35C is ready for operations, ready for combat and ready to win,” Vice Adm. DeWolfe Miller, commander of Naval Air Forces, said in February 2019 as the Navy announced that the fighter had achieved initial operating capability. “We are adding an incredible weapon system into the arsenal of our Carrier Strike Groups that significantly enhances the capability of the joint force.”


But the Project on Government Oversight, a nonprofit government-accountability group, warned March 19, 2019, that despite these claims, the F-35C, like the other variants, “continues to dramatically underperform in crucial areas including availability and reliability, cybervulnerability testing, and life-expectancy testing.”

The F-22 Raptor almost had a stealth bomber sibling

An F-35C Lightning II carrier variant joint strike fighter.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Eli K. Buguey)

While still secretary of defense, Jim Mattis demanded last fall that the Navy and the Air Force strive to achieve a fleet-wide mission-capable rate of 80% for their fighters by October 2019. The Navy’s carrier-capable F-35 variant is apparently nowhere close to that target, having consistently achieved unacceptably low fully mission-capable rates.

The mission-capable rates for the Navy’s F-35Cs dropped from 12% in October 2016 to zero in December 2017, with figures remaining in the single digits throughout 2018, the oversight group reported, citing Navy documents. The US Navy, according to Military.com, also has only 27 of the required 273 F-35Cs, and the mission-capable rates do not apply to aircraft in testing, training, or depot.

“The fully mission capable rate for the full fleet is likely far below” the target set by Mattis, the watchdog concluded.

It said the Navy had opted to move forward with the aircraft “in spite of evidence that it is not ready for combat” and that it could “put at risk missions, as well as the troops who depend on it to get to the fight.”

The group’s analysis follows the release of a disconcerting report from the Defense Department’s director of operational, test, and evaluation in January that called attention to F-35 readiness issues, such as life expectancy, cybersecurity, and stagnant aircraft availability.

The F-22 Raptor almost had a stealth bomber sibling

Two F-35C Lightning II aircraft.

(U.S. Navy photo by Chief Mass Communication Specialist Shannon E. Renfroe)

“Fleet-wide average availability is below program target value of 60% and well below planned 80% needed,” the official report said. “The trend in fleet availability has been flat over the past three years; the program’s reliability improvement initiatives are still not translating into improved availability.”

The F-35 Joint Program Office responded to that report, saying the problems presented in the report were being “aggressively addressed.”

The JPO told Business Insider that as of January 2019, the mission capable rate for the Navy’s F-35C was 56 percent. “The Program Office has identified the enablers to increase our mission capability rates,” a JPO spokesman explained.

“We will continue to learn and improve ways to maintain and sustain F-35C as we prepare for first deployment,” the Joint Strike Fighter Wing commodore, Capt. Max McCoy, said as the Navy’s carrier-capable variant was declared “ready for combat” February 2019. “The addition of F-35C to existing Carrier Air Wing capability ensures that we can fight and win in contested battlespace now and well into the future.”

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

9 epic photos of riverine sailors preparing for combat

The U.S. Navy’s Coastal Riverine Squadron 1 is proving itself right now in preparation for mobilization, and its sailors have been showing off at tasks from convoy security to medical aid to speeding around in boats (a fun and major part of their mission) in complex tasks at Camp Pendleton, California.


So, it’s a bunch of badass sailors playing with machine guns and boats in Southern California. Wanna see some photos? Yeah, of course you do.

The F-22 Raptor almost had a stealth bomber sibling

(U.S. Navy Hospital Corpsman 1st Class Kenji Shiroma)

The F-22 Raptor almost had a stealth bomber sibling

(U.S. Navy Hospital Corpsman 1st Class Kenji Shiroma)

Engineman 2nd Class Christian McCain of Arlington, Texas engages opposing forces while dismounted with a M240 machine gun.

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The F-22 Raptor almost had a stealth bomber sibling

(U.S. Navy Hospital Corpsman 1st Class Kenji Shiroma)

The F-22 Raptor almost had a stealth bomber sibling

(U.S. Navy Hospital Corpsman 1st Class Kenji Shiroma)

The F-22 Raptor almost had a stealth bomber sibling

(U.S. Navy Hospital Corpsman 1st Class Kenji Shiroma)

The F-22 Raptor almost had a stealth bomber sibling

(U.S. Navy Hospital Corpsman 1st Class Kenji Shiroma)

The F-22 Raptor almost had a stealth bomber sibling

(U.S. Navy Hospital Corpsman 1st Class Kenji Shiroma)

The F-22 Raptor almost had a stealth bomber sibling

(U.S. Navy Hospital Corpsman 1st Class Kenji Shiroma)

The F-22 Raptor almost had a stealth bomber sibling

(U.S. Navy Hospital Corpsman 1st Class Kenji Shiroma)

Articles

Russia has a cyber-weapon that can destroy the US electric grid

With the assistance of allied hackers, Russia has developed a cyberweapon capable of destroying an electricity grid, US researchers report that such a weapon could be used to upset the American electric system.


The reports say that the devise was used to disrupt energy system in Ukraine December in 2015.

According to the Washington Post, the cyberweapon has the potential to be the most disruptive yet against electric systems that Americans depend on for daily life.

The malware, which researchers have dubbed CrashOverride, is known to have disrupted only one energy system — in Ukraine in December, 2015.

The F-22 Raptor almost had a stealth bomber sibling
Photo licensed under Public Domain

In that incident, the hackers briefly shut down one-fifth of the electric power generated in Kiev.

But with modifications, it could be deployed against US electric transmission and distribution systems to devastating effect, said Sergio Caltagirone, director of threat intelligence for Dragos, a cybersecurity firm that studied the malware and issued a report on June 12th.

And Russian government hackers have shown their interest in targeting US energy and other utility systems, researchers said.

“It’s the culmination of over a decade of theory and attack scenarios,” Caltagirone warned. “It’s a game changer.”

The revelation comes as the US government is investigating a wide-ranging, ambitious effort by the Russian government last year to disrupt the US presidential election and influence its outcome.

The F-22 Raptor almost had a stealth bomber sibling
Photo courtesy of USAF

Dragos has named the group that created the new malware Electrum, and it has determined with high confidence that Electrum used the same computer systems as the hackers who attacked the Ukraine electric grid in 2015.

That attack, which left 225,000 customers without power, was carried out by Russian government hackers, other US researchers concluded.

US government officials have not officially attributed that attack to the Russian government, but some privately say they concur with the private-sector analysis.

“The same Russian group that targeted US [industrial control] systems in 2014 turned out the lights in Ukraine in 2015,” said John Hultquist, who analyzed both incidents while at iSight Partners, a cyber-intelligence firm now owned by FireEye, where he is director of intelligence analysis. Hultquist’s team had dubbed the group Sandworm.

The F-22 Raptor almost had a stealth bomber sibling
Louisiana Army National Guard photo by Spc. Garrett L. Dipuma

“We believe that Sandworm is tied in some way to the Russian government — whether they’re contractors or actual government officials, we’re not sure,” he said. “We believe they are linked to the security services.”

Sandworm and Electrum may be the same group or two separate groups working within the same organization, but the forensic evidence shows they are related, said Robert M. Lee, chief executive of Dragos.

The Department of Homeland Security, which works with the owners of the nation’s critical infrastructure systems, did not respond to a request for comment.

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