Ask A Fighter Pilot: Hornet vs Super Hornet! - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TACTICAL

Ask A Fighter Pilot: Hornet vs Super Hornet!

“Something I’d like to see in the future is an article talking about the performance of the Hornet versus the Super Hornet. I often times see people comment that the legacy Hornet is more maneuverable than the Super, but I’d like to see an article by someone who has stick time in both who knows what they are talking about. Perhaps G.M. would be interested in this topic since he has flown both?”

Awesome question! This is a question I used to ask a lot while going through flight school. I am truly fortunate to have experience flying both jets. They are both awesome machines with tremendous capability, but you’ll see why I prefer the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet by the time you finish reading.

Keep in mind that these thoughts are just my opinions and dozens of others have had the chance to fly both jets (although I’d say that most of those people would agree with most of these points).

History/Design

It is hard to believe that the Rhino has been flying for 20 years. The Super Hornet is a bit paradoxical to describe in relation to the Hornet because while it is evolutionary and looks similar (both inside and out), it is largely a new aircraft. When Boeing pitched the Super Hornet to Congress they said the jet would keep the same F/A-18 designation and use numerous common parts with the Legacy Hornet.

Ask A Fighter Pilot: Hornet vs Super Hornet!
A Legacy F/A-18C Hornet from VFA-106 “Gladiators” in a stunning celebratory “30 Years of Hornet” paint scheme simulates a bolter while performing at the NAS Oceana Airshow. (Photo by Jonathan Derden)

This economical argument helped Boeing win the contract. I am glad they did, because the Super Hornet is a much improved aircraft over its predecessor. Among the aircraft’s general improvements include: more powerful engines controlled by FADEC, much larger internal and external fuel capacity, 2 more weapons stations, numerous avionics improvements, and some radar cross-section (RCS) reduction measures.

Besides the obvious larger size, you can distinguish the Rhino from the Legacy with some key design features; mainly the enlarged Leading Edge Extension (LEX), “sawtooth” outer wing, and larger rectangular intakes. All of those design features not only make the jet look badass, but enhance the jets’ capabilities too. We’ll talk about all of that in a bit.

Ground Ops

You can take a newly qualified Legacy Hornet pilot, put him into the cockpit of the Rhino, and he will be able to start-up, takeoff, and land. It is that similar from a basic airplane standpoint. There are some very subtle changes to some of the switches and procedures, but outside of that, the ground ops are very similar. Folding the wings is easier in the Rhino (not that it was that hard before), and the only thing that may trip up a transition pilot will be the use of the Up Front Control Display (UFCD).

The UFCD replaces the old physical keypad in the cockpit for entering data. It takes a little bit of getting used to, but once you do, you’ll find it to be a huge upgrade. Think of it like going from a flip phone with a physical keyboard and screen, to an iPhone where the screen can show you anything you want. Another nice feature in the cockpit is the Engine Fuel Display (EFD), and Reference Standby Display (RSD) on the new Super Hornets.

You would also notice the full color cockpit displays instead of the monochrome displays of the Hornet. These all add a nice touch of technology to the cockpit that is not only ergonomic, but also adds to the cool factor. Once you’ve entered your data and have the motors fired up, the high performance Nose Wheel Steering works exactly the same as it did before as you head towards the runway.

Ask A Fighter Pilot: Hornet vs Super Hornet!
F/A-18E cockpit photo courtesy of the author’s collection.

Takeoff

You’ll get your first taste of the Rhino’s improved performance when you push the throttles past the MIL detent and into afterburner. A fully functioning FADEC always provides the pilot with the requested thrust and the much larger intakes can feed a much higher amount of air into the compressors. When you combine those factors with the larger wings you get fantastic takeoff performance (I know, Mover–still not the same kick in the pants as the Viper).

The Super Hornet gets airborne in nearly 1,000 feet less distance and nearly 20 knots slower than the Hornet. On the ship, the procedures are nearly the same as they were in the legacy Hornet, except now the catapult launch is in full flaps and there is no selection of afterburner mid-catstroke. There can still be afterburner shots for certain weights and configurations, but some of those procedures have slightly changed.

The sensation of catapult stroke is the same as before (i.e awesome). The jet tends to leap off the flight deck easier than the old Legacy, too. I haven’t flown a tanker configured jet from the ship yet, but I hear that the cat shot for that is as intense as they come.

General Flight

One of my favorite improvements in the Rhino is the gas. There’s a lot more gas. SO MUCH MORE GAS! Most Cessna drivers take it for granted the endurance they have in their aircraft. They have endurance that a Legacy hornet couldn’t hope to achieve without aerial refueling. With about 4,000 more pounds of internal fuel and larger external tanks, I feel comfortable flying the Super Hornet without gluing one eye to my fuel quantity.

Gas was precious when flying the Charlie (worse in the Delta during my initial training). This was especially true around the boat when you had to wait for a specific time to land unlike at an airfield. This gas is huge for tactical training, cross-countries, and combat missions.

Although, there is still no capability to fly a civilian ILS in the Super Hornet, RNAV capability was recently added to the Rhino fleet. Also, while the Legacy Hornet could only hold a few dozen preplanned waypoints, the Rhino can hold hundreds.

Ask A Fighter Pilot: Hornet vs Super Hornet!
The Blue Angels are reportedly converting to the Boeing F/A-18E Super Hornet, seen here. (Photo by Scott Wolff)

Flight characteristics when flying from Point A to Point B are the same as in the Legacy. All of the same autopilot modes exist, and all of the displays including the HUD have virtually identical symbology. There is also no physical speedbrake on the Super Hornet. When the speedbrake switch is activated, the flight control computers deflect the flight controls to maximize drag while minimizing any pitching moments.

There’s really not much to talk about here. The two jets are very similar when it comes to the administrative phases of flight.

Landing

There are some small subtle differences with landing the Rhino at the field. The autothrottles, should you choose them, are mechanized a little bit differently. In short, it judges the magnitude of the rate of stick movement, vice the magnitude of distance of stick movement. In short, both jets’ autothrottles are awesome, but I think the Legacy takes the cake on that one. The Rhino lands about ten knots slower than the Hornet, thanks to the large LEXs and wings. Unlike the Hornet, the Rhino has a nice ability to aerobrake if you hold the nose off the ground after touchdown. The jet’s beefy brakes get you to a quick stop as well, should you need them.

At the ship, the Rhino wins the landing competition easily. With the slower approach speed, large wings, and more powerful engines, glideslope corrections are faster and easier. Not only that, but thanks to a new symbol in the HUD called the power carat, the pilot is much more easily able to fine tune his ball-flying technique. To me, the boat landing feels slightly less like a car crash than it did in the Hornet, but by no means is it a glassy smooth event. I always used to go to full afterburner on touchdown in the Hornet, but that is strictly verboten in the Rhino. If you see one do that on YouTube, he’s wrong.

Finally, a huge improvement for the Rhino is the “bringback” capability. Its robust design and large gas tanks allow the pilot to land with more weapons unreleased. In a Hornet loaded up with bombs, it may only have enough gas for a couple of tries to land on the ship before having to tank airborne or divert. The Rhino is able to land with much more fuel, allowing for both more heavy loadouts at launch and for more landing attempts at recovery.

Ask A Fighter Pilot: Hornet vs Super Hornet!

Air-to-Air

Now to FINALLY answer the questions that the reader probably intended to ask! How well does the jet do what it was built to do: fight in combat. In nearly every metric, I would argue that the Super Hornet beats its predecessor in air-to-air combat. I write the word “nearly” intentionally, but we’ll get to that later.

In a beyond-visual-range (BVR) fight, it’s not even close, especially when the Rhino is equipped with the APG-79 radar. This AESA radar is truly phenomenal. With the ability to see at farther ranges and track more targets at once, it truly presents a clear picture of exactly what is in front of the pilot. Not only that, but the radar can be run simultaneously in air-to-air and air-to-ground modes.

With additional weapons stations under the wings, even more AIM-120 AMRAAMs can be brought into the fight, and with the extra gas, can fight for longer. Survivability is also drastically better thanks in part to an advanced countermeasures suite and reduced RCS. The jet can carry more chaff and flares, has a powerful ALQ-214 jammer, an upgraded radar warning receiver, as well as options for towed decoys.

All of the Link 16 capabilities of the Hornet have been carried over and all of these features combined make the Rhino very formidable. However, there is something negative that can be said. The Super Hornet’s pylons are canted outboard very slightly, significantly increasing drag at high speeds. Also, for you nerds out there, the Rhino’s design doesn’t incorporate the Area Rule as well as the Hornet, meaning that the Super Hornet will have lower transonic acceleration performance and lower top speed.

Ask A Fighter Pilot: Hornet vs Super Hornet!
TABB and JoBu near the speed of sound during a high speed pass in their Super Hornet demonstration. (Photo by Scott Wolff)

In the within-visual-range (WVR) arena, we finally arrive at the original question: which is more maneuverable? In my opinion, I’d say the edge goes to the Hornet….slightly. Both jets have excellent handling characteristics, and to be honest, they feel very similar. If both aircraft have no external wing stores attached, the Hornet will have a noticeably crisper roll rate, but not by much. It is recommended for both aircraft that to get the best roll performance, they roll unloaded.

That is to say, roll while minimizing positive G. It is just a little bit tougher to get there in the Rhino than the Legacy; the Rhino requires a much more deliberate push forward of the stick to unload than the Hornet. However, both aircraft have excellent high angle-of-attack/slow-speed maneuvering, and both jets have excellent flight control logics, such as the “Pirouette.”

An additional logic was built in for the Rhino called Turbo Nose Down. As funny as that sounds, it is an important logic that allows the jet to recover from a slow-speed, nose-high attitude much easier by flaring the rudders and raising the spoilers. At lower altitudes, the Rhino’s engines produce much more thrust than the Hornet’s. This allows for improved energy addition and sustained turn rate. Maintaining airspeed while pulling high G is much easier than it was before. At higher altitudes, however, both aircraft have a little bit of a hard time with energy addition.

In summary, if I had to choose which aircraft to dogfight in, I’d pick a “big motor” legacy Hornet, with it’s crisper maneuverability and enhanced thrust. However, both aircraft utilize the AIM-9X Sidewinder and Joint Helmet Mounted Cueing System (JHMCS), so as I usually say, it comes down to the “man in the box.”

Air-to-Surface

In the air-to-surface environment, there are not too many differences between the jets. Both aircraft use the JHMCS and ATFLIR. However, the Rhino’s APG-79 allows for synthetic aperture radar mapping, or SARMAP. When I first saw this I couldn’t believe it; the radar was painting the ground and displayed an image as good as the ATFLIR.

The same inventory of smart weapons are available to both aircraft. Just like in air-to-air, the Rhino can carry more thanks to more weapons stations.

As far as the “dumb” weapons are concerned, the Rhino actually carries a few less rounds in the M61 20mm cannon than the Legacy. The Rhino also can’t carry unguided rockets, as I have previously mentioned. When it comes to delivering general purpose bombs, such as the MK 82 series, the roll-ins are a little more sluggish in the Super Hornet. This is all in the same vein of what we discussed in air-to-air: the Legacy is a little crisper.

Ask A Fighter Pilot: Hornet vs Super Hornet!
An F/A-18C Hornet rages through the airspace at NAS Oceana during an airpower demonstration. (Photo by Jonathan Derden)

In an interdiction or strike mission, all of the Rhino’s survivability that I mentioned earlier makes it by far the aircraft of choice in a non-permissive environment. Going against a robust IADS, the reduced RCS and advanced countermeasures, coupled with my Growler buddies from the Ready Room next door help take a little bit of the edge off. Link 16 technology is the same in both aircraft and is still awesome technology.

I’d take the Rhino in all air-to-surface missions, in both permissive and non-permissive environments.

Miscellaneous

Something the Rhino can do that the Hornet can’t is be an aerial tanker. I personally have not flown one in that configuration, but I hear that the jet performs as a pig. That is no surprise with all of that drag and 30,000 pounds of gas. As an LSO, I can tell you a “5-wet” tanker is much more prone to settle below glideslope behind the ship and requires a bit more reaction time to get back above glideslope. The mission is important, however, and has provided me both mission gas and recovery gas during an emergency at the ship.

Aerial refueling is pretty much the same as in the Hornet, except it takes longer to top off.

Overall, the Hornet was my first love. I’ll always look back fondly on flying the F/A-18C and often times I miss it. However, there is no doubt the Rhino is the jet I want to fly off the boat into combat. Great question, keep them coming!

This article originally appeared on SOFREP. Follow @sofrepofficial on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Green Beret’s new book challenges you to find resiliency

Ryan Hendrickson is a retired Green Beret who’s been through a lot. Despite overwhelming challenges, he refuses to wear the title of victim and instead calls himself a survivor. He wants you to do the same.

Tip of the Spear wasn’t supposed to be a book. It started as a journal for Hendrickson, a way to work through his thoughts and post-traumatic stress. But after a few months, he saw something in those writings – as did friends. “The therapeutic effect I got from writing actually turned into a book. I had to see the silver lining in something as bad as stepping on an IED [improvised explosive device]. A lot of people that were reading it said the book talks to everyone — not just military — as far as not being a victim in your life,” Hendrickson explained.


In September of 2010, Hendrickson was deployed to Afghanistan as an 18 Charlie, a Special Forces Engineer with Alpha Company, 2nd Battalion, 7th special forces. He had just completed the elite schooling to earn the coveted Green Beret and was feeling on top of the world. The first chapter of Tip of the Spear takes the reader vividly through what it’s like to arrive in Afghanistan – and the mission that changed his life.

When Hendrickson and his team entered the deserted Afghan village before dawn, he said he knew something big was coming. When his interpreter went too far ahead of uncleared ground, he had no choice but to quickly and quietly get him back. “I grabbed him by the back of the shirt and moved him around. You never like to have any unknown area or blind spot, so I put the muzzle of my M-4 in the doorway of the compound and stepped back… right onto the IED,” he shared.

Hendrickson said he didn’t realize he hit it at first, remembering that he just felt like he couldn’t breathe because of the heavy dust and ammonia in the air. “As the dust started to clear, I saw that my boot was six inches away from my leg…When I reached behind my knee to pull my leg up, my boot sort of flopped over with my toes pointed at me. I saw these two pearly white objects sticking out of my pant leg. Then it kicked in that it was bone,” he said.

It was then that Hendrickson realized it was really bad. His team couldn’t rush in to support him either, since they knew that if there was one IED, there were probably five. His interpreter started a tourniquet, effectively saving his life. After a while, his team was able to safely make it to him and they got him out. “We could hear the Taliban on chatter celebrating that I got hit and that they were going to move into position to ambush us. They splinted the leg the best they could to put the lower and upper part together,” he said.

Ask A Fighter Pilot: Hornet vs Super Hornet!

Hendrickson was in theater for over a week as they tried to stabilize him and keep him alive. When he made it to San Antonio, it would take 28 surgeries to reattach his leg. Then the real work began. “I had a sergeant major who came in to see me; he told me if I could get medically cleared he’d send me back to combat. That was the big driving factor behind me taking control of my life and hitting rehab as hard as I could. That and knowing the Taliban were cheering when I got hurt. I wasn’t going to let them beat me or win,” he explained.

Although he was medically retired, Hendrickson refused to accept it. After spending a grueling year in rehabilitation, he passed all the required tests and was reinstated into active duty through a special waiver. In March of 2012 – only a year and a half after almost losing his leg to an IED – his boots were back in the sands of Afghanistan.

It wasn’t easy though, he shared. The guys he was working with were concerned he’d be a liability. Hendrickson was sent to the biggest known IED province of Afghanistan, a real test given his own experience. He had to prove himself to his teammates and did it by methodically finding IED after IED, keeping them all safe.

Ask A Fighter Pilot: Hornet vs Super Hornet!

Hendrickson would continue to serve and deploy for years after that. In 2016, he earned a Silver Star for heroic efforts during a difficult seven-hour firefight in Afghanistan. “It wasn’t what I did, it was what we did…It’s the same thing all of us say, we were just doing our job,” he shared. He headed home fromAfghanistan in 2017 and found himself struggling with a lot, mentally.

After trying unsuccessfully to talk with a counselor, he sought help through the chaplain. He advised him to write, using that avenue to tell his story and work through his thoughts. Those thoughts and writing were unknowingly turning into a story of his life, both the good and the bad. It was here that he found healing and the deep resiliency he needed to never feel like a victim again.

Tip of the Spear will bring the reader on a powerful journey through a difficult childhood leading to military service spanning three branches, ultimately leading Hendrickson to become an elite Green Beret. The story culminates with the unfathomable challenge of coming back from an injury that almost took his life and was certainly considered the end of his military career. Hendrickson refused to quit and fought his way past the odds stacked against him.

It’s Hendrick’s hope that readers will use his journey to be inspired to do the same in their own lives. Anything is possible he says, but first you have to become a survivor, not a victim.

To purchase your copy of Tip of the Spear, click here.

popular

This is how pilots pull off insane combat landings

Ask any troop who has deployed about their most uncomfortable moment and they’ll probably mention the combat landing on their first day in-country. You can prepare grunts for the rigors of combat, yes, but you can’t prepare them to be sloshed around in an aircraft that’s packed like a can of sardines as it descends downward in a near-vertical corkscrew that stops on a dime.


Also called an assault landing or Sarajevo landing, cargo pilots have to do a combat landing if enemy presence is expected in the area. To avoid giving them an easy target, pilots must do three things: A corkscrew over the area to come down from cruising altitude, descend in a sharp drop before landing, and come to a complete stop using as little runway as possible.

Before coming to the airfield, cargo planes like the C-130 have an average cruising altitude of 18,000 feet. The plane will then arrive roughly seven to ten minutes before the scheduled landing. This is where the fun landing begins.

 

Ask A Fighter Pilot: Hornet vs Super Hornet!
It’s a pretty view… if you’re on the left side… (U.S. Air Force photo/Osakabe Yasuo)

When the plane is in line with the landing strip, it will drop. While commercial airliners come in at around 3 degrees to provide a nice, gentle landing for the passengers, the Air Force is perfectly fine with coming in at 60 degrees. At the last possible moment, pilots pull up so the landing gears are what hit the runway.

If that wasn’t fun enough, the plane will then need to stop on a dime. To do this, as soon as the wheels touch, they open the slats (or spoilers) and put the plane into full reverse.

Inertia is not your friend.

If you’re riding in the back, no one will judge you if you expel what remains of your lunch. However, you will get laughed at. Troops will always laugh at each other.


Feature image: U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Kevin Tanenbaum

MIGHTY TACTICAL

No MRAP, no problem — this family truckster is operator AF

There was a time when cars (and many other things) were built to last as long as you maintained them. Unfortunately it seems as if planned obsolescence has become the manufacturing industry’s purview and buyers are brainwashed into believing that “new” is synonymous with “better.” Things are pretty disposable now. The general paradigm has gone from repair to replacement, depriving people of any willingness to fix what’s broken or modify an aging piece of equipment.


So what does this outta sight/outta mind mentality say about people who never learned how to repair anything? Their lack of resourcefulness, coping skills, and self-reliance is as obvious as Quentin Tarantino’s foot fetish. Think about how they’ll react if things break down on a Great Depression-type scale once again. I’m talking all-out chaos with no power, no food, and no cell phones to post selfies every 10 minutes. Those same people will get desperate and look to strip the well prepared of everything they have. Time to start planning contingencies.

While many might think this 1994 Land Cruiser has passed its vehicular shelf life, owner Joe Galt is a dedicated prepper who doesn’t subscribe to the instant gratification mindset. This passionate family man stays up to snuff on the latest survival trends, studies the works of James Wesley Rawles, and wanted to turn his aging family SUV into a viable bug-out rig. Whether it’s bad weather, war, EMPs, or if the latest crop of Evergreen State College students ever get anywhere near a job on Capitol Hill, Joe has already planned his disaster response accordingly.

Ask A Fighter Pilot: Hornet vs Super Hornet!
The 1994 Land Cruiser FJ80 was found in a used car lot. (Recoil)

There are several reasons Galt felt a Land Cruiser of this ilk made for the perfect SHTF vehicle. It’s vintage, yes, but as previously stated, sometimes you’re better off that way. “The 1994 is a specific year I was looking for. I wanted the least amount of electronics possible,” he says. “I also wanted it because it had front and rear floating axles, front and rear coil spring suspension, front and rear disc brakes, ABS, and factory electronic lockers, which is a combination of components that, to this day, I think there’s very few produced today that have every one of those elements on it.”

Galt has actually owned several Land Cruisers over the years. This FJ80 version was picked up at a used car lot in remarkably good shape, and became the family SUV for many years. After clocking a total of about 250,000 miles and becoming increasingly concerned about disaster events, Joe reached the point where he decided to breathe some new life into a platform that already had a lot going for it. He wanted something nimble, easy to work on, reliable, and the right size to carry both family and gear safely out of his hometown of Denver if something went awry.

“Whether it’s winter storms, a volcanic ash event that could come from Yellowstone, or an EMP, I wanted to be prepared for anything that might make driving hard,” Galt says. “The Land Cruiser fit that bill so well that, even in today’s market, trying to find another vehicle like it is almost impossible. If I bought a new one, I could end up spending a hundred grand. As a kid I lived through the Mount St. Helens explosion and seeing what that did to people and communities was kind of devastating. It’s an unlikely event, but it’s an event that eventually will occur again.”

Ask A Fighter Pilot: Hornet vs Super Hornet!
The interior of this 1994 Land Cruiser is bug out ready. (Recoil)

The stock inline-six is a notoriously sluggish (and thirsty) powerplant. Switching to a Euro or Japanese diesel wasn’t practical when it came to maintenance and parts accessibility. Joe went with the venerable Cummins in the form of a ’93 5.9L 6BT from Reviva in Minneapolis. The motor was brand new with zero miles, completely remanufactured, and dimensionally similar to the original 4.5L 1FZE. It was adapted to the vehicle courtesy of Diesel Conversion Specialists in Montana. Bringing the specs to roughly 240 hp and 420 lb-ft of torque was a huge improvement. It all breathes through a Safari snorkel.

Next was pairing it with to the transmission. Here’s where things get interesting. “In the ’93 and ’94 FZ platform, Toyota used the Aisin A442F transmission, which was designed for commercial use, and adapted to the Land Cruiser. Cummins has now adopted Aisin as its transmission producer, so there’s a natural bearing between engine and trans, but using a conversion kit mates it very nicely to the stock transmission, transfer case, and entire driveline.” The torque converter was rebuilt and provides flawless power and integration.

Suspension work was next on the list. Slee Off-Road, who specializes in aftermarket Toyota components, provided a 6-inch lift kit, rear springs, and a number of other suspension upgrades. Old Man Emu front heavy-duty coil springs and shocks were added to compensate for the increased weight of the Cummins. Tom Wood’s double cardan driveshafts round out the underpinnings to account for the lift. ARB slotted brakes were added to improve the existing system.

A Uniden CB radio and portable Baofeng HAM radio keep communications in order, and much of the electronic work can be credited to 3D-Offroad. An Outback drawer system keeps extra supplies organized and locked up. Slee Off-Road skid plates and rock sliders help traverse rocky terrain without getting banged up. “I never go anywhere without my poncho, my Cabela’s sleeping bag, and my Kelly Kettle,” Galt says. “I also carry first aid, firearms, extra ammo, tow straps, tools, lubricants, spare parts, and a full complement of Western U.S. maps.”

Ask A Fighter Pilot: Hornet vs Super Hornet!
This 1994 Land Cruiser is the utlimate bug out truck, and stocked full of good stuff. (Recoil)

An auxiliary battery system stays disconnected and can be used in the event of an EMP. Part of the beauty of a vehicle of this age is that no electronics are needed (except the starter) to run the motor or transmission. It can all be run mechanically, which may be outdated, but is a superior design to modern systems if you’re in a dire situation and need to make repairs in the field.

Overall, there’s probably another $55,000 sunk into the vehicle, but that’s still cheaper than a new Land Cruiser, and more practical. “You can go down the road at 90 mph with the 4.10 gears I have and it rides as nice as my ¾-ton Dodge Ram,” Galt says. Although it weighs roughly 7,000 pounds (over a ton more than stock), the diesel manages about 15 to 19 mph versus the original 8 to 9 mph. It’s already been on a 1,200-mile trip after its completion and gets a 400-mile workout on an average weekend. Just goes to show you that old doesn’t mean obsolete.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The Army Just Wrapped Up Its First Robot Vehicle Experiment. Here’s What It Learned

U.S. Army modernization officials are about to finish the service’s first experiment to see whether the Robotic Combat Vehicle effort can make units more deadly on the future battlefield.

For the past five weeks, a platoon of soldiers from the 4th Infantry Division has been conducting cavalry-style combat missions using two-person crews in specially modified Bradley fighting vehicles to control robotic surrogate vehicles fashioned from M113 armored personnel vehicles in the Robotic Combat Vehicle Soldier Operational Experiment.


The platoon has operated in the rugged terrain of Fort Carson, Colorado, testing different technologies to control the robotic vehicles, sending them out hundreds of meters ahead to scout for enemy positions.

“This experiment was 100% successful … because we learned; the whole purpose was to learn where the technology is now and how we think we want to fight with it in the future,” Brig. Gen. Ross Coffman, director of the Army’s Next Generation Combat Vehicle-Cross Functional Team, told defense reporters Thursday during a virtual roundtable discussion.

“All of the technology was not successful; it’s a sliding scale. Some knocked our socks off, and some — we’ve got a little bit of work to do.”

The experiment, scheduled to end Aug. 14, is one of three designed to evaluate the performance and potential of robotic combat vehicles on the battlefield, Coffman said.

Some of the technology tested in the experiment worked better than anticipated, he added.

“The interface with the crew … so the soldiers see where they are, they see where the robots are, they can communicate graphics … it just absolutely blew us away,” he said. “The software between the robotic vehicle and the control vehicle — while not perfect — performed better than we thought it would.”

There were challenges with the target recognition technology that links the robotic vehicle with the control vehicle.

“It works while stationary, but part of the challenge is how do you do that on the move and how that is passed to the gunner,” Coffman said. “We’ve got some work to do with that.

“We have some work to do with the stability systems with the weapon systems as you are going across terrain,” he continued.

Another challenge will be to get the control vehicle and the robot vehicle to communicate adequately beyond 1,000 meters.

“The distance between the robot and the controller is a physics problem and, when you talk flat earth, you can go over a kilometer from the controller to the robot,” Coffman said, adding that potential adversaries are wrestling with the same challenge.

Several defense firms participating in the experiment have “created radio waveforms to get us the megabytes per second to extend that range” in dense forest terrain, he said.

“That’s the hardest part, is you get into a dense forest, it’s really hard to extend the range,” he said. “We tested them; we went after them with [electronic warfare] … so we have a really good idea of what is the realm of the possible.”

The Army announced in January that it had selected QinetiQ North America to build four prototypes of the Robotic Combat Vehicle-Light, and Textron to build four prototypes of the RCV-Medium. Both companies were present at the experiment, but their prototypes are still being finalized and did not participate.

After the experiment, an independent evaluation will be conducted on the technical and tactical performance of the robots to decide whether manned-unmanned teaming in combat vehicles can make combat units more effective, Coffman said.

In the first part of fiscal 2022, the Army is scheduled to conduct a second experiment at Fort Hood, Texas, using the same M113 robot vehicles and Bradley control vehicles to focus on company-size operations. The service also plans to conduct a third experiment in the future that will focus on more complex company-size operations.

After each of these experiments, the Army will decide “is the technology where we thought it would be, should we continue to spend money on this effort or should we cease effort?” Coffman said.

The service is also scheduled to make a decision in fiscal 2023 on when manned-unmanned teaming with RCVs will become a program of record, he said, adding that no decision has been made on when the Army will equip its first unit with the technology.

Coffman admits that the technology is “not 100% there yet,” but he remains confident that combat leaders will one day have the option to send unmanned combat vehicles into danger before committing soldiers to the fight.

“This is about soldiers and this is about commanders on the battlefield and giving them the decision space and reducing the risk of our men and women when we go into the nastiest places on Earth,” he explained.

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This was the Soviet version of the C-130 – only less safe

During the Cold War, the Soviet Union was looking for transports. They needed these transports to support their numerous airborne divisions. By the Cold War’s end, the Soviets had six airborne divisions but historically, they had as many as 15 active airborne divisions, which makes for a lot to move.


They also had the same need for tactical airlift to supply personnel. While the United States met that need with the C-130 Hercules, the Soviets turned to the Antonov design bureau to address their needs. The plane that emerged was the An-12, nicknamed the “Cub” by NATO.

Ask A Fighter Pilot: Hornet vs Super Hornet!
An ex-military An-12. Note the tail gun position – minus the two 23mm cannons. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

According to MilitaryFactory.com, the An-12 can reach a speed of 480 miles per hour and has a maximum range of 3,540 miles. It can carry up to 60 paratroopers or two BMD airborne armored fighting vehicles. It was in production for sixteen years and 1,248 airframes were produced.

What distinguishes the Soviet-designed plane from the C-130 is that some variations of the An-12 sport a twin 23mm turret. The other big difference is the accident rate. Aviation-Safety.net reports that of the 1,248 Cubs produced, 232 have been lost in accidents. By comparison, that same site notes that 353 C-130-type transports (including the civilian-model L-100) have been lost in accidents out of the more than 2,500 airframes.

Ask A Fighter Pilot: Hornet vs Super Hornet!
A baseline Y-8 with the People’s Liberation Army Air Force. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

China also has a version of the Cub known as the Y-8, a pirated design that was reverse-engineered after the Sino-Soviet split in the last 1960s. According to FlightGlobal.com, China has over 100 Y-8s in service, including airborne early-warning, maritime reconnaissance, and electronic-warfare variants. China also has the Y-9, a stretched version, with seven airframes in service.

You can see a video about this Russian ripoff of the Hercules below. That said, if you need a tactical transport, an An-12 “Cub” is not the way to go. Just buy a real C-130.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This is how Israel modified F-16s for its unique needs

The Lockheed F-16 Fighting Falcon has become a legend. It was the star of the 1986 movie, Iron Eagle, in which Doug Masters proved he was a better pilot than Maverick. It serves in many air forces the world over, but one in particular has shown the F-16 a lot of combat action. That’s Israel. All of that combat experience — which includes 47 kills — has lead Israel to make some modifications.


Ask A Fighter Pilot: Hornet vs Super Hornet!
Ilan Ramon’s IAF F-16A Netz 243, which took part in the 1981 Osirak raid. (Wikimedia Commons photo by Zachi Evenor)

This is not a new phenomenon. In 1981, three years after getting their first F-16s, Israel used some Fighting Falcons to take out the Osirak reactor near Baghdad. The flight of almost 700 miles was supposedly beyond the range of the F-16, yet eight Falcons placed 2,000-pound bombs on the target, setting back Saddam Hussein’s nuclear weapons program.

So, just how many Falcons does Israel have? Recent counts state that Israel has 224 F-16C/D/I Fighting Falcons on inventory. This is a substantial force — and these are not stock F-16s. Israel’s hacked the F-16 to make it much better than you might expect.

Ask A Fighter Pilot: Hornet vs Super Hornet!
Israel’s F-16Ds have been modified to serve as precision-strike aircraft. (Wikimedia Commons photo by Aldo Bidini)

For instance, while the United States Air Force only uses 370-gallon drop tanks on the F-16, the Israelis use 600-gallon tanks, adding 62 percent more fuel to the external tankage. The Israelis also turned the F-16Ds, normally used as conversion trainers, into precision-strike specialist planes. Israeli planes are also equipped with a lot of Israeli-designed electronic gear, usually for electronic warfare. These hacks have a price – Israeli Vipers are heavier and require modifications to their landing gear.

Ask A Fighter Pilot: Hornet vs Super Hornet!
A two-ship of Israeli air force F-16Is from Ramon Air Base, Israel, head out to the Nevada Test and Training Range, July 17 during Red Flag 09-4. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Despite buying a custom version of the F-15E Strike Eagle, called the F-15I, Israel has opted to stick with their own F-16I won, and not just because its capabilities have been forged by combat use. The F-16I is significantly cheaper than the F-15I. Although Israel is among the countries that will acquire the F-35 Lightning, the F-16 will be around for a long time as a key asset for the Israeli Defense Force.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Check out United’s new ‘Star Wars’-themed Boeing 737 plane

Luke Skywalker may have claimed the Millennium Falcon was a “piece of junk” when he first saw it (even though it could, you know, make point-five past lightspeed) — but he probably wouldn’t be saying that about United Airlines’ shiny new Boeing 737-800.

To celebrate the December 2019 theatrical release of “The Rise of Skywalker,” billed as the last film in the nine-film Skywalker saga, the airline has launched a special “Star Wars”-themed plane — and though it can’t travel at lightspeed, it does look pretty spiffy, or at least nothing at all like the heavily modified ship of a certain scruffy-looking nerf herder (sorry, Han Solo).

The plane made its first flight earlier this month, from Houston to Orlando, Florida. Though there were plenty of evil First Order stormtroopers on hand, thankfully no one was taken away for questioning by Kylo Ren.

Here’s what the plane is like inside.


Ask A Fighter Pilot: Hornet vs Super Hornet!

The “Dark Side” portion of United Airlines’ new “Star Wars”-themed plane.

(United)

Ask A Fighter Pilot: Hornet vs Super Hornet!

The “Light Side” portion of United Airlines’ new “Star Wars”-themed plane.

(United)

Ask A Fighter Pilot: Hornet vs Super Hornet!

Exterior detail on United Airlines’ new “Star Wars”-themed plane.

(United)

Ask A Fighter Pilot: Hornet vs Super Hornet!

Exterior details on United Airlines’ new “Star Wars”-themed plane.

(United)

Ask A Fighter Pilot: Hornet vs Super Hornet!

Headrests with the symbol of the Resistance on United Airlines’ new “Star Wars”-themed plane.

(United)

Ask A Fighter Pilot: Hornet vs Super Hornet!

Headrests with the logo of the First Order on United Airlines’ new “Star Wars”-themed plane.

(United)

Ask A Fighter Pilot: Hornet vs Super Hornet!

Amenity kits on United Airlines’ new “Star Wars”-themed plane.

(United)

Ask A Fighter Pilot: Hornet vs Super Hornet!

First Order stormtroopers aboard United Airlines’ new “Star Wars”-themed plane.

(United)

Ask A Fighter Pilot: Hornet vs Super Hornet!

A First Order stormtrooper confronting a passenger, presumably asking to see some identification.

(United)

Ask A Fighter Pilot: Hornet vs Super Hornet!

First Order stormtroopers in the terminal.

(United)

Ask A Fighter Pilot: Hornet vs Super Hornet!

First Order stormtroopers at the airport in Orlando, Florida.

(United)

Ask A Fighter Pilot: Hornet vs Super Hornet!

The droid BB-8 at the maiden launch of United Airlines’ new “Star Wars”-themed plane.

(United)

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The United Airlines “Star Wars”-themed plane as seen on Flight Aware.

(United)

Ask A Fighter Pilot: Hornet vs Super Hornet!

United Airlines’ “Star Wars”-themed plane.

(United)

Ask A Fighter Pilot: Hornet vs Super Hornet!

Rear detailing on United Airlines’ new “Star Wars”-themed plane.

(United)

Ask A Fighter Pilot: Hornet vs Super Hornet!

United Airlines’ new “Star Wars”-themed plane.

(United)

Ask A Fighter Pilot: Hornet vs Super Hornet!

The tail of United Airlines’ new “Star Wars”-themed plane.

(United)

This article originally appeared on Insider. Follow @thisisinsider on Twitter.

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MIGHTY CULTURE

Brains vs brawns: A Green Beret and a Ranger meet

Green Berets rely on their problem-solving abilities to survive in combat. Much of SF selection seeks to assess this talent. The Special Forces qualification course itself develops and improves creativity. Many times, military problems must be solved with the application of force. Green Berets are not afraid to get their hands dirty, but they understand the power of working with and through others.

There is a story that has been told in the SOF community for years. I don’t believe it is factual, but there is a lot of truth in it. The story goes like this:

The new Secretary of Defense had been confirmed and was touring the Pentagon, taking briefings on the capabilities of his forces. He had a well-deserved reputation as a no-nonsense guy. After a briefing on Special Operations Forces, he was escorted to lunch by a Green Beret officer.


The Secretary’s confused look did not bode well as they walked through the E ring. “I understand how SOF is different from conventional forces, but the Rangers and Green Berets seem just alike to me. You have a Special Forces Tab and a Ranger Tab. What’s the difference?”

“The units are very different, sir. While both units are composed of very capable soldiers, selected for intelligence and fitness, Rangers attack the enemy directly, while Special Forces work by, with, and through indigenous forces to accomplish tasks far beyond their numbers.” The Green Beret secretly hoped he would not be pulled into the eternal Ranger versus SF discussion for the 10,000th time. He prided himself in his teaching abilities, but this guy was being obtuse.

“They dress just alike, they are both ARSOF units, and they both have direct-action capabilities. How are they so different?” It seemed the Secretary was going to force this. The next four years of Special Forces missions hinged on the new Secretary’s understanding. As they walked through an area of temporary construction, the Green Beret had a flash of inspiration.

“Sir, humor me here; let’s do a little demonstration. Rangers are highly aggressive. They pride themselves on their toughness and discipline. They follow orders without question. Do you see that huge soldier with a tan beret? He is a Ranger.”

As the Ranger approached, the Green Beret called out, “Hey, Ranger! Come here.”

The Ranger moved toward them, sprang to attention, and saluted. “Rangers lead the way, sir. How may I be of assistance?”

“Can you help us here for a moment? This is the new Secretary of Defense. He wants to know more about the Rangers. Will you help me educate him?”

Pointing to a new section of hallway, the Green Beret officer said, “Ranger, I need you to break through that wall.”

“Hooah, sir. Would you like a breach or complete destruction?”

“A man-sized breach would be fine.”

With that, the Ranger removed his beret and assumed a three-point stance six feet from the wall. With a grunt, he launched himself into the wall, punching his head and shoulders right through the drywall. Hitting a 2×4 on the way through, he was a little stunned, but he continued to work, smashing a hole wide enough for a fully kitted Ranger to pass through. Staggering to his feet with a trickle of blood running down his face, he appeared a little disoriented.

“Thank you, Ranger. Great job. You are a credit to the Regiment. You need to go to the aid station and get someone to look at that cut.”

The Secretary was incredulous. He had never seen such a display of pure discipline and strength. “That was astounding. What could Special Forces possibly do to match that?”

The Green Beret was also impressed, but not surprised. “The Rangers are highly disciplined sir, but Special Forces selection and training also produce strong, disciplined soldiers. We deploy older, more mature soldiers in very small numbers. They understand that they are a valuable strategic resource, and are selected for their advanced problem-solving abilities.”

The secretary seemed displeased. “Frankly, that sounds like bullshit. It seems that these Rangers are the finest soldiers in the Army. What could Special Forces do that the Rangers cannot?”

As he spoke, a Green Beret Staff Sergeant walked by. Not as young or lean as the Ranger, he had a commanding presence and a serious look filled with confidence. The Green Beret officer called him over.

“Hey Mike, can you help us here for a moment? This is the new Secretary of Defense. He wants to know more about the Special Forces; will you help me educate him?”

The staff sergeant shook the secretary’s hand and introduced himself. “How can I help you, sir?”

Pointing to an undamaged section of the hallway, the Green Beret officer said, “Mike, I need you to break through that wall.”

“No problem. Would you like a breach or complete destruction?”

“A man-sized breach would be fine.”

The staff sergeant removed his beret and stood for a moment in silent thought six feet from the wall. He scanned the area and smiled broadly as he found the perfect tool for the job. “Hey Ranger,” he said, “Come here.”

Know your abilities, learn your environment, and use your resources deliberately. Green Berets know that finding just the right tool can be the most important part of the job. The Ranger in the story can take down a wall. The Green Beret can take out walls until he runs out of Rangers, and then one more.

As a force multiplier in the real world, the Green Berets can enlist large units with local knowledge to fight beside them. A single 12-man A-Team can train and employ a 500-man infantry battalion. That is a significant return on investment for the taxpayer.

Value yourself, and use your rapport skills to build partnerships. Many hands make light work; don’t do everything yourself. Green Berets know that there is no limit to what one can do if other people are doing the work.

This article originally appeared on SOFREP. Follow @sofrepofficial on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

8 questions with former operator Kyle Lamb

Kyle Lamb has lived a life most couldn’t even dream of. He grew up in a small town in South Dakota, but by the age of 24 he had been selected into the most elite special operations unit in the military. He went on to serve in “The Unit” for the next 15 years with deployments to Somalia, Bosnia, and Iraq on multiple occasions (among many others).

Since Lamb’s retirement from the U.S. Army, he has authored two books on topics ranging from marksmanship to leadership and founded Viking Tactics, Inc., which specializes in tactical training and equipment. You may have even seen some of his articles in Guns & Ammo magazine or his face on the Outdoor Channel.


Coffee, or Die Magazine recently caught up with the retired sergeant major to talk about everything from combat in Mogadishu to his passion for history. Check it out:

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Lamb while serving overseas.

(Photo courtesy of Kyle Lamb)

You spent the vast majority of your career as a member of the military’s premiere special missions unit. There’s a lot of mystique that (rightfully) surrounds that world, but what is the one thing that would surprise most people about what it’s like to live that life?

Probably how normal those guys are. Not everyone there is like that, but there are a lot of really normal husbands and dads. They go to work in street clothes, then put on their commando costume and go do crazy stuff. Everyone expects those guys to look and act a certain way, but a lot of them aren’t like that at all. Their neighbors don’t even know what they do. It’s just a different world.

Looking back, what was the scariest “oh-shit” moment in your career?

I think probably the one that stands out the most was being in Somalia in a big gun fight and thinking, We’re done, we’re not gonna make it out of this. I said a prayer and decided to just do the best I can and not be a coward. That doesn’t mean you don’t have the pucker factor though. I don’t think you ever get to the point where you know how you’re gonna act in that sort of situation.

Once you get to a certain level in your training, and once I became a troop sergeant major, my biggest scare then was when we were getting ready to go out. I didn’t want anything to happen to my guys. Not so concerned about myself — I knew I was with the best group of guys, best medics, best equipment — I just didn’t want anyone to get jacked up on the mission.

Ask A Fighter Pilot: Hornet vs Super Hornet!

Lamb performing shooting drills at a range.

(Photo courtesy of Kyle Lamb/Viking Tactics, Inc.)

What was your plan when you retired from the military?

I was scared to death but what helped me was that I had prepared myself pretty well before I got out. I already had 42 weeks of range classes booked before I got out. So I knew the first year I was gonna be working, making decent money, and I just hoped I would survive after that.

Well, the first year was difficult, but not because of work — I mean, I worked my butt off — it was because of separation anxiety and not having a mission. Luckily, I was around a lot of law enforcement and military guys though, which helped.

You seem to be a student of history. With the U.S. on its 17th straight year at war, how do you think this era will be viewed in future history books?

I’m a diehard history reader, studier, listener — whatever I can do. I haven’t always been that way though. I had a guy on my team named Earl Fillmore who died in Somalia. He would ask me questions about the Civil War, and I didn’t know the answers. He would say, “Man, you’re dumb.” So he gave me this book about Nathan Bedford Forrest. I read this book and thought, This is awesome, and it’s a true story.

So that really got me going with all history. I think being military guys, we definitely need to be students of history so we don’t repeat the same mistakes. And if you don’t like to read books, then listen to podcasts or audiobooks.

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Lamb while serving overseas.

(Photo courtesy of Kyle Lamb)

I think the war is one thing, but what we do at home during that war is the important thing. We’ve always had good warriors out doing good things, but now we have good warriors that are a smaller percentage of the population. And we said we’re gonna do this, and we went out and did this stuff for God and country, and I think the people who read history will say we had the greatest army in the world.

Yet we have more problems at home than a lot of other countries. I feel like we are so separated right now. It’s gonna read one of two ways: “Wow, they had the greatest army,” or “They ruined it with social experiments.” Where are we gonna be at? I just don’t know.

Finally, if you’re an American and you don’t feel that America should be No. 1, how can you call yourself an American?

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Lamb with an elk he felled on a hunting trip.

(Photo courtesy of Kyle Lamb)

Was coffee a part of your daily routine while in the military? What’s the craziest place you’ve ever enjoyed a cup?

My love of coffee comes from the Army. That’s when I really got into coffee. When I went to Bosnia, I had some really good coffee there. It was really strong, kind of jacked me up. But it was smooth, had the smell, the aftertaste. When I would deploy, I would take an espresso machine with me, a small basic one and a grinder, too. I would take whole beans with me and grind ’em up. I would brew it, and guys would look at me like a I was a weirdo. But by my fifth trip to Iraq, half my troop was bringing an espresso machine with them.

Everything’s relative though. Normal to me is strange to you. Probably the best places I like it is at a high altitude while hunting elk. Water boils at a lower temperature, which makes a difference with your coffee. I enjoy the coffee with that vantage point, that sun coming up.

BRCC Presents: Kyle Lamb

www.youtube.com

You’ve written a few books, including one on leadership. During your tenure, you led specially selected, elite humans performing at the pinnacle of their profession. Do you think your leadership philosophy is better or worse because of that?

Leading smart people is more challenging than leading stupid people. I was leading a lot of intelligent guys who were physically fit; top performers. People like that you can’t just bully them into following you.

Watching how some people lead in the civilian world, I feel bad for them. They try to bully and don’t define their mission. They are so politically correct that they’re ineffective. I want the truth, even if it hurts. Our guys were super honest because we wanted to be the best; we wanted our unit to be the best. If you have thin skin, you’ll get eaten alive. You want performers on the team, not people who believe in status or entitlement.

You need to look at all the people you are working with or for and figure out their strengths and weaknesses. Build on their weaknesses and utilize their strengths. People who aren’t out of control but are pushing the envelope.

Ask A Fighter Pilot: Hornet vs Super Hornet!

Lamb working with a student on a pistol range.

(Photo courtesy of Kyle Lamb/Viking Tactics, Inc.)

Many guys who serve in special operations and then go on to live public lives face criticism from their military peers for stepping out of the shadows of the “quiet professional.” Have you faced those criticisms, and if so, how have you dealt with it?

The difference is that I haven’t let any secrets out of the bag. The other difference is that I had my books approved by the unit. Any redactions that they asked for, I did it. I did have one TV show that I did — I never said anything about the unit, but one guy wanted to string me up for that. What that really did for me, at that point in my career as a washed-up military dude doing my thing, is upset me for a while. I was like, Why did I do that? Then I got mad. So, I called up the unit commander and said, “Hey man, what’s going on? This dude’s trying to throw me under the bus.” He said nothing’s wrong, don’t worry about it.

But here’s the deal: Eventually you’re going to get out of the military, and you’re allowed to use the term “Delta.” They tell you that when you get out, but I never used it. I’m glad that happened though because it was a real learning and growing experience. I’m just not gonna sweat it anymore, but I’ll still abide by all the rules. When you get that one dude out of a thousand who attacks you, it just shows he was never your friend to begin with.

Most guys coming out of the military are much better with a rifle than a pistol. If you had to narrow it down, what’s the one thing that will improve a pistol shot more than anything else?

You need to train. There’s not one specific little task that you can perform, it’s a total package. You gotta draw safely, present the weapon, squeeze the trigger straight to the rear, follow through on the shot, and repeat as necessary. One mag, one kill. Get out and train on your own, and once you hit that plateau, go seek professional training from someone who is a better shooter than you. Then take it to the next level. If you were in the military, you might be familiar with weapons or comfortable with them, but you may not be the best shot so get out and train. The pistol is much more difficult to shoot than the rifle for most military people.

This article originally appeared on Coffee or Die. Follow @CoffeeOrDieMag on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The Coast Guard could have the Navy’s new frigates

For a long time, the Coast Guard has used Navy hand-me-downs. After World War II, many old Navy ships were pressed into Coast Guard service when they were no longer needed for defeating the Axis. Even today, the Coast Guard operates a U.S. Navy castoff in USCGC Alex Haley, a former Navy salvage tug. But now, the tides have turned, and the Coast Guard may actually be bailing the Navy out.


How so? The National Security Cutter is one of five contenders in the Navy’s FFG(X) program to find a new, multi-mission guided-missile frigates in the wake of the littoral combat ship’s poor performance. Other contenders include a Lockheed designed based on the Freedom-class littoral combat ship and foreign designs — one from Spain (the Álvaro de Bazán-class guided missile frigate) and a Franco-Italian consortium (the FREMM).

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The Huntington Ingalls proposal for the FFG(X) program is based on the Bertholf-class national security cutters.

(Department of Homeland Security)

The National Security Cutter hull is currently in production. Right now, the Coast Guard is in the process of building their 10th out of 11 planned vessels.

Also called the Legend-class cutter, this ship is armed with a 57mm gun, about a half-dozen .50-caliber machine guns, and the ability to operate a helicopter, usually a MH-60T Jayhawk. The model displayed last year at SeaAirSpace 2017, the FF4923, also included a 16-cell Mk41 vertical-launch system and eight over-the-horizon anti-ship missiles. This ship already meets several of the requirements as laid out by the Navy’s FFG(X) program, making it a great launch point.

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Three Oliver Hazard Perry-class frigates: USS Oliver Hazard Perry (FFG 7), USS Antrim (FFG 20), and USS Jack Williams (FFG 24).

(US Navy)

According to spec sheets, the National Security Cutter has a top speed of 28 knots. This is slower than some of the other ships out in contention, notably the Freedom-class LCS and the Bazán-class frigates, but it can out-sprint the FREMM. The good news is that the National Security Cutter is large enough (at 4,500 tons — about 50 percent larger than a Perry-class frigate) to handle the new systems.

The Navy is planning to announce the winning design in 2020. Plans call for at least 20 guided-missile frigates to be purchased over a decade’s time.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The world’s longest flight is moving one step closer to reality

Australian airline Qantas is taking the next steps towards its goal of having nonstop 19-hour flights between Sydney and London and New York.

The airline has openly discussed the endevour — internally known as “Project Sunrise” — for several years, following the successful launch of a slightly shorter, but still lengthy, nonstop flight between Perth and London in March 2018.

That route is measured as about 9,000 miles and takes around 17 hours, while the Sydney-New York route would be around 10,000 miles, and the Sydney-London flight is about 500 miles longer.


Qantas is scheduled to receive three new Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner aircraft this fall — one each in October, November, and December 2019. The planes are being built at Boeing’s Seattle plant, and would normally be flown by Qantas pilots straight to Australia from there.

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(Photo by Suhyeon Choi)

Instead, the airline plans to fly the planes to New York and London first, and then fly nonstop to Sydney from there.

The planes won’t have paying customers — instead, they’ll each have about 40 people on board — including crew — most of whom will be Qantas employees. the airline says it plans to study how those on board react to the lengthy 19-hour flights.

According to the airline, “[s]cientists and medical experts from the Charles Perkins Centre will monitor sleep patterns, food and beverage consumption, lighting, physical movement, and inflight entertainment to assess impact on health, wellbeing and body clock.”

Commercial flights with full or mostly-full passenger loads are not currently possible due to the range of the airplanes available today. Keeping the planes mostly empty will increase their range, making the test flights possible. A normal Qantas 787-9 can seat up to 236 passengers, plus crew, and carry both luggage and cargo, while still achieving a range of about 9,000 miles — the length of the Perth-London flight.

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(Photo by John Kappa)

The airline is considering new ultra-long-range aircraft from Boeing and Airbus for the eventual New York and London to Sydney flights — Airbus’ rumored A350-1000ULR airplane, and Boeing 777X project, both of which are still being tested. Qantas has previously said it would make a decision around the end of 2019.

The world’s current longest flight— from Singapore to New York’s Newark Airport — is operated by a Singapore Airlines A350-900ULR configured with only business class and premium economy seats— no regular economy cabin.

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

This is why US troops didn’t use drum magazines in tommy guns

The World War I-era U.S. Army was unprepared for fighting a global confrontation in the 20th Century. Hell, it was unprepared for any modern confrontation at the turn of the century. As America prepared to enter the Great War, the War Department called on its military minds to develop a lightweight, short-range, trench-clearing game changer. The result was the Thompson submachine gun.


The “Tommy Gun,” as it came to be called, used the Colt M1911 grip and its dependable .45-caliber ammunition. By 1919, the fully-automatic weapon was perfected, and it was capable of using a 20-round block magazine or a 50- to 100-round drum magazine. But the war was over and the surplus was sold on the civilian market to anyone who could afford one – including notorious gangsters.

It was the outlaws and gangsters who made the Tommy Gun iconic.

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Legendary gangster John Dillinger with Tommy Gun.

In nearly every photo of the era, the gangsters can be seen using the drum magazines, which provided them more ammunition for the weapon’s high rate of fire. It makes sense for an outlaw to use more ammo when trying to make a quick, clean getaway from the fuzz. Shouldn’t it make sense for U.S. troops to do the same when advancing in World War II?

The answer is no, and not just because a 100-round magazine will help deplete ammunition much faster than having to conserve 20- or 30-round box mags. It turns out, the Thompson was really bulky and not so easy to carry while slung with a drum magazine. More than just being unwieldy, the rounds tended to rattle inside the drum magazine and produced a lot of unwanted noise, noise that could get an entire unit killed in combat.

But the most important reason was reloading.

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Yeah, gangsters look cool and all, but have you ever seen Marines fighting to take Okinawa?

Switching between a drum magazine and a box magazine required an extra set of tools. To load a drum magazine also required the user to have a special tool that would lock the bolt back to the rear. And, unlike spring-loaded box mags that were already under tension, reloading a drum magazine required a tool to rotate the spring in the magazine enough to put the rounds under the necessary tension.

Worst of all, if you lost any of the tools needed to reload the weapon, you would be hard-pressed to actually be able to do it without assistance. Drum mags also weighed more and took up more space in a very limited kit. Whereas the box magazine could be loaded and dropped from the rifle in seconds, shared with a buddy, and reloaded just as fast.

The difference between 30 second and 3 seconds under fire in World War II could have been the difference between life and death. In gangland Chicago, all you needed was time for your V8 Packard to speed away before the Untouchables swooped in.

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