The scenes of John Rambo wasting bad guys with an endless supply of ammunition isn’t so unrealistic after all.
While military blog Task and Purpose nailed it with its recent article on what military movies get wrong, the U.S. Army is actually fielding a new backpack that will give soldiers 500 rounds to fire downrange.
The Rapid Equipping Force (REF) has created the IRONMAN backpack, which bring soldiers closer to the infinite ammo Rambo status. It holds 500 rounds of ammo connected to a feeder that attaches directly to the M240B or Mark 48 machine gun. It eliminates the need for an ammunition bearer, although hiking with that much ammo could get pretty rough.
This video explains how the apparatus works, with the firing demonstration beginning at 5:00. Check it out:
In fact, Tom Clancy recounted one such tale of an Abrams tank getting stuck in the mud during Desert Storm, deflecting shots from as close as 400 yards, and then surviving efforts to destroy it in place with just some sights out of alignment.
However, that toughness comes at a price. These tanks have a lot of blind spots.
What types of problems come from not being able to see through armor? Think about that scene with Welsh and McGrath during Episode 3 of “Band of Brothers” when they took out that German assault gun with a bazooka. Worse, the only way to really get a good view was to poke your head outside the vehicle. If the enemy has a good sniper, that becomes a dicey proposition.
Thankfully for tank crews, Elbit Systems is addressing that problem. According to company reps, the IronVision system now means crews don’t have to deal with being situationally unaware. But you might be wondering how you can get a tank crew to see though inches of armor.
Officially, Elbit’s website describes IronVision as a 360-degree “panoramic situational awareness system” for crewmen on board tanks and other armored fighting vehicles. This is done using so-called “See-Through Armor” technology very similar to that used on the helmet-mounted sights used by pilots of aircraft like the MiG-29, Su-27, and AH-64 Apache.
IronVision also uses pre-loaded data about terrain and obstacles to give crews the ability to see through their tanks and eliminate the blind spots. As a side benefit, these systems also help reduce motion sickness and visual distortion in armored vehicles.
Often, when tank crews are buttoned up, they risk some grunt getting close enough to do real damage to their vehicle. With IronVision, those risks have been greatly reduced.
Lockheed Martin has developed a new weapons rack meant to give the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter a boost in firepower without sacrificing stealth, the defense contractor announced May 1, 2019.
The fifth-generation stealth fighters today carry four AIM-120 radar-guided air-to-air missiles, but the new weapons rack — Sidekick — will allow the aircraft to hold an additional Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missile in each of the aircraft’s two internal weapons bays, Lockheed’s F-35 test pilot Tony “Brick” Wilson said at a media briefing, according to Seapower Magazine.
That would raise the number of Amraams the F-35 can carry to six from four, giving the fighter more to throw at an enemy fighter or drone in air combat.
An F-35A Lightning II test aircraft during a live-fire test over an Air Force range in the Gulf of Mexico on June 12, 2018.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Michael Jackson)
The F-35 stores weapons internally to maintain stealth. Presently, a strictly internal loadout allows the fighter to carry up to 5,700 pounds of ordnance.
Internally, the planes can carry a full set of Amraams or a mixture of air-to-air missiles and air-to-surface Joint Direct Attack Munitions.
The aircraft can also operate in “beast mode,” a combined internal and external loadout that allows the F-35 to fly into battle with up to 22,000 pounds of weaponry — but this configuration degrades the jet’s stealth advantage.
Three F-35C Lightning II aircraft over Eglin Air Force Base in Fort Walton Beach on Feb. 1, 2019.
(U.S. Navy photo by Chief Mass Communication Specialist Shannon E. Renfroe)
Lockheed’s new Sidekick weapons rack will reportedly be available for the Air Force F-35As and Navy F-35Cs but not the Marine Corps F-35Bs. These planes have smaller weapons bays because of a lift fan needed for short takeoff and vertical landing, a requirement for operations aboard US amphibious assault ships.
The F-35 program office first mentioned efforts to add capacity for another Amraam in each weapons bay two years ago. “There’s a lot of engineering work to go with that,” the program’s director explained at the time, according to Air Force Magazine.
Speaking with reporters May 1, 2019, Wilson said the “extra missiles add a little weight but are not adding extra drag.” He also said the F-35 had the ability to eventually carry hypersonic missiles should that capability be necessary.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
In the 1950s France, in the midst of dealing with insurgencies in its colonies in Algeria and Indochina, recognized a military need for easily transportable artillery that could quickly be deployed to the front lines. It happened upon one very novel solution: a militarized Vespa scooter with a built-in armor-piercing gun.
The Vespa 150 TAP, built by French Vespa licensee ACMA, was designed expressly to be used with the French airborne special forces, the Troupes Aéro Portées (TAP).
The Vespa TAP was designed to be airdropped into a military theater fully assembled and ready for immediate action. This high level of mobility made the TAP the perfect anti-guerilla weapon, since enemy irregulars could appear at a moment’s notice even in remote locations.
Outfitted with an M20 recoilless rifle, the TAP proved more than capable of destroying makeshift fortifications used by guerrillas in Algeria and Indochina. The M20 was designed as an anti-tank recoilless rifle that was outfitted with a high-explosive anti-tank warhead. Under ideal circumstances, the rifle could penetrate 100mm of armor from 7,000 yards away.
The M20 outfitted on the Vespa was never actually meant to be fired while the vehicle was in motion. Instead, the Vespa frame functioned as a way of transporting the artillery to the front line. Once there, the rifle would be removed from the Vespa and placed on a tripod for accurate firing.
Remarkably, aside for a slight overhaul of the engine, plus the inclusion of the rifle and ammunition mounts, the standard Vespa and the TAP were designed almost identically. The TAP had a strengthened frame and lower gearing, but besides that it drives just as any Vespa would.
About 500 total TAPs were produced throughout the 1950s.
However ingenious the TAP was, the vehicle was never used outside of the French military during engagements in Algeria and French Indochina.
The P-8A Poseidon, introduced in 2013 to replace the P-3 Orion, has quickly become one of the most highly regarded maritime-patrol aircraft in service, fielded by the Navy and sought after by partner countries all over the world.
But the P-8A is dealing with some lingering issues that could affect the force as a whole, according to the fiscal year 2018 annual report produced by the Pentagon’s Office of the Director of Operational Test and Evaluation.
US Navy crew members on board a P-8A Poseidon.
(US Navy photo)
The Poseidon’s capabilities now include receiver air refueling, employment of the AGM-84D Harpoon Block I anti-ship missile, and several upgrades to its communications systems.
But, the report said, “despite significant efforts to improve P-8A intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) sensors, overall P-8A ISR mission capabilities remain limited by sensor performance shortfalls.”
Moreover, the report found, data from the operational testing and evaluation of the P-8A’s latest software engineering upgrade as well as metrics from the Navy “show consistently negative trends in fleet-wide aircraft operational availability due to a shortage of spare parts and increased maintenance requirements.”
A Boeing and a Raytheon employee complete installation of an APY-10 radar antenna on P-8A Poseidon test aircraft T2.
Forward-deployed P-8A units have reported “relatively high mission capable rates” when they have access to enough spare parts, sufficient logistic supply support, and priority maintenance.
However, the report said, focusing on supporting forward-deployed units “frequently reduces aircraft availability and increases part cannibalization rates at other fleet operating locations.”
Shortages in spare parts for the Poseidon are exacerbated by the nature of the contracting and delivery system for the P-8A, according to the report.
Naval aircrewman (Operator) 2nd Class Karl Shinn unloads a sonobuoy on a P-8A Poseidon.
(US Navy photo by Chief Mass Comm. Specialist Keith DeVinney)
The use of engineering model predictions rather than reliability data from the fleet itself, “ensures that some mission critical spare part contracts lag actual fleet needs,” lengthening the already long six- to nine-month contracting process.
These delays are exacerbated by consumable-item processes at the Defense Logistics Agency, which requires depleting stocks and back orders before starting to procure new items, according to the report.
“These delays are a major contributing factor to the observed increases in aircraft downtime awaiting parts and higher part cannibalization,” it added, saying that the P-8A program is working with Naval Supply Systems Command to procure parts on a more flexible and proactive basis and to start basing procurement on fleet-reliability data.
Keeping an eye on things
More than 60 P-8As are in service for the US Navy. The plane is based on Boeing’s 737 airliner but built to withstand more stress and outfitted with a suite of electronic gear to allow it to detect and track ships and subs — even just their periscopes — across wide swaths of ocean, as well as to conduct surveillance of ports and coastlines.
“I went up on a training flight, and basically … they could read the insignia on a sailor’s hat from thousands of feet above,” Michael Fabey, author of the 2017 book “Crashback,” about China-US tensions in the Pacific, told Business Insider in early 2018. “It’s not the aircraft itself of course,” he added, but “all the goodies they put in there.”
The Navy plans to improve the aircraft’s capability going forward by adding the Advanced Airborne Sensor radar and by integrating the AGM-84 Harpoon Block II+ missile and the High Altitude Anti-Submarine Warfare Weapon Capability MK 54 torpedo.
Interest in the P-8A continues to grow.
US Navy aircrew members on a P-8A Poseidon.
(US Navy photo by Chief Mass Communication Specialist Keith DeVinney)
India has bought 12 of the P-8I variant, and the country’s navy chief has said it’s looking to buy more. Australia is buying eight and has an option for four more.
Other countries in the Asian-Pacific region are looking to buy, too, including South Korea, to which the US State Department approved the sale of six in 2018.
NATO countries are also looking to reinvigorate their airborne anti-submarine-warfare capabilities, including the UK and Norway, which are adjacent to the Greenland-Iceland-UK gap, a chokepoint for submarines traveling between the Atlantic and the Arctic, where Russia’s Northern Fleet and nuclear forces are based. The US recently sent P-8As back to the Keflavik airbase in Iceland, though it does not plan to reestablish a permanent presence.
At the end of January 2019, Boeing was awarded a .46 billion modification to an existing contract for the production and delivery of 19 P-8A Poseidons — 10 for the US Navy, four for the UK, and five for Norway.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
As North Korea continues with their will-they/won’t-they stance on de-nuclearization, it’s worth looking at what options the U.S. has for countering the doomsday weapon that North Korea might posses: a nuclear-armed, ballistic-missile submarine. These are, broadly speaking, comparable to America’s Trident submarines designed to deliver a nuclear strike anywhere in the world with zero warning.
So, how is the Navy ready to prevent a radioactive Alaska or metro Los Angeles?
Literally everything in this picture is more capable and stealthy than any asset the North Korean Navy has.
(U.S. Navy photo by Fire Control Technician Senior Chief Vien Nguyen)
America’s best offensive tool against enemy submarines is our own nuclear-powered attack subs. Right now, the Virginia class is the top of the line, and we’ve covered before how these things are basically 400-feet of black death. They’re super stealthy and capable of finding most other vessels underwater. They also carry a huge arsenal with up to 12 tomahawk cruise missiles and 38 torpedoes, usually the Mk. 48. They can also carry anti-ship missiles, but that requires trading out torpedoes.
When fully configured for anti-ship, anti-shore missions, the subs can take 50 shots at enemy forces on a single cruise. If it catches some enemy subs in the docks, the tomahawks can quickly wipe them out. But catching them underwater is even better since the Virginia-class can flood its torpedo tube, take its shot, and then disappear back into the surrounding ocean noise for a re-attack or to hunt down more targets.
Best of all, the Virginia-class has a huge noise advantage over North Korea’s fleet of antique and homegrown subs, all of which are diesel electric. While diesel-electric boats can be quieter than nuclear ones, it still requires a huge amount of research and engineering knowledge to create stealthy subs. North Korea’s fleet mostly pre-dates these developments and their performance in the open ocean has been less than stellar. It’s doubtful that their ballistic missile subs are much stealthier than the rest of the fleet.
Oh, and if you don’t like the Virginia class, we still have dozens of Los Angeles-class and Seawolf-class attack submarines that are also leaps and bounds ahead of anything North Korea can put to sea.
The USS Fitzgerald, an Arleigh Burke-class destroyer, fires an anti-submarine rocket that is otherwise known as the “North Korean party crasher.”
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class William McCann)
But surely we aren’t counting solely on a couple of subs being on-station when a potential war breaks out? Of course not —rest assured, scared doubter that I made up for this segue. America also has a number of Arleigh Burke-class destroyers that we deploy to the Korean peninsula, especially during anti-submarine exercises.
The Arleigh Burke-class vessels are equipped with the awesome Aegis radar that you’ve likely heard so much about. If not, it’s such an amazing air defense radar that it’s often used on land-based installations to counter nearly anything that flies including Russia’s nuclear-armed ballistic missiles.
If a North Korean sub actually got a nuclear missile into the air, the Arleigh Burke-class has a good chance of knocking it right back out of the sky. The chances are slim that the sub would even get a chance to fire that missile since the Arleigh Burkes’ towed sonar array would likely find the sub and the destroyer’s anti-submarine rockets could put a quick end to it.
These things can hover over you, waiting as long as is required to murder you and your whole crew.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Benjamin A. Lewis)
Add in the destroyer’s anti-submarine helicopter (yup, it has those), and it’s hard to imagine that those poor North Korean crews have much of a chance.
But what if all of that is somehow not enough? After all, the subs and ships have to get fairly close to the North Korean subs to find them, and there’s a lot of ocean out there.
NK Sub: I’ll just hide way over here, far from the destroyers and subs. P-8 Poseidon: LOL
Luckily, the U.S. has also invested in a little thing called the P-8 Poseidon anti-submarine maritime patrol aircraft. It’s a Boeing 737, but with all the flight attendants and overhead bins ripped out and replaced with all the electronics you could ever imagine, all focused on spying out enemy submarines and reporting their locations to any and every asset in the area that can hurt them. Badly.
The plane can also do search and rescue or whatever, but that’s not important for this discussion.
America has all these assets to destroy North Korean subs. Meanwhile, this North Korean sub was captured when it got itself stuck against the South Korean coast.
(Idobi, CC BY-SA 3.0)
So, with all the assets in theater, there are planes and helicopters in the air scooping up data on everything under the water, surface ships towing sonar arrays, and submarines carefully patrolling beneath the waves, listening to everything that happens in every nook and cranny.
And once one of them finds a target, Americans in the air, on the sea, and under the surface can all start pinning it in and attacking it with a vengeance. So, good luck, North Korean submarine crews. For your sake, you better hope that your engineers somehow created more stealthy submarines than the U.S., Russia, China, or NATO, because you will be very dead otherwise.
“I’ve had a good life, so I can’t complain at all,” he told KARE 11.
As an only child who never married or had any children, Karlstrand has no heirs to leave his belongings to. Everything in his home has been donated to members of the community, including his $1 million retirement fund to the school he graduated from.
“The school receives many gifts. This one is just deeply touching,” said Connie White Delaney, dean of the University of Minnesota Nursing School. The donation provided six scholarships this year and more to come.
His home of 38 years will be donated to Habitat for Humanity, which will find a new owner after he passes. Karlstrand’s only requirement for the charity is that the new owner be a military veteran like himself. “I wanted to give back to the veterans if I could,” Karlstrand said.
In 1999, U.S. military planners had to solve a tricky problem: How do you stop a ruthless dictator from breaking the rules without resorting to ruthless tactics yourself?
Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein was ignoring “no-fly zones” established to keep him from attacking Kurdish and Sunni minorities in his own country. American and allied air forces were able to force Iraqi jets to stay on the ground, but Hussein ordered his anti-air units to antagonize the U.S. fighters from civilian areas. He also stationed other units in areas they weren’t allowed to be in, but made sure they were surrounded by civilians as well.
To hit the targets without causing collateral damage, the U.S. turned to “concrete bombs.” The bombs were training aids repurposed to destroy actual targets. Weighing 500, 1,000, or 2,000 pounds, they wouldn’t explode when they struck an enemy vehicle but would transfer their kinetic energy into it. This would destroy even large vehicles like tanks without harming people nearby. If the crew was lucky, they might even survive a bomb that struck outside of the crew area of a vehicle.
France used the bombs in 2011, dropping concrete bombs during the liberation of Libya. Concrete bombs are still used by America in both training and real world missions. To see a simulated concrete bomb destroy a car, check out the National Geographic video below.
The development of aerial refueling was one of the greatest leaps in fighter lethality. A fighter, just like any aircraft, consists of hundreds of tradeoffs—cost, payload, speed, stealth, size, weight, maneuverability, the list goes on and on. But, the Achilles heel of fighters has always been their fuel consumption.
At the heart of a modern jet like the F-16 or F-35 is an afterburning turbofan engine. The turbofan part is similar to an airliner, however the afterburner is a special section fitted to the aft-tailpipe that injects fuel and ignites it, similar to a flame thrower. This rapidly increases thrust, however the tradeoff is that it burns fuel at an incredible rate.
Members of the 18th Component Maintenance Squadron engine test facility, run an F-15 Eagle engine at full afterburner while checking for leaks and any other issues. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Omari Bernard)
I remember flying in an F-16 in afterburner while supersonic over the Yellow Sea and looking down to see a fuel-flow rate of over 50,000 lbs per hour. To put that into perspective, that’s similar to a fire-hose operating fully open—and that’s just a single engine, a twin-engine jet such as the F-15 or F-22 can double that. The problem is, topped off, I could only carry 7,000 pounds of fuel which was enough for me to fly at that fuel-setting for less than 10 minutes.
The reason we’re able to sacrifice fuel for incredible speed and maneuverability is because we can refuel in the air. The Air Force has over 450 airborne tankers, which are specially modified passenger aircraft that are filled with fuel. The backbone of our tanker fleet, the KC-135 Stratotanker is based on the Boeing 707, which amazingly has been flying aerial refueling operations since the 1950’s.
A 401st Tactical Fighter Wing F-16C Fighting Falcon aircraft refuels from a KC-135 Stratotanker aircraft as another F-16 stands by during Operation Desert Storm. (USAF Photo)
When we need fuel, we’ll pull up slightly behind and below the tanker. The tanker will then extend it’s boom, which is a 50 foot long tube with small flight control surfaces on it. The boomer, who sits in the back of the aircraft, then steers the boom using those control surfaces into the refueling receptacle of our aircraft.
Once contact is made, a seal forms and fuel starts transferring at several thousand pounds per minute. We’ll then continue to maintain that precise position using director lights on the bottom of the tanker until we’re topped off. The amount of time it takes depends on how much fuel is transferred, but generally takes about 5 to 10 minutes.
A U.S. Air Force pilot navigates an F-35A Lightning II aircraft assigned to the 58th Fighter Squadron, 33rd Fighter Wing into position to refuel with a KC-135 Stratotanker assigned to the 336th Air Refueling Squadron over the northwest coast of Florida. (USAF photo by MSgt John Nimmo Sr.)
Aerial refueling is a common part of most missions. When we take our jets to different exercises around the country, we’ll use tankers so we can fly nonstop. Tankers also allow us to double our training during a flight—we’ll fly our mission, refuel, and then fly it again. When we deploy, tankers allow us to cross vast swaths of ocean in one hop—I remember topping off 10 times on my way to Afghanistan. But, the most critical benefit of air refueling is it allows us to project and sustain air power.
Tankers allow us to fly indefinitely. Even if I was running my power settings as efficiently as possible, I could only stay airborne for about two hours, which translates into a combat radius of just a few hundred miles. That’s not nearly enough range to project power into another country and return home. With a tanker though, our combat radius can extend into the thousands of miles—we’re primarily limited by pilot fatigue.
By breaking the fighter range problem into two components—a fighter and a tanker— engineers were able to massively increase the performance and relevance of fighters in combat. A single formation of fighters can have a near strategic level impact on the battlefield.
Make sure to check back in two weeks for an in-cockpit play-by-play of how we rejoin with the tanker and refuel at 350 mph.
Want to know more about life as a fighter pilot? Check out Justin “Hasard” Lee’s video about a day in the life of a fighter pilot below:
Air Force Fighter Pilots | Ep. 5: A Day In The Life Of An Air Force Fighter Pilot
Nearly two months after its commercial launch, a private Israeli spacecraft has slipped into lunar orbit and will soon try landing on the moon’s surface.
The dishwasher-size robot, called Beresheet (a biblical reference that means “in the beginning”) could pull off the first private moon landing in history if all goes according to plan. The mission could also make Israel the fourth nation ever to have a spacecraft survive a lunar-landing attempt.
Beresheet launched aboard a SpaceX rocket on Feb. 21, 2019. Over the past six weeks, the roughly 1,300-lb robot has gradually accelerated its way toward the moon. SpaceIL, a nonprofit group based out of Tel Aviv University, researched, designed, and built the spacecraft since 2011 on a mostly private budget of about $100 million.
On April 8, 2019, mission controllers fired Beresheet’s engines to achieve an elliptical orbit around the moon. At its farthest, Beresheet moves about 290 miles (467 kilometers) above the lunar surface; at its closest, the spacecraft’s altitude is 131 miles (211 kilometers) — about twice as close as the International Space Station is to Earth.
The “Beresheet” lunar robot prior to its launch aboard a SpaceX rocket.
During the operation, Beresheet photographed the moon’s far side, above, from about 342 miles (550 kilometers) away. (The spacecraft also took several selfies with Earth during its flight to the moon.)
Now that Beresheet is within striking distance of a lunar landing, SpaceIL is waiting for the precise moment to blast Beresheet’s thrusters one last time. The engine burn will slow down the spacecraft, cause the four-legged robot to fall out of lunar orbit, and gently touch down on the moon’s surface.
SpaceIL expects Beresheet to land on the moon sometime between 3 and 4 p.m. EDT on Thursday, April 11, 2019, according to an emailed press release. The group will also broadcast live footage of its historic lunar-landing attempt.
“This joint mission of SpaceIL and Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) will be broadcast live via satellite for a pool feed and live streamed with access to all media,” SpaceIL said in its email, noting that the broadcast would show views from inside the spacecraft’s mission control center in Yehud, Israel.
The video feed, embedded below, should activate on Thursday afternoon.
SpaceIL got its start in 2011 on the heels of the Google Lunar XPrize, which offered more than million to the first privately funded entity to land on the moon and pull off a series of difficult tasks.
Three engineers took a stage during a space conference and announced their intentions to build and launch a lunar lander — gumption that caught the attention of South African-born billionaire Morris Kahn.
“They seemed very proud of themselves, and I thought that this was rather neat,” Kahn previously told Business Insider.
“They said, ‘Money? Money, what’s that for?’ I said, ‘Without money, you’re not going to get anywhere,'” Kahn said. “I said to them, ‘Look, come to my office, I’ll give you 0,000 — no questions asked — and you can start.’ And that was how I innocently got involved in this tremendous project.”
The mission ultimately cost about 0 million — a fraction of the 9 million that NASA spent in the 1960s on seven similarly sized Surveyor moon landers. NASA’s sum would be roughly .5 billion today (about 0 million per mission) when adjusting for inflation.
Kahn said he’s personally invested about million in the venture. Although the lunar XPrize ended in 2018 without a winner, despite several years’ worth of extensions, SpaceIL found additional funding from private sources with Kahn’s help.
“I don’t want to be the richest man in the cemetery.” Kahn said. “I’d like to feel that I’ve used my money productively.”
He added: “I wanted to show that Israel — this little country with a population of about 6 or 8 million people — could actually do a job that was only done by three major powers in the world: Russia, China, and the United States. Could Israel innovate and actually achieve this objective with a smaller budget, and being a smaller country, and without a big space industry backing it?”
April 11, 2019, planet Earth will find out.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Ever since the first details were released about a stealth helicopter being used and crashing during the 2011 Navy SEAL raid that resulted in the death of Osama bin Laden, the internet aviation community has been awash with great interest and speculation about the aircraft. Recently, an image of what looks to be a forerunner for the stealth Black Hawk used in the raid surfaced online.
The internet community was quick to perform a visual autopsy on the image and scrutinize it for telling details that might reveal hidden secrets about the enigmatic project. One highly respected and anonymous contributor shared as many explicit details, the type that can only come from firsthand knowledge, as they could without breaching an NDA.
According to this source, the aircraft pictured is a YEH-60A at Edwards Air Force Base in 1989 or 1990. The helicopter is allegedly sporting a “Direction Finding Enhancement Kit”, of which a half dozen were produced. The kit reportedly also featured additional components like tail modifications that do not appear in the picture. This is consistent with the fact that the tail rotor of the crashed Black Hawk from the OBL raid was heavily modified and resembled the tail rotor of the canceled RAH-66 Comanche stealth helicopter.
The tail rotor of the wreckage left behind from the raid (Public Domain)
The anonymous source goes on to detail that those involved in the program nicknamed the aircraft the “Black Blackhawk.” In keeping with its spectral name, the test team took a picture with the helicopter which the source had double exposed with them in and out of the photo. “We all looked like ghosts. This would be a real head-turner on the contest table,” the source said.
At the same time that the “Black Blackhawk” was being tested at Edwards, the Lockheed YF-22 was being tested out of a hangar not too far away. The helicopter can reportedly be seen in some photos of the YF-22 flight test operations. Allegedly, the Lockheed engineers were bewildered when they first saw the YEH-60A with its kit.
At one point, despite the secretive test site, the helicopter’s test pilots had to take off one hour before sunrise and arrive back at Edwards one hour after sunset so that the aircraft would not be observed. Even this was a loosened restriction since the aircraft allegedly had to fly exclusively at night when it first began testing.
While the modern MH-60L Direct Action Penetrators flown by the US Army’s 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment are not pictured with any sort of stealth kit, the wreckage of the OBL raid helicopter and the release of this image are proof that the technology is out there and has been for some time.
The Air Force took steps to relax the military’s current stance on transgender men and women serving in uniform earlier this month, by requiring a higher authority to authorize discharges for enlisted transgender airmen and airmen who have been diagnosed with gender dysphoria, according to a news release.
Openly transgender Senior Airman Logan Ireland hopes that this decision will eventually allow transgender servicemen and women to serve openly without the risk of involuntary separation, despite the fact that the Air Force policy itself has not changed .
Ireland joined the Air Force as a woman in 2010, and was featured in “Transgender, at War and in Love,” a documentary short exploring his relationship with fiancee and transgender soldier Laila Villanueva.
“Day in and day out, you’re constantly worried about a discharge…so every day when I put on my boots and strap on my gun and duty belt, I’m at risk for a discharge — and that’s the least of my worries in my personal job. No one should have to worry about that day in and day out. “
We’ve all see the Avengers movie featuring SHIELD’s massive flying aircraft carrier — you know, the one with the gigantic fans and stealth cloaking?
But what you may not know is that the concept of an actual flying carrier isn’t really anything new, and the US military has investigated it time and time again throughout its history. The most recent proposal for such a vehicle came in the form of a highly modified Boeing 747 called the Airborne Aircraft Carrier.
While oceangoing aircraft carriers can bring their complements of fighter and attack aircraft quite literally anywhere around the seven seas, areas deeper inland are far less accessible and sometimes require the use of larger numbers of support assets like refueling tankers, which aren’t always available for a variety of reasons.
The AAC concept tried to solve that problem by using a larger aircraft to fly smaller aircraft above or near deployment zones, where it would release its fighters to carry out their missions.
In the 1930s, the US Navy first began exploring the idea of an airborne carrier by outfitting two dirigible airships, the USS Akron and the USS Macon, with a trapeze mechanism for recovering and launching small propeller fighter planes, along with an internal hangar for storage.
Both the Akron and Macon were lost in storms that decade, but not before they were able to successfully demonstrate that with enough practice and patience, aircraft could be deployed from airbases in the sky.
The onset of World War II made the Navy forget about this idea. But during the Cold War, the notion of having an airborne carrier was resurrected — this time by the Air Force.
At first, the Fighter Conveyor project attempted to put a Republic F-84 “parasite” fighter in the belly of a B-36 Peacemaker nuclear bomber, launched in-flight for reconnaissance operations. The creation of the U-2 Dragon Lady spy plane made the FICON project a moot point, sending it to the graveyard after four years of testing.
Later on, famed defense contractor Lockheed proposed a gigantic nuclear-powered flying mothership with a crew of over 850 and an aerial endurance of 40+ days. The Air Force, by 1973, decided to go a slightly more conventional route instead.
At the time, the Boeing 747 was easily the largest civilian aircraft in the world, serving as a long-range passenger airliner and a cargo transport for a number of freight companies. It wasn’t wholly unreasonable to suggest that such an aircraft could be converted for use as an airborne carrier, fielding a small group of aircraft inside its cavernous interior.
The Air Force’s Flight Dynamics Laboratory, based out of Wright-Patterson AFB, was put on the case to determine the feasibility of such an experiment.
The AAC project called for a Boeing 747-200 to be hollowed out and refitted with a two-level internal hangar that would hold “micro fighters”, small short-range fighter aircraft that could fight air-to-air and air-to-ground sorties after being dropped out of the underside of the jumbo jet. Should the fighters need an extension on their range, the AAC mothership could refuel them as needed from a rotating boom on its rear. Upon concluding their sorties, the micro fighters would simply fly underneath the AAC and be picked up by a mechanism, bringing them back into the hangar.
The AAC would also contain storage for extra fuel, spares and parts, as well as a magazine for missiles and bombs for the microfighters. In addition, sleeping quarters for the crew and pilots, and a small crew lounge for breaks in-between missions was also to be part of the hypothetical flying carrier.
All in all, the concept seemed to be absolutely doable and certainly something the Air Force seemed interested in pursuing, given that the report also projected that conventional Navy aircraft carriers would apparently be obsolete by the year 2000.
However, the project was stalled when research into the design and development of the AAC’s necessary microfighters went nowhere. An airborne warning and control version of the AAC was also proposed, replete with a pair of reconnaissance micro aircraft for surveillance missions; this was also shot down.
Eventually, the Air Force shelved the concept altogether not long after the Flight Dynamics Laboratory claimed it was possible.
While the US military hasn’t done much, if anything at all, to investigate flying aircraft carriers in the four and a half decades since, this seems to be an idea that just won’t go away. Maybe, just maybe, we might see these bizarre vehicles in the not-so-distant future, as technology advances and mission types evolve!