Unique Russian Tu-134 UBL nicknamed “Black Pearl” intercepted over the Baltic - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TACTICAL

Unique Russian Tu-134 UBL nicknamed “Black Pearl” intercepted over the Baltic

Four Belgian Air Force F-16AM jets are deployed to Siauliai, Lithuania, to support NATO BAP (Baltic Air Policing) mission in the Baltic region since September. As part of their mission to safeguard the airspaces over Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia and the Baltic Sea, the Belgian Vipers (just like the fighters of all the other air forces which support the BAP mission with rotational deployments to the Baltic States) are regularly scrambled to intercept Russian/non-NATO aircraft that fly in international airspace near NATO airspace.


While Il-76s, Su-27s and other interesting “zombies” are often escorted over the Baltic, the Russian Navy Tu-134 UB-L, RF-12041 nicknamed “Black Pearl”, that the BAF F-16s intercepted last week is a real first. The Belgian Air Force shared an IR image (most probably taken by the F-16’s SNIPER Advanced Targeting Pod used in air-to-air mode for long range identification) of the rare bird, along with a file photo of the same aircraft taking off in 2019:

The Tu-134UB-L, NATO reporting name Crusty-B, is a variant of the civilian Tu-134B aircraft designed to train Tu-160 and Tu-22M3 strategic bombers aircrews (in particular, the Tu-134 was chosen because of the thrust to weight ratio and landing/takeoff characteristics were similar to those of the Tu-22M). The Tu-134UB-L (Uchebno-Boyevoy dla Lyotchikov, Russian for combat trainer for pilots) is indeed a Tu-134B airframe with a Tu-22 nose. According to Russia’s Warplanes Vol. 2 by Piotr Butowski, a total 109 Tu-134UB-L were built, with the first one making its maiden flight in March 1981.

Noteworthy, according to some sources, the “Black Pearl” is no longer used as a trainer, but was converted to be used for transportation tasks in 2017.

Whatever its current mission is the Tu-134UB-L RF-12041 is an extremely interesting and rare aircraft. Let’s just hope the BAF will release more images of this beauty!!

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

MIGHTY SPORTS

This week in military academy sports — September 21st, 2018

With so much talk in the news about multi-million dollar contracts, personality conflicts, and high-profile trades, it’s easy to lose sight of the true meaning of sportsmanship. Now, don’t get it twisted — we’ll be tuning in to watch the big leagues, too, but it’s damn refreshing to watch teams go at it for nothing but the pursuit the victory and the love of competition.

And that’s exactly why we’re borderline addicted to watching military academy sports.

This weekend, We Are The Mighty will be streaming the following events:


www.youtube.com

Sprint Football — Army West Point at Navy (Friday 7:00PM EST)

The Navy sprint football team (1-0) hosts arch-rival Army West Point (1-0) in the annual Star Series presented by USAA on Friday, Sept. 21 at 7:00 p.m. at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium. The game is the first Star Series game of the 2018-19 season.

Watch the game LIVE here.

Unique Russian Tu-134 UBL nicknamed “Black Pearl” intercepted over the Baltic

Men’s Soccer — Lehigh at Army West Point (Saturday 7:00PM EST)

Army, fresh off an away loss, are headed home to see if they can turn their luck around as they host Lehigh.

Watch the game LIVE here.

Unique Russian Tu-134 UBL nicknamed “Black Pearl” intercepted over the Baltic

Women’s Volleyball — San Diego State at Air Force (Sunday 3:00PM EST)

Following an impressive 10-win non-conference season, the Air Force volleyball team turns to the Mountain West portion of the calendar this weekend, when it hosts San Diego State on Sunday, Sept. 23. The Falcons, who collected their most non-conference victories in 15 years over the last four weeks, will host the Aztecs inside Cadet East Gym


MIGHTY CULTURE

Why a think tank puts teen girls in command of military operations

Though women have made a lot of progress in recent years, especially in the military and defense sectors, there are still very few women in senior positions in the U.S. military-industrial complex. Only a third of the senior positions at the Department of State are women, and less than a fifth hold such positions at the Defense Department.

That’s why a Cold War-era think tank agreed to put women in command of a large wargaming exercise. Were women able to prevent an all-out nuclear conflict on the Korean Peninsula?


Unique Russian Tu-134 UBL nicknamed “Black Pearl” intercepted over the Baltic

Alexis Visser is a 19-year-old international relations student and Army Reservist who helped game the South Korean and American forces.

(Dori Gordon Walker/RAND)

The RAND Corporation, a global, nonprofit policy research center created in 1948, wanted to bring a much-needed female perspective to the fields of defense policy and national security. The group of women are in age groups ranging from their late teens to early 20s, and most have never had any kind of wargaming or strategy experience before. Still, they are leading command discussion about scenarios facing troops in a war with North Korea in a conference room overlooking the Pentagon.

In the scenario, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea has a long-range missile that can target locations on the U.S. West Coast. The North threatens “grave consequences” if the United States and South Korea conduct their annual joint exercises to practice their responses to a North Korean invasion. The warning from the DPRK is the same the Stalinist country gives the Southern Allies every year. This time, when the allies begin their drills, the North fires an artillery barrage into Seoul. South Korea responds with missile strikes. The new Korean War is on.

Unique Russian Tu-134 UBL nicknamed “Black Pearl” intercepted over the Baltic

(Photo by Dori Gordon Walker/RAND Corporation)

RAND uses wargames like this one to study almost every national security scenario and has since the earliest days of the Cold War. It was the RAND Corporation who was at the center of the 1967 Pentagon Papers case that determined why the United States had not been successful in Vietnam. It’s very unlikely this is the first time RAND has wargamed a war between North and South Korea, but it’s the first time young girls were given command of the allied forces.

That isn’t to say no women have wargamed at the Pentagon. Many of the women who have participated in wargames at the highest levels of the U.S. government, including in the Pentagon, often admit to being the only woman in the room. RAND wants to create a pipeline for young women to be able to participate in such wargames – as professionals.

In the game, the women determine where to deploy infantry, how to stop North Korean advances, and even when to use tactical nuclear weapons, all under the advice and counsel of RAND’s expert and veteran women advisors.

Unique Russian Tu-134 UBL nicknamed “Black Pearl” intercepted over the Baltic

Samina Mondal, right, listens as RAND’s Stacie Pettyjohn reviews the blue team’s tactics.

(Dori Gordon Walker/RAND)

The game is working, and not just against North Korea. History majors decide to turn their attention instead to National Security Studies. Eighteen-year-olds decide on careers in nuclear security. Soon, women will begin to change the way we look at the defense of the United States.

MIGHTY TRENDING

US Navy practicing to ‘up the game’ against old but dangerous threat

Some 8,600 personnel, 50 surface ships, 36 aircraft, and two submarines from 18 countries are in the Baltic Sea this month for Baltic Operations.

The annual BaltOps exercise, led this year by the US Navy’s recently revived 2nd Fleet in its first major European engagement, allows partners to practice air defense, anti-subsurface warfare, amphibious operations, and mine warfare.

Mines are especially dangerous in confined, heavily trafficked waterways, like the Strait of Hormuz or the Baltic Sea.

Bordered by six NATO members, the Baltic is littered with World War I- and II-era mines, and Russia is believed to have the world’s largest arsenal of naval mines — as many as a quarter-million, by one estimate.


“The Baltic Sea is of vital strategic importance for the alliance,” said NATO spokesperson Oana Lungescu, who stressed that the exercise was not targeted at any country but noted the deterioration of European security since Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea.

BaltOps 2019’s Mine Warfare Task Group had sailors and experts, including more than 70 divers, from 11 countries manning more than 15 mine-countermeasures ships, 15 unmanned undersea vehicles, five drone ships, and airborne mine-countermeasures systems.

“There is a lot of value in this exercise as it supports not only our US capability, but our work with partner nations in the mine-warfare space,” said Navy Lt. Cmdr. Daniel Claytor, officer in charge of a detachment from Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 28.

Below, you can see how the US and NATO train for a uniquely complicated, and uniquely dangerous, form of warfare.

Unique Russian Tu-134 UBL nicknamed “Black Pearl” intercepted over the Baltic

Researchers from the US Office of Naval Research and German Naval Research aboard FSG Konsort, conduct MCM Experimentations using an Mk 18 Mod 2 unmanned underwater vehicles during BaltOps in June 2019.

(US Navy photo by Chief Mass Comm Specialist Shannon E. Renfroe)

Unique Russian Tu-134 UBL nicknamed “Black Pearl” intercepted over the Baltic

Lt. Alex Burtness, left, a field support representative for Mk 18 Mod 2, prepares to lower a Mk 18 Mod 2 from the stern of FSG Kronsor during experimental Mine Countermeasure operations at BaltOps in June 2019.

(US Navy photo by Chief Mass Comm Specialist Shannon E. Renfroe)

Unique Russian Tu-134 UBL nicknamed “Black Pearl” intercepted over the Baltic

A Mk 18 Mod 2 is submerged from the stern of FSG Kronsort during experimental Mine Countermeasure (MCM) operations at BaltOps in June 2019.

(US Navy photo by Chief Mass Comm Specialist Shannon E. Renfroe)

The Mk 18 Mod 2 UUVs being tested had two kinds of sensor packages: The Small Synthetic Aperture Minehunter and the Autonomous Topographic Large Area Survey forward-looking sonar.

Small Synthetic Aperture Minehunter systems work on a range of wavelengths, providing fine-grain imaging of the seafloor and of small man-made objects as well as peering into the seabed to provide imagery and analysis of buried objects.

The SSAM II module used at BaltOps “provides higher resolution and is intended to hunt bottom mines,” said Navy Lt. Matthew Stroup, public affairs officer for the BaltOps 2019 Mine Warfare Task Group.

SSAM II “has two modes; linear [synthetic aperture sonar] mode for rapid search and circular SAS, which provides very high-resolution images to enable” reacquiring and identification, Stroup added.

Autonomous Topographic Large Area Survey forward-looking sonar, known as ATLAS, has a wide search-area width that’s meant for volume mine-hunting, Stroup said. It can also be used to gather information, including mapping of clutter and large-object detection on the seafloor and to gauge ocean depth.

Unique Russian Tu-134 UBL nicknamed “Black Pearl” intercepted over the Baltic

A Mk 18 Mod 2 unmanned underwater vehicle is submerged from FSG Kronsort during experimental Mine Countermeasures operations at BaltOps in June 2019.

(US Navy photo by Chief Mass Comm Specialist Shannon E. Renfroe)

Mine warfare is key to maintaining sea lines of communications, particularly in ports and landing areas, said US Navy Rear Adm. Scott Robertson.

Robertson is commander of the Naval Surface and Mine Warfighting Development Center and led the BaltOps 2019 Mine Warfare Task Group.

Unique Russian Tu-134 UBL nicknamed “Black Pearl” intercepted over the Baltic

Lyle Valtron, a field support representative, operates an Mk 18 Mod 2 aboard FSG Kronsort during experimental Mine Countermeasure operations at BaltOps 2019.

(US Navy photo by Chief Mass Comm Specialist Shannon E. Renfroe)

Unique Russian Tu-134 UBL nicknamed “Black Pearl” intercepted over the Baltic

A mine countermeasure ship attached to Standing NATO Mine Countermeasures Group One (SNMCMG1) transports divers in preparation for an investigative dive during a mine countermeasure exercise in support of Baltic Operations 2019.

(NATO/CPO Brian Djurslev)

Unique Russian Tu-134 UBL nicknamed “Black Pearl” intercepted over the Baltic

Naval Aircrewman 1st Class Patrick Miller operates the common console, used for both Airborne Laser Mine Detection System (ALMDS) and the Airborne Mine Neutralization System (AMNS), aboard a MH-60S Sea Hawk helicopter, June 2019.

(US Navy photo by Chief Mass Comm Specialist Shannon E. Renfroe)

Unique Russian Tu-134 UBL nicknamed “Black Pearl” intercepted over the Baltic

A close-up of the common console aboard a MH-60S Sea Hawk helicopter during BaltOps 2019.

(US Navy photo by Chief Mass Comm Specialist Shannon E. Renfroe)

Unique Russian Tu-134 UBL nicknamed “Black Pearl” intercepted over the Baltic

The Airborne Laser Mine Detection System aboard an MH-60S Sea Hawk helicopter heading to the Baltic Sea during BaltOps 2019.

(US Navy photo by Chief Mass Comm Specialist Shannon E. Renfroe)

Unique Russian Tu-134 UBL nicknamed “Black Pearl” intercepted over the Baltic

A team of Norwegian explosive ordnancemen prepare to detonate a World War II-era, air-laid mine weighing approximately 1,000 pounds in the Baltic Sea, June 2019. The team is operating as part of an 11-nation Mine Warfare Task Group in BALTOPS 2019.

(US Nav photo by Lt. Matthew A. Stroup)

Unique Russian Tu-134 UBL nicknamed “Black Pearl” intercepted over the Baltic

A team of Norwegian explosive ordnancemen prepare to detonate a World War II-era, air-laid mine weighing approximately 1,000 pounds in the Baltic Sea, June 2019.

(US Navy photo by Chief Mass Comm Specialist Shannon E. Renfroe)

Unique Russian Tu-134 UBL nicknamed “Black Pearl” intercepted over the Baltic

An unexploded A Mark I-VI mine at the bottom of the Baltic Sea. It was detected, identified, and detonated by Norwegian and Danish naval personnel during BaltOps 2019 in June 2019.

(Royal Danish Navy)

Unique Russian Tu-134 UBL nicknamed “Black Pearl” intercepted over the Baltic

A diver attached to Standing NATO Mine Countermeasures Group One (SNMCMG1) prepares an investigative dive during a mine-countermeasure exercise at Baltic Operations 2019.

(NATO photo by CPO Brian Djurslev)

Unique Russian Tu-134 UBL nicknamed “Black Pearl” intercepted over the Baltic

A roughly 1,000-pound WWII-era air-laid mine detonates in the Baltic Sea after being discovered by the BALTOPS 2019 Mine Warfare Task Group and being rigged for detonation by a team of Norwegian explosive ordancemen in June 2019.

(US Navy photo by Chief Mass Comm Specialist Shannon E. Renfroe)

“There is a good chance we will find more of these mines as the exercise continues, and it’s reassuring to know our international task group has the training and expertise necessary to safely dispose of them,” Robertson added.

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The Pentagon’s alleged ‘Killer Robots’ are just a fantasy

The U.S. Department of Defense just outlined its strategy to reap the benefits of artificial intelligence and the result is less Terminator and more Alexa. Rather than deploying a weapon that knows how to target and kill America’s enemies, the Pentagon’s AI strategy wants to focus on more mundane things here at home rather than blowing up exotic locations abroad.


Unique Russian Tu-134 UBL nicknamed “Black Pearl” intercepted over the Baltic

That still requires a human at the stick.

The autonomous weapons that the Pentagon would very much like to develop one day aren’t going to be all that autonomous anyway. Even the latest artificial intelligence directives state that commanders will exercise the appropriate amount of human judgment in the military’s use of force.

According to the DoD’s report, there are five key points the Pentagon wants to address, each more boring than the last:

  1. Delivering AI-enabled capabilities that address key missions.
  2. Scaling AI’s impact across DOD through a common foundation that enables decentralized development and experimentation.
  3. Cultivating a leading AI workforce.
  4. Engaging with commercial, academic, and international allies and partners.
  5. Leading in military ethics and AI safety.
Unique Russian Tu-134 UBL nicknamed “Black Pearl” intercepted over the Baltic

It’s only a matter of time before “Bagram Batman” addresses artificial intelligence.

Since China and Russia are making “significant investments” in artificial intelligence for military applications, the report begins, the U.S. must also make investments to maintain our global military supremacy. The only difference will be our shared responsibility for protecting human rights and international norms as we develop our robotic weapons for security, peace, and stability in the long run.

The goal of American artificial intelligence is to streamline data-intensive processes and decision making, save money from labor and maintenance inefficiencies while reducing operational costs, and increase the effectiveness of military planning while reducing civilian casualties – everything from intelligence gathering to aircraft maintenance could be predicted by AI.

Unique Russian Tu-134 UBL nicknamed “Black Pearl” intercepted over the Baltic

“Hold on guys, the computer sees the problem.”

This latest move on artificial intelligence comes as Russia and the United States jointly blocked a United Nations ban on autonomous weapons, ones that can kill without the judgment of a human behind a trigger somewhere. The UN’s Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons was set to place autonomous weapons alongside blinding laser beams and napalming civilian targets, according to the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots, an NGO who is moving to muster support for banning the weapons.

Russia is already testing autonomous tanks in Syria, China has already developed an unmanned submarine, and the United Kingdom wants a squadron of drones to fight in the skies above Britain – and the UN hasn’t even been able to bring autonomous weapons to a vote – a vote that would require unanimous agreement for a ban.

In order to get from drone strikes to “Killer Robots,” however, American AI technology has a long way to go. Even the biggest of the U.S.’ tech companies aren’t stepping up to help develop the tech required. Until then, AI diagnostics will have to do.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This is the program that could transform the way fighter pilots train

The Northrop T-38 Talon supersonic trainer is a legendary airplane. Any plane that has served for over fifty years in not just its intended role, but in other roles (notably as an occasional aggressor) has a very valid claim to the title of legend. But let’s face it, the T-38’s not only getting up there in years, it’s also behind the times.


At a Lockheed Martin media briefing on the T-50 program held during the AirSpaceCyber expo at National Harbor, Maryland, retired Air Force General Bill Looney, a former commander of Air Education and Training Command, noted that in 1958, his father was a lead pilot for the T-38 program. The top planes in service then were the “Century” series of jet fighters – second-generation planes like the F-100 Super Sabre and the F-102 Delta Dagger.

Unique Russian Tu-134 UBL nicknamed “Black Pearl” intercepted over the Baltic
The T-38 Talon is a twin-engine, high-altitude, supersonic jet trainer used in a variety of roles because of its design, economy of operations, ease of maintenance, high performance, and exceptional safety record. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Steve Thurow)

But today, the planes in service are the F-22 Raptor and F-35 Lightning II – and both are very different planes. As the T-38 has soldiered on, transitioning to those fighters, and even fourth-generation fighters like the F-15 Eagle, F-16 Fighting Falcon, and F/A-18 Hornet has become more and more difficult.

A joint project between Lockheed and Korean Aerospace Industries could be the answer. The T-50A, based on KAI’s FA-50 Golden Eagle, is one of three competitors that could offer the chance to not only replace the old T-38, but to radically restructure pilot training. Lockheed representatives at the briefing expressed the belief that a fair bit of lead-in fighter training, or LIFT, could be done on the T-50A, cutting the time a pilot would train in a F-16 Fighting Falcon from nine months to as little as four months.

Unique Russian Tu-134 UBL nicknamed “Black Pearl” intercepted over the Baltic
A Lockheed/KAI T-50A banks to the left a little. (Photo from Lockheed)

This is a big freaking deal, to paraphrase a former Vice President. By shifting training time from the F-16 to the T-50A, this will not only reduce the flight hours on the F-16 airframes, allowing them to last longer, it would also reduce the maintenance costs for the F-16s at the 56th Fighter Wing at Luke Air Force Base. Similar reductions can also happen with training for the F-35 and F-22.

More savings could be possible because the T-50A program includes ground-based systems. Looney noted that when he learned to fly the F-15 Eagle, he had to fly eight radar intercept training sorties. With the T-50 program, that number could be reduced by doing some of the training in simulators.

Unique Russian Tu-134 UBL nicknamed “Black Pearl” intercepted over the Baltic
Two Lockheed/KAI T-50As in formation. (Photo from Lockheed)

The winner of this competition, whether it is the Lockheed/KAI T-50, the Leonardo/Raytheon T-100, or the Boeing/Saab T-X, could not only get sales from the United States Air Force, but would also have a leg up in replacing the Navy’s T-45 Goshawk and the T-38 used by a number of other American allies. So pay attention to this competition, folks, it will change a lot more than just the planes on the flightline. Check out this video from Lockheed on the T-50A below.

Articles

This new speedboat-submarine could change amphibious warfare forever

Throughout its history, the Marine Corps has been known for rising out of the water and storming enemy beaches. But new technology could allow Leathernecks to emerge from the deep like James Bond.


A new powerboat/submarine hybrid vehicle was part of a new technology demonstration in San Diego in late April that could prove to be the ultimate amphibious assault vehicle.

Defense contractors teamed up with the U.S. military at the Advanced Naval Technology Exercise at Camp Pendleton in California to showcase the new “Hyper-Sub.”

Related: This is why German submarines attacked civilian vessels during World War I

Unique Russian Tu-134 UBL nicknamed “Black Pearl” intercepted over the Baltic
The Hyper-Sub on display at the Advanced Naval Technology Exercise. (Source: HyperSub)

According to the Florida-based company, the fully-submersible nautical craft has over 30,000 pounds of lift and supports 12 hours of underwater operations. The vessel’s sea-to-shore feature makes secretly transporting troops easy where large amphibious ships can’t deliver — perfect for those classified MARSOC missions.

With similar dimensions compared to the classic rigid-hull inflatable boat (RHIB) — the Hyper-Sub is geared for a cruising speed of  30-mph (26 knots), powered by two 480hp Yanmar 6LY3-ETP diesel engines with V-drives. The craft can handle a diving depth of 1,200 ft, but only with the steel cabin option (the acrylic option dives to 500 ft ).

The Hyper-Sub is much heavier and slower than that its inflatable boat counterpart. But its ability to submerge in a matter of moments makes it the better option for a stealth operations.

Unique Russian Tu-134 UBL nicknamed “Black Pearl” intercepted over the Baltic
The HyperSub’s cargo area designed to hold up to 6,000 lbs of gear and/or potential troops. (Source: Hyper-Sub)

Also Read: Life aboard WWII submarines was brutal

Although the possibilities for this craft are virtually endless, these prototypes have no sensors, weapons or real defensive capabilities, but can come with high-tech surveillance as an upgrade.

The Marine Corps is currently looking into future uses and possible adding many modifications to this impressive craft which could change modern amphibious warfare forever.

Check out the promo video by Hyper-Sub Videos below to see this speedboat-submarine in action.

(Hyper-Sub Videos, YouTube)
Articles

That time a Marine had a live RPG stuck in his leg

Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Winder Perez was fighting in Afghanistan in January 2012 when he was shot with a rocket-propelled grenade that pierced his leg and remained stuck there without detonating.


A medical evacuation crew ignored regulations against moving unexploded ordnance, picked him up, and flew him to medical care where an explosives technician removed the RPG so a Navy medical officer could operate on him.

Specialist Mark Edens was the first member of the MEDEVAC crew to see the Marine. The flight had originally been briefed that they were receiving an injured little girl as a patient, but they arrived to find the lance corporal with a large wound and an approximately 2-foot long rocket protruding from his leg.

When Army pilot Capt. Kevin Doo was told about the embedded RPG, he asked his entire crew to vote on whether to evacuate the patient. They unanimously voted yes despite the dangers.

“There was no doubt to anyone that we were going to take this Marine and get him the medical attention needed to save his life,” Doo told Army journalists. “When dealing with this — not knowing that any moment could be your last — 18 inches from the patient’s legs was about 360 gallons of aviation fuel.”

“After Lance Cpl. Perez was loaded on the Black Hawk, it was a total of 11.2 minutes of flight time where every minute felt like an hour,” Doo added. “During that time, we were on the radio coordinating with our escorts, the Explosive Ordnance Disposal team, and medical personnel who were going to treat Perez.”

Unique Russian Tu-134 UBL nicknamed “Black Pearl” intercepted over the Baltic
Army Staff Sgt. Ben Summerfield attempts to remove a rocket-propelled grenade from Lance Cpl. Winder Perez as Navy Lt. Cmdr. James Gennari keeps Perez’s airway stable. (Photo: US Navy)

When the helicopter landed, Perez was met by Navy Lt. Cmdr. James Gennari, the head of the surgical company at Forward Operating Base Edinburgh, and Army EOD Staff Sgt. Ben Summerfield. Summerfield quickly tugged the RPG free of Perez and Gennari worked to stabilize the patient.

Gennari later said that the Perez’s wounds were so severe that he would’ve died without the quick MEDEVAC. Edens, Doo, and the rest of the Army MEDEVAC team then transported Perez to Camp Bastion where he began the long road to recovery.

(H/t to the 25th Combat Aviation Brigade Public Affairs who wrote about this incident in May 2012.)

MIGHTY HISTORY

America’s first fighter plane blinded pilots and lost its wings

When America threw its weight behind the Allies in World War I, optimistic politicians and the writers of the day predicted that, soon, tens of thousands of top-tier planes would pour from American factories to the front lines, blackening the skies over the “Huns.” In reality, American aviation was too-far behind the combatants to catch up, and so American pilots took to the air with French castoffs that gave them diarrhea and nausea, obscured their vision, and would lose its wings during combat.


Unique Russian Tu-134 UBL nicknamed “Black Pearl” intercepted over the Baltic

A pilot in his Nieuport 28 fighter aircraft.

(San Diego Air and Space Museum)

World War I plane designs relied on a small selection of engines, and most of them were lubricated with castor oil. As the war wore on and the oil was in short supply, Germany did turn to substitutes. But most engines, especially the rotary designs that gave a better power-to-weight ratio crucial for flight, actually burnt castor oil that escaped in the exhaust.

This oil was horrible for the pilot who, in most designs, was left breathing in his plane’s exhaust. Castor oil is used as a laxative, and it can also cause nausea. Pilots were, uh, not into that part of the mission. Worse, the droplets of castor oil would sprinkle on the aviator’s goggles, obscuring their vision with a film that masked the battlefield.

America’s top ace of the war, Capt. Eddie Rickenbacker, was famous around the aerodrome for often running around the corners of buildings after he landed so he could vomit from a combination of airsickness and castor oil exposure. He eventually got control of his stomach and could fly confidently, but it was a significant distraction for a long time.

But the castor oil problem was hard to avoid for aircraft designers. Making engines light and powerful enough to fly required all sorts of compromises, and the castor-lubricated rotary engines were one of the few designs that fit the bill.

But the bigger problem for early American pilots was that the U.S. had to buy French planes, and France kept their best models for their own pilots. So America got planes like the Nieuport 28. The manufacturers had little time to test designs before they had to press them into production and service, and the 28 had one of the worst flaws imaginable.

In rigorous aerial flight, if U.S. pilots took a common but aggressive aerial maneuver, their top wings could break away.

Unique Russian Tu-134 UBL nicknamed “Black Pearl” intercepted over the Baltic

​American pilot Capt. Eddie Rickenbacker with his Nieuport 28 in World War I.

(Public domain)

Yup. They would lose their literal, physical wings.

It was a biplane design, meaning that it had two sets of wings, one above the other. That upper set of wings was attached with a thin spar. It would break if subjected to significant strain.

And World War I pilots attempting to escape a fight gone bad would often trade altitude for speed and distance. They did this by diving a short distance and then pulling up hard. The plane would gain speed during the fall, and the aviator could hopefully get away before the pursuer could get a bead and fire.

But the weak upper wings of the Nieuport 28 couldn’t always take the sudden force of the pull up after the dive, and so an upper wing would snap during the pull up. So the pilot, already in a dire situation, would suddenly have less lift and it would be unequal across the wings, sending the pilot into a spinning fall.

Unique Russian Tu-134 UBL nicknamed “Black Pearl” intercepted over the Baltic

The Spad XIII didn’t have the drawbacks of the Nieuport 28, but it also had a worse power-to-weight ratio and maneuverability.

(San Diego Air and Space Museum)

Despite these handicaps, American aviators proved themselves faster learners and braver than their allies had expected, leading to a grudging respect from the other pilots.

And, eventually, America would get access to the Spad XIII, an aircraft about as quick as the Nieuport 28 but without the weak wings. But, by that point, not everyone wanted to give up the Nieuport. That was partially because the Nieuport had great handling at high speed as long as the pilot knew how to nurse the engine and not exceed the tolerances for the wings.

The Spad XIII was a little more reliable and stable in normal flight, but some American pilots felt like they couldn’t maneuver as tightly in the new planes, and they actually fought to keep the Nieuport 28s.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This is why DARPA wants to build reusable drone swarms

For decades, U.S. military air operations have relied on increasingly capable multi-function manned aircraft to execute critical combat and non-combat missions. Adversaries’ abilities to detect and engage those aircraft from longer ranges have improved over time as well, however, driving up the costs for vehicle design, operation and replacement. An ability to send large numbers of small unmanned air systems with coordinated, distributed capabilities could provide U.S. forces with improved operational flexibility at much lower cost than is possible with today’s expensive, all-in-one platforms—especially if those unmanned systems could be retrieved for reuse while airborne. So far, however, the technology to project volleys of low-cost, reusable systems over great distances and retrieve them in mid-air has remained out of reach.


To help make that technology a reality, DARPA has launched the Gremlins program. Named for the imaginary, mischievous imps that became the good luck charms of many British pilots during World War II, the program envisions launching groups of UASs from existing large aircraft such as bombers or transport aircraft—as well as from fighters and other small, fixed-wing platforms—while those planes are out of range of adversary defenses. When the gremlins complete their mission, a C-130 transport aircraft would retrieve them in the air and carry them home, where ground crews would prepare them for their next use within 24 hours.

Unique Russian Tu-134 UBL nicknamed “Black Pearl” intercepted over the Baltic
A Navy artistic depiction of a drone swarm launched from a cargo aircraft.
(U.S. Navy)

The gremlins’ expected lifetime of about 20 uses could provide significant cost advantages over expendable systems by reducing payload and airframe costs and by having lower mission and maintenance costs than conventional platforms, which are designed to operate for decades.

The Gremlins program plans to explore numerous technical areas, including:

  • Launch and recovery techniques, equipment and aircraft integration concepts
  • Low-cost, limited-life airframe designs
  • High-fidelity analysis, precision digital flight control, relative navigation and station keeping

The program aims to conduct a compelling proof-of-concept flight demonstration that could employ intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance and other modular, non-kinetic payloads in a robust, responsive, and affordable manner.

This article originally appeared on the United States Department of Defense. Follow @DeptofDefense on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This is why Soviet cosmonauts carried a shotgun into space

Space is getting more and more dangerous these days, with Russia and China standing up to weaponize space. Of course, astronauts and other space travelers have carried weapons into orbit before, though they may never have carried anything like this triple-barreled shotgun-machete.

But American astronauts would have no use for such a thing. Soviet Cosmonauts, on the other hand, might need it very badly. Not to shoot American capitalists in low Earth orbit but rather for use against bears.


Unique Russian Tu-134 UBL nicknamed “Black Pearl” intercepted over the Baltic

Results may vary.

Before the days of the reusable Space Shuttle program, making re-entry required a capsule that would protect the crew of any spacecraft on re-entry. For this the Soviet Union developed the Soyuz, a spacecraft mounted on a Soyuz rocket. Its re-entry vehicle was (and still is) a capsule, similar to the ones the United States used during the Apollo Program. In Apollo, the capsules splashed down into the ocean and were retrieved by the U.S. Navy. The Russians’ capsule usually falls back down to Earth in Central Asia.

There’s a problem with that, however. Russia is a big country. The Soviet Union was an even bigger country. There’s a lot of space such a capsule could get lost in – and one eventually did.

Unique Russian Tu-134 UBL nicknamed “Black Pearl” intercepted over the Baltic

The Urals are in there somewhere.

It’s a terrible idea to fire a firearm inside an oxygen-rich kinetically weightless environment, and all astronauts and cosmonauts no doubt know this very well. But the triple-barreled TP-82 Survival Pistol was never designed to be shot aboard a ship or in the vacuum of space. It was included in the Soyuz survival kit for use on Earth. In 1965, one cosmonaut found out why.

Alexey Leonov – the first human to do a spacewalk – landed his capsule in forests of the snow-covered Ural mountains, some 600 miles off target. Luckily for him, he carried a 9mm pistol that would protect him from the beasts in the untamed wilderness. His fears of landing off-course caused him to lobby for a survival weapon that would be included in all Soyuz capsules. What he got was the TP-82, a weapon that could hunt, take down large predators, and fire off flares. But wait, there’s more: The weapon’s buttstock was also a large machete that could be used as another survival tool.

Unique Russian Tu-134 UBL nicknamed “Black Pearl” intercepted over the Baltic

Alexey Leonov in his cosmonaut days.

But the survival weapons didn’t show up overnight. Leonov and his partner in the Soyuz capsule that day, Pavel Belyayev, spent two nights on the ground in the Urals, cold and fearful of large predators. They weren’t able to be rescued for two full days before a ground crew could ski out to them in the deep snow and heavy forest canopy. Leonov’s fear of being stranded among brown bears never left him, however. Nearly 20 years after the rescue, he became second in command of the cosmonaut training program in 1981.

He used this influence to develop the three-barreled pistol and make it standard in Soyuz space capsules.

Intel

This is the vehicle Lamborghini designed for the military

Unique Russian Tu-134 UBL nicknamed “Black Pearl” intercepted over the Baltic
Photo: Wikimedia


Dubbed the “Rambo Lambo,” the LM002 was made by Lamborghini in the 1980s to break into the military market. Lamborghini’s intentions were clear; the LM in LM002 stood for Lamborghini Military.

Also Read: This Polish-Made Tank Is The Ground Equivalent Of The F-117 Stealth Fighter

The LM002 was the third attempt by the supercar manufacturer to make an off-road vehicle. The first was the Cheetah in the 1970s with a rear-mounted Chrysler V8 engine. Next was the LM001 prototype, which also featured a rear-mounted V8 engine. However, both of these vehicles were scrapped because of weight balance problems, according to LamboCARS.

By 1982, Lamborghini finally got it right by installing the same V12 engine used in the Countach to the front of the vehicle, giving the LM002 450 horsepower and agile responsiveness. Finally the vehicle was ready for prime time, but the military never warmed up to it.

Since it couldn’t attract the military, Lamborghini did the next best thing by turning it into a luxury vehicle. The LM002 was made-to-order with fine leather, a blasting Alpine sound system, and air conditioning. Notable celebrity owners were Sylvester Stallone, Tina Turner, Eddie Van Halen, and Mike Tyson. Infamous owners included kingpin Pablo Escobar, Uday Hussein, and Muammar Gadafi, according to LamboCARS.

The LM002 was the last time Lamborghini had an SUV. Its latest concept – the URUS – was designed as a luxury SUV from inception, unlike the LM002.

Here’s a retro video showing off the LM002:

Motor Week, YouTubef

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Russia’s one-of-a-kind destroyer is a Cold War spinoff

Spinoffs are a curse of entertainment. Any successful TV series soon spawns one or two others that are of suspect quality and have a vague connection to the original. For instance, the overwhelmingly popular Friends led to the creation of the underwhelming Joey. AfterMASH tried (and failed) to piggyback off of the successes of M*A*S*H.

But did you know warships also generate spinoffs? In fact, Russia pulled off a one-of-a-kind spinoff from one of its most successful ships.


Unique Russian Tu-134 UBL nicknamed “Black Pearl” intercepted over the Baltic

The Russian navy destroyer ADM Chabanenko (DD650), right, moves past the French navy frigate FS Ventose (F733) while getting underway during the 2011 FRUKUS (French, Russia, United Kingdom, United States) event.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Marie Brindovas)

The Udaloy-class destroyers were built for protecting high-value assets, like Kiev-class carriers and Kirov-class battlecruisers, from NATO submarines. Udaloy-class vessels carried two 100mm guns, two quad SS-N-14 Silex launchers, 64 SA-N-9 Gauntlet point-defense surface-to-air missiles in eight eight-round launchers, four quad 53mm torpedo tube mounts, and four AK-630 close-in weapon systems. The destroyer could also operate two Ka-27 Helix anti-ship helicopters.

Unique Russian Tu-134 UBL nicknamed “Black Pearl” intercepted over the Baltic

The Russian navy destroyer RFS ADM Chabanenko (DD 650) fires the AK-130-MR-184 130 mm gun at a distant target during a gunnery exercise as part of the at-sea phase of FRUKUS 2011.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Darren Moore)

That’s some serious firepower — a submarine captain would have some trepidation having to take those on. But the Udaloy was a little weak in one crucial area: fighting surface ships. The SS-N-14 and the 533mm torpedoes could be used against ships, but they were primarily intended to hunt subs. In short, the Udaloy was out-ranged by the RGM-84 Harpoon anti-ship missile, which was in service with U.S. Navy three years before the first Udaloy was commissioned. So, in 1989, the Soviet Union laid down what they hoped would be the answer to this shortcoming.

Despite plans to build several, the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the Soviet Union would leave this vessel as the only one of its kind. The Admiral Chabanenko underwent a lengthy construction process — it took ten years to be commissioned. For this ship, the Soviets turned to the Udaloy’s contemporary, the Sovremennyy, as a baseline. The Admiral Chabanenko replaced the two 100mm guns with a twin 130mm gun mount, the quad SS-N-14 mounts were replaced with quad SS-N-22 Sunburn launchers, and the four AK-630s were replaced with CADS-N-1 close-in weapon systems.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A5YXvOLWHAY

www.youtube.com

Today, this unique vessel is still in service with the Russian Navy. Two planned sister ships were never finished.

Learn more about this one-of-a-kind ship in the video below.

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