Russian Aircraft Corporation MiG has faded from its glory days, when it produced many front-line fighters for the Soviet Union. Arturo Mikoyan and Mikhail Gurevich, co-founders of the design bureau, helped usher in a number of aviation classics, like the MiG-21 Fishbed (11,496 built by the Soviets, plus 2,450 J-7s produced by Communist China).
Sukhoi, another major Russian aircraft manufacturer, responsible primarily for attack planes like the Su-17/20/22 Fitter and the Su-24 Fencer, ended up stealing the show by developing the Su-27 Flanker, which proved to be a better fighter. In this case, ‘better’ means being shot down less often. The Su-27 has demonstrated some superb maneuverability at slower speeds, able to perform demanding, acrobatic maneuvers, like the Pugachev Cobra.
Such precise control is key for taking off from and landing on carriers. The naval version of the Su-27, the Su-33 “Flanker D,” was designed to do just that and first flew in 1987. The Su-33, like the Su-27, is equipped with the AA-10 “Alamo” semi-active radar-guided missile, the AA-11 “Archer” all-aspect heat-seeking missile, and the AA-12 “Adder” radar-guided missile. It also packs a 30mm cannon with 150 rounds. This plane has a top speed of 1,553 miles per hour and a maximum range of 2,287 miles.
The Su-33 made its combat debut over Syria in 2016. The Russian Navy sent the aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov to support the regime of Syrian President Bashir al-Assad. The plane didn’t fly combat from the Kuznetsov, but instead operated from land bases. In fact, one was lost in a splash landing while trying to land on the carrier.
Despite a relatively tame debut in Syria, the capability of the Su-33 is a worldwide affair. China is currently producing a version of this fighter, called the J-15 Flanker. This lightly modified jet operates off the Liaoning, a Kuznetsov-class carrier. The Chinese are currently building a copy of the Liaoning, and have plans for other, larger carriers that will most certainly operate J-15s.
Learn more about Russia’s carrier-based fighter in the video below:
Today, the B-1B Lancer is a key part of the United States bomber force. Its conventional bombloads are simply impressive. It is also very, very fast, capable of dashing at over 900 miles per hour, according to an Air Force fact sheet. It serves alongside the B-52. But 40 years ago, the B-1 was seen as the B-52’s replacement.
Surprised? Don’t be. Ever since the 1960 U-2 incident, when an SA-2 Guideline shot down the plane piloted by Francis Gary Powers, the United States Air Force was looking to neutralize these missiles – and the follow-on missiles – often by going higher and faster. This might seem odd, as high-altitude planes could be more easily tracked by radar, but the speed often provides less reaction time.
You see, the B-1B may have been the first iteration of the B-1 to enter service, but it was not the first version to take flight. That distinction goes to the B-1A, and that plane was very different from the Lancer of today.
According to aviation historian Joe Baugher, the B-1A took flight in 1974. The Air Force was ready to buy 240 planes when on June 30, 1977, Jimmy Carter cancelled the program. The plane had hit a top speed of Mach 2.22, but the price was ballooning. Carter did call for B-52s to be equipped with the AGM-86 air-launched cruise missile, which would later be an option for the B-1B. The development of the B-2 Spirit was also underway as a black project.
However, with the election of Ronald Reagan, the B-1 got new life. Not as a high-altitude bomber, but as a low-level penetrator, with 100 planes produced, a bit over 40 percent of the original plans. It remains in service today, a powerful complement to the B-52. You can see a video of how the B-1 almost put the B-52 out to retirement.
If you’ve ever wanted to be a space shuttle door gunner, pay attention: the weapon you might be operating could look something like this monster – the only projectile weapon designed for and fired in orbit around the Earth. Of course, it was the Soviet Union during the Cold War, who else would do that?
These are the people who taught terrorists to hijack planes just to be dicks to the West.
Despite some initial successes, the Soviet Union ended up losing the Space Race in a big way. Their loss is exemplified by the fact that the same day the Americans put men on the moon, the Soviets failed to land a probe there. So after a while, the disparity in technology irked the Soviet Union.
Most important to the USSR was the idea of American spacecraft being able to literally get their hands on Soviet satellites. Anti-satellite operations were something both powers prepared for, but the idea that the satellite itself would need protection up there all alone prompted the Soviets to arm one of theirs, just to see how that would go.
This is how that would go.
The Soviets built a station code-named “Almaz,” a space station that held spy equipment, radar, and the R-23M, a 37-pound 14.5mm automatic cannon that could fire up to 5,000 rounds per minute that was accurate up to a mile away. There was just one problem: aiming the cannon. The cosmonauts in the station would have to rotate the entire space station to point the weapon.
It was supposed to be the first manned space station in orbit, but the Russians were more concerned with developing the weapon than they were other aspects of the capsule, like sensors and life support. So instead of building their grand space station, they slapped together what they had with the R-23M and a Soyuz capsule, called it the Salyut before launching it into space in 1971.
All this space station and not one Death Star joke.
The CIA knew about every iteration of the Soviet Salyut spy stations, but what they – and much of the world – didn’t know is that they actually fired the R-23M while in orbit. On Jan. 24, 1975, Salyut 3 test fired its weapon before the station was supposed to de-orbit. The crew had not been aboard for around six months at this point. While the Soviets never released what happened during the test, the shots and the station were all destroyed when they re-entered the atmosphere.
Firing a gun in space would be very different from firing on Earth. First, there is no sound in the vacuum of space, so it would not go bang. Secondly, the Soviets would have had to fire some kind of thruster to balance out the force exerted on the capsule by the weapon’s recoil; otherwise the Salyut would have been pushed in the opposite direction. The weight of the projectile fired would determine how fast you would fly in the opposite direction.
Not to mention that shooting the weapon into Earth’s orbit could cause the bullets to hit the station itself from the opposite direction.
The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter is the U.S. Air Force’s infamous trillion-dollar weapon system. So many millions were poured into making the airframe one of the stealthiest fighters on the planet, it might surprise aviation fans to know it comes with an option to totally kill its own stealth capabilities.
With every nook and cranny of this aircraft precisely engineered to make it invisible to enemy radar, it comes with these tiny bolts that are fashioned onto the top of its fuselage, ensuring every radar watcher and SAM battery knows exactly where it is.
There are actually a few great reasons for making the aircraft more visible to radar. The use of these devices, called Luneberg Reflectors, amplify the stealthy craft’s radar signature to make it visible because not every mission is a combat mission. Troops require training with their weapons and the F-35 and its pilots are no different. Just flying an invisible plane in an area close to air lanes used by aircraft from around the world would be an incredibly dangerous venture.
Think about Area 51 in the Nevada desert, the site where the Air Force tests its combat aircraft, is just over a hundred miles from Las Vegas’ McCarran Airport, where thousands of tourist flow in and out every day. Invisible airplanes would create a slow hell for the Air Traffic Controllers over those skies – and if you think U.S. pilots won’t do something crazy over a civilian area, I invite you to google “Sky Penis.”
An F-35B without reflectors.
So flying over friendly areas on non-combat missions would obviously be the first safety goal for such an aircraft. But a more military reason for keeping the F-35 visible is that the United States doesn’t want to give the enemy any practice in looking for the F-35 on their radar. If the Russians don’t know what it looks like on radar during peacetime, they won’t be prepared to track it during wartime – whether in Syria or Eastern Europe, where Russian anti-air capabilities are the same.
The US Army is preparing to field new night vision goggles and an integrated weapons sight that will change the way US ground forces go to war.
The new Enhanced Night Vision Goggles – Binocular (ENVG-B) and the Family of Weapons Sights – Individual (FWS-I) will make US soldiers and Marines deadlier in the dark by offering improved depth perception for better mobility and increased situational awareness at night, as well as the ability to accurately shoot around corners and from the hip.
The Army will begin fielding this capability late September 2019 at Fort Riley in Kansas, where this new technology will be delivered to the 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division.
The night vision goggles offer higher-resolution imagery, as well as improved thermal capabilities, giving ground troops the ability to see through dust, fog, smoke, and other battlefield obscurants.
The Enhanced Night Vision Goggle-Binocular.
(US Army photo)
The goggles wirelessly connect to the weapon sight, delivering Rapid Target Acquisition capability. With a picture-in-picture setup, soldiers can see not only what is in front of them, but also whatever their weapon is aimed at, allowing them to shoot from the hip or point their weapon around a corner.
“This capability “enables soldiers to detect, recognize and engage targets accurately from any carry position and with significantly reduced exposure to enemy fire,” according to the Army.
This system was tested with US soldiers, special operators, Marines, and National Guard personnel.
Sgt. First Class Will Roth, a member of the Army Futures Command Soldier Lethality Cross-Functional Team, was skeptical when he first learned about this technology, he told the Army in a statement. “I couldn’t envision a time when soldiers would accept this product and trust it in the field,” he said.
His mind changed after he saw a Marine lie down on his back and fire over his shoulder at targets 50 to 100 meters away, relying solely on the goggles paired wirelessly to the optics on the Marine’s rifle. “He hit five out of seven. It gave me chill bumps,” Roth said.
“I decided this was an insane game changer,” he added. “I’m a believer, one hundred percent. Nothing else offers these kinds of capabilities.”
Senior Army officials are optimistic about the capabilities of this new technology.
“It is better than anything I’ve experienced in my Army career,” Lt. Gen. James Richardson, deputy commander of Army Futures Command, told Congress earlier this year, adding that Rangers had “gone from marksman to expert” with the help of the new optics.
Brig. Gen. Dave Hodne, director of the Army’s Soldier Lethality Cross-Functional Team, told reporters in October 2018 that he “can’t imagine, right now, any future sighting system that will not have that kind of capability.”
The ENVG-B and FWS-I mark the first deliverables of the US Army’s one-year-old four-star command, Army Futures Command, which is dedicated to the development of next-generation weapons and warfighting systems.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
China is sending some of its most advanced fighter jets and bombers to Russia in late July 2018 for a major international military exercise.
“The International Army Games 2018, initiated by the Russian Ministry of Defense, will start on July 28, 2018,” China’s Ministry of Defense said in a press statement last week. “It is co-organized by China, Russia, Belarus, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Armenia, and Iran.”
“Participation in the International Army Games is an effective way to improve fighting capabilities under real combat conditions,” the press statement added.
Yue Gang, a retired PLA colonel, told the South China Morning Post that the exercises will help the PLA learn more about the strengths and weaknesses of its aircraft and also learn from Russia about hardware and pilot training.
China and Russia’s militaries have grown increasingly close lately, with Chinese Defense Minister Gen. Wei Fenghe and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov saying in early April 2018 that the two nations had forged a “strategic partnership” against a “unipolar” world dominated by the US.
Here’s what China is bringing:
1. H-6K bombers
The H6-K is China’s main strategic bomber, able to carry a variety of land attack and anti-ship cruise missiles and precision-guided munitions, according to The National Interest.
“It will be the first time that H-6K bombers … have gone abroad to take part in military competitions,” China Ministry of Defense said.
The Air Force is working closely with industry partners to strengthen cybersecurity for larger service platforms such as an F-22 or F-35 fighters.
“We have to understand that today’s weapons systems are not operating in isolation. They are operating as part of a netted enterprise. Each weapons system will interface with a broader DOD network,” Allan Ballenger, vice president of the Air Force division at Engility Corp, told Scout Warrior.
Engility was recently awarded a $31 million task order deal from the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center, at Hanscom AFB, Mass.
The F-22, often referred to by Air Force developers as an “aerial quarterback,” relies upon data link technology connecting to other aircraft and ground stations as more of the F-22’s technologies and avionics–such as radar warning receivers, mission data files, navigation and target mapping systems–are computer based.
The emerging F-35’s “sensor fusion” is entirely contingent upon modernized computer algorithms able to help gather, organize and present combat-relevant information to a pilot by synthesizing otherwise disparate data such as targeting, mapping and sensor data onto a single screen.
“The real focus is on the cyber vulnerability assessments across many Air Force platforms, such as command-and-control and battle management systems,” Ballenger said.
Engility’s focus is closely aligned with cybersecurity priorities recently articulated by senior Air Force leaders.
Air Force Chief Information Security Officer, Peter Kim, recently told Scout Warrior that the service was vigorously invovled in expanding cyber security beyond IT to inlcude larger platforms.
Gen. Ellen Pawlikowski, Commander of Air Force Material Command, has articulated seven lines of attack that are essential to better securing networks, data and command-and-control systems. One of the key intiatives informing this effort is an attempt to “bake-in” cyber security provisions into the earliest phases of weapons development.
Part of the focus, Ballenger explained, is to examine trends and current security controls with a mind to the kinds of attacks likely to emerge in the future against IT systems, platforms and networked weapons.
While increased interoperability among networks, weapons and platforms vastly expedites combat efficacy in a wide range of scenarios, Ballenger emphasized that greater connectivity can also increase vulnerability to malicious penetration and server attacks, among other problems.
“We are looking much earlier in the life cycle of these systems with a concern not just about their security but how they interface with other elements of the network. We want to embed cybersecurity earlier in the process,” Ballenger added.
Seeking to emulate threat vectors and anticipate potential methods of attack — such as how a web-based application could be exploited or the extent to which a trap door may interact with other elements – is an important ingredient in establishing the most effective security protocols.
Also, much of this begins and ends with network IP protocol–codes which can both further enable interoperability between networks and systems while also possibly exposing networks to additional vulnerabilities
“When you have an IP address that is assigned to you, you need to have the appropriate controls in place to reduce that vulnerability,” Ballenger added.
The need for better information security extends from larger systems down to an individual soldier or airmen on a particular combat mission. Tactical Air Controllers are an instance cited where ground targeting technology is used to identify and secure targets for nearby air assets. This kind of air-ground synergy is itself reliant upon computer networking technologies, he explained.”You do not want someone to manipulate data going from airmen on the ground to a shooter in the air,” Ballenger said.
F-22 and Air Superiority
As a fifth-generation stealth fighter, the F-22 is specifically engineered for air supremacy and air dominance missions, meaning its radar-evading technology is designed to elude and destroy enemy air defenses. The aircraft is also configured to function as the world’s premier air-to-air fighter able to “dogfight” and readily destroy enemy aircraft.
“Air superiority, using stealth characteristics is our primary role. The air dominance mission is what we will always do first. Once we are comfortable operating in that battlespace, our airmen are going to find ways to contribute,” Col. Larry Broadwell, the Commander of the 1st Operations Group at Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia, told Scout Warrior in a special pilot interview last year.
The F-22’s command and control sensors and avionics help other coalition aircraft identify and destroy targets. While some of the aircraft’s technologies are not “publically discussable,” Broadwell did say that the F-22’s active and passive sensors allow it to function as an “aerial quarterback” allowing the mission to unfold.
Drawing upon information from a ground-based command and control center or nearby surveillance plane – such as a Joint Surveillance and Target Attack Radar System – the F-22 can receive information or target coordinates from nearby drones, Broadwell explained.
At the moment, targeting information from drones is relayed from the ground station back up to an F-22. However, computer algorithms and technology is fast evolving such that aircraft like an F-22s will soon be able to quickly view drone video feeds in the cockpit without needing a ground station — and eventually be able to control nearby drones from the air. These developments were highlighted in a special Scout Warrior interview with Air Force Chief Scientist Greg Zacharias last year.
Zacharias explained that fifth generation fighters such as the F-35 and F-22 are quickly approaching an ability to command-and-control nearby drones from the air. This would allow unmanned systems to deliver payload, test enemy air defenses and potentially extend the reach of ISR misisons.
U.S. Air Force F-22 Raptor. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Corey Hook)
“Because of its sensors, the F-22 is uniquely able to improve the battlefield awareness – not just for airborne F-22s but the other platforms that are airborne as well,” he said. The Raptor has an F-22-specific data link to share information with other F-22s and also has the ability to use a known data link called LINK 16 which enables it to communicate with other aircraft in the coalition, Broadwell explained in an interview last year.
Newer F-22s have a technology called Synthetic Aperture Radar, or SAR, which uses electromagnetic signals or “pings” to deliver a picture or rendering of the terrain below, allow for better target identification.
The SAR technology sends a ping to the ground and then analyzes the return signal to calculate the contours, distance and characteristics of the ground below.
“The addition of SAR mapping has certainly enhanced our air-to-ground capability. Previously, we would have to take off with pre-determined target coordinates. Now, we have an ability to more dynamically use the SAR to pinpoint a target while airborne,” Broadwell added.
“The F-35 is needed because it is to global precision attack what the F-22 is to air superiority,” he added. “These two aircrafts were built to work together in concert. It is unfortunate that we have so few F-22s. We are going to ask the F-35 to contribute to the air superiority mission,” he said.
The F-22 is known for a range of technologies including an ability called “super cruise” which enables the fighter to reach speeds of Mach 1.5 without needing to turn on its after burners.
“The F-22 engines produce more thrust than any current fighter engine. The combination of sleek aerodynamic design and increased thrust allows the F-22 to cruise at supersonic airspeeds. Super Cruise greatly expands the F-22’s operating envelope in both speed and range over current fighters, which must use fuel-consuming afterburner to operate at supersonic speeds,” Broadwell explained.
The fighter jet fires a 20mm cannon and has the ability to carry and fire all the air-to-air and air-to-ground weapons including precision-guided ground bombs, such Joint Direct Attack Munitions called the GBU 32 and GBU 39, Broadwell explained. In the air-to-air configuration the Raptor carries six AIM-120 AMRAAMs and two AIM-9 Sidewinders, he added.
“The F-22 possesses a sophisticated sensor suite allowing the pilot to track, identify, shoot and kill air-to-air threats before being detected. Significant advances in cockpit design and sensor fusion improve the pilot’s situational awareness,” he said.
It also uses what’s called a radar-warning receiver – a technology which uses an updateable data base called “mission data files” to recognize a wide-range of enemy fighters, Broadwell said.
Made by Lockheed Martin and Boeing, the F-22 uses two Pratt Whitney F119-PW-100 turbofan engines with afterburners and two-dimensional thrust vectoring nozzles, an Air Force statement said. It is 16-feet tall, 62-feet long and weighs 43,340 pounds. Its maximum take-off weight is 83,500.
The aircraft was first introduced in December of 2005, and each plane costs $143 million, Air Force statements say.
“Its greatest asset is the ability to target attack and kill an enemy without the enemy ever being aware they are there,” Broadwell added.
The Air Force’s stealthy F-22 Raptor fighter jet delivered some of the first strikes in the U.S.-led attacks on the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, when aerial bombing began in 2014, service officials told Scout Warrior.
After delivering some of the first strikes in the U.S. Coalition-led military action against ISIS, the F-22 began to shift its focus from an air-dominance mission to one more focused on supporting attacks on the ground.
“An F-22 squadron led the first strike in OIR (Operation Inherent Resolve). The aircraft made historic contributions in the air-to-ground regime,”
Even though ISIS does not have sophisticated air defenses or fighter jets of their own to challenge the F-22, there are still impactful ways in which the F-22 continues to greatly help the ongoing attacks, Broadwell said.
“There are no issues with the air superiority mission. That is the first thing they focus on. After that, they can transition to what they have been doing over the last several months and that has been figuring out innovative ways to contribute in the air-to-ground regime to support the coalition,” Broadwell said.
U.S. Army equipment experts plan to test lighter-weight, individual body armor plates by summer 2019, according to a recently released Defense Department test and evaluation report.
The Army’s multi-component Soldier Protection System body armor features hard-armor plates designed to stop rifle rounds. They’re known as the Vital Torso Protection component of the system.
Commanders can choose from the Enhanced Small Arms Protective Insert, or ESAPI, or the X Threat Small Arms Protective Insert, known as XSAPI, in addition to corresponding side armor plates of the same protection level. The XSAPI armor, which weighs slightly more, is for higher threats. All plates fit into the new Modular Scalable Vest, or MSV.
Sgt. Michael Graham, an intelligence advisor with the 4th Infantry Division Military Transition Team, Multi-National Division – Baghdad, wears his Improved Outer Tactical Vest during a combined-battlefield circulation with the Iraqi Army.
(Photo by Spc. Aaron Rosencrans)
The Army intends to test new, lighter-weight armor plates in third quarter of fiscal 2019, according to the Fiscal 2018 Annual Report from the Defense Department’s Director, Operational Test and Evaluation.
C-ARTS ushers in a new standard in mobile, interactive training, designed to meet the instructional needs and expectations of tech savvy Sailors, accustomed to learning through hands-on classes that exploit augmented, virtual, and mixed reality learning tools.
The C-ARTS facility is located on the waterfront at NNS and also nearby Newport News Shipbuilding for Sailors assigned to PCU John F. Kennedy. Since December, the USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) has been conducting multiple underway test and training evolutions, as part of an 18-month phase of operations known as Post-Delivery Test and Trials (PDT&T), scheduled to continue through mid-2021. The crew on this first-in-class aircraft carrier are certifying fuel and on-board combat systems as well as exercising the flight deck, launching and arresting aircraft as part of critical aircraft compatibility testing. In preparation for these complex tasks, many Sailors have attended unique training courses, conducted at the C-ARTS facility.
“As the first new aircraft carrier design in more than 40 years, Gerald R. Ford is integrating advanced warfighting technologies essential for air dominance in an era of great power competition,” said Downey. “Sailors can’t wait to receive training on these systems. C-ARTS provides the capability to bring high-velocity instruction to crews at the Sailor’s point of need.”
When the Carrier-Advanced Reconfigurable Training System launched its first course in 2018, C-ARTS instructors guided technicians through the complexities of fiber optic cable repair. Since then, more than 500 Sailors have completed 17 courses logging more than 5,700 total classroom hours.
Interior Communications Specialist 1st Class Jessica Diaz, assigned to CNAL and the first billeted instructor assigned to the Ford Center of Excellence, participated in the C-ARTS ceremony demonstrating her training proficiency of the high-velocity learning opportunity for Sailors assigned to Ford-class aircraft carriers.
“As the lead instructor I am responsible for building curriculum that is both hands-on and interactive while utilizing the augmented, virtual, and mixed reality learning tools,” said Diaz. “The training is currently tailored to the 29 new systems including the Advanced Weapons Elevators, Machinery Control Monitoring System, and Plasma Arc Waste Destruction System found on the Ford Class Carrier but there is unlimited potential to be used fleet wide.”
The 1,000-sq-ft reconfigurable classrooms offer “high-velocity” learning—integral to the Sailor 2025 concept of providing ready relevant learning at the sailor’s point of need. C-ARTS provides innovative tools for delivering the right training at the right time in the right way to crews in modern, spacious spaces—all in the shadow of the ships on which sailors serve.
As the Command Master Chief assigned to the future USS John F. Kennedy, Wright brings a credible amount of experience to the table. Having served on board the Enterprise, Nimitz, and Ford class aircraft carriers he is witnessing the warrior ethos today’s Sailors display.
“Technology is a vehicle that Sailors continue to benefit from,” said Wright. “I am happy to serve on a Ford-class aircraft carriers knowing that through C-ARTS we have brought the training to the Sailors on the waterfront. This form of high velocity learning will allow us to fulfill the vision of the Sailor 2025 concept in building warriors who serve at sea.”
The training site consists of two stand-alone, 53-foot trailers, which may operate either in pairs—with one unit providing an electronic classroom and the other a maintenance lab—or independently. Adjustable classroom configurations can accommodate 16 students, each training on two 24-inch touch screen monitors, with instructors teaching a single class or two classes of eight students. In the lab, eight students perform tasks from portable workbenches using 24-inch touch-screen monitors.
Delivering training at the Sailor’s point of need helps to mitigate impacts to Sailors’ work/life balance. In the case of the C-ARTS facility at Naval Station Norfolk, CVN 78 Sailors can walk 1,200 ft. from pier 11, where the CVN 78 is berthed. Two other units are also located at Newport News Shipbuilding, walking distance to Pier 3, where the John F. Kennedy (CVN 79) is under construction. A fifth 1,000-sq-ft classroom unit is planned to join the C-ARTS location at NS Norfolk in Spring 2021..
The A-10 Thunderbolt II is a single-seat, twin turbofan-powered aircraft designed specifically for close air support and ground attack missions against armored vehicles.
The aircraft’s sub-sonic speed and large, straight-wing design allows for extreme maneuverability at low altitudes and extended time on target or to loiter above the battlefield.
The airframe was designed from the very start as a short takeoff and landing aerial platform for the 30mm GAU-8 Avenger rotary cannon, which can fire 3,900 depleted uranium shells per minute. When combined with the ability to carry the AGM-65 Maverick air-to-surface missile and laser-guided bombs, the A-10 can destroy enemy armor at close range or from a standoff position.
Redundant control surfaces and hydraulic systems combined with titanium armor protecting the pilot, control systems, and ammunition make the A-10 highly survivable in combat.
When performing forward air control missions, the A-10 changes its designation to OA-10, although it remains just as combat capable as the A-10.
Its lethal effect on the battlefield combined with the toughness to return its pilot to base even after suffering extensive damage has led pilots and crew to nickname the aircraft the “Warthog.”
Development and design
The A-10 was born of the Attack-Experimental (A-X) program office, which launched in 1966 to develop a ground-attack aircraft to replace the Douglas A-1 Skyraider.
In 1970, the threat posed by the Soviet Union’s overwhelming number of tanks along the borders of Western Europe led the Air Force to request contractor proposals for an airframe specifically designed to conduct the CAS mission and destroy enemy armor.
The call for designs stipulated a low-cost aerial weapons platform – less than $3 million per unit – capable of loitering above the battlefield and engaging enemy targets at low altitude and speed with a high-speed rotary cannon, while providing extreme crew and aircraft survivability.
Later, the requirements would be further specified to include a maximum speed of 450 mph and a normal operating speed of 300 mph in combat to enable easier engagement of slow-moving ground targets.
Furthermore, the new aircraft was required to take off in less than 4,000 feet, enabling operations from small airfields close to the front lines, carry an external load of 16,000 pounds, and have a mission radius of 285 miles, all for a final cost of $1.4 million per aircraft.
Of the six proposals submitted to the Air Force, Northrop and Fairchild Republic were selected to build prototypes.
In 1973, Fairchild Republic’s YF-10 was the winner of a fly-off against Northrup’s YF-9 and full production began in 1976, with the first A-10 being delivered to Air Force Tactical Air Command that March.
Features and deployment
Fairchild Republic’s WWII fighter, the P-47 Thunderbolt, had begun its service in Europe as fighter and bomber escort, but soon earned a reputation as a relentless and tough ground-attack aircraft that dispatched Nazi armor and artillery in close proximity to friendly troops, while creating havoc in enemy assembly areas and along rail and road supply routes. It was a natural choice for the company to name its new CAS-dedicated aircraft after its WWII-era forefather: “Thunderbolt II”.
The entire design of the aircraft revolved around the high-speed 30mm Avenger cannon. The weapon gives the A-10 its up-close tank-busting capabilities announced by the long “buuuuurp” sound that has saved and encouraged many an infantryman in dire straits on the battlefield.
Although developed initially to provide an aerial counterpunch to the mass of Soviet tanks poised along the borders of Western Europe, the A-10 did not see combat until the Gulf War in 1991.
There, the “Warthog” earned its nickname, getting pilots back to base despite heavy damage from ground fire while destroying 900 Iraqi tanks, 2,000 armored vehicles and trucks, and over 1,200 artillery pieces. Just four A-10s were lost to Iraqi surface-to-air missiles in over 8,000 sorties.
The A-10 next saw combat and search and rescue missions in the Balkans in 1994-95 and again in 1999, before being deployed to Afghanistan in 2002 and participating in the entirety of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
It still currently conducts operations against ISIS targets.
Did you know?
Many of the A-10’s parts, such as engines, main landing gear, and vertical stabilizers are interchangeable on both sides of the aircraft, greatly increasing ease of maintenance and decreasing operational and maintenance costs.
The A-10’s ailerons constitute nearly 50 percent of the total wing surface, giving it an astonishing rate of roll and maneuverability at low altitudes and speeds.
If the redundant hydraulic systems and backup mechanical system are all disabled, the pilot can still lock landing gear into place using a combination of gravity and aerodynamic drag. The main gear does not fully retract leaving the wheels exposed decreasing damage in an emergency belly landing.
The A-10 gained its first air-to-air victory during the Gulf War in 1991 when Capt. Robert Swain shot down an Iraqi helicopter with 30mm cannon fire.
In 2010, the A-10 was the first Air Force aircraft to fly powered by biofuels.
Fact Sheet: A-10 Thunderbolt II
Primary function: close air support, airborne forward air control, combat search and rescue
Contractor: Fairchild Republic Co.
Power plant: two General Electric TF34-GE-100 turbofans
Thrust: 9,065 pounds each engine
Wingspan: 57 feet, 6 inches (17.42 meters)
Length: 53 feet, 4 inches (16.16 meters)
Height: 14 feet, 8 inches (4.42 meters)
Weight: 29,000 pounds (13,154 kilograms)
Maximum Takeoff Weight: 51,000 pounds (22,950 kilograms)
Fuel Capacity: 11,000 pounds (7,257 kilograms)
Payload: 16,000 pounds (7,257 kilograms)
Speed: 450 nautical miles per hour (Mach 0.75)
Range: 2580 miles (2240 nautical miles)
Ceiling: 45,000 feet (13,636 meters)
Armament: one 30 mm GAU-8/A seven-barrel Gatling gun; up to 16,000 pounds (7,200 kilograms) of mixed ordnance on eight under-wing and three under-fuselage pylon stations, including 500 pound (225 kilograms) Mk-82 and 2,000 pounds (900 kilograms) Mk-84 series low/high drag bombs, incendiary cluster bombs, combined effects munitions, mine dispensing munitions, AGM-65 Maverick missiles and laser-guided/electro-optically guided bombs; infrared countermeasure flares; electronic countermeasure chaff; jammer pods; 2.75-inch (6.99 centimeters) rockets; illumination flares and AIM-9 Sidewinder missiles.
According to a report by the New York Post, the troops have taken to calling their new helmets “Boba Fett” helmets, after the famous bounty hunter who first appeared in “The Empire Strikes Back” in 1980. The helmets are already used by special operations personnel in the United States, including Navy SEALs and Delta Force.
The new helmets feature protection against a number of small arms rounds (up to Dirty Harry’s favorite, the .44 Magnum), infra-red goggles for night operations, communications technology, and a GPS system that can project a map for the operator.
However, the helmets in question aren’t new — or at least, they had been widely used in a very different sector than the military. According to PopularAirsoft.com, the Ronin had been a highly sought-after mask used by people involved in Airsoft, an action sport in which participants use guns that fire 6mm BBs made of hard plastic at speed of 350 to 500 feet per second. The guns in question are replicas of actual firearms like the M9 pistol and M4 carbine.
Best left unsaid is just what happened to Boba Fett in “Return of the Jedi.” Hopefully, special operations troops will fare better than the most famous bounty hunter in the Star Wars movies. I mean, taken out by a blind guy is a pretty embarrassing way to go.
Tesla CEO Elon Musk suggested that Lockheed Martin’s F-35 Lightning II, the costly stealth jet considered to be pinnacle of US military aviation, “would have no chance” if pitted against a drone that is remotely piloted by a human.
At the US Air Force’s Air Warfare Symposium in Florida, Musk said there should be a competitor to the F-35 program, according to a tweet by Lee Hudson, the Pentagon editor at Aviation Week.
Musk responded in his own tweet, saying that the “competitor should be a drone fighter plane that’s remote controlled by a human, but with its maneuvers augmented by autonomy.”
“The F-35 would have no chance against it,” he added.
The F-35, variants of which are used by the Air Force, Navy, and Marine Corps, has had its critics since its inception. Lawmakers have scrutinized it over multiple delays in production and its price tag, which at 6.5 billion, makes it the costliest weapons program in US history.
The Defense Department in October announced a billion contract that includes delivery of 478 F-35s, according to CNBC.
Problems with the F-35 surfaced soon after it joined the fleet. Over 800 flaws riddled the software, according to a recent report by the Defense Department’s director of operational test and evaluation, which also said the 25 mm cannon on the Air Force’s F-35A, the most common variant, displayed an “unacceptable” level of accuracy.
The F-35 was also unable to meet a branchwide goal set by the previous defense secretary, James Mattis, in 2019. Mattis wanted 80% of F-35s and other stealth aircraft to be “mission-capable” 80% of the time.
The developers of one of China’s newest and most advanced combat drones have released a new video showcasing its destructive capabilities.
The video was released just one week prior to the start of the China International Aviation & Aerospace Exhibition in Zhuhai, Guangdong, China, where this drone made its debut in 2016.
China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation’s CH-5 combat drone, nicknamed the “Air Bomb Truck” because it soars into battle with 16 missiles, is the successor to the CH-4, which many call the “AK-47 of drones.”
Resembling General Atomics’ MQ-9 Reaper drone, the developers claim the weapon is superior to its combat-tested American counterpart, which carries four Hellfire missiles and two 500-pound precision bombs. The Reaper is one of America’s top hunter-killer drones and a key weapon that can stalk and strike militants in the war on terror.
The CH-5 “can perform whatever operations the MQ-9 Reaper can and is even better than the US vehicle when it comes to flight duration and operational efficiency,” Shi Wen, a chief CH series drone designer at the China Academy of Aerospace Aerodynamics, told the China Daily two years ago.
But, while the CH-5 and the MQ-9 may look a lot alike, it is technological similarity, not parity. The Reaper’s payload, for instance, is roughly double that of China’s CH-5. And, while China’s drone may excel in endurance, its American counterpart has a greater maximum take-off weight and a much higher service ceiling.
The sensors and communications equipment on the Chinese drone are also suspected to be inferior to those on the MQ-9, which in 2017 achieved the ability to not only wipe out ground targets but eliminate air assets as well.
Nonetheless, these systems can get the job done. The CH-4, the predecessor to the latest CH series drone, has been deployed in the fight against the Islamic State.
China has exported numerous drones to countries across the Middle East, presenting them as comparable to US products with less restrictions and for a lower price.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.