Air Force One is a lot more than just the President’s plane. It’s also one of the most iconic symbols of America. So besides the President, what’s Air Force One carrying that makes it so special?
BLUF: Air Force One is a formidable flying bunker that probably has all kinds of high-tech, super-cool gadgets, and features that we, the lowly public, will never know. But there are some facts about the President’s bird that we do know.
A look inside the secrets of Air Force One
For decades, Air Force One has been volleying Presidents around the country and the world. So, what kinds of secrets does it hold? Well, for one thing, there’s a lot of planning that goes into every trip the aircraft takes – even short jaunts. That’s because each flight requires several contingency plans. Crew members are highly training and always on alert for something out of the ordinary to happen. So they spend countless hours exploring what-if scenarios.
But it turns out that a flying Air Force One is actually safer than a sitting Air Force One. That’s because the air space around the presidential plane is always secure. And, since the aircraft has been modified to repel airborne missiles and jam enemy radar. On the other hand, parked on the runway opens Air Force One up to all kinds of possibilities – all the more reason for the President’s flight crew to remain vigilant.
But what about those secrets?
No one will ever totally know what the aircraft can do or what deep secrets it holds. But there are some really wild features that the President’s plane has that you won’t find anywhere else.
For example, Air Force One comes equipped with an emergency room. The medical annex is a fully-stocked, ready-to-go operating room. There’s even a fully stocked pharmacy onboard, too.
Two fully equipped kitchens can serve 100 people at any given time. To ensure that the President’s food isn’t tampered with, undercover Air Force chefs go on shopping trips to local markets and then vacuum seal meals ahead of time.
If that’s not wild enough, the President and other passengers enjoy 4,000 square feet of space. And just to make sure everyone knows where the President’s rooms are, the carpet is different. In the Presidential Quarters, the carpet has stars on it.
Air Force One is completed waxed by hand before the President flies in it. Of course, the engine and other operational devices are checked too. But can you imagine how long it must take to hand wax a Boeing 747?
On Nov. 16, 2018, the Air Force announced the first two bases that will host its new, highly advanced bomber for testing and maintenance.
The service said in a release that Tinker Air Force Base in Oklahoma would coordinate maintenance and sustainment for the B-21 Raider and that Edwards Air Force Base in California had been picked to lead testing and evaluation of the next generation long-range strike bomber.
Robins Air Force Base in Georgia and Hill Air Force Base in Utah will support Tinker with maintaining and, when necessary, overhauling and upgrading the new bomber, the Air Force said.
Personnel at those bases will be equipped to rebuild the aircraft’s parts, assemblies, or subassemblies as well as to test and reclaim equipment as necessary for depot activations.
The first B-21 is expected to be delivered in the mid-2020s.
A B-2A stealth bomber at Tinker Air Force Base in Oklahoma during a visit on April 11, 2017.
(US Air Force photo by Greg L. Davis)
The release noted the “deep and accomplished history” of the Air Logistics Complex of the Air Force Sustainment Center at Tinker and said officials believe the base has the knowledge and expertise to support the new bomber.
“With a talented workforce and decades of experience in aircraft maintenance, Tinker AFB is the right place for this critical mission,” Air Force Secretary Heather A. Wilson said.
Edwards Air Force Base is also home to the Air Force Test Center, which leads the service’s testing and evaluation efforts.
“From flight testing the X-15 to the F-117, Edwards AFB in the Mohave Desert [sic] has been at the forefront of keeping our Air Force on the cutting edge,” Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldfein said. “Now testing the B-21 Raider will begin another historic chapter in the base’s history.”
Air Force Brig. Gen. Carl Schaefer, head of the 412th Test Wing at Edwards, said in 2018 that the B-21 would be tested at the base. Few details about the B-21’s development have been released, and previous reports suggested it could be tested at the Air Force’s secretive Area 51 facility.
A B-1B Lancer bomber awaits maintenance at Tinker Air Force Base in Oklahoma, Jan. 27, 2017
(US Air Force photo by Greg L. Davis)
The B-21 acquisition cycle is currently in the engineering and manufacturing-development phase, the Air Force said. The Raider’s design and development headquarters is at Northrop Grumman’s facility in Melbourne, Florida.
The Air Force expects to buy about 100 of the new bomber, with each cost over 0 million, according to Air Force Times.
The Air Force said in May 2018 that once the new bombers begin arriving they will head to three bases in the US — Dyess Air Force Base in Texas, Ellsworth Air Force Base in South Dakota, and Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri.
The service said those bases were “reasonable alternatives” for the new bomber, although it will likely not make a final basing decision until 2019.
The B-21 is to replace the B-1 Lancer and B-2 Spirit bombers at those bases, but the Air Force doesn’t plan to retire the existing bombers until there are enough B-21s to replace them.
Using existing bomber bases would reduce operational impact, lower overhead, and minimize costs, the Air Force said in May. “Our current bomber bases are best suited for the B-21,” Wilson said at the time.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Myth: Helicopters will drop like a rock when the engine shuts down.
In fact, you have a better chance at surviving in a helicopter when the engine fails than you do in an airplane. Helicopters are designed specifically to allow pilots to have a reasonable chance of landing them safely in the case where the engine stops working during flight, often with no damage at all. They accomplish this via autorotation of the main rotor blades.
Further, when seeking a helicopter pilot’s license, one has to practice landing using this no-power technique. When practicing, instead of actually shutting the engine off completely though, they usually just turn the engine down enough to disengage it from the rotor. This way, if the student encounters a problem during a no-power landing, the helicopter can be throttled back up to avoid an accident. Given that this isn’t an option during actual engine failure, it’s critical for helicopter pilots to practice this until they have it down pat.
A landing via autorotation is also sometimes necessary if the rear rotor blades stop functioning properly, no longer countering for the torque of the main rotor blades, so the helicopter will spin if the engine isn’t turned off. Whether this happens and the pilot shuts off the engine or in the case of actual engine failure, once the engine drops below a certain number of revolutions per minute, relative to the rotor RPM rate, a special clutch mechanism, called a freewheeling unit, disengages the engine from the main rotor automatically. This allows the main rotor to spin without resistance from the engine.
Once the engine fails or otherwise is shut off, the pilot must immediately lower the pitch, reducing lift and drag, and the helicopter will begin to descend. If they don’t do this quick enough, allowing the RPM of the main rotor to drop too far, they’ll then lose control of the helicopter and will likely not get it back. When this happens, it may well drop like a rock. However, this isn’t typical because as soon as the freewheeling unit disengages the engine, the pilot is trained to respond appropriately immediately.
Exactly what the correct glide angle is to maintain optimal rotor RPM varies with different helicopter designs, but this information is readily available in the helicopter’s manual. The glide angle also varies based on weather conditions (wind, temperature, etc.), weight, altitude, and airspeed, but in all cases a correct glide angle has the effect of producing an upward flow of air that will spin the main rotor at some optimal RPM, storing kinetic energy in the blades.
As the helicopter approaches the ground, the pilot must then get rid of most of their forward motion and slow the decent using the stored up kinetic energy in the rotors. If done perfectly, the landing will be quite gentle. They accomplish this by executing a flare, pitching the nose up, at the right moment. This will also have the effect of transferring some of that energy from the forward momentum into the main rotor, making it spin faster, which will further allow for a smooth landing. Because the flare will often need to be somewhat dramatic, the tricky part here is making sure that the rear of the helicopter doesn’t hit the ground. Ideally the pilot executes the flare (hopefully stopping most all the forward motion and slowing the decent to almost nothing), then levels the nose out just before touchdown.
Autorotation may sound like a fairly complex and difficult thing to do, but according to one instructor I briefly chatted with about this, it’s really not all that difficult compared to a lot of other aspects of flying a helicopter. In fact, he stated that most students have a lot more trouble when they first try things like hovering, than they do when they first try a no-power landing. Granted, this is partially because students don’t try autorotation landings until they are near the end of their training, so they are more skilled than when they first try a lot of other maneuvers, but still. It’s apparently not nearly as difficult as it sounds and most of the problems students have just stem from being nervous at descending at a higher rate than normal.
You can see a video of someone executing a near perfect autorotation landing below:
United States Army Aviation Branch is perhaps best known for revolutionizing the use of helicopters in combat. Whether it’s the highly versatile UH-60 Blackhawk, the extremely lethal AH-64 Apache, or the logistically mighty CH-47 Chinook, Army Aviation seems to be all about the choppers.
But that’s not all they fly. Despite being known for its rotorcraft, the Army has operated fixed-wing aircraft for the last seven decades, including the CV-2/C-7 Caribou and the C-23 Sherpa.
The Army’s operation of fixed-wing aircraft has been a touchy subject ever since the Army-Air Force divorce that followed World War II. Ultimately, this split led to the Key West Agreement of 1948. This agreement laid out the responsibilities of each branch of the United States Armed Forces. In brief, it left airborne combat in the capable hands of the US Air Force, while the US Army would only take to the seas or skies to support the troops on the ground.
But this agreement didn’t leave the Army solely with transports.
Three of the variants of the Mohawk.
(Graphic by Greg Goebel)
The Army also needed aircraft to provide reconnaissance for troops in the fight. The fact was, in the late 1950s, helicopters were fairly fragile and weren’t yet capable of carrying a significant payload. So, the Army turned to fixed-wing planes that could operate from rudimentary conditions.
One such plane was the OV-1 Mohawk, which came in three variants. The OV-1A was intended to operate with regular cameras. The OV-1B used a side-looking aerial radar to locate enemy vehicles. The OV-1C was equipped with infrared sensors to detect enemy forces (both vehicles and personnel) in all weather conditions. Later, the OV-1D was developed, capable of handling any of these systems.
An OV-1D prepares to take off during Operation Desert Storm. Note the side-looking radar underneath the fuselage.
The OV-1 entered service in 1959. It had a top speed of 297 miles per hour, a maximum range of 1,678 miles, and a crew of two. It also had a provision for rocket pods and gun pods under the wings. That last provision caused a stir — the Air Force claimed it violated the Key West Agreement. Ultimately, the Army agreed not to arm planes like the Mohawk in return for not having limits on the performance of helicopters.
The Mohawk served for an impressive 35 years, finally retiring in 1996. Some surplus Mohawks are flown at air shows or with private companies, while other have gone to museums.
Watch the Army introduce this historically significant recon plane in the video below.
The Soviet Union was known for fielding extreme machines — from the largest submarines ever built to gargantuan nuclear-powered battle cruisers — unmatched by any other country in history. So it should come as no surprise that during the Cold War, they also built what is believed to be the fastest submarine in history.
Though NATO dubbed the submarine as part of the “Papa” class, it was the only boat of its kind ever built. The Soviet Navy commissioned the vessel the K-162 in late 1969, just around 10 years after the project which led to its creation was initiated.
Using the teardrop-shaped architecture which at the time was new and revolutionary in the submarine world, the K-162 was optimized for speed to the tune of nearly 45 knots (51 miles per hour) underwater during a high-speed dash. It was armed with a complement of 10 cruise missiles and 12 torpedoes with the purpose of attacking and destroying surface formations and flotillas of enemy ships.
At the time, the Soviet Navy sought to deal with the rising threat of American battle groups centered around the “supercarrier.” These battle groups, guarded by heavily-armed destroyers, cruisers and submarines, were incredibly powerful projections of American naval force, and were without equal in the USSR.
Instead of building up similar carrier groups, the Soviet Navy decided to task its submarines with inflicting irreparable damage on American groups to render them ineffective. The K-162 became a part of this solution, with its missiles serving as the primary method of attacking enemy surface vessels.
Using a pair of nuclear reactors coupled to steam turbines, the K-162 could achieve blistering speeds which would allow it to surprise a carrier group, launch an attack and then leave the area before the group could respond with a counterattack of its own. In 1971, the submarine demonstrated its ability to dash at high speeds, supposedly achieving 44.85 knots at maximum power.
However, for its incredible speed, the K-162 came with a laundry list of limitations and drawbacks. The costs involved with designing and building the submarine, to begin with, were sky-high, and quickly deemed a poor investment as only one boat would be created, not an entire class.
The K-162’s speed proved to be its own undoing, as well. Noise is the primary method of detection for submarines, and the K-162 generated a lot of it, especially during its underwater high-speed runs. Its various engineering components and machinery were not appropriately “noise dampened,” making the vessel extremely detectable while at sea.
Further, the K-162 could not perform its high speed dashes without damaging itself. Any protrusions on the surfaces of the sub were buckled or bent out of shape due to the pressure of the water rushing over and around the hull. With poor hydrodynamics, the submarine couldn’t achieve the same speeds after, without a return to port for repairs and a refit.
Yet another failing was the fact that K-162 could only fire the opening shots of battle before having to return to port. In combat, a submarine could return to its tender, sailing a safe distance away, to rearm and reload. The K-222 could rearm with torpedoes, but its cruise missiles — its main armament for its primary mission — were only able to be replenished after returning to port.
The K-162 later renamed K-222, and was removed from active service in the early 1980s, though it has since been suspected that it was used to test technologies and practices that would later be used on future Soviet nuclear submarines like the Alfa and Victor class of hunter/killer attack boats.
The Russian Navy completed the K-222’s scrapping by 2010, marking the end of the fastest submarine to have ever existed.
The Air Force’s new KC-46 Pegasus tanker landed on the flight line at France’s Paris-Le Bourget Airport June 15, 2019, ahead of its public debut at the air show.
But the overseas unveiling comes on the heels of a new government watchdog report outlining new concerns for the KC-46 program, and amid continued challenges with manufacturer Boeing Co. regarding assembly line inspection.
Dr. Will Roper, assistant secretary of the Air Force for acquisition, technology and logistics, said it will take some time for the new inspection process to become standard at Boeing’s production facility. The inspections are supposed to correct actions that set back the program earlier this year.
The Air Force in April 2019 cleared Boeing to resume aircraft deliveries following two stand-downs over foreign object debris (FOD) — trash, tools, nuts and bolts, and other miscellaneous items — found scattered inside the aircraft.
A KC-46 Pegasus.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Jeremy Wentworth)
Roper on June 17, 2019, said more FOD issues were discovered within the last week.
“It’s slowing down deliveries,” Roper said here during the airshow.
Currently, the production is averaging one aircraft delivery to the Air Force per month, well below the rate of delivery the service had expected, Roper said.
“We’re currently not accepting at three airplanes per month, which was the original plan. But we’re not going to be pushing on a faster delivery schedule in a way that would put the rigor of the inspection at risk,” he said.
All aircraft under assembly are supposed to be swept routinely for debris. Loose objects are dangerous because they can cause damage over time.
The first halt in accepting KC-46 deliveries occurred in February, and the decision to halt acceptance a second time was made March 23, 2019, officials said at the time.
“We’re just going to have to stay focused, have to continue verifying through these inspections, and what we hope we’ll see is that [detection will happen earlier] for total foreign object debris to come down,” Roper said.
On top of the FOD issue, a new Government Accountability Office report says that the KC-46 — which hashad its share of issues even before the FOD discoveries — has a long road ahead for fixing other setbacks that still plague the aircraft.
The GAO found that while both Boeing and the Air Force are aware of or have begun implementing solutions to fix the aircraft, the repeated repairs and recurring delays in the program will likely cause other hiccups in the company’s delivery requirement, according to a report released June 12, 2019.
The KC-46 Pegasus deploys the centerline boom for the first time Oct. 9, 2015.
(Boeing photo by John D. Parker)
As previously reported, one of the main issues surrounds poorly-timed testing. But GAO said a new issue lies with delivery of the wing refueling pods, which would allow for simultaneous refueling of two Navy or allied aircraft, or for aircraft that do not use a boom system.
Since the company did not start the process for testing the wing refueling pods on time, GAO found, it is not expected to meet the delivery date for the pods, nearly 34 months after the delivery was originally planned.
“Boeing continued to have difficulty providing design documentation needed to start Federal Aviation Administration testing for the wing aerial refueling pods over the past year, which caused the additional delays beyond what [GAO] reported last year,” the report said. “Specifically, program officials anticipate that the Air Force will accept the first 18 aircraft by August 2019, and nine sets of wing aerial refueling pods by June 2020 — which together with two spare engines constitute the contractual delivery requirement contained in the development contract.”
GAO officials noted the Air Force still grapples with other previously-known problems with the aircraft. For example, the service said in January 2019 said it would accept the tanker, which is based on the 767 airliner design, despite the fact it has a number of deficiencies, mainly with its Remote Vision System.
The RVS, which is made by Rockwell Collins and permits the in-flight operator to view the refueling system below the tanker, has been subject to frequent software glitches. The first tankers were delivered in spite of that problem.
The systemic issue, which will require a software and hardware update, may take three to four years to fix, officials have said.
“The KC-46 boom currently requires more force to compress it sufficiently to maintain refueling position,” the report said. “Pilots of lighter receiver aircraft, such as the A-10 and F-16, reported the need to use more power to move the boom forward while in contact with the boom to maintain refueling position.”
An A-10 Thunderbolt II.
Pilots also pointed out the same power is needed to disconnect from the boom, which could damage the aircraft or the boom upon release.
The solution requires a hardware change and “will then take additional time to retrofit about 106 aircraft in lots 1 to 8,” GAO said. “The total estimated cost for designing and retrofitting aircraft is more than 0 million.”
It’s unclear if the latest findings will impede prospects for future international sales, especially at the Paris air show.
Jim McAleese, expert defense industry analyst and founder of McAleese Associates, said that the KC-46 is still the U.S.’s latest aviation program, and international partners will be curious about it.
“Now that [the Air Force] is accepting deliveries, KC-46 is high visibility for international sales,” McAleese recently told Military.com.
Acting Air Force Secretary Matt Donovan on June 17, 2019, said its presence is key to showing U.S. capabilities abroad regardless of “minor” issues.
“KC-46 really is a great airplane,” Donovan said. “What we’re talking about here are sort of minor things when you take a look at the whole capability of the airplane.”
A KC-46 Pegasus.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Yasuo Osakabe)
Roper added, “The foreign object debris is not a reflection of the end-state performance. We’re not happy with how FOD is being handled … but once we get the FOD out of the airplane the hard way, our operators are getting good performance out in the field.”
The Air Force has received six KC-46 tankers at McConnell Air Force Base, Kansas, and five at Altus Air Force Base, Oklahoma, according to a service release.
Designated aircraft and aircrew at McConnell earlier this month began Initial Operational Testing and Evaluation (IOTE), which will provide a glimpse “of how well the aircraft performs under the strain of operations,” the release said.
“As the KC-46 program proceeds with IOTE, participation in the Paris Air Show and other international aviation events serves as [an] opportunity to increase understanding of ally and partner capabilities and proficiencies, while promoting standardization and interoperability of equipment,” the Air Force said.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
The ability to detect and identify targets at night and under poor visibility conditions has long been an essential military requirement. History has shown that the ability to maneuver under the cover of darkness gives tacticians a big advantage over the enemy. Since its invention, night-vision technology has taken a firm place not only in individual soldiers’ kits, but in almost every component of the tactical spectrum, ranging from the perimeter defense to helicopter pilots and tank drivers.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Ford Williams)
Today’s reality: Modernizing and retrofitting
Today, many governments face the costly need to upgrade their fleets of armored vehicles (AVs) that have become obsolete with time. Despite budget cuts and insufficient funding, armies around the world still need effective, affordable modernization options for their AV fleets.
The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were great lessons, too, in terms of understanding the usefulness of this modern technology. Many new technologies sprang up during these wars, ranging from unmanned platforms to smart sensors, but night-vision technology offered a completely new dimension to tactical operations and, possibly, changed the course of war.
But what are these systems capable of? Let’s explore what thermal imaging systems can do and what they cannot.
(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Adam Mancini)
Fighting tank blindness: Improved situational awareness
Thermal imaging is a boon to the armed forces, especially for ground troops. Nowadays, armored vehicles are required to operate in all-weather battlefield environments, and there is the need for proactive situational awareness (SA). Modern thermal imaging cameras certainly provide the necessary technological innovation to achieve this end.
A tank, besides being a formidable machine, is also a large target. For tank crews, it is important to detect before they are detected. Modern thermal imaging systems can offer up to 360° visibility and generate higher-resolution images — this will help AV crews get crucial information before they physically encounter a potential threat.
Such systems also typically have a wide-view screen with the ability to select a point of interest anywhere on the screen, and the capability to zoom in to study the object further, or the ability to switch between multiple camera feeds. To improve the operators’ tactical edge, such cameras have different screen orientations with options for secondary views of the periphery. What’s more, these systems can provide supporting analytics and alert operators to important events for faster decision-making and therefore higher survivability.
(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Richard Wrigley)
Besides the rich SA about what is happening around them, AV operators need to know the nature of the terrain on which they are advancing to successfully maneuver and tactically position themselves for battle.
This is what modern thermal imaging technology excels at. It gives AV operators the ability to reconnoiter, identify, and tag targets at greater distances or at close range, 24/7 and in any weather conditions. By being able to see the terrain ahead in total darkness, through tall grass, camouflage, dust, light fog, sand storms, and rain, drivers are able to detect obstacles or potential threats sooner and will have more time to react. Thermal imaging can also see through smoke, which is exactly what AV crews need on a smoke-covered street or battleground.
(DoD photo by Benjamin Faske)
How effective thermal imaging is for AVs?
Since zero-visibility conditions have zero impact on thermal imaging cameras, they are capable of “seeing” in environmental conditions that are impenetrable to any other technology on the market. The types of threats these systems can detect are diverse: IEDs, vehicles, human targets, anti-tank missiles, and various terrain features and obstacles (cliffs, large boulders, waterways etc.).
This technology is not infallible though. Thermal imaging will have difficult time detecting AVs that use invisibility cloaks or other stealth technology, for example, the one in use by the Russian army.
The modern army’s growing need to operate at night and under poor visibility conditions has led to development of more and more sophisticated thermal imaging devices. One example is a research project that an experimental physicist Dr. Kristan Gurton and electronics engineer Dr Sean Hu are conducting for the US Army Research Laboratory (ARL). Their new camera, which relies on sensing polarized light, can see small hidden objects such as tripwires and booby traps, and it shows images in such detail that AV crews soon may be able to detect and identify specific individuals, for example, in urban environments or in the open field. Other advances, such as battle management systems, can be integrated as well with thermal imaging units for improved capabilities.
Body armor for your average infantry troop has come a long way. Today’s soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines are issued amazing technology designed to stop the most common threat they will likely face in combat: the rifle round. But the tech that will stop a lethal bullet isn’t just one miracle material that they can wear all over their bodies. There is a combination of forces at work, working to stop another combination of forces.
Soldiers don the Interceptor Armor before going on patrol in Iraq.
Kevlar itself is a plastic material five times stronger than steel. Everything about the material, from how it’s woven, right down to its molecular structure just screams strength. Its tensile strength is eight times that of steel. It doesn’t melt, it doesn’t get brittle with cold, and is unaffected by moisture. Kevlar is an awesome antiballistic material because it takes incredible amounts of kinetic energy to pass through it. Its molecular structure is like that of rebar through solid concrete, and forces a bullet to fight its way through at every level.
When layered, the material can sort of “soak up” a lot of the kinetic energy from a projectile. For most low-velocity handguns and even some of the more powerful handguns, a few layers of Kevlar is enough protection. But for high-velocity rifles, it needs some help. That’s where ceramic plates come in.
The standard AK-47 fires with a muzzle velocity of 716 meters per second. For Kevlar alone to protect a soldier from that kind of kinetic energy, the Kevlar would have to have more layers than a troop could carry while retaining the mobility necessary to perform his or her job functions. Kevlar is lightweight, but it’s not weightless, after all. The standard-issue Interceptor body armor was not tested to stop rounds at that velocity, which is classified as Level III protection. The Interceptor Armor does have pockets on the outside of the vests, so ceramic plates can be inserted to upgrade the armor to Level-IIIA.
Just like the Kevlar, the ceramic plates redistribute the kinetic energy of an incoming rifle round, slowing it down enough that it would not be able to penetrate the Kevlar, if it passed through the ceramic at all. It also prevents blunt force trauma from other rounds that may not penetrate the Kevlar, but still cause indentations in the material. The impact from bullets that don’t penetrate the Kevlar can still cause internal injuries. Ceramic inserts are rated to stop whatever projectiles are listed on the plate, and can take up to three hits before failing.
The ESAPI plate saved Sgt. Joseph Morrissey when he was hit in the chest with a 7.62mm round from about 30 meters while deployed to Afghanistan.
While ceramic may seem like an odd choice for stopping bullets, this isn’t the ceramic material used to make vases or coffee mugs. A lot of materials are actually ceramic, including titanium diboride, aluminum oxide, and silicon carbide, one of the world’s top ten strongest materials – the material used in the U.S. military’s Enhanced Small Arms Protective Inserts, or ESAPI plates. These enhanced plates, combined with the Kevlar are capable of stopping a Springfield 30.06 round with a tungsten penetrator.
That’s why the U.S. military uses ceramic plates and Kevlar body armor. It not only protects troops but allows them enough mobility to do their jobs in a hostile environment. And body armor tech is only getting better. Materials like spider silk and nanotubes are being tested that are even lighter and don’t take on as much heat as Kevlar. Maybe one day, we all won’t be drenched in our own sweat when we take off our armor.
The Dec. 13 crash of a MV-22B Osprey off the coast of Okinawa is the eighth involving this plane – and the fourth since the plane was introduced into service in 2007. Over its lengthy RD process and its operational career, 39 people have been killed in accidents involving the V-22 Osprey.
Sounds bad, right?
Well, the Osprey is not the first revolutionary aircraft to have high-profile crashes. The top American ace of World War II, Richard Bong, was killed while carrying out a test flight of a Lockheed YP-80, America’s first operational jet fighter.
The top American ace of the Korean War, Joseph McConnell, died when the F-86H he was flying crashed.
That said, the V-22 came close to cancellation numerous times during the 1990s, and killing it was a priority of then-Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney. He failed, and the United States got a game-changing aircraft.
It should be noted that most of the 39 fatalities happened during the RD phase of the Osprey program.
The July 2000 crash was the worst, with 19 Marines killed when the V-22 they were on crashed during a simulated night assault mission. According to an article in the September 2004 issue of Proceedings, the Osprey involved crashed due to a phenomenon known as “vortex ring state.”
The December 2000 Osprey crash that killed all four on board had a more mundane cause. The plane suffered a failure in its hydraulic system, causing the tiltrotor to start an uncontrolled descent.
Wired.com reported in 2005 that a software glitch caused the plane to reset on each of the eight occasions that the crew tried to reset the Primary Flight Control System. The Osprey’s 1,600-foot fall ended in a forest.
Since entering service in July 2007, the Osprey’s track record has been much stronger.
Counting the most recent crash, there have been four Osprey accidents in the nine years and four months the V-22 has been operational. Two of those crashes, one in April 2010 that involved a special operations CV-22 in Afghanistan and an MV-22 in Morocco that crashed in April 2012, killed six personnel.
The crashes in December 2012 and the one earlier this week, resulted in no fatalities.
Three other personnel died in accidents: A Marine died in October 2014 when a life preserver failed, according to the San Diego Union Tribune. In May 2015, a fire after an Osprey “went down” killed two Marines per an Associated Press report.
Despite the recent incidents, the V-22 has been remarkably safe, particularly in combat.
None have been lost to enemy fire, a distinction that many helicopters cannot boast. The CH-53 series of helicopters, saw over 200 personnel killed in crashes by the time of a 1990 Los Angeles Times report, which came 15 years before a January 2005 crash that killed 31 personnel.
The BBC reported at the time that the helicopter was on a mission near Rutbah, Iraq.
The US Air Force has two of its most elite aircraft — the B-2 Spirit bomber and the F-22 Raptor — training together in the Pacific, reassuring America’s allies and sending a warning to strategic competitors and adversaries about the sheer power the US brings to the table.
These stunning photos show the powerful aircraft tearing across the Pacific, where the US has increasingly found itself facing challenges from a rising China.
A U.S. Air Force B-2 Spirit bomber deployed from Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri, and two F-22 Raptors from the 199th Fighter Squadron at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii, fly in formation near Diamond Head State Monument, Hawaii, after completing interoperability training, Jan. 15, 2019.
(U.S. Navy photo by MC2 Kenneth Rodriguez Santiago)
Three B-2 bombers and 200 airmen from Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri deployed to Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii on Jan. 10, 2019, to support US Strategic Command’s Bomber Task Force mission.
A U.S. Air Force B-2 Spirit bomber deployed from Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri, and two F-22 Raptors from the 199th Fighter Squadron at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii, fly in formation near Diamond Head State Monument, Hawaii, during an interoperability training mission Jan. 15, 2019.
(U.S. Navy photo by MC2 Kenneth Rodriguez Santiago)
While B-2 bombers regularly rotate throughout the Pacific, having previously been deployed to Andersen Air Force Base on Guam, the most recent deployment marks only the second time these powerful stealth aircraft have been sent to Hawaii to drill alongside the F-22s.
A B-2 Spirit bomber deployed from Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri, and F-22 Raptors from the Hawaii Air National Guard’s 154th Wing fly near Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Russ Scalf)
The stealth bombers were deployed to the Pacific to send a message to allies and adversaries alike, specifically that “the B-2 is on watch 24 hours a day, seven days a week ready to protect our country and its allies.”
The B-2 Spirit bomber is reportedly a crucial part of most war plans to fight China.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Russ Scalf)
When the B-2s were first deployed to Hawaii October 2018, the US military stressed that the deployment highlighted the bomber’s completely unmatched “strategic flexibility to project power from anywhere in the world.”
An F-22 Raptor from the Hawaii Air National Guard’s 199th Fighter Squadron, conducts an aerial refueling with a KC-135 Stratotanker.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Russ Scalf)
The F-22 Raptor, an elite air-superiority fighter, which the Air Force asserts “cannot be matched by any known or projected fighter aircraft,” is an extremely lethal aircraft capable of performing air-to-air and air-to-ground combat missions.
Different weapons serve different purposes in combat, but every fighter in history has looked for an edge – one advantage that could mean the difference between life and death for the combatant. In an era where everyone is cutting each other with increasingly sharp blades of different sizes, wouldn’t it be great if that ax also shot bullets?
If you happened to be the one holding the ax, then yes: that would be great. Unless your opponent was holding a shield – especially if that shield also shot bullets.
If that example sounds far-fetched, that’s because it is — but just because it’s unlikely doesn’t mean it never happened.
Yes, the ax that shoots bullets was only partly a joke. Polish cavalry used a short ax as a weapon for more than 200 years. The tradition spilled over into Hungary as well, presumably because axes that could also shoot bullets were great at killing Turks.
Even better than the handheld pistol ax was the multi-barreled and/or halberd long gun versions used by Germans around the same time.
Knives and swords.
The Germans are back with this hunting knife-pistol combo. From the 16th through the 18th centuries, shooting and stabbing was a popular combination, not just among German civilians, but also among troops belonging to various warlords in a then-ununified Germany.
Pistol knives experienced a rebirth in popularity in Victorian England, probably as a means to not get murdered at night on the streets of London.
Speaking of not getting murdered on the streets of old-timey Europe, French street gangs were keen on using the Apache pistol to do just that: kill to avoid being killed. These were combination brass knuckles, switchblades, and pistols that were really good at being none of those things. The knives were flimsy, the pistol had no trigger guard, and the brass knuckles weren’t big or heavy enough to be a difference maker.
A walking stick.
This is pretty much just Henry VIII’s thing. The big guy carried a walking stick that was also pulling triple duty as both a pistol and a mace. The pistol part was triple-barreled, and Henry used it while walking around his kingdom at night, trying to not get murdered on the streets of London.
I’m starting to sense a theme here…
If the firepower of his walking stick proved to be insufficient for anyone coming at him, Henry had his bodyguards equipped with shields… shields that fired black-powder pistols. Considering their size and iron composition, a weapon so hefty would surely have been difficult to aim.
The tank was introduced in World War I when Britain unveiled the then-secret weapon against German forces and were able to run these rolling fortresses right over German barbed wire and trenches, firing cannons and machine guns into German fortifications. Now, armored columns are a commander’s fist, punching holes in enemy lines and then rushing through them to annihilate enemy formations.
A Dutch Army Centurion Tank provides security while conducting a scouting exercise in Hohenfels, Germany, January 26, 2015.
(U.S. Army Spc. Tyler Kingsbury)
10. British Centurion
Originally designed to give British tankers and edge against German Panthers and Tigers, the Centurion arrived months after the end of World War II and ended up being the greatest Cold War tank instead. It had plate armor while cast armor was still the norm, and its 105mm gun was beefy for the time.
A German Panzer Mk. II sits in a tank museum. Tankers didn’t want to get caught in this small beast, but it split the job of gunner and commander, giving a tactical advantage and setting the standard for all tanks that came after.
(Paul Hermans, CC BY-SA 4.0)
9. Panzer Mark II
The Panzer Mark II was, to say the least, not a “Tanker’s tank.” It was a stopgap design to hold the line in the 1930s until the Panzer Mk. III and IV were ready. It was a light tank with limited range, an only 20mm gun, and thin armor.
But it made this list because it did perform well on the battlefield and changed future tank design for one reason: It had a dedicated gunner and a dedicated tank commander. Many tank designs, especially smaller ones with smaller crews, combined these two roles, forcing the commander to ignore the larger battlefield for crucial moments while firing. The Mark II broke from that tradition and essentially all modern tank designs have a commander and dedicated gunner.
The British Whippet was a medium tank that could drive into gaps in German lines.
The Panzer Mk. IV was a heavy hitter early in the war and got upgrades throughout, keeping it pertinent and threatening against Shermans and T-34s, but Germany still needed the Panthers and Tigers to tackle heavy tanks.
By 1945, this resulted in a Panzer IV with a longer 75mm gun, widened tracks, and thicker armor than most medium tanks. It even had armored skirts to protect against infantry anti-armored weapons. This allowed it to tackle the Allies most numerous tanks—such as the Sherman and the T-34—with relative ease. But larger tanks were able to shred it, hence Germany’s growing reliance on the late-arriving Panther as those made it to the front.
A French Char B1 tank sits in a museum. The tanks were massively overpowered compared to their enemies in the open of World War II, but they didn’t receive many upgrades since, you know, France lost the war.
(The shadock, CC BY-SA 3.0)
6. Char B1
France’s tanks saw limited fighting in World War II since, you know, France fell so early in the war. But a couple of French tanks made a real impact, including the Char B1 with its sloped armor, two large guns, and decent speed. Its smaller, 47mm gun could kill many tanks while its 75mm could slaughter nearly anything available in 1939.
But, you know, France still fell, so that part sucked.
The British Mark I tank created tank warfare, eclipsing the armored cars that had been used previously.
5. British Mk. I
Look, to be honest, we’re including this little fellow because, for a while, it was the only deployed tank in the world. The British Mk. I was the first tank, dreamed into existence by British Royal Navy engineers under the “Landship” concept that would see America’s new tractors developed into weapons of war.
The German Tiger Tank was a legend of World War II. It was a logistical nightmare to keep the things fueled and running, but if you were caught in an armored battle in the war, this is the one you wanted to be in (but, preferably, without being a Nazi).
(German federal archives)
4. Tiger Tank
Ah, the legendary Tiger, the tank so powerful that it immediately became the focus of any battle in which it fought. Its thick armor could shrug off 75mm rounds from most guns at 50 yards. But its 88mm gun could open most Allied tanks like a can opener.
Russian crews often preferred the Sherman to the T-34, and they had good reason. The tank was easy to maintain and spare parts were almost always available, leading to an 80 percent rate of damaged Shermans returning to combat. In fights, the Sherman was able to kill Mk. IIs and Mk. IVs, but could only attack Tigers in desperation and Panthers in strength. It was a “commander’s tank,” great strategically but few tankers wanted to face a heavy tank in one.
A T-34 tank sits with open hatches during a battle re-enactment. It was the most produced tank of World War II and could kill any tank in the world at the time of its debut. Meanwhile, Germans had to press anti-aircraft guns into service to try and kill it.
The Germans were forced to call on any weapon they thought could pierce the armor, deploying anti-aircraft guns and infantrymen carrying shaped charges to try and take the T-34 down. It was a leading factor in the Russian victory at the Battle of Kursk, the largest tank battle in history, and it eventually became the most-produced tank of the war.
U.S. Marine Corps M1A1 Abrams tank participates in a simulated security patrol in Storas, Norway, October 25, 2018.
The US Air Force set out to return to Cold War numbers by growing nearly 25% and taking on hundreds more planes to form an additional 74 squadrons, Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson announced on Sept. 17, 2018.
The US Air Force, which typically acquires aircraft only after long vetting and bidding processes, will attempt the radical change in short order to fulfill President Donald Trump’s vision of a bigger military to take on Russia and China.
In the US’s new National Security Strategy, National Defense Strategy, and Nuclear Posture Review, the Trump administration redefined the US’s foremost enemies not as rogue groups like ISIS or Al Qaeda, but China and Russia.
While the US has fought counter insurgencies against small terror groups and non-state actors nonstop since Sept. 11, 2001, the resurgence of an aggressive Russia now at war in Ukraine and Syria, and the emergence of China now unilaterally attempting to dominate the South China Sea, has renewed the US military’s focus on winning massive wars.
This chart shows how many new squadrons the Air Force wants and how they’ll be distributed. The Air Force announced a goal of 386 squadrons, up from 312. Depending on the airframe, a squadron can have 8-24 planes.
For the bomber squadrons, which include nuclear capable bombers like the B-52 and B-2, that number will grow only slightly and likely include the mysterious new B-21 Raider bomber, which no one has ever seen outside classified circles.
In the fighter jet department, it’s likely F-35s will comprise most of this growth. Aerial tankers and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance platforms, likely drones, will also see a big bump.
The Air Force hopes to build the force up to 386 squadrons by 2030, but has not provided any information on how it plans to fund the venture. The US Air Force has requested 6 billion for next fiscal year, already a six percent bump over the previous year. While Wilson promised to streamline acquisition, which famously can take years and cost billions, there’s real doubts about how fast the organization can move. The US Air Force started working on the F-22 in 1981. It first flew in 1997 and first went into combat in 2014. The F-35 started in 2001 and just last year experienced its first combat in Israel’s service.
“We are not naive about the budget realities,” Wilson said at the Air Force’s annual Air, Space Cyber Conference. “At the same time, we think we owe our countrymen an honest answer on what is required to protect the vital, national interests of this country under the strategy we have been given, and so we believe this is, if not the perfect answer, it is an honest answer to that question: What is the Air Force we need?”
Currently, China’s military is in the midst of building up a tremendous air force and navy while also threatening some of the US’s core interests and most promising technologies.
The biggest US Air Force defense projects involve stealth aircraft, like the B-21 and F-35. As of yet unpublished research on China’s military reviewed by Business Insider found Chinese fighter aircraft now number around 1,610 compared to about 1,960 US fighters.
China has made strides towards quantum radars designed to negate the US stealth advantage as well as a stealth fighter of its own, the J-20.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.