This Polish-made PL-01 is the ground equivalent of the F-117 Stealth Fighter - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TACTICAL

This Polish-made PL-01 is the ground equivalent of the F-117 Stealth Fighter

There are plenty of remarkably cool tanks out there, but this one is something else. The Polish-made PL-01 concept tank made by Obrum looks like a cousin of the F-117 Nighthawk. Not only does it look like the stealth fighter on tank tread, it also adopts its signature technology that can evade radar.


Both are black, covered in radio absorbent material, and sport the same two-dimensional shape. But here is where the tank is different in terms of stealth (via Army Recognition):

The PL-01 is also fitted with external infrared sensors to create an infrared suitable camouflage on the field. The tank can also create effects to its temperature controlled wafers to look like a car or another common object, an effective countermeasure against radar, infrared and visual signature detection equipment.

 

An animation of the PL-01
YouTube

Beside it’s stealth capabilities, the PL-01 can be armed with a 105mm or 120mm cannon that can fire six rounds per minute (video demonstration at 0:41). It also has a 7.62mm coaxial machine gun and a remote control station that can be outfitted with another 7.62mm machine gun or 40mm grenade launcher.

At 21 feet long by 10 feet wide, it’s considered lightweight. But what it lacks in size it makes up in agility and range. It can go as fast as 45 miles per-hour and travel 310 miles on a single tank with a three or four-man crew.

The tank looks like something you would see in a sci-fi movie. However, the PL-01 is expected to start production in 2018 and start exporting by 2022. Check it out:

Articles

EFOGM — that anti-tank missile with a 9-mile reach

In the 1980s, the threat of the Soviet armored divisions pouring through the Fulda Gap in Germany was a serious one. The Pentagon was looking for a way to thin out the Red Army’s tanks before they reached contact with the main NATO lines — or even the cavalry screen.


If the thinning out could include the command tanks, even better.

This has been a habit of American fighting forces for a long time. It’s been a part of pop culture military strategy even as far back as the American Revolution (when Mel Gibson’s character in The Patriot says, “Shoot the officers first, work your way down”) to a hypothetical World War III in Tom Clancy’s Red Storm Rising, when one Russian explains that NATO trains its troops to shoot the command tanks first.

This Polish-made PL-01 is the ground equivalent of the F-117 Stealth Fighter
The YGM-157B EFOGM. (U.S. Army photo)

The MGM-157 Enhanced Fiber-Optic Guided Missile, or EFOGM, was intended to help in this sort of mission.

It looks a lot like the BGM-71 Tube-Launched Optically-Tracked, Wire-guided missile, or TOW. Well, it uses a number of TOW components, according to Designation-Systems.net.

The big differences are that the EFOGM weighs more (117 pounds to 50 for the TOW), and can go four times as far as the TOW (9.3 miles to 2.33 miles).

The range makes EFOGM a bit of an indirect-fire weapon. Eight missiles can fit onto a Humvee, and two at a time can be guided. This is a very useful capability when it comes to decapitating an enemy regiment or brigade — often by hitting the tank from above, where its armor is the weakest.

This Polish-made PL-01 is the ground equivalent of the F-117 Stealth Fighter
XM44 launch vehicle for the YMGM-157 EFOGM. (U.S. Army)

The key is that EFOGM flies higher – at around 1,000 feet. The missile uses a TV camera for guidance with the signal traveling on a fiber-optic cable. That allows EFOGM to serve as a reconnaissance asset en route to the target.

So, why did this missile not make it into the inventory? Simply put, the Army cancelled funding, and EFOGM ended up being just a cool technology demonstrator. Japan did develop a similar system dubbed the “Type 96.”

According to GlobalSecurity.org, the system is for use against enemy tanks, landing craft, and helicopters.

This Polish-made PL-01 is the ground equivalent of the F-117 Stealth Fighter
Japan’s Type 96. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

Makes you wonder if EFOGM could have helped out during Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Interesting photo shows F-35 in ‘beast mode’ aboard aircraft carrier

The Royal Navy released on Twitter on Oct. 23, 2019 an image of the F-35 in “beast mode,” loaded during the tests of the Highly Automated Weapon Handling System with six (two of which internally) Paveway IV dual mode GPS/INS and laser guided bombs, two AIM-132 ASRAAMs (Advanced Short-Range Air-to-Air Missile) on the wingtips and two AIM-120 AMRAAMs (Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missile) in the weapons bays.


The Paveway IV, latest iteration of the widely spread GBU-12 Paveway II developed for the UK with added GPS guidance, and the ASRAAM, British replacement for the AIM-9 Sidewinder, were specially integrated on the F-35 for the Royal Air Force and Royal Navy, since they don’t operate the GBU-12/EGBU-12 and the AIM-9X fielded by the USMC on their F-35Bs. The Meteor BVRAAM is also expected to be integrated on the aircraft, as the Royal Air Force recently declared it operational and will eventually replace the AMRAAM in the next years.

This Polish-made PL-01 is the ground equivalent of the F-117 Stealth Fighter

The first takeoff of a UK Lightning from the HMS Queen Elizabeth.

(Crown Copyright)

UK’s F-35B Lightning are currently deployed aboard the HMS Queen Elizabeth aircraft carrier for Operational Testing, while the ship is undergoing the Westlant19 Carrier Strike Group cruise off the East Coast of the United States.

As the Author wrote in a previous article, this deployment is meant to test personnel and aircraft to ensure they are compatible with the carrier. One of the key features of the ship that are being tested is the Highly Automated Weapon Handling System, a system derived from commercial automated warehousing processes that moves palletized munitions from the deep magazine and weapon preparations areas to the hangars and flight deck by using automated tracks and lifts.

One of the big advantages of the HAWHS is the reduction of manpower needed to handle munitions, thus reducing the risks for the crew during one of the most hazardous activities aboard the ship; the crew is now required to handle the weapons only during initial storage and the preparation for use on the aircraft.

This Polish-made PL-01 is the ground equivalent of the F-117 Stealth Fighter

The F-35s stored in the hangars of the HMS Queen Elizabeth.

(Crown Copyright)

During the following days, the F-35s will fly from the deck of the HMS Queen Elizabeth with various weapon’s loading configurations, including the “Beast mode”, to continue the operational testing. Here’s what our editor David Cenciotti wrote about this configuration in a previous article:

“Beast Mode” is not an official or technical term. At least not within the U.S. Air Force. However is a pretty common way an F-35 configuration involving both internal and external loads is dubbed. Actually, others call any configuration involving external loads “Bomb Truck” or “Third Day of War” configuration.
In fact, as opposed to a “First Day of War” loadout, in which the F-35 would carry weapons internally to maintain low radar cross-section and observability, the “Third Day of War” configuration is expected to be used from the third day of an air campaign when, theoretically, enemy air defense assets (including sensors, air defense missile and gun systems and enemy aircraft) have been degraded by airstrikes (conducted also by F-35s in “Stealth Mode”) and the battlespace has become more permissive: in such a scenario the F-35 no longer relies on Low-Observability for survivability so it can shift to carrying large external loads. These conditions are not always met. For instance, LO was not needed when the F-35A was called to carry out the first air strike in the Middle East, nor when the U.S. Marine Corps F-35B carried out the first air strike in Afghanistan.

On the same day, the ship saw also the arrival of the other two UK F-35s scheduled to deploy for Westlant19. The aircraft currently aboard are now ZM148 (BK-14) modex 014, ZM149 (BK-15) modex 015, ZM151 (BK-17) modex 017 from the mixed 207 Squadron/617 Squadron fleet based at RAF Marham and ZM135 (BK-01) modex 001, ZM136 (BK-02) modex 002 and ZM138 (BK-04) modex 004 from the 17 Test and Evaluation Squadron (TES) based at Edwards Air Force Base.

USMC F-35Bs are expected to deploy on HMS Queen Elizabeth in the following days to conduct trials before a joint operational deployment with the RAF/RN F-35s in 2021.

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

That time an F-15 landed without a wing

The F-15 Eagle is a legendary air superiority platform with an unparalleled modern air-to-air record of 104 kills with zero loses, but when we think of aircraft that can really take a beating, our minds tend to conjure images of planes like the A-10 Thunderbolt II — landing on forward airstrips with more holes punched in them than a brick of Swiss cheese.

This Polish-made PL-01 is the ground equivalent of the F-117 Stealth Fighter
The A-10 Thunderbolt II piloted by Captain Kim Campbell suffered extensive damage during Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003. Campbell flew it safely back to base on manual reversion mode after taking damage to the hydraulic system. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Of course, there’s good reason for the A-10’s toughness. The aircraft was purpose built around the positively massive GAU-8 Avenger 30mm gatling-style auto cannon for close air support. The A-10 was built to fight Soviet tanks from low altitude, with titanium armor and bullet-resistant glass wrapped around the pilot to keep the plane in the fight.

The F-15 was a product of the Cold War, not unlike the A-10, but was designed with a very different purpose in mind. With a top speed of Mach 2.5 and enough hard points to carry 11 air-to-air missiles into a fight, the F-15 might be thought of as a Ferrari compared to the gun truck that is the A-10, but that doesn’t mean these blistering fast fighter-killers aren’t pretty tough on their own.

This Polish-made PL-01 is the ground equivalent of the F-117 Stealth Fighter
(U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman John Hughel)

Despite being an American aircraft, the F-15 has done a great deal of fighting under the banners of a number of allied nations. In fact, a good portion of the F-15’s air-to-air record was earned by Israeli pilots — but the most incredible thing an Israeli pilot may have ever pulled off with the venerable F-15 came in 1983, when pilot Ziv Nedivi and instructor Yehoar Gal managed to land the top-tier fighter after losing its entire right wing in a mid-air collision.

The 1983 Negev incident

This Polish-made PL-01 is the ground equivalent of the F-117 Stealth Fighter
Israeli F-15 landed, after losing a wing. (Israeli Defense Force)

Back in the early 1980s, the F-15 was still a flashy new ride, having just entered service in the United States in 1976. As a part of training, two Israeli F-15Ds (the two-seater variant of the jet) were squaring off in a mock dog fight against four older Douglas A-4N Skyhawks over the Negev desert.

Now, here in the United States, pilots training against one another are required to maintain what’s known as a safety bubble. A five hundred foot or more “bubble” is maintained around each aircraft to ensure collisions don’t occur during the high speed maneuvering inherent to dog fighting, or as pilots tend to call it, executing Basic Fighter Maneuvering (BFM).

As the two Israeli F-15s swung into action against their A-4 aggressor opponents, the reason for this training bubble became pretty apparent. One of the two F-15s, the one with Nedivi at the stick, collided with one of the A-4s, almost instantly destroying the older fighter. Nedivi’s aircraft immediately entered a downward spin and his instructor, Gal, issued the order to eject.

This Polish-made PL-01 is the ground equivalent of the F-117 Stealth Fighter
A-4N Skyhawk (Tomas Del Coro on WikiMedia Commons)

Nedivi, the student in that setting, was senior in rank to his instructor, and opted not to punch out as he regained some degree of control over the aircraft. As the plane leveled off, he and Gal looked over their right shoulders to see fuel vapor pouring out of the wing area, but because of the cloud of fuel being lost, neither could see the extent of the damage beyond it. As Nedivi reduced their airspeed, the aircraft once again began to roll. Nedivi, aware that there was an airstrip just over ten miles out, made a decision.

He hit the F-15’s two powerful afterburners, capable of increasing the engine output of the fighter from 14,590 pounds of force to a whopping 23,770 pounds. With fuel pouring from the wing of the aircraft and the twin Pratt & Whitney F100-PW-220 engines dumping the rest into the burn, it was a gutsy call, but it managed to level the aircraft out and get them pointed in the right direction.

This Polish-made PL-01 is the ground equivalent of the F-117 Stealth Fighter
Members of the 18th Component Maintenance Squadron engine test facility, run an F-15 Eagle engine at full afterburner while checking for leaks and any other issues. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Omari Bernard)

What Nedivi and Gal didn’t know was that their mid-air collision with the Skyhawk had actually sheared the entire right wing of their F-15 straight off the fuselage just about two feet from its root. With ten miles to cover and little more than vapor left in the fuel lines, the two men were doing the impossible: They were flying in a fighter jet with just one wing.

This Polish-made PL-01 is the ground equivalent of the F-117 Stealth Fighter
(YouTube)

In order to keep the aircraft stable, Nedivi had to maintain a high air speed, which made touching down a difficult proposition. Nedivi knew that the recommended airspeed for landing an F-15 was right around 130 knots, just shy of 150 miles per hour. As he lowered his tail hook and brought the F-15 down to the tarmac, they were actually flying at 260 knots (right around 300 miles per hour). The tail hook Nedivi hoped would slow their landing was ripped off of the aircraft almost instantly, and for a split second, it seemed their miraculous flight was for naught, as the barricades at the end of the airstrip were fast approaching.

With only about 10 meters left before collision, the F-15 finally came to a stop. As Nedivi tells it, it was only then that he turned to shake hands with his instructor Gal, only to finally see the real extent of the damage. The right wing of the aircraft hadn’t been present for the last ten miles of their flight.

Even the F-15’s manufacturer didn’t believe it

This Polish-made PL-01 is the ground equivalent of the F-117 Stealth Fighter
(USAF Photo)

It’s safe to say that McDonnell Douglas was well aware that their F-15 Eagle was an incredibly capable platform, but even they were reluctant to believe that the Israeli aviators had managed to fly one without a wing. Some have even quoted the firm as saying such a feat was impossible… that is, until they received a photograph of the plane flying just as the Israeli’s described: Riding on little more than a single wing and a whole lot of courage.

Further analysis determined that the F-15 was able to stay aloft thanks to its powerful engines and the lift created by its fuselage.

That particular two-seater F-15 wasn’t just a training aircraft. In fact, that very jet had already racked up four kills against enemy planes in the 1982 Lebanon War, known within the Israeli military at the time as Operation Peace for Galilee. In a testament to just how incredibly tough these aircraft really are, the damaged F-15 was transported to a maintenance facility in Tel Nof, where it was given a new wing and returned to service.

Two years later, that same jet would score yet another kill, this time against a Syrian Mig-23.

This article originally appeared on Sandboxx. Follow Sandboxx on Facebook.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This is the Army’s super secret special ops aviation unit

The 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment is widely considered to be the best unit of its kind in the world. Known to recruit only the best pilots the US Army has to offer to fly its MH-60 Black Hawks, MH-6 Little Birds and MH-47 Chinooks, the 160th routinely flies in support of America’s most elite troops — Green Berets, Delta Force operators, Army Rangers, and the like.


Not much is actually known about the 160th, and for good reason — it’s still a special operations unit, as its name suggests. But even this outfit is still too “public” for some of the most clandestine missions the Army and Joint Special Operations Command wishes to send its elite operators on.

So the Army stood up an aviation unit that hides deep in the shadows

This outfit is most commonly referred to as “Flight Concepts Division,” though its name has changed many times in the past in order to preserve its cover. Though very little is known about the unit today, we can still infer its role and capability based on what little the Army has released on the Division’s past.

Originally founded as a special ops unit unto itself,first known as SEASPRAY — a highly classified aviation outfit with a number of fronts and covers to protect its identity from public view. Thousands of pilots, cherry-picked from around the Army, were invited to try out for SEASPRAY, but only a handful were selected to continue with the recruitment and training process. Once training was complete, these pilots would go on to fly top secret missions across the world, especially in Central and South America, in support of American special operations objectives.

 

This Polish-made PL-01 is the ground equivalent of the F-117 Stealth Fighter
An OH-6 Cayuse carrying special operations personnel. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

However, in the mid-1980s, SEASPRAY was disestablished by the Army in the wake of a scandal, its components dispersed and moved to other units to fulfill a similar role.

By the 1990s, the Army had moved chunks of SEASPRAY over to Delta Force, standing up Echo (E) Squadron to support Delta operators with aerial surveillance, insertions and extractions on missions. Pilots and aircraft were transferred over and brought into the fold quickly, receiving further training in assisting Delta assault troops in taking down hijacked cruise ships, inserting operators behind enemy lines and other risky missions.

According to Sean Naylor in his book, “Relentless Strike,” E Squadron pilots were trained and rated to fly a variety of foreign aircraft, including Russian military helicopters popular in the Balkans at the time of the crises there in the mid-to-late ’90s, allowing them to blend in and fly virtually unnoticed. As time passed, whoever, E Squadron’s effectiveness grew so much that brass within Joint Special Operations Command wanted to excise it from Delta Force and stand it up as its own separate unit once more.

This Polish-made PL-01 is the ground equivalent of the F-117 Stealth Fighter
A Hughes MD500. SEASPRAY and Delta Force’s E Squadron have been known to operate helicopters like these in civilian markings (Hughes Helicopters, public domain)

Fast forward to the late 1990s, and Flight Concepts Division came into play. Earlier known by a number of other covers and fronts, such as Aviation Technical Services, Quasar Talent and Latent Arrow, this unit provided immeasurable support for “black operations” troops in the Balkans, ferrying them into and out of combat zones surreptitiously without anybody the wiser.

Flight Concepts Division still remains an active unit today with a vague name and an equally obscure mission description. What it actually does in support of American special operations is anybody’s guess, especially while it operates in the shadows cast by its big brother unit, the 160th SOAR. Its aircraft are masked, painted with civilian markings and otherwise kept out of sight, its pilots and aircrew indistinguishable from the average pedestrian on any of America’s streets.

But those who serve with the division are more than likely the best of the very best, the cream of the crop – the elite black ops aviators called upon by Joint Special Operations Command and the president for top secret missions we’ll not hear of for decades to come.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Still the champ: 3 things you should know about the SR-71 Blackbird

Before the advent of stealth aircraft, the U.S. military had a very different approach on how to operate its planes in contested airspace. That approach could be summarized in two words:

Brute force.

In those early years of air defense system development, the U.S. was less interested in developing sneaky aircraft and more concerned with developing untouchable ones– utilizing platforms that leveraged high altitude, high speed, or both to beat out air defenses of all sorts — whether we’re talking surface to air missiles or even air superiority fighters.


Lockheed’s legendary Kelly Johnson, designer of just about every badass aircraft you can imagine from the C-130 to the U-2 Spy Plane, was the Pentagon’s go-to guy when it came to designing platforms that could evade interception through speed and altitude. His U-2 Spy Plane, designed and built on a shoestring budget and in a span of just a few months, first proved the concept of flying above enemy defenses, but then America needed something that could also outrun anything Russia could throw its way. The result was the Blackbird family of jets, including the operational SR-71 — an aircraft that remains the fastest operational military plane ever to take to the sky.

You could make a list of 1000 amazing facts about the SR-71 without breaking a sweat — but here are three even a few aviation nerds may not have of heard before:

This Polish-made PL-01 is the ground equivalent of the F-117 Stealth Fighter

USAF

The Blackbird had over 4,000 missiles fired at it. None ever hit their target.

The SR-71 Blackbird remained in operational service as a high speed, high altitude surveillance platform for 34 years — flying at speeds in excess of Mach 3 at altitudes of around 80,000 feet. This combination of speed and altitude made it all but untouchable to enemy anti-air missiles, so even when a nation knew that there was an SR-71 flying in their airspace, there was next to nothing it could do about it. According to Air Force data collected through pilot reports and other intelligence sources more than 4,000 missiles were fired at the SR-71 during its operational flights, but none ever managed to actually catch the fast-moving platform.

Its windshield gets so hot it had to be made of quartz.

This Polish-made PL-01 is the ground equivalent of the F-117 Stealth Fighter

i1.wp.com

Flying at such high speeds and altitudes puts incredible strain on the aircraft and its occupants, which forced Lockheed to find creative solutions to problems as they arose. One such problem was the immense amount of heat — often higher than 600 degrees Fahrenheit — that the windshield of the SR-71 would experience at top speeds. Designers ultimately decided that using quartz for the windshield was the best way to prevent any blur or window distortion under these conditions, so they ultrasonically fused the quartz to the aircraft’s titanium hull.

The SR-71 was the last major military aircraft to be designed using a ‘slide rule.’

This Polish-made PL-01 is the ground equivalent of the F-117 Stealth Fighter

USAF

There are countless incredible facts about the SR-71 that would warrant a place on this list, but this is one of the few facts that pertains specifically to the incredible people tasked with developing it. Not long after the SR-71 took to the sky, the most difficult mathematical aspects of aircraft design were handed off to computers that could crunch the numbers more quickly and reliably — but that wasn’t the case for the Blackbird. Kelly Johnson and his team used their “slide rules,” which were basically just specialized rulers with a slide that designers could use to aid them in their calculations in designing the mighty Blackbird. Years later, the aircraft was reviewed using modern aviation design computers only to reveal that the machines would not have suggested any changes to the design.

Just for fun, here’s Major Brian Shul’s incredible “Speed Check” story about flying the Blackbird.

Major Brian Shul, USAF (Ret.) SR-71 Blackbird ‘Speed Check’

www.youtube.com

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

US soldiers are patrolling with these awesome pocket-sized spy drones

US soldiers are patrolling Afghanistan with a new tool that lets them see the battlefield like never before — personal, pocket-sized drones.

The 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division has deployed to Afghanistan with Black Hornet personal reconnaissance drones — a small, lightweight unmanned aerial vehicle produced by FLIR Systems that can be quickly and easily deployed to provide improved situational awareness on the battlefield.


This Polish-made PL-01 is the ground equivalent of the F-117 Stealth Fighter

A 3rd BCT paratrooper prepares to launch a Black Hornet in Kandahar, Aug. 9, 2019.

(US Army photo by Maj. Thomas Cieslak)

Soldiers are taking these nano drones on patrol in combat zones.

The 3rd Brigade Combat Team deployed to Kandahar province in Afghanistan in July from Fort Bragg in North Carolina to replace the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, Stars and Stripes reports.

Army paratroopers have been “routinely” using the Black Hornets, recon drones that look like tiny helicopters, for foot patrols, the Army said in a statement.

“The Black Hornet provided overhead surveillance for the patrol as it gauged security in the region and spoke to local Afghans about their concern,” a caption accompanying a handful of photos from a recent patrol in Kandahar explained.

This Polish-made PL-01 is the ground equivalent of the F-117 Stealth Fighter

A 3rd BCT paratrooper with a Black Hornet drone.

(US Army photo by Maj. Thomas Cieslak)

These UAVs offer “immediate situational awareness of the battlefield,” the Army said previously.

The Army awarded FLIR a multimillion-dollar contract earlier this year to provide Black Hornet drones to US troops.

A little over 6 inches in length and weighing only 1.16 ounces, these drones are “small enough for a dismounted soldier to carry on a utility belt,” according to FLIR Systems.

These UAVs offer beyond-visual-line-of-sight capability during day or night out to distances of up to 1.24 miles and have a maximum speed of about 20 feet a second.

These drones, which are able to transmit high-quality images and video, can also be launched in a matter of seconds and can quietly provide covert coverage of the battlefield for around half an hour, Business Insider saw firsthand at an exclusive FLIR technology demonstration.

The Black Hornets “will give our soldiers operating at the squad level immediate situational awareness of the battlefield through its ability to gather intelligence, provide surveillance, and conduct reconnaissance,” Lt. Col. Isaac Taylor, an Army public affairs officer, previously told Business Insider.

This Polish-made PL-01 is the ground equivalent of the F-117 Stealth Fighter

Paratroopers on patrol in Kandahar province in Afghanistan.

(US Army photo by Maj. Thomas Cieslak)

These drones have the potential to be a real “life-saver” for US troops.

Soldiers in the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division were the first troops to get their hands on the new Black Hornet drones, part of the Soldier Borne Sensor (SBS) program.

Back in the spring, soldiers trained for a week at Fort Bragg with the new drones, getting a feel for the possibilities provided by this technology.

“This kind of technology will be a life-saver for us because it takes us out of harm’s way while enhancing our ability to execute whatever combat mission we’re on,” Sgt. Ryan Subers, one of the operators, said in a statement.

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

Articles

3 reasons why the A-10’s replacement won’t bring the same BRRRRRT! to the battle

So, the Air Force is going to test fly a replacement for the A-10 Thunderbolt II “BRRRRRT!” plane this summer — all on account of a Senate committee that just voted to provide $1.2 billion in funding for this program.


A number of planes are competing to see which will replace the legendary Warthog. Among the competitors are the OV-10X from Boeing, the Textron Scorpion, the A-29 Super Tucano, and the AT-6 Texan.

This Polish-made PL-01 is the ground equivalent of the F-117 Stealth Fighter
OV-10G+ operated by SEAL Team 6. (Photo: U.S. Navy)

And while these new planes have their advantages for close air support, they lack some key attributes that makes the A-10 the beloved “Hog” that it is.

3. No armor for the pilot – or other stuff

Let’s be honest, one of the reasons we love the A-10 is that it can take a beating and bring the pilot home. The tale of Kim “Killer Chick” Campbell doesn’t happen with a Tucano or Texan. It just doesn’t. So don’t give us some small prop job and tell us you gave us an A-10 replacement, okay? Just. Freakin’. Don’t.

This Polish-made PL-01 is the ground equivalent of the F-117 Stealth Fighter

2. Lack of payload

The A-10 can carry up to 16,000 pounds of bombs, missiles, and other ordnance — that’s eight tons. The Textron Scorpion carries up to 9,000 pounds. The OV-10X is a modernized version of the OV-10 Bronco, but that plane has a limited payload as well, with the heaviest weapon it carries being 500-pound bombs.

Not bad for a COIN mission, but weak at supporting boots on the ground in a heavy firefight.

This Polish-made PL-01 is the ground equivalent of the F-117 Stealth Fighter
A-10 Thunderbolt IIs break over the Pacific Alaska Range Complex and one aircraft drops a flare during live-fire training April 24. (U.S. Air Force photo/Master Sgt. Robert Wieland)

1. No GAU-8

The A-10 was built around the GAU-8, a 30mm Gatling cannon. It could hold 1,174 rounds’ worth of BRRRRRT!

Now, the old OV-10 that served in Vietnam and Desert Storm had guns – four M60 machine guns. That’s right four 7.62mm machine guns. The OV-10X swaps them out for M3 .50-caliber machine guns. Not bad when you wanna take out Taliban, but a problem when facing tanks.

Now, there was a gun pod that had a version of the GAU-8 with four barrels as opposed to seven, and with 353 rounds. Not bad, but it’s not a GAU-8 mount.

This Polish-made PL-01 is the ground equivalent of the F-117 Stealth Fighter
Photo: US Air Force Airman 1st Class Jonathan Snyder

Don’t get us wrong, the OV-10 makes for a nice COIN bird, and the Textron Scorpion could be a nice, cheap supplementary multi-role fighter.

But let’s get down to the ground truth: If you want to replace the A-10, do it right. And if you can’t replace the A-10 with a new plane, then just admit that the best A-10 replacement is another A-10 and just get them back in production. Is that too much to ask?

MIGHTY HISTORY

This was the fastest manned aircraft ever

The Cold War was a great time for NASA and the U.S. Air Force. It seemed like they were able to do pretty much whatever they wanted in the interest of just seeing if they could do it. But the X-15 was much more than just a power play. Even though the Air Force already had the perfect spy plane, capable of flying across the planet at Mach 3, they still decided to up the game just a little further and came away with some important discoveries, discoveries that led to the creation of the Space Shuttle.

Not to mention the world’s speed record for manned, powered flight – Mach 6.7.


The craft had to be drop launched from the wing of a specially modified B-52 Stratofortress but could reach the very edge of space, setting altitude records for winged aircraft. Once dropped from the wing of the “mother ship” the X-15 launched its XLR-99 rocket engine to propel the craft at hypersonic speeds. It was a unique plane because it was designed to operate in an environment where there was less air than other aircraft.

It was the world’s first spaceplane, thus it used rocket thrusters to control its altitude at times. It could switch back and forth between conventional flight controls as needed for exoatmospheric flight as well as landing the craft.

This Polish-made PL-01 is the ground equivalent of the F-117 Stealth Fighter

There were three different X-15 airframes. One suffered from a landing accident in 1962 that injured pilot John McKay. As a result of this flight and the damage suffered to the airframe, the fuselage was lengthened, it was given extra drop tanks for fuel beneath the wings and was given an ablative coating to protect its pilot from the heat of hypersonic flight.

A second one was lost in 1967, just minutes after its launch. The craft had taken a video of the horizon at the edge of space and began its descent to the world below. As the craft descended, it entered a hypersonic spin. Even though its pilot, Michael J. Adams, was able to recover the plane at 36,000 feet, it then went into an inverted dive at Mach 4.7. The plane broke up under the stress and Adams was killed.

This Polish-made PL-01 is the ground equivalent of the F-117 Stealth Fighter

Pilots who flew the X-15 to its highest altitudes were eventually given astronaut wings by the U.S. Air Force, considering the craft broke the USAF threshold for the edge of space at 50 miles above the surface of the earth. The craft would also make faster and faster hypersonic flights until Oct.3, 1967 when William J. “Pete” Knight took the craft to its maximum speed of 4,520 miles per hour.

Aside from these two achievements, the X-15 also had a number of notable firsts, including being the first restartable, throttle-controlled and man-rated rocket engine. It also tested the first spaceflight stellar navigation system and advanced pressure suits. The X-15 program was a direct ancestor of the modern Space Shuttle program, and without it, many notable achievements would not have happened.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Bell Flight wants to make an awesome tilt-rotor drone

Bell Helicopters Textron, one of the companies behind the V-22 Osprey and the makers of a proposed Army tilt-rotor, are pitching a new drone for the Navy and Marine Corps that packs tilt-rotor technology into a large drone capable of carrying weapons, sensor platforms, and other payloads into combat.


(Bell Helicopters Textron)

The Bell V-247 Vigilant is to be an unmanned bird capable of operating at ranges of 1,300 nautical miles from its ship or base, carrying 2,000 pounds internally or a 9,000-pound sling load, or spending 12 hours time on station.

Of course, those numbers represent maximum endurance, maximum lift, or maximum range. A more likely mission profile combines all three. Bell says the aircraft will be capable of carrying a 600-pound payload 450 nautical miles for a mission with 8 hours time on station. It can also refuel in flight, further extending ranges and time on target.

This Polish-made PL-01 is the ground equivalent of the F-117 Stealth Fighter

(Bell Helicopters Textron)

And, with just two V-247s, a commander could establish 24-hour persistent reconnaissance of a target. That implies a much lower set of maintenance requirements than manned aircraft, since many require more hours of maintenance on the ground than they get in-flight hours.

Best of all, because the wings fold and it doesn’t need space for a crew, the V-247 would fit in about the same amount of space on a ship as a UH-1Y, tight enough for it to land on Navy destroyers, whether to shuttle supplies or to refuel and re-arm for another mission.

This Polish-made PL-01 is the ground equivalent of the F-117 Stealth Fighter

(Bell Helicopters Textron)

For armament, Bell highlights its ability to fire air-to-surface missiles, helping Marines on the ground or potentially helping interdict fast boats during a swarm attack on the water.

All in, the design has a lot of the numbers that planners would want to see in a support aircraft. And, because it doesn’t require a pilot, it can do a lot of complicated tasks while reducing the workload of the military’s already strained pilot population. It’s easy to see a role for an aircraft like this in fleet replenishment, in amphibious assault and air support, and in ship-to-shore logistics.

This Polish-made PL-01 is the ground equivalent of the F-117 Stealth Fighter

(Bell Helicopters Textron)

But, the Navy and Marine Corps are already on the hook for a large number of V-22 Ospreys. The Marine Corps has made the V-22 one of its most numerous aircraft, flying them across the world. And the Navy is looking to buy 38 V-22s to conduct fleet replenishment missions around the world, ferrying everything from engines to potatoes from warehouses on land to ships at sea.

So, while it would be useful for the Navy to get some smaller, unmanned aircraft to move the smaller packages between ships — especially since V-22 exhaust is so hot and fast-moving that it breaks down ship decks faster than other aircraft — there may not be enough money to go around. But the V-247 might represent a valuable asset for the Marines and Navy. And many of the sea services’ missions for the tilt-rotor would be valuable for the Army as well.

More graphic depictions of the proposed aircraft are available below.

This Polish-made PL-01 is the ground equivalent of the F-117 Stealth Fighter

(Bell Helicopters Textron)

This Polish-made PL-01 is the ground equivalent of the F-117 Stealth Fighter

(Bell Helicopters Textron)

This Polish-made PL-01 is the ground equivalent of the F-117 Stealth Fighter

(Bell Helicopters Textron)

This Polish-made PL-01 is the ground equivalent of the F-117 Stealth Fighter

(Bell Helicopters Textron)

MIGHTY HISTORY

5 ‘dumb’ military tactics that actually worked

“If it’s stupid and it works, it isn’t stupid,” is how the old saying goes. Though it isn’t said much anymore, the meaning behind it still rings true – and has for generations. A tactic that seems so stupid can be useful to the right mind. It can goad an enemy into losing focus and abandoning caution. These tactics can be used to influence an enemy’s thoughts and actions. It can even change the future for millions.

So don’t be so quick to judge.


This Polish-made PL-01 is the ground equivalent of the F-117 Stealth Fighter

Napoleon at Austerlitz

In the beginning of the 19th Century, Napoleon was making his presence known across Europe. The end of the old order was at hand as “The Little Corporal” from Corsica took control of the French and dominated the armies and rulers of Europe. But the social order wasn’t the only thing he upended. Napoleon upended the entire doctrine warfare, how battles were fought, forever. Nothing is more obvious than his win at Austerlitz, where a seemingly rookie mistake was the key to victory.

As Napoleon fielded the French to take on a superior Russian-Austrian force outside of Vienna, things looked bleak, and the French were widely expected to lose and be forced to flee Austria. With every passing day, Napoleon’s enemies became stronger. To goad them into a fight in the place of his choosing, he occupied the heights overlooking the town of Austerlitz, basic military strategy since the days of Sun-Tzu. As the combined enemy army approached, they saw the French abandon those heights. The battle was on, and Napoleon used the heights as a psych-out. Once the French took the heights in combat, the battle was over for the Russian-Austrian allies, and Napoleon was Master of Europe.

This Polish-made PL-01 is the ground equivalent of the F-117 Stealth Fighter

Israeli independence

When the state of Israel was proclaimed in 1948, it was a jubilant day for the Jewish people – and no one else in the region. The Jews of the new nation of Israel were immediately surrounded on all sides by Arab enemies with superior numbers, technology, money, and basically anything else you might need to win a protracted war for independence. What the Israelis had going for them was a ton of World War II veterans and a lot of cunning brainpower. So even when they had to make bombing runs in single-engine prop planes, they managed to win the day even if they didn’t have bombs.

As an advancing Arab army approached Tel Aviv, the Jewish forces in the area were at a loss on how to repel them. They had no bombs to support the Israeli troops in the region, and even if they did, they had no bombers to fly them. They needed an equalizer. Someone with combat experience in WWII remembered that seltzer bottles tend to whistle like bombs when dropped from a height. When full of seltzer, they also explode with a loud bang. So that’s what the nascent IAF used. The Arabs didn’t really have seltzer or those old-timey bottles used to spray it, so they really thought they were being bombed – and disbursed.

This Polish-made PL-01 is the ground equivalent of the F-117 Stealth Fighter

The army led by a zombie

Some people are just so necessary for success you can’t afford to let them go. Unfortunately for Rodrigo Díaz de Vivar and the people of Valencia, one such person was missing when Muslim armies from Morocco were marching their way. They must have gotten wind that Rodrigo was no longer with the army of Valencia, which was true. Rodrigo was no longer among those defenders because Rodrigo was also no longer among the living. Since the Christian knight had never lost a battle, his reputation alone was enough to keep invaders at bay.

Luckily for Rodrigo – whom you might know better as El Cid – he had a pretty cunning wife, Jimena. Jimena ordered El Cid’s dead, decomposing body be fully armored and dressed, then lashed to his horse. Jimena then told the army to make a valiant last cavalry charge to break the siege, with El Cid at the head. When the Muslims saw the Spaniards coming at them with El Cid at the head of the attack, they immediately broke ranks and tried to flee but were cut down by the Spanish defenders.

Strong men marry strong women. Remember that.

This Polish-made PL-01 is the ground equivalent of the F-117 Stealth Fighter

Island-hopping to fight another day

In 1942, things looked really bad for the allied naval forces in the Pacific. The December 1941 attack on the U.S. Navy at Pearl Harbor came at the same time of a half dozen other surprise Japanese attacks throughout the region. Attempts to hit the Japanese back at the Java Sea and the Sunda Straits were met with abject failure. After the Japanese Empire captured the Dutch East Indies, the Navy was limping pretty bad. Hong Kong, Malaya, Burma, and more had all fallen to the mighty Japanese initiative. As all allied ships were ordered to retreat to Australia, one was somehow left behind.

That was the HNLMS Abraham Crijnssen, a Dutch minesweeper which was separated after the attacks on the East Indies. Armed with one three-inch gun and two 20mm cannons, the minesweeper was no match for any of the Japanese warships floating around the islands. In order to stay undetected, the Dutch covered the ship in foliage and painted the hull the color of rocks. They moored the ship near islands by day and moved only by night – and it worked. She not only made it to Australia, she survived the war.

This Polish-made PL-01 is the ground equivalent of the F-117 Stealth Fighter

(Laughs in Mongol)

Mongols think differently

For much of the Western World in the Middle Ages, a retreat was not a good thing. If a cavalry force appears routed, it might lead to the infantry breaking ranks and running. Even the most orderly of retreats was considered as an option only at the last possible moments. That was not how the Mongols under Genghis Khan thought of a retreat. A retreat was a tactic to be used like any other tactic.

There are many examples of the use of a feigned retreat in this history of the Mongol conquests. The reason for this is because it worked. It worked really really well. Troops from China to Poland would be locked in a life-or-death struggle against the Mongol hordes when suddenly the Mongols would turn tail and run, their spirit to fight seemingly broken. As a chorus of cheers went up from the exhausted defenders, they would inevitably give chase to the invaders – only to watch as the retreating Mongols turn again, in full force, and on ground that supports them.

The defenders would then be slaughtered to a man.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Watch this new Humvee wheel transform into tracks

DARPA has engineered a set of wheels that can turn into tracks while in motion in under two seconds.

The Reconfigurable Wheel Track (RWT) allows vehicles to morph as the terrain changes, allowing drivers (or remote pilots) to quickly adapt to changing environments and better handle obstacles. This technology would enable greater terrain access and faster travel — both on- and off-road.


As shown in a demonstration at Aberdeen Test Center, Maryland, earlier this year, the morphing wheel system, developed by the Carnegie Mellon University National Robotics Engineering Center, would allow troops to respond to impending threats rapidly by reconfiguring the wheels — without stopping — and re-route off the road.

The system also comes with a Multi-mode Extreme Travel Suspension that provides shock absorbency, which anyone who has ever ridden in a Humvee will be thankful for.

“We’re looking at how to enhance survivability by buttoning up the cockpit and augmenting the crew through driver-assistance aids,” said Maj. Amber Walker, the program manager for GXV-T in DARPA’s Tactical Technology Office. “For mobility, we’ve taken a radically different approach by avoiding armor and developing options to move quickly and be agile over all terrain.”

According to DARPA, the Ground X-Vehicle Technologies program “aims to improve mobility, survivability, safety, and effectiveness of future combat vehicles without piling on armor.”

Take a look at the video below to watch the wheels transform and to watch the vehicles tackle asymmetrical terrain:

www.youtube.com

MIGHTY TACTICAL

America has a secret missile covered in swords (and it actually makes war zones safer)

The most secretive parts of America’s defense apparatus have a missile covered in swords, and they’re using it to take out terrorists in Syria.

One significant change to warfare that’s come about in recent decades has been the advent of precision guided munitions and the resulting shift in the way America, and the world at large, sees collateral damage. During World War II, massive fleets of heavy bombers dotted the skies above Europe, laying waste to vast areas of territory in an effort to damage a nation’s industrial infrastructure and force submission.


This Polish-made PL-01 is the ground equivalent of the F-117 Stealth Fighter

While there is still a use for this method of ordnance delivery, precision guided munitions have become the common platforms of choice for commanders in theater. (US Air Force Photo)

Thousands died in these large scale bombing campaigns, and today, many of those deaths would be considered unacceptable by the international community. Precision guided munitions with ever greater range and accuracy have replaced the carpet-bombing doctrine with the more cost effective and civilian friendly precision strike mindset. Today, collateral damage is not a thing of the past, but its metrics have shifted significantly. While carpet bombing raids may have killed hundreds or even thousands, the loss of a dozen civilian lives is now often considered too big a price to pay to engage many dangerous targets.

This Polish-made PL-01 is the ground equivalent of the F-117 Stealth Fighter

All that remained of the German town of Wesel after allied bombing. (WikiMedia Commons)

This shift is undoubtedly a good thing from the macro perspective for humanity, but it raises a number of new challenges for America’s defense apparatus that’s tasked with engaging terrorists outside of America’s borders. It takes weeks, months, even years to gather all the necessary intelligence on a target before you might have an opportunity to take him out, and if the target is surrounded by civilians (as they tend to do for protection from air strikes), there’s a chance the U.S. military may miss its opportunity to strike.

That’s where the AGM-114R9X comes in. While it’s official name may be a mouthful, the missile itself utilizes a fairly simplistic approach to killing specific targets while minimizing the chances that anyone nearby will be hurt.

Twitter

twitter.com

The AGM-114R9X is, at its most simplistic levels, a Hellfire missile with the explosive warhead removed from the center portion of its body. In the warhead’s place are six extendable blades that bear a striking resemblance to swords. As brutal as this method of engaging a target may seem, the use of this missile actually makes going after these high value targets significantly safer for the civilians in the area.

Rather than utilizing explosive force or shrapnel from the missile’s body to kill its target and anyone else in the vicinity, the AGM-114R9X deploys its six swords upon impact with a target. Each blade is approximately 18 inches long, giving the missile a “kill radius” of only about three feet. Couple that with the Hellfire missile’s extremely accurate targeting capabilities, and you have a weapon that can take out the bad guys without worrying about a large explosion that could potentially hurt others.

The weapon’s development began under the CIA during the Obama Administration, and to date, has only been used in combat a handful of times. In each of these instances, these precision weapons appear to have been employed by the U.S. Joint Special Operations Command, or JSOC, though it’s not entirely clear as to whether or not there is any overlap between CIA and JSOC operations in terms of leveraging the AGM-114R9X in combat.

This Polish-made PL-01 is the ground equivalent of the F-117 Stealth Fighter

Charles Lister on Twitter

The “ninja sword” Hellfire missile saw a sharp uptick in press late last year after it was used twice in less than a week to kill different terrorists in Syria. The first strike took place on December 3, when an AGM-114R9X was used to engage the passenger seat specifically of a minivan in the Syrian city of Atmeh. The second took place somewhere between Afrin and Azaz, once again killing its target without injuring any bystanders. As pictures of the strikes and their aftermath hit social media, the U.S. government’s sword-wielding missile was introduced to the world, despite the general lack of formal acknowledgement from the Pentagon.

All told, this missile covered in swords is believed to have only seen use a half a dozen times, which coupled with the small amount of information released about the platform suggests that the missile is a limited production run that may be the result of modifying existing Hellfire platforms. Either that, or JSOC would just prefer to keep this secret close to the chest.

In any regard, it just got a little bit tougher to be a terrorist, and that’s always good news.

This article originally appeared on Sandboxx. Follow Sandboxx on Facebook.

Do Not Sell My Personal Information