The Air Force tried to make the SR-71 Blackbird into a fighter - We Are The Mighty
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The Air Force tried to make the SR-71 Blackbird into a fighter

The SR-71 Blackbird is an awesome plane. But did you know that it could have been even more awesome than it was? The Air Force was planning to make a fighter version of the plane.


Aviation historian Joe Baugher notes that as the early iterations of the SR-71 were being designed, there was a need for an interceptor. The F-108 program had been cancelled due to its high cost. However, there was still a desire for a high-speed, long-range interceptor.

The Air Force tried to make the SR-71 Blackbird into a fighter
The YF-12A – a fighter version of the Blackbird capable of carrying four AIM-47 Falcon missiles. (USAF photo)

The A-12 OXCART being developed for the CIA was seen as a likely basis for a fighter. Lockheed’s Skunk Works team soon figured out how to add a powerful radar, the AN/ASG-18, capable of detecting targets from as far off as 500 miles in some cases, and four AIM-47 missiles.

The resulting plane was designated the YF-12, and three prototypes were built.

Designation-Systems.net notes that the AIM-47 had a range of over 100 miles and a speed of Mach 4. While a 250-ton W42 warhead never materialized for this missile, it did get a 100-pound high-explosive warhead.

The Air Force tried to make the SR-71 Blackbird into a fighter
An AIM-47 Falcon being loaded into a YF-12. (USAF photo)

News of the the YF-12’s development was leaked in an effort to distract the public from the work being done to make a reconnaissance plane. But the plane – awesome as it was – would not ever see service due to the development of reliable inter-continental ballistic missiles.

The YF-12 would get a production order for 93 airframes from the Air Force. However, then-Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara refused to release the funds, and the project ended up being halted at the three prototypes. Two were handed over to NASA for research flights. One of those crashed after a fuel line caught fire in 1971, with the crew ejecting from the stricken plane.

The Air Force tried to make the SR-71 Blackbird into a fighter
A Fighter Squadron 211 (VF-211) F-14A Tomcat aircraft banks into a turn during a flight out of Naval Air Station, Miramar, Calif. The aircraft is carrying six AIM-54 Phoenix missiles.

The YF-12 will remain one of the biggest “could have been” planes in history. The jet still has a legacy – partially in the SR-71 Blackbird, but also in the form of the AWG-9 radar and AIM-54 Phoenix missiles used by the F-14 Tomcat. Even though this plane never got a chance to serve, it still did a lot for America’s military aviation development.

MIGHTY TRENDING

New VA appeals process is starting and it looks promising

Over the last 18 months, VA has been dedicated to implementing the Veterans Appeals Improvement and Modernization Act of 2017 (Appeals Modernization Act). The Appeals Modernization Act was signed into law by President Trump on Aug. 23, 2017, and has been fully implemented beginning Feb. 19, 2019. VA is proud to now offer veterans greater choice in how they resolve a disagreement with a VA decision.


Veterans who appeal a VA decision on or after Feb. 19, 2019, have three decision review lanes to choose from: Higher-Level Review, Supplemental Claim, and appeal to the Board of Veterans’ Appeals (Board). VA’s goal is to complete Supplemental Claims and Higher-Level Reviews in an average of 125 days, and decisions appealed to the Board for direct review in an average of 365 days. This is a vast improvement to the average three to seven years veterans waited for a decision in the legacy process.

The Air Force tried to make the SR-71 Blackbird into a fighter
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Clayton Cupit)

Before appeals reform, pending appeals grew 350 percent from 100,000 in Fiscal Year 2001 to 450,000 in Fiscal Year 2017. In November 2017, VA initiated the Rapid Appeals Modernization Program (RAMP) to afford Veterans with a legacy appeal the opportunity to take advantage of the benefits of the new process. RAMP ended Feb. 15, 2019, but VA remains committed to completing the inventory of legacy appeals.

This is a historic day for Veterans and their families. Appeals Modernization helps VA continue its effort to improve the delivery of benefits and services to Veterans and their families.

For more information on Appeals Modernization, visit http://www.va.gov/decision-reviews.

This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.

Articles

This is how enemies hack America — according to a cyber warrior

The media’s craze surrounding possible Russian interference with the US election through hacking isn’t going away anytime soon. Though the hype is primarily political, it’s important to separate fact from fantasy.


Tangibly, the overarching processes that corporations and nation-states use to gain advantage over a competitor or adversary are quite common. It’s important to evaluate how these attacks are used in the world today. The two main vectors used to attempt to exploit our election were Spear-Phishing and Spoofing.

Spear-Phishing

Spear-phishing targets select groups of people that share common traits. In the event of the Russian hack, the Russian General Staff Main Intelligence Directorate, or GRU, and affiliated non-governmental organizations (companies, organizations, or individuals loyal to Russia), sent phishing emails to members of local US governments, and the companies that developed the voting-registration systems.

The Air Force tried to make the SR-71 Blackbird into a fighter
USCG photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Andrew Barresi

Their intent was to establish a foothold on a victim’s computer, so as to perpetrate further exploitation. The end-result of that exploitation could allow manipulation and exfiltration of records, the establishment of a permanent connection to the computer, or to pivot to other internal systems.

Spoofing

Spoofing is an act in which one person or program successfully masquerades as another by falsifying data, thus gaining an illicit benefit. Most people understand spoofing in terms of email, whereby an attacker spoofs, or mimics, a legitimate email in order to solicit information, or deploy an exploit.

As it relates to the Russian situation, spoofing a computer’s internet protocol (IP) address, system name, and more, could have allowed a successful spear-phisher to bypass defenses and pivot to other internal systems. This kind of act is so trivial, some techniques are taught in basic hacking courses.

The Air Force tried to make the SR-71 Blackbird into a fighter
US Air National Guard photo illustration by Staff Sgt. Kayla Rorick.

Ignore the Hype

What we know from reporting, as backed by unauthorized disclosures, is that defense mechanisms appear to have caught each of the spear-phishing and spoof attempts. Simply put, there is no information to suggest Russia had success.

For political reasons, politicians have worked hard to make this a major talking-point. However, these same politicos cannot speak in absolutes, because there simply wasn’t a successful breach—let alone one able to compromise the integrity of our national election.

One piece of information to note: these attacks are some of the most common seen in the cyber world. There is nothing revolutionary about these vectors, or how they are employed against government, commercial, and financial targets. This isn’t to suggest it is a moral or acceptable practice, rather the reality of life in the Information Age.

The Air Force tried to make the SR-71 Blackbird into a fighter
Army Reserve photo by Sgt. Stephanie Ramirez

Hollywood Sucks

I would be remiss if I didn’t make a note about the way Hollywood (and media in general) portrays hacking in a way that is mystical and comical. The portrayals only serve to conflate an issue that is easily managed with thoughtful consideration and implementation of best-practices.

This is why we can’t have nice things.

(Kyle Buchanan | YouTube)
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This is why the Navy wears bell bottoms, and it’s not for fashion

The Navy dress uniform — also known as “cracker jacks” — is one of the most iconic symbols in the military today. You can spot a Navy sailor from a mile away after they don the familiar dressing.


Every piece of the uniform from head-to-toe has some symbolic or practical use — and the famous bell bottoms are no different.

During the ’60s and ’70s, bell bottoms were all the rage in fashion culture as men and women of all ages walked the streets with the popular look.

Related: This is why sailors have 13 buttons on their trousers

The Air Force tried to make the SR-71 Blackbird into a fighter
A girl in the 1970s sporting some fashionable bell buttons near a beach. (Source: Wikipedia Commons)

But the fad didn’t make its debut on a famous red carpet or in an elegant fashion show — it’s the brilliant invention of the U.S. Navy.

Although no one has been officially accredited with inventing the bell bottom trouser, the flared out look was introduced for sailors to wear in 1817. The new design was made to allow the young men who washed down the ship’s deck to roll their pant legs up above their knees to protect the material.

The Air Force tried to make the SR-71 Blackbird into a fighter
Young sailors aboard a ship play tug-of-war in their classic bell bottoms. (Source: Pinterest)

This modification also improved the time it took to take them off when the sailors needed to abandon ship in a moments notice. The trousers also doubled as a life preserver by knotting the pant legs.

Also Read: This is why some Marines wear the ‘French Fourragere,’ and some don’t

Years later in 1901, the Navy authorized the first use of denim jumpers commonly known as “dungarees.” This new fabric was approved to be worn by both officers and enlisted personnel.

The dungarees also featured the unique bell bottom look and are considered iconic in their own right.

What’s your favorite Navy uniform? Comment below. And don’t forget to submit your photos in the comment section wearing your dress uniform.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Five companies you didn’t know were in the arms industry

While companies such as Mitsubishi and Rolls Royce are well-known for producing everything from motorbikes to air conditioners, they’re not the only products the companies are manufacturing.

The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute’s (SIPRI) most recent edition of its Arms Industry Database, includes a ranking of the top 100 companies involved in arms-production.

The ranking shows that 42 of the top 100 companies are US-based — while this isn’t particularly shocking, it may come as a surprise that a number of the companies involved in arms-dealing are much better known for manufacturing other products, such as vehicles and household appliances.

Here are 5 of the biggest tech companies you may not have known also manufacture arms.


The Air Force tried to make the SR-71 Blackbird into a fighter

Fujitsu’s positioning isn’t just down to the quietness of its air conditioners.

1. Fujitsu

While, technically speaking, only a small portion of Fujitsu’s business is focused on arms, manufacturing weapons earned the giant id=”listicle-2637023891″.11 billion in 2017, making up 3% of its total turnover.

The Air Force tried to make the SR-71 Blackbird into a fighter

Though Kawasaki is renowned for producing motorcycles, it also sells ships and military aircraft.

(Flickr/driver Photographer)

2. Kawasaki

Kawasaki’s sales in arms came to .14 million in 2017, making up 15.2% of its total turnover.

The Air Force tried to make the SR-71 Blackbird into a fighter

The former Swedish car manufacturer Saab relies heavily on arms production.

3. Saab

Having earned the company .67 million, arms made up 83.9% of Saab’s .18 million turnover in 2017.

Since Saab’s automobile production ended in 2012, it has since depended on the Swedish state.

The Air Force tried to make the SR-71 Blackbird into a fighter

Mitsubishi produces vehicles as well as household appliances, such as air conditioners.

(Mitsubishi)

4. Mitsubishi

Mitsubishi Heavy Industries. Ltd is a division within the larger Mitsubishi group. The company invoice showed it had totted up .57 billion worth of arms sales over 2017, making up 9.7% of its total sales.

The Air Force tried to make the SR-71 Blackbird into a fighter

The British company is famous for manufacturing cars.

(Flickr photo by Armando G Alonso)

5. Rolls Royce

Placing 17th in the ranking of companies involved in arms sales, Rolls-Royce sold .42 billion worth of arms in 2017 — that represents 22.8% of its total turnover.

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

No, NASA didn’t waste millions making the space pen

Look, this whole article is basically a rant written because we’re getting tired of seeing comments about this every time we talk about NASA and/or Roscosmos. Somewhere in the comments on those articles, on our videos, or really anywhere across the internet as a whole, you’ll see someone sharing that same stupid story of NASA investing millions in space pens while Russia sensibly used pencils instead.

Nearly all of that story is complete and utter nonsense.


The Air Force tried to make the SR-71 Blackbird into a fighter

NASA astronaut and former Air Force test pilot Col. Gordon Fullerton, wearing communications kit assembly mini headset, watches a free-floating pen during checklist procedures on the aft-deck of Space Shuttle Columbia during the third shuttle mission, STS-3, in 1982.

(NASA)

A few quick things: First, neither NASA nor Roscosmos spent a single dime developing the space pen. NASA and Roscosmos both gave their spacefarers pencils and both of them hated to do so because floating graphite flakes can cause fires in sensitive electronics in zero gravity.

NASA, to cut down on the chance of a fire destroying their multi-million dollar spacecraft and killing their priceless astronauts, invested in insanely expensive mechanical pencils. The pencils were 8.89 each, or a grand total of ,382.26 for 34.

Man, imagine having to go to the supply sergeant for a box of those every time the major loses a few.

The Air Force tried to make the SR-71 Blackbird into a fighter

Astronaut Walter Cunningham writes with a space pen during the Apollo 7 mission in 1968.

(NASA)

Taxpayers, predictably, freaked out. They felt like pencils shouldn’t cost over 0 — fair enough.

So, NASA went back to cheaper pencils, but remained worried about their spacecraft and astronauts. Russia, in a similar vein, was worried about their cosmonauts.

Then, the Fischer Pen Company came to them with an offer to sell “anti-gravity” pens that could write upside down, under water, and in any temperature that humans could survive. It was the uber pen.

The Air Force tried to make the SR-71 Blackbird into a fighter

A photo of an Apollo astronaut taking notes in space.

(Project Apollo Archive)

NASA paid a grand total of .39 per pen for 400 of them — a total of 6. Russia also bought the pen for the same price per unit (Well, Scientific American thought the cost was .39 each. A NASA historian citing old media reports pegged the number at per — still, not millions in either case).

Thus concludes NASA’s total sunk costs for the first delivery of pens. They paid in development or research costs. None.

Now, the Fischer Pen Company did spend a lot of money developing the pens — about id=”listicle-2608414142″ million, but they’re a private company counting on future sales to make up for the development costs.

And that was a sound bet. After all, lots of industries and the military need pens that can write in any situation. Miners, loggers, divers, soldiers, and a ton of other people in other professions need to be able to write in wet environments. So, Fischer would earn their research money back regardless.

So, please, when you want to make fun of the military or the government for wasting money, point to something else. The multi-million dollar space pen is and has always been bupkis.

Maybe point to the anti-aircraft weapon that attacked toilets or the slew of awesome weapons the military investigated but was unable to bring to fruition.

MIGHTY TRENDING

A U.S. service member was involved in a deadly crash over Ukraine

The U.S. Air Force and Ukrainian defense ministry have confirmed that a fighter aircraft crashed October 16, killing two pilots and leading to speculation that one of the dead is a U.S service member. The crash took place at Clear Skies 2018, an exercise featuring the militaries of nine nations and more than 50 aircraft.


The aircraft crash took place at 5 p.m. local time in Ukraine, and appears to have involved a Su-27UB, a two-seater combat trainer/fighter jet. The U.S. has confirmed that a service member was involved and Ukraine has stated that two pilots were killed in the crash, identifying them by their nationality and branch of service.

“We regret to inform that according to the rescue team, the bodies of two pilots have been discovered: one is a serviceman of the Ukrainian Air Force, the other is a member of the US National Guard,” a statement from the Ukrainian General Staff said.
The Air Force tried to make the SR-71 Blackbird into a fighter

Su-27UB fighter aircraft.

“We are aware of a Ukrainian Su-27UB fighter aircraft that crashed in the Vinnytsia region at approximately 5pm local time during Clear Sky 2018 today,” U.S. Air Force public affairs official said.

The Air Force later updated their press release with another statement. “We have also seen the reports claiming a U.S. casualty and are currently investigating and working to get more information. We will provide more information as soon as it becomes available.”

The Air Force has not confirmed that a U.S. pilot has died, but did say that it is investigating the incident. The U.S. will typically collect all the major details before declaring a service member is deceased, often waiting until a doctor has made the official declaration.

If it is confirmed that a U.S. pilot has died in the crash, public affairs officers will likely not release any new details until 24 hours after the notification of the next of kin in order to allow the family to communicate the loss internally and begin grieving before the deceased’s name is made public knowledge.

They likely will not release much more after that until the investigation is complete.

The incident took place during Clear Skies 2018, which began October 8 and is scheduled to conclude on October 19. The U.S. is one of nine countries involved in the Ukrainian-hosted exercise designed to build interoperability with that country and NATO.

The Air Force said before the exercise that it would send 450 personnel to the exercise with approximately 250 of them playing a direct role. These were mostly maintainers and pilots. Multiple state national guards are involved in the exercise, including those of California, Illinois, and Pennsylvania.

The exercise focused on air sovereignty, air interdiction, air-to-ground integration, air mobility operations, aeromedical evacuation, cyberdefense, and personnel recovery. It takes place as Ukraine is increasing its military capabilities and continuing hostilities from a Russian-backed separatist movement has claimed lives in its eastern regions.

MIGHTY CULTURE

DOD survey finds that most spouses are satisfied with military life

The latest survey of active-duty and reserve-component service members’ spouses shows the spouses are, by and large, happy with the military lifestyles they lead.

Defense Department officials briefed reporters at the Pentagon Feb. 21, 2019, on the results of the surveys, which were conducted in 2017.

The survey of active-duty spouses and a similar survey of National Guard and Reserve spouses showed similar results, they said. Among active-duty spouses, 60 percent claimed they are “satisfied” with their military way of life. Among the reserve components, 61 percent were satisfied.


While both surveys showed a slight decrease from the last previous survey, conducted in 2015, the 2015 and 2017 results both were higher than results from the same question on the 2008 survey, officials noted.

James N. Stewart, performing the duties of the undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness, told reporters the surveys cover areas including satisfaction with military life, spouse employment, deployment and reintegration. Questions also touch on issues such as finances and the impact of deployments on families and military children.

The Air Force tried to make the SR-71 Blackbird into a fighter

A soldier from the Florida Army National Guard’s 806th Military Police Company greets his family.

(Photo by Master Sgt. Thomas Kielbasa)

Survey results inform decisions

Results are used to inform decisions about how the U.S. military provides services to families, he said.

“These surveys allow us to identify areas of concern and understand what’s working, and more importantly, what’s not,” Stewart said. “This information also helps our internal leaders evaluate programs, address issues and gaps, and determine the need for new services.”

Paul Rosenfeld, the director for DOD’s Center for Retention and Readiness, said positive results of the surveys included general spouse support for military members continuing to serve. Among reserve component spouses, for instance, 81 percent support continued service for their spouse.

Regarding financial matters, 71 percent of active-duty spouses report being comfortable with their financial situation, while 68 percent of reserve-component spouses say the same thing.

Of concern, Rosenfeld said, is that among active-duty spouses, 61 percent support continued military service for their spouse — that’s a drop from 68 percent in 2012. “Spouse support for service members staying on duty predicts actual member retention,” Rosenfeld said.

Other points of concern revealed by the surveys are high levels of “loneliness” reported by spouses when military members are deployed and unemployment rates for active-duty military spouses. Among active-duty spouses, Rosenfeld said, unemployment sits at 24 percent. Among the spouses of junior enlisted members in the E-1 through E-4 pay grades, he said, that number sits at 29 percent.

It’s all about the kids

When it comes to military spouses, Rosenfeld said, family is most important, and children top the list.

“Child care continues to be a key need for active-duty families,” he said, adding that 42 percent of active-duty spouses with children under age 6 report regularly using child care. It’s 63 percent for spouses who are employed.

Carolyn S. Stevens, director of DOD’s Office of Military Family Readiness Policy, said some 40 percent of military members have children. Of those children, she said, about 38 percent are under the age of 6.

Past survey results showed that availability of child care — in particular, hours of operation — had been an issue for military families, Stevens said. Where hours of operation for child care may have affected service members’ ability to do their mission, hours were expanded, she added.

Subsequent survey results show that now, among those who don’t make use of child care on installations, only 2 percent say it’s due to hours of operation, she said.

The Air Force tried to make the SR-71 Blackbird into a fighter

Sinead Politz kisses her daughter, Lorelai, at the return of Lance Cpl. Ryan L. Politz.

“We believe, then, that those responses are a confirmation that we’ve listened to a concern, that we’ve responded to that concern, and that in fact we’ve hit the mark,” she said.

Also of concern when it comes to child care is cost and availability. About 45 percent of respondents on the survey say cost of child care is a problem for military families, Stevens said. She noted that in some situations, appropriated funds can be used to lower the cost of child care for families who use installation child care. And for some families, she said, fee assistance programs can be used to lower costs for those who use community-based child care.

Still, Stevens acknowledged, that’s not possible for every family who needs it, and more work needs to be done. “We are unable to provide fee assistance to all of our families, and we continue to see this as an issue that requires more attention and focus as we try to find solutions for families,” she said.

Next survey: 2019

For the 2017 survey, about 45,000 active-duty spouses were asked to participate, and about 17 percent of those responded. Among reserve-component spouses, 55,000 were invited to participate, with a response rate of 18 percent.

Invitations to participate in the 2019 survey went out to reserve component spouses in January 2019. An invitation will be sent to active-duty spouses in May 2019.

A.T. Johnston, the deputy assistant secretary of defense for military community and family policy, said the results from the 2017 survey, and the now ongoing 2019 survey, will continue to be used to improve quality of life for military families.

“The research information we receive guides me and my team to ensure we provide the tools, information and services that military families need to be successful, fulfilled, and able to manage the challenges they may encounter during military service,” Johnston said.

Articles

That day a lone Gurkha took out 30 Taliban using every weapon within reach

To say that Gurkhas are simply soldiers from Nepal would be a massive, massive understatement. If there’s a single reason no one goes to war with Nepal, it is because of the Gurkhas’ reputation. They are elite, fearless warriors who serve in not only the Nepalese Army but also in the British and Indian armies as well, a tradition since the end of the Anglo-Nepalese War in 1816. They are known for their exceptional bravery, ability, and heroism in the face of insurmountable odds. Faithful to their traditions, one Gurkha in Afghanistan, Dipprasad Pun, singlehandedly held his post against more than 30 Taliban fighters.


It was a September evening in Afghanistan’s Helmand Province. It was 2010, and Sergeant Dipprasad Pun of the Royal Gurkha Rifles was on duty at a two-story outpost. He heard some noises and found two insurgents attempting to lay an IED in a nearby road. He realized he was surrounded. The night sky filled up with bullets and RPG fire.Taliban fighters sprang into a well-planned assault on Pun’s outpost.

Pun responded by pulling his machine gun off its tripod and handholding it as he returned fire toward the oncoming fighters. He went through every round he had available before tossing 17 grenades at the attackers. When he was out of grenades, he picked up his SA80 service rifle and started using that. He even threw a land mine at the enemy.

The Air Force tried to make the SR-71 Blackbird into a fighter

As Pun defended his position, one Taliban fighter climbed the side of the tower adjacent to the guard house, hopped on to the roof and rushed him. Pun turned to take the fighter out, but his weapon misfired. Pun grabbed the tripod of his machine gun and tossed it at the Taliban’s face, which knocked the enemy fighter off of the roof of the building.

Pun continued to fight off the assault until reinforcements arrived. When it was all said and done, 30 Taliban lay dead.

He was awarded the Conspicuous Gallantry Cross by Queen Elizabeth II at Buckingham Palace.

The Air Force tried to make the SR-71 Blackbird into a fighter

“At that time I wasn’t worried, there wasn’t any choice but to fight. The Taliban were all around the checkpoint, I was alone,” he told the crowd gathered at the ceremony. “I had so many of them around me that I thought I was definitely going to die so I thought I’d kill as many of them as I could before they killed me.”

In all, he fired off 250 machine gun rounds, 180 SA80 rounds, threw six phosphorous grenades and six normal grenades, and one Claymore mine.

Pun comes from a long line of Gurkhas. His father served in the Gurkha Rifles, as did his grandfather, who received the Victoria Cross for an action in the World War II Burma theater.

The Air Force tried to make the SR-71 Blackbird into a fighter

Check the WATM podcast to hear the author and other veterans discuss how the Gurkhas became feared warriors.

Subscribe: iTunes | Google Play | StitcherMore Subscribe Options

Articles

Here’s what’s wrong with the world’s most lethal combat plane

The US Air Force’s F-22 Raptor’s combination of stealth and performance makes it arguably the most lethal combat plane in the world, but it’s not without its weaknesses.


As War Is Boring’s David Archibald notes, the F-22 sorely lacks infrared-search-and-track (IRST) sensors, as well as cheek-mounted, side-looking radars.

Related: How China’s stealthy new J-20 fighter jet compares to the US’s F-22 and F-35

Archibald credits these shortcomings to the plane’s design period, when the US Air Force placed a budget cap on developing the avionics for the Raptor.

This means that the Raptor is blind to the infrared spectrum, which has extreme value to fighter jets as all planes and missiles emit heat. The lack of side-looking radars limits how the plane can guide missiles flying at more than 90 degrees away from the plane’s nose.

The Air Force tried to make the SR-71 Blackbird into a fighter
An F-22 deploys flares. | US Air Force photo

Meanwhile, Russia’s best competition for the F-22, the  Su-35 Flanker, does have IRST and cheek-mounted radars.

For the Flanker, the IRST provides a vital but limited tool against the ultra-stealthy F-22. As the Flanker has almost no hope of detecting the F-22 by conventional radar, it must rely on finding the F-22’s heat signature; but, as combat aviation expert Justin Bronk previously told Business Insider, looking for fifth-generation aircraft in the open skies with IRST is like “looking through a drinking straw.”

The lack of side-looking radars may prove to be a more enduring difficulty for the Raptor, however. Former F-22 Raptor pilot Lt. Col. David Berke told Business Insider that he’d avoid a close-in, turning fight if possible.

The Air Force tried to make the SR-71 Blackbird into a fighter
Sukhoi Su-35S (Su-35BM) multirole fighter at MAKS-2011 airshow. | Wikimedia Commons photo

“Just because I knew I could outmaneuver an enemy, my objective wouldn’t be to get in a turning fight and kill him,” Berke said.

However, cheek-mounted radars have utility beyond dogfights, and by requiring the pilot to point his nose at a target to guide a missile, the plane has essentially handcuffed the pilot who could be doing other tasks.

Articles

This is how China plans to ‘defend the world’

Chinese President Xi Jinping on July 30 presided over a massive military parade from an open-topped jeep, declaring, “The world is not peaceful, and peace needs to be defended.”


And as China’s show of force demonstrates, Beijing may have the will and the strength to replace the US as the world’s defender of peace.

“Our heroic military has the confidence and capabilities to preserve national sovereignty, security, and interests … and to contribute more to maintaining world peace,” Xi said at the parade, one day after US President Donald Trump lashed out at Beijing for its inaction regarding North Korea’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs.

The Air Force tried to make the SR-71 Blackbird into a fighter
Chinese President Xi Jinping. Photo from Moscow Kremlin.

China’s massive military modernization and increasing assertiveness have irked many of its neighbors in the region, and even as the US attempts to reassure its allies that US power still rules the day, that military edge is eroding.

China showed off new, mobile intercontinental ballistic missiles that it says can reach the US in 30 minutes, along with its J-20 stealth interceptor jets. And Xi inspected thousands of troops drawn from the 2 million-strong People’s Liberation Army on its 90th anniversary.

The historian Alfred McCoy estimates that by 2030, China, a nation of 1.3 billion, will surpass the US in both economic and military strength, essentially ending the American empire and Pax Americana the world has known since the close of World War II.

The Air Force tried to make the SR-71 Blackbird into a fighter
Sailors aboard the Chinese Navy destroyer Qingdao. Navy photo by Chief Mass Communication Specialist David Rush.

But China could achieve this goal patiently and without a violent struggle. China has employed a “salami-slicing” method of slowly but surely militarizing the South China Sea in incremental steps that have not prompted a strong military response from the US. However, the result is China’s de facto control over a shipping lane that sees $5 trillion in annual traffic.

“The American Century, proclaimed so triumphantly at the start of World War II, may already be tattered and fading by 2025 and, except for the finger pointing, could be over by 2030,” McCoy wrote in his new book, “In the Shadows of the American Century: The Rise and Decline of US Global Power.”

China’s J-20 jet also most likely borrows from stealth secrets stolen from the US through a sophisticated hacking regime. Though China hasn’t mastered stealth technology in the way the US has, the jet still poses a real threat to US forces.

The Air Force tried to make the SR-71 Blackbird into a fighter
Flypast of the Chengdu J-20. Wikimedia Commons photo by Alert5.

Meanwhile, the US is stretched thin. It has had been at war in Afghanistan for 16 years and in Iraq for 14, and it has been scrambling to curtail Iranian and Russian influence in Syria while reassuring its Baltic NATO allies that it’s committed to their protection against an aggressive Russia.

Under Xi, who pushes an ambitious foreign policy, China’s eventual supremacy over the US seems inevitable.

Articles

This heroic Marine saved a man from a burning car

Sgt. Kevin Peach, an infantryman with 1st Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, was awarded a Navy and Marine Corps Medal during a battalion formation at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, Aug 8, 2017.


Peach earned the award for rescuing a man from an overturned and burning vehicle on his way back to Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton in 2015.

“We were driving down I-5 in California heading back to Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton and a car pulled out in front of us, swerved, hit a wall going about 65 mph and then rolled a couple of times,” said Peach.

The Air Force tried to make the SR-71 Blackbird into a fighter
Sgt. Kevin Peach delivers the battalion safety brief after being awarded a Navy and Marine Corps Medal during a battalion formation at Camp Lejeune, N.C., Aug. 8, 2017. USMC photo by Sgt. Brandon Thomas.

Peach then pulled in front of the vehicle and rushed to the man’s aid.

“I was scared the entire time but I saw a lifeless body sitting in the car and I wasn’t just going to turn my head and do nothing about it,” said Peach. “Then I saw the smoke and knew I only had a certain amount of time before the car caught on fire.”

Peach then tried, without success, to break the windows of the car.

“One of my best friends and I ripped off the back hatch and I just barreled right in there,” said Peach. “The whole time I was feeling around for other people because I couldn’t see anything. Once I found him he was tangled up in his seat belt and I couldn’t get him loose.”

Peach then left the car and grabbed a flare from another driver who had pulled over to help. He then went back into the vehicle, cut the seat belt and fireman-carried the man out. He attended to the injured man until paramedics arrived.

The Air Force tried to make the SR-71 Blackbird into a fighter
Sgt. Kevin Peach, an infantryman with 1st Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, is awarded a Navy and Marine Corps Medal by Lt. Col. Reginald McClam. USMC photo by Sgt. Brandon Thomas.

Following the incident, Peach was hospitalized for smoke inhalation.

“Sgt. Peach is the embodiment of what we look for in our [non-commissioned officers],” said Lt. Col. Reginald McClam, commanding officer of 1st Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment. “I’m proud of him and I know the family that he brought into the Marine Corps by saving their family, is happy he was there.”

After putting his life on the line Peach found himself gaining more than a new medal.

“I talk to the family every other day,” said Peach. “It feels good being able to help somebody out. It’s not about the awards. I never thought when this happened that I’d get this [award]. I’m just glad I was there and able to help.”

Articles

The F-35 may have big problems fighting at long range

The Air Force tried to make the SR-71 Blackbird into a fighter
Photo: Lance Cpl. Remington Hall/USMC


The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) was supposed to fill multiple roles for the Air Force, Navy, Marines, and US foreign partners.

The jet — the most expensive US weapons project of all time — was designed to have aerial combat, close-air support, and long-range-strike capabilities.

But that’s not how the plane’s turned out so far. A string of damning reports have seriously called the $1.5 trillion plane into question, specifically it’s “dogfighting” ability when matched against less sophisticated aircraft. And now, one expert has made a convincing case that the fighter’s long-range capabilities don’t measure up to expectations either.

In a report for War Is Boring, military analyst Joseph Trevithick writes that in a long-distance engagement, the F-35 would have to rely on stealth to avoid enemy-radar detection while maneuvering close enough to engage enemy air and ground targets.

In an ideal situation, the F-35 would eliminate its targets before detection and leave. But as Trevithick notes, Russian and Chinese fifth-generation fighters have been outfitted with infrared sensors that can pinpoint a plane’s heat signature over fairly vast distances. The F-35 has a single, large rounded engine nozzle that leaves a larger heat signature than the flat nozzles of other stealth aircraft, such as the F-22 or the B-2.

This infrared signature could tip off enemy fighters to the F-35’s location, negating any benefit it may have from its stealth design.

Stealth may offer diminishing returns anyway. The technology isn’t foolproof, and radar technology is improving around the world.

“You can only go so fast, and you know that stealth may be overrated,” Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Jon Greenert said during a speech in February. “Let’s face it, if something moves fast through the air, disrupts molecules and puts out heat — I don’t care how cool the engine can be, it’s going to be detectable. You get my point.”

The F-35 may be more detectable at distance than the plane’s advocates claim, meaning the plane might have questionable utility during long-range aerial combat and attack runs. On top of that, the F-35 could find itself outgunned in a potential missile engagement with rival Russian or Chinese fighters.

The Air Force tried to make the SR-71 Blackbird into a fighter
Photo: Lockheed Martin

The F-35 is supposed to be outfitted with AIM-120 Slammer missiles, which have a comparable range to Russian and Chinese air-to-air missiles.

However, as Trevithick notes, the F-35 may actually turn out to be slower than its Russian and Chinese rivals. It’s lagging speed means that it cannot launch the missiles with as much force as enemy jets. Moving at supercruising speed, a sustained speed exceeding the sound barrier, an enemy aircraft could “potentially fling its missiles farther than a missile’s advertised range.”

The difference in missile range might not actually be that important. If the F-35’s stealth capabilities are as good as advertised, or if enemy aircraft don’t have the weight load or sophistication to carry longer-range missiles, the plane will be able to maintain its expected supremacy over other fifth-generation models. Additionally, in a war gameconducted by the Royal Aeronautical Society, the F-35 beat the advanced Russian Su-35s in a long-range aerial engagement.

The Air Force tried to make the SR-71 Blackbird into a fighter

But in that simulation, the F-35 wasn’t armed with the AIM-120 but with the Meteor Beyond-Visual-Range Air-to-Air Missile (BVRAAM). No concrete figures have been released on the BVRAAM’s range, but it is thought to be greater than that of the AIM-120 and any current air-to-air missile in either the Chinese or Russian arsenal.

Unfortunately, as a different War is Boring article notes, any integration of the BVRAAM with the F-35 is years off. The F-35 will not be able to use the BVRAAM until Lockheed releases its next software update for the F-35, which is still in early development. Until that time, the F-35 may find itself in a challenging position relative to Russia and China’s own upcoming fifth-generation fighters.

The F-35 has questionable abilities at shorter range, too. A leaked report from an F-35 test pilot obtained by War is Boring noted that the aircraft was incapable of outmaneuvering and besting an F-16 in a simulated dogfight. The F-16 first entered service in 1978 and is one of the planes that the F-35 is being built to replace.

In response, Lockheed Martin wrote in a July 1 press release that “the F-35’s technology is designed to engage, shoot and kill its enemy from long distances.”

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This article originally appeared at Business Insider Defense. Copyright 2015. Follow BI Defense on Twitter.