The opening few minutes of the movie Top Gun make for, arguably, one of the coolest aerial scenes ever caught on film. There’s a reason it’s the enduring air power movie of the 1980s. Too bad for the Air Force that Top Gun featured the Navy.
Except Air Force pilots do that sh*t in real life.
In 2013, two Iranian Air Force F-4 Phantoms moved to intercept an MQ-1 drone flying in international airspace near the Iranian border. The two IRIAF fighters were quickly shooed away by two F-22 Raptors who were flying in escort.
Except, they didn’t just get a warning message, they were Maverick-ed. That’s what I’m calling it now.
How an F-22 Raptor intercepts a Russian-built bomber.
The two F-22 Raptors were escorting the drone because of an incident the previous year in which two Iranian Air Force Sukhoi Su-25 close air support craft attempted to shoot down a different Air Force MQ-1. In the Nov. 1, 2012, incident, the drone was 16 miles from Iran, but still in international airspace. Iran scrambled the two Su-25s to intercept the drone, which they did, using their onboard guns.
The fighters missed the drone, which captured the whole incident with its cameras. The drone returned to base, completely unharmed. Not surprising, considering the Su-25 isn’t designed for air-to-air combat.
Iranian Air Force F-4 Phantom fighters.
The following year, another drone was being intercepted by Iranian aircraft. This time, however, it had serious firepower backing it up. The Iranians came at the drone with actual fighters, capable of downing an aircraft in mid-flight. The F-4 Phantom could bring what was considered serious firepower when it was first introduced – in the year 1960. These days, it’s a museum piece for the United States and most of its Western allies. Not so for the Iranians, who still have more than 40 of them in service. When the F-4s came up against the MQ-1, they probably expected an easy target. That didn’t happen.
One of the F-22 Raptor pilots flying escort for the drone flew up underneath the Iranian Phantoms. According to then-Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh, the Raptor pilot checked out the armaments the Iranian planes were carrying, then pulled up on their left wing and radioed them.
It wasn’t like this, but it could have been.
“He [the Raptor pilot] flew under their aircraft [the F-4s] to check out their weapons load without them knowing that he was there, and then pulled up on their left wing and then called them and said ‘you really ought to go home’,” Welsh said.
The U.S. Army’s Future Long-Range Assault Aircraft (FLRAA) program passed through the Army Requirements Oversight Council and received preliminary approval to set the capabilities development.
In replacing the UH-60 Blackhawk, the Army looks to modernize its aircrafts vertical lift capability. The idea is to complement the Army’s air assault mission and ability to move tactical level troops into and out of combat.
Brigadier General Wally Rugen told Defense News that, “we really are focused on our air assault mission configuration and what that means for the number of troops that would need to be aboard and what requirements are needed to conduct that mission in darkness. Otherwise, the FLRAA program won’t have a ton of mandatory attributes in order to leave a lot of space for innovation as long as we achieve that air assault mission configuration.”
“[When] it comes to joint when it comes to fires when it comes to the tactical objective, the air movement — which is a bit more administrative in nature and not as intense on the combat scale — when we talk about air assault, we want transformational reach,” Rugen added. “That ability to exploit any penetration and disintegration that the Future Attack Reconnaissance Aircraft ecosystem, along with our joint partners has created.”
The two main competitors for the FLRAA are the Bell V-280 Valor tilt-rotor aircraft and the combination of Sikorsky and Boeing with their SB-1 Defiant coaxial helicopter. Each entry will submit proposals within the first half of next year with eyes toward a contract award in fiscal 2022 for the winning prototype. Prototypes would be delivered in early-to-mid 2026, with production beginning in 2028 and the new aircraft being fielded in 2030.
The Sikorsky-Boeing SB-1 Defiant is a compound helicopter with rigid coaxial rotors. It is powered by two Honeywell T55s, and a pusher propeller in the rear of the aircraft. These give it a 115 mph speed advantage (100 knots) over the conventional helicopters it aims to replace.
Sikorsky is planning on replacing the T55 engines, which power the Chinook helicopters, with the Future Affordable Turbine Engine (FATE) to meet the radius requirement of 264 miles, (424 km). The crew compartment is 50 percent larger than the current Blackhawk helicopters. Recently in a test flight, the aircraft hit a speed of 205 knots, with a planned top speed of 230 knots which is the requirement and even up to 250 knots according to the company.
“Exceeding 200 knots is significant also because it’s beyond any conventional helicopter speed, and we understand that speed and low-level maneuverability is critical to the holistic survivability in a future FVL environment,” Jay Macklin, Sikorsky’s Director of Future Vertical Lift Business Development said back in June.
Bell Helicopter’s V-280 Valor design is designed for a cruising speed of 280 knots (320 mph), hence the name V-280. It can reach a top speed of 300 knots (350 mph).
The maximum range of the V-280 is 2,100 nautical miles (2,400 mi). It has an effective combat range of 500 to 800 nmi (580 to 920 mi), which is nearly 1500 KM.
Unlike the V-22 Osprey tiltrotor aircraft, the engines remain in place while the rotors and drive shafts tilt. A driveshaft runs through the straight wing, allowing both prop rotors to be driven by a single-engine in the event of engine loss.
The V-280 has retractable landing gear, a triple-redundant flyby wire control system, and a V-tail configuration. The wings are made of a single section of carbon fiber reinforced polymer composite thus reducing weight and production costs. Dual cargo hooks will give it a lift capacity to carry a 10,000 lb (4,500 kg) M777A2 Howitzer while flying at a speed of 150 knots (170 mph; 280 km/h). The fuselage is visually similar to that of the UH-60 Black Hawk medium-lift helicopter. The V-280 will have a crew of four and be capable of transporting up to 14 troops. In July, Rolls-Royce confirmed an agreement with Bell to develop a propulsion option for the Bell V-280 Valor tiltrotor program.
War brings out the very best in technological innovation. Humans have shown themselves to be remarkably adept in devising new, creative ways to kill each other. The Vietnam War brought out this human capacity for creative destruction on a grand scale, even if it manifested itself a little differently on both sides.
The United States was blasting into the Space Age and, with that surge of technology, came chemical defoliants, like Agent Orange and jet aircraft that could break the sound barrier. The Vietnamese expanded their work on tried-and-true effective yet obsolete weapons, like punji stick booby traps. The two sides were worlds apart technologically, but when it came to murderous creativity, the combatants were close peers.
The XM-2 backpack mounted personnel detector.
1. People sniffers
The United States was desperately seeking a way to detect North Vietnamese Army and Viet Cong movement across the DMZ and down the Ho Chi Minh trail, not to mention the bands of NVA and VC that were hiding in the dense jungles of South Vietnam. The U.S. infamously used the chemical defoliant Agent Orange to strip vegetation from entire areas, but it was more effective at giving everyone cancer than it was at outing hidden bands of the enemy.
So, the minds over at General Electric created a mobile cloud chamber that could detect ammonia, a component of human sweat. They called them the XM2 and XM3 personnel detectors, but the troops who used the devices quickly dubbed them “people sniffers.” While troops hated the XM2 backpack versions (and for good reasons, like the noise it made in an ambush area and the fact that it detected their sweat as well as the enemy’s), the XM3 saw widespread use on helicopters.
However, the enemy caught on and began to post buckets of urine around the jungle to create decoys for people sniffers. In the end, the device wasn’t even that great at picking up people, but it did detect recent cooking fires, which retained its usefulness.
Gross dog poop. …or is it?
It’s fairly well-known by now that the punji stick booby traps used by the Viet Cong during the were sometimes smeared with poop as a means to cause a bacterial infection in the victim. The idea was to try to take as many people and resources from the battlefield as possible: one injured soldier, at least one more to help cart him away, and maybe a helicopter could be lured into an ambush trying to medevac the wounded.
What’s not as well known is the Americans also used poop to their advantage. This is, again, the result of trying to track the movement of men and materiel down the Ho Chi Minh Trail. The United States placed sensors along the supposed routes of the Trail but when discovered, these sensors were, of course, destroyed. The U.S. needed to place sensors that wouldn’t be detected or destroyed. The answer was poop – in the form of a poop-shaped radio beacon.
An X-ray view of that same “poop.”
The Air Force dropped these sensors from the air and they would detect movement along the trail during the night, relaying the signal via radio. Since they looked like disgusting poop, the VC and NVA would often just leave them alone, thus ensuring the Americans would be able to listen along the trail.
3. “Lazy Dog” Flechettes
Imagine an explosive device filled with thousands of tiny darts or nails. It’s not difficult – many anti-personnel weapons use some kind of shrapnel or fragmentation to wreak havoc on enemy formations. Flechette weapons in the Vietnam War were no different. American helicopters, ground forces, and even bombers would fire missiles and rockets filled with thousands of these darts, launched at high speeds to turn any enemy cluster into swiss cheese.
A unique version of the flechette weapons however, came from B-52 Bombers, who would fly so high as to be pretty much silent to enemy Viet Cong or North Vietnam Army formations on the ground. When dropped from such a high altitude, the darts didn’t need an explosive to propel them, as they fell to Earth, they gained in velocity what they would have had from such an explosion. The result was a deadly blast of thousands of darts that was both invisible and inaudible – until it was too late and death rained from the sky.
Fun fact: When dropped from space, a large enough object could hit the ground with the force of a nuclear weapon.
Throughout the war, the Army wrestled with the problem of clearing vegetation to find Vietnamese hiding spots. Since Agent Orange took too long and could be washed away by heavy rains, the U.S. needed another way to clear paths for the troops. In 1968, they leased two vehicles designed for logging companies and sent them off to Southeast Asia. These became tactical tree crushers.
A 60-ton vehicle with multi-bladed logger wheels knocked trees over and chopped the logs as it drove. The U.S. military version would have a .50-cal mounted on the rear for self-defense, as well as a couple of claymores on the sides to keep the VC away from the driver. The vehicle was very effective at clearing trees, but the engine was prone to giving out and the large design made it an easy target for the enemy, so the military version was never made.
Team Red, White Blue kicked off the Old Glory Relay 2016 on 9-11. Sixty-two teams of runners, walkers, and cyclists will carry the American flag across 10 states for 4,216 miles, starting in Seattle, WA and ending in Tampa, FL.
With the support of the presenting sponsor, Microsoft, along with other partners, Amazon, Westfield and Starbucks, the relay will be following a route through Portland, San Francisco, and Los Angeles through the end of the month. The relay then turns east, through Phoenix, Tucson and San Antonio before crossing the South through the Florida Panhandle to Tampa.
Team Red, White Blue’s mission is to enrich the lives of America’s veterans by connecting them to their community through physical and social activity, and the Old Glory Relay is one of the cornerstones of their efforts.
Of the over 15,000 US P-51 Mustangs built, less than 200 are still flyable – about one percent of the production run. Of 12,571 F4U Corsairs built, roughly 50 are airworthy. Of 3,970 B-29 Superfortresses built, only two are flying today.
Much of this is due to the ravages of time or accidents. The planes get older, the metal gets fatigued, or a pilot makes a mistake, or something unexpected happens, and there is a crash.
Finding the spare parts to repair the planes also becomes harder – and more expensive – as time passes. A 2016 Air Force release noted that it took 17 years to get the B-29 bomber nicknamed “Doc” flyable. Kansas.com reported that over 350,000 volunteer hours were spent restoring that B-29.
Many of the planes built in World War II were either scrapped or sold off – practically given away – when the United States demobilized after that conflict.
As David Campbell said in “The Longest Day” while sitting at the bar, “The thing that’s always worried me about being one of the few is the way we keep on getting fewer.” Below, you can see the crash of the Spitfire at the French air show – and one of the few flyable World War II planes proves how true that statement is beyond the veterans.
Beijing’s navy has grown to outnumber the US as it focuses on locking down the South China Sea with increasingly aggressive deployments of missiles, fighter jets, and even nuclear-capable bombers, but a picture from a recent US military exercise shows that the US still has the edge.
China has turned out new warships at a blinding speed the US can’t currently hope to match as well as a massive arsenal of “carrier killer” missiles with US aircraft carrier’s names all but written on them. Meanwhile, the US fleet has dwindled and aged.
The US military recently pulled together Valiant Shield 18, the US-only follow-up to the multi-national RIMPAC naval drill, which is the biggest in the world. The drill saw the US’s forward-deployed USS Ronald Reagan aircraft carrier, 15 surface ships, and 160 aircraft coordinate joint operations — something China sorely lacks.
China’s navy poses a threat with its massive size and long range missiles, but it’s unclear if China can combine operations seamlessly with its air force, army, or rocket force. The US regularly trains towards that goal and has firmed up those skills in real war fighting.
And while China has cooked up new “carrier killer” missiles that no doubt can deliver a knockout blow to US aircraft carriers, everyone has a plan until they get hit. On paper, China’s missiles outrange US aircraft carriers highest-endurance fighters, but this concept of A2/AD (anti-access/area-denial) hasn’t been tested.
“A2/AD is sort of an aspiration. In actual execution, it’s much more difficult,” US Chief of Naval Operations, Adm. John Richardson said in 2016. “Our response would be to inject a lot of friction into that system at every step of the way [and] look to make that much more difficult.”
The aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76) leads a formation of Carrier Strike Group (CSG) 5 ships as U.S. Air Force B-52 Stratofortress aircraft and U.S. Navy F/A-18 Hornets pass overhead for a photo exercise during Valiant Shield 2018.
In the above picture, the Reagan leads a carrier strike group full of guided-missile destroyers, supply ships for long hauls, and a B-52 nuclear capable bomber flying overhead.
B-52s with cruise missiles can reach out and touch China from standoff ranges. US F-15 fighter jets in South Korea could launch long-range munitions at missile launch sites before the carriers even got close. US Marine Corps F-35Bs, which made their debut at this year’s exercise, can slip in under the radar and squash any threats.
For the missiles that do make it through the US’s fingers, each US carrier sails with guided-missile destroyers purposely built to take down ballistic missiles.
The US recently completed a missile interception test with Japan, where a Japanese destroyer with US technology shot down a ballistic missile in flight. The US can also count on South Korea, Australia, and increasingly India to take a stand against Beijing.
In a brief but illuminating interview, US Navy Vice Adm. Tom Rowden, the then-head of the US Navy’s Surface Forces, told Defense News the difference between a US Navy ship and a Chinese navy ship:
“One of them couldn’t fight their way out of a wet paper bag and the other one will rock anything that it comes up against.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The AGM-114 Hellfire has been a lethal anti-tank missile, and it’s also been used to make a bunch of terrorists good terrorists, according to one of William F. Halsey’s more Mattis-esque statements. But the 20-pound warhead on the Hellfire can be too much of a bang.
How that perceived problem was solved was to put laser guidance onto a smaller missile. Lockheed Martin has done just that with a program called DAGR, which you can best describe as what happens nine months after a Hydra rocket and a Hellfire hooked up.
According to an e-brochure sent by Lockheed Martin, DAGR used the rocket and warhead of the Hydra, and mated it with the laser-seeker technology of the Hellfire. This creates a missile with a range of up to seven and a half miles, but also has a 10-pound warhead that the laser guidance can put within three feet of a target. Okay, not as big a boom, but would you want to stand next to ten pounds of high explosives detonating?
Lockheed notes that this system is not only cheaper, but that it can hit high-value targets and minimize collateral damage. Since it works like the Hellfire, it can be used on any aircraft, helicopter, or drone that can use the Hellfire.
The DAGR can be fired from modified Hydra rocket pods, but the system also can be used from a specialized launcher that holds four rounds. Each of these missiles comes in at 36 pounds, and is 75 inches long.
Matt Chasen, LIFT Aircraft chief executive officer, pilots the electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) Hexa over Camp Mabry, Texas, Aug. 20, 2020 Air National Guard photo by Staff. Sgt. Sean Kornegay
The US Air Force wants flying cars, and service leaders recently watched one take flight in Austin, Texas.
On Thursday, Secretary of the Air Force Barbara Barrett, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Charles Brown, Jr., and Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force JoAnne Bass observed an electric vertical takeoff and landing flight (eVTOL) vehicle demonstration at Camp Mabry, according to an Air Force statement.
Others in attendance were members of the Texas National Guard and AFWERX, an Air Force innovation team.
The demonstration at Camp Mabry featured a Hexa vehicle developed by LIFT Aircraft. The vehicle has 18 independent electric motors and propellers, has floats for amphibious landings, and can be flown without a pilot’s license, according to the website.
Air Force Chief of Staff Charles Q. Brown, Jr., sits in a LIFT Aircraft Hexa aircraft during a visit to Camp Mabry, Texas, Aug. 20, 2020. Air National Guard photo by Staff. Sgt. Sean Kornegay
Will Roper, the Air Force’s acquisition chief, first announced the service’s interest in “flying cars” last September, and in February, the Air Force issued a request for industry ideas for what the service calls ORBs, which are not traditional military vehicles but could support similar missions.
“An ORB could act as an organic resupply bus for disaster relief teams, an operational readiness bus for improved aircraft availability, and an open requirements bus for a growing diversity of missions,” the solicitation document read.
In April, the Air Force officially launched the Agility Prime program and its search for flying cars. “Now is the perfect time to make Jetsons cars real,” Roper said in a statement.
Col. Nathan Diller, AFWERX director and Agility Prime lead, said in a statement following the recent demonstration that the flight “marks the first of many demonstrations.”
Diller added that near-term flight tests are “designed to reduce the technical risks and prepare for Agility Prime fielding in 2023.”
When Agility Prime was officially launched in April, the Air Force secretary said: “The thought of an electric vertical take-off and landing vehicle — a flying car — might seem straight out of a Hollywood movie, but by partnering today with stakeholders across industries and agencies, we can set up the United States for this aerospace phenomenon.”
Roper previously said that the service wants to eventually aquire 30 flying cars. The Air Force said in a recent statement that it has more than 15 leading aircraft manufacturers looking to partner with Agility Prime to develop flying cars for the service.
Defense industry giant Raytheon unveiled its newest weapon, the Peregrine air-to-air missile, Sept. 16, 2019.
The weapon, designed for use on fourth-and fifth-generation fighter aircraft — anything from an F-16 to an F-35 — is about 150 pounds and 6 feet long, making “the most efficient use of the real estate on a fighter aircraft,” according to Mark Noyes, business development executive at Raytheon.
“Peregrine will allow U.S. and allied fighter pilots to carry more missiles into battle to maintain air dominance,” Thomas Bussing, the vice president of Raytheon Advanced Missile Systems, said in a statement.
The new missile will combat a number of airborne threats, including other missiles, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs, or drones) and other aircraft, while saving space. The AMRAAM missile, for example, is 335 pounds and 12 feet long.
Mockup of the Peregrine air-to-air missile.
“With its advanced sensor, guidance and propulsion systems packed into a much smaller airframe, this new weapon represents a significant leap forward in air-to-air missile development,” Bussing said.
The missile’s guidance and sensor systems allow it to “detect and track moving or stationary targets at any time of day and in challenging weather conditions,” according to the release.
The Peregrine combines “the autonomy of AMRAAM [Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missile]” with the maneuverability of the 9X Sidewinder missile, Noyes told Insider. The three weapons together, he said, provide warfighters with “just an incredibly potent and catastrophic capability against the enemy.”
The Peregrine incorporates already available materials, military off-the-shelf components, and additive manufacturing processes, making it a low-cost option for militaries facing increased air threats, particularly missiles and UAVs.
Noyes praised the Peregrine’s ability to “autonomously track and destroy a target,” saying, “The ability of this new seeker is just incredible for all weather, day and night.”
The Peregrine’s small size, combined with its high-performance propulsion system, allows airfighters to fire more rounds, faster, as well — enabling it to “overwhelm the enemy with affordable mass.”
As Defense News points out, the Peregrine announcement dovetails with a Raytheon executive’s comments about the proliferation of counter-drone technology, indicating that the company’s focus on defeating drones won’t stop any time soon.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The United Kingdom unveiled a full-sized model of its proposed next-generation fighter jet on July 16, 2018, at the Farnborough air show in England, according to Bloomberg.
“We are entering a dangerous new era of warfare, so our focus has to be on the future,” UK Defense Secretary Gavin Williamson said as he unveiled the conceptual design, according to Defense News.
The unveiling also coincided with the UK signing a future combat air strategy, which will review its technological spending and capabilities, Defense News reported.
Nicknamed the “Tempest,” the aircraft is a joint venture by BAE Systems, Rolls Royce, Leonardo, and MBDA, and could be an optional unmanned system armed with lasers, swarming UAVs, and be resilient against cyber attacks, according to several news reports.
BAE Systems graphic on some of the Tempest’s possible capabilities.
“While some of these may be abandoned during further development, tackling all of this in a single project places the barrier for success extremely high,” Sim Tack, the chief military analyst at Force Analysis and a global fellow at Stratfor, told Business Insider.
Although “the concept sounds extremely promising, the level of ambition could make actual development and production problematic,” Tack added.
Tack also said that this “program is the British response to seeing Dassault (France) turn towards the Franco-German fighter,” Tack added.
In World War I, there was a need to hit targets either pretty far off, or which were very hard to destroy.
At the time, aircraft weren’t much of an option – in fact, they really had a hard time carrying big bombs. Often, an aircrewman would drop mortar rounds from a cockpit. So, how does one take out a hard target? They used naval guns mounted on railway cars.
Many of these guns came from obsolete armored cruisers – the most common of the rail guns was the BL 12-inch railway Howitzer. The British pressed 81 of these guns into service, and many lasted into World War II. These guns are obsolete now, rendered useless by the development of better aircraft for tactical strikes, from World War II’s P-47 Thunderbolt to today’s A-10 Thunderbolt II, as well as tactical missile and rocket systems like the ATACMS, Scud, and MGM-52 Lance.
The gun the British were moving didn’t actually serve in World War I. According to a release by the British Ministry of Defence, the BL 18-inch howitzer just missed the Great War, but it did serve in World War II as a coastal defense gun – albeit it never fired a shot in anger, since the Nazis never were able to pull off Operation Sea Lion. The gun was used for RD purposes until 1959, when it was retired and sent to the Royal Artillery headquarters.
In 2013, it was briefly loaded to the Dutch railway museum. Later that year, it went to the Royal Armouries artillery museum. It is one of 12 railway guns that survive. The video below from the Smithsonian channel shows how the British Army – with the help of some contractors – moved this gigantic gun.
The F-111 Aardvark didn’t have a lot of air-to-air kills – it just wasn’t designed to be in aerial combat. It was a supersonic nuclear bomber and recon plane. But a fighter it was not. What it did have was an electronic warfare variant that could help the Air Force control the skies in a particular battlespace. Unlike their combat-ready counterparts, these EF-111A Ravens didn’t have defenses if they were attacked in the air.
So when the unarmed variant scored the only aerial kills in the history of the F-111, it was a memorable occasion.
Normally, it’s just dropping bombs. Not this time.
(U.S. Air Force)
When the United States and its coalition allies launched Operation Desert Storm in 1991, it’s safe to say it took Saddam Hussein’s Iraqi Army and Air Force by surprise. The opening minutes surprised a lot of people, and no one more so than USAF pilot James Denton and Electronic Warfare Officer Brent Brandon – as well as the Iraqi Mirage pilot who was trying to shoot their two-seater EF-111A down.
The EF-111A Raven came under attack from an Iraqi Dassault Mirage Fighter in the first minutes of Desert Storm, Jan. 17, 1991. This was troubling for many reasons, most notably because the EF variant of the F-111 didn’t have any means of protecting itself – it wasn’t supposed to be an aerial fighter. But that was going to change, for at least this one and only time.
The EF-111A Raven variant.
(U.S. Air Force)
For the Iraqi, the EF-111A was a great target of opportunity. He had just evaded an F-15C and managed to enter through the screen of F-15 and F-16 fighters that were supposed to be escorting the EF-111A. The Iraqi attempted to shoot the Raven down with missiles, but well-timed chaff and flares took care of the enemy incoming. When missiles didn’t work, the Mirage switched to guns. Brandon switched from countermeasures to piloting skills.
The EF-111A was originally flying just 1,000 feet above the desert floor, so Denton decided to take it lower and use the plane’s terrain-following radar to stay above the desert and not fly into the ground. The Iraqi pilot wasn’t so lucky. As Denton and Brandon tag-teamed their way above the terrain, Denton saw his opportunity, banking hard into a climb that took him well above the desert. The Iraqi, so focused on his target and not the dark terrain below, slammed hard into the ground, exploding into a fireball that lit up the night.
It was the first F-111 aerial kill in the airframe’s history. It would end up being the only aerial kill for the F-111, and it was done without so much as a weapon fired from the American plane.