The complete hater's guide to the Warthog - We Are The Mighty
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The complete hater’s guide to the Warthog

So, we are back with another complete hater’s guide to one of the Air Force’s aircraft. Last time, we discussed the F-16 Fighting Falcon.


This time, we will go to the plane that everyone in the Air Force loves…and yet, it keeps ending up on the chopping block. That’s right, it’s time for us to discuss the Fairchild-Republic A-10 Thunderbolt II.

The complete hater’s guide to the Warthog
A U.S. Air Force A-10 Thunderbolt II attack aircraft assigned to the 25th Fighter Squadron out of Osan Air Base, Republic of Korea, takes off from Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska, Oct. 10, 2016, during the first combat training mission of RED FLAG-Alaska (RF-A) 17-1. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Karen J. Tomasik)

Why it is easy to make fun of the A-10

Let’s see, it’s slow. It doesn’t fly high, if anything, the plane is best flying very low.

The complete hater’s guide to the Warthog
As any of its pilots will tell you, it’s ugly — but well hung. (U.S. Air Force photo)

It’s not going to win any airplane beauty pageants any time soon due to being quite aesthetically-challenged. Also, when it was first designed, it was a daylight-only plane with none of the sensors to drop precision-guided weapons.

The complete hater’s guide to the Warthog
U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Corey Hook

Why you should hate the A-10

Because it has this cult following that seems to think it can do just about anything and take out any one. Because its pilots think the GAU-8 cannon in the nose is all that — never mind that a number of other planes took bigger guns into the fight — including 75mm guns.

The complete hater’s guide to the Warthog

Because that low, slow, flight profile means it is a big target. Because you’d rather claim that a relative died in a motorcycle accident than admit they fly that ugly plane.

The complete hater’s guide to the Warthog
Retired Air Force Gen. Charles Horner had a major role in the air power strategy of the Gulf War of 1990-1991. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Andrew Lee)

Because that plane always seems to stick around when the Air Force wants to retire it. Because it is useless in a dogfight.

The complete hater’s guide to the Warthog
Representative Martha McSally, pictured in her office during her Air Force career, preparing to distribute BRRRRRT. Helps explain why the A-10 will be around indefinitely. (Photo credit unknown)

Why you should love the A-10

Because this plane can bring its pilot home when the bad guys hit it — just ask “Killer Chick.” Because it also has a proven combat record in Desert Storm, the Balkans, and the War on Terror.

The complete hater’s guide to the Warthog
Kim Campbell looks at her damaged hog, which she landed at her base after a mission over Baghdad in 2003. (Photo via National Air and Space Museum)

Because it not only has a powerful tank-killing gun, it can carry lots of bombs and missiles to put the hurt on the bad guys.

The complete hater’s guide to the Warthog
An A-10A Thunderbolt II aircraft takes part in a mission during Operation Desert Storm. The aircraft is armed with AIM-9 Sidewinder missiles, AGM-65 Maverick missiles, and Mark 82 500-pound bombs. (Air Force Photo)

Because while it is designed for close-air support, it also proved to be very good at covering the combat search-and-rescue choppers.

The complete hater’s guide to the Warthog
An A-10 Thunderbolt II, from Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz., approaches the boom of a KC-135 Stratotanker from McConnell Air Force Base, Kan., for refueling Sept. 12, 2013, over southern Arizona. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Colby L. Hardin)

Because, when it comes right down to it, the A-10, for all its faults, has saved a lot of grunts over the years.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The F-35 fighter is way too expensive, and the Pentagon is pissed

The Pentagon is taking a firmer grip of the F-35 budget-cutting controls in an attempt to trim down costs in the billion-dollar joint strike fighter program.


The Pentagon has determined that Lockheed Martin’s internal cost-cutting program — the Blueprint for Affordability — doesn’t go deep enough into the supply chain to smaller companies involved in building the F-35 Lightning II. The new effort to trim costs was first reported by the Wall Street Journal Oct. 9.

As a result, over the summer, the Pentagon’s F-35 program office decided not to agree to a contract extension with Lockheed and then last month simply awarded the company a $60 million contract to pursue additional efficiency measures that also gave the government more oversight, the newspaper reported.

The complete hater’s guide to the Warthog
Photo from F-35 Lightning II Joint Program Office

Using a contract instead of an agreement among the companies “provides the government with greater insights into the cost-saving efforts,” according to a statement from the Pentagon’s F-35 program office.

Often called the most expensive weapons program in US history, the F-35 is being assembled at the company’s sprawling Fort Worth plant. The Pentagon’s actions come after the defense industry giant hired hundreds of workers at big job fairs in Fort Worth this summer to prepare to increased production of the aircraft. Lockheed has said it plans to add 1,800 workers.

Earlier this year, Lockheed CEO Marillyn Hewson told then-President-elect Trump that she was personally committed to drive down the cost of the F-35 program after Trump said it was “out of control.” He pledged to trim billions of dollars on military contracts once he was in office.

Lockheed doesn’t believe the Pentagon’s actions will impact its efforts to cut costs.

The complete hater’s guide to the Warthog
CG-1, the ground test article for the Lockheed Martin F-35 carrier variant, is positioned for its final drop test at Vought Aircraft Industries in Dallas, Tx. Photo courtesy of Vought Aircraft Industries

“The government’s decision to fund this next phase of cost-reduction initiatives is a testament to their confidence in our ability to deliver the cost savings, based on the success of the original Blueprint for Affordability projects,” Jeff Babione, Lockheed’s F-35 general manager, told the Wall Street Journal.

Lockheed and its industry partners Northrop Grumman and BAE Systems announced their plan in 2014 to trim costs by agreeing to invest $170 million over two years on new materials and processes, with Lockheed spending the most.

The Fort Worth plant employs about 14,000 workers, with roughly 8,800 working on the F-35. Hiring of additional workers will stretch out through 2020, company officials said. Last year, Lockheed built about 50 F-35s and plans call for production to increase to about 160 a year by 2019.

This report includes information from the Star-Telegram archives.

Articles

All about the chemical agent VX that allegedly killed Kim Jong Nam

The death of Kim Jong Nam, the half-brother of North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un, in the Kuala Lampur Airport, was apparently due to the use of the deadly nerve agent VX.


According to a report by the London Telegraph, the Malaysian police do not believe that anyone else is at risk, but teams are sweeping the airport to decontaminate areas where the suspected killer may have been. The Associated Press reported that four individuals who Malaysian police are interested in have fled the country, including a North Korean diplomat and a worker with the regime’s state-run airline.

The complete hater’s guide to the Warthog
An M55 rocket being disassembled at Umatilla Chemical Depot. This was one delivery system for VX, a very deadly nerve agent. (US Army photo)

VX was first developed by British scientists in the 1950s as an insecticide. The deadliness of the agent caught everyone by surprise, and it soon found its way into American arsenals. The telegraph notes that those who are hit may feel one of two opposite initial reactions: Giddiness or nausea. Shortly afterwards come the convulsions as the nervous system shuts down.

A victim’s one chance for survival when exposed to VX is a rapid administration of atropine. That drug counters the effect by blocking nerve receptors that VX seeks to overwhelm. The Telegraph notes that Western intelligence agencies believe that North Korea has about 5,000 tons of this nerve agent.

The complete hater’s guide to the Warthog
DOD graphic showing the effects of various chemical agents, including VX. (DOD graphic)

The United States had VX in stock, with one delivery system being the BLU-80 “Bigeye” chemical bomb, according to Designation-Systems.net. After the 1996 Chemical Weapons Convention, the United States discarded all of its VX – and other chemical weapons.

The complete hater’s guide to the Warthog
(YouTube screen grab from John Mason)

The nerve agent was used as a plot point in the 1990s action movie “The Rock,” which starred Nicolas Cage and Sean Connery. The details surrounding it were not accurate technically.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Ask A Fighter Pilot: Hornet vs Super Hornet!

“Something I’d like to see in the future is an article talking about the performance of the Hornet versus the Super Hornet. I often times see people comment that the legacy Hornet is more maneuverable than the Super, but I’d like to see an article by someone who has stick time in both who knows what they are talking about. Perhaps G.M. would be interested in this topic since he has flown both?”

Awesome question! This is a question I used to ask a lot while going through flight school. I am truly fortunate to have experience flying both jets. They are both awesome machines with tremendous capability, but you’ll see why I prefer the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet by the time you finish reading.

Keep in mind that these thoughts are just my opinions and dozens of others have had the chance to fly both jets (although I’d say that most of those people would agree with most of these points).

History/Design

It is hard to believe that the Rhino has been flying for 20 years. The Super Hornet is a bit paradoxical to describe in relation to the Hornet because while it is evolutionary and looks similar (both inside and out), it is largely a new aircraft. When Boeing pitched the Super Hornet to Congress they said the jet would keep the same F/A-18 designation and use numerous common parts with the Legacy Hornet.

A Legacy F/A-18C Hornet from VFA-106 “Gladiators” in a stunning celebratory “30 Years of Hornet” paint scheme simulates a bolter while performing at the NAS Oceana Airshow. (Photo by Jonathan Derden)

This economical argument helped Boeing win the contract. I am glad they did, because the Super Hornet is a much improved aircraft over its predecessor. Among the aircraft’s general improvements include: more powerful engines controlled by FADEC, much larger internal and external fuel capacity, 2 more weapons stations, numerous avionics improvements, and some radar cross-section (RCS) reduction measures.

Besides the obvious larger size, you can distinguish the Rhino from the Legacy with some key design features; mainly the enlarged Leading Edge Extension (LEX), “sawtooth” outer wing, and larger rectangular intakes. All of those design features not only make the jet look badass, but enhance the jets’ capabilities too. We’ll talk about all of that in a bit.

Ground Ops

You can take a newly qualified Legacy Hornet pilot, put him into the cockpit of the Rhino, and he will be able to start-up, takeoff, and land. It is that similar from a basic airplane standpoint. There are some very subtle changes to some of the switches and procedures, but outside of that, the ground ops are very similar. Folding the wings is easier in the Rhino (not that it was that hard before), and the only thing that may trip up a transition pilot will be the use of the Up Front Control Display (UFCD).

The UFCD replaces the old physical keypad in the cockpit for entering data. It takes a little bit of getting used to, but once you do, you’ll find it to be a huge upgrade. Think of it like going from a flip phone with a physical keyboard and screen, to an iPhone where the screen can show you anything you want. Another nice feature in the cockpit is the Engine Fuel Display (EFD), and Reference Standby Display (RSD) on the new Super Hornets.

You would also notice the full color cockpit displays instead of the monochrome displays of the Hornet. These all add a nice touch of technology to the cockpit that is not only ergonomic, but also adds to the cool factor. Once you’ve entered your data and have the motors fired up, the high performance Nose Wheel Steering works exactly the same as it did before as you head towards the runway.

F/A-18E cockpit photo courtesy of the author’s collection.

Takeoff

You’ll get your first taste of the Rhino’s improved performance when you push the throttles past the MIL detent and into afterburner. A fully functioning FADEC always provides the pilot with the requested thrust and the much larger intakes can feed a much higher amount of air into the compressors. When you combine those factors with the larger wings you get fantastic takeoff performance (I know, Mover–still not the same kick in the pants as the Viper).

The Super Hornet gets airborne in nearly 1,000 feet less distance and nearly 20 knots slower than the Hornet. On the ship, the procedures are nearly the same as they were in the legacy Hornet, except now the catapult launch is in full flaps and there is no selection of afterburner mid-catstroke. There can still be afterburner shots for certain weights and configurations, but some of those procedures have slightly changed.

The sensation of catapult stroke is the same as before (i.e awesome). The jet tends to leap off the flight deck easier than the old Legacy, too. I haven’t flown a tanker configured jet from the ship yet, but I hear that the cat shot for that is as intense as they come.

General Flight

One of my favorite improvements in the Rhino is the gas. There’s a lot more gas. SO MUCH MORE GAS! Most Cessna drivers take it for granted the endurance they have in their aircraft. They have endurance that a Legacy hornet couldn’t hope to achieve without aerial refueling. With about 4,000 more pounds of internal fuel and larger external tanks, I feel comfortable flying the Super Hornet without gluing one eye to my fuel quantity.

Gas was precious when flying the Charlie (worse in the Delta during my initial training). This was especially true around the boat when you had to wait for a specific time to land unlike at an airfield. This gas is huge for tactical training, cross-countries, and combat missions.

Although, there is still no capability to fly a civilian ILS in the Super Hornet, RNAV capability was recently added to the Rhino fleet. Also, while the Legacy Hornet could only hold a few dozen preplanned waypoints, the Rhino can hold hundreds.

The Blue Angels are reportedly converting to the Boeing F/A-18E Super Hornet, seen here. (Photo by Scott Wolff)

Flight characteristics when flying from Point A to Point B are the same as in the Legacy. All of the same autopilot modes exist, and all of the displays including the HUD have virtually identical symbology. There is also no physical speedbrake on the Super Hornet. When the speedbrake switch is activated, the flight control computers deflect the flight controls to maximize drag while minimizing any pitching moments.

There’s really not much to talk about here. The two jets are very similar when it comes to the administrative phases of flight.

Landing

There are some small subtle differences with landing the Rhino at the field. The autothrottles, should you choose them, are mechanized a little bit differently. In short, it judges the magnitude of the rate of stick movement, vice the magnitude of distance of stick movement. In short, both jets’ autothrottles are awesome, but I think the Legacy takes the cake on that one. The Rhino lands about ten knots slower than the Hornet, thanks to the large LEXs and wings. Unlike the Hornet, the Rhino has a nice ability to aerobrake if you hold the nose off the ground after touchdown. The jet’s beefy brakes get you to a quick stop as well, should you need them.

At the ship, the Rhino wins the landing competition easily. With the slower approach speed, large wings, and more powerful engines, glideslope corrections are faster and easier. Not only that, but thanks to a new symbol in the HUD called the power carat, the pilot is much more easily able to fine tune his ball-flying technique. To me, the boat landing feels slightly less like a car crash than it did in the Hornet, but by no means is it a glassy smooth event. I always used to go to full afterburner on touchdown in the Hornet, but that is strictly verboten in the Rhino. If you see one do that on YouTube, he’s wrong.

Finally, a huge improvement for the Rhino is the “bringback” capability. Its robust design and large gas tanks allow the pilot to land with more weapons unreleased. In a Hornet loaded up with bombs, it may only have enough gas for a couple of tries to land on the ship before having to tank airborne or divert. The Rhino is able to land with much more fuel, allowing for both more heavy loadouts at launch and for more landing attempts at recovery.

Air-to-Air

Now to FINALLY answer the questions that the reader probably intended to ask! How well does the jet do what it was built to do: fight in combat. In nearly every metric, I would argue that the Super Hornet beats its predecessor in air-to-air combat. I write the word “nearly” intentionally, but we’ll get to that later.

In a beyond-visual-range (BVR) fight, it’s not even close, especially when the Rhino is equipped with the APG-79 radar. This AESA radar is truly phenomenal. With the ability to see at farther ranges and track more targets at once, it truly presents a clear picture of exactly what is in front of the pilot. Not only that, but the radar can be run simultaneously in air-to-air and air-to-ground modes.

With additional weapons stations under the wings, even more AIM-120 AMRAAMs can be brought into the fight, and with the extra gas, can fight for longer. Survivability is also drastically better thanks in part to an advanced countermeasures suite and reduced RCS. The jet can carry more chaff and flares, has a powerful ALQ-214 jammer, an upgraded radar warning receiver, as well as options for towed decoys.

All of the Link 16 capabilities of the Hornet have been carried over and all of these features combined make the Rhino very formidable. However, there is something negative that can be said. The Super Hornet’s pylons are canted outboard very slightly, significantly increasing drag at high speeds. Also, for you nerds out there, the Rhino’s design doesn’t incorporate the Area Rule as well as the Hornet, meaning that the Super Hornet will have lower transonic acceleration performance and lower top speed.

TABB and JoBu near the speed of sound during a high speed pass in their Super Hornet demonstration. (Photo by Scott Wolff)

In the within-visual-range (WVR) arena, we finally arrive at the original question: which is more maneuverable? In my opinion, I’d say the edge goes to the Hornet….slightly. Both jets have excellent handling characteristics, and to be honest, they feel very similar. If both aircraft have no external wing stores attached, the Hornet will have a noticeably crisper roll rate, but not by much. It is recommended for both aircraft that to get the best roll performance, they roll unloaded.

That is to say, roll while minimizing positive G. It is just a little bit tougher to get there in the Rhino than the Legacy; the Rhino requires a much more deliberate push forward of the stick to unload than the Hornet. However, both aircraft have excellent high angle-of-attack/slow-speed maneuvering, and both jets have excellent flight control logics, such as the “Pirouette.”

An additional logic was built in for the Rhino called Turbo Nose Down. As funny as that sounds, it is an important logic that allows the jet to recover from a slow-speed, nose-high attitude much easier by flaring the rudders and raising the spoilers. At lower altitudes, the Rhino’s engines produce much more thrust than the Hornet’s. This allows for improved energy addition and sustained turn rate. Maintaining airspeed while pulling high G is much easier than it was before. At higher altitudes, however, both aircraft have a little bit of a hard time with energy addition.

In summary, if I had to choose which aircraft to dogfight in, I’d pick a “big motor” legacy Hornet, with it’s crisper maneuverability and enhanced thrust. However, both aircraft utilize the AIM-9X Sidewinder and Joint Helmet Mounted Cueing System (JHMCS), so as I usually say, it comes down to the “man in the box.”

Air-to-Surface

In the air-to-surface environment, there are not too many differences between the jets. Both aircraft use the JHMCS and ATFLIR. However, the Rhino’s APG-79 allows for synthetic aperture radar mapping, or SARMAP. When I first saw this I couldn’t believe it; the radar was painting the ground and displayed an image as good as the ATFLIR.

The same inventory of smart weapons are available to both aircraft. Just like in air-to-air, the Rhino can carry more thanks to more weapons stations.

As far as the “dumb” weapons are concerned, the Rhino actually carries a few less rounds in the M61 20mm cannon than the Legacy. The Rhino also can’t carry unguided rockets, as I have previously mentioned. When it comes to delivering general purpose bombs, such as the MK 82 series, the roll-ins are a little more sluggish in the Super Hornet. This is all in the same vein of what we discussed in air-to-air: the Legacy is a little crisper.

An F/A-18C Hornet rages through the airspace at NAS Oceana during an airpower demonstration. (Photo by Jonathan Derden)

In an interdiction or strike mission, all of the Rhino’s survivability that I mentioned earlier makes it by far the aircraft of choice in a non-permissive environment. Going against a robust IADS, the reduced RCS and advanced countermeasures, coupled with my Growler buddies from the Ready Room next door help take a little bit of the edge off. Link 16 technology is the same in both aircraft and is still awesome technology.

I’d take the Rhino in all air-to-surface missions, in both permissive and non-permissive environments.

Miscellaneous

Something the Rhino can do that the Hornet can’t is be an aerial tanker. I personally have not flown one in that configuration, but I hear that the jet performs as a pig. That is no surprise with all of that drag and 30,000 pounds of gas. As an LSO, I can tell you a “5-wet” tanker is much more prone to settle below glideslope behind the ship and requires a bit more reaction time to get back above glideslope. The mission is important, however, and has provided me both mission gas and recovery gas during an emergency at the ship.

Aerial refueling is pretty much the same as in the Hornet, except it takes longer to top off.

Overall, the Hornet was my first love. I’ll always look back fondly on flying the F/A-18C and often times I miss it. However, there is no doubt the Rhino is the jet I want to fly off the boat into combat. Great question, keep them coming!

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

How stealthy are the world’s subs?

There used to be a rough ranking system for people who followed sub warfare. The best diesel submarines are the most quiet when they aren’t running their diesel, followed by the best nuclear submarines, followed by crappy and older subs.

But over the past couple of decades, submarine technology has gotten so advanced that the engine might not even be the limiting factor. Now, sub hunters look for a lot more than a bit of engine or pump noise under the water.


The complete hater’s guide to the Warthog
The Swedish HMS Gotlund, a diesel-powered attack submarine that uses a very stealthy Stirling engine for propulsion, sails through San Diego Harbor in 2005.
(U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Patricia R. Totemeier)

They search for heat trails created by friction between the water and the hull, listen for bubbles that form in the low pressure zones on the backs of propellers, and search for magnetic signatures given off by some sub components. Though modern submarine hulls are often made out of non-magnetic or low-magnetic materials to reduce this signature, some components are naturally magnetic and electrical currents passing through circuits and motors creates small magnetic fields.

Taking a look at these minute details, it’s clear why submarine technology is so heavily guarded. If the enemy finds out that your new motor is quieter but makes a magnetic field that is larger than old designs, they’ll buy better magnetic anomaly detectors (yes, that’s a real name). And if they find out your engine is stealthier than their engine, they’ll try to steal it (looking at you, China).

The complete hater’s guide to the Warthog
The Norwegian diesel-electric HNOMS Utvaer arrives at Naval Station Norfolk in 2010 for an anti-submarine exercise with the Enterprise Carrier Strike Group.
(U.S. Navy photo by Chief Mass Communication Specialist Marlowe P. Dix)

So, what’s the hierarchy of subs look like right now?

At the top are a few kinds of air-independent propulsion systems, meaning that the subs never or very rarely have to surface to let in oxygen during a cruise. There are two major kinds of AIP submarines, those that use diesel or similar fuel and those that use nuclear power.

In general, the stealthiest subs are generally acknowledged to be non-nuclear boats when they’re running on battery power. Sweden has a sub that fits this bill that is well-regarded across the world and has managed to evade a U.S. carrier group’s anti-submarine screen so well that it “killed” a U.S. aircraft carrier during an exercise. China and Russia also have subs in this category and use them for shoreline defense.

The complete hater’s guide to the Warthog
The propeller of a French Redoubtable class submarine decommissioned in 1991. Propellers like these could propel subs quickly but also risked cavitation, forming bubbles which instantly collapse and give away the sub’s position.
(Absinthologue, CC BY-SA 3.0)

Just beneath that group is nuclear submarines that generate electricity and then use an electric motor to drive the propeller or the pump jets (pump jets are preferred because they are less likely to create cavitation, more on that in the next paragraph). America’s newest submarines fit into this category. They have a small disadvantage against advanced AIP diesel-electric because the nuclear reactors must be continuously cooled using pumps which generate some noise.

Many of America’s subs were created before pump jets matured and have more traditional propellers. At the right depths and propeller speeds, propellers cause cavitation where the water boils in the low-pressure zone near the propeller despite the low temperatures. The telltale bubbles collapse almost immediately, letting good sonar operators follow the noise directly to the enemy sub.

Regardless of whether the sub is using pump jets or conventional propellers, it’s less stealthy when the reactors provide power directly to the propeller. U.S. subs are transitioning to only generating power and then using the electrical power to control the engines. China recently claimed to have developed the components necessary for the same upgrade.

The complete hater’s guide to the Warthog
The diesel engines of the former HMS Ocelot, an English submarine decommissioned in 1991. The diesel engines charged batteries that were used for undersea operations.
(ClemRutter, CC BY-SA 2.5)

Another step down for diesel subs is when they have low-capacity batteries. Having a low capacity forces the sub to surface and run its engines more often, making them much more likely to be found via radar or satellite.

The oldest diesel subs are also less likely to be designed with sufficiently quiet engines or sound dampening. These older diesel subs are also more likely to be made with steel that can be detected by magnetic anomaly detectors, but at this point, we’re only talking about navies like North Korea’s.

The fact is, however, even at the level of antiquated diesel submarines with direct power going to the engines, small batteries, and little sound dampening, it takes a relatively advanced navy to detect enemy subs.

The complete hater’s guide to the Warthog
Sonar Technician (Surface) 3rd Class Michael E. Dysthe participates in an anti-submarine exercise while serving onboard the Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Chancellorsville in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region.
(U.S. Navy Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Andrew Schneider)

Sub hunters need solid sonar systems and well-trained operators that can distinguish an enemy sub running quiet from the surrounding ocean noise, especially if the sub moves into a noisy patch of ocean like littoral or tidal areas, where the water rushing over rocks and coral hides the acoustic signatures of all but the noisiest submarines.

While all truly modern navies can do this, not all ships are capable of hunting even older submarines, so older models still give an asymmetric advantage to a nation. But for modern navies like the U.S. and China, the competing sailors have to use every trick in their toolbox to retain an edge.

This is a relatively new development since Chinese subs were known as being laughably loud to U.S. forces just a few years ago. While it’s unclear in the unclassified world just how much China has closed the gap, they’ve made claims that they’re actually slightly ahead of the U.S. This seems unlikely, but China has shown off advanced technologies, like pump jets, that could put its tech within striking distance of the U.S.’

And its subs have twice threatened U.S. carriers, once surfacing well within torpedo range and once shadowing a U.S. carrier near Japan. The U.S. Navy might have spotted the subs and decided to not risk starting a war by engaging it, but it’s also possible that the Chinese subs actually got the jump on them.

Meanwhile, the U.S. has completed its own submarine surprise against China. In 2010, the U.S. surfaced three submarines simultaneously, one each near South Korea, The Philippines, and Diego Garcia, all within range of Chinese forces or the Chinese mainland. Between the three boats, they could carry 462 Tomahawk Land Attack Missiles.

So, it seems that in submarine warfare, the advantage still lies with the subs. But modern submariners are still counting on every advantage that their training, scientists, and engineers can give them, because in a small metal tube hundreds of feet underwater is a horrible time to find out you’re not as stealthy as you’d hoped.

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China’s J-20 stealth fighter enters military service

China’s J-20 stealth fighter jet has entered military service, according to multiple news reports.


Reuters late Thursday reported the development, citing a Chinese military report that didn’t offer additional details.

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

The twin-engine fighter, built by Chengdu Aerospace Corp. for the People’s Liberation Army’s air force, first flew in 2011 and made its public debut in November when the PLAAF showed off two of the aircraft at an airshow over coastal city Zhuhai.

The complete hater’s guide to the Warthog
China’s J-20 | Chinese Military Review

Also in the fall, China downplayed reports that the J-20 was spotted at the Daocheng Yading Airport near Tibet or that it may be deployed near the Indian border.

With a reported top speed of 1,300 miles per hour and the ability to carry short- and long-range air-to-air missiles, the jet is often compared to the twin-engine F-22 Raptor, a fifth-generation stealth fighter made by Lockheed Martin Corp. for the U.S. Air Force.

But the J-20 is believed to be far less stealthy than the F-22.

“The forward-mounted canards, poorly shielded engines and underside vertical stabilizers all limit the amount that its radar cross section — which determines how visible the aircraft is to a radar — can be reduced,” Justin Bronk, a research fellow at the Royal United Services Institute in London, has written.

Even so, the apparent arrival of an operational J-20 highlights China’s growing role as a military power.

The country, the second-largest spender on defense after the U.S., is also developing with private funding the Shenyang FC-31, a twin-engine multi-role fighter that resembles Lockheed’s F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. A production variant of the FC-31 may fly in 2019.

U.S. lawmakers have in the past questioned Pentagon officials why the government hasn’t retaliated against China for copying the designs of its most advanced fighter jets.

The complete hater’s guide to the Warthog
A rendering of the Chengdu J-20. | Screenshot via hindu judaic/YouTube

“What they’ve been able to do in such a rapid period of time without any RD … I understand there might be some differences as far as in the software and the weaponry and this and that,” Sen. Joe Manchin, a Democrat from West Virginia, asked during a hearing in 2015. “But they’re making leaps, which are uncommon, at the behest of us, and we know this, I understand, but we’re not taking any actions against them.”

Robert Work, deputy defense secretary, at the time acknowledged that the Chinese “have stolen information from our defense contractors and it has helped them develop systems,” but he added, “we have hardened our systems.”

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Mattis shows his ‘no worst enemy’ side in warning to North Korea

Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis warned on Sept. 3 of a “massive,” and “overwhelming” military response to North Korea’s missile and nuclear weapons programs after a small group meeting with President Donald Trump in response to Pyongyang testing its sixth and largest-ever nuclear device.


Mattis stressed that the US has “many” military options for dealing with North Korea, but that the US does not seek the annihilation of any country.

Mattis was most likely referring to the US military’s roughly 28,000 troops located in South Korea and its massive presence in Japan and in the Pacific. At the time of Mattis’ speaking, the US does not have an increased naval or military presence in the region, though the US and South Korea did just complete a joint war-gaming exercise.

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Ulchi-Freedom Guardian 2009. Photo courtesy of US Navy.

Earlier on Sept. 3, Trump floated the idea of cutting off trade with China, North Korea’s treaty ally and main trading partner, in response to North Korea’s greatly increased provocations. “The United States is considering, in addition to other options, stopping all trade with any country doing business with North Korea,” Trump wrote in a tweet.

The Trump administration has repeatedly said that “all options” are on the table in dealing with North Korea, and stressed military might represents a part of that package.

Historically, China has agreed to UN Security Council resolutions against North Korea following nuclear tests, but despite sanctions, loopholes remain that allow Pyongyang to finance its weapons programs.

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Photo from Rodong Sinmun.

The nuclear device tested by North Korea on Sept. 3 had a yield of hundreds of kilotons, meaning it was most likely a hydrogen or thermonuclear bomb, according to expert estimates and North Korea’s own statements.

The completion of an intercontinental ballistic missile and a thermonuclear warhead represent North Korea achieving its ultimate goal of building a credible deterrent against invasion and regime change. Experts assess that North Korea’s main goal in developing nuclear weapons is to secure its regime, and that it will not use the weapons offensively, unless provoked.

Articles

This U.S. Army artillery unit savaged 41 Iraqi battalions in 72 hours

During Desert Storm the 3rd Battalion, 27th Field Artillery Regiment provided artillery support to the 24th Infantry Division throughout the invasion of Iraq. During one phase of the war they took out 41 Iraqi battalion, two air defense sites, and a tank company in less than 72 hours.


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Soldiers with the 3rd Battalion, 27th Field Artillery Regiment fire their Multiple Launch Rocket Systems during certification. Photo: US Army Sgt. 1st Class Jacob McDonald

3-27 entered Desert Storm with a new weapon that had never seen combat, the Multiple Launch Rocket System. Nearby soldiers took notice, to put it mildly, as the rockets screamed past the sound barrier on their way out of the launcher and then roared away from the firing point. A first sergeant from the 3-27 told The Fayetteville Observer that the first launch created panic in the American camp. Soldiers that had never seen an MLRS dove into cover and tried to dig hasty foxholes.

“It scared the pure hell out of everybody,” Sgt. Maj. Jon H. Cone said. But the Americans quickly came to love the MLRS.

“After that first time, it was showtime,” Cone said.

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Photo: US Army Staff Sgt. Carlos R. Davis

Like everyone else during the invasion, the 24th Infantry Division wanted to push deeper and seize more territory than anyone else. That meant their artillery support would be racing across the sand as well. 3-27 came through and actually spent a lot of time running ahead of the maneuver units, looking for enemy artillery and quickly engaging when any showed.

During a particularly daring move, the battalion’s Alpha battery moved through enemy lines and conducted a raid from inside enemy territory, engaging artillery and infantry while other U.S. forces advanced.

The largest single attack by the 3-27 was the assault on Objective Orange, two Iraqi airfields that sat right next to each other. 3-27 and other artillery units were assigned to destroy the Iraqi Army’s 2,000 soldiers, ten tanks, and two artillery battalions at the airfield so the infantry could assault it more easily.

The launchers timed their rockets to all reach the objective within seconds of each other, and used rockets that would drop bomblets on the unsuspecting Iraqi troops.

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Photo: US Air Force Senior Airman Duane Duimstra

A prisoner of war who survived the assault later told U.S. forces that the Iraqis were manning their guns when the rockets came in. When the rockets began exploding in mid-air, they cheered in the belief that the attack had failed. Instead, the bomblets formed a “steel rain” that killed most troops in the area and destroyed all exposed equipment.

By the time the infantry got to the airfields, the survivors were ready to surrender.

The battalion was awarded a Valorous Unit Citation after the war for extreme bravery under fire.

(h/t to The Fayetteville Observer‘s Drew Brooks and to “Steel Rain” by Staff Sgt. Charles W. Bissett)

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Saved by the BRRRRT! – 5 times A-10s made the difference in battle

There are plenty of weapons systems that ground troops want in support of high-risk missions, but few are as beloved as the A-10. The “Warthog” can fly low, take an amazing amount of punishment, and unleash absolute devastation on enemy forces with rockets, bombs, and its famous 30mm cannon.


The A-10 earned this reputation under fire. Here are five times that A-10 Warthogs saved the day for troops in contact and pilots lost behind enemy lines:

1. An A-10 coordinates support of a high-value target capture mission with no notice

 

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Photo: US Air Force Airman 1st Class Jonathan Snyder

Capt. Scott Campbell and his flight were enjoying a no-fly day when the word came in that a senior al-Qaeda officer had been spotted. In less than an hour, the pilots had thrown a hasty plan together and gotten into the air.

Campbell and the A-10 pilots provided direct fires in support of ground forces and deconflicted the flight paths of F-14s and F/A-18s on the mission while also feeding reconnaissance information to the troops conducting the capture. When the target was secured, the A-10s escorted the helicopters home to end the 8-hour, no-notice mission.

2. Warthogs shut down Taliban attacks against a besieged Special Forces team

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Photo: Public Domain Jim Haseltine

An Army Special Forces team stumbled into a Taliban ambush and called for help from Apaches and A-10s. Capt. Aaron M. Palan was on his fourth mission in the deployment and flew his jet into the fray, sending four GPS-guided munitions, three white phosphorous rockets, and 1,150 30mm cannon rounds into the camouflaged and fortified enemy positions.

When Palan’s flight lead went up to refuel, Palan led the Apaches on attack runs against Taliban ground forces, killing 20 to 30 enemy fighters and shutting down five ground assaults against the Special Forces team.

3. A pilot destroys Iraqi forces while rescuing a downed pilot

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Photo: US Air Force

 

During Operation Desert Storm an F-14 pilot was shot down by Iraqi forces. Air Force Capt. Paul T. Johnson was flight lead for two A-10s sent to conduct search and rescue, the first time the A-10 completed this type of mission in combat.

Johnson flew the plane deeper into enemy territory than it had ever gone and dropped to 500 feet to spot the isolated American. He spent over three hours searching and destroyed an Iraqi missile site before spotting the pilot and killing an Iraqi truck that was approaching the pilot. The rescue was ultimately successful.

4. Pilots use their own A-10s as bait for enemy air defenses to save a downed pilot

 

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Photo: US Air Force Ben Bloker

 

After an American pilot was shot down over Serbia on Mar 27, 1999, Capt. John A. Cherrey led a flight of A-10s to find and rescue him. Cherrey and his flight had to proceed directly through Serbian air defenses and fly over surface-to-air missile batteries to reach the crash site.

The flight dealt with constant jamming, bad weather, and enemy aircraft to reach the pilot. When the pilot was found close to Serbian air defenses, Cherrey and his flight flew circles over other areas in the air defense ring to distract enemy radar from the real pick-up location. The choppers were able to pick up the isolated pilot and everyone headed home alive thanks to the A-10s.

5. A quick-thinking A-10 pilot prevented a fratricide during a frantic, joint forces mission

In Jan. 2007, a group of British Royal Marines assaulted Taliban forces in Jugroom Fort, an insurgent compound. The fight quickly went south and the British launched a desperate rescue attempt for an isolated, wounded Marine that relied on Marines riding Apaches back into the fort, covered by a B-1 bombing run and A-10 gun runs.

While the A-10s deserve credit for covering the ground troops and Apaches, their single greatest contribution was when the A-10 flight lead called for an abort of the first B-1 bombing run. The flight lead had heard the ground controller pass the target coordinates to the B-1 and had realized, working mostly from memory, that the numbers were actually the coordinates of the Marines. The lead then walked the controller through how to get the proper coordinates, working again from memory.

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The Air Force’s trillion-dollar jet lost a dogfight to an aircraft from the 1970s

In a mock dogfight over the Pacific Ocean, a test fight for Lockheed’s F-35 Lightning II, the most expensive weapon in U.S. history, the F-35 was bested by America’s trusty F-16 Fighting Falcon – first flown in 1974.


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A June 29th post on the War Is Boring blog quoted an unnamed test pilot who described the plane as “cumbersome.” Other comments include:

  • “Even with the limited F-16 target configuration, the F-35A remained at a distinct energy disadvantage for every engagement”
  • “Insufficient pitch rate”
  • “Energy deficit to the bandit would increase over time”
  • “The flying qualities in the blended region were not intuitive or favorable”
  • “Instead of catching the bandit off-guard by rapidly pull aft to achieve lead, the nose rate was slow, allowing him to easily time his jink prior to a gun solution”

According to the Daily Mail Online, the dogfight was held in January near Edwards Air Force Base in California, and was supposed to test the fighter’s close range combat ability between 10 and 30,000 feet. The F-35’s performance was so bad, it was deemed “inappropriate for fighting other aircraft within visual range.”

The specially designed, custom made, most advanced helmet ever was designed to give F-35 pilots a full 360-degree view around the plane but the cramped cockpit wouldn’t allow the pilot to move his head to see his rear, which allowed the F-16 to sneak up behind him.

Essentially, the F-35 pilot couldn’t watch his six because his helmet was too big.

The F-16 is still very much in service while the F-35 is in testing phases but for $59 billion spent in developing the fighter and $261 billion spent in procuring it, not to mention the cost of operations and sustainment ($590 billion in 2012 alone), a taxpayer might think there would be more bang for the billions of bucks spent. So does Congress. The only ones who love the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program are the Pentagon and probably Lockheed-Martin, the manufacturer. Currently, the fighter is best known for catching on fire during takeoff.

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According to the Washington Post, Pentagon officials fired back, saying the plane the test pilot flew “did not have its special stealth coating… the sensors that allow the F-35 pilot to see the enemy long at long ranges… or the weapons and software that allow the F-35 pilot to turn, aim a weapon with the helmet, and fire at an enemy without having to point the airplane at its target.”

The F-35 was previously reviewed as “double inferior to Russian and Chinese” fighter designs in a RAND Corporation briefing (based on research by two former fighter pilots) in 2008. Other comments include: “Inferior acceleration, inferior climb, inferior sustained turn capability. Also has lower top speed.”

C.W. Lemoine, author and former fighter pilot, took to Fighter Sweep, a blog written by and for military aviators, to defend the F-35 and explain why framing the F-35’s performance as a dogfighting loss is “garbage”

“The reality is that we don’t know where each deficiency was found. My guess is the critiques on the pitch rates for gunning and abilities to jink happened in the canned offensive and defensive setups. But one has to remember this is a test platform and they were out to get test data, not find out who the king of the mountain is.”

Lemoine still acknowledged the helmet issue as a legitimate problem, saying “Lose sight, lose the fight.”

In the Daily Mail story, Marine Corps Lt Gen. Robert Schmidle said the F-35 “could detect an enemy five to 10 times faster than the enemy could detect it.” Which is a good thing because right now, the F-35 pilots will need that time and distance to actually be able to hit the enemy.

Articles

How the Chinese used a Badger bomber to send Trump a message

After feeling slighted by President-elect Donald Trump’s accepting a phone call from Taiwanese president Ing-wen Tsai, the Beijing sent a little message of its own.


According to a report by FoxNews.com, the People’s Liberation Army sent an H-6 Badger bomber, a plane in the inventories of both the People’s Liberation Army Air Force and the People’s Liberation Army Navy, on a mission over the South China Sea to assert China’s claims in the maritime hot spot.

The bomber, which can carry nuclear weapons or long-range missiles, is a copy of the Soviet-era Tu-16 Badger, a medium bomber now out of service in Russia and the former Soviet Union.

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A H-6 Badger bomber. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

Around the time the bomber’s flight hit the news, the Daily Caller reported that Trump demanded that the Chinese “play by the rules.”

“They haven’t played by the rules, and I know it’s time that they’re going to start,” the president-elect said during an event in Des Moines, Iowa, where he introduced Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad as his pick to be ambassador to China.

The Chinese Badger flew a path covering the so-called “Nine-Dash Line,” a demarcation of the country’s claims in the South China Sea. China’s claims were thrown out by a panel from the International Court of Justice, which issued a stinging rebuke.

It should be noted that China boycotted the process.

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Map of the ChiComs’ Nine-Dash Line (Illustration from Wikimedia Commons)

The Chinese military has built bases on artificial islands in the South China Sea, notably at Scarborough Shoal. From those bases, they have flown J-11 Flankers, a knockoff of the Su-27.

The Chinese have backed up their claims aggressively, resulting in close calls for Navy planes on some occasions.

One incident in May 2016 involved an EP-3E Aries II electronic surveillance plane from the United States Navy. In 2014, a Navy P-8 Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft had a close call with a J-11 that came very close.

The Department of Defense criticized China in the wake of these incidents.

Concern about an accident is very valid – in 2001, a People’s Liberation Army Navy J-8 Finback collided with an EP-3E on a surveillance mission. The EP-3E made an emergency landing on Hainan Island, while the J-8 crashed, killing the pilot, Wang Wei.

The EP-3E crew was detained for ten days by the Chinese until a diplomatic solution was reached.

Articles

Here’s how WWII’s V-Mail prevented espionage

At the onset of World War II, writing letters was the preferred communication between soldiers and family members. In fact, oftentimes it was the only form of communication. Phone calls were few and far between, and usually, technology like telegrams were reserved for internal military communication. When it came to talking with loved ones, letters were their bread and butter. On average, each soldier wrote six letters per week — almost one every day — with each one taking up to four weeks to make it to their delivery address. If they were lucky, letters would be delivered in a single week. The process was long, tedious and expensive logistically, but also incredibly reassuring for those on the receiving end. 

In June of 1942, the U.S. Government announced a change in the way they delivered mail. Rather than collecting and delivering physical letters, they created Victory Mail. Shortened to V-Mail, it was a technology that took images of letters, then shipped the films — rather than sacks and sacks of paper — then re-printed smaller versions back in the U.S. The service was discontinued on November 1, 1945.

The benefits of V-Mail meant reducing plane cargo space; a film was 1/37th the space and weight of a paper letter. Films recorded up to 40 letters per minute, holding 1,600 on each roll of film. V-Mail letters could also be delivered quickly. As this was considered the number one morale booster to soldiers, there was heavy motivation to make V-Mail a success. 

V-Mail thwarted espionage

However, space wasn’t the only benefit to V-Mail, it also helped eliminate traitor and/or spy efforts against the U.S.

It did so in two ways:

First, all letters that went through V-Mail were censored. Sensitive information was deleted or removed from the correspondence altogether. There were folks whose entire job was to read letters and remove anything offensive or sensitive. Therefore, someone — willingly or not — sharing confidential information would have parts of their message redacted, ensuring nothing classified was transmitted.

Second, because V-Mail took images of letters, many spy tactics were made moot, to include invisible ink, microdots and microprinting. The latter two involved very small writings or codes that could only be deciphered by someone who knew what to look for, usually with a magnifying glass. But as V-Mail re-prints were at a quarter of the size of the original, tiny artifacts could not be identified. (It’s also likely that the image qualities were not clear enough to pick up such details.) 

Original copies of letters were kept by the receiving Post Office, assigning numbers so that “no V-Mail letter could ever be lost.” However, this meant copies with secret ink, etc. would not be seen by its intended recipient. 

Along with the speed of delivery, the ability to fight espionage was marketed as a patriotic way for V-Mail to help the war. In total, more than a billion V-Mail letters were sent until the end of the war in 1945.

Featured image: Left, National Archives; Right, WWII Museum

Humor

8 things Marines love to carry other than their weapon

Marines carry a lot of gear while on a combat deployment: body armor, weapons, and communication equipment — just to name a few.


With all that weight tallying up quickly and a lack of storage space to contain it all, Marines have to be picky about what they’re willing to haul around on those long missions.

At times, they’ll even negotiate with one another who carries what, but check out this list of what Marines have no problem taking with them regardless of how much it weights.

1. Energy drinks

Although water is the healthier choice — there’s nothing like a delicious energy drink to make that 12-hour mission seem more enjoyable and speed up time.

 

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Perfect on a dry day (Source: Flickr)

 

2. Extra ammo

“I have too many bullets to shoot, Sergeant,” said no Marine ever.

Ammo is heavy, but the look on a grunt’s face when he’s unloading a full magazine at the ISIS: priceless.

Extra ammo, one thing Marines always carry
Isn’t it beautiful?

3. Smokes/Dip

Even if you didn’t indulge in tobacco products stateside, you’re probably going to light up a cigarette or pack your lip full of dip while on an extended patrol.

4. Things that make other things go boom

The weight of a few Claymores, grenades, and mortars can add up if you’re carrying a few extras in your mole pouches, but one thing Marines love and are proud of is their outstanding ability to blow sh*t up.

To that, we tip our hats.

5. Crystal lite packets

Because drinking water can get boring — really boring. Although it’s a healthier option than number #1.

6. Pogey bait

Many have never heard of this term.

Pogey bait is an assortment of cakes, candies, and nonmilitary foods.

7. Digital camera

Because recording those special little moments of bombing the hell out of ISIS are unique ones.

8. Baby wipes

You never know when you have to take a G.I. shower…or a field dump.

Bonus: G.P.S.

Just in case your 2nd Lieutenant can’t get you to the second checkpoint.

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(Source: Garmin)

Can you think of any others? Comment below.

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