The F-35 fighter is way too expensive, and the Pentagon is pissed - We Are The Mighty
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 F-35 fighter is way too expensive, and the Pentagon is pissed
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 F-35 fighter is way too expensive, and the Pentagon is pissed
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.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The Lynx might be the most versatile helicopter ever

Some helicopters are loved because they carry a lot of firepower, like the AH-64 Apache. Others, like the CH-47 Chinook, are loved for their ability to haul troops and gear. Some helicopters, like the UH-1 Iroquois, are beloved icons from a past war. The AgustaWestland Lynx, however, is none of these things, but it has been a valuable asset for the Royal Navy and British Army for nearly three decades.


The typical Lynx has a crew of two, a top speed of 158mph, and a maximum range of 426mi, but it’s this chopper’s versatility that makes it stand out. Here’s a look at the Lynx in its various roles.

Troop carrier

As a troop carrier, the Lynx holds eight infantrymen. This is a small payload compared to the UH-1 (which is capable of holding 13 troops), but eight troops is the size of a British section (their term for a squad-sized unit). In this role, the Lynx usually packs two guns, either 7.62mm general-purpose types or .50-caliber heavy machine guns.

The F-35 fighter is way too expensive, and the Pentagon is pissed
A Lynx AH.7 in utility helicopter mode, where it can haul eight troops. (DOD photo)

Anti-tank gunship

In this role, a Lynx packs eight BGM-71 tube-launched, optically-tracked, wire-guided missiles. The TOW, as you might recall, has been a mainstay for the United States and a number of its allies since the Vietnam War. The Lynx also can carry 70mm rockets in pods, giving it more options for ground targets.

The F-35 fighter is way too expensive, and the Pentagon is pissed
The Lynx is also a potent tank-killer with the BGM-71 TOW missile. It also can carry 70mm rockets. (Royal Navy photo)

Maritime operations

The Lynx is used by a number of navies, from the Royal Navy and French Navy (the two original customers) to the South Korean and Royal Thai navies. The primary weapons of the Lynx are Stingray anti-submarine torpedoes and Sea Skua anti-ship missiles. The Lynx saw some use as an anti-sub chopper in the Falklands War, but in an actual engagement with an Argentinean sub, it used its Sea Skuas – not the weapon you’d expect.

The F-35 fighter is way too expensive, and the Pentagon is pissed
The Lynx HMA.8 served with the Royal Navy until its retirement last year, being replaced by the AW159 Wildcat. (DOD photo)

The Westland Lynx family of helicopters, in its various roles, will be around for a long time – especially with the development of the AW159 Wildcat, a souped-up, anti-submarine variant of the Lynx.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This is the deadliest machine gun in military history

Many military historians argue that the Maschinengewehr 42 – better known as the MG 42 – was the best general-purpose machine gun ever made. It fired up to 1,800 rounds per minute in some versions. That’s nearly twice as fast as any automatic weapon fielded by any army in the world at the time.


But veterans of World War II rarely remember dry statistics about the weapon. They remember its fearsome nicknames – and why the machine gun earned them. American GIs were rightly terrified of the capabilities of the MG 42, so they gave it an apt name: “Hitler’s buzz saw,” because of the way it cut down troops is swaths. The Red Army called it “The Linoleum Ripper” because of the unique tearing or ripping sound it made because of its extremely high rate of fire.

And German soldiers knew they had a weapon so fierce that the Wehrmacht built its infantry tactics around squads of men armed with the Hitlersäge or “Hitler’s bone saw.”

“It sounded like a zipper. It eats up a lot of ammunition and that makes for a logistical problem, but it eats up a lot of people, too,” Orville W. “Sonny” Martin Jr., who was a second lieutenant with the U.S. Army’s 13th Armored Division, said in an oral history of infantry and armor operations in Europe. “When there’s a group of people advancing, you can really rip them up with that machine gun.”

When the war began in 1939, the Germans had a solid, reliable general-purpose machine gun: the MG34.  But like so many German weapons, it was exquisitely – and expensively – made and difficult to produce. But the German high command wanted front-line troops to have more machine guns. That meant a weapon designed to deliver a high rate of fire like the MG34 but cheaper and quicker to produce.

Mauser-Werke developed a machine gun that fired a 7.92-millimeter Mauser cartridge fed into the gun from either a 50-round or 250-round belt. What’s more, the company manufactured the machine gun from stamped and pressed parts, welding the components together with a technique that reduced production time by 35 percent. That manufacturing method reduced the cost as well. The result was the MG 42, and German soldiers soon swore by its lethal effectiveness.

The MG 42 had a range of up to 2,300 feet, weighed 25 pounds and possessed a barrel that could be changed in seconds.

True, the machine gun had its weaknesses: It used ammunition like crazy, possessed no single-shot capability and could quickly overheat. But the amount of firepower it brought to the battlefield had ghastly results.

 

The F-35 fighter is way too expensive, and the Pentagon is pissed
A Waffen SS soldier totes an MG 42 with a shoulder strap. (German Bundesarchiv photo.)

The sound alone of the MG 42 took a psychological toll on troops. The situation became so bad the U.S. Army produced a training film intended to boost the morale of U.S. soldiers terrified of the machine gun’s reputation:

In one of the film’s dramatized scenes, a green replacement is portrayed pinned down by MG 42 fire while the narrator says that nobody else in the platoon seems particularly bothered by the sound – nobody but the raw G.I. who “can’t get over the fast burp of the German gun.”

“Well, so it does have a high rate of fire,” the narrator continues. “Does that mean it is a better fighting weapon than ours?”

What comes next is a “shoot off” between various U.S. machine guns and the MG 42 along with other German automatic weapons. The narrator of the training film soberly describes the accuracy and slower-but-steady rate of fire of U.S. weapons, saying, “The German gunner pays for his impressive rate of fire. But you get maximum accuracy with a rate of fire that isn’t just noise! The German gun is good – but ours is betters. Their bark is worse than their bite.”

But the reality is the MG 42 bit hard, killing or grievously wounding many thousands of Allied soldiers. James H. Willbanks, author of Machine Guns: An Illustrated History of Their Impact, writes that the MG 42 was nearly everywhere on the European battlefield, either in machine gun emplacements or vehicle-mounted on everything from halftracks to Panzers.

In fact, it was so deadly the MG 42 shaped German infantry tactics during the war.

U.S. and British tacticians emphasized the importance of the rifleman, with machine guns tasked to support infantry assaults.

Because of the MG42’s devastating power, the Wehrmacht placed the machine gunner in the central infantry role with riflemen in support. Each MG42 ideally had a six-man crew: a gun commander, gunner, a soldier who carried the weapon’s tripod, and three additional troops who carried spare barrels, additional ammunition, and tools.

When Allied troops attempted infantry assaults against positions protected by the MG42, the German machine gun crew would lay down withering suppressive fire. In most cases, all the infantrymen could do was wait for a barrel change, for the gun to run out of ammunition, or for a tank to show up so it could blast the machine-gun nest to oblivion.

The MG42 survived World War II to continue service in the West German Bundeswehr.  Rechambered so it would fire the NATO 7.62-millimeter cartridge, the Germans designated the weapon the MG3 – but it still kept its blistering rate of fire and basic design.

The MG3 is used to this day, not only by the German army, but also by the militaries of 30 nations.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Watch a World War II tank fire in slow motion

The crew over at the YouTube channel, The Slow Mo Guys, point their cameras at fast-moving events like potato guns firing, glass breaking, etc., so when they made a video of an M4 Sherman tank firing at a range out in the desert, we knew it was a must-see. And, yes, watching a World War II tank fire in slow motion is as fun as it sounds.


WWII Tanks Firing in Slow Motion

www.youtube.com

WWII Tanks Firing in Slow Motion

The video is above, obviously, and there are a few great spots to concentrate on. The first shot comes at 2:15, but they replay it in slow-motion at 2:35 and the video plays slowly enough that you can clearly see the round leave the barrel, see the burnt and unburnt powder leave the barrel, and then see the unburnt powder ignite in the open air into a large fireball.

Around 3:50, you can see the blast from the tank knock the glasses off of one of the crew members, but the really cool stuff comes at 6:10 when they fire the tank and then track the round with the slow-motion cameras. In these shots, you can see the 75mm round spinning as it leaves the barrel. There’s even a bit of yaw as the round flies toward the tank at the end of the range.

The cameras are so sensitive that you can even see the shock and heatwaves from the initial blast and then the round’s flight.

As an added bonus, the guys got their hands on a 152mm Russian artillery piece which, according to them, is the largest privately owned piece of artillery in the world. It’s only 3mm smaller than the guns mounted on the Paladin. So it’s approximately a 6-inch shell that they fire, twice, at watermelons.

If you want to see some more Slow Mo action, they also have videos of opening a condom in a wind tunnel, hitting someone with a fish to the face, or my personal favorite, a chain explosion shot at 200,000 frames per second.

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Amazon could soon deliver its own version of MREs

Amazon is planning to make a foray into delivering ready-to-eat meals based on a technology program pioneered by the Army to improve the infamous MRE field rations.


According to a report by Reuters, the online retailer currently trying to acquire Whole Foods is also looking to sell food items like beef stew and vegetable frittatas that would be shelf stable for at least a year.

This is done using a preparation technique called microwave assisted thermal sterilization, or “MATS,” which was developed by 915 Labs, a start-up in the Denver area.

The F-35 fighter is way too expensive, and the Pentagon is pissed
Imagine what Amazon can do with MREs. (WATM Archives)

MATS came about as the Army was seeking to improve its Meals Ready to Eat for troops in the field. Traditional methods of preparing shelf-stable foods involve using pressure cookers, which also remove nutrients and alter the food’s flavor and texture. This requires the use of additive, including sodium and artificial flavors, according to reports.

The new technology involves putting sealed packages of food into water and using microwaves to heat them. Currently, machines can produce about 1,800 meals per hour, but some machines could produce as many as 225 meals a minute.

The F-35 fighter is way too expensive, and the Pentagon is pissed
Could MATS mean nobody has to have this any more? (WATM Archive)

The shelf-stable foods would be ideal for Amazon’s current delivery system, which involves warehouses to store products that are later delivered to customers. Shelf-stable food that is ready-to-eat is seen as a potential “disruptor” in the industry.

“They will test these products with their consumers, and get a sense of where they would go,” Greg Spragg, the President and CEO of Solve for Food, told Reuters. The company is based in Arkansas, near the headquarters of Wal-Mart.

The F-35 fighter is way too expensive, and the Pentagon is pissed
MATS could make the MRE look like this K-ration above. (US Army photo)

One bottleneck had been getting approval from the Food and Drug Administration for dishes prepared with MATS. 915 Labs has developed dishes, but is awaiting the go-ahead. Meanwhile, the Australian military has acquired the technology, and several countries in Asia that lack refrigerated supply chains are also purchasing machines.

Oh, and MATS could also be used on MREs, providing the same five-year shelf life that the current versions get as well.

Articles

The Army may give soldiers the Marine Corps’ new rifle

It’s not often that the Big Army follows the lead of the nation’s smallest fighting force, but the Corps’ recent moves to outfit its infantry grunts with high-technology small arms has gotten the attention of the Army’s top general.


At a recent meeting with senators on Capitol Hill, Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley told lawmakers he was seriously considering outfitting front-line soldiers with a new rifle just adopted by the Corps for all its infantry troops.

The F-35 fighter is way too expensive, and the Pentagon is pissed
A U.S. Marine with Echo Company, 2nd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, fires a M27 infantry automatic rifle at simulated enemies during an Integrated Training Exercise (ITX) at Marine Corps Air-Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms, Calif. | U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Danny Gonzalez

In 2010, the Marine Corps shocked the services by providing an alternative to the M249 Squad Automatic Weapon machine gun with what was essentially a souped up M4 carbine. The new M27 Infantry Automatic Rifle was made by German firearms manufacturer Heckler Koch — dubbed the “HK416” — and featured a better, longer barrel, a gas-piston operating system and an automatic fire capability.

It is a rifle very similar to ones fielded to SEAL Team 6 and Delta Force.

The Corps argued that precise fire was more effective at suppression than area fire, so the SAW gunner on some missions carried the new M27 instead of the SAW. Fast forward seven years, and the Corps has decided to outfit all its infantrymen with the Gucci rifle.

Now the Army is taking a hard look at the M27 and its advantages of reliability, accuracy and function as a potential near-term replacement for the M4 — which is gas operated and features a 14.5-inch barrel.

The F-35 fighter is way too expensive, and the Pentagon is pissed
U.S. Army photo

“We’re taking a hard look at that and probably going to go in that direction as well,” Milley told lawmakers. He also added that the service is developing a 7.62 round that can penetrate new body armor manufactured by Russia.

The revelation comes as the Army is set to release a years-long study on whether to replace the 5.56 round with a new one in the face of a growing threat from enemy weapons the fire a Russian-made round that can reach nearly double the range of the current M4 chambered in the 1950s-era caliber.

Sources say the Army is also inching toward issuing an “Urgent Needs” request to field more than 6,000 rifles chambered in the heavier, longer-range 7.62 NATO round for troops deployed to battlefields like Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan.

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Germany’s Puma is a 40-ton death machine

Germany introduced the world to the concept of blitzkrieg. One of the key elements to this strategy is to have a force of tanks and mechanized infantry strike deeply and (relatively) quickly behind enemy lines. This means that to successfully execute a blitzkrieg, one needs not only effective tanks, but also good infantry carriers.

For decades now, Germany has relied on the Marder to be the infantry fighting vehicle accompanying Leopard 1 and Leopard 2 main battle tanks. The Marder, which entered service in 1971, packs a 20mm autocannon, has a crew of three, and holds seven troops. However, the Marder is starting to show its age — after all, it’s about a decade older than the Bradley Fighting Vehicle. That’s where the Puma comes in.


The F-35 fighter is way too expensive, and the Pentagon is pissed
(Photo by Motorpferd)

A Puma infantry fighting vehicle in the field.

Naturally, Germany have a replacement in mind. This vehicle is called the Puma, and it’s slated to bring a few huge leaps in capability to German armor — but nothing is without its drawbacks. Like the Marder, this vehicle has a crew of three, but only carries six grunts in the rear. That’s a slight hit in one area of capability, but the Puma’s firepower makes up for it.

The Puma is equipped with a 30mm cannon (a big step up from the Marder’s 20mm gun). It also packs a 5.56mm coaxial machine gun and a 76mm grenade launcher. It can reach a top speed of 43 miles per hour and go 373 miles on a tank of gas.

The F-35 fighter is way too expensive, and the Pentagon is pissed
(U.S. Army photo by Paula Guzman)

The Marder infantry fighting vehicle has served Germany well for almost 50 years.

What’s most notable is that the Puma is only roughly six tons heavier than the Marder, despite the increased firepower. This is due to the use of composite armors that are both more resistant to modern weapons and weigh much less than older armor technology. This enables the Puma to be hauled by the Airbus A400.

Germany is planning to have 320 Pumas delivered by 2020 to replace the Marder. Export possibilities abound, particularly to Canada, which is looking for an infantry fighting vehicles to pair with its Leopard 2 tanks.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The amazing thing the SR-71 did the day before its retirement

Usually, when someone or something retires, it’s because they’ve grown a little older — and maybe a little slower — over time. Maybe their skills aren’t as useful as they once were, so they opt to spend their sunset years peacefully watching others take over their old duties.

But not the SR-71 Blackbird. It went out with a sonic boom.


The SR-71 was in the prime of its amazing life. This was a titanium bird designed to outrun and spy on the Russians, a bird that was fooling Russians even before it was assembled.

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

(Laughs in Blackbird)

When the Blackbird was retired in 1990, not everyone was thrilled with the idea. Much of the debate around the SR-71’s mission and usefulness was because of political infighting, not because of any actual military need the plane couldn’t fill. Still, the program was derided by Congressional military and budget hawks as being too costly for its designated mission. Some speculate the old guard of Air Force Cold Warriors had long since retired and newer generals couldn’t explain the plane’s mission in the post-Soviet order.

Whatever the reason for its retirement, the Air Force’s most glorious bird was headed for the sunset — but not before making history and setting a few more records.

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

An SR-71 refuels in mid-air during sunset.

(U.S. Air Force)

When it was operationally retired in 1990, a Blackbird piloted by Lt. Col. Raymond E. Yeilding and Lt. Col. Joseph T. Vida was tasked to fly one last time from Palmdale, Calif. to its new home at the Smithsonian Institution’s Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Virginia. Apparently, they had somewhere to be in the D.C. area that day, too.

During that Blackbird’s final flight on Mar. 7, 1990, the plane and its pilots set four new speed records:

  • West Coast of the United States to the U.S. East Coast – 2,404 miles in 68:17.
  • Los Angeles, Calif., to Washington, D.C. – 2,299 miles in 64:20
  • Kansas City, Mo., to Washington, D.C. – 942 miles in 25:59
  • St. Louis, Mo., to Cincinnati, Ohio – 311 miles in 8:32
The F-35 fighter is way too expensive, and the Pentagon is pissed

(U.S. Air Force)

The SR-71 refueled in mid-air over the Pacific Ocean before beginning its transcontinental journey. It arrived at Dulles International Airport to a throng of onlookers and well-wishers who knew a good thing when they saw one.

Addressing the full Senate after the historic, record-setting 1990 flight, Senator John Glenn told the assembly that the flight would be remembered as “a sad memorial to our short-sighted policy in strategic aerial reconnaissance.”

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Watch a skilled archer hit targets from around corners

What you are about to see is not the stuff of medieval legend… although it should be. If someone were able to do this in the middle ages, they would likely have been set on fire for witchcraft. That’s how amazing it is to watch an able archer hit a target from around a corner.

For once, the reality of something is way cooler than it could ever be shown in the movies, thanks to archer Lars Andersen.


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

This would be almost as impressive if it were real.

Andersen is a Danish archer who is kind of like the Mythbuster of the archery world. He shows how amazing feats in archery can still be done in the modern world, without a modern bow and arrow set up. He’s proven that ancient Saracen archers could really fire off three arrows in 1.5 seconds, as history recorded. He can catch arrows in mid-flight, just like your Dungeons and Dragons character. He can deflect an incoming arrow with another arrow. He even demonstrates how to catch an arrow the use it to shoot another target.

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

Sploosh.

In the 2017 video below, he’s demonstrating a technique used by English and Arab bowmen from the days of yore: shooting heavy arrows around corners – he even says it can be a really easy thing to do for any archer, you just lace the arrow on the string in the wrong place, slightly off-center. The off-center firing causes the air resistance to kick the arrow back, making it rotate into a turn.

He even demonstrates a “boomerang” shot, where the arrow turns completely around a corner.

The arrows will not hit the target on a turn with the same force as it would a straight-on target, so it’s unlikely to kill someone taking cover from your arrow barrage, but it will make them think twice about the cover they’ve chosen.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Airmen will soon be able to 3D print entire weapons systems on the flightline

Ever since word got out that the Pentagon spent $436 on a hammer in the 1980s, citizen watchdogs have kept a close eye on how much the Defense Department spends on its maintenance and upkeep. To keep costs low on an aging fleet of airplanes, the USAF turned to 3D printing to cut the acquisition time and cost for spare parts. Its first 3D printed part was a toilet seat cover – instead of paying $10,000 for one.

Now the Air Force may be turning to 3D print for a lot more than spare parts and toilet seats. It may start printing entire weapons systems – directly from the flightline.


3D printing is also known as “additive construction,” as explained in the video above. The traditional method of creating objects is known as “subtractive construction,” where a solid mass of raw material is shaped to form various parts. 3D printing starts with nothing and layers on material to form a solid part. Right now, the Air Force uses 3D printing to create parts for aircraft on a small scale, but according to the thought leaders of these projects, there’s “no reason the technology couldn’t grow to create items weighing 50,000 pounds or more.”

Maintainers across the Air Force are already using 3D printing technology to save time and money by creating objects that would otherwise be costly and could take weeks to arrive – if they come at all. The aforementioned toilet seat cost ,000 because the original manufacturer, Lockheed Martin, doesn’t make the C-5 Galaxy anymore, and they don’t have a bunch of C-5 toilet seats lying around. It was a custom order. At places like RAF Mildenhall, the Air Force uses 3D printers to create individual parts not individually available. Instead of ordering an entirely new system for things like tow swivel legs, they can just replace the parts of individual tow swivel legs that break.

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

In 70 years, 3-D printing could build assets on the scale of 50,000 pounds, including manned-fighter class capability.

(Illustration by Chris Desrocher)

The video also mentions that universities have 3D printed entire aircraft and flown them successfully. The Air Force is bringing that technology in and moving it forward with its considerable resources.

“Maybe you need a new sensor package, maybe you need a new weapons truck,” says Ed Alyanak, an engineer with the Aerospace Systems Directorate at the Air Force Research Laboratory. “What we’re doing is we’re linking the operational analysis assessment and the computational design phase of a new asset, be it a weapons system or a new vehicle, some small scale UAV, maybe even a large-scale manned asset, with the phase of acquiring that asset.”

The process already saves the Air Force millions in developing small-scale design models, but the future of the process is the most exciting part. Within 70 years, the Air Force could go from printing parts and wings for A-10 aircraft (as it does today) to printing entire airframes right there on the flightline.

It’s a concept that Airman Magazine called going from “Global Reach” to “Global Already There.” For more about 3D printing weapons and aircraft, check out the story at Airman Magazine.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The US military could soon be flying one of the fastest helicopters ever

Helicopters have been very versatile, serving as anything from transports to gunships. But they haven’t been all that fast. According to AirForce-Technology.com, the fastest helicopter in military service is the CH-47F Chinook, which has a top speed of 195 mph.


That could change if the Sikorsky S-97 enters service with the U.S. Army. With a top speed of at least 253 mph, it blows the competition away — even if it isn’t quite as fast as Airwolf.

But hey, the technology is getting pretty close.

The F-35 fighter is way too expensive, and the Pentagon is pissed
The S-97 Raider showing the new technology that enables it to fly at speeds of at leas 220 knots. (Lockheed photo)

But the S-97 isn’t just fast. According to Lockheed, this futuristic helo, with contra-rotating main rotors and a pusher in the tail, can carry AGM-114 Hellfire missiles, Hydra 2.75-inch rockets, and will shoot a 7.62mm machine gun or a .50-caliber machine gun. Four can fit inside a C-17 Globemaster transport. Lockheed notes that the S-97 can also carry up to six troops in its cabin.

Lockheed says that the S-97 could fill other roles besides the armed reconnaissance role that the AH-64 Apache has taken over, including as a search and rescue helicopter, a multi-mission special operations helicopter — and there’s even a proposed unmanned variant. The S-97 can also be refueled in flight.

The F-35 fighter is way too expensive, and the Pentagon is pissed
The S-97, this time showing a gun pod on the left side. (Lockheed photo)

One area the helicopter could excels is in the so-called “high and hot” climates that have often limited other helicopters. Lockheed claims the helicopter can hover at 10,000 feet in an air temperature of 95 degrees.

Lockheed is marketing the S-97 Raider to not just the Army and Special Operations Command, but states that the S-97 could also fill missions for the Navy, Marine Corps, and Air Force. You can see a video about this futuristic helicopter below.

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These are the differences between Airborne and Air Assault

Short answer: One is still used as a tactically viable way of getting troops into the fray and the other is more ceremonial.


Benjamin Franklin once said “Where is the prince who can afford to cover his country with troops for its defense, so that ten thousand men descending from the clouds might not, in many places, do an infinite deal of mischief before a force could be brought together to repel them?”

Both of these troops fit that bill over two hundred years later.

Out of all of the current military rivalries, this one still ranks pretty high on the list. As someone who’s Air Assault and let his personal rivalry simmer a bit, there’s no reason to keep it up. The differences between the two just keeps growing with each conflict.

The F-35 fighter is way too expensive, and the Pentagon is pissed
(U.S. Army photo by Master Sgt. Sean McCollum, 29th Infantry Division Public Affairs)

By World War II, many forces developed their own form of Airborne infantry that soared into combat. Allied forces captivated folks back home with the tales of jumping into the European theater. Over the years, airborne operations can be performed in essentially two ways: static jumps (think of the age-old cadence “Stand up, Hook up, Shuffle to the door! Jump right out on the count of Four!”) and HALO/HAHO, or High Altitude, Low Opening and High Opening (free-falling).

Air Assault rose in the Cold War and became more prominent in the Vietnam War. There are usually two means for getting troops into combat, FRIES, or Fast Rope Insertion/Extraction, where you grab a piece of rope and slide out of a hovering helicopter and just Air Insertion, where the helicopter lands on the ground and troops hop out. Technically, there’s also Sling Load operations, where you attach things underneath a helicopter, but that’s more of a special task that’s assigned to Air Assault qualified troops.

The F-35 fighter is way too expensive, and the Pentagon is pissed
There’s several more ways of leaving a helicopter. Like SPIES and Helocasting, as seen above (U.S. Army Photo by Sgt. Codie Mendenhall)

But in the wars since 9/11, you can count on one hand the number of combat jumps performed by US troops. They were done twice in Iraq and once in Afghanistan — and all three to command and control airfields.

Making a combat jump authorizes you to wear a Combat Jump Device. It’s a gold star that adorns the Parachutist Badge and is often referred to as a “mustard stain.” Finding one of these bad asses outside of Jump School is like finding a CW5 — you know they have to exist somewhere because you’ve seen the badges at the PX, but it still sounds as plausible as any other barracks rumor.

There isn’t as comprehensive list on total Air Assault missions because it’s far more common. It’s just another way to get around.

Many combat arms guys can tell you that they never went to Air Assault school, but still do Air Assault operations in country. The only Air Assault task restricted to someone who actually went to the school is the previously mentioned sling load operations. Even that has its “volun-told” feel to it. Sling loading has a risk to it that could be deadly if not done properly. Only Airborne school qualified personnel are allowed to complete airborne jumps (because of the weeks they spend just learning how to fall properly).

The F-35 fighter is way too expensive, and the Pentagon is pissed
(U.S. Army photo by Visual Information Specialist Jason Johnston)

Sure. We have our disagreements and will probably flame each other in the comment section. They’re both ways to get men out of a perfectly good aircraft.

We both deal with a heavy amount of prop / rotor wash that training can never prepare you for. And both of our badges are still highly sought after by badge-hunters — usually a staff lieutenant or junior NCO. And they both will probably correct you by saying “well actually, according to Army regulation…”

Wear your blood wings proud, my brothers and sisters.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Watch how the A-10 Warthog’s seven-barrel autocannon works

When you are talking about the Fairchild-Republic A-10 Thunderbolt II, affectionately known as the Warthog, it is without a doubt, the best close-air support plane ever devised. One of the biggest reasons is in the plane’s nose.


Yeah, we’re talking the GAU-8, a seven-barrel Gatling gun that fires a 30mm round made from depleted uranium. This gun was designed to kill tanks – make them deader than the zombies on The Walking Dead. You might think a 30mm gun is too small to kill a tank. If you’re taking the tank head-on, it is.

The F-35 fighter is way too expensive, and the Pentagon is pissed
The entire A-10 platform was designed around the tank-killing cannon. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Chris Drzazgowski)

Shooting from above the tank, though, you’re aiming for where the armor is the thinnest. This is because the crew needs to be able to exit the tank through the hatches, which means they have to be able to open them. Oh, and the supplies the tank’s crew needs to function (food, water, ammo) have to come into the tank through those hatches as well.

The A-10 looks as if it was designed around the GAU-8. That’s true. The plane can carry 1,174 rounds for this gun, which fires at 3,900 to 4,200 rounds per minute. That’s anywhere from 16.77 to 18 seconds of firing time. The gun can kill a target up to two and a quarter miles away.

The F-35 fighter is way too expensive, and the Pentagon is pissed
The GAU-8/A Avenger Gatling gun next to a VW Type 1. Removing an installed GAU-8 from an A-10 requires first installing a jack under the aircraft’s tail to prevent it from tipping, as the cannon makes up most of the aircraft’s forward weight. (US Air Force photo)

The Air Force is running a competition to see what plane will replace the A-10. There have been four contenders flying off to win the OA-X contract, but none of them have this powerful gun in their arsenal. Perhaps it may be a better idea to re-open the A-10 production line, no?

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