These 7 old warhorses of the sky just refuse to retire - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TACTICAL

These 7 old warhorses of the sky just refuse to retire

There’s an old saying: “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” Some aerial warhorses take that pretty literally. 


That definitely seems to be the philosophy used by many countries around the world in retaining large numbers of older aircraft as the mainstays of their air forces.

Fighters, attack planes, bombers, and even tankers, all populate this list of old warhorses that have served in wars you only read about in history textbooks today, yet still fly in modern conflicts such as the fight against ISIS in the Middle East.

Though you wouldn’t think that military planes like these could serve as long as they have, many remain on the front lines, with the promise of updates to keep them flying for many more years.

From youngest to oldest, here are seven military aircraft that refuse to go away:

7. North American Rockwell OV-10 “Bronco”

 

These 7 old warhorses of the sky just refuse to retire
A Vietnam-era OV-10A Bronco prior to a mission. The Bronco still flies in combat today (Photo Wikimedia Commons)

At just 52 years old, the Bronco still serves in combat roles as a light air support aircraft, having been brought out of retirement with the US military in 2015 to fly air-to-ground sorties against ISIS in Iraq.

The Bronco first tasted combat in Vietnam, serving in the observer/recon and light attack roles. The Philippine military has also deployed their Broncos to combat zones, recently using them in their own fight against ISIS.

6. Douglas AC-47 “Spooky”

These 7 old warhorses of the sky just refuse to retire
An AC-47 Spooky during the Vietnam War (Photo Wikimedia Commons)

Built off the even older DC-3/C-47 platform, the AC-47 served as a gunship with the US Air Force over the jungles of Vietnam in the mid-1960s before being replaced with the AC-130 series.

With a series of Gatling rotary cannons aimed out the Spooky’s left windows, and hard banking turns, this gunship could rain down serious firepower on North Vietnamese military positions, protecting friendly troops from ambushes and enemy advances.

Today, the Spooky — also popularly known as “Puff the Magic Dragon” for the smoke its guns would generate while firing — still serves with the Colombian air force in South America.

5. Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-21 “Fishbed”

These 7 old warhorses of the sky just refuse to retire
A Polish MiG-21 Fishbed taxiing at an air base (Photo Wikimedia Commons)

Having first flown in 1956, the MiG-21 has served an astounding 61 years as a frontline fighter with many air forces around the world, and it still flies in such a role today.

Originally designed in the Soviet Union as a cheap, highly-exportable supersonic fighter, it tangled with American aircraft over Vietnam and flew onward with the militaries of a number of Asian and Eastern European nations.

The Indian, Croat, Serbian and Egyptian air forces continue to use the MiG-21 today, along with many other African and Asian countries, though the aircraft’s days are numbered with replacement programs looming on the horizon.

4. Boeing KC-135 “Stratotanker”

These 7 old warhorses of the sky just refuse to retire
A USAF KC-135 refueling an F-16 Fighting Falcon. Old warhorses still have their uses. (Photo US Air Force)

Also making its debut in 1956, the KC-135 has served continuously with the US Air Force for more than 61 years, and it isn’t showing any signs of slowing down!

Built to replace older refueling tankers and medium-range transports, the KC-135 was designed using Boeing’s commercially successful 707 airliner as the base model. It has served in virtually every American conflict since, functioning as a transport and a refueler for combat aircraft on the front lines.

According to Air Force brass, plans are in the works to keep the Stratotanker flying for another 40 years, meaning that it’ll be over 100 years old by the time it finally retires to the boneyard!

3. Tupolev Tu-95 “Bear”

These 7 old warhorses of the sky just refuse to retire
A Russian Air Force Tu-95 launching from an airport in 2006 (Photo Wikimedia Commons)

 

This old war horse relic of the early Cold War remains in service today with the Russian military, having first taken to the skies in late 1952 as the Soviet Union’s primary long-range nuclear bomber.

Extremely loud, very ugly and borderline annoying thanks to the high number of probe flights the Russian Air Force and Navy make near Western borders, the Bear has more than made its mark on the world of military aviation, and will likely continue to do so for at least another 30 years.

2. Boeing B-52 “Stratofortress”

 

These 7 old warhorses of the sky just refuse to retire
A B-52G/H Stratofortress cruising above the clouds (Photo US Air Force)

Back when the US Air Force assigned the Space Age-y prefix “Strato-” to many of its shiny new aircraft, the B-52 Stratofortress made its debut – the latest in a long line of strategic bombers from the Boeing Company.

Though designed as a nuclear bomber, the B-52 has only expended conventional munitions throughout its long and storied service life. In recent years, the hulking bomber, affectionately known as the Big Ugly Fat F*cker, or “BUFF,” has taken to the skies over the Middle East, bombing ISIS with impunity.

Systems upgrades will allow this American icon to stay in the fight for years to come, at least until a newer strategic bomber comes online for the Air Force.

1. Antonov An-2 “Colt”

These 7 old warhorses of the sky just refuse to retire
The civilian version of an An-2 Colt; extremely similar to the military variant (Photo Wikimedia Commons)

 

The Colt takes the crown (or walker and LifeAlert bracelet) for one of the oldest military aircraft still in service today.

First flying in 1947, two years after the end of WWII, this old warhorse has functioned in a variety of roles — from transport to makeshift bomber.

Today, North Korea and Estonia — among a handful of other countries — still have their Colts flying on active duty, though Estonia will most likely retire theirs soon. The North Korean military uses this old hunk of metal to ferry special operations troops into combat zones at low altitudes.

With Chinese aerospace companies exploring reviving the Colt line in the near future, it’s possible that this geriatric plane could keep flying for decades more.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Russia wanted to take on the F-22 with this unique-looking fighter

In the mid 1990s, Russia had a problem. It was a pretty important one, too, for both pilots and the grunts on the ground. It was a problem they needed to solve very quickly.


Earlier that decade, a United States F-15 Eagle had easily shot down the MiG-29 “Fulcrum,” supposedly the pinnacle of Soviet fighter technology, in combat over Iraq. Worse, the F-22 Raptor was headed into service, and as it did so, it dominated the once-dominant Eagle. Russia needed to play catch-up.

That was where Sukhoi came in. Sukhoi had designed the Su-27/30/33 Flanker family of aircraft, which did reasonably well over Eritrea, fighting the MiG-29 Fulcrum. As such, Sukhoi began to work on both an upgraded Flanker (later known as the Su-35) and on fifth-generation projects to counter the F-22 Raptor. According to MilitaryFactory.com, Sukhoi’s prototype was the S-32 Berkut. The plane first flew in 1997, and was later called the Su-37.

These 7 old warhorses of the sky just refuse to retire
The X-29 technology demonstrator aircraft. (NASA Photo by Larry Sammons)

 

The Berkut looked like an ordinary Flanker, but the big difference was in the wings. The Russians went with forward-swept wings to improve the design’s agility at low speed, not to mention improved takeoff and landing performance. The big problem is that that the wings can snap if the force goes the wrong way. Russia got around that by using composites that were flexible enough to handle stresses.

This wasn’t the first time someone modified a design for forward-swept wings. Northrop used the F-5E Tiger II as the basis for the X-29, a forward-swept wing test-bed that flew in the 1980s. Nazi Germany had a forward-swept wing bomber, the Junkers Ju 287, but only one prototype was completed.

By the mid-2000s, it was obvious that the Su-37 would not be a combat airframe, and suffered the same fate as the X-29. The Russians re-designated it the Su-47, flew a number of test flights, then retired the four prototypes.

Articles

Here’s what you need to know about China’s new light tank

China has long history of using light tanks – many of which have been discarded. Light tanks have become rarer as people have discovered that they need the same crew as a main battle tank, while offering said crew less protection.


China’s primary light tanks have been the Type 62 light tank and the Type 63 amphibious light tank. Both feature 85mm main guns (the Soviet/Russian T-34 used a main gun of this caliber as well), and each hold 47 rounds for that gun. But like many light tanks today, they are light in the protection department.

The Type 62 has about two inches of armor at most.

These 7 old warhorses of the sky just refuse to retire
Type 63 amphibious light tank. (Wikimedia Commons)

China has now pushed the light tank to the VT-5. This is a much more powerful system. It is centered on a 105mm rifled gun with up to 38 rounds. This gun is pretty much what was used on the early models of the M1 Abrams, and prior to that, on the M60 Patton main battle tanks. ArmyRecognition.com notes that this tank will weigh between 33 and 36 tons. Secondary armament is a 12.7mm heavy machine gun and a 40mm automatic grenade launcher.

The last light tank in United States service was the M551 Sheridan. This vehicle saw action in the Vietnam War, Operation Just Cause, and Desert Storm before being retired in the mid-1990s. Called the Buford by some sources, the Army had the XM8 Armored Gun System ready to roll out, but it was cancelled as well.

Today, the United States Army uses the M1128 Stryker Mobile Gun System. It has the same 105mm rifled gun as the VT-5, but only holds 18 rounds.

These 7 old warhorses of the sky just refuse to retire
Armor Soldiers assigned to 3rd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division, fire their Main Gun Systems (MGS) Stryker’s 105 mm main gun during a live fire range 28 March 2011, at Yakima Training Center, Wash. (U.S. Army photo)

Below, you can see video of the VT-5 as it is put through some live-fire paces in Inner Mongolia. A number of military attaches witnessed this performance. Did China build the light tank that units like the 82nd Airborne Division need?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hQtH4L0LsDM
MIGHTY CULTURE

Delta finds its best counter-terrorists with this ‘Long Walk’

When aspiring operators are being screened for selection into Delta Force, a collection of the most elite soldiers in the Army, they have to pass a series of rigorous and challenging tests, including a ruck march that they begin with no announced distance, no announced end time, and no encouragement. If they can complete this grueling ruck march, they will face a selection board and possibly join “The Unit.”

If they fall short, they go home.


Delta Force was pitched and built to be an American version of Britain’s Special Air Service by men like Col. Charles A. Beckwith, a Special Forces leader who had previously served as an exchange officer to the 22 SAS. Originally stood up in 1977, Delta was always focused on counter-terrorism.

Unsurprisingly, Beckwith got the nod to lead the unit he had helped pitch. He looked to the SAS itself for methods to winnow out those who might not be resolute at a key moment in battle, and embraced their stress event: a superhuman ruck march.

It wasn’t an insane distance, just 74 kilometers — or 40 miles. That’s certainly further than most soldiers will ever carry a ruck, but not an eye-watering number.

These 7 old warhorses of the sky just refuse to retire

Col. Charles A. Beckwith, the first commander of Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta.

(U.S. Army Special Operations Command)

But SAS candidates conducted this training at the end of what were already-grueling weeks of training. And on the day of the final march, they were woken up early to start it.

But the real mind game was not telling the candidates how far they had to go or how far they had already gone. They were just told to ruck march to a set point that could be miles distant. Then, a cadre member at that point would give them a new point, and this would continue until the candidate had marched the full distance.

Beckwith told his superiors that he needed two years to stand up Delta Force, partially because he felt it was necessary to incorporate this and other elements of SAS selection and training into the pipeline, meaning that he would need to recruit hundreds of candidates to get just a few dozen final operators. President Jimmy Carter wanted a new anti-terrorism unit, and senior Army brass were initially loathe to wait two years to give it to him.

According to his book Delta Force: a memoir by the founder of the military’s most secretive special operations, Beckwith had to fight tooth and nail to get enough candidates and time for training, but he still refused to relax the standards. Beckwith successfully argued that, to make a unit as capable or better than the SAS, the Army would have to fill it with men as tough or better.

This couldn’t just be men great at shooting or land navigation or even ruck marching. It had to be those people who would keep pushing, even when it was clearly time to quit.

To make his argument, he pointed to cases where capable men had failed to take appropriate action because, as Beckwith saw it, their resolve had failed. He pointed to the 1972 Olympics in Munich where great German marksmen failed to take out hostage takers early in the terror attack because they simply didn’t pull the trigger.

Beckwith needed guys who could pull the trigger, he knew that the SAS process delivered that, and he didn’t want to risk a change from the SAS mold that might leave Delta with people too reluctant to get the job done during a fight.

And so, the “Long Walk” was born into Army parlance. This is that final ruck march of selection. It’s 40 miles long, it’s conducted on the last day of training when candidates are already physically and mentally completely exhausted, and the rucksacks weigh 70 pounds.

Oh, and there is an unpublished time limit of 20 hours. And candidates can’t march together, each gets their own points and has to walk them alone. And, like in the SAS version, they don’t actually ever know the full course, only their next point.

These 7 old warhorses of the sky just refuse to retire

Members of Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta guard Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf.

(U.S. Army)

Finally, while the first classes conducted the Long Walk at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, later iterations had to conduct the exercise in the mountains of West Virginia, adding to the pain and exhaustion.

Even men like future Lt. Gen. Jerry Boykin, who came to the course after the existence and general distance of the Long Walk were known, talked about how mentally challenging the uncertainty would be. He lost 15 pounds in the tough training that led to the march, and then he struggled on the actual event.

In his book, Never Surrender: A Soldier’s Journey to the Crossroads of Faith and Freedom, Boykin says that he was exhausted by the 8-hour mark. Having started before dawn, he would still have to walk deep into the night with his heavy ruck to be successful, praying that every point was his last.

But the next point wasn’t the last. Nor was the one after that, or the one after that. The cadre assigning the points cannot cheerlead for the candidate, nor can they tell the candidate if they’re doing well or if they’re marching too fast. Either the candidate pushes themself to extreme physical and mental limits and succeeds without help or encouragement, or they don’t.

In Boykin’s class of 109, only about 25 people even made it to the Long Walk, and plenty more washed out during that test. Freezing in the weather and exhausted from the weight, terrain, and distance, Boykin did make it to the end of the course. But, interestingly, even completing the prior training and the Long Walk does not guarantee a slot in Delta. Instead, soldiers still have to pass a selection board, so some people train for months or years, are marched to exhaustion every day for a month during training, have to complete the Long Walk, and then they get turned away by the board, are not admitted, and don’t become capital “O” Operators.

Delta Force has undoubtedly made America more lethal and more flexible when it comes to missions, but there are strict standards that ensure that only the most fit soldiers can compete in this space. And the Long Walk forces everyone but the most tenacious out.

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MIGHTY TACTICAL

Army pilots share their cockpit with autonomous bots

Recently, Army pilots got to tool around with an autonomous helicopter kit that could one day make all Army rotorcraft capable of autonomous flight, completing tasks as varied as take off and landing, flying across the ground and behind trees, and even selecting its own landing zone and landing in it with just a simple command.


US Army Pilot Tests ALIAS’ Autonomy Capabilities in Demonstration Flight

www.youtube.com

The pilots were given access to the Sikorsky Autonomy Research Aircraft (SARA), an optionally-piloted helicopter filled with tech being developed under a DARPA grant. The idea isn’t to create a fleet of ghost helicopters that can fly all on their own; it’s to give pilots the ability to let go of the stick for a few minutes and concentrate on other tasks.

According to a DARPA press release,

During the hour-long flight demonstration, [Lt. Col. Carl Ott, chief of Flight Test for the U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Research, Development and Engineering Center’s Aviation Development Directorate] interfaced with the autonomous capabilities of the system to conduct a series of realistic missions, including aircrew tasks such as low-level terrain flight, confined area takeoffs and landings, landing zone selection, trajectory planning, and wire-obstacle avoidance.
These 7 old warhorses of the sky just refuse to retire

Lockheed Martin’ MATRIX Technology is created to help pilots by allowing them to focus on complex tasks while the helicopter pilots itself.

(DARPA)

“The Army refers to this as Mission Adaptive Autonomy. It’s there when the pilot needs the aircraft to fly itself and keep it free of obstacles, so the pilot can focus on more of the mission commander type role. But the pilot is able to interact with the system to re-suggest, re-route or re-plan on the fly,” said Ott.

But SARA has a pretty robust bag of tricks. When pilots call on it, the helicopter can land or take off on its own, select its own safe landing zones using LIDAR, avoid obstacles including wires and moving vehicles, and can even fly across the ground and behind obstructions, like trees, to hide itself.

These 7 old warhorses of the sky just refuse to retire

A U.S. Army National Guard UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter lands during training with U.S. Marines.

(U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Rachel K. Young)

Of course, the Army needs the technology from SARA to be ported over to Army helicopters, like the UH-60 Blackhawk, and that’s coming in the next few months, according to Sikorsky. The package, known as MATRIX Technology, should theoretically work on any aircraft, and porting it to rotary aircraft should be fairly easy.

“We’re demonstrating a certifiable autonomy solution that is going to drastically change the way pilots fly,” said Mark Ward, Sikorsky Chief Pilot, Stratford, Conn. Flight Test Center. “We’re confident that MATRIX Technology will allow pilots to focus on their missions. This technology will ultimately decrease instances of the number one cause of helicopter crashes: Controlled Flight Into Terrain (CFIT).”
These 7 old warhorses of the sky just refuse to retire

An optionally piloted UH-1H helicopter drops off supplies during a May 2018 exercise at Twentynine Palms, California.

(Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory Matt Lyman)​

The Marine Corps has been doing its own experiments with autonomous rotary flight. Their primary program is the Autonomous Aerial Cargo/Utility System on the Bell UH-1H platform, which can take off, fly, land, plan its route, and select landing sites on its own using LiDAR. So, similar to the MATRIX platform.

AACUS comes from Aurora, a Boeing subsidiary, and has already been successfully installed on Bell 206 and Boeing AH-6 helicopters. It uses off-the-shelf hardware components combined with the proprietary algorithms. One big advantage of AACUS is that infantrymen on the ground can directly request flights to their location without necessarily having to route it through a pilot.

As helicopters are cherished assets during a real fight, though, it’s almost certain that requests for aviation will require an officer signing off, whether it’s an AACUS or a MATRIX bird.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Check out this jetpack suit’s debut with Royal Navy ships

Inventor and former Royal Marines reservist Richard Browning tested a jet-powered suit that allows the wearer to hover and hop between surfaces — in this case, the fast patrol boat HMS Dasher and Royal Navy test boats.

Browning tested his jet-powered suit in the Solent, a body of water between mainland Britain and the Isle of Wight in the UK.

“Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No it’s Rocket Man! Inventor, pilot and former Royal Marines Reservist Richard Browning, along side HMS Dasher, tested his jet-powered body suit over the water of the Solent for the very first time,” the Royal Navy announced via Twitter on July 30, 2019.


The jetpack had been tested on land, but Browning wanted to test whether it could be used on moving ships. A small landing and launch pad was set up on the Dasher, from which Browning could move between the vessels.

Video shows Browning easily hopping between the Dasher, a P2000 patrol vessel, and two rigid-hull inflatable boats, all moving at 20 knots.

Real life Rocket Man debuts over water

www.youtube.com

“Richard made taking off and landing on the P2000 look so easy,” Lt. Lauren Webber said in a Royal Navy press release.

The jet suit, built by Browning’s Gravity Industries, can fly for five to 10 minutes, and has a maximum speed of 32 miles per hour, according to the company’s website. Five turbines — one on each forearm, one on each side, and one on the user’s back, allow the user to control movement and blast up to 12,000 feet in the air.

The Drive reports that the suit is highly automated, with information about the suit’s fuel level and other technical statuses transmitted to the user’s helmet display. The Drive also reports that the suit has a wi-fi link so a ground team can keep track of the suit and its wearer.

Despite the excitement about the jet suit, the UK Ministry of Defence has not purchased any as of yet, The Drive reports. At Bastille Day celebrations in June 2019, French inventor Franky Zapata zoomed over the crowd in his Flyboard Air, which allows for a 90-minute flight time. French Prime Minister Emmanuel Macron tweeted video of the display, hinting that the device might eventually be used in combat.

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

Articles

This is why it was perfectly legal for a Russian plane to buzz DC

By now, you’ve heard a Russian plane recently flew around DC and the Trump golf course in Bedminster, New Jersey.


And while you might think it was cause to spool up the THAAD and drop that plane in its tracks, believe it or not, they were allowed to by a 25-year-old treaty based on an idea that was nearly four decades old at the time.

The Treaty on Open Skies was first proposed by Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1955. Cold War paranoia meant it went nowhere for 37 years. After the coup that proved the end of the Soviet Union, the treaty was eventually signed by President George H. W. Bush and ratified in 1992. But it didn’t enter into force until 2002.

The treaty allows the U.S. and Russia — as well as a number of other NATO and former Warsaw Pact countries — to make surveillance flights over each other’s territory.

These 7 old warhorses of the sky just refuse to retire
An OC-135B Open Skies aircraft goes through pre-flight checks Jan. 16, 2010, at Joint Base Andrews, Md. The OC-135 is with the 45th Reconnaissance Squadron at Offutt Air Force Base, Neb., and is used to conduct observation flights in support of the Open Skies Treaty. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Perry Aston)

According to a letter to the Senate included with the treaty, this is to “promote openness and transparency of military forces and activities.” Certain planes are equipped with four types of sensors, optical panoramic and framing cameras, video cameras with real-time display, infra-red line-scanning devices, and sideways-looking synthetic aperture radar. These suites are used to monitor military forces, and are certified by observers.

Which aircraft is used can vary. The United States uses the OC-135B Open Skies aircraft for this mission. Canada uses a modified C-130. Russia has a version of the Tu-154 airliner. The United Kingdom has used a mix of planes.

The exact number of flights a country may have varies, but the United States and Russia each get 42 such flights a year.

These 7 old warhorses of the sky just refuse to retire
The Tu-214 will be Russia’s new Open Skis aircraft. (Wikimedia Commons)

They can fly any sort of flight plan – as long as they give 72 hours notice prior to the arrival. The flight must be completed in 96 hours from the time that the plane arrives. The plane on the Open Skies mission also must embark observers from the host nation on board.

So that’s why a lot of people in the Virginia, Maryland, and DC area got a good look at a Russian Tu-154 — and may still see more if Putin wants another closer look.

Articles

Here is how Russia could shoot down a North Korean missile

North Korea’s latest missile test, carried out this past weekend, ended about sixty miles off the Russian coast. Russia is not happy about the test, as one might imagine. In fact, they may get angry. Of course, we should note that Putin has options aside from sending Kim Jong-un a letter telling him how angry Moscow is.


Russia has long pushed the development of surface-to-air missiles, and the Soviets put that system on the map in 1960 by downing the Lockheed U-2 flown by Francis Gary Powers. In one sense, Russia needs to have good air defenses since their fighters tend to come out second-best when tangling with American or Western designs.

These 7 old warhorses of the sky just refuse to retire
A USAF Lockheed U-2 Dragon Lady. When Russia shot one down in 1960 with a SA-2 Guideline, it proved the surface-to-air missile was a factor in warfare. | U.S. Air Force photo

So, what options does Russia have to shoot down a North Korean missile? Quite a few – and it can be hard to tell them apart.

1. SA-10 Grumble

This is probably the oldest of Russia’s area-defense systems capable of downing a ballistic missile. Like the Patriot, it was initially intended to provide air defense for important targets by shooting down the strike aircraft. It eventually began to cover the tactical ballistic missile threat as well – much as the Patriot made that evolution.

According to GlobalSecurity.org, the baseline SA-10, or S-300PMU, now exported to a number of countries (including Iran), had a maximum range of 124 miles. A navalized version of this missile, the SA-N-6, is used on the Kirov and Slava-class cruisers.

These 7 old warhorses of the sky just refuse to retire
The SA-10 Grumble system. (DOD image)

2. SA-12 Gladiator

The Russians consider the SA-12 to be a member of the S-300 family. While the S-300 was initially designed to handle planes, the SA-12 was targeted more towards the MGM-52 Lance. Designation-Systems.net notes that the Lance’s W70 warhead could deliver up to a 100-kiloton yield. That could ruin your whole day.

But the development of a conventional cluster munition warhead for the Lance really bothered the Russians, who expected to see a many as 400 Lances launched in the early stages of a war in Europe. GlobalSecurity.org credits the SA-12 with a range of about 62 miles – not as long a reach as the SA-10 but more than enough to take out an incoming missile before it can do harm.

These 7 old warhorses of the sky just refuse to retire
The SA-12 Gladiator system at an arms expo. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

3. SA-20 Gargoyle

This is an improved version of the SA-10, according to GlobalSecurity.org. It has the same maximum range as the SA-10 version (about 124 miles), but there is a capability to engage faster targets than the baseline SA-10, which usually translates into neutralizing ballistic missiles launched from further away.

The system, also uses several types of missiles — including in the 9M96 family (9M96E1 and 9M96E2) that are smaller than baseline SA-10 missiles. Like the SA-10, there is a naval version, called the SA-N-20, which is on the Pyotr Velikiy and China’s Type 51C destroyers.

These 7 old warhorses of the sky just refuse to retire
The SA-20 Gargoyle – an improved version of the SA-10. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

4. SA-21 Growler

This is also known as the S-400. The system made headlines when it deployed to Syria after Turkey shot down a Su-24 Fencer jet. The system is often compared to the American Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense system, but unlike THAAD, it is also capable of hitting aircraft and cruise missiles. GlobalSecurity.org credits the SA-21 with a range of about 250 miles.

These 7 old warhorses of the sky just refuse to retire
Launch vehicle for the SA-21, which has a range of about 250 miles. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

5. SA-23 Giant

What the SA-20 is to the SA-10, the SA-23 is to the SA-12. This is a substantially improved version of the SA-12, and is intended to deal with longer-range ballistic missiles than the MGM-52 that the SA-12 was intended to take out. The SA-23, also known as the Antey 2500, has a range of 124 miles according to GlobalSecurity.org.

These 7 old warhorses of the sky just refuse to retire
SA-23 launch vehicles. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

Russia’s born-of-necessity work on surface-to-air missiles has lead to some very capable options in air defense. The real scary part is that Russia has been willing to export those systems – and that could mean they will face American pilots sooner rather than later.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

From bazooka nukes to backpack A-bombs — 6 wild warheads the Cold War cooked up

In the United States of the 1950s and 1960s, there were a few things you could count on: poodle skirts, sock hops, rock ’n’ roll … and the ever-present specter of nuclear Armageddon. The technological innovation of the rocket age brought the intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) and submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) into being, nukes that could conceivably end modern civilization in about an hour.

At the other end of the spectrum was a nearly farcical desire to bring nuclear weapons and nuclear power as the solution to every problem. Need a canal? A nuke will save millions of man-hours of digging. Need to improve your miles-per-gallon in your car? Trade your shitbox in for a nuclear-powered lead sled, and you’ll be able to drive around the world on a few ounces of uranium. 

While the more outlandish ideas never really got that far in the civilian sector, the military had no such constraints. In fact, when your evaluations are written based on how many bad guys your weapons can kill, it’s practically guaranteed to generate some truly exceptional flights of fancy. You can practically hear the meeting where someone asked, “But what if we made it nuclear?”

From the early days of the Cold War, NATO was confronted with overwhelming numbers from the Warsaw Pact. In 1961, for example, the Soviet Union had roughly a 2-to-1 numerical advantage in troops. While the West has always valued quality over quantity, quantity has a quality all its own. Accordingly, while strategic nukes threatened mutually assured destruction (MAD) upon the populations of the US and USSR, there was a whole family of tactical nukes designed merely for battlefield use. 

These 7 old warhorses of the sky just refuse to retire
Part of Operation Upshot-Knothole was a 15-kiloton shell test-fired from a 280 mm cannon on May 25, 1953, at the Nevada Proving Grounds on Frenchman’s Flat. Hundreds of high-ranking armed forces officers and members of Congress were present. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Nuclear artillery

Tactical nuclear missiles and bombs make intuitive sense, but as weapons were delegated to lower echelons, nuclear artillery gave new meaning to the term “danger close.” Starting with the 230 mm M65 “Atomic Annie” in 1953, “fire for effect” would have had a whole new meaning had the Cold War ever gone hot. Atomic Annie only ever fired one nuclear round in testing. It left service after the 203 mm M110 was fielded in 1963. But 155 mm nuclear shells stayed in the US arsenal until 1996.

These 7 old warhorses of the sky just refuse to retire
The Davy Crockett system required a three-man crew to operate and could be used in place of a turret on the back of a jeep. Photo courtesy of armyhistory.org.

Nuclear bazookas

If nuclear artillery isn’t exciting enough, try firing a nuclear weapon from a recoilless rifle, aka bazooka. The Davy Crockett came in both 120 mm (awesome) and 155 mm (more awesome) sizes and could be fired from either a tripod or the back of a jeep. Packing the equivalent of 15 to 20 tons of TNT, the Davy Crockett was intended to be a mainstay of the Army’s “Pentomic” divisions, which were designed around the presumably nuclear battlefield of a war in Europe. Thankfully, the Army decided that perhaps letting corporals roll around in jeeps with nukes wasn’t the best plan and retired the M28 and M29 in 1971. 

These 7 old warhorses of the sky just refuse to retire
Special Forces were once equipped with “backpack nukes,” which weighed about 90 pounds. Sandia National Laboratories archive photo.

Nuclear satchel charges

Being able to plant a time bomb and GTFO just in time has been a thing since before ’80s rocker Pat Benatar blew up Nazis in “Shadows of the Night.” Certain Special Forces detachments during the Cold War were equipped with the B54 atomic demolition munition, or “backpack nukes.” The B54 was designed to destroy critical infrastructure, either that of the enemy or to keep friendly assets from falling into enemy hands. With a 1-kiloton yield, the B54 wasn’t the most devastating weapon in the US arsenal, but tell that to the guy whose job it was to hump his way out of the blast radius.

Nuclear land mines

Leave it to the British to go full reductio ad absurdum and create the nuclear land mine. Unfortunately, it was not the sort of land mine where some poor Russian grunt takes a step and hears a click, followed by the biggest “oh shit” moment in history. The nuclear land mine was something more akin to a hand grenade placed underneath a corpse. As Soviet troops advanced, the mines would detonate behind their lines by command detonation or timer. Unfortunately (or probably fortunately) only two prototypes were built. 

These 7 old warhorses of the sky just refuse to retire
An F-106 Delta Dart aircraft after firing a training version of the Genie over a range. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Nuclear air-to-air missiles

Usually, aerial combat is the epitome of precision killing: knights of the air, dueling mano a mano. Or, if you were a pilot in the 1950s and ’60s, you could just shoot the enemy with a nuclear-tipped missile. In the early days of the Cold War, NORAD still envisioned massive bomber raids, much like those the US inflicted on Japan. With that in mind, the unguided Genie missile packed a 1.5-kiloton warhead.  

It may have been the first fire-and-forget air-to-air missile, in that pilots had to execute quick turns away from their targets after firing or they could forget about coming back. The Falcon missile later added semiactive radar homing to at least get the nuke within a reasonable distance of the target. You might wonder whether shooting nuclear weapons over the US to protect it against nuclear attack is counterproductive. Don’t worry; they tested the Genie by blowing one up directly over the heads of five Air Force officers as proof of concept. 

These 7 old warhorses of the sky just refuse to retire
A 1962 nuclear depth charge test. Wikimedia Commons image.

Nuclear torpedoes

Don’t leave the Navy out of the mix. They found that nuclear depth charges could effectively destroy submarines, albeit perhaps along with the ship dropping them. So, of course the solution was to put a rocket on the back of the depth charge to get it far enough away from the ship to keep the engagement from being a very localized version of mutually assured destruction. Submarines went on patrol with Mk45 nuclear torpedoes from 1959 all the way until 1976. Given how many close calls happened between US and Soviet subs during that time, that might not have been such a great idea.

While “if you can’t hit it, nuke it” is a valid design philosophy, it wasn’t a great military one. It makes one wonder if today’s military is similarly clueless as to the true utility of the cutting edge today, be that artificial intelligence or space travel. Regardless, I hope I’m still around in 2060 to make fun of them.

This article originally appeared on Coffee or Die. Follow @CoffeeOrDieMag on Twitter.

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

This outstanding veteran-owned brewery is just down the road

‘Tis the season for the giving of gifts. ‘Tis also the season of FOMUG (Fear Of Messed Up Gifting). We get it. It’s hard out there for an elf. Team WATM would like to offer you some guidance.


For the Grinch in your unit:

~a case of premium craft beer by Greater Boston’s #1 veteran brewmaster~

These 7 old warhorses of the sky just refuse to retire
Frosty the Craft Beer, had a tiny foamy head… (Photo credit: Alex Weaver/Down The Road)

Does the thought of the Holidays — and all of the fluff-trimmed kerfuffery that comes with them — make you just want to start drinking? No?

So, you’re this guy:

These 7 old warhorses of the sky just refuse to retire

That’s cool. But we bet there’s someone on your list who’s less Jingle-bell-jazzed than you.

These 7 old warhorses of the sky just refuse to retire
Found him. (Photo via Flickr, Evil Erin, CC BY 2.0)

For this guy, consider the gift of beer. Really good beer.

Donovan Bailey — Army tank operator, beer brewing genius, and owner of Greater Boston’s Down The Road Brewery — crafts exactly the kind of Holiday Cheer we’re talking about.

These 7 old warhorses of the sky just refuse to retire
Bailey, brewmaster of the 3rd Armored Cav. (Photo credit: David Rainville/Greenfield Recorder)

Allow us to direct your attention his extensive line of tasty craft beers.

These 7 old warhorses of the sky just refuse to retire
That’s actually only half of them. Here’s the full menu.

Since dropping his first batch of Pukwudgie American Pale Ale in April 2015, Bailey has been quietly deepening his alchemical mastery of the hops, malts, and yeasts. (That’s Boston’s version of the breaks, rhymes, and beats.)

These 7 old warhorses of the sky just refuse to retire
Bailey’s state-of-the-art brewing facility. (Photo credit: Alex Weaver/Down The Road)

He cuts his love of European craft brewing tradition with a fiendish need to iterate and remix.  As a result, the Down The Road brew line-up is a veritable mix-tape of innovative, sample-heavy, world heritage beers. DTR very literally has something for everyone.

And as of Nov. 3 of this year, they now have their very own 2,500-square-foot taproom in Everett, MA, complete with 35′ bar, retro-pinball lounge and food trucks-a-go-go.

These 7 old warhorses of the sky just refuse to retire
Crowds that deep, they’ll need more bartenders… (Photo credit: Alex Weaver/Down The Road)

If you live in the Northeast, grab your Grinch and treat him to a few tasting rounds at the taproom. Or present him with a case of Queequeg’s Revenge New England IPA and see if he doesn’t crack a smile as he cracks himself a cold one.

Because beer is full of many wonderful ingredients, not the least of which are millions of tiny, alcoholic fun bubbles that just want you to lighten the hell up for the Holidays.

These 7 old warhorses of the sky just refuse to retire

The 2017 We Are The Mighty Holiday Gift Guide is sponsored by Propper, a tactical apparel and gear company dedicated to equipping those who commit their lives to serving others. All views are our own.

Speaking of Propper, they’re giving away twelve tactical packs filled with gear from our Holiday Gift Guide. Click this link to enter.

These 7 old warhorses of the sky just refuse to retire

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Watch this new Humvee wheel transform into tracks

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

www.youtube.com

MIGHTY TACTICAL

F-35 is getting new weapons, including the ‘StormBreaker’

The Air Force has begun early testing, software development, and weapons integration for its upcoming Block 4 variant of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, an emerging model intended to give the multi-role fighter a new dimension of weapons and attack mission possibilities, service leaders said.

The new version, to emerge in the early 2020s, will add new long-range precision-tracking weapons such as the newly named StormBreaker weapon — previously called the Small Diameter Bomb II.


“StormBreaker™ successfully completed Developmental Testing and the Government Confidence Testing phase in early 2018. StormBreaker demonstrated all operating modes, the capability to send, receive, and process data-link messages via both link-16 and UHF, Tara Wood, an official with Raytheon’s weapons development unit, told Warrior Maven.

The Air Force and F-35 weapons integration office are also integrating a new upgraded AIM-9x air to air missile, which will enable pilots to attack enemy fighters “off-boresight,” a term which refers to an increased target envelope.

An “off-boresight” AIM-9s will give pilots an ability to target and destroy enemies behind and to the sides of the F-35, Joe Dellavedova, an official with the Pentagon’s F-35 Joint Program Office, told Warrior Maven in an interview.

These 7 old warhorses of the sky just refuse to retire

US Navy F-35C.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Samuel King)

“The next step for F-35 weapons integration will be to address the weapon requirements within Block 4. Integration of the Small Diameter Bomb II has already begun, and flight test is scheduled to start as early as 2019,” Capt. Emily Grabowski, Air Force Spokeswoman, told Warrior Maven in a statement a short time ago.

StormBreaker – Small Diameter Bomb II

StormBreaker, described as a key element of Block 4, is a new air-dropped weapon able to destroy moving targets in all kinds of weather conditions at ranges greater than 40-miles, Air Force and Raytheon officials said.

Wood further explained that StormBreaker detects, classifies, and tracks a wide array of targets, both moving and stationary. It also has an ability to prosecute moving targets through adverse weather conditions. StormBreaker™ is currently in Operational Test, Wood said.

GPS and laser-guided weapons such as Joint Direct Attack Munitions have been around for decades, however, they have primarily been designed for use against fixed or stationary targets. StormBreaker has already completed a series of wind tunnel tests.

While the Air Force currently uses a laser-guided bomb called the GBU-54 able to destroy moving targets, the new SDB II will be able to do this at longer ranges and in all kinds of weather conditions. In addition, the SDB II is built with a two-way, dual-band data link which enables it to change targets or adjust to different target locations while in flight, Raytheon developers told Warrior Maven.

Operational Testing will utilize the weapon in real world conditions in operationally relevant scenarios, she explained.

A key part of the SDB II is a technology called a “tri-mode” seeker — a guidance system which can direct the weapon using millimeter wave radar, uncooled imaging infrared guidance and semi-active laser technology.

Raytheon weapons developers say the tri-mode seeker provides a range of guidance and targeting options typically not used together in one system. Millimeter wave radar gives the weapon an ability to navigate through adverse weather, conditions in which other guidance systems might encounter problems reaching or pinpointing targets.

These 7 old warhorses of the sky just refuse to retire

Imagining infrared guidance allows the weapon to track and hone in on heat signatures such as the temperature of an enemy vehicle. With semi-active laser technology, the weapon can be guided to an exact point using a laser designator or laser illuminator coming from the air or the ground, Raytheon officials told Warrior.

One Raytheon SDB II developer told Warrior in a previous interview that “the millimeter wave radar turns on first. Then the data link gives it a cue and tells the seeker where to open up and look. Then, the weapon can turn on its IR (infrared) which uses heat seeking technology.”

The SBD II is engineered to weigh only 208 pounds, a lighter weight than most other air dropped bombs, so that eight of them can fit on the inside of an F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, Raytheon officials explained.

If weapons are kept in an internal weapons bay and not rested on an external weapons pod, then an aircraft can succeed in retaining its stealth properties because the shapes or contours of the weapons will not be visible to enemy radar.

About 105 pound of the SDB II is an explosive warhead which encompasses a “blast-frag” capability and a “plasma-jet” technology designed to pierce enemy armor, Raytheon officials explained.

The SDB II also has the ability to classify targets, meaning it could for example be programmed to hit only tanks in a convoy as opposed to other moving vehicles. The weapon can classify tanks, boats or wheeled targets, Raytheon officials added.s, this will no longer remain the case.

StormBreaker, which is also being integrated on the F-15E, is carried on the BRU-61, a 4 place miniature munitions rack that fits in the F-35’s internal weapons bays. The weapons will be integrated on the F/A-18E/F and F-35B for the Navy and Marine Corps before the F-35A and F-35C, developers explained.

“StormBreaker™ uses Universal Armament Interface protocol to make the weapon/aircraft interface compatible with a wide range of aircraft, including F-35,” Wood added.

AIM-9X

Designed as part of the developmental trajectory for the emerging F-35, previous test-firings of the AIM-9X were intended to further the missile’s ability to demonstrate this “off-boresight,” attack technology. Previous test data and observers have confirmed the F-35 identified and targeted the drone with its mission systems sensors, passed the target ‘track’ information to the missile, enabled the pilot to verify targeting information using the high off-boresight capability of the helmet mounted display and launched the AIM-9X from the aircraft to engage the target drone, a statement from the F-35 JPO said.

F-35 to 2070

The current consensus among senior Pentagon weapons developers holds that, at the moment, the F-35 is the most capable 5th generation plane in the world. Maintaining this edge, however, is anticipated to quickly become more and more difficult now that both Russia and China are building 5th-gen stealth fighters.

“Block 4 is important with the national defense strategy to make sure we are modernizing the plane to keep it dominant on the battlefield. We are close to knowing the strategy for how to go after it,” Dr. Will Roper, Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics, told a group of reporters in early 2018.

While the applied impact of Block 4 will incorporate a range of mission-expanding technologies, much of the ongoing preparation work is in the realm of software development, Roper said.

“The physical pieces of the plane are moving in a good direction. Most of what we have left to do is software. The department (DoD) has not historically been good at software development. That will take a little longer. I cannot imagine building anything for the Air Force that is not software intensive,” Roper said.

The Block 4 initiative is part of a long range trajectory planned for the F-35 described by Pentagon developers as C2D2 – Continuous Capability Development and Delivery. The idea, officials say, is to position the multi-role fighter such that it can consistently accommodate new weapons, stealth materials, sensors, and guidance technology as it becomes available

“We own today’s fight,” said Lt. Col. Tucker Hamilton, F-35 Test Director, Edwards AFB, told reporters in early 2018. However, Tucker went on to say that, in the absence of aggressive modernization, sustainment and various improvement efforts.

This article originally appeared on Warrior Maven. Follow @warriormaven1 on Twitter.

Articles

This Russian video shows takedown of ISIS bigwig and some cool gear

A video of the Dec. 3 raid released on YouTube by the Russian Republic of Dagestan shows some highlights of the mission that resulted in the death of the commander of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria’s Russian affiliate.


But of you look carefully, there’s also some seldom seen gear being used by the Russian shock troops.

The two-minute video released on YouTube showed personnel from a paramilitary arm of the Federal Security Bureau — one of the successor agencies to the Soviet KGB — during the operation that killed Rustan Aselderov.

Aselderov had been responsible for a number of attacks, including two in two days in Volgograd that left 34 people dead. According to a report by Russia Today, no Russian forces were killed or wounded in the operation.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x5enps1XDXc

The video also featured some interesting Russian gear.

FSB personnel used a late-model BTR (either a BTR-80A, BTR-82 or BTR-90) with a 30mm autocannon, the 2A42, that is also used on the BMP-2 and BMP-3 infantry fighting vehicles. According to GlobalSecurity.org, late-model BTRs can carry an infantry section of seven or eight soldiers, and are also equipped with a 7.62 mm machine gun mounted coaxially to their main gun.

These 7 old warhorses of the sky just refuse to retire

Past versions of the BTR had only been equipped with the KPV, a 14.5mm machine gun that was also used on the BRDM scout vehicle and on the ZPU series of anti-aircraft guns.

Most notable, though, was a miniature robot used to provide some suppressive fire (shown at around the 1:37 mark of the video) using what appears to be a general-purpose machine gun. The most common type of this weapon in Russian service is the PKM, which fires the 7.62x54mm Russian round also used in the Mosin-Nagant rifles and the SVD sniper rifle.

According to the website world.guns.ru, the PKM also can fire up to 650 rounds per minute. A burst of at least three seconds is shown being fired into the building occupied by Aselderov.

The robot also featured a pair of apparent RPG-22 rocket launchers, which are similar to the M72 Light Anti-tank Weapons in service with the United States and many of its allies.

These 7 old warhorses of the sky just refuse to retire

According the United States Army’s OPFOR World Equipment Guide, the RPG-22 has a range of over 250 yards and can penetrate almost 400 millimeters of armor.

The Russian personnel carrying out the mission were carrying Kalashnikov-style assault rifles. While the AK-74 is the standard-issue assault rifle of the Russian military, there are variants chambered for other rounds, like the AK-101 (chambered for the 5.56mm NATO round) and the AK-103 (chambered for the 7.62x39mm round used in the AK-47).

These 7 old warhorses of the sky just refuse to retire

The FSB personnel wore fatigues with a MultiCam-esque camouflage pattern, which according to Camopedia.org, has been in use since 2008.

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