This past summer, four planes took to the air in a fly-off run by the United States Air Force. This flyoff was part of the OA-X program, intended to provide a replacement for the Fairchild-Republic A-10 Thunderbolt II close-air support aircraft.
This program has a tall order. According to an Air Force fact sheet, the A-10 Thunderbolt packs a 30mm GAU-8 “Avenger” Gatling gun with at least 1,174 rounds of ammo. The Warthog can also carry up to 16,000 pounds of ordnance, including AGM-65 Maverick missiles, Paveway laser-guided bombs, Joint Direct Attack Munitions, dumb bombs, rocket pods, and even AIM-9 Sidewinder missiles.
So, what are these contenders? According to an August report by Popular Mechanics, they are the Beechcraft AT-6 Wolverine, the Embraer AT-29 Super Tucano, the Textron Scorpion, and the Air Tractor AT-802U.
According to MilitaryFactory.com, the AT-6 Wolverine is a variant of the T-6 Texan II used by the United States Air Force and United States Navy. The Wolverine can carry gun pods with .50-caliber machine guns or 20mm cannon, rockets, AGM-114 Hellfire missiles, and 500-pound bombs, including JDAMs and Paveway laser-guided bombs.
The Embraer AT-29 Super Tucano is also based on a primary trainer. Globalsecurity.org notes that the Super Tucano has wing-mounted machine guns, and can also drop 500-pound and 750-pound bombs, fire rockets, and even tow targets.
One late entry to the flyoff is the AT-802U Longsword. This is based not on a trainer, but a cropduster. According to MilitaryEdge.com, this cropduster carries just over 8,100 pounds of ordnance, and comes with two GAU-19 .50-caliber Gatling guns, so it can bring some BRRRRRT to the table.
Last, but not least, there is the Textron Scorpion. According to MilitaryFactory.com, this plane can carry 9,100 pounds of ordnance, and it is also capable of reaching a top speed of 518 miles per hour, and has a range of 2,761 miles. This plane is a bit more complex than its propeller-driven competitors, but it does offer performance.
In any case, though, it seems that these planes still don’t do what the A-10 can. Perhaps the only replacement for the Warthog will be… another Warthog. In the meantime, check out a video on the OA-X program below.
The High-Mobility Multi-Purpose Wheeled Vehicle, better known as the Humvee, is one of the most ubiquitous and iconic vehicles in military history. Between 1984 and 2012, 281,000 Humvees have been produced and the line is still running. This vehicle does everything, from evacuating the wounded to taking out enemy tanks.
But as impressive as the Humvee’s 30+ year production run is, it still only accounts for about 85 percent of the 335,531 Willys MB, better known as the jeep, manufactured in just four years. So, numbers aside, how do these versatile, wheeled vehicles stack up?
Two World War II icons on Guam: a Jeep and a M4 Sherman tank.
The Willys MB had a top speed of up to 65 miles per hour and could go 300 miles on a single tank of gas. It had a crew of two and could carry another three additional personnel. It could carry up to 800 pounds of cargo and tow 1,000 pounds. This vehicle saw action all over the world. Two major variants, the “slat” and the Sea Jeep (“Seep”) were also produced, which accounted for over 38,000 of the MB’s already-massive production total.
The HMMWV is capable of firing TOW missiles to kill enemy tanks.
The HMMWV can go as fast as 70 miles per hour. Some variants can haul nearly 5,000 pounds of cargo or eight troops. It can get as far as roughly 250 miles on a tank of diesel. The use of diesel fuel is an important detail — it’s less flammable than gasoline. The HMMWV was also capable of mounting a wide variety of weapons, including the BGM-71 TOW missile.
This Jeep is packing a 37mm gun and a .30-caliber water-cooled machine gun,
One could argue that the HMMWV is three times the vehicle than the classic Jeep. That said, one HMMWV can’t be in three places at once. So, would you rather have had three Jeeps or one HMMWV?
Before you make up your mind, watch the video below and learn a little more about the iconic World War II Jeep.
It may surprise the younger counterterrorism buffs out there to know that France maintains one of the oldest and most experienced counterterror units in the world, the Group D’Intervention de la Gendarmerie Nationale. If you don’t speak French, all you need to know is that they’re gendarmes, soldiers who can arrest you and – when asked – will come to find you outside of France to arrest you.
This is not something you want to happen to you, as some foolish terrorists found out when they seized the holiest site in Islam at gunpoint.
Islam’s version of the end of the world has a number of minor and major signs to look out for. The major part begins with the appearance of the Mahdi, Islam’s redeemer, who brings the world’s Muslim community back to the religion, helps kill the anti-Christ, and paves the way for the rule of Jesus (yes, Christianity’s Jesus, same guy) on Earth.
Over the years, many people have come forward claiming to be the Mahdi. There was Dia Abdul Zahra Kadim, the leader of an Iraqi insurgent group, killed near Najaf in 2003. The founder of the Nation of Islam, W. Fard Mohammed, claimed to be the Mahdi as many of the Nation’s followers do. Others have followers make the claim for them, like a leader of a Turkish sex cult.
“Listen, I never said I am the redeemer of Islam, I just didn’t say you were wrong to say I am.”
But no one in recent memory left quite the impression on history like Muhammad bin abd Allah al-Qahtani, who led his personal army, al-Ikhwan, to capture the Grand Mosque in Mecca at gunpoint. The Grand Mosque is home to the Kabaa, the holiest site in Islam and destination for all the world’s Islamic pilgrims, a voyage every Muslim must make once in their lifetime. There are a number of other important holy sites contained within.
And in 1979, Mohammed Abdullah al-Qahtani and an estimated 300-600 followers took it over, along with the tens of thousands of people inside. They actually let most of them go, but not before killing the poorly-armed security guards, cutting the phone lines, and sealing themselves in. They were well-armed, well-trained, and well-funded. The Saudis were going to need some help.
“I choose Pierre.”
That’s where GIGN comes in. While the truly ignorant can laugh about how “French commandos” sounds when the only history they know is from World War II, the rest of you need to know these guys wear ski masks and carry .357 Magnums as their sidearm. When the GIGN come to kill you, they want to make sure the job is done. Their training course has an astonishing 95 percent washout rate. While the US was toying with the idea of a special counterterrorism force, GIGN was probably retaking a cargo container ship somewhere.
Their job in Saudi Arabia would be no different, except they would also be training the Saudi and Pakistani special forces who would be going into the Grand Mosque with them.
Somewhere out there is a group of Pakistani commandos who pronounce “flashbang” with a little French accent. Fear those people.
The terrorists weren’t a bunch of desperate weirdos with a fundamentalist ideology. These guys were prepared to bring down the entire Saudi Kingdom while inciting other anti-Saud citizens to do the same. The terrorists immediately repelled the government’s counterattack and waited for whatever the King would throw at them next. GIGN is what came next. France sent three of their finest GIGN men who immediately began training their counterparts on how to effectively clear buildings of pesky terrorists. When the men were ready, they all prepared to storm the gates.
But there was a hitch. Muslim Saudi and Pakistani troops would be going in there alone because the Grand Mosque is forbidden to non-Muslims. Even when they’re trying to retake the mosque. Their GIGN mentors would have to sit back and wait to see how well they trained these men.
This photo of the captured militants doesn’t do justice to how well-trained they were.
Some 50 Pakistani SSG commandos and 10,000 Saudi National Guardsmen stormed the Grand Mosque after two weeks or so of being held by the terrorists. On Dec. 4, 1979, the militants were disbursed from the mosque and forced to hide about in the now-evacuated city of Mecca. The guardsmen and SSG men fared well against the terrorists, killing roughly 560 of them while others fled the scene into Mecca and the countryside, where most were captured.
After the Frenchmen left Saudi Arabia, the hubbub surrounding the Grand Mosque seizure didn’t die. Instead of crackdowns of unruly citizens, the King of Saudi Arabia opted instead to implement many the famous “sharia” laws Saudi Arabia suffered through for decades; the restrictions on women, powerful religious police, and more. Only in the 2010s has the kingdom seen a loosening of these religious laws.
A gear porn bulletin from WATM friends The Mad Duo at Breach-Bang-Clear.
We’ve got the scoop on some new blasters for you. Three of them, actually. Because today’s Thursday, and everyone knows that Thursday is good for threesomes.
Remember. At the risk of sounding orgulous, we must remind you – this is just an advisement, a public service if you will, letting you know these things exist and might be of interest. It’s no more a review, endorsement or denunciation than it is an episiotomy.
Inland Manufacturing (not Indigo Augustine) has released an M1 Carbine style blaster called the T30 Carbine, complete with “M82 Vintage Sniper Scope.” The T30 is intended to resurrect and revive interest in the WWII- and Korean War-era T3 originally fitted with the (state of the art, by contemporary standards) M3 infrared night vision optic. Inland says the new-old T3 will come fitted with a ‘period-correct’ Redfield-style scope welded to the receiver, as the optics on the original were.
The M82 Hilux scope looks correct for the period, but has been constructed to modern standards, including better guts for improved light transmission and clarity. Apparently it also has better windage and elevation capability. The T30 ships with a period-correct clamp on a conical flash hider, oiler, magazine, and sling.
Unfortunately, although the MKS Supply press release indicated the T3 had been released, it doesn’t appear to be on their website (and they did not provide a direct link to the specific product). Nor are the T3 Carbines (as of this writing) on the Inland Manufacturing website, which is apparently different than Inland Depot.
All three sites are pretty anemic and a little confusing, which is both irritating and frustrating. You might be best served just contacting them here if you want to avoid the aggravation.
Sorry, we don’t have candid imagery or lifestyle shots either. They may make great guns (we haven’t shot any yet) but their comms plan blows.
Here are the details they sent us.
Weight: 5.3 pounds without scope, 6.0 pounds with scope
Barrel length: 18 inches
Caliber: .30 Carbine
Capacity: 15 as sold (one magazine)
Stock: Walnut; low wood design
Scope: M82 sniper scope – 2 .5 power by Hilux with 7/8-inch tube
MSRP: $1,695 with Hi-Lux M82 scope and Redfield style rings
MSRP: $1,279 without scope-without rings
NOTE: The Inland T30 will also take 1-inch and 30mm Redfield rings.
2. The Bushmaster Minimalist
Bushmaster (not Bonnie Rotten) has a new rifle out, as long as we’re on the subject of irritating websites and limited information. Take a look at the BushmasterMinimalist SD. The company describes it as its “latest modern sporting rifle” — i.e. an AR with a more politically correct name — that provides “…exceptional accuracy, reliability, and performance in a rifle that is highly featured, lightweight and economical.”
It’s chambered in 5.56mm NATO or 300 AAC Blackout, and each weighs approximately 6 lbs. Interestingly, they all feature an ALG Defense trigger and Mission First Tactical furniture, which is nice.
Mission First Tactical Minimalist Stock – Comfortable and versatile with QD cup and rounded rubber buttpad
Mission First Tactical Grip and Magazine – High-quality furniture and magazine with similar styling91056 – BFI Minimalist-SD 556 Specifications
90924 – BFI Minimalist-SD 300 BO Specifications
The Bushmaster Firearms website is still under construction, so you’ll need to go to page 2 of their online catalog to get a better look at the Minimalist-SD…which you can’t order from, so you’ll have to figure out a different way to buy one if you’re so inclined (or find a distributor who has them in stock).
There’s more on their “official fan page” if you’d like to take a look. Find that here. They have an IG account (@bushmaster_firearms) but they haven’t posted anything there yet.
3. The Chiappa Little Badger rifle
The Chiappa (not Charity Bangs) Little Badger Rifle looks interesting. Now available in 17 WSM and .17HRM (both increasingly popular calibers as .22 becomes ever harder to find), the Little Badger is described as an “ultra-compact, lightweight, break-open rifle designed to go anywhere at any time.”
Seems reasonable enough.
The rifle is only 17-inches long with the action opened and weapon folded. This should make it easy to stow away in your road bag or the pouch doohickey it ships with.
“The wire frame stock keeps weight to a minimum and the integrated shell holder in the back holds twelve cartridges so ammo is always at the ready. The Little Badger comes equipped with an M1 Carbine style front and rear sight. Picatinny rails are mounted top, bottom and on both side just forward of the receiver for mounting optics and accessories. An optional handle/cleaning kit combination accessory screws into the bottom of the receiver. Compact length and weighing only 2.9lbs, the Little Badger can truly be taken almost anywhere when the situation calls for a lightweight, versatile rifle.”
The barrel of this single-shot little blaster is 16.5 inch carbon steel with six groove RH 1:16 twist, with muzzle threads at 1/2 in. -28TPI. Sights are fixed, weigh is less than three pounds and overall length is 31 inches.
Apparently there’s a cleaning kit that stows in the pistol grip too.
All the different versions of the Little Badger can be found right here…unfortunately, the new 17WSM isn’t on this website yet either, so you’ll have to just keep your eye out or check their dealers.
The 17HRM isn’t on their home page either, but it looks like it can be found on some other sites if you want to do a little digging.
About the Author: We Are The Mighty contributor Richard “Swingin’ Dick” Kilgore comes to us from our partners at BreachBangClear.com (@breachbangclear). He is one half of the most storied celebrity action figure team in the world. He believes in American Exceptionalism, holding the door for any woman and the idea that you should be held accountable for every word that comes out of your mouth. He may also be one of two nom de plumes for a veritable farrago of CAGs and FAGs (Current Action Guys and Former Action Guys). You can learn more about Swingin’ Dick right here.
When Japan was looking to replace aging F-1 fighters (dedicated anti-ship aircraft), they were thinking about an indigenous design. The F-1, based on the T-2 trainer, had done well, but it was outdated.
According to aviation historian Joe Baugher, the Japanese eventually decided to go with a modified version of the F-16C/D, giving Lockheed Martin a piece of the action.
However, Japan didn’t go with a typical F-16. They decided to give it some upgrades, and as a result, their replacement for the F-1 would emerge larger than an F-16, particularly when it came to the wings – gaining two more hardpoints than the Viper.
This allowed it to carry up to four anti-ship missiles — enough to ruin a warship’s entire day.
It was also equipped from the get-go to carry radar-guided missiles like the AIM-7 Sparrow and Japan’s AAM-4. MilitaryFactory.com notes that the F-2 was delayed by issues with the wings, and eventually sticker shock hit the program when the initial versions had a price tag of $100 million each.
In the 1990s, that was enough to truncate production at 98 total airframes, instead of the planned 140.
AirForce-Technology.com reported that F-2s deployed to Andersen Air Force Base in Guam for joint exercises in 2007. In 2011, 18 of the planes suffered damage, but most were returned to service. In 2013, the F-2s saw “action” when Russian planes flew near Japanese airspace.
For its long development and its truncated production, the F-2 has proved to be very capable. It has a top speed of 1,553 miles per hour and it carries over 17,800 pounds of ordnance.
China reportedly wants to extend its surveillance state to the South China Sea by launching satellites to watch “every reef and ship” in the contested sea.
Beginning in 2019, China will begin launching satellites to monitor the region, as well as enforce “national sovereignty,” the South China Morning Post reported Aug. 16, 2018, citing China’s state-run China News Service. Six optical satellites, two hyerspectral satellites and two radar satellites will form the Hainan satellite constellation system, creating a real-time “CCTV network in space” controlled by operators in Hainan.
“Each reef and island as well as each vessel in the South China Sea will be under the watch of the ‘space eyes,'” Yang Tianliang, director of the Chinese Academy of Sciences Sanya Institute of Remote Sensing, told SCMP. “The system will [reinforce] national sovereignty, protection of fisheries, and marine search and rescue.”
The ten new surveillance satellites will allow China to keep a close watch on disputed territories, as well as the foreign ships entering the area. The project is expected to be completed by 2021, with three optical satellites going up in the second half of 2019.
The northeastern portion of the South China Sea.
The satellites, according to Asia Times, would be able to scan the entire 3.5-million-square-kilometer waterway and create an up-to-date satellite image database within a matter of days. Beijing has apparently promised transparency, stressing that it will share information with other countries.
Beijing’s efforts to alleviate the concerns of other claimant states are unlikely to result in a sign of relief, as China has been significantly increasing its military presence in the region this year by deploying point-defense systems, jamming technology, anti-ship cruise missiles, and surface-to-air missiles to Chinese occupied territories. China’s militarization of the South China Sea resulted in the country’s expulsion from the latest iteration of the Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) naval exercises by the Pentagon.
In recent weeks, China has come under fire for issuing threats and warnings to foreign ships and planes operating in the South China Sea, an area largely upheld as international waters in a 2016 rebuke to China. “Philippine military aircraft, I’m warning you again: Leave immediately or you will bear responsibility for all the consequences,” a Chinese voice shouted over the radio recently when a Philippine aircraft flew past the Spratlys. China issued a similar warning to a US Navy plane on Aug. 10, 2018.
The incidents came just a few months after Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis accused China of “intimidation and coercion” at a security forum in Singapore.
“China has a right to take necessary steps to respond to foreign aircraft and ships that deliberately get close to or make incursions into the air and waters near China’s relevant islands and provocative actions that threaten the security of Chinese personnel stationed there,” the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement to Reuters on the matter.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
How do you make a 51-foot-long, 35-foot-wide fighter jet, with an engine that generates 43,000 pounds of thrust, vanish?
You don’t. There’s no black magic that exists to make something that big disappear.
The F-35A Lightning II isn’t invisible, but it does have a “cloak,” which makes it very difficult to detect, track, or target by radar with surface to air missiles or enemy aircraft.
The real term used to describe the cloak is “low observable” technology, and it takes skilled airmen to maintain.
“You can’t hit a target if you can’t get to it. And you can’t get to a target if you get shot down,” said Master Sgt. Francis Annett, 388th Maintenance Squadron Fabrication Flight NCOIC. “Because of the LO technology, the F-35A can fly missions most other aircraft cannot. We make sure our airmen understand how important their job is. We teach the ‘why’ as much as the ‘how.'”
Low-observable-aircraft structural maintenance airmen from the 33rd Maintenance Squadron work on an F-35A at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, Aug. 12, 2015.
(US Air Force/Senior Airman Andrea Posey)
Several things combine to provide the F-35A’s stealth — the lines and contours of the aircraft’s exterior design, the composite panels and parts that make up the body, and the radar absorbent materiel that coats the entire jet.
All of these contribute to deflecting or absorbing enemy radar and, combined with pilots’ tactics, help the F-35A survive in enemy air space.
Tech. Sgt. Edmundo Pena, 388th Maintenance Squadron Fabrication Flight, does low observable restoration on an F-35A wing tip at Hill Air Force Base, Utah, Oct. 3, 2019.
(US Air Force photo by R. Nial Bradshaw)
During flight, the exterior paint or coating of any aircraft can get worn down from friction caused by weather, dust, bugs, and the normal movement of flight surfaces.
The F-35A also has several panels that are frequently removed or opened on the flight line for routine maintenance, and there are more than 5,000 fasteners that keep body panels in place. All of these, when worn, can potentially limit the jets stealth capabilities.
Tech. Sgt. Edmundo Pena, 388th Maintenance Squadron Fabrication Flight, does low observable restoration on a F-35A wing tip at Hill Air Force Base, Utah, Oct. 3, 2019.
(US Air Force photo by R. Nial Bradshaw)
The fabrication flight team inspects and evaluates the jets’ coatings, seams and panels after each flight, looking for anything that could lead to an increased radar signature, recording any damage and prioritizing repairs across the wing’s fleet.
At work in their shop, the LO technicians work in a team, hunched intently over a long table full of composite panels and rubber seals. They wear masks and gloves, and look more like sculptors or painters than fabricators.
The old, heavy equipment used for cutting, pounding, bending and joining sheet metal for F-16 skins, lines the walls behind them, mostly unused. The machines a reminder of the difference between fourth- and fifth-generation technology.
US Air Force Airman 1st Class Evan Green, 33rd Maintenance Squadron Low Observable aircraft structural maintenance journeyman, suits up for media blasting operations, at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, Feb. 21, 2019.
(US Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Daniella Peña-Pavao)
US Air Force Tech. Sgt. Jonathan, 33rd Maintenance Squadron Low Observable Corrosion Control Section noncommissioned officer in charge, helps Airman 1st Class Evan Green, 33rd MXS LO aircraft structural maintenance journeyman, dawn a protective helmet, at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, Feb. 21, 2019.
(US Air Force/Airman 1st Class Daniella Peña-Pavao)
“I like that its detail oriented,” said Staff Sgt. Brandon Ladson, a low observable journeyman. “All the work that you put in really shows. Any mistake you make, every good thing you do, it all shows in the final product.”
The active-duty 388th FW and Air Force Reserve 419th FW are the Air Force’s only combat-capable F-35 units, working side-by-side, maintaining the jets in a Total Force partnership that utilizes the strengths of both components.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The Joint Light Tactical Vehicle, which is slated to replace the High Mobility Multi-purpose Wheeled Vehicle (HMMWV or Humvee), entered low-rate initial production this year. But while it faces the challenge of replacing an iconic vehicle (much as the HMMWV replaced the jeep), it is getting a little help from another icon, the AH-64 Apache.
Not that the HMMWV couldn’t carry some decent firepower. It has operated the M2 heavy machine gun, the Mk 19 automatic grenade launcher, and the BGM-71 Tube-launched Optically-tracked Wire-guided missile (TOW). That said, here’s its problem: The M2 and Mk 19 are more suited to take out infantry and trucks than to take on armored vehicles. Granted, even a HMMWV could carry a lot of ammo for those weapons. Using those weapons against a BMP would be like shooting an elephant with a .22.
So, the JLTV, to paraphrase an Army NCO from the 1998 version of “Godzilla,” needed a bigger gun. But what sort of gun? The JLTV couldn’t quite manage the M242 Bushmaster used on the M2/M3 Bradley or the LAV-25 and still have enough ammo and still be able to carry up to six troops. Then, the Army looked to the Apache.
At 160 pounds, the M230 cannon on the Apache is lighter than the M242 (262 pounds), but the 30mm round it fires can easily take out most light vehicles, particularly the BRDM-2, a likely opponent. The M230 can also take out a number of armored personnel carriers and infantry fighting vehicles, like the BTR-80 or BMP.
The M2 made a similar journey. While initially intended as an anti-tank weapon, Ma Deuce gained its biggest notoriety as the main armament of American fighters like the P-51, F4U, and P-38 during World War II. Even in the Korean War, it served as the primary armament for the F-86, before being displaced by 20mm cannon.
Using the M230 is also a benefit for lighter units like the 82nd Airborne Division and the 101st Air Assault Division. Since the AH-64s with those units use the M230 already, there is no need to add a new gun and all the spare parts and ammo into the supply chain for those divisions. That makes life a little easier for the valuable logistics personnel while the front-line grunts get a bit more firepower.
The Northrop T-38 Talon supersonic trainer is a legendary airplane. Any plane that has served for over fifty years in not just its intended role, but in other roles (notably as an occasional aggressor) has a very valid claim to the title of legend. But let’s face it, the T-38’s not only getting up there in years, it’s also behind the times.
At a Lockheed Martin media briefing on the T-50 program held during the AirSpaceCyber expo at National Harbor, Maryland, retired Air Force General Bill Looney, a former commander of Air Education and Training Command, noted that in 1958, his father was a lead pilot for the T-38 program. The top planes in service then were the “Century” series of jet fighters – second-generation planes like the F-100 Super Sabre and the F-102 Delta Dagger.
But today, the planes in service are the F-22 Raptor and F-35 Lightning II – and both are very different planes. As the T-38 has soldiered on, transitioning to those fighters, and even fourth-generation fighters like the F-15 Eagle, F-16 Fighting Falcon, and F/A-18 Hornet has become more and more difficult.
A joint project between Lockheed and Korean Aerospace Industries could be the answer. The T-50A, based on KAI’s FA-50 Golden Eagle, is one of three competitors that could offer the chance to not only replace the old T-38, but to radically restructure pilot training. Lockheed representatives at the briefing expressed the belief that a fair bit of lead-in fighter training, or LIFT, could be done on the T-50A, cutting the time a pilot would train in a F-16 Fighting Falcon from nine months to as little as four months.
This is a big freaking deal, to paraphrase a former Vice President. By shifting training time from the F-16 to the T-50A, this will not only reduce the flight hours on the F-16 airframes, allowing them to last longer, it would also reduce the maintenance costs for the F-16s at the 56th Fighter Wing at Luke Air Force Base. Similar reductions can also happen with training for the F-35 and F-22.
More savings could be possible because the T-50A program includes ground-based systems. Looney noted that when he learned to fly the F-15 Eagle, he had to fly eight radar intercept training sorties. With the T-50 program, that number could be reduced by doing some of the training in simulators.
The winner of this competition, whether it is the Lockheed/KAI T-50, the Leonardo/Raytheon T-100, or the Boeing/Saab T-X, could not only get sales from the United States Air Force, but would also have a leg up in replacing the Navy’s T-45 Goshawk and the T-38 used by a number of other American allies. So pay attention to this competition, folks, it will change a lot more than just the planes on the flightline. Check out this video from Lockheed on the T-50A below.
That ship was the battleship USS Nevada (BB 36). The Nevada was the lead ship in her class, the other being USS Oklahoma (BB 37). According to the Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships, when she was built, she had ten 14-inch guns (two triple turrets, two double turrets), 21 five-inch guns (many in casemates), and four 21-inch torpedo tubes.
The Nevada did not see much action at all (although nine sailors died from the influenza pandemic that hit in 1918) in World War I. In the 1920s and 1930s, she carried out normal peacetime operations.
On Dec. 7, 1941, she was moored alone on Battleship Row. When Kido Butai launched the sneak attack on Oahu, the battleship was hit by a torpedo, but her crew managed to get her engines running, and she made a break for the open ocean.
As she did so, the second wave from the six Japanese carriers arrived. The Nevada took anywhere from six to ten bomb hits, and the decision was made to run her aground.
The Nevada suffered 50 dead and over 100 wounded, but Pearl Harbor would claim two more casualties. In “Pearl Harbor: Why, How, Fleet Salvage and Final Appraisal,” it was reported that two men were killed by hydrogen sulfide on Feb. 7, 1942, while working to salvage the Nevada.
Nevada would return to Puget Sound for permanent repairs and refitting, gaining a new dual-purpose batter of eight twin five-inch gun mounts. She took part in operations to re-take the Aleutian Islands of Attu and Kiska from the Japanese, then she went to the Atlantic.
On June 6, 1944, she was part of the armada that took part in Operation Overlord, and continued to provide fire support until American troops moved further inland. In August of that year, she took part in Operation Dragoon, the landings in southern France.
She then returned to the Pacific, taking part in the invasions of Iwo Jima and Okinawa. Off Okinawa, she suffered damage from a kamikaze and from Japanese shore batteries.
The ship remained mission-capable, and she would later return to Pearl Harbor for repairs before re-joining the fleet to prepare for the invasion of Japan, stopping to pay a visit to a bypassed Japanese-held island.
After Japan surrendered, the Nevada was sent back to the West Coast, and prepared for Operation Crossroads. Painted a bright orange color to serve as an aiming point for the B-29 crew assigned to drop an atomic bomb, she got lucky.
According to the book “Final Voyages,” the B-29 crew missed her by about a mile — and she survived both the Able and Baker tests. She was later used as a target and sunk, with the final blow being an aerial torpedo according to the Naval Vessel Register.
As the United States shifts its posture away from ongoing counter-terror operations and back toward great power competition with nations like China, the U.S. is being forced to reassess it’s aircraft carrier force projection strategy. If U.S. carriers find themselves on the sideline for such a conflict, it may be worth revisiting the idea of a different kind of aircraft carrier: the flying kind.
China’s arsenal of hypersonic anti-ship missiles have created an area denial bubble that would prevent American carriers from sailing close enough to Chinese shores to launch sorties, effectively neutering America’s ability to conduct offensive operations against the Chinese mainland. Without the ability to leverage the U.S. Navy’s attack aircraft, combat operations in the Pacific would be extremely difficult. It is, however, possible (though potentially impractical) to develop and deploy flying aircraft carriers for such a conflict–the United States has even experimented with the concept a number of times in the past, and is continuing to pursue the idea today.
Gremlins air vehicle during a flight test at Dugway Proving Ground, Utah, November 2019 (DARPA)
DARPA’s Gremlins Program
The most recent iteration of a flying aircraft carrier comes from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA, and has seen testing successes as recently as January of this year.
In January, DARPA successfully launched a Dynetics’ X-61A Gremlin UAV from the bay of a Lockheed Martin C-130A cargo aircraft. The program is aiming to demonstrate the efficacy of low-cost combat-capable drones that can be both deployed and recovered from cargo planes. DARPA envisions using cargo planes like the C-130 to deploy these drones while still outside of enemy air defenses; allowing the drones to go on and engage targets before returning to the airspace around the “mother ship” to be recaptured and carried home for service or repairs.
The test showed that a drone could be deployed by the C-130, but the drone itself was ultimately destroyed when its parachute failed to open after the completion of an hour-and-a-half flight. A subsequent test that would include drone capture was slated for the spring of this year, but has likely been delayed to due to the outbreak of COVID-19.
Between the success of this test and other drone wingman programs like Skyborg, the concept of a flying aircraft carrier has seen a resurgence in recent years, and may potentially finally become a common facet of America’s air power.
The plan to turn a Boeing 747 into a flying aircraft carrier
The Boeing 747 has already secured its place in the pantheon of great aircraft, from its immense success as a passenger plane to its varied governmental uses like being a taxi for the Space Shuttle or as a cargo aircraft. The 747 has proven itself to be an extremely capable aircraft for a wide variety of applications, so it seemed logical when, in the 1970s, the U.S. Air Force began experimenting with the idea of converting one of these large aircraft into a flying aircraft carrier full of “parasite” fighters that could be deployed, and even recovered, in mid-air.
Boeing AAC design sketch
Initial plans called for using the massive cargo aircraft Lockeed C-5 Galaxy, but as Boeing pointed out at the time, the 747 actually offered superior range and endurance when flying with a full payload. According to Boeing’s proposal, the 747 could be properly equipped to carry as much as 883,000 pounds.
Sketch of a micro-fighter inside the 747 fuselage.
The idea behind the Boeing 747 AAC (Airborne Aircraft Carrier) was simple in theory, but incredibly complex in practice. Boeing would specially design and build fighter aircraft that were small enough to be housed within the 747, along with an apparatus that would allow the large plane to carry the fighters a long distance, drop them where they were needed to fight, and then recover them once again.
This graphic from Boeing’s proposal shows different potential flying aircraft carrier platforms and their respective ranges. (Boeing)
Boeing’s 60-page proposal discusses the ways such a program could be executed, but lagging questions remained regarding the fuel range of a 747 carrying such a heavy payload and about how the fighters would fare in a combat environment. Previous flying aircraft carrier concepts showed that the immense turbulence from large aircraft (and their jet engines) made it extremely difficult to manage the fighters they would drop, especially as they attempted to return to the aircraft after a mission.
Potential “micro-fighter” design (Boeing)
Further concerns revolved around how well these miniature “parasite” fighters would fare against the top-of-the-line Soviet fighters they would conceivable be squaring off with.
Ultimately, the proposal never made it off the page — but it did establish one important point for further discussion on this topic. According to the report, Boeing found the concept of a flying aircraft carrier to be “technically feasible” using early 1970’s technology. Technically feasible, it’s important to note, however, is not the same as financially feasible.
The insane Lockheed CL-1201: A massive, nuclear-powered flying aircraft carrier
The Skunkworks at Lockheed Martin have been responsible for some of the most incredible aircraft ever to take flight, from the high-flying U-2 Spy Plane to the fastest military jet ever, the SR-71. But even those incredible aircraft seem downright plain in comparison to Lockheed’s proposal to build an absolutely massive, nuclear powered, flying aircraft carrier–the CL-1201.
The proposal called for an aircraft that weighed 5,265 tons. In order to get that much weight aloft, the design included a 1,120 foot wingspan, with a fuselage that would measure 560 feet (or about two and a half times that of a 747). It would have been 153 feet high, making it stand as tall as a 14-story building. According to Lockheed, they could put this massive bird in the sky using just four huge turbofan engines which would be powered by regular jet fuel under 16,000 feet, where it would then switch to nuclear power courtesy of its on-board reactor. The flying aircraft carrier could then stay aloft without refueling for as long as 41 days, even while maintaining a high subsonic cruising speed of Mach 0.8 at around 30,000 feet.
The giant aircraft would carry a crew of 845 and would be able to deploy 22 multirole fighters from docking pylons installed on the wings. It also would maintain a small internal hangar bay for repairs and aircraft service while flying. Unsurprisingly, this design didn’t make it past the proposal stage, but the concept itself stands as a historical anomaly that continues to inspire renewed attention to this day.
Convair GRB-36F in flight with Republic YRF-84F (S/N 49-2430). (U.S. Air Force photo)
The B-36 Peacemaker
This massive bomber weighed in at an astonishing 410,000 pounds when fully loaded with fuel and ordnance (thanks to its large fuel reserves and 86,000 weapon capacity). Development of the B-36 began in 1941, thanks to a call for an aircraft that was capable of taking off from the U.S., bombing Berlin with conventional or atomic ordnance, and returning without having to refuel. By the time the B-36 made it into the air, however, World War II had already been over for more than a year.
The B-36 had a massive wingspan. At 230 feet, the wings of the Peacemaker dwarf even the B-52’s 185-foot wingspan. In its day, it was one of the largest aircraft ever to take to the sky. Despite it’s incredible capabilities, the B-36 never once flew an operational mission, but the massive size and range of the platform prompted the Air Force to consider its use as a flying aircraft carrier, using Republic YRF-84F Ficon “parasitic” fighters as the bomber’s payload.
The YRF-84F flying underneath its B-36 carrier aircraft. FICON modifications included installing a hook in front of the cockpit and turning down the horizontal tail so it could partially fit into the B-36 bomb bay. (U.S. Air Force photo)
The idea was similar to that of the later proposal from Boeing, carrying the fighters internally to extend their operational range and then deploying them via a lowering boom, where they could serve as protection for the bomber, reconnaissance assets, or even execute offensive operations of their own before returning to the B-36 for recovery.
View of the YRF-84F from inside the B-36 — the pilot could enter and exit the cockpit from within the bomber. (U.S. Air Force photo)
The U.S. Air Force ultimately did away with the concept thanks to the advent of mid-air refueling, which dramatically increased the operational range of all varieties of aircraft and made a flying aircraft carrier concept a less cost effective solution.
USS Macon (ZRS-5) Flying over New York Harbor, circa Summer 1933. (U.S. Navy)
Using rigid airships as flying aircraft carriers
Although we very rarely see rigid inflatable airships in service to national militaries today, things were much different in the early 20th century. Count Ferdinand von Zeppelin’s airships (dubbed “Zeppelins”) were proving themselves to be a useful military platform thanks to their fuel efficiency, range, and heavy payload capabilities. These massive airships were not only cost-effective, their gargantuan size also offered an added military benefit: their vast looming presence could be extremely intimidating to the enemy.
However, as you may have already guessed, it was that vast presence that also created the rigid airship’s massive weakness: it was susceptible to being shot down by even the simplest of enemy aircraft. England was the first nation to try to offset this weakness by building an apparatus that could carry and deploy three Sopwith Camel biplanes beneath the ship’s hull. They ultimately built four of these 23-class Vickers rigid airships, but all were decommissioned by the 1920s. The U. S. Navy’s Bureau of Aeronautics took notice of the concept, however, and set about construction on its own inflatable airships, with both the USS Akron (ZRS-4) and USS Macon (ZRS-5) serving as flying aircraft carriers.
The USS Akron in flight, November 1931 (U.S. Navy)
The airships were built with an apparatus that could not only deploy F9C-2 Curtiss Sparrowhawk biplanes, they could also recover them once again mid-flight. The airships and aircraft fell under the Navy’s banner, and the intent was to use the attached bi-planes for both reconnaissance (ship spotting) and defense, but not necessarily for offensive operations.
USS Akron (ZRS-4) Launches a Consolidated N2Y-1 training plane (Bureau # A8604) during flight tests near Naval Air Station Lakehurst, New Jersey, 4 May 1932. (U.S. Navy)
The biplanes were stored in hangars on the airship that measured approximately 75′ long x 60′ wide x 16′ high — or big enough to service 5 biplanes internally.
Sparrowhawk scout/fighter aircraft on its exterior rigging (U.S. Navy)
After lackluster performance in a series of Naval exercises, the Akron would crash on April 4, 1933, killing all 76 people on board. Just weeks later, on April 21, its sister ship, the USS Macon, would take its first flight. Two years later, it too would crash, though only two of its 83 crew members would die.
It’s no secret that some of the brightest brains in the country are working around the clock to make our military stronger, faster, and safer. Here’s a sneak peak at some of the latest toys these geniuses are working on (the ones we can tell you about, at least).
The story of the M1014 is fascinating. The Marine Corps rarely gets to be the lead on a joint service project. The small size and limited resources of the Marine Corps often make them second to the Army when it comes to searching out new small arms. However, in 1998 the USMC got their opportunity, and as the Marine Corps tends to do, they charged forward, ready to deliver the best possible option.
The U.S. Army Armaments Research, Developments, and Engineering Center, aka ARDEC, put out the solicitation for a new semi-automatic combat shotgun. The Marine Corps was tapped to lead the project and quickly developed a set of requirements. Benelli, an Italian shotgun firm well known for its shotguns, submitted their newly developed M4 shotgun.
The USMC put the gun through the wringer, and the M4 proved successful. The M1014 killed it and won the competition. Subsequently, the Marines order 20,000 of them.
Enter The M1014
The Benelli M4 became the M1014 Joint Service Shotgun. Shotguns in the military were traditionally manually operated designs. With these other shotguns, troops have to manually operate a pump-action between shots. The Benelli M1014 changed the game by being a semi-auto design.
Like the rifles issued to troops, the weapon fired once per trigger pull and did not require a manual action between shots. The M1014 did not fully replace pump-action shotguns in military inventories but augmented it. A pump-action shotgun can handle less-lethal loads due to the manual operation. These less lethal shells are not powerful enough to cycle the semi-automatic M1014.
The M1014 is a pure combat shotgun designed for fighting in close quarter’s situations. Benelli built the M1014 from the ground up to meet the Marine Corps requirements. Marines wanted a shotgun that could reliably function and work with various optics and attachments. Benelli’s previous shotguns, the M1, M2, and M3, were inertia-operated.
Inertia-based guns are fascinating and are very capable weapons. Inertia-based guns fail when users start adding weight in the form of optics, accessories, and so forth and so on. Gas-based guns, like the M1014, are not affected by the addition of weight.
Gas-based shotguns existed before the M1014, but and Benelli did things differently. Benelli invented the ARGO gas system for the M4 series guns. ARGO stands for auto regulating gas system. As the name implies, the ARGO system automatically adjusts to varying power levels and lengths.
Gas drives two stainless steel pistons to operate the action. These pistons drive the bolt rearward and eject the fired shell, cock the hammer, and loads the next round.
Trial By Fire
The M1014 hit the fleet in 1999, and two short years later, the Global War on Terror kicked off. Marines deployed with a wide variety of weapons, and the M1014 was one of them. Pictures from the GWOT started showing the M1014 in action. Shotguns rule close-range fighting, so they are somewhat niche.
Troops often carry a rifle and shotgun, something I did when issued a Mossberg 590A1. In the Battle of Fallujah, shotguns cleared rooms, breached doors, and worked checkpoints.
The United States isn’t the only user of the M4 shotgun. The SAS also issue the weapon, and famously the gun eliminated five ISIS insurgents in mere seconds. The SAS partnered with MI6, and Iraqi Special Operation pulled off an early morning raid on a bomb-making factory. The pointman entered and quickly took down five armed insurgents.
Shotguns in close quarters absolutely dominate. Semi-automatic shotguns dominate close-quarters combat, and while that role is small, it’s important. The Benelli design has proven to be extremely popular and more than capable in that role.
How It Handles
As a Marine, I only handled the M1014 as a familiarization exercise. The Corps gave me a Mossberg 590A1, and the M1014 was a pipe dream. However, I’m a free man and a gun nerd, so I did the American thing and purchased one.
You can read all about a piece of gear, but until you experience it’s tough to grasp. That’s especially true with the Benelli M4/M1014. Once you handle the gun you know why the USMC chose it.
Firing a shotgun means getting a beating most of the time. However, the gas-operated design reduces recoil significantly. Firing accurate and fast follow-up shots is boringly simple. That’s critical for close quarter’s battle scenarios that rely on speed and decisive action.
The ARGO system allows for reliable operation that’s not ammo picky and does require constant cleaning. It can take a real beating and not be fouled by dust, carbon, and whatever else the world throws at it. Semi-auto shotguns are ammo picky and often unreliable in harsh conditions. The M1014 changed that perception and became the king of combat shotguns.
The M1014 has been successful now for more than two decades. Deployment of the M1014 is rare, but when it’s needed, there is no better option. The Marines do most things well, and the M1014 exemplifies that.