Vought 1600: The plan to put the F-16 on America's carriers - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TACTICAL

Vought 1600: The plan to put the F-16 on America’s carriers

The F-16 Fighting Falcon has been the U.S. Air Force’s workhorse fighter for more than forty years, and at one point, it looked like a carrier-capable version would do the same for the U.S. Navy.

More than 4,600 F-16s have rolled out off the assembly line since it first took to the sky in 1974, and even amid this era of stealthy supercomputers like the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, the F-16 force remains the backbone of America’s air dominance. With some 1,245 of the fighter still in operation under the Air Force’s banner, the F-16’s broad multi-role capabilities and sheer performance make it one of the world’s top fighter jets, despite being old enough to have seen the original “Star Wars” in theaters.

Vought 1600: The plan to put the F-16 on America’s carriers
Still pretty spry for a bird in its 40s. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Today, F-16s fly for the United States, Israel, Pakistan, Turkey, Egypt, the Netherlands, Norway, Belgium, and more… but the most surprising place this highly capable 4th generation fighter may have ended up is on the deck of America’s supercarriers. Shortly after the F-16 won the Air Force’s new Air Combat Fighter (ACF) contract in 1975, then-Secretary of Defense James Schlesinger pushed the U.S. Navy to adopt the new fighter as well.

The F-16 had performed well in its pursuit of the Air Force contract, and if the Navy could also find use for the Fighting Falcon, Schlesinger reasoned, the Defense Department could procure the jet in higher numbers and streamline logistics for both branches.

This line of thinking, of course, would eventually lead to the acquisition nightmare that has been the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, which was also intended to be a single fighter platform that could meet the disparate needs of the Air Force, Navy, and Marine Corps, as well as foreign buyers. The F-16, then, could have become a similar boondoggle (or maybe proven the concept sound) if the Vought Model 1600, or carrier-capable F-16, had ever made it into service.

Precursors to the F-16 and F/A-18 squared off more than once

Vought 1600: The plan to put the F-16 on America’s carriers
A right-side view of a YF-16 (foreground) and a Northrop YF-17, each armed with AIM-9 Sidewinder missiles. (U.S. Navy photo by R.L. House)

In order for the YF-16 to find its destiny as the Air Force’s workhorse fighter, it first had to contend with stiff competition in the form of Northrop’s YF-17. The YF-17 was a lightweight prototype fighter first designed to serve as a lower-cost alternative to America’s most dominant air superiority fighter in the modern era, the F-15 Eagle. In the minds of military leaders, the large, powerful, and expensive F-15 brought more power to bear than was really necessary for many combat operations, and as such, a cheaper but still highly capable jet could complement America’s fleet of Eagles by assuming those lower stakes roles.

Ultimately, the YF-16 would outperform the Northrop’s YF-17 in testing oriented specifically toward the Air Force’s needs, but it wouldn’t be the last time these two highly-capable platforms would find themselves competing over a contract. In fact, as the Navy mulled over the idea of converting the F-16 for carrier use, it once again found stiff competition in the form of Northrop’s YF-17.

Vought 1600: The plan to put the F-16 on America’s carriers

Neither General Dynamics (the maker of the F-16) nor Northrop (who made the YF-17) had ever built a carrier-fighter before. With a lucrative contract on the line, both firms sought out partners with carrier-aircraft experience. General Dynamics teamed up with Vought to convert their new F-16 Fighting Falcon into the Vought Model 1600, and Northrop paired off with McDonnell Douglas to improve upon their YF-17 design.

The new iterations of both of these fighters had to place a larger emphasis on the Navy’s primary needs at the time: Namely, long-range radar capabilities for intercept missions and multi-role capabilities to support the sort of air-to-ground combat operations America has come to leverage heavily throughout the past few decades.

Making the F-16 into the Vought 1600

Vought 1600: The plan to put the F-16 on America’s carriers
An artist’s rendering of the Vought 1600, which removed Sidewinder pylons for the folding mechanism in the wings for carrier storage. (U.S. Navy)

It seems counterintuitive today, with the F-16 so expertly filling the role of an attack aircraft as well as a fighter, but the original concept behind the F-16 was to create a no-frills fighter built to do nothing but dominate the skies. Its designers at General Dynamics, internally known as the “Lightweight Fighter Mafia,” sought to keep the “gold-plating” they believed common in new fighter programs away from their new jet. “Gold-plating,” in their minds, including a number of things we now think of as practically standard in a 4th or 5th generation fighter, like fire control radar, electronic countermeasures for flying in highly contested airspace, radar-guided missiles, and–perhaps most importantly–ground attack capabilities.

By the time the F-16A began to emerge, it would have some of that gold-plating the “Lightweight Fighter Mafia” so disdained, like an AN/APG-66 radar and some intrinsic ground-attack capabilities. It still lacked radar-guided air-to-air weapons, forgoing them in favor of the heat-seeking Sidewinder missile. These additions made the F-16 a better candidate for the Navy’s needs than it would have been as originally imagined, but it still didn’t quite fit the bill.

Vought 1600: The plan to put the F-16 on America’s carriers
(Vought Aircraft)

In order to meet the needs of the Navy, the Vought 1600 was larger than the F-16A, stretching some three feet longer, with a 33-foot 3-inch wingspan that was a full two feet broader than the Air Force’s version of the fighter. The breadth of the wings grew, covering a total of 269 feet and giving the aircraft better stability at lower speeds. The fuselage was flattened a bit and made broader, and its canopy was designed to pivot forward, which was different from the F-16, but can now be found on the F-35.

In order to withstand carrier landings, heavier duty landing gear had to be affixed to the Vought 1600’s belly, alongside the standard carrier equipment like a landing hook. The fuselage itself was made stronger and in order to offer the engagement range the Navy needed, a pulse-doppler radar for beyond visual range targeting was also added.

All told, the structural changes needed to make the F-16 into the Vought 1600 added more than 3,000 pounds to the aircraft. Further changes were made to the fuselage and wings as subsequent iterations of the Vought 1600 came to fruition. The V-1602, for instance, had even more wing area at 399 square feet, and was given a heavier GE F101 engine.

For the YF-17, the second time was a charm

Vought 1600: The plan to put the F-16 on America’s carriers
(U.S. Air Force photo)

Despite the changes made to the F-16 to meet the Navy’s needs, the combined General Dynamics/Vought effort would ultimately lose out to Northrop and McDonnell Douglas’ YF-17, which would later come to be known as the F/A-18 Hornet, and its own successor, the Block II Super Hornet.

The YF-17 may not have cut it for the Air Force, but the Navy saw promise in a scaled-up version of the fighter, thanks to its superior range, and likely, safety.

Vought 1600: The plan to put the F-16 on America’s carriers
Size comparison of the YF-17, F/A-18A and F/A-18F (WikiMedia Commons)

The Vought 1600’s low-lying intake located just above the nose-wheel was considered a real risk on the flight deck of a Navy carrier, as it could literally suck unsuspecting sailors straight into it. This wasn’t the first time Vought faced this sort of criticism, as the pilot-favorite Vought F-8 Crusader’s large, low intake had already earned it the nickname “the Gator,” because of its tenacity for gobbling up sailors.

Vought 1600: The plan to put the F-16 on America’s carriers
The F-8’s low-slung intake scoop earned it the nickname, “The Gator,” thanks its propensity for swallowing up Sailors. (U.S. Navy photo)

Importantly, the F-16’s lightweight design and lack of radar-specific weapons made it poorly suited for all-weather operations like intercepting fighters or bombers en route to a carrier strike group.

“I pointed out that the F-16 carried only AIM-9 Sidewinder air-to-air missiles and they were clear-air-mass missiles. In clouds, a radar missile like the AIM-7 Sparrow III was required,” former Chief of Naval Operations Adm. James L. Holloway explains in his book, “Aircraft Carriers at War: A Personal Retrospective of Korea, Vietnam, and the Soviet Confrontation.

“This capability, with the necessary radar guidance system and heavier pylons, had been incorporated into the F-18 design, but the F-16 would not accommodate an all-weather missile system without extensive redesign and added weight.”

However, according to Holloway’s book, Defense Secretary James Schlesinger was still dead set on pushing the Vought 1600 onto the Navy. In order to settle the debate once and for all, Schlesinger invited Admiral Holloway to his office to discuss the Navy’s next fighter. Despite Schlesinger telling Holloway that his office was too small to bring more than two of his subordinates to the discussion, Holloway walked into the Secretary of Defense’s office to find more than a dozen people waiting for him. Schlesinger ambushed the admiral, keen to use his superior numbers to push the Vought 1600 onto the Navy.

Vought 1600: The plan to put the F-16 on America’s carriers

Holloway stood firm, however, highlighting the concern of his engineers that the Vought 1600 was apt to bang its engine on the flight deck during carrier landings, which could cause damage to both the deck and the aircraft. When the men gathered in Schlesinger’s office argued that problems like that could be mitigated with better pilot technique, Holloway grew frustrated. Clearly, anyone peaching about improved pilot technique to offset a fighter’s design shortcomings had never attempted to land on the pitching deck of an aircraft carrier that was barely visible against a seemingly endless backdrop of stormy seas during nighttime operations.

The YF-17 also offered a second engine, which could mean the difference between getting a jet back to its carrier or having to dump it in the sea if anything went wrong with one of them.

The Vought 1600 misses the boat

Vought 1600: The plan to put the F-16 on America’s carriers

Ultimately, it may have been the intended weapons for each platform that became the deciding factor. Because the F-16’s design wouldn’t accommodate an all-weather missile system without extensive modifications, the Vought 1600 may have been able to manage carrier operations, but still wouldn’t meet the exacting needs of the branch.

Of course, the F-16 would eventually gain the very capabilities it lacked at the time, both in the form of Sparrow missiles and eventually AMRAAMs. Had similar capabilities been a part of the Vought 1600’s pitch, we may not have seen the nearly four decades’ worth of service out of the Hornet and Super Hornet family that we have. Instead, the Navy would have been flying F-16s alongside F-14 Tomcats off of their flattops, and the Super Hornet would be another what-if fighter in the annals of military history.

Vought 1600: The plan to put the F-16 on America’s carriers
(U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Matthew Lotz)

Of course, the Vought 1600 wasn’t the only legendary American fighter that very nearly found its way into Uncle Sam’s carrier fleet. At one point, a significantly upgraded iteration of the F-117 Nighthawk nearly found its way into Naval service. And just a few years later, a similar effort almost placed F-22 Raptors on the Navy’s flight decks.

This article originally appeared on Sandboxx. Follow Sandboxx on Facebook.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This was the ‘helicopter destroyer’ that might have been

The Spruance-class destroyer USS Hayler (DD 997) served for 20 years before she was sunk during a training exercise.


During that time, she was a standard Spruance-class vessel. This meant she had two five-inch guns, an octuple Mk 29 launcher for the RIM Sea Sparrow missile, a Mk 16 Mod 1 launcher for the RUR-5 Anti-Submarine Rocket, two Mk 15 Phalanx Close-in Weapon Systems, two triple Mk 32 torpedo tube mounts, and space for two SH-2 or SH-60 helicopters (which could swapped out for a single SH-3).

Vought 1600: The plan to put the F-16 on America’s carriers
Japanese Maritime Self Defense Ship JS Haruna (DD 141) arrives at Naval Station Pearl Harbor for this year’s Rim of the Pacific Exercise (RIMPAC). Haruna had similar armament to baseline Spruance-class destroyers and could carry up to three Sea King anti-submarine helicopters. (US Navy photo)

But the Hayler could have been very different. In fact, when ordered, Congress had actually given the Navy a choice: Hayler would either be built by herself as the 31st and last Spruance-class destroyer, or the Navy could get both Hayler and an unnamed sister ship as the lead vessels of a new class of helicopter destroyers.

Vought 1600: The plan to put the F-16 on America’s carriers
The decommissioned destroyer Hayler (DD 997) takes fire from a 57mm Bofors gun aboard the Canadian Halifax-class multi-role patrol frigate HMCS Ville De Quebec (F 332), during a Sink Exercise conducted 300 miles off the East Coast of the United States. (Photo courtesy Canadian Navy)

At the time Congress gave the Navy the choice, Japan had brought the Haruna-class helicopter destroyers into service. Haruna and Hiei, both named after Kongo-class battlecruisers, had a similar armament suit to the baseline Spruance-class destroyers.  The big difference: The Japanese vessels could carry up to three HSS-2 anti-submarine helicopters, a locally manufactured variant of the Sikorsky SH-3 Sea King.

Vought 1600: The plan to put the F-16 on America’s carriers
USS Little Rock (LCS 9), seen here during her December 2017 commissioning, is currently stuck in ice on the Great Lakes. (U.S. Navy photo courtesy of Lockheed Martin)

Litton-Ingalls had done some of the basic design work and had modified the Spruance design to carry up to four SH-60 Seahawk helicopters. However, the Navy chose not to buy the new design and decided to just build the Hayler. With the struggles that the littoral combat ship has faced, including breakdowns and one being stuck in ice, perhaps a modified Spruance-class destroyer with four helicopters would have been an excellent choice for the Navy. We’ll never know.

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Russia claims its newest fighter will fight in space

While much of the world’s attention is focused on Russia’s push for a fifth-generation fighter, the PAK-FA or Sukhoi Su-57, much less attention is being paid to another design bureau – Mikoyan-Gurevich, better known as MiG (as in the plane whose parts get distributed forcefully by the Air Force or Navy). What have they been up to, besides developing the MiG-29K?


Well, according to The National Interest, to meet Russia’s PAK-DA requirement, MiG is trying to develop a for-real version of the X-wing fighter from Star Wars or the Colonial Viper from either iteration of Battlestar Galactica. The plane is called the MiG-41, and it is a successor to the MiG-31 Foxhound, which succeeded the MiG-25 Foxbat.

Vought 1600: The plan to put the F-16 on America’s carriers
Photo: Wikimedia

The MiG-25 and MiG-31 were both known for their speed. According to MilitaryFactory.com, the MiG-25 was capable of hitting Mach 3.2, almost as fast as the SR-71 Blackbird. Its primary armament was the AA-6 Acrid, which came in radar-guided and heat-seeking versions. The Foxbat was exported to a number of counties, including Libya, Iraq, and Syria. Some claim that it scored an air-to-air kill against a Navy F/A-18 Hornet in Desert Storm.

The MiG-31 was an upgraded version. According to MilitaryFactory.com, it was about 300 miles per hour slower than the MiG-25, but it featured a much more powerful radar and the AA-9 Amos missile. The Foxhound is still in service, and Russia relies on it to counter the threat of America’s bombers.

Vought 1600: The plan to put the F-16 on America’s carriers
The Foxbat is a scream machine, speed-wise, and has been clocked hauling at over Mach 3.

The MiG-41, though, will be a huge leap upwards and forwards. Russian media claims that this new interceptor will be “hypersonic” (with a top speed of 4,500 kilometers per hour), and will carry hypersonic missiles.

You can see a video discussing this new plane below. Do you think this plane will live up to the hype, or will it prove to be very beatable, as past Soviet/Russian systems have?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3JCswDTmMhg
MIGHTY TACTICAL

This is Russia’s 50-year-old squad automatic weapon

With the adoption of the M27 Infantry Automatic Rifle by the United States Marine Corps, the Marines have replaced the M249 Squad Automatic Weapon.

What’s especially handy about the new M27 IAR is that it can use the same 30-round magazines used by M4 and M16 rifles. In fact, it looks very similar to the M4 and M16, too. Russia, though, has had a similar dynamic in operation for over five decades with the Ruchnoi Pulemyot Kalashnikova, often called the RPK for brevity’s sake.


Vought 1600: The plan to put the F-16 on America’s carriers

U.S. Marine Cpl. Chris P. Duane (right) receives assistance from an Romanian soldier in clearing a Russian RPK squad automatic rifle during the weapons familiarization phase of Exercise Rescue Eagle 2000 at Babadag Range, Romania, on July 15, 2000.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. David W. Richards)

The RPK replaced the RPD light machine gun in Soviet service starting in 1964. The original version fired the 7.62x39mm round used in the AK-47 assault rifle and the SKS carbine.

Vought 1600: The plan to put the F-16 on America’s carriers

The AK-74 (top) and the RPK-74. Note the longer barrel and bipod on the RPK.

(DOD)

The biggest difference between the RPK and the AK-47 is the length of the barrel. The AK-47’s barrel is about 16.34 inches long — the RPK’s barrel is about eight inches longer. Despite this, the RPK shares many common parts with the AK and can readily accept the 30-round magazines used by the assault rifle classic.

The RPK has been upgraded over the years, equipped with night vision sights and polymer furniture, which replaced the wood used on older versions. When the Soviet Union replaced the AK-47 and ALKM with the AK-74 (which fired a 5.45x39mm round), the RPK was replaced with the RPK-74, maintaining a common round. Newer versions of the RPK for the export market are chambered for the 5.56x45mm NATO round. A semi-auto version, the Century Arms C39RPK, is available for civilian purchase today.

The RPK has seen action in conflicts around the world, starting with the Vietnam War, and still sees action in Iraq and Afghanistan, among other places. Even though it has seen over 50 years of service, the RPK likely has a lengthy career ahead of it with militaries — and insurgent groups — around the world.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Russian ‘Flankers’ take off from the saddest carrier on the ocean

Russian Aircraft Corporation MiG has faded from its glory days, when it produced many front-line fighters for the Soviet Union. Arturo Mikoyan and Mikhail Gurevich, co-founders of the design bureau, helped usher in a number of aviation classics, like the MiG-21 Fishbed (11,496 built by the Soviets, plus 2,450 J-7s produced by Communist China).


Sukhoi, another major Russian aircraft manufacturer, responsible primarily for attack planes like the Su-17/20/22 Fitter and the Su-24 Fencer, ended up stealing the show by developing the Su-27 Flanker, which proved to be a better fighter. In this case, ‘better’ means being shot down less often. The Su-27 has demonstrated some superb maneuverability at slower speeds, able to perform demanding, acrobatic maneuvers, like the Pugachev Cobra.

Vought 1600: The plan to put the F-16 on America’s carriers
The Pugachev Cobra illustrated. (Graphic from Wikimedia Commons)

Such precise control is key for taking off from and landing on carriers. The naval version of the Su-27, the Su-33 “Flanker D,” was designed to do just that and first flew in 1987. The Su-33, like the Su-27, is equipped with the AA-10 “Alamo” semi-active radar-guided missile, the AA-11 “Archer” all-aspect heat-seeking missile, and the AA-12 “Adder” radar-guided missile. It also packs a 30mm cannon with 150 rounds. This plane has a top speed of 1,553 miles per hour and a maximum range of 2,287 miles.

Vought 1600: The plan to put the F-16 on America’s carriers
An Su-33 on the deck of the Admiral Kuznetsov. (U.S. Navy photo)

The Su-33 made its combat debut over Syria in 2016. The Russian Navy sent the aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov to support the regime of Syrian President Bashir al-Assad. The plane didn’t fly combat from the Kuznetsov, but instead operated from land bases. In fact, one was lost in a splash landing while trying to land on the carrier.

Vought 1600: The plan to put the F-16 on America’s carriers
A J-15 Flanker takes off from the Liaoning. (Wikimedia Commons)

Despite a relatively tame debut in Syria, the capability of the Su-33 is a worldwide affair. China is currently producing a version of this fighter, called the J-15 Flanker. This lightly modified jet operates off the Liaoning, a Kuznetsov-class carrier. The Chinese are currently building a copy of the Liaoning, and have plans for other, larger carriers that will most certainly operate J-15s.

Learn more about Russia’s carrier-based fighter in the video below:

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rJ8LXLzZbtk
(New Update Defence | YouTube)
Articles

This is why you don’t challenge an ex-sniper to a duel

That satisfying “Ping!” of bullets on target is as regular as a metronome when former Green Beret sniper, Aaron Barruga, is running tactical marksmanship drills on his home turf in Santa Clarita, CA. With his company, Guerrilla Approach, Barruga trains civilians, military, and law enforcement in proper and effective tactical firearm deployment.

The man does not miss.


“Oscar Mike” host Ryan Curtis paid a visit to Barruga’s training facility to bone up on his sharpshooting and found himself in good hands, drilling shoulder to shoulder with this veteran entrepreneurial success story. Barruga’s advice?

“I would definitely say that, if they have the opportunity, use that G.I. Bill. Get that piece of paper that says, “I’m smart and employable.” And just grind away, basically. You gotta hustle.”

As the day progresses, the sweat beading on Ryan’s brow is a testament to his hustle, if not his dead shot accuracy. And when he challenges Barruga to an Old West-style duel, our host quickly learns what high noon looks like at the Less-than-OK Corral.

Vought 1600: The plan to put the F-16 on America’s carriers
Mommy? (Go90 Oscar Mike screenshot)

Watch as Barruga makes plinking targets look easy, and Curtis proves his monkey is definitely the drunkest, in the video embedded at the top.

Watch more Oscar Mike:

This Iraq vet kayaker will make you rethink PTSD

Watch this Vietnam War vet school a young soldier in stunt driving

This Army vet is crazy motivated

This is what happens when you put a sailor in a stock car

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Why Navy combat planes used these risky rockets to take off

Most people have heard of Jet-Assisted Take-Off, also known as “JATO.” Unfortunately, it’s usually in connection with a story involving a Chevrolet Impala and a Darwin Award that may or may not have actually happened. Despite this blemish on its reputation, JATO was in use for almost a half-century before the infamous award — and is still used today.


Vought 1600: The plan to put the F-16 on America’s carriers

A Lockheed P-2 Neptune is launched from the aircraft carrier USS Franklin D. Roosevelt (CV 42) with the use of JATO rockets.

(U.S. Navy)

First of all, the “jet-assisted” part of JATO is actually a misnomer. There’s no jet involve. JATO systems actually use a rocket – or several rockets. These rockets were capable of cutting the takeoff run by almost 60 percent. That sort of advantage is huge when your airfield has been bombed and the runways have been dotted with potholes. It’s also important for taking off in a heavily loaded plane, whether it’s full of cargo or bombs.

Vought 1600: The plan to put the F-16 on America’s carriers

Perhaps the most prominent use of JATO: When the Blue Angels’ C-130 Hercules takes off.

(U.S. Navy)

Early jet engines didn’t have good performance during takeoffs and landings. As a result, they needed long runways to safely operate. This made the early jet fighters vulnerable to propeller-driven planes. For example, P-51s would often lurk around the bases used by Me-262s and hit the Nazi jets as they took off. JATO systems were designed to get jets off the ground faster — and they help with performance.

Early jets were tricky to fly (those who flew the YP-80 reported that the engine would sometimes cut out mid-flight — not a good situation to be in). America’s ace of aces, Major Richard Bong, was killed in an accident involving a prototype P-80 Shooting Star, and the top ace of the Korean War, Joseph McConnell, was killed while test-flying the F-86H. A JATO rocket provided assistance to early-model jet engines during takeoff, allowing the plane’s ejection seat to function properly.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O930YRruewQ

www.youtube.com

However, the need for JATO systems has declined as jet technology improves. Vertical or Short Take Off and Landing technology also emerged in the form of lift fans and vectored thrust.

Although JATO isn’t widely used, it makes for a spectacular moment when the Lockheed C-130 assigned to the Blue Angels makes its takeoff.

See how the Navy discussed JATO over 70 years ago in the video below:

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These 2 scenarios show why having a bigger Navy is better

It is one of the sneakiest, most insidious things in warfare. It can creep up on you, and you’ll suddenly find out that you no longer can do all that you wanted to do. It’s called “virtual attrition,” and while it doesn’t make many headlines, it matters more to military operations than you’d think.


So, what exactly is “virtual attrition?” Well, plain old attrition is defined by the Merriam Webster Online Dictionary as “the act or process of weakening and gradually defeating an enemy through constant attacks and continued pressure over a long period of time.” In war, these are the planes that are shot down, the ships that are sunk, the tanks that go “jack in the box,” the troops that are killed. In other words, you lost them for good.

Vought 1600: The plan to put the F-16 on America’s carriers
An F/A-18F Super Hornet assigned to the Salty Dogs of Air Test and Evaluation Squadron (VX) 23 conducts a captive carry flight test of an AGM-88E Advanced Anti-Radiation Guided Missile (AARGM) at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Md. (U.S. Navy photo by Greg L. Davis/Released)

Virtual attrition, therefore involves “losing” the assets. Only it doesn’t involve actually destroying the asset. Here’s a couple of examples:

Scenario One: There is a factory complex in Bad Guy Land that you want to remove from the landscape. It will take 16 Joint Direct Attack Munitions to destroy. Now, four F/A-18E Super Hornets from one of the squadrons in the air wing of USS Enterprise can each carry four JDAMs, that should put enough bombs on target, right?

Well, not quite. You see, Mr. Sleazebag Swinemolestor, the dictator of Bad Guy Land, just got some brand new Russian S-300 missile systems (the SA-10 Grumble). He’s got one defending the factory complex you want to go away. He also got some brand new J-11 Flankers from China that he’s using to protect the place.

Now, sending planes into the teeth of air defenses doesn’t work out so well. We found that out the hard way in more than a couple wars.

So now, you may need some escorts. Well, we can add a couple more F/A-18Es with AGM-88 High-Speed Anti-Radiation Missiles and AGM-154A Joint Standoff Attack Weapons to deal with the S-300s, and two more loaded with a ton of AIM-120 AMRAAMs for the Flankers.

Vought 1600: The plan to put the F-16 on America’s carriers
Aviation Ordnancemen assigned to the Diamondbacks of Strike Fighter Squadron One Zero Two (VFA-102), load a CATM-88 High-Speed Anti-Radiation (HARM) missile on one of their squadrons F/A-18F Super Hornets aboard the conventionally powered aircraft carrier USS Kitty Hawk (CV 63). The CATM-88 is an inert training version of the AGM-88 HARM missile, which is a supersonic air-to-surface tactical missile designed to seek and destroy enemy radar-equipped air defense systems. Kitty Hawk and embarked Carrier Air Wing Five (CVW-5) are currently conducting operations in the Western Pacific Ocean. (U.S. Navy photo by Photographers Mate 3rd Class Jonathan Chandler)

Only those four additional Super Hornets have to come from somewhere. On a carrier (or even a land base), there are only so many airframes. The S-300s and the Flankers just forced the United States to double the size of the “package” they are sending to service the target.

A carrier usually has 24 Super Hornets. Some will be down for maintenance. Some will be needed to provide air cover for the carrier or planes like the E-2 Hawkeye or EA-18 Growler. There will be other targets to hit, like bridges, air bases, headquarters buildings… you get the picture.

Now, you can’t hit all the targets you want to hit, because you need to not only make the factory go away, you need to make the defenses go away. You have lost the use of the planes as strike assets. In essence, other missions get shortchanged. That is one way virtual attrition works.

Scenario 2: China’s DF-21 has gotten a lot of hype as a threat. That ignores the fact that the RIM-161 SM-3 Standard Missile is already capable of defeating it. But the DF-21 still inflicts the “virtual attrition.”

Let’s assume that BadGuyLand’s dictator, the aforementioned Sleazebag Swinemolestor, has bought 30 DF-21s. Now, while the SM-3 has proven reliable (a success rate of about 90 percent in tests), the usual practice will be a “shoot-shoot look” approach — firing two missiles at each target, and looking to see if you got it. That is a quick way to eat up missiles, especially when you miss.

Vought 1600: The plan to put the F-16 on America’s carriers
An SM-3 Block 1B interceptor is launched from the guided-missile cruiser USS Lake Erie (CG 70) during a Missile Defense Agency test and successfully intercepted a complex short-range ballistic missile target off the coast of Kauai, Hawaii. (U.S. Department of Defense photo/Released)

So now, the Enterprise’s escorts have to load more SM-3s into their Mark 41 Vertical Launch Systems. The problem being, of course, they only have 96 cells each. And if you are carrying more SM-3s, you have to take other missiles out, like BGM-109 Tomahawks, RIM-66 SM-2 Standard Missiles, and RUM-139 Vertical Launch ASROCs.

Now, you could fix this by adding the Ronald Reagan Carrier Strike Group (originally planned for a WESTPAC deployment), with her escorts, the Bunker Hill, the Winston S. Churchill, the Harmon Rabb, and the Cole. But that carrier group has to come from somewhere… so you now have to make up for that or pray that the region stays calm.

Vought 1600: The plan to put the F-16 on America’s carriers
The Navy’s only forward-deployed aircraft carrier, USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76), steams in formation with ships from Carrier Strike Group Five (CSG 5) and the Republic of Korea Navy (ROKN) during Exercise Invincible Spirit. (U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Nathan Burke/Released)

The other alternative is to add more escorts. You could strip the Mac Taylor from anti-piracy duty off Somalia, or call in the John S. McCain from her Freedom of Navigation exercise in the South China Sea, or maybe even have the Dave Nolan detach from the replenishment ships. But then you take risks by pulling those ships from those missions.

In essence, virtual attrition means you have to pull in extra assets – and the assets you pull in, no matter how good they are, cannot be in two places at once. It is not spectacular. It doesn’t make headlines, but virtual attrition is a real problem that the military has to address.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

How to kick in a door like a Special Forces operator

Movies and TV have shown audiences multiple aspects of the tactics and maneuvering used to invade a bad guy’s dwelling (though the accuracy is often suspect).


While stateside police commonly use massive battering rams and huge crowbars, deployed troops that are constantly on the move find it difficult to lug around heavy breaching tools.

So, what do our ground forces use in order to open the only thing that separates them from their objective? Well, we’re glad you asked. Former Army Green Beret Karl Erickson will break down how to kick in a door like a true operator.

Related: This is how to apply camo paint — according to a Navy SEAL

The first thing you do is assess — is it a pull door or push door?

Vought 1600: The plan to put the F-16 on America’s carriers
Green Beret Karl Erickson spent 25 years proudly serving in the military.

First, determine whether the door is push or pull by checking any visible hinges and looking for the knob. Next, of course, check to see if the door is unlocked.

If the door is hollowed out, kicking the center will result in your leg punching through. Not only is this ineffective, but you’ll look like a freaking amateur.

The idea is to kick as close to the locking mechanism as possible without striking the knob. Hitting the knob can result in a twisted ankle or other injuries which will take you out of the fight.

Once you establish the target area — kick that f*cker in!

Now, after you become a door kicking professional, you can advance your style and switch to using the “master key.”

Vought 1600: The plan to put the F-16 on America’s carriers
A Green Beret’s best friend when it comes to opening locked doors. (Screenshot from Tactical Rifleman YouTube)

Also Read: 6 toys that we played with that probably led us to enlisting

Check out Tactical Rifleman‘s video below to watch this Green Beret badass walk us through, step-by-step, how to breach the bad guy’s door.

 

(Tactical Rifleman | YouTube)
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~

Vought 1600: The plan to put the F-16 on America’s carriers
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:

Vought 1600: The plan to put the F-16 on America’s carriers

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

Vought 1600: The plan to put the F-16 on America’s carriers
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.

Vought 1600: The plan to put the F-16 on America’s carriers
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.

Vought 1600: The plan to put the F-16 on America’s carriers
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.)

Vought 1600: The plan to put the F-16 on America’s carriers
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.

Vought 1600: The plan to put the F-16 on America’s carriers
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.

Vought 1600: The plan to put the F-16 on America’s carriers

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.

Vought 1600: The plan to put the F-16 on America’s carriers

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Pentagon wants advanced AI for military vehicles

The Pentagon is making a massive push to accelerate the application of artificial intelligence to ships, tanks, aircraft, drones, weapons, and large networks as part of a sweeping strategy to more quickly harness and integrate the latest innovations.

Many forms of AI are already well-underway with US military combat systems, yet new technologies and applications are emerging so quickly that Deputy Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan has directed the immediate creation of a new Joint Artificial Intelligence Center.

“The Deputy Secretary of Defense directed the DoD Chief Information Officer to standup the Joint Artificial Intelligence Center in order to enable teams across DoD to swiftly deliver new AI-enabled capabilities and effectively experiment with new operating concepts in support of DoD’s military missions and business functions.” DoD spokeswoman Heather Babb told Warrior Maven.


Pentagon officials intend for the new effort to connect otherwise disparate AI developments across the services. The key concept, naturally, is to capitalize upon the newest and most efficient kinds of autonomy, automation, and specific ways in which AI can develop for the long term — yet also have an immediate impact upon current military operations.

AI performs a wide range of functions not purely restricted to conventional notions of IT or cyberspace; computer algorithms are increasingly able to almost instantaneously access vast pools of data, compare and organize information and perform automated procedural and analytical functions for human decision-makers in a role of command and control. While AI can of course massively expedite data consolidation, cloud migration and various kinds much-needed cybersecurity functions, it is increasingly being applied more broadly across weapons systems, large platforms and combat networks as well.

Rapid data-base access, organizing information and performing high-volume procedural functions are all decided advantages of AI applications. Algorithms, for example, are increasingly able to scan, view and organize ISR input such as images or video – to identify points of combat relevance of potential interest to a commander.

Vought 1600: The plan to put the F-16 on America’s carriers

AI enabled technology can perform these kinds of procedural functions exponentially faster than humans can, massively shortening the crucial decision-making timeframe for combat decision makers. At the same time, many experts, developers, and military leaders recognize that the certain problem-solving faculties and subjective determinations unique to human cognition – are still indispensable to decision making in war.

For this reason, advanced AI relies upon what developers refer to as “human-machine” interface or “easing the cognitive burden” wherein humans function in a command and control capacity while computer automation rapidly performs a range of key procedural functions.

AI & IT

This AI-driven phenomenon is of particular relevance when it comes to data systems, IT as a whole and advances in cybersecurity. For instance, Air Force developers are using advanced computer automation to replicate human behavior online – for the specific purpose of luring and tracking potential intruders. Also, AI can be used to perform real-time analytics on incoming traffic potentially containing malware, viruses or any kind of attempted intrusion. If the source, characteristics or discernable pattern of an attempted intrusion are identified quickly, cyber defenders are better positioned to respond.

When high-volume, redundant tasks are performed through computer automation, humans are freed up to expend energy pursuing a wider range of interpretive or conceptual work.

For example, the Army is working with a private firm called NCI to establish a certification of worthiness for a specific AI-enabled program designed to streamline a number of key tasks.

The NCI-developed program enables account creation, account deletion, background checks and other kind of high-volume data analysis.

“You can log into 10 different websites simultaneously, rather than having a person do that. A machine can go through and gather all the information for a person,” Brad Mascho Chief AI Officer, NCI, told Warrior Maven in an interview. “Humans can focus on higher priority threats.”

At the same time, big data analytics can quickly present new challenges for a variety of key reasons; a larger data flow can make it difficult for servers to “flex” as needed to accommodate rapid jumps in data coming through. Therefore, AI-empowered algorithms such as those engineered by NCI are needed to organize incoming data and identify anomalies or potential intrusions.

There is also a growing need for more real-time monitoring of activity on a message “bus,” because standard analytics methods based on probability and statistical probability often detect intrusions after the fact and are not always reliable or 100-percent accurate, cybersecurity experts and analysts explain.

AI & cyber defense

Algorithms calling upon advanced AI are being used to quickly access vast pools of data to perform real-time analytics designed to detect patterns and anomalies associated with malware.

“Every day, the Defense Department thwarts an estimated 36 million e-mails containing malware, viruses and phishing schemes from hackers, terrorists and foreign adversaries trying to gain unauthorized access to military systems,” Babb told Warrior Maven earlier this year.

Vought 1600: The plan to put the F-16 on America’s carriers

Stryker Infantry Carrier Vehicle.

One particular technique, now being developed by CISCO systems, seeks to address a particular irony or cybersecurity paradox; namely, while much DoD network traffic is encrypted for additional safety, encryption can also make it more difficult for cyber defenders to see hidden malware in the traffic.

CISCO is now prototyping new detection methods as part of an effort to introduce their technology to the US military services.

“We have the ability to read and detect malware in encrypted web traffic. Even though the data is encrypted there is still a pattern to malware,” Kelly Jones, Systems Engineer for CISCO Navy programs, told Warrior Maven.

AI & large combat platforms, tanks & fighter jets

Real-time analytics, informed by AI, has already had much success with both Army and Air Force Conditioned-Based Maintenance initiatives. The Army used IBMs Watson computer to perform real-time analytics on sensor information from Stryker vehicles and tactical trucks.

Drawing upon seemingly limitless databases of historical data, Watson was able to analyze information related to potential engine failures and other key vehicular systems. Properly identifying when a given combat-vehicle system might malfunction or need repairs helps both combat and logistical operations. Furthermore, the Army-IBM Stryker “proof of principle” exercise was able to wirelessly transmit sensor data, enabling AI to compare new information gathered against a historical database in seconds.

The Army is also working with IBM to test AI-enabled “autonomy kits” on tactical trucks designed to enable much greater degrees of autonomous navigation.

Advanced computer algorithms, enhanced in some instances through machine learning, enable systems such as Watson to instantly draw upon vast volumes of historical data as a way to expedite analysis of key mechanical indicators. Real-time analytics, drawing upon documented pools of established data through computer automation, can integrate otherwise disconnected sensors and other on-board vehicle systems.

“We identified some of the challenges in how you harmonize sensor data that is delivered from different solutions. Kevin Aven, partner and co-account lead, Army and Marine Corps, IBM Global Business Services, told Warrior Maven in a 2018 interview.

Watson, for example, can take unstructured information from maintenance manuals, reports, safety materials, vehicle history information and other vehicle technologies – and use AI to analyze data and draw informed conclusions of great significance to military operators, Aven explained.

When created, IBM stated that, “more than 100 different techniques are used to analyze natural language, identify sources, find and generate hypotheses, find and score evidence, and merge and rank hypotheses,” according to IBM Systems and Technology.

Working with a firm called C3IoT, the Air Force is doing something similar with F-16s. On board avionics and other technologies are monitored and analyzed using AI-enabled computers to discern when repairs or replacement parts are needed.

Applications of AI are also credited with enabling the F-35s “sensor fusion” technology which uses computer algorithms to autonomously gather and organize a wide-range of sensor data for the pilot.

Vought 1600: The plan to put the F-16 on America’s carriers

U.S. Air Force F-35A Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter.

It goes without saying that targeting data is of critical importance when it comes to mechanized ground warfare. With this in mind, Army combat vehicle developers are prototyping AI-enabled sensors intended to combine sensor information essential to identifying targets. If long-range EO/IR or thermal imaging sensors are able to both collect and organize combat data, vehicle crews can attack enemy targets much more quickly.

Some near-term applications, senior officials with the Army Research Laboratory say, include increased air and ground drone autonomy. It is an example of an area where AI is already having a large impact and is anticipated to figure prominently over the long-term as well.

“We know there is going to be unmanned systems for the future, and we want to look at unmanned systems and working with teams of manned systems. This involves AI-enabled machine learning in high priority areas we know are going to be long term as well as near term applications,” Karl Kappra, Chief of the Office of Strategy Management for the Army Research Lab, told Warrior Maven in a 2018 interview. “We also know we are going to be operating in complex environments, including electromagnetic and cyber areas.”

For instance, Kappra explained that sensor-equipped micro-autonomous drones could be programed with advanced algorithms to send back combat-relevant images or provide attacking forces with key interior dimensions to a target location.

“We are looking at micro-electrical mechanical systems and image-based systems to fly through a building autonomously and show you where walls and threats are inside the buildings,” Kappra said.

Also, Army combat vehicle developers consistently emphasize manned-unmanned teaming with “wing man” drone robots operating in tandem with manned vehicles to carry ammunition, test enemy defenses, identify targets and potentially fire weapons. Some senior Army weapons and technology developers have said that most future combat vehicles will be engineered with some level of autonomous ability or manned-unmanned teaming technology.

Increased computer automation also performs a large function on the Navy’s emerging Ford-Class aircraft carriers. The new carriers use advanced algorithms to perform diagnostics and other on-board maintenance and procedural tasks independently. This, Navy developers say, allows the service to reduce its crew size by as many as 900 sailors per carrier and save up to billion dollars over the life of a ship.

Warfare, ethics & AI

Interestingly, debates about the future of AI, especially when it comes to autonomy, continues to spark significant controversy. Current Pentagon doctrine specifies that there must always be a “human-in-the-loop” when it comes to making decisions about the use of lethal force. However, the technology enabling an autonomous system to track, acquire and destroy a target by itself without needing human intervention – is already here.

In a previous interview with Warrior Maven, an Air Force scientist made the point that the current doctrine is of course related to offensive strikes of any kind, however there may be some instances where weapons are used autonomously in a purely defensive fashion. For instance, AI-enabled interceptors could be programmed to knock out incoming enemy missile attacks – without themselves destroying anything other than an approaching enemy weapon. In this instance, AI could serve an enormously valuable defensive function by performing intercepts exponentially faster than having a human decision maker involved.

Naturally, this kind of technology raises ethical questions, and some have made the point that even though the US military may intend to maintain a certain ethical stance – there is of course substantial concern that potential adversaries will not do the same.

Also, while often heralded as the “future” of warfare and technology, AI does have some limitations. For example, problems presented in combat, less-discernable nuances informing certain decisions, determining causation and the analysis of a range of different interwoven variables – are arguably things best performed by the human mind.

Many things in warfare, naturally, are often a complex byproduct of a range of more subjectively determined factors – impacted by concepts, personalities, individual psychology, historical nuances and larger sociological phenomena. This naturally raises the question as to how much even the most advanced computer programs could account for these and other somewhat less “tangible” factors.

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

Articles

4 high-tech gadgets that will make America’s newest carrier awesome

The nuclear-powered aircraft carrier PCU Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) – PCU stands for Pre-Commissioning Unit – completed its sea trials earlier this month. This was supposed to have happened a while ago – in fact, the Navy retired USS Enterprise (CVN 65) in 2012 based on the assumption the Ford would be ready in 2015.


The Gerald R. Ford, like the Littoral Combat Ship and the Zumwalt, had its design hiccups. But it also has a number of new technologies – major advances over the Nimitz-class that has been a bulwark for America since 1975.

So, what makes this $10.44 billion carrier so special? Why spend $26 billion to make a whole new design? Well, here is some of what we got for it:

Vought 1600: The plan to put the F-16 on America’s carriers
U.S. Navy photo

1. More Flight Deck Space

The Gerald R. Ford’s flight deck has been re-designed to help generate at least 25 percent more sorties per day than the Nimitz-class carriers can. Among the ways this was done was to reduce the number of aircraft elevators from four to three. The carrier’s island has been moved back by 140 feet, and it is 20 feet shorter. They also moved it three feet more from the center.

Vought 1600: The plan to put the F-16 on America’s carriers
U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication 1st Class Joshua Sheppard

2. EMALS

The Electro-Magnetic Aircraft Launch System is perhaps the biggest change on these vessels. The traditional method to launch planes for decades has been the steam catapult. While it has done the job, there is a huge price paid by the aircraft. Really, the entire carrier launch and recovery cycle has been a case of officially-sanctioned Tomcat, Hornet, Phantom, Hawkeye, Viking, and Greyhound abuse.

Or, in a shorter version, carrier planes get the sh*t beat out of them.

EMALS is different. According to a 2007 DefenseTech.org article, it allows much more precision in terms of how much force is used to launch a plane. This lessens the stress on the airframe, allowing a combat plane to last longer. That precision also allows it to launch lighter and heavier planes than the current steam catapults.

There are other benefits, too, including fewer steam pipes around the ship, and reduced maintenance requirements.

Vought 1600: The plan to put the F-16 on America’s carriers
An F-14B Tomcat is catapulted from the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75) during evening flight operations in the Persian Gulf on Dec. 4, 2004. DoD photo by Airman Kristopher Wilson, U.S. Navy. (Released)

3. Advanced Arresting Gear

The carrier landings – really controlled crashes – are another item that new technology will change. Like EMALS, this system is intended to reduce the stress on airframes. This system has been plagued by trouble, drawing fire from the DOD’s Inspector General. The San Diego Reader reported that the IG claims the system is still “unproven.”

Vought 1600: The plan to put the F-16 on America’s carriers
U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Christopher Gaines

4. New Reactors

The carrier is also debuting the new A1B reactors from Bechtel. The big change here is that the plant delivers 300 percent of the electrical output that the reactors on board the USS Nimitz (CVN 68) and her sisters can. GlobalSecurity.org notes two other benefits: The A1B requires less manning, and it has about half of the pipes, valves, condensers, and pumps. This cuts the maintenance requirements a lot.

Vought 1600: The plan to put the F-16 on America’s carriers
USS Gerald R. Ford underway, propelled by two A1B reactors. (US Navy photo)

All in all, if everything works, the Gerald R. Ford will be able to do more than a Nimitz can do, while having less crew on board.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

A seeming clone of the X-47B shows up at Chinese airshow

A new drone model with stealth features has been unveiled at China Aerospace Science and Industry Corporation (CASIC) booth at the China International Aviation & Aerospace Exhibition and Airshow China, in Zhuhai.

Initially hidden under a tarp, the unmanned aircraft has eventually been unveiled, showing a striking resemblance to some pretty famous American unmanned aerial systems (UAS). We don’t know whether it is a full scale mock-up or just a scale model of an existing or future prototype; still, the available images provide enough details for some analysis.


Some observers suggested the Chinese drone is a sort of copy of the famous Lockheed Martin RQ-170 Sentinel, the stealth drone captured by Iran in 2011 and then reverse-engineered by Tehran: according to the information circulating on the Chinese Defense forums, a group of 17 Chinese experts flew to Iran 4 days after only four days after the Sentinel drone had crash landed in Iran during a spy mission, not only to inspect, but also to collect and bring back to China some key components of the RQ-170.

While it’s extremely likely that China had the opportunity to inspect the drone and copy the circuitry, lenses, sensors that probably survived the mysterious crash landing, the shape of the article exhibited at Zhuhai seems to be more similar to the Northrop Grumman Unmanned Carrier Air Vehicle demonstrator (UCAS-D) aircraft of the X-47B program than the Lockheed Martin RQ-170.

In their article on the Chinese drones at the Zhuhai Airshow, The War Zone’s Joseph Trevithick and Tyler Rogoway, describing the large flying wing-shaped aircraft hidden under tarps said:

“From what little we can tell of the planform under the mats, it appears to be similar in configuration to something roughly akin to an X-47B, but with more slender outer wings and less of accentuated ‘cranked kite’ configuration.”

Indeed, the new drone seems to be largely based on the X-47B with some modifications, including slightly different intake (taller than that of the Northrop Grumman demonstrator aircraft – in fact, this is the one thing that seems to really “come” from the RQ-170), wingspan/planform, nose section and landing gear (the one of the American UCAV was designed for arrested landings on aircraft carriers).

The front nose gear bay door reminds the one of another quite famous Northrop Grumman stealth aircraft: the B-2 Spirit bomber.

Vought 1600: The plan to put the F-16 on America’s carriers

A B-2 Spirit sits on jacks Feb. 26, 2010, awaiting Airmen from the 509th Maintenance Squadron Aero Repair Shop to perform landing gear operational checks.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Jessica Snow)

Anyway, until more images and details about this new drone emerge we can just add that considered all the cyber attacks targeting Lockheed Martin stealth projects as well as other US aerospace industries in the last years, we can’t rule out the possibility that Chinese hackers were able to put their hands on some useful technical drawings of some American UAVs, useful to “clone” U.S. shapes, planforms and components. And possibly improve them or at least try to.

This article originally appeared on The Aviationist. Follow @theaviationist on Twitter.

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