Artillery has long been the king of battles — but one of these kings has been far more devastating than others. Guns are accurate, but one conventional shell won’t do the job against a lot of bad guys, and a nuclear artillery round, like one from the W48, is overkill.
Thankfully, there’s middle ground: rockets. More accurately, there’re multiple-launch rocket systems. Perhaps the most well-known is the M270 Multiple-Launch Rocket System, or MLRS. This system fires 12 rockets to a range of up to 44 miles. It’s lethal and it’s been combat-proven in Desert Storm and the Global War on Terror.
But M270 isn’t the only system of its type out there. Russia had the first, notorious Katyusha and, most notably, the BM-21. The BM-21 was Russia’s primary multiple-launch rocket system. According to MilitaryFactory.com, the BM-21 holds 40 rockets and can fire them up to 20 miles away — not bad for a system that entered service in 1964, 18 years before the United States Army had the MLRS.
The thing is, like a number of older Russian systems, it was widely exported. And, just as India did with its MiG-21s, some countries have upgraded their old Russian tech. Romania, for example, made modifications to the BM-21 to create the APRA-40. This system is based on a six-wheeled truck. Romania exported this system to a number of other countries, including Croatia.
The Croatians reportedly want to buy the American M270, but until then, this modern version of Russia’s famous BM-21 will help them hold the line. You can see what these launchers, assigned to the “Volcano” Battery of the Croatian Army, can do below:
The Army’s recent order of a four-bore rifle prototype made some waves. It’s a pretty exciting piece of technology, but if it gets picked up, it won’t be the first four-barrel weapon that American troops have fielded. And while this new prototype rifle fires 6mm rounds at an impressive rate, the older system packed a bigger wallop.
This older four-barrel system wasn’t a rifle, however, it was a rocket launcher called the M202 FLASH. “FLASH,” in this case, stood for FLame Assault SHoulder weapon. It packed four 66-millimeter M74 rockets that were held together by a clip.
As the full name of the rocket launcher suggests, the rockets were equipped with incendiary warheads. It replaced the traditional flamethrowers that had seen a lot of action in World War II, much to the relief of the grunts who once carried them.
Traditional flamethrowers were backpack-mounted. The canisters on their backs were filled with what was, essentially, jellied gasoline. To make matters worse for the GI carrying a large, flammable target on their back, they had to get within 47 yards of the enemy to use a traditional flamethrower.
While flamethrowers were devastating to enemy positions and extremely effective at clearing terrain, the guy who carried it on his back was in danger of becoming a very crispy critter should his flamethrower get hit. And there’s no hiding who’s carrying a flamethrower. This made the specially-trained operators a target.
The M202A1 eliminated a lot of those drawbacks. Any number of grunts could be trained to use the system. The weapon is still distinctive but, according to U.S. Army Training Circular 23-2, it has a maximum range of just over 800 yards. While you’re not always going to be firing from maximum range, it’s a lot better than being within a stone’s throw.
Each of the M74 rockets fired by the M202 packed about 1.3 pounds of what the Army called a “thickened pyrophoric agent,” called triethylaluminum. This burned at temperatures of up to 2200 degrees Fahrenheit, similar to white phosphorus (“Willie Pete”).
The M202 has been obscured — largely because it had its share of hiccups. Still, it’s seen some action in the War on Terror — and in a few of our favorite movies and games. The M202 made an appearance in Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Commando, Capcom’s Resident Evil, and Overkill Software’s Payday 2.
For a long time, the Coast Guard has used Navy hand-me-downs. After World War II, many old Navy ships were pressed into Coast Guard service when they were no longer needed for defeating the Axis. Even today, the Coast Guard operates a U.S. Navy castoff in USCGC Alex Haley, a former Navy salvage tug. But now, the tides have turned, and the Coast Guard may actually be bailing the Navy out.
The Huntington Ingalls proposal for the FFG(X) program is based on the Bertholf-class national security cutters.
(Department of Homeland Security)
The National Security Cutter hull is currently in production. Right now, the Coast Guard is in the process of building their 10th out of 11 planned vessels.
Also called the Legend-class cutter, this ship is armed with a 57mm gun, about a half-dozen .50-caliber machine guns, and the ability to operate a helicopter, usually a MH-60T Jayhawk. The model displayed last year at SeaAirSpace 2017, the FF4923, also included a 16-cell Mk41 vertical-launch system and eight over-the-horizon anti-ship missiles. This ship already meets several of the requirements as laid out by the Navy’s FFG(X) program, making it a great launch point.
Three Oliver Hazard Perry-class frigates: USS Oliver Hazard Perry (FFG 7), USS Antrim (FFG 20), and USS Jack Williams (FFG 24).
According to spec sheets, the National Security Cutter has a top speed of 28 knots. This is slower than some of the other ships out in contention, notably the Freedom-class LCS and the Bazán-class frigates, but it can out-sprint the FREMM. The good news is that the National Security Cutter is large enough (at 4,500 tons — about 50 percent larger than a Perry-class frigate) to handle the new systems.
The Navy is planning to announce the winning design in 2020. Plans call for at least 20 guided-missile frigates to be purchased over a decade’s time.
The Navy has now completed at least one-fourth of the design drawings and begun advanced work on a stealthy “electric drive” propulsion system for the emerging nuclear-armed Columbia-Class ballistic missile submarines — as part of its strategy to engineer the quietest, most technically advanced and least detectable submarine of all time.
The Columbia-class, slated to begin full construction by 2021, is to be equipped with an electric-drive propulsion train, as opposed to the mechanical-drive propulsion train used on other Navy submarines.
“The electric-drive system is expected to be quieter (i.e., stealthier) than a mechanical-drive system,” a Congressional Research Service report on Columbia-Class submarines from 2018 states.
In today’s Ohio-class submarines, a reactor plant generates heat which creates steam, Navy officials explained. The steam then turns turbines which produce electricity and also propel the ship forward through “reduction gears” which are able to translate the high-speed energy from a turbine into the shaft RPMs needed to move a boat propeller.
Designed to be 560-feet–long and house 16 Trident II D5 missiles fired from 44-foot-long missile tubes, Columbia-Class submarines will use a quieting X-shaped stern configuration.
“Of the required design disclosures (drawings), 26-percent have been issued, and the program is on a path to have 83-percent issued by construction start,” Bill Couch, spokesman for Naval Sea Systems Command, told Warrior Maven several months ago.
The “X”-shaped stern will restore maneuverability to submarines; as submarine designs progressed from using a propeller to using a propulsor to improve quieting, submarines lost some surface maneuverability, senior Navy officials told Warrior Maven in previous interviews.
Navy developers explained that electric-drive propulsion technology still relies on a nuclear reactor to generate heat and create steam to power turbines. However, the electricity produced is transferred to an electric motor rather than so-called reduction gears to spin the boat’s propellers.
The use of an electric motor brings other advantages as well, according to an MIT essay written years ago when electric drive was being evaluated for submarine propulsion.
Using an electric motor optimizes use of installed reactor power in a more efficient way compared with mechanical drive submarines, making more on-board power available for other uses, according to an essay called “Evaluation and Comparison of Electric Propulsion Motors for Submarines.” Author Joel Harbour says that on mechanical drive submarine, 80-percent of the total reactor power is used exclusively for propulsion.
“With an electric drive submarine, the installed reactor power of the submarine is first converted into electrical power and then delivered to an electric propulsion motor. The now available electrical potential not being used for propulsion could easily be tapped into for other uses,” he writes.
Research, science and technology work and initial missile tube construction on Columbia-Class submarines has been underway for several years. One key exercise, called tube-and-hull forging, involves building four-packs of missile tubes to assess welding and construction methods. These structures are intended to load into the boat’s modules as construction advances.
The Ohio-class ballistic missile submarine USS Maryland.
(US Navy photo by James Kimber)
“Early procurement of missile tubes and prototyping of the first assembly of four missile tubes are supporting the proving out of production planning,” Couch said.
While the Columbia-Class is intended to replace the existing fleet of Ohio-Class ballistic missile submarines, the new boats include a number of not-yet-seen technologies as well as different configurations when compared with the Ohio-Class. The Columbia-Class will have 16 launch tubes rather than the 24 tubes current on Ohio boats, yet the Columbias will also be about 2-tons larger, according to Navy information.
The Columbia-Class, to be operational by the 2028, is a new generation of technically advanced submarines intended to quietly patrol the undersea realm around the world to ensure second-strike ability should the US be hit with a catastrophic nuclear attack.
The nuclear-armed submarines are expected to serve all the way into and beyond the 2080s.
General Dynamics Electric Boat has begun acquiring long-lead items in anticipation of beginning construction; the process involves acquiring metals, electronics, sonar arrays, and other key components necessary to build the submarines.
Both the Pentagon and the Navy are approaching this program with a sense of urgency, given the escalation of the current global threat environment. Many senior DoD officials have called the Columbia-Class program as a number one priority across all the services.
“The Columbia-Class submarine program is leveraging enhanced acquisition authorities provided by Congress such as advanced procurement, advanced construction and multi-year continuous production of missile tubes,” Couch added.
This article originally appeared on Warrior Maven. Follow @warriormaven1 on Twitter.
The dust has finally settled in the battle between firearms giants Sig Sauer and Glock over the Army’s program to replace more than half a million M9 Beretta handguns after government investigators sided with Sig over a protest that claimed the company was selected unfairly.
In a June 5 report, the Government Accountability Office denied the protest by Glock of the January award of a massive contract to replace nearly 550,000 handguns in the Army and other services with a militarized version of the Sig P320 striker-fired pistol.
While the GAO said each was very close in performance and other factors that evaluators looked into, Sig came in with a program price nearly $130 million less than Glock.
“Based upon the technical evaluation and my comparative analysis of the proposals, the Sig Sauer proposal has a slight technical advantage over the Glock proposal,” the GAO said in its final report. “The advantage of the Sig Sauer proposal is increased when the license rights and production manufacturing factors are brought into consideration … making the Sig Sauer proposal overall the best value to the government.”
The evaluators said the Sig and Glock basically ran neck in neck when it came to reliability, accuracy, and ergonomics. But the Army hit Glock on its safety during the “warfighter evaluation” phase of testing, giving Sig an edge and prompting Glock to factor that into its protest.
The report is unclear on how the Glock safety negatively impacted the Army’s decision, but most commercial versions of both candidate handguns do not have a thumb safety, so each company had to design that into their submissions.
According to the report, Glock submitted one full-sized handgun (presumably the G17 or G19) and Sig submitted two, a full-sized and compact version of the P320. Sig is the only company of the two that manufactures a fully-modular handgun — one that can convert from a full-sized handgun into a sub-compact for concealed carry by changing out a few parts.
Lt. Col. Charles Daniel, a pilot with Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 773, walks towards the AH-1W Super Cobra prior to its final flight at Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base, New Orleans, on Oct. 14, 2020. (Robert Brown/U.S. Marine Corps)
After 34 years of service and more than 930,000 flight hours, the AH-1W Super Cobra attack helicopter made its final flight last week. Maj. Patrick Richardson, with Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 773, flew the last Super Cobra flight out of Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base New Orleans.
The Marine Corps has transitioned to the “Zulu” variant of the aircraft, the four-bladed AH-1Z Viper.
“This final flight is very important for us to honor the aircraft,” Richardson said in a video released by Bell Helicopter. “… It’s an honor to be the last guy to fly one. I never thought I’d be in this position.”
The dual-blade helicopter Richardson flew over New Orleans on Oct. 14 was received by HMLA-773 in 1994, he said. Marines flew it in Afghanistan between 2003 and 2005. Lt. Col. Charles Daniel, the squadron’s executive officer, said in the video that he flew the aircraft making last week’s final flight during Operation Enduring Freedom.
Marines also flew the Super Cobra in Iraq, Somalia, the Gulf War and with Marine expeditionary units operating on Navy ships around the world.
Both Richardson and Daniel called the Super Cobra’s final flight bittersweet. Richardson said he flies the AH-1Z Viper, while Daniel said the AH-1W’s retirement coincides with the end of his own career.
“I’ve had a lot of great memories in this aircraft,” Daniel said. “It has gotten me back safe every time and done everything I ever asked it to do. I enjoyed every moment of my time with the Whiskey and the Marines around it.”
The newer AH-1Z Viper is faster, carries more ordnance, has an all-glass cockpit, and can stand off further from the fight, Daniel said.
The Super Cobra’s retirement represents just one transition for Marine Corps aviation. AV-8BHarrier squadrons are saying goodbye to that aircraft as the service transitions to the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.
The Marine Corps is also in the process of upgrading its aging CH-53E Super Stallion heavy-lift helicopter to the powerful new CH-53K King Stallion.
Kim Jong Un may have just received his only warning to shape up or risk upsetting Secretary of Defense James “Chaos” Mattis. And when Chaos Mattis gets pissed off… well, it would be a lie to say it was nice knowing Kim Jong Un.
According to a report by CBSNews.com, Mattis indicated that the United States could very well end up deploying the Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense system, formerly known as the “Theater High-Altitude Area Defense” system, to South Korea. Either way, the system, dubbed THAAD, is used to shoot down ballistic missiles like those pointed at Seoul from the north.
“Well, you know, North Korea has often acted in a provocative way, and it’s hard to anticipate what they do,” he told reporters, according to a DOD transcript of a press gaggle on board his aircraft as it was en route to Osan Air Base in South Korea.
“There’s only one reason that we even have this under discussion right now, and that is North Korea’s activities,” he added. “That THAAD is for defense of our allies people, of our troops who are committed to their defense. And were it not for the provocative behavior of North Korea we would have no need for THAAD out here.”
THAAD is a ballistic missile defense system. According to Army-Technology.com, the system has a range of at least 200 kilometers (124 miles), and is able to hit targets almost 500,000 feet above ground level (ArmyRecognition.com credits THAAD with a range of 1,000 kilometers – equivalent to over 600 miles).
A Missile Defense Agency fact sheet notes that each THAAD launcher holds eight missiles. The system also uses the AN/TPY-2 radar to track targets. Currently, six batteries are in service per the MDA fact sheet. A 2016 Defense News article notes that each battery has six launchers.
The mortar is an indirect fire weapon that rains freedom down from high angles onto an enemy within a (relatively) short range. But the compact and mobile mortar systems we have today are the result of a long history of indirect fire systems in the American military. Decades of effectively marking, lighting, and destroying targets has earned the mortar many friends — and many more enemies — on the battlefield. In short, a well-trained mortar team often means the difference between victory and defeat for infantry troops in contact.
When nature creates a successful apex predator, she rarely deviates from her original design. Warfare evolves in a similar fashion — the most successful systems are tweaked and perfected to guarantee effectiveness, preserving our way of life.
This is an ode to the mortar, and all of its beautifully complex inner-workings.
Preparation and Firing Stokes Mortars 1 Min 12 Sec
The mortar was born in the fires of conquest at the Siege of Constantinople in 1453. In that engagement, the new weapon proved just how effective firing explosives over short distances across an extremely high arc could be. Since that day, more than 500 years and countless wars ago, the general concept hasn’t changed.
One of the biggest evolutions in the mortar design was put forth by the British in World War I: the Stokes Mortar. It had 3 sections: a 51-inch tube, a base plate, and a bi-pod. This new type of mortar system fired twenty-two 10-pound pieces of ordinance a maximum of 1,000 yards. Mortars today still use the bi-pod and base-plate improvements that were first deployed in the trenches of the Western Front.
COMBAT FOOTAGE Marines in firefight beat Taliban ambush with 60mm Mortar Fire
A mortar crew consists of at least three members: the squad leader, gunner, and the assistant gunner. More members could be attached depending on manpower available.
The mortar system has a large tube closed at the the bottom and attached to a base plate. Within the barrel of the tube is a firing pin used to ignite a mortar shell’s primer. Some models have a moving firing pin that can be fired via a trigger mechanism.
The controlled explosion fills the chamber with gas and propels the shell out of the tube. A set of bi-pods add stability and allow on-the-fly adjustments. It can be fired from defilade (a fighting position that does not expose the crew to direct fire weapons) onto entrenched enemy not protected from overhead fire.
Sometimes referred to as a ‘bomb’, the shell and its components consist of the impact fuse, high explosive filler, a primary charge, fins, and augmenting charges. Illumination and smoke rounds differ depending on the model of the weapon system. Augmentation charges on the outside ‘neck’ near the fin can be added or removed to manipulate firing range as needed.
The gun is aimed, the round is half loaded until the ‘fire’ command is given and freedom rings.
Steel drizzle vs steel rain
The differences between artillery and mortars are night and day. Artillery fires on a horizontal trajectory, at faster speeds, and at longer ranges. The cost of these advantages are sacrificed in mobility.
Mortars, however, are light enough that they can be carried across difficult terrain and quickly assembled to take control of the battle space. Ammunition can be dispersed to individual troops to carry and then dropped off at the gun crew rally point.
A gear porn bulletin from WATM friends The Mad Duo at Breach-Bang-Clear.
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.
We’ll warn you in advance—we don’t know too much about this WML (Weapon Mounted Light) from Firefield (@firefieldtm). The PR company that notified us about it doesn’t do the best job of explaining things, or of providing decent imagery (at least, not the correct imagery, though that doesn’t necessarily have nuthin’ to do with the quality of the ole’ lumens) but we’ll tell you what we do know.
Given how they describe it, and the pitiful number of lumens it pushes out, it’s going to be hard not to make fun of it…though we shall endeavor to persevere.
BLUF: This is a gear porn bulletin, provided as a public service to you epistemophiliacs out there by the Mad Duo. It’s not a review, nor is it an endorsement. Neither is it approbation or denunciation.
The Charge AR works off a single CR2 battery, pushing 180 lumens of “blinding light” for up to 3.5 hours, activated by either a push-button or pressure pad. You’re gonna want one because, “Low-light shooting situations call for an easily accessible flashlight accessory. Whether in a home defense, tactical or hunting situation, clear line of sight and quick target acquisition are extremely important.”
Plus, it kinda looks like an AN/PEQ 4.
As you can read, Firefield has the dramatic prose down pat! Not surprising. After all, their gear is Forged in victory. “Transform fear to power, panic to excitement and chaos to glory with Firefield.”
The Charge AR is 2.2 ounces and manufactured of aluminum, with an anodized matte black finish. It’s compatible with both Weaver and Picatinny rails (a distinction they felt important to make) and designed to throw light offset from the rail to allow use unimpeded by an AR front sight post.
The MSRP on the Charge AR is $35.99 on the Fire-field website, which is good news for everyone saving their dollar bills for the dancing moms.
You can probably find it online for even less if you look.
Operating temperature, F/C – -17° to 48° / 0° to 120°
Shockproof – Yes
Weight (oz) – 2.2
Width (in/mm) – 1.65/42
Note—if you were wondering, Pic rails and Weaver rails are damn near the same thing. Pic rails are MIL-STD-1913; their grooves are to be .206-inches wide and should have a center-to-center width of .394-inches to be considered in spec.
As part of this effort, the Army recently asked the defense industry to develop “novel muzzle brake structures for extended range cannon artillery systems” that are 30 percent lighter than conventional muzzle brakes, according to a solicitation posted on www.sibr.gov, a government website for the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program.
The M109A6 Paladin.
(US Army photo)
“Given the Army’s Long Range Precision Fires priority, a need exists for novel and innovative muzzle brakes capable of supporting the new extended range cannons and sabot, direct, and indirect munitions currently under development,” the solicitation states.
“High pressure waves produced within gun barrels during projectile acceleration have negative impact upon the surrounding environment due to muzzle blast … exiting the barrel,” it adds.
Muzzle brakes are also subjected to “material degradation due to collisions with small particles exiting the gun barrel, such as solid propellant grains that did not undergo combustion,” the solicitation states.
Because of this, current muzzle brakes tend to be heavy.
The effort “seeks to develop novel muzzle brake aerodynamic designs and structures which minimize the overall mass of the artillery system without compromising performance,” according to the solicitation.
Interested companies have until Feb. 6, 2019, to respond to the Nov. 28, 2018 solicitation.
The first phase of the solicitation asks companies to model and simulate the operational performance of proposed muzzle brake designs that meet the weight-reduction requirements and simulate mechanical wear over the life cycle of the brake.
The M109A6 Paladin.
(US Army photo)
Companies will then produce at least one prototype for Phase Two, which will be tested on a large-caliber Army platform identified during the Phase One effort, according to the solicitation. Companies will document “recoil, acoustic and optical signature, and muzzle blast” and make refinements on the prototype design, it says.
Companies then will conduct a live-fire demonstration of their final prototype in an operational environment with involvement from the prime contractor for the weapon system, according to the solicitation.
Meanwhile, under the Extended Range Cannon Artillery program, or ERCA, the Army plans to fit M109A8 155 mm Paladin self-propelled howitzers with much longer, .58 caliber gun tubes, redesigned chambers and breeches that will be able to withstand the gun pressures to get out to 70 kilometers, Army officials said.
The service also is finalizing a new version of a rocket-assisted projectile (RAP) round that testers have shot out to 62 kilometers. Artillery experts plan to make improvements to the round by fiscal 2020 so Army testers can hit the 70-kilometer mark, service officials said at the 2018 Association of the United States Army annual meeting and exposition.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
In the waning days of World War II, the world of military aviation was at a turning point. By the close of 1944, America’s prop-driven B-29 Superfortress was pushing the limits of extended-duration bombing missions thanks to technological advances like its uniquely pressurized cabin and remote-controlled defensive turrets. On the other side of the fight, the Nazi Messerschmitt Me 262, the world’s first operational jet aircraft, was proving that the days of propeller driven fighters were numbered. In a very real way, the future of warfare in the skies was so in flux that, in the minds of many, just about anything seemed possible.
Messerschmitt Me 262 Schwable, the world’s first jet fighter. (U.S. Air Force photo)
At the onset of World War II, a number of British Royal Air Force units were still operating bi-planes. By the end of the war, jet fighters were screaming across the sky in massive air battles for the future of Europe.
The famed Supermarine Spitfire so often credited with winning the Battle of Britain, for instance, offered its pilots little more than a floating reticle on the windscreen (advanced technology at the time) and fifteen seconds worth of ammunition if a pilot were so bold as to release it all in just one volley. As technology advanced, many aircraft were fitted with more powerful guns and more efficient engines, but dogfighting remained a close-quarters shoot out — a far cry from the over-the-horizon missile engagements of today.
But it was that powerful belief that air warfare was changing that prompted a number of governments to pursue unique and original air combat ideas that, in hindsight, seem downright crazy. One such program was Northrop’s XP-79, colloquially known as The Flying Ram.
The XP-79 was a design conceived by John K. (Jack) Northrop himself, and was one of a number of platforms developed by Northrop to leverage the flying wing design. Today, Northrop Grumman continues to advance flying wing designs, most notably in the form of the in-service B-2 Spirit and forthcoming B-21 Raider.
Jack Northrop,next to his N-1M “Jeep”, at Muroc fielf (Edwards Air Force Base), circa 1941. In the cockpit of teh flying wing is test pilot Moye Stephens. (USAF Flight Test Center Archives)
The XP-79 was much smaller than its stealthy successors would be, with a fuselage built only large enough for a single pilot to lay down in horizontally, marking this aircraft’s first significant departure from common flying wing designs as we know them today. Northrop and his team believed that pilots would be able to withstand greater G forces if they were oriented in the laying position, and because the XP-79 was being designed to utilize jet propulsion, the shift seemed prudent. Northrop, in fact, had already used this cockpit layout in another experimental aircraft just a few years earlier, the MX-334.
Northrop originally designed the platform to use “rotojet” rocket motors, not unlike the German Messerschmitt Me 163 Komet, but issues with propulsion prompted a shift to using twin Westinghouse 19B (J30) turbojets instead. After the shift to these jet motors, the aircraft’s designation shifted as well, to XP-79B.
The Flying Ram
The most unusual thing about the aircraft wasn’t its unique propulsion, nor was it the unusual way the pilot rode — it was the way the aircraft was meant to engage enemy aircraft. The name “Flying Ram” wasn’t just a bit of artistic license. The heavy duty welded magnesium monocoque construction made the aircraft exceptionally strong — and that was by design. Northrop didn’t intend for the XP-79 to shoot enemy bombers down, he wanted it to flyright through them.
(USAF FlightTest Center Archives)
Instead of relying on heavy guns and lots of heavy ammo, the XP-79 would literally collide with other aircraft, using its strong wings to tear through the wings or fuselages of encroaching bombers.
The plan for the XP-79 was fairly straightforward: It was intended to serve as an interceptor aircraft that could engage an incoming fleet of bombers quickly and effectively. Pilots responding to an inbound air raid would rely on the on-board jet engines to power them through a series of high speed passes through bomber formations, downing aircraft as they tore through them.
(USAF FlightTest Center Archives)
The XP-79 was equipped with no other offensive weapons (though there were plans for cannons eventually), and instead would use the specially reinforced trailing edges of each wing to cut through enemy air frames. An armored glass cockpit positioned between the two large jet inlets was meant to protect the pilot during these high speed, mid-air collisions.
The aircraft was believed to have a top speed of 525 miles per hour with a service ceiling of 40,000 feet, but alas, the XP-79 was, to bastardize a Hunter S. Thompson quote, simply too weird to live.
Harry Crosby stands inside the MX-334 (XP-79 predecessor) during a lull in unpowered gliding tests in early 1944. (USAF FlightTest Center Archives)
First and Final Flight
The jet-powered XP-79B only took to the skies once, with test pilot Harry Crosby in the unusual cockpit. Crosby had the plane airborne for just over 14 minutes when he attempted his first banking maneuver at around 10,000 feet. Unfortunately, as the Flying Ram banked, it promptly went into an uncontrolled spin.
Crosby and the aircraft both plummeted to the ground, killing the test pilot. Some believe he may have been unconscious throughout the fall, while others suggest that he may have been struck by the aircraft itself as he bailed out. The prototype aircraft was also a total loss.
With Hitler already dead and the success of the atomic bomb attacks on Japan just a month prior, the need for a jet-powered interceptor that could literally cut through enemy bombers was just not as pressing. No XP-79 would ever fly again.
In the 1960s, Japan was importing a number of high-speed fighters to replace Korean War-vintage F-86s. After all, Godzilla needs to practice using the halitosis from hell. Or maybe he wanted a more challenging target.
Actually, in all seriousness, the Korean War-era planes were old. Japan was replacing them with F-104 Starfighters and F-4 Phantoms. But they needed a trainer. Ultimately, they decided to build one. That became the Mitsubishi T-2. The plane proved to be an excellent trainer, but the Japanese discovered it could be armed. Once Japan got 28 T-2A unarmed trainers and 62 T-2Bs that were equipped to carry some weapons, notably AIM-9 Sidewinders and a M61 20mm Gatling gun, the line was available, and Mitsubishi went to work.
The F-1 took the T-2’s limited weapons capability to a new level. According to MilitaryFactory.com, the F-1 became Japan’s first indigenous supersonic fighter. Mitsubishi was a logical choice – not only had they license-built F-4s and F-104s, but its best-known fighter was the A6M Zero. The F-1’s primary weapon is the ASM-1 anti-ship missile.
This missile, also known as the Type 80, carried a warhead that was roughly 330 pounds of high explosive. The initial version with a rocket engine had a range of roughly 31 miles. Swapping out the rocket for a turbojet gave the missile a range of almost 112 miles.
The F-1 had a top speed of 1,056 miles per hour, could carry two ASM-1s, two drop tanks, and two AIM-9 Sidewinders, plus it carried a 20mm M61 Gatling gun. Japan built 77 of these planes, which served from 1978 to 2006. The replacement was the Mitsubishi F-2, Japan’s F-16 on steroids, which also has taken over the supersonic trainer role.
It’s the most famous aircraft in the world, a highly-visible symbol of the United States wherever it travels.
Known as Air Force One, and popularly nicknamed ‘the Flying White House’, this massive jumbo jet, decked out in a special blue, white and silver livery, ferries U.S. presidents, their families, members of the press and various staffers and Secret Service protective agents across the globe on official trips to foreign and domestic destinations.
While Air Force One itself is incredibly famous, it turns out that not a heck of a lot about this unique aircraft seems to be known in public circles. So the next time you find yourself at a party and you feel like impressing a few folks with Air Force One facts they probably didn’t know, today’s your lucky day! Here are 6 things about the President’s personal aircraft that you more than likely didn’t know:
1. “Air Force One” is technically a callsign and not the aircraft’s actual designation.
“Air Force One” is the callsign attached to any USAF aircraft the president is physically present on. The famous Boeing 747 decked out in the presidential scheme is officially designated “VC-25.” The Air Force One callsign originated in 1953 after air traffic controllers mistakenly put an aircraft carrying President Dwight D. Eisenhower in the same airspace as a civilian airliner over New York City, after confusing the presidential transport’s name and code for a commercial flight.
Ever since, every military vehicle carrying America’s head honcho is temporarily relabeled with the name of the service the vehicle belongs to, followed by “One” (e.g. Marine One).
2. Each VC-25 has its own medical suite aboard the aircraft.
You read that correctly; whenever the president is aboard, Air Force One carries a qualified military surgeon/physician along for the ride. A small medical center aboard the aircraft, fully stocked and equipped, can be converted into an operating room should the need arise. While no sitting president has had to avail of the on-board doctor’s abilities and talents, it’s still helpful to always have one nearby, just in case.
3. Both VC-25s are equipped with extensive countermeasures and defensive systems.
On any given day, the threats to the president’s life number in the hundreds, though the Secret Service does everything it can to make sure the risks are largely negligible.
The Air Force also does its part by outfitting each VC-25 with the very best in defensive systems available at the moment. It’s unknown what exactly these systems consist of, but it could be safely assumed that the VC-25 comes standard with missile jammers, flare dispensers and more. On top of that, each Air Force One flight carries a small army of well-armed Secret Service agents and Air Force security specialists to provide security for the President and the aircraft on the ground.
4. It is one of the most expensive aircraft the US Air Force has ever operated.
Not only is the VC-25 one of the largest jets flown by the USAF, it’s also one of the most expensive the service has ever flown in its entire history. At an operating cost of approximately $200,000 per hour, Air Force One flights dwarf the expenses incurred by every other military-crewed and flown aircraft like the E-4B Nightwatch, the C-5 Galaxy and the B-2 Spirit. The security measures, passenger support (for members of the press, Secret Service and White House Staff), and communications systems operations all come together to account for this sky high figure.
5. The President can seamlessly interface with the military and government while airborne.
Each VC-25 possesses a highly integrated communications suite, staffed by a team of Air Force communication systems operators. These CSOs constantly monitor the aircraft’s satellite data-links, intranets and phone lines, ensuring that all incoming and outgoing calls on each flight are secured and highly encrypted.
In the event of national emergencies, the President can interact with military units from the aircraft, or direct the government and stay appraised of the situation at hand, thanks to the communications center and its CSOs.
6. It always parks with its left side facing the crowds gathered to see its arrivals.
Though it seems almost arbitrary, Air Force One does indeed park with its left side facing onlookers crowding behind the security cordon at airports. While the exact reasons for this are unknown, as both sides of the aircraft seem identical, it could be reasonably assumed that this is done for security purposes and practicality.
Positioning the big jet in such a way masks the President’s office from sight on the right side, while it also enables the use of air stairs built into the aircraft on the left side should an external stair unit be unavailable. Air Force One never parks at an airport terminal, nor does it accept a jet bridge connection.