What it's like to fly a nuclear bomber for fun - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HISTORY

What it’s like to fly a nuclear bomber for fun

The Blackburn Buccaneer was a fast-attack jet of the Royal Navy designed to kill Russian cruisers from just above the waves with conventional and nuclear weapons in engagements lasting only a minute or so. Now, a retired oil company CEO has bought a retired Buccaneer and flies it around South Africa.


Blackburn Buccaneer – British Nuclear Bomber

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The plane was sent to the fleet in 1962 and served for over 30 years. The need for the jet came in 1952 when Russia introduced the Sverdlov-class cruisers. These were a class of cruisers valuable for defending the Russian coasts and attacking British and other carriers at night when the British would be unable to launch planes.

Britain could either build a new fleet of its own to counter Russia’s new fleets and the Sverdlov cruisers or, it could find a way to negate the new Russian assets. The British decided to build a new plane that could launch day or night, and that could quickly attack enemy ships and get away before the ship could retaliate.

This was a tall order against the Sverdlov which had cutting-edge radar and anti-aircraft weapons. British designers got around this by making the Buccaneer capable of flying just over the waves, below the radar of the enemy ships. And when they reached the target, the Buccaneers would launch their weapons in less than a minute and make their escape.

What it’s like to fly a nuclear bomber for fun

A Blackburn Buccaneer with its wings folded.

(Paul Lucas, CC BY 2.0)

The Buccaneer was supposed to eventually receive a custom-made nuclear air-to-surface missile, but actually spent most of its career carrying conventional air-to-air and air-to-surface missiles. Despite the failure to create the nuclear air-to-surface missile, the Buccaneer was equipped with nuclear free-fall bombs.

The aircraft performed plenty of training in the Cold War and were used for a number of missions, including extensive duties in Iraq during the Gulf War, but was retired in 1994 after the dissolution of the Soviet Union.

And that was where Ian Pringle came in. A successful oil businessman, Pringle had the money to scoop up a Buccaneer when it went up for sale. He had the plane transported to Thunder City, South Africa, where civilians are allowed to fly nuclear-capable aircraft.

Once there, he took lessons in how to fly the aircraft, a dangerous process. His plane was an operational one, and so it only has controls in the front seat, so his trainer had to sit in the back seat and coach him from there. If Pringle had panicked in flight, there was no way for the instructor to take over.

But Pringle figured it out, and now he races the plane low over the grass of South Africa when he can. The plane was made to allow pilots to fly just above the water, and so he can take it pretty low to the grass.

He’s one of only two civilians ever to fly the plane, though he obviously can’t fly it with missiles or bombs on board.

MIGHTY TRENDING

A US Air Force A-10 accidentally fired off a rocket over Arizona

A US Air Force A-10C Thunderbolt II accidentally fired off a rocket outside of the designated firing range in Arizona on Sep. 5, 2019.

The attack aircraft, assigned to the 354th Fighter Squadron from the 355th Wing, “unintentionally” released an M-156 rocket while on a training mission, Davis-Monthan Air Force Base said in a statement.

The M-156, according to CBS News, is a white phosphorous projectile used to mark targets. The rocket landed in the Jackal Military Operations Area, located about 60 miles northeast of Tucson, Arizona.


The Air Force says that no injuries, damages, or fires have been reported.

Sep. 5, 2019’s incident, which is currently under investigation, is the second time in a little over two months an A-10 has accidentally opened fire in an area where it wasn’t supposed to do so.

What it’s like to fly a nuclear bomber for fun

An A-10 Thunderbolt II.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Zachary Perras)

At the start of July 2019, an Air Force A-10 out of Moody Air Force Base in Georgia accidentally dropped three training bombs over Florida after hitting a bird. The three BDU-33s, non-explosive ordnance designed to simulate M1a-82 bombs, fell somewhere off Highway 129 near Suwannee Springs in northern Florida.

While the dummy bombs were inert, they did include a pyrotechnic charge that could be dangerous if mishandled.

A bird strike, a problem that has cost the Air Force millions of dollars over the years, was identified as the cause of the accidental weapons release in July. It is currently unclear what caused Thursday’s incident.

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

One of these 3 combat vehicles might replace the Bradley

As the US Army pursues accelerated modernization to meet the potential future demands of high-intensity warfighting against top adversaries like Russia and China, the service is searching for a new next-generation combat vehicle to replace the Bradley Infantry Fighting Vehicle produced by BAE Systems.

The Next-Generation Combat Vehicle (NGCV) program is the second highest priority for the recently-established Army Futures Command. This brand new four-star command is dedicated to the research and development of future weapons systems for this new era of great power competition.

“The Russians and the Chinese have used the last 15 years to modernize their forces,” Brig. Gen. Ross Coffman, director of the NGCV cross-functional team, told reporters Oct. 9, 2018, “We need to do the same.”


Replacing the Bradley Fighting Vehicle is the top priority for the Next-Generation Combat Vehicle program

The primary focus right now is replacing the Bradley with an Optionally Manned Fighting Vehicle (OMFV), although the requirements are still in the works, with Army officials noting that “all options are on the table.” The Army’s NGCV cross-functional team is looking for something lethal, survivable, and most importantly upgradeable so that it can continue to meet the Army’s needs for year’s to come, NGCV team leaders explained Tuesday at the 2018 Association of the United States Army conference in Washington, DC.

The Army appears to be pursuing a vehicle that can be reconfigured for different missions, has an outstanding power-to-weight ratio for intensity-based and technological upgrades and modifications, and can wage war in both urban and rural environments to provide a deterrent force in Europe and beyond.

The program is expected to issue an official request for proposals in 2018, and companies will have around six months to prepare their offers. The NGCV program expects to field its new OMFV in 2026. This Futures Command team is also looking at a new Armored Multi-Purpose Vehicle (AMPV), Mobile Protected Firepower (MPF) option, Robotic Command Vehicle (RCV), and replacement for the M1 Abrams tank, but the expected delivery dates for these projects are farther out.

There are three full-scale OMFV concepts put foward by BAE Systems, Raytheon, and Rheinmetall, and General Dynamics on display at AUSA 2018, although there may be more potential designs later on when the official request for proposals is sent out. While the three concepts on the floor offer many similar features, each vehicle brings something unique to the table.

What it’s like to fly a nuclear bomber for fun

The CV90 Mark IV.

(BAE Systems)

Characterizing it as a conversation starter, BAE Systems is offering the latest version of its proven combat vehicle — the CV90 Mark IV

There are 15 variants of the Combat Vehicle (CV) 90 in service in seven nations, so BAE Systems is coming to the table with the latest iteration of a proven vehicle. “We’re pretty proud of this vehicle,” a spokesman for the company told Business Insider at AUSA. “We brought this as our best way to start a conversation with the Army and help the Army help us figure out what it is that soldiers need.”

The strengths of this vehicle, according to its makers, include its growth potential and the mission-specific modularity and flexibility.

“On the left and right sides of it are boxes, they look like they are bolted on, those are weapons station modules,” the spokesman explained, “On [the left] side, you have a Spike missile module connected to the vehicle, and on the right side, you have a 7.62 coaxial machine gun with 2,000 ready rounds in the box.”

Those modular systems are all on attachment points, meaning that they could be swapped out for other modules, such as a Mark 19 grenade launcher, to suit the mission at hand. “It gives the Army, the unit commander, and the vehicle commander the maximum flexibility they need based on the mission,” he said, calling it “sexy.”

In addition to this flexibility, there is also growth potential in the vehicle weight. The vehicle has a maximum weight of 40 tons. The floor model weighed around 30 tons, allowing for the addition of extra armor and weapons systems should the intended mission require these modifications.

The CV90 Mark IV comes with a number of other potentially desirable features and capabilities as well

The vehicle’s 35 mm cannon can be easily modified should the Army show an interest in a 50 mm main gun, something Col. Jim Schirmer, the project lead for the NGVC, told reporters on Oct. 9, 2018, that the Army is seriously considering.

The BAE Systems vehicle also features a drive-by-wire system for manned and unmanned missions, advanced data transfer capabilities, enhanced survivability as it sits low to the ground (hard to see, hard to hit), advanced 360 surveillance, smart targeting systems, airburst munitions for counter-drone warfare, and active protection systems that can be modified as the Army presents a clearer picture of what it expects.

What it’s like to fly a nuclear bomber for fun

the Lynx KF41 Infantry Fighting Vehicle.

Raytheon and Rheinmetall joined forces to create the Lynx KF41 Infantry Fighting Vehicle, presenting it at AUSA 2018 as a ready-right-now OMFV option.

Described as a “not business as usual” project, the Lynx KF 41 Infantry Fighting Vehicle is the byproduct of a partnership between Rheinmetall, which has an extensive knowledge of vehicles, and Raytheon, a company that excels at integrated electronic systems.

The Raytheon team emphasized modularity for mission-specific modifications in a brief discussion with BI on the floor at AUSA 2018. “The whole thing is very innovative. You can take this configuration, remove the top, make it into another configuration, and you can do that overnight,” Kim Ernzen, vice president of Land Warfare Systems at Raytheon, explained.

“With a 10-ton crane, you can lift the roof plate and the turret off the base chassis, and you can re-roll the vehicle,” Philip Tomio, the vice president of strategy and marketing for the Vehicle Systems Division at Rheinmetall, said. “You can turn it into a command post, an ambulance, a repair and recovery vehicle, a joint fires reconnaissance variant. You have a number of options.”

She revealed to BI that during recent trials, crews were able to change the configuration in roughly three hours.

Raytheon and Rheinmetall are promising a “modern fighting vehicle that will keep US soldiers far ahead of battlefield threats for decades to come.”

The survivability of the vehicle can be changed in accordance with the demands of the fighting environment. With roughly 20 tons of configurable payload, the chassis can support additions up to 55 tons for high-intensity combat against an adversary like the Russians. And the main gun can be modified from a 35 mm cannon to a 50 mm gun as needed.

The Lynx IFV supports up to nine dismounts with a three-man crew, as well as as next-generation thermal sights, Coyote unmanned aircraft, active protection systems to counter a variety of asymmetric threats, a fully-integrated situational awareness sensor suite, and an extended-range TOW missile system, among other features.

The spokespeople for this OMFV project repeatedly stressed that the Lynx would be manufactured in the US, supporting the US industrial base and creating jobs. But perhaps more importantly, the vehicle is a finished product, not a concept, that could be ready to go on a moment’s notice.

What it’s like to fly a nuclear bomber for fun

General Dynamics Griffin armored fighting vehicle.

General Dynamics brought its Griffin III demonstrator, a combat system featuring elements of the Ajax armored vehicle used in the UK

Produced by the company the makes the M1 Abrams tank, also slated for replacement, General Dynamics’ Griffin III features lethality, modularity, and growth options, among other capabilities.

In terms of lethality, the modular turret features a 50 mm main gun with the option to modify the weapon to a 30 mm cannon if necessary and the ability to fire at an 85 degree angle, a capability requested by the Army for urban combat. The 50 mm gun is significantly more powerful than the Bradley’s current 25 mm cannon.

Supporting a squad with five to eight people and a two-to-three-man crew, the newest evolution of the Griffin I and II is, according to General Dynamics, focused on “adaptability” through the company’s emphasis on a modifiable, open architecture. At the same time, the vehicle features a wide variety of integrated systems with a common operating system, specifically active protection systems, laser warning systems, 360-degree surround view, and a deepstrike package, Mike Peck, the director of enterprise business development at General Dynamics told BI at AUSA 2018.

“All of that is integrated in there. You don’t have to keep adding boxes to the vehicle,” he explained.

The Griffin is said to have a lot of “unique” features designed to trigger additional conversations with the Army going forward.


The Griffin III is meant to satisfy the Army’s vague requirements for the OMFV as they are right now, but it could be changed.

“We wanted to show them what they asked for and then ask, ‘Do you like it, or would you change something?'” Peck explained to BI. “If so, the next iteration — Griffin IV — will have those modifications on it.”

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

This sniper crawled nearly 2 miles to kill one enemy general

Gunnery Sgt. Carlos Hathcock is a legend of Marine Corps history. One of the most lethal snipers in history, he even repeatedly succeeded in killing snipers sent to hunt him. In one of his last missions on a tour in Vietnam, he crawled nearly two miles to kill a Vietnamese general and escape.

When the mission came down, he didn’t have all the details but he knew tough missions at the end of a tour were a recipe for disaster. Rather than send one of his men, he volunteered for the mission himself.

“Normally, when you take on a mission like that, when you’re that short, you forget everything,” Hathcock said in an interview. “Ya know, tactics, the whole ball of wax, and you end up dead. And, I did not want none of my people dead, and so I took the mission on myself.”

 

What it’s like to fly a nuclear bomber for fun
Photo: Marine Corps Archives

Hathcock was flown towards the objective, but was dropped well short of the target so he wouldn’t be given away. He made his way to a tree line, but still had 1,500 yards to move from the tree line to his final firing position. So, he started crawling.

“I went to my side. I didn’t go flat on my belly, because I made a bigger slug trail when I was on my belly. I moved on my side, pretty minutely, very minutely. I knew I had a long ways to go, didn’t want to tire myself out too much.”

As he crawled, he was nearly discovered multiple times by enemy soldiers.

“Patrols were within arm’s reach of me. I could’ve tripped the majority, some of them. They didn’t even know I was there.”

The complacency of the patrol allowed Hathcock to get 700 yards from his target.

“They didn’t expect a one-man attack. They didn’t expect that. And I knew, from the first time when they came lolly-gagging past me, that I had it made.”

The talented sniper made his way up to his firing position, avoiding patrols the whole way and slipping between machine gun nests without being detected.

He arrived at his firing position and set up for his shot.

“Seen all the guys running around that morning, and I dumped the bad guy.”

Hathcock took his shot and punched right through the chest of the general he was targeting. At that moment, he proved the brilliance of firing from grass instead of from the trees.

“When I made the shot, everybody run the opposite direction because that’s where the trees were,” he said. “That’s where the trees were. It flashed in my mind, ‘Hey, you might have something here.”

Per his escape plan, Hathcock crawled to a nearby ditch and crawled his way back out of the field. For the first time in four days, he was able to walk.

“So, I went to that ditch, little gully, and made it to the tree line, and about passed out when I stood up to get a little bit better speed.”

MIGHTY CULTURE

Curious Kids: What’s it like to be a fighter pilot?

This is an article from Curious Kids, a series for children of all ages. The Conversation is asking young people to send in questions they’d like an expert to answer. All questions are welcome: find details on how to enter at the bottom.

What’s it like to be a fighter pilot? – Torben, aged eight, Sussex, UK.


Thanks for your question, Torben. I’m a professor working at the University of Portsmouth’s Extreme Environments Laboratory, where we study how humans respond when going into space, mountains, deserts and the sea, as well as what it’s like to be in submarines, spacecraft and, of course, jet planes.

To be a fast jet pilot, you must be fit and smart, and able to do what’s needed, even when the going gets tough. You also get to wear some very special clothes, to protect your body while flying.

What it’s like to fly a nuclear bomber for fun

Capts. Andrew Glowa, left, and William Piepenbring launch flares from two A-10C Thunderbolt IIs Aug. 18, 2014, over southern Georgia.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Jamal D. Sutter)

If you’re a fighter pilot, you’re not allowed to get air sick (which is a bit like getting car sick, in a plane). And you have to be the right height and weight to fit in the cockpit — and to jump out in emergencies.

Fighter jets can go 1,550 miles an hour: that’s more than twice the speed of sound, or 25 miles in a minute. So, if you live two miles from school, you could get home in less than five seconds in a fighter jet.

Only the best pilots in the world can fly a plane that goes so fast: you have to be able to think and act very quickly. To help you, modern jets listen to your voice, so you can tell them what to do — it’s called “voice command”.

Fast jets aren’t smooth to fly in, like the kind of planes you go on holiday in — they’re more like a fast fairground ride. You have to be strapped into your seat very tightly, so that you don’t get thrown around.

What it’s like to fly a nuclear bomber for fun

First Lt. Kayla Bowers, a 74th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron A-10 Thunderbolt II pilot, looks out of the cockpit of her aircraft during the squadron’s deployment in support of Operation Atlantic Resolve at Graf Ignatievo, Bulgaria, March 18, 2016.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Joe W. McFadden)

In fact, flying that fast and making lots of turns and dives can make you feel very sick. Can you imagine being sick, while wearing a mask and flying a plane at 1,000 miles an hour? That’s why fighter pilots have to be checked and trained to make sure they don’t get air sick.

Fast jet pilots also have to wear lots of special clothes to protect them in different situations. One thing they have to wear is a helmet to protect their head, and a mask with a microphone.

The mask is linked up to a system that can provide extra oxygen if anything goes wrong — after all, there’s less oxygen in the air when you’re flying very high, and humans need plenty of oxygen to breathe properly.

Standing on Earth, humans experience gravity at 1G (that’s one times the acceleration due to gravity). But when fighter jets make fast turns and rolls, the pilot can experience up to 9G (by comparison, roller coasters only produce 3-6G). That means they feel nine times heavier, which can be very unpleasant and would make most people black out.

To help with this, fighter pilots also wear special trousers that squeeze their legs tightly when they go round bends — this keeps the blood pumping up to their brain, to stop them from fainting: trust me, you don’t want to faint when flying a fast jet.

What it’s like to fly a nuclear bomber for fun

Lt. Col. Benjamin Bishop completes preflight checks before his first sortie in an F-35A Lightning II, March 6, 2013.

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

Fast jet pilots may also have to wear a flying suit, a life jacket and an “immersion suit” — that’s a suit which keeps you warm and dry, if you end up in the sea. They may also wear another suit to protect them from chemicals and other dangerous things.

All this kit and clothing can make a fighter pilot pretty hot. Plus the jet has a plastic lid and lots of very clever electronics, which can also heat up the cockpit. And when the plane goes fast through the air, it warms up due to friction — like when you rub your hands together fast.

To stay cool, fighter pilots can wear a special vest with long small tubes in it, which pump cold water around. Or, they can wear a suit next to their skin which has cold air blowing through it.

Pilots sit on a rocket-powered ejector seat, so if he or she gets into trouble, they can pull a handle and be blasted up into the air and away from the crashing plane.

Luckily, the seat has a parachute that opens up and lets them float down to the ground safely. But the force of the ejection actually makes them shorter for a little while afterwards.

Hello, curious kids! Have you got a question you’d like an expert to answer? Ask an adult to send your question to us. You can:

  • Email your question to curiouskids@theconversation.com
  • Tell us on Twitter by tagging @ConversationUK with the hashtag #curiouskids, or
  • Message us on Facebook.

This article originally appeared on The Conversation. Follow @ConversationUS on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Did the Pentagon just drone the top ISIS drone makers?

The US military says it has killed three men who played key roles in developing, building, and modifying Islamic State drones.


Col. Ryan Dillon, a spokesman for the US-led military coalition in Baghdad, told reporters at the Pentagon Sept. 28 that the three were killed in a series of US airstrikes in Syria in mid-September.

What it’s like to fly a nuclear bomber for fun
Wikipedia

Dillon says two of the men were responsible for manufacturing and modifying commercially produced drones. The other man was described as a drone developer, who was killed when his research workshop near Mayadin, Syria, was hit by two airstrikes.

The Islamic State group has used drones for surveillance and to fire small weapons, in both Syria and Iraq.

MIGHTY SPORTS

Sprint Football — Army West Point at Navy (9/21/18 – 7:00PM EST)

Navy leads the all-time sprint series with Army West Point in sprint football, 42-35-1 (.545), including a 19-14 (.576) mark in Annapolis. Two of the most dominant teams in sprint football history, Army West Point and Navy have won or shared the sprint football title 71 times, including 29 outright by the Mids and 27 by the Black Knights. The league was split into divisions last season with Army West Point winning the North before defeating Penn in the first CSFL Championship game.


Today, starting at 7:00PM EST, the two archrivals clash once again in Annapolis. Navy’s out to continue their dominant streak while Army West Point is bringing their best to try and even the score. Both Army and Navy are coming into the game with a lot of momentum, fresh off of 45-7 victories over Chestnut Hill and Franklin Pierce, respectively.

Watch the game live below.

Articles

How the Coast Guard is going to play a big role in preventing terrorism in America’s ports

Security at shipping ports around the US, including testing containers and vessels for biological and radiological hazards, is a top priority to preventing terrorism, US Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly said July 20.


As he rode aboard the Coast Guard Cutter Aspen, near the Port of Los Angeles, Kelly viewed an array of new equipment used to test for radiation and biological threats.

“The threat always changes, so we always have to be on top of that,” Kelly said as the vessel cruised through the Pacific Ocean off Southern California.

What it’s like to fly a nuclear bomber for fun
Port of Los Angeles. Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

While he was aboard, members of the Coast Guard conducted a training demonstration, simulating the boarding of a ship with a radiological threat.

Members of the Coast Guard’s new California-based Maritime Safety and Security Team descended from helicopters with assault rifles and stormed the ship. Kelly watched from a deck above as they charged up stairwells and searched the ship as part of the exercise. Other crew members climbed up ladders from a smaller boat that pulled alongside.

“What they do, they do for you,” Kelly said.

What it’s like to fly a nuclear bomber for fun
USCG photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Jon-Paul Rios

As the vessel passed stacks of shipping containers at the Port of Los Angeles, Kelly said it is essential for law enforcement and Coast Guard personnel to constantly train and be prepared for any threats.

Kelly said he believes the current security levels at US shipping ports is adequate, but his agency must continue to research new technology to keep up with changing threats. His biggest concern, he said, is contraband, including illegal drugs that are shipped in from other countries.

“It is all about protecting the nation and doing it as fast as we can so normal legal commerce, normal legal people can come in and out of the country and be inconvenienced at the minimum,” Kelly said.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Russia doubles down on its version of the beloved A-10

The Su-25 Frogfoot, known as the Grach or “Rook” by Russian pilots, is one of those aircraft that may not be at the cutting edge of technology, but still has seen widespread service around the world because it offers an effective and useful solution to the need to blast targets on the ground.

As such, its obvious stablemate is the American A-10 Thunderbolt II attack plane. But while the U.S. Air Force wants to retire the A-10 starting in 2022, the Su-25 is undergoing extensive upgrades to keep with the times.


Also unlike the Thunderbolt, it has been disseminated it all over the world and seen action in over a dozen wars, including in the air campaigns over Syria, Iraq and Ukraine.

Not only has Russia had a lot of experience flying Su-25s in combat — it has shot several down as well.

During World War II, Russia’s armored Il-2 Sturmovik attack planes, nicknamed “Flying Tanks,” were renowned for their ability to take a pounding while dishing it out to German Panzer divisions with bombs, rockets and cannon fire.

What it’s like to fly a nuclear bomber for fun

An A-10 Thunderbolt II.

Unlike the U.S. Air Force in the 1960s, which was enamored with the concept of “winning” nuclear wars with strategic bombers, the Soviet air service, the VVS, placed more emphasis on supporting ground armies in its Frontal Aviation branch. However, no worthy successor to the Shturmovik immediately appeared after World War II

In 1968, the VVS service decided it was time for another properly designed flying tank. After a three-way competition, the prototype submitted by Sukhoi was selected and the first Su-25 attack planes entered production in 1978 in a factory in Tbilisi, Georgia. Coincidentally, the American A-10 Thunderbolt had begun entering service a few years earlier.

Like the A-10, the Su-25 was all about winning a titanic clash between the ground forces of NATO and the Warsaw Pact by busting tanks and blasting infantry in Close Air Support missions. This meant flying low and slow to properly observe the battlefield and line up the plane for an attack run.

Flying low would also help the Su-25 avoid all the deadly long-range SAMs that would have been active in a European battlefield. However, this would have exposed it to all kinds of antiaircraft guns. Thus, the pilot of the Su-25 benefited from an “armored bathtub” — ten to twenty-five millimeters of armor plating that wrapped around the cockpit and even padded the pilot’s headrest. It also had armored fuel tanks and redundant control schemes to increase the likelihood of surviving a hit. And in their extensive combat careers, Su-25s have survived some really bad hits.

What it’s like to fly a nuclear bomber for fun

A Sukhoi Su-25SM at the Celebration of the 100th anniversary of Russian Air Force.

Despite the similarities with the A-10, the Su-25 is a smaller and lighter, and has a maximum speed fifty percent faster than the Thunderbolt’s at around six hundred miles per hour. However, the Frogfoot has shorter range and loiter time, can only operate at half the altitude, and has a lighter maximum load of up to eight thousand pounds of munitions, compared to sixteen thousand on the Thunderbolt.

More importantly, the types of munitions usually carried are typically different. The Thunderbolt’s mainstays are precision-guided munitions, especially Maverick antitank missiles, as well as its monstrous, fast-firing GAU-8 cannon.

The Su-25’s armament has typically consisted of unguided 250 or 500 kilogram bombs, cluster bombs and rockets. The rockets come in forms ranging from pods containing dozens of smaller 57- or 80-millimeter rockets, to five-shot 130-millimeter S-13 system, to large singular 240- or 330-millimeter rockets. The Su-25 also has a Gsh-30-2 30-millimeter cannon under the nose with 260 rounds of ammunition, though it doesn’t have the absurd rate of fire of the GAU-8.

The lower tip of the Frogfoot’s nose holds a glass-enclosed laser designator. Su-25s did make occasional use of Kh-25ML and Kh-29 laser guided missiles in Afghanistan to take out Mujahideen fortified caves, striking targets as far as five miles away. KAB-250 laser-guided bombs began to see use in Chechnya as well. However, use of such weapons was relatively rare. For example, they made up only 2 percent of munitions expended by the Russian Air Force in Chechnya.

The Su-25 was still packing plenty of antipersonnel firepower—and that’s exactly what was called for when it first saw action in Afghanistan beginning in 1981. The Su-25 was the workhorse fixed-wing attack plane in the conflict, flying more than sixty thousand sorties in bombing raids on mujahedeen villages and mountain strongholds. They often teamed up with Mi-24 attack helicopters to provide air support for Soviet armored units.

However, as the Afghan rebels began to acquire Stinger missiles from the United States, Su-25s began to suffer losses and the Soviet pilots were forced to fly higher to avoid the man-portable surface-to-air missiles. In all, some fifteen Su-25s were shot down in Afghanistan before the Soviet withdrawal.

With the dissolution of the Soviet Union, Su-25s were passed onto the air services of all the Soviet successor states. Those that didn’t use Su-25s in local wars—on both sides of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, for example—often exported them to countries that did. Frogfoots have seen action in the service of Macedonia (against Albanian rebels), Ethiopia (against Eritrea, with one shot down), Sudan (target: Darfur), and Georgia versus Abkhazian separatists that shot down several. And that list is not comprehensive.

In one notable episode, Cote d’Ivoire acquired several Su-25s and used them in its civil war. When the government of President Laurent Gbagbo was angered by the perceived partisanship of French peacekeepers, his mercenary-piloted Su-25s bombed the French camp, killing nine. Whoever ordered the attack didn’t consider that there was a French contingent stationed at the Yamoussoukro Airfield where the Frogfoots were based. The French used anti-tank missiles to destroy the fighter bombers on the ground in retaliation.

Russian Su-25 were back in action in the Chechnya campaign of 1994 to 1995, flying 5,300 strike sorties. Early on they helped wipe out Chechen aircraft on the ground and hit the Presidential Palace in Grozny with anti-concrete bombs. They then pursued a more general bombing campaign. Four were lost to missiles and flak. They were again prominent in the Second Chechen War in 1999, where only one was lost.

Of course, it’s important to note at this juncture that the Su-25 is one of a handful of Soviet aircraft that received its own American computer game in 1990.

Modern Su-25s

In addition to the base model, the Frogfoot also came in an export variant, the Su-25K, and a variety of two-seat trainers with a hunchback canopy, including the combat-capable Su-25UBM.

There were a number of projects to modernize the Su-25, including small productions runs of Su-25T and Su-25TM tank busters. But the Russian Air Force finally selected the Su-25SM in the early 2000s for all future modernization.

The SM has a new BARS satellite navigation/attack system, which allows for more precise targeting, as well as a whole slew of improved avionics such as news heads-up displays (HUDS), Radar Warning Receivers and the like. The Su-25SM can use the excellent R-73 short-range air-to-air missile, and has improved targeting abilities for laser-guided bombs. Other improvements reduce maintenance requirements and lower aircraft weight.

The National Interest‘s Dave Majumdar has written about the latest SM3 upgrade, which includes the capacity to fire Kh-58 anti-radar missiles, which could enable Su-25s to help suppress enemy air defenses, as well as a Vitebskelectronic-countermeasure system that could increase its survivability against both radar- and infarred-guided surface to air missiles.

Georgia and Ukraine also have limited numbers of their own domestically upgrade variants, the Su-25KM and the Su-25M1 respectively. You can check out the Su-25KM variant, produced with an Israeli firm, in this video full of unironic 1980s flair.

Speaking of Georgia, things got messy in 2008 when both Russia and Georgia operated Frogfoots in the Russo-Georgian War. The Georgian Frogfoots provided air support for Georgian troops seizing the city of Tskhinvali. Then Russian Su-25s assisted Russian armor in blasting them out. Russia lost three Su-25s to MANPADS—two likely from friendly fire—and Georgia lost a similar number to Russian SAMs. To the surprise of observers, however, the Russian Air Force did not succeed in sweeping Georgian aviation from the sky.

In 2014, Ukraine deployed its Frogfoots to support ground forces combating separatist rebels in Eastern Ukraine. They assisted in the initial recapture of the Donetsk airport in May, would be followed over a half year of seesaw battles ending in a separatist victory in 2015. Ukraine lost four Su-25s in the ensuing ground-attack missions—three were hit by missiles (one MANPADS, two allegedly by longer-ranged systems across the Russian border), and a fourth was reportedly downed by a Russian MiG-29. Two others survivedhits from missiles. As a result, Su-25 strikes were sharply curtailed to avoid incurring further losses.

In 2015, the Russian separatists of the Luhansk People’s Republic claimed to have launched airstrikes with an Su-25 of their own. Depending on who you ask, the airplane was restored from a museum or flew in from Russia.

The Iraqi Air Force has deployed its own Su-25s in the war against ISIS, purchasing five from Russia in 2014 and receiving seven from Iran that had been impounded during the 1991 Gulf War.

Finally, in the fall of 2015, Russia deployed a dozen modernized Su-25SMs in support of the Syrian government of Bashar al-Assad. Many observers noted that of the aircraft involved in the mission, the Su-25s were the best adapted for the close air-support role. The Frogfoot flew 1,600 sorties against rebel-held Syrian cities, and expended more than six thousand munitions, mostly unguided bombs and S-13 rockets. They were withdrawn this year, leaving attack helicopter behind to perform more precise—and risky—close air support missions.

Lessons Learned from Flying Tanks?

While it’s fun to admire high-performing fighters like the MiG-29 or F-22 Raptor, the unglamorous Su-25 has so far had a greater impact on a wide range of conflicts. We can draw a few lessons from its recent combat record.

First, the significant losses suffered by Su-25s demonstrate that without effective air-defense suppression and electronic counter-measures, low-and-slow ground support planes are poised to take heavy losses against Russian-made surface-to-air missiles deployed in sufficient numbers.

Second, observation of Russia’s Syrian contingent suggests that despite possessing a diverse arsenal of precision guided munitions, the Russian Air Force continues to rely primarily on unguided bombs and rockets for the close air support mission.

Lastly, aircraft capable of delivering punishing attacks on ground targets while retaining a good chance of surviving hits taken in return are going to remain in high demand worldwide.

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

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How atomic bombs fueled Las Vegas tourism in the 1950s

You would think that nuclear weapons testing and tourism wouldn’t go together. But in fact, tourists who went to Las Vegas to watch the nuclear tests helped fuel the growth of that city in the 1950s.


In the 1950s, the United States carried out over 150 nuclear weapons tests above ground. Some of these tests – particularly the large-scale thermo-nuclear bomb tests like the 1954 Castle Bravo test, which had a 15-megaton yield – were carried out in the Central Pacific. Not exactly accessible to tourists, but well out of the way (an important consideration considering the power of the bombs).

What it’s like to fly a nuclear bomber for fun
Nuclear weapons

However, in Nevada — where the explosions and subsequent mushroom clouds were visible from Las Vegas — These tests gave that rapidly-growing city’s economy a surprising boost. Many tourists traveled to Vegas hoping they’d see one of these tests take place.

Of course, today, we know about the after-effects of all those explosions, including fallout that leads to cancer and other medical issues for people who were downwind of the nuclear blasts.

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The Buster-Jangle Dog nuclear test of a 21-kiloton weapon. (Photo: US Department of Energy)

Back then, it was seen as just a fancy fireworks display for Sin City residents and tourists on the United States government’s dime. In 1963, the Partial Test Ban Treaty was ratified. That ended the era of above-ground testing, and limited the blasts to underground.

The U.S. continued to carry out underground nuclear tests until 1992, when the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty curtailed nuke blasts. That treaty, however, has still not been ratified by the Senate. Check out this video from the Smithsonian Channel to learn more about Sin City’s nuclear tourism boom (pun intended).

MIGHTY TRENDING

ISIS is urging its fighters to avoid Europe because of the coronavirus pandemic

ISIS has issued a travel advisory for Europe to its fighters due to the novel coronavirus pandemic, asking fighters to suspend travel to the region for terror attacks.


The latest edition of the terror group’s newsletter, Al-Naba, calls on its fighters to “stay away from the land of the epidemic,” Homeland Security Today recently reported.

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“The healthy should not enter the land of the epidemic and the afflicted should not exit from it,” the editors of the newsletter stated.

The newsletter also offered militants advice on how to avoid getting infected, including “cover the mouth when yawning and sneezing” and “wash the hands before dipping them into vessels.” There’s a full-page graphic on the back cover that cites Islamic texts for “directives to deal with epidemics.”

The terror group’s newsletter has been following the novel coronavirus pandemic closely, reporting on the spread of the virus, which originated in Wuhan, China, since the beginning of 2020.

In a February edition, ISIS said “many Muslims rushed to confirm that this epidemic is a punishment from God Almighty” for China’s oppression of the Muslim Uighur minority, but went on to warn that the “the world is interconnected” and transportation “would facilitate the transfer of diseases and epidemics.”

ISIS no longer has a self-declared caliphate, meaning it doesn’t control a large swath of territory across Iraq and Syria anymore. But it’s estimated the terror group still has as many as 20,000 fighters in the region, and a recent UN report said the group has 0 million in reserves.

[rebelmouse-proxy-image https://media.rbl.ms/image?u=%2F-%2Fmedia%2FImages%2FMHS%2FPhotos%2Ftransportation-isolation-system.ashx%3Fh%3D407%26la%3Den%26mw%3D720%26w%3D720%26hash%3D24F8F67B8986886E1199418D057627CA77BA04D84FFFFBA954AE6C8DEAC8076D&ho=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.health.mil&s=106&h=bafc5129956aee1a5d1dfa79017410d69b22b5d24285d21db481580887f7cc2b&size=980x&c=3994337654 crop_info=”%7B%22image%22%3A%20%22https%3A//media.rbl.ms/image%3Fu%3D%252F-%252Fmedia%252FImages%252FMHS%252FPhotos%252Ftransportation-isolation-system.ashx%253Fh%253D407%2526la%253Den%2526mw%253D720%2526w%253D720%2526hash%253D24F8F67B8986886E1199418D057627CA77BA04D84FFFFBA954AE6C8DEAC8076D%26ho%3Dhttps%253A%252F%252Fwww.health.mil%26s%3D106%26h%3Dbafc5129956aee1a5d1dfa79017410d69b22b5d24285d21db481580887f7cc2b%26size%3D980x%26c%3D3994337654%22%7D” expand=1]

There have been confirmed cases of coronavirus in a number of countries where ISIS has fighters, including Iraq and Afghanistan. As of Tuesday afternoon, almost 196,000 people worldwide have been infected with COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, and more than 7,800 have died.

Europe has been hit especially hard by COVID-19, particularly Italy, where over 30,000 people have been infected and over 2,500 people have died as of Tuesday.

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

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This is why the rank of General of the Armies was only given twice in US history

General of the Armies is a rank so high up in the strata of power that only two people in the history of the United States have ever attained it. Keep in mind: This is not General of the Army, it’s plural — all the Armies. Today, it is the equivalent of a six-star general with autonomous authority equal to the Admiral of the Navy, but senior to General of the Army, General of the Air Force, and Fleet Admiral.

How did one attain this an honor and the right to exercise complete control over our Armed Forces? Historically, you either win the War to End All Wars like John Pershing or be George Washington.


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How do you find the guy who went to West Point in a bar? Don’t worry, he’ll tell you.

 

John J. Pershing graduated West Point in 1886 and was assigned to the 6th Cavalry. In 1890, he went on campaign against the Ghost Dance movement in the Dakota Territory before becoming an instructor of military science at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln, a year later. He earned a law degree while teaching there in 1893 and became a tactics instructor at West Point in 1897.

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Here is a quick timeline of his military career:

  • 1898 — Pershing returned to service in the Spanish-American War in Cuba as an ordinance officer.
  • 1899 (June) — Pershing was promoted to adjutant general in charge of the Bureau of Insular Affairs.
  • 1899 (November) — Pershing deployed to the Philippines in command of the department of Mindanao.
  • 1901 — Pershing campaigned against the Moros for two years.
  • 1905 — Pershing deployed to Japan as a military attache to the U.S. Embassy.
  • 1906 — Pershing is promoted from captain to brigadier general and returns to the Philippines as the governor of the Moro Province.
  • 1917 — Pershing becomes the commander of the U.S.-Mexican Border.
  • 1917 (April) — U.S. declares war on Germany.
  • 1917 (June) — Pershing is sent to France to gather a ‘General Organization Report’ used to create an Army of one million by 1918 and three million by 1919. US Army strength is 84,000 at the time.
  • 1918 — Pershing concentrates an army almost entirely independent of the allies on the Western Front.
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Don’t talk to me or my son ever again.

 

The allies strongly advised that the U.S. troops replenish their failing armies instead of marshaling our own in WWI. Allowing this to come to pass meant Americans would be used as cannon fodder during enemy attacks. Pershing strongly defended the idea of keeping the U.S. Army whole, regardless of the desperation of our European allies. The U.S. War Council gave into allied pressure and recommended the amalgamation of U.S. troops into other armies.

Pershing ignored the recommendation. He refused to sacrifice American lives and left the allies to suck it up. It was akin, as he put it, to…

“Pouring new wine into old bottles.” – John J. Pershing

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You’re all boots to me.

 

In 1919, recognizing his achievements and victory after World War I, Pershing became the first person to be promoted to General of the Armies. His insignia became four gold stars but, because of bureaucracy, they were not recognized as an official rank for years. He held this rank for the rest of his career. According to the U.S. Army Center of Military History,

Pershing then retired from the United States Army on September 13, 1924, and retained his rank on the U.S. Army retirement rolls until his death in 1948.”

Years later, in 1976, Congress decided that it was inappropriate that General George Washington was outranked by four- and five-star generals in the nation’s history. Washington retired as a lieutenant ‘three-star’ general and was subsequently out ranked officers of the Civil War, WWI, and WWII, including General Pershing. Something had to be done. America could not allow George Washington to be out ranked — that’s borderline blasphemy — so they did something about it.

On March 13, 1978, Lieutenant General Washington was promoted to General of the Armies, effective July 4th, 1976.

Here’s the text of his posthumous, legislative promotion:

“Whereas Lieutenant General George Washington of Virginia commanded our armies throughout and to the successful termination of our Revolutionary War; Whereas Lieutenant General George Washington presided over the convention that formulated our Constitution; Whereas Lieutenant General George Washington twice served as President of the United States of America; and Whereas it is considered fitting and proper that no officer of the United States Army should outrank Lieutenant General George Washington on the Army list; Now, therefore, be it Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That(a) for purposes of subsection (b) of this section only, the grade of General of the Armies of the United States is established, such grade to have rank and precedence over all other grades of the Army, past or present.(b) The President is authorized and requested to appoint George Washington posthumously to the grade of General of the Armies of the United States, such appointment to take effect on July 4, 1976.”

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11 awesome facts about John Glenn and his amazing life

John Glenn may be one of the United States Marine Corps’ most epic alums. And that’s saying a lot (he’s in good company).


In his 95 years on planet Earth — and his time off the planet — Glenn racked up accomplishment after accomplishment, feat after feat, do after derring-do.

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It’s no wonder the U.S. and the world hail the Ohioan as a legend. He was a decorated war hero, astronaut, and senator — but he was so much more.

Here are a few interesting things you may not have known about the first American to orbit the Earth.

1. The documentary about his life was nominated for an Oscar.

The 1963 short film “The John Glenn Story” was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Documentary Short. That was before he was elected to the Senate.

 

His life was already so epic it warranted its own movie, and even then, he was far from finished.

2. He and his wife were married for 73 years.

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John and Anna Glenn in 1963.

Glenn and his wife, Anna, were married in April 1943. They had two children and two grandchildren. Anna had a severe speech impediment and he protected her from the media because of it.

3. He was also the first man to eat in space.

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Glenn is seen here eating applesauce. No kidding.

The first meal in space was applesauce. And it was a big deal because scientists thought humans might not be able to digest in zero gravity. He also ate pureed beef and vegetables. Other famous space feats include being the oldest man in space (age 77) and the first man to carry a knife (a 9-inch blade in a leather sheath).

4. His Korean War wingman was also famous.

Glenn flew several missions with “The Greatest Hitter Who Ever Lived,” baseball hero Ted Williams. Williams flew half of his 39 combat mission over North Korea with Glenn.

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Glenn and Ted Williams reconnect following a parade down State Road A1A in Cocoa Beach in 1999. (NASA photo)

Glenn called Williams “one of the best pilots I ever knew.”

5. Bill Clinton sent two emails as President: One was to John Glenn.

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The laptop Clinton used to send the email sold for $60,000. (The White House/NASA)

The internet as we know it was in its infancy during the Clinton Administration, yet as President, Bill Clinton sent two: one to U.S. troops in the Adriatic, and the other to Glenn, then 77 years old and in orbit around the Earth.

6. Glenn was almost an excuse to invade Cuba.

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Operation “Dirty Trick” was planned if Glenn’s capsule crashed back to Earth. The Pentagon reportedly wanted to blame any mishap on Cuban electronic interference, and use his death as an excuse to invade Cuba.

7. Glenn’s Marine Corps nickname was “Magnet Ass.”

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Magnet Ass standing beside the damage to the tail of his F9F Panther from antiaircraft fire after a mission during the Korean War. (Ohio State University)

He flew a F9F Panther jet interceptor on 63 combat missions, twice returning with over 250 holes in his aircraft. His aircrews all thought he somehow attracted flak.

8. John Glenn was the last surviving Mercury 7 astronaut.

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The Mercury 7 astronauts examine their ‘couches.’ Each astronaut’s couch was molded to fit his body to help withstand the G-loads of the launch. (NASA photo)

The next to last one died in 2013. Also, the five sons of Jeff Tracy in the kids show “Thunderbirds” were named after the first five American astronauts into space through the Mercury project: Scott Carpenter, Virgil Grissom, Alan Shepard, Gordon Cooper, and John Glenn.

9. President John F. Kennedy barred Glenn from further space flights.

Glenn found out by reading Richard Reeves’ biography of President Kennedy decades later.

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(Robert Knudsen. White House Photographs. John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston)

“Kennedy had indicated to NASA that he would just as soon that I was not assigned to another flight,” Glenn told the Mercury News in 2015.

10. Glenn took the first human-shot photo of the Earth from space.

It was a panoramic view of Florida from the Georgia border.

What it’s like to fly a nuclear bomber for fun
(NASA photo by John Glenn)

His first words back to NASA were, “This is Friendship 7. Can see clear back; a big cloud pattern way back across towards the Cape. Beautiful sight.”

11. His space flight inspired a blues song.

Blues legend Lightnin’ Sam Hopkins wrote an upbeat blues song about Glenn’s first orbital spaceflight.

 

Lightnin’ Hopkins was not known for upbeat, fun songs. He is best known for downbeat songs about emotional pain, tragedy, and death.

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