Category Archives: Air Force

No, the Army doesn’t want the A-10.

We argued that some time ago the Army simply wasn’t interested in taking over the A-10 should the Air Force attempt to divest itself of the plane.

And before you say “well, fine, give ‘em to the Army” or Marines, or what have you, understand, neither service wants the A-10 so badly they they are willing to pick up those associated costs, nor incur the major doctrinal upheaval integration of the A-1o would entail. That doesn’t even get into where the Army or Marines would find the manpower to operate the Warthog. It simply will not happen.

And now, Army Secretary McHugh has made that official.

The U.S. Army has no interest in taking over the Air Force’s fleet of A-10 attack planes, even if it would save the venerable Cold War-era aircraft from the bone yard.

The service’s top civilian, Army Secretary John McHugh, rejected the idea of accepting hand-me-down A-10 Warthogs from the Air Force.

“No chance,” he said during a breakfast meeting with reporters on Wednesday in Washington, D.C. “That’s not even been a topic of casual conversation.”

“With our own aircraft fleet we’re taking some pretty dramatic steps to reconfigure and become more affordable, and the A-10 mission is not something we considered. That’s an Air Force mission as it should be and I’m sure the Air Force feels the same way,” McHugh said.

The Marines? They’ve leveraged the future of not just Marine Aviation, but the entire Marine Corps on the F-35B. They want nothing to do with the A-10.

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So Let’s Let ‘Em Have Nukes!

…what a great idea.

After all, just because they conduct naval maneuvers to practice sinking US warships is no reason to think they are hostile toward the United States.

Just like threatening to wipe Israel off the map is no indicator of any latent dislike of our ally.  More diplomatic success for our anti-American President.

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Suribachi

Four days after the bloody struggle to come ashore on Iwo Jima’s fire-swept black volcanic sand beaches, a patrol from 28th Marines was ordered to the top of the sullen volcanic lump that dominated the six square miles of sulphur and rock.  The seven-man patrol under the Executive Officer of Easy Company, 28th Marines raised a small flag.  The flag, difficult to see from the beach, was replaced by a larger one retrieved from one of the LSTs offshore supporting the landing.  Five Marines and one Navy Corpsman labored under fire to plant the larger colors into the rocky ground. The raising of the second, larger flag was captured by Joe Rosenthal, and became the most iconic and reproduced image in the history of photography.

Iwo

Many commonly believe that the raising of the flag on Mount Suribachi signaled the end of the fight for Iwo Jima.  In reality, twenty-two more days of relentless and ferocious savagery lay ahead.  It was not until 26 March 1945 that Iwo Jima was declared secured.  Of the six men who raised the flag on Suribachi, three, Sgt Mike Strank, Cpl Harlan Block, and PFC Franklin Sousley, would die on the island, along with more than 6,800 others, mostly Marines.  A fourth flag raiser, Second Class Hospital Corpsman John Bradley, was among the more than 19,000 wounded.   The man who took the motion picture footage from the same vantage as Rosenthal, Marine Combat Cameraman Bill Genaust, was later killed in one of Suribachi’s hundreds of caves.

Bradley received a Navy Cross for his actions in combat on 21 February, and Strank a Bronze Star.  Bill Genaust also received a Bronze Star.

The above movie is the approximately 20 minute production called “To the Shores of Iwo Jima”.  Well worth the time, as it is a grim and unvarnished look at the titanic struggle for Iwo.  Seldom have the words of a senior officer been so accurate, or heartfelt, as when Admiral Chester Nimitz described the fight for the island.

Uncommon Valor was a Common Virtue

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Small Diameter Bomb II headed for Low Rate Initial Production

The normalizing of precision guidance for munitions has lead to a trend of decreasing warhead size for many applications. There’s no sense hauling one five hundred pound bomb when you can get by with a 250 pound bomb, especially when you can carry two of the later.

For the last decade or so, the poster child of this trend was the Small Diameter Bomb, or SDB, a GPS/INS guided bomb of about 250 pounds, equipped with wings to allow it considerable standoff range, and a variety of fuzing options to allow it to attack either soft targets or hardened targets.

 

But the SDB has a couple of drawbacks, primarily that it cannot attack moving targets, or be retargeted after launch.

And so the SDB II program came into being. SDB II uses the same basic GPS/INS guidance architecture, but also adds terminal guidance capability, allowing it to either attack moving targets, or to shift targets via a secure datalink back to the launching plane.

SDB II art

Whereas just a few years ago, simply adding GPS/INS navigation to a bomb was pretty technically challenging, today the Air Force and prime contractor Raytheon are able to do that, and add not one, but three terminal seeker modes to SBD II. Millimeter Wavelength Radar, Imaging Ifrared, or Semi Active Laser Homing are all options, on each bomb!

It’s not mentioned much, but one has to suspect a large part of the justification of such a sophisticated seeker suite isn’t so much a desire to be able to pick off the odd pick up truck or tank, but rather to add to the selection of weapons the Air Force can use to roll back sophisticated air defense networks equipped with weapons like the S-300 and S-400 Surface to Air Missiles. 

Now, one single weapon, even the SDB II, isn’t a cure for high threat SAM networks. But combined with escort and standoff jamming (from, say EF-18G Growlers), HARM and JSOW missiles, and a plentitude of decoys such as the MALD-J, one can both blind and claw away at an Integrated Air Defense System to the point where more conventional strikes are no longer prohibitively risky.

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The Buck Stops Anywhere But Here

The Washington Free Beacon, via Fox News:

Shame on everyone that voted for this empty-suit charlatan.  Especially the second time, when it was clear what he was.

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BUFF News

To call the Boeing B-52 iconic would be something of an understatement. The last B-52H rolled off the lines in 1962. Fifty-three years later, the Air Force still operates a fleet of 74 of the behemoths, and is tentatively scheduled to retire them around 2040, almost 80 years after the last delivery.

Foxtrot Alpha takes a look at a proposal that has again risen, one that would seem to be a no-brainer- replacing the ancient TF33 engines with a modern turbo fan.

The USAF is kicking around ‘creative concepts’ under which it could re-engine its fleet of 74 ever evolving B-52H Stratofortresses. With the bombers remaining in front-line service until at least 2040, and considering that flying with eight 1960s vintage TF33 engines is far from fuel efficient (burning 3k gallons an hour), re-engined B-52s should make great financial sense.

It’s been looked at before, and the old MAACO issue came up. Pay me now, or pay me later. And the Air Force chose poorly to pay later. What should have been a fairly easy choice in the days of Reagan defense spending was deferred for other priorities. Of course, back then, the Air Force thought the B-2 would replace the B-52, not just complement it.

The usual suggestions for the replacement engine show up in the article. One engine not mentioned that was a tad surprising is a somewhat less modern engine, the JT8D-219.

The basic JT8D, most familiar to folks as the powerplant of the DC-9, is itself a low-bypass turbofan adaptation of the J52 turbojet that powered the A-6 Intruder and EA-6B Prowler, and later marks of the A-4 Skyhawk.

The –219 uses an increased bypass ration fan to increase thrust, decrease specific fuel consumption, and as an added bonus, lower the noise footprint.

The –219 was specifically designed to replace the JT3D series of engines on 707 based airframes. And of course, the JT3D is the civilian designation of the TF33 powering the B-52. The –219 has already been selected to replace the engines on the Air Force’s fleet of 16 E-8 JSTARS radar surveillance planes, though the funding fell through.

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You’re probably also somewhat familiar with the Air Force’s Boneyard at Davis-Monthan AFB in Arizona. Where the retired airplanes of the services are (almost literally) put out to pasture. Many are used as sources of spare parts, and others merely awaiting recycling into beer cans.

What you may not realize is that it is fairly common to pull aircraft out of there and put them back into service. The term of art used is “regeneration.” While some aircraft types are regenerated fairly often, others, not so much.

For the first time, a B-52H has been regenerated.

TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) – History was made in Tucson at the world famous “Boneyard.” Perhaps you were lucky enough to see the B-52 Stratofortress fly over the Old Pueblo on Friday.
For the first time, the Air Force regenerated a B-52 from the Boneyard, which is technically called the 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group (309 AMARG). AMARG is a one-of-a-kind specialized facility within the Air Force Materiel Command structure.
 

One of the things that makes this interesting is that the B-52 fleet falls under the auspices of START II nuclear forces treaty. All earlier marks of B-52 were very visibly chopped up (with the exception of a few museum pieces).

No mention was made of why a BUFF had to be regenerated. Which, to me raises the question, which one already in the fleet needs to be retired, and why? Hmmm.

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North Korea Fires Russian SS-N-25 Switchblade ASCMs

ss-n-25-switchblade

Yesterday, the Korean People’s Navy (KPN) successfully fired three supposedly indigenously-developed anti-ship cruise missiles into the East Sea out to a range of approximately 200 km.  While the DPRK may claim the missiles are a home-made design, analysts say they are in actuality Russian export-variety Kh-35E Uran ASCMs (NATO codename SS-N-25 Switchblade).  The Kh-35 series is a close equivalent to the US AGM-84 Harpoon missile, being slightly smaller and with a lighter warhead (360 lbs) than the Harpoon (488  lbs).

It is possible that the newly-cultivated relationship between Putin’s Russia and the DPRK is bearing fruit for both entities.  This weapon system, if successfully integrated into the DPRK arsenal, represents a significant and problematic upgrade to North Korea’s offensive and defensive capabilities.  The SS-N-25 Switchblade has a seeker head very comparable to the deadly 3M-54 Klub (NATO codename SS-N-27 Sizzler), with both a radar homing and anti-radiation ability which can acquire out to 50km.

The fielding of significant numbers of SS-N-25s represents a multi-generational upgrade for the DPRK, the majority of whose ASCM inventories consist of obsolete SS-N-2 Styx and smaller (and shorter-ranged) C 801 and C 802 systems.  It is likely that the new capabilities will be employed in shore-based systems, greatly expanding both range and lethality of DPRK coastal defenses.  In addition, the plentiful but obsolescent smaller ships and craft of the Korean People’s Navy (corvettes, PTG/PG and Fast Attack Craft) configured to carry the SS-N-25 suddenly multiply exponentially their combat potential in a surface fight.  Ditto the obsolete IL-28s and other older aircraft of the Air Force, should they be configured to carry the Switchblade.

Should it come to pass that the SS-N-25 eventually comprises a major part of the DPRK ASCM inventory (courtesy of the Russians), a hard problem just got harder.   Just in time to shrink our Navy below 250 ships.

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