A nice little video of an Airbus A380 flying into San Francisco. A nice little tour of the Bay Area.
Tag Archives: planes
Interesting pic stolen from Theo Spark. Two F-15E “Beagles” from Alaska launching simultaneously. Now, that’s not too uncommon. What’s interesting is what they’re shooting. Rather than the AIM-120 AMRAAM, both missiles are the older, semi-active radar homing AIM-7. “Fox One” is the brevity code for a radar guided missile launch, announced when the shot is taken.
I guess you gotta burn through the stocks eventually.
I’m curious how old the picture is. The Beagle entered service in the late 80s, and the AMRAAM entered service just after Desert Storm. I guess this could be a fairly old pic. Or fairly new. Who knows?
Air Force boneyards appeal to the child in us. The rows of rusted out planes look like old, forgotten toys, which a child could reach out and grab and lift into the air again.
The feeling is even stronger for airmen.
43 interesting pictures.
Amid a cloud of uncertainty over how the U.S. Air Force’s next-generation trainer jet program will be funded, the service will hold an Industry Day this week as competitors learn more about the aircraft’s requirements.
For three days starting Jan. 29, industry will descend on Wright Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio for a series of meetings with Air Force officials.
“It’s a program that needs to happen, and it is by no means clear how to fund it,” said Richard Aboulafia, an analyst with the Teal Group.
T-X Program Needs
Despite a push by the Air Force, acquisition funds for the T-X program were not included in the fiscal 2012 budget. Because the federal government is operating under a continuing resolution that leaves the budget at 2012 levels, the program will be unfunded as long as the continuing resolution is in effect. Senior Defense Department officials have made it clear they don’t know if or when the resolution will be replaced with a new budget.
The winner of the T-X competition will replace Northrop Grumman’s T-38 Talon, in use since 1959. “The T-38 needs a replacement system by sometime in the 2020s,” Aboulafia said, a deadline that means the replacement program needs to be up and running “by the end of this decade” at the latest.
The T-38 is easily one of the more successful aircraft designs around. In an age when supersonic aircraft still had decidedly deadly handling characteristics, Jack Northrop designed on that was safe enough to be used as a trainer, cheap and easily maintainable enough to be bought in large numbers, and durable enough to be in use over 50 years later. In fact, the Air Force recently upgraded the jets in its fleet to the T-38C configuration. Aerodynamically, nothing has changed. Most of the changes were to update the avionics to better conform to what pilots will see when they move on to operational aircraft.
And that’s what will be the major issue in the replacement, the T-X program. There are any number of airframes and powerplant combinations out there that would be at least minimally acceptable. The issue will be designing and integrating a cockpit display that will ease the student’s transition into his future mount.
A student pilot will spend about 18-24 months learning to fly. A very large part of that training is not so much about the actual stick and rudder movements, but learning to use the instruments of the airplane to build situational awareness. Changing the instruments is very disorienting to the student, and relearning a new panel takes time. And in flying, time isn’t just money, it’s a LOT of money.
China’s PLA “sunk” a U.S. aircraft carrier during a war game in remote China using its DF-21D “Carrier Killer” missile, reports Taiwan paper Want China Times.
The China Times is a 63 year old Taiwanese paper slightly slanted toward unification, but with a solid reputation and accurate reporting.
The Times report originates with a Google Earth image published at SAORBOATS Argentinian internet forum.
The photo shows two big craters on a 600 foot platform deep in China’s Gobi desert that Chinese military testers used to simulate the flight deck of an aircraft carrier.
There has been talk of the DF-21 for years with estimates of its range, threat, and theater changing implications, but this could be the first known test of the rocket.
Maybe they did, maybe they didn’t. Who knows?
The challenges any designer faces making an anti-ship ballistic missile are not trivial. First, you have to find the carrier. That’s not always easy. Eventually, yes, the carrier will likely disclose its position. But the first datum that a carrier is on station is likely to be Tomahawk and SEAD strikes against your homeland. Second, just finding a carrier isn’t localizing to the point of a firing solution. That doesn’t even begin to take into account any active countermeasures the carrier group may use. And oh, yeah, carriers move. Quite a bit. So not only must your ASBM maneuver, it will likely need a mid-course guidance update. Maybe. If not, it has to have a seeker that can detect and discriminate targets from long range so it can begin its terminal maneuvers early.
Then there are the active countermeasures. If the missile uses a radar guidance, sooner or later, we’ll learn to jam that system. If it uses infrared, we can jam that as well.
But the most likely active countermeasure is the accompanying escorts. Today, the Navy already fields a number of Aegis cruisers and destroyers fully capable of detecting, localizing, targeting, engaging and destroying medium range ballistic missiles. In fact, since the missile would be approaching the carrier group, that reduces the crossing angle of the shot, and makes it easier and gives multiple shots at a given target.
Given the already fielded anti-ballistic missile capability of our Navy, we are not terribly concerned with the DF-21D. In fact, one wonders why the Chinese would even pursue such an expensive capability, when there are other approaches far more likely to yield success. The obvious approach is the use of submarines. Our surface based Anti-Submarine Warfare capability and training have been shamefully ignored for years, as the capability of diesel electric subs worldwide has improved. Even more “asymetrical” would be an even more primitive weapon, the humble naval mine. The Chinese could lay defensive minefields in areas around their shores to deny us free use of those waters. And if they were really smart, they could use offensive minefields against the ports and harbors that forward deployed carriers depend on. A carrier may be able to spend months at sea, but it still relies on logistics ships to provide it with jet fuel, ammunition, spare parts, and food. This combat logistics train shuttles from friendly ports to the carrier group and back. Deny the navy its logistics, and you’ve denied the Navy itself. And it would only take a handful of mines in any of a number of important ports to effectively shut down operations in the Western Pacific.
I’ll leave it to SteelJaw to tell the story of the birth of Airborne Early Warning, but I did want to touch on one of the key components of his history of Project Cadillac.
Right from the beginning, the folks at MIT’s Radiation Laboratory, in conjunction with Hazeltine, came up with the radar they wanted for airborne early warning, the AN/APS-20. The challenge they faced was more a matter of integrating the radar not with the airplane, but with the fleet.
The radar itself turned out to be remarkably long lived.
Picture stolen from SteelJaw. AN/APS-20 installation on AD-3W.
While it took a highly trained operator to get the most out of the APS-20, it was reliable, and not only worked reasonably well in the AEW role, it was also, when used at low altitudes, a very capable surface search radar.
And because it worked so well, it was fitted to a very wide variety of aircraft. Just off the top of my head:
1. TBM-3W Avenger
2. PB-1W Flying Fortress (Navy version of the B-17)
3. AD-3W, AD-4W, and AD-5W Skyraiders
4. Modified B-29s (oddly, the three modified Air Force B-29s seem to not have had a special variant designation)
5. Grumman AF-2W Guardian (one half of the Guardian Hunter/Killer team, the other half being the AF-2S)
6. WV-2/EC-121 Warning Star (modified Lockheed Constellations)
7. P-2 Neptune family of maritime patrol aircraft
8. HR2S-1W (CH-37 series helicopter modified- two built for testing)
9. ZP-2W Blimps
10. Canadian CP-104 Argus maritime patrol plane
11. Fairey Gannet AEW.3 (modified ASW plane to replace Royal Navy AD-4Ws- they simply pulled the radar sets from the old AD’s, and installed them in new airframes)
When the Royal Navy retired their big deck carriers in 1978, they also retired their Fairey Gannets. But Great Britain still had a desperate need for AEW. The RAF’s project to build their own AEW system was something of a disaster. As an interim solution, they pulled the APS-20 radars from the Royal Navy’s Gannets, and installed them in obsolete Shackelton maritime patrol planes. Up until 1991 the Royal Air Force flew a piston engine powered evolution of the Avro Lancaster equipped with the same radar that had first flow during World War II. As front line equipment.
Not bad for a radar developed as a crash program during wartime.
Designed to operate from austere, short runways ashore, the OV-10 was actually quite capable of operating at sea from carriers, without using traditional catapults or arresting gear. It was never operationally deployed this way, but the testing did take place.
Later, OV-10s would also conduct suitability trials aboard big deck amphibious ships. Again, it was never deployed, but it was an option.
Tensions continued to escalate between Japan and China over disputed islets in the East China Sea on Thursday, with Japan reportedly sending two F-15s from Naha, Okinawa, after several Chinese military aircraft crossed into its Air defense identification zone (ADIZ). China responded by scrambling two J-10s of its own.
Japan’s Air Self-Defense Force spotted the Chinese aircraft in its ADIZ over the East China Sea at about 12pm on Thursday, Kyodo quoted a senior Defense Ministry official as saying, adding that the Chinese aircraft never entered Japanese airspace. Kyodo said the Chinese aircraft penetrated Japan’s ADIZ on three occasions.
It’s not illegal for China to fly into the Japanese ADIZ. But it is understood that any non-scheduled flight into an ADIZ will trigger an interception. So sending military aircraft into the ADIZ is considered rather rude, and provocative. And sooner or later, it will get ugly. It only takes a moment for something like this to turn into a shooting incident.
The Navy’s Task Force Uniform spent 5 years and untold millions coming up with the Navy Working Uniform. It’s ugly, expensive, and best of all, highly flammable!
The U.S. Navy’s standard-issue blue digitized camouflage fatigues are highly flammable and will burn ‘robustly until complete consumption,’ a report revealed last month.
The findings show that the digital-print camo, which is made from 50 percent cotton and 50 percent nylon, will drip as it burns, causing potentially hazardous burn injuries.
But the Navy’s top spokesman said that the government organization is aware of the report findings, and added that sailors had asked for a fade-resistant uniform that was also comfortable.
Big Navy’s response is that sailors who will be in direct contact with fire will have appropriate fire resistant clothing. The problem is, aboard ship, every sailor is a firefighter.
When the USS Stark was struck by two Iraqi Exocet missiles, sailors didn’t have time to change out of their dungarees into firefighting clothing. They fought as they were dressed. The old cotton dungaree pants and blue chambray shirts might not seem very suitable for firefighting, but in fact, with one hose team spraying fog, and another hose team attacking a fire, the 100% cotton clothing provided excellent protection for most flashover situations. I know, I’ve been in a massive pool of burning jet fuel wearing them. The blended materiel in the NWU not only burns, it melts, clinging to the wearer’s skin, causing horrific pain, and greatly complicating treatment for burns.
NWU- Making the Army’s ACU fiasco look sensible!
The latest version of the Army’s AH-64 helicopter was developed as the AH-64D Block III. In a move that shows a stunning bit of common sense, the Army finally decided to follow the actual stated policy with regards to Tri-Service aircraft designations and redesignated it the AH-64E. But just to add to the fun, they also decided that this sub-type of Apache also needs a sub-name. And as usual, they picked a dud. The Guardian. We certainly can’t have a weapon designed to hunt down and kill our foes having an aggressive name, now can we. On Outlaw 13’s Facebook page, he was looking for better names. Given the PC trends of the services, I suggested it should have been named the AH-64E Apache Fluffy Kitten.
The Army is justifiably proud of its networked combat systems, where every vehicle and most troops have instantaneous access to the battlefield internet. Locations of friendly and enemy forces are plotted in real-time, and shared across the battlefield, providing levels of situational awareness that were simply unimaginable in my time. Orders are transmitted digitally, reports are similarly sent across the ether. Logistics, medical support, maintenance and fire support all are managed through this battlefield network.
But what happens when the network fails? Armed Forced Journal has an article that explores this problem. It seems the article is focused a bit above the Brigade Combat Team level, but the questions apply there as well. Our soldiers have spent a decade using these digital tools to facilitate their operations. Can they still execute the mission without them? One wonders if Esli’s rotation at NTC will see a mission or two where the Force XXI Brigade and Below Command and Control System (FB2C2) will be degraded or denied.
Roamy should like this. It’s got both splodey, AND rocket science!
So, at the deactivation of the USS Enterprise (CVN-65) the Secretary of the Navy announded that the third ship of the Gerald R. Ford class of carriers will also be named Enterprise. Good news. And there are any number of former US carriers that have names that resound through the history of the fleet. Ranger, Constellation, Hornet, Yorktown, and Lexington all have proud heritages.
But not every carrier has a lineage like that. Many of the escort carriers of World War II served in relative obscurity. And then there were the two carriers that are the subject of this post.
If I told you the US Navy once had a carrier fleet on the Great Lakes, would you think I was nuts?
Carrier aviation was important and growing more so even before the attack on Pearl Harbor. After the attack the growth of naval aviation could only be described as explosive. The losses of trained aviators in early campaigns and the expansion of the carrier fleet meant trained aviators were critically needed. A fleet that would grow to over 90 fleet, light fleet*, and escort carriers would require thousands of naval aviators.
Flight school for these aviators was, for the most part, similar to that of pilots of the Army Air Forces. But the key thing distinguishing Naval Aviators from mere pilots was their ability to take off from, and more critically, land aboard a carrier at sea. The problem was, what carriers there were didn’t have time to train fledgling birdmen. They were already locked in battle with the Imperial Japanese Navy, and fighting for their lives. Losses of carriers at Coral Sea, Midway and the Solomon Islands meant that new construction carriers just entering the fleet couldn’t be tasked to training aviators, but instead had to be deployed overseas almost as soon as their paint was dry. Something had to be done, however, to provide those new carriers with aircrew to turn them from transports to fighting warships.
To be sure, as each new carrier was commissioned, it too its “turn in the barrel” serving as a platform for carrier qualification. This helped qualify aviators, but it also helped train each ship’s flight deck crew in its duties. But still, the backlog of aviators needing qualification would grow. Further, using fleet and escort carriers for this job meant they needed heavy escort, particularly in the waters of the Atlantic, where German U-Boats were taking a heavy toll on coastal shipping. No sub skipper in the world would pass at a chance to sink a carrier.
Very early in the war, the idea of a dedicated training carrier on Lake Michigan surfaced. And this idea had a lot going for it. First, the chances of a U-Boat attack on the lake were zero**. Secondly, any such ship would almost by definition have to be a conversion from an existing merchantman. But since it would be strictly a training carrier, other than providing a flight deck and arresting gear, almost no other carrier specific modifications, such as a hangar deck, ammunition magazines, aviation fuel supply, radars, or extensive ready room facilities would be needed. Operating daily from Navy Pier in Chicago, such a ship would be able to leave most functions to the shore side establishment. Navy planes would fly from NAS Glenview (near Chicago) out over the lake, practice landings and takeoffs, and then fly home to NAS Glenview at the end of the day.
Most of the existing merchant ships on the Great Lakes were either desperately needed to support the war effort, or were pressed into service on the open ocean. But the Navy found two ships ill suited for either of those tasks and hence available. Both were coal fired, side-paddlewheeled ships.
The Seeandbee had been built in 1913 to provide passage between Cleveland and Buffalo.
SS Seeandbee before conversion to a training carrier.
In March of 1942, the Navy bought the Seeandbee, began the conversion process by razing her to the main deck and adding a flight deck. By January, 1943, she had been converted, renamed the USS Wolverine (IX-64) and was operating out of Chicago.
USS Wolverine (IX-64) on Lake Michigan, circa 1944.
The other training carrier began life as as the SS Greater Buffalo, providing overnight service between Buffalo and Detroit.
SS Greater Buffalo, as built.
Built in 1924, she was acquired by the Navy a few months after the Seeandbee. During her conversion, she was named and commissioned as USS Sable (IX-81). Unlike the Douglas Fir plank flight deck of Wolverine (and all other US carriers of the time) she was given a steel flight deck. Sable entered service on Lake Michigan in 1943 as well.
USS Sable (IX-81) underway on Lake Michigan.
During the course of World War II, these two ships qualified almost 18,000 Naval Aviators, an astonishing number given their short careers. Future President of the United States, George H.W. Bush qualified aboard the USS Sable.
Both ships had top speeds of 18 knots. But when landing aboard a carrier, the ideal was to have 30 knots of wind across the deck. As long as there was a breeze of 12 knots or more to steam into, there was no problem. But if winds were calm, operations aboard the ships, especially by heavier aircraft such as the TBM or SB2C, could be problematic. And given the neophyte nature of the aviators landing aboard, it’s hardly surprising that accidents happened quite often. Somewhere in the neighborhood of 130 aircraft found their way to the bottom of Lake Michigan during the war. Many others suffered varying degrees of damage while landing aboard. But operating from Lake Michigan was far more benign than the open sea, so while there were deaths, the total loss of life was a quite small.
Spending the war shoveling coal on a converted steamer might not have the elan of a destroyerman, nor the dash of a cruiser or battleship sailor, but apparently, spending almost every night in port, with liberty in downtown Chicago was pretty popular with most of the crew. Today, Navy Pier is a major tourist attraction in downtown Chicago.
As soon as the war ended, the need for aviators fell, and thus the need for the Wolverine and Sable. By 1947, both ships had been decommissioned, struck from the Naval Register, and disposed of.
As for the 130 or so airplanes that sank to the bottom of the lake, that’s something of an ongoing story. These days, restoring warbirds to either museum display or flight is a big business. As it turns out, the cold fresh water of Lake Michigan provided for good preservation of airplanes that sank. But the Navy has long held that they still retain title to those planes, and forbids salvage of them. In recent years, however, the Navy has begun to allow limited salvage of some aircraft, while still claiming title, provided the recovered aircraft are restored and place on display in areas open to the general public. One such salvaged example is an F4F-3 of the type used by CDR Butch O’Hare. It’s displayed at O’Hare Airport, which was named in his honor.
Friend of the blog Jason Camlic passed along a couple of fascinating links. A&T Recovery specializes in salvage operations in the Great Lakes. Over the last thirty years, A&T has worked with the National Naval Aviation Museum to recover lost aircraft from the lake. Click on through to visit their very informative site and see some great pictures of the Wolverine and Sable conducting operations, as well as some neat information on their other discoveries.
Similarly, Jason passed along this link to the Pritzker Military Library’s presentation on the freshwater carriers and the lost aircraft of Lake Michigan.
*Light fleet carriers were nine ships laid down as light cruisers, but converted on the ways into aircraft carriers. They were very much compromise designs, smaller than regular fleet carriers, and with correspondingly smaller airgroups. But they were available, had speed enough to keep up with the fleet, and a compromise carrier beats the heck out of no carrier at all.
**Well, actually, there was one German U-Boat in the Great Lakes, and I’m not talking about U-505.
There was a time, a generation ago, when Discovery Channel had interesting shows.
Forty-five years ago, when the F-111 was first introduced, it was one of two all-weather precision strike aircraft in the world, the other being the A-6. Of course, back then “precision strike” meant being able to simply find a target such as a bridge or power plant at night or in bad weather. The F-111 used a radar bomb delivery computer that was much more accurate than visual delivery, but the bombs themselves weren’t guided, and precision was something of a relative term.
Twenty years ago when this first aired, if you wanted to deliver laser guided bombs or other precision guided weapons, your choice of platform was pretty much either the F-111, the A-6, or one of the then new F-15E Strike Eagles. The F-117s would be busy elsewhere.
Today, with improvements in targeting pods, and the introduction of the GPS guided JDAM, just about everything with wings can be a precision strike aircraft.
Longtime readers know I’m not at all a fan of the Marine Corps MV-22 Osprey program. But most of my objections to the program center on its costs, not on the aircraft itself. Personally, I think it is a pretty neat bird. And I enjoy watching them fly by en route from MCAS Miramar to 29 Palms. But every time someone tells me how revolutionary it is, I feel a strong urge to remind them that it is hardly new concept.
Almost from the first time helicopters flew, engineers started tinkering with ways to combine the speed characteristics of an airplane with the vertical take off and landing of a helicopter. After all, the rotors that lift a helicopter look an awful lot like the propellers that move planes forward. Was there a way to use one set of blades for both jobs? Taking off and landing a propeller driven plane from a tail sitting position was tried, but was soon found to be impractical, mostly because the pilot would have to fly looking over his shoulder.
Pretty soon, the concept of rotating either the entire wing, or just the rotors, from the vertical to the horizontal was tested. A variety of test aircraft were designed, built and tested throughout the 1950s. Most were little more than test-beds to explore the concept of a convertible plane.
By 1959, enough experience had been gained with tilt-rotor and tilt-wing test beds that the DoD actually began to consider designing a plane that could eventually enter service. After a couple more years of effort, the Tri-Service Assault Transport Program began in 1961, with the Navy as the lead agency for DoD. Ling-Temco-Vought (LTV) in partnership with the Hiller and Ryan companies, was awarded a contract to design and build a prototype tilt-wing transport that would have better range and speed than existing helicopters.
The resulting aircraft, the XC-142A would be the closest a convertiplane would come to entering service until the MV-22 joined squadron service with the Marines 40 years later.
One interesting administrative note, the XC-142A was numbered in the regular tri-service designation system under the conventional transport series, and not in the convertible aircraft series. It really should have had a designation of XCV-XXX. One can only guess, but perhaps the program managers felt the XC-142A was so much more likely to be bought in numbers than previous aircraft, that it should not share a series of what had heretofore been strictly test beds. And, rather annoyingly for your author, the XC-142A does not appear to have even been given a nickname or popular name.
On a conventional helicopter, each blade of the rotor is independently articulated. That is, it changes its angle of attack, or pitch, continuously throughout its rotation around the hub, and does so independently from the other blades. At any given time, each blade of a rotor is at a different pitch. Conventional propellers, even though they have variable pitch, do not do this. Instead, all blades of a conventional propeller change pitch simultaneously, and maintain that pitch setting throughout their journey around the hub. Helicopter rotors use this articulation to tilt the rotor disc forward or backward or side to side to provide thrust in the desired direction of flight, in addition to providing the lift to keep the helicopter in the air. But this articulation is also rather complex. That’s why when you look at the hub of a helicopter rotor, there’s all sorts of fiddly bits.
Previous convertible planes had suffered from excessive vibration and complexity, and LTV was at pains to avoid this. And so they came up with a pretty simple solution. By vastly overpowering the aircraft with four T64 turboprops, and using conventional propellers only slightly larger than normal, they had more than enough lifting force to meet the requirements. What was needed was a way of controlling the aircraft in hovering flight without adding the complexity of full articulation to the props. Since the entire wing rotated, the ailerons, normally used to control roll, could be used instead to control yaw in hovering flight. The airflow from the propellers would be sufficient to make the ailerons effective. Roll control in the hover would be provided by differential clutching of the outboard propellers. Pitch control in the hover would be by means of a small horizontal rotor at the very tail of the aircraft. In conventional flight modes, conventional control surfaces would be used.
One additional layer of complexity (and thus weight and cost and maintenance) that could not be avoided was crosslinking all four engines to a common drive shaft. Imagine the XC-142A in a hover. Should one of the engines fail, particularly an outboard engine, the loss of lift on one side would cause an uncontrollable roll and loss of the aircraft. The answer was to have all four engines driving a common shaft, so even if a quarter of the total power was lost, the thrust would still be delivered symmetrically.
Aside from the whole tilt-wing thing, the XC-142 was a fairly conventional transport design. A boxy fuselage with a split ramp at the rear, with tricycle landing gear, with main mounts retracting into blisters along the fuselage side. In fact, because its propellers weren’t too large, it could take off and land conventionally with no tilt to the wing at all.
This was a very ambitious program. Remember, when the contracts were signed, the UH-1, CH-46, and CH-47 were just being accepted for service.
Right click, open in new tab to greatly embiggenfy.
Five aircraft were built, and put through their paces.
The aircraft actually flew quite well, and its performance met the required specifications. But several things conspired to keep the XC-142 as a historical curiosity, and not a long serving warhorse.
First, the cross-linked driveshaft was troublesome. It produced excessive vibration (like virtually all its predecessors) and was less than wholly reliable. Problems with the shafting would lead to hard landings and damaged aircraft. And excessive vibration in a testing environment could only be seen as a harbinger of frequent failure in any future service environment.
Secondly, the utility of what would inevitably be an expensive aircraft was questioned. An XC-142 might lift 30 troops 100 miles twice as fast as a helicopter, but if it cost more than twice as much to buy and operate, buying two helicopters suddenly looks a lot more appealing.
Third, just as the XC-142 began to fly, the US was becoming ever more deeply involved in Vietnam, and the bulk of defense spending was going to fund that war and the machines needed right then, not some time in the future.
One by one, the each of the services in the Tri-Service program dropped out. The remaining aircraft were transferred to NASA, who used them for testing until 1970, when the last survivor was transferred to the Air Force Museum.
It’s odd that I couldn’t find a single decent video of the TC-4C, a plane with almost 30 years of service, but was instantly able to find quite a bit of good footage of this also-ran.
Thanks to Jason Camlic, who inspired this post via a post of his on Facebook. I can’t figure a good way to link traffic to him, but he’s always a great source of ideas and interesting tidbits from the world of aviation.
As the magnificent Grumman A-6A Intruder was accepted for service with the Navy and Marine Corps as the premiere all-weather/night attack aircraft, the Navy began to prepare to transition aviators from older platforms to this state of the art jet.
The first squadron to be equipped with any new type aircraft is always the Fleet Replacement Squadron (FRS). For historical reasons, the FRS is commonly referred to as the RAG, from the old World War II era “Replacement Air Groups”* The FRS is the “schoolhouse” for any given type of aircraft, responsible for transitioning squadrons from older aircraft into the new type, training maintainers, and eventually ensuring a steady stream of trained aircrew to fleet squadrons. Aviators graduate from flight school knowing how to fly. The FRS teaches them how to fight. Attack Squadron 42 (VA-42) (.pdf) was the first of eventually three FRS Intruder squadrons.
While the Navy had long operated multi-place tactical aircraft, the highly complex nature of the Intruder meant its two man crew shared far more of the workload than in previous aircraft. The Bombardier/Navigator (B/N) wasn’t just nice to have, but the very key to exploiting the heart of the Intruder, the Digital Attack Navigation Equipment (DIANE), the complex of radars and computers that gave the Intruder its all weather capability. At about this time, non-pilot flying officers were just transitioning from the designation as Naval Aviation Observers to Naval Flight Officers (NFO). No longer second-class citizens in the Naval Aviation hierarchy, NFOs would be equal partners, eventually becoming eligible for squadron command, carrier command, higher rank.**
Training a Naval Aviator to fly the A-6 posed no new challenges. An instructor pilot could simply occupy the B/N’s seat, and offer instruction. But training an NFO in the A-6 was a little harder. Instructor pilots were poorly suited to training B/N’s on DIANE, and in any event, were a little too busy flying the plane to offer meaningful instruction. And Instructor B/N’s weren’t pilots, so they couldn’t fly the plane. And until student B/N’s had achieved a certain basic proficiency with the complex navigation and attack systems, it was unwise to pair them with a student A-6 pilot to begin actual crew training.
So the training of student B/N’s became something of a chokepoint in the FRS pipeline. What was needed was a way to provide them with hands-on training on the actual equipment, under the instruction of a competent B/N instructor, while airborne, but without having to put them up in an Intruder.
At the same time, Grumman had just started producing one of the very first purpose built “executive transports,” the Gulfstream. The Gulfstream was a twin-turboprop powered low wing transport that could offer luxury seating for 8 or a commuter passenger layout for up to 28.
Grumman and the Navy grafted the nose of an A-6 onto the Gulfstream, and added additional Bombardier/Navigator instrument panels in the back, and the TC-4C Academe was born.
Right click to greatly embiggenfy.
The first of an eventual total of nine TC-4C aircraft was delivered in January 1968 to VA-42. The great B/N bottleneck was no more. And while the TC-4C was officially name Academe, it was almost always referred to as the “Tic.”
With the exception of one tragic accident that killed 12, the Tic had a good reputation as easy to fly and maintain, and a highly effective training tool for the Intruder community. Each of the three Intruder FRS, VA-42 for East Coast Navy squadrons, VA-128 for West Coast Navy squadrons, and VMAT-202 for Marine Intruder squadrons, would operate three TC-4C.
As the Intruder was modified and developed from the A-6A to the A-6E TRAM, the Tics were modified to match the capabilities of the Intruder. The Tic remained in service until 1995, when the retirement of the A-6 rendered it surplus.
The Gulfstream family, of course, would go on to become the jet-powered, swept wing business jet of the rich and famous, and just about the ultimate status symbol.
*Similarly, the commander of a Carrier Air Wing (CVW) is still popularly called the “CAG” from “Carrier Air Group.”
**Which makes sense. If the next Nimitz or King is denied a worthwhile career just because he doesn’t have 20/20 vision, the Navy is just shooting itself in the foot. And in a lot of communities, such as the E-2 and EA-6B, arguably, the pilot is just there to drive the bus, while the NFOs in back get on with the real work.
When the Navy and Marines upgraded the radars of their legacy F/A-18 Hornets, they found themselves with a supply of still quite functional APG-65 radars. They also found themselves wanting to upgrade the night/all weather capabilities of the Marines AV-8B Harriers. In a common sense move that I didn’t know the Department of the Navy had in them, they shoehorned the surplus radars into the existing Harrier fleet.
Click to greatly embiggenfy.
The grey dot just above the radome is the sensor head of a forward looking infrared (FLIR) thermal imager. From a day only, visual dive bombing platform, to a night/all weather attack platform capable of delivering precision munitions, the Harrier has come a long way.
But they’re still not going to fit in the back of that Herk.
Mostly because it looks like they’re the only ones submitting a bid. It’s been about 25 years since the HH-60G Pavehawk entered Air Force service. A variant of the UH-60 Blackhawk, the Pavehawk is designed to penetrate enemy territory to retrieve downed aircrews. As such, it’s the successor the the Jolly Greens of Vietnam War fame. And while Special Operatons aren’t its prime role, it has been tasked to do that from time to time as well. In recent years, Pavehawks have supplemented Army MEDEVAC helicopters in Afghanistan and Iraq by providing CASEVAC support.
The Pavehawk has a record to be proud of. But it is also getting old. Further, it has always been hampered by a relatively short range and endurance, and limited cabin space and lifting capacity. All the extras above a normal Blackhawk come directly out of its total lifting capacity.
For over a decade now, the Air Force has been searching for a replacement for its fleet of Pavehawks. Under a program known as CSAR-X (Combat Search and Rescue-Next) Boeing, Lockheed/EADS, and Sikorsky submitted bids. Boeing’s entry was based on the CH-47, Lockheed/EADS submitted a version of the VH-71 chosen for the Marine One program*, and Sikorsky entered a variant of their S-92 helicopter.
After a competition, Boeing’s entry of a modified CH-47 was selected. It was in fact to be a tailored version of the already in production MH-47G used by the Army for Special Operations.
But protests to the GAO and in court over the contracting process led to the contract being cancelled.
Three years down the road, the Air Force is still faced with the need to replace it’s Pavehawks. And so the Combat Rescue Helicopter competition has opened. But Boeing and Lockheed/EADS, having been burned once, aren’t going to play this time. Yes, the program is potentially quite lucrative, with plans for 112 airframes, and an eventual total of $15 billion in contracts. But despite the emphasis by the Chief of Staff of the Air Force, insisting CRH is a top priority, there’s a very good chance that austere budgets will see the program scaled back or even cancelled. And both Boeing and Lockheed/EADS have other, cheaper ways of keeping their baseline production going. Boeing will be building CH-47Fs and MH-47Gs for the Army for some time, and looks well placed to pick up some foreign sales as well. LMT/EADS will continue to partner for EH101 sales and manufacturing for European and other foreign markets.
So the only competitor left is Sikorsky and its S-92. So what is the S-92? So much of the basic S-70/H-60 Blackhawk design was just right, Sikorsky decided to leverage the basics into a larger, heavier helicopter. Mating a new fuselage to the rotor system and dynamic components of the Blackhawk produced a much roomier helicopter. The S-92 is in production for various government and civil operators around the world. About 130 have been built so far. The military variant has a ramp at the rear of the fuselage for ease of loading and unloading.
Now, the S-92 isn’t a bad helicopter.** But the arcane world of US defense procurement has made it such that a virtual off-the-shelf purchase of a proven design in which virtually all the difficult integration work for features such as Terrain Following Radar has been done, isn’t suitable. Any person with common sense would simply buy MH-47Gs, either from Boeing, or even from Army stocks. But layer upon layer of laws and regulation to prevent graft and reduce wasteful spending means that a five minute decision has instead lead to untold millions and a decade spent just getting to the point where the least desirable of the three initial entrants will likely be selected.
*The VH-71 is based on the EADS EH101 medium lift helicopter. The VH-71 program was plagued by poor management, shifting requirements after contract signing, and the resulting spiraling cost increases. Eventually that program was cancelled and the few “vanilla” airframes bought were sold to the Canadians.
**Well, there are apparently issues with the main gearbox. One requirement for FAA certification is that a gearbox has to be able to run for 30 minutes after a loss of oil pressure. But the S-92 got around this requirement by “proving” that loss of oil pressure in the gearbox was extremely unlikely. Since then, two S-92s have been lost to main gearbox oil pressure loss. Also, I’ve heard that the Canadian CH-148 Cyclone program has been something of a disaster.
Via War News Updates
April, 1945. The noose is closing upon Nazi Germany’s neck. In the East, the massive front of the Red Army is advancing upon Berlin. In the West, Great Britain, America, and France have breached the Western Wall, and leaped the Rhine. The 21st Army Group, the 12th Army Group, and the 6th Army Group are occupying the industrial heartland of The Reich. The Wehrmacht fights on, but for the first time, scraping together old men and young teens into ad hoc formations. But as fast as they can be formed, the Allied forces grind them up. For the first time, large numbers of troops begin to surrender, particularly in the West. The jig is up, and both sides know it is only a matter of time before the inevitable surrender comes to pass.
But for all the territory conquered , there are still large swaths of Germany that have yet to feel the sting of war. No Allied soldier has trod their cobblestone lanes, nor yet has the mighty 8th Air Force sent its fleets of Fortresses and Liberators against the villages and towns that dot the countryside. To be sure, there are shortages of many items, and virtually every man of military age has been called to service. But otherwise, these places are as bucolic as a picture postcard.
The Army Air Forces, well aware that after World War I, many folks were convinced that the Imperial German Army treacherously quit before defeat, wanted to make the point across the entire German country that the Nazis had been well and truly beaten. The war had to be brought to every hamlet and burg.
The heavies of the 8th Air Force were still occupied plastering war production in cities. And so the task fell to the 9th Air Force. Long occupied with supporting the troops on on the ground, and interdicting transportation behind the lines, medium and light bombers, and fighters of the 9th were tasked in the closing days of the war to redouble their efforts. Every train, truck and barge had long been a target. Now, the Wings and Groups of the 9th would fan out across the countryside. In virtually every village, there was a Bahnhof *and Reichspost. With bomb, rocket and gun, the B-25s and B-26s, the A-26s and A-20s, and most importantly, the P-47s of the 9th would lay waste to the most prominent local symbol of the German government. After this war, there could be no doubt that the German forces had been well and truly defeated. Every citizen would feel at least a little pain.
And of course, every strafing run was caught on gun- camera film. Here’s a remarkable collection of footage from one fighter group, the 362nd, in April 1945. It starts with hand held camera footage of surrendered German troops. While most of the German Army fought until the bitter end, large numbers decided surrender was the wiser course of action. Amazingly, such was their level of unit cohesion that it was usually left to the German formation to move itself to collection points for disarming and internment. That’s why you see German soldiers still under arms.
Grab a cup of coffee, as this runs about 30 minutes.
This is the F-15E Strike Eagle.
When the original F-15 was developed at the tail end of the Vietnam War, the Air Force, for the first time in more than a generation, focused the design of a fighter exclusively on its air-to-air capabilities. For 2o year prior to this, fighters for Tactical Air Command1 had been focused on the long range strike mission, via either conventional bombing, or the nuclear strike role. But given the appalling performance of TAC aircraft in air-to-air combat in Vietnam, the powers that be at the Air Force decided that the FX design philosophy would be “not a pound for air-to-ground.” And so the F-15A rolled out with no ability, nor tasking, to drop bombs. Instead, it had combination of speed, altitude, maneuverability, range, outstanding radar, and large air-to-air missile payload that made it the benchmark by which all other fighter aircraft were measured.
A decade later, as the Air Force cast around for a replacement for its aging F-111 strike fighter fleet, the same basic properties that made the F-15 an excellent airplane also made it quite adaptable. Its thrust to weight ratio meant it had great load carrying capability. It’s large internal fuel tanks gave it good range2. Two seat operational trainer versions were already in service, so the layout needed to accommodate a weapon systems officer was already in place. And the Eagle’s excellent, large radar could be developed into a fine air-to-ground sensor while still retaining its air-to-air capability.
It took a while, but eventually the “Beagle” came into being, and quickly rose to become the Air Force’s premiere long range strike airframe, operating with great success in Desert Storm, and every aerial conflict since.
This evolution from air-to-air fighter is quite common in history. The Republic P-47 Thunderbolt was such a formidable ground attack airplane, Republic eventually graced it’s A-10 with the same moniker. But the P-47 had been designed from the outset as a very high altitude, long range escort fighter.
As time goes on, virtually every fighter develops at least some significant air-to-ground capability. Even the F-104 and F-14, both designed with only air superiority in mind, went on to become effective strike aircraft.
But how often do you hear of a bomber being developed into a fighter? It’s pretty rare. Or rather, it’s pretty rare for it to be successful. And that is where our story today begins.
The 1930 were a time of great advancements in aircraft design. From the end of World War I until the storm clouds of war began to gather over Europe, design improvements had been quite incremental. Externally, aircraft still greatly resembled their forebears- biplanes with fixed landing gear, fabric covered frames, wooden fixed pitch propellers and open canopies. To be sure, there had been improvements. Steel tubing replaced wood as the choice for the aircraft frame. Engine power, spurred by interwar years air racing, had grown quite steadily. But underlying design philosophies of WWI still held sway.
But as tensions mounted in Europe with the rise of Fascism and Nazism, nations began to consider rearmament on a large scale. As as money began to trickle into the defense industries, airplane designers finally had enough funding to take some risks. Simple steps at first, such as using enclosed canopies. Others switched to very thin aluminum skins over steel tubing. More radical was the introduction of retractable landing gear. And the old fixed pitch wooden propellers began to give way to variable pitch propellers, better able to utilize the increased horsepower of even more powerful engines.
One of the biggest advances was the abandonment of the steel tubing frame for semi-monocoque airframes. In this, aluminum ribs and stringers, directly attached to the aluminum skin itself provided the structural strength of the frame. For the first time, the the skin itself provided a part of the structural strength. For this reason, semi-monocoque designs are sometimes called “stressed skin” designs. This approach gave greater strength at a lighter weight. It also lent itself to the new emphasis on greater streamlining.
In Great Britain, among the very first airplanes to meld all these advances into one model was the Bristol Blenheim light bomber. First flying in 1935, and introduced into squadron service in 1937, the Blenheim was light years ahead of other aircraft of the day. A twin engine light bomber, with stressed skin construction, excellent streamlining, retractable gear, and variable pitch three blade propellers, the Blenheim had a three man crew- pilot, navigator/bomb-aimer, and gunner. It had a healthy bomb load of up to 1200 pounds of bombs over a range of 1400 miles, giving it a combat radius of about 600 miles. Its blistering top speed of 231 knots led the RAF to believe that it could outrun any fighter opposition3, thus obviating the need for any fighter escort.
In fact, the Blenheim’s performance was so good, the RAF bought a version for use as a long range fighter aircraft, intended to go into enemy skies and defeat him over his own turf.
But such was the pace of aviation development that by the time World War II broke out in 1939, the Blenheim, after only two years of service, was badly obsolescent. Losses over France in 1940 were ghastly. Only in lesser theaters could the Blenheim be used without crippling losses.
Great Britain is an island nation, and had an intense interest in denying the use of the seas to any potential enemy. The single most effective aerial weapon against shipping was the air-dropped torpedo. Needing a torpedo bomber, the RAF turned to Bristol, who in turn developed a larger, more powerful evolution of the Blenheim, which came to be known as the Beaufort. More powerful engines, a larger fuselage, a fourth crewmember, and a slightly larger wing meant the Beaufort was a new airplane, not a mere modification, but its Blenheim roots were clear. Despite being designed as a torpedo bomber, the Beaufort spent most of its brief career performing as a level bomber, a role for which it was only marginally suited. The RAF, having a chronic shortage of aircraft, knew this, but felt no alternative. The Beaufort was not a particularly successful design, coming as it did on the cusp of a second wave of evolution in airplanes4, but still provided yeoman service in the dark early days of the war before survivors were relegated to training duties.
The Beaufort may not have been particularly successful, but it did spawn a worthy successor. The RAF still had a strong need for a long range fighter, particularly a night-fighter with the capacity to carry the primitive early airborne radar sets (and just as importantly, the space to carry a radar operator).
The Beaufort may have been slow, but the basic design, especially the wing, was sound. By adding yet again more powerful engines, and designing a new fuselage that was smaller and lighter, and replacing the bomb bay with a tray for 20mm cannon, the Bristol Company introduced the two-seat long range Beaufighter. As a night fighter, the “Beau” was an immediate success. It may not have been faster than the day fighters of the era, but it was more than fast enough to chase down Luftwaffe bombers. Its four 20mm cannons, and up to six .303 machine guns gave it plenty of firepower to knock down even the toughest of airplanes.
That same firepower quickly led to the Beau being used in the ground attack role, interdicting transportation targets in occupied France, and shooting up Luftwaffe airfields and other targets. Adding to its arsenal, up to eight rockets could be carried, or two 1000lb bombs.
The Beaufort’s lack of success as a torpedo bomber also meant RAF’s Coastal Command still needed an effective anti-shipping weapon. The Beau was soon adapted to carry a torpedo. Typical anti-shipping strikes would see Beaus armed with guns and rockets suppressing the flak of a target while torpedo armed variants came in to finish off the targets with torpedoes.
The Beaufighter was so successful a design that the US Army Air Forces, awaiting delivery of its own P-61 Black Widow night fighters, shunned its own P-70s5, and operated a Wing of Beaufighters in the Mediterranean.
The Beaufighter served with distinction in almost every theater of war from its introduction in 1940 through the end of the war. Australia built Beaufighters for its own RAAF. Eventually, over 5000 Beaus were fielded.
From light bomber, to torpedo bomber, to fighter, to torpedo bomber to light bomber. What an evolution.
1. Air Defense Command, on the other hand, had developed a series of aircraft exclusively oriented to air-to-air combat. But these aircraft stressed intercepting Soviet bombers, and while they had great speed and range, their maneuverability against small Soviet fighters was sorely lacking.
2. External conformal fuel tanks were originally developed for the A-D model Eagles. They were never used operationally by them, but are standard fit on the E model.
3. In fact, they were pretty much correct… for 1937. The same advances that gave the Blenheim, applied to fighters, soon meant that assumption was quite invalid.
4. This second wave, with planes such as the A-26 and B-26 bombers, the P-47 and P-51 fighters were near the pinnacle of piston engine airplane development. They were incremental improvements over the immediate pre-war types, but it was a fairly large increment.
5. An underwhelming night fighter variant of the otherwise successful A-20 Havoc design.
This one has been going around the aviation centric blogs. Modern aircraft are almost unbelievably complex. While modern airliners have excellent reliability, they still need to be overhauled regularly. British television takes an hour long look at just how in depth these overhauls are. Get the coffee pot going, grab the comfy chair, and settle in. It’s well worth the hour.
And if you think airliners are complex, you should imagine the spacecraft Roamy works on. They face an environment that is orders of magnitude more hostile, and have far, far less space and weight available to address challenges.
Before the Navy sends any new aircraft to sea for carrier trials, the use a land based catapult to identify any potential problems. Here’s the unmanned X-47B taking it’s first cat shot ashore.
The video doesn’t specify where this was, but it was probably the naval air engineering facility at Lakehurst, NJ. And note that while the landing may seem a little… firm… that’s normal. Carrier based aircraft, unlike Air Force or civilian aircraft, don’t normally flare just before touchdown. Instead, just as in a carrier approach, they fly a constant speed, angle of attack, and descent rate all the way to touchdown.
Also, a large part of carrier suitability testing is just figuring out how to move an aircraft around the flight and hangar decks of a carrier. Here’s the X-47B being hoisted aboard for early tests. Since it is unmanned, it introduces some new twists into what is normally a fairly straightforward testing environment.
Normally, movement of aircraft on the deck of a carrier is directed by “yellow shirts” using hand and arm signals to give taxi directions to the pilot of an aircraft. Obviously, since there’s no pilot on the UCAS, that needs a little tweaking. In fact, one approach has been to teach the UCAS to actually recognize these signals. But that hasn’t come to pass yet, so the UCAS will be taxied via a joystick controller.
Any time you try something for the first time on a carrier, it’s an excellent opportunity to really frab things up, so they’ll start with an empty flight deck, peirside, work their way up to an empty flight deck at see, and eventually work up to more crowded, faster paced environments. And all this is probably before they ever attempt actually landing one on a carrier.
Unlike most drones that have human operators remotely piloting them, particularly for launch and landing, the X-47B is a truly autonomous aircraft, in that it will perform its own takeoffs, and carrier landings as well. Auto-land has long been a capability for manned aircraft, particularly the F/A-18, but is rarely used, as crews still need to maintain their proficiency, and you don’t get that by letting the computer do all the work.
But every UCAS approach will be on auto. It shouldn’t be too terribly challenging during good weather and calm seas, but it remains to be seen how well it will work in foul weather with a pitching deck.
Via War News Updates.
We wrote about Constant Peg a while back, and mentioned Have Donut/Have Drill in that post.
Both programs were pretty much classified up the wazoo, but knowing about the capabilities of enemy airplanes is only really useful if it gets down to the warfighter’s level. Accordingly, classified training films of the evaluations were made and shown to select crews.
Oddly, the MiG-21 was flown under the cover name of “YF-110” which was the Air Force designation for the F-4 Phantom before the 1962 tri-service designation revamp. The Phantom, of course, would be the MiG-21’s primary opponent in the skies above North Vietnam.
You may also recall I posted a video a couple weeks ago about the operational evaluation of the Phantom in the hands of Tactical Air Command. One thing that very plainly struck me was that the entire film focused on the air-to-ground capabilities of the Phantom. TAC saw itself almost entirely devoted to air-to-ground missions. In spite of all their fighter pilot swagger, TAC left the business of serious thought regarding air-to-air combat to the Air Defense Command folks. But ADC faced an very different challenge than the TAC folks. It’s one thing to intercept a TU-95 Bear hundreds of miles away. Swirling around with nimble MiGs over their own territory while you’re trying to bomb the suburbs of Hanoi is an entirely different kettle of fish. And given the emphasis on using the missile armament of Sparrows and Sidewinders, neither of which liked to be fired from a wildly maneuvering jet, the air-to-air skills of the TAC had atrophied to a disastrous state. Where the US shot down about 10 MiGs in Korea for every Sabre they lost, the USAF in the early years of Vietnam saw Phantoms with only a 2-1 kill ratio, and at times, losses among all jets were as bad as 1 to 1.
Restrictive Rules of Engagement also squandered much of the Phantom’s advantages over Vietnamese MiGs.* The best way to shoot down a MiG is to bomb it on the ground. But fears of killing Russian advisors in bombing raids kept North Vietnamese MiG airfields off the target list for long stretches of time, and even when strikes were permitted, they were only allowed in fits and starts, not sufficient to keep the fields closed for more than brief periods.
The dismal performance of the Phantom in the air-to-air regime led the Navy and the Air Force to do a lot of soul searching. AIMVAL/ACEVAL, The Ault Report, Navy Fighter Weapons School (TOPGUN) and later Red Flag were all results the the services tackling head on their earlier failures. Technical improvements to both the Sparrow and Sidewinder greatly improved their performance. More importantly, tough realistic training greatly improved the aircrews ability to fight MiGs and win.
The MiG-21 was designed as a point defense interceptor, optimized for shooting down bomb-laden strike aircraft. It was fast as a thief. It could also turn on a dime… for a little while**. While its delta-wing planform gave it great initial turning capability, it also had enormous induced drag, causing it to bleed airspeed in a turn like a hemophiliac. And in air combat, speed is life. The Phantom wasn’t nearly as nimble a turning jet. What it did have, however, was two great big thundering J79 engines that gave it a very good ability to sustain its energy levels through a fight. A ham fisted pilot would find himself out of airspeed, altitude and ideas very quickly, but a well trained stick-shaker could manage his energy level to outfly almost any opponent.
The whole point of maneuvering in air combat was to place your jet in optimum firing position, which in those days was very roughly a cone of about 30 degrees from the enemy fighter’s tail, and a range of about half a mile to 1-1/2 miles. Woe betide the Phantom pilot who tried to yank the stick hard enough to turn with the MiG. He’d find that very likely, the MiG would turn the tables, and find the gomer riding in his “saddle.” Instead, US pilots were taught to abandon this “angles” fight, and instead fight an “energy” fight. If you can’t out turn an MiG, how do you do this? By exploiting the vertical. Humans are essentially two-dimensional thinkers. Most pilots, wanting to turn, instinctively turn in a level turn, parallel to the surface of the earth. As noted, this bleeds airspeed in a MiG. But a well trained Phantom pilot would make turns “out of plane1” A Phantom pilot that wants to execute a tight turn without bleeding a lot of energy would pull into the vertical. This would bleed airspeed, sure. But it would also quickly gain altitude. At the apex of the zoom climb, the Phantom at low speed could quickly tip its nose back earthward, execute a roll (with the practical effect of very rapidly changing its compass heading) and begin pulling out of the dive. And all that altitude is quickly converted back into a high airspeed, leaving the Phantom with reserves of energy to either kill the MiG, escape combat, or make further maneuvers.
Various other maneuvers, such as the “barrel roll attack” or the “lag displacement roll2” capitalized on the Phantom’s strengths, and minimized its weaknesses. The “high yo-yo” allowed Phantoms to exploit energy for angles, and the “low yo-yo” allowed Phantoms to generate energy or range/angle offsets as appropriate.
With improvement in weapons, and the vastly improved training of aircrews, by the time of Linebacker I in 1972, the US Air Force and US Navy increased their kill ratio to an impressive 12-1. Through the lean years of the 1970s, and on through the early 1990s, both services placed great emphasis on supporting the training in air combat needed to ensure success. Today, while there is still strong support, the emphasis has shifted somewhat to integrating air combat into the strike warfare arena, and using new weapons and sensors to make traditional dogfighting less likely. Many traditionalists decry this, but the fact is, since Desert Storm, most US air-to-air kills have been Beyond Visual Range engagements with little or no dogfighting involved.
*On the other hand, there were some very good reasons for some of the ROE restrictions. The big restriction was that pilots had to make a positive visual identification of their potential targets. That took away the range advantage of the Sparrow missile. But given the large numbers of US aircraft operating over North Vietnam, and the relative paucity of MiGs, without that restriction, the was a very great possibility of fratricide. There’s a good chance this rule saved more jets than it lost.
** The preferred MiG-21 tactic was to attack flights of F-105 bombers by coming up from behind and slightly below. Quickly accelerating to supersonic speeds, the MiG would dash in, fire off its Atoll heatseeking missiles, and dive away for safety. The Atoll was a virtual clone of the early Sidewinder missile.
1. The “plane” here isn’t the Phantom or the MiG, but rather the geometric concept of a plane, this one being the surface of the earth, which, yes, we know the surface is rounded, but for the purposes of aerial combat can be considered as a flat plane.
2. The Lag Displacement Roll lets a Phantom that is overshooting the MiG go outside the turn of the MiG, denying the MiG the opportunity to reverse its turn and attack. Instead of instinctively turning in the direction of the MiG, the Phantom barrel rolls away from the MiG and outside the track of the MiG’s turn. Once outside the MiG’s turn, the Phantom continues an in-plane turn with the MiG. It’s turn radius is larger than that of the MiG, but it’s turn rate matches well enough. Essentially, the turn comes to resemble two well matched runners on a track, with one on the inside lane, and one on the outside lane. So while the Phantom may not have a shot, he’s not at risk of becoming defensive either. Eventually, the MiG will bleed away so much energy that it can’t sustain the turn, allowing the Phantom to gain an angular advantage as well, and set up a shot.
Yes, I know, one word, all caps.
But the movie didn’t.
With the death of director Tony Scott, Tailhook Daily Briefing dug up these two (long!) youtube videos detailing some of the challenges in making the movie.
The BAE Hawk T1 (and its American cousin, the Boeing T-45C Goshawk) is a pretty little plane. There’s some great low level, and even the tiniest bit of splodey in this.