Tag Archives: Afghanistan

Warbirds – A-6 Intruder

Today I’m feeling the love for the ugliest plane in the U.S. Navy, the A-6 Intruder.  This all-weather carrier based ground-attack aircraft has been lovingly nicknamed “Double Ugly”, “Drumstick”, and even “Iron Tadpole”.  The unique side-by-side crew configuration led to the rounded and big-nosed aspect of this hard-working plane.

Developed to not only to replace the aging propeller-driven AD- 6/7 Skyraider, she was designed for “over-the-shoulder” launching of nuclear weapons.  Never used for the latter role, variants of the Intruder have served the Navy and Marine Corps from 1963 to the present day.

The sturdy airframe and advanced suite of electronics allowed the Intruder to provide close air support for ground troops in Vietnam even through the blinding cloud cover and torrential rains of the monsoon season.  The first loss of an A-6 to combat occurred in 1965 with both crew surviving.  Of the 84 lost during the war, only 2 were shot down in air-to-air combat.  Intruders saw combat later in Lebanon, Desert Storm, Somalia, and Bosnia before they were retired.

In 1991 Congress cancelled the planned A-12 Avenger II replacement for the aging Intruders.  Avionics and electronics upgrades allowed them to remain operational through 1997 until sufficient LANTIRN-equiped F-14 Tomcats and F/A-18E/F Super Hornets came into service.  The specialized EA-6B, known as the Prowler, still remains in service however.  With it’s stretched airframe, fully integrated electronic warfare systems, and four-man crew, the EA-6B Prowler proudly honored its Intruder heritage with service in Iraq and ongoing roles in Afghanistan.

Feel free to learn more by visiting the Intruder Association website for more history, technical information, and trivia.

P.S. – Don’t forget the Stephen Coonts novel Flight of the Intruder or the film of the same name starring Danny Glover and Willem DaFoe.  Both are available at Amazon.com .

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Warbirds – AV-8A Harrier

In honor of the Hawker Siddley Harrier’s first flight on April 1, 1969 , I present you with the latest edition of our ongoing “Warbirds” series.

The Harrier, as most people consider it, is actually a family of aircraft.  The first and only operational family of jump jets ever developed.  The main versions of the family in order of development are the Hawker Siddeley Harrier, British Aerospace Sea Harrier, Boeing/BAE Systems AV-8B Harrier II, and BAE Systems/Boeing Harrier II.  Initial work began on the series as early as 1957 in cooperation between airframe maker Hawker Aircraft and engine manufacturer Bristol Engine Company on the project P.1127.

What came from this project was a fixed-wing aircraft that absolutely embodies the spirit of aviation innovation.  First operational jump jet.  First capable of hovering.  First to fly backwards (WHAT!).

When you think of the Harrier, the first thing that comes to mind is often the Falklands War between Britain and Argentina in 1982.  Deep in the South Pacific and over 8,000 moles from home, the Harrier saw her first combat in some of the world’s worst flying conditions.  While deployed, Harriers flew over 2000 sorties – over six per aircraft per day.  though 10 Harriers of various types were lost to ground fire or mechanical failure, none were lost in air-to-air combat.

After the war, the first generation of Harriers saw continued Cold War tasking, but declining service with British and American forces.

Most of the continuing production was earmarked for export to NATO and allied countries.  But, this wasn’t because of any failings.  Rapid advances in avionics, navigation, and propulsion would give birth to a next generation of jump jet.  A new partnership between McDonnell Douglas and British Aerospace would soon bring the world the Harrier II.  These aircraft serve still today and have seen combat during the Gulf War, Yugoslavia, the Iraq War and Afghanistan.  Though slated to be replaced by the Lockheed Martin F-35B Lightning II, the Harrier II still serves the USMC, British armed forces (G-5/7/9 series), Spanish Navy, and Italian Navy.

UPDATE:  2012  America suffers greatest aircraft loss since Vietnam when Afghan terrorists breach security at Camp Bastion; destroying 6 USMC Harriers and damaging 2 more.  In addition, 2 Marines and 9 Nato personnel lost their lives.

Lost and Found – January 13th Edition

What to remember about January 13th…

  • 1776  British marines raid Rhode Island to steal sheep and supplies; ambushed by Minutemen, redcoats go home empty-handed
  • 1842  Lone British survivor reaches friendly guard post; 16,000 British and allied troops were ambushed and slaughtered in Afghanistan
  • 1847  Treaty of Cahuenga ends hostilities in Mexican-American War; Treaty of Hidalgo will cede California in 1848
  • 1910  Opera performance at the Metropolitan Opera House in New York becomes first public radio broadcast
  • 1966  President Lyndon Johnson appoints Robert C. Weaver as head of Department of Housing and Urban Development; 1st African-American cabinet member
  • 1968  Johnny Cash performs live at Folsom Prison; the recording is an unexpected smash hit
  • 1990  Douglas Wilder becomes takes office in Virginia as 1st African-American governor
  • 1999  Legendary basketball player Michael Jordan retires for the second time; he’ll return to the sport in 2001
  • 2002  President George W. Bush chokes on a pretzel and passes out while watching Miami Dolphins-Baltimore Ravens game

Johnny Cash at Folsom Prison Album

Lost and Found – January 2nd Edition

What to remember about January 2nd…

  • 1776  Congress publishes Tory Act to advise colonies on how to deal with persons remaining loyal to Britain
  • 1788  Georgia becomes 4th state in the Union by voting to ratify the U.S. Constitution
  • 1909 Father of modern conservatism and 5-term U.S. Senator Barry Morris Goldwater is born in Phoenix, Arizona (d. 1998)
  • 1923  Albert Fall, Secretary of the Interior under President Harding resigns over corruption charges in Teapot Dome scandal
  • 1935  Bruno Hauptman goes on trial for the murder of the infant son of aviation hero Charles Lindbergh
  • 1974  President Nixon signs Emergency Highway Energy Conservation Act to establish a national speed limit during oil crisis
  • 1980  President Carter reacts to Soviet invasion of Afghanistan by delaying implementation of SALT-II Treaty; Soviets unimpressed

Warbirds – B-1B Lancer

Today’s installment of Warbirds brings us to the supersonic, swingwing marvel the B-1B Lancer.  Unofficially known as the “Bone” (from B-one), the development and deployment of this strategic bomber increased pressure on the Soviets and helped shorten the Cold War.  The B-1’s first flight took place on December 23, 1974.

b-1b lancer wireframe

Envisioned in the 60’s as a Mach 2 replacement for the B-52, it was hoped that the Lancer would have the range and payload capacity to meet or exceed her predecessor.  Actual development of the aircraft didn’t start until the 1970’s and the design changed many times as political views of what her mission would be were revised.  President Carter actually cancelled the B-1A program after 4 aircraft were built in another misguided attempt to placate the Soviet Union.  But, the Reagan administration resurrected the project in 1981 to counter mounting worldwide Soviet adventurism.  Subsequently, Rockwell received a contract in 1982 and B-1B became operational with the U.S. Air Force October 1st, 1986.

b-1b munitions layout

It was known early on that the Lancer would not be able to take the place of the Venerable B-52.  What was envisioned was a strategic bomber that had the ability to elude Soviet radar and strike without warning deep within enemy territory.  Many viewed this capability as destabilizing in a Nuclear world.  However, the necessity of countering the perceived threat of the B-1B forced the Soviets into ever more unsustainable research, development, and defense spending.   Without ever delivering a nuclear weapon, the Lancer helped shorten the war.

020419-F-6655M-021

In the 90’s, further development proceeded on the “Advanced Technology Bomber” (which became the B-2 Spirit), leading to a role change for the B-1B.  Part of the fleet was converted over to a fledgling conventional munitions capability.  However, engine issues prevented the Lancer’s participation in the Gulf War.  It would be 1998 before B-1Bs would take part in Operation Desert Fox and undertake conventional combat operations.  That successful mission against Saddam Hussein’s regime would presage deployments in Kosovo, the invasion of Iraq, Operation Enduring Freedom, and they continue to perform “armed overwatch” in support of ground forces in Afghanistan today.

B-1B Lancer bombing run

Of the original 100 built, only 93 remain in the inventory and a good portion of those are in reserve storage.  Without the refits and upgrades that the Obama administration has placed on hold, the aging B-1Bs are looking ahead to retirement in the 2030s.  Debate continues over the true effectiveness of the Lancer as further deployment of the B-2 Spirit Stealth Bomber continues.

Further information on “Bone” can be found on the U.S. Air Force website on the B-1B Lancer Fact Sheet or in the Air Force documentary below.

 

b-1b bomber takes off over vegas at night

Warbirds – AH-1 Cobra ,Super Cobra, and Viper

Today’s installment of Warbirds brings us to the venerable AH-1 Cobra / Super Cobra / Viper.  This iconic helicopter saw its debut in Vietnam and still serves to this day.  The AH-1’s first flight took place on September 7th, 1965.

AH-1W wireframe

In the late 1950’s Bell Helicopter was committed to the US Army’s air cavalry concept.  With  the realization that the UH-1 “Hueys” were more vulnerable to North Vietnamese and even Viet Cong ground fire that first envisioned, it was decided that an armed escort was needed.  To fill this role some UH-1s were upgraded to carry multiple machine guns and rockets.  However, their light armor, slow speed, and open architecture meant that they were ill suited to close support and a would provide no permanent solution.

During the development of the “Huey”, Bell had begun work on designs for an attack helicopter.  The D-255 “Iroquois Warrior” was their concept mockup that led to the building of the “Sioux Scout” built on the Model 47 airframe.  It included many of the modern attack helicopter elements such as a tandem cockpit, weapons mounts on stub wings, and a chin mounted weapons system.  However, the underpowered and undersized nature of the scout was deemed to be unsuitable.  The Army decided to go with the Advanced Aerial Fire Support System (AAFSS).  10 years and millions later, the spawn of the AAFSS, the Lockheed AH-56 Cheyenne was cancelled.

AH-1 Super Cobra weapons loadout

Despite not being chosen to compete for AAFSS, Bell went ahead with their development of a new attack helicopter based on many of the tried and true components in the UH-1.  With AAFSS development proving costly and slow, the Army announced that they were looking for quick development of an interim gunship.  Presented to the Army in 1965 as the Model 209, Bell’s prototype rolled out on September 3rd and was in the air just 4 days later.  Only 7 months later the AH-1G was selected over the other competitors – the  Boeing-Vertol ACH-47A, Kaman HH-2C Tomahawk, Piasecki 16H Pathfinder, and Sikorsky S-61.

With its own increasing use of helicopters, the Marine Corps was highly interested in adding a dedicated gunship to its growing fleet of support aircraft.  The Corps, however, determined that they needed increased reliability and firepower.  Out of these requirements Bell developed a twin-engine version designated the AH-1J.  Further upgrades were ordered for future Army models that would include better avionics, more powerful engines, and integration of the TOW weapons system for greater anti-tank capability.  These would lead to upgrades and designations of AH-1F, Q, and S.

Cobra Cap

Cobras of all sorts saw over a million operational hours during Vietnam.  They would also be used in the Invasion of Grenada, Operation Just Hope, and the Invasion of Panama.  By the 90’s, the Army began its transition from the Cobra to the newer AH-64 Apache.  Though being phased out, Cobras still played a vital role in the Gulf War, Somalia, and even some humanitarian operations.  the last Army AH-1 left service in March of 1999.

AH-1 Cobra from Marine Medium Tilitorotor Squadron (VMM) 161 on flight deck of San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock ship USS Anchorage (LPD 23)

The Marine Corps was also interested in acquiring the Apache, but the request was denied by Congress.  It was felt that the cost of creating a ship-based version would be too costly and that the Marine Corps would be the only customer for such a specialized craft.  In response, a new wave of upgrades was applied to the fleet of Marine SeaCobras; turning them into SuperCobras.  models AH-1T, T+, and W would result in greater reliability, more power, integration of more advance avionics, and the capability to utilize AIM-9 Sidewinder and AGM-114 Hellfire missiles

israeli cobras over masada

By the end of the 1990’s, another denial by Congress of the Marine Corps acquisition of Apaches led to a new development wave.  Today’s AH-1Z Viper is the result.  It features a new four-blade, composite rotor system for better battle damage tolerance, reduced noise, and increased flight characteristics.  Additionally, the Viper has longer stub wings with an increased payload capacity.  And, to fully take advantage of increased force integration and communication, a fully modernized suite of avionics and electronics was included.  With these upgrades, the venerable AH-1 has continued to fill a critical vital role in both Iraq and Afghanistan during the Global War on Terror.

ah-1z viper

Over 2500 AH-1 aircraft of various models have been built since 1965.  They have seen service on battlefields around the world and with the armed forces of the US, Iran, Israel, Japan, Pakistan, Taiwan, and Turkey.  Today you will even find retired Army Cobras working in the US Forest Service and the Florida Division of Forestry for fire monitoring and suppression.

Below you can enjoy a clip of Cobras and Vipers in action.

Lost and Found – July 15th Edition

What to remember about July 15th…

  • 1783 The first successful steamboat Pyroscaphe sails in France on the River Saône; built by Claude-François-Dorothée de Jouffroy
  • 1799  The Rosetta Stone is found in an Egyptian village during Napoleon’s Egyptian Campaign; allows translation of hieroglyphics
  • 1862  Confederate ironclad CSS Arkansas attacks Admiral Farragut’s Union fleet damaging more than a dozen vessels
  • 1870  Georgia is readmitted to the Union; it is that last state to rejoin after the end of the Civil War
  • 1933  American Wiley Post begins first solo flight around the world
  • 1964  Barry Goldwater nominated for President by Republican Party
  • 1975  In simultaneous launches, Apollo 18 and Soyuz 19 are launched to begin joint Apollo-Soyuz Test Project
  • 1979  President Jimmy Carter gives speech on television about our national “crisis of confidence”; misquoted as the “malaise” speech
  • 1988  Movie “Die Hard” opens; actor Bruce Willis rises to stardom
  • 2002  “American Taliban” John Walker Lindh accepts plea bargain of 20-years; he was captured fighting for the Afghan Taliban

 

Lost and Found – May 15th Edition

What to remember about May 15th…

  • 1800  President John Adams orders the federal government to move from Philadelphia to the new capital in Washington, D.C.
  • 1864  Cadet volunteers from Virginia Military Institute join confederate forces in holding off Union offensive at Battle of New Market
  • 1869  Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton form the National Woman Suffrage Association in New York
  • 1928  Mickey Mouse premiers in his 1st motion picture, Plane Crazy
  • 1941  Gloster E.28/39 makes 1st flight; is 1st allied jet aircraft
  • 1942  Law establishing Women’s auxiliary Army Corps (WAACs)takes effect; females granted official military status
  • 1948  Egypt, Transjordan, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and Saudi Arabia invade Israel after withdrawal of British troops; Arab-Israeli War begins
  • 1963  NASA launches Faith 7; final mission of the Mercury program takes Gordon Cooper into orbit
  • 1972  Governor George Wallace, segregationist Democrat candidate for the presidency, is shot and paralyzed by Arthur Bremer
  • 1973  Nolan Ryan throws 1st of his 7 no-hitters as a Major League pitcher
  • 1988  Soviet forces begin their withdrawal from Afghanistan
  • 2004  In Iraq an artillery shell used in an improvised explosive device releases a nerve agent injuring 2 U.S. soldiers
  • 2007  Evangelical preacher, televangelist, and founder of Liberty University Jerry Lamon Falwell, Sr. dies of a heart attack (b. 1933)

Lost and Found – April 27th Edition

What to remember about April 27th…

  • 1773  British Parliament passes Tea Act hoping to save failing East India Company; new monopoly leads to smuggling and rebellion
  • 1791  American painter and inventor Samuel Morse is born in Massachusetts (d. 1872); creator of Morse Code and the telegraph
  • 1805  After 500 mile march from Egypt, First Lieutenant Presley O’Bannon leads U.S. Marines and mercenary allies to victory over Barbary pirates at Battle of Derna; “to the shores of Tripoli” references this day
  • 1813  American forces overcome British defenders during Battle of York in Canada; provincial capital of York (now Toronto) is captured and looted
  • 1822  Future 18th President of the United States and Civil War General Ulysses S. Grant is born in Point Pleasant, Ohio (d. 1885)
  • 1861  President Lincoln suspends writ of habeas corpus
  • 1968  Following President Johnson’s announcement that he would not seek reelection, Vice President Hubert Humphry announces his candidacy
  • 1978  Pro-communist rebels capture and kill Afghan president; government is overthrown and resulting turbulence will lead to Soviet invasion
  • 2006  Construction begins on Freedom Tower located on the former site of the World Trade Center; later renamed One World Trade Center
  • 2009  General Motors announces that it will phase out 80-year-old Pontiac brand as money-saving strategy; bankruptcy still lies ahead

Lost and Found – April 25th Edition

What to remember about April 25th…

  • 1846  70 U.S. cavalry troops encounter 2,000 Mexican troops that had crossed the Rio Grane into Texas; skirmish leads to Mexican-American War
  • 1859  Ground is broken for the Suez Canal; beginning at Port Said, Egypt is stretches 101 miles east to connect Mediterranean Sea to Red Sea
  • 1862  Union Admiral David Farragut demands surrender of Confederate city of New Orleans after fleet defeats forts protecting the city
  • 1915  British, French, Australian and New Zealander troops land on Gallipoli Peninsula; well prepared Turkish troops prevent Allies from advancing
  • 1939  DC Comics Batman character makes his premier appearance in Detective Comics issue #27
  • 1945  American and Soviet forces link up near Torgau; Germany now cut in two by advancing Allied forces
  • 1947  President Truman officially opens the 1st bowling alley installed in the White House
  • 1953  Francis Crick and James D. Watson publish paper describing the double helix structure of DNA; celebrated as “DNA Day”
  • 1960  U.S. Navy submarine USS Triton completes the first submerged circumnavigation of the globe
  • 1964  President Lyndon Johnson appoints controversial figure General William Westmoreland as Commander of U.S. forces in Vietnam
  • 1982  In compliance with the Camp David Accords, Israel completes its withdrawal from the Sinai peninsula
  • 1992  Radical Islamic Taliban forces take control of Kabul, Afghanistan after Soviet withdrawal and collapse of communist government
  • 2011  At least 300 killed in massive tornado outbreak across southern United States