Tag Archives: Military

Warbirds – F-16 Fighting Falcon

Our latest edition of Warbirds brings us to the General Dynamics F-16 Fighting Falcon.  This storied Cold War veteran took its first flight on January 20, 1974.

f-16 fighting falcon thunderbird

Requests for proposals in the 1972 Lightweight Fighter (LWF)  initiative brought five companies into competition.  General Dynamics and Northrop were eventually awarded contracts for prototype production.  During a near disastrous taxi test the XF-16 was forced into an unscheduled first flight to avoid destroying the aircraft.  Despite this, the Falcon went on to win the joint U.S. and NATO Air Combat Fighter competition – outperforming the Saab 37E “Eurofighter”, the Dassault-Breguet Mirage F1M-53, the SEPECAT Jaguar, and the Northrop P-530 Cobra (similar to the XF-17).  Citing better maneuverability, greater range, and lower operating costs, the Secretary of the Air Force announced in 1975 its intent to order the first 650 F-16’s.

f-16 fighting falcon line drawing

The first delivery of an F-16A to the USAF occurred on January 6, 1979.  Operational deployment began on October 1, 1980 with the 34th Tactical Fighter Squadron at Hill AFB in Utah.  Since then, over 4500 units of a variety of models have been built.  Air forces of 25 nations have had the F-16 in their service.

f-16 fighting falcon weapons load display

The first combat experiences of the Falcon took place during the 1981 Lebanese Civil War.  F-16s of the Israeli Air Force (IAF) successfully downed in air-to-air combat a Syrian Mi-8 helicopter and a MiG-21.  Later that year, a combined flight of IAF F-16s and F-15s destroyed the nearly completed Iraqi nuclear plant at Osirak.

In the 1980s, NATO and US deployment of the F-16 provided an effective counter to the massive deployments of Warsaw Pact aircraft in Eastern Europe.  Innumerable aerial challenges occurred through the end of the Cold War, but no real combat.  The first action seen by US and NATO F-16s occurred during the 1991 Gulf War – Operation Desert Storm.  From January 16 to February 28, F-16s flew over 13,000 sorties with seven aircraft lost.  Of these losses, only three were due to enemy fire.  Despite their heavy operational tempo, it would be 1992 before the first USAF F-16 would get an air-to-air kill.  During enforcement of the US/UK no-fly zones over Iraq, an F-16D shot down a Mig-25 with an AIM-120 AMRAAM.  This event also marked the first kill by an AMRAAM missile.

f-16 fighting falcon burning iraqi oil wells

F-16s continued to provide vital service throughout the next two decades.  Action was seen in the Balkans in ’93,’94, and ’99 as well as Pakistan from ’86 to ’88 against  Afghan Air Forces.  Later, the Falcons saw combat in Operation Iraqi Freedom (’03-’10) and during operations of the IAF in Lebanon in ’06 as well as from ’08 to ’09.  Today, Japanese and South Korean F-16s routinely deal with aerial challenges from Russian, North Korean, and even Chinese threats.

f-16 fighting falcon show of force

With the ongoing upgrade scheme, the USAF plans to keep the F-16 in service through 2025.  However, with the delayed acquisitions of the F-35 Lightning II, the Fighting Falcon may see its US service extended well beyond that date.  You should expect to see them in the air forces of other nations quite a bit longer.

This is a great documentary on the USAF Thunderbirds, their history, and the F-16. Enjoy!

Spirit of WWII Would Serve Us Well Today

A friend on Facebook (thanks J.R.) shares a great quote from a book by WWII B-24 bomber pilot Ralph Welsh.  We should start each day with this in our heads and hearts.

“I do not choose to be a common man. It is my right to be uncommon if I can. I seek opportunity, not security. I do not wish to be a kept citizen, humbled and dulled by having the state look after me. I want to take the calculated risk, to dream and to build, fail and succeed. I refuse to barter incentive for a dole. I prefer the challenges of life to the guaranteed existence, the thrill of fulfillment to the stale calm of utopia. I will not trade freedom for beneficence, nor my dignity for a handout. I will never cower before any master nor bend to any threat. It is my heritage to stand erect, proud and unafraid. To think and act for myself, enjoy the benefits of my creations, and to face the world boldly and say, ” This I have done..””

 

The book is WOW!: An anthology with 149 World War II stories of bombing missions, personalities, diverse life experiences by Ralph Welsh.  Check it out at Amazon.com.

WOW! by Ralph Welsh

 

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

F-35 Lightning II Update

Found a cool video catching up on some of the latter developments with the F-35 Lightning II.  Cool stuff.

And first video of the F-35 at Yuma.

And a few pictures to go with it.

f-35b flight line

f-35 takeoff

F-35 flyover

f-35 preps for takeoff

F-35 Joint-Strike-Fighter demonstration team

Warbirds – F-35B Lightning II

Time for another edition of Warbirds.  this time we have an exciting video from the sea trials aboard the USS Wasp (LHD-1) of the F35B Lightning II.  This beauty emerged from the Joint Strike Fighter program as the 5th generation multi-role fighter.  I am not normally a huge fan of jack-of-all trades aircraft, but it seems as if the detractors have been proven consistently wrong about this bird; in all but price at least.  Hopefully this made-in-America, next generation stealth fighter will perform as well as we all hope.

Her first flight was completed on December 15th, 2006.

f-35 lightning ii night flight

 

F-35B Lightning II in Thunderbirds colors

Thanksgiving For The Troops – Part 2 (Repost)

Earlier I did a brief post on thanking our veterans this season.  I thought I’d continue the theme today with our serving soldiers.

Remember Veterans Day Today

“To be a veteran one must know and determine one’s price for freedom.”

Originaly known as Armistice Day, November 11th was established as a day to remember the armistice ending the hostilities of The Great War – World War I.  President Woodrow Wilson declared  the first Armistice Day be held on November 11, 1919.  In 1938 President Calvin Coolidge signed a Congressional resolution making the 11th of November a legal holiday every year.  Then, at the suggestion of a shoe store owner in Kansas, Congress ammeded the holiday in 1954 to include all who served in the miilitary and renamed the observance to Veterans Day.

“People sleep peaceably in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf.” – George Orwell

“A man who is good enough to shed his blood for his country is good enough to be given a square deal afterwards.” – Theodore Roosevelt

“It seems to be a law of nature, inflexible and inexorable, that those who will not risk cannot win.” John Paul Jones

“God grant me the courage not to give up what I think is right even though I think it is hopeless.” Chester W. Nimitz

“Courage is almost a contradiction in terms. It means a strong desire to live taking the form of readiness to die.” G.K. Chesterton

Happy Birthday United States Marine Corps

Ooo-Rah, devil dogs!

Lost and Found – October 16th Edition

What to remember about October 16th…

    • 1773  Public sentiment against the Tea Act is voiced when Philadelphia Resolutions are published; leads to tea party
    • 1781  Cornwallis attempts to evacuate his troops from Yorktown but bad weather ends his hope of escape
    • 1859  Abolitionist John Brown leads a raid against a federal armory in an attempt to spark a slave revolt
    • 1916  Eugenicist and Planned Parenthood founder Margaret Sanger opens the 1st family planning clinic in America
    • 1946  10 convicted Nazi war criminals are hanged after the main trials conclude at Nuremberg
    • 1964  China detonates an atomic bomb; becomes the worlds 5th nuclear power
    • 1995  Million Man March is held in Washington, D.C.
    • 2004  Department of Veterans Affairs committee concludes “a substantial proportion of Gulf War veterans are ill with multi-symptom conditions”

Warbirds – F-22 Raptor

Today’s Warbirds article is on America’s first operational 5th generation fighter aircraft – the Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor.  Her first flight occurred on 7 September, 1997.

F-22 Raptor wireframe

Initial development of the aircraft was under the moniker YF-22.  It was Lockheed Martin’s entry into the Advanced Tactical Fighter (ATF) competition.  Though Northrop’s YF-23 was stealthier and faster, the agility of the YF-22 (and possibly the adaptability to carrier operations) won out.  In 1991, the Secretary of the Air Force announced that the Raptor had won the competition and that he would recommend an order of 650 to 750 of the aircraft.

f-22 raptor Wallpaper

Produced at the Lockheed plant in Marietta, Georgia, the first production F-22 was delivered to Nellis AFB in Nevada in January of 2003.  Because of design changes made during development and production as well as rising costs, the Air Force reduced its announced requirement of aircraft to 381 in 2006.  Weight increased and capabilities were dropped; all in the name of cost efficiency.  Also, to garner wider support from Congress, subcontractors in 46 states were granted contracts for components for the aircraft.  It took roughly 1000 contractors and 95,000 workers to produce just two aircraft per month.  this production complexity led to even higher costs and more production delays.  In the end, from the initial order of 750 aircraft with a total cost of $26.2 billion, the Air Force would acquire only 187 Raptors for $66.7 billion.

F-22 Raptor weapon systems 2

The F-22 Raptor has 3 internal weapons bays that help maintain its stealthy mission profile.  It can carry six compressed-carriage medium range missiles in the center bay and one short-range missile in each of the two side bays. Four of the medium range missiles can be replaced with two bomb racks that can each carry one medium-size bomb or four small diameter bombs.  A key feature of this design is to allow weapons launch while maintaining super cruise speeds.  The aircraft does incorporate 4 additional hardpoints on the wings with 5000 pounds of carrying capacity.  However, use of weapons or fuel tanks on these mounts detrimentally affects maneuverability, speed, and stealth.

080921-N-4469F-017

By late 2005, the Raptor had reached its Initial Operational Capability.  Deployments began in 2007 with the stationing of 6 F-22’s from Hickam AFB in Hawaii to Okinawa, Japan.  However, computer malfunctions occurred as they crossed the international date line causing the aircraft to return home for 2 days of software upgrades.  Later overseas deployments would include Kadena in Japan, Osan AB in South Korea, the United Arab Emirates, and other undisclosed locations in the middle east.  To this date, not confirmed combat participation by an F-22 has taken place.

F-22 Raptor countermeasures

Even today, bugs continue to plague the Raptor.  Cost per flight hour exceeds $68,000 and they require more than 10 hours of maintenance per hour of flight.  Though the stealth coatings on the aircraft are more durable than previous aircraft, a short deployment to Guam revealed numerous electronic failures caused by rain.  Most concerning of all are the reported hypoxia-like symptoms described by Raptor pilots during high gee maneuvering.  In 2012 Lockheed was awarded a contract to install a supplemental oxygen system to mitigate the problem.

F-22 Raptor crash

Initially touted as the next generation replacement for the F-117 Nighthawk, the F-22 Raptor program is already winding down.  The assembly line  at Lockheed is closed and the plans for the aircraft have been digitized and put away into secure archives.  As the F-35 is still non-operational, the services have fallen back on plans to repair their ageing F-15s and upgrading their F/A-18s.  Hopefully the existing fleet of F-22’s will be able to hold the line against the emerging threat of new Russian and Chinese 5th generation aircraft.

F-22 Raptor sun on the horizon

Here is some cool HD video of the F-22 in action.

And here is the Battle Stations video detailing the history of the F-22 Raptor.

If you want to see more great photos of the Raptor, check out the archives at AviationSpectator.com .  Details on specifications and capabilities can be found on the Federation of American Scientists website.