McDonnell Douglas F-15 Eagle

14 Oct

The F-15 is a twin engine tactical fighter capable of operating in any kind of weather conditions and was designed by the renowned McDonnell Douglas. Their design was selected in 1967 to give the US military a dominant air-superiority fighter, which would become one of the most successful fighters in modern times with over 100 aerial combat victories and no air-to-air losses. The F-15’s first flight was in July 1972. It went through rigorous trials and entered service in 1976 and is expected to remain in service with the US military until 2025. Since it’s production, the Eagle has also entered service with the armed forces of Saudi Arabia, Japan and Israel. Originally envisioned as a pure dogfighter, the F-15 has been further developed into 2 upgraded models. The F-15E Strike Eagle which is equipped with more advanced avionics and electronic warfare capabilities. The F-15SE is a stealthy version, complete with internal weapons bays and radar-absorbent materials.

The F-15 was developed in the F-X program of the late 1960’s in response to fears that the Soviet MiG-25 Foxbat could outclass current American fighters. McDonnell Douglas beat out heavy hitters like General Dynamics, Fairchild Republic and North American Rockwell to snatch up the lucrative fighter contract. The Eagle’s design incorporated the best aspects of older combat jet aircraft like the F-4 Phantom and combined it with the best in new technology and advanced designs like the “look down/shoot down” radar that could distinguish low-flying targets from ground clutter, a new canopy that provided unparalleled visibility, and all-new avionics and computer information systems.

Being the first strictly air-superiority fighter developed by the US since the F-86 Sabre from the late 1940’s, the production of the F-15 also required an overhaul in the design of advanced air-t0-air weaponry. The revolutionary canopy and heads up display allowed the single pilot to conduct air combat and fly the plane as safely and effectively as possible. It can be outfitted with several types of missiles including the Sparrow, AMRAAM, or Sidewinder. It also features an internal M61A1 20 mm Gatling gun under the right wing.

The Eagle has seen extensive combat use, mostly by Middle-Eastern militaries in regional conflicts. The first air-to-air kill was scored by an Israeli Air Force ace in 1979 and during Israeli raids into Lebanon in 1979-81, F-15As shot down 13 Syrian MiG-21 Fishbeds and 2 Syrian MiG-25 Foxbats. F-15s served in the 1982 Lebanon War where they shot down 40 enemy planes, 23 Syrian MiG-21 Fishbeds, 17 MiG-23 Floggers and 1 Syrian SA.342L Gazelle helicopter. In 1984, Saudi F-15C pilots shot down 2 Iranian F-4E Phantoms. In 1985, F-15s were used in a ground attack role to bomb a PLO headquarters in Tunisia. Saudi pilots shot down 2 Iraqi Mirage F1s during the Gulf War. The Eagle is also capable of being equipped with a satellite killer missile and has performed numerous successful tests. The USAF deployed F-15C, D, and E models to participate in the First Gulf War where they accounted for 36 of the 39 aerial victories. As of 2008, the aerial combat record for the F-15 from all operators stands at 104 kills and 0 air combat losses.

Number built: 1,198

Unit Cost: F-15A/B: $27,900,000. F-15C/D: $29,900,000

General characteristics

  • Crew: 1: pilot
  • Length: 63 ft 9 in (19.43 m)
  • Wingspan: 42 ft 10 in (13.05 m)
  • Height: 18 ft 6 in (5.63 m)
  • Wing area: 608 ft² (56.5 m²)
  • Airfoil: NACA 64A006.6 root, NACA 64A203 tip
  • Empty weight: 28,000 lb (12,700 kg)
  • Loaded weight: 44,500 lb (20,200 kg)
  • Max takeoff weight: 68,000 lb (30,845 kg)
  • Powerplant: 2 × Pratt & Whitney F100-100 or −220 afterburning turbofans
    • Dry thrust: 17,450 lbf (77.62 kN) each
    • Thrust with afterburner: 25,000 lbf for −220 (111.2 kN for −220) each
  • Fuel capacity: 13,455 lb (6,100 kg) internal

Performance

  • Maximum speed:
    • High altitude: Mach 2.5+ (1,650+ mph, 2,660+ km/h)
    • Low altitude: Mach 1.2 (900 mph, 1,450 km/h)
  • Combat radius: 1,061 nmi (1,222 mi, 1,967 km) for interdiction mission
  • Ferry range: 3,450 mi (3,000 nmi, 5,550 km) with conformal fuel tanks and three external fuel tanks
  • Service ceiling: 65,000 ft (20,000 m)
  • Rate of climb: >50,000 ft/min (254 m/s)
  • Wing loading: 73.1 lb/ft² (358 kg/m²)
  • Thrust/weight: 1.12 (−220)

The Tsar Bomba

12 Oct

The Tsar Bomba, officially known as RDS-220 or Big Ivan to its Soviet creators, is the most powerful nuclear device ever detonated by man. The first and only one of its kind was tested on October 30, 1961 at 11:32am. It was a 100 megaton bomb design but the uranium fusion stage tamper of the tertiary and secondary stages was replaced with lead, thus reducing the yield by 50% by disposing with the fast fissioning of the uranium tamper by the fusion neutrons. What that means is, the change in materials led to a much smaller explosion than originally planned but also had the added bonus of reducing the expected fallout by 97%. The effect of this bomb at full power would have been catastrophic on the Earth, increasing the world’s total fission fallout since the invention of the atom bomb by 25%. Do you understand? The fallout from one detonation of the Tsar Bomba would have been equivelant to 1/4 of all fallout from hundreds of atomic detonations up until that time.

The bomb was tested at Novaya Zemlya Island in the Russian Arctic Circle. It was airdropped and detonated at around 4,000 meters, being visible from1,000 kilometers away despite overcast weather. Even at the great height at which it exploded, the fireball reached down to the Earth and rose almost to the height at which is was deployed at 10,500 meters. The blast pressure below the burst point was 6 times greater than the Hiroshima bomb at 300 PSI. One cameraman recalled:

The clouds beneath the aircraft and in the distance were lit up by the powerful flash. The sea of light spread under the hatch and even clouds began to glow and became transparent. At that moment, our aircraft emerged from between two cloud layers and down below in the gap a huge bright orange ball was emerging. The ball was powerful and arrogant like Jupiter. Slowly and silently it crept upwards…. Having broken through the thick layer of clouds it kept growing. It seemed to suck the whole earth into it. The spectacle was fantastic, unreal, supernatural.

Shock waves were felt over 700 kilometers away, windows were broken at distances in excess of 900 kilometers, All buildings within 55 kilometers were destroyed and all wooden buildings within hundreds of kilometers were wiped out while stone or concrete buildings sustained massive damage. Radio communications were disrupted for almost an hour and atmospheric disturbance created by the blast orbited the planet an estimated three times. The mushroom cloud rose 64 kilometers into the atmosphere. The explosion shook the entire planet with seismic equipment on the other side of the Earth registering a seismic magnitude of 5.0 to 5.25. Ground zero had been glassed at the center of impact and eye-witnesses described the entire area as looking like a “skating rink” because the ground was swept clean and flat due to the blast wave and ultra high heat. All planes involved in the operation had been coated with a special reflective paint due to the calculation that the 50 megaton blast would be capable of causing 3rd degree burns at distances of 100+ kilometers. The effective damage radius of the weapon extended out to a 1,000 kilometer radius.

The Soviet Union was quickly condemned in the United Nations and the Western allies jumped back into the nuclear arms race. Thankfully, this monster never made it into the production line. The device’s size, weight, as well as it’s frightening destructive capabilities were deemed too extreme for use in a real conflict.

Australia: Strength of a Middle Power

6 Oct

Australia has a relatively small but highly capable military in relation to its population size and economic strength. The Australian Defense Force’s abilities are augmented by its close ties with major powers like the US and the UK. In fact, Australia recently signed a defense pact with the US, putting it on the same level as the UK, which would give Australia access to America’s most advanced military technology and allow US forces almost unrestricted access to Australian bases. In addition to being designated as a major non-NATO ally, Australia also has other defensive pacts with New Zealand, Malaysia and Singapore.

Australia is widely believed to have the most capable air force and navy in the South-East Asian region and it has highly respected light infantry and frigate groups that are well suited to peacekeeping missions, however the small size of the army and aging equipment limit unaided participation in high intensity warfare far from Australia’s shores and relegates it to a support role during most international actions. Despite some limitations, the ADF is well suited for its role in domestic security and counter-terrorism efforts. It has also proven itself time and again to be a steady and true ally with tens of thousands of capable soldiers who have a proud history of service. See the links for some of Australia’s contributions.

Australia in:

World War 1, World War 2KoreaVietnam1st Gulf War

 

Active Duty Military: 59,000

Reserve Military: 22,000

Standby Reserves: 22,000

GROUND FORCES

  • Tanks: 59
  • APCs/IFVs: 1,861
  • Towed Artillery: 303
  • MLRSs: 36
  • Mortars: 1,000
  • AT Weapons: 500
  • AA Weapons: 100
  • Logistical Vehicles: 12, 495

AIR POWER

  • Total Aircraft: 374
  • Helicopters: 100

NAVAL FORCES

  • Merchant  Marine Vessels: 45
  • Submarines: 6
  • Frigates: 12
  • Patrol Craft: 14
  • Mine Warfare Craft: 6
  • Amphibious Assault Craft: 8

Reduction of the US Military

4 Oct

In March of 2012, the army is beginning a 5 year program in which it plans to cut at least 50,000 soldiers through the use of accession cuts, buyouts, retirements, fewer promotions and voluntary and, as a last resort, involuntary separation. 22,000 short-term positions that were created as part of the troop surge in Afghanistan will be the first on the chopping block, followed by 27,000 positions that were part of the Grow the Army campaign. These cuts will bring the number of active duty members of the army down to 520, 400 by Sept. 30 2016 if everything remains on schedule. However, as the military budget gets squeezed more and more, further manpower reductions will be increasingly necessary. Despite the reductions, army officials have stressed the need to retain as many experienced soldiers as possible to maintain acceptable levels of combat effectiveness.

The Marine Corps’ manpower will also be reduced from 200,000 down to approximately 186,000 and their much anticipated Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle, plagued by missed deadlines and cost overruns, is likely to be canceled. Some cuts will likely face tough opposition in Congress. Among them include proposals to increase health-care premiums for military retirees, reduction in the use of contractors, cutting and consolidation of bloated intelligence networks with overlapping responsibilities, freezing of salaries of civilian Defense Department employees and reduction of 100 general officer positions. If cuts are deeper than expected then the number of F-35s on order may also need to be reduced and older Cold War era fighters like the F-15 and F-16 will have to remain in service longer, decreasing the effectiveness of American air power in future conflicts.

After the financial crisis hit, Robert Gates correctly assumed that the time of endless money for defense spending was over and encouraged the military to find cuts before they were imposed by the government. Even though the projected military budget for the 2012 fiscal year is $13 billion less than they anticipated, it’s still a 3% increase from the previous year and growth of the budget is not expected to flatten out until 2015. The 2012 budget is currently estimated to be $553 billion, not counting the hundreds of billions of dollars required for operations in Afghanistan and elsewhere. The Pentagon has identified nearly $180 billion worth of cuts to be made over the next 5 years but only about $78 billion will go towards paying off the deficit while the rest will be “reinvested” into the services.

In my opinion, despite all its bluster, the military still doesn’t understand how dire the economic situation is. If the US defense budget returns to 2001 or 2002 levels, it will not be a death blow to the military like all these officials say it will. They are addicted to cash, whether they are willing to admit it or not. The government needs to get tough and make honest cuts in spending. Every dollar spent on the military is a dollar not being spent to pay the national debt, which is far more sinister and dangerous for the US than any jihadist.

Russia’s Rearmament

3 Oct

After the collapse of the Soviet Union and the subsequent economic depression, Russia’s armed forces have been in a steady decline for the last two decades, plagued by poor training in their conscript-based  military, outdated equipment, corruption, lack of funding and international embarrassment by its poor performance in the 2008 Russo-Georgian War. But the Kremlin is breathing new life into its army by giving it a bigger budget, investing in new technology, changes in training and a much needed restructuring. Despite some groundbreaking ideas, Russia’s rearmament has encountered many obstacles and there are many old guard generals and politicians voicing their opposition to the “westernization” of the armed forces. Even in the face of intense criticism and the global financial crisis, Russia is still pushing ahead.

Moscow’s leadership is currently planning to abolish the WW2 era “mobilization” army which was designed to produce soldiers as quickly and cheaply as possible to fight in the million-man battles of the Eastern Front. Troop levels are expected to fall from 1.2 million to around one million active duty soldiers with a sizable reserve force and the military will spend much more money per soldier to bring their standards in training and equipment into line with other major powers. Most of the soldiers being laid off are part of the bloated officer corps. 37,000 alone were fired in 2009 for failing to meet the new standards. Russia has a fascinating phenomena called “phantom” divisions, which are pretty much officers who have no soldiers to command and do no actual work but reap the benefits of a high ranking position. Despite the decrease in manpower they are not expected to close any far-flung facilities or dismantle unused weapons systems. Even with these manpower reforms, government officials have time and again reneged on their promises to end conscription, a major grievance of the civilian population.

Russia has long been a leading arms producer of the world and is currently developing several new weapons systems including a joint venture with India to produce the Sukhoi/HAL FGFA stealth fighter. With a projected $650 billion to spend on modernizing the military, Russia is currently planning on procuring at least 150 new ICBMs, an advanced early-warning radar network, a fleet of supersonic Tu-160 strategic bombers, 600 other warplanes, 1,000 helicopters, 35 corvettes, 15 frigates, 20 submarines (of which 8 will be of the new nuclear Bulava class), at least one aircraft carrier, 2 French-made helicopter carriers, drone aircraft, French FELIN infantry combat suits and foreign small arms among other things. Whether Russia can ensure the funds go to where they are supposed to go is another thing. And the vast majority of industries that supplied the Soviet Union’s military industrial capacity during the Cold War have long since closed down after the budget cuts of the early 1990’s so it remains to be seen if their economy is capable of supporting a growing war machine.

Russia has come quite far in recent years in regards to its modernization efforts but there is still much improvement that needs to be done in order to turn its military into a world-class fighting force. Here are just a few examples of internal issues they are currently facing:

  • Corruption within all aspects of Russia’s military establishment is a critical issue that must be addressed. The chief military prosecutor has claimed that 20% of Russia’s entire military budget is stolen every year. However auditors have put the actual number at 40%.
  • The hundreds of thousands of soldiers being laid off will likely have no other opportunity for work with unemployment at 10%. Many are concerned that, like after the collapse of the Soviet Union, the jobless soldiers will have no other choice but to join the infamous Russian Mafia.
  • Soldiering is an unpopular career for the most part and authorities often employ questionable tactics when recruiting.
  • Sexual abuse and forced prostitution of young recruits by older soldiers is also fairly common.
  • Conscripts who finish their time at a young age are often unable to continue their education and receive no help from the government which greatly diminishes their chances of earning a prosperous living.
  • Treatment of soldiers by their superiors is often brutal and inhumane. There was even a case of soldiers being fed dog food to save money.
  • Russia’s military industrial complex is spinning out of control, with weapons developers exercising considerable sway in determining national policy, causing many alarmed analysts to claim that the MIC problem in Russia is far more dangerous than in the US. Interesting report on Russian MIC here.

As we can see, there are many serious problems that, if go unresolved, will result in not only instability in the military but in the rest of the population. It’s in Russia’s best interest to take care of these things so the rest of the military modernization can move along as smoothly as possible. You can’t raise the ultimate warrior on Kibbles n’ Bits.

Dwight D. Eisenhower on the Military Industrial Complex

30 Sep

Arguably the last truly great American president, Eisenhower was a military man through and through. But he understood what was happening and witnessed the militarization of the US in the years after WW2. He knew what kind of influence such large industries could have on the American people and its government and cautioned against it but was fought every step of the way by politicians who had an overriding fear of the Red Menace, some of whom became very rich by putting forth the weapons manufacturers interests in Congress. What Eisenhower said decades ago still rings true in the new millennium and it’s an important message to share. Here’s the excerpt from his farewell address in 1961:

“A vital element in keeping the peace is our military establishment. Our arms must be mighty, ready for instant action, so that no potential aggressor may be tempted to risk his own destruction.

Our military organization today bears little relation to that known by any of my predecessors in peace time, or indeed by the fighting men of World War II or Korea.

Until the latest of our world conflicts, the United States had no armaments industry. American makers of plowshares could, with time and as required, make swords as well. But now we can no longer risk emergency improvisation of national defense; we have been compelled to create a permanent armaments industry of vast proportions. Added to this, three and a half million men and women are directly engaged in the defense establishment. We annually spend on military security more than the net income of all United State corporations.

This conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience. The total influence-economic, political, even spiritual-is felt in every city, every state house, every office of the Federal government. We recognize the imperative need for this development. Yet we must not fail to comprehend its grave implications. Our toil, resources and livelihood are all involved; so is the very structure of our society.

In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.

We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together.

Akin to, and largely responsible for the sweeping changes in our industrial-military posture, has been the technological revolution during recent decades.

In this revolution, research has become central; it also becomes more formalized, complex, and costly. A steadily increasing share is conducted for, by, or at the direction of, the Federal government.

Today, the solitary inventor, tinkering in his shop, has been over shadowed by task forces of scientists in laboratories and testing fields. In the same fashion, the free university, historically the fountainhead of free ideas and scientific discovery, has experienced a revolution in the conduct of research. Partly because of the huge costs involved, a government contract becomes virtually a substitute for intellectual curiosity. For every old blackboard there are now hundreds of new electronic computers.

The prospect of domination of the nation’s scholars by Federal employment, project allocations, and the power of money is ever present and is gravely to be regarded.

Yet, in holding scientific research and discovery in respect, as we should, we must also be alert to the equal and opposite danger that public policy could itself become the captive of a scientific-technological elite.

It is the task of statesmanship to mold, to balance, and to integrate these and other forces, new and old, within the principles of our democratic system-ever aiming toward the supreme goals of our free society.”

View the whole speech here. There’s a fantastic documentary out called “Why We Fight” and you can find the trailer for it and a little more information on the MIC here.

General Atomics MQ-9 Reaper

29 Sep

The Reaper  is an American built, unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) that was developed by General Atomics Aeronautical Systems for the US Air Force, Navy, CIA, US Customs and Border Protection, Royal Air Force, and Italian Air force. Where as the Reaper’s predecessor, the Predator, was mostly built for surveillance with some combat capabilities, the Reaper is widely recognized as the first true hunter-killer UAV and is superbly designed for long-endurance, high-altitude surveillance. The Reaper has a much more powerful engine than the Predator, 950 horse power, allowing the Reaper to carry up to 15 times more ordinance and cruise at three times the speed of the older model. While the MQ-9 is able to fly pre-programmed routes autonomously, it is constantly monitored by an aircrew in a ground control station and the use of weapons is always controlled by human crew members. The New York Air National Guard 174th Fighter Wing was the first military unit in the world to begin converting it’s entire combat fleet from F-16 fighters to UAVs, picking the heavy-hitting Reaper as their replacement aircraft.

Capable of carrying up to 14 Hellfire missiles and remaining airborne for up to 14 hours fully loaded, the Reaper has been indispensable in putting pressure on insurgents in it’s main theater of combat operations, Afghanistan. Weapon load-out can be switched up to arm the Reaper with laser and precision guided bombs. Since UAV aircraft’s primary functions are still surveillance and ground attack, air-to-air capabilities are negligible and the assortment of weapons currently available for their use is limited.

The average MQ-9 system is composed of elements from several of the best aircraft, ground-control stations, satellites, and flight and maintenance crews currently available. The aircraft has a 66 foot wingspan and a maximum payload weight of 3,800 lbs. The Reaper is equipped with the best sensor technology its designers could cram into the airframe which includes the AN/APY-8 Lnyx II Radar, a state-of-the-art advanced high-resolution imaging system, and efforts are currently underway to develop the ability to control several UAVs from one ground control station, increasing combat effectiveness and Reaper fleet cohesion over the battlefield. The aircraft has little to no armor and relies on it’s maximum altitude of 50,000 feet to stay out of range of most anti-aircraft missiles.

Reapers have been flying over Iraq since July 2008 and have likely launched several thousand strikes in Afghanistan. Concrete numbers are difficult to come by for it’s service record since the hundreds of drone attacks against targets in Pakistan have not been officially acknowledged. However, it is known that there were 33,000 close air support missions in 2010 involving Reapers and Predators. The Reaper is also seeing service with NASA to test new equipment and assists in numerous missions like when they were used to map California wildfires in 2007. The US Department of Homeland Security acquired some Reapers for use in border patrol and drug interdiction. As of now, several countries are trying to acquire their own MQ-9s including the UK, Australia, Germany and Italy.

Number Built: 57 as of September 2011

Unit Cost: $154,400,000 for 4 aircraft

General Characteristics
  • Crew: None onboard (controlled remotely by pilot and sensor operator)
  • Landing Type: runway
  • Launch Type: runway
  • Length: 36 ft (11 m)
  • Wingspan: 66 ft (20 m)
  • Height: 12.5 ft (3.6 m)
  • Empty weight: 4,900 lb (2,223 kg)
  • Fuel Capacity: 4,000 lb (1,800 kg)
  • Max takeoff weight: 10,500 lb (4,760 kg)
  • Power Plant: Honeywell TPE331-10 turboprop engine, 900 shp (671 kW), with Digital Electronic Engine Control (DEEC)
Performance
  • Maximum speed: 260 knots (482 km/h, 300 mph)
  • Cruise speed: 150–170 knots (276–313 km/h, 172–195 mph)
  • Range: 3,200 nmi (5,926 km, 3,682 mi)
  • Endurance: 14–28 hours (14 hours fully loaded)
  • Payload: 3,800 lb (1,700 kg)
    • Internal: 800 lb (360 kg)
    • External: 3,000 lb (1,400 kg)
  • Service ceiling: 50,000 ft (15 km)
  • Operational altitude: 25,000 ft (7.5 km)