Tag Archives: united states

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)
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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)

Fairchild Republic A-10 Thunderbolt II

1 Sep

The A-10 is an American built, single-seat, twin engine, straight wing CAS (close air support) and ground attack aircraft designed by Fairchild Republic in the early 1970’s. It’s purpose is to destroy tanks, armored vehicles and other ground ground targets with limited air defense capabilities and is the first aircraft ever designed for the USAF for the sole purpose of CAS. During the Vietnam War, large numbers of ground attack aircraft were lost due to small arms fire, surface-to-air missiles, and low level anti-aircraft gunfire which brought criticism that the air force didn’t take CAS seriously. The US already had attack helicopters for use in CAS roles but they were ineffective against armor. Initial development of the precursor to the A-10, the A-X, began in 1966. The final prototype was built in Hagerstown, Maryland and first flew on May 10, 1972.

The plane was pretty much designed around the GAU-8 Avenger, a monster rotary cannon (the heaviest ever put on an aircraft) which can shred even the most heavily armored tanks and serves as the A-10’s main armament. The GAU fires depleted uranium armor-piercing shells! In addition to the death cannon, the A-10 is also capable of carrying a wide assortment of air-to-surface missiles, cluster bombs, rocket pods and laser-guided munitions.

The air frame is loaded up with over 1,200 pounds of armor and has the highest survivability of any plane in the air force, being specifically designed to be able to complete missions even after sustaining heavy damage. The frame itself was designed to withstand armor-piercing and high explosive projectiles up to 23mm. The aircraft has triple redundancy in its flight systems and mechanical systems to back up double redundant hydraulic systems. These safety measures, in addition to measures that I don’t have to time to go into or this post would be a few thousand words long, this plane is almost unkillable.

It’s received many upgrades over the years including a laser receiver pod that allows for faster and more accurate target acquisition, a new navigation system, night vision and safety measures. More recently, the A-10 fleet will be given new cockpit displays, computer systems and data links.

The A-10 first saw action in the 1991 Gulf War where it destroyed over 900 Iraqi tanks, 2,000 armored vehicles,1,200 artillery pieces and 2 attack helicopters. 4 were shot down, all due to anti-air missile defenses. It participated in peacekeeping over Bosnia and Kosovo and later brought the noise in Afghanistan and Iraq in 2001 and 2003. 6 A-10’s also participated in Operation Odyssey Dawn during the Libyan Civil War.

                                                         

Number built: 716

Unit Cost: $11,800,000 (1994 dollars)

General characteristics

  • Crew: 1
  • Length: 53 ft 4 in (16.26 m)
  • Wingspan: 57 ft 6 in (17.53 m)
  • Height: 14 ft 8 in (4.47 m)
  • Wing area: 506 ft² (47.0 m²)
  • Airfoil: NACA 6716 root, NACA 6713 tip
  • Empty weight: 24,959 lb (11,321 kg)
  • Loaded weight: 30,384 lb (13,782 kg) On CAS mission: 47,094 lb (21,361 kg)
    On anti-armor mission: 42,071 lb (19,083 kg)
  • Max takeoff weight: 50,000 lb (23,000 kg)
  • Powerplant: 2 × General Electric TF34-GE-100A turbofans, 9,065 lbf (40.32 kN) each

Performance

  • Never exceed speed: 450 knots (518 mph, 833 km/h) at 5,000 ft (1,500 m) with 18 Mk 82 bombs
  • Maximum speed: 381 knots (439 mph, 706 km/h) at sea level, clean
  • Cruise speed: 300 knots (340 mph, 560 km/h)
  • Stall speed: 120 knots (138 mph, 220 km/h)
  • Combat radius:
    • On CAS mission: 250 nmi (288 mi, 460 km) at 1.88 hour single-engine loiter at 5,000 ft (1,500 m), 10 min combat
    • On anti-armor mission: 252 nmi (290 mi, 467 km), 40 nm (45 mi, 75 km)) sea-level penetration and exit, 30 min combat
  • Ferry range: 2,240 nmi (2,580 mi, 4,150 km) with 50 knot (55 mph, 90 km/h) headwinds, 20 minutes reserve
  • Service ceiling: 45,000 ft (13,700 m)
  • Rate of climb: 6,000 ft/min (30 m/s)
  • Wing loading: 99 lb/ft² (482 kg/m²)
  • Thrust/weight: 0.36

Grumman F-14 Tomcat

30 Aug

Back in the 1950’s, the US needed a  long range, high endurance interceptor to protect it’s carrier battle groups against anti-ship missiles. The specifications they set forward were a Fleet Air Defense aircraft with more powerful radar and longer range missiles than the F-4 Phantom II to intercept bombers as well as missiles. Both the navy and air force were involved in the design and testing process, often fighting over what specifications were needed and what weren’t which resulted in the heavy and lackluster F-111B put forward for the Tactical Fighter Experimental (TFX) program.

General Dynamics, the producer of the F-111 teamed up with Grumman to find ways to improve the aircraft and were eventually sidelined. Due to difficulties in making a “one size fits all” fighter, Congress allowed the Navy to pursue their own designs. Grumman gave the design better radar, more reliable and powerful engines, ground attack capabilities and improved missiles among other things.

Introduced in 1974 after extensive modifications and testing, the Tomcat was the premier air superiority fighter of its time with a 2 seat cockpit and bubble canopy that offered much better visibility than its predecessor, the F4. It was also eqipped with the revolutionary geometry wing design where the wings would sweep back for high-speed intercept but swing forward for lower speed flight to offer greater stability. Avionics and anti-aircraft armament were all top of the line and pushed the technological barriers of the early 1970’s.

The Tomcat served as America’s premier air superiority and tactical reconnaissance aircraft from 1972-2006 and with Iran’s air forces from 1978 to present. The fighter didn’t see actual combat until the Gulf of Sidra incident in 1981 when 2 F-14’s engaged 2 Su-22’s and destroyed them easily. While never participating in large aerial battles, the Tomcat boasts a modest combat record with 135 air to air kills, most of which are from the Iran-Iraq War, 4 air to air losses, and 4 losses due to ground fire.

Although it has been retired by the US, it’s still in service with the Iranian air force. But due to numerous sanctions they are unable to import replacement parts leaving them with 60 (allegedly) Tomcats left, most of which are probably unfit for combat.

Number Built: 712

Unit Cost: $38,000,000 (1998)

                                                                            

General characteristics:

  • Crew: 2 (Pilot and Radar Intercept Officer)
  • Length: 62 ft 9 in (19.1 m)
  • Wingspan:
    • Spread: 64 ft (19.55 m)
    • Swept: 38 ft (11.58 m)
  • Height: 16 ft (4.88 m)
  • Wing area: 565 ft² (54.5 m²)
  • Airfoil: NACA 64A209.65 mod root, 64A208.91 mod tip
  • Empty weight: 43,735 lb (19,838 kg)
  • Loaded weight: 61,000 lb (27,700 kg)
  • Max takeoff weight: 74,350 lb (33,720 kg)
  • Powerplant: 2 × General Electric F110-GE-400 afterburning turbofans
    • Dry thrust: 13,810 lbf (61.4 kN) each
    • Thrust with afterburner: 27,800 lbf (123.7 kN) each
  • Maximum fuel capacity: 16,200 lb internal; 20,000 lb with 2x 267 gallon external tanks

Performance

  • Maximum speed: Mach 2.34 (1,544 mph, 2,485 km/h) at high altitude
  • Combat radius: 500 nmi (575 mi, 926 km)
  • Ferry range: 1,600 nmi (1,840 mi, 2,960 km)
  • Service ceiling: 50,000 ft (15,200 m)
  • Rate of climb: >45,000 ft/min (229 m/s)
  • Wing loading: 113.4 lb/ft² (553.9 kg/m²)
  • Thrust/weight: 0.91