Category Archives: Aircraft

Why the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II is Replacing the Military’s Fighter Jets

A fifth generation fighter aircraft, Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II offers the U.S military advanced stealth along with network-enabled operations, fighter speed and agility, advanced support and completely amalgamated sensor information. The Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II is available in three different types. The three Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II types are meant for the three main factions of the U.S military i.e. the army, the navy, and the air force. Each faction is assigned a different Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II type.

The Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II type assigned to the U.S Air Force will replace the F-16 and A-10, the F-35 Lightning II type assigned to the U.S Navy will replace the F/A-18  and the Lightning II type assigned to the U.S Marine Corps will replace the AV-8B. Why is the U.S military replacing its old fighter aircrafts with the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II? There are many reasons for this. However, we’re going to look at some of the primary ones.

A single seat and single engine fighter aircraft, the lightning II encompasses advanced sensors built into the aircraft. The lightning II is designed for a variety of missions including electronic attack, reconnaissance, surveillance and intelligence missions. Previously, each of these missions required a different aircraft. However, the inception of Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II has changed all that. Now, missions of all kind can be carried out using a single aircraft: the F-35 Lightning II.

When it comes to U.S military aviation, the F-35’s stealth capabilities are unrivalled. The stealth features of the F-35 are optimized by advanced materials and an integrated airframe design. The superior advantages that the F-35 has over other aircrafts are showcased by its stealth power, electronic attack capabilities, advanced countermeasures, data fusion, and sophisticated sensors.

The Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II performs in a unique manner. The factors that contribute to this performance are the F-35’s state of the art manufacturing processes, immersed mission systems sensors, internal weapons and fuel carriage and external shape.

An international team of leading aerospace companies develop, produce, and support the Martin F-35 Lightning II. This makes it easy to understand why the F-35 Lightning II is head and shoulders above other fighter aircrafts. In short, compared to the other fighter aircrafts, the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II provides the U.S military greater access and survivability in times of conventional warfare. Therefore, it’s a preferred choice!

 

Aircrafts of the USAF

The US Air Force is known across the world for its superior air power dominance.  What is it that sets the USAF apart from other Air Forces? It comes down to  technology, practice (war games) and skill.

The USAF’s air fleet consists of custom-made airframes that enable them to carry out and complete different missions effectively. Of course the aircrafts need a pilot to navigate, operate and maneuver them in order to ensure successful completion of each operation assigned to them.  

Here’s a list of some of the mean machines that make up a part of the total USAF fleet.

B-52 Stratofortress

The Stratofortress is a long-range bomber aircraft.  It has been in use since the 1950s and was one of the primary vehicles used during the war in Vietnam. The B52s have since been outfitted with the latest technical military advances so that it can continue Its mission in executing the extensive range of tasks it has always been capable of taking on. In times of conflicts, the B-52 serves the USAF for strategic attacks, close air support, maritime and counter-air missions, and surveillance and its ability to fly up to 80,000 feet makes it invulnerable to many of today’s ground to air missiles.

B-2 Spirit

The next generation of bomber. The stealth bomber B-2 Spirit has the ability to carry both nuclear and conventional armaments on board.

B-1B Lancer

The bomber B-1B Lancer currently forms the backbone of the USAF’s combat fleet. It is capable of carrying out multiple missions with large quantities of weaponry that includes both non-precision and precision weapons. The aircraft boasts the largest payload capacity in the USAF fleet.

F-15

The highly maneuverable F-15 fighter is designed for greater air dominance in air-to-air combat. The upgraded F-15E variation comes with the additional capability of executing air-to-ground combat missions with exceptional precision.

F-16 Fighting Falcon

Most of you might be familiar with this one already. The multi-purpose F-16 aircrafts are used by the USAF for both air-to-ground and air-to-air combat. These solid machines are compact and offer greater maneuverability for missions.

F-22 Raptor

This  is the only combat ready fighter jet belonging to the fifth-generation. It is the most recently employed aircraft in the USAF. The fighter offers stealth combined with advanced avionics, exceptional maneuverability, and supercruise mode for unmatched aerial supremacy.

HH-60G Pave Hawk

The HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopter is used for operations involving personnel recovery from hostile territories. It is also used for humanitarian assistance, disaster response, and search and rescue ops.

HC-130

The HC-130 aircraft and its variants are serving the USAF as personnel recovery platforms. They are primarily used for evacuations and disaster response. This particular aircraft can operate and land on a diverse assortment of airfields.

MC-130

This aircraft provides mid-air support, refueling, resupply, exfiltration, and infiltration for the special-operations forces. The aircraft is also used for carrying out secondary psychological missions, like air dropping leaflets to influence emotions and behaviors of particular groups of individuals.

T-6A Texan II

This aircraft is the basic trainer aircraft serving the USAF. The T-6A Texan II is used to provide primary flying skills, knowledge, and training to the US Navy and Air Force pilots.

T-38 Talon

The T-38 Talon too, is a USAF training jet. Its basic purpose is to train pilots for high-altitude supersonic flying missions. These missions are usually carried out by the A-10, B-1B, F-15E, and F-22 aircrafts.

U-2S/TU-2S

This beauty is used for high-altitude reconnaissance and surveillance. The aircraft is capable of operating in all sorts of environmental and weather conditions. The U-2S/TU-2S plane is designed to capture HD photographic imagery and monitor for signals intelligence.

We bet you’re far more learned about the USAF than you were before you read this post. Currently the USAF uses 39 distinct aircrafts for its operations. Each aircraft and its variations serve a specific purpose. Without these aircrafts it’s safe to say that the USAF is incomplete.

Lockeed AC-130 Gunship

The Lockheed AC-130 gunship is a powerhouse of munitions. It is a long-endurance ground-attack variant of the C-130 Hercules aircraft, of which one can envision the size of such a fighting machine.

It is used mostly as air support to assist troops on the ground. Such is the case with the Kurd takeover of Mosul, Iraq from ISIS. The Kurds supplied the ground forces and under U.S. cover, were able to liberate the city. Needless to say, the air support were mainly AC-130 gun ships. The AC-130 was also used frequently during the Vietnam War.

The AC-130 is a propeller driven aircraft that carries a wide array of anti-ground weapons. The AC-130 (and its variants) can carry a 25 mm GAU-12 Equalizer, one Bofors 40 mm autocannon and one 105 mm M102 cannon. Together, with its sophisticated sensors, navigation, and fire control systems, it is an awesome fighting machine that can strike hard at enemy ground forces, allowing allied troops to advance.

Flying at just 7,000 feet, the AC-130 does not use GPS or coordinate tracking to attack their target; rather, the plane relies solely on spotting the enemy visually.

One might wonder how an aircraft that flies so close to the ground can maneuver without being attacked. One of the answers is the use of ‘Angel Flares’. These are high intensity flares used to repel heat seeking missiles. A pattern forms that allows the flares to act as decoys.

AC-130 Gunship
‘Angel Flares’ used as a defensive measure to ward off incoming missiles

The armament is as follows for the AC-130 Gunship and its variants:

AC-130A Project Gunship II

  • 4 × 7.62 mm GAU-2/A miniguns
  • 4 × 20 mm (0.787 in) M61 Vulcan 6-barrel Gatling cannon

AC-130A Surprise Package, Pave Pronto, AC-130E Pave Spectre

  • 2× 7.62 mm GAU-2/A miniguns
  • 2× 20 mm M61 Vulcan cannon
  • 2× 40 mm (1.58 in) L/60 Bofors cannon

AC-130E Pave Aegis

  • 2× 20 mm M61 Vulcan cannon
  • 1× 40 mm (1.58 in) L/60 Bofors cannon
  • 1× 105 mm (4.13 in) M102 howitzer

AC-130H Spectre

  • 1× 40 mm (1.58 in) L/60 Bofors cannon
  • 1× 105 mm (4.13 in) M102 howitzer

AC-130U Spooky II

  • General Dynamics 25 mm (0.984 in) GAU-12/U Equalizer 5-barreled Gatling cannon
  • 1× 40 mm (1.58 in) L/60 Bofors cannon
  • 1× 105 mm (4.13 in) M102 howitzer

AC-130W Stinger II / AC-130J Ghostrider

  • 1x 30 mm ATK GAU-23/A autocannon
  • 1x 105 mm M102 Howitzer (AC-130J Ghostrider only, fired out the back of the aircraft via a modified rear ramp.)
  • ‘Gunslinger’ weapons system with launch tube for AGM-176 Griffin missiles and/or GBU-44/B Viper Strike munitions (10 round magazines)

Wing mounted, AGM-114 Hellfire missiles, GBU-39 Small Diameter Bombs (SDBs) and/or GBU-53/B SDB IIs[4] (4 per hardpoint on BRU-61/A rack)

This video shows the AC-130 Spectre Gunship in action over Afghanistan in 2014

SR-71 Blackbird

SR-71
SR-71 Blackbird of the Skies

If there was one plane that stood out from the others and had been the incentive for the future of military aircraft, it is the SR-71 Blackbird.

This spectacular aircraft was a cousin to the YF12A prototype interceptor to replace the older F-106 Delta Dart. Initially, the Air Force contracted North American to develop its next generation plane, the F-108. A mach-3 aircraft that never left the ground, due to cancellation in 1959.

Lockheed YF-12A
Lockheed_YF-12A

The Air Force instead embarked on Lockheed’s Skunk Works program, (Lockheed Martin’s Advanced Development Project) to build its next generation plane, where work was currently underway developing a top secret spy plane called the A-12.

The head of Skunk Works, Kelly Johnson agreed to build a fighter aircraft for the Air Force by modifying the A-12 version. It was labeled AF-12 and the USAF purchased three of them in the mid 1960s.

The primary difference between the A-12 and the AF-12 was by modifying the A-12’s nose by removing the chines in order to accommodate the Hughes AN/ASG-18 fire-control radar, which was originally developed for the XF-108.

In addition, a second cockpit for a crew member to operate the fire control radar for the air-to-air missile system was developed. These modifications resulted in a major change in the aircraft’s overall design from the specifications of the XF-108.

Specifically, its aerodynamics required ventral fins to be mounted under the fuselage and engine nacelles to maintain stability. The four bays previously used to house the A-12’s reconnaissance equipment were converted to carry the Hughes AIM-47 Falcon (GAR-9) missiles, with one bay used for fire control equipment; hence, the futuristic design of the Blackbird was materializing.

Enter the YF-12A. A prototype fighter that was an offset of the A-12. It had its first flying mission on August 7th, 1963. The aircraft was kept top secret until President Johnson announced its existence on February 24th, 1964. The YF-12A was cleverly announced to continue keeping the existence of the A-1, which was still in the pre-production phase a secret.

Some of the sightings of the A-12 from the top secret Area 51 was attributed to the YF-12A to camouflage the A-12’s secret as it flew in the area.

The YF-12A continued in its development; however, due to accidents and malfunctions, the three YF-12A aircrafts that were built, two were destroyed and the third was sent to the National Museum of the United States Air Force at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base near Dayton, Ohio on 17 November 1979.

Publicity of the YF-12A was kept intact in order to keep the CIA top secret A-12 variant (the SR-71) from becoming public.

The SR-71 Aircraft
The SR-71 under NASA testing

The SR-71 maintained such advanced technology, it became the precursor to the stealth aircraft we see today and instead of it being an interceptor, it was used for aerial reconnaissance missions. It  operated at such high speeds (mach-3) and altitudes (80,000 feet), it would actually be able to evade incoming anti-aircraft missiles by just flying faster. It was known to fly faster than a bullet.

In addition, the SR-71 was designed with basic stealth technology, which served as the forerunner to future stealth aircraft, such as the B-17 and B-2 stealth bomber.

Much of the SR-71’s history is still kept secret, especially its stealth technology, but in 1974, during the Arab-Israeli Yom Kippur war, an aircraft was seen over the skies of Egypt flying faster and higher than any other known aircraft and this aircraft was the SR-71.

The plane served the Air Force from 1964 to 1998. A total of 32 were built. 12 were lost in accidents, but with none lost in any war..

The SR-71 has held the world record for the fastest air-breathing manned aircraft since 1976, which was previously held by its YF-12A cousin.

The elegant design of the SR-71 is magnificent, but it is the sophistication of this aircraft that, to this day, a machine of the future and we are dedicated to Lockheed and the United States Air Force for their ingenuity and foresight in designing a plane of such magnitude.

 

B-36 Peacemaker

This huge piston driven airplane, dubbed “Peacemaker” has broken more records than any other aircraft. Not so much in its performance, but in its physical characteristics.

The Convair B-36 was a Cold War strategic bomber built by Convair and operated by the United States Air Force (USAF) from 1949 to 1959.

B-36 Bomber
B-36 Peacemaker Bomber

The B-36 used a piston engine, also called reciprocating engine, which is identical to the characteristics of a car engine and was the largest of its type to ever be constructed. The B-36’s wingspan was 230 feet, which was the longest wingspan of any combat aircraft.

This aircraft was the first bomber capable of delivering nuclear weapons and was incorporated in SAC. It had a range of 10,000 miles and was able to carry a maximum payload of 72,000 lbs.

It was also the world’s first manned bomber with an unrefueled intercontinental range.

The B-36 aircraft was decommissioned in 1959, however, the Peacemaker was the inspiration for long range and payload standards that set the stage for the newer fleet of intercontinental bombers, such as the Boeing B-52 Stratofortress, which used jet powered engines.

View the B-36 up close

B1 Lancer

Although not as well known as the popular stealth B-2 bomber, the B-1B Lancer, which has served the United States Air Force since 1985 has been nicknamed “The Bone”.

The Lancer is a is a swing-wing bomber intended for high-speed, low-altitude penetration missions. It has a very long-range capability and can carry multi-mission bombing runs,. Originally designed to carry nuclear ornaments as well,, the plane was switched to a conventional combat aircraft in the mid 1990’s and in 1999, during Operation Allied Force, six B-1s flew 2 percent of the strike missions, yet dropped 20 percent of the ordnance. The B-1 has been used extensively in combat operations over Afghanistan and Iraq since 2001.

The Lancer has extreme long range capability and can carry a variety of up to 75,000 lbs of arms worldwide.

B-1B Lance
B-1B Lancer flies over the Pacific Ocean

Initial delivery was to the Strategic Air Command (SAC) in June 1985, at Dyess AFB, Texas. By November 1986, B-1Bs were coming off the production line at a rate of four per month. B-1Bs were based at Dyess AFB, Texas; Ellsworth AFB, S.D.; McConnell AFB, Kan.; Robins AFB, Ga.; and Mountain Home AFB, Idaho.

The B-1B is a world records for speed, with 61 awards. The National Aeronautic Association recognized the B-1B for completing one of the 10 most memorable record flights for 1994.

The first combat use of the B-1B was in December 1998 during operation Desert Fox, where the aircraft penetrated Iraqi air defenses to destroy Republican Guard barracks. This debut mission validated the B-1B’s conventional role and its ability to operate in a force package. In 1999, six B-1Bs were deployed to Royal Air Force Base Fairford, England, to support Operation Allied Force in Kosovo. Those six aircraft dropped more than 20 percent of the total tonnage in the conflict. In operation Enduring Freedom, B-1Bs dropped 40 percent of the weapons and 70 percent of the precision-guided JDAM weapons.

B-1B Lancer Technical Specifications

Function Long-range, multi-role, heavy bomber
Power plant Four General Electric F101-GE-102 turbofan engine with afterburner
Thrust 30,000-plus pounds with afterburner, per engine
Wingspan 137 ft (41.8 m) extended forward, 79 ft (24.1 m) swept aft
Length 146 ft (44.5 meters)
Height 34 ft (10.4 meters)
Weight Approximately 190,000 lbs (86,183 kg)
Max Takeoff Weight 477,000 lbs (216,634 kg)
Fuel Capacity 265,274 lbs (120,326 kg)
Payload 75,000 lbs internal (34,019 kg), 50,000 lbs (22,679 kg)
Speed 900-plus mph (Mach 1.2 at sea level)
Range Intercontinental
Ceiling More than 30,000 ft (9,144 m)
Crew 4 (aircraft commander, copilot, and two weapon systems officers)
Inventory 66

F-35 vs F16

In a joint test project that involved dog fights between the new F-35 and two F-16Ds, as well as close-range combat maneuvers, the results were somewhat surprising.

According to a report by the pilot “Even with the limited F-16 target configuration, the F-35A remained at a distinct energy disadvantage for every engagement.”, indicating that the F-35A was no match for the F-16s.

During the test flights, the F-35A was constantly flying slower and running more sluggish, which subsequently made it unable to effectively maneuver to get the F-16 in its sights.

The report also stated that the new, hyped 21st century high-tech helmet was “… too large for the space inside the canopy to adequately see behind the aircraft,”, which then made it impossible to keep constant visual contact with the F-16 during the fight.

November of 2014, F-16 co-designer Pierre Sprey concluded that the F-35 “inherently a terrible plane, because it’s built based on a dumb idea’, according to a report by CBC’s The The Fifth Estate. He said “You’ve compromised the aircraft horribly for three different missions, and then you’ve compromised it again for three different services.” It was “astonishingly unmaneuverable” because of its ratio of wing surface to weight. “In dogfighting, it’s hopeless.”

Although some other experts dispute Sprey’s comments, the F-35 test pilot seemed to agree with his comments.

Although hundreds of millions of dollars have already been spent on the F-35, maybe we should pause its development, review the test data from this and other test projects and determine the next course of action.

It may be prudent to provide a report on the new technology that was developed for the F-35, including the helmet and refine them. Then consider developing a specific set of new aircraft plans that do not include multilevel design, and then incorporate each of these new technologies into three separate new fighter planes (fighter, bomber, etc.).

This way, we will have more efficient aircraft that would incorporate all the new 21st century technologies, yet optimized for one specific purpose for each plane of their required categories.

P-51 Mustang

Success would be an understatement when talking about the P51 Mustang. This plane was active in World War II and the Korean War. During World War II, the Mustangs were the first to see action after France was overtaken by the Germans and it was able to defeat every German plane it came in contact with.

Built by North American Aviation P-51 was a long-range, single-seat fighter. It was initially developed for the Royal Air Force (RAF) as a tactical-reconnaissance aircraft and was subsequently flown by the RAF, before it was used by the United States.

The Mustang’s history is impressive. Based in England, it penetrated Germany’s defenses and was the first allied aircraft to reach Berlin. During late 1943 and 1944, the USAAF’s Eighth Air Force’s Mustangs were used to escort bombers on bombing raids and they were used to look for and engage the German Luftwaffe airplanes.

The Mustangs were also involved in North African, Mediterranean and Italian battles.

The final tally for kills by the P-51s during World War II was 4,950 enemy aircraft shot down.

But these success stories didn’t end there. At the beginning of the Korean War, the Mustang was the main fighter. It wasn’t until the F-86 fighter jets took over that the Mustang changed roles to become fighter-bomber.

Even though jet fighters were all the rage in the 1950’s, the P-51s actually continued on as a service fighter until the early 1980s.

The Mustangs are now flown as civilian planes and are also used in air shows around the country.

V-22 Osprey

The bell Boeing V-22 Osprey is a fascinating aircraft that operates both as a helicopter and an airplane. It is a multi-mission tilt rotor military vehicle that has the combined capability of both VTOL and STOL. Using the tilt rotor, the aircraft can initiate vertical takeoffs as a helicopter and then change to an airplane in flight. In other words, the V-22  can combine the functionality of a conventional helicopter with the long-range, high-speed cruise performance of a turboprop airplane.

V-22 Osprey
 A U.S. Marine Corps MV-22 prepares to land aboard USS Nassau in 2008
As a work of the U.S. federal government, this image is in the public domain.

The Osprey has two pairs of three blade rotors, which rotate in opposite directions, subsequently producing a vertical lift off the ground. Since the rotors turn alternatively in opposite directions, a tail rotor, which is usually found on most helicopters, is used to provide stability. This conversion from helicopter to airplane can occur in as little as 12 seconds.

Its origins materialized from the United States Department of Defense Joint-service Vertical take-off/landing Experimental (JVX) aircraft program and in 1983, Bell Helicopter and Boeing Helicopters were awarded the contract to build the Osprey and the two share in the development and construction of this unique aircraft.

Its initial flight was in 1989, but there were many disappointments, as complications were found related to physically combining the two takeoff components into to one aircraft. As a result, the initial deployment of the Osprey was continuously delayed and many additional years of development was required.

Since entering into service with the U.S. Marine Corps and Air Force, the Osprey has been deployed in successful transportation and medevac operations over Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and Kuwait and continues to be used against terrorist strongholds and other enemy targets.

The V-22 Osprey Video Documentary

F-35 Lightning II

The F-35 Lightning II is, essentially, a flying computer designed with cost in mind and with the objective of building a fighter jet that would accommodate the needs of the four branches of the military, as well as the Royal Air Force.

The aircraft was derived from the prototype X-35, which was the winning design of the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) program. The program that was initiated by the DOD with the objective to progress the technology of previous generation aircraft. The plane was built by Lockheed Martin, who coordinated with other partners Northrop Grumman, Pratt & Whitney and BAE Systems.

F-35 Lightning Fighter Aircraft
The Navy variant of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, the F-35C, conducts a test flight over the Chesapeake Bay. ‘This file is a work of a sailor or employee of the U.S. Navy, taken or made as part of that person’s official duties. Public Domain’

The aircraft is a single-seat, single-engine, all-weather advanced stealth aircraft that can be deployed in any number of roles; such as, a combat aircraft for ground attacks, aerial reconnaissance and air defense missions.

The fact that it has only one engine demands that this engine must be functioning at all times and work is still being done to ensure this capability.

There are currently three F-35 variants: The F-35A conventional takeoff and landing (CTOL), the F-35B short take-off and vertical-landing (STOVL) and the F-35C carrier-based Catapult Assisted Take-Off Barrier Arrested Recovery (CATOBAR) variant.

The specific responsibilities of these variants are as follows: The fighter will replace the A-10 and F-16 for the Air Force, will replace the F/A-18 for the Navy aboard aircraft carriers and will replace the F/A-18 and AV-8B Harrier as the STOVL variant for the Marine Corps. Learn more about the aircraft replacements by the F-35 here.

The F-35 is currently undergoing testing and final development by Lockheed Martin. It is part of the fifth generation category (incorporates numerous technological advances from the previous generation, but not many specifics have been given out).

It is interesting to note that Lt. Col. Christine Mau of 33rd Fighter Wing Operations Group is the first female pilot to fly this aircraft. “It wasn’t until I was taxiing to the runway that it really struck me that I was on my own in the jet. I had a chase aircraft, but there was no weapons system officer or instructor pilot sitting behind me, and no one in my ear like in simulators.” said Mau. “It felt great to get airborne. The jet flies like a dream, and seeing the systems interact is impressive. Flying with the Helmet Mounted Display takes some adjusting, but it’s an easy adjustment. The training missions in the simulator prepare you very well, so you’re ready for that flight.”

The Helmet Mounted Display System that the Lt. Col. is referring to is one of the new technical advancements incorporated into the fifth generation aircraft design, and it is impressive. The $400,000 helmet is a computer driven visual device that contains 8,000,000 lines of code. It provides F-35 pilots with extraordinary situational awareness that is contained in its visor’s digital display that shows airspeed, heading, altitude, targeting information and warnings. This advancement has great tactical advantages, as it significantly increases the pilot’s responsiveness.

In addition, the visor contains the Distributed Aperture System (DAS), which streams real-time video from six infrared cameras mounted in different parts of the plane and also provides night vision capability.

So, without knowing all the specifics of this new generation aircraft, the fact that it has advanced stealth and a helmet reflective of what some see in sci-fi movies already makes the F-35 Lightning a formidable fighter against potential adversaries in any situation, day or night.

This video provides some general information on the F-35.

More about the F-35 and its variants can be found in this video below.