ARMY AIR BRINGS THE THUNDER WITH SUPER BOWL FLYOVER 2014!

I was super excited to see that the US Army was getting the opportunity to execute Super Bowl flyover 2014. Yes it is less than ideal having dark helicopters do the job after sundown, and yes a quartet of F-15s or F/A-18s stroking their burners right as the National Anthem’s crescendo hits is spine tingling, but Army rotary-wing aviation is a very exciting and challenging business and they deserve a massive nod of thanks.

The reality is that CH-47s, UH-60s, and even AH-64s have had more impact in the last decade of America’s wars abroad than Air Combat Command or NAVAIR has. Additionally, I like the fact that this was a 101st Airborne operation, not the 160th SOAR or some other highly specialized unit. These are the guys and gals that haul humans and material around the battlefield without every gadget on earth to keep them safe. The AH-64 is also part of this integrated team and it is great to see them involved as well. Interestingly, a platform that was absent from the fly-over was the humble OH-58D Kiowa Warrior. The Kiowa Warrior community has served heroically over the last decade or so and really deserved to be part of that formation. The DoD does this sort of nonsense when they are trying to cut a platform from existence. Most notably, we saw this same type of thing with the F-14 during the last year of its service, and the Kiowa fleet is controversially on the budgetary chopping block at this very moment.

In the end I just thought it was very cool that the DoD chose to showcase rotary-wing aviation and the folks that deliver the goods the last tactical mile, whether it be beans and boots or an AGM-114 Hellfire onto the enemy’s forehead. We owe these guys and gals so much for their extremely demanding service over the last 13 years and I am glad that Americans got to see just how cool our Army’s combined helicopter force can look and sound. On a side note, I think the Fox producers blew the way they covered this impressive show of American military might. Weak sauce guys!

Oh, also I have to say to the crews that flew the mission, great work hitting your time over target just perfectly. You gave the fighter and bomber guys a serious run for their money!

Go Army Air & cheers to the 101st Combat Aviation Brigade!

Some videos of the flyover for your enjoyment:

Check out this post on Facebook, this may be the best video of the fly-over yet! https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?v=10153742245745632&set=vb.660330631&type=2&theater

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IT COULD HAVE BEEN: THE NORTHROP XST, LOSER TO WHAT WOULD BECOME THE F-117 NIGHTHAWK

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The year was 1974 and DARPA was becoming more interested in the idea that an aircraft, or a remotely piloted vehicle, that could be almost totally invisible to enemy radar. After fielding some secondary studies regarding the matter the XST (eXperiimental Survivable Tactical) program was formally launched and DARPA went searching for aircraft manufacturers to pursue the program’s goals. Originally, Lockheed was not even approached to be part of the competition to build a scale model concept that would show substantial reduction in radar cross-section for a tactical air vehicle, but word got around that the shadowy program was in the launch phase and legendary Lockheed Skunk Works engineer Ben Rich went and persuaded the DoD to give him and the Skunk Works team a shot. Nowadays, it is almost unbelievable to think that the legendary Skunk Works was not even on the DoD’s list for the XST competition, but then again it was a low time for Lockheed, having not produced a fighter for over a decade and their commercial aircraft division was also in deep turmoil.

The XST competition consisted of the aforementioned Lockheed Skunk Works team, a Northrop tea, and a McDonnell Douglas team that would later drop out of the competition. The Skunk Works, being accustomed to working on highly classified projects, had every element of the their XST team working together openly. Powerplant, flight controls, low observables, aerodynamics and so on, were all at the same collaborative design ”table” if you will. Northrop on the other hand had built an almost firewall-like divide between the highly secretive low observable folks and the aircraft systems and design folks. This mistake would result in a very inefficient design process that would cost them later on in the competition.

HopelesshistoryTeam Skunk Works used a fairly obscure research paper from a Soviet scientist to build a computer program called “ECHO1″ that could predict the radar cross section of a an object. This resulted in the famed “Hopeless Diamond” design, which was shaped like a diamond and fully faceted to reflect radar waves away from the transmitter/receiver from almost every direction efficiently. When it came to signature control the “Hopeless Diamond” was downright exciting, but when it came to aerodynamics it was a messy conundrum to say the least.

The Northrop team worked closely with Hughes Radar Systems Group early on for their XST contender. Hughes, the gold standard purveyor of American military sensors at the time, gave Northrop a deep theoretical understanding of how radars and infra-red sensors detect targets, and what shapes are hard to detect under various conditions. With this in mind, and without Lockheed’s novel “ECHO1″ computer based radar cross-section modeling program, Northrop’s design moved forward, although clumsily. The aforementioned intense compartmentalization between the aerodynamics and aircraft systems team and the highly classified low observables team was proving to be almost impossible to worth through. Some individuals who were active in Northrop’s XST  program at the time have described this unsatisfactory arrangement like trying to build the most advanced aircraft design in the world via playing a game of telephone. None the less, leveraging their work with Hughes, the team began experimenting with different shapes and configurations, and in a learn as you go creative process, a design began to materialize.

DARPA, having already realized the promise of this new technology, had upgraded the program from a theoretical design study to one that would provide a flyable prototype. With this in mind, the name of the program changed to eXperimental Survivable Testbed, in doing so the program’s title was more defined but its acronym “XST” stayed the same. A “pole off” showdown, where scale models of both manufacturers’ unique designs would be evaluated at a radar cross-section measurement range, was set for the summer of 1975. Lockheed’s ”Hopeless Diamond” was tweaked a bit to better resemble a plausible aircraft. The whole design was still made up of a series of flat panels, or diamond like facets, but its rear trailing edge would be notched in instead of shaped like one half of a diamond. It would also feature more highly swept wings, its inlets would be mounted behind both sides of the cockpit and the aircraft’s exhaust would exit through slits in the upper rear trailing edge of the fuselage to mask its infrared signature. Northrop’s design looked more like a plausible flying machine, with the cockpit set far forward and a large air inlet, covered by a fine mesh grill, was set high atop the fuselage. It did not feature a complex array of facets like Lockheed’s entry, instead it used smooth broad flat surfaces and finely rounded edges to reflect radar energy, as well as a diamond-delta like wing platform. The aircraft’s exhaust were mounted deeply inward of the trailing edge, between the jet’s inward canted vertical tails.

northrop_xst_01Both designs were very impressive to say the least, having achieved massive reductions in overall radar returns as well as dampening their theoretical infrared signature to a large degree. Northrop, not having the luxury of Lockheed’s “ECHO1″ program, and a being handicapped by a fragmented design team, concentrated on making the aircraft as invisible as possible from its front and rear quadrants. Their thinking was that the most risk for a penetrating attack aircraft is when you are approaching and leaving the target area, so this is where their signature reduction goals were focused. The Northrop team accomplished this goal very well, but when the aircraft design was viewed by radar from the side hemisphere the aircraft’s return ”spiked” much higher than their Skunk Works “Hopeless Diamond” based competitor.

The Northrop XST’s less competitive side-on radar signature seemed to be more of a result of the stiff compartmentalization within the Northrop design team then just their design philosophy alone, and some say that with some tweaks the Northrop XST would have featured a lower overall radar cross-section than the Lockheed contender by a serious margin. Additionally, the argument was made that Northrop’s design would have provided better aerodynamic performance and airframe adaptability, as well as lower overall production risk. In other words, there have been multiple voices, not just from within the Northrop camp, that think that the Northrop XST would have been a better choice than Lockheed’s design, especially considering how immature the designs, and their accompanying knowledge bases, really were regarding both potential aircraft. Interestingly, years later, Northrop’s non-faceted design philosophy seems more ahead of its time than the Lockheed faceted approach, especially when you consider that second and third generation stealth aircraft and UAV’s have much more in common with Northrop’s design than Lockheed’s design!

f117p15None-the-less, both teams had solid manufacturing capabilities, competitive cost estimates, and aggressive timelines, so all things being fairly equal, Northrop’s slightly less stealthy pole model gave DARPA something to hang their final decision on, and the Lockheed Skunk Works design was chosen for flight testing. This action would result in the “Have Blue” technology demonstrators, then project “Senior Trend” which resulting in the YF-117 and eventually the famous F-117 Nighthawk Stealth Fighter as we know it today.

YF1The loss of the XST program did not mean the end for Northrop when it comes to low observable aircraft, quite the contrary. The team regrouped and learned from its mistakes over the next few years and eventually fielded the absolutely game changing BSAX, otherwise known as the “Tacit Blue” technology demonstrator. This aircraft, aptly nicknamed “The Whale,” paved the way for the B-2 Spirit Bomber, the YF-23 Advanced Tactical Fighter contender (and the aircraft that should have won the ATF contest over the YF-22) and even the X-47B UCAV testbed as we know it today. Strangely, the ”Tacit Blue” concept would also eventually lead to the Lockheed Skunk Works RQ-170 Sentinel, and who knows how many other clandestine aircraft, both of the manned and unmanned variety. In fact the rumored RQ-180, although I highly doubt that is its true name, an aircraft that this website has predicted to have been in existence for years now, is basically the final implementation of the concept that “Tacit Blue” proved over thirty years ago!

Seeing how close the XST program decision was, and taking into account just how handicapped Northrop was by having two compartmentalized teams working on one integrated aircraft, as well as not having the help of the groundbreaking “ECHO1″ computer modeling program, one has to wonder just how successful their stealth fighter could have been with more time to mature. Additionally, Northrop now has a solid record for being incredibly innovative even with fewer resources at their disposal then the competition when it comes to designing stealthy tactical aircraft (see the YF-23). I guess we will be left wondering what could have been if Northrop won the XST competition and became the first to market with a production level low observable combat aircraft. If this were the case, I have a feeling we would be seeing a YF-23 like design blasting off the runways at Nellis AFB during Red Flag sorties instead of the F-22A Raptor. Who knows, in an alternate reality where the Skunk Works’ ”Hopeless Diamond” lost the XST competition, maybe Northrop’s version of the F-117 would still be in service instead of being locked away in their tomb like hangars or being ripped to shreds and buried at Tonopah Test Range Airport…

…Then again we got a pretty damn good bang for our buck out of Lockheed’s history making F-117A Nighthawk so we really need to stop daydreaming!

Filed in History, It Could Have Been | Comment Now

BOEING SAYS GO SEAHAWKS IN A GARGANTUAN WAY!

Boeing’s roots in Washington are legendary. With this in mind they painted up their flagship product, the 747-800F, with a giant 12 on the tail (for “12th man”) and GO HAWKS on the side to celebrate their local team making it to the Super Bowl. Then they took their actual flying ”Seahawk” and flew a precise route that outlined the numbers “12″ over Central Washington. Seen on flight trackers such as flightaware.com, it looks like this:

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Although this is hardly the first time Boeing has virtually painted massive swathes of sky, having done it for the 787 and other products during testing, this is truly fantastic marketing on the side of the Boeing folks. Let’s face it, not everyone cares about aviation or the aerospace industry, but everyone watches the Super Bowl right?!?!

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THE WOLF OF WALL STREET’S YACHT WAS LIKE A SEA BASE!

25969-mathilda-southern-breeze-khalidia-nadineTycoon turned felon Jason Belfort, the inspiration for Martin Scorsese’s recent dark romp “The Wolf Of Wall Street,” was incredibly proud of his 167 foot long vintage yacht “Nadine.” Originally built in the early 1960s for fashionista Coco Channel, the yacht had undergone a serious structural upgrade, adding some 30 feet to its length, by the time Belfort got his hands on it in the early 1990s. Under his purview, the ship was renamed from ”Big Eagle” to “Nadine,” Fraudster, Jordan Belfort (R) with friends before a helicopter fafter his second wife who was most known for her work in beer commercials.

Once the stern had “Nadine” painted on it the ship began to accumulate  toys at a rapid rate. Waterslides, jet skis, high-speed boats and other party favors were packed onboard. Yet the most prominent of these luxuries were Belfort’s Bell 206 JetRangerIII and a futuristic kit-built “Seawind” seaplane. The Seawind in particular was fairly unique as it was said to be powered by an Allison C-18 turbine engine pushing a cut down three blade prop. Seeing as every Seawind I have seen has been piston powered, this thing must have been extremely fast, which makes sense considering who owned it!

By the time Belfort’s days as a corporate golden boy were coming to an end, ”Nadine” looked more like it belonged on a middle school boy’s bedroom wall then on “Lifestyles Of The Rich & Famous.” leo_article_story_mainApparently, the ship was the talk of the yachting community when she pulled into port, as the amount of frivolous toys per linear foot was unheard of at the time, if not bordering on totally absurd.

The “Nadine” sank off the coast of Palma in June 1997 during a bad storm, with the Italian Coast Guard rescuing all of the crew and passengers. Apparently all those toys may have helped in her sinking, as one of the watercraft lashed down on the bow broke loose and smashed through the forward saloon windows causing ”Nadine” to take on water at a fatal rate.

In the end Belfort’s downfall was that he literally wanted it all… Apparently this included his own aircraft carrier, air force and navy!

Click here to see what “Nadine” looked like inside, or at least before she sunk in the Mediterranean!

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F-35 FLOUNDERS ON WHILE ESSENTIAL F-16 UPGRADE PROGRAM MAY GET AXED

More of the same from the DoD and USAF regarding borrowing from their existing fighter fleet’s capability to pay for their Death Star of boondoggles, the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.

F-35 'pushes the envelope'There is a new information out highlighting the continuing “teething problems” with the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program. Cracks in the jet’s motors and structures continue to plague the aircraft’s design, even though Lockheed has said for years that the cracking issues will be fixed in the near term. Then there are the same old usual suspects, the software is far behind schedule, data-fusion is unreliable, the helmet is still an issue and so on. The aircraft’s artificially fabricated and premature initial Operating Capability leaves so much to be desired that it is questionable what the aircraft’s role would be during any sort of combat operations. Then there is ALIS, the jet’s all-encompassing logistical support and mission planning networked database that is not even near being ready for prime time (and one has to think how vulnerable such an integrated system makes the aircraft in a wold of cyber warfare and weaponized malware). The aircraft’s vulnerability to battle damage is still a major concern as is the aircraft’s availability for sorties and the list goes on and on. In reality, the sheer multitude and magnitude of the F-35′s developmental issues has become par for the course for the program. In other words, bad news regarding this bloated and ridiculous concept is the overwhelming norm, not the exception to it.

kore0[1]I have said for years that there is no question that the F-35 will be a capable aircraft, but at what cost, both in terms of national treasure and opportunity cost in relation to procuring more relevant platforms while upgrading existing ones? Keep in mind that the Joint Strike Fighter concept is already almost twenty years old, and the F-35 itself has been flying for almost eight years. In a rapidly changing technological and strategic environment, this aircraft, especially in its A and C model formats, is simply becoming outdated and less than relevant, especially considering its huge price tag.

The reality that the USAF’s version will not be operational till 2016 at best, with the Navy’s version eventually coming on-line years behind that, is a hard and chaos-inducing pill for the DoD to swallow. But what exactly is “initial operational capability” really? With only the most basic capabilities available at best, and an airframe that is only available currently one-third of the time how does this “milestone” seem legitimate? It sounds like IOC capable squadrons will be a glorified and very expensive auxiliary test and evaluation flying clubs at best as the aircraft will lack many capabilities that even legacy F/A-18A/C/Ds have. But in a world where so many have so much hanging on this flawed program, telling the public and low information lawmakers that the F-35 is now “operational” probably seems like the best PR move available, regardless of the reality of the situation.

F35abcI would guess that at least one-quarter to one-third of this site is about the F-35 program, the good, the bad and the ugly. The truth is, at least from those who do not get a check from Lockheed or its many surrogates, is that the program is way over budget and way behind schedule, with declining baseline capabilities and overall performance standards. Furthermore,” we” don’t even know about the developmental status of the F-35′s many classified features. We can only guess that there are major issues in this department as well if the rest of the program is any sort of a barometer.

I have posited for years that the F-35 was a stupid concept to begin with, one that will gobble up the budget of the DoD for decades to come even though fantastic alternatives are available. Sadly, this gobbling has already begun, and the F-35 program is proving to be a very hungry beast even though only a tiny fraction of the proposed inventory has been fielded.

f35_taxi_firsttraining_20120307The Air Force has shrunk remarkably in size since the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Hundreds of tactical fighters have been prematurely retired in order to “save money,” usually with the resulting diversion of dollars being rationalized as needed for “getting behind” the F-35 program. Additionally, the force that remains, a shadow of its formal self, has seen flight hours and readiness cut at an alarming rate. Yet the USAF at least came to terms with their black hole of a Joint Strike fighter program enough to move forward on an essential upgrade program for the cream of the USAF’s remaining F-16 Viper fleet, those being of the blocks 40/42/50/52. The program would see many of these aircraft upgraded to remain relevant for well over decade to come. In essence, these aircraft are meant to fill the capability and numerical gap left by the lethargic F-35 program. These upgraded F-16s would have to soldier on into the next decade, and possibly well into the one after that.

f-16-60-cockpit-largeThis F-16 upgrade configuration solidified this year and is now known as CAPES, or the Combat Avionics Programmed Extension Suite. This upgrade is a major one, and would include new large area cockpit displays (essential for delineating all the situational data a pilot has at their disposal), a state of the art digital electronic warfare system (ALQ-213), a new data link system that can exchange information via satellite (Integrated Broadcast System) and most importantly, an AESA radar, in this case the Northrop Grumman Scalable Agile Beam Radar (SABR). Along with this program these F-16s, numbering 300 in total, will receive an essential structural revitalization, commonly known as a service life extension program (SLEP), which will add between 2,000 to 4,000 hours to the airframe’s lifespan. SLEP makes sense as all those new avionics added under CAPES, and the jet’s pilot, would actually have a sound platform to whiz around in for the next twenty years.

WiscANG-F16-hangar4Sadly and illogically, sequestration and a darkening F-35 fiscal “black hole” have taken their toll, and it looks like the Washington’s priority remains the faltering F-35 program, as the rumor is that CAPES will be cancelled in the 2015 federal budget.  There are hopes that the accompanying SLEP will remain intact, but the budgetary axe hangs low over this program as well. If this proves to be true, it will be yet another idiotic act by those under the F-35 ether, or who have their next star or careers teetering on it.

The USAF’s capability gap, especially in the tactical aircraft field, is shrinking rapidly. Other nations, like China, are actively working on fielding AESA radars on their mainline non-silver bullet fighter aircraft force. The sickening reality that we cannot even afford to fund a logical upgrade of 300 existing and paid for F-16s is just another symptom of the DoD’s F-35 disease. The potential abandonment of CAPES basically says that the USAF, and its Washington surrogates, do not see keeping the air force they have viable, relevent or tactically effective, as a serious priority. Instead, it seems like they find it more important to invest deeper into the most volatile defense program in recent history, if not ever.

sdd_f35testa_136I ask the Washington decision makers behind such a misguided decision what their intentions are should a conflict break out where your enemy is more capable than uneducated men packing AK-47s and hiding in mud huts? How effective will your investment in the F-35 be when few, if any, are ready for sustained multi-role combat operations even into the next decade? Dollars-wise, I have not found an exact amount CAPES/SLEP would cost for the 300 F-16s that are currently planned to receive. Let’s just put the avionics upgrade at $15M and the structural upgrade at $10M. So $25M per jet. This would equal $7.5B for the entire upgrade program. How many F-35As is that? Let’s take the generous number of $120M per copy for the F-35A, that means we are going to deny the existing air force 300 extremely capable and cost-effective platforms in the immediate future in trade for a measly 62 F-35As that will be delivered sometime in the future, maybe.

definesmultirolef161At some point the USAF needs to come to terms with the value of numbers over topline capability. The “numerical advantage” if you will (see the Sherman Tank for proof of this concept). For many, if not the majority of tactical fighter missions, low observability, omnipotent situational awareness and virtually seamless sensor fusion is not a necessity. Additionally, an aircraft can only be in one place at one time, and the more complicated an aircraft is, that place ends up usually being on the ground broken. 300 upgraded F-16s that sport high bandwidth connectivity, an advanced electronic warfare suite, large color cockpit displays, and most importantly, a state of the art AESA radar is much more combat relevent than the promise of 70 F-35s sometime in the future. The F-16 CAPES/SLEP upgrade will give us a frontline “known commodity,” a reliable and effective combat tool that will be fiscally reasonable to operate during sustained combat operations.

The fact of the matter is that these theoretically upgraded F-16C/Ds do not only make themselves more survivable and potent alone. lockheed-F-16V-fighter-aircraftTheir radar picture and sensitive radar warning receivers can send their data to other aircraft that do not possess the same capabilities, especially un-upgraded F-16s that will be interoperating with them. In other words, one or two CAPES equipped vipers in a mixed formation of four or eight F-16s is much more capable and survivable than that same formation without a CAPES configured aircraft or two. In other words, by heavily upgrading 300 F-16s, the other 300 or so that will be serving alongside them also get a large majority of their situational awareness and targeting capabilities enhanced. In other words, this upgrade is not just an improvement for the airframes involved, it is a force multiplier for the total force overall.

F-35F16In the end the Air Force and Washington see the F-35 as too big to fail, but sadly this is not for strategic reasons. This mode of thinking is more about the fighter’s rocky export potential and the dollars it may bring home to the states it is built-in, along with the outcome of the careers of all those who so rabidly supported it. When it gets to the point that upgrading 300 F-16s has to be sacrificed for the F-35′s future, this almost perverse fixation on a single flawed weapon system becomes close to criminal. The CAPES/SLEP upgrade should be an absolute priority for USAF, DoD and Congressional leadership, not as an alternative to the F-35, but because of it and its never-ending developmental issues. If it is not, than those in power may have to answer to the families of the pilots who had to fight in antiquated equipment against the rapidly evolving weapons capabilities of a host of potential enemies, and did not come back to tell the American people how their Air Force got them killed in an attempt to buy 70 more aircraft that still only remain viable on paper.

http://breakingfiles.10uplabs.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/3/2014/01/2013DOTE_F-35_report.pdf

http://defensetech.org/2014/01/29/report-f-35-cracks-in-tests-isnt-reliable/http://www.defensenews.com/article/20140128/DEFREG02/301280035/Report-Software-Issues-May-Delay-F-35-US-Marine-Corps

http://defensetech.org/2014/01/29/report-f-35-cracks-in-tests-isnt-reliable/http://www.defensenews.com/article/20140128/DEFREG02/301280035/Report-Software-Issues-May-Delay-F-35-US-Marine-Corps

http://www.aviationweek.com/Blogs.aspx?plckBlogId=Blog:27ec4a53-dcc8-42d0-bd3a-01329aef79a7&plckPostId=Blog%3a27ec4a53-dcc8-42d0-bd3a-01329aef79a7Post%3a3c44fd3a-5cf2-4564-8a52-855d902cf829

Filed in News, Opinon, The F-35 Saga, Uncategorized | 9 Comments

JUST A REALLY COOL PICTURE: MARINE RETRO MERGE!

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Check out this little time capsule of speed and heat! It looks like a Marine Hornet entering a close merge with an incredibly tight formation of dissimilar aggressors, in this case an F-5E Tiger II and an Israeli made F-21 Kfir! The F/A-18 Hornet in the foreground appears to belong to VMFAT-101 “Sharpshooters,” the Fleet Replenishment Squadron (pilot training squadron) for Marine F/A-18 aircrews based out of MCAS El Toro, CA at the time. The aggressors belong to VMFT-401 “Snipers” based out the MCAS Yuma, AZ.

This shot was most likely taken circa 1989 as the F-21 Kfir only flew in Navy and Marine Corps service for about four and a half years before the jets were returned to their lessor, Israel. Additionally, VMFT-401 flew both the F-5E/F and the F-21 while they were transitioning out of the F-21 and into the F-5E/F during 1989. You can also tell that this is a “Sniper” F-21 as it was the only squadron that flew these aircraft in the “Flogger” paint scheme to mimic the mach two capable Russian MiG-23. I wonder how long the Hornet pilot and their wingman, both probably in training, lasted against such a nimble, experienced and diverse threat?

These were truly heady times for naval air combat…

Filed in Just A Really Cool Picture | 3 Comments

WILL A HUMVEE FIT INSIDE A CH-47 CHINOOK?

YES! But it is a very tight fit…

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After doing some research it seems that the Special Operations guys will load a Humvee into a 160th SOAR MH-47 Chinook with a special forces team already seated in it as they cannot access the cabin when the HMMWV is packed inside as it is such a tight fit. On approach to the LZ they will start their engine and literally tear out of the back of the chopper once the ramp is lowered, probably with some help from one of the helicopter’s crew chiefs.

Carting a full-sized Humvee and its occupants (at least one) inside a lumbering tandem rotor Chinook is a pretty cool capability but it also a risky one. If the helicopter crashed or was hit by enemy fire the troops seated in the entombed Humvee would be locked inside, for lack of a better term, of their vehicle and would not be able to egress with the rest of the helicopter’s passengers and crew. Unless of course the driver was physically able to pull a “BA Baracus,” busting out the rear of the stricken Chinook. I do have to say, that such a feat would be one of the coolest things on earth to see go down with your own eyes. With this revelation in mind, let’s all hope that none of the Fast and The Furious screenplay writers are reading this blog…

Incidentally, the Spec Ops guys are not the only Chinook operators who cart around Humvees internally. It looks like the Michigan ANG also has a penchant for packing these trucks in their CH-47s as well.

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HAVE YOU EVER SEEN AND HEARD AN RQ-170 SENTINEL FLY? NOW YOU HAVE!

Check this video out guys! The RQ-170 sounds like something out of Sci-Fi film, probably due to the Sentinel’s unique engine inlet design, and it is not a bad little performer at all, check out that climb! Fast forward to 22 minutes and 57 seconds if the video does not start at that point.

For the most complete RQ-170 coverage on the net, please click this link. Included in all my work on the subject are my “RQ-170 Origins” special features, where you can learn about the long shadowy road leading to the RQ-170 Sentinel concept.

A huge thanks to Alex P. for sending this over. This site would not be possible without my readers’ insightful comments and emails, so please feel free to shoot me a note or a hot story at Aviationintel@gmail.com

Filed in Iranian RQ-170 Incident, video | 6 Comments

A VERY “INTIMATE VIEW” OF THE P-8 POSEIDON

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Aviation Photographer David Cherkasov agreed to share this incredibly detailed view of the Navy’s new multirole sub-hunter, sea control, attack and ISR aircraft, the P-8 Poseidon. Although the P-8 is based on the 737-800 airliner, it has been greatly modified to fulfill its multitude of military roles. Included in this shot are the aircraft’s additional electronic generators (lumps on motor nacelles), auxiliary cooling inlets, trap door FLIR turret, missile launch detectors, electronic service measures and integrated electronic warfare apertures, sonobuoy deployment tubes, DIRCM turret below the tail, outboard wing hard-points, and most notably its spacious weapons bay. If you can see anything else that should be listed comment below and I will add it to the list! I do have to say it is kind of sad that this new US Navy platform flew for an air show crowd and perspective customers in the Middle East (Dubai), yet one of the two customers it already has, the US tax payer (the other being India), has not seen it do such a pass at an air show…

For more of David’s outstanding photography, which spans the globe, click here!

Filed in Just A Really Cool Picture, Photo | 3 Comments

ACCORDING TO THE SKUNK WORKS, TOMORROW’S FIGHTER IS, UM… THE NORTHROP YF-23?

So I was getting caught up on youtube aviation videos and I came across this Lockheed Martin Skunk Works promo video. They show multiple systems in development or in the conceptual phase, including my personal favorite, the VARIOUS UCAV. Then up pops “Tomorrow’s Fighter” and what do you know, it’s a YF-23 with some wing Sand intake mods. Well I guess I am right, the USAF picked the wrong jet when it comes to the Advanced Tactical Fighter program! It is kind-of embarrassing when you throw a glitzy promo video like this together and pitch a variation of you competitor’s competing product from some two decades earlier! Yesterday’s losing fighter and an unnecessary replacement for the SR-71 Blackbird a decade and a half after its final retirement, what will America’s premier bleeding edge aerospace design house publicize next?!?!

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Filed in Opinon, Photo, video | 9 Comments

FAST HISTORY: THE A-12 AVENGER II’s COCKPIT WAS AHEAD OF ITS TIME

image0101 copyCheck out this awesome image of the McDonnel Douglas/General Dynamics A-12 Avenger II’s cockpit concept circa the late 1980′s. The A-12, dubbed the ”flying Dorito” by detractors, was most likely developed from the “Sneaky Pete” stealth flying wing penetrator concept of the early 1980′s. It is not clear if a classified Sneaky Pete actually flew as a technology demonstrator during the 1980′s but many believe that it did. The A-12 program, also known as the Advanced Tactical Aircraft (ATA) initiative, was intended to replace the ageing A-6 Intruder as the Navy’s attack aircraft. The flying wing design allowed for a much lower radar and infra-red signature than a traditional airframe. In the end the A-12 design was struggling to reach its performance goals. The composite win and its cost was escalating rapidly. A-12-Avenger-II-Experimental-Stealth-Bomber-Side-View-AngleWith this in mind, paired with the end of the Cold War and shrinking defense budgets, then Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney cancelled the A-12 outright, and the Navy’s gaze turned away from a purpose built, stealth technology-centric precision attack platform, over to evolving potential multi-role platforms already in service. The Super Hornet and a few very promising derivatives of the F-14 were proposed to fill the sudden gap left by the A-12′s cancellation. In the end the Super Hornet was chosen and the rest is history. None-the-less, a good portion of the concept for the A-12′s cockpit, an outgrowth of the F-15E and the “legacy Hornet’s” cockpit design, looks like it made its way to the F/A-18F Super Hornet a decade after the Avenger’s cancellation. Of particular note is the large “situational display” screen in the center of the rear and front cockpit pedestals as well as the touch screen up front controls.

2Fast forward over 20 years after the Avenger II’s cancellation, and only in the latter half of this decade might the Navy actually fulfill the low-observable attack capability in the form of the F-35C. Still, the F-35 is quite conceptually inferior to the A-12 when it comes to deep strike alone. The A-12 was to have close to double the range of the F-35C and far greater payload potential (figures found on the net regarding both these design parameters are misleading). Apparently, the composite wing spar structures were a major issue during the prototyping phase for the A-12, the technology simply was not there to make these structures reliably strong and light enough to meet the design’s goals. The Avenger also had composite skin durability issues, center of gravity problems, and an elaborate wing folding mechanism that was taking a lot of time and money to make work. Additionally, the jet lacked thrust in a big way. Fully loaded it was said that only 16 runways in the world could accommodate the A-12′s long takeoff roll. a12_k08Whether this statement is actually true is really beside the point, the A-12 needed more powerful motors.

Like so many other past combat aircraft designs, one has to wonder what the platform could accomplish using today’s material science, avionics, and powerplants. I have a feeling that if the A-12 were designed today, with its ample fuel supply, large radar apertures, low observable potential and sizable payload, it would be a fantastic aircraft for the current operational realities of the Pacific. Also, the original A-12 concept saw the aircraft as being multi-role, with air to air, electronic attack and reconnaissance capability being strong, but periphery elements of the aircraft’s menu of capabilities.. Additionally, I would argue that with emerging Distributed Aperture Technology and lock on after lock short range missiles, you do not even need a maneuverable fighter at all to dominate the skies. Less dependence on very non-stealthy tankers, longer on-station times, and a larger payload of air to air missiles would arguably offer a better air superiority capability than a short legged, 9g capable superfighter.

UCLASS_DeckEvening-1200-thumb-560x246-175588Then again, in some ways, a marginally downsized and highly modernized version of the A-12 is being tested on carriers today, in the form of the unmanned X-47B. Eventually its production successor, the UCLASS, will fill the role that the A-12 aspired to fill decades ago, although without a human being on-board….

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Filed in History, Just A Really Cool Picture, Photo | 8 Comments

CHINA’S J-20 IN ITS NEW MISSIONIZED CONFIGURATION

 

J-20 2011 - 17.1.14 vs 2002

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The testers at Chengdu are making some progress on their mammoth J-20 fighter. It looks like the concept has moved from a technology demonstration phase to a more missionized and refined prototype state. Here are the changes I can identify:

First off the canopy has gone form a single piece design, almost identical to the canopy found on the F-22, to a simpler two piece design with a bow separating the windscreen and the canopy. Reliably manufacturing a highly quality, optically uniform, single piece canopy with low observable properties, like the F-22′s, is not an easy or cheap task. With this in mind it looks like the Chengdu design team has opted for a simpler and less costly design, one that is also similar to the configuration found on the F-35.

The diverterless engine inlets hqve been tweaked to more closely resemble the F-35′s inlet design and shaping.

The control surface actuator “humps” below the wings have been streamlined.

Maybe most interesting of all of the J-20′s new design refinements is the inclusion of a gold-plated aperture for an electro-optical targeting system (EOTS) under the nose. This is a huge deal as clearly the Chinese are trying to build an analogue to the F-35′s cutting edge optical/IR targeting and visual situational awareness system and this window looks like an almost direct copy of the F-35′s. We know that a ton of the F-35′s design was stolen via cyber espionage by the Chinese and the J-20 is beginning to really illustrate the fruits of the China’s hacking adventures.

The vertical tail surfaces are also of a new design, with the corners “notched off” significantly.

Finally, the paint/surface application is a new design which appears to almost be a hybrid of the F-22′s and F-35′s schemes. Seen with this new paint job/radar absorbent material application, are differences in tone on the composite leading and trailing edges of the aircraft. As with fifth generation US aircraft, this usually means that antennas are contained inside these structures and/or they are high-priority radar defeating structures.

Filed in China Rising, News, Opinon, Photo | 11 Comments

CSAR REPLACEMENT SAGA CONTINUES: IS THE CRH-60 REALLY THE RIGHT HELICOPTER FOR THE JOB?

yourfileHere is an update (flightglobal providing excellent reporting as always) on the decade plus long saga of trying to field a replacement for the battle weary HH-60G Pave Hawk combat search and rescue helicopter fleet. As of now, if the current budget gets signed into law, the USAF will be procuring the CRH-60M. Basically this is a CSAR modified UH-60M Black Hawk helicopter, of which the USAF is already flying over the Nellis Range Complex (you can see the pic linked here from the Nellis Range Complex focused site www.lazygranch.com). Although the HH-60G community just wants new helicopters at this point, the CRH-60M is hardly a game changing upgrade for this small yet incredibly important force. Sure, something new is better than something old, but once again the overreaction by the DoD in a time of austerity will sock the combat search and rescue community with an aircraft that is still far less than ideal for their incredibly challenging mission. Currently, the HH-60G flies with a massive hard-shell fuel bladder holding 97.5 gallons of jet fuel in its rear cabin. This is a huge consumer of space in the H-60/S-70′s cabin. These tanks fly with HH-60Gs almost permanently (in fact I have not seen one without them for at least ten years), and is a clear signal that the Black Hawk is less than ideal for the mission at hand.

1468497_203847966468760_1636159413_n1Today there are fantastic alternatives to the Black Hawk for the CSAR mission, some are much more expensive and some relatively affordable in comparison. Additionally, the idea that a fixed single platform fleet is optimum for the CSAR role is also questionable. With all this in mind, let’s take a look at some alternatives to the CRH-60 and how they may offer a better, or even undeniable choice for the Air Force’s incredibly crucial combat search and rescue community.

he_3Sikorsky H-92 Super Hawk: I have said for years that the S/H-92 Super Hawk is an ideal candidate for the CSAR mission, with evolutionary commonality with the Black Hawk, but much larger interior space, far greater range, and a rear ramp for accessibility. The CSAR helicopter requirement was so focused on procuring a larger airframe that in the mid 2000′s the CSAR-X competition ended in Boeing “winning” with a modified version of their CH-47G Chinook. The Chinook has a massive footprint, both in physical size and signature. In the golden age of the Bush Administration, where H-2 Hummers were being sold by the bushel on car lots across the US, virtually unlimited defense spending resulted in the unabashed concept that bigger was truly better. In reality this is not the case. mil_H92_csar_over_aThe HH-47G was overkill for a one-size-fits-all CSAR force, and although it did offer more range and internal volume than almost all of its competitors (V-22 had more range), it would have been a ridiculous solution for the CSAR mission. Somewhere in between the HH-47G and the HH-60G was the twin-engine H-92 Super Hawk, with almost double the range of the Black Hawk, and close to the same capacity and accessibility enhancements seen on the HH-47G, but in a more relevant size scale. Additionally, the H-92 was less costly to procure and operate than the HH-47G by a sizeable margin, and would be much more familiar to existing Black Hawk aircrews and maintainers.

AW-101's interiorThe addition of a rear ramp is a big deal for the pararescue community as they use dirt bikes, quads, rigid hull inflatable boats and other outsized gear and vehicles to accomplish their challenging missions. Such assets are almost impossible to deploy internally via the H-60/S-70 Black Hawk design, especially with that big fuel tank strapped down in back, and would require the bringing in of ”external” platforms for deployment of such vehicles or the use of performance gutting underslung transport. Hauling around a couple tons of gear at low speed into a highly defended area is unacceptable to say the least. If you are engaged you stand no chance of evading such threat and completing the mission. In the end, although the H-92 costs about a third more than the Black Hawk, you simply get so much more capability, all of which is directly on the CSAR/Pararescue communities “wish list,” for that extra capital outlay.

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The S-92/H-92 just makes sense for the CSAR mission, much more so than the UH-60M base CRH-60. Instead of replacing an existing capability, with a slightly improved capability, why not spend a few more dollars to check the “want lists” of the vast majority of those who fly and operate from CSAR aircraft. The H-92′s far greater range (almost double without auxiliary fuel, which there is now plenty of room for if needed), more payload, and much greater accessibility is well worth a slightly larger investment. The opportunity cost that the USAF is wasting on not procuring this platform instead of CRH-60 is pretty undeniable, and sadly the myth of commonality and “fewer types in service” probably has something to do with their sad decision more than actual logic. That and “let’s get this done-itus” after well over a dozen years of trying to field a replacement for the tired HH-60Gs, a disease where “anything will new will do” is just another indicator of the sad state of procurement over at the Pentagon. In the end the H-92 is a relevant upgrade without spending irrelevant dollars and should be the default choice before procuring the CRH-60.

navairCV-22_aerial_17CV-22 Osprey: Many would argue that the Osprey is the finest combat search and rescue machine on the planet. Whereas so many of the Osprey’s missions could be accomplished by the aforementioned H-92 Super Hawk, at a third of the price no less, the unique circumstances of the CSAR mission set really makes tilt-rotor technology highly relevant. The biggest factor of recovering a downed aircrew or extracting others that have fallen behind enemy lines alive, is time. The faster you get to the target and extract it the higher the chances that all those involved will come out unscathed. The Osprey, with is high speed capabilities, really owns this realm. Additionally, the aircraft’s rear ramp, large cargo hold and relatively long range (about 40% longer than even the S-92) offers the same unique elements that the S-92 features, but it can deliver those elements to targets farther away and much faster. Additionally, AFSOC already has invested in building a fully missionized aircraft that can accomplish the CSAR task, the CV-22B. This aircraft is has a fully integrated set of subsystems that allow it to accomplish its mission in hotly contested environments. navair_aerial_41_375x300The CV-22B already has a fully integrated terrain following radar, larger fuel tanks, rescue hoist, secure communications, FLIR, and about every defense countermeasure currently on the market amongst many other missionized improvements. This capability is not a cheap one, but one has to ask themselves what is a downed aircrew worth, both in human cost, political cost, and monetary cost? The MV-22, the less advanced Marine derivative of the Osprey, has already proven its unique ability to race in and extract downed aircrew in Libya, with incredible results.

cv-22-special-forcesThe CV-22, with its all-weather low level penetration capabilities and advanced self defense suite, would be the ideal asset for the CSAR mission, and procuring CV-22B, that is already combat proven with the USAF, for at least a portion of the CSAR buy should really be examined. There may be the argument that the USAF already has this capability in the CV-22Bs they already own, under the same command no less, but then why do we need a less capable CSAR platform at all? The reality is that the pararescue/CSAR community are in a highly specialized business, and greater numbers of CV-22s would be needed over the current planned inventory of around four dozen aircraft. Out for a spinIn the end we must ask ourselves a simple question, are we really going to buy an inferior asset, put Americans at risk in doing so, when a much better and more effective solution readily exists? Will this leave the CRH-60 CSAR fleet for more rudimentary roles, with the more capable CV-22B multirole special operations fleet doing the deep penetrating rescue missions? I doubt this is what the CSAR community would like but why would you use an asset that has a lower chance or survival and mission completion for such a high value, high risk mission set?

zdt_featuredStealth Hawk: Finally, I think the low observable Black Hawk has to be brought into the discussion. On the highest profile deep penetration mission in recent history it was deemed that the very best technology would be brought to bear in an attempt to extract or kill the highest value target in the world. I find it a little hard to justify using such assets on a mission to capture or kill Bin Laden but not to rescue a downed American aircrew deep behind enemy lines. Now that this precedent has been publicly set it may be politically “sensitive” putting PJs and aircrew at risk in a helicopter with a conventional signature when we clearly have something more survivable. So if the HH-60M is the replacement for the CSAR mission, a portion of these machines should be build with the same stealth composite modifications (although I think this aircraft is fully composite) as seen on the aircraft that crashed during Operation Neptune Spear. stealth-tailIf this modification/aircraft is not available to even CSAR units, one of the most demanding and risky missions in the world, due to depth of penetration behind enemy lines, the speed in planning and executing, and the enemy’s heightened state of alert, arguable much riskier than the Bin Laden operation, then how will officials answer the question of why this technology was not used if or when a mission goes seriously wrong and lives are lost? It is an interesting and relevant conundrum to debate, but I just don’t see how you can put the “genie back in the lamp” after the carcass of the crashed stealthy Black Hawk was seen by the world back in 2011.

8653586815_4df5b15fd1_bAlthough this aircraft may be more limited in range than the standard UH-60M (although this handicap may be more than mitigated by a full carbon fiber air-frame), and does not feature the speed of the CV-22B, or the volume both the CV-22B and the H-92, it makes up for these traits by offering the best chance of survivability when the need to push deep into a highly defended territory arises. In the end, sending a CSAR crew (more like crews) into highly contested air space against an alerted foe without this technology seems like a reckless decision, especially since the basic technology has already been lost the enemy. Although the motivation for procuring such technology for CSAR duties may be partially political, it is also about giving the war fighter at the greatest risk the best tools possible to accomplish their mission.

1439Composite Force: Ideally, the CSAR mission could be split among three types, the CV-22B, HH-92, and low observable Black Hawks. This way the best tool is available for different CSAR circumstances and threat levels. Furthermore, the group could work synergistically., With the the “basket” refueling capability now being tested by the Osprey’s manufacturer, the CV-22B could offer mid-air refueling to the HH-92 force. Additionally, the CV-22 and even HH-92 inventory could provide forward refueling for the low observable Black Hawk fleet as it is most lively that a midair refueling capability does not exist on these aircraft. Such a force mix would allow for a highly flexible CSAR fleet, as well as indigenous refueling capability, both in the air and on the ground, for long range and high-risk recovery missions, ones where the low observable Black Hawks can push the final leg “downtown” using its low signature to its advantage. Additionally, for less contested environments, the HH-92 could be used, especially when the deployment of vehicles or larger forces is a necessity. With just the HH-92 and low observable Black Hawk procured for the dedicated CSAR community, and a dozen or so CV-22B added to the AFSOC inventory, the best mix of capabilities would be brought to the CSAR mission for the dollars spent. Additionally, the increased procurement cost of such a mixed fleet is a tiny fraction of other programs. If you are going to buy 2500 stealthy F-35s, then you better have the assets that are capable of retrieving the aircrews when they go down over incredibly hostile territory. I doubt the CRH-60 will be able to accomplish this with a high rate of success.

Fill ‘er upFor instance: 16 CV-22B, 20 Stealth Hawks, and 62 HH-92Gs would offer a smaller but a much more flexible and capable force. As for costs, we have to ask ourselves if we can really put a price on this mission? The mission, by its very nature warrants the best technology available, as the whole idea of the CSAR mission, and the platforms used for it, is to go where another has already been shot down or is under direct enemy threat. By throwing “low potential” assets at this incredibly risky mission, one that will only continue to become more volatile with the proliferation of advanced surface to air missile and integrated air defense system technologies.

2e7uyhFor a sitting President, the risk of putting dozens more service members in harms way to save a single pilot using anything less than the best operational technology may not be a risk worth taking, which circularly eliminates the utility of these “new” CRH-60s in the first place. If I were the big guy with the veto pen, I would be adamant about funding this particular mission to a point where the best mix of assets can be acquired so that such missions have the very best chance of success. It may seem petty but this is politics. The stealth choppers were used for a reason in Abbottabad, to ensure the best chance of mission success and thus the political future of the Obama Administration. $T2eC16RHJI!E9qSO8m7tBRZ72tQ1,!~~60_35 copyWhat makes a downed aircrew in a hostile territory any different? Operation Eagle Claw, and Black Hawk Down are still very fresh in the minds of White House politicos. Thus procuring the best assets for this deadly job will be essential in surviving politically. If investing in a game changing force mix means that there will be less “airframes on the ramp” so be it. You do not need a Pave Hawk to pluck wounded soldiers out of the Hindu Kush, refocus the mission and give our pararescue teams and brave CSAR aircrews the tools that will get the job done and bring them home to their families, even in the face of the densest peer-state anti-air threat. The CSAR mission is so critical and dynamic, especially in the dawning age of an all stealth fighter force, and the community already represents a low density high value capability, that anything else is really an unnecessary tragedy waiting to happen.

Filed in News, Opinon | 4 Comments

DISGRACE: NAVY’S NEW PURPOSE BUILT “F-35B CARRIER” CANNOT WITHSTAND CONTINUOUS F-35B OR MV-22 OPERATIONS

http://news.usni.org/2014/01/15/sna-2014-heat-f-35-mv-22-continue-plague-big-deck-amphibs?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=sna-2014-heat-f-35-mv-22-continue-plague-big-deck-amphibs

F35-lightening-lockheed-martin-1The issues with the F-35B’s exhaust gasses, and the MV-22 Osprey’s as well, damaging the decks of America’s “L class” ships is nothing new. What is new is that America’s latest amphibious assault ship, the USS America, designed without a well deck to embark beach landing craft and their assorted tanks and vehicles, instead being focused on aviation operations, cannot handle the aircraft it was purpose-built to deploy.

Now think about that, the Navy decides that the MV-22 and the F-35B are so important to their “gator navy” that they build a much less versatile version of what traditionally are highly versatile ships known as Landing Helicopter Docks (LHDs), that cannot even handle their primary function that compromised the class’s range abilities in the first place. Basically, the LHA-6 ”America Class,” as it is designed today is an aircraft carrier. Sure it looks like the Wasp Class LHD that proceeded it, but once again it totally lacks the ability to deploy vessels from its stern. Instead it is built with Marine aviation almost totally in mind. Such a deviation from the proven Landing Helicopter Dock (LHD) concept is controversial to begin with as the US Navy already has close to a dozen massive nuclear carriers that can handle more capable and longer ranged traditional fixed wing naval fighter aircraft. america-011Yet the fact that the deck of this new “state of the art” ship, that cost upwards of six billion dollars to design and field, cannot even provide sustained flight operations of F-35Bs and MV-22s because of the heat involved with exposing the ship’s deck to their exhausts. This is so bad, so wasteful its disgusting.

Hearing these officials trying to spin such obtuse designs blunders over and over again is getting so damn old and tiring that it is hard to even read these articles anymore. So the Navy says the next two Amphibious Assault ships won’t have this problem, jus the six billion dollar one they already have purpose built to operate these aircraft. Yet this is not an issue because according to Captain Mercer (quoted in the article) these aircraft carriers were not designed for sustained air operations? How contradictory is all this? Maybe the captain should look back to 2003′s Operation Iraqi Freedom, where amphibs were used as “Harrier Carriers,” embarking two dozen Harriers for combat operations (see picture below), and that was an operation to oust an impotent dictator, not a protracted peer state conflict in the Pacific! Or what about the recent ”Operation Odyssey Dawn” over Libya, where an LHD, and its Ospreys and Harriers, were used instead of a nuclear powered CVN for air operations? Harrier CarrierNews flash, you sound like a bunch of incompetent idiots that have no stewardship of America’s treasure or strategic dominance. They should take that ship, remove its proud name, and let it sit in dry dock until the manufacturer can install a deck surface that can sustain constant sustained flight operations of anything in the inventory presently or planned. If both the Osprey and the F-35B are exceeding their engine exhaust temperatures that were stated in relation to America’s deck design, then the manufacturers of these aircraft should pay for its refitting. In other words, it’s time for serious accountability.

america-016I am sure that some of you are reading this and the response is “jeez every new system has problems.” Guess what, you are part of the problem and I envy your ability to find employment where such small thinking and low standards are acceptable. This bait and switch defense procurement  situation, one that has become eerily circular in nature, is a much larger threat to national security then uneducated men in mud huts with AK-47s. A foe which we have spent trillions targeting and killing for over the last decade with little to show for it. If we cannot put a deck on a ship strong enough to complete its central mission than we do not deserve to remain the world’s super power. It is as simple as that.

Varyag LiaoningLet’s take a quick trip down memory lane here to see what we are up against. While the very namesake ship of our country cannot even support the aircraft it was designed to handle, even though we spent billions researching and developing this new “class” of ship, look at what China did with a rusted hulk. Seriously, look at these before and after pictures of the one-time Russian aircraft carrier hull Varyag and you tell me who will rule the seas in the coming decades. We have lost our resourcefulness and ability to work a problem efficiently. We throw piles of cash at designs in the hope that the money will mend their wows, when in reality its bad engineering in and bad capability out. Maybe we should drop all this CAD design and go back to slide rules. The Nimitz Class, the SR-71, and the damn Saturn V were built without a fraction of the automation we have now and in much less time than it would take today, with greater results than we could ever muster in this sad day and age.

The services, as much as they complain about tight budgets and declining investments in new technologies, are spoiled beyond belief. They can burn through national treasure at breakneck speeds with little to show for it without any sort of repercussions. Oh and to the guy who says “this diatribe does not sound like supporting the troops,” you too are part of the problem. Just thinking the military-industrial complex can do no wrong because some of those associated with these blunders where a uniform or have been deployed in harm’s way is asinine and indicative of a limited view of the complexities of America’s defense procurement issues. Supporting the troops means giving them equipment that actually works, in large enough numbers that they can actually be effective, while not bankrupting the nation in the process. Yes the number one threat to national security is our monetary policy, not China or the boy ruler of North Korea, and definitely not those aforementioned lunatics flying black flags on their vehicles and sleeping on dirt floors with their arms wrapped around their rusted AK-47. We have to get a handle on our priorities here and stop letting trumped-up boogeymen, low information congressional delegates and the civilian side of the defense apparatus get the best of our nation’s strategic future.

LHA6 picSome may be yelling at their screen right now saying “good lord Tyler it is just the deck of a ship,” fine, factually you are right. I will argue that this faulty deck, on a ship named USS America ironically, is a perfect metaphor for the mismanagement of our nations defense capabilities. If we cannot even built a boat that has a deck robust enough to do what it was already controversially intended to almost singularly do, for six billion dollars, then kiss your supremacy of the air and sea goodbye. We might as well just start negotiating a one-sided treaty with China over who controls shipping in the Eastern Hemisphere.

The Littoral Combat Ship, the F-35 program, the DDG-1000 and the list goes on and on of big promises, failed concepts, and hollowed capabilities. If the Navy were not in bed with its contractors, and congressmen were not pork gobbling gluttons, this ship would be returned to the manufacturer and funds would be withheld until it can handle constant cyclic operations as it was designed to. Alternatively, if its Lockheed and Bell/Boeing’s fault, that they built aircraft too hot to deploy on their intended motherships, then stop orders of these over-complex and gold-plated machines until they fix their exhaust temperatures or provide the USS America with a deck it can actually use. Anything else is bordering on criminal and the US tax payer and the individual war fighter is once again the voiceless victim.

Filed in News, Opinon, The F-35 Saga | 19 Comments

UPDATE: HUGHES MINING BARGE HMB-1 SURVIVES IN RESTORED GLORY!

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I was doing my usual Google Earth rounds when I sweeped across Treasure Island on San Francisco Bay and to my surprise there was the historic Hughes Mining Barge docked at one of the piers! Make sure you read my widely circulated piece on the HMB-1 & the Sea Shadow as well as the sad update that the Sea Shadow has been scrapped. It was widely assumed that the Sea Shadow and its HMB-1 mothership were both going to be scrapped together, as the HMB-1 was in fairly bad disrepair and the US Government would not allow the Sea Shadow to be used commercially. It ends up that the San Francisco based Bay Ship & Yacht company, who purchased both as scrap from the US Government for $2.5M after no museum had the creativity or cash to step up and adopt the historic duo, had big plans for the Hughes Mining Barge after all!

HMB1When the two Cold Warrior mechanical marvels went up for sale I was blown away that the Hughes Mining Barge, even with its cosmetic and mechanic deficiencies caused by years of neglect, was not a hot item for the private sector to get a hold of. It’s basically a huge movable dry-dock with a unique retractable roof. Certainly, such capabilities would cost many tens of millions of dollars to design and build in the current day and age, so why was there not a bidding war over the unique vessel as its potential commercial uses are many? Well it turns out that Bay Ship & Yacht saw the same business potential as I did, and they had the money to act on it. They have totally restored the Hughes Mining Barge, after cutting up the Sea Shadow as the surplus disposal contract stipulated, and turned the HMB-1 into a multi-use ship container, dry-dock, working berth, and especially a highly environmental friendly maritime paint and coating facility. Brilliant recycling of the HMB-1 on Bay Ship & Yacht’s part that will surely turn into big profits for the company’s owners.

So the HMB-1 lives on in a fully overhauled fashion and is already producing revenue for its proud new private owners. Although I find it terrible that no museum could display the HMB-1 and Sea Shadow together, I applaud the folks from Bay Ship and Yacht for recognizing the potential of what was recently a rotting hulk, although a very unique rotting hulk, and I wish them the best in their new endeavor. Who knows, maybe the new owners will get a call from Uncle Sam, who will realize the unique capability they sold off for penny’s on the dollar, and the humble HMB-1 will take on a new clandestine mission for its prior masters. When it comes to one-off defense technologies, things do have a strange way of coming full circle, and the HMB-1 is a Cold War survivor if nothing else…

More about the HMB-1′s new commercial role and restoration can be found at the links below:

http://www.bay-ship.com/

http://www.bay-ship.com/uploads/4/0/3/3/4033527/for_web_-_august_2013_rhumb_line.pdf

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