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Flightline Friday Extra: More Than Everything You Could Possibly Want to Know about APR-25/6 September 25, 2017

Posted by Tantumblogo in Admin, awesomeness, Flightline Friday, foolishness, fun, history, non squitur, silliness, Society, technology.
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Early in the Vietnam War, partly due to amazingly poor planning, but even more due to unbelievably onerous targeting restrictions, US tactical aircraft started racking up heavy losses to North Vietnamese Surface to Air Missiles (SAMs).  The SAM in question was the SA-2, which had been known about half a decade at that point, the SA-2 having played a role in the shoot down of Francis Gary Powers’ U-2 in 1960.

Since the rules of engagement imposed by the Johnson-McNamara Administration forbade attacks on SAM sites under construction, or even possibly under construction, for fear of “accidentally” killing any Soviet “advisors” present and thus potentially escalating the war, US airmen had to wait until positive proof that a SAM site was operational before they could attack it.  The only positive proof accepted was their being attacked by that very SAM site.  Obviously this gave enormous initiative to the enemy, and made attacking SAM sites when they were most vulnerable impossible.

Defensive measures were needed, and needed quickly.  But how to defend against a radar guided flying robot whose only purpose in life was the kill you?  Fortunately, the problem was well understood. Indeed, specialist aircraft like intelligence gathering types had been equipped with limited numbers of what were then called radar homing and warning receivers (RHAW) for years.  SAC’s big bombers also carried radar warning and electronic countermeasures (ECM) gear of varying degrees of effectiveness, but much of this was far too large and heavy to fit into a tactical aircraft.

Fortunately, a small company in northern California, Applied Technologies, Inc, later part of Litton, now part of Northrop Grumman, came rushing to the rescue, in late 1965, with their “Vector IV” product.  Consisting of 4 roughly equally spaced radio frequency receivers and some very basic analog processing equipment, Vector IV entered service as the AN/APR-25/6.  This equipment was first fitted to specialist “Wild Weasel” SAM hunter aircraft, and later, to almost every tactical aircraft in theater – certainly, every one that went up North.  It was fairly effective, but became much more so when coupled with the North American “SEE SAMS” (clever) system, which added capability to discriminate targeting and launch radar signals from regular radar tracking signals.

The equipment worked pretty well, and losses were reduced.  The seesaw battle of the electronic wizards on both defense and offense continues to this day, but, generally speaking, since the APR-25/6, the US has held the upper hand (we think/hope – we haven’t been seriously tested in 25 years).

The video below is an actual training film for USAF aircrew in APR-25/6 operation and tactics.  It gets way down into the nitty gritty, discussing import of length and intensity of strobe, billboard notifications and their meaning, and the varying sounds the equipment picks up when illuminated by various kinds of search, tracking, and fire control radars (a radar is like any other radio frequency device, and thus its signals can be interpreted as a sound).  Techniques used to spoof APR-25/6 are also discussed.  Very interesting if you are a slavishly devoted geek like me, all others will probably find it mind-numbingly boring.

I post this mostly to keep a record of this highly esoteric material since this video was posted once before but pulled because someone asserted the data therein was still classified.  Of course, it is not.

A picture of what modern radar warning receiver (today’s term) displays looks like.  Gone is the analog signal intensity reading and guessing, replaced by digitally processed symbology indicating the type of threat, distance and bearing, with priority ranking, etc:

 

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Flightline Friday: Early Vietnam Helo Operations September 22, 2017

Posted by Tantumblogo in Flightline Friday, fun, history, non squitur, silliness, Society, technology.
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This is a really excellent video find from December 1963, featuring very tired old Piasecki H-21 “Shawnee” (aka the Flying Banana) and brand new (if more than a bit underpowered) Hueys of the UH-1A and UH-1B models.

There is some excellent footage of very rare early Huey attack model setups, including fixed forward firing M1919 .30 cal machine guns of WWII vintage mounted on the landing skids, and the first attempts at mounting rockets on the Huey design.  The UH-1B came from the factory with the XM-6 armament subsystem, which included dual M-60 machine guns on each side of the aircraft in trainable mounts.  This was a vast improvement over the fixed machine guns of the UH-1A.  Also discussed is the original US Army air assault unit in South Vietnam, the Utility Tactical Transport Company.  At this time, Hueys were used entirely as attack birds or for medevac.  The stretched UH-1D capable of carrying 9-11 troops would not enter service in Vietnam until the 1st Air Cav arrived in numbers in mid-1965.

The UH-1A was always badly underpowered*, with an armament load of fixed gun and dual 8-shot rocket stacks, they could barely manage 80-85 mph, which allowed even the lumbering H-21s to “race” ahead of them.  This problem was solved by the UH-1B, which had a more powerful engine, allowing the Hueys much better speed to escort the Shawnees, but the problem repeated itself once the UH-1D and UH-1H entered service.  The slicks were again much faster than their escorts, weighted down with heavy loads of weapons and ammo in very draggy mounts.  This problem was initially solved by late B model and then Charlie model Hueys being equipped with still more powerful engines, but was ultimately dealt with by the introduction of the AH-1 Cobra in late 1967.

There is also demonstration of early tactics among both the troop carrying and the attack helos.  It is rather amusing to watch discussion of basic tactics which were described as being so effective the VC had no response to them – well, you could say, they figured out plenty of responses as the war went along.  The very simple tactics described in this video would be replaced by ever more sophisticated ones as the war went along, but the ever-resourceful Vietnamese were almost always a match for Yankee ingenuity, finding their own responses to evolving American methods.

There is a great deal of rare footage in this video, covering a critical phase of the War in Southeast Asia as combat became more and more Americanized – just as certain elements of the US military establishment desperately wanted:

 

*- UH-1A had a little more than half the horsepower of the later H, E, L, and M models.

The Deep State Can Even Fool Ron Paul September 19, 2017

Posted by Tantumblogo in asshatery, Basics, disaster, error, Flightline Friday, foolishness, It's all about the $$$, non squitur, scandals, self-serving, Society, technology.
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There is no more corrupt, insider-dependent government contractor than the entity known as United Launch Alliance (ULA).  Conceived as an obviously illegal monopoly and yet approved by the Bush 43 Administration, ULA was a way for giant defense contractors Lockheed and Boeing to avoid profit-inhibiting direct competition over space launch costs – which they were contractually obligated to do – in order to charge exorbitant launch vehicle and support fees and bilk the taxpayer out of billions of dollars; and this after having received further billions to develop two competitive launch vehicles whose contractual intent and obligation was to reduce the cost of “access to space” by 1/2 to 2/3 or more.

The obvious failure of the Space Shuttle program by the late 1980s left the United States in a very bad situation with regard to space launch – since the Shuttle had turned out to be an unbelievably expensive way to access space, and the only alternatives were derivatives of Cold War era ICBM-derived launch vehicles (with one exception), the US was falling badly behind European, Chinese, and then Russian alternatives which were often an order of magnitude or more cheaper than American launch vehicles.  Plus, many of the unmanned launchers were simply becoming so old they were unreliable and difficult to manufacture.  At some point the US might lose important space launch capabilities due to age.

The only bright spot in the US launch scene in the 80s and 90s was the reliable workhorse Delta II, which was cheap and had a great record but which was only capable of launching light and medium-weight payloads.  Delta II was actually cheap enough and reliable enough to compete with rivals from Europe and other nations.  But, it was a bit too limited in capability.

So, to insure continued access to space across the spectrum of mission needs and in the hopes of dramatically reducing launch vehicle costs, USAF began a program in the 1990s called the Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle.  The deal was this: USAF would fund development of two different launch vehicle families, which became the Boeing Delta IV and Lockheed Atlas V, in the hopes that competition between these two launchers would result in greatly reduced launch costs.  McDonnell Douglas (later acquired by Boeing) and Lockheed agreed, and received several billion dollars each to pay for the development of the new boosters.  However, once development was concluded, and once it became clear that the Atlas V with its Russian-designed and built engines would be much cheaper (which resulted in some ugly industrial espionage by Boeing against Lockheed), the two largest defense contractors decided it was easier to renege on their original agreements and bilk the US taxpayer of further billions than it was to actually compete with each other, and so they merged their respective launch vehicle design, manufacture, and servicing organizations into a new entity called United Launch Alliance (ULA).  Somehow, unbelievably, USAF and the Bush Administration went along with this.

Launch costs immediately skyrocketed. Far from lowering launch costs, numerous payloads actually saw increased costs, especially once Boeing phased out the cheaper Delta II and forced the government payloads to ride on either the (often massively over-capable) Delta IV or Atlas V.

This situation persisted for a decade, until a plucky little company out of Hawthorne, CA, started launching commercial payloads at rates nearly an order of magnitude cheaper than ULA.  ULA tried to use their political clout to freeze SpaceX out, but finally the obvious success of SpaceX and the far greater value it represented could not be ignored, and the Air Force (reluctantly) started doling a few flights out to SpaceX under Congressional pressure. Still, USAF has generally preferred to stay with ULA for now, because SpaceX doesn’t create literally scores of six-digit executive positions a year for former O-6s and O-7s to occupy because of ostensible concerns over SpaceX’s success rate, but this is really weak, as Falcon 9 is at this point in its life cycle more reliable than either Atlas V or Delta IV were at a similar point in theirs.

Should SpaceX continue to grow and maintain an excellent overall record, ULA will be ruined.  Both Boeing and Lockheed will have to exit the space launch business as completely uncompetitive players.  Obviously, they do not want this, since space launch has meant billions to their respective bottom lines.  Equally obviously, they will engage their massive lobbying arms (SpaceX lobbies, too, but at a trifling rate compared to ULA/Lockheed/Boeing) and significant government support to try to win the competition by other means.

Thus it was rather sad to see both American Thinker and former Congressman Ron Paul fall for what is nothing but ULA propaganda, excoriating SpaceX for purported excesses at the public teat while making the ludicrous claim that SpaceX rockets can not achieve the same orbits as ULA launchers.  Really, casting United Launch Alliance as the good guy, the relative innocent in a competition of draining the public purse is just beyond the pale.  Anyone who knows anything about space launch would just burst out laughing at such a claim.  No organization in space launch worldwide is more lowly regarded in the commercial sector than ULA.  Yes that even includes the Chinese.

Regarding the orbits, these are corner of the envelope issues and have nothing to do with orbit achieved, but payload to orbit. Yes Falcon 9 at present falls a bit short of the much more expensive Delta IV and Atlas V, but that won’t be the case within a few months, once Falcon Heavy launches.  Falcon Heavy will bury Delta IV and Atlas V in every respect – including cost.  Falcon Heavy will put nearly 3 times the payload into low earth orbit as Atlas V, and at 1/3 the cost.

This is what terrifies ULA.  This is why they have been waging a massive PR campaign against SpaceX and, especially, the person of Elon Musk.  Typical of the statist drones they represent, they accuse their adversary of the very evils they themselves not only commit, but utterly depend on.  There are many legitimate criticisms of Elon Musk, that SpaceX is too government-dependent, that most all of his recent businesses depend on government subsidies, etc.  But all the above applies to ULA to much, much greater degree. SpaceX launches dozens of commercial payloads a year.   ULA rockets are so laughably expensive they haven’t launched a commercial payload in over a decade (sorry they launched one, but at the behest of the US gov’t for Mexico).

This is how the Deep State works – misinformation, lies, insider access, misdirection, bureaucratic stonewalling, self-interest, buffaloing well-intentioned  public servants, lobbyist support, etc., etc.  They pulled a fast one on Paul and some of his close associates.  It’s easy to see how they could, they know these matters intimately while most Congress-critters and others do not.  It’s easy for them to spin misinformation to concoct what seems like a very believable story for those outside this specialized industry.  ULA is one of the worst, but far from the only practitioner of this.  No one can be an SME across every possible subject the US government deals with.  That is how the Deep State has managed to create such vast sinecures for themselves – the more the government is down in the weeds of everyone’s business, the more room there is for corrupticrats to carve out very comfortable niches for themselves.  ULA had that going for a decade-plus.

This is just one, small example.  There are others, far worse.  This is what happens with a tyrannical Leviathan state.

Footage of AFRES PJs Rescuing Harvey Victims September 6, 2017

Posted by Tantumblogo in Admin, awesomeness, Flightline Friday, fun, non squitur, Society, Virtue.
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Yes this may be getting pretty dated, but the military moves slow.  Several Air Force Reserve Rescue Squadrons were deployed from around the country to help with rescues. Equipped with (now quite long in the tooth) HH-60G Pave Hawk helos and probably the most serious special operators USAF has to offer – Pararescue Jumpers (PJs) – there are many nice scenes of families being rescued.  In fact, I watched the first rescue on the video live streaming on the internet last week from the perspective of the ground.  Quite interesting to see it from the other end:

Were those New York guys from the 101st Rescue Squadron on Long Island being cheeky with their big NY letters on the side of the copter?

This unit has actually historically made some quite impressive at-sea rescues.  They conducted themselves with professional aplomb in everything I saw in the videos.

 

Baby Daughter doing much better thank you and some Flightline Friday content August 22, 2017

Posted by Tantumblogo in Admin, awesomeness, Domestic Church, family, Flightline Friday, non squitur, technology, thanksgiving.
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Thank you so much for your prayers.  My daughter has been home since late Thursday but required another 2 days to really recover.

Aye what a year.  All I can say is thanks so much and your generosity will not be forgottten. She started to really turn around shortly after I put out the mass request for prayers.  Yet another confirmation for how great our God is and how powerful – beyond our understanding – prayer can be.

I know I haven’t posted beans of late, very sorry, I really haven’t time for much of anything today (hopefully tomorrow), but here’s a little something non sequitur to tide you over if you care about this sort of thing – it’s some absolutely amazing footage of an Su-27P, probably of Belorussian origin, dogfighting with a USAF F-16 over Groom Lake/”Area 51″ in Nevada:

More images of the encounter below:

In truth this kind of thing has gone on non-stop since at least the mid-60s with the Constant Peg and Foreign Technology Division programs.  USAF pretended to kill this off in the early 00s but everyone rolled their eyes.

In reality, the fact that this occurred in broad daylight, in perfect clear conditions, and close to the border of the 8,000 square mile Nevada Test and Training Range (or close enough for super telephoto lens to grab these shots – probably no more than  6-8 miles from the Range’s boundary) almost certainly means USAF has far more modern and capable adversary aircraft for evaluation.  Su-27P is OK but dates from the late 80s.  Sukhoi has certainly turned out better variants of the endless Flanker series since (Su-27M Su-27SM Su-32 Su-33 Su-35 Su-30M Su-30MK Su-30MKK/I/M Su-34).

Space alien conspiracy theorists who try to penetrate the Range near “Area 51” report seeing Sukhois fairly regularly.  Some are surprisingly old – Su-22s, for certain.

That Flanker is a big b—h.  It’s got an absolutely enormous RCS, too, especially from the front, from what I have learned.

PS – May put this up with much more detail on Friday, but F-35 is, finally, 5 years late and billions of dollars over budget, starting to shape up.  Several score are in service with more and more active duty squadrons and the reports are extremely, extremely positive.  It’s kinematic/aerobatic performance is not so bad as it long appeared to be, and the integrated avionics/mission system are simply out of this world, a massive quantum leap in capability over everything that’s come before.

Still got fairly short legs and inadequate internal payload for stealth mode (thanks, Marine Corps and Congress!) BUT it is a far cry from the unmitigated disaster its widely been described as being.  I’ve been a very serious critic of the F-35 for nearly 20 years and think improved F-16s and/or Mudhens with a large F-22 buy would have more than sufficed for far less money, but this is what we’re stuck with and it does finally seem to be coming around.  It would be the height of idiocy to scrap the program now after ~$100 billion invested and with the investment finally about to start paying off.

The first practical functional software block (Block 3F) has been undergoing flight testing for months and should start to hit active training and tactical squadrons next month.  Given 6.5 million lines of code it’s hardly surprising it took some time to iron out difficulties, plus the program was very badly managed from a prototype to test to production standpoint, for political reasons the services were induced to place the aircraft in production far before it was really ready, and this has had the effect of adding a huge amount of cost while delaying overall full operational capability.  The good thing is these extremely extended service trials have revealed about all the bugs that could possibly be found.

We also have to note how much the procurement program has been derailed since McNamara royally screwed it up in the 60s, and then was made worse in the 90s.  The standards products have to meet to be qualified are ridiculously onerous, and teeny tiny corner of the envelope issues get turned into showstoppers.  Yes there have been not so teeny tiny problems with the F-35 but most of what is reported are situations that are unlikely to ever repeat themselves in real life.  That is one reason why it costs so much (and takes so long) to get complex systems into service these days, the test requirements are orders of magnitude more extensive (and in many ways just plain asinine) than they were in the 50s, 60s, and even well into the 80s.  Suffice it to say had the F-35 been developed along 1950s or 1970s lines it would have been judged an  unqualified success years ago.

Then again, it’s really an apples to oranges comparison.  Aircraft in the 50s and even early 80s were not nearly so software dependent, as they are today.

And every other engineer knows just how much the software engineers screw everything up.  Right, TE?

Kinda Neat, Kinda Flightline Friday July 26, 2017

Posted by Tantumblogo in catachesis, Flightline Friday, fun, history, huh?, Latin Mass, sanctity, Society.
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So I stumbled upon this the other day:

This is the patch of the 67th Cyberspace Wing, Lackland AFB, TX.  Formerly the 67th Tactical Reconnaissance Wing, which RF-4Cs used to wake me up Every. Saturday. Morning. at 7am when I lived in Austin. Flew right over my ghetto apartment.

At any rate, Lux Ex Tenebris is, of course, a phrase that emanates from the Catholic faith, most particularly, Tenebrae during Holy Week.  Lux Ex Tenebris means “Light out of Darkness,” which is the very essence of our Blessed Lord’s Passion, Death, and Resurrection.

So, on the one hand, I want to say, that’s neat.  Maybe some devout Catholic helped devise this motto?

Of course, this is not the old 67th TRW, unarmed and scared shitless unafraid, flying solo missions over hostile territory to gather photographic intelligence. No, this is the 67th Cyberspace Wing, whose mission is to “train and ready airmen to execute computer network exploitation and attack. It also executes full-spectrum Air Force network operations, training, tactics, and management.”

So maybe it does things like trying to hack into sensitive computer networks of potentially hostile great powers like Russia or China? Maybe they hack into North Korea’s missile program?

Or maybe does it ever work with the NSA in prying very deeply – to a degree that would be unbelievable to the Founders of this nation – into the personal affairs of private citizens?

Hard to tell in this day and age. And the wing is probably fortunate most people today are wholly ignorant of both Latin and the connection this phrase has to the Catholic Faith.  Otherwise, they would probably be forced to change it.

The motto dates back to the Korean War, and the unit’s activation at that time.  Maybe an early CO or DCO was a devout Catholic, and tried to sacralize the wing from its start.  Or perhaps they simply had some knowledge of Latin, though this phrase has, in the Western parlance, always had an overwhelmingly liturgical association.  Then again, the United States of 1951 was a much more Christian, much better educated nation.  If airmen from then could be magically transported to today, they would find the place unrecognizable, and be heartbroken to know that, whatever their efforts against external enemies, this nation has very nearly fallen to internal ones.

BDA from 67th TRW RF-4C, Operation Desert Storm

Early Flighline Friday: DeHavilland Vampire Obliterates Runway at Halfpenny Green May 3, 2017

Posted by Tantumblogo in error, Flightline Friday, fun, history, non squitur, silliness, Society, technology.
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Halfpenny Green being a former WWII airfield still used for private and commercial aviation. Apparently the runway surface was not jet rated because this WWII-vintage DeHavilland Vampire ripped it to shreds:

Good grief. That exhaust is really close to the ground, but the Goblin engine powering the Vampire only made 3400 pounds of thrust.  The same as a Westinghouse J34.  Are they related?  Maybe so, many early US jet designs were based on British originals, and both are relatively rare centrifugal flow units.

I’ve never seen the like before.

Flighline Friday: Lazy Edition March 24, 2017

Posted by Tantumblogo in awesomeness, Flightline Friday, fun, non squitur, silliness, Society, technology, Victory.
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Consider yourself lucky, I’m at home.  This may be a lazy Flightline Friday, but it’s better than nothing.

Two videos showing some very early Tomcat footage.  Some of the earliest Tomcats built are in the first vid, the first 30 or so ships built had only the ALQ-100 ECM antenna under the forward fuselage where later appeared first an IR sensor, then an electro-optical telescopic camera, and finally both.  The development of the F-14’s “chin” is shown below:

The first video is a Northrop production hyping their involvement in TOPGUN:

The second is from Grumman and is an obvious – but very early – PR effort for the F-14:

The kids are home, so that’s all you get.  Whether it’s better than nothing is wholly debatable, but you get what you pay for………

Flightline Friday: The Best Book on the ATF Program and YF-23, Ever February 24, 2017

Posted by Tantumblogo in awesomeness, Flightline Friday, foolishness, fun, history, reading, sickness, technology.
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I did a Flightline Friday about a year and a half ago discussing, among other things, the YF-23 Advanced Tactical Fighter prototype produced by Northrop.  The Advanced Tactical Fighter (ATF) program was initiated in the 1980s by the USAF to produce not just an F-15 replacement, but a fighter that could finally and decisively sweep the skies over Central Europe during an all-out conflict with the Soviet Union.  It was designed to be the most comprehensively advanced and dominant air combat aircraft ever produced.

The program evolved over the course of the 80s.  From many disparate concepts from a whole lot of companies – very few of which exist anymore – the program was eventually narrowed down to a competition between a team led by Northrop (with McDonnell Douglas) and Lockheed (with General Dynamics and Boeing).  Northrop produced the YF-23 (and this was ALL Northrop, McAir had almost nothing to do except some cockpit layout and providing the landing gear from an F-15), and Lockheed the YF-22 (here the situation was entirely different, GD contributed TONS to the Lockheed design and may have saved their bacon.  Lockheed massively redesigned their aircraft proposal in 1987-8, requesting 6 additional months from USAF to do so, because the original concept had so many problems).

At any rate, history shows, for reasons that are still inexplicable to some, that USAF preferred the ugly, block-like YF-22 to the graceful YF-23. Both aircraft had advantages over the other – the YF-23 was faster, in most respects stealthier and had superior supersonic maneuverability, while the YF-22 was better in the close-in, subsonic fight and carried substantially more missiles internally.

Even though the aircraft were designed nearly 30 years ago, much data on them has remained classified.  Particularly classified has been concrete data on the production aircraft proposed by Northrop for the F-23.  The actual production F-23 would have differed significantly from the YF-23, for a variety of reasons, though not nearly so much as the F-22 has wound up differing from the YF-22 (of course, USAF had a great deal to do with that, and details on Lockheed’s original engineering and manufacturing development version of the YF-22 – basically their vision of the production aircraft – have been even harder to find than those of the F-23).

Also somewhat limited has been extensive detail on the numerous other submissions made over the early phase of the ATF program from companies like Grumman, North American (Rockwell), McDonnell Douglas, Boeing, etc.

Well all that has ended, as former Northrop Chief Test Pilot and YF-23 lead pilot Paul Metz has now, in conjunction with Steve Ginter, produced THE seminal book on not only the F-23 but the entire ATF program. And this thing is an absolute gem. I was up way past 1 last night because I could not put the book down.

Just a few of the highlights:

  • Loads of never-before seen photos of ATF submittals and YF-23
  • Incredibly detailed construction drawings of YF-23
  • Extensive sections of the F-23 EMD submittal (upon which the USAF judged the winner of the competition – again, this was the manufacturer’s plan for final production design, maintenance, operations, etc) are repeated
  • Incredibly detailed construction drawings of the F-23 EMD design.  There has been one of these outted before but Metz adds several more
  • Detailed history of YF-23 development including key players involved, like Yu Ping Liu, who designed the aircraft’s stealth characteristics
  • Detailed history of Northrop’s internal design progression towards a stealthy air combat fighter over the years 1971-1986. The YF-23 design was basically fixed by late 1985 (!!)
  • An unprecedented amount of material on the Naval ATF version.  During the late 80s, it was planned that the Navy would buy a navalized version of the ATF winner to replace the F-14.  The end of the Cold War killed that idea.

The book is brand new (hit shelves Christmas last year) and a bit high (~$38).  It’s not real long but it is jam packed with information.  One of the things I have noted from those involved in the YF-23 program is the fact that it was a labor of love, the people working on it really loved each other and the amazing product.  That really shows through in this book, even though Metz eventually went to work for Lockheed and became chief test pilot on the rival F-22 team (after Lockheed won the competition), I get the sense from this book that his heart was always with the F-23.  As well it should have been.  It is still, as of this writing, conceptually the most advanced and capable aircraft ever produced.

A quick addendum: I noted in the post linked in the top some deficiencies with the YF-23 design that may have helped inform USAF’s decision to prefer the F-22 concept.  Because we knew so little about the F-23 EMD proposal, it was assumed some of those problematic features would have remained the same. No more.  The F-23 EMD corrected both the engine fan blade viewing problem and, for the most part, the shortfall of internal carriage of AMRAAMs compared to the F-22 (still would have been one short, but that’s a pretty small difference).  The F-23 EMD was MUCH different from what people thought based on the limited info that was out there.  If anything, it made the aircraft even more attractive.  If only they could have gotten rid of that canopy brace……

yf-23_black_widow_ii_sm

If you have anything more than a passing interest in the F-23 or F-22, get this book.

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Flightline Friday: F-35 Debuts at Red Flag February 3, 2017

Posted by Tantumblogo in Admin, awesomeness, Flightline Friday, fun, non squitur, silliness, Society, technology.
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Red Flag – the world’s premier and most realistic air combat exercise – 17-1 began last week at Nellis AFB, NV.  As usual, participants are many and varied – F-22s from the 1st FW at Langley AFB, VA, B-1s from the 28th Bombardment Wing at Ellsworth AFB, SD, and marking their operational debut, F-35s from the 414th Combat Crew Training Squadron (CCTS), 388th TFW, Hill AFB, UT.

Everyone knows, it’s been a long slog for the F-35.  I have certainly never been a big supporter of this badly compromised design.  From a standpoint of aerodynamic performance, it will always be a very middling performer.  Crippled by the Marine requirement for STOVL capabilities, it will be badly hamstrung in the visual air-to-air arena.  In addition – and also because of the Marine requirement – it’s internal storage volume, required to maintain low-observability – is also badly limited.  It can only carry two air to air missiles internally when engaged in the high-end fight.  This wouldn’t have been a big deal, had Obama and Gates (who also destroyed the Boy Scouts), not crippled US air superiority by capping F-22 production at 187 aircraft.  The F-22 has turned out to be all that was promised and more in the air-to-air arena, but there simply are not enough of them. As such, should disaster happen, like a war against a near-peer competitor in China or Russia (God forbid this should happen), the US would be badly  underequipped in the air supremacy regime and F-35s would likely be pressed into the fight be default.  This is not something it was designed to do.

Having said that, however, in the air-to-ground role for which it was primarily designed, the F-35 is finally starting to come along.  The sensors and sensor fusion of the type are simply amazing.  Once the real meaty software comes out later this year – Block 3F – the type will have extremely impressive capabilities in finding, fixing, sharing, and prosecuting all manner of ground targets. In addition, the aircraft will have very advanced means to avoid both ground-based and airborne threats, all projected instantaneously on the pilot’s all-important helmet visor., with the threats appearing as 3-D volumes to be avoided. Thus far, capabilities are limited but all reports are that the F-35 will take visual spectrum, infrared, ultraviolet, and radio-frequency sensors, and the fusion of all the above, to the next level.

Whether all this will be enough to overcome its fundamental aerodynamic limitations, the shortfalls in other areas of US airpower, and to deal with the rising Chinese threat remains to be seen.  Whether it is worth the (falling but still) astronomical cost is infinitely debatable.  But, unfortunately, due to policy decisions of three different presidential administrations, it is now the only game in town (whereas, had the F-22 been kept in production, as it should have been, the types could have been competitively evaluated and the best – the F-22 – chosen) and it would be 10-15 years, minimum, to field a replacement.  If it turns out to be a turkey, we’ll be stuck with it.  Cancellation really isn’t an option at this point, the Marines and Air Force are nearly utterly dependent on this type.

More than likely, what will happen is that US crews will make it work, and work well, warts and all.  It’s just what they do.  And hopefully sanity will prevail and the F-35 won’t ever have to come up against a serious competitor.

Now for airplane video pr0n.  Check out how much the F-35 resembles the F-22 on approach:

I don’t know what the Air Force was thinking with these new velvetine looking crew sweaters.  They look awful.

Taking off.  That 43,000 lbst engine makes terrific noise:\

As I said, Red Flag brings a wide variety of participants. There are Navy and Marine F-18s and EF-18s and British Typhoons from a squadron I am hoping someone will identify. Video courtesy 99th ABW PAO:

See what I mean by those velvetine sweaters?   WTH?  As if people in other branches didn’t make fun of Air Force softness enough, now they have to look like a stuffed animal?

And now for something a bit different – an awesome 360 degree video from inside the cockpit of the Boeing T-X entry’s first flight.  External view in the second video.  I wish it had come out with more F-23 in it as originally planned.  Looks more like a shrunken Super Hornet.

I like Boeing for the win in this large program.  The only real competition left is Lockheed since Raytheon has already bailed and it seems Northrop Grumman isn’t real serious about it.  Lockheed’s only advantage might be price, but will a Trump administration buy hundreds of new jets largely fabricated in Korea?  Doubt it.

That’s it.  Enjoy your much belated Flightline Friday.