11 Worst Soviet Aircraft (a short film)


First female combat pilot and mother of the air ambulance: The remarkable story of Marie Marvingt

Amelia Earhart was all very well, but did she cycle the Tour de France? Amy Johnson was pretty good but did she swim the length of the Seine? Jackie Cochran achieved a lot but was she the champion precision shooter of all France? No. And how many people fly in a supersonic Voodoo jet on their 80th birthday? The remarkable story of Marie Marvingt.

La Fiancee de Danger, Marie Marvingt remains the most decorated woman in French history and one of the most remarkable people to have ever lived. Curiously, despite the greater portion of her life’s work being dedicated to using aircraft to save lives, she holds the warlike distinction of being the first woman ever to fly combat missions during a time of war.

Born in 1875, Marvingt displayed an early and remarkable talent for sports of all kinds. By the age of five she is alleged to have swum 4km in a single day, at 15 she canoed over 400km from Nancy to Koblenz and in 1905 became the first woman to swim the length of the Seine – a feat which earned her the nickname l’amphibie rouge due to the colour of her swimming costume. Not content with aquatic ventures she dominated the winter sports scene, winning prizes in ski-jumping, speed-skating, age and bobsleigh. She enjoyed mountain climbing as well as countless other sports Marvingt was also a committed cyclist, on one occasion riding from Nancy to Naples to watch the eruption of Vesuvius (a journey of over 1300km). In 1908 she attempted to enter the Tour de France but was barred as entry was open only to men, she completed the course anyway after the race had ended – notably only 36 of the 114 male riders managed to finish. Amazingly she also found time to win an international military shooting competition with a French Army carbine in 1907 as well as prizes for ballooning in 1909 and 1910 (she was the first woman to cross the Channel by balloon). So great and wide ranging were her sporting successes that the Académie des Sports awarded her a gold medal in 1910 ‘for all sports’, the only multi-discipline award they have ever presented.


By 1910 Marvingt was in possession of a driving licence (issued 1899) and a ballooning licence so a flying licence seemed the logical next step and thus by the end of the year she had qualified as France’s third female pilot, becoming the only woman to do so in the notoriously tricky-to-fly Antoinette monoplane in the process. In the years between then and the outbreak of war she flew some 900 times and not once suffered an accident, a feat more or less unheard of at that time.

Wings of mercy

It was during this period that Marvingt began to conceive of using aircraft as air ambulances, a pursuit that was to dominate the rest of her life. As early as 1912 she had worked with the talented designer Louis Becherau (who was to be responsible for the superlative SPAD series of fighters) at the Deperdussin aircraft company on the design of the first practical air ambulance. After mounting a successful campaign to raise money for the revolutionary new aircraft type, Marvingt ordered the air ambulance from Deperdussin. Unfortunately the Deperdussin company went bankrupt in 1913 and the air ambulance was never built, nor was the money ever recovered. 


Within a year of this setback France found itself at war and Marvingt was determined to ‘do her bit’ even if it required disguising herself as a man. With the connivance of a sympathetic infantry lieutenant Marvingt served at the front with the 42ième Bataillon de Chasseurs à Pied as a regular (male) soldier until her subterfuge was discovered by higher authorities and she was sent home. Despite this she later accompanied Italian troops on the Dolomite front, allegedly at the direct request of Marshal Foch. Later in the war she served, in a more conventional role for the era, as a surgical nurse. Before that, however, she was to achieve the greatest single aviation milestone of her career.

Marie_Marvingt_by_Emile_Friant_1914By 1915, bombing missions were becoming more commonplace but France was desperately short of trained pilots. Marie Marvingt offered her services as a volunteer and, somewhat surprisingly, was accepted. It is worth noting that in aviation circles she was a noted pre-war pilot of considerable renown and proven skill and this may have outweighed the standard contemporary prejudice of employing a woman in a combat role. Initially she flew reconnaissance missions but in 1915 she made history by flying a bombing mission over Metz (in a curious twist of fate the very town in which her parents had married 54 years earlier), becoming the first woman ever to fly a combat mission and earning herself the Croix de Guerre in the process.  To put this into context it would be, for example, another 83 years before a female pilot in the USAF was allowed to fly a bombing mission. Marvingt was so far ahead of her time that it was only in 1999 that France would present Caroline Aigle, its second woman combat pilot, with her fighter pilot’s wings.


Marvingt’s great achievement was merely a blip in her ongoing passion for aeromedical evacuation Between the wars she created a prize, the Challenge Capitaine-Écheman, for the aircraft most readily convertible into an air ambulance, co founded the organisation Les Amies De L’Aviation Sanitaire dedicated to promoting air ambulance services, established a civil air ambulance service in Morocco, became the world’s first certified Flight nurse, made two documentary films promoting air ambulances, invented metal skis and suggested their use for aircraft operating from sand, was made a Chevalier de la Légion d’honneur in 1935 was for her promotion of air ambulance services, and worked to set up the Flying Ambulance Corps which employed women pilots to deploy trained doctors and nurses by landing at designated sites or dropping them by parachute to aid the wounded. With the outbreak of a new world war this service was of obvious appeal, it had already been supported by authority figures such as Marshals Foch and Joffre in the interwar years, and in 1939 under the leadership of famous French flier, Maryse Hilsz, hundreds of volunteers sought to join. During the war Marvingt set up a convalescent centre for wounded aviators and invented a new type of surgical suture.

To celebrate her 80th birthday Marvingt flew supersonic over Nancy in a USAF F-101 Voodoo and commenced helicopter lessons (though she never attained her helicopter licence). Marie Marvingt died in 1963 at the age of 88, just two years after cycling from Nancy to Paris – a mere 350km or so.

By Edward Ward

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Top 10 beyond visual range fighter aircraft 2018: selection process and the science of BVR combat


‘The Infinity of Lists’ by Umberto Eco is book that covers the topic of lists. Examples cited in the book range from Hesiod‘s list of the progeny of gods to Rabelais’ list of bottom-wipes. Listing, the compulsive mind’s attempt to impose order on a chaotic universe is everywhere, and is especially popular on the odious and wonderful thing you’re now using, the internet.

The top ten format of ‘listicle’ has long haunted the internet, leading me to take the rather lazy step of adopting it for this blog. Since this site started five years ago I’ve created a bunch of top 10s, ranging from the predictable (like the ‘Best fighters of World Two‘) to the deliberately silly (Top ten pusher aircraft, allegedly- but not actually – written by Werner Herzog). The furious responses the selections generated is both puzzling and to be expected. It’s odd in that you wouldn’t expect anyone to believe that reality actually conforms to a ‘top ten’ approach, and predictable in that the articles are intended to provoke debate; in some cases we have made deliberately contentious choices in our top 10s to catalyse such responses. Curiously, the fact that these articles could be said to trivialise or possibly celebrate war machines by using a format conceived for promoting pop music has not provoked any response.

Which, almost, neatly brings us to the Top 10 BVR fighters. BVR may be a daunting term, but simply stands for ‘beyond visual range’. Our top 10 is an attempt to choose the ten fighters that are best at shooting down other aircraft at ranges where the pilot cannot see the opponent with his or her eyes. That I decided to separate the aircraft into within-visual range (WVR) and BVR categories is a completely artificial device, but I hope, an interesting way to consider their relative merits. Each time I have assembled this annual list I have quizzed experts in the field (though many, including Jim Smith, may not self identify as such) to help me reach my conclusions. Jim Smith had significant technical roles in the development of the UK’s leading military aviation programmes. From ASRAAM and Nimrod, to the JSF and Eurofighter Typhoon. When I asked him to order operational fighter aircraft in a top 10, he asked me to consider the nature of BVR combat and sub-categories within it. As his answers were fascinating in themselves, I have presented them here as a teaser preceding the sharing of our top 10 BVR fighters of 2018. Over to Jim….

BVR Fighter Assessment

Birds of a feather ...

OVER VIRGINIA — An F-15 Eagle is joined in formation by F-16 Fighting Falcons during a training sortie here April 19. The F-15 is assigned to the 71st Fighter Squadron at Langley Air Force Base, Va., and the F-16 is assigned to the Virginia Air National Guard’s 192nd Fighter Wing in Richmond. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Ben Bloker)

I am going to start by considering what is different about BVR combat, and what system characteristics are needed to succeed? From there, I’ll go on to examine whether the scenario or setting for the air combat makes a difference to the system requirements, and then have a go at ranking aircraft in different scenarios.

I’ll leave it to you, to draw on your sources on the current state of development of the various systems. Were I to attempt this, I’d need to be aware of material I certainly could not bring to this forum.

What is required to deliver a BVR air combat capability?

Here’s how I look at BVR as a capability:

The 4 things you need to achieve, all in the context of survival, are:

Locate the target


at a sufficient distance to be able to decide what to do

– preferably without being detected yourself

These two elements of locate then push you towards platforms that

– have powerful on-board detection systems, such as Electronically-scanned radars, big radars, Low Probability of Exploitation (LPE) radars, and Infra-Red Seeker Trackers (IRST)

– and/or operate in a well-integrated system of systems, with datalink support, off-board and third-party sensors

– and may be supported by other systems countering opposition sensors, including surface and airborne radars

– and/or can operate with stealth including secure LPE communications and datalinks

As a consequence of the above, interoperability becomes important, as third parties may be providing target information, datalinks, tankers and logistics. This drives towards

compatible secure communications, IFF, tanker/refuelling systems, in turn requiring

trusted information sharing protocols and procedures between coalition allies

or the alternative approach of a self-sufficient integrated air defence system (e.g. Russia, China, Sweden)

Engage and defeat the target


Outside the opposition’s ability to engage effectively, and ideally inside your missile no escape zone

This drives you towards

 – long range missiles such as Meteor

– Third-party support, including targeting and datalink support

Dassault Rafale C Fighter Jet (8).jpg

Disengage at will

This is to allow you to either re-position for another engagement, or to withdraw

This favours

– Platforms with high energy manoeuvrability

– or all aspect stealth (generally not both high energy manoeuvrability and stealth, at least without compromise e.g in number of weapons carried)

– AESA radar to allow high-off boresight datalinks

– or third-party datalinks

Repeat as necessary

This requires the ability to

– carry enough weapons

– have good combat persistence

– and, often ignored, have sufficient availability and numbers to deliver a campaign rather than just an engagement

What does this imply for the top ten candidates ?

Situational awareness, weapons capability and combat persistence are probably more important than manoeuvre capability (g), although transonic and supersonic acceleration is helpful in creating opportunities to survive/win multiple engagements.

Situational awareness (SA) is vital because Beyond Visual Range (BVR) combat, by definition, precludes visual identification of opposing systems. Electronic systems must be used instead, and so on-board and off-board radars and electronic surveillance and protection measures become very important.

There is also the interaction between SA and stealth. If you have a stealthy airframe (F-22, F-35 for example) there are likely to be big benefits in the engaging fighters running in passive and using third-party sensors to set up the engagement. If you don’t do this your stealth advantage evaporates, as the opposition knows where you are.

If you are not very stealthy, and if your primary concern is to knock down enemy strike aircraft and bombers. what you want is a very long-range missile with a large no escape zone, like Meteor. This allows you to stand off outside the kill zone of the opposition.


Another big issue is the effectiveness of any detection technologies against stealthy aircraft. Ground-based multi-static radars; lower frequency radars; AESA radars and IR Seeker Trackers will all have some capability. And who knows whether means exist of exploiting the LPE radars and comms. systems of stealthy aircraft. Once missiles are deployed, other detection opportunities may exist, including increases in signature as weapons are deployed; launch detection; detection of the missile plume etc.

Then you have the problem of numbers, closely connected to the number of BVR weapons carried, and the effectiveness of those weapons in a modern counter-measures environment. Not to mention tactics … and whether multiple engagements will be required.

Good things to have:

1) Situational Awareness

    Active Electronically-Scanned Array (AESA) radars are better than Passively Scanned Arrays; either of these is better than mechanically scanned radar

    Off-board sensors able to provide big picture good; better still if 3rd party targeting available.

2) Low observability

    But caution if this means less weapons; less platform performance; less persistence and need for 3rd party EW to avoid compromising LO by transmitting

3) High-capability weapons

    Long-range, high-speed, large No Escape Zone

    High resistance to countermeasures

    More than 2 BVR shots (ideally)

4) Sufficient combat fuel available

    To take advantage of the weapons load out

5) Good energy manoeuvrability

    To engage and did-engage at will

    To rapidly accelerate to maximise weapon effectiveness

6) Good EW and countermeasures available

    To decrease opposition situational awareness and increase survivability.

Scenarios and broader requirements


One of the key problems to be addressed is ‘what is the scenario?’ And are other attributes also required?

What about considering 2 different views of BVR combat – Air Superiority, where the battle is taken to the opposition, and Air Defence, where the focus is on deterring and preventing incursion.

Starting with Air Defence, let’s suppose you have a small-ish nation, where the Government does not have global dominance in its agenda. For such a nation, the key aim is deterrence, ensuring that any country wishing to invade or dominate you cannot easily do so. For such a nation, Gripen/Meteor might be the ultimate air Defender, especially if you have a well-integrated air dfence system and dispersed bases. Never being far from the border or a base, fuel volume and even weapons load don’t matter so much, because you’ll scoot back to your cave and re-arm/refuel. Having a big stick, however, is great, because you can defeat threats while keeping out of their missile range.

On the other hand, Air Defence of Russia drives you towards the MiG-31. You have to have a big, fast, aircraft because you can’t avoid the possibility of having to cover a fair distance at high speed to meet the threat. Being big means a big sensor and long-range weapons are available, and both are likely to be needed. You may be less concerned about signature and platform manoeuvrability because your ideal approach will be to stand back and hit bombers rather than engage fighters.

Air Superiority, or perhaps Air Superiority and Offensive Counter Air is a bit of a different proposition. A key difference is that you are seeking to dominate outside your borders (or your host Nation’s borders when deployed elsewhere). It helps to be big, because you can carry a lot of fuel to allow you to be a penetrating escort to strike packages. But it also helps to be stealthy to reduce your vulnerability to ground-based systems and air defence aircraft. And it may help to be really agile – if you are going to need to disengage and re-engage, for example, or against the contingency you get forced into WVR combat.

So F-22 should be excellent at most of this, but might lack a bit in the way of combat persistence. As an OCA adjunct, able to use surface weapons to hit radars, and anti-air weapons to counter opposition Air Defence aircraft, F-35 would be excellent, but perhaps best with its pal in the F-22 nearby to ensure the F-35s could stay out of WVR.


The Su-35 and Chinese derivatives would also be strong players here. These Su-27 developments have plenty of fuel, plenty of weapons and plenty of agility. In Air Superiority some of the older variants may be looking a bit dated, but their fuel capacity, general availability in significant numbers and weapons and EW capability mean that they could be quite challenging as escorts. I think the size is driven by the geographic challenge (like the MiG-31); once you’ve got the size, fuel weapons and agility the escort role is a natural. But signature differences would give an initial advantage to stealthier systems.

The strength of Rafale and Eurofighter is their ability to take different weapons loads so they can swing between the Air Superiority role at the start of a conflict (particularly once Meteor and AESA come along) and the OCA/strike role with an Air Defence capability once Air Superiority is established.

I’d expect China to be doing dome different things with the J-20. With a hypothetical really long-range anti-air weapon, this relatively stealthy platform could force essential support assets such as tankers and AEW platforms to stand back, reducing situational awareness and combat persistence for opposition aircraft. It might also be a deterrent to maritime operations if an air-surface strike weapon were to be available. Perhaps the J-20 should be thought of as a stealthy MiG-31, aimed at large area airspace denial rather than air superiority per se.

Broader requirements may also arise, particularly given the interplay between National aspirations, geography and budget. It is only the largest economic powerhouses with global aspirations that can afford optimised specialist solutions for Strategic Strike, Tactical Strike, Air Superiority and Air Defence.

As an example, due to its perceived role in regional security, the UK is looking to mush of its future air capability being delivered by a mix of Typhoon and JSF. Strategic strike would be delivered by other systems such as cruise missiles, and it appears Typhoon will swing between Air Superiority and Strike roles as required, while JSF provides a stealthy strike capability.

Making an Assessment

So, how to go about defining a Top Ten? A decision needs to be made about whether the Top Ten focuses solely on Air Superiority, or whether the flexibility of role, which may suit many Nations economically, is an additional measure. Further, where do the specialist Air Defence aircraft like MiG-31 and Gripen fit in? If the somewhat platform focussed approach of the 2017 list is followed these should do well, as with a long-range weapon either could be a very effective deterrent against a threat strike package.

aGripen-JAS-39C-MS20-matric-262-foto-Saab (1)

A Governmental approach to ranking these systems would be reliant on extensive system modelling, intelligence data, consideration of whole life costs and so on. Even them, great care would be required to ensure the modelling represented like with like – for example matching projected future capabilities against realistic projected threat capability rather than current capability.

None of these techniques are available to me, and if they were, I could not report the outcome! Instead the assessments below are judgement-based against various roles for which the candidate aircraft might be used.

Air superiority:


1: F-22

2: Typhoon and Rafale (once Meteor and AESA are integrated)

3: F-15 and Su-35 [I’d need to know more about these systems to separate them] 

4. J-11, Su-30

Air Defence:


1: F-22 (but should be doing Air Superiority)

2: Gripen and MiG-31 – noting a limitation to Defence of the homeland 

3: Typhoon and Rafale (with or without Meteor, but would be better with Meteor and would then place above Gripen)

4: F-15, Su-35, J-11, F-35 (unsure about where to place F-35; its lack of energy manoeuvrability and low number of long-range weapons is offset by stealth)

5: J-20 (likely to improve as system matures)

6: Su-30/ F-18E/F


1: F-22 (but should be doing Air Superiority)

2: Su-35/J-11/Su-30 (Primarily because of fuel capacity)

3: F-35 (self-escort role)

4: Typhoon/Rafale (with or without Meteor, but with Meteor would be better)

 Offensive Counter Air/Strike


1: JSF (stealth, fuel)

2: Swing-role Typhoon and Rafale

3: J-20 as specialist AEW and tanker killer, and threat to maritime systems 

4: F-18E/F

5: F-16

This excludes specific strike systems such as F-15E, Su-34

Taken overall, it depends what you are looking for. The best out-and-out BVR fighter is the F-22, and it would be good for Air Defence as well.

A champion all-round capability for a non-US, Western nation, would be Typhoon or Rafale plus JSF. For Russia or China, Su-35 plus MiG-31 or J-20 plus J-11, plus specialist strike aircraft

If your focus is only on defence, then F-22, Gripen, MiG-31 and perhaps J-20 are all strong.

If your budget is limited to one combat aircraft type and your geography is limited, Gripen would be excellent. If you have a large geographic area to manage Su-35, or F-35 with tanker support.

Jim’s opinions and observations will be used in the compilation of the top 10 BVR fighters of 2018 coming very soon to hushkit.net


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An Idiot’s Guide to air force roundels


At the start of World War I, the Royal Flying Corps commander Brigadier-General Sir David Henderson was considering how he could mark his aircraft to avoid friendly forces shooting them down. On attending a concert by the rock band ‘The Who’ he was impressed by the ‘roundel’ design worn by the band and some of its Mod fans. The next day he decreed that all RFC should carry the design for identification purposes.

Of course, that is not true. However, the roundel – a circular design derived from medieval heraldry –  is the standard way of telling your friends and enemies the nationality of your military aircraft. Though strictly speaking, the word ‘roundel’ describes a round symbol, today it is popularly used to describe an air arm’s main insignia, whatever the shape.

The ubiquitous aeroplane roundel has been a sure-fire way of identifying who a military aircraft belongs to for over a century now – in fact, it’s the law, though how you’re meant to catch anyone not using them has never really been explained. Pretty much every country has its own form of roundel or other, usually based on the country’s national flag or colours, (because otherwise, what’s the point really?) although some get a bit more abstract and experimental at times. There have been some interesting designs over the years; some that have become iconic, some gaudy and camp, and some that really stretch the meaning of the word “roundel” (looking at you, Hungary). This totally non-exhaustive and utterly subjective lists picks out some of the roundels of the world, and rates them using completely arbitrary methods based pretty much on how good I think it looks and not much else.

Note that this doesn’t take into account the “low viz” form that many roundels take these days – which are still better than the monochromatic F-35 symbols which are forcing airshow spectators into habitual Ayahuasca use.


It makes sense to start with the grandaddy of them all, the French cockade, iconic symbol of the French Revolution, which first appeared on French Army aircraft in the First World War as a way of making sure they weren’t confused with the hated Germans or worse, the British. I suppose they didn’t really have much to work with, given that no one else was doing it at the time, but you’d think that the French of all people would come up with something a little more creative. It does the job, but doesn’t carry the flair one would expect of such a stylish country. Shame, France.


Props to the French Navy for their version, though. It’s got a pretty dope anchor on it, what’s not to like?


I’m rating the looks a little down too as I don’t think the dominant red is quite as nice. Invert the colours and you’d have a pretty nice roundel, I reckon.


Identifiability: 8/10 Originality: 10/10 (first ever) Looks: 6/10
Iconicity: 5/10


What did I say? Much nicer, much more balanced. The British military’s roundel has definitely become one of the most iconic the world over, brought to the world’s attention by the epic imagery of the Battle of Britain but made truly famous by the Mod movement of the 1960s (and ’90s revival).

Famously, and sadly, the red circle in the middle was too close to the Japanese roundel in the Second World War and many confused American pilots struggled to tell the difference, so it was changed in that theatre to a fairly ugly two-tone blue. Not a fan. The origins of the British roundel are based on a similar desire to avoid confusion; British aircraft originally carried the Union Flag, which at a distance could be confused with Germany’s cross design.


I have to mark this one down for originality though. I mean, it’s literally just the French one inside out. “Mind if I copy your homework” “Sure, but just change it up a bit so it’s not obvious”.

Identifiability: 8/10 Originality: 2/10 Looks: 8/10 Iconicity: 9/10

Click here for the top ten aircraft camo schemes of 2017.


This is a pretty nice roundel. It certainly matches the colours of the country’s flag, and is simple enough to go on a wing pretty quickly. I reckon if you saw this, you’d know it was Ethiopia. Interestingly, though, there’s already a pretty dope symbol in the middle of Ethiopia’s flag, so I’m not sure why they didn’t use that? It’s definitely cooler plus looks a little bit occult so might spook superstitious enemies, giving you a crucial advantage in a tight battle. Seemingly, there’s an unwritten rule that African roundels must contain green, red, yellow or black (nobody told Somalia). 

Identifiability: 6/10 Originality: 6/10 Looks: 6/10 Iconicity: 3/10



This is definitely what you’d call an interesting take on the roundel design, but it scores very highly on the identifiability scale for it. I’d love to know where the inspiration for the swirl design come from, unless the designer was just a very big fan of ice cream (pistachio and orange sherbet have topped Ireland’s favourite flavours for over 120 years). Ireland is a neutral country but does have combat capable PC-9s, which proudly wear the roundel on the side rather largely so there’s still some call for them to serve their intended purpose.


Honestly, I really like this one, it works really well, it represents the country as much as it needs to, and it stands out among the concentric rings brigade. It gains minor points in iconicity for being on Fouga Magisters, which are indisputably some of the prettiest aircraft ever.

Identifiability: 8/10 Originality: 8/10 Looks: 8/10 Iconicity: 5/10


I like the simplicity of the Danish roundel. Matches the national flag colours spot on, nothing extraneous, not trying to be something other than what it is – a sign that says “This plane is Danish, you better respect it.” It’s sometimes brave for a military to go with a minimalist design, but this looks good on pretty much any aircraft – special mention must go to the now-retired blue Lynx Mk 90s (R.I.P.).


Sadly I’ve got to take points off the originality rank here – compared with the sister Scandinavian countries, there was surely room for a bit more Danish identity in here? Maybe a Lego block or something. Actually, that’s a great idea for my fantasy air force.

Identifiability: 7/10 Originality: 3/10 Looks: 6/10 Iconicity: 5/10


Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard fast-ropes down onto Jean-Paul Sartre’s boat to extoll the virtues of existentialism. 



Wow. Gosh, there’s a lot going on here, isn’t there? This almost modern-art style roundel really goes all in in the “show your national colours” role here – it doubles down on the flag, in fact (honestly not sure where the little star comes from though. Nice little personal touch, I guess). It’s a little known fact that the Colombian Air Force, struggling to come up with an original design, actually took this straight off the TV colour test card in a fit of frustration, and to this very day it makes monitors flicker in confusion. Astonishingly there is a low-viz version of this one. 


I’m going to give this one quite a low looks score – I mean, yeesh – but you might be surprised to see it receive a fairly high iconicity because in my mind this roundel is synonymous with the fantastic images of Colombian Kfirs that do the rounds fairly regularly, and does it get much better than Kfirs?


Identifiability: 7/10 Originality: 4/10 Looks: 3/10 Iconicity: 7/10


Well, it was never going to be original, what with the Queen and colonialism and all that stuff, but it’s got a kangaroo (easily one of the top ten animals) in the middle and that’s freaking awesome, so I’m rating it pretty highly. The only air force insignia to feature an animal with three vaginas. 

Identifiability: 9/10 (hello, where do kangaroos come from?) Originality: 1/10 Looks: 8/10 Iconicity: 7/10



Turkmenistan is an overwhelmingly Muslim country. If you didn’t already know then before you spotted one of their military aircraft, then you sure did afterwards. There’s quite a lot going on in this one and if you’re not picking up on the religious overtones then I don’t know what to say. This is the first of our non-round roundels and it’s a strong entry into this category – the colours are decent, it does a pretty good job of showing which country it is and, actually when compared with the country’s flag it’s pretty restrained. That said, when you see it on the side of jets, you definitely think it’s probably better framed and on someone’s wall than on ten-odd tonnes of war machine, so marks down on iconicity.


Identifiability: 6/10 Originality: 5/10 Looks: 6/10 Iconicity: 3/10



If you tell Belarus that the USSR broke up nearly twenty years ago, it firmly sticks its fingers in its ears and shouts “La la la, I can’t hear you” until your five-day visa expires. It just doesn’t want to know (I mean, it still has an organisation called the KGB…) and, well, isn’t that just reflected here. Russia at least threw a bit of new twist on its star with some sick flag styling, but Belarus just sticking resolutely with that good old Soviet symbol like it’s 1989 and Moscow’s still calling the shots. Well, more than it still is, I mean. Pretty low scores overall here (similar for their ranking for human rights), extremely low effort and I don’t like to see countries stuck with their heads in the past.

Get with the times, Belarus.

Identifiability: 0/10 Originality: 0/10
Looks: 6/10 (classic design) Iconicity: 2/10



Hey, way to make Belarus look bad, Kazakhstan. Taking a classic design with a fresh new look, Kazakhstan matches the gold and red of communism that we’ve all come to know and love with a definite home-grown look that marks it out as an aeroplane of the Steppe. I’m loving the stylised eagle at the bottom especially – there are quite a lot of roundels with birds on but this one is the nicest in my opinion.

Identifiability: 7/10 Originality: 5/10 Looks: 7/10 Iconicity: 4/10



FORGET WHAT I JUST SAID. Woah! Check out that guy in the middle, he’s amazing! Honestly, why would Uganda even have fighter jets, just send that guy in, game over, war won. Google tells me he’s a grey crowned crane and is the national bird of Uganda, and they seriously made the right choice in putting him in their roundel because if I saw him coming my way I’d surrender on the spot. That said, details like this aren’t obvious from particularly far away and the full effect won’t be immediately obvious, so some points got docked for that. Purely because I want this guy to be the first thing you notice about any Ugandan aircraft. Plus I’m getting a pretty good “West London chicken shop logo” vibe which is definitely working for me right now.

Identifiability: 6.5/10 Originality: 8/10 Looks: 10/10 Iconicity: 4/10


Can’t see that great punk bird on this Ugandan ‘Flanker’. 


Choosing to take their military’s roundel straight out of Gundam (ED: I’m hyperlinking that as I’ve never heard it) or something, this might just be the most futuristic one out there. My assumption here is that the Philippines (god, that’s hard to spell right first time) is banking on being a pretty big player in the eventual space wars that mankind will fight over the solar system’s precious resources, because they’re investing early in the ‘future-chic’ game. Honestly, big fan of this one but mostly because I’m a bit of a sci-fi nerd.


Mitchell Brother War escalates. 

Identifiability: 6/10
Originality: 8/10
Looks: 10/10
Iconicity: 8/10 (awarded from the future)


Well. There’s no mistaking who owns this plane, huh? Most people just write it on the side of the plane but I guess the Iraqis took the “identifying marks and insignia” line pretty literally. Not sure the significance of the Trump hair with a green stripe and a cock’s comb on it though. The bird of prey looks seriously pissed off, perhaps because being in the Iraqi Air Force has long been a pretty terrifying gig. 

Good on them, I guess.
Seriously, it actually says it on the roundel.


Osirak One calling base, please can I have a different callsign?”

Identifiability: 10/10
Originality: 4/10
Looks: 3/10 (I’m sorry but just writing your name on it is pretty rubbish)
Iconicity: 5/10

Sam Wise found a job since the last time he wrote for Hush-Kit! When not working, and quite often when he’s supposed to be as well, he can be found retweeting other people’s opinions at @SamWise24 

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Top 10 Attack Helicopters


Bing Chandler is a former Lynx Observer (think Weapon Systems Officer) who has since spent far too much time arguing about helicopters while working at Joint Helicopter Command, and the Army Air Corps Centre at Middle Wallop. We asked Bing to choose the ten best attack helicopters in service today. 

“Attack helicopters, because if you thought normal ones were as ugly as an aircraft could get, the world’s defence contractors conspired to prove you wrong.  To get on the list, the aircraft has to be in service and armed with an integrated gun and missiles.  Disappointingly. this meant I had to exclude the Alouette III, one of which managed to shoot down an Islander with a 20-mm door gun — providing a service to aviation enthusiasts everywhere.


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10. Eurocopter/Airbus Helicopters Tiger ‘Tyger Tyger, burning crap’ 


The Tiger is essentially only on this list because it appeared in the film Goldeneye and I’d ruled out the Harbin Z-19 and Kawasaki OH-1 for not having guns. Although admittedly some Tigers don’t have guns either because it’s that bad an attack helicopter.  As an example of European cooperation it’s up there with the Seven Years War, except that didn’t take as long to reach a conclusion.  A joint Franco-German requirement was issued in 1984, and the maiden flight of a Tiger took place in 1991.  Fast forward 11 years and they finally start rolling off the production line, reaching full operational capability at the end of 2008, the JSF programme office are probably the only people in the world to view that as rapid development.  Meanwhile even when delivered the aircraft were found to be faulty, Germany at one point suspending deliveries due to serious defects, while in 2012 Australian pilots refused to fly their aircraft due to the number of cockpit fume incidents.  In fact so enamoured of the Tiger are the Australians that despite only reaching full operating capability in 2011 they’re already planning on replacing it from the mid 2020s. Meanwhile investigators still haven’t determined why a German aircraft operating in Mali flew into the ground from 1800’, guidance limiting max speed and autopilot use hardly being reassuring.  Still that scene in Goldeneye when they eject out of it is totally worth the €14.5Bn development cost.

9. HAL Light Combat Helicopter (LCH) ‘Backseat Dhruver’


The Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd Light Combat Helicopter was developed from that companies Dhruv utility helicopter, which itself looks suspiciously like an MBB Bo 105. Well not that suspiciously, MBB helped develop it.  The LCH takes what you’ll soon discover reading this list is a tediously formulaic approach to producing an attack helicopter, i.e. give it a narrow fuselage, seat the crew in tandem, tail dragger undercarriage, gun and sensors somewhere near the front and stub wings for rockets and missiles.  The usual features of helmet mounted sights, laser and radar warning receivers, missile approach warning receivers, data links etc. are all present, however at the moment only a limited number have been produced, with full rate production only starting last year, making it too early to establish its actual capabilities.

8. Denel Rooivalk Tshwane’s World’ 


Eventually, even Britain and France were banned from selling the South African apartheid regime with weapon systems, leading the pariah state to create its own. With a fast moving border war and the threat of Soviet armour, the South African army looked with envy to the gunship helicopters by the US and the USSR. The Rooivalk, or Red Kestrel, was developed from the mid-1980s by Denel building on earlier work that had made a proof-of-concept gunship out of an Alouette III.  To simplify the task while operating under a UN embargo the dynamics were taken from the Atlas Oryx, a licence built Puma, while it also used the Turbomeca Makila engines of the Super Puma.  This allowed for a reasonably large helicopter, the Rooivalk being noticeably bigger than the similar looking Mangusta, with an empty weight of 5739kg —more than the Mangusta’s maximum takeoff weight! The embargo that had led to the creation of their attack helicopter also forestalled a range of weapons being integrated on to it. The solution to this was the development of indigenous systems, such as the ZT6 Mokopa anti-tank missile. This seriously limited the export potential as most countries include Hellfire integration as a key user requirement. Attempts were made to market the aircraft to the UK, Malaysia, and Turkey however all selected alternatives or suffered an economic crash that led to the cancellation of any planned procurement.  Consequently the Rooivalk is most notable for having the smallest production run of any aircraft on this list with only 12 rolling out of the factory for use by the SAAF’s 16 squadron.


7. Agusta/Agusta Westland/Leonardo Helicopters Mangusta ‘Alpine Mongoose’


The Mangusta was developed in the late 70s and early 80s by Agusta to fulfil an Italian Army requirement for a light observation and anti-tank helicopter.  This was intended to guard against a potential Warsaw Pact armoured thrust against Italy’s border with Yugoslavia, the only effective direction of attack thanks to the Alps. Coming to the same conclusions as the design teams for the Cobra and Apache, the Mangusta followed the emerging trend for attack helicopter design that would soon become drearily monotonous.  Operations in Somalia in the early ‘90s revealed several shortcomings, leading to the requirement for a gun, full NVG capability, and an improved navigation system.  Agusta incorporated all of these features on the A129 International variant as well as replacing the original licence built Gem gas turbines with LHTEC T800s (developed for the cancelled RAH-66 Comanche) for improved performance, the A129 having had to operate at the edge of its ability in the scorching heat of Somalia.  The Italian Army meanwhile had the improvements retrospectively applied to its aircraft (apart from the engine upgrade).  The TAI/Leonardo T129 ATAK is essentially the A129 International with modifications to meet Turkish requirements, and presumably to update components that had become obsolete in the 20 years between the International being proposed and someone actually buying it.  In 2015 the Italian Army announced they were planning on upgrading their Mangusta to improve endurance, speed, and situational awareness, the alternative of developing a new attack helicopter from the AW149 being considered too risky.


6. Chinese Aircraft Industries Group (CAIC) Z-10 ‘The Changhe Comanche’ 


In a shock move, the Chinese Z-10 attack helicopter features a crew of two in an armoured tandem cockpit, stub wings for weapons carriage, and a 20mm cannon in a nose turret.  Okay, so essentially it’s the same as the Tiger, Mangusta, Rooivalk or any other modern attack helicopter, and dear reader I’m not convinced I’d identify it correctly in a recce test never mind in flight.  The Z-10 Fiery Thunderbolt is however probably the only aircraft to be named after a knock off MacBook accessory.  The Z-10 is, inadvertently, a true multi-national effort, in the mid-90’s Kamov were contracted to provide an initial design which the Chinese would develop and refine.  Eurocopter and Augusta provided assistance the later being paid $30 million for work related to the transmission system.  Meanwhile to prove they were team players in 2012 the US Government successfully prosecuted United Technologies for breaking ITAR regulations in relation to software exports for the Z-10 programme.  The prototypes originally flew with P&W PT6 turbines but production aircraft have a domestically produced engine along with upturned exhausts to reduce the IR signature.  Combined with at least a modest attempt at RADAR Cross Section reduction through careful matching of external angles the Z-10 has the potential to be an effective light attack helicopter.

caic-z10-10 (1)

5. Kamov Ka-50/52 (NATO codename ‘Hokum’) ‘See you much later, Alligator’ 


It was tempting to put Kamov’s entrant higher up the list just because it looks different, however this leads to some disadvantages compared to its contemporaries.  Produced in response to the same requirement that led to the Mi-28 the Hokum features a coaxial twin rotor, and side by side seating.  Chosen to fulfil the requirement the original Ka-50 was a single pilot aircraft, it being thought automation would reduce the workload to an acceptable level.  However as the programme progressed an improved variant with more sensors led to a second crew member and the side by side seating arrangement.  With broadly similar armament to the Havoc the Hokum is disadvantaged by the side by side seating configuration, which restricts each crew members field of view compared to the traditional tandem layout.  Meanwhile although the coaxial rotor system has benefits in terms of yaw inertia and hover performance it has shortcomings in overall manoeuvrability in order to avoid the risk of blades colliding.  Observers have noted that during displays it only makes sharp turns in a climb, and then only to the left as a turn to the right would risk blade collision.  Indeed a 1998 crash of a Ka-50 was put down to hard manoeuvring leading to the blades hitting each other.  Consequently although heavily armed the Hokum is too limited by its design to move higher up this list, it’s almost as if the clone like similarity of attack helicopters is for a good reason.


4. Mil Mi-24/25/35 (NATO codename ‘Hind’) ‘Krokodilbert’


The first Soviet attack helicopter was conceived as a flying Infantry Fighting Vehicle, thus as well as a selection of anti-tank missiles and a turret mounted .50 cal machine gun it can also carry 8 combat troops*.  After trialling the idea with the Mi-24A which for some reason grafted a conservatory to the front of the aircraft for the pilot and weapon system operator to sit in, the Russians perfected it with the D variant giving the crew a tandem cockpit to sit under, and the similar E which swapped the .50 cal for a fixed twin barrelled 30mm cannon.  This cockpit was then armour-plated and along with the cabin pressurised to prevent chemical or biological agents getting in.  At least until the troops want to get out.  As well as being heavily armed the ‘Hind’ is also fast and uses this speed to make up for a lack of manoeuvrability if it has to engage with other attack helicopters as happened during the Iran-Iraq war.  During the Soviet War in Afghanistan to ensure aircraft availability in the harsh operating conditions time expired engines were kept on the aircraft until they’d accumulated a further 50 hours of ‘life after death’. Other parts would deliberately only be replaced when they finally failed, which is possibly taking conditional maintenance a step too far but does demonstrate the ruggedness of the design.  The ‘Hind’ has taken part in a bewildering array of conflicts and insurgencies starting in Ethiopia in 1978 and continuing to the present day.  Tough, well armed, and uniquely for an attack helicopter able to deploy a section of troops, the Hind continues to live up to its Mujahideen nickname of the Devil’s Chariot.


*Re ED. Could the Hind carry troops and substantial weapon loads at the same time? Bing:  It’s a bit of a grey area, looking at some numbers I think the Hind could carry troops and external weapons although probably not the max possible.  They seem to demonstrate the capability in the video of this exercise http://www.thedrive.com/the-war-zone/12267/watch-this-russian-mi-35-hind-do-what-no-other-attack-helicopter-can although the rocket tubes are notably empty at one point that may be a training limitation or they may have fired them already.


3. Mil Mi-28N ‘Havoc’ ‘Everybody vertalyots sometimes’


Looking like a Soviet Apache the ‘Havoc’ has suffered a development history about as protracted as the Tiger, except in this case due to a lack of interest from the Russian Defence Ministry rather than German indecisiveness.  Learning from the experience of operating the Mi-24, a requirement was drawn up in the late ‘70s for a new helicopter that would be a dedicated gunship lacking the ability to carry armed troops.  However, a small compartment to carry three personnel remains allowing rescued aircrew to travel in slightly more comfort than sat on the chin pods as they do with the Apache.  First flight was in 1982, but by the end of ’84 the Ka-50 had been chosen as the new anti-tank helicopter.  This is where things should have ended, however Mil continued development, improving the aircrafts capabilities so that by 1995 the Mi-28N emerged with better navigation equipment to allow night and all weather operation.  Showing that perseverance sometimes pays off deliveries of the Mi-28N to the Russian Army started in 2006, over two decades after the first flight.  Russia currently has around 60 Havocs with total orders indicating a final buy of around 130 which sounds a lot until you consider the US Army placed an order with Boeing to remanufacture 224 Apaches to the latest standard.


2. Bell AH-1Z Viper ‘Huey Lewis gun’


Born of a need to provide dedicated fire support for US troops in Vietnam, the Huey Cobra was selected as the winner of a competition to provide an interim measure while the AH-56 Cheyenne was developed.  Bell’s model 209 entered service with only a few alterations from the competition entrant, devastatingly for those with an eye to aesthetics the retractable skid undercarriage was one of those alterations.  So many variants of the Huey and Cobra have now been produced that the designation system is in danger of running out of letters, the AH-1W and AH-1Z being in use with the USMC.  The Cobra still shares a transmission, engines, tail etc. with the Huey the UH-1Y having been developed at the same time as the AH-1Z this allowing for a claimed 85% commonality in maintenance significant items.  The most obvious external difference to the legacy Cobras is a new four-bladed main rotor which should reduce the vibration levels at slow speed from ‘shocking’ to ‘really it’s fine the instruments are almost readable’ while also improving overall performance and all up mass.  The stub wing is also increased in span and gains a missile pylon at the tip, the main advantage of the increase in span however is a repositioning of the inner pylon which previously had to be tilted to ensure jettisoned weapons wouldn’t hit the skids limiting what could be carried there.  As an interim measure the Cobra family has now been in service for over 50 years and doesn’t appear to be retiring anytime soon. 


  1. Hughes/McDonnell Douglas/Boeing AH-64D/E Apache/Guardian ‘Carter’s Unstoppable Death Machine’


The Apache was developed by Hughes Helicopters for the programme to replace the US Army’s AH-1 Cobra, first flying in 1975.  The first A models entered service in 1986 and three years later were deployed to Panama as part of Operation Just Cause, the following year almost half the US Apache fleet was deployed to Saudi Arabia for Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm.  In 1997 the AH-64D was introduced featuring a glass cockpit, the Longbow fire control radar, a data modem to share targeting information and up-rated engines.  The US Army acquired new build D models along with converting their existing A model aircraft, making it the de-facto standard, due to the costs for other users of maintaining the earlier models without the purchasing power of the US driving down the price of parts.  The D itself is now being phased out by the AH-64E Guardian which features improved communications and data processing, more powerful T700 engines, and the ability to control UAVs.  Initially the Es are being paired with RQ-7 Shadow drones, presumably as a prelude to Judgement Day when the drones take over completely and subjugate mankind as their slave work force.  Foreign operators of the Apache include the Netherlands, Japan, Saudi Arabia, Israel, and the UK which selected a modified locally produced variant the WAH-64D.  Apart from folding blades to ease operation from the Royal Navy’s carriers the main difference was a change of engine to the RTM322 giving a useful extra 400SHP.  This did however alter the centre of gravity and lost some of the advantages of having commonality with the 90% of D models that weren’t made in Somerset.  Consequently the UK will from 2020 replace its Apaches with E models from the Boeing production line, reusing high value components where possible.  Current production is expected to run until 2026, 50 years after the first example flew and thanks to continual development it remains the standard to beat.”


Bing Chandler is a former Lynx Observer (think Weapon Systems Officer) who has since spent far too much time arguing about helicopters while working at Joint Helicopter Command, and the Army Air Corps Centre at Middle Wallop.

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Have a look at How to kill a RaptorAn Idiot’s Guide to Chinese Flankers, the 10 worst British military aircraftThe 10 worst French aircraft,  Su-35 versus Typhoon10 Best fighters of World War II top WVR and BVR fighters of today, an interview with a Super Hornet pilot and a Pacifist’s Guide to Warplanes Want something more bizarre? The Top Ten fictional aircraft is a fascinating read, as is The Strange Story and The Planet Satellite. The Fashion Versus Aircraft Camo is also a real cracker. Those interested in the Cold Way should read A pilot’s guide to flying and fighting in the Lightning. Those feeling less belligerent may enjoy A pilot’s farewell to the Airbus A340. Looking for something more humorous? Have a look at this F-35 satire and ‘Werner Herzog’s Guide to pusher bi-planes or the Ten most boring aircraft. In the mood for something more offensive? Try the NSFW 10 best looking American airplanes, or the same but for Canadians. 

The Killer Bee: A British technical liaison’s view of the Rutan ARES close air support aircraft

Ares 1 img438.jpg

In the lamentable Aces: Iron Eagle III film, the drug-dealing ex-Nazi villain flies a bizarre aircraft described as the ‘Messerschmitt Me 263’. The ‘263 was actually a Scaled Composites ARES, a hugely innovative battlefield jet developed by Burt Rutan. In 1990 British technical liaison travelled to the desert to learn more about this capable, but ultimately doomed, aircraft. 

“In early 1990, I was asked to visit Scaled Composites at Mojave to gain information on the Ares light support aircraft. At the time, I was working for the British Embassy in Washington DC in a technical aerospace liaison role, working mainly with US Government Agencies, but occasionally with US Industry, and seeking to promote technical collaboration in Aerospace.


I welcomed the opportunity to visit Scaled Composites. As an aerodynamicist and an air vehicle configuration specialist, this would provide an opportunity to see a new product from the always imaginative Burt Rutan, and would also provide an opportunity to catch up with NASA projects at the nearby NASA Dryden (now NASA Armstrong), at Edwards Air Force Base.

I visited Scaled Composites on the 26th Feb 1990, one week after Ares had made its first flight, and attended a presentation of the aircraft to local media, industries and others.

Ares was the Greek God of war, and Scaled Composites had also turned ARES into an acronym for its Agile Response Effective Support aircraft. The design was described at the time as an anti-helicopter and light support aircraft, with potential customers being the US Customs Service and possible the US Army or Marines. The intent was that the demonstrator would validate the concept and that further development would enable a variety of other roles to be developed.

The aircraft is of unusual design, essentially resembling a turbofan-powered configuration similar in size and shape to a Rutan Long-Eze, wrapped around a GAU-12U 25-mm multi-barrelled cannon.  The design is dominated by the arrangements made to accommodate the cannon, which is mounted in a payload bay on the starboard side of the aircraft. To avoid any problems with gun gas ingestion, the Pratt & Whitney JT-15D engine is mounted at an offset of 8 deg and fed by a single intake on the port side of the fuselage, with a curved jet pipe exhausting parallel to the fuselage longitudinal axis.

The attached photos of the aircraft were taken on the visit and show the unusual layout of the aircraft.  The demonstration flight made on the day was the 5th flight of the aircraft.

This is video is quite impressive, showing the aircraft manoeuvring nimbly at low level around rough terrain in California, firing trials with the cannon, and Burt Rutan explaining the features of the aircraft.

At the time, I thought this was a neat little design, with an original approach to packaging a large gun into a small airframe. I was sceptical of how such an aircraft could contribute to UK capability, but could see the potential for an air policing or border protection role for others.

Ares 2 img439.jpg

Now, the design looks well ahead of its time. With the ability to carry external stores on 4 hardpoints as well as the cannon, ARES would have been a fast and flexible counter-insurgency asset, offering much greater speed than competitors derived from turbo-prop agricultural aircraft or trainers.

Having made this initial visit, I included a visit to Mojave on a couple of other occasions. Among other projects, Scaled Composites built the composite delta wing for the Pegasus air-launched small satellite deployment system, and claimed this as the fastest and highest altitude composite wing, travelling at greater than Mach 5 and up to 200,000 ft. The company has built many notable products, including the Voyager and Global Flyer; and the White Knight 1 and 2 and Spaceship 1 and 2. They are building the Stratolauncher, which will have the largest wingspan of any aircraft yet flown, with a view to providing an airborne satellite launch system.”

Jim Smith had significant technical roles in the development of the UK’s leading military aviation programmes from ASRAAM and Nimrod, to the JSF and Eurofighter Typhoon. 

Ares 3 img441.jpg

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Fighter design contest evaluation and winners revealed


To celebrate the launch of our 2018 calendar we asked you to design a fighter aircraft. I was overwhelmed by the quality, ingenuity and imagination that went into the submissions. It was hard to narrow the entrants down, but we eventually decided on the following aircraft. 

The brief was extremely demanding and had to be solved using only technology available in 1960. The aircraft must have a range of at least 400 nautical miles. It must have a maximum speed over Mach 1.6. It should have a short take-off and landing performance. It should carry at least one cannon and four air-to-air missiles. The type should have a good dogfighting performance.


To judge the winner we put together an elite team of judges, they are: 

Jim Smith

Jim Smith had significant technical roles in the development of the UK’s leading military aviation programmes from ASRAAM and Nimrod, to the JSF and Eurofighter Typhoon. He was also Britain’s technical liaison to the British Embassy in Washington, covering several projects including the Advanced Tactical Fighter contest. His latest book is available here.

Tim Robinson

Editor in Chief of Aerospace – the flagship magazine of the Royal Aeronautical Society. Years of reporting from air shows, hoovering aviation news and digging into the deepest recesses of aeronautical history have left Tim with an aerofoil where his brain once was.

Thomas Newdick

Aviation writer and Editor of Air Forces Monthly. Author of many aviation titles including Aircraft of the Cold War 1945-1991. Thomas has a particular interest in Russian aviation and allegedly has a collection of Su-11 parts at a secret location in Suffolk.

Stephen Mosley

Artist and aeronautical engineer. 

How the scoring system works

Each judge awards a gold, silver and bronze medal worth 3,2 and 1 point respectively. (On making his final decision Jim Smith has also rated the aircraft numerically on aesthetics and effectiveness.)




Yotsubishi Heavy Industries F-2 Simple Supersonic Fighter (SSF) by Hiroki Honda

”YOTSUBISHI F-2” for HUSH-KIT Competition (1) (1) (1)

JS: “The concept attempts to deliver a low-cost, low tech super-sonic fighter. Some aspects of the concept are really interesting, such as the re-use of an engine … but there are serious flaws everywhere.

(Regarding the use of 50s technology –an F-100, first flight 1953, would meet all of the airframe requirements comfortably, particularly if fitted with Rocket Assisted Take-Off or RATO)

Here are some issues:

  • Use of second-hand bomber engine – engines at the time had shorter lives than today. A better choice would be a J79 or an Avon.
  • Small size – there is no way you could get the fuel required into the airframe
  • Tailwheel configuration – the engine appears to have an afterburner, which, if used for take-off would destroy the runway and the tailwheel
  • Armament – Missile installation would have very high transonic and supersonic drag
  • Armament – I don’t believe you could fit 4 30mm cannon in the space provided
  • Tailplane – The essentially unswept design is likely to experience significant shock waves, increasing drag, and impairing high-speed stability and control.

Effectiveness: 1

Best feature: RATO

Worst feature – see list above.

Aesthetics: 1″

SM: “Yotsubishi F2 – interesting but neither slender nor following the area rule and with a large proportion of parasitic drag, also another where I suspect the fuel tankage would be marginal.””YOTSUBISHI F-2” for HUSH-KIT Competition (4) (3).jpg

Novotny LiN8 by Lukas Novotny

1960s_jet (1) (2)

SM:“So nearly a top 3 aircraft for me but the canopy is a little too bulbous and overall it seems to lack a little pizzazz (there is an aesthetics element to the competition after all). Perhaps a victim of looking altogether believable as a product of the era?”

JS: “This concept is a very conventional design solution to the requirements.

My reaction at first sight was that the concept looks more like a strike aircraft than a M 1.6 fighter. Thinking about why this is, I would point to the rather low set cockpit, and the very rounded radome design, which does look unsuited to high speed flight.

Another aspect which gives some concern is the mid-mounted wimg. Structurally, this looks implausible, attached as it is on the outside of the intakes with no real evidence of a strong carry-through structure to sustain the loads. I suggest that a high wing position, like a cross between a Mirage F1 and an Alpha Jet would allow a carry through structure across the top of the fuselage.

The intakes in the top view don’t appear to have the shock cones of the side view (which may not be needed), and I am unclear why they are forward swept in plan. There is also no real evidence of leading edge devices – as drawn, the gun and pylons would prevent use of a leading-edge slat or flap. That said, the wing area appears generous.

The aircraft looks large enough to meet the range requirement, but it might also be more costly than single-engine solutions.

Effectiveness: 6

Best features: Largely low risk design. Big enough, carrying the required weapons load.

Worst features: Wing position makes a credible structural solution difficult; a high wing would be better. Radome too rounded; while good for the radar, this would cause too much supersonic drag. Tailplane might need a few degrees more sweep. Looks more like a strike aircraft than a fighter.

Aesthetics: 5.”

Soko J-100 Zmaj ‘Dragon’ (2 points) by Nick Gully



TN: J-100 Zmaj. Because the only thing better than a missile-with-a-man-in-it is a Yugoslavian missile-with-a-man-in-it. And it would have come out of a cave

Thomas Newdick nomination for silver (2 points)

SM: The Soko J-100 is one that I found it difficult to reject because of the amusing “back story” and its unashamed batshit craziness. However all that lift at the back with so little at the front finally persuaded me.

JS: “I’m sorry to say the Soko Zmaj is just horrible.

A highly directionally and pitch unstable design is just what you want in a missile. Particularly a modern missile with active guidance and control system allowing you to pull perhaps 40g at the target.

It is not credible to fly a manned aircraft with this configuration in 1960.

The downward pointing canards would require a very tall and heavy main gear. There appear to be no high-lift devices, which makes the STO requirement hard to meet. The external gun pod would have a large drag penalty, especially at supersonic speeds. With no attention paid to area ruling, wave drag is likely to be significant. Engine installation and radome are likely to be OK, being typical of some contemporary design practice.

Effectiveness: 1

Best  points: Intake/Radome

Worst points: Lateral/directional instability; gun pod drag; wave drag, undercarriage, STO performance.

Aesthetics: 2″

SM: “The Soko J-100 is one that I found it difficult to reject because of the amusing “back story” and its unashamed batshit craziness. However all that lift at the back with so little at the front finally persuaded me.”

Horzel F Mk 1 by Jonas Stallmeister

unnamed (1)

JS: “This looks like the Folland Midge version of the specified fighter. My concern is that the design appears to be simply too small to meet the payload range requirements. In addition, I do not believe the relatively close coupled butterfly tail arrangement could provide the directional stability required. This might be made worse by the ‘lots of wing anhedral’, which will reduce lateral/directional stability, and places the wing tips very close to the ground. I suspect a cross-wing landing might quickly become challenging. I like the innovative approach, and the use of the variable incidence wing.”

Effectiveness: 3

Best points: Variable incidence wing.

Worst points: Too small. Lateral/directional stability. Both low speed handling and high speed directional stability likely to be inadequate.

Aesthetics: 4″

SM: “Jonas Horzel’s F Mk1 looks like a robust little aircraft and has the right “feel” with a hint of Baroudeur SE5000 but seems more focussed on rapid response from unmade runways rather than 400 nm and Mach 1.6. Where would they put the fuel?”


Mosely Supersonic Biplane (2 points) by Stephen Mosely 

Hushkit Fighter S Mosley (1) (1).jpg

TR: “Looking perhaps like what might happen if the Kingston design team at Hawker Siddeley had taken LSD, a supersonic biplane fighter is definitely innovative. The two-crew cockpit, ventral gun pack and overwing AAMs (as seen on the BAC Lightning) and intakes scream a 1960s design and give it some credibility. For the actual idea of a staggered-wing supersonic biplane, the aerodynamic jury is still out. It has been proposed (along with hypersonic concepts) with the idea that the dual wings might cancel out supersonic shockwaves. However, if it was that a high speed biplane was found to be viable, a bigger challenge in my mind might be the tailless design and lack of vertical surfaces. Add to that the claimed agility from the biplane configuration, and it may be that a complex FBW system would be needed to control this beast. There is also the issue of weight – doubling those already large wings would make for a very heavy fighter.”

Tim Robinson nomination for silver (2 points)

JS: “This appears to have a number of problems. The biplane arrangement, which may well enable a light, stiff, structure comes at the penalty of seriously compromise aerodynamics. The close spacing of the wings means that they cannot operate efficiently. At low speed the interference effects will reduce lift curve slope, requiring a higher incidence or higher speed approach. In the manoeuvring case the vortices shed by the lower wing will reduce the lift available from the upper. At high speed, the wave drag looks likely to be huge. I’d be astonished if this configuration could meet the Mach requirement – I’d be quite surprised if it was supersonic. The configuration results in very little fin area, and would be very likely to be directionally unstable. Adding a WSO is likely to add capability, but comes at the cost of a larger and more expensive aircraft.

Effectiveness: 2

Best features: Fuselage packaging and intake design both look OK. Wing design likely to be structurally efficient.

Worst features: Configuration is ill-conceived. The aerodynamic aim of STO from the biplane configuration may not be achieved; Wave drag; directional stability and control; and handling in high and low-speed manoeuvring are all areas of concern.

Aesthetics: 4″

SM: “Mosley Supersonic Biplane – clearly the best but it is for my fellow judges to come to this inescapable conclusion on their own.” (Note: Stephen designed this aircraft and was not allowed to nominate it)

2nd place (joint) STOL canard fighter (4 points) by Vikram Puttanna 

HushKitCompVikramPuttanna (1) (1)

JS: “An interesting design, which looks to have made a good stab at many of the requirements. The basic layout should be OK to meet the Mach requirement, and the combination of thrust reverser plus hook, extending nose undercarriage, flaps and slats should allow STO requirements to be met.

I’m a bit concerned about whether the range requirements can be met, bearing in mind that the under-fuselage fuel tank would probably need to be dropped to gain Mach number for combat effectiveness.

I also think the fin should be further aft, and possibly reduced in height, taking advantage of the longer arm gained by moving it aft. This would reduce fin weight. I am a bit sceptical about managing the flight control issues of a 3-surface design in the 1960 timeframe.

Finally, given the intent to arm with the beam-riding AIM-7 missile, I think a larger radar would be required. The weapon needs to be supported all the way into the target, and the bigger radar would need a longer fuselage nose, and possibly some raising of the cockpit so that the radar could be accommodated with the under-fuselage intake. I do not see what benefit is given by the intake design, and I suggest that an F-16-like solution would be better.

Effectiveness: 6

Best features: Approach to STO requirement.

Worst features: Is it big enough? Weapons installation looks draggy. Sgould the fin be further aft and a bit smaller? Needs a bigger radar to support AIM-7. Id the 1960 fcs technology up for a 3-surface design?

Aesthetics: 6

Both Aesthetics and effectiveness figures could be improved with suggested changes.”

JS awards bronze medal (1 point)

SM :”Vikram Puttanna’s STOL concept doesn’t, for me, sit comfortably with the central request for a 60s fighter. True there is nothing to point at as not being available to the 60s designer but the overall aesthetic belongs more to a “stillborn of the 90’s” competition.”

TN: “Vikram’s STOL canard fighter. Because the Ye-8 was a great ‘what if?’ that deserved to do much better. It suffered problems with its powerplant and its radar-armament would have been limited in original form. This concept addresses those shortcoming and throws in STOL for good measure.” Thomas Newdick nomination for 1st place (3 points)

 2nd place (joint) LTV F8U1 Super Cutlass (4 points) by Rik H 


An F8U1 is here pictured circa 1961 over Eureka, CA, on a training flight from Naval Air Station Alameda.

The aerodynamically radical F7U Cutlass‘ time in service to the USN was short but disastrous. By the early 50s the execs in the Chance Vought boardroom, smarting at the cost of tooling up for Cutlass production contracts that never materialized, turned their attention to the Navy’s new requirement for a supersonic air superiority fighter. Their engineers had already begun wind tunnel tests on a design of more conventional layout, whose only eccentricity was an unusual variable-incidence wing, when the whole company was unexpectedly snapped up by eccentric Texan entrepreneur James Ling in early 1954.
Woldemar Voigt, the German aircraft designer who had contributed to the Cutlass‘ design, saw an opportunity. He’d ironed the kinks out of the tailless concept, he thought, and with a new wing shape and J79 engines on tap, he was sure he could build a Mach 2 Cutlass for the fast-dawning Space Age. Cannily, he sought out Ling’s approval directly, bypassing the LTV managerial structure entirely. He was surprised to find Ling even more receptive than he’d hoped for. The Texan immediately agreed to move forward with Voigt’s proposal, but he insisted that a canard be added to Voigt’s blueprints for the “Super Cutlass“. Voigt later speculated that Ling had somehow caught a glimpse of some highly classified WS-110A drawings.
Meanwhile, under the resentful eyes of the LTV managers, the German busied himself and his team with the development of the Cutlass mark 2, a much larger and more modern fighter than its ancestor, with radar, afterburning engines, and static, trapezoidal canards dutifully bolted on. Voigt eventually realized that an all-moving canard would significantly improve the new aircraft’s manoeuvrability, but unfortunately, LTV’s C-suite took bureaucratic revenge by quashing his request for another revision of the design.

The “Cutlass 2″ flight test program showed that the new plane shared none of the Cutlass‘ woes. The new fighter had somewhat staid handling, but it was easy to fly, far more forgiving than its predecessor, and fast – topping out at Mach 1.8, clean, in full afterburner. With the new Sparrow and Sidewinder missiles, and a 20mm revolver cannon in each wing root, the type was a formidable machine by late 50s standards.

Voigt’s pet project won the Navy’s contract – perhaps less on its merits than thanks to Ling’s tireless wining and dining of certain Bureau of Naval Weapons officials – and was designated the F8U1 Crusader, but carrier crews instantly saw the family resemblance and the aircraft was universally known as the “Super Cutty”. Maintenance crews groused about its mediocre maintainability, with relatively minor procedures sometimes requiring that an engine be pulled, but unlike James Ling, none of them had the ear of BuWeps.

Redesignated the F-8 in 1962, the Super Cutty was in front-line service when the USN was deployed to coastal waters off the unfortunate nation of Vietnam. The crude guidance systems and general unreliability of guided missiles at the time often forced USAF and USN aircrews into close-range dogfights with VPAF Mig-17s and 21s, where the slow-turning F-8 would often come out the worse for wear.  Angry pilots complained to their commanders and the US Navy and Ling-Temco-Vought finally decided to add control surfaces to the canards in 1966, finally adding the all-moving canard in 1971.

JS: “This a great looking design – but will it work? The original Cutlass was a bit of a disappointment. Based on WWII Arado research, it had a short service live, and was replaced by the Crusader. The thick wing and low power meant its maximum speed was just over 600 kt, despite having afterburning. It also had significant handling issues and a poor safety record.

With thinner wings and bigger engines, this concept should meet the Mach requirement. My concerns are around the canard, the engine intakes, landing performance and radar. I also think that this large aircraft would be expensive.

The thin wing will need a decent high lift system – the drawing shows slats, but these are a very small chord, reducing their effectiveness. There are inboard flaps, which will help, but the pitching moment from these will need to be balanced out by the canard. Positioned where it is, this is likely to adversely affect the flow into the intakes – a go around in this design could prove really challenging. There may also be adverse effects from the canard in manoeuvre.

The intakes themselves look too large in area, possibly causing intake spill drag, and unnecessarily complex. The shock-cone intake is more suited to M ~2.0 designs like the Starfighter and Mirage, and a reduced size pitot intake would do.

I think the radome looks a bid small in diameter and rather slender. The radar performance will strongly depend on the radar aperture; too small and the radar range will be limited. A finely tapered radome looks good, but would increase losses; a less slender design, e.g F-4-like, is likely to be better.

I am also a bit concerned about the maturity of the canard approach at this time.

Other than these concerns the design looks attractive and at least plausible.

Effectiveness: 6

Best points: Efforts have been made to address the specification I would expect the aircraft to meet or exceed payload range, speed and armament requirements.

Worst points: Too big and expensive; intakes too big, too complex and subject to interference from the canard. Approach and landing performance might be an issue. Possibly immature technology.

Aesthetics: 9″

JS awards silver (2 points)

TR: “For the 1960s timeframe chosen, the idea of a ‘Super Cutlass’ to transform a horrendously bad fighter into a decent one fits nicely into historical precedent. Super Sabre, Crusader, Phantom, Tomcat (and even up until the Super Hornet), the idea of an radical upgrade and ‘one bigger’ of a known fighter makes sense. The Super Cutlass, here with more powerful (and reliable) engines, radar-guided AAMs and canards would seem to fit that bill. Making it bigger, however might introduce new challenges for deck ops, as the wing folds will have to be outboard of the vertical fins. The canards/foreplanes while aiding manoeuvrability, also introduce a possible drawback for carrier ops – that of downward view. While a Super Cutlass is certainly plausible, one must also ask whether with the original aircraft being so terrible that the US Navy would have immediately thrown anyone suggesting a Mark II version of this aerial disaster out of the office, pronto.”  Tim Robinson nomination for Bronze (1 point)

SM: “Supercutlass – this was immediately a favourite with its good looks and well balanced proportions. I also liked the idea of taking an early design that managed to avoid attaining any semblance of proficiency and extrapolating it out to a notional improved second generation. By taking this approach it also avoids awkwardly trying to make sure that the aircraft doesn’t look unlike anything about at the time, because it clearly does!

The centre of lift looks to be about in the right place with enough size in the engines to make M1.6 believable and enough structure to carry the fuel to feed them. Down sides, and the reason for third place only, are due to the canard. For a start the canard was an unusual arrangement back in the day and aircraft that had them were usually looked on as “freak” designs. The Viggen was a trail blazer in the 70’s, existing only as artist impressions in my reference book, and this configuration really came to the fore (if you will forgive) in the 80’s. Also, I wonder if the shock waves it would set up at transonic speeds and above would disrupt the airflow into the intakes? A high angle of incidence may also cause problems with this. A good try but I think a little too flawed.” Stephen Mosley nomination for Bronze (1 point)

1st place (joint) Fourt Hirondellen 60 (6 points) by Olivier Fourt

FullSizeRender (1) (1)

SM “I was expecting my favourite to “jump out at me” but the opposite ended up being true. It was only through the process of eliminating the other finalists that this one ended up as the “last man standing.” Perhaps the wings are set a little too far forward but overall the layout works visually with everything in credible proportion. The design has a late 60s feel and the “overslung” engine fairing sets it apart from existing aircraft – the closest I can think of is the Douglas Skyhawk but aesthetically that’s still notably different. With everything having a dramatic sweep it looks good too, for some reason I can imagine it with a polished skin and Armee de l’air roundel on its flank.  In my opinion it ticks the most boxes from a head and heart point of view and is therefore my winner.”

SM Gold nomination (3 points) 

JS: “Comparatively credible conventional design. Slats and flaps fitted as a nod to the STO requirement. Intakes look unnecessarily complex for M=1.6, but shoulder position on the fuselage could mean they need the large boundary layer ramps provided. From a fuselage packing point of view, I suspect a bit more space between radome and cockpit would be useful for avionics provision. Suggest a lower aspect ratio broader and shorter fin would be preferable, saving a bit of weight. Weapons carriage looks conventional; there is space for a centre-line external fuel tank should one be required. No real show stoppers.

Effectiveness: 7

Best features: Credible conventional design, likely to meet requirements if wing loading not too high.

Worst features: Possibly need more space in forward fuselage. Arguably might get away with simpler intakes.  Might benefit from a lower aspect ratio, shorter tail fin.

Aesthetics: 5″

JS: Gold nomination (3 points)


1st place (joint) Harpia FAB-60 (6 points) by Bernardo Senna 

1960fighter_Bernardo_Senna (1) (2)

Thomas Newdick: “Harpia FAB-60. While it looks a little conservative compared to some of the other designs, a Latin American Marut would have been a boon to the Brazilian Air Force in the 1960s, and would have been an excellent basis for further combat aircraft development.”

Newdick Bronze medal (1 point)

JS: “Basic configuration looks OK.

Main issue for me is the intakes. Positioned where they are, it’s hard to see how sufficient space in the cockpit could be provided. The nose should be a bit longer, and the intakes further aft. The intakes also look small for a twin-engine solution and perhaps overly complex for the Mach number required. The missiles all appear to be IR guided – I would be doubtful of a radar sitting behind the big pitot probe. Installation of missiles above, tanks below, and more missiles on fuselage side looks draggy.

Effectiveness: 6

Best features: Reasonably credible configuration.  Fin looks large enough, unlike several others.

Worst features: Intake position and packaging in that area; high aspect ratio wing might be heavy; stores and fuel tank drag (?); need to reposition pitot probe.

Aesthetics: 5

Both Aesthetics and effectiveness figures could be improved with suggested changes.”

TR: “With design cues from other aircraft of the era, the FAB-60 somehow feels exactly like the kind of aircraft you’d suddenly spot in a rare photo archive and begin frantically googling to know more. Scalloped intakes and MiG-19 engine exhausts give it a pleasing distinctive look, while the overwing AAM pylons might also function as wing fences – a staple of 1960s designs. I like the idea of a Tank/Focke lineage married with UK engines and avionics. Overall, this seems an extremely believable design. The only drawback I can possibly see is that the fighter, designed for Brazil’s defence needs at austere front-line airfields, sits quite high off the ground and has a narrow track undercarriage. Heavy handed taxiing by students may claim a few airframes, despite the ‘reinforced wingtips’.”

Tim Robinson awards Gold medal (3 points)

SM: “Harpia  FAB-60 – this really stood out as, for me, being by far the best realised illustration.  Again the proportions all sit easily and believably on the page. Everything about it speaks of an early 60s generation fighter from the elongated bubble canopy, to the high set swept wing (conveniently avoiding running the spars through the engines) and finished off by a conventional tail layout. This was such a strong contender I was even able to overlook the colonial spelling of “defence.” However it seems a little too much of a combination of existing designs, a (quite possibly unconscious) amalgam of aircraft that could actually be seen in the skies. The forward set scalloped intakes of a Saab Lansen perhaps coupled to what is possibly the canopy of a Supermarine Scimitar? Then again the intakes and anhedral of the wing might owe something to the Harrier with a touch of Yak-25 to the wing plan and a tailpipe treatment not totally dissimilar to the Hal Marut? A worthy finalist but lacking the standout individuality that would make it the winner for me.”

SM awards silver medal (2 points) 

Harpia FAB-60. While it looks a little conservative compared to some of the other designs, a Latin American Marut would have been a boon to the Brazilian Air Force in the 1960s, and would have been an excellent basis for further combat aircraft development.


As all these entrants were so talented I will be sending a Hush-Kit 2018 calendar top each of you! Well done.

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Jim Smith scoring system in detail 

Summary outcomes




Comments and issues


Harpia FAB-60



Intakes, Packaging


Hirondellen 60



No real show stoppers


Supersonic biplane



Not a practical solution

Horzel F Mk 1



Too small

STOL canard



Technical feasibility, packaging


Super Cutlass



Canard/intake interaction. Cost?


Soko Zmaj



Not a practical solution

Yotsubishi F-2



Not a practical solution

Novotny LiN 8



Wing carry-through


The answer depends on what you are looking for, and, of course, on what the other judges think. In the assessment above, I leant towards effectiveness, with a nod to aesthetics in lifting the Super Cutlass to a higher position.

If I were using Effectiveness, then Risk, then other factors (cost, aesthetics), my order would have been:

1: Hirondellen

2: Harpia

3: Novotny

4: Super Cutlass

5: STOL canard

Hirondellen could have used the graphic skills of the Super Cutlass designer.

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F-15 pilot shares the history of ‘Bitchin’ Betty’


When Boeing employee Leslie Shook retired back in 2016, there were a number of media reports about military aircraft aural cockpit warning systems. Leslie Shook is the voice behind the aural warning system in the F/A-18 Hornet fighter aircraft; Hornet crews affectionately call her “Bitchin’ Betty.”

joan elms

Joan Elms

“Why was this newsworthy? I think it’s because the media seek any excuse to repeat mild profanities like ‘bitchin’. Notice, though, that the NPR report I linked to above bleeps out the offending word. One TV news reporter I watched got such a case of the tee-hees she almost couldn’t go on, and another TV talking head actually said the words “Witchin’ Wetty” while making air quotes.This is not Leslie Shook. It’s actress and singer Joan Elms, the first Bitchin’ Betty, though they didn’t call her that then: in the 1960s she was known to supersonic B-58 Hustler flight crews as “Sexy Sally.” Joan’s taped voice alerted Hustler crews to critical information and emergencies demanding immediate action: her warnings included phrases such as “weapon unlocked,” “hydraulic system failure,” “check for engine fire,” “nose too high.”

B-58 Hustler

Wikipedia names Kim Crow as the first woman to provide digitised cockpit voice warnings to military aircrews. That’s true, but it’s a truth hinging on the word “digitised.” Joan Elms was of the pre-digital age, recording her warnings on old-fashioned magnetic tape. To my knowledge, the B-58 Hustler was the first military aircraft to employ aural cockpit voice warnings, and Joan Elm’s was the voice behind them.The digitised voice of Kim Crow was my Bitchin’ Betty, the aural warning system in the F-15 Eagle. When I first flew the Eagle in 1978, Bitchin’ Betty said only a few things: “warning,” “engine fire,” “overheat.”

An F-15 with two F-16s.

Additional voice warnings were added over the years, and by the mid-1990s Bitchin’ Betty could recite an extensive litany of cautions and warnings. I can’t find an audio clip of my Bitchin’ Betty, but here’s a YouTube recording of F-16 Fighting Falcon voice warnings (General Dynamics, the F-16’s maker, used the voice of Erica Lane). When Sexy Sally started warning B-58 Hustler crews about engine fires in the 1960s, it was a major innovation, and using a woman’s voice was considered a brilliant stroke: human factors researchers thought a woman’s voice—rarely heard on the radio and never on the intercom—would cut through other chatter and get the crews’ attention. This belief prevailed in my day as well, probably because flying military fighters was still a male-only occupation. I always had doubts about that, though. For one thing, by my time many FAA and military radar controllers, both on the ground and in the air, were women. Women flew the tankers we refuelled from and the C-5s ahead of us on final, forcing us to go around to avoid wake turbulence. You heard their voices all the time; there was no longer any novelty to it.

Female KC-135 crew.

For another thing, there were times Bitchin’ Betty spoke right into my earphones and I didn’t hear her, especially in the heat of an engagement or dogfight. I didn’t know she’d spoken until I reviewed my own cockpit videotape during debrief. The times I did hear her, I’d already seen the master caution light, felt the unusual thump, or heard the strange noise that always seems to accompany a mechanical failure. Today, I understand, some commercial and military aircraft manufacturers use male voices for aural warning systems. They probably work just as well, and I’m sure the aircrews have colourful nicknames for them as well.
Betty gets civil

Morgan Freeman

Is Bitchin’ Betty any kind of big deal today? Military aircraft, ships, tanks, and for all I know trucks have had Bitchin’ Betties for decades. So have commercial airliners, and I hear some general aviation aircraft as well. Ground-pounding civilians too are used to aural warning and guidance systems, witness Siri and automotive GPS. If you tell me voice systems used by regular people on a daily basis leave military systems in the dust, I will not be surprised. Heck, I can select Morgan Freeman’s voice on my Garmin when I get tired of listening to Arnold Schwarzenegger, and I don’t think they can do that in any military jet, not even the F-35!”

Paul Woodford flew F-15s for the US Air Force. Follow Paul’s aviation adventures on his blog here

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