Category: Top Tens

10 Incredible Soviet Fighter Aircraft that never entered service

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Faced with such a mouth-watering menu of Soviet fighter projects that never entered service, it was almost painful to select a mere ten. I won’t promise anything, but when the Hush-Kit writers are next sufficiently sober we may create a part two.

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10. Mikoyan MiG-33/35 “F-16ski”
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In the 1980s, the Mikoyan design bureau tinkered with a simple, single-engine warplane similar in concept to the original version of Lockheed’s F-16 lightweight fighter. That is, the new Soviet plane would be simple, manoeuvrable and inexpensive.
The Project 33 design, sometimes — and perhaps erroneously — referred to as the MiG-33 or MiG-35, featured a single Klimov RD-33/93 afterburning turbofan, two of which power the larger and more complex MiG-29. According to a 1988 report in Jane’s Defense Weekly, Project 33 was “seen as a complementary combat aircraft to the powerful MiG-29.” Where the MiG-29 boasts some multirole and beyond-visual-range capability, the Project 33 was a short-range, point-defence fighter. Here was a MiG-21 for the 1980s – an ideal fighter for friendly states on a budget.
Mikoyan didn’t get very far with Project 33, as Soviet leadership apparently preferred to devote the USSR’s resources to more sophisticated aircraft. But Project 33’s DNA might survive to some extent in the Chinese-made FC-1 export fighter.
Mikoyan reportedly sold the Project 33 design to China after it became clear there would be no Soviet market for the plane. China folded elements of Project 33 into the FC-1, which itself evolved from the joint U.S.-Chinese Super 7 light fighter, work on which collapsed following the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre. In a weird sort of aerospace-design convergence, the Super 7 had also drawn inspiration from the F-16.
Powered by a single RD-33/39-powered FC-1, the FC-1 (also known as the JF-17) today is one of Pakistan’s most important fighters, serving alongside — you guessed it — F-16s.
– David Axe  War is Boring
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 See the 11 worst soviet aircraft here

 

9. Nikitin-Shevchenko IS-4 (1941)
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Picture the scene: it’s the late thirties, you are aircraft designer Vasili Nikitin and you are puzzling out the future of the fighter aircraft whilst living in the terrifying day-to-day world of Stalin’s Soviet Union. Yakovlev came up with a nice little fighter and was given a car. Yet Polikarpov showed a bit too much cockiness and was thrown in jail. And right now everything is awkward: The speed of the monoplane seems to be pointing the way to the future yet the biplane still has superior manoeuvrability, short field performance and climb-rate. What the hell are you supposed to do? Suddenly up pops seemingly crazed test-pilot Vladimir Shevchenko who explains over a couple of cups of kvass how you could achieve both in the same airframe with a hare-brained scheme he dubs the ‘folding fighter’. Against all better judgement the entire lower biplane wing hinges and retracts into the fuselage side and upper wing, transforming the handy but slow biplane into a sleek monoplane at the flick of a switch. You wonder if the idea is insane – but after due consideration you decide it may well be the next big thing in aerospace technology

 

Somehow the approval of the Chief Directorate of the Aviation Industry was obtained, and a folding fighter was built: the IS-1. Amazingly for such a seemingly radical machine it performed excellently. A productionised version dubbed the IS-2 was quickly developed but its monoplane abilities were insufficiently competitive and Nikitin devised the considerably more formidable IS-4. The design of the wing(s) remained basically unchanged but this is where the similarity ended as the IS-4 was to be fitted with a bubble canopy, tricycle undercarriage and the M-120: a 16-cylinder X-configuration engine delivering 1650 hp. With the M-120 engine a top speed of 447 mph was forecast in monoplane configuration, heady stuff indeed for 1941, yet transformed into a biplane a landing speed of merely 66 mph was projected. An aircraft offering this astonishing breadth of performance would have been invaluable for the Soviet air force, especially early in the war when their fighters were required to operate from rough fields where the docility and inherent STOL capability of a biplane would have been greatly appreciated. It is also worth pondering what might have been had the design been known to the contemporary outside world, the folding fighter concept has obvious potential for carrier based aircraft for example. Likewise the inherent liabilities of the type were never to be operationally evaluated, what would happen if the lower wing deployed asymmetrically for example? Nikitin had designed a lock to prevent this from occurring yet who knows what would happen in combat. Similarly the undercarriage could not be lowered in monoplane configuration. Were the wing and wheels to stick ‘up’ for any reason the resulting forced landing would be highly dangerous and almost definitely result in the loss of the aircraft.

 

But this was all to remain academic as fate intervened (as for so many other hopeful Soviet armament projects) in the form of a massive German invasion curtailing work on promising new aircraft to concentrate on existing types. To be fair, things had already begun to unravel somewhat for the IS-4 when the M-120 engine was cancelled and the lower-powered Mikulin AM-37 (as fitted to the less than spectacular MiG-3) had to be substituted as the only alternative inline power unit available. Nonetheless the IS-4 was apparently flown in the summer of 1941 but records of what flight testing was done were lost when the design bureau and workshop were evacuated ahead of the advancing German forces.

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An engine, yesterday.

Despite the recorded completion and flight of the IS-4, I have searched online for nearly five whole minutes and not been able to find a single photograph of the complete aircraft. There’s three-views and an oft-reproduced drawing of the aircraft in its M-120 engined form hurtling skyward in dramatic fashion but that’s about it. Given that every other obscure fighter I can think of has at least turned up in at least one photograph (even the long lost PZL.50 Jastrząb) it does seem to cast doubt on the flight claims of this amazing aircraft. Or maybe I just didn’t look hard enough. However the cancellation of the IS-4, whether or not it actually flew, brought to an end the development of the world’s first serious attempt at a variable-geometry fighter, closing the door on a conceptually unique aircraft that appeared to have a great deal of potential.

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The less than stellar MiG-3.

 

8 ‘Article 468’

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No-one but the Soviet Union could name things as well without naming them. Just take the satellite planned to be the first manmade device in space that was given the mundane and yet somehow awesome moniker ‘Object D’. Another example of this minimalist naming policy was a rocket-powered interceptor developed by the research institution OKB-2 in the late 1940s, ‘izdeliya (article) 468’. The 468 was somewhat ambitious for the late 1940s, an era when the major military nations expected fleets of supersonic bombers penetrating their airspace at high altitude would be the main threat in the immediate future. The Soviet Union had been working on rocket-powered research aircraft since the early 1930s, and work on a rocket interceptor, the B1, began in earnest in 1940. In many ways, the 468 was the culmination of this effort – a slender dart with surprisingly small delta wings and a surprisingly huge tail fin, aided by large fins under the wings that also housed the landing skids.

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It is not known if stolen Soviet plans aided the design of Roger Ramjet’s aircraft.

 The Soviet space programme proved there was nothing wrong with its rocket technology. In truly Dan Dare fashion, the 468 would take off using a rocket-powered dolly, before using its multi-chamber, four-nozzle liquid rocket motor to climb 72,000 feet in two and a half minutes, guided to its target at up to Mach 2 by radar in the nose. The design was expected to be impressively stable in flight but would have been interesting to land, given that its wing loading was more than double that of standard contemporary fighters. It’s a shame that none of the many pure-rocket interceptors of the late 40s and early 50s made it into the air, especially the 468, which made aircraft appearing 20 years later look a bit staid. All that remains of the 468, following its cancellation in 1951, is a wind-tunnel model at the museum of technology at Dubna.

-Matt Willis Naval Air History

7. Polikarpov I-185
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Nikolai Polikarpov’s I-185 was an excellent aircraft stymied by engine trouble, politics, timing, and outright bad luck. It should have been the finest fighter the USSR fielded during the Great Patriotic war with 2000hp on tap, slightly smaller than a Grumman Bearcat but weighing 1900 lb less in normal loaded condition, faster than the contemporary Bf 109F at all altitudes up to 20,000 feet, its handling was immeasurably better and it was recommended for immediate production in the Autumn of 1942. Yet it ended up merely an also-ran. The problems began way back in 1937 when Polikarpov’s incredibly successful I-16 was fighting in the Spanish Civil war. Republican forces captured a Messerschmitt Bf 109B which was evaluated thoroughly by a team of Soviet experts. The consensus was that the 109 was inferior in virtually every regard to the latest I-16 Type 10. Whilst this was true, it was unfortunate that the Soviets failed to envisage the incredible rate of development of the 109; had they captured one of the considerably better 109Es that were fielded in Spain in the latter stages of the Civil war it might have encouraged greater urgency in developing a successor to the I-16. As it was, work on an I-16 replacement proceeded in a somewhat leisurely fashion and aimed for rather conservative performance improvement.

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The early Bf 109s were considered inferior to the Soviet I-16 Type 10s in almost all regards.

The fighter that emerged was the named I-180 and looked very much like stretched I-16. Development seemed to be going well until December 1938 when the test pilot Valeri Chkalov was killed in the prototype. Unfortunately for Polikarpov, Chkalov was a bona fide national hero of immense popularity. Whilst his body lay in state and was visited by all the principal military and civil dignitaries, the NKVD started arresting members of the design team on suspicion of sabotage. It is said that only the personal intervention of Stalin prevented Polikarpov himself being packed off to the gulag. Work continued on the new fighter, though the programme was somewhat under a cloud. Meanwhile Chkalov’s home town was renamed in his honour and in 1941 a biopic of his life was made entitled ‘Red Flyer’.

After Chkalov’s death a major redesign was implemented and the resulting I-180S looked a lot less like the I-16 which had spawned it. Unfortunately for the new fighter two prototypes were lost in spins in quick succession resulting in the death of another test pilot, Tomass Susy. Although 10 pre-series examples were built during 1940 the performance of the aircraft was tacitly admitted to be lagging behind world-class and a further redesign was undertaken. The resulting aircraft was the I-185 and it was intended for either the M-90 or M-71 engine offering nearly double the power of the M-88 fitted to the I-180S. Both engines were troubled but the M-90 particularly so and it was abandoned. The M-71 eventually achieved sufficient reliability to power the first I-185 to fly in February 1942. The aircraft flew beautifully and the M-71 was getting over its teething troubles, when it functioned properly the performance was spectacular (a speed of 426 mph was ultimately to be recorded) and the future finally should have looked rosy for Polikarpov’s purposeful fighter.

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Chkalov meeting one of the Mario Brothers.

However, by this time everything had been thrown into chaos by the Germans having invaded and begun their headlong rush towards Moscow. The Soviets needed lots of fighters immediately and didn’t have the luxury of waiting for promising prototypes. Unpopular but available fighters were produced in their thousands and gradual evolution rather than completely new types ultimately yielded the two major Soviet fighter series from Lavochkin and Yakovlev. Yet the I-185 was so good that it refused to die. In November 1942, the three prototypes were sent to the front to be evaluated under operational conditions. The report was unambiguously favourable: “The I-185 outclasses both Soviet and foreign aircraft in level speed. It performs aerobatic manoeuvres easily, rapidly and vigorously. The I-185 is the best current fighter from the point of control simplicity, speed, manoeuvrability (especially in climb), armament and survivability.” Plans were begun to start production forthwith and a ‘production standard’ aircraft was completed. Unfortunately the engine failed and it crashed. Development continued with the original three prototypes, one of which crashed and killed its pilot after another engine failure in January 1943. The M-71 was rapidly being considered a dead end.Plans to produce the I-185 with the reliable but lower-powered M-82 were eventually abandoned as the M-82 was required for the inferior (but good enough) La-5 that, crucially, was already in production and the I-185 programme was formally cancelled in April 1943, finally depriving the Soviet Union of its finest piston-engined fighter. A little over a year later Nikolai Polikarpov was dead and his design bureau was eventually absorbed into Sukhoi.

–Ed Ward

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In 1939 Nikolai Polikarpov was ordered to take a work trip to Germany. While he was away, all his mates fucked him over. His plant director, chief engineer, and the design engineer Mikhail Gurevich suggested a new fighter (the I-200) and got the go-ahead from Artem Mikoyan (whose brother was a senior politician- just saying). On his return, poor Polikarpov found that his bureau no longer existed, with his engineers at the new MiG bureau. Just goes to show, never go on holiday if you work with knobs.

 6. Sukhoi Su-47 Berkut

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While the US was entranced by stealth, Russia was seduced by super-manoeuvrability. A fighter based on the Su-47 Berkut would have been incredibly agile.

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In some parallel universe where Salamander’s Future Fighters is an aviation history book, crowds at airshows today are wowed by weird-looking fighters performing impossible manoeuvres, with their wings seemingly stuck on back-to-front. Here production versions of the Grumman X-29, British Aerospace P.1214 rub shoulder-pads with Russia’s Sukhoi Su-47 Berkut – a forward-swept wing (FSW) experimental heavy fighter from the 1980s. Like shoulder-pads, FSWs were briefly fashionable in the 1980s, as they promised enhanced agility, lower take-off and landing distances and better controllability at high angles-of attack.

While Russia had toyed with a captured Ju-287  bomber after the war and tested their own Tsybin LL-3 in 1948, the concept had to wait for fly-by-wire technology and composite materials for designers to be able to create a practical aircraft – because of the extreme instability and the strong wings needed.

Enter Sukhoi, which in 1983, was given the go-ahead to develop the Su-47 (originally Su-37) demonstrator – based on the Flanker family but with fly-by-wire, forward swept wings and canards.

The Su-47’s development was disrupted by the end of the Cold War and it didn’t get into the air until 1997, a dark time for Russian aviation (though Sukhoi was in a better position than most thanks to Flanker export sales)  Technology, too, had moved on.

 

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The truly extraordinary Belyayev DB-LK swept-forward wing bomber of 1940 will be covered in our forthcoming article on cancelled Soviet bombers.

 

 

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Another company interested in forward-swept wing was Northrop. This advanced tactical fighter concept is from the 1980s, and it bears interesting comparison with the Berkut.The Su-47’s development was disrupted by the end of the Cold War and it didn’t get into the air until 1997,

While its fly-by-wire controls and composite structure undoubtedly fed into Sukhoi’s Su-35 and PAK-FA programmes – its radical forward swept wings did not. FBW and thrust-vectoring means the Su-35 today can perform jaw-dropping aerobatics without needing canards or FSWs. Stealth too, where the alignment of edges is the first step in lowering RCS, would also present a unique problem for anyone designing a FSW fighter now. While only one was made, the Su-47 still looks unbelievable cool.

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Tim Robinson, Editor-in-Chief. AEROSPACE magazine @RAeSTimR

 

5. Sukhoi Su-37/S-37 

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As the Cold War was reaching its thankfully low key climax, the craze across the fighter houses of Europe was for canard-deltas. Soviet designers had been studying canard foreplanes on jet fighters since the 1950s, and re-awakened to the idea by both advances in flight control software and the Western trend, Sukhoi set to work on particularly potent fighter-bomber.

The Sukhoi bureau developed plans for the Su-37 (this designation was later recycled for a ‘Flanker’ variant, which is unrelated to this project) a single engine single seat fighter that, if it had been built, would today be regularly being used as a stock photo of a Gripen. Learning from experience in Afghanistan the ’37 was designed to replace Soviet Aviation’s ‘Fitters’, Floggers and Frogfoots (Or is it Frogfeet?). Again echoing the West the plan was to combine the ground attack and air-to-air roles with the emphasis on dropping things on stuff. Consequently it had an excessive 18 external hard points able to carry 8300kg of stores together with an internal 30mm gun. Of contemporary Western aircraft only Tornado could lug more around and they’re not as pretty. To assist the pilot in carrying out these disparate roles an ambitious avionics package was planned with multi-mode radar capable of terrain following and simultaneous tracking of up to 10 targets against background clutter.

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An integrated electro-optical system and defensive aids suite (DAS) were also planned, today technologies found on the F-35. Unlike the F-35 it also had 800kg of armour plate for the pilot and other sensitive areas. To reduce vulnerability on the ground it also, oddly for a non-naval aircraft, had folding wingtips allowing more to be packed into a HAS. Alas with the ending of the Cold War funding for this supersonic Sturmovik was not to be and instead we enthusiasts of Russian metal must be content with endless tedious Flanker derivatives.

— Bing Chandler, former Lynx helicopter Observer (now works in flight safety)

4 Yakovlev Yak-43

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Russia (and the Soviet Union) is often accused of stealing US aircraft concepts and technologies. In reality there has been give and take (as well as similar design solutions resulting from parallel teams working to solve similar problems).

That Lockheed bought research from Yakovlev on the STOVL propulsion system of the Yak-41 (or 141 if you prefer) is pretty notable. The Yak-41, impressive though it was, was merely a stepping stone to the formidable Yak-43 fighter. The Yak-43 would have been far faster and versatile than the Harrier, with a performance comparable to the MiG-29. The tumultuous transitional period that made the collaboration with Lockheed possible also killed the Yak-43, but its DNA lives on today in the F-35B.

Ten best fighters radars here

 

Analysis of latest fighter aircraft news here

3. Grokhovsky G-38

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Source: Deviant Art

In the mid-1930s, the concept of the ‘cruiser fighter’/ ‘Zerstörer’ was very popular in design and planning circles. The Grokhovsky G-38 was one of many examples of this class of fighter that never left the drawing board. It was a twin-boom, multi-seat heavy fighter comparable in concept to the Dutch Fokker G.1 or American Lockheed P-58 ‘Chain Lightning’. The G-38, however, was remarkable in a number of respects, most significant of which was the execution of the twin-book concept. The Fokker and the Lockheed were large, bulky, even clumsy aircraft, as was the original take on the G-38. When Grokhovsky hired the young Pavel Ivensen to work on the project, however, the aircraft was transformed into something rather exciting. Ivensen started from a clean sheet. The new G-38 was tiny for a three-seat aircraft, with a wingspan of 13.4 m (compared with 16 m for the P-38 and 17 m for the Fokker G.1) and ultra-neat packaging. The crew were contained in a torpedo-shaped pod faired into the broad wing centre-section, and the two Gnome-Rhone radial engines tapered to super-slender booms. It had an incredibly low frontal area for an aircraft of its class, and a high wing loading for the time, and it’s safe to say that it would have been fast. Most remarkable of all was the fact that the preliminary designs were approved in 1934, making the highly modern looking G-38 contemporary with the Hawker Hurricane and Curtiss P-36. Had it not been cancelled (for ‘unknown reasons’, around the time of the major Stalinist purges), it is intriguing to consider what the aircraft might have done for the otherwise lacklustre heavy fighter class.

2. Grokhovsky 39
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On 8 September 1914, the Russian Imperial Air Service pilot Pyotr Nesterov performed the first aerial ramming aircraft attack, using his aircraft itself as an offensive weapon. Though very dangerous, the use of ramming as a last ditch tactic proved popular with Soviet pilots.

In 1932, the Soviet air force began a classified project to produce a purpose-built ramming fighter. This effort, dubbed Project ‘Taran’ (battering ram) considered various manned and unmanned solutions before settling on Grokhovsky’s G-39 project. Grokhovsky was a highly-skilled pilot, aircraft designer and inventor; he created the world’s first cotton parachutes, and designed items as varied as cargo containers for airborne troops, rocket artillery, armoured hovercraft and even a weaponised snowmobile (it is not known whether the Saatchi artist Katya Grokhovsky, below, is a descendant). 3.jpg

The G-39 design was a monoplane pusher with rudders on the outer sections of the wing instead of a conventional tail unit. The most unusual feature of the G-39 was its weapon: two steel wires running from a boom on the nose to the wingtips, intended to slice through enemy aircraft. In case the wires snapped, the wing’s leading edges were made exceptionally strong. The exceptionally brave (or unfortunate) G-39 pilots would have had a degree of protection from a retractable bullet-proof windscreen. This extremely strange machine was readied for flight in 1935, but refused to take-off. With its 100hp engine, the G-39 was woefully underpowered. Work on the G-39 was discontinued. Like many others, he would was crushed by Stalin’s brutal state- Grokhovsky was arrested in 1942 and died in prison four years later.

  1. Mikoyan-Gurevich Ye-150 family

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Ye-150 series were wildly high performance heavy interceptors. They could out-drag and out-climb any fighter in the world, and they also looked exceptionally mean. Despite taking its first flight in 1959, the Ye-150 could reach an astonishing Mach 2.65 (some sources claim even higher speeds) and could reach altitudes above 69,000 feet (remarkably all of this was achieved with the same installed thrust as today’s rather more pedestrian Gripen). This series of four experimental fighter prototypes were built in the effort to create a new, highly automated fighter to defend the Soviet union against a proliferating Western threat (including the supersonic bombers like the B-58- then in development). To catch and destroy these fast high-flying intruders the interceptor was to be automatically steered under the guidance of ground radars before engaging its own cutting-edge detection and weapons system. But it was a case of too much too soon; the ferociously exacting requirements on the electronics, missile and powerplant were too demanding, and each suffered severe delays and development problems. What could have been the best intercepter in the world was cancelled in 1962.

Thank you for reading Hush-Kit. Our site is absolutely free and we have no advertisements. If you’ve enjoyed an article you can donate hereFollow my vapour trail on Twitter@Hush_kit

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Thank you for reading Hush-Kit. Our site is absolutely free and we have no advertisements. If you’ve enjoyed an article you can donate with the donate  button (at the top and button of this apge)– it doesn’t have to be a large amount, every pound is gratefully received. Suggested donation £10. 

At the moment our contributors do not receive any payment but we’re hoping to reward them for their fascinating stories in the future.

You may also enjoy 11 Cancelled French aircraft or the 10 worst British military aircraftSu-35 versusTyphoon10 Best fighters of World War II , Su-35 versus Typhoontop WVR and BVR fighters of today, an interview with a Super Hornet pilot and a Pacifist’s Guide to Warplanes. Flying and fighting in the Tornado. Was the Spitfire overrated? Want something more bizarre? Try Sigmund Freud’s Guide to Spyplanes. 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. 10 great aircraft stymied by the US

You may also enjoy 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 of The Planet SatelliteFashion Versus Aircraft Camo is also a real cracker. 

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The 11 worst Soviet aircraft

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The Soviet Union lasted a mere sixty-nine years (the Spitfire has been flying longer), but in that time produced some of the largest, fastest, toughest and most agile aircraft. Even now, 25 years after its collapse, almost all Russian and Ukrainian aircraft have their roots in the communist super state.  Favouring clever robust design over high technology and refinement, the Soviet approach enabled the mass production of cheap machines. Many of these were outstanding, but some – for reasons of politics, bad luck or incompetence – were diabolical. Let’s pack beer and vobla, and take a walk through the rusting graveyard of the eleven worst Soviet aircraft.

To keep this blog going- allowing us to create new articles- we need donations. We’re trying to do something different with Hush-Kit: give aviation fans something that is both entertaining, surprising and well-informed. Please do help us and click on the donate button above – you can really make a difference (suggested donation £10). You will keep us impartial and without advertisers – and allow us to carry on being naughty. Once you’ve done that we hope you enjoy 10 Incredible Soviet fighter Aircraft that never entered service. A big thank you to all of our readers.

If you enjoy this kind of thing, you may also like the 10 worst US aircraft

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11. Tupolev Tu-116

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With the death of Stalin, the Khrushchev Thaw left the Soviet Union in the tricky position of wanting to engage with the wider world but with no indigenous way of getting there.  Fearing that mating an airliner fuselage to the wings of a Tu-95, to make the Tu-114, would take more time than was available before a 1959 state visit to the USA, a less ambitious back up plan was made. The Tu-116 replaced the Tu-95’s bomb bays with a passenger compartment for the head of state and his entourage, in a prescient nod to post-9/11 security arrangements it was impossible to access the cockpit from the passenger compartment, messages being passed by pneumatic tube. While no one appeared to think arriving on a diplomatic mission in something that looked exactly like a strategic bomber might be a bad idea, the nail in the coffin of the Tu-116 was actually the 737 style air stair that allowed the First Secretary of the Communist Party to emerge from the bowels of the aircraft, something he deemed beneath his standing. Deprived of their raison d’être the two aircraft served out their miserable lives flying technicians to the Semipalatinsk nuclear test site, presumably to ensure the Franken-liner was hidden from public view.  The Tu-116 was a poor idea and implemented badly. It was mercifully left to wallow in obscurity, somewhat like the Miss Havisham of Soviet aviation.

— Bing Chandler, former Lynx helicopter Observer (now works in flight safety)

The odd story of Denmark’s F-35- full story here

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10. Tupolev Tu-22 ‘Blind John the man-eater’

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The Tu-22 medium bomber, first flown in 1962, was a dangerous hotrod with a litany of design flaws. Its VD-7M engines were unreliable and caused a spate of lethal accidents. The aircraft was also very hard to handle, according to one pilot “..two flights with no autopilot drained all strength“. Tu-22 pilots had to be physically strong and keep both hands on the control yoke at all times. The landing speed was perhaps the worst of any operational aircraft: it was forbidden for pilots to go under 180 mph. The ejection seats ejected downward, a sobering prospect for low-level escapes. Pre-flight preparations took at least 3 hours, and other common procedures required 24 hours of maintenance. The high-mounted engines were exceptionally inconvenient for maintenance crew to reach. Its abysmal visibility from the cockpit resulted in one of its nicknames – Blind John (Слепой Джон). Another less than flattering nickname was ‘the man-eater’ (Людоед).

– Vasily Kuznetsov, Aviation photographer and lawyer

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If you enjoy this kind of thing, you may also like the 10 worst US aircraft

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Eleven wonderfully weird cancelled aeroplanes here

9. Sukhoi Su-7

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For the first two decades after World War II the Soviet Union wasn’t great at building ground-attack aircraft. Ilyushin’s classic wartime Shturmovik soldiered on for a while, but in the era of atomic weapons, the use of aircraft for battlefield close support fell out of favour within the Red Army. If Soviet troops were to need firepower, they could call upon artillery. And nuclear-tipped battlefield missiles. And more artillery.

With the explosion of counter-insurgency and brushfire conflicts in the mid-1960s, it was time to reassess the ground-attack aircraft. One quick fix was to add bombs and rockets to MiG fighters. But the USSR’s first purpose-designed, jet-powered ground-attacker to reach service was the Sukhoi Su-7. Unfortunately, it wasn’t great. The Soviets never took it into battle. The Arabs did, and were not impressed.

In July 1967 Egyptian pilot Tahsin Zaki was in a formation of 12 Su-7s that was to attack Israeli forces opposite the Suez Canal. Loaded with four 500kg bombs each, the jets suffered so much drag that they couldn’t accelerate beyond 600km/h. They also proved very difficult to control. ‘The Su-7 was never a very stable aircraft at such slow speeds’, Zaki reflected in Arab MiGs Volume 4.

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Provided it made it over the battlefield unscathed, the Su-7 was hampered by dismal range, meaning it was unable to loiter where it was needed. The powerful Lyulka AL-7F1 turbojet took up so much space that there was little room left for fuel tanks. It was vulnerable to foreign object damage (FOD) and, without air-to-air missile capability, was unable to protect itself other than with its two NR-30 cannon. Were it unfortunate enough to get into a dogfight with an Israeli Mirage, Arab pilots found that its fuel was quickly expended.

A final word goes to Egyptian pilot Gabr Ali Gabr: ‘The Su-7 was a totally bloody useless aircraft. It had a feeble bomb load and ineffective rockets only. The only Sukhoi that really showed an improvement over the MiG-17 was the Su-20, which we received only years later.

—  Thomas Newdick, Editor at Harpia Publishing and Assistant Editor of Combat Aircraft

8. Lavochkin LaGG-3 

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A pathetic climb rate, sluggish top speed, poor build quality, the inability to pull out of a dive or even to perform a sharp turn are among the many failings of the lamentable LaGG. The designers intended the aircraft (which started development as the LaGG-1) to use the 1,350 hp inline Klimov VK-106 engine, but when this engine failed to mature, it was replaced with the Klimov M-105 – a weedy powerplant with around 300 less horsepower. The result was an exceptionally underpowered fighter hated by its crews and mauled by its enemies. Other than an exceptional ability to withstand battle damage (something it received in abundance) -the aircraft’s only saving grace was that it sired the magnificent LaGG-5.

— Joe Coles, Hush-Kit

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7. Silvanskii IS

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Silvanskii is a name synonymous with Russian fighters..oh, wait – no it’s not. And there is a very good reason that it’s not. In the midst of Stalin’s muddled and oppressive USSR, one A.V. Silvanskii secured state funding to create a new fighter in 1937. The concept seemed sound- it was a low-winged monoplane with a 1,000 horsepower radial engine, armed with two heavy machine guns. As development began it soon became apparent that Silvanskii was a reckless bodger. By 1938 the prototype aircraft was virtually complete. Initial tests of the undercarriage revealed that the wheel wells were too small- the undercarriage did not fit into the wing in the retracted position. How this elementary mistake had been made is hard to understand, but the solution was simple- the undercarriage legs were shortened. Now the undercarriage could be retracted it was realised that the wheel bays were too shallow so the undercarriage would stick out into the airstream producing drag. Deciding not to rectify this issue, the team then fitted the propeller. Though the aircraft now had a shorter undercarriage than originally designed, no-one saw fit to think through the consequences of this modification; the propeller was now too large and would smash against the ground on take-off. Ever the master of methodical engineering, Silvanskii took a saw to the offending propeller and lopped four inches off each blade. The manager of the GAZ state aircraft factory watched this slapstick affair with dismay and growing alarm. He quite sensibly refused Silvanskii permission to fly from the factory airfield. The persistent Silvanskii looked for an alternative airfield for his fighter and charmed the State Flight Research Institute (LII) in Moscow into providing a runway and a test pilot for the maiden flight. One cold morning in early 1939, the LII test pilot strapped himself into the aircraft, known simply as the IS or ‘Istrebitel’ (fighter) and prepared to fly. The machine had other ideas, but thanks to a combination of full throttle and extremely dense cold air the machine was coaxed into taking off for one hair-raising circuit flown dangerously close to the stall. On landing the pilot damned the aircraft as unflyable. The Silvanskii bureau was bankrupted and the hapless designer was banned from working in aeronautical design.

— Joe Coles, Hush-Kit

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6. Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-23MS 

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Arab MiG-21 pilots were excited by the prospect of a new advanced fighter, but early MiG-23s provided a huge disappointment. The Soviet Union generally offered client nations inferior versions of their fighters, but the MiG-23MS was one of the cruelest examples – and they were supplied when the air forces of Syria and Egypt were at war with a well-equipped enemy. Because of delays with the R-23 (a Sparrow equivalent), the ’23 carried only the K-13 (comparable with an early Sidewinder). The weapon system, with its very basic Sapfir-21, was completely mismatched to the aircraft’s performance – the aircraft was designed for fast long range engagements – something it couldn’t do with the K-13. The former MiG-21 pilots now had an aircraft with greatly inferior agility to the previous mounts and nastier handling characteristics. The aircraft also lacked vital equipment, including radar warning receivers. The MiG-23MS force suffered terrible losses to the Israeli Air Force, and encouraged Egypt and Libya to turn away from the use Soviet equipment, and instead favour US F-4s and French Mirages respectively. The MiG-23 was later developed into the formidable ML, but the MS was a dreadful machine hated by many of its pilots.

— Joe Coles & Thomas Newdick

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5. Antonov An-10 ‘Bulgakov’s magic catflap’ 

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The An-10 was terrible. It’s almost as if the Ministry of Aircraft Production gave the brief to Antonov to make flying more unpleasant and dangerous. If this was the brief then Antonov succeeded with aplomb and this aircraft shouldn’t have made this list. Initial test flights revealed stability issues, leading to the ungainly ventral fins. But even these didn’t fix the problem, and further stabilizing devices (quasi winglets) were added to the horizontal tails. Which was great, apart from making the aircraft wickedly uncomfortable – it shook like a paint mixer, perhaps even worse. Then there was the insufficient amount of windows causing nausea in those prone to air sickness. There was also a  lack of a real baggage hold (the low floor took up this space). An almost criminal deficiency for any aircraft, let alone one based in the USSR, was the faulty anti-icing system; two aircraft were lost in its first winter resulting in the deaths of 72 people.
A paltry 104 An-10’s were produced, but of these at least twelve were lost – most with fatalities. The straw that broke the camel’s back? After a mere 13 years in service, metal fatigue made the wings fall off. It wasn’t all bad- at least you could ride to your likely doom in a large comfortable seat.

– Bernie Leighton, helicopter pilot and Managing Correspondent at Airline Reporter

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4. Tupolev Tu-144

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Its chief designer, its passengers and its launch customer were all less than enamoured with Tupolev Tu-144 – the Soviet ‘Concordski’ – and for many valid reasons.

On the last day of 1968, the Tu-144 became the first supersonic airliner to fly. It was two months ahead of Concorde’s maiden flight, but in the rush to achieve this symbolic victory, Tupolev had made a dog. The first flight was misleading – the production machine was virtually a complete redesign, most notably in the critical relationship between the wing and the engine.

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Its design was aided by a huge national effort. Even its chief designer Alexei Tupolev thought it was given too great a priority. Almost all state funding for civil aviation went into the Tu-144, at the detriment of more conservative (and more useful) designs, such as the Il-86.

As well as huge centralised effort, darker methods were used to collect useful data: Sergei Pavlov, a senior Aeroflot representative in France, was banished by a personal dictate from French President de Gaulle in 1965. Pavlov had made a concerted effort to extract information from the programme, and had employed two French communists to spy at Toulouse. At the 1973 Paris Air Show, the two rival airliners were competing for foreign orders, and the second prototype was to be displayed. Its pilot, Mikhail Kozlov, had boasted that he would give a better display than Concorde: “Just wait until you see us fly. Then you’ll see something.” His words proved tragically prescient. The aircraft disintegrated in the air, killing Kozlov and his crew. Following this, the launch customer Aeroflot decided not to put the aircraft on international passenger routes. When Tu-144 entered service in December 1975, it was assigned the less-than-glamorous task of transporting cargo. In late 1977, politicians decided that the Tu-144 should begin passenger services, against the advice of Aeroflot and safety inspectors. Despite it being seven years from its first flight, the aircraft was still unreliable. It was only able to perform one of its first six scheduled passenger flights. In 180 flight hours, the first sixteen Tu-144s suffered more than 226 failures of various kinds – many of them significant. Passengers were shocked by the cabin noise, with one declassified CIA report saying “the cacophony of rushing air, engine noise and air conditioners meant conversations in the rear of the aircraft had to be shouted”. The terrible Kuznetsov NK-144 turbofans were replaced by Kolesov RD-36-51s, to produce the marginally improved Tu-144D. Whereas the cabin noise was unbearable, cabin depressurisation was potentially lethal. There was also faulty de-icing equipment for the air intakes, poor fireproof paint, substandard navigation equipment and a panoply of other failings. In 1977 Tupolev took the unprecedented step of asking the West for technical assistance – hardly a propaganda coup. The British Government declined these requests. Handing technology to the designer of your enemy’s nuclear bombers was too much to ask, even for the nation that had already given the USSR a great step up by giving them the world’s best jet engines).
It can hardly inspire confidence among passengers when no aircraft is allowed to take off without an inspection by its chief designer, yet that was the extraordinary situation for this terrible machine. In May 1978 another Tu-144 crashed. This was too much for Aeroflot, and passenger flights were cancelled. In a twist that nobody would have predicted in the 1960s, the Tu-144 ended its life as ‘supersonic flying laboratory’ for NASA.

– Joe Coles & Glen Towler

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3. Yakovlev Yak-38 20090915141759!Yak-38_on_Novorossijsk_deck.jpg

Were it not for two factors, the Yakovlev Yak-38 ‘Forger’ would probably be regarded as a success. Putting a vertical take-off and landing  fighter into operational service was no mean feat. Of the profusion of concepts and designs that plastered drawing boards (in the US, France, West Germany and in every other aircraft producing nation) in the 1960s, the vast majority never reached even prototype stage – and only two types entered service, so on that basis, the Yak-38 did well. The first of its reputation-killing problems was the lack of any more capable follow-on. The second was the existence of the Hawker Siddeley Harrier.
Expectations of the Yak-38 should have been low. It was intended more as a concept-proving vehicle than a frontline aircraft in its own right. Unfortunately, the planned replacement – the much larger, supersonic Yak-41 ‘Freestyle’ – was cancelled, leaving the Forger to fight its own corner as an operational VTOL fighter rather than an analogue to the pre-production Hawker Siddeley Kestrel (the earlier Yak-36 could be compared to the P.1127 or Short SC.1).
The problem was the Yak-38’s lack of combat capability. Yes, it could take off and land vertically, and transition between vertical to horizontal flight, a significant achievement. Unfortunately, its payload was derisory and its range pathetic, its air-to-air capability virtually non-existent. One reason was the Forger’s VTOL concept – while the Harrier had a single engine and could use all its thrust for horizontal or vertical flight, the Yak-38 had to lug two lift engines, dead weight at all other times than in vertical flight. In hot and high conditions (such as the combat evaluation it endured in Afghanistan), the Forger could carry less than 500lb of munitions. As a proof of concept vehicle, the Yak-38 only managed to ‘prove’ that VTOL combat aircraft were impractical. If only the Harrier had not disproved the point over the Falklands, Bosnia, Kosovo, Afghanistan…

– Matthew Willis is a writer and journalist specialising in naval aviation. He is the biographer of A&AEE and Fairey test pilot Duncan Menzies. His book on the Fairey Flycatcher is due out imminently

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2. Sukhoi Su-2 ‘A Soviet Battle’1437523175_su-2.jpgThe rather unassuming Su-2 is historically significant in being the first creation of Pavel Sukhoi. The Su-2, both by design and unfortunate circumstances, did not anticipate any of this greatness. Designed at a time when metal was a strategically limited resource, the Su-2 was one of the last frontline aircraft that are not all metal construction (prior to today’s composite age), other examples of mixed construction being the famously excellent ‘Mossie’ and the spectacularly atrocious LaGG-3 series. Armed with a meagre four fixed 7.62 light machine guns and a notoriously unwieldy turret armed with a single Shkas. The unfortunate Su-2 was thrown into the meat grinder of Operation Barbarossa where, to the surprise of no-one, it racked up tremendous losses. While faster than its much more famous replacement, the Il-2, it had much lower survivability, armament and payload (not that the marginal difference in speed would make much difference when being chased down by the far faster Bf-109F). The toughness of the Ilyushin competitor – as well as its enormous production figures – explain why the name Il-2 still resonates to this day while the Su-2 is known nowadays mostly for being one of the least useful planes in War Thunder. The first of the Sukhoi’s was a little more than a footnote in aviation history though and, much like other designs of the era, it went from design to obsolescence in the space of 3 years.

– Matthew Wilks, Witch Doctor

  1. Kalinin K-7

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This is what you get if you cross a Spitfire with Frank Lloyd Wright’s ‘Falling Water’ house (emphasis on the ‘falling’) then enlarge the resulting mutant to the size of Stalin’s ego. The 1930s USSR was in love with big things. Their big locomotives hauled big trains over massive distances, their enormous factories churned out terrific amounts of Fordson tractors and in the air the Kalinin K-7 was to display the triumph of the Dictatorship of the Proletariat to a disbelieving world. Their other big aeroplane, the Tupolev ANT-20, was impractically large but wasn’t a bad aircraft considering. The Kalinin K-7 on the other hand was ridiculous. Konstantin Kalinin had already produced the USSR’s most successful airliner to date and he had some interest in flying wing development. The K-7was, more or less, a seven engine flying wing with a fuselage pod and a couple of tail booms and no one seemed entirely sure whether it was an enormous bomber or a massive airliner. Nonetheless, the mighty K-7 could fly but its first brief flight revealed terrible instability and appalling vibration. Applying stereotypical Soviet engineering principles, two massive slabs of steel were welded to the tailbooms to keep them rigid. Unfortunately its structure was resonating with the engine frequency and the ‘strengthening’ had no effect: on its eighth flight the K-7 shook its right tailboom off at 350 feet, killing 14 on board and one on the ground.
-Ed Ward

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You can find out more about the Kalinin K-7 here.

 

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You may also enjoy 11 Cancelled French aircraft or the 10 worst British military aircraftSu-35 versus Typhoon10 Best fighters of World War II , Su-35 versus Typhoontop WVR and BVR fighters of today, an interview with a Super Hornet pilot and a Pacifist’s Guide to Warplanes. Flying and fighting in the Tornado. Was the Spitfire overrated? Want something more bizarre? Try Sigmund Freud’s Guide to Spyplanes. 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 LightningThose 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. 10 great aircraft stymied by the US. 

You may also enjoy 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 of The Planet SatelliteFashion Versus Aircraft Camo is also a real cracker. 

The ten best-looking US Navy airplanes

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The US Navy has had such a dazzling selection of beautiful airplanes, that we must accept that there has to be omissions in this list. Despite this, we hope you enjoy our choice- the following ten are certainly all extremely handsome machines. 

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10. Grumman Panther

F9F attached to the USS BON HOMME RICHARD (CVA31) flies over task force 77 engaged in 3 carrier operations against North Korean targets.  The carriers are USS BON HOMME RICHARD (CVA31) USS ESSEX (CVA9) and the USS PRINCETON (CVA37). NARA FILE #:  80-G-480645

9. McDonnell Douglas F/A-18 HornetWorld-Cockpit-Blue-Angels-F-18-Hornet-Fresh-New-Hd-Wallpaper

8. Vought F7U Cutlass

Tail Hook JM low rez7. F2D Banshee

A F2H-2 "Banshee" is serviced aboard the USS ESSEX (CV-9), for a strike on Communist targets in Korea, by crewmen of the 27,000 ton aircraft carrier.  A "Banshee" is hauled to the flightdeck of the carrier on the forward elevator. NARA FILE #:  80-G-432627

6. Vought F4U Corsair

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5. Wright XF3W Apache

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4. North American A-5 VigilanteDN-SC-04-09229 3. Douglas A-4 Skyhawk

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2. Grumman F-14 Tomcat

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1. Grumman F7F Tigercat fighter2ws_1680sx

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You may also enjoy A B-52 pilot’s guide to modern fighters, Flying and fighting in the Lightning: a pilot’s guide,Interview with a Super Hornet pilot, Trump’s Air Force Plan, 11 Worst Soviet Aircraft, 10 worst US aircraft,and10 worst British aircraft

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OCTOBER 23, 2016

The secret life of aircraft

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Looking up at an aeroplane in the sky, have you ever wondered where it originally came from- and where it will end its life? We take a fascinating look at the secret life of aeroplanes. 

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  1. Conception

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As with most vehicles, aeroplane copulation involves the male mounting the female from above (or in some cases behind). When a male aeroplane is interested in mounting a female, he waggles his wings and activate his foglights. If the female is receptive, she will either extend her drogue, sometimes called a basket, or in the case of many inland aeroplanes species, the male will extend his boom. Once coupled, the aircraft will exchange vital liquids that contain the blueprint for a new aircraft. If fertilisation is successful, the female aircraft will gestate for between ten and twenty years.

2. Birth

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Birth traditionally took place at 25,000 feet, but modern birthing techniques can be as low as 500 or as high as 30,000 feet. The process takes place at great speeds to avoid Predators or other Unmanned Air Vehicles. Litters vary in size, this F-111 is giving birth to four young (young F-111s are known as piglets). Note that the young have yet to develop full-size wings.

3. Childhood

11390h.jpgAs can be seen in this photograph of a young Bell X-1, young aeroplanes seldom stray far from their protective mothers. Note that the mother has four visible engines, whereas the X-1 has none. Engines are developed during puberty. A young aircraft often has neither the software, weapons integration or spare parts to make it in the world by itself.

4. Adolescence 

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After sexual maturation aeroplanes are forced to leave their family nests. Badly tempered- and highly hormonal male aeroplanes often form gangs (as seen above).

5. Sexual orientation 

Though these terms are now highly contentious, traditionally three types of aeroplane sexual orientation were understood:

A. Monocoque

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A monocoque aircraft relationship involves at least one mailplane in a monogamous relationship.

B. Biplane

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Biplanes are more versatile than monocoque aircraft, but some (especially in the monocoque community) have expressed doubt on their existence.

C. Triplane

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Very popular in the hedonistic 1910s, especially in German aristocratic circles – today there are few self-designated ‘triplanes’. Triplanes were famous for their flamboyant ‘drag culture’ – later replaced by the Lift-to-Drag culture.

6. Finding a job

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Though originally it was considered enough that aeroplanes could fly -today they are forced to earn their keep. Some are employed by budget airlines to act as prisons for humans, the hapless detainees are not allowed to leave until they have bought a thirty Euro teddy bear and a four-Euro Coke. Other aircraft are forced to perform in circuses flying unnaturally low or to fight to the death for the entertainment of national leaders.

7. Middle Age

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During middle-age, aircraft become more emotionally maintenance heavy. Aware that they are half way through their service life many, like this German Tornado ECR, start to wear gaudy costumes in an attempt to recapture the ghost of their youth.

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8. Old Age 

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The average aeroplane lives to around 7,000 flight hours. By 6,500, the aeroplane will be suffering from embarrassing coolant leaks, a general feeling of fatigue and appalling unreliability. Belts, hoses and gaskets — and anything else that rubs against something else — will need frequent attention. On the positive side, most elderly aeroplanes are thoroughly loved by both humans and other ‘planes. Particularly charismatic geriatrics may even become stars, performing before millions of spectators.

9. Death 1461203297783321.jpg

One day an aeroplane will die. Its turbines or pistons will splutter and give up, and it will be hauled away, melted down and turned into sporks. Many aeroplanes, as Zoroastrians, request an open ground-level burial. A ‘tower of silence’ is built – where the bodies are left exposed so their aluminium can be picked from their bones by Vulture UAVs. 

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You may also enjoy A B-52 pilot’s guide to modern fighters, Flying and fighting in the Lightning: a pilot’s guide,Interview with a Super Hornet pilot, Trump’s Air Force Plan, 11 Worst Soviet Aircraft, 10 worst US aircraft,and10 worst British aircraft

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OCTOBER 13, 2016

Mirage 2000 pilot interview: Cutting it in the ‘Electric Cakeslice’

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After mastering the Lightning  and Tornado, the RAF’s Ian Black volunteered to fly France’s hottest fighter, the superb Mirage 2000. Black explains what is was like to fly the ultimate Mirage, and how it fared in dogfights against the most formidable fighters of the 1980s. 

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How did you end up flying Mirage 2000s?

“I’d flown Air Defence for around 12 years and converted from back to front seat. I’d reached a point in my career where i had to expand my horizons. I could go down the staff Officer route, apply to the Red Arrows, Test Pilot School or try for an exchange posting. I opted for the exchange option as i wanted to fly an aircraft the RAF didn’t have as well as the opportunity to learn a foreign language appealed – At the time the RAF had exchange postings for Air Defence pilots on the F-15C/ F-16/ F-18 F-4F and Mirage 2000 – I wanted the French Exchange because it was based in Provence and the Mirage is a unique airframe.”

Which variant?

“I flew the Mirage 2000C – RDI – at the time the FAF had the Mirage 2000C RDM ( pulse radar ) and the RDI Pulse doppler radar. They also operated the Mirage 2000D and 2000N – Eventually a Tornado GR1 pilot flew the Mirage 2000D, but the N’s Nuclear role meant no foreign pilots were allowed to operate it.”

“I managed to put a Mirage 2000 into the vertical whilst being chased and held the manoeuvre a few seconds too long – when I looked into my HUD I was in the pure vertical at 60 knots and decelerating”

What were your first impressions of the cockpit?

” Slightly disappointing at first – I’d come from the Tornado F3 which was painted grey – then blacked out for NVG work – and was very spacious and well laid out. The Mirage 2000 is more like a fighter from the 70s with a lot of analogue displays. The rear view was not as good as an F-16 and it was pretty cramped. On the plus side it was not overly complex.”

Is it easy to fly?

“Yes and no- It’s easy to fly once you get the hang of it but the delta wing takes a unique approach to flying – Its not like a conventional wing – It generates huge amounts of lift but also an enormous amount of drag – great for a ‘Bat Turn’ but you always end low on energy afterwards. Landing is pretty straightforward. The view is good. Air-to-air refuelling is easy. It has very well balanced controls and gives you great seat of the pants type senses – I’d almost say it was the perfect blend of old and new – great feedback to the pilot using its early fly-by-wire controls without feeling like a computer game.”

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What is the hardest thing about flying the Mirage 2000- any quirks?

“As mentioned, the delta wing could catch you out, it would give you 9G+ performance but at a penalty; flying in the circuit could be a challenge, turning finals required quite a lot of pulling on the stick -which loaded the wing up as the drag built. Once you rolled wings level it was imperative to take the power off or you would accelerate quickly.”

How does the acceleration and climb compare to a Lightning?

“The Lightning had two massive Rolls Royce Avon engines – The Mirage 2000 had one – but it was still pretty potent.”

Did you fly dissimilar air combat training (DACT) flights on the Mirage 2000? If so, against which types and what did you learn from each type?

 “An interesting question – I must have flown against the F-14, F-15, F-16, F-18, Tornado F3, F-8 Crusader and the F-104 Starfighter in combat. The older generation didn’t stand a chance, but the F-16 block 50 was very good. One of the drawbacks of the Mirage 2000 being unique was that as we did a lot of 1vs 1 and 2vs 2 Mirage vs Mirage combat – you developed tactics and handling skills to fight Mirage vs Mirage. This actually was counter productive as these tactics -and the way you handled the aircraft – didn’t cross over to fighting other types. I got beaten by an F-16 by fighting him like a Mirage and learnt a painful lesson.”

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“DACT was interesting in the M2000 – if your opponent was new to fighting a delta it could make his eyes water! At the merge the initial 9G+ turn was eye-watering, despite having a single engine it could still reach heights other fighters like the F-16 couldn’t. It also possessed, in my opinion, a far more sophisticated fly-by-wire system – it was in effect limitless. I managed to put a Mirage 2000 into the vertical whilst being chased and held the manoeuvre a few seconds too long – when I looked into my HUD I was in the pure vertical at 60 knots and decelerating ! As we hit Zero the aircraft began to slide backwards and the ‘burner blew out. My heart-rate increased. As the aircraft went beyond its design envelope, the nose simply flopped over pointing earthwards – with a few small turns the airspeed picked up. As I hit 200 knots I simply flew the aircraft back to straight and level. I admit that my opponent did shoot me down, but he did say it looked spectacular. This sort of carefree handling gave pilots huge confidence in the aircraft”

What was the most challenging fighter you faced while flying the Mirage?

“Probably the F-15C as AMRAAM was just coming into service which totally outclassed us – They had amazing SA and the way they operated was impressive.”

How would you rate the M2000 in the following:

 Instantaneous turn rates (at low/medium and high altitudes)

“Stunning – at all altitudes – with its big wing even at 50,000 feet using the leading edge slats it could still turn well.”

Sustained turn rates (at low/medium and high altitudes)

“Sustained turn was still good, especially at low level where you had sufficient energy to maintain speed.”

High Alpha

“The Mirage 2000 was legendary at its low speed high Alpha Passes -120 knots was pretty easy to fly.”

Weapon system

“As a weapons system the Mirage 2000 is a great ‘package’ with a good radar , onboard electronic countermeasures and radar warning receiver. It also packs a good array of weapons – with air-to-air refuelling its a formidable fighter. “

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Which three words best describe the M2000?

 “Vive La France !  It’s Sexy. It’s French – Dassault make fine aircraft and apart from the ejector seat it pretty much is 100%. Future-Proofed – The M2000 first flew in 1978 and it’s still in service in 2016 – despite its sleek frame it’s built like a tank and can pull 9G all day long.”

How would you compare the aircraft to an F-16?

“I’d say the F-16 has the edge – whilst the M2000 evolved from the RDM – RDi to RDY versions they were pretty small upgrades in terms of airframe performance – The latest Block F16s are a world apart from the original F-16As. Part of the Mirage 2000’s problem was the arrival of Rafale, which pretty much stopped any further development.”

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How does it compare to the other aircraft you have flown?

“The Mirage 2000 is a fourth generation fighter – and extremely capable in both air-to-air and air-to-ground roles – as well as being highly manoeuvrable even when loaded up. The Tornado was extremely competent at the role of interceptor, but lacked the agility of Dassault’s masterpiece.”

What was your most notable flight on the Mirage 2000?

“When you fly a Mach 2.0+ 9 G fighter trust me they are pretty notable. A few stick out: night missions with air-to-air refuelling over Bosnia or live missions protecting High Value assets over Iraq were pretty noteworthy. Flying in another Air Forces aircraft is a real honour – the trust they have on you is humbling. “

Ian flew the Mirage from 1993-97. Even after flying the mighty Lightning, the Mirage 2000 remains Ian’s favourite aeroplane. 

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You may also enjoy A B-52 pilot’s guide to modern fighters, Flying and fighting in the Lightning: a pilot’s guideInterview with a Super Hornet pilot, Trump’s Air Force Plan, 11 Worst Soviet Aircraft, 10 worst US aircraft, and 10 worst British aircraft

 

 

 

 

 

OCTOBER 11, 2016

Revolution! Interview with USMC Osprey pilot

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The most radical, and controversial, aircraft in frontline service is the V-22 Osprey. Far faster and longer-ranged than a helicopter yet with the same ability to take-off and land vertically, the Osprey is unique. But its critics describe it as vulnerable, costly and dangerous. So what is the view of those who have taken the aircraft into combat? We spoke to Carleton Forsling who flew MV-22s for the United States Marines Corps to find out more.

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“From a commander’s perspective, the speed and range of the Osprey are complete game-changers. Fixed-wing aircraft have always travelled long distances at high speed, but they require airfields to operate. That has always implied a chicken-or-egg scenario–you can’t get troops in without an airfield, but you can’t take an airfield without troops. Before the Osprey, that meant fighting one’s way to get an airfield or other facilities close to the fight or using airborne troops, which have always been incapable of sustaining themselves. Helicopters are notoriously short-ranged and slow. They provided tactical mobility, not operational or strategic mobility. Today, an Osprey can deliver troops hundreds of miles at high speed. It completely changes that paradigm.

From a pilot’s perspective, that is still impressive. For example, when I flew CH-46E Sea Knights, usually called the “Battlephrog,” it took the better part of a week to move helicopters from North Carolina to California for an exercise. With the V-22, it was just a long day. I flew a CH-46E from a ship in the Arabian Sea to Afghanistan in 2001. It was a fairly harrowing trip – at the limits of the machine. When I delivered one of the first V-22s from a ship to Afghanistan in 2009, it was as uneventful as taking a commuter flight from Des Moines to Chicago.

Still, what I most enjoyed about the Osprey was the way it made many of the most demanding tasks in traditional helicopters easy. In a helicopter, especially an older helicopter like a CH-46E, instrument flight was practically an emergency procedure. It was something you avoided. The V-22 was such a good IFR platform we could fly formations through bad weather routinely. In the -46, landing in a brownout was tempting fate each and every time–you just set your deceleration and attitude as best you could and tried to time your landing. In a V-22, you have several options in automation–you can use the electronic display to hand-fly the aircraft to the deck, showing your drift all the way to the ground even if you can’t see it. You can also use it to set up in an automatically stabilized high hover, or HOGE, then let yourself down under computer stabilization. Your choice depends on the tactical situation. It makes the most demanding task in all of military aviation, the brownout landing, into a routine one.

 

I always expressed my frustration with the Osprey as something along the lines of “We bought a Lamborghini, but didn’t spring for the power locks or a decent stereo.” It was things that the engineers forgot, like making the latches on maintenance panels sturdy enough for the demands of a high-performance machine, or having a GPS not certified for IFR use, or an icing system not up to commercial standards. The big-ticket technology, like the tiltrotor part, worked great. It was the ancillary systems that drove me crazy sometimes.”

Myths

“The biggest myth is that it’s unsafe. I did many tours, airshows, and public-relations appearances with the aircraft. Some people acted as if I was a professional stuntman or something and asked if I felt like I was in danger flying it. Historically, the Osprey suffered greatly, reputation-wise, because senior leaders mishandled its introduction, both in engineering and in aircrew training. In its mature form, it is statistically one of the safest combat aircraft in military service. It has double and sometimes triple redundancy in most of its critical systems. In the event of an engine failure, it can fly all day in airplane mode. In many helicopters, the second engine just takes you to the scene of the crash. I had my share of emergencies in the V-22, just as I did in the Phrog (CH-46), but I was always confident in the airframe to do its job.”

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What were your first impressions of the Osprey?

“The first time I saw it was as a CH-46E pilot flying around MCAS New River. It was still in developmental test at the time, and it was something like seeing a pink elephant or something. It was cool-looking, but I never thought much of it. Then I heard about the much-publicized mishaps and disparaged it, just like some of my compatriots.

The programme stopped flying for a couple of years, but when it stood up, some of the lead pilots did a road-show to tell fleet pilots where the program was going. I was an instructor in HT-18, the helicopter training squadron. When I saw their presentation, I was impressed. When the message came out asking for applications to fly it, I jumped right on it.”

Is it reliable?

“I won’t lie and say it isn’t a bit finicky. I like to say it’s a Lamborghini, but perhaps it’s best likened to a Porsche Panamera. It ain’t a Honda Accord. It takes more to keep it going, but it gives a lot more too. It’s a much more avionics-intensive machine. In fact, one of the problems we encountered early on is that the squadrons were structured very much like an old helicopter squadron in terms of the numbers of airframes mechanics, power line (or “flight line” in Marine-speak) mechanics, and avionics technicians assigned. In reality, most problems with the Osprey came down to electronics, and gradually the Corps readjusted to that.”

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“It does have the complexities of both a helicopter and a fixed-wing aircraft. Helicopters have a lot of hour-limited components, as does the Osprey. It does take a lot of work, I won’t lie about that. Many maintainers who switch to the Osprey aren’t pleased at first, but eventually most grow to love it, just like any other aircraft.

Another thing to remember is that the aircraft is incredibly self-aware. Whereas in a traditional aircraft, the first indication of a system degradation is an in-flight emergency, in the Osprey almost every parameter is recorded every flight. That means that problems are spotted before they affect the safety of flight and can be fixed before a system fails, not after. That’s a huge step up from legacy aircraft”

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Is it too fast to be used to its greatest potential with helicopters?

“That depends. It’s a mistake to treat it like a legacy aircraft, and during the fleet introduction, a lot of pilots were frustrated by senior leaders who treated it like just a slightly faster version of the CH-46. During exercises, we’d park the amphibious ships just a couple of miles from the beach, so that the V-22s barely had a chance to transition from helicopter, or “VTOL,” mode, before touching down in an LZ. If we employ it that way, then it is truly just an overly-expensive rotorcraft.

If we employ it they way it was designed, though, it can achieve things that no helicopter can. There are a variety of ways to achieve that synergy. If I had (several) billion dollars, I’d invest in high-speed escorts, perhaps even in heavily-armed V-22s to achieve that. In today’s world, though, there are still many ways to exploit the Osprey’s assets while still supporting troops in an LZ. That can come from using armed rotorcraft from FARPs (Forward Arming and Refueling Points). It can come from synchronizing V-22s with fixed-wing escorts. And it can be done by using V-22s to land where the enemy isn’t, because he can’t be anywhere, and the V-22 gives commanders the opportunity to “hit him where he ain’t.”

Have a look at 10 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. Was the Spitfire overrated? 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 humourous? Have a look at this F-35 satire and ‘Werner Herzog’s Guide to pusher bi-planes. In the mood for something more offensive? Try the NSFW 10 best looking American airplanes, or the same but for Canadians. 

Is it particularly vulnerable to ground-fire?

“Like any rotorcraft, it’s not invulnerable. Movies sometimes give the impression that some helicopters can be rendered invulnerable to small-arms fire. Other than critical systems, it’s impossible to protect helicopters from holes being punched in them if they’re hit.

The biggest defense against battle damage is to avoid being hit in the first place. The Osprey is unique among assault aircraft in this regard. Enroute, it flies faster than helicopters, making it harder to hit. It also can fly either a low altitude or high altitude profile, depending on the MANPAD threat.

It is also far more maneuverable than traditional rotorcraft. Some people mistake being able to shake the controls around for maneuverability. Maneuverability means being able to move an aircraft’s velocity vector quickly in multiple axes. That’s something the Osprey can do better than any helicopter I’m familiar with. The Osprey can displace from a threat vertically and horizontally. In helicopters, the solution is just to fly lower, and there’s certainly a lower limit on altitude!”

 

150715-M-TT095-119.JPG“If it does get hit, the Osprey has multiple redundant systems. That’s true for its engines, hydraulics, and key electronics. Its fuel tanks are self-sealing and fill with inert nitrogen as they empty to prevent fires. The pilots’ control inputs are transmitted to the control surfaces by electrons, not rods and cables. The troop seats stroke to reduce the impact in the event of a crash. Those features are what truly help troops survive in combat.”

What is your most memorable flight on the aircraft, what is it like to fly?

“Most memorable? Well, there was this time when I flew though the wake of my lead aircraft while turning and descending on a base leg and it nearly flipped us over. We recovered at 47′. That phenomenon has to do with the strong rotorwash due to the high disk loading of the V-22, which leaves disturbed air behind a lead aircraft and the way the fly-by-wire system holds an attitude for the dash two. After this incident, the Marine Corps changed the parameters for where the dash two aircraft should be relative to the lead aircraft while descending in conversion (helicopter) mode. In my personal opinion, this wake interaction was what caused the Marana mishap, not the infamous “Vortex Ring State.

As far as what it’s like to fly, it’s like nothing else. It accelerates and decelerates incredibly quickly and is extremely maneuverable for a big aircraft at both high and low speeds. It’s also remarkably stable. Hovering is a breeze–to the point that fixed wing pilots transitioning to the V-22 ask what the big deal is when helicopter pilots talk about hovering. It’s also an amazing instrument platform.”

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What do you believe is the future for the V-22 and tilt-rotors in general?

“I think that tiltrotors have a very bright future. When I look at the information on the upcoming Bell V-280, it really looks as if they taken the lessons of the V-22 and taken it to the next level.”

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“As long the military has a need for crisis response, there will continue to be a need for tiltrotors.

The biggest challenge will be whether tiltrotors are accepted in commercial aviation. The operating cost will have to come down for it to become viable in EMS, petroleum, and executive transport. The military doesn’t have to turn a profit. Civilian operators do.”

Does it have a nickname?

“The Osprey hasn’t gotten a cool second nickname like some other aircraft, like the CH-46 SeaKnight, which became the ‘Phrog,’ or the CH-53, which became the ‘Shitter.’ Occasionally you’ll hear someone call it the ‘Plopter’, but it really hasn’t caught on, except as an occasional joke.”

Any advice to those working with the Osprey?

“Try to keep up. Seriously, though, my guidance for those planning to fly with the Osprey is to begin your mission planning with a clean sheet of paper. The Osprey isn’t a helicopter that flies fast. It’s an airplane that can land vertically.

The biggest mistake you can make is to treat it like just another rotorcraft. Whether that means you fly unescorted and use operational surprise, whether you coordinate a time-on-target CAS or artillery strike, use detached escort, etc…that’s all situationally dependent.  The flexibility of the Osprey is one of its biggest assets, but it’s also a challenge for planners who’ve worked under the same paradigm for a long time.”

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What equipment would you like to see fitted to the MV-22?

“I’m not even as creative as the Bell-Boeing developers right now. Anything that could be installed on a light cargo aircraft can be put on an Osprey. Of course, the vertical landing capability means that those capabilities can be brought to environments that didn’t have them before, e.g. off amphibious ships and out of remote forward operating bases.

I think the MV-22 is capable of doing many of the tasks the Air Force AC-130 and the Marine Corps Harvest Hawk KC-130 aircraft are doing. It is definitely capable of providing close air support and other fires, especially in a low-threat environment.

Additionally, it’s supremely well-suited for other utility missions, e.g. command and control, surveillance, electronic warfare, and aerial refueling. The sky is the limit. It could be a drone mothership, an AWACs or E-2 type battle manager, whatever you want.

The big issue is not the technical feasibility of these, but investing in the resources to train pilots and aircrew in not just their primary assault support missions, but also the additional missions the Osprey is capable of.”

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How did the MV-22 do in Afghanistan- what were the biggest challenges and most notable missions?

“The V-22 built on the lessons learned in Iraq when it went to Afghanistan. It became more of a mainstay of Marine Corps assault support in Afghanistan, vice just a sideshow.

To be honest, neither conflict  was one at which the Osprey was really going to demonstrate decisive advantages over helicopters. When there’s already a network of forward operating bases and the distances involved are relatively short, the Osprey’s advantage over traditional rotorcraft is reduced when compared to an amphibious assault or long-range crisis response scenario.

However as the war in Afghanistan wound down, the Osprey became a great platform for casualty evacuation. As the Marine Corps started to shut down FOBs, and the distances to medical facilities became greater, the “golden hour” could still be maintained. Helicopters couldn’t do that.”

Carl is the Senior Columnist for Task and Purpose

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More about Carleton Forsling:
USMC major (retired), now flight officer (EC-120 pilot) with Baltimore Police Department, Served in several billets, including Executive Officer of VMMT-204 (joint V-22 training squadron), Executive Officer of Border Advisor Team 2/6 (working with Afghan Border Police), Maintenance Officer of VMM-165 (fleet Osprey squadron), flight school instructor pilot in TH-57s, NATOPS evaluator (check pilot) in CH-46E and MV-22B, several others
Aircraft: T-34C, TH-57B/C, CH-46E, MV-22B, EC-120
Major operations: Kosovo/Albania 1999 flying the CH-46E (Allied Force, Joint Guardian, Noble Anvil, Avid Response)
Afghanistan 2001 in CH-46E, delivered first MV-22Bs to country in 2009. Served as advisor with Afghan Police in 2012-2013.

 

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You may also enjoy A B-52 pilot’s guide to modern fighters, Flying and fighting in the Lightning: a pilot’s guide,Interview with a Super Hornet pilot, Trump’s Air Force Plan, 11 Worst Soviet Aircraft, 10 worst US aircraft, and10 worst British aircraft

 

 

 

 

 

 

OCTOBER 6, 2016

A B-52 pilot’s guide to modern fighters

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 Keith Shiban flew the B-52 in the nuclear deterrent role, and in combat missions over Iraq. We asked for his assessment of a bomber pilot’s nightmare, the latest generation of fighter aircraft. His conclusion? He’s glad he’s retired! Over to Keith: 

“As an old bomber guy, I write about fighter planes the same way I would about grizzly bears, biker gangs, and mafia hit-men. I’m no expert on any of them. I just know I wouldn’t want one coming after me. So here is one aviation geek’s look at what’s out there today and what’s coming in the near future.”

Fifth Generation

“What sets these apart is that they all use some degree of “low observable” technology to enhance survivability. Other features include advanced engines with vectored thrust, the ability to cruise at supersonic speeds without afterburner, advanced radars that are hard to detect and advanced sensors and electronics to improve the pilot’s situational awareness. By this criteria, the only operational 5th Generation fighter is the F-22 Raptor.”

F-22 Raptor

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“This thing’s been in service for 11 years now? Damn, I’m getting old.

I’ll admit I was at first a bit skeptical of the F-22. Having talked to people that worked on the programme as well as people who have actually flown it has brought me around. Apparently it really is as good as they say it is.

I am told that four F-22s, if they are fully data-linked, can take on as many F-15s as you care to throw at them until they simply run out of missiles and go home. Yeah, it’s that good. It will see you long before you see it and your first indication that it’s in the neighborhood might be an AMRAAM missile in your face. Nasty.

F-22 tactics seem to involve flying at high speed at high altitude, which adds a lot of extra oomph to its missiles when they’re launched. The technical term is “kinematic advantage”. Think of it as giving the missile a big head-start on its way to the target. For example, the AMRAAM missile gets about a 40% range bonus when launched in this manner.

Ironically, this is how we thought air combat would be back in the 50s and 60s with supersonic jets firing radar-guided missiles from beyond visual range. It just took technology a while to catch up. Mind you the F-22 can still dogfight, but I would venture that if a Raptor finds itself in a visual dogfight something has gone very wrong.”

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“The only drawbacks that I know of are that the F-22 is expensive to operate and it is limited by how many missiles it can carry internally. To correct the second issue, there is talk of having other platforms carry missiles that the F-22 could target and launch remotely. That’s not as far-fetched as it sounds. Today everything is data linked together and newer missiles can be fired first and then locked on to a target.”

Other weaknesses of the Raptor include: a poor range for its weight, absence of a helmet-cueing system and the use of rare and obsolete electronic components. Though cutting edge at the time, the man-machine is inferior to the F-35 and the Gripen E/F.

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Sukhoi T-50/PAK FA

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Gone are the days when Russia cranked out relatively cheap fighters like the MiG-21 in huge numbers. Today the T-50 is every  bit as complex and expensive as its Western counterparts.

So expensive, in fact, that Russia is jointly developing it with India to defray some of the costs. This is similar to how Western fighters like the Typhoon have been developed.

The T-50 has some cool features. The engines will have vectored nozzles, similar to the F-22, but which can move in both axis. This will let them use vectored thrust for yaw and roll, unlike the on the F-22 which can only affect pitch axis.

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On paper the T-50/PAK FA looks impressive but it’s still not an F-22. It has a radar cross section several orders of magnitude larger than the F-22. It’s stealthier than a 4th Generation fighter, but calling it a true 5th Generation fighter might be a stretch.

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The engines, always a problem in fighter development, are apparently giving them some difficulty. The T-50 will initially fly with a variation of the Su-35’s engine, which is itself a derivative of the Su-27’s engine that has been around for a long time.

The Russian economy being what it is these days, they now plan on only building an even dozen of these between now and 2020. That’s way down from the initial plan of 52.

In summary, it’s a very expensive aircraft that may not live up to expectations. Where have I heard that before? Still, the fact that they’re even building something like this shows just how far they’ve come.

Chengdu J-20

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“Gone are the days when China could only build copies of Soviet designs. They’re now building some pretty cutting-edge stuff of their own. The J-20 is one of them and could be operational around 2018.

The J-20 “Black Eagle” is a bit of an enigma. We’re not exactly sure what its intended role is. Or if we do we’re not saying. China certainly isn’t.

It’s big, stealthy and appears to have been built with range and payload in mind. That leads some to think that it’s primarily a long-range strike aircraft. However, it also appears to be built for maneuverability due to the canards and vectored nozzles. So perhaps it’s more of a heavy air-superiority fighter.  Or maybe it’s both.

The big question seems to be, will the Chinese be able to develop a suitable engine for it? Currently it is powered by the WS-10 engine, derived from the commercial CFM-56. The production model is supposed to get the much more powerful WS-15 engine, assuming they get it working. In order to compete as an air-superiority fighter it will need the more powerful engine.

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I’ll go out on a limb here and say that the “Black Eagle” (cool name) probably won’t be a match for the F-22, but would definitely be a threat to US and allied fourth generation fighters in the Pacific Rim.

Its combination of range, speed and stealth would also make it a major threat to high value assets like tankers and AWACS. Without tankers, short-ranged fighters like the F-22 and F-35 would have a tough time operating over the vast distances of the Pacific.

Lockheed F-35 Lightning II

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The F-35, depending on who you ask, is either the latest and greatest in fighter technology or an overweight, over cost, poorly performing testament to a bloated defence industry. If you’re looking for the definitive answer I’m afraid I don’t have it. One thing that everyone can agree on is that it’s expensive, behind schedule and very controversial.

I can safely say that it’s trying to do an awful lot with one aircraft. The F-35 will be built in three flavours to replace the Air Force F-16 and A-10, the Navy’s F/A-18 and the Marine’s AV-8B Harrier. That’s a pretty tall order.

Why are we doing this? The main reason is that air defences are getting to be really good. So good, that anything without stealth may be tactically obsolete in a few years, at least in a high-intensity conflict.

I would say that the most important feature of the F-35 is the electronics. Sensor integration on the F-35 is said to be even more advanced than the F-22.

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F-35 detractors say it’s too expensive, too slow and can’t beat a ‘legacy’ fighter in a visual dogfight. An F-35 proponent would say that if an F-35 ever finds itself in a dogfight something has gone horribly wrong.

Keep in mind that the F-35 is not meant to be an air superiority fighter. It’s a multi-role aircraft. Perhaps a better description would be a strike aircraft that can protect itself if need be.

I can remember being told back in the 1980s that the F-15 and F-16 ‘wouldn’t work’ because they were too expensive and too complicated. That obviously hasn’t been the case. I think the same may someday be said of the F-35, but only time will tell.”

 Generation 4.5

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“Sometimes these are described as Generation 4.5 or ‘Fourth Generation Plus’ aircraft. That means they have most of the cool features of the Fifth Generation aircraft minus the stealth.

Depending on your point of view, that makes these either a more cost effective choice than the expensive stealth aircraft or they’ll just have really great situational awareness of the thing that kills them.

Dassault Rafale

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“I admit I’m a bit of a Francophile, so that’s reason enough for me to like the Rafale. Plus it’s also a good looking jet and that’s got to count for something.

The Rafale came to be when the French pulled out of the Eurofighter programme and decided to go their own way. That sounds very French.

The Rafale frequently gets compared to the Eurofighter Typhoon, especially since both are heavily competing for export sales. Which one is better? I guess that’s kind of like asking which is the best car. It depends on what you want it to do.

From what I can gather, the Rafale is better than the Typhoon at the air-to-ground mission. It reportedly has a very good ECM package that lets it operate in places that might otherwise require stealth or a SEAD (suppression of enemy air defences) package.

Conversely the Typhoon is reportedly better in the air-to-air role due to its superior radar (editor notes: probably not true of AESA-equipped Rafales) and data-link capabilities. The Typhoon currently has better air-to-air missiles, but the French will soon equip the Rafale with the same missile (MBDA Meteor). For now the Rafale has to get by with the relatively short-ranged MICA.”

Eurofighter Typhoon

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“The Typhoon is a joint venture between the UK, Germany, Italy and Spain. This shows just how expensive modern jet fighters are. It would have been prohibitively expensive for any one European country to develop this aircraft on their own.

I don’t think the Typhoon is a pretty as the Rafale but it has a very futuristic look to it. Something about those squared off intakes and the downward canted canards.

I’m surprised that Germany bought off on the name ‘Typhoon’, since that was a British WWII fighter.(Ed: They haven’t really for just that reason, in Luftwaffe service it’s known as the Eurofighter). 

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Obviously I haven’t flown one of these, however if anyone wants to give me a ride in one I’m available. I’ll try not to throw up in it, honest.

The Typhoon’s list of features reads like an F-22 minus the stealth. Supercruise capability, extremely maneuverable, advanced radar (it is effective even though it is mechanically scanning) and sensors, advanced data-link. It even has voice recognition, like my phone, except I don’t use it because I’m old. Other than being expensive (and what isn’t these days) it sounds very impressive.

Certainly a number of countries have decided to purchase these. If you’re into the whole Anglo-French rivalry that’s been going on since the beginning of time, the Typhoon is outselling the Rafale by a sizeable margin.

Sukhoi Su-35 

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“It used to be that Russia built cheap, relatively unsophisticated fighters in large numbers. ‘Quantity has its own quality’ as the saying goes.

Today they are building very advanced (and expensive) aircraft that are close in capability to their Western counterparts.

The Su-35 is the latest variation on the tried and proven Su-27 Flanker. When the Russians build something that works they like to stick with it. Performance wise it stacks up very well against aircraft like the Typhoon and Rafale. Its avionics, while an improvement over older Russian aircraft, probably aren’t a match for the latest Western systems.

“The Su-35 makes me makes me glad I retired.”

While it boasts exceptional maneuverability, especially at low speeds, what really impresses me about the Su-35 is the number of missiles it carries. With a load of up to 12 (count ‘em) air to air missiles of various types, it can present a serious threat.

One probable Su-35 tactic would be to send a salvo of missiles at you with different seeker heads. Light your afterburners to manoeuvre against the radar-guided missile? Guess what, there’s a heat-seeker right there with it. Turn on a jammer? Here comes the anti-radiation missile to home in your signal. Makes me glad I retired.

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The other drawback to the Su-35 is that Russian aircraft really aren’t as reliable as you think they are. That at least has been the experience of the Indian Air Force, which operates both Russian and Western aircraft.”

Saab JAS-39 Gripen

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“Sweden may be officially neutral, but don’t confuse that with weakness. It’s more the ‘poke your nose in here and we’ll bite it off’ kind of neutrality. As such they’ve always maintained a very capable air force.

Saab has built some impressive fighters over the years and the Gripen is certainly impressive. Think of it as the “poor man’s Typhoon”. It can do most of what the Typhoon or Rafale can do for about half the cost. It’s cheaper to operate than even the ‘low-cost’ F-16.

It also has the advantage of being able to operate from roads and austere airfields.

In a ‘bang for the buck’ competition the Gripen seems to be the clear winner. Would you rather have three Gripens or a single Typhoon or Rafale?”

Chengdu J-10

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The ‘Vigorous Dragon’ (sounds like a superhero) is China’s first home-grown fourth generation fighter.

Just how home-grown it is depends on who you ask. Some claim it has its roots in the Israeli Lavi and US F-16. The Chinese claim it grew out of their own cancelled J-9 project. Who knows? It does look a bit like the Lavi, but different countries often reach the same conclusion on their own. It’s not like we’re the only smart people in the world.

It’s hard to guess just how capable the J-10 is since the Chinese are pretty secretive about their systems. On paper it seems to be in roughly the same class as an F-16C.”

The Legacy Fighters

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“The F-15/16/18 and A-10 have been around a long time, yet continuous upgrades have kept them relevant. It’s amazing just how good the F-15 has been for such a long time. We’re talking about a plane that first flew in 1972!

The question is, can these aircraft be kept relevant against the threats we’re likely to face? It all comes down to what you think we’ll be doing in the next ten years or so.

The stated case for the F-22 and F-35 is that something like an F-16, as good as it is, just won’t be able to operate in a future high-intensity conflict. Even if it was fully upgraded with the latest electronics, the argument goes, the lack of stealth would still render it vulnerable to modern air defences.

The opposing case would be: we’re not fighting a high-intensity conflict today, we’re bombing terrorists in the Middle East. An F-16 or an A-10 is almost overkill for that scenario.

Even in a future conflict the legacy fighters might be able to operate behind a “wall” of Fifth Generation aircraft. Once the defenses are neutralized an F-16 or F/A-18 is still a perfectly good strike aircraft.”

Summary

“These comparisons tend to leave out one very important factor. It’s not just a battle between Fighter A and Fighter B, it’s a fight between two forces. You might read that Fighter A once beat Fighter B in some exercise but that doesn’t tell the whole tale.

Who has the better training? Who has the better tactics? How many hours a month do their pilots get to train? Who has the better Command-Control and Intelligence? What about AWACS and tanker support? Who has the better logistics? The best jet in the world won’t do much without spare parts to keep it flying. None of that is as sexy as dogfighting but it’s very important.”

Creating Hush-Kit takes time and resources, if you would like to help us continue please hit the donate button on this page (we are unfortunately well behind on our fundraising efforts). 

You may also enjoy 11 Cancelled French aircraft or the 10 worst British military aircraftSu-35 versus Typhoon10 Best fighters of World War II , Su-35 versus Typhoontop WVR and BVR fighters of today, an interview with a Super Hornet pilot and a Pacifist’s Guide to Warplanes. Flying and fighting in the Tornado. Was the Spitfire overrated? Want something more bizarre? Try Sigmund Freud’s Guide to Spyplanes. 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. 10 great aircraft stymied by the US

You may also enjoy 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 of The Planet SatelliteFashion Versus Aircraft Camo is also a real cracker. 

SEPTEMBER 20, 2016

10 most insane aircraft

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As can be witnessed in popular political movements, insanity is very ‘hot’ this season. Stephen Caulfield from Suburban Poverty decided to leap on the bandwagon with this collection of 11 deplorables. Such was the quality of the entrants, even the remotely controlled stuffed cat pictured failed to make the grade.

10. Piaggio P.7

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This is not a picture of a crashed aircraft waiting for a hoist out of Lake Como. The P.7 is seen here in pre-take-off position. The waterproof fuselage would lift up on hydroplanes as it moved forward. Pilots refused to fly it – the man who did try couldn’t get it to fly. Some things don’t really need to be explained.

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9. Fu-Go/Outward
Fu-Go balloons & Operation Outward

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Women and schoolchildren built a large number of incendiary-carrying balloons entrusted by the Japanese army to the jet streams over the Pacific Ocean for delivery to North America. Such are the schemes of a dying empire. Over 9,000 were released, and they did kill people picnicking in Oregon. Fu-Gos were made from less strategic materials, including layers of mulberry-based paper squares secured with an edible glue (this programme was hampered by war-deprived workers stealing and eating said glue). This programme’s sheer insanity has brought it a certain legendary status. No, the Fu-Go bombs did not enter the dishonour roll of insane aircraft because they succeeded in burning down the forests of North America. They arrived as far away from Japan as Saskatchewan and Mexico, making them the first ever intercontinental strategic instrument of air power. They are insane in their own right.

 

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Did you know that Britain mounted a far greater balloon campaign against Germany during the middle of World War II? No, you didn’t. It was ten times bigger, and a lot more effective, but also insane. Both programmes offer proof that science is no guarantee against insanity.

The Royal Canadian Navy had to go out and blow up the last one of these things in 2014. 

 

 

8. Chyeranovskii BICh-21

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Here is an entry from that Fordist font of high function, the Soviet Union. Life is hard, da. Hence the expression ‘life’s a bitch’ (note from Editor: Jesus, I hoped you were going to avoid that pun). With any luck, and maybe a residential treatment programme, it might turn out to be a BICh-21 tailless racer from the 1930s. Being easy on the eyes and being insane don’t necessarily exclude one another. For further evidence of this phenomenon, enrol in a free online dating service immediately.

 7. Fieseler Fi 103R Reichenberg

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Among the sorrowful artefacts and moments of the Third Reich, the manned version of the FZG-76/V-1 barely registers. It was really just another ersatz outburst (note: were Ersatz Outburst a Prog Rock band?) on the fanatical road to ruin, rubble and regret. That is to say, it was insane. Shades of the modern Middle East here – suicide as a tactical approach to lavishly equipped and larger opponents with all the advantages. Contemporary accounts rehashed for the digital era claim “it flew fairly well”. There was an apparently mirthless notion that the pilot would aim his Reichenburg and bail out. But isn’t the round thing above the cockpit a pulse jet intake? Never used in action, but WTF?

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6. Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II ‘Joint Sunk-cost Fallacy’

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Take a little bit from each of these entries and add eighty zillion lines of computer code. Seriously, it’s getting a little late in the day for the human race to be concentrating so much on high-tech weapons. Even if this flying laptop has a belly full of super secret weapons, that doesn’t mean it isn’t insane. Though in the last couple of years the general mood of the press has become more supportive of the F-35, the following quote from the US GAO should be considered: “DOD plans to begin increasing production and expects to spend more than $14 billion annually for nearly a decade on procurement of F-35 aircraft.”

There are two ways you can look at the F-35: if you believe high-intensity war against an advanced enemy is a possibility, you may want to consider the fact that the Lightning II was conceived to be supported in war by large numbers of high-end F-22s to protect them from enemy fighters – but the Raptors weren’t ordered in large numbers. Or if you believe that low-intensity war against irregular forces in poor countries is the more likely, you may wish to question the use of aircraft of this level of expense and sophistication. And although programme supporters have been citing the sunk cost fallacy forever, there are at least three more questions you should ask:

1. Could the high levels of situational awareness and connectivity (neither of which the F-35 currently has, reliably) be retrofitted to older platforms?

2. How long have potential adversaries had to think about countering aircraft with reduced conspicuousness in the x-bandwidth?

3. Which threats could not be handled adequately by non-stealthy aircraft with stand-off munitions?

And we’re not being all loony-tunes Russia Today in asking these questions – there is certainly more than one high-ranking member of the US Navy that has come up with answers that would discomfort Lockheed Martin.

More cynical observers might note that nobody can afford, or needs, large numbers of stealthy tactical aircraft.

5. Boeing B-52 Stratofortress ‘Dr Strangehate’

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No plane spotter or other type of aero enthusiast should ever be totally comfortable with their interest. There needs to be a little psychological ‘something’ present to remind them that expressions of military might are rooted in corporate power and abuse – and are a disaster for the human race. What can we label that little something? Label it insanity. Take a wild guess how many people this eight-engine monster has killed or hurt in the last 60 or so years. B-52s have killed in Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Iraq and Afghanistan. Over twelve days during the Vietnam War, B-52s dropped 15,237 tons of bombs.

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In 1961 a B-52 broke up in mid-air over North Carolina. The aircraft was carrying two Mark 39 nuclear bombs, information declassified in 2013 revealed that one of the bombs came very close to detonating.

The list of accidents involving B-52s carrying nuclear weapons is also extremely scary. In 1961, a B-52 accidentally dropped a 3.8 megaton thermonuclear bomb on North Carolina! According to a bomb disposal expert who took part in the Goldsboro incident- “We came damn close to having a Bay of North Carolina”. The destruction would have been greater than that of every explosive ever detonated in history combined and would have killed everyone in a 14 mile radius – with many more being killed by radiation and secondary fires. Fortunately the weapon did not explode. Nuclear warfare remains the most insane idea of all time. The concept of nuclear deterrence is equally whacko, and rests on the premise that a leader who deems genocide acceptable can be deterred by the threat of genocide. Thanks to the nuclear deterrent, the Cold War was a period of peace, completely free of proxy wars.

At this very moment the B-52 remains an instrument of nuclear annihilation by accident and intention, and for perpetual police actions. Insanity is nothing if not durable and easily scaled up.

4. Heinkel He-177 Greif

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One risk with a list like this is a tendency to drift towards late Third Reich prototypes like the Natter and its ilk. Nonetheless, from this set of German wings, we just cannot look away. You see, when engineers and other technical adepts are yes-men locked in a military-industrial complex throwing big money at ill-advised, immoral aggressions, you better go to the basement and stay there.

 

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What a waste. A silly collection of specifications (including the expectation of an ability to dive bomb with over twenty-five tons of aircraft) resulted in major structural failures and fire-prone powerplants. The Greif typifies a couple of hundred completely whacked wartime crash programmes, and illustrates exactly why they are called that to this day. The Greif killed a huge chunk of the Luftwaffe’s test pilot cadre, probably some of the era’s best pilots. Also, it never really looked right from any angle. Insanity is a matter of perspective.

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3. Piasecki PA-97 Helistat

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Kiss your loved ones before you leave the house tomorrow morning. If they ask why you are crying, mumble ‘Helistat’ before turning your back on them for the last time. The Helistat concept was to combine the lifting abilities of four helicopters with a giant sausage (in fact a 1950s naval airship) full of helium to allow the transport of massively heavy payloads. Test flights were made from the Naval Air Engineering Station Lakehurst in New Jersey, using the ancient airship hangars. At 343 feet (104.54 metres) long, it was the largest aircraft in the world when it first flew in 1986.

On 1 July 1986, a gust of wind rocked the test aircraft, causing it to move across the ground. This in turn caused the undercarriage to shimmy uncontrollably, which led to ground resonance (an unwanted phenomenon whereby the helicopter rotors oscillate in phase with the frequency of the helicopter shaking on its undercarriage – Wiki rather neatly compares this to when clothes get stuck in one part of a washing machine during the spinning cycle). This shook one of the helicopters off its mounting, whereupon its rotors slashed the gasbag, causing the remaining three helicopters to break free. One pilot was killed, and the project was scrapped. Today, Piasecki is interested in returning to the concept with an even bigger helistat.

See the ten coolest cancelled helicopters here

2 . Fly-powered art aircraft ‘Wasp Factory-build’

Sometimes life finds us riding a bus at night, crying and laughing simultaneously. Other times, we stay in and build powered model aeroplanes. Animals are put on this Earth for our entertainment, apparently. You can see the aircraft here.

At least no death is involved here, unless you count the flies.

1 – Yokosuka MXY-7 Ohka ‘cherry blossom’

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A ‘manned bomb’ with three solid fuel rockets, and yet so much more. Let the term ‘manned-bomb’ term sink in a little, maybe even say it out loud to yourself if there’s no-one else in the room. The ‘cherry blossom’ looks a bit like a spritely orange prop reject from a Star Wars movie. Cute, yes – but thoroughly insane. These desperate things actually entered service and rearranged several United States Navy vessels (there was over a ton of explosives inside each one). It flies straight into its target.

It’s hard to know the exact calculus involved in determining the difference between a heroic dangerous assignment in war and an inhuman act of forced martyrdom – however you do the maths, being an Ohka pilot was a shitty posting.

Stephen Caulfield cleans limousines around the corner from what was once the Avro Canada plant.  He appreciates writing, art, aeroplanes and the tragic nature of modernity in pretty much equal parts these days. His contributions to Hushkit.net have included the very tasteless The top popstar-killing aircraft manufacturer of all time, the bizarre Top ten most-whacked undercarriage, the widely discredited Bermuda Triangle  and this lovely ode to the C.102 jetliner. 

Keep this blog alive!

To keep this blog going – allowing us to create new articles – we need donations. We’re trying to do something different with Hush-Kit: give aviation fans something that’s entertaining, surprising and well informed in equal parts. Please do help us and click on the donate button above – you can really make a difference (suggested donation £10).

You will keep us impartial and without advertisers – and allow us to carry on being naughty. A big thank you to all our readers.

 

You may also enjoy Ten incredible cancelled Soviet fighter aircraftTen worst Soviet aircraftTen incredible cancelled military aircraftFighter aircraft news round-up,  11 Cancelled French aircraft or the 10 worst British military aircraftSu-35 versusTyphoon10 Best fighters of World War II , Su-35 versus Typhoontop WVR and BVR fighters of today, an interview with a Super Hornet pilot and a Pacifist’s Guide to Warplanes. Flying and fighting in the Tornado. Was the Spitfire overrated? Want something more bizarre? Try Sigmund Freud’s Guide to Spyplanes. 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. 10 great aircraft stymied by the US

nuclear_mishap-_marker_in_eureka_nc

SEPTEMBER 19, 2016

Generation Xbox may kill you: Why you SHOULD be afraid of flying

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Do commercial pilots know what they’re doing? Flight Safety expert Philip Chandler believes many airline pilots have lost basic skills that save lives in emergencies.

“In the final few days of 2014 an A320 of Air Asia flew into the Java Sea killing all 162 on board.  What had been a perfectly airworthy jet with a minor system fault had fallen in a stalled condition from 28,000 feet with the Captain pushing the stick forward to regain airspeed and the Co-Pilot pulling back; the aircraft’s flight control system had detected conflicting signals, and taken the democratic decision to let them cancel each other out- the result was none of the aircraft’s control surfaces (the flaps and assorted moving parts that steer the aircraft) moved.  If this seems familiar, it’s because only five and a half years earlier Air France 447 from Rio de Janeiro to Paris had plummeted in to the Atlantic with the same confusion in the cockpit.  Although both accidents had their roots in minor technical faults, the aircraft flew into the seas as a result of crews’ dependence on automation – and ignorance of what to do if things go wrong. The crew failed to carry out correct actions that even the private pilot of a light aircraft would be expected to get right.

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As isolated incidents these two events would be bad enough, however Loss Of Control Inflight (known as LOC-I ) is now the leading cause of fatalities on modern airliners. Since 2006 43% of fatal incidents on airliners have been due to the inability of the aircrew to operate the aircraft.  Nor is it an Airbus issue, Asiana managed to bounce a 777 along San Francisco airport after the crew, including a training captain, failed to understand the autopilot logic and stalled on short finals.  Three of the 307 aboard were killed, two of whom were notably not wearing their seat-belts and were flung clear of the wreckage suffering blunt force trauma, possibly from being run over by a fire tender.

Nor does it only affect fixed wing aircraft, in August 2013 a Super Puma of the CHC Helicopter Corporationcrashed just short of Sumburgh Airport after entering a vortex ring state, where the aircraft is trapped in a column of descending air of its own making.  In that case the crew had again failed to fully understand the workings of the automatic pilot and had allowed the aircraft to get too slow with too little power available to maintain height.  This of course being only one of many possible ways to suffer a fatal accident in a Super Puma the numerous technical failings the type has suffered in the last decade being worthy of an article on their own.  Hint hint (OK Philip, go for it. Ed)

Although accidents can happen at any stage of the flight only around 24% of fatal accidents occur while an aircraft is cruising, the time to really worry is during the final approach and landing.  During this phase of the flight 49% of fatal accidents take place, accounting for 47% of the 3191 deaths that have occurred since 2006. Just to prove that you can’t relax once the aircraft is on the ground 20% of deaths occur because the aircraft runs off the runway, lands abnormally or the pilots just miss the big ass piece of tarmac they’re supposed to land on.  As recently as 5 August 2016, a Boeing 737-400 of ASL Airlines failed to stop on Bergamo’s 9209 foot runway and instead ended up straddling a dual carriageway another 900 feet further on.  Fortunately it was a freighter operating for DHL so there were no passengers to worry about and both crew survived (the aircraft on the other hand may need a bit of a polish before re-entering service).  Slightly further back in April 2013, a Lion Air 737 landed in the water 0.6 nautical miles short of the seawall that protects the runway threshold.  In that case the crew continued to descend below the minimum safe altitude despite not being in sight of the runway.  When they finally made the decision to go around they were far too low and only the shallowness of the water prevented any fatalities.

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Is too much automation to blame?  Probably not, aircraft accident rates in commercial aviation have been decreasing as automation has allowed aircraft to be operated more efficiently than ever before.  However, this has removed the onus on aircrew to maintain core flying skills with the so called ‘Children of the Magenta’ blithely following the lines presented to them on the in cockpit displays and successfully completing hundreds of flights.  But when something does go wrong many lack the basic skills required to fly the aircraft and make the wrong decision when faced with the unexpected.  The miracle on the Hudson and the successful end to QF32, an A380 that suffered an uncontained engine failure, were in no small part due to the training and experience the crews had that allowed them to Aviate, Navigate and Communicate when things started to go wrong. Unfortunately, although many fine websites exist that allow you to determine the best seat to choose for any flight, the author has yet to find one that gives you a detailed breakdown of the flight decks experience levels.

Current trends since 1999 indicate that on average there are 4.14 hull loss accidents per million departures, leading to 32 fatalities per million departures.  With nearly 38 million scheduled flights per year that’s a decent line in revenue for Boeing and Airbus in replacing lost aircraft.  With an annual average of 1233 deaths in commercial accidents it is however fair to say that no matter how terrifying the flight may seem, you’re significantly more likely to die on the drive to the airport than on the actual flight.  In the UK alone there are an average of 2500 road traffic deaths a year.  So maybe catch the train to the airport next time.”

Since working in Flight Safety, Philip Chandler regularly Googles airline safety records before booking flights.

Keep this blog alive!

To keep this blog going- allowing us to create new articles- we need donations. We’re trying to do something different with Hush-Kit: give aviation fans something that is both entertaining, surprising and well-informed. Please do help us and click on the donate button above – you can really make a difference (suggested donation £10). You will keep us impartial and without advertisers – and allow us to carry on being naughty. A big thank you to all of our readers.

 

You may also enjoy 11 Cancelled French aircraft or the 10 worst British military aircraftSu-35 versusTyphoon10 Best fighters of World War II , Su-35 versus Typhoontop WVR and BVR fighters of today, an interview with a Super Hornet pilot and a Pacifist’s Guide to Warplanes. Flying and fighting in the Tornado. Was the Spitfire overrated? Want something more bizarre? Try Sigmund Freud’s Guide to Spyplanes. 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. 10 great aircraft stymied by the US

Air Asia Accident Report

Sources:

http://www.aaiu.ie/sites/default/files/FRA/KNKT%20Indonesia%20Final%20Report%20PK-AXC%20Airbus%20A320-216%20Air%20Asia%20PT%20Indonesia%202015-12-01.pdf

Air France Accident Report

https://www.bea.aero/docspa/2009/f-cp090601.en/pdf/f-cp090601.en.pdf

Asiana Accident Summary

http://www.ntsb.gov/news/events/Pages/2014_Asiana_BMG-Abstract.aspx

CHC Accident Report

https://www.gov.uk/aaib-reports/aircraft-accident-report-aar-1-2016-g-wnsb-23-august-2013

ASL Accident Details

http://avherald.com/h?article=49c27d0c

Lion Air Accident Report

http://asndata.aviation-safety.net/reports/Indonesia/20130413-0_B738_PK-LKS.pdf

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and not Hushkit.net

SEPTEMBER 13, 2016

Shocking revelation in Indian Rafale fighter jet deal

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NEW DELHI:  Long rumoured to be imminent, the Indian Air Force’s attempt to buy 36 Rafale fighter aircraft from French aerospace giant Dassault has been rocked by a revelatory press conference held this morning in New Delhi.

According to a Government  spokesperson, “The contract and the inter-governmental agreement have dragged on for so long – and have been quoted as imminent as so long- that we started to suspect foul play. An investigation revealed that negotiations were partly led by a company known as Vasdu Holdings.” Investigation of this shadowy firm’s involvement in the Rs 55,000 crore (7.3 billion Euros) deal led members of Indian’s Procurement Supervisory Board to Hollywood. It is here that the Managing Director of Vasdu Holdings lives – but who is he? One C.A Kutcher. If that name is familiar it is because it is that of Christopher Ashton Kutcher, the film star and famous prankster.

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During today’s press conference the 38-year-old hunk revealed that the Indian Rafale deal was a prank, one that went wildly out of control: “The medium fighter contest was started as a joke to conceal David Hasselhoff’s motorcycle, but it spiralled out of control. Soon we had the biggest arms manufacturers in the world queuing up try and sell us their planes. I was like, ‘dude- this is literally off the hook crazy- but man let’s ride it out’.”

The first the 64-year old actor and singer David Hasslehoff knew of the joke was when representatives of Russian aircraft manufacturer RSK MiG were found in his garage trying to integrate R-77 missiles onto his Harley-Davidson Roadster. Kutcher was now in hot water, and the situation was only getting worse – as Heads of state flocked to Indian to woo the Government with grand promises in an attempt to seal the deal, he knew he had to do something. Indian’s Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) competition hit big delays in 2007 as Kutcher was busy filming romantic comedy ‘What Happens in Vegas’ with Cameron Diaz. On 31 January 2012, it was announced that the Dassault Rafale had won the contest, defeating the Eurofighter Typhoon (the Gripen NG, MiG-35, F/A-18 and F-16E had already been dismissed from the evaluation).

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“Shit was now real, and I felt like I couldn’t back down. I knew if I kept a poker-face Hasselhoff would look like a total dick. To buy time- I’d already added like a million delays- I scrapped the MMRCA last year citing deadlock over Dassault’s refusal to take responsibility for the 108 jets to be made in India. I said that the Government had decided to go instead for direct purchase of 36 Rafales during the Modi-Hollande summit in Paris. I have managed to delay and delay the deal but now feel I must confess that the whole deal was a joke that got out of hand. I sincerely hope that India taxpayers, the French Government and David Hasslehoff have the good grace and sense of humour to forgive me my greatest prank.” 

 

To keep this blog going- allowing us to create new articles- we need donations. We’re trying to do something different with Hush-Kit: give aviation fans something that is both entertaining, surprising and well-informed. Please do help us and click on the donate button above – you can really make a difference (suggested donation £10). You will keep us impartial and without advertisers – and allow us to carry on being naughty. A big thank you to all of our readers.

 

You may also enjoy 11 Cancelled French aircraft or the 10 worst British military aircraftSu-35 versusTyphoon10 Best fighters of World War II , Su-35 versus Typhoontop WVR and BVR fighters of today, an interview with a Super Hornet pilot and a Pacifist’s Guide to Warplanes. Flying and fighting in the Tornado. Was the Spitfire overrated? Want something more bizarre? Try Sigmund Freud’s Guide to Spyplanes. 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. 10 great aircraft stymied by the US

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Older posts

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Hush-Kit presents: The top popstar-killing aircraft manufacturer of all time

From Buddy Holly and the Big Bopper to Aaliyah and whoever’s next, so many of our brightest musical stars have ended their lives in planes. But have you ever wondered which plane has killed the most? No, of course you haven’t, because you’re not a DREADFUL FUCKING GHOUL. 

Fortunately, in bold defiance of good taste, Stephen Caulfield has calculated which aircraft manufacturer has inadvertently been responsible for the death of the most pop stars. In the interest of fairness, I should add that Aaliyah was killed in a Cessna 402B.

And the ‘winner’ is: Beechcraft

(Stephen is this morally OK?) Please address all legal complaints to the author.

Beechcraft Model H18

Image

Otis Redding,
Matthew Kelly
Jimmy King
Phalon Jones
Ronnie Caldwell
Carl Cunningham

Bonanza 35 (V-tail)

Bonanza 35 vee tail

Buddy Holly,
Ritchie Valens
J. P. “The Big Bopper” Richardson

E18S

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Jim Croce

Bonanza M35

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Randy Rhoads

33 Debonair

Image

Jim Reeves

Bonus listing:

Baron

Image

Robert Smithson
(Land Artist – Spiral Jetty)

Get a lock-on to Hush-Kit on Twitter
Stephen Caulfield cleans limousines around the corner from what was once the Avro Canada plant.  He appreciates writing, art, aeroplanes and the tragic nature of modernity in pretty much equal parts these days.  His blog is www.suburban-poverty.com

Images: courtesy of author.

The ten best BVR fighters of 2013

FA-1877SQNAsraamAmraam

To excel in Beyond Visual Range air combat a fighter must be well-armed and equipped with capable avionics. It must be able to fly high and fast to impart the maximum range to its missiles, allowing them to hit the enemy before he is even aware of their presence. The aircraft must give its crews good enough situational awareness not to shoot their friends down, and be easy to operate so it can deploy its weapons quickly and accurately. The black magic of the aircraft’s electronic warfare suite can also come in to its own, reducing the opponent’s situation awareness.

Hardware is generally less important than training and tactics, but removing these human factors from the mix allows us to judge the most deadly long-range fighting machines currently in service. The exact ordering of this list is open to question, but all the types mentioned are extraordinarily potent killers. This list only includes currently active fighters (so no PAK FAs etc) and only includes weapons and sensors that are actually in service today (so no Meteor missiles etc).

10. Lockheed Martin F-16E/F

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A great sensor suite, including a modern AESA and comprehensive defensive aids systems is combined with advanced weapons and a proven platform; a small radar cross section also helps. However, the type is let down by mediocre ‘high and fast’ performance, fewer missiles than its rivals and a smaller detection range than some of its larger rivals. With Conformal Fuel Tanks its agility is severely limited.

Armament for A2A mission: 4 x AIM-120C-7, 2 x AIM-9X (1 x 20-mm cannon.).

9. Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet

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Well equipped with a great defensive system and excellent weapons the Super Hornet  has much to offer. It is happiest at lower speeds and altitudes  making it a fearsome dogfighter, but is less capable at the BVR mission; a mediocre high-speed high-altitude performance let it down, as does a pedestrian climb rate and acceleration at higher speeds. The touch screen cockpit has disadvantages, as switches and buttons  can be felt ‘blind’ and do not require ‘heads-down’ use. The much-touted AN/APG-79 AESA radars introduced on Block II aircraft has proved unreliable and has enormous development problems. One scathing report said ‘ …operational testing does not demonstrate a statistically significant difference in mission accomplishment between F/A-18E/F aircraft equipped with AESA and those equipped with the legacy radar.’ Read an exclusive interview with a Super Hornet pilot here.

Armament for A2A mission: Super Hornet (high drag ‘Christmas tree’) 12 x AIM-120, realistic = 6 x AIM-120C-7  + 2/4 AIM-9X ) (1 x 20-mm cannon)

8. Grumman F-14 Tomcat (IIRAF)

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The star of ‘Top Gun’ remains active with the Islamic Republic of Iran’s Air Force. Though an aged design it probably retains an impressive ultra-long range engagement capability. As one source said to Hush-Kit ‘Against a US Navy F/A-18, the Tomcat’s radar and AIM-54 are still going to cause a real headache.’

A2A armament:  4 x AIM-54 (remanufactured), 2 x Fatter (local AIM-9P version) (one 20-mm cannon)

Top Ten fictional aircraft here

7. Dassault Rafale

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In many ways the Dassault Rafale deserves a higher ranking in this top ten. It has great agility, one of the lowest radar cross sections of a ‘conventional’ aircraft and its defensive systems are generally considered superior to those of its arch-rival, the Typhoon. It falls down in its main armament, the MICA, which is generally considered to have a lower maximum range than later model AMRAAMs. It has a little less poke than the Typhoon in terms of  thrust-to-weight ratio leading some potential customers in hot countries to demand an engine upgrade. It has yet to be integrated with a helmet cueing system in operational service and the recent fitment of an AESA, though a publicity coup, is very far from being fleetwide, leaving the vast majority of aircraft with a PESA squeezed into an unfortunately petite nose, a technological cul-de-sac lacking the flexibility of the pure AESA of its US rivals (though it is still a highly regarded sensor).

A2A armament: 6 x MICA (possibly 8 if required, though this has not been seen operationally)  (one 30-mm cannon)

6. McDonnell Douglas F-15C (V) 3 Eagle/Boeing F-15SG

Though the famously one-sided score sheet of the F-15 should be taken with a pinch of salt (Israeli air-to-air claims are often questionable to say the least), the F-15 has proved itself a tough, kickass fighter that can be depended on. It lacks the agility (certainly at lower speeds) of its Russian counterparts, but in its most advanced variants has an enormously capable radar in the APG-63(V)3. The F-15 remains the fastest Western fighter to have ever entered service, and is currently the fastest non-Russian frontline aircraft of any kind in the world. The type is let down by a giant radar cross section, a massive infra-red signature and an inferior high altitude performance to a newer generation of fighters.

A2A armament: 6 x AIM-120C-7, 2 x AIM-9X (1 x 20-mm cannon)

Republic of Singapore Air Force F-15SG lands Oct. 3, 2012, at Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska. The aircraft is assigned to the 428th Fighter Squadron Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho Alaska for the RedFlag-Alaska exercis (1

5. Sukhoi Su-30MK

The most capable official members of Sukhoi’s ‘Flanker’ family are the export Su-30MKs. Agile and well-armed they are formidable opponents. Armed with ten missiles the Su-30 has an impressive combat persistence and is able to fly impressively long distance missions. The radar is a large, long-ranged PESA (featuring some elements of an AESA) and Indian aircraft carry particularly good Israeli jamming pods. The type has proved itself superior to both the RAF’s Tornado F.Mk 3 and USAF’s F-15C in exercises, though the degree of dominance over the F-15C is marginal to the point that superior training, tactics and C3 saw the US lord over the type in later exercises. The pilot workload is higher than in later Western designs, the engines demanding  to maintain and the vast airframe has a large radar cross section.

A2A armament: 6 x R-77, 4 x R-73 (1 x 30-mm cannon)

Su30MKI-07

4. Shenyang J-11B

The Chinese pirate version of the ‘Flanker’ features a reduced radar cross section and improved weapons and avionics. With the latest Type 1474 radar (with a 100 miles + range) and the highly-regarded PL-12 active radar AAM, it is an impressive fighter.

6 x PL-12, 4 x PL-10 (or R-73E) + ( 1 x 30-mm cannon)

j11b-prototype

3. Mikoyan MiG-31

The fastest modern fighter in the world, with a top speed of Mach 2.83, the MiG-31 offers some unique capabilities. No aircraft has a longer air-to-air weapon than the type’s huge R-33, which can engage targets well over 100 miles away. Designed to hunt in packs of four or more aircraft the type can sweep vast swathes of airspace, sharing vital targeting information by data-link with other aircraft. The enormous PESA radar was the first ever fitted to a fighter. The type is marred by a mountainous radar cross section and poor agility at lower speeds. More on the MiG-31 here and here.

 4 x R-33, 2 x R-40TD (1 x 23-mm cannon)

mig-31

2. Eurofighter Typhoon

A high power-to-weight ratio, a large wing and a well designed cockpit put the Typhoon pilot in an advantageous position in a BVR engagement. Acceleration rates, climb rates (according to a German squadron leader it can out-climb a F-22) and agility at high speeds are exceptionally good. Pilot workload is very low compared to most rivals and the aircraft has proved reliable. The type will be the ‘last swinging disc in town’ as it will be among the last modern fighters to feature a mechanically scanned radar; the Captor radar may use an old fashioned technology but it still a highly-rated piece of kit. It has a smaller radar cross section than both the F-15 and Su-30 and superior high altitude performance to Rafale. Combat persistence is good and the AIM-132 ASRAAM of RAF aircraft are reported to have a notable BVR capability.

A2A armament (RAF): 6 x AIM-120C-5, 2 x AIM-132 (1 x 27-mm cannon)

eurofighter_typhoon_flying-other

1. Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor

Undisputed king of beyond-visual range air combat is the F-22 Raptor. Its superbly stealthy design means it is likely to remain undetected to enemy fighters, calmly despatching its hapless opponents. The type’s excellent AESA radar is world class, and its ‘low-probability of interception’ operation enables to see without being seen. When high-altitude limitations are not in place (due to safety concerns) the type fights from a higher perch than F-15s and F-16s, and is more frequently supersonic. High and fast missile shots give its AMRAAMs far greater reach and allow the type to stay out harm’s way. The F-22 is expensive, suffers from a poor radius of action for its size and has suffered a high attrition rate for a modern fighter.

6 x AIM-120C-5 + 2 x AIM-9M (1 x 20-mm cannon)

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Let’s get in to the merge, Top Ten Dogfighters here

By Joe Coles &  Thomas Newdick

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