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Military Aircraft Has Become More Sophisticated In Variety


Effectiveness In War Situations, and Special Maneuvering
Techniques In Recent Years. 

Military aircraft has become more sophisticated in variety,
effectiveness in war situations, and special maneuvering
techniques in recent years. With the advance of stealth
technology, many new and very effective aircraft have been
developed. The F-117A was used during Operation Dessert
Storm and every plane came back without a scratch. The very
expensive B-2 stealth bomber has never been used in actual
war, but during testing it was a success. The Advanced
Tactical Fighter program was started to make an aircraft
that could supercruise, the ability to cruise at supersonic
speeds, and didn't cost very much. The YF-22 and YF-23 were
the first planes to accomplish this. With all the planes we
know of, there are also top secret programs probably going
on right now. A new fighter that has never been heard of
before has been spotted. As John Welch, the assistant
secretary of Air Force said, "Stealth gives us back that
fundamental element of war called surprise" (Goodall 9).
After it was found that aircraft could be very useful in
war, it was used for large scale reconnaissance. Then
people started to add bombs to aircraft and then airplanes
started to become an essence of war. After World War 2, new
bombers were developed with fast speed, and could travel
far distances. They could also carry nuclear bombs and
missiles. The use of the bomber aircraft then led to the
fighter, which was equipped with guns and missiles.
Helicopters were also found to be good strike aircraft.
They were armed with cannons, machine guns, rockets,
torpedoes, and a variety of missiles. Vertical takeoff made
the helicopter an advantage.
The first flight of the F-117A was in June of 1981 in Groom
Lake test facility. The total cost for the development of
the F-117A was just under two billion dollars, but it only
cost $43 million to make each plane. It became operational
in October of 1983 and was the first operational stealth
aircraft ever built. The F-117A is a night attack plane
powered by two, nonafterburning General Electric engines.
F-117As were designed for first-strike capabilities and to
be able to fly into any countries airspace undetected. The
primary task of the F-117A is to break through enemy
airspace, destroy high value targets, and return back
unharmed. They were considered to first be used in several
different tasks, but weren't used until Operation Dessert
Storm where they did an excellent job. As Donald Rice,
Secretary of the Air Force, said, "Everyone now agrees the
F-117 was a real bargain" (9).
During Operation Dessert Storm the F-117As were found out
to be very successful. The war began on January 16, 1991
when the F-117A fighters entered the Iraqi airspace on
their way to downtown Baghdad. There were 43 of them over
the skies of Iraq and not one was lost even though they
went against one of the most modern air-defense systems in
the world. Operation Dessert Storm was the largest aerial
bombing attack in war history. It was also the first time a
stealth aircraft was used as a main weapon. On the first
day of Desert Storm the Lockheed F-117As dropped sixty-two
2,000 pound bombs on Baghdad destroying the most critical
targets of the Iraqi military, including the headquarters
of the Iraqi air force. "We've seen that not only does
stealth work, but that it puts fewer assets at risk and
saves lives" (9), as Donald Rice said. The pilots of those
F-117As flew through the hardest anti-aircraft missiles any
pilot has ever flown through.
When you think of stealth, most people probably think of
B-2 stealth bomber, but most people don't realize that it
hasn't even been used in a real war situation yet. In
November of 1987 the Pentagon ordered the first four B-2s
to be built for $2 billion. Each B-2 cost $437.4 million to
build. After the military liked the bomber, they originally
ordered 133 of them, then they cut back to 75 because of
the deficit-reduction bill. Then, in 1992, the House of
Representatives voted to buy only twenty, and later only 15
saying that 10 would be enough. With four General Electric
engines with 19,000 pounds of thrust each, the B-2s were
made to carry a lot of weight. The Advanced Technology
Bomber, as it was called, was made so it couldn't be
spotted by enemy radar. After testing it was found out that
it is almost impossible to track it constantly using radar.
The B-2s were designed to be an all-flying wing and it is
made up of over eighty percent of composite materials. The
B-2 is 69 feet long, has a wingspan of 172 feet, and 17
feet in height. They also can carry a payload of 40,000
pounds and can travel at mach 0.85 (Jones 86). The B-2 can
carry 80 bombs, including nuclear bombs. All fifteen of the
B-2s are assigned to Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri
and await t o be used in actual combat.
In 1983 the Advanced Tactical Fighter program office was
formed at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio. The Air
Force wanted to build an aircraft that had the ability to
supercruise without the use of afterburners or running out
of fuel in a couple of minutes. It should be able to cruise
at mach 1.4 or 1.5 and be able to take off on runways less
then 2,000 feet long. Since the money was starting to get
tight, the Advanced Tactical Fighter should cost under $40
million each to build. To come up with this aircraft, the
Military gave a contract to both Northrop and Lockheed to
each build it with these specifications.
The Air Force wanted an air-superiority fighter to replace
the Douglass F-15 Eagle. In 1986 the Air Force gave a
contract to Northrop and Lockheed who would each build two
Advanced Tactical Fighter prototypes. The Northrop YF-23
made its first flight in August 1990. It was powered by a
Pratt and Witney F-119-PW engine. The YF-23 can hold four
AIM-120 missiles. The YF-22 prototype made its first flight
in September of 1990 and became the first to pass the Air
Force's supercruise specification. It could reach mach 1.58
and faster. The YF-22 has three weapon bays that can each
carry two air-to-air missiles. Both fighters can
supercruise at speeds of Mach 1.5 to 1.7. Their top speeds
are classified but they can most likely go over Mach 2. In
April of 1991 the Air Force had to decide which plane they
wanted, they chose the Lockheed YF-22 even though the YF-23
was more stealthy and could go faster.
A new swing-wing stealth aircraft has been spotted
undergoing test. In September of 1994 it was seen circling
high over Anarillo, Texas. While it was circling, a radio
scanner picked up a military UHF channel with the call sign
Omega. This call sign has never been heard before. The
pilot was talking about a hydraulic malfunction and was
saying he was dumping fuel to prepare for an emergency
landing. If there is a new plane like this, it will
probably be called the A-17 and will replace the F-111
which has been in service since 1967. Recently there have
been millions of dollars spent expanding the Cannon Air
Force Base and a new plane might be undergoing testing
there. It has also been said that high ranking officials
have gathered there to look at the new aircraft. The
Pentagon has announced that the F-111 will be retired by
the end of 1995. The new swing-wing aircraft spotted will
most likely replace it. Swing-wing aircraft add weight and
make a plane more complex, but give many advantages. When
the wing is swung forward the plane can travel farther and
can land and takeoff on shorter runways. When swung forward
it can reach supersonic speeds. It was noticed that the new
airplane spotted was armed with bombs and self-defense
missiles. The A-17 has many things in common with the YF-23
like the air inlets and the humps on top of the fuselage
that hide its engines. The engines on it are probably
General Electric YF-120 turb o fan-turbojet engines which
can reach speeds up to Mach 2.
One of the best recent advances has been in the area of
flight guidance and control such as the pilotless plane or
drone. The Firebee is a pilotless plane that can be
controlled by ground, plane, or by a computer. It can fly
following a preset course and return. Another advance is
vertical takeoff. It is a big advantage when an airplane
can land and takeoff almost anywhere. The British were the
first to design it, but we built prototypes right away.
With the advance of stealth technology, radar avoidance has
become very important. If the enemy doesn't know you are
coming then they won't even know what hit them if we want
to attack them. When Donald Rice said, "Stealth saves
lives, money, and does the job better" (Goodall 10), he was
right. Operation Dessert Storm showed us that. With the
many advances of military aircraft, it has become a main
and effective part of war in recent years. 


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