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Military Aircraft In the 20th Century


Thesis: 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 Dessert 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 to 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 turbo
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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