Tuesday, July 28, 2015

The Amazing F-15C Eagle, from the Land Of No Slack

As the excitement builds for this weekend's airshow, my mind goes back to an airshow from about 10-11 years ago(?)- my first Oregon Airshow after moving here. As we approached the parking area, an F-15 was turning, yanking and banking in the sky... very, very low above us. I saw the afterburner. I saw the clouds of boiling water over the wings. I saw the huge American Eagle on the tail. I was amazed- all the aviation books said the F-15 Eagle wasn't able to turn that well, that it was more of an interceptor. 

Maybe some Viper fanboi wrote those reviews, but the bird I saw tearing up the sky above my head appeared more than capable of turning with anything else out there. 

We parked just as it was wrapping up, and I approached a pilot in flight suit and patches. I told him how, during one turn, the Eagle went right over us, huge clouds of condensation on its wings, but it's afterburners weren't going yet there was a loud ripping/roaring sound. 

He smiled and shifted on his feet like he was trying to contain himself. He said, "You bet. That's the sound of the water boiling over the wing. I heard it too, but most people mistake it for afterburners." (or words to that effect) 

He went on, "Crowds usually don't get to hear it, but that guy was flying really low, so yeah, that's what it was." 

Shortly after that, tragedy struck another airshow when an American aviator crashed through some trees during a performance. USAF and USN performers were only designated flights and aircraft, and few and far between. Local aircrew only flew rare, occasional fly-bys for "safety's sake." 

But I will never forget the time I looked up, saw those Eagle-adorned tails, that shiny jet belly, and the roar of burning air above its wings. 

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Lightning II vs Fighting Falcon- Fight's On!

I hope if you're reading this you've already read one of the plentiful posts or re-posts about how the F-35 was recently "embarrassed" in its first mock air combat session with an F-16.

My thoughts really spun. I was disappointed at the report, to be honest, as my first reaction. I couldn't figure out why the jet Lockheed Martin and its test pilots had been touting as "having F-18 like maneuverability" got so slaughtered in the exercise.

My first thought was, "Wait a minute- I thought this thing had been limited to 3 or 7 G maneuvers. Nowhere in the article does it state that this limitation had been lifted. Maybe I'm meant to assume it was. Okay, maybe that was a stupid thought. But it was part of my process, so I put it in.

My second reaction came with, "If the F-22 pilots don't wear JHMCS because it doesn't fit sideways in the cockpit*, how COULD the F-35 pilot "check six"? But then, the -35's cockpit is a lot bigger than a Raptor's. And not by a little, by a LOT. Hold up two nose-on diagrams or even photos, and you'll see what I mean. So I left a question mark on this point and moved on.

My brain briefly skimmed over a point I've been reading by LM and the USAF since the 90s, when everyone was comparing the F-35 to the F-22: "The F-35 is NOT an air superiority fighter. It is a strike platform. It is a stealthy strike platform that, if caught in a pinch, has mean teeth to detect itself. We already have the F-22 for air superiority. Dominance." Okay.

So, people eventually moved on to comparing it to the A-10 that it's replacing. I mean, eventually, as soon as the replacing actually starts happening. The same arguments were said over and over. And I probably won't touch on those here. But Eventually this F-16 report came out and I'm going to deal with it. How?

With Charts. Because this is the Internet, and charts know everything.

In conclusion: The F-35 is not a replacement for anything. It is an entirely new way of doing air-to-ground combat. Enhanced Situational Awareness. Stealth. Stand-Off Kinetic Kill and Electronic Signal gathering beyond what 99.9% of people can even imagine. Amazing jamming ability. Reasonable speed, maneuverability, etc. And the ability to clean out an evil dictator's left ear from 40 miles away, 35,000' up with a 250 lbs. smart bomb.

Strafing, like snail mail and rotating channel knobs on a TV, is becoming a thing of the past. And while it may still be used in some rarer and rarer cases, the overall way we do kinetic war is changing dramatically. And in a day when the enemy burns you, skins or decapitates you alive on camera, stand off killing has become a must. Bear in mind that the new AC-130 only has one cannon, with huge bomb racks for SDBs on the wings. Yes, even the Spooky is ghosting out.

Am I anti-A-10? No, I'm not. The Warthog was THE plane for THE job in THE era it was designed for. But that era is wrapping up. The enemy has changed, technology has progressed, and war fighting theory-and capability- is marching on.

So you can get on the F-35 bullet train of military progress, or you can ride the A-10 into the museum with a Ya-hoo and a Giddy-up. Things, they are a-changing.

Feel free to comment in the space below!

*A-4 Skyhawks, often lauded as the US Navy's premier light strike aircraft in the Vietnam War, had this same limitation. New, un-broken-in flight helmets did not fit sideways in the cockpit, and pilots would sometimes get their head "stuck" when they suddenly suspected a threat was on their tail

Friday, July 17, 2015


I take on the damning F-16 vs. F-35 report right here. Should be up early next week. And you're gonna love it!