According to War History Online, the only remaining derelict section of a German Horten Ho 229 flying wing has been completely refurbished at the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center, a part of the US Air & Space Museum, and will likely go on display for the world to see in the not-too-distant future. The Ho 229 was an advanced secret aircraft developed by the Horten Brothers for the Luftwaffe that wedded jet technology with the world’s first stealthy design. It was largely intended to be used against rampaging allied bombers in an effort to defend the Reich from further bombing raids.
With the rhetoric between North Korea and the US heating up, and US generals, at the behest of Secretary of Defense, Jim Mattis, now told to begin playing nice with the media as a potential prelude to war, the Air Force has taken the unprecedented step of shedding light on the successor to the retired SR-71 spy plane, the SR-72. We’ve touched upon the hypersonic aircraft in previous blog posts earlier this year, largely wedding what we’ve gleaned from the Internet with analysis and a bit of conjecture, but now the Air Force is starting to confirm reports about the existence of the aircraft and its ultra-secretive capabilities. Designed to fly twice as fast as the SR-71 spy plane, the all-new SR-72 will reportedly reach speeds of at least Mach 6, or roughly 4567.2 mph at sea level and under optimal conditions.Moreover, the SR-72 is unmanned, and is likely controlled remotely by ground controllers much like a drone.
Roughly the size of an F-22, the SR-72 would differ markedly from the SR-71, since it is designed to engage ground targets in real-time as opposed to simply gathering intelligence. Its not clear what types of weapons will be stored internally, but a likely scenario would include decapitation missions whereby the aircraft would penetrate heavily defended air space then employ a single GPU-guided bomb to be used to eliminate the heads of government hunkered down within a reinforced or underground bunker. Interestingly, South Korea said this morning in Seoul, Financial Times reports. “Lee Cheol-hee, a member of the ruling Democratic party, on Tuesday said hackers had broken into a defence data centre in September last year. He said stolen documents included Operational Plan 5015 — the most recent allied blueprint for war with North Korea. The plans reportedly includes detailed procedures for a decapitation strike against the North Korean regime — a proposal that has infuriated Kim Jong Un, the country’s supreme leader.”
Last week, US piloted B-1B bombers from Guam along with F-15 escorts taking off from Japan, flew near but not into North Korea’s air space to its northernmost point in decades, likely locating and testing North Korean air defense measures should an incursion take place at a later date. In response, North Korea media reportedly told its populace that they had shot down both bombers, backing up the claim with a poorly animated video, while declaring that the two nations were now at a state of war, something the US unequivocally denied.
Much has been made of Russia’s so-called fifth generation fighter, the Su-57 (formerly the Pak FA), although, according to recent reports, it may be a stealth aircraft in name only. Jane’s, the holy grail of weapons analysis and performance, has gone on record to indicate that the Su-57 is already a dismal failure, an aircraft that was supposed to turn the military aviation world on its ear and serve as a viable contender to go toe-to-toe with both the USAF F-22 and F-35 entrants.
According to Jane’s, there are a number of critical areas in which the Su-57 fails to live up to its billing. For one, the aircraft’s internal weapons compartment is incapable of storing some of the latest weapons in the Russian arsenal, forcing the designers to hang the ordnance as external stores, thus all but undermining the aircraft’s stealth profile. Meanwhile, the aircraft’s power plant borrows from older fourth generation weapons platforms, and from a cursory observation, doesn’t seem to be shrouded in any type of heat dampening mechanism, again defeating the aircraft’s radar cross section return. Interestingly, NATO has yet to assign a reporting name to the Su-57, something they typically do for all potential adversarial aircraft produced by Russian aircraft makers. Perhaps they will go with “Failure”.
Not content to watch a grizzled old warrior die on the vine, Boeing has put together a slick new video showcasing what they call the Advanced F-15 2040C Stealth Fighter. Based upon a standard F-15 Eagle airframe, “the F-15 2040C series of upgrades would extend the life of the fourth-generation F-15C air superiority fighter to complement the fifth-generation F-22 Raptor. The 2040 version would double to 16 the number of air-to-air missiles the fighter carries, extend its range and improve its lethality and survivability with upgraded electronics,” according to AIN Online.
“An F-15 2040C would also extend the fighter’s production line in St. Louis, which with 84 F-15SAs destined for Saudi Arabia has firm orders through 2019. Boeing previously offered a stealthy “Silent Eagle” version for South Korea’s F-X III fighter competition, but that country last year settled on the Lockheed Martin F-35A Lightning II for the requirement.
The package would incorporate the programmed radar upgrade of F-15C/Ds with the Raytheon APG-63(v)3 active electronically scanned radar and a new electronic warfare suite called EPAWSS, for the Eagle Passive/Active Warning and Survivability System. A proposed long-range infrared search and track sensor pod would complement the AESA radar. Boeing supplies conformal fuel tanks on the multi-role F-15E Strike Eagle; the 2040C upgrade would add them on the F-15C. The proposed weapons load increase would be accomplished by adding a Boeing-developed “quad pack” carriage system on two weapons stations. A communications and networking pod with advanced datalinks, now being demonstrated under the Air Force’s Talon HATE program, would enable the older F-15 to interact with the Raptor and other platforms.”
With other planes in the US military’s arsenal already being re-purposed to extend their life at a fraction of the cost of obtaining newer aircraft, there’s a good chance the F-15 2040C will survive any proposed budget cuts and remain a staple of the USAF well into the 21st century. Interestingly, Boeing is billing the F-15 2040C as a stealth fighter, so it will be curious to see how they plan to achieve this lofty aim considering all of the plane’s ordnance are slung externally thereby increasing the aircraft’s radar return signature.
Lately, it seems as if everyone is getting into the armored game. Not exactly known for a vast military-industrial complex following its disastrous showing in the Falklands War, it appears as if Argentina is flexing its muscles with a brand new main battle tank dubbed the TAM 2C.
The Tanque Argentino Mediano (TAM; English: Argentine Medium Tank) is the main battle tank in service with the Argentine Army. Lacking the experience and resources to design a tank, the Argentine Ministry of Defense contracted German company Thyssen-Henschel. The vehicle was developed by a German and Argentine team of engineers, and was based on the German Marder infantry fighting vehicle.
The TAM met the Argentine Army’s requirement for a modern, lightweight and fast tank with a low silhouette and sufficient firepower to defeat contemporary armored threats. Development began in 1974 and resulted in the construction of three prototypes by early 1977 and full-scale production by 1979. Assembly took place at the local 9,600-square-meter (103,000 sq ft) TAMSE plant, founded for the purpose by the Argentine government. Economic difficulties halted production in 1983, but manufacturing began anew in 1994 until the army’s order of 200 tanks was fulfilled.
The TAM series includes seven different variants, such as a 155 mm (6.1-inch) self-propelled howitzer and a self-propelled mortar vehicle. In total, over 280 such vehicles were built, including armored personnel carriers, artillery and mortar pieces. The TAM and VCTP (Infantry Fighting Vehicles based on the TAM chassis) were manufactured for the Peruvian Army, only to be integrated into the Argentine Army when Peru canceled the contract. The TAM also competed for other export orders, but the TAM was ultimately not exported.
The TAM has never seen combat, although 17 VCTP were deployed to Croatia for the United Nations UNPROFOR peacekeeping mission.
The US Navy can’t be faulted for resting on their laurels. Planners are currently mulling over ways to bring their active duty warships up to Trump’s 350-ship goal, which include dusting off several mothballed Oliver Hazard Perry class destroyers to active service. Meanwhile, as a means of closing the fighter gap that exists until more F-35Cs can be brought online, they have also given Boeing the green light to produce what has been coined as the Advanced Super Hornet, also known as the as the “F/A-18XT” or “Block 3 Super Hornet.” According to Fox Business, “Boeing’s Advanced Super Hornet is an upgrade of the company’s current F/A-18E/F fighter jets. Among other improvements, the new design features “advanced network architecture” and “advanced cockpit displays” on the inside, and conformal fuel tanks — adding 100 to 120 nautical miles to the plane’s range, and providing a stealthier radar profile — on the outside. The new design is not as stealthy as a Lockheed Martin F-35C. But at a mooted price of $79 million, the Advanced Super Hornet is also a heckuvalot cheaper than the $122 million price tag that Lockheed hangs on an F-35C.”
If you thought tanks were nothing more than hulking slabs of armor, barely able to get out of their own way much less other friendly vehicles, well, then you better think again. The Israeli Defense Forces are fielding a brand new helmet-mounted display dubbed IronVision which gives buttoned up tankers the ability to see through their vehicle thereby offering 360 degree situational awareness. The system works much like the helmet-mounted displays F-35 pilots are using to see through the floor, sides and nose of their plane’s fuselage to better gauge where the enemy is in a knife fight. Under development by Elbit Systems for several years, “the Helmet Mounted System (HMS) provides “protective glass walls” for tank or armored fighting vehicle crews who may need to operate in so-called closed-hatch mode when maneuvering in high-threat areas, according to Boaz Cohen, director of Elbit’s land systems division,” says Defense News.
Space has long been the bastion of science fiction writers who have conjured up all manner of invasion and conquest. Apparently, the US Defense Department is starting to pay attention to space as the next high ground, going so far to propose a separate branch of the military known as the US Space Corps. According to a recent posting on Wikipedia, The United States Space Corps (USSC) is a proposed branch of the United States Armored Forces that, if created, would absorb the United States Air Force’s current space missions and would be dedicated to the cause of space as a warfare domain.
In June 2017, the US House Armed Services Committee (HASC) voted to create the U.S. Space Corps. The new service would be administered by the Secretary of the Air Force (much as the Marine Corps falls under the Department of the Navy), but would be a separate branch, and necessitate a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. A provision in the House version of the 2018 US defense budget requested the creation of the Space Corps. The top Republican and Democrat on the strategic forces subcommittee, Reps. Mike Rogers (R-Ala.) and Jim Cooper (D-Tenn.), are leading this effort. This proposal is opposed by the U.S. Air Force.
Its not clear how the US Space Corps would evaluate and utilize space as a military platform, the lengths to which they would consolidate and employ certain assets already in place as part of their arsenal, and steps they would take to develop and field new systems for both control over low Earth orbit as well as outer space, up to and including bases on the moon and Mars.
As a retailer of historically-based military products, we have always contended that there would be an eager audience looking to collect some of the conjectural systems currently on the drawing board, such as a hypersonic jet capable of striking targets anywhere around the world in two hours or less, or near future weapons systems destined for mid-twentieth century deployment by a number of nations.
On July 15th, the House of Representative approved the initial concept for the US Space Corps. The bill must now go before the Senate for ratification before it gets sent up to the Executive Branch final approval.
Raytheon reports that they have successfully conducted a field test whereby an AH-64 Apache attack helicopter acquired and hit an unmanned target using a high energy laser. Its not clear what type of damage was inflicted on the stationary target, nor the rate at which the weapon can be recharged so that it can engage other targets. Since the helicopter is shown mounting Hellfire missiles, we will presume that the crew may have to wait while the weapon is fully operational before using the weapon again. Moreover, its not clear if the weapon can be fired at moving targets, hence the need for back up ordnance. Here’s a link to the article: http://www.raytheon.com/news/feature/high_energy_laser.html
If true, this all but negates the Afghanit active protection system being bolted on to the new Russian T-14 Armata main battle tank. At the time of this writing, I am not sure of any means of defeating a laser weapon, even if the target had the requisite time to respond to the threat.
With the announcement that Hobby Master plans to produce a scale model of the M60A1 medium tank (HA5601), we thought it made sense to take a moment and explain one of the principal differences between a standard M60 Patton tank and the updated M60A1. Affixed to the main gun barrel is the Reliability Improved Selected Equipment (RISE) IR/White Light Spotlight, which differs from the Passive version that replaced it later on in a number of important respects. Essentially, the device was used to gather low ambient light so that the vehicle could identify and engage targets at night, thereby turning the battlefield of the sixties into a potential 24-hour long engagement. The problem was that the searchlight threw off so much light when aimed at the enemy that the vehicle, in turn, could be quickly spotted and fired upon, thereby negating the vehicle’s temporary night-fighting advantage.
Back in the sixties, when the apparatus was first introduced, the concept of night-fighting wasn’t exactly new. Germany’s Wehrmacht actually tinkered with the concept as far back as 1936, as explained in this discourse posted on Achtung Panzer.
“In 1936, the AEG was ordered to start the development of infrared night-vision devices and in 1939, first successful prototype unit for use with 37mm Pak 35/36 L/45 anti-tank gun was constructed. In autumn of 1942, unit for use (infrared headlamp with viewer ZG 1221) with 75mm PaK 40 L/46 anti-tank gun was constructed and was also mounted on the Marder II (Sd.Kfz. 131).
In mid 1943, the first tests with infrared night-vision (Nacht Jager) devices and telescopic rangefinders mounted on a Panther started. Two different arrangements / solutions were created and used on Panther tanks.
Solution A – Sperber (Sparrow Hawk) was made up of one 30cm infrared searchlight (with range of 600m) and image converter operated by the commander – FG 1250.From late 1944 to March of 1945, some Panzerkampfwagen V Panther Ausf G (and other variants) mounted with FG 1250, were successfully tested. From March to April of 1945, approximately 50 Panthers Ausf G (and other variants) mounted with FG 1250, saw combat service on the Eastern Front and Western Front. Panthers with IR operated with SdKfz.251/20 Uhu (Owl) half-track with 60cm infra-red searchlight and Sd.Kfz.251/21 Falke (Falcon). This solution could be easily mounted on any type of armored fighting vehicle.
Solution B – Second more complicated arrangement / solution was “Biwa” (Bildwandler), which provided driver (installed on the front hull), gunner (installed on the mantlet in front of the gun sight) and commander (as in Solution A) each with one 30cm infrared searchlight (with range of 600m) and image converter. Various variants of the Panther tank were converted and mounted with “Biwa”. It was reported that tests were successful, but there were very few combat reports from the Eastern or Western Front. Due to the lack of evidence, the existence of Solution B is still questionable and even considered a hoax.
Various units received IR Panthers including 116.Panzer Division (3rd company of 24th Panzer Regiment, Western Front, Summer of 1944), Sixth SS Panzer Army (Hungary, early 1945), Panzer Division Muncheberg and Clausewitz.One combat report is by a veteran of the 1st SS Panzer Regiment, 1st SS Panzer Division “LSSAH”, who states that few Panthers equipped with infrared night-vision devices possibly from 116th Panzer Division were used in 1944/45 during the Ardennes Offensive.In April of 1945, Panthers equipped with IR equipment (solution B) joined Panzer Division Clausewitz and in mid April near Uelzen destroyed entire platoon of British Comet cruiser tanks. Also on April 21st of 1945, same Panthers overran an American anti-tank position on the Weser-Elbe Canal.Most of those reports can’t be confirmed and are questionable.
In addition, it is reported but not supported that single unit equipped with Jagdpanthers also received and used infrared night-vision devices.”