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Study the Pictures: These Numbers Show The Sheer Scope of D-Day

The National Interest - 20 hours 51 min ago

Warfare History Network

History, Europe

A staggering 850,000 German soldiers were waiting for the allies when they landed in France.

Here's What You Need to Remember: The numbers alone don’t tell the full story of the battle that raged in Normandy on June 6th, 1944.

The largest amphibious invasion in history began on the night of June 5-6, with the roar of C-47 engines preparing to take off , and climaxed on the beaches of Normandy.

But just how many paratroopers did it take to support the Normandy landings, how many soldiers braved machine gun fire and artillery to secure those crucial beachheads, and how many German soldiers were they up against?

History on the Net’s article on the D-Day invasion provides the astonishing raw figures.

Operation Overlord Statistics

The Normandy invasion consisted of the following:

  • 5,333 Allied ships and landing craft embarking nearly 175,000 men.

  • The British and Canadians put 75,215 British and Canadian troops ashore

  • Americans: 57,500

  • Total:132,715

  • 3,400 were killed or missing.

The foregoing figures exclude approximately 20,000 Allied airborne troopers.

D-Day Casualties:

  • The First U.S. Army, accounting for the first twenty-four hours in Normandy, tabulated 1,465 killed, 1,928 missing, and 6,603 wounded. The after-action report of U.S. VII Corps (ending 1 July) showed 22,119 casualties including 2,811 killed, 5,665 missing, 79 prisoners, and 13,564 wounded, including paratroopers.

  • Canadian forces at Juno Beach sustained 946 casualties, of whom 335 were listed as killed.

  • Surprisingly, no British figures were published, but Cornelius Ryan cites estimates of 2,500 to 3,000 killed, wounded, and missing, including 650 from the Sixth Airborne Division.

  • German sources vary between four thousand and nine thousand D-Day casualties on 6 June—a range of 125 percent. Field Marshal Erwin Rommel’s report for all of June cited killed, wounded, and missing of some 250,000 men, including twenty-eight generals.

American Personnel in Britain:

  • 1,931,885 land

  • 659,554 air

  • 285,000 naval

  • Total:2,876,439 officers and men housed in 1,108 bases and camps

Divisions of the Allied forces for Operation Overlord (the assault forces on 6 June involved two U.S., two British, and one Canadian division.)

  • 23 infantry divisions (thirteen U.S., eight British, two Canadian)

  • 12 armored divisions (five U.S., four British, one each Canadian, French, and Polish)

  • 4 airborne (two each U.S. and British)

  • Total:23 American divisions, 14 British, 3 Canadian, 1 French and 1 Polish.

Air assets:

  • 3,958 heavy bombers (3,455 operational)

  • 1,234 medium and light bombers (989 operational)

  • 4,709 fighters (3,824 operational)

  • Total: 9,901 (8,268 operational).

German troops:

  • 850,000 German troops awaiting the invasion, many were Eastern European conscripts; there were even some Koreans.

  • In Normandy itself the Germans had deployed 80,000 troops, but only one panzer division.

  • 60 infantry divisions in France and ten panzer divisions, possessing 1,552 tanks,In Normandy itself the Germans had deployed eighty thousand troops, but only one panzer division.

Approximately fifteen thousand French civilians died in the Normandy campaign, partly from Allied bombing and partly from combat actions of Allied and German ground forces.

The total number of casualties that occurred during Operation Overlord, from June 6 (the date of D-Day) to August 30 (when German forces retreated across the Seine) was over 425,000 Allied and German troops. This figure includes over 209,000 Allied casualties:

  • Nearly 37,000 dead amongst the ground forces

  • 16,714 deaths amongst the Allied air forces.

  • Of the Allied casualties, 83,045 were from 21st Army Group (British, Canadian and Polish ground forces)

  • 125,847 from the US ground forces.

But the numbers alone don’t tell the full story of the battle that raged in Normandy on June 6th, 1944. For a complete view of Operation Overlord, check out the full article at History on the Net, D-Day: The Invasion of Normandy, as well as some others like D-Day Quotes: From Eisenhower to Hitler.

This article first appeared on the Warfare History Network.

Image: Reuters

If You See B-52 Bombers Doing An 'Elephant Walk' Do One Thing: Run

The National Interest - Sun, 11/04/2021 - 23:33

Peter Suciu

U.S. Air Force, Americas

These large and quick launches of many planes at once are known as Elephant Walks.

Key point: These exercises are good practice in case an emergeny requires the need for a lot of bombers to take off and attack all at once. This is how the Air Force tries to keep itself ready for anything. 

It surely made for an impressive sight late last year.

Eight United States Air Force B-52H Stratofortress bombers could be seen lined up on the runway at Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana in an “elephant walk,” the procession of military aircraft taxiing in close formation prior to takeoff. This most recent show of force of the Cold War-era bombers, which took place last week, was part of a readiness exercise conducted to ensure that the 2nd Bomb Wing remains fully able to provide winning combat power.

The Air Force has been increasingly conducting such elephant walks as a demonstration of the capabilities of its bomber fleet. A similar show of strength was conducted in April involving five B-52H bombers prior to their departure from Guam.

Following this October 2020 lineup of bombers, the eight aircraft flew to Minot Air Force Base, North Dakota before returning back to their home base in Northern Louisiana.

To Europe and Back

Some of the B-52 bomber crews had already had a busy month apparently at the time, as a pair of the aircraft from Barksdale AFB made a round trip flight to Europe, where the aircraft took part in a major NATO training exercise during a Bomber Task Force (BTF) mission over the North Sea. The two-week-long NATO exercise had involved more than fifty aircraft from across the alliance—and it was held to ensure that Allied air forces are able to operate effectively together.

The B-52s conducted the non-stop trans-Atlantic flight to Europe, and then made the return flight to Louisiana with support from Dutch, German, Italian, and U.S. aerial refueling capabilities. The multilateral support to the BTF was the most recent example of the strength gained through interoperability and partnership with the U.S. Air Force’s NATO allies and partners, as well as a continued validation of a shared commitment to global security and stability in Europe.

The refueling missions included KC-135 Stratotanker aircraft from the 100th Air Refueling Wing at RAF Mildenhall in England, which refueled the bombers off the coast of Scotland.

The Air Force’s strategic nuclear force, including the B-52, remains an essential military link between Europe and North America and has been seen as a key contributor to the Alliance security as the bombers offer a global strike capability. This recent trans-Atlantic crossing comes less than two months after six B-52s took part in the “Allied Sky” flyover across thirty NATO countries in a single day at the end of August. It was meant to highlight solidarity with U.S. partners and allies.

Four of the Cold War-era U.S. Air Force bombers were deployed from Royal Air Force (RAF) Fairford in the UK and flew over Europe, while two bombers from the 5th Bomb Wing at Minot Air Force Base, North Dakota flew over the U.S. and Canada.

Over the summer additional B-52H bomber training missions were conducted at RAF Fairford as part of a long-planned exercise involving the 5th Bomb Wing, which was deployed to demonstrate U.S. capability to command, control and conduct bomber missions across the globe.

Despite its age, the upgraded B-52H bombers can still perform a variety of missions at subsonic speeds at high altitudes while the aircraft have a combat range of 8,800 miles and are able to carry precision-guided ordnance with worldwide precision navigation.

Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer who has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers and websites. He is the author of several books on military headgear including A Gallery of Military Headdress, which is available on Amazon.com. This article first appeared earlier and is being reposted due to reader interest.

Image: Reuters.

What Makes India’s NAG Anti-Tank Missile So Good?

The National Interest - Sun, 11/04/2021 - 23:03

Peter Suciu

Indian Army, Asia

The NAG missiles are constructed of lightweight and highly durable composite materials.

Here's What You Need to Remember: The NAD is not the only missile platform that has been undergoing testing. Earlier this month, the Indian Ministry of Defence also announced the flight test of the new generation anti-radiation missile.

India and China have continued to move men and material to the Ladakh Valley near the Line of Actual Control before winter sets in, and this has included a significant number of tanks and other armored vehicles. In some cases, the tanks and troops are just 400 meters apart. India has ferried in equipment via heavy-lift, and that included numerous T-72 and T-80 tanks, along with BMP-2 armored personnel carriers (APC). All of the vehicles have been modified and adapted to run on a special fuel mix designed specifically for the high altitudes and low temperatures of the region.

Last month the Indian military also conducted tests of its latest variant of the NAG anti-tank missiles near the Pokhran Test Range in the western state of Rajasthan. During the tests, the third-generation, all-weather, fire-and-forget anti-tank guided missiles (ATGM) reportedly destroyed the target with extremely high accuracy in both desert terrain and rugged frontier hills—terrain that is similar to that of the Ladakh region.

"This is the final test and the NAG program will begin to be deployed to all units in the military," the Indian Defense Ministry said in a statement.

Defence Aviation Post reported that the NAG is a product of Defence Research and Development Organisation Agency of India (DRDO).

The missile, which first underwent successful tests in September 1997 and January 2000, is equipped with an advanced passive navigation system, and it was designed to destroy modern tanks and heavy armored targets, and has a night strike capability. It has been launched from a ground-based launch pad or an airbase. During the test in January 2016, a NAG missile successfully destroyed a thermal weapons system (TTS) at a range of 4 km at the Pokhran range. This anti-tank missile also underwent the last of the practical tests in different weather conditions earlier this year—likely in preparation for deployment to the Himalayas.

The ground version, also known as the "Prospina," can also be mounted on a NAMICA (BMP-2 platform), which is among the armored vehicles deployed along the border with China.

The NAG missiles are constructed of lightweight and highly durable composite materials. These can be installed with four rockets, spread and length 1.85, diameter 0.20m, a wingspan of 0.4m and weighs 43kg. The missile is fitted with a targeting guidance system, while the middle body contains many compact sensors and warheads. The platform can fire six missiles in just 20 seconds, and it is designed to destroy or defeat enemy tanks equipped with composite and reactive armor.

Army Technology reported that Defence PSU Bharat Dynamics Limited (BDL) will produce the missile while Ordnance Factory Medak will manufacture the NAMICA. Indian Defence Minister Rajnath Singh congratulated the Indian Army and DRDO for the completion of the trial.

In 2018, the Indian Defence Ministry had cleared the acquisition of 300 Nag missiles and 25 NAMICAs for the Indian Army.

The NAD is not the only missile platform that has been undergoing testing. Earlier this month, the Indian Ministry of Defence also announced the flight test of the new generation anti-radiation missile. Dubbed the RUDRAM, it is the first locally developed anti-radiation missile of the country. Additionally, last month, DRDO announced that it tested the Hypersonic Technology Demonstrator Vehicle (HSTDV). 

Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer who has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers and websites. He is the author of several books on military headgear including A Gallery of Military Headdress, which is available on Amazon.comThis article is being republished due to reader interest.

Image: Wikipedia.

Tanks: How Did Tanks Get Names Tanks? Let Us Explain...

The National Interest - Sun, 11/04/2021 - 23:00

Peter Suciu

Military History, Europe

The British invented the tank but did they actually come up with the term?

Key point: The word tank actually is related to how British tried to conceal their efforts to develop the new weapon. Here is how it went and how other names, such as panzer, were born.

In German it is the "panzer," in French it is the "char d'assaut," but in English, we know it is as the "tank." Yet even after more than 100 years since military "tanks" first entered service, this—at least from a linguistic point of view—is somewhat confusing. Why are tanks called tanks?

This article first appeared earlier and is being reposted due to reader interest.

The German word "panzer" doesn't actually translate to tank, but rather the word means "armor," as it derives from the French word "pancier" for "breastplate" and comes from the Latin "pantx" or "belly."

Today, Panzer is a loanword, notably in the context of the German military. But it is a bit more confusing because the first German "tank" was the Sturmpanzerwagen (Armored assault vehicle) A7V. Later German tanks were known as "Panzerkampfwagen" or roughly "armored combat vehicle." Leave it to the Germans to be direct and to the point.

Meanwhile the French term "char d'assaut" at least suggests an assault vehicle, but then "char" is essentially the word for tank. The British and French were allies during the First World when the "tank" was developed.

In 1915, the British military at the behest of then-First Lord of the Admiralty Winston Churchill, established the Landships Committee, which was composed mainly of naval officers, politicians and engineers.

The goal of this small committee first was to oversee the development of large wheeled "landships" that were estimated to weigh as much as 300 tons and could roll over any terrain. The project was ambitious, to say the least, but it soon became apparent that the costs, complexity, and logistics of creating such a vehicle were utterly unrealistic, especially in wartime.

Instead, the decision was to go with a smaller vehicle that could pave the way for the infantry to break through the enemy lines. Throughout the spring and summer the Committee conducted a number of trials with wheeled and tracked vehicles. Then in July 1915, the British War Office became aware of the project and its operations were transferred from the Royal Navy to the British Army, which was actually doing most of the fighting on the Western Front.

Under the Army's direction, the first completed tank prototype was developed and it was dubbed "Little Willie." It is also the oldest surviving individual tank in the world, in part because it was just a prototype and never saw use in combat. Little Willie is now in the collection The Tank Museum in Bovington, England.

Externally Little Willie did serve precursor of the tanks to come, and this included the Mark I, which featured sponsons on the side of the tank instead of the turrets, that would define later tanks. It took more than a year to refine and produce the MkI, but by September 1916 some 150 new armored vehicles had been built at William Foster & Co. of the Lincoln Metropolitan Carriage and Metropolitan Carriage, Wagon & Finance Co. at Wednesbury.

In an effort to hide exactly what the military was building, the vehicles were called "tanks" to suggest a container to transport fresh water to the front. In December 1915, the codeword "tank" was officially adopted, and the Landships Committee officially became the Tank Supply Committee

At the Battle of Flers-Courcelette, during the larger Battle of the Somme, on September 15, 1916, the first tanks rolled into action. Some forty tanks advanced over a mile into enemy lines. However, these lumbering vehicles, which did shock the enemy at first, proved too slow to hold their positions while many bogged down in the mud. It has been argued that military planners simply didn't know how to properly utilize these new machines, and it would take another two years of fighting before the tank had truly proven itself in battle.

But by then the word "tank" was in the modern dictionary. It is "char" in French and "танк" in Russian, all because of the successful effort to fool the German military during the war.

Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer who has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers and website. He is the author of several books on military headgear including A Gallery of Military Headdress, which is available on Amazon.com. This article first appeared earlier and is being reposted due to reader interest.

Image: Reuters.

The F-117 Nighthawk is Unlike Any Stealth Fighter

The National Interest - Sun, 11/04/2021 - 22:59

Peter Suciu

F-117 Nighthawk, Americas

Could it be possible that the F-117 Nighthawk will get a chance to fly again?

Here's What You Need to Remember: Despite the platform’s success, the United States Air Force opted to retire the F-117 in April 2008. The Air Force ultimately retired the Nighthawk as a cost-saving measure as the service struggled to pay for the Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor.

It was an aircraft that may have simply been ahead of its time. The Lockheed Martin F-117 Nighthawk was the first operational aircraft to be designed around stealth technology, and while commonly referred to as a “stealth fighter,” it was actually a ground attack aircraft. The platform was developed during the late 1970s in response to an Air Force request for an aircraft that would be capable of attacking high-value targets without being detected by enemy radar.

New materials and techniques developed during the “space race” allowed engineers to design the aircraft with radar-evading “stealth capabilities.”

Earlier this month one F-117 headed to the Palm Springs Air Museum, where it became part of the permanent collection. The fact that one of the aircraft is heading to the museum is notable as this is only the fourth F-117A to end up as a museum exhibit. One other aircraft, named “Midnight Rider,” arrived this August at Hill Aerospace Museum in Utah in August, while “Unexpected Guest” was expected to be displayed at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library this year. “Shaba” will also be transported to the Kalamazoo Air Zoo Museum in Michigan for restoration and future display.

Four of the prototype aircraft are displayed at various museums and military bases. The first prototype/test aircraft was presented to Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada in 1992 and became the first F-117 to be made a “gate guardian.”

The second prototype was delivered to the National Museum of the United States Air Force at Wright-Patterson AFB outside of Dayton, Ohio in July 1991; while the third prototype is now at Holloman AFB, New Mexico. That aircraft, which was painted to resemble the first F-117A to drop weapons in combat, was also the first to be revealed to high-ranking officials at Groom Lake in December 1983, which was also the first semi-public unveiling of the aircraft.

The fourth prototype was previously at Blackbird Airpark Museum in Palmdale, California, but it is undergoing restoration work and will be displayed at the Air Force Flight Test Center Museum at Edwards AFB sometime next year.

History of the F-117

The F-117 had its first flight in June 1981 at Groom Lake, Nevada, while the first F-117A unit, the 4450th Tactical Group (renamed the 37th Tactical Fighter Wing in October 1989), achieved initial operating capability in October 1983. Of the sixty-four F-117s built between 1981 and 1990, fifty-nine were production versions.

In 1989, the F-117A was awarded the Collier Trophy, one of the most prized aeronautical awards in the world.

The F-117A first saw combat just months later, when two from the 37th TFW were used in Operation Just Cause on Dec. 19, 1989, against military targets in Panama. The aircraft was used in the Persian Gulf War when the 415th and the 416th squadrons of the 37th TFW were deployed to Saudi Arabia. During Operation Desert Storm, the F-117As flew 1,271 sorties, achieving an 80 percent mission success rate, and suffered no losses or battle damage.

The ground attack aircraft were used in a conflict in Yugoslavia, where one was shot down by surface-to-air missiles in 1999, the only Nighthawk to be lost in combat. This occurred on March 27, 1999, when an S-125M missile crew from the Serbian 250th Air Defense Missile Brigade fired two missile V-600 missiles at the aircraft when it was flying back to its base in Italy after bombing a military target outside of Belgrade. Named “Something Wicked,” its remains are on display at the Museum of Aviation in the Serbian capital city.

Despite the platform’s success, the United States Air Force opted to retire the F-117 in April 2008. The Air Force ultimately retired the Nighthawk as a cost-saving measure as the service struggled to pay for the Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor. At the time, the Air Force claimed that the advent of the air superiority-oriented Raptor—and eventually the F-35—meant it no longer needed the F-117.

While the aircraft has been officially retired, a portion of the fleet has been kept airworthy and, as noted, few museums have even been provided with the airframe. So while unlikely, it is possible the F-117 Nighthawk could get a chance to fly again. Until then, the best way to see this early cutting-edge aircraft is in a museum.

Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer who has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers and websites. He is the author of several books on military headgear including A Gallery of Military Headdress, which is available on Amazon.comThis article is being republished due to reader interest.

Image: Wikimedia Commons.

How Iran Uses Tanks to Try and Dominate the Middle East

The National Interest - Sun, 11/04/2021 - 22:33

Caleb Larson

military, Middle East

Iran excels at updating old weapon systems like the T 72Z.

Here's What You Need To Remember: Iran’s domestic defense industry does not produce world-class weapon systems. But it is good at upgrading existing platforms and keeping them relevant.

Although Iran struggles to design and build more modern weapon systems, it excels in upgrading older Soviet and American designs, especially tanks. The Type 72Z is no exception—and has been exported to Iranian allies and client groups in the Middle East and Africa.

Type 72Z

Iran’s defense industry relies heavily on foreign weapon systems, especially for big-ticket items like tanks and aircraft. This is because Iran has a limited ability to manufacture these domestically. The Type 72Z is no exception. Iran’s Type 72Z tanks are upgraded Soviet T-54 and T-55 tanks, and Chinese Type 59 tanks, and not a copy of the Soviet T-72 tank as the name would suggest.

Iran’s government-owned Defense Industries Organization, a weapons manufacturing conglomerate that provides equipment and services for the Iranian armed forces designed and installed the upgrades. Upgrades incorporated into the Type 72Z design include domestically-designed explosive-reactive armor paneling fitted to the front hull glacis, turret sides and top, and side skirts for better protection against shaped charges and kinetic energy penetrators.

The 72Z upgrade also features a somewhat more powerful main gun. In place of the original factory-fitted 100-millimeter gun, the 72Z was upgraded with a larger bore 105-millimeter gun and equipped with a modernized fire-control system for better gun stability and accuracy. Thanks to the barrel size, a number of NATO tank munitions would, in theory, be compatible with the upgraded main gun.

The engine was also upgraded with a 780 horsepower engine of Ukrainian origin, up from 520 horsepower for the Chinese Type 59, and roughly 500 horsepower T-54/T-55 engine, giving the 72Z a decent power-to-weight ratio, thanks in part to its smaller size.

Export

Iran is apparently not the only Type 72Z operator. The investigative website Bellingcat identified a number of 72Z tanks near Tikrit in Iraq with Iraqi militias that were apparently used to fight against the Islamic State. The tanks were identified by the unique tan and burgundy camouflage pattern and turret-mounted smoke grenade launchers used for concealment. Bellingcat did not identify if the tanks were crewed by Iranian tankers or Iraqi militias, but acknowledged that Iran’s industrial capability is one of its main foreign policy tools in the Middle East.

Sudan ordered and purchased a number of the upgraded 72Zs sometime in the mid-2000s, though the exact number of tanks is speculative. Previously, Sudan also purchased several dozen Rakhsh armored personnel carriers from Iran. These APCs are also manufactured by the state-owned Defense Industries Organization.

Postscript

Iran’s domestic defense industry does not produce world-class weapon systems—but for countries that import Iranian arms, that doesn’t matter. As I previously wrote, Iran excels at updating old weapon systems, in particular Soviet-era tanks, keeping them at least somewhat prepared for battle.

Caleb Larson holds a Master of Public Policy degree from the Willy Brandt School of Public Policy. He lives in Berlin and writes on U.S. and Russian foreign and defense policy, German politics, and culture.

This article first appeared last year and is being reprinted due to reader interest.

X Planes: How These 3 Insane Planes Flew Into the History Books

The National Interest - Sun, 11/04/2021 - 22:00

Caleb Larson

History, Americas

The X-1 was used to better understand flight characteristics in the transonic range, from Mach 0.8 to Mach 1.

Here's What You Need to Remember: Sometimes dangerous, and always insightful, the X-series of planes continue to push the boundaries of what is possible in the air—and now in space. These planes continue to impress today. Keep an eye out for more information on the X-series in the future.

The X-series of planes are a series of non-production prototype planes that the U.S. Air Force uses to gain insights into flight and push the boundaries of what is possible. Though some of the most well-known and significant X-planes achieved greatness in the 1940s and 1950s, X-planes are still being developed today. Meet some of the greatest X-planes ever built.

The First of an Era: The X-1

In the frenzy of aeronautic advancements after the Second World War, perhaps no airframe contributed more to the understanding of flight more than the Bell X-1, the first of the experimental American X-series.

The X-1 was used to better understand flight characteristics in the transonic range, from Mach 0.8 to Mach 1. Airframes of the era suffered from undesirable flight characteristics in the transonic speed range and were generally unstable and a danger to fly.

The X-1 looks like a bullet—and that’s no accident. The airframe was modeled on a .50 caliber bullet, a supersonic projectile that was stable at Mach 1 and more. The X-1 didn’t have jet engines but got up to speed via rocket engines. It was also dropped from a modified B-50 bomber’s bomb bay so as to conserve as much of the X-1’s fuel as possible for Mach 1+ speeds.

In 1947, the most well-known test pilot in history, Chuck Yeager, became the first man to fly faster than the speed of sound, flying at Mach 1.06 and inching over the sound barrier.

Bell X-2 Starburster

Bell’s next contribution to the X-series broke another barrier—Mach 3. Just as the X-1 increased the depth of knowledge of the transonic range, the X-2 gathered invaluable data on the supersonic range—but was deadly to fly.

Like it’s predecessor, the X-2 was also powered by rocket engines and was dropped out of a modified B-50 bomber’s bay doors, but unlike the X-1, had much more aerodynamically efficient swept wings rather than the X-1’s straight wings. The record-breaking test pilot, Captain Miburn “Mel” Apt would blow past Mach 3 and achieve Mach 3.2 speeds, though the flight cost him his life.

Perhaps due to an instrumentation error, Capitan Apt banked hard while at Mach 3+ speed and lost control of his X-2. Although he was able to eject from the plane via the nose-mounted escape pod, he did not jump out of the pod after separation, possibly knocked unconscious by the massive G forces he experienced. The X-2 program would ultimately cost three test pilots their lives.

X-18

Fast forward a bit in time, and the X-series program would investigate the tilt-rotor designs.

For years, attempts at vertical take-off aircraft had failed badly. Designs generally followed that of conventional airplanes that could point their nose skyward and hover like a helicopter. Though these oddball designs were capable of taking off vertically, they were extremely difficult to handle and only the best and most experienced pilots could fly them. It was hoped that the X-18 could remedy this problem by being easier to handle.

The X-18 looked like a large transport plane, though its entire wing could rotate 90 degrees upward to point its propellers sky-high. After flying slowly upwards, the X-18 would gradually rotate its wing to the forward position and fly horizontally.

Though an improvement on the earlier attempts at vertical takeoff planes, the X-18’s wide wing could not be rotated during high wind conditions, as it acted like a large sail and could cause the airframe to tip over. Though ultimately unsuccessful, the X-18 provided valuable insight into tilt rotor designs and contributed to the V-22 Osprey design—now the backbone of the Marine Corps and Navy’s logistics chain.

Postscript

Sometimes dangerous, and always insightful, the X-series of planes continue to push the boundaries of what is possible in the air—and now in space. These planes continue to impress today. Keep an eye out for more information on the X-series in the future.

Caleb Larson is a defense writer for the National Interest. He holds a Master of Public Policy and covers U.S. and Russian security, European defense issues, and German politics and culture.

Image: Wikimedia.

The Air Force’s MQM-107 Streaker Drone Made Some Serious History

The National Interest - Sun, 11/04/2021 - 21:33

Peter Suciu

Cold War History, Americas

This drone was pretty advanced for its time and served well for intercept practice.

Key point: Pilots need enemy aircraft to practice against (or at least really good fake enemies). Here is how the MQM-107 mimicked Soviet aircraft and could even change course to try and avoid being caught.

Only in the 1970s could the United States Air Force introduce a remotely piloted vehicle (RPV) that was designed for testing and training interceptor crews and name it “The Streaker.” While it didn’t play disco music or require operators to wear platform shoes, it was truly a testament to the “Me Decade.”

This article first appeared earlier and is being reposted due to reader interest.

The Streaker was originally developed by Beech Aircraft not for the United States Air Force but rather for the U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Command. The Army has been trying to meet the 1972 Variable Speed Training Target (VSTT) requirement for a reusable, turbojet-powered, target towing drone that could be used to test surface-to-air missile systems.

The Beechcraft MQM-107 Streaker won the contract in 1975, and the platform was utilized until 1979. It was used by the Army in the testing of such systems as the FIM-92 Stinger and MIM-104 Patriot, while the Air Force subsequently used the Streaker for the testing of air-to-air missiles including the AIM-9 Sidewinder and the AIM-120 Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missile (AMRAAM).

For the era, the MQM-107 was quite high tech considering it was developed during the era of “Pong.” The high-subsonic target drone featured slight sweep sings and a centerline mounted turbojet engine. It was approximately seventeen feet long and had a ten-foot wingspan.

It was ground-launched with the aid of solid-fuel boosters and could accelerate to approximately 250mph in just two seconds. The Streaker’s flight path could be programmed in advance to launch or changed during flight by a ground controller using a radio link. During flight, it could mimic the heat and radar returns of different missiles and aircraft—while it could also drop chaff and flares to deceive interceptor crews.

The Streaker could be used with a variety of payloads for aerial targets, including radar, IR, and visual augmentation devices, scoring devices, and countermeasures. One of its main tasks is towing various sub-targets for radar- and IR-guided missile and gunnery training.

The platform was powered by a single Microturbo North America TRI 60-2 turbojet, which provided 831 pounds of thrust. The MQM-107 Streaker had an endurance of two hours and eighteen minutes and a ceiling of 40,000 feet. At the end of its mission, a parachute allowed it to descend where it could be recovered on land or in the water.

Production of the Streaker actually continued well past the last days of disco, and the program finally ended in 2003, when it was replaced by the BQM-167 Skeeter. However, in 2012 it was reported that at least a few of the target drones had made their way to Syria and then in turn North Korea, which was using them to build unmanned attack drones loaded with high explosives.

As tech blog Gizmodo reported at the time, the strange tale of the drone ending up in North Korea had the makings of a Chevy Chase movie! We would have thought a Richard Pryor movie, but either way it wasn’t really a laughing matter. A high-speed turbojet-powered drone that could be loaded for explosives isn’t exactly what a nation with an unstable leader should have at its disposal. However, it has been more than eight years since the MQM-107 has done much in the way of streaking.

Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer who has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers and websites. He is the author of several books on military headgear including A Gallery of Military Headdress, which is available on Amazon.com.

This article first appeared earlier and is being reposted due to reader interest.

Image: Wikimedia Commons

Can U.S. Missile Defenses Handle the Weapons of Tomorrow?

The National Interest - Sun, 11/04/2021 - 21:00

Kris Osborn

military, Americas

A principal challenge, many maintain, will be the need to establish a continuous sensor track as faster space-traveling weapons and hypersonics will present as-of-yet unprecedented threats. 

Here's What You Need to Remember: Hypersonic weapons, some of which can travel through space at five times the speed of sound, are nearly impossible to track, a reality inspiring the MDA’s current command and control sensor strategy. Instead of merely needing to send stovepiped or disaggregated radar detection systems, there is a need to network radar and satellite systems together to establish a “continuous track” of an approaching weapon, without having to pool segregated radar feeds. 

Missile Defense in 2030 will require hypersonic defenses, new intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) interceptors, upgraded satellites, advanced radar and, most of all, an advanced “kill web” of integrated sensors to track approaching enemy missiles and transmit crucial, time-sensitive information. 

“If the adversary launches at us, we’re going to the joint kill web [to] enable us to censor any sensor by shooter to engage,” Army Lieutenant General Daniel L. Karbler, commander of the Army Space and Missile Defense Command, said in a Pentagon report

A principal challenge, many maintain, will be the need to establish a continuous sensor track as faster space-traveling weapons and hypersonics will present as-of-yet unprecedented threats. 

“When you look at 2030, we’re looking at advanced ballistic missiles, [and] we know they’re going to maneuver hypersonic threats and cruise missile threats. That’s a very challenging place to be.” Navy Vice Admiral Jon A. Hill, director of the Missile Defense Agency (MDA), said in the Pentagon report. 

The approach, the senior leaders explained, involves a mix of Army-fired ground missile defenses to take out enemy rockets, ballistic missiles and other inside-the-atmosphere threats. For ICBM defense, Hill talked about a two-fold trajectory, including maintaining the existing Ground Based Interceptors through upgrades and sustainment efforts, such as the Next-Generation Interceptor

When you get into ground-based missile defense or midcourse defense for protection of the United States, we are working very intensely on the service-life extension program, along with the reliability program that takes us beyond just the analytical,” Hill said. 

The basis for the Next Generation Interceptor, Missile Defense Agency developers explain, hinges upon sensor networking. This weapon, perhaps even more than others, will need the advanced “kill-web” network of meshed sensors to track and destroy an entirely new generation of threats. 

Hypersonic weapons, some of which can travel through space at five times the speed of sound, are nearly impossible to track, a reality inspiring the MDA’s current command and control sensor strategy. Instead of merely needing to send stovepiped or disaggregated radar detection systems, there is a need to network radar and satellite systems together to establish a “continuous track” of an approaching weapon, without having to pool segregated radar feeds. 

“While we have to also compete in parallel with the next generation interceptor… by closing that gap with a very strong liability program for the fleet today, and bringing on a new interceptor that will tie into the ground systems and into the sensors, [it] is going to be pretty formidable,” Hill said.

Kris Osborn is the new Defense Editor for the National Interest. Osborn previously served at the Pentagon as a Highly Qualified Expert with the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army—Acquisition, Logistics & Technology. Osborn has also worked as an anchor and on-air military specialist at national TV networks. He has appeared as a guest military expert on Fox News, MSNBC, The Military Channel, and The History Channel. He also has a Masters Degree in Comparative Literature from Columbia University. This first appeared earlier and is being reposted due to reader interest.

Image: Reuters.

The Forgotten Reason Nazi Germany Nearly Conquered Russia

The National Interest - Sun, 11/04/2021 - 20:33

Warfare History Network

History, Europe

The paranoid purges of Joseph Stalin killed much of the Red Army's officer corps in the years before World War II.

Here's What You Need to Remember: The purge produced appropriately macabre scenes. An officer back from secret service in Spain’s civil war phoned friend after friend at their homes, only to find strangers now answering their phones. A general dropped dead of a heart attack upon hearing the dreaded predawn knock on his door—it turned out to have been a harmless messenger.

Officer corps expect to suffer heavy losses in war. The entire 1914 class of France’s St. Cyr military academy, for example, perished in World War I. But no officer corps ever suffered the degree of loss that the Red Army suffered in peacetime, at the hands of its own government, during dictator Joseph Stalin’s paranoid purge of 1937-1938.

Paranoia in the Communist Party

The first hint of the slaughter to come emerged at a conference of the Communist Party in March 1937, just as Stalin’s Great Purge was reaching its heights of terror. The craven, incompetent commissar for war, Marshal Kliment Voroshilov, told those assembled: “Happily, we have not as yet discovered many enemies in the army. I can say happily in the hope that there are not very many enemies in the Red Army.” But Stalin’s ranking lackey, Premier Vyacheslav Molotov, immediately contradicted Voroshilov. “If we have wreckers in every branch of the economy, can we imagine that in one place alone, the War Department, there are none?” said Molotov ominously. “It would be absurd to do so. The War Department is a very large affair, and its work will be checked not now but a little later. And it will be examined very rigorously.”

In a climate where stamp collectors could be shot for valuing old foreign stamps over new Soviet ones featuring Stalin’s portrait and astronomers could be executed for taking an ideologically incorrect position on sunspots, not even the Red Army was above suspicion. To begin with, it had been founded, organized, and largely officered by Stalin’s despised, defeated rival Leon Trotsky, and it remained under tenuous party control. Most suspicious of all was its long association with the German Army, going back to secret training in the 1920s and ongoing visits by Red Army officers to Nazi Germany.

A Blood-Splattered Confession

Much of Stalin’s paranoid fixation about the Red Army was focused on its head, Marshal Mikhail Tukhachevsky. As brutal as Stalin in quelling opposition, using poison gas on revolting peasants, and executing reform-seeking sailors, Tukhachevsky was a brilliant advocate of armored warfare. But it was his very emphasis on military professionalism that struck at the principle of party loyalty—which meant, essentially, loyalty to Stalin. Added to Tukhachevsky’s problems was the personal animosity of Marshal Semyon Budenny, one of Stalin’s closest military cronies.

The rigorous examination of the army that Molotov had threatened actually had started seven months earlier with the arrest of a divisional commander in Kiev, Dmitri Shmidt. A supporter of Trotsky, Shmidt once had threatened to lop off Stalin’s ears with his sword. In what would become standard treatment at the hands of the NKVD, Shmidt confessed to plotting to assassinate Voroshilov, then received what became the standard consequence for such apostasy—a bullet to the back of the head. A corps commander close to Tukhachevky was arrested next, confessed in turn to plotting with Trotsky, and was shot as well.

In Nazi Germany, Heinrich Himmler and Reinhard Heydrich forged documents showing Tukhachevsky and other generals were plotting with them against Stalin, and had them passed to Stalin through the president of Czechoslovakia. (Although Himmler and Heydrich would take credit for the bloodbath that followed, Stalin had already determined his murderous course of action and apparently made no use of the forgeries.) Stalin struck without warning. On May Day, Tukhachevsky found his way to his usual parade spot atop Lenin’s Tomb blocked by security guards, and 10 days later, without explanation, he was demoted to the command of the Volga Military District. Stalin assured Tukhachevsky that he would soon be back in Moscow, and he was—arrested on arrival and thrown into the dreaded Lubyanka Prison with Marshal Ion Yakir and six other generals.

It took just two days for Tukhachevsky to sign a confession to being a Nazi spy. When his interrogation record was uncovered decades later after the fall of communism, the pages were splattered with blood—chilling evidence of the kind of force used to break the physically imposing Tukhachevsky. One of the generals, resigned to his fate, simply signed anything put before him to enjoy a comfortable cell, tea, and cigarettes for his last few days.

“Puppets in the Hands of the German Army”

At an emergency meeting of Red Army generals to explain the arrests, Stalin charged: “These men are puppets in the hand of the German Army. The German Army wants the government here to be overthrown and they undertook to accomplish that but didn’t succeed. The German Army wanted the army to be disrupted so that it would not be ready to defend the country.”

Voroshilov now changed his tune from three months before, saying: “I am greatly to blame. I did not detect these base traitors.” But he was quick to spread the blame. “I cannot point to a single warning signal from you,” he said, adding, “I never trusted Tukhachevsky.” He went on to warn the generals: “We have not purged everyone yet. I personally don’t doubt that there are people who thought they were only talking, that’s all. They chattered: ‘It would be a good thing to kill Stalin and Voroshilov.’ Our government will extinguish such people.”

From his cell, Marshal Yakir wrote Stalin a pitiful plea for mercy. “My entire conscious life has been spent working selflessly and honestly in full view of the Party and its leaders,” he professed. “Every word I say is honest, and I shall die with words of love for you, the Party, and the country with boundless faith in the victory of Communism.” Stalin wrote on the appeal: “Swine and prostitute.” Vorsohilov chimed in: “A perfectly precise definition.” Stalin’s political toadies followed suit. “Entire agreement with Stalin,” penned Molotov; Lazar Kaganovich, Yakir’s erstwhile best friend, went furthest of all. “For a bastard, scum, and whore, there is only one punishment,” he said, “the death penalty.”

That outcome was foreordained when Tukhachevsky, Yakir, and the others went into court for a secret trial on June 11, 1937. “When I saw those scoundrels in the courtroom, I was shivering. A beast was in me. I didn’t want to judge them, but beat and beat them in a wild frenzy,” said one of the judges, General Ivan Belov. “I feel I’m dreaming,” said Tukhachevsky. The 18-hour marathon proceeding consisted solely of reading the defendants’ “confessions” and listening to abuse from the judges. All the defendants were sentenced to death and shot, one by one, within an hour by the Lubyanka’s feared senior executioner, Vasili Blokhin. (A few years later, Blokhin would organize and help to carry out the infamous Katyn massacre of Polish officers.)

“The snake said he was dedicated to the Motherland and Comrade Stalin,” NKVD chief Nikoli Yezhov reported about Tukhachevsky’s last words. He was fortunate not to live to see what such devotion was worth. Stalin had the general’s wife and two brothers shot, and his mother, daughter, and sisters shipped to a gulag. Yakir’s last words were also to no avail. Stalin had his wife, brother, sister-in-law, and nephew killed.

One of the judges, General Belov, told writer Ilya Ehrenburg: “Tomorrow I shall be put in the same place.” He was right: within the next 18 months, he and five other of the eight judges were executed. There was almost another. The NKVD came for Budenny, but he held them off at pistol point while calling Stalin to get the order canceled. The police left with his wife, instead.

The Scale of Stalin’s Slaughter

The Soviet Union’s remaining marshal, Vasilli Blyukher, was beaten to death after refusing to confess; his widow said he looked like a tank had run over him. In two years’ time, 36,671 Red Army officers were executed, shipped to the gulag, or dismissed from service. Those who were killed were probably luckier than those who were imprisoned. One general who survived internment recalled seeing other officers in his camp “on all fours, howling and rooting about, they had become semi-idiots whom no amount of beating could drive from the refuse heaps.”

The scale of the purge was staggering: 13 of 15 army commanders, 50 of 57 corps commanders, 154 of 186 divisional commanders, 220 of 406 brigade commanders, all 11 vice-commanders of defense, 98 of 108 members of the Supreme Military Soviets, all army political commissars, 25 of 28 corps commissars, 58 of 64 divisional commissars. Even the lower ranks were not spared: almost half the colonels and 7,403 captains fell victim to the purge. “This is worse than when artillery fires on its own troops,” commented General Konstantin Rokossovsky. More Soviet generals and colonels were killed by Stalin than were to fall in World War II.

The purge produced appropriately macabre scenes. An officer back from secret service in Spain’s civil war phoned friend after friend at their homes, only to find strangers now answering their phones. A general dropped dead of a heart attack upon hearing the dreaded predawn knock on his door—it turned out to have been a harmless messenger.

“With each arrest it became more difficult to believe in the disloyalty, the sabotage, the treachery of these men,” said General Alexander Gorbatov. When he protested the arrest of his superior, he was inevitably jailed himself. Other officers he met in jail advised him to confess to anything about anyone “because they believed it was better to stand on their false testimony in order to put an end as quickly as possible to the torment and to die as quickly as possible.” But Gorbatov was an exception and, surprisingly, was not shot for his defiance, but merely sent to a Siberian labor camp.

Another defiant general was Konstantin Rokossovsky. After having eight teeth knocked out and three ribs broken, he was hauled before the Supreme Military Court and told that another officer, named Yushkevich, had confessed to spying with him for Germany. Instead of submissively agreeing with the accusation and taking a bullet, Rokossovsky shouted back, “Can the dead give evidence?” “What do you mean the dead?” the surprised judge asked. Rokossovsky replied, “Well, Adolf Kazimirovich Yushkevich was killed in 1920 at Perekop.” When records bore him out, Rokossovsky became perhaps the only defendant ever acquitted in the purge, although he was still sent to one of the most dreaded gulag camps in Siberia, Vorkuta.

The Outcome of the Purge

The effects of the purge could be seen in the disastrous winter war with Finland in 1939-1940. As described by future Soviet premier Nikita Khrushchev: “Stalin was furious with the military and with Voroshilov—justifiably in my opinion. Stalin jumped up in a rage and started to berate Voroshilov. Voroshilov was also boiling mad. He leaped up, turned red, and hurled Stalin’s accusations back in his face: ‘You have yourself to blame for all this! You’re the one who had our best generals killed!’ Voroshilov then picked up a platter of roast suckling pig and hurled it against the table.” Although dismissed as commissar for defense, Voroshilov amazingly was not shot for his actions. He survived Stalin to serve as the Soviet Union’s ceremonial president, living until 1970.

Because of the Finnish fiasco, Stalin rehabilitated and restored 13,000 officers. Rokossovsky was sent to a seaside resort to recuperate and equipped with twin rows of metal teeth. Always one to enjoy toying with his victims, Stalin faked surprise upon seeing Rokossovsky. “I don’t seem to have seen you around for some time,” said the dictator. “Where did you go?” “I was arrested, Comrade Stalin,” Rokossovsky responded. “I was sitting in prison.” Stalin laughed. “A fine time you chose to go to prison!”

Rokossovsky went on to be the greatest Soviet commander of World War II after Grigori Zhukov, helping to win the battles of Stalingrad and Kursk and conquering Berlin. Another hero of the war to come, Marshal Ivan Konev, would argue: “Of the commanders destroyed—Tukhachevsky, Yeogorov, Yakir, Kork, Uborevich, Blyuker, Dybenko—only Tukhachevsky and Uborevich can be regarded as modern military leaders. Most of them were on the level with Voroshilov and Budenny. Those heroes of the Civil War were living on their past. If they had remained at the top the war would have turned out quite differently.” Konev might have thought differently had he known that when he was defeated early in the war, Stalin wanted him shot but was talked out of it by Zhukov.

Until his death in 1968, Rokossovsky never spoke of his ordeal in the purge. Once, however, while a marshal of the Soviet Union, he was crossing Siberian airspace and had his plane fly over the site of his old camp. As he looked down, the former prisoner muttered a brief epitaph for his fellow victims: “No traces left.”

This article first appeared on the Warfare History Network.

Image: Reuters

Suffren: France's New Submarine Has All the Makings of a Terror

The National Interest - Sun, 11/04/2021 - 20:00

Peter Suciu

Suffren-Class Submarine, Europe

Suffren SSNs will replace the aging Rubis-class and will serve as the backbone of France’s submarine force until the 2060s.

Here's What You Need to Remember: The Barracuda series will provide the French Navy with a real combat superiority and for the first time enable a deep strike capability via MBDA naval cruise missiles (NCM). The vessel can be equipped with F21 heavyweight wire-guided torpedoes and modernized Exocet SM39 anti-ship missiles. Each submarine can accommodate a crew of sixty-five sailors plus Special Forces. 

The French Navy reached an important milestone in its Barracuda program, as it took delivery of the first of six Suffren-class nuclear attack submarines (SSN). The 99-meter long submarine was delivered from the French-based shipbuilder Naval Group to the French Armament Procurement Agency (Direction Générale de l’Armement, DGA) earlier this month after the completion of a series of sea trials. 

Delivery of the submarine took place in the presence of only a small delegation of high profile personalities due to the ongoing novel coronavirus pandemic. An outbreak of Covid-19 had previously sidelined the French Navy’s flagship aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle.

Decade Long Studies

Suffren SSNs will replace the aging Rubis-class and will serve as the backbone of France’s submarine force until the 2060s. The arrival of this first of six boats will revamp the nation’s nuclear deterrence capability. Delivery of the five other submarines is expected to take place over the next decade. 

More than ten years of studies were conducted to determine the course of submarine development to meet the operational needs of the French Navy. The Barracuda program began in 1998 when it was launched by the French Defense Procurement Agency (DGA), while the associated development contract was notified at the end of 2006. It still took another decade of those studies before the operational needs were finalized.

With the delivery of the Suffren-class spread out over a ten-year period, the program will ensure that the submarine force will be operational until at least 2060. 

“What a long way for Naval Group and all its industrial and state partners since the cutting of the first sheet on December 19, 2007, less than a year after the signing of the acquisition contract by the DGA,” said chairman and CEO of Naval Group Pierre Eric Pommellet, during the acceptance ceremony. “The industrial challenges to be taken up were numerous. I salute the commitment of the design and production teams of Naval Group, TechnicAtome, prime contractor for the on-board nuclear boiler, as well as those of the DGA, CEA and the French Navy.” 

Advanced Technologies

The construction of the Barracuda submarines will utilize a wide range of exceptional know-how involving the most advanced technologies. According to Naval Group this will include the use of very special types of steel, underwater acoustics performance and weapons systems that will make the Suffren-class one of the most efficient submarines in the world. The nuclear-powered Suffren has a surface displacement of 4,600 tons, an underwater displacement of 5,200 tons, and an immersion depth of 300 meters.

Among the innovative enhancements on the boat is its “optronic” mast, which replaces the telescopic mast. According to Naval Group, this will ensure better collection of visual information and better sharing of this information among the crew. This new feature, combined with advanced detection capabilities, guarantees the superiority of Barracuda submarines in their intelligence missions. 

The Barracuda series will provide the French Navy with a real combat superiority and for the first time enable a deep strike capability via MBDA naval cruise missiles (NCM). The vessel can be equipped with F21 heavyweight wire-guided torpedoes and modernized Exocet SM39 anti-ship missiles. Each submarine can accommodate a crew of sixty-five sailors plus Special Forces. 

Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer who has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers and websites. He is the author of several books on military headgear including A Gallery of Military Headdress, which is available on Amazon.comThis article is being republished due to reader interest.

Image: Reuters.

Boeing’s X-40 Space Vehicle Was Simply a Legend in the Sky (And Space)

The National Interest - Sun, 11/04/2021 - 19:33

Peter Suciu

History, Americas

The X-40A was not the first step in a reusable space plane, a concept that had predated the original Space Shuttle by decades.

Here's What You Need To Remember:  "The X-40A had to autonomously find the runway, account for wind gusts, and track a straight course down the runway centerline. The tiny wings on the X-40A required a high angle of attack to generate lift on landing, which meant the X-40A would rapidly rotate nose-down upon braking during landing. This required a very accurate onboard sensing system."

Today only one X-40A test vehicle remains in existence, and it is in the collection of the National Museum of the United States Air Force in Dayton, Ohio. However, the program, which is now largely forgotten, proved instrumental in the development of the X-37B–the United States Space Force's reusable space plane, which is currently conducting its mission in low Earth orbit. 

The National Interest was able to get some insight into just how significant the X-40A was in the development of the X-37B from Darold B. Cummings, founder and president of ForzAero. Mr. Cummings holds thirty-six patents in a variety of fields. He worked in the design, analysis, fabrication and testing of air vehicles during his lengthy career. 

"Up until the autonomous landing of the X-40A in 1998, no one had demonstrated that an unmanned space vehicle with such a low lift-to-drag ratio, and a high angle-of-attack landing attitude, could land safely," Cummings told The National Interest

"All the other key technologies, such as high-temperature materials and reliable propulsion systems, had already been demonstrated," he explained. "The X-40A had to autonomously find the runway, account for wind gusts, and track a straight course down the runway centerline. The tiny wings on the X-40A required a high angle of attack to generate lift on landing, which meant the X-40A would rapidly rotate nose-down upon braking during landing. This required a very accurate onboard sensing system to provide an aerodynamically controlled gentle nose-down rotation to keep the nose from slamming down and collapsing the nose landing gear. This was all accomplished on the very first X-40A flight!" 

The X-40A was not the first step in a reusable space plane, a concept that had predated the original Space Shuttle by decades. The experimental scaled-down aircraft was also just one part of the efforts to develop a reusable spacecraft that could be used in low Earth orbit missions. 

Among the others was the X-34 unmanned space plane, which was designed to be a cargo resupply aircraft, much like the Space Shuttle

"Unfortunately, that program was canceled in 2001," said Cummings. "The latest air vehicle related to a Space Shuttle replacement is the Sierra Nevada Corporation 'Dream Chaser,' which is currently a piloted aircraft like the original Space Shuttle. NASA has supplied funding for the Dream Chaser, and an unmanned version is planned for the future that would land autonomously like the X-40A." 

The Parachute Misconception 

One key point about the X-40A that Mr. Cummings would like to set straight is a longstanding myth that the unpiloted X-40, which was, in fact, built to 85% scale of the X-37 to test aerodynamics and navigation systems, utilized a drag or drogue chute. 

"The Space Shuttle had a large drogue parachute that slowed the aircraft down, and also provided a stabilizing force to keep it straight down the runway," noted Cummings. 

"The X-40A did not have a drogue chute–the parachutes on the back of the bulkhead were there in case the X-40A lost control or lost radio contact during the flight test: the parachutes would deploy, and the X-40A would land on deployed airbags," said Cummings. "Wikipedia incorrectly claims the X-40A deployed drogue chutes on landing. (Instead), all speed and control on the ground during landing was supplied by differential braking of the main landing gear." 

Beyond the X-40:

In addition to his work on space plane technology, Cummings previously worked on the YF-23 Stealth Fighter, a fifth-generation, single-seat, twin-engine stealth fighter designed for the United States Air Force in the late 1980s as part of the American Advanced Tactical Fighter (ATF) challenge. 

He offered his thoughts on how the development of stealth aircraft has taken on new importance given the current geopolitical situation as other nations–notably China and Russia–work towards developing similar capabilities.  

"That is a big question because there are a significant amount of geopolitical issues involved," explained Cummings. 

"The problem of force projection for the U.S. becomes an issue of numbers," he added. "As an example, the ability to penetrate the overlapping/interconnected Chinese defenses will become increasingly difficult with current limited U.S. stealth assets." 

For that reason, he said he believes that the future focus for the Air Force will be on "Force Multipliers," such as stealthy, but lower-cost/semi-expendable, unmanned aircraft working in consonance with manned fighters.  

"That is the current focus of the Air Force Skyborg program," Cummings said. "I personally do not believe the U.S. will launch another manned stealth fighter program at this time but will purchase and continuously upgrade the F-35, and supplement it with stealthy unmanned aircraft." 

Our thanks to Darold B. Cummings for sharing his insight and knowledge about the X-40B and YF-23 programs. 

Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer who has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers and websites. He is the author of several books on military headgear including A Gallery of Military Headdress, which is available on Amazon.com. This article is being republished due to reader interest.

Image: Wikipedia.

China’s Improved Type 093A Submarine: Stealthy and Full of Missiles

The National Interest - Sun, 11/04/2021 - 19:00

Peter Suciu

PLA Navy, Asia

China has a very large and modern navy now and the progressive updates to the Type 093 boat show how far Beijing has come.

Key point: The Type 093 was not a very good submarine, but the latest version is serious business. Here is how it could fight the U.S. Navy.

The People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) is now the largest naval force in the world, and a lot of attention has been paid to its two aircraft carriers, while a third flattop is reportedly on the way. This is in addition to its naval expansion, which includes assault carriers, cruisers and destroyers.

This article first appeared earlier and is being reposted due to reader interest.

However, the more significant threat from Beijing may not be the carriers or other surface vessels, or even its aircraft carrier “killer” missiles—but rather its Type 093A attack submarine.

The first iteration of the Type 093 dates all the way back to 2005, but it was not without problems—and it offered little improvement over its problem-plagued, noisy predecessor, the Type 091. However, the Type 093 has been steadily improved.

It now seems that with the enhancements the Type 093 is well on its way to being a world-class attack submarine.

According to submarine expert H I Sutton, writing for Naval News, the Type 093A Shang-II class is the most powerful attack submarine in China’s arsenal today. The roughly 7,000 ton nuclear-powered submarine is roughly the same size as the Royal Navy’s Astute-class, which puts it in between the French Navy Suffren-class and the U.S. Navy’s Virginia-class.

While nuclear-powered submarines tend to be louder than their diesel-electric counterparts, the Type 093A reportedly uses some of its larger size for noise-reducing features including acoustic stealth. Improvements in reactor coolant pump design may have helped reduce the Shang-class’ acoustic signature.

Beijing hasn’t shared any specific details, but Chinese sources have reported that its teardrop hull with a wing-shaped cross-section provides both improved speed and stealth. A 2009 U.S. Navy Office of Naval Intelligence (ONI) report listed the Chinese Type 093 as being noisier than the Russian Navy’s Project 671RTM submarines, which entered service with the Soviet Navy in 1979. However, the Type 093A could be far quieter due to its altered hull form.

The Type 093A is also reported to be quite well armed, and is capable of carrying the YJ-18 anti-ship cruise missiles. It is a solid-fuelled rocket that can be launched from a buoyant launch canister. The missile lacks a solid booster and has an operational range of only about forty-two kilometers, but it is still a serious threat to enemy warships.

The submarine can also carry the YJ-82 anti-ship missile, rocket mines and torpedoes including the Yu-6 thermal torpedoes. The heavyweight thermal torpedo, which is essentially the Chinese counterpart of the American Mark 48 torpedo, is wire-guided and has active/passive acoustic-homing and wake-homing sensors.

The Type 093A Shang-II isn’t the world’s best attack submarine, but it should highlight the fact that Beijing continues to make progress on all fronts. Just as China’s PLAN is becoming a force to be reckoned with in terms of carriers, so too could be a serious submarine force.

Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer who has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers and websites. He is the author of several books on military headgear including A Gallery of Military Headdress, which is available on Amazon.comThis article first appeared earlier and is being reposted due to reader interest.

Image: Reuters

A Flying Missile Truck: Why Russia Isn’t Giving Up on the Tu-95MS Bomber

The National Interest - Sun, 11/04/2021 - 18:33

Peter Suciu

Tu-95MS, Asia

The Tu-95 "Bear" remains one of the oldest designs in active service with the Russian military.

Here's What You Need to Remember: In August, the Russian United Aircraft Corporation (UAC) announced that the modernized Tu-95MSM strategic missile-carrying bomber was capable of carrying eight missiles instead of four, while the aircraft also received new flight control, navigation, and communication systems.

"The flight lasted over eight hours," a ministry spokesperson told Tass. "At some sections of the route, the strategic missile-carrying bombers were escorted by Su-35S fighters of the Aerospace Force."

Such flights of the Tupolev bomber have become routine.

The bombers, which are a key element of the air component of Russia's nuclear triad, were upgraded to carry the latest X-101 cruise missiles. Those missiles can be retargeted once the bombers are already airborne.

Nearly Seven Decades: 

The four-engine propeller plane was developed in the 1950s after Soviet planners had requested a four-engine bomber that could fly five thousand miles and hit targets across the United States. The choice of propeller-driven engines was made due to the fact that jet engines of the time burned through fuel too quickly.

The Tu-95 "Bear" remains one of the oldest designs in active service with the Russian military, and the only propeller-powered bomber in service in the world.

Despite the age of the bomber, it can still fly great distances and this year has made regular flights near American waters. While this most recent flight by the pair of Tu-95MS aircraft was closer to home, the bombers had been making patrol flights near the waters of Alaska.

The aircraft has also been steadily upgraded, and much like the United States Air Force's venerable B-52 Stratofortress, it shows no signs of leaving service. The current backbone of the Russian strategic bomber force remains the Tu-95MS. What is notable about the Tu-95 is the fact that unlike the American B-52s, many of the Tu-95s were actually produced in the 1980s.

This is because the older Tu-95 airframes were not suitable for modernization, and in the late Cold War the Soviet military planners made the decision to restart the production lines to produce the Tu-95MS variants. As a result those aircraft – despite being an older design – could be considered relatively young when compared to some NATO aircraft.

The Tu-95MS's primary armament is the Kh-55 air-launched cruise missile (ALCM). The Kh-55 is a subsonic missile with a range of around 2500 km. The current fielded nuclear-armed missile is the Kh-55SM, which increases the range of the Kh-55 to 3500 km. Its conventionally armed counterpart is the Kh-555, with a range of 2000 km. The Kh-555 has seen use in Syria fired from Tu-95MS. The regular Tu-95MS6 carries these six of these internally in a KMU-6-5 rotary launcher.

Still Flying High:

The Russian military has continued to enhance the abilities of the Tu-95MS with a further modernization effort, the Tu-95MSM variant. The primary purpose of the Tu-95MSM modernization is to give the Tu-95MS the ability to fire the Kh-101 and Kh-102 cruise missiles that are carried by the newer Tu-160 bomber. Because of the increased length of the missile, the Kh-10(X) cannot be carried on the internal rotary launcher of the Tu-95MS. As such, the Tu-95MSM adds four additional external pylons, which can carry two missiles each.

In August, the Russian United Aircraft Corporation (UAC) announced that the modernized Tu-95MSM strategic missile-carrying bomber was capable of carrying eight missiles instead of four, while the aircraft also received new flight control, navigation, and communication systems.

This past summer, the Tu-95MSM performed its debut flight at the aerodrome of the Beriev Aircraft Plant in Taganrog, and the improved Bear was piloted by the crew under the command of a test pilot Andrei Voropayev from the Zhukovskaya flight testing base, which is a subsidiary of the Tupolev Aircraft Company. According to state media, the flight proceeded in the normal mode at an altitude of nine thousand meters and lasted two hours and thirty-three minutes. The systems and equipment performed as expected and the entire test flight was conducted without a hitch.

With these recent upgrades, the Bear is expected to remain in service with the Russian Air and Space Force until at least 2040.

Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer who has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers and websites. He is the author of several books on military headgear including A Gallery of Military Headdress, which is available on Amazon.comThis article is being republished due to reader interest.

Image: Reuters.

No Parachutes: How Russian and Pakistan Commandos Landed From the Air

The National Interest - Sun, 11/04/2021 - 18:00

Peter Suciu

Russian Army, Eurasia

These soldiers practiced using ropes to quickly land from a helicopter.

Key point: Don't try this at home. Highly trained paratroopers are able to use ropes to hit the ground and attack with suprising speed.

Last week during the Friendship 2020 joint military drills, Russian and Pakistani paratroopers took part in a unique airborne assault training exercise. What made this particular drill notable is that the paratroopers didn’t actually use parachutes, but instead practiced a fast-rope technique from helicopters that hovered high above the ground. 

“The servicemen of Russia and Pakistan practiced the tactic of parachute-free landing from domestically-made helicopters as part of the joint Russian-Pakistani military exercise Friendship 2020,” Russia’s Defense Ministry said in a statement, reported by Tass.

This article first appeared earlier and is being reposted due to reader interest.

The exercise, which involved 150 personnel from the special operations company of the 49th combined arms army of Russia’s Southern Military District and Pakistani special operations forces, was conducted at the Tarbela special operations training ground in Pakistan. During the drills, Mi-17 helicopters—the export version of the Russian Mi-8—hovered at an altitude of 20 meters in the air while the Russian and Pakistani airborne commandos descended using a special rope. After descending, the paratroopers practiced defending the area of landing and repelling a “terrorist attack.”

Fast One 

This type of “fast-roping” quick descend was first developed by the British military and was used in combat during the Falklands War. The original ropes were thick nylon that allowed Royal Marines to descend in a manner similar to sliding down a fire pole.

The type of rope used as well as the technique to descend has evolved over the years—and today the rope needs to be at least 1.6-inches or 40mm thick to prevent it from being jerked about from the rotor blast, while some even have a weighted core or ballast to help maintain stability.

Friendship 2020 Drills 

Fast-rope descents are increasingly used around the world by military forces, and while it may look simple it actually requires extensive training as there is no safety line to prevent a solider from falling.

The training drills played a significant role in this year’s Russian-Pakistani Friendship joint exercises, which have been held annually since 2016 alternately in each of the nations. 

This year’s maneuvers involved some seventy servicemen from the Russian special forces unit, while the drills are running in three stages. The first stage has been taking place at the Pakistani Army’s Tarbela special operations training ground from November 9-14 and it has involved solo training and exercises as well as team drills. The next two stages will take place at the Pakistani National Counter-Terrorism Center in Pabbi from November 16-19. 

According to the Russian Defense Ministry, personnel from both countries will take part in training exercises to exchange experience and practice inter-operability in accomplishing a broad range of missions. In particular, this includes eliminating illegal armed formations and conducting reconnaissance and search measures employing aircraft and technical reconnaissance capabilities 

The training between Russia and Pakistan follows a similar training exercise that involved U.S. and Ukrainian special operations forces (SOF) last month’s Fiction Urchin drills. The multinational exercises involved ten allied and partner nations and consisted of special forces operators conducting fast rope insertion and extraction systems. 

Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer who has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers and websites. He is the author of several books on military headgear including A Gallery of Military Headdress, which is available on Amazon.comThis article first appeared earlier and is being reposted due to reader interest.

Image: Reuters.

Could Hypersonic Missiles Be a ‘Silver Bullet’ for Aircraft Carriers?

The National Interest - Sun, 11/04/2021 - 17:33

Peter Suciu

Hypersonic Missiles, Americas

Experts fear that the missiles could be impossible to defend against and could reshape warfare.

Here's What You Need to Remember: Hitting the specific location of a carrier at such distance, even with a hypersonic weapon, wouldn't be the easiest thing to pull off. Current ballistic missiles that can achieve hypersonic speed follow a predictable flight path, but a concern is that these missiles could be able maneuver in unexpected ways.

Aircraft carriers have always faced seriously deadly threats. In the past, it was submarines, which long posed the most danger to carriers. Modern anti-submarine warfare (ASW) has given the advantage back to the carrier strike groups, which can better screen and protect the capital ship. While unmanned submarines could present a new problem, the greatest danger could come from hypersonic missiles.

The Russian Kinzhal is the world's first hypersonic aviation missile system, and if the claims are to be believed it has a range of 3,000 kilometers when launched from an aircraft such as the Tupolev Tu-22M3 Backfire supersonic bomber. Even if those ranges are exaggerated the platform still presents a very serious threat to U.S. warships, notably aircraft carriers.

Because of the speed at which hypersonic missiles travel the force is so significant that these can inflict damage by sheer "kinetic" impact without needing explosives. Experts fear that the missiles could be impossible to defend against and could reshape warfare. This is why some have suggested that the U.S. military invests in the technology rather than massive warships – in part because the weapons could quite easily destroy those warships.

The Japanese military is already exploring ways to develop and deploy hypersonic weapons with a special warhead that could penetrate the decks of an aircraft carrier – and it is abundantly clear that Chinese carriers could pose a serious risk to the waters around the Japanese home islands.

Carrier Killer

The Stalker Zone website recently explored a hypothetical strike on a large carrier – in this case the U.S. Navy's USS George H. W. Bush, which has a displacement of 97,000 tons and a length of 333 meters. The carrier, which has a crew of 3,200 plus 2,500 military personnel that make up the aviation wing, is quite a sizeable target for any weapon, but getting past its air defenses including its screen of destroyers would be no easy task.

Here is where a hypersonic missile could be a truly devastating game changer.

As the exercise suggested, the current characteristics of the U.S. Navy's carriers cannot counteract hypersonic missile weapons. While it might seem that a hit on the command room would be the best place to aim, the deck of the carrier may be the most effective. The mass – 500kg – of the Kh-47M2 "Kinzhal" traveling at Mach 12 would do considerable damage.

"Even if the carrier can stay afloat for the first moments after the strike, the potential of its aircraft wing will be reduced to zero by the damage caused to the deck," the Stalker Zone noted. "In addition, such a strike can lead to the defeat of at least one of the two naval Westinghouse A4W reactors. The total capacity of these reactors is 1,100 MW. A missile with a half-ton warhead moving at high speed can not only destroy the coolant circulation circuits, but also lead to the explosion of the nuclear reactors themselves during their active operation when an aircraft carrier performs a combat operation."

Such a strike from even a single hypersonic "Kinshal" missile could be enough to completely destroy an aircraft carrier but would have the potential create a chain reaction that could take out an entire carrier strike group!

Countering the Threat

Hitting the specific location of a carrier at such distance, even with a hypersonic weapon, wouldn't be the easiest thing to pull off. Current ballistic missiles that can achieve hypersonic speed follow a predictable flight path, but a concern is that these missiles could be able maneuver in unexpected ways.

Yet, it is still easy to see why there is such concern.

This is why the military is working as hard – possibly even harder – to develop counter systems to stop a hypersonic attack. Not doing so would be accepting that any nation that could acquire such weapons could devastate a fleet.

Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer who has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers and websites. He is the author of several books on military headgear including A Gallery of Military Headdress, which is available on Amazon.comThis first appeared earlier and is being reposted due to reader interest.

Image: Flickr.

Record: One 3,871 Yard Sniper Shot Took Out an ISIS Fighter

The National Interest - Sun, 11/04/2021 - 17:25

Kyle Mizokami

War on Terror, Middle East

Canada has done its part in fighting global terrorism, including taking on ISIS.

Key point: This Candian sniper has set a record. Here is how the impressive shot was taken.

In mid-2017, the sniping community was rocked by incredible news: a Canadian sniper team operating in the Middle East had made a successful kill at a distance of more than two miles. The team, deployed to fight the Islamic State, killed an ISIS fighter at a distance of 3,871 yards. The shot was a record breaker and more than a thousand yards farther than the previous world record. The shot, which bordered on the impossible, was made only slightly less so by the skill of the snipers involved.

This article appeared earlier and is being republished due to reader interest.

On June 22, 2017 the Globe and Mail reported that two snipers assigned to Joint Task Force 2, Canada’s elite special forces unit, had shot an Islamic State fighter in Iraq at a distance of 3,540 meters, or 3,871 yards. The sniper team was stationed on top of a highrise building when it took the shot, which took almost ten seconds to reach its target. The sniper and his spotter had used a McMillan TAC-50 .50 heavy caliber sniper rifle. According to the Globe and Mail, the kill was verified by video “and other data.”

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To understand the complexity of the shot, it’s best to start with a sniper maxim: sniping is weaponized math. Although a .50 caliber sniper rifle bullet can fly as far as five miles, a host of factors including gravity, wind speed and direction, altitude, barometric pressure, humidity and even the Coriolis Effect act upon the bullet as it travels. Even worse, these effects increase the farther the bullet travels. A successful sniper team operating at extreme distances must do its best to predict exactly how these factors will affect the bullet and calculate how to get the bullet back onto target.

The first and most influential factor on a bullet is gravity. A bullet begins to lose energy as soon as it leaves the muzzle of a gun, and as it loses energy it loses the ability to counteract gravity. The farther and slower a bullet flies, the more Earth’s gravity will pull the bullet downward. This is known as “bullet drop,” and even the most powerful bullet, such as the .50 caliber round used by the TAC-50, will invariably experience it.

In most shooting shooting situations, bullet drop is only a matter of a few inches or more. The Canadian snipers, on the other hand, had to deal with a phenomenal amount of bullet drop: at 3,450 meters, the bullet would be expected to drop 6,705 inches! Ryan Cleckner, a former U.S. Army Ranger sniper and author shows the ballistic data for the shot here. As the bullet is traveling subsonic at a spend of 940 feet per second, the bullet is diving an average of nearly two inches per foot of forward travel, with the problem getting much worse as distance increases.

In order to make the shot the Canadian snipers had to counteract the staggering amount of drop. Being on a highrise building, or hilltop was a must. The rest of the drop correction had to be done within the rifle’s scope, which can be adjusted for drop, and a scope mount that was angled upward for extreme long distance shooting.

Cleckner’s data also provides other useful information. Bullet flight time, from the muzzle of the Canadian sniper’s gun to target was just over seven seconds. The bullet was traveling at 940 feet per second when it hit, which means it slowed to below the speed of sound. Finally, after traveling more than two miles the bullet hit with 1,472 foot pounds of energy, greater than most M16 bullets at point blank range.

Another major factor that would have affected the shot was windage. When shooting at extreme distances, even a mild wind of five miles an hour will have an effect on the flight of a bullet, slowly but surely nudging it off its flight path toward the direction of the wind. At 400 yards, a .50 caliber bullet will be nudged 2.5 inches off its path by a five mile an hour wind. At 3,800 yards that balloons to an incredible 366 inches. In other words, the snipers had to assume their bullet would impact just over thirty feet in the direction of wind travel and plan accordingly.

Other environmental factors played a hand in the shot. Air pressure (generally a function of altitude), temperature, and humidity are factors most shooters at ranges of 500 yards or less rarely encounter, become major issues at 3,800 meters. These factors are mitigated by the use of wind sensors, barometric pressure readers, and a knowledge of local weather conditions. To complicate matters, these conditions may change so that a shot taken on a cold morning will be much different in the heat of the afternoon and snipers must recalculate the shot accordingly.

Earth itself, and the position of the shooter and target on the globe become factors at long range. The Coriolis Effect dictates that bullets shot in the northern hemisphere drift to the right, while those shot in the southern hemisphere drift to the left, and this phenomenon increases the farther one gets to the poles. Furthermore, shooting east with the rotation of the earth will cause bullets to strike high, while shooting west will cause the same bullet to strike low.

Even the construction of the rifle itself affects the shot. A high quality barrel will naturally be more accurate and the rifle involved in the shot, the McMillan TAC-50, is one of the best around. The barrel rifling, a spiral-like pattern that makes the bullet spin in flight, stabilizing it, imparts “spin drift.” According to Cleckner, a rifle with a right-hand spiral twist will send a bullet up to ten inches to the right at 1,000 yards. How much spin drift would affect the shot at 3,800 yards was essential information for the Canadian snipers.

In taking their record-breaking shot, the Canadian sniper team had to consider all of these factors—merely misjudging one would have caused a clean miss—and it is an incredible testament to their skill that they were successful. The average man-sized target is just twenty-four inches wide, leaving zero room for error in a two mile shot. The shot took place at the extreme edge of viability, given the current levels of sniper technology. While the JTF-2 shot will almost certainly be equalled, it seems unlikely it will be decisively beaten for the foreseeable future.

Kyle Mizokami is a defense and national security writer based in San Francisco who has appeared in the Diplomat, Foreign Policy, War is Boring and the Daily Beast. In 2009 he cofounded the defense and security blog Japan Security Watch. You can follow him on Twitter: @KyleMizokami. This article appeared earlier and is being republished due to reader interest.

Image: Reuters.

Why Joe Biden's China Strategy Is Destined for Failure

The National Interest - Sun, 11/04/2021 - 17:09

Tim Murtaugh

U.S.-China Relationship, Asia

For a guy who expresses complete confidence that no one sees things as clearly as he does, Joe Biden sure botches a lot of things.

The U.S. relationship with China under the Biden administration is off to a rocky start if the first high-level meeting between the two nations is any indicator.

President Joe Biden, who cast himself as someone who would smooth relationships with foreign adversaries, can’t have been happy to see the American delegation embarrassed by the Chinese during a recent summit in Alaska.

The widely reported gathering in Anchorage saw Chinese diplomat Yang Jiechi lambaste the United States directly to Secretary of State Tony Blinken’s face.

“Many people within the United States actually have little confidence in the democracy of the United States,” Yang asserted, referencing the Black Lives Matter movement. “The United States does not have the qualification to say that it wants to speak to China from a position of strength.”

Rather than defend the United States against this charge, Blinken incredibly chose to concede the point, saying, “A confident country is able to look hard at its own shortcomings and constantly seek to improve, and that is the secret sauce of America.”

Even liberal publications were aghast at the way the Chinese steamrolled the apparently unprepared American contingent.

Around the world, those who support the Chinese position were jubilant in their celebration. “The Chinese-language coverage of what happened in Anchorage is very, very proud,” noted China expert Dean Cheng, calling it a propaganda victory for the communists.

The Biden administration did subsequently announce sanctions against two Chinese government officials over the nation's horrific record of human rights abuses and ongoing genocide. But this is barely a slap on the wrist in light of the magnitude of the offenses. “China and the Chinese Communist Party think that they're winning,” said former Trump National Security Advisor H. R. McMaster.

But being way off base on matters concerning the Chinese Communists is nothing new for Biden.

On the presidential campaign trail in 2019, Biden infamously downplayed China as an economic power, declaring that they were “not competition.” He acted incredulous that anyone could ever believe the opposite, asking condescendingly, “China is going to eat our lunch? Come on, man.”

“I mean, you know, they’re not bad folks, folks. But guess what? They’re not competition for us,” he continued, making clear that not only was he wrong, but he was certain of it.

Biden’s penchant for fumbling China issues continued into 2020 when the coronavirus pandemic began to sweep the globe. For example, when former President Donald Trump moved to restrict travel from China to the United States, Biden opposed it, calling it “xenophobia” and “fear-mongering.”

More than two months later, after it was clear that Trump’s travel restrictions had saved American lives, Biden’s campaign played clean-up for him. A spokesperson claimed Biden had always supported the ban, although no oneincluding the candidate himselfhad ever said so.

Meanwhile, China lied to the entire world about the scope and deadliness of the virus outbreak and enlisted the aid of the World Health Organization (WHO) in that deception. Incredibly, China even blamed the American military for spreading the virus. In fact, the Chinese continue to allude to American military involvement to this day.

Against this backdrop, Trump rightly determined that American taxpayers would no longer help fund the WHO if it continued to defer to China. Upon taking office, however, Biden unconditionally reversed that decision and effectively rewarded the bad actors who had impeded the global response to the pandemic in the first place.

Biden’s mistakes regarding China are alarming enough on their own, even without considering the financial ties to China his son Hunter has maintained for years. While his father was vice president, Hunter Biden rode aboard Air Force Two to Beijing, conducted meetings, and scored a massive deal with the state-owned Bank of China. One of Hunter Biden’s former business partners alleged that Joe Biden was aware of the various schemes and even had a part of some of them.

There’s a reason former Obama Defense Secretary Robert Gates said that Joe Biden has been “wrong on nearly every major foreign policy and national security issue over the past four decades.”

For a guy who expresses complete confidence that no one sees things as clearly as he does, Joe Biden sure botches things a lot.

Tim Murtaugh is a visiting fellow at The Heritage Foundation. He is the former communications director of President Donald J. Trump’s 2020 reelection campaign.

Image: Reuters

YF-118G Bird of Prey: The Stealth Fighter That Never Was

The National Interest - Sun, 11/04/2021 - 17:00

Peter Suciu

History, Americas

Boeing donated the sole YF-118G Bird of Prey to the museum in 2002 and it has been on display since 2003.

Here's What You Need to Remember: The lasting legacy of the Bird of Prey was its ability to demonstrate advances in stealth concepts, notably the "gapless" control surfaces that were developed to blend smoothly into the wings to reduce radar visibility, while the engine intake was completely shielded from the front.

The National Museum of the United States Air Force outside of Dayton, Ohio is home to more than 360 aircraft and missiles. Its collection includes such truly notable airplanes as the B-29 "Bockscar" that dropped the "Fat Man" atomic bomb on Nagasaki, the B-17 "Memphis Belle" and the Boeing VC-137C SAM 26000 that had the callsign Air Force One when it was used by Presidents John F. Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon.

In the Cold War gallery of the museum, near a Lockheed Martin F-22A Raptor is a truly special aircraft – the one-of-a-kind Boeing YF-118G, a black project aircraft that was developed to demonstrate stealth technology. Developed by McDonnell Douglas and Boeing in the 1990s it was soon dubbed "The Bird of Prey," named for its resemblance to the Klingon spacecraft from the science fiction series Star Trek, as well as the movie Star Trek III: The Search for Spock.

The secret project ran from 1992 to 1999 and the single-seat aircraft was a demonstrator used to test "low observable" stealth techniques as well as new methods of aircraft design and construction. The aircraft, which was tested at the top-secret "Area 51," first flew in 1996 and made a total of 38 flights, where it was used to determine ways to make aircraft less observable not only to radar but also to the eye.

The program also validated new ways to design and build aircraft using large single-piece composite structures, as well as "virtual reality" computerized design and assembly and disposable tooling. It was powered by a single Pratt & Whitney JT15D-5C turbofan that provided 3,190 pounds of thrust and had a maximum speed of 300 miles per hour, and a ceiling of 20,000 feet.

The aircraft made its final flight in 1999 and it was declassified three years later when its design techniques had become standard practice. Boeing has used those techniques in the development of X-32 Joint Strike Fighter demonstrators and later in its X-45A Unmanned Combat Air Vehicle prototype.

The lasting legacy of the Bird of Prey was its ability to demonstrate advances in stealth concepts, notably the "gapless" control surfaces that were developed to blend smoothly into the wings to reduce radar visibility, while the engine intake was completely shielded from the front. Yet, despite its advancements, the National Museum of the United States Air Force noted that it still utilized some "off the shelf" technology to reduce costs while also speeding the production. This included a control system that is all-manual with no computer assists, while its landing gear was adapted from Beech King Air and Queen Air aircraft.

Boeing donated the sole YF-118G Bird of Prey to the museum in 2002 and it has been on display since 2003 – where despite its stealthy technology is ready to be seen and photographed by visitors!

Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer who has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers and websites. He is the author of several books on military headgear including A Gallery of Military Headdress, which is available on Amazon.comThis first appeared earlier and is being reposted due to reader interest.

Image: Wikipedia.

Iran's Cruise Missiles Could Spread Chaos Across the Middle East

The National Interest - Sun, 11/04/2021 - 16:42

Peter Suciu

Iran Missiles, Middle East

Iran is going down a road other “isolated” nations have been forced to travel—developing a local way to produce weapons.

Here's What You Need to Know: Arms could be a future revenue stream for the country, and potentially an important one as its oil reserves certainly won’t last forever. 

This past January Iran launched a number of ballistic missiles at U.S. bases in Iraq in response to the U.S. killing of Gen. Qassim Suleimani, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps—Quads Force commander. The strikes weren’t complete misses but were largely seen as militarily ineffective.

Multiple experts suggested Iran “missed” on purpose so as not to escalate the crisis, but by launching its missiles still, the Islamic Republic was able to save face by responding to Suleimani’s assassination in a U.S. drone strike. 

Experts also warned that next time Iran could respond with its combat-tested and highly combat-capable cruise missiles. This includes its Mobin, which was displayed at the MAKS 2019 defense trade show in Russia last summer. That cruise missile has a range of 280 miles, a speed of 560 miles per hour and can carry a warhead of up to 265 pounds, while it also has a low radar cross-section and high radar-evading capability. 

Iran has the largest missile arsenal in the Middle East—one that includes land-attack cruise missiles as well as anti-ship cruise missiles that can be launched from land, sea or air. Stopping a cruise missile isn’t impossible, but right now there are no operational weapons systems that can provide air defense against terrain-hugging cruise missiles over land.   

Exporting These Weapons 

While Iran hasn’t been able to build up a robust domestic defense industry, the Islamic Republic has looked to eventually export its indigenously-developed cruise missiles.

“Iran’s displays of advancements in arms development and production are not only a strategic exercise to attract new buyers, but also reveals the possibility of the country being a bedrock of arms imports to fill gaps in its capabilities,” Mathew George, Ph.D., aerospace & defense analyst at GlobalData, a leading data and analytics company, said in an email to the National Interest

“Iran has developed its military capabilities domestically over the past decade or so to circumvent the arms embargo, leading to the occasional demonstration and announcement of new aircraft, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and developments in armaments,” George added. “Yet, concerns still exist around whether the specifications mentioned are definite capabilities or whether they are hyped versions of older devices, with the latest Qasem Soleimani missile looking identical to the older Shahab 3 ballistic missile.” 

Regional Stability 

Iran is going down a road other “isolated” nations have been forced to travel—developing a local way to produce weapons. This is because western sanctions and arms embargoes that have been directed against Iran have only served to create a vacuum that the country’s nascent has struggled to fill. Iran has what can be described as an enthusiastic, if not quite cutting-edge military-industrial complex

Now it is beginning to take the first step toward being an arms supplier—something that could be a concern to the stability in the Middle East and beyond.

“While these developments are a cause of concern for many countries in the region, an additional supplier of arms into the global market will be welcomed by many countries interested in these technologies, but without the deep pockets and rigorous prerequisites required to purchase from traditional suppliers,” explained George.  

However, those embargos and sanctions can go both ways. So not only can Iran not purchase small arms, but it could be very difficult for the Middle Eastern nation to actively try to sell its wares on the open market—at least not without any potential buyers facing their own sanctions from the UN or United States. 

“Iran will work to ensure that nothing domestic will hamper the lifting of the arms embargo,” added George.  

Arms could be a future revenue stream for the country, and potentially an important one as its oil reserves certainly won’t last forever. 

“Stakeholders will most likely allow for the embargo to be lifted and a new round of arms commerce to ensue until an event linked to spurious organizations and clear evidence of Iranian support of that event leads to another suspension of arms trade with the country.”

Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer who has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers and websites. He is the author of several books on military headgear including A Gallery of Military Headdress, which is available on Amazon.com. 

This article first appeared earlier this year.

Image: Reuters

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