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Military Aviation

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


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