Saturday, December 31, 2011

Confronting Nuclear War

Mortality on a Global Scale

29 August 1949

The Russians detonate their first atomic bomb at Semipalatinsk, Kazakh SSR and become the second nuclear power.  The United States was startled at having lost their nuclear monopoly so soon.  Julius and Ethel Rosenberg became the first American civilians executed for espionage after having been convicted of passing nuclear weapons secrets to the Soviet Union.


The Soviet Union's first atomic bomb was comparable to America's Gadget and Fat Man with an explosive force of 22 kilotons of TNT.  It was an implosion type weapon with a solid plutonium core.  The United States gave it the code name of Joe 1, after Joseph Stalin.

Joseph Stalin

The alliance between the Western democracies and the Soviet Union during the war with Germany was always a matter of necessity, the marriage of convenience.  The leaders of East and West shared few convictions and regarded each other with suspicion.  Development of the atomic bomb was not a matter to be trusted with Stalin's Russia although the Soviet leader had his own sources within the Manhattan Project and displayed little emotion when America's President Truman spoke of a miraculous new weapon during their meeting in Potsdam.  The lessons learned from the Great Patriotic War meant Russia was safe being second to no one and no Soviet leader, especially Stalin, would tolerate a world of American nuclear hegemony. 

Harry Truman

Fear of Nazi Germany led to the development of the atomic bomb but with Berlin's surrender and bitter conflict continuing in the Pacific it seemed only natural to President Truman for him to order the use of this weapon in hopes of bringing the war with Japan to an end.  Japan's unconditional surrender following the destruction of Hiroshima and a second atomic attack on Nagasaki brought a rapid demobilization of American military forces.  Yet events quickly demonstrated that the perceived interests of the United States and those of the Soviet Union were in direct conflict.

Dean Acheson

Secretary of State Dean Acheson had not anticipated military action by Communist forces in North Korea when he placed South Korea outside America's vital interests.  Stalin, in turn, was surprised by the determined military response of the United States to developments on the Korean peninsula.  Both countries quickly learned it was dangerous to miscalculate the other.  The Korean War more than any other single event made clear a Cold War did exist between the globe's two emergent super powers.

Dwight Eisenhower

President Dwight Eisenhower, famed for overseeing the successful amphibious assault at Normandy in 1944, was determined to keep military costs to a minimum by relying on the threatened use of nuclear weapons in response to any military move on Western Europe by the Soviet Union's still large conventional army.  Nuclear bombs and the means of delivering them was vastly cheaper than maintaining armed divisions.  

John Foster Dulles

The ardent anti-Communist John Foster Dulles, Secretary of State under Dwight Eisenhower, was a strenuous proponent of massive retaliation, believing that releasing unrestrained force was the best deterrence to aggression.  During the course of the 1950s Russia's own massive retaliatory power grew placing increased dependence on the credibility of America's nuclear threat.  Citizens of Berlin, for instance, could only wonder whether the United States government was willing to risk destruction of its own cities in defense of this German city isolated deep within the Communist block.  

Maxwell Taylor

General Maxwell Taylor, Army Chief of Staff under Eisenhower, called for a Strategy of Flexible Response.  His argument for an American military capable of handling threats with conventional weapons would require enormous increases in defense spending and his belief in funding the means to fight limited wars found a receptive ear only when John Kennedy entered the White House.  Within a couple of years President Kennedy introduced American troops into Southeast Asia and Maxwell Taylor would serve briefly as Ambassador to South Vietnam.      

Herman Kahn

Herman Kahn made his reputation for speaking the unthinkable while employed at the RAND Corporation whose mission it was to freely explore the range of options available in thermonuclear war.  His detached approach to gaming the catastrophic made him the basis for the bizarre, mad character that was the centerpiece of the motion picture Dr. Strangelove.

John von Neumann

Oskar Morgenstern

Two less flamboyant colleagues of Herman Kahn at the RAND Corporation were the celebrated mathematicians John von Neumann and Oskar Morgenstern.   Their work in game theory led them to believe in the ultimate interdependence of the United States and the Soviet Union.  The two nation's fates were linked and the decision making of each would ultimately require keeping the interests of their potential enemy always in mind in order to prevent antagonisms from getting out of hand.  A practical application of this mindset occurred in the peaceful remedy to the Cuban Missile Crisis where each side avoided backing the other into a corner.

Henry Kissinger

This obscure Harvard professor gained national attention with the publication of his book, Nuclear Weapons and Foreign Policy, in which he argued that military means and diplomatic approaches are not separate ventures but interrelated when arbitrating differences between confrontational nations.  Kissinger would become a seminal adviser to Richard Nixon during a period of relative rapprochement between America and her Cold War adversaries China and the Soviet Union.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Tornado GR4

 Tornado GR4


Tornado GR4

The all-weather, low-level strike aircraft Tornado was the joint effort of the UK, Italy and Germany initiated in the early 1970s in the midst of the Cold War.  With nearly 1,000 aircraft produced the economies of scale made up for duplications in the multiple country effort.  Variations were produced to meet the different country's specific needs.  


Crew:                    2 - pilot, radar officer

Power:                  2 - Turbo-Union 7298 kg / 16,075 lb afterburning thrust 
                                   RB199-103 turbofans

Max. Speed        2336 kph / 1452 mph
Ceiling:                15,250 m / 50,000 ft
Range:                 2778 km / 1726 miles
Climb:                  9150 m / 30,000 ft in 2 minutes

Weight -
Empty:                13,901 kg / 30,620 lb
Max. Take Off:   27,975 kg / 61,620 lb

Size -
Wingspan:         13.91 m / 45 ft 8 in, spread
Wing Area:        26.6 sq m / 286.3 sq ft at 25 degrees sweptback
Length:               16.7 m / 54 ft 10 in
Height:               5.95 m / 19 ft 6 in

                          1 - Mauser 27 mm / 1.05 in cannon
                          4 - AIM-9L Sidewinder missiles
                               8172 kg / 18,000 lb ordnance


Variable Geometry Wing

The Tornado is designed for optimized flight at three wing positions:  25 degrees with wing slats and flaps extended provide high lift for short take off and landing capability; 45 degrees for normal flight operation; 67 degrees to achieve maximum speed.  

Afterburner Thrust

Built for rapid, low level penetration of enemy airspace the Tornado remains, after thirty years, the backbone of Britain's air strike capability.  Coming in close to the deck to crater the runways of Iraq's heavily defended airbases contributed to the loss of six Tornados during Desert Storm. Piloting your nation's most advanced combat aircraft means being assigned missions with the highest risk.  


The Tornado was intended to come in low, under the cover of darkness, even adverse weather and strike its target with precision.  It's not a nimble craft.  Don't expect the upper hand in a close quarters dogfight.  It's fast but massive and has lumbering brutish power.  But lumbering doesn't describe the ride you feel flying tree top level through mountain passes at nearly 1,000 kph / 600 mph... in nasty weather.  It's that good.  Blistering thrust, cutting edge avionics and reliable terrain following radar are packaged in the Tornado.  

Instrument Panel

Even with a weapons officer riding tandem there is no lack of things to know, monitor and do while piloting the Tornado.  There's a steep learning curve that goes with moving into this cockpit from a less sophisticated aircraft.  Looking at it another way it's sitting in your favorite arm chair with all your toys carefully arranged in front of you.  Don't bother me.  I'm having fun.  

 Loaded for Bear

The above photo displays the ordnance of a Tornado ADV, designed during the Cold War to intercept Soviet long range bombers and destroy them before they could fire their stand off missiles at British targets.  The missiles nestled tight against the fuselage are BAe Sky Flash radar guided air-to-air missiles.  The wing mounted missiles are heat seeking Sidewinders.  

HARM missile launch

The HARM, or High-speed Anti-radiation Missile, is an air-to-surface missile that follows the electronic transmission of a radar system to its source and detonates.  Defense suppression is another role of the Tornado along with air interdiction, close air support of troops. high value target ground attack, maritime anti-ship patrol, and reconnaissance.  Each of the varied combat missions has its own weapon specific to the task.  


Low level ground attack means vulnerability to small arms fire and shoulder launched heat seeking missiles.  Flares are a reliable counter to the latter.  With precision weapons and stand off missiles that are accurately launched at considerable distance from the target, low to the ground flight tactics aren't the necessity once required of Tornado pilots.  Still, like dogfighting, these are skills that remain in the training because warfare is a venture that often defies prediction.  

Labeled Graphic

Saudi Arabia has three squadrons of Tornados adding to the F-15Cs they already have in the role of air defense.  The aircraft are not the junior version often found in export sales but are as capable as any Tornado found in the RAF.  Saudi Arabia was the only country outside the original three manufacturing nations to receive the Tornado.  

Action over Libya

The Tornado was used in the recent Libyan engagement and it has so far avoided retirement.  But plans are to replace it with the Eurofighter Typhoon and, later, the F-35 Lightening as it becomes available.  The question is what follows this next generation of combat aircraft?  With the rapid technological advances of UAV, Unmanned Aerial Vehicles, what role will on-board pilots have in future aviation?  For instance, a human may tolerate a 9 G force but an aircraft can handle far more.  We aren't yet to the point of turning mission critical assignments over to machines, software and an individual in a cubicle with a joystick.  But as technology progresses human biology will increasingly become the glaring limiting factor and the lone pilot in a cockpit will join the cowboy on the range and the white knight on horseback as another romantic image for the ages.  




Wednesday, December 28, 2011


Tu-16 Badger


Tu-16 Badger

Developed in the early 1950s the Tu-16 was the Soviet equivalent of the American B-47.  Its two large engines produced thrust equivalent to that generated by the six J47 engines on the Boeing.  It had a very good airframe and it was adapted beyond the bomber role over the years to include maritime reconnaissance and aerial tanker.  


Crew:                    6 - 7

Power:                  2 - Mikulin AM-3 M-500 turbojets, 9,320 kg / 21,000 lb thrust each

Max. Speed:        1,050 kph / 650 mph
Ceiling:                 12,800 m / 41,995 ft
Range:                  7,200 km / 4,474 miles
Climb:                   Not Available

Weight -
Empty:                 37,200 kg / 82,012 lb
Max. Take Off:    79,000 kg / 174,165 lb

Size - 
Wingspan:          33.50 m / 109 ft 11 in
Wing Area:         164.65 sq m / 1772 sq ft
Length:                36.5 m / 119 ft 9 in
Height:                 10.8 m / 35 ft 5 in

                            6 - 23 mm / 0.91 in NR-23 cannons
                                  9800 kg / 21,605 lb nuclear or conventional ordnance


Stand Off Missile

Any hope the U.S. had of preventing Western Europe from being overrun by Warsaw Pact conventional forces required maintaining open sea lanes with North America.  The Tu-16 armed with the AS-6 'Kingfish' long-range nuclear missile threatened to knock out America's carrier battle groups in the Atlantic.  A scenario such as this would quickly lead to an exchange of ICBMs between the two warring super powers.  The resulting destruction of the two society's cities and industrial capacity rendered these actions suicidal.  The illustration is by Johan Franken.      

Subzero Maintenance

A freezing winter night and this Russian ground crew is doing what needs to be done.  When you hear talk of military readiness think of measures such as these.  Critical military assignments wouldn't be described as comfortable or convenient by those charged with carrying them out.  The photo above is from Air Force, Russia.  

Cat and Mouse

Always snoop, always test the readiness of the other side.  This would be a familiar sight during the Cold War.  The pods beneath the wings of this Tu-16 reveals its mission of ELINT - Electronic Intelligence gathering.  Additional reconnaissance capability is provided by the bubbles seen under the fuselage.  It may seem a bit unnerving to Navy ships but this Tu-16R isn't the lethal Tu-16K-10, armed with ship-killing missiles.  

Tu-16 flies over Soviet Typhoon Submarine

This Badger is flying over the very large Russian Typhoon Class missile-firing nuclear submarine.  These are the largest submarines ever made and they house 20 missiles.  The protrusion from the end of the Tu-16's wing is for aerial refueling - a unique wingtip to wingtip method of transferring fuel between a Tu-16N tanker and the Badger.  

Tu-16 crew member

A typical Badger crew consisted of pilot, co-pilot, navigator and flight engineer in the front crew compartment and a ventral and tail gunner in the rear compartment.  Reconnaissance Tu-16s may well have an addition two to three crew members dedicated to intelligence gathering.  The above Badger has an enlarged radome for improved search and target tracking.  


The Tu-16 lasted twenty years beyond its contemporary, the B-47, because it proved to be a versatile platform.  It was designed to deliver the Soviet Union's largest nuclear weapon but its limited range prevented it from being a true strategic bomber.  Several Tu-16s were sold to Egypt over the years.  The initial group was mostly destroyed on the ground by Israeli pilots at the beginning of the 1967 Six-Day War.  The Tu-16 fared better in the 1973 Yom Kippur War as they were able to launch 25 missiles at Israeli targets.  

Chinese Hian H-6

China built the Tu-16 under license and is the only country known to continue operating this aircraft.  Besides Egypt, Iraq and Indonesia had also purchased the Badger for their air force.  The Tu-22 Blinder was the intended replacement for the Badger  but while it was faster its range was disappointing and production was limited.  Some of the Blinders would eventually be sold to Libya.  

Transition Aircraft

The Tupolev Badger was a swept wing bomber that retained World War II concepts with a tail gunner and both dorsal and ventral gun emplacements like those found on the B-29.  Germany's defeat in 1945 eliminated the need for cooperation between the wartime allies, Russia and the United States.  The rivalry between the two dominant powers extended beyond ideological differences.  The tension of the Cold War has abated but frictions will remain between the two nations as demonstrated by their competing interests with countries like Iran.  China has grown in global stature as has Western Europe.  The 21st Century has begun much like the first years of the 20th Century when newly powerful nations confronted established nations for greater access to economic resources and increased political influence.  It remains to be seen whether the upcoming jostling for dominance can be limited to peaceful competition. 





Tuesday, December 27, 2011


B-58 Hustler


B-58 Hustler

It was the world's first operational supersonic bomber, capable of sustained Mach 2 speeds for up to an hour.  Yet, within a decade it was retired from service.  SAC, the Strategic Air Command, was never happy with its modest range and its maintenance costs seemed exorbitant against the financial drain that was Vietnam.  Finally, its inflexible strategic role was viewed superfluous with ICBMs being the more credible deterrent to nuclear war.  


Crew:                    3 - pilot
                                   defense systems operator

Power:                  4 - General Electric 7082 kg / 15,600 lb afterburning thrust J79-5B turbojets

Max. Speed:        2128 kph / 1322 mph
Ceiling:                 19,520 m / 64,000 ft
Range:                  8248 km / 5125 miles
Climb:                   5310 m / 17,400 ft per minute

Weight -
Empty:                 25,224 kg / 55,560 lb
Max. Take Off:    74,002 kg / 163,000 lb

Size -
Wingspan:           17.32 m / 56 ft 10 in
Wing Area:          143.35 sq m / 1543 sq ft
Length:                 29.49 m / 96 ft 9 in
Height:                 9.58 m / 31 ft 5 in

                             1 - 20 mm / 0.78 in cannon in tail
                                   8830 kg / 19,450 lb payload - nuclear or conventional



There was no room for a conventional bomb bay in the narrow Coke bottle shaped fuselage so ordnance was kept within a large, streamlined centerline weapons pod tucked beneath the aircraft.  The pod's size required the B-58 to have long, mosquito legged landing gear.  A wartime mission would normally include five atomic weapons, one for each assigned target.  Actual missions would require at least one in flight refueling with a KC-135 tanker.  

Delta Wing

Engine pods were mounted outboard of the thin delta wing which had a 60 degree sweep.  The speed of the aircraft was not limited by power but by allowable inlet air temperatures and the structural integrity of the aircraft.  Sharp cones or spikes protruding from the jets prevented sonic shock waves from entering the engine intakes and disrupting air flow and power.  

Pilot Station

Each of the three crew members was isolated in their own separate compartment, arranged in tandem.  There was no possibility of stretching your legs during flight.  Each flight was carefully planned in advance and personnel were usually too busy to find their situation claustrophobic.  

Escape Capsule

Ejecting from an aircraft flying at supersonic speeds is not safe with a normal ejection seat.  Each crew member of the B-58 was contained within a specially designed escape capsule that was pressurized and provisioned with oxygen, food, water and flotation equipment.  Besides deploying a parachute it had a suspension system to soften the landing.  

Crew of the Rapid Rabbit

The Soviet's proven ability to down high altitude aircraft was a game changer for  the strategic bomber.  The stratosphere was no longer a safe haven for high speed aircraft.  B-58 crews now trained to fly close to the deck in order to avoid radar detection but the dense atmosphere at these altitudes slowed speed and gobbled fuel.  The role of the B-58 was being crowded out with the deployment of solid fueled Minuteman missiles and the launching of Polaris armed submarines.  By 1970 all 87 Hustlers were mothballed to the Arizona desert.  


Strategic Bomber

The B-52 survives today because it proved to be a highly adaptable weapons platform, capable of adjusting to changing circumstances and needs.  The B-58, on the other hand, was a revolutionary design focused on successfully completing a specific mission.  Prior to the deployment of reliable missiles on land and sea there was a strategic justification for the bomber's expense.  But while sophisticated defenses can knock most any aircraft from the sky they remain to this day unable to counter an incoming missile attack.  The bomber today earns its keep as a tactical weapon in conventional engagements.  For these missions there are cheaper, more efficient alternatives to calling on the services of aircraft like the B-58.