Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Harrier / AV-8

Harrier / AV-8B

BAE Systems Harrier

Sea Harrier FA.2

First Flight:                          1988, September 19
                                                Rolls-Royce Pegasus 106 turbofan
                                                9765kg / 21,500lb thrust
                                                AIM-120 AAM (4)
                                                AIM-120 (2)
                                                AIM-9 Sidewinders
                                                30mm / 1.18in Aden cannon (2)
                                                2270kg / 5000lb bombs, rockets, anti-ship missiles
                Length:                 14.17m / 46ft 6in
                Height:                   3.71m / 12ft 2in
                Wingspan:             7.7m / 25ft 3in
                Wing area:             18.7m2 / 201ft2
                Empty:                  6374kg / 14,052lb
                Max take-off:      11,880kg / 26,200lb
                Max Speed:        1185kph / 736mph @ sea level
                                             1328kph / 825mph @ high altitude
                Cruise Speed:    850kph / 528mph @ 10,975m / 36,000ft
                Ceiling:                 15,555m / 51,000ft
                Range:                  1300km / 800 miles
                Climb:                   15,240m / 50,000ft per min @ VTOL weight
                Take-off run:          305m / 1000ft @ max takeoff weight, no ‘ski jump’

AAM      -              air-to-air missile
V/STOL -              vertical / short take-off and landing

Vertical landing possible without heavy ordinance

AV-8B Harrier II Plus

                                                Rolls-Royce F402-RR-408A (Pegasus 11-61)
                                                Vectored thrust turbofan engine
                                                10,600kg / 23,800lb thrust
                                                6003kg / 13,235lb Max ordinance
                                                4 pylons under each wing
                                                                AIM-9 Sidewinders
                                                                AIM-120 AMRAAM
                                                                Mk 7 cluster bomb dispensers
                                                                Mk 82/83 bombs
                                                                LAU-10/68/69 rocket pods
                                                                AGM-65 Maverick
                                                                AGM-84 Harpoon
                                                                CBU-55/72 fuel-air explosive
                                                                Mk 77 fire bombs
                                                Centerline hardpoint
                                                                ALQ-167 ECM pod
                                                Two fuselage packs
                                                                Five-barrelled 25mm GAU-12 cannon (port)
                                                                300 rounds (starboard)
                Max speed:        1065kph / 662mph @ sea level
                Climb:                   4485m / 14,715ft per min @ sea level

Original 1960 prototype prior to Harrier

President Dwight Eisenhower’s defense policy during the Cold War was based heavily on nuclear deterrence because the World War II general believed that any direct conflict with the forces of the Soviet Union would quickly escalate to a strategic nuclear exchange making conventional armed forces irrelevant.  It also saved U.S. taxpayers a lot of money if the Pentagon wasn’t caught up in a needless conventional arms race with their Soviet counterparts.  Eisenhower’s successor, John Kennedy, was chilled by the thought that his only military option would be all-out thermonuclear war.  He believed this all-or-nothing posture lacked credibility and he instituted measures that called for a graduated response to hostilities.  This meant NATO must now be able to defend itself against the conventional forces of the  Warsaw Pact in the event of European war.  The men, armor and planes required for a credible conventional defense  would mean writing new government checks for a lot of money.  It also meant reconsidering NATO’s tactical strategy.

Spain one of purchasers of Harriers

At the outbreak of hostilities the air forces of the two, large opposing armies would quickly rise to the air and attack, among other targets, the large air bases of their enemy.  NATO military planners knew these attacks on their air arm could potentially devastate their defensive ability.  It would be ideal if aircraft didn’t require long runways.  They could be easily dispersed and hard to find.  This would require a jet that could take-off like a helicopter or, at the very least, become airborne after a running start using a short piece of land.  The technology barely existed in 1960 but the British were committed to developing it.

Aerial Refueling

The first operational VTOL (Vertical Take-off and Landing) combat jet, the Harrier GR.1, entered service with the RAF in 1969.  Although it was capable of vertical lift the aircraft actually required a runway of nearly a couple hundred meters if it was to carry a worthwhile payload of military ordinance.  Under wartime conditions a short piece of farm road would do, so there was little practical penalty.  The RAF Harrier quickly proved itself to be highly maneuverable, with impressive acceleration and, because of its vectoring nozzles, could decelerate rapidly and make very sharp turns – giving it real advantages as a dogfighter.  It caught the attention of both the Royal Navy and the U.S. Marine Corps.  The aircraft’s short runway requirement meant the fleet could have an air arm without the expense of maintaining large carriers.  This would also benefit the Marines as they could provide close air support for opposed amphibious landings from small decked assault ships nearby.  Once the landing had been secured the Harriers, known as the AV-8A by the Marines, could operate from relatively primitive areas close to the front lines.  This gave them short response time and the ability to provide more frequent missions.  Here was an aircraft truly suited the Marine Corps’ mission.  It proved to be more capable than its own A-4 Skyhawk.

Vector nozzles give Harrier VTOL capability

It was during the Falklands War in 1982 when the world took note of this revolutionary aircraft and its contribution towards England’s victory over Argentina.  In this instance it was the Royal Navy’s Sea Harrier version that made news by shooting down 23 opposing aircraft while losing none of its own to aerial combat.  Among the aircraft lost were eleven Dassault Mirages and eight A-4 Skyhawks.  Such aircraft should have made for more competitive dogfights but while the Argentinian pilots were courageous they didn’t have near the training or the effective tactics of the British flyers.  It also helped that the Sea Harriers were armed with AIM-9L Sidewinder missiles which proved to be far more reliable than their earlier predecessors.

Underside view reveals hard points and vector nozzles

The up-graded Harrier II Plus and the U.S. Marine’s AV-8B became much improved close-air support, ground-attack aircraft with improved radar systems and far more power that enabled it to carry a far greater weapons load.  It is relied upon now by ground troops in this role and will continue to be until it is replaced by the new Joint Strike Force aircraft, the F-35, that is expected to become operational for the Marines in 2015.

US Marine AV-8B during sea operations

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Sunday, December 29, 2013

Good Morning Jessicca...

Letter to my Daughter
Sunday, 29 December

I was here

Good Morning Jessicca…

How do we not be young?  We stop being vigorous and optimistic.  I can’t imagine anything good about that.  At some point a person is forced to physically slow down because of age but it doesn’t mean we have to lag in spirit.  Creaking joints, though, is no reason for loss of optimism.  I think a pessimistic view of life is irrational because it ignores the big picture.  What remarkable energy there is in people.  This is obvious.  We have an absolutely unrelenting constitution for making things happen.  How could this world be in the state that it is if we were otherwise?  People of all persuasions desire to improve upon the world as they see best.  We are all in competition to produce a better system in which we can all live.  Often things don’t go our way and that’s not necessarily bad.  It requires us to rethink what it is we are trying to do and why it is others may not agree with our ideas on creating a more perfect world.  We probably don’t change our minds on goals but we do adjust and push ahead if we are to remain in the race. 

Life can get brutal but people are tough.  We don’t mind picking a fight with the big guy if we believe we are right.  It’s happened time and again.  The Americans thumbed their nose at the British when England was on top a couple of hundred years back and the Americans got away with it, thanks to some timely help from the French.  The Cubans and Vietnamese have, in turn, thumbed their nose at us, as well.  They also relied on needed support from our adversaries but it is remarkable, none the less, that these scrawny little countries should dare to cross Uncle Sam when he was positively bristling with weapons.  People will consistently put their lives on the line when they believe they are right.  This is a very courageous characteristic of humans.  It is something about human nature that deserves our respect. 

Of course, people with an opposing view don’t suddenly back down when they run across stiff resistance.  That isn’t in our nature, as you can well see.  But being the dominant force is all the more reason to consider what it is about us that makes the other side so fired up mad.  Why not pause to review our actions in an effort to be more constructive, more accommodating to other points of view?  After all, if we are the big guy in the right then wouldn’t you think time was on our side anyway?  What’s the rush to herd people to our point of view?  People with evangelical ideas on how the world should be can show impatience, bordering on deafness, when it comes to hearing out those with contrasting ideas.  The mighty often get their way in the short term but it doesn’t make for being right.  People have a habit of steadily subverting the power of the arrogant.  They’ll risk a trip to the hospital, or worse, just for the chance of kicking you in the shin.  Insult and offend enough people and you find yourself suddenly a giant among the Lilliputians - prostrate and powerless, strapped to the ground.  No one stays king of the mountain against the will of the world’s vast number of meek.

I am one among the countless billions inhabiting this planet.  We have dominion over the Earth, for better or worse.  We squabble with ourselves, and sometimes come to blows, over how we divvy up the world’s treasure.  We often don’t mind taking more than our fair share.  Why is that?  Is there something wrong with our philosophy?  Is it about socialism versus capitalism?  Could it be that nationalism makes for artificial distinctions among people?  Are we about tribes?  Are we about family?  Do we discover spiritual oneness on our daily commute?

I was talking earlier about living with vitality.  We build and plan and care about people we love and it somehow all seems to work out for us on a broad scale.  Our individual internal conflicts are not enough to divert most of us from attempting to achieve our own sense of mission accomplished.  Every human accomplishment of every description has its basis in the will to complete something, to contribute something of oneself.  Here’s my mark.  I was here.  I’ve now left my indelible scratch somewhere in the history of ‘Once upon a time’.


Sunday, December 22, 2013

Good Morning Justin...

Letter to my Son
Sunday, 22 December

Gypsy serves breakfast

“Cade, you haven’t a romantic bone in your body.”
Cade paused to look up from his hash browns, bloody with catsup.
“Where’d I do you wrong, Gypsy?”
“You ain’t never’ve been close enough to do something wrong with me, cowboy.”
He smiled and shoveled in another bite.
“You think refilling my coffee might get you a bit too close?”
“That’s business.  We all have to take risks for a buck.”
“You got that right.  One buck – there’s your tip.”
“That a fact?  I’m thinking more along the lines two quarters suits you.”
“Like hell.”
“Damn straight.  You lay down a buck and you’ll get me thinking you came into money.  What happened?  Social Security give you a raise?”
“How bout that coffee, Honey?”
She grabbed up his wadded napkin and bounced it off his forehead, dropping right into the egg yolk.
“Hey yourself.”

The bell jangled above the entrance.

“Gypsy, your walkway’s mighty slick outside.”
“I’ll have Cade grab a counter shaker and salt it before he leaves.”
“She’s sweet talking you, Cade.”
“Hey Bill.  Still living the dream?”
“He can’t afford it.  So Bill, ‘Senior Special’, decaf, cream, no sugar… right?”
“I come in here too often.”
“It’s the women.  Food stinks but Gypsy loves to give you suggestive looks.”
“I suggest you finish up, pay your tab and make yourself absent, Cade.”
“I can’t do that.  Bill here’s deathly afraid of being alone with you.”
“He ought to be.  I’ve a thing for a man in a toupee.”
“OK, that’s about enough.  Come over here and give this a feel.  It’s all real, Gypsy.”
“And it’s all yours, Honey.”
“Sorry, Bill.  I still think I can peak under it.”
“Make me a liar.  Come over here and put your hands through it.”
“Watch out, Gypsy.  He’s starting to stir.  You still messing with Viagra, Bill?”
“I get it by the case from Canada.  Might come in handy one day.”
“The internet’s a wonderful thing.”
“OK, Gypsy.  How would you know?”

Bill suddenly looked bewildered.  “What we talking about here, drugs or sex?”

“Why Bill, both of course.  Right, Cade?”
“You asking me?  I get my internet in the library.  Not much you can do there but pay your bills on line.”
“Says you.”  She winked.
“I hear you can look at whatever you want in a New York library.”
“That a fact?  Where’d you hear that, Bill?”
“Facebook,” Cade said.
“No, you got to have friends to be on Facebook.  Right, Bill?”
“Gypsy, I think my cakes are burning.”
“His is the short stack,” Cade smiled.
“Their pretty stacked compared to yours, Cade.”  She smiled back.
“You’d have to cook mine to know.”  Cade said.
“You’re strictly wheat toast and eggs.”  She replied.

They starred at each other.
Bill leaned away from the counter to take them both in.  
“Get a room,” he said.

Friday, December 20, 2013

F - 101 Voodoo

McDonnell F-101 Voodoo

McDonnell F-101 Voodoo

First Flight:                          1954, September 29
                                             F-101A:  single-seat tactical fighter-bomber
                                             F-101B:  two-seat interceptor
                                             Pratt & Whitney J57-P-55 turbojet engines
                                             6749kg / 14,880lb afterburning thrust
                F-101A                M39 20mm / 0.79 cannon (3)
                                                             Port side of fuselage (2)
                                                             Starboard side of fuselage (1)
                                              3050kg / 6724lb bombs, including tactical nuclear
                F-101B                 MB-1 Genie nuclear-tipped air-to-air missile (2)
                                              Falcon air-to-air missiles (4)
                                              Falcon air-to-air missiles (6)
                Length:                 20.54m / 67ft 4.75in
                Height:                 5.49m / 18ft
                Wingspan:           12.09m / 39ft 8in
                Wing Area:          34.19m2 / 368ft2
                Empty:                  13,141kg / 28,970lb
                Loaded:                19,300kg / 42,550lb
                Max Take-off:       23,768kg / 52,400lb
                Max Speed:     1965kph / 1221mph
                Ceiling:             16,705m / 54,800ft
                Range:              2494km / 1550 miles
                       Fuel:          8123 liters / 2,146 US gallons – mostly internal
                Climb:               11,133m / 36,500ft per minute
                                           805 – most were F-101B two-seat interceptors

Fuel cells above engines along fuselage spine

Flying a dogfighter isn’t like flying a troop transport – it isn’t “steady as she goes”.  You want high-performance maneuverability so you can expect instability inherent to the design.  That may be OK if you’re flying a World War I vintage biplane like the Spad – you’ve got time to react doing a hundred miles an hour at several thousand feet.  If you’re flying a crazy rocket sled at tree-top level at eight hundred miles an hour you have to really know what it is you’re doing at all times or they’re pealing up your goo from all over the landscape.   Even good fighter pilots might take a pass on flying McDonnell’s F-101 Voodoo, especially if you have a wife and kids to come home to.

Two-seat F-101B was interceptor

Now that I’ve implied its virtual suicide to climb into a Voodoo’s cockpit let me pass along a bit of reassuring information.  The F-101 had an outstanding safety record with the lowest-accidents-per-hours-flown ratio of any combat aircraft of its time.  How does an unforgiving combat jet with quirky flight characteristics have anything to do with safety?  The Voodoo killed a number of test pilots because it was their job to discover the nature of the aircraft.  In the 1950s the Air Forces of both super powers were aggressive in pushing the jet performance envelope.  Design engineers were rushed into unknown territory.  Pilot safety was not first and foremost in this equation.  For instance, the high tailplane of the Voodoo gave it some extravagant performance characteristics but it was also the reason for a number of unpleasant surprises.  Pilots learned from the unfortunate early errors of others and, for the most part, stayed focused to avoid becoming a statistic draped in black.

F-101 had impressive range even without drop tanks

The entire saga begins with the XF-88 being flown in 1948 as a prototype interceptor.  Given the nature of jets during this period it should come as no surprise that its speed was disappointing.  The project looks to be scrapped and engineers are updating their resumes.  Along comes the Korean War in 1950.  The B-29 Superfortress is satisfactorily terrorizing the populace of North Korea with its bombing missions when, all of a sudden from out of the blue, in roars a jet named the MiG 15.  Our bombers begin to drop like smoked sausages.  The US Air Force’s Strategic Air Command starts to believe they need an escort fighter to protect its huge B-36 Peacemaker in a possible bombing run on the Soviet Union or China.  Looking around they recognize the long range potential of the XF-88 and, from this need, the F-101 Voodoo is born.  Sometime during 1954 SAC changes its mind about the Voodoo.  Maybe the new jet B-47s and B-52s are fast enough to take care of themselves.  Maybe the F-101 doesn’t have what it takes to protect these bombers all the way to their target, anyway.

F-101B capable of firing nuclear-tipped Genie missile

The F-101 is not dead.  The Air Force’s Tactical Air Command thinks this aircraft is just what they need in Europe to deliver tactical nuclear bombs on targets behind the Iron Curtain.  The F-101 meets its criteria.  It’s got the speed needed for survivability and it can come in low to the ground.  It’s got the payload ability to handle with ease iron bombs or tactical free-falling nukes.  It’s big enough to hold two thousand US gallons of fuel internally – making it perfect as a long range fighter-bomber.  Here’s the way it works:  the Voodoo begins its bombing run low, then the pilot initiates a loop, releasing the nuke about half way through so that it’s lobed at about a 45o angle.  The jet finishes its loop, rolls and drops, racing off at full speed so as not to be enveloped in the detonation.  It’s not a piece of cake.

RF-101A used in reconnaissance role over Vietnam

There was still another scenario for the versatile F-101 Voodoo.  NORAD, or more specifically the Air Force’s Air Defense Command needed an interceptor to meet the threat of Soviet bombers approaching American cities from over the Polar icecap.  Both the proposed F-102 and F-106 were behind in meeting this need because of a series of frustrating delays in their development.  The Air Force needed an insurance policy and the F-101B was chosen to be it.  This two-seater, missile-bearing interceptor was very effective but also extremely complicated to maintain – a real nightmare for mechanics.  Once the delta jets, the F-102 and F-106, came online these aircraft were handed to the Canadians to use, where they did their job despite being stationed in the adverse weather of the Arctic Circle.

Air-brakes deployed above engines on this CF-101B

The Voodoo isn’t remembered for its combat performance but it did play a key role as America’s first supersonic reconnaissance aircraft.  It was critical in providing the White House information on the nature of missile installation during the Cuban Missile Crisis.  Its greatest role, though, was the contribution it made during the Vietnam War.  Voodoos routinely flew hazardous daylight reconnaissance missions over Hanoi at speeds of Mach 1.8.  Anything slower and you’re likely to be the victim of a Vietnamese MiG 21 – whose own afterburners could light up to attain speeds of over 1,300 miles per hour; and you've only got a camera to defend yourself.  The Voodoos speed saved a lot of pilots but you’re not exactly the Road Runner dodging Wiley Coyote.  There were 40 Voodoos shot down over the North, mainly because of SAM strikes and anti-aircraft fire.

F101:  extraordinary performance but also tricky

The Voodoo served the Air Force for thirty years in one of any number of capacities.  Its startling performance was at a cost of tricky handling.  You have to be among the best to fly the F-101 and you are always diligent about monitoring your jet’s behavior because it never flies itself and it doesn’t forgive a moment’s inattention… kind of like Valentine’s with your girlfriend.

F-101Bs intercept B-52G

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

F - 106

F-106 Delta Dagger

Convair F-106 Delta Dart

First Flight:                          1956, December 26
Type:                                    Single-seat interceptor
                                             Pratt & Whitney P-17 turbojet engine
                                             11,113kg / 24,500lb after-burning thrust
                                             M61A-1 20mm / 0.78 cannon (1)
                                             AIM-4Falcon AAM (4)
                                             AIR-2A Genie air-to-air nuclear missile – 1.5 kiloton warhead
                Length:                 21.55m / 70ft 8.75in
                Height:                 6.18m / 20ft 3.3in
                Wingspan:           11.67m / 38ft 2.5in
                Wing area:          64.8m2 / 697.8ft2
                Empty:                  10,800kg / 23,814lb
                Normal:                16,012kg / 35,500lb
                Max Take-off:      17,350kg / 38,250lb
                Max Speed:         2393kph / 1487mph / Mach 2.25 @ 40,000ft w/out tanks
                Ceiling:                 17,680m / 58,000ft - sustained
                Range:                  3138km / 1950 miles – external tanks
                                              1850km / 1150 miles – internal fuel
                Climb:                   9144m / 30,000ft per minute
                                              17,374m / 57,000ft – 4.5 minutes
                F-106A:                277
                F-106B:                  63 (two-seat)

Indented fuselage over wing aided streamlining

The nuclear weapon that destroyed Hiroshima had the blast equivalent of 14,000 tons of TNT.  A nuclear weapon targeting a city during the Cold War would likely be over 70 times that powerful.  These thermonuclear weapons were measured in megatons, or increments of a blast equaling 1,000,000 tons of TNT.  A one megaton explosion would create a blast of heat that would instantly ignite fabric and paper six miles from the detonation.  The old ‘Duck and Cover’ drills practiced by school kids in the 50s had the benefit of giving people a false sense of hope.  In reality, the few survivors there were of such a blast would likely hope death would relieve them of their misery. 

Genie missile capable of carrying nuclear warhead

When the F-106 was being developed during the 1950s both the Soviet Union and the United States were limited to the use of strategic bombers for delivering their nuclear devastation on an opposing city.  Assessing the Soviet inventory U.S. military planners most feared the Tupolev Tu-95 ‘Bear’.  It was capable of flying long distances at very high altitudes.  Its likely path of attack was over the Arctic Circle from a base somewhere in northeast Siberia.  A network of very large radar installations, known as the DEW Line (Distant Early Warning) was set up to meet this threat.  Likewise a number of jet interceptors were designed during this period with the exclusive purpose of intercepting these Russian bombers before they could reach their North American targets.  Among these aircraft were the F-89 Scorpion, the F-94 Starfire and the F-102 Delta Dagger.  None of them adequately met the requirements of the Air Force’s Air Defense Command.  The United States Air Force wanted an aircraft capable of flying Mach 2, twice the speed of sound, and be able to reliably destroy an enemy bomber even if it were flying well above 50,000 feet. 

Tupolev Tu-95 'Bear' - best Russian strategic bomber

 The initial flights of the prototype F-106 in late 1956 were disappointing.  There naturally was some grumbling about scrapping the program but the plane showed potential.  Its avionics were absolutely revolutionary if only they could make it work.  An aircraft promising a technological leap in aviation is going to take time to properly develop.  No one should really be surprised that the F-106 would not become operational for another three years.  When the F-106 Delta Dart, or simply Six as it was referred to by its pilots, went into service with the Air Force in 1959 it could already go twice the speed of its predecessor the F-102.  The instrumentation featured a Tactical Information Display that graphically summarized the current situation by pointing out where you were, where your target was in relation to you as well as other contemporary information relevant to the pilot’s mission.  The F-106 had infrared target acquisition technology to back up its radar-based, Hughes MA-1 fire control system.  It took Hughes Aircraft years to get this setup right but it was worth the wait.  The cutting-edge avionics were computerized, digitized and data-linked with those manning the powerful radars on the ground.  If you were part of this system put together by ADC (Air Defense Command) you had to feel any enemy bomber formation coming over the Arctic horizon was doomed.  Your feeling of security and well-being was short-lived.

New air intakes for powerful and thirsty jet engine

Within a couple of years both the United States and Soviet Union were bringing on line a new technology that made the Buck Rogers cockpit of the F-106 irrelevant.  There simply was no defensive response to the launch of a nuclear tipped Intercontinental Ballistic Missile.  You make your peace with God and comfortably sit in your favorite easy chair waiting to be vaporized.  Around the time of the Cuban Missile Crisis some entrepreneurial types offered to sell their neighbors bomb shelters for the back yard.  When it wasn’t being used on doomsday it made for a great family rec room.  Such were the unintended benefits of the Cold War. 

F-106 - pilots simply referred to it as Six

The F-106 was an impressive aircraft.  It even displayed remarkable dogfighting characteristics although that never was its designers’ intent.  It remained on duty as this nation’s primary defense against air attack well into the 1970s, shadowing curious Tupolev ‘Bears’ snooping off the coast of Alaska and keeping Soviet aircraft an honest distance from the American east coast while on their way to Cuba.  It was clear the threat of nuclear annihilation now came from giant land-based ballistic missiles and from missiles launched from submerged submarines hidden somewhere in the vast spaces of ocean.  Still, so long as there were bombers capable of flying thousands of miles there would continue to be someone on patrol in a cockpit ready to respond.

America's original seven astronauts pose by F-106