Military aircraft has become more sophisticated in variety, effectiveness in warsituations, and special maneuvering techniques in recent years. With the advance ofstealthtechnology, many new and very effective aircraft have been developed. The F-117A wasused during Operation Dessert Storm and every plane came back without a scratch. Thevery expensive B-2 stealth bomber has never been used in actual war, but during testing itwas a success. The Advanced Tactical Fighter program was started to make an aircraftthat could supercruise, the ability to cruise at supersonic speeds, and didn’t cost verymuch.
The YF-22 and YF-23 were the first planes to accomplish this. With all the planeswe know of, there are also top secret programs probably going on right now. A newfighter that has never been heard of before has been spotted. As John Welch, the assistantsecretary of Air Force said, “Stealth gives us back that fundamental element of war calledsurprise” (Goodall 9).
After it was found that aircraft could be very useful in war, it was used for large scalereconnaissance. Then people started to add bombs to aircraft and then airplanes started tobecome an essence of war. After World War 2, new bombers were developed with fastspeed, 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 andmissiles.
Helicopters were also found to be good strike aircraft. They were armed withcannons, machine guns, rockets, torpedoes, and a variety of missiles. Vertical takeoffmade the helicopter an advantage.The first flight of the F-117A was in June of 1981 in Groom Lake test facility.
Thetotal cost for the development of the F-117A was just under two billion dollars, but itonlycost $43 million to make each plane. It became operational in October of 1983 and wasthe first operational stealth aircraft ever built. The F-117A is a night attack planepoweredby two, nonafterburning General Electric engines.
F-117As were designed for first-strikecapabilities and to be able to fly into any countries airspace undetected. The primary taskof the F-117A is to break through enemy airspace, destroy high value targets, and returnback unharmed. They were considered to first be used in several different tasks, butweren’t used until Operation Dessert Storm where they did an excellent job. As DonaldRice, Secretary of the Air Force, said, “Everyone now agrees the F-117 was a realbargain” (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 airspaceon their way to downtown Baghdad. There were 43 of them over the skies of Iraq and notone was lost even though they went against one of the most modern air-defense systemsinthe 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 ofDessert Storm the Lockheed F-117As dropped sixty-two 2,000 pound bombs on Baghdaddestroying the most critical targets of the Iraqi military, including the headquarters of theIraqi air force. “We’ve seen that not only does stealth work, but that it puts fewer assets atrisk and saves lives” (9), as Donald Rice said. The pilots of those F-117As flew throughthe hardest anti-aircraft missiles any pilot has ever flown through.When you think of stealth, most people probably think of B-2 stealth bomber, butmost people don’t realize that it hasn’t even been used in a real war situation yet.
InNovember of 1987 the Pentagon ordered the first four B-2s to be built for $2 billion.EachB-2 cost $437.4 million to build. After the military liked the bomber, they originallyordered 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 sayingthat 10 would be enough.
With four General Electric engines with 19,000 pounds ofthrusteach, the B-2s were made to carry a lot of weight. The Advanced Technology Bomber, asit was called, was made so it couldn’t be spotted by enemy radar. After testing it wasfound out that it is almost impossible to track it constantly using radar. The B-2s weredesigned to be an all-flying wing and it is made up of over eighty percent of compositematerials. The B-2 is 69 feet long, has a wingspan of 172 feet, and 17 feet in height. Theyalso 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 toWhiteman 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-PattersonAir Force Base, Ohio. The Air Force wanted to build an aircraft that had the ability tosupercruise without the use of afterburners or running out of fuel in a couple of minutes.Itshould be able to cruise at mach 1.
4 or 1.5 and be able to take off on runways less then2,000 feet long. Since the money was starting to get tight, the Advanced Tactical Fightershould cost under $40 million each to build. To come up with this aircraft, the Militarygave 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. In1986 the Air Force gave a contract to Northrop and Lockheed who would each build twoAdvanced Tactical Fighter prototypes. The Northrop YF-23 made its first flight in August1990.
It was powered by a Pratt and Witney F-119-PW engine. The YF-23 can hold fourAIM-120 missiles. The YF-22 prototype made its first flight in September of 1990 andbecame the first to pass the Air Force’s supercruise specification.
It could reach mach1.58and 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 classifiedbut they can most likely go over Mach 2. In April of 1991 the Air Force had to decidewhich plane they wanted, they chose the Lockheed YF-22 even though the YF-23 wasmore stealthy and could go faster.A new swing-wing stealth aircraft has been spotted undergoing test.
In September of1994 it was seen circling high over Anarillo, Texas. While it was circling, a radio scannerpicked up a military UHF channel with the call sign Omega. This call sign has never beenheard before.
The pilot was talking about a hydraulic malfunction and was saying he wasdumping fuel to prepare for an emergency landing. If there is a new plane like this, it willprobably be called the A-17 and will replace the F-111 which has been in service since1967. Recently there have been millions of dollars spent expanding the Cannon Air ForceBase and a new plane might be undergoing testing there. It has also been said that highranking officials have gathered there to look at the new aircraft. The Pentagon hasannounced that the F-111 will be retired by the end of 1995.
The new swing-wing aircraftspotted will most likely replace it. Swing-wing aircraft add weight and make a planemorecomplex, but give many advantages. When the wing is swung forward the plane cantravelfarther and can land and takeoff on shorter runways. When swung forward it can reachsupersonic speeds.
It was noticed that the new airplane spotted was armed with bombsand self-defense missiles. The A-17 has many things in common with the YF-23 like theair inlets and the humps on top of the fuselage that hide its engines. The engines on it areprobably General Electric YF-120 turbo fan-turbojet engines which can reach speeds uptoMach 2.One of the best recent advances has been in the area of flight guidance and controlsuch as the pilotless plane or drone. The Firebee is a pilotless plane that can be controlledby 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 andtakeoff almost anywhere. The British were the first to design it, but we built prototypesright away. With the advance of stealth technology, radar avoidance has become veryimportant. If the enemy doesn’t know you are coming then they won’t even know what hitthem if we want to attack them.
When Donald Rice said, “Stealth saves lives, money, anddoes 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 ofwarin recent years.