Military Aircraft Of Eastern Europe (1) Fighters & Interceptors
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Korean Airlines flight shot down by Soviet Union
Cookies, by themselves, do not provide us with any personally-identifying information. First conceived in the Joint Strike Fighter program in , the F entered service in , though serious technical problems remain , including issues with the stealth coating and night-vision cameras. Unlike them, it has the advantage of stealth and advanced sensors.
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The F can act as a mobile sensor package , spotting targets and handing off data to less-capable aircraft around it, boosting their effectiveness. The F successfully conducted its first airstrikes in Iraq this April. It had the range to carry atomic warheads deep into the heartland of the USSR. Originally intended for high-altitude flight, it was modified for low-level operations when flying under the radar became essential. Another shift produced the Big Belly B for conventional bombing, carrying eighty-four pound bombs internally and twenty-four pound bombs on wing pylons.
Formations of Bs wrought havoc in Vietnam with massed raids. The B has a unique arrangement of eight engines in four pods. All attempts to replace these with four new engines have been rejected, and a forthcoming upgrade will retain the eight-engine configuration. The B is still going strong with no sign of giving up, and some predict it will keep flying for a hundred years.
Introduced in , the F was meant to be an unbeatable air superiority fighter, and it delivered. Its record in combat of over a hundred kills with no losses, is unrivaled. The twin-engined Eagle combines agility with speed, reaching Mach 2. The basic design has proven so strong that even forty years on the Eagle continues to be effective, with the FSE Silent Eagle stealth variant and FX Advanced Eagle threatening to undercut the advantages of more modern aircraft.
The first supersonic airliner when it entered service in , joint British-French Concorde cruised at more than twice the speed of sound. It could fly from London to New York in under three hours, less than the time difference between the cities, giving passengers had the unique experience of arriving before they took off. Four afterburning jet engines were housed under the delta wings. Prolonged supersonic cruising caused the airframe to heat up and expand by as much as a foot in flight, sometimes visibly increasing the gaps between bulkheads.
A distinctive feature was the hinged nose that dipped during landing and takeoff, giving the pilot a better view of the runway. Concorde was a cramped aircraft, despite only carrying passengers, for what was supposed to be a first-class service. But for the few who could afford it, the joy of a supersonic Concorde flight was an unbeatable experience. The Spitfire won its place in history during the Battle of Britain, when a small number of Spitfire pilots were credited with beating the numerically-superior Luftwaffe.
It is possibly the most famous British plane ever made, and always immensely popular at air shows. The Spitfire remained in production all through WWII, with no less than 24 different marks being produced. The Spitfire was based on earlier Supermarine designs which won prizes for speed in the s. The unusual rounded wing helps reduced drag and gave it a higher speed than other fighters of the day.
The original Mk1 Spitfire was armed with eight. When it first flew with Pan-Am in with passengers, the had the largest passenger capacity of any airliner. It held on to that record for nearly forty years. This was originally added when the plane was intended as a military transport and the cockpit was put on top so cargo could be loaded through a hinged nose.
Now the hump provides an exclusive upper deck for first and business class passengers. Conceived in as a Mach 2 high-altitude nuclear bomber to replace the B Hustler and B, the B-1 was canceled in , but resurrected in the 80s due to delays in the more advanced B-2 Spirit. The new version was optimized for low-level, under-the-radar incursions at subsonic speeds.
The B-1 has a combat radius of 3, miles without refueling and carries a phenomenal , pounds of bombs, the most of any bomber. Equipped with the Sniper targeting pod , the B-1 was able to carry out precision strikes in Iraq, and more recently it acted as as an aerial cruise missile carrier in strikes against Syria. Introduced in , the Corsair was the U. The power of the engine was coupled with an unusually clean aerodynamic design—the body was assembled using a newly-developed spot-welding technique which gave a smooth finish. As a result, the Corsair was the first production aircraft which could exceed mph in level flight.
The Corsair was fitted with four 20mm cannon and could carry a thousand pounds of bombs or rockets. This made it highly effective when providing ground support for the U. Marines on Okinawa and elsewhere. When the DC-3 first flew in it changed the face of air travel, introducing levels of reliability and comfort previously unknown. It also brought a considerable increase in speed , cruising at mph rather than the mph of earlier passenger planes like the Ford Trimotor.
Passengers could fly from LA to New York in an unheard-of fifteen hours. There was even a sleeper service. Its speed and capacity finally made passenger transport profitable without government subsidies , and airlines like TWA, Delta and American built their fleets around it. Its reliability and ruggedness — landing on rough airfields was expected — were greatly appreciated. Novel features included pressurized crew compartments for high-altitude flight and up to ten.
Massed formations of Bs pounded Japanese cities in the closing stages of WWII with 12, pounds of explosives and incendiaries each, but the B will forever be associated with another sort of bomb. The legendary Blackbird was the fastest jet aircraft ever made, able to fly at an incredible Mach 3. All attempts to shoot one down with missiles or interceptor aircraft failed, with no missile able to maneuver in the thin air at high altitude.
The high speed required an entirely new type of engine , which operated as a normal jet at low speeds but above Mach 2 became a ramjet, using speed to compress the air intake. A titanium airframe was needed to withstand the intense heat of air friction: at high speed the leading wing edges glowed cherry red. In a classic Cold War operation, the rare titanium was acquired from Russia via bogus operations in third-party countries.
The SR retired in , and while there has been plenty of talk of faster successors, like the fabled SR, the Blackbird is still in a class of its own. It has operated from unpaved runways in every theater of operations from Vietnam onwards. Originally intended for cargo transport, the C has been adapted for a huge variety of missions from casualty evacuation to drone mothership , and from catching film capsules from satellites to picking up CIA agents from the ground via the Fulton Recovery System.
Navy in March — was the Ryan FR-1 Fireball ; production was halted with the war's end on VJ-Day , with only 66 having been delivered, and the type was withdrawn from service in The first rocket-powered aircraft was the Lippisch Ente , which made a successful maiden flight in March Only two were built. In the s, the British developed mixed-power jet designs employing both rocket and jet engines to cover the performance gap that existed in turbojet designs.
The rocket was the main engine for delivering the speed and height required for high-speed interception of high-level bombers and the turbojet gave increased fuel economy in other parts of flight, most notably to ensure the aircraft was able to make a powered landing rather than risking an unpredictable gliding return. The Saunders-Roe SR. Furthermore, rapid advancements in jet engine technology rendered mixed-power aircraft designs like Saunders-Roe's SR.
It has become common in the aviation community to classify jet fighters by "generations" for historical purposes. Also other authors have packed the fighters into different generations. For example Richard P. The timeframes associated with each generation are inexact and are only indicative of the period during which their design philosophies and technology employment enjoyed a prevailing influence on fighter design and development.
These timeframes also encompass the peak period of service entry for such aircraft. The first generation of jet fighters comprised the initial, subsonic jet fighter designs introduced late in World War II and in the early post-war period.
They differed little from their piston-engined counterparts in appearance, and many employed unswept wings. Guns remained the principal armament. The need to obtain a decisive advantage in maximum speed pushed the development of turbojet-powered aircraft forward. Top speeds for fighters rose steadily throughout World War II as more powerful piston engines were developed, and was approaching transonic flight speeds where the efficiency of propellers drops off, making further speed increases nearly impossible. RAF Gloster Meteor. The first jets were developed during World War II and saw combat in the last two years of the war.
Messerschmitt developed the first operational jet fighter, the Me It was considerably faster than contemporary piston-driven aircraft, and in the hands of a competent pilot, was quite difficult for Allied pilots to defeat. The design was never deployed in numbers sufficient to stop the Allied air campaign, and a combination of fuel shortages, pilot losses, and technical difficulties with the engines kept the number of sorties low. Nevertheless, the Me indicated the obsolescence of piston-driven aircraft. Spurred by reports of the German jets, Britain's Gloster Meteor entered production soon after and the two entered service around the same time in Meteors were commonly used to intercept the V-1 "buzz bomb" , as they were faster than available piston-engined fighters at the low altitudes the flying bombs were flying.
By the end of the war almost all work on piston-powered fighters had ended. A few designs combining piston and jet engines for propulsion — such as the Ryan FR Fireball — saw brief use, but by the end of the s virtually all new fighters were jet-powered. Despite their advantages, the early jet fighters were far from perfect.
The operational lifespan of turbines were very short and engines were temperamental, while power could be adjusted only slowly and acceleration was poor even if top speed was higher compared to the final generation of piston fighters. Many squadrons of piston-engined fighters were retained until the early to mids, even in the air forces of the major powers though the types retained were the best of the World War II designs. Innovations including ejection seats, air brakes and all-moving tailplanes became widespread in this period.
The Americans begin using jet fighters operationally post-war, the wartime Bell P having proven itself a failure. The British designed several new jets, including the distinctive twin boom de Havilland Vampire which was sold to the air forces of many nations. The British transferred the technology of the Rolls-Royce Nene jet engine to the Soviets, who soon put it to use in their advanced Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG fighter, which used fully swept wings that allowed flying closer to the speed of sound than straight-winged designs such as the F The Americans responded by rushing their own swept-wing F into battle against the MiGs, which had similar transsonic performance.
The two aircraft had different strengths and weaknesses, but were similar enough that victory could go either way. While the Sabres were focussed primarily on downing MiGs and scored favourably against those flown by the poorly trained North Koreans, the MiGs in turn decimated US bomber formations and forced the withdrawal of numerous American types from operational service. The world's navies also transitioned to jets during this period, despite the need for catapult-launching of the new aircraft. Grumman's F9F Panther was adopted by the U.
Navy as their primary jet fighter in the Korean War period, and it was one of the first jet fighters to employ an afterburner. English Electric Lightning. The development of second-generation fighters was shaped by technological breakthroughs, lessons learned from the aerial battles of the Korean War , and a focus on conducting operations in a nuclear warfare environment.
Technological advances in aerodynamics, propulsion and aerospace building materials primarily aluminium alloys permitted designers to experiment with aeronautical innovations, such as swept wings, delta wings, and area-ruled fuselages. Widespread use of afterburning turbojet engines made these the first production aircraft to break the sound barrier, and the ability to sustain supersonic speeds in level flight became a common capability amongst fighters of this generation.
Dassault Mirage III. Fighter designs also took advantage of new electronics technologies that made effective radars small enough to carry aboard smaller aircraft. Onboard radars permitted detection of enemy aircraft beyond visual range, thereby improving the handoff of targets by longer-ranged ground-based warning and tracking radars. Similarly, advances in guided missile development allowed air-to-air missiles to begin supplementing the gun as the primary offensive weapon for the first time in fighter history.
Radar-guided RF missiles were introduced as well, but early examples proved unreliable. These semi-active radar homing SARH missiles could track and intercept an enemy aircraft "painted" by the launching aircraft's onboard radar. Medium- and long-range RF air-to-air missiles promised to open up a new dimension of " beyond-visual-range " BVR combat, and much effort was placed in further development of this technology. MiGF interceptor.
The prospect of a potential third world war featuring large mechanized armies and nuclear weapon strikes led to a degree of specialization along two design approaches: interceptors , such as the English Electric Lightning and Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG F; and fighter-bombers , such as the Republic F Thunderchief and the Sukhoi Su-7B.
Dogfighting , per se, was de-emphasized in both cases. The interceptor was an outgrowth of the vision that guided missiles would completely replace guns and combat would take place at beyond visual ranges.
As a result, interceptors were designed with a large missile payload and a powerful radar, sacrificing agility in favor of high speed, altitude ceiling and rate of climb. With a primary air defense role, emphasis was placed on the ability to intercept strategic bombers flying at high altitudes. Specialized point-defense interceptors often had limited range and little, if any, ground-attack capabilities.
Fighter-bombers could swing, [ citation needed ] between air superiority and ground-attack roles, and were often designed for a high-speed, low-altitude dash to deliver their ordnance. Television- and IR-guided air-to-surface missiles were introduced to augment traditional gravity bombs , and some were also equipped to deliver a nuclear bomb.
The third generation witnessed continued maturation of second-generation innovations, but it is most marked by renewed emphases on maneuverability and traditional ground-attack capabilities.
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Over the course of the s, increasing combat experience with guided missiles demonstrated that combat would devolve into close-in dogfights. Analog avionics began to appear, replacing older "steam-gauge" cockpit instrumentation. Enhancements to the aerodynamic performance of third-generation fighters included flight control surfaces such as canards, powered slats, and blown flaps. Growth in air combat capability focused on the introduction of improved air-to-air missiles, radar systems, and other avionics.
While guns remained standard equipment early models of F-4 being a notable exception , air-to-air missiles became the primary weapons for air superiority fighters, which employed more sophisticated radars and medium-range RF AAMs to achieve greater "stand-off" ranges, however, kill probabilities proved unexpectedly low for RF missiles due to poor reliability and improved electronic countermeasures ECM for spoofing radar seekers. Nevertheless, the low dogfight loss-exchange ratios experienced by American fighters in the skies over Vietnam led the U. This era also saw an expansion in ground-attack capabilities, principally in guided missiles, and witnessed the introduction of the first truly effective avionics for enhanced ground attack, including terrain-avoidance systems.
Air-to-surface missiles ASM equipped with electro-optical E-O contrast seekers — such as the initial model of the widely used AGM Maverick — became standard weapons, and laser-guided bombs LGBs became widespread in effort to improve precision-attack capabilities. Guidance for such precision-guided munitions PGM was provided by externally mounted targeting pods , which were introduced in the mids.
It also led to the development of new automatic-fire weapons, primarily chain-guns that use an electric engine to drive the mechanism of a cannon. Powerplant reliability increased and jet engines became "smokeless" to make it harder to sight aircraft at long distances.
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The ambitious project sought to create a versatile common fighter for many roles and services. It would serve well as an all-weather bomber, but lacked the performance to defeat other fighters. The McDonnell F-4 Phantom was designed around radar and missiles as an all-weather interceptor , but emerged as a versatile strike bomber nimble enough to prevail in air combat, adopted by the U. Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps. Despite numerous shortcomings that would be not be fully addressed until newer fighters, the Phantom claimed aerial kills, more than any other U.
McDonnell Douglas F Eagle. Fourth-generation fighters continued the trend towards multirole configurations, and were equipped with increasingly sophisticated avionics and weapon systems. Fighter designs were significantly influenced by the Energy-Maneuverability E-M theory developed by Colonel John Boyd and mathematician Thomas Christie, based upon Boyd's combat experience in the Korean War and as a fighter tactics instructor during the s.
E-M theory emphasized the value of aircraft specific energy maintenance as an advantage in fighter combat. Boyd perceived maneuverability as the primary means of getting "inside" an adversary's decision-making cycle, a process Boyd called the " OODA loop " for "Observation-Orientation-Decision-Action". This approach emphasized aircraft designs that were capable of performing "fast transients" — quick changes in speed, altitude, and direction — as opposed to relying chiefly on high speed alone. F Fighting Falcon. E-M characteristics were first applied to the McDonnell Douglas F Eagle , but Boyd and his supporters believed these performance parameters called for a small, lightweight aircraft with a larger, higher-lift wing.
The small size would minimize drag and increase the thrust-to-weight ratio , while the larger wing would minimize wing loading; while the reduced wing loading tends to lower top speed and can cut range, it increases payload capacity and the range reduction can be compensated for by increased fuel in the larger wing.
The F's maneuverability was further enhanced by its slight aerodynamic instability. This technique, called " relaxed static stability " RSS , was made possible by introduction of the "fly-by-wire" FBW flight control system FLCS , which in turn was enabled by advances in computers and system integration techniques. Analog avionics, required to enable FBW operations, became a fundamental requirement and began to be replaced by digital flight control systems in the latter half of the s. The F's sole reliance on electronics and wires to relay flight commands, instead of the usual cables and mechanical linkage controls, earned it the sobriquet of "the electric jet".
Panavia Tornado ADV. Aircraft designers began to incorporate composite materials in the form of bonded aluminum honeycomb structural elements and graphite epoxy laminate skins to reduce weight. Infrared search-and-track IRST sensors became widespread for air-to-ground weapons delivery, and appeared for air-to-air combat as well. Even with the tremendous advancement of Air to Air missiles in this era, internal guns were standard equipment.
Another revolution came in the form of a stronger reliance on ease of maintenance, which led to standardisation of parts, reductions in the numbers of access panels and lubrication points, and overall parts reduction in more complicated equipment like the engines. Some early jet fighters required 50 man-hours of work by a ground crew for every hour the aircraft was in the air; later models substantially reduced this to allow faster turn-around times and more sorties in a day.
Some modern military aircraft only require 10 man-hours of work per hour of flight time, and others are even more efficient. Aerodynamic innovations included variable-camber wings and exploitation of the vortex lift effect to achieve higher angles of attack through the addition of leading-edge extension devices such as strakes. Unlike interceptors of the previous eras, most fourth-generation air-superiority fighters were designed to be agile dogfighters although the Mikoyan MiG and Panavia Tornado ADV are notable exceptions.
The continually rising cost of fighters, however, continued to emphasize the value of multirole fighters. This was facilitated by multimode avionics that could switch seamlessly between air and ground modes. Attack roles were generally assigned to dedicated ground-attack aircraft such as the Sukhoi Su and the A Thunderbolt II. A typical US Air Force fighter wing of the period might contain a mix of one air superiority squadron FC , one strike fighter squadron FE , and two multirole fighter squadrons FC.
Perhaps the most novel technology introduced for combat aircraft was stealth , which involves the use of special "low-observable" L-O materials and design techniques to reduce the susceptibility of an aircraft to detection by the enemy's sensor systems, particularly radars. The first stealth aircraft introduced were the Lockheed F Nighthawk attack aircraft introduced in and the Northrop Grumman B-2 Spirit bomber which first flew in Although no stealthy fighters per se appeared among the fourth generation, some radar-absorbent coatings and other L-O treatments developed for these programs are reported to have been subsequently applied to fourth-generation fighters.
The end of the Cold War in led many governments to significantly decrease military spending as a " peace dividend ". Air force inventories were cut. Research and development programs working on "fifth-generation" fighters took serious hits. Many programs were canceled during the first half of the s, and those that survived were "stretched out". While the practice of slowing the pace of development reduces annual investment expenses, it comes at the penalty of increased overall program and unit costs over the long-term. In this instance, however, it also permitted designers to make use of the tremendous achievements being made in the fields of computers, avionics and other flight electronics, which had become possible largely due to the advances made in microchip and semiconductor technologies in the s and s.
This opportunity enabled designers to develop fourth-generation designs — or redesigns — with significantly enhanced capabilities. These improved designs have become known as "Generation 4. Eurofighter Typhoon. The primary characteristics of this sub-generation are the application of advanced digital avionics and aerospace materials, modest signature reduction primarily RF "stealth" , and highly integrated systems and weapons.
These fighters have been designed to operate in a " network-centric " battlefield environment and are principally multirole aircraft. Key weapons technologies introduced include beyond-visual-range BVR AAMs; Global Positioning System GPS -guided weapons, solid-state phased-array radars; helmet-mounted sights ; and improved secure, jamming-resistant datalinks. Thrust vectoring to further improve transient maneuvering capabilities has also been adopted by many 4. Stealth characteristics are focused primarily on frontal-aspect radar cross section RCS signature-reduction techniques including radar-absorbent materials RAM , L-O coatings and limited shaping techniques.
French Air Force Dassault Rafale. Prime examples of such aircraft, which are based on new airframe designs making extensive use of carbon-fibre composites , include the Eurofighter Typhoon , Dassault Rafale , and Saab JAS 39 Gripen. Apart from these fighter jets, most of the 4. It is quite possible that they may continue in production alongside fifth-generation fighters due to the expense of developing the advanced level of stealth technology needed to achieve aircraft designs featuring very low observables VLO , which is one of the defining features of fifth-generation fighters.
Of the 4. Currently the cutting edge of fighter design, fifth-generation fighters are characterized by being designed from the start to operate in a network-centric combat environment, and to feature extremely low, all-aspect, multi-spectral signatures employing advanced materials and shaping techniques. The Infra-red search and track sensors incorporated for air-to-air combat as well as for air-to-ground weapons delivery in the 4.