The U.S. Air Force Almost Sent ‘Starter’ Attack Planes to Europe
This story first appeared on Feb. 23, 2014. In September 2009, the U.S. Air Forces in Europe asked to host the first squadron of light attack planes that, at the time, were planned for purchase by a more ambitious and less cash-strapped Pentagon. The Light Attack/Armed Reconnaissance warplanes—LAAR for... Read more
NSA Spies Helped Save Drones From a Fiery Death Over Vietnam
This story originally appeared on Feb. 24, 2015. The Air Force unleashed its first major drone program during the Vietnam War. In short order, the North Vietnamese compromised the aerial spies’ codes and began blowing them out of the sky. An angry general, a group of NSA spies and... Read more
The U.S. Air Force’s Close Air Support Fly-Off Is a Farce
The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter is finally going up against the battle-proven A-10 close-air-support attack plane for the long-promised fly-off. The unpublicized tests began on July 5, 2018 and will conclude on July 12, according to a copy of the testing schedule reviewed by the Center for Defense Information... Read more
There Was No Way a P-51 Could Replace the A-10
This story originally appeared on Dec. 17, 2014. The U.S. Air Force has a complicated relationship with its low- and slow-flying A-10 Warthog attack jet. And that’s putting it mildly. The flying branch has tried more than once to retire the ungainly A-10 in favor of speedier planes, only... Read more
Spies Helped the USAF Shoot Down a Third of North Vietnam’s MiG-21s
This story originally appeared on Dec. 30, 2014. On Jan. 2, 1967, around 30 U.S. Air Force F-4 Phantom fighter jets flying from Ubon in Thailand shot down a full third of North Vietnam’s MiG-21s—for a loss of just one of their own. It was a strategic victory in... Read more
Stealth Lessons of the F-117 Nighthawk
The Lockheed Martin F-117 Nighthawk is a legendary plane. That aircraft was retired in 2008, but would the F-117 still be useful today? The answer is that against most mid-range threats like Iran, absolutely. But against higher-end threats like Russia or China, not so much. Technology has advanced since engineers first... Read more
The U.S. Air Force’s Strange Love for the B-21 Bomber
Did you know the U.S. Air Force is working on a new stealth bomber? Don’t blame yourself if you didn’t, since the project is so secret that most members of Congress aren’t privy to the details. Talk about stealthy! Known as the B-21 Raider after General Doolittle’s Raiders of World War... Read more
U.S. Air Force Leaders Are Deliberately Slow-Rolling A-10 Refurbishment
In a victory for supporters of the battle-proven A-10 close air support aircraft, Congress provided the necessary seed money to extend the fleet’s lifespan for at least another decade in its last spending bill. The U.S. Air Force had announced in 2017 that 110 A-10s were in danger of... Read more
A Missile’s Combat Debut Allowed U.S. Bombers to Stay Away From Syrian Air Defenses
Lockheed Martin’s stealthy new AGM-158B Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile-Extended Range — JASSM-ER — made its debut on the raid on Syria on April 13. A pair of U.S. Air Force Rockwell International B-1B Lancer strategic bombers launched 19 of the new air-launched cruise missiles against the Barzeh Research and... Read more
Report Shows No Protection for F-22 Pilot Who Raised Safety Concerns
A U.S. Department of Defense Inspector General report investigating allegations that the U.S. Air Force illegally retaliated against one of the pilots concerned about F-22 hypoxia issues reveals how difficult it is to protect military whistleblowers. In late 2011, Capt. Joshua Wilson and Maj. Jeremy Gordon — both F-22... Read more
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