Asian Air Forces Recruit Women Fighter Pilots
On Aug. 23, 2018, Capt. Misa Matsushima, pictured at top, became the first woman to qualify to fly a jet fighter for the Japanese Air Self Defense Force. Three more women soon followed. Before starting operational service, the 26-year-old Matsushima will practice intercepting intruders with the 305th squadron at... Read more
The U.S. Navy’s New Carrier Drone Borrows 1970s Stealth
The U.S. Navy’s new MQ-25 Stingray aerial-refueling drone bears an uncanny resemblance to an experimental U.S. military plane from the late 1970s. And that similarity could point to the way for the Stingray’s potential evolution from a tanker into a stealthy surveillance and strike aircraft. On Aug. 30, the... Read more
After 20 Years, the U.S. Navy Finally Buys a Carrier Drone
The U.S. Navy on Aug. 30, 2018 chose Chicago-based Boeing to build the sailing branch’s first carrier-launched unmanned aerial vehicle. In choosing Boeing to build the MQ-25 Stingray multi-mission tanker, the Navy has opened the next major chapter in a story that began in the mid-1990s, when the sailing... Read more
Iran’s Fighters Are Really, Really Old
Two incidents in late August 2018 involving Islamic Republic of Iran Air Force F-5F Tiger II fighter jets underscored the ongoing crisis in Iran’s air force. On Aug. 21, Iran unveiled what it described as a new, fourth-generation fighter jet. Iranian president Hassan Rouhani even sat in the plane’s cockpit... Read more
A Tsunami Devastated Japan’s Souped-Up F-16s
In the 1980s, Japan phased in its first domestic jet fighter to enter operational service — the Mitsubishi F-1. Tokyo wanted to follow up with a more capable fourth-generation F-2 “support fighter.” It was an ambitious effort. And one that a tsunami nearly destroyed. The Reagan-era Pentagon was worried... Read more
New Spy Drone Flies Non-Stop for a Month
Airbus’s Zephyr solar-powered drone flew for 25 days straight during a test-flight over Yuma, Arizona beginning on July 11, 2018. The flight represented a record for aircraft endurance, breaking the previous 14-day record also set by a Zephyr back in 2015. The long flight has big implications for military... Read more
Britain’s New Spy Planes Are Practically Spacecraft
A version of this story originally appeared on Aug. 22, 2016. In July 2018, Airbus Defense & Space announced that its Zephyr S drone had flown for 25 days straight during testing over Arizona. The record flight came two years after the British military ordered three copies of the... Read more
Croatia’s Entire Frontline Air Force Almost Got Stranded in Ukraine
This story first appeared on April 30, 2014. In early 2014, just a single pair of ancient MiG-21 fighters defended the skies over the former Yugoslav republic of Croatia. The rest of the fleet was stranded in Ukraine, a country that seemed to be teetering on the brink of... Read more
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
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