U.S. Military Weapons Part III
This post has actually been done for some time. However, other things that I thought were more important (or at least, more fun) came up and I put this aside.
In this part, we’ll be looking at more of the aircraft used by the U.S. armed forces, particularly bombers and support aircraft. As in Part II, much of what is written here is not my work, but is quoted from the various web sites I used and linked to, primarily the Federation of American Scientists
. Here and there I edited some of the text to clear up grammatic errors or correct some awkward phrasing.
See Part I here
See Part II here
-- B-52 Stratofortress
The B-52H BUFF [Big Ugly Fat Fellow] is the primary nuclear capable bomber in the USAF inventory. It provides the only Air Launch Cruise Missile carriage in the USAF. The B-52H also provides theater CINCs with a long range strike capability. The bomber is capable of flying at high subsonic speeds at altitudes up to 50,000 feet (15,166.6 meters). It can carry nuclear or conventional ordnance with worldwide precision navigation capability.
The aircraft's flexibility was evident during the Vietnam War, in Operation Desert Storm, and again in Afghanistan. During Desert Storm B-52s struck wide-area troop concentrations, fixed installations and bunkers, and decimated the morale of Iraq's Republican Guard. The Gulf War involved some of the longest strike missions in the history of aerial warfare when B-52s took off from Barksdale Air Force Base, La., launched conventional air launched cruise missiles and returned to Barksdale -- a 35-hour, non-stop combat mission.
A total of 744 B-52s were built with the last, a B-52H, delivered in October 1962. Only the H model is still in the Air Force inventory and all are assigned to Air Combat Command. The first of 102 B-52H's was delivered to Strategic Air Command in May 1961. The H model can carry up to 20 air launched cruise missiles. In addition, it can carry the conventional cruise missile that was launched from B-52G models during Desert Storm.
In a conventional conflict, the B-52H can perform air interdiction, offensive counter-air and maritime operations. During Desert Storm, B-52s delivered 40 percent of all the weapons dropped by coalition forces. It is highly effective when used for ocean surveillance, and can assist the U.S. Navy in anti-ship and mine-laying operations. Two B-52s, in two hours, can monitor 140,000 square miles (364,000 square kilometers) of ocean surface.
Starting in 1989, an on-going modification incorporates the global positioning system, heavy stores adapter beams for carrying 2,000 pound munitions and additional smart weapons capability. All aircraft are being modified to carry the AGM-142 Raptor
missile and AGM-84 Harpoon anti-ship missile.
-- B-2 Spirit
The B-2 Spirit is a multi-role bomber capable of delivering both conventional and nuclear munitions.
Along with the B-52 and B-1B, the B-2 provides the penetrating flexibility and effectiveness inherent in manned bombers. Its low-observable, or "stealth," characteristics give it the unique ability to penetrate an enemy's most sophisticated defenses and threaten its most valued, and heavily defended, targets. Its capability to penetrate air defenses and threaten effective retaliation provide an effective deterrent and combat force well into the 21st century.
The blending of low-observable technologies with high aerodynamic efficiency and large payload gives the B-2 important advantages over existing bombers. Its low-observability provides it greater freedom of action at high altitudes, thus increasing its range and a better field of view for the aircraft's sensors. Its unrefueled range is approximately 6,000 nautical miles (9,600 kilometers).
The B-2's low observability is derived from a combination of reduced infrared, acoustic, electromagnetic, visual and radar signatures. These signatures make it difficult for the sophisticated defensive systems to detect, track and engage the B-2. Many aspects of the low-observability process remain classified; however, the B-2's composite materials, special coatings and flying-wing design all contribute to its "stealthiness."
The B-2 has a crew of two pilots, an aircraft commander in the left seat and mission commander in the right, compared to the B-1B's crew of four and the B-52's crew of five.
The B-2 is intended to deliver gravity nuclear and conventional weapons, including precision-guided standoff weapons. An interim, precision-guided bomb capability called Global Positioning System (GPS) Aided Targeting System/GPS Aided Munition (GATS/GAM) is being tested and evaluated. Future configurations are planned for the B-2 to be capable of carrying and delivering the Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM) and Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile.
B-2s, in a conventional role, staging from Whiteman AFB, MO; Diego Garcia; and Guam can cover the entire world with just one refueling. Six B-2s could execute an operation similar to the 1986 Libya raid but launch from the continental U.S. rather than Europe with a much smaller, more lethal, and more survivable force.
-- B-1B Lancer
The B-1B is a multi-role, long-range bomber, capable of flying intercontinental missions without refueling, then penetrating present and predicted sophisticated enemy defenses. It can perform a variety of missions, including that of a conventional weapons carrier for theater operations. Through 1991, the B-1 was dedicated to the nuclear deterrence role as part of the single integrated operational plan (SIOP).
The B-1B's electronic jamming equipment, infrared countermeasures, radar location and warning systems complement its low-radar cross-section and form an integrated defense system for the aircraft.
The swing-wing design and turbofan engines not only provide greater range and high speed at low levels but they also enhance the bomber's survivability. Wing sweep at the full-forward position allows a short takeoff roll and a fast base-escape profile for airfields under attack. Once airborne, the wings are positioned for maximum cruise distance or high-speed penetration. The B-1B holds several world records for speed, payload and distance. The National Aeronautic Association recognized the B-1B for completing one of the 10 most memorable record flights for 1994.
The B-1B uses radar and inertial navigation equipment enabling aircrews to globally navigate, update mission profiles and target coordinates in-flight, and precision bomb without the need for ground based navigation aids. Included in the B-1B offensive avionics are modular electronics that allow maintenance personnel to precisely identify technical difficulties and replace avionics components in a fast, efficient manner on the ground.
The aircraft's AN/ALQ 161A defensive avionics is a comprehensive electronic counter-measures package that detects and counters enemy radar threats. It also has the capability to detect and counter missiles attacking from the rear. It defends the aircraft by applying the appropriate counter-measures, such as electronic jamming or dispensing expendable chaff and flares. Similar to the offensive avionics, the defensive suite has a re-programmable design that allows in-flight changes to be made to counter new or changing threats.
The B-1B represents a major upgrade in U.S. long-range capabilities over the B-52 -- the previous mainstay of the bomber fleet. Significant advantages include:
Low radar cross-section to make detection considerably more difficult.
Ability to fly lower and faster while carrying a larger payload.
Advanced electronic countermeasures to enhance survivability.
-- KC-135 Stratotanker
The Boeing Military Airplane Company's model 367-80 was the basic design for the commercial 707 passenger plane as well as the KC-135A Stratotanker. In 1954 the Air Force purchased the first 29 of its future fleet of 732. The first of these aircraft left the assembly line at Boeing Airplane Company, Renton, Washington, July 18, 1956, and flew for the first time August 31, 1956. The Air Force received its first KC-135s at Castle Air Force Base, Calif., Jun 28, 1957. The first aircraft flew in August 1956 and the initial-production Stratotanker was delivered to Castle Air Force Base, Calif., in June 1957. The last KC-135A was delivered to the Air Force in 1965.
About 550 of the tankers built - all by Boeing at its Seattle facilities - remain in service. In addition, Boeing built 88 aircraft in over 30 different models for other Air Force uses, such as flying command posts, pure transports, electronic reconnaissance and photo mapping. The last of these special-purpose aircraft was delivered in late 1966. Responsibility for the KC-135 was transferred to Boeing in Wichita in 1969.
In Southeast Asia, KC-135 Stratotankers made the air war different from all previous aerial conflicts. Mid-air refueling brought far-flung bombing targets within reach. Combat aircraft, no longer limited by fuel supplies, were able to spend more time in target areas.
Structurally, the KC-135 is similar but not identical to the Boeing 707 commercial airliner. It is a swept-wing, long range, high altitude, high speed jet transport. The KC-135 can haul either 83,000 pounds of cargo, airlift up to 80 passengers or carry 202,800 pounds of JP-4 jet fuel, most of which is transferable for global refueling missions.
The primary mission of the KC-135 is the refueling of strategic long-range bombers. It also provides air refueling support to Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps aircraft as well as aircraft of allied nations. The KC-135 is equipped with a flying boom for fuel transfer; a special drogue can be attached to the boom on the ground so it can refuel probe-equipped aircraft. During air refueling, the large flyable boom attached to the airplane's belly can offload fuel at 6,500 pounds per minute. This is enough fuel in one minute to operate an average family car for one year.
-- KC-10 Extender
The United States Air Force/McDonnell Douglas KC-10A advanced tanker/cargo aircraft is a version of the intercontinental-range DC-10 Series 30CF (convertible freighter), modified to provide increased mobility for U.S. forces in contingency operations by refueling fighters and simultaneously carrying the fighters' support equipment and support people on overseas deployments: refueling strategic airlifters (such as the USAF C-5, C-17 and C-l4l) during overseas deployments and resupply missions; and augmenting the U.S. airlift capability.
In most instances, the KC-10A performs these missions without dependence on overseas bases and without depleting critical fuel supplies in the theater of operations. Equipped with its own refueling receptacle, the KC-10A can support deployment of fighters, fighter support aircraft and airlifters from U.S. bases to any area in the world, with considerable savings in both cost and fuel compared to pre-KC-l0A capabilities.
The aerial refueling capability of the KC-10A nearly doubles the nonstop range of a fully-loaded C-5 strategic transport. In addition, its cargo capability enables the U.S. to deploy some fighter squadrons and their unit support people and equipment with a single airplane type, instead of requiring both tanker and cargo aircraft. The Air Force is calling the KC-10A the "Extender" because of its ability to carry out aerial refueling and cargo mission without forward basing, thus extending the mobility of U.S. forces.
Although the KC-10A's primary mission is aerial refueling, it can combine the tasks of tanker and cargo aircraft by refueling fighters while carrying the fighters' support people and equipment during overseas deployments. The KC-10A can transport up to 75 people and about 170,000 pounds (76,560 kilograms) of cargo a distance of about 4,400 miles (7,040 kilometers). Without cargo, the KC-10A's unrefueled range is more than 11,500 miles.
The KC-10A tanker can deliver 200,000 pounds (90,719 kg) of fuel to a receiver 2200 statute miles (3539.8 km) from the home base and return, or it can carry a maximum cargo payload of 169,409 pounds (76,843 kg) a distance of 4370 statute miles (7031 km). Unrefueled ferry range of the KC-l0A is 11,500 statute miles (18,503 km).
Aerial Warning, Command, and Control
-- E-3 Sentry
The E-3 Sentry is an airborne warning and control system (AWACS) aircraft that provides all-weather surveillance, command, control and communications needed by commanders of U.S. and NATO air defense forces. As proven in Desert Storm, it is the premier air battle command and control aircraft in the world today.
The E-3 Sentry is a modified Boeing 707/320 commercial airframe with a rotating radar dome. The dome is 30 feet (9.1 meters) in diameter, six feet (1.8 meters) thick, and is held 11 feet (3.3 meters) above the fuselage by two struts. It contains a radar subsystem that permits surveillance from the Earth's surface up into the stratosphere, over land or water. The radar has a range of more than 200 miles (320 kilometers) for low-flying targets and farther for aerospace vehicles flying at medium to high altitudes. The radar combined with an identification friend or foe subsystem can look down to detect, identify and track enemy and friendly low-flying aircraft by eliminating ground clutter returns that confuse other radar systems.
Other major subsystems in the E-3 are navigation, communications and computers (data processing). Consoles display computer-processed data in graphic and tabular format on video screens. Console operators perform surveillance, identification, weapons control, battle management and communications functions.
The radar and computer subsystems on the E-3 Sentry can gather and present broad and detailed battlefield information. Data is collected as events occur. This includes position and tracking information on enemy aircraft and ships, and location and status of friendly aircraft and naval vessels. The information can be sent to major command and control centers in rear areas or aboard ships. In time of crisis, this data can be forwarded to the National Command Authorities in the United States.
In support of air-to-ground operations, the Sentry can provide direct information needed for interdiction, reconnaissance, airlift and close-air support for friendly ground forces. It can also provide information for commanders of air operations to gain and maintain control of the air battle.
As an air defense system, E-3s can detect, identify and track airborne enemy forces far from the boundaries of the United States or NATO countries. It can direct fighter-interceptor aircraft to these enemy targets.
-- E-8C JSTARS
The Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System (Joint STARS) is a long-range, air-to-ground surveillance system designed to locate, classify and track ground targets in all weather conditions. While flying in friendly airspace, the joint Army-Air Force program can look deep behind hostile borders to detect and track ground movements in both forward and rear areas. It has a range of more than 150 miles (250 km). These capabilities make Joint STARS effective for dealing with any contingency, whether actual or impending military aggression, international treaty verification, or border violation.
Joint STARS consists of an airborne platform--an E-8C aircraft with a multi-mode radar system--and U.S. Army mobile Ground Station Modules (GSMs).
The E-8C, a modified Boeing 707, carries a phased-array radar antenna in a 26-foot canoe-shaped radome under the forward part of the fuselage. The radar is capable of providing targeting and battle management data to all Joint STARS operators, both in the aircraft and in the ground station modules. These operators, in turn, can call on aircraft, missiles or artillery for fire support. With a reported range in excess of 155 miles, this radar can cover an estimated 386,100 square miles in a single eight-hour sortie.
Wide Area Surveillance and Moving Target Indicator (WAS/MTI) are the radar's fundamental operating modes. WAS/MTI is designed to detect, locate and identify slow-moving targets. Through advanced signal processing, Joint STARS can differentiate between wheeled and tracked vehicles. By focusing on smaller terrain areas, the radar image can be enhanced for increased resolution display. This high resolution is used to define moving targets and provide combat units with accurate information for attack planning.
Synthetic Aperture Radar/Fixed Target Indicator (SAR/FTI) produces a photographic-like image or map of selected geographic regions. SAR data maps contain precise locations of critical non-moving targets such as bridges, harbors, airports, buildings, or stopped vehicles.
The FTI display is available while operating in the SAR mode to identify and locate fixed targets within the SAR area. The SAR and FTI capability used in conjunction with MTI and MTI history display allows post-attack assessments to be made by onboard or ground operators following a weapon attack on hostile targets.
Joint STARS operates in virtually any weather, on-line, in real-time, around the clock. The augmented Army-Air Force mission crew can be deployed to a potential trouble spot within hours and provide valuable data on ground force movements.
For a brief overview of future US military weapons systems, look here