Being a super-fan of military aircraft all my life, I wanted to put together a short list of the fixed-wing aircraft on station today, in the collection of our Navy and Air Force. These airframes are the best the U.S. has to offer in terms of offensive aircraft, and have saved the lives of literally thousands of men and women on the battlefields in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as during the NATO operations in Libya this past spring. I searched the web for the stats that set each of these bad-ass toys apart and compiled a list for your reading pleasure. I hope you like the choices, and if you have some photos of yourself flying one of these monsters, send them in and perhaps I'll feature them in my next slideshow.
This is quite possibly the ugliest aircraft streaking across battlefields today, which it why it is affectionately referred to as “the Warthog.” However, whatever she lacks in looks, she more than makes up in firepower. Fully loaded, the A-10 packs a powerful punch, and the 30mm Vulcan nose canon it sports can punch holes in just about anything, firing depleted uranium armor-piercing rounds. And just in case you would assume that accuracy is its Achilles heel, think again, as it has a grouping diameter of 40 feet while buzzing above at 4,000 feet. This warthog can carry everything, from smart munitions for close air support missions to air-to-air sidewinders for self-preservation. The only drawback, beside the fact she won’t win any beauty pageants, is her speed. At just over 400 mph, the Warthog isn’t setting any records, but with a gun like she’s got, who’s gonna complain?
This supersonic, swept wing bomber can swoop into a battlefield, unload its 75,000-pound payload of ass-kicking smart bombs and be out of there before the enemy even knows what hit them. Developed during the Cold War, the Lancer’s original role was to quickly deliver a nuclear payload up the ass of Old Mother Russia, but with the fat lady singing over the grave of communism, the B1’s new role has been to provide guided precision munitions (GPMs), such as the infamous JDAMs (Joint Direct Attack Munitions), which were used in an unsuccessful attempt to off Saddam and his boys in 2003. Besides being able to carry enough nukes to shift the earth’s axis, the B-1’s secret weapon is her ability to hug the ground while flying at damn near the speed of sound and avoiding the radar. Rocketing at near Mach 1, at less than a thousand feet, you’d have to smoke a pound of Meth to equal a rush like this.
F/A-18 E Superhornet:
This carrier-based, single-seat variant of the original Hornet is larger and more advanced, and is the reason we lost my childhood favorite, the F-14 Tomcat, but I will try to not hold that against her. This aircraft can hit almost Mach 2 (twice the speed of sound for those not aware) with a range of 1,275 nautical miles. She packs a powerful punch, too, with a 20mm cannon and plenty of missiles to take out anyone who makes the mistake of picking a fight with this bitch. At the moment, they cover the ass of our troops on the ground, dropping JDAMs, laser-guided and crowd-pleasing cluster-bombs, all precision guided to reduce collateral damage: winning the hearts and minds, right?
Ok, we hate the name, too, no question about it, but getting past the ridiculous nod to Jurassic Park, this bad-ass fighter is the most advanced fighter-aircraft on the planet. She is the first jet to use the thrust-vectoring nozzles, allowing the aircraft to perform extremely tight maneuvers; because of its advanced polymer design, the airframe is able to withstand this extreme piloting. In addition to being a very nimble fighter, the F-22 remains virtually invisible to radar and infrared because of its use of radar-absorbing materials (classified, of course), and though its exact radar cross-section is not known, sources say she has the equivalent radar signature of a steel marble. The F-22 has the most advanced computer and avionics, and can do just about anything you need her to, except go easy on the wallet. At over 150 million clams, even the Saudis can only afford a small fleet; however, due to export restrictions, it doesn’t look like they’ll be getting their hands on any of these in the near future. We love this aircraft, but really, Uncle Sam, find a better name; “Raptor” just makes me think of Jeff Goldblum rattling on about chaos and other nonsense.
Now here’s a name that makes sense: Reaper. This bad-boy toy can hunt targets using the onboard camera, reading a license plate at over two miles away. Carrying a maximum weapons payload of 3,800 pounds, it has a range of 14 hours. This is the future of aviation: an unmanned, offensive, aerial vehicle capable of attacking enemies anywhere in the world, with operators located state-side. Powered by a single turboprop engine, with a maximum speed of just about 300 mph (260 knots) and an operational altitude of 50,000 feet, the Reaper is an ideal answer for long-term surveillance and air-support missions for ground troops. What really sets this aircraft apart is the lack of a human pilot on board; no longer are we bound by human limitations, as the sky’s the limit (pardon the pun) with this aviation technology. We’re still waiting for a civilian version to play around with, but meanwhile, we’ll just stick to our model airplanes from Toys-R-Us.
Look for the official specs as well as more photos at www.GraffitiofWar.com/blog.html.