It appears that the US Air Force is taking recent reports of Russian and Chinese hypersonic weapon systems seriously, as it’s upped its game by awarding Lockheed Martin a contract worth up to US$928 million to develop a conventional strike weapon capable of flying over five times the speed of sound.
Lockheed Martin may have lost out on designing America’s next-generation ICBM, but the company has been selected to help replace the vintage AGM-86 Air Launched Cruise Missile. The US$900 million US Air Force Technical Maturation and Risk Reduction (TMRR) contract tasks the company with developing the technology needed to build the nuclear-capable Long Range Stand Off (LRSO) missile.
The U.S. Air Force is preparing to start mothballing the B-2 Spirit and B-1B Lancer fleets in preparation for the next-generation stealth bomber, the B-21 Raider, according to Aviation Week. The nuclear-capable B-2 stealth bomber and conventional B-1B supersonic bomber fleets will ultimately be retired to free up funds to support the B-21 program, which is expected to field the first aircraft in the mid-2020s.
Northrop Grumman is working with the U.S. Air Force to develop radical new laser weapons for supersonic fighter jets and hopes to test them in 2019, it has been revealed.
The technology, known as ‘directed energy systems’ will be fitted to future craft to allow them to protect themselves.
The laser weapon will be housed in a pod attached to a fighter-sized aircraft.
Scroll down for video
They’re the first tintypes created in a combat zone since the Civil War.
Seeking to capture the humanity of his peers fighting in the Afghanistan war, California Air National Guard aerial gunner Ed Drew asked them to sit for photos on the battlefield.
While the process was painstaking and laborious – when duty called, the Brooklyn-based photographer dropped his camera and jumped into a helicopter – the images were gripping.
Drew was on active duty in the Helmand Province as a helicopter aerial gunner with a U.S. Air Force Combat Rescue Unit.
‘To do this process in a war, let alone a foreign war, is historically significant,’ Drew told the New Yorker.
‘The process of wet-plate tintypes is challenging enough with perfect conditions and the availability of chemicals. In a foreign war, with the stresses of combat, lack of basic materials, drying desert air, and the wind and dust of Afghanistan, it was quite a challenge.’
The spectacular images can be viewed at his website Ed Drew Photography.
The plate, encased in a light-tight film holder, is exposed to light in camera and then must be processed within ten minutes of exposure.
For Drew, the unique artistic process helped him work through his own involvement in the war.
‘As a photographer and artist I wanted to achieve something that was physical, one of a kind and very unique,’ he told PetaPixel.
‘I believe in the Japanese aesthetic of ‘Wabi-Sabi’ so the idea that something is imperfect and impermanent interests me.
‘I wanted that to translate in my Afghan images as metaphors for what I experienced in the war, I thought tintypes to be the perfect photographic process to translate Wabi Sabi in my portraits.’
‘After they started seeing how amazing the plates looked, they began booking appointments.
‘One of the guys I flew with is the great great grandson of Buffalo Bill so he asked for a photo just like his grandfather. It was one of my best plates.’
Attribution: Mail Online
The U.S Air Force’s highly secret unmanned space plane was supposed to stay in space for nine months, but it’s now been there for a year and three days – and no one knows what it’s doing.
However the mission of the X-37B orbital test vehicle was extended – for unknown reasons.
The plane resembles a mini space shuttle and is the second to fly in space.
The first one landed last December at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California after more than seven months in orbit.
The 29-foot, solar-powered craft had an original mission of 270 days.
The vehicle’s systems program director, Lieutenant-colonel Tom McIntyre, told the Los Angeles Times in December: “We initially planned for a nine-month mission. Keeping the X-37 in orbit will provide us with additional experimentation opportunities and allow us to extract the maximum value out of the mission.”
However, many sceptics think that the vehicle’s mission is defense or spy-related.
There are rumours circulating that the craft has been kept in space to spy on the new Chinese space station, Tiangong.
However, analysts have pointed out that surveillance would be tricky, since the spacecraft would rush past each other at thousands of meters per second.
Last May, amateur astronomers were able to detect the orbital pattern of the first X-37B which included flyovers of North Korea, Iraq, Iran, Pakistan and Afghanistan, heightening the suspicion that the vehicle was being used for surveillance.
Other industry analysts have speculated that the Air Force is just making use of the X-37B’s amazing fuel efficiency and keeping it in space for as long as possible to show off its credentials and protect it from budget cuts.
After all, under budget cuts for 2013 to 2017 proposed by the Obama administration, the office that developed the X-37 will be shut down.
According to X-37B manufacturer Boeing, the space plane operates in low-earth orbit, between 110 and 500 miles above earth. By comparison, the International Space Station orbits at about 220 miles.
The current flight launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida, in March.
Attribution: Ted Thornhill