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Weapon Wednesday – Lockheed Hypersonic Missile

The X-51 hypersonic test vehicle
The X-51 hypersonic test vehicle(Credit: US Air Force)

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. read more

Weapon Wednesday – New Cruise Missile Coming

Lockheed Martin was awarded the contract to develop a replacement for the current AGM-86 air-launched cruise...
Lockheed Martin was awarded the contract to develop a replacement for the current AGM-86 air-launched cruise missile(Credit: US Air Force)

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. read more

Weapon Wednesday: New Air Force B-21

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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. read more

Aircraft Laser-Defense System

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.

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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.
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.

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Life on the Battlefield

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. 

Drew's images are the first combat zone tintype photos created since the Civil WarDrew’s images are the first combat zone tintype photos  created since the Civil War

 

Drew said it was tough convincing his peers to sit through the tedious photo shoot Drew said it was tough convincing his peers to sit  through the tedious photo shoot

 

Drew was staff sergeant in the California Air National Guard and deployed to Helmand Province, Afghanistan, as a helicopter aerial gunner with a U.S. Air Force Combat Rescue Unit when he captured these images Drew was staff sergeant in the California Air National  Guard and deployed to Helmand Province, Afghanistan, as a helicopter aerial  gunner with a U.S. Air Force Combat Rescue Unit when he captured these images

 

Drew said taking tintype pictures in a war zone was 'historically significant' Drew said taking tintype pictures in a war zone was  ‘historically significant’According to fstoppers.com,  tintype ‘is a slow, laborious wet plate process that is difficult to master and  work with in warm temperatures’.Introduced in the mid-nineteenth century,  this artistic process was used to document the Civil War.It involves hand-pouring a collodion mixture  onto a metal plate, which is then made light sensitive in a darkroom via a  silver nitrate solution.

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.’

 

The stresses of combat, lack of basic materials, drying desert air, and the wind and dust of Afghanistan challenged Drew's artistic ability The stresses of combat, lack of basic materials, drying  desert air, and the wind and dust of Afghanistan challenged Drew’s artistic  ability

 

While Drew's peers were initially reluctant to sit for him, they went back for more after seeing the incredible results While Drew’s peers were initially reluctant to sit for  him, they went back for more after seeing the incredible results

 

Drew photographed his fellow soldiers in the front of the Air Force rescue helicopters they flew Drew photographed his fellow soldiers in the front of  the Air Force rescue helicopters they flew

 

Drew chose tintype photography because he 'wanted to do a process that was historical, but also made me take my time and work slowly to focus on my subject.'Drew chose tintype photography because he ‘wanted to do  a process that was historical, but also made me take my time and work slowly to  focus on my subject.’But convincing his peers to sit for a formal  portrait was tough, with many frustrated with the painstaking process.’Initially, I really had to convince them to  do it,’ Drew told fstoppers.com.’I work with these guys, but they know me as  a gunner.

‘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.’

 

 

Drew's photographic goal was to 'show the humanity of war in the eyes of airmen I fly combat missions with.'Drew’s photographic goal was to ‘show the humanity of  war in the eyes of airmen I fly combat missions with.’

 

Not since Matthew Brady¿s work documenting the Civil War has the tintype photographic process been used on the battlefieldNot since Matthew Brady¿s work documenting the Civil War  has the tintype photographic process been used on the battlefield

 

Drew gave everyone who sat for him a high resolution scan and a print to thank them for participating Drew gave everyone who sat for him a high resolution  scan and a print to thank them for participating

 

Taking photos during an active mission meant Drew often had to 'drop everything' and jump in a helicopter Taking photos during an active mission meant Drew often  had to ‘drop everything’ and jump in a helicopter

 

Drew's Afghan images were 'metaphors' for what he experienced in the warDrew’s Afghan images were ‘metaphors’ for what he  experienced in the war

 

Drew said switching 'thought process, from creative to tactical' was difficult, as he had to make sure he maintained his 'situational awareness'Drew said switching ‘thought process, from creative to  tactical’ was difficult, as he had to make sure he maintained his ‘situational  awareness’

 

For Drew, the photos helped him to document his 'life in the aftermath of my deployment' For Drew, the photos helped him to document his ‘life in  the aftermath of my deployment’

Attribution: Mail Online

The Secrets Out

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.

The experimental craft has been circling Earth at 17,000 miles per hour and was due to land in California in December.

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 Air Force said the second mission was to further test the technology but the ultimate purpose has largely remained a mystery.

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.

And Brian Weeden, from the Secure World Foundation, pointed out to the BBC: “If the U.S. really wanted to observe Tiangong, it has enough assets to do that without using X-37B.”

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