Four Military Aircraft Hit the Skies in 2015

It was a big year for military aircraft advances. Here’s a look back at four of those – the F-16 Viper, Marine Corps’ King Stallion Helo, a new stealth bomber and fifth generation fighter F-35.

The Viper

The F-16V Viper is the newest, most advanced fighter in the F-16 family and it made its maiden flight.

The latest version of the F-16 introduced numerous cutting-edge enhancements.

Made by Lockheed Martin, the fourth-generation aircraft is often referred to as the Fighting Falcon. The F-16 can travel at speeds faster than Mach 2 – that’s more than 1,500 mph. The aircraft is just under 50 feet long and has a wingspan of about 31 feet.

Related: Are 'Star Wars'-style fighter jets coming to the skies?

The F-16V flew with Northrop Grumman's advanced APG-83 Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) and Northrop’s Scalable Agile Beam Radar (SABR) for the first time in 2015.

Northrop’s SABR AESA fire control radar provides next-gen air-to-ground and air-to-air radar capability. The technology supports countering advanced threats. These AESA radars are also used by the F-22 Raptor and F-35 Lightning II.

SABR’s electronically scanned beams allow for faster area searches. This also means earlier detecting, tracking and identification of targets at longer ranges. All-weather targeting and situational awareness have all been enhanced.

Marine Corps’ King Stallion

King Stallion, the U.S. Marine Corps’ new helicopter, completed its first flight in 2015.

Related: F-35 fighter pilots are gearing up for the new planes virtually

The Marines’ new helo is incredibly advanced - it will be able to lift three times more weight than its predecessor or about 27,000 pounds. It will be able to carry these massive loads over 110 nautical miles under challenging "hot and high" conditions.

Made by Sikorsky Aircraft Corporation, the CH-53K King Stallion prototype is also known by the less catchy name Engineering Development Model-1 (EDM-1).

King Stallion will be the Marine Corps’ next-gen heavy lift helicopter and the goal is to give them the best heavy lift helo in the world. Ultimately, the Corps plans to have eight active duty squadrons, one training squadron, and one reserve squadron.

King Stallion will have a cruise speed of 141 knots and a range of about 530 miles.

The CH-53K King Stallion will have similar physical dimensions as its predecessor, the CH-53E Super Stallion. It will also be powered by three engines, but with the upgraded engine power of the T408-GE-400s.

There are also a lot of innovations designed to improve crew and passenger protection. In addition to cutting-edge self-defense weapons, advanced lightweight armor is incorporated as well as enhanced ballistic protection. The troop seats and retracting landing gear are also engineered to be crashworthy.

Stealth bomber

There’s a new stealth bomber joining the U.S. Air Force. In war, this strike aircraft can fly deep into hostile areas undetected.

Related: Navy's powerful Poseidon spy plane deploys amid South China sea row

In 2015, the Air Force announced that it chose Northrop Grumman to build the next generation long-range strike bomber. The Air Force has not yet chosen a name for the aircraft, which experts are referring to as “B-3”.

The new strike bomber will start deploying in about a decade. The aircraft is expected to replace the nearly four-decades old B-1 as well as the legendary B-52 Stratofortress that has served the country for about six decades.

It will be fully loaded with lots of technologies and next-gen innovations that are cloaked in secrecy. It may even withstand nuclear weapon-generated electromagnetic pulses and still operate.

The military has kept details of the wish list for its new bomber classified.

During the Super Bowl, Northrop Grumman’s ad featured a new aircraft shrouded in mystery – literally cloaked at one point. Some industry experts believe this was a representation of Northrop’s vision for the new mysterious bomber.

F-35

Ultra advanced stealth, fighter jet speed … and now the military’s F-35 has a new weapon.

The F-35 Lightning II is a truly fifth-generation fighter jet. This advanced powerful single-seat and single-engine fighter is designed to be capable of a range of missions with just one aircraft.

Test pilot Maj. Charles "Flak" Trickey fired the F35A’s internal Gun Airborne Unit -22/A 25mm Gatling gun system in three airborne gunfire bursts in its first aerial gun test successfully conducted in 2015.

Detractors criticize delays and cost in the new fighter development, but this was concrete progress in certifying the gun for use in the F-35A. The aircraft is on track to enter initial operational capability with the U.S. Air Force next year.

Stealth was built into this aircraft from the very start. The F-35 also possesses other fifth-generation features like integrated avionics, sensor fusion and incredibly powerful sensor packages.

The Pratt & Whitney F135 propulsion system gives the aircraft phenomenal power – it is able to reach speeds of over 1,199 mph.

With this new gun, pilots will have the ability to engage air-to-ground and air-to-air targets. The 25mm gun is embedded into the F-35A's left wing in a way that keeps the aircraft stealthy.

The advanced materials and airframe design also mean that F-35s can evade radars that other fighters cannot. The plane can get through highly defended air spaces without ever being detected and then clear the way for U.S. forces.

 

 

Allison Barrie consults at the highest levels of defense, has travelled to more than 70 countries, is a lawyer with four postgraduate degrees and now the author of the new book "Future Weapons: Access Granted"  covering invisible tanks through to thought-controlled fighter jets. You can click here for more information on FOX Firepower columnist and host Allison Barrie and you can follow her on Twitter @allison_barrie.