In the 1960’s there was a science fiction TV show called Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea. The show centered around the crew aboard a huge nuclear powered submarine named the Seaview. One of the more interesting features of the show was a mini flying sub that was housed in the nose of the Seaview. This little sub could bolt away from the Seaview, propel itself through the water to the surface, and take to the skies. Then land back on the water and go submersible and dock back up with the Seaview.
Americans love their high-technology gadgets. And the military is often at the forefront when it comes to developing cutting edge high technology systems. And believe it or not the U.S. military is looking into a real Flying Sub!
Irwin Allen, the creator of Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea would be very proud indeed.
GUILLEMOTS and gannets do it. Cormorants and kingfishers do it. Even the tiny insect-eating dipper does it. And if a plan by the Pentagon’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) succeeds, a remarkable airplane may one day do it too: plunge beneath the waves to stalk its prey, before re-emerging to fly home.
The DARPA plan calls for a stealthy aircraft that can fly low over the sea until it nears its target, which could be an enemy ship, or a coastal site such as a port. It will then alight on the water and transform itself into a submarine that will cruise under water to within striking distance, all without alerting defences.
That, at least, is the plan. The agency is known for taking on brain-twistingly difficult challenges. So what about DARPA’s dipper? Is it a ridiculous dream? “A few years ago I would have said that this is a silly idea,” says Graham Hawkes, an engineer and submarine designer based in San Francisco. “But I don’t think so any more.”
DARPA, which has a $3 billion annual budget, has begun to study proposed designs. In the next year or so it could begin allocating funding to developers. Though the agency itself is unwilling to comment, Hawkes and others working on rival designs have revealed to New Scientist how they would solve the key problems involved in building a plane that can travel underwater – or, to put it another way, a flying submarine.
The challenges are huge, not least because planes and submarines are normally poles apart. Aircraft must be as light as possible to minimise the engine power they need to get airborne. Submarines are heavyweights with massive hulls strong enough to resist crushing forces from the surrounding water. Aircraft use lift from their wings to stay aloft, while submarines operate like underwater balloons, adjusting their buoyancy to sink or rise. So how can engineers balance the conflicting demands? Could a craft be designed to dive into the sea like a gannet? And how will it be propelled – is a jet engine the best solution, both above and below the waves?
Boeing and NASA are testing blended-wing technologies that could lead to a revolution in airframe design. The experts contend we will see this new aircraft design flying the skies in 5-10 years.
Currently, both NASA and Boeing are exploring BWB designs under the designation X-48. Studies suggest that BWB aircraft, configured for passenger flight, could carry from 450 to 800 passengers with some designs having room for 1400 passengers and achieve fuel savings of over 20 percent. NASA has been developing, since 2000, a remotely controlled model with a 21 ft (6.4 m) wingspan. This research is focused on establishing the base data concerning the lift, stall and spin characteristics inherent in a Blended Wing Body design.
Ever since Boeing introduced the 707 in the 1950s, passenger jets have looked pretty much the same: long tubes with tails, engines mounted below the wings. That shape may one day be transformed into the graceful silhouette of a manta ray. In February, a 400-pound, 21-foot (6.4 m)-wide prototype of just such a bird will start practicing unmanned takeoffs, landings, and tricky slow-speed maneuvers at Edwards Air Force Base. Called the X-48B, it’s a scaled-down model of a theoretical 500-ton, 240-foot (73 m)-wide blended-wing aircraft. Aeronautical engineers have long known that this design could be much quieter, more fuel efficient, and far roomier than a conventional cylinder. But recent advances—lightweight composite materials, fly-by-wire controls, sophisticated flight systems—have made building one of these planes more feasible. Commercial versions have been proposed—imagine a flying auditorium—but the X-48B is more likely to debut as a US military transport plane circa 2022.
Back in America. Intel dazzled its Folsom audience on July 15, 2018 with a spectacular light show designed to feature 1,500 drones, in an effort to outdo its previous world record of 1,218 Intel Shooting Star drones. The performance displayed multicolored choreography including bright, fireworks-like orbs. A single pilot mans the entire fleet of light-emitting remotely controlled machines.
Men and their flying machines. Giant ones, tiny ones, some with forward-swept wings, all kinds of strange aircraft have been invented. Here are some of the strangest looking ones I have found.
This opposite of beauty flew only once in 1947 and was designed to carry over 700 people. It was actually a wooden heavy transport aircraft designed and built by the Hughes Aircraft company. It was built by the U.S. War Department because of wartime raw material restrictions on the use of aluminum. Its official name is Hughes H-4 Hercules but Spruce Goose somehow stuck. This heavy transport flying boat is the largest flying boat ever built, and has the largest wingspan of any aircraft in history with span exceeding the length of a football field. It is currently housed in Evergreen Aviation Museum in McMinnville, Oregon, USA.
This overeating plane, officially, the Boeing 747 Large Cargo Freighter, is a wide-body cargo aircraft and the world’s longest cargo loader constructed by drastic modifications to an existing Boeing 747-400. Boeing uses this plane to bring in aircraft parts from suppliers around the world. Only 4 of the type have been built.
As weird as its name, this plane was a large, wide-bodied cargo aircraft built in the United States by Aero Spacelines and used for ferrying outsized cargo items, most notably NASA’s components of the Apollo moon program. Infact, the Dreamlifter was inspired from this beauty. Only 1 unit if this aircraft was ever built and it served a good 15 years, starting in 1962.
Northrop Tacit Blue
Before you start laughing, do understand that this aircraft was a pioneer in stealth technology. There was only one produced, by the U.S. Air Force, in 1982, which was meant to demonstrate that a stealth low observable surveillance aircraft with a low probability of intercept radar and other sensors could operate close to the forward line of battle with a high degree of survivability. The pioneer plane is currently housed at the National Museum of the US Air Force.
Horten HO 229
Designed by Horten brothers of Germany this plane was a late-World War II prototypefighter/bomber. Its odd shape can be attributed to the fact that it was designed to be more difficult to detect with radar. Horten Ho 229 never made it to actual war and was only flown as a prototype.
Officially, the Vought V-173 was designed by Charles H. Zimmerman. It was an American experimental test aircraft built as part of the Vought XF5U “Flying Flapjack” World War II United States Navy fighter aircraft program and without doubt it is one of the most strangest planes ever built.
The Convair XFY Pogo tailsitter was an experiment in vertical takeoff and landing. The Pogo had delta wings and three-bladed contra-rotating propellers powered by a 5,500 hp (4,100 kW) Allison YT40-A-16 turboprop engine. It was intended to be a high-performance fighter aircraft capable of operating from small warships. Landing the XFY-1 was difficult as the pilot had to look over his shoulder while carefully working the throttle to land.
The Grumman X-29 was an experimental aircraft that tested a forward-swept wing, canard control surfaces, and other novel aircraft technologies. The aerodynamic instability of this arrangement increased agility but required the use of computerized fly-by-wire control. Composite materials were used to control the aeroelastic divergent twisting experienced by forward-swept wings, also reducing the weight. Developed by Grumman, the X-29 first flew in 1984 and two X-29s were flight tested over the next decade.
The Russians had their version as they always do.
The Sukhoi Su-47 Berkut (Russian: Су-47 Беркут – Golden Eagle) (NATO reporting name Firkin), also designated S-32 and S-37 (not to be confused with the single-engined delta canard design offered by Sukhoi in the early 1990s under the designation Su-37) during initial development, was an experimental supersonic jet fighter developed by Sukhoi Aviation Corporation. A distinguishing feature of the aircraft was its forward-swept wing, similar to that of the Tsybin’s LL-3., that gave the aircraft excellent agility and maneuverability. While serial production of the type never materialized, the sole aircraft produced served as a technology demonstrator prototype for a number of advanced techhnologies later used in the 4.5 generation fighter SU-35BM and current Indo-Russian 5th generation fighter prototype Sukhoi PAK FA.
The Hawker Siddeley Nimrod was a military aircraft developed and built in the United Kingdom. It is an extensive modification of the de Havilland Comet, the world’s first jet airliner. It was originally designed by de Havilland’s successor, Hawker Siddeley, now part of BAE Systems.
It was designed with an extended nose for radar, a new tail with electronic warfare (ESM) sensors mounted in a bulky fairing, and a MAD (Magnetic anomaly detector) boom. After the first flight in May 1967, the RAF ordered 46 Nimrod MR1s. The first example (XV230) entered service in October 1969. Five squadrons were eventually equipped with the MR1.
Aircraft with huge rotating radar domes.
The Grumman E-2 Hawkeye is an American all-weather, aircraft carrier-capable tactical airborne early warning (AEW) aircraft. This twin-turboprop aircraft was designed and developed during the late 1950s and early 1960s by the Grumman Aircraft Company for the United States Navy as a replacement for the earlier E-1 Tracer, which was rapidly becoming obsolete. E-2 performance has been upgraded with the E-2B, and E-2C versions, where most of the changes were made to the radar and radio communications due to advances in electronic integrated circuits and other electronics. The fourth version of the Hawkeye is the E-2D, which first flew in 2007.
XF-107A Experimental Fighter Bomber
The air intake was in the unusual dorsal location as the USAF had required the carriage of an underbelly semi-conformal nuclear weapon. The original chin intake caused a shock wave that interfered in launching this weapon. The implications this had for the survivability of the pilot during ejection were troubling. The intake also severely limited rear visibility. Nonetheless this was not considered terribly important for a tactical fighter-bomber aircraft, and furthermore it was assumed at the time that air combat would be via guided missile exchanges outside visual range.
The Sukhoi Su-34 (Russian: Сухой Су-34) (export designation: Su-32, NATO reporting name: Fullback) is a Russian twin-seat fighter-bomber. It is intended to replace the Sukhoi Su-24. The jet has a different look to it as it has a duck-billed nose.
13 April 1990
Russian Air Force
136 of plus 7 prototypes
Length: 23.34 m (72 ft 2 in)
Wingspan: 14.7 m (48 ft 3 in)
Height: 6.09 m (19 ft 5 in)
Loaded weight: 39,000 kg (85,980 lb)
Useful load: 8,000 kg (17,600 lb)
Max. takeoff weight: 45,100 kg (99,425 lb)
Powerplant: 2 × Lyulka AL-31F1 turbofans, 13,500 kgf (132 kN, 29,762 lbf) with afterburner each
The Japan Air Self-Defense Force (航空自衛隊, Kōkū Jieitai), or JASDF, is the aviation branch of the Japan Self-Defense Forces responsible for the defense of Japanese airspace and other aerospace operations. The JASDF carries out combat air patrols around Japan, while also maintaining an extensive network of ground and air early warning radar systems. The branch also has an aerobatic team known as Blue Impulse and has recently been involved in providing air transport in several UN peacekeeping missions.
The JASDF had an estimated 45,000 personnel in 2005, and as of 2013 operates 791 aircraft. Of those 791 aircraft in service approximately 350 are fighter aircraft.
Most of the aircraft below are Aggressor Jets. Aggressors are used as training opposition aircraft and thus painted in the colour schemes of potential enemy air forces. The Jets are painted in Russian, North Korean and mainland Chinese schemes. The bottom three images are JASDF paint schemes.
The Goodyear Inflatoplane was an experimental aircraft made by the Goodyear Aircraft Company, a subsidiary of Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company, well known for the Goodyear blimp. Although it seemed an improbable project, the finished aircraft proved to be capable of meeting its design objectives although its sponsor, the United States Army, ultimately cancelled the project when it could not find a “valid military use for an aircraft that could be brought down by a well-aimed bow and arrow.”
The original concept of an all-fabric inflatable aircraft was based on Taylor McDaniel inflatable rubber glider experiments in 1931. Designed and built in only 12 weeks, the Goodyear Inflatoplane was built in 1956, with the idea that it could be used by the military as a rescue plane to be dropped in a hardened container behind enemy lines. The 44 cubic ft (1.25 cubic meter) container could also be transported by truck, jeep trailer or aircraft. The inflatable surface of this aircraft was actually a sandwich of two rubber-type materials connected by a mesh of nylon threads, forming an I-beam. When the nylon was exposed to air, it absorbed and repelled water as it stiffened, giving the aircraft its shape and rigidity. Structural integrity was retained in flight with forced air being continually circulated by the aircraft’s motor.
Developed during the 1980’s in Soviet Russia, the futuristic looking MD-160 Lun-class ekranoplan had been sitting unused at a Russian naval base since the late 1990’s, but has now been beached on the shores of the Caspian Sea, as part of a plan to turn it into an ocean-side tourist attraction.
Known as the Caspian Sea Monster, the giant ekranoplan was designed in 1975 by Rostislav Evgenievich Alexeyev, a prominent developer of of hydrofoil ships and ground effect vehicles. It used a cushion of air beneath its giant wings to hover at about 13 feet above water, making it hard to detect. It was built as part of the Soviet WIG program, which dated back to the 1960’s Cold War, and was the only Lun-class ekranoplan to ever be completed and equipped with supersonic missiles.
The experimental aircraft got its nickname from the CIA. When spy satellite photos revealed this giant airplane with “KM” stamped on the wings, they named it Kaspian Monster, not knowing that the letters actually stood for Korabl-Maket (Prototype Ship).
The MD-160 ekranoplan was retired in the late 1990’s and had been sitting abandoned in a Russian naval base ever since. On July 31, the vehicle was taken under tow for a move to Derbent, Dagestan, with plans to turn into a tourist attraction as part of a park. When it arrived, authorities realized that there was nowhere to put the giant aircraft, which dwarfs a 747 jet.
The one-of-a-kind ekranoplan has been beached on the shore of the Caspian Sea since August, despite several attempts by locals to pull it to dry land by hand.
It appears that the Caspian Sea Monster has once again been abandoned, at least for the moment, and there is the sad possibility that it will be pummeled to pieces by the waves. A tragic ending for one of the most visually-impressive aircrafts ever built.
Capacity: 50 people
Length: 92.00 m (301 ft 10 in)
Wingspan: 37.60 m (123 ft 4 in) * Tail stabilizer span: 37 m (121 ft 5 in)
It was an otherwise quiet Sunday night at the Los Angeles International Airport control tower when an American Airlines pilot radioed in with an unbelievable report.
“Tower, American 1997. We just passed a guy in a jet pack,” the pilot said.
Minutes later came another report, this time from a pilot approaching LAX in a Jet Blue airliner: “We just saw the guy pass us by in the jet pack.”
So began one of the most intriguing aviation mysteries Los Angeles has confronted in years.
Those sightings occurred Aug. 30. The case took another twist Wednesday when a China Airlines pilot approaching LAX reported seeing a jet pack flying at an altitude of 6,000 feet. That’s more than a mile up.
The FBI is on the case, as is a good chunk of L.A.’s aviation community, which has been buzzing about the sightings.
Though jet packs make frequent appearances in popular culture and movies — think Sean Connery’s James Bond and Disney’s “The Rocketeer” — they are actually very rare.
There are only a handful of companies around the world that make jet packs, including a winged device created by former Swiss air force pilot Yves Rossy, which requires him to be hoisted in the air by a helicopter or balloon before he can take off. There is also a type of hoverboard made by French firm Zapata and flown only by its inventor, Franky Zapata.
Locally, Chatsworth-based JetPack Aviation has created five jet packs that are worn like backpacks. But they’re not for sale, and Chief Executive David Mayman said none of his competitors’ products are sold to consumers, either.
It’s possible that Wednesday’s sighting near LAX was indeed a person flying with a jet pack. But the reported altitude makes such a flight seem “highly unlikely,” said Mike Hirschberg, executive director of the Vertical Flight Society, a nonprofit professional organization.
Mayman said his company’s jet packs are technically capable of soaring to heights of 15,000 feet. But because of fuel constraints, they can actually reach only about 1,000 or 1,500 feet off the ground safely.
“To fly up to 6,000 feet from the ground, to fly around long enough to be seen by China Airlines and then to descend again, you’d be out of fuel,” he said.
Mayman said he knows it wasn’t any of his company’s jet packs because he knows exactly where they are — plus, they are disabled when not in use, so grabbing a pack out of storage wouldn’t be possible.
Instead, he suggests a more likely scenario, an electric drone — perhaps with a mannequin attached.
Thomas Anthony, director of the USC Aviation Safety and Security Program and a former Federal Aviation Administration criminal investigator, said the strongest evidence that the LAX sightings is a person with a jet pack — as opposed to a balloon or drone — came from the American Airlines pilot, who reported seeing the object at 3,000 feet over Cudahy.
The pilot stated he saw “a guy in a jet pack” 300 yards to his left and flying at about the plane’s altitude.
“That is quite close,” Anthony said.
He said federal investigators would immediately look at the limited number of jet packs that exist in the U.S. and overseas.
“People in that community will know who has bought these packs,” he said. “If someone is doing this, they are going to have to take off and land somewhere, and there is going to be noise.”
Anthony said he doubts the culprit is using an airport to take off and that investigators should look to out-of-the-way industrial spots for clues. The FBI suggested the jet pack was flying in a section of Southeast Los Angeles County near Cudahy and Vernon that is dotted with commercial and manufacturing businesses.
The flying range of jet packs is pretty limited, Anthony added, so it’s unlikely it traveled any great distance.
After the China Airlines pilot’s report Wednesday, the LAX control tower called in a law enforcement aircraft to investigate.
The aircraft was flying about seven miles from where the pilot said he’d seen the jetpack, according to radio communications.
But when the craft arrived, no signs of the jet pack remained.
A jet pack could be operated as an ultralight — meaning it would not be registered and its operator wouldn’t need a pilot’s license if it meets fuel capacity, weight and speed requirements, according to the FAA. Ultralight aircraft are permitted to fly only during the day and are barred from flying over densely populated areas or in controlled aerospace without FAA approval.
Anthony and others say it’s imperative that the FBI investigate the sightings for safety.
“This does represent a very significant compromise of the airspace,” he said.
If a rogue pilot were flying at 6,000 feet without a transponder or radio, Anthony said, that would put him or her in the path of commercial airlines maneuvering over Los Angeles.
Airliners are designed to withstand getting hit by small objects. But a big metal object is another matter, especially if it were sucked into an engine.
“The engines aren’t designed to consume something large and metal, or something with fuel that’s going to burn or explode,” Hirschberg said. “That could be potentially catastrophic for an airplane. You could potentially have an engine explode and bring down the airliner and potentially hundreds of people could die.”
So is what has been reported near LAX really a jet pack?
Some experts say it’s possible.
In February, a pilot in Dubai reached an altitude of 5,900 feet flying a Jetman jet pack powered by four mini jet engines with carbon-fiber wings. The pack’s builders say it can reach speeds of nearly 250 mph. After a number of dip and roll maneuvers, the Dubai pilot descended to the ground using a parachute.