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Austin American-Statesman (Texas) March 20, 2003

War on Iraq: The Air War


With the most advanced aircraft and the best-trained pilots in the world, the U.S military expects to have overwhelming air superiority against Iraq.

B-1B Lancer

Able to fly intercontinental missions without refueling and then fly in low and fast to drop a variety of bombs, the Lancer is a high-tech workhorse for the U.S. military. Along with its design, which gives it a low radar profile, the bomber has sophisticated defenses, including electronic jamming equipment, infrared countermeasures, and radar location and warning systems.

Deployed: 1985
Manufacturer: Boeing Co. (previously, Rockwell International Corp.)
Maximum speed: 900 mph
Dimensions: Length, 146 feet; wingspan, 137 feet. (Wings sweep back to make wingspan 79 feet.)
Power: Four General Electric F-101-GE-102 turbofan engines with afterburners, producing more than 30,000 pounds of thrust apiece.
Armament: Up to 84 general purpose bombs or mines, 30 cluster bombs or 24 GPS-guided bombs.
Range: 7,450 miles
Crew: Four (aircraft commander, pilot, offensive systems officer and defensive systems officer)

F-15 Eagle

Developed by the Air Force to offset the Soviet Union's nimble MiG-25, the F-15 Eagle is an all-weather, highly maneuverable tactical fighter designed to gain superiority in aerial combat. The Eagle's air superiority is achieved through a mix of maneuverability, acceleration, range and weapons.

Deployed: 1972
Manufacturer: Boeing Co. (previously, McDonnell Douglas Corp.)
Maximum speed: 1,875 mph
Dimensions: Length, 63 feet 9 inches; wingspan, 42 feet 10 inches.
Power: Two Pratt & Whitney F100-PW-220/229 turbofan engines with afterburners, with about 25,000 pounds of thrust each.
Armament: One M-61A1 20 mm multibarrel internal gun with 940 rounds of ammunition, four Sidewinder and four Sparrow air-to-air missiles or a combination of other missiles.
Range: 3,450 miles
Crew: One or two

AC-130U Spooky

A relatively slow-moving, large and heavily armed gunship, the AC-130 is often used in support of ground troops because it can deliver a withering barrage of bullets. It can also be used to defend air bases and take out ground targets. The AC-130U, which is an update of AC-130s that have been deployed for decades, was used extensively in Afghanistan, including the battle of Tora Bora. Spooky is named after the call sign of its predecessor, the AC-47 gunship, known as 'Puff the Magic Dragon' during the Vietnam War. The Dragon breathed fire from three miniguns at the rate of 6,000 rounds per minute; the new Spooky's Gatling gun fires 1,800 rounds per minute, but it has two cannons as well.

Deployed: 1995
Manufacturer: Lockheed Martin Corp./Boeing Co.
Maximum speed: 300 mph
Dimensions: Length, 97 feet 9 inches; wingspan, 132 feet 7 inches.
Power: Four Allison T56-A-15 turboprop engines, with 3,930 pounds of thrust apiece.
Armament: One 25 mm GAU-12 Gatling gun (1,800 rounds per minute); one L60 40 mm Bofors cannon (100 shots per minute); one M102 105 mm cannon (six to 10 rounds per minute).
Range: 1,500 miles
Crew: 13 (pilot, co-pilot, navigator, fire control officer, electronic warfare officer, flight engineer, all light level TV operator, infrared detection set operator, four airborne gunners, loadmaster).

F-117A Nighthawk

The nearly invisible radar signature of the Nighthawk, the world's first stealth aircraft, made it the only coalition jet that was allowed to strike inside Baghdad's city limits during the 1991 Gulf War. It accounted for only 2 percent of the total force of fighters and bombers in 1991, but it flew more than a third of the bombing runs on the first day of the war. More than 3,000 anti-aircraft guns and 60 surface-to-air missile batteries protected Baghdad, but the Nighthawks escaped from the war unscathed.

Deployed: 1982
Manufacturer: Lockheed Martin Corp.
Maximum speed: 760 mph
Dimensions: Length, 65 feet 11 inches; wingspan, 43 feet 4 inches.
Power: Two General Electric F404-GE-F1D2 turbofan engines, each with about 10,800 pounds of thrust.
Armament: About 5,000 pounds of various weapons, including laser-guided, wind-adjustable and deep penetration bombs.
Range: 1,380 miles
Crew: One

B-2 Spirit

The unusual shape of the B-2 and the special coatings on its surfaces make it nearly invisible to radar. The coatings absorb most radar signals, and the flat surfaces and sharp angles reflect other signals away from the enemy's radar equipment; conventional aircraft, with rounded surfaces, reflect them back. The B-2 was first used in the former Yugoslavia in 1999. It has been a key weapon in the war on terrorism, flying from its base in Missouri to Afghanistan and back without landing, refueling in the air. Its size, aerodynamic shape and stealth characteristics give it the ability to fly great distances, penetrate the most sophisticated defenses and hit the enemy's most valued and heavily defended targets with a devastating load of bombs.

Deployed: 1993
Manufacturer: Northrop Grumman Corp.
Maximum speed: 645 mph
Dimensions: Length, 69 feet; wingspan, 172 feet.
Power: Four General Electric F-118-GE-100 engines, with 17,300 pounds of thrust apiece.
Armament: 40,000 pounds of nuclear, conventional or precision bombs.
Range: 7,250 miles
Crew: Two

B-52 Stratofortress

The B-52, one of the heaviest and oldest aircraft used by any military in the world, has been modified over the years from a high-altitude bomber to one that can move in low and fast. The B-52 is capable of releasing 35 tons of gravity bombs, cluster bombs and precision-guided missiles with conventional or nuclear warheads.

Deployed: 1955
Manufacturer: Boeing Co.
Maximum speed: 650 mph
Dimensions: Length, 159 feet 4 inches; wingspan, 185 feet.
Power: Eight Pratt & Whitney TF33-P-3/103 turbofan engines, with up to 17,000 pounds of thrust apiece.
Armament: About 70,000 pounds of bombs, mines and missiles.
Range: 8,800 miles
Crew: Five (aircraft commander, pilot, radar navigator, navigator and electronic warfare officer)

F-14 Tomcat

Popularized in the movie, 'Top Gun,' the F-14 Tomcat is the backbone of naval aviation. It launches from aircraft carriers, can track up to 24 targets simultaneously with its advanced weapon control system and can attack six targets at the same time with long-range air-to-air missiles. Its variable sweep wings make the F-14 highly maneuverable, and its air-to-air missiles and 20 mm cannon make it tough in a dogfight.

Deployed: 1970
Manufacturer: Northrop Grumman Corp.
Maximum speed: 1,560 mph
Dimensions: Length, 61 feet 9 inches; wingspan, 64 feet. (Wings sweep back to make wingspan 38 feet.)
Power: Two Pratt & Whitney TF-30P-414A turbofan engines with afterburners, with 20,900 pounds of thrust apiece, or two General Electric F-110-GE-400 augmented turbofan engines with afterburners, with 27,000 pounds of thrust apiece.
Armament: Up to 13,000 pounds of weapons, including Phoenix AIM-54A long-range air-to-air missiles, Sparrow and Sidewinder air-to-air missiles, an M-61A1/A2 20 mm multibarrel cannon and precision air-to-ground ordnance.
Range: 1,020 miles
Crew: Two (pilot and radar intercept officer)

F/A-18 Super Hornet

In 1992, wind tunnel tests showed the versatile, carrier-based F/A-18 could be greatly improved in its stability and lift capability. During the next decade, a redesign made the aircraft 25 percent bigger, increased its fuel capacity 33 percent and prepared it to carry the latest precision-guided weapons. The result is a deadly combination of stability, speed and striking force. The Super Hornet can launch precision ground strikes and is equally effective in air combat missions. The first time the Super Hornet saw action was in Iraq last November on strikes in the southern no-fly zone.

Deployed: 2001
Manufacturer: Boeing Co. (previously, McDonnell Douglas Corp.)
Maximum speed: 1,370 mph
Dimensions: Length, 60 feet 4 inches; wingspan, 44 feet 10 inches.
Power: Two F414-GE-400 engines, each with about 22,000 pounds of thrust.
Armament: Combinations of Sidewinder and Sparrow air-to-air missiles, Harpoon, SLAM, SLAM-ER, Walleye and Maverick air-to-ground missiles and HARM and Shrike radar-seeking missiles; precision-guided Joint Standoff Weapons and Joint Direct Attack Munitions; and one M-61A1/A2 20 mm cannon.
Range: 1,910 miles
Crew: One or two

F-16 Fighting Falcon

F-16s are built by a consortium of the United States and four NATO countries: Belgium, Denmark, the Netherlands and Norway. The jet flew more sorties during the 1991 Gulf War than any other aircraft. Originally designed as an air fighter, the F-16 has been modified to attack ground targets.

Deployed: 1979
Manufacturer: Lockheed Martin Corp.
Maximum speed: 1,500 mph
Dimensions: Length, 49 feet 5 inches; wingspan, 32 feet 8 inches.
Power: One Pratt & Whitney F100-PW-200/220/229 or one General Electric F110-GE-100/129 engine, with 27,000 pounds of thrust.
Armament: One M-61A1 20 mm multibarrel cannon with more than 500 rounds; external stations can carry up to six Sidewinder air-to-air missiles, conventional air-to-air and air-to-ground munitions and electronic countermeasure pods.
Range: 2,000 miles
Crew: One or two

Sources: 'The Illustrated Directory of Modern American Weapons,' GlobalSecurity.org, Department of Defense, Air Force, Navy and The Associated Press

Copyright 2003, The Austin American Statesman