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Photo series #16

FOX-2, FOX-2! 

Yes, today the photo series is going to be about one of the most successful and also one of the oldest air-to-air missiles, this is the Raytheon AIM-9 Sidewinder.

Developed by the US Navy during the 1950s, the Sidewinder entered service in 1956 and is still in operation today after numerous variants and upgrades, the latest one being the X variant, most of them use infrared homing for guidance.

The AIM-9X can be used as both air-to-air and surface-to-air missile being multi-mission capable, it can be equipped in fighters such as the F-15, F-16, F-22, in attackers and strike fighters like the A-10 and F-35, in helicopters such as the AH-1Z Viper and in U.S. Army’s ground-based multi-mission launcher.

During it’s combat debut in 1958 at the Taiwan Straits, ROCAF (Republic Of China Air Force) F-86 Sabres engaged PLAAF (People’s Liberation Army Air Force) Mig-17s, a AIM-9B failed to detonate and was lodged in the airframe of the Mig, both the plane and the missile landed safely but this allowed Soviet engineers to capture and reverse-engineer the Sidewinder which later led to the manufacturing of the Vympel K-13/R-3S missile, NATO reporting name AA-2 Atoll, the K-13 entered service with Soviet Air Forces in 1961. An interesting fact about all of this is that in 1972, the Finnish Air Force started using the AIM-9P Sidewinders in their Saab 35 Draken fighters but they already operated the Atoll in their Mig-21s, the missiles were so similar that they made tests using Atolls in the Drakens and Sidewinders in the Migs.

That’s it for this photo series, as always, if you have any suggestions or want to send any pictures for future photo series, don’t be shy, send them to me and i’ll upload them! 

Have a great day!!!!

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X-37B returns from fourth orbital flight, makes first KSC landing.

Concluding a record-breaking stay in space, the U.S. Air Force’s X-37B spaceplane returned to Earth this morning. The vehicle spent more than 718 in orbit after launching atop an Atlas V rocket on May 20th, 2015. 

Although the X-37′s operations in orbit are classified, at least two of its payloads were confirmed to be an experimental electric propulsion engine and a materials exposure pallet.

The spaceplane performed a completely autonomous landing at Kennedy Space Center’s runway 15 shortly before 8am EDT, the same runway used by the Space Shuttle program. It marked the first time one of the Orbital Test Vehicle spaceplanes landed at Kennedy Space Center.

Following brief servicing on the runway, the vehicle will be towed to one of the former Orbiter Processing Facilities next to the Vehicle Assembly building. The Air Force has converted one of the old shuttle hangars for use by the OTV program to house their spaceplanes.

P/C: USAF

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OTV-4 mission concludes as X-37 returns to Earth.

After nearly two years in space, the U.S. Air Force’s classified space shuttle, the Orbital Test Vehicle X-37B, returned to Earth, landing on Kennedy Space Center’s Shuttle Landing Facility runway shortly before 8am EDT. 

Officially known as the AFSPC-5 mission, OTV-4 launched on May 20, 2015, atop an Atlas V rocket. That same rocket also lifted the Planetary Society’s solar sailing cubesat, LightSail-1 into orbit on its own groundbreaking mission. Spending over 717 days in space, the OTV-4 mission is the longest mission thus far of the program’s four flights.

Measuring 29 feet long with a wingspan of 15 feet, the X-37B is a robotic spaceplane with a payload bay ideal for small payloads. While the specific milestones for this flight were classified, at least two of the experiments included the testing of an electric engine and materials exposure pallets.

The first three flights of the OTV program landed at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, though OTV-4 became the first to land in Florida. By landing at the same spaceport which it left from, OTV operations are expected to streamline and potentially allow for faster times in between missions. One of Kennedy’s three Orbiter Processing Facilities is used by the Air Force to house the two X-37 spaceplanes in between missions.

As seen in the gifs above - taken from video of the vehicle’s landing - the spaceplane glides past a model of another famous space plane, the Space Shuttle. The Inspiration, which once sat outside the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame in Titusville, was moved to the SLF for restoration ahead of a nationwide tour promoting aerospace science and STEM fields.

See our coverage of the AFSPC-5 mission here.

P/C: USAF.

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Mat 2 live stream - 9 ET

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The evolution of the tail turret of the Boeing B-52 Stratrofortress bomber, from .50 cal to 20mm

After the gulf war if was finally removed and replaced with a stronger ECM suit, as the USAF deemed it obsolete.

Personally, the 20mm version could have been turned into a CIWS against missiles, basically just needing a new radar and fire control system, but alas, weight savings means a lot in aircraft.