This was the last flight of the first female US Air Force fighter pilot

A beautiful, crystal clear photo of an F-15E Strike Eagle piloted by Colonel Jeannie Leavitt—the first US Air Force female combat fighter pilot and the first commander of a combat fighter wing. This was her last refueling and her final flight—on May 29, 2014—after 2,600 hours flying this beautiful jet. » 6/07/14 1:54am 6/07/14 1:54am

Bomber pilot saves the day in Boeing 737 emergency landing

This is US Air Force Captain Mark Gongol and his usual ride, a B-1B Lancer. But on December 30, 2013, Gongol wasn't flying his four-engine supersonic strategic nuclear bomber. He was just one of the 151 passengers inside United Flight 1637 but, when the pilot had a cardiac problem, he knew he had to step in. » 6/02/14 11:36pm 6/02/14 11:36pm

Northrop's Flying Ram Would Have Sliced Enemy Planes in Midair

War drives technological innovation like little else. No proposal is too ambitious, impractical, or downright foolhardy for consideration if it provides a strategic advantage. This school of thinking has led to atomic bombs, autonomous vehicles, and, in 1945, a short-lived fighter prototype that could cut through… » 4/17/14 11:42am 4/17/14 11:42am

This Absurd Flying Whale Ushered in a New Age of Stealth Technology

Not every program DARPA undertakes can be another Big Dog—the agency has had its fair share of fizzled experiments over the years—but even those failures can yield exciting new insights. Just look at the Northrop Tacit Blue, a plane so unwieldy it incorporated more redundancy than the Space Shuttle but also… » 3/14/14 11:40am 3/14/14 11:40am

A Spotter's Guide To The U-2 'Dragon Lady' And Its Many Configurations

The venerable U-2 'Dragon Lady' is a spy plane born from Cold War necessity that soldiered on operationally for decades past anyone's wildest dreams. She went from sleek design to a bulging beast of burden whose silhouette can change as fast as her mission requires it to. Here's a guide to her many configurations. » 3/09/14 6:54pm 3/09/14 6:54pm

​Boeing's Bird of Prey: A Prototype Jet Worthy of the Klingon Empire

From the U-2 Dragon Lady and A-12 Oxcart, to the SR-71 Blackbird and D-12 Ramjet Drone, there's been no shortage of exotic aircraft (and UFO sightings) in the skies over Nevada's Area 51. But among the most extreme examples of bleeding-edge avionic design tested was the otherworldly Boeing Bird of Prey. » 2/27/14 11:40am 2/27/14 11:40am

The Insane 1950s Flight Sim That Taught Airmen to Refuel in Midair

Performing a midair fuel transfer between aircraft is among the most technically challenging maneuvers in aviation, especially when flying a prop-driven, WWII-era C-97 Stratotanker. That's why neophyte pilots spent hours at the controls of this life-size simulator before they ever set foot in the real thing. » 2/06/14 6:40pm 2/06/14 6:40pm

The Only Thing Keeping the F-35 Lightning Relevant Is the F-22 Raptor

Even if they are primarily just cheap knockoffs, China's rapidly growing fleet of next-gen aircraft are poised to seriously challenge American air superiority in the coming years. To prevent that, argues Chief of U.S. Air Force Air Combat Command Gen. Michael Hostage, we'll need plenty of fifth-generation fighters of… » 2/04/14 6:40pm 2/04/14 6:40pm

This Was the First Plane To Cost $1 Billion More Than We Expected

Delivering America's military might to foreign shores is no small feat, especially when that might is the size of an M-1 Abrams tank. For more than half a century, we've relied on one of the largest military aircraft in existence to do so—a plane that ended up costing just a little more to build than we expected. » 12/19/13 11:40am 12/19/13 11:40am

US Air Force fighter jets will have laser weapons by 2030

A new request by the Air Force Research Lab reveals that the USAF is planning to have laser weapons built in the next generation of fighters by 2030, the US Naval Institute reports. The new jet fighters will be equipped with both defensive and offensive lasers. I'm glad we're getting ready for the incoming alien… » 11/22/13 11:33am 11/22/13 11:33am

That Time GE Made a One-Man, Rocket-Propelled Reentry Vehicle/Body Bag

The upcoming film Gravity follows the desperate escape attempts of two astronauts from a dying space station, their peril aggravated by the sight of Earth's surface so close but entirely out of their reach. Of course, had they been equipped with GE's Manned Orbital Operations Safety Equipment, they could have simply… » 9/27/13 3:50pm 9/27/13 3:50pm

America's First Supersonic Interceptor Was a Flying Bottle Rocket

When the Soviet Tupolev Tu-4 bomber made its debut in 1949, it was more than a big deal. This reverse-engineered Boeing B-29 Superfortress gave the Russians intercontinental strategic strike capabilities that the existing US fleet of F-61 Black Widows and F-82 Twin Mustangs simply couldn't compete with. The American… » 9/10/13 6:40pm 9/10/13 6:40pm

The Ryan Firebee: Grandfather to the Modern UAV

America's fleet of surveillance and attack drones are far older than most people realize. While the unmanned platforms have certainly come into the spotlight since the start of the War on Terror, they've actually been dutifully getting shot out of the sky on behalf of our national interests since World War I. And one… » 8/27/13 11:30am 8/27/13 11:30am

How the USAF Keeps Tabs on Space Junk

In the 1980s, the US Air Force only knew about roughly 5,000 pieces of space debris orbiting our planet. By 2010, that number had tripled to 15,639 objects. And our current space trash tracking system can't even detect some of the smaller bits zipping around up there. That's why the USAF is developing a new iteration… » 8/07/13 12:00pm 8/07/13 12:00pm