The Feathered Threat To US Air Superiority

Original source
Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes “Mark Thompson writes in Time Magazine that Air Force pilots flying the T-38 Talon can rest easy, knowing that their cockpit canopy can survive hitting a 4-lb. bird at 190 mph. Unfortunately, the Northrop supersonic jet trainer has a top speed of 812 mph. ‘To my knowledge, the training planes are the only ones in the Air Force fast enough to make a bird strike lethal, and with a windshield too flimsy to deflect one,’ wrote one Air Force pilot. Midair collisions between birds and Air Force aircraft have destroyed 39 planes and killed 33 airmen since 1973. That’s why the USAF is seeking comments to ‘identify potential sources, materials, timeframe, and approximate costs to redesign, test, and produce 550 T-38 forward canopy transparencies to increase bird strike capability.’ The move follows a T-38 crash on July 19 in Texas triggered by a canopy bird strike. ‘The current 0.23 inch thick stretched acrylic transparency can resist a 4-pound bird impact at 165 knots which does not offer a capability to resist significant bird impacts, and has resulted in the loss of six (6) aircraft and two pilot fatalities,’ the service acknowledged. ‘Numerous attempts since 1970 were made to evaluate existing materials and redesign a transparency that could withstand a bird impact of 4 pounds at 400 knots.’ Previous efforts have foundered because they’d require expensive cockpit modifications to the twin-engine, two-seat supersonic jet. ‘Although it would increase the level of bird impact protection,’ the Air Force said, ‘the proposal was cancelled due to the high cost of the modification.'”

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