Monday, 13 August 2012

I can't see my house from up here?

Today I thought I'd rustle up something cool that also has an important point or two behind it.

I remember a discussion over at Think Defence from a while back involving an ex-cavalry officer. Said officer was talking about air support and the difference between close air support provided by A-10's versus other types. Added to this is the general mixed reaction that some ground forces seem to have towards air support. While it's difficult to find people who have served in combat who don't speak very highly of air support, there does seem to be a slight degree of apprehension, a perfectly natural response given the well publicised and high profile (if statistically seldom) cases of aircraft dropping ordinance on friendly forces.

I had this thought in the back of my mind the other day when I came across the two YouTube videos that I'm going to show in a minute. Four things became immediately apparent;

1) Just how cool being a fighter pilot must be for a day job,

2) Just how much sitting in the closed cockpit of an airborne fighter sounds like sitting next to a Henry hoover on full blast,

3) Just how fast and manoeuvrable modern aircraft really are, especially considering that the aircraft featured in both videos is an F/A-18 (first is a "C", second is an "F") which are now considered largely superseded by modern fighters like the Raptor, Typhoon and Rafale,

4) Just how bloody difficult it is to pick out small objects from the air at anything but very low level.

Now obviously the images are taken from a helmet mounted camera and are being replayed on a small screen, so the scale doesn't quite do it justice. But you get the sense from watching the video that it's an unenviable task to be a pilot who has to try and visually pick out a target on the ground, especially if low altitude passes are out of the question.

In the modern era things have improved somewhat, with the use of sensors that allow pilots to peer down from greater heights with much better clarity, and through the use of embedded forward air controllers who are accustomed to the pilots perspective, but I imagine it's still a hell of a task to initially guide a pilot onto a ground target when from the air only the largest of terrain features appear to stick out noticeably.

Here's your videos. Remember to have a peek at the ground as the aircraft switches between different altitudes. The first one you'll probably want to skip forward to the 5 minute mark, unless you want to watch five minutes of taxiing. The second jumps right into it.

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