In fact we might as well start there I guess. But before we get round to talking about the new jet or looking at any pictures, I want you to watch a video that allegedly shows the aircraft in flight. I saw the video (actually a slightly poor resolution copy of it, that was clearly a copied and edited version of the video I'm going to show you now) before reading anything about the details.
There was something about it that didn't look right, an opinion which seems to be shared by other, far more knowledgeable sources on this subject. The video contains a quick introduction, some clips of it flying, then a bunch of people talking in Farsi. Unless you speak Farsi I'd recommend stopping the video after the flying section because a) there's no more flying and b) I'm going to give you a link to a site with much better quality pictures and angles than the glimpses that you'll catch off the video.
So here it is. Have a think amongst yourselves about what's wrong with the flying portion;
To me that looked a hell of a lot like a model aeroplane. The way the aircraft wobbled around in flight and the general characteristics of it seemed very similar to a number of previous videos I've seen of model jets. It most certainly didn't look like a highly advanced, 5th generation fighter.
That view seems to be shared by the chaps over at The Aviationist, who have a fantastic article about the new jet, including a great variety of pictures taken from many angles.
The jet itself appears to be some kind of weird Airfix mashup between a Boeing Bird of Prey UAV, an F-35 and a Rafale, except that the canards appear to have control surfaces attached to them, as opposed to being all moving control surfaces in their own right.
At the back of the aircraft there is no protective nozzle for the engine exhaust which precludes the use of an afterburner, lest the entire back end of the aircraft catch fire. That, coupled with the very small top mounted intakes, suggests that this thing (if indeed it's anything more than a display model) is powered by a small engine, perhaps something like a J85 (or copy of) taken from one of their old F-5 aircraft, producing about 3,000 pounds of thrust, or about half the dry thrust of a RR Adour engine, like that used on the BAE Hawk.
It's the cockpit that is most entertaining though. If you look at the pictures on The Aviationist article it looks like the cockpit was sized for a 12 year old. The main panel, which supposedly houses displays for advanced electronics, doesn't even have a proper backing on it, unless you count the bundle of exposed cables. The dials and screens are, The Aviationist believes, suspiciously similar to what you would find in a commercial light aircraft.
As for the black horizontal control at the very top of the panel, there seems to be a furious debate erupting on twitter as to whether that is either a) the front of a CB radio, possibly from the mid 90's, or b) the cassette player from a 1985 Ford Mustang. If I had to hedge my bet, I think I'm going with the cassette player.
The claim about advanced electronics also comes into question as the nose of the aircraft is so small that the only radar that could conceivably fit in there would be the parking sensor off a modern hatchback. The finish of the paint work also appears to be a somewhat poorly applied standard gloss, as opposed to some next generation radar absorbing paint.
All in all folks, I wouldn't get too excited (or worried) about what appears to be no more than either a very stupid publicity stunt, or perhaps a very bare bones design project, presumably at the same stage of development as our Type 26 Frigate, e.g. the Powerpoint stage.
Next up some videos about the Sikorsky X-2 project. If the name doesn't ring a bell off the top of your head, it's the new helicopter design from Sikorsky that uses contra-rotating main blades and a push prop at the back end to help it travel much faster than a conventional helicopter. Their flying prototype is already (according to the company) unofficially breaking the level flight speed record for helicopters, with more improvements expected as they move further along with the design.
These videos will just give you a bit more explanation as to some of the finer points of how the helicopter works and although they repeat themselves to some degree in the early stages, they individually give an idea of some of the ways that Sikorsky expects their technology to impact various roles for helicopters.
I think they're quite interesting and also think it's just reward for Sikorsky to have as many people as possible promoting their stuff. Keep in mind that they've done a lot of the research for this off their own back (and their own money), which seems to be a rare thing in the defence industry these days. Here's you vids;
And speaking of helicopters, specifically attack helicopters, I came across this video of US Marine Corps Cobras conducting close air support and forward interdiction missions in Iraq, I think in 2003 (during the invasion).
I include this video because.... uhm.... s**t gonna get blown up!
And finally, sticking with the helicopters theme, a link this time instead of a video.
Members of 845 Naval Air Squadron (NAS), part of the Commando Helicopter Force (CHF), have been in Norway learning about how to live, fly, fight, and maintain their equipment in harsh, Arctic climates. It may seem somewhat insignificant at times, but it's this diversity of skills that sets the UK forces apart from many others around the world. And I'm pretty sure I said that same thing the other day about an article about the Paras?
Regardless, here's your link to the article.
Now don't forget, if you have any questions or comments then feel free to leave them in the comments section or e-mail me at; firstname.lastname@example.org
Just don't expect a reply in the next 24 hours, as today (or technically tomorrow morning) it's the Super Bowl, and my team is playing in it. If the 49ers win then I'll probably go missing for the next three days, immersed in a drunken stupor of celebration. And if they lose then I'll probably go missing for the next three days, immersed in a drunken stupor of misery.
In short; go Niners!