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Military Flight Aptitude Tests For Dummies
By Terry J. Hawn, Peter Economy
John Wiley & SonsCopyright © 2013 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd
All rights reserved.
Not Just a Job, an Adventure
In This Chapter
Examining different fixed- and rotary-wing military aircraft
Considering rank, pay, and benefits
Enjoying the military life
Discovering a life after the military
Although military aviation is a key component of the U.S. armed forces — projecting military might and conducting far-reaching operations to protect the interests of the United States of America and its allies — it's also a career, and a very exciting and fulfilling one at that. You're in command of a remarkably effective weapon on the modern battlefield.
Many times in the span of an average military career, the President of the United States requires the use of U.S. military force to disable an enemy's combat capability, to protect vital U.S. interests abroad, and to honor treaties established with allies in the pursuit of the common good of the world. As a military aviator, you can expect that you'll be the tip of the spear — the first strike — in these situations. During the past few conflicts the United States has been part of, military aviators have been the ones to lead the way, and that role will continue into the future.
Military aviators must be intelligent, quick to grasp an unfolding situation, and loyal to both their country and their fellow service members on the ground. Above all, they must be self-sacrificing team players whose love for country and fellow humans will be tested time and time again.
Exploring the Types of Aircraft and Their Roles
The various U.S. military branches use many different aircraft for many different missions. Fighter/attack aircraft conduct multifaceted operations to gain air superiority and to destroy crucial opposing targets; bomber aircraft deliver munitions over a great distance with minimal collateral damage (civilian casualties). Cargo aircraft perform long-range airlift and humanitarian efforts. Helicopters support ground offensive operations.
The overall category of military aircraft breaks into two major types: fixed-wing and rotary-wing. Each military branch differs somewhat in its mix and usage of each type and in the way it uses pilots; here's a quick rundown:
[check] The Air Force typically uses fixed-wing aircraft to project military might; it calls on helicopter assets in resupply or rescue operations.
[check] The Navy also looks to fixed-wing aircraft to project military might while utilizing helicopter assets in resupply or rescue operations.
[check] The Marine Corps utilizes fixed-wing, rotary-wing, and tilt-rotor in a variety of combat and combat support operations.
[check] The Army primarily utilizes rotary-wing assets to support ground maneuver operations and relies on a small number of fixed-wing aircraft for logistical support.
[check] The Coast Guard uses fixed-wing aircraft for long-range search-and-rescue or anti-drug operations and primarily utilizes helicopters for more-localized search-and-rescue efforts.
Fixed-wing aircraft consist of airplanes ranging from super-large, heavy-lift cargo planes to the relatively small fighter and attack aircraft. The history of modern fixed-wing aircraft can be traced back to the Wright brothers' famous flight at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, on December 17, 1903.
Fixed-wing aircraft are distinguished by a fixed or attached lifting device (wing) that allows the aircraft to fly in a forward motion at relatively great speed. The typical fixed-wing aircraft travels down a runway to achieve the velocity required to develop a lifting force that enables it to overcome the earth's gravitational pull. Most military aircraft in today's fleet are powered by turbine engines, which either directly convert the energy to thrust (as in a turbojet) or convert the energy to shaft horsepower to turn a propeller (as in a turboprop).
The category of rotary-wing aircraft consists of helicopters and tilt-rotor aircraft. The German Focke-Wulf Fw61 — which made its inaugural flight on June 26, 1936 — is generally considered to be the first operational helicopter.
Rotary-wing aircraft have a rotating lifting wing (rotor blade), which develops lift and thrust to overcome the force of gravity. This system allows the helicopter to take off and land in a vertical or near-vertical fashion, a capability that lets the helicopter utilize unimproved areas and greatly enhances its ability to provide ground force protection. Helicopters typically have a much slower forward airspeed than fixed-wing aircraft do but make up for that lack of speed in versatility and the capability to be forward-placed in a battlefield environment. That is, helicopters can be placed right up to the front lines and operate from that vantage, as well as hide in a selected spot and wait for a target to appear, providing the element of surprise.
A hybrid aircraft exists today that's hard to place in a particular category, but we include it here because it has some similarities to rotary-wing. This aircraft is the tilt-rotor aircraft currently utilized by the U.S. Marine Corps. The V-22 Osprey (which you can see in Figure 1-1) can take off and land vertically and then tilt its rotors to act as a forward-thrusting propeller, giving it excellent midrange lift and the capability to land in unimproved areas.
Another past variant on the tilt hybrid model is the tilt-wing aircraft. With this type of aircraft, the entire wing tilts, not just the engine nacelles (cover housings) and rotors. Historically, the military has tested several tilt-wing prototype aircraft — including the Vertol VZ-2, the Hiller X-18 (see Figure 1-2), and the LTV XC-142 — but none was ever put into operational service.
Trainer, experimental, and orbital aircraft
Training aircraft for the armed services are smaller aircraft that can economically train and refresh the training of military aviators. These aircraft can range from small turboprop fixed-wing aircraft to small turbine engine training helicopters.
Experimental aircraft (designated by the X identifier, such as the X-15) are test aircraft, and they're truly the cutting edge of new aircraft design technology. This category is where science and flying skills meet for the first time.
Finally, spaceflight relies heavily on the skill and experience of military aviators as both astronaut pilots and mission specialists. All early astronauts were direct recruits from the armed forces, and most space shuttle crewmembers were members of the military. Figure 1-3 gives you a glimpse of a space shuttle.
Fixating on Fixed-Wing Aircraft
When many people think about flying a military aircraft, they're thinking about flying a fixed-wing airplane. Although you can find many different kinds of fixed-wing aircraft, the following sections cover the major types that you encounter as a military aviator.
Fighter aircraft are designed to gain air superiority over the battlefield and to ensure the safety of U.S. service members from enemy air counterstrikes. Later, fighter aircraft deliver ground munitions. The Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcon, a proven performer in the U.S. arsenal, is a typical modern example of a fighter aircraft (see Figure 1-4).
The F-22 Raptor, a much more modern fighter aircraft, was designed to counter an increased air-to-air threat. Although the production is currently limited to fewer than 200 airframes, this aircraft is an example of a technologically superior airframe that the United States can rely on to project might well into the 21st century. You can see this aircraft in Figure 1-5.
Attack aircraft don't have a primary air-to-air mission but rather serve as effective weapons in air-to-ground (on land) or air-to-surface attack operations (on sea). The A-10 Thunderbolt II — also affectionately known as the "Warthog" — gained notoriety during the Gulf War for its successful use as a ground attack aircraft. Check it out in Figure 1-6.
Multirole fighter/attack aircraft
Today's military has developed and widely deployed multifaceted fighter/attack aircraft capable of both air-to-air operations and precision ground attack and bombing operations. The Naval F/A-18 Hornet and the F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter are examples of this type of aircraft. This multirole aircraft is replacing the former attack- or fighter-specific aircraft with one aircraft fully capable of performing both missions and therefore increasing battlefield flexibility for military commanders. Figures 1-7 and 1-8 give you a look at these aircraft.
Bombing enemies' production assets on a mass scale is one of the major factors in past U.S. military victories. Today, the carpet-bombing strategies of past wars are long gone; they've been replaced by sophisticated, electronically shadowed aircraft capable of surprising enemies by delivering lots of precision-guided weapons, all while avoiding electronic detection. The B-2 Spirit bomber (more commonly known as the stealth bomber) is a long-range, first-strike aircraft with these capabilities (see Figure 1-9).
The cargo mission consists of operations to resupply troops, troop movement, aero medical operations (similar to medivac), airborne operations (such as parachuting soldiers who drop behind enemy lines), and humanitarian assistance. When the job requires rapidly transporting personnel or goods far and quickly, the cargo pilot and flight crew are the ones that get the job done.
One cargo aircraft is the C-130 Hercules, which can operate in remote and underdeveloped locations because of its capability to land on unimproved roads and fields. The Air Force, Navy, and Coast Guard rely heavily on this workhorse, shown in Figure 1-10, to achieve their missions.
Another, longer-range cargo aircraft capable of delivering combat military troops and equipment to distant lands is the C-17 Globemaster III. The C-17 (see Figure 1-11) is one of the newer aircraft in today's military air inventory; it enables rapid ground force employment worldwide and has been used with great success in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Reconnaissance and surveillance aircraft gain critical, time-sensitive intelligence information. The mission can range from standard intelligence-gathering and battlefield surveillance to electronic countermeasures. Airborne Early Warning and Control (AEW&C; some earlier systems are also known as Airborne Warning and Controls System or AWACS) aircraft provide radar coverage on the battlefield, direct targets, and distinguish between enemy and friendly aircraft.
AEW&C works for both defensive and offensive operations and directs fighter aircraft to targets as directed by higher headquarters. An example of an AEW&C aircraft is the E-2 Hawkeye aircraft, shown in Figure 1-12, which is capable of being launched from an aircraft carrier. The Air Force utilizes a larger AWACS aircraft, the E-3 Sentry (see Figure 1-13), for electronic countermeasures and battlefield control functions.
Rounding Up Rotary-Wing Aircraft
Not all helicopters are created equal, especially in the military. Certain abbreviations let you know the particular role of rotary-wing aircraft: UH for utility helicopter, AH for attack helicopter, CH for cargo helicopter, and OH for observation helicopter. The following sections break down these categories in more detail.
From air assault operations to the command and control mission to the life-saving flying medical and rescue crews, utility helicopters serve as one of the primary contingents of military rotary-wing aviation. Examples of this type of aircraft range from the UH-60 Blackhawk (see Figure 1-14) to the HH-65 Dauphin (see Figure 1-15).
Attack helicopters primarily function as anti-tank weapons platforms and support infantry forces on the ground. The mission of the attack helicopter is multifaceted; one of its main jobs is as a first-strike weapon, crossing deep into enemy territory to destroy air defense assets prior to fixed-wing bombing campaigns. The two primary services that use this type of aircraft are the U.S. Army and U.S. Marine Corps, which both commonly have troops engaged in close combat. The U.S. Army utilizes the AH-64 Apache (see Figure 1-16), and the U.S. Marine Corps utilizes the modernized AH-1 Cobra (see Figure 1-17).
Cargo helicopters provide short-distance combat air assaults and cargo operational support very close to or behind the front lines. Additionally, these types of helicopters regularly transport troops to different operating outposts and perform special-use missions. Examples of cargo helicopters are the CH-47 Chinook and the CH-46 Sea Knight, shown in Figures 1-18 and 1-19, respectively.
Observation helicopters are smaller aircraft primarily utilized to make a light attack and to give the ground commander a real-time operational look at the battlefield. The OH-58D Kiowa Warrior in Figure 1-20 is an example of an observation helicopter that has been enabled with light armament.
Brushing Up on Basic Military Rank Structure
As a pilot in today's military, you're either a commissioned officer or a warrant officer. If you don't know a commissioned officer from a hole in the ground, never fear. The following sections break down each type of rank classification and give you some insight into the duties you encounter.
Typically, when young men or women enter military service after high school without a college degree, they do so in the ranks of the enlisted personnel. You can enter the enlisted ranks with a college education, and most enlisted personnel attain some sort of advanced degree while in the service (many use service as a way to pay for college); as a whole, though, enlisted ranks are where you find most service members.
When you enter or enlist in the military, you enter into a contract with a specific branch of the military for a given period of time and a given duty or position. Pre-enlistment tests determine whether you can hold the specialty position you want. Enlisted roles may include a Marine assault squad, an Army tank crew, Navy ship personnel, and an Air Force aircraft crew chief, just to name a few. Enlisted personnel are ranks E-1 through E-9.
Many enlisted personnel decide to make the military a career; some later become officers, but many decide to advance up the enlisted ranks and become what are known as non-commissioned officers — leaders and senior leaders who don't hold a commission or appointment by Congress. These noncommissioned officers remain in the trenches, so to speak, and are the backbone of the various military branches. Table 1-1 summarizes the different enlisted ranks for the various service branches.
A warrant officer is a specialty rank that falls between the enlisted ranks and the commissioned ranks. The warrant officer concept evolved out of a need to recruit, promote, and retain professional technical support at a higher level than could be found in the noncommissioned ranks (see the preceding section for more on noncommissioned officers). As a warrant officer, you get higher pay and the normal privileges of an officer, but you typically aren't considered a supervisor. (As this rank has evolved, ranks above warrant officer one — abbreviated WO1 — have come to be considered commissioned officers and can technically command a unit if no commissioned officers are available.) The rank structure of warrant officers begins at WO1 and goes all the way up to CW5 (chief warrant officer five). At various points in their careers, many warrant officers decide to become supervisors and opt to become commissioned officers. (Head to the following section for information on commissioned officers.)
Excerpted from Military Flight Aptitude Tests For Dummies by Terry J. Hawn, Peter Economy. Copyright © 2013 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. Excerpted by permission of John Wiley & Sons.
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