Sophistication and Practicality Meet in Military Aviation

The use of aircraft in warfare dates as far back as the 1790s when French forces used an observation balloon to watch the movements of Austrian troops in the Battle of Fleurus. A similar type of “lighter than air” flyer was also used during the U.S. Civil War and in World Wars I and II.

However, with the development and perfection of “heavier than air” flying machines during World War II, military aviation has become a crucial and sophisticated part of modern warfare. This in turn has created great advantages for the U.S. military and its contractors.

Today’s military aircraft are broken down into seven main categories, each with its own specific attributes and distinct role in battle.

Ground-Attack Aircraft – These planes provide support for friendly ground troops. They carry either conventional or nuclear weapons behind enemy lines to attack enemy ground targets. Attack helicopters are a prime example of ground-attack aircraft.

Fighters – Destroying enemy aircraft during air-to-air combat is the main role of a fighter. These planes are fast, very maneuverable, and can carry a variety of weapons such as machine guns and guided missiles. Some of the modern fighters can attack even while a great distance away from the enemy.

Bombers – Heavier and less maneuverable than fighters, bombers generally carry large supplies of weapons to be dropped on ground targets. Some single-engine bombers can be operated by a single pilot while those with two or more engines are operated by crews of two or more.

Multirole Combat Aircraft – These are fixed-wing aircraft that can operate in the role of a bomber or fighter, depending on what is needed.

Reconnaissance Aircraft – The role of these planes is to gather intelligence about enemy troops and their movements through the use of special electronic gear. This includes photographic and infrared sensors, radar, and sonar—all of which can warn of an enemy’s approach. Along with reconnaissance aircraft, intelligence is now also gathered by spy satellites and unmanned aerial vehicles such as drones.

Transports – As the name implies, this type of plane moves troops and supplies to where they are needed. Cargo can be unloaded either on the ground or dropped by parachute. This category also includes aerial tankers that refuel other planes in flight as well as helicopters and gliders that can bring human or mechanical cargo where other planes cannot.

Experimental Aircraft – From these designs, the aircraft of the future will grow. Experimental planes are built to test advanced concepts in aviation and propulsion as well as aerodynamics and structure.

Throughout the remainder of the 21st century, the use of aviation in the military will continue to expand with the development of ever more sophisticated aircraft and weaponry, leading to the ultimate goal of keeping our troops safe in all situations. Governments and international agencies can depend upon private contractors like including DynCorp, Lockheed Martin Corporation, and Boeing to both service and operate those aircraft at home and abroad.

Article Contributed by: Tanya Smith