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Monster Machines: Northrop's Flying Ram Would Have Sliced Enemy Planes Midair

War drives technological innovation like little else. No proposal is too ambitious, impractical, or downright foolhardy for consideration if it provides a strategic advantage. This school of thinking has led to atomic bombs, autonomous vehicles, and, in 1945, a short-lived fighter prototype that could cut through enemy aircraft in midair.


Monster Machines: This Absurd Flying Whale Ushered In A New Age Of Stealth Technology

Not every program DARPA undertakes can be another Big Dog — the agency has had its fair share of fizzled experiments over the years — but even those failures can yield exciting new insights. Just look at the Northrop Tacit Blue, a plane so unwieldy it incorporated more redundancy than the Space Shuttle but also demonstrated the potency of curved stealth design.


Monster Machines: The Grandfather Of The Space Shuttle Looked Like A UFO

In the late 1950s, at the dawn of the Space Age, the idea that a wingless vehicle could somehow generate lift just from its body shape was seen as beyond preposterous. But less than a decade later, this early forerunner of the Space Shuttle proved the design far more science than fiction.


Monster Machines: Boeing's Bird Of Prey

From the U-2 Dragon Lady and A-12 Oxcart, to the SR-71 Blackbird and D-12 Ramjet Drone, there’s been no shortage of exotic aircraft (and UFO sightings) in the skies over Nevada’s Area 51. But among the most extreme examples of bleeding-edge avionic design tested was the otherworldly Boeing Bird of Prey.


The Insane 1950s Flight Sim That Taught WWII Airmen To Refuel In Midair

Performing a midair fuel transfer between aircraft is among the most technically challenging maneuvers in aviation, especially when flying a prop-driven, WWII-era C-97 Stratotanker. That’s why neophyte pilots spent hours at the controls of this life-size simulator before they ever set foot in the real thing.


The Only Thing Keeping The F-35 Lightning Relevant Is The F-22 Raptor

Even if they are primarily just cheap knockoffs, China’s rapidly growing fleet of next-gen aircraft are poised to seriously challenge American air superiority in the coming years. To prevent that, argues Chief of US Air Force Air Command Command Gen. Michael Hostage, the US will need plenty of fifth-generation fighters of its own — no matter the cost.


Monster Machines: The Prototype Fighter Jet That Was Just Never Quite Good Enough

Despite the US military’s robust budget, not every design makes it onto the battlefield. In fact, only a select number of the very best designs ever actually fly. So what the hell was the USAF thinking choosing the defect-ridden F-22 Raptor over this gorgeous jet?


This Is How The US Air Force Showers Its Giant Cargo Planes

Ever wondered how the US Air Force cleans its planes? Here’s one way: They use a giant shower on a runway — or a planewash if you must. Here you can see it cleaning the salt accumulated on a Lockheed Martin WC-130 Hercules after flying through storms over the Gulf of Mexico.


Monster Machines: America's First Supersonic Interceptor Was A Flying Bottle Rocket

When the Soviet Tupolev Tu-4 bomber made its debut in 1949, it was more than a big deal. This reverse-engineered Boeing B-29 Superfortress gave the Russians intercontinental strategic strike capabilities that the existing US fleet of F-61 Black Widows and F-82 Twin Mustangs simply couldn’t compete with. The American response: Build a better interceptor. Enter the F-94 Starfire.


Monster Machines: The Ryan Firebee, Grandfather To The Modern UAV

America’s fleet of surveillance and attack drones are far older than most people realise. While the unmanned platforms have certainly come into the spotlight since the start of the War on Terror, they’ve actually been dutifully getting shot out of the sky on behalf of our national interests since World War I. And one of the most impressive — and impressively named — of their ranks was the Ryan Firebee.