Monday, July 14, 2014

Generations: Jet Fighters and Home Consoles - Part 4

Gen 7 & 8 Gaming and Gen 4.5 & 5 Fighters

We live in interesting times both for home consoles and jet fighters, due to the fact that generations of both are overlapping and the replacement of one over the other is coming slowly.

For Gen 7 in gaming the only loss so far is the generation’s best known platform the Nintendo Wii, replaced by the somewhat tenuous WiiU. Meanwhile the Xbox 360 and Xbox One as well as the PS3 and PS4 stand toe to toe with only limited replacement of one over the other. The recent release of Watch Dogs for instance is proof that all four systems are still very much alive.

In the world of jet fighters we are beginning to see Gen 4 lingering on as Gen 4 staples see upgrades that make them as high tech as the Gen 5 fighters set to replace them. Advances in CAD engineering, radar, communications, weapon systems, and avionics have developed faster than aerospace engineers can design aircraft to embody them all. With that said the high price of developing new aircraft from scratch has dissuaded the US Military from development,and forcedthe upgrading of existing airframes, and retrofitting new tech to them, while leaving new aircraft development to drones. In a way the need to make drones ever smaller and on the edge of technology has been baring gifts to piloted aircraft as well. Retrofitted and upgraded versions of the F/A-18, F-15, and F-16 rule the skies, and although they look like gen 4 aircraft, they are a generation more advanced than the “A” variantsof each that first entered service three or more decades before. With that said they are still the deadliest aircraft in the skies, and will be for some time to come.
Pic Wii and F-16

The F-16 entered the service 36 years ago and was developed 40 years ago. But don’t let its age fool you, it’s considered to be one of the world’s premier fighter aircraft, and in its time has proven itself again, and again in battle. The F-16 has scored countless air-to-air kills, and has run thousands of strike sorties in a fighter/bomber role. The F-16 also serves as the USAF’s current world ambassador in its role with their famed flight team “The Thunderbirds” where these red, white and blue beauties, adorned with a large Eagle painting on the bottom show off both the F-16, and USAF’s pilot capability. Although the USAF is the world’s number one user of the F-16, the plane has prime place in many other air forces around the world as a top of the line air superiority fighter. The F-16 promises to live a long life, as new technology constantly upgrades the aircraft, giving even greater capability then its designers first imagined.
Of all of Gen 7’s consoles the Wii is by far the best well known and the one you are most likely to see in a home with kids. The Wii was designed to be a family friendly wireless system, that finally fulfilled Nintendo’s dream of having a system that required users to be fully interactive and up and moving, something they strove for since Gen 3 with the NES’s Power Pad. The Wii was not just a great success as a video game platform, but also as an entertainment console as well. With its app’s and internet capability the Wii became the primary way many of us first got to experience streaming movies services such as Netflix, and Amazon Prime. Although the Wii has been discontinued it still lives a very vigorous life, and seems to be outshining its successor the WiiU.


Pic F-15 and XBOX 360

Do you like those stories that go: this lead to that, which lead to this, which lead to that? The F-15 is kind of like that. The USAF made the XB-70, so the Soviets made the Mig-15 to counter that, so the F-15 was made to counter that. The F-15 is a monster that was built to succeed the F-4 Phantom II, and was designed to overcome all of the F-4’s shortcomings. The F-15 has done that in spades and like its USAF brother the F-16, the F-15 has been proven in battle and has scored countless air-to-air kills, and has run thousands of strike sorties in a fighter/bomber roll. The F-15 also like the F-16 is considered to be a top of the line air superiority fighter both within the USAF’s ranks as well as international air forces. The F-15 like the F-16 is under constant upgrades, and will prove to have a long life. In addition to this the F-15 has had  one additional role added to it that is super-awesome, Satellite Killer. The F-15 can climb to high altitude at nearly a 90 degree angle and launch a missile that can shoot down enemy satellites, something successfully tested a few years ago on an obsolete communications satellite. Let’s just say that the “air” in air superiority fighter means a lot more than normal for the F-15.

The XBOX 360 started as the first Gen 7 system on the market beating the PS3 and Wii into the market by nearly a year. With its wireless ergonomic controller the XBOX 360 finally unchained gamers from their consoles. Nintendo and Sony would follow suit and the Gen 7 market would be a true slugfest between the 360 and PS3 for serious gamers. But the 360 had a surprise up its sleeve the Kinect, a totally wireless, controller-less interactive gaming system. The Kinect wouldn’t exactly appeal to hard core gamers but made the XBOX 360 more family friendly as a gaming device, and with its voice activated tech gave an added level of integrated entertainment to the XBOX 360’s multimedia capability. Overall, the XBOX 360 like the F-15 ended up becoming the technological winner of its generation thanks to its surprise capability with the Kinect leaving the PS3 to itself play catch up.


Pic PS3 and F-18

 The F/-18 Hornet is the current darling of the US Navy, and with a coat of Navy Blue and Yellow it takes to the skies as the current aircraft used by the world famous Blue Angels.  Of all the aircraft ever used by the Navy the F-18 has to be the best looking and most graceful in the role of a Blue Angel.  The F-18 is sleek, fast, and the one of the finest specimens of a jet fighter to have ever graced the skies.  Outside of the famous exhibition team the F/A-18 has an important role with the US Navy as their primary fighter bomber, replacing such venerable aircraft as F-14, A-4, and A-6, on the flight deck. The F-18 has an interesting history as well, actually starting out as the YF-17 a competitor of the F-16 in a competition for the USAF’s next light interceptor. The Air Force passed on the YF-17 but the Navy showed interest, and the design changed hands from Northrup to McDonnell-Douglas and became known as the YF-18 with MD modifications to the design. The Navy initially bought the F-18 on to replace the aging A-7, but as time passed on the Hornet was modified, upgraded, and upsized into the Super Hornet which is where it is now. The F/A-18 has served in many combat roles, and proven itself as a highly capable fighter/bomber.

 The PS3 held its own against the 360 and Wii in Gen 7 but like the F/A-18 with the Navy, had some big shoes to fill walking behind its predecessor the PS2. The Playstation name garners a lot of loyalty with players that dates back as far as original Playstation in the late 90’s, and the PS3 didn’t fail to disappoint these fans. The PS3 became known for its fantastic controllers, its online capability, and it’s built in Blue Ray player, as well as its fantastic library of games including new installments to the Gran Turismo, and Ratchet & Clank series, as well as exclusives like The Last of Us. However, the PS3 did find itself following behind in Gen 7 after the Kinect came out for the 360, and all Sony could muster was an odd looking Wii-esque controller with a blue ball on top.  


Pic WiiU and F-22

 The F-22 Raptor is destined to be the replacement for the F-15, F-16, and F-117 with the USAF. The aircraft is impressive, and is one of the most advanced jet fighters in the world with unprecedented capability. But the F-22 has arrived in an era  of government cutbacks, and of  drones are taking on a more dominate role with the USAF. This means the production is continually started and stopped on the F-22, as money is poured into upgrading existing aircraft, and into new drones.  Many believe that the F-22 may be one of the last manned jet fighters to enter the world’s air forces.

 The WiiU like the F-22 arrived to faded fanfare.  The Wii created a big splash for Nintendo when it came out and was the “must own” system for families. This created a lot of hype for what was to follow with the WiiU, but when the WiiU came out it left many feeling underwhelmed. The system seemed like more of a half step back than it did the way forward. On top of that the big screen display controller for the WiiU, has been plagued with a lot of reliability issues due to lost connectivity with the main console over time. Although the WiiU has found its way into the homes of many long time Nintendo fans, many fear for Nintendo’s future and wonder if the WiiU may be the end of the line for the video gaming powerhouse.


Pic F-35 and PS4

Southwest Airlines manages to help keep its costs down by using one type of aircraft the Boeing 737. This means you aren’t buying a bunch of different parts for a bunch of different planes, but a bunch of parts for one type of plane that can be used on all of your aircraft at any time. I guess the Department of Defense caught on to this idea and asked Boeing and Lockheed to give them a plane that could work for the USAF, NAVY, and Marines. Lockheed came up with the winning design, presenting a fast, carrier capable, VTOL aircraft that could serve all three branches well. The F-35 is not in service yet and is still getting the kinks worked out, but it does promise to be revolutionary even inspiring the Royal Navy to build a whole new class of Aircraft Carriers around them.

 The PS4 started off as nothing more than a slightly supped up PS3. But now Sony is talking VR headsets in an amazing attempt at one-upmanship over Microsoft’s Kinect systems. The new VR systems known as Project Morpheus have made big impressions, with Sony even choosing to show the systems off in a recent episode of The Tonight Show. Having seen the episode I can tell you it was impressive, but with that said the headsets are reminiscent of the big VR headset craze of the mid-90’s that spawned Nintendo’s failed VirtualBoy, as well as short lived VR sessions at amusement parks and larger arcades. Will the PS4 be the technological innovator of Gen 8 giving us something truly awesome, or will it fall flat on its face? Time will tell.


Pic T-50 and XBOX One

Think what you want about Russia, and the old Soviet designers, but Sukhoi has been rocking it for years. The SU-27 Flanker for instance was a dreaded maritime fighter used on Soviet carriers, and featured Thrust Vectoring a technology untapped by western aeronautical engineers. Thrust vectoring allows pilots to uses engine exhaust as an additional way to control the aircraft, outside of the standard operations that rudders, elevators, and ailerons can give them. At a demonstration at the Paris Air Show an SU-27 was able to travel horizontally while the aircraft itself was at a 45 degree angle, looking to similar to a Cobra about ready to strike. The SU-27’s thrust nozzles (afterburner area) where vectored horizontally at a 0 degree angle, while the aircrafts control surfaces gave the plane its odd attitude. At the same airshow the SU-27 also demonstrated twists and turns only possible via its thrust vectoring. Looking to build upon that Sukhoi developed the T-50 a replacement for both the SU-27 and Mig-29 in the Russian military. The aircraft looks similar to its western counterparts the F-22 and F-35, but with the added element of thrust vectoring.

 The XBOX One is an entertainment platform unlike any other. It is “set top box” entertainment technology that we had pounded into our heads over and over again in the 90’s, as we were told about the future of TV and home entertainment. It’s a platform that allows you to play games, watch TV, or entertain yourself in a myriad of other ways simultaneously. So far though the ONE hasn’t been a big hit, and it’s looking like nothing more than another XBOX 360. But, with HALO 5 set to come out next year many are asking if Microsoft has a few surprises up its sleeve before it releases this next of their huge flagship titles. Will the ONE be like the T-50, using its Kinect the same way the T-50 uses thrust vectoring? Time will tell for this one as well, but Gen 8 may turn out to be far more interesting than it is looking right now.

 I hope you have enjoyed this series since it has allowed me to explore two of my passions, aviation, and video gaming. It was fun to do this since both fighters and consoles are categorized by generations, by those “in the know” of their respective communities.




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