Finish Out Your New Year’s Day With Some Of The War Zone's Best Reads Of 2018

What a crazy year it has been. It went by so fast, but It’s like jumping in Doc Brown’s Delorean and taking a trip back in time just looking through the hundreds of articles we posted over the last 12 months, which ranged from humor pieces to exclusives on undisclosed secret programs. What a wild ride it’s been. 

With this in mind, we thought it would be fun to package up some of our favorite pieces of 2018 all in one place. If anything else, it serves as some great New Years Day reading and is a good sampling of what we do here on a daily basis. 

So without further adieu, here’s our year in review:

Confessions Of…

Without a doubt, our most popular series of features is our ongoing long first-hand accounts from those who have been there and done that. As we put in our recent letter to our readers:

“Often times, our readers become the subjects of our biggest and best pieces. Their stories, their insights, and their unique points of view are a huge part of what makes us different. I always envisioned this concept as a space that relies heavily on the perspectives of those who worked on the lower decks, or spent their careers in cockpits, foxholes, hangars, machine shops, and laboratories, and not as another showcase for the polished buzzword-filled speak from the Pentagon’s brass or those with corner offices in corporate towers. This site is often about the unsung heroes of the defense apparatus that deserve to have their voice heard.”

Here are those pieces from 2018:

  • Confessions Of An E-2C Hawkeye Radar Operator
  • What It’s Like To Work Inside The Navy’s Secretive China Lake Weapons Development Center
  • Tales Of Nuclear Cruiser USS Long Beach From A Sailor Who Built His Career Aboard Her
  • Recollections Of Life At Sea And Some Advice From A U.S. Navy Force Master Chief
  • Confessions Of A U.S. Marine F/A-18 Hornet Maintainer

Big Exclusives

We here at The War Zone are always striving to bring our readers a little extra no matter what the story, but 2018 was a great year for being able to offer exclusive looks at military systems and programs that you just couldn’t find anywhere else. Here are some highlights:

  • Exclusive: Unmasking The F-15X, Boeing’s F-15C/D Eagle Replacement Fighter
  • Here’s The F-22 Production Restart Study The USAF Has Kept Secret For Over A Year
  • The Air Force’s Elite Weapons School Has Given The F-35 A New Nickname
  • Markings On Scaled Composites’ ARES Confirm Its Connection To Mysterious Model 401 Jets
  • Exclusive Images Unmask Name Of Scaled Composites’ Mysterious Model 401 ‘Son Of Ares’ Jet
  • Exclusive Photos: Lockheed Skunk Works’ X-44A Flying Wing Drone Breaks Cover
  • Exclusive: Lockheed Skunk Works’ X-44A Flying-Wing Drone Revealed
  • This Is What A Boeing F-32 Would’ve Looked Like If Lockheed Lost The JSF Competition
  • Northrop Grumman Plans To Upend Aerial Surveillance Market With Their Optionally Manned Firebird
  • Lockheed’s Wayne Roberts On Looping The Hercules, Test Flying, And All Things C-130

In the news

To put it mildly, 2018 was a big year for big news, from Donald Trump’s historic meeting with North Korean Premier Kim Jong Un to the ever-evolving conflict in Syria to major developments in international treaties and arms control deals, just to name just a few. It would be impossible to cover it all again quickly, but here is a sampling of our coverage and analysis of some of the biggest events:

  • Syrian Standoff: Kurds Ask Assad For Help Fighting Turkish Forces As Americans Leave
  • What Pulling Out Of The Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty Means And What Comes Next
  • Iran To Practice Blockading Strait Of Hormuz As Saudis Say Mandeb Strait Is No Longer Safe
  • A USAF C-17 Flew A Secretive Mission Into Yemen To Rescue Wounded Emirati Troops In 2017
  • First Images Of New VH-92 Marine One Helicopter Landing On White House Lawn
  • China’s J-20 Stealth Fighter Stuns By Brandishing Full Load Of Missiles At Zhuhai Air Show
  • Recent MALD-X Advanced Air Launched Decoy Test Is A Much Bigger Deal Than It Sounds Like
  • Kim And Company Arrive In Singapore Via A Procession Of Chinese And North Korean Jets (Updated)
  • American General In Syria Confirms US Forces Killed Hundreds Of Russians In Massive Battle
  • Here’s The Six Super Weapons Putin Unveiled During Fiery Address
  • Kim Jong Un’s Praetorian Guards Are Really A 100,000 Man Personal Army

Secretive units and missions

There’s a whole black world of U.S. military units and operations and it can be very challenging to get official information about these activities. But we’re always keeping our eyes open for new information or other released details or statements that give new insights into this shadowy world. Here are some examples from 2018 of how we cover this unique space like nobody else:   

  • Censored Craft Near Hangar Appears In Satellite Image Of Secretive Tonopah Test Range Airport
  • Shedding Some Light On The Air Force’s Most Shadowy Drone Squadron
  • Congressman Details Integration Issues With The B-21’s Exotic Air Inlet Design
  • Mysterious B-21 Raider Combined Test Force Patch Emerges
  • The Dark World Of USAF Special Ops Air Refuelers And Their Modified KC-135RT Tankers
  • This Isn’t An Early B-2 Cockpit Mockup, It’s For A Previously Undisclosed Special Ops Transport
  • Listen To This Highly Interesting Radio Recording Of The F-117’s Latest Flight Over Nevada
  • U.S. Special Operations Command’s Elusive Mothership Is Packing Stealth Speedboats
  • We Have More Info On The Presidential Motorcade’s New Satcom-Packing Super Truck

Bitten by the Black Widow

One of our goals in 2018 was to create an ongoing series examining the story of an aircraft that has taken on a near cult following—Northrop’s YF-23. The aircraft lost the Advanced Tactical Fighter competition to the YF-22, but even nearly three decades after that tender was awarded, the YF-23 remains one of the most enigmatic and misunderstood aircraft of our time. We are working hard to connect the dots and paint a more realistic picture of what the aircraft was and what it wasn’t. Here are our features that aimed to do just that and stay tuned for more installments in 2019:

  • This Is What A Northrop F-23A Would’ve Looked Like If It Had Beaten Lockheed’s F-22
  • The YF-23’s Weapons Bay Layout Was One Of Its Best Features And One Of Its Worst
  • The YF-23’s Air Inlet Design Was Its Most Exotic Feature You Never Heard Of

The venerable A-10 Warthog

2018 was a particularly significant year for the future of the A-10 Warthog ground attack aircraft and we made sure to keep tabs on it every step of the way. Our own Tyler Rogoway also got the unfortunate news that a program to turn one of the jets into an armored storm-chaser had finally come to an inglorious end. Here a sampling of our ongoing coverage on the A-10’s plight:

  • What’s To Come Of The A-10 Now That It Has Lost Its Loudest Defenders In Congress?
  • The U.S. Air Force Is Hiding Its Controversial Flyoff Between the A-10 and F-35
  • The Tragic Tale Of The A-10 Thunderhog Storm Chasing Jet That Almost Was
  • The Storm Chasing A-10 Thunderhog Program Is Officially Dead, Jet To Be Returned To USAF
  • Watch The “Final Cut” Of A Glowing Film About The A-10 That The USAF Tried to Suppress

The hypersonic craze

There were a number of stand-out military technologies that routinely grabbed headlines in 2018, but hypersonic weapons were a particularly important topic of discussion. The United States, Russia, and China, all showed off significant developments during the year ranging from boost-glide vehicles to high-speed aircraft to electromagnetic railguns. Staying on top of this rapidly changing technological landscape isn’t easy, but thankfully we decided early on to prioritize it in 2018: 

  • USAF, Army, and Navy Join Forces To Field America’s First Operational Hypersonic Weapon
  • Putin Announces Early ‘New Years Gift’ Of Successful Hypersonic Glide Vehicle Test
  • This Is Our Best View Yet Of China’s Ship-Mounted Railgun Prototype
  • Video Appears To Show China Testing Hypersonic Glide Vehicles Via High Altitude Balloon
  • Boeing’s Hypersonic Valkyrie Will Likely Struggle To Catch Up With Lockheed’s SR-72
  • The Pentagon Spent Decades Developing Hypersonic Anti-Tank Missiles, Then They Vanished

Battlefield space

With talk of a possible new U.S. military branch, the Space Force, as well as reports of new space-based capabilities and threats emerging in the United States and among potential opponents, its safe to 2018 was a big year for discussing the realities of a battlefield in space.

  • Exclusive: Russian MiG-31 Foxhound Carrying Huge Mystery Missile Emerges Near Moscow
  • Russia Just Launched Five Objects Into Space. One Problem, There Were Supposed To Be Four
  • China’s Lunar Satellites Could Stab U.S. Early Warning Satellites In The Back
  • Six Down To Earth Questions We Have About Trump’s Space Force
  • Here’s Why The USAF Is Suddenly Talking Cargo Drops From Space And Spying On Other Galaxies
  • The Secret Zuma Spacecraft Could Be Alive And Well Doing Exactly What It Was Intended To
  • Failure To Launch? Pentagon’s Space Force Plan Could Hamstring The New Service’s Leadership
  • Strategic Command Boss Makes Case For Satellites Capable Of Tracking Hypersonic Vehicles
  • Congress Demands Space-Based Missile Defense Weapons and Sensors No Matter What

Mysteries solved and unsolved

There is nothing we love more here at The War Zone than a good mystery. This year hasn’t disappointed in that department. Some of these we’ve been happy to debunk. Others, though, remain unexplained in one way or another and we continue to keep our eyes and ears open for new developments:

  • You Need To Hear These FAA Tapes From That Oregon UFO Incident That Sent F-15s Scrambling
  • Detailed Official Report On Harrowing Encounter Between F/A-18s and UFO Surfaces
  • Piper Aircrew Saw Bright Orange Glowing Object During Strange Encounter Over Long Island
  • Learjet And Airbus Had Strange Encounter With Mysterious Craft Over Arizona
  • These Are Real Pentagon Reports On Warp Drive, Extra Dimensions, Anti-Gravity, And More
  • Let’s Talk About That Mysterious ‘Rocket Launch Over Whidbey Island’ Photo
  • Now Massive Plumes Of Chaff Are Lighting Up Radar Over Maine and Florida Too
  • Listen As Multiple Airline Pilots Report Very High-Speed Unidentified Objects Over Ireland (Updated)
  • Here’s What That Commando Laden UH-60 Black Hawk Was Doing Whipping Around Chicago
  • That Qatari Royal Flight 747-8i That’s Up For Sale Just Made A Very Strange Flight To Istanbul

Making our case

It’s no secret that we here at The War Zone are passionate about certain topics. We’re often eager to make our case and 2018 saw us argue a number of points we felt were especially important:

  • Fizzled Singapore Summit Showcases North Korea’s Art Of Not Making A Deal
  • Pentagon’s New Nuclear Strategy Is Unsustainable And A Handout To Defense Industry
  • The Compelling Case For Turning S-3 Vikings Into The Navy’s New MQ-25 Tanker Drone
  • No, The Su-57 Isn’t ‘Junk:’ Six Features We like On Russia’s New Fighter
  • Rogoway’s Reviews: First Man Is A Stunningly Raw Tale Of Rockets And Reality
  • Russia Proved How Stupid Western Media Is At Defense Reporting With This Ridiculous Contraption
  • No, Assassination By Drone Isn’t A New Concept, I Have Been Warning Of It For Years
  • Rogoway’s Reviews: Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan
  • Please, U.S. Air Force, Don’t Let Trump Schlock Up Air Force One’s Iconic Appearance
  • It’s Not What Trump Said About Germany At The NATO Summit, It’s How He Said It
  • Navy’s Revamped Stealth Destroyer Looks Less Stealthy As It Leaves San Diego For Trials
  • Don’t Be So Quick To Blame Trump’s No-Show At WWI Ceremony On The President Himself
  • No, Israel’s Interest In Buying New F-15s Isn’t A Referendum On The F-35
  • Where Were The Fiscal Hawks When The Navy Threw Itself The Mother Of All Flying Parades?
  • Boeing’s T-X Win Is Really Much Bigger Than Just Building A Replacement For The T-38
  • China Is Surging Forward With Its Development Of Advanced Stealth Combat Drones
  • Not A Surprise: North Korea Is Back To Publicizing Weapons Tests Overseen By Kim Jong Un

Historical interludes

We here at The War Zone are as much students of military history as we are of the latest technology. It’s hard to truly understand the significance of one without the other and we’ve made sure to find time for deep dives into many historical topics, too:

  • SR-71’s “R2-D2” Could Be The Key To Winning Future Fights In GPS Denied Environments
  • This Is The Only Photo Of A U.S. Navy Supercarrier Being Sunk (Updated)
  • White House Sinkhole Is A Reminder Of The Bunkers That Are Buried Beneath It
  • The Navy’s Giant Hangar That Housed The Hindenburg Hides A Mock Aircraft Carrier Inside
  • F-117 Program Used These Futuristic Hand Scanners While Highly Classified In The ’80s
  • Navy’s Blue Ridge Class Command Ships Once Had This Wacky Air Defense Missile System
  • Take A Rare Glimpse Inside The Navy’s Massive Blue Ridge Class Command Ships
  • The Talos Missile Had A Wonderfully Complex Shipboard Assembly Line Of A Launch System
  • The Harrowing Tale Of The Nuke-Laden Russian Typhoon Class Sub That Almost Sunk In 1991
  • This Massive Naval Exercise In 1989 Was The Pinnacle Of U.S. Cold War Maritime Might
  • The OV-1 Mohawk Was One Of The U.S. Military’s First Forgotten Light Attack Planes
  • The British Army Hoped This Rifle Could’ve Helped Halt The American Revolution
  • Watch This Haunting Video Of Gunner Being Buried At Sea In Badly Damaged Torpedo Bomber
  • The Time Air Force One Took Evasive Maneuvers To Defend Itself Against Syrian MiGs
  • Check Out This Vintage Mystery Navigation Screen In The Conn Of A Sturgeon Class Nuke Sub
  • Old Coast Guard Tower In The Atlantic Is The Unlikely Star Of Hurricane Florence Coverage
  • The U.S. Sold This Unique Stealth Drone Called ‘Scarab’ To Egypt In The 1980s
  • George Bush Saved The CIA
  • USS Desert Ship Sits In A Sea Of Sand And Launched The Navy To The Forefront Of Missile Tech
  • Veteran Aerospace Reporter’s Old File Cabinet Is Full Of 2000s Military Treasure

So much more

Beyond these easy to categorize posts of major significance and interest, one of the most popular features of our site is how we cover major events as they unfold. We activated our rolling coverage operations on a few occasions this year. We largely broke the stolen Q-400 commuter plane story this summer and we went wall to wall for over 24 hours straight feeding our readers the best intelligence we could find on what was happening during the trilateral cruise missile strikes on Syria earlier in the year. Smaller events, like when the Norwegian Helge Ingstad frigate ran aground or when Russia’s largest dry dock sunk also sent us into reporting overdrive. 

We even covered the unique nexus where the military world intersects with video game universe—from those who have actually operated above the surface of the earth and below it. But above all else, our most hard-hitting and important item of the year has to be our intrepid reporting on this issue of massive impact.

Thanks for reading and we plan to kick 2019 off in a big way with a very special feature that you won’t want to miss that should post tomorrow, so stay tuned for that!

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