Watch Air Warriors

They are some of the most advanced military aircraft in the world. The V-22 Osprey tilt-rotor. The AH-64 Apache attack helicopter. The F-15 Eagle jet fighter. See the histories and capabilities of these and other aircraft, along with the contributions they have made in numerous conflicts.

Sundays on Smithsonian CHANNEL
6 Seasons, 24 Episodes
November 9, 2014
Documentary & Biography, History
7.9/10
Cast: Brady Cummins, Tristan Wickersham
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Air Warriors Full Episode Guide

  • The Japanese's A6M Zero was the most feared airplane at the beginning of World War II, designed to cause death and destruction on an incredible scale. With the legendary Zero leading the charge, the Imperial Japanese Navy dominated the Pacific, from Pearl Harbor to Wake Island to the Philippines. To have a shot of winning the war, the U.S. Navy needed to somehow beat this fast, nimble, and lightweight killer. Their solution: exploit the Zero's flaws by pitting its agility against the muscle of the F4U Corsair.

  • The Supermarine Spitfire is spotlighted.

  • It was one of the most unique and deadly warplanes of World War II, with devastating agility and unmatched speeds of over 400 mph. But before the P-38 Lightning seized control of the air from the Japanese and the Germans, some of its pilots were forced to learn on the job. Follow its dogfighting journey, from Alaska to Africa and from Berlin to Tokyo, as the Lightning earned its name, blazing into battle and delivering a killer strike into the hearts of its enemies.

  • For over five decades, the Russian MiG aircraft has been American airpower's fiercest rival, taking on U.S. fighter jets in Korea, Vietnam, and Iraq. But it first took flight against a common enemy: Nazi Germany. Follow the evolution of this quick, durable, and powerful menace in the skies, from its shaky start in the Second World War to its recent and deadly incarnations. See how its ongoing battle with the U.S. for air superiority has compelled both nations to develop better tactics, training, and aircraft.

  • The OV-10 Bronco is the Swiss Army Knife of military aviation, faster than a helicopter, more maneuverable than a jet, and able to provide optimal support for troops on the ground in the most difficult of environments. Follow the journey of this light attack aircraft, from its humble origins five decades ago in the garage of two Marines to its heroic missions in Vietnam. Then see how a disastrous role in Desert Storm nearly grounded the warbird for good until it got a shot at redemption two decades later against ISIS.

  • In modern warfare, those who remain hidden in the skies gain a clear advantage, and there is no spy plane as undetectable as the F-22 Raptor. Get the inside story of how this war machine became the Air Force's premier stealth fighter, from taking on ISIS over the skies of Syria to chasing mysterious bombers over the Alaskan border. Combat footage of the F-22 and its predecessors plus interviews with pilots provide a rare look at this fast, powerful, and sneaky warrior. From World War II to the Cold War to the fight against ISIS, follow America's quest to build the perfect invisible plane.

  • It's called Double Ugly, the Rhino, and MiG Killer, but to the Navy, Air Force, Marines, and even NASA, the McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom is known for being one of the greatest frontline fighters of all time. Witness the remarkable story of an aircraft that was built for the Cold War, chased rockets to advance the Space Race, and transformed itself to serve in Vietnam and Iraq. It's a tale that spans six decades, beginning with a supersonic bang and ending in a blaze of glory.

  • Witness the creation, life, and early retirement of a marvel of World War II naval aviation: the Grumman F6F Hellcat.

  • The AC-130 is a heavyweight in a class of its own. The massive gunship brings unparalleled cover for troops on the ground and sheer force to enemy skies, day and night. With its revolutionary side-firing design, the AC-130 revolutionized close air support in the 1960s, but was nearly shelved after its weakness was exposed during Operation Desert Storm. Join us as we show how the latest generation of the plane provides further protection to ground troops as we examine the rise, fall, and rebirth of this legendary Air Warrior.

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