Air Force expecting to have hypersonic weapons by 2020 - We Are The Mighty
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Air Force expecting to have hypersonic weapons by 2020

The Air Force will likely have high-speed, long-range and deadly hypersonic weapons by the 2020s, providing kinetic energy destructive power able to travel thousands of miles toward enemy targets at five-times the speed of sound.


“Air speed makes them much more survivable and hard to shoot down. If you can put enough fuel in them that gets them a good long range. You are going roughly a mile a second so if you put in 1,000 seconds of fuel you can go 1,000 miles – so that gives you lots of standoff capability,” Air Force Chief Scientist Greg Zacharias told Scout Warrior in an interview.

While much progress has been made by Air Force and Pentagon scientists thus far, much work needs to be done before hypersonic air vehicles and weapons are technologically ready to be operational in combat circumstances.

“Right now we are focusing on technology maturation so all the bits and pieces, guidance, navigation control, material science, munitions, heat transfer and all that stuff,” Zacharias added.

Zacharias explained that, based upon the current trajectory, the Air Force will likely have some initial hypersonic weapons ready by sometime in the 2020s. A bit further away in the 2030s, the service could have a hypersonic drone or ISR (intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance) vehicle.

“I don’t yet know if this is envisioned to be survivable or returnable. It may be one way,” Zacharias explained.

A super high-speed drone or ISR platform would better enable air vehicles to rapidly enter and exit enemy territory and send back relevant imagery without being detected by enemy radar or shot down.

By the 2040s, however, the Air Force could very well have a hypersonic “strike” ISR platform able to both conduct surveillance and delivery weapons, he added.

A weapon traveling at hypersonic speeds, naturally, would better enable offensive missile strikes to destroy targets such and enemy ships, buildings, air defenses and even drones and fixed-wing or rotary aircraft depending upon the guidance technology available.

Air Force expecting to have hypersonic weapons by 2020
Hypersonic Technology Vehicle | DARPA

A key component of this is the fact that weapons traveling at hypersonic speeds would present serious complications for targets hoping to defend against them – they would have only seconds with which to respond or defend against an approaching or incoming attack.

Hypersonic weapons will quite likely be engineered as “kinetic energy” strike weapons, meaning they will not use explosives but rather rely upon sheer speed and the force of impact to destroy targets.

“They have great kinetic energy to get through hardened targets. You could trade off smaller munitions loads for higher kinetic energy. It is really basically the speed and the range. Mach 5 is five times the speed of sound,” he explained.

The speed of sound can vary, depending upon the altitude; at the ground level it is roughly 1,100 feet per second. Accordingly, if a weapon is engineered with 2,000 seconds worth of fuel – it can travel up to 2,000 miles to a target.

“If you can get control at a low level and hold onto Mach 5, you can do pretty long ranges,” Zacharias said.

Although potential defensive uses for hypersonic weapons, interceptors or vehicles are by no means beyond the realm of consideration, the principle effort at the moment is to engineer offensive weapons able to quickly destroy enemy targets at great distances.

Air Force expecting to have hypersonic weapons by 2020
Hypersonic Missile | Lockheed Martin

Some hypersonic vehicles could be developed with what Zacharias called “boost glide” technology, meaning they fire up into the sky above the earth’s atmosphere and then utilize the speed of decent to strike targets as a re-entry vehicle.

For instance, Zacharias cited the 1950s-era experimental boost-glide vehicle called the X-15 which aimed to fire 67-miles up into the sky before returning to earth.

China’s Hypersonic Weapons Tests

Zacharias did respond to recent news about China’s claimed test of a hypersonic weapon, a development which caused concern among Pentagon leaders and threat analysts.

While some Pentagon officials have said the Chinese have made progress with effort to develop hypersonic weapons, Zacharias emphasized that much of the details regarding this effort were classified and therefore not publically available.

Nevertheless, should China possess long-range, high-speed hypersonic weapons – it could dramatically impact circumstances known in Pentagon circles and anti-access/area denial.

This phenomenon, referred to at A2/AD, involves instances wherein potential adversaries use long-range sensors and precision weaponry to deny the U.S. any ability to operate in the vicinity of some strategically significant areas such as closer to an enemy coastline. Hypersonic weapons could hold slower-moving Navy aircraft carriers at much greater risk, for example.

An April 27th report in the Washington Free Beach citing Pentagon officials stating that China successfully tested a new high-speed maneuvering warhead just last week.

“The test of the developmental DF-ZF hypersonic glide vehicle was monitored after launch Friday atop a ballistic missile fired from the Wuzhai missile launch center in central China, said officials familiar with reports of the test,” the report from the Washington Free Beacon said. “The maneuvering glider, traveling at several thousand miles per hour, was tracked by satellites as it flew west along the edge of the atmosphere to an impact area in the western part of the country.”

X-51 Waverider

Scientists with the Air Force Research Laboratory and the Pentagon’s research arm are working to build a new hypersonic air vehicle that can travel at speeds up to Mach 5 while carrying guidance systems and other materials.

Air Force senior officials have said the service wants to build upon the successful hypersonic flight test of the X-51 Waverider 60,000 feet above the Pacific Ocean in May of 2013.

The Air Force and DARPA, the Pentagon’s research entity, plan to have a new and improved hypersonic air vehicle by 2023.

The X-51 was really a proof of concept test designed to demonstrate that a scram jet engine could launch off an aircraft and go hypersonic.

Air Force expecting to have hypersonic weapons by 2020
X-51A | DARPA

The scramjet was able to go more than Mach 5 until it ran out of fuel. It was a very successful test of an airborne hypersonic weapons system, Air Force officials said.

The successful test was particularly welcome news for Air Force developers because the X-51 Waverider had previously had some failed tests.

The 2013 test flight, which wound up being the longest air-breathing hypersonic flight ever, wrapped up a $300 million technology demonstration program beginning in 2004, Air Force officials said.

A B-52H Stratofortress carried the X-51A on its wing before it was released at 50,000 feet and accelerated up to Mach 4.8 in 26 seconds. As the scramjet climbed to 60,000 feet it accelerated to Mach 5.1.

The X-51 was also able to send back data before crashing into the ocean — the kind of information now being used by scientists to engineer a more complete hypersonic vehicle.

“After exhausting its 240-second fuel supply, the vehicle continued to send back telemetry data until it splashed down into the ocean and was destroyed as designed,” according to an Air Force statement. “At impact, 370 seconds of data were collected from the experiment.”

This Air Force the next-generation effort is not merely aimed at creating another scramjet but rather engineering a much more comprehensive hypersonic air vehicle, service scientists have explained.

Hypersonic flight requires technology designed to enable materials that can operate at the very high temperatures created by hypersonic speeds. They need guidance systems able to function at those speeds as well, Air Force officials have said.

The new air vehicle effort will progress alongside an Air Force hypersonic weapons program. While today’s cruise missiles travel at speeds up to 600 miles per hour, hypersonic weapons will be able to reach speeds of Mach 5 to Mach 10, Air Force officials said.

The new air vehicle could be used to transport sensors, equipment or weaponry in the future, depending on how the technology develops.

Also, Pentagon officials have said that hypersonic aircraft are expected to be much less expensive than traditional turbine engines because they require fewer parts.

For example, senior Air Force officials have said that hypersonic flight could speed up a five- hour flight from New York to Los Angeles to about 30 minutes. That being said, the speed of acceleration required for hypersonic flight may preclude or at least challenge the scientific possibility of humans being able to travel at that speed – a question that has yet to be fully determined.

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Russian bombers and patrol planes carry out major probes around Japan

Heightened tensions in the East Asia region increased after Japan scrambled F-15J Eagle fighters in response to Russian military activity.


According to a report by the Daily Mail, the first incident involved a pair of Tu-95 “Bear” strategic bombers. Japan then scrambled the Eagles, which are locally-built versions of the F-15C Eagle in service with the United States Air Force.

The Russians later sent two pairs of maritime patrol planes. One consisted of Tu-142 “Bears,” the other were Ilyushin Il-38 “May” aircraft.

Air Force expecting to have hypersonic weapons by 2020
A Russian Tu-95 Bear ‘H’ photographed from a RAF Typhoon Quick Reaction Alert aircraft (QRA) with 6 Squadron from RAF Leuchars in Scotland. (Photo by Ministry of Defense)

The actions come as the United States and Japan are planning what Reuters called a “joint show of force” in the East China Sea. The United States has sent the Nimitz-class carrier U.S. Carl Vinson (CVN 70) to the area as the tensions have risen, and Japan reportedly plans to deploy destroyers alongside the American carrier.

In March 2017, the United States and Japan conducted joint drills, and Japan sent their newest carrier, the Izumo to the South China Sea.

The Tu-95 “Bear” is Russia’s primary strategic bomber. According to the Naval Institute Guide to World Military Aviation, it has a range of 8,100 nautical miles without aerial refueling.

Depending on the version, it can carry up to 16 AS-15 “Kent” cruise missiles that have nuclear or conventional warheads. The plane can also carry anti-ship missiles or regular bombs.

Air Force expecting to have hypersonic weapons by 2020

The Tu-142 is an antisubmarine-warfare aircraft based on the Tu-95. This plane was exported to India in the 1980s, and it served until late March 2017, when it was replaced with P-8 Poseidon aircraft.

Air Force expecting to have hypersonic weapons by 2020

The Il-38 is a maritime patrol aircraft that is smaller than the Tu-142. According to the Naval Institute Guide to World Military Aviation, the Il-38 has a range of 3,890 nautical miles, a top speed of 390 knots, and can carry up to 11,000 pounds of ordnance.

The Il-38 was involved in a February 2017 incident in which the Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer USS Porter (DDG 78) was buzzed.

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Winston Churchill was a huge party monster who racked up an absurd amount of debt

Air Force expecting to have hypersonic weapons by 2020


Despite Winston Churchill’s popular image, Britain’s most celebrated statesman spent much of his seemingly extravagant life on the edge of a financial cliff, according to retired banker and Oxford history scholar David Lough.

In Lough’s “No More Champagne: Churchill and His Money,” he outlines how Churchill flirted with severe debt while projecting an image of wealth, with his limitless appetite for cigars and champagne.

Churchill’s private finances often threatened his political career, which spanned more than a half century, including two stints as prime minister.

To compensate for his financial woes, Churchill focused on becoming a prolific writer; however, his prose wasn’t enough on its own, Lough notes.

So Churchill took an emergency bank loan, which brought his borrowings to £30,000 in 1925, or $2.1 million at current exchange rates and adjusting for inflation (inflation multiples: UK£ x 50).

Feeling the financial pinch, Churchill made several budget cuts to Chartwell, his country estate, in the summer of 1926.

He began by selling all of the cattle, chickens, pigs, and ponies housed on the estate.

Churchill cut the estate’s monthly expenses, which cost nearly $33,400 (£480) and included food, wages, maintenance, and cars, in half.

“Nothing expensive is to be bought, by either of us, without talking it over,” Churchill wrote to this wife Clementine, according to Lough.

“No more champagne is to be bought. Unless special directions are given only white or red wine, or whisky and soda will be offered at luncheon, or dinner. The Wine Book to be shown to me every week. No more port is to be opened without special instructions.”

“Cigars must be reduced to four a day. None should be put on the table; but only produced out of my case.”

In addition to the proposed savings, the Churchills would “very rarely, if at all,” invite guests over to the estate and would discontinue serving fish during dinner.

Within a year, Churchill’s cost-saving plan unraveled and his family shipped off for a lengthy cruise around the Mediterranean.

Air Force expecting to have hypersonic weapons by 2020

While traveling, Churchill added a stop to Normandy to enjoy a wild pig-hunt with the duke of Westminister and the duke’s new girlfriend Coco Chanel.

Churchill made a second detour to a nearby casino and gambled away $24,350 (£350).

Meanwhile, Churchill was still dodging bills from his architect Philip Tilden who was hired in 1923 to build a new wing to the Chartwell estate.

According to Lough, the Churchill’s wanted “larger bedrooms, new bathrooms and kitchen, a library, a large study, and a room for entertaining.”

At the time, Churchill had not approved Tilden’s building cost estimates before work began on Chartwell. The swelling modernization costs soared, resulting in a series of allegations and delayed payments for Tilden.

“There were renewed threats of legal action on both sides, but the financial trail disappears at this point because Churchill’s bank accounts for the last part of 1927 and 1928 are missing from his archive,” Lough notes.

In 1927, the Chartwell estate and its furnishings are estimated to have cost at least $2,783,400 (£40,000), nearly triple Churchill’s original estimate.

Churchill went on to become prime minster in 1940 and helped craft a successful Allied strategy against the Nazi’s during World War II.

He was elected prime minister again in 1951, however, his financial woes shadowed the remainder of his life.

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Navy Secretary Ray Mabus ends SEAL’s military career in whistleblower scandal

Rear Adm. Brian L. Losey’s promotion to two-star has been denied by Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus, the Washington Post reports. This action will effectively end the admiral’s career. The decision comes after Congress pressured the SECNAV by threatening to hold up the confirmations of other Navy officials.


Air Force expecting to have hypersonic weapons by 2020
Rear Adm. Brian L. Losey, commander of Naval Special Warfare Command, delivers remarks during the Naval Special Warfare Group (NSWG) 1 change of command ceremony at Naval Amphibious Base Coronado.  (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class John R. Fischer)

Losey, an Air Force Academy graduate and Navy SEAL, has been due for promotion since October 2015, about the time he was accused of illegally punishing three people under his command in a witchhunt for anonymous whistleblowers who reported him for a travel policy infraction. The inspector general’s investigations upheld three of the five accusations that Losey had retaliated against the whistleblowers.

Losey is a veteran of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as Panama, Bosnia, and Somalia. He once commanded SEAL Team 6 and served as military aide at the White House.

Air Force expecting to have hypersonic weapons by 2020
U.S. Navy Rear Adm. Brian Losey, commander of Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa, gathers up his paracute after jumping from a U.S. Air Force C-130 Hercules just outside of Camp Lemonnier, Djibouti, May 15. He jumped to keep proficient and to keep his qualification current; he has completed over 800 jumps. (DoD photo)

“The failure to promote does not diminish the achievements of a lifetime of service,” a Navy representative said in a statement. “While the full scope of his service may never be known, his brilliant leadership of special operators in the world’s most challenging operational environments…reflected his incredible talent, energy, and devotion to mission. There are few in this country whose contributions to national security have been more significant.”

Despite Congressional pressure, a board of admirals recommended Losey for promotion anyway, a recommendation rejected by Mabus. The Navy told The Washington Post that Losey’s time at the helm of the Special Warfare Command would soon end and that he would soon be putting in for retirement.

 

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This gunner fell 22,000 feet without a parachute and lived

Paratroopers make a big deal about jumping out of planes from 800 feet, but U.S. Army Air Force Staff Sgt. Alan Magee fell out of a plane at 22,000 feet without a parachute while the plane was on fire.


And he lived.

Magee was a ball turret gunner in a B-17 named “Snap! Crackle! Pop!” after the three mascots for Rice Krispies cereal. That plane, along with others from the 360th Squadron, was sent to bomb German torpedo stores in St. Nazaire, France on Jan. 3, 1943.

During the mission, the plane was shot by anti-aircraft guns and became a ball of flames. Magee climbed into the fuselage to get his chute and bail out, but it had been shredded by the flak. As Magee was trying to figure out a new plan, a second flak burst tore through the aircraft and then a fighter blasted it with machine gun fire.

Air Force expecting to have hypersonic weapons by 2020

Magee was knocked unconscious and thrown from the aircraft. When he woke up, he was falling through the air with nothing but a prayer.

Magee told God, “I don’t wish to die because I know nothing of life,” according to reports from the 303rd Bomb Group.

Magee, struggling with a shortage of oxygen and likely in shock from the events of the past few minutes, passed out again and God seemingly answered his prayer. The young noncommissioned officer fell into the town of St. Nazaire and through the glass roof of the train station. He was later found dangling on the steel girders that supported the ceiling.

The glass had slowed his fall and he regained consciousness as German soldiers took him to medical care. Magee’s right leg and ankle were broken, he had 28 wounds from shrapnel and glass, and his right arm was cut nearly the whole way off. He had also suffered numerous internal injuries.

“I owe the German military doctor who treated me a debt of gratitude,” Magee said. “He told me, ‘we are enemies, but I am first a doctor and I will do my best to save your arm.'”

Magee was able to keep his arm and eventually made a full recovery. He spent most of the rest of the war as a POW.

In 1995, Magee was invited back to France as part of a ceremony sponsored by French citizens to thank Allied service members for their efforts in the war. Magee was able to see monuments to the crew of Snap! Crackle! Pop!, including the nose art which had been used as a Nazi trophy until after the war when a French man recovered it. It was restored in 1989.

Magee died in 2003.

(h/t War History Online)

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This is what an air-to-air war between Russia and the US in Syria would look like

After the US downed a Syrian jet making a bombing run on US-backed forces fighting ISIS, Russia threatened to target US and US-led coalition planes West of the Euphrates river in Syria.


But while Russia has some advanced surface-to-air missile systems and very agile fighter aircraft in Syria, it wouldn’t fare well in what would be a short, brutal air war against the US.

The US keeps an aircraft carrier with dozens of F/A-18E fighters aboard in the Mediterranean about all the time and hundreds of F-15s and F-16s scattered around Turkey, Qatar, and Jordan.

According to Omar Lamrani, a senior military analyst at Stratfor, a geopolitical analysis firm, Russia has “about 25 planes, only about ten of which are dedicated to air superiority (Su-35s and Su-30s), and against that they’ll have to face fifth-gen stealth fighters, dozens of strike fighters, F-15s, F-16s, as well as B-1 and B-52 bombers. And of course the vast US Navy and pretty much hundreds of Tomahawks.”

Air Force expecting to have hypersonic weapons by 2020
USS George H.W. Bush. Photo courtesy of the US Navy

“Russians have a lot of air defenses, they’re not exactly defenseless by any means,” Lamrani told Business Insider, “But the US has very heavy air superiority.” Even though individual Russian platforms come close to matching, and in some ways exceed the capability of US jets, it comes down to numbers.

So if Russia did follow through with its threat, and target a US aircraft that did not back down West of the Euphrates in Syria, and somehow managed to shoot it down, then what?

“The US coalition is very cautious,” said Lamrani. “The whole US coalition is on edge for any moves from Russia at this point.”

Lamrani also said that while F/A-18Es are more visible and doing most of the work, the US keeps a buffer of F-22 stealth jets between its forces and Russia’s. If Russia did somehow manage to shoot down a US or US-led coalition plane, a US stealth jet would probably return fire before it ever reached the base.

Air Force expecting to have hypersonic weapons by 2020
USAF photo by Greg L. Davis

At that point the Russians would have a moment to think very critically if they wanted to engage with the full might of the US Air Force after the eye-for-an-eye shoot downs.

If US surveillance detected a mass mobilization of Russian jets in response to the back-and-forth, the US wouldn’t just wait politely for Russians to get their planes in the sky so they can fight back.

Instead, a giant salvo of cruise missiles would pour in from the USS George H. W. Bush carrier strike group, much like the April 7 strike on Syria’s Sharyat air base. But this time, the missiles would have to saturate and defeat Russia’s missile defenses first, which they could do by sheer numbers if not using electronic attack craft.

Air Force expecting to have hypersonic weapons by 2020
U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Ford Williams

Then, after neutering Russia’s defenses, the ships could target the air base, not only destroying planes on the ground but also tearing up the runways, so no planes could take off. At this point US and Coalition aircraft would have free reign to pass overhead and completely devastate Russian forces.

Russia would likely manage to score a couple intercepts and even shoot down some US assets, but overall the Russian contingent in Syria cannot stand up to the US, let alone the entire coalition of nations fighting ISIS.

Russia also has a strong Navy that could target US air bases in the region, but that would require Russia to fire on Turkey, Jordan, and Qatar, which would be politically and technically difficult for them.

This scenario of a hypothetical air war is exceedingly unlikely. Russia knows the numbers are against them and it would “not [be] so easy for the Russians to decide to shoot down a US aircraft,” according to Lamrani.

Air Force expecting to have hypersonic weapons by 2020
Photo courtesy of Russian state media

And Russia wouldn’t risk so much over Syria, which is not an existential defense interest for them, but a foreign adventure to distract from Russia’s stalled economy and social problems, according to Anna Borshchevskaya, an expert on Russia’s foreign policy in the Middle East at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

“Russia is not a great power by most measures, like GDP, population, living standard,” Borshchevskaya told Business Insider. “Russia has steadily declined. It’s still a nuclear power, but not world power.”

In Syria, “a lot of what Putin is doing is about domestic policies,” said Borshchevskaya, and to have many Russian servicemen killed in a battle with a US-led coalition fighting ISIS wouldn’t serve his purposes domestically or abroad.

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This Afghan warlord gave up the fight in exchange for amnesty

Notorious former Afghan warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar has held talks with government representatives in eastern Afghanistan after years outside the country, his first public meetings with officials from the Western-backed government since the U.S.-led invasion in 2001.


The meetings on April 28 came after Hekmatyar’s Hezb-e Islami militant group signed a peace agreement with President Ashraf Ghani’s government in September. Under the deal, he was granted amnesty for past offenses in exchange for ending his violent 15-year insurgency against the government.

The controversial peace deal has been criticized by many Afghans and by Western rights groups, which accuse Hekmatyar’s forces of gross human rights violations during Afghanistan’s civil war in the 1990s and cite their deadly attacks on U.S. and Afghan forces since 2001.

Air Force expecting to have hypersonic weapons by 2020
The war in Afghanistan began in 2001 with the aim of removing the Taliban from power.  (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Dexter S. Saulisbury/Released)

Hekmatyar met on April 28 with Laghman Province Governor Abdul Jabar Naimi and Ghani’s security adviser, Juma Khan Hamdard.

He arrived two days earlier in the province, which lies between Kabul and the border with Pakistan, where he is believed to have been in hiding.

Naimi said Hekmatyar had “promised full cooperation” with the government and added that he hoped the peace deal would “revive hopes for enduring peace in Afghanistan,” according to a statement.

Hekmatyar had been expected to make a public appearance in Laghman on April 28, marked in Afghanistan as the 25th anniversary of the defeat in 1992 of the formerly Soviet-backed government by armed insurgents known as the mujahedin.

But the event was canceled without explanation.

A Hezb-e Islami spokesman told RFE/RL that Hekmatyar’s appearance had been rescheduled for April 29.

Hekmatyar’s supporters have erected large billboards across Kabul in anticipation of his first public appearance.

Hekmatyar founded Hezb-e Islami in the mid-1970s. The group became one of the main mujahedin factions fighting against Soviet forces following their invasion in 1979, and then one of the most prominent groups in the bloody civil war for control of Kabul after the Soviet withdrawal in 1989.

Hekmatyar, a former prime minister under the mujahedin government, was one of the chief protagonists of the internecine 1992-96 war. Rights groups accuse Hekmatyar of responsibility for the shelling of residential areas of Kabul in the 1990s, as well as forced disappearances and covert jails where torture was commonplace.

Also read: 600 Fort Bliss soldiers prepare to deploy to Afghanistan and Iraq

He was designated as a terrorist by the U.S. State Department in 2003.

Under the peace agreement, Hekmatyar will be granted amnesty for past offenses and certain Hezb-e Islami prisoners will be released by the government. The deal also includes provisions for his security at government expense.

In February, the UN Security Council lifted sanctions on Hekmatyar, paving his way to return to Afghanistan.

The controversial peace deal was a breakthrough for Ghani, who so far has had little to show for his efforts at ending the country’s 16-year war.

While the military wing of the Hezb-e Islami led by Hekmatyar has been a largely dormant force in recent years and has little political relevance in Afghanistan, the deal with the government could be a template for any future deal with fundamentalist Taliban militants who have also fought Kabul’s authority.

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UK sinks ‘Boaty McBoatface’; USAF may have to shoot down similar names

In an effort to drum up interest in the council’s efforts and in science in general, Britain’s Natural Environment Research Council launched a public poll last month to determine the name of its new $300 million advanced research vessel.  The winner was “Boaty McBoatface,” four times more popular than the next best suggestion, the “Poppy-Mai,” which would have named the boat after a 16-month-old girl with cancer.  The UK’s Science Minister, Jo Johnson sunk the suggestion this week, telling NPR the boat needed a more appropriate moniker.


Air Force expecting to have hypersonic weapons by 2020

In March 2016, the U.S. Air Force launched a similar initiative to name its latest Long Range Strike Bomber, the B-21. The Air Force, like America, does not trust its citizens with direct democracy and does not allow the general public to vote on the name. It also is not publishing names for consideration. A few of the names floating around the Air Force’s tweet on the B-21’s name floated TrumppelinDeathkill Eaglehawk Firebird Hoora! Testosterone, and (of course), Bomby McBombface.

Air Force expecting to have hypersonic weapons by 2020

Voting for the B-21’s name is limited to members of the U.S. Air Force active duty force, Air Force Reserve and Air National Guard components, their dependents, members of the U.S. Air Force Civil Service and U.S. Air Force retirees. There also exists a complete set of contest rules and regulations.

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Air Force fighter crashes near D.C.

An Air Force F-16C jet has crashed just outside of Washington, D.C.


The aircraft went down in Clinton, Maryland, on Wednesday at about 9:15 a.m. after the pilot was seen ejecting, WJLA reported.

Air Force expecting to have hypersonic weapons by 2020
A U.S. Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcon flies over Iraq in support of Operation Inherent Resolve April 5, 2016. (Photo: U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Corey Hook)

Officials said the pilot ejected safely and sustained non-life threatening injuries.

The jet was from the 113th Fighter Wing of the Air National Guard out of Joint Base Andrews, according to Military.com.

It was flying a routine training mission when it went down roughly six miles from Andrews.

This story is developing and will be updated.

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The F-35A cockpit is like something out of a movie

The Air Force’s new F-35A multi-role, stealth Joint Strike Fighter brings an unprecedented ability to destroy targets in the air, attack moving enemies on the ground and beam battlefield images across the force in real time, an Air Force pilot told Scout Warrior in a special interview.


The stealth fighter makes it much easier for pilots to locate, track, and destroy enemy targets across a wide range of combat circumstances  including attacks from farther ranges than existing fighters can operate, the F-35A pilot said.

Air Force expecting to have hypersonic weapons by 2020
An F-35A Lightning II from Hill Air Force Base, Utah, takes off from Nellis AFB, Nev., Feb. 2, 2017, during Red Flag 17-01. This is the first F-35A deployment to Red Flag since the Air Force declared the jet combat ready in August 2016. (U.S. Air Force photo by R. Nial Bradshaw)

Speaking to Scout Warrior as part of a special “Inside the Cockpit” feature on the F-35A, Air Force Col. Todd Canterbury, a former F-35 pilot and instructor, said the new fighter brings a wide range of new technologies including advanced sensors, radar, weapons for attack and next-generation computers.

Although he serves now as Chief, Operations Division of the F-35 Integration Office at the Pentagon, Canterbury previously trained F-35 pilots at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. Canterbury is uniquely positioned to know the F-35’s margins of difference because he has spent thousands of hours flying legacy aircraft such as the service’s F-15 and F-16 fighters.

“The F-35 is a dream to fly. It is the easiest airplane to fly. I can now focus on employment and winning the battle at hand as opposed to looking at disparate information and trying to handle the airplane,” Canterbury told Scout Warrior.

Canterbury was referring to an often-discussed technological advance with the F-35 called “sensor fusion,” a system which places radar, targeting, navigation and altitude information on a single integrated screen for pilots to view.

As a result, pilots can rely upon computer algorithms to see a “fused” picture of their battlespace and no longer need to look at different screens for targeting coordinates, air speed, mapping and terrain information, sensor feeds or incoming data from a radar warning receiver.

The F-35s Electro-Optical Targeting System, or EOTS, combines forward-looking infrared and infrared search and track sensor technology for pilots — allowing them to find and track targets before attacking with laser and GPS-guided precision weapons.

Air Force expecting to have hypersonic weapons by 2020
Lt. Col. Christine Mau, 33rd Operations Group puts on her helmet before taking her first flight in the F-35A at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Marleah Robertson)

“I can turn my head and look left or right. There is an aiming cross on my helmet, an aiming symbology that tells me how to get there. The system will swivel over to the point on the ground I have designated,” Canterbury described.

The EOTs system is engineered to work in tandem with a technology called the Distributed Aperture System, or DAS, a collection of six cameras strategically mounted around the aircraft to give the pilot a 360-degree view.

“I can look through the airplane and see the ground below me. I can look directly below me without having to obscure my vision,” Canterbury said.

The DAS includes precision tracking, fire control capabilities and the ability to warn the pilot of an approaching threat or missile.

The F-35 is also engineered with an Active Electronically Scanned Array Radar which is able to track a host of electromagnetic signals, including returns from Synthetic Aperture Radar, or SAR. This paints a picture of the contours of the ground or surrounding terrain and, along with Ground Moving Target Indicator, or GMTI, locates something on-the-move on the ground and airborne objects or threats.

Also read: This is why Trump’s announcement about 90 F-35s was a big deal

The F-35’s software packages are being developed in increments; the Marine Corps declared their Short-Take-off-and-Vertical-Landing F-35B with software increment or “drop” 2B.

Block 2B builds upon the enhanced simulated weapons, data link capabilities and early fused sensor integration of the earlier Block 2A software drop. Block 2B enables the JSF to provide basic close air support and fire an AMRAAM (Advanced Medium Range Air to Air Missile), JDADM (Joint Direct Attack Munition) or GBU 12 (laser-guided aerial bomb), JSF program officials have said.

The next increment, Blocks 3i will increase the combat capability even further and Block 3F will bring a vastly increased ability to suppress enemy air defenses.

The Air Force plans to reach operational status with software Block 3i this year. Full operational capability will come with Block 3F, service officials said.

Block 3F will increase the weapons delivery capacity of the JSF as well, giving it the ability to drop a Small Diameter Bomb, 500-pound JDAM and AIM 9X short-range air-to-air missile, Air Force officials said.

Air Force expecting to have hypersonic weapons by 2020
F-35A smiling for the camera. (Photo: Lockheed Martin)

Canterbury also talked about how Air Force engineers and experts were making progress building a computer library in the aircraft called the Mission Data Files.

“Experts are working feverishly to catalogue all of the threats we might face,” he said.

Described as the brains of the airplane, the mission data files are extensive on-board data systems compiling information on geography, air space and potential threats in known areas of the world where the F-35 might be expected to perform combat operations, he explained.

Consisting of hardware and software, the mission data files are essentially a data base of known threats and friendly aircraft in specific parts the world. The files are being worked on at reprogramming laboratory at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., Air Force officials have said.

The mission data packages are loaded with a wide range of information to include commercial airliner information and specifics on Russian and Chinese fighter jets. For example, the mission data system would enable a pilot to quickly identify a Russian MiG-29 if it were detected by the F-35’s sensors.

The mission data files are being engineered to accommodate new threat and intelligence information as it emerges. For instance, the system might one day have all the details on a Chinese J-20 stealth fighter or Russian T-50 PAK FA stealth aircraft.

The first operational F-35A fighters have already been delivered to Hill Air Force Base in Utah, and Air Force leaders say the service has launched some small mini-deployments within the US to prepare the platform for deployment.

Apart from its individual technologies, weapons, sensors and systems, the F-35 is perhaps best appreciated for its multi-role capabilities, meaning it can perform a wide range of different missions from close-air support and air-to-ground attack to air-to-air engagements and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, or ISR.

Related: Here’s how the F-35 slaughtered the competition in its latest test

The aircraft’s sensor technologies allow the platform to perform a much greater ISR function than previous aircraft can, giving it a “drone-like” ability to gather and disseminate surveillance information.  As part of this, the F-35 can also use a specially engineered data-link to communicate in real-time with other F-35s and other aircraft and fighter jets.

“With the data-link’s network interoperability, we can talk to each other and talk to fourth-generation aircraft as well,” Canterbury explained.

The F-35A can function as a reconnaissance aircraft, air-to-air fighter, air-to-ground fighter or stealth aircraft engineered to evade enemy air defenses, Canterbury explained.

“While stealth is important in the early phases of warfare to knock out integrated air defenses and allow fourth-generation fighters to fly in, we don’t need stealth all the time,” Canterbury said. “I can use my stealth and electronic attack to see an adversary well before he sees me.”

For instance, the F-35A is well-suited to loiter over an area and provide fire support to units on the ground in a close-in fight.  In order to execute these kinds of missions, the F-35 will have a 25mm Gatling Gun mounted on top of the aircraft operational by 2017.

The F-35 has 11 weapons stations, which includes seven external weapons stations for bombs or fuel.

“If we don’t need stealth, I can load this up with weapons and be a bomb truck,” Canterbury explained.

Eventually, the Air Force plans to acquire more than 1,700 F-35As.

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ISIS is using ‘Mad Max’-style vehicle bombs in Iraq

ISIS fighters are using heavily-armored ‘Mad Max’-style vehicles to deliver suicide bombs to targeted Iraqi and Peshmerga forces in Mosul.


Col. John Dorrian, spokesperson for Operation Inherent Resolve, showed off a photo of one of the vehicles the terrorist group has been using in Mosul for vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices, or VBIEDs.

Also read: Iraqi troops reveal more gruesome ISIS handiwork in Mosul

“It’s reminiscent of a Mad Max vehicle, with armored plating in the front to protect the driver until he can detonate the explosives he’s carrying on board,” Dorrian said in a Pentagon briefing on Wednesday, according to The Washington Examiner.

Air Force expecting to have hypersonic weapons by 2020
DoD

As the photo shows, a driver and the vehicle’s engine block are very well-protected from small arms fire due to thick armor plating and what appears to be bulletproof glass. Since they are much tougher to take out by ground forces, Dorrian said that more than 60 of the vehicles have been taken out by US airstrikes.

US forces took out at least three VBIEDs on Wednesday alone. Despite what Dorrian describedas “extremely tough fighting,” ISIS has lost a number of surrounding towns in the fight since the offensive began in October.

Iraqi and Peshmerga forces have made steady gains in and around Mosul since then, and they are now roughly six miles from the city’s Government Center, according to the latest report from the Institute for the Study of War.

“We are advancing steadily,” Lt. Gen. Abdul Wahab al-Saadi, a commander in Iraq’s elite counterterrorism forces, told USA Today. “We are taking in civilians fleeing [ISIS-controlled] areas while prioritizing protecting residents inside the city.”

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New details emerge about the US Navy SEAL killed by ISIS in Iraq

Air Force expecting to have hypersonic weapons by 2020
US Navy Photo


New details about the death of Charlie Keating IV, the Navy SEAL killed by ISIS fire in Iraq on Tuesday, have come to light after the cessation of fighting near Tel Askuf, a town just north of ISIS’ Iraqi capital of Mosul.

US Army Col Steve Warren, the leader of Operation Inherent Resolve, the US-led mission to degrade and destroy ISIS, told reporters at the Pentagon that Keating was part of the quick reaction force (QRF) that responded to a request for help from a small group of US forces approximately two miles away from the front lines between Peshmerga and ISIS forces.

According to Warren, a team of fewer than a dozen US advise-and-assist operatives in Tel Askuf called for help after 120 or so ISIS militants poured into the area using around 20 “technicals,” or commercial vehicles used to transport troops, as well as at least one bulldozer.

“After the enemy forces [punched] through the forward lines there and made their move into Tel Askuf, our forces automatically became kind of embroiled in the ensuing battle,” Warren said, according to the US Naval Institute. “They rapidly called for the quick reaction force and continued on the fight until such time one service member was shot and then medevaced out.”

Within two hours of receiving the call for help, Keating and the QRF were on the scene supporting the US and peshmerga forces against ISIS.

At around 9:32 a.m. Keating “was struck by direct fire, and although he was medevaced within the all-important golden hour, his wound was not survivable,” according to Warren.

“No other coalition or American forces were injured, though both medevac helicopters were damaged by small arms fire,” Warren added.

“He was killed by direct fire. But this was a gunfight, you know, a dynamic gun fight, so he got hit just in the course of his gun battle — whether it was a sniper or some fighter with his AK is unclear … This was a gunfight so there were bullets everywhere,” Warren explained.

Air Force expecting to have hypersonic weapons by 2020
A still from a Peshmerga video acquired by The Guardian shows a US Blackhawk medivac helicopter rushes to the scene of the fighting where Keating was killed. | The Guardian

The clash continued for about 14 hours, with US air support eventually dealing decisive blows against the advancing ISIS forces.

“Coalition air responded with 31 strikes taken by 11 manned aircraft and two drones. Air power destroyed 20 enemy vehicles, two truck bombs, three mortar systems, one bulldozer [and] 58 [ISIS] terrorists were killed. The Peshmerga have regained control of Tel Askuf,” said Warren.

Footage of the firefight obtained by The Guardian shows the US troops fighting alongside the Peshmerga, as well as medevac helicopters rushing to the scene.

On Wednesday, US Secretary of Defense Ash Carter described Keating’s death as “a combat death, of course. And very sad loss.”

Air Force expecting to have hypersonic weapons by 2020
Photos released by ISIS that show some of the technicals used in assault on Tel Askuf. | USNI

However, President Barack Obama has repeatedly avoided using the term “boots on the ground,” and steered away from describing Special Operations deployments to Iraq and Syria as taking a combat role.

Instead, Obama explained on April 25 that a deployment of 250 Special Operations troops to Syria was “not going to be leading the fight on the ground, but they will be essential in providing the training and assisting local forces that continue to drive [ISIS] back.”

Warren maintained that the primary role of US troops in Syria would be to advise and assist, but the events on Tuesday that left Keating and several Peshmerga soldiers dead shows just how quickly these missions can turn into full on combat.

General Wahid Kovali, the leader of a Peshmerga counter-terrorism unit that fought alongside the US forces, told The Guardian that Keating and the QRF “were very good fighters.”

Keating joins Louis Cardin and Joshua Wheeler as the only three US forces killed by ISIS in Iraq.

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The Air Force is looking into disposable drones to be ‘unmanned wingman’

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. — After the “explosive” increase in the capabilities of unmanned aerial systems over the last 15 years, the challenges for the future are to develop the ability to avoid being shot down and to reduce the cost of operating and processing the data coming from what the Air Force calls “remotely piloted aircraft,” a panel of industry and Pentagon officials said Sept. 20.


The RPAs have proven their value for collecting intelligence and conducting precision strikes in the 15 years of constant combat since 9/11. But that all has happened in a permissive environment against adversaries that have no air forces or even integrated air defenses, the officials said during a presentation at the Air Force Association’s Air, Space, Cyber conference.

Air Force expecting to have hypersonic weapons by 2020
Airman 1st Class Steven and Airman 1st Class Taylor prepare an MQ-9 Reaper for flight during Combat Hammer May 15, 2014, at Creech Air Force Base, Nev. Fighter, bomber and remotely piloted aircraft units around the Air Force are evaluated four times a year and provided weapons, airspace and targets from Hill AFB, Utah, or Eglin AFB, Fla. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. N.B.)

Although the experts agreed that developing the ability to operate RPAs against high-tech adversaries in the future was crucial, none offered any proposals on how to do that. The Air Force already has some unmanned aircraft with stealth capabilities that allow them to reduce detection by enemy radars. And the Navy is planning to field a carrier-based UAS that will function primarily as an airborne tanker but also will have ISR capabilities.

Kenneth Callicutt, director of Capabilities and Resources at the U.S. Strategic Command, noted that other sensor platforms, such as the E-3 AWACs and E-8 JSTARS, also would be at risk in a future high-end conflict. So the issue would be how to get the sensors forward, he said.

Callicutt suggested that the solution could be the “unmanned wingman,” a low-cost RPA that could be operated by a manned aircraft into high-risk conditions.

James Gear, an advanced systems official with L3 communications, suggested one option could be deciding between the current reusable aircraft or expendable platforms.

“There are times when you don’t want to be burdened to recover that system,” he said.

But others raised the issue of justifying throw away sensor platforms in the current tight budget situation.

Tom Clancy, chief technology officer with Aurora Flight Science Corp, noted that with the great increase in capabilities that RPAs give the warfighters, the way they evolved led to a situation “where it takes more people to operate them than manned aircraft.”

Looking forward, Clancy said, the question is, “how can we deliver on lower cost, deliver more capability at lower cost? That leads to autonomous systems. … As a community, we need to drive to that.”

Christopher Pehrson, a strategic development director at General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, offered two other options to cut the cost of using RPAs to collect intelligence. One, he said, would be to allow a ground commander on the scene to control the aircraft, rather than controllers at a remote location. He also suggested it would be cheaper to have a person who knows the region and the culture of the adversary to handle the ISR data, rather than trying to develop automated systems to process it.

Callicutt raised two other issues created by the proliferation of RPAs collecting vast amounts of data – how to get that data to those who need it and the limited amount available electromagnetic “bandwidth.”

He noted that Link 16, currently the best secure system of transmitting data between military systems, was created in 1964.

“I submit it’s time to start thinking about the next battle network,” and cited the concept of the “combat cloud” that senior Air Force officials have proposed. That would be a secure version of the cloud currently used by individuals and corporations to store their computer files.

“It’s no secret, we need better communications, like the combat cloud,” Callicutt said.

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