Air Force mini-drone swarms will be used for attack, reconnaissance - We Are The Mighty
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Air Force mini-drone swarms will be used for attack, reconnaissance

The Air Force is expected to rapidly increase its fleet of small drones to blanket enemy areas with Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance assets, jam enemy air defenses and potentially use drones as small explosives designed to overwhelm enemy targets with fire power.


The Air Force recently unveiled a Small UAS Road Map which, among other things, calls for the increased use of smaller drones to accomplish missions now performed by larger ones. This includes initiatives to explore algorithms which allow for swarms of mini-drones to perform a range of key ISR and combat functions without running into each other, Brig. Gen. John Rauch, Air Force Director of Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance, told Scout Warrior in an interview.

Having numerous drones operating in tandem creates a redundancy which is significant as it increases the likelihood that a mission can still succeed if one or two drones are shot down by enemy fire.

A small class of mini-drone weapons already exist, such as AeroVironment’s Switchblade drone designed to deliver precision weapons effects.  The weapon, which can reach distances up to 10 kilometers, is engineered as a low-cost expendable munition loaded with sensors and munitions.

Air Force mini-drone swarms will be used for attack, reconnaissance
A Switchblade drone.

Air Force strategy also calls for greater manned-unmanned teaming between drones and manned aircraft such as F-35s. This kind of effort could help facilitate what Defense Secretary Ashton Carter has said about mini-drones launching from a high-speed fighter jet.

Along these lines, Rauch talked about a “loyal wingman” concept wherein larger platforms such as an F-35 or F-22 will be able to control a fleet of nearby drones, drawing upon rapid advances in autonomy and computer technology.

“Teaming is where you might put a couple of different platforms and use them together to perform something. The loyal wingman concept will make an extension of the same aircraft,” he explained.

Part of the progression of this technology incorporates a transition from the current circumstance wherein multiple operators control a single drone to a situation where one human is performing command and control functions for a number of drones simultaneously.

For instance, the Air Force is now advancing a new drone Block 50 Ground Control Station wherein a single operator will perform functions now done by multiple operators.

The new Block 50 will also include auto take-off-and land, within and beyond line of sight capability and an ability to use “open architecture” to integrate new software as technologies emerge, Rauch said.

Predator Retiring

The Air Force is advancing plans to retire the Predator drone by transitioning pilots to the operation of its larger Reaper drone – all while developing small drone technology and expanding technology and mission scope for the Reaper itself, service officials said.

“As we sundown Predator, we will train people from one system to the next to focus on Reaper. The current members that are flying Predators will transition from Predator to Reaper,” Rauch said.

This trajectory for the Reaper is evolving alongside a separate effort to harness increasingly smaller, lighter-weight sensors, transmitters and receivers.

In addition, as technology continues to progress and lead to the miniaturization of sensors, receivers and transmitter and lighter materials, smaller drones are increasingly expected to perform those larger missions currently reserved to large drone platforms.

However, this developmental phenomenon is not likely to lead to a replacement for the larger, weaponized Reaper anytime soon – given its importance to strike and reconnaissance missions.

Air Force mini-drone swarms will be used for attack, reconnaissance
U.S. Air Force

At the same time, Rauch did say the evolution of drone technology will likely lead, ultimately, to a new platform which will replace the Reaper over time.

Over time, the Air Force plans to upgrade the software as well as the arsenal for the Reaper, giving it a wider range of weapons and mission sets.

The idea is to further engineer the Reaper with what’s called “open architecture” such that it can easily and quickly integrate new weapons and technologies as they emerge.

“There are some composites that allow for lighter weight engines that are coming along for power and thrust output. Also, what they might burn can save a lot of fuel – and offer the hope of something miniature able to do theater wide ISR and not just over the next hill,” Rauch said.

Rauch added that the Air Force is now working through various kinds of sensor developments from the largest drones to the smallest ones, analyzing weight, power and sensor fidelity issues.

The Air Force Adds Weapons, Fuel Tanks to Reaper

The Reaper currently fires the AGM-114 Hellfire missile, a 500-pound laser-guided weapon called the GBU-12 Paveway II, and Joint Direct Attack Munitions or JDAMs which are free-fall bombs engineered with a GPS and Inertial Navigation Systems guidance kit, Air Force acquisition officials told Scout Warrior.  JDAM technology allows the weapons to drop in adverse weather conditions and pinpoint targets with “smart” accuracy.

Air Force mini-drone swarms will be used for attack, reconnaissance
Staff Sgt. Randy Broome signals a jammer operator to move a Bomb Rack Unit 61 forward, while loading it onto an F-15E Strike Eagle at Royal Air Force Lakenheath, England, on Aug. 1. The NCO is an aircraft weapons specialist with the 48th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron. | U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Lance Cheung

“Weight starts causing an issue. We will give it an arsenal that rounds out that will be done as test time is available. JDAM is something that is within that realm and AIM-120 changes air to air engagements,” Rausch added.

The Air Force Military Deputy for Acquisition told Scout Warrior in an interview that the service has begun the process of adding new weapons to the Reaper, a process which will likely involve engineering a universal weapons interface.

“We are looking at what kind of weapons do we need to integrate in. We’re looking at anything that is in our inventory, including the small diameter bomb. We’re working to get universal armament interface with an open mission systems architecture,” Lt. Gen. Arnold Bunch told Scout Warrior several months ago.

A universal interface would allow the Reaper to more quickly integrate new weapons technology as it emerges and efficiently swap or replace bombs on the drone without much difficulty, Bunch explained.

“If I can design to that interface, then it costs me less money and takes me less time to integrate a new weapon – I don’t want to go in and open up the software of the airplane. As long as I get the interface right, I can integrate that new weapon much sooner,” he added.

There are many potential advantages to adding to the arsenal of weapons able to fire from the Reaper. These include an ability to strike smaller targets, mobile targets or terrorists, such as groups of enemy fighters on-the-move in pick-up trucks as well as enemies at further ranges, among other things.

Drone attacks from further ranges could reduce risk to the platform and help strikes against Al Qaeda or ISIS targets to better achieve an element of surprise. Furthermore, an ability to hit smaller and mobile targets could enable the Reaper drone to have more success with attacks against groups of ISIS or other enemy fighters that reduce the risk of hurting nearby civilians. Both ISIS and Al Qaeda are known for deliberately seeking to blend in with civilian populations to better protect themselves from U.S. drone strikes.

Also, at some point in the future it may not be beyond the realm of possibility to arm the Reaper for air-to-air engagements as well.

One new possibility for the Reaper drone could be the addition for the GBU-39B or Small Diameter Bomb, Bunch said.

The Small Diameter Bomb uses a smart weapons carrier able to include four 250-pound bombs with a range of 40 nautical miles.  The bomb’s small size reduces collateral damage and would allow the Reaper to achieve more kills or attack strikes per mission, Air Force officials said.

The Small Diameter Bomb, which can strike single or multiple targets, uses GPS precision. It is currently fired from the F-15E, F-16, F-117, B-1, B-2, F-22 and F-35, Air Force officials stated.

Air Force mini-drone swarms will be used for attack, reconnaissance
Raytheon

The Air Force currently operates 104 Reaper drones and has recently begun configuring the platform with additional fuel tanks to increase range. The Reaper Extended Range, or ER as it’s called, is intended to substantially increase and build upon the current 4,000-pound fuel capacity of the drone with a range of 1,150 miles.

The upgrades to Reaper, would add two 1,350-pound fuel tanks engineered to increase the drones endurance from 16 hours to more than 22 hours, service officials said.

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These 6 veterans won medals at the 2020 Tokyo Paralympics

The 2020 Tokyo Paralympics took place from Aug. 25 to Sept. 5, 2021. Team USA was represented at the games by 240 Paralympic athletes. Among them were 18 veterans and three active duty service members, many of whom took home medals at the Beijing, London and Rio Paralympics. For 2020, six of them won nine medals for the US.

Alfredo De Los Santos

Air Force mini-drone swarms will be used for attack, reconnaissance
De los Santos qualifying for the Tokyo Paralympics (U.S. Paralympics Cycling)

Going by the nickname Freddie, De los Santos was born in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. In 1986, he moved to New York to finish high school. He attended the City College of New York where he studied graphic design and went on to work at NYU. Following the attacks on 9/11, De los Santos joined the Army. On October 20, 2009, he was deployed to Helmand Province in Afghanistan where his vehicle was struck by an RPG. De los Santos was wounded in the attack and later lost his right leg above the knee. During his extensive rehabilitation period, he took up handcycling. He competed in the 2016 Rio Paralympics but earned his first medal (bronze) in Tokyo in the mixed team relay. De los Santos still has a passion for art and uses graphic design and abstract painting to illustrate his combat experience.

Ryan Pinney

Air Force mini-drone swarms will be used for attack, reconnaissance
(Left to right) Alicia Dana, Ryan Pinney, and Freddie De los Santos after winning bronze in Tokyo (Team USA)

Pinney was born and raised in Arizona. An avid cyclist, he graduated from Grand Canyon University with a BS in Sport Management. In 2000, Pinney enlisted in the Air Force and served as an inflight refueler. Over his 14 year career, he deployed to the Middle East over 10 times and flew over 100 combat missions. Shortly after returning from a tour in the Middle East, Pinney competed in a bicycle race where he was thrown over the handle bars of his bike. His spinal cord was injured and Pinney was medically retired from the Air Force as a Technical Sergeant. He was able to continue his passion for cycling with a gifted handbike from The Freewheel Foundation. Pinney joined the Air Force Wounded Warrior Team as well as the Paralyzed Veterans of America Racing Team. Tokyo was his first paralympics and he took home bronze in the mixed team relay.

Shawn Morelli

Air Force mini-drone swarms will be used for attack, reconnaissance
Morelli won Team USA’s first medal in Tokyo (Team USA)

Morelli is a Pennsylvania native who commissioned as an Army engineer officer through Marion Military Institute. During her Army career, she served in both Iraq and Afghanistan. In 2007, she was wounded in Afghanistan. An explosion caused severe brain trauma, blindness in her left eye, and damaged her neck and spine. Her cycling career began with a trip to her local bike shop and was propelled by her exposure to competitive cycling at the 2010 Warrior Games. At the 2016 UCI Para-cycling Track World Championships Morelli broke the women’s C4 pursuit world record. In Rio, she took home two gold medals (road time trial, track pursuit) and earned another gold (time trial) plus a silver (individual pursuit) medal in Tokyo.

Ray Hennagir

Air Force mini-drone swarms will be used for attack, reconnaissance
Hennagir talks with teammates during a scrimmage intermission (Team USA)

Hennagir joined the Marines in 2001 and served as a combat engineer. On June 16, 2007, in Zaidon, Iraq, he was wounded by an IED. This led to the amputation of both of Hennagir’s legs as well as four fingers on his left hand. While recovering at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, one of his recreational therapists encouraged him to try out wheelchair basketball. While he enjoyed the sport, it was wheelchair rugby that Hennagir really took after. Still a hard-charging devil dog, he preferred the physicality of wheelchair rugby and strove for the opportunity to compete at the highest level. He got that opportunity in Tokyo where he competed with Team USA’s wheelchair rugby team and helped to bring home silver.

Bradley Snyder

Air Force mini-drone swarms will be used for attack, reconnaissance
Snyder (left) with guide Greg Billington after winning Team USA’s first gold medal in Tokyo (Team USA)

Snyder was born in Nevada but grew up on the beach in Florida where he developed his ability as a swimmer. He went on to swim competitively in high school and at the U.S. Naval Academy where he captained the swim team from 2005-2006. He commissioned as a Naval Officer and completed the grueling 42-week Explosive Ordnance Disposal School. On Sept. 7, 2011, Snyder stepped on an IED in Kandahar. Although the resulting blast did not affect his limbs, Snyder was blinded and lost both of his eyes. A determined sailor and athlete, Snyder battled his disability and immediately began training for the Paralympics. Just one year after his injury, he competed in the London Paralympics and won silver in the men’s 50m free and gold in the 100m free and 400m free. He returned in Rio and won another silver medal (100m back) and three more gold medals (50m free, 100m free, 400m free). In 2018, Snyder transitioned to Paratriathlon. In Tokyo, he won the men’s PTVI race. He is the first U.S. man to win a Paralympic, or Olympic, medal in an individual event in triathlon.

Elizabeth Marks

Air Force mini-drone swarms will be used for attack, reconnaissance
Marks with her silver medal (50m free) in Tokyo (Team USA)

Marks comes from a family with a legacy of military service. In 2008, shortly after her 17th birthday, she joined the Army. While serving in Iraq as a combat medic, Marks sustained bilateral hip injuries. In 2012, nearly two years after her injury, she discovered her gift for competitive swimming during her recovery process. Six months later, Marks was declared fit for duty. More importantly, she was accepted into the Army’s World Class Athlete Program. In 2014, Marks was in London for the inaugural Invictus Games when she became rapidly ill. She was placed on ECMO life support for respiratory failure. She continued to suffer from chronic regional pain syndrome, a result of her original injuries and her time on ECMO. Still, she took home bronze (4x100m medley relay) and gold (100m breaststroke) in Rio. In 2017, Marks underwent left below the knee amputation. Despite this, she continued to train and push herself to excel. Her hard work paid off in Tokyo where she won bronze (50m butterfly), silver (50m freestyle), and gold (100m back). She is an inductee in the Army Women’s Foundation Hall of Fame.

Feature Image: The 2020 Team USA Paralympic Team at the opening ceremony in Tokyo (Team USA)

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This epic video game’s ‘ultimate edition’ facelift paid off

As we endure the long wait for titles like “No Man’s Sky,” “Battlefield 1,” and “Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare,” We Are The Mighty decided to dust off some old games in the archives.


“Gears of War: Ultimate Edition” is the re-mastered version of the 2006 game known for its chainsaw kills, ‘roided up characters, and brutal gameplay. It allows players to fight as Delta Squad soldiers against the dreaded Locusts, an army of bug-like monsters, in H.D. Players control Marcus Fenix or Dominic Santiago in a mission to map Locust tunnels and deploy a Lightmass Bomb – imagine a cross between napalm and a nuclear bomb.

Air Force mini-drone swarms will be used for attack, reconnaissance
The Lightmass bomb would be pretty useful in real life. (GIF: Gears of War: Ultimate Edition on Xbox 1)

For most of the game, Delta squad consists of four members which the player can give simple orders to as they face off against Boomers – massive infantrymen who fire explosive grenades, Berserkers – unstoppable linebackers who will charge players, Locust Drones – standard infantrymen, and others.

Air Force mini-drone swarms will be used for attack, reconnaissance

The fights progress from the ruins of major cities and through underground tunnels and mines before culminating on a moving train. Features of the different areas, such as whether or not the area is exposed to satellites or is lit by the sun, change the combat mechanics and keep the player on their toes.

The main antagonist, General RAAM, is the head of all Locust forces and is known for his ruthlessness. He executes one human after another in brutal ways and is able to control a flock of krill, bat-like creatures that will attack Delta soldiers en mass and tear them apart.

Considering how far out the game’s plot and enemies are, it features surprisingly realistic combat mechanics. Players need to maneuver carefully and use cover to bring down the Locust grunts and massive monsters. In two-player mode, players can support each other during attacks, even when the map forces them to use two different routes.

Players have to endure a number of different scenarios in the main game, everything from defending a stranded outpost like they’re on a firebase being overrun to assaulting an enemy strongpoint defended by elite warriors.

Air Force mini-drone swarms will be used for attack, reconnaissance
Players need to support each other in multiplayer mode. Despite the small teams, the fighting is still intense. (GIF: Gears of War: Ultimate Edition on Xbox 1)

In multiplayer mode, modern gamers may be surprised that most game types support four versus four multiplayer, and one only supports two versus two. But, these smaller teams make the fighting feel less hectic and more personal, creating less chaos and supporting tactical play.

Of course, the re-mastered graphics make everything in “Gears of War: Ultimate Edition” look more realistic and prettier than in the original. While this breaks from the aesthetic of the 2006 version, a notoriously gritty experience, it still feels like Delta Squad is in the suck.

For gamers who haven’t gotten into “Gears of War” yet or who want a refresher before the release of “Gears of War 4” in October, the Ultimate Edition is great fun.

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2034: A Novel of the Next World War

Much of the current conversation about warfare in the veteran community revolves around our involvement in the Middle East which appears to be drawing to a close at the end of its second complete decade. Many veterans have been busy producing works that address the legacy of the Global War on Terrorism and how it has shaped our most recent generation of veterans. But Elliot Ackerman and Admiral James Stavridis have turned their sights to the future to speculate on what might come next.

What they have produced is 2034: A Novel of the Next World War, a fast-paced thriller set in the year 2034, told from multiple perspectives as the world finds itself on the brink of a war the likes of which have not been seen since the rise of fascism in the mid-twentieth century. The novel attempts to merge present-day fact with an all too plausible future on a global scale. The effect is unsettling. It is wargames with literary flair and it wastes no time jumping into the action. 

At the beginning of the novel, two seemingly minor occurrences kick off a chain reaction of events that quickly escalate to global proportions with dire consequences. Lines are drawn. Sides are taken. The United States finds itself enmeshed in its first conflict with a near-peer adversary in decades. As the conflict continues to grow, the numbers of casualties rapidly lose meaning demonstrating the sheer scale of the war. A few hundred sailors lost at sea in one chapter becomes thirty-seven ships sunk during battle in the next chapter which then becomes ten million civilians vaporized through the use of a nuclear warhead. The reader is engulfed by the catastrophic numbers and left feeling haunted.

What is immediately appealing about this novel is that it resists over-intellectualizing the politics at play. It is accessible and unpretentious in its approach. They accomplish this through the use of a vibrant cast of characters. Each one is fully realized with impressive brevity. The reader recognizes their motivations because they are the desires any person can relate to. Sarah Hunt, a Commodore with the United States Navy, laments the premature end of her military career due to a medical board’s unfavorable decision. A disgraced Brigadier General with the Quds Force of Iran meditates on the true meaning of a soldier’s death as he considers the scars left on his body and his soul from a career spent serving a government that does not appear to appreciate his sacrifice. Their plights are relatable. They are human. It is easy for the reader to feel they understand the characters and their individual struggles more so than the global conflict that consumes them. At the same time, Ackerman and Admiral Stavridis handle the narrative with such weight of authority that it feels as if the events have already occurred in history. It is clear they are writing from an informed perspective with extensive experience to back up their vision.

Air Force mini-drone swarms will be used for attack, reconnaissance

They portray the United States as a nation that has not learned from its mistakes. A nation that is too comfortable in its own opulence. The military is stymied by bureaucracy and betrays an over-dependence on technology to the point that these tools become obsolete through the use of cyber-attacks by the Chinese government before the halfway point of the novel. The Americans are burdened by their history and stifled by their own legacies. Readers are inundated with the names and trophies of past victories from bygone eras the country still clings to despite new threats bearing down on the nation. Many of the service members hold legitimate credentials but lack actual combat experience. The leadership is more concerned with what the public thinks rather than how to best retaliate. “Jesus! What will the country say?” exclaims the president after a large military defeat at sea which reveals her greatest fear: what others think of her. The novel makes a convincing argument that despite all the advancements of technology in the modern era it is still the men and women who control those devices that will decide the fate of our future. 

What makes this thriller so powerful is that it is written from the inside of the characters’ lives. They come from diverse backgrounds and many represent powers greater than themselves that have malicious intentions in the global theater. Yet we are drawn to them because we understand their motivations as individuals. We are invited into their interior lives and through that landscape we are offered a glimpse at their humanity. And it is through their humanity that they become fully realized on the page. Regardless of their allegiances, readers find themselves wanting each character to fulfill their desires. Admiral Stavridis and Ackerman succeed by rendering a fully engrossing picture of a reality that is subtle yet poignant and might be just beyond the horizon.

2034: A Novel of the Next World War

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These sisters were children at the Pentagon daycare center on 9/11. Now they’re in the military.

Thousands of service members and civilians were working at the Pentagon on 9/11. Just 30 yards away, 140 infants and toddlers played at the Child Development Center when American Airlines Flight 77 struck the DoD Headquarters. At the daycare were the Born sisters: 3-year-old Hanna and 4-month-old Heather. Twenty years later, they’re both in uniform.

Air Force mini-drone swarms will be used for attack, reconnaissance
Child Development Centers are a vital resource for military parents (U.S. Air Force)

2nd Lt. Hanna Born graduated from the Air Force Academy and commissioned as an officer in 2019. Heather is a midshipman in the Naval Academy Class of 2023. Although Heather was too young to remember the events of 9/11, Hanna has some partial memories of the infamous day.

“I was in the daycare center playing and dancing with some of my classmates,” Hanna told CBS. “We were playing with those dance ribbons, and then the next thing I can remember was kind of being in the hallway.” Luckily, no children were killed or injured in the terror attack. The Child Development Center was housed in a separate building on the Pentagon campus across from where Flight 77 impacted. However, the daycare was closed in 2004 out of concern for the safety of the children.

Air Force mini-drone swarms will be used for attack, reconnaissance
First responders extinguish the fires following the attack on the Pentagon (FBI)

Hanna remembers service members arriving to help the daycare workers – many of whom were elderly – evacuate the children. “I began to feel sensory overload, especially after exiting the building. Because that’s when you really saw just a groundswell of people coming out of the building,” she recalled. “Obviously, you had the noises from the fire alarms, you had basically every type of emergency vehicle, the sirens from that, and you had jets and helicopters from overhead making noise, and on top of that, just a really acrid smell from the burning jet fuel and smoke.” With the infants loaded and carried in cribs, all of the children were evacuated to a park next to the Potomac River.

Air Force mini-drone swarms will be used for attack, reconnaissance
The smoke from the crash site could be seen for miles (9/11 Memorial Museum)

The Born sisters’ parents, both of whom have military backgrounds, were not in the Pentagon during the attack. Their mother, retired Brig. Gen. Dana Born, was at Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling while their father, a retired Marine, was previously stationed at the Pentagon. In the days following 9/11, their father took them to a hill overlooking the Pentagon to watch the recovery efforts and tried to explain what had happened to them.

Brig. Gen. Born says that Hanna spent hours drawing pictures of her experience, trying to understand what happened on 9/11. “We sat by her side the entire time to support and comfort her while also answering questions as she attempted to ‘process’ exactly what happened,” Born recounted to CBS. “The more she drew, the less anxious she appeared, since she was gradually piecing things together from that horrific day that was difficult for even adults to comprehend.”

Air Force mini-drone swarms will be used for attack, reconnaissance
Hanna (left) and Heather (right) after the 2019 Air Force-Navy football game (Born Family photo)

In addition to spending their childhoods on military bases, the Born sisters were inspired by the courage and heroism shown on 9/11 and followed their parents into the military. “There’s been so many lives that have been forever changed by the events of that day and everything that has ensued afterwards, so I think for us, it’s just constantly about remembering and figuring out what we can do to best honor them,” Hanna said.

In 2008, a memorial was dedicated on the Pentagon campus to the victims of the attack. One hundred and eighty four benches were erected with the names of the people killed that day. The benches are arranged by the victims’ ages; from 3-year-old Dana Falkenberg to 71-year-old Navy veteran John Yamnicky, both of whom were passengers on Flight 77. Surrounding the memorial is the Age Wall which grows one inch each year, relative to the ages of the victims. Eighty five Crape Myrtle trees were also planted among the benches when the memorial was dedicated.

Air Force mini-drone swarms will be used for attack, reconnaissance
Lights illuminate the memorial benches at night (DoD)

The Born sisters recently visited the memorial to the event that had such an enormous impact on their lives. “When we had moved away from D.C., the trees were pretty small that they planted, and since then they’ve grown, so it’s just kind of striking to see how much life is rising in that area,” Hanna said. Although the memorial is usually open to the public 24/7, it is currently closed and will reopen once the Pentagon resumes public tours.

Air Force mini-drone swarms will be used for attack, reconnaissance
Hanna (left) and Heather (right) at the Pentagon 9/11 memorial (Born Family photo)
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Trump may name Sec Def this week, but Mattis may be out

President-elect Donald Trump may name his nominee for Secretary of Defense before the week is out, and legendary Marine Gen. Jim Mattis seems to be fading among the candidate pool, according to a new report from Colin Clark at Breaking Defense.


The report cites two sources involved with the Trump presidential transition team. One source told the site that Trump may release his pick within the next two days, while the other source said that other candidates, such as former Sen. Jim Talent (R-Mo.) and former Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.), are still very much in the running.

Also read: Congress kills plan forcing women to register for the military draft

After Trump met with Mattis more than a week ago, most defense watchers believed the retired Marine general was the top pick to lead the Pentagon. The President-elect described Mattis, 66, as “very impressive” and said he was “seriously considering” him for the position.

Trump later had an off-the-record meeting with media executives and on-air personalities, in which he said “he believes it is time to have someone from the military as secretary of defense,”according to Politico. Other Republicans and many D.C. insiders also offered praise for Mattis, though he would require a congressional waiver to serve as Defense Secretary since he has not been out of uniform for the statutorily required seven years.

When reached by Business Insider, Mattis declined to comment.

Air Force mini-drone swarms will be used for attack, reconnaissance
Wikimedia Commons

Though Sen. Talent has been among the candidates floated almost since the beginning, Sen. Kyl is a new name to emerge as a possible pick. Now a senior counsel at the Washington, D.C. law firm Covington Burling, Kyl previously served as the second-highest Republican senator when he retired in 2013, after 26 years in Congress.

Kyl was not immediately available for an interview, but soon after the Breaking Defense report was published, he told Politico he was not interested in serving again in government, which “the Trump transition team is well aware of.”

A number of defense secretaries who served under President Barack Obama have criticized him for his supposed “micromanagement.” Even Mattis himself was reportedly forced into early retirement by the Obama administration due to his hawkish views on Iran, according to Tom Ricks at Foreign Policy.

Whoever is ultimately picked, the next head of the Pentagon will oversee roughly 3 million military and civilian personnel and face myriad challenges, from the ongoing fight against ISIS and China’s moves in the South China Sea to the ongoing stress on the military imposed by sequestration.

The next defense secretary may also end up dealing with a nuclear-armed North Korea, and Russia is very likely to test limits in eastern Europe. The secretary will also need to reinvigorate a military plagued by low morale.

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Fast Attack Vehicles might be exactly what the Army needs to stop ISIS

Air Force mini-drone swarms will be used for attack, reconnaissance
U.S. Navy SEALs operate Desert Patrol Vehicles while preparing for an upcoming mission. (U.S. Navy photo by Photographer’s Mate 1st Class Arlo Abrahamson)


In the 1980s, the U.S. Army needed to be able to rapidly deploy a sizable force to face off against heavy forces. But that requirement created two problems: Most light forces were little more than speed bumps against tanks, and it took a long time to deliver a heavy force – and their supplies – to a likely theater outside of Europe or South Korea. So the Army began to explore ways to create a light force that could hold its own.

Enter the 9th Motorized, a force that proved it’s utility in several big exercises during the mid-1980s, most notably in Border Star 85 when the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment lost badly to the 3rd Brigade of the 9th Motorized. The Army’s strategy seemed to be playing out in a good way.

But a change at the top of the Army detoured the promise of the 9th. The new Army Chief of Staff favored the light infantry division concept over the motorized division. Ultimately, four active light infantry divisions (the 6th, 7th, 10th Mountain, and 25th) were formed, with one more, the 29th, in the National Guard. Later, the 9th, as well as the 6th and 7th Infantry Divisions, were deactivated after the fall of the Berlin Wall as the budget ax fell.

The 9th Infantry Division first made use of Fast Attack Vehicles; basically, souped-up dune buggies that special operations units had used during Desert Storm. The Army later went with the M1114 High-Mobility Multi-Purpose Wheeled Vehicle, or HMMWV.

The signature tool used in the front-line battalions was the Mk 19 automatic grenade launcher. With a range of almost 2500 yards, the Mk 19 could send one grenade a second onto a target. The grenade blasted lethal fragments 50 feet from the point of impact. The Mk 19 was also able to take out light armored vehicles. While it might not have been enough to take out a BMP or T-72, the Mk 19 could wreak havoc on supply convoys or rear-area headquarters units. Depending on the table of organization and equipment, a front-line battalion with the 9th Motorized could have had almost 100 of these powerful weapons.

The 9th Motorized also made heavy use of the BGM-71 TOW missile to deal with the threat posed by tanks and infantry fighting vehicles. The TOW had a reputation as a reliable tank-killer, with a range of almost two and half miles and a 13-pound warhead. The TOW provided a heavy punch when the Army decided not to use a ground-launched version of the AGM-114 Hellfire. Infantry assigned to the 9th Motorized also made use of the FGM-77 Dragon anti-tank missile. With a range of just under a mile, the Dragon added to the firepower of the division, despite its drawbacks.

Would something like the 9th Motorized Division’s organization work today? With the FGM-148 Javelin, and the development of lightweight UAVs, it may be worth bringing back the concept – particularly in the fight against ISIS.

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This group has launched a fellowship program to put more veterans in Congress

Air Force mini-drone swarms will be used for attack, reconnaissance


HillVets has announced a new Congressional Fellowship program exclusively for veterans seeking to begin careers in Washington, called HillVets House. Phase I of the program will feature six Congressional Fellows to be hosted and placed in staff positions on Capitol Hill and is set to begin with the first cohort in July 2016.

HillVets is a bipartisan group of veterans, service members, and supporters focused on empowerment through networking, community involvement, and education. HillVets strives to increase veterans involvement in government and advocacy. This is the first time the effort is being made to get more veterans onto Capitol Hill.

The program is the result of a survey taken by the organization in 2014 in an effort to connect vets on Capitol Hill. The surveyors found that not many veterans were active in Congress. The veterans organization says if they were to rank agencies by number of veterans, the Federal legislative body would be dead last. They are making this effort to change that with the help of the Atlantic Council and the Bob Woodruff Foundation.

Capitol Hill experience is largely considered a key component and invaluable experience for a long-term career in government and politics. Currently, less than three percent of staff members working for the United States Congress are military veterans. As hundreds of veterans continue to come to the Washington, D.C. area, they are often frustrated by an inability to quickly build an adequate network and open the initial doors necessary for long-term success.

Air Force mini-drone swarms will be used for attack, reconnaissance

HillVets House is designed to help veterans overcome the many challenges they face beginning second careers by providing a comprehensive introduction to government, politics, and advocacy. HillVets says this program will provide the first premiere access point for veterans wishing to continue their service in unique roles across all government agencies and branches.

Veterans with honorable discharges, Bachelor’s degrees, or who will be in their final semester at the time of the fellowship, and are ready and able to take permanent employment will receive preference. HillVets will focus on recently-separated vets or those who just completed school.

The HillVets Fellowships will start twice a year, with the first class to start in July 2016 and the second in January 2017. Fellows will have a mandatory commitment to their host offices for a period of three months, the second three month period is to focus on finding a permanent, paid position on Capitol Hill, while continuing to work in the Congressional Host office. The placement will be sensitive to the individual’s political party affiliation.

In addition to full-time placement, Fellows will receive housing and/or a living stipend, educational and career development programs, and extensive networking opportunities.

Look for the program application on the HillVets House website by November 17, 2015. All applications are due by March 25, 2016 and should be sent to contact@hillvets.org.

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The last murdered Russian ambassador died after Iranians overran an embassy

It seems like a country just can’t get world power status until they have an embassy overrun by locals in Tehran.


The United States Embassy in Iran was infamously overrun in 1979, with American hostages being held for 444 days. The last U.S. Ambassador to Iran, William H. Sullivan, was not among those hostages, and fortunately none of the American embassy workers were killed.

Air Force mini-drone swarms will be used for attack, reconnaissance
If you’re in Tehran and a crowd gathers outside your embassy, the situation could go downhill really fast.

Also Read: This deadly failure in the Iranian desert lives in hostage rescue mission infamy

Probably less well-known is when the citizens of Tehran overran the Russian embassy in 1829. At the time, Iran was known as Persia and the two countries just concluded a two-year border war — which did not go well for the Persians.

Persia, especially the capital, was full of anti-Russian sentiment. The Persians had been forced to give up much of their northern border areas, lost access to the Caspian Sea, and most importantly (for these events) liberated any Armenian held captive to move to Russian territory.

The first official postwar Russian envoy to Persia was the renowned Russian comedy writer Alexander Griboyedov. The playwright and author recently married into Russian aristocracy, which resulted in his Persian posting.

Shortly after the Tsar sent Griboyedov to Tehran as Minister Plenipotentiary (a rank just below an official ambassador), two Christian Armenian women and one Armenian eunuch escaped from the Persian royal family harem, seeking refuge in the Russian embassy.

Air Force mini-drone swarms will be used for attack, reconnaissance
A portrait of Griboyedov.

The Shah demanded their return, but Griboyedov wouldn’t give in. The terms of a treaty gave the Armenians the right to return to Russia. Thousands of angry Persians turned out to protest the Russian embassy, but Griboyedov wouldn’t budge.

The National Interest cited “contemporary accounts” in the telling of this story, saying the locals were incited by mullahs to storm the building. The Minister Plenipotentiary, other Russian diplomats, and the embassy guards in the building tried to fight as best they could but were overwhelmed.

Their bodies were dragged into the streets of Tehran, each decapitated in turn.

Griboyedov’s body was eventually returned to his native Tbilisi, now in Georgia. Shah Fath-Ali sent an envoy to Tsar Nicholas I of Russia as an apology for Griboyedov’s death, along with an 88-carat diamond, known as the Shah Diamond, in the hopes the Tsar wouldn’t return with the Russian army.

Air Force mini-drone swarms will be used for attack, reconnaissance

The diamond is still on display in the Kremlin, a grim reminder of how even the most powerful nations can still be victims of a mob.

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There’s stiff competition for the next USAF trainer jet

Korea Aerospace Industries and a U.S. defense contractor are competing for a major advanced trainer jet contract with the U.S. Air Force, according to a South Korean press report.


After successfully completing the initial test flight of the second T-50A trainer aircraft in July 2016, KAI and Lockheed Martin formed a consortium to enter a bid, News 1 reported April 17.

The Air Force had announced its plans to purchase 350 new jets to replace the Northrop T-38 Talon jet trainer, according to Northrop Grumman.

Air Force mini-drone swarms will be used for attack, reconnaissance
A T-38 Talon trains flies in formation with a B-2 Spirit during a training mission. (Dept. of Defense photo)

KAI and Lockheed Martin want to supply the jets for $15 billion that could then lead to second and third-stage projects, South Korea media reported.

If the U.S.- South Korea group lands the contract, it would boost future defense collaboration as well as strengthen the bilateral alliance between Seoul and Washington.

The consortium, however, is up against stiff competition.

Boeing and Saab have submitted designs for the contract: a twin-seat single-engine trainer jet that features a glass cockpit.

Sierra Nevada Corp. and Turkish Aerospace Industries are also competitors for the bid, and Italy’s Leonardo has submitted its T-100 for the contract.

Also read: This could be the Air Forces next jet trainer (and aggressor aircraft too)

Sources at KAI are worried that the South Korean government is not taking sufficient charge of pushing the contract forward in the wake of South Korean President Park Geun-hye’s impeachment and the subsequent leadership vacuum in Seoul, according to News 1.

South Koreans are to elect a new president on May 9.

Lockheed Martin and Korea Aerospace Industries developed the T-50 Golden Eagle in the ’90s. The jet has more than 142,000 flight hours and trained more than 2,000 fighter pilots.

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27 unsung WWII heroes most people have never heard of

Sadly, the heroes of World War 2 are leaving us every day. With the vast majority of war veterans past the age of 90, it won’t be long before only a few WW2 heroes and veterans are left to tell their stories of courage and triumph in the face of murderous odds. While some soldiers and important figures of the time are well known to the culture in general, most aren’t. Some didn’t survive, and many others simply never spoke about what they did. This list of World War 2 heroes will show the courage, bravery, and selflessness of many men you may not have heard of, but who made important contributions to the war nonetheless.


World War Two made heroes out of countless soldiers, scientists, officials, and even cooks and the World War 2 timeline is dotted with remarkable and heroic individuals. Whether fighting the Nazis on the European front or making a difference against the Japanese in the Pacific, these real life heroes helped the Allies win the war and helped make the world what it is today. Their sacrifices for their fellow fighters and even strangers they’d never feet were truly heroic.

This list features many World War 2 soldiers, pilots, and fighters who you should know something about. Some were officers and aces, others peasants and ordinary foot soldiers. They hailed from around the world, and some never even wore a uniform. But all of them took actions that saved lives, inflicted damage on the enemy, and collectively won World War II, the worst war in human history.

27 Unsung WWII Heroes You May Not Know About

 

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This article originally appeared at Ranker. Copyright 2015. Like Ranker on Facebook.

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These are the 11 most game-changing aircraft of the 21st century

Today’s most sophisticated aircraft are like something out of science fiction.


In a few years, drones that can fit in the palm of a person’s hand and 117-foot-wingspan behemoths capable of launching satellites into space will both be a reality.

At the same time, drone and advanced-fighter technologies will spread beyond the US and Europe, and countries including China, Russia, and Iran will have even more highly advanced aerial capabilities.

Here’s our look at the most game-changing aircraft of the past few years — and the next few to come.

F-35 Lightning II

Air Force mini-drone swarms will be used for attack, reconnaissance
Image: Lockheed Martin

The F-35 program may cost as much as $1.5 trillion over its lifetime. But the fifth-generation fighter jet is also supposed to be the most fearsome military aircraft ever built, a plane that can dogfight, provide close air support, and carry out bombing runs, all with stealth capabilities, a high degree of maneuverability, and the ability to take off and land on aircraft carriers.

It hasn’t quite worked out that way so far, and problems with everything from the plane’s software system to its engines has both delayed its deployment and contributed to its astronomical price tag. And it isn’t nearly as effective in some of its roles as existing aircraft. For instance, the F-35 is notably worse at close air support than the A-10, which is slated for retirement.

But the US has more than 1,700 F-35s on order. Like it or not, the F-35 will be the US’ workhorse warplane for decades to come.

F-22 Raptor

Air Force mini-drone swarms will be used for attack, reconnaissance
Image: Staff Sgt. Jim Araos/USAF

The predecessor to Lockheed Martin’s F-35 Lightning II is the single-seat, twin-engine F-22 Raptor, currently the most advanced combat-ready jet on earth.

The US is the only country in the world that flies the F-22s thanks to a federal law that prohibits the jet from being exported. Lockheed Martin built 195 F-22s before the last one was delivered to the US Air Force in May 2012.

Despite the program’s cost and the jet’s advanced features, it saw combat for the first time relatively recently, during the opening phase of the bombing campaign against the Islamic State in late 2014.

T-50

Air Force mini-drone swarms will be used for attack, reconnaissance
Photo: Wikipedia/Alex Beltyukov

Russia’s Su-50, also known under the prototype name of the T-50 PAK-FA, is the Kremlin’s fifth-generation fighter and Russia’s response to the F-35.

Though still in prototype, Moscow thinks the Su-50 will ultimately be able to outperform the F-35 on key metrics including speed and maneuverability. The stealth capabilities of the Su-50, however, are believed to be below those of the F-22 and the F-35.

The Kremlin plans to introduce the Su-50 into service by 2016. Once the plane is combat-ready, it will serve as a base model for the construction of further variants intended for export. India is already co-designing an Su-50 variant with Russia, and Iran and South Korea are possible candidates to buy future models of the plane.

Chengdu J-20

Air Force mini-drone swarms will be used for attack, reconnaissance
Image: Alexandr Chechin/en.wikipedia.org

The Chengdu J-20, which is currently in development, is China’s second fifth-generation fighter and a potential strategic game changer in East Asia.

The J-20 bears striking resemblance to the F-35 because of Chinese reverse engineering and extensive theft of F-35-related data. Once completed, the J-20 will possess stealth capability along with the range needed to reach targets within Japan, the Philippines, and Vietnam after taking off from mainland China.

As of January 2015, Beijing had developed six functional prototypes of the aircraft, with new prototypes being released at an increasingly quick pace. Production of the aircraft reportedly began in late 2015, and the final iteration of the aircraft is expected to be released and combat-ready sometime around 2018.

Eurofighter Typhoon

Air Force mini-drone swarms will be used for attack, reconnaissance
Image: Peter Gronemann/Flickr

The Eurofighter Typhoon is a twin-engine multirole fighter that was originally developed to be the Europe and NATO’s primary warplane.

The fighter jet is Europe’s largest military program and was started by Germany, Spain, Italy, and the UK.

In 2011 the Eurofighter was deployed to its first combat mission, to enforce a no-fly zone over Libya during the NATO bombing campaign in the country. There are 402 Eurofighter jets designed for the Austrian, Italian, German, Spanish, UK, Omani, and Saudi Air Forces.

The Eurofighter has been called Europe’s version of America’s most expensive weapons system, the F-35 Lightning II.

MG-X Silent Hawk

Air Force mini-drone swarms will be used for attack, reconnaissance
Imagined model of the MH-X Silent Hawk from the set of Zero Dark Thirty. (Image: Zero Dark Thirty/Universal Pictures)

The military’s secret MH-X Silent Hawk program was publicly disclosed only after one of the helicopters crashed during the US Navy SEAL raid that killed Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad, Pakistan, on May 1, 2011.

It is unclear when the US Army Operations Security’s top-secret helicopter program began and how many of these stealthy aircraft are in service.

While the Silent Hawk appears to be a highly modified version of the widely known UH-60 Black Hawk, there are few unclassified details out there about this secret helicopter.

X-47B

Air Force mini-drone swarms will be used for attack, reconnaissance
Image: Northrop Grumman

The Navy’s X-47B is a strike-fighter-size unmanned aircraft with the potential to change aerial warfare.

Northrop Grumman’s drone is capable of aerial refueling, 360-degree rolls, and offensive weapons deployment. It carried out the first autonomous aerial refueling in aviation history and has taken off from and landed on an aircraft carrier.

It cruises at half the speed of sound and has a wingspan of 62 feet — as well as a range of at least 2,400 miles, more than twice that of the Reaper drone.

Stratolaunch

Air Force mini-drone swarms will be used for attack, reconnaissance
Image: Stratolaunch Systems

The Stratolaunch will be one of the most astounding planes ever built.

Now in construction, the plane will serve as a midair launch platform for vehicles that is capable of carrying satellites into orbit. The aircraft, whose 117-foot wingspan will be the largest of any plane ever built, will fly to an altitude of 30,000 feet and then angle upward before blasting its payload into space.

The plane would be a relatively cheap and reusable launch vehicle for satellites and has the potential to revolutionize how hardware and possibly even human beings can access orbital space. It could fly as early as 2016, although the project has faced some setbacks over the past year.

Here’s a video of how it’ll all work:.

X-37B

Air Force mini-drone swarms will be used for attack, reconnaissance
Wikimedia Commons

The Air Force’s secretive space drone returned from a two-year mission in October of 2014. It wasn’t clear exactly what the X-37B was doing up there, but it was relaunched on May 20, 2015 for another extended stint in orbit.

With the X-37B, the Air Force essentially has a reusable satellite that it can control and call back to earth. The ability to re-equip an orbital platform for specific mission types gives the US military unprecedented flexibility in how it can use outer space — and its long periods in orbit and reusability are also just impressive engineering feats.

Nano Hummingbird

Air Force mini-drone swarms will be used for attack, reconnaissance
Photo: Youtube

These tiny Darpa-developed surveillance drones could become future military staples. Small enough to evade enemy detection or fire, the Nano Hummingbird can fit in the palm of your hand and relay images and intelligence from the air.

Most surveillance drones, such as the RQ-4 Global Hawk, are large aircraft that fly at altitudes of 60,000 feet. Drones such as the Nano Hummingbird, which is light, stealthy, and easy to launch, could be a routine part of a future soldier’s inventory.

Watch it in action here:

Iran’s drones

Air Force mini-drone swarms will be used for attack, reconnaissance
Image: IRNA

Iran has been under sanctions and a Western arms embargo for much of the past 30 years, something that has denied Tehran the chance to obtain high-quality European or American arms. But it has forced Iran to build its own domestic capabilities, and in 2013 Iran debuted an armed drone eerily similar to the US’ Reaper, called the Fotros.

It’s unclear whether the Fotros is battle-ready, but Iran and Hezbollah, Tehran’s proxy militia in Lebanon — along with the Sudanese military — already fly Iran’s Ababil-3 surveillance drone.

Iran’s drones aren’t game changers because of their high quality but because of what they represent: Even countries chafing under international sanctions can develop their own drone technology with enough patience and technological expertise. The Fotros and Ababil-3 suggest that an era of widespread drone proliferation is just around the corner.

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ISIS uses weaponized drones for combat and surveillance

Much has been written about the threat of Islamic State militants’ use of unmanned aerial vehicles, UAVs, commonly known as drones, over the embattled city of Mosul.


IS was quick to weaponize UAVs with small improvised explosive devices.

On Jan. 24, they released a video showing up to 19 different aerial attacks by commercially purchased UAVs — the kind of drone you can buy in any shopping center. Iraqi forces have followed suit by attaching modified 40mm grenades with shuttlecock stabilizers onto their larger UAVs to drop on IS positions.

Air Force mini-drone swarms will be used for attack, reconnaissance
Drones like this are easy to acquire but can be very lethal targeting tools. (Photo: Don McCullough, CC BY 2.0)

A crude inaccurate way of killing terrorists, its effectiveness is questionable. Weaponized IS UAVs have mainly been used to target Iraqi military commanders and troops congregating in the open near the front line.

It’s a low-end, low-altitude attack that can be thwarted by keeping in hard cover.

But both sides use the UAV’s more effectively as a means of providing Intelligence Surveillance and Reconnaissance, known as ISR.

Islamic State UAVs in the air, once identified, are the warning that something is about to happen — either mortar fire, which is typically one hastily fired inaccurate round — before coalition air superiority can locate and target the firing point.

Or, more devastatingly, the launching of a Suicide Vehicle Borne Improvised Explosive Device, an SVBIED.

Since the Battle for Mosul officially started on Oct. 16, 2016, hundreds of SVBIEDs have been launched.

Recently, Sky News’ Special Correspondent Alex Crawford and cameraman Garwen McLuckie faced a number of SVBIEDs during their reporting from West Mosul’s front line.

Each time a small UAV was hovering high above. One occasion two were spotted.

Chief Correspondent Stuart Ramsay, cameraman Nathan Hale and Producer Haider Kata were also targeted by a SVBIED. On this occasion the UAV filmed the SVBIED (an armored Fronting Loader) to its intended target, a tank.

Later, the video was posted on Islamic State websites.

Air Force mini-drone swarms will be used for attack, reconnaissance
A captured ISIS drone on the battlefield. (Photo from Iraq Ministry of Defense)

Due to the built-up urban area and the ever-changing nature of the battle, IS drivers of the SVBIEDs are believed to be hiding in garages with their heavily armoured explosive-laden vehicles. Modified with armor at the front and cameras on the wing mirrors, they provide militants with a 360-degree view of the battlefield and are notoriously difficult to stop.

They wait as the Iraqi forces move slowly forward, seizing ground and minimizing the driving distance to strike.

If they launch too early, the SVBIED will be exposed to air strikes or anti-tank fire, the only two real ways of neutralizing the vehicle.

But hidden IS drivers may not know the exact location of the moving Iraqi forces or be familiar with the streets and or access routes to their targets.

This is where the UAV is the key component to the attack.

The operators of the UAV act as navigators for the suicide driver; guiding him by radio or cell phone through battle-worn streets, they can help deliver the driver to his intended target with greater efficiency and accuracy.

This is a deadly combination.

The coalition has attempted to blanket all of Mosul in a red no-fly zone for commercially purchased UAVs, but this has been thwarted by either smart software adjustments to the unit or by placing aluminum material over the GPS.

Other methods have included the Battelle Drone Defender gun (hand portable beam type weapon) and the Spynel infrared camera, which is used to locate incoming UAVs. Both have been very limited, as UAV use is usually confined within a few hundred meters at the very front of the fight where these systems are not always deployed.

If an IS UAV is sighted, the immediate response by Iraqi forces is to engage it with small and heavy weapons, a difficult shot when aiming at a high flying fast moving object of no more than a meter wide.

After the firing has stopped, all attention shifts to street level as experienced operators know the next thing coming will be more deadly.

Many harmless recreational drones have now become deadly tools of war.

The various developers of these off-the-shelf UAVs probably never envisaged that their products would be used in a lethal cat and mouse hunt through Mosul’s war-torn streets.

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