The Air Force has deployed the B-52 heavy bombers originally designed to carry nuclear weapons into the heart of the Soviet Union have begun using precision weapons against ISIS terrorists.
The planes are operating out of Qatar and began their mission by taking out an ISIS weapons storage facility in northwestern Iraq. The bombing missions will help Iraqi Security Forces and Peshmerga fighters push back ISIS forces.
Air Force Gen. Hawk Carlisle, the commander of Air Combat Command, announced the deployment of the B-52s to Iraq and Syria during the Air Warfare Symposium 2016, said CNN.
The Air Force has been hard pressed to keep up the constant strikes against ground targets in ISIS’s so-called caliphate. The heavy bomber mission was being conducted by B-1s, but the “Bones,” as they’re popularly called, were pulled from the mission and returned to the U.S. for maintenance and upgrades. B-1s from the 28th Bomb Wing out of Ellsworth Air Force Base in South Dakota flew 490 sorties in six months last year and dropped 3,800 munitions on 3,700 targets, according to CNN.
The B-52s there now are not as technologically advanced or sleek as the B-1s they’re replacing. The youngest B-52 in the inventory rolled off the line in 1962, but they’ve been upgraded numerous times in the last few decades. These upgrades have taken the B-52 from the nuclear deterrence role through carpet bombing in Vietnam to precision strike. Currently, the Air Force is planning to fly them until at least 2040.
Modern B-52s carry the same Sniper Advanced Targeting Pods used by many F-16s, A-10s, B-1s, and other precision aircraft. The Sniper Pod was first deployed to combat in 2005 and allows pilots to accurately detect and engage targets from long ranges.
The B-52 can carry up to 70,000 pounds of munitions including precision bombs, missiles, mines, and cruise missiles.
Appearances, as the saying goes, can be very deceiving.
This happened to be the exact concept behind Q-ships, heavily armed decoy vessels used by Allied navies during the First World War to harass and destroy German submarines, also known as U-boats.
The Germany Navy’s U-boat fleet quickly proved to be a scourge in the Atlantic, hunting down and sinking Allied merchant and combat ships with impunity. Able to sneak up to convoys and warships virtually undetected, U-boats began racking up kills in incredible numbers, quickly becoming a threat that needed to be dealt with immediately.
Allied ships, often loaded with troops, supplies, and materiel to aid the war effort in Europe were being lost at astonishing rates. As sonar was still an emerging technology, submarine detection was often difficult if not downright impossible. However, a solution began to form in the minds of Allied naval commanders.
U-boats could only remain submerged for short periods of time, and they were often deployed to sea with a limited supply of torpedoes. As such, most U-boat commanders preferred to run their vessels on the surface, utilizing deck guns for the majority of their attacks on enemy vessels.
The British Navy came up with a solution in the form of a thoroughly disguised merchant vessel carrying a crew of sailors dressed like fishers or merchant mariners. With fake boxes of cargo on the decks of the ship, German U-boats would likely assume that what they see in their periscope’s crosshairs was really just a supply ship, transporting munitions and weaponry for Allied soldiers on the front lines.
A juicy and defenseless target, ripe for the taking.
However, these ships were anything but defenseless. Armed with a variety of deck guns in different calibers, and even depth charges in some cases, the crew could open fire after luring the German submarines close enough, sinking, or at least thoroughly disabling, their enemy’s watercraft.
One less U-boat in the fight.
The British Admiralty decided that these decoy ships would be homeported at Queenstown, Ireland, where they would have easy access to the North Atlantic, and a safe harbor to return to. They would soon be nicknamed Q-ships, thanks to their port of origin.
Deployed in growing numbers, Q-ships began hunting down and attacking German submarines using deception and surprise to their advantage. As soon as U-boats closed in, panels were dropped, the Royal Navy’s ensign was raised and deck guns boomed while sending German sailors scrambling for cover.
However, the plan turned out to be a major dud.
By the war’s end, it was found that throughout 150 reported engagements between Q-ships and U-boats, only 14 submarines were destroyed, while the rest were either damaged or had escaped. The Q-ship program had an even lower success rate than mines, which, given the associated numbers and statistics, was highly embarrassing.
The program, once a closely-kept secret, was shuttered and remained fairly dormant in the years between World Wars, though other navies began exploring similar vessels of their own.
Q-ships would make a reappearance during the Second World War, serving with the German, British, American, and Japanese navies. Oddly enough, German Q-ships wound up racking up higher kill numbers than their Allied counterparts.
In the years since, anti-submarine warfare (ASW for short) has advanced considerably, making sub-hunting something of an art form. Thankfully, the Q-ship concept has been relegated to the history books once and for all, having experienced its trial by fire during the two World Wars, and coming up short.
The Modern Army Combatives Program was started by the service in 1995 at Fort Benning, Georgia, with a mission to train soldiers to fight hand-to-hand and to sharpen the warrior mind.
Rather than beat the enemy into a pulp, MACP is intended to teach a soldier to subdue the enemy enough to grab another weapon.
It’s not like the Army is training MMA fighters here.
The average infantry trooper learns the basics of combatives, such as grappling and controlling a resisting opponent’s body. Soldiers who compete in the tournaments held by the Army are those who take their Modern Army Combatives skills to the next level.
More advanced combatives skills draw from Muay Thai, Boxing, Greco-Roman Wrestling, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, and Sambo martial arts styles, among others. It becomes more complex when training with weapons as well.
The footage compilation below comes from the 2015 Modern Army Combatives Tournament held at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash. The first round of competition was for basic combatives, the second round through the finals featured more advanced techniques.
The finals featured a “Tactical Enclosure” – also known as a cage – with open striking.
In the shadowy world of nuclear operations, seconds count. America’s nuclear warriors train daily to deliver awesome firepower in less time than it takes to microwave a slice of pizza.
The United States introduced the atomic bomb in 1945. The Soviet Union followed suit in 1948. An arms race ensued, with each side trying to top each other in destructive power. The nuclear triad, a triumvirate of submarines, bombers, and long-range missiles, was the pinnacle of that arms race.
The name of the game in nuclear strategy is survivability. And that’s what the triad was designed to achieve. Quiet submarines can hide beneath the waves. Bombers can escape to the skies in the event of an incoming attack. And hardened intercontinental ballistic missiles, ICBMs, are so numerous it would require a massive nuclear first-strike to neutralize all of them.
So what does it take to unleash nuclear hell? The massive power lies in the hands of one man, the President of the United States. It’s a responsibility that Harry Truman, who ordered the nuclear strikes on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, said was the most difficult of his Presidency.
In the entire United States military, nowhere is the chain of command thinner than the nuclear command and control network. In a normal military unit, there are two dozen degrees of separation between the National Command Authority and the warfighter. In the shadowy world of nuclear operations, there’s perhaps 2 or 3. When the decision is made, the order shoots like a bolt from the blue to bomber, missile, and submarine crews. When they launch, only the bomber crews have the option of recall.
President Kennedy lamented the responsibility. He thought it “insane that two men, sitting on opposite sides of the world, should be able to decide to bring an end to civilization.”
After the US-Soviet arms race hit its apogee during the Cuban missile crisis, Kennedy reportedly asked a few common sense, but insightful, questions about the nuclear chain of command. He wanted to know how he would order the Pentagon to launch a nuclear strike. And he was curious how nuclear crews would know the order came from the President.
The answer became one of the most visible signs of the President’s authority, the nuclear football. It’s a briefcase carried by a rotating cast of President’s military aides, officers from each service handpicked for their competency.
The football’s small size, power, and mystery have created something of a mythos around the non-descript briefcase. The term “finger on the button” has become synonymous with awesome responsibility. And the assumption is that the football has a big red button inside, one where the President hits when he wants to unleash Armageddon.
The reality isn’t nearly as sexy. The football is in some ways like many briefcases. It holds documents. The term football came from the original nuclear war plan, code-named Dropkick by Defense Secretary Robert McNamara. The thinking was that in order to execute a dropkick, you need a football.
The contents are highly classified. But former military aides have revealed a few key details about the football’s mysterious contents. It contains, most importantly, the authentication codes to America’s atomic arsenal. Those authenticators are the classified realm’s holiest of the holy, quite literally the keys to the nuclear kingdom. The briefcase also contains a menu of retaliatory options for the President. Contrary to popular belief, there’s more to nuclear war than a massive retaliatory blow. Whether to hit big or hit small is the President’s alone.
Along with the football, the President carries with him a small identification card with a series of codes on it. The codes verify his identity, and must accompany the football’s authenticators and war plans when ordering a nuclear strike.
Almost every President has a football fumble. During LBJ’s tenure, a military aide was stunned when he discovered six months’ worth of changes to nuclear procedures were not in the briefcase. When Reagan was shot, his special identification card was stuck in a small plastic hospital bag along with his other personal effects. George HW Bush once left his military aide (and associated football) behind after a tennis match. So did President Clinton. His military aide had to spring several blocks back to the White House, football in tow.
During the heyday of the Cold War, the Soviets also had a small satchel that accompanied the General Secretary. The Russian version had an electronic device that generated an unlock code. During the 1991 coup, conspirators seized both the Russian football and Gorbachev’s aide. The device was reportedly sabotaged by loyal officers during the coup, leaving the fading Soviet Union without access to their nuclear forces.
In America’s case, the invention of nuclear weapons created an anomaly in US history. The Presidency was devised to operate under a series of checks and balances. It was the Founding Father’s way of restraining executive power. Nuclear launch authority has no such check and no such restraint. The power is the President’s alone, and today remains perhaps the most awesome responsibility in history.
President-elect Donald Trump selected retired Marine Gen. John Kelly, the former commander of United States Southern Command, to serve as Secretary of Homeland Security.
The president-elect is slated to make a formal announcement next week, and is also expected to name his pick for Secretary of State as well.
According to a 2014 report by the Washington Free Beacon, Kelly made waves during his tenure at SOUTHCOM by declaring that he had only 5 percent of the intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance elements needed to halt drug smuggling.
That year, he also revealed that nearly three-fourths of drug smugglers got through due to a lack of assets.
Kelly also has warned of Iranian influence in South America.
“Over the last 15 years Iran has periodically sought closer ties with regional governments, albeit with mixed results,” Kelly testified during a Congressional hearing March 2015, according to the Free Beacon. “Iranian legislators visited Cuba, Ecuador, and Nicaragua to advocate for increased economic and diplomatic cooperation. Iran’s outreach is predicated on circumventing sanctions and countering U.S. influence.”
Kelly, a Gold Star father, is the third general to be appointed to a high-level national security post by President-elect Trump. Retired Marine Gen. James Mattis, a former commander of United States Central Command, was selected to serve as Secretary of Defense while former Defense Intelligence Agency head Michael Flynn, a retired Army lieutenant general, was chosen to be Trump’s national security advisor.
Kelly served in the Marine Corps for 46 years, counting four in the inactive reserve. He served in Operation Desert Storm and the Global War on Terror.
His decorations include the Defense Distinguished Service Medal, the Defense Superior Service Medal, the Legion of Merit with Combat Distinguishing Device and a gold star in lieu of a second award, and the Meritorious Service Medal with a gold star in lieu of a second award.
Elaine Donnelly of the Center for Military Readiness praised the selection, saying, “I agree with a Marine veteran friend who said of the appointment of General Kelly, ‘The Marines have landed . . . and the situation soon will be well in hand!’ After years of HHS Director Jeh Johnson’s failure to protect and defend the integrity of America’s borders, this is an inspired and reassuring choice. President-elect Donald Trump is deploying in defense of our nation a man of character who commands respect.”
CLEVELAND, Ohio — As Republican delegates and party officials wrangle through their strategy to capture the White House inside the Quicken Loans arena here, protesters outside the party’s national convention have plenty to say about presidential nominee Donald Trump.
Among them is a group of military veterans who call themselves “Vets Versus Hate.”
“Vets Versus Hate is a national, non-partisan, grassroots movement of veterans standing up against the rhetoric of bigotry and division that has started to really come to the fore during this election season,” Marine Corps vet Alexander McCoy explained. “We’re not here to oppose any political party; we’re here to say that the kind of language Donald Trump is using is absolutely inconsistent with our values that we swore to uphold when we joined the military.”
McCoy, who served as a guard at the American embassies in Saudi Arabia, Honduras and Germany among other duty stations while in the Marine Corps between 2008 and 2013, explained that the group came to Cleveland to show solidarity “with everyone who lives in America . . . calling upon members of [Trump’s] party that have engaged in similar rhetoric to stop this politics of division.”
But in the same breath McCoy conceded that “they don’t seem to be listening, but we’re going to continue to make our voices heard.”
While McCoy is certainly not the only vet protesting what he sees as the Trump campaign’s divisive style, Republicans here have plenty of support from veterans groups and high-profile former military members who took the stage on the convention’s opening day to underscore the real estate mogul’s support for the military.
“The destructive pattern of putting the interests of other nations ahead of our own will end when Donald Trump is president,” said former military intelligence chief Lt. Gen. Mike Flynn. “From this day forward, we must stand tougher and stronger together, with an unrelenting goal to not draw red lines and then retreat and to never be satisfied with reckless rhetoric from an Obama clone like Hillary Clinton.”
But on the streets among the protesters it’s a different story.
Army vet Chris Abshire, an Ohio native who deployed to Afghanistan during his 4 years as a soldier, joined Vets Versus Hate to make the public aware that other people are affected by war, not just soldiers.
“The Afghan people that I interacted with on a daily basis are forgotten about, and politicians who spew hatred toward them and say, ‘We’re going to bomb ISIS back into the Stone Age and steal their oil’ forget that that’s not even their oil,” Abshire said just before joining a circle of protesters forming a human wall in the center of Public Square here, several blocks away from Quicken Loans Arena where the RNC is being held. “That belongs to the Iraqi people, who have been victimized for years now. And I want to stand up against that.”
“Ultimately what we need to make clear to American voters is that [veterans] will not allow themselves to be used . . . as political props,” McCoy said.
Earlier Trump advisor on veteran’s issues New Hampshire state Rep. Al Baldasaro reportedly told a radio host he thought Democratic presidential frontrunner Hillary Clinton should be “put in the firing line and shot for treason.”
“There’s no place in politics for talk about putting your opponents in front of a firing squad,” said Bill Rausch, executive director of Got Your 6, an organization dedicated to veteran civic empowerment. “It goes against the ethos of every person who raised their right hand and swore to defend and protect the Constitution of the United States. We’re calling on the campaign to condemn it immediately.”
Some analysts have said the Trump campaign’s tone during the primary season combined with the national mood in the wake of terror attacks across the globe, as well as the tension between law enforcement and the African-American community here at home, have prompted concerns from RNC officials and Cleveland’s leaders that there might be significant unrest during the 4-day convention.
But nearly three-quarters of the way through the event, there have been no major incidents. Protests have been mostly confined to Public Square, and the potential for them to spread beyond that is severely limited by the force protection measures the city put in place ahead of the event — including a temporary perimeter fence erected around the Quicken Loans complex that now separates the zone from the rest of the city — and a massive influx of law enforcement from other states, including police and state troopers from as far away as Florida and California.
All jobs in the military carry real risks, but some jobs are much riskier than others. Here are 10 of the most dangerous:
Pararescue jumpers are basically the world’s best ambulance service. They fly, climb, and march to battlefields, catastrophic weather areas and disaster zones to save wounded and isolated people during firefights or other emergencies.
2. Special operations
While this is lumping a few separate jobs together, troops such as Navy SEALs, Army green berets, Air Force combat controllers and others conduct particularly risky missions. They train allied forces, hunt enemy leaders, and go on direct action missions against the worst of America’s adversaries. They get additional training and better equipment than other units, but the challenging nature of their mission results in a lot of casualties.
3. Explosive ordnance disposal
The bomb squad for the military, explosive ordnance disposal technicians used to spend the bulk of their time clearing minefields or dealing with dud munitions that didn’t go off. Those missions were dangerous enough, but the rise of improvised explosive devices changed all that and increased the risk for these service members.
Not exactly shocking that infantry is one of the most dangerous jobs on the battlefield. These troops search out and destroy the enemy and respond to calls for help when other units stumble into danger. They are the primary force called on to take and hold territory from enemy forces.
The cavalry conducts reconnaissance and security missions and, if there is a shortage of infantry soldiers, is often called to take and hold territory against enemy formations. Their recon mission sometimes results in them fighting while vastly outnumbered.
6. Combat Engineers
Combat engineers do dangerous construction work with the added hazard of combat operations going on all around them. When the infantry is bogged down in enemy obstacles, it’s highly-trained engineers known as Sappers who go forward and clear the way. The engineers also conduct a lot of the route clearance missions to find and destroy enemy IEDs and mines.
Artillery soldiers send massive rounds against enemy forces. Because artillery destroys enemy formations and demoralizes the survivors, it’s a target for enemy airstrikes and artillery barrages. Also, the artillery may be called on to assume infantry and cavalry missions that they’ve received little training on.
Medics go forward with friendly forces to render aid under fire. While medics are protected under the Geneva Convention, this only helps when the enemy honors the conventions. Even then, artillery barrages and bombing runs can’t tell which troops are noncombatants.
9. Vehicle transportation
Truck driving is another job that became markedly more dangerous in the most recent wars. While driving vehicles in large supply convoys or moving forward with advancing troops was always risky, the rise of the IED threat multiplied the danger for these soldiers. This was complicated by how long it took the military to get up-armored vehicles to all units in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Aircraft provide a lot of capabilites on the battlefield, but that makes them, their crews, and their pilots targets of enemy fire.
11. Artillery observers
Like medics, these soldiers go forward with maneuver forces. They find enemy positions and call down artillery strikes to destroy them. The enemy knows to take them out as quickly as possible since they are usually carrying radios.
On Sept. 6, a US commander apologized for dropping leaflets in Afghanistan that were deemed offensive to Islam.
The leaflets dropped Sept. 4, which encouraged Afghans to cooperate with security forces, included an image of a dog carrying the Taliban flag, said Shah Wali Shahid, the deputy governor of Parwan province, north of Kabul. The flag has Islamic verses inscribed on it and dogs are seen as unclean in much of the Muslim world.
“Local people are very upset with this incident, and they want the perpetrators brought to justice,” Shahid said, adding that demonstrations were expected across the province.
Maj. Gen. James Linder apologized, acknowledging in a statement that “the design of the leaflets mistakenly contained an image highly offensive to both Muslims and the religion of Islam.” He offered his “sincerest apologies for this error.”
Throughout the 16-year Afghan war, US forces have struggled to convince ordinary Afghans to help them defeat the Taliban. Afghanistan is a deeply conservative country and alleged blasphemy has sparked riots.
Elsewhere in Afghanistan, two civilians were killed by a roadside bomb in the eastern Laghman province on Wednesday, according to Sarhadi Zwak, the spokesman for the provincial governor. No one claimed responsibility for the attack, but Taliban insurgents are active in the province.
“Last evening a Soldier attempted to gain access to Fort Bragg through one of our access control points,” read a post to the Fort Bragg Facebook page (which has since been removed). “The Soldier was dressed as a suicide bomber with simulated explosive vest.”
The page noted that emergency responders had to come on the scene, which included the gate being closed for an extended period of time while explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) personnel cleared the scene.
The incident is still under investigation, according to ABC 11.
Let’s face it, everybody loves Danaerys Targaryen’s dragons. And why not? They bring the rain… well, more like they bring the kind of fire and brimstone that’d make Col. Kilgore from “Apocalypse Now” smile in the morning.
There are planes that are very loved as well… like the A-10 Thunderbolt II. This plane is best known for its GAU-8 “Avenger” cannon, which brings a load of firepower. But the dragons have more payload than the beloved “Warthog.” In fact, they can devastate an entire area. Just look at this clip from “The Spoils of War.”
As you saw, Drogon is essentially delivering an “Arc Light” of fire on the Lannister/Tarly army. The plane that carried out the “Arc Light” missions is none other than the Boeing B-52 Stratofortress, also known as the Big Ugly Fat F@cker, or “BUFF.”
And like the BUFF, Drogon unleashes long, long trails of fire, like the string of 51 Mk 82 500-pound bombs (or M117 750-pound bombs) that a B-52 delivers in those carpet-bombing raids. Who remembers the dragons tearing apart the slavers’ fleet? Did you know that B-52s have been equipped to carry AGM-84 Harpoon anti-ship missiles?
But Drogon was doing a fair bit of that in a close-air support role. That is the bread-and butter mission of the A-10 Thunderbolt. His first pass cut a hole through the Lannister lines. And like the A-10, which is legendary for taking damage and getting back home, Drogon showed he could take a hit and still remain very dangerous. Hell, he even pulled the same “fire from the ground” maneuver Doug Masters did, and Jamie Lannister is darn lucky he isn’t a crispy critter after that “gun run.”
This does seem perplexing. Are Drogon, Viserion, and Rhaegal more like BUFFs, or are they more like the Warthogs that our ground troops love? There are good arguments both ways.
In this case, the best answer may be that they combine the best of both of these legendary planes. They can handle the close-air support mission, but they are also very dangerous against strategic targets. The Mother of Dragons would have beaten Cersei a long time ago if she’d used `em properly at the beginning, instead of making big-time blunders.
Britain is one of America’s closest allies and its service members are pretty impressive. One of its greatest forces is the Royal Marines, now known as commandos, who have fought on behalf of the British Crown since their original formation as the “Duke of York and Albany’s maritime regiment of Foot” in 1664.
Since then, they’ve proven themselves in hundreds of battles and dozens of conflicts everywhere from Massachusetts to Korea to the Falklands. Here are some defining moments from Royal Marine Commando history:
1. The Royal Marines carved out their names during the battle to take and hold the island fortress of Gibraltar.
In 1704, during the War of Spanish Succession, a combined force of 1,900 English Royal Marines and 400 Dutch marines hit the island fortress of Gibraltar in what was the largest English amphibious assault at that point in history. A large and unexplained explosion set the attackers back but the fortress was taken with relative ease.
One of the Royal Marines’ prouder moments actually came in 1775 while fighting against the U.S. when British army regulars twice attacked during the Battle of Bunker Hill and failed to capture it. As the army melted back, the marine commander yelled, “Make way for the marines, break and let themarines through!”
The third assault, conducted by columns of marines instead of lines of British regulars, was successful and resulted in the British capturing the fortifications. But the losses for the regulars and the marines were high: 1,054 versus American losses of 400.
3. They give up half their strength to take Graspan in the Boer War
But it wasn’t. Boer riflemen and field artillery fiercely fought off the attackers. Despite heavy losses to include the commander and other officers, the marines and their compatriots rallied for a final attack and charged with their bayonets against the Boer positions, pushing the defenders off though failing to capture the enemy artillery.
4. Marines are instrumental in blocking Zeebrugge
During World War I, the Royal Marines provided the landing parties and some of the gunners for a daring raid against the German U-Boats in Bruges. The plan called for ships to be sunk in the long canal from Bruges to the English Channel, but someone had to fight pitched battles against the German defenders on the coast to make it possible.
Yup, Royal Marines volunteered. They landed on the port’s mole with a specially modified ship, the HMS Vindictive. The marines and sailors landed on April 23, 1918, and wrought absolute havoc with machine guns and rifles, naval artillery, and flamethrowers.
5. The commandos capture an entire port as well as bridges and towns on D-Day
The Royal Marines, by this point known as (RM) Commandos, were obviously a big deal at one of history’s largest amphibious assaults. Five units landed on D-Day where their biggest job was capturing Port-en-Bessin between Gold and Sword beaches, an objective the 47 (RM) Commando completed on July 8.
6. Commandos capture an entire island to open a Belgian port
Walcharen was an island on the coast of Amsterdam in 1944, and Germans occupying it were making logistics challenging for Allies fighting their way to Berlin. So, the Royal Marines teamed up with Canada for Operation Infatuate, a week-long attack against the island.
Operation Musketeer was an honest-to-God conspiracy between Israel, Britain, and France to ouster Egypt’s Gamal Abdel Nasser. Britain’s main goal was to regain control of the Suez Canal, a strategic asset nationalized by Nasser. The plan was for Israel to initiate a conflict with Egypt. France and Britain would mediate unacceptable terms, and then they would invade.
The role of Royal Commandos was to seize Port Said through the first ship-to-shore heliborne assault in history. The two commando units involved were also backed up by a small number of tanks and armored vehicles. Their mission was successful and almost achieved its objective on the first day, but orders from Nasser kept, leading to the commandos capturing the local Egyptian commander and his staff.
Ultimately, the commandos did amazing work but political condemnation for the mission stripped France and England of most of their gains.
The Navy plans to test-fire a deadly high-tech, long-range electromagnetic weapon against a floating target at sea later this year – as part of the fast-paced development of its new Electromagnetic Rail Gun.
The rail gun uses an electromagnetic current to fire a kinetic energy warhead up to 100 miles at speeds greater than 5,000 miles an hour, a speed at least three times as fast as existing weapons.
In the upcoming test, the kinetic energy projectile will seek to hit, destroy or explode an at sea target from on-board the USNS Trenton, a Joint High Speed Vessel, service officials said.
The test shots, which will be the first of its kind for the developmental, next-generation weapon, will take place at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla.
During the test, the rail gun will fire a series of GPS-guided hypervelocity projectiles at a barge floating on the ocean about 25 to 50 nautical miles away,
The weapon will be fired against a floating target, in an effort to test the rail gun’s ability to destroy targets that are beyond-the-horizon, Navy officials said.
The Navy is developing the rail gun weapon for a wide range of at-sea and possible land-based applications, service officials added.
The weapon’s range, which can fire guided, high-speed projectiles more than 100 miles, makes it suitable for cruise missile defense, ballistic missile defense and various kinds of surface warfare applications.
The railgun uses electrical energy to create a magnetic field and propel a kinetic energy projectile at Mach 7.5 toward a wide range of targets, such as enemy vehicles, or cruise and ballistic missiles.
The weapon works when electrical power charges up a pulse-forming network. That pulse-forming network is made up of capacitors able to release very large amounts of energy in a very short period of time.
The weapon releases a current on the order of 3 to 5 million amps — that’s 1,200 volts released in a ten millisecond timeframe, experts have said. That is enough to accelerate a mass of approximately 45 pounds from zero to five thousand miles per hour in one one-hundredth of a second, Navy officials added at a briefing last Spring.
Due to its ability to reach speeds of up to 5,600 miles per hour, the hypervelocity projectile is engineered as a kinetic energy warhead, meaning no explosives are necessary. The hyper velocity projectile can travel at speeds up to 2,000 meters per second, a speed which is about three times that of most existing weapons. The rate of fire is 10-rounds per minute, developers explained at last years’ briefing.
A kinetic energy hypervelocity warhead also lowers the cost and the logistics burden of the weapon, they explained.
Although it has the ability to intercept cruise missiles, the hypervelocity projectile can be stored in large numbers on ships. Unlike other larger missile systems designed for similar missions, the hypervelocity projectile costs only $25,000 per round.
The railgun can draw its power from an onboard electrical system or large battery, Navy officials said. The system consists of five parts, including a launcher, energy storage system, a pulse-forming network, hypervelocity projectile and gun mount.
While the weapon is currently configured to guide the projectile against fixed or static targets using GPS technology, it is possible that in the future the rail gun could be configured to destroy moving targets as well, Navy officials have explained over the years.
Possible Rail Gun Deployment on Navy Destroyers
Also, the Navy is evaluating whether to mount its new Electromagnetic Rail Gun weapon from the high-tech DDG 1000 destroyer by the mid-2020s, service officials said.
The DDG 1000’s Integrated Power System provides a large amount of on board electricity sufficient to accommodate the weapon, Navy developers have explained.
The first of three planned DDG 1000 destroyers was christened in April of last year.
Navy leaders believe the DDG 1000 is the right ship to house the rail gun but that additional study was necessary to examine the risks.
Also, with a displacement of 15,482 tons, the DDG 1000 is 65-percent larger than existing 9,500- ton Aegis cruisers and destroyers.
The DDG 1,000 integrated power system, which includes its electric propulsion, helps generate up to 58 megawatts of on-board electrical power, something seen as key to the future when it comes to the possibility of firing a rail gun.
It is also possible that the weapon could someday be configured to fire from DDG 51 Arleigh Burke-class destroyers. Something of that size is necessary, given the technological requirements of the weapon.
For example, the Electro-magnetic gun would most likely not work as a weapon for the Navy’s Littoral Combat Ship.
There’s a mystique to battleships. Whenever inside-the-Beltway dwellers debate how to bulk up the US Navy fleet, odds are sentimentalists will clamor to return the Iowa-class dreadnoughts to service. Nor is the idea of bringing back grizzled World War II veterans as zany as it sounds.
We aren’t talking equipping the 1914-vintage USS Texas with superweapons to blast the Soviet Navy, or resurrecting the sunken Imperial Japanese Navy super-battleshipYamato for duty in outer space, or keeping USS Missouri battleworthy in case aliens menace the Hawaiian Islands. Such proposals are not mere whimsy.
Built to duel Japan in World War II, in fact, battleships were recommissioned for the Korean War, the Vietnam War, and the Cold War. The last returned to action in 1988. The Iowa class sat in mothballs for about three decades after Korea (except for USS New Jersey, which returned to duty briefly during the Vietnam War). That’s about how long the battlewagons have been in retirement since the Cold War. History thus seems to indicate they could stage yet another comeback. This far removed from their past lives, though, it’s doubtful in the extreme that the operational return on investment would repay the cost, effort, and human capital necessary to bring them back to life.
But colossal practical difficulties would work against reactivating the dreadnoughts at low cost, despite these superficially plausible figures. First of all, the vessels no longer belong to the US Navy. They’re museums. New Jersey and Missouri were struck from the Navy list during the 1990s. Engineers preserved Iowa and Wisconsin in “reactivation” status for quite some time, meaning they hypothetically could return to duty, but they, too, were struck from the rolls, in 2006. Sure, the US government could probably get them back during a national emergency, but resolving legal complications would consume time and money in peacetime.
USS Iowa (BB-61) fires a full broadside of her nine 16″/50 and six 5″/38 guns during a target exercise near Vieques Island, Puerto Rico. Photo from DoD.
Second, chronological age matters. A standard talking point among battleship enthusiasts holds that the Iowas resemble a little old lady’s car, an aged auto with little mileage on the odometer. A used-car salesman would laud its longevity, assuring would-be buyers they could put lots more miles on it. This, too, makes intuitive sense. My old ship, USS Wisconsin, amassed just fourteen years of steaming time despite deploying for World War II, Korea, and Desert Storm. At a time when the US Navy hopes to wring fifty years of life out of aircraft carriers and forty out of cruisers and destroyers, refitted battleships could seemingly serve for decades to come.
And it is true: stout battleship hulls could doubtless withstand the rigors of sea service. But what about their internals? Mechanical age tells only part of the story. Had the Iowa class remained in continuous service, with regular upkeep and overhauls, they probably could have steamed around for decades. After all, the World War II flattop USS Lexington served until 1991, the same year the Iowas retired. But they didn’t get that treatment during the decades they spent slumbering. As a consequence, battleships were already hard ships to maintain a quarter-century ago. Sailors had to scavenge spares from still older battleships. Machinists, welders, and shipfitters were constantly on the go fabricating replacements for worn-out parts dating from the 1930s or 1940s.
This problem would be still worse another quarter-century on, and a decade-plus after the navy stopped preserving the vessels and their innards. Managing that problem would be far more expensive. An old joke among yachtsmen holds that a boat is a hole in the water into which the owner dumps money. A battleship would represent a far bigger hole in the water, devouring taxpayer dollars in bulk. Even if the US Navy could reactivate the Iowas for a pittance, the cost of operating and maintaining them could prove prohibitive. That’s why they were shut down in the 1990s, and time has done nothing to ease that remorseless logic.
Third, what about the big guns the Iowa class sports—naval rifles able to fling projectiles weighing the same as a VW Bug over twenty miles? These are the battleships’ signature weapon, and there is no counterpart to them in today’s fleet. Massive firepower might seem to justify the expense of recommissioning and maintaining the ships. But gun barrels wear out after being fired enough times. No one has manufactured replacement barrels for 16-inch, 50-caliber guns in decades, and the inventory of spares has evidently been scrapped or donated to museums. That shortage would cap the battleships’ combat usefulness.
Nor, evidently, is there any safe ammunition for battleship big guns to fire. We used 1950s-vintage 16-inch rounds and powder during the 1980s and 1990s. Any such rounds still in existence are now over sixty years old, while the US Navy is apparently looking to demilitarize and dispose of them. Gearing up to produce barrels and ammunition in small batches would represent a non-starter for defense firms. The navy recently canceled the destroyer USS Zumwalt‘s advanced gun rounds because costs spiraled above $800,000 apiece. That was a function of ordering few munitions for what is just a three-ship class. Ammunition was simply mot affordable. Modernized Iowas would find themselves in the same predicament, if not more so.
And lastly, it’s unclear where the US Navy would find the human expertise to operate 16-inch gun turrets or the M-type Babcock & Wilcox boilers that propel and power battleships. No one has trained on these systems since 1991, meaning experts in using and maintaining them have, ahem, aged and grown rusty at their profession. Heck, steam engineers are in short supply, full stop, as the Navy turns to electric drive, gas turbines, and diesel engines to propel its ships. Older amphibious helicopter docks are steam-powered, but even this contingent is getting a gradual divorce from steam as newer LHDs driven by gas turbines join the fleet while their steam-propelled forebears approach decommissioning.
Steam isn’t dead, then, but it is a technology of the past—just like 16-inch guns. Technicians are few and dwindling in numbers while battleship crews would demand them in large numbers. I rank among the youngest mariners to have operated battleship guns and propulsion-plant machinery in yesteryear, and trust me, folks: you don’t want the US Navy conscripting me to regain my proficiency in engineering and weapons after twenty-six years away from it, let alone training youngsters to operate elderly hardware themselves. In short, it’s as tough to regenerate human capital as it is to rejuvenate the material dimension after a long lapse. The human factor—all by itself—could constitute a showstopper for battleship reactivation.
Battleships still have much to contribute to fleet design, just not as active surface combatants. Alfred Thayer Mahan describes a capital ship—the core of any battle fleet—as a vessel able to dish out and absorb punishment against a peer navy. While surface combatants pack plenty of offensive punch nowadays, the innate capacity to take a punch is something that has been lost in today’s lightly armored warships. Naval architects could do worse than study the battleships’ history and design philosophy, rediscovering what it means to construct a true capital ship. The US Navy would be better off for their inquiry.
Let’s learn what we can from the past—but leave battleship reactivation to science fiction.