The U.S. Army is hosting a fly-off starting a year from now, and some of the biggest names in defense manufacturing are working in earnest to win it.
The Army put out a “request for proposals,” better know in procurement circles as an “RFP,” last year as the first step in their Joint Multi-Role Technology Demonstrator (JMRTD) program, and the competition is down to two efforts: The V-280 “Valor” by Bell Helicopter and the SB-1 “Defiant” by Boeing and Lockheed-Martin. The two designs take wildly different approaches to meet the JMRTD performance requirements that include the ability to reach an airspeed of 230 knots and fly a combat radius of around 275 miles. The Valor is a tiltrotor aircraft, which builds on Bell’s experience and learnings with the V-22 “Osprey,” and the Defiant is a coaxial rotor design, which uses two rotors spinning in opposite directions above the fuselage and a thruster aft.
The two designs take wildly different approaches to meet the JMRTD performance requirements that include the ability to reach an airspeed of 230 knots and fly a combat radius of around 275 miles. The Valor is a tiltrotor aircraft, which builds on Bell’s experience and learnings with the V-22 “Osprey,” and the Defiant is a coaxial rotor design, which uses two rotors spinning in opposite directions above the fuselage and a thruster aft.
“We realize there’s still a pretty significant filter out there about the troubled history of the tiltrotor,” said Robert Hastings, Bell’s EVP for communications and government affairs . “But the Marines today would tell you it’s transformational. Younger pilots who never had to unlearn bad habits from other airplanes are flying the V-22 in ways we never imagined.”
Hastings, who flew Cobras and Blackhawks in the Army and also served as the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs during Robert Gates’ tenure at the Pentagon, related a conversation he had with a V-22 squadron commander during the most recent Singapore Air Show. The CO told him that at that moment he had Ospreys in Australia, Okinawa, and the Philippines as well as at the show.
“He was a lieutenant colonel with an operational sphere of influence as big as what an admiral had a generation ago,” Hastings said. “To quote Gen. Davis, the Marine Corps’ assistant commandant for aviation: ‘The V-22 has not only changed the way we operate; it changed the way the enemy worries about us.'”
But while Hastings readily lists the V-22’s successes in the nation’s most recent conflicts, including how the CV variant has been used by the Air Force Special Operations Command, he is quick to point out that the V-280 is what he called a “clean sheet design.”
“The V-22 is largely a 1980s product,” he said. “Manufacturing is different today.”
Hastings explained digital designs along with more precise machining allows parts “to slip into place very nicely” instead of having to be sanded down and otherwise manipulated by technicians along the assembly line as they had to while making the Osprey. With these sorts of improvements, Bell is striving to make the V-280 cost half of the V-22’s $71 million unit flyaway cost.
Bell has partnered with Lockheed-Martin to give the Valor a state-of-the-art cockpit suite, building on what engineers and test pilots have learned during the development of the F-35. While there’s no plan for helmet visor symbology (which has been a challenge to develop during F-35 testing), Hastings said the cockpit’s “open architecture” could afford V-280 pilots that capability in the future. The cockpit also accommodates a wide array of sensors and mission packages, which are designed to give the Valor a lot of combat agility.
Bell is calling their JMRTD candidate a “third generation” tiltrotor. (V-22 is second generation.) The V-280 differs from its predecessor in a number of ways: It’s much lighter because it’s constructed entirely of carbon-based materials. It has a straight wing instead of the Osprey’s forward-swept wing. It has a side door instead of an aft ramp.
Hastings also pointed out that — with an internal fuel cell added in the cabin area — the Valor can fly 2,100 miles, which will give the Army a self-deploy capability it’s never had before.
“Imagine a future where the 82nd Airborne is told to deploy, and the aviation division commander says to his aviation unit commander, ‘Meet me at the Horn of Africa in three days,'” Hastings said. “He doesn’t have to worry about a third of his strategic lift assets being tied up by those helicopters.”
The JMRTD fly off program will last two years, and at the end of it the Army will pick one of the two airplanes to replace its force of 2,000 Blackhawks and 800 Apaches. (And Hastings pointed out that the utility and attack variants of the Valor have 85 percent commonality beneath the prop-rotor — another cost-saving feature, he said.) The Army wants the new airplanes ready for war by 2029.
“We believe that helicopters will be around forever,” Hastings said, “but we think helicopters have reached as far as you can expand them. We think tiltrotors have a ton of growth in terms of what you can do with them.”
The United States of America has sued Black Nights Wine Spirits to stop the Highland Falls liquor store from using a name confusingly similar to the Black Knights nickname used by the academy’s athletic teams as far back as the 1940s. After four cease-and-desist letters and the filing of the lawsuit on Aug. 8, the store has seemingly conceded.
“We’ve changed the name to Good Nights,” said a man who answered the phone at the store recently. He said Frank Carpentieri, the owner of Frasiekenjes, LLC, the company that runs the store, would not be available for a few days.
The lawsuit, filed by acting US Attorney Joon H. Kim, accuses the liquor merchant of tarnishing the academy’s brands.
The Department of the Army holds several trademarks for “Black Knights” and the West Point crest, so it did not escape its attention when Black Nights Wine and Spirits opened last September on Main Street in Highland Falls, just beyond the West Point gates. The store’s name, the Army says, falsely suggests that the enterprise is “associated with or endorsed and approved by the US Military Academy at West Point.”
The Army drew a line in the sand within weeks of the store opening, mailing a cease-and-desist letter that alleges trademark infringement.
The store then installed a more permanent “Black Nights” sign and placed several items in and around the store that highlight West Point themes.
Besides the alleged abuse of West Point’s goodwill and brand reputation, the lawsuit states that the liquor store defies military policies.
“The Department of the Army is highly concerned with the use of alcohol among its soldiers and is committed to de-glamorizing its use,” the complaint states.
During my first week in Ranger Battalion, I joined my platoon during a live fire. I wasn’t even allowed real bullets because I was so new. For a portion of the exercise I was on a hill watching the training of another platoon. I was in earshot of an old Ranger first sergeant. The Rangers in training were assaulting a constructed plywood building and were preparing to conduct an explosive breach on the plywood door. The team leader quickly applied the charge with double sided sticky tape and stepped back into the stack, pulling both detonators. “Failed Breach, Failed Breach!” was yelled. It was obvious the detonation cord was faulty.
Before anything else happened, the team leader barreled full speed into the plywood door, obliterating it from the hinges, and providing an entry point into the building. Without any hesitation, all three members of his team followed their leader right into the breach. The training mission went on and was completed successfully. The company commander was scowling about the breach technique but the first sergeant was grinning from ear to ear and bellowed, “That’s some good ole fashioned Rangering right there!” The company commander stopped scowling.
I didn’t know much then, but I knew whatever this Rangering was, I wanted to try it and whatever a Ranger was, I wanted to be it. There’s a big difference between telling your friends, your family, or even your recruiter you want to be a Ranger, and then suddenly seeing a defining act of Rangering in front of you. It was an automatic sensation of knowing that you want to join the pack and you want to be the wolf. Rangers were never sheepdogs, they have always been wolves hunting the herd of treachery and I wanted to hunt.
We all touched down in a C-17 on a faraway land. Many of us landed in the C-17 by soaring over the mountains or screaming into the desert. Rarely did anyone go but once; in fact, many of our brothers are still going. What is special about Rangers is that on each of the thousands of deployment hours is someone who went to war months ago and is back again. A man, a team, a platoon, a battalion fully knowing the hazards of their chosen profession.
Running the gambit, sparking the fight, reliving the horror, noting the beauty, enduring the sacrifice, all this is symbolized by a simple scroll on your right sleeve that may as well be tied to your heart. There was a transformation taking place within me, within us all. Rangering made me hear the sound of valor and see the light of courage. The sound I could hear as I followed the drums of war and the light I could see in the enemy across the street.
Although this Rangering was a lifestyle, it came with the price of vanquishing what boyish innocence remained in my gaze upon the earth. I was now grown in ways that I could not possibly understand. It was magical and despicable what we were capable of. We flew across night skies, landed in fields, slinked over walls, eviscerated doors, and introduced ourselves to those souls who had lost the evening’s lottery in scumbaggery.
Whenever I returned from a mission, danger or not on that night, there was levity in the brotherhood. We had such little time to ourselves for being anything beyond Rangers and do anything beyond Rangering that when we did – it created exuberance for life that could not be contained. There was never a day without Rangers that I did not smile or laugh.
It’s for this reason that now when I look back, though I hated certain parts, though I despised endless training, though I constantly made other plans for outside of the military; I now feel nostalgia for those times with honorable men, I now feel pride in our shared struggle for our piece of war. I miss being John Wayne when everything was black and white. I miss being a note on the album Appetite for Destruction; I miss seeing the whites of the unsuspecting eyes. Goddamn it, a platoon of Rangers could do anything!
The irony is that for all the Regiments glory, it’s not built for you to stay. So for me, and those like me, we fade back to which we came or we populate other military units. A small number stay, but the glory days of war hammer team leading and SpecFour Mafia mayhem, seem to disappear as the burden of leadership widens and the loss of lives grows vast. It was great while it lasted and the irony of that is that we all could have gone back had we really wanted to.
If it was so great, then why didn’t we? Probably because at this point it is better to tell these incredible stories, it’s good to drink this beer with war in the rear view, and it’s okay I never had a last shoot out at the Alamo. Rangering created more brothers than I ever could have wanted, but the pain of burying a brother is still the pain of burying a brother, no matter how many stand behind you. I still have the Ranger Creed. I still have my friends. I still have the sorrows of war; I still hear the sirens of action. And every now and then I can still be the teeth in the night, I can still laugh when things really suck, I can still run in short shorts.
“Rangering” was something I did, but I will always be a Ranger; you just have to look at my soul now instead of my sleeve.
The NATO Alliance was originally established 68 years ago today. Political rhetoric notwithstanding, the modern alliance is currently fighting in Afghanistan while also facing down a resurgent Russia in Eastern Europe and figuring out how to stop ISIS at home and abroad. Here are 7 facts from its proud history:
1. NATO grew out of the more limited Treaty of Brussels of 1948
The Treaty of Brussels signed in 1948 established collective defense for Great Britain, France, Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg. The U.S. wanted a greater stake in Western European security and so began looking for a way to join an expanded version of the treaty.
2. The U.S. invited other countries into NATO to form a “bridge” across the Atlantic
America and the Brussels signatories largely agreed on the framework of what would become NATO, but one of the original sticking points was whether other countries would be allowed to join. America wanted to invite North Atlantic countries like Canada, Denmark, Iceland, Norway, Ireland, and Portugal as these countries would form a “bridge” across the Atlantic for deploying forces.
3. Both the Treaty of Brussels and the NATO Alliance were in response to Soviet aggression
After World War II, Stalin quickly began supporting pro-Soviet and pro-communist government in Eastern Europe. After a civil war in Greece, a coup in Czechoslovakia, and the Blockade of Berlin, Western European countries were increasingly worried about the USSR trying to topple their governments. They responded with the Treaty of Brussels and then the NATO treaty.
4. The NATO Alliance formed a “nuclear umbrella” over Europe
The first mention of a “massive retaliatory power” to any Soviet incursion was made by President Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1954. This established a “nuclear umbrella” over NATO, the possibility that the U.S. would respond to any attack with nuclear weapons, but it wasn’t an immediately credible threat.
It wasn’t until the development of nuclear weapons like nuclear-tipped, intercontinental ballistic missiles and the implementation of practices like Operation Chrome Dome that the U.S. could truly threaten Moscow with nukes on short notice.
5. NATO had a clear nemesis in the Warsaw Pact
The increased readiness of NATO in the mid-1950s and its expansion into new countries, especially West Germany in 1955, spurred the creation of the Warsaw Pact in 1955. The Warsaw Pact was a sort of Soviet NATO that existed between the USSR and seven Soviet-aligned countries in Europe.
6. NATO has a science program
The Soviet Union launched Sputnik in 1956 and the West realized it had to get serious about scientific development. This led not only to the establishment of the Advanced Research Projects Agency, (now the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) in the U.S. but also the NATO Science Programme.
Now known as the Science for Peace and Security Programme, it provides funding, expert advice, and other support to security-relevant science and research between NATO countries and partner countries.
7. A NATO training exercise nearly triggered a nuclear war
While the relationship between the Warsaw Pact and NATO was always strained, it reached a fever pitch on a few occasions. In addition to the Berlin Crisis of 1961 and the Cuban Missile Crisis, NATO military exercises in 1983 nearly triggered an actual war.
The annual war games were focused on command post operations, but the 1983 exercise included an unprecedented 19,000 troops flying in from the U.S. and jets carrying dummy nuclear warheads on simulated attack runs. The Soviets were worried that it was actually cover for an invasion and put their own troops on nuclear high alert.
With sequestration and troop drawdowns forcing the military to record low levels of readiness, the requirements for joining the U.S. armed forces have become more stringent, and the pool of eligible recruits has become smaller. Out of the 34 million 17-24 year olds in the U.S. only 1 percent are both eligible and inclined to pursue military service, according to the Defense Department.
Here are the nine most common reasons civilians are disqualified from service:
The Air Force Chief Scientist said F-35 pilots will be able to control a small group of drones flying nearby from the aircraft cockpit in the air, performing sensing, reconnaissance and targeting functions.
At the moment, the flight path, sensor payload and weapons disposal of airborne drones such as Air Force Predators and Reapers are coordinated from ground control stations.
In the future, drones may be fully operated from the cockpit of advanced fighter jets such as the Joint Strike Fighter or F-22, Air Force Chief Scientist Greg Zacharias told Scout Warrior in an interview.
“The more autonomy and intelligence you can put on these vehicles, the more useful they will become,” he said.
This development could greatly enhance mission scope, flexibility and effectiveness by enabling a fighter jet to conduct a mission with more weapons, sensors, targeting technology and cargo, Zacharias explained.
For instance, real-time video feeds from the electro-optical/infrared sensors on board an Air Force Predator, Reaper or Global Hawk drone could go directly into an F-35 cockpit, without needing to go to a ground control station. This could speed up targeting and tactical input from drones on reconnaisance missions in the vicinity of where a fighter pilot might want to attack. In fast-moving combat circumstances involving both air-to-air and air-to-ground threats, increased speed could make a large difference.
“It’s almost inevitable people will be saying – I want more missiles on board to get through defenses or I need some EW (electronic warfare) countermeasures because I don’t have the payload to carry a super big pod,” he explained. “A high powered microwave may have some potential that will require a dedicated platform. The negative side is you have to watch out that you don’t overload the pilot,” Zacharias added.
In addition, drones could be programmed to fly into heavily defended or high-risk areas ahead of manned-fighter jets in order to assess enemy air defenses and reduce risk to pilots.
“Decision aides will be in cockpit or on the ground and more platform oriented autonomous systems. A wing-man, for instance, might be carrying extra weapons, conduct ISR tasks or help to defend an area,” he said.
Advances in computer power, processing speed and areas referred to as “artificial intelligence” are rapidly changing the scope of what platforms are able to perform without needing human intervention. This is mostly developing in the form of what Zacharias referred to as “decision aide support,” meaning machines will be able to better interpret, organize, analyze and communicate information to a much greater extent – without have humans manage each individual task.
“A person comes in and does command and control while having a drone execute functions. The resource allocation will be done by humans,” Zacharias said.
The early phases of this kind of technology is already operational in the F-35 cockpit through what is called “sensor-fusion.” This allows the avionics technology and aircraft computer to simultaneously organize incoming information for a variety of different sensors – and display the data on a single integrated screen for the pilot. As a result, a pilot does not have the challenge of looking at multiple screens to view digital map displays, targeting information or sensory input, among other things.
Another advantage of these technological advances is that one human may have an ability to control multiple drones and perform a command and control function – while drones execute various tasks such as sensor functions, targeting, weapons transport or electronic warfare activities.
At the moment, multiple humans are often needed to control a single drone, and new algorithms increasing autonomy for drones could greatly change this ratio. Zacharias explained a potential future scenario wherein one human is able to control 10 – or even 100 – drones.
Algorithms could progress to the point where a drone, such as a Predator or a Reaper, might be able to follow a fighter aircraft by itself – without needing its flight path navigated from human direction from the ground.
Unlike ground robotics wherein autonomy algorithms have to contend with an ability to move quickly in relation to unanticipated developments and other moving objects, simple autonomous flight guidance from the air is much more manageable to accomplish.
Since there are often fewer obstacles in the air compared with the ground, drones above the ground can be programmed more easily to fly toward certain pre-determined locations, often called a “way-points.”
At the same time, unanticipated movements, objects or combat circumstances can easily occur in the skies as well, Zacharias said.
“The hardest thing is ground robotics. I think that is really tough. I think the air basically is today effectively a solved problem. The question is what happens when you have to react more to your environment and a threat is coming after you,” he said.
As a result, scientists are now working on advancing autonomy to the point where a drone can, for example, be programmed to spoof a radar system, see where threats are and more quickly identify targets independently.
“We will get beyond simple guidance and control and will get into tactics and execution,” Zacharias added.
Wargames, exercises and simulations are one of the ways the Air Force is working to advance autonomous technologies.
“Right now we are using lots of bandwidth to send our real-time video. One of the things that we have is a smarter on-board processor. These systems can learn over time and be a force multiplier. There’s plenty of opportunity to go beyond the code base of an original designer and work on a greater ability to sense your environment or sense what your teammate might be telling you as a human,” he said.
For example, with advances in computer technology, autonomy and artificial intelligence, drones will be able to stay above a certain area and identify particular identified relevant objects or targets at certain times, without needing a human operator, Zacharias added.
This is particularly relevant because the exorbitant amount of ISR video feeds collected needs organizing algorithms and technology to help process and sift through the vast volumes of gathered footage – in order to pinpoint and communicate what is tactically relevant.
“With image processing and pattern recognition, you could just send a signal instead of using up all this bandwidth saying ‘hey I just saw something 30-seconds ago you might want to look at the video feed I am sending right now,'” he explained.
The Army has advanced manned-unmanned teaming technology in its helicopter fleet –successfully engineering Apache and Kiowa air crews to control UAS flight paths and sensor payloads from the air in the cockpit. Army officials say this technology has yielded successful combat results in Afghanistan.
Senior Air Force leaders have said that the services’ new next-generation bomber program, Long Range Strike Bomber or LRS-B, will be engineered to fly manned and unmanned missions.
Also, in September of 2013, the Air Force and Boeing flew an unmanned F-16 Falcon at supersonic speeds for the first time at Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla. The unmanned fighter was able to launch, maneuver and return to base without a pilot.
At the same time, despite the speed at which unmanned technology is progressing, many scientist and weapons’ developers are of the view that human pilots will still be needed – given the speed at which the human brain can quickly respond to unanticipated developments.
There is often a two-second long lag time before a UAS in the air can respond to or implement directions from a remote pilot in a ground station, a circumstance which underscores the need for manned pilots when it comes to fighter jets, Air Force officials said.
Therefore, while cargo planes or bombers with less of a need to maneuver in the skies might be more easily able to embrace autonomous flight – fighter jets will still greatly benefit from human piloting, Air Force scientists have said.
While computer processing speed and algorithms continue to evolve at an alarming pace, it still remains difficult to engineer a machine able to instantly respond to other moving objects or emerging circumstances, Air Force scientists have argued.
However, sensor technology is progressing quickly to the point where fighter pilots will increasingly be able to identify threats at much greater distances, therefore remove the need to dogfight. As a result, there may be room for an unmanned fighter jet in the not-too-distant future, given the pace of improving autonomous technology.
In the Kontum Province of Vietnam, near the borders with Laos and Cambodia, there were many reports from U.S. troops on patrols of a strange, not-quite-human but not-quite-ape creature the locals call Nguoi Rung, or “The people of the Forest.” In other words: Bigfoot.
Gary Linderer was on a six-man patrol with the 101st Airborne’s Long Range Reconnaissance Patrols. While struggle through the underbrush, he ran into “deep set eyes on a prominent brow… five feet tall, with long muscular arms.” The creature “walked upright with broad shoulders and a heavy torso.” His battle buddies told him he just saw a rock ape, but Linderer had seen Rock Apes before. This was no Rock Ape.
Like the Yeti in the Himalayas, and the Sasquatch sightings all over North America, the Nguoi Rung is a oft-told tale in the area, but despite endless the sightings and folklore attached to the semi-mythical creature, no concrete evidence exists. Linderer wasn’t the only witness, either. Army Sgt. Thomas Jenkins reported his platoon was attacked by these apes throwing stones.
Toward the end of the war, Viet Cong and NVA soldiers reported so many sightings of the reddish-brown hair-covered Nguoi Rung the North Vietnamese communist party secretariat ordered scientists to investigate.
Dr. Vo Quy, a respected ornithologist and environmental researcher from Hanoi, discovered a Nguoi Rung footprint on the forest floor and made a cast of it. The cast was wider than a human foot and too big for an ape.
In 1982, another Vietnamese scientist, Tran Hong Viet discovered more footprints, which led zoologist John MacKinnon to investigate the region. MacKinnon called the area a “tiny, pristine corner of the world unknown to modern science.”
In 1969, MacKinnon discovered manlike footprints in Borneo’s jungles, which the locals called Batatut. While much of the evidence surrounding the existence of these apes is anecdotal, MacKinnon, known for his discovery of new mammal species in Vietnam, believes there is a possibility the existence of a previously unknown ape species is real.
As the Islamic State’s so-called caliphate collapses across Iraq and Syria under unrelenting pressure by the US-backed coalition, the whereabouts of the group’s chieftain, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, remain a mystery.
Since fleeing the group’s Syrian stronghold of Raqqa in May, various reports over recent weeks allege the terrorist leader either has been killed by Russian or coalition forces or is still at large in the group’s redoubts in central Syria.
The impetus inside the White House and Pentagon to kill or capture al-Baghdadi has seemingly been lukewarm at best compared to the hunt for al Qaeda leader, Osama bin Laden, which ended with the Navy SEAL raid on the terrorist leader’s Pakistani hideout in May 2011.
The defeat of the terrorist group also known as ISIS or ISIL, along with the death of its emir, has been the clearest objective of President Trump’s national security and foreign policy strategy, and one that critics claim has been heavy on rhetoric and little else.
What remains unclear is how the Trump White House plans to carry on the fight against Islamic State once al-Baghdadi is no longer in the picture.
US military officials have reiterated that al-Baghdadi’s death remains a top priority for the American-led coalition battling Islamic State. However, coalition commanders and Pentagon officials also claim that the Islamic State chieftain has been effectively sidelined from any command-and-control role over the group’s operations in the Middle East and across the globe.
The Islamic State leader “is somebody who we would like to see dead,” Pentagon spokesman Navy Capt. Jeff Davis told reporters July 17.
US and coalition-led operations to kill or capture Baghdadi and other Islamic State leaders are integral to the mission to dismantle and destroy the terrorist group and its affiliates worldwide, Capt. Davis said during a briefing at the Pentagon.
“Leadership strikes are important,” he said of the coalition’s operations to hunt down the upper echelon of Islamic State, starting with al-Baghdadi. Such missions provide the “moral authority or imperative” to American and coalition forces fighting to curb Islamic State in Iraq, Syria, and elsewhere.
But the Pentagon spokesman made clear that while the hunt for al-Baghdadi may be morally essential, his loss will mean little on the battlefield.
“Militarily speaking, he is already irrelevant,” Capt. Davis said.
Those comments echo those of Defense Secretary James Mattis, who said al-Baghdadi’s death would create “disarray in the enemy’s ranks” and upend efforts by Islamic State to hold onto its territorial gains in the Middle East.
“We’re not here to help him through his midlife crisis. We’re here to give him one,” the Pentagon chief said.
Top Islamic State leaders, including al-Baghdadi, reportedly began fleeing Raqqa for Deir-e-zour and Madan en masse in May ahead of the coalition’s operation to liberate the Syrian city of Raqqa, which had been the group’s self-styled capital in the country since taking the city three years ago.
Since his departure from Raqqa, unconfirmed reports of the Islamic State leader’s demise have permeated across a number of media outlets over the last several weeks.
Russian news outlets, citing defense officials in Moscow, had reported al-Baghdadi’s demise months earlier, saying he had been killed during Russian airstrikes on Islamic State positions outside Raqqa in May.
Most recently, members of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights — which has a strong track record for accuracy in the chaotic Syrian struggle — claimed they had irrefutable evidence al-Baghdadi had been killed in counter-terrorism operations in the Deir-e-Zour area in eastern Syria.
Those claims were upended by reports from Kurdish intelligence officials who said al-Baghdadi remains alive.
“It is not about Baghdadi necessarily, there are other leaders waiting” who are former Iraqi military under Saddam Hussein, Lahur Talabani, head of the Kurdistan Regional Government’s intelligence services, told Reuters July 17. “Do not expect the game to be over anytime soon for the Islamic State.”
Earlier this week, Mexican federal police in Sonora came across a panel van with modifications and additions that allowed it carry a “cannon” possibly used to launch drugs over the border into the US.
According to a release from the federal police, officers came across the van while it was parked in northwest Sonora state’s Agua Prieta municipality, which borders Arizona and Texas. The van was found without license plates and its doors were open.
Inside the vehicle, authoritiesfound “an air compressor, a gasoline motor, a tank for storing air and a metallic tube of approximately 3 meters in length (homemade bazooka).”
The “unit,” as the release referred to it, also had a cut in the end that could have allowed the metal tube to be hooked up to launch projectiles, possibly across the border.
The vehicle in question was linked to a car theft in Hermosillo, Sonora, according to an investigation dated July 1 this year.
Days before, authorities in the same area reportedly found a vehicle with similar additions.
US authorities have said since 2012 that drug traffickers have made use of such cannons. Cans and packets of marijuana, cocaine, and crystal meth have been discovered on the US side of the border, and, according to Mexican newspaper Reforma, those projectiles can be launched from 200 meters inside Mexican territory.
“Tell [the Colombians] to send all the drugs they can,” Guzmán ordered after the tunnel’s completion.
More recently, in 2011, would-be smugglers a few miles west of Agua Prieta made a more humble effort to get drugs over the border: They were observed setting up a catapult just south of the border fence. Mexican authorities moved in and seized the catapult and about 45 pounds of marijuana.
The Senate Committee on Armed Services seapower subcommittee will hold hearings this spring to reexamine the future of the frigate program.
“The frigate acquisition strategy should be revised to increase requirements to include convoy air defense, greater missile capability and longer endurance,” McCain said at an event outlining the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments’ recent U.S. Navy fleet architecture study, U.S. Naval Institute News reported.
The littoral combat ship program (LCS) is the skeleton for the Navy’s frigate strategy. Currently, the Navy pans to release a request for proposals on the new frigates in March or April.
McCain criticized the LCS program in December for costing $12 billion, but producing 26 ships, which have “demonstrated next-to-no combat capability.”
“When you look at some of the renewed capabilities, naval capabilities, that both the Russians and the Chinese have, it requires more capable weapon systems,” McCain said.
Each LCS costs around $478 million initially. But as repairs cost increase, the total amount for the 26 ships already delivered to the fleet amounts to $12.4 billion, and the Navy wants to buy a total of 40.
Should the Navy continue to purchase the LCS to bring the total number to 40, the cost will be closer $29 billion for ships that have failed to live up to capabilities promised, and continually breakdown.
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Think of the most famous starfighters of film and TV. You know them — The X-wing, the Y-wing, the VF-1 Valkyrie, the Colonial Viper, the F-302 — pop culture has gifted us with many famous planes we fly in our dreams… or on our personal computers and game consoles.
But if they existed for real, which squadrons would they be assigned to?
Here’s what We Are The Mighty is thinking:
Valkyrie from Robotech
Suggested Markings: VF-84 “Jolly Rogers”
The cartoon Robotech gave us this variable-configuration multi-role aerospace fighter in its first season, which was based on the Japanese anime Super Dimension Fortress Macross. With the jet mode looking like an F-14 and the famous “Skull One,” the markings from VF-84, the “Jolly Rogers,” are really the only call you can make.
Colonial Viper from Battlestar Galactica (Either Series)
Suggested Markings: VMFA-323 “Death Rattlers”
The Colonial Viper was an icon of whichever iteration of Battlestar Galactica you watched, whether it’s the classic one with Lorne Greene as Commander Adama and Dirk Benedict as the Starbuck, or whether it’s the new version with Edward James Olmos as Adama and Katie Sackoff as Starbuck. A number of squadrons have adopted nicknames based on snakes, but Marine Fighter Attack Squadron-323’s “Death Rattlers” seem particularly appropriate. The Vipers dominated their opponents when not caught by surprise or disabled by a cyber-attack – dealing death out far more than they received it.
Cylon Raider from Battlestar Galactica (Either Series)
Suggested Markings: VFA-127 “Cylons”
Yes, this is an adversary unit. But there is no other squadron arsenal appropriate for the front-line fighter used by the villains of either version Battlestar Galactica.
Incom X-Wing Fighter from Star Wars
Suggested Markings: VF-194 “Red Lightning”
“Red Five standing by.” Luke Skywalker’s call in the first Star Wars movie makes this designation a good one. Coincidentally, one of the planes flown by Navy Fighter Squadron-194, the F-8 Crusader, featured four 20mm cannon – while the X-wing has four lasers that proved to be capable of destroying TIE fighters easily.
Koensayr BTL Y-wing from Star Wars
Suggested Markings: VA-128 “Golden Intruders”
Best known as the fighters flown by the ill-fated Gold Squadron in the first Star Wars movie, the Y-wing was intended as an attack plane – and in the first movie, the Y-wings were torn to bits by Darth Vader’s TIE fighters (with only one surviving the Battle of Yavin). So, Attack Squadron-128, which flew the A-6 Intruder, seems to be appropriate markings for this space fighter.
This is another case where an easy call comes in. Gou’ald were called “snakes” by the heroes of Stargate SG-1. So, the 160th Fighter Squadron, Alabama Air National Guard — also called the “Snakes” — is really the only fitting mockup for this fighter.
This was a space-superiority fighter designed to take on other fighters. The 1st Fighter Squadron flew the F-15C Eagle, the definitive “not a pound air-to-ground” fighter in Air Force service. Appropriately, the 1st Fighter Squadron was called the “Fighting Furies.”
Thunderfighter from Buck Rogers in the 25th Century
At the start of the 1980s series Buck Rogers, the title character went into space on a rocket before things went south and he had 500 years in a deep freeze. Using the livery of the 336th Fighter Squadron makes a lot of sense, particularly since the F-15E is also a multi-role fighter that can be a capable dogfighter.
PWF-12 Peregrine Fighter from Deep Space Nine
Suggested Markings: VF-96 “Fighting Falcons”
This fighter is another multi-role vessel, which could handle opposing fighters like the Romulan Scorpion or take on capital ships with proton torpedoes. With a decent war load, and a two-man crew, it seems reminiscent of the F-4 Phantom. Fighter Squadron-96 saw several tours during Vietnam, and was notable for producing the only Navy ace of that conflict. Their nickname also fits with this Starfleet fighter.
Sienar Fleet Systems TIE Advanced x1 from Star Wars
Suggested Markings: VMF(AW)-114 “Death Dealers”
Darth Vader dealt death in this fighter in the first Star Wars movie, scoring six kills and becoming an ace in a day for the bad guys. This fighter was arguably able to take on the snub fighters of the Rebel Alliance in a one-on-one fight. This would make it a “Death Dealer” to any overconfident Rebel pilot.
The Marine Corps is accepting delivery of its first new Amphibious Combat Vehicle that can fire stabilized weapons, maneuver in littoral areas and launch faster, more survivable ship-to-shore amphibious attacks from beyond-the-horizon.
Referred to by Corps developers as ACV 1.1, the new vehicle is engineered to replace the services’ current inventory of Amphibious Assault Vehicles, or AAVs – in service for decades. There is an existing effort to upgrade a portion of its fleet of AAVs to a more survivable variant with spall liner and other protection-improving adjustments such as added armor.
Nevertheless, despite the enhancements of the AAV Survivability Upgrade, or AAV SU, the Corps is clear that it needs a new vehicle to address emerging threats, Kurt Mullins, ACV 1.1 Product Manager, told Scout Warrior in an interview.
“ACV 1.1 gives us the ability to operate throughout the range of operations. The current AAV is limited because of its survivability. The new vehicle will be significantly more survivable than a standard AAV,” Mullins said.
The Corps is now in the process of acquiring a number of Engineering, Manufacturing Development vehicles for further testing and evaluation from two vendors – SAIC and BAE Systems. Mullins said the Marine Corps plans to down-select to one manufacturer by 2018 and have an operational new ACV 1.1 by 2020.
Marine Corps fleet plans call for more than 200 of the new vehicles to support attacking infantry battalions. They are building both personnel and recovery variants, he explained.
The ACV 1.1 will serve alongside and improve upon the upgraded portion of the existing AAV fleet. The Marines have operated a fleet of more than 1,000 AAVs over the years ; some will “sunset” and others will receive the survivability upgrade.
Stabilized .50-cal machine guns and Mk 19 grenade launchers will make the new ACV for lethal and accurate in attacks against enemies; engineers are building in an up-gunned weapons station operating with Common Remotely Operated Weapons Systems, or CROWS, able to allow attackers to fire weapons from beneath the protection of the vehicle’s armor.
Unlike the tracked AAVs, the new ACV 1.1 is a wheeled vehicle designed for better traction on land and operations involving enter and egress from Amphib ships.
“Wheeled vehicles are more reliable, when operating across the range of military operations.”
Given that the new vehicle is being built for both maritime and land combat operations, requirements for the emerging platform specify that the platform needs to be better equipped to defend against more recent threats such as IEDs and roadside bombs. This, at least according to BAEs offering, includes the construction of a “V” shaped hull in order to increase the vehicle’s ground clearance and deflect blast debris away from the crew compartment.
“It needs to be able to provide significant armor and stand-off distance from the ground to the bottom of the hull,” Mullins added.
An ability to better withstand emerging threats and new weapons likely to be used by enemies is said to be of crucial importance in today’s evolving global environment; enemies now have longer-range, more precise weapons and high-tech sensors able to find and target vehicles from much further distances.
Accordingly, emerging Marine Corps amphibious warfare strategy calls for an ability to “disaggregate” and spread approaching amphibious vehicles apart as necessary to make the much more difficult for enemies to target. They are also being engineered operate more successfully in ground combat environments wherein approach vehicles need to advance much further in from the shoreline.
The new ACVs are also being designed to work seamlessly with longer-range, more high-tech US Navy and Army weapons as well. As US Navy weapons and sensors operate with a vastly improved ability to detect and destroy enemy targets – on land and in maritime scenarios – amphibious assault strategy will adjust accordingly.
BAE Systems ACV 1.1
The first BAE Systems ACV 1.1 vehicle has been delivered to the Marine Corps for additional assessment and testing, company officials said.
In a special interview with Scout Warrior, BAE weapons and platform developers explained that their offering includes a number of innovations designed to best position the vehicle for future combat.
BAE’s emerging vehicle uses no axl but rather integrates a gear box for each wheel station, designed for better traction and mission such as driving up onto an amphibious vehicle or rigorous terrain on land.
“It has positive drive to each of the wheel stations so you don’t have gear slippage and have positive traction at all times. All eight wheels are driven at the same time,” Swift said.
The absence of an axl means engineers can create greater depth for the vehicle’s “V-shaped” hull, he added.
Their vehicle is built with a 690-horsepower engine, composite armor materials and can travel up to 12 nautical miles with a crew of 13; also, the BAE ACV 1.1 can travel 55mph on land, and six mph in the water, BAE developers said.
Blast attenuated seats where seat frames are suspended from the ceiling are another design feature aimed at further protecting Marines from attacks involving explosions underneath the vehicle.
Fuel tanks on the new ACV 1.1 are stored on the outside of the vehicle as part of a method of reducing damage to the crew and vehicle interior in the event of an attack.Finally, like many emerging platforms these days, BAE’s offering is being engineered with an often-used term called “open architecture” – meaning it is built for growth such that it can embrace and better integrate new technologies as they emerge.
The Marine Corps awarded BAE a $103 million deal in November of last year; the company has delivered its first of 16 prototypes planned to additional testing.
The Marine Corps’ Future of Amphibious Attack
The Marine Corps future plan for amphibious assault craft consists of a nuanced and multi-faceted plan involving the production of several more vehicles. Following the ACV 1.1, the Corps plans to engineer and produce a new ACV 1.2 variant with increased combat and technical mission abilities.
“We are working on requirements for ACV 1.2, which will be informed by our ACV 1.1 experience,” Mullins said.
However, this next ACV 1.2 will merely serve as an interim solution until much faster water-speed technology comes to fruition, a development expected in coming years.
Meanwhile, Corps weapons developers from the advanced Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory are already in the early phases of preparation for when that much faster water speed exists. A future mission ability or vehicle of this kind, to be operational by 2023, could involve a number of different possible platform solutions, Mullins explained.
“Some sort of high-water speed capability that may not be a single vehicle solution. It could be a high-water speed connector that gets that vehicle to shore,” he said.
The Marine Corps is revving up its fleet of 1970s-era Amphibious Assault Vehicles to integrate the latest technology and make them better able to stop roadside-bombs and other kinds of enemy attacks, service officials said.
The existing fleet, which is designed to execute a wide range of amphibious attack missions from ship-to-shore, is now receiving new side armor (called spall liner), suspension, power trains, engine upgrades, water jets, underbelly ballistic protections and blast-mitigating seats to slow down or thwart the damage from IEDs and roadside bombs, Maj. Paul Rivera, AAV SU Project Team Lead, told Scout Warrior.
“The purpose of this variant is to bring back survivability and force protection back to the AAV P-variant (existing vehicle),” he said.
The classic AAV, armed with a .50-cal machine gun and 40mm grenade launcher, is being given new technology so that it can serve in the Corps fleet for several more decades.
“The AAV was originally expected to serve for only 20-years when it fielded in 1972. Here we are in 2016. In effect we want to keep these around until 2035,” John Garner, Program Manager for Advanced Amphibious Assault,” said in an interview with Scout Warrior last year.
The new AAV, called AAV “SU” for survivability upgrade, will be more than 10,000 pounds heavier than its predecessor and include a new suspension able to lift the hull of the vehicle higher off the ground to better safeguard Marines inside from being hit by blast debris. With greater ground clearance, debris from an explosion has farther to travel, therefore lessening the impact upon those hit by the attack.
The AAV SU will be about 70,000 pounds when fully combat loaded, compared to the 58,000-pound weight of the current AAV.
“By increasing the weight you have a secondary and tertiary effects which better protect Marines. We are also bringing in a new power train, new suspension and new water jets for water mobility,” Rivera said.
A new, stronger transmission for the AAV SU will integrate with a more powerful 625 HP Cummins engine, he added.
The original AAV is engineered to travel five-to-six knots in the water, reach distances up to 12 nautical miles and hit speeds of 45mph on land – a speed designed to allow the vehicle to keep up with an Abrams tank, Corps officials said.
In addition, the new AAV SU will reach an acquisition benchmark called “Milestone C” in the Spring of next year. This will begin paving the way toward full-rate production by 2023, Rivera explained.
The new waterjet will bring more speed to the platform, Rivera added.
“The old legacy water jet comes from a sewage pump. That sewage pump was designed to do sewage and not necessarily project a vehicle through the water. The new waterjet uses an axial flow,” Rivera said.
The new, more flexible blast-mitigating seats are deigned to prevent Marines’ feet from resting directly on the floor in order to prevent them from being injured from an underbelly IED blast.
“It is not just surviving the blast and making sure Marines aren’t killed, we are really focusing on those lower extremities and making sure they are walking away from the actual event,” Rivera said.
The seat is engineered with a measure of elasticity such that it can respond differently, depending on the severity of a blast.
“If it’s a high-intensity blast, the seat will activate in accordance with the blast. Each blast is different. As the blast gets bigger the blast is able to adjust,” Rivera said.
In total, the Marines plan to upgrade roughly one-third of their fleet of more than 900 AAVs.
The idea with Amphibious Assault Vehicles, known for famous historical attacks such as Iwo Jima in WWII (using earlier versions), is to project power from the sea by moving deadly combat forces through the water and up onto land where they can launch attacks, secure a beachhead or reinforce existing land forces.
Often deploying from an Amphibious Assault Ship, AAVs swim alongside Landing Craft Air Cushions which can transport larger numbers of Marines and land war equipment — such as artillery and battle tanks.
AAVs can also be used for humanitarian missions in places where, for example, ports might be damaged an unable to accommodate larger ships.
At the start of Star Wars: The Phantom Menace, two of the villains were arguing about taking on a high-risk mission.
“Send the droid,” one of them says.
Well, if the Army has its way and a new prototype unmanned plane enters the arsenal, “send in the droid” could have a whole new meaning for todays soldiers and other troops.
Over the last few months, the Army has begun preliminary tests on a new prop-driven drone dubbed the Joint Tactical Aerial Resupply Vehicle, or JTARV at Aberdeen Proving Ground and Picatinny Arsenal.
The service realizes resupply convoys can be vulnerable to attack. An Army Research Laboratory release from earlier this month noted that 60 percent of the combat casualties in 2013 occurred during resupply missions. Yet, the resupply of troops is crucial — especially in the heat of combat.
During the 1993 firefight in Mogadishu, for example, helicopters re-supplied the Rangers who were protecting the crash site of Super Six-One at substantial risk.
Had the JTARV prototypes been available, instead of sending manned choppers, a drone could have delivered 300 pounds of ammo and gear (like night-vision devices, grenades, and MREs) without risking a downed crew.
Time to get the supplies? About a half-hour.
See if Domino’s can beat that!
Improved versions of the JTARV could haul even more supplies – about 800 pounds – and take them further, with a total range of 125 miles. This could be very useful for long-range reconnaissance patrols or for resupplying remote outposts like those once manned by soldiers in the Korengal Valley of Afghanistan.
The JTARV is a combined project from SURVICE Engineering Company and Malloy Aerospace. Malloy is a British company which is best known for making the Hoverbike. The Hoverbike is, in essence, a one-person helicopter that can travel about 92 miles, and looks like a very primitive version of the speeder bikes used in Return of the Jedi.
SURVICE Engineering is a Maryland-based defense contractor that has supported research and development for the Pentagon. Located near Aberdeen Proving Ground, SURVICE Engineering has been involved in supporting the development of technology for land combat forces.
The Marine Corps has already been in the unmanned cargo delivery game for a while. An unmanned version of the Kaman K-Max helicopter was used for re-supply missions from December 2011 to May 2014 during Operation Enduring Freedom. The K-Max has a range of 267 miles and can deliver up to 6,000 pounds of cargo while flying at speeds of up to 115 mph.
Boeing has also been developing the H-6U Unmanned Little Bird for this mission as well, trying to leverage the proven track record of the OH-6 Cayuse scout helicopter and the AH-6/MH-6 Little Bird choppers used by the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (the Nightstalkers) in American military service.
The H-6U’s case is also assisted by the widespread ownership of the MD 500 series of helicopters across the globe for both civilian and military applications. This means that spare parts are readily available (not a small consideration for military operations). The H-6U would be faster with a top speed of 175 miles per hour, but could only haul about 1,500 pounds of cargo over the same 267 mile range.
Things are changing, but the one thing that remains the same is the need for the troops to be resupplied. But instead of asking for volunteers, soon a general’s response may well be, “Send the droid.”