Here's how the Army plans to knock drones out of the sky - We Are The Mighty
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Here’s how the Army plans to knock drones out of the sky

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. — People are buying drones in droves — from cheapo low-rez toys from Amazon to high-end unmanned planes for commercial surveillance and mapping.


And the Pentagon is following suit, with several companies offering new models of unmanned systems for everything from relaying radio signals to targeting bad guys.

But in a constant cat-and-mouse game, the military is also looking into technologies that will help it find, track, and potentially destroy unmanned planes that are just as easily obtained by America’s enemies as they are by its friends.

The Silent Archer counter-drone system uses radar, and EO/IR scope and jammer technology to target, track and fix small UAVs and their operators. (Photo from SRC Inc.) The Silent Archer counter-drone system uses radar, and EO/IR scope and jammer technology to target, track and fix small UAVs and their operators. (Photo from SRC Inc.)

One system the Army is testing for its air defense units uses a portable mortar tracking radar and some repurposed improvised explosive device jammers to find and target small drones for gunners to shoot down. In fact, the system works so well, it’s manufacturer says, that it can find the location of the drone’s operator and send that targeting information to Army artillery for the kill.

Dubbed the “Silent Archer,” parts of the counter-drone system have already been used for high-level meetings like the G-8 Summit and for the 2012 Olympics in the United Kingdom, company officials said during the 2016 Air Force Association Air and Space Conference here.

“We can provide targeting information to laser systems, miniguns to artillery — whatever your weapon of choice is,” said Thomas Wilson, VP for radar and sensors business development with Silent Archer maker SRC Inc. “We can also disrupt the control signals, the telemetry signals, the video signals — we can intercept those, we can analyze them, we can jam them in a variety of ways,”

“With those lines of bearing, you can use indirect fires and rain steel on the operator. Which is one of my preferred choices,” he added.

Most of the threats come from unauthorized surveillance of key meetings and military sites. But there’s also a military threat, Wilson said.

“The Army is watching very carefully what’s going on in the Ukraine. Because the Russians are using small UAS for targeting,” Wilson said. “The Ukrainians know that when they see a UAS flying over that very shortly they’re going to get bombarded.”

“So from an Army point of view, in a near-peer kind of a fight, they’re looking at ways to counter those,” he added.

The system works using a radar that’s normally used to detect incoming mortars. Once a suspected UAV is targeted, Silent Archer operators spot the drone through a sophisticated targeting scope. This helps distinguish if the target is actually a drone or a bird, Wilson said. Once it’s determined that the Silent Archer has a drone in its sights, an IED-detecting electronic warfare system tracks the drone’s controlling signal and can jam it or send targeting information back to artillery for a strike.

While the Silent Archer’s range is limited, the system is portable, with the Army testing most of the components on a Stryker armored combat vehicle, Wilson said. So the counter-drone system can move with the troops.

“There’s a lot of security threats from small UASs — we’re talking commercial stuff — flying over a facility and it’s making everybody nervous,” Wilson said. “Are they surveilling it for an attack? … That’s one that’s got everybody fired up right now.”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_AnZfVZYJ4g
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Watch the US Navy test its new ship against 10,000 pound bombs

When the US Navy fields a new ship, they don’t just take the engineer’s word for it that it can withstand nearby bombs — they test it out.


The USS Jackson, an Independence-class Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) meant for patrols in shallow water, just passed the first of three scheduled “shock trials.” The shock trials are composed of the ship sailing along as the Navy carefully detonates 10,000 pound bombs on either side of it. The results are then measured.

“The shock trials are designed to demonstrate the ship’s ability to withstand the effects of nearby underwater explosion and retain required capability,” according to a Navy statement.

“This is no kidding, things moving, stuff falling off of bulkheads … Some things are going to break. We have models that predict how electronics are going to move and cabinets are going to move, but some things are going to happen, and we’re going to learn a lot from this test,” US Navy Rear Adm. Brian Antonio told USNI News.

Here’s how the Army plans to knock drones out of the sky
USS Jackson (LCS 6) successfully completed the first of three scheduled full ship shock trials June 10. | US Navy photo

So far, the Jackson has passed the trials handsomely.

The Independence class, along with the Freedom class LCSs, represent the Navy’s vision of the future of surface warfare. Though both classes have suffered significant engineering difficulties, their modular design promises to revolutionize the way US Navy ships equip, train for, and deploy capabilities.

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This is the amazing way the Navy rescues trapped submariners

The crews of submarines around the world face the very real and terrifying possibility that their submarine could fail and become stuck at the bottom of the ocean. While a surface vessel that suffers a mechanical failure at sea can be reached by most other surface vessels, something special is needed to rescue crews thousands of feet under the surface.


That’s why the Navy has the Submarine Rescue Diving and Recompression System, a three-part system that can reach a distressed submarine stuck 2,000 feet beneath the surface and recover the submariners inside. The SRDRS can be deployed anywhere in the world within a maximum of 72 hours.

Many civilian and military vessels can carry the SRDRS and the system can be rapidly installed on any appropriate ship, known as a “vessel of opportunity.” Once an appropriate vessel is identified near the rescue site, the SRDRS is flown, driven, or shipped to a port where it can meet the vessel. The Undersea Rescue Command, which operates the SRDRS, is stationed near both a port and a C-5 capable airfield so the unit can rapidly deploy anywhere in the world.

Here’s how the Army plans to knock drones out of the sky
The Atmospheric Diving System 2000 allows divers to quickly reach 2,000-foot depths and return without needing to decompress. Photo: US Navy courtesy photo

When the Navy crew and the system arrive at the submarine site, a diver wearing the Atmospheric Dive System 2000 is lowered to where the submarine rests on the bottom of the ocean. The ADS2000 allows a single sailor to dive to the sub and inspect it. If the diver sees signs that the crew are still alive inside the hull, he’ll signal the surface to let them know to launch the rescue mission. He’ll also begin removing any blockages or debris near the submarine’s hatches.

Here’s how the Army plans to knock drones out of the sky
The pressurized Rescue Module Falcon is raised from the water after an exercise near San Diego, California. Photo: US Navy Mass communication Specialist 2nd Class Alexia M. Riveracorrea

Next, the remotely-operated Pressurized Rescue Module, the Falcon, is lowered into the water and descends to the submarine. When it reaches the sub, it links with the hull on the sub and seals a skirt around the hatch. Then, it pumps air into the skirt, creating an open tube with breathable air. The sailors are then able to climb from their submarine to the PRM through the air chamber. Sixteen sailors can be carried by the PRM at once.

Once 16 sailors are safely aboard the PRM, it delivers them to the 32-seat Submarine Decompression Chamber where they are able to remain at their previous pressure until they reach the hyperbaric systems on the surface vessel. This prevents the decompression sickness they would face if they simply rushed to the surface.

Here’s how the Army plans to knock drones out of the sky
A U.S. Navy sailor sits in one of the Navy’s two 32-seat submarine Decompression Systems. Photo: US Navy Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Kyle Carlstrom

Meanwhile, the PRM returns to the submarine to rescue another 16 sailors. Because the PRM has a tether that provides it power from the surface, it can ferry survivors from the submarine around the clock until it has rescued everyone. The Navy’s previous system, the Mystic-class Deep Submergence Resce Vehicles, used batteries that required charging between rescues.

The Mystic class of vessels was developed after the loss of the USS Thresher and her crew.

For distressed submarines at lower depths, usually 850 feet or less, the Navy can deploy the Submarine Rescue Chamber Flyaway System instead. The SRCFS is a diving bell that is lowered to the submarine via a cable attached to the sub by a diver. Sailors climb into the chamber and are raised to the surface.

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The CSAF’s Bible is one of the least-known Air Force traditions

It’s a tradition as old as the Air Force itself, but one very few have ever even heard of.


On his first days in office, the general in charge of the newly formed service bought a Bible that’s been a part of every swearing in ceremony for Chiefs of Staff for nearly 70 years. And in it contains the signature of all 21 of the Air Force’s top general officers.

“No documented history of the Bible exists,” says Ann Stefanek, Media Operations Officer at Air Force headquarters. “But a verbal history of the Bible maintains the Gen. Carl A. Spaatz purchased the book to be used in official swearing-in ceremonies.”

Here’s how the Army plans to knock drones out of the sky
Gen. David L. Goldfein is sworn in as the 21st Air Force Chief of Staff. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Spaatz became the Air Force’s first Chief of Staff on September 26, 1947 — eight days after the National Security Act of 1947 created the service. Since then, each of his successors signed the Bible on their last day in office.

Here’s how the Army plans to knock drones out of the sky
The CSAF’s Bible, signed by previous Air Force Chiefs. (U.S. Air Force photo)

The story goes that when the Pentagon was evacuated during the attacks of September 11, 2001, Gen. John P. Jumper, who was only in the office for a few days, rescued the Bible when he evacuated the office. It was reportedly the only item he took with him.

On June 22, 2016, Gen. Mark Welsh III, the 20th Chief of Staff, signed the CSAF’s Bible, then walked out of the Pentagon with his wife by his side as the airmen who served with him cheered.

On July 1, the Air Force had a new Chief, Gen. David L. Goldfein. He mentioned the historic Bible in his first message to the Air Force under his command and how the relic reminded him of his obligation to his airmen.


The names on the Bible’s pages include famous Air Force chiefs Spaatz, Curtis LeMay, and even the controversial Merrill McPeak, whose changes to the service’s dress uniform made him one of the most unpopular figures in Air Force history.

While the book remains an unofficial, undocumented tradition, in 1951 the Air Force Officers Wives Club donated a velvet-lined wooden box in which to store the Bible. Both the Bible and the box are on display in the Air Force Chief of Staff’s office.

Here’s how the Army plans to knock drones out of the sky
The CSAF’s Bible is signed by every outgoing USAF Chief. The first signature is that of Gen. Carl A. Spaatz. (U.S. Air Force photo)

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ISIS counterattacks US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces

Members of the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), made up of an alliance of Arab and Kurdish fighters, inspect the Tabqa dam on March 27, 2017, which has been recently partially recaptured, as part of their battle for the jihadists’ stronghold in nearby Raqa.


Clashes raged around a key northern Syrian town on Tuesday after the Islamic State group launched a counter-attack to fend off a U.S.-backed advance near the jihadists’ stronghold Raqa.

Backed by air power from an international coalition bombing, the Syrian Democratic Forces are laying the groundwork for an assault on the heart of the jihadists’ so-called “caliphate.”

Here’s how the Army plans to knock drones out of the sky
ISIS has a history of targeting Kurds and their allies. (Dept. of Defense photo)

A key part of the campaign is the battle for the ISIS-held town of Tabqa on the Euphrates River, as well as the adjacent dam and military airport.

The SDF seized the Tabqa airbase late Sunday and began pushing north towards the town itself, but ISIS fighters doubled down on their defenses on Tuesday, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

“The fighting is a result of ISIS launching a counter-offensive to exhaust the Syrian Democratic Forces around the Tabqa military airport,” said Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman.

He said the SDF was working to “consolidate its positions” near the airport ahead of a final push for the town.

SDF fighters are also bearing down on the Tabqa dam after capturing its northern entrance on Friday from ISIS fighters.

The fight around the structure has been backed by forces from the US-led coalition, with American-made armoured vehicles bearing the markings of the U.S. Marine Corps seen moving along a nearby road.

An AFP correspondent at the dam on Tuesday said it was generally quiet around the dam itself, despite the occasional ISIS-fired mortar that landed in SDF-controlled parts of the riverbank.

Airplanes could be heard humming above as SDF forces patrolled the northern entrance of the structure.

On Tuesday, coalition forces could be seen standing near military vehicles less than one mile from the dam, their mortar rounds casually stacked nearby.

After a brief pause in fighting on Monday to allow technicians to enter the dam complex, SDF fighters resumed their operations around the structure, said spokeswoman Jihan Sheikh Ahmed.

“ISIS amassed its fighters and attacked our forces in the area, which forced us to respond and resume the operations to liberate the dam,” she said.

Earlier this year, the United Nations raised concern about the prospect of damage to the dam in fighting, warning that water levels — which put pressure on the structure — were already high.

ISIS has also issued warnings through its propaganda agency Amaq that the dam “is threatened with collapse at any moment because of American strikes and a large rise in water levels”.

On Tuesday, technicians accompanied by the Syrian Arab Red Crescent could be seen examining the dam to assess whether water levels had risen in recent days.

“The explosions and the clashes are threatening the dam, and we ask for all sides to distance themselves from it,” said Ismail Jassem, an engineer from the SDF-controlled Tishreen Dam in neighbouring Aleppo province.

“The water levels are acceptable now. We came to open up one of the gates to relieve the pressure,” he told AFP.

The SDF launched its offensive for Raqa city in November 2016, seizing around two thirds of the surrounding province, according to the Britain-based Observatory.

At their closest point, the forces are just five miles from Raqa city, to the northeast.

But they are mostly further away, between ten to fifteen miles from Raqa.

The Observatory, which relies on a network of source on the ground in Syria, said ISIS had deployed around 900 fighters from Raqa city to various fronts in the wider province.

“Fighting is raging on every front around the city of Raqa, accompanied by non-stop air strikes,” Abdel Rahman said.

Syria’s conflict began with protests against President Bashar al-Assad in 2011 but has turned into a brutal war pitting government forces, jihadists, rebels, and Kurds against each other.

UN-mediated talks between government and rebel representatives continued Tuesday in Geneva, aimed at bringing an end to the war that has killed 320,000 people.

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5 militaries still allowed to drink in a war zone

While the U.S. has ordered its soldiers to remain sober in every major deployment since the 1990s, not all militaries have jumped on the temperance convoy.


Here are five militaries with service members still allowed to drink in a war zone, as long as the mission and security situation permits it.

1. Germany

Here’s how the Army plans to knock drones out of the sky
Photo: Petty Officer First Class Ryan Tabios

Germany is famous for its beer, so it’s not surprising that it allows its soldiers to imbibe a little while deployed. The soldiers are limited two beers a day while at larger bases. The sheer size of the alcohol shipments caused a debate in Germany early in Operation Enduring Freedom, but the booze kept flowing.

2. Canada

Here’s how the Army plans to knock drones out of the sky
Canadian Army soldiers disembark a U.S. Navy landing craft April 25, 2009 during exercises with the U.S. Marine Corps. Photo: US Marine Corps Chief Warrant Officer 2 Keith A. Stevenson

Before Canada pulled out of Afghanistan, they offered their troops two beers and a half bottle of wine while at well-secured locations.

3. Italy

Here’s how the Army plans to knock drones out of the sky
Photo: Wikimedia Commons/Italian Army

Italians receive small quantities of alcohol in their ration packs and also deployed so much other wine that it flooded the black market near some bases in Afghanistan.

4. France

Here’s how the Army plans to knock drones out of the sky
Photo: Wikimedia Commons/Adrian Pingstone

French soldiers on well-defended bases were sometimes allowed to drink during “Happy Hours” and other command-approved events.

5. Romania

Here’s how the Army plans to knock drones out of the sky
Photo: US Army Sgt. Daniel Cole

Like their French counterparts, Romanian soldiers could drink during specified periods provided they weren’t on duty and didn’t get themselves in trouble.

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This botched air strike on Lebanon changed Naval Aviation forever

Here’s how the Army plans to knock drones out of the sky
A-7E Corsair II aircraft line the bow of the aircraft carrier USS Independence (CV 62) about the time of the air strike against Syrian gun emplacements in Lebanon. (Photo: U.S. Navy)


American air power going against targets in the Middle East didn’t start with Operation Enduring Freedom or even Desert Storm. The first significant strike was conducted in December of 1983 by carrier-based assets against Syrian anti-aircraft positions in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley, and it was in many respects a disaster, one that radically changed the way the U.S. Navy conducted strike warfare.

The Bekaa Valley strike was supposed to be in direct retaliation for the Beirut barracks bombing that killed 241 Marines on October 23, but the mission was delayed for months by lawmakers in Washington and the operational planners at the European Command in Germany. Finally Syrians firing SAMs at F-14 reconnaissance flights over Lebanon compelled decision-makers to action.

The strike planning process was cumbersome and not tactically agile.  Pentagon and EUCOM higher-ups made the call on strike composition, weapons loadouts, ingress and egress routes, and times on target. As a result, aviators who would ultimately fly the mission had little say in how it would be carried out.

The 28-plane strike package launched from two carriers – Kennedy and Independence (both decommissioned now) – on the morning of December 4, which proved to be the perfectly wrong time as the metrological conditions made it hard for the attack aircraft to see their targets (remember, these were the days before smart bombs, when pilots had to actually maneuver their airplanes toward the ground and pickle their bombs with a high level of skill). At the same time the weather and sun angle highlighted the American airplanes in the sky for Syrian anti-aircraft gunners. The strike package also flew toward their targets along the same route, which made it easy for gunners to train their weapons.

The Syrians managed to shoot down two A-7E Corsairs and an A-6E Intruder.  One of the A-7 pilots and the A-6 pilot were killed.  The other A-7 pilot – who also happened to be the Air Wing commander aboard the Independence – managed to get his jet over the Mediterranean before he ejected.  He was picked up by Lebanese fisherman and eventually returned to the Americans unharmed.

The A-6 bombardier/navigator, Lt. Robert Goodman, was captured by Syrian troops and taken as a hostage. The month-long stalemate between governments on his release was finally broken by Jesse Jackson, who took an interest in the young aviator because he was an African-American.

Here’s how the Army plans to knock drones out of the sky
Lt. Robert Goodman in the back of a car with a Syrian soldier after being shot down during an air strike against targets in Lebanon. (AP photo)

As a result of this fiasco the U.S. Navy established the Naval Strike and Air Warfare Center at the air station in Fallon, Nevada, basically taking a page from the Top Gun playbook a decade or so earlier when that school was created to fix the problem of fighters getting shot out of the skies over North Vietnam because of inferior tactics. The staff at NSAWC studied better ways of getting bombs on target while surviving intense SAM environments, and their research yielded more thorough mission planning processes (including streamlining strike coordination up and down the chain of command), off-axis attack profiles, and the improved use of jammers to better suppress the SAM threat.

Although times have changed in recent years with the advent of stealth technology and precision-guided munitions, many of the lessons learned from Bekaa Valley are still relevant today.

Now: Top secret files detail how drone strikes target terrorists — and how they go wrong 

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These are the slave soldiers that defeated the Mongols

The rulers of the Islamic world in the 1200s were not born into aristocracy or priesthood, as was the custom in Europe. They were an army of former slaves. Trained in combat and Sunni Islam from a young age, these “Mamluks” (from the Arabic for “property”) soon grew so vast in number that they wrested control of the Empire from the Abbasid Caliphs — one of very few times in history.


 

During the Crusades, it was Mamluks who met the Crusaders as they attempted to retake the Holy Land for Christendom. But the most important imprint the Mamluks have on history is a single battle that took place in modern-day Israel that meant the difference between centuries of rule and utter annihilation.

In the 13th Century, a wave of destruction flowed across Asia and into Europe. The Mongols, an amalgamation of far-east tribes and clans from the Mongolian Plateau, united their people, reorganized their armies, and began to expand their controlled territory.

 

Here’s how the Army plans to knock drones out of the sky

The Mongols began to expand under Genghis Khan, and that expansion continued long after his death. For over 100 years, the Mongol armies swept South and West, demanding immediate surrender and destroying and slaughtering those who didn’t submit.

They didn’t suffer a real defeat until more than 60 years into the conquest at the Battle of Ain Jalut, near the Sea of Galilee — at the hands of the Mamluks.

 

Here’s how the Army plans to knock drones out of the sky
I don’t know what that weapon is but I want one.

The Mongols’ loss at Ain Jalut shattered the image of Mongol invincibility and slowed their advance so much they actually had to retreat from the Levant. The Mamluk victory kept the Mongols from taking Cairo and sweeping into Africa.

The Mamluks continued to rule the Islamic world for centuries, where they were subsumed by the emerging Ottoman Empire — though they remained influential in the Empire for centuries afterward, even fighting both Napoleon and U.S. Marines (but losing to both).

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Air Force wants to 3D-print ‘Baby MOABs’

The next “Mother of All Bombs” will probably be smaller, leaner and lighter but will still pack a punch.


It’s what scientists and engineers at the Air Force Research Lab are working on as part of their next-generation munition concept.

Part of the Advanced Ordnance Technologies program, the bomb could be structured to be lighter by using 3D-printed reconstructed loads within the bomb instead of in the casing — plus distributed blast yields, said Dr. John Corley, the core technical competency lead for ordnance sciences at AFRL.

“We’ve been working on printing [munitions] for the past five to 10 years,” Corley said Thursday during a Defense Department Lab day in the Pentagon courtyard.

Corley and colleagues were showcasing a prototype one-seventh the scale of a bomb the lab is working on (not pictured), along with various fuse technologies.

One of the key enablers to prototyping the bomb is through 3D printing. “Right now, most of your penetrator munitions have two-inch case walls,” Corley said, which actually prohibits a larger blast and creates more debris.

Related: Here is the video of MOAB’s combat debut

Instead, the lab has begun printing casing prototypes — with steel — that moves the load from the case to within the bomb itself (the vertical loads look very similar to a DNA double helix within the bomb).

Furthermore, the lab is using distributed embedded fusing in the bomb “so not only do we have all these other features we’re relocating the fireset for the bomb into the explosive, so you can distribute that around different places [with]in the bomb to improve survivability,” Corley said.

In current penetrating munitions, the ways in which the fuse is hardwired to the case is limiting, Corley said. By separating the fuse from the case could make the bomb more flexible of when it hits and how it hits.

The fuse prototypes are also being 3D printed at this time.

Here’s how the Army plans to knock drones out of the sky
The guided bomb unit-43/B Massive Ordnance Air Blast bomb prototype is shown moments before impact. The detonation created a mushroom cloud that could be seen 20 miles away. | US Air Force photo

The next step for the advanced future bomb will be to incorporate these various “selectable effects,” as Corley called them.

“In a selectable effects, on any given day you might want it to be the same weapon to give you a small blast footprint, or a large blast footprint, and right now we can control this …height of burst,” he said.

The burst height controls the range of damage. The succeeding shockwave — just like the 21,600-pound, GPS-guided GBU-43 Massive Ordnance Air Blast, or MOAB, uses to penetrate its target — could very well be controlled to be smaller or larger depending on which selectable effect is used.

Thus, how much or how little yield the bomb exerts could be determined for whatever the mission may be — so for once, size (of the actual bomb) doesn’t matter.

Looking past MOAB-style bombs, Corley also noted the military aircraft of today are becoming smaller, so weapons too need to adapt — and, of course, fit.

“Workhorse munitions for us are 500 pound and 2,000 pound munitions, but we’d like to get to a 100 pound munition for instance that has the same output as a 500 pound bomb,” he said.

Corley said whether the Air Force will make the bombs in-house — much like the MOAB — is still to be determined. Tail kits on bombs, for example, are more likely to be constructed by defense industry companies than the bombs themselves, which “the government owns,” he said.

Physical bombs being worked on through the AOT program are still a “few years off” because most are still in the concept stage, Corley said.

 

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A tornado just took out this nuclear apocalypse-proof Air Force jet

When the US Air Force took delivery of its four E-4B Nightwatch ‘doomsday’ jets, they made sure the small fleet was capable of surviving a nuclear holocaust, its occupants safe and sound within its protective cocoons as they carried out their mission of directing the US military in the aftermath of the end of the world.


As it turns out, the Nightwatch may be able to survive a nuclear blast in the air, but the forces of nature are a different matter altogether.

On June 16, a pair of E-4Bs, currently known as “Advanced Airborne Command Posts,” found themselves sitting in the path of a tornado while parked at Offutt AFB in Nebraska. Though both aircraft were pulled into hangars, their tailplanes still sat somewhat exposed and suffered the wrath of the tornado, taking enough damage to keep them grounded and inoperable.

A number of RC-135 reconnaissance aircraft, also parked at Offutt at the time, were affected by the storm but were quickly repaired and returned to service.

Here’s how the Army plans to knock drones out of the sky
An E-4B refueling in-flight. This capability allows Nightwatch to remain airborne for days at a time (Photo US Air Force)

The extent of the damage is unclear, though it’s probable that these two aircraft will be out of service for the time being as the Air Force and Boeing both evaluate and determine a course of action to repair them. The two remaining Nightwatches were away from Offutt at the time — one undergoing an overhaul, while the other is currently operational.

The tailplane of the Nightwatch does house one of its mission systems — a 5-mile long antenna which can be spooled out the rear of the aircraft while in-flight. This antenna allows the battle staff aboard the E-4B to communicate with the US Navy’s ballistic missile submarines while they’re underway. It’s definitely likely that this part of the aircraft, known as the Trailing Wire Antenna, sustained some damage during the storm.

The E-4B, formerly known as the National Airborne Operations Center, entered service with the Air Force in the 1970s, replacing older EC-135J “Looking Glass” aircraft, as “doomsday planes” — command posts that allow members of the US National Command Authority to stay in touch with the military during a catastrophic event. Each Nightwatch is equipped with an advanced communications suite that facilitates this, allowing it to virtually contact anything connected to a phone line in the entire world.

Here’s how the Army plans to knock drones out of the sky
SECDEF James Mattis disembarks from an E-4B while on an official overseas trip (Photo US Air Force)

Today, Nightawtch serves as the Secretary of Defense’s official transport, ferrying him across the world on state-sponsored trips to foster good relationships with American military partners. Because of its communications abilities, the E-4B allows the SECDEF to remain constantly up-to-date on US military activity no matter where he is, even while flying.

The Air Force recently tendered a $73 million contract to support the E-4B’s expansive communications systems over the next seven years, though it’s possible that the service could potentially consider retiring all Nightwatch jets in the coming years in favor replacing them with newer aircraft with lower operating costs. The current hourly operating figure for a single E-4B is estimated to be at least $159,529 per hour.

Above the heavy financial burdens of flying these converted Boeing 747s, the small fleet is getting harder to support due to its age. The Air Force projects that by 2039, all E-4Bs will have maxed out their lifetime flying hours, necessitating a follow-on aircraft to carry out the same mission on behalf of the Air Force and NCA.

Here’s how the Army plans to knock drones out of the sky
An E-6 Mercury launching from Offutt AFB. Mercuries are tasked with a similar mission type to the E-4B (Photo US Air Force)

In May, the Air Force announced it would spearhead a joint program with the Navy to seek a replacement for the E-4B and the Navy’s E-6 Mercury. The E-6 is a continuation of the Looking Glass program, and shares a similar role with the Nightwatch fleet, though its mission is more popularly known as TACAMO, short for “Take Charge And Move Out.”

This project will see the Air Force and Navy unite their airborne command post assets under a fleet of identical nuclear-proof aircraft with next-generation communication and sensor systems. There’s no word just yet on whether or not America’s upcoming fleet of doomsday aircraft will be tornado-proof as well, however.

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The truth behind basic training “Stress Cards”

Basic trainees in the Air Force are being issued “Stress Cards.” If basic training gets too hard or they need a time out they can just pull these out and the instructor has to stop yelling at them.


No joke. I heard it from my cousin. Or my friend John. My buddy swears he saw them being handed out to the new trainees. Kids today just don’t have the chutzpah my generation does. One time when I was platoon leader in Somalia, this kid handed me one and asked for a time out, I kid you not.

Also read: 5 crazy ways recruit training has changed

None of that is true, of course. The stress cards myth is usually attributed to the Air Force, due to the perceived ease of Air Force basic training, and the Chair Force reputation. Sometimes, Bill Clinton introduced them to the Army (because the 90s were that awesome). In the legend, they’re yellow, because if you need to use one, you’re yellow too! Even some Airmen are guilty of perpetuating it. Whenever someone hears about the stress card myth, they are usually doomed to repeat it.

There is truth to the myth, but it wasn’t the Army or even the Air Force. In the 1990s, the cards were issued to new recruits as a means of telling them of what their options were if they got depressed. It contained basic information such as chaplain services and what to tell your Recruit Division Commander, etc. instead of deserting or washing out. And they were blue, because if you need these services, you were probably blue too.

Here’s how the Army plans to knock drones out of the sky

The Blues Card was not a Get Out of Jail Free Card, though some RDCs reported troops holding it up while being disciplined, trying desperately (and probably in vain) to use it in that way. If you waved this in your RDC’s face, he probably made you eat it.

The Army did issue “Stress Control Cards” which were the equivalent of a wallet-based mood ring. the recruit or soldier could put their finger on a special square, which would turn colors to indicate a range of stress levels, from “relaxed” to “most stressed.”

Here’s how the Army plans to knock drones out of the sky

For those of you who used to be in the Army or Navy, imagine your Drill Instructor or RDC’s response to your waving this card around while they’re trying to discipline you. How would that have gone? Tell us in the comments below.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Army doubles firing range for artillery and rockets

The Army recently demonstrated extended ranges for the guided multiple launch rocket system, and two 155mm cannon artillery precision munitions.

Aligning with the Army’s top priority — Long-Range Precision Fires — these changes support the force’s need for both close and deep-strike capabilities against a near-peer adversary.

Last fall, the Army conducted demonstrations of the new XM1113 and Excalibur M982 munitions from a prototype Extended Range Cannon Artillery, or ERCA self-propelled howitzer


The XM1113 Insensitive Munition High Explosive Rocket Assisted Projectile is slated to replace the Army’s aging M549A1 rounds. Currently, the M549 rounds can reach about 30 km.

The XM1113 reached 72 km during a demonstration, said Rich Granitzki, Long-Range Precision Fires Science and Technology Advisor for Combat Capabilities Development Command, or CCDC, at Picatinny Arsenal, New Jersey.

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The XM1113 consists of a high fragmentation steel body with a streamlined ogive, the curved portion of a projectile between the fuze well and the bourrelet, and a high performance rocket motor. The projectile body is filled with insensitive munition high explosive and a supplementary charge. On gun launch, propellant gases initiate a delay device that will ignite the rocket motor, boosting velocity at an optimal time in the trajectory to maximize range.

(US Army photo)

Similarly, the Excalibur M982 is a Global Positioning System-guided, extended-range artillery projectile, supporting the Army’s next generation of cannon artillery.

During a limited-range test, the M982 exhibited an increase in range, going from 40 to 62 km, Granitzki added.

Moving forward, ammo modernization and improvements to cannon technologies will play a vital role in optimizing these and other armaments technologies to reach “extended ranges and to get increased rates of fire,” Granitzki said.

“We are still maturing our demonstrators, component technology and subsystems, in advance of future demonstrations to transition our systems to programs of record,” he added.

GMLRS

The Army has also made improvements to the XM30 Guided Multiple Launch Rocket System, or GMLRS, nearly doubling its range.

The current XM30 rocket is a GPS-guided high-speed rocket equipped with small wing-like controls on the nose of the projectile to enhance accuracy. The XM30 system has an advertised range of 70 km, said Mike Turner, fire support capability area lead supporting CCDC Aviation Missile Center.

To extend the XM30’s range, the Army moved the control fins to the rear of the device, Turner said. In addition to the tail controls, the Army redesigned the nose of the rocket to make it aerodynamic, equipped the device with a light-weight composite motor, and added propellant.

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Guided Multiple Launch Rocket System.

(US Army photo)

In result, the new Tail Controlled Guided Multiple Launch Rocket System, or TC-G, reached 139 km during a demonstration at altitude.

“This takes a product that exists in the Army’s inventory and nearly doubles the range,” he said. “By moving the control surfaces to the rear, we’re giving it more control, maneuverability, and range.”

To support the new device, the Army fabricated a composite smooth-bore tube, ensuring a clean launch for the guided rocket,” said Brett Wilks, a TC-G program manager.

In theory, these tubes could be retrofitted to existing launch systems, resulting in no significant impact to current Army software or hardware, he added

CCDC completed the science and technology phase of the program in September 2018. The Army looks to transition the program to an initial operating capability in the next couple of years, Turner said.

“It is our mission at CCDC AvMC to look at future concepts and reduce risk. We showed the Army what’s capable for long-range missile systems,” he added.

This article originally appeared on United States Army. Follow @USArmy on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Everything you need to know about the C-17 Globemaster III

The C-17 Globemaster III has proven to be a workhorse in the U.S. Air Force’s airlift arsenal. Utilizing strategic airlift capabilities, the aircraft is able to deliver troops and cargo to bases in contingency environments and forward operating bases in austere locations. The airframe’s versatile platform can perform tactical airlift and airdrop missions and be configured to conduct aeromedical evacuations when required.


 

AIRFRAME: C-17 Globemaster III from Airman Magazine on Vimeo.

 

Operated by eight countries and NATO, the C-17 has delivered cargo in every worldwide operation since the 1990s.

Development

In 1979, the Defense Department started the Cargo-Experimental program, as the Air Force was looking for a large air mobility platform with in-flight refueling capabilities for global reach missions. McDonnell Douglas won the contract in 1981 with its proposal to build the C-17.

NASA played a huge role in the development of the C-17 contributing research and technology that had been made available to the industry over four decades. The powered-lift, developed by researchers at the NASA Langley Research Center in the mid-1950s, gave the aircraft close to double the lift coefficient of a conventional transport airframe by positioning the engines and flaps in a way that directed the exhaust downward. The development of this technology gave the C-17 short take-off and landing capabilities allowing it to take off and land on runways as short as 3,500 feet and 90 feet wide. The aircraft is also able to turn around on these narrow runways using a three-point star turn and its reverse capability.

Also read: This is what happened when a C-130 and a C-17 had a baby

The supercritical wing, winglets, fly-by-wire system, engine performance enhancements, and composite materials used throughout the aircraft were all developed in partnership with NASA.

The C-17 made its maiden flight Sept. 15, 1991. The first production model was delivered to Charleston Air Force Base, now known as Joint Base Charleston, South Carolina, June 14, 1993, and the first C-17 squadron was declared operational Jan. 17, 1995.

The Air Force’s final C-17 was completed by Boeing in Sept. 2013, and delivered to JB Charleston, completing a 20-year run of production.

Operational history

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U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Andre Morgan, a C-17 Globemaster III loadmaster from the 816th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron, marshals a vehicle onto his aircraft while conducting combat airlift operations for U.S. and coalition forces in Iraq and Syria in support of Operation Inherent Resolve, Nov. 11, 2017. (Photo by U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Gregory Brook)

The C-17 fleet has been involved in many contingency operations, including Joint Endeavor, Operations Allied Force, Iraqi Freedom, Enduring Freedom, the humanitarian relief efforts following the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, and the 2011 floods in Pakistan. In 1998, eight C-17s completed the longest airdrop in mission history, flying more than 8,000 nautical miles from the U.S. to Central Asia, dropping troops and equipment after more than 19 hours in the air.

Related: This is the Air Force personnel issue that can’t be rushed

Currently, the global-force of C-17s is operated by the U.S., United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, Kuwait, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, and India.

Units

• Air Mobility Command: 21st Airlift Squadron, Travis AFB, California; 3rd Airlift Squadron, Dover AFB, Delaware; 62nd Airlift Wing, JB Lewis-McChord, Washington; 437th Airlift Wing, JB Charleston; and 305th Air Mobility Wing, JB McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, New Jersey.

• Pacific Air Forces: 517th Airlift Squadron, JB Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska; and 535th Airlift Squadron, JB Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii.

• Air Education and Training Command: 58th Airlift Squadron, Altus AFB, Oklahoma.

• Air Force Materiel Command operates two C-17s at Edwards AFB, California.

• Air Force Reserve Command: 729th Airlift Squadron, March Air Reserve Base, California; 445th Airlift Wing, Wright Patterson AFB, Ohio; 301st Airlift Squadron, Travis AFB; 446th Airlift Wing, JB Lewis-McChord; 315th Airlift Wing, JB Charleston; 732nd Airlift Squadron, JB McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst; and the 326th Airlift Squadron, Dover AFB.

• Air National Guard: 172nd Airlift Wing, Jackson, Mississippi; 105th Airlift Wing, Stewart ANGB, New York; 249th Airlift Squadron, JB Elmendorf-Richardson; 204th Airlift Squadron, JB Pearl Harbor-Hickam; 155th Airlift Squadron, Memphis, Tennessee; and the 167th Airlift Squadron, Martinsburg, West Virginia.

Here’s how the Army plans to knock drones out of the sky
(Photo by Russell E. Cooley IV)

Did you know?

• A fully loaded C-17 can reverse up a slope while on the ground.

• C-17s have set 33 world records, including payload to altitude time-to-climb and the short takeoff and landing mark.

• In 2015 the worldwide C-17 fleet reached 3 million flying hours. The equivalent of flying around the Earth 55,555 times, 2,948 trips to the moon or a single C-17 flying nonstop for 342 years.

• The C-17 is sometimes referred to as “The Moose” due to its bulky appearance and the sound it makes while refueling.

Here’s how the Army plans to knock drones out of the sky
Illustration showing stats for the C-17 Globemaster III (U.S. Air Force Graphic by Maureen Stewart)

Aircraft Stats

Primary function: Cargo and troop transport

Contractor: Boeing Company

Power plant: four Pratt and Whitney F117-PW-100 turbofan engines

Thrust: 40,440 pounds each engine

Wingspan: 169 feet, 10 inches (to winglet tips) (51.75 meters)

Length: 174 feet (53 meters)

Height: 55 feet, 1 inches (16.79 meters)

Cargo Compartment: length, 88 feet (26.82 meters); width, 18 feet (5.48 meters); height, 12 feet 4 inches (3.76 meters)

Speed: 450 knots at 28,000 feet (8,534 meters) (Mach 0.74)

Range: Global with in-flight refueling

Crew: Three (two pilots and one loadmaster)

Aeromedical Evacuation Crew: A basic crew of five (two flight nurses and three medical technicians) is added for aeromedical evacuation      missions. Medical crew may be altered by needs of patients.

Load: 102 troops/paratroops; 36 litter and 54 ambulatory patients and attendants; more than 170,000 pounds (77,519 kilograms) of cargo (18 pallet positions)

Unit Cost: $202.3 million (fiscal 1998 constant dollars)

Date Deployed: June 1993

Inventory: Active Duty, 187; Air Force Reserve, 14; Air National Guard, 12