As the US still attempts to formulate a response to China’s massive hack of the US government’s Office of Personnel Management — a breach that affected some 22 million people, including federal employees with security clearances — the massive size and scope of Beijing’s intelligence gathering operations continues to come into focus.
Unlike other nations, China uses a broad array of both professional and citizen spies to gather data, Peter Mattis explains for War On The Rocks.
As Mattis describes it, the first level of Chinese intelligence-gathering resembles that of just about any other government. A Ministry of State Security carries out surveillance of targets within China and monitors potential threats, while the Ministry of Public Security has control over China’s national databases and surveillance networks.
China also has various levels of military intelligence organizations within the People’s Liberation Army. Most of the operatives for these organizations are also based in China, although Mattis notes that “defense attachés and clandestine collectors do operate abroad.”
This also isn’t all that different from how countries normally operate. The US has some 17 intelligence agencies, several of which are organized under branches of the military. They weren’t under the oversight of a single Director of National Intelligence until 2005.
Where China begins to differ from other nations is its use of operatives who aren’t intelligence professionals and who may technically be outside Beijing’s already sprawling security sector. According to Mattis, Chinese media agencies and their foreign-based journalists have likely collected non-classified data on such sensitive topics as foreign governments’ stances towards Tibet or the South China Sea. These journalists then file reports directly to the Central Committee in Beijing.
“Although most Chinese journalists are not intelligence officers and do not recruit clandestine sources, good journalists can provide information that is not publicly available, but also not classified,” Mattis writes.
Mattis also describes “market incentives for economic espionage:” The process by which Beijing facilitates the theft of intellectual property from other countries by providing state support for their cover activities.
In July of 2014, Canadian authorities arrested a Chinese entrepreneur at the request of the FBI. The entrepreneur, Su Bin, and two China-based accomplices hacked into the networks of Boeing and other US defense contractors from 2009 to 2013.
Bin allegedly stole data for 32 different US projects, including data related the F-22 and the F-35 fighter jets, as well as Boeing’s C-17 cargo plane. US authorities believe Bin and his colleagues tried to sell the stolen intelligence to state-owned companies within China.
China’s People’s Liberation Army also carries out cyber attacks and cyber espionage against US companies in order to help boost the Chinese economy. In particular, Chinese hackers have been proven to have stolen US trade secrets related to nuclear power, metal, solar production, and the defense industries.
In addition to using civilians to gather non-classified but sensitive material, Beijing has also facilitated a process for Chinese academics to gather potentially sensitive technological information, and built up institutions capable of rapidly building upon technological espionage gains.
For instance, the Institute of Scientific and Technical Information of China (ISTIC) catalogues foreign scientific publications, facilitates graduate programs for research around the world, and supports the professional development of academics throughout the country. This centralization of technological information has played an important role in China’s rapid modernization, and sources tell Mattis that ISTIC likely reduced the cost of scientific research by 40-50%, while cutting research time by upwards of 70%.
The Army is fast-tracking an emerging technology for Abrams tanks designed to give combat vehicles an opportunity identify, track and destroy approaching enemy rocket-propelled grenades in a matter of milliseconds, service officials said.
Called Active Protection Systems, or APS, the technology uses sensors and radar, computer processing, fire control technology and interceptors to find, target and knock down or intercept incoming enemy fire such as RPGs and Anti-Tank Guided Missiles, or ATGMs. Systems of this kind have been in development for many years, however the rapid technological progress of enemy tank rounds, missiles and RPGs is leading the Army to more rapidly test and develop APS for its fleet of Abrams tanks.
“The Army is looking at a range of domestically produced and allied international solutions from companies participating in the Army’s Modular Active Protection Systems (MAPS) program,” an Army official told Scout Warrior.
The idea is to arm armored combat vehicles and tactical wheeled vehicles with additional protective technology to secure platforms and soldiers from enemy fire; vehicles slated for use of APS systems are infantry fighting vehicles such as Bradleys along with Stykers, Abrams tanks and even tactical vehicles such as transport trucks and the emerging Humvee replacement, the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle.
“The Army’s expedited APS effort is being managed by a coordinated team of Tank Automotive Research, Development Engineering Center engineers, acquisition professionals, and industry; and is intended to assess current APS state-of-the art by installing and characterizing some existing non-developmental APS systems on Army combat vehicles,” the Army official said.
General Dynamics Land Systems, maker of Abrams tanks, is working with the Army to better integrate APS into the subsystems of the Abrams tank, as opposed to merely using an applique system, Mike Peck, Business Development Manager, General Dynamics Land Systems, told Scout Warrior in an interview.
Peck said General Dynamics plans to test an APS system called Trophy on the Abrams tank next year.
Being engineered as among the most survivable and heavily armored vehicles in existence, the Abrams tank is built to withstand a high degree of enemy fire, such some enemy tank rounds, RPGs, rockets and missiles. Abrams tanks can also carry reactive armor, material used to explode incoming enemy fire in a matter that protects the chassis and crew of the vehicle itself. However, depending upon the range, speed and impact location of enemy fire, there are some weapons which still pose a substantial threat to Abrams tanks. Therefore, having an APS system which could knock out enemy rounds before they hit the tank, without question, adds an additional layer of protection for the tank and crew. A particular threat area for Abrams tanks is the need the possibility of having enemy rounds hit its ammunition compartment, thereby causing a damaging secondary explosion.
APS on Abrams tanks, quite naturally, is the kind of protective technology which could help US Army tanks in tank-on-tank mechanized warfare against near-peer adversary tanks, such as a high-tech Russian T-14 Armata tank. According to a report in The National Interest from Dave Majumdar, Russian T-14s are engineered with an unmanned turret, reactive armor and Active Protection Systems.
A challenge with the technology is to develop the proper protocol or tactics, techniques and procedures such that soldiers walking in proximity to a vehicle are not vulnerable to shrapnel, debris or fragments from the explosion between an interceptor and approaching enemy fire.
“The expedited activity will inform future decisions and trade-space for the Army’s overarching APS strategy which uses the MAPS program to develop a modular capability that can be integrated on any platform,” the Army official said.
Rafael’s Trophy system, Artis Corporation’s Iron Curtain, Israeli Military Industry’s Iron Fist, UBT/Rheinmetall’s ADS system, and others.
DRS Technologies and Israeli-based Rafael Advanced Defense Systems are asking the U.S. Army to consider acquiring their recently combat-tested Trophy Active Protection System, a vehicle-mounted technology engineered to instantly locate and destroy incoming enemy fire.
Using a 360-degree radar, processor and on-board computer, Trophy is designed to locate, track and destroy approaching fire coming from a range of weapons such as Anti-Tank-Guided-Missiles, or ATGMs, or Rocket Propelled Grenades, or RPGs,
The interceptor consists of a series of small, shaped charges attached to a gimbal on top of the vehicle. The small explosives are sent to a precise point in space to intercept and destroy the approaching round, he added.
Radar scans the entire perimeter of the platform out to a known range. When a threat penetrates that range, the system then detects and classifies that threat and tells the on-board computer which determines the optical kill point in space, a DRS official said.
Trophy was recently deployed in combat in Gaza on Israeli Defense Forces’ Merkava tanks. A brigade’s worth of tanks used Trophy to destroy approaching enemy fire such as RPGs in a high-clutter urban environment, he added.
“Dozens of threats were launched at these platforms, many of which would have been lethal to these vehicles. Trophy engaged those threats and defeated them in all cases with no collateral injury and no danger to the dismounts and no false engagement,” the DRS official said.
A tank gunner in 2nd Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Cavalry Division, checks the battery box and connections on his M1A1 Abrams tank after gunnery qualifications | U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Ken Scar
While the Trophy system was primarily designed to track and destroy approaching enemy fire, it also provides the additional benefit of locating the position of an enemy shooter.
“Trophy will not only knock an RPG out of the sky but it will also calculate the shooter’s location. It will enable what we call slew-to-cue. At the same time that the system is defeating the threat that is coming at it, it will enable the main gun or sensor or weapons station to vector with sights to where the threat came from and engage, identify or call in fire. At very least you will get an early warning to enable you to take some kind of action,” the DRS official explained. “I am no longer on the defensive with Trophy. Israeli commanders will tell you ‘I am taking the fight to the enemy.’
The Israelis developed Trophy upon realizing that tanks could not simply be given more armor without greatly minimizing their maneuverability and deployability, DRS officials said.
Trophy APS was selected by the Israel Defense Forces as the Active Protection System designed to protect the Namer heavy infantry fighting vehicle.
Artis Corporation’s Iron Curtain
A Virginia-based defense firm known as Artis, developer of the Iron Curtain APS system, uses two independent sensors, radar and optical, along with high-speed computing and counter munitions to detect and intercept approaching fire, according to multiple reports.
Iron Curtain began in 2005 with the Pentagon’s research arm known as DARPA; the APS system is engineered to defeat enemy fire at extremely close ranges.
The systems developers and multiple reports – such as an account from Defense Review — say that Iron Curtain defeats threats inches from their target, which separates the system from many others which intercept threats several meters out. The aim is to engineer a dependable system with minimal risk of collateral damage to dismounted troops or civilians.
The Defense Review report also says that Iron Curtain’s sensors can target destroy approaching RPG fire to within one-meter of accuracy.
Iron Curtain’s radar was developed by the Mustang Technology Group in Plano, Texas.
“Iron Curtain has already been successfully demonstrated in the field. They installed the system on an up-armored HMMWV (Humvee), and Iron Curtain protected the vehicle against an RPG. Apparently, the countermeasure deflagrates the RPG’s warhead without detonating it, leaving the “dudded” RPG fragments to just bounce off the vehicle’s side. Iron Curtain is supposed to be low weight and low cost, with a minimal false alarm rate and minimal internal footprint,” the Defense Review report states.
Israel’s IRON FIST
Israel’s IMISystems has also developed an APS system which uses a multi-sensor early warning system with both infrared and radar sensors.
“Electro-optical jammers, Instantaneous smoke screens and, if necessary, an interceptor-based hard kill Active Protection System,” IMISystems officials state.
IRON FIST capability demonstrators underwent full end-to-end interception tests, against all threat types, operating on the move and in urban scenarios. These tests included both heavy and lightly armored vehicles.
“In these installations, IRON FIST proved highly effective, with its wide angle protection, minimal weight penalty and modest integration requirements,” company officials said.
UBT/Rheinmetall’s Active Defense System
German defense firms called Rheinmetall and IBD Deisenroth, Germany, joined forces to develop active vehicle protection systems; Rheinmetall AG owns a 74% share, with the remainder held by IBD Deisenroth GmbH.
Described as a system which operates on the “hard kill” principle, the ADS is engineered for vehicles of every weight class; it purports to defend against light antitank weapons, guided missiles and certain improvised explosive devices (IEDs).
“The sensor system detects an incoming projectile as it draws close to the vehicle, e.g. a shaped charge or antitank missile. Then, in a matter of microseconds, the system activates a protection sector, applying directed pyrotechnic energy to destroy the projectile in the immediate vicinity of the vehicle. Owing to its downward trajectory, ADS minimizes collateral damage in the zone surrounding the vehicle,” the company’s website states.
The Department of Veterans Affairs is taking new steps to use technology to improve access to health care for veterans across the country, including in rural areas.
Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin says the initiatives include using video technology and diagnostic tools to conduct medical exams. Shulkin says veterans will also be able to use mobile devices to schedule, reschedule, or cancel appointments with a VA doctor.
Shulkin says the new programs will make it possible to provide medical care to veterans wherever they are, whether they’re in their homes or are traveling.
The new programs are in addition to existing “telehealth” programs that Shulkin says provided care to more than 700,000 veterans last year.
Time for another round of memes. This week we’re doing something a little different by highlighting the infamous urinalysis. That’s right, the pee test. They say it’s necessary for a sober military, but it’s really more like a creepy invasion of privacy. What, they don’t trust us?
Urinalysis is the fastest way to get everyone on pins and needles.
You know it’s going to be a long day when it starts like this …
That reaction to urinalysis raises suspicions.
Meanwhile, across the room, there’s downer Dave with a lot on his mind.
And why are urinalysis observers people you rarely see in your unit?
Oh yea, that’s why.
There’s a fine balance between going on demand and holding it.
Teenagers dread reading Shakespeare’s works because the old English can be difficult at times. In fact, Shakespeare deliberately made up words and expanded the English dictionary by extension. It is not hard to imagine a young mind shying away from his written works. However, Shakespeare did not just write about love, but also war. His take on the art of destruction still echoes today.
The arms are fair, when the intent of bearing them is just.
I interpret this as another way of saying “the end justifies the means.” Men can do great things when they believe their cause is just. However, the most evil men who have ever existed believed they were doing good. In essence, to fight, we must be right.
Caesar’s spirit, ranging for revenge, with Até by his side come hot from hell, shall in these confines with a monarch’s voice Cry “Havoc,” and let slip the dogs of war.
Julius Caesar was one of the greatest warriors in the history of warfare. Shakespeare’s depiction of him is equally as epic. This quote in particular is famously quoted across many movies and TV shows.
War gives the right to the conquerors to impose any condition they please upon the vanquished.
This one is self-evident.
In war, events of importance are the result of trivial causes.
We can all think of a war or two that were started by asinine reasons. One war was literally fought over a stolen bucket. Other times trivial causes for war are used to justify military action without being ousted as an aggressor.
Your breath first kindled the dead coal of wars and brought in matter that should feed this fire; and now ’tis far too huge to be blown out with that same weak wind which enkindled it.
It’s easier to start a war than to end one. The same goes for trying to control the scope of the war. Things can get out of hand quickly, and stay in chaos for years to come.
I’ll fight till from my bones my flesh be hacked.
Throughout history, countless troops on the losing side of a battle have fought to the last breath. Their stories are often retold as our tales of patriotic heroism.
A victory is twice itself when the achiever brings home full numbers.
Much Ado About Nothing
This is true. It is much better to cross the wire and return with all your troops, even if there was no contact with the enemy. However, if there is an enemy and there are no friendly casualties in combat, it is definitely double the cause to celebrate.
He which hath no stomach to this fight, let him depart; his passport shall be made.
Not everybody is cut out for combat. “Lead, follow, or get out of the way.”
Fight, gentlemen of England! fight, bold yeomen! Draw, archers, draw your arrows to the head! Spur your proud horses hard, and ride in blood; Amaze the welkin with your broken staves!
Pre-battle speeches are paramount to get the troops fired up. Speaking of war speeches, my favorite film speech is from “We Were Soldiers” delivered by Mel Gibson in his role of Lt. Colonel Hal Moore.
Beware the leader who bangs the drums of war in order to whip the citizenry into a patriotic fervor.
Another that might be self-evident, but carries no less weight. The reason for this warning has played out countless times in human history.
Obscure historical ways to slice, dice, and fry your opponents.
1. The Fire Lance
First find a spear. Now fill a bamboo tube with gunpowder and sharp objects and tie the tube to the end of your spear. Next, aim this contraption at someone who has seriously pissed you off and ignite the gunpowder by way of a fuse. Congratulations, you’ve just made and discharged a Chinese Fire Lance.
Considered one of the earliest gunpowder weapons, the Fire Lance was invented in the 10th century and was used throughout the Ming dynasty, often deployed in the defense of fortified cities when an invading or marauding army appeared at the gates. While these were unpredictable one-off weapons, Fire Lances were cheap, very effective at short ranges, and psychologically terrifying for enemy soldiers.
If the initial shrapnel volley didn’t kill you, you were now dealing with a guy more or less wielding a flamethrower. The Fire Lance and other early Chinese gunpowder weapons are the direct precursor for more advanced Middle Eastern and European firearms that would come to dominate warfare in the following centuries.
2. The Mancatcher
Have you ever seriously considered kidnapping an armored nobleman on horseback in order to ransom him back to his vassals? No? Well you really should and if you do, your best bet is the bizarrely designed Mancatcher.
This weapon is described by Wikipedia as an “esoteric pole-arm,” probably because it looks like something out of a Terry Gilliam film. The mancatcher’s primary purpose was the non-lethal dismounting and capture of high value targets on the battlefield. Those spikes on the inside of the collar pictured above are predicated on the assumption that anyone you’re trying to catch with the mancatcher is wearing armor, or else I suspect there would have been some severe neck injuries to explain during the ransom negotiations.
The Japanese have a similar weapon called the sasumata which is interestingly still in use today (albeit with a very different design) as a non-lethal way to apprehend criminals and troublemakers.
3. The Bagh Naka
Anyone with a Wolverine fetish should appreciate this Indian hand-claw, which was a favorite among thieves and assassins of the 15th and 16th centuries. The Bagh Naka (tiger claw in Hindi) consists of a crossbar with four or five sharp blades and two finger-holes for the wearer’s thumb and pinky finger.
The weapon could be worn so that the blades extend over the knuckle, functionally turning one’s hand into a mauling device, or worn so that the blades are hidden in the palm of the hand, for a more, shall we say, sneaky approach. Some models, such as the one pictured above, had additional blades jutting out from the side to add to the Bagh Naka’s versatility and carnage dealing capabilities.
4. The Ballista
Photo: Wikipedia/Ronald Preuß
This early artillery siege weapon makes the list not only because of its pretty badass name but also because it hurtles spears the size of tree trunks at opposing armies.
Developed by the Ancient Greeks, the Ballista is basically a very large crossbow that discharged an ordinance capable of flattening enemy troop formations at a distance of up to 500 yards. They were often placed at the top of large siege towers and moved within range of enemy fortifications to lighten a besieged city’s defenses. A smaller model, called the Scorpio, was one of the first sniper rifles to see extended action in war and probably deserves its own entry on this list. Perhaps most impressive, the Ballista remained in use for more than a thousand years which is pretty rare for such a specialized siege weapon.
5. The Macuahuitl
The Macuahuitl was a meso-american club which was affixed with numerous obsidian blades on its sides. It could be used to lacerate opponents or bludgeon them into unconsciousness.
The conquistadors were greatly impressed with the effectiveness of this weapon during their conquests and we have multiple reports of Macuahuitl being used to decapitate horses with a single swing. They were also reportedly used by the Aztecs to knock out targets during raids to acquire sacrificial victims.
There are surprisingly no known authentic Macuahuitl left, however reconstructions such as the one pictured above have been extensively tested and confirm the weapon’s deadly effects. It is the only obsidian based weapon I am aware of and that makes it pretty badass in my book.
Maybe the greatest thing about the French Foreign Legion for many of its enlistees is the ability to get an entirely new life upon joining. At least back in the days following World War II, you could. This meant anyone escaping their old life could earn anonymity and a new, French life after a few years of service.
In the years following World War II, this also meant it was (potentially) full of war criminals. For Eliahu Itzkovitz, a Romanian Jew, there was only one war criminal he cared about, and that criminal did join the foreign legion. Itzkovitz was not about to let him get away with his crimes.
Itzkovitz was born to Jewish parents in Chișinău, which is today the capital of Moldova but in his time was in the Kingdom of Romania. When World War II broke out, Romania’s King Carol II opted to maintain his country’s neutrality, but the stars weren’t aligning for Carol and his traditional allies. The evacuation of the British Expeditionary Force from continental Europe and the fall of France in 1940 led to opposition to that policy.
Romania’s king turned to Nazi Germany to secure its borders, but the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact ceded Romanian territory to the Soviet Union and King Carol II was powerless to do anything about it. He was soon deposed in a Fascist coup that led the new power to join the Axis pact in 1940.
Jewish people in Romania began to meet the same fate as others in Nazi-dominated Europe. They were herded into concentration camps, ghettos or were outright murdered in pogroms by Romanian and German soldiers. Eliahu Itzkovitz and his family were deported to a concentration camp in their native Moldavia.
It was in this prison that young Eliahu Itzkovitz watched a prison camp guard named Stănescu murder his parents. The young boy vowed to get revenge on Stănescu. HIs demand for vengeance helped him survive the war, but when he was liberated by the Soviet Union, he couldn’t find the guard.
He returned to Romania looking for Stănescu while still a young man. He tracked down a location where he thought he would find his parents’ murder in 1947, but found only the man’s son. Itzkovitz stabbed his son with a butcher knife. He was caught and sentenced to a juvenile prison. Upon his release, the now-communist government of Romania allowed him to emigrate to Israel.
Now an orphan living in the Jewish homeland, he joined the Israeli Defence Forces, determined to never let something like the Holocaust orphan any more Jewish children. Itzkovitz joined a paratrooper brigade a year after joining the IDF. It was here he learned how and where Stănescu managed to escape the Soviet troops in 1945 – he had moved into the French occupation zone of Germany and joined the French Foreign Legion.
Itzkovitz came up with a plan to exact his revenge. First, he transferred to the Israeli Navy, where he was stationed in Haifa. Eventually, he was sent to the Italian port of Genoa on a supply mission. Once back in Europe, he deserted from the Navy and joined the Foreign Legion himself.
While undergoing basic training in Algeria, he learned that his prey had been sent to French Indochina with the 3rd Foreign Infantry Regiment, where he was a noncommissioned officer and a squad leader. Itzkovitz volunteered for that same regiment and ended up in Indochina, in Stănescu’s unit. Itzkovitz didn’t strike right away – he waited for the perfect moment.
The day he long waited for finally arrived on a 1958 patrol near the Vietnamese city of Bac Ninh. Itzkovitz finally confronted the guard that killed his parents in the Holocaust and killed him. He served out the rest of his enlistment with the Foreign Legion. Afterwards, he returned to Paris to face the music for deserting the Israeli Navy.
The IDF court-martialed Itzkovitz and sentenced him to one year in prison.
Air Force pilots of the 1980s-era stealthy B-2 Spirit bomber plan to upgrade and fly the aircraft on attack missions against enemy air defenses well into the 2050s, service officials said.
“It is a dream to fly. It is so smooth,” Maj. Kent Mickelson, director of operations for 394th combat training squadron, told Scout Warrior in an interview.
In a special interview designed to offer a rare look into the technologies and elements of the B-2, Mickelson explained that the platform has held up and remained very effective – given that it was designed and built during the 80s.
Alongside his current role, Mickelson is also a B-2 pilot with experience flying missions and planning stealth bomber attacks, such as the bombing missions over Libya in 2011.
“It is a testament to the engineering team that here we are in 2016 and the B-2 is still able to do its job just as well today as it did in the 80s. While we look forward to modernization, nobody should come away with the thought that the B-2 isn’t ready to deal with the threats that are out there today,” he said. “It is really an awesome bombing platform and it is just a marvel of technology.”
The B-2 is engineered with avionics, radar and communications technologies designed to identify and destroy enemy targets from high altitudes above hostile territory.
“It is a digital airplane. We are presented with what is commonly referred to as glass cockpit,” Mickelson said.
The glass cockpit includes various digital displays, including one showing Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) information which paints a rendering or picture of the ground below.
“SAR provides the pilots with a realistic display of the ground that they are able to use for targeting,” Mickelson said.
The B-2 has a two-man crew with only two ejection seats. Also, the crew is trained to deal with the rigors of a 40-hour mission.
“The B-2 represents a huge leap in technology from our legacy platforms such as the B-52 and the B-1 bomber. This involved taking the best of what is available and giving it to the aircrew,” Mickelson said.
The Air Force currently operates 20 B-2 bombers, with the majority of them based at Whiteman AFB in Missouri. The B-2 can reach altitudes of 50,000 feet and carry 40,000 pounds of payload, including both conventional and nuclear weapons.
The aircraft, which entered service in the 1980s, has flown missions over Iraq, Libya and Afghanistan. In fact, given its ability to fly as many as 6,000 nautical miles without need to refuel, the B-2 flew from Missouri all the way to an island off the coast of India called Diego Garcia – before launching bombing missions over Afghanistan.
“Taking off from Whiteman and landing at Diego Garcia was one of the longest combat sorties the B-2 has ever taken. The bomber was very successful in Afghanistan and very successful in the early parts of the wars in Iraq and Libya,” Michelson added.
The B-2 crew uses what’s called a “long-duration kit,” which includes items such as a cot for sleeping and other essentials deemed necessary for a long flight, Mickelson explained.
As a stealth bomber engineered during the height of the Cold War, the B-2 was designed to elude Soviet air defenses and strike enemy targets – without an enemy ever knowing the aircraft was even there. This stealthy technological ability is referred to by industry experts as being able to evade air defenses using both high-frequency “engagement” radar, which can target planes, and lower frequency “surveillance” radar which can let enemies know an aircraft is in the vicinity.
The B-2 bomber is described as a platform which can operate undetected over enemy territory and, in effect, “knock down the door” by destroying enemy radar and air defenses so that other aircraft can fly through a radar “corridor” and attack.
However, enemy air defenses are increasingly becoming technologically advanced and more sophisticated; some emerging systems are even able to detect some stealth aircraft using systems which are better networked, using faster computer processors and able to better detect aircraft at longer distances on a greater number of frequencies. The Russian-built S-300 and S-400 air defenses, for example, are among the most advanced in the world today.
The Air Force plans to operate the B-2 alongside its new, now-in-development bomber called the Long Range Strike – Bomber, or LRS-B. well into the 2050s.
B-2 modernization upgrades – taking the stealth bomber into the 2050s
As a result, the B-2 fleet is undergoing a series of modernization upgrades in order to ensure the aircraft can remain at its ultimate effective capability for the next several decades, Mickelson said.
One of the key upgrades is called the Defensive Management System, a technology which helps inform the B-2 crew about the location of enemy air defenses. Therefore, if there are emerging air defenses equipped with the technology sufficient to detect the B-2, the aircraft will have occasion to maneuver in such a way as to stay outside of their range.
The Defensive Management System is slated to be operational by the mid-2020s, Mickelson added.
“The whole key is to give us better situational awareness so we are able to make sound decisions in the cockpit about where we need to put the aircraft,” he added.
The B-2 is also moving to an extremely high frequency satellite in order to better facilitate communications with command and control. For instance, the communications upgrade could make it possible for the aircraft crew to receive bombing instructions from the President in the unlikely event of a nuclear detonation.
“This program will help with nuclear and conventional communications. It will provide a very big increase in the bandwidth available for the B-2, which means an increased speed of data flow. We are excited about this upgrade,” Mickelson explained.
The stealth aircraft uses a commonly deployed data link called LINK-16 and both UHF and VHF data links, as well. Michelson explained that the B-2 is capable of communicating with ground control stations, command and control headquarters and is also able to receive information from other manned and unmanned assets such as drones.
Information from nearby drones, however, would at the moment most likely need to first transmit through a ground control station. That being said, emerging technology may soon allow platforms like the B-2 to receive real-time video feeds from nearby drones in the air.
The B-2 is also being engineered with a new flight management control processor designed to expand and modernize the on-board computers and enable the addition of new software.
This involves the re-hosting of the flight management control processors, the brains of the airplane, onto much more capable integrated processing units. This results in the laying-in of some new fiber optic cable as opposed to the mix bus cable being used right now – because the B-2’s computers from the 80s are getting maxed out and overloaded with data, Air Force officials told Scout Warrior.
The new processor increases the performance of the avionics and on-board computer systems by about 1,000-times, he added. The overall flight management control processor effort, slated to field by 2015 and 2016, is expected to cost $542 million.
B-2 weapons upgrades
The comprehensive B-2 upgrades also include efforts to outfit the attack aircraft with next generation digital nuclear weapons such as the B-61 Mod 12 with a tail kit and Long Range Stand-Off weapon or, LRSO, an air-launched, guided nuclear cruise missile, service officials said.
The B-61 Mod 12 is an ongoing modernization program which seeks to integrate the B-61 Mods 3, 4, 7 and 10 into a single variant with a guided tail kit. The B-61 Mod 12 is being engineered to rely on an inertial measurement unit for navigation.
In addition to the LRSO, B83 and B-61 Mod 12, the B-2 will also carry the B-61 Mod 11, a nuclear weapon designed with penetration capabilities, Air Force officials said.
The LRSO will replace the Air Launched Cruise Missile, or ALCM, which right now is only carried by the B-52 bomber, officials said.
Alongside its nuclear arsenal, the B-2 will carry a wide range of conventional weapons to include precision-guided 2,000-pound Joint Direct Attack Munitions, or JDAMs, 5,000-pound JDAMs, Joint Standoff Weapons, Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missiles and GBU 28 5,000-pound bunker buster weapons, among others.
The platform is also preparing to integrate a long-range conventional air-to-ground standoff weapon called the JASSM-ER, for Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile, Extended Range.
The B-2 can also carry a 30,000-pound conventional bomb known as the Massive Ordnance Penetrator, Mickelson added.
“This is a GBU-28 (bunker-buster weapon) on steroids. It will go in and take out deeply buried targets,” he said.
“The forward presence of F-35s support my priority of having ready and postured forces here in Europe,” said Army Gen. Curtis M. Scaparrotti, the commander of U.S.European Command and NATO’s supreme allied commander for Europe.
“These aircraft, plus more importantly, the men and women who operate them, fortify the capacity and capability of our NATO Alliance.”
The aircraft are deployed from the 388th and 419th Fighter Wings at Hill Air Force Base, Utah, and will train with European-based allies.
This long-planned deployment continues to galvanize the U.S. commitment to security and stability throughout Europe. The aircraft and personnel will remain in Europe for several weeks.
The F-35A will also forward deploy to maximize training opportunities, strengthen the NATO alliance, and gain a broad familiarity of Europe’s diverse operating conditions.
“This is an incredible opportunity for [U.S. Air Forces in Europe] airmen and our NATO allies to host this first overseas training deployment of the F-35A aircraft,” said Air Force Gen. Tod D. Wolters, commander of USAFE and Air Forces Africa.
“As we and our joint F-35 partners bring this aircraft into our inventories, it’s important that we train together to integrate into a seamless team capable of defending the sovereignty of allied nations.”
The introduction of the premier fifth-generation fighter to Europe brings state-of-the-art sensors, interoperability, and a vast array of advanced air-to-air and air-to-surface munitions that will help maintain the fundamental territorial and air sovereignty rights of all nations.
The fighter provides unprecedented precision-attack capability against current and emerging threats with unmatched lethality, survivability, and interoperability.
The deployment was supported by the U.S. Air Force’s Air Mobility Command. Multiple refueling aircraft from four different bases provided more than 400,000 pounds of fuel during the “tanker bridge” from the United States to Europe.
Additionally, C-17 Globemaster III and C-5 Galaxy aircraft transported maintenance equipment and personnel to England.
They’re the units that everyone wants to beat, that every commander wants to squash under their heel, and that most average Joes accuse of cheating at least once — the “Opposing Forces” units at military training centers.
The OPFOR units are comprised of active duty soldiers stationed at major training centers and are tasked with playing enemy combatants in training exercises for the units that rotate into their center. They spend years acting as the adversary in every modern training exercise their base can come up with.
So while most units do a rotation at a major training center every couple of years, soldiers assigned to OPFOR units often conduct major training rotations every month. This results in their practicing the deployed lifestyle for weeks at a time about a dozen times per year.
Through all this training, they get good. Really good.
And since they typically conduct their missions at a single installation or, in rare cases, at a few training areas in a single region, they’re experts in their assigned battlespace.
All this adds up to units with lots of experience against the best units the military has to deploy — units that are at the cutting edge of new tactics, techniques, and procedures; units that have the home field advantage.
“The first time you fight against the OpFor is a daunting experience,” Maj. Jared Nichols, a battalion executive officer that rotated through the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, California, said during a 2016 training iteration. “You’re fighting an enemy that knows the terrain and knows how American forces fight, so they know how to fight against us and they do it very well.”
For the military, this arrangement is a win-win. First, rotational units cut their teeth against realistic, experienced, and determined opponents before they deploy. This tests and stresses deploying units — usually brigades — and allows them to see where their weak points are. Do their soldiers need a tool they don’t have? Are there leaders being over or under utilized? Does all the equipment work together as expected?
But the training units aren’t expected to get everything right.
“One of the largest challenges I face as the OPFOR battalion commander is conveying the message to the other nations that it’s OK to make a mistake,” Lt. Col. Mathew Archambault said during a 2016 training rotation. “When they come here it’s a training exercise, and I want them to take risks and try new things. I want them to maximize their training experience; it helps them learn and grow.”
But the military also gets a group of soldiers that, over a two or three-year tour of duty at a training center as opposing forces, have seen dozens of ways to conduct different missions. They’ve seen different tactics for resupplying maneuver forces in the field, different ways of hiding communications, different ways of feinting attacks. And, they know which tactics are successful and which don’t work in the field.
When it’s time for these soldiers to rotate to another unit, they take these lessons with them and share them with their new units.
On July 19, 1879, Doc Holliday made his first kill.
Immortalized by Val Kilmer in the 1993 film Tombstone, Doc Holliday is a rather notorious gunfighter remembered for his deadly aim.
He actually only engaged in eight shoot-outs, killing two men — not a particularly high number for a man whose claim to fame was being a gunslinger.
A dentist by trade, in 1879, Holliday left the South for Dallas, Texas, perhaps for the dry air, which he may have hoped would help his tuberculosis, the same disease that killed his mother. He continued west along with his friend, Wyatt Earp, and opened a saloon in Las Vegas, New Mexico.
When Mike Gordon, a disgruntled client, began firing bullets into the saloon from the street, Holliday, by then a notorious card player and fighter, calmly confronted him with a single shot. Gordon died the next day.
Holliday’s second kill was at the infamous gunfight at the O.K. Corral, the most legendary battle of the Old West. On Oct. 26, 1881 in Tombstone, Arizona, Holliday and Earp engaged in an intense firefight with cowboys like Billy Clanton and brothers Frank and Tom McLaury. Over 30 shots were fired in the 30-second battle. Three men were killed and several others were wounded, including Holliday.
He himself was killed by tuberculosis in 1887.
Featured image: Life-sized statue of Holliday and Earp by the sculptor Dan Bates which was dedicated by the Southern Arizona Transportation Museum at the restored Historic Railroad Depot in Tucson, Arizona. March 20, 2005
Iva Toguri had the bad luck of being sent to Japan to take care of her aunt in 1941. While she was there, the Japanese Empire launched a surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, starting the Pacific War with the United States.
The Los Angeles-born Toguri was stuck in a country at war with her home country at age 25. She refused to renounce her American citizenship and was closely watched as an enemy alien. She moved to Tokyo where she took a job as a typist at Radio Tokyo.
By the end of the war she would find herself wanted by the U.S. Army, the FBI and other counterintelligence agencies on charges of aiding the enemy – but that’s not how she saw what she was doing at all.
While working at the Radio Station, she met an Australian prisoner of war, Capt. Charles Cousens. After he was captured in the Japanese invasion of Singapore, his captors learned he had worked in radio before the war and he was put to the task of producing a morale-sapping propaganda show called “Zero Hour” with a handful or other POWs.
He and two other prisoners, U.S. Army Capt. Wallace Ince and Philippine Army Lt. Normando Ildefonso “Norman” Reyes were determined to make the show as lame and harmless as they could, effectively canceling out the enemy propaganda effort. After meeting Iva Toguri, he decided he would bring her in on the joke.
She outright refused to say anything anti-American on the show. Instead they openly mocked the idea of being a propaganda message. When she finally took up the mic in earnest, she lampooned the idea of the show, even explicitly saying things like “here’s the first blow at your morale.” Their Japanese captors didn’t understand the Western humor and double entendres they used.
Toguri even used her salary on the show to get supplies for prisoners held there. She would eventually marry Felipe D’Aquino, who also worked at the station.
Now named Iva D’Aquino, her personality on the show was a character called “Orphan Ann,” but American troops in the Pacific began referring to her (and other Japanese women on the radio) as “Tokyo Rose.”
“Zero Hour” only ran for little more than a year and a half, and her appearances became less frequent as the war turned south for the Japanese. When Japan surrendered, she found herself wanted by almost everyone who had ever heard one of the broadcasts.
When a magazine reporter offered a $2,000 reward for an interview with Tokyo Rose, she actually stepped forward to claim the reward. Instead she was apprehended and accused of treason for aiding the enemy in her broadcasts.
D’Aquino was originally held in jail for a year while the Army tried to gather evidence against her, but nothing she ever said on Radio Tokyo was anti-American. Neither the FBI nor the Army in Japan could find any evidence of treason. The officers she worked with on “Zero Hour” would not say anything against her. She was eventually released.
After trying to return to the United States, public opinion was turned against her by the American media and she was arrested yet again, sent to San Francisco, and put on trial once more, facing eight counts of treason for her work at Radio Tokyo. She was convicted on one count, mentioning the loss of ships on the radio, “on a day during October, 1944, the exact date being to the Grand Jurors unknown.”
There was no evidence of D’Aquino mentioning any ships, and Charles Cousens was present as a defense witness, but she was convicted anyway and sentenced to 10 years in prison. She served six years in a West Virginia reformatory, alongside Mildred Gillars, also known as “Axis Sally.”