Here's what makes a Combat Controller so deadly - We Are The Mighty
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Here’s what makes a Combat Controller so deadly

The teams that have completed some of America’s most stunning special operations included a few airmen who are often overlooked when it comes time to glorify the heroes: Combat Controller Teams.


Combat Controllers are Air Force special operators trained to support all other special operators and to conduct their missions behind enemy lines. Here’s what makes them so effective under such challenging conditions.

Here’s what makes a Combat Controller so deadly
Air Force special operators aren’t well known, but they have a reputation as both intellectuals and brawlers. (Photo: U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Michael R. Holzworth)

First, Combat Controllers are certified as air traffic controllers and are also often certified as joint terminal attack controllers. These dual-certifications mean that they can direct friendly air traffic and request attacks against ground targets from the aircraft overhead.

Obviously, the guy who tells the A-10s where to shoot, the AC-130s where to fly, and the attack helicopters where they should enter and leave the battlespace is packing some serious firepower.

Here’s what makes a Combat Controller so deadly
The Air Force’s AC-130s are literally airborne artillery. (Photo: U.S. Air Force)

To do this mission, Combat Controller Teams move forward with Navy SEALs, Green Berets, or other Tier 1 operators and use a radio to keep in touch with air assets assigned to the mission. In fact, CCTs were originally formed to pair with Delta Force squadrons on their super-secret missions.

When they near an objective or get close to enemy forces, the CCTs call up their big brothers in the sky.

The controller tells the pilot what target needs to be taken out, where it’s at, and sometimes even what weapons and flight path the pilot should take.

As the combat controller is doing all that, he’s still in ground combat. While he’ll usually prefer to use his radio rather than his rifle — 30mm cannon fire from the sky is more lethal than 5.56mm rounds from the ground — he’s perfectly capable of going toe-to-toe with enemy soldiers when necessary.

Here’s what makes a Combat Controller so deadly
Photographed: guys who are not afraid to fight you. (Photo: U.S Air Force Staff Sgt. Jeremy T. Lock)

This connection with air assets also gives the CCTs a coveted battlefield asset: real-time surveillance. Pilots can describe what they see on the ground to the controller who keeps mission commanders in the loop. In some cases, pilots and drones can even send data streams to devices carried by the controller so the airman can watch the enemy in real time.

All these capabilities are valuable for joint operations, but they also allow combat controllers to conduct their own missions — which they do.

Here’s what makes a Combat Controller so deadly
(Photo: US Air Force Staff Sgt. Jeremy T. Lock)

One such mission is covert airfield seizure. The Army will send Rangers or paratroopers to seize airfields from enemy forces, but dropping a few hundred infantrymen can draw a lot of attention.

So, sometimes the Air Force sends small teams of combat controllers and other Air Force special operators on their own if the base isn’t too heavily guarded.

The controllers will seize the airfield and then certify it for operations. Once they give their blessing to an airfield, reinforcements can land on the runway and support aircraft can come in for refueling and rearmament.

Controllers can also go into combat on their own to help allied forces or to direct airstrikes that will delay an enemy or break up an attack.

To get to the battlefield, the controllers can swim in with SCUBA and diving gear, parachute, ruck, drive, or even ride motorcycles.

Air Force special tactics officer Maj. Charlie Hodges described “bike chasers,” controllers who throw a motorcycle out of a plane, parachute after it, and then ride the bike to their objective when they reach the ground.

Here’s what makes a Combat Controller so deadly
Wasn’t kidding about those bikes. (Photo: U.S. Air Force 1st Lt. Gabe Johnson)

“All of our guys are trained to ride motorcycles,” Hodges told CNN. Getting to the fight sometimes “involves jumping out of an airplane, or sliding out a helicopter down a fast rope, or riding some sort of all-terrain vehicle, or going on a mountain path on foot.”

While Combat Controllers don’t always get the headlines and movies like SEAL Team Six, Delta Force, and others, they’ve proven themselves to be professional, courageous, and deadly in combat.

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Here’s The Hilarious Result Of Mashing Up Left Shark With Famous Military Quotes

We all know by now that Left Shark was the big hit of the big Super Bowl game, but he’s also pretty influential in military circles.


Well, at least he should be. Check out these famous military quotes with the infamous Gen. Left Shark, the hero we need and deserve.

Here’s what makes a Combat Controller so deadly

Gen. James “Mad Shark” Mattis is not afraid to fail, whether behind Katy Perry or in front of Marines.

Here’s what makes a Combat Controller so deadly

You shouldn’t be bummed just because you’re decisively engaged. Smile as you practice your marksmanship.

Here’s what makes a Combat Controller so deadly

Gen. George S. Patton, Jr. reminded Katy Perry and Right Shark that if they can’t lead properly, Left Shark will make it’s own choreography.

Here’s what makes a Combat Controller so deadly

Sure, there are plenty of dancers on the stage. But only one is Greek Left Shark Hericlitus.

Here’s what makes a Combat Controller so deadly

Mad Shark Mattis reminds his enemies that, yes, he wants peace, but he has endless teeth to destroy those who don’t.

Here’s what makes a Combat Controller so deadly

Sgt. Left Shark wants good morale, and he will have it by any means necessary.

Here’s what makes a Combat Controller so deadly

Gen. Left Shark Patton Jr. knows how you win wars.

Here’s what makes a Combat Controller so deadly

Gen. Left Shark Sherman brought great destruction across the South during the Civil War. When protests reached him, he was unapologetic.

Here’s what makes a Combat Controller so deadly

Sgt. Maj. Dan Left Shark Daly might be able to live forever, but he doesn’t see any reason to.

Here’s what makes a Combat Controller so deadly

General Douglas Left Shark McArthur never went in for ball point pens when firings pins were an option.

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This recent HBO documentary shows previously-unseen footage from the Holocaust

In 1945, Allied military and newsreel cameramen documented the liberation of Nazi concentration camps as the British, American, and Russian forces pushed ever further into Germany.  This footage was compiled and edited by the British government to make the film German Concentration Camps Factual Survey (with Alfred Hitchcock as a supervising director). More than 100 reels of footage were shot to make this documentary, the intended audience was to be German people living inside the former Nazi state to show them what the regime had done in their name.


Here’s what makes a Combat Controller so deadly

Earlier this year, HBO launched a new documentary, Night Will Fall, which draws on footage shot by those same military cameramen while using testimony from Holocaust survivors from infamous places like Bergen-Belsen, Auschwitz, Dachau and others. Narrated by Helena Bonham-Carter, the documentary includes interviews from the film’s director, Billy Wilder, and even Hitchcock himself. But the film was never completed.

German Concentration Camps Factual Survey itself was set to include interviews with the camps’ survivors, the soldiers who liberated the camps, and historians looking back to put the events into context. The rough cut of the documentary was put away into the depths of the British Imperial War Museum and was unearthed in an effort to restore this and other films like it. In fact, the sixth and final reel of the film was missing and so Night Will Fall will finally bring this heart-wrenching documentary to a conclusion after 70 years.

The unfinished film was screened on PBS’ Frontline and at the 1984 Berlin Film Festival, and uses the most shocking and riveting concentration camp footage ever seen, fully restored. This restored footage was screened in 2014 at the Berlin International Film Festival. Some of the holocaust survivors in the HBO documentary can recognize themselves in the footage shot by military cameramen. The scenes shot by the cameramen are so striking, they were used against Nazi regime officials in trials at Nuremberg.

In the end, the film was not shown because the British needed the German people to rebuild their economy on their own, as the economies of all of Europe had been derailed by the war. The British government decided showing this film would only demoralize the Germans further.

Night Will Fall aired worldwide in January 2015, but can be seen on HBOGo and HBO Now.

NOW: Meet the rebel kids who danced in defiance of the Nazis

OR: That one time England recruited a magician to trick Hitler

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The military is closing in on powerful exoskeleton technology

Here’s what makes a Combat Controller so deadly
Photo: Raytheon


For decades, the U.S. military and its private-sector partners have been working toward a technology straight out of science fiction: robotic suits.

And it’s no surprise. Exoskeletons could add to soldiers’ natural strength, letting troops lift seemingly impossible loads and dart across the battlefield at incredible speed.

Currently, the military is exploring creating an Iron Man-like specialized suit through the Tactical Assault Light Operator Suit (TALOS) program. The suit would provide soldiers with enhanced mobility and protection, and it would most likely run on top of an exoskeleton base.

Today’s exoskeletons vary in utility, but they can allow soldiers to carry 17 times more weight than normal and march with significantly less strain on the body. With an XOS 2 suit, for example, a solider can carry 400 pounds but feel the weight of only 23.5.

Although robotic exoskeleton suits have been in development for over 50 years, things really started picking up speed in the 1990s, leading to more and more interest from the U.S military. Now, it’s a clear priority.

As former Air Force Chief of Staff General John Jumper said: “We must give the individual soldier the same capabilities of stealth and standoff that fighter planes have. We must look at the soldier as the system.”

Early 1960s: The Man Amplifier

Here’s what makes a Combat Controller so deadly
Photo: Youtube.com

Throughout the early 1960s, Neil Mizen developed the early stages of the Man Amplifier at Cornell University’s Aeronautical Lab. The suit was intended to have powered gears at the joints to provide additional support and strength.

Although it was hoped that the Amplifier would have military and scientific uses, Mizen could not master the system’s powered gear system, and the suit was never completed. Even so, his research went on to inspire future exoskeleton projects.

1965: The Hardiman Suit

Here’s what makes a Combat Controller so deadly
Photo: Wikipedia/Bruce Fick and John Makinson

One of the first powered iterations of exoskeletons was General Electric’s 1965 Hardiman Suit, which was co-developed with the U.S. military. The suit built upon the research done for the Man Amplifier.

The Hardiman was intended to lift 1,500 pounds; however, the suit never managed to act as a fully unified machine, and controlling it proved impossible.

Instead, research was focused on one arm of the suit. The arm managed to lift 750 pounds, but it weighed three quarters of a ton alone. The suit was deemed impractical, and the project was eventually abandoned.

1997: The Hybrid Assistive Limb (HAL)

In 1997, the Japanese research firm Cyberdyne started the earliest prototype of the Hybrid Assistive Limb (HAL). The South Korean and U.S. militaries offered to fund the program, but the company wanted to avoid military applications for its technology.

The first prototypes of HAL were created at Tsukuba University with the aim of assisting the disabled and elderly with their daily tasks. The original HAL systems were attached to computers, and the batteries alone weighed 49 pounds.

The HAL 5

Here’s what makes a Combat Controller so deadly
Photo: Wikipedia/Steve Jurvetson

In 2013, the fifth-generation HAL prototype, HAL 5, received a global safety certificate for worldwide medical use. It was the first powered exoskeleton to receive this certification.

The HAL 5 is a full-body exoskeleton that weighs a total of 22 pounds. The system functions by sensing bio-signals on the surface of the skin, causing the exoskeleton to mirror the user’s movement. The suit can function for about an hour and a half on a full charge. The suit was used by relief workers during efforts to clean up the partial meltdown of Japan’s Fukushima nuclear power plant, because the suit could allow workers to wear more protective gear and work longer shifts without tiring as quickly.

The Berkeley Lower Extremity Exoskeleton (BLEEX)

The Berkeley Lower Extremity Exoskeleton (BLEEX) entered development in 2000 with a $50 million grant from DARPA. The prototype allowed wearers to carry upward of 200 pounds while feeling no additional weight. The exoskeleton was even capable of traversing rough terrain for extended periods of time.

The BLEEX has been designed so that the legs can be easily removed from the back if the device loses power — thus transforming it back into a standard backpack.

Springtail Exoskeleton Flying Vehicle

In 2001, Trek Aerospace ran its first test of the now-defunct Springtail Exoskeleton Flying Vehicle. The Springtail was considered for military development and even allowed for vertical flight. But ultimately, the project was deemed impractical and never took off.

The Springtail was unique in that it would allow soldiers to fly and hover, effectively taking the role of a personal vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) vehicle. The Springtail had a maximum speed of 113 miles per hour and could fly for 184 miles and carry a payload of 358 pounds.

The LIFESUIT

Here’s what makes a Combat Controller so deadly
Photo: Youtube.com

Also in 2001, U.S. Army Rangers veteran Monty K. Reed set up North Seattle Robotics Group. The group opened the They Shall Walk non-profit, dedicated to developing LIFESUIT exoskeletons for the disabled.

Reed had a parachute accident while in the military in 1986 that left him with permanent back injuries. During his recovery, Reed became fascinated with the exoskeletons in Robert Heinlein’s novel “Starship Troopers.” The LIFESUIT is in a late stage of development, and it has entered widespread medical trials.

XOS Exoskeleton

Here’s what makes a Combat Controller so deadly
Photo: Youtube.com

In 2000, Sarcos, an engineering and robotics firm in Utah, began designing the XOS Exoskeleton after receiving a grant from DARPA. DARPA accepted Sarcos’ exoskeleton design in 2006, and production of prototypes began that year.

The XOS had to stay connected to a power source to maintain movement. But the suit performed remarkably within this limitation: The XOS allowed users to lift significantly more weight than they could previously. Its actual-to-perceived-weight ratio was 6:1, meaning that a 180-pound load would feel like only 30 pounds.

A lighter, more efficient XOS

Here’s what makes a Combat Controller so deadly
Photo: Raytheon

In 2007, the defense giant Raytheon purchased Sarcos. In 2010, Raytheon-Sarcos released the XOS 2. The XOS 2 featured a host of improvements over the XOS.

The XOS 2 suit allows users to lift heavy objects at an actual-to-perceived-weight ratio of 17:1. The suit also required 50% less energy than the XOS, while also weighing 10% less than its predecessor.

The XOS 2 is also touted as being more precise, faster, and more portable than the XOS. The military is considering using the XOS 2 in its TALOS project.

The Human Universal Load Carrier

Here’s what makes a Combat Controller so deadly
Photo: Wikipedia

The Human Universal Load Carrier (HULC) began development in 2000 with Berkeley Bionics, which later changed its name to Ekso Bionics. The HULC was a third-generation exoskeleton system, and it incorporated features from two previous Ekso Bionics prototypes.

The HULC was proved to augment the strength of its wearers, allowing them to lift 200 pounds without impediment. The HULC also lowered the wearer’s metabolic cost, meaning soldiers could march with a load while having a decreased oxygen consumption and heart rate.

The HULC’s Military Applications

Here’s what makes a Combat Controller so deadly
Photo: Lockheedmartin.com

In 2009, Ekso Bionics licensed the HULC to Lockheed Martin for research into possible military applications. Lockheed continued its development of the HULC along the same lines as Ekso Bionics, but it increased the functionality of the suit to match the military’s needs.

HULC is multi-terrain operational, supports front and back payloads, and has enough power to last for an eight-hour march before having to be recharged. HULC allows a user to perform deep squats or crawl while wearing it, and it supports upper-body lifting as well. HULC is one of the exoskeletons currently being examined by the military for possible use in its TALOS Iron Man suit.

The X1 Mina — NASA’s Exoskeleton

Here’s what makes a Combat Controller so deadly
Photo: NASA

NASA announced that it was creating an exoskeleton as part of a partnership with the Florida Institute for Human and Machine Cognition. The X1 Mina Exoskeleton will have dual functionality. In space and low-gravity environments, the joints of the suit will be stiffer, providing the astronauts with exercise to combat muscle atrophy.

NASA also envisions that the X1 can be used by paraplegics and others with disabilities to provide support while walking. In this case, the X1’s joints can be loosened, providing support to the wearer without being physically taxing.

The Warrior Web Program — DARPA’s Exoskeleton Of The Future

Here’s what makes a Combat Controller so deadly
Photo: DARPA.mil

DARPA began its Warrior Web program, aimed at creating a soft and lightweight under-suit that protects wearers’ joints and helps increase the amount of weight a soldier can easily carry while using less than 100 watts of power. One of the most promising designs has come from the firm Boston Dynamics.

The Warrior Web program has produced small exoskeleton-like clothing designs that are meant to be worn under normal uniforms. The overall goal of the program is to increase the endurance of soldiers by lessening the strain on their muscles.

Over the past 50 years, exoskeletons have gone from an unproven and even slightly fanciful technology to systems with medical and aerospace applications. They are becoming lighter, more energy-efficient, and more flexible — meaning that it is probably just a matter of time before the U.S. develops a practical military version.

More from Business Insider:

This article originally appeared at Business Insider Defense. Copyright 2015. Follow BI Defense on Twitter.

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This was the Air Force’s plan to turn a Boeing 747 into an airborne aircraft carrier

We’ve all see the Avengers movie featuring SHIELD’s massive flying aircraft carrier — you know, the one with the gigantic fans and stealth cloaking?


But what you may not know is that the concept of an actual flying carrier isn’t really anything new, and the US military has investigated it time and time again throughout its history. The most recent proposal for such a vehicle came in the form of a highly modified Boeing 747 called the Airborne Aircraft Carrier.

Here’s what makes a Combat Controller so deadly
The concept of a flying aircraft carrier isn’t as far fetched as it seems. (Photo via AgentsofShield WIKIA)

While oceangoing aircraft carriers can bring their complements of fighter and attack aircraft quite literally anywhere around the seven seas, areas deeper inland are far less accessible and sometimes require the use of larger numbers of support assets like refueling tankers, which aren’t always available for a variety of reasons.

The AAC concept tried to solve that problem by using a larger aircraft to fly smaller aircraft above or near deployment zones, where it would release its fighters to carry out their missions.

Here’s what makes a Combat Controller so deadly
A Sparrowhawk fighter hanging underneath the USS Macon airship during testing (US Navy

In the 1930s, the US Navy first began exploring the idea of an airborne carrier by outfitting two dirigible airships, the USS Akron and the USS Macon, with a trapeze mechanism for recovering and launching small propeller fighter planes, along with an internal hangar for storage.

Both the Akron and Macon were lost in storms that decade, but not before they were able to successfully demonstrate that with enough practice and patience, aircraft could be deployed from airbases in the sky.

The onset of World War II made the Navy forget about this idea. But during the Cold War, the notion of having an airborne carrier was resurrected — this time by the Air Force.

At first, the Fighter Conveyor project attempted to put a Republic F-84 “parasite” fighter in the belly of a B-36 Peacemaker nuclear bomber, launched in-flight for reconnaissance operations. The creation of the U-2 Dragon Lady spy plane made the FICON project a moot point, sending it to the graveyard after four years of testing.

Here’s what makes a Combat Controller so deadly
A B-36 Peacemaker launching an F-84 parasite fighter as part of a FICON test (USAF)

Later on, famed defense contractor Lockheed proposed a gigantic nuclear-powered flying mothership with a crew of over 850 and an aerial endurance of 40+ days. The Air Force, by 1973, decided to go a slightly more conventional route instead.

At the time, the Boeing 747 was easily the largest civilian aircraft in the world, serving as a long-range passenger airliner and a cargo transport for a number of freight companies. It wasn’t wholly unreasonable to suggest that such an aircraft could be converted for use as an airborne carrier, fielding a small group of aircraft inside its cavernous interior.

The Air Force’s Flight Dynamics Laboratory, based out of Wright-Patterson AFB, was put on the case to determine the feasibility of such an experiment.

Here’s what makes a Combat Controller so deadly
Depictions of the microfighters the AAC would carry by the Flight Dynamics Laboratory (Photo from USAF)

The AAC project called for a Boeing 747-200 to be hollowed out and refitted with a two-level internal hangar that would hold “micro fighters”, small short-range fighter aircraft that could fight air-to-air and air-to-ground sorties after being dropped out of the underside of the jumbo jet. Should the fighters need an extension on their range, the AAC mothership could refuel them as needed from a rotating boom on its rear. Upon concluding their sorties, the micro fighters would simply fly underneath the AAC and be picked up by a mechanism, bringing them back into the hangar.

The AAC would also contain storage for extra fuel, spares and parts, as well as a magazine for missiles and bombs for the microfighters. In addition, sleeping quarters for the crew and pilots, and a small crew lounge for breaks in-between missions was also to be part of the hypothetical flying carrier.

All in all, the concept seemed to be absolutely doable and certainly something the Air Force seemed interested in pursuing, given that the report also projected that conventional Navy aircraft carriers would apparently be obsolete by the year 2000.

Here’s what makes a Combat Controller so deadly
The interior layout of the AAC proposal (Photo from USAF)

However, the project was stalled when research into the design and development of the AAC’s necessary microfighters went nowhere. An airborne warning and control version of the AAC was also proposed, replete with a pair of reconnaissance micro aircraft for surveillance missions; this was also shot down.

Eventually, the Air Force shelved the concept altogether not long after the Flight Dynamics Laboratory claimed it was possible.

While the US military hasn’t done much, if anything at all, to investigate flying aircraft carriers in the four and a half decades since, this seems to be an idea that just won’t go away. Maybe, just maybe, we might see these bizarre vehicles in the not-so-distant future, as technology advances and mission types evolve!

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VP welcomes Honor Flight vets to the White House

Veterans of World War II and the Korean and Vietnam Wars gathered at the White House May 8, honored for their selfless service and the freedoms that endure to this day because of their brave actions.


The veterans at the White House ceremony were part of an Honor Flight from northern Colorado. Honor Flights are conducted at no cost to the veterans and enable them to see the national memorials of the wars in which they fought.

The men and women who have served and fought for freedom are the nation’s most cherished citizens, and are owed a debt of gratitude that will never be fully repaid, Vice President Mike Pence said.

Here’s what makes a Combat Controller so deadly
Vietnam Veterans Memorial.

Pence and his wife Karen Pence, and the secretary of Veterans Affairs, David J. Shulkin, hosted the approximately 200 guests today at the White House’s Eisenhower Executive Office Building.

“Today it is my great honor, on behalf of the first family, here on National Military Appreciation Month, to welcome so many heroes to this special place,” he said.

The veterans are “patriots of the highest order” who stepped forward and served with courage to “protect our nation and the values that we hold dear,” Pence said.

The vice president said it is especially humbling to welcome the veterans since he had not served in the military himself.

Pence noted the event comes on the 72nd anniversary of Victory in Europe Day.

“It’s an honor and privilege more than I can say to be here with so many who fought in the greatest conflict of the 20th century, and who won freedom in World War II,” he said.

Debt of Honor and Gratitude

The Honor Flight trips to Washington are deeply meaningful, Pence explained.

“All the people that make these honor flights possible know that this is just about paying a debt of honor and a debt of gratitude that our nation will never be able to fully repay to all of you,” Pence said. “But we hope this experience fills your hearts with the absolute assurance that we’ll never forget what you’ve done for us.”

Because of the service and sacrifice of those in the room, freedom endures to this day, the vice president said. They fought on the front lines of freedom.

“You are among the rest of us, but make no mistake about it, you are the best of us,” he said. “On behalf of your commander in chief, I’m here to say thanks and to salute your service.”

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How China’s navy rapidly modernized to rival the US’s

A recent report from the US Congressional Research Service details how China’s navy, the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN), has undergone a stunning modernization push that puts it near parity with the US.


In fact, China’s military posture and prowess in the Western Pacific presents the US with a challenge unseen since the end of the Cold War.

By perfecting deadly ballistic and cruise missiles, by buying and designing submarines, planes, and surface ships, by cracking down on corruption and improving internal organization and logistics, the PLAN presents US naval planners with plenty to think about going forward.

Though few expect a military conflict to emerge between the world’s two biggest economies, China’s brinkmanship in the South China Sea has lead observers to describe their strategy of escalation as a kind of “salami-slicing,” or steadily taking small steps to militarize the region without taking any one step that could be viewed as a cause to go to war.

However, the US military, with its global network of allies, doesn’t have the luxury of choosing which conflicts to get involved in, and therefore must take every threat seriously.

In the slides below, see how the PLAN has shaped into a world-class navy capable of dominating the South China Sea, and even the entire Western Pacific, if left unchecked.

China’s naval mission

Here’s what makes a Combat Controller so deadly
Chinese People’s Liberation Army Navy recruits | Xinhua

Those who observe China’s specific modernization goals, as well as their expressed intents in their actions, have determined that the PLAN’s mission most likely focuses on the following goals:

1. To possibly curb Taiwan’s continued attempts at independence militarily.

2.  Asserting or defending China’s territorial claims in the South China Sea and East China Sea and generally exercising more control over the South China Sea, through which trillions of dollars of trade passes every year.

3.  Enforcing China’s assertion that it has a legal right to regulate foreign military activities in its 200-mile maritime exclusive economic zone, despite the protestations of their neighbors in the region.

4. Defending China’s commercial sea lines of communication with military and trading partners.

5. Usurping the US as the dominant regional power in the Western Pacific, and promoting China as a major world power.

Source: Congressional Research Service

Ballistic missiles

Here’s what makes a Combat Controller so deadly
The DF-21D rolls through China’s 2015 military parade. | William Ide via Wikimedia Commons

China’s DF-21D “Carrier Killer” ballistic missile is the cause of much concern for US naval planners. The missile has a tremendous range of about 810 nautical miles, far beyond the range of a US aircraft carriers’ highest-endurance planes, effectively denying them the luxury of lurking off China’s coast in the Western Pacific while in striking range.

The DF-21D uses a range of sensors to adjust its course during firing. This means that it can hit a moving target at sea in sub-optimal conditions and presents difficulties to any missile trying to intercept it. The DF-21D can deliver a high-explosive, radio-frequency, or even cluster warheads, which all but guarantee a kill, even against a formidable target such as a US aircraft carrier.

Source: Congressional Research Service

Submarines

Here’s what makes a Combat Controller so deadly
China’s Yuan-class attack submarine. | Congressional Research Service

The PLAN’s submarine fleet continues to undergo a modernization push that focuses on “counter-intervention” tactics against a modern adversary. The force has acquired 12 of Russia’s Kilo-class diesel-electric submarines and launched no fewer than four new classes of indigenously made submarines, all of which are vastly more capable than the Cold-War era vessels they’re replacing.

The PLAN has launched two diesel-electric (Song and Yuan class), and two nuclear classes (Jin and Shang class). But the Shang class was stopped after only two hulls were produced, which led the DOD to speculate that the PLAN may be exploring an updated version of this class.

As the DOD states:

Over the next decade, China may construct a new Type 095 nuclear powered, guided-missile attack submarine (SSBN), which not only would improve the PLA Navy’s anti-surface warfare capability, but might also provide it with a more clandestine, land-attack option.

Additionally, the Jin class can be armed with 12 JL-2 nuclear-armed submarine-launched ballistic missiles, which, given the submarine’s range, could potentially hit any of the 50 states in the US from locations in the Pacific.

Source: Congressional Research Service

Submarine capabilities

Here’s what makes a Combat Controller so deadly
A graph showing the relative difficulty of detecting different classes of Chinese and Russian submarines. | Congressional Research Service

The PLAN’s Russian-bought submarines remain some of the most capable in the fleet. Eight of the 12 Kilo classes (presumably the newer ones) carry the Russian-made SS-N-27 Sizzler cruise missiles, with a range of over 180 miles.

Source: Congressional Research Service

Cruise missiles

The PLAN possesses a large, varied inventory of cruise missiles. Some of their most capable missiles are Russian made, like the SS-N-22 Sunburn and the SS-N-27 Sizzler, but their indigenously made missiles are also rated highly.

China’s YJ-18 cruise missile goes into a supersonic-sprint phase when approaching a target, making it harder to stop. Other rangy platforms like the YJ-62, fired from surface ships, and the YJ-12, that can be fired from bombers, complicate the US’s naval plans with their versatility.

Source: Congressional Research Service

The Liaoning

Here’s what makes a Combat Controller so deadly
China’s carrier Liaoning. | PLAN

The PLAN’s sole carrier, the Liaoning, has been referred to as a “starter” carrier, as its limited range and capabilities have made it primarily useful as a training craft. Having an aircraft carrier allows the PLAN to test carrier-launched aircraft and carrier-strike-group procedures in a realistic way.

The Liaoning has a displacement of about 50,000 tons and can support about 30 aircraft. US Nimitz-class carriers double both of those figures, and also provide catapults to launch planes with heavier weapons and fuel loads, increasing their range.

As the Liaoning is conventionally powered, and not nuclear-powered like the US carriers, it’s ability for long-range power projection is greatly diminished.

Source: Congressional Research Service

Future carriers

Here’s what makes a Combat Controller so deadly
By late October 2015, with the installation of the 7.5-meter tall hangar below the soon to be flight deck, it’s pretty certain that this hull is going to be China’s first domestically built aircraft carrier. | Congressional Research Service

China is thought to be making rapid progress toward building additional aircraft carriers. Little is known of China’s future carriers, but they will most likely also feature the ski-jump platform of the Liaoning.

Source: Congressional Research Service

Carrier-based aircraft

Here’s what makes a Combat Controller so deadly

With the help of the Liaoning, the PLAN has succeeded in fielding the J-15 “Flying Shark” carrier-based aircraft.

The J-15 is modeled after Russia’s Su-33 “Flanker,” just as much of China’s military hardware borrows from Russian designs. On land, the J-15 has a range of about 745 miles, but launching the plane from a ski-jump-style carrier platform means that it cannot carry as much fuel, and therefore has a reduced range. Only eight production J-15s are known to be flying at this time.

It has been previously reported that the PLAN seeks to create a short takeoff, vertical-landing plane for carrier-based use in the future. However, they still lack carrier-based reconnaissance plane like the US’s E-2 Hawkeye.

Source: Congressional Research Service

Land-based aircraft and drones

Here’s what makes a Combat Controller so deadly
Kevin A. McGill | Wikimedia Commons

The PLAN’s Air Force has been steadily developing new aircraft for “missions including offshore air defense, maritime strike, maritime patrol, antisubmarine warfare, and, in the not too distant future, carrier-based operations.”

The PLAN has been replacing their aging Chengdu J-7 variants and Shenyang J-8B/Ds with 24 Su-30MK2s, which were purchased from Russia in 2002.

Additionally, the PLAN has a licensed copy of Russia’s Tu-16 Badger bomber, the H-6 Badger, of which they likely have 30. The bombers are escorted by JH-7 Flounder fighter/bombers.

The PLAN, like most modern navies, is also pouring money into drones.

“Some estimates indicate China plans to produce upwards of 41,800 land- and sea-based unmanned systems, worth about $10.5 billion, between 2014 and 2023,” according to the DOD.

Source: Congressional Research Service

Surface combatants

Here’s what makes a Combat Controller so deadly
China’s Houbei-class (Type 022) fast-attack craft. | Congressional Research Service

Much like the submarine program, the PLAN’s fleet of surface combatants has grown rapidly since 1990, with the purchase of four Sovremenny-class destroyers from Russia and the launch of 10 new classes of indigenously built destroyers and frigates, as well as a new class of corvettes.

US naval planners consider several of the newer frigate classes to be nearly as capable as Western models, and note that shipboard air defense have notably improved in the newer classes.

China’s coast guard, which it wields as a sort of paramilitary force for enforcing their maritime claims, has also benefited from a large number of new cutters.

The newer ships have sophisticated radar and missile capabilities across the board, and future vessels are expected to truly rival the systems used by the US.

Source: Congressional Research Service

Amphibious ships

Here’s what makes a Combat Controller so deadly
An unconfirmed conceptual rendering of a possible design for China’s Type 081 amphibious-assault craft. | Global Times Forum

According to the DOD:

China has built four large YUZHAO class amphibious transport docks, which provide a considerably greater and more flexible capability than the older landing ships, signaling China’s development of an expeditionary warfare and OTH (over the horizon/long range) amphibious assault capability, as well as inherent humanitarian assistance/disaster relief and counter piracy capabilities.

The Yuzhao class vessels carry helicopters as well as two Russian-designed Zubr class cushioned landing ships, the largest military hovercraft of its kind.

However, after conflicts in Africa, the PLAN was unsatisfied with the firepower aboard the Yuzhao class and reportedly thought to create a new vessel, the Type 081 (pictured above).

Source: Congressional Research Service

Floating sea bases

Here’s what makes a Combat Controller so deadly
A notional artist’s rendering of a very large floating structure. | Liang Jun, People’s Daily China

Perhaps one of the more novel ideas being explored by the PLAN is very large floating sea bases. Only in the concept stage currently, these floating bases could host airstrips, barracks, docks, helipads, or security bases across their massive proposed 2-mile-long surface.

But experts on the topic speculate that these platforms would have ample peacetime uses, like supporting offshore oil rigs or even tourist destinations with duty-free shops.

Source: Congressional Research Service

Nuclear and EMP capabilities

Here’s what makes a Combat Controller so deadly
China’s Jin class-ballistic-missile nuclear-powered submarine. | Congressional Research Service

The DOD cites Bill Gertz, writing for The Washington Times, as saying the following:

China’s military is developing electromagnetic pulse weapons that Beijing plans to use against US aircraft carriers in any future conflict over Taiwan, according to an intelligence report made public on Thursday [July 21]…. The report, produced in 2005 and once labeled “secret,” stated that Chinese military writings have discussed building low yield EMP warheads, but “it is not known whether [the Chinese] have actually done so.”

China also possesses a nuclear triad, or the ability to launch nuclear-armed warheads from submarines, land-bases silos, and bomber aircraft.

Source: Congressional Research Service

Maritime surveillance and targeting systems

Here’s what makes a Combat Controller so deadly
CSIS ASIA MARITIME TRANSPARENCY INITIATIVE

China’s development and deployment of advanced and long-range radars in the South China Sea is well documented.

The PLAN can use these sensors, which “reportedly include land-based over-the-horizon backscatter (OTH-B) radars, land-based over-the-horizon surface wave (OTH-SW) radars, electro-optical satellites, radar satellites, and seabed sonar networks,” to guide their ballistic and cruise missiles, as well as more conventional forces.

Source: Congressional Research Service

Naval cyber warfare

Here’s what makes a Combat Controller so deadly
Wikimedia Commons

China’s military writing does not specify how they would use cyberwarfare in a naval conflict, but it should be assumed that network warfare would be part of any sea battle. The PLAN is known to have invested heavily in cyberwarfare.

Source: Congressional Research Service

Limits and weaknesses

Here’s what makes a Combat Controller so deadly
Lamar Salter

Though the PLAN has made major strides toward modernization and world-power status, they still lack in the following four key areas:

1. Joint operations with other parts of China’s military,

2. Antisubmarine warfare,

3. Dependence on foreign suppliers for some ship components,

4. Long-range targeting.

Source: Congressional Research Service

Conclusion

Here’s what makes a Combat Controller so deadly
Public domain

The PLAN and the other branches of China’s massive military have made impressive progress in modernizing they forces, but they still lag behind in some key areas.

The US Navy, unlike the PLAN, has commitments around the world. Currently two carrier-strike groups are stationed in the Mediterranean as the fight against ISIS rages on and Russia continues to threaten NATO territory and personnel.

The US would face extreme difficulties in abandoning their posts worldwide to focus on the Pacific, whereas China would leverage every possible dimension of warfare (psychological, informational, legal, cyber, conventional, and possibly even nuclear or electromagnetic) to assert their dominance in their immediate region.

However, the US has a built-in advantage that the Chinese cannot hope to design or buy — alliances. Through the US’s solid support of democratic and Western-leaning nations in the region, they have built a network of strong and determined allies that can band together against a rising authoritarian power like China.

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Here’s the most expensive weapons system ever and all of its ammunition in one photo

Here’s what makes a Combat Controller so deadly
F-35A (one of the three F-35 variant aircrafts) and its weapons suite. Photo: Lockheed Martin


Earlier this month the US Air Force told Reuters that America’s most expensive weapons system ever built is on track for “initial combat use” by September 2016.

Designed and manufactured at Lockheed Martin’s massive production facility in Fort Worth, Texas, the F-35 Lightning II can carry an impressive 18,000 pounds of lethal ammunition.

Lockheed Martin’s F-35 program includes three variant aircrafts (the F-35A, F-35B, and F-35C), each designed to meet the specific needs of America’s sister service branches and a number of foreign military buyers like the United Kingdom, Australia, Netherlands, Norway, Japan, South Korea, and Israel.

Lockheed Martin says that each F-35A jet, also referred to as the Conventional Takeoff and Landing (CTOL), costs $108 million (including engine) and is the most requested of the three aircrafts. Thus far, approximately 65 of the anticipated 1,763 F-35A jets have been delivered to the Department of Defense.

The F-35’s carry a similar arsenal except that the F-35A is the only variant to feature an internal cannon, which is located on the left side of the jet between the cockpit and wing.

Here’s an infographic of the weapons the jets are designed to carry:

Here’s what makes a Combat Controller so deadly
photo: Lockheed Martin/US Air Force

More from Business Insider:

This article originally appeared at Business Insider Defense Copyright 2015. Follow BI Defense on Twitter.

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Trump teases big order of F-18s in response to F-35 cost overruns

President Donald Trump again teased the prospect of placing a “big order” of F/A-18 Super Hornets to a cheering crowd at Boeing’s South Carolina factory on Friday.


“We are looking seriously at a big order” of F-18s said Trump to applause from the crowd at Boeing, the company that builds the F/A-18.

Trump’s Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis announced in January that the military would “review” the F-35 program and possibly opt for more “advanced Super Hornets” instead of the F-35C, the Navy’s carrier-based variant of the Joint Strike Fighter that continues to struggle.

Also read: World’s most-advanced aircraft carrier one step closer to completion

Trump continues to seriously explore the idea despite backers of the F-35 program have protested the notion that an updated F-18 can do the F-35’s job.

Here’s what makes a Combat Controller so deadly
F-35C Lightning IIs, attached to the Grim Reapers of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 101, and an F/A-18E/F Super Hornets attached to the Naval Aviation Warfighter Development Center (NAWDC) fly over Naval Air Station Fallon’s (NASF) Range Training Complex. U.S. Navy photo by Lt. Cmdr. Darin Russell/Released

The advanced Super Hornet package offered by Boeing builds on the company’s reputation for delivering upgrades to the F-18, first built in the 1970s, on time and on cost.

This contrasts heavily with the Navy’s F-35C, made by Boeing rival Lockheed Martin, which has faced significant difficulties achieving readiness in the military.

Dan Gillian, Boeing’s vice president of F/A-18 and EA-18 programs, told Business Insider that even with the coming F-35C naval variant, US carrier air wings would consist of a majority of F/A-18s into the 2040s. In fact, Boeing has contracts currently underway to update the F/A-18s.

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That time George Washington’s dentures were stolen from a museum

The Smithsonian Institution is one place you’d think relics from America’s founding were safe. The security there must be pretty good, right? Well, tell that to a pair of George Washington’s dentures.


According to a 1982 New York Times article, the false teeth were discovered missing on June 19, 1981, by a curator who had gone to the basement of the American Museum of Natural History. The lower portion of the dentures turned up in a secure area of the Smithsonian in May, 1982. They were made of gold, lead, elephant ivory, and possibly human teeth — not wood, as many people believe.

“We never made any effort to have the value of the gold appraised,” Lawrence E. Taylor, a spokesman for the Smithsonian said. “It would be minuscule compared to the historic value of the teeth.”

Here’s what makes a Combat Controller so deadly
Wooden tooth jokes are as funny as actual wooden teeth.

According to Smithsonian magazine, Washington needed dentures because he’d lost most of his teeth from a combination of bad genes and worse dentistry practices at the time. This lead Washington to take measures to correct the tooth loss, including purchasing teeth from African-Americans, according to the official web site of Mount Vernon.

That site also notes that Washington was sensitive about the state of his teeth and tried to keep his dental condition a secret. Documents show he was particularly embarrassed to find out that the British had intercepted a letter in which he asked for a set of tooth scrapers to be sent to him in New York. That said, the intercepted letter helped mislead the British as to his intentions, ensuring the success of the Yorktown campaign.

 

Here’s what makes a Combat Controller so deadly
George Washington

According to a timeline at the official site of Mount Vernon, Washington was down to one tooth when he was inaugurated as the first President of the United States in 1789. That tooth would be removed in 1796, before his term of office ended.

To hear Brad Meltzer describe the heist of the dentures, and to get a quick take on the theft, watch the video below.

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These are the 9 fastest piloted planes in the world

Capable of flitting through the air at multiple times the speed of sound, these planes take the pilot to the fringe of science fiction.


Although a number of these aircraft have since been retired, they continue to be the fastest manned aircraft in history.

The designs and advances achieved with these planes have also left an immense impact upon the development of the planes that succeeded them.

Here’s a look at the world’s nine fastest manned aircraft ever flown.

F-4 Phantom II

Here’s what makes a Combat Controller so deadly
Wikipedia

Maximum speed: 1,472 mph

Maximum range: 1,615 miles

First flight: May 27, 1958

The supersonic F-4 Phantom II jet was originally developed just for the US Navy and officially entered into service in 1960. In the mid-1960s, the interceptor was adopted by the US Marine Corps and the US Air Force.

The F-4 carries more than 18,000 pounds of weapons, including air-to-air missiles, air-to-ground missiles, and various bombs. The primary fighter jet during the Vietnam War, the Phantom II was gradually replaced by the F-15 and the F-18 Hornet.

Convair F-106 Delta Dart

Here’s what makes a Combat Controller so deadly
Wikipedia

Maximum speed: 1,525 mph

Maximum range: 1,800 miles

First flight: December 25, 1956

First introduced into service in 1959, the Convair F-106 was designed to intercept and destroy Soviet bombers during the Cold War. The Delta Dart carried sophisticated radar, infrared missiles, and a nuclear-tipped rocket, according to the Aerospace Museum of California.

The F-106 still holds the world record as the fastest single-engine fighter at 1,525 mph. The F-106 is considered one of the most challenging fighter jets to operate because of its heavy cockpit workload.

Mikoyan MiG-31 Foxhound

Here’s what makes a Combat Controller so deadly
Russian Air Force

Maximum speed: 1,860 mph

Maximum range: 2,050 miles

First flight: September 16, 1975

First introduced into service on May 6, 1981, the Soviet MiG-31 remains one of the fastest combat jets ever designed. Built as an interceptor aircraft, the Foxhound continues to serve in the Russian and Kazakh air forces.

Despite its age, Russia plans to keep the aircraft in service until 2030.

Mikoyan Ye-152

Here’s what makes a Combat Controller so deadly
Wikipedia

Maximum speed: 1,883 mph

Maximum range: 913 miles

First flight: July 10, 1959

The Ye-152 was first introduced in 1959 and was an operational interceptor derived from the Mikoyan Ye-150. The Ye-152 is best known for paving the way for the Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-25 Foxbat.

XB-70 Valkyrie

Here’s what makes a Combat Controller so deadly
NASA

Maximum speed: 2,056 mph

Maximum range: 4,288 miles

First flight: September 21, 1964

The XB-70 was a prototype of the never-completed US B-70 nuclear-capable strategic bomber. The bomber was intended to bomb targets while traveling at over Mach 3 at high altitudes.

Soviet missile defenses and the expansion of the role of intercontinental ballistic missile systems ultimately led to the abandonment of the B-70 program. The only two completed XB-70 prototypes were then used as test vehicles for high-speed flight.

Bell X-2 “Starbuster”

Here’s what makes a Combat Controller so deadly
US Air Force Photo

Maximum speed: 2,094 mph

First flight: September 18, 1955

The Bell X-2, which only flew for a brief span between November 1955 and September 1956, was a research aircraft jointly constructed by the Bell Aircraft Corporation, the US Air Force, and the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics. The plane was developed to test flight between Mach 2 and 3.

On September 27, 1956, the X-2 reached its recorded maximum speed of 2,094 mph. During the flight, however, test pilot Milburn G. Apt died. He was the first man to break Mach 3.

Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-25 Foxbat

Here’s what makes a Combat Controller so deadly
Dmitriy Pichugin

Maximum speed: 2,170 mph

Maximum range: 1,599 miles

First flight: March 6, 1964

The Soviet MiG-25, which was first introduced in 1970, was built as a supersonic interceptor and reconnaissance aircraft. Due to the aircraft’s large wings, the US assumed it was a highly maneuverable fighter. Instead, the Foxbat needed the large wings due to its weight.

The MiG-25’s maximum speed of Mach 3.2 is not sustainable without causing engine damage. Its top sustainable speed is 1,920 mph (Mach 2.83).

SR-71 Blackbird

Here’s what makes a Combat Controller so deadly
Freebase, Creative Commons

Maximum speed: 2,200 mph

Maximum range: 3,682 miles

First flight: December 22, 1964

The SR-71, designed by Lockheed Martin, was a marvel of a plane. It flew at altitudes of over 80,000 feet at speeds greater than 2,000 mph. The plane, engineered for surveillance, flew for more than 30 years and was capable of outrunning antiaircraft missiles lobbed at it.

For perspective, on its retirement flight from Los Angeles to Washington, D.C., the SR-71 flew coast to coast in only 67 minutes.

X-15

Here’s what makes a Combat Controller so deadly
NASA

Maximum speed: 4,520 mph

First flight: June 8, 1959

The world’s fastest manned aircraft is the rocket-powered X-15. The X-15 flew for the first time on June 8, 1959, after successfully deployed at 45,000 feet from another aircraft. A few years later, on October 3, 1967, the X-15 pulverized all flight-speed records with a stunning 4,520 mph, or Mach 6.72, speed.

Three X-15s were made and flew a total of 199 flights before the $300 million program was retired.

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The Lightning makes its Paris debut

When you make it in Paris, it’s big news.


While many eyes are on Paris Fashion Week, where many of the A-list stars are picking out their awards season wardrobe, the Paris Air Show is also a big deal. In fact, in 2011, over 350,000 people were at the event! By contrast, Paris’s Fashion Week has all of 5,000 attendees.

Here’s what makes a Combat Controller so deadly
An F-35A Lightning II from Hill Air Force Base, Utah, is displayed in the U.S. corral at the Paris Air Show June 20, 2017 at Le Bourget, France. (U.S. Air Force photo/ Tech. Sgt. Ryan Crane)

The Paris Air Show is where many planes make their big debut onto the world stage. In 1989, the Soviets not only introduced the Buran spaceplane at the Paris Air Show, but the Su-27 Flanker shocked the world with a demonstration of the Pugachev Cobra.

Paris has also seen tragedy, including a MiG-29 crash in 1989, as well as the 1973 crash of the Tu-144 “Concordeski.” B-58 Hustler strategic bombers also crashed there in 1961 and 1965.

Here’s what makes a Combat Controller so deadly
An F-35A Lightning II from Hill Air Force Base, Utah, lands after performing a flight demonstration at the Paris Air Show June 20, 2017 at Le Bourget, France. This is the first time the F-35 has performed aerial demonstrations at an international air show. (U.S. Air Force photo/ Tech. Sgt. Ryan Crane)

The Paris Air Show is held every other year in an odd year. For this year, the F-35 made its flight demonstration debut. According to a European Command release, the American delegation to the 2017 Paris Air Show also included two F-16 Fighting Falcons, a CH-47 Chinook, a P-8 Poseidon, a V-22 Osprey, an AH-64 Apache, a C-130J Hercules, and a KC-135 Stratotanker.

Here’s what makes a Combat Controller so deadly
F-35A Lighting II pilots from Hill Air Force Base, Utah, pose for a photo in the U.S. corral at the Paris Air Show June 20, 2017 at Le Bourget, France. (U.S. Air Force photo/ Tech. Sgt. Ryan Crane)

The star, of course, was the F-35, which was the only fifth-generation fighter at Paris.

The plane made its first aerial demonstration there. You can see it in the video below, from takeoff to landing. It’s about six minutes and 40 seconds, but well worth is to see the F-35 make its mark over Paris.

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North Korea to the US: You can kiss a nuke-free Korean peninsula goodbye

More defiant North Korean nuclear weapons tests will be dependent on US moves in the Korean peninsula, the Hermit Kingdom announced on Tuesday.


North Korea’s Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho said Washington had ruined the possibility of a nuclear-free Korean peninsula, South Korea’s Yonhap News Agency reports.

Here’s what makes a Combat Controller so deadly

Earlier this month, the Pentagon upped the ante by agreeing to equip South Korea with a Terminal High Altitude Area Defense battery — one of the most advanced missile defense systems in the world.

Pressure to deploy THAAD was spurred after Pyongyang tested its fourth nuclear bomb on January 6 and then launched a long-range rocket on February 7.

Here’s what makes a Combat Controller so deadly
A Terminal High Altitude Area Defense interceptor. | AiirSource Military | YouTube

Speaking to reporters at a meeting in Laos, Ri claimed that Pyongyang was a “responsible nuclear state and would not use its atomic arms unless threatened,” Reuters reports.

However, the audacious tests have yet to cease.

Last week the Hermit Kingdom fired three ballistic missiles, equipped with a range (between 300 and 360 miles) capable of reaching all of South Korea.

And the latest show of force took form in a ballistic missile test simulating a strike on South Korean ports and airfields, which are heavily operated by US military forces. Currently the US maintains approximately 28,500 troops in South Korea.

Earlier this month, South Korea’s defense ministry said THAAD will be located in Seongju, in the southeastern part of the country. In conjunction with the US, Seoul plans to have the unique air-defense system operational by the end of 2017.

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