The future of war is now one step closer after Lockheed Martin successfully tested its latest laser weapon system.
Lockheed’s ATHENA laser weapon prototype, short for Advanced Test High Energy Asset, managed to burn through a truck’s hood and destroy the vehicle’s engine and drive train.
During the test, the truck was mounted on a test platform over a mile away from the weapon. The vehicle’s engine was engaged and running. ATHENA then burned through the truck’s hood and melted the engine and drive train rendering the vehicle incapacitated. Critically, the laser did not cause an explosion or any collateral damage, making ATHENA a potentially effective, non-lethal weapons system.
This ability to target and render vehicles inoperable from a significant distance — while not causing excessive damage — would have untold benefits in war zones. Cars suspected of harboring militants or vehicular bombs could be targeted from a distance. In the event that the vehicle was not a weapon, the risk of a loss of innocent life would far lower than with conventional munitions. However, if the vehicle was indeed an enemy, the combatants inside could be taken for questioning and might provide valuable human intelligence.
ATHENA is a 30-kilowatt fiber laser weapon which makes use of a process called spectrum beam combining to overcome the deficiencies in previous laser weapon systems. In the past, laser weapons have generally been inefficient due to their bulky size, their tendency to overheat, and the amount of energy needed to create a weapon strength beam.
But as Gizmag explains, “Spectrum Beam Combining overcomes these limitations by using fiber laser modules … The optical fibers are flexible, so the laser can be thousands of meters long for greater gain while taking up very little space because it can be coiled like a rope.
“The large surface-to-volume ratio means that it’s easy to cool. In addition, fiber laser are very durable and project a high-quality beam using 50 percent less electricity than an equivalent solid-state laser,” Gizmag continues.
Although still a prototype, Lockheed has high hopes about the future of its ATHENA system. According to a press release, the company envisions the laser weapon systems being placed on military aircraft, helicopters, ships, and trucks in the future.
The Isonzo campaign, fought in present-day Slovenia from June 1915 to November 1917 between Italy and the Austro-Hungarian Empire, is one of the bloodiest series of battles during World War I, yet is hardly remembered outside of the countries involved. A dozen engagements that often ran into each other ended up costing 1.7 million casualties, and the stalemate was only ended with the disastrous Italian defeat at Caporetto.
After Italy entered the war in May 1915, the Isonzo Valley presented the only real option for serious offensive operations into Austria, since the remainder of the front was mountainous terrain heavily fortified by the Austro-Hungarians. But the Isonzo River, called the Sloca River today, presented a formidable obstacle, and the fortifications in the hills overlooking the river made any crossing almost impossible.
The Italian Army’s Chief of Staff, Luigi Cadorna, believed that a determined attack could break through the enemy lines, seize the strategic towns of Gorizia and Trieste, and set the stage for a march on Vienna. He assembled two field armies for the offensive, and the Austro-Hungarians, despite disastrous losses in the fighting in Serbia and Galicia, foresaw the coming attack and assembled 100,000 men for the defense.
Cadorna, like many of his contemporaries, was a firm believer in the offensive and the frontal assault, but operations in the area would not be easy. The Isonzo River was prone to flooding, and the terrain difficulties surrounding it were extreme, with enemy fortifications dug in atop steep rocky slopes. The Italian army was also suffering from a shortage of modern artillery, making a direct attack even more hazardous.
The Italian offensive began on June 23, sparking the First Battle of Isonzo. Italian soldiers found themselves charging head-long uphill into barbed-wire and fortifications that their artillery had been unable to break up, and attempting to cross the Isonzo while under ferocious Austro-Hungarian counter-barrages. The fighting raged until Austro-Hungarian reinforcements arrived and stopped the offensive in its tracks. The Italian Army had suffered nearly 15,000 casualties, nearly double the enemies, while achieving practically no real gains.
This was a pattern that was to repeat itself throughout 1915 in three more failed Italian assaults, resulting in a quarter of a million casualties with no significant success. Cadorna showed himself particularly incapable of learning from the carnage, and was himself usually as far as 50 kilometers behind the front lines. He was also a savage disciplinarian, routinely ordering the execution of soldiers for cowardice and straggling.
A fifth attack in March of 1916 also failed, but then an opportunity seemed to present itself. After appeals from the French to lessen the pressure they were feeling at Verdun from the Germans, the Russians launched a massive offensive under General Aleksei Brusilov against the Austro-Hungarians at Lusk in modern day Ukraine. The Austro-Hungarians desperately shifted troops north from the Italian front, and Cadorna took advantage of this weakness. The sixth attack launched on August 6 was the Italian’s only real success of the entire campaign, seizing territory along a 20-km front and the town of Gorizia, but at the cost of over 50,000 Italian casualties.
The Italians continued to launch offensives into 1917, and despite Italy’s terrible losses the Austro-Hungarians were beginning to feel the war of attrition. They simply did not have the manpower the Italians had, and and their lines near Gorizia were on the brink of collapse. At last, appeals to Germany for reinforcements were answered, and a combined offensive was launched against the Italians at Caporetto, who were all forward deployed with no reserves for a defense in depth.
At 2 a.m. on October 24, a massive artillery barrage featuring high explosives, smoke, and huge quantities of chemical weapons caught the Italian 2nd Army completely by surprise. Their lines were broken almost immediately by special German stormtrooper units practicing new assault tactics featuring flamethrowers and the mass use of hand grenades. By October 30 the Italians had withdrawn past the Tagliomento river. Italy had lost over 300,000 men in a week, most of them taken prisoner.
The scale of the disaster led to the dismissal of Cadorna, shook the Allied governments, and led to France and England hurriedly rushing reinforcements to Italy. The Germans and Austro-Hungarians could not sustain the offensive, but Isonzo as a viable front for the Italians was essentially gone. Two and half years and more than a million and a half casualties from both sides had resulted in no gains to speak of.
Even in the carnage of World War I, the Isonzo campaign stands out for bloodshed concentrated in a single sector. Cadorna in particular was one of the most callous, stubborn, and unimaginative generals in a war noted for such leaders, and the Italian Army paid a terrible price for his ruthlessness and incompetence. The Isonzo and the disaster at Caporetto became a byword for failure in Italy, and the disillusionment caused by Italy’s massive losses in the war with little to show for it played a large role in the rise of fascism and dictator Benito Mussolini. Like so much of World War I, the Isonzo campaign played its own role in sparking World War II over 20 years later.
Although training of the Iraqi forces and Kurdish Peshmerga is a major part of the operation, the overall narrative has changed; the U.S. is more humble and modest in its approach than a decade ago.
The tactical assembly area for U.S. forces south of Mosul is as nondescript as could possibly be. In a nearby field the M109 Paladin howitzers, mobile artillery that drives around on tank treads, nestle amid earthen berms. Their supply vehicles are dug in behind them.
The field is full of mud, odd for northern Iraq, but it had been raining a lot in late March.
Lt. Micah Thompson, a platoon leader, says “We have the capability to address all targets; the point of the Paladin is a mobile artillery system. The fight that we bring is the precision munition capability. We are able to program and set those fuses and provide those rounds downrange in rapid time in order to accomplish [our task].”
He’s one of the recent generation of U.S. Army soldiers serving in Iraq, and he’s enthusiastic about providing fire support to the Iraqi security personnel who are slowly clearing Mosul of Islamic State fighters.
Behind the muddy field, the rest of the quiet U.S. Army base goes about its business in close proximity with the Iraqi Federal Police and Emergency Response Division, two Iraqi units leading the battle for Mosul.
This is the tip of America’s spear in the battle against ISIS, but in contrast to previous U.S. campaigns in Iraq, the Americans are letting the Iraqis set the tempo. Lt.-Col. John Hawbaker, a commander in the 73rd Cavalry Regiment of the 82nd Airborne Division, joined the army in 1998 and served in Iraq in 2005-2006.
He says ISIS represents the “same barbarism, evil and cruelty” that the U.S. faced back then, but is “a much larger and conventional threat. We were doing counter-insurgency with U.S. leadership, the difference now is the Iraqi Security Forces conduct a fight not as a counter-insurgency but against a conventional force.”
In those days the U.S. Army was dealing with a “comprehensive civilian and military effort taken to simultaneously defeat and contain insurgency and address its root causes,” as the FM 3-24 Insurgencies and Countering Insurgencies manual of May 2014 described it.
H.R McMaster, now the national security adviser, but then a colonel, trained his regiment to deal with manning checkpoints and treating Iraqi civilians with dignity, to prepare to fight in Tal Afar, northwest of Mosul. George Packer in a 2006 piece in The New Yorker described not only how McMaster led Iraqis in rooting out insurgents, but how “Americans are not just training an Iraqi Army, they are trying to build an institution of national unity.”
Ten years later, the U.S. has given up some of these grandiose pretensions, with a much smaller footprint on the ground and a reduced visible presence. U.S. Army vehicles I saw don’t fly the U.S. flag and the only way you know they are U.S. vehicles, according to one local Iraqi, was that they use old MRAPs (Mine Resistant, Ambush Protected vehicles).
“We have multiple ways we assist,” says Hawbaker. “You saw the artillery in direct fire, mortars, and we also help coordinate air strikes, and we also help coordinate intelligence sharing, so we give them a lot of info on disposition and what he [ISIS] is doing and what he [ISIS] is thinking and intelligence for them to better array their operations.”
Everything is focused on aiding the Iraqis, not leading them. The Iraqi Army sets the tempo and the goals, and the U.S. advises. For instance, on April 12, the Department of Defense noted that the U.S. carried out eight air strikes in Iraq, hitting vehicles, mortars, snipers, and bomb factories.
Although training of the Iraqi forces and Kurdish Peshmerga is a major part of the operation, the overall narrative has changed; the U.S. is more humble and modest in its approach than a decade ago.
Instead of trying to rebuild the Iraqi Army as an institution — which the U.S. was struggling with in the wake of the 2003 invasion when the army was disbanded and competent, but Ba’athist officers were sent packing — the U.S. continually stresses that it “supports” the Iraqi Army.
This has allowed Iraq to take ownership of the war, and to make the mistakes and climb the learning curve that inevitably results in their soldiers improving.
This strategy has been effective at fighting ISIS over the last two years, but it has also been slow. The battle for Mosul has taken six months, and will likely take more, even as question marks are raised about what comes next in ISIS-held Tal Afar, Hawija, and parts of Sinjar and Anbar.
F-35s, F-22s and other fighter jets will soon use improved “artificial intelligence” to control nearby drone “wingmen” able to carry weapons, test enemy air defenses or perform intelligence, reconnaissance and surveillance missions in high risk areas, senior Air Force officials said.
Citing ongoing progress with computer algorithms and some degree of AI (artificial intelligence) already engineered into the F-35, Air Force Chief Scientist Gregory Zacharias said that technology was progressing quickly at the Air Force Research Lab – to the point where much higher degrees of autonomy and manned-unmanned teaming is expected to emerge in the near future.
“This involves an attempt to have another platform fly alongside a human, perhaps serving as a weapons truck carrying a bunch of missiles,” Zacharias said in an interview with Scout Warrior.
An F-35 computer system, Autonomic Logistics Information System, involves early applications of artificial intelligence wherein computers make assessments, go through checklists, organize information and make some decisions by themselves – without needing human intervention.
“We are working on making platforms more autonomous with multi-int fusion systems and data from across different intel streams,” Zacharias explained.
The computer, called ALIS, makes the aircraft’s logistics tail more automated and is able to radio back information about engine health or other avionics.
A single, secure information environment provides users with up-to-date information on any of these areas using web-enabled applications on a distributed network, a statement from ALIS- builder Lockheed Martin says.
ALIS serves as the information infrastructure for the F-35, transmitting aircraft health and maintenance action information to the appropriate users on a globally-distributed network to technicians worldwide, the statement continues.
However, despite the promise of advancing computer technology and increasingly levels of autonomy, Zacharias emphasized that dynamic human cognition is, in many respects, far more capable than computers.
Computers can more quickly complete checklists and various procedures, whereas human perception abilities can more quickly process changing information in many respects.
“A computer might have to go through a big long checklist, whereas a pilot might immediately know that the engines are out without going through a checklist. He is able to make a quicker decision about where to land,” Zacharias said.
The F-35s so-called “sensor fusion” uses computer algorithms to acquire, distill, organize and present otherwise disparate pieces of intelligence into a single picture for the pilot. The technology, Zacharias said, also exhibit some early implementations of artificial intelligence.
Systems such as a 360-degree sensor suite, called the Distributed Aperture System, is linked with targeting technologies, such as the aircraft’s Electro-Optical Targeting System.
F-35 to Control Drones
As a result, F-35 pilots will be able to control a small group of drones flying nearby from the aircraft cockpit in the air, performing sensing, reconnaissance and targeting functions.
At the moment, the flight path, sensor payload and weapons disposal of airborne drones such as Air Force Predators and Reapers are coordinated from ground control stations.
“The more autonomy and intelligence you can put on these vehicles, the more useful they will become,” Zacharias said.
This development could greatly enhance mission scope, flexibility and effectiveness by enabling a fighter jet to conduct a mission with more weapons, sensors, targeting technology and cargo, Zacharias explained.
For instance, real-time video feeds from the electro-optical/infrared sensors on board an Air Force Predator, Reaper or Global Hawk drone could go directly into an F-35 cockpit, without needing to go to a ground control station. This could speed up targeting and tactical input from drones on reconnaissance missions in the vicinity of where a fighter pilot might want to attack. In fast-moving combat circumstances involving both air-to-air and air-to-ground threats, increased speed could make a large difference.
“It’s almost inevitable people will be saying – I want more missiles on board to get through defenses or I need some EW (electronic warfare) countermeasures because I don’t have the payload to carry a super big pod,” he explained. “A high powered microwave may have some potential that will require a dedicated platform. The negative side is you have to watch out that you don’t overload the pilot,” Zacharias added.
In addition, drones could be programmed to fly into heavily defended or high-risk areas ahead of manned-fighter jets in order to assess enemy air defenses and reduce risk to pilots.
“Decision aides will be in cockpit or on the ground and more platform oriented autonomous systems. A wing-man, for instance, might be carrying extra weapons, conduct ISR tasks or help to defend an area,” he said.
Advances in computer power, processing speed and areas referred to as “artificial intelligence” are rapidly changing the scope of what platforms are able to perform without needing human intervention. This is mostly developing in the form of what Zacharias referred to as “decision aide support,” meaning machines will be able to better interpret, organize, analyze and communicate information to a much greater extent – without have humans manage each individual task.
“A person comes in and does command and control while having a drone execute functions. The resource allocation will be done by humans,” Zacharias said.
Another advantage of these technological advances is that one human may have an ability to control multiple drones and perform a command and control function – while drones execute various tasks such as sensor functions, targeting, weapons transport or electronic warfare activities.
At the moment, multiple humans are often needed to control a single drone, and new algorithms increasing autonomy for drones could greatly change this ratio. Zacharias explained a potential future scenario wherein one human is able to control 10 – or even 100 – drones.
Algorithms could progress to the point where a drone, such as a Predator or a Reaper, might be able to follow a fighter aircraft by itself – without needing its flight path navigated from human direction from the ground.
Unlike ground robotics wherein autonomy algorithms have to contend with an ability to move quickly in relation to unanticipated developments and other moving objects, simple autonomous flight guidance from the air is much more manageable to accomplish.
Since there are often fewer obstacles in the air compared with the ground, drones above the ground can be programmed more easily to fly toward certain pre-determined locations, often called a “way-points.”
At the same time, unanticipated movements, objects or combat circumstances can easily occur in the skies as well, Zacharias said.
“The hardest thing is ground robotics. I think that is really tough. I think the air basically is today effectively a solved problem. The question is what happens when you have to react more to your environment and a threat is coming after you,” he said.
As a result, scientists are now working on advancing autonomy to the point where a drone can, for example, be programmed to spoof a radar system, see where threats are and more quickly identify targets independently.
“We will get beyond simple guidance and control and will get into tactics and execution,” Zacharias added.
Wargames, exercises and simulations are one of the ways the Air Force is working to advance autonomous technologies.
“Right now we are using lots of bandwidth to send our real-time video. One of the things that we have is a smarter on-board processor. These systems can learn over time and be a force multiplier. There’s plenty of opportunity to go beyond the code base of an original designer and work on a greater ability to sense your environment or sense what your teammate might be telling you as a human,” he said.
For example, with advances in computer technology, autonomy and artificial intelligence, drones will be able to stay above a certain area and identify particular identified relevant objects or targets at certain times, without needing a human operator, Zacharias added.
This is particularly relevant because the exorbitant amount of ISR video feeds collected needs organizing algorithms and technology to help process and sift through the vast volumes of gathered footage – in order to pinpoint and communicate what is tactically relevant.
“With image processing and pattern recognition, you could just send a signal instead of using up all this bandwidth saying ‘hey I just saw something 30-seconds ago you might want to look at the video feed I am sending right now,'” he explained.
The Army has advanced manned-unmanned teaming technology in its helicopter fleet –successfully engineering Apache and Kiowa air crews to control UAS flight paths and sensor payloads from the air in the cockpit. Army officials say this technology has yielded successful combat results in Afghanistan.
Senior Air Force leaders have said that the services’ new next-generation bomber program, Long Range Strike Bomber or LRS-B, will be engineered to fly manned and unmanned missions.
Also, in September of 2013, the Air Force and Boeing flew an unmanned F-16 Falcon at supersonic speeds for the first time at Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla. The unmanned fighter was able to launch, maneuver and return to base without a pilot.
At the same time, despite the speed at which unmanned technology is progressing, many scientist and weapons’ developers are of the view that human pilots will still be needed – given the speed at which the human brain can quickly respond to unanticipated developments.
There is often a two-second long lag time before a UAS in the air can respond to or implement directions from a remote pilot in a ground station, a circumstance which underscores the need for manned pilots when it comes to fighter jets, Air Force officials said.
Therefore, while cargo planes or bombers with less of a need to maneuver in the skies might be more easily able to embrace autonomous flight – fighter jets will still greatly benefit from human piloting, Air Force scientists have said.
While computer processing speed and algorithms continue to evolve at an alarming pace, it still remains difficult to engineer a machine able to instantly respond to other moving objects or emerging circumstances, Air Force scientists have argued.
However, sensor technology is progressing quickly to the point where fighter pilots will increasingly be able to identify threats at much greater distances, therefore remove the need to dogfight. As a result, there may be room for an unmanned fighter jet in the not-too-distant future, given the pace of improving autonomous technology.
Early discussions about increasing production of Tomahawk-armed Virginia-Class submarines are underway as the Navy and lawmakers look for ways to more quickly deliver new high-tech attack submarines to the force, Congressional sources told Scout Warrior.
The discussions, involving lawmakers and senior members of the Navy, are still very preliminary and in the early stages. The possibility being considered includes the prospect of building more Virginia-Class submarines per year – instead of the amount called for by the current ship-building plan.
The current status-quo effort to build two Virginia-Class boat per year, however, will drop to one as construction of the Ohio Replacement Program, or ORP, begins in the early 2020s.
The possibility now being deliberated is whether, at this future point in time, the Navy and industry could produce two Virginia-Class boats and one Ohio Replacement submarine per year, increasing the current plan by one Virginia-Class boat per year.
Increasing production hinges on whether the submarine-building industry has the capacity to move up to three submarines per year, the Congressional source said.
Current budget constraints and industrial base capacity limitations may make building three submarines per year too difficult to accomplish, even if the desire to do so was there from both Congressional and Navy leaders.
While Navy officials, including Navy Acquisition Executive Sean Stackley, did tell lawmakers on the House Armed Services Committee Sea Power and Projection Force Subcommittee, production changes could emerge in the future, depending upon funding and industrial base capabilities.
Stackley explained that the service would like to maintain a two per-year production schedule for Virginia-Class attack submarines, even after production of the ORP begins.
“We are working today, and we hope and expect you to work with us, to determine how can we keep two Virginias a year proceeding within all the fiscal constraints and within the limitations of the industrial base, to address this compelling requirement for the nation,” Stackley told lawmakers.
The Virginia-Class Submarines are built by a cooperative arrangement between the Navy and Electric Boat, a subsidiary of General Dynamics and Newport News Shipbuilding, a division of Huntington Ingalls Industries.
Each industry partner constructs portions or “modules” of the submarines which are then melded together to make a complete vessel, industry and Navy officials explained.
In the past, various sub-building industry executives have indicated that this might be possible, however such a prospect has not yet been formally confirmed as it would likely involve an increase in resources, funds and man-power.
One industry source told Scout Warrior that the submarine building community would support whatever the Navy and Congress call for.
“We’ll support Navy programs,” the source said.
Navy Leaders Want More Attack Submarines
The prospect of an acceleration comes as Navy commanders tell Congress they would like to see the fast arrival of more Virginia-Class attack submarines added to the Pacific Fleet.
Pacific Commander Harry Harris told Congress that he would like to see more submarines in his area of operations.
“The Pacific is the principle space where submarines are the most important warfighting capability we have. As far as Virginia-Class submarines, it is the best thing we have,” Harris told lawmakers. “As I mentioned before, we have a shortage in submarines. My submarine requirement is not met in PACOM (Pacific Command).”
Virginia-Class attack submarines are necessary for the U.S. to maintain its technological superiority over rivals or potential adversaries such as Chinas, Harris added.
With their technological edge and next-generation sonar, the platform can successfully perform crucially important intelligence and surveillance mission in high-risk areas inaccessible to surface ships. For this reason, Virginia-Class attack submarines are considered indispensable to the ongoing Pentagon effort to overcome what’s talked about in terms of Anti-Access/Area-Denial wherein potential adversaries use high-tech weaponry and sensors to prevent U.S. forces from operating in certain strategically vital areas.
Virginia-Class Attack Submarine Technology
Virginia-Class subs are fast-attack submarines armed with Tomahawk missiles, torpedoes and other weapons able to perform a range of missions; these include anti-submarine warfare, strike warfare, covert mine warfare, ISR (Intelligence, Surveillance, Reconnaissance), anti-surface/ship warfare and naval special warfare, something described as having the ability to carry and insert Special Operations Forces, Navy program managers have said.
Compared to prior Navy attack subs like the Los Angeles-Class, the Virginia-Class submarines are engineered to bring vastly improved littoral warfare, surveillance and open ocean capabilities, service officials said.
For instance, the ships can be driven primarily through software code and electronics, thus freeing up time and energy for an operator who does not need to manually control each small maneuver.
“What enables this is the ship control system that we use. You can drive the ship electronically. This allows you the flexibility to be in littorals or periscope depth for extended periods of time and remain undetected,” former Virginia-Class attack submarine program manager Capt. David Goggins said several years ago.
The Virginia-Class submarine are engineered with this “Fly-by-Wire” capability which allows the ship to quietly linger in shallow waters without having to surface or have each small move controlled by a human operator, Goggins added.
“There’s a person at the helm giving the orders of depth and speed. There’s always a person in the loop. The software is telling the planes and the rudder how to move in order to maintain a course and depth. You still have a person giving the electronic signal,” he said.
Also, unlike their predecessor-subs, Virginia-Class subs are engineered with what’s called a “Lock Out Trunk” – a compartment in the sub which allows special operations forces to submerge beneath the water and deploy without requiring the ship to surface, service officials explained.
“SEALs and Special Operations Forces have the ability to go into a Lock Out Trunk and flood, equalize and deploy while submerged, undetected. That capability is not on previous submarine classes,” Goggins added.
The Block III Virginia-Class submarines also have what’s called a Large Aperture Bow conformal array sonar system – designed to send out an acoustic ping, analyze the return signal, and provide the location and possible contours of enemy ships, submarines and other threats.
Unlike their “SSBN” Ohio-Class counterparts armed with nuclear weapons, the Virginia-Class “SSN” ships are purely for conventional attack, Navy officials said.
Thus far, more than ten Virginia-Class subs have been delivered to the Navy, and seven are currently under construction. Like other programs, the Virginia-Class submarines are broken up into procurement “Blocks.”
Blocks I and II totaling ten ships, have already been delivered.
The program has also delivered its first Block III Virginia-Class Submarine, the USS North Dakota.
The Block III subs, now under construction, are being built with new so-called Virginia Payload Tubes designed to lower costs and increase capability.
Instead of building what most existing Virginia-Class submarines have — 12 individual 21-inch in diameter vertical launch tubes able to fire Tomahawk missiles – the Block III submarines are being built with two larger 87-inch in diameter tubes able to house six Tomahawk missiles each.
“For each one of these tubes you have hydraulics and you have electronics. What we did for Block III is we went to two very large Virginia Payload Tubes – now you have two tubes versus twelve. It is much easier to build these two tubes,” Goggins said.
Although the new tubes were conceived and designed as part of what the Navy calls its “Design for Affordability” strategy to lower costs, the move also brings strategic advantages to the platform, service officials say.
“In the future, beyond Tomahawk — if you want to put some other weapon in here– you can,” Goggins said.
Also, for Block V construction, the Navy is planning to insert a new 97-foot long section designed to house additional missile capability. In fact, the Navy has already finished its Capabilities Development Document, or CDD, for what’s called the “Virginia Payload Modules.”
The Block V Virginia Payload Modules, or VPM, will add a new “module” or section of the submarine, increasing its Tomahawk missile firing capability from 12 to 40.
The idea is to have additional Tomahawk or other missile capability increased by 2026, when the “SSGN” Ohio-Class Guided Missile Submarines start retiring in larger numbers, he explained.
Navy engineers have been working on requirements and early designs for a new, 70-foot module for the Virginia-class submarines engineered to house an additional 28 Tomahawk missiles.
While designed primarily to hold Tomahawks, the VPM missile tubes are engineered such that they could accommodate a new payload, new missile or even a large unmanned underwater vehicle, Navy officials said.
The reason for the Virginia Payload Modules is clear; beginning in the 2020s, the Navy will start retiring four large Ohio-class guided-missile submarines able to fire up to 154 Tomahawk missiles each. This will result in the Navy losing a massive amount of undersea fire power capability, Goggins explained.
From 2002 to 2008 the U.S. Navy modified four of its oldest nuclear-armed Ohio-class submarines by turning them into ships armed with only conventional missiles — the USS Ohio, USS Michigan, USS Florida and USS Georgia. They are called SSGNs, with the “G” designation for “guided missile.”
“When the SSGNs retire in the 2020s – if no action is taken the Navy will lose about 60-percent of its undersea strike launchers. When we design and build VPM and start construction in 2019, that 60-percent shortfall will become a 40-percent shortfall in the 2028 timeframe. Over time as you build VPM you will eliminate the loss of firepower. The rationale for accelerating VPM is to potentially mitigate that 40-percent to a lower number,” Goggins explained.
Shipbuilders currently working on Block III boats at Newport News Shipyard, Va., say Block V will involve a substantial addition to the subs.
“Block V will take another cylindrical section and insert it in the middle of the submarine so it will actually lengthen the submarine a little and provide some additional payload capability,” said Ken Mahler, Vice President of Navy Programs, Huntington Ingalls Industries, said several years ago.
The first Block V submarine is slated to begin construction in fiscal year 2019, Navy officials said.
Early prototyping work on the Virginia Payload Modules is already underway and several senior Navy leaders, over the years, have indicated a desire to accelerate production and delivery of this technology – which will massively increase fire-power on the submarines.
Virginia-Class Acquisition Success
The official baseline for production of Virginia-Class submarines calls for construction of 30 boats, Navy spokeswoman Collen O’Rourke told Scout Warrior. However, over the years, many Navy officials have said this number could very well increase, given the pace of construction called for by the Navy’s official 30-Year Shipbuilding Plan.
The submarines are being built under a Dec. 22, 2008, the Navy awarded a contract for eight Virginia Class submarines. The third contract for the Virginia Class, or Block III, covering hulls numbered 784 through 791 — is a $14 billion Multi-Year Procurement, Navy officials said.
Multi-year deals are designed to decrease cost and production time by, in part, allowing industry to shore up supplies in advance and stabilize production activities over a number of years.
The first several Block IV Virginia-Class submarines are under construction as well — the USS Vermont and the USS Oregon. In April of last year, the Navy awarded General Dynamics’ Electric Boat and Huntington Ingalls Industries Newport News Shipbuilding a $17.6 billion deal to build 10 Block IV subs with the final boat procured in 2023.
Also, design changes to the ship, including a change in the materials used for the submarines’ propulsor, will enable Block IV boats to serve for as long as 96-months between depots visits or scheduled maintenance availabilities, service and industry officials have said.
As a result, the operations and maintenance costs of Block IV Virginia-Class submarines will be much lower and the ships will be able to complete an additional deployment throughout their service live. This will bring the number of operational deployments for Virginia-class submarines from 14 up to 15, Navy submarine programmers have explained.
Overall, the Virginia-Class Submarine effort has made substantive progress in reducing construction time, lowering costs, and delivering boats ahead of schedule, Goggins said.
At least six Virginia Class Submarines have been delivered ahead of schedule, Navy officials said.
The program’s current two-boats per year production schedule, for $4 billion dollars, can be traced back to a 2005 challenge issued by then Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Mike Mullen. As mentioned, deliberations are already underway to consider stepping up this production schedule.
Mullen challenged the program to reduce production costs by 20-percent, saying that would allow the Navy to build two VCS-per year. This amounted to lowering the per-boat price of the submarines by as much as $400 million dollars each.
This was accomplished through a number of efforts, including an effort called “capital” investments wherein the Navy partnered with industry to invest in ship-building methods and technologies aimed at lowering production costs.
Other cost-reducing factors were multi-year contract awards, efforts to streamline production and work to reduce operations and sustainment, or OS costs, Navy officials explained.
The U.S. Navy is working to adjust the documentation paperwork regarding the size of its fleet of Virginia Class Submarines, changing the ultimate fleet size from 30 to about 51 ships, service officials have said.
The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said he expects Iraqi forces to be successful in their assault to retake Mosul and deliver a sharp blow to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.
Speaking to reporters after a trip to Europe, Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford listed recent gains leading up to the eventual battle to retake the key northern city. Those advances, he explained, include Iraqi forces bridging the Tigris River near Qayyarah and securing the airfield there.
“The noose is gradually tightening around Mosul,” he said.
The liberation of Mosul will “chip away” at the idea of a physical caliphate for ISIL, he said. Taking back Mosul and Raqqa, ISIL’s so-called capital in Syria, will severely limit the terror group’s capability and ability to operate in the region and beyond, he said.
Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, meets with Iraqi leaders and coalition trainers in the Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve at Besmaya Range Complex April 21, 2016. (DoD photo by Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Dominique A. Pineiro)
“In my view, it’ll be a very significant blow to the Islamic State as they lose Mosul and Raqqa and they can no longer talk about holding a physical caliphate in Syria and Iraq,” Dunford said.
Iraqi leaders have identified Iraqi forces that are required for the operations to take back Mosul, the chairman said. Those forces will be ready in October, he added.
The timing of the assault, Dunford said, is a political decision that rests on Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi.
“Our job is to actually help the Iraqis generate the forces and the support necessary for operations in Mosul and we’ll be ready for that in October,” the top U.S. general said.
President Barack Obama, after meeting with Abadi yesterday in New York, said he expects a tough fight for the city of more than two million people, noting ISIL has “embedded itself deeply” within Mosul.
Dunford told reporters that hearing about ISIL-inspired terrorist attacks worldwide further steels his resolve to defeat ISIL’s ideology and eliminate the terrorists in Mosul and Raqqa.
“What it continues to give me is a sense of urgency for getting after the physical caliphate, undermining the virtual caliphate and eliminating the ability to conduct supported, directed or inspired attacks,” he said.
This will be done through military means in cooperation with the coalition and through partners on the ground, the chairman said.
“The more aggressive we are at taking the fight to the Islamic State, wherever they happen to be, the more successful we will be in eroding their physical capability to direct attacks and support attacks,” Dunford said.
The Pentagon announced Wednesday that they need hackers to attack the Pentagon’s digital systems in order to identify weak points and train how to respond, according to Reuters.
“I am confident that this innovative initiative will strengthen our digital defenses and ultimately enhance our national security,” Defense Secretary Ash Carter said.
Hackers who participate may even be awarded monetary prizes, but there are a few rules. Hackers must be U.S. citizens, they must be vetted experts in computer hacking, and they must register their intent to test the systems.
Also, the Pentagon has identified certain public-facing computer systems to be tested. Hackers who attempt to access any other systems, presumably all the sensitive ones that control classified data or nuclear weapons, would still be subject to criminal charges.
“The goal is not to comprise any aspect of our critical systems, but to still challenge our cybersecurity in a new and innovative way,” a defense official told Reuters.
Inviting hackers to attack a network has been done before in the commercial sector, but this is a first for the Pentagon. Typically, the Pentagon tests its systems by establishing “red teams” composed of Department of Defense employees who attack the system rather than recruiting hordes of outsiders.
The technology behind these rifles takes a shooter’s experience, skill, and environment factors out of the equation. Simply tag your target and squeeze the trigger. It’s that simple. The same tracking and fire-control capabilities found in advanced fighter jets are incorporated into these rifles, according to TrackingPoint.
“Being proficient at Call of Duty or Battlefield takes more practice and skill than firing a weapon in the real world does now,” reported Timothy for Engadget. “This is the future we live in.”
The rifle also has a password-protected firing mechanism, which doesn’t fire until you’ve aligned the rifle with your target. It also features the ability to video stream, which allows you to share the view from the scope to any device connected to the Internet.
This three-minute video demonstrates how the rifle works:
“I don’t have time” is the number one phrase that I hear from people when we discuss their health lifestyle. One thing I’ve never had was a bunch of extra time on my hands. Most of my extreme time management started at the U.S. Air Force Academy, where wasted moments can result in some bad situations. During medical school, and currently, as I resident, I continually find ways to get more done in a limited amount of time. Most of this I attribute to desire and discipline, but the other piece is planning.
I’ve summarized 5 things I’ve incorporated into my busy schedule that I think have contributed a huge amount to my health and fitness goals.
1. Keep water easily accessible
You can store water bottles in the trunk of your car for quick, easy access. You can also carry a plastic or glass water bottle. Carrying a large amount of water at one time not only limits the number of times you have to grab another bottle or refill, but it’s also psychological and continually reminds you to drink up. I’ve used a one liter Nalgene bottle since college. It’s not too small but also professional enough to carry around to meetings and around patients, if need be. It’s my habit to refill it 3 times in a day – that way I drink about 1 gallon a day without overthinking it.
2. Keep convenient protein sources on hand
The hardest macronutrient to access quickly is usually protein. It’s quite easy to grab carbohydrate and fat sources, but protein can be difficult to find and pricey. One way to avoid this issue is to keep high protein sources at work or in your car. Some sources I recommend are protein powder (keep it in the huge container and keep a protein shaker nearby it), protein bars (by the box), or tuna in the pre-drained packs (by the box). I’m up walking around a lot so I stuff one of these in my white coat so I’m never without food when things get hectic.
3. If traveling, plan to stay near a gym
If going out of town on business, and you have the opportunity to choose where you’ll be staying, scout out the gym options beforehand. If you are going to stay in a hotel, find out if the hotel has a gym that’s adequate for your workouts. If not, then do a quick internet search on gyms nearby and find out if you can do a day pass. For military members, with ID card, they will typically cut you a break on paying a fee. If there are no gyms nearby, don’t give up. Opt for the bodyweight exercises right there in your room.
4. Incorporate active breaks into your routine
If working at a desk, get up and move as often as possible. If the building has an elevator, choose the stairs most of the time. If staying in a hotel, choose a room on an upper floor and use the stairs. You can also use small weights and bands at work when taking breaks. My co-workers and I use a push-up count system for various events that occur at work, so it’s a fun way of incorporating fitness into our daily workload.
5. Prep meals ahead of time
This one takes a little more time but is the major key to success if you can make it happen. Choose one or two days out of the week to cook all your food for the week. The best day might be when you go to the grocery store. Right after your grocery run, start up your stove. The key is to be creative with the way you cook different items so many things can cook at the same time (i.e. what can go in the oven while the stove top is busy?). If your budget allows, buy certain things pre-cooked. If you like certain vegetables, then stick with those. Once all the foods are cooked up, separate them into separate meal containers and store in the fridge. As each day comes grab what you need and stick it in a ready-to-go meal container (like the ones from Isolator Fitness).
Simone is an Air Force Academy graduate, doctor, and fitness model. You can contact/follow her here: email:email@example.com, Instagram: @simonemaybin, Snapchat: @simoneyroney, Facebook: Simone Maybin, or Twitter: @simonemaybin.
Any enlisted Navy sailor can tell you that their dress uniform wouldn’t be as famous today without one of its most iconic pieces — the historic neckerchief.
Reportedly, the neckerchief made its first appearance in the 16th century and was primarily worn as a sweat rag and to protect the sailor’s neck from rubbing raw against their stiff collared shirts.
In some cases, the 36-square-inch silk fabric could also be used as a battle dressing or tourniquet in a life saving situation.
The color black was picked to hide any dirt or residue that built up during wear.
In 1817, the Navy wanted each one of its sailors to tie their neckerchief the same way, so it introduce the square knot. The square knot was hand-picked because it was commonly used on ships to secure its cargo.
The knot was later added to the dress blue uniform to represent the hardworking Navy tradition, and it remains that way today.
How to tie a square knot:
During the inspection, each sailor is carefully examined by a senior at least twice a year. While under observation, the sailor must display a properly tied square knot which needs to hang at the bottom of the jumper’s V-neck opening, and the ends of the neckerchief must appear even as shown above.
Do you remember your first uniform inspection? Comment below.
Congratulations! You made it to the interview. Now what? The interview is a critical step in the hiring process. How you manage yourself, your responses, and the questions you have for the interviewer often determine what happens next.
Before you get to the interview, you’ve likely prepared a resume which identifies your skills, experience, and passion for your next career move. That resume piqued the interest of the employer who will interview you to see:
Are your in-person responses consistent with what you represented on your resume and application?
Can you articulate your offer of value to the company?
Will you fit in to the company culture?
Whatever else they can learn about you to help them make a hiring decision.
Preparing for the interview
Taking control of the interview requires that you be knowledgeable about the company, industry, and business environment the company operates in, the company culture, hiring manager, and the company’s competitors.
Be clear on your offer. What do you offer to the company you’re meeting with? What is your personal brand, and how do you align with the values of the company? How has your military career prepared you for the experience you are pursuing? This work needs to happen before you even apply for the job, but you should certainly refine your thinking as the interview nears.
Research the company online. Look carefully through their website (what the company says about themselves), but also look outside of their content. In Google, put the company name in the search bar and look through all the options – Web, Images, and News – to see what else you can find about them. You might then put words such as “ABC Company competitors” or “ABC Company reviews” to see what else you can find about the company you are interviewing with.
Research the hiring manager. Look at their LinkedIn profile – what common interests or experiences do you share? What someone puts on LinkedIn is public information. It’s not creepy to look through their profile to find synergies.
Know your resume. Be well versed on your background: dates, responsibilities, and positions you’ve held. If you have recently separated or retired from service, be sure to make it easy for the hiring manager to understand your military experience. If the company is not familiar with military candidates, spend the time “civilianizing” your experience to show how it relates to the position you are applying for.
Decide how you will show up. How do people at that company dress? Image is your first impression in an interview, and you need to understand how to present yourself to show you will fit in, but dress one notch above that. Hiring managers want to see that you are like them, but they look for you to dress in a way that shows respectfulness for the interview.
Taking control of the interview means you are clear about why this company is the right place for you. You understand how your values align with the company’s mission; you have researched the opportunities they offer; and you are focused on how your value and experience can benefit them. You feel empowered with information, confidence, and a clear game-plan to get onboard.
Of course, the interviewer has a great deal of power in this situation. They can decide they don’t like you, feel you are a good fit, or understand how you will assimilate in their company. We can only control ourselves and certain aspects of situations; we cannot control other people.
Be prepared for small talk. Some interviewers like to chat before the interview starts to calm the candidate down. Use this as a focused time to build rapport and set the tone for the interview. Think about what you will and won’t talk about before you arrive at the interview so you don’t misunderstand the casualness and say something inappropriate. Consider current events as good icebreakers provided they are not controversial (political and religious). For instance, you might talk about the upcoming holiday season but not the latest incident of gun violence in schools.
Focus on what AND why. Don’t ignore that the interviewer not only needs to understand your background and how it’s relevant to the open position, but they also need to feelsomething about you. We call this their “emotional need,” and it drives purchasing decisions. If the hiring manager feels you are too pushy, standoffish, or rigid, they might not feel you are a good fit. Focus on what this person needs to feel about you in order to see you as a fit for the company and the position. Make your case for why you are the right candidate.
Relate your experience as value-add. For each question asked, relate your military experience to show how you are trained and skilled for the position you’re applying to. You need to bridge what you have done in the past with what you can do in the future. The interviewer won’t have time to make this connection themselves. You can take control by showing patterns of success and results and direct their attention to forward-looking goals.
Ask focused questions. Interviewers expect you to ask questions. Take control of the interview by having these questions developed before you even arrive at the meeting. Be prepared to change the questions up if they are answered during the interview. You should have at least five questions prepared around the company’s vision and business goals, culture and work environment, veteran hiring initiatives, on-boarding process, and employee successes. This shows you are focused on finding the right fit for yourself, not just fitting your offer into any company that will have you.
Pay attention to your body language. During the in-person interview, keep your hands relaxed and in front of you. If you are seated in a chair and facing a desk, hold your notepad or portfolio on your lap. At a conference table? It’s permissible to lean on the table and take notes. Relax your shoulders, but remain professional in posture. Make good eye contact. This validates the interviewer by paying attention to their questions and comments. When you get up to leave, extend a confident and assuring handshake.Watch the interviewer. If they are relaxed and casual, then don’t sit “at attention.” You also can’t be too relaxed or it can appear disrespectful. Take your cues from the interviewer, but realize they work there, so they can act how they want. You want to work there; show you will fit in but also be mindful of the formality of the interview process.
After the interview
After the interview, if there are things you need to follow up on (e.g. a list of references), send that email as soon as possible. Be sure to thank the interviewer for the meeting and confirm your interest in the position. Don’t hesitate to include a bullet point list of highlights from the interview that reinforce you are the right candidate for the job.
Then send a handwritten thank-you note to everyone you interviewed with. Be specific about points in the discussion, and reinforce how you are a great fit for the company.
Interviews are only one step in the hiring process, but they are critical. You might have a series of interviews with multiple people at the company before an offer is made. Be prepared to show up consistently and authentically in each case to prove you are the person they believe you to be!
Former “Dancing with the Stars” winner JR Martinez sits down with fellow wounded warrior and current season contestant Noah Galloway for an in-depth conversation about military service, the nature of war, and dealing with a life-changing injury. This WATM exclusive — a must-watch for DWTS fans — brings out a side of Galloway that only a fellow vet like Martinez can.