Nothing fills the brisk spring air quite like the smell of a fresh cup of coffee. Whether you’re downing it before a quick run or after the longest ruck known to man, it’s a routine that can lift the spirits and brighten your day. Even just knowing that coffee is waiting for us at the end of a PT test can seem to make us run faster and sit up harder.
Coffee lovers everywhere can unique about this hared love of caffeine and strong bean-y goodness. And for the rest of the population, well we can’t quite get on board with your way of thinking, but we’ll respect your distance from the Joe.
Take a look at these favorite java-filled memes and take a look at how they help us all get through the day.
When PT is EXTRA early
Better also have an extra cup.
2. This very true statement.
Watch your back.
3. Don’t knock it until you try it.
Full on fuel.
4. Sip or spoon it in, it’s there to power us up.
5. Yo, where ya been?
Get in my belly!
6. Don’t say we didn’t warn you.
Approach with caution.
7. The priority list as It stands.
Tread lightly once again.
8. When you have to make coffee with what you’ve got.
Some of the best Joe you’ll ever have though, TBH.
Air Force Airman 1st Class Nathan Kosters, the youngest F-35 crew chief in the 34th Aircraft Maintenance Unit, was born in 1996. “The Macarena” somehow was No. 1 on the charts, “Independence Day” topped the box office, and the F-16 Fighting Falcon had already been flying for 22 years.
The 20-year-old native of Byron Center, Michigan, and his fellow F-35A Lightning II maintainers generated combat sorties with America’s youngest jet at Red Flag.
The Jan. 23-to-Feb. 10 iteration of Air Force’s premier air combat exercise included both U.S. and allied nations’ combat air forces, providing aircrews the experience of multiple, intensive air combat sorties in the safety of a training environment.
“It’s pretty amazing. It’s like a family atmosphere,” Kosters said. “We’re extremely busy, working long hours, but everyone pulls together and makes sure the mission is successful.”
Inspired by His Father
Growing up, he learned hard work from his father, a carpenter. He learned how to get up early and work until the job was done. The two worked side by side, he said, even throughout his father’s cancer treatments. “He is an inspiration to me — never giving up,” Kosters said. “Working was a great opportunity to be close to him.”
Kosters joined the Air Force a little over a year ago after graduating from high school and working in construction for awhile, because he wanted to leave the Midwest, get an education and see the world, he said. He got high scores on his entrance test, and the F-35 maintenance world, hungry for new talent, put him in the pipeline.
“I didn’t really know anything about the F-35,” Kosters said. “I knew it was the newest jet, and I heard all the negative press about it. My dad and I started reading up on it. He probably knew more about it than I did.”
After technical training and hands-on experience, Kosters said, he is happy he is where he is.
“It’s cool, working with the latest technology, he added. “I don’t want to make it sound like maintenance is easy. It’s just advanced. It’s great to be able to plug in a laptop and talk to the aircraft.”
Based at Hill Air Force Base, Utah, the 34th Fighter Squadron and Aircraft Maintenance Unit are the first combat-coded F-35A units in the Air Force. They were created by bringing together a team of experienced pilots and maintainers from across the Air Force’s F-35 test and training units. Kosters was one of the first pipeline maintainers to join the 34th AMU straight from basic training and tech school, and Red Flag is valuable experience for that greener group.
“At home, our young maintenance airmen are practicing and learning every day. Here, we’re able to put that training into a realistic scenario and watch them succeed and learn how to overcome challenges,” said Air Force Senior Master Sgt. Robert Soto, lead production superintendent for the 34th AMU.
“It’s not glorious,” Kosters said. “You’re not working 9 to 5. Your uniform is not going to stay nice and clean. But, next to being a pilot, I feel like I have the best job there is. It’s gratifying to see those jets take off.”
Kosters said he and his fellow maintainers take pride as they hear from pilots how their aircraft are performing in the fight.
“It’s had its doubters in the world, but it’s nice to prove people wrong with all eyes on us, especially here,” Kosters said. “The first couple missions, it was the F-35 versus everyone else, and our guys were showing them that the F-35 is a superior plane. We’re like varsity.”
It had to have been a simultaneously proud and awkward moment in his career: The day U.S. Navy Commander James Kirk got promoted to captain.
Of course any Trekkie would know the reason, as the real-life captain shares the name of the fictionalized character played by William Shatner on “Star Trek.” But the real Kirk is a serious officer, taking the helm of the futuristic USS Zumwalt (DDG-1000), a ship christened earlier this year.
“Unfortunately I can’t be with you when your vessel is commissioned and obviously your captain, Captain Kirk, is dear to my heart,” Shatner wrote. “So forgive me for not attending, my schedule won’t allow me, but know that you are in our thoughts — Mr. Mrs. Shatner — and that we bless you and hope that you have a safe journey wherever your ship takes you.”
The Air Force is expected to rapidly increase its fleet of small drones to blanket enemy areas with Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance assets, jam enemy air defenses and potentially use drones as small explosives designed to overwhelm enemy targets with fire power.
The Air Force recently unveiled a Small UAS Road Map which, among other things, calls for the increased use of smaller drones to accomplish missions now performed by larger ones. This includes initiatives to explore algorithms which allow for swarms of mini-drones to perform a range of key ISR and combat functions without running into each other, Brig. Gen. John Rauch, Air Force Director of Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance, told Scout Warrior in an interview.
Having numerous drones operating in tandem creates a redundancy which is significant as it increases the likelihood that a mission can still succeed if one or two drones are shot down by enemy fire.
A small class of mini-drone weapons already exist, such as AeroVironment’s Switchblade drone designed to deliver precision weapons effects. The weapon, which can reach distances up to 10 kilometers, is engineered as a low-cost expendable munition loaded with sensors and munitions.
Air Force strategy also calls for greater manned-unmanned teaming between drones and manned aircraft such as F-35s. This kind of effort could help facilitate what Defense Secretary Ashton Carter has said about mini-drones launching from a high-speed fighter jet.
Along these lines, Rauch talked about a “loyal wingman” concept wherein larger platforms such as an F-35 or F-22 will be able to control a fleet of nearby drones, drawing upon rapid advances in autonomy and computer technology.
“Teaming is where you might put a couple of different platforms and use them together to perform something. The loyal wingman concept will make an extension of the same aircraft,” he explained.
Part of the progression of this technology incorporates a transition from the current circumstance wherein multiple operators control a single drone to a situation where one human is performing command and control functions for a number of drones simultaneously.
For instance, the Air Force is now advancing a new drone Block 50 Ground Control Station wherein a single operator will perform functions now done by multiple operators.
The new Block 50 will also include auto take-off-and land, within and beyond line of sight capability and an ability to use “open architecture” to integrate new software as technologies emerge, Rauch said.
The Air Force is advancing plans to retire the Predator drone by transitioning pilots to the operation of its larger Reaper drone – all while developing small drone technology and expanding technology and mission scope for the Reaper itself, service officials said.
“As we sundown Predator, we will train people from one system to the next to focus on Reaper. The current members that are flying Predators will transition from Predator to Reaper,” Rauch said.
This trajectory for the Reaper is evolving alongside a separate effort to harness increasingly smaller, lighter-weight sensors, transmitters and receivers.
In addition, as technology continues to progress and lead to the miniaturization of sensors, receivers and transmitter and lighter materials, smaller drones are increasingly expected to perform those larger missions currently reserved to large drone platforms.
However, this developmental phenomenon is not likely to lead to a replacement for the larger, weaponized Reaper anytime soon – given its importance to strike and reconnaissance missions.
At the same time, Rauch did say the evolution of drone technology will likely lead, ultimately, to a new platform which will replace the Reaper over time.
Over time, the Air Force plans to upgrade the software as well as the arsenal for the Reaper, giving it a wider range of weapons and mission sets.
The idea is to further engineer the Reaper with what’s called “open architecture” such that it can easily and quickly integrate new weapons and technologies as they emerge.
“There are some composites that allow for lighter weight engines that are coming along for power and thrust output. Also, what they might burn can save a lot of fuel – and offer the hope of something miniature able to do theater wide ISR and not just over the next hill,” Rauch said.
Rauch added that the Air Force is now working through various kinds of sensor developments from the largest drones to the smallest ones, analyzing weight, power and sensor fidelity issues.
The Air Force Adds Weapons, Fuel Tanks to Reaper
The Reaper currently fires the AGM-114 Hellfire missile, a 500-pound laser-guided weapon called the GBU-12 Paveway II, and Joint Direct Attack Munitions or JDAMs which are free-fall bombs engineered with a GPS and Inertial Navigation Systems guidance kit, Air Force acquisition officials told Scout Warrior. JDAM technology allows the weapons to drop in adverse weather conditions and pinpoint targets with “smart” accuracy.
“Weight starts causing an issue. We will give it an arsenal that rounds out that will be done as test time is available. JDAM is something that is within that realm and AIM-120 changes air to air engagements,” Rausch added.
The Air Force Military Deputy for Acquisition told Scout Warrior in an interview that the service has begun the process of adding new weapons to the Reaper, a process which will likely involve engineering a universal weapons interface.
“We are looking at what kind of weapons do we need to integrate in. We’re looking at anything that is in our inventory, including the small diameter bomb. We’re working to get universal armament interface with an open mission systems architecture,” Lt. Gen. Arnold Bunch told Scout Warrior several months ago.
A universal interface would allow the Reaper to more quickly integrate new weapons technology as it emerges and efficiently swap or replace bombs on the drone without much difficulty, Bunch explained.
“If I can design to that interface, then it costs me less money and takes me less time to integrate a new weapon – I don’t want to go in and open up the software of the airplane. As long as I get the interface right, I can integrate that new weapon much sooner,” he added.
There are many potential advantages to adding to the arsenal of weapons able to fire from the Reaper. These include an ability to strike smaller targets, mobile targets or terrorists, such as groups of enemy fighters on-the-move in pick-up trucks as well as enemies at further ranges, among other things.
Drone attacks from further ranges could reduce risk to the platform and help strikes against Al Qaeda or ISIS targets to better achieve an element of surprise. Furthermore, an ability to hit smaller and mobile targets could enable the Reaper drone to have more success with attacks against groups of ISIS or other enemy fighters that reduce the risk of hurting nearby civilians. Both ISIS and Al Qaeda are known for deliberately seeking to blend in with civilian populations to better protect themselves from U.S. drone strikes.
Also, at some point in the future it may not be beyond the realm of possibility to arm the Reaper for air-to-air engagements as well.
One new possibility for the Reaper drone could be the addition for the GBU-39B or Small Diameter Bomb, Bunch said.
The Small Diameter Bomb uses a smart weapons carrier able to include four 250-pound bombs with a range of 40 nautical miles. The bomb’s small size reduces collateral damage and would allow the Reaper to achieve more kills or attack strikes per mission, Air Force officials said.
The Small Diameter Bomb, which can strike single or multiple targets, uses GPS precision. It is currently fired from the F-15E, F-16, F-117, B-1, B-2, F-22 and F-35, Air Force officials stated.
The Air Force currently operates 104 Reaper drones and has recently begun configuring the platform with additional fuel tanks to increase range. The Reaper Extended Range, or ER as it’s called, is intended to substantially increase and build upon the current 4,000-pound fuel capacity of the drone with a range of 1,150 miles.
The upgrades to Reaper, would add two 1,350-pound fuel tanks engineered to increase the drones endurance from 16 hours to more than 22 hours, service officials said.
Being clean shaven every day in the military is an absolute must — unless you’re a special forces operator and are allowed to grow out a manly beard. Every morning, men (and some women) wake up during with a 5 o’clock shadow that is required to disappear before morning muster.
But the day you signed your DD-214 and no longer fall under the rules and regulations of shaving, it’s time to grow out that impressive separation beard — just because you can.
Not every beard is right for the individual. With several types of styles to choose from, it’s necessary to grow one that fits your specific personality. Don’t worry, we’re here to help you pick one out that fits your unique look.
Not to be mistaken for the “Homeless Man,” this style says “I work my ass for a living, but it’s usually somewhere outside in the cold.” It’s popular for keeping your face warm and catching food crumbs.
2. The Chuck Norris
One of our favorites, this traditional style relays to the world that not only can you be rugged, but you take enough time to trim up. This typically looks good enough to step into the boardroom for a presentation, then head right out to the gun range.
Chuck Norris doesn’t shave — he orders his beard to stop growing.
3. The “I’m not too worried about it”
This unique look informs the world you’re just chilling, you’re in no hurry, and whatever happens, happens.
Named after the talent actor-comedian Zack Galifianakis, this ensures your fellow man that you’re a hard worker, but you know how to crack a good joke and don’t take life too seriously.
5. The Fuzz
Not everyone can grow a full separation beard — some of us grow them in thin-to-thick patches.
This doesn’t inform the world you have low testosterone (the male’s dominant hormone) because it isn’t a facial hair growth factor — dihydrotestosterone is the chemical that promotes thick beard growth and unfortunately is linked to hair loss. Bummer!
We still respect your commitment.
6. The Shaggy
A fashionable look for those who received their separation paperwork and ran straight to the bar, leaving their razor or clipper behind in the barracks.
The recent grounding incident involving the Ticonderoga-class guided missile cruiser USS Antietam (CG 54) in Tokyo Bay is not the first time a Navy vessel has run aground. But some have been more…notorious than others.
Grounding a ship is not exactly career-enhancing in this day and age (never mind that the Antietam spilled 1,100 gallons of oil in one of Godzilla’s favorite hangout spots). In fact, it usually means the end of one’s advancement in the Navy.
Here are a few notorious groundings over the years to remind the soon-to-be-relieved personnel that it could be worse.
1. USS Guardian (MCM 5)
The mine counter-measures ship USS Guardian (MCM 5) is the first U.S. Navy ship to be lost since USS Scorpion (SSN 589) in 1968. The vessel ran aground on Jan. 17, 2013 on a reef, and was very thoroughly stuck. So much so that a 2013 Navy release indicated she had to be dismantled on the spot. A sad end to a 23-year career.
2. The Honda Point Disaster
Aerial view of the disaster area, showing all seven destroyers that ran aground on Honda Point during the night of 8 September 1923. Photographed from a plane assigned to USS Aroostook (CM-3). Ships are: USS Nicholas (DD-311), in the upper left; USS S.P. Lee (DD-310), astern of Nicholas; USS Delphy (DD-261), capsized in the left center; USS Young (DD-312), capsized in the center of the view; USS Chauncey (DD-296), upright ahead of Young; USS Woodbury (DD-309) on the rocks in the center; and USS Fuller (DD-297), in the lower center. The Southern Pacific Railway’s Honda Station is in the upper left. (U.S. Navy photo)
Imagine losing seven warships in a day during peacetime. Yes, that actually happened to the United States Navy. According to the Naval History and Heritage Command website, during the evening of Sept. 8, 1923, a navigational error lead seven destroyers to slam into rocks at Honda Point, California, at a speed of 20 knots. Twenty-three sailors were lost, as were seven Clemson-class destroyers that were about five years old.
3. USS Decatur (DD 5)
This one is notable not for any loss of life but for the career it could have derailed. Accoridng to a 2004 article in Military Review, on July 7, 1908, the destroyer USS Decatur (DD 5) ran aground on a mudbank in the Philippines. It was pulled off the next day. The commanding officer was relieved of command, court-martialed, and found guilty of “neglect of duty.”
However, his career didn’t end. That was a good thing for America because that commanding officer was Chester W. Nimitz, who would command the Pacific Fleet in World War II.
4. USS Port Royal (CG 73)
Now some groundings are just embarrassing. This is one of them. The Ticonderoga-class cruiser USS Port Royal (CG 73) had been on sea trials after about $18 million in repairs. According to a Navy release in 2009, the ship ran aground about a half mile from one of the runways at Honolulu International Airport, providing arriving and departing tourists with an interesting view for a few days.
5. USS Hartford (SSN 768)
On Oct. 25, 2003, the attack submarine USS Hartford (SSN 768) ran aground off the island of Sardinia. According to a 2004 Navy release, fixing the damage required assets from Louisiana to Bahrain. It took 213 dives to repair the vessel enough that she could return to Norfolk at half speed. Six years later, the Hartford would collide with the amphibious transport US New Orleans (LPD 18).
“Any one of these new weapon technologies, if successfully developed and deployed, might be regarded as a “game changer’ for defending Navy surface ships against enemy missiles. If two or three of them are successfully developed and deployed, the result might be considered not just a game changer, but a revolution.”
In the slides below, see where the US Navy is at in fielding these revolutionary technologies, and how they will change the future of naval warfare.
The US Navy’s defense dilemma
Already, the onboard defenses on US Navy ships are some of the best in the world, but with growing threats from ever-advancing anti-ship cruise and ballistic missiles from China and Russia, the US Navy is left with some bleak options.
1. Avoid operating in waters within range of advanced anti-ship cruise and ballistic missiles (the South China, the Black, and Baltic Seas to name a few).
2. Change the entire fleet structure to rely on smaller surface ships and submarines, and less so on large platforms like aircraft carriers.
3. Improve onboard missile defenses to effectively counter even the most advanced anti-ship missiles.
With the US’s global network of allies and interests, the first option is unthinkable. The second option would vastly change the Navy’s shipbuilding plans, dull the power-projection capabilities provided by US aircraft carriers and amphibious assault vessels, and cost a fortune.
“Powder guns have been matured to the point where you are going to get the most out of them. Railguns are just beginning,” Tom Boucher, the railgun program manager for Office of Naval Research, said to AFP.
There are two problems with the Navy’s current onboard missile defenses.
Firstly, traditional naval missile defenses rely on ammunition. So no matter how effective surface-to-air missiles (SAMs) or close-in-weapons systems (CIWS) are, they have a finite amount of rounds that can be depleted.
Secondly, “Navy SAMs range from about $900,000 per missile to several million dollars per missile, depending on the type.”
Since SAMs protect the lives of US Navy sailors, these costs are acceptable, but still unsustainable throughout a prolonged conflict. Simply put, the missiles and rounds used to defend navy ships hugely tax an already strained defense budget.
Solid State Lasers, (SSLs) spectacularly overcome the limitations of traditional defenses, while introducing a few limitations of their own.
Right now, naval planners are developing SSLs to provide defense against small boats and UAVs within the range of one to a few miles, “and potentially in the future for countering ASCMs and ASBMs as well.”
The laser system offers brilliant advantages over traditional rounds both in depth of magazine and cost per shot.
An SSL can fire continuously until the ship supporting it runs out of fuel to generate electricity, which would take a long, long time. Additionally, the cost of firing an SSL is comparable to running a heavy duty appliance. The Navy cites the cost per shot of an SSL at around $1 per.
But SSLs rely on line of sight, and are therefore not all-weather weapons. Clouds, rain squalls, even particles in the atmosphere can sap effectiveness from the laser system. Additionally, it poses a threat to human targets, as it could blind them, and blinding weapons are prohibited by the Geneva convention.
The EMRG uses magnetic fields created by extremely high electrical currents to “accelerate a sliding metal conductor, or armature, between two rails to launch projectiles at [speeds of] 4,500 mph to 5,600 mph,” 30 or roughly Mach 5.9 to Mach 7.4.”
The projectile, traveling at a mind-boggling 1.5 miles per second, rips through the atmosphere with such speed that the atmosphere around it, as well as the tungsten of the projectile itself, erupt into an awesome fireball despite the fact that no explosives are used.
With a range of up to 100 miles (in just a few seconds) the EMRG can take out distant targets as well as incoming threats.
Unlike the SSL, the EMRG fires physical rounds, and therefore has a much more limited magazine depth. However, the cost per shot of the inert rounds is a very small fraction of what today’s guided missiles cost.
In developing the revolutionary EMRG, the Navy realized they needed an equally revolutionary projectile— enter the HVP, a streamlined, percision guided round.
Though it was designed for railguns, the aerodynamic design of the HVP lends itself to other, existing applications. For instance, when fired out of the Navy’s 5 inch or 155 mm guns, the HVP reaches speeds of around Mach 3— about twice as fast as a normal round, but about half as fast as the EMRG fires it.
The HVP has GPS coordinates entered into it, and once fired, the fins on the rear of the round guide the projectile towards it’s target in any weather conditions.
HVPs are much more expensive than the normal rounds a Navy gun fires, but their speed means they can intercept missiles, which makes them a much cheaper alternative to guided missiles. Plus, as they are backwards-compatible with existing Navy platforms, HVPs could be deployed tomorrow if need be.
Slide 5 from Navy briefing entitled “Electromagnetic Railgun,” NDIA Joint Armaments Forum, Exhibition Technology Demonstration, May 14, 2014, LCDR Jason Fox, USN, Assistant PM [Program Manager], Railgun Ship Integration, Distribution. | NAVSEA GraphicThis graphic shows how the US Navy can leverage HVPs and EMRGs to maintain their asymmetrical advantage over rising powers for years to come, without relying on million-dollar missiles.
“Recent developmental testing provides no statistical evidence that the system is demonstrating improved reliability, and instead indicates that reliability plateaued nearly a decade ago,” the Pentagon’s Director of Operational Test and Evaluation (DOTE), Dr. Michael Gilmore, noted in an August 3 memo. In other words, $700 million down the drain, and there’s no way to prove it’s any less likely to break than it was a decade ago.
The system has come under harsh criticism from Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Jack Reed (D-R.I.) of the Senate Armed Services Committee. The senators slammed the RMMW as unreliable and pressed the Navy to consider alternatives, which they outlined in a letter obtained by Breaking Defense.
It looks like the Navy is taking that advice. According to the U.S. Naval Institute, the service is chartering an independent review of the RMS, which will report back within 60 days.
If the Empire ever makes it here from its galaxy far, far away, America is going to be in a tough pickle.
And the Empire has already had a long time to get here. So what would it look like if the Empire landed one of its most feared vehicles — the All Terrain Armored Transport — in the plains of the midwest?
Surely, the Air Force would be hard-pressed to take them out, but here are five strategies that the beloved A-10 should try first:
Strategy 1: Punch out the walker’s teeth
The AT-ATs armor is too thick for firing at it center mass, but aiming at the crew cabin in the “head” will give the A-10 pilots a good chance of hitting the laser turrets mounted around it. These weapons have only light armor and the barrels are largely exposed.
This won’t take down the walker entirely, but it would turn it into a stomping reconnaissance tool instead of a lethal, anti-armor and anti-bunker monster.
Strategy 2: Low flying pass to hit the Imperial walker’s fuel slug
The walkers use a solid “slug” of fuel kept in a tank in the belly of the beast. This is the same type of fuel that powers starfighters, and everyone knows how spectacularly they blow up.
To hit this tank, the A-10s will need to conduct flights at near ground level and should approach from the walker’s 1, 5, 7, or 11 o’clock to avoid its limited skirt armor. Pilots should launch the TV-guided AGM-65 Maverick missile with its 300-pound, shaped-charge warhead and a delayed fuze.
Even if the missile doesn’t make it to the fuel tank before it explodes, the blast should cut through some of the drive mechanisms for the legs, granting a mobility kill and possibly causing the AT-AT to topple.
Strategy 3: Cripple its feet
Speaking of mobility kills, the AT-AT relies on ankle drive motors and terrain scanners in the “feet” to keep it balanced and moving forward. But the metal supports around these feet aren’t particularly strong.
In at least two occasions, Sith and Jedi have cut the feet off of a walker.
While A-10s don’t have a plasma saber to cut through the leg, the shaped charges in the AGM-65 with a contact fuse could slice deep enough for the remaining support to snap under the massive weight of the AT-AT.
Alternatively, the pilot could fire the Maverick missile against the foot itself in an attempt to cut through the armor to disable the sensors and motors inside, increasing the chances that the foot will trip on the terrain, similar to the effect in the GIF above.
Strategy 4: Wait for it to discharge troops and fill it with 30mm
The AT-AT is a troop transport, and patient A-10 pilots could wait for it to attempt and discharge its stormtroopers and speeder bikes. When the walker opens to release its deadly cargo, pilots would have only a short window to attack through the open armor panels.
This is a job for the GAU-8 Avenger. Pilots should fire a sustained stream of 30mm through the opening. Don’t get shy, the crew compartment is connected to the transport area only through a thin tunnel. Even with high-explosive rounds, the A-10 needs to get a lot of ammo into the troop transport section to guarantee that at least a few bits of shrapnel bounce through the cabin.
Strategy 5: Cut its head off
In the Battle of Hoth, snow speeders managed to get a mobility kill on an AT-AT by wrapping its legs up in a tow cable. Before the walker crew could escape, a flight of snow speeders fired on the AT-AT’s flexible neck section, the tunnel between the crew cabin and the troop transport area.
Just two blasts to the neck section set off a massive explosion that destroyed the walker and rained debris for hundreds of meters. While it isn’t known what in the neck caused the massive, second detonation, there’s no reason to think that an A-10’s GAU-8 Avenger couldn’t punch through this vulnerable section.
To hit it, pilots should conduct nearly vertical attacks from high altitude, sending the 30mm rounds into the neck joint perpendicular to the armor.
The Navy is arming aircraft carriers with a prototype high-tech torpedo defense technology able to detect, classify, track and destroy incoming enemy torpedoes, service officials said.
The Anti-Torpedo Defense System, currently installed on five aircraft carriers and deployed on one carrier at the moment, is slated to be fully operational by 2022.
The overall SSTD system, which consists of a sensor, processor and small interceptor missile, is a first-of-its-kind “hard kill” countermeasure for ships and carriers designed to defeat torpedoes, Navy officials said.
The emerging Surface Ship Torpedo Defense technology includes the Anti-Torpedo Defense System, or ATTDS and an SLQ-25 Acoustic Device Countermeasure; the ATTDS consists of a Countermeasure Anti-Torpedo program and Torpedo Warning System.
“The ATTDS is designed to detect, classify, track and localize incoming torpedoes utilizing the Torpedo Warning System leading to a torpedo hard-kill by employing the Countermeasure Anti-Torpedo,” Collen O’Rourke, spokeswoman for Naval Sea Systems Command, told Scout Warrior.
Thus far, the ATTDS has completed three carrier deployments. The ATTDS Program of Record plan for future ships includes additional carriers and Combat Logistic Force ships.
Earlier this year, the ATTDS was installed and operated on the USNS BRITTIN (TAKR-305) over a six day period during which the latest system hardware and software was tested. The results of the testing are instrumental for continued system development, O’Rourke added.
The technology is slated for additional testing and safety certifications.
The emergence of a specifically-engineered torpedo defense system is quite significant for the Navy – as it comes a time when many weapons developers are expressing concern about the potential vulnerability of carriers in light of high-tech weapons such as long-range anti-ship missiles and hypersonic weapons. An ability to protect the large platforms submarine-launched torpedo attacks adds a substantial element to a carrier’s layered defense systems.
Ships already have a layered system of defenses which includes sensors, radar and several interceptor technologies designed to intercept large, medium and small scale threats from a variety of ranges.
For example, most aircraft carriers are currently configured with Sea Sparrow interceptor missiles designed to destroy incoming air and surface threats and the Phalanx Close-in-Weapons System, or CIWS. CIWS is a rapid-fire gun designed as an area weapon intended to protect ships from surface threats closer to the boat’s edge, such as fast-attack boats.
Torpedo defense for surface ships, however, involves another portion of the threat envelope and is a different question. SSTD is being rapidly developed to address this, Navy officials explained.
The system consists of a Torpedo Warning System Receive Array launched from the winch at the end of the ship, essentially a towed sensor or receiver engineered to detect the presence of incoming torpedo fire. The Receive Array sends information to a processor which then computes key information and sends data to interceptor projectiles – or Countermeasures Anti-Torpedos, or CAT – attached to the side of the ship.
The towed array picks up the acoustic noise. The processors filter it out and inform the crew. The crew then makes the decision about whether to fire a CAT, Navy officials said.
The CATs are mounted on the carriers’ sponson, projections from the side of the ship designed for protection, stability or the mounting of armaments.
The individual technological pieces of the SSTD system are engineered to work together to locate and destroy incoming torpedos in a matter of seconds or less. Tactical display screens on the bridge of the ship are designed to inform commanders about the system’s operations.
After being tested on some smaller ships such as destroyers, the SSTD was approved for use on aircraft carriers in 2011 by then Chief Naval Officer Adm. Jonathan Greenert, according to the Navy.
The SSTD effort is described by Navy officials as a rapid prototyping endeavor designed to fast-track development of the technology. In fact, the Torpedo Warning System recently won a 2013 DoD “Myth-Busters” award for successful acquisition practices such as delivering the TWS to the USS Bush on an accelerated schedule. The TWS is made by 3 Phoenix.
The Countermeasure Anti-Torpedo is being developed by the Pennsylvania State University Applied Research Laboratory, officials said.
The Navy will soon finish initial prototyping of new weapons tubes for its Virginia-Class submarines designed to massively increase missile firepower, bring the platform well into future decades and increase the range of payloads launched or fired from the attack boats.
The new missile tubes, called the Virginia Payload Modules, will rev up the submarines’ Tomahawk missile firing ability from 12 to 40 by adding an additional 28 payload tubes – more than tripling the offensive strike capability of the platforms.
Prototyping of the new submarines amounts to early construction, meaning the missile tubes now being engineered and assembled will be those which will ultimately integrate into the completed boat. In essence, construction and metal bending for elements of what will become the first VPM are underway.
“Prototyping is underway,” Rear Adm. Charles Richard, Director of Undersea Warfare, told Scout Warrior in an interview.
Increasing undersea strike capability is a key element of the strategic calculus for the Navy as it continues to navigate its way into an increasingly high-tech and threatening global environment; potential adversaries are not only rapidly developing new quieting weapons and sonar detection technologies but also fielding long-range, precision-guided anti-ship missiles designed to target surface ships at long ranges.
The nation’s newest and most advanced nuclear-powered attack submarine and the lead ship of its class, PCU Virginia. | U.S. Navy photo by General Dynamics Electric Boat
The Chinese DF-21D and subsequent follow-on weapons in development are engineered to destroy carriers, destroyers and other surface vessels from distances as far as 900-miles off shore; if there is not a suitable defense for these kinds of long-range “anti-access/area-denial” weapons, the Navy’s ability to project power and launch attacks could be significantly limited. Carriers, for example, could be forced to operate further from the coastline at ranges which greatly complicate the aerial reach of many fighter aircraft which would launch from a carrier air-wing. If carriers are forced by the threat environment to operate at ranges further than fighter aircraft can travel, then new potentially dangerous aerial refueling options become much more complicated and challenging.
Navy strategy is therefore looking much more closely at the size and mission scope of its submarine fleet moving into the future, as undersea assets will most likely have an ability to conduct reconnaissance or strike missions far closer to an enemy shoreline – locations where it may be much harder for surface ships to operate given the fast-increasing threat environment. While the service is, of course, massively revving up its surface-ship offensive and defensive weaponry designed to allow vessels to better operate in so-called “contested” or high-threat areas, submarines are expected to increasingly play a vital role in a wide range of anticipated future mission requirements.
For example, improved increased sonar and quieting technologies referred to as Navy “acoustic superiority” are expected to allow submarines to conduct undersea reconnaissance missions much closer to enemy forces – and possibly behind defended areas. Such an ability could prove to be particularly relevant in coastal waters, shallow areas or islands such as portions of the South China Sea. These are precisely the kinds of areas where deeper draft surface ships may have trouble operating.
Building Virginia payload modules
The Navy plans to engineer a new 84-foot long module into the length of the submarine in order to add four 87-inch launch tubes into the body of the ship.
The tooling and initial castings are now nearing completion in preparation for the first prototyping of the VPM tubes which will be finished in 2017, developers explained. Construction of the first VPM boat is slated for 2019 en route to being finished and operational by 2024 or early 2025. Initial work is underway at an Electric Boat facility in Quonset Point, R.I.
“The first tube fabrication begins next April,” Ken Blomstedt, Vice President of the Virginia-Class Program here at Electric Boat, told Scout Warrior in an interview.
The second submarine construction among the planned Block V Virginia-class attack submarine will be engineered with integrated VPM. It is called SSN 803, Blomstedt explained. The last 20 ships of the class, in Blocks V, VI and VII, will have VPM integrated.
A new massive module will be emerging from an Electric Boat manufacturing facility in Quonset Point, R.I.
“We are able to add that amount of strike capability in for a 15 percent increase in the price of the vessel – all on-track coming in very nicely. We are excited about the progress of the design. We are finishing up the castings of the integrated tube and hull,” Richard said.
“Tube and hull” forging
Electric Boat developers tell Scout Warrior the VPM technical baseline has now been approved by the Navy, clearing the way for initial construction.
“The module consists of four 87-inch vertical payload tubes. The module is broken up into three sections – a forward support base, center section with four vertical payload tubes and an internal ballast tank to preserve or restore buoyancy for increasing the length of the ship,”
The technical baseline, which was informed by 39 key decisions, has been formally submitted and approved by the Navy as of February of this year.
“Will be exciting to see that first 184-foot module with VPM installed. Key to the module is using an integrated tube and hull approach,” Blomstedt added.
Electric Boat is using an emerging construction technique, called “tube and hull forging” design to expedite building and lower costs. The tactic involves connecting the top section of the tube to the pressure hull as one monolithic piece, he said.
“From a technology standpoint, we are broadening the base with a one-piece casting. That piece comes into the missile tube fabricator,” Blomstedt said.
Along with firing Tomahawk missiles, the additional 87-inch payload tubes are being engineered to accommodate new weapons as they emerge and possibly launch other assets such as unmanned underwater vehicles.
The Navy will likely use the pace for a whole bunch of future payloads that they are just starting to think about,” Blomstedt said.
While it is certainly conceivable that Torpedoes and other weapons could eventually be fired from VPM tubes, Virginia-Class boats currently have a separate torpedo room with four torpedoes able to launch horizontally
A ballast tank has a pressure hull where the crew can operate, water levels inside the boat are adjusted to raise or lower the boat within the ocean; the weapons are designed to fire out of the launch tubes from a variety of different depths.
“When you submerge the ship, there is normally sea water all around the tubes,” he said.
Need for more undersea fire power
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, Navy developers have 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.” These boats were among US military assets that provided firepower during action against Libya in 2011 – by firing Tomahawks from undersea at key locations such as enemy air defenses designed to clear the way for strike aircraft.
If the VPM action is not taken, the Navy will lose about 60-percent of its undersea strike launchers when the SSGNs retire in the 2020s. When VPM construction begins in 2019, that 60-percent shortfall will become a 40-percent shortfall in the 2028 timeframe.
Accordingly, building VPMs is designed to eliminate the loss of firepower. The rationale for accelerating VPM is to potentially mitigate that 40-percent to a lower number, Navy developers have said.
Virginia-class submarines, engineered to replace the 1980s-era Los Angeles-class attack submarines, are being built in block increments. Blocks I and II, totaling 10 ships, have already been delivered to the Navy. Block III boats are currently under construction. In fact the first Block III boat, the USS North Dakota, was delivered ahead of schedule in August of 2014.
The first several Block IV Virginia-class submarines are under construction as well — the USS Vermont and the USS Oregon. Last April, 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, Navy developers explained.
Chinese hackers have reportedly targeted South Korean businesses and that country’s government over the Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense System, also known as THAAD. The cyberattacks are apparently in response to the deployment of a THAAD battery to South Korea.
According to The Wall Street Journal, the American cyber-security firm FireEye claims that a series of attacks on South Korean business and government computer networks may be related to the deployment of the ballistic-missile defense system. The groups responsible for the attack, APT10 and Tonto Team, are believed to be tied to the Peoples Liberation Army.
The attacks are also being carried out by so-called “patriotic hackers” like the Panda Intelligence Bureau and the Denounce Lotte Group. The latter hacking ring is targeting a South Korean conglomerate that has permitted the deployment of THAAD on some land it owned. Lotte Group was subjected to a denial-of-service attack on an online duty-free store after the approval was announced in March 2017. South Korea’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs was also targeted by a DOS attack at that time.
China has long opposed the deployment of THAAD to South Korea, claiming such a deployment would undermine China’s ballistic missile capabilities. China has a large number of ballistic missiles in its inventory, many of which are medium or intermediate-range systems.
According to a March 1, 2017, report by RT, Russia and China agreed to work together to strengthen opposition to the BMD system’s deployment. The Chinese government’s official response to the South Korean hosting of THAAD included halting a real-estate deal and barring some South Korean celebrities from entering the country.
The THAAD battery, consisting of six launchers that each hold eight missiles along with assorted support vehicles, was deployed to South Korea to counter the threat posed by North Korea’s ballistic missiles. According to Army-Technology.com, the system has a range of at least 200 kilometers (124 miles), and is able to hit targets almost 500,000 feet above ground level (ArmyRecognition.com credits THAAD with a range of 1,000 kilometers – equivalent to over 600 miles).