Pentagon advances F-35 vs A-10 Close Air Support testing - We Are The Mighty
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Pentagon advances F-35 vs A-10 Close Air Support testing

Pentagon advances F-35 vs A-10 Close Air Support testing
US Air Force / WATM


Flying close to ground troops in combat in hostile and high-threat conditions requires a host of unique attributes for an aircraft — such as flying slow and low to the ground, absorbing some degree of small arms fire and having an ability to quickly maneuver in response to fast-changing ground combat conditions.

These and many more are among factors now being analyzed as proponents of both the A-10 Warthog and F-35 Joint Strike Fighter assess their respective abilities to perform the crucial and highly valued Close Air Support mission. The Pentagon and the Air Force are now conducting a thorough examination of each plane’s capability for this role – including extensive analysis, simulated tests, flights of both aircraft under combat-like conditions and a range of tests, Air Force and Pentagon officials have explained. While many of the details of the ongoing evaluation are not now being discussed publically, the results are expected to bear prominently upon the visible ongoing debate regarding the future mission scope of both the A-10 and the F-35.

While the cherished A-10 is unambiguously combat-tested in the role of Close Air Support, some F-35 advocates have mused that the JSF sensors, maneuverability, high-tech computers, 25mm canon and arsenal of weapons just might better position the 5th generation aircraft for the mission; at the same time, the A-10s titanium frame, built-in redundancy, famous nose-aligned 30mm cannon and wide-ranging precision-weapons envelope make clearly make it the best choice for close air support.

Sure enough, the A-10s performance against ISIS, Congressional lobby and broad adoration among ground troops are among the many factors believed to have influenced the Air Force’s current plan to both extend the life of the current A-10 and also explore requirements options for a future Close Air Support platform. Air Force officials have told Scout Warrior the ongoing requirements and analysis procedure is looking at three options – upgrading the existing A-10 airframe, using the best available commercial-off-the shelf aircraft, or simply engineering an building a newly designed A-10-like Close Air Support airplane.

Many A-10 proponents are convinced that there is no other plane capable of succeeding with the highly-dangerous, revered and essential Close Air Support Mission. Nevertheless, the Air Force does plan to use the emerging F-35 for Close Air Support moving into the next decade. In addition, F-35 advocates argue that the stealth aircraft’s speed, maneuverability and high-tech weapons and sensors give the F-35 a decisive Close Air Support advantage.

F-35 Weapons

In the meantime, the F-35 weapons integration including live fire drops, weapons separation assessments and modifications for future munitions adaptions is progressing as well alongside the existing F-35/A-10 analysis.

The aircraft has already demonstrated an ability to fire an AMRAAM (Advanced Medium Range Air to Air Missile), JDADM (Joint Direct Attack Munition) or GBU 12 (laser-guided aerial bomb), and AIM 9X Sidewinder air-to-air missile.

So-called “Block 3F” software for the F-35 increases the weapons delivery capacity of the JSF as well, giving it the ability to drop a Small Diameter Bomb and 500-pound JDAM.

By the early 2020s, the F-35 is slated to be configured with a next-generation Small Diameter Bomb II

Pentagon advances F-35 vs A-10 Close Air Support testing
US Air Force photo

As a multi-role fighter, the F-35 is also engineered to function as an intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance platform designed to apprehend and process video, data and information from long distances. Some F-35 developers have gone so far as to say the F-35 has ISR technologies comparable to many drones in service today that are able to beam a “soda straw” video view of tactically relevant combat locations in real time.

Built-in ISR is an asset which could have the effect of greatly helping close-air-support efforts.

Also, F-35 advocates reiterate that the airplane’s high-tech Electro-Optical Targeting System and 360-degree sensors Distributed Aperture System will give the newer aircraft an uncontested combat and close-air-support ability. The F-35s so-called computer-enabled “sensor fusion” might enable it to more quickly ascertain and destroy moving targets by gathering, integrating and presenting fast-changing combat dynamics and circumstances.

Finally, the F-35’s stealth configuration and speed is expected to better enable it to evade air defenses and move closer to emerging ground-targets in many instances — and its air-to-air ability will enable the aircraft to respond to potential air-threats which could appear in the course of a ground-support mission.

AIM-9X Sidewinder Missile

The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter fired an AIM-9X Sidewinder infrared-guided air-to-air missile for the first time earlier this year over a Pacific Sea Test Range, Pentagon officials said.

The F-35 took off from Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., and launched the missile at 6,000 feet, an Air Force statement said.

Designed as part of the developmental trajectory for the emerging F-35, the test-firing facilities further development of an ability to fire the weapon “off-boresight,” described as an ability to target and destroy air to air targets that are not in front of the aircraft with a direct or immediate line of sight, Pentagon officials explained.

“If you think if a boresight in terms of a firearm… that’s the adjustments made to an optical sight, to align the barrel of a firearm with the sights.  If you think of it in aircraft terms… traditionally air-to-air missiles are fired at targets in front of the them,” Joint Strike Fighter Program Office spokesman Joe DellaVedova, told Scout Warrior.

The AIM-9X, he described, incorporates an agile thrust vector controlled airframe and the missile’s high off-boresight capability can be used with an advanced helmet (or a helmet-mounted sight) for a wider attack envelope.

“For example, instead of having to position the aircraft directly in front or behind the enemy fighter… a high off-boresight weapon enables the pilot to just look to the left, right or up and down to engage a target, fire it and the missile locks on for the kill,” he explained.

The AIM-9X missile, which can also be fired at surface-to-air and air-to-surface, is currently in use on a number of existing fighter aircraft such as the Air Force’s F-15E and F-16 and the Navy’s F-18 Super Hornet.

Engineered by Raytheon, the newest AIM-9X Block II weapons are built with a redesigned fuse for increased safety and a lock-on-launch capability. The missile is also configured with a data link to support what’s called “beyond visual range” engagements, meaning targets at much farther ranges picked up by sensors or early warning radar. This could provide a fighter jet with an ability to destroy enemy targets in the air while remaining at a safer stand-off distance less exposed to hostile fire.

“The AIM-9X Sidewinder is an infrared-guided, air-to-air missile employing a focal plane array sensor for unparalleled target acquisition and tracking, augmented by jet vane control technology for extreme maneuverability against a variety of high performance threats,” Mark Justus, Raytheon AIM-9X program director, told Scout Warrior in a written statement. “The missile also has proven capability in air-to-surface and demonstrated capability in surface-to-air missions.”

Pentagon advances F-35 vs A-10 Close Air Support testing
A Sidewinder missile. | US Air Force photo

The AIM-9X Block II is the current version of the AIM-9 Sidewinder short range missile family in use by more than 40 nations throughout the world, Justus added.

“The AIM-9X missile has been acquired by twenty international partners. It is configured for easy installation on a wide variety of modern fighter aircraft and we are excited to complete this milestone of the first AIM-9X live fire from the F-35 as we progress through the aircraft/missile integration activities,” he said.

Weapons integration for the F-35 is designed to evolve in tandem with software advances for the aircraft, described as “increments.” Each increment, involving massive amounts of lines of computer code, improves the platform’s ability to integrate, carry and fire a wider range of weapons.

Block 2B, for example, is already operational and builds upon the enhanced simulated weapons, data link capabilities and early fused sensor integration of the earlier Block 2A software drop.

Block 2B enables the JSF to provide basic close air support and fire an AMRAAM (Advanced Medium Range Air to Air Missile), JDAM (Joint Direct Attack Munition) or GBU 12 (laser-guided aerial bomb), JSF program officials have said.

The next increment, Blocks 3i will increase the combat capability even further and Block 3F will bring a vastly increased ability to suppress enemy air defenses.

The Air Force plans to reach operational status with software Block 3i in 2016. Full operational capability will come with Block 3F, service officials said.

Block 3F will increase the weapons delivery capacity of the JSF as well, giving it the ability to drop a Small Diameter Bomb, 500-pound JDAM and AIM 9X short-range air-to-air missile, Air Force officials said.

F-35 25mm Gatling Gun

Last Fall, the Pentagon’s F-35 Joint Strike Fighter completed the first aerial test of its 25mm Gatling gun embedded into the left wing of the aircraft, officials said.

The test took place Oct. 30, 2015 in California, Pentagon officials described.

Related: Watch the Marines’ F-35 fire an 80-round burst from its gun pod

“This milestone was the first in a series of test flights to functionally evaluate the in-flight operation of the F-35A’s internal 25mm gun throughout its employment envelope,” a Pentagon statement said.

The Gatling gun will bring a substantial technology to the multi-role fighter platform, as it will better enable the aircraft to perform air-to-air attacks and close-air support missions to troops on the ground – a task of growing consequence given the Air Force plan to retire the A-10.

Called the Gun Airborne Unit, or GAU-22/A, the weapon is engineered into the aircraft in such a manner as to maintain the platform’s stealth configuration.

The four-barrel 25mm gun is designed for rapid fire in order to quickly blanket an enemy with gunfire and destroy targets quickly. The weapon is able to fire 3,300 rounds per minute, according to a statement from General Dynamics.

“Three bursts of one 30 rounds and two 60 rounds each were fired from the aircraft’s four-barrel, 25-millimeter Gatling gun. In integrating the weapon into the stealthy F-35A airframe, the gun must be kept hidden behind closed doors to reduce its radar cross section until the trigger is pulled,” a statement from the Pentagon’s Joint Strike Fighter said.

Pentagon advances F-35 vs A-10 Close Air Support testing
A gun test on the F-35 on Edwards Air Force Base, Calif. | US Air Force photo

The first phase of test execution consisted of 13 ground gunfire events over the course of three months to verify the integration of the gun into the F-35A, the JSF office said.

“Once verified, the team was cleared to begin this second phase of testing, with the goal of evaluating the gun’s performance and integration with the airframe during airborne gunfire in various flight conditions and aircraft configurations,” the statement added.

The new gun will also be integrated with the F-35’s software so as to enable the pilot to see and destroy targets using a helmet-mounted display.

The gun is slated to be operational by 2017.

Small Diameter Bomb II

The Air Force is engineering and testing a new air-dropped weapon able to destroy moving targets in all kinds of weather conditions at ranges greater than 40-miles, Air Force and Raytheon officials said.

The Small Diameter Bomb II, or SDB II, is designed to integrate onto the F-35 by 2022 or 2023; it is engineered todestroy moving targets in all kinds of weather, such as small groups of ISIS or terrorist fighters on-the-move in pick-up trucks.

A weapon of this kind would be of extreme relevance against ISIS fighters as the group is known to deliberately hide among civilian populations and make movements under cloud cover or adverse weather in order to avoid detection from overhead surveillance technologies.

While the Air Force currently uses a laser-guided bomb called the GBU-54 able to destroy moving targets, the new SDB II will be able to do this at longer ranges and in all kinds of weather conditions. In addition, the SDB II is built with a two-way, dual-band data link which enables it to change targets or adjust to different target locations while in flight.

A key part of the SDB II is a technology called a “tri-mode” seeker — a guidance system which can direct the weapon using millimeter wave radar, uncooled imaging infrared guidance and semi-active laser technology.

A tri-mode seeker provides a range of guidance and targeting options typically not used together in one system. Millimeter wave radar gives the weapon an ability to navigate through adverse weather, conditions in which other guidance systems might encounter problems reaching or pinpointing targets.

Pentagon advances F-35 vs A-10 Close Air Support testing
Small Diameter Bomb II | Raytheon

Imagining infrared guidance allows the weapon to track and hone in on heat signatures such as the temperature of an enemy vehicle. With semi-active laser technology, the weapon can be guided to an exact point using a laser designator or laser illuminator coming from the air or the ground.

Also, the SBD II brings a new ability to track targets in flight through use of a two-way Link 16 and UHF data link, Raytheon officials said.

The millimeter wave radar turns on first. Then the data link gives it a cue and tells the seeker where to open up and look. Then, the weapon can turn on its IR (infrared) which uses heat seeking technology, Raytheon officials said.

The SBD II is engineered to weigh only 208 pounds, a lighter weight than most other air dropped bombs, so that eight of them can fit on the inside of an F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, Raytheon officials explained.

Articles

Navy develops laser weapon prototypes for destroyers & cruisers

The Navy plans to arm its destroyers and other ships with high-tech, low-cost ship-board laser weapons engineered to quickly incinerate enemy drones, small boats, aircraft, ships and missiles, service officials told Scout Warrior.


The Office of Naval Research is working on 12-month, $53-million deal with Northrop Grumman to develop a Laser Weapon System Demonstrator through three phases; the phases include an initial design phase, ground-testing phase and then weapons testing at sea aboard a Navy Self Defense test ship, a Northrop statement said.

“The company will design, produce, integrate, and support the shipboard testing of a 150-kilowatt-class solid state (electric) laser weapon system,” the Northrop statement added. “The contract could grow to a total value of $91 million over 34 months if ONR exercises all of its contract options.”

Pentagon advances F-35 vs A-10 Close Air Support testing
Northrop Grumman image

Office of Naval Research officials told Scout Warrior an aim of the developmental program is to engineer a prototype weapons for further analysis.

“This system employs multi-spectral target detection and track capabilities as well as an advanced off-axis beam director with improved fiber laser technologies to provide extended target engagement ranges. Improvements of high power fiber lasers used to form the laser beam enable the increased power levels and extended range capabilities. Lessons learned, operating procedures, updated hardware and software derived from previous systems will be incorporated in this demonstration,” Dr. Tom Beutner, director of the Air Warfare and Weapons branch, Office of Naval Research, told Scout Warrior in a written statement a few months ago.

“The possibilities can become integrated prototypes — and the prototypes become reality when they become acquisition programs,” an ONR official said.

It is not yet clear when this weapon might be operational but the intention seems to be to arm surface ships such as destroyers, cruisers and possibly even carriers or an LCS with inexpensive offensive or defensive laser weapons technology.

“It is way too early to determine if this system will ever become operational. Northrop Grumman has been funded to set-up a demo to “demonstrate” the capabilities to senior leadership, who will then determine whether it is an asset worth further funding and turning into a program of record,” a Navy official told Scout Warrior.

Pentagon advances F-35 vs A-10 Close Air Support testing
The Afloat Forward Staging Base USS Ponce conducts an operational demonstration of the  Laser Weapon System (LaWS) while deployed to the Arabian Gulf.| U.S. Navy photo by John F. Williams

Both Navy and Northrop Grumman officials often talk about the cost advantages of firing laser weapons to incinerate incoming enemy attacks or destroy enemy targets without having to expend an interceptor missile worth hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Navy officials describe this as getting ahead of the cost curve.

“For about the price of a gallon of diesel fuel per shot, we’re offering the Navy a high-precision defensive approach that will protect not only its sailors, but also its wallet,” said Guy Renard, director and program manager, directed energy, Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems.

Meanwhile, the Navy has already deployed one laser system, called the Laser Weapons System, or LaWS, which has been operational for months.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Best Sniper competition held at Fort Benning

Last week was Infantry Week at Fort Benning, GA, an entire week dedicated to celebrating some of the most sought-after awards and training events. This year’s schedule included Best Sniper and Best Ranger. 

First up was Best Sniper, where teams of two soldiers competed in a three-day event through an array of tests and obstacles, including close-up shots with pistols, to those where they must hit targets 600+ meters away with a rifle, as well as shotgun events. The entire competition is built off of individual and collective tasks focused around key Army Sniper Course basic teachings, like increasing validity and survivability through reconnaissance.

Competitors traveled from across the nation and from various branches of the military; Marines and members of the Coast Guard were present in this year’s event. 

Last year’s competition was canceled due to COVID-19, and the event hasn’t fulfilled its international status since 2018. 

Pentagon advances F-35 vs A-10 Close Air Support testing
This years winners, the team from the Special Forces Sniper Course took first place in the U.S. Army Best Sniper Competition at Fort Benning, Georgia, April 15, 2021. Sgts. 1st Class Daniel Posey and William Greytak scored the most points in the multi-day competition that involved two-person teams from across the Army. (U.S. army photos by Markeith Horace, Fort Benning Maneuver Center of Excellence Public Affairs)

Best Sniper competitors for 2021 gathered for a chance to win different titles, including: Field Craft Award, which encompasses land navigation, target detection, and night range estimation; Top Pistol; Coach’s Award; and Iron Man, for the team with the fastest time; and the coveted title of Best Sniper. 

SFC Zachary Small, NCOIC for the Best Sniper Competition 2021, said, “I think the community needed this, i think the competitors needed this, and I know the coaches absolutely needed this.” 

On describing the design, he said: “The competition was based on creating realism with some of the events. It’s kind of difficult to replicate combat scenarios, but trying to make it as realistic as humanly possible was primarily the goal here.” 

The teams participated in an event called Flavortown where users gave away their position at the top of a building, then had to remove targets and exfil from the top of the structure. Other events included night range estimation, with some items in an urban setting and others in a woodland point of view. Physical tests were also brought in, such as the standard two-mile run, Small said, but with teams wearing uniforms and boots. 

Certain technologies were also banned to test soldiers’ abilities without certain equipment, he said. Land navigation was done with SUAs (small unmanned aircraft system) and UAVs (unmanned air vehicles) trying to find the competitors in the woods. 

Because different units have their own weapon systems, which tend to vary, SFC Small said competitors were restricted to using certain calibers. For their primary weapon they shot a .300 Win Mag and for their secondary, 7.62 mm.

“It’s an overall problem solving competition, he said. “It’s cool because you get to see how different services handle the problems mentally and their solution to the problem physically.”

As for the competition being held at Benning, Small said they had overwhelming support from leadership, ForceCom, Special Operation Forces, and sister services. 

“The benefit of having other sister services is increasing the interoperability. We’re branching out and get to talk to other subject matter experts.” 

A team consisting of First Sergeant Guillermo Roman and Staff Sergeant William Orr, former Sniper instructors and current hunting buddies, joined forces in their first sniper competition. Previously, they had worked and coached shooting events. 

“It’s a different kind of stress, it’s more fun than I thought it would be,” Orr said. “It’s much more mentally stressful to see your time tick away, as opposed to seeing your target get away while you’re going through the process.” 

As previous Sniper instructors, Roman agreed that they know the process, but the time pressure is the most difficult aspect to get used to. 

“We’ve taught kids, take your time, check twice, take your shot. But when you’re under pressure, all that stuff almost goes out the window for a split second. You have to check yourself, remember to slow down and remember what we were taught and then engage.” 

Winners of the event included: 

  • Ironman Award: USMC School of Infantry West
  • Field Craft: UT ARNG (19th Special Forces Group)
  • Top Pistol: Special Forces Sniper Course
  • Top Coach: SFC Daniel Horner CA ARNG
  • 1st Place:  Special Forces Sniper Course
  • 2nd Place: 3/75 Ranger Regiment
  • 3rd Place: UT ARNG (19th SFG)
  • 6th Place: CO ARNG
  • 8th Place: CA ARNG
  • 9th Place: IA ARNG
  • Overall, an OUTSTANDING performance and representation for the Army National Guard.
MIGHTY CULTURE

7 business lessons from the ‘Black Hawk down’ raid

It is a day that should always be remembered — and studied.

On Oct. 3, 1993 a large special operations force unit set out to capture a Somali warlord, Mohamed Farrah Aidid, who was causing the deaths of Somali civilians by capturing international food aid and killing international peacekeeping forces who were providing security for the food relief effort. The “routine” combat operation to capture Aidid was drastically changed when one, and then two, Black Hawk helicopters were shot down in a dense urban area of Mogadishu that was swarming with militia. The mission instantly transformed from a capture mission into a multi-pronged rescue filled with tragedy, heroism, bravery, brotherhood, and lessons for the future.


Mogadishu, Somalia on Oct. 3, 1993 is a reminder of the sacrifices of the fallen and wounded U.S. servicemen as well as the unparalleled efforts to reduce the suffering for the Somali people.

Lesson #1: The team is the most important.

As the events unfolded from the planned capture mission into multiple rescue missions, street fighting, medical evacuations, and resupply missions, the military personnel realized they were fighting for each other. A SOF mission planning tenant is that “humans are more important than hardware”. The military understands missions cannot be accomplished without personnel, and business needs to learn that employees matter most.

In business, it is amazingly easy to focus on revenue, profitability, and stock prices, but Oct. 3, 1993 clearly reminds us that it is employees that need to be an overarching focus for a successful business in periods of crisis.

Lesson #2: Stability in success is an illusion.

During the prior raids in Mogadishu, the SOF unit had used a well-rehearsed and well-executed combination of helicopter and ground convoy insertion and extraction tactics that performed well. On Oct. 3, 1993, the various militia in Mogadishu used RPGs in a ground-to-air role instead of the traditional ground-to-ground role. This change in how RPGs were used immediately put at risk the heavy reliance on helicopters when two Black Hawks were shot down using RPGs.

Businesses need to learn that any stability in their product line, pricing, and customer base can vanish overnight when the competition rapidly adapts.

Lesson #3: Building teamwork & relationships before the battle. 

Prior to the battle, the SOF forces trained together and many had known each other for years. The times before adversity are the most important because it is during the times of quiet that learning occurs, relationships are built, and methods perfected. It was really all the time before the battle that prevented Oct. 3 in Mogadishu from turning into a tragedy.

Business needs to realize that during the “good” times, business needs to take a very hard look at products, implement solid employee training programs, value customers, and develop broad product and service lines to begin improving business results before the competition acts.

Lesson #4: Difficult training triumphs over adversity.

The SOF in the Battle of Mogadishu were Rangers, Special Operations Aviation, the legendary “Delta” Force, and other military units. These groups are some of the most highly-trained military forces in the world. The central point for business (that the military realizes) is that you may never fully know when you will enter your most challenging point, which is why constant, difficult training is vital to success.

Business leaders must understand that constant, challenging, up-to-date and difficult training is the only way to remain constantly prepared for challenges that you cannot fully anticipate.

Lesson #5: Success in one area does not mean success in another.

In 1993, the U.S. military was supreme in the world. It had been a central player in forcing the Soviet Union to abandon communism for democratic reforms. In the Middle East, Operation Desert Storm built a strong coalition that destroyed the regional military power, Iraq, in less than a week of conventional ground combat.

The unexpected challenge for the U.S. military in Mogadishu was that the militia forces were an exceptionally effective, and highly untraditional, military force adept at fighting in the dense, confusing urban terrain of a major city. The lesson for business is that just because you are strong in one product category or one market does not mean that you will be strong in others.

Lesson #6: Lower level leaders with initiative bring success.

Encouraging and developing leaders with initiative is one of the hallmarks of SOF. A great deal of the success that US forces experienced in Mogadishu came from lower level leaders who understood that the initial plan had to be modified, observed what needed to be done, and then took multiple successful actions to ensure that the follow on plan was successful. The lesson for business is that few product launches or new business initiatives succeed exactly according to plan.

Business needs to encourage the development of trained, bright, and focused leaders and instill them with a spirit of initiative, so they seek out problems when initial plans fail to deliver success at the end. Initiative is one of the most powerful forces in employees.

Lesson #7: Learn, reshape your operations, and prepare for the next fight.

Finally, SOF never rest in examining their mistakes and creating new methods, tactics, and equipment to ensure success in the future. The Battle of Mogadishu continues to be relentlessly studied and examined by the very people that fought the battle to improve for the future.

Oct. 3, 1993 brought about a renewed focus on urban fighting, new medical technology to halt bleeding faster, and renewed focus on fighting as a combined force of air and ground teams working together. Business needs to adopt the military process of an after-action review, or debrief, to learn how to make every operation a study for future improvement. An effective team never rests in their desire to be even greater.

The business challenges of COVID-19 continue to demonstrate that life and business are transforming in unpredictable and dynamic ways. When a business focuses on their team, expects and plans for instability, builds teamwork, trains their employees, understands the strategic relevance of prior success, builds employee initiative, and constantly learns how to be better that organization is prepared to succeed in a world of chaos and challenge.

This article originally appeared on Military Families Magazine. Follow @MilFamiliesMag on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Why Russia and US are having separate Taliban peace talks

As the prospect of a negotiated end to the war in Afghanistan is closer than it has ever been, the peace process with the Taliban could be derailed by competing agendas.

Longtime rivals Russia and the United States have backed separate negotiations with different stakeholders, muddling the complex process.

To highlight the confusion, the Taliban first sat down for talks with American negotiators in Qatar before meeting a delegation of powerful Afghan power brokers in Moscow for “intra-Afghan” talks.


Why two simultaneous negotiating processes?

U.S. peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad has held a series of direct talks with Taliban negotiators in the Qatari capital, Doha, culminating in the basic framework of a possible peace deal.

Meanwhile, Moscow has organized two peace conferences — the latest on Feb. 5-6, 2019 — that have drawn representatives from Afghanistan’s neighbors, opposition politicians, and the same Taliban negotiators that met with the American delegation in Doha.

Taliban, Afghan Delegations Meet In Moscow

www.youtube.com

Both processes have frozen out the Afghan government, which the Taliban has refused to meet. The militants see the Kabul government as a Western puppet and have said they will negotiate directly with Washington.

Analysts say Moscow is trying to promote itself as a power broker to challenge the U.S.-backed peace process.

Thomas Ruttig, co-director of the Afghanistan Analysts Network, an independent think tank in Kabul, says the Russian peace talks are fueled by “Russian political sniping against the [United States].”

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Feb. 4, 2019, that the United States was trying to “monopolize” peace talks with the Taliban and was conducting talks in secrecy while keeping regional countries “in the dark.”

Haroun Mir, an Kabul-based political analyst, says it has been the Taliban’s strategy to have two simultaneous tracks for negotiations.

“The Taliban has insisted on negotiating first with the United States and then bypassing the Afghan government and initiating a dialogue with different Afghan political groups,” says Mir. “Thus far they have been successful in dividing the Afghan political elite who have supported the constitutional process in the past 18 years.”

What are the consequences of having two tracks?

Analysts say a major consequence is deepening divisions inside Afghanistan between President Ashraf Ghani’s administration and a host of powerful opposition politicians, including former President Hamid Karzai.

Pentagon advances F-35 vs A-10 Close Air Support testing

Former Afghan President Hamid Karzai.

Among those who attended the Moscow meetings were key power brokers who have announced their candidacy to run against Ghani in the July presidential election.

Ruttig says for Moscow not to include the Afghan government was an “affront” and has the strong feel of election campaigning and Russia taking sides.

“A united ‘Kabul camp’ would be better, but maybe this is an illusion anyway,” says Ruttig. “But [unity] was clearly not the desire of the Russian government: this is divide and interfere.”

Ghani is reportedly furious about his administration being left out of both the U.S. and Russian talks.

The president’s office criticized the meeting in Moscow, saying that Afghan politicians attending the gathering were doing so “in order to gain power.” Meanwhile, Kabul fears Washington will make a deal in Doha with the Taliban behind their back.

Analyst Mir says by keeping the Kabul government out of the U.S.- and Russia-backed talks the Taliban wants to “reduce the legitimacy of the Afghan government to a minimum and thus further strengthen [its] bargaining position vis-a-vis the United States and extract maximum advantage.”

Who are the likely winners and losers?

Graeme Smith, an Afghanistan analyst and a consultant for the International Crisis Group, says no one has won or lost because all of the actors have stakes in the outcome.

“If these talks give birth to an inclusive intra-Afghan process, the people of Afghanistan could finally gain relief from the world’s deadliest war,” says Smith. “If the talks fail to include all sides and no durable peace results [from them], the people could suffer another collapse into civil war.”

Sidelined and frustrated, the weak, deeply unpopular Afghan government may feel it is the biggest loser so far.

Mir says it’s not just the government that stands to lose, but “all of those who have defended the constitutional process for the past 18 years.”

Analysts say the talks have given Russia the chance to burnish perceptions of Moscow’s global significance while dealing a fresh blow to Western influence.

Ruttig says Moscow’s role is another assertion that it is “back in the strategic game.”

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Edward Snowden says COVID-19 could give governments invasive new data-collection powers that could last long after the pandemic

Edward Snowden, the man who exposed the breadth of spying at the US’s National Security Agency, has warned that an uptick in surveillance amid the coronavirus crisis could lead to long-lasting effects on civil liberties.


During a video-conference interview for the Copenhagen Documentary Film Festival, Snowden said that, theoretically, new powers introduced by states to combat the coronavirus outbreak could remain in place after the crisis has subsided.

Fear of the virus and its spread could mean governments “send an order to every fitness tracker that can get something like pulse or heart rate” and demand access to that data, Snowden said.

“Five years later the coronavirus is gone, this data’s still available to them — they start looking for new things,” Snowden said. “They already know what you’re looking at on the internet, they already know where your phone is moving, now they know what your heart rate is. What happens when they start to intermix these and apply artificial intelligence to them?”

While no reports appear to have surfaced so far of states demanding access to health data from wearables like the Apple Watch, many countries are fast introducing new methods of surveillance to better understand and curb the spread of the coronavirus.

Pentagon advances F-35 vs A-10 Close Air Support testing

upload.wikimedia.or

Numerous European countries, including Italy, the UK, and Germany, have struck deals with telecoms companies to use anonymous aggregated data to create virtual heat maps of people’s movements.

Israel granted its spy services emergency powers to hack citizens’ phones without a warrant. South Korea has been sending text alerts to warn people when they may have been in contact with a coronavirus patient, including personal details like age and gender. Singapore is using a smartphone app to monitor the spread of the coronavirus by tracking people who may have been exposed.

In Poland, citizens under quarantine have to download a government app that mandates they respond to periodic requests for selfies. Taiwan has introduced an “electronic fence” system that alerts the police if quarantined patients move outside their homes.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

3 Marines receive Purple Hearts for actions in Syria

Three U.S. Marines received the Purple Heart for wounds sustained during fighting in Syria in support of Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force, Crisis Response-Central Command, during ceremonies in Twentynine Palms, California, on October 22, 2018, and in an undisclosed location in U.S. Central Command on November 7, 2018.


Pentagon advances F-35 vs A-10 Close Air Support testing

U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Nathan Rousseau, a mortar Marine with 3rd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment attached to Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force, Crisis Response-Central Command, receives the Purple Heart, October 21, 2018.

(U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Gabino Perez)

The awardees were Cpl. Tyler A. Frazier, a mortar Marine with 3rd Battalion, 7th Marines; Cpl. Nathan Rousseau, a mortar Marine with 3rd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment; and Cpl. Brendon Hendrickson, an anti-tank missile Marine with 3rd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment.

All three Marines have fully recovered from their injuries, according to a press release from the Marine Corps. U.S. troops have been deployed to Syria since at least 2015, but the exact details of the deployments have often been kept quiet due to security concerns and the tense political situation as Russian, Iranian, U.S., and other forces operate so close to one another.

So, it’s not much of a surprise that the Marine Corps hasn’t offered details of the incident that resulted in the Purple Hearts being awarded to the Marines.

Pentagon advances F-35 vs A-10 Close Air Support testing

U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Brendon Hendrickson, an anti-tank missile Marine with 3rd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment attached to Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force, Crisis Response-Central Command, stands by during a Purple Heart ceremony, October 22, 2018.

(U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Gabino Perez)

But while the U.S. has taken relatively few losses despite having an estimated 2,000 troops deployed to Syria, that largely speaks to the professionalism of the troops and leaders deployed there as warfighters have found themselves in sticky situations repeatedly.

Five service members have been killed fighting there. And dozens of special operators were forced to kill approximately 100 Russian mercenaries attacking them en masse in a February, 2018, attack.

Pentagon advances F-35 vs A-10 Close Air Support testing

Cpl. Tyler A. Frazier, a mortar Marine with 3rd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, is awarded the Purple Heart Medal by Lt. Col. Steven M. Ford, commanding officer, 3/7 at Victory Field aboard the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center, Twentynine Palms, Calif., November 7, 2018.

(U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Preston L. Morris)

The U.S. deployment was originally focused on wrenching as much territory as possible back from the Islamic State, the terror organization that swept Iraq and Syria and made inroads in nearby countries, and has stuck around to help eradicate remnants of the group.

The U.S. deployments to Syria are typically of special operations units like the Army Rangers and Special Forces and U.S. Navy SEALs, but conventional Marines have also been part of the mix, especially infantrymen who employ mortars or missiles and artillerymen.

Articles

This company is turning these old tanks into modern killers

The M60 Patton was America’s first main battle tank and a heavy-lifter for the U.S. from its adoption in 1960 to its final retirement in 1997. It’s still in service in allied countries around the world and Raytheon has come out with a modernization kit to get it ready for 21st-century combat.


The Raytheon M60A3 Service Life Extension Program (SLEP) features a 950-horsepower engine (a 200-horsepower improvement), a 120mm main gun, new fire control and targeting systems with thermal and day sights, and more reactive motors to move the turret and main gun.

Replacing the old, 105mm M68 rifled gun with the L44 120mm smoothbore cannon is probably the most visible and important part of the SLEP upgrades. The L44 is also known as the M256, the main gun on the M1 Abrams main battle tank that America uses today. It features greater range and penetrating power than the M68 it is replacing.

Pentagon advances F-35 vs A-10 Close Air Support testing
GIF: YouTube/arronlee33

The upgraded electric motors will allow crews to respond more quickly to enemies spotted on the battlefield than the old hydraulic motors. They also do their job more quietly, reducing the chances that the Pattons will be spotted as quickly in combat.

Pentagon advances F-35 vs A-10 Close Air Support testing
GIF: YouTube/arronlee33

Meanwhile, the new, 950-hp engines will allow the tanks to reach more places more quickly, giving commanders better tactical and strategic options on the battlefield.

Finally, the sights on the tank are a leap forward for it, allowing crews to quickly and reliably engage targets with their larger cannon.

The tanks featured in a Raytheon video about the SLEP also seem to feature armor upgrades, but Raytheon hasn’t commented on what new capabilities the armor gives.

Of course, this is still an old dog learning new tricks and M60s would struggle against the most modern tanks on the battlefield. For Raytheon, it seems to be about giving customers who can’t afford new tanks an upgrade option rather than making the M60 a peer to Abrams, Leopard, or Armata tanks.

For countries who field the M60 and aren’t yet ready for a tank acquisition program, the SLEP offers a chance to deter aggressive neighbors without breaking the bank.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Vote for MISSION: MUSIC Finalist Home Bru

UPDATE: THE VOTING IS NOW CLOSED AND THE WINNER WILL BE ANNOUNCED ON MONDAY, SEPT. 25, 2017 AT WE ARE THE MIGHTY!

Welcome to the finals for Mission: Music, where veterans from all five branches compete for a chance to perform onstage at Base*FEST powered by USAA. CLICK THE BUTTON BELOW TO VOTE every day to determine the winner!

Home Bru is a North Carolina based band comprised of husband-and-wife Matt Brunoehler (guitar/banjo/vocals) and Chelsea Brunoehler (bass/vocalist), and whenever possible, drummer/vocalist Zac Bowers and pianist Wryan Webb.


Pentagon advances F-35 vs A-10 Close Air Support testing
From left to right: Matthew Brunoehler (USMC), Chelsea Brunoehler (USN, USCG)

Matt and Chelsea started singing together in the U.S. Naval Academy Glee Club in 2003, and they have started bands everywhere they’ve been stationed ever since (even when they were separated!). In February 2016, they started Home Bru in North Carolina, and the band has been featured at various local events since. They primarily concentrate on covers of favorite Rock, Country, Pop, and Blues tunes, but they’ve recently been adding originals to their repertoire.

“Music tells our story,” says Chelsea. “Forming a band in each city we’ve lived has introduced us to our closest friends—our military family. We are fortunate to share music as a couple. It keeps us connected, even when separated by military obligations.”

Return to the voting page and check out the other finalists!

For every vote, USAA will donate $1 (up to $10k) to Guitars for Vets, a non-profit organization that enhances lives of ailing and injured military veterans by providing them with guitars and a forum to learn how to play. Your votes help those who served rediscover their joy through the power of music!

Pentagon advances F-35 vs A-10 Close Air Support testing
MIGHTY SURVIVAL

The US is tracking people’s movements with phone data, and it’s part of a massive increase in global surveillance

Governments across the world are galvanizing every surveillance tool at their disposal to help stem the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Countries have been quick to use the one tool almost all of us carry with us — our smartphones.


A live index of ramped up security measures by Top10VPN details the countries which have already brought in measures to track the phones of coronavirus patients, ranging from anonymized aggregated data to monitor the movement of people more generally, to the tracking of individual suspected patients and their contacts, known as “contact tracing.”

Samuel Woodhams, Top10VPN’s Digital Rights Lead who compiled the index, warned that the world could slide into permanently increased surveillance.

“Without adequate tracking, there is a danger that these new, often highly invasive, measures will become the norm around the world,” he told Business Insider. “Although some may appear entirely legitimate, many pose a risk to citizens’ right to privacy and freedom of expression.

Pentagon advances F-35 vs A-10 Close Air Support testing

“Given how quickly things are changing, documenting the new measures is the first step to challenging potential overreach, providing scrutiny and holding corporations and governments to account.”

While some countries will cap their new emergency measures, otherwise may retain the powers for future use. “There is a risk that many of these new capabilities will continue to be used following the outbreak,” said Woodhams. “This is particularly significant as many of the new measures have avoided public and political scrutiny and do not include sunset clauses.”

Here’s a breakdown of which countries have started tracking phone data, with varying degrees of invasiveness:

The US is reportedly gathering data from the ads industry to get an idea of where people are congregating

Sources told The Wall Street Journal that the federal, state, and local governments have begun to gather and study geolocation data to get a better idea of how people are moving about.

In one example, a source said the data had shown people were continuing to gather in Prospect Park in Brooklyn, and this information had been handed over to local autorities. The eventual aim is to create a portal for government officials with data from up to 500 US cities.

The data is being gathered from the advertising industry, which often gains access to people’s geolocation when they sign up to apps. Researcher Sam Woodhams says using the ad industry as a source poses a particular problem for privacy.

“Working closely with the ad tech industry to track citizens’ whereabouts raises some significant concerns. The sector as a whole is renowned for its lack of transparency and many users will be unaware that these apps are tracking their movement to begin with. It is imperative that governments and all those involved in the collection of this sensitive data are transparent about how they operate and what measures are in place to ensure citizens’ right to privacy is protected,” Woodhams told Business Insider.

The US’ coronavirus economic relief bill also included a 0 million for the CDC to build a “surveillance and data collection system.”

South Korea gives out detailed information about patients’ whereabouts

South Korea has gone a step further than other countries, tracking individuals’ phones and creating a publicly available map to allow other citizens to check whether they may have crossed paths with any coronavirus patients.

The tracking data that goes into the map isn’t limited to mobile phone data, credit card records and even face-to-face interviews with patients are being used to build a retroactive map of where they’ve been.

Not only is the map there for citizens to check, but the South Korean government is using it to proactively send regional text messages warning people they may have come into contact with someone carrying the virus.

The location given can be extremely specific, the Washington Post reported a text went out that said an infected person had been at the “Magic Coin Karaoke in Jayang-dong at midnight on Feb. 20.”

Some texts give out more personal information however. A text reported by The Guardian read: “A woman in her 60s has just tested positive. Click on the link for the places she visited before she was hospitalised.”

The director of the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Jeong Eun-kyeong, acknowledged that the site infringes on civil liberties, saying: “It is true that public interests tend to be emphasized more than human rights of individuals when dealing with diseases that can infect others.”

The map is already interfering with civil liberties, as a South Korean woman told the Washington Post that she had stopped attending a bar popular with lesbians for fear of being outed. “If I unknowingly contract the virus… that record will be released to the whole country,” she said.

The system is also throwing up other unexpected challenges. The Guardian reported that one man claiming to be infected threatened various restaurants saying he would visit and hurt their custom unless they gave him money to stay away.

Iran asked citizens to download an invasive app

Vice reported that Iran’s government endorsed a coronavirus diagnosis app that collected users’ real-time location data.

On March 3, a message went out to millions of Iranian citizens telling them to install the app, called AC19, before going to a hospital or health center.

The app claimed to be able to diagnose the user with coronavirus by asking a series of yes or no questions. The app has since been removed from the Google Play store.

Israel passed new laws to spy on its citizens

As part of a broad set of new surveillance measures approved by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on March 17, Israel’s Security Agency will no longer have to obtain a court order to track individuals’ phones. The new law also stipulates all data collected must be deleted after 30 days.

Netanyahu described the new security measures as “invasive” in an address to the nation.

“We’ll deploy measures we’ve only previously deployed against terrorists. Some of these will be invasive and infringe on the privacy of those affected. We must adopt a new routine,” said Netanyahu.

TraceTogether: Community-driven contact tracing to stop the spread of COVID-19

www.youtube.com

Singapore has an app which can trace people within 2 meters of infected patients

Singapore’s Government Technology Agency and the Ministry of Health developed an app for contact tracing called TraceTogether which launched on March 20.

Per the Straits Times, the app is used: “to identify people who have been in close proximity — within 2m for at least 30 minutes — to coronavirus patients using wireless Bluetooth technology.”

“No geolocation data or other personal data is collected,” TraceTogether said in an explanatory video.

Taiwan can tell when quarantined people have left the house

Taiwan has activated what it calls an “electronic fence,” which tracks mobile phone data and alerts authorities when someone who is supposed to be quarantined at home is leaving the house.

“The goal is to stop people from running around and spreading the infection,” said Jyan Hong-wei, head of Taiwan’s Department of Cyber Security. Jyan added that local authorities and police should be able to respond to anyone who triggers an alert within 15 minutes.

Even having your phone turned off seems to be enough to warrant a police visit. An American student living in Taiwan wrote in a BBC article that he was visited by two police officers at 8:15 a.m. because his phone had run out of battery at 7:30 a.m. and the government had briefly lost track of him. The student was in quarantine at the time because he had arrived in Taiwan from Europe.

Austria is using anonymized data to map people’s movements

On March 17 Austria’s biggest telecoms network operator Telekom Austria AG announced it was sharing anonymized location data with the government.

The technology being used was developed by a spin-off startup out of the University of Graz, and Telekom Austria said it is usually used to measure footfall in popular tourist sites.

Woodhams told Business Insider that while collecting aggregated data sets is less invasive than other measures, how that data could be used in future should still be cause for concern.

“Much of the data may remain at risk from re-identification, and it still provides governments with the ability to track the movement of large groups of its citizens,” said Woodhams.

Poland is making people send selfies to prove they’re quarantining correctly

On March 20 the Polish government announced the release of a new app called “Home Quarantine.” The point of the app is to make sure people who are supposed to be quarantining themselves for 14 days stay in place.

To use the app first you have to register a selfie, it then sends periodic requests for geo-located selfies. If the user fails to comply within 20 minutes, the police will be alerted.

“People in quarantine have a choice: either receive unexpected visits from the police, or download this app,” a spokesman for Poland’s Digital Ministry said.

The Polish government is automatically generating accounts for suspected quarantine patients, including people returning from abroad.

Belgium is using anonymized data from telcos

The Belgian government gave the go-ahead on March 11 to start using anonymized data from local telecom companies.

Germany is modeling how people are moving around

Deutsche Telekom announced on March 18 it would be sharing data with the Robert Koch Institute (Germany’s version of the CDC).

“With this we can model how people are moving around nationwide, on a state level, and even on a community level,” a spokesperson for Deutsche Telekom told Die Welt.

Italy has created movement maps

Italy, which has been particularly hard-hit by the coronavirus outbreak, has also signed a deal with telecoms operators to collect anonymized location data.

As of March 18 Italy had charged 40,000 of its citizens with violating its lockdown laws, per The Guardian.

The UK isn’t tracking yet but is considering it, and is reportedly working on an opt-in contact tracing app

While nothing official has been announced yet, the UK is in talks with major telecoms providers including O2 and EE to provide large sets of anonymized data.

Google has also indicated it is taking part in discussions.

Sky News also reported the NHS and NHSX (the digital wing of the NHS) have been working on an opt-in contact tracing app. The app would work similarly to Singapore’s, using Bluetooth and self-reporting to establish whether you’ve been near someone with suspected coronavirus.

According to Sky, alerts will be sent out on a delay to stop individuals from being identified. The app will be released either just before or just after Britain’s lockdown is lifted.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Elon Musk reportedly tells SpaceX’s 7,000 employees in email to shift their focus to the rocket designed to eventually take people to the moon — and Mars

Elon Musk is pushing SpaceX’s more than 7,000 employees to not waste any time after its first crewed space launch.

A little over a week ago, the rocket company successfully sent two astronauts to the International Space Station on an historic mission that may last nearly four months. But now the CEO is directing SpaceX to quickly switch gears, according to an internal email first obtained and reported by CNBC.


Musk told SpaceX employees to work full steam ahead on Starship, a reusable rocket designed to one day land on the moon for NASA and take up to 100 people at a time to Mars.

“Please consider the top SpaceX priority (apart from anything that could reduce Dragon return risk) to be Starship,” Musk wrote in the email, according to the report.

SpaceX did not immediately respond to Business Insider’s request for confirmation and comment on the email.

Several early iterations of Starship prototypes failed and were obliterated during testing while the rockets were filled with inert liquid nitrogen. The most recent Starship prototype exploded the day before astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley rode Crew Dragon to the ISS — with the help of a different SpaceX rocket, Falcon 9. (The system successfully flew 85 missions before sending Behnken and Hurley into space.)

“We need to accelerate Starship progress,” Musk said, according to CNBC.

A full-scale Starship has yet to fly, though a previous and shorter version of the rocket known as Starhopper successfully launched and landed.

But Musk has said the company may need to build about 20 large prototypes before SpaceX can attempt to launch one into orbit.

To the moon, Mars, and beyond

In hopes of speeding up Starship’s progress, Musk’s email alluded to incentivizing employees from the company’s Los Angeles headquarters and Florida facility to “consider spending significant time” in Boca Chica, Texas, where Starship’s production complex is. (Business Insider previously reported the rocket company was hiring a project coordinator to help run a “SpaceX Village” with 100 rooms, lounge parties, volleyball tournaments, rock climbing, and more.)

Before a high-profile presentation about Starship from Boca Chica, Musk received pressure in September from NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine. Bridenstine tweeted about his excitement for Starship but said it was “time to deliver” on sending astronauts to space using the older Crew Dragon and Falcon 9 system.

Now that Behnken and Hurley are in orbit, Musk appears intent on putting SpaceX’s full force into Starship. The system is in the running with NASA to land astronauts and supplies on the moon in the mid-2020s.

On Friday, Musk also confirmed that he still hoped to launch the first crew to Mars in a Starship vehicle in mid-2024 — ostensibly as the start of an effort to populate the red planet.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

Articles

THAAD missile system has China and North Korea spooked

Pentagon advances F-35 vs A-10 Close Air Support testing
Lockheed Martin


The most advanced missile system on the planet can hunt and blast incoming missiles right out of the sky with a 100% success rate — and we got to spend a day with it.

Meet the US’s THAAD system.

THAAD (Terminal High Altitude Area Defense) is a unique missile-defense system with unmatched precision, capable of countering threats around the world with its mobility and strategic battery-unit placement.

“It is the most technically advanced missile-defense system in the world,” US Army Col. Alan Wiernicki, commander of the 11th Air Defense Artillery Brigade, told Business Insider in an interview.

“Combatant commanders and our allies know this, which puts our THAAD Batteries in very high global demand,” Wiernicki added.

And that demand seems poised to rise.

Deploying America’s THAAD

Pentagon advances F-35 vs A-10 Close Air Support testing
AiirSource Military | YouTube

On Wednesday, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un claimed his country had developed miniaturized nuclear warheads, which can be mounted to long-range ballistic missiles.

The rogue regime’s latest announcement is a follow-through pass to last month’s long-range-rocket launch and January’s purported hydrogen-bomb test.

Negotiations to equip South Korea with THAAD have been ongoing since South Korean President Park Geun-hye’s October 2015visit to the White House.

As of yet, there has not been a formal move to deploy the missile system.

“The complexity of global-security challenges is increasingly causing combatant commanders to request more Army forces,” US Army Capt. Gus Cunningham told Business Insider.

“With that said, THAAD is ready to respond to any request, at any time,” Cunningham added.

If a THAAD battery were deployed to South Korea, depending on its exact location, nearly all incoming missiles from the North could be eliminated, as displayed by the following graphic from The Heritage Foundation.

Pentagon advances F-35 vs A-10 Close Air Support testing
Heritage.org

Meanwhile, China is spooked over the potential THAAD assignment to South Korea.

Chinese Ambassador Qiu Guohong warned that basing the US-made THAAD missile system in South Korea would irreparably damage relations between the countries, The Chosunilbo reported.

THAAD deployment, Qiu said, “would break the strategic balance in the region and create a vicious cycle of Cold War-style confrontations and an arms race, which could escalate tensions.”

During his most recent visit to Beijing, Secretary of State John Kerry explained that the US was “not hungry or anxious or looking for an opportunity to deploy THAAD,” CNN reported.

“THAAD is a purely defensive weapon. It is purely capable of shooting down a ballistic missile it intercepts. And it is there for the protection of the United States,” Kerry said.

“If we can get to denuclearization, there’s no need to deploy THAAD,” he added.

How THAAD’s ‘hit to kill’ lethality works

Pentagon advances F-35 vs A-10 Close Air Support testing
USMDA | YouTube

Currently, there five THAAD batteries — each of approximately 100 soldiers — assigned to Ft. Bliss in El Paso, Texas.

One of those THAAD batteries was deployed to Guam in April 2013 in order to deter North Korean provocations and further defend the Pacific region.

Impressively, the THAAD interceptor does not carry a warhead. Instead, the interceptor missile uses pure kinetic energy to deliver “hit to kill” strikes to incoming ballistic threats inside or outside the atmosphere.

Each launcher carries up to eight missiles and can send multiple kill vehicles at once, depending on the severity of the threat.

Lockheed Martin’s missile launcher is just one element of the four-part antimissile system. The graphic below shows the rest of the components needed for each enemy-target interception.

Pentagon advances F-35 vs A-10 Close Air Support testing
Photo: Raytheon

THAAD’s first line of defense is its radar system.

“We have one of the most powerful radars in the world,” US Army Capt. Kyle Terza, a THAAD battery commander, told Business Insider.

Raytheon’s AN/TPY-2 radar is used to detect, track, and discriminate ballistic missiles in the terminal (or descent) phase of flight.

The mobile radar is about the size of a bus and is so powerful that it can scan areas the size of entire countries, according to Raytheon.

Pentagon advances F-35 vs A-10 Close Air Support testing
Raytheon’s AN/TPY-2 radar | Raytheon

Once an enemy threat has been identified, THAAD’s Fire Control and Communications (TFCC) support team kicks in. If there is a decision to engage the incoming missile, the launcher fires an interceptor to hunt for its target.

Here’s what the launch looks like from far away:

Pentagon advances F-35 vs A-10 Close Air Support testing
BMDA | YouTube

While in flight, the interceptor will track its target and obliterate it in the sky.

The following infrared imagery shows THAAD demolishing the target:

Pentagon advances F-35 vs A-10 Close Air Support testing
USMDA | YouTube

By the end of 2016, the US Missile Defense Agency (MDA) is scheduled to deliver an additional 48 THAAD interceptors to the US military, bringing the total up to 155, according to a statement from the MDA’s director, Vice Admiral J.D. Syring, given before the House Armed Service Committee.

According to the MDA, there are more than 6,300 ballistic missiles outside of US, NATO, Russian, and Chinese control.

While other US partners around the globe are interested in purchasing THAAD, the United Arab Emirates is the sole foreign buyer after signing a deal with the Department of Defense for $3.4 billion.

MIGHTY TRENDING

ISIS is asking its followers to take aim at this tropical destination

A recent Islamic State video calls upon would-be jihadis to join the terrorist group in the Philippines rather than the core caliphate in Syria, an NBC News analysis reveals.


The video specifically instructs any would-be travelers in the Asia-Pacific region to go to the Philippines instead of trying to travel to the core caliphate in Iraq and Syria.

“Come forth to the land of jihad. Perform hijrah. Come forth to … Marawi,” a militant instructs in the video.

ISIS fighters remain besieged in the Filipino city of Marawi, where it has mounted a months-long surprisingly robust insurgency. The battle for Marawai has displaced hundreds of thousands of residents and began during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. The terrorist group frequently uses the holy month as an excuse to mount some of its deadliest operations. Dozens of Filipino soldiers have been killed in the ensuing siege.

The group’s loss of territory has caused a concerted change in the terrorist organization’s propaganda efforts, which now tell fighters to either carry out attacks in their home countries or travel to one of the group’s affiliate chapters.

ISIS also has active affiliates in Afghanistan, Egypt, and Libya, each of which command the loyalty of hundreds, if not thousands, of fighters. Many of its affiliates have been linked to high-profile attacks in their host countries and even plots against the West.

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