The Afghan air force is trading its Hips for Blackhawks - We Are The Mighty
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The Afghan air force is trading its Hips for Blackhawks

The Pentagon has announced plans to replace the Afghan air force’s inventory of Russian-built Mi-17 “Hip” utility helicopters with American ones, stating that the purchase has turned out to be a bad deal.


According to a report by the Washington Times, the Hips will be replaced by UH-60 Blackhawks. The Russian-built helicopters reportedly were maintenance nightmares, with the Afghan Air Force unable to keep up with the logistical supported needed to address constant breakdowns.

The Afghan air force is trading its Hips for Blackhawks
A UH-60 Black Hawk medical evacuation helicopter lands as U.S. Army paratroopers secure the area in Afghanistan’s Ghazni province, July 23, 2012. The soldiers are assigned to the 82nd Airborne Division’s 1st Brigade Combat Team and the helicopter crew is assigned to the 82nd Combat Aviation Brigade. The soldiers evacuated a wounded insurgent. (US Army photo)

The Hips were initially chosen because defense planners thought Afghan pilots would be more familiar with the Russian-built helicopters. The Obama Administration had praised the Mi-17 in its last report on operations in Afghanistan, calling it the “workhorse” of the Afghan air force. The report noted that 56 Hips were authorized, and 47 were available.

According to Militaryfactory.com, the Mi-17 “Hip” has a crew of three and can carry a wide variety of offensive loads, including rocket pods, 23mm gun pods, and even anti-tank missiles. Army-Technology.com notes that the Russian-built helicopter can carry up to 30 troops.

Over 17,000 Mi-17s and the earlier version, the Mi-8, have been built since the Mi-8 first flew in 1961. The Hip has also been widely exported across the globe, being used by over 20 countries, including China, Argentina, Sri Lanka, Thailand, and Iraq.

The Afghan air force is trading its Hips for Blackhawks
Egyptian Mi-17. (Wikimedia Commons)

By comparison, the UH-60 Blackhawk, which also has a crew of three, can only carry 11 troops, according to manufacturer Lockheed Martin. However, the 13th Edition of the Combat Leader’s Field Guide notes that with the seats removed, a Blackhawk can carry up to 22 troops.

The Blackhawk is limited to door guns as its armament. Militaryfactory.com notes that the Blackhawk is used by 26 countries, including Poland, South Korea, Japan, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Argentina, Thailand, and Israel.

Some countries have both the UH-60 and Mi-17 in their inventories, notably Iraq, Argentina, China, Thailand, and Mexico.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Everything you need to know about Trump’s 2019 budget

President Donald Trump, on Feb. 12, 2018, released his budget request for fiscal 2019, marking the first step in a months-long process in which lawmakers from both chambers of Congress debate and, ultimately, decide on its funding levels and policy provisions.


Trump’s defense budget request for the fiscal year, beginning Oct. 1, totals $716 billion, including $686 billion for the Defense Department alone. The Pentagon’s top line includes a base budget of $597.1 billion and an overseas contingency operations, or war, budget of $89 billion. It represents a nearly 12 percent increase over the current year’s level of nearly $612 billion.

Also read: The military and its paychecks get a boost in the new budget

But defense spending as a share of the economy would remain relatively flat at roughly 3.1 percent, according to Pentagon budget documents, and the spending bump would be financed in part by deficit spending.

Here’s a breakdown of everything you need to know about the President’s budget request:

2.6% pay raise

The Defense Department proposed a 2.6 percent military pay raise for 2019 that would come on top of the 2.4 percent increase this year. “In support of the department’s effort to continue to build a bigger, more lethal and ready force, the FY2019 budget proposes a 2.6 percent increase in military basic pay,” the Pentagon said in releasing its budget request. The proposed raise, which would have to be approved by Congress and the White House, would amount to the largest military pay raise in nine years, the department said in the supporting papers for the budget request. Check out Military.com’s pay charts to see what the change would mean for you.

16K more troops

The proposed spending plan would add 16,400 more troops, bringing the size of the total force, including the Guard and Reserve components, to 2.15 million members. That figure differs from those published in the Pentagon’s overview budget document because it takes into account 2018 levels recently authorized by Congress. The additional troops would include 15,600 for the active component, with 1.3 million service members; and 800 for the Guard and Reserve, with 817,700 service members, respectively. Here’s how those figures break down: 4,000 soldiers for the active Army, 7,500 sailors for the Navy, 100 Marines for the Marine Corps, and 4,000 airmen for the Air Force; 100 sailors for the Navy Reserve, 200 airmen for the Air Force Reserve, and 500 airmen for the Air National Guard.

Related: White House wants $30B defense budget increase this year to rebuild military, fight ISIS

More aircraft, ships, vehicles

The president’s budget would fund a number of weapons systems designed to give the U.S. armed forces a technological edge over adversaries, including new missile interceptors and cyber operations. It would also fund a higher number of existing aircraft, ships and combat vehicles, including adding 77 F-35 Joint Strike Fighters, 24 F/A-18E/F Super Hornet fighter jets, 68 UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters, 250 B61 nuclear bomb upgrades, three Arleigh Burke-class destroyers, two fleet replenishment oilers, five satellite launches through the Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle program and 5,113 Joint Light Tactical Vehicles.

The Afghan air force is trading its Hips for Blackhawks
U.S. Air Force F-35A Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter. (Photo by Master Sgt. Donald R. Allen.)

Army

The Army is requesting $182 billion, including war funding, a 15 percent increase from $158 billion, according to budget documents. The service wants to continue growing its headcount, with funding for 4,000 soldiers for the active component, largely to resource fires, air defense and logistics units. The service would also purchase large quantities of long-range missiles and artillery shells, and would buy a higher number of aircraft such as the UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters made by Boeing Co.; combat vehicles including the Joint Light Tactical Vehicles made by Oshkosh Corp., and missile systems such as the Guided Multiple Launch Rocket System and the Army Tactical Missile System.

Navy

The Navy is requesting $194.1 billion, including war funding, a 12 percent increase from $173 billion in fiscal 2018, according to budget documents. However, the much-hailed jump-start in Navy shipbuilding to reach the larger fleet officials say the service needs represents only a small portion of the service’s requested funding increase. By 2023, the Navy expects to add 54 new ships, but most of them had already been part of long-term production plans. For 2019, the plan includes only one more ship than was budgeted in 2018: an additional Arleigh Burke-class destroyer, for a total purchase of three instead of two. The service is also set to add 7,600 sailors as its fleet grows, in part to man new Navy variant of the V-22 Osprey, the CMV-22.

The Afghan air force is trading its Hips for Blackhawks
Marine Corps MV-22 Ospreys fly over the Arabian Sea. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Keonaona C. Paulo)

Air Force

The Air Force is requesting $194.1 billion, including war funding, a 14 percent increase. The proposal would increase the size of the service’s active-duty end strength to just over 329,100 airmen, an increase of 4,000 airmen over the current year, according to the documents. The Air National Guard is requesting another 500 airmen; the Air Force Reserve wants another 200 airmen. The spending plan also includes funding to train nearly 1,000 pilots to deal with a chronic shortage; buy more F-35A Joint Strike Fighters, MQ-9 Reaper drones, KC-46 tankers; develop the future B-21 bomber; and replenish the stockpile of precision-guided munitions such as the Joint Direct Attack Munition, or JDAM, and Hellfire missiles.

More reading: Defense budget spotlight: What do weapons really cost?

Marine Corps

Part of the Navy’s fiscal 2019 budget request, the Marine Corps is asking for $28.9 billion, a nearly 5 percent increase. As a second rotation of Marine advisers begins work in Helmand province, Afghanistan, and other units continue to fight ISIS in the Middle East, the budget request features a significant increase in big guns and artillery rockets — as well as a plus-up of some 1,100 Marines, including 2018 manning increases. There are significant procurement outlays as the Marine Corps makes big investments in its CH-53K King Stallion, slated to replace the CH-53E Super Stallion heavy lift helicopter in coming years, and continues to pursue the amphibious combat vehicle 1.1. Among the most eye-catching planned buys, however, are in ground weapons systems, including 155mm towed howitzers and high mobility artillery rocket systems, or HIMARS.

Coast Guard

The Coast Guard asked for about $11.7 billion in funding for fiscal 2019, an increase of $979 million, or 8.4 percent, over its previous request. The additional money would include $750 million for a new heavy icebreaker slated for delivery in 2023. The funding would go toward building “the Nation’s first new heavy Polar Icebreaker in over 40 years,” a budget document states. In other big-ticket equipment items, the service’s budget request also includes $400 million in funding for an offshore patrol cutter and $240 million in funding to buy four new fast response cutters (FRCs), designed to replace the 110-foot patrol boats and to enhance the service’s ability to conduct search-and-rescue operations, enforce border security, interdict drugs, uphold immigration laws and prevent terrorism.

The Afghan air force is trading its Hips for Blackhawks
The Coast Guard Cutter Polar Star, with 75,000 horsepower and its 13,500-ton weight, is guided by its crew to break through Antarctic ice en route to the National Science Foundation’s McMurdo Station, Jan. 15, 2017. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Chief Petty Officer David Mosley)

Veterans Affairs

The Veterans Affairs Department requested $199 billion, an increase of $12 billion, or 6.5 percent, from the current request. The plan includes nearly $110 billion in mandatory funding for benefits programs and $89 billion in discretionary funding, with the goal of “expanding health-care services, improving quality and expanding choice to over 9 million enrolled Veterans,” the VA said. The budget includes money for the Veterans Choice Program, which allows vets to seek private-sector care. It also includes another $1.2 billion for a costly effort begun in 2011 to make health records electronic and reintroduces a controversial proposal to round-down cost-of-living (COLA) adjustments to the nearest dollar for vets who receive disability compensation — a practice that was standard until 2013, Stars and Stripes reported.

MIGHTY TRENDING

A top Russian officer wanted to duel opposition leader

Legal jockeying is continuing between a top Russian opposition leader and the chief of the country’s national guard, disappointing everyone who was hoping they would settle their differences in martial combat after the head of the National Guard really, actually, apparently sincerely challenged the opposition politician to an old-fashioned duel.


The Afghan air force is trading its Hips for Blackhawks

Alexei Navalny, the head of the Russia of the Future Party and the founder of the Anti-Corruption Foundation, received a duel challenge from the head of the country’s national guard. The general in command said he was going to beat this beautiful face into mincemeat.

(MItya Aleshkovskiy, CC BY-SA 3.0)

In Post-Soviet Russia, military defends itself (and, allegedly, its tens of millions of dollars in ill-gotten gains).

If you haven’t heard about the quarrel, it all started when Alexei Navalny, the leader of the Russia of the Future Party, noticed that the head of the Russian National Guard seemed to be living well beyond his apparent means while the government was paying exorbitant prices for supplies for the armed services.

Navalny thought there was a chance that the general, Viktor Zolotov, who happens to be a former bodyguard of Russian President Vladimir Putin, was taking kickbacks or bribes from contract bidders. Navalny got his nonprofit Anti-Corruption Foundation to look into Zolotov’s actions in August 2018. The foundation later alleged that at least million was stolen from the National Guard.

Navalny tends to get arrested anytime he accuses someone too senior of corruption — arrests which the European Human Rights Court view as politically motivated in every case they’ve reviewed about Navalny — and he was subsequently arrested soon after making the accusations against Zolotov.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SINCU48hEFM
Putin’s ex bodyguard says he can make mincemeat out of Alexei Navalny

youtu.be

(It’s important to note that, even assuming that the August 2018 arrest was political, it could’ve been for other political reasons than the accusations against Zolotov. Navalny is always angering Putin by pointing out corrupt practices, and there are usually four or five political reasons for the Kremlin to jail him at any time.)

In September, while Navalny was in prison, Zolotov challenged his accuser to a duel at any place. While our sources say that trial by combat isn’t a thing anymore, even in Russia, admit that you would pay to watch a possibly-corrupt general fight his political opponent. Zolotov reportedly said that he would beat Navalny into mincemeat within minutes.

Fortunately for pedants and unfortunately for blood-seekers, Navalny accepted but specified that the weapons would be words.

Yeah, he answered a challenge of a duel by accepting it as a debate. Dangit, Navalny, you may be a social-media savvy anti-corruption activist, but you have no idea how to entertain the crowd at a coliseum. We want blood.

Zolotov went back on his challenge, presumably because he had been hoping to use spears or claymore swords or maybe even claymore mines. (I’d pay double to watch a claymore-mine duel.) And now the fight is playing out in court. The initial case was thrown out December 17 on a series of technicalities. It turns out, Zolotov’s lawyer wasn’t particularly good with words, because the lawsuit had “discrepancies contradicting Russia’s Civic Procedural Code.”

Zolotov has until January 9 to re-file his lawsuit. We’ll update this story if it turns to duels again. No promises if it remains a legal battle.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Combat Flip Flops are all about freedom — and not just for your feet

‘Tis the season for the giving of gifts. ‘Tis also the season of FOMUG (Fear Of Messed Up Gifting). We get it. It’s hard out there for an elf. Team WATM would like to offer you some guidance.


For the person of leisure (POL):

~ Footwear fabricated for you by warzone friendlies ~

The Afghan air force is trading its Hips for Blackhawks

Matthew “Griff” Griffin’s company, Combat Flip Flops, found its mission somewhat off the beaten path of American vetrepreneurship — somewhat outside the parameters that veteran-owned businesses usually set for themselves.

Returning from his tours in Iraq, the former Army Ranger found himself wondering what role, if any, the private business sector might play in stabilizing some of the international communities that the U.S. military has been laboring through the first decades of this century to liberate.

Read: Ranger takes flip flop company from Kabul to the Shark Tank

Many vets return from war looking to brush the dirt off their shoulders and get on with the business of living as free and fortunate Americans. The businesses that veterans found are most often designed to put other vets to work, while giving back to veteran causes here on the home front.

And make no mistake, that is good and proper — and WATM goes out of its way to shine the light of public awareness wherever we find such stories unfolding.

But Combat Flip Flops’ approach is just different enough to make us pause and reflect. Is there another way, now that we’re home, to support the mission we fought overseas to advance? Matthew Griffin thinks so.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gwT83EgpxL0
Combat Flip Flops sells goods – from the eponymous sandals and sneakers to bags, scarves, and accessories – that are manufactured by workers in war-torn countries, the proceeds of which go to fund business development and education for the people of those communities.

The Afghan air force is trading its Hips for Blackhawks

Griffin’s goal is to attack the vicious cycle of poverty begetting local violence begetting regional instability begetting the kind of endemic violence that requires U.S. military intervention.

Combat Flip Flops currently manufactures its shoes in factories in narco-insurgent Columbia. Their employees in Afghanistan, many of them women, make their scarves and sarongs. They sell jewelry made from detonated landmines and funnel a portion of the profits back to mine-clearing efforts in Laos. And they’re always looking for new synergies.

The Afghan air force is trading its Hips for Blackhawks

Combat Flip Flops is investing in the economic health and social well-being of communities living in the wake of warfare. They recognize that, by the very nature of the mission, veterans and active duty personnel are the de facto sales reps of 21st century American democracy to some of the most at-risk communities in the modern world. And when combat in these areas concludes, the message shouldn’t just be “You’re Welcome.”

With the right kind of private sector support, it can be shorter and much more profound. The message can simply be “Welcome.”

The 2017 We Are The Mighty Holiday Gift Guide is sponsored by Propper, a tactical apparel and gear company dedicated to equipping those who commit their lives to serving others. All views are our own.

Speaking of Propper, they’re giving away twelve tactical packs filled with gear from our Holiday Gift Guide. Click this link to enter.

The Afghan air force is trading its Hips for Blackhawks

Articles

North Korea now has a nuclear-capable missile that can hit the US

The Afghan air force is trading its Hips for Blackhawks
North Korea has developed the ability to miniaturize nuclear warheads and launch them at the US, the admiral in charge of the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) said at a Pentagon press conference on April 7.


Adm. Bill Gortney told reporters that, according to the Pentagon’s assessment, North Korea now has the capability to place miniaturized nuclear warheads on its latest KN-08 intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM).

Pyongyang has “the ability to put a nuclear weapon on a KN-08 and shoot it at the homeland,” Gortney said.

This union of highly advanced military capabilities places an additional strain on US missile defense. The KN-08 is a road-mobile ICBM, meaning that Pyongyang can move the launch system throughout the country.

“It’s the relocatable target set that really impedes our ability to find, fix, and finish the threat,” Gortney said. “And as the targets move around and we if don’t have the persistent stare and persistent [intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance] that we do not have over North Korea at this time, that relocatable nature makes it very difficult for us to counter it.”

North Korea experts John Schilling and Henry Kan estimate that the KN-08 would have a maximum range of 5,600 miles, making the missile capable of hitting the West Coast of the Continental US. However, the weapon is unlikely to have the accuracy required for precision targeting on large US cities.

The missile also has yet to be flight tested, raising questions, most prominently from South Korea’s Ministry of Defense, as to whether the missile can even be outfitted with a nuclear warhead.

However, Gortney said the Pentagon continues to believe that Pyongyang has a miniaturized nuclear weapon, and a delivery system capable of reaching the US.

Gortney did qualify his statement by saying noting that it is better to be prepared for a North Korean nuclear capability even if there’s uncertainty as to the actual state of their technology. And he believes that the US could easily deflect a North Korean nuclear strike.

“Should one get airborne and come at us I’m confident we would be able to knock it down,” Gortney reassured reporters.

You can view Gortney’s testimony below:

H/t The Lowy Institute

More from Business Insider:

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Lawmakers want to give $2,500 bonus to GWOT vets

Two U.S. lawmakers on March 4, 2019, introduced legislation to pay veterans bonuses for serving in America’s longest war.

Sens. Rand Paul, R-Kentucky, and Tom Udall, D-New Mexico, introduced the bipartisan American Forces Going Home After Noble (AFGHAN) Service Act to “honor the volunteers who bravely serve our nation by providing bonuses to those who have deployed in support of the Global War on Terrorism, and redirect the savings from ending nation-building in Afghanistan to America’s needs at home,” according to an announcement.


If passed, the AFGHAN Service Act would also permanently end America’s involvement in Afghanistan and overturn the 2001 Authorization for the Use of Military Force, said the lawmakers, who serve on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

“It is time to declare the victory we achieved long ago, bring them home, and put America’s needs first,” Paul said.

The Afghan air force is trading its Hips for Blackhawks

A machine gun crew with the 82nd Airborne Division’s 2nd Battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment, sets up an overwatch position during a foot patrol May 8, 2012, Ghazni Province, Afghanistan.

(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Michael J. MacLeod)

“Soon, U.S. service members will begin deploying to Afghanistan to fight in a war that began before they were born,” Udall said. “It is Congress that has failed to conduct the proper oversight of this nearly 18-year war. Now, we must step up, and listen to the American people — who rightly question the wisdom of such endless wars.”

The bill would order the government to pay any and all members of the military who have served in the Global War on Terrorism a ,500 bonus within one year of the legislation passing, according to the AFGHAN Service Act.

“Since 2001, more than 3,002,635 men and women of the United States Armed Forces have deployed in support of the Global War on Terrorism, with more than 1,400,000 of them deploying more than once,” the bill states.

“This would be a one-time cost of approximately billion and an immediate savings of over 83 percent when compared to the current yearly costs. The billion a year can be redirected to domestic priorities.”

The lawmakers argue that the numbers alone give reason to step away from the conflict.

The Afghan air force is trading its Hips for Blackhawks

Soldiers with the 101st Airborne Division patrol a small village during an air assault mission in eastern Afghanistan, Nov. 4, 2008.

(Photo by Spc. Mary L. Gonzalez)

“Over 2,300 military members have sacrificed their lives in the war, with another 20,000 wounded in action. In addition, the Afghanistan war has cost the United States trillion, with the war currently costing over billion a year,” they said.

The end to the war would come as peace negotiations with the Taliban are ongoing, and al-Qaida’s footprint in the country is shrinking, they added.

“The masterminds of the [Sept. 11] attack are no longer capable of carrying out such an attack from Afghanistan,” they said. “Osama bin Laden was killed in 2011, and [al-Qaida] has been all but eliminated from Afghanistan.”

If enacted, the legislation gives Pentagon and State Department leaders, among others, 45 days to formulate a plan for an orderly withdrawal and turnover of facilities to the Afghan government.

The goal is to remove all U.S. forces from Afghanistan within one year of the bill’s passage.

The Afghan air force is trading its Hips for Blackhawks

Soldiers of Alpha Company, 2nd Battalion, 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment move into position to support the Afghan National Police.

(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Michael L. Casteel)

Paul and Udall’s message comes as a coalition of Democratic lawmakers has endorsed a veteran activist organization’s efforts to end the “forever wars” in Afghanistan and Iraq, among other global hot spots, and finally bring U.S. troops home.

Common Defense, a grassroots group comprised of veterans and military families that stood up after the 2016 election, has secured sponsorship from lawmakers and presidential hopefuls such as Sens. Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont, and Elizabeth Warren, D-Massachusetts.

Both initiatives mirror President Donald Trump’s vision to reduce the U.S. troop presence in Afghanistan and instead focus on counterterrorism and peace negotiations with a smaller footprint in the region.

In his State of the Union address in February 2019, Trump highlighted the need to pull out of Afghanistan.

“Great nations do not fight endless wars,” he said.

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Afghanistan’s opium production is out of control

Afghanistan has long been one of the world’s biggest producers of opium, which is used to make heroin, and the Taliban has made a lucrative business from taxing and providing security to producers and smugglers in the region.


But the militant group has expanded its role in that drug trade considerably, boosting its profits at a time when it is making decisive gains against the Afghan government and its US backers.

Read More: Afghanistan is producing record numbers of opium

According to a New York Times report, the Taliban has gotten involved in every stage of the drug business. Afghan police and their US advisers find heroin-refining labs with increasingly frequency, but the labs are easy to replace.

The country has produced the majority of the world’s opium for some time, despite billions of dollars spent by the US to fight it during the 16-year-long war there. Afghan and Western officials now say that rather than getting smuggled out of Afghanistan in the form of opium syrup, at least half of the crop is getting processed domestically, before leaving the country as morphine or heroin.

The Afghan air force is trading its Hips for Blackhawks
Afghan contractors unload bags of fertilizer at the Nawa district government building compound in the Helmand province of Afghanistan Oct. 13, 2009. The Afghan government is distributing the fertilizer to residents to support alternatives to poppy. (DoD photo by Lance Cpl. Jeremy Harris, U.S. Marine Corps/Released)

Those forms are easier to smuggle, and they are much more valuable for the Taliban, which reportedly draws at least 60% of its income from the drug trade. With its increasing focus on trafficking drugs, the Taliban has taken on more of the functions a drug cartel.

“They receive more revenues if they process it before it has left the country,” William Brownfield, former US Assistant Secretary for Drugs and Law Enforcement, told reporters in the Afghan capital Kabul earlier this year. “Obviously we are dealing with very loose figures, but drug trafficking amounts to billions of dollars every year from which the Taliban is taking a substantial percentage.”

An Afghan farmer can be paid about $163 for a kilo of raw opium, which is like a black sap. Once it is refined into heroin, it can be sold for $2,300 to $3,500 a kilo at regional markets. In Europe it has a wholesale value of about $45,000.

Opium-poppy cultivation in Afghanistan has been consistently high since the US invasion in 2001. In 2016, there was a 10% jump in the area under cultivation, making it one of the three highest years on record. Initial data indicated 2017 was another record year, according to The Times, with government eradication efforts continue to be stymied throughout the country.

The Afghan air force is trading its Hips for Blackhawks
U.S. Marines assigned to the female engagement team (FET) of I Marine Expeditionary Force (Forward) conduct a patrol alongside a poppy field while visiting Afghan settlements in Boldak, Afghanistan, April 5, 2010. (DoD photo by Cpl. Lindsay L. Sayres, U.S. Marine Corps/Released)

Seizures of chemical precursors, which are needed to process opium, have spiked, and the amount of processed morphine and heroin seized has risen considerably, now outstripping that of opium.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani has said that without drugs, the war in Afghanistan “would have been long over,” and a senior Afghan official told The Times that, “If an illiterate local Taliban commander in Helmand makes a million dollars a month now, what does he gain in time of peace?”

Read More: This Afghan warlord gave up the fight in exchange for amnesty

The Trump administration has said its new strategy in Afghanistan is aimed at convincing the group there is no way to win on the battlefield, but its growing role in the drug trade is likely to make some elements of the Taliban less disposed to negotiations with the Kabul.

“This trend has real consequences for peace and security in Afghanistan, as it encourages those within the Taliban movement who have the greatest economic incentives to oppose any meaningful process of reconciliation with the new government,” the UN has said.

The Taliban’s move into heroin processing comes as it gains ground against the government, particularly in areas where the drug is produced.

The Afghan air force is trading its Hips for Blackhawks
Opium poppy cultivation in Afghanistan by province. 2016 (image UNODOC screen grab)

At the end of 2016, the Taliban was thought to control more territory than at any time since 2001, and the Afghan government has reportedly lost control of 5% of its territory this year.

A unit of several hundred Afghan commandos, working with US special-forces advisers, is tasked with interdicting the flow of drugs. But their work is often undermined by Afghan officials (including ones from their own unit) complicit in the drug trade or hindered by insecurity that persists in much of the country.

“In Helmand, we were targeting to do more than 2,000 to 3,000 hectares of eradication,” Javid Qaem, Afghanistan’s deputy minister of narcotics, told The Times. “We couldn’t do anything there, none at all, because Helmand was almost an active battlefield, the entire province.”

Helmand, home to an estimated 80% of Afghanistan’s opium poppies, is a “big drug factory,” a Western official told AFP earlier this year. “Helmand is all about drugs, poppy and Taliban,” he said.

The Afghan air force is trading its Hips for Blackhawks
Source: UNODC, main trafficking flows of heroin

While the US Drug Enforcement Administration has said that a minuscule portion of the heroin seized in the US is from Southwest Asia, heroin sourced to Afghanistan makes up a significant amount of what is found on the street in Europe.

The State Department has said 90% of the heroin found in Canada and 85% of that found in the UK can be tracked back to Afghanistan.

Read More: 6 employees fired from US embassy in Afghanistan for drug violations

According to the 2017 European Drug Report, “most heroin found in Europe is thought to be manufactured [in Afghanistan] or in neighbouring Iran or Pakistan.” (Drug addiction has exploded in Iran, with opium making up two-thirds of consumption.)

Heroin is Europe’s most common opioid, with an estimated retail value between 6 billion and 7.8 billion euros, according to the report, produced by the European Monitoring Center for Drugs and Drug Addiction.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Britain’s new carrier just set sail on its first ever mission

The Royal Navy’s largest-ever warship is taking another step towards deploying on operations, and is training at sea with military aircraft for the first time.


HMS Queen Elizabeth, the first in a new class of British military vessels, sailed out of Portsmouth Naval Base on Feb. 2, 2018, to learn how to work with helicopters on the open waters.

The huge ship, which weighs 65,000 tonnes, is undergoing tests and training in pursuit of its ultimate aim of launching F35-B Lightning jets from its 280-meter flight deck.

Here are the best images of the departure, and its voyage so far:

This is HMS Queen Elizabeth, making its first voyage as an official member of the Royal Navy. Tugboats steered her past the Round Tower which guards the mouth of Portsmouth Harbour. At 56m tall, the carrier dwarfed it.

The Afghan air force is trading its Hips for Blackhawks
(Crown Copyright)

The carrier has sailed before, but only joined the Navy for keeps in December, when it was commissioned by Queen Elizabeth II in a grand ceremony.

The highlight was an enormous cake shaped exactly like the ship.

Also read: The Royal Navy just commissioned its biggest ship ever

Here’s the carrier heading past Portsmouth’s Spinnaker Tower, with tugboats and a police escort.

The Afghan air force is trading its Hips for Blackhawks
(Crown Copyright)

This is the view of the Queen Elizabeth and the other ships from behind.

The Afghan air force is trading its Hips for Blackhawks
(Crown Copyright)

It’s an impressive piece of hardware — here’s a visual rundown of its stats from the manufacturers.

The Afghan air force is trading its Hips for Blackhawks
(Aircraft Carrier Alliance)

The stern of the ship flew Britain’s Naval Ensign, a flag used by military ships at sea.

 

 

And the Royal Navy uploaded social media video of the carrier in transit.

 

 

Ahead of the departure, two twin-engine Chinook transporter helicopters landed on board, and will take part in the trials.

The Afghan air force is trading its Hips for Blackhawks
(Crown Copyright)

Here’s how the Royal Navy described the purpose of the exercise:

“The aim of the trials is to work out the conditions that the aircraft can operate in while at sea on the carrier.”

“They will collect data about the landings, take-offs and manoeuvres in different wind and sea conditions, before processing the information and ultimately declaring that the ship can safely operate the aircraft.”

Related: Queen Elizabeth II’s time in WWII makes her the most hardcore head of state

Here’s another view of the choppers.

The Afghan air force is trading its Hips for Blackhawks
(Crown Copyright)

Chinooks are a mainstay of British air power, and have been in service since 1980.

The 30 metre-long tandem helicopters can carry around 55 people, or 10 tonnes of freight, and fly at around 180mph.

They are not combat craft, but can be equipped with two miniguns and a machine gun.

A few days after, Merlin helicopters flew out to join in, dispatched from Culdrose Royal Naval Air Station in Cornwall.

The Afghan air force is trading its Hips for Blackhawks
(Crown Copyright)

Merlins are a medium-sized transport helicopter. They can carry around 30 troops each and fly at speeds in excess of 190mph.

The Afghan air force is trading its Hips for Blackhawks
(Crown Copyright)

As well as carrying people, they can also carry weapons, such as torpedos and depth charges.

They can also act as scouts, thanks to advanced sensor systems onboard. Each one can scan the seas and send information back to the Queen Elizabeth from hundreds of miles away.

More: How the Indian Navy suddenly became a major power

Eventually, 14 Merlins will be stationed on the Queen Elizabeth full-time.

The Queen Elizabeth is the first “twin-island” aircraft carrier in the world. Most carriers have one tower on deck to steer the ship and handle the aircraft, but the Queen Elizabeth split the tasks. They tweeted a view of the assembled helicopters for the read tower, used for flight.

 

Eventually, HMS Queen Elizabeth ship will carry F-35B Lightning fighter jets, which will launch from its ski jump-style ramp. Here’s an F-35B in action.

The Afghan air force is trading its Hips for Blackhawks
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Carlos Jimenez)

In the future, the Queen Elizabeth could also be a platform for drones. Here’s a Northrop Grumman X-47B.

The Afghan air force is trading its Hips for Blackhawks
(Photo: Northrop Grumman)

Captain Jerry Kyd, the commanding officer of HMS Queen Elizabeth, told Business Insider in an interview last year that “it’s an absolute inevitability that [drones are] going to be embarked on this ship in the near future.”

The carrier was last seen off the coast of Cornwall, the southwestern tip of the UK. This photo was taken by a local newspaper photographer, showing the ship near the St Michael’s Mount landmark.

 

 

HMS Queen Elizabeth’s next stop is reportedly Gibratlar, a British territory bordering Spain.

Articles

This Iraq War vet’s debut novel is provocative and right

While deployed to Iraq in 2007, the U.S. Army’s then-Captain Matt Gallagher started a blog called Kaboom that quickly became very popular … and controversial — so controversial, in fact, that the Army shut it down.


After he separated from the military, Gallagher compiled the best of the blog into his 2010 memoir, “Kaboom: Embracing the Suck in a Savage Little War.”  He has since written for the New York Times, The Atlantic, The Daily Beast, and Boston Review, among others. Now, with an Master’s degree from Columbia, he’s writing fiction. This week saw the debut of his first work of fiction, “Youngblood: A Novel.”

The Afghan air force is trading its Hips for Blackhawks

The U.S. military is preparing to withdraw from Iraq, and newly-minted lieutenant Jack Porter struggles to accept how it’s happening—through alliances with warlords who have Arab and American blood on their hands. Day after day, Jack tries to assert his leadership in the sweltering, dreary atmosphere of Ashuriyah. But his world is disrupted by the arrival of veteran Sgt. Daniel Chambers, whose aggressive style threatens to undermine the fragile peace that the troops have worked hard to establish.

Irreverent but dedicated like a modern day Candide, Jack struggles with his place in Iraq War history. He soon discovers a connection between Sgt. Chambers and and a recently killed soldier. The more the lieutenant digs into the matter, the more questions arise. The soldier and Rana, a local sheikh’s daughter, appeared to have been in love and what Jack finds implicates the increasingly popular Chambers.What follows finds Jack defying his command as Iraq falls further into chaos.

Gallagher’s storytelling is compelling and his characters are vibrant. “Youngblood” immediately immerses the reader into the Iraq War, defying genre and perspective. We equally see the war from the soldiers who fought there and the Iraqis who lived it, while Gallagher weaves a narrative that is engaging, thoughtful, and thought provoking.

Youngblood: A Novel” is on sale now.

Editor’s note: Catch Matt Gallagher’s Reddit AMA or read his recent opinion piece in the New York Times welcoming us to the “Age of Commando,” where he describes the public fascination with special operations forces in the military today.

 

Articles

On the 75th anniversary of Pearl Harbor, remembering the tragedy

The Afghan air force is trading its Hips for Blackhawks
Sailors stand amid wrecked planes at the Ford Island seaplane base, watching as USS Shaw (DD-373) explodes in the center background. | US Navy photo


In the decades that followed World War II, the attack on Pearl Harbor had faded somewhat in the American public’s memory.

The attacks of 9/11 changed all of that. “All those bad memories surged forward again,” said James C. McNaughton, who served as command historian for U.S. Army Pacific from 2001 to 2005. Today, he is the director of Histories Division at the Army Center of Military History.

Just weeks after the 9/11 attacks, McNaughton attended a ceremony commemorating the 60th anniversary of Japan’s surprise attack on Pearl Harbor. At the ceremony, he found himself among a large number of World War II veterans and Pearl Harbor survivors. Both attacks, McNaughton believes, were on all of their minds.

McNaughton attributes the fading memory of the events that transpired at Pearl Harbor 75 years ago, in part, to World War II veterans’ reticence to share their own wartime memories.

McNaughton’s own father, who served as a Marine participating in the Central Pacific campaign, was reluctant to discuss his wartime experiences.

Three missions

The story of the devasting Japanese air strike on U.S. naval forces that day has been well documented, McNaughton observed — less so the Army’s role in the response.

At the time of the attack, 43,000 Soldiers were on active duty in Hawaii, where they were tasked with three primary missions, the first of which was to protect the territory of Hawaii from an invasion. (Hawaii remained a territory until statehood in 1959.)

“It was not beyond the realm of possibility that the Imperial Japanese Navy could carry out an invasion,” he explained. “They didn’t do so, but the Army could not be sure, so it deployed combat troops to defend the beaches.”

The second was to defend the fleet with coast artillery and anti-aircraft artillery. Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. George C. Marshall Jr. had made it very clear to the highest ranking Army officer, Lt. Gen. Walter Short, commander, U.S. Army Hawaiian Department, that his No. 1 mission was to protect the fleet, McNaughton said.

The Afghan air force is trading its Hips for Blackhawks
oeing B-17D Fortresses of the 5th Bombardment Group overfly the main gate at Hickam Field, Hawaii territory during the summer of 1941. 21 B-17C/Ds had been flown out to Hawaii during May to reinforce the defenses of the islands. | Photo Credit U.S. Army Air Corps

Before 1940, the U.S Pacific Fleet had been based in San Diego. President Franklin D. Roosevelt, for his own diplomatic reasons, had ordered the Navy to re-base itself at Pearl Harbor, according to McNaughton. The move added to the Army’s defensive responsibilities.

The third mission was training, he said.

By 1940, World War II had already engulfed much of Europe and the Pacific, and Americans were beginning to realize their involvement might be inevitable. For the Army’s part, they were organizing and training units — from squad to regiment and division. They were even conducting field exercises and basic training concurrently.

Besides ground forces, the Army at that time also included the Army Air Corps. “They were trying to train flight crews and mechanics and use the limited aircraft they had on hand,” McNaughton said. “This was a fairly green Army.”

The Afghan air force is trading its Hips for Blackhawks
Retired Army Master Sgt. Thomas V. Panettiere Sr., from the Bronx in Hawaii, several months after the Pearl Harbor attack with his unit (he’s the one holding the guitar). He was one of the millions of Soldiers, Sailors and Marines who were in Hawaii during World War II, on their way to various island campaigns in the Pacific. | Photo courtesy of Thomas V. Panettiere Jr.

The National Guard and Organized Reserve had been mobilized as recently as 1940 and the draft, known as the Selective Training and Service Act, wasn’t instituted until Sept. 16 that same year.

In 1940, fewer than 270,000 Soldiers were on active duty. That number would climb to about 7 million by 1943.

Set up for failure

By late 1941, the Army in Hawaii was trying to juggle all three missions. “In my judgment, they couldn’t do all three,” McNaughton said. “They spread themselves too thin. Ultimately they failed.”

Coordination between the services was also poor, he said. The Army and the Navy on Hawaii had separate chains of command, and they engaged in very little coordination, at least in practical terms.

Early Sunday morning, the day of the attack, Adm. Husband E. Kimmel, commander-in-chief of the U.S. Pacific Fleet based at Pearl Harbor and his counterpart, Short, were preparing for their weekly golf game, McNaughton explained. Every Sunday morning, the two flag officers would play golf, enabling them to “check the box” for joint coordination.

“Well, you need more than that,” McNaughton said. “And that’s what they didn’t do.”

The Afghan air force is trading its Hips for Blackhawks
Hickam Field, Hawaii, under attack Dec. 7, 1941. An Army B-17 Fortress is in the foreground. | Photo credit: National Archives

In 1946, according to the Army’s official history, “Guarding the United States and Its Outposts,” the Congressional Pearl Harbor Joint Committee concluded:

“There was a complete failure in Hawaii of effective Army-Navy liaison during the critical period and no integration of Army and Navy facilities and efforts for defense. Neither of the responsible commanders really knew what the other was doing with respect to essential military activities.”

Senior Navy and Army leaders relieved Kimmel and Short of their commands within days after the attack, and they were never fully exonerated.

Early warning signs

Failure of the services to coordinate had real consequences on the morning of Dec. 7, 1941.

In the pre-dawn hours, a submarine periscope was spotted near Pearl Harbor, where there shouldn’t have been any submarines. At 6:37 a.m., the destroyer USS Ward dropped depth charges, destroying the submarine. The incident was then reported to the Navy chain of command.

Meanwhile, at the Opana Radar Site on the north shore of Oahu, radar operators Pvt. Joseph L. Lockard and Pvt. George Elliott detected an unusually large formation of aircraft approaching the island from the north at 7:02 a.m.

At the time, radar was experimental technology, and operators manned it just 3 to 7 a.m., McNaughton said. Usually, the radar was shut off at 7 a.m. for the rest of the day. It was only because the truck that took Lockard and Elliott to breakfast was late that the radar was still on at 7:02 a.m.

The operators had never seen such a large number of blips before, according to McNaughton. They called 1st Lt. Kermit A. Tyler, an Air Corps pilot who was an observer that morning at Fort Shafter’s Radar Information Center.

“Don’t worry about it,” Tyler told them. He had heard that a flight of B-17 bombers was en route from Hamilton Field, California, that morning.

If the Army and Navy had been in communication, McNaughton believes, they might have recognized the signs of the coming attack: the sighting of a large aircraft formation coming in from the north and the sighting of a submarine at the mouth of Pearl Harbor.

“If you put those two together, you might want to put everyone on full alert. But they didn’t,” he said. “There was no integration of intelligence from the two services. So the only warning they got was when the bombs started to fall.”

The attack commences

The first of two waves of some 360 Japanese fighters, bombers and torpedo planes began the attack at 7:48 a.m., having launched from six aircraft carriers north of Oahu.

The Afghan air force is trading its Hips for Blackhawks
An Aichi D3A Type 99 kanbaku (dive bomber) launches from the Imperial Japanese Navy aircraft carrier Akagi to participate in the second wave during the attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. | Photo courtesy of the Makiel Collection via Ron Wenger

While many of the Imperial Japanese Navy aircraft attacked the fleet, other planes attacked all the airfields on the island, including Wheeler Field next to Schofield Barracks.

Among the 2,403 Americans killed, 2,008 were Sailors, 218 were Soldiers, 109 were Marines and 68 were civilians, according to a National World War II Museum Pearl Harbor fact sheet.

Of the aircraft destroyed, 92 were Navy and 77 were Army Air Corps. Two battleships were destroyed and six were damaged; three cruisers were damaged; one auxiliary vessel was destroyed and three were damaged; and three destroyers were damaged, according to the fact sheet.

The Afghan air force is trading its Hips for Blackhawks
The USS Arizona (BB-39) burning after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. | Creative Commons photo

The carriers USS Enterprise, USS Saratoga and USS Lexington were out on maneuvers and were not spotted by the Japanese.

Within minutes of the attack, Navy anti-aircraft guns opened up. The guns were firing at planes in all directions. A number of stray Navy anti-aircraft gun rounds fell in populated areas of Honolulu, killing more than a dozen civilians.

However, the Army’s anti-aircraft gunners at first struggled to engage the enemy because their guns were not in firing positions and the guns’ ammunition was in a separate location, where it was under lock and key.

“You can imagine them looking for the ammunition sergeant who had the keys at 8 a.m. Sunday,” McNaughton said. “It took them a while, but some guns did eventually get into action.”

Why weren’t the Army guns in position?

Short complained afterward that he had received ambiguous guidance from Washington. He said he was instructed to be prepared to defend against an attack but not to alarm the civilian population, which setting the anti-aircraft guns in position might have done.

Even so, the Army, with four regiments of anti-aircraft artillery in Oahu, had rehearsed defense against air raids. “They knew it was a possibility,” McNaughton said. “But certainly they were caught by surprise.”

Nevertheless, Soldiers found some means to counter-attack. At Army installations, Army men fired back with machine guns and other weapons at attacking enemy dive bombers and fighters, according to “Guarding the United States and Its Outposts.”

One of the Soldiers who lived through that day at Schofield Barracks was Cpl. James Jones, who later depicted the chaos in a 1951 novel, “From Here to Eternity,” which was eventually made into a movie that garnered eight Academy Awards.

As for the Army Air Corps, they eventually got 12 aircraft in the air and shot down a few Japanese planes. Ultimately, though, the Army Air Corps was overwhelmed. The vast majority of Soldiers killed in action that day were in the Army Air Corps, McNaughton noted.

The Army Air Corps flight of 12 B-17 Fortress Bombers — the aircraft that Tyler thought the radar operators had spotted — arrived in the middle of the attack. They were unarmed and almost out of fuel.

The aircraft landed at various airfields, and one landed on a golf course. One of the aircraft was destroyed by the Japanese, and three were badly damaged, according to “Guarding the United States and Its Outposts.”

“Just imagine, it’s supposed to be a routine peacetime flight and you show up in the middle of the biggest air battle the U.S. had ever seen,” McNaughton said. “Not a good situation.”

No plan for invasion

In fact, the Japanese never planned to invade Hawaii, McNaughton said. Rather, they wanted to cripple the U.S. Pacific fleet so it could not interfere with their plans to seize European colonies in Southeast Asia.

At the time, Army and Navy signals intelligence personnel were working hard to break the Japanese code, he said. They were intercepting communications and decrypting what they could, but the communications they intercepted gave no clear warning of the impending attack.

What the Japanese misjudged was the tremendous anger of the American people, which gave President Roosevelt and Congress the excuse they were looking for to declare war against Japan as well as Germany, McNaughton noted.

The Afghan air force is trading its Hips for Blackhawks
One of many posters produced by the War Department during World War II, designed to get the public behind the war effort. | Photo Credit: Department of Defense

In the aftermath of the attack, the Army immediately took over the territory of Hawaii, declaring martial law, which lasted until October 1944. In this unprecedented situation, all local police, courts and government operated under Army supervision. The Army, Navy and FBI placed the local Japanese-American population under close surveillance and placed many community leaders under arrest.

During the war, the Army Soldiers in Hawaii — as in various places along the coasts on the U.S. mainland — never had to fire artillery guns to repel an enemy fleet, McNaughton said. The Army eventually disbanded the Coast Artillery branch, and today it uses sophisticated air and missile defense, in coordination with the other services.

Among the lessons to be taken from Pearl Harbor attack, according to McNaughton, is the crucial importance of operating as part of the joint force. Another is that of striking a fine balance between training and readiness. “You just don’t know when your unit will be called to mobilize,” he said.

The forced internment of Japanese Americans on the West Coast in 1942, in the aftermath of the attack, was a further tragedy.

“It was really painful to the Japanese-American community at the time,” he said. “The vast majority of Japanese Americans were loyal citizens, those who had the opportunity fought for America. And many of those died for their country.”

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Marines tackle training in terrain that is ‘unlike anything else’

Accompanied by nothing but sand, rocks, and the desert sun, Marines with 3rd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division continue to prepare for the unrelenting forces ahead by training at Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center, Twentynine Palms, Calif., July 15-July 19, 2019.

U.S. Marines of Invictus participated in a five-day field operation where they were evaluated as squads, based on how well they shoot, move, and communicate towards their objective.

When asked what the purpose of the evaluation was, Cpl. Zorenehf L. Yabao, a squad leader said, “To see where their performance is at and what they need to improve on for the duration of the pre-deployment training. From here on out, it is not going to be easy.”


With temperatures reaching more than 110 degrees, the constant running, yelling and shooting takes its toll. Yabao added “At the end of the day, you are taking control of your squad. You should not freak out or worry about anything else. You have to focus on the mission, what your commander’ task and purpose is and what you need to do. Just focus on caring about your squad, controlling them and getting the mission done.”

The Afghan air force is trading its Hips for Blackhawks

(Photo by Lance Cpl. Aaron Harshaw)

1st Lt. Michael Mursuli, a platoon commander with the company said, “Morgan’s Well is one of the most difficult terrains to navigate being that there are so many hills and crevices. The terrain here is unlike anything else.”

The company trained with a variety of weapons systems varying from rifles and grenade launchers to machine guns and anti-armour launchers.

While speaking to the Company, Capt. Richard Benning, the company commander asked what the difference between the tiger, the lion, and the wolf is.

The Afghan air force is trading its Hips for Blackhawks

(Photo by Lance Cpl. Aaron Harshaw)

After being met with faces of confusion he stated, ” The wolf is not in the circus. The wolf cares about the wolf pack and the wolf pack alone. Invictus is the wolf pack.”

When asked about the training area, Mursuli said, “Twentynine Palms is the varsity league. There are more areas and opportunity’s to train here. Negotiating the terrain is very difficult and there are more ranges, bigger ranges and the ranges themselves are a beast to tackle. You are doing what the whole Marine Corps is doing but you are doing it on more difficult terrain.”

This article originally appeared on Marines. Follow @USMC on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Army General declares, ‘The future of warfare will be both familiar and utterly alien.’

The U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command and the University of Texas at Austin hosted the Mad Scientist Conference at the university on April 24 and 25, 2019. The Mad Scientist Conference brings together military, academia, and private industry experts in fields such as artificial intelligence (AI), robotics, ethics in future innovation, and the future of space.

This year’s conference focused on disruption and the future operational environment. With the Army’s effort to modernize the force, it is critical for collaboration between the Army and the brightest minds of technological innovation.


The Afghan air force is trading its Hips for Blackhawks

Dr. Moriba K. Jah, Associate Professor, Aerospace Engineering and Engineering Mechanics, presents at the U.S. Army’s annual Mad Scientist Conference on April 25th at The University of Texas at Austin’s Engineering Education and Research Center.

(U.S. Army Photo by Mr. Luke J. Allen)

“Mad Scientist and Army Future Command are two sides of the same modernization coin,” said Lt. Gen. James Richardson, deputy commanding general of Army Futures Command. “We need to tap into America’s unique culture of innovation. That’s why we’re here in Austin. AFC is an opportunity for collaboration with the best minds in the world in academia and industry.”

Collaboration today to solve the complex problems of tomorrow’s battlefields requires significant imagination to predict possibilities.

The Afghan air force is trading its Hips for Blackhawks

Mr. Robert O. Work, former 32nd Deputy Secretary of Defense and Senior Counselor for Defense and Distinguished Fellow for Defense and National Security, speaks at the U.S. Army’s annual Mad Scientist Conference on April 24th at The University of Texas at Austin’s Engineering Education and Research Center.

(U.S. Army Photo by Mr. Luke J. Allen)

“The future of warfare will be both familiar and utterly alien,” Richardson said.

With the development of evolving artificial intelligence and robotics, Mad Scientists discussed the applications they have on future warfare.

“When technology is proliferated down to the battlefield, what happens?” asked Robert Work, senior counselor for defense and distinguished senior fellow for defense and national security at the Center for a New American Security. “We’ll inevitably go to more unmanned systems.”

The Afghan air force is trading its Hips for Blackhawks

The University of Texas at Austin’s Cockrell School of Engineering hosts a discussion panel at the U.S. Army’s annual Mad Scientist Conference on April 25th at UT’s Engineering Education and Research Center.

(U.S. Army Photo by Mr. Luke J. Allen)

While wars today feature manned combat vehicles, the Mad Scientists suggest wars of the future may be fought by drones and AI-controlled machines. Work referenced the Army’s next generation combat vehicle currently in development that has the potential to be optionally manned.

One way future vehicles can operate without a human crew is using AI.

“How do we make autonomous systems behave in a trustworthy fashion?” asked Dr. Maruth Akella, professor of aerospace engineering and engineering mechanics at UT-Austin.

A primary goal of AI and robotics is full autonomy to perform increasingly complex tasks. The Mad Scientists questioned how to establish ethics and human oversight for automated machines used on complex battlefields where non-combatants, enemy forces and partner forces are intermingled in real-time, dynamic domains.

The discussions examined how much autonomy should autonomous machines have in military operations.

The Afghan air force is trading its Hips for Blackhawks

The University of Texas at Austin’s Cockrell School of Engineering hosts a discussion panel at the U.S. Army’s annual Mad Scientist Conference on April 25th at UT’s Engineering Education and Research Center.

(U.S. Army Photo by Mr. Luke J. Allen)

“How much human control do we want or need to have over these autonomous systems?” asked Dr. Paul Zablocky, program manager for the strategic technology office of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.

To further understand the implications of autonomous machines in the operational environment, the conference speakers discussed how AI learns and how humans are involved in the AI-learning process.

“We need to look at integrated human-in-the-loop systems,” said Dr. Garrett Warnell, a research scientist with Army Research Lab. “When robots are becoming autonomous, they need a lot of human interaction. They slowly depend less and less on humans and become more autonomous.”

If robotics are considered for warfare in the future, Work said we must pursue systems with tele-operated capabilities. Additionally, the panelists strongly emphasized that robotics must be disposable, which opened the conversation to how much these technologies might cost. Work pointed out that China could pass the US in absolute GDP in about 10 years.

The Afghan air force is trading its Hips for Blackhawks

Sharon Wood, Dean of University of Texas at Austin’s Cockrell School of Engineering, speaks at the U.S. Army’s annual Mad Scientist Conference on April 24th at The University of Texas at Austin’s Engineering Education and Research Center.

(U.S. Army photo)

“The U.S. cannot spend our way back to military dominance,” said Work. “That means that we have to out-think, out-innovate, and out-maneuver our competitors.”

The opportunity to collaborate, out-think and out-innovate is the reason that Army Futures Command was created and based in Austin amongst a variety of tech companies, start- ups, and innovators.

Each speaker at the conference was presented with a certificate that declared them as official Mad Scientists. For those seeking more information about the Mad Scientist program, visit: https://community.apan.org/wg/tradoc-g2/mad-scientist.

This article originally appeared on United States Army. Follow @USArmy on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

F-22 engines can be repaired with six tools found in any hardware store

If you’re about to join the Air Force any time soon, there’s a good chance your work is going to involve maintaining aircraft. If you’re lucky, you’ll get assigned to the F-22 Raptor. Even with the rise of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, there is no better air dominance fighter in the world. Unlike the F-35, however, if one of the F-22’s Pratt & Whitney engines fail and you don’t have the tools to fix it, you can just head out to Home Depot and get what you need.


The Afghan air force is trading its Hips for Blackhawks

Air Superiority: You can do it, we can help.

The F-35 steals headlines in terms of the latest whiz-bang technology when it comes to stealth, visibility, and even the giant helmets worn by F-35 pilots. But the F-35 cannot substitute what the Raptor brings to the fight. The F-35 has an aerodynamic performance similar to flying the F-16 Fighting Falcon. It can’t fly as high or as fast. What it brings is firepower – and a lot of it. It was designed to be an air-to-ground fighter.

Meanwhile, the F-22 Raptor is the quiet professional in the world of air superiority fighters. It has a smaller radar cross-section than the F-35 (the size of a marble versus the size of a golf ball) and is probably the most lethal air combat aircraft in the world, even considering the fifth-generation fighters produced by great power adversaries like China and Russia. But the area where it’s even more superior isn’t in the air, it’s on the ground.

We’re talking about maintenance and repairs.

The Afghan air force is trading its Hips for Blackhawks

The F-22 gets repaired like a normal plane while the F-35 is happy it doesn’t catch fire before take off. Small victories.

The F-22 Raptor is one of the Air Force’s most reliable planes. Roughly half the time a Raptor spends being repaired is just to fix Low Observable (LO) stealth coatings that get damaged when ground crews open her up for things like routine maintenance. Lockheed-Martin is currently working on a way to reduce the damage to the stealth coating for this. What is really impressive about the F-22 is how easy it is for a trained ground crew to repair her engines.

Lockheed-Martin designed the F-22 with two F-119 Pratt Whitney engines. These sturdy but powerful thrust monsters were designed to be maintained on the flightline using only six common tools available at any commercial hardware store – Not something you’d expect from one of the world’s most advanced air superiority fighters, but it came from what used to be a common principle in the military: simplicity.

The Afghan air force is trading its Hips for Blackhawks

And yet, I still wouldn’t trust the Army with this.

The Pratt Whitney engines used in the F-22 Raptor deliver 22 percent more thrust while using almost half of the parts used in the previous Pratt Whitney designs while making the F-22 the most maneuverable fighter ever flown by any military anywhere and allowing for supercruise speeds of almost two times the speed of sound. Everything about this engine has been expertly engineered, from the titanium alloys to the ceramic coating used on certain parts to absorb radar signals.

Now new airmen can be sent to Home Depot to pick up the tools to fix this marvel of engineering – along with the usual buckets of prop wash.

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