The Gripen E is Saab's attempt to outdo the F-35 - We Are The Mighty
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The Gripen E is Saab’s attempt to outdo the F-35

A couple of weeks ago, Saab unveiled its next-generation fighter. Dubbed “The Smart Fighter,” it’s aimed at markets not yet cleared to buy the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, as reported by the Daily Mail.


Related: One of the F-35’s most expensive features was made possible by flying saucers

With its fly-by-wire avionics and distinctive delta wing design, the Gripen E is similar to its predecessors. The difference is in its increased fuel capacity, 20 percent more thrust, extra pylons for carrying more weapons, and advanced electronics that feed tactical information to the pilot and co-op forces at all times. It’s also designed for quick and efficient maintenance, Saab claims the turnaround time between missions is 10 minutes and that the entire engine can be replaced in an hour. 

Some other Saab Gripen E features:

The fighter’s Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) antennas—called elements—work together or independently to track different targets.

The Gripen E is Saab’s attempt to outdo the F-35
Image: Saab

Its Infrared Search and Track (IRST) system looks for heat emissions from other aircraft, helicopters and from objects on the ground and sea surface without giving its position away.

The Gripen E is Saab’s attempt to outdo the F-35
Image: Saab

Its Electronic Warfare system alerts the pilot when it has been detected by radar, warns for incoming missiles, and used for electronic attacks.

The Gripen E is Saab’s attempt to outdo the F-35
Image: Saab

The pylons give it the flexibility to carry an array of weapons, making it deadlier than previous versions.

The Gripen E is Saab’s attempt to outdo the F-35
Image: Saab

The Gripen’s multi-frequency data links provide situational awareness to other fighters.

The Gripen E is Saab’s attempt to outdo the F-35
Image: Saab

Its Radar Warning Receiver and Missile Approach Warning systems increase the Gripen’s survivability in combat.

The Gripen E is Saab’s attempt to outdo the F-35
Image: Saab

At $85 million apiece, the Gripen E is significantly cheaper than the F-35, making it an attractive alternative for any military.

Now watch the fighter’s unveiling on 360 video:

Saab, YouTube
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5 of the world’s strongest fortifications ever

As the saying goes, “a man’s home is his castle.”


While this rings true for people who own a house, it was even more important for the leader in charge of a kingdom, an empire or even a republic. The reason for this is that the man in the “high castle” had much a stake. So to make sure that the country is strong, a king would build a fortress — or a wall with many fortresses — to project the centralized strength and influence of his nation throughout his realm and beyond.

Understand that a fortress is not just a building with a certain amount of walls and towers, but also can be a wall. Below is a list of the strongest fortresses ever built in the history of the world.

5. Masada, Israel

On a rocky plateau situated on a hill in southern Israel near the edge of the Judean desert, one can find the fortress of Masada. Almost all information on Masada and the siege that took place comes from the first-century Jewish Roman historian Josephus.

The Gripen E is Saab’s attempt to outdo the F-35
The fortress of Masada withstood a year-long siege by Roman Gov. Lucius Flavius Silva. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

In 66 AD, the Kingdom of Judea was in upheaval over Rome’s prolonged occupation and revolted. In doing so, a small group of rebels known as the Sicarii captured Masada after slaughtering its Roman garrison. In 72 AD, Lucius Flavius Silva, commander of the Legio X Fretensis, laid siege to Masada.

To reach the top, Lucius gave the order to build a massive ramp that was 375 feet high and 450 feet long. Once the legionaries made it to the top, they rolled the siege engines in and battered Masada’s walls until they fell.

Once inside, the Romans didn’t find an enemy in sight. Rather, they found over 900 dead. Only two women and five children survived.

4. Great Wall of Gorgan, Parthian/Sassanid Empire

The Great Wall of Gorgan is a fortress that remains mostly unknown. Located in northeastern Iran, the wall stretches from the Caspian Sea to the Kopet Dag Mountain Range. In total, the wall was 121 miles long.

The Gripen E is Saab’s attempt to outdo the F-35
The Great Wall of Gorgan. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

The date of its construction is disputed. Some say it is 1,000 years older than the Great Wall of China. While little is known about the wall, the Parthians (247 BCE – 224 AD) who ruled Iran, are said to have built on the original remains of the wall.

The original height and width is unknown, but when the Sassanid Empire (224–651) overthrew the Parthians they repaired, enlarged, and added fortresses to the wall. The height of the Gorgan wall has yet to be determined. The width of the wall was between 20 to 30 feet wide and featured 30 fortresses.

What made this wall significant was that for many centuries it prevented nomads from the north, like the Dahae, Massagetae, Hephthalites and other various nomadic elements from getting in.

3. Hadrian’s Wall, England/Scotland

Hadrian’s Wall is well known to most casual students of history.

The Roman Emperor Hadrian in 122 AD ordered for the construction of the wall along with 16 fortresses garrisoned with static troops. The length of the wall expanded from the Irish Sea to the banks of the River Tyne near the North Sea — a distance of 73 miles.

The Gripen E is Saab’s attempt to outdo the F-35
The author walking on Hadrian’s Wall in Great Britain. (Photo courtesy Cam Rea)

The purpose of the wall is obvious, but as to why it was constructed, remains disputed. The reason for this is that there is no clear evidence that suggests Roman Britain, south of the future wall, was under any real substantial threats — even though there had been some minor rebellions in the province and within the Roman Empire. This was probably the reason why Hadrian built the wall — as a symbol and reminder that it is best to separate one from the barbarians.

Hadrian’s Wall would provide Roman Britain security from the Celtic/Pictish tribes in the north until Rome abandoned Britannia in 410 AD.

2. Walls of Constantinople

In 324 AD, Emperor Constantine I moved the capital from Rome to the small port town of Byzantium and renamed it Constantinople. The reason for this move was to be closer to the eastern portion of the Roman Empire due to its lucrative trade.

The Gripen E is Saab’s attempt to outdo the F-35

To ensure the safety of this second Rome, Constantine issued an order to build of a wall. The Wall of Constantine was laid out in a series of four rows, with the inner two featuring towers 50 feet apart.

While very effective in repelling invaders, the Roman Emperor Theodosius II decided to expand the walls. The Theodosian Walls consisted of two — an inner and outer wall — which consisted of 96 towers. The inner wall was 40 feet high while the outer wall stood at 30 feet high.

The walls of Constantinople paid off for many centuries and were able to throw back 12 sieges from 559-1203 AD. However, the city was captured in 1204 during the fourth crusade, but afterward was able to withstand five more sieges until that fateful day in 1453, when the Ottoman Turks bashed down the walls and captured the city.

1. Great Wall of China

The Great Wall of China needs no introduction. Many assume that the Great Wall was built and finished during the lifetime of a Chinese emperor. Instead it was constructed by multiple emperors over 1,000 years.

The Gripen E is Saab’s attempt to outdo the F-35

The height, length, and thickness of the wall — or walls — vary, depending on which emperor built it and how much they could afford.

For example, once the Ming dynasty (1368-1644) pushed out the Mongols, they set about to expand and enlarge the Great Wall. The total length of the Great Wall under the Ming was over 5,000 miles long and 25 feet high and 15 – 30 feet thick at the base. If one were to take the wall and line it up, the length would be over 13,000 miles, according to study in 2012.

While the Great Wall looks good, it provided only temporary protection. The problem was that due to its size, it was too cumbersome and too costly to man.

The purpose of the Wall was to keep nomads out from the north. Instead, it kept the people of China isolated within and the wars that came with it.

The Mongols, however, just went around it during their invasion in 1211. The Ming would later enhance the wall, but it didn’t make a difference when the Manchu invaded in 1644.

From that point on, the Great Wall was more of a monument to look upon with amazement.

 

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Here’s the trailer for “Dunkirk,” the first war film from the guy who directed “The Dark Knight”

Christopher Nolan has now applied his moody and precise visual style on World War II. The “Inception” and “The Dark Knight” director tells the story of the “Miracle at Dunkirk,” a large-scale evacuation that saved approximately 338,000 Allied troops.


Related: This is how the ‘Miracle at Dunkirk’ saved World War II for the Allies

“Dunkirk” features frequent Nolan collaborator and “Mad Max: Fury Road” star Tom Hardy, Academy Award winner and “Bridge of Spies” star Mark Rylance, and Shakespeare master and robot-spider enthusiast Kenneth Branagh.

“Dunkirk” opens July 21, 2017. Watch the trailer below.

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Nazi Germany tried to counterfeit its way to victory

The Third Reich attempted a number of unconventional plots to win World War II, including counterfeiting U.S. and British currency to destabilize the Allies’ wartime economies.


Not surprisingly, the Nazi plan relied on Jewish slave labor. Operation Bernhard recruited Jewish artists, printers, bankers, and others from concentration camps and pressed them into creating engraving plates and physically counterfeiting money and important documents.

The Gripen E is Saab’s attempt to outdo the F-35
Nazi leaders organized a counterfeiting ring that created British bank notes. (Photo: Public Domain)

Prisoners pressed into counterfeiting who survived the war described an initial test where they would be asked to print greeting cards. Prisoners who printed it well enough or who had a strong background in art or printing were then sent to the Sachsenhausen concentration camp.

Adolf Burger, a printer who survived the war and wrote memoirs detailing his experiences, was personally congratulated by Auschwitz commandant Rudolf Hoss when he was selected for the program.

“Herr Burger!” Hoss reportedly said. “We need people like you. You’ll be sent to Berlin. You will work as a free man and I wish you every success.”

The men were granted special privileges not afforded to other prisoners, but they were not free.

The Gripen E is Saab’s attempt to outdo the F-35
Starved prisoners, nearly dead from hunger, pose in the Ebensee, Austria, concentration camp. Prisoners forced to create counterfeit English bank notes were sent here for execution but survived thanks to a prisoner revolt. (Photo: U.S. Army Lt. A. E. Samuelson)

“I always said I was a dead man on holiday,” Burger told a historian. “We never believed we would get out of there. But in the block we had everything — food, white sheets on the bed. Each one of us had his own bed; not like Birkenau, where six of us slept under a single lice-ridden blanket.”

The plan to print American currency was scuttled quickly due to problems with getting the necessary papers and inks, but the Nazis were able to collect all the proper supplies to print British bank notes.

While the Nazis destroyed most of their records and the counterfeit notes after the war, Allied investigations into the scheme estimate that nearly 9,000 banknotes with a total value of over 134 million British pounds were printed, though as little as 10 percent may have been usable.

The Gripen E is Saab’s attempt to outdo the F-35
The original plan for Operation Bernhard called for the counterfeit currency to be dropped by bombers. (Photo: Imperial War Museum)

The initial plan called for the Luftwaffe to airdrop the illicit currency into Britain and other Allied areas to get it into circulation, but a shortage of aircraft led to them distributing the money through a network of agents.

Surprisingly, they actually got some of the money into circulation by using it to pay unsuspecting intelligence sources and agents, a move that could have caused their intelligence networks to collapse if it had been discovered.

Britain learned about the plot from a spy in 1939, three years before the printing got underway in earnest. By 1943, it was finding some of the notes in circulation. Some of the first counterfeits were caught when people tried to redeem bank notes for pounds sterling using serial numbers that had already been redeemed at the bank.

The Gripen E is Saab’s attempt to outdo the F-35
American troops ride a captured German tank during the Battle of Hurtgen Forest. The Allied advance in 1945 ended the German counterfeiting operation and resulted in the liberation of the printers. (Photo: U.S. Army)

As the Allied war machine bore down on Berlin, the counterfeiting operation was moved two times before the Nazis running it made the decision to destroy the equipment and records and kill the printers.

Luckily, the order was given to kill all the printers at the same time at the Ebensee prison camp, but a prison riot occurred while a truck was ferrying the printers to the site of their execution.

The printers escaped into the Ebensee prison population and were liberated by the Allied armies on May, 6, 1945.

Today, few of the counterfeit notes remain, though a large quantity was recently recovered from where it was dumped in Lake Toplitz. The lake has little to no oxygen below a depth of 65 feet, preserving the bank notes.

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A former Marine officer retells his journey from ‘fortunate son’ to hero in the Battle of Fallujah

Former Marine officer Elliot Ackerman is now an accomplished author living in Istanbul, but prior to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, he considered himself a “fortunate son” of privilege who chose to serve while many of his peers did not.


“The best and the brightest didn’t show up for Vietnam. And I understand. I get that it was an unpopular war,” he told photographer Brandon Stanton for his popular Humans of New York project. “But they chose to not show up and there was a consequence for that. There were leadership failures. Standards were lowered and people were killed because of bad decisions.”

He graduated from Tufts University in 2003 and decided to join the Marine Corps as an infantry officer. He was assigned as a platoon commander in 1st Battalion, 8th Marines.

The Gripen E is Saab’s attempt to outdo the F-35
Wikimedia

“I was a fortunate son of this country,” Ackerman told Stanton. “I went to a private school. I graduated from a great college. A lot of the guys who served under me didn’t have those advantages. They relied on me to make tough decisions in dangerous situations. And I’m glad I was there to make those decisions.”

One of those tough decisions came in Nov. 2004, during the bloody second Battle of Fallujah during the Iraq War. He and his platoon of 45 men moved across a highway in the middle of the night on Nov. 10 to establish a fighting position in what they called “the candy store.”

It was only about 150 meters away from the rest of his company.

“The guys were excited at first because the place was filled with chips and soda,” he said. “And we were starving and thirsty. But all hell broke loose when the sun came up.”

At dawn, the insurgents had figured out where they were and surrounded them, while opening fire on the platoon with everything they had. The Marines were getting razed by AK-47 and RPG fire from all sides, with every exit blocked.

“You couldn’t even poke your head out,” he said. “We were pinned down all day. And suddenly my company commander is on the radio saying that we’ve got to advance. And I’m shouting into the radio over the gunfire that we’re probably going to die if we leave the store. I’m shouting so loud and for so long that I lost my voice for four days. But he’s saying that we have no choice.”

He repeatedly exposed himself to enemy fire while trying to pull wounded Marines to safety, and coordinated four separate medical evacuations, despite being wounded by shrapnel himself.

In order to get out, he ordered his men to set up explosives on a back wall. Once it blew, he and his men — with nearly half the platoon having been wounded — were able to escape, alive.

“Twenty-five guys were wounded, but everyone survived,” he said. “A lot of that was luck. And a lot of that was our platoon and how good those guys were. But I also feel that my decisions mattered that day. And if I had decided not to serve, and stayed home, it could’ve ended much worse. So no, I don’t have any regrets about going to Iraq.”

He was awarded the Silver Star for his heroics in the battle, along with the Purple Heart for his wounds. He later received the Bronze Star for valor in 2008 while leading a Marine special operations team in Afghanistan.

Humans of New York is featuring a number of stories from veterans on its page, in partnership with non-profit The Headstrong Project (Full disclosure: The author is a friend of the executive director).

See more of Ackerman’s story below:



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EFOGM — that anti-tank missile with a 9-mile reach

In the 1980s, the threat of the Soviet armored divisions pouring through the Fulda Gap in Germany was a serious one. The Pentagon was looking for a way to thin out the Red Army’s tanks before they reached contact with the main NATO lines — or even the cavalry screen.


If the thinning out could include the command tanks, even better.

This has been a habit of American fighting forces for a long time. It’s been a part of pop culture military strategy even as far back as the American Revolution (when Mel Gibson’s character in The Patriot says, “Shoot the officers first, work your way down”) to a hypothetical World War III in Tom Clancy’s Red Storm Rising, when one Russian explains that NATO trains its troops to shoot the command tanks first.

The Gripen E is Saab’s attempt to outdo the F-35
The YGM-157B EFOGM. (U.S. Army photo)

The MGM-157 Enhanced Fiber-Optic Guided Missile, or EFOGM, was intended to help in this sort of mission.

It looks a lot like the BGM-71 Tube-Launched Optically-Tracked, Wire-guided missile, or TOW. Well, it uses a number of TOW components, according to Designation-Systems.net.

The big differences are that the EFOGM weighs more (117 pounds to 50 for the TOW), and can go four times as far as the TOW (9.3 miles to 2.33 miles).

The range makes EFOGM a bit of an indirect-fire weapon. Eight missiles can fit onto a Humvee, and two at a time can be guided. This is a very useful capability when it comes to decapitating an enemy regiment or brigade — often by hitting the tank from above, where its armor is the weakest.

The Gripen E is Saab’s attempt to outdo the F-35
XM44 launch vehicle for the YMGM-157 EFOGM. (U.S. Army)

The key is that EFOGM flies higher – at around 1,000 feet. The missile uses a TV camera for guidance with the signal traveling on a fiber-optic cable. That allows EFOGM to serve as a reconnaissance asset en route to the target.

So, why did this missile not make it into the inventory? Simply put, the Army cancelled funding, and EFOGM ended up being just a cool technology demonstrator. Japan did develop a similar system dubbed the “Type 96.”

According to GlobalSecurity.org, the system is for use against enemy tanks, landing craft, and helicopters.

The Gripen E is Saab’s attempt to outdo the F-35
Japan’s Type 96. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

Makes you wonder if EFOGM could have helped out during Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom.

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This is how the Germans beat the British in one of the biggest naval battles of WWI

The First World War was the peak of the age of the battleship as dreadnoughts from Germany and the United Kingdom, including the actual HMS Dreadnought that all similar ships are named for, faced each other across the North Sea and the world’s greatest empires duked it out on land.


In the 1916 Battle of Jutland, the German and English fleets fought in what was — when measured by the tonnage of the ships involved — the largest naval battle in history. Approximately 100,000 sailors and 250 ships took part.

And, though the British fleet was larger and enjoyed training and technological advantages, the Germans achieved a clear tactical victory.

In May 1916, the British and German fleets were each looking for a major triumph over the other. An ongoing British blockade of Germany was damaging, but neither side had clear control of the North Sea.

The Germans devised an ambush a few hundred miles off the coast of Denmark, but the British intercepted the plans.

So a massive British fleet with 151 ships, including 28 battleships and nine battlecruisers, set forth on May 30 with knowledge of the German positions and intent. The next afternoon, the scouting parties from each force sighted each other and began a running gun battle.

The Gripen E is Saab’s attempt to outdo the F-35
The battle cruiser scouting parties clash at the opening of the Battle of Jutland. (Screenshot: Vimeo/NIck)

Five German battlecruisers fired on six British ships and the two raced in parallel lines while maintaining fire on one another. But the British had made two big mistakes.

First, they waited to fire even though they had a range advantage. Second, they allowed the Germans to set the conditions of the fight.

The German scouting party sank two of the British cruisers while drawing the British scouts towards the main German fleet with another 94 ships. The British ships realized their error just in time, turning back north while suffering fierce fire from German pursuers.

The British had already lost thousands of sailors and two large ships, but they were about to hold the advantage. The British cruisers fleeing north failed to properly communicate with the main fleet, but they were still drawing the German ships towards the larger British concentration.

And while the British main fleet commander wasn’t given the needed intelligence to properly prepare, he was able to swing his ships into a single line that he curved into an ambush position that the Germans sailed right into. The British semi-circle saturated the German fleet with fire.

The Gripen E is Saab’s attempt to outdo the F-35
The SMS Seydlitz limps home after the Battle of Jutland. (Photo: Naval Historical Center)

The Germans broke contact and circled back around, but the British were again able to position themselves “crossing the T,” where a line of British ships presented their broadsides with their main guns towards the front of a German line which could only present a few guns in response.

And the British were positioned to prevent a German escape while they also enjoyed a visibility advantage thanks to the sun behind the German ships.

But the desperate Germans had already inflicted heavy damage, causing fires and leaks that would sink more ships throughout the evening. And the German commander managed to turn the fleet about and escape west.

But the Germans needed to get east and south. One attempt to break east failed under heavy British fire, so the Germans launched a massive torpedo barrage that forced the British to turn away and allowed the Germans to escape. None of the torpedoes hit, though.

Still, Germany held the advantage at night, as the darkness would limit Britain’s range advantage and allow German torpedo ships to draw close.

The Gripen E is Saab’s attempt to outdo the F-35
The HMS Queen Mary sinks during the Battle of Jutland. (Photo: Public Domain)

Throughout the night, Germany tried to fight its way home, frequently winning small clashes and eventually punching through to head home.

The Germans had inflicted losses of over 6,000 sailors and 14 ships in less than 24 hours of fighting, while suffering 2,551 sailors and 11 ships lost. Germany claimed its tactical victory, but the strategic situation was dire.

Many more German ships had been heavily damaged and would need weeks for repairs while plenty of British ships remained to enforce the blockade. Germany was forced to turn to submarine warfare to break down British supply lines across the Atlantic.

But even that strategy would fail when America entered the war with new technologies and equipment for hunting submarines.

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The Marines are testing this machine gun-wielding death robot

The Marine Corps is actively testing a robotic system outfitted with sensors and cameras that can be armed with an M240 machine gun.


It’s called the Modular Advanced Armed Robotic System, and it looks crazy.

The Gripen E is Saab’s attempt to outdo the F-35
US Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Frank Cordoba

Just last week, infantry Marines from 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines were taking the robot out on training patrols at Camp Pendleton. Later this month, they’ll head to the Marines’ desert training site at 29 Palms, California to fire off plenty of live rounds.

If it were actually fielded, MAARS would complement the 13-person infantry squad that typically carries small arms, offering up a tracked vehicle that can zone in on targets with a mounted M240B machine gun firing 7.62mm NATO rounds.

It can carry about 400 rounds, or it can be reconfigured to tote a 40mm grenade launcher instead. The Qinetiq-built robot only hits 7 mph for a top speed (which is fast enough for troops who are walking alongside it) and can run for 8 to 12 hours.

Of course, it does have some limitations. It’s not totally hands-free, since operators need to hand reload it, and it could be stopped by rougher terrain. But MAARS is just one of many technologies the Corps is testing for its Warfighting Laboratory in an effort to field the “Marine Corps of 2025.”

Among other technologies that the Corps is considering are a fully-autonomous ground support vehicle, multiple smaller scale drones, and a precision airborne strike weapon that a grunt can carry in a backpack.

The MAARS also has a big brother nearly five times its weight that can be outfitted with an M134 minigun.

This is the Modular Advanced Armed Robotic System, or MAARS for short. It’s an unmanned ground vehicle that can be outfitted with a medium machine gun or a grenade launcher.

The Gripen E is Saab’s attempt to outdo the F-35
Qinetiq

Infantry Marines with 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines were testing it out last week to see how it would mesh within their unit and work alongside them.

The Gripen E is Saab’s attempt to outdo the F-35
US Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Frank Cordoba

They control it with the Tactical Robotic Controller, which lets them see what it sees, and target the bad guys. The TRC can also control a bunch of other gadgets, such as drones and ground sensors.

The Gripen E is Saab’s attempt to outdo the F-35
US Marine Corps

Besides being an awesome death-dealing robot, it can also drag wounded Marines off the battlefield if they are injured.

The Gripen E is Saab’s attempt to outdo the F-35
US Marine Corps

It also has a much bigger brother: The Robotic Vehicle Modular/Combat Area Robotic Targeting (RVM/CART). Besides its size, it can pack a lot more firepower with an M134 Minigun.

The Gripen E is Saab’s attempt to outdo the F-35
US Marine Corps

With an insanely high rate of fire of 2,000 to 6,000 rounds per minute, that makes it the grunt’s best friend. Marines can also mount a laser on top to target enemies for precision airstrikes.

The Gripen E is Saab’s attempt to outdo the F-35
US Marine Corps

Here’s everything it can do right now.

The Gripen E is Saab’s attempt to outdo the F-35
US Marine Corps

 

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The Air Force’s anti-missile laser airplane actually took down missiles in testing

Anyone who hates on an airplane with a nose-mounted laser designed to shoot down missiles is wrong. The only problem is that we’re limited by the technology required to make the lasers powerful enough. The Air Force may not have the patience or cash to make it happen, but they proved a long time ago, the concept is sound.

We live in the age of hypersonic missiles, ballistic missiles that can take down aircraft carriers, and potentially dozens of other kinds of warhead-toting rockets just waiting to be tried out on some of America’s finest. There’s no doubt we need some kind of defense.

The Gripen E is Saab’s attempt to outdo the F-35
A Russian Bulava ballistic missile, launched in June 2017 (Wikimedia Commons)

The good news is that the U.S. Air Force has been testing anti-missile lasers for years, and has actually been able to take down missiles in flight. The effort to bring an anti-missile laser to an aircraft was actually kind of a heartwarming supergroup of defense contractors and the story has been a long time coming.

In the 1980s, many may recall the Department of Defense’s Strategic Defense Initiative, also known as the “Star Wars” program. It was one of the earliest efforts to create a laser-based missile defense system. Although mocked by many, throwing money into something like that yielded results.

By the end of the 1980s, the Air Force Airborne Laser Laboratory actually was shooting down missiles with lasers. By the mid-1990s, the Air Force was reaching out to Boeing to get these laser weapons onto an aircraft. 

The 2000s saw a large group of defense contracting companies coming together to create an entirely new airborne defense system. Boeing repurposed an old 747-200 purchased from Air India. It prepared the aircraft to mount a Chemical Oxygen Iodine Laser (COIL) that was prepared specifically for the purpose of airborne defense. 

The COIL, provided by Northrup Grumman, created a powerful, infrared laser that was not only capable of taking down missiles, it was tested and used in a way that was “representative of actual operational engagements.” For those unfamiliar with “govspeak,” this means that the laser was a viable weapon, capable of being used in combat. 

When it came time to build the actual prototype of an anti-missile laser plane, Boeing brought a new 747-400, modified it to fit a nose turret and fire control system created by Lockheed-Martin, and mounted the Northrup Grumman COIL weapon on the front. 

The Gripen E is Saab’s attempt to outdo the F-35
The COIL mounted on the YAL-1 (Wikimedia Commons)

The Boeing YAL-1 was ready for action. Its job would be taking down ballistic missiles while still in the boost phase, actually taking its first flight in 2002. The program lasted a few short years, but produced some mixed yet hopeful results.

Although the weapon worked, it was not operationally viable. Though the laser could shoot down missiles, it would have needed 20-30 times more power to fire the laser a significant distance, according to then-Defense Secretary Robert Gates. 

Gates went on to note that shooting down missiles in the boost phase, without knowing exactly where they would be fired, might require dozens of these aircraft, flying continuously might require more money than the project was worth. The Air Force didn’t request more funding for the laser project and the prototype was ultimately scrapped. 

Although the program itself ended up not producing a significant weapon, it did prove that lasers could be used as short-range aircraft defense. It also showed that lasers could be a sub-orbital defense against ballistic missiles, something the “Star Wars” program was widely ridiculed for.


Feature image: screen capture from YouTube

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This blind WWII Marine veteran protected his US flag from vandals

Howard Banks is a WWII veteran who was injured while protecting Old Glory. Not in Europe or the Pacific, but in front of his Texas home.


The Gripen E is Saab’s attempt to outdo the F-35
Onetime Cpl. Howard Banks at home in Texas. (Credit: Yona Gavino/CBS 11)

The 92-year-old Banks is legally blind, but could spot someone trying to tear down the American flag posted in front of his house in Kaufman, Texas. When he went out to see what was happening, he was pushed to the ground.

“They could see me. I couldn’t see them,” Banks told the Dallas-Fort Worth CBS affiliate. “I turned and looked in the other direction, and about then – ‘wham!’ They knocked me down.”

Banks didn’t stay down for long. Just the previous year, vandals took down his U.S. flag, shredded it and then tore up his Marine Corps. Still holding on to the railing, Banks stood back up, ready to meet his attackers.

The Gripen E is Saab’s attempt to outdo the F-35
Howard Banks’ American Flag, still up on its pole. (Credit: Yona Gavino/CBS 11)

But they ran off. Banks was left with a twisted knee and some other bruises, but his flags were intact. Neighbors moved to help the 92-year-old, whose flags were still there. Banks attributed his dedication to the flag as more than just defending his property and his Marine Corps heritage.

“We’ve honored our flag all that time and doggone it, with our political climate the way that it is, we need something to rally around and that’s our flag,” Banks told the local Fox affiliate. “Once a Marine, always a Marine. I try to live that way.”

In the days since, Banks was surprised with a gift from Honor Flight, whose mission is to help older veterans by flying them to Washington, D.C., free of charge so they can visit their war’s memorial.

Banks’ neighbors moved in quickly to assist him. He now has security cameras in place to monitor his flags.

Articles

China’s airpower may overtake the US Air Force by 2030

The Gripen E is Saab’s attempt to outdo the F-35
China’s J-20 stealth fighter | YouTube


In a stark assessment, the US Air Force chief-of-staff warned that China’s People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) will be poised to overtake the US Air Force by 2030.

On March 2, General Mark Welsh told the House Appropriations Committee’s defense subcommittee that currently it is estimated that the US has a “couple thousand more aircraft” than China, The National Interest reports.

The PLAAF is larger than the US Air Force in terms of personnel, and that size will be represented by the number of aircraft China has in the coming years.

“At the rate they’re building, the models they’re fielding, by 2030 they will have fielded—they will have made up that 2,000 aircraft gap and they will be at least as big—if not bigger—than our air forces,” Welsh told the subcommittee.

More importantly than just the number of aircraft and personnel in the PLAAF, though, is Beijing’s trend of acquiring and successfully fielding more and more advanced weapons systems. This drive by the PLAAF will also shrink the commanding technological advantage that the US currently holds over China.

“We are not keeping up with that kind of technology development,” Welsh said. “We are still in a position of—we will have the best technology in the battlespace especially if we can continue with our current big three modernization programs.”

Welsh also went on to warn that China “will have a lot of technology that’s better than the stuff we’ve had before.”

China is currently constructing prototypes for two different fifth-generation fighters that are specifically tailored to different mission sets. It’s J-20 is thought to be making quick development progress, while it’s J-31 is believed to be the equal of the F-35 due to espionage and Chinese theft of trade secrets.

Additionally, China is also developing a stealth drone as well as seeking to buy Russia’s highly capable Su-35S fighter aircraft.

All these measures taken together will cumulatively make China a significantly more capable military force that could project its will against US protest across East Asia.

Articles

This new speedboat-submarine could change amphibious warfare forever

Throughout its history, the Marine Corps has been known for rising out of the water and storming enemy beaches. But new technology could allow Leathernecks to emerge from the deep like James Bond.


A new powerboat/submarine hybrid vehicle was part of a new technology demonstration in San Diego in late April that could prove to be the ultimate amphibious assault vehicle.

Defense contractors teamed up with the U.S. military at the Advanced Naval Technology Exercise at Camp Pendleton in California to showcase the new “Hyper-Sub.”

Related: This is why German submarines attacked civilian vessels during World War I

The Gripen E is Saab’s attempt to outdo the F-35
The Hyper-Sub on display at the Advanced Naval Technology Exercise. (Source: HyperSub)

According to the Florida-based company, the fully-submersible nautical craft has over 30,000 pounds of lift and supports 12 hours of underwater operations. The vessel’s sea-to-shore feature makes secretly transporting troops easy where large amphibious ships can’t deliver — perfect for those classified MARSOC missions.

With similar dimensions compared to the classic rigid-hull inflatable boat (RHIB) — the Hyper-Sub is geared for a cruising speed of  30-mph (26 knots), powered by two 480hp Yanmar 6LY3-ETP diesel engines with V-drives. The craft can handle a diving depth of 1,200 ft, but only with the steel cabin option (the acrylic option dives to 500 ft ).

The Hyper-Sub is much heavier and slower than that its inflatable boat counterpart. But its ability to submerge in a matter of moments makes it the better option for a stealth operations.

The Gripen E is Saab’s attempt to outdo the F-35
The HyperSub’s cargo area designed to hold up to 6,000 lbs of gear and/or potential troops. (Source: Hyper-Sub)

Also Read: Life aboard WWII submarines was brutal

Although the possibilities for this craft are virtually endless, these prototypes have no sensors, weapons or real defensive capabilities, but can come with high-tech surveillance as an upgrade.

The Marine Corps is currently looking into future uses and possible adding many modifications to this impressive craft which could change modern amphibious warfare forever.

Check out the promo video by Hyper-Sub Videos below to see this speedboat-submarine in action.

(Hyper-Sub Videos, YouTube)
Articles

McCain takes aim at Littoral Combat Ship, wants new fleet

Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain wants to restructure how the Navy buys its frigates, and possibly redesign the program to add new capabilities.


The Senate Committee on Armed Services seapower subcommittee will hold hearings this spring to reexamine the future of the frigate program.

“The frigate acquisition strategy should be revised to increase requirements to include convoy air defense, greater missile capability and longer endurance,” McCain said at an event outlining the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments’ recent U.S. Navy fleet architecture study, U.S. Naval Institute News reported.

Related: Here’s how the US is sticking it to Beijing in the South China Sea

The littoral combat ship program (LCS) is the skeleton for the Navy’s frigate strategy. Currently, the Navy pans to release a request for proposals on the new frigates in March or April.

The Gripen E is Saab’s attempt to outdo the F-35
The US Navy littoral combat ship USS Jackson (LCS-6) moors pier side at Naval Station Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to refuel. | US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Kegan E. Kay

McCain criticized the LCS program in December for costing $12 billion, but producing 26 ships, which have “demonstrated next-to-no combat capability.”

“When you look at some of the renewed capabilities, naval capabilities, that both the Russians and the Chinese have, it requires more capable weapon systems,” McCain said.

Each LCS costs around $478 million initially. But as repairs cost increase, the total amount for the 26 ships already delivered to the fleet amounts to $12.4 billion, and the Navy wants to buy a total of 40.

Should the Navy continue to purchase the LCS to bring the total number to 40, the cost will be closer $29 billion for ships that have failed to live up to capabilities promised, and continually breakdown.

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