The U.S. Air Force's next fighter could be a stealthy drone - We Are The Mighty
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The U.S. Air Force’s next fighter could be a stealthy drone

The U.S. Air Force’s next fighter could be a stealthy drone
F-22 Raptors from Elmendorf Air Force Base, Alaska, fly over Alaska May 26, 2010. | U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Brian Ferguson


Four years after the 195th and final F-22 Raptor stealth fighter rolled out of Lockheed Martin’s factory in Marietta, Georgia, the U.S. Air Force still hasn’t committed to developing a new manned air-superiority fighter.

But the world’s leading air arm is proposing to develop some kind of new aircraft to complement, and perhaps replace, the F-22 on the most dangerous air dominance missions in heavily defended territory.

Noting that enemy air defenses are developing faster than the Air Force can counter them, the flying branch’s “Air Superiority 2030 Flight Plan,”published in May, warns that “the Air Force’s projected force structure in 2030 is not capable of fighting and winning.”

“Developing and delivering air superiority for the highly contested environment in 2030 requires a multi-domain focus on capabilities and capacity,” the flight plan notes. To that end, it calls for the Air Force to begin developing, as early as 2017, a new “penetrating counterair” system, or PCA.

“Capability development efforts for PCA will focus on maximizing tradeoffs between range, payload, survivability, lethality, affordability, and supportability,” the flight plan explains.

Studiously avoiding specificity with regard to the PCA, the plan leaves open the possibility that the new penetrating counterair system could be manned or unmanned. In any event, the PCA will be part of a network of systems.

“While PCA capability will certainly have a role in targeting and engaging, it also has a significant role as a node in the network, providing data from its penetrating sensors to enable employment using either stand-off or stand-in weapons,” the plan explains.

“The penetrating capabilities of PCA will allow the stand-in application of kinetic and non-kinetic effects from the air domain.” In other words, the PCA could be a highly stealthy manned fighter or drone whose main job is find targets for other systems to attack.

Not coincidentally, the Pentagon has studied modifying existing large aircraft — most likely B-52 and B-1 bombers — to serve as “arsenal planes,” carrying large numbers of long-range munitions and firing them, from safe distance, at targets designated by stealthy aircraft flying much closer to enemy territory.

The U.S. Air Force’s next fighter could be a stealthy drone
A Lockheed Martin F-22A Raptor. | Photo by Rob Shenk

Along the same lines, the U.S. military is developing a wide range of new munitions, including hypersonic rockets, lasers and microwave weapons. It’s possible to imagine that, around 2030, the Air Force will deploy teams of systems to do the same job the F-22 does today. A team could include a stealthy drone communicating with a distant B-1 arsenal plane hauling a load of hypersonic missiles.

Of course, it’s also possible that the penetrating counterair system could be an existing fighter. The new F-35 Joint Strike Fighter possesses some air-to-air capability plus a higher degree of stealth than do most planes.

But even the Air Force admits that the F-35 isn’t a suitable replacement for the F-22. “It’s not that it can’t do it, it’s just that it wasn’t designed to be a maneuvering airplane,” Gen. Hawk Carlisle, commander of Air Combat Command, said in late 2015.

More likely, today’s F-22s could give way to … tomorrow’s F-22s. Seven years after then-defense secretary Robert Gates cancelled F-22 production, the U.S. defense establishment has concluded that 195 F-22s is not enough.

The U.S. Congress has pressured the Air Force to at least consider plans for more F-22s. And Air Force leaders are warming up to the idea, despite the high cost. The RAND Corporation, a California think-tank, estimated that 75 new F-22s would cost $19 billion in 2016 dollars. Even so, an F-22 restart is “not a crazy idea,” Gen. Mark Welsh, the Air Force chief of staff, said in May.

Fortunately, the Pentagon had the foresight to order Lockheed to preserve the F-22’s tooling and document production processes. More problematic is the limited networking capability of the current F-22 design. A Raptor’s datalink is compatible only with other Raptors, complicating the F-22’s participation in a network of systems. If a Raptor can’t talk to other aircraft, it certainly can’t designate targets for them.

But again, there are solutions in the works. The U.S. government’s tiny fleet of Battlefield Airborne Communications Node aircraft — a mix of Global Hawk drones, business jets and old B-57 bombers — carry radio gateways that can “translate” datalinks in order to link up disparate aircraft.

More elegantly, Boeing has developed a scab-on datalink system called Talon HATE that, installed on an F-15, allows the older fighter to securely exchange data with an F-22. Talon HATE is still in testing, but could find its way to the frontline F-15 fleet in coming years.

It’s not clear whether the Air Force’s top leadership — to say nothing of Congress and the White House — will follow the air-superiority flight plan’s recommendation and begin development of a penetrating counterair system in the next year or so. But if the stars align, the Air Force could soon, however belatedly, have a replacement for the F-22.

And it might even be a version of the F-22.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Here’s the (failed) status of the first private lunar mission

April 11, 2019 Editor’s Note: NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine released the following statement on the Beresheet lunar lander: “While NASA regrets the end of the SpaceIL mission without a successful lunar landing of the Beresheet lander, we congratulate SpaceIL, the Israel Aerospace Industries and the state of Israel on the incredible accomplishment of sending the first privately funded mission into lunar orbit. Every attempt to reach new milestones holds opportunities for us to learn, adjust and progress. I have no doubt that Israel and SpaceIL will continue to explore and I look forward to celebrating their future achievements.”

Following a nearly two-month journey, the first private robotic spacecraft to attempt a Moon landing is on track to meet its goal on April 11, 2019, and NASA is a partner in SpaceIL’s Beresheet mission. The landing attempt comes on the heels of the agency’s own charge from the president to accelerate its plans to send astronauts to the surface of the Moon by 2024.


“NASA wants to conduct numerous science and technology demonstrations across the surface of the Moon, and we will do so with commercial and international partners,” said Steve Clarke, deputy associate administrator for Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “Supporting SpaceIL and the Israel Space Agency (ISA) with this mission is a prime example of how we can do more, together. We’re hoping a successful landing here will set the tone for future lunar landers, including our series of upcoming commercial deliveries to the Moon.”

In addition to providing access to the agency’s Deep Space Network to aid in communication during the mission, NASA launched a navigation device on Beresheet, SpaceIL’s Moon lander, which will provide lunar surface location details that can be used by future landers for navigation. Beresheet is carrying a NASA instrument called a laser retroreflector array. Smaller than a computer mouse, it features eight mirrors made of quartz cube corners set in an aluminum frame. This configuration allows the device to reflect light coming from any direction back to its source.

The U.S. Air Force’s next fighter could be a stealthy drone

Illustration of the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter.

(NASA Goddard Space Flight Center)

NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter or LRO, will attempt to take scientific measurements of the SpaceIL lander as it lands on the Moon. LRO will try to use its own instrument called a laser altimeter, which measures altitude, to shoot laser pulses at Beresheet’s retroreflector and then measure how long it takes the light to bounce back.

By using this technique, engineers expect to be able to pinpoint Beresheet’s location within 4 inches (10 centimeters).

This simple technology, requiring neither power nor maintenance, may make it easier to navigate to locations on the Moon, asteroids, and other bodies. It could also be dropped from a spacecraft onto the surface of a celestial body where the reflector could help scientists track the object’s spin rate or position in space.

“It’s a fixed marker you may return to it any time,” said David E. Smith, principal investigator of the Lunar Orbiter Laser Altimeter, or LOLA, on the LRO.

The ISA and SpaceIL will also share data with NASA from another instrument installed aboard the spacecraft. The data will be made publicly available through NASA’s Planetary Data System.

The U.S. Air Force’s next fighter could be a stealthy drone

A graphic showing Beresheet’s path to the Moon. Dates correspond with Israel Standard Time.

(SpaceIL)


Beresheet launched Feb. 21, 2019, on SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. The spacecraft completed a maneuver April 4, 2019, called a lunar capture that placed it in an elliptical orbit around the Moon, setting the stage for its first landing attempt on April 11, 2019. Beresheet is targeting an area known as the Sea of Serenity (Mare Serenitatis in Latin), which is near where NASA’s Apollo 17 astronauts landed in 1972.

The president’s direction from Space Policy Directive-1 galvanizes NASA’s return to the Moon and builds on progress on the Space Launch System rocket and Orion spacecraft, collaborations with U.S industry and international partners, and knowledge gained from current robotic assets at the Moon and Mars.

For more information about NASA’s Moon to Mars exploration plans, visit: https://www.nasa.gov/moontomars

This article originally appeared on NASA. Follow @NASA on Twitter.

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Why is it so hard to understand what it’s like to be a veteran?

The U.S. Air Force’s next fighter could be a stealthy drone
This post is reprinted with permission from NationSwell, new digital media company focused on American innovation and renewal. 


As soon as he wrapped up his studies in film and literature at Boston University, Henry Hughes followed family tradition and signed up for the Army. For the next five years, he took fire, dodged IEDs and grappled internally with the meaning of military service while on two tours of duty in Afghanistan with the 173rd Airborne Brigade. After Hughes returned home and earned another degree from the American Film Institute, he began making movies, including his short film,”Day One,” which tells the story of a female Army interpreter facing a moral quandary during her first day on the job: saving the newborn child of a known enemy. The film was nominated for this year’s Academy Award for best live-action short.

NationSwell spoke to Hughes, a Got Your 6 Storyteller, by phone from Los Angeles about the lingering questions from war and their portrayal on film.

 

What inspired you to serve your country?

For me, it was a long family tradition. We basically had someone in the Army since the [American] Revolution. I wanted to be part of that tradition.

Is there one question that you continually ask yourself about your experience?

It’s probably, “why is it not so simple?” It’s a very complex part of my life, not something that is full of simply good memories or simply bad memories: it’s a mixture of all types of life. So I always wonder why it’s not like anything else. At this point, why can’t it be simpler? Why is it so difficult for everyone to understand it?

I’m guessing that’s why did you decided to make the film “Day One?”

For sure, it’s about those questions. There’s not a reducible answer like the one I just tried to give you. So that’s why I thought I could make a movie about it instead, to kind of show the way it felt. So the movie is not a true-to-life of what exactly happened to me that one day. But the feeling when I’m watching the movie, it’s that sublime space of things that are horrible and beautiful in the same breath.

What’s the most important lesson civilians can take away from art that’s made about war?

I would say that everyone’s wartime experience is subjective. I don’t know if there’s some sort of universal experience.

What’s your favorite movie about war?

For me, it’s “The Thin Red Line.” I think it touches me because there’s no other war movie like it, that accepts the soulfulness of the warrior experience. A lot of movies don’t go that way, they kind of go along the more visceral, more experiential route.

What is the quality you most admire in a comrade?

What I actually admire most is hard to come by in our community: vulnerability. When it’s a vulnerability to look at your military experience, I really love meeting those people.

Who was the most inspirational person you encountered while serving?

I would say my interpreter on my second tour. She’s the one I based the movie on, or it’s inspired by her. She’s an Afghan-American woman, naturalized as an American citizen, but born over there. The deck was stacked against her, and she looked inside herself to find out what she thought was right and wrong. It wasn’t something that someone told her to do. She just had incredible integrity.

If you could change one thing about your service, what would it be?

I wouldn’t want one of my guys to be wounded or for any of my guys to die.

What do you consider your greatest achievement?

I would probably say chasing down my wife. It was a long shot, and it worked out. In 2010, after my first tour, I flew to New York without knowing she was there. We hadn’t spoken in a long time. We knew each other as children, when we were 13, and I hadn’t seen her in a number of years. I thought I could track her down, and so on Facebook messenger, I basically said, “Hey, I just landed in New York. Let’s hang out. We haven’t seen each other in a decade.” We went on one date and then a few more dates. She started me writing me a lot of letters when I was in Afghanistan again for my second tour, and we decided to be together.

How can the rest of us, as civilians, do more to support veterans?

Just look at them as people first. I feel like there’s a big divide on some level, but a lot of it is imagined. The fact of the matter is that all of those veterans are just people. I would look at them that way first and then look at their experience.

To you, what does it mean these days to be a veteran?

Well, it’s inescapable, I suppose. The definition of being a veteran is you can never not be a veteran one once you are one. And that speaks to, I think, how profound that experience is. There’s no way you can stop being a veteran.

 

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Navy has 7 nuclear carriers at sea for the first time in years

For the first time in years, seven of the US Navy’s 11 nuclear aircraft carriers are at sea simultaneously, according to US Naval Institute News.


The USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76), USS Nimitz (CVN 68), and USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71) are in the Western Pacific on operational deployments. They have full air wings and carrier escorts.

The USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70) and USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74) are in the Eastern Pacific, while the USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72) and the brand-new USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) are in the Atlantic. Those four carriers are on training missions or doing workups before deployments.

All the carriers — including the ones converging on the Western Pacific — are on planned operations amid President Donald Trump’s 12-day trip to Asia.

Here’s what each carrier is up to.

The USS Ronald Reagan just finished a three-day drill in the Sea of Japan with a Japanese destroyer and two Indian warships.

The U.S. Air Force’s next fighter could be a stealthy drone
The aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76) patrols the waters south of Japan. (Navy photo by Mass Communications Specialist 2nd Class Nathan Burke)

Source: Reuters

The USS Nimitz, the lead ship in the Nimitz class, visited Sri Lanka in October — the first time a US aircraft carrier had visited the dock Colombo over 30 years.

The U.S. Air Force’s next fighter could be a stealthy drone
USS Nimitz (CVN 68) and Carrier Air Wing Eleven (CVW-11) personnel participate in a flag unfurling rehearsal on the ship’s flight deck during Tiger Cruise with the help of fellow tigers. (Navy photo by Photographer’s Mate 3rd Class Elizabeth Thompson)

Source: USNI News

The USS Theodore Roosevelt visited the US territory of Guam on Oct. 31, the first time the carrier has ever done so.

The U.S. Air Force’s next fighter could be a stealthy drone
The USS Theodore Roosevelt visited the US territory of Guam on Oct. 31, the first time the carrier has ever done so. (Image via @PacificCommand Twitter)

Three months earlier, the North Korean leader Kim Jong Un threatened to launch missiles near the island. More recently, China reportedly practiced bombing runs targeting Guam with H-6K “Badger” bombers.

The USS Carl Vinson recently conducted training exercises off the coast of Southern California and is now doing a planned sustainment exercise and flight tests with the F-35C Lightning II fighter.

The U.S. Air Force’s next fighter could be a stealthy drone
F/A-18 Hornets and Super Hornets assigned to Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 2 fly over the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70), front. (Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Sean M. Castellano)

Source: Times of San DiegoUSNI News

The USS John C. Stennis had been at the Kitsap-Bremerton naval base in Washington state for repairs, but left port last week for the Eastern Pacific.

The U.S. Air Force’s next fighter could be a stealthy drone
An MH-60S Sea Hawk helicopter from the Chargers of Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 14 performs plane guard operations near the aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis. (Navy Photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Matthew Martino)

Source: USNI News

The USS Abraham Lincoln finished its four-year, mid-life refueling and complex overhaul in May and is now going through qualifications.

The U.S. Air Force’s next fighter could be a stealthy drone
Sailors aboard the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72) prepare to receive supplies from the Military Sealift Command fast combat support ship USNS Rainier. (Navy photo by Capt. Lee Apsley.)

Source: USNI News

The USS Gerald R. Ford, the first of its class, is the largest and most advanced ship in the US fleet. It was commissioned in July and is undergoing trials and exercises before it fully joins the fleet.

The U.S. Air Force’s next fighter could be a stealthy drone
Sailors man the rails of the aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) during its commissioning ceremony at Naval Station Norfolk, Va. Ford is the lead ship of the Ford-class aircraft carriers, and the first new U.S. aircraft carrier designed in 40 years. (Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Andrew J. Sneeringer)

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The US Army has big plans for its next-generation tank

The Army is now performing concept modeling and early design work for a new mobile, lethal, high-tech future lightweight tank platform able to detect and destroy a wider range of targets from farther distances, cross bridges, incinerate drones with lasers and destroy incoming enemy artillery fire –  all for the 2030s and beyond.


The new vehicle, now emerging purely in the concept phase, is based upon the reality that the current M1A2 SEP Abrams main battle tank can only be upgraded to a certain limited extent, senior Army officials explained.

Related: 17 reasons why the M1 Abrams tank is still king of the battlefield

The Army’s Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center, or TARDEC, is now immersed in the development of design concepts for various super high-tech tank platforms, Maj. Gen. David Bassett, Program Executive Officer, Ground Combat Systems, told Scout Warrior in an exclusive interview.

Bassett emphasized the extensive conceptual work, simulation and design modeling will be needed before there is any opportunity to “bend metal” and produce a new tank.

“We’ve used concept modeling. What are the limits of what you can do? What does a built from the ground up vehicle look like? We are assuming, if we are going to evolve it, it is because there is something we can’t do in the current vehicle,” Basset explained.

The new tank will emerge after the Army first fields its M1A2 SEP v4 upgraded Abrams tank in the 2020s, a more lethal Abrams variant with 3rd Generation Forward Looking Infrared Sensors for greater targeting range and resolution and more lethal Advanced Multi-Purpose, or AMP ammunition combining many rounds into a single 120mm round.

The AMP round will replace four tank rounds now in use. The first two are the M830, High Explosive Anti-Tank, or HEAT, round and the M830A1, Multi-Purpose Anti -Tank, or MPAT, round.

The U.S. Air Force’s next fighter could be a stealthy drone
1st Tank Battalion, 1st Marine Division, participated in the annual Summer Heat training exercise at Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms, Calif., June 26 to July 2. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Jeremy Fasci)

The SEP v4 variant, slated to being testing in 2021, will also include new laser rangefinder technology, color cameras, integrated on-board networks, new slip-rings, advanced meteorological sensors, ammunition data links and laser warning receivers.

However, although Army developers often maintain that while the latest, upgraded high-tech v4 Abrams is much more advanced than the first Abrams tanks produced decades ago, there are limits to how much the existing Abrams platform can be upgraded.

A lighter weight, more high-tech tank will allow for greater mobility in the future, including an ability to deploy more quickly, handle extremely rigorous terrain, integrate new weapons, cross bridges inaccessible to current Abrams tanks and maximize on-board networking along with new size-weight-and-power configurations.

Although initial requirements for the future tank have yet to emerge, Bassett explained that the next-generation platform will use advanced sensors and light-weight composite armor materials able to achieve equal or greater protection at much lighter weights.

“We will build in side and underbody protection from the ground up,” Bassett said.

Bassett said certain immediate changes and manufacturing techniques could easily save at least 20-percent of the weight of a current 72-ton Abrams.

The idea is to engineer a tank that is not only much more advanced than the Abrams in terms of sensors, networking technology, force tracking systems, an ability to control nearby drones and vastly increased fire-power – but to build a vehicle with open-architecture such that it can quickly accommodate new technologies as they emerge.

For instance, Bassett pointed out that the Abrams was first fielded with a 105mm cannon – yet built with a mind to potential future upgrades such that it could be configured to fire a 120mm gun.

The U.S. Air Force’s next fighter could be a stealthy drone
Abrams Main Battle Tank platoons position themselves on the battlefield in order to lay suppressive fire during Hammer Strike, a brigade level live-fire exercise conducted by the 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, at the Udairi Range Complex near Camp Buehring, Kuwait. | US Army photo

“The vehicle needs to have physical adaptability and change and growth ability for alterations as one of its premises – so it can learn things about energy and power and armor. The Army really needs to think about growth as an operational need,” Rickey Smith, Deputy Chief of Staff, G-9, Training and Doctrine Command, told Scout Warrior in an interview.

Smith explained how, for example, Humvees were not built for the growth necessary to respond to the fast-emerging and deadly threat of roadside bombs in Iraq.

The new tank will be specifically engineered with additional space for automotive systems, people and ammunition.  As computer algorithms rapidly advance to allow for greater levels of autonomy, the Abrams tank will be able to control nearby drones using its own on-board command and control networking, service developers said.

Unmanned “wing-man” type drones could fortify attacking ground forces by firing weapons, testing enemy defenses, carrying suppliers or performing forward reconnaissance and reconnaissance missions while manned-crews remained back at safer distances.

Bassett, and developers with General Dynamics Land Systems, specifically said that this kind of autonomy was already being worked on for current and future tanks.

Active protection systems are another instance of emerging technologies which will go on the latest state-of-the-art Abrams tanks and also quite likely be used for the new tank. Using computer algorithms, fire control technology, sensors and an interceptor of some kind, Active Protection Systems are engineered to detect, track and destroy incoming enemy fire in a matter of milliseconds.

The Army is currently fast-tracking an effort to explore a number of different APS systems for the Abrams. General Dynamics Land Systems is, as part of the effort, using its own innovation to engineer an APS system which is not a “bolt-on” type of applique but something integrated more fully into the tank itself, company developers have told Scout Warrior.

The U.S. Air Force’s next fighter could be a stealthy drone
US Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Cody Haas

The use of space in the new vehicle, drawing upon a better allocation of size-weight-and-electrical power will enable the new tank to accommodate better weapons, be more fuel efficient and provide greater protection to the crew.

“If you have less volume in the power train, you can get down to something with less transportability challenges,” he said. “If you add additional space to the vehicle, you can take out target sets at greater distances.”

While advanced Abrams tanks will be using a mobile Auxiliary Power Unit to bring more on-board electrical power to the platform for increased targeting, command-and-control technologies and weapons support, mobile power is needed to sustain future systems such as laser weapons.

The Army cancelled its plans for a future Ground Combat Vehicle, largely for budget reasons, some of the innovations, technologies and weapons systems are informing this effort to engineer a new tank for the future.

Design specs, engineering, weapons and other innovations envisioned for the GCV are now being analyzed for the new tank. In particular, the new tank may use an emerging 30mm cannon weapon planned for the GCV – the ATK-built XM813.

The XM813, according to Army developmental papers, is able to fire both armor-piercing rounds and air-burst rounds which detonate in the air in proximity to an enemy in defilade, hiding behind a rock or tree, for example.

The computer-controlled and electronically driven weapon can fire up to 200 rounds per minute, uses a dual-recoil firing system and a semi-closed bolt firing mode, Army information says.

The U.S. Air Force’s next fighter could be a stealthy drone
M1 Abrams tanks conduct a live fire range day. (Photo from U.S. Army)

Light Weight 120mm Cannon

The new tank may quite likely use a futuristic, lightweight 120mm cannon first developed years ago for the Army’s now-cancelled Future Combat Systems, or FCS; FCS worked on a series of “leap-ahead” technologies which, in many instances, continue to inform current Army modernization efforts.

The FCS program developed next-generation sensors, networking, robots and a series of mobile, high-tech 27-ton Manned-Ground Vehicles, or MGVs.

The MGVs included a Non-Line-of-Sight artillery variant, Reconnaissance and Surveillance, Infantry, Medical and Command-and-Control variants, among others. One of the key vehicles in this planned future fleet was the Mounted Combat System, or MCS.

The overall MGV effort was cancelled by former Defense Secretary Robert Gates in 2009 because Gates felt that the 27-ton common chassis was not sufficiently survivable enough in a modern IED-filled threat environment.

Also read: Abrams tanks to be updated with robotic attack drones

Although the MGVs were engineered with a so-called “survivability onion” of networked sensors and active protection systems to identify and destroy approaching enemy fire at great distances, many critics of FCS felt that the vehicles were not sufficient to withstand a wide range of enemy attacks should incoming fire penetrate sensors or hit targets in the event that the sensor malfunctioned or were jammed.

The Army’s MCS program developed and test-fired a super lightweight 120mm cannon, called the XM360, able to fire existing and emerging next-generation tank rounds. The lightweight weapon being developed for the MCS was two-tons, roughly one-half the weight of the existing Abrams 120mm cannon.

The MCS was to have had a crew of two, a .50 caliber machine gun, and a 40mm automatic grenade launcher.

In fact, the Army’s recent Combat Vehicle Modernization Strategy specifically mentions the value of adapting the XM360 for future use.

Next-Generation Large Caliber Cannon Technology. The XM360 next-generation 120mm tank cannon integrated with the AAHS will provide the M1 Abrams a capability to fire the next generation of high-energy and smart-tank ammunition at beyond line-of-sight (LOS) ranges. The XM360 could also incorporate remote control operation technologies to allow its integration on autonomous vehicles and vehicles with reduced crew size. For lighter weight vehicles, recoil limitations are overcome by incorporating the larger caliber rarefaction wave gun technology while providing guided, stabilized LOS, course-corrected LOS, and beyond LOS accuracy

Bassett said the potential re-emergence of the XM360 is indicative of the value of prototyping and building subsystem technologies.

The MCS was test-fired at Aberdeen Proving Grounds, Md., in 2009. The platform used an aluminum turret and three-man crew using an automatic loading system. Also, the MCS was engineered to fire 120mm rounds up to 10 kilometers, what’s called Beyond-Line-of-Sight using advanced fire control and targeting sensors, General Dynamics developers explained at the time.

Special new technology was needed for the XM360 in order to allow a lighter-weight cannon and muzzle to accommodate the blast from a powerful 120mm tank round.

Elements of the XM360 include a combined thermal and environmental shroud, blast deflector, a composite-built overwrapped gun, tube-modular gun-mount, independent recoil brakes, gas-charged recuperators, and a multi-slug slide block breech with an electric actuator, Army MCS developmental documents describe.

Smith added that a lighter-weight, more mobile and lethal tank platform will be necessary to adjust to a fast-changing modern threat environment including attacking RPGs, Anti-Tank-Guided Missiles and armor-piercing enemy tank rounds.  He explained that increased speed can be used as a survivability combat-enhancing tactic, adding that there are likely to be continued urban threats in the future as more populations migrates into cities.

“Never forget what it is you are trying to use it for,” Smith said.

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4 incredible women in military history you need to know about

International Women’s Day has been celebrated across the world since 1909, and is used as a day to laud the important contributions women make.


Women have long-since served in the U.S. military, even before they were officially allowed to enlist. From covert spy operations to battles on the front lines, women have been there for all of it.

Nancy Morgan Hart

The U.S. Air Force’s next fighter could be a stealthy drone
Public domain image

During the American Revolution, Hart was supposed to stay and take care of her children at their Georgia home while her husband fought in the war, like many military spouses today do. However, Nancy couldn’t sit idly by while a war raged around her.

Related: The only 7 women to receive the Distinguished Flying Cross

Pretending to be a crazy man, Hart was able to gain access to British camps in Augusta, where she successfully gathered intelligence and reported it back to the Continental Army. Hart also wasn’t afraid to defend her home against the enemy, as evidenced when six Loyalist soldiers entered her home and demand she feed them. While they were occupied with food, she hid their weapons and held them hostage with one, killing two when they tried to overpower her, until her husband and a neighbor came home.

Dr. Mary E. Walker

The U.S. Air Force’s next fighter could be a stealthy drone
Library of congress photo

Walker volunteered her expertise as a surgeon with the Union Army at the beginning of the Civil War, despite women not being allowed to serve as doctors. She was captured and became a prisoner-of-war after she was caught crossing enemy lines to treat wounded soldiers. She was considered a spy by the Confederates and was held until eventually released in a prisoner exchange.

For her bravery and willingness to confront the enemy to save Union soldiers, President Andrew Johnson awarded her the Medal of Honor, after a recommendation by Gen. William Sherman, becoming the first and only women ever to be awarded the highest military honor.

Col. Eileen Collins

The U.S. Air Force’s next fighter could be a stealthy drone
NASA photo

Collins became the first female to pilot a shuttle in space in 1995, and was also the first female commander of a U.S. spacecraft in 1999.

During her time in the Air Force, Collins served as an instructor for the T-38 Talon at Vance Air Force Base, and eventually transitioned to an assistant professor role at the U.S. Air Force Academy, teaching mathematics and instructing T-41 pilots.

Sarah Emma Edmonds

The U.S. Air Force’s next fighter could be a stealthy drone
Public domain image

Edmonds fled to Michigan from Canada, escaping an abusive marriage. While traveling, she found that dressing like a man made life considerably easier, and eventually joined the military as a male nurse out of a sense of obligation. Edmonds used the alias “Franklin Thompson,” and served as a spy for Union soldiers until she was confronted with a bout of Malaria. Knowing she would be punished if Army doctors discovered she was a woman, Edmonds abandoned her male disguise and continued to serve as a female nurse in Washington D.C.

After she wrote a memoir about her time as a spy, Edmonds contributions to the war were accepted, and she received an honorable discharge, as well as a government pension for her service.

MIGHTY TRENDING

17 photos show what happens when 82nd Airborne attacks

The vaunted 82nd Airborne Division is America’s Global Response Force, tasked with answering the President’s phone call when he needs to place between 800 and 20,000 armed and well-trained soldiers into another country on short notice. And a group of 82nd Paratroopers just finished training in Bulgaria in a Combined-Arms Live-Fire Exercise, a CALFEX, giving us a chance to revel in how they operate.


Full disclosure, the author is a former member of the 82nd Airborne, and he is super biased. He’s also a former member of the 49th Public Affairs Detachment whose personnel took many of these photos, and he’s biased toward them as well. Basically, he’s biased as hell and doesn’t care who knows it.

The U.S. Air Force’s next fighter could be a stealthy drone

(U.S. Army Spc. Justin Stafford)

The training was part of Swift Response 19 and went from June 11-25. The live-fire part was just the last four days of the event. The whole point was to test and validate the Global Response Force concept, deploying the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division to Europe to fight alongside other NATO powers in Europe.

The U.S. Air Force’s next fighter could be a stealthy drone

(U.S. Army Spc. Justin Stafford)

Eight nations took part in the training including Italian and Canadian airborne forces. On June 18, these paratroopers took an airfield, and on June 20, they launched air assaults to take a simulated village in the Novo Selo Training Area. Above the paratroopers, helicopters with the 1st Combat Aviation Brigade, 1st Infantry Division provided support. The aviators hauled troops and weapons around the battlefield as well as fired on the enemy from the sky.

Simulated attacks, of course. No one really wants to kill the Bulgarians.

The U.S. Air Force’s next fighter could be a stealthy drone

(U.S. Army Spc. Justin Stafford)

These combined exercises seek to test all the major individual and collective tasks that units have to accomplish. That’s a fancy way of saying they test the individual soldiers and the units at the same time. These tasks include everything from properly caring for a casualty to calling in fires to maneuvering a battalion or brigade against an enemy force.

The U.S. Air Force’s next fighter could be a stealthy drone

(U.S. Army Spc. Justin Stafford)

And the combined part of the CALFEX means that everyone gets to play. The Apaches from the 1st Infantry Division provided close combat attack support, but Air Force assets like the A-10 often come to these parties as well. Occasionally, you can even see some naval assets fire from the sea or Marine aviators flying overhead. All of the services have some observers trained to call in fires from other branches’ assets so they can work together.

The U.S. Air Force’s next fighter could be a stealthy drone

(U.S. Army Spc. Justin Stafford)

It’s actually part of why training with other countries is so important. If a paratrooper is deployed into a future war with, just pulling it out of a hat, Iran, then it’s worth knowing how to call the British ship in the Persian Gulf for help or for bombs from a jet flying off of France’s carrier the Charles de Gaulle.

The U.S. Air Force’s next fighter could be a stealthy drone

(U.S. Army Spc. Justin Stafford)

Keep scrolling for a crapton more photos from the 82nd in Swift Response 19. If you want even more photos and videos and whatnot, try this link.

The U.S. Air Force’s next fighter could be a stealthy drone

(U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Anthony Johnson)

The U.S. Air Force’s next fighter could be a stealthy drone

(U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Anthony Johnson)

The U.S. Air Force’s next fighter could be a stealthy drone
The U.S. Air Force’s next fighter could be a stealthy drone

(U.S. Army Spc. Justin Stafford)

The U.S. Air Force’s next fighter could be a stealthy drone

(U.S. Army Spc. Justin Stafford)

The U.S. Air Force’s next fighter could be a stealthy drone

(U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Anthony Johnson)

The U.S. Air Force’s next fighter could be a stealthy drone

(U.S. Army Spc. Justin Stafford)

The U.S. Air Force’s next fighter could be a stealthy drone

(U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Anthony Johnson)

The U.S. Air Force’s next fighter could be a stealthy drone

(U.S. Army Spc. Justin Stafford)

The U.S. Air Force’s next fighter could be a stealthy drone

(U.S. Army Spc. Justin W. Stafford)

The U.S. Air Force’s next fighter could be a stealthy drone

(U.S. Army Spc. Justin W. Stafford)

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The Navy just commissioned its newest littoral combat ship

The Navy just commissioned its newest littoral combat ship, the USS Detroit, with a ceremony in the city that bears its name.


The Detroit is a Freedom-class LCS and is designed to operate near the coast with different modules that can essentially plugged into the ship depending on the mission.

The U.S. Air Force’s next fighter could be a stealthy drone
The future USS Detroit (LCS 7) conducts trials on July 14, 2016. The Detroit was commissioned in a ceremony in its namesake city on Oct. 22. (U.S. Navy Photo courtesy of Lockheed Martin-Michael Rote/Released)

The LCS ships can focus on anti-surface, anti-submarine, and anti-mine missions depending on which mission module is installed. The ship always carries defensive missiles to shoot down incoming enemy munitions, and all modules support either an MH-60 helicopter or two Fire Scout unmanned helicopters.

“This ship represents so much. It represents the city of Detroit, the motor city. It represents the highly-skilled American workers of our nation’s industrial base, the men and women who built this great warship; and it represents the American spirit of hard work, patriotism and perseverance,” said Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus at the Detroit’s commissioning ceremony.

“The USS Detroit will carry these values around the world for decades to come as the newest ship in our nation’s growing fleet.”

The U.S. Air Force’s next fighter could be a stealthy drone
The future USS Detroit (LCS 7) conducts trials on July 14, 2016. The Detroit was commissioned in a ceremony in its namesake city on Oct. 22. (U.S. Navy Photo courtesy of Lockheed Martin-Michael Rote/Released)

The Detroit’s anti-submarine mission package and its ability to operate in shallow waters make it especially capable of hunting diesel submarines, a major part of both Russia and China’s area-denial arsenal. Diesel submarines are quieter than nuclear subs and are therefore much harder to detect.

Barbara Levin, the wife of the retired Michigan Sen. Carl Levin, sponsored the USS Detroit.

You can take a 360-degree tour of the Detroit here.

MIGHTY TRENDING

A few of the unique challenges of being a female veteran

It was an exceptionally hot September day in Twentynine Palms, California, and I was sitting in the waiting room of the physical therapist’s office, waiting for my initial appointment. I was there for an injury I’d acquired rappelling in the Marine Corps in 2002 that never properly healed. Two years later I was finally getting in for physical therapy.


The only other person in the waiting room with me was a gentleman, probably about 250lbs, with a beard down to his chest and an old ball cap with a fishing hook stuck through the bill. He looked (and smelled) like he hadn’t showered in weeks. I was pretty sure he was homeless, and had just ducked into the office for a moment of shade and relief from the 120 degree temps outside. In tattered jeans, tennis shoes with holes in them, and at least 3 shirts, he clearly wasn’t ready for physical therapy.

After what seemed forever, a receptionist poked her head into the waiting room, looked directly at the man next to me, and said “Mr. Foley? We’re ready for you.”

The man just stared at her and then looked at me, confused. “I think she means you,” he muttered.

The U.S. Air Force’s next fighter could be a stealthy drone
Photo: Wikipedia/Rose Physical Therapy Group from United States

“I’m Foley,” I told the woman.

“Oh. Our paperwork says you’re the veteran. I’m so sorry, we’ll fix that to reflect the dependent of the veteran. Come on back,” she pushed the door open for me, barely pausing to breath as she went on. “I really hate it when they mess up this stuff. You’d think it wouldn’t be so hard to write ‘spouse’ in the margins or something!” The woman laughed at her brilliance, going on. “Anyway, I’m sorry. We’ll fix it. How are you today?”

“I’m the veteran,” was all I said.

The woman stopped walking, shocked. “Oh. I didn’t…uh…I didn’t realize girls got injured in the military,” she offered weakly, her voice trailing off in complete confusion.

“Yeah. It happens.” That’s all I could think to say.

Thus was my introduction to life as a female veteran.

Also Read: 4 most annoying regulations for women in the military

Once, during a ceremony at Mount Rushmore, the tour guide asked the veterans in the group to raise their hands. When I raised my hand, he glared at me and practically spat out “Darlin, I mean military veterans. Not their wives. You don’t serve.”

Another time, I sat in a pre-deployment brief filled to the brim with wives when the fiery boot lieutenant fresh from IOC and heading up the Remain Behind Element demanded that all the staff sergeants stand up. Then the sergeants. Then the corporals and so on and so forth. Confused, all kinds of wives stood up when their husband’s ranks were named. Then he shouted for everyone to sit down because none of them had earned any rank. I stayed standing.

He raced up to me and screamed right in my face to sit the f*ck down because I’d never served a day in my life. When I simply told him I was in the Marines, he walked away and never spoke another word to me.

It’s a thing, and it’s a fairly common thing that every female service member and veteran will experience, and often.

In fact, it’s such a common situation that female veterans and service members barely blink when it happens, and male veterans and service members don’t even realize it’s happening.

Recently, I asked some of my female veterans and active duty service member friends to share their experiences on being female veterans with me. I wasn’t at all surprised by some of the responses.

There is a female pilot that works with my husband. Every time she calls somewhere, she gets asked for her husband’s social. Prior to the Marines, she was a cop, so you’d think she’d be used to it and have found a solid way to avoid this. No. Even my own husband used to refer to her as “the female pilot” instead of just by her name like the rest of his buddies. It’s annoying as hell. Also, she isn’t even married.

The U.S. Air Force’s next fighter could be a stealthy drone
A female pilot smiles for the camera. (Image used with permission)

Another friend, who went into finance post-Army, spoke about how, in the military, we are taught that we have to work twice as hard to appear to be half as professional as our male counterparts. It sucks but it’s true. We had an entire period of instruction in Marine bootcamp about having to hold ourselves to a far higher standard in order to be seen as even remotely equal to our male peers. But in the civilian world, doing that makes her seem “unapproachable” or “too intimidating,” and she gets told to “be more feminine.” How civilians equate “be more feminine” with “don’t be as professional as your male counterparts” is beyond me, but it’s a thing.

Then there is the female pilot who was told she probably should find a way to get out of SERE school (it’s required for all pilots) because what if she has her period during SERE? Sorry to break it to you, dudes, but periods happen. And, in case you didn’t know, our periods don’t alert bears or the Taliban to our presence.

Or the female who got promoted meritoriously to corporal and staff sergeant (in different commands, several years apart) and got asked several times (in complete seriousness) after each promotion who she sucked off to get the promotion. How many male service members get asked that after a feat like TWO meritorious promotions?

There is the reservist, who is also a new mother. At her last battle assembly, she inquired about where she could go to pump. Her commander stared at her like she’d grown three heads and refused to speak to her for the rest of the time. Also note, men: women have breasts, and after a baby, they require pumping. No one is asking for special treatment, just directions to the nearest head to dump some of her milk into a freaking bag.

The U.S. Air Force’s next fighter could be a stealthy drone
USAF photo by Staff Sgt. Joe W. McFadden

That’s part of the problem. If a female asks to be treated with an ounce of respect, she’s accused of trying to get special treatment, so she doesn’t ask. She doesn’t demand or insist. For the most part, the female service members and veterans just suck it up and accept it as part of being a girl; they have to be careful around the fragile egos that might get offended if she acts like she might be an equal.

And if she has the audacity to, say, write a noncontroversial article about female grooming standards in the military? She gets ripped to shreds and accused of not even being a veteran based on her photo next to her byline.

Because we all know female veterans don’t color their hair. And male veterans don’t put on 50lbs and grow beards when they get out.

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Here are the best military photos of the week

The military has very talented photographers in the ranks, and they constantly attempt to capture what life as a service member is like during training and at war. Here are the best military photos of the week:


AIR FORCE:

A Beechcraft twin-engine aircraft performs a routine at sunset during the Sound of Speed Air Show above the Rosecrans Memorial Airport in St. Joseph, Mo., Aug. 26, 2016. The air show was hosted by the Missouri Air National Guard’s 139th Airlift Wing to thank the surrounding community for its support.

The U.S. Air Force’s next fighter could be a stealthy drone
U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Patrick P. Evenson

B-2 Spirits deployed from Whiteman Air Force Base, Mo., taxi toward the flightline prior to take off at Andersen AFB, Guam, Aug. 11, 2016. Bomber crews readily deploy in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region to conduct global operations in coordination with other combatant commands, services, and appropriate U.S. government agencies to deter and detect strategic attacks against the U.S., its allies and partners.

The U.S. Air Force’s next fighter could be a stealthy drone
U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Miguel Lara III

ARMY:

U.S. Army Soldiers, assigned to 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment, provide enemy fire from a mountaintop during Decisive Action Rotation 16-09 at the National Training Center in Fort Irwin, Calif., Aug. 28, 2016.

The U.S. Air Force’s next fighter could be a stealthy drone
U.S. Army photo by Spc. JD Sacharok

Two U.S. Army Soldiers assigned to Special Operations Command-Europe, engage opposing forces at an objective during Jackal Stone 2016 in Tblisi, Georgia, Aug. 15, 2016. Jackal Stone 2016 is a bilateral Georgian, U.S. counter terrorism and crisis management exercise.

The U.S. Air Force’s next fighter could be a stealthy drone
U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Marcus Fichtl

NAVY:

The guided-missile destroyer Pre-Commissioning Unit (PCU) Zumwalt (DDG 1000) arrives at Naval Station Newport, Rhode Island during its maiden voyage from Bath Iron Works Shipyard in Bath, Maine. The port visit marks Zumwalt’s first stop before the ship ultimately sails to her new homeport of San Diego. During the transit, the ship is scheduled to take part in training operations, a commissioning ceremony in Baltimore and various additional port visits. Zumwalt is named for former Chief of Operations Elmo R. Zumwalt and is the first in a three-ship class of the Navy’s newest, most technologically advanced multi-mission guided-missile destroyers.

The U.S. Air Force’s next fighter could be a stealthy drone
U.S. Navy photo by Chief Mass Communication Specialist James E. Foehl

SOUDA BAY, Greece (Sept. 7, 2016) Lt. Carleigh Gregory from Herndon, Va., takes inventory of 5 inch ammunition aboard USS Ross (DDG 71) Sept. 7, 2016. Ross, an Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer, forward-deployed to Rota, Spain, is conducting naval operations in the U.S. 6th Fleet Area of Operations in support of U.S. national security interests in Europe and Africa.

The U.S. Air Force’s next fighter could be a stealthy drone
U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Theron J. Godbold

MARINE CORPS:

A Marine drinks from his canteen before participating in a mechanized raid drill on Landing Zone Swallow at Camp Davis Airfield, North Carolina, August 16, 2016. The drill was part of their pre-deployment training in preparation for the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit’s upcoming deployment. The Marine is with 2nd Assault Amphibian Battalion.

The U.S. Air Force’s next fighter could be a stealthy drone
U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Melanye E. Martinez

A Marine Corps M1A1 Abrams Tank, with Delta Company, 1st Tank Battalion, 1st Marine Division conducts offensive and defensive tactics during Large Scale Exercise (LSE) on August 16, 2016, on Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center. LSE-16 is designed to enhance the command and control, and interoperability between I Marine Expeditionary Force (I MEF) and its higher, adjacent and subordinate command headquarters.

The U.S. Air Force’s next fighter could be a stealthy drone
Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Clarence A. Leake

COAST GUARD:

I hope all of you have enjoyed the week with us here on Instagram. CGC Charles Sexton and her crew wish all of you the best and cannot thank you all enough for following along with us this week and supporting the USCG.

The U.S. Air Force’s next fighter could be a stealthy drone
U.S. Coast Guard photo

Every American has a different memory of the September 11 attacks. Though some people are too young to remember or weren’t even born yet, the events of that day for those who do remember remain burned into their psyche and remembrance often begins with the sobering question, “Where were you when the towers fell?” Some sat before their televisions, frozen in disbelief. Others were in Lower Manhattan, working their way through panic and smoke blanketing the city in search of safety. As the city reeled in the immediate aftermath of the attack, hundreds made their way toward the danger to do their duty.

The U.S. Air Force’s next fighter could be a stealthy drone
U.S. Coast Guard photo

MIGHTY CULTURE

5 leadership lessons you can learn in the Marines

If there’s anything the United States Marine Corps is known for (aside from striking fear into the hearts of America’s enemies), it’s teaching young Americans how to be leaders. The mission of the Marine Corps is simple: make Marines and win battles. But to find success in the latter, someone has to teach Marines how to lead other Marines into combat. That’s exactly why a big part of boot camp is instilling the idea that every Marine is a leader in their own way.

Granted, not everyone who serves in the Marines becomes a good leader — those rare even among those who enjoy a long, illustrious career — but everyone learns leadership skills. If you move into a leadership position over the course of your service, you’ll likely learn these lessons:


The U.S. Air Force’s next fighter could be a stealthy drone

Take the lead.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Tommy Bellegarde)

Lead by example

A big part of leadership is giving your subordinates confidence in your ability to lead. Unsurprisingly, one of the best way to do that is by doing the things you ask someone else to do. Show your subordinates that you understand their position and you’re willing to jump in to help.

The U.S. Air Force’s next fighter could be a stealthy drone

You should also be good at communicating those decisions.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Tommy Bellegarde)

Make decisions

There’s a quote from Band of Brothers that spells this one out plainly,

“Lieutenant Dike wasn’t a bad leader because he made bad decisions, he was a bad leader because he made no decisions.”

As a leader, you have to make decisions and you cannot hesitate.

The U.S. Air Force’s next fighter could be a stealthy drone

You should also be willing to talk sh*t to other squads — look at that grin.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Emmanuel Ramos)

Be confident

If you want your subordinates to believe in you, the first step is believing in yourself. No one wants to follow a leader that’s constantly second-guessing themselves. But it’s essential that you never forget how to stay humble.

The U.S. Air Force’s next fighter could be a stealthy drone

Know the guys watching your back.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Austin Long)

Know your Marines

How are you going to help out your subordinates if you don’t know what they need? Get to know your subordinates well so you can better keep track of their morale. Keeping the morale of your men high is good for everyone… except the enemy.

The U.S. Air Force’s next fighter could be a stealthy drone

Plan to the best of your ability.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. David Weikle)

Understand the potential risk

Don’t needlessly put people under your charge in bad situations just because the potential reward is great — and always remember what you’re risking. Before you plan to do something, make sure you understand what you’re about to get into.

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US special forces might be getting this flying all-terrain vehicle

The U.S. Air Force’s next fighter could be a stealthy drone
Courtesy of SkyRunner


In order to combat versatile enemies who are not only able to acquire US weapons and vehicles but emulate tactics as well, the US military needs to take advantage of the latest advances from the defense industry.

But just as the military and its branches all have unique missions, the individual units within the military are also issued equipment geared towards fulfilling their respective jobs.

One such unit from the special forces community may very well be receiving the latest offering from SkyRunner, a company that specializes in utility vehicles and light sport aviation.

This all-terrain vehicle has the ability to take off from indigenous runways and transform into a light-sports aircraft using a parafoil wing. Reaching ground speeds of up to 70 mph and flight speeds of 40 mph, the SkyRunner can transport 2 occupants 240 miles, or 120 nautical miles, at an altitude of 10,000 feet.

The U.S. Air Force’s next fighter could be a stealthy drone
Courtesy of SkyRunner

The latest model of SkyRunner, equipped with a carbon-fiber body, will cost about $139,000.

After receiving FAA approval in June, a SkyRunner representative explained in an interview with Business Insider that they received interest and a verbal commitment from the US special forces community.

“The shocks [are what] won this particular group over,” said SkyRunner consultant Mike Mitchell. “Going off of a loading dock 4-5 feet tall … with such a soft landing was a big plus in their eyes.”

Rather than being offensively oriented, Mitchell explained that a military-grade SkyRunner would be primarily used for surveillance or recovery missions.

SkyRunner could not comment on what the commitment specifically entailed, or which branch of the military expressed interest in their vehicle.

Articles

That time the British developed a chicken heated nuclear bomb

The U.S. Air Force’s next fighter could be a stealthy drone


Imagine it’s 1957 and you’re a high-ranking official with the British Army, responsible for keeping the West free from Soviet aggression. At your disposal you have a great arsenal, both conventional and nuclear, as well as teams of brilliant scientists at the Royal Armament Research and Development Establishment constantly proposing ideas for new, more effective weapons.

One of your areas of greatest strategic concern is the possibility that the Soviet Union might make inroads sufficiently into Western Europe to bring its advanced rockets and bombs within range of the British Isles. Recall that during World War II, Germany bombed the snot out of Britain with tens of thousands of bombs dropped from Luftwaffe aircraft, as well as more than 10,000 long-range V-1 and V-2 cruise and ballistic missiles shot from sites in France and the Netherlands.

Deciding that the best way to keep the Soviets from your doorstep is a scorched earth policy, to “deny occupation of the area to an enemy for an appreciable time,” you choose from all your options that blowing any invaded areas in West Germany to smithereens using nuclear weapons is the best alternative.  After all, this not only destroys enemy troops and denies them access to valuable infrastructure, but also makes the area around the explosion uninhabitable for some time after.

Not content to rely on gravity bombs or missiles, your crack team concludes that nuclear landmines (that could either be placed on the surface, buried or even submerged in rivers and lakes) are the way to go.

You settle on a 16,000 pound tub that resembles an enormous boiler from the outside, but inside hosts a large nuclear warhead and two firing units, with the design partially based on your country’s first operation nuke- the Blue Danube. With a predicted yield of ten kilotons, each bomb would create an estimated crater of 375 feet across for a surface blast and 640 feet if detonated 35 feet below ground. Versatile, the device could either be detonated by timer (capable of being set as far as eight days in advance), directly with a wire from up to 3 miles away, or simply detonated automatically if any of several anti-tampering devices were activated.

Sold!

This is exactly what happened. In July of 1957, the British Army Council order 10 of these so-called Blue Peacock nuclear landmines. However, the designers of the bomb foresaw a problem. The bomb’s sensitive components had to be kept at a certain temperature, far above the average of mid-Europe in winter. They also had to be kept at that temperature for potentially several days after an invasion and subsequent deployment of the nuclear mines.

At this point the boy-wonders floated a couple of options for warming the device. By far the most interesting proposal was to place a coop filled with chickens and seed inside the bomb before deploying it. The chickens could survive in such conditions for at least a week- plenty of time for enemy troops to approach after the nuke was deployed. And, critically, the chicken’s body heat would maintain the proper temperature, while the coop itself would (hopefully) keep them from pecking at the delicate equipment inside.

Perhaps realizing how absolutely ridiculous the chicken idea is (although not the only viable bird-brained bomb idea to come out of this era- see: WWII Files: Pigeon-Guided Missiles and Surprisingly Effective Bat Bombs), or, more likely, realizing the risks of nuclear fallout on neighboring, allied populations (and political fallout once West Germany realized what the British had done to their homeland, invaded or not), in February of 1958, the MoD Weapons Policy Committee scrapped the project.

However, two inert prototypes were retained, and one still exists today, although the public remained blissfully unaware of it until 2004, when Operation Blue Peacock was declassified and included in a National Archives exhibition. Given that the exhibit opened on April 1st and a critical suggested component of the nuclear mines was chickens, more than a few people thought that Blue Peacock was an elaborate joke – forcing the National Archives to put out an official statement that while “it does seem like an April Fool . . . it most certainly is not. The Civil Service does not do jokes.”

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